A year’s worth of memories: my 2015

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Just documenting memories…

I don’t intend for anyone to find this, but if you do it’s okay. What I mean is it’s not something I’ll be sharing on Facebook or anything.

If you do find it, I don’t expect you to read it. I mean, look at it, it’s a novel. REALLY LONG. You can read it, HAHA but I don’t expect you to.

But hey, I might want to read these memories someday.

So this is for me. A capsule of 2015 for my mind.

If you’d like to join me while I reminisce, you’re welcome to.

This is my 2015


As the new year approaches, I, like many others I’m sure, find myself looking back on everything that has happened in 2015. Time constantly confuses me. It moves so quickly, yet I was able to fit so much into 12 months. I’m glad to say that most of the memories bring me smiles, although surely there were heavier days. But through it all, the heavy and the light, I have treasured many moments with dear friends and loved ones.

So I thought I’d jot down some of my favorite parts about 2015. A lot of this is to document the moments I might want to relive, and to brag on how great my friends are. I’ll try not to drag out my thoughts too much. I have been truly blessed. It’s hard to narrow down all the smiles…




When one year ends, a new one begins

It only makes sense to organize this where it truly begins (and ends). New Years Eve. The past couple New Years I’ve been able to spend with some of my closest friends. This past year was spend in Nashville, Tennessee. For many, a new year brings hope for change and bright possibilities. It can be a time to start over, to revamp or to go for that “what if” scenario. Midnight strikes and the world is bright and shining. And it all starts with a kiss. I’ve always liked the idea of a new year kiss. And I don’t think it has to be a romantic interest. I’ve shared many new years kisses. Family, friends, dogs… it’s not the kiss that I like so much as what that kiss might mean: you are important, you have touched my heart, you are loved – let’s share this moment together in celebration. So with this next new year, I hope I get to kiss the ones I love and live in a moment filled with hope.


One last semester

It had finally come: my last semester in college. How did it go by so fast? It seemed like I had just found my rhythm, and now it was coming to a close. So much had changed since the beginning. The real world was coming. DAMN. I was nervous, but determined to make it my best…and I think I did just that. So if you were with me when this chapter came to a close, thank you for being a part of my life.

group eating korean food

“The group” together for a Korean feast prepared by my sweet momma


You’re never too grown up

Our first weekend of the semester was also MLK weekend, which means we had three days to lounge around. This seemed silly to a lot of us at the time, but we didn’t complain much. That weekend was one of my favorites all semester. My friends and I gathered all of our blankets, comforters and pillows and created a living-room-sized blanket fort. It was glorious. We then proceeded to watch Disney movies and drink wine until late in the night, ending our first night sleeping in a giant cuddle puddle – we’re a bunch of platonic sleepers, my friends and me. Later on we went exploring outside, an activity we’ve always enjoyed. Then Travis rented Alien: Isolation. THIS GAME IS TERRIFYING, but so entertaining. I’ve never seen a group of people flinch and scream so much, but that’s what happens when an alien tracks you down and rips you from a locker; thank the gods we learned to make a Molotov cocktail. We also made a giant pot of curry and peach cobbler for dessert that night. It was a great weekend. The blanket fort stayed up for about a week, although my vote was on forever.

The group in our blanket fort


 Meeting personal heroes

So this part isn’t exactly chronological, but it made sense to group these two experiences together. On Jan. 20 Active Minds at Auburn University hosted Kevin Breel to talk about mental health, and specifically depression. Mental health has always been a big part of my life and will continue to be a movement I support. Kevin Breel is probably most famous for his Tedx Talk Confessions of a Depressed Comic. I heard about him through To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization dedicated to find help and providing hope for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  It’s from this talk that I found my new favorite quote:

The world I believe in is one where embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring your dark.

I’ve talked about these words a lot. They remind me that my heart is both heavy and light, and that it’s OK to be both. It was amazing getting to hear Kevin talk about his struggles with depression and the importance of starting the conversation and building community. I wore a TWLOHA shirt, which he loved – and this made me a little giddy. It was cool to meet someone that I look up to. So Kevin, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and for starting the conversation everywhere. It was cool to meet you.

Avenley and I with Kevin Breele

Avenley and I with Kevin Breele

Later in the year, Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of TWLOHA, wrote a book titled If You Feel Too Much. It’s a collection of emails, blog posts and other writings he’s done over the past several years. This book, like many of Jamie’s posts really spoke to me. I’ve always appreciated his honesty, transparency and candidness when writing. His words bring hope, inspiration, comfort, acceptance and humility. Jamie’s always been my answer to, “if you could have lunch with any person, who would it be?”. So when he stopped in Atlanta on June 2 on his book tour, you know I was going to be there. Lester and I went climbing that day and met Rachael at the book store. Jamie was a pretty cool guy. We talked about my name being in a John Mayer song and central Florida things. Jamie, I’m glad we finally met. Thanks for always giving me hope. (I got a picture with him too, but sadly it’s terribly out of focus – lol)


Welcoming new friends into my heart

It’s amazing how sometimes you meet someone, and you feel like you’ve known them your entire life. That’s happened to me quite a lot the past two years. This year, two people in particular moved their way into my heart. SO I just want to brag on you two for a bit.

