Chicago

I just asked Wes, “How did we go to Chicago and not listen to Chicago by Sufjan Stevens once?!” It’s been 3 weeks since our trip and I’m just realizing I could have made an epic road trip playlist…

Yes—road trip. We decided to DRIVE to Chicago, and not only drive, but go out of the way to visit friends, lol.

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Okay but actually, I’m super happy we did that. I loved seeing my best friend Emily and her husband Mike in Nashville, and then we got to see Wes’ best friend from middle school, Eric, in St. Louis.

Plus, these overnight stops allowed us to break up the trip so that Jack didn’t have to be in his car seat all day. Charlotte to Nashville is like 6 1/2 hours, Nashville to St. Louis is less than 5, and St. Louis to Chicago is also less than 5. All in all not bad!

I had never been to Nashville nor St. Louis. And even though we barely spent any time in either city, I am glad I got a “taste” of each of them and hope to visit again!

Side Note—I’m just now realizing you might be wondering why we went to Chicago in the first place. Well, I’ve been a few other times, but Wes had never been. He’s always wanted to go to a Bulls game since we grew up loving Michael Jordan. And it just so happened that on my birthday, the Bulls were playing my hometown team, the Hornets. It was fate.

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Then I had the realization that Hamilton has a permanent residency (is that how you say that lol?) in Chicago, and I figured getting tickets there would be easier than when the tour comes to Charlotte this fall.

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And finally, we both have many friends in the city, so it was so great to see them because we miss them so!

Okay, back to Nashville.

So yeah—we went to the cutest taproom in Nashville for dinner and then followed with Jeni’s ice cream. Y’all—have you had Jeni’s before?! Cause it’s delicious. AND GUESS WHAT?! I literally just found out we are getting one in Charlotte!!! Ahh yay! Okay I’m done.

The next morning, Emily and Mike had to work, so Wes, Jack, and I headed to the Frothy Monkey for coffee and breakfast. What an awesome experience! We met the nicest people that worked there and just had a great morning.

We followed with our brief sightseeing drive around Nashville—the Parthenon, Broadway, The Gulch, and Nissan Stadium. Jack even got a little Titans football 🙂

 

 

Then we were on our way to St. Louis.

It was during this drive that the temperature decided to drop dramatically. Also, we went through nowhere land for pretty much the entire drive. I decided to stop for lunch in Paducah, KY, which was an interesting stop. It was like a cute little old downtown area, but pretty unpopulated, and yet the restaurants were all high-end. Like I said.. interesting.

 

We finally made it to St. Louis, and I got to hold my Fantasy Football trophy in my hands since winning the Championship in Eric’s league this past December. What a glorious feeling.

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Eric took us to a pizza place where I got to try toasted ravioli and St. Louis pizza, which I guess has a different kind of cheese? I wasn’t really in the mood for pizza, so I tried Wes’ and it was very good!

But the best part of the night was indulging in Ted Drewe’s custard—can you see a pattern here? I love dessert. Ice cream is a definite fav.

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Oh and we watched the NCAA Championship, which was so boring… Just not a good game. I mean, I was for Villanova, but make it a little exciting?

The next day, we departed St. Louis (I’m super bummed the weather was bad and I couldn’t get a picture of the arch!) for Chicago.

During our drive, we happened upon a diner/bakery/cafe off of Route 66 called Jubelt’s.

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Listen—if you’re ever wandering around the state of Illinois and happen upon Jubelt’s, you MUST stop! Literally the best french toast I’ve ever had. I loved everything about this place, and it’s right across the street from a Route 66 museum! I genuinely felt like I was in Radiator Springs (that’s a Cars reference).

 

I loved Jubelt’s so much I bought a pink t-shirt for $11. It might be the best thing I bought all trip. Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever be back—not really trying to drive to Chicago this way again lol.

After a few more hours, we were in Chicago.

