Surprise of a Lifetime

SO… it’s been a while!

The surprise trip Ryan took me on back in December is something that I’ve been meaning to touch on, as I want to make sure I remember everything about it for a long time to come.

Anticipation is a funny thing. I love it.  I love having something to look forward to, whether it’s the dream of no longer having school work to come home to after a long day of work (and let me be the one to tell you that was one long and dark tunnel before I could finally even begin to see the light), holding my breathe before hearing we closed on our home, or counting down the days to our wedding (which, by the way, is now FIVE days away [!!!!]).


Mind = Blown

Back when my days consisted of working a 9-6 job and then coming home to immediately hit the books and work on thesis-writing, I constantly thought about what the near, school-free future held. Anticipation indeed.

The anticipation I felt before this “surprise” trip was no different. I truly had no idea where we were headed. From what Ryan told me, I knew the following details:

…I knew I had to be ready — bags packed and out the door — by 7:30AM on Saturday, December 8th

…I knew the above was “Ryan code” for  bags packed and out the door by 8AM. He knows what to do to make sure I’m on time – such a charmer, that one.

…I knew to pack for weather in the mid-40s to mid 60s.

…I knew we’d be arriving to our destination by lunch time

…I knew I had ZERO obligations (besides keeping up with my bone marrow donors… but let’s be honest, I love chatting w/ my donors so it’s hardly work!). No more research articles to analyze. No more thesis writing. No more finals. BLISS.

…I knew we’d be arriving back home the day after my 27th birthday

For all I cared, Ryan could’ve been taking me to a rural village in North Dakota and I would’ve been a happy camper. Heck, I knew the trip was for work travel. I wasn’t expecting anything glamorous, I was just grateful to be tagging along with him and catching whatever downtime I could by his side. My plan was to relax in our hotel room, take bubbles baths, and sleep. Decompress, if you will. Perfection.

So! We get to the airport, and he managed to check us in and get our boarding passes without giving away the destination.


He even got security on board to keep our destination a secret. We grabbed  some breakfast, and I pondered grabbing something for lunch when Ryan told me, “oh don’t worry about that, we’ll be there by lunch time.” Perfect, even better!


Of course, this got my wheels turning and I started thinking, “OKAY, it’s almost 9:00AM and we still haven’t boarded… so if we’re by there by lunch, that means the flight can *only* be, like, 2 hours or so…that’s GOT to be East coast territory, right?” [Disclaimer: I have never claimed to be good at math]. That’s when Ryan interrupted my thought process with some interesting news.

As we headed to walk toward the gates, he turned to me and said, “I guess I need to tell you that we won’t be sitting together on the plane.”


Ryan knows I’m not a good flyer, so he wanted to let this information marinade a little bit before we boarded the plane.  He then heard them announce our flight was boarding, and that’s when he showed me this…



Upon closer inspection, I realized why we weren’t sitting together. First Class? WHAT in the world. Plane anxiety be damned. HELLO. I’ll have all of the Blood Mary’s, please and thank you.


Needless to say, I was floored. 100%.

As we were waiting to board, I immediately texted our destination to my BFF Suzy (one of my bridesmaids!) who lives out in San Diego. Suzy and I met in Australia and spent a year abroad together there back in 2006, but haven’t seen each other since. Thanks to G-chat at work, we pretty much keep in touch every day,  and she knew how excited I was about this “surprise” trip and was just as curious as I was in the days leading up! Of course I knew there wasn’t a chance in the world I’d get to see her despite the proximity of San Diego to Vegas, but I at least had to let her know that we were going to be in the same time zone!


Yep, wishful thinking. (This is a city-livin’ girl who does not own a car)


Once boarded, I parted ways with Ryan and immediately settled into first class  and ordered myself a drink. Little did I know that in 5 minutes the most adorable woman would take the seat next to me and challenge me to keep up with her as she downed one Bloody Mary after another.


Challenge, accepted. You’re on, Grandma Margaret.


Miss Margaret and I had the best time chatting the entire plane ride – all 4.5 hours of it! She had three daughters on the plane with her and they welcomed me with open arms into their Lebanese heritage and shared a big feast of baba ghanoush, falafel, and tabbouleh with me. They even brought their own heavy-duty plastic wear and plates! Color me impressed. And all of this was on top of the meal we got in first class. Did I mention this was the best plan ride EVER?


