More than a month ago

It’s hard to believe I returned to Southwest Florida more than a month ago. I have spent a great deal of time with family and friends since returning, something that was hard to live without for almost two years.

One of my new favorite routines happens every Saturday. I spend the week looking forward to my early start that morning.

In an effort to train for my third 5K race, which took place on Memorial Day, I ran with my mother and younger sister Maureen, who were also participating in the race with me. I was so excited to recruit two people to run with me, especially since it was Mom and Maureen’s first race. I’m happy to say I beat my best race time by more than three minutes that morning even in the awful heat. Mom and Maureen finished before me making their first race a memorable one. Although we did not cross the finish line at the same time, it was encouraging to know that they were running the same race with me. I kept my pace going and am happy to say I finally ran the entire 3.1 miles without stopping, making it truly an awesome achievement.

Every Saturday, we meet at Maureen’s house to run along McGregor. I still cannot put into words how much that first run meant to me. I have spent the majority of my time running by myself, or with my puppy Lucy. To run with other people, well it felt incredible, even if we all are not running at the same speed. Even though the race is over, we still meet every Saturday morning. Yes, it’s still a highlight of my week. This past Saturday as I pulled up to Maureen’s house, I saw Dad standing with Mom and Maureen, which made me smile. Our running group is expanding . . . I love spending that time with family first thing in the morning.

As I sit here and reflect on some of the highlights of my time back in Southwest Florida, a trying time, a time that kept me apart from Jason for 47 days already seems like a lifetime ago. I smile when I look back. I smile because of the strength we both had during the time he was in Fort Myers and I was in Kingsport. I smile because that is now a distant memory.

The best feeling in the world is being in the same state, the same city and living under the same roof again. Now we are back to our old routines, some that I love and will never grow tired of . . . a kiss before he leaves for work that is accompanied by have a great day.

I am now a firm believer that the heart grows fonder when you are away from your loved one. I have seen a new side of Jason that I cherish since returning. Our relationship is stronger than before. Jason’s affection and expression of how he feels comes more often making me feel even more loved.

For the first time in a longtime, I really feel like I am home. That feeling is not just because I am living in the area where I grew up surrounded by friends and family, but I am living my dream once again.

As a freelance writer, there is good and bad. I absolutely love the freedom of making my own schedule. I enjoy working from my home having the luxury of walking into my kitchen to grab a snack or cook lunch. I also love having the opportunity to be in the same vicinity as my one year old puppy.

What I was lacking did not show its presence until I moved back to the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area.

I am now spending more time out in the community, interviewing people face-to-face, making my passion for writing truly surface once again. There’s something special about living in the same community in which you work. I did not know how much I missed that interaction until the first assignment my editor gave me took me out into the community.

My passion is in full force again. My passion of writing has taken on another dimension.

Our move back to Southwest Florida was one of the best decisions we have made, especially because of the opportunities that we have found. Jason and I continue to grow as a couple, I’m writing more for editors I truly love working for, I’m spending my weekends with Mom once again and my best friend is only 30-minutes down the road.

Although our lives have been enriched with so much beauty here, I still find myself thinking of Tennessee. I miss the mountains. This past week it hit me pretty hard. Oh, how I miss the pure beauty of that state.

The hiking, getting lost in the woods, is what I miss the most. The clarity the hills and mountains gave me was truly special.

Thank you for your service

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This picture was taken on Pine Island at the VFW.

Sunday afternoon I had the privilege of covering the Veterans Musical Tribute in Jonesborough, Tenn. as an assignment for the Herald & Tribune.

The beautiful ceremony kicked off with a video sharing the history of the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of its 200th anniversary. Although I had watched it before, it was interesting to watch yet again.

The ceremony continued with additional videos and music sung by  the Appalachian Express Chorus. After the program concluded, I walked up to one of the singers in the choir and told him he had a beautiful voice. He did a solo number during one of the songs. The appreciation in his eyes and his handshake still has me smiling a few days later.

This tribute was yet another reminder of what our veterans have done for this country, both young and old.

Jonesborough Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Marion Light who organized the annual veterans program started off the program by sharing the statement below with the crowd:

“It is a soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of press. It is the solider, not the poet who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the solider, not the educator who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is graced by a flag to give the protestor the freedom to abuse and burn the flag.”

Although I do not come from a strong military background, I have grown to know a very special veteran who spends countless hours helping other wounded veterans. I met this Marine in 2012 while I was covering an event for veterans on Father’s Day.

Dave has such a special place in my heart. I have nothing but respect for what he has done and what his visions are for the organization he founded, Wounded Warrior Anglers. It is such a beautiful thing to watch and hear his stories of how he is helping his fellow veterans get through some hard times as they struggle with injuries and PTSD. That help is provided in such a therapeutic way, fishing in the beautiful waters of Southwest Florida while creating an everlasting companionship.

Since that afternoon where we shared a picnic table at Olde Fish House talking, he has introduced me to countless other veterans who have left an everlasting imprint on my heart. I can never fathom what these service men and women went through while fighting for our freedom. With that said, it brings nothing but joy to my heart when I am given that opportunity to shake these veterans hands and tell them “thank you.”

I must revisit a memory that still more than a year later has the same effect on me that it did back in April 2013.

The moments I shared with Angel, who served in the Army for 26 ½ years, tugged at my heart. As we sat there, he shared a few stories of when he was deployed, which truly meant a lot to me.

Before I said goodbye, I thanked him. He instantly asked what did I do? I said you served our country and fought for our freedom. The emotion he shared at that moment will be a part of me forever. It still gives me goose bumps as I sit and write about it now. These men and women who join the service do not do it anticipating a thank you from us civilians, but rather because something called them to that job.

The honesty in Angel’s eyes touched me in a way I cannot explain. I told him just know that you are appreciated before I shook his hand once again.

The goosebumps resurfaced as I reread that passage.

So as I sat in the audience taking in the videos, the comments and the songs, my thoughts constantly wandered to Dave and how much being a part of the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers means to me.

Dave, thank you for your service. Thank you for fighting for our freedom. Most of all, thank you for caring enough to make a difference in the lives of so many veterans through your generosity, your vision and your countless hours of dedication to the organization I am proud to be a part of.

There were two videos that I have to share from the program.

One of the video’s was Ronald Regan’s Veterans Day Prayer, the clip is added below.

Although the entire prayer raised the hairs on my arms as I sat with the audience listening to the words spoken, these words below grabbed a hold of me.

“All we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did and memories are transmitted through words. We see these soldiers in our minds as old and wise. We see them something as the founding fathers gray with gray hair. But most of them were boys when they died and they gave up two lives. The one that they were living and the one they would have lived.”

The other video was called “Solider Deck of Cards.” Rather than writing an excerpt  of what was said, please watch the video until the very end.

I love when I am assigned an event that touches me  . . . I loved how the program ended . . . members of each branch of service stood as the room filled with applause.

Happy Veterans Day.

A smile that lights up the room

Today, she filled a void, a void that I knew was there, but obviously did not  comprehend the full extent.

A few days ago, I received a text from Judy, “see you in a few days.” I cannot even begin to share all the emotions that took hold of me at that very moment. Excitement only touches the surface of what I was feeling.

This wonderful woman entered my life almost three years ago unexpected. A bus ride to downtown Fort Myers ignited a beautiful friendship! She was instrumental in getting me through so much, much more than I think she realizes over the past few years.

When I said goodbye before Jason and I moved to Tennessee, it hit me like a brick. I cried as Jason pulled away, which continued down the road. I was going to miss this best friend of mine.

Judy always knew when to pop in the office unannounced, or just lend an ear when I didn’t know I needed someone to listen.

Friends are sometimes hard to find. Good friends are sometimes hard to come by. Judy and I had an instant connection, one that only grows.

Her smile, oh my gosh, Judy’s smile lights up the room. That is one thing I miss the most since moving to Tennessee. All I had to do was see her smile and my whole mood would change. If she started laughing, yep, say goodbye to the bad mood or stress.

Judy has been an incredible friend.

We have kept in touch and talked to each other on the phone, and yes, I could feel the smile coming through the phone . . . the laughter too . . . She definitely helped in getting me through some trying times when I was adjusting to the new life Jason and I made in Tennessee.

I missed this friend of mine.

So, as I got in my car to drive to Johnson City to meet Judy and Dave for dinner, my heart was happy. When I walked into Olive Garden and saw Judy smiling at me, my heart was singing.

It was so good to see her, so good to see her smile. If that wasn’t enough, just to be together once again, her compliment touched me beyond words. To hear, I look the best I ever have, made me smile.

Judy and I being together in the same room talking as we always have, was so overdue. It was nice to soak up that positive energy again.

Dinner was wonderful. I got to spend time with some of the board members of Wounded Warrior Anglers and learn about the continued success of this wonderful organization. An organization that I am honored to be a board member for.

After talking with Dave, I’m even more excited about being involved.

When I lived in Fort Myers I was constantly in the mix of everything that involved WWAnglers. Now living in Tennessee I hear about it over the phone. Tonight over dinner, I felt that connection once again. It felt so good to share ideas. It felt so good to see the expressions and emotions take hold as stories were shared.

I truly felt like I was apart of it all again.

Let the networking begin.

I absolutely loved having friends here. I have to be honest it made me miss Fort Myers.

As we said our goodbyes and I walked away, my eyes became watery. I had to sit for a moment before backing out of the parking spot.

I sure hope I can make it back to Fort Myers soon. I need to see family and friends.

I love you Judy and treasure our friendship.

Perfect couple of weeks

My to-do-list is finally reaching an end, relieving some of the stress that has been building these last few weeks.

A week ago today Jason and I moved into a quite little house that, so far, is a perfect fit for us and all of our animals. The picture below is one of my favorites. Lucy is so little that she could not see out of our front window in the living room, so I put something under it that she could climb on and view the world outside. Now every time I come home, I see her little face peering out the window.

Oct. 2, 2014

Oct. 2, 2014

The last few weeks have been nonstop . . . with that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. My parents flew into town on Sept. 23 and spent a few days with us before Jason and I drove them to Maryland, so they could end their vacation with my brother and his family.

I had begun a countdown as soon as my Mom told me she booked the flight to the Tri-Cities airport. I felt like a little girl as the excitement at times was uncontrollable.

I remember waking up that morning, Sept. 23, with a huge smile on my face and butterflies in my stomach. Although I was busy working all morning, the time still couldn’t go by fast enough. I was eager to leave the house and be on my way to the airport.

Jason called me as soon as I got off the interstate that afternoon and he too shared my excitement for the simple reason that I was going to see my parents in a matter of minutes. He told me he was excited for me to give them both hugs, which only made me smile more. When that time finally came I parked in the lot at the airport . . . I just couldn’t control it anymore. I was so giddy!!

The giddiness was because it had been quite some time since seeing my parents.  I won’t lie, from time to time it has been a struggle for me being so far away from my parents, especially when I was only a 10-minute drive from them for a long time in Fort Myers. The last time I saw my Dad was the day before we left for Tennessee last April. I was able to spend time with my Mom in Chicago last year when Jason and I drove to Illinois for my cousin’s wedding.

It was long past due to spend some time with my parents. I was beyond thrilled that after a year that time spent with them was at my new home. I had so much fun showing them around and taking them to some of the destinations that Jason and I have come to love since last May.IMG_2399

On Sept. 24, Jason, Lucy and I took Mom and Dad to Laurel Falls for a hike on the Appalachian Trail, something Mom had mentioned she wanted to do. The weather that morning was cool, making for a perfect day to be outdoors.

I loved every minute of that hike. Mom and Dad had the opportunity to experience what Jason and love to do on our days off, finding beautiful waterfalls. Although Mom has been following my blog and seeing where we have been through pictures, you fully do not experience the sight unless you are there taking in the sounds and scenery.

It was fun to experience the hike through their eyes. Everyone seems to take in the hike in a much different way. My parents were constantly trying to figure out the vegetation that surrounded the trail and the waterfall. Although I notice the trees, I spent more time looking at it all while hiking with them.

It appeared that they enjoyed themselves on the hike. They even had the opportunity to take in the fall scenery, which of course was a treat coming from Florida.

IMG_2416The following day while Jason had to work, I took Mom and Dad to Bays Mountain for a late morning hike. We followed the trail around the lake, which was a perfect path to show off some more of the beautiful fall colors. Mom even enjoyed picking up acorns for her grandkids . . . of course those included the biggest ones we could find.

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Bays Mountain was the first place Jason and I visited when we arrived in Kingsport last year, so you could only imagine how excited I was to show where our first adventure began. It seemed like Mom and Dad enjoyed another morning outdoors.

After we finished the hike, we went back to my place for a while before heading back out later that evening for a walk on the Kingsport Greenbelt. This was the only place on my list that I really wanted to show Mom because every time Lucy and I run the path she is constantly in my thoughts because of all the ducks we see. Since our walk took place around dusk, we saw a ton of deer that night, which is always cool to see.

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Friday morning, we hit the road early because we had a long drive ahead of us to Maryland. After being in the car for about 9 hours I think we were all ready to stand on our own two feet and stretch. I loved seeing Mom and Dad see their grandkids for the first time in almost a year. I have sweet pictures of my parents smiling, and my nephew Caleb while in the middle of a conversation. It’s those tender moments that I love to capture.

It was a lot of fun to spend Friday and Saturday with my parents and Tom and his family. I love seeing my nephews and spending time with them. The last time we saw them was in May and it’s amazing how much they grew up . . .

We ended up leaving earlier than expected on Saturday because of Lucy, our puppy. She’s usually a perfect little angel, but that day she was showing us a completely different side. A side that I was not too fond of. A side that had me stressed and rattled to the bone. She began barking at everyone that passed her or came in close proximity to her. This was rather strange because she seldom ever barks. So to keep her quite and calm I tried to take her away from everything, which did not give me the time I wanted to spend with my family.

It was bittersweet when I hugged everyone goodbye. I’m surprised I didn’t shed a few tears as our goodbyes were shared.

On our way back home we stopped at a friends house, a friend I have known for more than 20 years. A friend that Jason has known for almost just as long. The last time Anna and I saw each other was in 2003 or 2004 when I came home from college. It was so good to spend time with her and her family. So many good memories were brought up, even some yearbooks were opened, which provided a vision from our past as stories were shared.  I sure hope so much time does not pass before we see each other again.

When we arrived back home on Sunday, reality sunk in .  .  . moving day was right around the corner and we still had so much to do.

Tuesday was the big day . . . a day that started way too early and ended way too late. This of course is a trait that I love about Jason. When he has a vision we accomplish it, or surpass the goal. We ended up renting a UHaul, which helped tremendously. In two trips we were able to load all of our furniture and washer and dryer, as well as some boxes. We finished moving about 90 percent of our apartment in one day.

To say we were both tired and sore is an understatement.

The benefit of getting all that accomplished  . . . sleeping at the house a week ago for the first time.

I absolutely love living in this cute little two bedroom house with a beautiful backyard.

20141001_171845Except for a house we rented for no more than six months when we first started dating, Jason and I have gone from one apartment to another over the past five years. It feels great to have privacy once again. I cannot describe how good it is not to hear our neighbors through the thin walls, or to keep our voices down because we don’t want to disturb them. I can now play music in the living room while listening to it in my office without worrying about being too loud for our neighbors.

The list goes on and on of why I enjoy living at this house.

Sunday morning Jason and I headed back to the townhouse we were renting to clean and make sure we had all of our belongings. When we sat in the car a sense of relief washed over the both of us. We were beyond ready to say goodbye to that little place that we seemed to outgrow in a year.

Another chapter begins . . .  one that seems to be off on the right foot.

A little sunshine

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Today started on a rough note . . .

A very frustrating Monday morning . . .

It didn’t improve until Jason called after I sent him numerous texts about what happened.

Im so glad he called on his break instead of sending me a text in return. The sound of his voice did it, that calming tone slowly calmed me down.

After he listened to what happened, he reassured me that everything was going to be okay. He told me to not worry. No matter how upset I may be, his voice and tone always brings me back down to where the stress and frustrations disappear,  well subside.

Once I finished writing an article about a meeting I attended this morning, Lucy and I walked outside. Often times being outdoors gives me the right dose of fresh air that I need to turn my attitude around.

What we saw brightened my day. One of the five sunflowers my neighbor planted was in bloom. Best part was a bee decided to make an appearance in my picture.

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The face of this sunflower instantly made me smile. It’s such a happy looking flower.

Today, after we experienced some tornado warnings in NE Tennessee in the Kingsport area yesterday, the sunflower was soaking up all the sun it could.

When phone calls were finished and interviews were set in stone for the rest of the week, I dressed in my running gear, and headed to the gym.

What happened next still has me smiling. On Friday, Jason and I went hiking and I unfortunately had a good fall, which has left me extremely sore. The bruise seems to grow in size every day, which only leaves the area very tender. With a sore leg, I decided to take a few days off from exercising.

I climbed onto the treadmill, put my earphones on and got in the zone. That zone that clarifies everything.

I ran my fastest 2-mile run, yes I knocked off another 3 seconds. The first mile was hard, but the second mile my leg loosened and it became a little easier.

For such a rough start, my day continued to improve.

My childhood friend called me out of the blue tonight. When her face covered my screen my heart filled with joy. It’s been a really long time since we connected, a really long time since we talked. It was great to hear her voice.

It just goes to show once your attitude and mood changes, the “sun” will shine once again.

Thankful

Some thoughts that struck me while exercising today . . .

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Do you ever wake up thinking you have a beautiful life? That the life you lead is because of the confidence you have in yourself to make it happen?

I’m not sure if these thoughts have bombarded me because I had a conversation with someone from my past, or if I’m just reflecting on how far I’ve come because I’m experiencing the daily change in new life right outside the window.

The life of nature, if you think about it, goes through some drastic changes before new life is born. That new life of spring, and the warm temperatures that also grace this season, has spoken to me.

I really cannot put into words the feelings that take over me when I spot that new flower presenting itself on a tree or on the ground for that matter. After seeing the trees bare for so many months, its eye-catching for sure.

Today, while I was out taking pictures, I heard lawn mowers running and the smell of new cut grass filled the air. This alone made me smile. Do you know how long it has been since hearing those sounds or smelling that fragrance?

Yeah, is all I have to say.

Reflection . . .

The best part of that conversation earlier this week, is it made me smile, instead of making me dwell on the life I decided to leave behind. It’s amazing how much your life can blossom when you have the right people in your life. Without support from my closest family and friends, those mountains that blocked my path seemed unbearable. With their constant encourgement, the mountains turned into little, tiny hills, bumps for that matter. It was easy to catch a glimpse of the other side of the hurdle and continue along this path of my life.

IMG_1434What I took as genuine happiness about how far I have come from this individual kind of left me speechless. I know it shouldn’t have because he was so encouraging when he was a big part of my life. Even as discussions were had about another person of my past, the feelings that used to consume me no longer did. The only feeling that grabbed a hold of me was sadness. The same conversation that was had almost five years ago, was the same tune I heard that day. It’s a shame when someone can’t or does not want to find the new light at the end of the tunnel to carry on and see the new beauty that presents itself.

Life is precious, you have to make the most out of everything. This of course can be hard on occassion. The daily stresses of life sometimes gets the best of me.

The statement below I found one day is very true.

“Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.”

I have found myself getting better at this every day.

New beauty . . .

IMG_1429New beauty is constantly presenting itself, if not in nature, in the daily happenings of my own life.

So, why not leave the worry behind, the unneeded stress, when you are in charge of your own happiness?

That one day struck me, it was time to grab a hold of that happiness and be in charge once again.

A huge turning point for me was moving back home to Fort Myers to be close to family and friends. The unconditional love and support often times took my breath away. I will never forget those days. I will never forget how my dad was my strength, how he carried me through one of the hardest times of my life.

The second best thing was rekindling that relationship with my first love.

I will never forget that conversation that started on Facebook almost five years ago after more than a decade of time passing by.

Strength . . .

That word can mean so many different things. I often find my thoughts turning to this word as I’m out in nature admiring its beauty. The more time we spend outdoors, as well as my time I spend at the gym, constantly reminds me just how strong I have become.

IMG_1423I have discovered a strength I did not know existed almost five years ago. I owe that discovery to my family and Jason.

Jason constantly pushes me, which I am so incredibly grateful for. He pushes me in every aspect of life. Every aspect in life.

When we are out hiking and an obstacle presents itself along our path, he pushes me forward, often times giving me words of encouragement, as I battle with the “I can’t do that” kind of thinking.

I have also found a strength inside as we continue this adventure in our new home state. Things, I won’t lie, were really rocky when we first arrived. I was an emotional mess for a few months, until I found my own footing. Found the confidence I needed in the new life we created for ourselves.

This morning as I chatted back and forth with my really good friend back in Florida through text messages, I was flooded with the thoughts of accomplishments. She asked how many papers I now contribute for . . . eight in Arizona, four in Florida and one in Tennessee.

Who say’s you can’t accomplish something when you have faith in yourself?

After telling her this information, my mouth kind of dropped open. I knew I contributed to quite a few, but until I wrote them all down, I guess I forgot the extent.

Independence . . .

IMG_1421I was taught to take care of myself through the years I was growing up. My parents raised all of their children to be independent, which I will forever be grateful for.

Unfortunately, sometimes through the course of life, you lose site of that “independence.” You believe life can only be fulfilled with that one person next to you.

Although I cannot look into my future and not see Jason there by my side, it doesn’t take away my independence. We built this relationship on us both being independent, but sharing a life with each other.

Through the course of last year and into this year, I have found that independence. My contribution to all these publications provides me with the independence I need.

You see . . . some of these things leave such an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness. Often times it leaves me breathless, but in a good way, when I think about the beautiful life I have created and absolutely love living.

The outdoors . . .

Growing up, my brothers, sisters and I, spent a lot of time outdoors. It was just how we were raised. So, it really isn’t a mystery that I still love being outdoors as an adult.

I’m just thankful I have a new found love and appreciation for everything around me. When we moved to Tennessee, I had a feeling I would appreciate my surroundings a little more. Indeed, I have.

Jason and I have run into many people who have lived here their whole lives and not seen half of the places we have in the last year. Being with Jason has shed a light on exploring new places. I couldn’t imagine not exploring. I never want to take where we live for granted, especially when it provides so many great getaways only miles down the road.

So on that note, here are a few more pictures I took today while out and about. The pictures above are also pictures I took today of the simple beauties that surround me.

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A look back, while looking forward

Every year on this day, I always find myself reflecting on what has unfolded.

My day started with messages on my phone from my family and a message on Facebook from a great friend who spent this day with me last year.

. . . today marks my 33rd birthday.

Although I was a little bummed that Jason had to attend an orientation for his second job (yeah) and work at his first job tonight, I made it into a great day. It started off rather lazy . . . I called my editor Christina and she instantly wished me a Happy Birthday, which was a great way to start the day. We talked about story ideas – some that were already in the mix – and many more that were added to my workload. I always enjoy talking to this wonderful friend of mine. We always find ways to make each other laugh and provide little updates of what is going on. I’m so glad we stayed in touch . . . one of the first people I worked with when I started my career in journalism.

While Jason was getting ready for work, I opened the card and presents Mom and Dad sent to me. The card definitely made me smile, as well as her thoughtful gifts.

Once Jason took off for his day of work, I got ready for the gym. My favorite place to go, yep the perfect birthday present for me. I kicked butt on my run – and almost added a mile onto my bike ride in the same amount of time I usually do. To say I had a great workout is an understatement. After talking with Julian about resolutions – well I set goals instead of resolutions – I have added a few more to my list that I hope to accomplish this year. One of those is of course increasing my running distance. It’s time to really work towards that distance – pushing myself to achieve that goal, so I can set yet another one.

Throughout the day I heard from friends, all wishing me a Happy Birthday, which made me smile with each wish. The highlight of the day, would have to be getting a text from my long time friend Anna! It was such a nice surprise to hear from her. She was such a huge part of my life growing up! Like always, even though we have gone in our separate directions, such as life, we have stayed in contact. Now that we live close to each other once again . . . hopefully we can make that trip to see her and her family soon.

That uplifting moment was a surprise phone call from Jason between his orientation and his work shift. That call absolutely made my day, brightened my day. He always knows exactly what I need to make me feel better. We talked about some of the plans for tomorrow and just shared how the day has gone so far. I love hearing from him, especially the “Happy Birthday babe,” “I love you.” I cannot wait until tomorrow, we have the entire day, just the two of us, to spend together and celebrate my birthday.

The icing on the top of the cake was that phone call from Mom. The last few years we have both took the day off of work to spend together on my birthday. This year, since we have more distance between us, we talked through messages, until we could talk to each other on the phone. I love this woman to pieces, she is the best part of me. Her gifts, as always were right on – she knows me so well. I cannot wait to put those presents to use!IMG_20131230_171106

So after I left the gym, I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner – one of my favorites –  tacos. As I was walking around the store, I thought why not buy myself a little desert to help celebrate my birthday.

It was delicious . . . and there is more than half of it left.

This past year has been absolutely wonderful, one of the best years of my life.

Foremost, Jason and I made a long plan into a reality and it’s been wonderful . . . moving to Tennessee. We have traveled to so many places – Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, Illinois and parts of Florida –  seen some beautiful sites and really experienced life in 2013. He  has taught me how to live in the moment and appreciate everything about life, everything. With that said, the hikes to the waterfalls we saw, are definitely memories I will hold onto for a lifetime. All of our experiences continue to make us closer. Every day my respect and admiration for this man I love becomes a little more intense. I am beyond thankful and grateful I have a man in my life that makes me feel special every single day. I honestly could not imagine my life without Jason . . . he enriches it in so many beautiful ways on a daily basis.

Another highlight of 2013 are the enhancements I have made for my career. I walked away from a dream job, being an editor of a daily newspaper on the little sleepy island of Pine Island to writing for publications in three different states.  (Wait, I have to stop right there, one of the best parts of that editor’s job was working alongside Charlene. She was the best coworker a girl could ask for. We laughed, vented and just shared our daily lives while sitting in the office between interviews and appointments. You definitely helped me keep my sanity on more than one occasion. The best part is our friendship has continued.) This blog, as well as my Twitter account, has allowed me to reach people from around the world and share this passion of mine – writing. I still have to pinch myself from time to time – my writing is in print in Arizona, Florida and Tennessee! The best part is I contribute to the Herald & Tribune on a weekly basis – anywhere from two to five articles a week. I am a part of another great community, a small community of about 5,000 people in Jonesborough. I work with, and for, some incredible people who constantly help me develop into a better writer.

This is the year, some ideas will be recorded for that book I hope –  no, I know – I will publish one day in the very near future. Jason just better be ready for pen and notebook, camera, and possibly a tape recorder in hand while we are out on our adventures. It’s time to jot those ideas down, get that thought process flowing.

To say there is more . . . . well I have to include a little blurb about my friend Dorene. This time last year she was taking incredible photographs of Jason and I, creating even more memories for me to hang on my walls. We planned a baby shower together for her adorable and precious baby girl Calie in January and about a month later welcomed her into this world. She has been such a dear friend of mine, has helped me in tremendous ways as Jason and I have made that transition from Fort Myers to our new home in Kingsport, Tennessee. There is not a week that goes by that we don’t touch base and catch up on each other’s life. Dorene, you are such a special friend, I’m so glad we met all those many years ago.

Judy, oh Judy, I cried when I had to say goodbye to you back in April. In such a short amount of time, you brought so much joy into my life. Your friendship means the absolute world to me. You are constantly in my thoughts. Thank you for all the long conversations, all of the helpful words during our moving process. I don’t know what I would have done without you.

The main woman in my life – my mom – oh boy where do I begin. I am beyond thankful I have such an incredible relationship, open relationship, with this woman, who sees me through my troubles, accomplishments and everything in between. What we have only adds to the beauty of what we call life. . . you are the best!

Wow, to put all this into words just goes to show how wonderful of a year I had in 2013. The best part is there is so much more, so many beautiful moments, memories that will carry with me as I embark on a new year. (I guess you just might have to look back at some older blogs to see and read about some of those beautiful moments.)

I am beyond blessed and grateful to live such a beautiful, colorful life filled with so many new experiences. I have grown leaps and bounds as a person as a 32-year-old. I cannot wait to see what happens this year . . . it is definitely exciting to think about.

Thank you to everyone who has personally impacted my life in so many beautiful ways . . . I truly treasure you.