Shop With A Bulldawg

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year.” –Charles Dickens

I truly believe this heartfelt sentiment will mean many things for many people, so in the following post, I am going to try to express how these words have touched me.

Three years in Athens have blessed me tremendously and truly given me the opportunity to fall in love. I have fallen in love with these people and this city, and it has just been a joyous season of life.

As a freshman, my roommate, Mallory Cobb, and I decided to sign up to volunteer for a nonprofit student organization called Shop With A Bulldawg (SWAB). This organization serves children living in poverty in the Athens-Clarke County community by giving them an opportunity to experience a joyful holiday.

Mallory and I chose to participate in SWAB’s Event Day, one Saturday in December where we would be paired with a child, and then, we would shop with him/her for Christmas presents.

We were stoked, we had a blast, and we made a pact that we would participate again together. Yesterday, Mallory and I partook in our third event day. It is humbling to know that each year we have helped alter the trajectory of a child’s Christmas in a positive manner.

I believe that SWAB has taught me two valuable lessons which exemplify the words of Charles Dickens that I included at the beginning of this post. These lessons symbolize what it means to honor and keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year.

  1. Actively participate in your community.

This truly will look different for every single person.

If you reside in a city, then you will be “receiving from that city.” Your children will be receiving an education. You may be receiving a paycheck. You will likely spend time at the city’s ball fields, churches, and local shops. In your years of living, you will receive abundantly.

Therefore, I believe it is imperative that we give back. Volunteer in a nonprofit organization, in your church, or in your child’s school. Pick up litter from the streets that line your neighborhood. Mentor another community member. Just do something.

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of giving back, and giving back should not be confined to the month of December. I love being a part of a special day that is dedicated to giving back to the children of Athens, but these children desperately need to receive more than one Saturday. There are so, so many programs in Athens dedicated to tutoring and mentoring. I am thankful to participate in some of these programs as well because it is the other organizations that keep the spirit of Christmas alive even during April showers and May flowers.

  1. Recognize the importance of gift giving.

This topic can spark tension in our culture. How do you find a balance between focusing too little or too much on gift giving? Again, this is going to falter to everyone’s own discretion. Nonetheless, we must remember that giving gifts is important, and fun, and necessary!

Gift giving is done out of love and care. You give a gift to someone because you know them or you are getting to know them. You choose wisely based on their quirks, tastes, and specific styles. You give what you know they want but will not ask for. Or, you give as a means of meeting someone’s needs. Whatever the reason, you are a blessing.

A huge part of the American Christmas tradition is gift gifting. SWAB is centered around it. For this year’s event day, Mallory and I were paired with a fifth-grade student named Ty. We could meet her needs and wants by purchasing gifts! Her favorite gifts were new art supplies: a sketchpad, coloring book, and a large pack of colored pencils.

To keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year though, we must give ourselves permission to both give and receive gifts. It is the smallest token such as a birthday card, a souvenir, or flowers that exude affection.

By being active in our communities and participating in gift giving, we will do our part to keep Christmas alive all year. I am so thankful that a day dedicated to Christmas taught me that if I let it the Christmas spirit will remain alive for 365 days. And who can object to this?

Xoxo, Marlee

Why I am especially thankful for my extended family

How much time do you spend thinking about your extended family? Furthermore, how much time do you spend in contact with them? If you have tight relationships with your Great Uncle Jimmy and your fourth cousin Betty, then that is awesome. However, I do not think this is the case for most of us.

I just got home after spending a week with my extended family on my grandmother’s side in Danville, Virginia, and it was wonderful.

I’ll give you the quick backstory. My Grandma, Mary Mitchell Rippy, is one of seven children. Including herself, five of them are still living, and four of them still reside in their hometown of Danville. In her twenties, my Grandma moved to Atlanta with my Pawpaw, and together they raised their family here. In short, this is how I came to be.

Since we are the only part of the family in Georgia, we have taken many trips to Danville over the years to reunite with our family time and time again. This Thanksgiving, we took another trip. We typically go once every three or so years, and it is always such a sweet, sweet time.

Our most recent trip is what inspired this post, and I hope it will prompt you to reflect, even for a moment, upon your heritage.

It is quite humbling to take a moment to consider how specific actions are responsible for your very being, and if just one decision had been altered, you may not even exist. Woah.

This really hit home to me when my mom, Grandma, great aunt, and myself decided to drive to my Great Grandma and Grandpa Mitchell’s old home. I could not believe that I had never seen it after all of these years.

