2014 A Year in Review

Another year come and gone. I feel it’s important to reflect back on what the past year has given us, before we start anticipating what we may receive in the new year. I had fun looking back at 2014 via my blog.

 I wanted to thank each and every one of my readers. You don’t know how much I appreciate your comments, thoughts, and support. Thank you for following along on this adventure with me!

2014 was busy. Sometimes it felt like we were never home. We took multiple weekends away to Philly, DC, Annapolis. And a few more trips to Avalon, Scranton, Gettysburg, the Finger Lakes, and a big trip to Jamaica. I celebrated the shower, bachelorette party, and beautiful wedding of my best friend. 

I watched less movies but read 29 books. I tried countless new recipes and finally mastered my half broken oven and didn’t burn every cookie I baked. We powered through another school year for Ryan and I grew to appreciate my job more. We experienced disappointment and loss and debated what our future would hold. Ryan accepted a new job for after graduation. 

We made family time (both our little family and our extended family) a priority. We learned to love with bigger hearts through our mistakes. And through it all, we kept our hearts full of hope. Although this year did not hold any huge milestones, I feel the little ones, the ones full of simple moments of joy and hope, are the paving stones to our future. 

So here’s a look back at our 2014:

January

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In January we celebrated a simple New Years Eve where I decided to make my word of the year be “Respect”. I vowed to value my personal choices and opinions and to schedule me time throughout the year. 

While we were surviving one of the snowiest and coldest winters in PA record, I learned that I really need to Stop Apologizing so much and was also very brave and did my very first vlog

February

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In February we survived more snow and cold and battled some cabin fever. I survived by doing lots of baking and cooking and reflecting on everything love related. (In honor of Valentine’s Day). I shared some love lessons I’ve learned since becoming a newlywed as well as what my favorite romance movies have taught me about love. One of my most favorite posts share “Why We Work” as a couple.

I also reflected a little bit on the weirdness of blogging

March

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In March I attacked my closet and addiction to clothes and did a massive clean out. We celebrated with friends for St. Patrick’s day and I longed for warmer months.

The celebration continued as I wished Ryan a Happy Birthday in this letter (my most read post of all time) and followed that celebration with me turning 31. Ryan and I had a getaway in Annapolis, MD and I shared 31 things I’ve learned in 31 years

April 

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My mom underwent some surgery and it pushed me to take some pressure off of myself when it came to this blog. And I haven’t look back since. I discovered where my inspiration comes from and decided to only post when I felt like it, not 4-5 days a week like I used to.

This month I did a lot of bridal shower planning for my best friend and spent time with family. But I did manage to write an article in Defense of English Majors like myself, interview Ryan, and share a blast from the past, talking about growing up in the 80’s and the 90’s

May

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In May I threw my best friends “Love Birds” themed bridal shower. One of my decorations was this Tissue Paper Garland that I shared a DIY video tutorial for. I also celebrated my Mom’s on Mother’s Day and shared some of the best advice she has ever given me. 

I discussed my Fear of the Unknown as Ryan wraps up his third year of Law School and we begin to think where we will be living next year. And along the same lines, I shared how I think Marriage is always Like a Seesaw. 

June

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This summer I took a big break from blogging to enjoy the season. After such a long winter I wanted to do nothing else but sit outside and read and bask in the sun. 

We celebrated our first wedding Anniversary in the Finger Lakes region of New York and I made this video highlighting our first year of love

Next I honored my Dad on Father’s Day and praised the merits of summer. before heading off to celebrate my besties bachelorette weekend!!!

July

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On July 5 I was was Matron of Honor in my best friend’s wedding! So much fun!

Then I finally got around to sharing our anniversary trip recap and photos and also got deeper with a talk about the role Social Media plays in our lives.

As I prepped to go on vacation to Jamaica I dived into some body issue talk

August

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JAMAICA BABY! It’s safe to say that this family vacation, recapped here and here, was the highlight of my 2014. We spent a week at a resort in the beginning of August. 

