Category: party

Catching up on life

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  A new marriage, lots and lots of birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a dance event, a skiing trip in Colorado, huge amounts of interpersonal drama, and new jobs for both Michael and myself have proven to be just about all that I can handle.

It is ironic that, although I have been writing more than I ever have in my entire life, I think it’s the longest I’ve been silent on this blog since I started it.  Most of my time lately has been taken up writing for my new blog, forgingsignificance.com.  Right after the wedding I spent several weeks working on some quillwork for an artists’ market at my church, but since about mid-December I have officially taken the plunge and started working full-time toward becoming a freelance writer.

Since then, my days have consisted of lots of website tweaking and beating the pavement trying to submit articles to other sites.  I’ve consistently written at least twice a week on my own blog for several months now, as well as already had 3 articles accepted in other places.  Sometimes it’s frustrating and feels like I’m not making any progress; but then I remind myself that I’ve really only been at this a few weeks, and that helps puts things into perspective for me.

This post is just a brief summary, both for your sakes and mine, of what I’ve been doing the past few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write more regularly on here now that I’m in the swing of things :).

_______________________________________________

Michael and I had the opportunity to go visit my New Jersey grandparents in October, just a few weeks after we were married.  I was so grateful that Michael had the chance to meet them both, but especially my grandfather, as he ended up passing away just a few weeks later.  We all miss him a lot.  He left quite a legacy.

I was able to do a few fall-specific things, like carve a pumpkin with Michael, meet my friend Sarah in Ellijay for their Apple Festival, and go to the Perry fair with my mom and younger siblings.  That was a really fun afternoon.  Perry is about half-way between Atlanta and Albany, so we met in the middle and made a day trip of it.  It’s hard to develop a relationship with your siblings when you live far away and they can’t drive and don’t have cell phones, so I’m always grateful for the opportunities that we do get.

I once again hosted a Christmas party this year, except this time I did 3 days in a row of Christmas parties!  We took this idea from a friend, and the thought was to try to incorporate as many people as possible, while also making an effort to focus on different aspects of the Christmas season.  So the first night was “celebrating friends,” which was basically my normal Christmas party.  I made dinner, we played games, decorated gingerbread cookies, etc.  One of the games was a new one – I wrapped little treats in saran wrap and made people unwrap the ball with oven mitts on.  It was actually a lot more fun than I expected!  You can read more about that here.

The other 2 nights were “celebrating others” and “celebrating God,” where we wrote letters to troops and did a lessons and carols service, respectively.  We had almost a completely different group every night, and it was really a lot of fun!  I was definitely tired by the end of day 3, though :).

One of the highlights of the last few months was New Year’s Eve.  Michael and I spontaneously decided to go to Birmingham for the night.  And it was really so much fun!  We hung out, played games, watched the ball drop, and enjoyed a great breakfast the next morning with people we love.  Nothing different from what usually happens when I go to Birmingham for NYE, but considering how much drama has been swirling around Michael and I lately, it was a welcome and much-needed respite.  You can read more about that trip here.

I also really enjoyed my birthday celebration a few days later.  It was a pretty low-key affair, but I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world (including my mother-in-law, who had just had knee surgery and could hardly walk!  It really meant a lot that she made the effort to come out.  I have great in-laws).  We had a potluck dinner and then went to downtown Atlanta to see the Christmas lights in Centennial Park.  The lights were gorgeous, and we even got a funnel cake!  I suppose that was my pseudo birthday cake, haha.

Several of my friends also brought gifts to the potluck, and as I opened them, I was overwhelmed by just how thoughtful they all were.  These people who had come to celebrate me together really cared about me.  I know it seems silly, as most people would say it’s obvious that I’m cared about…but when it feels like you’re being surrounded by selfish emotional drama on all sides, it’s easy to lose sight of that fact.  It was a wonderful night to be reminded that I’m cared for.

We went on a ski trip 2 weekends ago – Michael’s first time!  It was bitterly cold, but a lot of fun.  Even though I’ve been skiing several times before, I actually ended up being a lot more sore than he was.  I think I was so scared from how fast I thought I was going that every muscle in my entire body ended up tensing up, lol.  But we both made it through the day in one piece, so I count that as a victory! 🙂

All that aside, Michael and I have been trying to focus on taking care of ourselves and getting into a regular schedule.  We’ve become connected with a small group at church that focuses on outreach to internationals in Atlanta.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.  I’ve also started part-time work teaching a beginner ESL class twice a week.  It’s quite a challenge when you have Spanish, Chinese, AND Russian speakers, and there’s no telling how many people will actually show up!

