lukeandmanda

The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the category “Long Distance Relationships”

Reflections following Veteran’s Day Weekend

A quick recap of our weekend together:

The weekend really started on Friday I guess, when I attended the candlelight for one of my good friends and sorority sisters, Liz Abbott. She got engaged last week, just a couple of days before her new fiance, Alex, was deployed overseas for several months as an officer in the Army. I was so honored to be there for her special ceremony, and I must say, her ring is just gorgeous! Alex did so well.

AOII Seniors at Liz’s Candlelight

Brides to Be!

I am so excited to pick her brain as we begin wedding planning together! I think she and Alex are planning to get married shortly after he returns from his deployment, so this is such an exciting time for both of us. Liz has been one of my inspirations for a while now, and as a fellow military girlfriend fiancee, she absolutely always keeps a positive attitude and helps me through the tough times when I am missing Luke. I will be praying for safety for Alex and peace for Liz in the coming months as this newly engaged couple faces a whole new set of challenges that Luke and I have been blessed not to have to endure thus far.

After the candlelight, I ran 10239204 errands and cleaned my apartment in preparation for Luke’s visit on Saturday morning. He arrived in Birmingham early Sat., and we battled gameday traffic on the way back down to Tuscaloosa to watch the Texas A&M game. Sadly, Alabama lost, and so my last game as a student was a tad bit disappointing, but certainly very memorable. Both teams kept us on our toes throughout the game, so at least it was an interesting one. (The Aggies gave us plenty of chances to win, and Alabama just did not see it through…I will always love my Crimson Tide though! I will always bleed crimson no matter what.)

Luke and I in the student section for Texas A&M

We were having so much fun yelling and cheering for Bama, even though we ultimately lost.

Every Bama girl has to get a ring picture with the houndstooth background!

Flag display for veterans and active duty service members

4th Quarter, hoping for a comeback down to the last few seconds…Sadly it did not happen for us.

After the game, Luke and I dejectedly  walked back to my apartment. I had cooked chili in the Crockpot earlier in the day, and my mom and her friend Ms. Deborah came over to eat with Luke, Ethan, Ashley and I. It was the first time I had seen my mom since September, so it was good to see her and to meet Ms. Deborah! After they headed back to Huntsville, Luke and I ended up falling asleep really early since we were both so exhausted from our busy day.

On Sunday morning, we slept in a bit and then went to Olive Garden to meet my friend Casey and her boyfriend, Bryant for lunch. (Luke even got a free meal for Veteran’s Day, which was really nice!) We had a great time, and the guys really hit it off too, which is always good on a double date. And, I even have leftover pasta for lunch tomorrow. :]

After Olive Garden, we went to Starbucks for a frappacino and to meet with a possible wedding photographer! Meeting with our first potential vendor was exciting, as everything is finally starting to seem more real. We even have the wedding date decided for sure now, and I will become Mrs. Luke Bradshaw on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013!! That gives us about 10 months to plan, which I think is a good time period so that we are not rushed but also not engaged for too long before we actually get married. On an exciting note, my minister, Bro. Bobby Eads will be officiating our wedding ceremony in Sept. and plans to start our pre-marital counseling sessions after the New Year, when Luke is FINALLY in Georgia.

After meeting with the photographer, we went to the Student Center to watch my friend Lauren’s fashion show, but since we were a few minutes late, they did not let us in. I was so sad that I did not get to see my gorgeous friend model. I am hoping to make it to her next event though! To top off an already busy day, we came back to my apartment and picked up my brother and his girlfriend, Ashley, for a double-date at Chili’s for dinner.

Chili’s!

We had a lot of  fun with them at dinner, and had even more fun playing the board game ‘Sorry’ after dinner (which I am proud to say I WON! Finally…after nearly 20 years, I beat my brother, the King of All Board Games.)

While the three of them battled it out for second place, I went to my room and called Professor Meredith Cummings to get some quotes for a story I am working on for my educational studies class. She was so helpful and is even letting me assist with her elementary and middle school journalism classes in the Spring so that I will gain some experience teaching actual students before Teach for America Institute. I feel like early preparation cannot hurt, right? :]

Anyway, so once the board game was finally finished (amid much yelling, cheering and shouting), Luke and I attempted to watch Rocky IV before falling asleep.

Thankfully, we will see each other again in just 8 days for Thanksgiving Break, and he will officially be a BOLC graduate at that time! (Although, Oklahoma is not quite done with him yet…Luke will have to report back to Sill for a few weeks after Thanksgiving for additional training.) I plan to spend the next few days hanging out with girl friends and spending lots of time in conversation with the Lord, attempting to maintain a positive outlook on everything.

On this Veteran’s Day, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the other military couples who are struggling with challenging circumstances on a daily basis, such as long deployments, etc. May the Lord keep you and comfort you in the face of all of these challenges, whether you are the military service member, the spouse, or family member of the service member. May you maintain a sense of peace despite any distance that separates you, and may your love remain strong, faithful and true.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
(James 1:2-4)

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
–George S. Patton

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Ramblings from a college senior, new TFA Corps Member and military fiancee

As I sit here in my college apartment on a quiet Friday night in Tuscaloosa (it’s an away game so everyone is gone!) after talking to my sweet fiance on the phone for about an hour, I am in awe of the turn that my life has taken in the past couple of weeks. It’s like a giant whirlwind has swept me up and deposited me somewhere onto Cloud Nine in an alternate universe. It turns out that all of my dreams are swiftly coming true, one-by-one, proving that perseverance and hard work does in fact pay off!

You see tonight was very typical of senior year college life. My younger brother and roommate, Ethan, and I went grocery shopping at Target together and I cooked us a dinner of homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas and rolls with Halloween brownies for dessert. As we sat on the couch with his girlfriend Ashley, eating and watching the show that is my new obsession (‘Hart of Dixie’ – a drama starring Rachel Bilson that focuses on a big city doctor moving to take over her father’s practice in the fictitious town of Bluebell, Alabama), the song “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” by Darius Rucker, entered into my mind. Everything is just happening so quickly, that I can barely catch my breath, and then again, I don’t want to! Within the space of about 12 days, I have become engaged, set a tentative wedding date, scheduled my last semester of classes with plans to graduate from The University of Alabama on May 4th and have been accepted as a 2013 Teach for America Corps Member! Whew…That’s a sentence jam-packed with major life transitions if there ever was one….

The next few months are going to be amazing, wonderful, chaotic and hectic, I do believe!  Ahhh I feel like I am 7 years old again, back on the spinning teacups at Disney World (my favorite ride by far), and that I am just spinning around faster and faster, struggling to stay upright but giggling uncontrollably as the stitch in my side grows with my unadulterated joy at the exhilarating ride.

I would not trade this life that God has blessed me with for anything in the world. I knew this post would be rather rambling and unorganized, but as I am still trying to collect my thoughts about all of this, I thought it might be therapeutic to write down some of the excitement, even if it does come out a bit jumbled and entirely too lengthy for anyone to actually read. So I apologize for the random thoughts thus far, and for brevity and clarity’s sake, I will try to organize this post from here on out into different topics to make sure I cover everything going on in this crazy life of ours at the moment:
1. First and foremost, the latest greatest and exciting news– Teach For America!

On Thursday, November 1st, around 4:10 p.m., I finally got the email I had long awaited– news of whether or not I got into Teach For America, an organization that recruits leaders to commit to teaching in low-income communities for a period of two years to help close the achievement gap, break the cycle of generational poverty and help to create equitable educational opportunities for all students. TFA has a competitive, arduous and lengthy application process, and to be completely honest, I was nervous every step of the way. I read in an article that TFA is the second hardest company to interview for in America, with an acceptance rate of about 10%. I was worried about how I would stack up against the plethora of Ivy League-rs that apply every year like clockwork, and during each step in the process, I questioned and double-checked myself to make sure I was putting my best foot forward in order to have a chance at obtaining my dream job right out of college.

