Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Countdown Begins...

I said "see ya later" to my husband a couple days ago in the wee morning hours. I'm still a bit in shock -- and can't believe he won't be home again for another two months.

In a way, I'm glad that they gave my husband a flight out at 6am. We had to be up at 4am and out the door before 5am. It was way too early for me to process what was actually going on. I got home around 6am and was able to catch a few hours of sleep again. Everything felt like a dream. By the time I woke up to work, I couldn't believe that it happened!

It was like a band-aid...everything was so fast that the pain went by quickly too. Now that I've had some time to be on my own (with the cat), I feel as though another big change is happening. I got married and moved out of New York City, but it's been my husband and I since then, which I've absolutely loved.

Being married (to him in particular) has been a-mazing! Everyday that goes by gives me more validation on the decision I made to marry him (cheese!!!). Anyway....

In the six months of being together, he's actually been TDY twice already. Luckily, it was only for a week at a time -- and the second one that was two weeks, I was able to visit him on the weekend between the weeks. He was just at Fort Lee, VA -- only about 3 hours away. Easy peasy. Get in a car and drive....

Arizona is a bit further away from Virginia. I would actually have to hop on a plane to visit. Plus, he's being housed in a barracks facility and not in a hotel like his time at Fort Lee. My visit would be completely out of pocket.

I'm looking forward to visiting my husband at the end of his class -- and having time to myself as well as his homecoming! Also, lots are going on to keep me busy too! Hopefully it will be like the last six months and fly by.

Thank goodness for technology too! Being able to see my handsome husband's face helps!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What happens when your co-worker is a cat?

I would say the biggest struggle with working from home is the lack of interacting with people in the flesh. Most of the day, I'm by myself at home -- with the cat.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that I have my cat to keep me company. Otherwise, I don't think I would do as well. Maybe not that, but my days would sure be boring. She adds some funny moments to my day and/or welcome challenges (i.e. walking right in front of my computer), but it's never anything that would compromise my daily tasks.

In general, it's nice to have a pet. I love animals and till now, I haven't been living in a situation where an animal would be comfortable in my home. My husband and I are in the position to give an animal a good amount of time and space.

My day starts with Xena (my cat) waking me up. I wake up when my husband does, but I still pretty much stay in bed (no commute!). She motivates me to be productive before I enter my office by stepping on my face.

Then, I get my coffee ready with her dashing back and forth down the hall. When I finally settle in my office, she LOVES to sleep on my printer or go by the window. She occasionally walks back and forth on my desk, which gives me the opportunity to give her a quick hug. Also, she takes some naps on my lap. :)

Yeah, yeah...I probably sound like the crazy cat mom. I'm totally okay with that. She gives me a sense of comfort, especially when I'm by myself. With my husband leaving for TDY, I'm extra glad she's around.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cabin Camping and Six Flags America

My husband and I have been keeping ourselves busy the past couple of weekends. We're trying to make the most of our final weekends of summer together because he leaves for Arizona again in just a couple weeks.

When we visited Colonial Williamsburg, the concierge suggested that we try camping at Lake Anna because there are cabins and swimming. I'm realizing that a lot of the parks around here don't have any swimming holes -- and my husband and I love to go swimming! Lake Anna has camping cabins and full modern cabins too (the kind with rooms and bathrooms). We decided to try a camping cabin because it pretty much is the legit camping experience without having to pitch the tent.

I have to say, it was a fun experience!

We were actually pleasantly surprised that the inside of the cabin had bunk beds, a sizable table and electricity. Honestly, I thought it was just going to be a shelter, so we brought an air mattress and chairs. We spent the majority of Saturday at the beach area of the lake. The temperature was perfect and we fired up our grill area and cooked some burgers and hot dogs that evening.

Last weekend, we decided to use the Six Flags tickets given to us by an AMAZING organization, Operation Homefront. If you don't know about them already, check them out! They offer some great stuff for military members and their families.

