Sunday, May 26, 2024

Dodging 2024's Punches

2024 showed up with her boxing gloves on and fists a-swingin'!

It's been a rough start to the new year and it's taken me this long to really wrap my brain around all that's happened so far.  

January was a blur of horrifically cold weather, disappointment, and heartbreak.  

The new year started with weeks of sub-zero temperatures that made RV life un-survivable, forcing us to take Journey and Carley and flee to hotels and Airbnb's and back to a hotel again.  The freezing temperatures were one thing, but heavy snow and severe blizzards on top of it forced us to cancel Eric's promotion party - a party I had spent months planning for.  The anticipation and excitement at having Eric's parent's pin on his new rank was a once-in-his-decades-long-career-moment that he can never get back (not to mention the countless missed opportunities to catch up with our friends, family, and people we love most).  Because of the complexities of Army life, we don't know if we'll ever get that chance again.  And the thought of all the memories that could have happened but we lost out on, is heartbreaking.  

We eventually made it back into our RV to find that the extreme temperatures had caused severe damage to what we learned was a poorly made rig (we bought ours brand new, never off the lot in 2021).  We had tough decisions to make and were looking at hefty costs and a potential exorbitant amount of time for repairs.  But 2024's punches were swift and brutal.  We couldn't think too long about our living situation because it was right at that time that we noticed that something was very wrong with our beloved Journey.  

We knew that Journey had a tumor on his back leg, but after a biopsy three months earlier, we were assured that it was a benign fatty growth (our perfect Journey was so fat, his fat had fat!).  But after some terrifying symptoms arose right around Christmas, we took him back to the vet as soon possible - twice - where x-rays and an exam (at the second appointment, after I had to very sternly communicate how scary things were), showed in no uncertain terms, that his tumor was actually an extremely invasive cancer.  

And it had metastasized to his lungs.  

Journey did not have much time left, no one knew how much time exactly, but we got the impression that the sweet veterinarian didn't want to say the word "soon."  Six days from the time we learned of his diagnosis to when we had to let him go was... dizzying.  Six days is a very short amount of time no matter how you measure it, but we had spent most of those six days in total disbelief and our hearts full of hope.  So when Journey was unable to sleep for even a few minutes at a time before beginning to drown in his own fluids, the inevitable happened SO fast.  There are no words for how that felt... and there still aren't.  

We will never ever get over losing him.

Journey BernieSanders Schnell 
March 1, 2014 - January 26, 2024

Eric and I both lost family members this year too, adding even more heartbreak onto already severely broken hearts.  

And 2024 still wasn't done throwing her punches.

My husband and I spent the entire last half of last year apart - him in Korea, me in Kansas - in anticipation of him coming back for five months and me following him back to Korea at the end of the school year (no one has ever said that Army life makes sense). Eric and I are no strangers to life's changes, we have become very good at adapting, but when the Army decided that I wasn't going to be able to move to Korea, we had to pivot so majorly (in the midst of all that we were already going through) that we still haven't settled into all of the changes that came with that decision yet.  

Within weeks of Journey's passing, Eric lost a family member, the Army made their decision, we ended our RV adventures, moved me into an apartment, renewed my contract at my school, Eric graduated from his course, then he left for Korea (without me), then I lost a family member.  

MAJ Schnell is ILE complete!

Eric left two hours after this picture was taken.  Our smiles were super fake, our hearts were breaking.

To say that life was hard on us the last few months and that our hearts are broken... would be an understatement.  

Even though we have a lot of experience adapting to life's curves, that doesn't make all curves or changes (however you want to word it) easy to adapt to.  Sometimes... life hurts.   

We WILL make the most of the situation we are in... we always do... but right now, we're in the suck of it.  We miss each other unbearably.  We needed time to decompress and be sad and settle our souls from so many different things that happened all at the same time.  

