Christmas Letter 2017

2017 Annual Report*

(*also known as the digital Christmas Letter because I couldn’t quite get my act together to mail a card in the middle of a cross-country move)

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(photo credit Savanna Kaye)

Well friends and family, 2017 has been a doozy! Any time you can claim three states and zip codes in a span of 365 days, you know it’s going to be a year for the record books.

When reflecting back upon the past twelve months we have certainly had some highs and lows. I’m going to speak for my entire family here and share with you how it all went down:

The Georgia Months (January-June):

We concluded our three year assignment in Augusta, GA at Fort Gordon during this time.

The kids finished up many of their sports and activities and said their goodbyes to their friends in various circles. Thomas attended the Duke TIP state recognition ceremony and had one final hoo-rah at summer camp with this Trail Life troop. He also danced his way through a year of co-ed “Social” etiquette classes and had his big night of celebration at the spring formal.

Mae enjoyed a winning soccer season where she scored many goals. Kate completed another year of gymnastics class where she was awarded a gold medal. Both girls racked up on several badges with their American Heritage Girls (AHG) group; as homeschoolers, we utilized school hours to work ahead and really go for it with badge completion.

Ryan finished up his time as the chaplain of the 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion and as pastor and worship leader of the contemporary Protestant worship service at the Fort Gordon Friendship Chapel.

I said goodbye to my fellow Daughters of the American Revolution as well my group of AHG middle and high schoolers. I mourned a little over the goodbyes to friends, homeschool mamas, and the lovely season I spent employed by East Georgia State College. I finished my sixth year as the headmistress of the Wood Academy of Christian Kids…remember I *did* say I was only going to homeschool for one year? Those were some of my most famous last words.

Ryan and I both turned 40 in 2-17; Ryan is in the best shape of his life as the Army helps keep him as fit as a fiddle with all of those timed runs, push-ups, and sit-ups. I had only one major flare up with my back and had my first, baseline mammogram. Oh what joy!

Our family enjoyed one of our most memorable and very best vacations to date when we traveled to Washington, D.C. over spring break. Ryan and I also learned the West Coast Swing after a few months of dance classes. We off-loaded a lot of our furniture we no longer wanted and said “so long” to our giant fortress of bunk beds. Some sucker in a nearby neighborhood now has the headache of replacing those with clean sheets.

The South Carolina Months (June-December):

By the end of June, we’d loaded up the moving truck and unpacked it again just a few miles up the road in Columbia, SC for Ryan to attend a (not quite) six month school for Chaplains called C4— that’s four C’s: Chaplain Captain Career Course. He killed it. He ended up 4th in his class of 45 other chaplains– an honor graduate– ahem. Ryan is nothing if not an over-achiever but he’s also an all-around friendly guy too. So proud of that guy in and out of the classroom. We had the chance to get dressed up for a formal military ball where we showcased our newly minted dance moves.

We became an official D O G – F A M I L Y over the summer when we brought home our lovable Boykin Spaniel, Santee’s Hammerin’ Hank— also known as Hank, Little Man, Hank-a-Baby, and Sweetums. Y’all, we are gaga for this animal. We (I) buy him toys and treats nearly every time I’m at the store. Hank even had his own kiddie pool over the summer. He definitely knows how good he has it! We are totally *those* people who talk baby talk to Hank, kiss him on his face, tell him we love him, and even spell things like B-A-T-H and B-A-L-L. Boykins really are a smart breed.

The kids and I enjoyed some of the best neighbors of our lives and that’s saying a lot because we always have awesome neighbors. We lived on a small cul-de-sac (Custer Loop) of seven houses. In total there were over two dozen kids that Thomas, Mae, and Kate were able to connect with and build relationships with during that time. The moms regularly met out in the gazebo with coffee or for girls’ nights out where we all commiserated over the challenges (and blessings) of Army life. It was a lot of laughs, some tears, and much esprit de corps that all of our anxieties and stresses are c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y normal. It’s fine.

The kids and I traveled to meet my parents for the annual Roberson Fort Myers vacation; Ryan couldn’t go because — C4. In August we were lucky enough to be on the path of totality for the Solar Eclipse of 2017— what a (shielded, protected) sight that was! And like last year’s Hilton Head trip (thanks Hurricane Matthew), our fall break trip to Orlando with Ryan’s folks was foiled due to the threat of Hurricane Irma. A few weeks later, as a consolation, the kids and I drove over to Charleston for a few days where it rained. Weather—man!

In addition, Thomas got his braces off and finished his first semester of online dual-enrollment through Louisiana College with a 4.0 GPA for a public speaking and weight-training course. Mae landed her first baby-sitting gig and that girl spent her earnings just about as fast as she made it– hello new rollerblades! Kate, upon turning 10 got her first official military photo ID card; she has taught herself how to finger-knit and is quickly picking up the art of crochet too.

After getting an inkling of the housing options at our next assignment we knew we had to downsize even more. We continued to make weekly trips to the thrift store and dumpster trying our best to get rid of even more of our already streamlined and curated collection of belongings. My fine China went to live at my parents’ house and a few dozen boxes of Ryan’s professional books went to the free bin at a used book store.

The Louisiana Month (December):

On our way to Louisiana we drove straight through a winter blizzard to stay outside of Atlanta at my sister’s house; for the full 36-ish hours we were there we had no electricity. The showers and laundry we’d planned for didn’t happen so we drove on westward in real need of a shampoo and clean clothes. Somewhere in Mississippi, Ryan and I both had rocks hit our windshields and the second day here, mine went ahead and cracked all the way — requiring a full windshield replacement. Hoorah!

The town of Leesville, LA is small but we do have a Dollar General and if you ever need a barber or climate controlled storage— well, you’re in luck— there’s plenty of all that around Fort Polk. So far, our best meal was at a former gas station, Fatboy and Skinny’s, who claims “The World’s Best Burger.” We have already ventured over to the neighboring parish to visit the “good Walmart” in DeRidder and we have made our first trip to Alexandria (almost an hour away) to get our Target and Chick-Fil-A fix. #priorities

We’ve spent the last two weeks here at our new place. It’s funny because I’ve gotten a little bit of a taste for minimalism and have been intrigued by tiny-house-living over the past few years and God said, “Now is the time,” when were given our current duplex in the on-post housing development of Palmetto Terrace.

As the boxes and furniture came off the moving truck we made more quick decisions about what mattered enough to keep and what could be discarded; after all with no garage, attic, or outdoor storage, furniture and bins couldn’t stay on our back patio forever. I have been tired and emotional from this second move and frustrated that a whole box with all of my winter sweaters disappeared. I know it’s just stuff, but I’m a little weary in all that we have lost.

Thankfully we have also FOUND a lot of good that we think will come of this time here in CENLA (that’s Central Louisiana to the locals) — namely some already wonderful friends, a thriving chapel and homeschool community, and a slower pace of living. I’ve been looking at recipes to make my first King Cake for Mardi Gras and would you believe that the commissary carries Po’ Boy buns. We are living that cajun life.

In all, 2017 has been a good year. We have had our health and so much good fortune. God has kept us from harm and provided for all of our needs in abundance. Our extended families have remained a strength to us and for us. Our friendships have grown exponentially as we have widened our Army-circle even more. We are grateful for the calling God has placed in our lives and the assignments (literally and figuratively) that he has given us. We are fully aware of the rich life we are living. This is an adventure we are glad to be on.

We are really excited to only live in one state in 2018. We can’t wait to settle into our home, meet more of our neighbors, and serve our military community at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) here at lovely Fort Polk.

Claire

(for the Wood family)

 

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