Monday, December 12, 2011

Where are you, Daylight?

As most of you know, my husband & I recently relocated to Seattle, Washington.  We are still both out of work, so we've just been trying to hang in there and keep up hope that God will provide jobs for us, especially my husband Eric. 
But, despite our financial and job woes, we still absolutely LOVE living in the Seattle area!  The winter weather here is not nearly as cold as Ohio winters, which is such a huge blessing!  I had grown to abhor the bitterly cold Ohio winters, where it was so incredibly cold that it physically hurt to step outside.  Forget trying to actually DO anything outdoors in the winter!  It was simply too cold to spend any length of time outside.  But not so here.  Don't get me wrong; it still gets down in the low 30's here, but there's hardly ever any wind, and the sun has been shining a surprising amount lately, which helps immensely! 
The above picture was from a summer visit to the Seattle area last summer, when we drove to Mt. Rainier National Park.  This amazing valley view was along the way, and we pulled off to the side of the road to absorb the amazingness of the view.  Do you see that little blob in the upper left-hand corner of the shot?  Yeah, that's a helicopter.  Just so you understand the coolness captured in that moment.  :)
Here in the Pacific Northwest, in the winter, the sun sets at around 4:30 in the afternoon.  Yes, you read that right.  Four-thirty in the afternoon, folks.  In Ohio, the winter sun would set around 8 or so, but here, it sets almost four hours earlier!  The sun sets before dinnertime!  I'm not gonna lie; it's freaky as heck!  That is just something I will have to get used to, I suppose. 
I do wonder, though, if native Pacific-Northwesterners realize how utterly insane and unnatural it is for the sun to set that early.  In most of the country, the sun sets in an actual "evening" hour, like 7, or 8, or 9 o'clock at night.  But here?  4:30pm. 
But it IS normal for this area, and I think I understand the basic reasons:  it all has to do with the angle of the sun in the sky viewed from the Pacific Northwest.  Because this area is so far north, the sun never rises very high in the sky during the winter months, so it does not take much for it to drop back down below the skyline in the evening.  *Sheesh!*  It's weird, right????
Oh, it gets better.  In the summer months, the sun rises at around 4 o'clock in the morning.  That is freakishly early!  But at least that makes it so that the sun does not set until freakishly late, like around 10pm. 
From a Midwesterner's perspective, there is some FREAKY weather goin' on 'round here!!!
And from the point of view of someone who desires to be productive, that means that there are very few hours in the day of sunlight.  Very few hours to get stuff done that you want to get done, especially if it means being outdoors, driving, or needing the sunlight to help you stay alert and focused. 
This absence of sunshine constantly reminds me that life is passing me by and that I have only a limited time to be productive and do the things I want to do.  It's a very "Carpe Diem" mindset, I know, but I appreciate it because it keeps me motivated to "seize the day" and make the most of my time, and live in the moment, and all that jazz. 
I hear Robin William's husky voice whispering in my ear from over my shoulder, "Carpe Diem!  Carpe Diem!" 
**(extra coolness points to whoever knows what movie I'm referencing!)**
As I finish this post, it is 4:15pm, and the sky is darkening.  "Goodbye, Mr. Sun!  See you tomorrow!"  :) 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Novel is Finished!

Okay, now that I've got your attention talking about a finished novel and all that, let me clarify. I participated in NaNoWriMo (for the first time ever!) this month of November, which happens to be "National Novel Writing Month." I finished and "won" by meeting and slightly exceeding the 50,000 word limit, submitted by Nov. 30th at midnight. I actually finished the evening of the 29th, almost a full 24 hours before the deadline! Go me!
Now, as it is with NaNoWriMo, they call any text submitted to their website that is at least 50,000 a "novel," and all the authors of such texts "authors". I do not know if I can be quite so liberal with those descriptions, because anything written during November is typically just a very rough draft of a short novel. Fifty thousand words is tough to punch out in a month, but would make an awfully small book by most standards. So, even though I am a writer and would perhaps even call myself an "author", I'm not sure I would call what I wrote this past month a "novel" or not.
I mean sure, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it even had a relatively coherent storyline with acceptable dialogue that advanced the plot. And to craft this document, it required a month full of 5-hour writing sprees, locked in the office by myself. It required me to become slightly anti-social at times, to depend probably a little too much on coffee, and my back is still tight from sitting in my not-so-comfortable desk chair for the majority of the month of November. But is it worthy to be called a "novel?" I guess it depends on the definition you're using.
And I think there is something even more important than debating if my novel is really a "novel" or not. What's more important is to decide whether or not it was worth it for me to have participated in this literary experience. And the answer is a resounding "Yes!" It was fun, it was brutal at times, it required lots of sacrifices on my part, and it forced me to tap into creative stores I did not think I had. And it was SO WORTH IT! If you did not participate or if you did not meet the minimum 50,000 word requirement, I encourage you to try again next year, because it will be worth it, I promise! Happy writing!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Here I Am

Well, here I am. I am here. This is me. Right here. I'm here.

Where am I, you may ask? Why, I'm in Seattle, Washington, of course! *Insert Happy Dance here*

My hubby Eric & I finally made the BIG MOVE out to the Seattle area last week, and now that we're here, we've been busy temporarily moving into Eric's parents' house and getting settled, applying for jobs, and writing. Well, I've been writing anyway.

I don't know if you've heard or not, but November is National Novel Writing Month, and you can find info and a vast community of writers here @ The deal is this: begin writing a novel that is a minimum of 50,000 words on November 1st and finish said novel on November 30th. Thirty days of literary abandon is what they say. If you make it to 50,000 words on or before November 30th, then you get your name published on the website. And the best part of all this is that publishers sometimes read the submissions, so your novel could get published!

