Thursday, November 19, 2015

love story throwback

When T.J. and I first started this adventure together, I didn't share too much on the blog. He popped up in passing, I would briefly mention a trip to South Carolina, or his face would show up in a picture. But honestly I kept most of the details of our relationship, especially the early days, to myself. It was too important and private and new. But I did try to write it down back then and I saved it as a draft, so I could always remember how that felt, the start of the rest of my life. Because even in the earliest days I knew that's what he was.

Now, in celebration of our almost one year anniversary, I'm going back, back before the wedding, before the engagement, before we were a couple, before I even really knew the man I would marry. And in the drafts where I first wrote about meeting "the boy who would one day become my...??" I'm able to write in the word "husband" and relive it all.

In May of 2013 I booked a flight and headed down to Charleston, South Carolina for a fun weekend with one of my college roommates and dearest friends. We had concert tickets, a tailgate spot at a polo match, plans to visit the Firefly distillery, and a lot of porch sitting, cocktail drinking, and catching up planned. I knew it was going to be simply the funnest getaway.

What I did not know was that I would meet the boy who would one day become my husband.

Our first night out we headed to a bar on King Street called Closed for Business. We knew that some of Aubrey's friends would be hanging out there, and that I would also kind of know one of the guys in that group.

His name was T.J. and he went to the same college as Aubrey and I.  He was friends with a lot of my friends and he was probably someone's date to a sorority function here and there. The very first picture we have together is actually from the last day of classes our senior year. But I had never seriously hung out with him before and hadn't thought about him since the last time I'd seen him at a friend's wedding, almost a year earlier. I wrote about that weekend here and he isn't mentioned although he is in a couple of my pictures.
That's it though. Seeing him again in Charleston was like meeting him for the first time.

I learned that he was in his 3rd year of med school and also in the Army, that he wanted to do orthopedic surgery, and that he has a sister the same age as my sister. And I learned that this boy I had never really paid attention to before (sorry hun) was quite cute.

Why hadn't I noticed before?

We moved on to a different spot and we continued talking as we walked down the cobbled streets and up the stairs to a rooftop bar. He bought me a drink and always found me when I got lost in the crowd. He made me laugh and he was so easy to talk to. It was fun, I was flirty. I flipped my hair and stood on my tippy-toes so he could hear me better over the noise of the crowd and I leaned closer.

But this was my first weekend of feeling really free. I was just there to have fun with my friends, I wanted my summer to look like Taylor Swift's music video for 22

But walking back home later that night, someone made the comment, "he definitely seemed to be interested in you."

Maybe, I thought. And I couldn't help but hope the subject would come up again, so I could do what girls do best and over analyze and over think. Mostly I hoped I would get to see more of him that weekend.

As luck would have it (or as I later learned, as T.J. orchestrated it), we met up with him the next day, and the day after that. And over the weekend I found myself standing next to him a lot, and catching his eye.

On my last day there we all went to a polo match and I spent my last few hours in town sipping on grapefruit cocktails, playing corn hole and stomping divots. He and I took a walk around the field, just the two of us, and I allowed myself to think of just the two of us.
Was I being a silly girl to read into to his attention? Everyone knows T.J. is the nicest guy. Was that all this was? Or did I really hear a bit of hope in his voice when we talked about an upcoming lake trip he was planning? Could I maybe make it down that weekend?

At the end of the day I said my goodbyes and then I held his stare a little longer one last time before I got in the car, and boarded a plane home. And when I eventually landed back in DC and turned on my cellphone, my heart jumped to see a new voice-mail and his name there on the screen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

picture perfect walk

We finally had a break in the rain yesterday and T.J. had the day off for Veterans Day (of course he still went in to the hospital for a couple hours to do notes and study for a surgery today but it still counts as a day off) so I was determined to go out and take a family photo for our Christmas card.

I grabbed the tri-pod and we headed out on our favorite walk. This beautiful trail near our house, to me, is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest. Dense, mossy, so very green, damp. It winds through the tallest evergreens and as you make your way, you can hear a trickling stream following beside you, the only hint of what awaits you at the end.

Hunley looooovvves this walk. We let him off his leash and he ran up and down the sides of the trail, looking back every so often to make sure we were keeping up with him. He was slightly annoyed (and maybe so was T.J.) that I kept making him stop and pose for the camera.
This one above was almost a winner for the card. It's the most accurate representation of my life right now- a lot of Hunley jumping up on me, a lot of exasperated looks.
Finally, we passed through the abandoned train tunnel, and came out on the other side of the forest at the Sound, beautiful and expansive and grey. Hunley leapt across the rocky beach and ran straight into the chilly water.
Between the wind and a wet dog who would rather be swimming, picture taking did not go as smoothly as I had imagined in my head. We walked further down the beach to try some different angles, I lost my sunglasses, I retraced my steps, I couldn't find them, I was done, T.J. was a good sport, we took one more photo, I found my sunglasses (yay), we headed home. 

Never fear, though, we got what we came for, but I'm not showing you the final photo we chose for the card.  Hunley got some good exercise, and we got to enjoy that crisp fall air and a rare weekday off together. Maybe it wasn't exactly picture perfect, but it was pretty darn close.

