Sunday, July 5, 2015

Joy is a Language All its Own (Happy Second Anniversary)

Today marks two years since we gathered with friends and family under a live oak tree and said our vows. My heart was beating so fast...the feeling was exhilarating and pure joy. I loved him. And he loved me. Two people--imperfect, flawed, not so important in the big picture of the world...and yet, to each other, the other meant everything. We made a promise that day--to see the best in each other, to forgive, to trust. In the two years since, we have continued to grow and change and love. We have started to speak in ways that go beyond talking--with gestures, looks, and expressions. He has made me realize that joy is a language all its own. And I am grateful. When he prepares dinner while I'm at yoga, he is saying he cares about hearing about my day and relaxing together. When he emails from work or calls right before night class (though we will have seen each other just three hours ago), he is saying that I am so important to him. When he laughs at my ridiculous made up songs about my cats, he is saying that he gets me. That he recognizes my craziness, but he finds it perfectly sane. When he holds me, he is saying that I am safe. When he puts his hand over mine, he is showing he is here with me, allied with me in whatever the situation is. When he looks at me this certain way that I know means he loves me, I know he always will. Not because I'm perfect, not due to looks, accomplishments, or anything circumstantial...but because we speak the same language. Because we always have, but we never found anyone to speak it to until we found each other. 

I love you, Brendan. Here's to a lifetime of speaking and listening. Happy anniversary. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Costa Rica: Cerro de la Muerte

Greetings from Costa Rica! We arrived on Tuesday evening and spent the night in a hotel close to San Jose after picking up our rent car. The next day, we headed for our b&b near Dominical. There are two routes we could take, and we chose the longer and more scenic one: the mountain route. While consulting the guide book, I figured out the road we were on was also known as "mountain of death." Brendan had conveniently not mentioned that part. The good news (for our moms is) that the mountain has that nickname due to horseback riders...and we are riding in a Hyundai Tuscon. Honestly, it was mostly fine with a few moments I thought we'd either die, see a t-Rex, or both. It was pretty prehistoric looking. It is like Maui's road to Hana only with less tourists. 

Finding our b&b was a real trip. I thought we'd end up with multiple flats for sure (we are in the jungle on top of a mountain... The "road" is unpaved and super bumpy). I was freaking out a little (okay...lots)! When we found it though, I knew it was worth it. 

The pool overlooks the ocean, howler monkeys can be heard in the trees (a haunting but beautiful sound), and birds chirping is our wake up call. I honestly would consider living here. 

Today, we set out to explore two different beaches, picked up groceries, swam in our pool, and loved being in the sun. 

We came during rainy season, so it is pretty quiet, but so far we haven't seen rain. Just warm and sunny! 

I had a blast playing in the waves. The ocean is my happy place!

And Brendan is the perfect person to share adventure with. 

Tonight we ventured into Dominical for sushi. Each time we venture down the mountain, I give thanks for the absurd amount of rental car insurance protection we bought. Basically, we aren't liable for anything...and since no one in Costa Rica (besides car renters) is required to have car insurance...they drive like it. So I'm glad we're covered. And I'm glad for sushi. 

Costa Rica, so far it's love at first sight! 
<3 s&b 

Monday, June 29, 2015

29 & Birthday Donation Time!

Greetings from Austin. I am 29 on the 29th today! When our bar last night was on 29th street, I got reallllyyyy excited and wanted this photo:

I haven't met a birthday that I didn't love yet, and this one is certainly no exception. Before we talk about it, let's talk about Donate Your Birthday. My mom told me about this idea, where you pick a charity each year, and you donate your new age in dollars on your birthday. I have been participating since I turned 25, and I love the concept. It's a great way to do good to celebrate the year that you have been given. This year, my charity choice came to me easily. I heard on the radio that summer is the hardest time for food banks because children who usually rely on free or reduced lunch programs for breakfast and lunch are out of school, and there is definitely a larger population to serve meals to in the summer as a result. Our local West Texas Food Bank is an AMAZING organization. They have four stars on charity navigator and manage to turn a $1.00 donation into 4 meals. I happily donated $29.00, and I encourage anyone to join me or donate to your own local food bank. When people think of hunger, they often think of third world countries, but hunger is actually a big problem in America. Looking at statistics, 49.1 million Americans are in food insecure households, and Texas is above the national average. 18% of households in our state are food insecure...that is almost one in five, so to say the need is great is an understatement. My birthday celebrations this year have included a lot of food, and I'm glad to think that members of my community have a place to go when access to food isn't readily available. I really encourage everyone to practice Donate Your Birthday. It's one of many opportunities to give back :)

Now for birthday celebration shenanigans...
On Saturday night, Brendan made pizza from scratch for a group of our Midland friends, and we had salad, cake, and ice cream as well. Our fire alarm was NOT enthused with the oven being 550 degrees for two hours. It went off several times, and we'd have to fan around it, and open doors and windows. It was quite ridiculous, but the pizza was very delicious.

