Monday, August 6, 2018

The Big Move

Three years of silence in this space, but it's been on my mind the past few months to begin updating again. This might be just as good as my previous post (where did part II ever go???), haha.

On July 19th, we closed on the first home we ever bought together. We left the house at 8:57am, dropped Jasper off at the groomer's, picked up a Chick-Fil-A breakfast, and went to a friend's house to shower. Then, we spent an hour of sitting in a lawyer's office, sipping our Starbucks and signing forms, transferring funds. Afterward, we drove to my work for the last time (at least as an employee). I said some more goodbyes, and Jonathan carried out a heavy box which represented over 8 years of my time there. We picked up the kids from daycare and took pictures of them with their teachers while I very poorly held back tears. We came back to the house that no longer belonged to us, and I hopped in the driver side of a 26" truck to make the two day trek back to Florida. Florida, our former home, and the place we vowed we would never move back to. But here we are!

The first reason we've given to all of our friends or anyone who has asked about our move is that we wanted to get closer to family. That much is very true. The first year of Archer's life (or, life with two kids and both parents working outside of the home) was exceptionally difficult due to all of his ear infections. Almost every week, Jonathan and I were having to rearrange our work schedules to accommodate for sickness (thank you, employers, for being so accommodating.). It's hard to emphasize or explain how stressful that 9 month period was, especially being on the outside of it now for over a year, but it was just really very difficult. It sounded really nice to move closer to family.

But over the past year plus of "planning the move," I think we both started cultivating just a completely different idea of what life could look like. Jonathan had a 35+min commute (one way) in South Carolina. A commute that he had been driving for over 11 years. His job/employer is great! But that commute sucks. And I'm not even the one who has to drive it. But it did add several layers of complications to our life, especially once the kids started coming. Overall, though, we wanted to reduce the amount of time he was spending on the road (consuming fuel, producing harmful emissions; consuming time away from family, producing an informed perspective a la podcasts). His company's main office is located in the town he grew up in. Job transfer? Check!

I've also been feeling the pull to leave my current career as a registered nurse to stay home with the kids. This is laugh out loud funny to me, especially when I think about how in college I never wanted to marry anyone and never wanted kids, and overall was just very career focused/driven as the determining factor of success. It's hilarious when God is like, um, nope, I have something different (and greater, and better, and yes perhaps more challenging, too) in store for you!

So, with me quitting my job, and our desire to get Jonathan closer to his workplace, the best solution is to move to a more expensive region of the US, right??!

It didn't take long for us to realize we would need to do a lot of downsizing. We're in our 30s, and this seems to be the time when peers start being able to afford expensive toys (boats, pools, new cars, kitchen remodels, etc etc)...and here we are spending over $100,000 more for a new house that's around half the size of our original home, on one income.

We've been praying about this a long time (and have so many other prayer warriors doing the same), but I think our hearts are prepared for the change. We have told God that we are ready to be tested and to learn new lessons. We've been so accustomed to doing what is "right" financially: tithing, no debt, no credit card balances, putting substantial amounts of income into savings/retirement...and never really feeling the strain in our budget! The freedom of travel and large food expenditures. I mean, you know we've always been frugal. Like, freedom of travel sometimes means going to Hawai`i and camping the whole time. Now it's the realization that Hawai`i may not be here for us, at least in this phase.

Also, I know "simplifying life" is very trendy right now and maybe this just seems like we're jumping into the latest fad. I'm not here spouting off about capsule wardrobes or konmari'ing your house (which I love to do, by the way), but instead talking about a real life change for us. We sold Jonathan's car, which might make no real sense for most people, considering we've owned the car in full for years now and the insurance isn't that much. But with our new life in mind, we're picturing him bicycling to work and me reducing our carbon footprint severely by minimally using our vehicle for the day-to-day.

It's not just figuring our how to food plan on a budget, but how to food plan on a budget with consideration toward where the plant was grown or the animal was raised, and also with our health in mind.