Anyway, my husband has NEVER been to a theme park nor has ridden a roller coaster (I know...crazy, huh?!). Growing up, my family always had season passes to the Six Flags in Texas. It's a fun way to spend the day together. I have to say, I'm a fan of Six Flags America. The lines weren't as bad as Great Adventure on a Sunday during the summer. We didn't wait more than 10 minutes on a line, plus the water park is FREE (included in general admission). After we rode all the rides we wanted to in the main park, we went to the water park. By far the scariest ride we rode was the Bonzai Piplines. It's a vertical drop down a water slide. Literally, my knees were shaking as I was standing up. It was insane.

Do you enjoy camping and/or theme parks?

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Adjusting to Married Life

I was brutally reminded that my husband and I will celebrate six months of marriage (again...) on July 25. (We have six months to create our wedding album and we have yet to do it!) It's incredible how time flies. He's actually been back from Korea for six months too.

What makes this six month anniversary different than the last is that we actually spent it together. The year he was in Korea didn't even feel like we were married. It just said it on paper. It seemed more like our engagement because we spent the majority of the year preparing ourselves for life together.

What was going to happen with me? What was going to happen with him? What would that mean for both of us? Also, how would we adjust to being together?

I knew we had love on our side -- and no matter what kind of challenge came our way, we would get through it together. The biggest adjustment has really been getting used to sharing things with a man. Honestly, I'm surprised how smoothly my transition to married life has been. Things are great -- and we're really embracing our live here in Northern Virginia.

I really like spending my evenings with my husband around our home, exploring our duty station and just everything else about life now. Weirdness just bothers me. For example, he leaves dirty dishes in the sink. And that's just a silly quirk! I'm the crazy one that washing things as I'm done using it. All the little nuances will eventually equalize and I'm sure we'll get used to it too. I'm just mostly shocked at how quickly things have been going!

In sad news, my husband will be leaving for a two-month TDY soon. And I'm also working on preparing myself for that as well. It's like as soon as you get a good groove...bam, the military comes down on you. Oh well, it will force me to think about (only) myself again -- and it will be a good thing.

I have some trips scheduled to my old stomping grounds in NYC to visit with friends in August and September. I miss them so much, so I'm looking at our separation positively. Also, I plan to see my husband when he graduates his class in Arizona at the end of September -- another opportunity to see Sierra Vista!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why I Work From Home

A couple months before my huge life change to legit Army spouse, I was really forced to evaluate my career moves. To speak candidly, it was really a devastating blow to lose the job I held in New York City. Despite the slight depression that set in when my former employer told me they wanted someone in-house, I knew there was more out there for me.

I've been writing career-related topics for NextGen MilSpouse because it is just too close to home. The transition from full-time civilian professional in New York City to collecting freelance/contract work as an Army spouse at Fort Belvoir has been a challenge. I could have just went from one job there to another job here in the D.C. area, but the unpredictability of Army life just convinced me that it might just be better to establish a home office.

For one, we were slated to go to Fort Hood. That was the plan -- then, just a handful of months before the PCS, we were moved to Fort Belvoir. I was already looking for opportunities in the Austin-area and had some game plans in mind. The fact that life can change at a moment's notice made me think of ways to make my career just as moldable as the military.

I LOVE to communicate. I enjoy sharing resources, life and everything in between. The career I chose allows me to do what I love -- and I wanted to continue doing what makes me happy.

So, I started to plan around the idea of setting up a home office. My husband and I looked for two bedroom homes/apartments with the intention of one room being an office (slash guest room). I continued my commitments to write for some awesome websites and now, I work for an amazing firm that allows me to share great resources to MilFams and personally connect with equally amazing women and MilSpouses.

My former employer knows that I'm freelancing and if any opportunities open up, the door is open. Having the ability to make my own schedule is amazing and quite liberating. There is a bit more work to maintain a home office. All expenses are on you and things can get costly. You really have to be willing to put some money down to get yourself ready. I went to an accountant, so they could help me understand what I'm getting myself into because math/$$ isn't my forte.

Read more about my story about working remotely on NextGen MilSpouse. 

