Disneyland – The Happiest Place on Earth

Last year’s Spring Break involved an epic road trip across the southwest with stops in Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Disneyland, Tombstone, and more. That previous fall, when brainstorming ideas for our spring adventure, we realized that we had reached the point in our parenting journey when taking the obligatory family Disney vacation no longer seemed like an overwhelming feat of strength. While my childhood was peppered with the occasional visit to Disneyland and Disney World, Clay had never been to a Disney park prior to this trip and we had never been together, so the only experience we had to pull from was almost 20-years old! Because we’re suckers for California and appreciate the idea of working our way up the Mickey-scale, we decided to make our first family Disney experience at Disneyland – the happiest place on earth.

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What I knew as Disneyland as a child has actually morphed into Disneyland Resort, which consists of Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, and the Downtown Disney District. There are three hotels that are considered part of the resort (complete with the $$$ mark-up!). And honestly, the only perk of staying at one of these hotels (that we could gather), is that registered hotel guests are given an Extra Magic Hour at one park on select days (see Extra Magic Hour), which wasn’t worth the extra $$$ to us. There are a lot of hotels within walking distance of Disneyland Resort, so while staying on property is super convenient at Disney World, it’s not really necessary at happiest place on earth. We’re Marriott junkies so we stayed three nights at the SpringHill Suites, which was only a short 10 minute walk to the park. And it had a CVS on the first level – doesn’t get much more convenient than that, folks.

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Five Freitag Favorites

Thank you for the thoughtful words in response to my stream of consciousness post yesterday. Like I said over on my Facebook page – perhaps I am glossing over the not-so-fun aspects of PCSing so much and as a result, I’m leaving pieces of confidence behind with each move. But it’s Friday and I’m at the beach so I can’t really complain. This post has actually been sitting in my draft folder for a few weeks because I’ve been going back and forth on whether to post it. But in the spirit of releasing my self-doubt into the wild, I’m hitting the publish button on this post about products I’m currently digging.

Disclosure – this post does contain affiliate links via Amazon but I’m not sure if I’ll keep them that way because I have a weird pit in my stomach about it. Also in full disclosure – I’m not really sure why. Probably because while there are a handful of bloggers out there whose opinions I trust when it comes to recommending products, there are a lot more whose recommendations I side-eye. I’m interested to discover what camp you guys place me. So without further ado – I’m currently digging the following five items…

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C9 Champion Women’s Freedom High Waisted Leggings

There is an old saying that drunk people, children, and leggings always tell the truth. Well these leggings sing Little Lies by Fleetwood Mac and I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth) by Meat Loaf on karaoke night because they lift and tighten all while being extremely comfortable. And best of all? They’re less than $30 at Target. Take that Lululemon!

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Floral Sweatshirt

When I visited my sister up in Philadelphia last month, I swooned over a sweatshirt she was wearing when she returned from an Orange Theory workout. So she got it for me for my birthday. And I’ve been pretty much living in it ever since. It’s super soft, lightweight, and can roll up small enough to be thrown into my everyday bag (see below).

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Fjallraven Totepack No. 1

I love this bag. It had been sitting in my Amazon wishlist for quite some time and Clay ended up surprising me with it for my birthday. I’m a sucker for multipurpose bags and the older I get, the more I really dislike traditional handbags. This bag is perfect for travel due to it’s durability, multiple pockets, and versatility. You can carry it by the handles, by the straps, or wear as a backpack. It can fit my 13-inch MacBook, a notebook, water bottle, and all of the traditional purse accoutrements. It is available in a variety of colors but I am partial to the red. I can’t wait to see where I take this bag!

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The sweatshirt and convertible tote in the wild here in Florida.

This picture is also proof that I actually use and love these products.

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xtava Twist Hair Curling Wand 1 -1.5 Inch

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I’m sure there are better (and more expensive) hair curling wands out there but I’ve been tickled pink by this one. It gives me the beach waves my hair craves and is pretty easy to use. There was a bit of a learning curve when I transitioned from a traditional curling iron to a curling wand but it was nothing that a few YouTube video tutorials couldn’t resolve.

