As I sit in our hotel lobby in Oklahoma at the end of our cross country move, I can’t help but reflect on the wonder and adventure of the last few weeks, getting to spend precious time with friends and family and wrapping up our life in Georgia. I am also so thankful and joyful for this new chapter in our lives. On our drive across 7 states, I watched the rolling hills give way to flat prairies filled with cows, quaint farm houses perched in little valleys and a horizon that allows you to see for miles and miles. This new landscape holds such promise and adventure for us, a brand new fresh start, and I am trying to focus on that aspect of our lives versus my fear, anxiety or homesickness about all of the question marks still ahead.
When I told people that we were moving away, they mostly responded the same way. There was an immediate sadness followed by excitement for me as they inquired about the destination. When I responded with “Oklahoma,” their faces would fall in this kind of grimace/pitying look usually followed by, “Oh no,” “Why?” or “I’m so sorry!” Well, when I became a military spouse, I learned this lesson early and it has stuck with me: Any post/home/duty station is what you make it. It is not the place that defines your life but rather your mindset/attitude, the relationships in your life and the memories you make that transform any city into a home. I am unbelievably excited to be in Oklahoma, in a region of the country I have never before lived, and I am determined to make this a year filled with joy and adventure for our family. I hope that through this time, I can also show my friends and family all of the amazing things here, which I plan to find ASAP, so that when they think of Oklahoma they have a reference point beyond those pesky tornadoes. (For the record, our home out here WILL have a basement or storm shelter. No survivor of the April 27th tornado in Tuscaloosa would move here without one!)
But, before I tell you any more about that, let me fill in some of the details from our month of travels! We left Fort Benning at the beginning of May, and Luke was able to take a few weeks of PCS leave to give us time to enjoy one another, our loved ones, and a nice, long vacation before jumping into our new life! We began this time with my family in Alabama.
The day pictured above was one of my very favorite days of all, a day for just me and my Mom! Because Luke had to work at Ft. Benning a few days after I was free to leave, I headed home early and planned a fun Girls’ Day with my Mom. We enjoyed a shopping spree, going to see a chick flick, tea at Emma’s and chocolate martinis together. It was so wonderful to see her and felt a bit like the old days when I was growing up (minus the martinis of course!)
I also got a full day with my Omi (my grandmother; she is German, so she was supposed to be “Oma,” but I could not say that as a baby so she became Omi forevermore.) When I was little, we spent so many days at our local State Park with my Pa-Pa fishing, swimming in the beach area, enjoying picnic lunches and playing Frisbee on the playground. We haven’t been back together in years since I went off to college, got married and found a full-time grown up job, so it was such a blessing to go and sit in “Our Spot” again with our chairs and fishing poles. The weather cooperated beautifully, and I will always cherish this day with her.
Luke came in that night, so the next day we spent out on the boat with my Daddy. He also likes to fish, but we spent most of the day driving around and enjoying the breeze in our hair and sunshine on our faces. One of our family friends brought his boat out as well so we could do a little tubing and potentially water skiing, but none of us was up for braving the skis this trip! It was a lovely day though, topped off with pizza and bowling with the Sams side of the extended family. I am so grateful that my brother came up from college for the weekend so that he could be there too.
We spent several more days in Huntsville and even gave in to my Mom’s idea for a family photo shoot. Here is a big throwback for you: JC Penney’s still has a portrait studio! Luke, Ethan, Mom and I went there after church and got some images that surprisingly turned out so wonderfully! I know we will always cherish them. Here are a few of my favorites:
After the photo shoot, we met up with our longtime best friends Jess and Will at one of Huntsville’s Escape Rooms. And, we all made it out in under the time! That was a fun afternoon/evening. After the Escape Room, we joined Jess and Will for dinner. My parents always told me when I was younger that good friends are truly rare to find, and they were right. We are so fortunate to have these two around for the long haul!