I’m going to take a second and plug Hotwire.com. I am not even getting paid (Hotwire, we can fix that!), but if you aren’t using Hotwire, you should be. We got an amazing price on our hotel and it was so great! It’s a boutique hotel called Dana Hotel and Spa in the River North area. I would absolutely return. Also, Dana Hotel, feel free to reach out 😉

The day we arrived (my birthday) was also the night of the Bulls/Hornets game. My friend Justine, who I’ve known since Kindergarten, now lives in Chicago and was sweet enough to babysit Jack for Wes and I to have a birthday date night!

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Wes decided to dress as his favorite Bulls player (I guess besides MJ… Wes?), Kirk Heinrich. And he sorta went viral for a hot second…

 

After the Bulls won, we returned to the hotel, exhausted. We decided the next morning would be low-key.

On Wednesday, we took Jack to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. We got brave and tried to act like true Chicagoans and got Ventra cards and brought Jack and the stroller onto the bus like champs.

 

The Chicago Children’s Museum is so cute! They have a little baby/toddler room that was so sweet. And then they have a ton of fun activities for older kids. We definitely would go back when Jack is like 5-6—he’d have an amazing time then!

The rest of Navy Pier was such a bummer, but I did get a Chicago sweatshirt that I’m obsessed with, so I guess that’s a positive.

Back at the hotel, my friend Ryan and Wes’ friend Aya met up with us for lunch. I hadn’t seen Ryan in forever, and I had never met Aya, so it was a truly joyous occasion.

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Meeting Aya!

We got deep dish pizza, which of course you have to when you visit, and just loved catching up. Plus, Ryan realized the cast of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was staying in our hotel and saw a few of the actors in the bar. I need to watch that show…

After lunch, Wes went to SoulCycle with Aya (she’s an instructor!), and Justine joined me, Ryan, and Jack at the hotel. It was fun having my CCS and UNCW friends collide in a completely different city!

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My ridiculous Daenerys Targaryen drink at the hotel bar

Wes returned from SoulCycle, Ryan left for his show, and Justine and I were on our way to see Hamilton!!

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The show was everything I wanted and more. You can listen to a musical from start to finish, but until you see it, you can’t fully understand it. At least that’s the way it is for me.

 

We saved money by buying single seats as opposed to seats together, but there ended up being an empty seat next to me, so we watched Act II together! It was lovely.

Before we knew it, the show was over, and we had to get back to reality (and the cold since it had snowed that day!).

Thursday, we attempted to hit Museum Campus, which is also where Soldier Field is. Wes took like 30 minutes walking around the entirety of the store while I stood with the stroller with a sleeping Jack. We then took a jaunt through The Field Museum and saw some cool things—Jack woke up while we were leaving.

 

Ryan met up with us again for lunch, which was arguably my favorite restaurant in Chicago—Cafecito. Please, Charlotte, get a Cafecito! I need Cuban coffee in my life always.

Then we were off to the Chicago Art Institute, where I could have stayed for days, but alas, we didn’t have time. I did see some of the world’s most famous paintings, and many by my favorite, Claude Monet.

 

We said goodbye to Ryan (after some selfies) and headed back to the hotel for a short nap (which Jack didn’t take) before going to dinner with our friends Brian and Hannah at a Costa Rican restaurant north of the city.

 

This was the first time during our trip we took the L, and it was so nice not having to worry about a carseat! I wish Charlotte had better transit, but that’s another blog…

Somehow, our 3 days and nights in Chicago were coming to a close. We packed everything up, got our car, and headed out towards Dayton, OH, to stay with my cousins overnight and break up the trip.

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My cousin, Ev, with Jack!

I always love seeing my cousins, the Grahams. They are the sweetest people in the entire world and so welcoming. They also got to meet Jack for the first time! And they got cupcakes to celebrate my birthday 🙂 Family is just the best.

It snowed overnight, so poor Wes got the scraper out for our drive home. We had about 7 1/2 hours in front of us, and it snowed for half the trip!

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We stopped at a unique place for lunch—Tamarack. This is like a circle full of local artisans and their products as well as a cafe. I wish we could have taken more time to explore, but I was concerned about the road conditions worsening.

Somehow, we made it home without any issues!

Jack is really an amazing traveling buddy. He’s good in the car, he loves people, and he is always up for anything! Just make sure you have plenty of pouches in hand.

