A little more Atlanta, A little less Boston.

57328e8d7c94e4dd049a37e319a88d18

The start of October and Atlanta is refusing to let the leaves change color. Green treetops make it look the same as months past in Georgia; but it feels different. Change is coming. Humidity is gone.

This is certainly my favorite time of year. It seems that everything puts on its best color–a fanfare of what the past year has held.

But as I look at this picture; “things will change.” I’m left thinking less about peak weekends and more about my everyday week.

Never in my life have I felt adulthood so freely and so heavily at the same time. While moving to Atlanta was one of the less-stressful gigantic life changes I’ve made; in the past six months I’ve found myself kind of avoiding embracing the change — and embracing new life — and instead living in constant memories and pinings of New England.

Kind of crazy. But, when you have an adventure that vivid and colorful — not even your childhood dream job can necessarily distract you from missing parts of that risk-taking lifestyle.

That time was magical and I am having a terribly hard time letting it go. Constant prattling about Massachusetts with new Atlanta acquaintances. The ever-frequent #latergram of past wandering Boston Saturdays.

I know, it’s annoying.

My fixation on Boston has been avoiding the reality that:

Things have changed.

+++

Since my move back to the South I’ve been brushed with some unsettling differences. The fact that, old friends are seemingly much harder to stay connected with — and new friends are hard to make when you work odd hours.

Living in a memory is sometimes easier than jumping into the new.

Steve Jobs (yeah, I’m going to go there — it’s a good thought he had) once talked about how it’s impossible to connect the dots moving forward. You only can backward. That’s the only way to make sense of change, how you end up where, what opportunities present themselves — and for what reason. You can only do that in retrospect.

When you think of the future — and even the now — you have to trust the dots moving forward. You have to just go. Follow your heart and your passion. But you’re not always going to know exactly what comes next or when.

I think that’s part of why it’s easier for us to live in that last ride, sometimes. You know it was a good one. And the current path you’re on is still undeveloped. It’s in the process.

You focus on what you know was good.

+++

This is the first time in my life that I’ve really forged a new chapter 100 percent alone.

And some days that is lonely.

While I spend moments and days, fantasizing about weekends and explorations gone by up North — what I miss is the feeling of risk taking and adventure.

I have neglected to realize that my current situation requires just as much bravery.

This is ever-so-much another challenge–it’s just different. Where Boston had history to see; Atlanta has culture. Where Boston had me quitting a job; Atlanta has me embarking on a whole new career. Where Boston thrust me into new lifelong friendships; Atlanta is encouraging a patience to grow something similar.

+++

Things have changed.

And things will continue to change.

The way to gathering the full happiness from it though is not to shirk in the shadows — but to embrace it fully and even mess it up a little.

Just because I’m in Atlanta doesn’t mean that Boston has to go away.

I just need to find that girl that moved into Kent Street and have her take charge here in Brookhaven.

+++

Life is beautiful to the core right now.

And I can’t miss it because I’m still thinking about the leaves from last fall.

Finding a church home. Again.

It just happened to be baby dedication Sunday at the largest Methodist church in the Atlanta area and I was feeling starkly under-accessorized.

You hear about the southern churches that treat the center aisle like a runway–and I had stumbled into that sanctuary.

Granted, it was baby dedication Sunday and the perfect opportunity for families to show off their coordination–but I was still blown away by the labels and jewelry I saw across the pews.

I should have worn more bracelets.

One of the best parts and hardest parts about starting again in a new city is finding a church.

It’s such a personal, chemical kind of thing.

I have my list of “criteria” and a memory of a feeling in tow each Sunday morning.

When I first moved to Winston-Salem, I searched for years. It was hard and by the time I found REVO (one of my favorite Sunday mornings), I had probably visited 10 churches on some kind of repetition hoping to find my place.

At the end of it all I found REVO on the recommendation of a friend who had attended the same church as me in Boone, N.C.

Then Boston was easier for a perhaps sad reason.

There were very few churches to pick from that were feasible enough for me to get to on a regular basis.

