Archive of ‘Familia’ category

How We Vacation: Charleston

By Natalie

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Who’s idea was it to vacation in Charleston in this blazing heat?? Surely we weren’t thinking clearly when we pushed our trip from May to June.

Hot, muggy, beautiful Charleston,

Thanks for the tan.

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imageThis trip was actually amazing now that I’ve had a moment to think about it. We like to vacation with no particular plan in mind. No scheduled tours, no itinerary, just a handful of bookmarked Yelp found eateries, and places we might like to see.

Which works out pretty well for our personalities.

We revisited an Inn in Mt. Pleasant which perfectly sat us twelve minutes from downtown Charleston, and twelve minutes from Isle of Palms Beach in the other direction. We stayed at this inn for our 1 year anniversary and loved it so much we decided to go back, and I’d highly recommend! Three years later and this place still had an amazing breakfast, and wonderful service.

imageAlso, this cooler bag is a must.

Through my sunglasses I watched as a younger couple argued in the sand. The man stood red faced next his cooler on wheels, as the woman pointed toward the shore. “Look, right over there.” She said.

“If we just sit it on the packed wet sand, it’ll be fine.”

The man shook his head, clearly annoyed with beads of sweat rolling down his temple. “No, no no.. this thing’s gonna tip. I don’t know why we brought it.”

And yea, unless I was providing a beach lunch for a crowd, I’d have left the rolling cooler behind too.

This ↓ thermal bag is a much more practical option. To be honest I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. Thinking it’d solely get it’s use from the occasional picnic. But it’s proven to be great for the beach, (as seen previously here) and road trips too. It fits a few ice packs, and several tall drinks. Plus.. it’s personalized.

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This is my Could we pretty please stop by that cute Cafe a few blocks up? face. Cause I was getting pretty sun tired. image

I know, I know. Rainbow Row. It’s beautiful, it’s iconic. It’s a see it once, take a pano, and move along kind of place. We’re the type of people who drove across the golden gate bridge, took a few pics from inside the car, and zipped by the vistapoint. Cause.. the experience had been had. I saw the golden gate bridge for the first time. The moment was over as quickly as it came. It wasn’t going to do a backflip for me. It just was what it was. This magnificent structure that I had the privilege to see. And that was that.

Later, during that trip B and I had lunch at a restaurant near the harbor. The fog had cleared, and the top of the golden gate was just becoming visible. I peaked around Brandon to see the bridge standing ahead.

I remember the bridge pretty well.. but what’s much more vivid in my memory is that moment spent with Brandon. That moment where we sat together discussing all the new sights we were seeing.

I had the same experience when I went to Europe with my sister. We sat at a table outside a cafe in the middle of Athens. And just to the left of Nem’s head sat the Parthenon. It was such a surreal moment. We saw it up close. We toured it, and then there it sat in all it’s ruin, while Nem and I sipped our iced coffees. The parthenon was pretty fantastic, but so was the time we spent together. Attempting to thank our waiter in Greek.

We saw the trevi fountain together, and I remember it being crowded. Everyone scrambling to toss their coin in, and get a picture. I remember that we hung back, stepped into a gelato shop instead, and devoured the creamiest italian gelato with the fountain in our peripherals.

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I like keeping it that way. Spotting landmarks, and stealing a moment to take them in, and then focus on the person I’m sharing in that moment with. That’s what it’s all about for me.

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After rainbow row, we hit up Carmella’s. The doors were wide open inviting us inside to the cooler air. The menu had italian ice listed at the top. Sold. After tasting a sampling of Coconut Cream I COULD NOT turn it down.

The woman behind the counter asked if we’d like a glass of water to which we exasperatingly replied. “Please, yes, please, thank you so much.” Because we sweat gallons this trip, and being dehydrated makes you cranky, and no one wants a cranky spouse on vacation.

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Rosy cheeks, and happy. That’s what we were going for.

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p.s. How can my husband still look so manly while eating tangerine italian ice with a baby spoon?

I love him.imageAnd that’s how our trip went. Perfectly relaxing, and restoring. With a pleasant overdose of Vitamin D.