After returning to real life, I celebrated my one year blogging anniversary. The rest of the summer was filled with fun day trips and time with friends before Ryan headed off to his last first day of school

September

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September was good to us. Maggie turned 8 and I celebrated by sharing 5 ways she makes me a better person. We had a great weekend at my best friend’s lake house in Scranton. And then we then had a beautiful weekend at the Jersey Shore I love the beach in September, followed by a weekend in Annapolis and DC with my best friend from college.

I also discussed how being a newlywed isn’t always unicorns and roses. And, I made a point of celebrating the small things and trying to take life one day a a time. 

October

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October was a big month!

In October I was excited to start a new series: Recently Read and Think Positive Mondays.

We also celebrated Pop-Pop’s 89th Birthday as well as surprised Ryan’s mom for her birthday.  I discussed books a lot with another blast from the past  and talking about my love of real books over e-books (that’s backed by  science!)

I also took a girls’ trip to NYC for a weekend and to see Beautiful.

But most importantly we celebrated Ryan accepting a job offer in Wilmington after graduation! 

November 

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 November seemed like a slow month, as we crawled into the busyness of the holiday season. We threw Ryan’s parents a surprise Anniversary party. I talked about making time to do what you love every single day. For me it’s reading and finding quiet time. I questioned my identity in relation to my hometown and where I live. I wrote Ryan a Love Letter of Gratitude and also expressed gratitude on Thanksgiving

December

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This December was one of the fastest on record for me! We selected our Christmas tree, got it all decorated, and had it crash into our piano a few days later. Which made me write this post comparing Christmas Trees to Marriage. We saw Tedeschi Trucks Band in concert and did Karaoke and dancing in Philly for a good friend’s Birthday and I discussed more books

An increase of violence in our nation and in our small town had me reflecting on community, neighbors, and trust. 

We baked and decorated hundreds of cookies, sang our hearts out, and celebrated Christmas to the fullest. Family came in town for a week and we had a lovely family Christmas. 

Once again, thanks for being a good friend and following along! I hope you’ll join us for 2015!

Happy New Year!

Our Christmas

You know how sometimes after you come home from a vacation in need of another vacation? That’s how I feel after these past 6 days of celebrating Christmas with our friends and family. 

It was a non stop whirlwind of eating, drinking, and singing. Full of laughs, traditions, old stories and endless hours playing Heads Up, Guestures, and Apples to Apples. If I am what I eat, I am currently Christmas Cookies, Cosmos, Tuaca, Dip, and Chex Mix. I love when my whole family is together (Mom, Dad, my brother Eric, sister-in-law Veronica, Ryan, Pop Pop and myself).

Boisterous, loud, all encompassing love was all around. 

I’m still “re plugging” back into the “real” world.  It was a nice little break. Until I’m back in full force here are some photos from our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. 

I hope you had a lovely few days celebrating however you celebrate. 

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Think Positive Monday: Making Time for Christmas

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(Think Positive Monday: sharing tips and keeping me in line to live a happier and more positive life)

The phrase, “Make Time For Christmas” sounds a little odd.

Why do I need to “make time” for Christmas when the Christmas season is banging on our door the minute after Halloween ends? I’ve been shopping, prepping, decorating, singing Christmas songs, and baking all season long. Christmas is everywhere. I don’t need to “make time” for it, I’m living it every second. 

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Yes Christmas is everywhere. And as much as I love this season I sometimes catch myself just going through the motions. Sometimes treating traditions like another thing to check of my ever-growing to do list. Before you know it, Christmas day is upon us and over in a blink of an eye. Pretty soon all the decorations are coming down and music goes back to our regular non festive favorites and we’re stuck with Winter blues. 

I think one of the most fun things about Christmas is the preparation.