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Spigen Tough Armor iPhone 7 Plus Case

I am tough on my phones and I’ve had a bunch of phone cases over the years. The Spigen Tough Armor case has been my favorite. I’ve dropped my phone on a variety of surfaces and this case has provided me with some of the biggest waves of relief I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never done drugs but I imagine doing feels similar to the high experienced when you realize that your phone screen isn’t cracked. Also the kickstand is perfect for when I watch Unsolved Mysteries on Amazon Prime while preparing dinner.

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Someday I will fulfill my destiny of being able to help solve a mystery. Okay – so there you have it – my inaugural post about some some things I’m currently loving on this particularly breezy Friday. I’m picking up Clay at the airport tomorrow morning (hip hip hooray) so he’ll be able to spend Easter weekend with us before we head back home to northern Virginia and back to the real world. Hopefully a little bit more tan.

What is Going On Inside My Head?

The past couple of nights, I’ve been able to keep the balcony door open to my room and fall asleep to crashing waves and the sea breeze. It’s a far cry the neighbor’s drum set, squirrels, and ambulance sirens I hear when the windows are open at home. Hanging out with my parents and kids away from our everyday life has provided me ample opportunity to reflect and dream. So much so that I decided to write this post in a stream of consciousness narrative. I can’t promise that it will be well-written but it will be honest.

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When here in Florida – my dad walks along the beach and on trails around the island almost every morning;  I’ve joined him the previous two. It’s been nice to chat with him – growing up the oldest of four kids in close proximity meant that one-on-one time with a parent was a luxury I rarely experienced. But as nice as our conversations have been, I’ve also enjoyed the moments when we’re just walking – being  ‘the quiet one’ of four children, I continue to crave silence to this day. My mind wandered during those lulls in conversation and before long, I started to hear You’re not good enough. What are you doing with yourself? You need to be better. You’re letting everybody down! rattle around up there.

I am not what one would consider an anxious person. I tend not to worry about things that are beyond my control, especially when it comes to anything military-related. Soon after we were married I quickly learned that everything happening ‘over there’ was beyond my control and anxiety on my part would not bring him home any sooner or safer. And in regards to my children, I am not overly cautious. I encourage them to explore and to be brave. I want them to jump off the dock, swing from that tree, and see how fast they can run through freshly cut grass. For myself, I don’t really worry about getting hurt or kicking the bucket, unless I am driving over a suspension bridge in the exterior lane (why anyone would choose anything other than the most interior lane is simply beyond my comprehension). Simply put – I am just not an anxious person.

For the past 18 months, despite the appearance of calm and togetherness, I’ve been feeling like pieces of me are breaking off and floating away into oblivion. I initially blamed my loss in confidence on Texas and my failure to bloom. And then I blamed my lack of direction on the fact that I am in the midst of transitioning from a stay-at-home mom of babies and preschoolers to a mom of grade-school children excited to jump back into the workforce. I struggled to make sense of the little slivers that remain from my pre-kids career. I desperately wanted to find my path but I always seemed to be missing the trail markers. I was lost. In myself. I wasn’t anxious about the outside world. But I was becoming consumed by my own disappointment in myself. And you know what? I just realized that I typed this paragraph in past tense, as if these feelings have dissipated. And you know what? A lot of them haven’t. And I don’t really know why.

That’s not to say that things haven’t improved since our move to Virginia. They have – I am definitely in a much better place. But I’m still struggling. I’ve always been pretty confident in most areas of my life until one day I wasn’t. And on the mornings when the self-doubt grabs on to my leg and caused me to limp throughout my day, my internal voice is the most vicious – chastising me for feeling this way because I have an incredibly supportive husband who encourages me daily to conquer the world, healthy children who adore me, and a quite lovely life in a fantastic part of the country.

I do think it’s natural to have peaks and valleys when it comes to self-esteem and that confidence has a lot to do with faking it until you make it. I know that I offer value to society and that I am capable of making a difference. But then again – you’d think that isn’t the case by the way my inner-voice speaks to me. You’re lazy. No wonder you can’t seem to put one foot in front of another. What is WRONG with you?

What is wrong with me?

Perhaps nothing. I’m sure I’m not the only thirty-something out there with an inner-voice who is determined to undermine goals and tasks at hand. I mean, my outlook on life is overwhelmingly positive – no wonder why I sometimes feel like a fraud for beating myself up for not being the best or feeling like I’m not living up to my potential. It’s the fear of not being enough because I’m not able to do everything. Way to blow that opportunity, Karen. You’re just scared that you won’t be good enough and you know what? You won’t be.

