The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the category “Graduation”

Welcome back to the world of Luke and Manda!

Hi everyone! So it has been a while..My last post was in the winter before I went to Spain to put together the fifth issue of Alpine Living. Everything quickly transformed into a whirlwind that left me with little time to blog, so I thought I’d do a quick recap of the last few months and plan to renew my dedication to blogging. I am a writer, and as any writer will tell you, only so much time can elapse before you are again called to put words to paper. Here goes my long overdue update!

February– We left off after celebrating Luke’s 23rd birthday in Georgia with many of our new friends here, including: Kim Freitag, Bill Choate and his roommate Ben, and Ace Alviso. Of those friends, Kim and Bill have already PCS’d (Army lingo for moved to a new post very far away), and Ace will be leaving us for North Carolina once he finishes up Airborne School in a few weeks. Army Life Lesson # 1: Friends will come and go. The Army ties you together for a short time, and you have to make the most of it while it lasts. But, on the upside, the Army is small. Sooner or later, you’ll probably see those same friends down the road at another post, which is encouraging when saying those tough good byes.

March– I headed off to Spain and Portugal for two weeks as the editor of my college’s international travel magazine. The trip was absolutely incredible, to say the least. I made it to the top of the construction site of La Sagrada Familia on a private tour in Barcelona, met and interviewed Albert Raurich (the protege of the world’s most famous chef), saw flamenco dancing firsthand, explored the medieval fishing village of Getaria and interviewed several of the locals, tried the best raspberry cheese ice cream to ever exist, toured some of the lesser-known but still beautiful art museums in Madrid, went to a Spanish opera (and promptly fell asleep..oops!), tasted Iberian ham and toured a ham-making company out of Seville, visited the Rock of Gibraltar and met many monkeys along with the former mayor, and toured the original Pasteis De Belem pastry shop in Lisbon and interviewed the owners. (After creating the longest run-on sentence to ever exist, I think I’ve provided a pretty succinct synopsis of my trip.) The downside was that Luke and I had very little contact with the time difference and lack of Wi-Fi during my travels. It was tough on us, but we came through just fine. After working countless hours upon return, our staff published 140 pages of editorial content and had the printed magazine in hand upon graduation day. Our magazine recently won an honorable mention in a national Excellence in Journalism competition, and two of our writers won awards for their individual stories, so I am satisfied with the outcome.


Mallie, myself, and Taylor at the Rock of Gibraltar

April- This month truly blurs together for me with publishing the magazine, finishing up finals and tying up all of the loose ends in Tuscaloosa. I did have a Linens and Things shower hosted by the lovely Grace Hagemann and Jessica Ruffin, which was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed spending time with some of my sorority sisters before we all split and went our separate ways.


Grace, Jessica and I – April 2013

Luke spent this month (and the previous couple) working in his new role in 3-1 Cavalry. He adjusted to his new role, and he is currently in charge of about a dozen soldiers. His days became pretty steady (6 am to 6 pm or so), with the occasional late night thrown in when things are busy. Army Lesson # 2: Staff duty is frequent, and most junior officers’ wives dread this particular task of “paying your dues.” (No one told me about this prior to coming to Benning, but apparently every so often Luke has to work 24 hours straight.) However, we’ve learned to make it fun. Luke loves that I stop by with dinner on the nights when he has to work, because still I want to make sure he gets a healthy meal. We can generally steal about thirty minutes to talk and eat together, so I look forward to that.

AND THE MOST EXCITING NEWS FROM APRIL…DRUMROLL..My best friend got engaged! Will proposed to Jess on April 28th in front of Samford Hall at Auburn, where they both go to school. She said yes! They are getting married next June, and I could not be more excited.



Of course, we threw them an awesome engagement party afterward ūüôā


May-¬†I graduated¬†summa cum laude¬†from The University of Alabama!! Graduation day was a lot of fun. My mom, dad, brother and Luke’s mom and cousin all came down to see me graduate. The day was warm and sunny, and we enjoyed taking pictures all over campus after I walked across the stage. I made sure to get photos in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium, Denny Chimes, Reese Phifer Hall and the other important landmarks that represent my time at UA.


Closing this chapter was exciting, but a bit scary, because I was not really sure what would come next. A few days after graduation, I resigned from my Teach for America position in Atlanta due to personal reasons, and thus no longer had a guaranteed job or income. I am still examining this new chapter to figure out where I’d like to go! For now, it’s safe to say I am exploring several different avenues and am hoping to begin graduate school in the Fall and/or find a full time job.

