Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sports and Womanhood

This post is a response to a recent Sports Illustrated article detailing how female sports reporters are still bullied and abused online by a minority of men that just can't handle women in the sports world. I do not agree with every point the author makes, but I agree with enough to write this post. One of my favorite quotes from the article is below. You can read the whole thing here (caution: awful language due to the tweets/comments the author has received). 

"Those of us [women] who dare invade this mostly male space [sports] are generally accepted, but there remains a vocal minority committed to forcing women out and rolling things back to the good ol' days, when women talked about recipes and PTA meetings and shoes. (Is that what they talked about? I’m guessing here.)
Unfortunately for these “meninists,” an entire generation grew up as the daughters of Title IX, with progressive fathers and kick-ass mothers who took us to football games, played one-on-one with us in the driveway, and taught us how to throw a fastball. With more and more women brought up to believe that sports can be their space, too, it’s natural for them to expect a seat at the table when sports come up in conversation."

I am by no means a radical feminist, but this article is heart-breaking and important. I wouldn't call my dad "progressive," but he, along w/ my "kick-ass mom" took me to football games, played one-on-one with me in our driveway, and taught me how to slide into second (I wasn't a pitcher so there was no need for fastball lessons). 

I love sports. I love everything about them. I also believe men and women were created by God with unique gifts and strengths. I don't agree that women can do everything men can do. I don't think men can do everything women can do. Men and women are different. That's why I think it's important to have men and women represented in sports and sports media. They bring different, yet equally valuable, perspectives to the arena. 

I was reminded this weekend of how women are made to appreciate beauty. This is absolutely true, and a role I relish as a woman. However, I don't think beauty is limited to a perfectly decorated home or chic new fashion trend. It certainly involves those things, but there are other types of beauty. A Tom Rinaldi College Gameday piece highlighting walk-on athletes who receive scholarship offers from their coaches is beautiful. Pat Summitt coaching a championship game in the prime of her career was beautiful. A pitcher throwing a perfect game is beautiful. Watching Jordan Spieth play golf this year was beautiful. And of course, watching a young man from Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama return a missed field goal 109 yards to complete the upset of his in-state rival is absolutely gorgeous.

Those who know me well know I often use the refrain "sports tell good stories."  They do.  These stories range from the events happening on the field to the human interest backstories of the athletes and coaches involved. They display redemption and disappointment, victory and defeat, heroes and villains. They remind us that we are simultaneously the image-bearers of God and sinful humans who have a hard time getting out of our own way. Sports offer us a lens into the state of the human condition.

That is why I am thankful for a father who, after having two daughters, did not retreat to a nightly cigar and whiskey while watching old football films and wishing he had a son. Rather, he coached those two daughters in rec-league softball and basketball. He turned down promotions at work so he could be there to watch our games. I am thankful for a mother who cheered in high school and also played flag football in college.  She was Miss Auburn and is also a state-champion tennis player. She taught me how to throw a spiral then would make me come in and help set the table for dinner. My mom showed me that loving sports and being a woman are nowhere near mutually exclusive.

Most recently, I am thankful for a husband who is not threatened by my love for sports, but instead finds it attractive.  He doesn't care if I beat him in H-O-R-S-E every now and then. He always welcomes me to tag along with him to the driving range even if I whiff 50% of my swings, get frustrated, and interrupt what would have been his relaxing afternoon. I am beyond thankful that his confidence in himself allows him to encourage me to be myself. Last night "myself" looked like cooking us our first homemade chili of the season then eating it with him as we watched Monday Night Football and discussed our fantasy rosters. On commercial breaks, he washed the dishes so that I could switch out the laundry. By the end of the night we had full bellies, a clean kitchen, 4 fresh loads of clean clothes, and a celebration over Aaron Rodgers' 5 touchdown passes.          

I don't know the author of this article or the men who made those atrocious comments towards her. I don't know how they spend Monday nights or how they treat their daughters. However, I do know that being a woman has shaped the way I view sports, and sports have shaped the way I view womanhood. I know that one day I want my children to understand that "sports tell good stories," and I look forward to attending the PTA meeting at their school then coming home to play catch with them in the front yard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Will and I have been married four months today. The word "four" has rolled around in my head all day. But it isn't the number 4 that keeps coming back to me. It is its homonym. 

I attended the wedding of a dear friend a few years ago who had a unique set of vows that were spoken between she and her husband.  I remember liking the vows as a whole, but there was one phrase that really stuck out to me.  At one point in his vows, the groom said to her: "I am FOR (insert bride's name here)." As a single person at the time that hit me harder than anything I experienced at her wedding. He was vowing to be FOR her. On her team. Her cheerleader. Encourager. To pray for her. To root for her. To act with her good in mind.  I remember thinking to myself, "that's it. that's really what I want some day."

Fast forward to our first week of marriage and Will came home from work one day with a container full of leftovers his mom had sent us (Praise Jesus!). She had the container sitting on the counter with a sticky note on it that simply said "for Anne and Will" so he would know what to grab. No big deal. 

