Surprise Date Nights for the Win

I wouldn’t say that gifts are a love language of mine, but I definitely have an appreciation for them as I realize that is how some people show they love others. Throughout our relationship, Conner has surprised me with little gifts here and there. This isn’t the primary way to love me, so it always takes me by surprise. One time he ordered me a hammock before a trip and it showed me he was thinking of me and really wanted to enhance the memories I would make while adventuring. Recently, he took the gift giving surprise to a new level in order to enhance a date night.

It all started with a request. It was early in the week and I declared to Conner that I wanted him to plan a date night on Thursday, but that is all I said. I love a good date night, and I don’t mind planning them because it is a way that I can show Conner I am thinking about him…by choosing activities he would enjoy or even a restaurant where I know he will love the entrees. But this time I wanted him to plan the date.


So he made reservations…but didn’t tell me where until the night of the date. I came into the house to find a new dress waiting on the counter, a Clif bar, and flowers. All of which had purpose and were a complete surprise. Conner took it upon himself to go buy a new dress for me to wear for the evening. Being 28 weeks pregnant at the time had left me with some outwardly verbal body issues that consisted of my clothes not fitting and having nothing to wear. I’m working on that self-hate talk, but I am not perfect. Anyways. Conner picked out a dress for me, and the fact that he thought I would look good in it, and knew the dress with the side gathering would work the best with my expanding belly made me so happy to put it on! The Clif bar made me laugh the most though. The earliest reservations he could get were going to be way past my hangry hour. The Clif bar was to tie me over until we could get to the real food. Love him.

Ultimately these gifts were a complete surprise and just went to enhance our date experience. I felt so loved and cared for and the evening was a lot of fun. Never underestimate the power of a surprise or date night.


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Rim Hugger: Manassas, VA

When I scheduled a customer trip to northern Virginia, I couldn’t help but notice the proximity of my hotel to Manassas National Battlefield from the Civil War. I used to love learning about the Civil War when I was in school so the entire time leading up to the trip I was so excited! I had done my research and I couldn’t wait to run the 5 mile loop around the site of the Battle of Bull Run.

All through the morning’s meetings I heard reports on the news of an impending thunderstorm, but they kept talking about the threat north of DC so I didn’t pay much attention. When I arrived in the parking lot of the Visitor’s Center, the sun was shining and it was a balmy 105° but it wouldn’t last long.

I passed the statue of General Stonewall Jackson and set off into the woods with the #IOHear album blasting in my ears. As I ran along I thought long and hard about the history of the area I was running through. Here I was coming to exercise while so long ago brothers fought and died on the very same trails I was enjoying. The Stone Bridge was where the Confederate Army was commanded on that fateful day, but today it was just another beautiful sight for me. Distracted by the beauty of Adam and Paul’s voices, I didn’t notice how dark it had gotten so quickly until I burst back into the battlefield.

IMG_2727I decided to press on and hope I could outrun the storm. Wrong decision. At almost exactly the furthest point from my car, the winds began to whip and the storm was telling me “you had better get back to your car now”. I ran on and luckily took a wrong turn that doubled me back to a part of the trail I had already covered. I ended up back on the street I had crossed and quickly decided to run down the road rather than try to navigate my way back on the trail. Traffic had picked up so I ran along the side of the road trying not to get hit by cars, but the worst was still to come.

IMG_2728I made the last turn on the main street that would lead me to the visitor’s center entrance, but it was then that the bottom dropped out. I still had about a half mile to go and I made a snap decision to sprint across the battlefield rather than continue to follow the road. Can you guess what happened next? If you guessed that I would run across a giant open field with lightning striking all around me, then you would be right. Oh yeah, and the hail started to come down as well. It was a recipe for the scariest run I’ve ever had. As I breathlessly flopped into my car with the rain pouring down, I knew that I had completed a memorable run but I’m not sure if I even realize now how dangerous it was. Next time I’ll check the weather before I head out!

However, I think it was all worth it for the spectacular sunset that I got to see on the way back to the hotel!


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How far will you go for your dreams?

“Raise your right hand as high as you can. Now raise it a bit higher. We always hold some back. To create art and do something that no one has done before, you have to go all in.”
– Seth Godin

This was a small snippet of a great speech we heard at Leadercast 2015 and it really got me thinking. In an example that took 2 seconds and had no bearing on anything, our natural reaction is to hold back. Keep some in the tank. Give it less than our best in case something better comes along. This is a model we see all around us. Remember the football movie where the coach asks them to dig deep and they win the big game as time expires? How about the students who sit at their desk minutes before the test trying to get the last tidbits of knowledge packed into their brains? We are constantly being shown examples of people that hold back and most of the time it is portrayed as a good thing.