I am participating in this venture, so for the next 30 days I will be a sleep-deprived, writing-obsessed, over-caffeinated psycho.

What about you? Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo before? Are you participating? Let me know!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Finding a cure for breast cancer is such a noble, lofty goal, and most likely still has years to go before a cure can be found.
One of my aunts and 2 of my good friends' mothers are all SURVIVORS of breast cancer! One woman had to have a mastectomy, but the other two were able to beat it without losing any part of their bodies. I'm so thankful that these women beat this horrible disease!

One of the current statistics I've seen is that 1 in 7 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. This means that out of my closest college friends, at least one of us will get breast cancer. This needs to be stopped!

I encourage everyone who reads this to wear pink to show your support this month, and to donate to Susan Komen for the Cure here or your favorite breast cancer organization.

Image credits from

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wise Men

"Mountains speak. Wise men listen." --John Muir

The Great Exodus Out West Begins on October 17!

My husband Eric & I are moving from Cincinnati, OH to Seattle, WA, and we're starting this Great Westward Exodus on October 17! We've been working like crazy over the past few weeks to clean the house, pack, and do some last-minute repairs. We're hopefully going to be able to put our house on the market sometime late this week or early next week. On top of this, we're trying to sell one of our cars and Eric is working on a freelance project that is such a blessing because it will give us a little extra, much-needed money during this transition. Needless to say, we are extremely busy and running around crazy trying to get everything finished in a timely manner!
Eric's parents are flying from Seattle to Cincinnati on Oct. 17 to help us move, which means they will also be driving across the country with us. We're going to rent a UHaul truck, load it up, and drive it and my car across the country, hopefully making a fun road trip/vacation out of it. I've never been in a car for 4 days straight, however, so I will most likely go stir crazy! I can already hear myself asking about 6 hours into the first day "Are we there yet?" Oh well. We're going to stop in South Dakota to visit some of Eric's family along the way, so that will be very fun.
Also making the trip with us is our puppy Levi (who is happy anywhere, as long as he's with us), and our 2 squirmy ferrets (Oscar & Oliver, our little furry "kids" as we call them). So our little zoo, the 2 of us, and Eric's parents are all going from Cincinnati to Seattle, and we predict it will take about 7 days total, including staying one full day in South Dakota to rest.
We've been so busy making arrangements, dreaming about this day, and working so hard to get everything ready & packed, that I really haven't had time to sit down and wrap my brain around all that's happening! It's probably not going to really sink in until I'm waking up in Seattle that first morning.
And when that happens, I'll sit up in bed, take a big breath of that fresh, chilly mountain air, look over at Eric next to me, smile a huge smile, and giddily proclaim: "We're finally here!"
And on clear days, this will be our view:

(ok so this is closer to Mt. Rainier than we'll typically be, but it's just as gorgeous from far away!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Motion

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "moving"; of being "in motion." I love this picture of Karena Dawn in an Oakley ad, running through a backlit forest. The body in motion truly is a beautiful, stunning picture. When a longtime runner runs with a long, practiced stride, the cyclic movements of the legs are fluid, continuous, and graceful.
Exercise is probably the 1st thing that comes to my mind when I think of "moving." And as you know, exercise and moving your body is one of the healthiest choices you can make.
Another form of "being in motion," for me, is a "Deep Thoughts About Life" philosophical concept. My husband Eric & I are in the middle of packing up all of our belongings and moving across the country soon to Seattle! We are extremely excited about this new phase of our lives; this new adventure; this change of locale. In this packing & moving process, we are in a constant state of motion. We are busy cleaning the house, moving furniture out to the garage, & packing our belongings all at the same time. Our bodies are busy working, and our minds are busying checking things off our mental To-Do list. We are embarking on an exciting and slightly terrifying adventure in the far-off land of Seattle, and it's a stressful mix of working nonstop to complete all our tasks, but at the same time being forced to wait for things to fall into place (like Eric getting a good job & our house selling).
Both our lives literally feel like they are moving down this path toward our future, which right now is hazy. We are in motion, walking down this twisty path and we cannot see around the next bend. However, we trust that God will lead us & clear the road ahead of us as we begin our pilgrimage out West.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It is my birthday today. I am 26 years old today. Yikes! When I was young, I never could've imagined myself at 26. But when I'm 40, I'll say that I never could've imagined myself at that age either.
I desperately wanted to move out to Seattle before I turned 26, but oh well. Maybe, hopefully, it'll happen soon! We have been praying non-stop that my husband gets a good job in Washington state so that we can move there without delay. And we've been working on our house like crazy, getting it ready to put on the market soon. Just this morning, we re-painted a wall that had been damaged last month while doing other renovations. It felt great to be so productive and get an important job out of the way! (Now there's only a dozen or so more things to do around the house, then we're all set!)

Isn't it funny how birthdays usually become times of reflection? We think about how we're living our lives. Are we who we want to be? Are our lives going in the right direction? Are we achieving our dreams? Are we using the years we've been given wisely?

And I am not immune to these questions. I've been reflecting on similar thoughts all day today, and really all the time, ever since I began this blog. Because I often discuss "Big Life" ideas on this blog, I think about things like this all the time. There's no reason to be obsessed with self-evaluation, but I think it's healthy & good to re-asses your life every once in awhile. If you like what you see, then great! Stay on that path! But if not, it's not too late! Make changes! Turn around and go in the other direction! Do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams and live the life you desire. And most importantly, ask God to give you dreams and His path to follow. I promise you, you won't be disappointed in yourself, or Him.

I know that God has never disappointed me, not in all my 26 years of life. He may make things turn out differently than I'd imagined or planned, but it's always better. God is in the business of "bettering" us, and He uses all types of methods, circumstances, & people to achieve this purpose.