It may sound strange, but I would describe the experience as breathtaking. The house has been refinished, and it is currently for sale, but the minute we pulled up a large grin overtook my mom’s face.

“This is where I used to visit Grandma Mitchell. This back porch is where we sat and ate dinner. If you look through the window, you can see the stairs that lead to the room where we slept. We had so much fun here,” my mom said.

It was so neat to travel back in time in my mind to my mom being a young girl visiting her grandparents.

Other experiences throughout the week were equally as interesting. We visited my Great Uncle David and Great Aunt Hazel, my grandma’s brother and sister-in-law. They reside in the first house my great grandparents’ owned. Since then, David has refinished the entire home himself. We heard stories about how there was no bathroom and how he tore down a wall to build one. We walked through the rooms that all of the siblings slept in: four girls in one small room—I can only imagine.

Throughout the week, we looked at old photos. My facial features are nearly identical to those of my great grandma. It is no secret that I come from this family.

Although busy, a week spent visiting family can be quite joyful. It is neat to visit with my Great Aunt Charlie Mae, but it is kind of eerie to think, “What if my great grandparents would have stopped having children after her?” If this were the case, I would not be here.

I also considered other events down the line. What if my Grandma had chosen to stay in Danville like her siblings? She wouldn’t have met my Pawpaw, and she wouldn’t have had my mom who had me.

It is cool to listen to “stories from the old days,” look at pictures, and even visit places special to your family realizing that all of these are merely pieces that complete you. They are a part of your DNA.

I spent my Thanksgiving among over 30 members of my extended family, and I am thankful. I am thankful for the reminder that I am so small, but that because of people who have come before me, I am destined for big things.

Xoxo, Marlee

Guess Who Is

Priss, I would look over my shoulder. You never know who is there. Guess who is. Dad

Forever I will have this etched on my left shoulder as a way of honoring my dad.

My dad was sick for a long time. He was an alcoholic, and it was rough. It was rough to grow up as an only child, a little girl with a sick father. There were ups, and there were downs, and one day, I plan to write more in depth in reference to “my story.” For now, I am going to keep focused on this post: Guess Who Is.

My senior year of high school, I did the “senior things.” One of these included purchasing a “senior ad” in the yearbook. Most students have family members write a message to them to include on their page, and I excitedly followed this trend. I had my mom, my dad, and my grandparents write me separate notes to be included next to my picture.

My dad, his non-technology, no-computer-self, handwrote a letter in the only blue pen he ever wrote with on the same yellow legal pad that always sat on his desk, and he gave it to me.

At first read, the letter was a little weird. It was sloppy, and there were some grammatical errors. But it was the last few lines of the letter that threw me off the most. “I would look over my shoulder. You never know who is there.” He even signed it, “Guess who is—Dad.” Not “Love always,” or “I love you.” Why would he write this? He was there physically. I could call, and he would answer. It all seemed very obscure to me, and I did not really like it.

So, I tweaked his letter to fit my liking. I omitted a few lines (including the last two), corrected the grammar, and turned it in so that it would appear on my page the way I wanted.

That was that.

Our incredible yearbook was published. My page was everything I had dreamt of, and my wonderful uncle and his family even surprised me with a smaller separate page dedicated to me from them. I graduated, and life was swell.

Fast forward eight months

I am a freshman in college at the University of Georgia, and I receive a phone call at 4 o’clock in the morning that my dad has passed away. My world has changed. Forever.

I cried. I grieved. I mourned. We had a beautiful memorial service. I spoke at it, and I am so thankful that others were able to hear me speak from my heart. Life moved on, and slowly, I recovered. I thought about my dad often. Wonderful people came alongside me and supported me. I was dedicated and vowed to continue succeeding. Life was not the same. It will never be the same. But I adjusted and coped and grew exponentially as a person.

January 10, 2016: The first anniversary of his death

I had not read, much less thought about the note my dad wrote me since he wrote it in 2013. On this day, I asked my mom to find the letter for me. I read it, and it hit me. It fell into place. My dad had died, but he was not gone. He was there. He is here, and he is watching over me.

His letter had meaning. It was well thought out. It was intentional, and he wanted me to know that I would always have him looking over me and looking out for me. It was then that I knew I desired to make this permanent. I wanted a permanent reminder that my dad is here, and he is not going anywhere.

He never stopped loving me. He never stopped protecting me. And he never stopped being my dad.