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Well—that was our Chicago trip! We had a blast and are so glad we went. And we are so grateful to the friends and family that let us stay and took time to hang with us!

International travel gets all the attention, but America is pretty neat too. If you haven’t road tripped lately, I highly recommend it, although maybe not as far as Chicago? Getting off the interstate and finding interesting towns and places like Jubelt’s or Paducah, KY, is part of the fun 🙂

I hope to hear about your road tripping adventures soon!

Kiersten

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My First Ever AMA (Ask Me Anything)

This AMA has turned out to be everything I wanted and more. Of course I didn’t envision so many questions about Ohio and its sports greats, but hey, I’m looking forward to answering them anyway!

And here… we… go…

1) “What career would you take on if you could do it with no work? I don’t mean writing, but something you’ve always been like, “It would be neat to ___”?” – Ryan T.

As I said to Ryan on Facebook, I’ve thought about this so many times. Besides writing a memoir that I want to turn into a television series (yes, that’s my career dream, honestly), I have thought of the following:

  • Opening a bed and breakfast/wedding space at the mansion outside of my current neighborhood. The house and its 11+ acres are listed for $5.96 million, no big deal.
  • Bringing back the night clubs of the 1920s, 30s and 40s with big bands, grand chandeliers, fancy attire, amazing food, and chic cocktails. The music would vary – sometimes it would be a live big band, with breaks between sets playing “modern” music, other nights it might a theme night… So many places you can go with this. It also would be a reception space for weddings.
  • Opening a movie theater, with at least one theater dedicated to playing the “classics” with a different one every week. A guy I knew in college wanted to do this but also have a theatre like for plays a part of it – I dig it.
  • Sometimes I just want to move to a place I’d like to live like the Caribbean or London and work at a shop of some kind just so I can be in that location.

2) “What to do in Wilmington if you were there for 48 hours only?”-Kelli G.

I lived in Wilmington for 4 years during college. It will always hold a sweet place in my heart. If I had only 48 hours, I would start by planning around my meals. When I go to Wilmington, I have very specific places I want to eat—Islands, Chopped, and Front Street Brewery are usually on the list.

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I would make sure to go “out” downtown at least one night. There are so many bars and restaurants in such a small space. You can easily bar hop. Plus you’re on the river, so it’s beautiful at sunset for pictures!

If the weather permits, you’ve got to go to Wrightsville during the day. Eat at Poe’s Tavern for some yummy burgers or bring a nice outfit and indulge at the Blue Water Grill.

If you’re a One Tree Hill or Dawson’s Creek fan, hit the famous spots from the shows!

3) “What is the circumference of the average Republican?” -Ken W.

Haha this one made me giggle. This is because on my original post, I suggested asking what the average circumference of an elephant is. Seeing as the elephant represents the Republican party, this is a fair question!

I have no idea how I could give you an actual number, but I can say I bet the average circumference of a Republican is greater than that of a Democrat! #southerncomfort

4) “Favorite turtle?”-Wes H.

Wow, this is actually a bit difficult to answer. So many turtles are coming to mind. I think of that turtle from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing that got eaten by the little brother. Or I think about Franklin, who taught me to count by twos and tie my shoes (not really).

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But really, my favorite turtle has to be Crush. “Give me some fin! Noggin! Duuuuude.” Classic.

5) “Favorite Akon song?”-Wes H.

Oh goodness, Akon was a large part of my youth’s soundtrack. Now even though Wes said I could include any song Akon is featured on, that opens it up to too many options, so we are going to stay within his actual songs from his albums.

I really think I have to go Lonely on this one. That chipmunk voice really got to my 8th grade soul.

6) “Akon song you would most like to see performed in Konvict the Musical?”-Wes H.

Now for this one, I’m going to open it up to songs he is featured on and say it’s a tie between “The Sweet Escape” and “Just Dance.” Can’t choose between my favorite female artists!!

7) “Favorite Akon album cover?”-Wes H.

Can’t say I’ve ever thought about this one before. Pretty much all of them except for “Trouble” look like 80s or 90s dating website pictures, so I’m going to go with the album he is most famous for and what I remember from my iPod:

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8) “Favorite slapstick moment in a movie?”-Wes H.

