I turn 27 this week. And it’s been a tough one.

For me, birthdays have always been something to celebrate, not dread. I love celebrating my own birthday and the birthdays of those I love, because it is a way of celebrating them–their lives, their accomplishments, their passions, just simply who they are. A way of acknowledging my own life, my accomplishments, my day-to-day living that I rarely take the time to do.

When I was growing up, before the big birthday dinner, my family would all go around the table and thank God for something about the birthday person. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the things we love about each other, and to thank God for giving us each other. It’s a tradition I hope to continue with my own children someday.

But this birthday…it just isn’t so celebratory. I’m trying to be happy, and I am, or at least part of me is. My mom is coming to town, which is wonderful because I haven’t seen her in seven months–and visits from family are always something to celebrate, especially as they become more rare. So there will be plenty of laughter and good conversation to be had, I am sure.

But is something more sobering that permeates this birthday.

Michael was 27 when we lost him last fall. Had just turned 27. We were celebrating. His birthday. His life. His self. Him.

I was never supposed to be older than my brother-in-law. Never. And now, I will be. Because I will turn 27 and live through it. He didn’t. It’s sobering and hard and sad. I’m amazed at how piercing our loss is, and I wonder when the ache will ease.

Maybe next year’s birthday won’t be so difficult. When it’s been longer. When the number is 28, not 27.

Sunset at Northwest River Park

For my birthday

For my birthday

I know it’s a little late (my birthday was July 5th), but I thought I would share with you what all we did for my birthday, since I shared a lengthy post about Husband’s birthday earlier this year.

My birthday celebration wasn’t quite as grand in some ways as Husband’s, but it was enjoyable and it was me. Or rather, still is. It isn’t finished.

Let me explain.

Every year, my birthday kicks off with fireworks because I’m just that special. =)

Husband and I (and a good friend named Ivan from the Dominican Republic) took a picnic dinner of Subway to the Chesapeake City fireworks. A lot of our conversation revolved around American traditions vs. Dominican traditions (fireworks for New Years) and odd American sayings that Ivan sometimes has a hard time remembering.

Husband and I at the fireworks.

Then we all three promptly fell asleep waiting for the show. Thankfully, we woke up just as they began.

Fourth of July fireworks.

The next morning, I flew to Ohio to meet my new nephew. A portion of my plane ticket was my birthday present from my wonderful parents, making it affordable. I got to spend time with my little nieces, hold my new nephew for hours on end, and celebrate my birthday with my family.

Meeting my nephew for my birthday.

Birthday cake

My birthday flowers from Husband.When I returned home, Husband met me at the airport with these surprise flowers. They were absolutely beautiful!

Husband also gave me a brand new pair of hiking boots (can’t wait for fall camping!) and an apothecary cabinet for storing tea (which I would like to paint, I think… I might try my hand at milk paint. If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes!).

The next night Husband and I used one of those wonderful buy one/get one coupons you get for your birthday from the local ice cream shop (and we used the last couple dollars on a gift card for the first ice cream cone, so it hardly cost a thing!). And we managed to snap these blurry photos (I don’t think the camera in my phone was really meant for night-time photography.)

Ice cream with Husband.

And on Monday morning I returned to work to find that my coworkers had decorated my office with one of my favorite themes…

Winnie the pooh decorations for my birthday.

As wonderful as those birthday celebrations were, they aren’t over yet. My two requests for my birthday were these: Making homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and trying stand-up paddle boarding.

We had plans to do both, but they sort of fell through. The unusually intense heat this summer has made attempting any sort of outdoor sport nearly impossible. However, we have it on the schedule for mid-August which I guess we’re hoping will be cooler because it can’t get much hotter than it has been.

I’ll let you know when we wrap up the celebrations!

Birthday: Husband style

Birthday: Husband style

Husband turned 33 on Friday and we celebrated our hearts out for an entire three days in true Husband style.

We woke early on Friday morning, earlier than intended when the puppy decided to ask Husband for breakfast at 4:30am and he subsequently coudn’t get back to sleep. We had said puppy loaded in the car and were on the road by 6:00am, headed up to the Eastern Shore.

Puppy on a roadtrip.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the Eastern Shore.


We drove straight through up to Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. It’s a place mostly known for the wild ponies living there, but also known by me as a my childhood beach, where our family would go every summer to visit the shore. I hadn’t been there since I was nine years old, and when Husband told me he wanted to go to the Eastern Shore for his birthday, I might have intimated that I would LOVE to go to Assateague. Luckily for us, it was National Park week and we were able to get in for free.

Assateague Island National Seashore

We walked and drove and walked and drove around the island looking for the wild ponies and finally came across this cutie.

Wild pony on Assateague Island.

By noon, we were headed back down the Eastern Shore, meandering from one stop to another. Places like a thrift store where we bought straw hats, and the Turner Sculpture Gallery, eventually making our way to Becca’s Smith Island Cakes.

Now, you have to understand that THIS was the real reason Husband wanted to come to the Eastern Shore. Yep, we both took the day off work, drove three hours, paid an enormous toll to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel–all to get a nine-layer cocoanut cake from Becca’s.

