June 20, 2014

Repost: Let's Hit The Creek

It's a new season, and a new year and since I was giving a co-worker some tips on what to take on her first canoe trip, ever - I thought why not share this again with my readers... all 6 of you that are still with me after all this time. Just in case you decide you want to hit the creek, or river in canoes or kayaks this season.

Originally Posted July 2013
Summer has finally reared it's brutal head here in the South. I guess I shouldn't say finally, that makes it sound like I wanted it here. Those that know me well know I get really excited for warmer weather, in the past that meant beach trips, and being outdoors. Now that I'm living in North Alabama, summer weather means extremely hot temperatures, and lots of sweat. I'm all for a good sweat session when I workout, but when I'm dressed up, my make-up is fixed and it's 104+ degrees outside, I'm miserable. Give me a kayak, and a cold beverage and let me float, otherwise I will be a beeotch to deal with.

One of my favorite bloggers, Miss Erin over at Living in Yellow shared what she called "The Best and Worst Day of her Life" to me, it looked like an amazing weekend on the lake with 40 of her friends. They do an annual canoe run, which is amazing. They even made commemorative koozies. How cute is that? Read about this years annual canoe trip here - it's even more epic! Commemorative shades, yes please!

Erin's post made me think a lot about how many times I've been out on the creek in my canoe, or kayak with my husband and friends and how even when you're wanting to have a great time, you must always put safety first.

I thought I'd take a moment and feature some safety tips, and items that are must haves for a float down the river or creek. Be it for 2 hours or a full day. So here are my personal must haves for a fun creek run!

I can't stress this enough. If you burn easily, or are a bit like me (OCD about burning and causing damage to my skin for cancer and vanity reasons) you must bring sunblock. I usually put some lotion on 20 minutes before I head out the door. Asking Mike to get it all over my shoulders and back. I recently started bringing spray sunblock with me for re-application. Just because it says SPF 120+ doesn't mean you don't have to reapply. Say it with me people, REAPPLY. If you aren't a freak about SPF, then by all means bring your tanning oil, I like to smell you as you float down the creek and pretend I'm at the beach. [Please note: I didn't reapply enough on my first run this season 2014 and I got crispy and red - lesson learned!!!!]

2 // HAT
This one isn't a NEED, but more of a suggestion. Again if you worry about your face burning, or the sun in your face, or just want to sport a fun accessory, the hat is the way to go. Be it a cowboy hat made of straw, a fun trucker cap, or just your favorite old ball cap. Rock it out. I'd suggest bringing one you aren't head over heels in love with. Better yet don't wear anything you couldn't bare to lose. Mike still has regrets of losing a Pearl Jam tour shirt he can't replace once while canoeing. [And forgo jewelry if it's important to you - not to mention necklaces make strange tan lines folks]. Hats are very handy incase you encounter a storm as well. They make it easier to see through the rain. Trust me on this one.

Who doesn't want to keep the sun out of their eyes. Bonus, when you can't wear full make-up on the creek they hide your tired eyes. If you wear full make-up on the creek, I have to ask, what's wrong with you? Ain't no body got time for dat! [I usually put on some concealer for my dark circles and some mascara, otherwise, it's SPF and sweat baby!]

Are you sensing a trend? The sun is brutal people, and your lips are fragile. Pucker up those puppies and coat them with some protection. If you must wear lip gloss fine, but don't cry to me when your canoe tips and you lose your most favorite shade that cost you $7.00+! Get some cheap lip shit, and if you lose it, no big - get some more at the gas station next time you get ice for your next trip down the creek.

I can't stress this enough. If you are going on a big lake, or gentle waters while kayaking or canoeing then by all means sport some flip flops, or cure sandals that show off your pedicure. If you are however going on a creek that is often times rough, ever changing and there's a good chance you will either have to walk through the creek bed, pick yourself up after falling out of a canoe, or do some moving IN the water with rocks - get some good shoes with a closed toe, preferably with a reenforced toe. Keen's are great. The pair shown above are just like mine and I've had them for 6+ years now. I literally only want new ones because mine have become so old, and dirty (love you creek water). You'll pay a lot up front but they will last. Other sandals will work, most will stay on your feet but some will slip, and it's hard to walk in the water when your feet are slipping. There is also the fear of stubbing your toe on rocks mid flip, no one wants that. Just a safety tip from me to you.