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I don’t know if this counts, but here are a bunch of “slapstick” and comedic moments by my favorite actor of all time: Cary Grant. Also, click here for a personal favorite comedic scene with him from Bringing Up Baby (a comedic classic!).

9) “Favorite Patriots victory and why?”-Wes H.

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Easy. Super Bowl 51. I would have loved any team that beat the Falcons. #gopanthers Also, Julian Edelman’s catch. #lovehim

10) “Artist you would most like to see collaborate with akon in the future?”-Wes H.

Have Maroon 5 and Akon done something together? I could see them making a hit.

11) “If you were stranded on a desert island, what 5 movies would you bring with you?”-Jordan S.

This is such an interesting question. I would try to cover my bases and make sure they are movies that have a lot of rewatchability. My choices:

 

  1. LOTR: The Return of the King – I love this whole trilogy, but I’d always want to watch the conclusion as opposed to being left hanging forever (even though I know exactly what happens). Also, Aragorn singing is my favorite signing. Also also, the end credits always make me cry. That song, those faces – tears.
  2. Beauty and the Beast (Animated) – No explanation needed? Okay, okay. The songs. I need something to sing to!
  3. North by Northwest – I’d have to bring a Cary Grant movie with me, and this one has suspense, romance, and one of the best uses of a crop-duster ever.
  4. Bridget Jones’ Diary – My favorite romantic comedy. I can’t live without Colin Firth.
  5. Singin’ in the Rain – The best musical of all time. OOO Maybe this should have been my slapstick choice!

12) “Why is the the state of Michigan the worst?”-Michael S.

For me? COLD.

13) “Favorite movie quote of all time?”-Jackson V.

Oh my gosh, this one is just too, too hard to answer. But Gandalf is certainly up there.

14) “Your top 10 Cleveland sports icons of all time”-Eric F.

Well, this one if going to take some Googling, considering I only know LeBron? I think there is someone name Love? I know Mark Price? Let me research.

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  1. LeBron James
  2. Mark Price
  3. Isaiah Crowell cause fantasy respect
  4. Cody Allen. He looks nice.
  5. Kevin Hogan has the same last name as me.
  6. Kevin Love cause looks.
  7. Jarrett Jack cause Jack.
  8. Kenny Lofton cause Backyard Baseball (see above).
  9. Jim Brown
  10. Joe Thomas

(no particular order, that’s for sure)

15) “5 reasons to hate Draymond Green”-Eric F.

  1. I think my number one reason for not liking Draymond Green is because his “dirty play” has caused me to have to hear about how much my husband and his friends “hate Draymond Green.”
  2. He really has done some not cool things to other players on the court.
  3. He’s only a year older than me, but has WAY more money than I ever will. (I don’t really hate him for this, good for him for having a talent.)
  4. Ohhh, he went to Michigan State so I guess that’s a problem since we all know Michigan is the worst state ever, right?
  5. Arrest for assault isn’t cool.

16) “Beach vs. Lake”-Keegan A.

I used to think “lake” because it was closer and jet skis were cool and everything, but now I’m freaked out about that amoeba that lives in warm freshwater and there’s like no cure for it!! It’s super rare but still – no cure? I’ll take my chances with the sharks any day…

Also here’s a cute picture of Jack at the beach:

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17) “Favorite repeating joke I make? I need to know so I can make it even more regularly.” -Wes H.

Well, it used to be “Oh the weather outside is weather,” every Christmas, but then I found out you stole that from Paul Rudd… I think what makes me laugh the most is when you find something so funny that you are literally rolling on the floor laughing. It’s the best.

18) “Also maybe a joke that you hate due to frequency or any other factor but you know is objectively hilarious?”-Wes H.

I’m pretty tired of hearing about turtles..

19) “Best Disney channel original Movie”-Keegan A.

