a look back on 2016

As I read Facebook statuses and Instagram posts, I see tons of content talking about what a miserable year 2016 was. In politics, celebrity deaths, police brutality, global acts of terrorism, and Florida Gator football, I can agree – it was a rough year. But personally, I had one of the most wonderful years of my life. And the best part? It was completely unexpected.

I started off 2016 with a few goals, which I shared here. With the exception of writing a book (still working on that), I think I did a great job with seeing my goals through – particularly the travel, snail mail, and podcasts.

So, where did the year wind up? I’ll list some highlights:

  • February: I met (in February, in San Francisco) my wonderful boyfriend, Scott. As a matter of fact, I am in a terminal in St. Louis now writing this post, as I travel to visit him for New Year’s Eve! Our meeting was unlikely (he’s a Colorado guy living in California, I’m a Florida girl living in Tennessee) but I am so completely grateful that it happened.

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  • March & April: I visited New York City and Orlando to celebrate the bachelorette party and wedding for one of my dear friends, Mara! It was such an honor to be her bridesmaid, and it was such a joyous couple of months celebrating she and Mark.

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  • May & June: I took a couple of fantastic girls’ trips! My BFF of almost 20 years, Taylor, and I went to Savannah and Tybee Island, GA for a Cinco de Mayo getaway. In June, I rented the Bachelor mansion (pretty much) in Ft. Lauderdale with all my best Nashville gal pals. We had such a good time!

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  • September & October: Scott and I had some great visits! First he came to me in September, and I showed him the best of Music City. Then I went out to San Francisco in October, where he outdid me and took me on a getaway to Big Sur (one of my ultimate dream travel destinations)!

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  • November & December: Lots of family time toward the end of the year! I got to go to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and Pensacola for Christmas. I also turned 25, which felt like an exciting milestone!

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I ended the year, as I mentioned, by heading back to California! I can’t think of any place I’d rather start my 2017 than with my boyfriend in the Bay Area. I’m so excited to see what lies ahead for 2017 – I kind of can’t believe it’s already here!

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what in the world have i been doing?

Whoa, where did the last many, many months go?  What have I been doing?  How has my blog gone so utterly untouched?

Here’s a little glimpse at what I’ve been up to, in no particular order:

  • Watching Hallmark Christmas movies since November 1
  • Starting and re-starting the fifth Harry Potter book for four months and counting
  • Walking the aisles of Target and buying things I don’t need
  • Looking at pictures of dogs, kids, and dogs with kids on Instagram
  • Reading travel blogs and planning dream trips to places like Iceland and Amsterdam
  • Talking to my (super, absurdly) long-distance boyfriend into the wee hours of the night
  • Getting addicted to Westworld, live texting each episode and exchanging theories with said boyfriend
  • Seeing how long I can go without doing laundry until I run out of undies
  • Watching old (and current) episodes of Survivor and wishing I was a contestant
  • Thinking about chopping my hair off (but not actually chopping my hair off)
  • Listening to Christmas music and anxiously awaiting the month of December
  • Drinking Diet Coke

So there you have it—it’s a thrilling life I lead.  I’m going to try to get back into the groove of blogging in the coming weeks, but alas, my late-night phone calls, Survivor marathons and trips to Target may continue to take precedence.  (I’m just being honest.)

giving rides to strangers

I was sitting at my computer, thinking about a few different blog posts I could write, when I saw this post just sitting in my drafts…a couple of years old, but MAN how did I ever not share this?  So here we are.  I wrote this post back in December 2014, and I’m sharing it now.

Before I go into this story, let me begin with a preface: I am alive and well!

I woke up on Saturday morning at 5:30 am to drive to Macon, GA to pick up my car from the Honda dealership where it was being repaired.  This ordeal is a story in itself, and one that I won’t go into in this post.  I spent four hours driving to Macon only to swap cars and turn around to head back to Gainesville.

When I pulled off the highway into Gainesville after eight hours of solo driving, I decided to stop at the mall and get a pedicure.

Flash forward to an hour later.  My toes were polished, my heels were soft and I was relaxing as I sat under the lamp letting them dry, when a woman came and sat next to me.  My best visual for her is Cynthia Rose from Pitch Perfect (but about 10 years older).

