Duty, Honor, Country

Ok, so bummed that America lost (I never thought I would be pulling for a tie!?) but so glad we will be advancing nonetheless.  I’m really enjoying watching our guys play in the World Cup.

So in honor of America, I wanted to share about the West Point graduation which Scott and I were able to attend last month.

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My sister’s boyfriend, Justin, graduated from West Point this year.  Scott and I traveled up to West Point in the fall for a football game, and Scott started angling for an invitation to graduation right about then.  He is Captain America, after all.  We must have made a good impression on Justin when we hosted him in our apartment back in Manhattan or this past Easter, because we got the invitation! Woo to the hoo!

Scott was in from the second the invite touched his hands. The commencement was on a Wednesday so I waffled a bit.  When they announced that the President would be speaking, I decided, politics aside, that I would probably never have an opportunity to hear the President of the United States speak in real life ever again.  And I really wanted to support Megan and Justin.  Boy, I am so glad we went.  It was such an honor to be at West Point’s graduation, seeing the graduating class be commissioned to go serve and protect our country.  It was an experience I will never forget.

I don’t care who you are – hearing Hail to the Chief as the President enters West Point’s Michie Stadium while the next class who have chosen to protect our country salutes – is a special experience.  I got chills and teared up.

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Lets get real.  I teared up A LOT that day.  I have a profound respect and gratitude for those that serve our country and protect our way of life.  It’s so often a thankless job.  The whole day I just felt so honored to be there to witness.  Obama gave his speech, and then gave out the diplomas to those that graduated with honors.  He then stayed and shook every single cadet’s hand.  I thought for sure he would leave before the ceremony was over. It was nice that he stayed.

After the speech and all of the diplomas had been handed out, the graduates all tossed their hats in the air and let out the biggest cheer!
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All of the children were then allowed to rush the field to claim a cadet’s hat.  The cadets leave money or a note in their hat in honor of the tradition.

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Then our cadet came and found us! IMG_5883

After the ceremony, the new graduates had to immediately go get their new uniform.  My mom laughed at me when I saw Justin approaching our picnic and I said, “Oh, here comes Justin in his new outfit!”

After getting their military ID and new uniform, it was time for the commissioning ceremonies.  IMG_5885

I was surprised how intimate these ceremonies were.  Everyone chose their own commissioning officer, who performed the ceremony in front of the new Second Lieutenant’s (not a cadet anymore!) friends and family.  The commissioning officer was usually a mentor or someone that they had a close relationship with.  IMG_5888

The graduate then has their bars (?) pinned on by two people that are important in their life.  Justin had his mom and dad pin his.  It was just one more personal touch and an opportunity to honor the people that supported you throughout your time at West Point – or that helped get you there.  It was very emotional and personal.  photo-4

One of my favorite touches was that when the commissioning ceremony was over, the graduate had an official “first salute” as a commissioned officer.  Again, making things more personal, they typically choose a close friend that is still a cadet.  My favorite “first salute” was for a girl that had graduated.  She had six {female} friends show up to give her first salute.  I think I was literally choking back sobs at that point.

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And then it was over! And my sister was suddenly dating a commissioned officer in the United States Army.  Holy moly!

Congratulations, Justin.  Thank you for letting us share in your special day.

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Our Grass is Now Greener

We did it! We are officially #strongerthantheyard.  We took our front yard from an overgrown jungle to a beautiful place where we can actually walk, talk to the neighbors, have future kids play and actually see the neighborhood.

Here is the best picture I have of where we started.

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Getting the yard ready for laying sod, which was the ultimate goal, was a long process.  We had to move all of the rocks.  And the shepherd hook plant hangers, the stone benches, two arches, a cast iron bird bath and countless lawn gnome type ornaments.  And when we got a few layers deeper, we found large Christmas light bulbs, a flip flop, a CD case, a lacrosse ball  and an invisible fence.