Except, as soon as I saw that note, my friend's wedding and vows came pouring back into my head. I remembered how I had felt that day and how fully God had answered my prayer in Will. He's not perfect, people, but if Will Sanford is anything, he is FOR me! I've not doubted it since day one. So, I displayed the note on our fridge and it has been there ever since. I hope it's always there. 

I hope that each day as we see it we remember to be intentionally FOR one another. I hope that we remember that we're best served if I'm looking out for Will and he's looking out for me--that we're on the same team. I don't take team allegiances lightly. So, I hope I remember the gravity I felt upon taking his name and officially joining his team FOUR months ago. I hope he remembers the joy he felt in finally finding his partner, his best friend, and his wife. 

I also hope we remember the source of that note--family. I hope that we remember that wedding day FOUR months ago. I hope that we remember the hundreds of family and friends who celebrated with us, and the hundreds more who have encouraged us and prayed for us along the way--essentially showing us that they are FOR us. I hope we remember that we have a team full of people rooting for us and that we are not alone in this sometimes scary new journey. 

My favorite number has always been 11, which is conveniently the day we got married. However, the month we got married is 4, and I hope it becomes my second favorite. I hope that whenever I see that number, its homonym comes to mind. I hope that little preposition sneaks into my brain and triggers me to pray for the grace to live outside myself and FOR Will every day for the rest of my life. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Great is Thy Faithfulness

"Thou changest not, Thy Compassions they fail not..."

I've never had a go-to favorite hymn. Several have circulated as seasonal favorites over the years, but there's never been one to consistently take the cake. I don't know that I'm ready to give "Great is Thy Faithfulness" the coveted "favorite hymn" trophy, but it has certainly had a consistent presence in my life, and yesterday I realized it certainly belongs on my list of favorites.
Somewhere around high school or college I learned that in faith, as in life, you cannot always trust your feelings or your heart.  After all, we are told that our "flesh and our heart may fail.*"  And they do. There are times we must lean on Truth--the knowledge we have which may contradict current circumstances, feelings, or emotions.  This seems like an easy concept; one I figured I would grasp, apply, and quickly master. However, I've found the opposite to be true.  This is something I have had to continue to practice and have finally accepted will be a choice I must make for the rest of my life.
So there have been times when I have sung "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with great gusto and joy from the top of my lungs, rejoicing at God's obvious displays of His faithfulness and goodness in my life. Yet, just as frequently, there have been times where I have sung this hymn through clenched teeth or clinched fists. With a somber tone or teary eyes.  There have been days when it was all I could do to utter the words and say to God "I know this is true, I but I do not feel it at all."  And yet each time I choose to sing it, choose to say that Truth out loud, even in my deepest despair, something flickers inside me, a little glimmer of hope. It doesn't make me instantly feel better. It doesn't solve my problems, it usually doesn't even stop me from crying, but it keeps me singing and believing, even if just a little bit at a time.

-Rejected from dream college: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" through tears
-New friends and a new ministry home Freshman year of college: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with rejoicing!
-First heartbreak: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with hurt, questions, and confusion
-Opportunities and honors at Auburn I'd always heard of, but never thought I'd have: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with thanksgiving!
-College graduation "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with fear, sadness, and also optimism
-The Fellows Program "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with exhaustion, joy, and community
-Several more heartbreaks: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with questions, doubts, anger, and pain
-Accepted to dream school for grad school: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with perspective on past rejection, rejoicing in God's providence, and amazement at His goodness
-13 months at an all men's college in rural Virginia: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with many days of "what am I doing here" but also friendships from guys who saved my sanity and made life fun
-Dream job offer in hometown: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with excitement and nervousness
-Blind date with a farmer from a small town 80 miles away: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with a feeling of "why not? what can it hurt?"
-Falling in love with and realizing I wanted to marry said farmer: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with thanksgiving, excitement, but still fear things going awry
-Getting engaged to the farmer: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with more joy than I'd ever known
-Resigning from dream job, leaving hometown to pursue new opportunities with soon to be husband: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with the oddest mix of joy and sadness I've ever felt
-Marrying the farmer: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" sung at the top of my lungs accompanied by a congregation of our closest family and friends as we became one on April 11th, 2015.
-Starting a new job in a new town: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with amazement seeing the path God had laid before me, yet still fearful of the unknown
-Yesterday, officially joining the first church family we'll have as our own new little family: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" sung by another congregation, this one without so many people I know so well, but full of people ready to welcome me and love me as their own, with Will and me standing in front of them, nervous, scared, but thankful to this place we have been led.

I don't know when I'll be singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" next, but I know I will, and when I do, no matter the circumstances, its words will still be True.

