James Madison and Me

Weekend before last weekend was the best weekend.

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Bret and I wanted to take a Labor Day weekend road trip, we just didn’t know where to go. 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. Continue reading “James Madison and Me”

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 “Great Britain Adventure: Edinburgh, Scotland!”

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 should 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 was able to have so many real political conversations with new friends – FRIENDS – who live in each of these places over a span of a week… It was such a privilege.

Continue reading “New York to London”

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 “Three Years of Marriage”

Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon

So, in case you missed the earlier posts, I registered for my first half marathon last summer, trained for six months, and very much enjoyed my Disney vacation leading up to the race.

…which brings us to RACE DAY! Finally.

Sunday February 21, 2016
We woke up at 3:00AM. I managed to get a decent night’s sleep and even woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock which was a great way to start the day, but I still felt a lot of race day nerves. Continue reading “Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon”

How I trained for my first half marathon

I’ll just begin by saying that running in the Disney Princess Half Marathon was everything I hoped for and more. I truly couldn’t be happier with my results or the experience, and even though I am exhausted and sore and possibly injured, I’m mostly just sad that it’s over. I’m going to share all of the details (AND PICTURES) soon, but first, I wanted to write a blog post about my half marathon training process.

I still can’t thank my friend Brandi enough for convincing me to register for this thing. When she asked me to run 13.1 miles with her – my first half marathon – my immediate thought was, YAY DISNEY WORLD followed quickly by, I don’t know if I can do this. I remember almost saying no. I remember almost signing up for the 10K instead, but I did it. I talked it over with Bret and he was completely encouraging and supportive so I registered for my first half marathon. I committed to running 13.1 miles, and then the training began! Continue reading “How I trained for my first half marathon”

2015: Year of Adjustments

A few months ago, while Bret and I were shopping at the Outlets, I spotted a pair of heavy-duty waterproof boots. Our Boone friends had lectured me whenever I showed up to their homes in flats. You’ll need a good pair of boots. So I bought them. And I waited patiently for the first snowflake. All October. All November. And then, in mid-December, it snowed just a little. I laced up my new boots. I crunched in the thin layer of snow on our front deck. I took a picture of the boots in the snow to validate the purchase. And I thought: This is my Boone life.

Boots

Continue reading “2015: Year of Adjustments”

Harrisonburg is my Homeland

When someone asks me where I’m from, I usually answer like this,

“Well, I just moved here from Tallahassee, FL; but I’m originally from Richmond, VA; and I work in Washington DC, so I go up there a lot, too.”

I’ve learned this kind of answer is very normal in academia. In fact, I met someone last week who met me word for word. She responded with, “Oh, I love Tallahassee! I grew up in Jacksonville, FL. And I went to college in DC. And, yep, I lived in Richmond for a bit before I was in Texas.” And, by the way, she just moved here (to Boone, NC) from Cleveland. Continue reading “Harrisonburg is my Homeland”

How a Magic Hat changed my life

Four years ago, I made a list that answered this question: If everything was perfect in your life right now, what would it look like?

I think this is an important question to ask yourself every now and then. There are a lot of things in life that you can’t control, but there are plenty of things you can free yourself of, and sometimes it just takes a quick assessment to figure out what needs to change. In 2011 I knew my life wasn’t perfect, so I made a list of what would make it better. My 2011 “perfect life” list included things like: a membership to a hole-in-the-wall yoga studio and plenty of space and tools to paint, write and bake. I was definitely committed to finding a fun, fulling job. The thing that stands out to me the most now, though, is this: I wanted to love where I lived.

The funny thing is, this philosophy was inspired by a beer bottle. My “favorite” beer is Magic Hat. I put that in quotes because as Bret will tell you, it’s not my favorite tasting beer, but it’s my favorite beer because it comes with a fortune under the cap, or, in my case, life-changing advice. My favorite Magic Hat bottle top to date says, “love where you live and live where you love”. I stuck a magnet on it and slapped it on my fridge the day I moved to Florida and it smiles at me every day.

