December 31, 2017

2017 Year in Review

This is always my favorite post to write but 2017 will go down in history as "the year of hard things."

I remember taking our little house down to the studs and putting it back together again. I SERIOUSLY do. not. know. how we survived that season. Mike had just been handed a hot mess of a hotel site at work. He was working overnights + day shifts. I was doing my regular VA work and homeschooling and also working overnights for a postpartum family. We worked at the house several days each week and weekend. When we weren't at the house, I was managing a million other logistics to select, order, and arrange delivery or pick up of needed items. It was nonstop for 2 months. It was unquestionably exhausting. Just thinking about it makes me tired. We were clearly insane and high on the excitement of our new journey. Despite the crazy schedule, I have nothing but fond memories of the process. I loved every minute of our remodel. We, hands down, had THE best contractor on the planet and that made all the difference in the world.

I remember living with Grandma and D-Dad and how gracious they were to accommodate us. I remember dinners around the table and great conversations where I learned even more new stories about them.

I remember our moving weekend. Our crew had us settled and ready to sleep here on day 2 and then built us an amazing fire pit like icing on the cake. Our sweet neighbors even fed our crew and I remember the sheer delight of knowing how blessed we were.

I remember mom coming to help me with the decor. We shopped until we literally dropped but we decorated this entire house in one weekend and it made me love our little home that much more! The very first thing Mike and I hung on the wall was my marquee lights HOME sign. It is still one of my most prized possessions.

I remember going to see a man about some chickens and then transporting 9 of them in the back of my SUV from Birmingham to Nashville. It was S T I N K Y but we were so happy to start chicken farming! We've lost a few and added a few along the way but chicken wrangling turned out to be much easier than I expected. Plus, farm fresh eggs are so, so good!

Easter was our first family gathering at the BFF and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. After wishing and hoping for property for years, it felt so good to be home.

I remember trying to go to the lake. It somehow managed to rain almost every Saturday this spring and summer. We did sneak out one evening for a little cruise around at sunset and dinner with friends that I'll never forget. I'll also remember the day we literally tried all day to get on the water. There were constant roadblocks to the point that it became comical and we finally gave up.

I remember many an afternoon on the lawnmower. Grass cutting season went on and on and on. We went from spending about 30 minutes cutting grass at our old house to 3 days at the BFF. We have so much that we cut it in sections. But I listened to a lot of good books on that lawnmower and one in particular that rocked my whole world (thank you, Jen Hatmaker)!

I remember our road trip with dad and visiting Plant City, FL where we lived when I was in the 5th - 6th grade. A lot had changed, yet so much was still the same. We also got to see our family friend, Sue. I adored her as a girl and Skylar was just as smitten. I remember going to Animal Kingdom with my girl and conquering so much! We met a ton of characters and rode everything. The street performers and dancers were definitely a highlight this trip. Although, Lion King and the Safari will always be my favorites.

I remember Easton dying. He was 13. After moving here, he had really perked up and loved to ride the lawnmower with me. I thought for sure we had at least 2 more years with him but it ended so suddenly. I am thankful that we could bury him at the BFF. Skylar made a large cross out of scrap wood and metal that was perfect for his grave. We picked out a nice, bright spot by a tree that reminds us of how he loved to lay in the sun.

I remember Skylar playing softball. Over the years we have let her try all of the sports/activities she desired but this one. I played ball from Sweetie League through High School so I was done spending my Saturdays at the ballpark. Wouldn't you know it? Softball is the sport she loves! Oh the things I do for this kid.

I remember our Summer Solstice Party. We had over 70 people come celebrate with us. Mike and his Dad cooked a whole hog. I was so tickled to be able to share our home and property with our family, friends, and neighbors. It was the summer solstice party that I have always dreamed of.

I remember Skylar getting her expander and talking with an accent for the next 3 days to cover up her lisp. It was great, and she was really good too! When she got braces, she looked instantly older. I'm still not a fan of this growing up business almost 11 years later.

I remember my doula babies. I had one sweet girl who was in the biggest hurry ever and even took us for a little ambulance ride. Then a precious boy took his time arriving but gave me an awesome new respect for the power and determination of a mother. I was also finally able to witness a birth at Nashville's birthing center. Now that I'm only taking repeat clients, close friends, and select new clients, it makes each birth that much sweeter.

