Introducing Vol. 4

There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from reading a multi-volume story. Each book finishes an element of the story; a part of the whole, yet on it’s own, enough of a story to stand alone and warrant it’s own telling.

I remember reading as a child, the ending of the Two Towers, wondering HOW Frodo and Sam could possibly escape Shelob. I read of Harry Potter; wondering what could come of the aftermath of the Triwizard tournament. Chronicles of Narnia, the list goes on! – countless multi-volume sets have fascinated me for years. As fascinating as each individual book is, one must finish it, close the cover, and pick up the next volume to complete the story.

I’ve always viewed life as being that way. Each volume – or era, if you will – leads to another. Childhood is an era. College; learning to live as an adult is it’s own era. Each one must be lived out, then come to an end for one to enter the next era. Sometimes these endings are distinct, other times they simply fade into the next era. It is bittersweet to see an end; an irreversible change that marks the movement to another epoch of life.

I’ve distinctly seen multiple eras in my life: childhood/teenagerdom, college and the two years of work following, and then my time overseas, spanning the past six and a half years. Each season has formed and shaped me and the person that I am today. My view of the world is bigger and broader than it has ever been. I’ve held the hands of both pimps and prostitutes. I’ve learned another language; another culture. I’ve been challenged to look at the world with the simple pleasure of an illiterate island farmer, and with the hope and idealism of a big-city university student. I’ve seen God work miracles in hearts and lives. I carry a passport full of stamps and a heart overflowing with joy.

However, as bittersweet as it is, the time has come for that era to end.

At the end of April, I will be transitioning back to the United States. I will be landing in Southern Maryland for a short time with family, then I will be cross-country trippin’ and end up in Oceanside, California where I will settle (for the time being).

God is working some big things in my life, and I am excited to see what He holds for my future. I think (I know) that a sparkly ring, a question on one knee, and a really pretty dress are in my near future (stay tuned!). I have big things on my heart; some things that truly only God can do. The past year has been one of God re-directing the places where I thought I would go.

I do ask for prayers as I go through this transition. I am full of excitement and – I’ll admit, some trepidation – as I prepare for this big transition. I am excited as I am coming to the last pages – or days – of volume 3 of my life about to move on to volume 4.

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Listening to Silence

On December 20, 2015, I ran a half marathon, and it might have changed my life.

Woop-de-doo, you might say. People do that pretty much all the time. What makes this particular 13.1 miles so special?

I ran with a Deaf friend, and because I’m a crazy person, I decided that I wasn’t going to lean on my driving beats to keep me going. I was not going to listen to music.

Now, let me say, I love me some music. I be-bop to Death Cab for Cutie‘s “Little Wanderer” and just LOVE me some Of Monsters and MenChvrches plays in the background as I type, and the Tron: Legacy soundtrack is my go-to “get it done” playlist.

But those 13.1 miles of silence still echo in my mind.

We surround ourselves with noise. We surround ourselves with actions. We must do, do, do; go, go, go. Something must always be going on in our lives, or we feel that the time is wasted.

There is no time spent reveling in silence.

I am working on a counseling class as I am finishing my masters’ degree. The other night I was completing my assigned reading for a book review, and found myself “amen-ing” everything that this author was saying.

“Reaching Out” divides into three parts, and I was reading through the beginning, which discusses moving from Loneliness into Solitude. (I have capitalized those for my benefit; the author does not personify them as I have done).

Loneliness fills the silence. Solitude revels in it. Loneliness feels hollow. Solitude is fulfilling. Loneliness fears silence. Solitude welcomes it and learns from it.

The reading this past week, and the ruminatings of the past month collided in my mind as I curled up in bed; light turned off, staring at the moonbeams filtering into my room.

I have hidden from silence. 

