Friday, December 31, 2010


This year Lyndsey experienced a record snowstorm in Texas; Lyndsey received her 3rd year bar card and participated in court hearings; Chris came home from his second deployment; we celebrated with friends; Lyndsey graduated from law school; we made lots of wedding planning and had lots of showers; Lyndsey took and passed the Texas bar; Chris bought a new car and a few days later traveled cross country; Chris started a new position within the Army; we got married!!; we honeymooned in Costa Rica; Chris made a second cross country road trip in four months; we settled into our new home in Virginia as a married couple; Lyndsey got a new job; we had several visitors and took a few roadtrips; Chris ran the Army 10-Miler; we explored our new neighborhood; we participated in our best friends' wedding; we had our first Christmas together, just the two of us. Here's a few glimpses into all of that, in no particular order.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections of a Year (from my workstation on a slow day)

This year has flown by. I think everyone I have spoken to has said something similar. It seems the end of the year always creeps up on you, like you never have enough time to finish all you set out to accomplish that year. But reflecting back, I realize this year has been yet another year of great transition, opportunity, and hope, and see just how far I, and as of 21 August "we", have come.

Last year at this time, I was sitting at Al Rasheed two miles south of Sadr City on the outskirts of downtown Baghdad, with the putrid smell of the Diyala River to keep me awake when the coffee wouldn't. My New Year's meal was nothing special (I'm alive at least), and no football games were shown because our satellite was down and the Iraqi stations don't show American football. I'm pretty sure I talked to my new fiancee, Lyndsey, that day on the phone (the wedding seemed light years away) before going off to inhale room fulls of toxic second hand smoke from cheap cigarettes and guzzle more cups of that loathsome Iraqi sugar chai. We were planning a large operation that at the time was still a big secret (both to the people in Iraq and my family and friends at home), since the elections were less than three months away, where we would be gone for about 2 weeks and search countless homes for bombs and weapons, arrest dozens of very bad people, and take those perilous roads yet again on high alert to and from various places as we "advised and assisted" our Iraqi, ahem, friends with securing their own country.

Fast forward 365. I'm home now (or at work at the moment), completely safe, surrounded by luxury that living in this country brings. I am blessed to be a married man now, and have all the things that go along with it that I couldn't have pictured at this time last year, including a pile of "things" to go through, 2 weeks of leftovers in the fridge, "Dear John" in my Netflix queue, and the guarantee that at some point tonight my body will be used as a foot/hand warmer for someone with perpetually cold extremities. We're lucky enough to both have jobs and not have need for anything. We're surrounded by wonderful family and friends that support us in all that we do. We live in a great place with something interesting always going on. We're young and free to do what we want. My job is non-deploying, and I have a lax work schedule compared to this time last year. All in all, life is pretty good.

Fast forward 365. I'm out of the Army, and have accepted a position with a company somewhere in Texas. Lyndsey and I have moved back to Texas where we live in a great place with a little one (we don't know if it will be a boy or a girl, just that it will change our lives completely, be four legged, covered in hair, and allowed by our apartment after the pet deposit; what did you think I was talking about?!). Lyndsey is practicing law at a small non-profit firm that mainly helps immigrants and those less fortunate. We have just returned from visiting friends and family for the Holidays, and are now preparing for our grown-up style New Year's party, complete with hors d'oeuvres and champagne flutes (start finding babysitters now. It's going to be off the hook, with Rock Band, board games, the works!). We went on an awesome trip to celebrate our one year anniversary, and wonder how we got so lucky in this thing called life....

As we start next year, we're filled with hope, both the hope that came in Christ during Christmas last week, and the hope of a new chapter and fresh start this week. Lyndsey and I have no doubt that this year will be better than last, and wish everyone the best in whatever endeavors you begin. Cheers!

"It's difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." - Robert Goddard

New Year's dinnner 2010 at the Al Rasheed Dining Facility

New Year's 2011 at Rustico in DC

New Year's 2012 at the Markos' Gala!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Swearing In

On December 17, at her retirement party, my aunt swore me in to the Texas Bar.

Mr. & Mrs. Philley

The weekend before Christmas, Chris and I flew to Texas to be part of our good friends' {Leah & Andrew} wedding. Chris and Andrew have been good friends since enduring their fish year in the Corp of Cadets together. Andrew served as best man in our wedding, and Chris did the honors of best man for Andrew. Leah and I have been good friends since we were in the same class in 2nd grade. Leah was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and I was the same in hers. We have experienced the so much of life together with these two, both individually and as couples. They are two of the most kind-hearted, fun-loving people we know, and we genuinely enjoy spending time with them {unfortunately, that is a lot more rare than we would like.} Best yet, Andrew and Leah are the best matchmakers! Three and a half years ago, I received a phone call from Leah saying that she had given my email address to a soldier {one of Andrew's best friends}. My reaction: You did what?!?!? Turns out, that random solider was not so random. Luckily Andrew and Leah knew Chris and I {respectively} well enough to know that we could be a potential match. And, as most know our story, that solider later became my husband.

With three of my best friends since grade school {at rehearsal dinner; before walking down the aisle, and at the reception}.

