Year Two. 

I have officially been in Charlotte for two years. 

Wow.

Some days it feels like I just left home and other days it feels like I have been here for years and years. I am so thankful for the 23 years I spent not in Charlotte, but I am also so incredibly grateful for the 2 (and however many more the Lord sees fit to give me here) years in Charlotte. 

What has happened in year 2, you ask? Well…

  • I checked off a few things on my CLT bucket list like: going to the Billy Graham Library (7.16), going to the Mint Museum (3.17), and going to a Knights game (5.17). 
  • I started (8.16) and completed (6.17) my second year of teaching Kindergarten. 
  • My women’s small group met in my house for most of my second year in Charlotte. We decided to end it (for good reasons) in April. I’m grateful for the relationships that were formed from that time. 
  • I taught Sunday School (10.16-5.17) to the 1st-3rd graders at church with my sweet friend, Michelle. 
  • I had visitors–Elizabeth (7.16), Kasey (8.16), Emma Kate (10.16), and Kaila and Scout (2.17), as well as my parents a few times. 
  • I took a Skill Pop class on hand lettering (4.17).
  • I suffered through the death of my grandmother with sweet friends who prayed me through three hard weeks. 
  • I started volunteering at the hospital (5.17). 
  • I said yes an incredible amount of times but also started to say no more often, which is a good thing, honestly. 
  • I finally visited downtown Davidson (8.16 & 10.16)!
  • I fell in love with Park Road Shopping Center– Blackhawk Hardware, anyone?!
  • I read more books than I could count. 
  • I started to branch out in ways I’d never planned on or dreamed of doing. 
  • I went to Boone (11.16) with a bunch of girls from church. 
  • I hosted an Olympics party (8.16) which made me (for the first time) really feel like I had true community in CLT. 
  • My roommate, Rachel, moved in (8.16), and we had people over for game nights, a Christmas party, meals, and more. 
  • My friend Jordan and I threw a bridal shower for Rachel and Jordan’s roommate, Lauren (6.17). 
  • I planned lots of birthday dinners, attended more than I planned, and was blessed to have a sweet one thrown for me. 
  • I dined at plenty of new restaurants–all probably introduced to me by my sweet friend Aubrey. 
  • I spent lots of time at my friends David’s and Kelly’s house–where I now have a signature dessert I MUST bring each time I come (according to their kids). 
  • I decided that Trader Joe’s has the best flowers, Harris Teeter is still my least favorite grocery store, and made it blatantly obvious that I love Publix maybe a smidge too much. 
  • I ate many dinners prepared for me by someone else because there are so many sweet families at OBC who include me in their lives. 
  • I walked through some weird health things with a sweet community group who has faithfully prayed for me and supported me over the last tear. 
  • I sat (and thankfully still sit) under some incredible Biblical teaching at OBC. 
  • I watched Friday Night Lights and The Office for the first time. #TexasForever #MichaelScott
  • I answered the question, “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?” with a resounding and confident, “Charlotte!” 

we’ll live while we’re young

lyrics from Johnnyswim’s song, Live While We’re Young

Can I just say HOW in the WORLD is January practically over? I mean, honestly, these last few weeks have simultaneously flown by and dragged on. But, I still really feel like just yesterday we were celebrating NYE in NYC.

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would really give a lot to be back on vacay

Anyway, this has been a pretty busy January, and it’s been a FULL one. I’ve enjoyed time spent with best friends and time spent with new friends, early mornings at work and delays due to ice/snow, 72-degree days and 16-degree days, meals at Charlotte favorites and meals at new Charlotte favorites, and so much more.

The Friday after my birthday, a group of some of the best women I know came out to my favorite Charlotte restaurant, Paco’s Tacos, to celebrate my birthday. It was the night it was forecasted to snow, so not as many people could come as originally planned. But, it was still so much fun! I’m so thankful for these sweet women, how they invest in me, and how they push me closer and closer to Christ.

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seriously love these ladies (plus others not pictured) so much

It snowed the next day, and while there wasn’t that much where I live in Charlotte, it was pretty. I did enjoy just curling up for most of the day, lying in my bed reading. The next day was by far the coldest day we’ve had here this year, but it was also one of the prettiest. I happened to be on the third floor at church that afternoon, and it was too pretty to not take a picture!

