Thursday, February 25, 2010

You're Going Where???

Over the last month, as I've told people about my upcoming trip to Lithuania, the most common question I've gotten is "You're going where?" The next most common questions are "Where is that?" and "Why?" Since I haven't really answered any of those questions here (and Jen asked about it on the last post), I'll give a brief answer (as I have a moment to blog on a bus that has wireless on our way back from a day in Riga, Latvia....we got up early today to make the trip and had a great day, but I can't believe it is already THURSDAY!)

Some really good friends have been living and working in Lithuania since 2008. As soon as they went, my sister and I knew we wanted to visit them because a) they are awesome and so fun and we would totally miss them for two years, b) there would probably never be another reason to visit the Baltic States, and c) we wanted to see what their life and work was like in a foreign country. We bought our tickets almost a year ago and that is when the official countdown began - Laura even made a paper chain!

We have been having a blast, but the time is going so fast!! Everything we've done has been VERY memorable - some because of weather, some because of the history, some because of the architecture, and some because of the company (thankfully nothing has been memorable due to major bus mishaps). Lithuania has an extremely interesting history, from Soviet occupation, to the Holocaust, to another Soviet occupation, to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Steve and Laura are very well-informed and the nerd in me has loved learning bits and pieces of the history. My Lithuanian is just as good as my Spanish and German now (meaning I can now say thank you, please, hello, goodbye, good night, help, and do you speak English?). It's been fun to learn and see more about the culture of the country they are living in, as well as the culture of the school where they work. We've also had lots of good, authentic Lithuanian food, lots of coffee, and we've managed to play more than a few hands of Rook.

All in all, the trip is WONDERFUL and I really don't want it to end! This weekend we'll head to Vilinus to explore more with Steve and Laura before we fly out from there on Sunday. Laura has had a chance to spend time with us the last few days after she tied a few things up with work, but Steve has been extremely busy with work, so we had to leave him behind today. We really didn't want to be a burden on their time as we realized they would have things to accomplish for work throughout the week, but it has been awesome to have Laura be our guide and hang out with Steve in the evenings, and we're excited to be with both of them this weekend!

Don't know if I'll blog anymore while we're here, but that's a little idea as to what in the world we are doing near the Baltic!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hello From Lithuania!

We made it! It was a LONG day(s?) of travel, but so far the trip has been WONDERFUL, and it is just starting!

I have lots and lots of things to blog about. I've been reading, listening to music, and watching movies while we traveled, and my brain has been in major processing mode, so some of those thoughts will make it to the blog, and some will not. But for now I am blogging as a way to waste time and hopefully make me's after 4AM in Lithuania and I'm the only one still awake. Probably because I didn't get out of bed until 3PM today after sleeping over 15 hours (to make up for basically missing an entire night's sleep on the way here). I guess I have to force myself out of bed tomorrow (Beav and I are headed into town to explore) to get myself on the right schedule.

We may or may not have eaten McDonald's twice before we were even in Lithuania for three hours (once in Finland and once in Vilinus) but DON'T WORRY....the McDonald's in Finland was more of an "emergency meal" situation (since we were FREEZING and we needed to get back to the airport to catch our flight, so we couldn't do too much looking for lunch) and our McDonald's in Vilinus only came after we had more of an "authentic Lithuanian" meal (chicken and cheese wrapped in a pancake) and we needed to buy an ice cream treat in order to use the McD's bathroom before we got on our four hour bus ride.

We were thankful for smooth and safe travel (pretty much one of the best flights I've ever been on was from JFK to Helsinki). We lucked out with the best gate agent ever in MSP - we originally didn't have seats from MSP to JFK, so at the gate we needed to figure that out. As we approached the agent, I happened to be humming (or maybe singing out loud....) a song, and that made him laugh. Neither my sister nor I even realized I was singing (maybe a sign that I do it too often??) but he thought it was great, and I think he went the extra mile for us because we were pleasant to him. We got the best seats on all of our flights, sitting right by each other, and he was able to get us boarding passes all the way through to Lithuania (something he even surprised himself by doing), which was great, since we wanted to leave the airport in Finland to explore a little. S and L met us at the Vilinus airport to get us back to their home, which was wonderful, since Beav and I were hanging on by a thread at that point and we would have had a difficult time trying to figure out the bus/train/etc.

