May Favorites

I know, this post is soooo late (SO Sorry! Arg!), but after debating between posting May and June Favorites together or separate, I decided it would be better to just keep them separate. Otherwise, we’d be here all day… Let’s get started!

Beauty
TangleTeezerI had several beauty favorites this month, but I couldn’t narrow it down any more, because all of these products are fantastic in their own way! First of all is the amazing Tangle Teezer. I have never used a brush that untangled my hair so effortlessly and painlessly! I use it both on wet and dry hair and it works through my hair without breaking or pulling on the strands. I’ve noticed fewer split ends and it’s great to blow out your hair because it’s less hassle than trying to work both a handled brush and blower dryer…at least I find it easier. I’ve never been graceful blow drying my hair with a brush… I highly recommend getting the Tangle Teezer, no matter what length of hair you have! I found my first Tangler Teezer at Target when they carried it briefly, but I’ve not been able to find it there since the one time, so now I get mine online.

Eva NYC Up All Night Volumizing SprayWhile we’re in the hair department, if you have fine hair like I do, I highly recommend the Eva NYC Up All Night Volumizing Spray. I got a sample of it in an Ipsy Bag and I was addicted! I ordered a full sized bottle from here. The spray is light enough to not weigh your hair down, but gives it texture and thickness at the same time. You can apply it as often or as little as you need throughout the day or even on your non-wash days to freshen up and give your mane a boost. It also helps extend your style longer throughout the day. I spray it on damp hair before I dry and style my hair and then on dry hair when it’s looking a little flat or tired. Plus, it smells amazing!

Garnier Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping CreamWith getting ready to turn 30 this year, I’ve been reminded more that I need to take care of my skin. I usually moisturize at night, but I hadn’t really paid attention to my eyes. I’d just use a little concealer in the mornings to hide any dark circles, but I’d yet to find anything to minimize the tired bags under my eyes. I started doing a little reading and research on eye care and discovered Garnier’s Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Eye Cream. It comes in a little tube that looks like it would be gone in a week, but it lasts forever! All you need is one little dot under each eye, TAP it in gently – don’t rub it under your eye! – and you’re set for the evening. When I wake up in the morning, I look more rested and the tired bags have been disappearing over time. I rarely wear concealer under my eyes now, since the dark circles are gone. While I’ve learned most anti-aging skin products cause me to break out instead of helping my skin look refreshed, this little eye cream does the trick!

Simple Micellar WaterSpeaking of skin care, I’ve been using Simple’s Cleansing Micellar Water in my routine lately. I first discovered micellar water after hearing several of my favorite beauty vloggers rave about it. I had used toners in my routine, but my skin would always get dried out and get super oily after a few days because the toner would strip too much natural oil from my skin. Micellar water is not quite a toner, but offers many of the same benefits without over drying my skin. Simple Eye Makeup RemoverIt also removes all my makeup, so for days when I’m in a hurry or have stayed up too late to do my whole night routine, I can still go to bed with a clean face. I also use Simple’s Kind To Eyes Eye Makeup Remover, which is a godsend for stubborn waterproof makeup or mascara! It takes off EVERYTHING, so my lashes are completely clean, helping them both stay healthier and making it easier to apply mascara the next day! Plus, it doesn’t irritate sensitive eyes or contact wearers. If you want to find out more about how micellar waters work, check out this post by POPSUGAR.

Maybelline Lash Sensational MascaraI need to post my review of mascaras soon, but after a few months of trying out different formulas and brushes that promise curl, length, volume, and all around amazing-ness, Maybelline won out for me with their Lash Sensational Mascara formula. I absolutely LOVE this mascara. I wasn’t expecting to find a mascara this great in the drugstore, but that’s just the icing on the cake! I tend to have naturally straight, kind of stubby looking lashes, that don’t tend to stay curled. I tried this mascara, not really hoping for much, but as soon as I’d done one eye, I could see a difference immediately! Even when I don’t wear a smokey eye or line my eyes, you can actually see my lashes now! My lashes stay curled and look longer, they don’t look clumpy, and it stays on all day. So if you’re like me and have been struggling to find a mascara that works, give this one a go!