*Psalm 73:26

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Last Shall Experience Firsts

Will and I have been married now for almost two months, and last weekend was our first full weekend apart.  To put it bluntly, I was embarrassed at how much I disliked it.  I mean yes, he's my husband, marriage is super fun, getting to live with my best friend is awesome, but we've only been married TWO MONTHS. I lived alone for 3 years before this!  Three nights without him really should not have been such a big deal--so I thought. 

I am the last of my college friends to get married, and had a solid eight-year run as a single adult before marrying Will.  As I watched all 12 of them (yes, twelve) get married and start their new lives I watched them experience firsts. Some of these firsts made sense to me, but others seemed ridiculous.  Whether it was due to being in a different stage of life or just not letting myself go there emotionally, I couldn't grasp the emotions surrounding these experiences.  However, just two months in, I'm starting to identify. 

One of these girls is married to an accountant.  The kind that travels and studies for work. A lot. In a humorous mingling of timing, this weekend was her husband's last test and she was rejoicing. And as I sat in my humiliation at how much I was noticing and disliking the absence of my husband, I thought about her. This woman is strong.  She is independent, intelligent, and personable.  And yet, yesterday as she described her excitement of her husband finishing his test some her words were "I'm just so glad to not have to go to social events alone anymore!"  It's not that she couldn't go to social events alone. She can.  And she has. But they're more fun with her husband. Her buddy. Her date for life.  And I'm finally grasping that. It's not like I can't stay "home alone" for three nights. I can. And I have. But cooking dinner, binge-watching Netflix or the NBA Finals, and even getting ready for bed are all more fun with my best friend, my roommate, my husband. 

So this got me thinking about all the other firsts I've not yet experienced in my marriage that may come my way. Through these incredible girls I've been able to see and learn from the following firsts:

-first pregnancy
-first failed pregnancy
-first time to move to the other side of the world
-first time to as Tim Keller puts it, "wake up one morning and not know the person in the bed next to you"
-first time to experience a death in the family
-first financial issues
-first husband job crisis
-first wife job crisis
-first breakdown as a new mother 
-first hard conversation with in-laws
-first child
-first anniversary
-first "dream job"
-first mended relationship
-first dream vacation
-first "us against the world" moment
-first home

I often tell people that yes, being the "last" in that group of friends was incredibly difficult at times. But somewhere around the time of the weddings of friends number 11 and 12, the Lord gave me a sweet peace by reminding me that He was giving me a gift.  The gift was wisdom, knowledge, and experience. As I'm learning, you never truly know what something is like until you experience it for yourself.  However, I believe I've been given one of the greatest cheat sheets to marriage from these girls. Anyone else had a front seat to (to quote Lebron) "not 1, not 2, not 3..." but TWELVE real, dynamic, Godly, messy, redemptive marriages before your own?? Anyone? Didn't think so. 

Certainly all marriages and all people are unique and we will all have various experiences.  However, as I continue to experience firsts (and eat my words) in my own marriage, I will continue to count these 12 girls and their husbands as my trailblazers and undeserved gifts from God.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Do You Want to Resume Your Unfinished Solo Game?"

There is a game on our phones that Will and I enjoy playing called "Ticket to Ride," or "TTR," as it will be referenced for the rest of this post.  (Quick shout out to Erin Frizzell for introducing me to the game.)  This game is ideal for times when we're both home watching TV or doing chores or getting in bed right before we fall asleep.  It's a long-distance dating dream!  What's the thing I hate most about long-distance? Not being able to just "be" with the other person.  I love catching up with Will on the phone, but sometimes I wish we could just sit in the same room together and read. Or, play a game. TTR kind of allows us to simulate that. When we've already talked on the phone and caught up, or aren't in a place where we can talk at the moment, or just want to connect and play a fun game, TTR is there.  It has been a faithful friend to our relationship for about 9 months now.

Sometimes, when we are playing TTR, I get impatient waiting on Will to complete his turn (shocking, I know).  So, I'll exit our game and start my own game against the computer.  When Will plays his turn I get an alert that he has played and it asks me if I want to play on that game or "resume [my] unfinished solo game."  I always opt into playing on the game with Will without much thought, but the other night when I received this message it gave me pause.

The closer we get to this wedding the more I realize the intensity of my own selfishness, independent streak, and ego.  These traits show up in trivial things such as insisting upon carrying my own luggage, opening the car door myself, even not letting Will help me put on the new rain boots he got me for my birthday when they were a bit tricky to get on and off the first wear.  Unfortunately, these traits also show up in more meaningful areas like insisting upon my view of how we should look for a place to live or a timeline of getting something done or critiquing (okay fine, criticizing) Will when he does something just slightly different than I might have done it.  This weekend I even had a breakdown about losing my last name and the "brand" (yeah, squirm, I used that word) I had built for myself with that name while living on my own.  I confessed my fear of the anonymity I am going to have coming into a new town known only as "Will's wife" with no one knowing who in the world I am or what I did before I showed up in Prattville married to (in my humble opinion) the (former) most eligible bachelor in town.

