THE annual birthday questions

It has been tradition. Even though so many of my friends and I have moved to various locations all over the place, these questions still seem to come up when someone celebrates a birthday.  I love this tradition, but most of all I love the friends that this tradition and memory associates itself with. Here’s to many more years of us sharing life, even when miles apart!

So what are THE questions, you ask? First off…

What are some of your highlights from this past year?

Highlights from my past year of being 31… and wow, what a good year it was.

Polar bear plunge!
Remember that time I asked friends to join me in running into a freezing, cold lake in December? Yeah, that was pretty fun and I have some amazing friends. Plus, we helped raise money for the local YMCA ‘Open Doors’ program.

A great crew of polar-bear plunge friends - and these don't even include the crew that was there cheering us on and helping us get warm after the plunge!
A great crew of polar-bear plunge friends – and these don’t even include the crew that was there cheering us on and helping us get warm after the plunge! We went with the theme “Royals” – hence the tutu’s, crowns, and swords.

I received my Peace Corps invitation!
I couldn’t stand to open my invitation alone since so many had been part of the process since I applied. So I invited a number of friends and family to join me in the country reveal of where I could possibly go. And here, not even a year later I am now living in Moldova.

Friends near and far (thanks to technology) joined in on the country reveal gathering.
Friends near and far (thanks to technology) joined in on the country-reveal gathering.

Travels to visit friends!
I wanted to see some far-away friends and spend some quality time with them and some of my family before I left for Moldova. So I took about a month and traveled by plane, train, bus, and car to visit 10 states, 17 friends, and 11 family members from PA-TX-IL-OR-WA-GA-VA-DC-MA-WV. These travels and visits with friends will remain an epic memory for me and I am oh, so grateful that I was able to take this amazing trip and visit some amazing people.

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Farewell weekend getaway with friends!
My local friends from State College planned a little surprise getaway – where I didn’t know any details until they were happening. The weekend consisted of fun clues along the way with surprise picnics, spy adventures, sunsets, boat rides, a ride in a firetruck, delicious food, fun games, a cabin tucked away, and deep friendships. The memory that hits me in the deepest place of my heart is when we sat around the table as my friends shared stories and prayed with me. I think of this memory most often and the people who sat around that table and came and went throughout the weekend and the many memories we have shared. Such a gift.

These are just some of the dear friends who joined me for the weekend getaway.
These are just some of the dear friends who joined me for the weekend getaway.

And then… I have some highlights that are bitter-sweet…

Saying goodbye to the place I and so many others called “home”
I know it’s not the actual home that I miss, but it’s the memories and the people that the home shared that I miss the most — plenty of celebrations, an abundance of laughter, a bounty of tears — music from a piano that lived in one of the rooms, prayers that were prayed, stories shared… memories made. Such a gift. The final weeks leading up to the date of our departure from our home (which was a miracle in of itself) we each had our own big transitions to face and the people who stepped in and helped us with all the various tasks associated with all them are incredible human beings and amazing friends and family. From a wedding, to a move across town to a cottage, to a move across the world — items sold, moved, packed up, cleaned up — hands held, tears wiped, words understood without speaking… a highlight that will remain etched in my memory. I am forever grateful for all the hands that jumped in for 2 months straight to help us all in making this transition… and for all those who have shared in the memorable memories of the home at 1460 over the past 4 years.

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Getting on the plane
Then there’s that day that I walked onto the plane to leave for Moldova and knew that my life will never look the same again. The one thing that I have in common with every single other Peace Corps volunteer here is that we all got on the plane to come to Moldova. That’s half the battle in this journey – showing up and being present.

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Then the second question…

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Building a snowman. No, not really – but if that’s what it takes then, sure! What I am looking forward to this year is connecting with people more – building deeper relationships with those that I am meeting, both volunteers and local friends. As well as continue to maintain relationships at home. So, sure – if it means building a snowman with someone and making snow angels in the snow then… let’s go.

I’m also looking forward to doing a little bit of traveling while I’m in Europe and seeing some places and friends before 2 years speeds by. Lord only knows what’s in store for this 32nd year ahead, but I’m looking forward to it!

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