So this woman starts making small talk with me, and eventually asks what part of town I live in.  She seems friendly enough, so I tell her that I live near the UF campus.  After I tell her, she asks, “Can I hitch with you?”

It took me about 45 seconds of dumbfounded silence to realize that she was asking me for a ride.

She went on to explain that it had taken her three hours to get to the mall by bus and that she just really wanted to get home.  Weary, I explained that I had to stop somewhere else before I headed home.  “That doesn’t matter,” she said.  “It’ll still be faster than by bus!  I can’t even hardly find my way out of this mall!”

So reluctantly, in an effort to do a good deed (and an inability to say no when she put me on the spot), I said yes, that I’d give her a ride.

We leave the nail salon, and are walking to my car, when she began shouting at a mall cop.  “Look at you, you little peanut head!  I see you!”  I picked up my pace; she followed suit.  “Do you know him?”  I ask nervously with a giggle.  “No, but did you see his little head in that helmet?!” she exclaimed.  Oh man.  Ohhhhh man.

We get to my car, and I put the windows down.  At this point, I’m just thinking, “Crap. I hope this woman doesn’t rob me.  Or hustle me.”  So I figure that if I have my windows down, I can at least get some attention should she try anything.

So I begin the drive to her home, and as we drive she tells me of her jilted ex-lover who’s been texting and calling a lot.  “He needs to step off or else,” she said.  I giggle nervously (a theme for this entire saga).  “I got a new girlfriend, and she’s real jealous,” she tells me.  “She doesn’t like me talking to anybody else.”

My mind is swirling with scenarios of her new girlfriend and ex-lover both awaiting my arrival.  She continues telling stories as I drive aggressively and hastily, trying to make every possible light and get this good deed done as quickly as possible.  I would recount more of the stories, but I don’t actually remember them.  I think I blacked out in anxiety.  “This is our turn,” she tells me.  We were almost there.

About five minutes later, we pulled up to the house.  I keep my hand on the gearshift, ready to throw it in reverse as soon as she’s out of the car.  “THANK YOU LADY!” she shouts as she walks away from the car.  “YOU’RE WELCOME!” I shouted back, as I sped away and thanked God for sparing me from harm in that stupid decision I had just made.

did we just become best friends?

Last week, I tweeted at a friend, who was shocked that I had previously never made an Amazon purchase.  (I have no defense or explanation—I know it’s weird.)

I had bought a gift for someone on Amazon, and I tweeted:
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Amazon wasted no time in replying, and this is where things got good.  I responded to their Twitter olive branch with what else?  A Step Brothers gif.
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Now, I kind of expected Amazon to “like” my tweet and move on, but what ensued was far, far better.
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The Amazon customer service team matched not only my enthusiasm for the greatest film of our generation, but responded with incredible speed.  I had fallen in love with a company’s customer service Twitter account.
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“Surely they’ll stop responding soon,” I thought to myself.  “This is too good to be true.”  Testing them, I brought up one of the most iconic events known to man: the Catalina Wine Mixer.

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They spoke my language.  These were my people.  I didn’t know the end was near for this interaction, though.  I thought our friendship and tweets were unending.  I was wrong.  My last tweet went unanswered.  It was as follows.
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Ok, so perhaps I should have known that a tweet referencing “Boats ‘N Hoes” would go unanswered, but I figured, why not go out with a bang?

Moral of the story: Amazon’s customer service team is awesome, and I’m a really huge fan of Step Brothers.
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a weekend spent outdoors

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My blog just turned one year old!  I’m so happy I’ve stuck with this.  Now, back to this post’s real content:

I spent nearly my entire weekend outdoors and it was heavenly.

I try not to do recap-type posts on this blog too often, as I don’t want to bore you (my precious few loyal readers) with the mundane details of my day-to-day life. However, this blog is also a place for me to document memories to recall later, and this weekend falls perfectly into that category.

