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

 

A Response to My Weight Blog

I just needed to share that I have had a crazy day—crazy in a good way!—since posting my blog about my weight struggle.

You all need to know a couple things:

  1. So many women have reached out to me about how they identify so much with what I expressed in my blog. I’m not saying this to “toot my own horn.” I’m telling you this because you need to know if you have had these thoughts or are currently having these thoughts, you are not alone! I hope that if you struggle with your self worth, you will find someone you trust to talk about it!
  2. Today I accomplished my exercise goals! I genuinely did not think I could do them all, but I made it. And do you know how? Wes literally was by my side the entire time. Okay, not the cardio part, but that was easy enough, I used to do cardio all the time. But I was so hesitant about the weight lifting—he took time out of his work day to walk me through it, and that alone probably got me through 3 sets of 12 pushups that I did not think I could do. Who is in your life that will walk with you through your goals? Can’t think of anyone? I’m here! I will do whatever I can to hold you accountable!
  3. Not only am I trying to make my body healthier physically, but I’m also trying to make it healthier spiritually and emotionally. You have to work on all 3 parts in order to truly make change. I could be 100 pounds and still not think I look good if I don’t work on my emotional and spiritual sides. So today, I went to Target and bought 4 cards that I’m sending out tomorrow. Two are for my grandparents, one is for a family who just experienced great loss (which I unfortunately know too well), and the last is for a friend, who I just want to send a card to because she’s just that kind of person. Again, I’m not telling you this to say “Go me!” I’m telling you this to give you an example of something you can do to make both others and yourself happier. Seriously, you will never regret doing something kind for another person. How can you help someone today?

Please remember how you never know how something you say can positively affect someone! I had a person in my life affect me in a profoundly positive way today because of her words. If something is on your heart, be sure to tell that person! You never know how it can change their life.

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Workout complete! I’m supposed to drink a gallon of water today… Maybe Batman will help me lol!

Let’s Talk About the Dreaded “W” Word—Weight

It’s time we get real honest about something many women struggle with: the identity they find in their weight.

As those of you who have been reading my blog since the beginning know, I want to be 100% honest and transparent with you. So here’s my honest post about my weight:

The first time I felt fat, I was about 9 or 10 years old. A friend of mine at the time noticed “weird marks” on the inside of my thighs and asked her mom what they were… right in front of me.

“Those are stretch marks, honey. You get them when you grow too fast or too much.”

That was all it took to make me question my size. I was bigger than my friend for sure. But looking back, I was healthy. I played sports, and I certainly wasn’t “too big” by any means. I just had a little more meat on me than most girls my age. I’m pretty sure puberty hit me a little earlier, and I had curves! But all I could think about was that I was different.

My mom struggled with her weight, and she was pretty vocal about it. She’d make comments all the time about how she needed to lose weight. I remember her dieting a lot. She hated being in home videos or having her picture taken because of the way she looked.

Her size never mattered to me. 

In Middle School, my insecurities only grew and grew. I began the 7th grade without my mom, with glasses, pimples all over my face, and with a new “friend” that visited once a month. Life freaking sucked.

In the 8th grade, my friend group changed pretty dramatically. I really began to feel low about myself. I felt really ugly and really fat. I can remember going to a pool party and wearing a towel around myself, and a boy telling me I was nowhere near fat. That made me feel good, but I didn’t really believe him. I thought he was trying to be nice. Oh, how wrong I was.

Sure, I had good days. I would feel confident for a bit, but then that comparison game would come back into my head.

“She has thinner thighs than me. She doesn’t have this huge, embarrassing butt. She doesn’t have pimples.”

All I could do was compare myself to other girls and think of how much uglier I was.

By my senior year of high school, I might have gained a little more confidence, but I still saw myself as “bigger than the other girls.”

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This is me my senior year of HS in a play. If only I knew how good I looked then! But alas, I thought I was fat.

In college, a whole new world of insecurities was upon me. There were new girls to compare myself to. And there was a world of “going out” where I judged my attractiveness by whether or not guys asked to buy me a drink or wanted to talk to me at a party. (It’s so sad, isn’t it?)

I actually lost weight at the beginning of my freshmen year. I was feeling really good about myself. I was partying—a lot. I found my identity in how others treated me, what they invited me to. It soon imploded on me.

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New Year’s Eve of 2009, going into 2010. I felt about as good as I had ever about myself at this point.