There are two dreams I have every couple of months. One reoccurring dream (nightmare?) is when all of my teeth shatter and fall out my mouth like sand being poured from a bucket. The other involves me unknowingly registering for a class and not discovering so until the end of the semester a few hours before the final. I dream about frantically cramming material on a subject I know little about – most recently it was Hydraulics. I always wake up just as the TA passes out the blue exam books (are those even used in college still?). Do these dreams mean anything? Unsure. But when I have then, I wake up unsettled and my inner-voice seems to be louder that day.

I don’t like those days.

I know that my life isn’t perfect – that doesn’t exist. But it is pretty damn good. I consider myself to be happy. Most days I am able to push the self-doubt down deeper to where I can’t hear her voice. And I’m beginning to think that there lies at least part of my problem – perhaps by pushing her voice deeper inside, I’m giving my self-doubt more power than it deserves. What if I just release the self-doubt into the wild as soon as I recognize her presence or hear her voice? Whenever I encounter a problem, it always seems bigger and unwieldy until I discuss it with someone else – then it becomes manageable and solvable. Maybe my self-doubt and fear of failure should be treated the same way.

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Lucy and I sat on the beach this morning and watched the sunrise. My inner-voice wasn’t too critical this morning but I decided to write this post anyway. I’m getting quite tired of hearing her. And I am really getting tired of her trying to sabotage my goals. After these few days on the ocean, I’m feeling better – I truly feel like over the past six months, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction and I’m gluing pieces of me back together a’la kintsugi. I’m hopeful that my gold shines bright as I’m repaired. I know that I will always experience self-doubt (who doesn’t?) – the struggle will be not giving her so much power. I deserve that power. Not her.

Adventures in Rock City, St. Thomas, USVI

As I mentioned yesterday, I drove down to Florida with the kids and Lucy for Spring Break while Clay is globetrotting in the name of the Army. As much as I love spending time at the beach with the kids, there isn’t much I love more than being on an island with Clay. While wiping sand off their little feet this afternoon, I was reminded of the trip that Clay and I took to USVI a few years ago. I already wrote about St. John so today seems as good as any to write about St. Thomas because I’m missing my guy – it’s tough cleaning sand off little toes by yourself!

St. Thomas is named Rock City for good reason – the island is largely mountainous with roads hugging rugged drop-offs that provide spectacular views. Our rental car had more dents that current consumer confidence (hi-oh!) and had a max speed of 20mph while chugging up the many hills. And we were convinced at least twice that we lost a hubcap or two thanks to the enormous potholes. But it got the job done and provided us with the freedom to explore on our terms. Driving on the left side of the road took a little getting used to but it did make driving up and down the winding roads a lot easier.

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After our first night, we woke up itching to explore the island. Based on the recommendation of family and friends, we ventured out to the famed Coki Beach but the crowded beach didn’t mesh with us. So we decided to go to Sapphire Beach instead, which ended up being our favorite beach on St. Thomas. The Sapphire Beach Resort appeared to be closed and undergoing major renovations so we practically had the beach to ourselves. What made Sapphire Beach special was the view when in the water – small islands dot the horizon. If it weren’t for our rumbling stomachs, we could have stayed all day.

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We stayed at the Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort and couldn’t have been more pleased with the amenities and price-point. Having experienced all-inclusive resorts in the past, we knew we wanted by-pass that scene this time around. We pretty much only had two non-negotiables when planning this trip – a private balcony overlooking the ocean and a working toilet (I’m happy to report that the Marriott went above and beyond in these regards, and others).

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The hotel was gorgeous – complete with multiple pools, including an infinity pool, tennis courts, private beach, and multiple restaurants and bars. Iguanas also roam the property so if you have an intense fear of herbivorous lizards, perhaps this isn’t the hotel for you.

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The capital of the USVI is Charlotte Amalie, a port city with Danish architecture and home to almost half of St. Thomas residents. The majority of shops and restaurants located in the harbor area of Charlotte Amalie cater to cruise ship visitors (cruise ships in the harbor will triple the island population during peak season), so it’s hard to walk 100 yards without seeing jewelry stores, knock-off designer purse emporiums, or cheap t-shirt shops complete with painted seashells. We found ourselves steering clear from this part of town with the exception of buying a few trinkets for the kids. The ‘tourist’ portion of Charlotte Amalie is no different than any other major cruise ship port and was easily our least favorite area of the island.

