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Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello, Goodbye - on to a New Year


Last year I was able to pull from tons of blog posts to help highlight my year in review. This year, however, is a bit different. I was noticeably absent from the blog world for much of the year. The truth is, this hasn’t been the best of years for me.

At a recent wedding, Sean and I were taking part in the “anniversary dance” and reminiscing on our first year of marriage. I started out by saying something completely sappy, like, “this has been the best year of my life.” But then I stopped myself. “Actually, it’s been one of the worst years of my life. But there’s no one I would have rather gone through it with then you.” Still sappy? Absolutely. But much truer, now, because we’ve endured some big challenges this year. For me personally, they’ve been the biggest physical and emotional challenges I’ve ever experienced. But through all of it, I’m grateful for the partner at my side. I love my husband, and love being married to him. But marriage isn’t always easy – heck, life isn’t always easy – and this year just happens to be one of those years that tested our resolve a bit more than usual.

But while 2013 will be remembered as a tough year, there were many things – both good and bad – that it should be remembered for, too. 

In January, Sean had just made a big career change and we had some down time to finally take our belated honeymoon. We took a 7 night cruise to Belize, Honduras, and Mexico and had a fabulous time (except for getting sick with the flu the day we traveled home). Despite it being a tough year for Carnival and the cruise industry in general, we had a great experience and would love to cruise again someday!

In February, we enjoyed our first married Valentine’s Day with a quiet night in, a movie and homemade macaroni and cheese. I turned 29 and celebrated with both friends and family. We also found out we were pregnant.

March was a tough one. We found out in early March that our pregnancy was ectopic. I underwent surgery and spent most of the month trying to recover. We also received overwhelming love and support from our friends and family that really helped to keep us going. We did find time to get out, too, to celebrate a couple birthdays and have a bonfire.

April felt like another long month. I continued to be emotionally drained and instead of seeing signs of spring like we usually do, winter was still bearing down on Minnesota. But, my baby sister turned 16 and passed her driver’s test (scary!). Some friends of ours gave birth to their adorable baby girl. We also kicked off our 9th softball season, although much later than usual because of weather.

May was a much better. Spring finally started to arrive. I hosted a country-themed bachelorette party for one of my best friends. I also attended wedding showers for 2 different ladies, and helped host a baby shower for one of my girlfriends. We had our inaugural book club meeting, and I also traveled to Boston for work. It was a quick trip, but I managed to see as much as I could before heading back home. I loved the city and can’t wait to make it back there. I also participated in a May blogger challenge, where I blogged nearly every (week)day. Considering how my blogging activity looked for the rest of the year, this was a major accomplishment for me!

June was an especially busy, but exciting month. My little brother graduated from high school. We had two weddings—one in which I was the matron of honor and one in which Sean was an usher. We also celebrated Sean’s birthday and our 1st anniversary!

In July, we had a 4th of July barbecue with Sean’s family and some friends. We spent some time by the pool, and were in planning mode for Sean’s dad’s memorial golf tournament. I hosted book club at our house, and one of my closest friends had her baby girl – Nora. I also went to Madison for the bachelorette party for one of my best friends from college, Lacie.

In August, we found out we were pregnant again, only to learn shortly after that it was another ectopic. We finished our softball season. We hosted the 4th annual memorial golf tournament in memory of Sean’s dad, and that same weekend drove back to Madison for Lacie’s wedding. We also attended my cousin’s wedding. Another of my best friends had her baby boy – Patrick. And we visited the Minnesota State Fair—twice!

September was relatively quiet. We had a cupcake-decorating day with Sean’s family. We attended the local fair at the school/parish where we grew up, and Sean and I both got to take our friends’ daughter, Charlotte, on her first and second merry-go-round rides! We double-dated with friends to the Minnesota Wild pre-season opener, attended our last wedding of the year on a gorgeous fall evening, and celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday. Sean also started his new job this month, too.

In October, we finally got to use our anniversary present to each other – we saw Wicked! We had dinner at Hell’s Kitchen and then saw the show; it was fabulous! We celebrated one friend’s 30th birthday and another friend’s 31st. We had our annual pumpkin patch/apple orchard trip with friends. We recognized pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. And we took lots of pictures of the dog, apparently!

November went by quickly, with lots going on. On what would have been the due date for our first pregnancy, Sean bought me flowers and baked me my favorite kind of cake. Work was intensely busy for me, with a new campaign launching mid-month. We got our first snow fall and started seeing the true signs of a cold and snowy winter. I had lunch with my grandma, siblings, and several of my cousins (still not nearly all 40+ of us). We celebrated more birthdays (my brother-in-law’s 21st and a friend’s 30th), and attended three fun (and delicious) thanksgiving celebrations, including Sean’s annual Friendsgiving.

