A Travellerspoint blog

USA

An Unforgettable Trip to the Big Apple

"Don't be afraid to see what you see." - Ronald Reagan

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As soon as I got back from NYC last week, I was completely giddy about my once in a lifetime experience. My boyfriend, being the absolute gem that he is, likes to joke on me about my blog.. but ya know what, this trip certainly deserves to be documented.

We can rekindle the spirit of America, because God intended this land to be free;
because we are free to dream, to plan, and to make our dreams come true.

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As some of you might know, my dad works for the Department of State at the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. So, needless to say, I don't get to see him too often. After spending a week or so at home with my sisters, he moseyed his way up the east coast, eventually making it to New York to reunite with some old work buddies. Luckily, since I'm such a big ball of fun, I got invited for a very unique opportunity... an adventure not open to the public, an experience so close to the heart as an American, it doesn't seem real.

But we'll get to that soon.

No surprise here, I spent most of a Monday in an airport. Bouncing from OAJ to CLT to DCA to LGA.. that last leg though.. Jet Blue pilots, I got to see firsthand their obvious neglect of social acceptable behavior on airplanes. In my case, he luckily did not go bat crazy on me, but rather blatantly laid on some thick flirtation. Its improper status has a bit to do with his being 50+ and me being 21.. but no matter. I was just cornered in the exit row, criticized for not believing in going green and wanting to live in South Korea someday, but I still managed to weasel out a business card and a personal tour of D.C., starting with his residence! ..VOM. I only share this little tidbit of my travels because it seemed to be the joke of the trip, that I know how to pick up the older men.. the old, wrinkly, smelly, gray-haired ones. Craig said it right.. a man could never live in a chick's shoes. We deal with too many weirdos.

So anyways, hooray! I eventually make it to LaGuardia. Luckily I had a quick getaway.. hopped in a NYC yellow cab and off I was to Times Square. But this wasn't just any hotel. This was the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.. 28 stories up. I can honestly say that I have never stayed in such an amazing hotel, I mean, any hotel that has their check-in desk on the 8th floor has got to be somewhat ridiculous. When I arrive, there is no time to take the bags up to the room. Conveniently on the 8th floor is also the bar, so naturally we must have an appropriate cheers of Sam Adams before taking on the evening.

Next priority.. more booze and some grub. More specifically, Italian grub, family style. If ya'll have ever been to Italy or have eaten at a family style Italian restaurant, you'll understand the ungodly amount of food that was on our table. We walked a couple blocks down to Carmine's to meet up with three of my dad's good friends, Dennis, Vince and James. Over some Brooklyn Summer Ale, I listened to the boys cut up about the good ol' days when they reined the Marine Corps or chased overgrown drunk men through the streets of NYC. Its always so funny to me to hear men reuniting and catching up. It usually starts with a "you look good man!" or "this is how I have been a baller badass since you last saw me" ..in a much more eloquent bromance manner, of course. This reunion was no different, but I loved it. All four of them had gone in different directions.. James owning ATM machines, Vince becoming an FBI agent, Dennis a part-time bartender and part-time iron worker and my dad in the DOS. But after some scotch on the rocks, I figured I'd take my estrogen elsewhere and take up some shopping throughout Times Square. Naturally, as poor as I am, what better place to escape to than a four-story Forever 21?

Six a.m.. Never have I seen Times Square so empty. Perfect time for a grande Starbucks cup and a stroll down the strip. We had a 7am date with Mr. Dennis Byrnes outside of the Freedom Towers gate, not really expecting what our tour was about to unfold. We were met with a couple orange vests and some hard hats, not too different from my usual work attire! Needless to say, we looked sexy. After some exchanges of IDs and a couple day passes, we passed through to gates leading to complete constructive chaos. From the outside, as a tourist, all you can see is the progress of the actual towers.. high and reflective.. but being on the inside, on the ground.. in the dirt, its a entirely different world. Thousands of workers were drilling, digging, wiring from ground level all the way up to hundreds of feet in midair. First, Dennis took us through the museum. Again, a beautiful building from the outside. If you've seen the site, its the triangular-looking structure right in the midst of the towers. But on the inside.. when I go back to NYC to see the finished product, I am convinced I will not look at anything like the average person will. We touched GIANT, twisted, dusted pieces of steel from the original World Trade Centers, many of which had been preserved to be on display in the museum. I walked along the columns bases where the actual towers stood and among all the dusted ground, the last remaining piece of the tower continued to stand. Apparently the iron workers were able to sign it but sadly it was covered up to be preserved for museum purposes. As seen belong, in some of the steel, workers over the years had carved out crosses and Stars of David, many of which were given to families that had lost loved ones in the tragedy. Dennis, such a kind hearted man, had one made for my dad.. seriously one of the most touching gifts I have ever seen.