So we're here, we're exploring, and I'll maybe update as I have a chance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Brain Unload

I have many very random things on my mind after a weekend where I spent much of my time in bed sick. I went through my Reader this weekend and realized that I had over 60 "starred items" that I had wanted to get back to at some point: either to read through again, comment about on my blog, etc. Don't worry, I won't share all 60 items in this post, but I will play a little catch-up with a post that has a little to do with everything on mind (from "starred items" to "Life in General").

So here, in no particular order, is my brain unload:
  • Last Sunday a friend and I decided to hold each other accountable to losing 20 pounds by my birthday (we decided on that because it was 19 weeks away, so one pound/week). This Sunday I had lunch with her and I had already completely forgotten about our decision. So...apparently I wasn't thinking about it much over the last week. Oops. I needed to write it down somewhere to make it more real for myself - so there it is. Now I have to actually do it. Ugh.
  • Why do I have 14 socks that have no matches? I FINALLY did laundry today (hadn't done it since I got back from my trip....) and I ended up putting ANOTHER sock in my basket of no-matches. Annoying.
  • I went to the grocery store today for the first time in 2010. Not kidding. I'm also not kidding when I say that I only went because I was tagging-along to spend some time with a friend. I keep thinking that it's useless to buy groceries when I'm about to go on a trip, so I just don't buy any. Needless to say, my eating habits have been less-than-healthy. Need to change that when I get back from Lithuania.
  • The Olympics started. I mentioned the last time the Olympics came around how I don't seem to get as excited about them as other people do (especially the Winter Olympics). But again, I was in bed a lot this weekend, and I happened to be watching when a Canadian won the mogul race (Canada's first ever gold medal won in an Olympics held in Canada) and then talked about his handicapped brother who motivates him to do his best. I cried (of course). I was hooked.
  • I signed up for a free program at my gym where you wore a pedometer for a week, turned it in, and would receive a gift. After I sent in the pedometer, I forgot about the mystery gift that was on it's way, so imagine my surprise when I opened a box a few weeks later and found this:
  • A shirt, a towel, a bag, a water bottle, etc. The water bottle is AWESOME and probably worth at least $15, so I was pretty pumped I got it all for free. Too bad I already lost the water bottle. I used it at least once for both tennis and basketball, but I have no idea where it is now. Scatterbrain.
  • I meant to put a picture on here of a cake I made for a friend's birthday, so here it is:
  • I got the idea online somewhere. It turned out pretty good!
  • I mentioned that I was having a funky attitude last week, mostly having to do with being single, etc. I was reminded how unpredictable and hard relationships can be when I read this article about a couple I've been "blog stalking" for....maybe two years? I'm always encouraged by the grace, wisdom, honesty, and humility I see displayed in their lives. They have an incredible story, and an incredibly hard story. Their faith is so encouraging to me.
  • There was a little Super Bowl Ad that generated a lot of publicity even before it was shown. I was reminded of a moment when I was watching ESPN from a treadmill at the gym and I almost started crying. Here's a news clip about the moment that I was reminded of during all the hype over that ad:

  • So. The Vikings lost. I was really bummed, but it's not the end of the world. Sports have been a big part of my life and I'm extremely thankful for that, but I always want to make sure that I don't have the wrong priorities when it comes to sports. I liked a lot of the points about sports and faith in this article, so I wanted to link to it. That's all.
  • Time. I think I need to rethink how I spend my time. Two quotes that have me thinking about time: "The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, the grass is greener where you water it." (Anonymous?) and "The primary reason we do too much is that we have never taken the time to discover the portion of what we do that makes the biggest difference." (Andy Stanley). Hmmmmm.
  • This video made me cry

Okay. That's PLENTY. Brain unloaded. Time to focus on work for the week and get going to LITHUANIA!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Best Valentine

Sure, I've never had a boyfriend in my 27 wonderful years on this earth, but I always feel the love from my fam. I got the best Valentine's gift from my sis this year!