Between my freshmen and sophomore years, I went back home, and found the “old me.” I ditched the party scene when I got back to school and fell into the theatre scene, a place where I felt right at home. I started dating a guy from my group, which lasted until the end of college.

I gained a lot of weight during this time. Our habits were either rehearsing or watching movies/tv, playing board games, or going to do karaoke. We did everything together, and I quickly forgot about everything else in my life, including fitness.

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I felt like I was huge.

When I graduated and we broke up, I moved back home and began going to the Y with my dad. I have no idea how much weight I lost, but within 3 months, I was looking really good (at least I thought so).

My freshman year of college, when I had lost weight, I was about 140 lbs. I got to about 158 after working out when I moved back home, and as good as I felt, I wished I had lost more and gotten back to that 140 range. I was never good enough for myself.

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This is me around the 160 lb range, NYE 2013 going into 2014. See how my legs are? That’s cause I hate my calves.

I stayed around that weight until Wes and I started dating. In July of 2014 alone, I gained 15 lbs.  From there, I just kept going up.

We got married, and 8 months later, I was unexpectedly pregnant. At that time, I was 188 lbs and talking with a nutritionist about how I could lose weight. And then I got pregnant.

I was so unhappy about getting pregnant because it meant I had to gain weight. I was already so depressed about the way I looked then, that I couldn’t imagine putting on more pounds.

Nine months and 40 lbs later, I had Jack Milton Hogan, and I didn’t care about how I looked!

Nope, that’s an absolute lie.

As happy as I was to have my son, I was so unhappy with how I looked. I couldn’t wait to get to working out as soon as the doctors let me. But I had no idea what having a newborn was going to do to me.

Oh my goodness, I can’t remember being so tired as I was for the first 4 months of Jack’s life. There was no working out. There was no eating healthy. Any weight that I lost was put back on.

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When I look at this, I don’t see a precious moment. I see my weight.

It’s been 10 months since Jack was born. I was 231 lbs the day before I had him, and I’m about 210 today. I had gotten to 201 a couple months ago, but I obviously gained some back.

Why am I telling you all of this? Women aren’t supposed to talk about how much they weigh!

Because maybe if I own up to what embarrasses me so, it will no longer have power over me. Maybe if I just publicly admit to you what I try so hard to cover up in photos or with the outfits I wear—what I really weigh and how I really feel about it—I can stop stressing about making myself look thinner. Because it’s exhausting.

I am who I am. I weigh what I weigh. My identity should not be found in my appearance. It should wholeheartedly be found in who I am as a daughter of God. Sometimes I focus so hard on my appearance that I lose sight of how I am doing as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister. When we’re young, we’re told “it’s what’s on the inside that counts!” And as cliche as that is, I’m certain it’s 100% true.

Today I’m beginning a new diet and a new workout plan. I’m doing this for my health—both physical and emotional. Because as much as I wish I could say to you, “I love who I am!” I don’t. And as much as I wish I could say to you, “It doesn’t matter to me what I weigh!” it does.

I’m not looking for your pity. And I’m not looking for you to tell me I’m beautiful. You may very well think that, and I love you for it, but that’s not why I wrote this post.

I wrote this post so that I can talk about the “elephant in the room” and just let you know where I’m at. I’m letting you know that by Christmas, I’m trying really hard to lose 20 lbs and get back to about where I was when I got pregnant. And from there, I want to lose even more. I want to get to at least where I was when Wes and I started dating, but I’d love to go even a little lower to give myself some “wiggle room.” Because, y’all, I like to eat. I love food. I love wine. I love the social aspect of people around a table, eating to their heart’s content. That’s probably never going to change, so I’d like to prepare for it.

Here’s a pretty current picture of me:

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That’s me. No makeup, untidy hair, 210 lbs. I think if high school Kiersten saw this, she would immediately break down in tears because she’d be so scared of her future. But when I see this, I see my beautiful baby boy and my husband that loves me a lot.

So I’m good. But soon I’m going to be even better. You might be thinking, “Don’t say that! You’re perfect the way you are right now!” But honestly, this isn’t about what you think of me. And maybe I’m wrong to be concerned with my weight so much, but I am. That’s just the truth. And I’m being honest, remember?

But will you do one thing for me? Will you pray for me? Will you pray that I keep up with my new plan? Will you pray for strength and self control? And will you pray for my emotional health, that I will see myself as beautiful, no matter what? Compliments go in one ear and out the other for me, but I know that your prayers will do so much more.

