Thanks for the fun, 2015!

2015 is a year I will never ever forget.

From marrying my best friend to moving into our first place together to watching him walk the graduation stage at the University of Florida to adopting our puppy… Oh, I could go on and on and on…

I’m so lucky to be living this life and a happily forever after with my one and only. Cheers to the exciting year that has passed and to another round of memories for 2016!!

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PS: This picture is special to me because it’s one of my 2015 highlights. While everyone at our wedding reception was lining up outside for our grand exit as Mr. and Mrs., Ryan and I enjoyed a final, private dance to one of my favorite songs. Pure joy; a moment we will both cherish forever!!

Happy New Year, friends!

A very merry Christmas

Another holiday season has come and gone… Can you believe it?

This one was extra special not only because it was our first as Mr. and Mrs., but Ryan and I were also able to host my parents and grandparents in our own home in our favorite little beach town.

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During December, Wilmington afternoons typically run into the mid-50s and the nights usually drop into the mid-30s. The one year… the ONE year… we’re able to have Christmas somewhere other than the Sunshine State, the entire East Coast is experiencing the WARMEST December 25 on record.

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It seems as if the Floridians brought the heat up with them.

ILM Airport hit 79° on Christmas Eve, which broke the 78° record from 1879; 80° on Christmas Day, which broke the 77° record from 1955; and 79° on December 27, which broke the 77° record from 1875!

Records in Wilmington only go back to 1874, so today’s (Dec. 27) 140-year-old record is about as old as what can possibly be broken here! INSANE! Right?

And if you thought the warm weather was the only thing unusual, think again. For 2015, Wilmington is STILL about 14.50″ ABOVE normal for yearly precipitation. Thanks, El Nino.

Back to my family’s visit…

We decorated Christmas cookies (even though we only have evidence of us eating them…), played card games around the kitchen table, opened gifts and laughed for hours, took the puppy to the beach, soaked up the cool AC while watching the Family Feud marathon on TV, spent time on the Cape Fear River downtown and simply enjoyed one another’s company.

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I also worked a couple of days while they were here, but of course I have the greatest co-workers who help make working around holidays seem like a piece of cake!

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Oh, and did you see the FULL MOON? It was the first one to rise on Christmas Day since 1977. The next one? Yep, it won’t be until 2034.

I loved how the skies cleared just enough for all of us to stand outside and admire it for a while! It’s the little things…

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Well, all good things have to come to an end… At least that’s what everyone tells me.

Is anyone else terrible at goodbyes? I always try to remember to instead say, “See you soon!”

It’s hard.

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They’re so far away – physically – but the memories we always make together mean so much more. Even though they’re back in FL and the wrapping paper and presents are all put away, my home feels a little happier thanks to their visit.

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Ryan and I are so blessed – for family, good health, our jobs, our fur babies and every day we get to see the sunshine. I get lost when thinking of all of the amazing things that happened in 2015 and we’re both looking forward to see what 2016 has to offer!

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I say it every year, but life truly gets sweeter with time… especially because of the people I have by my side, near and far.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas. I know I sure did and it’s one I will never forget.

I wish you nothing but the best for the New Year. Cheers!

XOXO – Lauren

Gingerbread Wishes

The goal was simple: Host a gingerbread house competition to support Make-A-Wish Eastern NC. The planning and execution? Well, that took some work, but with the help of some friends and an amazing, tight-knit community we made it work all within two weeks notice… and boy, was it worth it!

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A little back story for you- It’s never been a huge family tradition to make gingerbread houses and, frankly, I never really had the time to think about it (or so I thought…)!

That all changed in 2014 when I met Katie Hicks.

Katie is a special person. Her kind heart, determination and positive attitude was contagious when I met her during one of my reporting shifts. So, we kept in touch.

This year, she came up with the brilliant idea to host a gingerbread house competition in order to benefit my WISH Champion campaign for Make-A-Wish. It would be an event for all ages; something to get everyone in the Christmas spirit!

Once Janis Netherland with the local Make-A-Wish chapter heard of our idea, she kicked me into planning mode and off we went…never looking back… with less than a month to brainstorm!

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My WISH Campaign goal is $7,500 which is the average cost of one wish. These wishes make the world better and they help brighten a world of a child fighting a life-threatening medical condition.

Personally, I strive to spread the smiles in every aspect of my life. After working with several local with children and their families in Wilmington, I knew Make-A-Wish was one way I wanted to give back- to help grant other wishes.

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“Gingerbread Wishes” was born one night inside a Port City Java. Four women, including myself, sat for hours and brainstormed the perfect event with all of the bells and whistles. However, many pieces were missing:

  • Where do we host it?
  • How do we get enough money for cookies?
  • How will we advertise?
  • Who can help with prizes for winners?

Well, even though we had our doubts, all of those questions seemed to work themselves out. After talking with local businesses and other people in the community, it was incredible to see just HOW MUCH everyone wanted to GIVE!