It's a heart-shaped box made of CHOCOLATE, filled with CHOCOLATES! The chocolates that were (past tense b/c I already ate them) inside the box were filled with creamy truffle flavors of her choosing, and she went the extra mile to choose some of my favorite flavors (mint, maple, irish cream, etc).

So pretty, right?!

And yummy!! Thanks, Beav!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sitcom Lessons

Sometimes a sitcom not only makes me laugh, but also makes me think.

Here is an exchange I watched recently where the girl was wondering why she wasn't feeling a strong connection with her new boyfriend:

Girl: "There’s something about the way he treats people."

Guy: "He’s a tourist. He vacations in people’s lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on. All he’s interested in are stories........Basically he’s selfish."

It made me wonder about how I treat people. I REALLY love stories (making memories, telling (and retelling....and retelling.......) stories) and I think that, in a lot of my "groups" of friends, I am known as "the fun one" who is up for anything - but I wonder how many strong, "real" connections I am making. Am I just a tourist? I know that I sometimes come off as cavalier and "surfacy" (because I've been told as much) which I don't think is bad or wrong in every situation (you simply can't have strong connections with everyone - there isn't the time or energy or need to do so) but I think I need to be aware of that tendency, especially since I don't come home to a family and I also work alone/independently (mostly). I have seen how that creates an "island" that I am on: it doesn't lend itself to personal or spiritual growth, or accountability. "Real" and strong connections are difficult because they take time and work, they stretch you, and are (sometimes) uncomfortable. I don't pursue them. I've been in a season of life that is difficult in understanding how I fit in as my connections and standing with people changes due to marriages, children, time, distance, etc. I don't have an answer for what (if anything) needs to change here, but I don't think having an answer is always the "point" (unfortunately for me, who really loves to have the answer).

So maybe it's not actually a "sitcom lesson", but it made me think. It also led to a lot of parenthetical thoughts and an abundant use of quotation marks, so I apologize for that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


In my inbox yesterday was Story of the Day #1732:

"she's prepared for almost any transportation mishap, as long as none of them require her to just sit still & think"
Very appropriate, considering the timing of the snow, horrible traffic, and my iPod battery died. It took me 2 1/2 hours to get to my first clinic, and I had to just sit and think during my commutes all day. Not my favorite thing ever, especially considering my "funky" state.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I had a funky week after I got back from my trip. Things didn't go as "planned", and I also felt like I was in a big funk in a few ways. We had a women's meeting at church on Saturday, and I was very refreshed by the lyrics to He's Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves.
Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God's hand in mine.
Season by season I watch him amazed,
In awe of the mystery of his perfect ways.

All I have need of his hand will provide.
He's always been faithful to me.

I can't remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain.
I can't remember one single regret
In serving God only and trusting his hand.

All I have need of his hand will provide.
He's always been faithful to me.

This is my anthem, this is my song,
The theme of the stories I've heard for so long.
God has been faithful, he will be again.
His loving compassion, it knows no end.

All I have need of his hand will provide.
He's always been faithful to me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hawaiian Highlights

What a WONDERFUL vacation! I had high hopes for this vacation thanks to last year's amazing adventures, and it did not disappoint. Well, there were a few disappointments (more on that shortly), but overall, there can be no frustration when one is enjoying the sun thousands of miles away from a job of any sort. AHHHHHH.

I'll start with a list of disappointments, since I want to end on the happy notes:
  • No lava. Our first weekend was spent in Hilo, near Volcanoes National Park. We were told about an AMAZING hike you can take at dusk to see flowing lava and bursting lava bubbles against the night sky. The lava flow shifted ten days before we got to the island and it is currently only visible from a helicopter. BOO.
  • No SuperBowl. Some football game ruined my Sunday. If you must, look at the box score and see how one team was better than the other team in basically EVERY stat (significantly, in some cases) except TURNOVERS. Okay, moving on...........
  • No manta rays. We went on the Manta Ray Night Dive, but saw no manta rays. Our originally scheduled date for the dive was cancelled due to a significant swell that came in, which also ended up effecting the dive we went on the next night. The boat was being tossed by waves and a few of us tossed our cookies. While it was pretty cool to be snorkeling at night, the experience was marred by the sea-sickness and lack of manta sightings. Maybe next time.