All of this is part of me struggling to let go of my "unfinished solo game." Because I have learned that one's "solo game" is never completely finished before a future spouse steps into the picture.  One day, that person is just there and your "solo game" is cut short and your life is completely changed, albeit for the better.  Will and I are currently watching "How I Met Your Mother" from the beginning, and (spoiler alert) Season 1 ends with Lily and Marshall (the show's steady couple) breaking off their engagement because Lily leaves New York for San Francisco in pursuit of her dream of becoming an artist that she never realized because she met Marshall early in college and had melded her life with his ever since.  I assured Will, and I will assure the reader that my "unfinished solo game" is nothing of this sort.  I have no white whale that I was chasing and failed to achieve before meeting Will. Nothing like that. It's just that, no matter how much I yearned for a husband (and I did) or once realized Will would be that husband yearned to be engaged (and I did) or even now yearn to be married (and I do), there was and is a part of me that's just used to playing my "solo game."  As Will and I read books, go to our pre-marital counseling, and talk with married couples, I realize that this is the great challenge of marriage--to let go of one's "solo game" and enter into a "doubles match" with your partner.  In every aspect of life.  I'm not married yet, but I suspect this will be something I continue to lay at the foot of the cross and surrender throughout out marriage.

Speaking of the cross, yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and I had a(nother) major breakdown to Will (If you're still reading, are you surprised he hasn't left me by this point? I am. Everyday I'm surprised and thankful to find out he's still excited to marry me.) about how every aspect of my life feels like it's caving in on me and transition is all around and there are too many balls in the air, etc. etc.  And then I went to the Ash Wednesday service at church last night.  The theme, as it so often is on that day, was decluttering our lives to make space for contemplation and reflection which gives room to repentance and confession.  The service even began with a time just of silent prayer and reflection, the congregation being encouraged to "center ourselves" around the cross and set aside the busyness of the day to just "be."  I immediately almost burst into tears.  In fact, I fought tears the entire service. Not just at the reminder and reflection at my own sin and selfishness (see above), but from thanksgiving for an opportunity to come before the Lord and just "be."  I hadn't done that in quite some time and oh how my soul needed it!  I realized, in that service, that I not only had God been asking me if I wanted to "resume [my] unfinished solo game" in terms of my relationship with Will, but He had been asking me the same question in terms of my relationship with Him as well.  Did I want to continue to run around like a mad person try to check things off my list or did I want to take time to breathe and give my worries to him before going about my day?  Did I want to lower my shoulder and try to bulldoze through these last few weeks before marriage, or did I want to pause, look around, and realize the enormous gift He has given me and Will?  I realized I had been opting for the former but that my spirit needed the later.  I cannot play my "solo game" with God any better than I can play it with Will.  In both relationships it ends in frustration, exhaustion, and often times for me, tears.

So, no, TTR, I do not want to "resume [my] unfinished solo game."  As much as I am tempted sometimes to do so in order to prove my independence or worthiness or boast in my achievements, no. Instead, I'd like to learn to better play doubles.  I'd like to continue to grow as a partner, a friend, and (soon) a wife to the person I love most in this world.  And even more than that I'd like to continue to submit my desires to play my "solo game" with God at the foot of the cross where Jesus, who had every right to play solo, denied Himself, took on the sins of the world, and died for the sake of others.

Last night as I received the imposition of the ashes, my pastor said to me: "Jesus said, 'deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.'"  That's what I'd really like to do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Song That Brought Me Back to Guitar

I took guitar for a  little over a year.   I'm so pleased that I did.  I was single here in Birmingham and had plenty to do at work and socially, but guitar, once a week for 30 minutes gave me a little respite from the real world.  It gave me a space and a time to think about things that were purely pleasure for me.  Music.  Lyrics. Artists.  And then as life got busier, relationships blossomed, I gave it up.  There wasn't time or money for it.  And I've been fine with that.  My guitar time has been replaced with time on the phone with a certain farmer from Prattville (similar to how his golf game has been replaced with time with me).  Until tonight.  I heard the song yet again and had to try to play it.

I've never been to Talladega.  I had some guy friends in high school who went frequently, but if I'm honest, I've never been.  What kind of Alabamian does that make me?  I've been to numerous Iron Bowls so I'm happy to chat with anyone who would like to question my credentials.

Regardless, when Eric Church's "Talladega" came out last year on his "Outsiders" album, I was obsessed.  I was thrilled that this bastion of songwriting sanity remaining in country music had honored a hallowed place and tradition in my home state.  And at first, that's all it was.  An ode to my state.  Church is a proud North Carolinian and his previous hit "Carolina" bears testimony to that.  He is particular about the subjects for which he sings and so I felt honored.  He is one of my favorites.

But, as the months have gone by and I have continued to listen to the lyrics to "Talladega," I have realized this is not simply a song about a phenomenon in Alabama.  No, this is a song for everyone.  It is, once again, a country hymn to nostalgia.  Everyone has a "Talladega." What's yours?