Entertainment & Technology
As I mentioned in my monthly recap, audiobooks have been the best way for me to tackle my reading list this year! I’m working towards blocking out time in my day to sit down and read an actually hard/soft cover, paper pages BOOk, but for now, it’s just not possible. I still want to get through my list, though and I love hearing stories throughout the day. So, I’ve taken up my audiobook addiction again. But if you buy audiobooks, it can really make a huge dent in your budget, because most audiobooks cost more than the paperback version. Enter Overdrive. Overdrive is a free app that allows you to connect with your local library system and borrow audiobooks, right through your iPod! No need to go to the library, browse, and listen to CDs anymore. Now, sometimes, it may be difficult to find an audio version of the title you’re looking for, but most best sellers are available. So, all you need is a library card and the app! I’ve been able to listen to books while driving, doing stuff around the house, walking Pepper, working out, etc. It’s the perfect solution for frugal multi-tasking bookworms. 🙂

I’ve found three great shows that I’ve been watching on Netflix and Hulu this month. If you’re like me and love food, check out The Pioneer Woman. It’s like stepping into her blog and almost like a mini-retreat to see her home on the ranch, while she’s cooking up delicious meals. This show makes me want to cook and just eat! But with that in mind, I don’t recommend watching this show while working out. I made that mistake and my workout was torture!

But if you DO want some motivation and inspiration while you’re working out or just need a reminder that there are awesome and happy people in the world, watch Behind the Mask on Hulu. This show is about sports mascots and what all is involved in being a mascot. It follows four mascots from high school to pro teams and you get to know the person behind the mask. Outside their masks, most of the mascots are facing up hill challenges, whether that’s being the unpopular kid in school or reaching a plateau in their career. Yet, all of them are some of the most positive, hopeful, encouraging, and kind spirited people! It’s so encouraging to watch this show and see what they’re dealing with in their personal life, but that they find such joy in cheering other people up and getting others excited for their team! Watch it, it will make your day!

The last show that we’ve been loving as of late is Parks & Recreation. I don’t where we’ve been and why we haven’t been watching this show before now, but it’s just as funny if not sometimes more funny than The Office. I adore Leslie Knope and she’s just deepened my girl crush on Amy Poehler. My husband has now ranked Chris Pratt as one of his all-time favorite actors this year and Jonathan’s now incorporating Tom Haverford-isms into his daily vernacular.  All of the characters are lovable and there’s not one episode where my hubby and I don’t just crack up over something! Even though we didn’t watch this show when it was airing, I like that we can binge watch it on Netflix and not have to wait an entire week for the next episode. If you need a heavy dose of humor, want to add some flavor to your vocabulary, or want to feel like taking on the world, this show is for you. 🙂

Food
HelloFreshWe did some fun cooking this month and discovered a few new favorite dishes! I got an intro offer with my Martha Stewart Living magazine for HelloFresh. HelloFresh is a meal subscription service that sends you all of the fresh ingredients and recipes for three meals a week, for two people. HelloFreshOur first box arrived with all of the ingredients completely chilled and refrigerated. We tried the Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Kale and Couscous Salad, Burst Tomato and Squash Fusili, and our favorite, Mustard Pork Chops with Green Beans and Crispy Potato Cakes! Everything was so delicious! We enjoyed trying new recipes and flavors, plus, I love that HelloFresh sends you just the right amount of ingredients for each dish so there are not a lot of leftovers, but the dishes are so filling.

And now we have the recipes to make our favorite dishes again! I love that the scheduling is flexible, even when you sign up for a subscription, you’re not locked in to receiving every dish, every week. You can skip a few weeks if you want to or need to, and you can also pick your preferred day to receive deliveries that works with your schedule. If you would like to try HelloFresh and get $40 off your first box, use the code: XVXVWR. Even if you’re a picky eater like me, I promise you’ll find something you like! 🙂

What are your favorite recipes? Have you found a holy grail beauty product that’s made your routine easier? What TV shows do you live to binge watch?
Tell me in the comments below!

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Monthly Recap – June

Well, another month has flown by! Is it just me, or is time on hyperdrive lately?