Now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I’m hoping to be able to update both blogs.  But for the most regular updates, be sure to head over to my new site (forgingsignificance.com) and sign up for my newsletter!  I always post there on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The countdown begins

Frenzied.  That’s the best way to describe the 3 or so weeks leading up to my wedding.  Not really in a bad way…there was simply tons going on, and although I enjoyed most all of it, I also found keeping up with it quite exhausting.  I definitely can’t complain of being bored, though! 🙂

I got to spend most of those 3 weeks with my good friend Caro.  You may remember her from my Peruvian exploits last year – she was a fabulous travel companion then and has become a very dear friend since.  Anyway, she was in my bridal party, but wanted to come for more than just a weekend – gotta get your money’s worth out of a plane ticket from France!  Our first stop was somewhere near and dear to both of us – Berry College.  That’s where we met, and it utterly stole both of our hearts, so it was only natural that we would spend a few days back there.  Once there, we did very little together – we had different friends to catch up with and different priorities for our visit.  Caro flitted around all over town catching up with people; I spent most of the 3 days we were there to myself, resting and relaxing and preparing myself mentally for the next few weeks.  I did go to my old church for the Sunday service, and managed to have dinner with some dear old friends one night, which was really lovely.  But other than that, I simply basked in the beauty and peace of my alma mater.  It was a very much-needed mini retreat for me.

From Berry, we drove further north to Tennessee.  For as long as I’ve known her, Caro’s been obsessed with country music, and has always wanted to visit the heart of country music – Nashville.  So we drove up there and spent a few days exploring the world of country music – taking a tour at the Grand Ole Opry, walking down the historic Broadway Street, going country dancing at the famous Wildhorse Saloon, and watching a show at the Bluebird Cafe, a place for up-and-coming musicians that was made famous by the hit TV show “Nashville” (of which Caro is a huge fan).  Reserved tickets at the Bluebird cafe were sold out, so we got there 2 hours before the doors opened in order to get one of the 20 or so additional open seats.  The show was very good, but even if it wasn’t, just seeing her excitement made the trip worth it for me! 🙂

As the days in Nashville passed, however, Caro’s excitement level grew, while mine dissipated.  The nerves and to-do list of my upcoming wedding – at this point just a week away – were starting to get to me, and I was turning into a quite distracted and not very good travel companion.  It had been fun, but I knew that I needed to get home.  She, on the other hand, wanted to stay a day later than originally planned so she could go to a show at the Opry and see more of the city  So, I let her have my car, and I took a bus from Nashville back to Atlanta.  It worked out well – Caro was able to do more in Nashville, and I was able to surprise Michael at work and have dinner with him that evening.  Plus I got to have a few days to myself before the wedding week craziness ensued, the value of which cannot be overstated.

Speaking of wedding week craziness…while up until this point, I was only hosting Caro on and off while she was in town, starting the weekend before my wedding my house turned into a regular hotel.  It started with my dad, sister, and brother Josh coming up on Saturday.  They wanted to have a little time with me to themselves, since they knew they wouldn’t get that the following weekend.  We were able to go to a little community arts and crafts festival together, which was nice.  We all had a lot of fun, and I really appreciated them making the effort to come up and actually spend some quality time with me.

The next day, dad and Josh went home, but Hope stayed with me.  We got to spend a few days together, and she was a lot of help wrapping up last-minute details and keeping me company.  I enjoyed that time with her immensely.  By the time the bulk of the guests started arriving, I had very little in the way of wedding details to still take care of.  That was wonderful, because it allowed me to focus on spending time with the out-of-towners that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I decided a long time ago that that was what I wanted my focus to be during my wedding – not obsessing over all of the little details that no one was going to remember, but spending time with and focusing on people that I love and how much they mean to me.  I went to the airport 3 times in 3 days – to pick up my grandfather, and also my dear friends Sarah and Rachel.  It wasn’t a lot of time we spent together, but it was something, and I treasure the one-on-one moments I had with them.  I also got to have breakfast with my Aunt Cathi the Saturday before the wedding, which was a REAL treat!  She lives in Arizona and we rarely see each other, and I’m not sure we’ve actually ever had one-on-one time like that before.  It was lovely to take a step back and just be there in the moment with her for a few hours.

