James Madison and Me

Weekend before last weekend was the best weekend.

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Bret and I knew we wanted to take a trip to enjoy Labor Day weekend. I wanted the beach – any beach – but Wrightsville and Myrtle Beach are the closest and they are still 5+  hours away. Bret wanted to go to Knobels and Hershey Park with his friends in PA. That is about 8 hours away. Nothing seemed ideal and we couldn’t decide, and then we learned that it was JMU’s opening football game, and instantly, the decision was made.IMG_20160903_234345

I’m loving this stage in life where Bret and I can make last minute plans and hit the road with a couple of bags and just enjoy a whole unplanned weekend. To be fair, you usually can’t plan a JMU football weekend on a whim. EVERY hotel was sold out, and the stadium nearly was, too, but we were able to find a room at an inn downtown and we snagged 4 remaining seats together and everything just worked out so perfectly. Here’s a recap of the best weekend ever:

Friday

  • 3pm, Left work! Bret had the car packed so we could hit the road as soon as I finished work. He really is the best.
  • 7pm, Arrived in Harrisonburg and checked in to the Stonewall Jackson Inn. Their innkeeper greeted us and gave us a tour including the beautiful garden patio where we’d have breakfast, where to find the hot tea and free soda, and then she showed us our room.
  • 8pm, We walked to dinner at Union Station. We have lots of good memories from this restaurant and it’s also the place that catered our wedding so it’s always nostalgic to be back.
  • 9pm, We visited Ruby’s Aracade with Bret’s friend, Ed. It was a bar with pool tables, a bowling alley, ping pong that catered to young adults. It felt like “Taylor Down Under” for adults and I was just so happy to be back in Harrisonburg. Bret and Ed played pool and I drank beer and texted my Harrisonburg friends about meeting up the next day.
  • 10pm, We went out for dessert, and then walked back to the inn, watched the cops break up a college party across the street, and then of course Bret grabbed a free soda on his way in.

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And that was only Friday! I was so glad we settled on a JMU weekend. I felt so relaxed and so happy.

Saturday

  • 8am, We walked down to the breakfast patio for a fantastic breakfast: fresh juice, coffee, a yogurt parfait, eggs benedict. It was such a relaxing way to kick off the day.
  • 9am, We walked downtown, I got a text from a Harrisonburg friend who saw us, we walked to campus, took pictures, printed our football tickets, and then made our way to the Farmer’s Market where we met up with our friend, Adrienne.
  • 11am, We had lunch at Earth and Tea cafe with Adrienne. I loved catching up with her!
  • 12pm, We walked into an art store and chatted with the owner who was also a JMU grad. She talked about how she moved back to Harrisonburg and at that moment every bone in my body wanted to move back, too.
  • 2pm, After relaxing for a while at the inn, we made our way back to campus where we went to PC Dukes for lunch and visited our friend, Ed, at his tailgate on Godwin Field.
  • 4pm, We went to the game with my SNACK TIME CO FOUNDER who is basically my favorite person to JMU with. The game was perfect. We left at halftime and walked all the way downtown for Klein’s for ice cream before Brandi and Sean had to leave. I am always sad to say goodbye to this friend, but I wasn’t tooo sad because I knew I’d see her a week later 🙂

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  • 10pm, We walked back to the game for post-game, Bret got to do band fraternity things with his band friends, and I just thought it was awesome that I was allowed ot stand on the football field. Then we walked around campus. I got to see D-hub (temporary D-hall replacement) and we walked the path that I used to walk from my freshman dorm to the quad. It made me feel oddly emotional and so grateful for this life.

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Sunday

  • 8am, We had another wonderful breakfast at the inn. French toast! Then we packed up our things and checked out. Our plan was to leisurely leave town, hit up the Green Valley Bookfair and drive back to Boone mid-morning, late-afternoon. This is what we did instead…
  • 9am, We went out for coffee at Greenberry’s. This is the place where I used to visit before work on all of my summer jobs at JMU. It’s across the street from where I used to fence. It’s just another JMU place that feels like home. And they have great coffee.
  • 10am, We were going to go to the Outpost, but it was closed. We were going to the Green Valley Book Fair but it wasn’t open yet, either. I thought our only option was to go back to Boone and this made me very sad. So. Bret drove us back to JMU!
  • 10:30am, We went for a walk in Purcell Park.
  • 11:30am, We had lunch at the new Dave’s******
  • 1:00pm, We visited the Outpost and bought some JMU souvenirs.
  • 1:30pm, We got to go to the Green Valley Book Fair and I’m so glad we did. I found a few gems and Bret got SO MANY art books that we heavily, heavily discounted. And THEN we drove back to Boone and I didn’t cry this time.