No one wants ticks, or bites from other random bugs while kayaking. So if you are one of those people that bugs seem to LOVE, get yourself some spray for the trip. Take it with you (put it in the dry storage bag - see below).

IMPORTANT ADDITION: LIFE JACKETS My husband, Mike added in the comments the importance of having a life preserver / vest in the canoe / kayak at all times. And he's SO right, and I'm sorry I forgot to mention that. You don't always have to wear it but most state laws will insist you have one in the boat. Better to be safe, than sorry OR finned for not having one. Mike and I usually strap our vests to the back of our kayaks (with the cords on the boat), when we canoed we would strap and clip the vests to our seats and have them within arms reach to show cops on the creek, or incase the water got too rough. Side note, ladies if you get a chance to lay back and relax in the canoe while your partner steers (or gents) the vest makes a really comfy butt cushion for the bottom of the boat.  Also, one more note - if you leave these in your car after a long trip on the creek your vehicle will smell to high heaven the next day. Always remove them, and let them air out!

You've got your cooler, and your hands full of all the crap you want to take with you. So let's load up the cooler with beer, food and ice. If you're kayaking it will be a small cooler, think lunch box or 6 pack size. If you're canoeing, you can bring a HUGE cooler and carry more stuff for yourself and your friends. Don't be rude, carry stuff for your friends, seriously. Besides they might even share some beer and snacks with you. You might also want to bring one of the canoe straps you used to tie your canoe to your vehicle. If you rented a canoe, maybe invest in a strap or two to bring with you. Belting the cooler to the canoe center seat will ensure you keep most of your drinks and snacks, in the cooler, if you should flip. (You can strap the lid shut if you get close to rough water). No one wants to lose precious brews on the water. ALSO: Please bring a "trash bag" - Do NOT Litter in the water. Put your cans, bottles and wrappers in the bag and dispose of it when you get back to dry land (in a trash can).

These are great and come in a ton of different sizes. There are some big enough for you to bring a dry tshirt, some towels etc. I wouldn't suggest bringing a towel WITH you, but instead leave it at the pick-up vehicle so it will be warm and toasty when you get out of the chilly water. Usually we haven't had a need for that, but these bags will double as a great way to take along all the items listed above and keep them dry PLUS if you get smaller versions you can put your cell phone and wallet inside. I URGE you to invest in a hook that will attach your car keys to your belt loop, or your partners. That way that if you flip the canoe you don't lost your keys to the car you are supposed to be riding home in.  [ALSO before leaving on the water, check to be sure your pick-up driver HAS his/her keys before you leave - it's a long ass walk home if they leave their keys IN the drop off vehicle]. If you have a small cooler, feel free to put some snacks in the dry bag that don't need to be kept cold. This is also a great place to store your toilet paper. You never know when you're going to need to pee. (Or you could just hang your booty in the water, just saying.)

Depending on how long you are out on the water it's always a good idea to carry a few bottles of water or hydrating drinks. Beer is great but when it's very hot, and you're sweating a lot you're only making your situation worse by dehydrating yourself further with alcohol. It's great to party. I've been there - 3 beer bongs deep and countless numbers of vodka shots on the creek - no problem. Thankfully I always carried some water too, and had a husband to care for me. Come to think about it he was my boyfriend at the time and I'm really lucky to be married to him now.