He was sick, and unfortunately, that sickness lead to death. But this cannot change the fact that I am his daughter. He is a part of me, and now more than ever, he is truly a part of me.

The portion of the letter that is tattooed on my left shoulder is done completely in his handwriting. This time, I changed nothing. I love it! I l am proud to have this on my shoulder, and I am proud to honor my dad.

When I get an “A” on a test, when I graduate college, as I continue to fall in love, when I get married, when I have children, when I experience monumental moments in my life, my dad will be there. I do not have to wonder. I can look over my shoulder, and I no longer have to guess. I can know. My dad is with me.

Xoxo, Priss

 

P.S. These pictures were taken directly after, so the tattoo was not fully healed.

Why I love the south

This weekend, a group of friends and I went to the Georgia versus Florida football game. Many memories were made, but two instances from our Sunday drive home stood out to me the most. They reminded me specifically why I love the South.

Sure I love the sweet tea, but more than a drink that I am fond of, it is the people that confirm time and time again why I love this region of the United States. Let me tell you two specific stories in order to explain.

The drive back from Vidalia, Georgia is beautiful. It is a simple drive. Stay on this road for 33 miles. Turn left for another 17. Turn right for 24. Each turn, you drive a long stretch of road that seems to be “in the middle of nowhere.”

One of these long stretches of road was through Washington County, specifically through the city of Tennille. We noticed a sign with a large Georgia Bulldog on it, and I immediately asked the girls, “Hey y’all, should we turn around?” “Why not?”, they said. So, that is exactly what we did. We made a U-turn in a dirt driveway, and little did we know, we pulled up to the famous “Barn Sign.”

This sign has been painted with adages to UGA for 16 years, and we “stumbled” upon it. We met a man who is a close family friend of the person who paints the sign. He took our picture and told us all about the sign. It gets painted several times a year and people are always stopping to get a look. They have even created t-shirts for people to purchase. Of course, I bought one.

More than the sign, we got to know the man who was hanging out under the tent for the day selling t-shirts and taking pictures. For at least 20 minutes, we talked to him. We learned that he was a missionary in the Philippines for six years, and he moved back to the states to care for his elderly parents. He and his wife raised their child overseas. He told us that in his heart he is Filipino, although he is physically much taller and much heavier.

I write this to show that not only did this man love to talk, but he was personable. He was intentional, and he was kind. He did not have to tell us a single thing about himself. But he chose to, and because of this, we walked away feeling like our pit stop was completely worth it.

Many miles later, as we were nearing Athens, Sarah asked if we could stop to find a restroom. We stopped at a gas station that was out of water (thankfully). A cute, little market was just down the street, so we figured we would try there. It turned out, they had a restroom, and Sarah was in luck, but little did I know, I had hit the jackpot.

I noticed that they had fresh fruit, and I asked the man working the register, “How are these plums?” “Try one if you want! If you like ‘em, then buy ‘em,” he said. I did, and I grabbed the bucket. From there, it was history. “We have homemade chicken and dumplings and macaroni and cheese made with extra sharp cheddar in the back if you’re looking for dinner.” “What would you like to try?”, he asked.

I tried the chicken and dumplings, corn chowder, chili (which has won several awards at the Chili Cook-off), and the chicken salad. As he poured samples, I ate my little heart out. I bought a quart of this and a pint of that, and after about 20 minutes, I had collected enough food to eat on for the next two weeks.

He offered to put the chili in freezable containers for me, so I could save if for later. I learned that he lives about 30 miles away, and he makes everything homemade. All of the fruits and vegetables come from the farmer’s market, and his wife is a professor at UGA.

I could not have scripted these two scenes any sweeter.

I am blessed. I am blessed to have been raised in a culture where people are genuine. They love to get to know who you are. They ask you questions, share similar stories, and treat you as if you were a part of their family. It really is special to have grown up in the South. I would not trade it for the world. I love a good glass of sweet tea and a home cooked meal, but more than this, I love the person who is doing the cooking.

Xoxo, Marlee

Why I love the NFL more than I do college football

This post is dedicated to my dad. Thank you for teaching me to the love the game as much as you did! Xoxo, Priss

“Well Dad, it looks like I owe you $5. Just put it on my tab.”

I would give anything to have that conversation one more time.

So, if you love football as much as I do, then you are probably thinking I am crazy. How could I love NFL Sundays more than I love Saturdays full of college football. I am for sure outnumbered on this one.

