Still alive. Still very alive.

I was sitting in the kitchen last night when my mom asked “Ashley, did you post on your blog today?”

After answering with a “No,” I got the cringing response; “You know it’s been a month, right?”

Oye, nothing like your mom calling you out for being distracted.

Something about being a graduate student in November and December? It’s busy. And not in all of the typical expected ways.

Of course there are the “finals,” which in my case were all final projects. Final packages to film and edit, papers to write and scripts to finish. I had to turn in some final research (eek, which I still need to do). There were students from my TA class with a lot of questions and there were some very busy end-of-semester projects for my graduate assistantship.

That’s all expected and a good excuse, right?

The other intangible part was that there were holidays to prepare for; a month-long trip home to pack and anticipate––and a lot of graduating that called for celebrations.

I remember so vividly early September. Not only did December seem far away, it still seemed imminent. There was an intimidating “older” girl in one of my classes who was set to graduate at the end of the semester. We always ended up sitting next to each other in our class. She seemed nice; but like she knew what she was doing. And since she had already been in Boston a year, I figured she already had friends and she wouldn’t take too much notice of me.

In some ways that made me grateful because she wouldn’t be looking over my shoulder at my mess of an edit job.

Somehow one day I decided to tell her about November Project though. She looked like she appreciated being active and working out. And that’s all it took.

She wanted to come! And it turned out that we had a lot to talk about. Enough so that she invited me to meet her at a birthday party that weekend.

Hmm. Even though Jeanna was 23 (younger than me!); she was getting ready to graduate. And in a REALLY weird way I felt like I was back in high school and an older girl was inviting me to a party––and oh, I felt special.

But I didn’t know anyone.

The kids in my program year hadn’t really hit it off yet. I wasn’t comfortable enough to really force one of them to be a tag-along.

That Saturday night as I had text back and forth with Jeanna, who was asking where I was at, I was skeptical.

I told my roommates, “They’re going to graduate in December. What’s the point? Why make the effort to be friends?”

My roommate Brian made a plausible case, “You never know what kind of connections they could be afterwards! If nothing else, go for that.”

I said if I could find a sidekick I would go. Luckily for me, Erika said she’d meet me there in 15 minutes.

Four months later as I got a little teary writing Jeanna’s graduation card among a stack of others, I thought “Wow. What if I hadn’t gone to that party?”

Maybe things would have turned out quite similar and the next weekend she would have convinced me to come.

Maybe?

Maybe inevitably my friend Alex would’ve gotten to me and forced me to hang out like he’s apt to do.

All I know is that after that night I fairly forced the graduating class to adopt me as a surrogate graduate. I spent all of my weekends with them. I went to all of their celebrations for the end of the semester. And I went through some waves of sadness in the last month realizing that the next two semesters will be very different without them.

Every time my mom would call it seemed that I was on my way to a party. “Are you sure you’re doing school work?!”

I was. But I had to make sure I squeezed in all of my time and congratulations in the midst of that school. Boston has been for graduate school, yes—but turns out that it’s also been for a lot more.

Not to mention, that birthday party? Well it turned out to be Andy’s birthday party. Yeah, that turned out kind of special too.

My life in Boston would only have been a shadow of as awesome if it hadn’t been for those people graduating.

Beautiful Christmas Sweater photo creds to Jeanna.

So, that is why I am so delayed. I’ve been living it up the last month and soaking in every last second before going back to North Carolina.

You know, as the plane landed and I’m walking through the Charlotte terminal, I couldn’t help but feel like it had only been a week that I was gone. A week of a surreal, yet very detailed dream.

It’s just nice to know that it wasn’t. And while for a few weeks that may feel like a parallel life—I’ll try to connect it to North Carolina as best as I can over the holidays.

Man, there’s one heck of a New Year’s post brewing. I can feel it!

More on turkeys, Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Parade and all this love I’m feeling for life soon. But at least now you’re decently on the news.

xxxx.