To drink or not to drink on the creek, that is the question. The answer is only if you can hold your liquor and don't put others in danger. It's hard to navigate a canoe with one person, it can be done but it's sort of a dick move to leave one person piloting the boat while you sleep it off. Drink responsibly. My other suggestion is try to find drinks that come in cans vs. bottles. Bottles can shatter, and also take up a lot of space in a cooler, and in a bag when you are finished drinking them [can't stress this enough]. Cans can be smooched, and won't break. Bonus points if you pick small brewery made Craft Beers.  Ladies, I have the best thing for you. If you love frozen drinks, go a head and get some of the pirate bay or whatever brand the make now (Mike's Hard Lemonade) frozen pouches. Put them in the cooler and get some LONG STRAWS. You can treat them as your adult Capri Sun's going down the creek. Cool and refreshing. Just make sure they don't melt too much.


10 // SNACKS
For short trips, or folks that are always hungry (like me) bringing some snacks on the trip are a must. Try to pick snacks that don't need to be chilled, and that are sturdy. Think Pretzels vs. chips. Chips will get all broken if they get shoved in dry storage and bounced around. Granola bars or Cliff Bars are great snacks to take. Both are dense, keep you full and are really, really good when they have the suns heat baking them, trust me, so good. You could also bring beef jerky or anything else your heart desires that won't perish outside of the cooler.

11 // MEALS
If you're going on a longer trip, think 3-4 or more hours, you may want to think of a meal. Your meal could be as simple as a sandwich with your pretzels or as extravagant as hamburgers. Yes, I said hamburgers. Let's start with the sandwiches. Pick a sturdy bread, you don't have to do this, plain old white bread / wheat bread is fine but keep in mind the longer it sits the longer your condiments are going to soak into the bread. Again be sure to keep your sandwiches cold, especially if you are using mayo. Nothing ruins a float more than a rancid sandwich except maybe a drunken boat buddy.

Now I say hamburgers because once Mike and I went canoeing for an entire day and he made a makeshift grill using the grate from our grill and some charcoal and branches. I pre made the patties with all the ingredients we needed and we kept it chilled in our cooler. They turned out amazing but it was one hell of a thing to do. Mike is a grill master. If you are a bit nervous brats and hot dogs work well too. Easy to tote a long and the hot dogs cook up in NO time. Just remember to keep your charcoal dry during the trip.

12 // KOOZIE
While this isn't a necessity, it makes for a fun addition to your snacks and refreshment. Mike figured out a way to use a kooz as a drink holder on our kayaks and I love it. Besides keeping your drink cold, it helps you to grip your drink if you have to set it between your legs while you paddle. Even better are the koozies that go around your neck, but I always feel silly wearing those. If you're a mixed drink kind of person a drink around the neck jug with a straw is perfect! Just try to remember to search for a plastic bottle for your booze and your mixers!

So you survived the creek/lake/river. Your muscles are screaming, you're head might be aching and for some reason eating 4 Clif Bars suddenly has you feeling a bit queasy. No worries, once you've loaded up your boats, tossed away your trash in the PROPER place you can climb into your vehicle and head home. Hopefully you'll remember when I say this, stash some towels in the pick-up car, or your car if you rented a boat. Your car seats will thank you. I always forget to bring them and I'm sure my leather seats hate me for it. Sometimes you get off the creek and you're burning up, other times you're freezing. Having a nice, car warmed towel after a long trip is heavenly [see I told you]. And they make your car smell fresh if they were just washed and dried.

So what to do now? You can go home and pass out (like a bitch), or you can invite your friends over for some grilled food and drinks. Usually this is exactly what Mike and I do. We are usually planning our dinner as we float down the creek. I don't know about most people but after a long day out in the sun, paddling left and right, I crave one thing - CARBS! Usually in the form of mac n' cheese or mashed potatoes.

After you shower you'll realize how much sun your skin has taken on. For the reddest spots you might want to dab on some Aloe. It helps hydrate your parched skin and sometimes even helps from having too much peeling happen later down the line. I swear by this stuff.

