My significant other!

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Week 2 –

Nathan and I met 17 years ago this February – a lifetime (or about 1/2) of a lifetime ago! It’s hard to look back and not run into a memory where Nathan isn’t in.  When counting my blessings, Nathan is definitely toward the top of the list 😉

Even though, we’re very different in many ways, we compliment each other in a way that works. The main reason why it works is because our priorities are aligned – we both have God at the top of our lists, and I truly believe that’s the most important thing for our relationship. We’re not perfect, we have our faults, and we both have made mistakes, but, giving up on each other is not an option.

When thinking about being grateful, the big things always jump to the top of the list because those are the things people expect you to be grateful for, but, the day-to-day little things that go unnoticed but end up making or breaking a relationship, those are the things for which I want to make sure I express my gratitude.

Nate, I am eternally grateful for:

  • your naiveté – innocence about certain things in the world – it balances us out!
  • the nights when you get in bed first and warm up my side of the bed before I get in
  • getting up earlier than me to make me coffee before taking me to work
  • putting up with my crazy OCD tendencies
  • listening to my stories from work and pretend you understand 🙂
  • supporting my hobbies, new interests, and crazy ideas
  • reaching across the bed with your warm feet to warm up my cold feet
  • how excited  you get about new things, like your bike, or a game, or a new place you like
  • how careful you are when you drive
  • how tightly you hold my hand when watching a suspenseful movie
  • getting your ‘cooking-mojo’ back
  • loving my family the way you do
  • putting up with Michín
  • complimenting me even on the days when the mirror does not lie
  • encouraging me to slow down, to take a break, to take care of myself
  • knowing that you’ll be by my side, regardless of what’s going on in our lives

Love you!

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Goals and Challenges

2015 is the first year in a very long time that I begin without a resolution list in my hands.  It’s not exactly because I 100% believe Calvin…

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…but it’s more because of what I read here last year – A Year of Productivity – So, I made a list of goals.  There are areas of my life I want to improve, and since in a way, we’re still getting settled here in this city, I wanted to make sure I was purposefully taking a more active role in the community I now live in.  Also, the weather this time of the year is truly hard on me.  I can’t recall being a moody person, at least not since I left my teenage years! But, when the sun doesn’t come out or I have to wear 3+layers to barely stay warm, my mood is not the best. My only desire is to stay under the covers all day, and my motivation and energy are all pretty much gone! So, publishing some of my goals adds a degree of accountability I need, at least until Spring arrives, to encourage me to do what I say I will do, and also to be motivated to do it.  If you’re reading this, then, you’re part of my accountability group 🙂

Among my goals is the desire to write more and to continue exploring my creative side with crafts and projects around the house, in spite of my time-consuming job. However, with the weather situation, I feel like I’m complaining a lot and not enjoying the incredible amount of blessings I do have in my life. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I ran into this –

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– and it was perfect! It’s a challenge that appeals to me, it’s not incredibly difficult, it’s attainable since I’ll have a whole week to think about what I will blog, and it’ll help me stay focused on the positive aspects of my life. I love the fact I don’t have to write about the weather until week 18, and that I’ll have a year to come up with a blog about the things I like about Winter (insert sardonic grin). But, in all seriousness, I do need this. I believe I’m a grateful person, but when I’ve been blessed as much as I have, gratitude is not something I ever want to overlook.   Thus, this post. Week #1, check!

Anniversaries

Screenshot 2014-08-31 08.17.32     There are days in one’s life that are absolutely impossible to forget. Days so deeply etched in your memory that all you have to do is close your eyes to bring forth every detail lived, whether you want to or not. August 31st, 2013 is one of those for me.

In March 2009, when Nathan came home and told me about a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, I laughed! There was no way I would move there. Or so I thought. Then, 4 years later, I had to say goodbye to the kingdom, knowing that, more than likely, I would never go back.

In spite of being excited about starting our lives in a new city, and being closer to family, those last days in Arabia were heartbreakingly sad. The friendships I made while living there are among the greatest blessings I’ve received in my life. There’s something about being away from everyone and everything you know and have come to rely on that brings people together and closer that anyone would have ever imagined.

Those last few days at KAUST brought with them an amazing outpouring of love and comfort and hugs from all our friends and people who had touched our lives in ways that are impossible to describe. When the taxi arrived, and it was time to say our final goodbyes, I could feel a piece of my heart breaking away and deciding to stay nestled among the cushions of the yellow couch at I-5317. What a ride! It’d take me hours and thousands of words to relate how much I grew, changed, and experienced while living there.