Sarah

It’s amazing to me that neither one of us tried to be friends with each other sooner. We’re such dumb girls, lol. I remember some very specific moments when we truly clicked, though – and from there it skyrocketed into the beautiful love affair that we have right now. We constantly joke that we’re actually dating – except we are, and it’s not a joke…at all. Somehow we’ve managed to get into a non-lesbian love relationship. It’s totally fine. You’re literally my partner, even if we aren’t gay – but I mean if we were, at least we have parental support haha. We talk all day, about everything. Call each other in the grocery store. Try to set each other up with people in our minds, then realize it’s a terrible mistake. Cry about Naruto (probably too much). Celebrate the little things, like getting dressed and bathing when we don’t have to. We encourage each other to eat meals and to empty the litter box. We’ve met each other’s families and called each other “mom” so often that no one notices anymore. We share a love for my non-existent dog, our cats and bagels. I love you so much, and I just wanted to write it down so I could look back and remember. I’m thankful for the nights when we had sleepovers because one of us was struggling. I’m thankful for the time we jumped up and down and had a very Grey’s Anatomy-style dance party in your living room while screaming “Only One” by Yellowcard at the top of our lungs. I’m thankful for your acceptance of my crazy, your trust in my judgement, your enthusiasm for weirdness and your encouragement of all things beautiful. Thanks for quickly becoming a best friend and soulmate.

Sarah and me at halloween

Lester

Lester, you are one of the most expressively caring people I know – and also one of the funniest people I know. You write the best notes – so thoughtful and clever. You give the best gifts – going out of your way to make the other person feel special. And you’re not afraid to be yourself. I have absolutely zero recollection of when we actually became friends – we just were all of a sudden. It’s probably because I kept showing up at your apartment and never leaving – sometimes a bit too under the influence lol. I’m so glad you introduced me to bouldering. I had so much fun climbing with you and Paul in the spring. Your skills make me jealous. I miss it a lot, and hopefully I can get back to it someday. Thank you for the countless hours you’ve spent talking to me, whether that’s snapchat, snapchat texting, texting, phone conversations for hours on the couch. This summer with you was perfect. I’m impressed with your vocabulary on a daily basis and one of the best days was when I beat you at a crossword puzzle. Thanks for always sharing links with me, just cause you think I’ll enjoy them or find them interesting. Thank you for your sincerity and honestly. It’s nice having someone that always speaks their mind – I never have to wonder what you’re really thinking. I trust you, completely. Your face hat will work its magic, without a doubt. Your friendship is one I cherish deeply, and I cannot imagine life without you.

Lester and me at halloween


Roadtrip to Charleston

The group wanted to do something for spring break, but several people had obligations at the beginning of the week (work, school stuff etc), so we pushed our plans a couple days. Well Ben, Jemal, Nina and I decided we still wanted to do something for the first several days and decided to take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Ben had co-oped in Charleston, but this was a first-time trip for the rest of us. We climbed in Nina’s car, very early in the morning, and started our trip. Ben had planned out the most important parts of our trip: food stops and booze adventures. We laughed at him initially for planning out our meals – specifying which day and which meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner). But turns out the best restaurants have weird hours, so he had our stomachs’ best interests in mind. Thank you, Ben.

And the food was worth all the planning. My favorites included biscuits and gravy from a dog-loving brunch stop (Lost Dog Cafe in Folly), one of the best burgers I’ve ever had (Ben found the recipe for the Husk burger – note: we ate at the bar, not in the restaurant), a deliciously breaded corndog (Jack’s Cosmic Dogs), the BEST chicken and waffles I’ve ever had (no doubt), fries fried in duck fat and covered in blue cheese crumbles (Tattooed Moose – derricious), and lots of local brews (personal favorite: Frothy Beard Brewing Company). YUM. My stomach loved the experience.

The city was also beautiful. We spent a  lot of time walking around. I really loved the large oak trees and being on the water. The rainbow road buildings were beautiful, but my favorite were houses covered in ivy with little courtyards – darling, indeed. Plus they had a giant Forever 21, so I was happy.

Favorite parts about this trip: We stopped to see the Angel Oak Tree, which was really, really cool. It’s estimated to be 400-500 years old. It made me think of Lothlorien. We also went to the Firefly distillery. That was pretty cool. They have some awesome products. Personal favorite was the southern lemonade vodka; we bought several of these for ourselves and friends/family. My parents both approved. Tip: delicious in Coca-Cola.

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The Souther Country Inn

The second half of spring break was spent at Sarah’s family’s inn. It’s owned by her grandparents and used to be a bed and breakfast. Now they use it for family gatherings, kinda like my family’s lake house…except much, much, much bigger. The inn is in north Georgia, which was perfect – gave us a bit of a mountain experience. Sarah, Wendy and I took one car. While Jemal, Ben, Travis and Nina took another. Avenley and Lester were coming the next day. So after a long drive, with lots of music jams, we finally arrive at the inn. And WOAH. We had no idea what to expect, and it blew us away. It was like… a legit b&b. Sarah laughed at us and threw a couple, “I told you so-s” and “what did you expect-s.” We all got our own bedrooms, with our own bathrooms. How awesome is that. And there was an industrial kitchen, which was awesome. And it had a basketball hoop, which was (can you guess) awesome. And a cupboard under the stairs <3

So we spent the next several days playing lots of board games – Lester is a Scattegories champion; lots of H.O.R.S.E. – I’m the basketball champion, except that time when Travis shot a basketball from a second story window into the hoop (first time of course); lots of booze – lemonade vodka for all; lots of food – group dinners including cheesy chicken and rice; lots of nature energy – fishing, getting stuck in the mud, ladybug graveyard in the library; campfire with smores – thank you to the boys for chopping wood..sorry we found the log pile later on; and so much laughter.

