Family Fanatics

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The Hokie Bird, the bride and groom, and the Lane Stadium cake… all in a building designed by Thomas Jefferson!

If you have looked through our wedding pictures, you will see that our family is crazy about one sports team in particular: the Virginia Tech Hokies. Our family might actually be Hokie fanatics. This post is inspired by Fanatics.com, an online retailer of all things sports – baseball hats, jerseys, and tons of Hokie gear to cheer properly!

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Our groom’s cake: a replica of Lane Stadium.

I will admit that it wasn’t always that way. Growing up in Charlottesville, VA, I was a huge Virginia Cavaliers fan. I was a Ball Girl for the basketball team, I did the kids clubs to meet and become pen pals with the players, I had my UVA cheerleading outfit on, and I went to the football games with my dad. He was grooming me to be a Wahoo, which was totally normal in Charlottesville. So, because I loved UVA, I had a severe hatred for Hokies.

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Although I don’t condone graffiti, this was a rather clever trick for the UVA stadium right before the UVA vs VT game.

Our senior year of high school, my best friend Kim (who was a huge VT fan) and I would have disagreements (fights?) about which was the better school. I was stuck up and looked down my nose at Virginia Tech.

Then I started dating Tim, whose parents both went to Tech and who would be attending their Engineering School in the fall. I went down to the Spring Game with him and his family.

I fell in love…

with Virginia Tech…

(and Tim).

I loved the architecture, the Hokie Stones, the stadium, the electricity in the air, and the FOOTBALL! I was a drama kid. I hadn’t gone to a football game in forever and a day. But I got hooked. It was a rainy, cold day. I should have been miserable. I wasn’t. I bought the only sweatshirt that was in the bookstore: an oversized (XL), overpriced navy blue hoodie (and I wore that thing for years later).

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The infamous oversized sweatshirt on our high school senior trip.

There was just one problem… I had committed to going to Vanderbilt University for college.

So, I went there my first year, planning to major in theatre. I met wonderful people and had amazing experiences in the drama department. I even made it to one football game (although we were in the SEC, we were awful that year). It wasn’t like Tech. I transferred to become a Hokie after that year.

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Tim and his friends arriving at the first tailgate of our freshman year. Although I wasn’t there, this picture hung up in my dorm room in Vanderbilt all year.

At Virginia Tech, I felt like I was home. I went to every single home football game, even begging my parents to leave our vacation in Alabama early one year so I could make it back for a home game. We tailgated with Tim’s family every single Saturday, making the trek across the entire campus to the stadium in all kinds of weather. We stood up the entire game, because that’s what students do. We jumped to Enter Sandman as the football team entered the field. We loved every minute.

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Sophomore year and incredible student season tickets

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The Hokie Bird crowd surfing right by us

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Excited to go to a game!

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Enjoying the excitement when College Game Day came to town.

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The sign read, “Beamerball The Best There Is”

Our senior year was when the shooting happened (you can read about my experience on this post). Although our lives had changed, our love for our school had not. It only grew stronger.

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On April 17, we gathered in Lane Stadium to mourn together.

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The makeshift memorials started popping up after April 16

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We took comfort in each other, not the media.

That next fall, I enrolled at UVA’s Curry School of Education to get my Master’s degree in Elementary Education. I still wore my Virginia Tech gear (proudly) on the UVA grounds, especially if we had a Thursday night game. I didn’t care. I was a Hokie now, through and through.

When we got engaged and started planning our wedding, I knew that I wanted to do two things for Tim: get the Hokie Bird to surprise him and his family and get a groom’s cake of Lane Stadium. I was able to pull off both surprises for him (and his whole family), and they are still some of the best money we spent on the wedding.

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What a surprise!

(By the way, it turns out that hiring the mascot of your college team is not that difficult! Just contact the athletic office, let them know what you want, and they will get you in touch with the right people. The only caveat was that the Hokie couldn’t already be committed to another engagement (public visit, sports game, etc.). It cost us just $200 + gas for the Hokie Bird to travel from Blacksburg to Charlottesville, and every single penny went towards the student who came to the wedding. As the old credit card commercial says… priceless!)

Our first dance was supposed to be to What a Wonderful World, but it ended up being the Hokie Pokie!

Our first dance was supposed to be to What a Wonderful World, but it ended up being the Hokie Pokie!