I should provide this disclaimer before I begin. I still love college football. I bleed red and black, and I am now a Georgia Bulldog through and through. I also enjoy a good Friday night high school football game. If you love football, you should love it all. And did I mention that I love football?

So let’s just get right to it. Here are the basics behind my passion for the NFL.

You are watching the most talented players in the game. Professional players did not just come out of their mother’s womb playing with the talent they have (well…maybe they did). But the point is that they had to work to get to the level they are currently at. They began to blossom during Friday Night Lights, and then, they only refined their skills during three or four long years at college. They worked hard, they practiced harder, and they put in the time to become the best of the best. Now, they are the best of the best.

It is fun to watch Jacob Eason grow as the 18-year-old starting quarterback for UGA. I can only imagine how he will be able to control the pocket three years from now when he takes the field against a powerful SEC team. However, at this point, Eason cannot compare to the 31-year-old Matt Ryan who just threw 200 passing yards for the 45th straight regular season game, tying the longest streak in NFL history. The talent in the NFL is undeniable, and you get to see it every Sunday.

Sundays are a day of rest, and I take full advantage of that rest while watching football. Logistically speaking, most of my Saturdays during football season growing up were spent cheerleading at the football field (how ironic) or in a gym for a cheerleading competition. DVR did not exist, and we just did not have time to watch the Georgia game.

On the other hand, after a fun-filled Friday and Saturday, we went to church on Sunday, and then, we were in for the rest of the day. This meant we were almost always home to watch the Falcons. Coincidentally, it was the team I grew to love.

Lastly, the Falcons, an NFL football team, were my daddy’s team, and who does not cheer alongside their daddy during a football game? It would be dumb not to because they know the ends and outs of the game. If it were not for my dad, I would have never grown to appreciate football. Neither of my parents went to a college where cheering for their football team was a big deal, so growing up, our family never had a connection to the Dawgs. Now, we do, and in the future, I will make time on Saturdays to watch them…until I have kids who are either playing or cheering on the football field, and then, I’ll just make sure Kody keeps up with the live updates.

Anyway, as a family we cheered for one team and one team only: The Falcons. And as a six-year-old, it did not take me long to figure out what this meant. It meant I needed to learn the game. So that is what I did. “Dad, what’s a fumble?” “Dad, why did the ref throw that flag?” “Dad, why are we not kicking an extra point?” “Dad?” “Dad?” “Dad?” It was one way we bonded.

He never told me to be quiet. He never hushed me. He listened and answered—question after question after question. Until my mom said, “Marlee, I’m trying to hear the commentators.” And now I get it, the commentators have some valuable things to say.

As I got older, I had the game of football mostly under my belt, and throughout middle and high school, my dad and I would bet on the Falcons’ game. I vowed to NEVER and I mean never bet against the Falcons, so my dad always did. Over the years, each of us racked up quite a tab.

All of this to be said, my love for the Falcons runs deep and wide, and it just won’t ever be otherwise.

I will come back to Athens as an alumna to watch games, I will likely have a Georgia room in my house for mine and mostly Kody’s sake, and I will sport my Georgia gear on and off season. But when Sundays come around, you can catch me yelling Rise Up, and you should not be surprised if I am just a tad more enthusiastic.

 

The mountains, the valleys, and the times in between

When someone asks, “How are you doing today?”, nine times out of 10, we respond, “Good.” Recently, I have been considering that response. Most of us have been a part of a conversation at some point about how people either answer this question without thought, or they do not answer this question honestly. We think that everyone responds “Good” just to get the person inquiring off of their backs.

However, I have begun considering that when we assume people are lying, we are not giving them the opportunity to just be doing good. We are teaching people that their circumstances should either be horrible or great and nothing in between.

But, life is not meant to be lived running off the highs or drudging through the lows. It is meant to for us to feel, for the most part, secure and stable. It is meant to be good.

One tangible example that I believe illustrates this point is the Georgia versus Tennessee football game played in Sanford Stadium last weekend.

With just a few seconds to spare on the game clock, Jacob Eason threw a 47-yard pass. The ball was caught in the end zone giving Georgia the lead with only 10 seconds left in the game. I do not believe the reaction from the student section can be described in words, but I will try my best to encapsulate just a glimpse of the emotion.

We were ecstatic–loud—shocked—surprised—relieved—joyful—and elated. Just look at us. We were living in a high, on top of the world, and we were never coming down.

