Spring and Nicaragua

Happy Spring! After a long weekend of camping with my family and nothing but a few more blissful days of “stay-cation” awaiting me this week, it seemed the perfect time to catch up the world on our goings-on, coffee in hand and sunshine streaming through the open windows.

We have had so many adventures since moving to New West! It has honestly been the most fun few months of our seven years together and we have loved getting to know our new city each weekend. I think I’ve grown a lot… learning to ride the sky train by myself (like a big girl, as Jesse says), sharing laundry, having the smells of other peoples dinners wafting through our hallways, learning which streets make for a quiet walk in the middle of what’s truly a downtown core, and bucking up and just lugging my groceries up three flights of stairs without waiting for Jesse to get home and do it for me. At the start of 2018, I reflected a lot on my safety nets and comforts – the little obsessive compulsions I am bound to and how they keep me from learning and growing. I wanted this year to be about embracing change and adventure and letting go of those habitual actions that keep me from living the abundant life we all long for. I’ve talked before on my blog about my need for control, how it consumes me, blinds me, and shackles me to routine and order. Moving to New West inadvertently kick-started this entire cascade of unshackling. It forced me out of a comfort zone that was sucking me dry and robbing me of abundance and fulfillment. I still have so much to do and change but I’ve embraced change in my life in ways I never thought possible. For me, at least.

We recently bought a new car after battling for a good year with my dear old girl from 1996. She was so ready to be retired and sent on to glory. When we settled on the car we wanted to buy, I suggested we buy a manual vehicle because for every automatic hatchback body car on auto-trader, there are 10 more manual transmissions for a better price. It just seemed logical. Jesse had taught me to drive stick briefly when we were dating and I thought, hey, it can’t be that difficult… perfect opportunity to embrace more change! Unfortunately, with my job in Public Health, I have to bring a vehicle to work and be prepared to drive out on visits. Jesse and I spent probably close to 5 hours in the car on the day we bought it, him patiently teaching me how to operate a clutch so that I could get to and from work all week. I literally cried 6 times that day. Change just hurts so badly. It was awful. Three weeks later and a few horrifyingly embarrassing intersection starts later, I’m starting to feel like I can actually have the radio on while driving and not kill anyone. I can’t describe the sense of accomplishment I feel. It’s been awful and annoying and humbling but I would have never agreed to this, let alone suggested it a year ago and I do feel proud of that growth. I know that people adapt to far more life-altering and painful change than this but for a girl like me, it’s been an adventure and a complete shift in the way I live my little life.

We’ve also had change in the sense that Jesse has finally finished this degree! He worked so hard and I can’t express how proud I am of him. We just pinch ourselves all the time, hardly able to believe that he stumbled upon this career path which would allow him to express all of this passion, talent, and interest in a dynamic and demand-driven job. The design world knows no ceiling and it’s rare to walk out of a university program for the creative industry and have your pick of jobs. He did, by the way, have multiple offers for positions. He is way too humble to share that with most people but it’s true. Two of the offers were what we would classify as “dream jobs” and it was quite difficult for him to decide. A very good problem to have. He’s now settled at an ad agency downtown called DDB Canada where he works as an art director and designer. You can check out his website and portfolio here. We are very excited to have entered the world of double-income-no-kids. Student loans be damned – we are determined to enjoy ourselves!

Speaking of enjoying ourselves, this winter/spring was also marked by an incredible trip to Nicaragua to visit Jesse’s parents. Most of you would know that they are spending several years doing incredible work with an organization called EMI. We were absolutely ecstatic to visit them along with my brother and sister in law, Brooke and Andrew, and to see their home, work, and the beauty of Nicaragua. We spent the first day of the trip at Nuevo Vida – a garbage dump where the most poor and marginalized of society live and work. My mother in law, Michelle, devotes much of her time to the children here. We brought water, snacks, some first-aid treatment, and a soccer ball to the dump and just enjoyed watching the kids run up to Michelle with excitement and adoration. She has learned to speak Spanish in two short years and I was just about brimming over with love and disbelief at how much she gives and serves these families. It was a special day but also full of conflicting emotions as we witnessed first hand the disparity between the rich and the poor in this country.

