If you ask J R what this year was all about, he says: “Got married and moved. That’s the overview. Everything else revolves around that. We are surviving.” That little synopsis packs in many stories, worries, and joys. We got married on July 4th of this year. And at the time, neither of us had a job near the other yet. We left it to faith that everything would work out before the next school year, and it certainly did! Read on to find out how it all worked out.
January 2018 — Fresh off the heels of December 2017’s trip to Washington State by plane, we returned to our separate lives in Texas but were looking forward to a live together. We joined a Financial Peace University class in Denton, TX that last until March. Sarah made the 2.5 hour drive each Thursday night so we could focus on finances and learn how to live like no one else so one day we can live and give like no one else. (It was also an excuse for date night.) Sarah also completed another certification with Quality Matters for online course development. J R continued the demolition of the bathroom to prepare it for a renovation. We also made a pre-family trip to the Fort Worth Water Gardens. Copper, Sarah’s basset hound, passed away in the backyard and was buried at her home in Cason/Daingerfield.
February 2018 — February was a busy work month for us both. But Sarah did manage to sneak in a special Valentine’s Day delivery at work for J R.
March 2018 — Nika turned 5! We celebrated her birthday with vegan cupcakes at Spiral Diner in Denton. We also got engaged! While driving to Alabama on our way to drop off Nika at Sarah’s grandma’s house in Florida, Sarah finally cracked the code of a 7 hour long puzzle J R had set up for the proposal. You can read our proposal story here. We celebrated on the top floor at the chef’s table with beautiful night views of Mobile, AL. We continued on to Chipley, Florida, then to Atlanta, GA to catch a flight to Costa Rica for Spring Break. We spent our time on a beautiful coffee farm, learned how to navigate a foreign transportation system, toured Starbucks’ Hacienda Alsacia, their research coffee farm which had only opened up that month. It was amazing! We loved the architecture, took so many ubers and buses, found a remote beach, visited a Toucan/Sloth rescue, saw Dracula live at the national theater, visited a national museum, meandered around downtown San Jose, stayed at a resort in the middle of the Costa Rican forest owned by Israelis that funds a massive dog rescue operation. We ate amazing vegan food in Costa Rica. It was so, so delicious and we would visit again in a heartbeat. After our trip, J R tried to surprise Sarah (she already guessed) with a trip to Greenville, South Carolina for a one-on-one workshop with a jeweler so that we could create each other’s weddings bands. We hammered, heated, bent, shaped, and polished each other’s rings in a one-of-a-kind experience. While we were enjoying our kid-free time, Nika was wearing the heck out of Gigi (Sarah’s grandma). Although we secretly know that Gigi loved her time with Nika, especially since she taught her how to match her own clothes together (something that she is adamant about doing).
April 2018 — Back to reality and job applications. J R had many job interviews near Sarah. Sarah was still seeking open positions but her positions were harder to come by. She put in three applications for jobs, some closer but not really “close”. We got our hopes up with a job offer J R received…making it all the way to the board meeting, only for the job to be pulled from underneath him when the current position holder decided not to retire after all. God had other plans apparently, but we weren’t sure what they were quite yet. J R had his first test run as a “single parent”. Sarah traveled to Phi Theta Kappa internationals in Kansas City, Missouri.
May 2018 — Sarah started her own business, Coffee to Wine Makeup, donating 100% of her profits to charities and community projects. In the eight months she operated in 2018, she racked up more than $17,000 in sales and its now the “best long term fundraiser” for CoPilot Animal Rescue (which we are still running together!). Sarah also got called for her first jury duty but sadly was not selected. J R continued to work on his own side projects and frequently came out to Daingerfield to help Sarah downsize and fix fences for the animals.
June 2018 — After Sarah returned from Salt Lake City, UT grading AP Government exams, we added Zinc, another basset hound, to the family! She is a now 9 year old pup to solve that Copper-shaped hole in Sarah’s heart. We remain in contact with her prior owner who had to give her up for health reasons. She is a fireball. We celebrated J R’s birthday with tickets to see Trevor Noah live in Oklahoma. J R continued to interview. Nika has an amazing recital in Mt. Pleasant, TX. We love, love the folks over at Raevin Dance Factory. Her Rainey grandparents came out to Texas see her perform.