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Bret and I … we love Florida.

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I mean we LOVE our Disney trips and we LOVE that we can drive to the Gulf of Mexico in an hour, and we really, really, really love this place we live called Tallahassee.

I always get attached to places, but I’m not sure I’ve loved anywhere I’ve lived before as much as I love Tallahassee. After living in a cute, small town (Harrisonburg, VA) and then living in one of the largest cities on my own (Washington, DC), Tallahassee feels like the perfect fit. It has my favorite aspects about city life: I can walk to the mall, Panera, the grocery store, and a frozen yogurt shop right from my apartment. And it has the small-town charm I can’t live without: familiar people in in familiar places, local festivals, farmers markets, seasonal parades. It’s just perfect.

We both love it here, but, pretty soon, we’re going to be moving somewhere new.

Despite our best intentions, I know we’ll be swept up in the logistics of the move and then we’ll be busy getting acclimated to our new city and before we know it, our Tallahassee life is just going to be a memory. Before all of that happens, I’m making a point to focus on and enjoy this particular stage. I want to absorb all of this goodness that our Florida home offers. For the most part, that just means living out our regular routine but being extra intentional about the way we spend our time knowing that this may be our last weekend out to eat at this particular restaurant or that we should walk an extra lap around the lake because we only have so many walks left in this particular place.

I also wanted to make sure we can preserve all of these memories in a tangible way. That’s why I’m so glad we invited an incredible photographer (who happens to be one of my very best friends), Tiffany, down to Florida last weekend to photograph us living life in our favorite place before we move. I sent her a whole brochure about what I wanted to do while she and Erik (her husband/also my friend) were here.

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I can’t wait to get these pictures. I want to put them in frames and on canvases and hang them on my wall. I know it will be so nice to be able to “hold on” to these memories when I’m living in a colder climate and missing my Florida life. Eventually, I want to get them in an album, too, so if we ever have kids, I’ll be able to show them how awesome our Florida life was before they were born. I’m kidding (kind of).

Before Tiffany and Erik arrived, I made a list of places I want to be sure to visit. It was so hard to narrow it down: all of my favorite spots in downtown Tallahassee, FSU’s campus that brought us here in the first place, the coffee shop where Bret practically lives, and my new favorite cupcake shop. We went to the Farmer’s Market, to FSU’s campus, and all around our favorite Tallahassee places. We also ate at nearly EVERY one of our favorite restaurants. It was excessive, but wonderful. It meant so much to me to have these wonderful friends in town.

Making this list made me all sappy about this place we’ve lived for the past few years. Here are just a few of my favorite Tallahassee things I’m going to miss so dearly…

All the palm trees

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My hole in the wall yoga studio

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The North Florida State Fair. If you don’t love it, hush. I love it.

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My Annual Disney Pass

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The Tallahassee Museum

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All of the FREE water sport rentals because Bret is a grad student

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Skies over Tallahassee in the planetarium. And the iMAX.

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The Downtown area

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The Greenway – where we’ve attempted to train for a 5K multiple times.

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Downtown Get Down. It’s like a pep rally for 100,000 people.

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The Jingle Bell Run & all of the festivals

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Southwood & my Giraffe Tree & the armadillos we’ve seen there

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The people.

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The Food.

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The French Pastry shop.

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Sigh.

When I think about saying goodbye to all of these things, it hurts a little. I recently texted my sister – desperately – about how much I’m going to miss the Winter Wonderland Festival and Candy Cane Lane next December. She texted me back,

“You’ll find another Candy Cane Lane. You always do.”

To me, that was so comforting. When I feel doubtful, I remind myself that the core things that I was craving in 2011 are now life constants: a brilliantly secure relationship, my perfect orange cat. I didn’t KNOW I needed a free kayaking option, a sushi restaurant that feels like home, or access to a French pastry shop. So even though I don’t exactly know what I’m getting myself into with this new move, and even though it isn’t exactly what I had in mind, it may just be THE thing I need in my life right now.