And let’s not forget the supposedly haunted room 5. Room 5 was the only bedroom that was locked, which we found strange. One night Jemal claimed he heard someone yell from that room; he thought it was Avenley, but she wasn’t sleeping in room 5. So then Sarah told us about an old housekeeper who tragically died in the room and how she had been having an affair etc etc. Yeah, it was fun. We played a creepy prank on Jemal, which was probably more weird than scary. But then once half the group left, the last four us of decided (a little drunkenly) to explore. So we grabbed the key and tried to open the door. It wouldn’t open. We tried and tried and it wouldn’t unlock. And then all of a sudden, it did. So then of course we screamed and were freaking out. Eventually we got the courage to open the door, to which I was a bastard and shoved Wendy, Sarah and Avenley inside and held the door shut – that was hilarious. Not sorry. The event was video taped at the time, but none of those survived to be shared.

We also went for a small hike to a waterfall, found the *largest rocking chair built by an Amish person* or something as equally specific, pet some goats and rabbits and cuddled a lot. It was great. Definitely one of my favorite spring break experiences. We got some great pictures, and a hilarious kickline video.

group at the inn

group at the inn


Mellon

On April 5, I got my first tattoo. I won’t go too much into the meaning, because I already did in my blog post “Putting myself out there.” Most of the group traveled to Atlanta to get our group tattoo, something we’d been planning for four-five months. Six of us got it that day, two more got it in September, and more might join in time. With or without the tattoo, we’re all branded to each other.

I love my tattoo. It often makes me smile. Avenley and I have a habit of pointing out each other’s and telling each other that we love it. It’s a nice reminder of dedicated friendships – that through it all my friends are always with me. I love them all, and I’m glad we have this connection.

It reminds us to keep in contact. There’s been several pictures of us and our tattoos in various locations. I like those moments.

We’re still trying to work on reverse summoning jutsu. It’ll happen one day. There was that one time at Halloween when Paul tried to summon the Dark Lord through mine (HP reference). That was funny.

(Still giggle uncontrollably when people ask about my tattoo – nervous “are they going to judge me?” laughter probably. I hope I grow more confident in my response)

Tip: Looking for a great Tattoo parlor in Atlanta? Memorial Tattoo is awesome, and Malia Reynolds is my faaaaav.

The group getting our tattoo


A perpetual bond of friendship

Tri Delta had a huge part in shaping the woman I’ve become. I never expected to join a sorority, and I definitely don’t fit the stereotypes, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A lot of this has to do with our philanthropy, children’s cancer charities – and more specifically, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude is something I’m very passionate about, and I’m thankful Tri Delta brought me this connection. Serving as philanthropy chair for my chapter changed me. I will continue to try and make the dream of Danny Thomas a reality: “no child should die in the dawn of life.”

Another reason is obviously the women in my chapter. These women supported me, inspired me, held me to high standards and kept me smiling. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to grow with them. My Tri Delta family – Kendall, Ashley, Katie, Madison and Elizabeth – you make me a proud mom. I’m lucky to have known you and am grateful that you let me take so many pictures (can you blame me? They’re beautiful). PC11 – thank you for accepting me as your own. PC10 will always be special to me, as my original pledge class, but PC11 graciously took me in when I had one more year to offer. It felt like I had always been there, and I am so thankful for your acceptance and love. From formals, to philanthropy events, to football games, to nights on the town – I’m glad we were there together.

tri delta seniors

tri delta family


CWE vs The Real World

Camp War Eagle was definitely one of my favorite college experiences. I always wanted to be a CWE counselor. I don’t know why, but I did. I had a good relationship with mine, so that probably has something to do with it. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of atmosphere – camp fun and /shaping young minds/ kind of thing. CWE came at the perfect time. My life shifted drastically that year, and I was able to adapt and grow because of the support and love of the other counselors and First Year Experience staff. My best friends are a result of CWE. So thank you, for the best summer of my life, and for friendships that last.

CWE13 loved each other a lot. We didn’t have the drama that a lot of other years had. We meshed so well. We were are a family. Sure, relationships change and we all run in different directions, but when it comes down to it, we share a bond that no one else can replace.

SO we had the brilliant idea to do a senior bar crawl. Our tanks said “the last crawl before the #realworld,” which was a play on our skit, and we got our group numbers on the back. Group 31 forever. That night was so fun. We went to so many places, but still managed to stay together. It was a huge success. Of course once we got to Sky Bar, we lost each other eventually. But it was a ton of fun. A night I’ll always (mostly) remember with some of my most treasured friends.

Our GroupMe isn’t quite as lively as it used to be – except when Meg was competing for Miss America…we got rowdy – but we will continue to share that bond. And I’ll be sappy enough to share a “happy anniversary” message when the time comes. CWE has-been and proud.