I’ll be honest, June was a tough month for me. I don’t want to start this post off negatively, but I feel I need to be honest. In a nutshell, there were several surprises for us that weren’t too pleasant and I struggled with my depression a lot. For those who struggle with depression, you’ll probably understand; it just gets you down, zaps your drive and energy, and it can take a while to get out of the funk. But despite the rough stuff, we DID have some bright spots!

30 for 30 Progress
As I mentioned in my May Monthly Recap, I’ve been working on saving and making more money through couponing and rebates. During the month of June, I kept utilizing those tools and I’m hoping to write some posts soon on my methods. In the same vein, I feel like we’ve got our monthly budget routine pretty nailed down. As for staying within our budget consistently, we’re still working on that!

2015-06-01 21.41.11I started working on #4 “Work on landscaping and gardening.” We’ve been trying to stay on top of our lawn and greenery this year, but due to my hubby’s work schedule, we can’t go out and manicure our lawn every weekend. With all the rain we’ve had these last two months and investing in a weed management service, our grass grows so quick!2015-06-01 19.09.59 But thankfully, one day, we were both able to get outside and tackle some yard work. While my hubby did his thing, I decided that I’d trim the bushes that were taking over our front window. After about five minutes of trimming, I was reminded of how much I hated one particular shrub. So, in a moment of slight frustration and a spur of the moment decision, within 20 minutes, I’d taken a saw to the bush and trimmed it clear down to the ground. It was both satisfying and shocking at the same time. But I honestly can’t wait to pull out the other two hedges and plant some miniature boxwoods and flowers in that front bed! Budget and weather allowing, I’m hoping to finish the project before the season changes. We’ll see.

2015-06-15 18.11.33In another spur of the moment decision and whittling down my 30 for 30 List, my hubby and I decided to move our home office. Our home office had been in a spare bedroom right next to my hubby’s man cave, but I always kept the door closed and rarely spent time back in that room. We had painted it a darker color than the rest of the house, but the room doesn’t get a ton of natural light, so it was always too dark to see anything. Plus, we still had some boxes that hadn’t been unpacked and there were still things to organize, hence the reason it was on my list this year… On the other end of our house, just off our kitchen, we have a bonus room. 2015-06-15 18.12.56We’d been using it as a dining area when we hosted friends, but other than that, it was just a big room. So, on one of hubby’s days off, we just decided to move the office into the bonus room. Turns out, we’ve ended up having more space, the room is brighter, and more functional. Plus, now we actually can use the spare bedroom as a guest room until we have kids! We’ve almost finished setting everything up and getting organized, but I can already tell you that it is far more functional and enjoyable to spend time in than the other room! I love it! I plan on writing an office tour post with lots of pictures once I’ve got it all finished!

Books Read
The Girl on the TrainI was able to read two books this month! Thanks to audiobooks, I love technology… I finished The Girl on the Train. I honestly kept waiting for this book to get interesting. But it was a little confusing at times and somewhat annoying. But not terrible overall, just not my cup of tea.

EnchantmentThe other book I read was Enchantment by Donald Spoto. I adore Audrey Hepburn and have a special place in my heart for classic movie celebrity biographies. I grew up watching classic movies from the 30s-50s. While my peers were watching movies and cartoons from the 80s and 90s, I grew in up in a world of musicals and black and white film. No regrets! I always find it it fascinating to learn about the actors lives off camera and how they grew up. Audrey Hepburn’s life is no exception. It was interesting to learn about her young upbringing and see how it influenced who she became as an adult. She was such a loving woman with an incredibly generous heart, but there were also a few surprises that I didn’t see coming. It made for an excellent read. If you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan, it’s a must-read!

Fitness
As I mentioned above, I struggled with depression this month. From being sick the month before and overwhelmed by other life “stuff,” my fitness goals kind of took a back seat. In all honesty, I found that my stress-eating had gotten out of control and I ended up gaining back all the weight I’d lost. I still logged my food and worked out on my bike, but I’d lost my self-discipline and motivation. My efforts were bare minimum and half hearted. So, I’m back at square one, but July will be different! I’m tired of this lack of motivation and the setback in progress was so frustrating! July will be different.