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Enough radio silence; checking in from BOS.

Yikes, it’s mid-October.

How the heck did that happen? I look down from green trees and 80-degree weather; look back up and it’s back to my Canadian slippers, hot tea, fog and orange skies. New England fall is happening in full blast and it is one of the most beautiful seasons of time and life that I could hope for.

New England fall is not so different from North Carolina mountain fall. They’re both gorgeous.

There’s something about the fall foliage next to the water here though that makes it different and more distinctively Boston. I’ve taken 7.52 billion instagram photos in the last two weeks on any given commute to and from my apartment. A few of the better ones in an album that could be titled “Brookline is THE prettiest:”

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Ok, not my neighborhood — just kind of near it on the Charles River. Too pretty to not include though.

The past three weeks have been a seeming blur in some ways. School is picking up and it’s really hard to feel like you’re staying ahead of the ball. I’m kind of running alongside and look away every few seconds in hopes that I’m keeping up. School schedules are rough! At the same time though, the past three weeks have felt like three months. In a great way. It’s just funny how free time has transcended from time that I would spend alone exploring or catching up into time that I use to hang out with new friends or already have fifteen social things scheduled.

In extremely happy social news. Katie came to visit. My first hometown visitor! I tried to play tour guide to my best ability and I think that I did a decent job. We basically walked and ate our way around Boston. From Fenway to Cambridge, Brookline to the North End, we had a lot of food (and somehow missed lobster!? next time!). It was funny to me how overwhelmingly excited I was as I waited to see her at the airport. It felt like it had been far longer than a month and a half since I had seen her. Definitely one of my happier reunions.

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Roommate Sarah + Katie + Me at Eastern Standard.

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Me + Katie at JFK’s home in my neighborhood.

I think I wore her out sufficiently. From eating and traipsing around, it was kind of a joyfully exhausting long weekend. I think the best investment I made in her visit was a reservation for us to go on a lighthouse tour Saturday morning.

The weather ended up being beautiful and we had the BEST time. We were sure that we’d be the only two under 65 (and it wasn’t that far off) but the boat trip was just such a crazy gorgeous, unique way to see the city and some sites. Definitely a recommendation to visitors. It doesn’t even cost that much. Through LivingSocial (which is always doing deals) we went on an almost-two hour cruise for $10 a piece.

Long Island Lighthouse

Boston Lighthouse.

Graves Lighthouse.

Boston from the water.

Katie + Me.

I also took her to our first BU hockey game.

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Man, Boston University gets riled up about hockey. It was awesomely different from what I’m used to.

One of my favorite things about my decision to come to BU is that the experience is so vastly different than what I had for undergraduate. You can forget football and tailgating; small town and conservative tradition. Nope, here you have city streets and hockey.

It was a great weekend of best-friend time and also showing Katie the new life here. I was really grateful that she got to meet a lot of my friends and really see what Boston has become for me.

Love this girl. 22ish years of friendship.

After spending a weekend off the map with Katie, it was a busy week getting together school items throughout the week that followed. Luckily, just as exhaustion was kicking in–so did a long holiday weekend.

(Thank you, Boston for your old puritanical ways and proximity to Canada.)

We had Columbus Day off yesterday.

That meant a weekend full of laziness in the best way.

Chinatown for the first time Friday night.

Saturday was full of college football and friends and my first Canadian Thanksgiving. (Wish I had more photos. I swear though, no turkey means it wasn’t really Thanksgiving.)

Sunday was full of NFL. I got to go to my first Patriots game, thanks to Andy. It was freaking awesome. You take a train way outside the city; they drop you in the middle of the woods. After hiking in it seems like you’re in a stadium in the middle of nowhere.

Gillette Stadium.

It was pretty interesting to compare the Panthers stadium experience to the Patriots one. Gillette Stadium is just so huge. Our view was excellent though and the game? The game was incredible. Gives me goosebumps thinking about how much I love sports.

