Friendships: the ones that last a lifetime, are the rare kind.

I remember spending hours perusing quotes as a teenager, hoping to find one that I spoke to me on some deep level that I could add to the then modern day version of a blog, my AIM profile.  Quotes about life, love and everything in between filled the small one-pager, amidst a multitude of random colors, font combos, squiggly asterisks and numerical word substitutions (insert:~*babii CC: 2 cute 2 be 4got10*~).

Back then, one of those quotes, “It’s not where you are but who you’re with that matters,” would have been followed up by initials of my closest friends, some of whom I am still fortunate enough to have in my life.  Unbeknownst to my teenaged, pimple-faced self, those words would still hold true, all these years later.

I recently had the privilege to stand by my best friend’s side as she married the love of her life.  The past two years since their engagement have been leading up to the memorable day but as I boarded that plane for the trip back south, a wave of emotion, twenty years in the making, hit me harder than the open bar.

True friendships, the ones that last a lifetime, are the rare kind.  I am so grateful for the relationships I’ve had since my early days, as well as for the ones built along the way.  Although not one to cry, I absolutely lost it sitting in the airport as I prepared to venture back South of the Dixie.  Spending a series of days with friends, family, and those that feel like family momentarily tricked me into thinking I missed the place I called home for the majority of my life.  The memories and bonds made in that town have always been, and will always be, with me wherever I am.  But while the scenery still looks (somewhat) familiar, and the experiences feel the same, everything is so different.  People have moved away, and lives have moved on, but this one weekend, with everyone back together, reminded me of the life and people that helped turn me into the person I am today.  I don’t miss “home,” I miss the feeling of content felt during the days in that place: the same as I experienced in the days of carefully crafted AIM away messages.

Life changes rapidly and we experience different milestones at varying times.   However, it’s those milestones that always bring us back together with our closest, far away friends.  Though easy to get caught in the tide, trips back to proverbial house that built me have a way of grounding me and reminding me of how fortunate I am – for the friends, family and experiences I’ve had, or maintained, throughout this journey through life.  And for that, I will be forever grateful – for the memories and the moments.  And for those I’m with, physically or in spirt, no matter where they may be.

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Post-grad guidelines: letter to my 22-year-old self

I honestly can’t fathom the fact that it’s been seven years since I walked across that University of South Carolina stage and took hold of my degree.  Time moves so quickly and seems to speed up even faster as each day passes.  This week marks a milestone for me, seven years since starting my career at Wireside (!), and with that, it only seems appropriate to reflect upon the lessons learned in these post-college years.  Looking back, here are some takeaways I have for my 22-year-old self.

Priorities will shift.  Right now, you’re straight out of the college gates, ready to tackle the world.  Slow down.  Focus.  Take time to explore your passions.  Many of the things that motivate you today will be mere memories in the days of tomorrow.  You don’t need to craft a game plan for the rest of your life, but you must make choices now that will keep you on the path you inevitably want to follow.  Connect with mentors that can guide you and watch you grow along the way.

Chances should be taken.  This one is tough for you, a person that feels most at ease in a safety net of the familiar.  But regret is a strong force, one that will serve up a constant reminder of moves you did not make.  Taking a leap of faith, no matter how difficult it may be, can turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.  Go against your internal grain and force yourself out of the comfort zone.

You’re unknowingly taking those you love for granted.  Although you’ve lost friends and family members, you still don’t fully grasp the true impact of loss.  As you grow, times will come when those close to you are no longer a part of your life here on earth.  And the stories of lives taken too soon, even those you don’t know personally, will touch you on a deeper level and help you to realize that not a moment in life should be taken for granted.  Every hug, every conversation, could be your last so embrace tightly and connect deeply.

Friendships will fade.  Not all of them.  Some will pass the test of time.  But others, the bonds you thought could never be broken, will prove to have been held together by a Velcro that slowly loses cohesiveness over time.  This will be a harsh realization, but it’s often a shift where no one is at fault.  Life will take you to different places and accelerate at different moments; you may not always be able to keep up with one another.  As you grow, you’ll learn that certain people were a part of your life at a certain time because that’s when you needed them, and they needed you, most.  They played a role in making you into the person you’re becoming and it is okay if they’re not by your side to see the final product.  You’ll carry a piece of them with you, always.  A friendship, even one that once seemed so strong but is now visible only in a stack of old photos, will still be an important friendship when you look back at your journey through life.

You’re in for an amazing adventure filled with limitless opportunities, unwavering love from those around you and unwritten storylines.  Just don’t sit back and enjoy the ride because you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

My Best Friend’s Bachelorette Bash

As I prepare for my best friend’s bridal shower I realized that I still haven’t posted the rest of the deets from her amazing bachelorette party in Asheville, NC.

After arriving at the cabin in the woods, Catherine, the bride’s little sis and co-MOH, made a delicious steak and pirogi dinner – Diana’s favorite!  We quickly scarfed it down and headed to the first surprise adventure of the weekend.

