let’s go back to where it all began – the writing.

“Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you only given a languid cry to Him after a twinge of moral neuralgia? Seek, concentrate, and you will find.”

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Out of Oswald Chamber’s daily readings, I read the words and feel that familiar pang of conviction and realization. That perhaps all my life, when pain or conviction have come, I have been the one to offer languid cries of despair and the begging of forgiveness and renewed faith, all the while withholding those pieces of me that will be too difficult to surrender.  The words harangue me with their truth and I know it in my bones: I am the shrinking soul scratching at the gates from time to time, asking for peace and joy and faith to overwhelm me because I need relief from my own moral neuralgia. And now, this year, as my questions have swelled with complexity and uncertainty, I feel the pangs of loneliness – the ones that come as He declutters and rearranges this little house that is my heart.

My heart quickens as the words go on and soon they are consuming me. Finally, there are words that give justice to the affliction inside of me:

“Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. ‘Draw nigh to God.’ Knock – the door is closed, and you suffer from palpitation as you knock. ‘Cleanse your hands’ – knock a bit louder, you begin to find you are dirty. ‘Purify your heart’ – this is more personal still, you are desperately in earnest now – you will do anything. ‘Be afflicted’ – have you ever been afflicted before God at the state of your inner life? There is no strand of self-pity left, but a heartbreaking affliction of amazement to find that you are the kind of person that you are. ‘Humble yourself’ – it is a humbling business to knock at God’s door – you have to knock with the crucified thief. ‘To him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

Can I be the only one to feel their breath hitch in their throat as these words wash over us? I am that small little soul knocking, feeling overcome with panic and grief as I shuffle closer and closer to him, becoming more aware with each passing second of my filth. I’ve had these moments before but I feel as though this entire year has been an inching closer, a heartbreaking realization of the pride and sin, the assumptions that have engulfed me.

All these years, I have stayed with Him only a short time and then returned to this condition of being half-dead while still alive. As Oswald writes later in the month, my new name in Him is written only in those areas of my life where I have relinquished pride, independence, and selfishness. He wants to write my new name all over me – to rebuild me and call me daughter. The time is now.

He won’t stop until He has all of me.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Breathe in. Breathe out. Moments of abrupt pain and undoing and then the dull ache lingers long as the blood flowing from those wound slows and regeneration begins its work. He just won’t stop until He has all of me and if I’m being honest, I’m a little scared and weary. It’s not an easy thing to do, to go to Him. To let him imbue me with life, rewriting the narrative of my faith.

When I started asking questions, I never imagined He would take me apart so completely. I have knocked, more than I have before and have found myself utterly afflicted before him. So much so that I’ve had to look away, for fear the brightness blind me. I have been amazed to find out just the kind of person I am – standing alongside the crucified thief. And to my insistent knocking, he has found me and battered me. I escape from His hand for a moment every so often and try to mold myself into a shape that is less painful. I can’t outrun him, though, and when he finds me, He breathes this sweet strong life into me and we begin again; He picks up where he left off.

I don’t want to admit that I’m no longer sure of the absolutes I once called my firm ground. It’s all shifting beneath me and if you asked me, I’d tell you that I just don’t know anymore. He’s chipping away at what I thought I knew and I’m learning to be okay with having been wrong all this time. If God is who we say He is, it’s impossible to pin Him down.

I want him to write my new name upon every fiber of my being but it feels a lot like drowning. My firm ground is gone and he is taking me apart, yet, somehow, I still know He is my stronghold and my stay. My hope.

Be my stay. Let pride not inflate me but let your love and truth reduce me. Reduce me. That there may be more of You.

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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

Are you settled in?

Are you settled in?

If I could have a nickel for every time somebody has asked me that question in the last month… Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes!! It’s been just over a month since we moved to New West and despite the fact that I’ve been deathly ill for the past few days, we have had very smooth sailings thus far. I’m missing yet another day of work and have become increasingly bored. I’m stopping myself from starting a new Netflix show during these sick days because once I do, I will not do anything productive for the next few weeks until I finish the series.

So it is with three bottles of pills by my side, several essential oils diffusing, and one very plugged and sore ear, that I sit down to write about the last month. What a whirlwind it has been. Our apartment definitely needed a little bit of TLC before moving in and I was so thankful for the help of my sisters and girlfriends in scrubbing it down with me. Our kitchen was the main recipient of these efforts and thanks to a cousin, it also now shines, bright and white with fresh paint. That kitchen was probably the main sore spot in the apartment and though it certainly has its quirks even still, I think the charm of it suits me and Jesse quite well. Here are the before photos…

And after. C’est voila!

Before Jesse and I got married, I bought a gorgeous farmhouse table for $200 and fitting it in this small kitchen space was just out of the question. Mom and Dad donated their old kitchen table and after a few coats of paint, it fairly closely resembled my beautiful table which is now in storage.

Moving day was a breeze as well, thanks mostly to our amazing siblings and cousins who lugged box after box of books up two flights of stairs. We are seriously the worst people to move for. So. Many. Books. I had only one meltdown that day before everyone else arrived and it was mostly because I was emotional about going through this huge day without my mom and sister there. Even though we had so much privacy and complete independence in our basement suite, I’ve never officially moved out. With mom and dad in England and Mollie swamped with exam prep, I succumbed a little bit to feelings of being overwhelmed and stretched thin. Leading up to moving day, Jesse had been overrun with school and work and preparations for our move had fallen mostly on my shoulders. So that morning, I cried like a baby on Jesse’s shoulder and asked if we could change our minds, he said no, and then it was all over. And all in all, it was actually kind of a fun day once the heavy lifting was over and everyone could kick back with a beer and pizza and start sorting through all our stuff. We are so thankful for the help from the people closest to us. And in hindsight, I actually think it would have been even more emotional if my mom had been there because we would have been feeding off of each other. I miss so many elements of living in that house but I know we made the right decision and I feel happy.

Jesse and I are really not the type of people to let things go unorganized. I think it took less than a week for every single box to be unpacked. We are in love with our squeaky 1970s hardwood floor and the charm it brings to all of our furniture and decor. We love how spacious our bedroom is and not having to share a closet. We love living near a sky train and being able to get to a mall or downtown without the hassle of driving. We love planning and imagining all of the improvements and changes we could make over the years. Ironically, I thought of this apartment as a one or two year “transition” home for us but honestly, I think it will be hard to leave. We’ll probably try to make it work for us as long as possible. It feels like home. Almost more so than our basement suite did, probably because it’s more us.

On the list of things to invest in over the years are a small and discreet sound system (Jesse’s archaic boom box and speakers are probably the biggest eye sore and the bane of my entire existence), bigger rugs, and lots of glorious artwork! Our bedroom desperately needs some curtains and I’d also love cable tv. I miss it. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and slowly but surely we will keep tweaking and improving little areas of our new home. Jesse will be done school in just a few months and we are really looking forward to treating ourselves to a few luxuries.

There are still a few corners of our place that need some beautification (not pictured, Jesse’s desk, our hallways, etc.) and I look forward to maybe sharing some of our solutions over the next year.

I’m starting to perk up as I get caught up on my medications so I think it’s time to step away and try to take advantage of my afternoon at home. Also time to Google, “10 ways to unplug your ear that you haven’t tried yet”. At this point I’m ready to slice my ear off.

As always, thank you for reading! I’m sick so proof-reading and formatting things nicely is just not going to happen.

Love to you all!

moving on.

Well I never thought we’d be here. Whenever I say I will “never” do something, inevitably, we end up doing it. I thought today was a fitting day to share our news being that it’s my exact one year anniversary of changing jobs! One year ago I moved from my Langley office to New Westminster and unknowingly, turned my world upside down. One year ago, I didn’t know I was walking into a job where I would sit at my desk and hold back tears almost every day. I didn’t know I would cry after dinner and I didn’t know I would avoid ordering my business cards and avoid ordering a new chair and avoid anything that might feel like forever. I would avoid anything that felt like I might stay for even a year. And now here we are. Business cards and all.

I feel so fulfilled. It’s hard work. My heart breaks for my clients on more days than I ever thought possible but the joy of relationship with people in a community with so many needs keeps me coming back for more every day. I feel connected to this city because I love and feel compassion for the people who live within it. They who have so little have given me so much. They demand so much of me and yet they also give such joy and life and I am learning how to be a better nurse, teacher, and person. Every day.

I feel at home at work now. And I’m going to have to learn to feel at home in my own new home eventually too.

