Monday, May 19, 2014

i pulled off a surprise!

My dad's always been a 'surprise' person. You know...the kind of person that really likes planning and pulling off elaborate surprises for other people. Secretly planning something that he knows another person will love gives him great joy. The sneaky plotting. The carefully woven un-truths. The reveal. He's a surprise guy. 

I inherited a bit of that love, but to a lesser degree. Or maybe it's just that my love of treating myself seems to take precedence over planning fun things to surprise other people with. Oops. But on occasion, I really do love plotting a good surprise for someone else. But I'm bad at keeping it a secret. Here's a typical scenario in my house:

Me: MATT!!!!! Your birthday is coming up!!! We are going to do something SUPER AWESOME and soooo fun and you are going to DIE!!!! from how awesome it is!!!!!!!!!

Him: Cool, what is it?

Me: I'm not saying, it's a surprise!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Him: Oh, okay, cool!

Me: ...ummmm...don't you want to know what it is?

Him: You said it was a surprise....??

Me: It is!! But don't you like...want any clues? Aren't you curious? Do you even CARE THAT I'M PLANNING SOMETHING SO SO SO AMAZING?!?!?!

Him: Oh, yeah. what are we doing?


Him: (wanders off to play with the dog or something)

Me (ad nauseum, for the next however many weeks it is until the reveal): Are you excited about the surprise? Have you guessed what it is? I'm not telling, you know. But here's a clue: it is so awesome

Him: (ignoring me)

It's kind of sad, right? Right. Anyway.

A few weeks ago, my now-friend-but-then-stranger Emily sent me a Facebook message. I know of Emily (and am FB friends with her) because she's great friends with my blog friend/soulmate Colleen. Any friend of Colleen's is a friend of mine. Emily used to live in Colorado near Colleen, but recently moved to northwestern North Carolina. So anyway, Emily sends me a message.

Colleen is coming to visit me in a few weeks. I know she would LOVE to meet you in person, but I know it's pretty far from Athens to ____ (wherever she lives, I can't remember the name of the city). Any chance you could meet us in Asheville any of those days? I'd love to take her to Biltmore and I think it'd be a fun surprise!

Ummm....yes. Yes and yes. I gave a brief thought to the logistics: take the day off work. Drive a million hours (okay, three...each way) alone. GET TO MEET COLLEEN. Done and done.

So Friday was the day. I felt like my dad as the Surprise Day approached. Is there such a thing as Surpriser's High? I think that there is. Thinking about how awesome and exciting it was going to be when I 'revealed' myself to Colleen made me insanely giddy all week long. It is nothing short of a miracle that I didn't spoil my own surprise by sending Colleen obnoxious messages like I wonder who you might run into on your vacation??!?!?! Oh, how did I know you were going on vacation? Umm...good guess?? I hacked your credit card? GOTTAGO,BYE! Emily and I excitedly messaged and texted all week, imaging how it would all go down. And also scoping out the Asheville food scene WHICH IS MAGNIFICENT and planning our meals for the day. 

I got to Asheville around 11:15 a.m. on Friday. We were planning to meet at Tupelo Honey Cafe for brunch. We weren't sure how things would actually go down because we didn't know who would get there first, whether we'd have to wait for a table, or what. As it turned out, I beat them to the restaurant by about 5 minutes. I thought quick and decided to cop a very natural pose against the outside wall of the art gallery next door to the restaurant. I opened up my copy of Queen of Hearts, one of Colleen's novels, leaned back against the wall, and pretended to read. I sneakily texted Emily to let her know what I was doing...and to make sure that at least ONE of them noticed the girl in the green shirt reading Colleen's book, ha. 

Colleen fell right into the trap. I was wearing my sunglasses (and not actually reading), so I saw them when they turned the corner onto the block. I could hear them when Colleen spotted someone READING HER BOOK IN PUBLIC!!!!!! She stopped in her tracks and I could hear her freaking out that a total stranger on the other side of the country was reading HER BOOK...right next to the restaurant they were going to eat at!!!! She decided to approach the Queen-reading stranger and ask to take a picture with her. 

I took my sunglasses off and said "Hi, Colleen!!"

She looked like she had seen a ghost.