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One evening, we drove down to Frenchtown and found ourselves at Oceana, an open- air restaurant on Cay Bay overlooking Hassel Island and Water Island that is a bit difficult to find. We were seated right on the water and enjoyed fresh fish and amazing rum cocktails. Our waiter informed as that Hassel Island once served as a leper colony and had us convinced that we could swim there while holding a waterproof backpack over our heads. Which we’re totally going to do next visit.

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Since Clay and I try to kayak whenever we can, we went night kayaking in the bay near our hotel. We were in a double kayak with a clear bottom fitted with LED lights. We saw sea turtles, fish, and even a stingray.  Our only complaint is that we wish we were able to kayak beyond the bay (not really safe) and the excursion was longer (only about 1.5 hours).

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We spent a lot of time on the beach at our hotel. A casual restaurant, The Sand Bar, right on the beach had great food and drinks so we often took often of their happy hour special. We didn’t think to bring our own snorkeling gear (probably because we don’t own any) but have already purchased some for the next time we find ourselves in crystal clear water.

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The weather couldn’t have been more perfect during our visit to St. Thomas, especially since we technically planned our visit during hurricane season (we’re at the mercy of the Army when it comes to scheduling blocks of leave). On the morning we flew out, it poured buckets and from our understanding, hasn’t stopped yet thanks to Tropical Storm Cristobol. Luck certainly was on our side this trip.

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We had our last evening meal at Havanah Blue, an exquisite restaurant that thankfully was located just off of the private hotel beach. The caipirinha was quite possibly the best drink I’ve ever had and food was mind-blowing delicious and prepared incredibly well. While we definitely favored St. John (recap tomorrow), we throughly enjoyed our stay on St. Thomas and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again – we’re already planning on taking the kids back to USVI within the next couple of years.

Our trip was the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. We have no regrets about not going the all-inclusive route at another Caribbean island and much prefer this type of vacation. And the best part? I had five whole uninterrupted days with my husband. That alone was well-worth the price of the trip.

New York City (Why We Want a Redo)

It’s Spring Break (check out this Mental Floss article about how Spring Break got its start)! Clay left the country for a handful of days so the kids, Lucy, and I are making our way to Florida to join my parents at their beach place. It’s impossible to think of this time of year and not be reminded of our disastrous Spring Break vacation to New York City a few years ago. The 2400 mile trip we made over the course of 10 days in effort to escape middle America during our Fort Leavenworth, Kansas tenure was a journey that involved a gastro-intestinal virus so intense that clothes were incinerated, hotel parking lots eternally scarred, and a shared car-puke-bucket that became the sixth member of our road-trip family.

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The trip began innocently enough. As a family, we decided to go to Philadelphia and New York City for Spring Break and because Clay and I planned to vacation in Scotland later that year, we knew that driving to the East Coast was the only way we could afford to do both trips without forgoing IRA and 529 contributions. So whenever one of the children complained about being stuck in the car during the 1150 mile journey to the Philadelphia suburbs, we would just remind them that we were saving them from the frustration of having to begin their adult lives with student loan debt. And because they were six and two at the time, they seemed befuddled by our response and would then just ask for the iPad. Lucy (our elderly chocolate lab) also joined us on the journey, because you know what makes a multi-state road trip even more fun? A dog.

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By the time we reached Ohio, the children were slightly delirious and happily proclaimed this particular rest area “the best ever!” because we let them run up a hill and buy a candy bar from the vending machine. The bar was set low for this trip from the beginning, apparently.

img_1198.jpgWe were sure to eat at Skyline Chili before stopping for the night in West Virginia. Had we known that 3/4 of us would be channeling our inner-Regan McNeil’s later on, we would have settled on a more neutral dinner choice.

The following day, we arrived at my sister’s house in suburban Philadelphia and hung out, being sure to head to bed at a decent time because the four of us were going to leave for New York City in the morning while Lucy stayed behind at my sister’s.