After participating in several mentoring experiences during college helping students in low-income schools in Tuscaloosa, I know that I have a passion for helping children to achieve despite the challenging obstacles that they face every day due to growing up in poverty. I applied to TFA because I want to make a difference for these children, and I know that this unparalleled opportunity is going to give me a chance to do just that. In addition to teaching, I plan to utilize my experiences with my journalism major, the lessons I learned in my “Teaching in Journalism” course, and my role as a leader in SPJ’s weekly partnership with Oakdale Elementary’s student newsletter to establish a yearbook or literary magazine program in the school where I am assigned to teach. I am including an excerpt from my initial TFA application letter, a 500-word letter of intent that describes why I wanted to apply for TFA, what I hope to accomplish and how I will measure my success in the classroom.

I am applying to the 2013-2014 Teach for America Corps because the core mission matches my passion: to make a difference for children growing up in low-income communities, to help those children overcome challenges that go alongside poverty, and to teach them how to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

I was determined to help break the back in the life cycle of poverty after participating in READ Alabama and Blueprints College Access Initiative, programs that connect college mentors with children in under-served schools in Tuscaloosa. Through READ, I mentor elementary-aged students who struggle to read at grade level. Last year, I learned that one student in a group of five had parents that read to her regularly, and none of my mentees had access to a computer at home. When I gave each child a book, their faces lit up like it was Christmas morning, and at that moment, I became invested in fostering children from low-income communities, helping them beat the odds, and providing them with a high-quality education…

If accepted, one of my first goals is to improve upon or begin a school yearbook, newspaper or literary magazine program. School media programs help students to advance their oral and written communication skills, connect students with their peers, and give them a constructive project outside of school, which decreases the likelihood that they will get into trouble….My goal is to make a difference, and my passion is to transform the lives of children. Teach for America is perfect for me.”

After the application processed, I learned that I would find out in a couple of weeks if I was invited to a phone interview with TFA. Somehow, (due to my detailed application I believe– thank goodness that I am such a long-winded writer, right?) I was fortunate to bypass the phone interview step and was funneled straight to the final interview stage. In the meantime, I had to complete an online activity, consisting of a multiple choice test focused on data interpretation and respond to an online role play scenario in a school setting. I spent several hours on my online activity, and in the end I was afraid my responses were too detailed to even be read. Before my final interview, I also visited a Teach for America Corps Member’s classroom for observation and attended a TFA Meet-and-Greet event at Carpe Vino to network with other TFA applicants and current Corps members. Teach for America- University of Alabama does a great job of helping you to feel connected during the lengthy application process, and I would like to give a shout-out to Jasmine Cannon, Tyler Rigdon and Ellie Friedman. You guys rock!
However, next came the hardest part of the whole process– The Final Interview. This all-day interview was divided into parts, and I had to create and organize a five-minute lesson plan to teach to the TFA interviewers and other interviewees, participate in a group interview, and engage in a one-on-one interview with a TFA representative. After much preparation for this interview, I can say nothing helped me more than practicing my lesson on real students. I am so grateful to Professor Meredith Cummings who let me teach my lede-writing lesson plan to her middle school journalism class before my actual interview occurred! Even though Mrs. Cummings was sick and I ended up expanding my five-minute lesson into a 45-minute lesson (and then later shrunk it back down again,) I gained valuable classroom experience and was able to modify my plan based on students’ responses to my activities. I incorporated Willy Wonka’s candy factory into my lesson so that I could create a colorful visual aid AND give students candy for participation, which they all loved and also allowed me to ensure that everyone participated! To maintain the integrity of the TFA interview process, I cannot go into more detail about the Final Interview, but trust me, when I say that if you are applying to this program, you need to know your stuff when you walk in the door. Read and re-read the TFA website a million times, research the 8 qualities TFA looks for in Corps Members and apply them to your life in multiple scenarios, and time your five-minute lesson plan to hit that exact five-minute mark. They will literally cut you off in the middle of a sentence if you exceed the time limit.
So, after a lengthy final interview day, I left the site feeling drained, excited and very emotional. I knew I had given the application/interview process my all, and now all there was to do was wait. And wait. And wait. On November 1st, I was ready to have an answer one way or another. And  I cannot describe the incredible feeling of happiness and pure accomplishment when an email hit my inbox saying, “Congratulations and Welcome to the 2013 Corps.” I logged onto the Applicant Center and learned that my assignment is to teach elementary school and/or secondary political science in Metro Atlanta (my first choice for regional placement!) I quickly scanned through the Regional page for Atlanta, and began to get more and more excited by all of the information presented about the transition, Institute (5-week “boot camp” for TFA members) and living in the Atlanta area. A smile has not left my face since I read those emails, called Luke and my parents to tell them the good news, celebrated with Lauren Killen at El Rincon and then received a phone call from my Metro Atlanta Regional Representative today to officially welcome me to the Corps. I am looking forward to this next step in my life, and while I know that this is going to be the most challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life, I am truly looking forward to doing my part in making a difference and living out my passion for helping children in the classroom. No words could express the joy I feel at being given this opportunity. Come August, I am going to be a real TEACHER, and I am going to have my own class of students with a sign out front that says, “Mrs. Bradshaw’s Classroom.” {Insert major freakout!!!!!}
2. Wedding Planning Update
Well folks, Luke and I have been busy bees, trying to plan from afar, and I must say, I think we have made a bit of progress. We have settled on a wedding date (Sunday, September 1, 2013), I have chosen my colors — hot pink, lime green and turquoise, and I have picked out gifts to give to my bridal party when I ask them to be in the wedding. (This is still a work-in-progress since some of my BM’s live far away and I won’t see them for a while!) But, our next major steps will occur over an extremely busy Thanksgiving Break. We plan to tour the 5 wedding venues that we have narrowed down, and we have an engagement photo shoot scheduled during that four-day break, as well. So in addition to all of the turkey festivities, we will be running around like chickens with our heads cut off in this brief stint together before Luke goes back to Oklahoma for his final phase of training. I am blessed beyond belief to have an incredible best friend who has agreed to go with us to tour venues, and I am so happy to have her help amid all of the madness! Engaged life is pretty fun, I must admit. I have yet to stop staring at my sparkly ring in all different lighting and am still looking at Pinterest and wedding magazines with a kind of addictive obsession.
3. School, A Spontaneous Visit, and Life in General
Since this blog post is quite long enough for most anyone’s standards, I will end with a quick summary of everything else in our lives (excluding TFA and Wedding Planning, we still have a lot of ground to cover! haha) Luke and I bought a spur-of-the-moment plane ticket, so he is coming down to see me for Veteran’s Day next weekend now, and I could not be more thrilled! We will be meeting Jess and Will in Columbus to celebrate her 22nd birthday and also APARTMENT HUNTING for Luke since he is moving to Fort Benning after Christmas! Woohoo! Luke has a major fitness test next week, has to spend a few days on a “mission” in the field the week after that, and then officially graduates from BOLC IN THE TOP OF HIS CLASS on November 20th. For me, school seems to have taken a back seat to all of the craziness, but I am still doing quite well grade-wise. I made an A on my political science midterm and on my last Human Development test, just finished a major project on school lunches for Educational Studies, and am currently conducting a fruit ripening experiment with Granny Smith apples for Interdisciplinary Sciences. We are planning a field trip to the Alabama Power Plant this week in that class, which seems somewhat interesting as far as science class is concerned. In other news, my parents have finally signed their divorce papers, and as soon as the judge signs them, my mom will be moving out and our whole family will be moving on after a 14-month long ordeal (insert huge sigh of relief). And, our friends, who have been BEYOND SUPPORTIVE AND WONDERFUL during this time, have been having quite a few successes of their own! I’d like to give a special shout-out to my sweet friend Laura Metcalf who will be studying in Washington (the state) this Spring in the program of her dreams…She has worked so hard for this and greatly deserves it! My model friend Lauren Killen has  several events coming up including a fashion show and major pageant in addition to a brand new super-sweet boyfriend who treats her well. You can bet I will be there on the sidelines cheering her on in each of her modeling endeavors! Also, my friend Lauren Hendrix (now Sprinkle!) just got married and is enjoying newly wedded life with her husband, Ryan, a UA law student. The list goes on and on. My life would be incredibly boring without all of these people and all of the others who spice it up on a regular basis and make it all worthwhile.
More soon. (I promise not too much more though! haha I have killed my computer keys this evening for sure.)