In February, Jesse and I housesat in a beautiful condo right around the corner from my public health unit in New West. I couldn’t stand it. I felt nervous and out of place and unsure of my surroundings. It’s intriguing how accustomed we (mainly me) become to sprawling neighbourhoods with huge yards and free parking and bear warning signs scattered throughout the wooded areas. I have lived in these such neighbourhoods for as long as I can remember. I don’t know how to belong in a high rise or how to live right next to a sky train station. I said no, I can never do it. Sorry, Jesse. We’ll have to find a happy medium elsewhere. Something more similar to this beautiful basement suite my dad so graciously built us. Something comfortable. Something that doesn’t scare me quite so much.

Oh boy. I think you can tell where this post is going. What have I done. I’ve said this to myself almost every day since we made the decision to move to New West. New West of all places! The exact place I said I could never live. Life is hilarious.

In just a few short weeks, we will be proud renters of a charming little apartment right in the heart of downtown New Westminster! I don’t know how long we’ll be there and I don’t know how many nights I’ll end up crying on the (very old) kitchen floor because I miss mooching off of my parents cable tv or sneaking into Mollie’s room while she’s sleeping to steal her clothes. I don’t know how we’re going to pay off student loans and up our rent and share laundry with strangers. I honestly just don’t know and yes, I am totally freaking out. But somehow, we’re going to find a way to make it work and somehow, I have this feeling, it’s going to be one of the most fun years of our lives.

My girlfriend lives in the same building and we’ve already argued about which one of us is Monica and which one is kind of Ross-ish (I’ll let you guess which one I am). My cousin lives a couple blocks up the street and I can’t wait to collapse onto her couch on a Friday night for happy hour and lament about our work week. I can’t wait to hop on the sky train and drink beer and cocktails with my husband whenever we feel like it. I can’t wait to turn this little diamond in the rough into a place we can be proud of and call home. I can’t wait to build another home with Jesse. I’m terrified and I know it’s going to be so, so hard. But it feels like the right time and it feels like pure gold to make a change that is less about my needs and more about Jesse’s needs as he graduates and moves on to a new chapter in his life.

So that’s our exciting news. Sorry, if you were hoping I’d say I was pregnant. Far less interesting, I know. But I had to get you reading somehow.

Signing off for the day with hopefully far more inspiration for posts in the future. Might even dabble in some before and afters for anyone that cares! Stay tuned and thanks for catching up with us ❤

 

 

Europe 2.0

Here we go again. Part two of our trip and my travel takeaways after our first huge trip together! It was a shock to head into Rome after the stillness of Tuscany, back to the bustling streets and pick pockets! I don’t have much to say on Rome, primarily because we chose to save a lot of money on our Airbnb, knowing we would not be spending much time there during our whirlwind two days in the city. We definitely got what we paid for. It dampens the experience a bit, to have a room you are not comfortable in; however, we are happy to say we’ve “done” Rome! We blitzed through the Colosseum and Pantheon (the ruins were our absolute favourite, unexpectedly so!) and spent a full day at the expansive Vatican Museum, complete with a quick visit in St. Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I’m not going to lie: I think the most enjoyable part for me was how Rome brought to life all of the best and most memorable moments in my favourite book series, The Mark of the Lion (Francine Rivers). Jesse and I also thoroughly enjoyed overhearing a couple of ignorant tourists trying to figure out whether they were in the Sistine Chapel yet or not (we were definitely already in it).

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During all of our adventures in Rome, we made good use of Rick Steves Audio Europe App. You download the walking tours while on wifi and then let him lead you through the attraction. No uncomfortable headphones, short and to-the-point tours, and it’s free! Rick is a little corny but overall, he’s fairly engaging and tells you interesting facts, stories, and myths. Having an audio tour absolutely makes the experience. You could be just staring at old Roman courtyard ruins but with an audio guide, the scene comes alive and suddenly you are looking on this ancient courtyard of the Vestal Virgins, priestesses of the goddess Vesta, who would be buried alive as punishment if they broke their vow of chastity. It was also particularly interesting to have Rick point out features of famous sculptures. How Apollo Belvedere is sculpted with complete harmony and balance of body, the peak of masculinity – the ultimate specimen in Greek mythology. Or how Lacoon’s body ripples with movement and tension, lifelike and indicative of the sculptor’s intimate knowledge of the workings of the human body. You would just never know this history or notice the fine features and aesthetics without listening and engaging with the pieces in a practical way. Seeing such history in Rome was really quite surreal.

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And then there was Positano. Positano was the breath of fresh air my soul didn’t even know it needed. Crystal clear blue waters. Jagged cliffs. Restaurant owners in breezy linen shirts leaning up lazy against their door frames, calling jovially to their neighbours. Bands playing while we ate dinner al fresco as the sun set majestically over the water. Rinsing all the sand off after a long hot day at the beach and not even pausing to put clothes on before enjoying a glass of post-shower wine on our private terrace. Waking up to the ocean with coffee. We loved this place.

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We spent one day at the smaller, less busy beach (Fornillo) and one day at the popular Spiaggia Grande. While Positano’s beaches are certainly not the cheapest place to vacation, the town’s food was always delicious and reasonable and the atmosphere is out of this world. Walking lazily along the winding, steep, streets was picturesque and easy. We stayed at Pensione Maria Luisa where Carlos provides one of the most reasonable rates for an ocean view room in Positano. The private terrace is an optional extra splurge (very worth it, in my opinion). Seriously, you will not find another room with a view like ours for less than 120 euros. While it didn’t include breakfast, the room was clean and beachy feeling and Carlos was a delightfully sweet man. He lugged our majorly overweight suitcase up the staircase and provided an excellent recommendation for our lunch AND dinner. His smile just lit up what had begun as a fairly stressful travel day. Given that Positano is more about relaxation and quiet, leisurely exploration, a stunning room is fairly important. We didn’t really do much other than read on the beach and read on the patio with yes, more wine. We were ready to relax after Rome and trying to gather our strength for Paris. By this point, Jesse was also in dire need of more introvert time.

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The water was crisp and cool, but no match for these Canadian swimmers! When you’re used to lake water in BC, the Mediterranean Sea is a dream. We were mostly alone in the water, bobbing up and down in the waves, watching cheekily and occasionally calling out and taunting as those tenderfoot americans would stride up to the water’s edge, ready to be refreshed, and hastily retreat once their toes hit the cool water.

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These two days were like a vacation within a vacation. We can’t wait to go back!

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We had a blissful third morning on our terrace, reading and soaking in the last of the salty ocean breeze before hopping on a plane from Naples to Paris, France. I had a feeling Paris would feel like home to me and I was not mistaken! Jesse and I both kept remarking how this was the one large, metropolitan city we’d visited that we could see ourselves living in. We loved it. I fell in love with the vines and ivy winding their way through little wrought iron balconies and the window box flowers high up on old apartment buildings. Paris was definitely the most expensive place we visited and my one regret was not being able to eat like kings due to cost, like we were able to in more affordable Italy.

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We spent our first morning exploring Le Marais, a gorgeous and charming district where there are shops, galleries, cafes, and tiny alley ways to get lost in. We made our way to Rue Cler after and bought tender, salty, pillowy baguette, still warm from the oven, ice cold french white wine, fresh butter, fruit from the market, and a few varieties of cheese picked out by a very friendly cheesemonger. That afternoon on the Champs de Mars was without a doubt, one of the highest points of our trip. We just sat there in the glorious sunshine, nibbling away and commenting on the serious funk of the brie cheese. The people watching was fabulous and it felt surreal to be just casually drinking wine on the lawn in the heart of Paris. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to climb the Tour Eiffel with a little buzz! I was sticking my head through the bars at the very top to get a true panoramic view and Jesse kept telling me if I got stuck he would leave me behind. I would absolutely make this a must-do on your trip to Paris. The tower was amazing but to just sit there, relishing in beautiful culture and eating the rich food of Paris’ markets – c’est magnifique! (Shut up, Jesse)

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After the Eiffel Tour, we of course wandered down the Champs Elysees, making our way back to Le Marais to eat at a lovely little cafe called Les Philosophes. My duck confit here was crispy and salty on the outside and full of tender juicy meat on the inside. We also splurged on a couple of decadent creme brulees and a gorgeous bottle of wine! One of our favourite parts about eating in Italy and Paris were the tightly packed outdoor tables where you are forced to interact with other guests just by nature of physical proximity. During this meal, we were dying over the American lady next to us, patronizingly trying to translate back and forth between her English speaking comrades and the poor waiter who did in fact, speak perfect English. At one point she translated for them when the watier pronounced “mashed potatoes” with a little more flare than usual. We giggled about this interaction for days. It’s worth mentioning here that all the talk about French people being rude just doesn’t bear weight. We encountered probably less than five people during our entire European trip who spoke no English and only one of them was rude about it. We found that if we at least tried to speak their language or exchanged greetings in French, people were more than willing to continue on in English. We were sort of humbled by the realization that modern millennials in these countries speak a minimum of two languages – where most Canadians and Americans speak only English. Definitely impressive.  