A note on Dave’s******
It’s hard for me to accept that Dave’s Taverna – the way I knew it – is a thing of the past. The new location is good and their homemade chips are even better. Our server was so sweet, too. He asked if we were familiar with the old downtown location, that he had heard about it, and it made me want to scream: YES I’M FAMILIAR. That place is where I lived. It’s where I had a heart-to-heart with my incredible Shorts staff before Kris graduated and we all went our separate ways. That’s where I met so many friends after school and work for happy hour for YEARS. That’s where I watched Teagan’s band play in grad school. That’s where I went to LUNCH on slow days at my summer jobs. That’s where my relatively sober grad school friends were refused service because we were wearing princess crowns and looked like we had been bar hopping. I just have so many memories in this place. To this kid, they were ancient memories. From 2007-2011. Before he was even in high school. And I get that. If someone from the class of ’99 showed up when I was in college, I would have thought they were old, too. It just made me wish I could time travel for a few minutes.

Knowing that I can’t go back there and see it exist exactly how it was for so many years makes me quite emotional. And I know I’m going to be hit with waves of that same feeling over and over as things continue to change. Things never stay the same. We just have to grab on to the moments that we have and enjoy them before they pass.

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-13-40-amI loved seeing so many familiar faces, but mostly, I loved hanging out with this guy. I’m so grateful that even though our paths didn’t cross until 2010, we both have fond memories of JMU. We both have friends there. It feels like home to both of us.

We walked well over 10 miles on Saturday, and we did that because we both just felt like being on campus, and then wandering downtown, and then getting lunch with friends, and then walking from the game, to Klein’s and back. And we were happy the whole time. Until we had to leave.

Leaving Harrisonburg is never easy for me, but I think I’ve made that abundantly clear.

Part of me really hopes that we end up back at JMU. I can visualize myself living there and working there and going to yoga there and being really happy. Another part of me feels like I need to keep JMU at a distance because I know that I could create new memories there, but I kind of don’t want them to overwrite my student experience. I think of the phrase ‘You can’t go home again’ …I just know it won’t be the same if I live there and see it every day.

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All I know right now is this: I’ll be back again for another visit soon!

P.S. You can read about another wonderful JMU weekend here.

Great Britain Adventure: Edinburgh, Scotland!

The first thing you need to know about our experience in Edinburgh is this: Scotland is usually cold and gray and dreary. It often rains. We were prepared for a chilly, gray day.

Instead, we got this:

Edinburg Castle

The weather was BEAUTIFUL and warm and sunny, and everyone was in an extra joyful mood because of it. Bret and I got to spend half the day with a local who was a friend of a new friend we met on our tour, and he was completely in awe of the weather, too. Everyone was eating ice cream cones and lounging outside. All this is to say, my Edinburgh experience was not typical. Continue reading

Balconyfest 2016

It occurred to me recently that I have wildly different relationships with different friends.

I have my Boone/DC/Richmond friends. These are my local friends who I talk “everyday” life with: work, politics, family. We relate through our every day joys and concerns.

Then, I have my grad school/college/summer job Harrisonburg friends who I knew at a magical stage of life. A rare message from one of these people can light a spark in me. I miss these friends, and I’m grateful for our occasional chances to reconnect.

I also have my long-distance friends. Friendships tend to untether when life carries us in separate directions, but I’ve managed to hold on to a few long distance friends by writing letters. These friends are my interactive journals, essentially. I can reach out to them for advice and reassurance and be my real, unfiltered self. Letter writing is good for the soul.

And finally, I have these women right here.

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Great Britain Adventure: Bus Drives to Edinburgh!

We spent most of Day 2 on the bus traveling to Edinburgh. When we first looked at this trip’s itinerary, we were most excited about visiting Edinburgh (and we loved it so much!) but the journey there was grueling. I mean, we were chilling on a bus listening to music and talking so it wasn’t awful, but it was long. The drive was still a great experience in itself, though, because we made several incredible sightseeing stops along the way including:

Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian’s Wall was constructed in 122 AD to defend the Roman province. Real history, y’all! That wall is nearly 2,000 years old.IMG_3905

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Great Britain Adventure: Cambridge & York

Hello! Thank you to everyone who has expressed kind, encouraging words over the loss of my Europe photos. I wish I could say I’m over it, but, clearly, it’s taking me a while to get these out. I wrote about our first day in the UK before the dreaded factory reset, and I keep meaning to write about the rest of our trip, but every time I start to compose another recap, I think about a lost photo that I want to include, and then I feel sad, and angry, and then I don’t feel like writing anymore. It’s a pointless cycle that must end. So, never fear, Day 2 (Day 1 of our official tour) is here!  I can share my experiences on this trip without an endless photo reel. Let’s work with what I’ve got…

After spending the night in London, we found our bus tour easily in the morning. I felt nervous and excited, but also relieved knowing we were in the right place. We started talking with fellow passengers on the bus, and Bret and I were delighted to discover that we were the ONLY Americans in the whole group. There were a few Canadians, but everyone else was from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, …all over. And there was a huge age range as well: 17 to 74! When the bus started rolling, I couldn’t help but smile because our adventure was officially underway!