SUCH A GOOD QUESTION. And so hard to answer. Oh man. Here are some that I love:

 

  • Motorcrossed
  • Double Teamed
  • Jumping Ship
  • Luck of the Irish
  • Cadet Kelly
  • Don’t Look Under the Bed
  • ZENONs 1 and 2 (DUH!)
  • Johnny Tsunami
  • Rip Girls
  • The Color of Friendship
  • Phantom of the Megaplex (Mickey Rooney!)
  • All of the Halloweentown movies (Debbie Reynolds!!)
  • True Confessions
  • Gotta Kick It Up!
  • Get a Clue – great song

Also, do yourself a favor and check out this Wiki post for ones you love and forgot about.

20) “Why is LeBron the GOAT?”-Michael S.

I mean, have you seen him play?

21) “How many points would Mark price average in today’s NBA and how many more 3’s would he make?”-Michael S.

I’m basing this off of ESPN stats. He’d probably average like 20 more points per game and maybe have 4 more 3’s?

22) “If you were to compare each of your husband’s friends to a professional basketball player (past or present), who would they be and why?”-Eric F.

Okay, I feel like feelings could be hurt here, but I’m going to try really hard:

  • Keegan: LeBron cause he doesn’t put up with any BS
  • Michael: Mark Price because he’s been a close friend for a long time, just like Mark Price had an amazing career for a long time.
  • Eric: Muggsy Bogues because he’s so likable, just like you!! (I promise, it’s a compliment!)
  • Jackson: Carmelo Anthony, cause he’s just a guy you want on your team, just like you want Jackson as a friend.

Y’all, I tried.

23) “Disney Pixar Bracket and your reasoning behind your picks”-Laura F.

This was so hard so many times.

 

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  • Lion King vs. Tarzan: Lion King. This is the first movie I remember seeing in theaters. As a four year old, I cried when Mufasa died and didn’t stop until he movie ended. True story. Also – that music? Iconic. Tarzan’s soundtrack is up there for me too, but the score by Hans Zimmer – chills. Also this one (skip ahead to 4:20).
  • The Princess and the Frog vs. Lilo and Stitch: The Princess and the Frog. This is an incredibly underrated movie that I LOVE.
  • Tangled vs. Big Hero 6: Tangled. Ugh!! This was one of those that I went back and forth on. It came down to the music and Mandy Moore’s delightful Rapunzel and Zachary Levi’s lovable Flynn.
  • Frozen vs. Moana: Frozen. Another one I debated on! I love Moana’s first half, but then it drags. Frozen keeps my attention the whole time.
  • Aladdin vs. Hercules: Aladdin. Sorry, but Hercules can’t beat “A Whole New World.” And Genie.
  • The Little Mermaid vs. Pocahontas: The Little Mermaid. This movie has everything I love: Mermaids, romance, awesome songs, and the ocean.
  • Mulan vs. Zootopia: Mulan. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zootopia, but MULAN! So, so good.
  • Beauty and the Beast vs. Nightmare Before Christmas: Beauty and the Beast. This isn’t even fair.

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  • Up vs. Brave: Up. Two words: Married Life.
  • Toy Story vs. Toy Story 2: Toy Story. TS2 is a great sequel, but there’s something about the one that started it all…
  • Coco vs. Cars 3: ?. I can’t choose, I haven’t seen them.
  • Toy Story 3 vs. The Good Dinosaur: Toy Story 3. It came out after my first year at college. It was a thing.
  • Ratatouille vs. A Bug’s Life: A Bug’s Life. This is probably my 3rd or 4th favorite Pixar movie. I love it.
  • Finding Nemo vs. Inside Out: Finding Nemo. As much as I love Mindy, Finding Nemo is one of those movies that sticks out in my childhood. And it was the last movie I saw in theaters with my mom. That might have something to do with it in my subconscious.
  • Monsters Inc. vs. Cars: Monsters Inc. “Put that thing back where it came from or so help me! So help me, so help me! And cut!” Billy Crystal AND John Goodman together? Comedic gold. “2319!!”
  • The Incredibles vs. Wall-E: Wall-E. It’s a beautiful, romantic movie.

I’m going to skip ahead to my “final four”

  • I chose The Lion King because it’s one of the best animated movies of all time. It only is rivaled by…
  • Beauty and the Beast, which is the second one I chose for the Disney side.
  • For Pixar, it came down to Toy Story, what started the Pixar/Disney collaboration and…
  • Finding Nemo (see above reasoning).