You still give me butterflies

Last Thursday found me (Amanda) excited, hopeful and in the famous words of Thumper, rather twitterpated as I excitedly sat in a chair at the nail salon in Tuscaloosa, getting a manicure with my friend Rachel, in preparation for my visit to see Luke that afternoon (and also in preparation for her surprise proposal the following evening! Little did she know of course…So here’s a quick shout out to my friend Rachel Childers and her new fiance Jeffrey! Wishing you both a lifetime of happiness.)

Anyway, back to the nail salon. As I sat there while the manicurist mumbled to himself in Chinese and halfheartedly filed my nails, I started to get those never-failing butterflies that always arrive on the day when I am headed to see my love. It amazes me that even after more than two years, I still get so blissfully excited to see him! Since my car had broken down the day before, I paid my brother to rush me to the airport in time for my 12:30 p.m. flight, and my excitement continued to build, even as I sped up the interstate with Ethan and his sweet new girlfriend, Ashley, trying to clear my head above his never-ending rap music that was pounding away about six decibels too loudly. We screeched to a halt in front of the American Airlines terminal, and I rushed inside to check in and find my gate. I walked up to the American counter and asked the kind, patient, ever-willing to help elderly lady who was working at the counter to please check me in for the 12:37 p.m. flight to Houston. She looked at me calmly and said, “We ain’t got no more flights to Houston today. We have one to Dallas at 5 though.” She then popped her gum and stared at me. I said, “Ma’am there must be some confusion, as I am on that flight.” I knew that I had glanced at read the Expedia confirmation that Luke had forwarded me the night before, and make no mistake about it, I was on that flight. I was also scheduled to arrive in Oklahoma City by 5 p.m. so this lady must be incorrect. Since I am one of the last people in the population of this planet to not have a smart phone with Internet access, I asked the kind lady to please check again for me. She sighed three times and then did as I requested. It turns out that I was NOT in fact on the American Airlines flight at that time because I was actually booked on a UNITED flight..Oh boy, did I feel silly. The woman gave me a self-satisfied smirk as I walked away, quickly, toward the United kiosk. However, one small little embarrassment was not about to ruin my day! After all, I was headed to see the man of my dreams in just a couple of short hours!

I arrived in Houston with no delays and actually had an extremely productive flight. I read all about the mindset of the criminal underworld and the inner workings of the Mafia in preparation for my poli sci Human Rights class midterm. (I also got to read about fun torture methods such as waterboarding and the gruesome practices of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay during the Dirty Wars. Fun stuff). I was excited to see that the Houston airport has a Schlotzky’s inside, and I helped myself to a large sandwich while I waited at Gate B84D (yes, this gate did exist! I had never seen one with 2 letters before). My flight to OKC was on time as well, and the flight was quick with no turbulence, which was a nice change of pace for such a small plane. Luke, however, was delayed. He was supposed to get out at 3 p.m. along with all of the other guys in his BOLC class, but his platoon worked four hours late, so he was unable to come to pick me up in OKC. The costly airport shuttle ride up to Lawton was well worth it though, as my driver thought it his duty to compare religious beliefs, share relationship advice and generally chat with me about all topics under the sun for the entire ride to Fort Sill. It was quite entertaining at times, although I will confess that I called my best friend Jessica for about 20 minutes for a quick respite from the conversation. The driver dropped me off at the front of Luke’s apartment complex, and I FINALLY saw my guy for the first time in almost 5 weeks.

He was looking dashingly handsome in a blue and green plaid shirt that I had picked out for him this summer, and he grabbed me into a big, bear hug the second I got out of the taxi, making the entire waiting period since Labor Day and the long journey up to Oklahoma so incredibly worthwhile. We were both slightly nervous and just so excited to be with each other again! He took me to eat at one of the 10 million amazing Mexican restaurants in Lawton, and I honestly can’t even remember what I ordered for dinner, but I do remember that we had the best conversation. We both relaxed of course, and we had a great time. He even bought me a sopapilla for dessert! And of course, I forgot my camera for this trip, but luckily, Luke recently got an Android, so the few pictures that we have this time were taken on his phone. Surprisingly decent quality pictures too, although I certainly did miss my camera!

Waiting for our food, and Luke couldn’t wait to take this picture for his new phone background lol

On Friday, Luke had to work, so I tried to sleep in, but his apartment complex decided to host an all-morning fire drill with fire alarms continuously blaring around various buildings. So, I was up earlier than expected and tried to start studying for midterms again. I also did all of Luke’s laundry and cleaned his apartment to some extent with the limited cleaning supplies he had, so I felt like a very accomplished girlfriend. After the morning cleaning, Lindsey Oliver picked me up to meet our friend Rosa Stevens for lunch at this Thai place. I got the sweet and sour chicken (so original, right?) and it was pretty good. I had a great time catching up with them! Lindsey and I talked for a while when she dropped me back off at the apartment, and she is such an inspiration to me as a military wife. She always maintains a positive outlook and is just so much fun to be around!

Luke came home a little after lunch since all of his instructors were ready to get off for the holiday weekend, which was nice. We headed out for an early date night since he was starving! We ate at Rib Crib and then headed to the movies to see Looper, which we both liked more than we thought we would. It was very thought-provoking, and I thought the movie was well made. I made him take me by Sonic for a late-night limeade, and we promptly passed out around 1 a.m. which is late for the two of us these days!

On Saturday, we decided to head down to Oklahoma City to see the sights. First, we headed to the Stockyard Exchange, which is the largest live cattle auction in existence in America. Auctions are held every Monday and Tuesday, and it was interesting to see the town and read about some of the history.

OKC Stockyard Exchange

Awesome bull statue on the square across from Cattlemen’s Steakhouse

We had a great time wandering around the shops, and Luke got a new pair of jeans and a pullover in the Western store. I never knew how much money you can spend in one of those stores, but all of that cowboy bling adds up– belt buckles, boots, socks, dishes, everything! You could literally decorate  your entire home with rustic picture frames, vases, pitchers and more from one of these stores. I just bought a little postcard to remember the city and add to my postcard collection, and while we were thinking about it, we ran to Hobby Lobby to buy an album for me to put all of my postcards in. This is adding to a tradition my mom started with my brother and I when we were young. We collect a postcard from every place we visit and then write details about the trip on the back. Collecting these in an album makes it fun to look back on years down the road.

After Hobby Lobby, we randomly stopped in this furniture store that was having a sale and quickly realized that we are going to be broke as a joke for the next few years as we begin our lives together. Furniture is seriously NOT cheap, y’all! We may have to settle for a couple of really nice pieces and make the most of yard sales, discount stores, and the graciousness of our respective families for a bit in the beginning. Haha it was fun to browse though!

After window shopping, we headed to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse back at the Stockyard Exchange for dinner. Cattlemen’s has seriously some of the best filet mignon that I have ever eaten. It was juicy, tender and delicious, even if their definition of medium rare is a bit more “red with a heartbeat and falling straight off the cow” than mine is. So, I avoided the middle and enjoyed my steak to the fullest. The entire meal was wonderful, right down to the salad and dinner rolls.

