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!

Saturday, March 12, 2022


Well hello there!  

Yes it really is me, and yes, it has been a very very long time since I've last written.  

There's no specific reason why I've been gone so long, other than life was just so super busy for us the last few years.  Our little family went through big life changes, and the interest in this little blog of mine seemed to diminish after we moved back to the States.  So over time, I guess my blog fell to the bottom of my priority list and I didn't even notice until now.  
We never stopped traveling, though!  But life being as busy as it was and us unhappy in the desert, I just didn't care to put any of our trips into words.  That chapter has ended, thankfully, but then we became empty nesters, moved across the country, started new jobs, and all of that took a lot of adjusting and my blog stayed where it was in the jumble that is my life and priorities.  Every once in a while I wondered if I still felt like blogging, but then I'd shrug off the thought when I reminded myself that no one was reading it anyway.  

But this one, I'm writing this one for my husband.  

When Eric and I were walking around Maryland's Eastern Shore over the weekend of our daughter's 19th birthday, we talked a LOT about how different traveling looks for us now, and how different our perspectives are at this stage of life.  We high-fived at all that we've accomplished (and endured), and cheers'ed at the spectacular human we raised.  We wondered what's ahead and I marveled at how life unfolded for me and the teeny tiny baby I birthed 19 years before.  And that's when Eric mentioned that he missed my blog and hoped I'd consider starting it back up again.  

I didn't take his comment seriously at first.  I might have even laughed at him.  But a couple of glasses of wine later, I started to feel like I wanted to write again.  For him, and even if it's just this once.

So here I am!  For him.  If no one else reads this, he will.  I dedicate this post to Eric; my guy, my lover, my best buddy, my life partner and soulmate.  To the man that magnifies my light and reminded me that the brilliance of it is not defined by who does or doesn't see it.

"You'll know him when you see him by the way he looks at me..." -Gabby Barrett

So now I'm like... where do I start??  My little family went through a few life changes so maybe that's as good a place as any to start.  

Y'all, I'm rusty... bear with me.

Eric, Isabelle, and I made it through a deployment, and then a year or so later, Eric relinquished Command after 24 months in a single Command.  Three days after that he moved to Virginia and that started more than 9 months of us living in two separate states.  I explained why we decided to live that way in my last blog post so I'll spare you a whole 'nother wordy thing about it (someone told me once that I'm "wordy" and I'm still salty about it).  I was awarded the Commission of the Yellow Rose of Texas by the Governor of Texas for volunteering more than 200 hours with El Paso's homeless community.  I'm embarrassed to even mention it, I'm not trying to brag, but volunteering was a big part of my life while living there and I spent three years focusing wholeheartedly on those incredible souls.

Then, Isabelle graduated!  TWICE!  First she graduated with her associates degree from El Paso Community College, then three weeks later she graduated from high school!  If we've had even a smidge of a conversation in the last year, you already know because I was sure to brag about that child in the first 2 seconds.  And if we haven't, but might at any time in the next few decades, this is your heads up... I am absolutely going to tell you how amazing our girl is (wordy or not, it's happening).  Isabelle completed six years of school in only four and that combined with Eric's deployment and Company Command, and my spending time at the Rescue Mission of El Paso, is why life was too busy to blog.  But also, have I mentioned how much we hated the desert?  

July 2019

September 2020

May 2021

God, we hated the desert!  Eric and I are now together in Virginia and Isabelle is in college across the country.  She's adjusted to dorm life and is busy pursuing her BSN (or Health Sciences, depending on a Statistics class that's causing her some stress).  That means we're now empty nesters!  It took some adjusting, but our spirits are at ease knowing that Isabelle is joyfully figuring out life on her own terms and seems to be doing a good job of it, which has made it easy for Eric and I to joyfully figure out our lives on our own terms too.  

Actually guys, that figuring out thingy wasn't easy for me.  Joyful, but not easy.  Not having my baby at home anymore forced me to evaluate my life and how I wanted to spend my energy.  But not having my baby at home and being in a new State and without the things I had focused on for so long... y'all, it put me into a slump.  My life slowed down too quickly and drastically, and up until then I had never thought about what I would do next.  For the first time in my entire life I didn't know what to do.  I didn't even know what I wanted to do.  All I knew for certain was that I did NOT want to go back into a dental office - the place I spent alllll of my twenties sacrificing so so soooo much to become apart of.  That realization made me slump even more.  If I wasn't a mother anymore, what was I?  If I'm not a Dental Hygienist, what am I?  I worried that my talents were useless outside of a dental office, which then my brain twisted into my being useless entirely.  