But anywho... that's the gist of how 2024 has panned out for us so far.  If you're on my Christmas card list (and y'all know how much I love Christmas cards), our address will stay the same this year.  Next year will be a different story as it is a PCS year for us, and PCS's always come with a whole lot of change.  We don't know where to yet, but let's just sweetly let whatever is in store for us sit out there until it's time to face it... I need 2025 to be sweet back and I'm not trying to piss off the Universe a year too soon by complaining about something that doesn't exist yet.

So yeah, that's the gist of everything so far.  I'll be back at the end of the summer with a better, more joyful blog post.  I'm begging 2024 to put her gloves down for at least that long.

*With the state of the world being what it is, some of the sentences that I have written, in re-reading them, have made me pause on posting this.  While our experiences these last few months are real and have been very difficult, I know, and I want you all to know, that the problems I face, the things I write about, are first world things and cannot EVER compare to the horrific suffering in the Gaza-Israel Conflict.  Here are ways to help: and/or

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Wrinkled Matrix

In my last blog post I explained how protective my husband and I felt about us moving to Korea; so protective that it took us almost a year to feel ready to tell anyone.  And even after we began telling people, I worried that by blogging about it to everyone it would disrupt the Matrix.  And I was right, BECAUSE ALL TIME HAS STOPPED SINCE I POSTED THAT BLOG!  It has only been a few months since Eric left and simultaneously a bajillion years.  Don't ask me how that's possible, but IT. IS.

And... at about the time that calendars came to a halt, I made the startling realization that these last few months were the very first months of my entire life that I have been completely alone.  For the first time in my entire life.

And I just feel like with everything that is happening in my life right now to align with something I've never experienced before, is all because I opened my big mouth and wrinkled up the Matrix.

I went from my childhood home straight into a horrible situation with someone who I ignored and endured everything for.  It was an easy transition to make because I didn't know any better.  I was still a teenager when we met and didn't know what terrible was when it was staring me in the face because being treated terribly (and that's putting it lightly) by every important person and relationship in my life (except for my beloved Grandma Sue) was all I ever knew.  
It was three years into that when the trajectory of my entire life pivoted so abruptly.  In less than a year, I began navigating both a profound loss and motherhood simultaneously.  That juxtaposition was bigger than the abuse I was enduring and forced me to stop ignoring how bad the situation truly was.  From then on I poured every ounce of myself onto my baby girl and getting her out of the mess we were in.  All while in the middle of extreme grief, living under dire circumstances, with almost nothing to offer the situation we were in.  

While that paragraph is all the words I ever care to give to the first two decades of my life, the point I'm trying to make is that a beautiful and healing and love-filled life followed. 
A life where I went back to school and graduated college; a life that now includes therapy and self-care; where a passionate, safe, and deeply connected partnership with my husband is our touchstone; countless incredible places, people, and experiences lived.  But most importantly, it has been a life where my precious daughter has grown up in safety and love and is valued beyond measure.

But also, it's a life that includes the Army too.  The good and the bad, the blessings and the sacrifices, all that is included into this love-filled life too.  Which is how I got to this moment right here where I am sitting all by lonesome for the first time ever.  

Where the Army needs our Soldier, he goes, whether we like it or not.  We have faced many Army-caused separations, but this one just so happened to be the first to come during our empty-nest chapter of life.  With my daughter all grown up now and out in the world on her own, and my husband across the world for work, I had no one else but my own self to take care of.  I had never not had anyone else to take care of before.  The realization that I had to actually think about my own needs and wants, without anyone else to distract myself from it, while also dealing with a bajillion years fitting into a single day, was... startling. 

I am not one to let the poetics of life aligning like this to go unnoticed, so I've really concentrated on embracing this time and digging deep into my own company and how that feels. 

But let me just cut to the chase and tell you all right now that Eric and I are not meant to be apart and this has been some of the hardest few months we've ever experienced.  But even so... I can't help but to feel like I am supposed to be mindful of how hard this is, and to just lean into it.

Which is what I've been doing!