We also spent some time exploring the colonial cities of Granada and Leon and visiting the office where my father in law, Brent, works full-time. Brent semi-retired when he moved to Nicaragua but it was plain to see that work for EMI is taking immense commitment and sacrifice on his part. This is no retirement. You should check out EMI’s website here to learn more about their purpose and vision to design and develop facilities which serve the poorest communities in the world. Brent has become passionate about Nicaragua and it was wonderful to finally be able to visualize and see first-hand how the team in Managua works.

I have a hard time quickly transitioning into sharing about our more indulgent and touristy points of the trip, given the disparities I mentioned before. I’m going to do it anyway but know that the hypocrisy is not lost on me.

We visited Laguna de Apoyo for the day which is a stunning lake that fills an inactive volcano crater. There was a floating dock to swim out to, incredible fresh food and cocktails, hammocks, and beautiful lush green surroundings. After a long winter in BC, this first day lazing in the sun was restorative and exciting. I believe we purchased a day pass at Hostel Paradiso. The rates to stay overnight here were insanely low and a beer costs only $1-2 even at the most obvious of tourist attractions.

A few days later, we visited Los Cardones Ecolodge, a beautiful getaway on the ocean. This was probably my favourite day, if I’m being honest. Though I love fresh water swimming, I’m an ocean girl through and through. Something about the sand and the sun and the wind and the waves just restored parts of me I didn’t know were broken. It was a beautiful day and we left all chapped from the wind and red as lobsters. I started a love affair with the boogie board during our visit here, which only became more passionate and intense as the trip went on. I must have spent at least 2 hours catching wave after wave and that was probably my shortest boogie board stint of the whole trip. Brooke and I sat and listened to country music, watching the boys obsess and fuss over the construction of their beach fort. It was pure magic.

Our last few days were spent staying in a gorgeous beach house in San Juan Del Sur. This was probably more touristy, while other areas of Nicaragua had felt more like a well-kept secret. That said, San Juan lives up to its reputation and is just stunningly beautiful. San Juan really was put on the map after Survivor filmed there in 2014 – aka my favourite show ever. We stayed on a little resort just a quick drive from the beach. The relaxation really hit an all time high here… we went to the beach for hours each day (cue 3 hours of boogie boarding for me), played games at night, and lazed in the mornings under the straw roof covered deck. Brooke and I also dragged everyone on a 2 hour horse back ride on the beach. I can’t even describe how much it means to me to enjoy countries I visit from the back of a horse. I try to do it whenever I can and it usually creates the most memorable moments for me. I’m converting my husband. He can no longer pretend he doesn’t enjoy it ’cause we both know he does.

Although we only had about seven days with Jesse’s parents, the trip did feel a lot longer than it actually was. We filled it with such wonderful quality time and also managed to see a lot of the beauty that Nicaragua has to offer. I can’t help myself so here’s a few more fun photos!

In the next few months, we have so many fun weekends and little trips planned. My most exciting aspect of summer is hands down having time off to finally go back to Winthrop and camp for 10 days! I’ve been waiting for a few years to have the opportunity to go back – the stars finally aligned and I got the vacation approved!!

In my work world, I’ve also been training for a new home visiting program which has been very inspiring and invigorating. I already do visit quite a few vulnerable or high risk pregnant women and new mothers but this will be an enhanced version of that. I get the opportunity to come alongside these women for over two years and really build a relationship that’s intent is to help them be the best mother they can be. It also focuses in on preventing Adverse Childhood Events in their little ones lives. If you haven’t ever heard of ACE’s… you need to look it up. I can’t believe this research has existed for so many years and everyone in society isn’t jumping up and down trying to do something about it. The connections between horrible childhood experiences and outcomes later in life such as addiction, mental health challenges, risky behaviours, and actual physical health problems like heart disease or cancer, are undisputed. Our nursing work will be centred on preventing ACES, supporting families to build resiliency when ACES are happening, and working with mothers who are already seeing these outcomes play out in their life after having difficult childhoods. I could talk about it all day long so instead, there’s an infographic below for anyone who’s interested! I’m sure I’ll have a lot to reflect on as we begin this work so it may just end up on here again… I just love my job and I feel so grateful to be doing this important work. Health care and nursing isn’t just about treating illness in hospital but about prevention and building healthier communities. I’m excited by the direction our province and health care system are heading towards and I love being a part of the process.

I should probably get on with my day.. there are precious few days at home left and much to do and accomplish. I hope at some point to return to my old style of blogs which are more about creative writing than they are about updating people on our lives (which are probably not all that interesting). Nevertheless, thank you as always for following along with me and all my love to you all ❤

Olivia

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