COMFORT IS KEY! You've been on the water all day, taking in the sun, the water and the elements. You've been suck in a swim suit that's been tied around your neck, or your manly jewels and you just want to feel relaxed. I always toss on my favorite comfortable pants, or shorts, a loose flowing tank-top or long sleeved t shirt (depending on how much sun I've had) and a pair of super easy flip flops. Doing your hair and make-up at this point is truly optional. I mean these people have seen you all day sweating and they still love you, forgetaboutit.

Now all you have left to do is bring a side dish to the hosts house, sit back relax, chat some more, laugh a lot, stuff your face with grilled goodness and give those muscles in your body a rest.

You can still enjoy the water, just swap the kayak/canoe for a beach chair. Gather your friends, their kids, your dogs and head to the nearest creek, or water way. Set up a day picnic and bring all the stuff I mentioned above. You don't have to float to enjoy the water, although some floats to put in the water, with cup holders would be excellent. Relax and enjoy the rays and your FREE Stay-cation afternoon.

Be mindful of Snakes, Turtles, other wildlife - RESPECT NATURE!!!! They are everywhere. Study up on your poisonous varieties and also double check your knowledge on poisonous plants. And leave the critters alone, I don't care how cute they are - would you like someone interrupting your bath session?

All in all, be safe, have fun and keep your skin protected! I hope this helps anyone wanting to try kayaking or canoeing. I think my next write up should be about camping, what do you think?
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June 12, 2014

A note to my 17 year old self...

Seriously, this was only yesterday • GO LANCERS • SENIORS!
20 years ago this week, I stepped onto my high school's football field in front of friends and family, and received my high school diploma. It was bitter sweet. Lots of kids, my husband included, hated high school. The drama, the angst, the bullies, the heartbreaks. Myself? I embraced it all, good, bad and ugly. I was sad on graduation day. I recall crying through the entire ceremony. One lone tear ever few minutes escaping from my left eye only. Of course it would be the eye facing the crowd in the stands, cheering us on.  I remember the speeches, although not word for word. I remember the music, although not the actual solo that was sang. I also remember hugging the director of athletics really tight before walking up the steps to the stage. Long story short there was a lot of drama surrounding the dance (pom squad) squad. I was head captain, and my co-captains and I were forced to be coaches as well that year since our actual coach was MIA. He helped a lot and I guess my emotions got the best of me.

I can remember walking across the stage, praying I wouldn't trip in my white woven flat sandals. I remember getting the faux diploma, and my empty diploma frame case as I walked off stage and I remember walking back to my seat.  I always thought it was odd, that we got to walk down the isle with our best friend as our mate, and then we had to separate to sit on opposite sides of the field. I hated that, I wanted to sit by my best friend, not someone I barely knew. It was oriented boy girl / boy girl, so that the rows would be black and red alternating down the line. Girls wore red, boys wore black. I was thankful, I didn't want to sit in that hot summer sun, in a black gown. Girls had to wear white dresses, so they wouldn't show through the red - I was a rebel, mine had a black print on the white - I was full of school spirit (red / black / white).  Or maybe it was just because the dress was cute, and not too short - I was still a bit of a tomboy at this point in my life and hated dresses.

You know the moment when you're supposed to toss your hat? I chickened out. I didn't want to lose MY hat. I waved it up in the air. I remember that the girl one person away from me tossed her hat and then it came down and hit her in the head, and I laughed at her (or with her I guess). Mostly because I always thought she had some secret thing with my boyfriend, maybe she did who knows but that moment felt pretty good. There is a photo of this moment, and my big full belly laugh immortalized in the local newspaper. I still have the clipping, and it still makes me giggle.

Sorry for the poor quality • Me and Katie June 1994 • SENIORS!
I remember friends and family flooding the football field to hug and kiss and take photos. My mom and dad didn't take any photos down there on the field with my boyfriend, or my friends or my grandmother who traveled from PA. I always thought that was odd, but we were never a family with photos everywhere in our house.  I said good-bye to my pals, and we went home to have lunch and swim and celebrate and so I could pack for SENIOR WEEK.

