Friday, December 20, 2013

See you later, 23!

On Monday (December 16th), I turned 24.  That's right...24.

I can't believe it's been a year since I celebrated my 23rd birthday.  So much has happened this year that I don't think I'd be able to capture it all in a single blog post (good thing for all those other posts).  But, I'm going to try and list out some of my favorites:

1. Watching my sister get married and being her maid of honor.

2. Watching Alabama win the BCS National Championship.  

3. Snow day in Tuscaloosa!

4. Celebrating my one year anniversary with Alex by going on a cruise to the Bahamas.

5. Watching Dunk City come to life during the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

6. Being in the ultrasound room when my sister found out she was having a girl.

7. Going to my first craft brewery.  I've been a craft beer lover ever since!

8. Seeing Lee Brice, Chris Young and Brad Paisley in Tuscaloosa.

9. Graduating with my master's degree and being back with my boyfriend.

10. Marley Shai Johnson.  In September, my sister gave birth to her first child, Marley Shai (she also happens to be my first niece).  She has brought so much joy to my life in such a short period of time, and I miss being able to see her all the time.

11. Landing my first job.  It's been nearly a month since I started working with ITVantage, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity I was given.

12. Painting and re-organizing the condo and making it "ours."  It feels nice to come home from work every day and feel at home.

13. Experiencing seasons while living in Tuscaloosa.  You don't get that in Southwest Florida.

Twenty-three was a great year, but I can't wait to see what the next year of my life will hold.  If it's anything like the past, it will be filled with ups and downs...but I wouldn't want things any other way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alyssa, I Couldn't Love You More

(NOTE: This blog post was written on September 4, 2013 right after Marley was born.  Only a few changes, mostly punctuation and rephrasing, have been made.  Other than that, it's all the same.)

Sometimes I hated being the big sister.  I hated feeling like I had all of this responsibility to protect my sister from things I couldn't really protect her from.  I hated trying to be the perfect role model, but mostly, I hated failing at being a good role model.  During high school, I headed down a negative and destructive path, and when my sister did the same, I blamed myself.  I still do.  But despite all of this, I loved being her big sister, and I think (despite everything) I was a pretty good role model for her.

But what I've loved the most is having her as my best friend and being able to watch her grown into a beautiful and loving person, wife and now a mother.  It's been one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences watching her grow into the person she is today.  When I watched her get married, I cried.  And today when I watched her during labor, I almost cried (I held it in for you, baby sis!).  I couldn't have been more proud.  Sure she cried (most women would), but she rarely complained.  She never yelled at anyone.  And despite the tremendous amount of pain she was in, she was calm.  Most importantly, she was strong.

And when I watched her hold her beautiful baby girl, I just knew she was going to be an incredible mother.  The things she has already done for her daughter shows just how selfless she is.  For the past nine months she's put her baby first...and labor was no different.  All she ever wanted was to have a healthy baby, and after 15 hours of labor that ended in a c-section, she got just that - a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  Alyssa, I'm so proud to call you my sister.  You are truly one of the strongest people I've ever known.  You've been to hell and back, but you've come out on top.  In January I watched you marry the man of your dreams, and now I'm watching you hold your newest love- your daughter.

Congratulations, Alyssa on your baby girl.  I have no doubt you're going to be an amazing mother.  And I'm so excited to have a niece to spoil.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I'm a Master!

On August 3, 2013, I graduated from The University of Alabama with my master's degree in advertising and public relations.  I did it.  I'm a master!

A year ago I packed up my car and moved 700 miles away from everything I knew and everyone I loved to start a new chapter of my life.  I moved into an apartment in Tuscaloosa by myself, and I struggled for weeks on end trying to get used to being on my own.  I started my graduate program with one goal: work hard and get that degree.  But through the long days, sleepless nights, endless papers and near-impossible exams, I gained so much more.  I fell in love with the incredible town of Tuscaloosa, but mostly, I fell in love with my amazing classmates.  They are an incredibly talented and amazing group of individuals, and I would not have survived the program without them.  When I had no one else to talk to, I had them.  When no one else understood the pressure or the frustrations I was feeling, they understood.  When I just wanted to give up and say "screw it," they reminded me why I was there.  I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today without the support of my classmates and fellow masters.

