This is 46

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Satchel Paige said it best, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” That Satchel knew what he was talking about. Unlike past birthdays, my sentimental recap of a year did not happen. I was not reminiscing about where I have been and what I was supposed to be. I think at 46, it is what is it and it will be what it will be.

We are half way finished with February and at least 3 people my age, who were very significant in my life at one time or another, have passed away. One from cancer, one from a drug overdose, and one from a heart attack. We were all around the same age.

You see…. it is what it is.

And it will be what it will be.

It took 46 years to accept that. I believe somewhere deep inside I used to think that if I worried enough about something and spent all of my energy & time trying to manipulate a situation, that of course, I somehow had control over it. I laugh thinking about that now.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

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This is 46.

I’m not sure what I expected, say, 20 years ago. 46 seemed so old. I look at that pic and I don’t see old, yet I don’t see young either. I see a woman, with a smile, and that is good enough for me.

That smile is genuine. That confidence is real. That woman is me.

This is 46.

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February has been super busy for the Kirkseys. We spent the first weekend traveling two hours South to Valdosta, Georgia – home of Valdosta State University. Our middle daughter, Alex, is 17 and a junior in high school and is exploring her options for the future.

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VSU was actually my second choice for a university. However, I ended up being accepted to my first choice. We had a very vivacious welcome from the recruiters: A stadium full of hopefuls, lots of cheering, lights flashing on and off, and motivational stories. There was a huge push with their athletics program and then we were off to explore the majors. The whole day was supposed to be from 10 am until 3pm, we left by noon. Alex had experienced enough. It was overwhelming and not a good fit for a studious-academic oriented kid. We didn’t care that they were national football champs in their division. We didn’t particularly like the main professor of biology telling us that if you are interested in Marine Biology that all you will ever do is teach at a university.

Eh.

So we went for Mexican food. And Valdosta got one thing right – El Toreo had the best salsa I think I have ever consumed.

So there is that.

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The next weekend we headed down to my alma mater – Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. Another 2 hours away, but this time, Northeast.

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Not saying my college is the right choice for Alex (eh hemm…) but it definitely portrayed a completely different vibe. Both schools had their pluses and both have their minuses. What GC&SU makes up for perks & academics, VSU makes up for in diversity and school spirit.

In walked kids  hailing from Buckhead, Roswell, Cumming, Savannah, Augusta, Macon, etc. Mostly private school kids. Valdosta had a different feel altogether. Most of the kids were from North Florida and had more of a relaxed feel.

Vibes and first impressions aside, one thing is for certain, academics were the main focus at Georgia College. According to US News & World Report, GC&SU ranked 28 in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges & Regional Universities in the South. They were also voted #10 in Best Public Universities. #5 in Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs worldwide, and it is the top nursing school in the state… among so many other distinctions.

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We toured the campus, the dorm rooms, and even checked out the downtown area. Alex seemed very pleased with the experience. It was more intimate, and luckily, I was there to affirm what the tour guide was sharing.

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There was no pressure to pick a major, but to actually explore her options (which is what a liberal arts education is all about.)

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As of now, GC is at the top of her list. *proud squeeee*

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The following week happened to be Valentine’s Day. And we knew we had the kids that night, so we opted for an early celebration – simple yummy food at The Fish House in downtown Americus. We sat outside (because it is Georgia and February – so we are warm. 😉 ) and enjoyed some shrimp and chicken tenders. Our hearts were heavy dealing with my dad’s prognosis. Tomorrow is his pre-op and we are sending prayers his way. We tried to celebrate and just enjoy being together. It was calm and it felt right.

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The Kirkseys helped me celebrate my birthday the best way they knew how later that week: With tacos and cake. (You can’t go wrong!) It was a great night with family – lots of presents and laughter. (Exactly what I needed.)

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Cotton was a huge help. 😉 She insisted on helping me lick the icing off of my cake, as well as open all of my presents for me. lol Welcome to 3!

We also spent a lovely night at Plains United Methodist Church for their Sweet Heart Banquet, which is a fundraiser for the WOW women’s group (Women of Worship.) Steak & potatoes, a live auction, and lots of laughs.