CWE counselors reciting the Auburn creed


“To thy name we’ll sing thy praise”

On May 10, I graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and a minor in leadership studies. The College of Liberal Arts was the last college to graduate. Our speaker was Michelle Mckenna-Doyle. I attended Nina’s graduation, so at that point I had heard her speech twice, but I still enjoyed it. She did a nice job of coupling good advice with warm and fuzzies and humor. Imo got to attend my graduation, and it was nice to have her visit. Jordan had been visiting Auburn for about a week – I really enjoyed having him there. He got to hang out with my friends and do things like go bouldering, play Super Smash Brothers and drink Toomer’s lemonade; it was a really good week.

Nina’s parents hosted a graduation party for her. All our friends came over to hang. We essentially drank beer all day and hung out. We played cornhole and swayed in my hammock. It was a really good day. Then later we went over to the dojo to continue hanging out. My favorite times were always when we all got to hang out together; this was no exception.

Lester gave me the best graduation present – his black face hat and a chalk bag. The entire Internet doesn’t need the explanation behind this present and its significance, but just know it was extremely heartfelt. He’s a great friend and one of the most thoughtful people I have the pleasure of knowing.

Earning my college degree is something I am really proud of – especially from Auburn. I still haven’t even opened my diploma yet, actually. I’m afraid to mess it up. But I do have the nifty wallet-sized one they sent. Funny enough, it says I graduated on May 9…I’m hoping my printed one doesn’t. Of course some people did graduate on that Saturday, but iiiiii graduated on Sunday. lol

graduation

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This is where it really started

During CWE I made plans to take a trip at the end of summer. Long story short, the trip was canceled and I was upset about lost opportunities. Travis and I had gotten very close and when I was talking to him about the situation he suggested bringing some friends to a lake house that one of his roommates had (Paul). Well I was open to the idea, so Travis made the plans and we went up to Paul’s house. I had met him once, but only for a minute or two, so that really doesn’t count. A mixture of CWE, Huntsvillians and the previous “group” met for a booze-filled weekend at the lake. It was exactly what I needed to end that summer. To make another long story short….the current group was formed after that trip. I quickly bonded with these wonderful people and two years later, I cannot imagine life without them.

So what better way to celebrate graduation than a trip back to Smith Lake? Those days we perfect. Pure bliss. We’ve also calmed down a lot LOL. Apparently at 21 you make a huge mess (constantly) and there’s skinny dipping. At 23 you clean up after yourself and make delicious group dinners. Such mature. Very adult. But really, it was a beautiful several days. We rode on the boat, relaxed on the dock, read books, played with dogs, laughed, swam, ate and loved each other. Perfect days to end that time in our life and kick off a perfect summer. I saw shooting stars while star gazing, we cleansed ourselves in the oasis of Samwise Gamgee and toasted to mellon relationships. I’d give anything to spend the rest of my days on that lake with my best friends.

Funny part of this story: the friendships *actually* came full circle that weekend. lolololololol

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Two White Rivers

Lake Days

The lake house has always been a favorite place of mine. My dad’s grandparents built the house before he was even born. It’s in Keystone Heights, Florida, which is just outside of Gainesville. It’s not a glamorous house or lake – not like Lake Martin or Smith Lake. It’s small and homey. We somehow squeeze my whole family into this itty-bitty house – this still amazes me. But it’s so great. Good food, games, lots of babies. It’s always such a good time.

Labor Day was especially great because (1) Sarah got to come and (2) we celebrated Beebe’s 80th birthday. We got Scott and Whitney’s kids to paint a banner for her, and then when Becky and Ryan’s family got there, all the children decorated the house for her surprise party – with the help of Rachel and Sarah. It was so pretty and really nice to get to have that for Beebe. Her Krispy Kreme doughnut tower was a big hit, too.

This was the first family trip since I got my new camera, and I loved taking pictures of all the children. It’s so fun watching them grow up. I’m a big advocate of pictures – I want to be better about documenting family experiences. I love looking back on old pictures, and I want to keep looking back on all the memories as we make more.

Labor Day at the lake

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White Christmas

The White Christmas has always been a favorite celebration of mine. I loved having it at the Ranch growing up. I have such fond memories of running around the farm with all my cousins. It cracks me up to think that our parents just let us roam free – are parents of children so trusting nowadays? We would spend hours playing in a poop-covered cow trailer, running atop of hay bales, playing cops and robbers when the sun went down, riding horses, playing softball in the pasture and picking oranges right from the trees. The Ranch has always been my happy place, and when it was filled with my entire family, I was probably at my happiest.

We’ve had to relocate the host house – it’s a lot of work and stress for Beebe and Pa Joe to host, but the celebration hasn’t lessened in its appeal. This year it will be at Tom and Amy’s again. I cannot wait to see all my cousins – and so many babies!!! I’m not sure if I will write about this after it happens…


The stories of those who came before me

This summer I got to stay in Florida for a week between Memorial Day weekend at the lake and Bethany’s wedding the next weekend. I slept at Nana and Papa’s every night, but visited Beebe and Pa Joe every day. Beebe was still in the rehabilitation center, but I did also get to go to the Ranch one day.

Papa Buck and I watched a lot of movies – one of our favorite activities. We shared a lot of stories – another one of my favorite activities. That week was really special. I took for granted how much time I got to spend with both sets of grandparents when I was living in Florida (but I was naive and didn’t know any better). I’m glad I took the time to visit them this summer, but I probably should’ve taken more time. I’m excited for Christmas because we will get to be down there for several days. I miss having them close.