On Friday, our boss let us leave the office a couple of hours early. I spent that time at Target (my favorite store ever). I then went home and took an accidental (but wonderful) nap from about 7 pm to 9 pm. Right after I woke up, I went out to celebrate a work acquaintance’s birthday with some coworkers. We had a blast singing along to music and dancing, and I tried a delicious new-to-me cocktail (a Paloma).

On Saturday, I went to the Luke Bryan Farm Tour! I bought Maddie and myself tickets back a few months ago when the tour got announced, and the day finally arrived. We went with two friends and wound up seeing a few other friends there at the venue.

We tailgated a bit before the concert (listening to the Gator game on the radio which we somehow won, throwing the football and enjoying the beautiful weather). When we finally went into the actual performance area, we got fairly close to the stage. Chancie Neal, The Peach Pickers and Cole Swindell were all openers. Luke Bryan came out around 9 pm and he was even cuter than on television! He has this adorable southern accent which, combined with his goofy dance moves and powerhouse vocals, makes him utterly lovable.

The show went on for a solid two hours or so, and then it was a battle to leave the parking lot. Considering there were about 17,000 fans out on one farm, it was a bit of a traffic jam. It only took us about an hour to get out to the main road — and this was a product only of my aggressive driving. “I’m gonna kiss that Michigan bumper,” I said to Maddie over and over again, cracking up as I refused to allow others to push their way into line in front of me.

There was this epic moment when a huge, lifted truck full of guys zoomed up beside us out of nowhere, clearly believing they’d be able to cut me off. When I out-drove them, I exclaimed out the window, “You just got beat by a Honda Civic…COUPE!” The guys were beside themselves cracking up and the driver was clearly disappointed that I’d outmaneuvered him. It felt pretty sweet.

On Sunday, I slept in and awoke to more of the world’s most beautiful weather. I went to a late breakfast at my favorite spot (Billy Bobz, shout out to Geanine, the best waitress on the planet) and knew I needed to be outdoors for the afternoon. So, I split my time between Open Streets Gainesville (an event where they shut down a mile of University Ave. strictly for cyclists and pedestrians — lots of booths, live music, games, crafts and DOGS everywhere) and laying out in the sunshine to enjoy my book. This is really weird to admit, but I wound up laying out at a park adjacent to a dog park, so that I could see all the sweet pups coming and going. I have been wanting a dog for a while now but for now, this is as close as I can get. Also nearby were some people in medieval wear practicing jousting, but that’s just a strange little side note…

After all that time in the great outdoors, I went home and did some work, ate some pizza, watched The Voice with Maddie and had a lovely phone chat with my friend James, who always makes bad days sunny and sunny days sunnier. I then finished a book (that I had started that morning at breakfast…#bookworm) and took a bath before hitting the hay.

What a weekend it was! And next weekend is set to be even better — I’m going on vacation to North Carolina, where I’ll be checking off number 15 on my 101 in 1001 list. Can’t wait to see you, Sam!

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  -L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

breathe through your thighs

Thrilled to be done with power yoga and putting the mat away (and pointing at Calm Eric).

So there I was, in a darkened group fitness studio, taking my first ever power yoga class.  I was wearing my lucky gnome socks and was ready to check something new off the bucket list.

“Breathe through your thighs,” he said.  I suppressed a laugh.  He let out several long, dramatic breaths.  Were those coming through his thighs?  The breaths sounded like fairly normal respiratory function to me.

We were in the first 15 minutes of the class, the portion devoted to stretching and breathing and listening to Eric talk in what I suppose was a soothing voice.

I was bored in those 15 minutes but in hindsight, I should have savored them, because the following 45 minutes were grueling.  Have you ever heard of the crow pose?  What about the side crow?  THESE ARE NOT BEGINNER POSES.  But these are what Eric was doing in this class.

We were warriors and side warriors and reverse warriors and children and trees and tables and IT WAS JUST A LOT.

And as we contorted ourselves, Eric spoke nuggets of “wisdom” and “inspiration” and “relaxation.”

Eric: “Visualize a white light seeping through your scalp.”
My thoughts: “Man, I’m so glad I don’t have dandruff.”

Eric: “Picture a red rose blooming slowly in your heart.”
My thoughts: “Roses have thorns.  This is what Jordin Sparks was talking about in Bleeding Love!”

