Texas A&M is quickly becoming the game I attend almost every year (2014 & 2016), but this year I won the chance to go out to Texas to see Alabama play at Kyle Field. Bucket List Item: ✔️, as Kyle Field marks my 5th SEC stadium.
My Dad and I flew out to Houston to travel with Tide up to College Station. We arrived in Texas on Friday afternoon and attended a party with the local alumni chapter. We had some great BBQ and got the chance to meet some of Alabama’s greats.
On Saturday morning, we got up early, loaded the bus and made the hour and half ride up to College Station. I have to say Texas A&M fans are the absolute nicest, and their campus is pretty impressive. We opted to participate in the national alumni tailgate to take advantage of the AC before we headed into the stadium. Our seats were located at the top of the stadium, but it offered a great view of the corps marching through campus.
Alabama and Vanderbilt have one of the longest histories of playing each other. Only two other old foes have lined up against Alabama football more times, Mississippi State and Tennessee. I was particularly looking forward to this game since these schools don’t play each other every year, and because it would be my 4th SEC stadium. (Bucket List Item: ✔️)
We drove up to Nashville on Friday evening and check into our hotel, which was right across the street from Vanderbilt University. After checking in, we headed out to grab some dinner at a local restaurant. We opted for The Row only a couple of blocks from the hotel. If you are looking for tasty food, a great atmosphere and live music, then you need to check this place out.
On Saturday morning, we all got up and headed to campus. We walked around for a bit before heading to the official Alabama Alumni tailgate. Thank the Lord it was inside with AC because it was HOT! After enjoying some of the other games for the day and some delicious Dreamland BBQ, Dad and I headed into Vanderbilt Stadium.
Today is my 29th birthday, and to be honest, this is a birthday I have not been looking forward to celebrating. But birthdays provide the perfect opportunity to start new. So, this year I aim to be stronger, braver, kinder and unstoppable. I aim to be fierce. I am ready to close the door on 28 and welcome this last year of my 20s with open arms.
To help make the most of Chapter 29, I have created a list of 30 things I’d like to accomplish before the big 3-0 gets here.
Some people have claimed 2016 was a terrible year, but I would have to politely disagree. This year has been pretty fantastic. I really appreciate y’all sharing in the journey (even when I fell off the radar for a bit) and sticking with me! Take a look at what all happened this year, and stay tuned because I’ll be back in 2017 (I promise!).
My favorite book from this year was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
I rang 2016 sitting on my couch watching Alabama annihilate the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl. It was the perfect way to kick-off the new year. The following weekend I headed up to New England to spend some time with The Tall Man in his home state. The Monday night I returned from New Hampshire, Alabama brought home it’s 16th National Championship against the Clemson Tigers. It was a close game, but Alabama was victorious. The rest of the month was pretty quiet. January did bring Atlanta’s first “snow” of the year, which was a light dusting from Winter Storm Jonas. The last weekend brought The Tall Man for his first visit to Atlanta, and we had a great time exploring the city.
February was a pretty quiet month. So I binge watched my way through The Newsroom. The Tall Man and I had an impromptu date in Chattanooga thanks to a business trip on his end in Knoxville. A couple of days later I flew up to New Hampshire to spend some QT with my man.
Busy. That is the single word I would use to describe March. The month kicked off with a work trip … in Atlanta … for a client. Gotta love those local business trips! My big trip for the month was to New York! The Tall Man and I took advantage of a vacation day for a long weekend in the city prior to a work trip. We crammed as much as we could in those three days! I also headed to Birmingham for the last weekend to celebrate my brother’s 25th birthday!
Adventures awaited me in the month of April. The month started off with a four-day weekend in Austin with National Geographic. Not only did I have the chance to explore the city a little, but I also participated in another National Geographic Workshop. The Tall Man came for two visits during the month of April. The first weekend was just a quiet weekend at home with a quick visit over to Big Shanty Festival and The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. The second weekend was to celebrate his birthday, so we headed over to Historic Banning Mills for a fun Saturday and a romantic evening the last weekend of April.
