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Celebrating a DECADE!

21 Jan

I met the man I would marry 11 years ago. I married him the next year. We are celebrating TEN YEARS! of marriage this month.

Joe’s work schedule has been crazy. We only had a 4 day weekend to celebrate, thinking we might go somewhere more special later in the year. Our friends overheard us talking about this 4 days free, and where we might go. They decided to plan a weekend with us, and before I ever knew it, we were suddenly planning a trip to VEGAS  – with 6 of our “closest friends”! This was definitely not the trip I had in mind for my tenth wedding anniversary, but I have to admit it was the most fun trip I have ever been on.

The group had a blast. We partied – hard – like we were 20. But this time we had more money, so we also had more fun. We purchased a table at a super top secret bar, and we went to fancy shows and restaurants. We rode in a limo on the strip, stopping at In-and-out burger and Pawn Stars. We saw the fountains at Bellagio and ate at the restaurant at the top of the building. We shopped at high end boutiques and I even brought home Louis Vuitton sunglasses. We gambled – black jack and craps – and we all brought home extra money in our pockets.

The day and night of our anniversary was ours alone. The group went to zipline on the red rocks. Joe and I took a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, which neither of us had ever seen. It was a whole day trip and it was AMAZING. Here we are in the little area where we landed in the canyon.

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Hoover Dam

That night we had special reservations at a secret restaurant. It was by chef Jose Andres and only allowed 8 people per evening!  We had to order tickets for dinner weeks and weeks before we left. The golden ticket arrive in the mail and was our pass to get inside.

Once we were seated at the 8 person table, the chefs prepared a very extensive menu for us, bordering on art and chemistry combined.

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They worked so hard on every little detail. Each course was tiny, just a few bites at most, but there were probably 23 courses in all!  Each was presented in an amazing artful fashion. These flowers were edible:

Part of our dinner!

These little bites were bubbles with food inside. They were prepared right in front of our eyes.

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This is us, back at Aria, dressed for dinner.

Our date night at Aria

 

Vegas will always bring me memories of fun and friends. Happy ten years!  Here is to many more!

 

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Helping a sister out

12 Jan

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I’ve never felt like I was living the story of Esther quite like I did this month. I’ve been drawn to that story since learning about it, particularly the idea of how God prepares us – all our lives – to bring glory to his kingdom, in the most perfect timing imaginable.

My sister-in-law is one of a kind: hilariously funny with a huge heart. I felt a special connection with her from the moment I first met her. When she called me in January, I was literally moments away from 25 guests appearing on my doorstep for a baby shower I was hosting at my home. I almost didn’t answer the call but something made me pick up. I was not prepared for her to start the call with words that sent chills down my spine: “I felt a lump.” After urging her to get herself in a doctor’s office – stat – and some reassurance, I hung up, truly thinking she would probably be okay. But none of this came with easy timing. Though her family would continue to be most supportive, they had recently established a new home in the neighboring state, and she had few friends to lean on and absolutely no established medical care yet. Once we found her a solid doctor, things started moving quickly: positive findings, orders for more imaging, requests for genetic testing, big decisions to make. Her house is a 4 hour drive from mine, so I hopped in the car to attend the biggest decision making appointments: meeting the oncologist, evaluating the prognosis, and making chemotherapy decisions.

I didn’t know a thing about cancer before I met Joe. But God knew everything. He knew I would be helpful to Kim when her time came. He stirred my heart and I quickly became an advocate – maybe THE advocate – for women’s reproductive cancers in our region. After forming a nonprofit, I counseled patients and their families, helped them find appropriate social networks and resources. I had never had cancer. No one close to me had ever had cancer. But I had a need to do this in a way I could never explain to anyone else.

When Kim was diagnosed my husband was at the busiest height of his career. I was his stand-in for her, a link to bridge her to his knowledge and expertise. And I could do it with my own authority too. I knew the tough questions to ask and the important decisions that needed to be made. God had prepared me for such a time as this.

When it all came together, we had a plan in place for Kim. Our whole family went for her first chemotherapy. Joe was there to support her at the doctor’s office and I was there to help support her at home. Nothing was more special than this time we all had together with her family. The photo above was the early morning just before her first chemo.

Kim received the strongest chemo available. She had a good prognosis if it worked. She then had several major surgeries. She was BRAC+. Her chances of getting this cancer were almost certain. We wanted to make sure it would never come back, anywhere. Her daughter and sister have had to do major prophylactic surgeries to prepare for their own inevitable fates. Joe, thankfully, was negative.

This picture was taken in January of 2012. It is not May 2016 as I update this. Kim is still cancer free. She has since enjoyed her daughter’s wedding, the birth of her grandson, her son’s graduation from high school and him starting college at Troy. She has moved to the beach. She enjoys every minute of her new lease on life.

For such a time as this – I felt like every moment of my life had led to me helping Kim navigate those scary waters. God was there for her in a mighty way, and it was a privilege to be a small part of it.

Halloween: Tate Farms AND Disney World

21 Oct

By now you must know our Halloween traditions include our favorite places!

This year was no different! We went to the pumpkin patch. Oh, yes, we did.

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And we went to Disney World. Oh, yes, we did.

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This year we added a twist. We went on a Disney Cruise. Oh yes, we did.

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It took us to the Bahamas. Oh yes! It did!

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We had a great time again. Oh yes, we did!

Brasstown Valley back again

14 Jun

We said we’d be back, and this time we brought friends!  Hello again, Brasstown Valley!

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We took time to feed the horses…

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And of course time for each other…

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Plus a little time for some S’mores!

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The most fun part was the riding:

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Even AC loved it!

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And for those who didn’t love the riding, the sitting was pretty fun too.

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Brasstown Valley, you did not disappoint!  We will be back again!

Our nation’s capital

25 Mar

Spring Break was spent seeing some of the most famous monuments at our nation’s capital.

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Some of these moments were very serious.

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Others…not so much.

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We also got to meet cousins some of us hadn’t ever seen before.

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Just kidding.

That’s George Washington and HIS family. We went to his house too.

Here is OUR family:

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Thanks for hosting us! We’ll be back!

Our most special friend

7 Jan

Miss J is Boo’s godmother. She is, without a doubt, our most special family friend. She was in Bible Study with J2 and me when we first met, and later read in our wedding. Now, as Boo’s godmother, she is with our family for most special occasions, especially the ones involving Boo. Like….birthdays…she has never missed one yet! And she lives two hours away!

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The tradition is that we go to the Build a Bear Workshop and eat cupcakes!

THIS year, Boo turned Five. When J3 turned Five, he got to go to New York City. (Nevermind this was to tag along with us for a conference, nonetheless, he got a fantastic birthday trip out of the deal.) Like any smart-minded girl, Boo seized the opportunity of having a brand-new American Girl from Santa to decide that for her birthday she needed to take her doll to the American Girl Store…in New York City!

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Of course Miss J came along!

(Note the snow! It had just left NYC – little did we know it was headed to our house!)

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We did all the usual sights.

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Which were especially beautiful at Christmastime.

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And her doll came along to all activites, of course!

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A memorable time was had by all! But made most special by Miss J!

Magic at the Magic Kingdom

30 Oct

I don’t know what kind of Magic it really is at the Kingdom….

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But everyone stays happy, big and small…

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Getting into the spirit of it all

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Truly feeling the magic of one princess meeting another

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And then dressing like the real thing themselves

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Dressing up in Halloween Costumes…at DISNEY WORLD! What could be more fun?!

 

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We really can’t get enough of this place!

 

 

 

 

 

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And it is even still fun when they look back on it all.

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