With full bellies, we decided to brave the cold and explore:

Hoping to walk off a bit of our dinner, we meandered for a few blocks around this area before making a beeline for our destination: Michael Murphy’s Dueling Piano Bar.

Exploring Bricktown (& Luke’s awesome photography skills)

We were really not prepared for the frigid weather this weekend! I definitely did not bring a warm enough jacket, but it did give me an excuse to cuddle up next to Luke for warmth ;]

I must say, Michael Murphy’s is one of the coolest places we have been to in a while. The “dueling piano bar” features two pianos facing one another and multiple musicians who will play any requested songs for tips. It turns out the dueling comes more from the musicians cracking jokes at members of the audience than from facing off against one another. We heard everything from “Jessie’s Girl” to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga to “Forever and Always.” The two bachelorettes in the building had special songs sung to them, and though the humor was a bit crude at times (as it was a comedy show), the establishment was pretty classy overall. I loved that there was no smoking inside! I also found their extensive martini menu to be pretty wonderful. (My new favorite drink is the Thin Mint ‘Tini– creme de menthe, Godiva chocolate vodka and cream). It tastes just like a Girl Scout cookie.

Totally grainy, discolored picture of Michael Murphy’s

Dueling piano bar– you get the picture.

That was a really fun night. Sunday morning consisted of Luke cooking me breakfast (yes, he is that wonderful!) and the two of us settling in to watch a very romantic…torture video…? Yes, you guessed it. More studying for my human rights midterm (which I took today, and did very well on!) So, we settled in and watched ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ and he patiently waited for me to complete my assignment on the video. We got Taco Mayo for lunch (always a favorite) and then relaxed for the rest of the day. We watched TV, talked, laughed and had a great time. At some point during all of this, he was tickling my stomach, and I was laughing uncontrollably and for whatever reason I yelled, “Monkey! I mean…Uncle! Uncle, Monkey, whatever. Just stop.” So, he now calls me “Monkey.” Lol I think he is still laughing over this one. I am wondering if this nickname will stick…

We had a great weekend though, and I missed him the second I stepped into the airport yesterday morning. We have a 6.5 week countdown this time since I won’t see him until Thanksgiving Break, but the good news is that it is our next-to-the-last countdown for a very long time since he will be moving to Georgia at Christmas. So, I am determined to tackle this last hurdle of distance with a positive attitude, knowing that we are almost done paying our dues :]

43 days ❤

One major advantage of an LDR…More time with girl friends!

So Luke and I have been doing this long-distance relationship (LDR) thing for more than 2 years now, and at the beginning, I found myself really focusing on the negatives of being so far apart. I hated the long countdowns, not being able to see him, not being able to touch him, rarely getting to go on dates together, not being able to cuddle up on the couch and watch TV on Saturday nights  and more. But, I am an optimistic person by nature, so I found that all of my negativity was getting us nowhere. There are in fact many advantages to an LDR. Some of these advantages would include more communication within the relationship (which builds a stronger emotional connection), lots of excitement and anticipation as our latest countdown diminishes to just a few short days, and plenty of time for work and individual professional development activities. However, chief among these advantages, in my opinion, is having lots of extra time to spend with girl friends!

Some days, I seriously could not make it through without having a girls’ dinner & movie night, attending my Thursday evening Bible study group (complete with various desserts), or grabbing lunch on campus with a friend and commiserating about our extremely stressful senior year-workload (This is a shout-out to you, Laura Metcalf! Haha) I decided that life is what you make it, and college in particular goes by way too quickly to do nothing except work all of the time. Therefore, I’ve been making an exceptional effort to spend extra time with my girl friends this semester since I know a few of them are graduating in December, and everything really is changing much faster than I’d like to believe. So, I’ve really enjoyed finding a fancy place for dinner every other Tuesday night with my former roomie, Lauren Hendrix, in the days leading up to her wedding to the love of her life, meeting my friend Rachel Childers for a quick lunch on 15th Street every Thursday on our break from school/work, and squeezing in Mexican/margarita night with my friend Lauren Killen and her roommates, Rachael and Jamie.

One particularly fun experience this month was attending The Society of Professional Journalists’ National Convention in Fort Lauderdale with our vice president (and my friend), Casey Voyles. It is always more fun to travel with friends! Casey had never flown before, so it was really neat to be there for her first flight ever, and she had an experienced traveler to navigate the airports with her! This is also where being in an LDR comes in handy. I can navigate airports like the back of my hand.  (I wont mention the fact that we almost missed our outbound flight after I accidentally led us to the Southwest “Fort Lauderdale” direct flight instead of the Delta “Atlanta connection flight.”) Oops…A quick sprint through the airport saved us, and we were able to board right before the doors closed on the plane. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale for the conference last Thursday, and had a great/productive time, despite the weather being overall stormy and cruddy and me getting sick and then progressively sicker during the trip. Here are a few pictures from our Ft. Lauderdale adventures:

Casey and I exploring the Harbor Beach Marriott’s private beach on our first and *only* sunny afternoon

SPJ National Convention in Fort Lauderdale- Sept. 20-23rd

I ran into my old friend Meg Wagner (from Scripps Leadership Institute) at the Opening Night Reception!

Scripps 2012 Reunion from L to R: Meg Wagner, Walter Middlebrook, Ali Trumbull (my roomie) and me.

We also ran into the JMU SPJ President, Lani Furbank (blue dress) and her VP, Kassie (tan skirt on the end) at the conference. Lani was my Scripps classmate as well.

We had so much fun catching up! Friday night dinner at The Oasis

After returning from Ft. Lauderdale, unfortunately, my simple sinus infection had spread into my chest and lungs. I spent all day that Sunday at the Student Health Center and missed Monday and Tuesday of classes. So, I spent the rest of the week playing catch-up with schoolwork and trying to fulfill all of my extracurricular commitments as well. I ended up selling my Ole Miss ticket for this weekend early in the week, because I wasn’t sure if I’d feel up to going to the game. I did begin to feel better by Thursday or so, but I thought a girls’ night might be more fun than standing in the stadium watching Bama crush the Rebels until all hours of the night anyway. Sure enough, we won 33 to 14 even without me there to cheer on the Crimson Tide. (True enough, I was there in spirit).

Instead, Rachel Childers and I had the most amazing girls’ day/night, in lieu of attending the football game. First, we decided to get lunch at Dreamland BBQ (which was fun until one poor Bama fan passed out in the middle of lunch and the EMTs had to come escort him away on a stretcher).  After a memorable lunch, we went shopping at Midtown (where I bought some much-needed sweat pants and a warm sweatshirt for winter), and then we went back to her apartment to watch chick flicks all night. We ate Gigi’s cupcakes and talked through watched ‘Water for Elephants,’ ‘Kate and Leopold,’ and ‘Wedding Date’ before falling asleep around 1 a.m. (We also may or may not have explored the Wedding Bee site in some detail, dreaming about our future weddings to our respective/wonderful significant others! And no, neither of us is “officially engaged” yet. Boo).

So, today, I am planning to study hard, do homework, have Bible study with Luke, prepare the agenda for our 7 a.m. SPJ Exec Meeting, and go see Pitch Perfect with Lauren Killen and Co. (We are going to a matinee, of course, to save money!)  Such is the life of an overworked, starving college student.

More soon.

P.S. Our countdown is now down to just 5 short days ❤ I love you, Luke Huntington Bradshaw.

18 days and counting!

Well, we have entered the teens in our latest countdown until Fall Break/Columbus Day, when I will travel to Lawton to visit Luke for three days and four nights! A lot has been happening as the days go by though.