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My actual birthday was such a treat! We left Plains around 6 pm on Friday and drove 2 hours and 45 minutes to Oxford, Georgia (South Atlanta area.) I went to spend it with one of my oldest friends (25 years now,) Mary Therese and her husband, Retired AF Colonel, Bob Griffin. MT and I worked in television news together.

She and her husband live in an amazing home with all of the bells & whistles and made sure I felt like a princess. As soon as we got there, we were given libations (me a glass of wine, Tim some bourbon,) and headed down to their movie theater to watch a hilarious comedy.

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Yes, we said theater. Their basement if off-the-charts amazing. It would be rude to snap photos, but just trust me, this is just one of the many amenities they have.

We snuggled in for a relaxing night, woke up to an amazing breakfast and headed out to CANDYTOPIA. It’s a thing, look it up.

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This was such a fun way to celebrate 46! I embraced the 6-year-old in me! Like Willy Wonka? Like bright colors and everything girly? Yaaasssss, Queen. It was amazing.

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We went through psychedelic hallways and entered a land of bubblegum and pixie sticks!

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All of the art was made completely out of candy. Every single piece. Plus there were vats of free candy everywhere. I took full advantage of the sugary goodness and kept shoving handfuls into Tim’s jacket pockets. lol

Some of the art was really fantastic!

My favorite part was…

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When the pigs farted confetti all over me and it smelled like cotton candy.

I seriously cannot make this up!

All we needed was glitter and I would have been in girly/candy heaven.

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What a fun way to celebrate!

We left Candytopia (not without me purchasing a hot pink trucker hat, rock candy, cotton candy pop rocks, and Tabasco Dark Chocolate,) and headed over to Phipps Plaza for a few libations and snacks at the Tavern.

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Here we shared stories and laughed and took a little stroll down memory lane.

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After lunch, we headed to downtown Covington. Or was it?

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Are you a big Vampire Diaries fan? Well I am. So much so that I named my big orange cat, Salvatore, after the lead vampire brothers: Damon & Stephan Salvatore.

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I decided to be a good tourism director and stop by the Covington Visitor Center. Met some of the nicest people in there and discovered so much about this area. If you love shows like: My Cousin Vinny, Vampire Diaries, Dukes of Hazard, In the Heat of the Night, Footloose… and I could go on and on…. then you have to stop here. So much has been filmed in this area.

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I loved how all of my favorite characters were highlighted with a little stone in the pavement along the town square.

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It was such a treat! A little Southern Hollywood, if you will!

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I absolutely loved the town square. Everything that was significant for my little Vampire Diaries obsession was there! I love being a tourist in my little state!

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We stopped for coffee, chatted some more, and decided that this crew needed a nap. We headed back to Castle de Griffin and took a load off. After everyone was well rested we headed back downtown to have dinner at the Mystic Grill. This restaurant is the main “haunt” in the Vampire Diaries.

Well.. we thought we were going to eat there.

There was an 1 hour and 45 minute wait.

I mean… I am a fan girl.. but…

We ended up heading to the one restaurant everyone recommended:

The City Pharmacy.

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And it did not disappoint. I opted for the Kobe Beef Burgers and felt divine!

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After a lovely dinner, we headed back to the house to indulge ourselves in their jacuzzi tub outside (again… gotta love Georgia weather,) followed by a delicious night of sleep.

We left yesterday morning and headed out to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market.

OMG.

Just go. It is a spice, meat, cheese, veggie heaven. I don’t want to spoil it. Just GO and trust me.

So here I am, back at home, 46, tired… because, well.. I guess I am 46 and have been running nonstop, and it is time to get back to work.

Lots to do.. and still more adventures ahead this weekend.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

Interested in checking out the cool places we visited?

Here are the links:

Valdosta State University

El Toreo

Georgia College

Plains United Methodist Church

The Fish House

Downtown Covington

Mystic Grill

Bread & Butter Coffee

The City Pharmacy

The Tavern

Phipps Plaza

Candytopia

Dekalb Farmers Market

Ask & You Shall Receive

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I have to admit – 2018 has been pretty remarkable! I realize I have been a little quiet as of late, but as with all new transitions (which I seem to be on an endless stream of them,) I needed to let the dust settle. We got into the house and settled into the life in Plains so very easily.

