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?

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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
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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.

March & April Favorites!

It’s crazy how time flies! Since I totally missed my March Favorites (and I’m honestly cutting it close on April’s favorites), I decided to just combine them with April. So, buckle your seat belt, there’s a lot! 🙂 As always, these are just items I fell in love with and wanted to share. I’m not sponsored by any of these products…

Savings
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We decided to go ahead and answer “yes” when the Target cashier would ask if we “had a Target REDCard.” We applied for the debit card and I honestly was a little nervous the first time I used it, but after I got my receipt, I was pleasantly surprised! 5% off adds up quick and I really love how you can see how much you saved per trip, but also how much you’ve saved so far for the year! If you shop at Target as much as I do, it’s silly to not get a REDCard (debit that is…). You can stack the 5% savings with their Cartwheel app, getting $.05 off for every grocery bag you bring, coupons, and sales, so you can save quite a bit for every trip!

Products
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I had shattered my phone screen (again) on my iPhone 5, so we started comparing the price of upgrading to a new phone or just replacing the screen… 2015-03-24 17.18.27After some debating, we decided it would be a better deal in the long run upgrade. I am in love with my new iPhone 5s. I got the gold color, and found a cute white an gold case from the Dollar Spot at Target for $5! By the way, the Target Dollar Spot has been having quite a few cute phone accessories for cheap lately. Some are worth buying like the phone cases and arm bands, and then some are just cheap and not worth it, like the battery operated phone chargers and speakers… Just sayin’.

2015-03-27 19.52.44I finally got a Fitbit! And I love, love, love this little guy! I love it even more because I got it for a great deal by buying it from a friend of a friend. They decided that they wanted a different kind of Fitbit after having this one for a short time. I was able to buy it from them practically brand new for about half the retail price! Having my Fitbit has been more motivating to get moving in my day and really insightful to see how much sleep I actually get each night. I’m hoping to keep upping my activity since I have an easier way to track it. I’ve already asked for new bands for my birthday…

2015-03-16 15.48.26I’ve re-fallen in love with all my candles again as I’ve been trying to use them up around my house. My house feels cozy, I’m using up what I have (so I can eventually get new scents), and I’m gaining new glass canisters for storage after the candle is all used up!

2015-05-27 14.58.03I finally found a good pair of sunglasses! I tend to be pretty picky about my sunglasses, mostly because of how they impact my makeup during the day… I don’t like sunglasses leaving little marks on my nose or cheeks from settling in my makeup. With summer coming up, I needed to find something that would work! I found some cute shades at Target and they are light enough to just rest on the bridge of my nose and not leave any weird marks…

Beauty
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I rediscovered an old love. After using a variety of cream moisturizers and not quite finding one that offered everything my combination skin needs, I remembered using Garnier’s Moisture Rescue Refresh Gel Cream a while back. I bought a little jar of it and fell in love all over again. I forgot how much I loved this stuff! It gives my combination skin everything it needs to feel moisturized and comfortable all day. It’s not oily or greasy, but offers hydrating moisture all day. It’s light and helps my foundation glide on smoothy. I think I’ll stick with gel moisturizers over cream for a while!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 11.35.47 PMI’d been hunting for a blendable eyeshadow palette for a while. I’d tried Maybelline’s The Nudes  palette and a few other neutral quads, but nothing quite was the right color collection or powder formula. I heard a lot of buzz from the beauty bloggers I follow on YouTube about the L’Oreal’s Color Riche La Palettes. While at Ulta, I decided to go ahead and buy it, despite it’s kind of expensive (for drugstore) price tag. I got the Nude 1 palette, since it has more of a neutral color variety. The Nude 2 palette had more violet tones and not really what I would wear on a daily basis. The color pay off is some of the best in drugstore options I’ve found so far. The only color I’ve been disappointed with is the darkest brown. I like to use colors like this for liner, but the color didn’t show up as dark as I was expecting, so I still use one Maybelline quad color for my liner. Other than that one color, I’m in love! The shades blend beautifully and offer a wide range of look options from day to night!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 11.36.33 PMI found my holy grail of mascara! Maybelline’s Lash Sensation Mascara is by far the best mascara I’ve found thus far! I know that I mentioned Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes in an earlier post, but this Maybelline mascara is better than a dupe for Tarte! The price is just right ($8.99 compared to Tarte’s $21.00 a tube!), it offers length, volume, and impact, plus it holds the curl in my lashes all day! It does require an eye makeup remover to take off at the end of the day, but it comes off pretty easily with the remover. Any other mascara would have pretty big shoes to fill at this point!

Entertainment & Technology
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Since the Oscars had just aired…way back in March, eh hem… I discovered a really great documentary called And the Oscar Goes To… by TCM! I love movies and I love history, so this documentary was right up my alley. It went through the history of film and how the Oscars began. It’s pretty amazing to see how it’s changed and grown through the years! If you love film, I highly recommend it!