I found Union United Methodist Church on my second try. A lucky Google search, a church in one of my favorite neighborhoods, and a reputation for being socially progressive.

The choir’s rendition of “Love Lifted Me” brought tears that morning and I knew I had to come back.

Atlanta is trickier than Boston in that there are approximately 5,000 churches to learn about or visit. I’ve asked friends. I’ve visited two. And I need to keep learning a lot more.

So far I have been to the uber traditional United Methodist Church and then an equally uber socially liberal United Methodist Church.

I feel like Little Red Riding Hood. I need something in the middle.

This Sunday I visited a “Contemporary Service” and quickly things seemed awry….

It seems like every Sunday has a different little set of challenges on not being 100 percent comfortable or 100 percent what I’m looking for.

While it can be disappointing to not find a church home right away, I’ll never take for granted the huge gift of learning: what exactly I need — what exactly I believe — and what exactly I expect and want in a church.

You don’t really get to be that self-reflective without reason!

If you’re looking for a new church currently here is my modified (ongoing) checklist:

  • – Are you looking for a denomination?
  • – If so, why? This will help clarify for the following questions.
  • – Are there certain belief structures that are sacred to you?
  • – What level of involvement are you looking for?
  • – How long do you plan to be involved? Who else does this affect?
  • – Do you want to be able to do missions? Internationally?
  • – How important is accessibility to the pastoral team?
  • – Are you looking for certain qualifications / degrees / distinctions for the pastoral team?
  • – What type of message do you prefer?
  • – Do you want traditional? Contemporary? A church with varying types of services?
  • – What is the most important part of the service for you? Worship? Message? Fellowship?
  • – Is location a factor?
  • – Do you care how old the church is?
  • – What about the church’s stance on social issues? It’s now easy to search congregations friendly to all types of love.
  • – Do I know anyone at local churches? Or anyone with connections to local churches?

While this list is ever being added to; I found that I’ve really had to meditate on all of my answers. And it helps. You’re focused on what you need.

Until next Sunday, the saga continues — but in the meantime I am thankful for another Sunday in a church. And another Sunday to make sure I know all of my answers to the questions above!

The Owl Life.

I’ve always had trouble going to bed. I was the rotten seven-year-old with a dozen excuses to pop back out of my room. And as an adult it’s not much better–I have very little will to stick with a 10:30 p.m. normal bedtime. (Maybe I’m not actually an adult after all…)

Even when I would abide by a routine, at alternating times in life–be it because of stress or just busy-ness–I’ve often grappled with insomnia.

4 a.m. and I are pretty intimate.

But now we’re like in a Facebook-official relationship.

In the list of things that have been adaptations with getting used to a new job—I’m now officially an “overnighter.”

My work days go from roughly 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. with the beautiful perk of working four nights a week. Not everyone jumps in line for this shift–but I think I came into it with a solid 26 years of preparation.

My new typical day involves getting home from work as everyone else is leaving. I eat my first breakfast. Maybe squish in a work out. Read a chapter of whichever Harry Potter book I have caught up to. Sleep for a good seven hours. Slowly thaw out from that sleep over the course of two hours and a Hallmark movie or more reading by the pool. I eat second breakfast. Quickly get ready for work. Soak in a daily hour Facetime with my Andy–and then a chat with mom on my drive back into work.

The days fly by. Before you know it Monday has turned into Wednesday and your weekend is just around the corner.

It’s both the most beautiful and the most startling.

At work the shifts are more intimate with fewer people in the newsroom and everyone carrying a larger plate of responsibilities as a result for the 10 hours that you’re churning away on shows. Since I work for CNN International this is one of the times where you’re most likely to see my shows broadcast on CNN–as it often simulcasts our programs during the wee domestic hours. Unsurprisingly most of our news overnight is focused on Asia, Western Europe and the MIddle East which is much further into their next day.

It’s been an amazing opportunity to learn because there’s always extra places to lend a hand and new tasks to try for the first time. Plus, there’s an unspoken camaraderie about being awake and working hard at 2 a.m. while deliberating what to eat for “lunch.”