Thanks to Miss Margaret and who-knows how many Bloody Mary’s, I had pretty much forgotten all of the stress that was the culmination of graduate school by the time we landed in Vegas – around 11Am local time, and just in time for lunch (funny how Ryan played that so well…).

After lunch we settled into our hotel room at the Hard Rock Café Hotel. This was the place where Ryan’s event for the weekend was being held.

While we were in the air, Ryan’s spokesperson canceled last minute due to a family emergency. So when we got to the hotel Ryan immediately started laying the groundwork for finding a new spokesperson to flying them out to Vegas in order to be ready for the next day’s event.


Man at work

While he did his thing, I explored a little bit before coming back to our room and taking a nap.


Entrance to our hotel room


SO fluffy!


Oh dear.


Still working hard

It wasn’t until around 3 or so that Ryan said he finally found someone to fly out to Vegas for the event. The spokesperson was getting in to the hotel around 6, and Ryan said he was going to go meet him at 7PM for some happy hour drinks to “debrief” him for the next day’s event, and that I was welcome to come if I wanted. He said it wouldn’t take too horribly long, and we’d be able to go out for dinner and fun afterwards. So of course, I decided to renew my Bloody Mary buzz and go with him. Plus, I’d always been curious as to what exactly he did on these work trips anyway.


Martini for her, beer for him

As we were waiting, Ryan finally spots his spokesperson walk into the door. I look up in the direction he’s pointing and see this petite gal walk over to us from the shadows of the entrance way. I remember holding my drink and feeling a sense of confusion wash over me – the girl looked SO familiar, but I knew there was no way I could know her.

It wasn’t until a few seconds went by and she walked closer that I realized my eyes weren’t playing a trick on me – the girl was my BFF Suzy from Australia!!!!!!!!!!! I was in SHOCK. And yet somehow, tears were streaming down my face (people at the bar probably thought I was crazy). And then once I realized this was *actually* happening in real life, I started to cry.


Tears of sheer happiness!



All I remember from this moment is sheer elation and confusion (at the same time) and wondering how in the WORLD they were able to pull this off!! I remember saying “I can’t believe this is real life!!!” and asking how they even began the process of coming up with this surprise. (Oh, and if you were wondering, this really was a work trip for Ryan, and his spokesperson really did cancel on him while we were in the air due to a family emergency. Oh, and the new spokesperson? He was flying in at 10PM just a few hours late… but because the event was on Monday (not Sunday like I was told), Ryan would be able to brief him the next morning! And be able to go out on the town that night!).

Turns out, this plan came into action when Ryan learned he had to travel to Vegas for my birthday three weeks before. Knowing we’d be so close to San Diego, he reached out to Suzy and asked if she’d be able to take some time off of work and fly out to Vegas to hang out with me while he worked. He also knew that I hadn’t seen Suz since Australia, and he hated the thought that the next time I’d see her would be at our wedding.  So while Ryan kept the destination of the trip a secret for 3 weeks, Suzy was able to keep her cool and not let it slip that she was going to be meeting us there.

OMG.  I still to this very day (6 months later) cannot get over the shock/happiness of that trip. We had THE BEST TIME ever.

Suzy and I celebrated our 21st birthdays together back in Australia and have COUNTLESS hilarious memories from our travels there.

Let’s have a flashback to Australia, circa 2006-2007, shall we?






Anywho, I was just on top-of-the-world happy that I got to share my 27th birthday with her, too!

The rest of this post is going to be way heavy on pictures, I just have too many to share, and not enough time to fully recap everything that went down in Vegas. Plus, it’s best I abide by the good ‘ole adage when comes to stories about Vegas, anyway.


Dinner on our first night! 12/08/13



Getting ready to head out to the nightclub Tao – 12/08/13







Sooo bright inside these places… it felt like daytime!



I think this was a picture of Nelly (the rapper)





Yep, pretty standard.




There goes trouble…


Sunday, 12/09/13 – exploring Vegas with Suz! (Ryan spent the whole day prepping for his event)


















Early birthday celebrations – night of 12/09/13


birthday shot and champagne… celebration time!





Monday, 12/10/13 – My birthday!


Ryan manning the event…



Meanwhile, Suz & I manned the slot machines : )




Exploring more of Vegas!





Coolest escalator ever.
















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These characters were everywhere just walkin’ the streets like normal. SO funny.

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Birthday Celebration before dinner


Cards from my momma


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Delicious desserts!


