hey tampa bae

a day in the life of a GRAND MARSHAL

Stacey Oswald1 Comment
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Several weekends ago, I had the distinct honor of being named the grand marshal of the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom. Soooooo basically I’m Meghan Markle. Or like… the stand-in for her assistant’s assistant. Same thing.

For most 25-year-olds, this probably wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal. But as a lifelong Disney aficionado, this is kind of the most insane thing that’s ever happened to me. Let’s recap how it happened, before you fall off the edges of your seats from anticipation.

I was at Disney World for my friend’s birthday. There were four of us in total, counting the bday girl, and we were all wearing matching Disney-themed shirts, like any self-respecting party group would. The day of the parade, it just so happened to be incredibly dreary and rainy, so none of us were really all that excited to be at Magic Kingdom. We ALMOST turned around when we got there. But alas, we trudged on in our rain gear, hoping that the skies would clear up soon and that we could make the most out of our morning.

 
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We were on our way to Pirates of the Caribbean for our first FastPass when we were stopped by a cast member about our age. She wished my friend a happy birthday and asked if we’d ever seen the parade. We had, bc duh, three of us have been to Disney like 703 times. Then she asked if we wanted to be in it. Just like that. V casual, like we’ve been asked tons of times to be in parades.

Obviously, the answer was an emphatic YES. Bday girl even cried a bit, bc emotions were running high at that point in the morning and it was just crazy timing. I saved my tears for after the parade… but yup, still cried 😬

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Grand Marshal Perks

So what happens when you become a grand marshal, besides the obvious? We each got three FastPasses to use on any ride at Magic Kingdom, and since we didn’t end up using them all, we actually got three more to use at Epcot later in the day. This is a dream come true if you’re trying to do a lot at Disney in one day, because wait times are always high and FP’s are scarce.

We also got a free photo shoot on Main Street— all of the pictures in this post were taken by our photographer and were available for immediate download right after the parade. We also got to print one picture out, per person, which is cool bc pics at Disney are CRAZY expensive.

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We got to keep the cute lil grand marshal Mickey ears that you see in most of our pics. Kind of the coolest souvenir ever.

Andddd of course. We got to be grand marshals!

Grand Marshal Duties

So let me start by saying that while I’ve seen the parade many times, I’ve never been all that excited by it. I’m not a parade/show person, and after the fourth or fifth time, even a Broadway-level production starts to lose its allure. But being in the parade truly changed the experience, and now I won’t be able to leave Magic Kingdom without watching it again.

We got to ride in our own special carriage throughout the park— from Splash Mountain all the way down Main Street. As we rode, our names were spoken over the loudspeaker for everyone to hear multiple times, and we got to wave at everyone watching the parade like the celebrities we wish we were. I have never seen so many people so genuinely excited to see me… even if most of them were below the age of 10. It was pretty much the coolest moment of my life.

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After we kicked off the parade, we did our photo shoot while the floats caught up with us— that took about 10-15 minutes. Then we got to watch the parade from our very exclusive viewing location, and all of the characters on the floats gave us special attention. I am personally a huge Donald Duck fan, and he waved at me, and I lost my sh*t. See below for proof.

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Final Thoughts

It’s really hard to put into words how special this experience was, because nothing I say can really do it justice. I personally have been to Disney so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve stayed in every hotel, been on every ride (except one of the Avatar ones), and done every single thing there is to do… or so I thought. This experience meant so much more because I’ve been going since I was little, and it embodied all of the magical Disney moments I’ve had throughout my life. I really believe that you either “get” the Disney magic, or you don’t. Some people think Disney is just an overpriced place to go if you want to be surrounded by kids and fat people (their words not mine). But I’ve spent half of my birthdays and so many special occasions there because the magic is REAL, at least for me and my family. This grand marshal experience just made it that much more clear that Disney will always be a special place for me, whether others get it or not.

Overall, I feel #blessed to have been a grand marshal for Disney, and I’ve been coming down off the high from that trip ever since.

I wanna hear from y’all— do I have any fellow Disney fans out there? Have any of you guys gotten to be in a parade or a show? Lmk in the comments or on insta @heytampabae 🤓

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why i removed my hair extensions

Stacey OswaldComment

It was November of 2013, and 19-year-old me was, as some might say, “peaking.” I had good friends and a boyfriend, I was at a new low weight, and I had finally brought my GPA up after that time I took Econ and failed. I had also *effortlessly* rocked my long, naturally curly hair throughout most of my college career. But this was a tumultuous time— a time when flatirons were still cool and hashtags were overused. And since I didn’t know any better, I decided that it was time to make an adult change to my hair… which involved chopping most of it off.