May started off with a weekend trip to Decatur, Alabama to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom’s family. It was so good to see my grandmother and my aunts and uncles. It had been too long since I had a chance to see them. The second weekend of May is when we celebrated my mom’s Mother’s Day since my brother couldn’t join us in Decatur. We set up a family portraits session for Saturday evening then enjoyed a delicious dinner in historic Roswell. The third weekend of May I traveled up to New England one last time to see The Tall Man before his big move to Raleigh, North Carolina, and while up there we had state date number nine in Maine.
The Tall Man made his big move the first week of June, and I made an impromptu road trip over to Raleigh to see him that weekend. It may be a 6.5ish hour drive, but it’s nice to have him in a bordering state and within driving distance. Yay for no more expensive plane tickets every time we want to see each other! For the second weekend, The Tall Man made the trek back to Atlanta, and we attended my 10-year high school reunion on June 11th. For Father’s Day, the whole fam jam headed over to Birmingham to see my brother and to help him with a few things around his house. My family and I also headed to The Ted for our final game with Braves at Turner Field. It was a lot of fun, albeit hot, and the fireworks were great as always.
July started off with a bang! The Tall Man and I traveled back up to New Hampshire to spend the holiday weekend with his family! We had so much fun playing on the lake and attending The Tall Man’s cousin’s wedding. I also drove over to Raleigh to spend some QT with my man. Being 400 miles apart definitely has its advantages to being 1,100 miles apart. We were able to just do life: went to the movies, slept in, built furniture for his apartment, grocery shopped, and made breakfast. It’s the little things that make it work. For the last weekend of July, my brother and his girlfriend drove over from Alabama and The Tall Man drove down from Raleigh, and we all spent the day at Six Flags riding rides and just hanging out.
Hello birthday month! This year I celebrated my 28th birthday, and even though there was not a lot of fanfare around it my birthday was just what I wanted! I celebrated with The Tall Man by seeing elephants (my absolute favorite!). The month also kicked off my travel season with work.
September started with a trip to the lake to celebrate Labor Day weekend. My family met up with our dear family friends, and we celebrated the weekend by watching football, playing Catch Phrase, eating, and of course playing on the water! The following weekend, The Tall Man came down for a visit before my work craziness began. We had a quiet weekend watching football and hanging out. The majority of the month was spent on the road or getting ready to be on the road for work, so I took an unplanned hiatus from Southern Exhilaration. Work-life balance is challenging at times!
It took a while for October to bring in the cooler temperatures, but they finally arrived in time for a trip to Tuscaloosa to introduce The Tall Man to real Alabama football. There is nothing like experiencing college football in person. The month also included a work trip to Jacksonville, Florida and two trips to Raleigh. The Tall Man and I also celebrated our first anniversary together! (Click here for our long distance relationship advice.)
November started off with a little excitement as The Tall Man completed his first Tough Mudder, and he somehow talked me into doing it next year! So, let the training begin! The month also consisted of seeing my man every weekend. He was a sweetheart to make that drive every weekend to see me. We made visits to Decatur to see my grandmother, another trip to Tuscaloosa, and finally a trip to our family farm for Thanksgiving. All is fair in love and war, so it’s only fair that December was my month to drive to him!
2016 started with Alabama football, and it also ended with Alabama football. My dad and I had the chance to attend the SEC Championship in the Georgia Dome the first weekend of the month. We cheered the Tide on to its 26th SEC Championship! The rest of the month was pretty quiet, and I spent almost every weekend with my Tall Man in Raleigh. To wrap up 2016, my family headed down to the Caribbean to celebrate Christmas and the new year! You’ll have to check back in 2017 to read about those adventures! 😉
Fall equals football in the south. The temperatures may vary from the high 80s to the low 50s, the leaves may change in time for Halloween, but the one thing you can count on in the south is every Saturday there is college football.
To say I was excited to introduce The Tall Man to Alabama football is an understatement. I booked our tickets to the Texas A&M game as soon as they opened, and I have been counting down to this weekend since they season started. Making it a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary, we drove over on Friday in time to grab lunch at City Cafe, a staple to any visit in Tuscaloosa. A meat & three restaurant with lots of history in the city (and my family) this place makes for a great cheap date.