Chris and I at the reception.

Corps of Cadets B-Co Class of 2004.

Bridesmaids and bride at the reception.

When Leah and I traveled to Israel together in 2000, her mom bought each of us a bottle of wine at Cana {where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding}. I received my bottle at my reception, and this is Leah's bottle awaiting her toast.

Chris and I with the bride and groom.

As best man, Chris gave a toast to the couple at the reception. He gave Leah some things that might help her in her marriage to Andrew {ear plugs for his snoring; pumice stone to massage his feet and dental floss because flossing is non-negotiable living in the home of a dentist}. Andrew also received a few items to make the transition to a married man a little smoother {orange vest so Leah doesn't mistake him for a deer when hunting and book of coupons because his life is about to get much more expensive}.

His last line of the toast summed up perfected what we wish on these two: "May the most you ever hope for or dream of be the least you ever get."

Friday, December 10, 2010

O Christmas Tree

A few weeks ago, I was browsing the internet when I came across information on the National Christmas Tree lighting. When I lived in NYC, I was never able to attend the Rockefeller Tree lighting {welcome to the world of working at a law firm}. Not that I felt left out for this, as the mass of crowds smooshed for blocks in between the buildings never really appealed to me. But when I noticed that the National Tree lighting at the Eclipse in President's Park was based on a lottery system I thought it might be worth a try. So, I entered my name not expecting much to come from it. A few days later, I received an email that I had been selected for two tickets. It was for the standing room section only {envious of those people who had reserved seating}, but Chris and I decided to brave the cold anyway.

Although the standing room section was actually not that crowded, it did have limited views. We could see a corner of the stage, no thanks to the millions of television cameras set up on the stand in front of us. We also had a view of the upper half of the tree. Nevertheless, it really was worth going {despite the continuing frigid temps}. We listened to holiday performances by Sarah Barielles, Ingrid Michaelson, BB King {suited up in a shiny jacket}, Maroon Five, and several other nationally acclaimed performers. President Obama spoke briefly on the meaning of the season. I could see his tiny outline when I stood on my tiptoes. Then the First Family "lit" the 40foot tree, and the First Lady read The Night Before Christmas {she actually skipped a few pages then had to go back to read those so it turned out to be a bit of a disaster for her, although she recovered nicely}. Mrs. America led a group sing-along {at this point, we began to make our exit}.

Waiting for the action to start. That's the National Menorah directly behind us.

The tip of the tree is to Chris's right. It looks small in this picture but actually is about 40 feet. Below the one of Chris waiting excitedly for Mr. President, is a quick pic I snapped of the lit tree as we were leaving {on my point and shot so not the best quality}.

More Visitors

My little {6'1" tall} brother was just hired on to a company located in a small Pennsylvania town {well, the company isn't exactly located there, just the branch that he will work out of}. So, Garrett and my mom decided to make a trip up this direction for a bit of apartment/house searching for him, since he'll be moving up come January. They flew into DC, spent a night with us {me really, since Chris was working that night}, then took my car for a few days northward. They came back {and returned the car in one piece!} Friday evening and stayed through the weekend.

We explored Old Town in Alexandria, walked miles around DC {literally miles}, made a cupcake stop at Lavender Moon, saw a Da Vinci at the National Gallery, ate good food, toured the National Cathedral, made a quick trip from the National Archives {debate is still on regarding whether we saw the REAL Constitution or just a copy of it} stopped in the Air and Space Museum, ate more good food, waited for Georgetown Cupcakes, and shopped in Tyson's Corner. And we did all this in FREEZING temperatures. Literally freezing. Hence why we opted out of Arlington Cemetry on Sunday and went shopping with all of the other hundreds of holiday shoppers at an inside mall. With the wind gusts, the temperatures haven't risen above the high 30s for the past week. Thank goodness for down jackets.

Umm, check out our hair. No lie it was windy! Mom, me and G in front of the Capitol, attempting to savor the last bits of our cozy, warm Starbucks drinks.

Chris and I in the rotunda of the National Gallery. The massive fountain welcoming incoming visitors just inside the main entrance was festively decorated with bright poinsettias and plants. Of course, the main draw is not the holiday decor but the impressive paintings, sculptures, and sketches that it houses. We strolled around for a bit, making a point to view the only Da Vinci painting in the United States, although one could easily spend an entire day in this building.

Chris and I in the National Cathedral. By far, one of my favorites things to do yet in DC. We took a tour from a docent who looked like Harry Potter should at the age of 70. Seriously though, it was full of so many interesting facts about the cathedral. The cathedral is actually fairly new, with the foundation stone laid in 1907. With the completion of the west tower in 1990, it took 83 years to build. There is a former President buried in there, along with the first lady to serve as President {Woodrow Wilson's wife - interesting story to this}, Helen Keller, and many other past members of the Church.


Oops! We skipped a whole month with no updates. Part of that is because life has been busy. But mostly, life has just been. And when life just is, there isn't always much to share.