Honestly? I love it.

It seems like the perfect application of my “I don’t want to go to bed yet” excuses. And nicely, during the morning when I get home, I’m so perfectly exhausted that sleep is no problem.

The only issues?

Those normal-person routine things like a weekly social life, exercising, running errands and cooking–those are hard.

Working out, especially, is tough. Who wants to work out after working 10 hours? Who wants to work out when it’s 90 percent humidity outside in glorious Atlanta at 4pm? >This girl.<

I’m trying to get into a morning routine. I’ve found my best strategy so far: avoid the couch. JUST LACE UP YOUR DARN SHOES, ASHLEY. 🙂 First breakfast can come afterwards!

There are definite pluses and minuses to this new shift; but for the most part I think I’m adjusting marvelously. If only I can remember to keep balance—still plan time for the routines, the me time and the time with my family and friends on the weekends.

One of the hardest parts about embarking on the new job adventure was doing so 2,500 miles away from my love. But surprisingly a vampire-like schedule is quite conducive for cross-country phone dates.

The biggest emotional side effect of this new schedule is the tendency to indulge.

I crave a lot of comforts.

I don’t know if it’s a reaction to having a schedule flop — or just Ashley still adjusting to a new city. Probably a lot of both. But usually this means when I have a strange desire to light pumpkin candles in July — I do it. And if Hallmark is showing Christmas movies — I watch.

One last side issue to my moonlighting is this “breakfast issue.” I have cereal or waffles roughly 12-15 meals a week. Maybe this is the comfort thing, you say.

I argue that it’s a “breakfast is the best meal of the day” thing.

“But 12-15 breakfasts a week, that’s extreme,” you may come back.

My response to that, for now?

More waffles, please.

The Atlanta I Love.

I’ve been in love with Atlanta since I was probably five years old.

Something about the skyline driving through to Braves games or the combination of road-side farmers stands and urban graffiti. I have always loved the eclectic southern-ness of Atlanta and it was a beacon of “the good life” for me since I was a teenager.

“Man, if I live in Atlanta when I grow up — I will be the HAPPIEST,” I thought and wrote in my diary probably 50 times from 2001 to 2010.

I couldn’t wait to be able to go to The Ted on any given day of the week, read the AJC on the reg and officially be considered a peach state resident. Strange aspirations maybe, but they were all tokens of the city that I obsessed about.

I had and have been to other cities of course; but Atlanta has always been magical to me.

Growing up I would tell anyone who would listen about how one day I would probably be VP of Communications for the Braves and if not that maybe I would work at CNN. Lofty ambitions, but life is funny. And great sometimes.

You can imagine what people said when I announced four months ago that I was moving here. It was the smallest surprise of the year. Half the people I told thought that I already lived here.

Now, I live here.

Every day.

I don’t think I’m a bonafide Atlantan yet by any means. I DO have a Marta card; but I’ve never been to a number of the local institutions like Manuel’s or the Landmark. I’ve yet to really run very far on the Beltline and I’m not sure I could find my way around on the west side of I-75. I have no idea what the best restaurants are in Decatur and I haven’t been to a single festival yet. There is a lot to still see and experience on my “Atlanta To-Do List.” In fact, I probably need to create an actual list.

Related: If you live in Atlanta and have suggestions on what earns me my Atlantan certificate. Please advise.

But now on any given Tuesday I can go to Braves games, explore new restaurants, neighborhoods and museums.

Atlanta is home.

And I love Atlanta.

The trails. The parks. The history. The culture. The diversity. The food scene. The music. The access to hiking, swimming, home, friends and family.

There are so few things that could improve this city for me. (Aside from much improved public transportation. That’s it.)

But I found an Atlanta that I loved even more when Andy visited last week.