Monday, November 9, 2015

snapshots of fall

Fall is fuzzy socks stuffed in rain boots, stomping through puddles and crunching leaves.  There's a lot of wiping off shoes on the front porch mat, and wiping off wet paws with a towel every time we come back inside. Our neighborhood is beautiful, blanketed in red leaves, but I am over the wet paws. I've resigned myself to the fact that my floors will probably not be truly clean again until it dries up some, because even when it's not raining, it's wet. Hunley tracks the outside in and I vacuum it all up (while he hides behind the curtains) and then we start over again the next day.

Fall is gray days that match gray nail polish. There's pot roast for dinner one day and then BBQ ribs for lunch the next day. Cooked low and slow, in keeping with the pace of the season. Warm, comfort food, is followed by lots and lots of college football. T.J. hardly has any weekends off so if he wants to pace anxiously during the Clemson game, and flip back and forth from espn/cbs/abc and repeat, all day long, who am I to say no?

Fall is staying in our sweatpants, only breaking out to see a movie or browse Barnes and Noble for a new book to read. Then its back into sweat pants for a nap on the couch.

The days are getting shorter, but everything seems to slow down. It's a time to rest up before the hectic holiday season arrives. I know soon it will be too cold and our daily walks will be more chore, less cheerful so I'm savoring all the cozy, warm days curled up on the couch with my love (and the pup who occasionally sneaks onto the couch and rests his head so sweetly that I can't kick him off).

Friday, October 30, 2015

Christmas Cards

Can't believe October is almost over and the holidays are right around the corner!!
Also can't believe how much it cost to book our flights home for Christmas..... ouch. It's worth it though! I am so excited for the first holiday season with my husband. We got to enjoy Thanksgiving together last year out in Washington, but we were apart for Christmas and T.J. had to work that day. This year we are taking some leave and heading back to South Carolina for the first time since we tied the knot! I am so excited that both sets of parents are in the same town, it makes it much easier on those of us traveling from far and wide.

I am also really excited to send out our first Christmas card as a married couple. My plan is to convince T.J. to take a photo with me this weekend in one of our favorite places nearby. We shall see how that goes...

My parents send out a card every year and most years they would send a letter along with it detailing the adventures of our family. I love reading old Christmas letters that mention violin practice, ballet classes, school plays, special family vacations. I love reminiscing about the growing up years in a cul-de-sac, followed by a journey across the pond, then on to university. They're a time capsule of our family history, you can see us growing and changing through the pictures and in the words recorded by my parents. Each year sister and I are a little taller, the cardigan with the teddy bear buttons (above) is no more, the violin was set down for a guitar, there are dad-jokes about the internet and Y2K, new characters (a new puppy) and places enter in and out of the letters.

A couple Christmases ago my mom compiled all our old letters and Christmas cards, plus our favorite holiday recipes, into a binder for me and my sister. I love to read back through them all and remember our lives back when. Not much has changed from 1995 it seems, I still love to write stories on the laptop at home ;)

I want to start that tradition for my new family as well. A record we sign, seal, and deliver to family and friends each year. Marking off celebrations, anniversaries, moving around the country, babies, the end of residency, new homes, settling down, growing up, adventuring together. It's so wonderful to dream about what our Christmas letters will detail over the years to come.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


After eight plus years of serving and loving, high schoolers, and being in my "comfort zone" as a Young Life leader,  God is sending me into a middle school. Duh duh duh!

I'm slightly terrified. Okay more than slightly. I've actively avoided this in my time leading Young Life. Nope not gonna do it. I'll leave that to someone more capable because middle schoolers are the hardestt, right? That's what everyone says, right? Can you really have those meaningful conversations with them about God, about faith?  Can they even sit still long enough? Honestly Wyldlife used to feel JV to the "varsity" Young Life. 

But when I moved to this new area and first reached out about leading, this was the obvious need. There might as well have been a flashing neon sign pointing to the school, you couldn't miss it. And I looked for other ways, other schools where I could fit in, and it just didn't happen.  It didn't make sense to join an established, organized team at one of the high schools already running smoothly without my help. And it didn't even make sense to lead at the middle school one block from my house with strong leadership and parent support.  My heart... it was drawn to this relatively forgotten school, often overlooked, and written off as less than. And the school responded better than I ever expected a public school to respond these days, eager and desperate for adults who want to serve and love middle schoolers. Come on in, they said.

So we're starting a new Wyldife club, in an incredibly diverse school.  Basically as far from my area of "expertise" (haha) as possible. Eight years of leading in suburban, mostly white communities, with strong financial support and involved parents, has not prepared me for this.

I am not qualified. At all. Not one little bit. I don't even have any other leaders with me... yet. And I don't want you to think I'm writing this down to say "look at me, look at what I'm doing." No, I'm putting it out there to force myself to feel bold, and to hold myself accountable.

I'm seriously scared to walk into that cafeteria full of middle schoolers I don't know.
And I am seriously excited to see what God does.