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We started off with my 45th Birthday party in our new home. About 30 people from Americus, Plains, & Macon came to celebrate my little stay on Earth. We had great drinks and lots of laughs. It was nice to be surrounded by my new connections with my  things. I haven’t seen these things in years (all stored up nicely in Macon,) so it was good to set them free, so to speak!

Once the birthday celebration ended, it was time to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. Tim & I headed to the beach house and relaxed with some sunshine & Vitamin Sea. There were so many surprises in store for me: An one & a half hour therapeutic massage, fancy dinner in Panama City, a shopping spree in Apalachicola, and a little Chanel. Needless to say, I was a very happy girl.

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Oyster City Brewing Company, Apalachicola, FL
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Fire Fly Restaurant, Panama City, FL

By Mid March I was on my way to Chattanooga with the theater staff of The Historic Rylander Theatre. We participated in a Creative Placemaking Conference with other arts organizations, municipalities, and tourism entities. Lucky for me, Heather & Will are not only co workers, but dear friends.

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Enjoying the view at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee

Back at home, things were going great! Spending time at my neighbor’s home on Saturday night with the rest of our neighbors. Eh hem… which include a certain former President. Yep, most Saturday nights (if he is in town,) he comes for dinner. This tribe of people are fascinating and have turned my non-existent social life into a very interesting experience. Every weekend there is an array of interesting people sitting around her table. From critically acclaimed authors, to journalists from places like the NY Times to the AJC. Never a dull moment.

Then another group in Plains reached out and I ended up a part of a Bunco group that meets the 4th Tuesday of each month! We have so much fun – playing the game, chatting it up, and gobbling delicious treats. (And wine.. I mentioned wine, right?)

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Bunco Group at Honey Hush Boutique

Two really awesome things happened recently. One – Macon Magazine approached me to be featured as one of the Fiery Women in Business for their Spring Issue! I was thrilled to share my story and share what I do with my friends and family back home.

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Not soon after that happened, I completed the renovation on the Americus Welcome Center. The Center is a place where visitors can stop in, learn more about the area, pick up souvenirs and get their questions answered.

With the duties of running the center, I have to attend the Regional Visitor Information Center Conference each year for the State of Georgia. This year it was in Statesboro. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express! The location was fantastic and I was pleasantly surprised with how cool Statesboro was. Outside of attending classes, I got to explore a little.

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Eagle Creek Brewery

We got to have a private party Eagle Creek Brewery, complete with a band performing and free craft beer samples, as well as some food. Lots of the beers served here have fruit infusions, I went for the Strawberry Wheat.


I gave my shot at Tactical Paint Ball! Another first for me! It was a solitary game, one where you gear up, grab your paint ball gun, then enter this dark maze where Human Zombies make their way for you. You aim, you shoot, and if it hits them, they dramatically fall to the ground. The first time I pulled the trigger I snapped a guy right in the groin. I apologized and kept moving!

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I tried something else for the first time – I jumped on a trampoline. My mom never let me get on one of these because she was afraid we would break our necks! But at 45 – I did it. Want to see proof? Check out my instagram feed and watch the video.

Now let’s take a moment and analyze what is happening here. Do you notice a change?

Yep. I’m living. I’ve transitioned. I’m going to be okay.

I’m going to be more than okay… because I have some amazing news: I’m off of my Alpha Beta Blockers & Cholesterol medicine! That’s right!!!!!! I’ve come a long way baby, and I feel phenomenal. Now I am focusing on getting my metabolism back to normal and kicking some PCOS butt!

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I also enjoyed a Birds of Prey & Reptile show at Georgia Southern University’s Wildlife Center. I got to see owls, eagles, and hawks soar & swoop right over my head! In this photo you see some of my fellow tourism colleagues hold this big guy.

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I shot a gun for the very first time at the Shooting Range on the University campus! I got a lot of my  questions answered and I have to admit, I am interested in learning more!