Yet at the same time, I have not. I have lived in an odd place that embraces and pushes it away. Like a small child who demands the toy, but would rather play with the box, I’ve been rather petulant in spirit. I’ve allowed myself to wallow in Loneliness without exploring that crossover into sweet Solitude. The silence in which He speaks; using that soft voice that is heard only by careful listening and waiting on Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

Sometimes, the silence has far more to teach us than the noise ever will. I have slowly, and perhaps even unintentionally, moving towards silence. Walks in my neighborhood are not according to playlist or podcast; rather they are marked by the quiet breezes and the muted chirping of birds as they settle in for the night.

More and more, I find myself choosing the silence; choosing to revel in and learn from glorious Solitude.

Puppy Parvo

The past two days, I have been sick with an ironic summer cold. I say that because I find the concept of getting a cold during the hottest parts of the year extremely ironic. I went to England and the Netherlands and Korea and experienced cold weather in the past few months, but no, I get sick during the hottest part of the year in Thailand. Go figure.

I allowed myself the great pleasure of wallowing in my sickness, rather than trying to keep up with work. Most of the time I’ll struggle through, continuing with emails and trying to continue to work. This time, I just let myself rest.

It was glorious.

During this time, I picked up a book by one of my favorite sappy authors, James Herriot. If you’ve never read a James Herriot book, and love animals, you need to stop now and get some of his works. He will make you laugh and make you cry with his stories about life as a country vet. He talks of Cedric, the farting Boxer; Debbie, the genteel cat; and Duke, the only living creature that a young miscreant ever loved.

Warning: his stories will make you feel feelings.

As I read these stories of animals and their affection, and this young country vet’s experiences, I found myself reaching for my own pup to cuddle a little closer, as I remembered multiple instances of taking her to the vet, holding her tiny body as she fought for life.

I also realized at that time that I’ve never blogged about Dingdong.

How have I missed blogging about that little black ball of fluff that’s been a part of my life? I don’t know. But I want to tell a story about the day that I finally began to understand the connection of a pet and owner.

***

I bought Dingdong when she was just a tiny black ball of fluff on Saturday, November 19, 2011. I had considered for a few months what it would be like to have a puppy, and I went to the dog market and fell in love with her cute little face. Here’s a pic from the first day that I got her:

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Now the biggest question I get is this: “what does her name mean?” Yes, it is Thai. It means “stupid.” However, I thought it meant the cute kind of stupid. My Thai teacher later informed me it’s the kind of stupid that implies you’ve had a lobotomy.

Oops. Sorry, pup.

I carried her in a laundry basket and took her everywhere with me. She slept ALL THE TIME, and rarely ate. That didn’t concern me too much, until a week after I got her, she started pooping blood. 324858_10150401130757961_1517905416_o I got her to the vet as fast as possible. The doctor took a look, asked me a few questions, and said, “she has parvovirus. There is a 70% chance she will die.”

Definitely not what I was ready to hear at that moment – and honestly, I had never had a pet of my own before. I’m not the kind of person who makes deep emotional attachments with most things, but at that moment, I realized just how much I loved this puppy. It was very dramatic, like a soap opera.

He explained that there wasn’t medication for that, but that he could put her on an IV, and give her nutrition, and we’d see if she would make it. Rather than just hang out in the waiting room, I went outside. I went to the side of the concrete vet clinic, sat down on the driveway, and cried for two hours straight.

I don’t think I have EVER cried that much – at least, not for a very long time. Most of my tears are just a little leak of about five tears, and then it’s over. That day, the floodgates burst through like they rarely have, and who knows what will trigger it again. When I pulled it together and went back, he said to bring her every morning for the IV. I could take her home at night, but she would need the IV to keep hydrated and nourished.

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They’d leave the needle in her tiny leg, and put a cast bandage over the spot to keep it safe when she didn’t come. Eventually, they had to switch to her other leg, and both of her legs were shaven. We called it her “sleeve tatts.” 382994_10150426282141645_1765045832_n Amazingly, she pulled through. She was one of the 30% that pulls through. She’s a tough little thing – really sassy and strong-willed. That’s made training her super fun, and also helped her survive eating rat poison, and all the times she just keeps trying to accidentally die.