I seem to recall us making a brief stop at the "SAFE AND SANE" party for my senior class but we didn't stay. And the next AM one of my best friends Amy and I headed to the beach with our boyfriends for what was really the most boring week at the beach I've ever had...

Looking at all the new graduates of 2014, I can't help but see myself. After all 20 years ago, which seems like yesterday, I was doing the same thing. Flying full speed into adult hood and thinking I'd never look back and miss it. I was wrong. I thought I'd take time to write my 17 year old self a note, 20 years after graduation, so here goes.


Dear Kelly,
Well, you did it. You've graduated high school. You've survived so much, but I'm here to tell you there is still so much ahead of you. Just want to give you a few hints, and tips to make your future much easier.

#1 - You really should dump your boyfriend. He's no good for you. So far you've only found out about 2 girls he slept with behind your back, trust me, there are more, but you won't discover all that there were possibly until your about 22, or 23. I'd tell you to get out now, but I know you won't listen. You love him. He was your first love. And as blind as you still are, I get why. I just wish you would have wised up sooner. All I can ask is that you LEARN LESSONS from this. Never trust a dude like him, ever again. (Don't worry you will, and  you will get hurt again, it's life).

#2 - Keep in better touch with Katie. The two of you will lose each other midway through your second year of community college. She's found a great new guy, and fell off the radar, but keep trying to find her, trust me you'll lose precious time. The only bonus is that if this doesn't work, a great invention called Facebook will exist and you will find her again and it will be like time never moved. You'll still love each other and be BESTIES!

#3 - Trust me, Amy is the keeper - she's a dear friend, a best friend you will never want to let go of. She tells it like it is, and that's what you need. She will be the one person you stay in very close contact with from high school and are still friends with to this day.

#4 - You and Tammy will be BFF's. Yes, you read that right. I know you think that you hate each other now because your BFF's like the same guy but TRUST ME. When you and Katie lose touch, and you're single again (side note: You and the HS boyfriend DON'T GET MARRIED, thank God that engagement didn't stick! Yeah, he cheats on you again, but this time for good and moves in with the girl RIGHT after telling you, classy right? You don't need that negativity in your life.) Where was I, oh yeah, you're single again - depressed, sad, eventually you start to move on, you start to hang with your girlfriends who are single, Tammy is one of them and her BFF as well. You have the summer of your life. Tammy and you find out you're meant to be pals, and it's epic. She ends up being your Maid of Honor in your wedding - can you believe it? Oh yeah, you get married, more on that later!

#5 - Heartbreak - you're going to have a lot of it and you will also be the heart breaker as well. Just go easy on yourself. And the other guys would you?

#6 - Speaking of heartbreak, be prepared at age 19, your parents are going to split up, this is going to directly happen at the same time you and the HS boyfriend/fiance break up. Your mom is going to be very frank with you, and tell you that "Boys are like buses, a new one comes a long every 15 minutes." You take this hard, like she doesn't care about you, but she does. She always loves you, more than herself. She just had a lot on her mind with the split from your father. Try your best NOT to let this hurt your relationship... you'll lose precious time.

#7 - You have a rough time with this break up, and this divorce, but you will realize 1 thing, your father is the coolest dude ever. You were never close because he always worked but once forced to live together without your mom, you realize how much you've missed out on.  Maybe try to foster that relationship sooner, before the fall out ok?  You are bitter with your mom, but please realize, it has nothing to do with you, only them, even though you feel abandoned. Remember you're 19, not 5!

#8 - The summer before your 21st birthday will be one of your favorites. While the divorce sucks ass, your mom has moved to NC. She's taken up a temp home right near where your beach house is. You are working every other weekend, and working 3 jobs, just to stay busy... thankfully every other weekend you have off. You will spend your weekends off between OC Maryland hanging with Tammy (who moved there to work for the summer) and then NC to visit your mom! Talk about a great tan, and tons of miles on your Eclipse.  Please note you also at this time move in with your friend Stephanie and her brother for the summer. Looking back it was fun but you should probably spend more time at home, with your father. I worry he felt abandoned even though he won't say so. Remember he's everything to you.