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The decorating the tree, the baking, the making bows for packages,the buying of the gifts, the parties and all the treats and music. If you’re only thinking of the end game, you’ll be missing out on more than half the fun.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush and busyness and forget to actually enjoy the little things that makes this holiday so special. The little things ARE the big things and I think that can often get lost in this overwhelming time of year. 

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This week I’m promising myself to really make time for Christmas.To savor the waiting. To reflect on what this season really means to me.  To bask in the glow of the Christmas tree with a good book. To dance to Christmas music with Ryan while we’re making dinner. To spend extra time with family and friends. To allow the season to bring out the child in me. To admire beauty to act silly and sing my heart out. To take notice of every little detail and memory. I want to enjoy every little moment the best I can.

So I’ll be signing off the blog for the rest of the week to truly enjoy Christmas. You can always follow along on instagram.  

My brother and his wife arrive tomorrow and we have a full week of fun and love with my family and Ryan’s family and friends. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season, however which way you celebrate!  

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Do You Know Your Neighbors? (Losing the Neighborhood)

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When we were young, a smiling Mr. Rogers asked us to be his neighbor. He taught me more than to put popcorn in my peanut butter and jelly. He taught me to believe in community, to smile and make friends. To be kind to strangers.

Does anyone in real life have neighbors like our friends on TV do?

Lucy and Ricky had Ethel and Fred. Fred and Wilma had Betty and Barney. Wilson was always available for a strange metaphorical lesson for the Taylor family on Home Improvement. George Feeney was always willing to lend an ear on Boy Meets World, Joey and Chandler were right across the hall whenever Monica and Rachel needed some friendly banter, and Winnie Cooper will always be the epitome of the girl next door. 

Although many of these TV friendships were created for easy plot conventions, I can’t help but think about how people treated their neighbors 40-50 years ago. When you could easily skip across the street to borrow a cup of milk or trust your kids to go knock on the neighbor’s door to ask their kids to play. When you could ask your neighbor to help you with some handy work or when bbqs and Friday night happy hours were shared events. 

I’ve never interacted with a neighbor that way and that makes me sad. 

A 2013 study by State Farm shows that only 25% of American know the names of their next door neighbors. 

What happened to our sense of community? And how is it hurting us?

We’re all too busy inside with our “social” media and Netflix binges. Our focus is on individualism and in turn our needs are more selfish and our sense of responsibility to community have gone way down. We are more alienated now then we have ever been. Also, we are all full of mistrust and weariness. We live in a world where we have every right to be scared of our neighbors.

Is our focus on individualism and our  mistrust of others linked? I certainly believe so.

Ryan and I live in a condo/townhome community, surrounded by hundreds of neighbors. We walk the walking trails and pass the same neighbors again and again, greeting with a slight nod of the head or a half-smile. Despite all of this, I know the names of only one couple that lives across the street. And it’s all because they made the effort.

They came over and greeted us when we moved in two years ago. They smiled big smiles and insisted that if we ever needed anything, they were there. It was comforting. Six months later they saw us moving in some new used furniture we bought off Craigslist and they very kindly gifted us a beautiful dresser and mirror they were trying to sell. Every morning they greet me with a bellowing “Hello, Katie!” Since then I’ve introduced myself to a few other neighbors and have been met with a little apprehension on their end. 

Sometimes when I take Maggie out at night, barefoot in my pajamas, I become overcome with anxiety that I’ve locked myself out of the house. My keys and cellphone safely locked inside while I’m abandoned out in the cold in my ugliest pajamas. Who’s door would I knock on to let me use their phone? Who should I trust? Who would trust me?

I try to hold the belief that most people are good at heart. But it’s hard for that hope to withstand when you read the news.

Our alienation and individualism is cutting down our civic duty. In this highly connected world we are very disconnected from those closest to us. Our neighbors. When shootings happen in schools and neighborhoods are threatened with homicides and robberies and community riots get out of hand are reaction is to hide and blockade ourselves rather than work together for a common good.

