Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Card

In case you didn't receive an actual Christmas card from us this year (I am cheap and didn't send out many), here is our digital holiday update. Please feel free to print off our faces and hang them on your fridges. Merry Christmas!

Friends and Family,

Holiday greetings from the South! This is likely the last year we will be able to say that, so we’re making it count. We wanted to share with you all (still haven’t adopted the “y’all” thing) a few highlights from this past year as well as some of our future plans, and mostly just say “Merry Christmas!”

Almost nine months of the last year, Andrew was deployed to Afghanistan. He left in November and returned in early August. So after missing basically all the major holidays of last year, this holiday season has been one of heightened thankfulness. We are grateful to do the simple, normal holiday things together this year, like eating Thanksgiving dinner, and decorating the tree, and Andrew not coming Christmas shopping with me...Though the nine months we were apart was very trying at times, I think we have both learned much about perspective and about what we can endure (e.g., Andrew lived in the desert for nine months and I mowed the lawn by myself [though technically I think I started crying every time I had to do it...but I was sort of hyper-emotional at the time and it was a big lawn...]).

Travels: The Last Year without Kids
When Andrew came home from Afghanistan, we were fortunate to both take some time off of work. Andrew took almost a month of leave, and though it was difficult for me, after working at Georgia Southern University for six semesters teaching writing and literature, I decided not to return in the fall so Andrew and I could take spend some much needed time together. For our reunion vacation, we chose to visit Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in two travel-packed weeks (including a drive up the east coast from Savannah to D.C.). Deciding to spend every second together after not being around each other for nine months was likely not the smartest thing we have ever done (read: I forgot how often Andrew flosses his teeth, and he forgot how much I revolve vacation plans around lattes), but the trip was one of those trips – the kind where you sort of marvel at where you are and what you are doing and try to remember all the sensory details because you’re not sure you’ll ever experience something like it again. We ate Swiss chocolate, rode bikes through quaint Bavarian towns, took trains through the Austrian countryside, rode in cable cars in the Alps, and somehow intermixed in our non-Italy travels, Andrew managed to eat the best lasagna of his life. We had great weather and great food – and only a few travel delays and one bike crash, which involved someone who apparently never learned that bikes have different handle brakes for the front and rear tires. Who knew.

The day we returned from our Europe trip, we drove westward from D.C. to Ohio for a family wedding. One of Andrew’s sisters had been married in New York in May, (in an absolutely lovely, rustic, young-people-of-New-York kind of wedding), but Andrew was deployed and unable to attend. So his sister Amanda’s wedding in Ohio was the first chance we would all be together with Andrew’s family since his return. The family all stayed in one big house we rented for the week, and we spent many hours talking and telling stories, completing wedding crafts, and enjoying the great gift of family. Amanda was a beautiful bride and we capped the night with a lot of dancing and pie eating (what a great thing to serve at a wedding).

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...
About two weeks after we returned from Ohio, I found out I was pregnant. This wasn’t totally unexpected, but somehow that faint “plus sign” was still a world-shifter. Suddenly, I was ordering baby books on Amazon, and eating carrots, and trying to resist buying all the ridiculously cute and overpriced baby clothes at GAP. On Christmas day, I will be 17 ½ weeks, and the baby is due around the end of May. We will find out the gender in January and plan to let people know (so they can buy the ridiculously cute and overpriced baby clothes at GAP). Though we’re still unsure of a name, you can be certain we will walk the more traditional route – no Bouquet Brussels Brown, or Opaque Oasis Brown this year. In fact, just to be sure that our baby will be safe from name teasing, any time I suggest a name, Andrew tries to make fun of it or ruin it, because in his words, “this is what all the other kids will naturally do.” That weeded out Ransom Brown early on, which is obviously not traditional enough and Andrew assured me would soon be known by his elementary school foes as “Rancid” Brown.

Go West, Young Man
As of our plans today, 2014 will mark the end of our time in Georgia. We have spent nearly four (pretty great) years here, and Savannah will always be the place where I fell in love with the South. Though I definitely won’t miss things like swarms of gnats that bite you and 100% humidity and an alarming lack of coffee shops, there is much I am certain will be very hard to say goodbye to: our friends, our church, our soccer team, Kroger, Spanish moss, shrimp and grits, the ocean, and basically the fact that Andrew and I built a life together here. We’ve spent the majority of our marriage in Georgia and this place truly does feel like home.