Day two began at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (I just moved from bench to bench while Jesse perused the works). We then explored the neighbourhood of Saint Germain where there are tons of shops, boutiques, and the infamous Latin Quarter! I was expecting more street vendors in this area for international cuisine but again, most of the restaurants just were not affordable. We did find some amazing burgers and reassured ourselves that you couldn’t get French food more authentic than French fries. We hit Notre Dame next (haunting and absolutely gorgeous) and then explored Ile de la cite. We had our first rather large fight of the trip about absolutely nothing (pretty impressive considering it had been three weeks at this point) but it didn’t take away from the charm of this area. I would say it was probably one of my favourite neighbourhoods of our entire trip! We ate at an adorable little restaurant called Ma Salle a Manger in Place Dauphine, a very romantic square on the west end of Ile de la cite. There were people playing bocce in the grassy middle and the sound of wine glasses clinking and voices humming over shared meals all about the square. Such a magical symphony.

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After dinner we wandered back to Notre Dame with ice cream to see it lit up at night. I wasn’t kidding when I called this place haunting and beautiful. There was just something about Notre Dame that sort of stole my breath. 

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Day three was the absolutely stunning Chateau de Versailles. Don’t be fooled here by your pre-purchased ticket… you will wait for an hour in line just for security. It was a scorcher of a day so a bit of a rough start for these tired tourists. The main palace was so elaborate and grand but the real highlight for Jesse and me was the gardens! We decided to pay an exorbitant amount of money for bikes and honestly, I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting. We got to really make the most of our tickets by seeing so much more of the expansive grounds. And biking seemed to keep us cool with a nice breeze, meaning we lasted much longer! There are tiny palaces all over the grounds and the most charming little medieval village, imagined by Marie Antoinette. It sort of reminded me of the provencal village of Beauty and the Beast. Seems Marie Antoinette wanted to run away and live in a little fairytale of her own (I don’t know anyone like that…). According to Rick, she would run to her little village and “pretend” she was a farm girl, while the nation meanwhile crumbled all around her and King Louis (the 14th?). I clearly loved the history lessons from my audio tour at this place. Jesse had to give up listening to his tour due to the whole issue with multitasking (seeing and hearing don’t mesh well when you are a man) so I would excitedly pause my tour to tell him the most interesting parts! Another bonus to renting the bikes was sneaking off to hidden corners of the forested grounds to uphold the Italian “siesta” we had become so accustomed to! Versailles was a gorgeous little day.

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The first photo below basically sums up our trip. An athletic and fit Jesse striding purposefully through foreign lands, confident in his navigation and general place in life, while I half walked, half jogged along behind him, huffing and puffing and complaining about my hips, unsure which way was left and which way was right.

The second photo is the exact living proof of why I don’t believe in taking my own photos of monuments. Those poor people.

Day four of Paris was really quite comical. I think when you know you’re going home the next day, you just feel ready to go home. We tried to make Le Louvre happen but after standing in line for 20 minutes, we pulled the plug, acknowledging that we did not want to spend our last day in Paris in a line up. We opted instead to visit the Centre Georges Pompidou. My one regret would be not making time to see some more romantic paintings, such as those at Musee d’Orsay (I love Monet and Van Gogh!). Jesse loved the museums we visited and that was very important to him. I loved the art in the Vatican and Chateau de Versailles and probably would have loved those similarly classical paintings the most. Next time I suppose! After the museum, our time was a bit of a blur. Like I said, we were ready to be home and I was very grumpy. The plan was to explore Montemarte a bit and visit Le Sacre Coeur but we were just so exhausted. We managed to pop in to see Jardin du Luxembourg and then just dragged ourselves back for a quick nap in our room. Leaving things undone in Paris almost provides greater incentive to visit again. I just know that city is not done with Jesse and me! We had a gorgeous last dinner in a tiny restaurant where the owners did not speak a lick of English, walking distance from our room. More duck confit for me! The last photo here is my daring attempt to take a photo of Nick Jonas as I walked by his seat (three feet away from my thumping heart) in first class on our plane back to Heathrow. He looked at me and I had no chill whatsoever, hence the photo. I still consider this photo proof of our souls colliding in Paris, though. You can’t fake that kind panic.

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That sort of brings me to my last note about Paris. Our AirBnB here was also quite stellar. Maguy was phenomenal and welcoming and we felt right at home! There was fresh French bread from the bakery next door every morning with jam and coffee. We enjoyed lazy mornings there. The room was charming and spacious and Maguy checked in with us everyday to see how our sightseeing was going and to offer books, maps, and tips. She just created a true home-like atmosphere. We were relieved to collapse in her flat each evening. We were in a relatively quiet area but still completely central and a few minutes walking distance from the metro. We would both highly, highly, highly recommend this room for your next trip to Paris!

Jesse and I both still can’t quite believe this trip actually happened. We are so thankful to have had the experience and thankful for the circumstances that facilitated our trip in more logistical ways. We work really hard everyday and vacations like these make the grind so very worthwhile.

I wanted to share some of my tips, thought processes, and lessons learned in planning and enjoying our trip!

  1. Photography. Don’t bring that huge DSLR you have kicking around and only pull out three times a year. You won’t use it. I remember saying to Jesse, “There’s no way I’m going horseback riding in the middle of the Tuscan hills and not bringing a proper camera!”. I had to eat crow on this one because we pulled the big camera out literally one time, mostly by obligation. Between pick pocket worries and the size they take up in your backpack, it’s just not worth it. We (Jesse) set up our phones to back up to Google Photos so we never ran out of space and we just clicked away.
  2. Footwear. I have to rave about our Teva’s! These shoes were incredible! I didn’t have a ton of time to break them in and I won’t lie and say I went without blisters. But now, these two pairs of sandals are our absolute go-to for any activity. They are perfectly molded to our feet and mine in particular offer a lot more support and cushioning than Birks. No rubbing, pinching, etc. If you are looking to purchase footwear and break them in before your trip, we can attest to the success of these shoes. I wish we were going on another trip soon just so I could enjoy how amazing they are again. Jesse’s shoes are no longer available but he got some similar to this pair. Mine were a bit more feminine and are still available here. Both pairs were a great investment and look really good too. I get tons of compliments! We’ll probably buy the same pairs when ours one day wear out. On a side note, we both also got new black Nike’s, knowing they could be dressed up or down, and wore the hell out of those too. We were so basic with our matching shoes. Haha.
  3. Pick Pockets. We learned that if you are aware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine. If I were a pick pocket, I wouldn’t go for the two young people who look fairly street savvy – I’m targeting the two retired folks with their hiking backpack who have their faces buried in a camera or map. I’m definitely generalizing here but it’s really easy to stand out like a sore thumb. We saw a couple French locals who quickly warned a tourist when a pick pocket was eyeing them and they really did stand out. Try to be aware of where you are, look at people as you walk through a crowd, and move quickly and with purpose. If we were standing in a crowd watching a street performer or something, I would stand just slightly behind Jesse so I could keep an eye on our backpack. I know it sounds silly but I think it made a big difference!
  4. Think like a local. Some of the most memorable moments for us were when we didn’t do anything particularly touristy. In Italy, everyone smokes. We loved sitting up on a bridge at night, watching the city lights dance on the River Arno, smoking a cigarette and reflecting on our day. Ew, gross, Olivia. I know. So unladylike. So unhealthy, you terrible nurse. But seriously, how many of us can say we smoked on the river in Florence? It was a cheap, uncomplicated, memorable, kind of poignant moment for us. Pop into a cafe and just sitsipping your cappuccino, with no agenda – nowhere to be. That’s what the Italians do and they do it for a reason! Our favourite moments of the trip were when we slowed down and allowed the world around us have a chance to sink in.
  5. Budget. Be prepared to go over it. Missed trains, overweight luggage, expensive dinner, forgetting that 2 for 1 admission waiver at Westminster Abbey… Buying bandaids, water bottles, umbrellas, double the number of bus tickets you planned for, shattering two wine bottles in a fancy shop and paying for them (yes, that happened). The list goes on and on. I’m going to guess that we spent probably $1500-$2000 more than I planned for, hands down. Unexpected problems arise and I had to just let go and accept the bumps in the road as they came along, acknowledging that we may not return to Europe for a very long time and I didn’t want to look back and remember stress and worries.
  6. Most importantly… buy a corkscrew and bring it with you wherever you go!

There are so many other things we learned along the way during this trip and I can’t possibly write them all down. We get asked a lot what our favourite stops were and for both of us, Positano and Tuscany were exquisite and on a completely different level. I’m thankful to have family in Europe who give added incentive to save up for international travel. We are intrigued by Central Europe and would love to do trips to places like Berlin, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Austria, and of course, England again! I welcome any tips, tricks, budget planners, and reviews. The internet is such a gift – we all get to share ways that we made Europe work for us and our lives and interests.