I remember our car accident. I still dream about it. I felt surprisingly calm while it was happening even though I thought we would never stop flipping. Strangely enough, Skylar and I were talking calmly the entire time it happened. I am still amazed that she was unharmed and I had minimal injuries. People die from accidents like ours. I remember my dear friend coming to pick glass out of my hair at midnight, Grandma coming to do laundry and drive me to appointments, and my bestie coming to wash my hair. Our village served us well. I remember thinking I would bounce back in a week yet here I am still in physical therapy almost 6 months later. Yet the drunk driver got a tiny fine and a few days in jail. Regardless, I'm still in awe of God's protection and thankful that He's given me more to do on Earth.

I remember our Solar Eclipse Party. I still can't believe that our address was in the complete path of totality for such a rare event. We had over 60 moms, dads, and kids join us. The 2 minutes of total eclipse was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced in my life. We all cheered and yelled and kids ran around with glow sticks. Being around so many other excited participants made it even more special!

I remember car shopping. Oh lawsy. What an ordeal. We had 3 cars literally sold right out from under us. It became a running joke about how hot the used car market is. I'm a sucker for American made SUVs but, in the end, I ended up with a Toyota Sequoia that I love.

I remember celebrating our 12th anniversary. I feel like it's taken us this long to finally hit the sweet spot but it feels really good.

I remember getting Onyx. Our last experience with a puppy was horrible. I was expecting the same this time around but I was smitten with her from the start. She has the sweetest personality. Skylar made the best video to welcome Onyx to our family. I was so proud of her hard work. I'm still amazed at how easily Onyx has blended into our family and how adored she is by all of us. We almost ended up with a different puppy but I'm so thankful that it worked out for us to get Onyx. She has been beyond perfect for us in so many ways. The best part is when she brings me treasures out of the woods.

I remember our annual trip to the beach with mom. This year we had Hurricane Irma to deal with but it ended up working out okay. One of my favorite pictures from this year is Skylar shell hunting on the beach.

I remember our fall family getaway to Louisville. The Ark Encounter was truly mind-blowing! Downtown Cincinnati was also a highlight but I'll never forget seeing my girl ride roller coaster after roller coaster at Holiday World. She rode every single one multiple times!

I remember Skylar learning to drive the Bobcat. When we had the concrete poured for the garage they left the Bobcat key and Mike gave Skylar a quick lesson. She drove that thing all over the place and even spread 2 piles of mulch in the garden. Like a boss!

I remember being hurt so deeply by a friend in a way I never expected and never saw coming. Losing this relationship felt like losing a family member. It nearly crushed me. There are days that I still mourn over it. Sometimes it feels like I'm going through the stages of grief all over again. But, as promised, God works all things together for good. I can already see how this situation has helped to stretch and grow me in ways that would not have happened otherwise. Some areas of my life had gotten really comfortable and this gave me a push outside my comfort zone that I needed. It doesn't make it hurt any less but seeing the purpose gives me hope for the future.

I remember drinking the Wilson County kool-aid, so to speak. For starters, I never thought we would live near Providence, much less Wilson County. The more we are here the more I'm learning to love it. It also helps that the area is continuing to grow and more businesses are moving "out here." We visited the fair, went to the Dancing Christmas Lights, and the Christmas Parade. I even signed Skylar up for 4H. I'm slowly but surely moving all of my business out this way.

I remember visiting church after church after church. Oh my. We were so weary from visiting, trying to connect, and find a good fit. It's really hard being the new person at church and we couldn't quite find somewhere that had all of the big things on our list. At one point we were dropping Skylar off at one church and then going to our car to live stream the service from a different church. I refused to settle and gave it one more shot. We found New Tribe Church and are so happy there. I'll never forget the night that God connected all the dots of the last year and showed me that this place had everything I had been looking for. Instantaneously, I knew we had found our new church home and we've been all in ever since.

I remember Skylar having the flu right before Christmas. In fact, we were all very sick. It was brutal. I had all these grand plans for creating traditions our first year in our new home but we just went into survival mode instead. LOL! We even missed Christmas with Mike's family. But I'll never forget seeing the fullest, brightest, double rainbow on Christmas Eve. We even saw where it went into the ground. Amazing memory!

I remember being D O N E with 2017. Between the remodel, rollover accident, church searching, losing my confidant, and having all of us so sick at Christmas, I was 100% convinced that 2017 was trying to kill me. Literally. I felt crushed from all sides - physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially.

This year was such a conundrum. 2017 pushed me WAY outside my comfort zone over and over and over again. Bless! It truly was the year of hard things. But, for as much as it took from me, it also gave me so much more. I'm rather excited to see how the growth of this year moves us into 2018 and beyond.