Thanks for reading,

Kiersten

Why I Want to Quit Facebook

I’ve never been more depressed while scrolling through my Facebook feed than I have been in the last few months.

I thought 2016 was bad. Hello, 2017.

I’m pretty tired of reading hateful posts, comments, memes, etc., all over my feed. And guess what? It’s from every political party, every religion, every sexual orientation, every gender… Pretty much everyone is guilty. Heck, I’ve probably been divisive in the last few months in some capacity!

It’s inescapable. And I hate what it’s doing to me.

People think they know everything these days, and that they should share those opinions, no matter how nasty, negative, or degrading they are.

Well I’m tired of it. And if my Spotify account wasn’t connected to my Facebook, and all of my playlists wouldn’t be deleted if I got rid of it, I’d be gone by now.

I also stay because not all of you are like this, in fact, most everyone I actually know does not fall into these camps.

But you share things with hateful comments that I see—and you can’t help it! There are hateful comments on Delish videos! They are everywhere! Literally every article/post/video, even if it’s a silly cat video, has some sort of divisive comment on it.

Will it ever end?

I am getting to the point where I can’t take it anymore, and I am looking at my options. I’m probably going to keep my Facebook account, but have Wes make a new password and not tell it to me. I’m deleting the app from my phone for sure. It’s a time waster anyway.

So if you’re interested in me and what’s going on in my life, I highly encourage you to follow my blog, find me on Instagram, or add me on Snapchat. If you aren’t sure how to do so, PM me or comment here and I’ll reach out to you.

I’ll keep Facebook for a little while longer, but hopefully, I’ll be going away soon. At least for a little while. Maybe the world will learn how to behave, but right now, I doubt it.

Sorry for such a downer post, but I just feel like it needs to be said.

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Stories About My Mom #1

Writer’s Note: I’ve decided to begin a series where I share different stories about my mom, Diane Rassman Wiles. I think these will be enjoyable for both those who did and didn’t know her. And maybe it’ll help you (and even me) understand who I am better.

I had a really bad day. A girl was mean to me, a boy made fun of me, I didn’t get a good grade on my homework… Who really knows what actually happened that day. But I remember being really sad.

That changed quickly when, later that night, I walked into my room and saw a new Barbie, still in the box, on my bed. It wasn’t just any old Barbie—it was the new line of Barbies, whose hair changed colors that I had been really wanting. My mom had attached a note to the “Blue” Barbie that essentially said she was sorry I had a “blue” day, and she hoped this Barbie would cheer me up.

It really did.

That was Mom. She was always thinking about others and how to make them happy. It was the littlest of things, but they made a difference.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately. I’ve been thinking about how I can be the best mom to Jack, and I’m drawing on the memories of how my own mom was so good to me. Those memories have been flooding my mind, and that’s great! I need to remember her!

But it’s also super hard and sad.

So sometimes, when I’m having those days or even weeks where I can’t get her off my mind, I may write a short anecdote of a time that she made my life better, because honestly, I’ve been holding them in for too long, and it’s time to share her memory with the world.

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Hello, Fall!

Writer’s Note: Just so you know, I’m not getting paid to write about any of these things! I just wanted to share my favorite things about fall 🙂

Despite the fact that the high in Charlotte today is 92 degrees, it actually is fall. The Lord decided to bless us, and the high for Sunday, October 1st, is only 74! Woo!

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Thanks, Weather.com! Can we please get to Friday?!

I have a lot of information to share with you, so if you love fall like me, get ready…

Celebrating Fall in Your Home

If you’re looking for ways to get that fall-feel in your home, here are some ideas:

Candles set the right tone.

It’s essential that you have at least one autumn-scented candle in your home. If you want to make good first impressions when people come over, try placing it towards your entryway. Another great place? In your entertaining space, wherever that may be.

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That middle piece is a Vanilla Pumpkin Marshmallow candles from B&BW!

For me, I have a plethora of fall candles that I keep near my front door, in my living room, and in my kitchen. My go-to are any pumpkin-scented candles from Bath and Body Works (this is my favorite!), but if you can afford Yankee Candles, go for it.

Festive decorations give your home a little something-something.

I have a place right at my front door (see picture in candle section) that is my seasonal/holiday space. I change it up with different decorations and candles depending on what season we are in or what holiday is near. It’s nice to have a dedicated space for fun so that I don’t need to have decorations all over the place.