Eric was super reassuring during this moment of life, but there's only so much the guy can do.

Until one day I came across a job fair on Facebook and knew that it was perfect me.  I went to it.  I didn't even think twice about it.  I handed them my very dental-specific resume and interviewed that day.  I left feeling.... clearer... not so slumpy.  If this didn't work out I left knowing which direction to finally move towards (which was a really pivotal moment in my life at the time).  About a week later I got the call that I was hired!  I was now a "Autism Paraprofessional" at a local elementary school!  And just like that... life fell into place again.

Our traveling slowed some but never stopped.  We went on a post-deployment Caribbean cruise, spent our 10th wedding anniversary in a teepee in Big Bend National Park.  Isabelle and I drove 16 hours over 2 separate days to get vaccinated against COVID, and Eric and I hiked part way down the Grand Canyon.  I was able to take a trip to move Isabelle into her dorm, and Eric and I spent a brutally hot weekend in D.C.  We celebrated our 12th anniversary at the resort where Dirty Dancing was filmed, then ended the year all three of us together again at Disney World in Florida.  And we've taken every opportunity to explore the east coast, most recently my birthday weekend in Norfolk, Virginia!

Farmville, VA - November 2020

The Grand Canyon - May 2021

Washington D.C 2021

Fredericksburg, VA - 2021

Christmas 2021

Norfolk, VA - March 2022

But maybe the most exciting thing we've done since I last "talked" to y'all was... we bought and then moved into.... an RV!!  

Eric and I had our hearts set on a life of travel from the minute we took our very first trip together.  A year into dating we went to the Sturgis Bike Rally (2007) in my dad's little Class C where we camped in the Badlands and fell in love with the freedom and excitement of travel. We paid no mind to the fact that we were in our home state, we were experiencing new things.  A year after that we took my dad's Class C again to Colorado for our friends' wedding and that entire experience sealed the deal on our desire to travel.   But after living in Europe our dream evolved even further and we decided that we wanted to fully live a life of travel.  For us that meant.... RV LIFE!  

And once we set our hearts on something, we don't look back.  So, with both of our hearts and all of our eyes and all of our feet, we belly flopped into our newest chapter of life!  Getting to this point wasn't quick, but we focused wholeheartedly and paid off our student loans & vehicle loans and saved every penny we had in between with the intent of buying and living in an RV after Isabelle graduated.  As Isabelle made her way through high school we downsized little by little and were very mindful of the things we bought - if it couldn't or wouldn't be useful in an RV, we didn't buy it.  It was a process, and took a few years to do, but we knew that with each step we took it would eventually take us to the life we wanted.  

And at the very end of 2020 those steps took us right to a 2021 Alpine 3712KB!  MEET, JOYFUL!  

We purchased her from General RV in Ashland, Virginia (a terrible experience; do NOT recommend) and had her delivered a few months later.  She's a big rig!  At 42 feet long she's a big girl!  But for full-time living she is just PERFECT.  Our favorite part about her is the pantry in the kitchen.  *see above

We officially moved in last winter during the coldest, wettest, and muddiest week ever.  For delivery day I had to make a second 1,900 mile road trip from Texas to Virginia (and back again) with 1,000lbs of our things all by myself.  I managed it safely in 2.5 days and I would like to think that's a testament to my driving skills, but it was a long couple of days and I will NEVER drive through Atlanta, GA ever again!  Never never ever again.

Eric and I spent the last few years researching how to live in an RV and the things essential to do so, so we felt pretty prepared when Joyful was delivered.  But even still there was an initial adjustment... that took all of 2021 to do.  Eric endured a massive ice storm that knocked out power to 98% of the county just two weeks after moving in, forcing him to seek refuge at his generous former landlord, and forcing us to purchase a costly generator.  That summer we moved to a different spot in the same camp ground that gave us more room and more privacy.  We've experienced our fair share of headaches and frustrations, and woke up more times than we can count to frozen water pipes, but through it all, we're living our dream!  (Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that because frozen anything in an RV will make you want to throw in the towel on it all.)

It's been 9 months since I moved to Virginia to be with my husband again and all of those changes were happening at the same time.  Life now is... good, so very very good.  I've done all of the adjusting I hope to do for the rest of the year and have settled comfortably out here on the east coast.  I can see myself working in the realm that I'm in for the foreseeable future and it's comforting.  Our next PCS isn't for another year so we aren't thinking about it yet and are just living in the moment.  

I know that I'm going to blink and it'll be that time again where the Army moves us somewhere new and we'll adjust to different changes all over again, but for now we're happy right where we're at.  But just in case I blink and I've forgotten about this little blog of mine in the jumble that is my life and priorities, know that my husband will be pulling for it.  