Travel
No travel this month. And, I’m not sure that we will be making any trips until the holiday season. I plan on writing an update, but I’ve decided to change goal #12. Instead of taking a vacation this year, we’re planning on adopting another puppy into our family. There’s no set timeline on this yet, but after talking about future goals and plans, along with discussing our budget, we realized it was unrealistic to do both a vacation and adopt a puppy this year. So we picked the puppy. 🙂 Who wouldn’t? Like I said, I’ll keep you posted on this, but I can’t say when, just yet! Stay tuned. 😉

Watched
For Fathers Day, my sweet dad wanted to go out to a movie with all of us. My husband was only able to join us for brunch before he had to go to work, but it was a fun time to spend the day with my sister and parents. It’s not been just the four of us for a while. InsideOutWe decided to go see Inside Out. I. Was. Stoked! I have been waiting a year to go see that movie, because I’m a huge nerd and love Pixar! This movie isn’t your typical Pixar, though. Yes, they have a tendency to anthropomorphize everything from toys to cars to animals to monsters (you get the idea), but this concept was unique in the fact that they were able to give a face to emotions. I LOVED it and I think it’s a great way to understand the basics of how our emotions influence us and how they contribute to developing our personality. The amount of detail and subtleties that I noticed reflected so much research that went into the film. I learned a lot as an adult and I think this would be a great movie for kids who are growing up and trying to understand why they feel the way they do…and realize that it’s ok to feel different feelings, that we need all the various feelings to make sense of life. They all serve a purpose and that we shouldn’t be defined by one feeling or another. The animation was as always, amazing. Plus, the cast was just perfect. If you’re an Office, Parks & Rec, or SNL fan, you’ll love it! I could keep raving, but I think you should go see it for yourself. 🙂

In other news, Pretty Little Liars is back on! The pilot and first few episodes of season six have been so good! My A theories are evolving… So You Think You Can Dance also started up again. Audition weeks are my favorite, so we’ve been enjoying those. Plus, they’ve been on Hulu, so I can go back and re-watch my favorite routines. It’s gonna be a good season!

Listened
I mostly listened to my audiobooks this month, like I mentioned above. So nothing too new in the listening department.

Memorable Moments
2015-06-09 21.02.49-22015-06-10 14.29.20My husband turned 28 this year and we had a great day celebrating on his birthday. We enjoyed a dinner and I baked him a cake, then later on he enjoyed a guys day out watching Jurassic World and hanging out with his guys. Our parents were able to have dinner with us and we tried the new Pepperoni Grill that opened nearby. It was incredible! All in all, I think he had a pretty good birthday this year!

Spoonflower-HedgehogsI entered another Spoonflower contest in June, which you can see here. I didn’t win, but I love entering their contests because it offers a great creative outlet, plus a fun community of artists! When they have contests, it’s neat to see everyone’s interpretation of the same subject. Every single one is different!

This Made My Day
2015-06-17 20.59.36I had a random mish-mash of things that just made my day this month. At a family gathering, my aunt gave my a Diet Coke she’d found with my name on it – spelled CORRECTLY! That never happens.

Jonathan and I enjoyed a random nostalgic jam session while we were moving the office. We found our mixed CDs from high school and had a great time guessing who the artists were. We got to explain our weird eccentric tastes and the influences behind them at the time.

2015-05-27 15.34.47I got sunset hair this month! I’m a natural brunette, but I’ve been a red head for the past year or so, which I love. I’ve never felt more myself than with red hair! But I decided to shake it up a little this time and add purple to the ends. 2015-05-27 11.32.47My stylist did an excellent job and created a color melt between the red and purple so that they transition in a more “natural” looking way… Since I work from home and don’t have to adhere to a dress code, I decided why not? I love it! 2015-05-27 16.52.27The only draw back is that my shower looks like a purple minion got splattered all over the walls when I wash it, but other than that, it’s perfect! It’s just subtle enough where you don’t immediately notice it, but in the sun, it looks kind of like an upside down sunset. 🙂

Monthly Moral
June taught me that positivity is a fight! Happiness is fleeting and joy is a choice. It doesn’t come easy. It’s a daily choice to look for the good around you or to change your perspective of your situation. The world is fallen and we are not perfect. It’s so easy to spiral into depression and despair, but we are not doomed to that. We have the freedom to choose what we make of our day and how we choose to look at it. We can’t control other people or what may happen to us, but we have full control over our response and attitude. It took me a while to remember this truth this month, but I finally did and I’m thankful. I plan on making July a better month.

