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

Home sweet home

When someone asks you, “Where is home?”, how do you respond? Most of us quickly spout out the city we live in…McDonough, Roswell, Athens, you name it. Of course, these answers are correct. They are where we physically live—where our homes are.

As this weekend approached, I began thinking about this very simple question. I considered what it means when I tell people that I am going home for the weekend. Obviously, I am going home to McDonough, but I believe that for me, “home” is much more than the physical place where I will to sleep the next two nights.

Home is spending time with my Pawpaw, laughing with my Grandma, going on dates with Kody, and getting to talk to my mom in person. However, when I am back in Athens, home is there too. Home is going to lunch with my friends, doing my homework in my bed, studying with my roommates, and staying up late to talk with them.

In my last post, I wrote about all of the reasons why I have fallen in love with Athens. Every word was true. But in this time of my life, something that I am so grateful for is the fact that I did not have to leave my other home behind. When I left for college, it was not a give and take scenario.

I did not have to give up everything I love about my hometown and my family that is still there in order to have the time of my life in Athens. The beautiful thing is that I am blessed enough to get to have both.

While at UGA, I am able to fully and independently immerse myself in Athens. I get to learn about a city on my own, live on my own, make new friends, and try out new places. Two years have allowed me to begin to do these things, and I feel that I have been fairly successful. I am so fortunate to still have two years left to continue growing. I am confident that a piece of my heart will always reside in Athens.

In the same way, a piece of my heart will always reside in McDonough. I anticipate the weekends when I am able to get away from college for a bit and spend time with my family. It is rejuvenating to be with the people who fight for you the most.

My heart swells when I get to hug and kiss my Pawpaw and Grandma, when they ask me how I am doing in school, and when they say so genuinely that they have missed me. I love when Kody takes me around town on a date. Going to the movies or going to dinner are things we did on our first date, and it is a great way to reminisce.

It is so fun to spend time with my mom. As much as I love talking to her on the phone, which I do nearly every day, it does not beat talking to her over chips and guacamole at the Mexican restaurant. When I head back home to Athens on Sunday night, I feel reenergized after spending a weekend home in McDonough.

One day, I will pack up completely from both of these cities, and I will plant my new physical home somewhere else where brand new memories will be made. But, it is reassuring to know that as this happens, as we all move homes during the span of our lives, our true home is so much bigger than the address on our driver’s license.

Xoxo, Marlee

Glory, glory to old Georgia!

Glory, glory to old Georgia! Glory, glory to old Georgia! Glory, glory to old Georgia! G-E-O-R-G-I-A! This is one of the first rally cries that I learned at The University of Georgia, and it is one that I have sung many times since.

This week, I was working on a story for UGAzine, a magazine I am writing for on campus, about the history of UGA and why people fall in love with it. I interviewed several people, and after talking to them and formulating a story based on what they said, it had me thinking about myself.

What is it about UGA and its history that made me fall in love? Why am I so grateful to attend such a wonderful university, and why will I be so proud to one day say that I am an alumna of the Bulldog Nation?

There are obviously so many aspects of UGA and the Athens area that I love, but I thought I would highlight just a few that I feel really speak to why I am so thankful to be a bulldog.

The Campus: From the first time I ever toured UGA’s campus as a junior in high school, I was confident that I wanted to attend school here. The campus is so beautiful. Although huge and somewhat daunting, walking it every day for two years has allowed me to appreciate its beauty. North campus especially is so peaceful, and one of my favorite spots is Herty Field and the fountain. Also, the trees that tower Sanford Drive on the way towards South Campus are so bright and colorful in the fall. It truly is breathtaking.

The Spirit: Sanford Stadium sits right in the center of campus. It quite literally is the heartbeat of campus, and the spirit only exudes from it. It always excites me to pass the stadium on my way to class knowing that some of my fondest memories have been made in those bleacher seats. This excitement cannot even compare to the thrill that accompanies a Saturday in Athens. It is hard to truly describe what it is like to cheer on the Dawgs with 90,000 plus people who instantly feel like your closest friends. Whether you are pouring sweat or freezing your butt off, it is impossible not to find someone in the stadium with a smile on their face, unless of course the Dawgs are losing.

The City: Aside from UGA, Athens is a fun place to live. Home to some of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at, some memories that I cherish the most are those where I ate with Kody at obscure restaurants or shopped with my mom downtown.

The History: After conducting much research for my article and talking to intelligent historians, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t fall in love with UGA a little bit more after learning about its history. It is an honor to know that even as one student, I am a part of the over 200-year history of this amazing university.

The Opportunities: So many opportunities have been afforded to me simply by being here. I have been able to travel to other parts of the world, write in several capacities and strengthen my skills, learn about things I am passionate about, give back to the community, and meet lifelong friends.

