Today is my twenty-seventh birthday. I am the age my mama was when she had me. She had turned twenty-seven the week before I made her and my daddy parents. That is a weird thought to comprehend…

In honor of my birthday, I want to share 27 things that have inspired or impacted my life in momentous ways in the past 27 years. A way of looking back and giving thanks for the opportunities and experiences that have made me who I am.

one // Reconnecting with William again obviously impacted my life momentously. Who knew staying in touch with an acquaintance from high school on social media would lead to us getting married over a decade later?

two // Moving as often as we did. I am so grateful for every opportunity being a military dependent provided, especially the opportunity to live in various states & learn new things there.

three // When Pappy died in second grade. It was the first time I had to deal with death and comprehending what that experience meant to myself & my family.

four // When Ive died. It’s one thing to process death of a grandparent as a child, it’s another to process sickness & death of a friend. Ive was diagnosed with brain cancer when we were in 4th grade, the day the Columbine shooting happened, and passed away on September 14, 2001 when we were in seventh grade. Walking through that experience as a friend was challenging but taught all of us girls so much empathy & maturity.

five // Losing my PapPap this year. Grief as an adult is vastly different than during childhood and adolescence. It’s harder in a way because it feels more real and is more challenging to know how to comfort each other than when I was younger because words never felt like they were saying enough and distances were to vast to cover through physical presence. It makes adulthood and aging seem more tangible than day to day existence. Also, as an adult, how do you adequately comfort your parent in their grief?

six // Becoming a big sister twice. I am so grateful for my brother and sister and the relationships we have. We may not speak every day or even every week, but we will fiercely protect each other and my brother will always keep me laughing.

seven // Going to college in Montana while my family was in Colorado. Unlike my siblings and many of my friends, by choosing the college I did it meant that I saw my family at Christmas and over the summer and that was it. Long weekend visits were not possible & it truly forced me to be my own person separate from my family when I had grown up with people knowing who I was because of who my dad was. It was a big change to be truly anonymous in that way.

eight // Joining Kappa Alpha Theta. Growing up making good girlfriends was hard. It was always easier to click with boys as they were less cliquish and many of my parents friends had boys around my age. So going into college I really wanted to make those strong female friendships I felt were lacking in my life – especially from high school. Theta have me those friendships and the support system that I so desperately wanted and still is an organization I enjoy being a part of and giving back to.

nine // Using my passport for the first time. I’ve always had big dreams and a passion for understanding and studying other cultures, so being able to go to Italy and explore the Puglia region was such a gratifying experience.

ten // Learning to play the piano, oboe and saxophone. Playing musical instruments taught me discipline, perseverance and that putting in the work is worth it. While I no longer play (though I want to pick up oboe again & maybe piano!) I still love listening to these instruments and feel so joyful – especially listening to the oboe!

eleven // Adopting our west highland terrier, Madeline Virginia or Maddie, in July of 2000. That sweet girl taught us how to care for a pet and what unconditional love looked like in a way that was easier to understand, because emotions never got in the way of processing situations like they can in human relationships during adolescence. They way she would greet us after being gone for the day, or longer, was always with enthusiasm – especially in regards to my dad & brother. Watching her age and get sick over the last few years and then losing her this past summer was humbling to watch because even in her pain, all she wanted to do was love us.

twelve // Adopting our goofy, energetic Mavis Jane from the shelter this summer. Mavis had a rough beginning where she entered the shelter at four months old and went into the cell dog program where she learned some commands and was trained by an inmate for 8 weeks. Once she graduated the program she was adopted out twice and both times returned to the shelter in a matter of under 48 hours because the families did not give her the attention or boundaries a high energy puppy needs. Luckily, the woman who ran the cell dog program had met with William and I a few weeks prior about other dogs in the program and thought Mavis would be a fit for us. She is our sweet, crazy baby and though she can be a handful at times, knowing how to give her what she needs and love her well has brought William and I closer, but also brought so much joy and happiness to our lives because she is just so sweet and silly.

thirteen // Attending three different middle schools, one for each year of school. Middle school is hard anyways with all of the emotional and physical changes, but couple that with always being the new kid and it really gives you a thick skin and enables you to grow closer to your family in a time when many people are pulling away from them.

fourteen // Working in a district Congressional office before spending a summer on the Hill. Having the opportunity to see the different work done in the home office versus Washington, how they work together and how constituents perceive the two offices allowed me to have a stronger understanding of our Congressional system and where I could best see myself working in the future. While that career path did not become the one I eventually pursued, with my heart for advocacy and the political process, this knowledge helps me as a constituent better express my concerns to my elected members of Congress.