I hope you enjoyed reading through our journey. Since we got married, travel – whether local or foreign – has been one of my favourite topics to write about. Reflecting on all of the wonderful places we have been fortunate enough to visit is a joy and a blissful trip down memory lane. It’s also very reassuring to know that thanks to the joys of the internet, I will always be able to look back and remember the highs and lows of this once (hopefully not just once!) in a lifetime trip. That’s all for now! ❤

Europe 1.0

How do you begin to tell anyone about travel in Europe? I truly don’t know how to start – it was that wild. Jesse and I didn’t exactly haul huge packs on our backs everywhere and traverse across the entire continent. Our trip was fairly contained. Three countries, eight cities, twenty-three days. And two very inspired and satisfied people. Well… satisfied until about a month later when we started thinking about Central Europe and all the places we’ve yet to visit! We truly had an incredible time. There is no way I can possibly write down everything we did, saw, ate, and drank. But I can write about the moments that still linger in my head, strong and bright and vivid.

It’s safe to say that we are hooked on travel. I did everything I could to save money and now feel much more equipped to plan an efficient and budget friendly trip again sometime soon. It feels important to do so. It feels expansive, meaningful, and inherently valuable. Travel to these countries carries so much more value than I could have ever imagined and I don’t want to only do it once. I read somewhere once that if travel is a priority for you, it often takes a great deal of sacrifice to make it happen. I anticipate this sentiment will be a constant tension for Jesse and I as we move through different phases of life that typically include certain “milestones”.

Now, I’ve said it many times before and I’ll preface this post by saying it again: I really don’t believe in seeing the world’s greatest places through the lens of a camera. If I want a really great photo of Notre Dame or The Sistine Chapel, I’ll find a professional one online or buy a postcard – neither Jesse nor I feel any need whatsoever to take a photo in front of every monument we visit in life as proof that we were there. When we visited these amazing places, I didn’t bother with too many photos. I wanted to experience our trip with all of my own physical senses. The photos here are many of the thousands of little “moments” captured and I am so excited to share them with you all! That said, I won’t pretend that these photos are like, incredible. I’m not posing as a photographer here. They’re special to us and hold so many memories but to be honest, the whole internet/technology thing was a big problem for me tonight and I may have thrown the laptop into a pile of dirty dishes sitting beside me on the couch, released an epic sigh/swear/noise, and stormed off to the bathroom to pout/cry while Jesse looked on helplessly. I did not have the energy to edit these photos for your viewing pleasures. Enjoy them in all of their imperfections!

The first order of business on our trip was a delightful but far-too-short stop in the UK. As many of you know, my mom moved to Canada, away from her family when she was just 19 years old. Apart from my grandparents, seeing my UK fam has been more rare up until the last few years. It was a treat for Jesse and I to spend time with them on their turf. After a highly drugged plane ride to Heathrow, we hit the ground running, full of adrenaline and ready for a wee bit of a pub crawl with my cousins, Will and Ed, and my Aunty Wendy (whom I haven’t seen in EIGHT years!!) in Witney. They treated us royally that first night and we loved running around their gorgeous town. I have always delighted in English homes and hidden pathways and the romance of it all and I think I must have excitedly pointed out to Jesse every old barn, pathway, and stone house we passed by that evening as we moved from pub to pub! It was surreal to share this part of my life with him. The next morning, we began our first full day in a Cotswolds village called Burford. If you haven’t had a real British fry-up yet, you have not lived. Here would be a perfect place to try one!

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We spent the day meandering through Oxford, running into Jamie Wiebe (!), enjoying the side streets and popping into pubs. Book shops and cobblestone abound here and there are plenty of historic buildings, castles, and churches to visit as well. This day came to an end bittersweetly as we parted ways with two thirds of our company and made the drive to Derby to see Nan and the rest of the gang. The next few days were so special to me – I can’t talk/think about them without tears in my eyes.

Grampy passing away was one of my first true losses thus far in life. I hadn’t even considered when we booked our trip that it would be one year exactly since his death. I have tried for weeks to put words to the feeling of visiting the gravesite of someone you love. It is this: what a strange and empty feeling, to look at a mound of dirt where they lay in the ground, searching for a memory of the last time you saw them, inhaled their scent, felt their presence. What a heavy heart pain, to look at their resting place and feel anything but rest. To know that you didn’t know it would be the last time but it was. It was the last time. And that is your grandfather lying there beneath the earth. Distance may be one of the few select circumstances that make death harder than it already is. I said goodbye and I told him that I loved him, finding peace in the knowledge that whether he could hear me or not, he knows I love him. The beautiful cemetery was a tangle of greenery and the wild bluebells were blooming bright. I didn’t ever want to walk away from him but oh how I took comfort in leaving him behind in a place so rich in tranquility and lightness. That evening we ate Wastie Curry and I knew it would be, in recollection, a most sacred day of our trip.

We spent the next day exploring the glorious Chatsworth House and Grounds with the family, giving Jesse a taste of the English countryside that I hold so dear to my heart. It’s as I said. These days were not long enough. I had baby cousins to tickle and kiss and so much catching up to do but alas, we eventually hopped on an early coach to London.

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London was an interesting one for us. An interesting dynamic as we navigated trying to visit places that held interest for both of us. My parents have taken us to London a few times, the most recent being around age 15. It was surreal being there without them! Jesse and I agreed to visit at least one grand English church and Westminster Abbey was my pick! After all, I needed to walk the grounds where my spirit animal, Kate Middleton, stole my breath in her lace gown and became a real princess. I figured if we visited, we would be practically sisters and there would also be the added bonus of increased chances of a marriage to Prince Harry. Unfortunately, I am still married to Jesse and no royalty in sight but all hope is not lost. I will press on.

During day one and two, we also enjoyed Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, and general meandering through the cool Soho district. One of my favourite parts of our time in London, as it always has been, was sitting atop the double decker tour bus in the open air, driving through all areas of the city. There are several companies with tour busses, all with comparable prices. I’ve been on the busses with a live tour guide as a teenager and they are so entertaining and enjoyable! Sadly, Jesse and I did not have a bus with a live guide but we still enjoyed a nice slow ride through the city. My mom and dad always pay for a tour and love it every time – they typically do a big loop on the basic route, and then go back through a second time, hopping off whenever the urge strikes! We did the same and would probably do it again! The Original Tour was well organized and accessible. Another favourite memory for me was pausing to hear the grand Abbey’s church bells ring jubilantly – a sound so foreign to us Canadians. It filled my heart up to the brim.

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Day three was also really fabulous. We made a short trek to The Design Museum (heaven for Jesse, essentially) and finished the day at Old Spitalfields Market. We had an early dinner of the best fish n’ chips from Poppie’s Fish and Chips (for real the best) and ended our time in London with a second dinner at Dishoom. The food here was out of this world. Bombay Indian food with a modern twist. We loved this meal and will make a point to come again next time.

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One of the best elements of our time in London was our accommodations. We found a stunning little room on AirBnB and fell in love with the owner’s flat. Given that Jesse is very proficient with public transit, we decided to save a bit of money by staying a short bus ride outside of London’s core. The room was far more beautiful than what our budget would have allowed downtown and our host was helpful and flexible – especially when I realized I booked us for one night less than we needed… oops! There was fresh baked raisin bread every morning which Jesse declared to be the best bread he’d ever eaten. Challenge accepted my love ❤ Would highly recommend Katie’s place!

Jesse loved this little radio playing in the kitchen each morning while munching on said bread.

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After a whirlwind few days in London, we boarded an early plane to Pisa – our entry point to stunning Tuscany. It’s worth mentioning here that if your travels have you jumping large distances in Europe, a short plane ride is often cheaper than the popular train travel option! While traveling on the train is probably less stressful, the plane cuts down on quite a bit of time when you’re hopping around countries. If you book well in advance and carefully read through the small airline’s luggage guidelines, you can save quite a bit of money on cheap flights. Oh and don’t expect the leniency of a large airline with carry on luggage. They will scrap you for every inch your bag is oversized. We learned that lesson the hard way and we have a hefty luggage bill to prove it!

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Florence was our first stop. To be honest, I didn’t have Florence on my list just because there are so many other places I would have liked to visit but it was a means to an end – that end being the Tuscan countryside. All in all, we enjoyed our two days in Florence, particularly an evening walk up to the Piazza Michelangelo that included a full bottle of wine from plastic cups, chats and advice from some Toronto “bros” we met, and the most glorious sunset you could possibly imagine. I remember saying to Jesse how if there was ever a way to know God truly exists, it would be in looking at that sky. How the colours shine and change, never once the same. After my 500ml share of the wine, I started to tell him how I thought it was so grand, the way those colours could never all be accounted for on the colour wheel – we could never name them all from day to day. They were too fluid, in constant motion as the clouds shift and change each night and the river moves beneath them, reflecting light and shimmering tones. It was stunning.

