the final countdown.

Y’all. The day is almost here. You know…the day. The day that Ben comes home.

It’s been 14 months since I’ve seen him. 60 weeks. 420 days. Not that I’ve been keeping track or anything.

Even though I’ve been anxiously awaiting this day since Ben left, there’s somehow a little bit of a shock factor now that it’s finally here. For so long it was simply an unknown date in the future. And now it’s here. It feels surreal and wonderful and exciting and a little bit nerve-wracking and about 500 other emotions.

A lot has happened in the time we’ve spent apart. We’ve both grown and aged with the respective challenges and situations we have faced. We’ve come out on the other side of this thing stronger, but I know it is far from over. Now comes the reentry process. For Ben, reentry into home life and all that is the modern-day American civilization. For me, it’s reentry into living with another person and not being a complete hermit/crazy dog lady. For us, it’s reentry into life together. It will take patience and love and grace and kindness, as all relationships do.

In this moment, I’m so overcome with gratitude – for Ben’s safe return, for our soon-to-be reunion, for the people who have encouraged us along the way. We did it! Four more sleeps. Until then, I’ll be the girl trying to hold it together as my 500+ emotions battle it out.

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this little light of mine.

Five years ago, the world lost one of the greatest men I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I didn’t think it was possible, but I miss Peter, my late father-in-law, now more than ever before. I’m proud to carry his name.

But the pain hasn’t lessened, the sorrow hasn’t faded. The void he has left seems to grow with each year that passes without him. Time certainly does not heal all wounds.

It still pains me that Ben and I didn’t get to see him before the surgery started. But I find comfort in the fact that all of the time we spent together was filled with joy and laughter, love and compassion. During our final visit, I sat with him in the Hoadley homestead hand in hand as we both sobbed and laughed and hugged while we watched the video of Ben and I getting married. Peter so warmly embraced me into his family. He was simply the best father-in-law a girl could ever hope for.

I’m grateful that this week includes the birthdays of three people that I dearly love, because it also marks the passing of two people I dearly loved: my grandmother and Peter. It’s a week I often wish away, hoping it passes quickly without causing any more wreckage. Alas, this year one more is added to losses – the kindhearted companion of my late grandfather.

A friend posted a photo containing the words below this week – they could not be more perfect or more true. These short, simple lines perfectly encapsulate what the holidays – and our lives in general – should be about: spending time with the people we love as we try to figure out this crazy adventure of life.

In between the parties and presents,
we find the most blessed gift – time.

Remember: there are no returns and no exchanges.

So spend it wisely throughout the year
on the people who matter most.


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the longest time.

My goal going into 2015 was to simply survive it. I knew the year would have its challenges. Looking back, it’s encouraging to see that I did more than survive – I thrived. I feel like a happier, healthier version of myself, and it has been encouraging to see that years of hard work have created wonderful opportunities for 2016. All in all, it’s been a good year.

Yes, all of this has been tempered by the fact that I’ve seen my beloved Benjamin a whopping 3.5 days in 2015. Yep. That’s less than 100 hours. It will still be awhile before he is home, but his days in a combat zone are almost over, so we’re making progress.

Tomorrow marks one year since I’ve seen Ben. It’s odd to think about all that has happened during our days apart. There have been hard days. There have been days I could barely keep it together. But those days have been vastly outnumbered by good days. So much of what has made this past year good has been the love and support of dear friends – and, at times, complete strangers. And even though he’s busy saving the world (or at least trying to keep it from exploding…), Ben has encouraged me from afar. In his words, I’ve kicked this deployment in the ass. And in my opinion, so has he. I guess it’s the Hoadley way – we don’t choose the easy road and we’re scrappy fighters ’til the end.

I’m entering 2016 with hope and gratitude. My life is nothing like what I imagined it would be. But it is beautiful.

Happy New Year, my friends.


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give thanks with a grateful heart.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of joy and cheer, of kindness and gratitude, of festive parties and sparkly dresses, of family traditions and time spent with loved ones. It’s a time that reminds us to pause and take a moment to reflect on the blessings in our lives and to look forward to a new year filled with hope and anticipation.

It’s a wonderful time, and it’s a bittersweet time. It’s the time of year I miss home and my family and holiday pastimes and living in a place with four seasons the most. There’s an added sting this year with Ben being gone, but there’s still so much in my life to be thankful for.