I have been buried in homework and extracurricular responsibilities as  school has really entered full swing. I have a test and presentation due this week, and I am leaving for Fort Lauderdale on Thursday to attend the National Convention for The Society of Professional Journalists, since I am president of the UA student chapter. Today, I spent a couple of hours in Barnes & Noble poring over travel magazines and guidebooks about Spain, since we will be heading there in a few short months to compose the fifth edition of Alpine Living. I could not be more excited about this amazing opportunity, and I am enjoying every bit of the research so far.

I am also trying to make lots of time for my friends, since it is senior year and all — possibly our last chance to all be together for a while. I am making an effort to attend every home football game, despite a less-than-desirable home season and am really enjoying the fact that I attend the nation’s best school for college football. 3 national championships in 4 years of college? Yes, please. I fully believe The Crimson Tide is fighting its way to #15 and am so proud to be an Alabama student.

My good friend, Laura Metcalf, and I before the Western Kentucky game

I ran into my friends Lauren Killen and Rachael Jones on our way into the stadium!

4th Quarter! The game was a complete shut out.

I also joined a girls’ Bible study group that meets on Thursday nights. My good friend Rachel Childers leads the study, and it is such a pleasure to become immersed in God’s word with these amazing ladies. All-in-all, school is going pretty well, and I only have the slightest hint of senioritis thus far. I could do without the four-hour weekly science class on Wednesdays, but I think I will tough it out since I truly need these credits to graduate in May.

Meanwhile, Luke is enjoying his time in Lawton immensely…(This is sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it.) He has another major test tomorrow, so right now, he is helping tutor some of his classmates in hopes that they will all pass and not get into trouble. On a positive note, his dad visited this past weekend because Luke’s brother, Jacob, graduated from basic training from Sill on Friday. I think they had a fun guys’ weekend and watched plenty of sports and ate lots and lots of wings. It was good for the boys to spend time with their dad because they don’t see him all that much since everyone is so spread out now.

We have a web cam date scheduled later tonight, which I am pretty excited about since we haven’t talked all that much lately with our busy schedules. It is really nice to just have 18 days left on this countdown though!

I realize this is an exceptionally boring update, but I try to write at least once a week and after reflecting on our week, I guess not a lot has happened after all. But, boring is good sometimes.  In my opinion, it beats tragedy and chaos any day! One thing we have learned after being together for more than 2 years, is that everything isn’t going to be exciting every single day. Since we know a lot about each other now, conversations are sometimes going to be less riveting than they were when we first met. And that’s OK.  I am truly enjoying this stage of our relationship too, which comes with a certain amount of consistency and stability. Life may not be the whirlwind it once was (and yes, I still miss jetting off to New York on random weekends to visit West Point), but I am content with where we are now too.

So, for today, I will end with a sweet poem that I found online about love and overcoming the obstacle of long distance, which I know we are doing each and every day. It is encouraging to think that each day that passes brings us one more day closer to being together again.

I Love You True

I love you true
No matter the miles in queue
Nothing can split us two
Even if our times together are few.

I love you true
No one else in this world will do
Though you are not in view
In my mind there’s only you.

I love you true
I want you to know it too
So together we can make it through
To look back one day and see how time flew.

-Author Unknown

Sunday evening ramblings…Counting our blessings!

Luke and I just finished our Love & Respect Experience weekly Bible study, and now he is off to bed with a headache, leaving me in the mood to blog for a few minutes before going to sleep myself! Our Bible study tonight was about remaining thankful to the Lord for His blessings despite any negative circumstances in our lives (both as a couple, and as individuals.) In fact, it even suggested that we THANK God for everything, INCLUDING the obstacles and challenges in our lives. This really resonated with me tonight, as this past year has been full of changes for Luke and I. We have certainly grown stronger as a couple in the Lord, but we have had our fair share of struggles as well! Looking back, it is amazing to see how far we have come.

– 1 year ago, my mom had just filed for divorce after 25 years of marriage to my dad. Even though my brother and I knew it was coming, it was still a bit of a struggle to see our family ripping apart at the seams. The divorce proceedings are still ongoing today, but looking back…WOW! Luke and I have made it through some pretty tough stuff and never broke as a couple or lost our faith in God. Luke was there for me every step of the way and continues to comfort me and support me to this day. We both have relied heavily on the Lord to make it through. So why would we ever not be thankful for the blessings in life or be fearful that God can’t or won’t see us through till the end? He has already proven His never-ending faithfulness, even in the face of this struggle.

– 1 year ago, Luke and I had no idea what his branch in the Army would be after he graduated from West Point, and we had no idea what post he would end up going to. He could have ended up in Germany, Korea, Hawaii, Texas, New York, Washington…really anywhere. And yet, the Lord worked it out just perfectly for us so that Luke would get his first choice of Fort Benning, Georgia! It is still hard to believe he will be living only three hours away from me before the year is out!

– 1 year ago, I was struggling to decide what career path I wanted to take and had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduate in May of 2013! After lots of prayers and discussions with trusted mentors and advisers (including Luke, my most trusted human adviser and best friend,) I have decided what I want to do with my life! I want to write, and I want to teach! I hope to eventually become a college communications professor so that I can fulfill both of my passions! In the meantime, I plan to pursue a master’s degree after graduation and work in education or in communication, depending on the job opportunities that I may come across, before pursuing my doctorate degree.

– 1 year ago, I could not legally consume alcohol. I had never seen the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or eaten a hotdog in Central Park. I had never been to an Iron Bowl at Auburn University, seen Charleston, or gotten a promise ring from my beloved.

– 1 year ago, l had also not yet been hired as a student worker at Business Executive magazine (the Culverhouse College magazine for business school alumni), been elected president of The Society of Professional Journalists’ student chapter or been named editor-in-chief of Alpine Living, an international travel magazine through the UA journalism department.

– 1 year ago, Luke was just a firstie at USMA. He was griping about his numerous classes and being charged with safety/admin duties for the Corps of Cadets. He was using Pro Model, the program that I think he hates the most of any engineering programs. He still had a “curfew” and mandatory breakfast, which he didn’t eat, and was required to drill every day or two. He had not yet taken and passed the FE (professional engineering exam), received some really awesome 22nd birthday presents, including a roll of toilet paper with Duke University’s logo printed all over it, or graduated from the Academy.

This was Luke and I one year ago:

UA v. Vanderbilt- 2011

Tuscaloosa Fair 2011

The Cypress Inn, Tuscaloosa, Fall 2011

We had some really, really great times back then, and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but I am really looking forward to see what God will do in our lives  in the upcoming 8 months before I am officially a college graduate! I know that He has an amazing plan for our lives, and I am confident that He will never let us falter. So, even though life gets tough sometimes and challenges come our way, I can remain secure in the knowledge that He will carry us through.

The Bible study lesson suggested that we make a list of the things we are grateful for, and here is just a short (and incomplete) summary of some of the the blessings in our lives:

  • God’s Son who died on the cross to save us from a plethora of sins.
  • The gift of each other and our unconditional love, even in the midst of challenges.
  • Our family members, and the support and love that we often find from them.
  • Our friends, who continue to laugh with us, love us and support us no matter what circumstances life throws our way.
  • Luke’s job as an officer in the U.S. Army, and my opportunity to pursue higher education at The University of Alabama.
  • The long distance, which has allowed us to grow closer together spiritually and emotionally during these past 2 1/3 years.
  • Having enough food to eat and a safe place to sleep at night.
  • The multitude of private struggles that we have both encountered throughout our relationship and the perseverance and strength that God has blessed us with to overcome each and every one of them.
  • The uncertainty of what lies ahead in our future, because it allows us to rely on God and His perfect plan to carry us through.