That night was followed by an awesome Red Sox game that we were able to catch on TV.

With such an amazing Boston comeback sports night, Monday seemed like the entire city had called the day on sports celebration–even though it was a regularly scheduled holiday.

It’s been a crazy few weeks; but it’s just because I’m keeping life wonderfully full. Here’s to doing better in 25 and posting more updates more frequently so that when I do–you don’t have to read a novella.

Happy “Monday,” friends.

Babe-fest. Showers for Mama & Little Lynch.

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It’s official, I’m guessing August 8th birthday.

Over the past two years there have been countless 6 a.m. wake-up calls to drag myself to the gym and get ready for the day with some cardio with my best friend, once co-worker and sister in life: Bridget.

I met her when Ryan was the boyfriend who’s job brought her to Winston-Salem three years ago.

I knew her when she returned from a Labor Day Weekend beach trip with some sand in her shoes and a big rock on her finger.

I grew to trust her and cherish her in our budding friendship as she meanwhile planned a lovely wedding.

I decided that Ryan made a pretty funny friend too as they got settled in married life and Ryan was nice enough to share her with me on workdays, work mornings, some work nights and weekends.

I was perfectly happy to find that over the months that turned into years I loved having her as a sidekick throughout all of work, family, love and life celebrations and woes.

I’ve posting lots of best friend photos lately. Add this to the pile : )

I excitedly swooned with her last summer when she mentioned that her and Ryan were thinking about starting a family.

I hiked with Bridget, Ryan and Russ the last day that they knew they were a family of three (albeit, one — Russ — is a furry family member). And that brisk December day that they dropped me off at my apartment, they later found out that they would be four.

Dog+Girl+Boy+Baby.

And I was ecstatically one of the people who caught on far too early at her uncontainable joy.

And ever since I have been incredibly excited for this little baby to join the world and be a part of the family that I made for myself here in the Triad. <3. Selfishly I can’t wait to snuggle and love on him. Far less selfishly I cannot wait to see what an unbelievable mom and dad my good friends are going to be. (They’re the best.)

Rightfully so, my closest family of shared friends (a work mama Wanda and a work big sister Victoria) have felt the same. And thus, a celebration was planned and finally carried on last week. And if I do say so myself, it was lovely.

While Wanda made everything beautiful, Victoria added perfect touches of sweet signage, beautiful papers and the best paper straws in the world.

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Elizabeth, a newfound friend through Bridget who is one of Bridget’s most cherished in the area, cooked the most delicious spread of food.

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And I? Well I brought cupcakes of course and folded dozens of the tiniest paper airplanes.

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It was the most natural, comfortable, cute baby shower ever if I do say so myself. And while Bridget doesn’t always like being in the center of attention, we were all abundantly happy to have a moment to love on her. She won’t be ignored once little Lynch gets here — BUT, I can promise to share a lot of that loving on him.

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Me, Bridget + Victoria. ❤

College Orientation. And a Love Letter.

Today was little brother’s first day of college orientation. This would be weird for me. But before I could even get nostalgic and sap about him growing up I realized that my own “first day of college graduation” was seven years ago.

And in my quickly adding-up 24 years, seven is now a lot. And somehow, it honestly feels so recent! Wasn’t it like five years ago? Right!? RIGHT!?

So, ever since I had this realization I have been happy for my brother and fixated on how fast time has gone by.

That day seven years ago, I remember my mom and I packing up my little green Nissan and hitting the winding, foggy, dark roads that carved the Appalachian mountains from home to Boone, N.C.

As I drove and Mom navigated, I excitedly thought about how I would eventually get comfortable with the turns and exits. I would probably get so familiar with this drive that it would be memorized.

I had no idea.

And as I write this I can see the entire 2 hours and 28 minutes mile marker by mile marker.