I heard someone say once that "God loves us exactly as we are, but refuses to leave us that way." What a beautiful concept! I certainly feel that God accepts me this way, but refuses to let me remain as I am now. He always wants more for me. A better heart, a better life, a better relationship with Him. God has already done so much inside me, but I look excitedly towards the future, and wonder what kind of adventure God has in store for me in my next 26 years.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keep Calm During The Dreaded Waiting Period

I hate waiting. Waiting in line, waiting for technology to work, waiting for slow cars to get out of my way when driving, waiting for that annoying lady on my voicemail to quit talking so I can fast forward through the old messages to my new messages, waiting for weight loss to happen, waiting for companies to call back about job applications......

There's A LOT of waiting in life. If you don't think you spend lots of your free time waiting for stuff, then I say you need to take a good look around. Chances are that you may be waiting for something at this moment as you read this. So much of our lives are spent waiting for things to happen or work, whether they are on a large scale (like getting a new job), or small scale (waiting for a traffic light to turn green).

And I hate it. Seriously, it makes me crazy sometimes. I guess that makes me a fairly impatient person, I dunno. I've always thought of myself as a fairly patient person, but I think I'me becoming more impatient as I get older. Like life "owes" me something or something ridiculous like that. Like I'm special, so I shouldn't have to wait like all you 'regular' folks. He he, just kidding.

But seriously, isn't what we say about other people sometimes, especially drivers who cut us off or do something stupid that puts both our lives at risk while driving? We sarcastically think something along the lines of, "Well, I guess where that person is going is more important than where I'm going." I know I think that all the time about other drivers. Everyone is an idiot driver except for me!

And what's great is that other people probably think that about me. But we can't all be the best drivers in the whole world, now can we? Somebody has to be wrong here, and if I'm honest, it's probably me. Boo.

But back to waiting. It's scary. It's difficult. It's nerve-wracking. And it's NO FUN AT ALL. But guess what? We have to do it. And these negative emotions do nothing to speed it up. As a matter of fact, negative emotions simply prolong the pain & insecurity of waiting. It's been easy for my hubby & I to get caught up in feeling panicked, depressed, or anxious in the midst of this job search, but being calm and having patience eases the burden a bit. So we've been trying to remember this and keep calm, like that saying I've been seeing everywhere. It varies somewhat, but the overall attitude is the same: "Keep calm and carry on," for those of us who eat their feelings: "Keep calm & have a cupcake," and for the Harry Potter fans out there (you can't deny it any longer): "Keep calm and carry a wand".

Have you seen this saying? It's clever & cute, but has a great message. And I will try to follow its advice. Will you join me in "keeping calm & carry on" during the difficult waiting periods in your life?

Image credit:

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Blessing of Basic Good Health

Good health is not a given in life.  It is not something you deserve, or are automatically given.  It is something to aspire to.  Just like all good things in life, it takes hard work & dedication to attain it.  It is a blessing, a dream come true to those that have it.  If you're young and healthy, then you'd better treasure it, for it will be more & more difficult to keep it as you age.  You cannot do nothing to take care of yourself and simply expect health to find you.  Sometimes it works that way, for those of us who are extremely lucky, but it's rare.  

Those that do not have health never undervalue it.  If you are sick, or have any sort of chronic illness, you probably long to feel better.  You know the value of good health, because you have gone without it for quite some time.  You would give anything to have health, and for good reason.  If you don't have health, it's hard to enjoy anything else.  It can consume your life if you're not careful.  And if you are healthy, don't take it for granted, for there are many people who are ill.    

I think Americans in particular do not value good health.  If you eat organic, practice yoga, spend time outdoors, and look after your health in most places in America, you're seen as kinda kooky, obsessive, and a  tree-hugging hippie.  I myself do not practice much yoga, but I understand why people do & the health benefits of such a practice.  I also do not eat organic produce very often because of financial constraints, but I absolutely would love to.  I occasionally buy organic bananas because they are only 20 cents more expensive than regular ones, but typically the organic stuff is too expensive by far. 

But I think it is supremely important to gain or regain health.  Make health a priority.  I've heard sayings & slogans about making health a priority, like Lululemon's "Sweat everyday," or Nike's "Just do it," or Teva's "Go. Do. Be."  
I concur.  Good health should be a priority in your life, and if it is, you will most likely live a longer, fuller, happier life.  So it doesn't really matter what you do.  Just DO SOMETHING.  Eat well. Cut out most processed foods & sugar.  Exercise.  Even if you can't or don't want to partake in traditional exercise, DO something.  Garden.  Mow your grass with a push mower.  Shovel the driveway in the winter.  Do vigorous housework. Walk around the mall.  Do an exercise tap in your living room.  It doesn't matter.  Just DO something.  Find something you like, then "Just do it!"  

Just because you have to work for something doesn't mean it's not a blessing.  It's worth it.  Everyday is a new day, a fresh start.  So get to it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Unexpected Relief

The news of my husband getting laid off hit us hard, but not as hard as it could have. He got a few weeks of severance pay, so at least we have that. And he put his car up for sale on Craigslist, and we've already had 1 person come to check it out. Hopefully we can sell it very soon for a little extra money. Iit is such a blessing that Eric is getting a few weeks of severance pay. So for the time being, we are okay. I wish I could say we were "flourishing" or "comfortable," but no such luck. But for now, we are okay, and I supposed that's all that really matters.

