Finding a Thing We Do: NC State Park Bucket List

thing-we-do-title-image

A lot of couples have a “thing.” You know, a thing that they do.

Chuck and I don’t really have a thing. I guess we try to find the best pizza in our area, but that’s more like a quest than a thing. We also test out the calamari and the buffalo wings, but I don’t really consider either of those a thing.

I kinda wanted a thing. A couple thing. A thing that would drive us to do something fun or have adventures.

Outdoorsy Bucket List

A long while back, before I met C, I visited my cousin in Wyoming. We made a day trip to Yellowstone National Park which, by the way, is so incredibly cool. In the gift shop, I spotted this passport book that you can stamp every time you visit a national park.

I think it was something like this.

I considered getting it. “Maybe I could make that my thing,” I told my cousin. “Maybe I could visit all of the national parks in the country.”

She was encouraging, but I ultimately put it back. Realistically, I was working a dead-end job that wasn’t in my field and had no idea if I’d ever have the money to make those trips.

I ended up getting laid off a few months later, so, yeah, pretty right about that.

The goal stayed with me, though, and I never stopped thinking about it.

On a recent trip to Boone, C and I decided to take a hike at Elk Knob State Park, which was about 25 minutes from our cabin. While we made our way up the windy mountain road, I asked C if we could have an outdoorsy bucket list.

With every national park being absolutely unattainable, I suggested hitting every state park in North Carolina. There are 34 state parks and even at one a year, I felt that we could do it. Quite a few are within an hour’s drive meaning we could hit more than that.

C was on board and we found ourselves a thing. We’d visit every state park in North Carolina.

Photo // After the Knot

Photo // After the Knot

With a 2-mile hike, we checked Elk Knob off the list.

We’ve already been to Umstead State Park a couple of times and I’m trying to decide if it should count. I don’t have an “official” picture of us at the park and driving by just to take one feels like cheating.

For Memorial Day weekend, we took advantage of the below average temperatures and drove up to Durham to visit Eno River State Park. I purposely chose one of the more difficult trails for our hike because I knew A) we needed the exercise and B) there would be fewer people, fewer dogs, and fewer children.

Photo // After the Knot

Photo // After the Knot

 

I have this grand idea for painting on our wall a giant map of North Carolina with a photo by each state park. I don’t really have the artistic talent for it, but we’ll see what happens.

So what about you? Do you and your partner have a thing?

Advertisements

Online Dating Seven Years Later

I was supposed to publish this post last week, but truth be told, I’ve been sick with something for more than two weeks and I just didn’t have the energy to finish it.  I’ve edited it to account for the delay. 

On a cold Saturday seven years ago, I was preparing for my first date with a guy I had met on the internet.

I was in a minor panic because our original plans involved catching an Islanders-Flyers game at Nassau Coliseum. I even confirmed with a season-ticket-holding friend that he would be there in the event my date turned out to be a psycho. When we found that all the remaining tickets were more than $100 a piece, we switched our location to an Applebees fairly close to my house.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to the great food in Raleigh, my standards for restaurant fare have increased dramatically. Sorry not sorry, but Applebees really isn’t that good. 

To make a long story short, he got lost and called a coworker for directions. After he arrived and we got to chatting I said, “Oh, by the way, my best friend’s sister also works at Guitar Center. Do you know [sister’s name]?

He replied,”That’s who I called for directions.”

Of course, I had to text friend’s sister to thank her for providing directions to a date that she had no idea was with me.

Attending a birthday gathering about two months in. / After the Knot

Attending a birthday gathering about two months in. / After the Knot

As dinner continued, I figured that friend’s sister would tell friend. Friend would question sister about the sanity of my date. Friend would then decide if she should call with a fake emergency to get me the hell out of there.

This, of course, is exactly what happened between friend and her sister.

When dinner was over, we decided to head to a bar to watch the end of the hockey game. Since I never got the emergency text and at least one person knew definitively who I was with in case I disappeared (a very real thought that went through my head), I figured it would be totally OK to take the same car. When the bar became too loud to talk, we moved to Starbucks for coffee. About seven hours after our date had started it we were saying our goodbyes.

When the bar became too loud to talk, we moved to Starbucks for coffee. About seven hours after our date had started it we were saying our goodbyes.

Seven years later, that guy and I are married, living in a house in North Carolina with three cats (one’s “temporary”), a dog, and the plans to add another human to the mix this year.