From there we drove over to campus and walked around The Quad. I gave The Tall Man my best tour possible sharing not only the history of the university, but also the buildings where I lived attended class for six years. The weather was giving us a perfect fall night, and the cherry on top was Denny Chimes playing in the background. We had planned on going to a few bars that night, but someone (cough cough) forgot his wallet back in Atlanta, so we headed to the movies before heading back to the hotel for an early night.
On Saturday morning, my brother drove down from Birmingham to join us and we headed off to campus to show off what college football is really like. If you didn’t attend a southern football powerhouse for college, then Saturdays are a totally different experience. The Tall Man was quite impressed with the whole spectacle. We headed to The Quad to start the tailgate process and grab breakfast. We sat around, talked and drank. Before heading towards the Stadium for all the pre-game festivities we took a detour by the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Smith Hall. We got to see the Hodges Meteor, a time capsule from 1907, and some dinosaurs. If you are ever on The University of Alabama’s campus, I highly recommend making a stop.
Our next stop was The Walk of Champions before we headed into the game. And what a game! The Tide was able to pull off another win against the Texas A&M Aggies. I was so glad my Tall Man was able to experience my happy place. It was so much fun watching him learn our cheers, songs and chants. I think he is now officially an Alabama fan – Roll Tide!
Today marks The Tall Man’s and my first anniversary. For those that don’t know, we met in Cincinnati at a work conference and our first date was two days later. From that day forward, we have been in a long-distance relationship. For the first 7.5 months of our relationship, there were 1,137 miles from my front door to his front door, but after The Tall Man’s big move this past summer to Raleigh we are currently 412 miles apart or a little over 6 hours of driving.
We will be the first to tell you, long distance relationships are hard and at times messy. But they are absolutely worth it with the right person. We have compiled some of the lessons we have learned over the past year that help keep our relationship growing and that spark alive.
One | Compromise
Compromise is key to any relationship, but even more so when it comes to those of the long distance kind. Anyone in a long distance relationship has to do a lot of compromising especially when it comes to time and money. If anything, long distance relationships cost more than traditional relationships because you have the expense of traveling to see each other. The Tall Man and I worked hard to balance the travel by alternating who travels each trip. This helped balance the expense (somewhat) and the exhaustion. Sometimes there will be exceptions to “rule” of alternating travel, but make sure you are both aware ahead of time.
Two | Stay Involved
The Tall Man says staying involved with each other’s lives is his biggest piece of advice. Talking to a phone or texting can get boring, so when do see each other try to do the stuff the other individual loves doing. We have found staying involved and doing activities we each love to do is crucial to making sure we both feel appreciated. Sometimes you aren’t always going to love what the other individual picked as their activity, but that’s when compromise comes into play.
Three | Communication
Communication is central to any relationship, but it is especially important when you can’t see the other person’s face. Texting is really convenient, but I’m talking about REAL communication. We established up front that our relationship was a safe place and free of any judgment. This has allowed us to have some deeper conversations than I think most people would have, and it has allowed us to relax a little bit more when we shared something scary. We also work to have an open and honest line of communication at all times.
Four | Date Nights
Date nights are an indispensable element that should be incorporated in every dating relationship. You need to have that time to unplug from the day-to-day and focus on each other. When you are in a long distance relationship you definitely have to get creative to make these work. At the beginning of our relationship, there were times we would go three or four weeks without seeing each other. So, we came up with date nights via the phone. A lot of our nights consisted of watching a movie or binge watching our favorite TV shows while on the phone together. We quickly established the talent of syncing our computers, and by staying on the phone we were able to chat during the show. When we are together on the weekends we try to do one “date” activity whether it’s going to a movie, trying a new restaurant or visiting a new museum or tourist attraction. We also do our best to keep our phones put away when we are on our outings so we can focus on each other.
Five | Keep a Count Down
Prior to The Tall Man’s move to Raleigh, I kept a countdown going for each of our various trips and weekends together. It helped me keep things in perspective when four weeks felt like an eternity, and I also found great joy in informing The Tall Man when we were down to single digits until our planes touched down. Countdowns help to prevent the time apart from feeling so massive. My favorite countdown app is Big Day because it allows you to add your own photos and keep multiple countdowns in one place.
Bonus | I love you.