The tradition lives on. Without further adieu, here’s this year’s “what I’m thankful for” list…

Moments of pure joy. Earlier this month, I took a friend with me to see Stevie Wonder, courtesy of my favorite Lieutenant. We were six rows back from centerstage, directly in front of Stevie’s piano and keyboard. (Cue mini freak out.) It was one of the most magical nights of my life. Stevie played for more than 3 hours, surrounded by some of the most incredible musicians I’ve ever heard. He talked to the crowd about compassion and love and how desperately our world needs those things. It’s hard to describe what all that night meant to me – the thoughtful generosity of Ben, the time spent with one of my dearest friends, and a lifelong dream being realized. When Stevie came out on stage and started singing, I couldn’t help but be overcome with such incredible thankfulness for that unforgettable night. (Or as Stevie would say, there was some joy inside my tears. Yep. Totally cried when he started singing. Pure joy.)

The people who fill my life with love and laughter. I’m so fortunate to have supportive friends and family – near and far. I just wish I could hug you all.

I never thought I’d say it, but Oklahoma feels like home. It has introduced me to some of my dearest friends and I can’t imagine my days without them. It doesn’t matter that I’ve only been here for three years – and that two of them just entered my life during the past year – I’m truly grateful for their presence in my life. You’re my family not by blood, but by choice. All the love for you.

My home and my safety. I have a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to call my own. These provisions are a precious privilege.

The opportunities and encouragement this deployment has given to Ben. I’m so proud of the leader he is and all he has done in service of others. He has excelled in his role, and I’m thankful to see him recognize the value he offers to others and all that he is capable of accomplishing. And even from thousands of miles away, he can make a girl feel loved and cared for.

Time to shorten things up or else this is going to become a novel…

The companionship and comfort of my sweet boys, Charlie & Nimitz. Flannel shirts & down vests. A walk in the woods. A good book + red wine + candlelight. Kindred spirits.

Hand-written notes. Roadtrips. Dark chocolate-covered almonds. Courage. When hard work pays off.

Oklahoma sunsets. Phone calls from B. Shiny red rain boots. Grace. S’well water bottles. (They should give me some free bottles for all the pro bono marketing I’ve done for them…please?!)

Love and acceptance – of ourselves and of others. The crisp, clean lines of Sharpie pens. Vulnerability. Practicing hospitality. Joey Tribbiani.

Puppy kisses. Happy hour with my girls. Strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow. Sherpa-lined blankets. Laughter.

Reunions with family and friends. Monogrammed everything. Kind and generous people. Affirmation. Mountains and big water…places that inspire awe and reflection.

The ability to learn. Dinner parties. Accomplishing goals. Cultivating community. Ben’s safety…and the thought of him being home again.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.


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the truth will set you free.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

These words took on new meaning for me during the past month. In the midst of loss, I celebrated life.

The day after my uncle died, I was supposed to attend a birthday party for a dear friend of mine. I had gone back and forth throughout the day, not sure if I was up to being in a room full of people and not confident that I could hold myself together for the event. Puffy eyes and all, I pulled myself together and showed up. There were some tears, there were some hugs, but most of all, there was love. The room was filled with people who gathered to honor the beauty of life lived together. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when people shared stories of how they met the honored guest and what she meant to them. It was a timely reminder that what matters most is that we communicate our love to others in a way that can be understood and felt, not simply assuming that they know how we feel about them.

Later that week, my brother made the trek to Oklahoma to help me celebrate the big 3-0. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect – no one knows my relationship with and love for Unkie better than Dave. We reminisced and laughed and grieved and did things that we know Unkie would want us to do. It was a joy to spend time with him – and a comfort. I lucked out in the big brother department, for sure.

One of my favorite moments of Dave’s visit was when I introduced him to some of my dearest Oklahoma friends. It meant so much to me to have so many of the people I care about most together in the same room. I can’t imagine what this time would have been like without the friends who have mourned with me and celebrated with me, seemingly simultaneously. My heart is still broken, but it is full. So many things bring memories of Unkie to my mind each day. I try to turn them into grateful thoughts, but sometimes all I can think of is how much I wish I could hug him again. The ones we love never truly leave us.

I’m learning more and more each day the beauty of a life lived with others, for better or worse. For so long, I’ve struggled with the self-imposed pressure of appearing that I have it all together and that I can handle whatever comes my way. And that’s exhausting. Our vulnerability is one of the most precious things we can share with others, and it can be terrifying to offer it without knowing how it will be received or responded to. But the only way to cultivate genuine relationships is to be honest, even when it’s not pretty. Especially when it’s not pretty. We’re all just trying to make it through the day. Sometimes we just need a little grace, a kind word, and a reassuring hug to remind us that we’re not in this alone. Thank goodness for that.

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the lion sleeps tonight.

“Everyone should have an Unkie.” 

What started out as my brother’s attempt at saying ‘uncle’ when he was a baby became an identity. The one-word moniker belonged to my mom’s brother, Noel. He embodied unconditional love, he made everyone laugh with his exquisite storytelling skills and the quirky ‘tunes’ he would sing (most were Unkie originals…and he did a fantastic rendition of “In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle”), he selflessly and generously provided for and encouraged the ones he loved. And just like that, he’s gone.