Virginia Tech sports (and mostly football) has been such a huge part of our lives. It’s more than just a game. It’s something that we can do together with our extended family. Even for the family members that aren’t fans of the game itself, we can simply be together during the tailgates… and what tailgates they are! Combining efforts with 3 families, food to feed an army (of college students), a dozen chairs, and a few coolers… Tailgating with the Doyles has become second nature- everyone knows what to bring, how to pack, and when to arrive. The only thing up in the air is if we will win the game or not.

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Lucy’s first tailgate, mere days after we brought her home.

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Celebrating the newly-engaged (now married) couple!

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A surprise cake for us and another couple who welcomed their second daughter… all at the tailgate.

Now that Audrey and David are here, they will hopefully make it to their first tailgate and football game this fall. I have already picked out their outfits (a cheerleading dress for Audrey and a football jersey onesie for David), and they already know how to jump during Enter Sandman (they were practicing that while I was still pregnant with them last fall). We will be able to start the whole new generation of Virginia Tech fans with the twins, being complete fanatics over their team, their school, and their family.

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The only way we could get my dad in a Virginia Tech sweatshirt was for him to wear the navy (UVA colors) oversized sweatshirt!

When I first became a Hokie, I started noticing tons of Virginia Tech gear all over the place. Every time I spotted someone else with a maroon or orange VT, I would say “Go Hokies!” These strangers didn’t care. They would shout it right back with a smile and a fist pump. Strangers no more… that’s the way that this school just brings people together.

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I still love my big brother, even if he is a Wahoo!

Disclaimer: I did not receive compensation for this post, and all thoughts are my own.

Live for Those… 7 Years Later

It’s been 7 years since the worst day in my life. As I had to get ready for my Tuesday classes, I took my shower as usual, sat down in my desk chair as usual, started to blow dry my hair as usual, and then checked my email as usual.

9:26 AM I saw we got an email about a shooting on campus. It scared me. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to go onto campus, but I continued to get ready. I delayed as long as I could. I had to leave by 9:45 to get there on time. Delay, delay, delay…

9:50 AM Another email telling us that a gunman is loose on campus and to stay put. No punctuation. I was scared. Tim was on campus in class. He was about to get out and go to his next class in Norris on the 2nd floor (I didn’t know the connection at that time). Internet service was spotty at best in the classrooms. I had to call him and tell him to stay where he was. I started calling, hoping his class would get out early.

I called and called and called and called. Finally, I got through at about 10 AM. He was just leaving and I was able to get him and he was able to get everyone back into his classroom, where they closed the door and waited. I turned on the TV and started refreshing my email every few seconds for updates.

10:16 AM Another email telling us that classes are canceled and to stay put. I need to get to Tim. I need to hold him. I need him to hold me. I’m scared.

I finally got a call at about 10:45 telling me that the police were evacuating his building and he was going to be on Main Street (he had to make it through a maze of buildings before they let them be outside). I found him walking along Main Street with his things. We went back to his apartment, sat on his bed, and started watching TV.

The numbers started coming in. A couple fatalities. Then more. Then more. Fatalities? They MUST mean casualties. Not that many dead! At some point we had collapsed on the bed, him just holding me. The tears came until they couldn’t come any more. We were numb. In shock. Sick. Terrified. Scared. Sad. Worried.

Thank goodness for AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). We started trying to connect to all of our friends. Every single Brother of our fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega) accounted for. Our close friends? All safe.

Still, we were glued to our TV.

When the video came on that was from outside Norris, and it showed the sounds of the gun going off, I wanted to vomit. I knew what each of those bullets meant.

When the numbers kept climbing, I wanted to scream.

Then the pictures came on that showed the huge mass of media trucks. We had to get out of there. We stayed that night, so we could get to memorial on the football field the next morning. We would leave after that. We had to get away.

I remember the news conference when Katie Couric came in and started pointing fingers right away. How DARE she?! She comes in to OUR campus and accuse US during OUR moment of unbelievable grief and horror?!!? We didn’t need that now. There would be time for that later. We needed to be together as a community before the media (aka Katie Couric) would be able to up their ratings.

I still refuse to watch anything having to do with Katie Couric today. We don’t even mention her name in our house.

When we left the next day, the names of those lives lost had started to come back. Most I didn’t know. Some I did.

The student who had just gotten accepted into the College Ambassadors program (which I was a part of). I feel so horrible I can’t remember his name now. Was it Daniel Perez Cueva?

Henry Lee – the actual brother of one of our female fraternity “brothers.”

Mary Read  – the girl that was in my Children’s Literature class the very next hour. She sat diagonal to me (her in the front row, me in the second). She was always first to raise her hand and always with a smile.