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And then we had 4 massive trees taken down.  I didn’t get a great “before” picture, because we didn’t know exactly when the company would come take them down.  So one day we had quite the surprise waiting for us when we got home from work.  All of our neighbors said they almost drove by their own homes because they had come to use our yard as their marker.

Fear not, liberal, hippie friends (yes, I have those).  Taking down the trees was a necessary evil.  It was for the best and every other plant received a better home elsewhere in our yard.  Here is the house mid-plant-migration.  The pile of wood chips on the bottom left reminds me of Phoebe on Friends asking why the “Chipper” at the Christmas tree lot isn’t as happy as it sounds.

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After we had moved every. single. plant in our front yard, we were still left with the “hedge.”  I use this term loosely.  It could be the stunt double for the forest of thorn bushes Malificent creates in Sleeping Beauty.

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It was such an eye sore.IMG_1229

Scott went to town on it.  While I did something around the yard.  My efforts were less impressive than his, I’m realizing.  IMG_1222

Ah, all cleared out.IMG_1224

We were finally ready to start leveling!  And I realized we hadn’t moved all of the plants.  Flowers just continued to spring up out of nowhere.  I did my best to salvage them.
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I will say one thing for the previous homeowners.  They took excellent care of their plants.  Everything grew back after the winter and everything was very healthy.  Twice the size it should be. But healthy.IMG_1254

Once we had actually cleared the yard (it was a many layered process) we rented a rototiller and borrowed some metal rakes and set about leveling.  It was around this time that I did not think that I was going to make it. Pure manual labor – moving dirt around – was what was going to finally break me mentally.IMG_1262

It didn’t help that it was the first HOT beach weather weekend.  It did not help that friends on their way to the beach stopped by under the guise of saying hello.  IMG_1269

It did not help that we kept finding THESE.  Gosh darn those roots.

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And Scott kept getting distracted by the machines and the cutting of the massive roots with an ax (these were actually very important jobs I wasn’t able to do. I realize this. I was bitter anyways).  Which left the actual moving around of dirt solely on my plate.  Uuuuuggghhhh I hated life.IMG_1280

But then my father-in-law started to help rake dirt (after he and my mother-in-law power washed our house – amazing!).

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And then Scott started to help rake dirt.

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And soon enough, the yard was free of plants and it was flat.  We kept that pretty, little magnolia.  It makes me feel like I’m in the South whenever I say magnolia.

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And then this past weekend, the sod arrived! IMG_1307

I seriously underestimated the weight of this stuff.  I couldn’t help nearly as much as I thought I would.IMG_1310

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Luckily, we had help.IMG_1311

And 492304 grueling, hot hours later, we had this!!IMG_1317

And now for some stats and before and after shots.  Because yes, I am that proud of this.

The side yard.

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The front yard:

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Overall before(ish):

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Overall after:IMG_1320

And some fun numbers:

  • Scott moved 500 rocks
  • Scott moved 30 stone pavers
  • We moved over 30 fully grown plants.  This doesn’t include the countless flowers.
  • We had four trees professionally removed.  They were a combined 126 feet tall.
  • We removed six overgrown hedge evergreens on our own.
  • We talked to at least 10 neighbors we hadn’t met yet throughout the process.  They all approve greatly.
  • We leveled 1500 square feet of yard.
  • We laid 1900 square feet of sod.

It’s still looking great! And now we are a slave to watering.  Let me tell you, I interact with sprinklers the exact opposite of the way I did as a child.  Now I’m running to avoid them!  It’s worth it. Now we have to focus on the inside.  Scary thought!

 

Be As You Are

Surprise! Scott and I took a quick getaway to Punta Cana last month.  And it was glorious and relaxing and everything in the world that we needed.  It was so far overdue.

To be honest, between the home search process, the home buying and negotiation process, coming to terms with leaving New York, trying to settle into a new home with four hours of commuting every day and Scott’s busy season…we were spent. We were grumpy and we need to push the reset button.