When I was Your Age, There was no Swiping

By 2008, online dating was somewhat common. I guess you could say it was socially acceptable, but people still seemed to consider it a last resort.

Today, when I tell people that C and I met online, their response is the same as if we met in college, at work, or by any other traditional means. Back then, people usually stared uncomfortably and responded with, “Oh. Cool.”

I never really dated. Before settling down with C, I had three long-term relationships with very little single time in between. The dating world was completely foreign.

When it came to meeting people, online dating felt like the only viable option.

My college days were long gone so no chance of meeting someone there.

I had a strict rule about not dating people at work. That rule didn’t matter too much though. A few months after entering the dating world, I became a victim of the recession and left the world of the employed.

Most people try to meet others in bars. That was never really my scene. I’m naturally kind of shy and a bit socially awkward.

Online dating, oddly enough, was the only thing I felt somewhat comfortable with.

I started with OKCupid, mostly because the quizzes were fun and it was free. I later moved on to Yahoo! Personals because it was cheaper than Match or eHarmony.

I used this photo for my profile picture, back when selfies were just a picture you took of yourself when you thought you were having a great hair day. / After the Knot

Back when selfies were just a picture you took of yourself when you thought you were having a great hair day, I used this photo for my profile picture. / After the Knot

At the time at least, paid services seemed to attract people who were more serious about dating and relationships. Those types of people were easier to find than on the free sites, which seemed inundated with guys just looking to hook up.

If that’s your thing, that’s totally cool. It wasn’t mine.

I hear a lot about online dating now. It seems so much more complicated, whereas a few years ago, it was more simple.

I’m not saying that dating and meeting people was simple. That could still be difficult as dating generally is. But the world of online dating was more simplistic.

Like, I don’t get Tinder at all. I don’t get it in that old-lady-learning-new-technology kind of way.

In the, “When I was your age, if I saw a guy that I was interested in, I emailed him, there was none of this swiping business” kind of way.

Despite my impression that online dating has kind of become the digital version of a bar, I’m still a pretty big advocate. I know a lot of people that have been able to weed through all of the filth and come out the other end in some really awesome relationships.

I still meet people who aren’t sure if they should try it. I tell them that they should, but with all of the options these days, they should do a little research. At the very least, you want to sign up for something that is geared for whatever type of relationship you’re looking for.

And if all else fails, you could always become famous for drawing little penises on the photos of the guys that message you.

One Year Ago…

June 4 was a perfect day.

Everything about that day was perfect. Even the things that weren’t perfect, were still part of the most amazing day of my life.

Today, it’s been a year since I married the most amazing person in my life. I still think about that day and all the events that took place. I remember how I felt walking down the aisle and how my voice cracked as we said our vows. I remember a moment after we were husband and wife that for a brief second in time, it felt like we were the only two there. I remember trying to say hello to every single person there and feeling guilty that I couldn’t spend more time with them. I remember hoping that everyone was having a good time and having minor flashes as panic when I felt no one was.

Video by Signature Video

I really can’t say much about our first year of marriage. To be honest, it was probably the most boring year we’ve been together. In the four and a half years we’ve been together there was unemployment, illness, job loss (after having gained employment), a move back home, a move away from home and a severe cut in our income.

About 99 percent of that happened before we were actually married. Aside from a couple of trips to the ER recently, our actual first year of marriage was pretty, well, uneventful. So many people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. For us, that wasn’t the case. Prior to being married, we endured some of the hardest moments in our lives. The first year of marriage was a piece of cake.

Of course, I don’t think every year will be like our first.

We continue to learn and grow, just as any couple would. We have moments of happiness, sadness, anger and frustation, all emotions that come with sharing your life with someone. We have always communicated well with one another and for us keeping that level of communication is vital to remaining happy.

As we head into our second year of marriage, I’m hoping for some good things to come our way. We’ll be moving out of an apartment into our first house and crossing our fingers for some good career changes.

I will keep trying to be patient and not petty, while I hope C learns to load the friggen’ dishwasher. Like I said, trying. Despite the fact I had a Yodel for breakfast, I want continue making healthy changes to my lifestyle so that not only will we be able to live a long life together, but so that I can see myself as he sees me.

Babies will come with our 3rd year of marriage, so don’t ask.