It wasn’t in a specific place or an activity. We had:

  • normal nights at home
  • tacos at Superica
  • drinks on the Beltline
  • King of Pops shade breaks
  • hikes on Stone Mountain
  • tent time at Lake Lanier
  • tomahawk chopping at Turner Field
  • picnics at Piedmont Park
  • meanderings downtown
  • sightings at MLK’s childhood home
  • lots of neighborhood explorations

It was a normal week of me trying to share why I loved this city so much.

Since moving here, it has been so fun–but I promise you that each exploration was paired with “I wonder what Andy would think of this?” or an “I can’t wait to show this to Andy when he visits.”

Can you imagine how lovely it was to just adventure and have him there to talk about it?

It was the BEST Atlanta yet.

Turns out when you combine the city you love + the person you love, it results in the BEST days. But, not to cheese ball, basically Andy and I always have the best time regardless of what city we’re set in.

I was pretty close to right at 14 years old when I thought that living in Atlanta would be the end-all to pure happiness.

But this week I saw a side of an even sweeter Atlanta that I hadn’t quite experienced yet–and oh boy, I cannot wait to visit that place again.

In the meantime, I get to keep exploring. I get to keep finding new reasons that Atlanta is my favorite. More parks to venture into and more neighborhoods to wander. More days to learn about myself in a city that–over the years–has been integral to my figuring out who I am.

While I really wish Andy was coming back tomorrow or that my trip to Portland started Wednesday instead of three weeks from now–I have Atlanta. And if I have to be patient for the day that we get to make a city ours, I’m positive that 95-degree heat, 80-percent humidity, and all, I wouldn’t take any other place while I wait.

I live in a World Series city.

If you turned on a television in the last week, you maybe knew that the Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series.

If you turned on a television in Boston in the last week, you knew every detail. Without choice.

As an avid baseball fan, one of the reasons that I was most excited to move to Boston was the sports culture. Boston has one of the highest concentrations of professional sports teams–and the idea that I would live less than a mile from one of the most historic ballparks? I was ecstatic.

Mind you, I wasn’t a Red Sox fan though.

Born and bred Braves girl.

Could name all of the players. Knew all the stats. I’ve quite literally been a Braves fan since birth. And Braves fans don’t like the Red Sox.

Total Braves + Atlanta girl at heart.

Then I actually moved to Boston.

And man, am I ever still a tomahawk-chopping crazy; but I found that the Red Sox were pretty fun to cheer for too. It’s a team and a ballpark with incredible history.

I despise the Yankees.

There are at least two players with Braves connections (Saltalamacchia started with the Braves and Stephen Drew’s brother J.D. was an Atlanta favorite).

The American League is totally separate from the National League–I mean, the only time the Braves would be seriously challenged by the Red Sox would be a World Series. And in that case I would, of course, pull for the Braves.

It was decided.

I could be both a Braves and a Red Sox fan.

So I jumped in. Two games (one of which was the crazy AL East clinching game) and a hat later, I decided I was excited.

Roommate + Red Sox Love.

So, when they started making a World Series run–I was pretty captivated.

As a Braves fan, we’re used to the postseason. That’s not very special (for shame, I know). But when there was a pennant and then an actual World Series potential–you had to watch every game. You had to get near Fenway.

On one special night, the Series opener, I went to Fenway to put together an iPhone-captured montage. Phones can do great things these days. It was posted for BU News and while it was great to be outside of Fenway, I really would have loved to be inside.

For some reason, I feel like the city of Boston accepted from the beginning that there was no alternative other than winning the whole thing. I never doubted that they wouldn’t win. It just seemed like a given.

So it was weird joy (I was still wishing it was the Braves) that I wore some support last Wednesday.

I looked super professional that day at work. I blame the "Wear Red Sox gear to work or else" email that I received.

I looked super professional that day at work. I blame the “Wear Red Sox gear to work or else” email that I received.

Instead of watching game six at a bar, we opted for a friend’s who lived practically shouting distance from Fenway. Any of you who watched will know that the game wasn’t that exciting and it was evident early on that Boston was going to close up the series. But there was still a decent excitement in the street.

Given the recent marathon bombings, it seems the city is wary to security in general. It was quite evident with the 50-motorcycle police brigade outside our friend’s apartment. And then again evident with the number of police barricades.