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My heart was bursting with happiness. “Gingerbread Wishes” was happening!

The entries started trickling in as cookies for decorating, signs for advertising and a storefront in the mall were all donated. Happy, happy me!

Then, I wondered… I hope people show up… I hope people don’t think this is silly… I hope this is all worth it!

Now, I think… What was I worried about? Wilmington always pulls through!

Over $2,000 was donated in just three days. Hundreds of children decorated cookies, voted for their favorite gingerbread house and danced to Christmas music in our little storefront. And every parent that walked out of “Gingerbread Wishes” that week thanked me.

The most exhausting couple of weeks was worth every single second – every ounce of sleep I lost, every minute my back ached, every time someone turned me down for a donation (tough crowd, ya know!), every giggle I heard from the kids making memories with family and every penny that was put into the donation jar from December 15 through December 17.

If this is what it takes to spread the smiles… and to help bring some happiness into a child’s life that has been overcome by cancer… then yes… it’s ALL worth it. Every bit of it!

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Thank you to everyone who chipped in for our first “Gingerbread Wishes.” Maybe next year we can make this even bigger, better and help grant even more wishes. I can tell you Katie is already sending me ideas! 😉

This wouldn’t have been possible without the support from the Wilmington community.

Cheers… to granting wishes!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

XOXO

Chopping down our Christmas tree!

Since we’ve been married, Ryan and I love continuing family traditions but we also love making traditions of our own – especially since it’s our first holiday season as Mr. and Mrs.

Growing up in south Florida (or Florida, in general), our Christmas trees either came in a box, were purchased in a parking lot OR were palm trees decorated with sparkly lights.

This year, we decided to do things a little differently.

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So, with the higher latitude came higher expectations. We were going to chop down our own Christmas tree and it was going to be AWESOME.

And yes, the experience proved just that. After an hour to Duplin County (we are in New Hanover County on the coast), we ended up at a tree farm that did not have trees ready for chopping.

Disappointed, but keeping our eye on the prize, we then ended up in Cumberland County – A Fayetteville spot called B & D Christmas Tree Farm. If you’re wondering, this trip was so worth the drive!

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We were greeted with smiling faces and handed a measuring pole to price the tree, plus a saw to chop… our… tree. YES!

After quite some time walking the farm and sizing up the specimens, we found the perfect tree.

And just like that, we chopped down our very own Christmas tree… a memory that I will never forget!

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The tree now sits in our living room and we’ll enjoy it for as long as we can because WE chopped it down for our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. (and of course the puppy had to help, too)!

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Happy holidays, everyone!!

Life as a Mrs.

BLISS [blis]: (noun) 1. supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment

I’ve been asked a lot, “What’s married life like?” or “How are you doing?” I usually reply with a simple, “Oh, it’s wonderful!” or “It’s great! Thanks!” Truthfully, there’s a lot more to it.

Yes, my life always seems to be crazy… nonstop… fast-moving… and stressful-at-times, but the bliss I’ve felt since our wedding day is something that will never wear no matter my mood, situation or circumstance.

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I’ve known for a long, LONG time that Ryan was “the one” and he’s made me the happiest girl since “day one.” However, hearing him recite his personal vows… having our closest friends and family all together in the same room… placing the gold ring on his finger… something just, well, clicked. This man is MINE forever!

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Everything about our wedding day was perfect; the weather, the decor, the flowers, the music, the speeches and the company. Like everyone told us it would, August 29 FLEW by… but with flying colors!

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At the end of the big hoo-rah (the rehearsal, the wedding day, the honeymoon cruise) we have some incredible pictures to always go back and relive our special day. So we’ll sometimes find ourselves sitting on the couch, smiling ear-to-ear for no reason… just the two of us… and it’s complete bliss.

Now, of course, we’re back to reality. We check the mail and there are no longer wedding cards, but instead bills to pay. We sit on our computers not to search for wedding vendors, but to study for exams and work. We eat well and workout (try to… ha ha) not so I can fit into my wedding dress or he can look good in his suit, but instead so we can live long, healthy lives. And while this so-called reality might sound dull, it really isn’t all that bad (I promise)!! 😉

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My job – meteorology and feature reporting – is my passion so the alarm clock doesn’t make me grumpy. I have an amazing weather team at WECT, who had my back while I was away doing bride-things in Florida. They are a fun group and we work well together, which makes my weeks a little brighter – despite the cloudy, rainy forecasts lately…

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There’s also this sweet thing (above). Yes, Ryan and I have become puppy parents. We’ve been cat people for our entire lives, but fell in love when we met Maya. She gives us a reason to smile on the gloomiest of days and has shown us nothing but unconditional love since she’s officially become ours. We are now questioning why we never adopted a pooch sooner! Oh, and if you’re wondering how queen Maci is faring with a dog…

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Well, they’ll be best friends before we know it. Life is good. Life is bliss!!