Life Lately…

By Natalie

2015 is rolling right along, and so much has grabbed my attention, that I thought I’d give you a quick recap of Life Lately. Hang with me, we’re goin fast!

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My beautiful sister Nadir gave birth to her first born last month! I’m amazed by my sister’s strength, and overwhlemed with the beauty of a woman’s ability to go through pregnancy, and childbirth! It’s alot of work to bring life into the world! I was so excited to visit just a couple days later to share in their blessing.

imageNorah did not dissappoint. She’s pretty stinking adorable, and she’s leaving the whole family smitten with love for her. Passing down my crown of being the youngest isn’t half bad.

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School is almost out! Which means I get to see more of this cool kid ↓↓

Bring on the summertime fun!

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If you follow me on Instagram you know I found the best Farmer’s Market ever!  On Saturday I excused  myself past people to grab a giant 34 cent carrot.. Have I grown up, or have I grown up?

My first visit I stood over baskets of strawberries with giddiness in my eyes, because those strawberries were tantalizingly bright red, and gorgeous. After the man who proudly grew them noticed I was interested he said, “Go ahead and try them there strawberries.” Tickled by his accent, and guiltlessly wanting a taste I picked up a little red guy and bit just below the green. And it.. was.. the best dang strawberry I’ve ever tasted.

The next week when I asked B to tag along he insited we grab a cantaloupe. But once we got to the pile we stared at the cantaloupe, and then at eachother. How do you pick a good cantaloupe? There’s so many rules to ripeness.. how will I possibly remember them all? This one’s too green.. this one’s too hard.. this one doesn’t smell strong enough.

“I think you smell the butt.” I said to B.

To which he replied. “But they all smell so good.”

“Whenna you gonna cut it?” An older man asked, noticing we were in need of assistance.

“Umm probably today.” I said. Then he proceeded to grab at the cantaloupe, and handed us a good one, and moved on. And it was a GOOD one.

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Cherries just like the ones we’d pick off of the tree when I was little. How could I pass that up?

When I was 2 or 3 I’d galavant through the backyard with cherries in hand, and when my mom asked me what they were I’d say “Gwapes” and she’d say “They’re Cherries!”

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Plants!!! call me crazy, but I had no idea there’d be more than produce, and fresh flowers at the farmer’s market. I stared at an oversized pot full of Elephant Ears as tall as I am, for 10 minutes. Deliberating… Because, I really, really, wanted those guys in my home. But, I settled for a hanging pot of succulents to accompany the bedroom window. And really, can you go wrong with succulents?

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Speaking of plants…

I found this precious nursery not too far from where I work. imageI wasn’t expecting too much, but once I walked in I followed the sign for houseplants, and I stepped into this beautiful haven. Mhmm I’ll take one of each pretty please.


During a casual Wednesday morning trip to Jo-Ann’s with little Grant I spotted this fabric, and could not get over how it had our entire living room color scheme. After getting a couple feet cut for a bunting I grabbed some matching bias tape, and whipped out my coupons. Because Jo-Ann’s ALWAYS has coupons. Total for this DIY was five dollars! [And lots of leftover scrap fabric for other projects.]image

When I got home I popped in an old musical, and got to tracing, cutting, and sewing.

Since we’re living in a rental I’ve been using as many Command hooks as possible to avoid holes in the wall, and it hasn’t been too big a deal aside from the fact that I miss our curtains. But this bunting has been a stunning alternative!

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In case you wondered..

Bingley wanted to say hello.

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Oh! And I thought you’d like this pretty decent little drawing we spotted on our table at Mama’s Coffeehouse. image

Life’s been pretty sweet huh?

Giving a Voice to an Invisible Illness

By Natalie

Since my sister Nem’s diagnosis with Lupus I’ve been wanting to chat with her about her daily struggles, in order to share her words to give friends and family a better understanding of what she is going through.

During a recent trip to Fredericksburg we finally had a free moment to talk over breakfast about her life with Lupus, and what she so simply descibes as her new normal.

