Five Gifts I’m Most Thankful For This Year That Weren’t Under The Tree

First and foremost, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Last year, I shared a list of 5 things that the year of 2017 gifted me. Challenging myself to sit down and reflect back on the year was  an amazing exercise that helped remind me that, although there were many difficulties and disappointments, there were also some really significant blessings. As I mentioned last year, we have become a culture that glorifies busyness and it’s sad, but true, that this lifestyle makes it hard to see the good we’ve experienced because we’re not giving ourselves any time to reflect. We’re constantly moving on to the next thing, trying to get the next thing done and out-‘doing’ everyone in our lives. So, it’s no surprise that last years’ exercise fueled gratitude for all that the year gave me so I felt it was important to do the same exercise this year.

So, here we go! This year ….

• I received the gift of a second rescue puppy to be a mom to. In February, I shared the story of how Chips came into Fish & I’s home. Adopting a second dachshund baby was definitely something that I wanted to do but when it actually becomes a reality … you have a bit of a ‘omg, what did I just do?’ moment! If I’m honest, there have been a lot of aspects to welcoming him into our home that have been a challenge. He has tested boundaries as well as my patience. He has more energy than I know how to handle half the time. He has a unique personality, compared to Fish, that I am still figuring out day to day. If you’ve followed me on Snapchat and / or Instastories, I’m sure that’s easy to see. However, Chips – underneath the craziness – is such a silly and sweet little soul that just wants to be loved and paid attention to. He wants to know he’s wanted. He wants to know what I need from him through structure and discipline and …. little boy just wants to have fun! The first night I had him at home with us, he slept on top of the covers and couldn’t relax. He was so confused about where he was and now he won’t fall asleep unless he is curled up on a pillow above my head or under the covers RIGHT up next to me. I love when he is playing with something and brings it up into the chair with him and sits right on top of me with it because he just wants to be close to his mom. I love seeing him play so well with Fish and, in his own little way, showing him how much he loves him. If Fish ever gets sick, or starts to heave like he’s going to throw up, Chips is like right there next to him … SO concerned, right in his face like ‘What’s wrong, brudder? I’m right here!’. All of these are proof – to me – that he is comfortable and happy and that – despite the challenges and my feelings of failure at times – that I’ve given him what he’s been wanting … and that’s a huge blessing to both of us! 🙂

I received the gift of epic travel experiences with close friends and professional colleagues. Over the past couple of years, the list of places around the world that I want to see and the cultures I want to experience have grown longer and longer by the day! Every time I travel, I get so many questions about where to eat, what to do and important tips to know before you go so, in 2016, I wanted to be a resource in regard to travel. I was a little hesitant at first because I felt like the imagery that I would capture was just mediocre and didn’t stand out or capture the essence of the place the way I wanted it to. It’s also a bit challenging to balance capturing style content [as most of you follow me for style inspiration and I don’t want to abandon that aspect of my content], travel content as well as fully experiencing the place I’m in – because, most of the time, myself and whoever I’m with are also navigating from one place to another, or trying to figure directions to somewhere in the city, looking up reviews on restaurants, and getting to know locals. So, this year, I really wanted to do two things: [1] embrace any and all travel opportunities that came my way as long as I wasn’t away from the boys TOO much and [2] elevate my travel content by bringing one of my photography partners along with me. I mean, they’re my friends, too, so why not?

Travel – in and of itself – is a huge blessing and I realize that I travel more in a year than most people can in five. I do NOT take it for granted and, although it does take me a bit to put my travel content into posts, one of the biggest aims of my travels is to be a resource for you when you get to getaway! It’s also important to remember that everyones’ life unfolds at different paces and, right now, I don’t have a husband to come home to or children to raise. Grass is always greener! I don’t talk about this a lot but … I do REALLY yearn for that close intimate relationship most women my age have with their husbands and I yearn to know what it’s like to be called Mommy. I’m making the most of the season that I’m in right now by traveling and seeing the world. I might not be able to do it in two years, you never know!

I’ve gone off on a tangent … but essentially, I look at the travels I’ve been on this year – whether it’s professional or personal – and I find it all to be a blessing because I’ve either been able to reach the goal I set for myself professionally and / or have been able to experience a beautiful place with people that I love very dearly. I look forward to sharing the rest of those with you when I get some downtime from travel after I get back from the trip I leave for tomorrow 🙂 Rome, Paris, Amalfi Coast, Canada, etc. are ALL coming to you soon … I promise!

