The Shaul Family
- My “finding the good in 2020” and “best of 2020” blog posts share quite a few recaps, highlights, and thoughts on this year, if you’d like to read those, and I’ll share some more here, too!
- Our marriage! Rob and I have spent almost every hour of every day together this year (I had a wedding in Charlottesville one weekend, and other than that… together!), and I’m so glad I absolutely love and like my sweet husband! We’ve tried to be more intentional about having special dates together since we’re… always together. We haven’t eaten at any restaurants since February, but we’ve been pretty good about infusing some delight and memorable touches onto our dates: whether it’s dressing up, trying something new, getting outside to our deck or a park, or just getting creative. Three that particularly stand out this year include a pizza picnic in the park (we picked up pizzas from a favorite local spot, brought wine, and enjoyed a summer evening picnic at a beautiful park), a surprise crab/seafood boil I prepared for one of Rob’s birthday treats, and our Christmas cocktail party for two just the other day. We have had a lot of fun exploring outdoors together! We’ve had deeper and longer conversations than ever before, have time to be still with one another rather than running to the next event or activity, and to pause and savor quieter times together. We’ve also had the time to focus on the little things – and not the grand adventures or the travel – that bring us closer together and really connect us. From long walks to playing games together to happy hours on our deck and more, I’m grateful that this pandemic has blessed Rob and myself with so many hours and months together. I believe our marriage is stronger for it, and I’m really glad he’s not sick of me yet! Joking aside, I know how blessed we are to have a happy, thriving marriage where we value, respect, love, support, and encourage each other. We’re not perfect by any means, but our marriage is a constant source of joy and love, and even more time together has only strengthened us.
- Our families and our new nephew! We are so close with both of our families but sadly have not gotten to see them nearly as much as we had planned or hoped – by a long shot. None of our family lives in Raleigh, and time together this year was precious and rare. We are so, so thankful for the time that we did get to spend with them, as there’s practically nothing more important to us. The best family memories were those few times when we actually got to see our families in person, and goodness were they special visits! I’ve never taken our family for granted but I especially won’t now. We are wildly blessed by such wonderful families and just love and miss them all a lot. We welcomed a new nephew into the world and into our hearts at the start of 2020, and he is far and away the highlight of 2020 and the biggest joy this year! Being an aunt is the best of the best, and we love our two nephews and niece so, so very much!!
- I’m about to kick off my eighth year of Stephanie Shaul Events (my seven year anniversary of launching SSE is in January!), which is still a little surreal for me! As you can imagine, being a wedding planner in 2020/during a pandemic was not an easy task, which I shared a bit more about in this wedding season recap post. In many ways, it’s been the hardest, most mentally exhausting, and most difficult year to be a wedding planner and small business owner. But as I reflect back on this year, I am also incredibly overwhelmed and deeply grateful for all of the lessons learned, the wonderful and kind couples and families I’ve worked with, the flexibility, resilience, strength, and beauty that I’ve seen firsthand, the wedding industry’s resolve and the wildly talented vendors and friends I get to serve alongside, and the hope that I know deep in my heart.
- Rob had several big real estate closings this year, loves his real estate firm, and is excited for what’s in store for 2021 with work. I am so proud of him!! His business has really thrived this year, even in a pandemic, and he had led his real estate clients so well. (Let me know if you are local and need a real estate broker!)
- Our home as a haven. On a similar note, Rob and I had always prayed that our house was more than just a house and would have, in some way, a bigger purpose. We feel like this year, our house has felt even more like home and has been used for something much bigger than just ourselves. Whenever we had dinner parties or friends over before the pandemic, those times were small tastes of what we imagined for our home. Being able to wholly and gladly welcome my sister’s family into our home for a few months during the height of the pandemic felt so purposeful and so aligned with what God has always wanted for our home. I can only hope that they felt incredibly welcomed, loved, and cared for every minute of their stay with us. We want our home to be a haven, especially given the current conditions of the world: where you can come to feel safe, loved, welcomed, invited, and comfortable. We have long wanted our home to be filled with love, warmth, and generosity – and not just the two of us. And though we had to get creative with how to rearrange our rooms to accommodate four adults and a baby (and all of the home offices that needed to fully function!), it was so much fun and worked so seamlessly. Our home has never been happier than when there was a play mat and changing station and bouncer taking over the living room, or when all three bedrooms are completely filled. The foundation of our home is built on welcoming and loving others, and I feel like we’ve been able to do that this year in a very unexpected, big way – and a time I’ll never forget. Our time together was such a gift for us!
- Despite some sweet memories this year, there were definitely a fair share of challenges and harder moments. But through it all, we’re deeply grateful for our faith and the hope that we have in Him, our marriage and love for one another, and truly wonderful families and friends. With losing my grandfather to covid, a close family member losing a job after 35+ years there due to covid layoffs, losing Rob’s grandfather, not getting to see family for months and months (almost a year for some), major business hits and monetary losses for both of us, etc… not to mention the state of the world and our country and all that’s unfolded this year on a wider scope… I just have to trust in Him, cling to hope, and believe that He is mighty and faithful. It’s not been an easy year, but simultaneously, I feel like my faith has grown because of it.