Eric: “Picture a light blue color right between your eyes.”
My thoughts: “Ow. Why do my eyes hurt?  Am I crossing my eyes with my eyelids closed?!”

Eric: “When you embrace pain and hurt it turns to love and you become strong.”
My thoughts: “That doesn’t sound healthy.  That sounds like he is condoning domestic abuse.”

And so the class went, for nearly an hour.  Then, as we went into my favorite pose, the one where you lie flat on your back and just start to fall asleep because the class is almost over, the girl in front of me tickled my foot.  And I loudly laughed and interrupted everyone else’s peace.

Afterward, I told Eric it was my first class and he was shocked, saying that no one should begin with power yoga, and the friend who invited me (LOOKING AT YOU, AUDRA) wasn’t a friend at all.

To reward ourselves for the hour of Zumba (my thing) and hour of power yoga (clearly not my thing), I went with my girlfriends to Leonardo’s, ate two slices of pizza, then went to House of Beer, drank two beers and cried listening to romantic first date stories.  What a night.

movin’ on up

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may know that Maddie and I lived together for two years in a “historical property” called “Eden Arms.”  I put quotation marks around both of those phrases for two reasons.  Reason 1: The property wasn’t actually historical; it was simply old.  My landlord just used the excuse of it being a “historical property” to avoid having to make upgrades and repairs.  Reason 2: We didn’t actually ever hear our place called “Eden Arms” until we were preparing to renew our lease for a second year.

Well, we moved out of “Eden Arms” this past weekend, and lucky for you, I’m here to share an account of this sweaty, miserable, mishap-filled move.

Let me begin by saying that our new condo is, according to Google Maps, 0.1 miles away from our old place.  Seems simple, right?

Sunday, August 5
Maddie had to work from 2 pm – 10 pm on Sunday, but I had made the U-Haul reservation for 4 pm that day.  Thank goodness for my friend Sean, who agreed to take me to pick up the moving truck (which I would then drive by myself) and help me load it with the entire contents of our place.  Approximately three sweaty hours later, Sean and I had packed the U-Haul to the brim.  The picture makes it seem like we carelessly threw everything in, but let me tell you, there was strategy.  We filled every last crevice of that truck, including crevices that required me scaling over the tops of furniture.  I should also point out that I backed the U-Haul into my yard from a busy intersection, avoiding two tree obstacles and leaving enough room for the ramp to come out.  I’m practically a professional mover.

On Sunday night, Maddie and I slept on the floor of my bedroom.  We had packed our beds, our couches, all of our clothes…anything remotely soft, cushioned or comfortable was in the back of a 14-foot U-Haul.

Monday, August 4
We woke up bright and early on Monday morning, backs and necks aching (and my arms aching from loading the truck the night before).  I took off in the new whip to Uniquities, a furniture consignment store where I had to pick up my newly-purchased dresser.  I met the shop owner at 8:30 am and she helped me load the dresser (my mother is cringing as she reads this because it’s actually a chest of drawers, but I prefer referring to it as my dresser) into the truck’s tiny space we’d left reserved for it.  I then DROVE TO STARBUCKS IN THE U-HAUL TO PICK UP MORNING DRINKS.  The downtown Starbucks in Gainesville has dismal parking, so I simply left the U-Haul in the middle of the aisle, with room to pass on both sides, as I went in.

Let’s flash forward now to about 10 am.  We have cleaned our apartment and there is very little left inside of it.  We have to be entirely cleared out by noon, and the moving truck has to be returned by 1 pm.  We head to our new place (which is, by the way, on the second and third stories of a building) and what do we find?  SQUATTERS.  I’m being dramatic, but seriously…the tenants who were supposed to have already vacated the condo were still inside.  With all their stuff.  So, I did what any girl would do in my situation.  I started placing all their belongings on the sidewalk outside.  Chris and Michael, two of our guy friends that Maddie and I enlisted to help, looked around uncertainly. “Take their stuff outdoors,” I told them.  I started vacuuming the feathers that were inexplicably all over the living room floor.  Eventually, all of their stuff was outside and we were able to start unloading ours.  The only issue: the carpet was disgusting.  It needed to be professionally cleaned.  So, we did what any sane people would do.  We piled, from floor to ceiling, all of our belongings on any surface that wasn’t carpet.  This includes the guest bathroom, a small pantry, and the kitchen.