For all the panic and financial problems this has caused us, we both have actually felt a little bit of relief. Relief that it is time to move on to something new and hopefully something better. We've been desperately trying to get out to Seattle, so it is somewhat of a relief that whatever happens, it has to happen soon for us, and hopefully that means positive changes are about to happen. We are excited and anxious to see what God brings our way; and relieved to be finished with one aspect of our lives and moving on to another. We are wary of the future and sometimes we have our moments of panic, but we are excited about which path will stretch out before us, beckoning to us to follow. We are kinda at a low point right now, so the only way to go is up!
And that, my friends, is a great relief.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Will Not Be Ruled By Fear

The big news of my life this week is such that it will require decisions to be made & actions to be taken, and soon. My husband just got laid off from his job on Friday. Yikes! Of course, we have been planning on moving to Seattle sometime in the next year or so, and my husband has applied to a few jobs there. But did we expect to be facing these decisions right now? So soon? No, of course not! We expected to take our time and finish renovating our house to our satisfaction, then Eric would get a job in Seattle, then we would put our house on the market, then we would move away, then our house would sell quickly. This was our plan. THE PLAN. And now, that plan is shot all to pieces. We don't know what we're going to do or what will happen.
Eric has filed for unemployment, which we never imagined we would have to do. He is also looking into potential job openings in the Cincinnati area, but no luck yet. So we may keep our house and stay here a bit longer if he gets a decent job. But we really don't want to remain here. What we want is to live in Seattle, but we may not get what we want. But maybe, just maybe, a job in Seattle will finally come through for Eric and we can move out there.
So we've got lots to think about and decisions to be made here in the next few weeks. And hopefully things will work out soon. But we are afraid. Afraid of poverty, afraid of losing our house, afraid of not being able to live where we want, afraid of having to endure more financial hardships, afraid that our financial situation is never going to change. But I have vowed to not let our decisions or emotions be ruled by fear. Yes, there are things to be afraid of, but as the old adage says, "This too shall pass," and things will get better. I know this. I may not feel this, and I don't feel very hopeful at the moment, but I know that things will get better, because I know God. And God has promised that He will never let us down, so no matter how bleak our future looks, He has not forgotten us and still desires to give us good things.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is this: "For I know the plans I have for you', says the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."--Jeremiah 29:11
I love what God says here. He has plans for us; GOOD plans, and these plans will prosper us and not harm us. And we'll have hope and a future. This verse is music to my ears right now, and I will keep trusting God to keep his promises.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Glory of Nature

'I've always considered Nature to be the clothing of God."--unknown author

The weather here in Cincinnati has finally taken a mild turn recently, and thank goodness, because I was getting sick of setting records for over-100 degree heat for days in a row! I won't even get started about the horrible humidity that usually accompanies the heat. But over the past couple weeks, the weather has broke and it's been a bit lower, in the low-to-mid 80's, with less humidity. It's been fantastic!

I have been missing being outside, because let's face it, it's NOT comfortable to be outdoors when the weather is near 100 degrees with 80% humidity. On the contrary, it's a bummer, and it physically hurts to be outside for any length of time in that kind of weather. So, I have not been able to enjoy being outside very much this summer, unfortunately. So I've been absolutely LOVING this milder weather! (Have I mentioned that Spring & Fall are my favorite seasons, for precisely this reason?)

I can now play with my puppy Levi outside and chase him around the large, mature tree in our backyard. My hubby & I can have small fires in our fire pit and roast marshmallows. I can sit outside and read or write. Simply being outside, even if I'm just sitting, is so enjoyable!

I've always loved Nature and being outdoors, so it's difficult for me when the weather is either too hot or too cold to go outside. And of course, I can't wait to move to Seattle, where the weather is always fairly mild, but for now, this weather will do.

"The Heavens declare the Glory of God."--Psalm 19:1

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Okage Sama De

People Magazine article

"Okage Sama De" is a Japanese phrase indicative of the sentiment "I am what I am because of you." You could say this to many people in your life: God, a best friend, a spouse, or a parent. In this instance, however, it is directed to dogs, who personify traits such as unconditional love, loyalty, honesty, courage, and unwavering commitment.

Dogs truly are man (and woman's!) best friend. The above article features "Sweet Bird Studio" operated by jewelry designer Nancy Anderson, who was inspired by a video of a faithful dog, to create dog tags & necklaces, and human versions of those same necklaces.
This loyal dog was in fact a Japanese dog who, in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquake/tsunami, refused to abandon a fellow dog who was injured and unconscious. Nancy was struck by the faithful spirit of the dog and desired to create beautiful jewelry to honor all dogs, who truly are our best, faithful friends.
I first read about Sweet Bird Studio in 'Cowboys & Indians' Magazine, and went online and purchased one of these stunning, roughly-hammered necklaces to honor 3 dogs in my life: my childhood best friend named Penny, an apricot Toy Poodle whom I traumatically had to put down about 4 years ago; my new puppy Levi who adds so much fun and love to my life, and my parents' dog Bear, who is a large, 100-pound mass of Love wrapped in black fur. These dogs have enriched our lives so much, so it felt only right to purchase and wear a necklace in their honor, itself inspired by a faithful dog.
Nancy Anderson, the designer, will donate some of the proceeds from these necklaces to help other displaced pets in Japan, still recovering from the catastrophe.
You can find Nancy's creations on her Sweet Bird Studio website here.

I think dogs are probably one of the best examples of the complete, unwavering way that God Himself loves us. Total, unconditional, everlasting. What a Love! What a wonderful God!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was an American poet, naturalist, and philosopher, among other things. His famous work, Walden, reflects upon living a simplistic lifestyle surrounded by nature. Does that sound appealing to anyone else but me???
I think it's safe to say Thoreau was a proponent of living a simple, "small" life, but one full of meaning and the majesty of nature. He is quoted as saying, "Simplify, simplify!"
Another favorite of mine, “If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
I do not know much about Thoreau, but I appreciate his point of view about simplifying your life and living life to the fullest. I'm not sure what his other beliefs were, but on this, I think he's got it right!

