Before I write about my dreams for 2014, I want to reflect on the blessings of this holiday season. I spent 12 days in Florida (hence being MIA from this blog) and think it's always important to pause and be thankful before diving ahead into the new year.
Our Christmas season started off better than last year's because we went straight to Lowe's for our Christmas tree instead of risking getting another "Devil Tree." (If you don't know what I'm referring to, then you can read about last year's debacle here.) We also had a fun White Elephant party with the funniest gift award going to our friend Will, who blew up photos of John's and my faces from 9th grade Homecoming and put them on ornaments. A close second was a life-size knight made of tin... it was a fun night!
|Before our White Elephant party, posing in front of our tree that is still standing: success!|
|Laura, me, Caitlin, and Amy|
|The funniest gift|
When John and I headed home, our time in Orlando was filled with family and friends, including many annual traditions such as candy making with Grandma Shack, a Shackelford family/friend reunion complete with an intense volleyball match, singing Christmas carols with Dad playing the piano, and riding in the truck bed to see the lights on Christmas Eve.
|Candy making with Amy and Claire|
|Post candy making with Grandma Shack|
|Bundled up before the truck ride|
In addition to these traditions, we also had an incredibly fun night celebrating my 25th birthday (early) with a lot of high school friends. It was wonderful that so many friends were in town and that our families could be a part of the celebration too! The next day, I took Mom to the Orlando Ballet Nutcracker for her Christmas gift, and we enjoyed a nice dinner beforehand.
|With John and Emma before my birthday dinner|
|A wonderful reunion of old friends|
|So blessed to have amazing parents and in-laws!|
|At dinner with Mom before the Nutcracker|
Then on Christmas, John gave me an incredibly thoughtful gift. He commissioned my friend Becca to paint my poem Gathering Hope on a canvas. She's been working on it since October and I had no idea! Plus it's beautiful and I can't wait to hang it in our home.
The day after Christmas John headed back to Atlanta for his work with the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Since he's always so busy that week, I stayed in Orlando and caught up with more friends. Aysha and Alex drove from Tampa for a short visit and it was great to catch up on the boat like past college times! My mom and I also had a wonderful brunch with Kim, Isha, and their mom's and again it was just like old times and so fun to catch up on everyone's adventures post-college.
|Sophomore year of college to now: Aysha, me, and Alex|
|Senior year of high school to now: me, Kim, and Isha|
After brunch with Isha and Kim, Mom and I picked up Dad and headed to celebrate my grandfather's 80th birthday. Despite having a bad cold, it was great to spend time with several family members. From lunch, Mom, Dad, and I drove to Vero Beach where we spent the night and next day before boarding Dad's new boat Rhythm 'n Blues. The weather wasn't sunshiney Florida, but I enjoyed sleeping, recovering from my cold, and finishing my third book since being back in Florida.
On the 31st we took the boat to West Palm Beach for an (almost) annual tradition of watching the fireworks. Watching the fireworks from the water gives us a front row view which didn't disappoint! And while trying to stay awake to midnight, we of course watched the Chick-fil-A Bowl. On the 1st I flew back home to Atlanta where John picked me up and took me out for a nice New Year's Day brunch... a wonderful way to kick off 2014!
|Fireworks from the waters of Palm Beach|