Just before 1 pm, I drove the U-Haul back to the store to return it.  Maddie followed so she could give me a ride home.  I sat trapped beneath her television and mirror in the front seat for the car ride home (because obviously, in addition to a 14-foot moving truck, we filled both of our vehicles with stuff too).  By this point, we were starving, soaked with sweat, irritated (those messy SQUATTERS), and beyond tired.  Did I mention that I had to go into work after lunch that afternoon?

My angel of a boss let me leave the office an hour early (in addition to coming late) because she was so stunned by the absurdity of my situation.  Thank goodness for this.  Later that evening, when the carpet was dry enough to have furniture on it, Maddie and I began the laborious task of getting the couches inside.  Maddie was in front, steering the couch around the corners, and I was in the back, putting all my weight into trying to shove this thing through our doorway.

We were convinced that the couch was stuck in the doorway and was not going to go inside.  I was holding up the back end as Maddie put her end down and collapsed in laughter on the floor.  “Take a picture of this for the blog,” I told her.  I envisioned a picture of me, sad and lonely trying to wedge a square peg in a round hole.  But, just when she got out the phone, I gave one final upward push and proclaimed,I just Hulk-ed it!”  The couch was inside and I was shout-grunting like a 300-pound man with ‘roid rage.  Note: I did this in my dress from work.  The above picture is my resulting satisfied smirk that the couch was, in fact, inside our unit.

The rest of the night, Maddie and I did our best to unpack and organize.  As you can see, we still have a lot to do.  But today is Friday, and that means the weekend is almost here!  How else would I want to spend my weekend except unpacking and organizing?  Let me see…I’d rather give a stranger a foot massage.  I’d rather eat a soap-flavored jelly bean.  I’d rather have the smell of wet dog perpetually under my nose for 24 hours.  I would rather do just about anything than work in our place this weekend.  But duty calls, and if you need me, I’ll be the one grumpily cursing the squatters and trying to make my bedroom look more like a twinkly dreamland and less like a war zone.

 

the belcher, the bouncer and the bumpkin

three b'sWhen you live in a college town, you encounter a lot of college-age males. I’m not going to make a sweeping generalization and say that all of these males suck, but I’m going to throw it out there that after four years of primary research, 85 percent of college-age males do indeed (suck).

It’s not always a heartbreaking, mascara-stained pillowcase kind of suck, either (although those are the absolute worst). No, usually it’s the kind of suck that leaves a girl, like my roommate or me, wondering on what planet certain behavior is appropriate. Don’t believe me? I present to you the three b’s: the belcher, the bouncer and the bumpkin.

1. The belcher: There I am, in a college bar. I am upset over a guy, and Maddie has forced me to come out from the comfort of my oversized t-shirt and couch and into the land of dark, smoky rooms and too-loud music. After a few minutes of typical across-the-room eye contact and a grin or two, the belcher came over. He struck up a conversation with the unsurprising question: “What are you drinking?” He earned low marks on his approach, but I gave him a shot anyway. Things are going well—he seems fairly smart and likable and invites Maddie and me to play pool with a friend and him.

But before we moved toward the pool tables, he burped. Loudly. In my face. Stunned, I laughed, fanned my face and waited for him to apologize. But no apology came. In fact, he was amused by his own burp. At this point, I questioned whether I should “go to the bathroom” and ditch the belcher. I decided to continue what had been a marginally-stimulating conversation. Big mistake. Not five minutes later, he has struck again. This time, he said (and I kid you not), “Whoa! Thought that one was going to come out the other end!” I am appalled. I am mortified. I am too sober for this. I took Maddie’s hand and we headed to the “bathroom.” The belcher didn’t deserve a minute more of my time.