Live for Now, Not Just for Later

After reluctantly returning from a long vacation with my in-laws in Seattle, Washington, I have been wrestling with this concept of "living for now" and not getting so caught up in the future that I forget to enjoy the present.
I spent my college years anxiously awaiting the arrival of the young man who would become my future husband, and sometimes I got so preoccupied with the fulfillment of this dream, that it was difficult to enjoy my life as it was.    I was in a rewarding but challenging field of study, and I had great friends, so my life was pretty full. However, I would visualize my life being so much better, fuller, rich with love, and more satisfying because of finding my True Love.  When I compared these grandiose, adventurous images with the way my life was currently, it felt like my life wouldn't truly "begin" until I met my perfect mate.  So there was this disconnect and I had to wrestle with the idea of being happy with my current life and living it to the fullest, while desperately desiring more to happen in the near future.  It's healthy and productive to have dreams, after all, but not at the expense of your happiness or satisfaction with the way your life is at the moment. 

I'm experiencing this paradigm again, but currently I'm waiting for a different dream to be realized.  My True Love & I desperately want to move to Seattle ASAP. All we're waiting for is for him to get a decent job that will sustain us there, then we're gone. You know how sometimes someone will say, "I was BORN to do this?" Well, that's how I feel about the Seattle area. I truly feel that I was born to live there. I so thoroughly enjoy the people, the culture, the food, the sights, the quirks, and not the mention the majestic natural environment that's all around, namely 2 mountain ranges, Puget Sound, and the Pacific Ocean! I even love the weather!

So how do I be happy here in hot, humid Ohio while so desperately longing for mild, majestic Washington? This is something I think about everyday, and I must remind myself that I'm here, in Ohio, for a reason. I may not know what that reason is, but I need to learn to accept that fact and deal with it. My hubby will get a job which will allow us to move out to Seattle when the time is right. So for now, I will take deep breaths, relax, and try to remember that life in the muggy Midwest is really not that bad.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This is Your Life!

Switchfoot's reverberating song lyrics say "This is your life--are you
who you want to be?"
Asking yourself this question could mean the difference between living
a regret-filled, un-remarkable life, or living your life to its full
potential, realizing & pursuing your dreams.
I LOVE the simplicity of this question, but although the question
itself may be simple, adequately answering it is probably not easy.
Anything that causes you to think long and hard about your life is
never easy.
But I think questions like this one, "are you who you want to be?",
and wrestling with the answer is a healthy and valuable exercise to
perform every once in awhile. Just like taking your car to the
mechanic for a tune-up, or your child to his yearly physical exam,
occasionally analyzing your life is something you can do to keep
yourself in top form.  A self tune-up, if you will.
And they don't have to be complicated questions, but things like, "Do
I have regrets or recurring guilt about an event, opportunity, person,
or situation in my life?", "Do I know what I want to do or should do,
but am too afraid to do it?", "Do I have unfulfilled dreams, and if
so, can I do anything to make them happen?", "What's holding me back
from making this area of my life more fulfilling to me?", or "Do I
have a gift or talent that I'm not using, and if so, why not?"
So, even if you don't have some clear, life-altering gift to bless the
world with, or even if you don't have any clearly-defined dreams that
you dream about, I would encourage you to find something, anything,
that you enjoy doing to add a little extra purpose and meaning to your
life.  I had an acquaintance in college who recognized her love and
skill of writing encouraging notes & thank you cards.  She simply
called herself an Encourager, and she was right. She randomly sent me
a little uplifting card in the mail once, and it made my week, let me
tell you!  I had it pinned to my bulletin board for months because of
her sweet words.  Her kind gesture may not have changed my life, but
it sure made my week.  And I remember her to this day because of that.
And, if you find and follow a passion, however small and
inconspicuous it may seem, you could impact someone's week and be
forever remembered by one action.  Heck, you could impact someone's
life!  Believe it!  It happens everyday.  But, even if I only ever
change someone's week, and by the following week I'm forgotten, I'll
know that I did something worthwhile.  Hey, I'll take it!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

God's Unexpected Provision

I firmly believe that God always provides and that He "will never break a bent reed." What's interesting, though, are the ways God chooses to help and provide. I would prefer God just end this time of darkness in our lives and take away our problems, and do this by helping my husband get a lucrative job where all of our needs (and wants) can finally be met.
God, it seems, has other ideas. God's version of "provision," and my version, are very different, as things usually are when I compare myself with God. He has been financially providing for us, all right, by occasionally having members of our families give us money. This money is extremely useful and we are sometimes desperate for it. We use it to pay bills, buy groceries, and sometimes have a little fun, like buy souvenirs on vacation. We are extremely blessed with a wonderful family, there's no doubt about it, and I only hope that I can be as selfless and generous with my money as our family is with theirs. They truly are an inspiration, but it's very humbling and slightly shameful to have family give you money. I know they are glad to help us out, but we always feel a bit ashamed that we need their help in the first place.
God is fulfilling His promise to always care for our basic needs, and not let us "be destroyed", and as usual, we are getting by.
One day, of course, we'd love to actually have a bit of money to save, spend, and donate to improve others' lives. Will that day be soon? Oh, how we hope & pray so. But if not, we have to be content in the fact that God will bless us in whatever ways He deems prudent, whether we'd prefer it or not. Part of our job right now, it seems, is to accept the donated money gratefully and humbly, and to use it wisely. Thanks be to God for His unexpected and unusual provision!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Thoughts Are Like TV channels.....Huh??........

I read and enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's best selling novel "Eat, Pray, Love", and also saw the movie starring Julia Roberts.  The part of the movie that struck me as the most memorable was when the author was bickering with her friend, Richard, at the Indian ashram.  He was encouraging Elizabeth to pursue meditation as a strict discipline, and she was doubting her ability to focus, saying that her thoughts always took control and ran away with her.  
Richard said something along the lines of, "You've got to choose which thoughts you let into your mind to think about."  