IMG_0752

A night full of blue lights.

IMG_0775

Boston was bursting with Red Sox pride.

IMG_0786

Everyone wanted to get as close as possible. The reward was at least a first-hand view of the fireworks and the sounds of the crowd in Fenway.

IMG_0791

More people, mostly singing. No fights were seen; instead mostly high fives, whoops and hollers; and even some tears.

IMG_0802

Meanwhile, my people were working. Life of a journalist.

We were still able to get out and film a little after the game–and while it was exciting, I was a TINY bit disappointed it wasn’t more crazy.

Still.

Pretty friggin’ awesome baseball season to move to Boston.

Now. 2014, Let’s go Braves.

Weekend Warriors: Favorite city + Favorite people + Favorite Sports Team.

I grew up in a corner of North Carolina where “Christmas shopping in the city,” or “summer baseball game,” or “weekend at the amusement park,” or even “day trip to get out of dodge” meant taking the winding 2.5-hour drive through the mountains and Georgia foothills to Atlanta.

Most of the trip is a peaceful four-lane road past dairy bars and pastures; however, about 30 minutes before you hit the city the roads widen, the traffic becomes more plentiful and as soon as you cross under the giant maze of bridges (which I discovered was the ‘perimeter’ as I got older), well, then you’re in Atlanta.

Seeing those tall buildings and soaking in the amount of sunshine has always been home away from home for me.

My family would make the trip every couple of months and I feel like I’ve spent many a mile-marker in Fulton and Gwinett counties; birthdays and vacations included.

It was the place I always swore I’d move to when I graduated college and it’s the reason why UGA was my first choice when the time came to apply.

Life happens. You get scholarships and choose an in-state school. You start dating a guy and move to a different Carolina town.

And instead, you visit Atlanta every chance you get.

And every time you visit you’re reminded of how “one day I could totally see myself living here.”

This weekend marked the second annual road trip of high-school best friends from North Carolina through South Carolina to Georgia. We remarked on the trip down how it had been a long time. I mean, sixth grade–when we all met? Well that was almost 15 years ago.  (Insert nostalgic photo of awkward 11-year-olds with braces and baby faces that is probably laying around my parents’ house.)

Best-friend kind of love.

Gigantic Braves fans, a game is always useful motivation to plan a weekend. So a Travelzoo deal later we were south-bound early Saturday morning.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 3.54.42 PM

The lesser-known, well liked #10 of the @braves. #CJonesRespect

Saturday of all Saturdays, we had tickets for THE GAME. The Braves had been on a wild sweep of 14-straight wins. If the team won Saturday night’s game they would have tied the franchise’s longest streak since 2000 when the Braves won 15 in a row from April to May.

So, of course — we figured they would lose. (We weren’t very confident in the luck we were bringing.)

A fairly short road trip into Atlanta, a customary stop for burgers at The Varsity, a meandering through Centennial Park and the World of Coke gift shop and we were off to the field for a preliminary afternoon of extremely hot tailgating. Man, I’m just not quite accustomed to that heat or humidity.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 3.27.00 PM

The Varsity “Whatya have, whatya have, whatya have.” Um, all the onion rings please.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 3.27.25 PM

These kids are funny.

Our seats were a DREAM. Suite life, baby. I’m not sure if going to a Braves game will ever be the same after seeing one from the bounty of air-conditioning and private bathroom. That said, I would maybe trade for some field-side seats. All the same, it was incredible. Especially considering that there was an hour rain delay. Nothing like dry seats.

J-Hey Kid at bat.

Once the game started up, it was a little bit of a snoozer (three hits up to the 8th inning!) and then a half hour of INTENSITY.

The Braves let up one run to the Marlins off of some sloppy defense and the stadium was erupting in rapture and cheering for an offensive answer once the Braves came up to bat.

We cheered for a single like it was a home run.

Me + current/former roommate. ❤

Three outs and Janish who stepped up to bat, noted has a .000 batting average, stuck out. Looking. Against the worst team in our division.