Lucky for me, I registered the same time as my good friend, soon to be roommate, starting to be sister, Brooke did. Our moms got to be buddies and so did we. There was an exciting registration and the first looks of a real dorm room. There were so many new faces and exciting food. (What is this oreo delight in the cafeteria!?) There was complaining about walking up Stadium Drive and there was exclamation about how anyone could ever learn their way around campus. Seriously. There is no way that I’ll become familiar with all of these buildings that look so similar. Besides that, when will I ever be in half of them? (I had no clue.)

And that naivety is the best part of college orientation. You are getting your FIRST taste of what life is about to be like. You are full of expectation and guessing. And you have just enough of a preview to have a hint. But, it’s just the beginning.

And that final bit of naivety? It’s the last little bit. You’re bridging the path of no return. In a few short months you will be on the other side and there will be a gap that develops between you and younger kids. You’re growing up. You’re on your own.

That day seven years ago was my first day in Boone, N.C. It was my first day fledging out into the sheltered unknown with Brooke. It was the first day of picking a direction. And it was the first day I met Shanice and Kaitlin.

As Brooke and I went to our first group meeting, we met several people who would likely be living in our building.

Shanice had great hair and was glowing with Appalachian State pride. You could tell this was a girl that Brooke and I could get excited about football games with. (And this was our priority, duh.)

Kaitlin, also had great hair, but she not only didn’t like sports—she liked horses.

Hm. We would have to see about her.

(Side note, she thought Brooke and I were stuck up. Probably because we were whispering about the horses.)

(Additional side note, we went on to enjoy every single football game together. For the most part. Until I became a sports reporter. But that’s a story for another day.)

Fast-forward two months, we kept in touch. First impressions aside, we were going to be neighbors. And then we were going to be roommates. And then it had been four years of living together and the four of us were bawling our eyes out as I was the first one to move out. (Dumb smart-kid decision to graduate a semester early. Another story for another day.)

The girls I first met that first day of college orientation are who were there for me when I graduated. Who have known every single one of my secrets. Who I fought with like sisters. Who I took for granted and who I cherished above some of my blood family. Who I supported with my every bit; who I sometimes was too honest with. Who challenged me. Who accepted me. And who had heavy influence on who I am today.

Me. Brooke. Shanice. Kaitlin.

We were (and are) a family.

Those girls were as important to my age 17 through 21 as the actual courses that I took. They taught me about what it means to be a friend. And they have in turn given me seven years of the most incredible love. They’re the first I tell every piece of news.

I sent my brother a good luck text message today. I wanted him to be excited about the fall. I wanted him to embrace and make some memories. But mostly, I didn’t want him to be afraid to talk to the kid who sits down next to him that he doesn’t know yet.

You’ll never know who they’ll be to you in seven years.

First there were two girls. Me + Brooke.

And then there were four. 2007: Shanice, Me, Brooke & Kaitlin

2006: Shanice, Kaitlin, Brooke, Me, Josette, Crystal

2007: Allison, Kaitlin, Me, Brooke & Shanice

2007: Me + Kaitlin

2007: Me & Brooke

2007: Kait & Brooke

2007: Me, Brooke & Shanice

2008: Me & Brooke (National Championship, baby!)

2009: Me & Kaitlin

2009: Shanice & Me

2009: Brooke & Me ❤ ❤

2010: Shanice & Me

2010: Me & Kaitlin

2011: Kaitlin, Me & Brooke

2012: Me, Brooke, Shanice & Kaitlin

2012: Kaitlin + Me ❤ ❤

2012: Me & Shanice

2012: Brooke + Me.

2012: Me, Shanice + Kaitlin

2012: Kaitlin & Me.

2012: Sha, Kait, Brooke & Me.

2013: Me, Shanice, Kaitlin & Brooke

I have to say, how can you miss a man so much when you have three people as awesome as this in your life. The Sex & the City friends as soul mates line is kind of cheesy; but as I pulled together all of these photos I know it’s true.

2013: Me & Kaitlin

2013: Me + Brooke.

2013: Sha & Me ❤ ❤