2015 Year in Review

I told myself I wasn’t going to do one of these this year. “No one cares,” I thought to myself. “Everyone already saw you obsessively social media most of this,” I said.

Then I realized that I care, and I’m working on realizing that doing something because it makes me happy is a good enough reason. With all of the transition our family has been in, I’ve been feeling a bit like my life is on hold. It’s hard to set longer term goals when things are constantly changing and evolving. That’s the nature of Army life, but it will be really nice to be settled in our own home and our own space in Germany in the spring. It’s hard to roll with the punches and work toward anything for myself so this reflection has helped me realize how much I’ve accomplished, despite feeling completely uprooted.

Here are my favorite moments from this year:

  • Having Sophie: This obviously tops the list. Bringing our perfect, healthy little girl into the world last January was easily the highlight of the year. I was lucky to have such a (relatively) easy pregnancy and birth, and a really calm, easy going baby. She has brought so much joy to my life this year, and as much as she has challenged me and changed me, I know she’s made me better. I’ve learned so much about myself through being a mother, and she just ignites the fire under me to work toward my own goals to be the best mom I can be for her. She teaches me new things every day, and I love getting the chance to see the world through her eyes.
My year was made at 12:02 a.m. on January 21 with the birth of my little love, Sophie Elizabeth.

Her birth also showed me that I have some of the greatest friends ever. Eden, Patrick and Emma sat in the hospital with me all 15 hours of labor so they could meet Sophie as soon as she was born. They even went on a 2 a.m. cook out run to get me a cheeseburger and an oreo milkshake once I was allowed to eat. You guys are the best.

  • Graduating UNC Charlotte, Chris’s commissioning: When I found out I was pregnant in June 2014, I heard a lot of “well how do you expect to finish your degree with a baby?” I didn’t have an answer, all I knew was that it was going to happen. In May, it did! Hooray! I graduated in a record three years with my English degree all while maintaining a job and raising Sophie. It still doesn’t feel real, but it happened and was probably my proudest moment of this year. I spent a lot of tearful nights up with a fussy Sophie trying to finish assignments. It was really hard to prioritize school when all I wanted to do was snuggle her, but I got it done, and I’m so glad that I did.
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I’m lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family who helped us celebrate a wonderful weekend!

Chris commissioned as a 2LT this spring as well, and I could not be more proud of him! It’s crazy that everything he wished for and worked for came true, and while the transition into Army life hasn’t been the easiest for me, it’s been wonderful, and I’m so happy with where our lives are going.

  • Working at camp: As messy, stressful and crazy as my job was, I loved it. I am so glad I decided to go back to work after having Sophie. Even though we’ve moved, and I had to quit, I think going back was a great thing for me. Transitioning to a stay at home these past few months has been difficult so I’m glad I took the opportunity to work while I had it. I love staying home with Sophie, and I’m so lucky to get this opportunity to be home with her, but it’s kind of strange not working or going to school.
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Dobby misses causing shenanigans at camp.

Even though it’s been three months since I left camp, I still occasionally have a stress dream about it and wake up around 6 a.m. petrified that I’m late for work. What’s that they say, old habits die hard?

  • Traveling: Looking back on it, we went so many places this year! Little Sophie is quite the adventurer already. We went to Charleston in April which I was really happy about because I’ve been asking Chris to go for years. We went to the beach a few times and down to Florida for my brother’s high school graduation. Once we moved to Virginia, we were able to go to D.C. a few times which was wonderful, it’s one of my favorite places! We also spent a lot of time in the mountains this summer going for hikes. I really fell in love with hiking once I wasn’t pregnant, and I could safely do it again. I think it really showed me how strong I am. Let me tell you, it’s no freaking joke climbing a mountain with a baby strapped to you and a dog who has to smell all the things. I think it is the main reason I lost 22 pounds this year! (Hooray!!)
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This was one of my favorite hikes we went on in Boone this summer!

With all the places we managed to get to this past year despite our crazy schedules, I’m so excited to see where all we get to go once we move to Europe!

  • Sophie’s first holiday season: I love the holidays, like a lot. You know what’s better than being a kid for the holidays? Having a kid for the holidays. I loved watching her eyes light up as Christmas decorations went up in stores. I loved watching her investigate Christmas lights. Even watching her try to lick the glitter off our Christmas ornaments was entertaining. It really brought the magic back for me.
Watching her enjoy her first Christmas was the best.

We spent Christmas with my grandparents up in Brevard, and it was just lovely. Sophie had a blast opening all of her presents, even if she was a bit overwhelmed. She’s still too young to really understand, but we still enjoyed it, even if the boxes were more interesting to her than her gifts.

Looking back, this has been a crazy busy but wonderful year. So much has changed now that our lives aren’t marked by semesters or school calendars or classes. We’ve moved into the “adult” world, the Army world. It’s like everything has been flipped upside down in the most incredible way. I struggled a lot this year. The transitions weren’t always easy on me, and I spent a lot of time this year trying to stop time in its tracks and keep it the same for as long as possible.