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Time to make our way up the Freedom Tower! Apparently we were going out of Dennis's Local 40 zone, so we had to be on our best behavior. I feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb, my bombshell blonde hair and rainbow colored shirt among these burly men. Amazing enough, that was another inspiring aspect about the Freedom Towers. So many different people were contributing to this amazing project. From young to old, retired to working, white to black, military to white collar to blue collar.. it didn't matter the background, because every man and woman working on these towers had one single thing in common in my eyes.. faithful, giving and undoubtedly heroic Americans.

We started on the 39th floor. This was the only floor we made a stop at that actually had windows stopping me from falling to undoubtedly fatal death. I had a pretty solid view between the buildings. Lucky for us, it was absolutely GORGEOUS day in NYC! There were a ton of boats on the river, the reflections were clear as day on every window of every surrounding building. But apparently, it only got better from there. Up the elevator we went. The elevator, side note, was another interesting aspect of the tower. There were no buttons, besides up and down. One man stands inside the elevator to make it go, and they either go up or down until they were someone yell "STOP!" so he knows that someone needs to go in that direction. I guess it makes sense.. he can't stop at every floor, it would take forever to get anywhere. It was just funny, don't yell to loud at the poor elevator guy. He might get a little angry! Anyways, going up. Up, up, up.. to the 73rd floor. Nothing but net.. nothing but net keeping me from going splat on the ground level. Not only was my own uncoordinated self putting the fear in me, but the 35mph winds weren't exactly helping. Then, seeing a man take down the majority of the nets got me a little nervous.. and excited. Naturally, I started snapping away. We seemed to be eye level with the Empire State Building on the one side, and high above the State of Liberty and Ellis Island on the other. And still.. there's more! Up, up, up.. to the 89th floor! There were all sorts of workers up here! We had to walk around, over, under bars of steel to get to the picturesque views. They led me to stairs.. ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE TOWER. Literally, we were climbing four flights of stairs along the side of the building. My feet seemed to get a little numb by this point. But, they must have known I was coming up, because there were holes all along the nets. As freaky as that was, my inner photographer was very grateful. I wrapped my camera strap around my wrist, stuck my entire arm outside of the net (reminder: ~93 stories above ground) and started snapping away. What a perfect New York day. I had been to the top of the Empire State Building before, but nothing could beat the views I witnessed that day. Just the concept of being that high up, in the Freedom Tower, seeing NYC as some of those that died in the WTC tragedy on 9/11 might have seen daily.. it was just heart-stopping and unreal. At that point, it had really hit me that this was seriously a once in a lifetime experience that not many people will be able to do. I literally stood over New York City, completely inspired and whole, feeling more patriotic than ever.

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Also, everyone, GO SEE THE MEMORIAL. They are magnificent fountains, giant squares that are exactly where the towers stood. Surrounding the waterfalls are the names of those individuals and groups that passed away in the 9/11 attacks. It makes it so much more real, especially if you're just a tourist like me and had no direct experience to the tragedy. Seeing people's names engraved in the stone proved that they were there, that is where many were laid to rest. My goodness, its beautiful.

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Later in the day, lunch with some pretty interesting people. More friends of papa bear from the DOS, one being a Harvard Law graduate.. whoa. Fabulous folks though, of course work obsessed people.. but with jobs like theirs, who could blame them! If you've never been to Hill Country restaurant, I highly recommend it. Best macaroni and cheese EVER. Rick Perry claimed it has the best barbecue sauce, behind Texas's. He would. But really, its amazing. After having to waddle out of the restaurant, I did a nice round about in the fashion district. Popped into Macy's for a bit, did some wishful thinking, then moved along Fifth Ave and took some pretty pictures. Spring time in the Big Apple is actually quite awe-inspiring, despite all the homeless and liberal crazies shoving "Stop Military spending" pamphlets in my face. Haha. Gotta love the upper class for their ignorance!