Last night, as soon as we arrived in Austin, Amanda and Matt picked us up and took us out for the night. They treated us to an amazing sushi dinner at DK sushi, which was seriously outstanding. I will be back, and this place is added to my favorite all time sushi spots. Then, Matt acted as our designated driver and drove us to Spider house, where I had not one but two frozen margaritas.

Afterwards, we went to the Amy's Ice Creams on Guadalupe where I used to work. The kids there gave me a free ice cream (Birthday cake flavor) and also told me that "I don't look that old." Brendan and I used the photo booth...the results are pretty amazing.

Today, I have a massage booked thanks to a gift-card from an amazing co-worker and friend, and tonight, I will celebrate with my family & friends in Austin. What a way to ring in the last year of my twenties!

I feel super thankful for my 28th year..we traveled Europe, vacationed in Maine with Brendan's family, I was a bridesmaid in Katie and Anthony's wedding in Boston, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Austin and Christmas in Connecticut, and we took a cruise to Alaska with my family. I worked on becoming an even better teacher, and I met some wonderful students and saw them accomplish great things. We also bought and moved into our very first home. I love it, and most everyday I say "I can't believe we live here!" Making the house all our own has been so fun.

I have a feeling that 29 is going to be a special year. We are starting it off right by leaving for a Costa Rica vacation tomorrow. Plus, a week that starts with your birthday on Monday and ends with your wedding anniversary on Sunday is a darn good week!

Hope you have a darn good week of your own!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Patio Redux

Ahhhh the patio; a shady spot in our backyard that quickly became the perfect place for...

storing all our yard tools. Um, that is not how we meant to use it.

We needed a big time patio redux, but it was nothing that a trip to Target and Pier One couldn't remedy. Two sets of outdoor lights, one rug, and a few hours of sweeping, picking up trash, and moving our tools to more appropriate spots later, our patio looked like this...

Hallelujah! This looks SO MUCH better. Special thanks to Brendan for hanging the lights all the way around the patio. 

The rug is from Pier One, and I think it's so perfect to match the colors of our patio furniture. 

The lights are made by room essentials, and we got them at Target. You could use any old Christmas lights though! 

I love how the lights look at night as well. 

Happy weekend everyone. We hope it is a great one! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Building a Backyard From Scratch: Gravel, Brick, and More River Rock

Greetings and happy Thursday!

When we last left off in our building a backyard posts, we had just built some river rock beds to house our cactus plants. 

A month ago or so, we had a section of our outside brick repaired, and this resulted in having a lot of extra brick. Brendan used that to create edging for what will eventually be filled in with sod (pictures in a minute). The next step was covering the weed barrier with some gravel.

We ordered gravel and it got dumbed in the front driveway on Monday. It is pink gravel, but as you can see, it arrived filthy. Brendan filled the wheelbarrow with it and moved it to the backyard, while I used a rake to spread it out.

This photo shows the brick edging that Brendan completed last month. Where the black weed guard currently is, we will fill in with sod in the fall. 

Once we washed off the gravel, the pinkish color started to appear: 

Brendan has spent TONS of time in the yard making sure that the gravel is covering the weed barrier. He also had his work cut out for him needing to dig a trench in front of the back gate and fill it in with river rock so that the gate will not get suck (since our backyard slopes, this could become a problem if we don't correct it now). In the photo below, you can also see the starts of a new cactus river rock bed. 

Our other beds and plants are doing well.

Brendan also had to uncover the flagstone path, since the gravel load originally covered it.

So much work has gone into our backyard, but we are starting to really appreciate the overall effect. Our next goals are sod and trees, but that will probably be in the fall when it gets a little cooler! 

We have been staying busy this week with workouts, socializing, and being here to wait for home repair people. Brendan is off to work today to conduct some interviews, and I have a goal to clean up the house and my car! 

Have a great Thursday everyone! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

To My Father in Law (Happy Father's Day)

Last April, I was at a friend's house and Brendan and I were among several other couples invited for dinner. The friend and her husband had recently had their first child, but none of the other couples had children. At some point, the men went outside and the women remained in the kitchen drinking wine. My friend said solemnly, "As soon as you have kids, your husbands will constantly be on you to quit your jobs." Some of the other women nodded, as if they were already kind of expecting this. One woman said she wasn't interested in kids. When everyone turned to me, I couldn't help but laugh a little before managing "I married a feminist." The scenario of Brendan ever asking me to quit my job (for any reason) was so foreign and non-plausible that it actually made me laugh. Our partnership is equal in every way, with a 50/50 split on dishes, cooking, laundry, bill paying, cat care, and buying power. We even make equal incomes. While we have talked about how having children can never truly be 100% equal (since the woman is, of course, the one that has to grow and have the child and breast feed if she chooses to), we have also discussed how we'd do everything we could to equally share the responsibility of parenting from the start.