But it’s Husband’s birthday and maybe that’s not too much to ask when it’s your birthday. We need as many reasons to celebrate as we can get these days.

With puppy.

Saturday was filled with some of the usual activities–cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, preparing for company this week, some last minute grocery shopping for the grad party next weekend. But at 4:00pm Husband’s family began arriving and we were soon gathered in the kitchen gabbing while Husband and I made a giant focaccia for dinner–fresh tomatoes, basil and rosemary with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

We sat around the table and talked and laughed and just enjoyed each other. Then Husband pulled out that nine-layer cake and began slicing it up…

On Sunday morning we rose once again while it was still dark. Over a cup of coffee (and tea for me!) we discussed the day. It had originally been planned as a hike up Old Rag in the Blue Ridge Mountains, then changed to Crabtree Falls. But it was supposed to rain there (and it was a good five hours away). So we switched to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but then it was supposed to rain there too. So we finally settled on staying in Virginia Beach.

We met up with Husband’s brother and his fiancee breakfast before grabbing a cup of coffee from Starbucks and heading to First Landing State Park where we enjoyed a simple 4-mile hike up and down the dunes and under the Spanish moss. It was a beautifully damp and overcast morning, perfect for turning a simple layer of Spanish moss into an almost ethereal experience.

Husband helping me climb the tree.

Climbing trees with Husband at First Landing.

First Landing State Park

That evening we made pizza from scratch and cuddled up on the couch to watch a movie.

I can honestly say it was one of the best and most relaxing weekends we’ve had in a long time. Just in time to recharge for the onslaught of Spring and Summer events and out-of-town guests.

I’m glad that birthdays give us an excuse to claim a three-day weekend and put off the to-do list for another day while we just enjoy each other along with a healthy dose of friends, family, and the world around us. It’s days like these that I think back to the beginning of our relationship, when we had fewer responsibilities and more time. Sometimes I yearn for those days, but the truth is that we can still have those days, if we make them. Life is different now, but we can still put spending time together as a higher priority than laundry and dishes and yard work.

In the end, it’s really all a choice. And I’m so glad that for this one beautiful weekend, we chose each other.

Happy Birthday, Husband.

Holly Combs

Walking through First Landing.

Dear Monday…

Dear Monday…

Dear Monday,
After a three day weekend of wonderful memory-making goodness, I find that I don’t dislike you as much as I once did. And that makes me happy.

Dear Husband,
I hope you had a wonderful birthday weekend. Happy 33! When life is hectic and hard, I can see it in your eyes. For the first time in a long time, I saw you truly relax and simply enjoy the weekend. Was it everything you hoped it would be?

Hiking at First Landing State Park in Virginia.

More importantly, was that nine-layer cake worth taking a day off work, driving three hours, and paying the bridge toll to get? =)

Dear Assateague Island,
You really haven’t changed much since I was a little kid and visited you on my summer break. Your beach is still full of shells just waiting to be discovered, and your wind still pelts my skin with tiny, painful grains of sand.

The beach at Assateague Island National Seashore.

But most importantly, you still have the most adorable wild ponies I’ve ever seen.

A wild foal on Assateague Island.

Wild ponies in Maryland.

A special thanks to Husband for sharing his birthday with me by taking me up to Assateague. And another thanks to the National Park system for offering free entrance to national parks across the country for one week in April.

Dear Puppy,

You did so great on our road trip! Can’t believe you’re growing up =).

Taking the puppy to Assateague National Seashore in Maryland.

Taking Ginger for a walk.

Dear week,
There is a lot to be done in preparation for graduation, out of town guests, and the big celebration we’re planning. So please, be kind. I’m sure I will need a little grace over the next few days.


Linking up with Happy Day.

48 hours of celebration!

48 hours of celebration!

Changing traditions come with growing, changing families. This year our Thanksgiving was anything but usual. We all gathered in Ohio from our respective homes (Georgia, Ohio, Washington DC, and Virginia). And the 48 hours that we spent in each other’s company was hectic, chaotic, and priceless. Our family now includes three “in-law” siblings, six little kids (soon to be seven) and numerous dogs.

The amount of noise and activity would have given anyone a headache, but it was also something to treasure. I love my brothers, sisters-in-law, and nieces and nephews more than I can say and I truly cherished getting to celebrate Thanksgiving and six (yes six!) family birthdays in the span of 48 hours. It will be more than a year before we will all be together again as the Georgia Drakes are moving to England in January. So these memories are going to have to last me a little while.

Here are a few photo mementos from our trip…

Thanksgiving dinner with the Drake clan.

Birthday party!

The nieces and nephews

Spending time with my best friend.
I was blessed to be able to also spend some time with my best friend who is soon moving to Florida. Thanks for being an honorary member of our family, Amber!

Horseback riding for the kids' birthday

Giving my niece a ride

Husband and I were also able to sneak away for a little bit to go antiquing (the antique stores in mid-Ohio are great!). I’ll share more about what we found soon…