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Beautiful OBC!

The next weekend was MLK weekend, and my friends from college and I had a weekend planned to the LITERAL middle of nowhere, North Carolina. It was absolutely wonderful, but we were in the woods, no doubt. I don’t think any of us had planned that we would be so far from civilization (okay, real life, we had people not that far from us), but it was honestly just what this tired kindergarten teacher needed.

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Two of our other friends ended up not being able to come, but it really was a good weekend with the four of us (plus Scout). 

We spent the time sleeping in, making big breakfasts and excellent dinners, riding around the mountains, watching movies, playing games, and just catching up. It was really a sweet time of laughing with my bestie at the antics of the guys. Just knowing I could roll out of bed in my pajamas and not be judged is so nice. I mean that literally and figuratively. These are the friends of no judgment, and that is really such a sweet gift in friendship. Oh, and we watched Scout a lot of the time. I mean, how cute is she?

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Here she is thinking, “Aunt Ashton is my favorite.”

On my way there, I stopped in my beloved Black Mountain and got a treat from my favorite, The Dripolator (a place you should go to if you’re ever in Black Mountain). I got a little teary-eyed when I passed the camp exit (you can see some of camp from I-40 in the winter). I’m so thankful for where I am now, but I do really miss the sweet community that was formed in those summers.

BUT, NO FEAR, dear blog readers (a.k.a Mom, Dad, and Kaila), I got to see my sweet camp-turned-real-life friend, Kasey, on my way home. We met in Spartanburg (which I used to think had nothing until I traveled to Graham County, North Carolina) at The Farmer’s Table (another recommendation if you ever find yourself in Spartanburg). We talked about life and plans and dreams and goals. We laughed like we always do, and I’m so thankful for camp and friendships born from there.

I’ve been getting back in the groove, slowly but surely, and I’m really, really, really thankful for a few months that seem slow/unplanned. Last year will definitely go down as one of the best albeit busy, but there’s got to be something said of restful years, which is what this one, Lord willing, will be. While enjoying a slower pace of life these days, I’ve been able to check out some music I’ve wanted to and watch a few movies that have been on my list for a while. I’m not reading as much, but I have at least one recommendation so far. Hope you’re enjoying your spring-like January (for the record, we don’t have the heat on as I write this #cheap #broke #hotwinter).

January Media Recommendations:

  • 13 Hours: WOW. Incredible. Despite your political views and how they affect this story, this movie is incredible. Definitely one of my favorite “based on a real story” movies.
  • Johnnyswim – Diamonds: WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN ALL MY LIFE? Seriously. So good. I’m a little mad at myself for not listening to them earlier.
  • Finding Dory: We watched this when we were in Robbinsville, because, well, there wasn’t much else to do. And we wanted to see it. It was really good! Better than I expected, honestly.
  • “Find You Here” by Ellie Holcomb: Man, her songs always wreck me. Her new album, “Red Sea Road”, comes out next week, but until then, listen to this single. I have listened to it approximately 100 times in the 2.5 days I’ve owned it (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still, it’s SO good).
  • How I Built This : NPR: I heard about this podcast from another podcast, and I listened to a couple of the episodes on my way back from Robbinsville. It’s a podcast about entrepreneurs, innovators, etc. The one with the Airbnb founder is really interesting, and I have added this to my go-to list for road trips.
  • New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp: My friend Kelly gave me this for my birthday, and WOW. I’ve had it six days, and I like it so much. It’s convicting, points you back to Christ, and is perfect for those mornings where I don’t have a lot of time. I feel like I’ve been wanting something like this for a while, and I’m thankful for it!

NYE in NYC (#pamcaketakesnyc)

A group of seven of us, all mutual friends of Patrick and Kaila, hit the Big Apple during Christmas break. We were there for NYE, and while we didn’t do Times Square (because, really), it was such a fun trip!

We stayed in Jersey City, and the only issue I had staying there was that we didn’t leave from Newark. It would’ve made everything so much easier. When you go to NYC, you’re literally in your room to sleep and shower. It’s not like this is the place you’re spending all of your time, because…well, you’re in NEW YORK CITY. All that to say, I’d advise to go the cheaper, still safe, route. But, if money isn’t an issue, then by all means stay in the city. When we stayed with my cousin in the summer, she lives in Manhattan, and that really was nice/convenient.

