How I Decided on My Word of 2020

In high school, my least favorite English lessons were ones involving Greek mythology. 20 years hasn’t changed my opinion but I do appreciate the ancient philosophical works of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, of which I became very familiar during my political theory courses in college. There is one quote that particularly resonates with me as another new year commences…

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.”

Socrates

New Year’s resolutions nowadays are about as popular as landlines and Canadian tuxedos – it seems most people are forgoing the traditional “Lose 20 pounds!“, instead choosing a word or phrase to sum up their intentions for the coming year. Identifying a word to focus on throughout the year can assist with achieving a wide-range of goals; no matter how big or how small. The word can become a personal mantra – something to repeat over and over when said goals feel unattainable or stagnant.

So how did I go about choosing my word for 2020? First, I wrote down everything I hope to accomplish, regardless of how preposterous. I filled a page in my journal with aspirations, benchmarks, goals, and dreams. I circled the goals that were specific, measurable, and attainable. I starred the ones that made me the most excited. And then I mapped my goals again, this time categorizing them with like-minded aspirations. When I stepped back and looked at everything I want to accomplish in 2020, it felt like a tangled web of less/more statements…

  • less fear/more risk
  • less apathy/more passion
  • less sugar/more greens
  • less idleness /more mindfulness
  • less planning/more doing
  • less social media/more books
  • less envy/more appreciation
  • less alcohol/more water

I really feel like 2020 will be a transformative year. Our family has a lot of change on the horizon and there is a fire within me that I haven’t felt in years. And when thinking about said fire, I pictured a hearth being used to shape a piece of metal – a practice I am unfamiliar with beyond observing demonstrations at Colonial Williamsburg and Greenfield Village. And then I started to think of words such as form, create, produce, commit, and ignite. Then I was reminded of a quote that I came across last month…

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Marshall McLuhan

Because of this, I couldn’t shake the word forge out of my head. It is a word that has many connotations, not all positive: to form, to create, to mold, to falsify, to copy. But perhaps that is why I was drawn to forge in the first place – it isn’t a simple word. Those five letters can have a variety of meanings – it all depends on how you use it. The word itself is a showcase of the importance of intention. The more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea of making forge my word for the year.

This year, I will forge ahead. I will move forward and strike while the iron is hot. I will allow myself to be shaped by what I’ll experience with an understanding that success isn’t a final destination, but rather a journey filled with peaks and valleys. So here is to 2020. May we strive. May we work hard. May we succeed. And may we drink more water.

2019

December 31st – a day that makes it impossible not to reflect on the previous 364 days. We’re home now and brainstorming how to spend our last day of 2019 (spoiler alert – we went hiking and ate an early dinner at Chuy’s). Our holiday season was fairly low-key and family-centric with road trips down to northern Georgia for Thanksgiving and the North Carolina coast after Christmas. It is likely our last year living on the same coast as our families so we made an effort to spend time with our extended family – a goal which we happily met. Clay and I also celebrated 15 years of marriage, which feels mind-boggling. How can we be married for over 15 years when we feel like we’re barely in our mid-20s?

I felt compelled to write here today, despite only publishing 47 posts on And Then We Laughed in 2019. One of the gifts I received from Clay for Christmas was a hand stamped leather cover for my journal that I’ve been keeping in my purse for the past several months. Ironically, 2019 is probably the year I’ve written the most words – they just haven’t been in this space. 2019 was a pretty good year and as a whole, I enjoyed it more than 2018. I kicked off the year with an honest post about dealing with envy as a military spouse. I still have to remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy but I’m definitely more content with decisions beyond our control. I wrote a handful of military posts this year – I wrote about Clay’s promotion and I wrote about what we liked best at each duty station thus far. I shared a conversation I had with Allyson wondering if we were seasoned spouses and I shared a lot about our AGR experience. I wrote about education and the military child, the fight to end the widow’s tax (which is now set to be eliminated by 2023), and a look at the military housing crisis.

On the professional front, I said yes to a long-term full-time substitute position at my children’s school back in April. It was a fantastic and humbling learning experience, so when the school district offered me a part-time position at the central office for the 2019/2020 school year, I gladly accepted. I am able to put my instructional design and content development skills to use and I only work when my children are in school, which I absolutely love.