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Now, how to describe Tuscany. The best and only way to explore this utterly holy countryside, in my opinion, is by car. If you stay outside of a little village on an agriturismo, the busses are really limiting and inconvenient. We payed a reasonable amount for a tiny FIAT and knew within minutes it had been the right decision. Jesse loved whipping around those mountain roads and we were able to take the long way from Florence through Chianti region, soaking up all the green. We stopped for lunch at Bar Ucci in Radda and munched on fresh sliced meats and cheeses and tomato crostatas. I think this was one of the moments where we truly felt as though we were living in a dream. The owners were authentic, joyous, generous people – they were larger than life. I almost can’t put this little stop into words. It was a welcome to Italy like none other, nestled in the rugged mountains of Chianti. If you want to know what Italy is all about, make this your first stop.

From Radda, we weaved our way through vineyards and farms until we reached a small town called Montepulciano. We stayed at Agriturismo Le Caggiole where the owner, Giacomo, manages to maintain the authenticity of a rugged working farm with the elegance you hope for on vacation. Agriturismos really are hit and miss in this area (mostly hit). Some are operated purely with tourism in mind, with all the modern amenities and luxuries you could hope for. Others are trying to keep their farms viable and running. Their families have worked the land for generations upon generations, and taking in guests is a way to avoid selling the land they have nurtured and loved for hundreds of years. While the agriturismo was one of our “splurges”, when you see a rugged old stone house that has been standing since the 1300’s, it became meaningful for us to put our money towards a family that truly values tradition, hard work, and family legacy. Giacomo was a gracious host and we would definitely return! We spent many hours curled up on the terrace with a glass of red and a book, breathing in the freshness of a valley filled with vineyards and olive trees. Rosemary and sage grew wild on this farm and the birds fairly beamed their morning song. Giacomo’s mother served fresh pastries and fruit each morning and we would stuff our faces with deli meat on ciabatta for lunch. Agriturismo Le Caggiole was our home base for exploring the medieval-like stone walled village of Montepulciano and for venturing out to horseback ride for three hours through the Tuscan countryside.

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We partook in the two hour cooking class, learning how to make fresh pasta from scratch and following along as we prepared herb and garlic crusted guinea fowl – slow roasted to crispy perfection – and decadent tiramisu. The meal was stupendous and we came away with a recipe book for all our fares and a hearty ragu that Giacomo had had simmering for hours. Giacomo was also really deliberate in sharing his only strict rules for cooking passed on from his Grandmother: use fresh, local, good ingredients and choose organic whenever possible. I’ve always loved to bake but since we’ve been married, I have developed a deep love and passion for cooking. I absolutely adored this class and took away a great desire to pass on such a rich tradition of food to my own children and grandchildren one day – in the same way that Giacomo has embraced the legacy passed on from his family. These simple principles for cooking stand alone in the sea of online cooking how-to’s and advice out there these days. They stand the test of time! We’ve had such a busy time since our trip, given that we came home to summer, that I haven’t yet had an opportunity to try my hand at these recipes. Soon! Oh and I might also mention that watching a couple of engineers from San Francisco separate eggs for tiramisu was a real treat in and of itself!! Anyway… We enjoyed the meal with wine, more meat and cheese, and two other couples from the states! All of us were of different ages, stages, and walks of life but we sat and talked and laughed for hours and came away knowing it was one of the most fun evenings on our trip. The next evening, all of the couples decided to meet in town at Pane vino & Zucchero for another stupendous meal. Monica and Marco were endearing, attentive, and modern in their style of Italian food. Jesse and I each enjoyed an appetizer of fresh pasta and had salty, juicy, steaks for entrees with tender roasted vegetables. We shared a few desserts amongst ourselves at the table and there was plenty of wine! I think once we split the bill, Jesse and I only paid 70 euros total… just over $100 CAN. I was so impressed with the food and atmosphere created by the owners that the experience felt like a complete steal! This area of Italy was definitely reasonably priced for food and we felt as thought we truly got a taste of the highest quality local fare. This restaurant will be high on our list when we one day return to Italy! Based on Monica’s delightful demeanor and their incredible food, we would even consider staying at their own agriturismo one day.

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Tuscany was healing and invigorating. We left feeling fulfilled in so many different ways and eager to return one day.

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That feels like a wonderful place to stop for tonight. I’m on vacation this week so Europe 2.0 should be up sometime in the next few days! Rome, Positano, and Paris all to come… and a few of the best travel decisions and purchases we made!

only that I am.

What does one do on a sick day? With hot bean bag and peppermint tea in tow, I shamefully struggle to log in on wordpress (forgot my password – check!) and peek at the date on my last post. Writing wouldn’t be the only thing I’ve neglected in the last 6 months. My journals sit forlorn and there is a bookshelf full of books waiting for my attention. Survival mode is how I would describe the last 6 months. Put one foot in front of the other, keep walking, keep looking up, whistle that happy tune, cling to a hope you can’t see… wait for His promises. Get out of bed… repeat.

The truth is, I don’t write because I think, for once, my broken heart has felt too private, too sacred to speak aloud. The truth is, I don’t even know if I can put words to the heaviness of the winter.

I suppose if you have spoken to me lately, you’d hear my woes of leaving my old job. It was a security blanket for me, a cradle where my infancy was fed and watered. Fewer opportunities to take on new and risky work, peers who kept me giggling and light, closeness and comfort in a city I know. I have had such difficulty in adjusting to a new office where all of these crutches were stripped away. In fact, it wasn’t until I had an opportunity to return to that office several months later that I realized how much more satisfying it was to be stretched in your work. To come home feeling as though you truly made a difference. To be stretched so thin but ultimately recharged by far more rewarding work. I was wallowing in a pool of self pity until the chance to go back presented itself and I found myself dreading the monotony of a larger office where I am needed less, where there would be less autonomy, fewer opportunities to learn, and greater temptation to blend into the background when it comes to initiative. Maybe one day I can take what I am learning in New West and return to my Langley home with something to bring to the table. Maybe one day that will be the next step in my career. For now though, I’m starting to feel content. It hasn’t been easy, however. There have been many tears and many frustrating weeks. I’m exhausted as I try to navigate this new schedule and commute and I’m not ashamed to say I miss my old officemates. But finally, a corner turned.

Jesse has been pushing forward in school as well. It’s hard to believe in only one year he’ll be finished! The first in his family to obtain a degree. And though this is no indicator of a lack of success and passion in his family, it is source of great pride for me. Primarily because he’s always been one of the least likely to tackle four years of projects and papers and late nights fine tuning work. He runs on empty probably 90% of the time and yet still finds a way to finish every week. He has far more ambition and determination than I ever did during nursing school. That said, perfectionism always come at a high price.

Real marriage is real hard. We know this. We all know this. Our second year, learning to be a team and learning to bear each other’s burdens, has coincided with such heavy personal burdens. Work and school surely weigh us down with their intensity but everybody – and I mean everybody – also battles these inner demons. We battle that one thorn in our side, unable to shake it that we might remain humble.  In a marriage, his burdens are mine, too. We try to stand up under the weight of each other’s pain and try to come through to the other side as unscathed as possible. I think I’m learning lately to lean into the brokenness. Brokenness has a special quality to it – a pouring out of oneself. Not having anything to give and yet giving anyway. Isn’t this the best kind of giving? The best kind of love? Sacrificial givenness. I don’t want to turn my face away from the things that are painful but lean into them, let my tears fall on the mess, and let it be broken. It hurts to be poured out though.

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“The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give.” (The Broken Way)

I feel like these words are the only reason I’m still standing. A bit hunched over, perhaps. This winter feels like a lesson in the true meaning of love – living given. Sometimes I don’t even know what it is that is being poured out – only that I am

I remember one night, not too long ago, laying in bed and opening an Ann Voskamp post I receive by subscription in my email. A sharp inhale as I read the first lines…

“Dear Thriver,

I once held a bird in my hand.

No one else could see it, but I felt it. I felt it’s heart thumping hard and afraid.

It happens– there are ways to look fine on the outside…. and no one knows what you’ve really survived.

But honestly? You didn’t just survive, so let’s toss that myth right at the outset.

The way you keep walking? You may be wounded. You may be hurting. You may be limping. You may feel alone and overwhelmed and an unspoken broken — but you’re no victim. And you’re not just a survivor. You’re a Thriver.

You may bleed but you rise.