Papa Buck and I are still working on being able to project memories for others to see. *stay tuned*


Childhood bestfriends

It’s been really nice reconnecting with Julia and Bethany recently. We’ve kept in touch some through the years, but it was nice to spend some time with them, Kelsey too. We all got together to celebrate Bethany marrying Evan in June. We went to a delicious Cuban restaurant in Orlando and then to a cool bar in Mount Dora (Mermaid Juice). We’re all friends on Snapchat now, which has been really fun. It was great hanging out with the Watson family at the wedding, too.

It’s funny how close I feel with them after all these years. Bethany is one of the few people that I’ve known my whole life. We have picture together since we were in diapers – which are sooooo adorable. I always remember being best friends with her, playing at her house and the church. So many memories. And then Julia became my best friend at school in third grade, in Mrs. Harvey’s class. Hahaha at the wedding I apologized to her parents because I told her the truth about Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny (no children should be reading this anyway lol) after I found out; we cried in her bed that night. Anyway, they’re two of my oldest friends and I’m really happy that we continue to grow, even if we’re very far apart. They are beautiful souls.

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Resfeber and coddiwompling

So Paul decided to travel through Europe for ~five months after graduation – how cool would that be? Originally he and David planned to go for two to three months together, and then he would continue alone. Well then David last minute couldn’t go. So I jokingly said “I’ll go with you.” Then I think it became a running joke over the next week or so until one day I thought…why don’t I go with him. Surely not for a couple months at a time, but like two weeks? I could maybe do two weeks. And I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. It haunted me. I kept thinking…just go for it! LIVE, DAMMIT! So I vented to Wendy about it (of course). And then I just did it…I asked my parents. I called mom and said “Momma, what would you say if I wanted to go to Europe?” She goes, “I want to go to Europe too. What’s your point haha” We then actually discussed it. My parents were planning on buying me a camera for graduation and so we decided that instead, they’d take the money they were going to use to buy a camera and put it toward my trip. I am blessed with generous grandparents who for graduation helped me fund my trip. It would not have been possible without them. And, I was even able to buy a camera before I went, too.

So, I talked to Paul: “were you serious about the invitation to come to Europe with you?” I wanted to make sure this was a genuine invitation, not a “you should totally come along” blanket statement. He said he was serious, of course it was an open invitation to anyone that wanted to join. I was just the only one who was actually taking initiative. So we talked about it some more, and we made plans for me to join him for two weeks – we’d travel through England and Scotland. I was so excited.

Brief and non-descriptive travel schedule:
June 20 – flew from Atlanta to London
June 22 – took a train to York
June 23 – took a train to Newcastle
June 24 – took a bus along Hadrian’s wall, making several stops along the way, catching another bus in Carlisle to Keswick in the Lake District National Park
June 26 – took a bus back to Carlisle and then to Edinburgh
June 29 – took a bus to Glascow, through Lock Lomand Park, to Oban
July 1 – took a ferry to the Island of Mull, and a bus to Tobermory, then eventually back to Oban
July 2 – traveled by bus through Loch Lomand Park, stopped in Glascow, to Edinburgh
July 3 – flew from Edinburgh to London, and from London to Atlanta

I’m thinking about blogging about each experience, even though I know it’s late…but Ave’s doing it! I guess it’s not really *t00* late. Overall, the trip was amazing. I loved every minute of it.

Me and Paul


One last summer

So instead of diving hard into the job search, I decided to spend my last month in Auburn with my friends – don’t regret it for a second (of course I do have a job…). I was essentially a third roommate for Lester and Travis, which was awesome. We woke up, watched a lot of Netflix and ate a bunch of food. Sometimes we would venture into the world, and by venture into the world I mean things like playgrounds – not like sophistication or anything. It was just what I needed. Avenley, Sarah and Jemal were there too – and Nina for half of it. It was a summer of no responsibilities – something I have never had. No class, no work – just friendship and relaxation. I got to visit Sarah’s family in Mobile, go climbing in Atlanta with Lester, convinced Travis to watch a Tinkerbell movie (lol) and many more adventures. We went to a farmer’s market, walked dogs – and avoided the impending need to pack for our move (where then we cried…a lot)

I like to think of summer 2015 as one giant sleepover.

Ave Trav Lester


To have and to hold

While we were at dinner at Husk during the Charleston trip, my phone was in my purse. Well I pulled it out after a while and found that I had a missed called from either Derrek or Marissa (sorry, don’t remember which one lol) and a text from Marissa saying that Derrek proposed – AHHHHH! I was so excited. I freaked out and immediately called them back. Two of my dearest high school friends were getting married. It was perfect. I remember freaking out about four years ago when they got together. They really are so great for each other and I cannot wait to watch them continue to build a life together.

This summer I finally got to see them for the first time since they got engaged in March. We met for dinner at McGuire’s in Senoia, Georgia. They told me they had a “graduation present” for me. Marissa pulled out this cute handmade box with my name on it. And of course, when I opened it I found out it wasn’t just a graduation present. Marissa asked me to be a bridesmaid! I get to stand next to my dear friends when they pledge themselves to each other. I am so excited. Inside the box was a perfect, personalized bridesmaid coffee mug, a bracelet and a cute little frame that said “The future Mrs. Keyser can’t say I do without you by her side.” I may or may not have cried a bit – which they loved, of course. Derrek jokes that he’s grumpy I can’t stand on his side lol.