It's fitting three kids in one room, not just for space saving reasons, but also so they grow up without feeling entitled toward their living area. So they'll fight and learn how to resolve conflict. So they'll grow up and have a relationship that endures. So they'll innately know life isn't easy and we shouldn't expect that. So they'll be kind toward one another and the world.

It's realizing the excess in our life, removing it, and not finding a replacement for it. Stop the cycle of consumerism. The end.

Did we really have to move to Florida to figure this stuff out? No, of course not. But I think the circumstances I mentioned above kinda forces us to. And, hey, we're closer to family now!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Very Long Story, Part I

This time last year we were a few weeks into our month-long initial pursuit of a healthier lifestyle via a paleo diet.  I started writing a post about that last year (and it is still sitting there, staring at me, in draft mode) because it was a really awesome experience.  For those that know me closely know that I suffer from intense headaches, sometimes migraines, and they are at times hormone-driven, weather-driven, seasonal-driven, or unknown-driven.  Whatever the case may be, I would have one of these headaches at least once a week and usually more often than that.  So can you imagine my shock when after going through the initial sugar withdrawals (and accompanying headaches) for the first few days of the paleo diet, I had zero headaches for 30+ days after that?  That's right, folks.  Nothing short of a miracle.  So clearly food (processed food) plays a role in my health.  I think most people can speak to that, especially if they've ever tried a strict change like we did.  Our friends were really supportive, too.  Our Bible study group that was meeting then even cooked us (and everyone) paleo meals!  We even vacationed to Savannah with my best friend and her husband, stayed at a bed & breakfast, and still managed to be really strict (I think we may have cheated with Leopold's Ice Cream? and some cheese). Really, I had never felt better.

Okay, so that was all of January.  In February I remember being at work and I kept thinking my period had started. But at the same time I didn't think it was starting.

(Okay, let me back up a little bit. This will get a little TMI but whatevs.

At the beginning of our marriage we were using hormonal oral contraceptives as a birth control method. Then I kinda hated that. It just seems to go against everything natural.  Being that I had, up until that point, an extremely regular and predictable cycle for about 15 years, we decided to use a fertility-awareness based method. Jonathan was freaked out by this at first, but hey, we managed to go four years without issue!)

When we started using our fertility-awareness based method, even though my cycle continued to be extremely regular, I was always thinking I was pregnant.  Like, always. So I eventually bought these cheapie pregnancy tests from Amazon. You literally have to pee in a cup and dip the strip yourself.  They were the cheapest thing, and even though we weren't yet ready for children, I found myself going into freak-out mode each month, just convinced that I was pregnant.  I would often tell Jonathan that, too.  Like so often that it pretty much became a joke.

In December 2013 I finally ran out of these pregnancy strips.  I had decided to stop being a crazy person and refused to order them again.

So in February when I was having these back cramps / achyness that were kind of like the beginnings of my cycle yet it never came, I was highly suspicious.  When I officially missed my period (or at least thought I missed it - I honestly couldn't tell you when I had it in January...I don't really keep watch of it because it is very reliable), I knew that we needed to order more pregnancy strips. Because who goes to Walgreens when you have Amazon Prime, right?

I remember being at work having these now-normal menstrual-like cramps, yet no menstruation.  And I remembered that our shipment should arrive that day, so I planned to take the test when I got home.  Around 8:00pm I walked in the door, and Jonathan was cooking dinner.  I saw the brown box sitting on the coffee table, so I snatched it up (I don't believe I had told Jonathan I ordered more strips -- I knew how ridiculous he thought it was) and headed to the bathroom. Really, I wasn't surprised that it showed a positive test (two pink stripes).  Jonathan doesn't believe me, but I swear I know the day that we conceived. I know it because we had been using this fertility-based awareness method for four years. And I know when we had one too many bottles of Riesling at dinner one night in Savannah that we weren't being very careful about our methods.

(Was that too gross for you to read? Sorry.)

