2012 was the year that love won.
I'm writing this post in January 2014, but I plan to backdate it to January 2013. I wrote it so belatedly because the idea to write a year in review only came to me after 2013. Once I wrote that year's review post, I thought it would be fitting to write one for 2012. I think the distance will probably lend a slightly different tone to my recollections.
2012 was such a rich year that I created a memory book, similar to a scrapbook, and something I hadn't done in years.
I didn't start Packing Lust until June 2012, so I'll have to sum up the first five months of the year without the help of this blog. Due to some date mix-ups during the transfer of my blog from Weebly to Wordpress, I'm not sure which was my first official post in June. Was it this one about my pre-adventure giddiness?
But before we get into what I was blogging about, let's backtrack and cover those exciting first 5 months of 2012, when I married the love of my life, twice.
I started off the month with annual get together of some of my oldest college friends in Raleigh, North Carolina. We sat around in our PJ's, snacking, laughing, and lavishing each other with handmade gifts. Julie arranged a bridal gown shopping trip for me at a nearby boutique, and I had a great time trying on gowns that cost thousands of dollars. If I remember correctly, I had already purchased the gown that I would get married in for $50 from a discount shop called JR's. After wedding dress shopping, we ate cupcakes at The Cupcake Shop in downtown Raleigh.
I remember a day in February when Charming called me outside our apartment for help unloading the groceries. When I emerged, he pressed play on the music player in his car and blasted one of my favorite songs out the windows What a Wonderful Life/Somewhere over the Rainbow by IZ. He got out and started dancing with me, and the beautiful West Hollywood sky above took on a new beauty, the palms bursting like stars into the blue. I felt so grateful to be with him on a beautiful day in February. That memory reminds me of the romance of our engagement. He'd asked me to marry him during an early morning hike in November, 2011- completely surprising me with a proposal out in nature.
That day in February, it felt like we had finally won. We had won each other and we'd won our joy. When we started dating, some of my close friends and mentors had communicated their disappointment and disapproval, all because Charming and I don't share the same spiritual beliefs. The lack of support among some of my friends made me doubt the romance. All this difficulty was something I didn't expect or dream I would encounter at the same time as I was falling in love. Thankfully, we both had our family's support. I doubt we could have moved forward as smoothly as we did without that. I also had a few friends who were supportive the whole way through. And I made new friends who supported my interfaith relationship and the influence Charming had on me. And some of my Christian friends were growing in the same direction as I was - toward a more progressive, tolerant faith - and that helped tremendously, and still does. But the sifting process - trying to separate the helpful advice from the harmful advice - was exhausting. It felt like a test. Would I listen to my heart or did I believe my heart was "deceitful above all things," like some of my Christians friends would've quoted from Jeremiah 17:9? I knew that I could trust my heart on this matter. My Prince Charming is a good man, and his love is the greatest gift I have ever received. My heart was right.
That February night, we hosted a Valentine's Celebration of Love and Friendship. Our friends dressed in pink and red, and we gave away some of our possessions, lightening our load in preparation for living abroad. We laughed with our friends and celebrated our community in Los Angeles.
I felt completely spoiled in March. My mom and sister flew out to LA and treated me to an amazing spa day. My sister organized one heavenly bachelorette party.
We got married! I walked down the "aisle" - the dirt path to the cliff's edge where we got married - to that song we danced to in February. Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I wore the $50 dress I bought with my mom on the trip to JRs.
Charming and I were and are so thankful to our friends and family who attended both of our weddings and provided so much love on our celebration days.
In May my family threw us another wedding, one that was easier for all our East Coast friends and family to attend. It was a sparkling, rustic, elegant affair held in a reclaimed historic building that used to be a mule barn (that sounds odd, but I promise, it's beautiful.) The evening was travel-themed, with cake in the shape of a suitcase, and vintage style maps on the walls.
Later that month, I proudly watched as my brother graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. President Obama shook his hand for a job well done!
And that brings us up to June! I moved to Palestine, following Charming who'd already been there for several weeks getting adjusted to his new job. June and July were adjustment months of figuring out how things worked in a third world country. We traveled up to Akko, and out to Taybeh in July, and I spent my birthday with Charming at a Dead Sea resort.
September was honeymoon month. Not that I was feeling travel deprived, but it was so nice to lounge around someplace that wasn't third world or a conflict zone. More than that, the sunsets! The seafood! The jumping off boats!
If you're wondering why Charming doesn't appear in these early Packing Lust photos, it was for his privacy. We lifted the ban on Charming's face appearing here in 2013.
In November, we rescued an adorable puppy we named Jelly Bean. She became a permanent member of our family. A short time later, another puppy showed up on our doorstep and I went through quite a lot to help her get Israeli puppyship so that she could have access to doggie rights like health care and the chip.
The last month of 2012 was very full. I took my first trips to Gaza City (I'm sorry - my Gaza post seems to have disappeared!) and Hebron, two cities in Palestine particularly ruptured by the occupation. We spent Christmas Eve at Manger Square in Bethlehem. Charming's birthday we celebrated in Tel Aviv.
I managed to pack in plenty of my own packing angst, along with what hopefully amounted to some helpful guidance for other travelers.
What I Learned
What a year! It was a rich, full, beautiful year of adventures. My big lesson this year was learning to really listen to my heart so that love can win. It's a lesson I'm still working on, a constant challenge I'm glad to embrace!
May love always win,