Leslie Sherman – the girl that helped Hurricane Katrina victims with me for hours the year before. We sat in a mildewy room, playing Jenga with a little boy who was displaced and had moved to Virginia with his family. We were strangers when we entered that room and shared a bond I always remembered. I drove her home that day (she didn’t have a car while I did), and I saw her almost every day for the next year and a half on campus at our class changes. We always locked eyes. Never saying anything, but I always remembered us bringing joy to that little boy. Hers is the death that haunts me the most.

I tried to sleep in my own bed in my childhood room. My mom even went out and got a brand new amazing soft bed for me, knowing the horror that we had been through. I had horrible night terrors. I woke up screaming. I needed Tim. He drove the 10 minutes from his parents’ house to mine, and we held each other all night long. I didn’t sleep separated from him for the next few months. I couldn’t bear to be alone during the dark night. It was too terrifying.

We got back to campus a few days later. We started the “healing process,” although there really wasn’t any process about it. We walked around in a daze. The news crews that were still there were more genuine, kinder, gentler. There were hugs all around campus between strangers. When someone broke out into tears on the Drillfield, a stranger would approach him and help console him. We were a family. We were grieving together. Classes were counseling sessions. On the first day back at Children’s Literature, we took flowers to the make-shift memorial to say some words about Mary. Something I thought but never said: On our first class, our professor told us that we would never read a book that had a character die. She would not do that to us. How horrific that it had to be a classmate dying instead. If only we could all read about 1000s of fictional characters dying to take away this pain.

As we “finished” the semester (sleep-walking through the steps of “life”), we faced graduation. Graduation wasn’t a happy occasion. It was another memorial. It needed to be done that way, but it was hard as well. I felt selfish to want a happy memory to end my time at Virginia Tech. I had just started to learn how to hold myself together. Unleash the waterworks.

Within weeks, Tim and I had moved to our new apartment in Richmond. Within months, we were engaged. We had happy times ahead, mixed with the sad (among those, my grandmother Audrey passed away after a short illness).

As I started graduate school at UVA in the fall, I was really apprehensive to step into a classroom again. I jumped at every loud noise and started shaking if I couldn’t see two exits to a room. One of my professors actually made some off-hand remark about the shooting, and it was everything I could do not to run out of the room. I emailed her and told her that I was at Tech during the shooting and that I was really sensitive to anything of that nature. She was very apologetic. On the first anniversary, I couldn’t be in a classroom, so I told my professors I would not be there, and I stayed home. My mom and I watched the memorials on our computer, crying as if it had happened just yesterday.

Years went by. It became easier. Easier, not easy. On the second anniversary, I was a teacher in my own classroom. I had just gotten married and come back from my honeymoon. No excuses. I had to be in the classroom. I planned extra-fun things that day. I needed a distraction.

The shooting and the pain will never go away. Trauma really never does. We live with it, deal with it, manage it. It becomes a part of us, a part of our being. At some point, we stop defining ourselves as “the girl that was at Tech during the shooting,” but that girl will still come out every time that we go through a safety drill at the start of the school year or someone brings up the shooting or gun violence. They don’t realize that I am the right age to have been there. To have lost so much.

To have gained so much. That sounds weird typing that, but it’s true. I wish it had never happened. I wish I could be naive and carefree as before. I wish I could worry less and feel more free. But with that pain comes a realization of the special nature of life. A friend posted this, and I “stole” it from her, because it is exactly how I feel today.

Live for Those

Oh Christmas Tree

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Before the tree goes down, I wanted to post some pictures of our tree and some of the featured ornaments. This is the first time in a couple of years that we didn’t just have the Hokie tree. Two years ago, I loved the idea of a silver and gold tree, so we have many of those ornaments (so classic!). We also got many of Tim’s childhood ornaments, and I am so happy that they now have a home on our tree!

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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2012 ornament from my mom to commemorate my brother’s 2nd appearance in the parade!

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My favorite of the ornaments: one made by “Timothy” probably when he was 2. His mom was very kind to let me have this, as I knew it needed a safe home on our tree. I love this one most of all!

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The Carnival Miracle: our honeymoon cruise ship.

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The ornament that Tim’s grandmother gave me the year before she passed away. I am so happy that I was able to meet that extraordinary woman.

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One of the sparkly “gold” ornaments. Those that know me will be shocked that it is glittery.

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An Irish ornament. I think my mom gave this to us last Christmas.

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One of Tim’s childhood ornaments.

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An ornament that we inherited from Tim’s mom last Christmas.

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A beautiful glass ornament with a menorah on one side and a Christmas tree on the other. My Aunt Liz and Uncle Lee gave this to us.