I am thankful for my job that keeps me busy and fulfilled.  After a very difficult year last year, I am reveling in a job that brings me absolute joy.  I am stupidly busy with trivial things like dishes and laundry and grocery shopping, the kinds of things that Eric would normally have done for me or helped me with.  I kept busy this summer fretting over insanely hot temperatures in our RV until I finally called a technician who fixed our a/c and got us living comfortably again (long story).  For two weeks I kept extra busy with a medical episode with our Journey-wormy-baby-waby-stinky-winky-boy, who is healthy and fine now, but for a minute we didn't think he would be (another long story).  I have not been going to the gym and it shows.  And I've been doing my best to explore the area I now live in all by myself. 

Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park - Topeka, KS

Fort Larned National Historic Site - Kansas

Sunflowers and a selfie stick

St. Louis, Missouri

I've also stayed busy learning to speak Korean.  I can introduce myself in Korean and read Korean, maybe order food in Korean, and the Principal of the Korean school I go to told me herself that my Korean handwriting is impeccable.  But I have a loooong ways to go and every day I feel like I want to quit.  I forgot how to say goodbye (one of the very first things I ever learned) when I was leaving class a few weeks ago and some sort of gibberish + gagging came out of my throat instead.  I embarrassed myself in front of my entire class when I was just trying to scooch around someone to leave and now my brain will replay that over and over for infinity.

I painted this myself for Hangul Proclamation Day.  It translates to "laughing flower," but basically means "laugh brightly like a blossoming flower."

I've really dug deep these last few months and I've decided... I'm pretty great!  I like how I look at people and the world around me, and I like how I use my energy on joyful things.  I like how satisfying it feels to go to the recycling center every other week and that I look forward to going.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about mistakes I've made and how to do better.  I am working on creating and enforcing boundaries on anything toxic in my life.  I miss mothering my daughter when she was little but I love being an empty nester and watching my girl make her own decisions (but I love it even more when she calls me and asks me questions about literally anything).  I am unapologetically obsessed with my husband and our connection and our love for each other.  And I love how I really wanted to put 'obsessed' in all caps, but didn't, but like, I see that part of myself that really wanted to.  

And I unequivocally love my life.  

Even those first two decades.  I don't need to waste time putting them into words or spend any amount of energy thinking about them, but I understand that I wouldn't be where I am or who I am if I hadn't experienced those years first.  And they give important context on how I ended up on my own for the first time ever.

Now... if I could just figure out how to smooth out the Matrix and get time going forward again, I'd be unstoppable!

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

My Mountain Top

Our little family has moved so many times that I probably start out every moving announcement the same exact way:  It's that time again!  But after six big moves as a family, 9 since I became an adult, I can't think of any other way to say it. 

Except that, for this one, we decided not to say anything at all.  We have known for a good while that we are going back overseas, and even though we are ridiculously excited about it, Eric and I didn't feel like saying much.  Normally I'm an over-sharer, but it's taken me almost a year to begin writing this post.  

So yeah, it's that time again!  Or was, actually, since we already moved. 


More packing.

Unpacking after 5 days on the road was too much for some of us.

To Korea and Kansas, and then back to KOREA!

All of the details of everything we've had going on aren't as confusing as I'm sure I will make them sound, but basically, we moved me and our RV to Kansas, and my husband went ahead to Korea.  We're doing life this way because Eric won't be in Korea for long before he has to come back to Kansas to finish a portion of the course he is currently taking.  Because of that and the timing of it all, we knew that we would be facing a separation and had to decide which end of things (and of the world) we would rather do it.  Doing it on this end allowed for us to live the RV life for a tiny bit longer, and for us to tie up a few loose ends that we couldn't tie when Eric got his official orders.  And, if I had to be left alone, it just made sense for it to be in the States where I am closer to our daughter and can continue to work.  After Eric finishes his course in the Spring, we will be making our 7th move to South Korea together!

Moving to Korea was NOT a surprise to us; we've known for a while that that was where the Army would be sending us next.  And it was exactly where we were hoping for.  Eric, Isabelle, and I have talked endlessly throughout the years about wanting to go back overseas and that if we ever got the opportunity, we hoped so badly it would be on the other side of the world.  When the time came to make decisions for Eric's career and our lives, we were VERY meticulous navigating all of the complexities that formed our ultimate decision.  Once that decision was manifested, we were ecstatic!  But for whatever reason, our spirits turned introspectively at that time and we just didn't feel like saying anything to anyone.  There was something about this newest chapter that felt precious, and we became almost protective about it.  Even posting this feels a little bit like I'm going to disrupt the matrix or something. 