For a year I complained how much I hated the program, the classes, the professors and everything else in between.  And despite how much I complained, I now know that getting my master's degree was the right decision.  When I was giving my final presentation to my client on July 31st, I knew that I had the knowledge, talent and abilities to conquer the PR world.  The campaign my partner and I developed wasn't perfect by any means, and looking back there are things I wish I had added and changed.  BUT, I never would've been able to do that a year ago.  The creative elements, designs, advertisements, social media ideas and overall campaign we put together is a direct result of the knowledge I gained during my time at The University of Alabama.

A year after moving into my apartment in Tuscaloosa, I'm back in Florida and living with my boyfriend.  It isn't easy being back, and I miss Tuscaloosa terribly, but there's truly no place like home.  I'm ready to take on the PR world, and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Thank you Alabama for a truly incredible year.  ROLL TIDE!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Regret (verb): To think of with a sense of loss

I never used to believe in regrets.  I always believed that something good could come out of something bad.  I truly believed you should never regret anything because it can only make you stronger.

But recently, I've had a change of heart.  Going to grad school at Alabama...that's my biggest regret.

Sure, I got to experience a beautiful campus, amazing campus life, and a campus full of history and tradition.  But at what cost?  I risked so much coming here, and although I didn't lose it all, I lost something I fought so hard for for so many years - my happiness.

When I left Florida, I was in a fairly new relationship.  We had only been dating for six months when I moved.  Things were great.  I was in love for the first time in my life, and I felt like I had found the one I was meant to be with for the rest of my life.  Now, 10 months later, we're still together, and I'm so grateful for that because I know he didn't have to stay with me.  But honestly, our relationship is tough.  In a long distance relationship, you rely solely on verbal communication.  And at times, it puts a lot of strain on the relationship.  You fight more often, you run out of things to talk about, and you begin to feel distant.  I've grown so jealous and insecure in this relationship, and I've never been that kind of person before.  It's put unnecessary strain on our relationship, and it's certainly caused a lot of fights. This past year has gotten the best of us, and I almost feel like my relationship is a daily battle.  Some days, I wonder if we're going to make it.

I've struggled with my happiness from the moment I left Fort Myers.  The first few days I was in Alabama I cried every moment I was awake.  It was torture.  Over time I cried a little less, but every now and then, I break down.  I still hurt every day because I feel like I left something something great for something terrible.  I took a gamble, and it backfired.  Each day it hurts to be here, and it's a battle to get up in the morning and work hard.

I'm 68 days away from graduating, and it seriously cannot come soon enough.  I believe in living in the present and enjoying each moment, but right now, I wouldn't mind time speeding up a little.  I'm ready to have my master's degree and move back to Florida.

I don't regret much.  In fact, I can only think of one or two things that I regret.  Every hardship I've experience, every heartache, and every low point in my life has only made me stronger.  Maybe six months from now I'll have that same outlook on this experience.  But right now, I regret coming here.

I'm ready for the worst year of my life to be over.  I'm ready to take the "long distance" out of my relationship.  But mostly, I'm ready to be happy again.  I'm ready to smile and laugh and enjoy life...and really mean it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tuscaloosa vs. Westboro Baptist Church

Today I had the opportunity to witness a protest by one of the most hateful groups in the United States.  I’m talking about the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).  You probably know them for picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers and for signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” 

Here’s a little bit of background on the WBC.  The church is located in Topeka, Kansas and is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (and by most people around the country).  Fred Phelps established the church in 1995 and members of the church primarily consist of the Phelps family.  According to their website, they “adhere to the teachings of the Bible, preach against all forms of sin, and insist that the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace be taught and expounded publicly to all men.”

But let’s be honest.  They preach hate.