More drinks? Sure! Hells Kitchen for happy hour.. check. Also, another monumental moment in my life.. as a beach girl, this was surprisingly my first time eating mussels! Can't complain, I guess I'm still alive, but I'm slightly impartial to foods that resemble the look and texture of boogers, but hey, it was something new! A newly engaged couple that were a part of our dinner party invited us to their apartment near the Hudson on 35th and between 9th and 10th. We shared some good Russian vodka and cranberry and Heineken on the rooftop.. brace yourself for more amazing photography, courtesy of yours truly.

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I'll make my final adventure somewhat short and sweet, because if you're read this far, bless you, thank you. I get overly excited when talking about my journeys, especially if I'm writing about it, so you can't tell when I'm stumbling over my words.

The U.S. Olympics had come to Times Square! Their "Road to London" tour bus had gone to the Big Apple to start raising money for the Olympic potentials, hoping to make an appearance in July! We got to see the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Team.. as well as Olympic heroes like Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis and Stephanie Miller! They were promoting their $12 for a stitch in the American flag they will take with them to London.. such a brilliant idea! Sadly we couldn't stay too long.. LGA was pressing us for time.

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And that was my trip to New York City. In one word: Phenomenal.

Thanks for reading, ya'll!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy 4:7

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...and I'll just throw this in there. Memory lane reminded me of this bucket list I made for 2011. Lets see what has been accomplished!

  • Run a marathon
  • Get back on the level of piano where I left off ..whilst dust covers my keyboard.
  • Get a big girl job during the summer
  • Volunteer more often
  • Take my sisters on a getaway ..sorry, guys!
  • Make Dean's List (we'll shoot for at least the Spring for now!) ..guess my last chance is coming up!
  • Go to a country I've never been before ..France, Portugal, St. Thomas, Scotland.. success.
  • Rekindle a lost friendship ..Kasey, you were never lost.. we'll call it revamped!
  • Make it a point to see and learn more about my family ..Texans, I've seen you more this year than the past 3!
  • Visit an old friend I haven't seen in a while ..Erika Rankin, my beautiful Aussie friend I visited in Paris.
  • Fall in love and give all my love ..Glad I found you, Craig Sherman.
  • Keep up going to church ..woops, I still love Jesus..
  • Find a new hobby that I can become passionate about ..since I made this list, it has become traveling. I must always just.. GO.
  • Read a classic book ..Hand of Providence isn't exactly a classic, but I'll cut the corners on this one!
  • Apply to grad school (or somethin' along those lines..) Applied.. accepted.. but I turned them down!

Posted by Courtster 11:31 Archived in USA Tagged nyc new_york_city 9/11 laguardia freedom_towers Comments (0)

Just Bouncing Through Life.. One Coastline at a Time.

March Madness.. Literally.

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View California! on Courtster's travel map.

A Runners World quote: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." - John Bingham

Let me just start by stressing how incredibly blessed I am in life. I have wonderful friends, family in all parts of the world, and good health to keep me sane throughout the crazy episodes of life. In the overall scheme of things, life is sweet. So sweet.

Obviously, its been quite a while since my last post, but if you had a 25 and 45 page paper to focus on, your priorities might be a bit scrambled too! The reason I felt the need to dedicate the opening line of this entry to those amazing people is because.. they help me keep my drive; I am beyond thankful for that. I can be a tough cookie to deal with!

I'd like to share some of my life lessons, learning experiences and those deep, deep insightful thoughts you all love to hear!

