Friday, December 31, 2010

Sweet November Rain: A Love Story

I have never been a fan of New Year's Eve. I love a new year as much as anyone, don't get me wrong, but the whole notion of dragging oneself out of the house on a freezing cold night dressed in finery that isn't meant for freezing cold nights and putting oneself at the mercy of drunk drivers everywhere just doesn't make my skirt fly up (to quote Pioneer Woman...). Even at my wildest, I just couldn't get into it.

Then Hurricane Hanna happened. Hurricane Hanna changed my life. (if you're into love stories, this is the part where you grab some chocolate and a cup of coffee and prop your feet up...because you're about to hear mine).

It was mid-September, 2008. I was a degreed Artist working my butt (and my rather atrophied left brain) off in nursing school. I was living in Charleston, SC in a high rise apartment building less than a stone's throw from the ocean. I loved waking up to that view every morning but, having lived in Charleston as a child and survived Hugo hunkered down in my laundry room, I knew a thing or two about hurricanes. So when the 2008 season started heating up and Hanna appeared on the news, I made sure I had a flashlight and water, pulled the storm shutters closed, turned on the weather channel and prepared to wait it out. All of my friends were having hurricane parties and kept sending me messages to come join them in James Island or other locales off the peninsula. At one point, I had my keys in my hand ready to go before chickening out since, if the hurricane did make landfall and flooded the bridges, I'd be stranded.
Finally, after nearly 18 hours of being stuck inside with no hurricane anywhere in the visible distance (but the weather channel still saying it would be hitting us momentarily), I typed the words "Christian Dating Sites" into Google.

I can honestly say I had absolutely no intention of dating anyone or trying to date anyone during nursing school. Classes were hard enough without that added distraction and I had future plans that didn't involve a significant other: travel nursing, nursing in a third world country, the list goes on. Boredom can make you do some funny things though, and before long I was browsing the profiles of humanity's most desperate (or so I thought...).

The hurricane never hit but Hanna's ubiquitous threat had changed my life forever. I decided to get a free ten day trial so I could more effectively gawk, but before I knew it, I had a fully fledged out profile and was winking with the best of them. I made some friends, broke a few hearts and when ten days was up, I went on with life without a second thought. I thought my secret tryst with the world of online dating was over, but a month later I received a tempting email from the site offering me three more free days and, well, I accepted.

On day two of my free days, I was clicking through profiles when I came across a tuxedoed guy in his twenties with a military haircut and a killer smile. As a general rule, I never bothered with anyone who hadn't filled out their profile, and since he hadn't I clicked right on by. To this day I can't tell you why I clicked back, but I did. I also can't tell you why I attempted to IM him since the site's IM feature had been broken since the day I signed up, but I did and he responded. (I should also point out that he hadn't logged on in months). We exchanged AIM screenames since my free trial was about to expire and the rest, as they say, is history.

We talked every night about everything under the sun but as he was living in Arizona and I was in school on the East Coast, I never even entertained the idea of anything happening between us. I happened to mention him to my friend Amanda one night who essentially told me I was going to marry him but I laughed it off and went about my business as usual.

One cold rainy morning in November, I donned my scrubs and grabbed my bike for the mile ride to school. Dodging horrible Charleston drivers, especially in the cold rain always put me in a bad mood and it was only made worse by the fact that it was my birthday and I had clinical all afternoon. I stopped by the mail room on my way out and found a rather bulky card addressed to me from my internet friend. After momentarily freaking out over forgetting that my address was on facebook, I opened it and read the most articulate and beautiful letter I'd ever received. Enclosed with the letter was a beautiful St. Michael pendant given to him by his chaplain during his first tour to Iraq. I realized at that point that I was either going to have to stop writing this guy or marry him and judging by the sudden significant shift in my mood, I think I knew it was the latter.

We continued talking but there was a sort of tacit understanding that we were communicating as much more than random friends. By December we knew we wanted to be married so we went ahead and planned for a February wedding despite the fact that we had yet to meet. He came to meet me in person a few days after Christmas and the minute I gave him that first hug at the airport, I knew we had made the right decision. The next few days were a whirlwind of driving to meet my parents, applying for our marriage license, consuming large quantities of sushi and ring shopping.

