You guys this year was a roller coaster. The kind with the loop-di-loops. There were moments of intense, “OH MY LANTA this is amazing!” and also terrible sadness. But that's life. If you would have told me 10 years, or even 5 years ago, that I'd be living in Germany with two dogs and a little apartment on the river, I would have cackled. Yes, cackled like a witch. Because honestly that's how I laugh.

Everything is not perfect. I just can't possibly discuss my entire life on the blog. I am very open, but some things are just personal or scary and they are meant to be left where they are. But some things that aren't perfect are kind of funny. Like the fact that Hugo is now well known in Heidelberg. It's a small town and in the dog community, word spreads fast. He is known as “the scary one.” The thing is, Hugo (a doberman), is quite possibly the nicest dog in the whole world. Honestly, he's a big teddy bear. He looks fierce but is just a big sweetie.

Some things are so different here, I can't believe that we live like this. Like when we carried 10 cement blocks on the tram and then on a half-a-mile walk home. My arms were sore for 3 days. This is life with no car. But it also means I can walk to restaurants and bars and the river and to catch a view of the castle. Which is really pretty awesome. I've never lived anywhere like that before and it is so much fun.

In case you're new here, the first 6 weeks we lived out of a hotel trying to find a place to live. In one place, there was a mannequin at the front desk. She wore a black pantsuit and black wig and we named her Helga. Let that sink in for a second.

I feel like in these short 3 months we've been living here I've already collected so many memories. I have a closet that holds only a few things, and though I've never been a big spender on clothes, I tend to collect a lot of stuff. I'm learning that memories and friends last so much longer than anything else. And really, mean so much more.

This year is my very first to not spend Christmas with my family. Tonight is my parents' annual Christmas party, and I can't help but feel like I might cry at any moment. I know I'm doing something fun and adventurous, but my heart breaks a little. Right now, my Mom is running around in pajamas while she cooks EVERYTHING. She is tight lipped yet somehow kind, asking for help. My Dad is doing something like sweeping outside, while my Mom says that he really could be doing something inside that would be much more helpful. My twin little sisters are busy ducking out of tasks and deciding what to wear for the party. They are also sneaking wine bottles into their room. I'd be texting my friends to ask what time they were coming and slicing rolls into a big wicker basket lined with a Christmas towel.

While it's just a party, as my friend Elizabeth says, “It isn't Christmas until the annual Flournoy Family Christmas party.” And it's hard. I miss everyone so much, it hurts.

The party dates back to my both my parents childhood, and mine as well. I remember in high school, all the teenagers were piled into my room. We decided to shift away from the Christmas music to something more pop-y. I put a candle behind my laptop to get it out of the way. Later on, I looked at my laptop and wondered why there was a big black mark on the screen. When I inspected the back of the laptop, I learned I burned a hole through it. I was known at my all girls Catholic school as “laptop girl” since when I brought in my laptop, the man who worked on the computers announced what I did on the loud speaker – to the entire school body.

Christmas is always a tough time. It's a time to reflect and remember the past year. I'm already sentimental, but being away heightens that. I ALWAYS get teary eyed around Christmas. I can't help but feel a little sad about the past, the memories, and getting older.

I am so grateful, despite being sad. It's because of my family and friends that I feel bold enough to make this move. And it's also because of you.

I just want to say thank you. Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for taking some time out of your life to spend it with me. It really means the world, more than I can ever truly put into words. But obviously, I tried.

Since it's hard to thank you all, I thought the best way is to do a little giveaway. I've decided to give away a few of my favorite things:

  • $100 Starbucks gift card
  • $50 to Forever 21
  • $25 to Sephora
  • $25 to Etsy

= $200 to hopefully get something you really love!

It's VERY easy to enter. Follow me on Instagram (@heleneinbetween). Leave a comment below on what you're thankful for this year. Bonus entry if  you tag a friend or two on any picture on ANY recent pic of mine on Instagram.

Merry Christmas, y'all!