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First and foremost, my initial travel of 2011 got me fired up.. RILED up.. for AMERICA! Yes, my trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. I've become one of those conservative extremist radicals that liberals hate (: It should come to no surprise that me and my fellow UNCW College Republicans brought our A-game and had an absolute blast causing shenanigans in D.C. But all joking aside people, politics are important and effect our daily lives, whether we want to admit our future fate is in the hands of those crazy politicians or not. All voices are heard; I heard hundreds of them that weekend, ranting and raving about how to keep the beauty and foundations of our country alive. I got the honor of seeing some very inspiring people speak that weekend.. Newt Gingrich, Ilario Pantano, Alan West, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and all sorts of other amazing speakers. @FletchKlavik and I were fortunate enough to take a tour of the White House, which was a beyond phenomenal experience. Just to look into the Oval Office was such an honor, we were both speechless a majority of the time. In order to keep my eyes on the prize, especially with the upcoming 2012 elections, I'll especially make it a point to include my stance on domestic and international issues that might matter to you all.. maybe then I'll get more followers, both for and against are welcome (:

Click here to check out photos, blogs and videos from CPAC 2011!

"We are fed up, we are ready to take our country back!" -TX Governor Rick Perry @CPAC11
"The American Dream is under attack.. the good news is that we are fighting back. Patriots don't get tired, Patriots get energized!" -Herman Cain
"We are standing on the verge of a dawn of a new America." -FL Rep. Allen West [CPAC11 Keynote Speaker]

Running is a form of therapy, a time to sweat, breathe, and disconnect from the distractions of life.

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Well, maybe minus the sweating and breathing part, I'd have to substitute the running for friends. My best friends, at that.. in MYRTLE BEACH! Amazing fun. Plain and simple. Escaping through the company of friends is the best vacation a girl could ask for.. now throw a throw down at the beach in the mix and you've got pure perfection!
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SWEET HOME ALABAMA, LORD, I'M COMING HOME TO YOU.

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Mardi Gras. Me, oh my, Lordybe. What an.. adventure Mardi Gras can be. First-timer right here, just a Carolina girl wandering the streets of the birthplace of shenanigans, Mobile, Alabama. First of all, my family is insanely brilliant for getting all of us together, with or without Mardi Gras. People that have all their relatives nearby are incredibly lucky.. some I only get to visit twice a year ): So this was certainly a wonderful surprise. Now.. Mardi Gras.. never have I ever seen so many drag queens gathered in one general vicinity in all my life. The spirit, the music, the BEADS. The whole nine yards was everything I dreamed it would be! It is certainly a shindig everyone should witness before they die.
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Take me to my City by the Bay.

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HELLO SPRING BREAK. Where else to go but.. the West Coast?! Certainly took a new direction with this next adventure. If you back up a few posts, you'll recall my friend Madison that I met in Prague. She lives in Sacramento, so me and Ms. Abby Dunkin took a little hop, skip and a jump over yonder to explore the central California dreamland. I wish I could post every single picture we took on this trip. Basically, California is more than the stereotype and trust me, I still stand truly by the east side, but Lord have mercy, there are some breathtaking sights to be seen driving through the foothills of the Golden State. If you take a gander at my travel map, you'll see we hit quite a few major sightseeing joints, like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and even rinky-dink towns like Columbia that still have "horse-drawn carriages only" streets! I got to meet some fantastic new friends, as well as see an old one, Mr. Ryan Mileur, another fellow Prague-er!

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Without a doubt, one of the best views I have ever witnessed is from the Golden Gate Bridge. Its phenomenal.. especially with BB Pandora playing in the background! Looking to the east, you see the entire city of San Francisco.. bold and beautiful as it is. Skyscrapers and hills flowing like the waves that brush against the bay side. Alcatraz was another amazing adventure. We took the ferry and went through the guided tour of the island. The tour had first-hand testimonies from some of the prisoners and jailers.. and the stories of escape attempts.. UNREAL.

But nothing beats Yosemite. This is a place that makes your heart race and stop at the same time. The hidden waterfalls between the monstrous mountains is enough to put the biggest smile on your face. Now I am the farther thing from a greenery praiser, but I've never been so appreciative of nature until I saw the beauty of Yosemite. We had a lovely little picnic on a log with a whole loaf of bread, some apples and a bag of Cheddar chips. Nom nom nom! I now understand why Yosemite is in the book of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die"..