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The ring bowl that we used for our wedding.

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An old dreidel ornament that I inherited from my family.

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“Our First Christmas Together 2009″ (our first married Christmas… our 7th together)

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“New Home, 2008″ (the year we bought our home)

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Tim’s TMNT ornament

And now for some other pictures of our Christmas decorations:

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The Christmas/holiday cards

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I loved having a way to display our cards this year!

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The dining room

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Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

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A way to display unused ornaments

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More ornaments on display

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The Hokie Tree

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The stockings from Pottery Barn. Love them!

The Many Faces of Hokies

Well, we went to the VT-FSU game tonight in Blacksburg. Despite the outcome, here were our faces throughout the game. Although the last may look sad, I’m certainly smiling tonight. I had so much fun! I’ll add captions later.

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Nail Art Love

I have a Pinterest board called “Nail Love.” For years, I was a nail-biter, cuticle-picker, and all around hand-hider (I was so ashamed).

Last summer, however, I beat the habit! I decided to go and pay for an “expensive” manicure on my ugly nails. Well, I am cheap at heart, and I knew that once I paid for that, I would want to protect and take care of those nails. So for that week, I didn’t bite.

The next week, I went back and got another manicure. I didn’t bite during that week either. I kept paying $15 each week, and I kept keeping my nails looking pretty.

So, 20+ years later, and I finally beat that awful habit. When I am super-stressed, I might bite 1 nail, but I instantly regret it and won’t bite the rest.

Now, I’m obsessed with my fingernails. I have over 20 bottles of nail polish in bright, dull, and exotic colors. I have top coats, bottom coats, detail brushes, cuticle oil, rapid dry items, etc. This fall, I decided to see how many different Hokie patterns I could do for the VT games. While it didn’t bring us luck, here are some of my favorites:

NOTE: Please look past the polish on my fingers, right around the nails. These picture were taken right after painting, which is why they still were a bit messy.

Get it? They are footballs in the Hokie colors!

I absolutely loved these stripes. Preppy but sporty.

Maroon nails with orange glitter on top.

And then I have some pictures of non-Hokie nails:

Charlie Brown nails for the “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” 10th reunion.

I love this dramatic graphite grey color.

More Vinyl Stickers

Here are the mock-ups for more Virginia Vinyl Stickers:

“VT Virginia Map Vinyl”

“VT Corner Virginia Map Vinyl”

“UVA Virginia Map Vinyl”

“CVL Virginia Map Vinyl”

“RVA Virginia Map Vinyl”

If you want one, please let me know! I’m thinking that they will be $1.50 a piece, just to cover the cost of the vinyl.

Wedding Flashback: DIY Cake Topper

This post was originally published on February 23, 2009:

A really popular thing with weddings is having a custom-made cake topper that shows the initials of the bride and groom or their new last initial. There are lots of different ways of making these.

Some brides like the pearl letter, like this from Martha Stewart:

While some like wooden or metal letters that they adorn with crystals, like this from Toppers with Glitz:

While I think this is a wondeful craze, and I love this idea, I knew that for my wedding, I could only have one thing for my cake topper: The Hokie Bird.

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I absolutely LOVE Virginia Tech and all things Hokie (no pun intended), and I knew that I wanted to feature both of our alma mater in a fun, but still wedding-ish way. So I scoured the internet to find a Hokie Bird bride and groom. I heard myths of it existing, but I couldn’t find it.

I found this clay cake topper that was custom made from Magic Mud, but it wasn’t quite perfect:

So I felt like my dream cake topper was out of reach. Thankfully, I had an idea. I knew they sold Hokie Bird ornaments, so I would buy two of them and make them into a bride and groom.

As this was my first DIY project for the wedding, I hadn’t quite figured out how to completely steady my hand or work with really small objects. That being said, I love my Hokie bride and groom. Who cares if they look like they will start a fight with one of the rowdy wedding guests?

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Let’s Go, Hokies!

It’s time for football season! Here we sit, about to start the first VT football game of the year, and we couldn’t be more excited. We had to be busy all day, just to get to kickoff time. In case some of you don’t quite realize how much we love our Hokies, here are some reminder pictures from our wedding:

That’s right, the Hokie Bird was a guest at our wedding!

Farmington did an amazing job on Tim’s surprise Lane Stadium cake. All edible!

Our homemade cake toppers!

We even managed a bit of pitch-and-catch before the ceremony!

We love our Hokies, and we just found out that we are now (finally) expected to win. We knew it all along…