I recently launched a professional website to help highlight some of my skills. I've been picking up on web design here and there (mostly on WordPress). I would love your input!

For all the MilSpouses out there that are thinking, I can't hold a career while being involved with the military. It IS possible! Just like the sacrifices our spouses made to the military, we have to sacrifice a bit on our options, but not entirely. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Fourth of July at Virginia Beach

Hurricane Arthur couldn't wreck our weekend!

My husband and I drove down to Virginia Beach Thursday night as planned. We booked our hotel stay ahead of time -- and because we utilized a discount, we had to pay upfront with no refunds. I knew once we got ourselves there it would be okay. The goal was to get to Virginia Beach before the storm. Goal accomplished.

Of course, when we got there, things were closing up early and the boardwalk was empty because the storm was literally minutes away. We saw news crews setting up and reporting on how Virginia Beach was preparing. They postponed the fireworks show to July 5th and thank goodness we made plans to stay till Sunday, July 6th.

Anyway, as soon as we got back to our hotel room, our phones began to ring like sirens because we were in an area that had a Tornado Warning (that means, it's imminent!). Well, the conditions at Virginia Beach from 1-2am were really bad. Needless to say, I was on edge because I dislike tornadoes. The hurricane was pretty much on it's way north and we were getting the hurricane tornadoes. After the warning went away, I figured the best thing I could do was try to sleep through the hurricane. Luckily, it wasn't as bad as it was made out to be and the Fourth of July was actually BEAUTIFUL!

The only gripe was that the waters were still extremely dangerous. Literally, you couldn't really swim in it. On July 4th, we didn't even try to go to the beach. We spent our time at the hotel pool. My husband and I (along with a handful of other idiots) did get in the water on July 5th, but we practically spent our time just trying to stay on our feet. The waves were so intense and scary. I didn't want to get past my knees because I was certain the rip tide would take me away. I can't imagine how it was on the Fourth!

The fireworks show on July 5th were nice. I really liked sitting out on the beach and watch the fireworks get launched from the ocean. It was such a nice feeling. It's really funny to think that the Fourth of July holiday is one that my husband and I have luckily been together for it in the past four years! Even last year when he was in Korea, he was home on leave. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that it would be like this for next year!
All in all, I had such a great time at Virginia Beach. I love the mellow vibe and the beach area was just what I needed. We've already decided we would come back again. Sadly, not this summer because my husband will be headed out for a TDY, but hopefully next summer!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What I Miss About Austin, Texas

The weekend before last, I was back in Austin, Texas again. Although, it's been for an unfortunate circumstance, it's nice to see so much of my parents. Since I've moved away for college in 2004, I would only be back in the area twice a year-ish.

When I was in college from 2004 to 2008, I would spend an extended amount of time at home for summer and the holidays, but it quickly shifted to just a couple of weeks a year after I graduated.

Every time I would come home from then would be such a treat -- and my trip would always end before I did everything I wanted to do. My last two visits home were bittersweet. It was very sad to come home for my grandmother's death and really quite difficult to get through -- but it's really made my think about the things that I've missed the most since leaving Texas. Besides my family (which is by far the number one thing I miss the most), there are a TON of things about Austin specifically I miss....

1. TEX-MEX -- Seriously, the food is amazing. I have yet to find a killer enchilada outside the state border. I'm sure it's just as amazing south of the border, but it doesn't have the Texan flair. Chuy's, Texican Cafe, Maudie's Tex-Mex are among my favorite places to eat and all originated in AUSTIN. Luckily, Texan transplants are bringing the goodness of Tex-Mex to other parts of the country, so those restaurants just might be in your neck of the woods. I just found out they are opening a Chuy's in Fairfax this Fall news EVER.

2. Barton Creek Greenbelt -- I think my love for hiking plus swimming started at the Greenbelt. It's a lush and green area deep in the middle of Austin that has amazing swimming holes. You can take your bike, pup, and friends.

