It might have taken me ten months to write about my honeymoon, but I am determined to keep my New Year’s tradition of blogging about the previous year’s highlights on January 1st.
In other words, this will be an all nighter.
But didn’t you only get four hours of sleep last night? you ask. Why yes, the 4 am wake-up call and airplane travel did force me to have one sleepless night already, but what’s one more night for the sake of a blog?
If you’ve been following “Fushilou” for a while, you’ll remember that I like to keep my New Year’s lists thematic. I began in 2010 very simply with Top Moments, then progressed to Top Food Moments, then Top Pictures of Food Moments, before having to get more creative. (I also had to reduce the number because having a Top 22 of 2022 is just unwieldy.)
Last year I was overwhelmed with life changes, so I wrote my Top Noteworthy Life Events, and this year is similarly meta because what a year it’s been.
Without further ado, I give you:
The Top 10 Things That I Never Thought Would Happen (that happened) in 2022
1. Leaving Rhode Island.
Granted, in 2016 I put all of my furniture into storage, bought a one-way ticket to Greece, and expected to stay there for at least a year. But I knew that I would return to Rhode Island some day. From the first time I visited Rhode Island in 2011, it felt like home, and it’s always been my favorite little big city (or big little city?) in the world. It’s quirky and creative, full of charm and a close-knit community, and I am its number one fan girl*.
*ask anyone at my writing workshops in Italy and in Greece. Yes, Jenny, we get it. Rhode Island has great food and we all need to visit.
The decision to leave was easy, but the transition itself was hard. I find myself comparing Rhode Island to every place I visit and every place I live. I’m grateful to have spent nearly a decade in the best kept secret of New England.
2. Getting Married.
Of course I hoped to be married “some day,” and by the time 2022 began, the ball was already in motion. But if you had asked me a couple of years ago – say, at the end of 2020 – when I thought I’d be getting married, I would have laughed (or more likely, cried) in your face. It is nothing short of a miracle that Rob and I found each other when we did, and every day I am humbled by this new reality God has granted me.
I’ve noticed that when I tell the story of how we met, some people believe I am the one responsible for “manifesting” Rob, but I assure you, I had nothing to do with it. My list was simply the measure God used to show that He can make the impossible things possible. And given my track record, God probably wanted to ensure that I did not MISS THE OBVIOUS: *Marry Rob!* *Rob is the guy!* *Marry this guy right here!*
Here’s a five minute video that captures our entrance into the great μυστήριο that is marriage:
3. Going to Greece and not visiting an island.
As you may have gleaned from my three-part saga of our honeymoon, we spent our post-wedding bliss in Greece. But what you may have forgotten is that we wanted to stay on the mainland – something I never thought I’d aspire to do. There are so many islands to explore! But winter tends to bring out the homebody in us, and a number of islands close down in winter, so we figured we could use the opportunity see some landmarks. Juniper Tours helped us arrange our trip: we flew into Thessaloniki and spent a couple walking along the promenade enjoying the best bougatsa in the land; drove down to Kalambaka and hiked to the clifftop monasteries of Meteora; spent a week in the picturesque mountain villages of Pelion, where centaurs are said to have roamed; then drove through Nea Makri en route to Athens, concluding our trip with a rooftop view of the Acropolis in the capital city.
4. Attending every single service during the season of Lent.
This came about unexpectedly. In part, I wanted to see my husband, and he was there Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, several Saturday mornings, and every Sunday, with some bonus liturgies during the week. Holy Week is an entirely different ballgame, with daily services – sometimes two or three services per day. I believe it was the Monday after “Clean Monday,” when Lent officially begins, that I overheard someone said, “Only 33 more services till Pascha!”
The benefit of having a very part-time job at Brown was that I could complete my working hours around attending church. I knew my situation was a rare one, and I’m so glad I took advantage of it. To anyone who has the ability to rearrange their schedule to flow with the church’s during Lent: do it. It’ll change your life.
5. Going on a cruise.
As an intrepid traveler, I tend to have “opinions” about cruises. I’ve seen what they’ve done to places like Santorini, what they do to the environment, not to mention how they were vessels of plague at the onset of COVID, and I never had a desire to be a part of such a tourist venture.
But when Rob and I ended up with a week-long interim between Rob’s jobs, which was just enough time for a “real” vacation but flying overseas would eat most of our budget, we faced a conundrum. Staying stateside was not as appealing as crossing off a new country from our bucket list. After talking to other Floridians, the idea of a cruise was posited. Could that be both an affordable and a desirable option?
Yes, my friends. Yes it could.
We cruised to Haiti and the Caribbean, we met a group of awesome young adults, we relaxed and enjoyed tropical drinks, and we got to watch the sun rise and set each day over the ocean. I still have my qualms about cruises and I wouldn’t recommend them for the majority of travel, but I drank the juice, and now I understand the appeal.
6. Moving to Texas.
I touched on this in Welcome to Texas, Y’all, but I never expected to move to Texas, least of all Dallas. The DFW airport specifically has had a vendetta against me for at least a decade, so the first time Rob mentioned the possibility of moving here, I probably guffawed. Me? Live in Texas? Yeah right.
