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.
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.
It was a good day.
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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.
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
- 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.
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)…
So what does this mean? Well – I’m not quite sure yet. Good thing I have a year to figure it out.
I was born in 1983, which means my childhood was analog and my adolescence was shaped by the emerging digital culture that would define our world as I entered adulthood. Me and my peers spent hours carefully cultivating our online profiles in middle school and high school. Personal computers were commonplace my freshman year of college but very few of us had personal cellphones that were used for anything beyond emergencies. The AOL away message eliminated the need for answering machines during those years and my senior year of college, I joined about 5,000 other people on an intimate social media network known as The Facebook.
College Clay and Karen taking a selfie (usie?) the old-fashioned way –
with a disposable film camera. #xennials
I am too young to be issued a membership card for Generation X and too old to be granted access to club Millennium. Thankfully a new term has been coined for those of us who had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood – we’re considered Xennials. We’re supposed to have both the optimism of millennials and the cynicism of Gen Xers and we are fast approaching middle-age. A lot of us have married, had children, earned promotions, and contributed to healthy investment portfolios that will lend themselves nicely to retirement. We don’t necessarily miss the good ol’ days but we miss the freedom from responsibility. We find ourselves singing along with Mr. Brightside as we drive the kids to school and wondering where Teck from Real World Hawaii ended up in life. We watch Cruel Intentions whenever we come across it on a streaming service and we remember where we were on 9/11 and when the OJ Simpson trial verdict was announced.
I wrote on Facebook the other day that I did not take a gap year in between high school and college and wondered if it were too late to take one now. Not surprisingly – many of my fellow Xennials chimed in and agreed that such a year is wasted on youth. Not that I am disenchanted with my life – it is pretty grand. And I don’t really believe in regrets – especially since I’ve never been arrested or interacted with shadowy figures in trench coats. But there are things I’d do a little differently on the march toward middle age now that I have the benefit of hindsight.
So here’s to us Xennials – most of us don’t have it all figured out like we thought we would by this age (seriously…17 years ago the age of 35 seemed soooo old), but we’re beginning to realize what is really important in life. It’s not about our possessions, the size of our house, or how much money is in the bank. Life is meant to be experienced – a journey through peaks and valleys is more preferable than a steady race because we now recognize the value of hard lessons. We crave simplicity and understanding. We are Xennials – and damn proud of it.
When Clay returned from his second deployment, we didn’t have time to squeeze in a trip before PCSing to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Well – I take that back. Him and I were able to take a four-day house-hunting trip to Lawton while the little guy stayed with my parents. The Caribbean has nothing on Lawton, Oklahoma when it comes to a romantic post-deployment vacation. So we pushed our big trip back to the summer. And by Memorial Day, we had plans to take our summer family vacation to Anchorage, Alaska and the surrounding areas. Our friends, Jackie and Aaron, from Fort Drum were stationed there at the time so we stayed with them in Eagle River. Unfortunately, Aaron ended up having a JRTC rotation during our visit so we didn’t get to see him. Such is the Army life.
Traveling 4000 miles with Weston went as smooth as buttah. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our little travel buddy. There was a meltdown here and there, but that is to be expected with an almost-two-year-old. We woke up at 5am on a Saturday morning to drive down to Dallas/Ft. Worth so we could fly to Chicago and then to Anchorage, with us finally arriving in Alaska at 10pm (1am Central Time). Despite that first day being a long day for the little guy (and us!), we were so excited to set foot in the only non-contiguous US state on the North America continent and couldn’t wait to soak it all in. Being in 55-60 degree temperatures didn’t hurt either.
The Seward Highway has to offer one of the most breathtaking views in the world, running through the Kenai Peninsula and Turnagain Arm. We didn’t get to complete all 127 miles of the drive but we were able to see incredible scenery (mountains, water, and glaciers – oh my) on our drive from Anchorage to Girdwood.
Continue reading ➞ Our Trip to Anchorage, Alaska and Surrounding Areas