Well folks, what can I say. It's been a crazy year!
That's really the only word I can think of when I ponder the past twelve months. We've learned to expect the unexpected, embrace the moment and cherish relationships like never before. It's been a rollercoaster of emotion, decisions, heartbreak, celebration and transition. I won't get all lovey-dovey on you, but I will embarrass Kyle and tell you that I'm SO incredibly thankful for his steadfastness and faith. I wouldn't want this journey with anyone else.

Now, let's recap these months, shall we?

Once we returned from the holiday travels in Michigan, we continued to jump on planes, trains and automobiles as Kyle interviewed throughout the country for residency. 

In January, we unexpectedly took a morning flight to Michigan. One that has forever changed me and our family. We couldn't be more thankful for that last-minute decision, as it allowed us to be present as my uncle, Pastor and mentor passed away.

After returning to Charlottesville, the reality of the impending Match Day day was right around the corner. So what does one do for distraction from reality?! Disney World! We traveled to Florida for a weekend with Kyle's family, awaiting the  coming week!

The following week, Match Day arrived!! All of the hard work over the past four years came to this day, and we learned we were headed to Michigan for Kyle's residency!

(PS. We miss you neighbors!!!)

Following the big news, we attempted to wrap our heads around leaving Charlottesville and moving back to Michigan. We were thrilled, but definitely feeling the sadness from leaving our first home as a married couple, and the amazing community we had. In April, we headed back to Michigan to begin house hunting, celebrate our two year anniversary and Kyle's best friend's wedding.

After a whirlwind of a trip to the north, we needed some R&R! In May, we packed our bags, and headed to Belize for 10 wonderful days! (It was so great it deserved two posts: Part 1 & Part 2)

We made it a point to squeeze in a trip before residency chaos ensured, but it didn't take residency starting for the stress to build. As soon as we landed on American soil, it was a time crunch to graduation. We wanted to squeeze every last ounce of time out with our friends, ohh...but we also had our entire home to pack!

Thankfully, our close friends spent an entire day helping us. I didn't write or post about this week, simply because I wanted to cherish that time rather than write about it (then I forgot!).

Honestly, I still get high blood pressure and break out in sweats thinking about the weekend of graduation. It was utterly exhausting, but mostly due to knowing that we were leaving. Family was in town, we hosted a goodbye party in the our empty house, and the moving truck was too obvious to avoid the reality. There were a lot of celebrations and tears!

Oh yeah, and Kyle became a Doctor!!

In early June, we headed to Michigan for good and said goodbye to Cleveland Ave'.

Realizing that our lives were going to change pretty quickly, I wanted a platform to write about it that wasn't connected to my business. So, I started this blog after our move!

Leaving the photo blog for photo updates only:

But that's business stuff that we can discuss later, since that has a whole story behind it too! Somehow 2012 just kept surprising us!
Over the summer, Kyle began residency, I began to establish my business in Michigan and house hunting became a much bigger challenge than we ever anticipated. Sometimes, the transition felt too
much to handle, and I shared about what the Lord was teaching me through all of it here and here.

The nice weather gave us good reason to enjoy northern Michigan, so we ventured on a wine trip, spent a weekend at the cabin, and just before the weather began to turn, we snuck in a fishing trip!

Summer flew by and lingering questions still remained (house, job, etc). But, before we knew it, football season was upon us. It felt good to be back in town and close to the Big House! 

Fall brought on weddings,  lots of photo shoots, football! and plenty of beautiful weather.

After what seemed like an eternity, things started to fall into place! In late Fall, I started working outside of the home (talked about here) and three days later we were under contract to buy a house! While we awaited the closing date, we were busy deciding on renovations, packing our apartment, and fitting in photo shoots throughout the week. Everything seemed to come at once, making Fall an insanely busy but exciting time. (That seems to be the theme of 2012!)  
I also snuck in a trip to Indy for a weekend for some sister time!

In early November, we closed on our home in Ann Arbor! We couldn't have been more thrilled, it was a journey that taught us so much about patience, needs, desires and humility.

For the past month, it's been holidays and renovations! 
It sounds so typical to say, but I can't think of another way to describe this past year rather than simply stating that the Lord is faithful. We've seen it time, and time, and time again. It may sound simple, but the implications are nothing short of incredible.
We are entering 2013 with big dreams, whole hearts and a renewed since of appreciation; for one another, our families, our friends, our lives.