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These are my new buys for this year. I have “glam pumpkins” that are going on my formal dining table, modern black and white pumpkins for my kitchen table, and “Trick or Treat” lights for above my front door and a matching bucket to hold candy! All are from Target 🙂

Sure, for certain holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and others), I might have some decorations in other places around my house, but having a seasonal spot takes the pressure off of having to get stuff that you want to put up (and saves you money!). Once you find your favorite items for each season, hold onto them and reuse them next year! Over time, if you see something you really want to add to your collection, maybe your spot will grow, or maybe you’ll retire a piece.

Fall foods are about more than just Pumpkin-Spiced Lattes (but we’ll still take those!).

Seriously, if you go on Pinterest, you will find all of the fall food recipes. And you don’t have to be hosting a dinner party to make an awesome autumn dish. Sometimes it’s just nice to celebrate for yourself!

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Here’s a screenshot from my Pinterest. It all looks amazing! Oh yeah, and enjoy spying on my open tabs 😉

You can also find recipes in these things called cookbooks—shocking, I know! I have one from the 80s that features recipes for every season.

 

But perhaps the easiest way to get some fall foods going in your kitchen is Trader Joe’s. Seriously, this store is full of fall-everything—check out their current shopping list for a good idea of what they have. Here’s a (very) small sample of fall favorites that I currently have in my kitchen:

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So, okay, that white pumpkin is actually from Target, but otherwise, all TJ!

For those who don’t know, Trader Joe’s has an area where you can sample things. The day I went, they were giving out samples of that Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. It. Is. Incredible!! In fact, I had that very box for lunch today.

The Autumnal Harvest pasta sauce is super yummy too. Such an easy way to add some fall fun to your dinner—just serve warm over pasta!

They also had a sample of their pumpkin bread, but they added pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips to theirs! So good.

And you can’t go wrong with Spiced Cider! Delicious chilled or warmed.

Saturday mornings are for big breakfasts, and in the fall, that means pumpkin pancakes or waffles. Add a cup of coffee with Pumpkin-Spice creamer (I got mine at Target), and you’re just a happy person.

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A fall morning must

Things To Do: Anywhere

Don’t just keep your love for fall inside your home—get outdoors and do some fall activities! For those who aren’t in the Charlotte area, here are some generic things you can do in the fall:

  • Buy a pumpkin and carve it.
    • This is a tradition for my every year! I always change the carving up, usually doing something pop culture related.
    • Bonus points if you go to a pumpkin patch to get your pumpkin!
  • Find a fall festival or farm to attend.
    • If you Google your city and the words “fall festival” or “fall farm,” most likely at least one of each will pop up. Fall fests vary, but they are always fun. Farms tend to have fresh produce to shop, hayrides, petting zoos, and lots of other fun activities.
  • Go apple-picking! (if available)
  • Pick an awesome Halloween costume.
    • Points for creativity/topicality.
  • Make candy/caramel apples.
  • Buy fall-flavored craft beers.
    • I mean, the least you could do is get the Samuel Adams OctoberFest? Not exactly craft, but you know, get in the spirit!
  • Attend a football game.
    • You know I had to include this, right? If you don’t have an NFL team/don’t want to pay to watch an NFL game, support your local high school one Friday night! Those kids work hard, give them some love!

Things to Do: Charlotte*

*Note: There are plenty of other places to go/things to do that aren’t listed here. I’m including the ones that I have either been to or want to go to this year!

Alright, Charlotteans and those in the surrounding areas—be sure to check out these awesome events/places nearby:

Festivals

  • Waldhorn’s Oktoberfest: Weekends, Now through October 14
    • Charlotte’s famed German restaurant is celebrating Oktoberfest once again. Eat traditional German foods, drink lots of German beer, and listen to some polka music while enjoying this fall favorite.
  • Fall Frolic at Anne Springs Close Greenway: Weekends, September 30—October 29
    • This is another I haven’t been to, but it seems really kid-friendly! It’s in Fort Mill, and they have a pumpkin patch, wagon rides, petting zoo, pedal carts, face painting, horseback riding, and kayaking.
  • Carolina Renaissance Festival: Weekends, September 30—November 19
    • This annual festival is a Charlotte tradition. Be transported back in time to the days of jousting, knights, jesters, medieval torture, and massive turkey legs.
  • Harvest Fest: October 14
    • I honestly have no idea what this is, but it’s taking place at 7th Street Market, and I bet it’s going to be awesome! They have done it for a couple years now.
  • Day of the Dead/Dia de Muertos Festival: October 29
    • This one I might be most excited for. I have never been to this! But it looks amazing. Sugar Skull workshops?! Traditional foods?! Count me in!