  • Not winter. I missed a little over a week of THAT season (great post, Becca). Sunny and eighty degrees everyday is SO wonderful and refreshing. My cheeks are freckled, my skin is light brown (not pasty white), and I felt a wonderful breeze that didn't give me frostbite. Loved every second of it. Every. second. The sun even seemed to heal my football wounds. A little bit.
  • Cliffs. They are beautiful, and I jumped off of them. The southern most part of Hawaii is the southern most part of the United States (and is aptly named South Point). South Point has 35-40ft cliffs that locals jump off of into the most phenomenally clear water and then climb up through caves under the cliffs. I stood at the edge of the cliff and thought about it for more than five minutes, but I jumped, and I am SO glad I did (other than the enema part of it). Thanks to a local, I made the climb back up the cliff (and I couldn't have done it without him). Thanks to my sister, it's all on video.
  • Filthy Chacos. We did some exploring around Volcanoes National Park, which dirtied my Chacos a bit, but the real filth came from our AMAZING hike into the Waipi'o Valley. We were told that the hike was not for the faint of heart, which was NO JOKE. There was better than a 25% grade for over 1 mile (and unless you've done the hike, I can't explain how difficult that is). In the valley was the most amazing black sand beach surrounded by outrageous cliffs that made me feel like I was in the show Lost. Being on that beach was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
  • Whales. At South Point, the whales were about 25-30 yards from us - flapping their tails and spouting like crazy. It was so awesome! When we were on our way to the manta ray dive, we saw a FULL BREACH (like you see on TV shows or in pictures). Even the captain of our boat stopped to get out his camera and was VERY excited.
  • Waves. Thanks to the swell, the waves were HUGE, and we had one very fun afternoon of getting owned by them while we tried to body surf. There were some pretty amazing surfers at the black sand beach, too. Very fun to watch them. I also loved sitting on the beach in the early mornings and listening to the waves while I read. So calming.
  • Waterfalls. It has been pretty dry on the Big Island recently, so the waterfalls weren't as dramatic as they looked on any postcards, but that allowed us the opportunity to climb the rocks right out to the edge of some waterfalls. At one point, there were four of us sitting at the top of about a 100ft waterfall drop (don't worry, Mom. We were safe.). The view was awesome.
  • Kindle. It's probably stupid to say that my new Kindle was one of my favorite things about Hawaii, but it totally was! I was able to read seven books (two that I had started some of before we left) while I was gone, and I only brought two actual books with me! The Kindle was definitely handy-dandy and convenient to travel with, so I'm totally sold. I'm also totally sold on doing nothing but laying by the pool and reading all day. So wonderful.
  • Food. Our rule on vacation is to not eat anywhere you can eat while you are at home. We pretty much stuck to our rule, other than our need to grab a speedy McDonald's lunch one day (which didn't bug me at all!). We always do cheap and easy breakfast and lunch in our rooms (HI, I LOVE PB&J) and then we go out and have a nice or fun dinner. We didn't have a single meal that disappointed, and we happened upon some really fun local places. I never even had "order regret", which is practically a miracle for me!
  • Laughing. Lots and lots of laughing. Of course you "had to be there" for some of the laughs, but one of my favorite sayings from the week was: Laying at the pool I turned over and said "oh MAN, I am so dizzy!!" (I was dizzy all week, maybe from my cliff jump on day one) and what my friends thought I said was "oh MAN, I am so BUSY!!" which was funny because it was 2pm and the only thing I had done so far that day was read and sit at the pool.

I'm thankful for a restful and fun week, because the week I just had at home playing catch-up was ANYTHING but restful and fun (well, I did hang out with a few different groups of friends this week, and that was fun). I can't believe I will be on another overseas flight in 14 days. FOURTEEN DAYS! Better load up my Kindle......

P.S. The dog survived his surgeries, our flight issue got figured out so that our travel went very smoothly, and I did not come home to a toilet-water-flooded home, so everything from this post turned out fine in the end. Except for that stupid football game........