Over March and April, I discovered a few new favorite shows, which I promptly binge watched when I could, because they are just THAT entertaining! Younger is so fun to watch! I absolutely love Sutton Foster in everything I’ve seen her in. Her dead pan and whitty humor is reminiscent of classic film dialogue from Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant movies, but with the pacing and pop culture references of Gilmore Girls. The flavor of the show reminds me of a clean Sex in the City, with the girl bonding and city living, which makes total sense thanks to director Darren Star! My favorite thing about the show is the optimism of the main character as she’s rebuilding her life and choosing to throw age right out the window. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a go!

MV5BMTc3OTEyMTEyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk4OTc0NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_Another fantastic show is the Netflix original, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from the clever mind of Tina Fey. It’s totally wacky, colorful, and completely quotable. I adore Ellie Kemper from The Office. She has the same Amelia Bedelia character personality and there are so many other fantastic characters and cameos played by notable actors. The entire time I watched it, I kept saying, “oh that’s so and so from this show, and that show!” Both my husband and I were laughing out loud through the entire season and I’m really hoping that they decided to make more seasons! If you need a good dose of fun TV, you can binge watch the first season in a weekend. “Hashbrown, no filter…” 🙂

March brought us the Pretty Little Liars‘ season 5 finale, “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” Oh. My. Goodness! Holy Cow! Fellow PLL fans will know what I’m talking about! This had to be hands down, one of the most intense and best episode in this entire show, in my opinion! I couldn’t look away and there were so many times that I gasped out loud. I finally feel like there WILL be answers revealed and that it’s all building to the root of WHY all of this has been happening to the girls. I cannot wait for the season 6 premiere! It should be a good one. 😉

2015-04-06 23.09.11-1In April, the final season of Mad Men FINALLY came back…after a year! My husband and I are huge Mad Men fans and had been waiting and watching for when the last half of the season would air. I’ll give my final thoughts on the end of the final season in next month’s post, but it was so fun to have the show back in our weekend viewing.

While we painted our kitchen, we rediscovered our love for the Flight of the Conchords. We have both season 1 and 2 on DVD and just played episode after episode. We were cracking up the entire time we painted! Can you see a trend with the shows my hubby and I love, we love to laugh! 🙂 If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the Flight of the Conchords, I highly recommend it. It’s the perfect show to watch if you need to just laugh!

Food
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I’ve been enjoying the deliciousness that is Brookside Dark Chocolate Crunchy Clusters. I found these at Target and had a Cartwheel deal for them. They look healthier than a bag of M&Ms because they have granola-like crunchiness and fruit gumminess covered in smooth dark chocolate. See what I did there? Granola…fruit…dark chocolate… Those are all healthy, right? Regardless, they’re so yummy and have taken up a regular spot in my grocery cart.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 11.44.54 PMIn other healthy pursuits, I’ve started drinking Special K’s Protein Shakes when I need a quick breakfast or want to satisfy a sweet tooth after a workout. They’re loaded with protein, but don’t taste like a protein shake! They’re smooth, cool, and just like iced coffee or a milkshake. I tend to get the coffee or chocolate flavors, but they have other flavors available too. The only downside is that I have to try to enjoy them before my hubby gets to them! He’s been on a pretty heavy protein kick with all of his workouts.

2015-04-21 22.39.57This last snack is far from healthy, but it’s so good! If you like those airy, sweet, crunchy cinnamon twists from Taco Bell, you’ll love Cheetos Sweetos! They’re a limited edition Cheeto product and they’re little puffs of sugary airy loveliness! I have to ration them out, otherwise I could eat an entire bag! And unlike my protein shakes, my hubby doesn’t like them. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but oh well, more for me! 😉

Miscellaneous
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In March, I got samples from my Spoonflower shop! If you haven’t discovered Spoonflower yet, it’s chock full of incredible art and inspiration! I’m excited to work on some new collections soon.  Right now I just have one small collection, but I have lots of ideas and just need to buckle down and get them out of my head and in my shop. For all my fellow creatives, take a look, enter a contest, and get inspired. I love entering their contests, they have great ideas to get your juices flowing.

What did you enjoy last month? What are you most excited to try?

Also, what kind of things do you like discovering on Favorites lists?

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

Honor Memorial Day.

I know the title of this post sounds like a command, or just a statement instead of the normal “well-wishing” that we usually do for calendar “holidays.” It even sounds strange to call Memorial Day a holiday. Because, when you really think about why we commemorate this day, it’s not like other holidays.

I feel like in this era of social media, constant access to information, and living in a society of non-stop online consumption, it’s easy to gloss over days like today. I sometimes envy my grandparent’s generation because of how much simpler, but richer life used to be. Memorial Day has become commercialized, a three day weekend for barbecues and burgers, going to the lake, wearing red, white, and blue, shopping sales at the mall, and even buying cars! But that’s not what it’s for and when it’s cheapened to sales and burgers, it’s like selling t-shirts at a funeral. Memorial Day is not the same as Veteran’s Day, nor is it a day to memorialize anything and everything. It’s a day set aside to remember the men and women who didn’t come home from Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Vietnam, Iwo Jima, and countless other wars and battles. These men and women served our country with everything they had, giving their lives so we can live freely.

