10 Years of Penelope

Hi friends, happy Friday to ya!

Guys, tomorrow is a very special day. Tomorrow is Penelope’s 10th birthday!

Happy 10th Birthday Penelope! 

Also known as, recognizes, and responds to: 
Penny, P-na-lope, P-na-low-pay, Punkin’, Punky, Punk, Chunky-Punk, Punky McChunkersons, Roo, Penny-Roo, P-Roo, Roo-da-begga, Pook/Pooks, Burrito, Snugga, Snugglepupagus, Lazy-Butt, Monkey, Chunky-Monkey, Tooomuuuh, and Sissy

I realize it may seem pretty weird to write a blog post about my dog’s birthday. Of course for those of you who know me, you know I’m a little nuts about animals, especially my own, and while we don’t usually make much of a fuss about our pets’ birthdays around here, ten years is a pretty big deal for a doggo and well deserving of some celebration, don’tcha think? 

Oh, but it's so bittersweet. While I am absolutely over the moon that she’s been a part of our family for ten years and that she’s in such great health, it’s difficult to have so much love for something you have such a short amount of time with. You know it in your heart all along, but then one day you notice their snoot is a little whiter, they move a bit slower, and suddenly you’re the girl ugly-crying in the middle of the pet food aisle because you’re holding a bag of kibble labeled, 'Active Longevity for Senior Dogs'. But then you come home, play fetch until you no longer have any feeling whatsoever in your right arm, and as she’s begging to keep going (‘you have TWO ARMS, mom!’), you realize just how lucky and thankful you are to have had even one single day with this furry little ball of love. 

[And then suddenly, you’re the girl ugly-crying at your computer while writing a blog post about your dog’s birthday]  

Chihuahua puppy with big ears

Penelope when she was just a few months old and approximately 97% ears

It’s hard to believe my little Chunky-Punk is ten years old already. Heck, I'm still trying to figure out how we ended up with not just one, but TWO chihuahuas. Before Penny, Ken and I considered ourselves to be “big dog” people. We both grew up with German Shepherds, and when he and I first met, his BDF (Best Dog Friend) was a rowdy Siberian Husky named Roscoe. We talked frequently about getting a Great Dane someday when we had a nice, big backyard. Yes, we were even *those* people who rolled our eyes and scoffed at yappy ankle-biters and the people who carried them around in purses.

And then we met Penny, and everything changed. 

[Thankfully without the yapping, ankle-biting, or Paris Hilton-esque accessories. We didn't go totally nuts.]

How she came to join our family is a long story for another day, but to say she is the best terrible idea we’ve ever had would be an understatement. She is nothing like we thought she would be, and a million times better than I could ever imagine any dog could be, big or small. So here's to you, my sweet Penny-Roo. And to many, many, many more years of tennis ball obsessing, sleeping in way past noon, and rides in the car to your favorite french fry store <3

32 for Thirty Two

Oh man. Sooo, tomorrow is my birthday! I'm a huge fan of birthdays, mine especially. Sure, the excitement of getting older kinda stops after about 25 or so, BUT I choose to look at aging as an accomplishment and even more so, as a privilege. A privilege many people don't get. I survived another trip around the sun, why wouldn't anyone celebrate that?! I also love cake and presents, so there's that, too. 

Since today is my last day of thirty-two, I thought I'd take a look back and share a few moments and other favorite things from the last year or so. Thirty-two of them to be exact... assuming I can think of that many! In no particular order, of course, just however they come to mind. 