3. The Heat -- Yes, I miss the 100 degree weather. I miss practically perfect weather all-year round. 70 degree winters, yes please. After battling through snow storm after snow storm in the Northeast, I think I've given it a good go.

4. BBQ -- The BBQ stands on its own. The food in general rocks in Texas. I love Rudy's, County Line -- and you can't forget the Salt Lick. DROOL....

5. Cost of Living -- I can't deny that I miss no-state-income-tax! Also, I'm sure I can get more out of $2K than a 500 sq-ft apartment. Let's face it, I would rather pay $.25 cents less a gallon than more.... I also think this is one major reason people are flocking to the great city.

6. Salsa on EVERYTHING -- Eggs, rice, beef, chicken, and whatever else you can think's the choice condiment for Texans -- or hot sauce...ok, salsa and hot sauce.

7. The sheer amount of relatively affordable things to do. Get your dinner and movie on at the Alamo Drafthouse...get your run on at Lake Austin...get your mini golf on at Peter Pan Putt music, it's everywhere. There is always something to do!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shenandoah National Park Awesomeness

Summer is in full swing!

Last weekend, my husband and I kicked it off with a weekend trip to Shenandoah National Park. With July right around the corner, we're realizing that our days are numbered till he TDYs to Arizona. He leaves at the very beginning of August, literally the first weekend.... This is our first summer together since we've been married -- and we plan to make the most of it -- although we're pretty broke.

The move and wedding put a strain on our financials and we want to spend some more time saving up before we do something big. So, we've pieced together a series of micro vacations (aka day or weekend trips) around the greater Virginia area.

The first of the handful of planned explorations at Shenandoah National Park was a hit! -- We had an AMAZING time! Honestly, I didn't really know what to expect. I quickly put together the trip because I realized how crunched for time we were and I knew my husband really wanted to conquer Old Rag Mountain based on a conversation he had with a co-worker. After researching Old Rag Mountain, I discovered that there were lots of other great opportunities to explore the park area! Literally, as soon as we entered the park, a black bear was crossing the heard me right...a BLACK BEAR! Of course, I was driving, so I didn't get as good of a look at it because it all happened so quick and I was just concerned for not harming the bear. Also, because how unprepared we were with entering the park, my husband did NOT have a camera ready. I was pretty disappointed because that was the first and only bear we saw all weekend. We did, however, see lots of other adorable and interesting wildlife!

We drove-up on Saturday and spent the day leisurely hiking around the park. I was completely and utterly impressed with the surroundings of Shenandoah. The park is extremely beautiful and I didn't want to leave. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to the park. Even if you aren't the outdoorsy type, there is something to be seen here. We stayed at Skyland Resort, which had such a charming rustic feel to it -- and was completely modernized. You could also camp in the park, so it really has everybody covered.

Then, on Sunday, my husband and I hiked to the top of Old Rag Mountain. It. Was. So. Intense. For real, I can't believe we made it. We weren't really as prepared as others because we didn't bring enough water. Also, I didn't realize how much UP we would be hiking or rock scrambling. We were very lucky to run into a generous couple that gave us their extra water. Seriously, if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have made it the full circuit. So, a special thank you goes out to the awesome couple! We wouldn't have been able to do it without you!

My husband and I got a complete hike high when we finished the nearly 9 mile circuit height (were at 3 miles of it climbed 220 stories up!) that we were already planning our next visit. It was such a huge accomplishment we did as a couple and we were so unbelievably proud of ourselves. Woohoo!

Then, the next day happened....when we were unable to move our bodies because we were so sore. My arms were throbbing because of the upper body rock climbing we did. Needless to say, we're fully recovered now and ready for our next adventure!

A little tidbit - Active Duty military families get to go inside every single National Park for FREE! All you need to do is tell the gate person and they will give you an annual pass...not kidding...check it out!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Biking Adventures: South Run Park & Burke Lake

My husband and I have been biking fools! The past two weekends we've biking both Saturday and Sunday. Another exciting development, we signed up for a gym membership! I've been feeling a little blubbery the last couple of months because I haven't been doing the same amount of exercise I would do before I got married. Same for my husband...we've been so used to just lounging around. A gym/exercise routine hasn't been on top of mind. That had to stop! We decided to ramp-up our biking efforts. For us, it's the easiest way to exercise.