In about a month, we’ll be celebrating the first anniversary for our life in Knoxville, while marveling at the fact that just a year ago we lived on the other side of the world. And that’s how life is. One chapter ends while another begins, and for as long as there are pages turning, changing is inevitable and welcoming it with open arms and a smile is how I choose to face it.

During this past year, so many of our dear desert-adventure friends have visited us here in Knoxville, that now when I close my eyes and think of them, the last memory I have with them is not one of tear-filled hugs but of shopping at Turkey Creek, or hiking The Smokies, walking up our hill in the snow, or just laughing in our kitchen.

Today, then, I cherish my nostalgic and wistful memories, and thank the heavens for an amazing and friend-filled life!

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us”

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 A couple of months ago, I was reading a TED blog, when I found this piece on making your life more surprising. Now, I didn’t even know that surprisologist was even a word, even less, a profession, but it is.  It’s sad that people might need an expert or a professional to tell them how to be suprised – really sad. However, I get it. It’s so easy to fall into a routine and to stop noticing the little things that make each day unique. When I was working at the schools, I never ceased to be surprised by the children and the adults with whom I worked. When we first moved here, it was also easy to be surprised because everything was new and different. But as time went by (and I mean just a few days, even), my senses became accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells that surrounded me. Then winter came, and everything seemed gray and gloomy.

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I guess I needed that article after all! Once I read it, I dragged a friend with me to follow one of Tania Luna’s tips and collected sensations for a few days.  We chose a sense to focus on, and for a day or two, we paid special attention to our environment to find something we hadn’t stopped to notice before focusing on just one sense. Such an easy but incredibly enriching exercise!

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Some of my “Surprises”

– Snow glitters

– The feel of the sun on my skin after many days of gray skies feels like a luscious kiss

– Cauliflower looks like a brain

– Dosas are an explosion of flavor in my mouth – Yum!!!

– The crunching sound I hear when walking on the snow makes me hungry

 Lessons Learned

– It’s almost impossible to separate your senses! I tried to isolate one sense, but, somehow, that sharpened the others – helping me find even more surprises along the way.

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(Excerpt from The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones)

– There are so many things I take for granted!

– My brain registers sights, smells, sounds, textures, and I need to make a deliberate choice to acknowledge what I’m experiencing

– Go out and enjoy life! It goes by too fast, and it’s too easy to ignore the beauty that surrounds us.

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*images taken from Google images

First sewing project ever!

First sewing project ever!

Or at least since I was 5!!!
It’s not perfect, it’s not amazing, and probably the easiest thing I could do, but, I’m still super proud of the fact, I did the whole thing 🙂 My ugly laundry cart is now more stylish with just a little bit of work. Not willing to pay tens of dollars for a nicer looking cart when all I needed was to put a bit of elbow grease into the one I already had to make it look better!
Jo-Ann had nice flannels on sale for just $2.50/yard, and all I had to do was measure around the cart, measure the length up to the wheels to avoid tripping ;), and hem the edges! I wanted to make it easy to take down to wash, so, I used Velcro to attach it to the cart, and voilà!

Flash forwards

There are times in life, when everything that could be, flashes before your eyes.  It might be an incredibly happy moment that triggers the flash-forward, but more than likely, it’s a terrifying moment when all of your fears come true, if only for a fraction of a second. When that happened to me last night, I realized, that even if the worst took place, I was going to be OK.  I wasn’t going to allow my fears to win and keep me down. I knew, that above all, God wasn’t going anywhere and that everything happens for a reason. I knew that I have family members who would drop whatever they were doing to come and be with me, and I knew that I could call on friends, who were willing to stay up with me, and listen to me, and ride my adrenaline-rush-roller-coaster alongside me, even if they were hundreds of miles away. I knew I wasn’t alone.

The worst didn’t happen, my heart finally slowed down, and the sun rose again. And, that’s life. The ups and downs, the planned events and the surprises. The tests and the rewards, the causes and the effects. It’s not a salad bar where I get to choose what I want and don’t want on my plate. And that’s alright, because as long as I still have faith that nothing that comes my way will keep me down because I have God, and family and friends on my side, then, bring along whatever might come!