After graduation, I spent a lot of time with Luke and my family, working on wedding plans, relaxing after a hectic semester, and catching up with my loved ones, whom I had pretty much unintentionally neglected during the course of¬†Alpine Living.¬†At Fort Benning, I made some new friends- Amy Zeng, Emily Malone and Jenae Young, to name a few, and began to form a new life here. Luke and I really enjoy hanging out with these women and their significant others!! ¬†We are looking forward to getting to know all of them better in our remaining time at Benning (which is looking like it will be a WHILE!) Luke’s softball season also kicked up (he joined the team earlier in the year), and I was FINALLY able to go out to see him play!!


Josh’s birthday dinner- Luke, Josh, Emily, Sean, Amy, and me!


Luke’s softball team- May 2013


Lunch after church with the Youngs

June/July- Oh, summer! Even though I am not working, it has still been extremely busy due to all of the wedding plans and moving to a new apartment in addition to tons of travel! We have traveled about 60 to 70 percent of the weekends thus far, and will continue to do so until the beginning of August. How we have loved celebrating with our friends though! We went to Holly and Matthew Tucker’s wedding on June 15th and truly had a blast. I was so honored to stand up with her as a bridesmaid.


Holly and I, right before she became a Mrs.


Then, there was my Huntsville bridal shower, hosted by Jessica Belue, Yolanda Belue, Katlin Baugh and Ashley Sams. We had so much fun!


Ashley, Aunt Lisa, MJ and I!

Right after the shower, Jess asked me to be her Matron¬†Maid of Honor! Of course, I said yes ūüôā


I had eye surgery briefly after that, and it went very successfully. My eyes have completely healed now, and I feel blessed to have had one of the best surgeons in the Southeastern U.S. to perform the procedure. We spent the 4th of July with Luke’s folks in Hickory, NC, and this past weekend, Luke and I went to an Atlanta Braves game (his VERY belated birthday gift from me! lol)

Coming up, we have my good friend Tara Northington’s wedding near Tuscaloosa, my cousin Mary-Susan’s wedding in Mississippi, and our couples shower in North Carolina. Stay tuned ūüôā


The start of something new

As I sit writing this from my T-town college apartment, it is comforting to know that Luke is FINALLY just a hop, a skip and ¬†a jump away from me in Columbus. It’s amazing to think that he is just three hours away and after class in the morning, I will be heading to join him for his Hail and Farewell at Fort Benning (a celebration to welcome us to his new unit over Mexican food!). I am very excited to see what Columbus has to offer in the way of fajitas, nachos, and quesadillas- three of my favorites.

Luke is adjusting to life in Columbus rather well I think. He has just finished in-processing, so he will begin a month-long training course starting next week. I am kind of getting used to seeing him every weekend now at long last. I’ve been spoiling him a bit (probably too much for his own good), so I don’t know what he’ll do with himself when I head off to Spain in a couple of months. haha jk. Seriously though, I cooked for him, cleaned his apartment and finished his laundry up last weekend, and bought him ingredients on Sunday to cook himself easy-to-make recipes all week so that he will stop eating canned ravioli and protein shakes and actually get some nutrients! I’d have to say, I am being a pretty good fiancee at the moment haha Luke joked with me last weekend and called me Suzy Homemaker, which he likes to do on occasion, but I have been enjoying taking care of him a bit now that he is finally in the same region.

"Doing laundry" at Luke's

“Doing laundry” at Luke’s

OK, so as you can see, the laundry part didn’t exactly turn out as planned. Since his dryer is broken, we took all of his laundry up to the laundromat to wash and dry them. We paid $10 for the three loads only to find out that THEIR dryers are broken too. (Come to think of it, some of our friends said their dryer in Columbus is broken too…Weird Georgia dryers)..Anyway, since we used up ALL of our quarters by this point, we turned Luke’s entire apartment into a hang-dry rack. We laughed for a while over this pretty scene!

Other than the laundry mishap, the weekend wasn’t terribly eventful; instead it was NORMAL, STABLE and WONDERFUL. Luke headed up to Atlanta for two days to become re-certified as a soccer referee. He plans to ref games on week nights and during his down time on weekends this Spring, so he passed his certification test with flying colors (which I knew he would!) I was excited to surprise him with an athletic workout type shirt to take to “soccer camp” only to find out that he would just be sitting in a classroom all day studying for the test. Oh well..At least he got a new shirt out of it!

It’s not all domestic chores and boredom on my end either though. Let me assure you that I have been extraordinarily busy preparing to graduate and working on Alpine Living. That magazine (happily) consumes hours and hours of every day, and you can ask Luke that we barely talk on weekdays lately. The sad part is, I actually ENJOY the work. I am such a nerd and am loving being an international travel magazine editor. We leave in less than 6 weeks and I am sooo excited I could scream! I have never been to Europe before and am greatly looking forward to this new adventure. And of course wedding planning has been consuming time as well, although not as much as you would think. Getting the all-inclusive package from our venue has helped a lot, and there is not much to do until Mom and I head up to Nashville in February for the food and cake tasting and to meet with the florist. It is hard to believe that our wedding is really just 7 months away now!