fifteen // Working at a global Christian ministry taught me how important it is for the words you speak and the actions you take to match each other and the belief system you adhere to. It strengthened my understanding of scripture and my desire to dig deeper in my personal faith, while also strengthening my social justice loving heart and calling me to a deeper advocacy of mercy and loving of one’s neighbor. Which in turn, made my politics more liberal the more I dove into scripture and saw the parallels of the new testament to the events of today.

sixteen // Being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at sixteen. Not having full control over your body or what events or foods could cause a reaction is frustrating. Some days, weeks and even months its easy to forget about because I am flare-up free, and then sometimes I am in miserable pain and afraid to go anywhere because of my frequent trips to the restroom. It’s something I am trying to research more and manage well, but some days I just hate it.

seventeen // Taking theater classes as a kid. I was very shy, despite all of our moving and theater taught me confidence in front of a crowd and with new people, especially being forced to do improv. Theater was also always a welcoming group of people wherever we moved and made those transitions to new places a little easier.

eighteen // Realizing I want to be a therapist. When the moment clicked that counseling was the field I wanted to be part of and started reading literature in the field and taking classes to pursue that career path, life and my passions all made sense together. Its a tangible way to help others, allows me to utilize my communication skills and empowers me to advocate for policy change on a subject that doesn’t receive enough education or awareness.

nineteen // Learning how much I enjoy cooking. It’s a creative outlet that I enjoy sharing with my husband and I love being able to feed the people I love well and to serve others through a good meal.

twenty // Working in youth ministry taught me that adolescents are an age group I am passionate about and the primary demographic I want to work with as a future therapist. So much is changing in your life in middle and high school as you work to figure out your identity separate from your family and friends, and I want to help people through this time of transition and growth.

twenty-one // Learning about genealogy and researching mine & my husband’s families. I love seeing where in the world our ancestors came from, how long they have lived in the United States and learning snippets of who they were as people. It takes my love of history and makes it intensely personal. I also love the shows Who Do You Think You Are?, Finding Your Roots and Genealogy Roadshow where you learn about other people’s family histories. This is easily one of my favorite hobbies!

twenty-two // Completing a 10K. I am not a runner. I want to be, but in the past I have lacked the self-discipline necessary for success in this area. However, the first year out of college, I ran the 10K portion of the Colorado marathon in Fort Collins. I walked a lot of it, but I ran a lot of it too. I have a goal for this year to be able to run a 10K without walking.

twenty-three // Working at a call center and a Dairy Queen taught me the value of customer service and reinforced what my parents had always taught me about treating other people the way you want to be treated. Even when someone is angry about something, you want to treat them with respect. I also learned that if someone is being belligerent is or intensely disrespectful, it is okay to walk away from those situations. Until I faced them in a working environment, I had been fortunate enough to never experience those situations. So learning how to politely put yourself first was a big lesson.

twenty-four // Having the strength to quit something when I was being bullied. I hated to not see a commitment through, but when I was bullied and miserable, it was in my best interest to quit and brought me immense peace after the fact. That experience taught me to stand up for myself in a way I had never been tested to before.

twenty-five // Learning what it means to be in love with someone in a way where you cannot imagine life without them. Where they strengthen you and encourage you and allow you to be exactly who you are with no need for you to tone down parts of who you are because they dislike them. being with William has shown me that while I have loved people and wanted the best for them, until him I was never in love and what a big difference there is between the two.

twenty-six // Realizing how important it is to me to learn to make family recipes from both sides of our family and to have the legacy of sharing family tastes and stories through food. William’s family is deeply rooted in the American South and have the family recipes in that flavor profile. My family is a little different. While two of my grandparents have deep roots in America and the South, the other two grandparents are the children or grandchildren of immigrants from Belgium, Poland, Austria/Italy and Croatia. With that history and my parents growing up in Pittsburgh, the family recipes and flavors I want to pass along are for stuffed cabbage and pierogies. I love the lessons food can impart and learning the traditions and histories of regional foods.

twenty-seven // Learning to be content being me and confident that even when I don’t have it all together, I am where I am meant to be supported by the people I love and that it’s okay to live life my way. To have days where all I want to do is cuddle on the couch and dream about the future and days where I feel like I can conquer the world. It’s okay to have it all together all the time and that sometimes the most joy and beauty is found in the day-to-day.


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