#9 - Remember when I said time was important. Soon you will discover after a few years of divorce that your mom's doctor has discovered she has lung cancer. All the time in the world you thought you had, is slowly going away. Don't take it for granted. She will go into remission, and it will be joyous, but soon after that, she will decline and you will lose the most important woman in your life, forever. She's still with you in spirit but those nights when you lay awake and wonder how the hell she made her famous spaghetti sauce, no one can tell you. And those days when you freak out because you're 32 and haven't had a kid yet, and that's the magical age, because that's when she had  you... she won't be there to walk you through it, you'll have to remind yourself that in due time you will have kids. She'll also be able to tell you stuff you never thought to ask.. but now she can't. CHERISH WHAT YOU HAVE WHEN YOU HAVE IT and please ask her questions before she goes.  Lastly, remember to look for the Amish Butter print Pyrex bowls when you collect items from her home, I still kick myself for missing those. Lastly, that day when you rushed to leave, when she was getting better in the hospital, please stay at least another hour. Work will wait, she won't. You lost her three days later. I wish you would stay longer and hold her, and talk.

#10 - Boys will come and go, but your girls are forever. I never realized that until I was older. I always was so close with guys, and not girls. I've come to learn that my best friends span my life. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

#11 - Remember I told you this, when you're clubbing with friends you are always the DD. Thanks for being responsible and safe, but there is one night that you're going to try to stop a drunken friend from driving - do so verbally not physically. Trust me on this, please don't end up as road kill and toted off the hospital in the ambulance with a head injury, ok? Don't worry you and that bitch aren't friends anymore.

#12 - I'm sure you're wondering about marriage again. Be patient, that's my biggest lesson to tell you.

#13 - College is a blast - enjoy it. And for the love of Pete get off your damn cell phone and enjoy time with your friends and roommates. Stop being so up your boyfriend's asses! And really, can you start noticing the signs that possessive guys are the worst! You will only live away from home for your junior semester of college, try to enjoy it with your roomies! Those girls are amazing and you didn't' get nearly enough time with them!!!! (Stop going home for the weekend so much!)

#14 - You graduate college with 2 degrees! AA: Early Childhood Development, and BS: Graphic Design/Creative Arts. I know your entire school career in HS you were sick of always being grounded for bad grades, but then you applied yourself and got great grades, KUDOS! You will keep this up through college, you will realize that it's important and then it will become a competition with friends to get great grades. Who is this nerd? It's you! Embrace it!

#15 - The internet is invented. Holy shit I feel old saying that. But it's a great tool to meet new people. You meet a boyfriend in a chatroom, and eventually move to Florida for 6 months. The hardest 6 months of your life. You've never had to fight that much with a boyfriend (possessive issues). After that 6 months I really wish you would let him go. I know you love his friends but seriously, let him go. You dated for almost 6 years, long distance by the way, insane. You are so stubborn.

#16 - At the end of the 6 months you'll be bored one night, home alone in FL - and in a Maryland chat room, you'll start talking to someone who has the same interests as you, and become fast friends. Once  you move home you both decide it's time to meet in person, because Weezer is doing a show locally and you want to go - so why not go together. You set a date to meet and hang out close to college, I mean who knows if you could end up dead in this guy's basement, right?

#17 - You set the date for lunch to be September 10, 2011. You have a great day, have lunch this guy becomes one of your best college friends and you go to lots of shows together. You're still friends. AND he teaches you how to snowboard. He's friends with your husband, but was never friends with the ex from Florida. That's telling you something. He was a bit smarter than you and saw signs way before you did, just saying.

#18 - You remember the date of when you met clearly because well, September 11, 2011 was the next day. You'll learn soon enough why that date is so tragic and significant to history, and your life.