As someone whose mind runs away from me as well, Richard's words present a profound and novel concept:  the idea that I can pick and choose what I want to think about.  This concept of meditation or "emptying the mind" is typically associated with Eastern philosophy & religions, like Buddhism, yoga, and the culture of India, however, I am becoming more & more convinced that this practice would be a worthwhile pursuit in our normal, everyday, American existence.  I've read scientific studies describing how participants' blood pressure and stress levels decreased drastically when meditation was practiced several times a week.  I've even read scientists' speculations that disorders of the brain, like Alzheimer's, might be prevented or reduced by regular meditation.  It seems as though the scientific community is saying that having a few prolonged quiet moments throughout the week will make us all a little healthier by directing effecting our bodies and brains!   

So I was thinking of an analogy of meditation that our media-obsessed, American culture could comprehend, and I thought of television channels.  Meditating and thus choosing your thoughts is like picking which tv channel you want to watch.  How is it there's 600 satellite tv channels and there's still nothing on?   

So I have been trying emptying my mind and being "in the moment" as I'm trying to fall asleep and my mind is buzzing with thoughts about how my day went, what I have to do tomorrow, and such.  And you know what?  It works!  When my brain is quiet, my body is able to realize its fatigue and drift off to sleep.  

So now, if a thought enters my mind that's negative, self-bashing, or fearful, I think of television, and I change the mental channel.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oscar Playing Falls Off Couch

This is Oscar, our 2-year old playful ferret! (We have 2 ferrets total now!) Enjoy his cuteness!

I'm a Mountain Girl!

I have family roots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (my Dad's side of the family) and we would visit the area a couple times a year when I was growing up. I have grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins who live there now, and it's a gorgeous area! I always assumed that I would live in Tennessee someday, working during the week and going into the mountains on weekends.

Now that I have seen the majesty & beauty of WA state, my plans have changed. WA state has 2 mountain ranges (the Olympics on the coast & the Cascades inland), and the Pacific Ocean, which I had never before seen until Eric brought me out there the first time. The weather is mild because the area is a temperate rain forest, (ironically, just like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee!), and because the weather is milder than the Midwest, there's more time of the year to be outside and actually enjoy it. Plus, there are so many trails, parks, mountains to climb, bike-friendly roads, farmers' markets to buy fresh, local produce, and a health-conscious culture.
(The State of WA should be paying me for all the positive publicity I give them!) :)

I've always loved the mountains and have always been a mountain girl, so I know I will fit right in in Seattle!
I look forward to having such majestic, rugged landscape in such a close proximity, and being close to Eric's brother's family, our newborn niece, and my parents-in-law.
I love the ocean, but if I had to choose between the ocean and mountains, I would always pick the mountains! (But that's just me)

Seattle Vacation!

My hubby & I are super excited about leaving on Friday for our 2 week-long vacation in Seattle, WA! I had never been there until I met my husband about 3 years ago, and he has since taken me out there 4 times. I loved it so much that I heartily agreed to move out there whenever the time came for my husband to pursue a different job. Well, that time has come and he is applying for positions in the Seattle area. We're hoping to get out of Ohio by winter.
These are pictures from the last time we were there, last July.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

May the Force Be With You

I brought my laptop outside for awhile Tuesday afternoon.  I was pondering what to write about, and my mind was wandering.  Like most women, I am fully capable of thinking of a million different thoughts at once, and I often do without difficulty.  The difficulty, in fact, comes when I try to silence my thoughts or only think about one thing at a time, which is nearly impossible.  Sometimes there are so many thoughts & emotions swirling around in my head all at the same time that it feels as though my head is "buzzing".  
So my mind was buzzing as I situated myself outside in a shaded area of the backyard.  My puppy, Levi, who of course could spend all day in the backyard, gnawing on sticks and chasing birds, lay quietly near my chair, chewing on a fallen tree branch that was almost bigger than he is. He was completely absorbed in his mindless fun.  He probably was not thinking about a whole lot, and he was simply being in the moment and enjoying lying in the grass with his stick.  
I, however, was lost in thought, too busy thinking to take a deep breath and enjoy Mother Nature.  I was thinking about my husband's job search,  how disappointed I was for not losing weight faster, and leaving soon for our vacation to Seattle.   I was thinking about everything, when really what I needed to do was to clear my mind and think about nothing.  
So I took a deep breath, remembered where I was (the beautiful & serene backyard), and looked up.  I watched the trees sway gracefully as the wind moved invisibly past.  
I was struck by how an invisible force (the wind) could so noticeably move the objects around it (the trees).  I think the there are other real-world forces that invisibly move objects around them, like love.  Love has the power to move mountains and produce miracles.  As actor William Hurt's character in "The Village" says, "The world moves for love.  It kneels before it in awe."  That is a gleaming nugget of profound truth in an otherwise inconsequential movie!  
Another unseen force to be reckoned with, if you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, is the Holy Spirit.  This "Person" of the Trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Ghost) lives in the hearts & minds of those who follow Christ and helps us to understand and apply Scripture.  He also changes us from the inside out, and encourages, heals, comforts, and empowers us.  This force literally changes believers for the good, and guides them to be the best possible version of themselves they can be.  He is the part of God that walks side-by-side with us in our daily lives, every step of the way, never falling behind or giving up.  One by one, God changes people, and eventually, the whole world is effected.  Our church just finished a message series on the Holy Spirit called "The Guide", where they described him as being our knowledgeable and caring "Guide", leading us safely through the wilderness of life.   
Nature is another extremely powerful force, and the devastating effects of its power has been in the news a lot lately.  The earthquake/tsunami in Japan a few months ago, the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, the flooding in the Southern U.S. states.....Nature can definitely be destructive, but it can also be beautiful, majestic, peaceful, soothing, and extravagant.  
These are just some examples of unseen, powerful forces that we humans cannot fully understand or explain, predict, or reason with.  This world is truly an interesting place, isn't it?    