This was the beginning of the end.

Jk.

Kind of.

Because seriously, my hair has never been the same. My natural, frizz-free ringlets have never returned, and it now takes an eternity to grow my hair a couple inches.

proof that my hair was once flawless with 0 effort

proof that my hair was once flawless with 0 effort

For most of my life since 2013, this hasn’t been that big of a deal. My hair found itself into a ponytail most of the time, anyways. But after a rough breakup, I decided it was time to start putting an effort into my appearance— not for anyone, specifically, but for myself. I started wanting to wear things other than workout clothes, THANK GOD, which translated to more time spent on my hair and makeup as well.

Instead of going on Instagram for the memes, I started scrolling for fashion/makeup/hair inspiration. Suddenly, I started noticing that like… everyone had long hair. Every basic b*tch from the Bachelor, every “influencer,” girls from high school and college, EVERYONE.

You know how when you’re buying a new car, and you start seeing the car you like everywhere, to the point where it seems like everyone has it? That’s what happened to me, except with hair. Everyone seemed to have long, luscious locks but me.

I became obsessed with the idea of getting extensions, because it seemed like the magic ticket to the long, beautiful waves I kept seeing on my feed. I did research on extension types and lengths, spent hours looking at Yelp reviews, and asked everyone I knew what they thought. I eventually decided on a salon and booked my consult.

HAIR EXTENSIONS: THE CONSULT

WHERE: The Monaco Salon, here in South Tampa.
(PS… I HIGHLY recommend this studio if you’re looking to get hair extensions in Tampa. They did a really amazing job, and I don’t think my hair has ever looked better. I’ll touch on this more later.)

WHAT I CHOSE: 22” tape-in extensions. Why? Because they’re the easiest to maintain. I have a tendency to slack on hair care, so I didn’t want anything that would rip my natural hair out if I forgot to brush. I also went with the salon’s brand, instead of the “premium” brand, because it was quite a bit cheaper. I was able to touch samples that day, and I was impressed with how the hair felt. I remember being slightly worried about the quality, but my stylist reassured me that I was picking a great option, as it was still virgin hair.

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED: I got color matched to ensure that I got the shade I wanted. This also included a different color for my highlight pieces, as I wanted dimension. Then, I had to put down a deposit. I’m not gonna lie… this part hurt. I had to pay around $500 to secure the actual hair, which was refundable, but… still. I definitely regret paying so much money for something like this, but at the time, it seemed worth it.

Another bummer? How long I had to wait to get them put in. I waited 2-3 weeks after my consult for my appointment, and it felt like FOREVER. Keep in mind, I was also spending an hour a day on Instagram’s #hairextensions page, so the obsession was very real at the time.

my extensions!

my extensions!

HAIR EXTENSIONS: THE PLACEMENT PROCESS

Finally, it was time for my appointment! I didn’t have a lot of flexibility on timing, so I went on a weekday morning.

WHAT HAPPENED: This experience was absolutely seamless. First, my stylist did a shadow root and toned my actual hair. Then, after it was washed and dried, the extensions were placed. Tape-ins are the easiest to place and remove, so my whole appointment only took about four hours, including styling. After the extensions were placed, I had to get them shaped. This was done by a master stylist, which made me feel VERY cool and also more comfortable with the money I was spending. And she did completely transform the extensions, to the point where they blended right in with my hair. Then my original stylist curled my hair and I was outta there!

 
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HOW IT LOOKED: I remember being amazed by how beautiful the hair was and how LONG it was. Right when the extensions started going in, I fell in love. Monaco’s main brand is virgin real hair, which is a far cry from how color-treated hair feels. I actually thought I was done right after the extensions were placed, because they already looked so good! See above for how they looked directly after placement, before styling.

IMMEDIATE THOUGHTS: I have never “felt myself” quite as much as I did that day. I walked allllll over Tampa feeling like the hottest, coolest girl in the world. While my hair did feel a bit heavier, the tapes didn’t feel obtrusive on my scalp and overall, I didn’t think I would mind the extra burden all that much. My new hair had just become my best accessory.

 
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HAIR EXTENSIONS: THE AFTERMATH

Unfortunately, most people on Instagram don’t talk about how much work is involved with maintaining extensions, and the possible negative side effects. So here goes, for anyone out there looking to get hair extensions!

1) The Struggle of Keeping It Dry. My stylist warned me that I would never be able to go to bed with my hair wet, and that I would always have to blow dry it after I showered or worked out. I didn’t fully understand how much time this would add to my day, especially as someone who works out a lot. At that time in my life, I was going to cycle classes a couple times a week, and I still remember feeling so overburdened by the need to constantly wash and blow dry my massive amount of hair. I honestly can’t imagine what that would be like now, as a fitness instructor.