When I saw a text from my mom asking for me to call her at 5:30 a.m., I knew something was up…and probably not something good. A few possibilities came to mind, but this was not one of them. I called her right away and was shocked when she told me the news. Completely blindsided. How could this be?

His passing leaves an insatiable void. There will never be another one quite like Unkie. Every memory I have of him is a happy one. Whenever I tell a story involving him, I often end it by saying that everyone should have an Unkie. I had mine for almost 30 years, and he was just the best uncle you could ever imagine. I’m not ready for him to be gone yet. It’s much too soon.

Unkie always focused on others, rarely speaking about himself unless asked directly. It wasn’t until my grandfather was ill that I had extensive one-on-one time with Unkie, and we developed a strong bond in those days. We’d go to Eat’n Park once or twice a week after visits with Pop-Pop at the hospital and have what he would call ‘the only pleasant hour’ of his day. Those months were hard, but we helped each other through them. It doesn’t surprise me that when he found out he had cancer, he didn’t tell anyone. He never wanted to be a burden. For so long he was the caretaker and the supporter – I wish he would have let us do that for him.

I was so grateful to have him nearby when I lived in Pittsburgh. Our relationship deepened in my years there, and thankfully that continued after I left. He helped me through some tough times and was one of very few people I knew I could turn to without fear of judgment or shame when I needed help. Whether it was car trouble or helping me move, picking me up at the airport or asking him to meet up for dinner just because, he was there in an instant, no questions asked. I just can’t imagine what Pittsburgh will be like without Unkie. He was such a big part of my life there.

We spent a lot of time together during my trip to Pittsburgh this summer. I was so grateful for those days – and now I am even more grateful. I would give anything to have one more day with him to laugh and listen to his stories over apple pie and coffee at E’n P. I take comfort in knowing that we both knew how much we cared for each other. I guess that’s the only thing that’s helped me through this day. I know that he knew I loved him, and I know he loved me. There’s never any real closure when this happens so suddenly, but it helps to know that our last time spent together was joyful.

This is yet another reminder, my friends, that nothing in life is guaranteed. Hug the ones you love extra tight and tell them that you love them. You just never know when it will be for the last time.

Pleasant dreams, dear Unkie. I miss you terribly. Forever yours, Girlchick.


Santa and Unkie. What fun we had when he came to visit Oklahoma last winter.

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to everything, there is a season.

I know I’m not alone in loving this time of year. The return of football and pumpkin everything, fragrant warm beverages and cozy sweaters, riding boots and blue jeans – it’s the most delightful season. As the warmth of summer gives way to cooler days (In Oklahoma it’s 80 instead of 100…not quite as lovely as a Northeast fall, but I’ll take it!), I’m savoring what makes this season so lovely as we settle into my favorite quarter of the year.

We know that seasons are simply that – a season. A finite period of time. Seasons do not last forever; they flow seamlessly into the next, marking time or a mood or a sequence of events. Our lives are full of seasons – joy and growth, sadness and struggle, excitement and possibility, uncertainty and fear. With each passing season, we learn more about who we are and what we are capable of, who we can count on and what brings us fulfillment.

Some of the biggest changes in my life have occurred during the fall: moving from Pittsburgh to Pensacola, getting married, moving from Pensacola to Oklahoma, beginning this whole deployment thing, just to name a few. I take some comfort in the fact that as my life went through these drastic shifts, the universe was reminding me that change was all around me. I wasn’t alone. Change brings hope and opportunity, change can be good.

As I weathered some of these transitions, I didn’t always feel fully myself or fully connected. There were plenty of moments I longed for what used to be, what was familiar and comfortable. Over the years I’ve learned to make the most of where I am, to invest fully into the people and the community where I find myself, to accept the things I cannot change. I’ve learned that sometimes relationships only last for a season or two, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful or meaningful. I’ve learned that even though we can try to prepare ourselves for the unexpected, we can find ourselves in a season we didn’t see coming. Change isn’t always welcome, but that doesn’t keep it from happening.

A tree may lose its leaves in the fall, but you know what? It will grow new ones in the spring. Although they may appear to be the same as the ones from years prior, they are not. At its core, the tree is constant, but there is always change in its leaves. And the same holds true for us. There may be deeply rooted values and attributes that make up our core, but as the seasons change, we change. Our schedules, our priorities, our hopes, our challenges, our community, and our attitudes all impact the season we find ourselves in. Whether we find ourselves at peace with our circumstances or shaking our fists at the universe, one thing is for certain: this too shall pass.


Three years ago today, Charlie and I wrapped up our roadtrip to Oklahoma. He was a little leery of it at first, but his eyes don’t look so spooked anymore.


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