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So I believe this 'bout sums up my most unique travels of the semester. The semester is winding down.. I bet ya'll are glad I didn't get into the nitty gritty details of my school shenanigans. Trust me, you're not missing out on much. BUT. If you actually do follow this blog, I think I'm going to start another one.. since this is a traveler's blogger site, I might have to shimmy over to another. I want to write about subjects that will enrich people.. things that people want to be entertained by and actually follow regularly. If you have any ideas, please share!

As always, thanks for reading. I hope to keep the traveling up!

Amore Endlessly,

Courtney

Posted by Courtster 19:28 Archived in USA Tagged california lake san francisco alabama mardi gras tahoe yosemite washington mobile sacramento Comments (0)

Nice to see you, 2011.

Its a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.

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The whopping 5 days of 2011 have been very inspiring for me. I've already made goals for myself, which are very typical for a new year, but I feel like this time is different. I brought in the new year with my best friend and 7 straight hours on her couch in Charlotte watching bowl games while eating chili. Pure happiness. Just simplistic happiness. Then I realized, this is the kind of thing thats made me happy all along. This year is going to be a helluva lot different than last.

For my first blog of 2011, I decided I was going to post my very own bucket list for the year. Ironically, as if we're not freakishly the same person already, my friend Madison from Prague posted a bucket list on her personal blog. Its quite inspiring because its nothing cliche like skydiving or whatever. Just goals realistically within grasp. So I decided to create mine for just 2011 alone, so hopefully then, throughout the year, ya'll can help me check items off and I can share these adventures as they come. I'm sure this list will grow with nit picky ones, but these are the biggens for now..

  • Run a marathon
  • Get back on the level of piano where I left off
  • Get a big girl job during the summer
  • Volunteer more often
  • Take my sisters on a getaway
  • Make Dean's List (we'll shoot for at least the Spring for now!)
  • Go to a country I've never been before
  • Rekindle a lost friendship
  • Make it a point to see and learn more about my family
  • Visit an old friend I haven't seen in a while
  • Fall in love and give all my love
  • Keep up going to church
  • Find a new hobby that I can become passionate about
  • Read a classic book
  • Apply to grad school (or somethin' along those lines..)

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Posted by Courtster 12:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Traveling Across the U.S. for the Holidays

Struggles make me stronger and changes make me wise -- And happiness has its own way of takin' its sweet time.

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"Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you never knew. If you're stupid enough to walk away, I'll be smart enough to let you go.. because relationships are like glass. Sometimes its better to leave them broken than to hurt yourself trying to fix them. If its meant to be, it'll happen."

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I'll admit it really doesn't seem that long since I last updated.. the past four months have been an absolutely blur, its hard to keep track of the time. Theres no possible way I'd be able to recap everything that has happened since August, but I'll do my best to be short and sweet. :)

It was a great semester. Lots of new friends, rekindling with some of my best old ones (Ehem, Kasey Kellum). Its been an emotional rollercoaster ride that has broken me like never before, only to turn around and make me stronger. I have some really great people in my life that I realized I take for granted.. well, not anymore. If I love you, I want you to know that I LOVE you, and some. I've had to make some drastic changes in my life to get to where I am right now. And I couldn't be happier.

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Over halfway done with college. Family followers-- feeling old yet? You ain't kidding. A lot of my good friends are graduating, applying for graduate school or looking for big people jobs. One of my suitemates from NC State just got engaged.. do wahh. Am I really at that point in life yet? Holy heavens, right? Exactly what I was thinking. But when it all comes down to it, I'm at my comfort pace. I'm truckin' through school, enjoying my youth, but if you know me at all, I'm itching to get a move on with things. Internships are applied for, graduate school pamplets scattering my floor. Lets get this show on the road.

Relationship-wise, I've seen my friends take some low blows. I understand now, I understand how it is to be the underdog, the one getting hurt, the one to fall and have someone keep kicking you down. Being in a relationship, its hard to relate to others that want nothing more than to be cared about, to be appreciated.. when you've had it all along. But when its gone, bouncing back is a job. Theres no picking up where you left off.. its starting from scratch. Learning from your mistakes is such an important thing to take advantage of.. you gotta know to roll with the punches. I was going nowhere fast with the whole dating thing, but now I know the meaning of "patience is a virture."