Isn’t putting aside our differences and working together for a common good what our nation was founded on? I can’t help but see that if we started to rebuild that connection with our community, if we started to bond together and help one another, our mistrust will also lessen. 

How do we put the “neighbor” back into the “hood”? So tell me, do you know your neighbors? Are you involved in your community? 

Think Positive Monday: Less Holiday Stress

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(Think Positive Monday: sharing tips and keeping me in line to live a happier and more positive life)

I love this part of the year. I love the happiness, the warmth and coziness, the memories, the traditions and the way most people seems to soften a bit. I even like the holiday rush. But this time of year can also be extremely stressful. There are high expectations, budget constrictions, conflicts between family members, and sometimes it feels like there is no time to relax.

I aim to keep Christmas a happy time for myself and those around me. We try to limit meltdowns and over committing. To keep us as relaxed as possible from Dec 1 – January 2 I try to follow these two tips:

Two tips for lessening stress during this busy holiday season:

1. Set Your Priorities and Stick To Them

Early on in the season have a conversation with your partner, or yourself, discussing what your top priorities are in the Holiday Season.

Look at your calendar and decide what will work with the amount of free time, money, and sanity you have. Don’t overbook yourself. Decide what traditions or family events are mandatory and then add on what you know will make you the happiest. I scheduled a few parties with friends and mandatory family events and then made sure I still had time to do my own favorite Christmas activities like baking cookies, wrapping gifts, watching Christmas movies, reading, and lots of quality family time. You can’t do it all.

2. Remember You Have No Control Over Other People’s Behaviors

It’s always hard being around people that you simply don’t agree with or get along with. But when I’m trying to enjoy my favorite time of year, being around negative or toxic people is even harder. I try to remember that I can’t change those people, they are who they are. The only thing I can control is my own behavior. I use these opportunities to treat others the best way I know how. Be responsible for your actions and don’t worry about others.

How do you make it through the holidays without stressing?

 

Sentiments on Marriage and Christmas Trees

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Ah, The Christmas Tree.

I can’t express how much I love our family’s Christmas tree. The tradition. The memories. The emotions the memories bring.  The ornaments that each hold a little story. Ornaments from my childhood and ornaments from way before I was born from my Pop-Pop’s family. The adventure of going to the farm to pick it out. The way it lights up the living room. Filling us with those warm and fuzzy feelings. 

But damn, it can be a bitch to pick out and set up. Raise your hand if any work regarding your annual Christmas tree has started a minor argument or eye rolls or looks of resentment between you and your partner? 

We trekked out to a farm to pick out our Christmas tree on Black Friday. Or I should say, farms. We went to three different farms before we found “the one”. We lamented over size and price. That one was too bushy at the bottom, that one has a huge bare spot at the top, this one is outrageously overpriced, and that one isn’t full enough. 

Once we get home we struggle to get it perfectly in the stand. I hold the tree by the trunk while Ryan lies on his stomach trying to screw the base into place. It’s always crooked on the first try. Teach me your skills if you can perfectly set you tree in the stand on the first try. So then we try again and one of the washers gets dropped into the bottom of the base. Out comes the whole tree and we start over from scratch Then we get it “pretty good” but then argue over an inch or two to the left or to the back. Then we have to twist it so the prettiest angle is facing out front. By that point it’s crooked all over again. 

Then comes the lights. We work swiftly as a team only to realize that we started with the light cord “plug in” at the top rather than the bottom and have to start over again. I try to drape the lights perfectly over the branches rather than rush it. We’re eye rolling at each other’s “methods” and are both ready to scream, “Just let me do it!”

But then it is done. The tree is perfectly straight. The lights are draped evenly. We plug it in and step back to look at our masterpiece. Standing arm and arm we take a sigh as we let the beauty of the tree wrap us in farm and fuzzy feelings. That night we enjoy our usual TV consumption while under the glow and scent of the Christmas tree. It’s heavenly. 