Farms

  • Hall Family Farm: Last two weekends of September, everyday in October
    • Guys, I love this place, and not just because it’s like 5 minutes from my house. They have a corn maze, pumpkin picking, hayrides, apple cider doughnuts, funnel cakes, a big slide, and lots of other fun things. Check out the FAQs for a lot of helpful info!
  • Rural Hill Amazing Maize Maze: Now through November 5
    • This is another that I’ve never been to, but I’m so looking forward to going! They have a seven-acre (!) corn maze that you can try to make your way through as well as hayrides, corn-hole, pumpkin picking, trails, and more!
  • Hodges Farm Pumpkin Patch: September 30—October 31
    • Haven’t been here either, but they have a pumpkin patch, hay mountain to climb and jump on, hayrides, and yummy treats.
  • Bush-N-Vine Fall Farm Fun: Saturdays starting September 30 through October 28
    • I blogged about my first trip to Bush-N-Vine this spring—I’m definitely going back for their Fall Farm Fun! Each Saturday they have different activities going on including pumpkin picking, hayrides, bouncy houses, live music, and tasty treats!
  • Windy Hill Orchard: All Weekends (check out the schedule here)
    • I haven’t been here, but I’m dying to try their Hard Cider! I think their apple season is pretty much over, but there are still some left if you hurry! They have hayrides, live music, cider tastings, and more.

Spooky Events

  • Scarowinds: Weekends, Now through October 29
    • Carowinds becomes Scarowinds on the weekends leading up to Halloween. As you walk the park, ghouls, goblins, zombies, and other monsters may find you… Visit the different scary attractions and be sure to ride your favorite rollercoasters.
  • Scarrigan Farms: Weekends, Starting October 6; Every night October 26—31
    • Carrigan Farms transforms into Scarrigan Farms on select nights in October. I haven’t been, but it sounds truly terrifying. No one under the age of 12 allowed. To quote: “If someone hasn’t peed in their pants by the end of the night we know we haven’t done our job.” Yikes.

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I hope this guide to fall fun and festivities has inspired you to start celebrating the season! If I left out your favorite fall activity or place to go, please let me know in the comments of the blog or on social media!

 

 

Boston and Other East Coast Adventures

For those who somehow missed it—we went to Boston! (See previous post about why we went!)

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Massachusetts State House with a gold dome

Thursday night we did about the most Boston thing we could do—watch the Patriots play Thursday Night Football. Sadly, we were not at Gillette. Also sadly: The Patriots lost. But I’ve heard something about how the last three season openers that they’ve lost, the Patriots have gone on to win the Super Bowl that year. Gosh, it must be tough to be a Pats  fan.

Friday we were tourists. We had brunch off of Newbury Street, walked through the Boston Commons and Public Garden and saw American Idol auditions going on, and then went on a Duck Boat Tour.

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Brunch at Stephanie’s
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I am a sucker for willow trees and ponds. Thanks, Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow.
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Beautiful day in the park. George Washington looking stately.
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Oh hey, American Idol! Back so soon?

Guys, I had been on a Duck Boat Tour back in the 8th or 9th grade, but I couldn’t remember much about them. I had no idea if it would be completely lame or pretty interesting.

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I forgot to get a picture of us in front of the Duck Boat, but that was ours!
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On the Duck Boat! We had great seats right up front.

It was the latter! I really enjoyed our tour through the city. We learned so much and our guide was great! First of all, he was wearing “Minions” shorts, okay? Like, he’s awesome. Secondly, he had a great voice for something like this. Not annoying at all.  And finally, he really knew his stuff, but made it fun too.

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Seriously, he was awesome.

Boston is a really cool city. It is incredibly easy to get around, but doesn’t feel cramped or dirty like New York. At least, not in the areas that we were in.

Saturday we had some fun at the aquarium, but honestly, I could probably skip that in the future (and the $40 parking for 2 hours). What I’m more interested in are the Whale Tours. Yeah, you can actually see whales just a little ways off the coast. So cool.

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The Aquarium

But the highlight of our trip was certainly meeting Julian Edelman, Patriots Wide Receiver and Hunk. We may have waited 3 hours before we actually got to see him, but he was worth the wait.