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Despite Violet getting sick overnight a couple of times (we chalked it up to her stomach not agreeing with something she ate…spoiler alert….we were horrifically wrong), she woke up her normal rambunctious self so we continued on with our place to drive up I-95 toward New York City – Staten Island, to be exact. Because why stay in chic Manhattan when bargains can be found on Staten Island at The Navy Lodge (e.g. see comment above about IRAs and 529s)? After checking-in early, we drove down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and parked the car in a municipal garage a couple of blocks away.

 

 

 

Now the ferry is nothing glamorous but it is free, fast, and great for spotting people who may have been extras on Law & Order SVU. Since this was our kid’s first trip to New York City, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just expose them to the swanky parts of the city. And because we don’t have access to a time machine in order to show them 1970s-era Times Square, the Staten Island Ferry is a nice alternative. In case you were wondering – the Staten Island Ferry and the stomach flu make horrible bedmates but luckily, we wouldn’t discover that little factoid until the following day.

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Despite whatever feelings you may have toward the Staten Island Ferry, it does offer a nice view of the Statue of Liberty along the journey.

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And the financial district upon the approach to Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

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We spent our first afternoon and evening walking around Lower Manhattan.

 

 

We spent a lot of time at World Trade Center. The little guy was (and still currently) obsessed with architecture and world records for building height, so he was in awe to be in the presence of One World Trade Center. Weston has basic understanding of the events surrounding September 11th so while sitting near the memorial, he asked Clay some difficult questions about his deployments to Afghanistan and about the attacks themselves.

 

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We then took the kids to Wall Street – where Violet proceeded to puke right near the Stock Exchange, much to the horror of important people in expensive suits. It’s like they could sense we came over on the Staten Island Ferry.

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We used this as our cue that we should probably head back to the hotel. Once back on Staten Island, we ordered food to-go from a nearby Italian restaurant and went to bed, deciding that if Violet (or anyone else) woke up sick, we’d cut our losses and head back to Pennsylvania.

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Thankfully, we all woke up feeling okay so back to the ferry we went! We decided to take the subway uptown and then use the rest of the day to work our way back to Whitehall Terminal.

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Clay now admits that it was on this subway ride that he realized that the sickness had crept it’s way into his body but being the trooper (ha!) he is, he put on a brave face and didn’t let on that he wasn’t feeling 100%. It is also why this post is lacking my typical food/drink pictures because we really didn’t eat or drink anything of value during our time in the city.

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We spent time in Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and of course, the Empire State Building. We then took the kids to Times Square, which I absolutely loathe. And it was after Radio City Music Hall that things went south. Fast. I won’t go into detail what  happened at the restaurant during dinner to protect all parties involved but I was only one with dinner left in my stomach as we rode the subway during rush-hour back down to the Financial District, boarded a ferry (Weston spent the entire ride puking into a trash can…not one other passenger even batted an eye), and crawled our way back to the hotel.

 

 

 

 

I remained the only healthy one during the night, so I cared for my family (and cleaned up after them) in the Staten Island hotel room. In the morning, we waved the white flag and forwent the rest of our time in New York City. I drove back down to the Philadelphia area while the rest of my family shared a puke bucket…my sister’s house never looked better as we pulled into the driveway.

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Needless to say, we want a mulligan of our trip to New York City. Now that we’re stationed on the east coast again, we have plans for a redo – hopefully this summer. However, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, that trip was a not-so-gentle reminder of the G.K. Chesterton quote – “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” While getting sick wasn’t in our plans, it certainly added to our family-lore and honestly, the trip would have been less exciting if there wasn’t the added fear that one of us could throw up at any given time. Additionally, the trip only confirmed what I’ve known since I was 18-years-old…Clay is the peanut butter to my jelly. There is absolutely no one else I’d rather drive over 2400 miles, board ferries, ride subways and trains with over the span of 7 days than this guy – all with two kids in tow. I’d even hold his puke bucket. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

What it is Like to Return to a Duty Station

This isn’t our first rodeo living in the national capital region. During Clay’s almost 14 years in the Army, we’ve moved 7 times. And when we moved back to the area last summer, we checked off another square in the game of military bingo – we returned to a duty station.