I cannot promise a ton of blog posts between now and Spain with my busy schedule, but I will try to post updates periodically so that you (whoever you are..that weird collective you that implies SOMEONE is reading this blog) don’t think that we dropped off the planet! I can say that we are both very ready to be married and begin our lives as husband and wife. Luke looked at me some time over the past weekend and told me that we are going to be just fine because no matter what we will always have each other and our own little family and that makes everything perfect! That made me so incredibly happy, you just wouldn’t believe it. That man always says the sweetest things. And yes, beginning this Army adventure together is scary and uncertain for a Type A-mega planner like myself (trust me, I’d be the one to make myself a To-Do list for the next 10 years and stick to it line by line), but God had a better plan for me. By forcing me to leave my bubble of comfort (Aka the illusion of control, planning, figuring out MY version of a picture-perfect life with a stable permanent address), God has opened the doors to something so much better. I look forward to the adventures that the Army has for us in the future and the people that he will bring into our lives as we travel around wherever the Army may send us. The important thing is that at the end of the day, wherever we are and whatever we find ourselves doing, we are (mostly) together now and we are in this for the long haul.

End Soap Box.

More soon :]

West Point graduation and summer leave

Well a LOT has happened since I last blogged. I am not the best at keeping up-to-date in the huge, wide world of blogging, but at least my habitual procrastination allows me to post a mega update on the life of Luke and I. So it is July 2, obviously, and Luke has graduated from West Point and is now serving as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. I would be remiss if I did not post some pictures from USMA Grad Week, so see below.

Friday was the graduation parade, where all of the cadets marched onto the parade field, and then the graduating class of 2012 symbolically separated from the Corps of Cadets. After the parade, we had a photo shoot with the famous Jill Knight!

Group picture! From L to R: Uncle Tom, Aunt Brenda, Kevin Bradshaw (Luke’s dad), Samuel Bradshaw (brother), Amanda Sams, Luke Bradshaw, Sally Bradshaw (his mom), Aunt Susie, Aunt Mary and Milos
Photo Credit: Jill Knight (

This is one of my favorite pictures of Luke and I while he is wearing his cadet uniform.
Photo Credit: Jill Knight (

Photo Credit: Jill Knight (

That night was our last West Point formal banquet. Such a bittersweet time.

After a very late night, we got up early the next morning and were in the stadium by 7 a.m. for the graduation ceremony itself. Despite an extremely hot day, there was nowhere else in the world I would have rather been. I know that we will remember this day for the rest of our lives.

A few hours later, he was officially commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Colonel Crowe (Luke’s mentor in high school) flew all the way up from North Carolina to perform¬†the commissioning ceremony. It took place¬† in front of the George Washington statue at West Point.

His mom and I pinning the “butter bars” on his uniform!

It’s official!¬†Luke Bradshaw¬†is an officer, and I have never been so proud to be his girl.

And then the rain came pouring down, so his first picture as a 2Lt was taken quickly when he was already soaked, but I still think he looks very handsome.

After graduation, we took a little road trip down to Annapolis, Maryland to watch Luke’s childhood best friend, Jon Teague, graduate from the United States Naval Academy. We really enjoyed spending time with Jon and his girlfriend, Laura.

We then headed to Hickory, NC to see Luke’s parents for a few days. After a short stint in Indianapolis for a leadership conference,¬†I went back to work in Huntsville, and¬†Luke joined me a few days later for our two-year anniversary of dating.¬†¬†We went to Connor’s Steak and Seafood at Bridge Street and then went to see the movie ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ with Cameron Diaz (such a funny movie!). It was a pretty great date, since our first date ever on June 5, 2010 was actually dinner and a movie at Bridge Street.

He has been spending the rest of his summer leave with me at my parents’ house, and we have had many adventures in our month together including (but not limited to): meeting two of our best friends, Will and Jess,¬†at this cute French restaurant in Birmingham, going to a wedding celebration BBQ for¬†friends¬†from work, cooking together, eating Mexican several times (yay for me!! Not so exciting for him), and spending a weekend in Gulf Shores with Will and Jess. Luke actually got the worst sunburn of his life during this trip, but it was wonderful, just the same.

We have also fit in a week at Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, a birthday celebration dinner for my younger brother, Ethan and a surprise visit up to Hickory, NC to see Luke’s parents again. (Pictures to come later!)

We have three days left until he has to leave for Fort Sill, Oklahoma to begin BOLC (basic officer’s training). We are planning to make the most of these next few days, including a date tonight (You guessed it: I want Mexican again lol) and a 4th of July celebration. I am off of work all day on the 4th, so we will get to spend¬†the entire day (and Luke’s favorite holiday) together. It has been so fun to be a “normal” couple for this past month, and I know it is not a month I will soon forget.

More later.


Post Navigation