I received the gift of self-discovery, insight and understanding. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you may have heard me talk about this personality test called Enneagram. My friend, Whitney, told me about it a couple of years ago and I never took it. Then, in August, when her and I were in Miami together, she mentioned something about it again and it made me want to take it. She would always refer to her ‘number’ and I’m like ‘I want to know what my number is and what it says about me!’ I’ve always been someone who wants to know about myself. I was the kid that read all abut their astrology sign and was so intrigued to know what other peoples’ were because I wanted to understand them better. Obviously, there’s no proof that it’s accurate but I always thought that there were so many attributes to the Pisces profile that I truly do embody. So, anyway, I ended up taking the Enneagram … and was blown away. I was a little skeptical of the number I got at first [9 = the Peacemaker] but after reading the profile and more about what motivates 9s’ behavior … I was like oh my gosh, that is TOTALLY me. Overall, I’ve seen it as a blessing because I think the better you understand yourself … the more you’re able to improve yourself, check yourself and give yourself some major grace when you need to. It also has helped me be a better friend, sister or daughter to the people in my life who have also taken the Enneagram. The more you know about yourself and the people in your life, the better you can be to those people. Like astrological signs, there’s no science behind it but it is a little crazy how similar I am to my profile. Ultimately, we’re all a little bit of each number but the one that rank the highest can really help you ‘get’ yourself a little better!

I received the gift of a new home that suited the needs of myself and the boys much better. For the past almost three years, I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment. I loved it and the location but, after adopting Chips and realizing the difference between he and Fish, I felt like the apartment life wasn’t the best fit for us. Chips needs long walks and Fish needs walks but gets tired quickly. Their paces are completely different and so are their interactions with dogs on leashes. Taking them out together made for an extremely anxiety-driven experience. Taking them out separately [four times a day] was just A LOT, to be honest. I happened to be out on a walk one night with Chips and I ran into a woman that I knew from my complex and she told me about a new development that was being built in a neighboring beach town. She said she had just looked at them and thought they’d be a good fit for me and the boys – after I had told her about my concerns – so I decided to go look at them! They weren’t quite ready to move in yet but there was a model that was ready to walk through and it was EXACTLY what the boys and I needed. It has a little fenced in yard allowing me to let them out in the mornings for their first little outing before their breakfast. After breakfast, we go on our walks – mostly together because their aren’t as many dogs in our neighborhood so there are less freak-outs from Fish … praise Jesus! – and then I let them out quickly throughout the day every four hours or so – and then after dinner, we go on another walk. The little yard is SUCH a blessing to us and I’m so thankful for this new place.

I received the gift of being reminded that sometimes things don’t work out on our timeline for our benefit LATER. There was a situation that I went through this year that didn’t go my way. I’m usually very open but I’ve decided to keep the specifics of this situation to myself. Let’s just say … I didn’t get something that I really wanted and felt like I had waited a really long time to get. I felt like I had earned it and was frustrated that I wasn’t able to get what I felt like I deserved. I let this disappointment really get to me, even though I KNEW that it was essentially the dumbest thing to get bent out of shape over. So, I let myself be mad for awhile [like, an hour] and prayed for peace and a new perspective. Thankfully, those two things set in pretty quickly. I let it go and a few weeks later I got a call that remedied the problem and allowed me to get what I wanted for a much better deal than I would have originally gotten it for.

I kind of feel like this example is a bit of a superficial example to give to make this point but … I can’t help what the situation was or what it taught me. And, since I think it’s an important reminder … that life isn’t always going to go our way and that we’re not always going to get what we want when we want it … I thought I would share. The disappointments in our lives, in my mind, is God’s provision over our lives. A ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘never’ … it just might mean ‘not yet’. It might mean that when that phone call DOES come, or whatever, that it will look even better than you initially thought it would! And, on the flip side, we won’t always get that phone call so we have to remember that what misses us and never makes it back to us …. is probably for our good overall!

I hope yo all had an amazing Christmas holiday with your friends and family. If you’re still in your pajamas today, ENJOY IT! If you’re back at work today, God bless you! May your coffee be strong and your emails be few. If you worked the holiday, THANK YOU! You are the real life superheroes. I was a nurse for five years so I’ve experienced my share of holidays and it’s great to be a blessing to people who are in need during the holiday but it is hard to not be with family and to get home and feel like you missed the show so big hugs to you guys!