Woah, life! Woah. Slow down!

First things first, my apologies for neglecting to blog in over a year. Life has been, well kinda-sorta-absolutely insane! All in a good way, of course. Where do I start?

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So, I have fallen in love with Wilmington and North Carolina. I love the people, the beaches, the sights and sounds. Living in Florida my entire life, ‘winter’ to me consisted of two weeks of 50 degrees with a wind chill of maybe 40 (that’s even pushing it for South Florida!). That’s a lot different in NC for starters. There’s still the half-day road trip home, which is tough because I love and miss my family to pieces. Overall, good ol’ Wilm is feeling more and more like ‘home’ each and every day. Alsooo, things have changed as far as what sits on my left hand’s ring finger…engagementAbout a year ago, my wonderful high school sweetheart dropped to one knee under Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and asked me to marry him! We’ll be officially tying the knot later at the end of August back home in FL. We’ve moved into our first place together, he graduated from college and started his career here in Wilmington. Despite the craziness of moving, traveling, working full time, planning for a wedding and continuing to study for my Masters degree… I think it’s safe to say life is pretty sweet.

schoolI am absolutely head over heels for my job, as I have always been. School visits and station tours with our younger generations really ignite the fire in me to continue to strive to be my very best. It reminds me of my mother and how incredible of a teacher she has been to so many 3rd graders for 30 years! It’s my way of giving back and any chance to do it I jump on the opportunity. There’s also the typical forecasting for sunshine and 75 degrees, which I love, but I’m so thankful to be given many opportunities to track severe weather in Wilmington and help keep our community safe during dangerous situations. I love getting out to events, farmer’s markets, etc… whatever it is to help me learn more about the area and meet new faces!

tttBut then I meet people like Greyson, Mr. Rob and Mr. Daniel (pictured above) who completely change your perspective on life. My Tuesdays seriously haven’t been the same since I met these pals. Trash Truck Tuesday is one of my favorite stories I’ve been able to tell to date. Love, compassion and care for others — THIS is why I love journalism. Sharing the happy moments and spreading the smiles makes coming to work so joyful. I encourage you to watch their story if you’re curious to know what I’m ranting and raving about! 🙂

hurricaneAnywho, I just wanted this post to serve as a “hello” and I’m still here hoping to blog ‘Life with Lauren’ with you all. It’s just amazing how fast life moves, especially during such excitement! You can always keep in touch via Facebook and watch my stories / forecasts on YouTube. Chat with you soon… Cheers!!

Blessed by Fire

Wow. Today marks ONE MONTH since I’ve started here at WECT News. Times flies! I’m so thankful to be living in the beautiful city of Wilmington, working with such a great group of people, and doing what I love for a living. Life is good.

It hasn’t been a typical, easy-going month. It’s been non-stop, tireless, and filled with more excitement than I had ever imagined! I’ve now trained on every weather shift and am prepared to fill-in for anyone, anytime. I feel confident with the software and graphics we use. I am a social media addict, posting weather/news updates 24/7 to our wonderful, loyal viewers. The biggest event of this past month, however, has been tracking my first hurricane as a full-time meteorologist/reporter.

Hurricane Arthur was not your typical, run-of-the-mill hurricane, of course. This was the first named storm of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season, developed to a category 2 before making landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, and was the first hurricane to make a U.S. landfall since Isaac in 2012. As it barely grazed the coast of southeast North Carolina, I was sweating it for a bit when I thought it wasn’t going to make the easterly turn computer models were showing. The center of circulation came about 20 miles from our coast and we were lucky enough to experience only the weaker, western half of the storm.

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All of this was playing out during my third week (barely) on air. Might I add, I was also filling in for the first time on weekday evenings. Whew! All odds seemed to be against me. I tried to tell myself,

“Lauren, you grew up in hurricanes. You’ve always dreamt of this day. You can do this. Keep your head up. THIS IS YOUR DREAM!”

So, as best as I could (for being a “rookie” as one lovely viewer email put it) I tracked the you-know-what out of Hurricane Arthur. So much so, I think I scared the storm away. Well, I like to pretend I have those powers. 🙂

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All in all, whatever on-air jitters I had pre-Arthur are now completely gone. While I know I have a LOT to learn, I’m comfortable, confident, and extremely thankful for the experience Arthur gave me. I’ve been “blessed by fire” as my mentor, Kait Parker says. I’m so fortunate to have been thrown into the thick of it all. I’m even more grateful for my news director and chief meteorologist for trusting rookie Lauren to help forecast the storm.

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If this is just the slightest sign of what’s to come during my time in Wilmington, I can’t wait to for the future to “bring it!” I’m ready and willing to conquer any challenges that come my way.

P.S. I officially am part of the WECT News family. You can read my brief bio on the WECT website. Happy Friday!

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P.P.S My kitten, Maci is still adorable.

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