I have sincerely loved every minute of my two years in Athens, and I am so thankful that my dreams are coming true day by day simply as a result of attending UGA. I can only imagine what I will have to look back on as I finish out my last two years. Go Dawgs!

Xoxo, Marlee

Time is ticking … but does it have to?

Do any of the following phrases sound familiar to you? I have wasted my time. Where has the time gone? That time could have been spent doing something more productive. Hurry up; we are losing time. I know I have used a few of these once before…okay maybe twice. My point is that so often we talk about time as something that is tangible.

Time is something that is up for grabs and ready to be filled at any moment. And when we fail to fill our time, we often automatically count this as a loss. What if we stopped counting it as a loss? What if instead time became something that we treasure, value, and appreciate rather than something that we seek to occupy, spend, and ultimately throw away?

It is so easy to get swept up in the pressure from society that says that we cannot waste our time. For elementary and middle school children, society says that they should spend time playing, exercising, and doing homework. Are they allowed to breathe?

According to society, high school students should devote their time to take hard classes, build their college resumes, and prepare themselves for college or the work force. Is there even time for them to “just be a high school student?”

The pattern continues. College students should use their time to study, make friends, and build a resume esteemed enough to land them a career. Working adults should designate time to strive for a promotion, have babies, and ultimately, train their kids up in the same mentality. Even retired individuals need to dedicate their time to traveling and staying busy. Heaven forbid that anyone would ever just want to sit, rest, and be still.

As my semester at school seems to be well under way, I have often found my thoughts drifting to society’s timeline. I am grateful that my semester thus far has been fairly light. My work load has been easy, and my extracurricular activities have not been overwhelming. Yet, I often think to myself, I must be doing something wrong. Why do I have all of this time on my hands? What could I be doing instead?

The reality is, I am exactly where I need to be. In my previous post, I talked about “seasons.” For me, it seems that I am currently in a bit of a slower season. Rather than deeming this time as boring, I am day-by-day trying to see it as an opportunity to rest.

I encourage each of you to begin retraining your thought process regarding your very valuable and precious time. Cherish it as just that—precious—something that you should not try to just “kill.”

Indulge yourself by watching an episode of a crappy reality show. Treat your nails to a mani/pedi. Guys, this goes for you too! Enjoy a nice dinner. Or even just sit. Sit on your front or back porch, in your bed, on your couch, and begin to learn to be okay with just being still.

We only have so much time, and it is definitely worth cherishing. I am not insinuating that you drop out of school, quit your job, and cancel all of your commitments just to become a couch potato. I am simply inspiring you to consider your time more seriously. Are the things that you are involved in adding to your life or draining your energy? Get honest with yourself, and be a little selfish.

At the end of the day, what do you have to lose? Just more time?

Xoxo, Marlee

Seasons

Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Which one is your favorite? Do you like the summer because you can work on that much needed tan to help bring your skin out of its vampire state? Or do you prefer the winter, a time where you can cozy up by the fire and enjoy a nice cup of hot cocoa overflowing with marshmallows. What about the spring? Do the blooms energize you or make you sneeze almost as if you had been nominated for a sneezing competition? Let’s not forget about the fall. Does anyone agree that this season is their favorite because it is time to cheer on the Dawgs or the Jackets if you must?

Whether we take the time to acknowledge it or not, these seasons control much of our life. They dictate what we wear, what vacation we take, or even what food we cook. They come, and they go, and with them, the timeline of our life moves forward on its inevitable continuum.

At their core, these four seasons can truly be described as fascinating, and I believe that beyond the practical ways in which they manage aspects of our life, they also possess very valuable lessons. They teach us patience and how to anticipate the future without wishing away the present. They also remind us that periods of time do not last forever. Appreciate the current state whether good or bad because once it is gone, you cannot get it back.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a season as “a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature.” It is this definition that refocuses our mind on the power of a season as not just a period of the year but truly a significant time in one’s life. So, may I pose a new question: what season of life are you currently in? Of course, we are all anxiously awaiting the Georgia heat to dissipate signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall, but more importantly, what is characterizing this time in your life—this season?

For me, it is a new beginning. I am just two weeks into my junior year at the University of Georgia, and if I could mark this season of life with a word, it would be joy. I am overjoyed at the new opportunities that await me as the school year is just underway. What will I learn? How will I grow? Where will I volunteer my time, and how will those experiences shape me now and in the future? It is an exhilarating season for me.

I share this with y’all because it is truly what is behind my heart for this blog. I have stepped out in faith to start something new this year, and my hope is that you will take just a few minutes to check out my blogs and read something that you find motivating.

I urge you now to take just a moment to be still. Rest in this season. Simply because you are in it means that you will learn something from it. Try not to take this lightly. If you are experiencing a great season, rejoice and be glad in it. And if you would characterize this as a hard season, find rest in the words of Anne Bradstreet. “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

Xoxo, Marlee