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We were stationed at Fort Belvoir from 2012 – 2015 (a few months shy of three years) and throughly enjoyed our time in northern Virginia. Violet was born here, we spent our free time traveling up and down the east coast, and took advantage of all the sightseeing the area has to offer. That being said – we very much like moving to new places and we have no desire to spend a significant amount of time of Clay’s career stationed at one place. It’s not always easy leaving an established existence for a foreign one but with each goodbye, we’ve felt like we’re better for the experience. So while we’re back in the DC area, it’s not the same as last time. But as the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, so eloquently put “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

You have mentioned quite a bit that you hope to maximize your time with the military and live in as many different places as possible – so why did you go back to DC? We were San Antonio, Texas prior to this assignment. And Fort Leavenworth, Kansas before that. I’ve written about how I didn’t exactly bloom in Texas and neither one of us loved  our time in Texas. We made the best of it but it certainly wasn’t our favorite duty station. So when Clay applied and was selected for a position that involved a last-minute move to Washington DC this past summer, we were thrilled to call the area home again – at least for a little while.

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Do you live in the same neighborhood as last time? Same city? No to the first question, yes to the second. We absolutely loved our townhome community in northern Virginia last time we were here – so much so that we tried to live in the same community again. The rental gods weren’t in our favor but we ended up finding a great single family home down the road that is zoned for the same elementary school. We’re in the same township and have the same zip code as last time so in many respects, it feels like we came back home. We did look into living in Arlington, Crystal City, and Pentagon City for something different, but we loved living in West Springfield last time and couldn’t resist doing the same this time around.

Does Violet attend the same preschool Weston did when we lived here last time? Yes! Due to the last minute nature of the assignment, I knew securing a Pre-K spot for Violet would be an issue. The hour after receiving word that we would indeed be moving, I contacted the preschool Weston attended during our previous stint here and pleaded my case. And that is how Violet ended up enrolled in the same preschool as Weston attended despite not having official orders yet or having any idea of where we would actually live.

Are most of your friends from last time still around? No. Even though there is a lot of familiarity living in the same area again, driving the same roads, and also shopping at the same stores – it is also quite different. A lot of my previous friends have moved away and the ones who haven’t, I don’t see as often as I’d like because we’re not longer true neighbors and our busy lives get in the way. But on the other hand, I’ve made new friends to chat with as our children play on the playground after school. And one of my dearest friends in the whole wide world from our Fort Drum days 12+ years ago is stationed here and only lives two miles away! Our children have become fast friends and we get together all the time.

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Are you trying to stay there as long as possible? Despite loving it here, we will not try and get a follow-on assignment in DC once Clay is finished with this job. Our kids are young and in elementary school – now is the time to move around and explore as many different places as possible. We will likely try and stabilize when they reach high school but of course, only time will tell!

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Why do you like living there so much? On top of the incredible history, there is just SO much to do. There is always something going on in the city and when we want to escape for a bit – we’re just a short drive away from one of our favorite hiking spots, Great Falls Park, and the rural farmlands in Loudon County and Prince William County. There is no shortage of breweries, wineries, fantastic restaurants, and everything else that accompanies a big city.

What don’t you like about the area? To be honest, we’re not huge fans of the pressures placed on students in our area. Yes – it is one of the ‘best’ school districts in the country but schools that boast high test scores and college acceptance rates aren’t necessarily producing adults that have a grasp on what is essential for true success in life (hint – it isn’t getting into a Top 10 university). In this area, I encounter so many people with outward signs of success. Happy people are harder to find.

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I admit that is a little surreal to be stationed at the same place twice. As much as things are the same, they’re different too. We will be bidding the national capital region adieu next summer. Due to the nature of Clay’s career, it is likely we will return yet again in the future. Of all the places we’ve lived, this area has felt the most like home. But that may just be because we’ve lived here more than once. After all, as the famous Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, wrote, “Everyday is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

 

Sometimes You Get What You Want. But Only Sometimes.

Now that I am in my mid-thirties I find myself obsessively checking the Facebook feeds of Jay’s Wintery Mix, Doug Kammerer, and Capital Weather Gang when there is the threat of severe weather. I may not watch The Weather Channel but I’ve become my mother – at least in regards to storm tracking and my preference of drinking wine out of a coffee mug. The models yesterday were tracking for the national capital region to get at least 8 -12 inches of snow. The infamous DC snow-hole made her presence known this winter so despite the record-low temperatures, it’s been a mild winter snow-wise. Therefore, this forecasted early spring snowstorm had snow-lovers like me keeping their fingers-crossed for a boom scenario.