Yeah, it may not feel like it — but you are seen… how you just keep keeping your chin up and living brave through the hurt and how you keep taking one step out of bed and another step through the door — and how you keep scaling mountains by relentlessly taking steps forward.

But I wanted you to know — your wounds are seen and it’s okay…

You are so brave to keep facing the light. To keep walking toward Home.

The Scarred Savior will know you’re His — by your own scars.

And when He cups your face, that moment when His scars touch your skin?  You’ll be wholly healed.

Hang on.
Press in.
Look up.”

(Ann Voskamp).

Words so desperately needed. They ignite a flicker of hope’s flame in me, timid as could be. One foot in front of the other, keep walking, keep reaching. Hope and hold unswervingly to His promises (Hebrews 10:23). I am learning too that promises are not always the same as healing. His promise does not mean we become unbroken. Perhaps we learn better how to live given and lean into the brokenness. Jesus “emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant… He humbled Himself [still further] by becoming obedient [to the Father] to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8). He made the will of God His own. He emptied himself and in His broken flesh, we see divinity. His ultimate glory shone through ultimate brokenness. There is a holiness to brokenness that does not beg to be made whole. Being poured out makes room for Him to fill us again.

These are things I’m learning as we are poured out for each other.

 

In just three short weeks, we leave on the trip of a lifetime to Europe. We often say to each other how wonderful it will be to reconnect. To be nourished by culture and language and the spirituality of wandering. Jesse is convinced our trip will ignite an unquenchable desire to live in London. He’s probably right. Either way, we will return much richer than when we left – of that I have no doubt. This winter has brought forth the painful reality of brokenness surpassing anything we’ve ever felt before. But we keep moving forward. Pressing on, one foot in front of another, humbled by the holiness of being broken.

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Oregon.

I wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. Wait for inspiration. Wait for time. Time seems ever allusive and precious. I always say I need a good reason to post but sometimes, I want to post just to spite time’s taunting forward movement.

It’s been a bittersweet summer, to say the least. Different in so many special and yet, disappointing ways. Special in that him and I have been together and not pining away after each other, waiting to finally be married. Special in that we saw and did things new, things exciting, things soul-changing. Disappointing in that summer just never seemed to arrive. Summer wasn’t defined for me this year in the ways I have always defined it by and cherished it for. Disappointing in that growing up really isn’t so fun when summer rolls around and one friend’s going on road trips and the other is going on sticky, sunny desert camping trips, and you’re stuck in the office, waiting for your meagre three days off to come. And then it comes and then it goes – so unbearably quickly.

I am grateful for my job and for the assurance of work. But stepping into a temporary yearlong position just as the temperatures started to climb and the beaches started calling wasn’t the most fun choice I’ve ever made. Vacation time works in funny ways when you’re a casual nurse and unfortunately for me, I can’t get any time off until the new year. Really, my only time of recharging was a few long weekends here and there and the most glorious four days in Oregon for our anniversary in July. Jesse and I tried to make the most of the time we had, camping when we could, going on dates to Playland, or spending two days straight in a generous uncle’s pool, soaking in the heat and the sun (that one was mostly me, let’s be honest). For my whole life though, I have waited on baited breath for summer, to pile into Dad’s big ole’ truck with Toby Keith pounding through the speakers, and make the long trek to a camping paradise. For me, summer has always been defined by the ten days we spend baking under the desert mountain sun – lazing in the lake and reading book after book after book. It’s been two years now since I’ve been back to our little camping oasis (I’ll admit, last year I didn’t mind) and I miss it very much. I’m struggling to feel content with the summer I DID have. Struggling to remember all of those high moments, sparsely scattered as they were throughout an otherwise unrestful few months. I want to focus on thankfulness, contentedness, and joy in what I have been given. It’s simply a new season for me and one with many growing pains.

Oregon feels so long ago but in an instant, I can feel the edges of my mouth turning up in sweet memory. Jesse and I decided to make the trip on the July long weekend in celebration of our first anniversary, knowing as well that we wouldn’t be going away together again that summer save for a weekend here and there for local camping and Sun Peaks visits. We packed up our Honda and after eight hours of driving, rolled into Cannon Beach, OR, just after dark. We checked into The Wayside Inn where we were delighted to find a simple, clean, reasonably priced room. It wasn’t quite within full view of the ocean but we booked it knowing we would be outside during most of our day and half in Cannon Beach.

That night, Jesse and I met Donald. Donald was the answer to what started as a desperate run around a sleepy beach town after 10pm, wondering how on earth every food supplying establishment could be closed for the night. There was nothing we wanted more than a beer and a plate of wings after such a long drive. We walked into the Warren House Pub, a dark, slightly dingy, but small-town type of welcoming establishment full of locals and spent an hour casting furtive glances at the most hilarious, bubbly, flamboyant man in his fifties before he finally meandered his way over to our seats at the bar. After he got over the initial shock of our being both married and basically “infants”, it wasn’t long before we knew everything about him – his three failed marriages, his current marriage to a straitlaced business man, and their world famous, annual Fourth of July pool party back in Portland. He told us of his late father, the story behind each bedazzled rock he wore on his fingers, his private condo right on the beach, and his love affair with Cannon Beach. Donald took such delight pawing at Jesse all night, who sat politely under his scrutiny, and whispering dirty jokes in my ear, all while buying us round after round of local beer and cheap shots. He was the type of man you meet in movies; the guy buying the bar a double round, calling the bartender by name, and making his rounds to each table to flirt with whoever would pay attention. Donald walked us home and I’m fairly confident he would have jumped at the chance to join us in our hotel room had we extended the invitation. It being our anniversary, we politely excused ourselves to purge our systems of the damage inflicted by his generous wallet in private. By this point, his energy was exhausting.

The next morning dawned bright and early. In between moans of discomfort from our poor self control at the bar the night before, we chuckled about everything he had said and done and marvelled at how people walk in and out of your lives, some leaving the strongest impression though you never see them again. His short stint in our lives felt like both a nightmare and an invigorating and hilarious dream all at once. We dragged our bedraggled, but certainly nonremorseful, bodies down to The Lazy Susan Cafe for the most decadent, rich, and comforting breakfast you could possibly imagine. The atmosphere in the cafe was one of quiet energy and comfort. If there was anything I regret about that first night in the pub, it was having very little appetite to actually enjoy that very sumptuous and flavourful eggs benedict.

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After breakfast, we worked up the nerve (as in, I worked up the nerve), to rent a few surf boards and drive out to Ecola State Park to take in the Sitka spruce forest and spend a few hours at Indian Beach. It was the most beautiful weather of our entire trip, temperature wise, and I could feel the layers of stress and tension melting away with that salty sea breeze in my face and the warm sun on my skin. This was what we came to Oregon for.

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It came as no surprise that when we suited up, Jesse surfed like he’d been doing it all his life while I flailed and swore and looked generally quite foolish. Everything from the paddling, to the carrying the board, to the attempts to peel a way-too-tight wetsuit off my body (which, by the way, took about an hour total… seriously, who decided that an old man in jeans and crocks should decide what size wet suit would fit a woman’s body?) was a struggle. But I could have watched Jesse out there for hours. I wish I was a match for him in that sense because I would have given anything to be out there beside him, revelling in the adventure of cold ocean water and the thrill of catching the wave. He had so much fun and we both earned a warm, lazy nap on the beach for our efforts.

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We spent the rest of the day meandering through the town and getting fancied up for a splurge-dinner. We chose Driftwood Restaurant and Lounge based on their polished looking exterior patio and promises of delicious lobster and steak. Both of us were thoroughly disappointed with our food, the price, the look of the interior, and the customer service. While our waitress was delightful, the steak was a disaster and the restaurant offered little recompense for my plate which had to be sent back twice for an overdone steak and an underdone replacement steak. We are so used to our local steakhouses that reduce your bill significantly for the slightest amount of dissatisfaction, making it worth your while to pray a hefty price for one plate of food. This restaurant was tacky, outdated, and unimpressive. Even Jesse’s properly cooked food offered little excitement. We were disappointed but quickly recovered with a brisk walk on Cannon Beach itself.

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One of my favourite parts about Cannon Beach was the beach at night time. For miles and miles it seemed, there were little families and groups of people emerging from these shingled and clapboard beach houses lined up along the coast, lighting campfires on the sand and settling in for a long night of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and cozying up to the heat of the fire. If we had known, we would have swapped our overpriced dinner for a trip to the grocery store for some hot dogs and firewood. It was so delightful. Haystack Rock was impressive and novelty enough to make the walk down the beach worthwhile, though.