December 2017 in Pictures

If you missed the full December update, you can find it here

 A quick and easy little bunting I made with Skylar. 
 Mt. Juliet Christmas Parade followed by Mexican for lunch!
 Gainey's Annual Christmas Party
 At Mike's Christmas Party for Towne Park
 My poor car. 
We closed out our construction loan. This little house has come a long way this year. 
Our first gingerbread house. 
 Onyx and some of the gifts she brought me. 
 Flu sucks!
 We saw the most beautiful rainbow on Christmas Eve!
 Onyx was good this year so she got a mammoth bone. 
 New Tribe Church & Heart
LOVE our 2017 family pictures!
Merry Christmas from The Bishops. 

Ringing in the new year! 

December 2017 Update

You guys. This month was rough. I don't think I have ever in my life been so happy to see a month go and the year too for that matter. I seriously felt like 2017 was trying to kill me and it came on hard and heavy here at the end. It seemed we couldn't catch a break.

On the way home from Thanksgiving, a deer decided to commit suicide into the side of my car while we were driving on 840. Thankfully Mike was driving. I'm already skittish enough behind the wheel after our rollover accident in July. But it still scared me to pieces because it hit on the passenger side. A few weeks later the back window of my car was shattered while we were downtown. The repair quote for the window was basically the same my deductible so we decided not to file that one because State Farm certainly has their hands full with my other claims right now. But I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed forking over 2 deductibles right here at Christmas time. Oh and that was also right on top of paying closing costs to convert our construction loan to a mortgage. Our poor bank account is in serious recovery mode right now.

Speaking of the other accident, I am still in a good bit of pain. I've tried all the natural things I know to do - Chiropractic, Massage, Yoga - but my back and neck are still causing constant pain and frustration. It's very wearisome to hurt day in and day out with no solution in sight. The problem with having a high pain tolerance is that you can generally function and don't complain a lot. I don't really want to go the pain management route but I'm pretty close to saying "give me the drugs!" The orthopedic doctor is only concerned with my hand. Because nothing was broken/sutured in my neck or back, it's not their first priority. Although, my hand isn't doing that great either. They've sent me back to physical therapy and want me to see a hand specialist in January. It's been 5 months. I'm just so over all of it! Hey, I never claimed to be a model patient.

About a week before Christmas, Mike came home sick. We think he had just a cold. Then I caught his cold along with something else (maybe a mild flu). Right when we thought Skylar had managed to avoid it she came down with the full blown flu. And, boy, was she pitiful. I was still recovering myself and Mike had to go out of town for work so we went into legit survival mode. He cooked us a pack of bacon before he left and that's basically how we survived for 36 hours until he returned. Bacon and Netflix is the way to go I tell ya. I'm not even kidding. Skylar was still feeling puny so we even missed out on Christmas at Grandmas. Good ole Mike went and picked up our gifts (and some plates of food) and we were able to Facetime with everyone to open presents. It took her almost a full week to get back to herself again. She barely had an appetite and would tire out so easily. The flu this year is no joke.

This past week has been C O L D and it's not looking to get warmer any time soon. I am missing summer big time! We've got a heat lamp on the chickens and Onyx baby has been staying inside at night. Heck, we've even been letting her come in during the day to warm up. I may or may not have mentioned how much I love this pup. For the last month she has made a habit of combing through the woods each day until she finds a present to bring back to me. I've received cans, jars, balls, shoes, glasses, pieces of metal, plastic bags, and so much more! It's a running joke around here right now and so exciting to see what treasures she will find. Hey, at least she's getting things cleaned up out there!

Despite the dreary feeling that overhung most of the month there were a few bright spots that I'm clinging to. For starters, we all 3 finally agreed on a church and we are head over heels excited to plug in at New Tribe Church. It's not anything like where we've attended for the last 13 years which is a little scary, but there's so much to love that we are just trusting this is where we are supposed to be. I'd love for you to check it out with us! We also attended the Mt. Juliet Christmas Parade and can't wait for next year. We just keep drinking the Wilson County kool-aid. I've even got Skylar signed up for 4H starting in January! I also got an Instant Pot, which is awesome! We had a couple of Christmas parties and we also got our family pictures back and they are my favorite ones yet. I loved every single one of them.