Beauty and the Beast beat out Finding Nemo because it’s just a classic. It came out the year I was born, it was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture (not just Best Animated Picture), and I know every word to every song.

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24) “What is a pop song you associate with an embarrassing memory… and what is the memory??”-Alex M.

OH. Well, considering this happened at the Browncoat, it’s works. I remember agreeing to sing “Party Rock” at Karaoke with some people after having NEVER HEARD the song before. It was one of the most excruciating 3 1/2 minutes on that stage.

Ha, I also remember having my entire extended family watch Labyrinth with me and it was during this scene that I realized they thought I was a weirdo.

OH! Ha. So when I was like 5 or 6, I was at a sleepover where we were doing like a talent show. And normal girls were doing like Spice Girls songs. The song I chose to sing? The First Noel. I definitely realized I was a loser then.

Okay I’m done.

Well, that was my first AMA! It was super silly and really fun to answer. I hope to do it again some day and that I’ll have some more participants!

 

 

 

 

Checking in

Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve really written anything. Part of that is because my work life has picked up dramatically and part of it was some health stuff between all three of us – none of it major.

I’ve started working at a local store called Beads Incorporated, which has been an awesome experience. I love everyone I work with, and I love knowing how to make jewelry. It’s a skill I never in a million years would have thought I’d learn, and now I can’t imagine not knowing. If you’re in Charlotte, come by and see me sometime!

I’m also still writing content, which I love. Be sure to check out my portfolio to see what I’ve been up to.

I’m hoping 2018 is going to be a big year of change… As Jack is getting older, I’m looking forward to the idea of tackling new projects and even finishing some I’ve started. Hopefully more to come on that…

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Wes and I are currently watching all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies together in anticipation for The Avengers: Infinity War. It’s a great way to have cheap dates lol.

We are also reading The Series of Unfortunate Events, my second time through and his first. We are about to start the third of thirteen in the series. Couples: Find a book or series of books to read together. It’s really bonding!

We’ve got a family trip to Chicago coming up! Wes and I both have friends there, and Wes has always wanted to go to Chicago/to a Bulls game, and they just so happen to be playing the Charlotte Hornets on my birthday, so we got tickets! I’m excited to blog about that trip.

For now, that’s a very brief update on our lives! Jack is walking and doing really well 🙂 We dedicated him at church in February, and we are just loving every minute with our sweet boy.

I’m getting my wisdom teeth (okay actually only one of them) out this Thursday, so maybe there will be a funny blog to come from that. Who knows?!

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The Hogan Family

What’s something everyone around you knows you’re obsessed with and why?

Writer’s Note: I submitted this to the NY Times as an application response for a remote position. Considering that was months ago, and I haven’t heard a single thing from them, I’ll go ahead and think I didn’t get it lol. So I am sharing this with you… 

If you asked anyone what I was obsessed with, they’d give you the answer without hesitation—movies and television. I’ve actually been called a “walking IMDB”—I take it as a compliment.

All of my friends and family know I love all things pop culture. Music is huge for me; my husband literally does not understand why I attend at least 5-7 concerts in a given year, and trust me, I’d go to more if we could afford it. I love reading, but I find I’m not as good at fitting it in, unless I’m on my annual beach trip—then I’ll crush through my reading list.

But movies and television have been my main love for probably as long as I can remember. I was the kid, who at the age of 6, was staying up “late” to watch I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Taxi, and many more classic shows on Nick at Nite with my mom. She’s the one who introduced me to the grand land of television. With her, I watched strong women, like Xena and Buffy, game shows like Supermarket Sweep, and any and every cartoon out there.

Television wasn’t the only visual medium she introduced me to. We were basically at the movie theater every week. Growing up, Disney movies were where it was at. I mean, I’m super lucky I was a kid of the 90s—the best ones came out during my childhood! And right before my teenage years, I got lost in Middle Earth when my mom let me watch my first PG-13 movie: The Fellowship of the Ring.

At the age of 12, my life changed dramatically. On a family trip, my mom died in a car accident.

