Wednesday, May 21, 2014

52 Projects: #4 Strength

What is it to be strong? When I think of a strong person my mind immediately jumps to a beefy man with a crazy mustache pulling a bus. I have noticed however, that is not really the most impressive show of strength.

Sure we are impressed by beefy mustache man, but that pales when compared to a young man who is terminal and is choosing to live the remainder of his life in service and love to those around him [true story].

We are constantly bombarded with stories of strength on our various social media outlets. Stories of people overcoming hardship, deciding to take action and be in control of their bodies, people standing up for what they believe despite the hate that they will receive. You don’t need me to tell you what strength looks like, cause we all know.

The true question is: do you know your own strength?

As a culture we are addicted to success stories. Overcoming poverty, losing 500 pounds, building a life from nothing, beating a disease etc. We should be excited about these stories, because they are amazing, and they depict our dreams becoming reality, inspiring us to know that it is all possible because so many others have done it before us.

However, these stories have a tendency to make it look easy. They are at the end of their journey, they can easily flip back to "before" and show the drastic difference that seemed to happen in a matter of minutes, or however long the video is. This does not prepare our minds for the hardship and endurance it takes to be strong.

To be emotionally strong you must endure emotional pain. To be physically strong, you must endure physical pain, and so on. Pain is the means to having strength, you cannot have one without the other.

Fear is the antitheses of Strength. We fear pain, and probably for good reason. It is not enjoyable, people try to avoid it. We were created to avoid it. However, I believe it is not so clear-cut. Pain has a purpose and if we allow it to do its job, it can greatly benefit us.  

Strength begins in our mind; mentally conquering our fear of pain. The type of pain that strengthens us not the kind that keeps you from making poor choices like jumping off cliff. Some fears are good, healthy even. Common sense will get you far in life.

What I am saying is in order to persevere and reach your goal, it is probably going to hurt a bit. But that’s ok.

At least, this is what I am trying to learn. I have let my fear of pain keep me from pursuing my goals. I want to stop thinking that one day I will become strong, and start seeing myself as already being strong.

Already I have surpassed some of my expectations. I had a baby completely naturally. At first I was terrified, but I was able to {somewhat} prepare myself mentally for how to manage the pain. Many of the tactics reminded me of things I have always done when dealing with pain- may it be on a long run, or at the dentist. My presence of mind was completely different during this delivery compared to my first. I have a new understanding and appreciation of pain.

I painted this little canvas as a symbol of strength, or rather as something to encapsulate the journey. I hope to continue the rest of this year overcoming my fear and pursuing a strength of mind and of body.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Motherhood 2.0

The thing about having a baby is that suddenly you live in a dichotomy of having all the time in the world and yet no time at all. The majority of my time is now spent sitting, holding a nursing baby or standing, trying to rock her to sleep. Which requires a little creativity at times when sitting just isn't an option.

So, it is much of my day sitting and looking at all the things that need to get done and unable to even think of actually doing it. It also means that in the few precious moments of freedom I hurry to do laundry, cook dinner, take a shower, or help my five year old with this that or the other thing. I only ever get to pick two.

Most of the time my choice is made for me.

Honestly, if I could choose, I would be happy to just sit all day and hold this precious baby. Stare into her big blue eyes and make her smile over and over. It is the highlight of my day and what solidifies all the hard work in bringing her here. As much as I would like to, life carries on at its perfectly normal rate, dragging me reluctantly along with it.

Days that were once started by list making and followed by working my way through them are a thing of the past. Laundry has become my war, and I am losing. Solitude is almost non existent and are precious.

I have a cup of coffee, more than I should but still never enough. All of my time sitting often leads to involuntary sleeping. Alas, here I am. Not asleep, holding my baby and yet still able to type. My mind is too fuzzy to be a reliable judge, but it is what it is. It is life with a newborn, and I would not trade it for anything.

Cliche, I know. If only truth could be measured in how often it has been recited rather than churning into a meaningless quip to inaccurately describe the greatest moments of life.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Stuck In A Gutter

I have never been great at idioms. I coined this one a few years ago and decided I was going to own it.

Plus, it has been very fitting as of late. I have ideas and lists and good intentions, all good things and great when feeling them all at once. However, I seem to be missing one crucial component to make any of those truly effective. The sad part is I can’t even think of what that would be. I know they say pregnancy causes all sorts of forgetfulness to come about, and I have definitely fallen victim to it.

It may also be that my list is way too long. Having a big life-changing event just on the horizon, it’s impossible to not have a list of “must-do’s” before the life-changing occurs. I know all you naysayers are thinking “if its truly important it will get done, otherwise oh well!” Well to that I say NAY! Lots of very important things don’t get done, and the result is added stress and chaos for yours truly.

So perhaps I am letting the stress get to me. I want to carry on and do all the things, and at the same time I just want to sit at home with a cuppa and play video games. To which I am a little embarrassed to admit, but it is what it is.