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Factory Reset

I’m angry at myself right now, truly.

I’ve been toggling between shock and disbelief, but somehow, my phone factory reset itself, and I failed to back up all of my Europe pictures. I’ve tried everything and I’ve asked everyone who could logically help, and, nothing.

This is one of the only full-size pictures I have left of my time in Scotland.

Scotland

It’s gorgeous, right? The perspective! The framing! The color… this is not filtered, people! I love this photo. I’m proud of this photo. I fell in love with SO many of the pictures that I obsessively took during this trip. And now, they’re “in the wind” according to my good friends at Verizon. I only have this one because I managed to send it to a friend last month before my phone self-destructed. Continue reading

New York to London

One of my favorite things about our trip to Great Britain was all of the political conversations I had with my new friends from all over the world. I felt like I’d heard plenty of perspectives on American politics here in the states, but hearing how other countries talked about our education system, gun violence, and healthcare was a really fascinating point of discussion.

I especially loved talking about top political issues in other countries. It was humbling, for one thing, because I realized that even in my own attempts to diversify my media sources there were so many things I didn’t know much about, like the Philippines newly-elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has being called “the Donald Trump of the East,” how English is a national language in Hong Kong (and how you definitely do not equate Hong Kong with China), and then, the many reasons for and against Brexit: Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. And to think that I had so many real political conversations with new friends – FRIENDS – who live in each of these places over a span of a week. It’s such a privilege.

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Great Britain Adventure | 2016

I’ve wanted to travel to Europe forever.

I’ve dreamed of visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany. Backpacking. Exploring. I’d hoped to study abroad in college, or find a summer job overseas, but that didn’t happen.

There’s always been an obstacle: lack of money or lack of vacation days. But in January, when Bret and I talked through some our hopes for 2016, we returned to our Europe dream and asked ourselves IF NOT NOW, WHEN?! So I did some research, found a reasonable tour, and booked it.

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Boone Life: Good, Familiar

Yesterday morning, after snacking on a couple Snickerdoodle cookies from our gathering the night before, I made a bowl of fruit salad: watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries drizzled with syrup made from sugar, water, and oranges. I put on a blue cotton dress and a flannel shirt, and Bret made me stand outside to make sure I wouldn’t freeze since it was only 44 degrees outside. In May. Surprisingly, I didn’t freeze! I’m acclimating.

We got in the car, and drove 20 minutes to our friends’ house. Ten minutes of that drive were spent driving up, up, up a narrow mountain road. As usual, we couldn’t rely on the GPS completely. Something about winding gravel roads on a remote mountain doesn’t scream “priority” to google, I’ve learned. More than once, when trying to navigate home at night from a friend’s house, we’ve been stranded without GPS signal… or phone signal! Thankfully, Bret has an incredible sense of direction.

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Weekend with Vanny

Lately, I’ve been spending my weekends on the road: driving to DC for work, driving to visit family. I don’t mind the hours spent in the car when I’m with Bret. We talk a lot and listen to podcasts and stop for meals at Sheetz and Bojangles. It’s fun!

…But the solo trips can feel long and draining. I recently admitted that maybe I’m stretching myself too thin and pushing my own travel boundaries. If you look at the last two months, I’ve spent WAY MORE weekends on the road than not. And I’m not talking about two hour road trips. I mean, waking up before dawn and spending up to 75% of my waking hours in a car. Maybe I need to practice saying no. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. I’ll reassess that after my next trip to DC later this week, but for now, I wanted to share our craziest recent trip: An 18 hour round-trip drive completed in a giant cargo van in under 36 hours! Continue reading

14 Weeks Without Facebook

You may remember that I de-activated my Facebook account at the beginning of the year.

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It’s been a really healthy change in my life, for the most part. Now that I’ve had some time to step back and zoom out, I realize how much I depended on this site as my source of information about my friends. Now that it’s gone, it’s something that I often forget about. That is, until I miss a friend’s birthday, or realize that I don’t know something that everyone else in the room does because it was posted on Facebook. Continue reading

Three Years of Marriage

Bret and I have been married for three incredible years.

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I clearly remember driving up from Florida three years ago and wondering if the snowstorm making it’s way through Virginia was going to prevent our vendors and guests from making it to our wedding. The sky was clear and the sunshine was warm and we just laughed because we knew we were heading into a blizzard. It’s funny what you remember. Continue reading