This woman I spoke to, she’s another version of the sister I grew up with. In some ways I’m reminded she’s the same, but mostly she’s different. She’s tough, she’s disciplined, she’s faithful, and she isn’t going to let any old illness take control over her life no matter how extreme it attacks her body. No matter how invisible.

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When were you diagnosed with Lupus, and what was your immediate reaction?

On September 24th 2012 I was diagnosed with Lupus as a primary disease, & Sjogren’s Syndrome as a secondary disease. The doctor told me on the phone that I had a positive ANA test which meant that I had autoimmune activity going on in my body. I went to a Rheumatologist for more blood work, and she told me I had Lupus and Sjogren’s.

I immediately started taking PlaquenilA common Lupus medication. My initial reaction after the diagnosis was shock. Sean called while I was in the pharmacy waiting on my prescription. He asked how the visit went. It wasn’t until that moment that it hit me, and I just started crying when I told him I was diagnosed with lupus.

What are typical daily tasks that you find yourself unable to do?

I have good days and bad days. After 2.5 years on medication, several detox diets, and learning to listen to my body, it’s gotten better. At first, I wasn’t able to complete my Saturday morning routines of running errands and cleaning my home, I had to discontinue rigorous exercise, and I often wasn’t able to make it through a work day. 
My new “normal” requires that I actively listen to my body and rest when needed so I don’t wear myself out. I need to get plenty of sleep and reduce stress as much as possible. If I don’t, my body will go in shut down mode, leaving me unable to do anything. I’m always reminded that Lupus is there even when I pretend it isn’t. Whenever I push myself, I always pay the price.

I was devastated because I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle by working out and watching what I eat, but my efforts couldn’t have prevented what was going on in my body. I didn’t do anything to cause this, it just happened and there was nothing I could do about my body attacking itself. I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis after months of not feeling like myself, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional distress that it caused. I soon became depressed and continually grieved for my old life. I would see people on social media living their lives (fun outings, working out, etc…) and I made myself miserable by comparing myself to others. People were doing what they wanted to do while I felt helpless and unable to live my life fully because my body simply wouldn’t allow me.

What is your body feeling at those times when you’re helpless in need of rest?

One of the big issues of life with lupus is its unpredictable nature, meaning one day I can feel like my old self, and the next I just want to stay curled up in bed all day with extreme fatigue. It’s not like a sleepy or tired fatigue, but one of weakness. Like when you have the flu, and your whole body feels heavy and achy. I also get joint pain in my arms, wrists, hands, and legs accompanied by muscle aches. This discomfort and weakness has left me unable to walk at times. It can make my body feel so tired that I sometimes just want to cry at the thought of doing one more thing, or meeting one more obligation. I’ve also experienced nausea, GI issues, insomnia, and frequent migraines.

A flare can happen at any time and be brought on by a variety of triggers. It could be a busy weekend, eating certain foods, staying up too late too often, stress or long hours of work can eventually trigger a flare. Other times, it seems to happen for no apparent reason at all. It can be mild or severe, and it’s impossible to tell which it’s going to be from the outset of an attack.

As there is no current cure for Lupus how much medication are you required to take daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Right now I take 16 pills a day including supplements to keep my immune system up. I take medications to manage joint and muscle pain associated with Lupus flare ups.

About six months after my initial Lupus diagnosis I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I take medication for that as well.

How has your diet changed since your diagnosis?

A stricter diet has significantly added to our grocery bill. I eat raw and organic as much as possible with very limited amounts of processed foods.

How have people treated you since you were diagnosed?

At work, my coworkers have united in supporting me in every way possible. Being an elementary school teacher I have to walk my class to their encore classes, lunch, and recess. Teachers in my grade level have walked my class to and from these places, written sub plans when I couldn’t make it through a day, and my principal has even driven me home a number of times when I felt unable to walk.

I’ve really realized I have such an incredible support system. I know my family prays for me a lot, and checks up on me, and wants to know how I’m doing. Several months after I was diagnosed when you signed us all up for the lupus walk in D.C., that was a really big deal to me.