Work is taking off and life is building a momentum I have never had to deal with before. Self-doubt is continuously surfacing reminding me that all I do is rubbish and I should just go back to playing video games. For the first time since I was in school I am feeling the pressure of deadlines and following through on things.

Its amazing. And exhilarating. And I absolutely love it.

But I also fear that just as things “are starting to happen” for me I am waiting for it all to crumble with this huge life changing event that could literally happen at any moment.

So this may be crazy, and a great unleashing of pent-up stress and worry, but it is hard to keep pressing forward when the future is such a great unknown.

I know a few things for certain. I know I love my job and I want to keep doing it. I know I love my children and want to be the best darned mother I can be. I know babies are exhausting and time consuming. I know I want to blog and be bold and take some risks. I know I love tea and video games.

And somehow writing this has made me feel better. If I do manage to make it through this week without tears shed, it will be an accomplishment indeed. So far so good!

Friday, February 7, 2014

52 Weeks: Weeks 1-3

The start of a new year is often a time of thinking forward, planning, goal setting, and resolving lingering issues that chase you from one year to the next. I love sitting down with a cup of coffee to plan out the upcoming year and set some goals. Drinking a hot beverage and making lists, those are happy moments for me.

One of my favorite bloggers just finished a 52 week project she worked on last year. While I don’t plan on doing exactly what she did, which involved photography, I like the idea of having a project that breaks down into weekly goals.

This is where all the goals and to-do’s that have been on my list year after year will finally get crossed off. However my to-do list does not even come close to 52 items [that would be insane!] so naturally I am going to make one. Included in that list will be all the things I have been putting off or meaning to do as well as other projects or crafts that I would like to see accomplished this year.

For this week, as it is technically the third week, I will share three projects.

1. Family Christmas Book

This book was a wedding gift that I found to be both ridiculously cheesy and charming. Still I have faithfully intended to fill it in every year. I know I will never be able to scratch this one off as finished [until the book is full or I die, whichever is first] but its been sitting in my catch up pile for years waiting for me to get Christmas pictures printed and pasted in the [up until now] awkward blank “place Christmas photo here” slots.

2. A Christmas Gift For A Friend.

Its almost the end of January and I still am working on a Christmas gift. Shame. I know, I feel it. I made a set of three signs for her kitchen and while the first two came together nicely and worked out well, the third I had some trouble with. I re did the lettering over and over and still it just did not work. So I had to start over with a different design, which in the end I like a whole lot better than my original plan.

3. Jar Candle

I saw this one on Pinterest years ago and thought it was cute- but to purposefully destroy a book? Seemed a little drastic. Then the joys of having a toddler boy became known as my son did the dirty work for me. Now, having an entire books worth of pages to use for art I  added this craft to my to-do list. Simple but cute.

Hopefully having an official project and posting it here will help me get these things crossed off my list! Because it’s time.

I am currently working on trying to fix issues with comments. If you leave a comment and I haven't replied, blame Google. I will try to get that fixed asap though! [Just try and stop me Google...]

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Don't Know This Place!

There’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately that I have been rather reluctant to broach. Not for any benefit to myself, because the truth is I want to talk about it, a lot. I mean a lot. However, whenever I bring it up in conversation others just don't seem as keen to talk about it. It makes sense, as it’s something personal and rather exclusive. Like the guy who is constantly making inside jokes, even if no one who gets them is present [you know the type].

It is tempting to use this platform to completely indulge myself on a topic others just don’t find interesting, which I think everyone would advise against, but being a rebel at heart I am going to do it anyhow! [Hopefully in a way that is not purely self-indulgent.]

So here’s the thing:

The city I moved to eleven years ago is completely gone.

Before you start googling for catastrophic events, allow me to clarify. The city still stands, but it has transformed so drastically that it is a completely different place now than it was ten years ago.

I grew up in a very small village town in Colorado. For the twelve years I lived there, there were two drastic changes in the town. The first was that they added a pizzeria to the small grocery, and secondly, they installed a single stop light. These seemed like such huge monumental changes, altering the entire dynamic of the town.

So to now look back on the Chiang Mai I moved to all those years ago and see how much has changed and developed, it is rather astounding. Perhaps it is simply a sign I am getting old because I just want to talk about “back in my day when there were no pizzerias and this was just a dirt road...”

Perhaps it is because this city actually is growing and changing at an alarming rate. I cannot think of a single store or city block that has remained untouched. Or maybe it is simply the amount of Westernization that has taken hold.

When I first moved to Chiang Mai in 2002 there was a single Starbucks and two McDonald's. Now there’s at least seven Starbucks and almost too many McDonald’s to count. Pizza was available from only one company then. Now, just counting one mile from my house, I can count at least six pizza restaurants.
Eating at "Burito House" in the newly opened section of Airport Plaza in 2003.

The imported items available in 2002 were so expensive it was too impractical to buy. You could feed your whole family Thai food for $4, so it was difficult to justify spending $10 on a tiny personal pan pizza. Now, with inflation and the exchange rate in favor of the Thai Baht, that difference is narrowing. It isn’t so unreasonable to buy a block of cheese or a box of cereal. A box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese is only $1 more than a cup of fried rice.