Monday, May 11, 2020

PCS Status: 2020

It's that time again!  That time when the Army closes one chapter and ships us off to the next!  

Fort Bliss, TX may seem like an unlikely choice for a little family like mine, but three years ago when when Eric and I talked about and factored in all of the intricacies that go into making certain decisions for our life, we had no doubts that Fort Bliss was the exact right place for us.  

And we were right!  Life unfolded seamlessly here and we can look back on this chapter fondly.

El Paso has been gracious and loving to our family.  Isabelle has thrived and blossomed here; having all the space to explore her heritage in a way that Eric and I could never have provided otherwise.  I was welcomed with open arms into the community where I spent my time volunteering at a homeless shelter and also nudging my shy self into local hiking groups where I explored every trail in the Franklin Mountains.  And Fort Bliss was where my husband was successful and got to work side by side with incredible Soldiers who he will remember for his lifetime.  

El Paso, TX may seem to you like an unseemly city, but take it from us that El Paso is special, and we are better for having lived here.  Our little family got to witness firsthand how tight-knit and resilient this community is after the mass shooting that happened on August 3, 2019 at a Walmart that we were at just the day before.  The community pulled together in a way that is impossible to put into words.  El Pasoans are some of the strongest and most loving people you will ever meet, and I can say that because they enclosed us into their love and protection when things got scary.

But... it's that time again, and I have to be honest... we are very ready to leave.

I've mentioned a time too many that this hasn't been my most favorite area of the world I've ever been to.  We just aren't desert people and that's taken a toll on my spirit after almost three years of living here.  And for all the love El Paso has given us, El Paso was sure to claim a few of our most precious things in exchange for that love... our beloved Brewsky, my wedding ring, and almost my father-in-law (but then God Himself stepped in for that one).  While I can appreciate the delicate balance of good/bad, bad/good that the Universe constantly manages, my little ol' self will never be the same without those precious parts and I'm angry about it.  

So it's time.  I am ready to leave. 

AND GO TO.... 

VIRGINIA!!!  Fort Lee, Virginia!  

Y'ALL!!  We are going back to Virginia!!!

{We've actually known this for a good while now, but with everything going on in the world it wasn't certain whether our move would happen as scheduled.  There's still a lot of unknowns as current events unfold, but we now have official orders and that's as good as it gets in Army life.}

Fort Lee is where we lived briefly while Eric was a student, but now he will be the teacher!  We are so excited!

Except that... the Army is opening a new chapter for us right before Isabelle starts her Senior year of high school/college.  
I can't remember if I've mentioned this on my blog or not, but, Isabelle is currently earning her associates degree from El Paso Community College (EPCC) at the same time as her high school diploma (our baby is smart).  It's not easy to move ever, but especially during high school, and especially right before her Senior year.  With all that our daughter is working towards, it would only hurt her future to force her to move to a different school just one year shy of finishing everything she's started.  

Military children are incredibly resilient and adaptable because they are asked to make sacrifices that are not always fair and are never convenient.  These traits will serve them well in life, but it's hard when life changes and you never know when or often even why.  Isabelle moved three times between two different countries and two different U.S States in her 8th grade year, alone.  And that was really hard on her.  Isabelle is a good girl, she is smart and ambitious, she is mature and self-sufficient and makes friends easily, but at the end of the day she's just a kid trying to live her life while having almost no control on when her entire world will change.

And that makes being a kid that much harder.  

Eric and I knew that the timeframe for another PCS would be near Isabelle's Senior year.  This was one of those intricacies that we had to factor into our decision when we were getting ready to move here.  After watching Isabelle struggle with an initial transition, we decided that we would not ask her to make any more sacrifices for Eric's career, no matter what that meant.  So we were mindful to keep Isabelle involved with all of the conversations over the past three years of the different ways in which Army life may unfold for us, and have let Isabelle be involved in forming our decisions.   

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Isabelle wants to stay here in El Paso in her house, at her school, with her friends.

Eric and I sure can't blame her, so we are honoring all of the commitment she's given to her academics and are making plans for Eric to live apart from us for Isabelle's Senior year.  

Now, there are things that the Army will do to help keep life consistent and families together in situations like ours, and we sure did discuss those particular things, but ultimately, what is best for us is for Eric to move to Fort Lee and for Isabelle and I to stay in El Paso so that she can finish high school/college here with her friends and in her house.  It's going to be hard, and require a giant adjustment, but we have made the right decision.  And anyway, it's only for a year.

So like I said, it's that time again!  That time when the Army closes one chapter and ships us off to the next!