Clay is home in-between trips so his buzzing phones woke us in the early morning hours. As he listened to an automated message about the federal operating status, I bolted out of bed and excitedly peeked out the window. And saw absolutely no accumulation – womp womp. As I dejectedly climbed back into bed, I thought to myself how this year’s winter was an analogy for a lot of military-related experiences.

You see – no matter how much I try and remain nonchalant about the potential for snow, or an early return from a deployment or TDY, or a choice assignment, I inevitably and eagerly get my hopes up. Without fail. I know I shouldn’t. But I do because that is just who I am. And then I more than likely end up disappointed because hardly anything in life goes according to plan, which is why I believe detailed plans are for the birds (boy is that a whole other post). Eventually I come to terms with the letdown and even find little silver threads that ultimately transform themselves into linings. If I’m lucky – I get a lesson or two out of the experience. And the cycle repeats itself.

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Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have been telling us for years that we can’t always get what we want. Which is probably why when we do get what we want, it tastes that much sweeter. And wouldn’t you know – soon after my disappointing glance out the window the skies opened and it began to snow. And it snowed all day.

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It was a good day.

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My Top Priorities {Year of Intention}

Back in January, I declared 2018 as the Year of Intention. Seeing as how the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl this year (Fly, Eagles, Fly!) and Clemson basketball is a force in the NCAA tournament, there is no reason for me not to believe that 2018 will be my best year yet. Since my public declaration, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what is actually meant by intentional living. And after much thought, I’ve reached the conclusion that to me, the core of intentional living is actually understanding why we do what we do. And the first step for such exploration is determining what my top priorities are in life.

90 Seconds

Seems easy enough, right? Without thinking about it too much, I answered the following way and just wrote what came to my mind when I asked myself “What are your top priorities in life?” I didn’t think – I just typed (which is apparently how the POTUS runs his Twitter account). I gave myself 90 seconds and this is what I came up with…

  • relationship with Clay
  • relationship the kids
  • be happy
  • live simply
  • travel
  • be tough
  • make a difference
  • be happy
  • be kind
  • meaningful friendships
  • be present
  • experience different cultures
  • be happy
  • stay curious
  • experience much as I can
  • be healthy
  • experience food and drink from around the world
  • give back
  • be happy

Not a bad start. In fact – when you’re thumbing through that self-help book in Barnes and Noble, you’d be hard-pressed not see any of these phrases. You check the Amazon app on your phone and then have an internal debate about which multi-million dollar company to give your business while reassuring yourself that you will check out that independent book store in the hipster part of town sooner rather than later. You ultimately decide on immediate gratification and purchase the book – only to read the first three chapters before banishing it to the back of the middle drawer in your nightstand. You find it two days before the packers are due to arrive and stare at it in your hands – thinking about whether to donate it or put it in the keep pile. You choose to keep it and place it next to that one book you did end up purchasing at that independent bookstore for $2 over the suggested retail price. This isn’t just me, is it?

What about Happiness?

There are a lot of be happy’s on that list, aren’t there? Be happy – such a simple declaration that can seem like such an impossible task when it feels like the odds are stacked against you. But many people out there believe that happiness is a choice to be made each day, each hour, each minute, each second. Both Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan describe happiness as the joy of moving towards potential and happiness is fueled by that journey. I choose to look at happiness this way – it’s the joy of living and doing so to the best of my ability.

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Narrowing the List

The contents of my 90 second list can be narrowed down by grouping them together based on similarities.

  • relationship with Clay, relationship with kids, meaningful friendships – all of these proprieties have to do with relationships
  • be happy, be healthy, be tough – all of these priorities have to do with health – both physical and emotional
  • live simply, be kind, make a difference, be present, give back – all of these priorities have to do with purpose and the impact I wish to have in the world
  • travel, experience different cultures, experience as much as I can, stay curious, experience food and drink from around the world – all of these priorities deal with exploration and the desire to learn

My Top Four Priorities

So based on the breakdown above, I’ve determined my top four priorities in life to be the following (in no particular order)…

  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Purpose
  • Explore

So what does this mean? Well – I’m not quite sure yet. Good thing I have a year to figure it out.