We're really enjoying the cardio on the weekends! We discovered a great biking route that's just a handful of miles away. We would start at South Run Park and turn down to bike to Burke Lake. Then, we would bike around the lake, which is more than 5 miles. It's a great bike ride!

I'm so happy to be discovering so many activities for us to do together. The town we live in also has lots of great parks and trails that border the Potomac. We pretty much have exciting plans every weekend till my husband has to leave for TDY. It's official because his travel arrangements were made yesterday. I'm a little bummed that he has to leave again, especially when I'm just getting used to him being around! Two months is definitely better than a to think of the positive!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Memorial Day at Colonial Williamsburg

I'm spending a bit of time catching up to what I've been up to lately, so I appreciate everyone baring with me!

My trip to Colonial Williamsburg with the husband was too much fun that I can't pass up sharing it! Fort Belvoir's ticket office was giving away free admission passes (yay for FREE!) to military families for Memorial Day Weekend. After all the personal stuff going on, everyone thought it would be good for us to spend a couple of days enjoying ourselves and exploring a new part of Virginia.

We decided to book a stay at Colonial Williamsburg's 18th Century Taverns for the experience. They have a series of properties that they use as hotel rooms for people interested in an "authentic" experience (in addition to the Williamsburg Inn and other more hotel-like properties). We wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the 18th Century and go through the same things as someone at that point in history would...they boast that the Tavern rooms are set-up like how travelers would experience during the time, granted, we have running water and a private bathroom, so it's really 18th Century living with modern luxuries.

All the buildings in the area are in theme and the people that work in them and around them play the part. When you go inside the Wig Shop, the woman behind the counter will act like she's there to make you a wig or shave your head to fit for a wig. That was definitely a societal norm I would have hated to do. It doesn't sound pleasant....

Anyway, the restaurants off the streets are also authentic and we had a good time spending a day eating like 18th Century inhabitants, but I'm sure our food was prepared a thousand times safer than the 1700s.

I'm a pretty big history nerd and the trip to Colonial Williamsburg brought out my geek flag. I highly recommend a visit, even if you're not a history buff -- and we heard that they offer FREE tickets to military families not only during Memorial Day Weekend, but other "patriotic" holidays (i.e. Fourth of July, Veterans Day, etc.). I'd keep an eye-out for that great opportunity!

Outside the Capital Building.
Delicious Ginger Ale!
Our Tavern building.
The outside of the Governor's Mansion.
Inside the Courthouse.

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Celebrating My Grandmother

The second part of this month has proved to be difficult to get through for me. My family lost an amazing woman, a person that helped raise me in my home with my parents since I was born, my grandmother.

My grandma suffered from a bleeding ulcer and went through a quadruple bypass surgery several years ago. I was still in college at the time. After that, she has been battling with her age and illness. It's been tough for me to witness her struggle with her health, especially from a distance. At that point, I've been living and working in New York City, so I would only go home a couple times a year. Every visit back to Texas, I would see her at the nursing home she now lived.

Back story: my grandma always lived with us. From the time my parents were stationed in the Philippines and everywhere else till my family settled in Texas, my grandma has been along for the ride. When my dad would deploy or TDY, she was home to help my mother and I get through it. Honestly, I wouldn't be the person I am today without her.

That's why I took it particularly hard. It's knowing that her bright shining face wouldn't smile back at me anymore and I can't hug her with all the love in my heart, that makes it difficult for me to handle. What gives me piece is that she is no longer suffering from her battles with pain and illness.

I flew home as soon as I could to help my parents. It was a pretty challenging week, but I was luckily with my family. Of course, when I was home, we had to go through pictures. My family LOVES to take pictures. Seriously, we probably have millions. There were a handful that I asked to take with me back to Virginia -- and I have to share them!

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