Of course, in talking about the last few days before my wedding I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful bachelorette party that my mom threw for me.  Most brides would hesitate at the idea of even letting their mom come to their bachelorette party, let alone having her plan it.  But it was an easy decision for me.  My mom is undoubtedly my best friend, and although she drives me crazy sometimes, I never doubt that’s she’s my biggest fan and always in my corner.  I found out later that she was really nervous about planning it, worrying that I wouldn’t like it, but I think it was superb.  It had a perfect mix of tasty food, fun (and somewhat embarrassing!) games, pretty decorations, great company, and godly wisdom and encouragement.  My favorite part was when all of the attendees surrounded me and prayed for me.  It was a good reminder that wedding preparations may be fun, they may be stressful, but really at the end of the day what matters is marriage preparations, and learning how to daily give up your life to serve God and your spouse.  I’ve sure got a long way to go learning that!

It is often said that the bachelorette party and last few weeks before the wedding are a person’s last hurrah.  In some ways, I suppose that’s been true for me, as well.  I got to travel some with just me and a girlfriend, something I probably won’t do very often now that I’m married.  I really enjoyed being able to celebrate my last few days of singleness with dear friends and family.  But I don’t feel like this is the end of the story.  The days until the wedding have been steadily marching down, true…but I hope and pray and truly believe that this isn’t the end of my adventures, but rather the beginning.  The beginning of many adventures that I don’t have to experience alone, but rather I get to share them with my best friend.  Now if only my poor nerves would go along with that and calm down! 🙂

The end of one chapter, the beginning of a new one

I alluded to it in my last entry, but my time at Brightlink has drawn to a close.  At the end of last month, I left Brightlink for (hopefully) vastly different things in my future.  I am still weighing my options on what exactly I want to pursue next, although I do know that I’m going to take a few weeks off to get ready for the wedding.  But in the meantime, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the good things that Brightlink has done for me over the past year.  There have been stressful times, of course, and I think that I am making the right decision in leaving.  However, I want to remember the good things, of which there are many.

Brightlink has provided a flexible work schedule and secure income that has allowed me to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have be able to do otherwise.  Most notably, working at Brightlink has allowed me to pay off the remainder of my student loans (which Michael and I celebrated by having dinner at the SunDial restaurant, a famous revolving restaurant on top of a hotel in downtown Atlanta that gives you a complete 360 degree view of the city every hour or so).  We will be starting off our marriage with 4 college degrees between the two of us and not a cent of debt to pay off, which feels AMAZING!

One of Brightlink’s main tenants was the importance of family and encouraging work / life balance, which they lived as well as lauded.  A month or two after Michael and I got engaged, Brightlink threw a “Spring Fling” party for the whole company + families.  They also happened to surprise us with a lovely cake celebrating our engagement.  It was nice to be reminded that the people we work with care about us not just for the work we do, but for who we are.

This flexible work schedule and focus on family also allowed Michael and I to get our engagement photos taken in the middle of the day at Oakland Cemetery, one of our favorite places in all of Atlanta.  It’s where he took me on one of our favorite dates, it’s where we participated in our first 5k together, and it’s where part of his scavenger-hunt proposal took me.  Needless to say, it’s a special place for us, and now it’s even more special because we can say we took our engagement photos there (hooray for being unique AND sentimental at the same time! :]).  I’ve included a few of our favorite shots below:

Anyway, there is not really a point to this post, and I know that I’m rambling and wandering somewhat.  But I mainly just wanted to remind myself of the good things that God has given me over the past year.  For all of my tears shed at Brightlink, all of my frustrations and the times I wanted to give up, I still think it was a good place and was good for me.  I learned so many skills, learned so much about myself and Michael, and got to work with some really amazing people while doing it.  This is why I love writing and recording things – because it’s so easy to forget, so easy to fixate on either all of the good or all of the bad, and forget about the other side of the coin.  Writing keeps me honest, helps me remember that there is always more to the story.  And recording memories like these reminds me that God’s always got my back, regardless of what it feels like in the moment.

Hooray for getting married in 2 weeks!! 😀

Whirlwind

Things quickly turned into a whirlwind after I returned from Peru (and by quickly, I mean within hours of stepping off of the plane).  That is largely why it has taken me such a long time to finish all of my stories from Peru – I was just going non-stop for months straight.  Since I knew I was going to be gone for 5 weeks straight right after graduation, and I didn’t have a job lined up and thus didn’t know where I would be living, I just let my apartment lease end.  But that meant that when I returned from Peru, I had all of my stuff in storage, was bouncing around with friends because I didn’t have my own place (and doing lots of driving too, since most of them live outside of Atlanta), and also still trying to find a job.  The lack of my own place made everything more stressful, and the increased drive time was wreaking havoc on my back.  Needless to say, it was a stressful time.