A year and two months after the dinner party, I was reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (CEO of Facebook). Sandberg wrote: "When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated, and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier" (115). I was definitely nodding while reading this paragraph. In both Lake Charles and Midland, so many of my non-traditional students have complained that while they are attending college full time, their husbands also expect them to take care of the children and do ALL the household work by themselves. The husband in these cases seems to assume that because he makes all the money, his only job or contribution is to work,  and his wife should take care of everything else. It is a dynamic that often makes attending college impossible, and I have seen many women forced to drop out because of spousal attitudes that don't support education ambitions.

Sandberg went on to discuss how both her father and her (now late) husband's father set this example of equality in the home. She wrote "One of the reasons Dave is a true partner is because he grew up in a home where his father set an extraordinary example" (119). She discussed how Dave's father did chores and cooked a family meal daily while also working as a law professor.

While I always knew that Brendan grew up in a household where his parents were equal partners, reading this book really made me stop and appreciate how much this example had influenced him. When I asked Brendan about growing up, he said that there was never a strict division of chores between his mom and dad, but if something needed to get done, whoever was able to just did it. So Brendan grew up seeing his father cook, grocery shop, do dishes, do laundry, vacuum, clean, and be an involved father and husband (my in laws will celebrate 38 years of marriage this October). He also saw his Dad being happy to do all these things and never thinking twice about it. And now, no surprise, as a husband, Brendan does all of those things as much as I do without even making a specific or conscious effort. Being an equal partner is just part of his personality and something that he and I both take for granted.

In May, it was widely reported that Dads who did chores raised daughters who were more ambitious in their careers, but of course, Dads who are equal partners have a great effect on their sons as well.

We are far past the 1950s, so many of my friends who read this will probably think "this is how every guy is" or "what's the big deal?" but as my conversation at the dinner party just 14 months ago and my observations in classrooms have shown, unfortunately, not all men do think and behave as equal partners. And, as a society, we have a LONG way to go. USA Today reported that in 2011, men did 10 hours of chores for every 18 hours that women did. While this is far improved from the 4 hour/32 hour split of 1965, it still isn't equal.

So today, on Father's day, I want to take a chance to tell my father in law that I appreciate everything he did for his family and the example that he created for his son and daughter. I spend all of my days being so grateful that your son is my husband. Like you, he is kind, loving, intelligent, passionate, and a great teacher. Also like you, he is a true partner, in every sense of the word.

Plus a total goofball...wonder where he gets that from?

I wouldn't want it any other way

Happy Father's day!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Oh home, there's no place quite like it!

I keep looking around at our house this week and feeling so lucky. No, it isn't decorated perfectly, we don't have every room furnished, and we aren't able to replace some old pieces just yet. But it's our home, and I feel so relaxed and happy here. Maybe, during the go-go-go mentality of the school year, I never truly had time to stop and appreciate it just as much. This week at home and on summer vacation has been really nice. Here's what we've been up to the past week:

I am insane and picked a crazy and exhausting two week interval training plan for us to complete together (a full post on this to come). Needless to say, we have both been incredibly sore, but have powered through five of the workouts, and we are headed to the gym for number six later today. In addition, I did yoga class on both Monday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, I was the only student in class, so it turned into a private lesson. This was good, because we were able to stretch out the soreness in my arms and chest, but, of course, I had to work on my chaturanga (yoga push up), which was tiring after all the strength training! Still, it feels great to be back to working out.

Brendan and I did a HUGE grocery store run last Friday, and we already ate all the food. We got up early today and went to the farmer's market (check out our heirloom tomatoes) to increase our stock. We also scored: peppers, onion, squash, kale, lettuce, chard, basil, and cucumbers. This week we made: Simply Light Basil Lime Stir Fry, Orecchiette pasta with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, arugula and "beyond meat chicken free strips," baked potato and salad night (a go to for when we are tired), Perfect Vegetarian Chili, and of course, two leftover nights. I plan to use the tomatoes in a delicious dish tonight.

The pool in our subdivision opened while we were in Alaska. It's a nice option for cooling off when it gets above 90 degrees!

I've been making my way through Lean In and am almost finished. Brendan has been writing and also reading The Hedgehog and the Fox and the Magister's Pox, and I have been restructuring one of my online literature courses. Of course, Lola and Zoe have been on our laps constantly (sometimes making it hard to do any of these things!)

Yesterday, we caught a matinee of Inside Out. It was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I cried, I laughed! You just have to go see it. We also watched Chef on Netflix (cute, but not life changing) and Hoop Dreams (a pretty darn good sports documentary). I am loving the comedian section of HBO Now and watched specials by Louis CK and Sarah Silverman last night.

Seeing Friends
We went to Dagan and Stephanie's house to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday. All of us are so sad that it's over! Watching the show every Sunday and eating dinner is a tradition for us. On Tuesday, we went to trivia night with a big group of friends, and we also saw a lot of co-workers there. I guess trivia night is the happening place to be in Midland! Today, my friend Kristen and I went shopping. I had some birthday money from my mimi and picked up some summer clothes.

All in all, it was a great week. The only downside was that I caught a cold that showed up Wednesday morning, and then Brendan caught it too. The good news is, we already seem to be getting over it. We hope everyone has a great weekend.


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