July 2018 — We got married! You can read all about it in our wedding recap post. Just two days before the wedding, Sarah interviewed (her one and only interview) with North Central Texas College in Gainesville (where J R lived and we now all live). While we waited for the answer, we got married and did a short staycation honeymoon in Dallas, uncertain of where we would be living when the new school year rolled around in August. We stayed at the gorgeous Joule hotel, enjoyed the cantilevered pool, got a massage, watched the 4th of July fireworks against the Dallas skyline, and otherwise were local tourists as we snapped pictures of all the murals we could find in the Big D and Deep Ellum. (We continue to “mural hunt” as a new family tradition. Nika loves it too). One week after returning home, we got the call. Sarah got the job in Gainesville! We quickly moved her over in two weeks for the start of the new school year. Nika taught herself how to ride a bike with no training wheels and no crashes in 5 minutes. She’s a big racer and instantly picks up on anything that requires kinetic intelligence.
August 2018 — The new normal sets in. We move the farm and rescue to Gainesville, renting 5 acres outside town for the herd…which now includes (at the end of the year) two cows (Blackbean and Patty), one horse (Cheyenne), a 30 year old pony (Trina), a donkey (Donkey, name TBD), 12 pigs from the rescue, 2 pygmy goats, 2 turkeys, and 1 guinea. We were able to bring the hens and rescue dogs with us to the house thanks to the city ordinance. Sarah starts her first semester at NCTC. J R continues on as a coordinator for curriculum and instruction. Nika started her first year of Kindergarten! She may not be popping up in our month to month timeline, but this kid was a rock star. She adapted well to the family merger, spent countless hours over the summer on her playset (J R built her one), helped Mom feed countless animals, mothered rescued puppies, and was an overall amazing kiddo. She started her first year at Edison in the two-way bilingual immersion program. She gets half her instruction in English and half in Spanish roughly. She is picking up Spanish so well! She also started a new ballet/tap program and Cheetah Cheer gymnastics for after school care. Nika also auditioned for, and was accepted to, the Nutcracker ballet. The following months would be filled with weekend practices in addition to her normal ballet/gymnastics schedule. She’s a busy kid!
September 2018 — We celebrated Sarah’s birthday at Santorini, a local Mediterranean restaurant here in Gainesville. Sarah completed Master Reviewer Certification with Quality Matters. J R and Sarah started hosting monthly budget meetings to stay on top of their Financial Peace University goals. J R started constructing new fencelines and hoop houses on the rented pasture.
October 2018 — Hispanic Heritage Night. J R traveled to San Antonio for a work trip, while Sarah traveled to Marshall for a Phi Theta Kappa honor society conference with students. As part of her bilingual program, Nika participated in a traditional ballet folklorico dance at Hispanic Heritage Night. Sarah’s ‘white girl salsa’ entry took third place. Nika took third place in her traditional costume contest. Later in the month, Halloween was wet and cold, but Nika zipped up her Dinosaur hoodie and went door to door gathering candy. CoPilot Animal Rescue officially receives its Texas nonprofit status! Next up? Federal 501c3!
November 2018 — We hosted J R’s parents for yet another Vegan Thanksgiving! His sister and brother-in-law even stopped by to sell hello, enjoy some fizzy marble Ramune drinks, and play some interactive games. We even completed a 1000 piece puzzle for Nika/with Nika (although her attention span is fairly short).
December 2018 — Nika (Baby Buffoon) and Sarah (Party Guest) performed in the Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Months of weekend practices culminated in Tech Week and four performances (Nika was in the last one). The Raineys came out to visit from Indiana and watch her perform and for early Christmas. We look forward to a quiet Christmas in Texas and planning a return trip to Seattle to see Sarah’s father who is having health issues.
A year ago, we were “basically” planning a wedding without an official engagement. We were strategically placing pieces in our lives, hoping that God would make them fit. He came through. We are blessed to be where we are today, to be able to continue to work towards our debt-free process. We pray for another year of growth for Nika. She truly is an amazing kid, kind hearted and a free spirit. It is a joy to watch her develop and to voice her opinions (which you can see on Sarah’s page in a series of videos Nika “demands” she records). We continue to choose growth in the coming year, with one another, as a family, and in our careers. We continue to care for neglected, abandoned, and abused animals and pray for the continued donations and makeup sales to make that happen. Most importantly, we wish that each of you (have you even made it this far in the novel??) grow in your faith, your struggles, and your blessings. Merry Christmas, y’all.
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As I write this we celebrate our 45th anniversary. May you both live and love long enough to reach such a landmark. You are on your way!
Just now had a chance to read the “whole” story and I am particularly thrilled with the first book and looking forward to sequels. All of you are amazing people and it is wonderful that you are together. Happy Life, Spikestons!