New Year's Eve finally arrived. My usual disdain for the day was nowhere to be found as we got all dressed up for an amazing dinner at the Charleston Grille. Somewhere between the Foie Gras and dessert, he popped the ring out and asked me to marry him and with an enormous smile I said yes. As the rest of the restaurant applauded, we realized the string quartet had been right in the middle of November Rain. Nothing like a little Guns N Roses to get a relationship off on the right foot :).  (I still find it kind of fitting in the most cheesy sort of way since it was a cold and rainy November morning that changed the course of our relationship.) We spent the rest of the evening calling friends and family and shocking the pants off facebook (most of our friends didn't even know we were dating) and headed back to the Grille around 11 to toast in the New Year. We didn't realize they were giving out free bubbly at midnight so we ordered two glasses of pink champagne (An Affair to Remember, anyone?). The restaurant was standing room only at that point and a few minutes before midnight, someone bumped into Jason and his champagne went all over my dress. I'm pretty sure he thought I was going to give the ring back and leave at that point but I couldn't stop laughing. We toasted to the New Year and to our new life together and headed out for a late night walk on the cobbled streets of Charleston.

The rest of the story is a whirlwind, really. He left for the west coast and I returned to my studies while madly planning a wedding for mid-February. My mom was feverishly making my dress and I was scrambling to find a photographer, florist and reception venue. In the end, we decided to make it a very intimate affair with family and a few close friends. I had two major exams within three days of getting married but thankfully my Psych teacher gave me the Friday off before my wedding that Saturday so I could spend some time with my husband's family (who I met that night for the first time!). The wedding was beautiful. I can honestly say the entire process was stress free. I made my decorations and the cupcakes, we had a simple ceremony with my dear friend Jay Bopp playing the bagpipes, followed by a wonderful lunch at the fabulous Rue de Jean. It was the perfect day and my only regret is that it didn't last longer. Jason left the following Monday and we didn't actually get to live together until the following December when I graduated and moved out west to be with him.

So here we are, two years and a baby later. Last year we spent New Year's in Venice. This year, He'll ring in the new year with a post-workout protein shake and I'll probably be passed out in bed with a baby next to me by the time it gets to us. 2011 will reunite us again before we know it because thankfully, "nothin' lasts forever, even cold November rain".
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paint chips and pretty things

I'm a huge fan of my house. As much as I really don't care for Kansas, I'd love to be able to uproot my house and take it with me wherever we end up for the rest of our career. It has loads of character with its creaky wooden floors, textured plaster walls and 80 year-old windows that require special ordered screens because they just don't make windows that size anymore. I posted about my non-working fireplace angst several months ago, but I've softened and embraced its presence and sooty breath.


I have unfinished business with the walls. Every single wall in the house is covered in the most hideous color of primer. The rules allow me to paint as long as I either paint them back when we leave (ugh) or paint them initially with a color that is considered a neutral (no bright red or orange...).
I've decided to go with the latter option since I'll already have to repaint the baby's room and that was a chore in the first place.

I tend to base the palette of my house off of my huge art collection which predisposes me to neutrals anyway. The living room will be my first order of business as it's the largest room and I just can't take such a huge expanse of taupey-brown any longer. The focal point of the room is a gorgeous abstract painting done by my favorite painting instructor, Jay Bopp. I originally intended to hang one of my own paintings, a very representational oil of the cadet chapel at West Point, over the fireplace but it merely added to the formality and heavy historical feel of the room. I'm a sucker for juxtaposing modern/cool with historic/warm so I decided on the abstract. In the same vein, the walls are begging for a very light, cool color to counteract the warm tones of the brick, floor and the heavy feel of the leather couch and woodwork. The first paint chip I decided on was a lovely pale blue, but after having it taped to the wall for several months now, I've realized it probably falls too much in the 'color' category rather than 'neutral'. I'm now leaning towards a very pale, cool dove-grey.

Home decor, like everything else tends to run in trends and paint colors are no exception. Grey is currently the new "it" color (at least from what I've seen on the daily blog circuit) and I have no doubt why: it's versatile, you can find cool or warm greys, it's the perfect foil for just about any piece of art and best of all (for me, especially) it's a neutral so I won't have to repaint!