Have you ever just wanted to take a hammer to a wall? Just me? Okay.
Well, just for the record, it was fun! It's also completely changed the entryway and kitchen in our home!
Before the final walk through, this wasn't on our radar to do. However, when Kyle and our bestie (our agent) went through before closing, they both mentioned how nice it would be to open up that space. The following day, that project started with one swing of a hammer.

The wall originally looked like this:

SMALL! It was only a 26" walkthrough.
This is the view facing the entryway. The front door is to the right, basement stairs to the left, and the garage door is down the hallway.

If you were to walk in the front door, this was the view..
Maizy Included.

Here we go!

Because of the electrical wiring and outlet, it took a little longer than expected.

A little father and son bonding time:

Which maybe ended up being too much bonding time due to some wires cut a little too short, but soon enough, it was finished!

If you are standing with your back to the kitchen sink, this is the view:
Again, Maizy really loves her front door.

The previously 26" walkway is now 50" wide! It brings so much more light and ease to the space!
It also became apparent while moving furniture that the hallways are rather narrow here. This opening ended up being the only way to get a lot of our furniture in!

In the lower right hand corner is the island, we'll cover that soon too! (As well as the oak vs. white trim, the lighting issue, appliances, kitchen updates and the front door. Whew!)

In the mean time, we'll be playing in the snow, sipping hot chocolate, and decorating our home! (anyone else notice the bare walls?! Yikes, they need some love!)

"All I Want for Christmas Is Youuuuu!"

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Sorry, this post did not seem appropriate unless there was a corresponding Christmas song as background music. I usually avoid answering the question "what do you want this year?" when the holidays roll around, but this year I have a specific thing that I would like from each of you. I feel a bit selfish, but I promise it won't result in an empty savings account or cause you to chase down a gift across town. Instead, I simply want to know one thing:
Do you read my blog?

That's it. Plain and Simple.
Why? You may ask. I'm happy to explain.

One, I want to know my readership. Google statistics only shows me numbers, but no names, faces or your favorite ice cream flavor. In other words, I'm curious who those hundreds of clicks are that make a statistic. I'd love to know more about you, follow along on your blog (if you have one), and understand how people to connect to this one.

I feel as if I am just getting my feet wet in the sea of one million blogs and it's SUPER helpful to know how you are landing on my page. Maybe via Facebook? A random Google search? Or maybe you are interested in a Sproodle and Maizy showed up on your images! I know, she is quite irresistible.

Secondly, it selfishly encourages me to continue to write and share. In all honesty, I started to blog because I love it.  But obviously, I love that others love it too! However, those days when I'm severely lacking motivation, it helps to know that maybe, just maybe, I could encourage or up lift someone else if I just took the time.

Third, I'd eventually love to partner with other blogs for giveaways and guest posts. There's such a  wealth of knowledge out there in blog land, and it'd be a waste to never dive into it. Having followers helps to make that possible. Maybe that is a five year plan, or a 6 month dream, but either way- having a visual of the number of followers on a blog makes it more attractive on multiple levels.

Okay! That's it. I humbly ask you for my gift now :)
So, how can we make that happen? Glad you asked- it's super easy!

You can FOLLOW over here @ "Join This Site"

If you don't use Google or Yahoo Blogger often, it's still easy to stay in the loop. Simply put your email address in the "Follow by Email" and the internet elves will deliver each new post to your inbox. Easy Peazy. OR, send me a facebook message, join me on Pinterest or Instagram, or leave a comment below. All of which is helpful and more than appreciated.

*Hopefully*, you will now have this song in your head for the remainder of the evening, which means various renditions while dancing in your PJs. I, personally, couldn't think of a better way to spend Boxing Day.
Merry Christmas!

There's no doubt that this is my favorite time of year. I absolutely love it, even when things don't go as I would wish...

We now live around the corner from a Christmas tree farm, and I can't tell you how sad I am that we haven't visited it. Our fake tree is on year three, and I'm devastated. All my romantic thoughts of cutting down our first real tree together went up in smoke. You see, the farm is only open on weekends, and I'm not about to go by myself since Kyle's been working. SO, I hesitantly put up our tree and grumbled all the way through it.
Then I purchased a blue spruce scented candle.

Once the lights went on, I was quickly brought back down to earth and out of my tree-slumps. Regardless of real or fake, it still holds some of our favorite possessions that we're given to us by friends and family. I still love looking at the lights each evening and wrapping the presents to put under it. 