In other news, I HAVE TWINS!.. well, you know, not really. In my sorority. Shannon and Kristen, they have made their way into the center of my world.

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A rundown via photo album..

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Scott and LeAnne were able to visit Wilmington for my sorority's founders day! We had a fantastic time hanging out at Rogers Bay and piddlin' around downtown Wilms!

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My Semiformal with Josh Sorrell. Then Barbie family picture at dinner!

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Allyson and I at the NCSU homecoming game against Wake Forest.

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TKE Semiformal with Henry Schmitz.

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My baby sisters at Thanksgiving. Madison (14) and Paige (11). Amazing how much they've grown.

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Phi Gam Semiformal with Fletch Klavik. Post-all nighter for our National Security Law final. Which I got a 'B' in. Holler!

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For the first time in YEARS, I was able to go to our annual family Christmas party at home. EVERYONE was accounted for (except for Blake and Brady) and we all had such an awesome time! No bickering, no annoyances. Just pure joy. Perfection.

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Then of course, most recently, me and mema went on a weekend date to visit my dad in the Big Apple! If you have not checked out my pictures on facebook, please do. They are breathtaking. What an amazingly fantastic city. It even snowed while we were there! We saw everything.. Rockefeller Plaza, went up the Empire State Building, Time Square, Ground Zero, Battery Park, Chinatown, the Rockettes at Radio City Hall.. many more trips to come, for sure!
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And now the next leg of my journey is good ol' Fort Worth, Texas! Its hard to believe its been a whole year since I've been here.. and boy is it good to be back. On Saturday, we pack up and head over to Mobile, Alabama to spend a few days with LeAnne's family before I finally head home on the 23rd. Then perhaps a week long trip to the QC before my best friend leaves me for 5 months! It's been an amazing adventure so far.
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Shelby and I have been sitting in Starbucks far too long, so I'm going to wrap this bad boy up. Many thanks for keeping tabs on my life, I appreciate the followers and readers alike! I'll update after the holidays. I'm sure more shenanigans will commence, it seems pretty standard nowadays!

Merry Christmas, ya'll! I love each and every one of you.

Posted by Courtster 12:02 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Life has got to be lived -- thats all there is to it.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

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Ahoy to all my subscribers, followers and others that have nothing else to read (:

Obvious point- I'm back in the good ol' U-S-of-A. Its nice to be back, but let me tell you, its been quite the roller coaster ride. Bottom line, life isn't how I expected it to be when I got home. Skipping all the blahdy blah stuff, I'm still standing on my own two feet with some pretty amazing people backing me up all the way.

I've come to realize the reality that people come in and out of your life for a reason. It may not be the best circumstances or the most enlightening situations, but life goes on. You bring people with you and leave some behind, you learn life lessons, you move on and go about your days. Nothing goes unnoticed, but nothing should be held as a grudge either. I am too young to look at my feet, when what I have to look forward to, whatever that may be, could be absolutely phenomenal.

I'm falling in love with life all over again. My family, particularly my mema (and this means a lot coming from her) claims that I'm brighter since coming back from abroad. I'm more vibrant, more lovely, more open, more at ease. And I see it in myself. Take life as it comes. Yes, the future is important, but taking life one step at a time.. well, thats the joy of it all, if you think about it. Appreciating every little bit, especially since you don't know how long you have until its gone forever. I miss Prague and everything about it, but I've taken what that experience has taught me so it can continue to make me stronger as I begin my new life here at home.

Ultimately, I took this back from my trip. Pretty deep stuff, thats for sure.. but I feel it all. I feel it within me, I feel the change and the betterment. I had my good times and made my mistakes that I've had to deal with here and I am. Sorta dealing. I'm finally feeling the affects of a typical 20-year old woman. I almost find a comfort in not knowing whats to come, but it honestly still scares the daylights out of me. The pathway I thought I had for my life has been dramatically altered and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it, but I guess how I deal is just how I'll deal. Everything will work out how its supposed to. The old times were great but things can only get better from here. I've never really experienced true heartache and struggle before, but my friends are my crutch and my family is my ground. NOTHING can beat that.

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'Til next time, folks. I'll share more enlightening, heartfelt thoughts with ya'll (:

Posted by Courtster 19:39 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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