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Before we packed ourselves back into the car for a few more hours of southbound driving the next morning, we meandered through the town’s shops and ducked into Oregon’s famous Pig ‘N Pancake for yet another decadent and satisfying breakfast. The shopping was a Pie On The Windowsill dream. Oh my goodness. I picked up a few things here and there, including some beautiful little patterned porcelain serving bowls, pounds and pounds of salt water taffy, Cannon Beach can openers and christmas ornaments, and a couple bottles of local award winning wine from The Wine Shack – Puffin Wines pinot grig and pinot noir. We loved this wine! We drank the red wine later that night and just recently enjoyed the white wine on a Friday night with a homemade lasagna dinner. Aren’t you proud, Dad (Ellingson)? Again, the shopping in Cannon Beach with its boardwalk style streets and hole in the wall gift and book shops was another favourite part of the trip for me. I could have gotten lost in the two long strips of shops if not for the lure of three hours of spectacular coastline driving ahead.

Nothing really could have prepared me for the Oregon coastline. Where Cannon Beach was charming and romantic and picturesque, the rest of the coast as you venture further south, was nothing short of brilliant. Every time we rounded a bend along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, my breath was taken away. It felt like the ocean and the sky stretched on in to eternity. The Oregon coast is so vastly different from our own coastline, with the expanse of islands stretching between BC’s mainland and Vancouver Island. The sharpness of these rocky cliffs along the highway and the panoramic views of the unending Pacific Ocean is one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Each viewpoint between Cannon Beach and Newport felt like a glorious gift. Jesse took lots of photos on our DSLR and I was the hyperactive child jumping up and down beside him snapping shots on my iPhone. There’s a mixture of the two cameras here. Part of the reason I waited so long to share any photos or what we did was because Jesse insisted on editing his photos first. He never got around to it – not that I’m surprised – so here they are in all their unedited glory.

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When we drove through Depoe Bay, I think I actually let out a squeal and demanded that we stop the car for a quick, justice-doing iPhone photo of the view. The jagged cliffs were just so stunning and remarkable.

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Our drive to Newport was long but rewarding. I can’t even remember how many people in Cannon Beach had scoffed at our choice to venture to Newport, OR. And I’ll admit, after being charmed and enamoured by the delight that is Cannon Beach, I was skeptical. Our drive through Newport’s main city area also did little for my confidence. But really, I cannot even begin to describe the joy that was The Sylvia Beach Hotel. This hotel was made for me and Jesse. The moment we walked in those doors, we knew we were among our people. This hotel’s twenty guest rooms are each themed after a famous author. Only three rooms had private decks so we stayed in “Colette” and then “Agatha Christie” on the second night. The hotel is perched overlooking the magnificent Nye Beach.

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“Colette” was a provencal style room – the makings of a true dream.After we had explored the main beach area and a bit of Newport’s Historic Bayfront, we spent the rest of the afternoon with the deck door propped open, reading to our heart’s content as the light organza curtains fluttered in the ocean breeze and sunlight streamed in from every angle. I was absolutely captivated by this room. It was by far an away, the best money we spent on the trip.

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That night at dinner, we scoured the online reviews and made a second attempt at a glorious seafood dinner. Georgie’s Beachside Grill was the food of angels. Seriously. I cannot rave enough about the food at this restaurant. I consider myself somewhat of an expert on coconut prawns so that’s where we started. Honestly, within one bite I knew we were in for a sensational meal. The prawns were succulent and crispy and absolutely divine paired with a tangy, fresh, pineapple and sweet chili slaw. And if the seafood pasta I ordered for my dinner isn’t on the menu in heaven, I really don’t want to stay there. Jesse had swordfish which melted in your mouth like butter – probably because it was covered in butter. Mmmm. I’m getting hungry just reminiscing about this food. We loved our waiter and met him again at the little fish and chips restaurant we visited for lunch the next day.

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After dinner, we cracked open our Puffin pinot noir and tucked back into our books. The Sylvia Beach Hotel is a place for bookworms, writers, and thinkers. There is no wifi – an intentional choice – and no tolerance for being on your cell phone in a common reading or writing area. On our last day, we did a bit of exploring in the Yaquina Bay State Park where there was a historic lighthouse, whales rolling in the bay, and more beautiful ocean views.

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We tried to brave the wild and powerful Nye Beach winds with our lawn chairs and books but were turned back when the wind was strong enough to rip out the pages themselves. We settled for a cozy and restful afternoon in the Agatha Christie room with the winds rattling the window frames and the warmth of a wood fire burning. The sun beamed in the four huge windows and every now and then, one of us would slip out the deck door and look out over miles and miles of the magnificent ocean, just to remind ourselves it was real and we weren’t dreaming up the scene just through the windows. It was bliss.

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We enjoyed dinner that night at the hotel’s Tables of Content Restaurant where guests join other guests at large tables for a three course meal. We were seated at a table with two other American couples – one couple in their fifties, married for twenty years, and another in their eighties, both widowed and remarried to each other in the last ten years. Jesse and I both agree that our dinner experience there was a favourite memory of the trip. We sat and talked with those two couples for hours. Politics, healthcare, marriage, religion, countries; it was jovial and exciting. The food was delicious and the company was absolutely fantastic. It was an experience we were hesitant about but something clicked with the three couples, despite the range in age, and it seemed our table was buried in conversation and laughter while others seemed more awkward and forced. I can’t rave enough about this hotel and the experience you pay for. It was truly remarkable.

Of course, I’m prone to romanticizing every single element of a trip like this one. Even for Jesse, however, Oregon was a pleasant surprise. The Sylvia Beach Hotel was a once in a lifetime experience that we will cherish forever. It reminded us why trips like these, on local soil, are so valuable and meaningful. Now that we’ve had the experience of a Mexico holiday, these smaller getaways are a priority for us. At least until that big Europe trip… one day.

I wanted to post about this holiday as much for me as for anyone else. We were so blessed to be able to go and I’ve forgotten too soon how refreshing it all was. Looking through the photos again and writing of those standout moments has me all ready to plan and save for the next trip away with my favourite travel partner. More importantly, writing about Oregon reminds me of why we work as hard as we do. Holidays like these are what make life worth living. Meeting other people, finding refuge and solace in God’s spectacular creation, and falling more in love with my husband while we explore what’s right in front of our eyes are all experiences well worth the blood, sweat, and tears that we pour into our jobs. I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for us!

I need to let him go, simply because he is too heavy for me to carry any longer.

I type the word into the search bar. I think I know a lot about a thing like forgiveness but sometimes I see his face in my mind and the hatred swells and the hurt wins and forgiving him loses traction on my weary heart. He’s not worth the dust that gathers there on the shelves and yet I bleed myself dry trying to forgive those trespasses, trying to believe that Jesus forgives me as I forgive him (Matt. 6:14-15). How do I forgive when he never said he was sorry? When he said I was too much, too much independence for 17, a little too wild to serve? As the Dixie Chicks crooned, it’s been {five} long years now, since the top of the world came crashing down. And just like Miss Natalie Maines herself, I’m getting it back on the road now, but I’m taking the long way around.

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I’ll never forget that spring and how my life was forever changed in one throbbing second. I’ve never been hurt by somebody the way I was hurt by him. He’s not a former love or even family. He’s no one to me now but I suppose back then he was a man who passed through my 17th year. Passed through it, abused it, chewed it up and spat it back out to stomp on. He’s the one who stole my high school graduation year, the one who shamed my name in a school I adored, the one who couldn’t take all that 17 meant for me so he broke my spirit to bolster his pride. I suppose I’m lying when I say he’s no one to me now. That much is clear. I’ll be quick to clarify: he didn’t lay a hand on me, nor did he break any rules or laws. I’ll willingly admit, he even chose his words carefully. Too damn carefully.

I wrote a long time ago about that trip. I wrote about becoming un-leadable. I wrote about knowing with absolute certainty that they hated who I was so I charged forward like a horse strapped with blinders, too scared to be loathed so. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t be who they wanted me to be so I became more of what they hated. “Maybe if I were older, maybe if I could have gone back in time to tell that terrified woman-child what I know now, then she could have found a way to be who they wanted her to be. I’m not solely the victim here. I was a perpetrator. I know that full well. I couldn’t do it and that will haunt me forever. But you know what? That’s okay. I was seventeen, for God’s sake. I forgive myself.”

It’s almost March so I go back to that post again, go back to that room, back to those bloodshot eyes. I go back to his voice, “telling me none of it – none of the songs, the crafts, the bubbles and joy, the kids hanging on my legs with beaming white smiles, my voice and that guitar at the front of the church that very first morning – none of it was enough. It meant nothing. To them, to him, it was nothing. March brings me back to that hallway, eyes wide, tears burning holes in the back of my throat, my heart beat over the table with words so ugly. March. March to your room, Olivia. Gasping for air. Trying to choke the words out in the back of that van. ‘Lean on me,’ she said, trying to make it go away. She wiped the sweat and the tears from my face and I thank God my best friend was there to love me that day.