2) The Time Spent On My Hair. A lot of people assume that blow-drying their hair with extensions will be relatively similar to blow-drying their normal hair. LOL. JOKES. It took me twice as long, even with a Dyson, which is known for being the fastest and most high-powered blow dryer on the market. I had to carve out a full hour of my day just to dry my hair— this doesn’t include the time it took to style it, whether I was going straight or wavy. #TBT to that time I walked into Drybar for a blowout and it took over two hours. However… I did look pretty fly that day. See below.

 
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3) The Itchy Scalp Dilemma. After about a month, I was pretty sick of how heavy my hair felt, and even worse, how ITCHY my scalp got. I’ve always had a dry scalp, but it was never obtrusive. I was shocked by how much buildup I experienced, likely because I couldn’t use clarifying shampoos anymore (not all are extension-safe) and because I didn’t wash my hair as frequently.

Beyond this, my boyfriend absolutely hated touching my head because he thought the tapes felt weird. And I agreed— they did feel strange, especially when my hair wasn’t professionally dried and styled. Head scratches are an important part of every relationship, ESPECIALLY when your scalp is itchy, and he agreed with me 100% that as pretty as my hair looked, the cons outweighed the pros.

WHAT I DECIDED: After two months I got my extensions removed. Monaco didn’t pressure me to keep them in, and they even saved my extensions in case I wanted them later. This made me feel good, especially after spending so much money on something that was supposed to last half a year. I was disappointed by how short and gross my hair looked after my extensions were removed, but I was overjoyed the first time I washed my hair and could actually reach my scalp with a clarifying shampoo. It took a couple weeks, but eventually my scalp and hair started to feel normal again. It’s even started to grow a little bit!

I will say that getting extensions did mess with my color. My shadow root ended up growing out in a really unfortunate band that has taken months to disguise. And since the extensions provided highlights, it has also taken a while to get my color back to where I want it to be (AKA ashy blonde with lowlights). It’s a process, but it has been worth it!

 
my hair today! not baaaaaaad

my hair today! not baaaaaaad

 

THE TAKEAWAY: I recommend really thinking about the time commitment involved with extensions, and the possible negatives you might experience. If you’re someone that isn’t used to spending a bunch of time on your appearance (I still only take likeeee 10 minutes to do my makeup when I go out), I wouldn’t recommend getting them. I also have always been a very “natural” person, AKA I’ve never gotten fillers or fake nails or lash extensions. I put fake lashes on once for a photoshoot and took them off right when it was over because I HATED the way they felt. So if you relate to any of this, think twice. There are other ways to naturally grow your hair, and the extension game just might not be worth it for you.

However, I will say over and over again how much I valued my experience with the Monaco Salon. I have heard absolute horror stories about extension placement, and I was so impressed by the professionalism I encountered throughout my time at the salon. 10/10 would recommend!





why i YOGA

Stacey OswaldComment
 
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So… story time.

I used to hate yoga. Hate with a capital H.

In college, I would begrudgingly drag myself to hot power flow (which was essentially a Bikram class) whenever it got really cold outside. Otherwise, I pretty much avoided it. It never felt “easy,” I hated being upside down, and I didn’t really take it seriously, as physical or mental exercise. I have so many memories of my friend, Danielle, and I cracking up during the weird breathing portions and the awkwardly quiet moments of class. PS— Danielle is now a yoga sculpt teacher at CorePower OH HOW TIMES CHANGE am I right???

 
please excuse my face, it was 5:45am & the exhaustion was real 🙈

please excuse my face, it was 5:45am & the exhaustion was real 🙈

 

When I moved to LA, I remember doing a bit more yoga, but it was still never my thing. I always prioritized a run or a spin class over a yoga session. And no matter how hot or hard the class was, I always felt like it was mainly just a time to stretch and relax. I never viewed it as a workout on its own.

My Journey Into Yoga

I moved to Tampa in 2016, and all I remember about that time is feeling lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise, I wasn’t motivated to work out, and my mental health was off. To avoid a long story, I ended up taking a hip hop yoga class (cool right?) one night, and it pretty much changed my life. It was hot, it was fun, and it was HARD. Probably the best part about it was that it didn’t feel like a yoga class. I can look back now and see that we were doing a vinyasa flow, but all I remember is feeling strong and athletic. There wasn’t as much hippie-dippy yoga stuff that some classes incorporate— which, btw, I like now! But at the time, all I wanted was a focus on strength and power, and that class DELIVERED.

About a month or two after that first class, I decided to take a leap and start a teacher training program at Lucky Cat Yoga. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was everything I needed. Right after graduation, I got my first job teaching, and the rest is history!