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Until 10 seconds later…we fell from the peak of the highest mountain to the depths of the lowest valley. There was no soaring back to the top. We were down, and it was going to be a while before we began our ascent.

Reflecting on this very real experience was a reminder for me about how we approach our lifestyles.

When the highs come, they are unbelievable. They are fond memories that push us to seek out more exhilarating opportunities. When we ride a rollercoaster for the first time, receive an “A” on our very first college exam, get accepted into graduate school, are told “You may kiss your bride,” or hold our grandbaby in our arms for the very first time, life is great. It is great, and it is worth telling the world about.

But what about when we get into a car wreck, we are dumped, the test results come back positive, our parent dies, or our house burns down? Life sucks. It just does, and we are upset and angry, and this time, we just want to lash out at the world.

These huge life events are destined to impact us. They affect our emotions and our world views. They can even transform the way we view ourselves. As beautiful and as dreadful as these times are, I believe they are what allow us to appreciate the more mundane circumstances.

When life is just going okay, work is going well, our family is getting along with one another, our kids have soccer practice, we are tired, but we still find our job rewarding, and overall, we are just getting by doing good, I encourage us to refuse to beat ourselves up.

Be thankful that life is good and that you are in a place where you feel protected and at ease.

I want you to know that I am so supportive of the wild times—the times that we feel on top of the world and we are experiencing the highest of highs.

I am also supporting you when you feel that you are living in the darkest valley. I have crawled through my fair share of valleys, and they were never easy on me.

But I encourage you to find peace when you tell someone that you are doing good. Do not feel obligated to feel otherwise because it really is good to be good.

Xoxo, Marlee

Welcome to Waffle House!

You are probably wondering how the heck I am going to write an entire post about Waffle House. I was wondering the same thing myself when the idea popped into my head. Nonetheless, I got the idea, and I’m going to run with it [or “write” with it].

I love Waffle House, and I would venture to say that most of you do too because it is truly a staple in the south. According to a 2014 article in The Huffington Post, there are 132 Waffle House locations in Atlanta. The city with the next highest amount of locations is Cartersville with a total of 45 locations as compared to Atlanta. The article is a very interesting read, and I encourage you to check it out here, once you finish reading my post of course.

So aside from the fact that there are so many Waffle House locations, why is it that I am only one of so many who truly love eating at Waffle House? I think there are quite a few reasons. The food is delicious, the servers are kind, it is a good pick me up, and it is memorable. Let me explain.

The food is delicious. Do I even have to explain this? From eggs and hash browns, to bacon and sausage, to their famous waffles, you cannot go wrong with what you order. More than just its taste, the food is made “for you.” You can get your hash browns plain or if you are feeling fancy: scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped, and/or country. Whenever I go, I am known for ordering a waffle that is “crispy, but not burnt.” Guess what I get nine times out of 10? A crispy but not burnt waffle.

The servers are kind. It could be because they are servers in the south, but it is rare to not be served at Waffle House by a kind waitress. They bring you extra apple butter for your toast and extra cream for your coffee. If you’re a regular, they get to know you. They greet you by name and ask about your family. They truly do serve you well.

It is a good pick me up. Whether you slept in and are craving a good brunch or you stayed up late and are in need of a midnight snack, Waffle House is there for you. It is the “go to place” after a concert, a long day at Six Flags, or a Friday night football game. And when you are sad and in need of some comfort food, you can count on a chocolate chip waffle to cheer you up.

It is memorable. I believe this is what I love about Waffle House the most. It has given me wonderful memories over the years. During my senior year in high school, I met my friend Taylor at Waffle House every Friday morning for breakfast. This is a distinct memory from high school that I will not forget. When I was little, after sleeping in on a Saturday morning, my mom, dad, and I would go to Waffle House. My dad always ordered a tomato juice and water to drink. By far, the most memorable times I have spent at Waffle House were with my grandparents. They are the people who introduced me to Waffle House. They would go for the coffee, and I would go for the food. I remember wanting to order a waffle and my Pawpaw saying, “Sugar, you can’t eat the whole thing by yourself.” But my Grandma would pipe in, “Just let her order it.” And she would finish it off for me every time. We always went to the same location, and we were greeted by Ms. Lucy. Lastly, Waffle House was our meeting spot. After a weekend spent in Atlanta with my grandparents, my mom would pick me up, but not before we finished a meal at Waffle House.

Waffle House is a tradition in the south, a tradition in my family, and a tradition that I will continue to uphold. It just can’t be beat.

Xoxo, Marlee