The opening line: "It was the summer before the real world started..."  For me that was 2007.  My "Talledega" could be named "Youth Intern" or "Atlanta," as those were the key phases and places for me that summer.

Or the line later in that verse: "five best friends on four bald tires."  We weren't five best friends on four bald tires, we were multiples friends on so many metaphorical "bald tires," having no CLUE where we were going.  And yet, like "Billy" in Church's lyrics, I can still see the smiles on so many faces as one by one we "made it."  We got married.  We moved.  We got jobs.  We settled into adult life.

Because, as Church reminds us "like a storm, time rolls on..." and despite the fact that, as he and his friends, there were times we would have "liked to stay in Talladega"we rolled on. With time.  We followed the paths set before us.  To Atlanta.  To Birmingham.  To DC. To New York. To Nashville. To Dallas.  And hey, even to small towns in Alabama that, though not named "Talladega," would prove to be vitally important down the road.

And as I'm barely two months away from making one of those small towns in Alabama my home, there is something about that last verse of Church's ode to youth that makes my eyes a bit misty.  "When the winds go cold and it blows October, I think about us shoulder to shoulder, Like those cars my thoughts roll over and over and over, In my mind...I'm in Talladega..."   But in my mind I'm not in Talladega.  I'm in Auburn.  When "the winds go cold and it blows October" I'm in Jordan-Hare. I'm in Graves Hall.  I'm in Arlington, Virginia--fresh faced and not a clue as to what to do with the world.  And that feeling that Church puts forth so well of youth and innocence and naivety and ignorance floods over me and I realize I'll never have it again.

I'm too old.  I've seen too much. In 30 short years I've learned that I'll never be "Billy." I'll never do things the way I did at 18. Or 22. Or 25.  Or even 28.  But that's okay.  Now that I'm 30, I'll be 30.  I'll marry my best friend.  I'll leave my dream job and my hometown (again) and I'll start a new life where my children will form memories of their own "Talladega."  There will be new Octobers where I stand "shoulder to shoulder" with this new best friend and though we may not be youthful, we will still possess a bit of naivety and ignorance.  We will still brace the cold breezes we face together.  And in 10, 15 years, I'll look back with nostalgia on this "Talladega" and wonder what will be the next to come.

Perhaps that's why Church's song brought me back to guitar.  Perhaps that's why it conjures the emotions it does within me.  Because I know that there will always be that feeling.  That nostalgia.  That the past will always fondly remind me of where I've been, but that the present and the future will constantly be bringing me back, good or bad, happy or sad, to whatever is my current and next..."Talladega."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Our Story"

I never wrote an "engagement post" on here.  It's kind of weird that I didn't; I feel somewhat guilty, especially given the amount of angst and anticipation I felt leading up to that wonderful day and Will's perfect proposal on October 25th, 2014.  I kept wanting to write one; I just couldn't ever find the words to say to give it the meaning it deserves.  So, I did something I rarely do and kept silent.

However, I've been working on our wedding website and it has a section called "our story."  Naturally, this is the last page of the website left incomplete by me.  Again, I've been so scared to not give it the correct words or weight it's due.  But then I had an idea.  I started this blog with a post called "Where I'm from."  This came from an idea I encountered during my Fellows year where you tell your story with images from your life.  You can find that post here.  That's where I am from. That's my story.   What follows in this post is where WE are from.  It's "our story."

One year ago as of yesterday, January 10th, the future Mr. and Mrs. William Hopson Sanford are from:

-Good friends and family who thought highly enough of us to introduce us to one another
-A blind dinner date at Central, in Montgomery with Kim and Rob
-A bowling alley with Kim and Rob
-Board games (beating Kim and Rob)
-Rounding out a first date by staying up until 2 am just talking (no, seriously guys, we were really just talking)
-A next day breakfast invitation by a girl totally "in like" just trying to be polite "and put herself out there"
-A hearty acceptance of said breakfast invitation by a hungry boy also in like but who really just loves a good meal
-A long breakfast with a dear friend and her family
-4-wheel rides in January, sitting in the freezing and both wishing they could cuddle together to keep warm, but neither knowing the appropriate level of touching on a "first date part b."
-A drive back to Birmingham for Anne blasting what she calls "happy Taylor Swift" songs in disbelief of how much fun she had with this "farmer from Prattville."
-10 days of silence
-Every possible question and emotion running through Anne's head
-Meanwhile, Will is happily living his life on what Anne will later come to affectionately refer to as "island time."
-A much debated and reluctant two line "funny" Facebook message sent from Anne to Will
-A small novella of an immediate response back from Will to Anne, giving his phone number and asking for hers (Note: he claims he had gotten her number from Kim just before he received her Facebook message)
-A plan for a second date, this time in Birmingham
-The intermittent weekend: Anne flies to Virginia for a dear friend's wedding during Snowpocalypse 2014
-Two iPhone apps and many many texts and calls as Will diligently tracks Anne's progress up the East Coast, including her two delayed and one cancelled flight out of Atlanta
-A little voice in Anne's head saying "wow, this guy is really making up for not calling."
-A wedding weekend of late nights, each ending with a phone call from Will to Anne because he had waited up to talk to her
-A second date in Birmingham
-A trip to Avondale Brewery
-Hiking up the stairs to Vulcan
-The (thankfully) cold weather that allowed Will to put his arm around Anne for the first time as they stood at the top of Vulcan and looked out over the city
-A stop in at Church Street Coffee to meet Laura and Ryan
-Dinner at FIVE
-A late-night viewing of Midnight in Paris until about 3/4 of the way through the movie when the power went out all over Crestline
-A sign from God, according to Anne, that Will should DEFINITELY go for that first kiss
-Confidence from Anne that it was about to happen
-Instead, this question from Will: "Hey, have you ever been on any foreign mission trips."
-Happening inside Anne's head: "WTF?!?! Are you kidding me?!" Happening on the outside: "No, but..." and she begins telling her mission trip history.
-A few minutes later, the first kiss (Anne would like to thank her Baptist upbringing, former Youth Minister and pastors who took her on said mission trips and earned her that first kiss from her future husband.)  Oh, and it was a good one!
- [Side note: Will says he was just trying to get to know Anne and wanted to kiss her but didn't want to scare her away.  The mission trip question is just what came out.  Anne believes him and loves this about him.  She also loves that shortly after that hilarious question, he came to his senses and kissed her.]
-Since that day there hasn't been one where Will and Anne have not spoken, or a weekend where they have not seen one another.
-A Valentine's date with flowers, the Lego Movie and Bottega Cafe
-An afternoon at the farm with Abby and Holder (site of Anne and Will's first photo just the two of them)
-An evening of playing "heads up" with Jana, Will, Laura, and Ryan
-Will meeting Sus and Greg as they pulled back into their house from Jamaica at midnight.  Not quite what Anne had planned for the first meeting
-Will's introduction to Otey's--and Emory and Thornton
-Anna and Perry's Wedding
-Watching MBHS win back to back state basketball titles at Nancy Driskell's house with Jana and Will Flinkow
-A Birmingham date at Railroad Park and Cahaba Brewery
-The Chili Cook Off
-Will dropping "the L-bomb" one Friday night on Anne's couch--Anne waiting until the next night, after Amy and Brooks' shower, to say it back.  Both meaning it whole heartedly
-Plenty of gushing by Anne about Will at the "13auburnfriends" reunion
-Anne driving straight from her college friends reunion to Prattville to celebrate Will's birthday a day late, the first time for Anne to meet Will's whole family. Including VIP family members Shug and Presley
-First road trip to Nashville for Hannah and Tyler's wedding
-Staying with David and Christen (and Moose)
-Gianmarco's for Abby's birthday
-"Make Your Own Pizza" date nights
-A surprise purchase from Will to Anne of Bruce Springsteen tickets
-Other surprise purchases during this time included flowers for no reason at work, an iPhone charger that reaches from the outlet to Anne's bed (great for a budding long distance relationship, but unfortunate for her downstairs neighbor) and Bose wireless speakers
-Lots of goofy selfies
-Amy and Brooks' wedding
-A trip to The Masters
-A midweek date to Nickel Creek
-"Son of God" movie in theaters. Anne and Will are HUGE Christians.  But seriously, that movie and experience with Will led to this post
-Spending Easter apart but both sensing deep down that this might be the last holiday they spent apart
-PF Changs and bowling with Stewart Anne and Coe
-Bruce Springsteen in Atlanta
-A rainy but super fun trip to St. Pete to visit Turner and Forrest (and Queen Lou)