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2.  The bouncer: Occasionally, as girls, we have to use our feminine powers to charm the bouncers outside of a bar. Maddie is particularly good at this. Several months ago, she talked the bouncer into letting our friend Amanda into a bar. The bouncer believed that Maddie’s five-minute conversation was love at first sight. Maddie believed that she was simply getting a friend into a bar. The bouncer subsequently took every sighting of Maddie as a chance to “woo” her. On one occasion, he explained that he’d been told many times he resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger “in the body” and spoke in-depth about his workout regimen. As he told her this, with three of our friends looking on in amusement, he pinned her to the bar so that she was physically unable to escape from the gun show.

Another time, the bouncer told Maddie that he’d seen her on campus three months prior and she had not said hello. He was still upset about this. He explained that the only reason he let Amanda into the bar was Maddie…essentially, the bouncer tried to guilt Maddie into dating him. Needless to say, Amanda and Maddie have not been back to that bar together on nights when the bouncer is working.

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3.  The bumpkin: He wore a camouflage hat and a grin. As trivia ended, he, a participant of trivia, brought me a glass of the beer I had been drinking. “I have a bar tab,” I explained. “You drink it!” “No, I bought you this,” he said. “Even though I think it tastes like old, nasty General Chow’s Chicken.” I laughed nervously. “Well, thanks,” I said. I put the beer beside me on the table with no intention of actually drinking it.

“I’m from out of town,” he slurred. Oh my. “I don’t know how you’re drinking that terrible beer,” he said. I’m guessing he was more of a Bud Light man (this was New Belgium’s acclaimed La Folie). The next ten minutes consisted of him alternately peppering me with drunken questions and falling over himself at my feet. “You’re such a good trivvvvvia host,” he slurred. I shifted on my feet in discomfort as the bumpkin went to buy me “another of those nasty General Chow beers.” Enter Cody. I didn’t know Cody, but, seeing the situation, he put his arm around me and called me ‘babe’ as the bumpkin returned. I thought certainly that the bumpkin would retreat after seeing that another man had moved in on his woman, but he instead took the opportunity to shake Cody’s hand and tell him how vital it was that he proposed to me that evening, even if I did have poor taste in beer and music. (I guess he didn’t like the Mumford & Sons I had been playing during trivia.)

Eventually, after I said six times (literally), “Well, it was nice to meet you…have a good night,” the bumpkin allowed me to leave, hand-in-hand with Cody (or in the style of this blog post, the boyfriend). We exited the bar and I hugged Cody, thanking him for his dutiful service. I hauled butt home and never looked back to see if the bumpkin was chasing after his true love. Note: I’m terrified that the bumpkin may return to trivia this week as this incident happened this past week. Stay tuned to see if a sequel to this story unfolds in which an actual marriage proposal takes place.

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Separate from these long, exhausting interactions, there have been countless isolated incidents. There was the man who growled out the passenger car window as he drove past us and then opened the car door to lean out and shout from the moving vehicle how beautiful he found Maddie and me. I can’t forget the creeper from a bar who hit on Maddie and Ada while I stood by, laughing, because he had met me and used the exact same lines a day earlier at the library. And of course, there was the guy who strategically scheduled a first date with me for early in the evening so that he could make it home in time to watch a certain sporting event (and he let me know this as our waitress “took too long” to bring the bill).

I feel like I should say, all of this hasn’t been shared to humiliate the aforementioned guys; they did that to themselves. I just get a good laugh every time I think about one of these stories and thought maybe I’d give others a chance to laugh at my misfortune. If you’re a guy reading this and you believe you’re in the 15 percent of college-age males who don’t suck… Good for you. Keep your burps in, your muscles to yourself and your beer commentary to a minimum. You’ll be just fine.

a weekend to remember

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about what an amazing weekend I had.  Every single part of every day was wonderful!  I am sharing about it here partially because there may possibly-but-not-likely be someone out there who is interested in hearing about why my weekend rocked so much.  More so, I want to be able to reference this post and remember fondly what a great last full weekend I had as an undergrad at the University of Florida.

Friday

On Friday, one of my best friends, Cameron, turned 21.  Cameron is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met.  We ate dinner at the Swamp restaurant (classic Gainesville) and then went on to the stadium (also known as the Swamp) to watch the sunset.