I don’t come from a military family and I don’t know anyone personally that lost their life serving their country. I grew up in a conservative home that stressed patriotism, respect for our military, and an appreciation for history, so I thought I understood what Memorial Day was about. But after marrying my husband, I saw Memorial Day in a very different way.

My husband served as a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps before I met him. IMG_1786He served two tours, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. My husband has a warrior’s heart. He loved serving his country, being part of a brotherhood, and all that life as a Marine entailed. He misses it. While my husband and I were dating, we would go to weddings together and I got to meet some of his fellow Marines. They are an interesting group to watch. They can be loud, boisterous, rowdy, but also quiet, pensive, reserved, and extremely respectful to others, but especially to each other. They remember the brothers they lost. They don’t forget, they’re faithful beyond the end. This ethos was further exemplified when my husband and I went to the National Museum of the Marine Corps on our honeymoon. Walking through the history of our nation’s wars and battles with a Marine you know personally, moves you. And that was only one museum for one branch of the military. IMG_1773Seeing that kind reverence and respect is powerful. It changed my view of our fallen servicemen and days like today. It makes days like today personal. Like I mentioned before, I don’t know anyone personally that died serving their country, but I know my husband, and his loss is personal and deserving of respect.

We need to respect the fallen. We need to remember their sacrifice. We need to support and stand by their families and fellow servicemen. We need to take a moment to notice the veterans and military families around us and respect their day to remember. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying a three day weekend or getting to spend time with friends and family, but don’t make the day just about the surface, commercial, shallow stuff. Honor and remember the fallen.

Honor today.

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Wall of Marine-Navy Deaths on Iwo Jima in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. There’s an EGA (eagle, globe, & anchor) for every Marine and an anchor for every Navy Corpsman that was lost.

French Toast, Cheesecake, & A Theatre All To Ourselves…

I would have gotten this post out earlier if I hadn’t been knocked off my feet and sick on the couch for nearly a week with tonsillitis! But four years ago this month, I married my Mr. Wonderful!

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Photo by Photos by Esther

This year’s wedding anniversary is one of my favorites so far in our short four years! We had a fantastic day:

The weather was drizzly and rainy all day, but it reminded us of our honeymoon and the almost daily rainstorm that would come in the afternoons in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We started our day off with a late brunch to Ihop. The morning after our wedding, we ate at Ihop, so this made it especially enticing to enjoy some hot breakfast food on a rainy day! I ventured out of my normal short stack with a side of bacon to try the brioche French toast with cinnamon roll filling, and OH MY GOODNESS! It was amazing! Plus, the bacon, hash browns, and coffee were delicious too. By the way, did you know that calories are non-existent on wedding anniversaries?

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Photo by Photos by Esther

After our scrumptious brunch, we headed over to our local wine shop and placed an order for our favorite bottle of wine from the vineyard where we got married. We buy a bottle every year and drink it the following year. We originally started this tradition with our first anniversary. We bought a bottle of wine for our first anniversary in place of saving some of our wedding cake for a year in the freezer. We decided to keep it up, since it’s nice to enjoy on occasion and remember where we got married!

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Pardon the bad lighting and mirror shot…this is just real life.

Later that evening, we got all dressed up and went out to the Cheesecake Factory. We served cheesecake at our wedding instead of a traditional cake and so it seemed fitting to get some fancy cheesecake for dessert, but only after we enjoyed a delicious dinner. My husband always tries something new every time we eat there. I usually stick to my favorite (Crusted Chicken Romano), but I figured since my adventurous palate was successful for brunch that I’d give it a go again. So I opted for a new and delicious dish, the Parmesan-Herb Crusted Chicken! So good! (Can you tell I love food?) We took our cheesecake to-go since we planned to enjoy it with a glass of wine at home later that evening.

Stuffed to brim, we headed to the movie theatre to catch the latest installment of the Avengers (we’re nerdy and we know it *wink). Unfortunately, by the time we got to the theatre, the only available showings by that time were all in 3D (now, we’re not that nerdy…). So, we searched the board for something else that looked mutually interesting. We both have a love of history, so the movie Woman In Gold stood out to us. I had earned enough Shopkick kicks for an AMC gift card, so we only ended up paying the equivalent of one ticket! We walked in early to an empty theatre and picked a spot right in the middle.

I wore my "something blue" bracelet from our wedding day… :)

I wore my “something blue” bracelet from our wedding day… 🙂

We watched ALL the pre-previews and then the previews themselves. We realized that we were going to have the entire theatre to ourselves since no one else had come in, so we settled in and got comfy! The movie was really good! It’s based on a true story and is well played by Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. We both really liked it!

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Snicker’s Cheesecake, Cookie Dough Cheesecake, & Tres Suenos Winery Select White!

Once we got home, we changed into comfy clothes, poured our wine and ate our cheesecake on the couch while watching Seinfeld with a very snuggly Pepper, who was glad to have us home after being in an empty house most of the day. Overall, it was a very enjoyable anniversary!

What are your favorite anniversary traditions?