We were able to travel a fair amount in 2019 and tried our best to maximize our free time outside of work, sports, and volunteer committments. The four of us took another stab at New York City in February and managed to get one full day of sightseeing in before norovirus infiltrated our Manhattan hotel room. Thankfully when I went back for a weekend with my Fort Drum girls I managed to remain healthy (woohoo!). After a dark and gloomy winter in the DC area, we spent Spring Break at Amelia Island at my parent’s condo after a stop in Savannah and Clay and I even managed to sneak away to St. Augustine for the night. We spent the long Memorial Day weekend outside of Philadelphia at my sister’s place. In June, we took advantage of the Waves of Honor promotion and spent a long weekend at Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg. And for the 4th of July, we went down to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina and soaked in a lot of beach time and time with family.

At the end of July, we went to Germany and Austria and fell in love with the Bavarian Alps. We hiked, ate, and drank our way through Munich and Salzburg and left a little piece of our hearts in the countryside. In August, we squeezed in one last summer trip and spent a long weekend in Charlottesville and the Shenandoah National Park. Earlier this year, I wrote about why our family hasn’t gone to Walt Disney World yet and wouldn’t you know, this fall we booked a Disney World vacation for January 2020. The world (or Mickey…) works in mysterious ways.

Clay and I vowed to experience more live music in 2019. While we didn’t get to see too many shows, we attended more concerts in 2019 then we did in 2018, so I can’t complain. We saw Sister Hazel, some friends and I went to the Tim McGraw and John Meacham Songs of America book tour, and we finally saw Jack White when we went to a Raconteurs show. The two of us loved seeing The Head and the Heart and we all enjoyed attending the National Symphony Holiday Pops Concert with Leslie Odom Jr. as a family.

We were able to attend many Washington Nationals games as a family and cheer them on to a World Series win. GO NATS! Going to Nats games will likely be what we miss the most when we PCS – it doesn’t get much better than an afternoon or evening at the ball park. While the team won’t be the same, we can’t wait to attend more games during the first half of 2020!

On a personal note, I am ending 2019 feeling healthier than I did in 2018 – both mentally and physically. However, I learned that what worked for me in my late 20’s and early 30’s is not working for me on the downhill slide toward 40. I have some inches to lose and I know that my cardiovascular health could be better. I have made some changes in the past month that I look forward to continuing in 2020. It’s not about losing weight or a number on the scale. I am an able-bodied healthy woman and I have no excuse for not being in the best shape that my lifestyle allows.

2019 was a pretty good year but I look forward to what 2020 will bring. Bring. It. On!

An Unremarkable Weekend

There was nothing remarkable about our weekend. We didn’t go cliff diving in the Ord River, we didn’t hike within Glacier National Park, and we didn’t run with the bulls in Pamplona. Instead we slept in, binged on Disney+, and indulged in fondue. We threw around a baseball, went to church, and braved Tysons Corner to get a jump start on Christmas shopping. We talked about our future and began to plan our Walt Disney World trip (yep, we’re finally going). We jumped started Clay’s car and we had a Latin dance party in our son’s room to the only station that his radio would pick up. We lounged on the couch in comfy socks and ate hot fudge sundaes. We were completely unscheduled for the first time in months. By Instagram standards, it was a weekend of big ol’ nothing. Some people may even call it boring. But it was exactly what our little family of four needed.

I admit that I sometimes fall victim to the fear of missing out – unsure if I am really living life to the fullest. Occasionally I find myself peering at my life like its contained within a snow globe – various vignettes, sometimes with snow. Thoughts like, “Is my life boring? Am I taking enough risks? fall through my head like little snowflakes as we skate around the town square inside the globe. But then we experience a weekend like the one we just did and I’m reminded of the beauty found within the most simple of experiences.

We want our children to balance the moments of quiet and introspection with ones of risk and adventure. We don’t feel the need to entertain our children constantly and fill their days with activities and schedules – they do a fine job creating spectacular worlds themselves. Yes – our plan is to continue exploring the world with them throughout their childhood and into adulthood. But we also plan to make plenty of time to squeeze on the same couch and savor the occasional lazy day together.

This weekend was the reminder I needed that only boring people are bored. And our seemingly unremarkable weekend emphasized that not only is there much to be discovered about the world, but also there is a lot we can learn about ourselves and how we relate to the ones we love most. After all, adventure isn’t always standing on top of a mountain or sailing the great seas; adventure is attitude to experience the seemingly unremarkable and most simple aspects of life.

Oh Hi. Life Lately.

It’s been awhile. 43 days to be exact.

I was in middle school when Jagged Little Pill dominated the airwaves. My favorite song on the album then and now is Head Over Feet and my least favorite is {ironically} Ironic. I admit that I was by no means considered brilliant in 7th grade but even I side-eyed Ms. Morissette’s lyrics, which detailed bad luck and not irony. Because of this, I’m always hesitant to declare something ironic because I always feel the need to take a step back and ask myself, “Is this really ironic?” So – with trepidation, I am writing that I found it ironic that I woke up sick on the day I took off from work in effort to collect and recenter myself. Of course.