“In everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Can’t we just hit rewind and live it all over again? Labor Day Lovin’ 2012

Another ecstatic airport reunion and heart-wrenching goodbye has come and gone along with Labor Day Weekend 2012.  I just put Luke onto yet another plane and drove back home alone again to an empty apartment, but this time was just a little bit different. This was our third Labor Day Weekend together, and we pray that it will be our LAST spent so far apart! The tearful airport departures are down to single digits now, as we are getting closer and closer to the day when Luke will move to Georgia for his first permanent post assignment (just three short little hours away from me!) He has been in Lawton for almost two months now, and if all goes as planned, he will graduate from BOLC on November 20, 2012 and move to Fort Benning shortly afterward! We have already booked our next flight for my Fall Break in October, and we are hoping to squeeze in a Veteran’s Day visit as well, but other than that, I don’t think we will be purchasing any more flights since we hope to be within driving distance of one another before the New Year! So, although I am missing him more than ever right now and am not looking forward to our impending five-week countdown, I am comforted to know that it is one of our last times apart for awhile (God-willing.) Besides, I am still reeling from joy after another wonderful weekend spent together.

So here is a recap of our Labor Day Weekend 2012:

Picking Luke up from the airport- Labor Day 2012

I wore my most patriotic outfit to pick Luke up from the airport last Thursday evening! He loves anything American, so I knew he would get a kick out of my outfit, and besides, it WAS Labor Day after all! I thought this dress would be appropriate to celebrate the last symbolic day of summer and to say a special thank you to all of the men and women in uniform who tirelessly serve in the Armed Forces day after day so that Americans can be free. When I saw Luke was just wearing shorts and a t-shirt supporting his favorite basketball team, I wasn’t at all surprised because he never likes to dress up when he flies haha. This picture perfectly describes us in a nutshell, actually.

It was pretty late by the time his plane landed, so we just headed back to my apartment to relax. On Friday morning, Luke dropped me off at my 11 a.m. class and went and picked up a dozen of my favorite Krispy Kreme doughnuts as a special surprise for me. I am somewhat ashamed and embarrassed to admit that between the two of us, we somehow polished off an entire dozen doughnuts by the time night fell. To be fair, we hadn’t had Krispy Kreme in several months, and it is pretty much impossible to just eat one or two of them. Still though– I have no idea how we ate 12 doughnuts in one day. But it would seem that we did. Haha. Since good food is an extremely vital part of any successful holiday weekend, I will also mention that he took me to Bento for lunch on The Strip right after class (before the doughnut consumption lol). Bento has the best teriyaki chicken in town in my opinion, and we also got an order of California Rolls, my favorite sushi, sans raw fish. (Yes, I do realize “sushi” and “sans raw fish” are contradictory, but it is the only kind that I will order.)

In proper accordance with the laziness that should accompany a holiday like Labor Day, we proceeded to lounge around all afternoon and watch TV, consuming massive amounts of glazed originals, in typical American-fashion. (NO, we don’t usually do this. Yes, I realize America has an obesity/laziness epidemic. But, if you can’t necessarily beat ’em, it sure is fun to join in every once in a while!) That evening, Luke took me to The Cypress Inn, a seafood restaurant on the Black Warrior riverfront in Tuscaloosa. It is one of the more romantic places in town, and we enjoyed sitting at a table right by the window that overlooked the water.

Date Night at The Cypress Inn!

After dinner, he took me to the movies to see ‘Hope Springs’ starring Meryl Streep, Steve Carrell and Tommy Lee Jones. The comedy depicts a middle-aged couple who goes to counseling to try to save their marriage, and while some scenes are pretty funny, I wouldn’t say this is a “must-see” movie by any means. My favorite part of the date was convincing Luke to take pictures with me in the Photo Booth at the theater.

Our Photo Booth experience!

I think our pictures actually turned out to be pretty good, albeit goofy in some frames! We were actually quite proud of ourselves for going to the 10 p.m. movie showing, which meant the movie ended around midnight. By the time we drove back to my place, it was around 12:30 a.m., and since we are both “old people” now, this was quite late for our normal schedules! But who can really blame us, since we both have to get up early every morning now? (Luke would not be happy with this statement, since his version of early is 5 a.m., while mine is closer to around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. lol).

Anyway, on Saturday, we wanted to go to the pool or lake, but the weather just didn’t cooperate with our plans, so I pulled out some of the cookbooks that my mom gave me and put together a menu for a homemade dinner that evening instead. Since I just moved into a new apartment, we had to buy a lot of spices and supplies and Luke jokes that our “homemade” meal was actually the most expensive dinner of the weekend. But it was very well worth it, if I do say so myself! I made corn-and-potato chowder, baked turkey pastries, biscuits and baked beans (Luke’s idea — not such a good one with the rest of the menu, but he DID learn the importance of thinking about the best way to mix flavors when planning a meal. He also discovered that cooking isn’t quite as simple as he thought :p)  Our favorite part of the meal was actually “orange sweet potatoes”- literally the shells of oranges filled with mashed sweet potatoes and spices and topped with marshmallows. You slice the oranges in half, scoop out the pulp, mix the sweet potatoes and spices together, spoon the mixture into the orange shells, and bake! I got this recipe from my great-grandmother’s cookbook, and it actually turned out pretty well!

Delicious sweet potato-filled baked oranges!

We shopped for food together, and then I spent most of the day cooking, while Luke helped with odd jobs around the apartment and hung a bunch of pictures for me, which was very helpful! It was really nice to sit down to a hot meal and watch Bama stomp Michigan from right here on my comfy sofa!

On Sunday, Luke got up early and cooked waffles and bacon for breakfast, and then we headed out to Moundville for the day. Moundville is an archaeological site sponsored by the University of Alabama, and it is just fifteen minutes or so from Tuscaloosa. The site is well known for its preservation of Native American heritage, through a museum and findings from archaeological digs. The mounds are fun to explore, and there is also a short nature trail as well.

Moundville visit 2012!

We had never been to Moundville before, and it was really neat to learn about Native American religious and cultural heritage in the museum. I also bought a yummy jar of honey that is made in the area! Each Fall, Moundville hosts a festival to honor Native American heritage, and local artisans come out to show off their crafts. I may have to go back for the festival this year, because all of the brochures looked pretty neat, and I want to buy some more of that honey! I tried some in a cup of hot tea last night, and it was truly delicious.

We had a fun Sunday afternoon walking around all of the mounds and along the nature trail.

View from the highest mound!

Me standing in front of the former Moundville Chieftain’s home!

Hiking along the short nature trail at Moundville

Luke outside the gift shop at Moundville

After a memorable adventure to this new place, Luke and I decided to head back to my apartment for a swim. He got to show off his mad basketball skills with the ball and hoop in the pool. We had fun shooting around for about an hour or two, and then went inside to order a Domino’s pizza for a late dinner and had a movie marathon until the wee hours of the morning (i.e. 1 or 2 a.m. ooohhh we are living dangerously now! Lol)

This morning, we got up pretty early to meet our friends Jessica and Will at The Cracker Barrel in Birmingham for breakfast before Luke had to go to the airport to catch his flight. It was pouring down rain this morning so he experienced some short delays but is currently en route back to Lawton. All-in-all, we had an amazing weekend together that I will not soon forget! 5 weeks and counting! ❤

Tacoklahomayo and other adventures in Lawton!

Adapted from Wikipedia's OK county maps by Set...

Adapted from Wikipedia’s OK county maps by Seth Ilys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While visiting Luke at Fort Sill this past weekend, I learned four important lessons:

1. If you are a gambling person, the number of casinos in the Comanche Nation must be pretty much unrivaled except for Vegas; Luke and I saw at least three different casinos during the ten-minute drive from the airport to his apartment building in Lawton! Another two can be found on the way to the local movie theater lol.

2. You are never too old to act like a little kid! Luke and I had the best marathon “play” date on Saturday. And yes, it felt like we were in middle school again due to the absolutely absurd amount of fun that we had while doing “little kid” activities. (more on that later).