I decided to take it easy this morning, write this post before getting the boys ready to go to their dog sitter. Fish had an upset stomach this morning and I think he has pink eye so I’ll be taking him to the vet prior to dropping him off. I hate that he’s feeling sick right before I leave :\ I also have a few errands to run after I drop them off and will be packing later this afternoon. I HAVE to pack today because I’m leaving bright and early at 9:30! I know that’s not SUPER early but usually when I travel overseas … my flights are later in the day so I am used to leaving in the afternoon and having some time to get finished up before I go. SO … I need to be GOOD today and get stuff done! I’m nervous … it’s going to be SO cold where we’re going and I REALLY need to keep it to ONE suitcase this time. Wish me luck!

What did y’all get this year? Anything fun?

I don’t ever ask for anything but my Dad was a rockstar and gave me exactly what I didn’t really know I wanted. He brought over my Mom’s jewelry box and let me dig through it. I’m going to get a few of her rings fixed this year so I can restore them and wear them on occasion. She always has a pretty, dainty cross that doesn’t have a chain so I’m going to be looking for a nice, thin gold chain to string it on. We also have the jewelry she was wearing on the day she passed away in a bag, which seems weird but it’s kind of sweet to see the pieces she was really into at the time. She loved Brighton jewelry and silver was definitely her metal of choice. Anyway, my Dad had a huge box of photos for us to dig through, as well! There were tons from when my parents had just gotten married and from my early childhood with my brothers so that was really fun to look through as it’s been awhile since we have! I actually found a photo of my Mom that I LOVE and didn’t know where it was so I was SO happy to find it! I found a cute one of her when she was pregnant with me, too, and she wrote on the back “Me pregnant with Alyson Haley, Dec. 85′. So cute!

So, that was the only gift worth mentioning that I got and LOVED. Anyway, enough rambling from me! Y’all have an amazing day and thanks so much for stopping by! How cute are these photos of Fish & Chips? They were being so sweet one afternoon and let me snap some photos of them enjoying their relaxing moments 🙂 xo.





  1. Loved reading this! How wonderful to receive some of your moms’s jewelry and photos! That is definitely a special gift! Can’t wait to see your next travels!

    Published 12.26.17 · Reply
  2. Andrea wrote:

    I love all of the things you learned, and I especially loved the part about your mom’s jewelry! My mom passed away unexpectedly a year and a half ago, and I made her engagement ring, pair of her earrings and my grandma’s ring into my engagement ring. I had no intentions of getting engaged at the time, so I gave it to my dad to hold on to! When my boyfriend proposed, it meant so much to have my mom and grandma now always with me! Anyways, thank you for your blog and always being so open and honest – you are so relatable! It always makes my day ????

    Published 12.26.17 · Reply
  3. Kristen wrote:

    Haley, great post. Your comments about not always getting what you want but rather something that suits you for your benefit later REALLY resonates with me (especially this time of year). Can pertain to so many facets of life. Thanks for sharing, as always !

    Published 12.26.17 · Reply
  4. Holly Wagner wrote:

    Fish and Chips look so cute!
    I always tear up reading about your mom. I know this was a happy story, but I always remember when you first posted about why you hadn’t been on in a while. I was devastated for you! You are such an amazing person to follow. Your faith and fashion is just my style, and I love reading about your babies (I have 2 weenies also) You are such an inspiration

    Published 12.26.17 · Reply
  5. La Bijoux Bella | by mia wrote:

    Beautiful & lovely post with wonderful insights and thoughts. ❤️????????

    ????❄️????LA BIJOUX BELLA ????❄️????| by mia | A Creative Lifestyle Blog

    Published 12.26.17 · Reply
  6. What an amazing gift your dad gave you this year. It made me tear up a bit!!

    Amanda //

    Published 12.26.17 · Reply
  7. Allie wrote:

    This might be my favorite Christmas post I’ve seen! So important to not get lost in the material items and realize how many more gifts we are given that are not bought in a store. 2017 was quite a big year for you! So happy for you and I can’t wait to see all the good things that will come your way in 2018. <3


    Published 12.27.17 · Reply
  8. What a meaningful post. I’ve been following you for a while but had no idea your mom passed away.. what an amazing way to remember her through her jewelry. ❤️ thanks for writing something that makes us look inward at what matters more than material things/gifts! Happy holidays to you and the little boys!! ?

    Published 12.11.18 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thanks for reading, Morgan! xo.

      Published 12.11.18 ·
  9. Christina wrote:

    Well said. Thank you for posting. It’s easy to get carried away in the instant gratification of material items.

    No material item can ever take the place of spending time with the pups and people we love ❤️

    Published 12.11.18 · Reply