And December, bitterly cold, equally as fast as November – and busy! We saw our last Holidazzle parade in downtown Minneapolis (it’s going away after this year), and finished setting up our Christmas decorations. My mom sold her house (finally!). We braved the crowds and did lots of Christmas shopping. Attended our annual Christmas party with friends (with 6 new kids in attendance this year).  We made a big batch of Christmas cookies with Sean’s family. Took in our second Wild game of the year. Attended my extended family’s celebration the weekend before Christmas. Spent Christmas Eve with Sean’s family. I spent Christmas day with my family while Sean worked, and then we celebrated with his family together Christmas night. We had a couple good friends over to watch the Packers win the division. I enjoyed (am enjoying) 12 glorious days off of work. And we’re getting all dressed up to celebrate New Years Eve with a few friends.  

So there you have it,  a (relatively) brief review of the past 365 days, and what a year it's been. This was a fun way to remember that 2013 did have a lot of fun memories. But without sounding like a broken record, I'm still ready for 2014 and a fresh start. 

Happy New Year! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas with a Crowd


This weekend, we had our annual Christmas celebration with my extended family. We have a pretty large family, because my mom is one of 12 kids, so when we all get together, it’s really quite the crowd.

It’s a unique experience, growing up in a family like mine. I’ve often said it’s helped define who I am in a lot of ways.  Like most families, ours has plenty of drama and dysfunction. It’s hard to put it into words sometimes, or to explain our relationships to someone who hasn’t been there from the beginning. Sean and I have been together 9 years and he’s still trying to get used to it. But for all the good and bad, they’re my family. And I love them. 

This Christmas was a unique one. There was some tension amongst a few people, but it still managed to be fun and drama-free. And for the first time on a long time, nearly everyone was there. We were only missing a handful of cousins and their families.
Taking a photo with my grandma and her grandchildren (only missing 6, probably the closest we'll ever get!).
The great-grandkids gathering for their photo.
My brother (left) and cousin. Six months apart and friends for life!


My cousin's daughter, Leah.

My grandma and her daughters!
(My mom's other 3 siblings, a brother and 2 sisters, died in 2002, 2005, and 2007.)
One of the best parts of Christmas, in my opinion, is spending time with those you love. And so far, this Christmas has really delivered (and it’s still 3 days till Christmas!).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's the holiday season!

I've got the Williams Brothers' "It's the holiday season" song stuck in my head these days, perhaps because my husband seems to shout it at the most random of times. Occasionally I'll even receive a midday text simply saying, "IT'S THE HOLIDAY SEASON!" I have no idea why he seems to be hooked on this oldie, but it makes me laugh every time.

But it's true - the holiday season is here! And this past weekend we leaned into the festive mood and took full advantage. Friday night be braved the Mall of America for some nearly final Christmas shopping. Surprisingly, it was not as busy as I had expected. We checked a few more items off our list, and finished the night by seeing the movie Out of the Furnace. I liked it, and not just because I adore Christian Bale and Casey Affleck. It took a little while to really get into it, but Sean liked it, too.
Scenes of the MOA on a Friday night in December - a middle-school band performance
and a Nickelodeon Universe light show.
We spent most of Saturday taking it easy and getting ready for our annual Christmas party with friends. Getting together with our friends always promises to be a good time, and this year was no different. We stayed out until nearly midnight, which, if I'm being honest, is later than we've been out in quite some time. There were 7 kids there - last year there were just 2! I can only imagine how the party will expand (and change) as years goes on and the kids get older.
On Sunday, we made and decorated Christmas cookies with Sean's family. We each went home with a huge batch of delicious treats, and my resolution to cut back on sugar took a temporary hiatus. Sean and I both had Monday off of work, so our low-key Sunday bled into a low-key Monday, too. We worked out, went out to lunch, got manicures (yep, convinced him to get one!), wrapped presents, and made even more sweet treats. I decided to make another batch of chocolate-covered pretzels for my team members at work. I packaged them up in cute holiday containers, attached our Christmas card, and had a cheap and easy way to wish them a Merry Christmas!