The love box. (A box full of goodies, homemade creations, and encouraging words Nadir and I put together each month.) Means so much to me.

How has it affected your marriage?

A few months after my diagnosis, Sean and I had the biggest disagreement we’ve ever had. I was frustrated as we discussed the delay in our plans of starting a family due to my illness. I was still processing my feelings and was angry that our plans had to change, but I didn’t realize I was taking it out on Sean until he said “I’m not the enemy here. Whatever you need, I’m here no matter what! We need to take care of you right now and worry about this later.”

He cooks and does a lot more housework since I’m not always physically able to handle it all anymore. He’s understanding, and encouraging when I’m feeling down or thinking it’s going to be this hard forever. He reminds me that “It’s just a bad day. We’re going to get through it and soon we’ll be celebrating a good day.” He also does a good job of communicating with me about my physical and emotional state. Because it’s an invisible illness, he can’t always tell if I’m trying to tough it out and so he always asks how I’m doing. 
He is helpful, often reminds me that he loves and supports me, has a positive attitude and his hobbies serve as an outlet that keeps him balanced which is good for both of us.

How do you feel it has affected your family and coworkers?

I think it’s made my family sad. I think it’s made my family feel helpless. But at the same time I think it’s also given my family the opportunity to love on me.
My coworkers feel helpless also, and it means alot to me when they offer to walk my kids to specials, or lunch. When they ask me how I am. For them to offer their support makes them feel like they can do something. Sometimes I don’t know what to tell my family I need. That’s why the love box is meaningful. Sometimes all I need is an encouraging word. Acknowledging that I look ok on the outside but not on the inside.
I take it one day at a time.


Nem and I also got a chance to chat about what she’s learned with Lupus, her future, and what she wishes people understood about her illness.

Stay tuned for that post coming soon!

Playing House

By Natalie

imageEvery Friday morning I grab my reusable bags from the pantry, and go grocery shopping. The other Friday as I was pushing my cart through the deli I took notice of some long stemmed Calla Lillies, and I toyed with the idea of purchasing them, in honor of Spring. But then I saw some white tulips. And the tulips look marvelous this time of year. Don’t you think?

The same thing happened in the bakery, where I couldn’t decide if I wanted the vanilla almond biscotti, or the rasberry coffee cake. And it hit me. This feels a lot like playing house. I pick and choose the food that comes into our home. I also spend hours contemplating which beautiful things are complementary to our home, adding comfort, and style to make the space feel more unique to us.

After taking the Christmas decorations down in January I couldn’t bare staring at the empty spaces that were left behind. That’s when I decided to decorate through the seasons. Just a few things here and there so our living room gets fresh scenery, and I am reminded that change, and the passing of seasons in life is something to look forward to.

I sewed a pink and red polka dot bunting for our window in February… Tossed a speckled easter egg garland on the mantle for spring, with a fabric stuffed goose seated at the edge. Switched out the fall leaves welcome sign, for a dandelion one… I repot my plants, so they grow into the healthy living beauties they are. Wash the throw blankets often so they feel worn, and puff out freshness with every fluff.

I saw a picture on Brandon’s phone of Bingley laying in the middle of the living room. Our colorful pillows were tossled on the couch, and our houseplants sat beautifully green on the windowsill… And I wondered if he was glad that I cared to make our home cozy, and inviting. I wondered if he noticed I try my hardest to make our life beautiful… That I care so much about the little things.

A few Saturdays ago I awoke to find Brandon laying on the couch downstairs. Bingley laid on the floor near his head, knowing that his friend was unwell, and in need of company.

B lay there, pale, and exausted. I sat down next to him, already feeling the heat radiating from his body, and I placed my hand on his forehead. “I have a fever.” He said. To which I nodded. Poor hubs woke early with that fever and slept downstairs to be surrounded by cooler air. After taking some over the counter meds the past few days, and still feeling crummy with a fever we thought it best to run to the doctor, just to be sure there wasn’t something worse than a cold or allergies going on.

This was our first doctor visit since living in this new town, so B sat for a few minutes filling out his new patient paperwork.