GORGEOUS gray room via Ohdeedoh

(I'm sure my art faculty would prefer to see me blogging about painting canvas again but for now it'll just have to be the walls. Hopefully I'll have a post about returning to my oils soon...)

On to the Pretty Things part of this post (though I tend to include paint in that category...maybe I sniffed too much of it in art school, but I've been known to lose myself in the paint section of any store).
I created this style board a few weeks ago of things that have struck me lately.

There's something about cruisers that I love. Perhaps it's the association with the coast and leisure (pronounce that 'leh-zuhr' to get the full effect of my thought process ;) or maybe it's the actual aesthetic of them (the swooping curves versus the sexy streamlined angles of a racing bike). This particular one is just stunning with it's leather seat and mocha details. I have daydreams of riding this beauty along the ocean in Monterey with a little baby trailer on the back (and those gorgeous boots on my feet)...and then I wake up and remember I live in Kansas.
This day at the ocean brought to you by Nirve and currently on sale for $299.99!

Now let's discuss those boots. I have way too many boots, as I've mentioned before. Men (my husband included) will never understand a woman's love affair with knee boots, which is fine. I've tried to curb my desires but every time I think I've succeeded, I run across a new set of leather beauties that obliterate any amount of self control I might have gained. (I should note, however, that I have NOT bought these boots and am very proud of myself). I never realized that Timberland made pretty things until last year when I was browsing online for boots and found their collection. It's just one of those companies that was relegated to the "redneck" category where I rarely venture unless my husband drags me into Cabela's. (Imagine my surprise when I saw Timberland stores all over Italy!) But, as you can see, Timberland makes beautiful boots that are just begging to be on my feet pedaling that espresso colored bike...
I'll stop.
I was going to link to them but they're apparently sold out, which is probably good...

And now there's the matter of that delightful helmet. Because it is, you know, an actual legitimate bike helmet (!!!). If you're as enamored with cycling as I am, you should definitely venture on over to The Bicycle Muse and prepare to salivate. If all bike helmets were tweed, more people would wear them (this is my highly un-validated opinion, by the way). The one I've pictured is the Yakkay Helmet and would pair well with the cruiser and boots (are you noticing a trend?)

I won't wax quite as eloquent over the kitchenware pictured but here are the links in case anyone's interested:

The All-Clad Roaster (which I actually do need, one of these days..) from Williams Sonoma

Studio William cutlery (another "need", since I currently own a mishmash of cheap rusting flatware from the husband and I's pre-marriage lives).

Bodum cups and teapot. Who doesn't love Bodum...really...

The sweater is pretty but after looking at it online for a few weeks, it's not really my favorite (it was overpriced anyway). It's from Ann Taylor Loft but I believe it sold out online a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011: A New Hope

(Sorry, I'm a shameless Star Wars fan...)

My girlfriend and I were discussing our relief at Christmas being over yesterday. We made the best of it with our children, but we're ready to pack the decorations away and start fresh. My friend has faced enormous difficulties this year: moving to a new place, having her husband deploy and then losing her baby a few days before Christmas, all while trying to make it a joyful season for her other three kids. She has weathered these trials with incredible grace, however, and her faith in God is strong. Still, it's no wonder that she's ready for the New Year and I have to admit, I'm right there with her.

There's something invigorating about sweeping out the old, ushering in the new, setting goals, looking forward to the Fall...

In the spirit of the new year and starting afresh, I'm undertaking an exercise that I have yet to make work in my twenty-something years: Day Planning. I bought a fairly simple Moleskine day planner about a week ago and have been using the baby's naptime to fill it out. I officially have all my meals planned through the end of January!!! I also have my gym days outlined, my Couch to 5K program noted both there and on the app on my phone (so convenient!). I'm determined to make this work for me this time. I'm not an organized person by nature but I've found that making schedules and planning meals actually does work for me goes nothing..

I feel like all I've been talking about lately is organizing my life....