Anyway, so I walked out of the bathroom holding the test behind my back.  Jonathan was still in the kitchen cooking dinner. I know most women like to surprise their partners, and it isn't entirely uncommon to keep the secret to themselves until that perfect moment where you buy them a t-shirt that says #1 Dad or something on it... But how I could I keep this secret from my best friend? Plus, I knew he wouldn't believe me (because I say the same thing every month), and I was excited to win for once.  Point for Amber!

Except when I told him, he didn't react the same way as usual.  Maybe it's because I said, "hey guess what? I'm pregnant." Instead of, "hey I think I'm pregnant!" Yeah, that was probably it.  I remember Jonathan having this goofy smile on his face, I showed him the test, and then he made me retake it.  This was while he still finished cooking dinner.  Don't take that man out of the kitchen when he's at work!

One of the questions in the baby book I am working on asks what we did to celebrate.  And honestly? I don't know.  I remember us sitting at the table eating dinner (don't even ask me what...but considering we were still eating paleo, I imagine it was likely roasted brussels sprouts and grilled spicy chicken) and kind of giggling to each other, almost acting shy? It reminded me of how we behaved on the night Jonathan asked me to marry him.  Except this time neither of us had the immediate desire to tell the world. It was kind of fun keeping this secret to ourselves.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 re-cap

I have been avoiding this thing like the Black Plague. Not on purpose, necessarily, but other social forums have filled the space and the many times I thought about writing here, I quickly decided it was just too much work. Also a lot of this year has been an internal struggle (not that you could really tell by my Instagram feed...) to decide if I should be less present in this weird internet world, or continue to embrace it despite privacy concerns. Anyway.

Last year when I was writing my re-cap it was truly difficult to find the blessings among the travesty. I prayed that this year would be better, and boy has it! (Or should I say girl? But that is a post for another day...)


rainy/cold/awesome birthday in charlotte with my husband
against me!
paleo (!!)
savannah with the hartmans - ordering bottles of reisling, eating dinner al fresco, les mis
wilmington to visit the birnbaums - the ocean

super bowl party
finding out we're pregnant (!!)
snow day + cribbage with the zokans
fahrenheit 451 with meagan + elizabeth
jazz night @ hunter gatherer (little did i know, it would be our last)

carolina chocolate drops
colorado ski trip with the halls
attempting snow camping at rocky mountain nat'l park
the hot springs (!!)
painting class with kim
weather warming

anniversary camping/hiking in brevard & pisgah nat'l forest
planting anniversary roses
old crow medicine show
camping/hiking at table rock with the mazzucas
summiting table rock while four months pregnant
hearing the heartbeat for the first time
telling our parents
attending church on easter for the first time since we were married
beginning to share the news with friends

spending an early mother's day with my mom
announcing our pregnancy to our sunday school class on mother's day
audrey's baby shower
finding out brianna was pregnant
finding out kathleen was pregnant
hosting a potluck cookout
traveling to kauai (!!)

sunday school ladies bible study start-up
beach camping in kauai
san diego - seeing ketan, kristin and carolyn
perdido with ashley + nicole
kayaking on the bay, watching the sun set
having our first ultrasound

jasper's golden birthday
spending time with family in richmond for the 4th of july
playing in the james river
seeing eileen
kathleen visiting

new babies (parker, lucas, oliver)
silas' birthday party
first work book club meet-up
sc baby shower - feeling so, so loved
"babymoon" in georgia at paradise hills (hiking, bubble baths, wine tasting, reading, snuggling) camping in the keys with j's parents

fl baby shower - the origami cranes, friends from across the state
swimming & reading in the pool
watching the sun rise over the atlantic with my husband & dog
ashley's bridal shower
grilled pizza night with the clarks at the scogins
seeing friends + family

gone girl
working on my due date
incarnation lutheran church oktoberfest - early labor but not realizing it
soda city with sunday school - seeing dr. perkins & lauren
jam room festival
my mom making it in time
the help from all the parents
the meals from so many friends
the few but cherished breastfeeding moments
the zokan's oktogafest
soda city oktoberfest

ashley's bachelorette weekend in sarasota
introducing pepper to lots of friends + family in florida
ashley + james' wedding in st. petersburg beach
early thanksgiving with mom & co.
actual thanksgiving with the dickinsons & zokans

an unplanned but wonderful visit from my mom
cashing in my birthday gift at occo
both of our work parties
maggie's engagement party/surprise wedding
j's sisters coming for christmas
dominating taboo
nye with friends at the cashatts