And for those of you that are still wondering if we kept to our original budget, I’m working on a post that explains why I have no actual idea if we did and why that’s not a good thing.

Happy June 4, everyone. It may just be an ordinary Monday to you, but it’s an amazing day for me.

Girls Who Rock

I know the ladies in my bridal party know how much I love them and how much I appreciate everything they did for me during the planning of my wedding.

But sometimes I want to reach out and make sure the REALLY know how much I love them.

Growing up, I wasn’t popular or well liked. I had few friends I could count on and trust. Many teased me to my face and behind my back.

But, as I grew up I began to acquire a group of really awesome people in my life. So many, in fact, that if I had asked them all to be in my wedding, I’d have a much bigger group. I’m so incredibly thankful for this. We’ve had our drama, breakdowns and annoyances, but overall, I have some really awesome ladies in my life.

Even those that weren’t in my wedding played a major roll. They officiated, read poems and set up our ceremony site to make it comfortable for our guests. Even though they didn’t have a “title” they were still there to help where ever needed. For that, I’m extra thankful.

(If you’re wondering why I didn’t include some of these women in my bridal party, it was mainly because of logistics. With two girls getting married in the same year, it would be unfair to our friends to ask them to do double bridesmaid duty. We decided to split the group  and because my friends are AWESOME and not catty bitches, it worked out really well.)

My fantastic bridal party. I am so lucky to have such amazing women by my side.

My bridesmaids banded together and threw me an awesome bridal shower and bachelorette party and wanted to do so much more than I would let them.

And most importantly, they did this all without drama.

While most bridesmaids know well enough not to tell a bride there is bridesmaid drama during the planning of a wedding, my ladies continue to insist that everyone pulled their weight, got along and made the entire process a pleasure for each other.

Sabrina did an AWESOME job setting up our ceremony site. She's a newlywed too!

It’s always scary when you bring different women from different parts of your life together, but they came together seamlessly and it showed. I was thrilled because all I wanted was happy friends.

If I could give you any advice, it’s this:

Love and appreciate your bridesmaids and every single person who helps you with your wedding. They are doing so much and at the very least, they deserve to know how much you care.

Think about your wedding decisions and how it affects your friends. Demands like expensive dresses, shoes, hair, makeup, bachelorette weekends, can cause strain on a group of women.

Christine read a beautiful poem.

Trust me. It is entirely possible for none of your bridesmaids to get their hair and makeup done and still look absolutely gorgeous.

And at the very least, don’t be a bitch. Seriously. Just don’t do it.

Lex, did, well, everything. She performed the ceremony, picked up breakfast at 7am, helped set up the ceremony site, EmCee'd and kept everyone organized.

Stress can get the best of us and when you see it coming, relax and remember why you are getting married in the first place. Don’t take it out on your friends. Don’t be bossy, demanding or insulting. If you want your friends to last past your wedding day, take your bad mood out on a punching bag at the gym.

To the amazing women in my life who helped make my day so, so wonderful and amazing, I thank you.

Goodbye 20’s

I’m turning 29 today.

I’m officially entering the last year of my 20s. 30 is quickly on its way and I’m not handling it very well.

My friends who are already 30 or turing 30 this year tell me to STFU in one way or another. My friends who are in their 40s also tell me to STFU. But, truth be told, I’m not handling it well.

I can actually feel my body aging and most of that has to do with being overweight. I’m sure if I get myself down to a healthy weight, the feeling of getting old won’t be so bad.

Not to mention that because I’m agnostic, I don’t believe in an afterlife. Death is totally more scary when you don’t have any place to go after you stop breathing. Aging is therefore scary as effing hell (ya know, the one I don’t believe in).

Most of my 29 anxiety stems from my current life status. I’m light years behind where I thought I would be. I think the only thing that did go according to “plan” was being married. I figured by now I would have gotten hitched and enjoying married life before starting to have children, which I wanted to do at 30.

The idea of attempting to begin trying for a baby a year from now is a scary effing prospect and probably won’t happen.

I’m in this weird, but awesome position right now where I absolutely LOVE what I do. I love my writing gig and I love the organization that I’m doing it for. I love my tutoring job and I love the company I’m doing it for.

Unfortunately, as happy as I am doing what I’m doing, I’m making very little money doing it. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve actually become OK with living a low-budget lifestyle. I’ve never been one for luxury or labels, but I’ve reached a point that I’m OK doing with less material things.