Flying back home to Charlotte… Tuesday, 12/11/13

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So, that was Vegas!

Now I’m off to get married (!!!).

We head to Florida TOMORROW, and are getting’ hitched on Saturday the 15th.

Can’t believe I’ll soon be a Mrs!

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Grad School = DONE! Time to Decompress.

I can’t believe it.

I can’t believe I accomplished everything I needed to do in order to graduate this December.

Back in the summer when I was writing a list of everything I had left, I seriously doubted my abilities.

Here’s a list of what I needed to accomplish by early December:

-Pass my two Fall graduate classes
-Finish up my masters thesis research
-Write my masters thesis
-Finish up my 140-hour practicum/internship
-Study for my comprehensive exam (an exam that covered 2.5 years worth of material)
-Take the 9-hour long comprehensive exam (ah!)
-Revise my masters thesis (x5… what a process!)
-Keep up with my classwork (papers, group project assignments, and readings galore)
-Write a review of my internship/practicum (35+ page paper, summary slideshow)
-Stay sane

Somehow, this all got finished.

And that’s on top of working fulltime, nursing Ryan back to health (from his surgery back in August), buying a house, moving, two trips (one 24 hour trip to Chicago to see Ryan accept a national PR award, and another 5 day trip to Minneapolis,MN for work).

As of Wednesday, I am completely done with my graduate school work.

I graduate next week (but I’m going to Chapel Hill to walk in May), and I could not be happier.

Working fulltime while going to school is a lot to have on one plate. This is one of my biggest accomplishments yet.

Now that life has slowed down some, I am excited to focus my enegery on things I want to do for pleasure. Like read books for fun! Watch TV shows! Pin all of the things! And wholeheartedly enjoy my nights and weekends.

On Wednesday, Ryan brought a bottle of Champagne home, knowing I had finished up all of my work that day. Perfection.

Twist my arm.

Twist my arm.

The past two nights I’ve come home from work and have not had any text books to crack open or any (school related) deadlines looming over my head. It feels SO GOOD and I am just so happy. I have my personal free-time back again. I feel like I can finally focus on me again.

The past few months I’ve really buckled down to get all of this work done. I can’t wait to hang out with my friends again without having to schedule things out way ahead of time, and unpack my house some more! I am ready to decompress.

And to kick things off, Ryan and I are headed to the airport tomorrow! He was asked to go on this trip a few weeks back, and somehow it worked out that I’m able to tag along (my birthday is on Monday and he was hoping to be able to celebrate with me).

What’s even more fun is that Ryan hasn’t told me yet where we are going. In fact, he told me he’s going to take me to the wrong gate at the airport to keep up the surprise-factor. Needless to say, I am SO excited! I don’t care where it is…I’m just going to relax, catch up on sleep, and explore.

Ryan’s been traveling a lot for work recently (he just got back from LA on Sunday…he was at the MLS cup, best job ever for a soccer fan) so I have a feeling it might be a bigger city. But who knows!

All I know is that I’m ready for some R&R.


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Closing Time

Well… It’s official.

October is the best month out of the year. Hands down.

In addition to meeting Ryan this month four years ago (10/23/08) and adopting Happy two years ago (10/12/10), we’re adding another reason why October ranks so high…

10/11/12: the day we become HOMEOWNERS!!!!!


Taking the “final walk through” (10/10/12)

How this came about is a crazy story.

Ryan and I weren’t even planning on looking for a new house until after I graduated this December from graduate school. But…I’ve always had buying a house in the back of my mind, especially since we got engaged at the beginning of the year.

My mom has been big into real estate ever since the early 90s so I’ve seen all of the craziness that goes down during the home buying (and selling) process. It’s quite time consuming, and all of the negotiations and potential for deals to fall through can take a toll. And then, of course, there is the upkeep that goes along with owning a home. Needless to say, Ryan and I weren’t ready to start looking yet. With our lease ending January 31st, 2013, we figured we’d start looking in December once I was done with school and go from there, hoping to find something during the spring/summer of 2013.

Well, this whole year I’ve been keeping my eyes out on homes as I go out on runs around the neighborhood. As I said before, I’ve seen my mom do her thing with homes for over two decades. Whenever I saw a home that striked my interest, I picked up the little flyer and took it home with me to look up online later. Usually, the homes were ridiculously out of our price range (even though the square footage isn’t that big) but due to the location of this area (we’re talking a historic district, 5 minutes from uptown, a view of the city skyline, and a great school system), property is prime.  You know what they say…location, location, location.