And let’s be honest. The best part of Tallahassee, for me, has been Bret. Living here together away from our core group of friends and our families has taught us how to rely and depend on each other in a way I’m not sure we would have had to otherwise. We started our married life here. We’ve grown closer together here. And we know that as long as we have each other, any place we live will be just as sweet.

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Even though, if you asked me, I’d tell you I’d be happy to stay in this cozy Tallahassee place for a few more years, I would have stayed in Harrisonburg forever if a job hadn’t pulled me somewhere new. I think after I plop that magic hat beer bottle top up on our fridge, it will be easy to fall in love with the next place we call home. Sometimes you have to move to find out what else is out there. It’s a big world. I’m ready for the next big adventure.

2014: Savoring our Tallahassee Life

At the beginning of 2014, I remember feeling trapped. I lived in a wonderful city with the best partner, but I absolutely loathed my job.

I know a lot of people don’t love their jobs, but my job stressed me so much that I couldn’t “leave it at the door” when I got home. I felt worried and overworked and grumpy most of the time. I dreaded every morning. I dreaded a convention that was literally 10 months away. It wasn’t good.

Last January, during the first full moon of the new year, my yoga instructor encouraged my class to light a candle and welcome the unexpected changes this year with an open heart.

I didn’t do that.

At this point, I had given up on pep talks. Instead, I looked down at my 10 fingers and assigned each one a month. My 1st finger was “January” and my 10th finger represented October – my LAST convention before Bret would graduate and we’d get to move to a new city. I resolved to have a better attitude. I can do this, I thought. I just need to get to November 2014.

Even though it was a pretty effective coping mechanism – breaking the year into manageable chunks so I could track my progress – I’m here to tell you that approaching a new year as something that I had merely had to “get through” was a horrible strategy. I had a whole year of possibilities in front of me, but I’d already made up my mind that 2014 was just a big long countdown to get rid of. I wish I could have told myself that I’d be getting some exciting news in March, a new job in June, and that I’d never even have to go to another dreaded convention. I didn’t know.

I couldn’t have known, but I could have tried harder to change my attitude. Looking back, the whole year flew by. When I started to write my recap, I drew a blank. I had to turn to my Instagram account which faithfully tracks my year through pictures.

Now that I’m looking back, 2014, the year I wanted to be over, was actually a pretty neat year.

January

  • Started my Question a Day 5-year journal from Mallory. This is such a special gift. I can’t wait to start year 2/5 today 🙂
  • Had my first (only) Tallahassee Snow Day! It didn’t actually snow, but it was cold enough for the schools/offices to close, and I got to spend the whole day with Velveeta!

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February

  • Discovered the French Pastry shop. This is now one of my favorite Tallahassee places. Mmm macaroons.
  • Bret (and Sadie) started playing the piano again. Isn’t she the cutest?!

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March

  • We celebrated our One Year Anniversary
  • Went to Indianapolis for a conference with Bret. This was a fun road trip for us to take together, and it was a healthy, much-needed break from work. Bonus: while we were on that trip, I learned my old DC job was going to be open again. That was such an exciting, unexpected feeling.

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April

  • One thing I wanted to do before we left Tallahassee was visit Thomasville, GA during their famous Rose Festival. We went with a friend from Bret’s grad program and it was beautiful! We saw so many flowers there, at the Tallahassee Art Festival, and at Disney’s Flower & Garden Festival, too.
  • Speaking of flowers… in April I saw the first bloom on my Peace Lily from a dear Florida friend.
  • Oh, and I made this awesome homemade Spring Wreath using silk flowers and yarn.

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May

  • Mallory & Drew visited us and we want to Universal Studios! It was so much fun. I love them.
  • Our cruise! I think our cruise is my very favorite 2014 memory. It was our 2nd honeymoon and the most fun vacation ever.