Instead, we concentrated our energy on each other, our daughter, and enjoying our last few months on the East Coast.  

And nothing else.  

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  My shoes were killing me.  I got blisters and they bled and it all made me super duper grumpy.  Don't let my face fool ya, I'm pissed.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia - it's breathtaking there. 

Eric and I took Journey camping in a yurt when it was a bajillion degrees.  No one slept.

This was the view from the yurt.  The view didn't make us sweat any less, but it was pretty.

Virginia Beach, VA - we booked a hotel with a balcony overlooking the ocean solely to sit on the balcony and drink wine while watching and listening to the ocean.  I will never get sick of being near the ocean!

Roanoke, Virginia - the trip that Eric didn't think would amount to much but ended up having a blast!  The Black Lantern Inn made our entire trip and we will never go to Roanoke without staying there.  But a day spent at the Roanoke Pinball Museum sealed the deal on his love for Roanoke, VA.

Christmas in Mexico.  We got rained out of most of our trip and had to stay indoors, even here we were in the middle of the jungle getting absolutely poured on and we were a little bit miserable.   

Annapolis, MD where we got absolutely wasted and I spent the entire next day puking my guts out every few miles on our way home.  God, we had fun.

Empire State Building - New York City, New York.  NYC has a piece of my heart now... aaand my sunglasses since I lost them soon after this picture was taken.

This is one of my most favorite pictures I've ever taken of my husband.  Times Square, NYC.

George Washington's birth place - Virginia.  All of it was recreated, nothing was original and the historians had to "guess" a lot to make it what it is, so it was a little disappointing.

Assateague Island National Seashore - Maryland - where a real life angel walked on sand.

St. Patrick's Day at Busch Gardens - Williamsburg, Virginia.  Too expensive to enjoy.

United Flight 93 National Memorial - Pennsylvania

Visiting our baby girl (I have her permission to post this picture).  Look at that daddy’s face.

Now that we have part of our PCS behind us, we now move forward with all the rest, and I'm not sure if I'll still feel as introspective about it or not because… I'm conflicted about it.  I started this blog in 2012  when we were preparing to move to Germany.  Getting to live in Europe was such a huge opportunity - the kind of opportunity that doesn't happen for someone like me - and I wanted to scream every detail of every moment from the mountain tops.  I didn't want to take a single second of it for granted.  I can't always contain my love or excitement for things so my blog became the keeper of all the extra.... and, my mountain top.

For the most part, I received loving feedback about each blog post I wrote.  But there were a few things said to my face, like my blog being "braggy," that made me pause on things I might have been quick to write about before.  Even if those comments were few, they stung enough for me to re-think how and what I should share.  At the same time, life for us matured and changed and we settled comfortably into a new chapter of life in the middle of the desert that wasn't at all interesting enough to blog about anyway.  Our fertility story came to an end, we hated the desert, and our daughter grew into an adult who makes her own decisions - one of which being that I not post about her life publicly.  Then a few years ago, most everything online began to feel gross and toxic and algorithms were changed because of it.  So then things like my blog became less visible and it just felt better to me to keep a quiet spirit.
From the research we've done about life in Korea, and from alllll of the people we've talked to who have been stationed there and/or visited (and we have talked to a lot of people about it), it feels like a magical door has been opened and the experiences there will be abundant.  I know I'll feel like I want to share all of it with you, but whether I do or not... that's what's conflicting.  I will always want to write about the world as I am experiencing it - new experiences make me happy, writing makes me happy - but the last thing I ever wanted was to sound braggy.  Being braggy mixes my blog in with all of those toxic things on the internet right now, and that is just not what I would ever want to contribute to in any way.
Eric and I have spent the entirety of 2023 preparing for, and PCS'ing, two humans and two animals to an entirely different continent and one different U.S State simultaneously.  We have been mindful of our energy spent as we moved towards this newest chapter of life and we were deliberate in every decision and preparation we made.  Turning into each other and focusing on what we hold dear throughout this process was right for us.  But I know that that is much different from the last time we moved to a foreign country so all of this might not jibe so well with the blogger you've all come to know.  We are soooo excited for the future, and I hope y'all will want to come "with" us into it.  But I don't write for this to be anything negative in any form, so if reading this feels gross to you please understand that you do not have to read this for my sake.  