After that, I went with my friends Blaire and Nicole to see a movie called “The Other Woman.”  Since I don’t have cable and I never go to movies, I rarely know what’s in theaters, but I went on a whim to this one with the girls.  IT WAS THE FUNNIEST MOVIE I HAVE SEEN IN A LONG TIME.  I loved it so, so much and want to see it again as soon as possible.  I officially have a girl crush on Leslie Mann.

After that, I met back up with Cam and our friend Joanna and we went line dancing!  We had a great time laughing our butts off attempting to keep up with what seemed like a bar full of professional line dancers.  It was pretty funny because, although I own two pairs of cowboy boots, I wasn’t wearing them this particular night.  So, surrounded by boot-clad girls, I line danced in my gold sandals.

Saturday

On Saturday, I slept in and met up with my friend Blaire for a Publix sub.  I am convinced that the best days always start with Pub subs.

We went on to the pool where we met up with about 10 other Cicerone seniors for a relaxing day of sunshine and daiquiris.  (Our friend Tyler literally brought a blender to the pool. It was 50 percent hilarious and 50 percent genius.)

After the pool, I went home, showered and changed and Drew picked me up for what would be the most random, spontaneous night of adventures.  First we got snow cones; then we snuck into Sam’s Club to sample foods.  Yes, you read that right.  We’re rebels.  Well, Drew is a rebel.  He walked in like he owned the place.  I, meanwhile, went with the “Wait up!” method of chasing after two random strangers and their baby past the card-checker and into the store.

After an underwhelming selection of samples, we went to the La Chua trail to see the wild horses/hogs/alligators and a stunning sunset.  It’s always crazy to me to find places of such open, natural beauty so close to a crowded college campus.

We then went and played beach volleyball which was an event in itself.  We met what might be the weirdest, goofiest kid to exist at the University of Florida.  He dove into the sand on every play and spent time saying things like, “I’m going to grab this sand so hard it’s going to turn into diamonds!”  What time I didn’t spend trying to serve or hit the ball, I spent laughing at this little oddball named Nate.

After that, we went to a late dinner at Outback (another entertaining event–there was plastic in the Bloomin’ Onion) followed by a spontaneous (and incredibly complicated) card game with some friends and watching Pride and Prejudice.  It was my first time to see that movie and holy mackerel did I love it!  My favorite part was, of course, at the end, when he was kissing her and calling her Mrs. Darcy.  Sigh.  So sweet.

Sunday

On Sunday, after a great church service with friends and lunch with my Cicerones executive board replacement, Cynthia, I went to play a modified game of backyard softball with friends.  It was called sloshball, and it involved drinking beer while you play.  I partook in the softball but not the excessive beer drinking; 2 p.m. on a Sunday just isn’t really my ideal time for that.

Afterward, I baked chocolate chip cookies and went to our Cicerones Bible Conversation, which had a record turnout!  It has been so cool to see this group grow from 3-5 people meeting sporadically to a group of more than 30 people gathered to discuss the Bible and share life together.  I feel so confident leaving the organization I love so much in the hands of the new leaders that are stepping up.

After Bible Conversation, a Cicerone named Avery and I went to the Black Community Awards.  Several of our friends were nominated for awards, and we went to support them.  It wound up being one of the most entertaining events ever.  Between seeing our friends on stage, laughing about various A/V problems and taking in an array of performances (including a rapper named “Bandz” who had two hype men on the stage with him), we had a fabulous time.  I sat right between my friends Reggie and Brianna, and that seat is one I would choose again and again for every show I ever go to!

Avery and I went for a spontaneous milkshake after the event was over.  We had what turned out to be such a memorable conversation as we sipped on our shakes.  One of the things I like about Avery is that he’s able to have such a good time and be so goofy and confident (we were changing the lyrics to “A Whole New World” and singing them out loud as we ordered in Baskin Robbins) but then shift into a serious, far-below-surface-level conversation.  I am someone who thrives in the balance of these two dynamics, and it was special to find someone else who can switch so easily between the two.

One of the things Avery and I wound up talking about was our mutual love for Cameron (see Friday night’s birthday festivities).  This, of course, led us to going over to Cam’s place to see him.