“Here can you sign this release of information form?” He said handing me the clipboard. “Where it says spouse.”

I took the pen in my hand and signed my name, looking at the form over and over. Spouse. It still seems crazy to me. That word. I’m his spouse. The one who plans the food he’s going to eat every week. The one who washes the sheets with the fabric softener he loves. The one who greets him every morning. The one who takes him to the doctor when he’s sick. The one he’s chosen to share his life with…

This isn’t just playing house anymore. This is the real deal. Every day, every night.

At church this morning Pastor Steven asked what we’re still leaning on from our old understanding. And I thought about how much I self destruct, and wait for things to crumble as they have in the past. Pushing up my guard before anyone could possibly get to me to hurt me. But then… no one gets to me either, including my spouse. Who I’m not just playing house with anymore. We’re living life alongside eachother. The best way I could make sense of all this was to jot it down. Read over and over again that we’re in this for the long haul. No matter what my former understanding of love was, and no matter what my past experiences have been. I have a new ability, and strength in love, and I’m ready to start believing in it.

On Marrying Young

By Natalie

imageI’m not sure I would reccomend marrying young to just anyone. Because it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s not because I regret marrying at nineteen by any means, I just think that we are a rare commodity. I tell people I’m married and their eyebrows go up. “Oh Newlywed huh.” They’ll say. To which I respond. “Actually coming up on four years.” Then their eyes pop, and the jaws literally drop in disbelief. It’s pretty fun to watch. There are so many great benefits to marrying young. For us specifically it’s been an adventure. A bit of a financial roller coaster at first, in which Brandon was working freelance, and we were eating a whole lotta hot dogs for dinner. But then we just kept moving forward. And we’ve grown into responsible tax paying adults together. You see we hopped in the same car, and kept on the same track with the same goal. That’s the benefit to marrying young. To begin adulthood with similar expectations and share the same end goal, enjoying life all along the way.

But Brandon was not your average twenty-one year old guy. And I was no regular nineteen year old girl.

In addition to being madly in love with a man of God, this is why I was ready…

I can’t tell you that I had a bad childhood. Because I did learn how to ride a bike. Sort of… with training wheels. I can ride a bike about as well as I can swim. Which is not great. My dad gave me a grand total of like two lessons and I never quite mastered either of those. I did however manage to master climbing the overgrown holly tree in our backyard. I made mud pies by the deck when my mom wasn’t looking. Scarfed down my easy bake oven creations like they were the best dang brownies I’d ever tasted. I played teacher, and house and the occasional secretary. Who played secretary? Clipboards and all? I had big dreams.

So yes, I had a childhood. I remember it being whimsical and I remember it being fun. But once I hit about eighth grade, I had to learn to fend for myself. My sisters were working and my mom was working. They weren’t always around to be sure I finished all my homework, or ate my vegetables. Well… I shouldn’t pretend like I was all on my own. Nem definitely completed a few science fair projects for me, and Nadir definitely helped me get through some books I needed to write reports on. But once they moved out I was left making my own dinners and caring for myself until my mom got home late from work. Being raised in a single parent home leaves you fending for yourself a lot. This is in no way to say that my mom should have been there. Cause that’s just a whole other rabbit hole. My Dad should have been a better man and been there. Sometimes I wonder if I should write stuff like that and then I decided that I own my stories. I hope people understand that if you want to be spoken of highly, maybe you should treat people in a way to be spoken highly of. They shouldn’t have to tiptoe around your words or actions. You should have acted better. You should have thought about the weight of your words before you spoke them.

I’m not saying that my mother could have done better. I am who I am today because I had to figure things out for myself. I didn’t have parents to fall back on or mooch off of. I learned to make my own decisions. My own meals. Suffer the consequences of not completing my homework when no one made me do it the night before. Now I realize how many things must have been on my mother’s mind. She wasn’t worried about holding my hand while I finished my algebra. She was too busy figuring out how to put food on the table and pay rent. She trusted me to be her helper and fend for myself in the areas I was capable. I can’t wait to have my own children and be faced with the challenges she was able to face alone. How much stronger will she seem to me then when I have Brandon by my side?