Marissa and I later on were able to surprise Derrek for his birthday with a visit from me. Of course we had to be liars once he actually invited me himself. I was so noncommittal and unenthusiastic in my responses haha we felt so bad. But the surprise was great. He cried this time! That was fun, too. We went to dinner and the Ultimate Escape Game in Atlanta with Justin Combs and some of their other friends – and I got to meet one of the bridesmaids.

Emily is also a bridesmaid, so that’s really great. She and I have gotten to reconnect a lot since we’re back to living in the same city. We get dinner every once in a while. It’s been nice getting to spend time with her, too.

They’re not getting married until March 2017, but I am very excited. Let the wedding planning begin!

Marissa and Derrek


A camera spotlight

I finally bought a DSLR! I don’t use it as often as I would like, but it’s been really nice to have. I chose to get a Canon EOS Rebel T5i, and I am very pleased so far. It’s easy to use and takes nice quality photos.

Some of my favorites:

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I’ve also been in front of the camera a bit this year, mostly for Wendy, but also some for Avenley. That’s been fun too. Wendy and I loved doing random shoots. One of my favorites was the day Sarah and I went out and took pictures in the middle of nowhere. Avenley photographed me for the first time as part of her creature series. I played a nymph. We went deep into Chewacla and I sat in a creek for a couple hours – Ave got a kick out of my freaking out about the fish. It was really fun though.

Some of my favorites:

nymph

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Adulthood truly begins

I started my first job at the beginning of August – marketing specialist for Sign Faces LLC. I wrote a blog about it here. I don’t have much as far as memories go…but it’s been a good job so far! I really enjoy the people I work with. Thankful for employment! Here’s to the future!


“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us”

I don’t read as much as I wish I did, but I have always really enjoyed reading. I finally finished Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and then read The Silmarillion. I really enjoyed this book, but it was difficult. Tolkien’s writing is extremely detailed. Some of the lineage dragged on, but the overall the story was beautiful. My favorite part was learning how Middle Earth came to exist. I also read If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski, which I spoken about many times. So beautiful. My favorites this year were probably The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (see here), the first two books in a three-part series called The Kingkiller Chronicles. Rothfuss’s writing is SUPERB. Highly recommend. Now…please publish the third book. I need to know what happens. (And we won’t even discuss my desire to keep reading A Song of Ice and Fire….which was *supposed* to be published this year *le sigh*) That’s really all the books I feel the need to speak on…maybe there will be more next year (if I stop choosing Netflix instead).

Sarah and Avenley are both writing books right now. It’s been really great reading them as they expand the plot and develop their characters. Sarah’s is really cool to me because the characters are inspired by my friend group. I’m obsessed with “my” character. I cannot wait to read more about her. It’s funny because Sarah helped me truly figure out an accurate spirit animal: a lion (or lioness). Maybe one day it’ll actually get published – that would be so cool. She also wrote a really beautiful short story with “avenley” and “tori” characters – this made me cry. It was a creative nonfiction depicting life with an autoimmune disease and friendships that get you through your struggles. So beautiful. I have some really talented friends.


Do more than social media

I’ve been trying to be better at keeping up with my friends. A lot of the time, yes I just keep up with social media happenings. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a great tool to be used for just that – long-distance friendships! But I’ve also tried to be better at real communication – picking up the phone and having an actual conversation with people. I’ll admit, I’m better at it with some friends than others, and I’ve gotten more lazy about it than I was at the beginning, but I still try to call my friends and talk about life – so our conversations are more than just “how are you” and I’ll actually know what’s happening with them. My drives from work to my house have proven really nice for this. It takes me about 30-40 minutes to drive home from work, and I use headphones to allow for the usage of both hands; this time has been wonderfully spent. Snapchat honestly allows me to “talk” to my friends a good bit too, and texting is a way to communicate if you cannot devote your attention to a continuous conversation. I think that’s a big part of why I haven’t felt too lonely, because my friends are with me often and we’re continuously connecting. So…note to self: keep it up and vary your calls to reach more people. Also, reminding someone that you love them and are thinking about them – there’s never a bad time.


Maintaining and reconnecting

This year I have done a lot of reconnecting and maintaining relationships. I’ve gotten closer with Rachael and Stephanie again, started talking to Forrest more, and started talking to Katie regularly. The best part about reconnecting with these people is that our relationships do not end just because we’ve grown apart. Take Katie and I for example….there were times when we wouldn’t speak for months, but we both considered each other best friends – fully trusted, honest and open. Now, though, I actually know what’s happening with her life – partly because I actually take the time to call her. We’ve even SEEN each other. (Of course it’s been a year, but she was in Qatar for a while… speaking of which – I AM SO PROUD OF HER).

Katie and me


Don’t be afraid to make the drive

Today is Dec. 2. I’ve been in living in Birmingham for 16 weeks now. I have spent seven weekends in Birmingham, but for two of them I had a friend visiting. The remaining nine have been in Gainesville (one), Auburn (three), Huntsville (two) and Newnan (three). Of course, I have been gone from Birmingham for seven weekends in a row (Auburn, Huntsville twice, Newnan twice, Auburn and Newnan – PHEW), and I’m ready to stay here this weekend (but Sarah’s also coming to visit lol). The point is, I’m close to a lot of cities with people whom I love. So if you have the time and finances, don’t be afraid to make the drive. Sure, I’ve added a lot of miles and spent a lot of money on gas, but I’ve really enjoyed my weekends. People are important, and time is limited. So sometimes, make the drive and spend your weekends hugging people who are important. Cuddle puddles forever.