How was your June? What was the best part of your month?

Gallery

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

#TBT

In honor of food and summer and Throwback Thursday, I felt like sharing a yummy recipe from my old blog! Yes, I once upon a time wrote a blog that mostly consisted of recipes. *I was in a crazy cooking phase as a brand new newlywed in a tiny apartment kitchen… Ah, those were the days!

But aside from the nostalgia, this is a pretty delicious recipe if I do say so myself! It goes great with a fresh salad, grilled veggies, grilled chicken, or a plate of pasta (for my fellow carb lovers)!

Hope you enjoy and hope you all are having a lovely summer!
What’s your favorite summer dish?

The Red Shoe Chef

We were both surprised at delicious this tasted tonight! Neither of us are crazy about fresh tomatoes usually, but we both devoured this dish!

Tomato Bruschetta

-about 12-15 grape tomatoes

-1 garlic clove

-parmesan cheese

-olive oil

-black pepper

-Italian seasoning

-fresh basil

-Pepperidge Farms frozen garlic bread

Dice the tomatoes, chop garlic, and basil. Blend together in a bowl with olive oil. Add parmesan, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Make sure it’s all blended well and chill in the fridge for at least 15-30 minutes. It can be chilled longer if necessary. Bake bread according to the directions. (My husband has me beat on baking this bread, he gets it perfect every time!) Once the bread is toasted and ready, spread the chilled bruschetta over the top and enjoy!

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Aside

Connect with me!

I finally got around to it! Pepper’s Owl now has both a Facebook Page and a Twitter account in addition to my Pinterest page and Instagram! Feel free to follow, like, tweet, and all that good stuff!
Feel free to email me anytime with any questions, comments, or anything! 🙂

Monthly Recap – May

Good grief! I’m sorry this recap post is soooo late. Better late than never, though, right…?

May was an extremely busy month, but it always is for us. Between both of our families we have dozens of birthdays and wedding anniversaries, along with Mother’s Day and any weddings or graduations we may be invited to in the middle of Oklahoma’s infamous tornado season…  Despite the busy schedule, May was a pretty good month!

30 for 30 Progress
During May, I realized that I focused on several of the money related goals from my list. I’ve been doing some freelance work for a few clients and during May, working from home began to take over my schedule. I’m grateful for the work, but I’m also realizing how much time building your own business and serving your clients takes when the separation between work and home is not as clearly defined. I’ve been putting together plans and doing research to officially start my business while also keeping up with my deadlines for my clients. I’m looking forward to getting more done in this area in the months to come. Prayers appreciated though. This is a bit daunting.
I also worked on our budget plan and tried to find more ways to utilize coupons and rebates. The encouraging thing that I realized in doing all of this was that in the first five months of this year, without having “a real job” outside the home (hope you caught the sarcasm…), I brought in a little over $800 of extra change here and there. Nothing steady, but it’s become really helpful and nice to get “surprise” rebate/reward checks! 🙂 

Books Read
Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 6.33.22 PM
I read Amy Poehler’s, Yes Please book and it was really good! I thought it might be similar to Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and it is, but it is also so much more! I have a new appreciation for Amy and who she is as a person. I loved how open and honest she was in her book and how you can see her reflecting on her overall life growth. The book had depth that I wasn’t expecting. I “read” the book by listening to the audiobook, which was quite enjoyable listening to the author read it. Plus, she also had special guests read portions of the book, so it’s a great listen! I want to buy the hardcopy because I would love to jot down several good quotes to remember. Read it. It’s good. 😉 

Fitness
Ok, here’s the thing. I’m one of those people who rarely gets sick, but when I do…it’s bad! I noticed I had a sore throat for a few days that wouldn’t go away. I thought it might be strep, so we went to the doctor. It ended up being tonsillitis. Long story short, I ended up missing several workouts and got off of my workout routine. So my fitness progress took a little bit of a hit this month. 😦