Let's change the subject entirely.
One of the fun things about postpartum is having to get a new wardrobe. Fortunately I'm roughly the same size that I was before I got pregnant, but I was in Nursing school for a year and a half so my wardrobe was 80% scrubs, 5% dress clothes and 15% yoga pants/hoodies. I went straight from that into maternity clothes which left my closet pretty unwearable on the other end.
When it comes to fashion, I'm very inspired by French women who can put together any number of outfits from a handful of classic pieces. My lifelong goal when it comes to clothing is to be able to do this, however I have to say I'm nowhere near reaching that. I blame this entirely on Anthropologie, J Crew and Ann Taylor Loft for tempting me with pretty things and incredible sales. In my defense, I no longer just buy the clearance t-shirts at Target in every color because "they were only 3 bucks each!". I've gotten a lot better at figuring out what I need and spending as much time as it takes to find that item so I don't spend a ton of money on 5 different shirts that sort of look like what I want. It takes discipline. (I don't have much of that).
My husband bought me a gorgeous plaid skirt from Anthropologie for my birthday and I've been on a quest to find the perfect blouse for it ever since. I finally found it (and a classic white blouse at J Crew) this week.

Isn't this skirt gorgeous??
...and then there was this blouse:
I've been fighting shoe lust since coming to my parent's (thankfully, there are no decent shoe stores back home but coming to the city is even more dangerous as a result..) and I even walked out of the mall without the pair of gorgeous Born booties I tried on yesterday. My bank account thanks me :).

I have a boot problem. Just ask my husband.

It's just another reason I'll never be like that elusive Frenchwoman.

On that note, I'll leave you with the greatest book I've read this year for all of you ladies who are looking for a little je ne sais quoi of your own:
Find it here!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

This is the only thing I needed for Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mulled thoughts

Somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic, Christmas morning is dawning on thousands of husbands, wives, moms, dads, sons and daughters. Mine will be dragging into his office soon where he will be greeted by a tiny silver LED tree, a stocking full of Christmas Peeps, DVDs and a Rush CD and his office mate who never sleeps. He will pour himself the first of several cups of Christmas Blend, go to work and count the hours till the sun comes up on the USA so he can Skype with our daughter and me. The surrounding offices will also come to life, coffee flowing, computers humming, small talk amongst the soldiers. Here a Lieutenant with a pregnant wife at home, there another Captain wishing he could be watching his little boy spend his first Christmas morning turning wrapping paper into a slobbery mess. Across town, another soldier's heart is breaking, knowing he can't be home with his wife who has just lost their baby. Yet another sends messages throughout the morning to the fiancee he proposed to just before leaving.

Christmas this year has been a mix of emotions for me. I'm fairly good at compartmentalizing my feelings, as it is the only way to get through a long separation like this, however the holidays tend to destroy even the toughest walls amongst the silent ranks.

I feel frustration and anger: I'll admit, I kind of slacked off in the gift giving department this year. Part of it is because I mentally checked out of the holidays when my husband left but most of it is because I just can't handle the shopping aspect of it. Have you seen how angry and mean people have been this season? One look around Target and you'll see a dozen frazzled moms, carts brimming with toys and electronics and not one shred of Christmas cheer on their face. What has happened to this season?? Why is happiness directly proportional the number of presents under the tree? Frankly, I'd be happy to spend Christmas in a cardboard box if it meant the three of us could be together.

I feel sadness: Let's face it, having your husband gone at Christmas sucks. Here's the thing though--people are always commenting on how hard this must be for me and the baby and the other wives and yes, it is hard. But I think it's a lot harder on those guys and gals who are heading into work this morning. I'm sad that my husband won't get to hear our baby babbling to herself in the morning while she tries to eat wrapping paper. I'm sad that his Lt. won't get to feel his baby kick while he and his wife spend their last Christmas alone for a while. I'm sad that there are guys who don't have access to skype or phones.


I feel immense joy: watching my little girl turn an ornament over in her hands and bat it around the floor, dressing her in a pretty red dress for her very first Christmas, hearing skype ringing on my computer and knowing it's my husband. There is much to be joyful about. I'm alive, for one thing. Seven months ago, I wasn't sure if I would leave my hospital room, yet here I am. I can communicate across the world and I know there are many families that won't have that luxury this year. I'm with family. I have a wonderful support system of other wives.