And for kicks…. here’s two pictures of Ave and I driving…only one week apart.

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Planning for a puppy

I’m a big advocate of adoption. But I also like pure bred dogs. I don’t actually give a crap about their “pure bred status,” but certain breeds do have desirable character traits or physical attributes. It’s also kinda nice to have a definite timeline with a (pretty) definite puppy result. Don’t get me wrong. Mutts probably make the best dogs. And there are a lot of dogs out there that need homes. But, I don’t think the pure bred dogs are any less deserving of homes, or will make any less of a great dog. We’ve had both in my family, and I’ve loved them both. So maybe it’s a character flaw, but I’m planning on getting a dog from a breeder (at least this particular puppy…not necessarily always).

How it happened is I was randomly googling puppies (stress, probably) and stumbled upon the English Setter. I immediately fell in love with the speckles. I mean THEY ARE SO CUTE. Then, just for fun, I googled to find a breeder. Turns out there is one in Alpharetta, Georgia: Daybreak English Setters. I contacted the breeder, mostly out of curiosity. Over the next couple months, I kept thinking about the speckled dogs. I couldn’t get them out of my head. So I did some research and kept falling for the breed. Eventually I was in love, and so I contacted the breeder with a more concrete and serious interest. I met her dogs and decided I wanted a puppy. I chose a litter to be born early fall 2016 – so I have about a year to save money and prepare (as much as I can).

A dog is a huge responsibility. You have to spend a lot of time in training as soon as possible, you can’t just leave for the weekend anymore (or stay gone from the house for too long), they chew up your shoes, pee on your floor and are little menaces. But I’m really excited. I’m already so attached with a puppy that isn’t even close to being born. We’ll see how it goes. Expect lots of pictures to come. I’m getting a boy, and yes I already know what I want to name him, but that’s a surprise for the Internet.

I can’t wait to meet my puppy. Let the countdown begin.


More memories to make

I expect more memories to come before I’m truly done with December (like a mellon Christmas party), but for now I have said all I need to capture this wonderful year.

All I can say is…I am truly blessed.




Okay…let me finish out the year

Picking up where I left off:


Mellon Christmas party and the hope to be surprised

First we have to start with a story about surprises

So Wendy and I sneakily plotted to surprise everyone. Sarah was driving from Daphne to Birmingham, where we were going to travel to Huntsville to meet everyone for our Mellon Christmas party. Well, Wendy was coming home from Ithaca the day before, so we planned for her to also meet me in Birmingham and join us on our trip to Huntsville. She was supposed to surprise Sarah, then Avenley and then everyone else. WELL….my day was a little better than that. Sarah said she wanted to get out of her house at a decent time, so we planned to meet up at McCalisters for lunch. So we’re sitting there enjoying our lunch and I’m almost done with my food – it was so good to spend time with her. I missed her so much. We probably made a scene when we saw each other – so giddy and hugging. WELL..then she points out this “really cute couple” walking up. And holy shit, it’s Avenley and Jamie!!! WHAT. The funny thing is, that Jamie had been snapping me all morning talking about driving and traffic. And I was so close to asking where he was going, but I didn’t. And Avenley had asked me earlier about my plans (we were staying at her place). Those three sneaky suckers surprised ME – which was so magically wonderful (and little did they know that I was going to surprise them later.

So my boss is really great. He was off for the day, but I texted him explaining the situation and asked if I could leave early. I left them at the restaurant to finish their meal, and then I went back to work to finish what I needed to accomplish before the weekend. Luckily, I was able to meet them back at my apartment just as they were finishing up their lunch. Perfect timing. We hung out at my apartment for a while. It’s so beautifully strange that the four of us were so effortlessly hanging. This was technically only the second time I’ve hung out with Jamie, which is so funny. It was also the second time for Avenley and the first time for Sarah. But it felt so natural. My friendship with Jamie has never been easy to understand – how we became besties because of Twitter, really. But I’m sure glad we are so close, and I’m glad that I weaseled him into becoming besties with Ave and Sarah, too. (Now is also a good time to mention that he got me a cardboard cutout of himself for Christmas – hilarious)

So then we hung out for a while and had a random photoshoot in pretty much a parking lot. Super weird, and not surprising at all. It was really nice to be together. And our pictures turned out cute, despite the cold air and the angry lady that wouldn’t let us get to where we had originally intended.

And then…..Wendy was coming 🙂

Sarah kept wanting to get in the shower because we were going to get sushi burritos. I kept trying to stall, telling her to spend time with Avenley and Jamie before they were leaving – really I just wanted them to be ready when Wendy got there. So finally, there was a knock at the door. “So you guys know how you surprised me earlier, well now I’m the one surprising you” (or something along those lines). She came inside and it was the most wonderful group hug ever. Jamie captured a photo. And Ave cried. It was a nice moment.

Jamie, Ave, Sarah and me

Jamie holding Tori

Group hug

A mellon Christmas

So then we went to Huntsville. This was the first time in a long time that so many of us were together – nearly the entire group: Paul, Paul, Travis, Jemal, me, Ave, Sarah and Wendy.