Anyway.

We flew into Hartford, CT, because one of our friends lives there, and we stayed there the first night. It was super fun to see where Cole lives, as well as be on the look out for Richard and Emily (#GilmoreGirlsForevaaaaa). We didn’t get a ton of time there, but we did manage to go to a real L.L. Bean store AND explore Yale. Super fun.

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After exploring Yale/New Haven, we hopped on the train for a pretty scenic route to NYC. We got off at Grand Central Station, and I just need to tell a little story right now. When Kaila and I went to NYC this summer, we were exploring near Grand Central and knew we could take the subway from Grand Central to the World Trade Center. We were super excited to see the iconic Grand Central, and we came in on a side entrance. We never saw what is in all the movies and pictures. We were so confused. My cousin, Lydia, who we stayed with, promised us that we came in on the wrong side, so we were super excited when Cole told us we could take the train to Grand Central (and actually see the right thing). And we did!

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After meeting up with K + P’s friend, Max, we headed to Jersey City and checked into our place. We grabbed a quick/late lunch then went to check out the city. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we hung out in Jersey for a little while, then we got to the Big Apple. That night, we saw the tree at Rockefeller, Trump Tower, Tiffany’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and ended in Times Square. We had dinner at Junior’s, and while I’m glad we went there, it wasn’t my favorite. But, the cheesecake was delicious!

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Our friend Addison got to Jersey City while we were at Junior’s, so we were able to start the next day fully as #PAMCAKE (all of our first initials, for those who were wondering). The guys headed to the city the next morning to get tickets for Broadway, then we met them in Central Park. We actually spent less time there then I planned, but it was just the right amount of time for the perfect photo op! 

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After lunch, we went to Broadway where we saw one of the last shows of Fiddler on the Roof. It was probably not my first choice for a show, but it was really fun, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to go. From there, we headed to the MET, and let me just say it was everything and then some. Also, it snowed as we drove there, and I don’t think I could’ve asked for a more perfect experience. We went to Lombardi’s, in Little Italy, that night for dinner, and that is definitely a place I’d recommend!

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 On NYE, we spent most of the morning doing the Statue of Liberty/Liberty Island. We took the ferry in Jersey, saw Lady Liberty, then hopped back on the boat to head to Manhattan. Our original plan was to go up in it, but we didn’t get tickets in time. No worries. It was incredibly cold and windy, so it was kind of nice to zip over there and zip back to the city. 

 After seeing Ground Zero, we split up for a bit. The guys + Elizabeth headed to the Museum of Natural History while Kaila and I went to Macy’s and on a bit of a dessert adventure. For the record, they all said the Museum of Natural History was super great. Kaila and I had fun, too, and we managed to find the place we ended up eating dinner at on NYE. Which, also, let me just insert right here–everything worked out fine for us on NYE, but if you go to NYC on NYE and don’t do Times Square, be prepared to spend some money. Or eat in a place not near that area. Which is what we did. We managed to find a place to eat in Stone Street, the cutest literal stone street, near Wall Street. Beckett’s was a great choice, and I’d go there again in a heartbeat. Probably the best meal I had the whole time we were there. After that, we ended up near Times Square, but not in it, to watch the ball drop. It was really fun to be IN the city at that time! 

We all had flights and had to check out the next morning, so we only had time to grab brunch before we had to separate. We ended up at this cute pancake (ha) house near our AirBnB, and it was also maybe the best meal I had on the trip. Nutella + strawberry pancakes and bacon and coffee? A perfect start to my next year of life. 

All in all, it was a great trip. I’d wished I’d been able to have another week to recover before heading back to work, but it was so worth it. Pretty positive I want to take a NYE trip every year. 

2016 recap

Here are my top moments of 2016 in chronological order (since I obviously love a good recap post, why not?):

January: Turning 24; starting to host my girls’ small group at my house; weathering the winter storm with Mom in CLT; taking pottery

February: Celebrating Mme’s life in Aiken; starting young girls’ events at OBC with sweet friends (I was off social media for this month and can legitimately not remember what happened then.)