Leadercast event

I would venture to say that the happy ending from that situation is missing out on its potential though. Anything in this life that’s worth doing is worth doing the right way. That right way includes, to borrow a phrase from Mark Batterson, going all in and all out. Especially in circumstances that we can influence the outcome, why would we give anything less than our best?

Perhaps the most tragic place that we see this played out is with our relationship with God. Many, many people (including me for a large portion of my life) would chase after God in some areas but hold onto others. Typically this involves some type of sin that makes us comfortable or feel like we are in control. For me, it was with my weight. I knew I was overweight, but I was comfortable in my bad eating habits. I went so far as to train for the Peachtree Road Race but I didn’t see any changes because I held onto my poor nutrition and didn’t feel the need to go after my health 100%. But God’s plan for our lives is perfect. Why would we sell ourselves short by holding back and not giving everything we have to Him? Given enough time, the results will be in our favor. Going all in may not be the easiest way or have the positive outcome we are looking for immediately, but in the long run doing life the right way, exerting our maximum effort every day, and fiercely fighting for our goals and dreams will create things that the world has never seen.

In what areas – relationships, careers, aspirations, finances, sports, leadership opportunities – are you holding back? I challenge you today to pick one and be sure that you give everything you have and work 100% to do all you can! I don’t believe that you will regret it.

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Oh Boy, Let The Fox Adventures Begin

When we found out that the ultrasound to reveal the gender of our baby would be the week of Conner’s birthday, there was only one request from the birthday boy- a gender reveal/birthday.  On the way to the reveal

We sent some last minute neon invitations to our families and asked them to join us in the park for some pizza and cake. Now, y’all know my mom is amazing at cakes (exhibit A, B, C) so it made perfect sense for her to be the only one to know the gender secret for the big reveal. And boy did she have some tricks up her sleeve!

Foxy cake for our baby reveal

I mean I die at the cuteness, mostly over the tiny pacifiers and the little bows.

Before we cut into the cake, we had everyone gather into the group they suspected the gender to be.

What's it going to be?  A Boy or Girl Baby?Team Girl:

Team Girl

Team Boy:

Team Boy

So how was she going to make this cake tell us the gender? With candy and sprinkles of course!Cake Cutting PictureI think this photo is awesome. Looks similar to our pregnancy announcement if you ask me. Terror + excitement on my face, Pure joy and accomplishment on Conner’s.

Snap Chatting all the fun

So the secret is out, we are going to be parents to a little baby boy.

Balloon + Neon Confetti = MagicY’all I’m scared and nervous, but luckily Conner has the “I love trucks, sports, and football games” categories on lock. Time to learn how to raise a southern gentleman and the proper way to teach him a love for polka dots, stripes, and bow(tie)s.

Thanks to Jess for the majority of the pictures (obviously the ones that aren’t from the phone or snapchat!)

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Date Day: Helen or Bust

With the first trimester behind us and the energy of the second trimester filling up my body, it was time to bust out of the house for an outdoor adventure date. Date nights have looked a lot different the last few weeks as the majority of our free time has been spent sleeping or eating carbs in an effort not to vomit everywhere. Did I mention being chauffeured anywhere was also out of the question as just a simple ride in the car made me queezy?

So when the energy hit, it was time to plan a date day with the hubs. the original plan was to go to the zoo… But I didn’t follow the rules completely about getting the free pass, so we had to make some last minute game plan changes. The zoo would have to wait for another day. We made a day out of it and headed up to Helen. We had lunch along the river, walked through the little German village, and then found our way to the state park.

I'm a sucker for face cut out photo ops.That hike though was a little rough. I get so frustrated with myself knowing my fitness level feels less than normal because I’m using extra energy to grow a human. It took at least 30 minutes to walk up hill .5 of a mile with multiple stops for breathing and water. I felt so bad as I knew I was holding Conner back from running up that mountain. At the top we sat for a while and I must have looked as exhausted as I felt because a lady commented with a question asking if we had just hiked the major trail (a 10 mile hike). Insert YIKES emoji face here.
Hike in HelenLuckily on the way down I had a burst of energy mixed with equal parts needing to hurry to the restroom and keep Brinkley from popping on the side of a mountain without a bag to clean up his mess. This combination made us run down the hill, finish strong, and catch a snack break of the fudge we bought while visiting downtown Helen.