If you don’t believe in prayer you haven’t met my family. You haven’t met my sisters, and our husbands that my mom prayed for since we were small. That we would love, and care for husbands who were good men, ones who sought satisfaction in their own wives, and never needed to look any further. It’s amazing to think that my mom prayed for Brandon before I could make logical decisions. Do you realize the importance of that? As a product of her prayer I can tell you I’m eternally grateful. Thanks mom. It worked.

My Future Little Ones…

By Natalie

imageLately we’ve been talking alot about you tinies. Little things like what names we’ll give to you, and when would be best to bring you into this world. And though it’s still a long way off, these discussions have made my heart more than content. They’ve given me a purpose to better myself, and enjoy a childless marriage while it lasts. Cause once you’re here we’ll be parents forever. We’ve been striving these past almost four years to prepare ourselves to be everything you need. Making a home for you that has love spilling out of the walls, and family written all over it.

What will it be like when we see you for the first time? What will it feel like to have you grow inside me? What will it feel like if I find for some reason that you’re unable to grow inside me? Will your eyes be brown, or will they be green? Will you be born healthy? What if you’re not? What will our marriage look like when you’ve kept us awake at night? What will our home look like after you’ve arrived?

Oh, but you… We’ve waited for you. We’ve learned how to care for one another, how to read one another, so that when you come as this little bundle of joy with no user manual we can figure it out together. As your parents, who have come to figure out so many other blessings and challenges. And you know what I think? I think you’re going to make us more in love with eachother. You’re going to stretch us. You’re going to push us into becoming better people as we have done already in our marriage. You’re going to teach us how to love deeper, and sacrifice more. You’re going to show us the beauty of God’s love through being your parents. Perhaps I need that to be written down here for future reference. When you are crying, and I’m stumped by what may be bothering you. Or a while down the road when we’re no longer your heros, but embarassing parents. Will we be embarassing parents? We’ve asked ourselves that, and convinced ourselves that we certainly would not be.. I wonder if you will one day think differently.

Some pressume you’ll be like your cousins. Spitting up, when we thought for sure there was nothing left to spit up. Exhausting us, and asking us to fall in love with you through your fussiness. I have a feeling they’ll be right. But that’s ok sweet babies. Because you’ll be ours. If I have learned to love all of the little quirks about my husband, and he has learned to love the little quirks about me, we must learn to love all of the little quirks about you. Because with us as your parents, you’re bound to have quirks.

We’re going to break each other, and mold eachother. We’re going to be a family.

Until then tiny ones, all that we do will be in preparation for you.

To My Sisters

By Natalie

imageIt’s been six months since we’ve built a new life for ourselves in NC, and I have to admit that I’m a tad surprised this post wasn’t written sooner. These months that we’ve spent apart have begun to stretch my relationship with my sisters.

Lately… I’ve been thinking about them. Wanting to call, with no particular thing in mind to talk about. I’ve been feeling the definite absence of them. Yep, I downright miss those girls.

I spoke to my middle sister just days ago, for one quick thing. She answered the question I had for her, and promptly said she’d talk to me later. A sudden bleakness swept over me. “That’s it?” I thought. I checked the clock, who told me it was only 10am. Nadir was in the middle of her workday. Our conversation ended there, left out on the line, to be picked up another day. The phone calls, the texts, they’re too short, too little, how will they ever be enough?

Isn’t it interesting how I have a single friendship with Nadir in which we discuss our love for the elizabethan era, books, crafts, and how we can better support our other sister. And I have a completely different friendship with Nem in which we often discuss recent events, marriage, work, and our new niece arriving in May. I’d imagine that they too must have a similar friendship with each other that I know nothing about. I wonder what that must be like. Then there’s the bond the three of us share when we’re all together. Where all of our similarities mesh, and the pieces of one heart are expressed through three different personalities.

The fact that you’re stuck with your sisters is what makes them such wonderful friends. Whenever they annoy you, you’re forced to figure it out. Much like a marriage, only with more moodswings. If you’re lucky enough to have two, you’ll often find that the other sister takes up her duty as middle man. Always there to bring you each to your senses.