March: Becoming a member at OBC; having Kaila up for the weekend; celebrating Dad’s birthday; visiting Kasey, Aaron, and Abby in Greenville; taking Jack and Joe out for an afternoon for their birthday; my friend Maddie moving in; working the Drew Holcomb merch table with my friend Michelle

April: EK coming up for the night/our painting session with Evelyn Henson; Kaila’s bridal shower in Appling; seeing The Oh Hellos with Aaron and Kasey at the USNWC

May: Road trip to DC with Aubrey, Katie, and Maddie; Mom coming up for Mother’s Day; being on the Giddy Up, Eunice book team; Kaila’s bachelorette weekend (this month felt so busy, but I literally have no idea why)

June: Finishing my FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING; #SurpriseBestFriendTrip; surprising Dad for Father’s Day; SLEEPING IN

July: Fourth of July weekend in Atlanta; Kaila and Patrick’s wedding; spending two weeks in Augusta/Atlanta/Hilton Head; Elizabeth’s visit to CLT; SLEEPING IN SOME MORE

August: Olympics party at my condo; my friend Rachel moving in; starting my second year of teaching; Kasey’s visit to CLT

September: Visit home for Casie’s birthday/to hang out with the boys; visiting EK in Greenville; camp reunion at Look Up Lodge

October: Starting to teach Sunday School at OBC; EK’s visit to CLT; lots of time spent with family; Anthony and Kristen’s wedding

November: OBC’s The Table for women; OBC girls trip to Boone; Thanksgiving with Jordan/Sofia and kiddos in Augusta; time spent with college friend in Augusta

December: Christmas pajama party at my condo; Christmas at Oakhurst; CHRISTMAS BREAK; gingerbread house making with the boys/time spent with them plus Casie; Christmas with the fam; NYC trip

Uh, spring? Really? 

I’m not sure what it’s like where you live, but it has been one cold spring here in the Queen City. It was 34 degrees the other morning when I was leaving for work, and bless my friend Emma Kate, because she took the dog out for me so I didn’t have to walk around in that cold weather. People, it’s been so cold, I’ve even turned on my heated seats. IN APRIL.

I’m incredibly ready for some warmer, spring-like temps, but while I’m still waiting on those, I’m still enjoying this unplanned life I’ve been given.

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My friend Michelle and I worked the merch table for a Drew Holcomb concert about 45 minutes south of Charlotte. It was an interesting event, but we had a blast and got to hang out with Drew for a little bit after it was over. So fun!

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I headed down to Greenville for a little bit of my spring break, and I got to spend about 24 hours (including sleeping) with this lady. Let me tell you what, #kashtastic time is always encouraging, and I’m so glad I carved out some time to spend with Kasey and that Kasey and Aaron opened up their home for me. And guess what? I get to see them in less than two weeks! Two times in less than a month?! It’s like a Christmas miracle 🙂

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I was in Augusta for all of 2.5 seconds during Spring Break, and the main reason was to celebrate this guy’s birthday. So grateful God chose him to be my dad!

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In my whirlwind Augusta trip, I took these two out for some much needed Ash Ash time. We had a blast golfing, arcading, ice creaming, and birthday celebrating. They made me laugh so much, and I’m so thankful they still want to spend time with me!

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My parents rent their house out for the Masters every year, and in the past, they’ve just stayed with me. But, this year, they stayed with a friend and I took Lucy back to Charlotte. This was how she slept practically every day, and I’ve gotta admit, waking up to this was kinda the cutest thing.

 

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Emma Kate came in town, and we did a painting class with Evelyn Henson (check out her work if you haven’t–you’ll like it for sure!). We had a blast. We laughed at our inadequate painting skills (although, these turned out super cute), we caught up over really good food, and we fell right back into where we’d left off from camp all those summers ago. EK, since I know you’re reading this, thanks for coming, and let’s do it again soon! Love you!

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And just because…TWO MONTHS from today, Kaila and I set out on our (hopefully first of many) #SurpriseBestFriendTrip (hope you’re okay with that hashtag, K). She doesn’t know where we’re going (eeeeekkkk), and I do, and it’s been so fun planning this! I can’t wait. There won’t be as many easy going days as there were from this trip to the beach (above), but it will be great.

 

 

M-m-m-m-march!

How is it already March? I stayed at work two Mondays ago a little later than normal, and I spent some time getting ready for the next day. When I changed our calendar out to March from February, I couldn’t believe it. Wasn’t August like…yesterday? 