Nevertheless, I’ve always dreamed of having a home in this neighborhood one day. Not only is the location incredible, but the public school system is very, very good. Both Ryan and I grew up in public schools and we want the same for our kids some day (because, well, private school is WAY too expensive and we still want our kids to go to a great school). So, our plan was to buy a starter home somewhere in Charlotte and work our way towards moving into this school system in the (far away) future.

Welp, the universe had other plans for us. We stumbled across a house in the historic Dilworth area on Monday, September 10th… and as it turns out, we are buying that home… TODAY!

Closing is late this afternoon, and I could not be more excited Smile

This home is our dream home. It’s got a HUGE fenced-in back yard (we’ve taken Happy to see it already and she *loves* it), a large deck out back with a cozy patio underneath, and room for expansion if we decide to add an addition later on. Our new home has 4 bedrooms, 3 (full) baths, a bright and fresh kitchen, and a fully renovated lower level. It’s located in a historic district in Charlotte and literally a block away from Freedom Park. In fact, it’s only 2 blocks away from where we are currently renting our apartment. And! It has a man-cave for Ryan. Well, a bedroom-turned mancave :)Things have fallen into place so seamlessly.The gal who showed us our apartment 3 years ago when Ryan and I were apartment hunting for the place we are currently in now is actually involved with the whole house process (she changed jobs in those years and just happened to be connected to the seller’s side). She’s an incredible woman and I’ve kept in touch with her over the years. Coming full-circle in this way really made the decision feel “right.”

In fact, circumstances with our lease have turned out in our favor as well. Instead of having to pay rent until the end of January, we are able to break our lease as our complex has a waiting list of people who are wanting to rent. There is more “full-circle-ness” to this piece of the puzzle as well, but I don’t want to divulge too much. Let’s just say I am very sad to be leaving our apartment (our first place together! we got engaged here!) but I am excited for who will be moving into it next 🙂

Our realtor is an incredible woman as well (she reminds me SO much of my mom). For those of you in Charlotte, her name is Debe Maxwell — she’s with Savvy & Co. and is AMAZING at what she does and has been such a pleasure to work with. Truly. She also has incredible connections in Charlotte, too. It’s amazing all that goes on during the moving process… we’ve learned quite a bit!

Ryan and I are starting to pack things up tonight and start moving tomorrow! We have a moving company to help us with our big pieces of furniture late next week, and next weekend we will officially be all set up in our new house — just in time to host some visitors, as BOTH sets of our parents (well, the moms) are coming to town (both visits were planned WAY before buying a house was even on our radar, so this makes their visits even extra exciting!).

Ryan’s mom, Rhonda, and stepdad, Marty, have come to celebrate Thanksgiving with us for the past three years –with a Christmas celebration thrown in there at the same time. We call it “ChrisGiving” –it’s a tradition we all absolutely adore. This year is a little different, though, as Ryan’s mom is unable to come for the actual Thanksgiving holiday. Because she can’t come this year, she has been planning on visiting us in late October, instead, and turning that visit into an early ChrisGiving feast. My parent’s venture down to Florida was postponed due to some health issues, so instead of early October, they are now driving to Florida the same weekend Ryan’s mom is coming into town. My mom and Ryan’s mom have never met each other in person before (although they’ve chatted on the phone and Skyped throughout the years, ha!). I am SO EXCITED they finally get to meet for the first time! And on top of that? We all get to have a Thanksgiving feast together! I haven’t had a Thanksgiving feast with my mom and Gerry since my senior year of college – 5 years ago. Needless to say, I am SO EXCITED!

Now we just need to figure out where to seat everyone. I don’t think our two queen sized beds or rocking chairs are going to cut it…

Looks like Ryan and I might take a break from packing this weekend to venture out and look for dining room furniture! We will see 🙂



And now… some more pictures.


The (old) Deck (it’s currently being redone by the seller – all new wood!)


Lower level leading out to the patio through the double French doors


Kitchen (with all new appliances, our seller is awesome…)


I ❤ the blue backsplash




Back of the house


View of firepit area and backyard from the deck


❤ the architecture!


Ryan in deep thought over whether or not we want to move forward with putting in an offer


Bar in the lower level? Yes, please.



Secret doorway (in the form of a bookcase) leading into the spacious laundry room



porch swing!


Happy’s heaven (!!!)


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