Now, I can't believe we're just a week away from Christmas. We are looking forward to spending time with family in the next week, starting with my extended family this Friday. Sean has to work on Christmas day this year, but we'll still be able to take part in a few family traditions, like mass and dinner with his family on Christmas eve. I'm looking forward to some extended time off of work, and lots of time to finish the year with some R&R. What are you looking forward to before 2013 comes to a close?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lately

“Latellllly, been thinkin’ ‘bout you baby….” Am I the only one who thinks of this song from nearly a decade ago when you use the word “lately?” Just me? Yep. Ok, moving on.

So I’ve been MIA for a little while. I’ve still been reading blogs nearly daily. And I’ve logged into Blogger at least a couple times a week with every intention of writing, but always felt like it was not enough. But I’ve been craving it more and more lately, so I’m just going to jump back in. Try and come back, for good.

I wish I could say there are a lot of exciting things to update you on, but the truth is, it’s been a pretty quiet couple of months. But sometimes quiet is good, too. A random sampling of what we’ve been up to these last few months:

Recovering: I’ve still been recovering (physically and emotionally) from my second ectopic pregnancy. Thankfully, they caught this one early enough that the physical recovery was less intensive. We’ve had lots of check-ins with doctors and waiting for next steps, but still no success yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to move forward soon and will eventually get to realize our dream of becoming parents! We also came upon what would have been the due date for our first pregnancy. Work had been especially crazy for me, and that particular day was long and stressful. I got home late to find that Sean had bought me roses and made me my favorite kind of cake. It was the sweetest thing! 

Shooting my first gun: With Sean being trained in law enforcement, guns come somewhat naturally to him. For me? Not so much. I didn’t grow up with them and definitely don’t feel comfortable around them. But he did convince me to try it, and I successfully shot my first gun. We also took a safety/permit-to-carry course, where I had to shoot again. I will not be using or carrying a gun anytime in the near future (or ever), but I am slightly more comfortable with them, at least. 
Weddings: We only had 5 weddings this year (half as many as last year), but they were all a blast. We had our last one in late September, for one of Sean’s friends from high school. It was a beautiful fall day, and always a fun time. 
Birthdays: The vast majority of my closest friends are ones that I grew up with (either from elementary and/or high school). So since we're almost all the same age, this is a big year for us with our 30th birthdays coming around. The celebrations have begun! (It’s not my turn until February). We’re also going to try and do one big hurrah with all of us girls – maybe a weekend away or maybe just a night out on the town. 
Babies (not ours, see the first item above): Two of my best friends have had their babies – one boy and one girl. Lots of other friends are having babies right now, too. They’re everywhere! As someone struggling in this department, it can admittedly be hard sometimes, but it’s also really fun and really exciting to see our friends become parents! 
Patrick and Nora. Can you guess who is older? It may not be who you think!
Night on the town: For our anniversary earlier this year, Sean and I got each other tickets to see Wicked. It finally arrived in town this fall. We had dinner at Hell’s Kitchen first (delish!) and really enjoyed the show. I love going to a show. If I had a great deal of disposable income, I’d get season tickets to a theater for sure. 
 
Other things as of late? Sean started a new job that seems to be going well for him so far. My job has been incredibly busy - and fun - but is finally quieting down just a bit. Our families are doing well, and we enjoy spending time with them as much as we can. Still loving our fur-baby Oliver, the snuggle pup. And like every other Minnesotan, despising the sub-zero temperatures and wishing spring wasn't so far away! 

And so here we are, already half-way through the holiday season.

I know for many people, the holidays can be a tough time of year. This season has a way of amplifying emotions, the good and the bad. Missing loved ones, struggling financially, maybe feeling alone. I’ve certainly experienced this rollercoaster myself many times. But this year, something has been different. I’ve felt this overwhelming sense of peace, of hope. I can’t explain it. Nothing has changed in our lives or situation, but I’m finding ways to lean into all that we have to be grateful for and trust in whatever may be ahead for us.

As I was unpacking our Christmas stuff for the season, I was trying to remember how I was feeling last Christmas, or even the one before. I decided that I want to write myself a letter to put in the Christmas box when we put it away this year, so that next year I can read it and reflect on where we were in December 2013. It sounds dumb, I know, but I think it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the challenges and the emotions of the right now. Time moves so quickly that often, before you know it, things are different (not always better, but different). I want to remember the important things in our lives from this year, but also be able to reflect on them next year and be grateful for how things have (or maybe have not) changed. Celebrate the victories, embrace the continued challenges, and allow me to enter the next holiday season with another hopeful perspective. 

So that sums it up, albeit briefly and in somewhat abbreviated form. Hoping to make this a much more regular occurrence, not just a quarterly update on our rather boring life. 

Hope you're having a happy holiday season!