Travel
No travel this month…

Watched
2015-04-06 23.09.11-1I watched a lot of season finales in May! Mad Men had to be the most memorable season finale, though. My husband and I are big Mad Men fans and have watched the series all the way through. It’s one of the few shows that we both “watch” without being off and on our phones or just having it play in the background… When the last episode aired, we both had different reactions to it. Most of the time, I can’t stand good shows, movies, books, or stories ending. I want them to go on forever because I love staying in those worlds. Sometimes I’m not a fan of endings because it’s telling that the writers didn’t know quite how to tie up all the loose ends, but I have to say that the writers for Mad Men did a fantastic job! I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with the ending. My husband was not so excited, he was left kind of miffed for some reason… But to each his own. If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy time traveling through Mad Men, I highly recommend it! 

Listened
As I mentioned above, I listened to a few audiobooks this month. I’ve been trying to catch up on my book list and the most efficient and realistic way for me to do that is to listen to audiobooks. Having worked in the publishing industry, I understand that there is a lot of debate and valid reasons as to whether audiobooks “count” as reading or not… I tend to approach is as another method to consume a story. Personally, I don’t have as much time to sit down and read a book. Unfortunately, I tend to fall asleep and loose my spot… #KeepinItReal
I listened to Yes, Please by Amy Poehler and then began reading The Girl on the Train. I’m planning on writing Pepper’s Bookshelf review posts on both, soon! Stay tuned!

Memorable Moments
Family Celebration
May is chock full of opportunities to get together as a family! Since there are so many birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, we decided to just pick one day to celebrate everything! We all went over to my aunt’s house and celebrated two birthdays, two anniversaries, and Mother’s Day. It seemed like almost everyone got a card or gift, and then we also had everyone’s favorite desserts.
Since it was May in Oklahoma, we expected a few tornadoes, but this year had to be one of the most memorable tornadoes. Flooded StreetThankfully we didn’t experience any damage or have any close calls where we live, but the internet went crazy with #Tigernado. Read more here to find out more of why, but it was probably one of the most unusual storm days we’ve had… Along with the tornadoes, we had record breaking rainfall which caused flooding around the state. Thankfully, though we are now out of a long drought!
We celebrated our four year anniversary this year! It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been together that long, somedays it feels like we just tied the knot and other days, it feels like we’ve been married forever. It was such a good day! Read more here.
Two more milestones happened this month: we’ve officially been homeowners for two years and I left the corporate world a year ago. Time is just flying by so fast!

This Made My Day
Who I Carried Today
I had a guest writer on my blog this month! Memorial Day is an important holiday in our home. I had already planned on writing a post on how I’ve come to view the day and what it means to me. With my husband being a former Marine, I knew he was planning on remembering the day in his own way, but when he came home, he surprised me by asking if he could write a blog post to share his thoughts on Memorial Day. I was a bit surprised, but also excited that he wanted to share. If you knew my husband, the adage “still waters run deep” fits him perfectly. He tends to be a deep and internal thinker, so I love when he opens up to share those thoughts. He’s an excellent writer and I was so encouraged that so many people loved his post! His single post has been the most viewed post on my page so far. I’m pretty proud of him!

Monthly Moral
This month, “grace” was the dominant theme in my day. I began to feel like I’d failed at life or that I would never get caught up from being sick and getting behind on a lot of my projects and daily tasks. I was feeling so discouraged and overwhelmed. When I stepped back and looked at the situation or what was bogging me down, I was reminded to give myself grace. I am not a robot, life happens, I may not even have enough time in the day to tackle my mountain of tasks, but it’s ok. It’s not the end of the world, it will eventually get done. But just because I didn’t get it all done, all in a day, or all perfectly, does not mean that I’m a failure. It’s a challenge to hold onto that mindset, but I’m working on it.

Who I Carried Today

Tonight I have a guest writer! My husband, Jonathan, wanted to add another post to supplement mine about Memorial Day. Enjoy!

Memorial Day is one of the holidays that I’ve always had trouble dealing with since I got out of the Marine Corps. The purpose of the holiday became very personal to me, and I couldn’t get on board with the excitement of just having a day off of work, grilling outside, or looking for sales. It all became a cheap, sometimes disrespectful, distraction from remembering those who have gone before and given the last full measure for our country. Because of that, I always had trouble figuring out what exactly to do for Memorial Day. With my thoughts always turning to my brothers who didn’t get off the bus when we came back home, I usually ended up feeling frustrated and guilty that I wasn’t actually doing anything to memorialize our military’s combat deaths.