Along with the real tree, I had dreams of having a Christmas card with Maizy wearing an elf hat. After I spotted it at the pet store, there was no way I could walk away without hopes of the photograph. 
Sadly, Maizy didn't approve of her new apparel. This was our attempt at a family self-timer portrait.

Now let's zoom in on the pathetic-ness (yes, I did make up that word.)

I hate self-timers.


Kyle's parents came down the next day to help with some house projects, and his mom took this picture with her phone. Oh, hey there, Big Kev.
Does it get any more Awkward than us?! Someone make me feel better and say YES.

We ended up doing random photos from a busy year and called it a day. Sure, not what I had envisioned, but at least I got someone to wear the hat:

This little elf puts it all in perspective.

Maybe it was the steam rising from the hot chocolate, my comfy slippers, the Christmas music in the background, the crackle from the fireplace or the tree lights reflecting in our windows. Maybe it was the smell of cinnamon candles or the fresh batch of sugar cookies. It left me gushing.

Last night, my sister, father and I sat around our kitchen island and laughed so hard my stomach hurt. We talked about how many stationary objects I have hit since I turned 16, how Jessica can sweet talk her way through anything, and my father's uncanny impersonations. You know those moments when you get to see your life from afar and immediately have an overwhelming sense of gratefulness in your heart? Gratefulness that just makes you want to burst! Simply burst! I've been having a lot of those lately, those split seconds in time when I'm able to step back, take a deep breath and realize how very, very blessed we are.
I laid in bed last night, snuggled up to Maizy (Kyle's on nights) and thanked the Lord. For the seemingly silly things, for the extraordinary things, for the simply things.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17

PS. I haven't forgotten about the before & after house tour. There are a good seven posts to be finished, but we'll get back to them after the holidays!

For us, Christmas is a time to really stretch our imagination. We have some family members who are a tad difficult to buy for (no names mentioned), and others who make it their life goal to play the guessing game and shake the boxes. (Okay, I do that too). Each year, we sit down together and make our list, then venture to  multiple stores in search of the perfect gifts. It's the one time that Kyle loves shopping, so it has become our little tradition.
Admittedly, we are a little behind this year. Our schedules haven't lined up so our "tradition" will put is in the "last minute shoppers" category.  In order to relieve some of the pressure of finding every gift the day before Christmas, I've resorted to ordering multiple gifts online. (By the way, I love coming home to new boxes at our doorstep!) During such adventures, I've stumbled upon, what I consider, pretty creative gifts.

We have some golfers in our family, and I'm positive everyone'a game would benefit from this guy:

Then I found the perfect gift to always make you smile. It may take up a lot of cabinet space, but goodness isn't it cute? Kind of reminds me of Chip from Beauty and the Beast...except redneck style.

Or, if you really want to do something that will surprise someone. Just buy them the moon.

Now, who in the family would like these? I MUST purchase these pajamas. They don't come in Hannah's size, I have already checked.

Last, but certainly not least:
My step mom always requests mugs. Every year, for the past 10 years. My dad has a tendency to steal them and they end up in the most random of places. We've gotten pretty creative over the years, but I think this takes the cake: The Toilet Mug.

Happy Christmas Shopping!

The sun simply doesn't want to shine today, or yesterday, or the day before that. The entire mood of the country has been represented in the somber, rainy days that led us through the weekend. I'm not sure how to write a post or move forward without giving proper recognition to the many people who, right now, cannot. Cannot seem to find strength or forgiveness or courage or hope to move forward. In the wake of what seems to have become the norm in our society, I find myself more angry at sin than ever before. The fact that we live in a sinful world can be no more exemplified than it was this past Friday. My heart breaks, but who am I? A bystander. Another citizen whose reality of the situation is streamed through newsfeeds and the television. I couldn't fathom being the parent, the sibling, the aunt, the friend of the precious lives that were forever taken. And yet, before Friday, those affected would have echoed those same words. So, here we stand; mourning, praying, hoping, reaching. We've been brought to our knees, as individuals and as a society.

This hymnal has been constantly sounding in my head for the past few days. Its words so eloquently spelling out our need for restoration in this broken world. "Come now long expected Jesus..."