It was a fun day, nice and sunny for getting out of the house, and the perfect amount of exhaustion to create the need for a two hour naps once returning home.

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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday (a day late in the blog world) to my wonderful husband. We kicked off his birthday shenanigans a day early with a little donut treat. A group of Conner’s friends get together frequently to work out early in the morning. I’m talking 7am early. So I concocted a plan to surprise them with a little breakfast tailgate.

I made it my mission to set my alarm a few minutes after Conner left to go work out so that I could dash to the store for donuts and coffee. Because isn’t that what everyone wants to eat after working out?

Birthday DonutsAll went according to plan, luckily, and my mission was a complete surprise!

So to my donut loving husband, Happy Birthday. I love you, your hard working self, and your ability to splurge every now and then for a post-workout donut.


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(At Home) Tourist Date

Mandy is never one to pass up a great deal so when she heard about the apparently infamous “Zoo DVD”, she just had to get her hands on it. But what is this “Zoo DVD”? Don’t worry – I asked the same thing. Each branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library has a copy of a DVD that tells information about Zoo Atlanta. When you check it out, watch it, and return it, they give you a pass for two adults and two children to get into the zoo for FREE! The trick is catching it while it’s at your local branch. Apparently, large groups of people team up and keep it circulating around their friends for a long time.

zoo1Lucky for us, Mandy watched the online inventory at the library like a hawk and happened to catch a break! We decided to take our free zoo pass and turn it into a date: be tourists in our own city!

Our plan was set – go early on a Sunday morning and work our way through the park backwards in order to avoid crowds. We also swung by Sublime Doughnuts on our way down for some A-Town creams and Orange Dream Stars! Mandy loved (and commiserated with) the kangaroos and their baby pouches.

zoo3We watched a goat try to eat her keeper’s ponytail, saw the panda cubs happily munching on bamboo, and even got an up-close-and-personal look a the tiger chillin’ in the shade.

zoo2When I was growing up, my Grandma Dot would take Melissa and I to the zoo almost weekly. We loved seeing the animals and I would even make my way into the snake house reluctantly. However, our favorite was always saying hello to our friend Willie B, the gorilla. We actually called him “Willie Butt” because he always stood on the hill and showed us his butt each time we would visit.


One of our last stops at the zoo was stopping by the “African Plains” area where they keep the rhinos, zebras, antelopes, and giraffes. The definite highlight of the day was feeding lettuce to the giraffes. Their tongues are so long!

zoo5Any good tourist visit to Atlanta would not be complete without a visit to The Varsity! We ended a great date with chili dogs, onion rings, and a Frosted Orange!


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Marriage Retreat

You know that moment when you are in the middle of something, get halfway done with the task, and then commit to coming back to finish in the future but it never happens. Yeah- that is this post. Ha! Flash back to February when we decided to take a little journey on a marriage retreat.

There is a first time for everything. In an effort to challenge ourselves this year and step out of our marriage comfort zone we signed up to spend our Valentine’s weekend at a marriage retreat.

(Everyone rolls their eyes)

Yeah we didn’t know what to expect. We thought we would be surrounded by discussions of feelings and your best marriage. And while that was true, that wasn’t the complete focus. The true focus was on being together, disconnected from technology, and trying new things.

Ropes Course at WinshapeWe spent the weekend doing high ropes course activities and hiking up to a really pretty watermill that is on the campus of Berry College.

I think my favorite thing about the weekend other than the commitment to avoid our cell phones if the other person was in the room, was the team building activities. We did this one communication activity where one of us had a picture of shapes (circles, triangles, and squares), and had to communicate the layout to the other person. The challenge was to see how we communicated to one another and discover how the other person heard our instructions. After the first round of the exercise, we switched roles and had a new photo to attempt to communicate and draw.

winshape tree

We learned a lot during this exercise about the fact that when we describe things, they don’t always come across exactly as we want because of our spouses ability to interpret the request. For example, I may say “Conner please do the dishes before our friends come over tonight”. He interprets it as needing to do the dishes 5 minutes before the crowd arrives rather than doing it within the 15 minute window after I communicated my desire. While he wasn’t wrong in his execution of the request, it gave me anxiety because I did not clearly communicate and make sure he heard my true desire.