However, we knew that eventually we wanted to move back to Oregon to be nearer to family and to return to the hippie, outdoors-way of the great Northwest. So while starting over is always hard, we’ve had time to mentally prepare for the great migration west. Currently, Andrew is applying for work and we are praying and trusting God that He will lead us to where we need to be. We pray that this time of change and transition is one where we are reminded that God truly is good – that he has been good to us in the past, and will continue to do so. We trust in His plans for our lives and pray that this year is one where we know Him more and follow him more closely, even as we walk not sure of where we are going. He is faithful. And we are thankful.

We pray your holiday is one of faith, hope, and love in Him...and eggnog lattes.

The Browns

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Redeployment and Other Updates

Andrew has been home from Afghanistan almost one week now. This is, obviously, the most exciting thing happening in our lives right now, followed distantly by the opening of a Whole Foods today in Savannah, and even more distantly by the fact that yesterday we bought a new leaf blower. Since I haven't taken any pictures of the leaf blower (yet), and I post enough food-related photos on Instagram, I thought I would share some of the Redeployment Ceremony photos -- and thank you to Sarah Johnson for discreetly taking a few pictures. It's always nice to have paparazzi friends when you need them.

If you've not experienced a Redeployment Ceremony, essentially, you stand and wait with a large group of people who are also waiting for their soldiers. Everyone receives a tiny American flag, and a band plays, and you try not to get really emotional when you see moms holding babies with signs that say things like, "I've waited 265 days to meet my dad!" Eventually buses pull up near the field, and everywhere shouts and cheers while the soldiers are shuffled out of the vehicles and into a formation. Then they march out into the middle of the field, the National Anthem is sung, someone prays and says a few words acknowledging the commitment and sacrifice of the last 9 months, and then some announcer-like guy yells, "Now go find your soldier!" Then the happy chaos ensues.










We are thankful for the love, support, and prayers that so many have offered us in these past 9-months. This was, at times, a very difficult experience. But we were sustained by our friends and family and the great grace of God (and for Andrew, things like card games, and for me, things like Friday Night Lights). And for that we are extremely thankful.

I should also clarify that our time in the military is officially coming to a close. As of February, Andrew will be out. We are hoping to move back to the Northwest to be closer to family, and, of course, to reside in the great state of Oregon. We are trusting and praying for the season ahead, and trying to live fully in the one we are in now. Currently, that consists of a lot of time off for both of us, a family wedding in Ohio in September, and lots of other joyous travel and time together. Thank you all, again. We are blessed.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Keeping up with the Joneses

This past weekend, I was in New York. New York is always a hustling and busy place and sometimes I dislike being there. Too many people -- too many cool people, to be exact. But being around cool people also means you have a high chance of seeing someone famous. Last time I was in New York, I saw Condoleezza Rice. She was pretty. This time, I saw Peter Dinklage. You might not know the name, but you know the man. He's currently in Game of Thrones, but he's perhaps best known for playing the great dwarf-like editor of Miles Finch in the holiday classic, ELF (He's an angry elf). My sister-in-law Elizabeth thought I was staring at him because he was a dwarf. In actuality, I was staring at him because he's famous, and you don't see people like Peter Dinklage in Savannah. Paula Deen, yes. But famous dwarfs, no.

The more notable and exciting thing that happened in New York this past weekend was that my eldest sister-in-law, Rachel, got married. Weddings are always fun: a chance to see family, to momentarily bask in someone else's romance, to eat free food and drink sangria, and dance to Beyonce in public. This wedding had been a milestone for me during Andrew's deployment. When I thought about the long months ahead, I often thought about Rachel's wedding, and how once I got there, once I was able to spend a few family-packed days celebrating, the few months left until Andrew returned wouldn't seem so long. It was also a milestone because as everyone gets older, it becomes increasingly difficult to all get together. On the Brown side of the family, my in-laws are still in Spain, Andrew is in Afghanistan, one sister just returned from Israel, one lives in New York, and the other is in Ohio. So I think we all treasured this wedding as a blip on the Brown family timeline -- an event that existed outside of Christmas -- that allowed us to all be in the same place at the same time. Needless to say, I loved it. Weddings are always busy, but at the end of all the work, you basically get to enjoy one giant party. And in this instance, we partied, New-York style.

Here are some pictures from the day.

Location: The Barn in Tivoli (about 2 hours upstate)


The decor:



The day:




The ceremony:



Mr. and Mrs. Jones


Congratulations to Rachel and Adam. Rachel didn't have far to jump on the boring and common last name train, but at least she didn't exchange Brown for something awkward or offensive, like Gorda or Kardashian. From a Brown to a Jones, at least you're in safe territory.

The good news is, we get to do it all again in Ohio in September when Amanda is going to adopt the last name of Mazzola (there better be meatballs at this wedding!). And the best news, perhaps, is that a certain other Brown will be back in time for that one. And hopefully all the weddings to come.