#19 - Myspace is invented - what a cool concept, you're immediately hooked. Finding friends from all over. On random nights you'll do searches for random people, read profiles, stalk friends, and just enjoy the entire website. One night you find a photo of an attractive guy, his screen name is AC/DC, and he reminds you of Johnny Knoxville. You're immediately curious and read his ENTIRE profile and comments in one sitting. You finally work up the nerve to message him, saying he has great taste in music, and keep it light. After all you're still dating the dude from Florida... and he's moved to Maryland to live with a friend of yours, and it's not going well but still you're in a relationship and care about the guy.  AC/DC messages you back, and you start messaging daily. Friendly, nothing over the top, he has a girlfriend too, so it's ok.

After about 4-6 weeks of talking, chatting, you eventually talk on the phone. You realize quickly you're falling for this guy, and you start to feel awful. Most nights falling asleep he's the last thing you think about, and the first when you wake up in the morning. It's a wake up call about how miserable you really are in your love life.

Myspace and the internet opened you up to a lot of new friends with common interests, and after one night of heading out with some new friends from a car forum you were apart of, you have a blast, you finally meet dear pals in person like Salt of Run Salt Run and others. You have a blast, smile the whole night - and find yourself talking about Myspace guy to them all. You go home feeling on cloud 9. Your boyfriend comes by, he had been at a bachelor party for a mutual friend... the accusations of flirting with dudes at your meet up start, the fight begins, and finally the words come out of his mouth... "Do you want to break up with me?" and for the first time in your life you finally answer honestly to this question (because you've had these fights multi pal times before) and you will say... 'Yeah, I am.'  He storms out, and you realize your shoulders feel 100 lbs. lighter. You followed your gut for once, and it was relief.  Final good-byes will be said about a week later to him, at a friends BBQ - you will cry on the stoop because of guilt and hurting someone, your pal Tammy you never thought you would have as a BFF, holds you and hugs you.  She'll also be the person in a few weeks from this date, that will help you plan a road trip, to Alabama to meet Mr. AC/DC in person.  [Be warned, this ex, will pass away in a terrible motorcycle accident many years later after your break-up, and it will be awful and, extremely sad. This also tells you not to take things for granted, and to make peace before losing people you've known]. This is getting very Debbie Downer, trust me there are rainbows in the future!].

#20 - You finally find your prince - I won't give it all away, it's too fun to experience for the first time but this Mike guy, Mr. AC/DC - he's your future. You'll find him, love him, he'll love you, and you'll move to Alabama after only dating for about 6 months. To be fair you'll be dear friends for over a year before taking the "official girlfriend title" but you will love the ride, no matter how crazy it makes you. You will love fully, you will not worry about a safety net and you will find out sooner vs. later that you will be meant for each other. You will make great friends a long the way that he will introduce you to, and you will eventually walk down the isle together!!!! And all those girls I told you to trust, and ones that have come into your life, will all be there on your special day standing next to you, along with other quality friends you've made over the years.

Promise me something though... about a month or two before the big tornado storms in Alabama that rip through Tuscaloosa hit in 2011 - please don't drink too much and cause a scene in the parking lot at the bar about not being married yet to Mr. Myspace. IT"S REALLY embarrassing... and trust me everything happens in due time and when it's meant to!

#21 - Lastly... maybe check the weather before planning your honeymoon!

In closing - trust your instincts, stop ignoring your gut and realize that all the happy times and the shit you go through growing up, are all apart of life. You are stronger for going through all you have, and I wouldn't change that - just promise me you'll take time to appreciate all you have in front of you when it's right in front of you!!!  And lastly, don't doubt yourself, you rock!!! And thank you for realizing that life isn't just about finding a man to settle down with, or having babies, they are great achievements but you've got so much more to accomplish before that!!!

Congratulations for graduating high school!!! Enjoy the ride, it's all up hill from here, but it's one hell of a journey!!!

P.S. Hydrate more before going out for the night, you'll thank me in the morning!

P.S.S. I'm very happy you stopped perming your hair - maybe get a time machine so you can NEVER do it to your hair, EVER!!!! Also, don't let anyone highlight your hair - it never turns out right.
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