"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,  who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Monday, October 26, 2015

I confess

How about some Monday confessions for you all today.  I saw Susannah did something similar the other week and I feel like I have some things to get off my chest as well so here goes....

I confess that laundry is my least favorite chore. Sometimes I leave laundry in the dryer for a couple days until finally T.J. asks me where all his boxers are. 

I confess sometimes I leave wet clothes in the washer and have to wash them again. #worstchoreever #badwife

I confess that I re-read all seven Harry Potter books before my trip last week. And even though I've read them all many times over before, I still cried at all the parts that made me cry that very first time.
I confess that when I lose my patience with Hunley (every. single. solitary. day) I worry that means I'll be a snippy and impatient mom one day. 

I confess I have a list of baby names on my phone (no, I'm not pregnant) and T.J. discovered it and proceeded to ask me "what kind of a name is El-oyce??" a.k.a Eloise a.k.a that name is no longer on the list.

I confess that I use hot chocolate as a vehicle for lots and lots of marshmallows.

I confess I absolutely love getting all dolled up, curling my hair, putting on my highest heels,  and going out for a fancy dinner in NYC, or downtown Greenville, SC. The kind that lasts for hours, and maybe begins with champagne, and usually ends with a dessert that's been perfectly torched and is utterly decadent. It's one of my very favorite treats, the perfect night out.

I confess that I also like Red Lobster and Panda Express. So sue me.

I confess that I bought and hung up a faux gold deer head from Hobby Lobby and T.J. has yet to make a comment on it which I find very odd because it's faux gold deer head....
 I confess that I miss my long hair. And I don't care that everyone thinks my shorter hair is "so cute" or makes me look more mature, or blah blah blah,  whatever! I miss my mermaid hair, dang it!

I confess I ordered a leather arm chair and ottoman for our living room and when it arrived on Friday I was so excited to bring it in the house but when we finally got it through the front door it suddenly seemed totally out of place and like too much furniture. I had a minor breakdown worrying we'd wasted our money and you can't return custom pieces (especially when the dog has already nipped at the corner) but after T.J. talked me down I was able to do a little feng shui and I think it works! Plus it's really comfy and will be something we'll have for a while.  (full living room update coming soon)
I confess that I am terrified for the month of November. T.J. is going to be on call literally every 3rd night. I'm not even sure how that will work all I know is it's not going to be fun for anyone.

I confess that I am trying to get back into a better blogging rhythm. I feel like I've lost some of my depth here and it's been reduced to weekend recaps and lists. Need to find my "voice" again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Harry Potter Bachelorette Party Planning

When my friend casually mentioned going to Harry Potter World for her bachelorette weekend (see trip recap here) she should have known her equally nerdy friends would leap at the opportunity. So while we were all really selfishly excited for ourselves, I still wanted to make this about her, the bride. Once tickets were booked**  I got to work making fun surprises for the bride with a magical twist.

First I planned the typical bachelorette party trivia game where you ask the groom questions in advance and then the bride has to answer the same questions to see how well she knows her husband-to be. But this time we referred to the game as her "OWL's" (for those of you who don't know Harry Potter... I feel sorry for you) otherwise known as Ordinary Wife Level examinations. There were six categories of questions based on the Hogwarts school subjects:
  1. Potions (his cologne, favorite drink, etc)
  2. Transfiguration (what changes has she made to his condo, what would he change about her, etc)
  3. History of Magic (history of their relationship)
  4. Care of Magical Creatures (name of first pet, what would they name their pet, etc)
  5. Divination (what is he most excited for on the big day, how many kids does he see in their future, etc)
  6. Charms (favorite thing about each other, biggest pet peeve)
I made a little PowerPoint with the questions and added Harry Potter theme music and sound clips to the slides. I found a bunch of free Harry Potter fonts to use and cool graphics (like this Hogwarts parchment, these pretty illustrations, and these themed notebooks, which would make a fun favor or present for the Harry Potter fan in your life) and really had way too much fun putting it all together. (If you're interested in doing this for your own party, let me know and I can send you the Powerpoint template.)

For drinks I found little apothecary jars at Michael's and created a potion's label which you can download here. I also recreated this banner and made a candy bar with labels just like the "real" Honeydukes.
Finally I ordered our group these adorable tanks from Etsy (the bride got a white one) for us to wear in the park one day. They are super soft and comfy and I will definitely be wearing mine all over the place now. I thought the sentiment was appropriate for a bachelorette weekend, even though the naughtiest thing we got up to all weekend was sweet talking our way into the fast pass line for each ride.** 

Overall we had a blast celebrating the bride to be in the  most magical way! Now I think I'm going to go re-watch the Harry Potter movies to relive it all.

* There is an awesome military promo going on now through December where you can get 3 day park hopper passes for the price of a 1 day pass. Check with your post's Travel & Leisure office for discounts.

** When you get to the park be sure to stop at guest services and tell them you're celebrating something. They gave us buttons that said we were celebrating the bride and we were able to get on to the express lanes almost every time without actually have an express pass (which normally costs extra $$ each day).