“Sure Natalie.” They’ll each say. “She’s just being herself, you know how she is when she’s tired, hungry, upset, annoyed, hurt… and fill in the blank”.. And it’s true. I do know how they are in all of those scenerios. Because I’ve been looking up to them since I was small. I know how they act, and react. I know what they look like when they don’t do their hair in the morning. I know that Nadir has always been ready to be the mother she is becoming, and that Nem falls asleep easiest on the couch with a blanket. It’s a beautiful gift, to know someone so closely.

I’ve been writing some open letters lately. It’s my way of being certain that the one’s I love know they are not forgotten. It seemed necessary to write one for them.

To you both,

The relationships we have with one another are the most complex relationships I think we’ll ever have. Our pasts have been intertwined. Our presents separated, and who knows what our futures will entail. But the three of us, we’re made up of the same things.

When we had no else, we had eachother. And of course the occasional Dairy Queen blizzard to make things better.

Thank you for helping me down the slides, literal playground slides, and figurative life slides. For all those special years we had together, as I’m sure we can all admit living with a guy just is not the same. For protecting me as if I were your own little cub to care for. For aggreeing with me when I need someone on my side, and for hitting me with the truth when I’m blinded. For guiding me, and encouraging me. For teaching me, and being proud of me.

With love and longing,

Your baby sister

And a Happy New Year

By Natalie

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Forgive me, we’ve been on Christmas vacation..

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I wish I could describe to you the emotions I felt during our stay in Fredericksburg. But there were so many different feelings with so many different people that I’m still trying to wrap my own head around it. I would hope that maybe this Christmas you experienced the same sort of thing as you begin to witness your families growing larger and larger over time.

There were so many conversations I cherished, so many smiles I’ll miss. So many moments that will be hard to forget from the Poe family’s quick wit, to my sister and brother in law tearing up while opening presents for their still growing baby girl.

Christmas was as expected, Christmas. Full of family, presents, and a whole lot of calories. It came and it went just before my eyes.. Sending all of us in different directions to carry on with our lives, and it left me sitting here on my own hundreds of miles away from the family I laughed so much with. How that happened so quickly I hardly know. I keep thinking back wondering if I thanked that person enough for that thoughtful gift. If I should have just gone ahead and eaten that extra cookie that’s only around this time of year. If I told everyone I cared about them enough, and that it was wonderful to see them. Just in case, I’m saying it now.

As the new year quickly approaches I’m happy to say that I’ll still be finding myself, which I’d like to believe  never really ends. I promise myself to continue my writing because it’s the one thing that has comforted me in hurt, helped me to see the good in the bad, and most importantly to view life through the window of the small things. Those sweet little moments that remind you of why you’re here, and what a good life this is to live. Moments like noticing my sister in a frenzy before Christmas dinner, and needing to stop her, hug her, and tell her we’re not going to starve. That it’s ok to slow down. Because the small things aren’t found in a blur. That’s the beauty of them. You have to slow down to notice them. Even more precious moments like hearing my nephew call out “Aunt Natalie” while I hide behind a curtain playing hide and seek. Let’s not talk about Bingley sniffing around for me pulling back the curtain to reveal my spot. That dog.

If you haven’t started already I’d strongly encourage you to slow down in 2015 in order to be on the lookout. Find those moments, and when you do, snag them up and hold them as closely as possible so not to lose sight of their meaning. I’ll be here doing the same. Filling this blog up with all the ones I find.

That is what makes up a happy new year. Spread the word.

Don’t forget to get your nap in before midnight.

Cheers.

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Christmas in the City

By Natalie

imageBrandon and I began our day in the 7th street public market in hopes that two equisitely made lattes would scare away our sleepy eyes. Much to my excitement we found that the streets of Uptown Charlotte had been hit by the Christmas bug.