"Er...eri...ERIKA?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!!?" (I cannot emphasize the excitement and loudness enough here.)

"ERIKA?!??!?!?!" is more like it.

Emily and I cracked up at her bewilderment. I hugged her. She looked totally shocked and sputtered "oh my you live here??! Is this close to Athens?" (bless her non-geographically inclined heart)

I had to inform her that this actually was not a coincidence and was actually a big surprise plotted by Emily, whom I high-fived. 

It was awesome.

The rest of the day was awesome, too. We ate, we went to Biltmore, we ate some more, we went to a wine tasting. We ate BBQ. And throughout the course of the day, approximately every 12 seconds, Colleen was once again overcome by the awesome surprisiness (real word, promise) of it all: I can't believe I'm _____ (eating, driving, sitting) with you!!!! and it was so, so fun.

I'll share more about Biltmore later (kind of small and tacky, in my opinion...), but hands-down the best part of the day was the realization that blog friends are even better as real life friends. That the people who serve as your sounding board and support system through messy and difficult years of life via email are even better listening ears and huggers in the flesh. It was so so so good for my heart to meet my blogging soul-sister in person.

And for a really good laugh, you should read Colleen's account of the day. It is hilarious and also a little hero-worshippy (with the hero being me!), which makes it even more hilarious. And also I'm a hero with the lilting drawl of Scarlett O'Hara...betcha didn't know that! (I didn't.) Also she describes meeting me (on the internet, pre-real life meeting) as like finding a seahorse in a swimming pool, a little bit of delightful magic.If you tell me you wouldn't travel across the universe and through time to hug the neck of someone who describes you like that, you're lying.

It was a super awesome day. And now I'm ready to plan my next big surprise! This could be addicting.


  1. The Biltmore is small??? Girlfriend, it's a MANSION... by definition not small.

    Both of your accounts were hilarious! Way to think fast on your feet with the sunglasses and book... I'm so glad it worked out so perfectly! It sound's like Colleen totally went for it which is awesome. I would have simply stared at the girl reading my book, so hooray for the gutsy move on her part!

    Now by all means, please carry on sipping your sweet tea and fanning yourself from the veranda... maybe it's a mint julep kind of day???

    1. What do you mean? I thought everyone in The South just sat and drank mint juleps on the veranda all day. I'm so disappointed...

  2. That's so fun! Now you have to do a vlog so we can hear this Southern accent.

  3. Awwww sweet. I seriously had tears in my eyes at your account of her realizing it was you! What a fun adventure.

  4. Loved seeing y'alls pics on insta!!!! So so so fun!!! xoxo

  5. I'm impressed with how flawlessly the surprise reveal went! I'm not sure I could have stood there patiently and non-awkwardly, like I'd get too antsy and just run up and ruin it. Way to go! Glad y'all had a fun day!

  6. This sounds like so much fun!!! And way to pull off the surprise. I got all teary-eyed reading both your and Colleen's accounts of the day.

    Just warning you though, if you show up in my backyard today, I will likely faint from shock. And then make you plant strawberries!

  7. I LOVE a good surprise! I am not sure what I like better, being the the surpriser (not sure that is a word) or the surprisee (making up words left and right). I HEART Ashville, we went on vacation every summer to small church retreat center in Hendersonville and we always made day trips to Ashville.

  8. Awww this is so cool!!! I also loved her version of the meeting! You are famous lady!

  9. Is it sad that I'm totally jealous of all involved? :-) Glad you guys had an amazing day!

  10. What a fun surprise! I am super impressed that it went down without one single little hiccup! Good for y'all!

  11. I'm planning a visit to the Biltmore this summer...wanna surprise me?! ;)
    How sweet you are to surprise Colleen! It's something she'll never forget. That's why your dad loves doing it!

  12. This is so awesome!! I love stories like this one. I feel like you win the prize for meeting, in person, the most blog friends!

  13. omg that is TOTALLY how I do surprises too!! and my husband couldn't care less, and it bugs me so much! i love surprises

  14. That IS a fun surprise! So does this mean I can wake up every day wondering if you'll show up in my break room at work during lunch or something? Or better yet, that you'll show up at my door step at 6:30 am with kolaches?


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