Sad ending to a 14-game winning streak.

It was humorous to see the onslaught of “You’re not allowed to go to Braves games when they’re on a streak” messages that were sent to us from various friends and family members.

Me + Derek + Brooke + Bradley. Wouldn’t have been the same with any other three.

The game went so late that by the time we got back to our hotel there wasn’t a lot of time to deliberate if and when we wanted to go out to a bar. Luckily we had found a really fun, random karaoke bar, Metro Café Diner, last summer that just happened to be down the street. On the way there, we passed 50 Cent’s truck from Fast Five. Interesting. So we went straight to aforementioned bar and proceeded to stay for three hours drinking Shandy beer and belting karaoke with other downtown-Atlanta strangers. It was of course followed up by a 3 a.m. trip to Waffle House. (Of course.)

What felt like only a nap later and we were back on the road to the Carolinas, smiling wildly at the adventures and fun that we had shared in a cram-packed weekend.

I was left realizing it may be a while before I get to see Atlanta again, so I took a good long look as we drove away. See you again as soon as I can, ATL. I promise.

Turn it up, Monday morning: Miley Cyrus

Week 35: Miley Cyrus

No shame.

After a weekend of roadtripping 5 hours to Atlanta, Ga. to spend a rowdy two days with very little sleep and lots of fun, I had to be at work at 7 a.m. this morning. This girl is SLEEPS. And every time this freakin’ catchy song came on in the car on our trips there was some unashamed excitement. I can’t help it. And I would probably be more embarrassed about posting some Miley on a Monday morning––but today, I don’t even care : ) Now if only I knew more of the words than “And we can’t stop….”

Happy new week!

2013, you’re halfway gone.

And with the end of June, we’re officially (months-wise) halfway through 2013. It’s pretty wild to take a tally of the first six months and see all of the adventures and stories I’ve collected this year.

From making my first travels out West to exploring Canada with Sarah.

Running. Running. And more running.

Wild new projects, clients and tasks with work.

Unexpected new friendships and relationships. Both their starts and their finishes.

Explorations with little brother. And big life moments crossed off the list. (high school graduations and half marathons.)

2013 has been, to date, as wide-eyed, open-armed and headfirst as I have wanted it to be. I have taken the chances that seemed appropriate. I have had a lot of faith. And I have felt as much alive as I have in a long time. So, this is what living is like?

But there are still six months left. And like with any client on an annual budget; halfway through you have to take stakes in––have we gotten where we hoped to at this point? Are we on track to finish and, at the minimum, meet objective?

January through June? Check. Satisfied.

June through December?

Well, according to the 25 by 25 there still needs to be a broadway show, some personal acting, some education, volunteering, learning about firearms, be published AND write a book proposal. And that’s just by October : ). Crazy remainder list, by the way.

2013 was admittedly going to be a year of change and growth; and looking back on the first six months I cannot believe how accurate my predictions have been.

The most immediate prediction list for the remainder of the year? How about just this third quarter?

– Swallow my pride and see a specialist about my leg. I need to get back to running as soon as humanly possible without forever cursing myself with an injury. (You guys, I had a dream I was running last night.)

– Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Kenny Chesney concerts with Brooke through the rest of the summer.

– Family time over the 4th of July holiday.

– Prepping a little brother for college.

– Planning a trip to Atlanta for time with best friends (including the Braves, duh).

– Getting creative with saving money. Let’s see how many dinner parties I can have instead of going out . . .

– Busting out some 25 by 25s, stat.

Next check in will practically be my 25th birthday. Don’t mind me while I go have a freak out over how quickly this year is passing.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

One of the best days of the year? Opening Day!

Finally, my favorite boys are back.

This past weekend I was reminiscing with one of my best friends Brad about an epic weekend trip that we took to Atlanta for a game with some other friends. And it was immediately followed up with agreement for a repeat.

Friends, mark your calendars. June. We’re making it happen.

In the meantime, if you’re a Braves fan — savor this: