‘Speedway in Lights’

Jason and I started a new New Year’s Eve tradition last night, a trip to the Bristol Motor Speedway to see Speedway in Lights.

The event, which now is in its 17th year, supports the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. Last year the event raised $712,000,which helped 87 different agencies. So far Speedway in Lights has raised more than $7 million.

It was only $12 a car to enter. The nice thing about the lights is you could view them through the comfort and warmth of your own car. We also listened to Christmas music as we drove along the guided path.

When we first entered, we drove on a portion of the Bristol Dragway entrance, where we saw lights that portrayed the 12 Days of Christmas. After driving a little more, we entered the ETSU Natural History Museum of Dino Land. There were many dinosaur lights that moved.

IMG_0878The volcano was by far my favorite in Dino Land.

As we made our way through, the lights were broken down into different categories, which was kind of neat. The majority of them also had movement.

IMG_0877

IMG_0880

IMG_0882

IMG_0883

IMG_0885

IMG_0886

This one was neat, the movements of lights showed the car racing before the crew came out to work on the car.

IMG_0887

IMG_0893

IMG_0897

IMG_0899

Jason’s favorite part was driving on the actual Bristol Motor Speedway track where there were more lights.  Although we were only going 15 mph, the grin on his face was priceless. It was quite the experience to drive up the bank, well just a little bit, . . . I have to admit it kind of made we want to go back to the track during an actual NASCAR race.

IMG_0907

IMG_0912

After driving around the track you could stop and park. They had some rides for the kiddos, as well as many vendors selling goodies. There were also two fire pits going giving individuals the opportunity to buy marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.

IMG_0916

 After we left the track we stopped at a fireworks store and puchased a few different kinds. Yep, we definitely started another tradition . As the clock struck midnight we lit the fireworks and watched the black sky light up with color.

New Year’s Eve was an amazing day, one filled with new memories and tons of laughter. I’m very excited to see what the New Year has in store for us. If it was anything like 2013, we are in good hands.

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.

A few traditions of our own

Yesterday was a quite, relaxing, simple Christmas with Jason. We spent the day at home spending time with one another … enjoying each others company.

We made both of our family traditions a part of our holiday this year.

On Christmas Eve I made sauce from scratch for the Italian sausage that cooked in the crockpot for dinner sandwiches and Jason made chili for dinner on Christmas day.

My mom always makes an incredible Italian dinner every year for Christmas, so I wanted to incorporate that into our celebration. This year she made homemade lasagna, which I’m sure was incredible.

Throughout the day we enjoyed talking to our families. I Skyped with my family after Jason made us delicious pancakes with fruit and homemade whip cream.

It was nice seeing the family. One-by-one, new faces filled the screen, so we could all wish each other a Merry Christmas. First, I saw my Mom and then my Grandma who is visiting from Illinois. Dad came into view with a smile before my younger sister’s shared a Merry Christmas. It was also good to see their boyfriends as well.

We caught up for a while … it felt like I was a part of the celebration. I have to admit, I became a little homesick after all those conversations were done and we hung up.

With that said, Jason continued to make me smile, continued to bring some joy to the day. I am grateful for this man, he spoils me rotten and always has my best interest at heart. The glances, smiles, laughter, hugs and comments that were made are imbedded in my memory …

We also had the chance to Skype with Jason’s sister and family. Although it was a short conversation because of the connection it was great seeing the kids. They all became excited when my face appeared in the screen, which made me feel very loved. I love his sister and family!

Jason and my first Christmas together was spent in Illinois at his sister’s house with her three kiddos and husband. It was a great trip, one that instantly made me feel like part of his family.

After we finished eating his delicious chili, I received a phone call from my younger brother, sister-in-law and nephew. That call made my day complete.

Every year my family does a secret Santa gift. Instead of buying presents for all my siblings – there are six of us – my mom throws names into a hat – one per household per say – and we buy just one.

So this year, Jason and I had Tom and his family. We found a beautiful frame that said “My Boys.” The “My Boys” were openings for photos. So, I went through my collection of photos and found three of my favorites of Caleb and Colton. Tom and Lisa said they loved it, which made me smile. I love making gifts for someone, it means more because it’s a gift from your heart.

Then Caleb, my nephew, came on the line wishing me a Merry Christmas. I could tell he was preoccupied playing with one of his many gifts, so cute. He also said “I love you,” which completely melted my heart! Yep, my Christmas was complete.

Before the night ended Jason agreed to take pictures in front of the tree. This of course made me smile because he hates taking pictures.

We captured yet another Christmas together, our 4th one.

The perfect Christmas tree

My parents spoiled me, every year we went out and found the perfect “live” tree for our living room. That was a tradition I wanted to carry on for Jason and I.

So . . .

The fun banter began . . . Why don’t we buy a fake tree and you buy a candle that smells like a tree? . . . A banter Jason knows I will always win because he is that good to me!

With that said, my wonderful boyfriend and I went searching for a live Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and did not find anything. Instead we found a tree topper . . . well two to be exact.

IMG_0829The perfect tree topper if I do say so myself. All of the angels and stars were just too big for our little tree. When Jason found these, I instantly fell in love.

So, the search continued the following day . . . we found the perfect little tree.

IMG_0824It’s the perfect size for our living room. Now a few weeks later, I’m starting to smell the needles. That smell, for me says Christmas. Yesterday as I left my office and walked down the stairs at the end of my day, that wonderful smell greeted me and instantly put a smile on my face.

IMG_0830Jason and I first thought we would decorate the tree in all red bows. We pictured a beautiful tree, white lights and red bows, perfect right? Well, we eventually decided against it and added some green, red and gold ball ornaments to the mix. The billiard ball’s I bought Jason a few years back are also gracing our tree for the first time this year.

IMG_0836The candy canes, which we cannot eat until Christmas day, are also hanging on the branches. At first we thought Leo was swatting them off the tree because we would find them laying on the ground, but as we were sitting on the couch they began to fall. Some of the branches are just not strong enough for them.

IMG_0843Our little snowman, a gift a friend of Jason’s gave us one year. I’m excited to collect ornaments as the years go on and reminisce about them as we put them on the tree.

It was fun decorating the tree with Jason, as always we worked as a team to beautify our first Christmas tree.

IMG_0840We also bought our first tree skirt . . .

I cannot put into words how much it means to me that Jason bought us a tree. A tradition I hope we can continue throughout the years.

This year Jason and I will be celebrating Christmas in Tennessee, just the two of us. I’m excited to see what the day brings. We have already talked about making a Christmas dinner, maybe a delicious Italian meal, something my mom always does every year.

The holiday spirit has entered our home. The sugar cookies have already been made in such shapes as gingerbread, Santa and a candy cane. Yes they are already gone too. That night, as Jason and I stood side-by-side mixing the ingredients, rolling out the dough, pressing the cookie cutters and creating those Christmas themed cookies and adding some color with sprinkles, meant the world to me.

For the past few years mom and I always spent a day in the kitchen baking an assortment of cookies . . . Jason this year, gave me that joy.

 Shortly after we got the Christmas tree, we started talking about Christmas stockings. Jason had a wonderful idea, something that instantly excited me . . . I cannot wait until Christmas day!

Reflection

 

As another year came to an end, I sat in front of a bonfire with one of the most important people I know, as we watched the fire, listened to the crackling of the wood and thought about what occurred in 2012.

As I reminisced about the closure of another year, a smile spread across my face, as I realized it was a pretty spectacular year with tons of great people and terrific memories.

“Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

The best way to live is within a moment, so all worries from previous minutes, hours and days are not a part of the current time.

Some of the simple moments that fill the day can be the most empowering seconds or minutes of that day. To stop and look up at the sky and take in the scenery became a daily ritual. The act of sitting near and spending time with a loved one, or laughing uncontrollably also became important moments that were treasured during 2012.

As another year begins, the excitement grows as the endless possibilities that lay before you unfold as the days come to an end during 2013.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another year

backyard111

 

One day out of the year family and friends make you feel incredibly special and go above and beyond to make your day memorable.

Since we were little, my parents always made sure our birthday was “our” day. Mom would bake our favorite cake, make our favorite meal and do something we love on that day she brought us into this world.

My birthday this year was one to remember. It of course started out with something I have begun to love – running. To start the day off doing something solely for myself kicked it off in an amazing way.

Mom and I then did something we both have found a passion for and love doing together. We walked up and down aisles of tents displaying beautiful artwork and stunning jewelry during an annual art festival. As we followed the crowd from one tent to the next, we both gravitated towards the one-of-a-kind jewelers that had beautifully hand crafted pieces of art. As we shared which pieces we liked the most, we talked about everyday life and bonded once again in a mother daughter way that is incredibly special.

My time with friends, who I have known for more than 15 years, began as they joined me in celebrating another year. Laughter constantly filled the air as stories were shared and new memories were formed.

My incredible boyfriend stole the show, he went above and beyond everything I could have envisioned. He made all of us an incredible meal, which he put on the plate before handing us our dish. The hospitality did not stop there, as he made sure we all had a piece of dessert. Once our stomachs could take some more, he then made us all smoothies with every delicious berry imaginable. As we all sat completely stuffed, this incredible man then cleaned the kitchen, which was the nicest gift of all.

I am so fortunate to have reunited with a man who does everything in his power to make me smile on a continuous basis.

This man, along with my friends – and of course my family, made another birthday one to remember.

It’s going to be another incredible year.

 

backyard113

A day of endless fun

A house packed with loved ones was had yesterday as we all celebrated Christmas together.

The day began after everyone arrived at my parent’s house and presents were exchanged. Excitement immediately filled the air once the wrapping paper was pulled away displaying the present inside. Chatter was instantly had once boxes were opened and everyone – young to old – began playing and examining their new gift. The phrase “thank you,” which was soon followed by hugs, were exchanged in great numbers, as my nephews excitement grew present after present.

Two very special people – Grandma and Grandpa – joined our Christmas tradition this year, bringing traditions of their own.

As they gathered everyone in the living room, we all sat in a circle waiting for the games to begin. Brown paper bags were filled with gift cards barring various restaurant names, which included a cash prize tapped to the back of one lucky card. Dice were passed around as everyone had a chance to roll one of two lucky numbers giving them the right to exchange their bag with someone else. As the 15-minutes counted down, the dice were passed at a faster rate as the same couple of bags exchanged hands.

The circle of family members remained, as a new game was introduced to the family, which also included brown paper bags filled with presents. The bags were passed either to the right or the left as Grandpa read a story, which instantly left individuals with two bags, as they were not passed fast enough.

Italian inspired plates filled the counter as everyone filled their plates with mouth-watering dishes Mom created and sat around the dinner table as various conversations filled the air.

The day of endless fun came to a stop outdoors around a bonfire as everyone gathered with full bellies and smiles on their faces as another wonderful Christmas came to an end with the ones we love. Image

Christmas time

The sound of laughter echoing in the open space was plentiful this weekend as the family gathered to make new memories.

The holiday season is one that has always been near and dear to my heart because of the traditions my parents created as we were growing up. Christmas is a time when everyone gathers around plates of heavenly food in the kitchen as stories are shared about past holidays or any other day for that matter. Games are pulled out as music fills the backgroundImage to further create some fun while everyone is gathered under one roof.

Although we are all grown up, my nephews are now the spotlights of attention, as their excitement triggers our own. Their countdown until Christmas arrives and the daily update of where Ralph, the Elf on the Shelf, was found that day, puts everyone into the Christmas spirit.

Houses with lights strung and decorated yards also put the family into the Christmas spirit as we drove down the road listening to my nephews sing Christmas carols.

As last minute gifts are sought out and forgotten items from the grocery store are purchased, the one day countdown until the day that everyone has been preparing for is ready to arrive.