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She’s almost 4 now, and is getting a gray muzzle. Her ear hair is ridiculous. And I’m pretty sure I could probably run her over with a semi-truck and she’d survive it. She’s more likely to fart in my face when I’m having a bad day as opposed to snuggle, but that’s my dog. She’s mine, obviously likes me, and I guess I’m kinda fond of her too.

Thai green curry recipe (THM S meal)

Let’s talk about curry. If you’ve ever had curry, you know that wonderful sensation of spices punching your taste buds and throwing a hard-core dance party in your mouth. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret here….

Curry is super easy to make. 

In the old days, curry paste was made from peppers, spices, and other goodies thrown into a mortar and pounded by a pestle for literal hours. Now, with powerful blenders, you can have a perfect curry paste in minutes.

However, most folks don’t make curry paste anymore – you can buy curry paste for super cheap. I get mine at the local supermarket, Big C, for 14 baht (roughly 50 cents) for a packet.

I’ve been cooking at lot more – in fact, now, I may only eat out once or twice a week, and most of the time when I do, I think man, I have some really good food in my fridge right now that I wish I was eating. I happen to really like my cooking, and cooking is one of my favorite activities. However, I LOVE me some Thai food, and don’t wanna lose out on getting to eat Thai food. I’m also trying to completely eliminate sugar and other stuff like MSG from my diet, so I have been experimenting with a lot of Thai recipes.

Anyway.  I’m gonna walk you through step by step how I make green curry, and just how easy it is to make.

First, you’re gonna mix the packet of curry paste with however much coconut milk your recipe calls for. My recipe called for one cup of coconut milk.

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Next, you’re gonna cut chicken into small pieces. You’ll put the chicken into the curry paste/coconut mixture to cook.

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While the chicken is cooking, you’ll want to prepare the baby green eggplants. I slice them into quarters, but you don’t want them exposed to the air too long, or they get all brown.

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Once the chicken is cooked, throw in the eggplant, and add a cup of water. You’ll want to cook it until the eggplant is tender. The recipe on the package says to add chili, sweet basil, and kefir lime leaves, but I always forget to buy those, so I never put them in. It tastes good without them, but adding them brings another flavor dimension. I’m just forgetful and lazy.

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Now let me introduce you to a little friend of mine…Konjac noodles! These are one of my favorite discoveries of this year. It’s a low-carb noodle that is derived from the root of the Konjac plant. These noodles are basically calorie-free, carb free, make you feel full and satisfied, and are amazing. They come packaged in water, and have a mild fishy smell (depending on the noodles – I’ve bought really skinny ones, and they had no smell, and then giant ones, and they smelled awful and I had to rinse them multiple times!).

I prefer the skinny ones, and am able to buy them in a single serving pack. They come so prettily packaged, as you can see here:

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I untie them, and rinse them off. The single-serve package is maybe a third cup of noodles, but trust me, they will fill you up!

greencurry8Then, I spoon some of the finished green curry onto the noodles, and VOILA! I have an awesome green curry for lunch. It’s amazing, and SO CHEAP.

greencurry10 Lemme break it down: 14 baht for the curry paste, 70 baht for a giant carton of coconut milk, 12 baht for the baby eggplants, 39 baht for the konjac noodles, and 40 baht for the chicken. That all totals up to less than $6 USD, and I have enough for three meals. 😀

Let me tell you the other excellent part: if you’re following the Trim Healthy Mama way of cooking, this is an EXCELLENT “S” meal. Watch your curry pastes carefully to make sure there isn’t any added sugar, but the ones I have found are excellent.

It’s almost embarrassing how easy it is to make such a flavorful dish, but adding Thai food to my cooking arsenal can never hurt, and I’m all for sharing it with you!

Why I Buy Practical Souvenirs

This past Monday, I returned from a two week vacation. I spent time prowling all over London and Amsterdam and various suburbs of both with my dear friend M. We laughed, talked, and ate our way across these cities. We took an adequate amount of pictures, capturing these great moments.