-Anne's first trip out to the farm and first ride on the cotton planter. She meets David, Crawford, and Herman. Basically Anne was living every country song known to man and it was awesome.
-Dave Matthews two sets live at Oak Mountain
-Anne makes Will's favorite coleslaw for the first time
-Will gives Anne the coveted "cotton" plate for the front of her car
-Sus gives Anne and Will tennis lessons (Will excels.  Anne is ok.)
-Will wins March Madness bracket challenge and enjoys escargot at Chez Fon Fon as a victory dinner on Anne's tab.
-Will flies home early from a family vacation to enjoy his birthday gift from Anne: pit passes to Amos Lee and Jack Johnson in Atlanta
-A mutual decision to NEVER attend another concert in Atlanta on a "school night."  Anne and Will aren't 22 anymore
-Pool days in Prattville
-Dinner at Ocean in Birmingham for the Sanford parents to meet the Womack parents
-At Will's prompting, Anne, Abby, and Sus go to look at engagement rings in B'ham
-"One Direction" night in Prattville with Annabeth--Will's a good sport, and often resembles Harry Styles when he grows out his hair
-Another 4-wheel ride with Kim and Rob.  This time Mia joins.
-Nelly and Florida-Georgia Line at the Biscuits Stadium in Montgomery.  Anne and Will regret nothing.
-Mary Coleman and Charlie's incredible wedding weekend
-Many a World Cup viewing (Anne won this challenge)
-Katy Perry in Nashville with Hannah, Tyler, Erin, Laura, and Ellen.  Will loved the 3-D glasses.  Anne loved the floating emojis.
-Will's 10 year high school reunion in Prattville
-About this time Anne realized Will loves a huge breakfast and the bacon/egg/grits (otherwise known to Anne as "Meme breakfast") becomes a thing
-4th of July with the Murdocks at MBC and fireworks with friends on "diaper row"
-A yard sale at the Sanford's house
-6 month anniversary drinks with the authors of this relationship--Kim and Rob
-A "tour your alma mater " date around Auburn
-A beach trip where Anne got her first taste of Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, the incredible Indian Pass Raw Bar and Will got his first taste of "Vacation Annie"
-Les Mis
-Drinks with Lauren and Adrian at The Club and "Significant Other Supper Club" at El Barrio and Paramount with high school friends
-Meme and Paw Paw's 70th Anniversary and Paw Paw's 90th birthday celebration at St. Martin's
-Birthday pool parties for both Annabeth and Jimmy
-Katherine and David's wedding
-An epic stay in Nashville involving the Seymours, one Lauren Hayes Chao, the Frizzells, the Villios, one LeighAnn Tufts, and Charlie Frizzell as Will's roommate (Charlie is a dog)
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the theater.  Apparently no one else in America liked this movie, but Anne and Will thoroughly enjoyed it and it's (not so) hit song: "Shell Shocked."
-Long discussions about their favorite Ninja Turtles and Anne's realization that this man was going to love her even though she was a big time tomboy when she was young--and still held on to many of those traits as an adult
-A joint ALS ice bucket challenge on a hot Alabama August day
-Braves game road trip with Will Steindorff and Sara. Club seats behind homeplate.  H&F burgers.  And a streaker. Oh, and the Braves won. That's actually the most shocking part.
-Anne went to a One Direction concert.  Will continued to date her.  The man is a saint.
-LeighAnn comes to town and roadtrips with Anne to Prattville.  Two of Anne's favorite people FINALLY meet
-Anne and Will get dinner at The Club and attend a Keb Mo and G-Love concert at Birmingham's Alys Stephen's Center.  Anne takes a sunset picture of downtown Birmingham from The Club knowing one day they would watch that sunset at their wedding reception.  Because Will told her so.
-Labor Day trip to Raleigh and Bath, NC to visit Margaret and Lawrence!
-Coffee with Beth and Margaret at Parker and Otis in Durham (Anne is in heaven)
-Dinner with Margaret and Lawrence at Poole's Diner--still heaven for Anne as she and Margaret's dream of their future husbands meeting and getting along is coming true before their eyes
-A weekend on the river at Bath complete with an Auburn victory, great boat rides, a few thrilling games of mafia, and some excellent parenting advice regarding dessert and movies with the entire Duke clan
-Anne and Will's first Auburn home game together.  Will's first time to "Woody's Spot" tailgate and Anne's first time in the President's Box while NOT wearing a navy suit and pumps.
-One of MANY Sunday afternoon/evening walks around the Brook
-A trip to The Alabama Biscuit Company
-Will learns to cheer for UVA on Auburn off weeks
-Will and Anne do an intense exercise together for the first time.  This goes okay.
-Will wins "best boyfriend" award by attending Anne's biggest fundraiser at work--a fashion show--and sitting with a table full of women.  Even sweet Dot made the trip for the big event.  Anne has fun showing them off
-LPGA tournament weekend in Prattville
-Mia Mitchell's first birthday party!
-Garth Brooks in Atlanta.
-A sleep over and brunch date with Mary Brantley, Lee, and precious Collyar Nalley
-A lake weekend for Auburn/LSU with Ryan, Laura, Will, Jana, Rob, Kim, Rus and Mel.  Plus Alley, Holder, Mia, and Catherine.
-Anne gets more flowers from Will for no reason
-The Head and the Heart concert at Iron City
-Will discover's the laser pin that drives KC (the cat) crazy
-Taylor Swift releases her new album 1989 (please, if this isn't included on your 2014 timeline, you've lost it)
-From that day until present, Will has not stopped showing off his sweet dance moves to Shake it Off and Blank Space