For the most part, it has been a quiet month. Chris started a night schedule, so there has been a bit of adjusting to that for him {and me}. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving together. It was a bit unconventional with Chris' schedule {he went into work that night}, but we cooked a turkey with all the trimmings {well, mashed potatoes, green beans and corn, so maybe not ALL the trimmings}. We watched the Aggies beat the Longhorns {whoop!!}. To mess up his schedule a bit more, Chris flew to Texas for a weekend for a bachelor party {and I spent a weekend shopping!}.

That about sums up our November. More to come for December...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First ER Trip

I feel compelled to tell everyone a story about a Tim Taylor Home Improvement moment we had in our apartment not too long ago.

Lyndsey and I had fallen asleep watching Public Enemy on the couch on a Thursday night at about 10, the way it seems most married couples spend early weekend nights off. We woke up and decided to go to bed. I stumble into the bedroom to turn on our tower fan on the floor, which sits just below a shelf that's mounted right at forehead level on the wall (of course, any higher so that I could walk under it would just be too high and would look strange and tacky, according to the Mrs.). I turn it on, and stand up quick. A little too quick apparently. I hit my head so hard right on the sweet spot that I knocked myself out temporarily. As a testament to my handyman skills, the shelf did not budge one centimeter.

My next recollection is looking down at my hands as I wake up dazed laying on my stomach on our bed with blood all around me. Lyndsey said she had called me, and I didn't respond. Her first reaction to seeing her new husband face down on the bed bleeding, squirming, and completely unresponsive was to pull the new, expensive comforter down so I didn't ruin it (that's my girl!). Then, she threw a towel at me and told me to clean it up. Truly the perfect Army wife!

I stand up with a feeling I haven't felt since IED number 6 in Iraq, the feeling of having my bell rung in a total daze. Lyndsey dresses me and we take our first trip to the Ft. Belvoir ER.

We arrive at about 1 am. There are two other people in front of us; a screaming child and a lady who apparently ran out of a prescription medication and needed a refill. Despite this, we waited over an hour, which sadly is probably more efficient than most Army hospitals. We are finally seen by a nurse who asks me such questions as "where does it hurt", "why are you bleeding", and "do you have a headache now". The doctor comes in and diagnoses me with a concussion, and offers to give me a shot to help me sleep that night. The nurse brings out the needle, and it's massive (Lyndsey would probably disagree, but she's not writing this story). She says my only choices are my butt or my femoral artery on my thigh. Lyndsey still laughs that I had to think about it. In my defense, I wasn't thinking too clearly, and I think I saw two needles at the time.

I get the shot, we drive home, and go to bed. One interesting fact we learned from all this that we probably would not have learned otherwise is that corner guards for shelves are only sold at baby stores (I stopped asking after the Bed Bath and Beyond and Home Depot both referred us to Baby's'R'Us) and are apparently not marketed for grown-ups. Of course, I never mentioned the fact that it was for me to the salespeople, and that I hit my head on a shelf that I had installed.

In the end, the comforter was okay, we had an excuse to buy those new 500 thread count sheets we'd been eyeing, and I've regained some of my sanity. Between the two of us in our first 8 weeks of marriage, there has been 1 concussion, 3 cuts and burns in the kitchen, and approximately 6 broken glasses (approximately because I said one of them was still good!). It's true what they say: you really can do more with that special someone in your life than you ever could or would alone, as we have just proven. I just know our kids are going to be truly special one day!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Colors

This past weekend, we took a quick roadtrip to visit some of my {Lyndsey} family in Pennsylvania. Because I am now working, we left late afternoon on Friday - right as everyone else was leaving the city {two hours later, we were out of city traffic!}. My uncle lives in State College and my grandparents had driven up from Texas to visit him.

On Saturday morning, we went with my grandparents to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch. It was a beautiful {very windy} fall day, accented further by the bright reds, yellows, and oranges of the Pennsylvania trees. As Texans who had never really experienced "fall" in the countryside, we were in awe at the rich hues! After selecting pounds of apples {we opted to pick them from the pre-picked barrels, not the trees}, tasting numerous samples, and venturing through a real pumpkin patch {first time to actually see pumpkins growing on its vine}, we went back to my uncle's house. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting, touring Penn State, and eating delicious home-cooked food.

First Guests

Chris' sister, Jenni, and her boyfriend, Dave, came up from Texas to visit us for the weekend {first visitors!}. We spent most of the weekend as tourists, starting with a Capitol tour on Saturday and ending with a walk down the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial. After church on Sunday, we went to Arlington Cemetery {touching and overwhelming experience}. Jenni and Dave were more ambitious than Chris and I, trekking up to the National Cathedral after the cemetery and then waking up with the sun on Monday to see the sunrise over the Mall.

On Saturday, we had lunch in the Eastern Market {one of my favorite places!}.

View of the Mall from the Capitol. We spent the afternoon walking from this point to the far end where the Lincoln Memorial, Korean Memorial and Vietnam Memorial are located.

Chris and I at Arlington Cemetery. We're standing of front of the Robert E. Lee house {aside -- did you know that Robert E. Lee was distantly related to George Washington?}, which sits on a hill overlooking Washington DC. In the far distance, you can actually see the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

So many graves. One cannot go here and not be moved by how many have come before us, believing in a greater cause, served this country.