But if you clicked on my little blog's link and are still reading this, I could never adequately tell you how thankful I am that you're on this mountain top with us.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Summer '22

Now that I work in a school system, I have a deep appreciation for summer breaks like I never had before.  This was the shortest summer ever since our last day of school was mid-June, but no one asked my opinion when putting together the 2022-23 school calendar so here I am, mere hours before I have to go back to work, trying my darnedest not to take a nap and remind myself that I lived my break with the motto "no ragrets!"  

"No ragrets" for any nap taken, glass of wine drank, workout skipped, snack eaten, or trip we took over these last few weeks!  "NO RAGRETS!"  

I started my break off with a hike (the best way to start anything if you ask me)!  A group of women from the gym I workout at met up one morning to hike Sharp Top Trail - a 3.3 mile out-and-back trail on Sharp Top Mountain in Virginia.  It was a steep trail with a 1,250ft gain in elevation and I had a hard time because of it.  This was my first hike since 2020 and I needed a lot of breaks.  But the women I went with were loving and encouraging and never once judged my struggling, and because of them, I made it!

Kissing my husband is my most favorite, but kissing the sky is a thrilling second!

I tried to fit in as many mundane appointments as I could this summer so that I wouldn't have to be bothered with them during the school year.  I can't tell you how satisfying it is to be done with an eye exam and then receive a year's worth of contacts in the mail knowing that I don't have to think about my eyeballs for a whole entire year.  Otherwise, I mostly concentrated on watching every single documentary that I could find available on our streaming services while simultaneously calling my daughter to tell her about them.  And any little thing beyond the things I just mentioned, I spent zero seconds of my energy thinking about.

A week after kissing the sky, Eric and I took a road trip up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I discovered a little slice of Heaven.... that doesn't exist to us yet, but I know it's there. 

I would like to think that me, Eric, and Isabelle have traveled quite a bit.  I'd like to think we've seen a lot of what the world has to offer, not all of it, but a lot.  There are always more places to see, more things to experience, more people to meet, but so far, I feel like we've given this world a fair shake.  So when I say this next part, know that I'm saying it with confidence: I fell in LOVE with south central Pennsylvania.  

My love for it goes beyond explanation, I don't care what anyone says or thinks, I felt something for this part of the world.  

I like and appreciate history, and I'm married to a Solider, so touring battlefields is a part of my life.  Sometimes I'd rather be on a beach or somewhere exotic, but I can get excited about the historical importance of a battlefield as much as the next guy.  I just had no idea that a quick weekend getaway to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania would have me obsessing over Zillow for possible future forever homes for months and months, and I'm certain I won't stop obsessing until I find the most perfect spot because I KNOW it's there it's just that someone else is living in it right now.  

My husband swears that the place I'm thinking of is in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but Eric and I promised each other way back when that we'd never have mad faces at each other at the same time, so I have a feeling we'll be juggling that argument conversation for as long as it takes to find our true slice of Heaven. Pennsylvania. ;)

Not just this summer, but ever since Eric and I became empty nesters, we have taken every opportunity to date each other again.  For our anniversary last year I bought us a '100 Dates Idea' scratch off poster and we've had so much fun interpreting each date in our own way after almost 13 years of marriage (and 16 total years together).  I think all of the dates and our interpretation of them might make for a fun blog post, but we aren't even half way through our poster yet so it's probably a ways away before I'll get around to that one.  