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Photos: Child Portraits

T. turned one last month, and his parents asked me to take some photos! (You might remember these photos.) I don't have a lot of experience with little kids' portraits (and that might be clear from these photos). They are definitely more challenging than older children or adults, because they kinda just want to do their own thing. So, major props to those professionals that handle these photos on a regular basis. I have lots of new respect for you! It was fun, though, and J. was great about keeping him entertained. All in all, it was a fun experience and I would enjoy challenging myself again. (:

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a lot of semi-colons and parentheses

I started writing something to summarize how terrible and how surprising this past year was -- full of death, heartbreak, tragedy. It was immediately depressing -- and even though I lived it and made it and feel stronger for it -- I started getting depressed doing my year in review.

That's not to say great things didn't happen, because they did --

several of our friends gave birth to their first (and second) children;
 several close friends got married (and I was lucky enough to be a part of two of their celebrations as a bridesmaid!);
we traveled (to Savannah -- several times, with various friends; to California -- both the deserts and the ocean; to the mountains -- of Georgia and North Carolina; to Texas -- a girls trip with one of my best friends; and to Florida -- many, many times), but not enough;
my brother was accepted to and has been studying at a major university in Florida;
I experienced personal career growth that I am proud of; we participated in our first season of a community-supported agriculture system -- and had lots of fun with it;
we participated in our first two 5ks -- one was fun and the other was hard work;
we had photographic opportunities;
friendships blossomed; our families traveled to us this holiday season;
I am now the proud owner of a Vitamix.

Other (good) things happened too. Seeing the good listed out is good. I still have it my head that 2013 was a really terrible year. Maybe in a while I won't feel like that.

Or maybe I still will.

But do you know how my last day of 2013 was spent?

I listened to a podcast about Vampire Weekend on the way to (and from) work;
I spent it with coworkers that are strong, beautiful women that I love;
I found out the patient I had been caring for for the past week is my neighbor;
I picked up Chinese food on the way home (and tipped well);
I was welcomed home by two black, white & grey dogs, and a happy husband;
I got a nice text message from a person I do not know who wished me a happy New Year;
and now I am watching a movie while sipping a beer.

I am happy today and I am optimistic about tomorrow. The stuff that wore me down through the year is behind me, and though there are still big reminders of the pain, I am making goals, and I am overcoming my Seasonal Affective Disorder. I feel closer to my husband today than I did a month ago, I have recognized and realized the value of family (and miss them more than ever before), and I am (happily) basking in the glow of a Christmas tree.

Cheers to you and your family. Praying this next year will be better.

It has to be.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Photos: Wedding

Last month J. and I traveled back to our home state for this beautiful wedding (you may remember their engagement portraits here). J. and M. did a wonderful job creating this special day with all of their handmade touches. While different from our own, it definitely brought J. and me back to our wedding day...almost four years ago (which is crazy!). There were so many personal touches: M.'s stunning dress was handmade by the same woman who also created her previous QuinceaƱera and prom dresses; up until the day-of, family was assisting with putting the final touches on the decor; M. and J. together designed and made the popular photo booth; friends and family gleefully lit Chinese lanterns like children; they invited the chauffeur to stay for dinner and managed to pull me onto the dance floor; J.'s youth pastor even flew from one of the Dakotas to officiate the wedding! I could go on, but the end point is this: you both, with your families, really made everyone feel special.

M. and J., I hope you are able to look at these photos and remember your day piece by piece, since I have heard it can be a blur. (; Love you guys!