After seven months of living here, I have to say: Dallas is not what I expected. The city is more approachable, the people more inviting, and the church more welcoming than I could have hoped for, and it has been a great place for Rob and me to be. We still have more to explore (the DFW metroplex is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island), and I can’t navigate anywhere other than the gym and church without GPS, but I’ll get there eventually. Advantage: there is no shortage of good food here.
7. Enjoying the bench press.
This seems out of the blue, but go with me on this one. My husband may do a lot of work for the church, but he will be sainted solely for all that he has endured while trying to help me bench press properly. I was a pro at Les Mills Body Pump and could bench press 30 pounds from an aerobic step like no one’s business. But the first time Rob and I used the actual bench at the gym, where the base weight of the bar is 45 lbs, I crumbled like a leaf. My hatred for the bench press persisted so vehemently that Rob had to take a break from assisting me at all, on account of all the crying. Heaven forbid he correct me on me form. And benching no weights – or somehow even worse, the bar with 2.5-pound donuts on either end – was humiliating.
Thankfully, Rob didn’t give up being my spotter. I might not be benching my own body weight yet, but I’ve more than doubled where I started. Who would have thought I’d even sort of like it…
8. Getting a job offer from WebPunch.
It came across my LinkedIn feed while I was getting my car inspected: “Renegade Review Responder & Copywriter Creative.” The job description involved responding to online consumer reviews and included the words “world domination.” I spent all my time at the tax collector’s office (getting a new vehicle title/registration) looking at their website, thinking of how I would apply as soon as I had my computer in front of me. In less than 24 hours, there were over 200 applicants according to LinkedIn.
By the time they closed submissions, 1500 people had applied.
I bemoaned my status and my odds, thinking there was little point in applying when over 200 people had already applied. In response, Rob said, “It’s a good thing you’re one in a million.”
Being the copywriter creative that I am, I turned around and used that very line in my introductory email, saying: “I hope I’m not late to the game. LinkedIn says you posted the job less than 24 hours ago and there are already 200+ applicants. Luckily for me, my husband says I’m one in a million, and I hope you feel the same.” Thankfully – after reviewing my cover letter, resume, aptitude test results, interview, and writing response test – they thought so, too.
I started my job at the end of August, and this is the first time I’ve had a 40-hour/week position since 2012 (at least without having to juggle three jobs). It’s fully remote, with fun benefits and perks. It’s been a ride so far, and I’m grateful they found me.
9. Helping Rob become a cowboy.
Even before we moved to Texas – from the moment we first visited – Rob decided he wanted to dress like a cowboy. He was ready to embrace Texas living and get the boots, the hat, the belt, the whole deal. Perhaps because of my upbringing, or the influence of living in New England, or both, I resisted his pleas with an emphatic, “NOPE. No way. Not happening.”
For that reason, I knew he would never suspect my help in his pursuit of “blending in” as Christmas drew near. As soon as he mentioned the kind of boots he wanted, I knew I needed to employ the help of others. Together with my parents, his parents, and the consultation of Presv. Thea, we gifted him boots, jeans, a belt buckle, and a hat. He was completely surprised and looks more like a Texan every day.
10. Visiting Rhode Island at Christmas(-ish).
I had hoped to visit Rhode Island over Labor Day weekend this year, but I had to cancel that trip without knowing know when I’d have the opportunity to reschedule. Next fall, maybe?
Then I received a message from my friend’s boyfriend, asking if we (Rob and I) would fly in for New Year’s to surprise her. That timeline didn’t work for us, but the seed was planted: could we go to Rhode Island in the winter?
Rob had asked what I wanted for Christmas. “A vacation!” I kept saying. I looked at our calendars. As soon as I learned I had the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, I bothered Rob relentlessly until we determined a window of availability just after Christmas and before the New Year.
With last minute help from Rob, from my friend’s boyfriend, from the priest at our church, and even the cooperation of my parents, we were able to put this plan into motion so we could escape for a few days to the east coast. My dad said it was ironic that for so many years I left Rhode Island to come to the southwest for the holidays, and here I was at the same time of year about to go to Rhode Island to visit.
It was the most amazing whirlwind of a trip, including the essential stops at Yoleni’s and Malted Barley, in addition to Pechakucha, The Tuesday Tipplers Writing Group, The Burgundian, Ellie’s, Seven Stars, and the Roger Williams Zoo light show. And, of course, the people: the handful I knew I would see and the others who serendipitously appeared because that’s the way Rhode Island is – it felt as though I had never left.
It was nice to end the year by returning to the place I had left at the beginning of the year, to have undergone major life changes and two cross-country moves and to find Little Rhody much like I left it. I guess that’s what any real home does: it helps you grow, it allows you to leave, and it reminds you that you always have a place to return to when you need to feel grounded.
I’m lucky that this was a place I could call home, and I’m grateful to everyone who has welcomed me and Rob into their homes and their lives this year. From Florida to Texas (and New Mexico and Utah!), what an honor it has been to grow and multiply our hearts in this way.
And, of course, I must circle around and back to the mystery that is marriage, the gift that is my husband – my fellow adventurer and follower of Christ. I’m so grateful that wherever I go moving forward, as long as Rob is there, it will be home.
Happy 2023, dear readers. May your hearts have many places they can grow, be set free, and return to as often as needed.