This weather is not convincing me that Christmas is around the corner. The mornings are just a bit chilly, covering car windshields with the slightest layer of frost. But by the time the sun really wakes up the frost melts, and it hits the upper 50s by lunchtime… Thankfully it’s at least starting to look and sound like Christmas around these parts, even though the weather insists on being warm.

There’s nerd nutcrackers, gingerbread houses to model Charlotte shops, toy soldiers, giant presents in the park. And on top of all that you can find musicians every few blocks. I had a bundle of ones in my wallet so I decided to share it with an elderly man who was puffing beautiful Christmas music into his trumpet. I dropped the money in his jar, and with his lips still pressed to the mouthpiece he smiled at me, and gave me a thumbs up. His sound carried for blocks, putting everyone in the best sort of spirit, to be reminded that Christmas is just around the corner.

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imageWe had some time to kill Sunday afternoon so Brandon and I were pushed onto the city streets. It was the best kind of afternoon. The kind that provides perfect sweater weather, and emits love into the air. Sometimes I forget just how nice it is to walk with my husband hand in hand. It’s the sweetest thing on earth.

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As much as I am in love with the skyscrapers I have to say they are no match for the city’s Christmas tree.

Don’t you just love these extra tall Christmas trees that stop the people in the streets to gaze in wonder? It’s no Rockefeller center, but it’s in our neck of the woods, and it’s perfect.

imageAnd big giant ornaments littered along the way to match. How grand is that?

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imageMerry Christmas everybody. Here’s some happy reindeer to put all of you Scrooges in the mood. They’re happy, I can just tell.

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It is Good

By Natalie

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Today seemed as good a day as any to talk about Thanksgiving because I’ve been pretty thankful these past few months. I sat in the car on the way back from the park with the kiddos this morning, and when I looked in the rear view mirror I saw a happy napping kid. Result of a good day, and a good life.

Charlotte is good. Charlotte is home, but it’s still alot of fun to visit the town we grew up in. Reminicsing on places that hold so many memories.

Our Thanksgiving was full of yummy Puerto Rican food goodness, and I savored every bite.

It’s not often that I get the pleasure of enjoying my aunt’s spectacular Flan. image So I had 2 pieces. Ok 3. OK 4 by the end of the day if you’re keeping track! But this stuff is good. Worth the calories, and caramelized sugar coma good. Worth the 6 hour drive good.

Let’s talk about cousins here for a second shall we? They’re the bomb diggity. A pal to run around and play with throughout your childhood, and out of your hair in the evening time so you don’t want to rip each other’s hair out. When I was like 3 or 4 my cousin Emmanuel would yell for me in the back yard. We used to be neighbors, and thus you’d find the two of us chasing eachother through our twice as wide backyard. I would be eating dinner at the table no big deal, and then I’d hear him through the kitchen window.. “Natalie!!!” And I’d immediately look at my mom, “Can I go outside?” There’s video proof. It’s adorable.

He’s the greatest. Ladies, he’s available. And pretty dang photogenic right? That’s a good quality in a man. Just saying.

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imageIt is crazy to me that out of nowhere we have this next generation of kids. Running through the legs of the adults preparing the big meal, and screaming laughing their little hearts out. They’re precious, and I’m super thankful for them because not only are they blessings to our family, but they’ve promoted Emmanuel and I to the adult table. If I could high five him now I would because we’ve been at that table into our 20s. It was time.

When we’re nicely dressed and around family, I have it in my mind that Brandon and I will get a nice photo taken. Boy am I always dead wrong. The struggle began with the nicely dressed. Brandon was ready to go in his nerd tshirt which reads Analytics.js is my favorite wrapper. Don’t ask me, it’s a development thing.

I persuaded him to wear one of his favorite flannels for the occassion, so we could get a nice picture. But Brandon doesn’t like posed pictures. He had different ideas. image

imageSo here’s our Thanksgiving photo. 2014 is to be remembered as when we were young and head over heels for eachother.

And to take us out, a shot with baby Lawrence. My beautiful sister is carrying this sweet little bundle of joy, and you can see the happiness all over her face. It makes me giddy. I’m gonna be an aunt x5 pretty soon here guys. It is good.image

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