While this is just one example of the break down of how communication comes across, it truly allowed us to pause and remember that we are each made differently and therefore communicate differently. Rather than finding fault in one another, we have to extend grace and figure out a way to communicate effectively so that we feel heard and valued.

winshape water wheel

Honestly, the weekend was a blast, less “talk about your feelings because you are doing it wrong” than I would have thought this type of environment would brew. It was a relaxing weekend away, we walked away with a new understanding of one another, and appreciation for our common values.

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In Sickness and In Health

You never know when you will have to carry out the promises of the vows you committed to on your wedding day. I always heard the first trimester of your pregnancy is a doozy in terms of morning sickness and the occasional snicker from already-mom’s about how it really isn’t just confined to the “morning”.


I had no concept to know what to expect for my own body, because fortunately I don’t really get sick. Yes, I get the occasional headache or need to take a nap, but the only thing that ever really makes my body feel awful would be classified as “car motion sickness”.

Well the first trimester was the whole “car motion sickness” to the 1000th degree. It was all day-I think I’m going to throw up, but I am not actually going to, sickness. If I wasn’t eating, I was sleeping in an effort not to keep eating. If I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I was chewing on a mint.

All over the interwebs you see those cute little “1st trimester must-have” charts. Mine consisted of peppermints, sparkling lime water, pretzels, and naps. My typical food groups of greens, dessert, and veggies were out the window as my body hated all of those things. My 1st trimester food groups? Bread + Cheese + Potatoes.

This whole “in sickness and in health” vow thing really got put to the test and sweet Conner stepped up to the plate. I remember one day shutting down the computer from the work grind and he had waiting for me a snack station and napping essentials so that I could easily transition to what we have come to call “baby baking hour”.

Baby Baking Hour

How lovely for him to embrace this less than wonderful, crying over food dropping on the floor, pregnant lady that I have become.

Snack station for baby foxI am just grateful for how he took the time to grab the essentials to help me be as comfortable as possible in such a transitional time. I never could have guessed what that part of the vows would look like in such the context of not being on my death bed.

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Baby Baking Exhaustion

Here’s a secret. I write blogs when I sleep. Meaning I write them out word for word, imagine the pictures, and even recognize the words I’ll have to pay special attention to when typing because they probably will be misspelled. But when I wake up… The words have vanished, just like the over abundance of energy I just had during the last 6 hours of sleep.

Growing a baby is hard work. Energy zapping, stomach turning, anxiety ridden hard work. Every moment when I’m not trying to get through my adult responsibilities, I spend the seconds sleeping, stuffing my face with bread and cheese (because all my normal food groups seem to have me turning up my nose), or sleeping some more to avoid eating again. Let’s just say there has been a lot of self discovery the last few weeks. einsteins Having this outwardly invisible battle going on has made me thankful of the miracle and reassurance going on inside. It has made me reflect on the kind of mother I will be, the kind of spouse I want to be, and the type of parents we will be when it comes to disciplining. But those thoughts make me frustrated when I look over from my sleepy eyes and see a sink piled high with dishes, a dog begging to be played with, and a gracious husband who I haven’t been on a date night with in weeks. If I’m zapped of energy now…what will life be like in 7 months?!? Yikes.

Well during all this rest, I still wanted to spend time with Conner – ignore all the internal symptoms going on – and remind him that I love him. Luckily at the beginning of the year we began watching the TV series Parenthood. OMG, so good. I remember watching an episode when it first came out and I wasn’t impressed. I guess I just wasn’t mentally in the mindset to want to watch it.

This year…we binge watched the show. It took us two and a half months and we just got to the final episode. That was cause for a special at-home date night to celebrate. So if you’ve seen the show, you know that every episode has a scene with pancakes. Those Bravermans love their pancakes. So we ordered a batch from IHOP to go, sat around the coffee table, and cried our eyes out to the last episode. So sweet! pancakes In that moment I was thankful for Conner. He goes on dates with me because he knows that reminds me that I am loved. He knows that it is how I show love and remind him that I’m glad we are married. I’m thankful for all of his patience right now during this first trimester. And for his ability to be spontaneous when I wake up feeling adventurous for a few hours and declare that we are driving 40 minutes to get brunch in the city.  I’m excited for more energy and even have a date…outside of the house…planned on the calendar circled in prayers of no nausea and lots of energy.

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