3. The West Point Girlfriends Facebook Group certainly has its saving graces! I had the best (and LONGEST) lunch date on Friday with Mrs. Lindsey Niblack Oliver and Mrs. Rosa Greeson Stevens while our significant others were busy at work. It was so neat to arrive in Lawton for the first time ever and to already have two girl friends to hang out ( and gossip) with!

4. Tacoklahomayo is the absolute best “fast food” restaurant to EVER exist! Tater tots with your tacos? Genius. Pure genius.

Lawton, Oklahoma. It’s a fine place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there permanently. I think that’s the best way to describe the area surrounding Fort Sill. I arrived in Lawton late on Friday night on the tiniest plane to ever exist and stepped into the tiniest airport to ever exist! Seriously. This airport has two gates (only one of which is actually used), and the same two or three employees check passengers in, guide the airplane in, unload baggage and man security. On my outbound flight, I discovered that there are not even any restrooms once you step through security (but that’s OK, because trust me, there is plenty of time to step out, use the restroom and walk BACK through the security line, even up to ten minutes before flight time!) The airport only provides service to Dallas Fort-Worth, and I think there were about 20 passengers or fewer on both my arriving and departing flights.

Anyway, so Luke picked me up at the airport, and I was able to find him in the “crowd” pretty easily! It was already 10 p.m. or so by the time we left the airport, so he took me to get some Sonic for a quick bite, drove by the aforementioned plethora of casinos, and went back to his place for an early night since he had to be up at 5 a.m. on Friday. Friday morning dawned dark and early, and Luke left me on my own for the day to explore Lawton (with no vehicle)!  So, really I planned to just hang out around his apartment. I had very noble intentions of cleaning his place from top to bottom, washing and folding all of his laundry, and possibly cooking him dinner. (And watching plenty of Grey’s Anatomy, which I am currently addicted to.) But, you know what they say about the best intentions, right? I found something a little more fun to do instead :]

Around 11:30 a.m., Rosa Stevens picked Lindsey Oliver and I up to go out for lunch! I had met Rosa once before at St. Barbara‘s, and I knew Lindsey from the West Point Girlfriends webpage (basically a FB group for girlfriends and fiancees of West Point cadets to chat and get to know one another. It’s much less creepy than it probably sounds lol, although Luke might disagree.) We went to lunch at this local sandwich shop called the Silver Spoon (they have the BEST Raspberry Sweet Tea), and Lindsey acted as tour guide of the downtown Lawton area for Rosa and I, since she has been living out there for about a month now.

Lunch date with the girls

After (a two-hour) lunch, we headed back to Luke’s apartment complex and laid out at the pool until our guys got off work. The funniest part of the day was when alot of the military guys showed up in the late afternoon and started cramming into this tiny little pool Jersey-shore style. One group of guys wanted to set up a volleyball net, and they were having all kinds of trouble getting this net put up. They kept debating how to tie the knot correctly and tried setting two chairs on either side of the shallow end so that they could loop the net through. After about 20 minutes or so, Rosa looks at them and yells, “What? Didn’t they teach y’all how to tie knots up at West Point?” Lol. This elicited quite the response from many of the guys, who did not in fact, attend West Point. (It was really funny, but you probably had to be there to really take in all of the shocked reactions and horrified faces!) They started trying to talk to us a little bit after that, and luckily our guys showed up soon after to rescue us.

Then, we all headed to dinner at this wonderful little Mexican restaurant  in town (Las something..Lindsey, help me out here?!), and they truly had wonderful margaritas and sopapillas. Then, Luke and I headed back early (about ten hours after our “lunch date” began) and regretfully, missed Rosa’s game of cornhole (which we are sooo definitely playing when I  come up for Fall Break!) This group was so much fun, and I cannot wait to hang out with them again in October. I definitely had more fun than I would have had cooking and cleaning all day.

On Saturday, Luke and I got up “early” (around 10 a.m.) and began a marathon date in Lawton. First, he took me to Tacoklahomayo, which is literally the best fast food restaurant I have ever been to. It only exists in Oklahoma, and they serve yummy Mexican dishes with tater tots, of all things, on the side. I had the nachos, and it was wayy more than I could eat by myself. If we end up PCSing to Sill in the future, I will be Tacoklahomayo’s best customer! The restaurant was so good that I named this post after it, which I never do. If you are ever in Oklahoma, this is a MUST VISIT! Thank you for the great recommendation, Mrs. Oliver. :]

Next we headed to the water park, which I absolutely loved! It is a pretty small water park right off of the interstate, but it has five slides, a lazy river and wave pool. We had to buy a two-person float, since those were the only ones left, and since we weighed about 300 pounds collectively, the water slides were a REAL blast! We almost flipped over twice, and I thought I would lose my voice from shrieking so much. Of course, Luke egged it on, by grabbing the handles and rocking us back and forth, making sure we got “air” on the green tube slide and flipping me over on purpose into the pool at the bottom. It was truly a great time though, and after all of the excitement on the slides, I was more than content to float around on the lazy river with him. We eventually hit the wave pool, which was also fun, except for one unfortunate incident with a bee. It flew onto the front of our float, and I unwittingly put my legs down directly on top of it. I got bit three times by the time I realized what was going on and was able to move. My knight in shining armor killed that nasty little bee for me though, so I felt that justice was served lol.

We had a blast at the water park in Lawton

After several hours at the water park, we headed back to his place to get ready for dinner. I had butterflies while I was getting ready, because we haven’t been able to go on a date together in so long! I got to wear my pretty new turquoise dress with the bubble skirt and white wedges, and he wore khaki shorts and a button down. He took me to an Italian place called Luigis, and I had the ravioli filled with ricotta cheese, and he had fetuccini alfredo. The restaurant didn’t offer wine or any other alcoholic beverages, so we got sodas, and Luke made the comment that it felt like we were in middle school again and our parents dropped us off on a date haha. Needless to say getting ice cream at Braum’s afterwards (mmm Butter Pecan) and then going to see Ice Age 4 only contributed to the feeling of being two kids again. But it was one of the best dates ever, and everything was just so relaxed. I think we laughed more on that date than on some of the ones at elegant restaurants in NYC where we have paid $$$$ for dinner and a bottle of wine. It was fun to mix it up a little!

Date night

On Sunday, he got up early and cooked me breakfast, and  I got to watch my Grey’s marathon while he did some homework. We had an early dinner at another local Mexican place — nothing beats Mexican food out West — and then, we went to the commissary to buy some Gatorade and other items. It was such a settling feeling to be a “normal” couple again, going shopping together on Sunday afternoon. We watched some of our favorite TV shows that night and stayed up way, way too late haha but it was so worth it, even as we were dragging on our way to catch my 6 a.m. flight to Dallas on Monday morning.

The whole weekend was absolutely exceptional, and I promise to post pictures later! I have not had the chance to upload them yet, since I have been so busy packing to go back to school on Friday. The whole Lawton trip made me look forward to Fort Benning even more, when I will get to see him nearly every weekend. I can’t wait to see what the next few months will hold for us :]

Right now, I just know that I have to stay patient and enjoy the relationship that God has given us here and now, which means embracing the long distance and looking forward to seeing him in Tuscaloosa over Labor Day weekend. And then it will be Fall Break before long, and I will be heading back to Tacoklahomayo! More soon.

A Fresh New Perspective: Applying the 80/20 Principle

“Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album…But those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next.” — Ashton Kutcher’s dad in ‘Just Married.’

Luke and Manda at the West Point Graduation Banquet

The couple in this photograph obviously looks happy– and we were! This was the night before Luke graduated from West Point, the culmination of four years of hard work and tons of effort on his part, and two years of an EXTREMELY long distance relationship from New York to Alabama that required tons of patience and committment on both of our parts. We were so hopeful that night, as we knew that one chapter of our lives was closing in the most bittersweet way (if you ask Luke it was just sweet. Very, very sweet haha).