December is not quite the month I envisioned it to be and I'm so very happy to be moving on to 2018. We did end the year on a high note by spending new year's eve with our favorite couple!
Stay tuned for my annual Year in Review. It's probably my favorite post to write each year and there was a lot that happened in 2017.  

December 12, 2017

My Favorite Books Read In 2017

For the past 3 years, no matter how hard I tried, I coudn't make it past 25 books. This year I read 30 and it's very possible I will finish one more before December 31st. 

I was the girl who swore she would never read books on Kindle and then I loved them. I also didn't quite think Audiobooks for me but that's how I read every single book this year and it has become my preferred platform. Not only can I multitask but hearing the book read aloud brings so much more dimension to the story. Granted, I listen at 2x the normal speed but that's beside the point. 

I exceeded my goal this year and wanted to share some of my favorites because there were some really good ones. 

1. The Sea of Tranquility - Hands down my #1 favorite from this year. I could not put it down. It was a cross between Twilight meets Eleanor + Park. The author had a way of drawing you in to not only the story but the characters as well. 

2. Hattie Big Sky & Hattie Ever After - This little series was about grit and determination that had you cheering for the main character through both stories. Both books were very different and it's hard to say which one I loved more. 

3. The Residence - I listened to several nonfiction books this year, which is rare for me. But the interworkings of the White House are absolutely fascinating and this story told by the staff will amaze you. 

4. Small Great Things - I downloaded this book after my librarian friend posted "if you don't read anything else this year, read this." I didn't even read the blurb. It's the story of a labor & delivery nurse and I do love a good birth book. But that's not what this book is about. Not by a long shot. I was hooked before I realized what I was getting myself into but I don't regret reading this book. Not one bit. In fact, I concur with my librarian friend and think everyone should read this one. 

5. The Knockoff - This book is total fiction but gives great insight into the Millenial generation. In fact, it might make you even like them a wee bit. 

It goes without saying that I recommend anything by Jen Hatmaker, so Of Mess and Moxie was a no brainer. She gets me. Oh, how she gets me. 

I review every book that I finish on GoodReads. I'd love for you to follow me there and tell me some of your favorite books from this year. I'm working on my list for 2018 and need some suggestions.


November 30, 2017

November 2017 in Pictures

 Thanksgiving 2017 - Love these girls! 
 Skylar saying goodbye to Onyx. Sweetest most pitful thing ever.
 Iron Bowl  |  House Divided
 Onyx, 5 months old, 30.2 pounds
 Our chickens are finally laying again! 
We've started drinking coffee around here. 
Shutters, garage and front porch! 

November 2017 Update

At this point in the year it always seems to speed up and things fly by. I hardly even remember November. Seriously.

We did finally get our garage installed this month. That was the last "big" thing on our renovation list. It was so fun watching them put it up in the same day. We also got our shutters installed and I painted the front porch. The outside transformation has been just as drastic as inside. This past week we finished up staining the grout in the kitchen, bath, and laundry area. I'm not sure why in the world I thought I wanted white grout. Thankfully it was a pretty easy $20 fix.

I remember when I was dead set on not living "out that way" near Providence in Mt. Juliet. But the longer we are here, the more and more I'm loving it. The Dancing Lights of Christmas moved "out here" to the fairgrounds and we checked it out before Thanksgiving. When we lived in Donelson, it was literally 3 minutes from our house but we had never visited before. When you live on Pennington Bend you mainly just hunker down during December to avoid all the Opryland traffic. Anyway, the show was quite impressive. I've decided that if all the cool stuff wants to keep moving outside the city that's just fine with me.

For Thanksgiving, we popped down to Birmingham to spend the holiday with my family. We ate so good! We took Onyx with us to meet everyone while our neighbors cared for the chickens. Since our co-op has ended for the semester Skylar decided she would like to stay for an extra week in Bama. I was happy to oblige this request. Mama needed a break. I sometimes wonder who has it better. My sister who can drop her kids off every other weekend or me who saves it up and does it all at once. It's a pretty good deal either way and I'm so thankful for my family who cares for Skylar so well.

Our pup, Onyx, still continues to be a delight. At her 5 month check up she weighed 30 pounds and they are estimating she will top out around 60-65 which, really, is the perfect size if you ask me! She's still very much all puppy. Her favorite pasttimes include chasing chickens, sneaking through holes in fences, stealing trash from the burn pile, and chewing electrical cords. She also loves to fetch, pull Skylar on the swing, visit the neighbors, and ride in the car. But the remainder of the time she is chill, chill, chill. We can't hardly imagine how we ever lived with out her. Her improving guard dog skills are particularly helpful.