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Waving Veteran at the Retirement Home

A retirement home for the elderly sits at the end of our street, and we drive by it everyday.  When the weather is warm, a few of the residents sit outside by the road in their wheelchairs.  
One resident who wears an old folded military hat with various pins on it, sits in his chair, hand constantly in the air, waving at all the passing cars.  Some folks see him and wave back, others don't.  
When Eric & I see him, we try to always wave back and smile as we pass.  
We were talking about him the other night as we took an evening stroll around our neighborhood.  We were discussing how it makes our day every time he smiles and waves at us, even though we're strangers and only one of many cars he waves to throughout the day.  But still, we're impressed and appreciative that this man takes the time to see us and wave as we drive by.  It's nice to connect with another human being, even though it's a brief encounter, and even though we've never met.  And we don't even have to initiate the interaction; we simply need to respond.  So we wave and grin, hoping that we're reflecting some of that positive energy back to him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thunderstorms and Clean Bedsheets

Two things made me incredibly happy today: thunderstorms and clean bed sheets!
A storm front moved through our area today and brought 2 thunderstorms with high winds, adding a yellowy hue to everything. One thunderstorm started in late morning; the other a few hours later in the evening. My puppy Levi certainly did not want to venture outside in that weather, even though he desperately needed to go to the bathroom!
I have decided that I love thunderstorms. They exude this feeling of majesty, danger, unpredictableness, and anxiety, like the earth is expectantly waiting for the thunderstorm to hit. I find it all very exciting!
My pets apparently did as well, because Levi sat at the back door for quite some time, and even our two sleepy ferrets woke up and looked out their window at the storm.
As the wind and rain relentlessly pelted the house, I was reminded of the simple reassurance of being underneath the roof of our small house. Our basement may leak sometimes in heavy rains, but our old little house is sturdy and has withstood many storms in it's 50-odd years. In short, I was safe. Safe and sound inside my house, with my pets. It's something we take for granted sometimes, and perhaps it's okay that we do, but there are people in the world who do not have adequate shelter. So once again, I was reminded of life's 'little' blessings.
I also washed our bedsheets today, with an all-natural laundry detergent purchased from Sam's Club. I love the fact that the detergent has no harsh chemicals and it was affordable. And it smells fresh & citrusy, which is always a plus! I love taking the still-warm sheets from the dryer and holding them against my face and body. They radiate warmth, and the fresh smell permeates my nostrils, making me smile on the inside.
And our bed looks so amazingly refreshed when we put clean sheets on it! It's such a simple thing, but it changes the look of the bed so drastically that it's almost like we purchased new sheets. But we didn't.
It's such a sweet & wonderful thing to lay on freshly laundered bedsheets for the first time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

"Keep Calm & Carry On"
I've seen this humorous saying on everything from tee shirts, to mugs, to stationary. It's funny; but it's also true. I've been applying it to real-life situations!
After my last 2 posts, you might be thinking that I am habitually stressed or always worried about money or survival.
I'm not. God has always provided for us, and tell Him everything we need, and He has never let us down.
Don't get me wrong: there are times when we lose it and freak out about our financial situation, or we go to bed wondering where the money is going to come from to pay bills. But, in general, we apply this funny saying to our lives, and we decide to not let our emotions run wild, but to control ourselves, and "keep calm & carry on."
Because really, what else can we do? This is all God asks of us. Just to stay calm, trust Him, hang in there, don't give up, let go of worry, take a deep breath, and hold fast.
I think all those phrases are synonymous with each other, and I think they are all healthy practices to adopt. I know my husband & I's faith is tested a lot, and we have to decide if we're going to believe all those nice things we are told about God, or if we're going to take matters into our own hands and thus show that we don't trust that God can take care of us.
We have chosen to trust, and although we have sometimes have a momentary lapse of resolve, we always remember to make a habit of letting go of fear, "what ifs?", and uncertainty. We know we are loved by the One whose "perfect love drives out fear" (1John 4:18)

Money Can't Buy Happiness, but It Sure Helps

We hope to someday be able to give money to church, non-profits, and other organizations that do good in the world. We've both always felt called to help change others' lives by giving money to organizations who will put it to good use to help those in need.

I think some "middle class" people take for granted how much money they actually have. They are able, for the most part, to eat out a couple times a week (or sometimes much more!), make some large purchases (like new tires for their car, for example), and have some saved money. Just the fact that they are able to have this is such a blessing!

So yes, I believe that my happiness in some part will improve when we have more money, because whether we like it or not, money makes the world go 'round, and if you're poor, you know this fact all too well.

We have learned a great deal, however, and we have seen God do some amazing things. We've literally seen money just appear in our bank account, and we didn't know how it got there! It was God providing in His mysterious, often unusual, way. And we now appreciate more fully the things we do have, and we know that it could always be worse. We are thankful for every day that we have food in our pantry, clothes on our backs, and gas in our tanks, even if we wish we could have more.

We've learned to budget our money and look for bargains, this has made us extremely fastidious and careful with our money, and we almost never buy anything full price. We are thankful for the little things, and we've realized, the little things are never that little. They are actually pretty big!

Again, God has been using the "little things" in my life to help me empathize with those less fortunate than us (they are many), to help me appreciate what I do have, and to enjoy life's simple pleasures, like His natural wonders, loving people He has put in my life, and the joy of unselfishly doing something kind for another human being.