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I got some much needed bonding time with people with similar interests and personalities. Here you see Wesleigh from Marietta and Sloane from Jackson.

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We decided to give archery a try while in town! This was another first for me!!! I’m telling you, I was living my life to the fullest and loving every minute of it.

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Not too shabby, right? I picked #13, because 13 has always been a lucky number for me (Think TV days – 13WMAZ.)

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We even got to have a fantastic party at Splash in the Boro – this phenomenal water park owned by the county in Stateboro. Unlimited margaritas and tons of great Caribbean food mixed with karaoke & dancing!

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Something else happened while I was there. 😉

31073255_10156241228969929_4072781022800904192_nI received the State of Georgia’s Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism.

Yep. It’s a big deal.

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I was so surprised! My coworkers, Tim, and Alex all showed up to surprise me. Truly an amazing experience.

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April was full of so many good things. I got to go home and visit my family.

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I got to visit my old museum, the Cannonball House and enjoy the event I started 4 years ago: Beards, Bourbon, & BBQ.

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It was pretty cool to see the bourbon tasting was being conducted by none other than Americus’s 13th Colony Distilleries. My worlds had collided.

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I even got to spend the entire day sipping craft beer, wine, and cocktails for free at the Americus Hot Glass Craft Beer Fest!

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Then there was the big weekend-long media tour with journalists out of Atlanta. One of the first stops was Wolf Creek Winery in Americus. I went for the Wine Slushy shots… of course.

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Got to treat the visiting journalists to a spectacular dinner at Rosemary & Thyme in the Historic Windsor Hotel. Super fancy. 😉

 

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And just two Saturdays ago I spent the day with my oldest and dearest friend at the Spring Wine Festival at Wolf Creek. We slurped wine slushies, ate some hibatchi, and shopped the vendors.

Then one day later… something happened.

I felt an uncomfortable feeling on my bottom. (Yep.) Sunday, I found it was hard to sit and honestly, though this may be TMI, I thought maybe it was a hemorrhoid or something to that effect. Monday, I had to attend this event at GA Representative Mike Cheokas’s home and realized it was difficult to sit down. Finally, I thought I needed to take a closer look.

Yep. There was a HUGE knot on the left side of my bottom, on the seat portion. Not the other place.

The next day I made an appointment to see my gynecologist and she diagnosed me with an abscess. She gave me some antibiotics and scheduled an appointment for me to see a surgeon the following Monday. That (would have been 6 days later.) By Wednesday morning, I was running a low-grade fever and in some serious pain. Thursday – add vomiting. On Friday, I had to be at the Grand Re-Opening of the Americus Welcome Center (in extreme pain and sweating profusely, because little did I know, my body was fighting off a dangerous infection.) I left work a little early and talked Tim into taking me to the emergency room.

Thank God I did. I was close to sepsis.

Basically, I got admitted as soon as they discovered that the abscess had tunneled and was 5cm. I had emergency surgery the next morning (Saturday morning,) and was released that night. I’ve been home ever since and will not return to work until NEXT Thursday. I’m in excruciating pain (still,) and on some super heavy drugs. Antibiotics, pain killers… and horror upon horrors, my poor, sweet husband has to not only change the dressing on my wound, but has to repack it. My dignity is gone. I feel run down. I’m bored out of my mind.

Yep. What a year!

With that being said – a small tribe of friends are forming. My sweet friend, Rachel, brought me some produce and a fantastic llama coloring book & crayons. We sat for a while and caught up. My neighbor, Jill (who throws the awesome parties,) brought my family plates of food the night we got back from the hospital. My other friend that lives here, that owns a local restaurant, baked me a chocolate “Butt” cake as she called it. (Ha – Bundt – Butt. Get it?)

And tonight, the ladies worship group from the local Methodist church all got together and cooked some casseroles for us and froze them and are bringing them to our home. How incredibly thoughtful is that? We don’t even attend their church?

 

This is what living in a small, rural community is all about.

Though the ending of this little catch-up story was tough, the truth is, so much good is surrounding me. I feel the love. I see the true friendships forming, and I’m looking forward to a beautiful Summer!