There’s no “new year, new me” happening this year. I’m still me. I still have the same goals, the same desires. I’m taking everything I went through this year as a learning experience. This year I want to roll with the punches a little bit more instead of letting them knock me down. I want to be more open to the changes coming instead of being nervous or afraid of them. I want to try to seize more control and take more action toward what I can and be less upset about what I can’t.

This coming year will be full of even more changes, but I’m ready. Bring it, 2016.



Stranger doesn’t always mean danger

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are all interconnected in this world. That there are so many ways we are all connected but instead of allowing ourselves to feel connected we often block ourselves off from the rest of the world with phrases like, “ugh, I hate people,” or “people suck.” I find myself there, too. I’m often dismayed by things I see in the news and wonder if there is any hope for humanity left. However, I got to thinking that some of the things that make my heart soar the most to read are stories about the kindness of strangers. I often see people posting articles like this on social media with the caption, “there is hope for humanity!”

I agree, but I think people fail to realize that we can be that hope. We are strangers, and we can help and do good.

For years Chris has given me a hard time about my inability to talk to people. If I can’t find something in a store, I’ve been more likely to walk out empty handed than ask an associate for help. I hate calling places, I hate customer service and I would never, ever be the person to randomly make a friend in a bar. That’s all Chris. He’s the social one, the go-getter of our coupling while I am just along for the ride hoping none of the strangers we end up bar hopping with are putting anything in my drink. But also, I’m enjoying myself.

Over the past few months, I’ve started trying to get out of my shell more. I think moving to a new town will do that to you. We’ve started on what I like to call our “big Army adventure,” and there are plenty of moves coming up that are going to require me to actually open my mouth and hope to God words that sort of make sense come out. Maybe I’ll just tell people I’m mute and carry around a notepad. I seem to make coherent sentences better via writing than anything else.

Anyways, I think my “oh crap I have to actually talk to strangers”epiphany happened a while ago, while I was still working at Camp Bow Wow. Even though we are lucky enough there to work with dogs who are generally much kinder than people, those dogs do come with owners. Someone had to pay the bill, right? Sure, you could hide out in the yards, but you can only scoop so much poop before you end up at the front of the house with a customer who has a million and one questions. I had to answer phones and make cute small talk with people to make them feel comfortable. While petrified at first, I soon came to enjoy it.

Since then, I’ve been  finding myself making small talk with random women I meet who are also waiting for their cars to get serviced in Firestone (one even gave me a coupon! Smalltalk: 1, Social anxiety: 0). I’ve chatted with baristas, drive through attendants and most recently another mom at the playground.

Look at her! Standing and driving the playground like she owns the place!

Seriously, if anything will force you to communicate with other strangers, it’s having a child. Everyone wants to comment how cute your baby is and ask you a million and one questions about their behavior –including why your 10 month old won’t say “hi,” to them. Because she can’t talk, that’s why. No reason to get your panties in a bunch.

Anyhow, this mom at the park. Sophie and I had been there playing with the playground to ourselves for a while when she comes up with her son who had to be about four and her four-month-old baby girl. Her son ran up first and started talking to Sophie and being an adorable four-year-old and all of that cuteness. By the time she managed to get the baby in the stroller and rolled up, her son, Sophie and I were already involved in an odd game of hide and seek that was more like him not knowing how on earth to play with a child her age.

We take a lot of selfies at the park, it happens.

So obviously, she just immediately strikes up conversation with me. (I don’t know why that’s obvious, when I first saw them pull up my first thought was, well shit. I guess it’s their turn to play. Even though it’s an entire freaking playground. See, part of me hates socializing.) Anyways, she just starts talking to me about how her son loves to climb and is Sophie walking yet and nap schedules and her life with two kids and all of these things. Normally, I would get super offended by people prying so much into how I raise my kid because a high and mighty attitude tends to come with it, but there was none of that here. She viewed me as an equal, another mother playing with her child at the park on an unseasonably warm December day. As a young mom, I often feel like I’m not taken seriously or that I don’t know what I’m doing or I’m lesser or something.

Not with this lady. She just wanted to know how things were going. She opened up about how she took her son off his allergy meds too soon and she feels really dumb. We had an open and honest conversation, and I never even got her name. I found myself thinking, “wow, conversations like this don’t happen any more, this is nice.” Then later I realized, maybe conversations like this don’t happen anymore because we don’t let them happen. Because when someone else pulls up, we feel this desire to leave. Because we live in our own little bubbles and think that strangers should remain just that, strangers. We don’t take the opportunities we are presented with to talk to other people who could potentially be similar to us.

As I was walking back to my car, I considered going back and asking for her number, but I had no idea how to do that without being completely creepy. Instead, I’ll just be grateful for a nice memory talking to a stranger.