This year, though, I finally found something that I can create a tradition out of that allows me to put energy into and intentionally remember those that sacrificed everything. I saw that one of the blogs I follow was sharing about an event called Carry the Load, which is a walk that gets hosted across the country where people walk up to 20 miles in remembrance of our fallen. I was excited to find out about it, but it was too late for me to sign up or be able to travel to where any of them were being held. It didn’t take me long to realize that I could do the same thing by myself. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted this first time to be a more personal experience anyway.

When I started planning it, I thought I would put some weight in a small pack and run one mile for every Marine we lost from my battalion on the two deployments that I went on. I quickly remembered that I was not in any shape to run what would amount to more than a marathon, especially with weight, so I decided to split up the deployments and focus specifically on one per year (not to say I would not be remembering the others on this day). 2015-05-25 14.13.26This year I focused on our 2007 deployment to Al Anbar Province, Iraq. We lost eight on that one, so I decided that would run a mile for each of them while wearing a pack. I didn’t have any specific weight in mind (I weighed it afterwards and it came to just 15 lbs), so I just loaded some rifle magazines, threw in a full bottle of water, and other everyday carry items (pistol, badge, spare magazine, etc…). The most important, and by far the heaviest item, was the list of names I wrote on a piece of paper and slipped into the clear ID window of the pack.

I ran out of my neighborhood just like I do on my normal runs and tried to get reacquainted with running with a load. The pack I used isn’t anything fancy, so it wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it seemed like it would at least be bearable. As soon as I got onto the main road, though, something hit me. I realized I wasn’t just carrying a 15 lb pack.  I was carrying Lance Corporal Blake Howey, Lance Corporal Nathaniel Windsor, Lance Corporal Harry Timberman, Lance Corporal Daniel Olsen, Lance Corporal Jesse Delatorre, Lance Corporal Johnny Strong, Lance Corporal Juan Garcia Schill, and 1st Lieutenant Shaun Blue. I couldn’t keep from crying for about the first 50 yards. The irony of it was that even though the weight seemed so much greater, the pack became lighter. Even though I only personally knew two of them, they were fellow Marines and failing them was not an option. I made a promise not only that I would run them all the way back home, but that I would do this every single year until I saw them again. Whether running with a pack, using a walker, or pushing myself in a wheelchair, I made them a promise that I would remember them in this way every year until I died.

2015-05-25 14.04.07I realized by the last mile that I was in fact no longer an indestructible 19 year old, and that my chiropractor and my knees wouldn’t be too happy with me by the end of it. All of that was insignificant though when I considered why I was doing this in the first place. I wasn’t doing this for a workout; I was doing this to remember brothers who died violent deaths in combat. The pain in my knees and sore muscles were petty. I had cried at least two other times during the run when the significance of my burden really hit me.

While this may all seem dark, morbid, or sad to some, that is not necessarily my intent. Although I get upset when I see how this holiday, like so many others, has lost its meaning to most people, I am not one to try to put people on a guilt trip, and that is not the intent of the post either. My intent is just to implore people to do something specific to keep the essence of the holiday alive. Do something to remember those that gave everything to secure our way of life. It doesn’t have  to be a pack run, it doesn’t even have to be anything physical. Just do something that’s a little out of your way and be intentional. Tell your children why you have the day off of work. If you don’t know anyone who died in our country’s service, find a war memorial with names on it. If you can’t find find a war memorial, talk to some veterans, some of them will surely be able to give you a list of names. If you can’t do either of those things, use Google.  If you can’t do that, try harder.

My other intent with this post is to give people who have had the same difficulty I had in celebrating this holiday an idea of something significant and intentional to do that honors their fallen brothers.

I’m not saying that people should stop doing a lot of the things that are common on this holiday either. If you want to have a barbecue, that’s great, it’s entirely appropriate to actually enjoy what others have fought and died for (and wanted for themselves and their families). If you’ve been needing a new mattress, and you found a good deal at a Memorial Day sale, I won’t even fault people for that either. If it is a somber day of mourning and remembrance for you, then spend it accordingly. What matters is that we remember, and do at least one thing to give some time or energy as tribute.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” – General George S. Patton Jr.