Even if you aren’t to the point of saying those three words, never let a day pass without telling that special person how you feel. It’s a great reminder to you of why you’re holding on and working so hard to make the relationship work.
What long distance relationship advice would you add?
Over Labor Day weekend, my family and The Tall Man headed down to Lake Blackshear outside of Cordele, GA to celebrate the long weekend. We met up with lifelong friends and just thoroughly enjoyed the time catching up with each other.
We ate, drank, learned new word games, watched football, soaked up the sun, played on the water, and simply enjoyed the slower pace of life the lake brings.
We managed to swing by the Blue Hole to let The Tall Man show off his monkey skills, and I also was able to get up on a wake-board for an extended brief amount of time for the first time. It was so much fun, and I’ll definitely be trying that again next summer!
On Tuesday I celebrated my 28th birthday, but, let’s be real, I celebrated all week!
My birthday celebration started last weekend with a full three days with The Tall Man. I drove over to Raleigh to celebrate, and my man spoiled me! The party started on Saturday with a trip down to the North Carolina Zoo, one of the largest “natural habitat” zoos in the United States. The primary reason for this trip was to see elephants! (I have a slight obsession with elephants.)
The North Carolina Zoo is divided into Africa and North America, and there are around 1,600 animals. We spent hours strolling around and admiring the animals.
Our weekend continued with an amzing birthday dinner at Vivace. Y’all. The Tall Man outdid himself in selecting this restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious. We left compltetly stuffed and satisfied. If you are in Raleigh, make a visit.
On my actual birthday, I headed out to dinner with the parental unit at Roux on Canton and then headed home for presents. I received a brand new camera, Canon 70D!
5 days with The Tall Man. Lake house in the mountains. This was my 4th of July this year, and it was perfect.
Tucked in the White Mountains just outside the quaint town of Rumney is Stinson Lake. This is where I spent the holiday weekend with The Tall Man and his family. We laid out, swam (well I dipped my toes in the icy water), wakeboarded (I watched), ate a ton of food, watched fireworks, and had a pretty amazing time.
The Tall Man and I also had the chance to escape to Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln for a train ride and dancing bears. They scootered, dunked basketballs and ate ice cream…with a spoon! I wish someone would feed me ice cream like these bears!
It’s me, well you, 10 years from now. I know you have heard this before, but you are about to embark on the greatest journey of your life. College. But before we can do this, we have to cross that stage and become a Walton Raider alumna. Whoopee! My only advice is to be careful with the stairs. They can trip us up from time to time.
The next 10 years are going to be some of the best years of your life as well as the most challenging. We come out on the other end as a stronger woman than when we left the hallowed halls of Walton. So here is my advice to survive what’s coming down the road:
Say yes to adventures.
College is a time to explore and find yourself. Try to break out of your comfort zone a little … I promise it’s worth it. Do not miss a single opportunity to have fun.
I’d only skip the spring break trip to New Orleans your sophomore year, it’s not worth it. I promise you’ll get another opportunity to explore NOLA.
You are pretty awesome. The sooner you learn it the better. It took us a long time to figure it out, but once we learned that lesson life become more enjoyable.
Watch out for boys who don’t treat you well.
You get to date, no worries. There will be some great guys and there will be some not-so-great guys. Avoid the not-so-great guys. Listen to your family and friends and get out of those relationships. Stand up for yourself, and know they aren’t the right guy for you.
Know that it’s completely okay to be a hermit.
You are a textbook-definition of an extroverted introvert. Don’t worry what all the haters say; be proud of your introverted self! But do go out on occasion with your friends, because those are the nights you’ll remember after you graduate college — not the ones with your nose buried in a book.
Go to football games (all of them) and don’t skip class.
I know I don’t have to tell you this, but just making sure that base is covered! You meet some of your favorite people in your college and graduate classes, and football Saturdays in Tuscaloosa are the greatest thing on this planet. Roll Tide! Study before hand and go tailgate on the quad.
Know that the best is yet to come.
You’re going to fall in love, get your heart broken, travel, change your mind about a dozen times about what you want to do after you graduate, and sometimes feel so lost you want to give up (go to Mom at that point … she has the right answers). There will be so many good times in the years to come, and we will get through it and it will all be worth it. I promise.