A scene I’d normally have watched on a TV show or seen in a movie was now my actual life.

So why am I obsessed with movies and television? It brings me closer to my mom. Those memories of going to new places or different decades with her will always be near and dear to my heart. I even dreamed of pursuing film, and deep down inside, I know I am still destined to be involved either behind or in front of a camera one day.

Yes, I can tell you who most actors are and many of the things they’ve been in. I can recall Oscar winners galore. But while many obsessions are just that, obsessions, I would call mine “memoriams” or “remembrances.” Because each time I watch a new show or movie, I wonder, “What would Mom think of this?” Were she alive, we’d probably talk every Tuesday night, right after This Is Us ended, and bawl our eyes out.

I can’t do that with her—but I can live my life the way she would have. And loving movies and television is one way I can do just that.

Jack Turned One!

So I just wanted to quickly share some pictures from Jack’s 1st birthday party!

We had so much fun celebrating with our friends and family. It was a Fireman/Firetruck theme because Jack seemed to get a lot of firetruck-related presents for his birthday and Christmas this year!

We got this super-cute cake from Baked Well, and it turned out so well! Of course Wes had to have a jersey involved in the decor…

As I shared on my “Reflections” post, Jack was not a huge fan of his smash cake on his actual birthday, but boy, did he love this one!

He was definitely intrigued by the whole candle thing.

Jack loved his cake… and then went into a cake coma lol.

One of the best parts about the weekend was that my Aunt Dori came in from Dallas to help! I seriously could not have pulled it off without her! We love you, Aunt Dori!

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And Jack loved his hot dog and mac and cheese! Thanks, Sheila, for our delicious sides!!

We rented this inflatable birthday cake for the yard to add some festivity and got a bunch of decorations from Party City.

Jack had such a special day! Many thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate! We love our one year old!!

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Reflecting on 2017

Hello! I haven’t really blogged in awhile for so many reasons, none of which are that I’m done blogging.

We had a tough November and December for the most part – both Wes and I had different health things pop up, and my grandpa passed away. On top of that, I was working and being a mom, so blogging just didn’t really get any attention.

Jack turned 1 on Christmas Day – for those who missed it, here’s a picture of him with his first birthday cake:

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Yeahhh… He wasn’t a fan

But today begins a new year. I thought I’d be writing a post about looking ahead, but honestly, I felt more drawn to looking at what I’ve learned over the past year. Some are legit pieces of wisdom with deep meaning and some are just silly.

I learned pretty early on that being hungover is even worse when you have a baby. Thanks, St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

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Too good not to share

I learned that there are no “sick days” for moms – we are always on the job, even when we don’t feel well.

I learned that when God wants you to do something, He will not let you off the hook until you do it. Story:

When my grandpa passed away November 30th, I had to decide how I was getting to Dallas for his funeral. Would I fly or drive? For those who don’t know, I am terrified of flying. It is my number one fear these days.

Yes, I am very aware it is the safest means of travel. It has nothing to do with that. Quite frankly, unless you have a fear or suffer from anxiety, you probably won’t get it. And that’s fine. But I can promise you, those of us who struggle with panic attacks, anxiety, and fears wish we didn’t and wouldn’t be the way we are if we could change it. At least I wouldn’t. And yes, I’ve been to counseling for my fear of flying, and yes, I’m going back to deal with it more. Maybe I’ll write a whole post on it one day.

Anyway—I knew God was telling me I needed to fly. But I so didn’t want to. And He kept putting Jonah on my mind. Flying was my Nineveh. And as soon as He gave me that picture, I realized that if I ran by driving, He would send a whale my way. I didn’t want to deal with a whale by myself, so I chose to fly. I tried to get out of it many times, but He kept pushing me.

But the Lord was gracious: He put amazing people in my life to help me during the flights (thank goodness for wi-fi in the sky). We also flew in and out of Atlanta, meaning it was a shorter flight than normal.

I still hate flying. It terrifies me. But I knew I was supposed to fly, and I’m glad I did. See, when we trust God and we obey, it usually goes well. And if it doesn’t, that’s only in “our” terms. God’s plan is always better than our own, even when we don’t think it is. That’s how I get by. That’s how I got on a plane. I may have cried on both trips—like a lot and in front of strangers—but I still trusted Him, and I think God honored that.