 

PS – Pardon any typos… I’m under the influence of pain meds. 😉

Marketing In The Mountains

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When people ask me about what I am working on, I respond in the worst possible way. I will look you dead in the eye, shrug my shoulders, cross my fingers and say, “Here’s hoping it will all work out.”

Bullshit.

There is not much in this world that I have not plotted and planned to make happen.

My dear,

Hope is NOT a strategy.

I know this and I live this. I am extremely (yeah… exTREMEly) strategic about my life, my work, even my friendships. I love finding opportunities where I can pick up new tools & resources to really kick butt at what I do for a living.

I got a pretty opportunity this past Spring. I was fortunate enough for my work to pay for me to enter a Marketing College specifically for the tourism industry. Yes, I am already college educated, but this takes it to a different level and affords me the opportunity to get an accreditation in my field.

Okay, okay.. enough with the official stuff. Let’s talk about my trip!

I decided to pop up the night before. I hate to arrive the day -of an event. It typically takes a day or two to acclimate and not feel rushed. So I packed my little bag, and drove the 4.5 hours to the North Georgia mountains. I booked a room at the very same Inn Tim & I stayed in for our engagement weekend. I stopped by the place, and lo and behold, was placed right back in the exact same room! What were the chances of that happening!?

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Oh yeah.. in all of it’s tacky heart-shaped glory! I changed clothes and immediately hit the town, wandering from shop to shop.

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Helen, Georgia has this faux-Bavarian look. It’s like a Disney-version of Germany. I love it… it’s really cute and the themed-out community is sort of fun. It was raining a bit, and I was hungry, so I wandered over to the Troll Tavern by the Chattahoochee River.

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The weather had gotten pretty bad and the electricity went out while I was at the restaurant. I had to sit for about an hour (before my credit card could go through,) so I settled in with a cup of soup (Beer Cheese soup,) and a Helen of Troll. It was Rummy to my Tummy… get it? Get it?

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I left the restaurant and wandered a little more. Did a little shopping and snapping of photos.

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Finally, I worked up enough of an appetite and stopped at a little cafe and ordered a brat with tons of mustard.

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After dinner, I walked back over to my Inn and settled in for a bath and tons of magazines!

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The next morning I made my way to my final destination for the week: Dahlonega, Georgia. Their tagline is “Pure Gold,” for their gold mining past. The marketing college, which is a three year program for one week a Spring, was held at North Georgia University. I checked into my room and this is what I had to look forward to for one week:

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Oh yeah… a bunk bed situation. I had a room mate, and honestly, next year, I might opt to not share a room, if that is at all possible.

Our schedule was jammed pack with orientation, dinners, parties, and classes.


One of the nights we were all thrown on a bus and ended up at Monteluce Winery.

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We were given the VIP treatment with a fantastic dinner and open bar.
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The view from the dining room was absolutely amazing!!! THIS is North Georgia.
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The food and wine was exquisite and I enjoyed relaxing and chatting with my new classmates!
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After dinner and wine, I opted to head back to the dorm room to get a good night’s sleep.
I’m not as young as I used to be, and I wanted to soak up all of the knowledge!
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Without a doubt, Monteluce was the most beautiful winery I have visited to date.
The next night we were treated to a big family-style dinner at The Smith House.
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The entire restaurant was reserved for us! We consumed a large amount of good-old fashioned Southern Food.
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After that dinner, I wanted nothing more than to crash. Carbs overload!
The following evening we were able to do what we wanted, so I gathered with some of my tourism contacts from around the state and we dominated a little Mexican restaurant on the square in Dahlonega,
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We were slurping up pitchers of margaritas and salsa!
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After we consumed enough to give us a happy little buzz, we drove over to the local hot spot for a little karaoke!
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One of our final nights there, we hit up another winery for yet another VIP private party. This time at Blue Mountain Vineyards.
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We had a delicious dinner and enjoyed live music on the porch overlooking the vineyard.
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The week was definitely one to remember. I have made dozens of new friends from all over the United States (yes, the students come from everywhere and the college is offered in Georgia!) I learned lots of new tips and tricks, and I can’t wait until next year.
Except for this part:
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The multiple stairs up hills.
They mocked me.