-Anne's parents come to Prattville to tour the farm.  Anne thinks Will might propose.  He does not.  Will is good and God is better and it's still a really great weekend
-One week later. Will takes Anne to Auburn early to tour the clock tower at Samford Hall. An honor bestowed upon student leaders at Auburn, of which Anne was apparently not, but Will was.
-Once in said clock tower, Will finds a place to sign the wall, hits a knee, has a diamond ring attached to a Sharpie and asks Anne to sign it as "The Future Mrs. William Hopson Sanford," which she does with DELIGHT
-Anne and Will exist in a time/space continuum and nothing else on the Earth actually happens in those moments.  Really. Nothing.  Did you think you did something at that moment? You didn't. This proposal was ALL.THAT.HAPPENED.
-Anne and Will descend from Samford Hall to find their families eagerly waiting to celebrate with them
-Anne and Will spend the day and night in Auburn celebrating with friends and family while the Auburn football team thwarts Steve Spurrier's plan to ruin the day by going for every possible 4th down conversion, and making most of them.
-This was the beginning of Anne and Will's engagement, but the end of Auburn's football season.  Though saddened, both Anne and Will have agreed that if they had to pick one, they're cool with Auburn's season going downhill while their relationship kept climbing.
-Anne and Will see City and Colour at Iron City
-MBHS won a volleyball state championship.  Anne is writing this so she gets to insert these random things.
-Anne and Will venture to Oxford,MS with Dot, Jimmy, Catherine, and Walt for a weekend of great food, good company, and a chilly Auburn victory
-Auburn loses to TX A&M but Will gets to meet several of Anne's college friends at the tailgate, including Ivy, Drew, and Warren Lassiter
-They attend a shower for Ethan and Hannah where Will receives the greatest compliment of his life from Ethan: he has a nice butt
-Anne and Will get taken to church by St. Paul and the Broken Bones
-Anne and Will's awesome wedding photographer (Marsha Perry--look her up!) makes the 80 mile drive to Prattville to shoot engagement photos in the cotton fields.  Anne and Will nearly freeze to death but have a blast
-Anne and Will venture to Athens to watch Auburn get pummeled by the Bulldogs.
-They eat their feelings at the Varsity the next day on the way home
-Anne and Will rock out with Old Crow Medicine Show at the Alabama Theater--their second show there in less than a week.  Anne decides their B'ham engagement photo session will include this beautiful venue
-The next day: said engagement photos. Alabama Theater. Avondale Brewery (complete with a beer), Morris Avenue, illuminated underpasses, and 21st Avenue with a view of Vulcan and downtown Birmingham
-Anne and Will celebrate finishing their engagement photos by dining at Vino where Al Rabee treats them to delicious drinks and apple fritters.
-They then make a lipsync video to "All About That Bass" for Ethan and Hannah
-Anne and Will end their epic 2014 concert run with 90's favorite, Better Than Ezra, at Iron City
-First "shared" holiday.  Thanksgiving lunch with the Sanfords and Thanksgiving dinner with the Womacks.  Both their hearts and stomachs were full
-In preparation for the Iron Bowl, Will catches some passes from Sus in the Womacks' front yard. Later, Anne and Will venture to MBHS where each runs routes dreaming of the high school football glory neither experienced.  #cleareyesfullhearts
-A Christmas Carol at the Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery
-Anne and Will's first gift registry experience leaves them almost exhausted and very late for dinner with Kim and Rob
-"White Christmas" at the Alabama Theater
-Auburn Hires Will Muschamp.  Will poses in front of "Auburn Christmas Light" house in Crestline for  an epic "BOOM!" photo
-Anne and Will finish registering, dine at Primeaux, and toast Taylor Swift's 25th birthday
-They attend "The Music of Christmas" at Brookwood Baptist Church where Sus knocks it out of the park and Anne cries
-They venture to Chicago for a few days with the Sanford Family
-Attend a German Christmas Village
-An incredible performance of Handel's Messiah
-Tons of Chicago pizza
-A Bears game--bucket list
-Drinks at the top of the Hancock Building
-Brunch at the American Girl Place--to be clear, this was just Anne and the girls--not Will
-A date night at RPM, reservations courtesy of the Sanfords
-Christmas Even service at Brookwood Baptist and Christmas Eve chaos at Linda and Charlie's
-First kiss under the mistletoe
-Christmas morning with the Womacks
-Christmas weekend in Prattville meeting Uncle Joe and celebrating Christmas with the Sanfords
-A surprisingly delicious seafood dinner at the "Montgomery Oyster Club" with Will and Sara
-New Year's Eve sick. Dinner at 6:30 at Dyron's.  Sweatpants and medicine by 8pm.
-Football and T.Swizzle on tv. Will dancing with a light up maraca.
-Cam Makes the playoffs and wins his first game
-January 9th: Will helps Sus, Greg, Abby, and Holder throw Anne an EPIC 30th surprise party complete with photos of Anne hanging all over the house
-January 10th: Anne and Will's one year anniversary.  Instead of reliving bowling they celebrate at Ethan and Hannah's wedding
-January 11th: That's today. Three months until Anne and Will's wedding. If you've made it this far, YOU WIN!

That's where we're from.  We like it.  We're even more excited about where we're going.  Thanks for coming along with us.  There's no way we're here without our friends and family.
Much love,
The future Sanfords