But, I wish we had more money for things that I think the general population is deserving of.

  • Healthcare
  • A home of their own (whatever that means for you. For us it means a house.)
  • Healthy food, grown in a sustainable, responsible way
  • The ability to travel to see friends and family who live far away.
  • And a social life

I don’t care that we don’t have cable, but I’d like to be able to see my friends and family more often. I don’t care that I buy my clothing from Goodwill, but I would like to be able to go to the doctor when I’m sick. I’d like to be able to buy new sneakers when I need them and I’d like to be able to get by without help from my parents. They don’t help us a lot, but just the fact that I need the help makes me feel guilty and ashamed.

I figured that by the time I was 29 I would have made it to a mid-level position where ever I was working. Despite having been a professional reporter for almost four years, I still feel very “entry level” with so much to learn. I figured I’d be further along in whatever career I had.

I’m often told that I need to cut myself some slack considering we’re in the middle of the Great Recession. Jobs in media have been tough to find since I graduated and things have clearly just gotten worse. Jobs in the media are also traditionally low-paying so I never should have expected to be making a living wage as a writer anyway.

Sometimes I wonder how much my own work ethic came into play with where I am in life. I think I work pretty hard, but I’m no workaholic. I value my personal time that I spend with my husband or doing things that I enjoy. Sometimes that doesn’t leave time for networking or taking on an extra story. I know I’m easily distracted and can sometimes be downright lazy (which is why a job with deadlines is perfect for me) but I still feel like I work pretty hard.

Sometimes I think I should have tried harder. But, I don’t want to give up that personal time that I find valuable. Who cares if I’ve advanced my career if I’m constantly stressed out and don’t have time for my family? I’ve gotten to a point that I’m unsure if I can do both without sacrificing my personal life.

It’s not all bad

As much as a Debbie Downer as I often feel, I try to remember the awesome things that I have going for me at 29.

I have not one but TWO jobs that I enjoy doing. I don’t mind going to work every day. And I go to the most boring meetings on the planet, so you’d think I’d absolutely hate my life on those days, but I don’t hate it. I love the news organization that I’m a part of and I love that I’m in a position to help it grow and become something even more awesome.

I love teaching my students.

I love to watch them progress and get better at reading and writing. I love that I only do it part time so that when they finally start to stress me out, I leave for the day. I love breeding a new generation of young writers. I love making sure they know the difference between there, their and they’re because if they can master that, they’re already smarter than most adults (I definitely checked that sentence multiple times to make sure I used the right they’re).

And I’m happy and thankful that both my employers see some sort of potential in me.

I hate that my parents have to help us here and there, but I’m so thankful that they can and that they do it because they want to. I’m thankful that they recognize how far we’ve come and that we don’t take their help for granted. I’m thankful that they don’t see us as slackers who are looking for a handout. I’m glad that they were responsible and successful so that they could help me when I needed it. I hope I can get to a point that I can do the same for my own children.

I’m happy that despite living close to the poverty line, we are still able to pay our bills and keep a roof over our head. As much as I sometimes hate this drafty, old apartment, I’m thankful that I have it.

Most of all I’m very happy for being able to go through all this and not have it affect my relationship with my husband. So often money, or lack thereof, strains a relationship, but Chuck and I are doing fine. Our relationship is still fantastic and we’re taking everything one day at a time. Going through this together has aligned our priorities and helps us focus on what is really important to us and in our lives.

I thought I would be doing better, but I never expected to be super rich or successful by 29. And clearly I’m not. But, in all the important ways, I think I’m better off than many people.

Six Months In

On the Dec. 4, Chuck and I “celebrated” our 6 monthaversary. I say “celebrated’ because we didn’t actually do anything other than our normal Sunday routine, which included cleaning and going food shopping.

I can’t believe it’s been six months since we said our wedding vows. It friggen flew. It feels like we just got married, but it’s been half a year.

Since getting married,

  • Two close friends and one cousin tied the knot
  • Two of Chuck’s friends got engaged
  • Two of my friends got knocked up (in the good, we-were-planning- it kinda way)
  • One friend bought a house
  • Chuck started applying to – and will hopefully be accepted to – grad school
  • We both got a raise promotion at the tutoring center
  • I was elected to the Board of Directors at the Raleigh Public Record (If you want to give me a Christmas present you can make a donation to this awesome organization)
  • and we collectively gained about 35lbs

I’m happy about all of it with exception of the weight gain. The last two months have been tough schedule-wise. Workouts faltered and pizza became a dinner staple. I thought I just shrunk my pants.