By no means am I complaining. It makes it easier to have some of the comforts of home easily available. It saves room in our suitcases not having to buy so many cake mixes or chocolate chips.

However. the last few months in particular have hit me heavy with the change. Huge, gigantic, face-lifting sort of change. Three giant malls opened bringing with them new stores and chains, ice skating rinks and even an IMAX theater. We now have Cold Stone and Toys R Us.

I walk through these new stores or sit down at a new restaurant and it feels surreal. I think of the restaurants and shops that have come and gone, places that were once so familiar and so much a part of my everyday life that have now faded into the background or are now something entirely different.

Just this week there was a fire at the oldest mall in the city. The mall that I practically lived at during my first few years here.
Posing with Ronald at the McDonald's at Airport Plaza

So, even though I still live in this city, it is not the same city that it was when I first experienced. Not even a little bit, and for someone who hates change, that is a scary feeling. So I mourn that time of my life that can never be revisited, that exists only in my memory. And I eat Cold Stone and Mrs. Field’s. I don’t think twice about having Starbucks and Subway just down the road. I no longer horde cake mixes or covet pizza. So really, its not all so bad...

Monday, January 13, 2014

What To Read This Year?

I was an awkward child, short with lanky arms and legs and more clumsy than I am even now [which is a lot]. I wore clothes much too big, that never seemed to match, and had yet to discover hair ties. So my short, cropped hair was always hanging down in my face.

So, it may come to no surprise to you that I was not particularly good at sports. Field day was a nightmare, and the ‘A’ team was no friend of mine. I was undoubtedly more of an academic from the start, and one thing I was good at, even excelled at, was reading. I didn’t need any challenge or motivation to convince me to read, but ‘Book It’ sure made up some for my lack of blue ribbons from field day. Needless to say, I got a lot of free pizzas.

Every year I make a reading goal [even if I don’t get free pizza anymore]. Making a list helps me remain focused throughout the year and cuts out the time in between books wondering what to read next. Last year my list was incredibly short, and I still didn’t finish:

Finish Wheel of Time
The Lord of The Rings
Les Miserables

I did squeeze in a couple not listed, but after Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings I needed a break before committing to another long story. [Les Mis is like the Everest of book reading, and one day I will conquer it.]

For this year I went for a variety of books, mostly ones that have been recommended to me or that have been on my To Read list for far too long.

Here is my book list for 2014:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I’m just finally getting around to this one. Having been a long time follower of the Green brothers on YouTube I have had great interest in reading his novels. Then Amazon had a sale and they got me with their one-click button. Such a dangerous button...

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This series has been on my wish list for a while. With the movie coming out this year I want to read the books before seeing it, and prior to all the hype. I try to read the books before seeing the movie version as a general rule. That way I am continually and thoroughly disappointed.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I definitely am not on top of things with new and upcoming novels. I guess when I’m not reading books by men long dead, I am reading books that others recommend. There’s just too many books to read to waste time on ones that aren’t good. This book was highly recommended to me and then was on sale. [that one-click button! I tell ya...]

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

I started this book sometime last year and really enjoyed the first chapter, which was as far as I got. It was written in the 1930’s but is still extremely relevant and useful for anyone who has an interest in writing or art. She has an edginess that is compelling and inspiring, and intrigues me about the kind of woman she was in her time.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

I was visiting some friends and they had this book sitting on their coffee table. So, naturally, I picked it up and began to read it. This was before I discovered that I actually love history. This book captured me from page 1...or whatever page my friend had bookmarked. I made the splurge and purchased this one not on sale. Bryon’s style is captivating and hilarious. When it comes to history I can't get enough. And I want to know random facts such as how the French almost built a 900 foot Guillotine instead of the Eiffel Tower…

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

I discovered my favorite reading genres quite early in life, and I am guessing my love for apologetics and theology may have stemmed directly from growing up as a pastor’s kid? I don’t remember buying this book [seriously Amazon!] but its been sitting quietly on my Kindle for quite some time. This may be the first in this genre I have read from someone who is still living. [Did I mention I am a bit of a nerd?]

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This has been on my To Read list for ages! Plus I need a good fantasy novel to wrap up this list with. It is almost embarrassing to admit I haven’t read this yet. I barely know anything about the story, which is how I like it- I don’t even like reading the backs of books before I start a story. All I know is its about a boy who does magic in a fictional land and that is enough to pique my interest.

Reading has always been something I’ve loved and was easy to pour my heart into. I hope you are planning on diving into some good reads this year!

What’s on your book list for this year?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Is...

Sometimes I feel like Christmas is all about relaxing, spending time with family and making special memories- by way of adding a ton of extra work and busyness! After my Christmas Burn Out last year, my goal has been more of the former, hopefully without any of the latter. Being a Doer-of-All-the-Christmas-Things this is especially challenging for me.

So rather than curled up under the covers in the fetal position waiting for Christmas to be over I’m hoping my Christmas [and yours!] looks a lot more like this:

What are some of your favorites?