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June

  • My parents visited Florida and we got to spend a weekend with them in Apalachicola. This was a happy, unplanned surprise. I love my parents.
  • I quit my job and heard “We Are Done” by The Madden Brothers” play on the radio while I drove away for the last time. That was gratifying.
  • I started my new DC teleworking job, and got to go to San Francisco 🙂

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July

  • We watched the 4th of July at Tom Brown Park – it was our last in Tallahassee! I also discovered Diva Pops – the yummiest natural popsicles that come out of a food truck.
  • We saw armadillos on a walk one morning!
  • I renewed my Disney Annual Pass for the last time, sadly. (for a while)

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August

  • Truly, August was a sad month. I had to say goodbye to my wonderful grandma. I miss her and think about her all the time.
  • August was full of good things, too, though. Some of my most wonderful friends from high school drove own to Charlotte and we celebrated Friends Weekend 2014.
  • Bret turned 30. We celebrated with some sweet friends at his favorite (Tallahasssee) Mexican restaurant wearing a shirt that says, “Aged to Perfection”
  • We had the best trip to Disney with Bret’s family…and Olaf!

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September

  • We got to see a lot of wonderful grad school friends at Brandi & Sean’s wedding
  • My “tweet” was “published” or something

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October

  • I got to go to D.C. for work!…and then I spent the weekend with my family in Richmond – we went to a pumpkin patch!
  • We made a hilarious gift for Bret’s mom that involved Bret re-creating some adorable baby pictures.
  • Then, I went to Sacramento, California for work and got stranded in a Dallas airport… no pictures needed.

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November

  • We were invited to a SURPRISE PARTY for our friend, Christine’s, 30th Birthday
  • I went to Chicago for work and ate authentic deep dish pizza!
  • We celebrated Thanksgiving for two 🙂
  • I wrote half a novel. I’m pretty proud of that.

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December

  • Mallory visited us in Tallahassee for the happiest time of the year and the Jingle Bell Run 🙂
  • We celebrated Christmas in VA with my fam
  • We celebrated New Years in PA with Bret’s fam …and I got to go to Wegman’s for the first time! My new favorite grocery store.

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I’m not listing off all of these things to brag about my year. I hope it doesn’t seem that way. On a personal level, the year was a good one. I got to go on a cruise and a visit a bunch of cities on work trips that I’d never seen before and I’m so grateful for that. There were some unexpected challenges, too. And there was loss and heartbreak and frustration and so many moments of longing for peace and understanding.

This year was really just a good reminder that I have no idea what’s going to happen half the time. I didn’t think I’d find a way to leave my Florida job before 2015, but I did. I didn’t think I’d get to see my family so much, but I did. When I was grumping around and wishing the year would go by quickly, I could have been focusing on the things I had control over and feeling grateful for all the good things. So, thanks, 2014. Thanks for being good to me even though I had a terrible attitude about you.

Last January, I decided that 2014 was going to be a “get through” year, and I wish I hadn’t done that. I wish I had done something my yoga instructor had encouraged me to do on January 16:

light a candle and welcome the unexpected changes this year with an open heart

New Year New Moon

Good thing I have a whole new year to apply this philosophy. This year promises to have a lot of big changes including new city to call home and a new job for Bret. There are sure to be some challenges, but I’m ready for them.

I don’t have a concrete resolution this year, really, but I’m resolving to spend more time away from my phone and social media. I want to be present and intentional and available to live in the moments I’m given. I want to listen to more music and read more books. I want to finish my novel and submit it for publication, too.

Cheers to 2015!

Pre-School for Adults

Something wonderful happened to me.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try a new yoga class – Flow & Meditation – and it was the best medicine.

I arrived at my regular yoga studio a few minutes early and the instructor asked me if I had ever taken this particular class before. I said no, and he told me the class consists of:

  • 45 minutes of vigorous vinyasa yoga exercises
  • 20 minutes of  guided meditation
  • 10 minute reflective writing activity

My first thought was wait, really?! There’s a writing prompt?  Continue reading “Pre-School for Adults”