Anyway, fifteen–er, practically sixteen–days into the month, and it’s flowing by, too! Which is a good thing in my mind, considering the fact that spring break is the last week of March. I can hardly wait for six work days where I don’t have to get up before nine. Or ten. Or maybe even eleven.

What can I say? I like my sleep. A. Lot.

Kaila came into town the first weekend of March, and while we didn’t do anything huge, we had a lot of fun. Of course–shopping was involved. What would a girls’ weekend be without a trip to South Park Mall or the local outlets? Oh, and of course, we went on some random adventure–a Craigslist one that involved me getting a new desk and meeting some of my neighbors. Always a blast 🙂

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We tried to take a cute picture with the city in the background. This is as good as it got 🙂

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I drive past this view everyday on my way to work, and I thought it would be a good background for a picture. And it would. If we had longer arms or weren’t trying to take a selfie.

In random/fun news, I made a very large purchase last week, and it felt kind of incredible that I could. I guess this is my way of saying to my dad that I understand that saving money is really a good thing, and  all of those years of lectures about Dave Ramsey and his methods finally paid off. Also, thanks for letting me use your work discount.

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Goodbye 2010 MacBook, Hello 2016 MacBook Pro! 

I made a trip back to Augusta about six weeks or so ago because we did lose our beloved Mme. The funeral home was packed to the brim with people from all stages of Mme’s life. it was a short funeral, but full of sweet stories about Mme. I also got to spend part of the evening catching up with some of my friends from high school, which is always a plus when it isn’t the night of our annual Christmas party.

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I really like this picture I found of Mme, my friend Samuel, and myself. We were in French III during our senior year, and she took us to a cooking event for our foreign language society. I just like it so much because it reminds me of the teacher Mme was–willing to go out of her way to make an incredible learning experience for her students. 

And, just because I. Can’t. Get. Over. It.

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These boys turn FIVE and SEVEN in the next couple of weeks. FIVE and SEVEN. It just can’t be! Excuse me while I go cry for the next few days about how OLD they are…and about how grateful I am that God gave me them (and their mama and daddy).

Well, that’s all for now. Enjoy the rest of your month of March! Maybe I’ll write another time this month…don’t get your hopes up too much 🙂

 

 

An Open Letter to My Birth Mom on My Birthday

To my birth mom–

Today’s my birthday.

But, you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

While today’s the day that my friends and family celebrate me, you’re probably reliving–or maybe forcing yourself not to relive–one of the hardest days of your life.

I won’t speak for you, because I don’t know you. I know some of your people, some of the ones who’ve had the privilege of loving both you and me. They’ve told me that giving me up was incredibly hard for you. I can only begin to imagine.

Over the past few years, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to think of you on this day that’s supposed to be all about me. I think about how hard labor must’ve been–I know I was two weeks late. Sorry about that. And that I wasn’t exactly the smallest of babies. You’re a champ.

Really. Instead of doing what some may call easy when you found out you were pregnant, unwed, and well, frankly, alone, you chose the hard path. You chose to carry me to term and to hand me over to someone else to raise because you knew that’s what would be best for me. You chose to eat healthy, take care of yourself, go to the doctor, and protect me while I grew because you wanted me to have a life that was better than what you could’ve offered me at the time. That’s pretty awesome.

And pretty selfless. I really can’t even begin to imagine watching your body change, telling your friends and family, and experiencing this crazy miracle of a thing called birth yet not getting to reap the benefits. Every mama I know who talks about labor being hard says that it was so worth it when they got to look into their baby’s face, got to hold their child, got to become a mom.

But you did something radical. You gave me up.

I’m writing this to you, on my birthday, to tell you thank you. You may never read this. I may never know. But, if you do read it or if you somehow come across this, I want you to know how thankful I am for what you did. You chose life for me–an incredible life, by the way–even though it wasn’t the easiest decision.

You gave me the opportunity to have birthdays. To be celebrated and loved and cherished by the people I do call Mom and Dad and by the people around me. You gave me this day. I can’t go by another year, another birthday, and not publicly thank you for the selfless act you made twenty-four years ago.

So, dear birth mom, thank you. For every single birthday I ever have. For the life you gave me when you chose to continue an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy.

I’ll always be thankful, today and everyday.