Always a “Daddy’s Girl” growing up, I also loved my time with him. We got to join him for several meals and a few nights of card playing. I haven’t spent a whole week with my family of origin in over 5 years, so these 8 days were such a blessing!
However, even the best blessings can be exhausting, and Luke and I knew that time with both sets of family would be busy whirlwinds filled with so much adventure. And, sure enough we were on The Go constantly from the time we left Georgia, although we wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am a notorious planner and squeezed as much as possible (literally) into the days we had. Luckily, we planned for this in advance and knew that a period of vacay and relaxation would be necessary, just the two of us! So, from Huntsville, we headed for Charleston where we got to spend a day with our brother Samuel before boarding a cruise ship destined for the Bahamas.
Samuel was even able to take the day off, which was so nice, and we walked around Battery Park for a while before going to watch the European Soccer PlayOffs at an Irish Pub(#ProudLiverpoolFansEvenThoughTheyLost #LukeIsReppingTheJersey). Muel treated us to dinner at a delicious seafood restaurant, and we all enjoyed a stroll on the beach afterward, much to Luke’s chagrin. But, you simply cannot visit that beautiful Oceanside city without at least dipping your toes in the
The next day, our trip on the Carnival Ecstasy began! It was an overcast, rainy day as we boarded our ship, and as I looked ahead to the weather forecast, I was saddened to see nothing but rain predicted every single day, including in the Bahamas! However, Jesus had other plans and besides that first day, we experienced nothing but sun and sail on our voyage. There was one brief rain shower in Nassau, but we spent our day exploring the extensive water park at Atlantis, Paradise Island, so it didn’t affect us at all. The best part about the cruise was disconnecting from all technology; we didn’t touch our cell phones from the time we boarded until we were back on shore. There is nothing more relaxing than spending your days reading, talking and sleeping with a frozen Pina Colada in hand and no pressures to be anywhere or do anything. Luke got himself a new Citizen watch at the Duty Free store, but otherwise, we really didn’t spend any money on the trip since we had already purchased the all-inclusive tickets. I was somewhat skeptical of the Carnival cruise line based on all of the horror stories of no bathrooms at sea and ships trapped in the ocean, but we had nothing but positive experiences. The ship was clean and well-stocked, the staff was friendly, and they offer a great mil discount on tickets too. It was more of a “Party Boat” than our previous cruise on Royal Carribbean, so if you are wanting to bring kids along, I would think another line may be preferable. But for just the 2 of us, it was wonderful and just the R & R we needed! Here are a few pictures from our cruise:
After the cruise, we headed back to Charleston to help my sister-in-law Adrianna since it was WEDDING WEEK!
We were so thrilled to welcome Adrianna to the family, and she and Jacob absolutely honored us by asking Luke to be the officiant of the ceremony and for me to help out as the Wedding Coordinator. Thus, we knew we had our work cut out for us to make the day absolutely perfect for Jacob and Adri! We spent most of the week at Luke’s parents’ home in NC, and enjoyed this breathtaking view:
There is literally nothing in this world that compares to a Carolina sunset from the Bradshaw farm! Luke got to help his Dad with some of the cows, and I spent most of my time helping his Mom and wedding planning with Adri. Some of Luke’s high school friends dropped by during the week, and it was great to see them. We moved into Jacob and Adri’s lake house/wedding venue later in the week, and they were so generous to give us the Penthouse view/room, which made planning and attending the events so convenient. This house was incredible, and y’all (You can take the girl out of the South but can’t take the South out of the girl ;)), their wedding was so beautiful looking out over the lake. Adri was a stunning bride, and I am so glad to have gotten some good quality time with her. Growing up, I always longed for sisters, so it is wonderful that in addition to my cousin Ashley who I always considered a sister, I now have Luke’s sister Hannah and my sisters-in-law, Lauren and Adri. A few pictures of the rehearsal dinner/wedding:
We got to stay and enjoy this beautiful home during Memorial Day weekend and had such a blast with the extended family there swimming in the pool, playing cards, laughing, talking and eating. It was so wonderful to see Aunt Mary, Aunt Brenda and Uncle Tommy, Aunt Susie and Uncle Howard, Autumn, Wesley and their family (minus Summer,) Kelly, Aunt Lynne and Grandma Bradshaw. Plus, it was Hannah’s 18th birthday! So we celebrated that AND her high school graduation too. It was truly a week of celebrations. So proud of the 12-year-old girl I met who is now a kind, strong woman of God and a graduate.