The Westboro Baptist Church posted on their site a few weeks ago that they would be holding a protest at The University of Alabama on May 18th from 12-12:30pm.  Their reason?  To remind UA of the wrath of God that visited us two years ago…referring to the EF4 tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011.  Their website claims that the storm was God’s punishment for the growing acceptance of gay marriage in the nation.

So what was the protest like?  Well, not what I expected.  I expected a lot of yelling and hateful speech, but it wasn’t like that at all.  On one side of the street you had 15 or so members of the Westboro Baptist Church holding their hateful signs and walking around in their little taped off area.  On the other side were counter-protesters and members of the Tuscaloosa community holding signs that promoted love and acceptance while chanting phrases such as “Love Not Hate.”  And up and down the streets, you had motorcyclists revving their engines drowning out any words that came out of the WBC members’ mouths.

Don’t get me wrong.  The protest was still incredibly hateful, and being in their presence was absolutely sickening.  The more I watched them and read their signs, the angrier I became.  When I realized there wasn’t one child, but three or four children, protesting with them, I became disgusted.  How could someone bring children out to protest and hold signs that say “Bloody Obama” and “God H8s Gay Marriage”?  

I couldn't believe the amount of hate I was witnessing, but I truly believe the love from the counter protesters overshadowed most, if not all, of the hate.

But the more I stood out there, the more I realized that these people are bat shit crazy.  They’ll protest anything and come up with some reason why it “makes sense.”  The WBC is one of the most hateful groups in America…hands down.

In the battle between Tuscaloosa vs. the Westboro Baptist Church, I think it's pretty safe to say that the winner is....Tuscaloosa.

(For more pictures from the event, feel free to check out my Photobucket album here.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thanks for Always Calling Me Beautiful

You know that you’re not my first boyfriend…but you also know that all of my other relationships were so long ago (like “6 years before we started dating” long ago).  I don’t remember the dynamic of those relationships or much about them at all.  What I do know is that you’re different than all of the other guys I’ve dated.  Not just because you’re the only man I’ve ever loved…but because you always call me beautiful.

Most guys don’t notice when their girlfriend gets a hair cut or when they wear a new shade of lipstick.  Most guys don’t notice when their girlfriend buys a new outfit or when she starts a new workout routine.  Most guys don’t notice when their girlfriend loses a pound.  But you do.  After a month (or more) of being apart, you notice when I’ve lost weight (even just a pound).  You notice when my clothes fit differently.  You notice things that most guys wouldn’t, and it truly means the world to me.

When I tell you that I’m on a new medication, the first thing you do is look it up online.  If I’m interested in starting a new diet plan or workout routine, you look up that stuff too.  You want the best for me, and you genuinely care about making sure I’m healthy. 

You’ve never once called me ugly.  I could send you a picture of my hair up in a towel or with a piece of candy sticking out of my mouth…moments when I look truly hideous.  And what you do say?  You’ll say, “oh wow” or “you’re so weird.”  But you always end it by telling me I’m cute.

When I greet you at the airport (or when you greet me), the first thing you do is tell me how good I look.  You tell me that I’ve lost weight and that I look beautiful.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve been awake since 4am or if I’ve spent 3.5 hours in a car, 3 hours in an airport, and 2 hours on a plane.  You always tell me I’m beautiful.

I’ve never had someone make me feel as good as you have.  In our 15 months of dating, you’ve never called me ugly.  You’ve never called me fat.  You’ve always been supportive of me wanting to lose weight.  You’ve been supportive in my journey to be healthier and in my journey to try and run a 5k.  You support all of my goals and dreams…no matter how crazy they may be.  And you always build up my confidence.