But now, I’m back in Thailand. My flight from Heathrow was delayed two hours, and during that delay, I despaired, confident that I would miss my next flight to my city where I live. It would be a 10-11 hour flight to the capital, then a 1 hour flight to where I live. I had a scheduled layover of 1:34. Do the math; it doesn’t work.

We landed on the tarmac with 24 minutes until my connecting flight. Through the grace of God, and the speed of an Eva air agent, I made my next flight. Unfortunately, my bag did not choose to run the length of the airport, remaining in Bangkok as I traveled onward. When I arrived at my final destination, I was told that it would be brought in as soon as possible, and they’d call when it came in.

Now here’s the thing. I buy souvenirs when I travel. It may seem relatively cliche, but I get the Starbucks mugs. I typically get the country mugs for each country I’ve been to. It’s silly, but each time I use it, I am flooded with memories created at that place.

I had two of these mugs carefully packed in my suitcase – one from London, a Christmas gift from M, and another from the Netherlands. I wasn’t able to fit them in my backpack, and had carefully wrapped them in my winter clothes and packed them in the checked baggage. Most of the things in the suitcase, I could say goodbye to, no problem – it’s just stuff; I try to hold onto things with a loose hand. It’s just better.

But I was pretty sad about potentially losing the mugs.

Choosing a practical item – something I use EVERY day – is one of the best kinds of souvenir I could purchase. When the magic of the vacation begins to slowly fade away into the normalcy of routine, I have a tangible item I can hold, reminding me of where I’ve been. I drink tea from a cup Ben gave me in Korea. My Australia mug holds my morning coffee, evoking memories of the opera house, Koalas, and amazing accents.

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Even the juxtaposition of Dingdong’s legs, the view of rice fields on my back porch, and the Netherlands cup is so strange. Holland feels so close, yet so distant all at the same time, and every time my fingers curl around that cup, I hear the sound of “Oh Holy Night” in Dutch, see the canals, and taste the chocolate sprinkles on toast that were part of a good Dutch breakfast.

It keeps the magical memories close when life’s busy reality comes to reclaim my mind.

There’s a happy ending to this story (I bet you figured so, since there’s a picture of a Netherlands mug above). My suitcase came in the next day, no problem, and I picked it up and everything was fine.

Do forgive the gratuitous selfie here at the end, but I accidentally took it when taking the picture of the cup, and kinda liked it. Thanks to a little bit of jet lag, I’ve been getting up earlier and have had time to straighten my hair all week.

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So that leads me to a question: do you buy souvenirs when you travel? Do they mean anything special to you? What do you like to get?

On turning 30

I remember the night before I turned 10.

I was in my bed, on my back, staring at the ceiling. I went to bed early back in the day (still do, these days), and was not tired at all. Birthdays, at that young age, are magical. The expectation of no chores, what gifts I might receive, what the next day might hold.

Because I went to bed early, the room was still a little bit light. Or maybe it was my imagination; I don’t know  (I was a strange child). From my bed, I could see the outline of a giant 9 on my wall. The trashcan in my room, combined with a picture frame on the wall made a giant shape of a 9 on the wall.

I stared at that 9 for a long time that night.

What would ten be like? What would my teen years be like? What would happen; what life changes would be going on? What would that decade hold for me?

So many questions ran through my young mind, and I thought until late, late in the night when I finally fell asleep.

Tomorrow I turn 30.

That’s right.

Thirty. It’s the age that brings with it an existential crisis; the fear that life is slowly (or quickly) passing one by. The year that leaves a decade behind. It’s the end of an era. A lot of those same questions that plagued 9 year old me still run through the mind of 29 year old me.

What will my 30s be like? What will happen? What life changes do I face? Will this be the decade where I marry; when I have kids? Questions I never thought I’d wonder run through my head: what country will I even live in?

I come down to the same thing that I found comfort in when I was 9. I’ll not have answers to any of these questions until, 10 years from now, I take time to reflect on the ways that my life has changed in the past 10 years.

Left Behind

no, we’re not starting some cheesy post-rapture christian story . . .