Okay, back to things I learned… (maybe that should have been its own post lol)

I finally figured out (at least I think I did) why God had Jack be born on Christmas. Again, for those who don’t know, when I was pregnant, I basically kept saying I’d be happy as long as Jack wasn’t born on Christmas Day. Well.. he was. And of course I wasn’t mad at God because I had a healthy baby boy, but I still was just like, “Oh gosh, this sucks.”

I struggle with control—that’s why I have the whole fear of flying thing (well part of it). Since I lost my mom when I was 12 in a sudden way (car accident), I have tried to control my life ever since. It just doesn’t work. I’m still learning this. And God having Jack born on Christmas was a nice way of saying, “Uh yeah, I’m in charge, not you. My timing is perfect. It will be okay.”

Friends, we just celebrated Christmas AND Jack’s birthday, and guess what? It was okay. Truly. And in the coming years, it will be okay.

I know I’ve learned a lot of other things this year, like the fact that food is better at room temperature (for the most part – shoutout to Sheila for that one). Also that going to bed at 7:30 isn’t lame (I did that at least twice this year, a definite first for me).

2018 is going to look really different, I think. Jack is starting to walk, soon he’ll be talking. I’ll be continuing to write, but I’m also adding some new ventures into my life.

I used to think that a new year meant a new start and that “anything is possible.” I think I might have even thought that up until this past weekend. But Wes wisely pointed out that a new year doesn’t mean anything, January 1st is just another day. This isn’t a “downer” comment, it’s actually really relieving. It means that we are capable of doing anything at anytime—we don’t need a “new” year to make changes.

So as I look towards this new year—yeah, I have goals. I’m really trying to lose weight (see this blog if you want to know more about that). I’ve gotten back into counseling again. I went almost a year without going, and it’s definitely time to get back. No dramatic reason, it’s just really healthy to check in and adjust things (like working on fears and things of that nature).

A few days ago I would have said, “2018 is going to be SO much better than 2017.” But today, I say, “2018 will be as good as I make it.” If I want it to be a “good” year, I have the ability to do so. All it takes is to be content with what I already have. I’ve always struggled with that, but again, I think I’m finally learning. So maybe this time next year I’ll have a reflection post on 2018, and I’ll have a nice update on that.

But until then, I hope you’ll keep up with me here to see what’s going on in my life.

Kiersten

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A Letter from a Fan

Dear Future Owner of the Carolina Panthers,

I don’t know who you are yet. You might not even know that you will be buying the Panthers in a few months time. But, I do know that I’ve been thinking a lot about you ever since Jerry Richardson announced he was selling my team.

Yes – “my.” Why?

Because my dad has had season tickets since the inaugural year.

Because I grew up going to the games with him, which was sometimes the only time I got to spend with him due to his busy schedule. He was busy making money to support my mom, brother, and me.

Because the first season after my mom died (just months prior), we went to the Super Bowl for the first time. I can’t tell you how important that season was to me and my family. How it brought us some joy in the hardest months of our lives.

Because we still haven’t won a Super Bowl, and Charlotte deserves a parade.

Because I’m one of the few native Charlotteans, and I know what a positive impact this team has had on our Queen City.

Because my son should be able to grow up going to Panthers game, just like I did.

Because I bleed black and blue. “Keep Pounding” is a way of life. Bank of America Stadium is a second home.

I implore you, Future Owner—please don’t change our team. Please don’t take them from us.

Embrace Charlotte. Embrace the Carolinas. Embrace all who live here and call the Panthers “My Team.”

Put together a team of PSL Owners for feedback on what we love and what could use improvement. Listen to your fans. We will embrace you, if you will embrace us.

I look forward to finding out who you are, and I would love to help with this transition in any way I can, even if that’s simply being in my seat—Section 322, Row 13, Seat 7—for the first pre-season game of 2018.

Thanks for reading,

Kiersten Hogan

Panthers Fan Since Age 4

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Raising a New Panthers Fan