Thank you for being the man of my dreams, the love of my life, and for always telling me that I’m beautiful I love you, Alex.  I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have you by my side.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gone Too Soon

It’s been three years since you left this world far too soon, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about you.  I try to make you proud in everything I do, and I know you’d be so happy to see how far I’ve come.  Every time I go on a date with Alex, I think about how much you would have loved him.  I think about the jokes you two could have made at my expense and how you would have loved him being part of our family.  I think about how happy you would’ve been on Alyssa’s wedding day and how thrilled you would’ve been to find out you were going to have a great-granddaughter.  We all know how much you wanted to be around long enough to have a great-grandchild, and it’s so bittersweet that you won’t be here to watch Alyssa have her little girl.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Baby Marley is due in August; I think it’s a reminder that you’re watching over us.

I miss you, Grandma…I really do.  I know I used to make jokes, but I swear that I loved you (but I think you always knew that).  I’ll never forget the trips we took and how you always made it a point to spoil us.  You made my first 20 years on this Earth unforgettable…and I hope that Alyssa and I made your last 20 years unforgettable too. 

I know you’re always with me in whatever I do and wherever I go, and I know you’d be so proud of the woman I am today.  I love you and miss you, and I wish I could have just one more day with you.

Rest in Paradise, Grandma.  I love you.

08.14.1938 - 04.15.2010

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finding the Silver Linings

It's been awhile since I've posted.  It's not that I haven't been inspired (because I have been), but nothing has really been "post worthy."  I'm not even sure if this one is.

So much has happened since the last time I posted.  Winter break, my birthday, my car broke down in Alabama, I got it fixed, I started my second semester of grad school, but most importantly, Alex and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.

I think a lot about how we got to this point because if you asked me a year ago if I thought we'd be in the place we are today, I would've told you "no."  Not because I didn't believe in our relationship (I did), but because I thought I would've screwed it all up by now.  That's just what I'm good at - ruining all of the good things in my life.

I think about what got me to go on that first date.  Two days prior I wanted nothing to do with him, but when I spent time with him, I felt comfortable, relaxed, and in good company.  Maybe that day was the turning point.  Because from that day forward, I couldn't get him off of my matter how hard I tried.  And when we went on our first date, I had the most intense butterflies.  I didn't even know what to say.  I was unusually shy, I didn't want to drink (which was not like me at the time), and I was on my phone way more than I usually would be.  I was nervous, excited, cautious...all because I was with a man who made me this way.  I liked how I felt when I looked in his eyes, laughed with him, and held his hand.  I would get over the quirkiness, but I thought "if everything else stays, this could be a good thing."  I didn't kiss him on our first date because I wanted to make sure he was genuine.  And sure enough he was.  Two long days later he got that kiss, and he still gets them every time we're together.

I saw a movie the other day, Silver Linings Playbook, and as dysfunctional as Pat and Tiffany were, they were perfect for each other.  They made each other better and lifted each other's spirits.  They were broken and quirky, but they were in it together.  And it made me realize that when you find someone who is good for you, they can change everything.

Alex has helped me find the silver linings in life.  He's helped me see the light when all I can see is darkness, and he's helped me to remain hopeful.  He's been understanding and comforting and thoughtful.  He's been an incredible support system.  We remind each other every day of the things we love about the other person and how in love we truly are.  We remind each other that even though this isn't the ideal situation, it won't always be this way.

I never could have known these things on our first date, but I'm glad I know them now.  I'm glad I got over whatever was holding me back, and I'm glad I gave him a chance.  He's my one and only, the love of my life, and my best friend.

I'm so lucky to call him mine.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bucket List: November & December 2012

November 2012

169. Fly on a plane alone

It took 22 years, but I finally crossed this one off my bucket list.  In the past, I've always flown with family or my little sister, but this was the first time that I actually flew by myself...and I had a connection.  I actually took two trips by myself during this month - one at the beginning of the month and one for Thanksgiving.  It was a total of six (6) individual flights.  I'm going to be flying alone a lot this I better get used to it.

December 2012

128. Donate money to the charity of your choice

Technically, I've done this one already.  I've donated money to countless nonprofits through Relay for Life, Chi Omega, Race for the Cure, To Write Love on Her Arms, class projects, etc.  But this time, I made a direct donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation with no affiliation to an event.  I hope that in the future I can make a bigger impact, but I know from experience that every little bit counts.