This is where I could very easily go into a long story about teacher training, my first teaching job, and the break I took from my yoga practice. But those stories are long, so I’ll save them for another post (or two… or three). Instead, I’ll just say that teacher training was very much transformative for my practice, and that teaching IRL added a new layer onto my experience with yoga that I never anticipated. And somewhere along the way, I truly fell in love with yoga.

 
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My Relationship with Yoga NOW

A lot of “yogis” on Instagram make it seem like their practice is this wonderful, beautiful thing all of the time. I can’t speak for other people, but I know that mine is 100% not perfect, and that there are times when I do not want to practice, or when doing yoga HURTS. I have taken breaks from my practice, some longer than others, and I have acted in very non-yoga-like ways.

But that’s kinda why it’s a relationship.

Before I did teacher training, I loved yoga, but I didn’t feel obligated to it in any way. It was just something I really enjoyed, much like all of the other fitness classes I took/continue to take. But during teacher training, I started to incorporate yoga into my life in other ways, beyond just the physical practice of “asanas.” It became therapeutic, comforting, and even spiritual in moments. I truly fell in love with it, and now, I know that it will always be a part of my life, even if I stop teaching one day. And that’s what’s most comforting— no time away from my mat could sever my relationship with yoga. It will always be there waiting for me, when I’m ready to embrace it again.

 
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I think what I value most about my yoga practice, and what keeps me going when I lack motivation, is how it has changed me both mentally and physically. We all are familiar with endorphins post-cardio, but yoga gives me a different kind of high. I genuinely feel lighter when I finish a great yoga practice, and it keeps me feeling positive and less stressed long after I finish up on the mat. The breath that we practice in yoga carries over into all stressful situations, and I find myself practicing ujjayi whenever I’m in a really stressful, anxious spot. Sometimes, just the sound of my breath can calm me down. As someone who used to struggle with chronic, debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, this is really pretty spectacular. Yoga has also taught me patience in a major way, because advancing in my practice has taken YEARS. But as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. 🙃

Physically, I cannot deny that my body looks and feels different after years of dedicated practice. I have legitimate triceps now, my core is stronger than it has ever been, and I walk a little taller than I used to. But I will also never be one of those long and lean yogis that most people see on Instagram. For a long time, this was a hard pill to swallow, and it made me feel like an outsider in the yoga community. I looked different than my coworkers, and I actually had a teacher tell me once that I was too heavy to move forward in my practice. This is quite funny now, because I was pretty lean at the time. But now I see that there is not a specific “yoga body,” just like there is not one perfect type of bikini body. Any body that does yoga is a yoga body, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to re-assess their authority on the practice.

 
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Still Hate The Thought of Yoga? Keep Reading.

I truly believe that yoga is a lot more expansive than what most people see from the outside— mainly because I was once a “yoga hater,” so I feel like I understand that POV. It can seem out of reach to people who are out of shape or who aren’t flexible. It can seem boring or stupid to those who have hyperactive minds (🙋🏼‍♀️that was me). It can seem pointless to those who are super busy and only have time for intense workouts. And it can seem confusing to those who want a simple, straightforward fitness experience. But for every hater, I believe that there is a form of yoga that can work for them. I fell in love with hot vinyasa, and it’s still probably my favorite type of yoga to practice. However, I now love practicing outside of the hot room, and I’ve grown to enjoy more restorative, gentle practices as well (even yin, which is slow but PAINFUL). Hot yoga was my entry point, and from there, I’ve fallen in love with yoga in general. I don’t expect that to happen for everyone, but I do believe that most people can benefit from and grow to enjoy yoga in at least one of its forms.

 
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That being said, I still love intense cardio workouts— I actually teach rhythm-based cycling now, too! And there are days when I absolutely dread spending 60 minutes in a room focusing on my breath. But yoga has become such a relief for me, both mentally and physically. It has even affected me spiritually, which I never anticipated. I believe that yoga has made me a better person, and I know that as I continue this journey, I will only get better and become more authentic in my practice. It has been a winding road, full of detours and moments where I doubted yoga’s legitimacy in my life. But I couldn’t be happier to be a teacher now, and I just hope I can help more people see how yoga fits into their lives, too!

PS… if you’re in the Tampa area and are looking to try yoga, come check out DEFINE: Carrollwood, my home away from home! We offer rhythm-based cycling, barre, trampoline classes (yup you read that right), and yoga. I can’t explain how amazing this place is, but I will try in a future post! In the meantime, you can use my promo code “ANASTASIA” for three free classes. This is a very casual savings of $72 😎Come hang with meeee!