Nope.

Turned out I expanded my waist-size by about 10lbs. I’ll discuss that in a separate post.

Married life has been, well, the same as unmarried life (I totally thought I discussed this, but I can’t find the post, so maybe I wrote the post in my head and never published it). When you live together and share a bank account, there really isn’t much difference between that and being married.

Sure, we no longer go the disapproving you’re-living-in-sin-and-going-to-hell face from conservative church goers, but on our end nothing really changed. Because of that, I don’t have any big revelations about our first six months of marriage. It’s been kick ass, but not much different than the six months prior to the wedding.

Sorry. Just being honest.

In the next six months, I hope that we will be able to continue on this upward journey that we’ve set for ourselves. We’ve come so far since we moved to North Carolina and I think we can make even more strides in the next 180-ish days.

I’m hoping that our next big step will be into a house of our own. Some might argue that we’re not a good place to buy, others say it’s now or never. Personally, I just want a place to call my own that has an abundance of sunshine, a place for a garden and a third bedroom for an office.

Despite wagers between friends, a mini-Anderson won’t be on the way for a while. While things are are slowly getting better, we’re in no place to care for a child. I don’t mind keeping the heat low or buying my clothes at Goodwill, but I don’t want that for my child.

Not to mention the fact I’m totally scared shitless of being a parent.

So, I raise an imaginary glass and toast the past six months. Here’s to the next 180-ish days.

A First and Last Valentine’s Day

In my adult life, I was really never into Valentine’s Day. In my teenage life I longed to be that girl who carried around flowers and a teddy bear. My junior and senior year, I became that girl and it was awesome.

As I got older, however,  I began to care less and less about the holiday. As a serial monogamist I think I was only actually single for one Valentine’s Day since I was 16 (not bad for the ugly chick with buck teeth/braces glasses, frizzy hair and a face full of pimples. Junior high was NOT good to me). But, until Chuck most of my relationships were long distance at one point or another, which forced me to spend many Valentine’s Days with friends not really alone, but not really together.

Chuck and I have always had low-key Valentine’s Days. Our first one was spent watching a hockey game, while eating steak and Chinese fried rice. That night he told me he loved me, which was awesome because I was TOTALLY fighting the urge to tell him I loved him. Last year we attempted to make dinner in my kitchen, which resulted in me setting a pot on fire and my mother having to put it out. Romantic, eh?

This year, I didn’t want candy or flowers, but I did want to do something. I wasn’t really sure why. So, we did something. We went out for lunch at Carolina Ale House on Sunday. It was nice and our burgers were good, but it didn’t hit the Valentine’s Day spot.

Lobster tails, lobster stuffed salmon, rice pilaf, white wine and garlic bread. Not bad if I do say so myself.

On my lunch yesterday, I ran over to Harris Teeter in an attempt to find something to special to make for dinner. The good man behind the seafood counter assured me that making stuffed salmon and lobster tails was easy. I believed him and got two lobster stuffed salmon fillets and two lobster tails. I picked up some garlic bread and a giant cookie cake and anxiously awaited 6:00. I knew that Chuck and I would be getting home at the same time, but I wanted at least part of this dinner to be a surprise so while chatting with him online, I reinforced our original dinner plan of Tuscan bean soup and the gym.

We pulled up to the apartment at the same time and I showed him my dinner surprise. He was pretty excited about it, I have to say.

The Harris Teeter seafood guy was right. Stuffed salmon and lobster tails was pretty easy to make. Our dinner was done within a half hour of when we got home.

While cooking it dawned on me why I wanted to do something this year. It was our first Valentine’s Day in our own place and our last as an unmarried couple. Having our own place meant that we didn’t have my mother putting out fires or his parents banging on the bedroom door to wish us a good night. We could light candles and drink a whole bottle of wine and we would be alone.

Finally.

And since we’re getting married it’s very likely that we’ll only have one or two more quiet Valentine’s Days before we have to share it with someone other than our cats.

I didn’t stress out about my messy apartment and we didn’t worry about not going to the gym. We just curled up on the couch and watched TV with the cat.

It was definitely a night to be cherished.