Cleaning House

We now live in a beautiful house we’re working on making our home. Since we were living at an extended-stay hotel, we moved into our house the same day we closed on it.  Nate and I were extremely excited to bring our suitcases over and spend our first night in our home – even if it was on an inflatable mattress (that deflated during the night!). But, of course, before I could go to sleep, I had to start cleaning!

I really do not understand how people are able to live the way some people do. I agree – I am a tad obsessive when it comes to cleanliness, but, there are certain things that I just can’t live with.  So, even though the house was pretty new, it was dirty!!! That first night, I spent 3 hours just dusting and cleaning the blinds, washing the walls, and cleaning the baseboards and doors in the master bedroom. A couple more hours went into the bathroom, just to get those two rooms clean enough for me to sleep peacefully. The next few days, all I did was clean! Scrubbing, mopping, washing, vacuuming, more scrubbing, dusting, sweeping, shining, disinfecting, and having Mr. Cleaner’s magic eraser become my best friend.

During all those cleaning hours, I did quite a bit of thinking. I may have inhaled too much chlorine, but these are some of those thoughts.

When we first came to see the house, we loved the front, the easy to maintain landscape, the open-floor plan, the 3 full baths, the bedroom downstairs, the large whirlpool tub where Nathan actually fits, and the lovely kitchen, and the neighborhood, and… to wrap it up, we really loved the house! But then, we had the inspection – we put on a different set of shades and started looking for the things that were wrong with the place.  We found some. Not many, fortunately, and most were easily repairable – a broken door, and unhooked gutter, a missing cap, a drawer.  Nothing was a deal-breaker, and the previous owners agreed to fix everything we asked them to fix, so, all was great! But, once it was time to move in, I noticed the layers of dust on the blinds, the sticky wood floors, the smudges, scratches, scuff marks, and dirt on the walls, windows, baseboards, and doors. Some of it was easy to take care of, some of it was not that easy! Some smudges disappeared after a simple swipe – gone! Others took enough scrubbing to draw blisters on my hands, but I din’t stop until they were gone because it was important to me to have the house up to a certain standard – my standard for cleanliness.

While I was doing all the cleaning, I kept thinking of the house as my life. As anyone’s life, really.  I like to think that when most people meet me, they walk away with a good impression. The same impression with which we walked away after seeing the house the first time.  But once you start to know me, you may see some things that are not 100% up to part. Some things that require a little bit of work, but hopefully, nothing that would be a deal- breaker. However, I know (and God knows) that I have more than a little smudge that needs scrubbing.  But just like with my house, I can’t dust all my blinds, and swipe away all the scuff marks at once. I had to clean one room at a time, after making a priority list. There were times when I had to stop because my hands were sore, or my eyes were watery  from the cleaning supplies. But, leaving those marks on the wall or those layers of dust on the fans and blinds was not an option.

If I really believe in heaven and hell. If I really believe that one day I will have to answer to God for everything that I’ve done here on Earth, then, not working on my defects is not an option.  The tricky part is that I don’t know how much time I have.  I’d like to think that I have many years ahead of me. Many years to do some cleaning, scrubbing, shining, wiping, vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting. But the truth is, I may not have many years, I may not have many days.  Just this Sunday, someone who was only 25 years old met his end. He thought he was going out for a run and a swim, but really, he was out to meet His Creator –  he just didn’t know it.  By the amazing outpouring of prayers, friends’ comments, and memories shared, he was ready to go. He had been busy cleaning his house, and he hadn’t ignored or hidden away the dirt.  By reading how his parents are dealing with this unbelievable sad and unexpected situation, it’s easy to see that they knew that their child was living a good life – his house was clean.

Every time we go on a trip, I drive Nathan crazy because I really can’t leave until the house is in order – the dishes are cleaned and put away, there aren’t dirty clothes in the laundry, the beds are made, and the mail put away. Some may think I’m pessimistic, but I always think, “What if I don’t get a chance to come back?” I don’t want anybody else to walk into my house and to think that’s how I chose to live.

What I need to remember is that my life is more important than my house. The way I live, the impressions I make, the way I treat others, the way I treat myself, what I say, what I don’t say, those things matter more than anything else.

A house will always need some cleaning done – before I could finish deep-cleaning all the rooms, my bedroom and bathroom needed cleaning again! And that’s how it is with my character, with my attitude, with my disposition, with myself.  Just when I think I have something under control, something else comes up, and the work never ends. I’m just grateful that God sees it fit to give me more time to continue cleaning 🙂