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Waiting in line for Julian. We were towards the front, actually…

Julian had a lot of people to see (and was an hour late—I blame the driver), so he didn’t have much time to chit-chat. But when he looked up and saw Jack, he lit up and wanted to know all about him. He told us about his daughter, who is only a month older than Jack (Julian, seriously, let me know if you want to arrange a play date. We can make that happen!). I will always thank Jack for making that moment super special.

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Look at him looking at Jack!
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That’s ours!

Afterwards, we got to meet up with the majority of Wes’ friends at the Prudential Center. Even though I’ve met most of them once or twice, they are all just the sweetest and most welcoming people. I’m so glad he has such a good friend group.

Sunday morning we had a final brunch with our hosts, Keegan and Courtney. It was so good, and even better when the manager brought Jack a stuffed animal from the hotel’s gift shop for free.

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Jack and his new BFF, Lenox the Frog, named after the hotel

We then trekked outside of the city. Our first stop was Somerville, a small neighborhood outside of Boston. It’s incredibly charming, and if we were ever to live up there, I could absolutely see us there. Wes’ friend, Derek, hosted us for some NFL viewing, but then we had to be on our way.

The next stop was in the town of Waltham for Wes to get his favorite sandwich ever—the Beef Teriyaki sandwich at Carl’s. This place is literally a shack, there’s no seating or anything, and we were there at like a really weird hour, like 3:30. But I’m telling you what, there were like 5 people getting sandwiches at that time, which if you saw where this place is, you’d be surprised. I got a burrito, and dang, was that good.

We watched the Panthers game with the super sweet and hospitable DeFrancescos. They were the best. Once again, I am so grateful for Wes’ wonderful friends and their families. Charlie’s nephews were over, and Jack got to play with Ryan, the younger brother. He was so nice to share his jumper!

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Friends in the making!

Dinner was amazing ravioli (seriously, I’ve never had pasta so good) and delicious apple crisp for dessert. I’m so glad we got to spend time with them.

That night (our final night in Boston) was spent at the Ashley’s, the childhood home of our Best Man, Keegan. I have met Daryl and Mary Ashley three times—our wedding, our trip to Boston in 2016, and then this past trip. I have never felt like I’ve known a family for such a long time when I’ve only known them a short amount of time like this one (I really hope that just made sense!). I love them. So warm, so funny, such good cooks… Just good people. I wish they lived closer!

Monday we started south. I was nervous about having to drive by NYC, but we didn’t have too much traffic to deal with. It was a long day. Jack was not as good this time around. He’d had a long week. We had to stop a lot.

I have never been so happy to pull into a hotel parking lot. We stayed in Laurel, MD, that night as we were planning to go to the Zoo in DC the next day. We had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant that was within walking distance of our hotel. Someone had two giant margaritas. That was not me. And of course, we watched Monday Night Football.

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Margs were a great way to end that Monday

Tuesday we got up and went to the Zoo. It’s free! And it’s awesome! So many great animals to see. It was mainly moms with strollers and little kids and then runners. Yes, people run through the Zoo. Um, how awesome would it be if we had a Zoo we could just run through whenever we wanted?

 

We also got to see another of Wes’ friends, who is currently working in DC. Bekah was kind enough to meet us for like 10 minutes in a park before we had to race away because of traffic. We barely made it. At 2pm. No seriously, we still sat in some traffic. I couldn’t believe it.

We made it in time for our 5pm dinner in Newport News, VA, to see my mom’s aunts and uncles. It was so good to catch up with everyone. It had been way too long, and I won’t let it be that long again. I love being with others who knew her so well. And I am so happy they got to meet Jack 🙂

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Jack with my Great-Aunt Diane. She has a grandson named Jack, too!

The plan had originally been to get home that night, but we were almost 6 hours away, and I just couldn’t do it. We got a hotel in Durham, right off of 85. It was a great call.

We left the next morning around 9, and were home before noon. It was a long trip. But it was a good one.

What are my takeaways from this experience?

  • Visiting Boston in September is far superior to visiting in January
  • DC is worth a trip all on its own
  • Traveling takes a bigger toll on me than I remember
  • Wes has the best friends ever, and I wish they would all move down here
  • Julian Edelman is even more attractive in person (how is that possible?!)
  • Pasta is way better when cooked by someone with Italian heritage
  • I’m definitely looking forward to visiting Boston again and again!
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One of our many stops that Monday, but they were worth this picture of my sweet boy