From my front porch, I can watch planes post-takeoff. They roar overhead, and I watch their giant underbellies as they take off, gaining momentum and the freedom that a plane, if it had the capacity to feel, would surely feel as it watches the ground disappear farther and farther below. These planes, full of people wondering when the “fasten seat belts” sign will turn off so they can listen to their iPods and read their Kindles, fly directly over my house.

Sometimes, these planes hold my friends.

I live close to the airport. Once, I went from my front door to completely through security within ten minutes (I feel like I should get a prize for that, really). That often means that I can see my friends through security, and go home, and then hear the rumble of take-off, and step out of the house just in time to see my friend’s flights go overhead.

Even though they’ll never see, I wave.

***

One of the hardest things about life over here is the fact that life overseas is like an ocean. Life ebbs and flows; people come into your life for a season, a wave that washes over your life and alters you forever, then slips silently back into the ocean, taking a small piece of you with them; your life landscape recognizable, yet different.

I’ve been blessed in that I know that. Growing up a military brat, I know well the feeling of watching a season of life disappear out the rear view mirror as we move on to the next place. The next big thing.

When discussing friendships, it blew my mind to think that there were children who had the same friends in high school as they had in the nursery. The idea of knowing someone, and gently moving from a deep, long term friendship into the blossom of romance boggled my mind. How could anyone survive living in one place for so long?

***

This year marks five years of serving overseas.

That’s right folks, five years.

I don’t think I’ve lived in a place for more than this amount of time. Yes, I lived in the city of Jacksonville, Fla. for 10(ish?) years, but as our family grew, we moved, and the moves were to completely different sides of town; different churches. They were drastic enough (and marked by being different eras of life) that I view it almost as completely and totally different.

Military life is divided into tours, and in the Navy (I’m a navy brat, you guys), these are three year tours. That meant that once we got out of the back-to-back tours in Jacksonville, our next locations were only three years.

Back in those days, we didn’t have Facebook. Texting was unheard of. Long-distance calls would wrack up a phone bill big enough to make parentals consider disowning you (and I’ve NEVER been big on phone calls, I’d rather talk in person if I can). It means that friendships are forged quickly, and go as deep as possible as fast as possible, but can be uprooted at a moment’s notice.

***

I have a few people that I reunite with and it’s like no time has passed. I daresay that some of those people are slipping away. The planet is pretty big, and as tightly as I cling to these friendships, the constant tick, tick, tick, of time passing by wears away at even the granite friendships.

I’ve always been the butterfly in the relationships. I come, settle temporarily, and then flit away to the next place. I’m the temporary one; I’m the one who feels the crazy urge to rearrange the furniture if I’ve been in one place too long (you think that’s a joke. it’s not).

However, this year, it dawned on me.

I’m the permanent one.

Yeah, I went before the board of trustees, and was voted upon to be a full time worker overseas. Yeah, I signed on for terms that would continue on and on, even with the passing of time. It dawned on me the other week, when I accepted a team leader position, that I am now one of the senior people in my office. (I am still using the mental hashtag #adultingishard when things aren’t going according to my simplistic planning).

But now, I am the one who stands still in the moments when the entire world seems to pass by, nothing but a blur of motion around my steadfast self. That’s something I never could have prepared for in a million years.

I’m learning to love it though.

It’s OKAY to be the one who stays.

I can find JOY in the fact that now I have a house, a dog, and a fence made of bushes that have been coaxed to grow around chicken wire.

I can be at peace with the fact that for this time, God has called me to be the one to stay.

***

A friend and I were talking, and she told me that while there are times when being the person who stays is a lonely life, she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’d rather hurt and know that I’ve had those relationships, and had to let them move on, than never have had them.

I think it was Shakespeare (or some other famous dead poet) who said “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all.”

I’m tending to agree, as I sit here on my front porch, hugging my knees, watching planes interrupt a quiet sky full of stars.

***

Come visit. Be a butterfly in my life. Flit through. I promise after I take you to the airport, I’ll go home, sit on my front porch steps, and wave at your airplane as you take off.

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