We snuggle up in bed, happy with ourselves and our holiday spirit. Then comes 6:30 a.m. and I’m woken by a loud crash. Thinking Ryan broke a breakfast plate I yell downstairs asking if he’s okay. When I get no reply, I realize he has already left the house. Panicked, I rush down the stairs and find our perfect Christmas tree lying on the ground. Countless irreplaceable and antique ornaments shattered and water everywhere.

I cry. And then start picking up the mess. I call Ryan and he turns around and comes back home and helps me. We’re both agitated, frustrated, and sad. In total it takes two hours to clean up the mess, to un-decorate the rest of the tree, and find a way to make it stand upright again. 

I’m heartbroken over the ornaments lost. They are memories of my childhood, of traditions, and family members. They are only things. But they still hurt. My Christmas spirit was low for a bit. I went out and purchased a new stand. We spent another night assembling the tree in the new stand but left it undecorated for a few days. I simply didn’t have the heart. The tree was a monster, glaring at me from the corner. Taunting me and I just didn’t want to deal with it. 

Then on Sunday, we turned up the Christmas tunes and redecorated the tree. And all is well, Christmas spirit is restored. And it got me thinking and reflecting  (like this season is meant to do): the Christmas Tree is a lot like a marriage. 

These holiday traditions, the ups and downs, are what brings us together. We put up with each other’s quirks and work as a team to make something that will never be “perfect” as good as we can for us. Our marriage, like a live tree, will never be perfect. It is wild, untamed, in need of trimming, and pruning. In need of love and care and affection. Through the yeas we accumulate memories and traditions and adorn our marriage with them. Sometimes we fall and sometimes we break and sometimes we have a little trouble standing upright. Our hearts become shattered. But we overcome and we move forward. Through tears we pick ourselves up and keep pushing. Together.

Although the tree felt like an annoyance this year, we knew that it was in our best interest to set aside our hurt and make it into something special again. In that way, the Christmas tree is like our marriage, a symbol of something for the two of us to gather around and appreciate and respect. A ceremonious element of our lives to look forward to. To gaze at together and to bring us the warm feelings only the two of us comprehend.. It represents our imperfect love, that Christmas tree. And most importantly it brings us hope, much like marriage vows. 

And also, as this sentimental metaphor proves, full of a lot of SAP! 

But when else at Christmas time is it appropriate to be overly sentimental?

 

 

 

Think Positive Monday: Choosing the Good Over the Bad

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(Think Positive Monday: sharing tips and keeping me in line to live a happier and more positive life)

“Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.” Richard Wilkins

So often I’m quick to jump to the negative. One bad thing can make my entire day the worst. We all know misery loves company, that’s why it is so easy to metastasize and grow into something it is not. Pretty soon all the good little things in our day are forgotten and we are left with this big black cloud of ugliness. 

To help train my brain to focus on the good and not just the bad I practice this simple exercise.

Every night before bed I schedule in 10 minutes to mentally list three good things that happened to me that day. After I’ve thought about 3 positive experiences I then expand upon them and list why those good things happened. 

For example, on Friday one of the good things that happened that day was:

  1.  Knowing I was having a rough time my boss gifted me a pretty poinsettia and a Christmas ornament. (And this happened because my boss is kind and understanding)
  2. My mom was doing better after some bad health earlier in the week (And this happened because of good doctors and knowing how to take care of herself)
  3. After weeks of research and anxiety over it I had finally selected my new health insurance plan for 2015 and it’s better than what I had this year (and this happened because of patience, research, and the second patient eyes from Ryan, my Mom, and my boss)

A little awkward at first, but your brain should soon get into the habit of seeing the cause and effect of the good things in life too. 

It’s Christmas time, so don’t just be a little kind to those all around you, be a little kinder to yourself too. Love really is all around, you just have to look for it.