DSCN1129cheersA childhood friend who now resides in Asheville recommended the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour.  The regular tours run throughout the day and at night, it switches over to haunted comedy ride.  Sounds a little abstract, I know, but this was the funnniest thing I have experienced in ages.  We could not stop laughing the entire time.  You can bring wine and beer on the bus and while that sounds like an awesome idea, it turns into a terrible one after all the laughing you’ll do!

LazoomBusAfter the LaZoom tour, we hit the down.  One of Asheville’s most notable attractions is the Friday night drum circle.  Upon arrival, we couldn’t tell if we were witnessing a scene from True Blood or one of the coolest things ever.  We jumped right in.  When in Rome, right?

drum2drumThe best word I can use to describe the city of Asheville is eclectic.  It was a mix of everything artsy, natural, hipster and southern.

The next morning started off with brunch at Posana; the place was on-point.  There was a whole lot of food envy going on at the table because each meal looked better than the next.

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brunchBrunchIt was time to burn off the calories after brunch, so we headed over to Di’s next surprise: Asheville’s Amazing Pub Cycle. And amazing is the best way to describe it.  We followed that up with a PYT serenade by street performers and more day drinking at Wicked Weed Brewing.

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brew2To keep pace (and survive), we headed back to the cabin to relax for a bit before venturing back down town that night.  At the recommendation of our local friend, we ordered in via Gourmet Valet; you can choose between more than 60 restaurant options and they deliver it right to you.  We did a quick online search for a coupon and got 20% off.  After we were ready, the first stop was the Piano Bar where Diana got another serenade on stage.

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DSCN1078I made last fling ring/checklist for Di out of a wreath Styrofoam, spray paint, paper and glitter.  The front said “List of last acts before you become Matt’s” and with a little participation from the groom, the back said “Do these things one more time before you become mine.”  She had to carry it around all night and check off the actions like take a picture w/a stranger using the selfie stick, take a pic w/another bride and hand a guy a note that says, “Call me, maybe?”

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A night like Saturday called for a homemade brunch at the cabin.  Since most of the trip was a surprise, we wanted to give Diana a say in the festivities for Sunday so we gave her a few options in the form of an infographic (yes, I take planning too far).

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She selected a lazy cruise down the river via Zen Tubing.  It was such a relaxing experience…until the thunderstorm came.

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For our last dinner, we ate at Corner Kitchen.  It’s where President Obama ate on his trip to the city!

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di an iThe weekend wound down with an evening of games and wine.  We played one game where Di had to guess which sexy item came from whom, and I’m now questioning her friendship because she didn’t know the Jessica Simpson PJs came from me!  We also played a really fun ladies night card game where someone reads the descriptor (something like who would be most likely to survive in the wilderness) and then all the girls name the bridesmaid that fits best.  I’m also questioning my friendships after the cards I got! 😉

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DSCN1125Just two more months to go until the big day!

Like I said, we are like twins: reflection of a lifelong friendship from a 9-year-old’s perspective

Nearly 20 years ago I wrote a diary entry about how my best friend and I were “…like twins ‘seperated’ at birth.”  As we grew older, the differences between us became more evident (like the fact that she’s half a foot taller than me L), but the one thing that has never changed is the unbreakable bond we share.  Reflecting on the validations I put forth back on March 2, 1996, I realize how much is different but more importantly, how the underlying intention still remains the same.

We both have the same toothbrush.LO

While this one probably held a lot of clout back in the day, I can’t really relate to it today.  At all.  And I REALLY hope she’s still not using that same toothbrush 😉

We like the same exact same food.

This statement could not be further from the truth.  Lauren lives an extremely healthy lifestyle and that’s reflective in her diet.  Where she opts for protein and veggies, I opt for ice cream and Mac & Cheese.  But the one thing we do have in common is that we be both detest cooking, so, that counts for something!

We both like playing store we both like playing “detictive.”

Playing store turned into both becoming shopaholics (a reason I’m sure her husband does not want me to live in the same cityJ) and playing detective became figuring things out together.  Throughout our 20+ years of friendship, Lauren has been and will always be one of the first people I turn to when I’m struggling or in need of sound advice.  She’s always there to listen and to talk through the hurdles that arise in life.  She helps me analyze the situation and find the best solution, even if it’s not what I want to hear.  While her brutal honesty can be painful, it’s often what I need to know.

We both hate Michael O’Dell (a lot).

I feel bad for this one; I really do.  Mike O’Dell, wherever you are in this world, I apologize for making you the subject of my 9-year-old self’s diary entry!  Now that maturity has set in, this statement obviously no longer holds any truth, but the deeper meaning does.  Part of what has held our friendship together for so long is the fact that we share the same values.

We both like dogs (Cody).

This will never change.  Though Cody has long since left us, our hearts have been filled with dogs of our own and one day, the space will widen to make room for the children we plan raise together.  I’m confident that my future children will adore their Auntie Lo the way that I do and that she will be a person they can always turn to in life, just as I always have.  Unless they want to eat, then they’re out of luck.

Like I said we are like twins.

The twin part may have been a stretch, but the sister part?  That is a fact.  I will be forever grateful for the loyal, genuine, hilarious, brutally honest, forever friend I have in you, Lo.  Let’s enjoy our last year of our twenties, my friend, and get ready for a lifetime more of memories.  Love you!

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