So we went to Punta Cana for 5 days.
IMG_1011We left at an un-Godly hour but rewarded ourselves on our layover with an adult beverage.
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And then we were there!  It was sunny and hot, just like I want my vacations. IMG_8308

Our (adult-only) resort was beautiful.  We went with an all-inclusive, as you do in the Caribbean.  We immediately had lunch upon arriving at the resort and I asked for a beer.  The waiter said, “Beer, wonderful.”  And then he left.  I looked at Scott.  Umm, I didn’t tell him what type of beer…. it would have been Corona Light, obviously.IMG_1016

Well, they only served Presidente at this resort.  And it turns out, I was just fine with that!IMG_1015So besides the Presidente, there was lots of Kenny Chesney, Bob Marley and Zac Brown Band on our little vacation. IMG_1020

Along with plenty of reading of John Grisham and C. S. Lewis with this view.
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Every night was like date night, getting dressed up and trying a new restaurant.  Scott even broke mold and agreed to sharing food with me.IMG_1041 I mean, is there anything better?  My idea of a perfect vacation truly is doing nothing but reading, sunbathing, drinking and just being.  I’ve so enjoyed vacations with culture and good restaurants, but we needed to just be.IMG_1045I didn’t bring hair products. I barely wore make up. I felt pretty as I let my hair air dry and I threw on a forgiving sundress.
IMG_1048We lounged, we talked, we took turns getting drink refills.  We worked out (once), we kayaked and we went zip lining.

We found spots where Scott could be in the shade.
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And we talked about things that needed to be talked about.  We focused on each other.  It ended up being therapeutic just by the very nature of just being us, together, without the superficial worries and problems of day-to-day life.  We were pretty blessed to be able to go. Maybe I’ll listen to Kenny Chesney and get Presidente this weekend…

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Our Duke Graduated

One of our crazy, fun, important weekends in May was spent celebrating my little’s sister’s graduation from JMU (James Madison University, aka the Dukes).

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There were two ceremonies, one for the whole school and then one for her individual college.  It was fun to see the unique personality of the school where she spent the past 4 years.  I could see that she definitely embraced the spirit and pride of JMU and I can see why she will miss it when she moves on.
IMG_5779My absolute favorite part about JMU, besides Megan, is the streamer throw.  It’s typically reserved for celebrating touch downs at football games, but they also pull it out for graduation.  I had explicit instructions to capture this moment!IMG_5783 Meg had four aunts and uncles travel down for the festivities.  Bonus: I got to spend time with family and not be the guest of honor!

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There was another special visitor.  And I’m not talking about that crazy dog in the background.  That is a Duke Dog, by the way.  Any man who will wear purple for you is a keeper!

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On day two of the graduation festivities, I finally had my beloved with me. He made it down a day late due to work.  Good thing he showed up, because he managed to capture the essence of Megan’s and my sisterly relationship in a photo montage.IMG_5827

God bless little sisters.Sisters

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The family.  We had so much fun together at our little mountain house getaway.  And we loved celebrating our little Megan.  She will always be little to me.IMG_5834

We love you, Meggie.  You are going to do such a fabulous job in the real world with your own brand of quirkiness, your big heart and your true kindness.  Now I just wish you were setting your sights on somewhere a little closer to me. I can’t imagine going through life without you popping in all the time. I love you!IMG_0936

Five for Five

That would be five trips in the fifth month of the year. I could barely keep up with life in May. We had weddings, graduations, birthday parties, work trips (boo) and one well-deserved getaway (yay).

That will all be coming soon. But in between all of the traveling, we have managed to sneak in our first beach afternoon as official residents of “the shore.” Yes, please. But what we’ve really been focusing on in our spare minutes and hours has been the yard. We have been diligently pulling everything out of the front yard and replanting it in places that make more sense around the sides and backyard. For example:

Before:

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After:

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And next weekend? We’ll be laying SOD!! Oh, the strange things that bring you joy when you own a home.

We were actually home last weekend and had an impromptu night out.

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I could get used to a bar where I can watch live music while sitting on a dock. It’s just my type of night. Summer is here, people! Let’s get some Jersey shore visits planned!

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