We also got some time with our favorite (and ONLY) niece, Marlee, who is about to turn 1 already! Time surely flies.
Miss Marlee didn’t quite know what to make of those sunglasses…LOL!
Right after Memorial Day, we began our Westward trek after saying tearful goodbyes to family. The goodbyes were more difficult because although some of them have assured us they will visit in the next year, we know we won’t see others for awhile. Since we are no longer just a quick drive away, we won’t be able to come up for a weekend visit like we used to.
We divided our journey into three days, and the first day landed us back in my hometown to pick up Luke’s truck and see my parents one last time. We stayed one night with Mom and then headed out for Arkansas in our separate cars.
The trip to Arkansas was pretty rough because Luke had started feeling nauseous after we left NC, but it was manageable. On the drive to Little Rock, he felt pretty sick but hadn’t yet thrown up. That night though, he got maybe 1-2 hours of sleep and spent the rest of the night up vomiting. It was so horrible for him, and I felt terrible for him. We ended up staying in Arkansas until the very latest time we could check out (Noon), and he was so weak and couldn’t hold any breakfast down. Somehow though, we were able to drive the remaining 6.5 hours to Oklahoma by taking frequent stops and giving him an entire bottle of Pepto Bismol along the way. We arrived in Oklahoma and checked into our hotel, and Luke went straight to bed. He tried to eat a little rice for dinner but couldn’t hold that down.
Thus, our very first stop in Oklahoma early the next morning was the Urgent Care Center. They diagnosed him with a stomach flu and pumped him full of saline solution to hydrate him and some anti nausea medicine. He started to feel slightly better after that and was able to do a walk through of our potential home on base! (More on that later and pictures to come!) However, after the tour, he was feeling pretty weak so he came back to the hotel and slept as much as he could between bouts of sickness. Today is our second full day in Oklahoma, and while I want to say the sickness has passed and he is much better, that isn’t the case. He is still pretty sick to say the least. He is not one to get sick usually, and this illness has been pretty bad and has really thrown us a curve ball. I have not gotten it as of yet (Praise Jesus for that!) so I can help take care of him the best that I can, but he mostly just needs to rest. The doctor gave us some anti-nausea medication, which he is taking, but with little improvement thus far. My goal is to keep him hydrated (bring on the Gatorade!) and rested. We are still on the BRAT diet right now, but are hoping to introduce some other foods at dinner to give him some more nutrients.
This has been an absolute crash course into life far away from family and friends, completely on our own as we do not know a soul here. My sweet friend Jessica knew I needed some encouragement last night and texted me the following, which really made my day and gave me a new perspective on our current situation:
The reminder that HE is in control of all of this and that we can give our burdens to him was so appreciated. I am so grateful that we have a God who is so good and loving and is all powerful. Plus, He is here with us in Oklahoma, reminding me that we are not really all alone after all.
This sickness took us totally off guard because it was so unexpected and sudden, and not at all how we would have pictured our arrival to our new home, obviously. But, we are doing our absolute best (me especially) to handle it with grace and fortitude. We are so hopeful that Luke will be feeling his normal self soon, especially since he is supposed to begin his new job on Monday. We are thankful to have arrived safely in our new home and look forward to all of the adventures that are to come here in the Midwest!
It is my sincere hope to stay more connected through this blog during the upcoming season, since we are farther away from most of you. For those who follow our story and support us in our lives, thank you so much for everything. Your love and friendship means the world, no matter the distance!
xoxo from the Sooner State,