The girls stayed at the Braye’s house and just relaxed the first night – cuddle puddles for days. The next day we had breakfast with Ave’s family – they make the best breakfast. We talked about Sarah’s book for a while. Later Mrs. Tracey commented to Mrs. Melanie that we were all cuddling on the couch while Sarah read us a book – Yeah, we’re pretty adorable. I’m obsessed with her characters and how they interact. And we totally use her lines as inside jokes now. **flirting**

We then went up to Monte Sano – Wendy’s presence is a surprise, and remained so until everyone had gotten to hug her. We walked to the fire tower, something I had not done before. Well, it was a lot more scary than I expected. You’re not supposed to climb the tower…so it’s not easy to do so. But we wanted to – so we did: Avenley, Paul, Sarah and me. You have to scale up the metal supports until you can climb across a tiny metal support to the actual platform. Then climb super old stairs way up into the sky. But the view, man the view….it was beautiful up there. I’m glad I did it. Going up was much harder than coming down, lol.

Then later that night we had our Christmas get-together. It was nice. The girls decided to dress up, which is always fun – who doesn’t want to feel pretty? We drank wine, made a fire and just talked for a couple hours – how adult, right? Then we played some fun phone/tv games and decided it was hot tub time – traditionally. We stayed up so late, but it was nice to be together.

The next day we tried sleeping forever, ran some errands with Ave and then met Paul, Paul and Trav at the Gajkowski house. We played some more tv/phone games and then went to Cracker Barrel. Most of our conversation was about Paul’s life in Austin. It was really great to hear about his life with Ben and Nina there, and I loved especially hearing about his bands. Noodles in the Desert is my favorite theme – band name: Camel Murder Mystery.

I am lucky.

girls

in the fire tower


Christmas

On Christmas Eve we went to see Star Wars as a family. Jordan and I also got some Frozen temporary tattoos from a machine at the theater – that was fun. We were hoping for the one that said “family first,” but ended up with one of Ana and Else – still awesome. We broke those out later in the week. We also went to the Good’s house for their annual gathering with chili. I then spent about an hour and a half with Jamie. We walked around the golf course in his neighborhood. Alabama and Georgia had been receiving a lot of rain – so it was pretty much flooded. Considering I was wearing a dress because I was going to church afterward…that made the whole thing pretty entertaining. It was so fun, though. I’m glad I’ve gotten to spend more time with him recently, considering he lives in California. I later on ran into him one more time at Kroger – so that was nice.

Jamie and I

Tattoos

We drove down to Florida on Christmas day. We spent that night and all day Saturday with Nana and Papa. We played cribbage several times and it was so strange — we created a way to play with five people a couple years back, and each of us won on game each, but what was really weird is that we won in the order in which we were sitting. SpOoKy. Later in the week we played some more, and Papa Buck creamed my dad and I so bad. He got a 28 hand…the highest possible is 29. So amazing. None of us had seen a hand that big before. We watched several movies as well, which is always something I personally enjoy. We watched That Thing You Do and Mary Poppins.

Sunday was the White Christmas. Ryan, Mikayla and Ethan brought their significant others: Yoni, Alex and Meredith respectively. It was nice to spend some time with them and get to know them more. Just as I am with my friends, I’ve become kind of a photographer for my family. I enjoy the pictures a lot, and want everyone to have them, so I definitely don’t mind. It was so fun playing with all my cousins.

girl cousins

kids at the pool

white christmas

Jordan and a lamb

Me and a lamb

I also got to spend some time with Julia while I was down in Mount Dora. She recently discovered she had a brain tumor, which is also cancerous. She had surgery and is recovering very well, but it’s been hard. She’s such a beautiful soul, and I’m amazed by her positive attitude. I am thankful for that friendship.


NYE Celebrations

 So for NYE this year we planned to join Lester and his family at a beach house on Tybee Island. Travis, Sarah and I met up to carpool and we met him on the island. It was really nice to get to meet Lester’s family – I’ve felt like I’ve known them longer and we all got along really well. We also got to spend some time with two of his best friends from back home, Chris and Zach; that was really nice as well. The weekend was great. We walked along the beach, took lots of pictures, people-watched in trashy beach bars, danced, smiled, listened to music and cuddle puddled. Then we got to go to Savannah – I really enjoyed walking around the city. I could’ve done that all day. We went inside a beautiful cathedral, but my favorite part was visiting a book store. It was an adorable shop; they had two kitties and one CAUGHT paper balls. Amazing. Lester sat down on a couch and goes, “oh Tori, you need to take my seat.” So I sat down, thinking he just meant that the couch was comfy. He redirected my gaze to the shelf right in front of me, which held dog books – EEEEEK. I fell in love with a book called Nice Nosing You, which is about a photographer and her three dogs. It’s really beautiful. Lester justified my purchasing it in exactly the right way. I decided it would make a really nice “coffee table book” … even thought I don’t even have a coffee table right now. We grabbed coffee, wandered the beautiful city, saw so many dogs, and spent time together – free samples were also involved too…you know Lester! We ate at his favorite restaurant called Sweet Potatoes and the next day we got chicken and waffles for breakfast with some of his friends. Overall, I really really enjoyed this trip.

Sarah and the gulls

me and Lester
Me and Sarah

Lester and Trav

Savannah at night


Thank you 2015

You were good to me

Welcome to midnight

You are loved more than you probably know

Welcome to 2016

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