1. Celebrated my 32nd birthday! I wish I could remember how, but that's the fun part of being in your 30s— You can't remember how you celebrated your last birthday. If I had to guess, we probably went to my favorite Mexican restaurant.
2. We finally sold our house. Terrible experience, but it's over, yay!
3. Kept seven, yes SEVEN!!, plants alive. That's a new record.
4. Refrained from adopting any new animals. We had a few close calls, though. 
5. Kept this blog going! It's inconsistent and infrequent, but I'm still here!
6. Saved and saved and saved and finally purchased my new camera, which I am still loving.
7. Spent a glorious week at the beach, exploring the Florida panhandle with just my hubby.
8. Cut the cord (so to speak) with my hair dryer and flat iron and learned to live with and better manage my air-dryed and "unstyled" mess of hair on most days, something I've only dreamed of being able to do for my entire life.
9. Worked really hard at being more intentional with my photography and writing hobbies, and started to see a few little results of my efforts— more to come on this very sooooon.
10. Visited my BFF in NYC at Christmastime!
11. Read at least 32 books— not a ton, but more than I've read in probably the last 5 years combined. 
12. Celebrated 7 years of marriage with B, and 11 years together total.
13. Learned how to use Lightroom and finally got all my digital photos sorted through. You have no idea what a giant cluster that was, it seriously took me all year.
14. Truly fell in love with hiking and finally found something I really enjoy about Georgia.
15. Celebrated my dad's retirement!
16. And a month later— Celebrated my mom's retirement!
17. Successfully photographing fireworks for the first time.
18. Successfully photographing the Milky Way for the first time.
19. Cheered on my hubby as he hiked two sections of the Appalachian Trail. 
20. Overcame my fear of selfies, ha! I still don't love 'em, but I no longer hate 'em either ;)
21. Got up close and personal with some *udderly* adorable cows at a drive-thru pasture.
22. Explored lots of new-to-us local and nearby places.
23. Snapchat. Yes. I said it.
24. Helped surprise my grandfather with tickets to see his favorite college team play in the Tax Slayer Bowl for his 80th birthday. He. Was. SHOCKED.
25. Cheered on the Georgia Bulldogs at almost every home football game. Even that God-awful insult of an Alabama game... if you can even call it a GAME. (We still love you though, Georgia.)  
26. Sundates with B. 
27. Crab Cake Eggs Benedict. (Hilltop Grille in Athens and Marlow's Tavern in Duluth) 
28. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In 3D. In NYC. On opening night. 
29. Putting my fears aside and joining the amazing little community Kayley is creating with The Year of the Work.
30. Learning to be more acceptive and patient with where I am in life at any given time. It's a work in progress. 
31. Slow, quiet mornings with coffee and my snuggly furry monsters.
32. Lots of laughter. Mostly at my own expense. 

I really thought that list would be a lot harder than it turned out to be! Some things are super specific and concrete, some are less so, and some are just downright silly and trivial, but I'm kind of loving the mix. All in all, I have to say I feel like I've grown more this past year than I have in a long while. It definitely wasn't all roses 100% of the time, but after several years of feeling stuck and stagnant, I finally feel like things are moving in a forward motion again. And I don't think I could've asked for more from 32...

No pressure or anything, 33!!

xo, Steve    

Farewell, '15 — Hello, '16

Oh, man here we are— Another New Year. Which I am actually pretty excited about, don't get me wrong! But after the whirlwind of the last few weeks, it has kind of snuck up on me this time around.

Looking back, I have to admit— 2015 was surprisingly, pretty great. Real quick, here a few of my favorite moments!

Lots of local exploring || Finally sold our first house! || First attempt at photographing fireworks

Camera upgrade || Us-only vacation to Seagrove Beach, FL || First attempt at astrophotography

Christmas in NYC with Steve! || Celebrating Christmas & my grandpa's 80th birthday in GA

Of course, I think the biggest highlight for me, personally, was that after several very difficult and trying years, 2015 seemed to be the year that things started to ease up and level out a bit. I learned so much about the importance of creating balance in life, no matter the sacrifice, and while our current situation isn't what most would consider "the socially accepted modern-day norm", it works really well for us right now. And last year, I finally started to learn how to let myself feel okay with our decision and my "road less taken" path and stop worrying so much about what everyone else thinks about it.  

The best part of all that is, I am [for the first time in a looooong time!] actually looking forward to the coming year. This time last year, I was full of uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety about the months ahead, knowing all too well that while, yes, 2015 had the potential to be better than the previous few years, it could also be much, much worse. This year, after having a little bit of my faith in the universe restored, much of that apprehension from last year has dissipated and I'm feeling more on the side of "cautiously optimistic"— I'm hoping and striving for the best, but still keeping myself prepared to handle the worst.

While 2015 was the year of slowing down and taking it easy as I sorted some stuff out, I'd like to make 2016 the year of putting a little more effort and energy into making our life better than it was yesterday. I'm not really one for making annual resolutions, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a small list of things I'm hoping to improve on this year and in the years to come. From taking better care of our and our pets' health [so many overdue routine procedures and check ups!], to spending less and saving more for our next home and future retirement, and for myself, working on being less fearful of putting myself out there, and deciding where I want my path to go next and taking the first steps in that direction— I'd say I definitely have a few aspirations for the months ahead. And dare I say, I'm even a little bit excited to get started?

How about you? How are you feeling about the new year? Are you a resolution-maker? What are some things you're hoping for or looking forward to in 2016? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Happy New Year, friends. I hope it's a good one for you :)
xo, Steve