So to answer the question I've gotten most today and this past week: "How are you doing?"

I am at peace. Tomorrow will most likely hold a lot of smiles and a few tears, but I am a very blessed woman. I have a gorgeous daughter and an incredible husband and faith in a God who has orchestrated this time in our lives. What more could I ask for?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Resolutions: the lifestyle edition

So where did we leave off....?

I was pretty much banking on this blog gathering as much dust as my shelves in lieu of our new addition. I had hoped it wouldn't take six months for me to get back to it (don't worry, my shelves didn't have to wait that long) but it did and I haven't missed it. Having an infant around is the best diversion. The time has come, however, for me to radically renovate my entire life and a blog seems the best way to go about documenting, holding myself accountable and keeping my husband and family up on the goings on in our lives.

I realize resolutions go hand in hand with January 1, but I've been working on mine for the last couple of weeks. Being away from home for the holidays has allowed me to kind of step back and evaluate everything I need to do when I get back. It's hard to take stock when you're in the midst of the clutter and elbow deep in diapers that need to be washed. I've been jotting down lists, schedules, writing emails and taking mental stock of what the new year will hold for us and it's time to lay it out here. We'll see how things actually shape up (literally).

  • Home: Here's a quick recap of how things went down this past year: April: we moved. May: I unpacked as quickly as I could and gave birth. June-Novemberish: Infancy. Novemberish: Infancy, husband deploys. December: holidays. In other words, my house hasn't been properly organized and it's driving me nuts. Thankfully, the baby is getting to an age where I can do things other than hold her all the time and the house will be one of the first things I tackle when we get back. File cabinets, closets, kitchen cabinets....the creepy basement can wait till the husband returns though.
  • Body: Pregnancy tends to wreak havoc on one's person. Fortunately the only visible clue that it happened (other than the chunky little ball of energy known as my child) are some seriously rad stretch marks. Unfortunately, I've seen contestants on the Biggest Loser run faster miles than I'm capable of right now. I miss running more than anything so I've set a few goals for myself to get back in shape. First, it's Couch to 5K for me. (Those of you who run know how hard it is to start back at square one. The runner in me just wants to get on the treadmill/street and go. The formerly injured runner in me knows that I have to take it easy for the first few weeks.) Once I get back up to speed, I'm going to start training for the Big Sur International Marathon 2012. I've talked about this for years but have been foiled either by injury or pregnancy every time. This time, it's happening (and hopefully we'll actually be living there when it rolls around). I'll probably do a few 5Ks in there too just to keep me motivated. Were also getting a Concept 2 Rower in the next few months and I'm totally stoked about it!
  • Eating: Oy, this is the hard one. I'm gluten free already but being gluten free doesn't mean I don't eat my fair share of junk. I used to eat so well but since moving, it's been a struggle. I blame part of this on the utter lack of good produce and organic food in the midwest (sorry, one gets spoiled on the CA coast) but most of it is just my own fault and lack of motivation. So, once we get home, we're going totally Paleo. If you want to read more about it, go here. Basically, it's gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, grain free--just meat, veggies, fruit and nuts. I did this before and felt amazing so it's time to give it another shot. On that note, I've started a second blog that I'll be keeping up through the deployment: check out Sixty-Eight Hundred Miles here.
  • Soul: You might have noticed I listed these kind of working from the outside in and also towards the most important. The busier my life has become, the more I've pushed God and spending time in his word to the side. Honestly, if I don't accomplish any of the other things I've listed, I must fix this for myself and my child. Nothing matters more to me than raising a little girl who loves God and subsequently shows that same level of care to those around her. There's no way she's going to do that if she doesn't see it modeled in me, so I have some major changes to make. I'm looking forward to getting involved in PWOC  and finding creative ways to broaden the wee one's view of the world. Thankfully I have friends around the globe serving in various capacities and I look forward to sharing their blogs and stories with her as she gets older. 
So, lots to look forward to. 2011 is going to be a great year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


If anyone out there is still actually reading this blog, look for a new offshoot in the next few weeks.

I'll write more about it soon....