But things weren’t all bad.  I did a lot of dancing during this time – in fact, the day I returned from Peru was the anniversary party for Wicked Westie, and you can bet your boots that I was there, even though I was nearly sleeping on my feet from the long trip back.  As tired as I was, I was really glad that I got to be there – I’ve missed every other anniversary party for Wicked because I’ve been in one country or another.

I did skip dancing a couple of times, but it was for worthy causes.  My favorite was going to see the Lego movie at an outdoor showing at Emory University.  It was something put on for alums and friends of alums, so Elizabeth invited a group of people to go join her.  I did miss dancing, but I had a great evening with some awesome people – including Federico, a friend of Elizabeth’s who is actually Peruvian!  Totally worth it :).  It was great being able to reminisce a little bit with someone who understood what I missed so much about Peru.

Another reminder of Peru was the World Cup, which started while I was still there but continued for a while after I returned.  I happen to have several stateside friends who also like soccer, so for the Netherlands-Mexico game we decided to go to a pub that’s popular for watching World Cup matches.  They were rooting for the Netherlands, so in the spirit of unity I dressed up in my best orange outfit and started cheering on the Netherlands.  But I couldn’t make it through the whole game like that – pretty soon my Spanish roots took over, and I took off the orange topshirt I had on and went over to the other side of the pub to cheer on Mexico.  Hey, I may have never been to Mexico, but it’s a whole lot closer to Costa Rica and Peru than Holland is! 🙂

The beginning of a grand adventure

Well, I am leaving for Peru tomorrow.  While the past week since I graduated has been very busy, and I’m excitedly nervous for the start of my trip, I couldn’t have planned a better final weekend in Atlanta if I had tried.  I spent all day on Friday at an event called LeaderCast – basically a one day leadership conference that was much akin to drinking out of a fire hydrant for 6 hours straight.  Speakers along the lines of Andy Stanley, Laura Bush, and Malcolm Gladwell came and gave us their wisdom and insight into what it means to be an effective leader.  Then, in the evening, Michael and I made dinner for us and 2 other friends of his.  Although I didn’t really know them that well, it was still a very nice and relaxing evening chatting and getting to know each other better.

Saturday was spent at the Renaissance Festival, my annual tradition ever since I started college.  Although the forecast was threatening thunderstorms all day, hardly a drop actually fell.  It was simply nice and cool all day long, and the threat of rain had scared away much of the crowds, making it even better.  We watched incredible acrobats, and pottery and glass-blowing demonstrations, and meandered through the vendors’ booths, and of course took lots of pictures.  I just felt so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love me so much.

2014-05-09 22.02.51 2014-05-10 02.50.032014-05-10 02.09.052014-05-09 23.19.26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014-05-10 01.56.19 2014-05-10 01.55.18 2014-05-09 23.48.27 2014-05-10 00.03.43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening, after we got back, Michael and I got all dressed up and headed over to Chris and Julia’s.  Julia was having an “Old Hollywood” themed birthday party that night.  So the guys were all decked out in their suits, and the ladies were well represented in sparkly, shiny, or old-style flapper dresses.  It was really a lovely night.  Julia outdid herself with all of the planning and little details, and I was super grateful for the opportunity to see her and get to meet and talk with some of her and Chris’ friends.

2014-05-10 06.30.12 2014-05-10 06.30.54

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weekend was rounded out with a grand mother’s day celebration.  My whole family drove up from Albany early on Sunday morning, and got to my church just as the service was starting.  So I got to go to church with my family on Mother’s Day, something I haven’t been able to do in many years.  Afterwards, we all drove to a park in south Atlanta to meet the families of several degrees of in-laws.  We all brought some food to share, and had a grand picnic lunch.  Actually, grand is probably not the correct word.  It was really quite simple and unassuming; but the people that I got to share it with were what made it grand.