I was able to return to yoga class this week and I'm quite happy about that. My recovery from the accident has seemed to stall so this is kind of my last resort to getting better. If nothing else, it's good for my emotional self.

The past few months have been pretty tough between the accident, work, life, church, and relationships. Being an adult is just plain hard sometimes. But it's given me a new and fresh perspective on a lot of things and how I want to do things differently in the new year. I'm excited and a teensy bit scared about what I feel the Lord asking me to do but I think it's all going to work out.

I can't wait to get my girl back and start celebrating the holidays. Our Lego Advent Calendar arrived and I'm pulling out our Advent Devotions for Busy Families book. This combo is our favorite way to count down to Christmas.

For more November pictures, click here.

October 31, 2017

October 2017 Update

We started October with a quick fall family getaway trip. We visited 3 states in 3 days. We popped up to the Creation Museum, then down to the Ark Encounter. Both are highly recommended but if you are short on time or want to spare the expense of the combo ticket, I would seriously recommend just spending a full day at the Ark. It. Was. Fascinating. Seriously, it was one of the most thought-provoking experiences of my life.
We visited Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington over the weekend and I have to say that Cincinnati was my favorite. It reminded me so much of Nashville. We had a gorgeous view of the city for dinner and then spent the evening at their riverfront park. We lucked out that there weren't any baseball games that weekend so it was pretty chill and easy to navigate our way around. On our last day, we headed over to Holiday World. The forecast was 100% rain but we had purchased our tickets in advance so we decided just to make the most of it. We were soaked through by the time we left but we managed to ride every single roller coaster multiple times. Our kiddo is pretty apprehensive about new things and this trip was no different. But, it's safe to say we have now turned her into a roller coaster junkie like her mom and dad. She begged to ride them again and again despite swearing that she wasn't going to ride them at all when we arrived. #NeverSayNever It was such a sweet little weekend with just the 3 of us and I'm thankful we had the opportunity to experience all of that together.
Have I mentioned how much I love our pup? Y'all I still can't get over how much I'm smitten with this sweet girl. She's such a mild-mannered pup. At her October vet visit she weighted 22 pounds (up 7 pounds from last month). She has mastered "sit," "down," "friend," and is getting better about coming when we call her. It's rare that we have to call her back. She's pretty consistent about hanging at the back door and keeping an eye on things. She's just figured out this week that she can bark and has since been telling us when someone arrives or there's a critter spying on us from the tree line. I was a little worried her sweet temperament was going to fail us in the alert department but I dare say she's gonna make a good guard dog after all. Her brother, Asher, stayed with us for a week and those 2 had a blast. As did Skylar!

Last week we had our concrete poured for our garage so things were pretty exciting around here. I sweet talked our contractor into leaving the key for the bobcat and we were able to get some more gravel moved on the driveway and mulch moved over the garden. Mike taught Skylar how to run the thing and she actually did most of the lifting and moving while we did the spreading. I'm not kidding, we turned her loose and she ran that thing like a boss! I was so thankful to able to get my garden squared away. I may still put some leaf mulch on top but it's ready to sit and compost for the winter. I didn't get to garden this year but I'm so excited for my "Back to Eden" garden next year.

Otherwise, it's just been work and school as usual. Our co-op is going well this semester and we are still unschooling the rest of the week. I love seeing how creative and imaginative Skylar is when left to her own devices. We've had to make several library runs because there is a new subject she wants to research and learn more about. Every day is filled with learning!

Work has been pretty busy for me and I've already started a waiting list for January (contact me ASAP if you want to get your 2018 off to a good start). I wish I could clone myself because I absolutely love all of the projects I get to work on. I do have an amazing assistant helping me so that's allowed me to take on some extra projects. I'm also on the lookout for an intern to start now or next semester. If you know someone who is interested in graphic design and/or book design, I'd love to talk to them.

For Halloween this year, we went to the Trunk or Treat at The Glade church where we've been attending. They did a fantastic job and we loved all of the cool trunks and costumes we saw. For Halloween night, we went with our nephews to Main Street in Watertown. All of the shop owners at the square come out and give candy. Then we visited the residential area downtown and ended up at a little church with games, hot dogs, and chili. It really was the neatest experience. So many of the houses were decorated and it had such a small town feel. We enjoyed it very much! Our girl dressed as Batman this year!

That's about it for October. Excited to see what November holds!

More October pictures here.