These opportunities have really given us the chance to explore Richmond, especially this summer when I forgot that Eric doesn't have a summer break the same way that I do and I just had us doing all kinds of things all throughout the city regardless of his schedule.

And y'all, Richmond has become one of my most favorite cities ever!  

I have three younger sisters, our parents cut and copied four times to create four girls who look alike and text almost constantly, but have very different lives.  Two of us live close to home and our parents, two of us moved as far away as possible (do not confuse that with how close we are to each other and our families).  
In my little life, home is wherever the Army sends us.  We never really know where in the world we will end up in or for how long, so a lot of my connection to my sisters and our parents is through text messages, phone calls, and the wine night FaceTime calls.  Right now, I am only 12 hours away from one of my sisters which is the shortest distance we've lived from each other in our entire adult lives!  And, we just so happened to marry two non-related fellas who were both born on the same day!  My sister, Angie, and I were texting one day and she casually mentioned meeting somewhere on the coast so that we could see each other.  Literally within five minutes of that conversation I had an Airbnb booked and we were set to celebrate our husbands birthdays in Beaufort, South Carolina!  

Whether the birthday boys were fully aware of all of the details of our trip or not I can't be sure.  It all happened so fast.  I think I mentioned it to Eric... I think... but whatever, we got them to South Carolina and got them to wear birthday hats so I feel like that's as good an indicator as any that we married good dudes who let us sisters do what we needed to be able to see each other again.

Fun fact:  Beaufort, South Carolina is where a lot of major movies were filmed!  Forest Gump, The Big Chill, Forces of Nature, and The Prince of Tides just to name a few!

But our summer didn't end there!

Visiting home is a complex thing for me.  
I love home.  But I don't feel like I need to go there.

I left home when I was young.  I came back with a baby girl a few years later having left a very bad situation, stayed long enough to graduate college, and by The Divine's ultimate design, our life's journey linked with Eric's and life took us in all kinds of directions from there.
The young girl who grew up in Vermillion, South Dakota is not the same one writing this blog post right now, and I don't know how to reconcile that, so mostly I'd rather just stay as far away as possible.

Hashtag: unresolved trauma.

But going home is not the same for the man that I love.  He doesn't have the same traumatic experiences that I did, so for him, home is familiar and comforting.

Obviously this is very conflicting since I LOVE our families and miss them very very much.  It's just that if I'm being honest. going home is hard for me and the anxiety I felt leading up to our two week trip to South Dakota and Nebraska was overwhelming.

My Dad rented a cabin in the Black Hills for his side of our four-way-fractured family and we really wanted to go.  He has done this in years past but we could never make it work because of everything we had going on these last few years.  Unresolved traumas aside, I was really hoping to make it work this year.  Eric really hoped we could make it work.

Both mine and Eric's parents are divorced so it makes everything a little bit more complicated, but we sat down and went over the logistics of going home.  We had to get three bodies, who now live on opposite sides of the country, to South Dakota and back again by specific dates for three very busy lives to resume on track.  We worked around Isabelle's work and school schedule, the Army's schedule, my school schedule, figured out flying versus driving, bought two one-way plane tickets for Isabelle since that was cheaper than a round trip ticket, painstakingly planned out a route for us to drive, booked hotels for the nights we would be on the road, divided our time as best we could to make sure we had quality time with the people we love most, and then... we went HOME! 

Overwhelming anxiety, 13 days, 4,000 miles driven through 8 different States, 4 families visited, a bajillion squishes given to every single niece and nephew (plus one great-nephew), too many tipsy sister conversations to count, not a single second spent apart from our girl from the second she stepped off the airplane, and zero seizures made for one unforgettable trip home!  

Believe it or not, Eric and I didn't do as much as I thought we would these last few months, but lately we've really prioritized whatever feels easy and relaxing for us in the moment, and a lot of times that's meant staying at home in our RV.  But we recently had a conversation about how much time we have left on the East Coast and it's put things into perspective (i.e lit a fire under our asses).  So hopefully y'all will get more than two blogs per year.  For now though, NO RAGRETS!