2014-05-11 01.44.51 2014-05-11 01.45.42 2014-05-11 01.46.58 2014-05-11 01.48.492014-05-11 02.40.3201 (1)photo 3 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today (Monday) has been nuts, with me running around trying to get last-minute things for Peru.  Fortunately, though, because of wonderful friends who have pitched in and helped out with what they could, I was also able to go to Elizabeth’s graduation ceremony from Emory nursing school.  Graduating with honors, and already has the job of her dreams lined up – so proud of that girl!!

2014-05-11 22.38.10

And there it is.  I suppose that’s all for now, folks.  I leave tomorrow morning at 11:00 am.  I’ll do my best to give updates as regularly as I can, but as I don’t even know where I’ll be staying from night to night, I have no idea how regularly I’ll have access to internet.  As I’m reflecting over the last few years in Atlanta, I’m realizing more and more that life – all of it – is a grand adventure.  You don’t have to go to another country for weeks on end with no plan to have an adventure.  You can have one every day of your life, if you choose to find it.  But nevertheless, I’m excited to be going on my next big adventure!  Leaving in less than 24 hours!! 🙂

Introducing Lauren Fenner, MS

I am now the proud owner of a Master’s of Science Degree from Georgia Institute of Technology.  Although I am very happy for and truly proud of my accomplishment, I decided, against the opinions of many, to not walk at the graduation ceremony.  I did do all of the other celebratory  things for graduates – I went to a graduation banquet at church, a reception for everyone in my major at school, and also an awards ceremony for an award that I received for high scholastic achievement while at Georgia Tech.  But I simply wasn’t invested in the school enough to make me want to walk.  Unlike at Berry, where I was looking forward to it for weeks, the thought of walking at Georgia Tech just sounded tedious to me.  I hope that I will not regret my decision in 15 years, but at this point it is a moot point.  At least I haven’t regretted my decision up to now :).

So instead of walking, I decided that I would throw a party to celebrate the other graduates in my life.  I knew quite a few people graduating this semester, so I got a bunch of mutual friends together to celebrate their accomplishment.  It wasn’t a super well thought out party, since it was coming on the end of a crazy few weeks of writing papers and doing interviews, some of which were in other cities.  So I was pretty tired and didn’t have much time to plan it.  But the group was fun, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

2014-04-27 02.38.06 2014-04-27 03.26.14 2014-04-27 05.07.09

That was the last party of the semester.  Or so I thought.  But my friends had other plans.  I thought that I was going to my friend Elizabeth’s house last Saturday night just for a regular sleepover.  But she and Michael had actually been scheming for weeks to throw a surprise graduation party of my own.  I’ve gotta say, I was pretty impressed…I didn’t have a clue until I walked in the house and saw decorations hanging everywhere.  They had gotten almost everyone from my house church to come, and even Chris and Julia made an appearance for a little bit!  Needless to say, I was blown away.  They had games, and food, and brought the ping-pong table out, and even started a fire in the back yard once the sun went down.  It was an amazing evening, made even more special by the fact that these people I love so dearly had worked so hard to make it a surprise.

2014-05-03 02.59.12 2014-05-03 05.16.00 2014-05-03 05.04.30 2014-05-03 05.05.36 2014-05-03 07.51.14 2014-05-03 07.52.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, I suppose before I wrap up that I should also give an update on the job hunt.  I’ve been diligently, sometimes frantically looking for a job all semester.  I’ve gotten pretty far in the interview process with several companies – including Apple flying me all the way out to their regional headquarters in Houston – but so far, nothing has panned out.  But I will be leaving for a month-long trip to Peru next week, so I’ve kinda stopped looking for right now.  At this point, the priority is to just enjoy my time while I’m over there.  Trying to juggle the interviews with classwork made life supremely stressful over the past few months, especially the Apple interview in Houston, but I tried to look at it as good interviewing practice, at the very least.  Plus I got to have dinner with my dear friend Sarah while I was in Houston, and still managed to pull off all A’s – a surprising feat, considering the fact that one of my classes alone required hundreds of pages of reading and about 15 hours of time every week, plus nearly 100 pages of written work over the course of the semester.  Despite the fact that I’ll be leaving for Peru without a job offer, I’ve got quite a peace about it all.  I consider this semester a huge success, and am looking forward to getting back in the job hunt when I return :).

2014-04-21 06.37.25

So wonderful getting to see Sarah! Even if it was just for a few hours 🙂

2014-04-21 07.45.19

That big circle above the road is a street sign!! I was in a super swanky area of town…

2014-04-21 05.47.24

My hotel room

2014-04-21 09.37.03

The view from my balcony