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

“The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit…” Psalm 34:18

It was almost six years ago, in the same city we find ourselves today. On a typical Wednesday evening after small group, Kyle had convinced me to go to dinner at Steak and Shake. We were driving along in "BART", Kyle's beloved Dodge Ram, singing our favorite country songs. I'd giggle at his renditions and he'd smile in amusement at my 'beautiful' voice. My typical college apparel revealed that it was still winter in Michigan; ugg boots, mittens and a north face. I remember because Kyle constantly teased me (still does) about how ugly those boots were. We sat at a booth next to the window, and I watched him happily consume his burger, fries and shake. I had a few sips of his shake, but my stomach was swarming with butterflies to the point that I couldn't seem to eat. We were 'just friends' at the time, treading heavily on those 'are we more than friends?' waters, just enough to analyze every flirtatious gesture. The one I remember the most, the one that is solidified in my mind as a defining moment of when the line between just friends and dating was forever blurred, was when we left the restaurant. He opened the door for me, as any gentleman would do, but as we walked through the dark parking lot, lit only by the Steak and Shake sign, I felt his hand on my back, guiding me. That's it. Just a slight touch in the middle of my back, against the five layers keeping me warm. It may seem like a small gesture, but Kyle still gives credit to Will Smith for his move:

"Lean in, place your hand on the small of her back, say it in her ear like a secret. But watch your hand placement, too high says, 'I just wanna be friends,' too low says, 'I just wanna grab some a" 
This past Saturday, the weather was deary and provided a perfect opportunity for us to relax, together. We accomplished some Christmas shopping, then made our way to a matinee. Afterwards, we pulled out of the theater, only to notice the Steak and Shake sign lit around the corner. Kyle gave me a look that beckoned me to travel down memory lane, so he turned right and we found ourselves in the same parking lot that began, what we now consider, our first date.

We sat on the bar stools at the greasy restaurant that started it all, and couldn't help but smile at the college-aged couple in the same booth that we once sat. As the same smell of greasy fries filled the air, the same butterflies filled my stomach. As we walked out, one hand was full with our to-go bag, the other on my back. Sure, I'll sacrifice eating the burgers just for the nostalgia of good ole' Steak and Shake. 

I've been on the couch for 36 hours now, having come down with something that I am positive Kyle brought home from the hospital. His immune system is like superman, and well, mine isn't. Maizy has been snuggling with me all day, so I'm positive she is also feeling a bit under the weather. I've mustered up enough energy to write, because, quite frankly, daytime television is awful! I'm not sure I could take another episode of CNN Newsroom or Property Brothers, love you both, but I have overdosed at this point.

My original intent of this post was to tell you about a fun holiday party last week. Then, I realized that I've never properly introduced you to the people who attended the party. Some VERY important people- the 'gamechangers', if you will. I've shared some of our adventures, like kayaking, our wine trip, or tailgating at games,  but you've been left in the dark about weekly runs, dinner dates, book clubs, encouraging emails, birthday parties, dog dates or the occasional rant about residency (sorry, it's mostly because this blog isn't a play by play.)

So, backing up a moment. Let's regroup and discuss these people who have blessed me beyond measure. Before June, we were all strangers. Each of our significant others started residency at UM in the Spring, so we formed a quick bond over cocktails at welcome receptions. "Oh, you've just moved here too!" {insert BIG sigh of relief}. All but three of us had just unpacked our bags in Michigan, with little idea of what was next.

From those get-togethers, our friendships snowballed. And the more we were able to meet other wives, the bigger our dinner dates became. "Ohh I met someone else! Add them to the email list!"
I could write for days, but I'm not sure that words could adequately describe how THANKFUL I am for these girls. We've become our own little support group.
There is always someone to call, always someone whose hubby is on nights who can watch a chick flick with you, always a dinner date, and always someone who understands. That's the biggest thing- understands. We celebrate together, we cry together, we have an occasional glass of wine in our pajamas and share cartons of ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. There is a large shock value in adjusting to life in residency, and it's comforting to know that we aren't the only ones absorbing it. We can walk through it together and have better friendships and marriages because of the support we are able to lend one another. Oh, and of course, have a lot of fun along the way.

When we found out we were moving to Michigan, we were so excited and thankful. I was also nervous. I didn't know a lot of people in the area anymore, so I prayed that we'd find good friendships, and quickly! At our holiday party, I looked around and I remembered having prayed for these girls in my life. Couldn't imagine the past six months without them!

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