We revisited that day over dinner recently. My mom nodded knowingly from across the table. She knows. She knows what it feels like to be told to bury who you are. People want the fire, they want the bluntness, they want strength when it is convenient for them. But when the fire stings your pride, you can’t put it out with force the way he tried to – it burns hot under pressure. I tried to explain to them how it’s marred my world. How you can know the value in letting bygones be bygones – everybody knows that forgiveness is divine – but somedays you wake up and the hatred is stronger. There are seasons where I haven’t thought once of his face and there are seasons still where he has clung to me like a leech, sucking the life out of me.

I wonder sometimes why Jesus didn’t warn us of how long it could take to forgive our brother for just one wrongdoing, let alone the seventy times seven (Matt. 18: 21-22). I wonder if it’s better that we find out this way. If I had known how hard it would be to forgive him, I might never have started trying. It took my three years to forgive myself for the mess I made of it all and it has taken me five years to forgive him. I have tried to choose grace over and over again, knowing that only forgiveness can set me free. But I’m realizing that forgiveness, letting go, and moving on – for me – has to coincide with giving up the explaining, the excuses, the revisiting. For five years, forgiveness has never been compete as long as my spirit ached for retribution and restoration of name.

Alexander MacLaren said of retribution, “If you waste your youth, no repentance will send the shadow back upon the dial, or recover the ground lost by idleness, or restore the constitution shattered by dissipation, or give back the resources wasted upon vice, or bring back the fleeting opportunities. The wounds can all be healed, for the Good Physician, blessed be His name! has lancets and bandages, and balm and anodynes for the deadliest; but scars remain even when the gash is closed.

I’ve come to see now that I need to stop trying to explain what happened that March. No one can ever truly understand and would it matter if they did? As much as I yearn for retribution, I feel it in my bones every time I seek their understanding: the old anger boiling up in protest of the forgiveness so painstakingly given. The hurt winning once again. These scars are not going to fade quite yet, of that I’m sure. But I’m more than through with fixating on them. And eventually, forgiveness needs to put its foot down: We’re done with the “trying”, you and I. Let’s do this – for real.

I need to stop waiting for him to be sorry. It hurts too much to wait. Would it change the straightforwardness of this Jesus-forgiveness? I don’t believe that – not for one second. I’m ready to let him go.

I need to let him go, simply because he is too heavy for me to carry any longer.

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Plain Ol’ Update

WordPress tells me it’s been four months since I posted last but it honestly feels as though it’s been a year. Since I posted our wedding rundown in the summertime, so much has changed! My least favourite Pie on the Windowsill posts are those that are uninspired, written out of obligation. I’ve been hesitant to write because there’s been little I’ve wanted to write about and I won’t let this blog turn into mere updates on the life and times of Olivia.

All that said, this particular post is just that – an update. I have something precious and painful chipping away at my heart, waiting to be written. Something that’s hard to write and even harder to let be true in my life. But I will write it and I will live it. Not today though! Today I am sipping happily away on boxed white wine in my wingback chair, purchased for a dime off a crazy cat lover on bid wars, chomping at the bit to just write SOMETHING for heaven sake and tease a little bit about what’s to come.

Summertime came and went all too fast for Jesse and me. We loved the wonderful weeks of sunshine and sweetness spent together as husband and wife. We went camping with my crazy Dutch cousins on the stormiest weekend of the decade… you know, THAT weekend in August? Thankfully Harrison didn’t experience much of a windstorm, just torrential downpour. I was awake for hours on the first night, staring up as drip after lovely drip of rainwater soaked through our tarp and tent and crash landed on my nose. The rain cleared during the day leaving enough time for all of us to string up a tarp that I swear was the size of a gym. All of us sat around a gas fire underneath a mammoth tarp as the rain thundered down, drinking beer and causing a ruckus that literally no one could hear because everyone else was smart enough to stay home that weekend. We had a blast – although I will confess I had the biggest meltdown of my life in front of my poor, poor, new and unsuspecting husband when I finally snuggled into my sleeping bag on night two, only to find it thoroughly damp. He’s not ready to joke about those horrendous ten minutes but I am and all I can say is I’m sure thankful he married me before he had to witness that. My only photo is pretty blurry/rainy but you get the idea.

Also in August was two of my best friends weddings. They looked stunning and each put on the most amazing parties!

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As summer rolled into fall, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and spent a weekend in Victoria. We fell in love with the island when we met our photographer there in February to do engagement photos. If I weren’t so paranoid about tectonic plates and earthquakes, I think I could live there. We mostly explored the city, ate, and enjoyed the ocean views. We stayed very inexpensively and comfortably at the Bedford Regency Hotel right in the heart of downtown Victoria and enjoyed pub fare at it’s partner restaurant The Churchhill and the popular, Bard and Banker. We wanted to be downtown and within walking distance of everything and enjoy something slightly more quaint and charming – all while not breaking the bank. I was very happy with our room although I can’t say we spent much time in it!

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The last few months have included a host of Christmas festivities with both of our families – Beugelink Christmas Party, Christmas Eve and morning with my parents and siblings, and Christmas dinner with Jesse’s family. It was really special to celebrate everything twice! I loved finding gifts for my little nephews and putting together a photo book Christmas present for my in-laws as they prepare to leave for Nicaragua (more on that later!). Two families is most assuredly better than one. I don’t have as many photos with my side of the family over the holiday. I think I will need to remember to rectify that situation next year!

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We capped off 2015 with our annual trip to Sun Peaks with Jesse’s side of the family. Normally it’s quite a large group up there, staying in various hotels and condos. This year it was just the family and it was an unexpected blessing. Jesse’s parents are leaving for Nicaragua for several years at the beginning of February to work with Engineering Missions International and I think being together as a family, making memories and deepening relationships was an important part of this ever looming goodbye. We trekked out to the waterfall, went sledding, cooked and ate delicious food, and played Ticket to Ride until we were seeing train routes in our sleep (the girls did, anyway). It was a special time, possibly the last time being there all together and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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In the midst of this crazy, wonderful summer to winter period, I have been working as Public Health Nurse and Jesse has been working through his second year of the IDEA program at Capilano University. It was a major adjustment, transitioning from student life with night owl work and play habits to full time nursing. I love my job but my body and my mind needed this Christmas break more than I could explain. I cried a little bit the night before my last work day before the holiday break because I was just so relieved.

Many people who aren’t familiar with Public Health ask about my job every day. Essentially, I work in the community with families and individuals who are mostly healthy. We call and visit pregnant women and new mums and babes, providing anticipatory guidance and teaching during that entire postpartum period. Breastfeeding is a huge focus although, contrary to popular belief, we really just want to help mums feed their babies any way they can. In addition to perinatal care, #iboostimmunity! That’s hashtag code for: I immunize! We see babies, toddlers, school age kids, and adults for immunizations and this area of my job is one I am incredibly passionate about. When I see a pudgy baby leg, all I can think about is squeezing that chub in my left hand and using my right to poke a little miracle-in-a-syringe into their vulnerable bodies! Haha. Okay, weird, I know. In all seriousness, I am a firm believer and supporter of vaccinations as the single most life-saving medical discovery in history. The statistics leave me in awe.

Public Health Nurses also complete health screenings on all babies we see for immunizations in our health unit. We talk feeding, food, development, growth, etc.. Public Health also investigates and manages disease outbreaks on the ground level, field questions from the general public on health, and work in schools to immunize and provide health teaching wherever necessary. Like most nursing fields, this overview only scratches the surface of the variety of ways we come alongside people in their health journey. Did I mention I love my job? It’s been such a huge life change, moving from student to professional and I feel so thankful to be exactly were God has placed me.

The next month or so holds more change. It’s only a few short weeks before my new parents, Mom and Dad Ellingson, move forward in their amazing journey. They dared to ask God where He wanted them to be and He answered in a mighty way. Their website should be published soon and I’ll share it as soon as it’s available! They describe their decision and mission so much better than I ever could. Jesse and I are both so proud of their lives – there is no better example to us of answering God’s call on your life faithfully, even when it involves an inordinate amount of sacrifice.

That’s all for now! I can’t wait to post again soon – hopefully within a few weeks. Thanks for hanging in there with me friends.

{Oh! And Jesse is hanging in there just fine. He’s not eating beans out of a can for dinner and picking rat poo off the kitchen counter of his old house so I’d say married life is an improvement for him. After 6 months of marriage, my one piece of advice for all the sisters out there? Marry them when they’re young and clueless about living alone. Disgusting house habits have not yet been formed, they still have training from Mom about leaving the toilet seat down, and they’re just so thrilled to be eating real food that they’ll do just about anything around the house that you ask. Jesse lived alone only for a year or so and he’s about the easiest person to live with on the face of the planet.}