So, on those days that I cannot leave the house because we cannot afford the gas for my car, I meditate on the simple fact that I still have so much to be thankful for, like my wonderful husband, compassionate family, loving friends, and my physical health. And more than anything else, I long to be able to help other people out of the soul-crushing poverty that entangles them. Perhaps someday, when all these financial tribulations are behind me, I'll be able to do just that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life is Made Up Of Little Things!

A concept I've learned in the past 2.5 years of being a young housewife is this: isn't life in general made up of the little things? And don't the "little" things sometimes end up being rather large things?
I do not work outside the home, and I don't know if I ever will. I take care of the house and the pets, do chores, and make sure home life runs smoothly. So my daily life consists of nothing but "little" things!
I am not going out and changing the world, getting rich, or even touching the lives of crowds of people. My little world does not impact very many people, as far as I can tell.
Or does it? Will it? I think that maybe my life does impact more people than I realize, even when my social sphere is rather small.

I have much to celebrate in my little life.
I am healthy, I have lovely friends, loving family, a great husband, I have youth, I have never gone hungry, and I have a roof over my head. Isn't that really all I can ask for? And it's more than I deserve.
I am so blessed with family, friends, love and provision. I think we all have much to celebrate in our little lives. And I believe that all those "little" insignificant things that fill up our daily lives have the potential to create an expansive, joyful, world-changing life.

I hope to write this blog to celebrate my lovely little life, to find God in the midst of my little daily activities, and to realize and accept my place in this large, crowded world.
If I let God into my little life, He may keep my life "little", but He will help my heart grow to be expansive and peaceful, to impact the world.
Because I am more than the sum of all the Lovely Little Things in my Lovely Little Life.

My Little Romance

My life may be little, but God has proven that even 'little 'ole me' is worthwhile & valuable in His eyes. An amazing way that He has shown His incredible love for me is this: He literally and directly reached down and divinely intervened in my life, leading me to find, fall in love with, and marry my husband, Eric. He literally performed a miracle in my life; a miracle that saved me from missing out on the opportunity of finding my One Great Love.

Eric & I met and fell in love by, what we believe, was the direct intervention of God in our measly little human affairs. He fell for me early on in our friendship, but I was unsure of myself and him. I hesitated for awhile, trying to figure out my feelings, when God lovingly crafted a blaring, neon arrow-shaped sign in the sky, pointing at Eric. God's voice was quietly but firmly repeating in my head, "That's him. Eric is the One for you. That's him."
God didn't wait for me to "have it all figured out", but clearly directed me to make a crazy decision and jump into a serious relationship with Eric, even when I was still a little messy on the inside.
We have now been married for over 2.5 years, and we perfectly complement each other.

I will always remember this as a moment when God reached down and changed my heart and my mind. He directly interacted with me and with Eric, in our lives and our hearts. I believe that God cares about the large events in our lives, like marriage, careers, children, etc, but I also believe that God deeply cares about the small things in our lives, like our day-to-day chores, hobbies, all those small things that fill up our day, and those quiet moments right before we fall asleep at night.

Eric pursued and won my heart by doing the "little" things, like driving 45 minutes to my house in a snowstorm, helping me into my coat, holding the car door for me, being quietly persistent, showing me that I was the most amazing and beautiful woman in the world, and unselfishly putting me first. And all those "little" things added up to reveal this amazing, honorable, kind young man who won my heart with his persistence.

The little things turned out to be not so little, after all!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Lovely Little Life

My name is Rachel.
I am 25 years old.
I am nothing special.
I am an average female with average looks, brains, and quirks.
My life is quiet, small, and uneventful.
For some people, these words would describe a meaningless, unproductive, boring, pathetic life. But for me, these words are not negative at all; rather, they are positive descriptors of my good life.
Actually, my life isn't just good; it's great!

I am extremely blessed, and I hope to talk a lot more about appreciating the little blessings in life, because they really aren't that little. When God extends a loving hand and chooses to bless you so you can enjoy your life and know Him better, there is nothing "little" or inconsequential about that.
This is how I am learning to feel about my own life, that even though some may look at me and say that I'm nothing special and I've got nothing special going on; I know otherwise.

I am a stay-at-home wife to an amazing, hardworking husband. We do not have children; we have 2 ferrets and 1 puppy named Levi.
I take care of the house and do daily chores, and this work is important for life at home to run smoothly.
I wash my husband & I's dishes, clothes, and bed sheets, and this work is caring, loving, and important for hygiene & health.
I spend most of my day alone, just me & the pets, but this alone time is important & beneficial to my emotional, mental, & spiritual well-being, because I use this time to pray a lot, to love on my pets, to journal, relax, and meditate.
I have several hobbies that I pursue, like exercise, writing, knitting, scrapbooking, and journaling, but I haven't found a "life passion" that burns like fire inside me; something I want to dedicate my life to. Is this weird? Maybe. Wrong? Absolutely not.

For these reasons, I have classified my life as "little". But I contend that my life holds great importance to God, and to myself.
Do I love staying at home everyday doing chores? No, but I accept that this is where I am in my life right now; this is my role in my marriage right now, and so I want to perform my role to the absolute best of my ability.
Do I crave a life full of adventure and maybe some danger? Oh yes, please!
Do I wish I could find a life passion? An exciting dream? Of course I do! But I have also been learning patience as I pursue interests, and I believe that God truly has an important Reason, a Purpose to my life, even if I haven't found it yet.

And what if I have found it? What if my entire life is going to revolve around me being a housewife, then a mother, never working outside the home? What if I'll never have a successful career? What if I'm always in this old-fashioned, stereotypical housewife role?
These are questions I've been asking myself, and I'm learning that the answer is simple. It may not be easy; but it's simple.
The simple truth I'm realizing is this: I have an important, special purpose on this earth that no one else except me can do.
So this blog is going to explore this concept of me living a "little" life, and how it's a very purposeful, blessed, God-given life!
After all, life is what we make it.