However, despite the excited smiles in this picture, no one could say that our entire relationship has been a big bowl of peaches and cream with every single day filled with snapshots like this one. We’ve had our share of tough times too. Nights where we were both cranky from being so far apart and arguing over silly little things yet again, days when we were so stressed out with work and upcoming exams that we couldn’t think straight, and times when we honestly had no idea what the future would hold, which caused a lot of stress and anxiety for both of us. When we first started dating, we were preoccupied with trying to make our relationship work from hundreds of miles apart, and it took us a while to stop focusing on the negatives (of which there could be plenty if we searched for them– distance, an uncertain schedule with the military, expensive visits, etc.), and to start focusing on all of the POSITIVES that God has blessed us with. After all, we have each other to begin with, which is enough for each of us just to know that at the end of the day we will be there for one another no matter what.

On Sunday nights Luke and I do a Bible Study book entitled ‘The Love and Respect Experience’ by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It is technically a Bible Study book for married couples, but we take the weekly lessons and apply them to our relationship as it is today, and let me tell you, this book has some pretty inspirational lessons in it! It has really helped us to grow as a couple and to start focusing on what really matters:  honoring the Lord first and foremost in every aspect of our lives, both as individuals and in our relationship.

We are about 1/3 of the way through the book, and one of my favorite lessons thus far (Chapter 5) talks about the 80/20 principle in a relationship. At least 80 percent of the time things are good. No, they are better than good! They are GREAT. FABULOUS. FANTASTIC. Couldn’t ask for more. As Meredith Grey would say on Grey’s Anatomy, “ I love you, in a really, really big ‘pretend to like your taste in music, let you eat the last piece of cheesecake, hold a radio over my head outside your window’, unfortunate way that makes me hate you, love you.”

Then, there is the other 20 percent (or less), where things are going kind of badly. You may be fighting, stressed out, tired, lonely, having problems at work or whatever, and those things are affecting your relationship in a negative way Dr. Eggerichs says that it is easy to focus too much on this 20 percent of the relationship, which leads to you forgetting about all of the positives and blessings in your lives. When you focus on that 20 percent, you tend to make inaccurate accusations and generalizations about your partner that make you feel even more unloved and disrespected. He says to LET GO of the negative snapshots in your relationship! You could probably pull out a million little annoying things about your significant other and put those together in a big album that makes your partner look terrible. But then again, couldn’tyour partner do the same thing about you?  The Love and Respect Experience suggests incorporating a little bit of perspective into your relationship and remembering all of the things that you love about that person, even when you are most frustrated and upset. This way, you won’t build up resentment towards one another and unintentionally create a negative album filled with bad memories of the relationship that you cherish most in this world.

The example that hit close to home for me, was of a woman who constanly complained to and criticized her husband for walking on her clean kitchen floor in his muddy boots, day after day. She was always having to clean up after him and deeply resented this intrusion into her day. However, when her husband passed away, and the muddy boots sat empty outside on the porch day after day while her floor remained spotlessly clean, the woman wept and began to deeply regret the terrible way she had treated her husband over such a minor annoyance. She told Dr. Eggerichs that she really should have focused less attention on those stupid muddy boots and more attention on the wonderful man who wore them!

This lesson really made Luke and I think about the way that we treat each other when we are in a disagreeement over something so small that it won’t really matter in the long run anyway. We learned that it is more important to treat your partner with love and respect and focus on all of the positive things in your relationship than it is to gripe about the negatives.

Last night, we each made a list of 10 things we love about the other person, as part of a follow-up Bible Study lesson to the 80/20 principle. We found it was much easier to think of a million positive things about each other than it would be to think of even 10 negative things. As the quote from ‘Just Married’ points out, hard times WILL come between the happy snapshots in the photo album that you share with the outside world. In my opinion, the key to having a happy relationship (MORE than 80 percent of the time) is in the way that you handle those hard times and work to get through them together as a couple! It is all about throwing away the negative snapshots and cherishing the happy memories and good times that you share together.

I’m not saying that Luke and I have it all figured out, by any means. But we are working on applying this principle each and every day, and I think it really has given us a new outlook on our relationship and how much we mean to each other. I thought I would share so maybe it will help some other couple out there as well!

Hope everyone has a blessed Monday filled to the brim with that 80 percent today! :]

Waiting, wishing, studying…Is it August 9th yet?!

I miss my boyfriend. And I miss the beach. Which do I miss more? That’s debatable! (haha just kidding.) Some days, I’d really like to go back to June, when Luke and I took a trip to Gulf Shores with two of our best friends, Will and Jessica. Here are a few pictures from that trip:

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Anyway, since time travel isn’t a possibility, I have to be content with the fact that Luke and I only have 11 more days until I am Lawton-bound! Thank goodness. We are starting to get into the part of the countdown where it gets easier, since we are on the downhill slope of 35 days spent apart! And, let me tell you, the days have honestly flown by sometimes since I have had plenty to keep me occupied in the meantime. My dark, handsome, largely unpopular GRE study book has been keeping me company every day.

Well, it’s the Sunday before test-time, and I still don’t feel as if I am prepared enough. SO for the next few days, enter GRE Study Manual Overload. Joy. But every girl’s gotta procrastinate take a short break every once in a while. Hence, this blog post!
Luke and I have been doing pretty well, despite a few small “discussions” when we were both either tired or cranky after long days at work and annoyed with spending time far apart like this again. Nothing major, though. We have adjusted back to long distance pretty well, which is a blessing, I suppose, since we are still living hundreds of miles apart for a few more months. By the time we see each other again, he will be 1/5 of the way done with BOLC though, which is pretty encouraging, when you consider that after Fort Sill, Oklahoma comes Fort Benning, Georgia! I cannot wait to start that chapter in our lives. Bye bye expensive flights, monthly airport reunions and saying goodbye; hello driving distance! OK, not so fast.
BOLC has been an interesting adventure so far, to say the least. I was really comforted when Luke and his roommate, Matt, felt the need to go to a gun show their first weekend in Lawton to pick up some more ammo and guns because of Sill’s notorious “crime rate.” Umm, what?? Lol. Apparently, many 2Lts have personal belongings stolen from their apartments out there! They are all stocked up now though, so any would-be thieves will hopefully stay far, far away.

We have managed to fit in a few web cam dates since Luke has been in Lawton, and we still talk on the phone every single night, although we both have been pretty busy with our jobs. I love that Luke never fails to wake me up with a sweet text message each morning, and that man says the sweetest things! He does a wonderful job of making me feel loved and appreciated, even from so far away. We try to make an effort to surprise each other once in a while, and I am happy to report that we have both pulled off successful surprises this month! I ordered and paid for two large pizzas one Monday night and had them delivered to Luke and Matt’s apartment for dinner, and they loved that. Then, today I found that Luke sent me a really sweet card and a package in the mail. It must have come in yesterday, so my parents had it laying on the kitchen table for me when I came home this morning! Such a great way to start my day. :]

Anyway, I think Luke and I are both looking forward to our Sunday night Bible study date tonight. That is always my favorite part of the week, by far. Since I am out of new LukeandManda pictures until I go out West, I am inserting a few of the “classics” from the early days of our relationship and ending this post with one of my favorite quotes.

“True love doesn’t mean being inseparable; it means being separated and nothing changes.”- Unknown

Our first Bama game together, and the first time Luke ever visited me in Tuscaloosa. (Labor Day 2010)

Army-Duke game in Raleigh, NC and Amanda met Luke’s parents for the first time!

The Cheesecake Factory in Birmingham, Ala. where Luke met Manda’s parents for the first time! (And we were running late to meet them; Insert gasp.)

Our first Christmas picture! Manda’s parents house, 2010.

More soon. :]

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