- While it’s been incredibly hard not to see much of our friends and our families in person, I am proud of how well people have come together virtually, have found creative ways to stay connected and live life, even if not in person, and have seen over and over the sheer importance of community and relationships. There’s little more important than this, and I feel that more than ever before. Even if not in person, this year has reinvigorated many of my long distance friendships, I’ve made use of Marco Polo with family and friend group videos daily, kept in touch way more than usual, had virtual baby showers and bridal showers and graduations and yes, even weddings, been on countless Zoom calls, been able to have articles club every month, had virtual game nights and double dates, had our weekly community group online, and gathered virtually with our church every Sunday. While, of course, I very much wish that it was safe to be with all of our loved ones in person as we usually are, and I miss gathering together more than I ever thought possible, there have been some wonderful pivots and adaptations made to stay connected as best as possible. In the warmer months, distanced picnics at the park or on our back deck were a saving grace and such a sweet welcome! We miss our community, friends, and family so, so much and cannot wait til it’s safer to hug each other!!
- We celebrated five years of our articles club! You know reading is such a vital part of my life, as is community with other women. My monthly articles club (and book club, too) are both highlights of each month, for sure! I am thankful for the kind, thoughtful, wise ladies in each of these groups and have learned so much from each of them! I shared a ton more about what an articles club is, how much I absolutely adore ours, and how you can start your own on this post!
2020 Travel Highlights:
Clearly the vast majority of our travel plans were postponed or outright canceled this year, but we did manage to enjoy several fun day trips and some incredibly precious time with our families over the holidays (since we all self-quarantined for many weeks ahead of time and took many precautions!). We cherished this time even more than we ever have before and are so, so grateful we could be together. Before the pandemic, I was able to go to NYC to visit our newborn nephew mere days after he was born and spend several days with them. This sweet, sweet time together was SO dear, and it’s amazing to think how much he’s grown this year! (His birth was far and away the highlight of 2020!) Our favorite day trips with just the two of us include Charlottesville, the beach a couple times, and the mountains a couple times. We particularly loved a beautiful day in Holden Beach and our annual drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to soak in the fall foliage. We were able to meet my parents halfway between Charlotte and Raleigh for a couple outdoor and distanced hikes/picnics that were really special, too. I love that there are SO many incredible, diverse destinations within a day’s drive of Raleigh, most of which are outdoor and feel incredibly safe!
2020 Stats & Figures:
- Masks bought: 12
- Zoom baby showers: 5
- Zoom bridal showers: 4
- Trips taken: 18 (most small outdoor day trips & many before the pandemic!)
- Books read: 71 (all by me; here’s my roundup!)
- Books loaned to friends in my little personal library: 47
- Blog posts written: 56 (slightly more than last year!)
- Fantasy football leagues: 6 (all for Rob)
- Shows binged: 5 (The Queen’s Gambit, Downton Abbey, Parks & Rec, Psych, Survivor)
- Days with my sister, brother-in-law, and our nephew living with us: close to 120!
- Cooking challenges: 3 (more on these here!)
- Board games played: countless
- Family/friend weddings postponed: 5
- SSE weddings postponed or canceled: 8
- SSE smallest wedding guest count: 13
- Half Baked Harvest recipes cooked: 41
- Starbucks consumed: 1
- Trips inside Target: 0
Favorite third year of marriage memories:
day trips to the beach and mountains together, daily walks around our neighborhood, at local parks, and around Historic Oakwood, smoking meat and grilling all year long on Rob’s new smoker (he is quite the meat connoisseur!), never getting tired of spending time together, even when we’re basically together every minute of every day for the whole year, curling up to watch new movies or favorite shows, board games and chess and puzzles together, date nights on our deck with the market lights, picnics in the park, playing tennis, cooking dinners together and trying many new, delicious recipes this year (Rob loves surprising me with recipes he’s researched!), fun surprises for Rob’s birthday, lots of long conversations and laughter on the couch, Facetimes with our nephews and niece, Sundays spent watching football (and cheering on the Bills!), watching Rob’s real estate business thrive, being a bridesmaid and a groomsman together at our dear friends’ wedding, going to a tailgate wedding, lots of zoom double dates, romantic steak dinners by candlelight, enjoying Scholl family Christmas traditions, and celebrating our fourth married Christmas!
Despite everything that’s occurred this year, I am still determined to find the good in 2020. I have been reframing my perspective, placing my hope in something far greater, clinging to faith and belief, and finding joy in the littlest victories. Life – this beautiful, wild, wonderful, unpredictable life – is happening now. Despite life looking far different right now than most of us ever predicted or planned or hoped, nevertheless, life is unfolding right now, moment by moment. Instead of wishing these fleeting days away or hoping for a return to the past or growing angry at the present (sometimes easier said than done), I am choosing to find the good in this year and to celebrate the little moments however I can.
When I look back on this year, what do I want my story of 2020 to be? How will I have handled this year? Will I have merely survived or did I choose to thrive, even amidst the hardships? What will I remember? What did I do to love God and love others well? How did I help others and how did I create joy in our own home?
What about you, friends? It’s not easy, and it certainly doesn’t always happen, but I want my story of this year to be filled with so much more focus on the good things. There have been a lot of hard circumstances, news, days, decisions, headlines, and moments this year, but I know God is still here and He is still good. There is still so much joy and gratitude to be found and recognized. I want to reframe my perspective of this year so that good is still claimed and blessings can still be counted. We have been given a lot of gifts this year, even when it can be hard to see or know that. Everything I’ve shared here is proof that, while it has definitely been a harder season than ever imagined, we have been given opportunities to claim this year as a good year, to triumph through the struggles, to do the best that we can with where we are, to live our lives with faith in something far greater, to thrive however we can right now (even if it may feel like anything but), to serve others and live selflessly and share hope and joy, and so much more. This is my story, and this is how I choose to live it: seeking goodness, loving others, and filled with hope. And cheers to 2021!
Thank you for your love and support, friends! I am incredibly grateful. I hope your year had moments of joy and magic even though it may have been a hard year in countless ways. Wishing you and yours hope, peace, and joy in the year ahead!