If you need a list of names for next year, here’s one.

2nd Battalion 7th Marine Regiment
Operation Iraqi Freedom (2007)
-LCpl Blake Howey
-LCpl Nathaniel Windsor
-LCpl Harry Timberman
-LCpl Daniel Olsen
-LCpl Jesse Delatorre
-LCpl Johnny Strong
-LCpl Juan Garcia Schill
-1st Lt. Shaun Blue

Operation Enduring Freedom (2008)
-Sgt. Michael Washington
-LCpl Layton Crass
-PFC Michael Patton
-PFC Dawid Pietrek
-Capt. Eric Terhune
-LCpl Andrew Whitacre
-Sgt Matthew Mendoza
-HN Dustin Burnett
-SSgt Christopher Strickland
-LCpl Ivan Wilson
-LCpl Jacob Toves
-LCpl Juan Lopez-Castaneda
-Cpl Anthony Mihalo
-Sgt Jerome Bell, Jr.
-Cpl Jason Karella
-Cpl Adrian Robles
-LCpl San Sim
-Sgt Deon Taylor
-Capt Trevor Yurista
-Mr. Mohammed Dawary

One year…

A lot’s changed in a year.

One year ago today, I left my job in the corporate world and came home full time. It was a daring choice for both my husband and I, but I’ve never regretted it. We decided that it was best for me to come home full time, since we hardly ever got to see each other with my 8-5 weekly work schedule and his 10 hour late night shifts with odd weekend days. We didn’t have any days that overlapped where we could spend an entire 24 hours off work together. We also wanted to eventually start a family and we had agreed that I would be a stay at home mom whenever that happened. So, despite a lot of people scratching their heads asking “why?” or “are you pregnant?” or “why do you just do blah, blah, blah instead…?” I came home for good.

A year later, I’m thankful for all the lessons I learned from the business and creative world. I learned a lot of useful skills that I am able to apply anywhere in life, such as time management, organization, prioritization, communication, etc. But I also learned a lot of things about myself and my personality that want to improve. Coming home has allowed me to delve a little deeper into understanding those personality traits that were hurdles in my professional career and work on developing them into strengths.

A year later, I’ve found myself feeling more whole and the most grown up I’ve every felt, despite the fact that I no longer wake up before the crack of dawn, wear heels, grab coffee, and go to meetings or have a desk and an office anymore. My life looks very different now, but I no longer feel stuck in a pressure cooker of time or a hamster wheel spun by someone else’s goals or agendas. I struggled to find a balance between the corporate hamster wheel and my own at home. Being home now, I still have a hamster wheel of tasks that never seem to ever be done (I mean seriously, laundry AGAIN?!), but there’s a sense of empowerment, responsibility, and urgency that I never truly felt at a “real” job. My job at home never ends. I don’t really have weekends or even holidays. There’s always something to do, but it’s also far more fulfilling to pour my energy into my family and my home.

In a year, we’ve learned a lot. The biggest challenge and triumph has been to learn to live on one income. And guess what? We’re still alive! *gasp* Now it’s been no cake walk and we’ve stretched our timeline of adjustment way past what we thought, but we’re ok. We’re not destitute, we’re not poor, we still can pay our bills and keep food on the table. We don’t have big shopping adventures, go see the movies every weekend, or eat out every day. But when you really think about, we didn’t need all of that stuff. We’ve been able to spend more time together, awake! We’re no longer ships passing in the night with only a few mutual hours in the week without the other one working. We’re learning to be content with what we have…

Over a year, we’ve been incredibly blessed! We added Pepper to our home and it feels like she’s always been a part of our family! We’ve been able to spend more quality time with family and friends. God has always provided just what we need, when we need it. We’re both physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier this year than we were last year. We’ve strengthened our marriage and our relationship.

I’ve learned a lot over the past year and I still have a lot to learn, but more than anything, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to stay home full time with my husband. My job has never been more busy or more fulfilling.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year holds!

What’s been the most daring life change you’ve done?