I’m feeling better today and I have another day at home thanks to the kids not having school due to Election Day and the fact that my hourly rate barely covers child care. The house is scrubbed clean, our winter clothes sorted, and our guest bed is now home to a mountain of items to be donated. So now I write. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of new normals, uncertainty surrounding our future, and the everyday life that occurs when raising two children in the DC suburbs.

Soccer season has come and gone. Our Saturdays will become a little more open because both decided not to play a team sport this winter. We took advantage of the reduced military rate for the Epic Pass so we hope to spend most of our weekends this winter on the slopes and finally have the kids learn to ski. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t learn to ski until I was in middle school and living in Pennsylvania and even then, it was during a ski trip with the French club. My parents don’t downhill ski so my siblings and I never learned as kids. Clay and I would like to take ski vacations with the kids when they get a bit older so we’d like them to learn sooner rather than later. We’ll start with the Poconos and who knows – maybe in a few years we’ll be skiing in the Alps?

We leaned into fall and visited Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia. I’m not a huge fan of the organized fun that occurs at such places – I’d much rather wander through fall foliage without the ‘farm’ experience. However, the kids really enjoy going and we found ourselves in fits of laughter while getting lost in the corn maze.

We cheered on the Nationals as they won their last regular season game – we did not attend any of the playoff games or World Series games. We briefly considered dropping the cash because the opportunity doesn’t come along often to see your team play in the World Series but it was either pay for four tickets or have the funds to take another epic trip next summer – we chose travel. It was the first World Series were neither team won any home games so one could argue that it worked out to our advantage. But boy, it sure was fun watching the Nats – even if it was on television. They finished the fight. Go Nats!

We went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, which is the second largest Renaissance festival in the country. While we enjoyed the jousting tournament, we quickly learned that we’re not really Renaissance Festival people. We inadvertently went on Pirate Weekend, which made for some interesting people watching but the grounds were ridiculously busy and we found it to be very expensive. But yeah – not our cup of tea.

Clay and I saw The Head and the Heart at the Anthem, which is one of my favorite venues in the area to see concerts. The Head and the Heart put on a fantastic show and their set list was a good mix of old and new songs. Does it really get any better than Charity Rose Thielen’s voice?

We bought a new car – a 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT Edition. We’ve been wanting to trade in Clay’s car for quite some time because neither one of us particularly liked it but there was nothing on the market that we wanted to buy. That is – until Subaru announced the new Onyx XT package on the Outback. I plan on reviewing this car on the blog in the future because it is so much fun to drive and we’re so happy that we waited instead of settling.

The broken mini-blinds really make the picture, don’t they? I’m a sucker for my husband in his Mess Dress so I was thrilled to accompany him to the Marshall Dinner last month. While there was no dancing at the event, we did get to hear former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, belt out Theme from New York, New York among other songs. His speech really resonated with us and covered many of the topics that have monopolized our own discussions about what we want the next 5, 10, 20 years to look like in regards to Clay’s military service.

Clay’s parents come up to visit and help us celebrate the little guy’s 10th birthday. They were able to attend both soccer games, which the kids really appreciated. The following weekend, my mom flew in for a quick visit. She was able to also see both soccer games and afterward, we took her to our favorite place to get blue crabs in the Annapolis, Maryland area (The Point Crab House).

We only managed to visit two breweries over the past 43 days – Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton and Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont. Pictured is the Pineapple Tart Ale, which is described as “A simple grain bill of Pilsner and Wheat malts with just a touch of Perle hops. Lactobacillus is added to the wort before boiling to achieve a tart flavor. Pineapple puree added post fermentation for a hint floral aromas and a citrus finish.” I highly recommend if you like tart ales and/or wheat beer with a hint of fruit.

The kids’ costumes for the Book Character Parade at school were quite different than what they wore later that night for Trick-or-Treating.

And finally, while we haven’t decorated for Christmas yet, we do have an undecorated Christmas tree in the corner of our living room. Over the weekend, we bought a new tree with a smaller footprint because our 10+ year-old tree has just been too big for our last few homes. We took the tree out of the box to make sure the lights worked and it just seemed silly to put it back in the box so up it went! I’m sure we will decorate the tree and the rest of the house sooner rather than later – when do you traditionally decorate for Christmas?

So there you have it – a glimpse into my life over the past 43 days. I didn’t write near as much as I wanted due to other professional obligations but the next few months will look quite different than the previous few. And for that, I am thankful.