I scooted Avery home and then found myself thinking about how much I’m going to miss the people I’ve become close with during senior year, one of whom is leaving today.  Before I knew it, I was outside Leah’s door waiting for her to let me in!

We had a great late-night chat, discussing the summer she’s about to spend in the Middle East and our uncertainty about the future.  We also decided that the skirt I was wearing, which is long enough for her to wear in Qatar, would become a “Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt.”

At last, around 1 in the morning, I went home and slept blissfully with my fan on full blast.

I am so thankful for this place and the friendships I have formed here.  To say I had a stellar weekend is an understatement.

 

surf’s (kind of) up

1743571_10152873962407715_919633151_nA week ago, I got a text from my friend Sean.

It said all it needed to in one word: “Surf?”

A short conversation later (and an internal debate on whether or not I should indeed skip my class to go to St. Augustine spontaneously), Sean was all set to pick me up.  I had tried to convince him that we should wait and go on Sunday afternoon instead but he was adamant that the waves were not to be passed up on this particular Thursday.  And seeing as it’s senior spring, and this was on my bucket list, I obliged.

We got to his house in St. Augustine, and after a quick meet-the-parents, I was putting on a wetsuit.  This is the first of many things people never tell you about surfing: wetsuits are totally awkward to put on.  My calf muscles have never felt more thunderous than they did as the neoprene legs of the wetsuit clung to them like that creeper from Plaza of the Americas clung to me back in January.  Following Sean’s lead, I left the top half of the wetsuit around my waist and prepared to load up for the beach.

We loaded the surfboards into Sean’s car and headed to the beach…where a red flag was flying and not a single soul was in the water.    Another thing no one mentions about surfing: carrying a 7-ish foot long surfboard is no monkey business, particularly when you are on a narrow beach walkover and trying not to hit anyone in the face as they try to walk past.

Sean knew that I had never surfed before and that he was dealing with a total amateur.  After we put our stuff down in the sand, I followed his lead and zipped up my wetsuit all the way.

“You ready to hit the water?” Sean asked me.

I was stunned.  In all the movies/episodes of Made on MTV I have seen, the rookie practices all of the motions of surfing on the sand before they even go near the water.  The instructor gives lots of tips and encouragement and then, only then, do they actually hit the waves.

1948210_10152873962472715_691846972_nBut Sean seemed to think this method was overrated.  He walked confidently toward the Atlantic, knowing I’d follow.

Let me tell you, that water was cold.  Yes, the wetsuit was miraculously effective at keeping my body warm.  But my poor hands and feet, and lower half of my arms, and neck and face and OH YEAH MY ENTIRE HEAD FULL OF COLD, WET HAIR were all freezing.

Then we began the painstaking process of paddling out.  The waves were rough and coming from all directions.  Sean made it look easily as I was repeatedly pummeled into the ocean floor and pushed backward (like one of those math problems from elementary school where you go two feet forward but slide back three).

At one point, Sean asked me if I wanted to go back to the shore.  No freaking way was I heading in after ten minutes of effort.

We finally got out past where the waves were breaking and it was the most peaceful, beautiful, awesome thing.  I was content just to sit on the board and soak it all in.  Sean was right when he said that it’s pretty tough to be stressed or upset out on the water.

If I gave you a vivid description of all that followed, you’d be reading until your hair went entirely gray, so I’ll be brief:  I never stood up on the board and caught a wave.  I did, however half-stomach/half-knees, clenching the board with all my might, ride several waves, literally screaming and squealing as I went.  I also cheered for Sean as he Johnny Tsunami-style made the whole thing look like a piece of cake.  The end of the day came when, as dusk was approaching, a giant wave came at me head on.  My board slammed into my nose and mouth, the wave pushed me under, then my board slammed into the back of my head for good measure.  Panicking, I went to the shore and Sean followed, concerned.

Of course, I was fine.  Of course, there was no blood.  My hands and feet were numb.  The board was heavy to carry back down the shore to the car.  My nose was throbbing.  My hair was a tangled mess.  My body was exhausted.  We were starving.  But I loved, loved, loved my first experience surfing, and I can’t wait to go again.