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!

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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! ❤

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.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wedding Run-Down: Vendors, Tutorials, Finery, & More

This post is not for the faint of heart. I am way too busy with work to split the vendors into two posts so this encyclopedia of a read will have to do. We had such an incredible day and we are forever grateful to the vendors who made the wedding so wonderfully memorable. I really wanted to highlight some of these dear people and the work they do; it is added bonus that 1) wedding posts spread like wildfire in the blogging community and 2) I get the chance to try some fun WordPress finnicky “tricks”. Finnicky in my mind, anyway. Here goes!

The Photography

I couldn’t highlight features of our wedding without drawing insane amounts of attention to our photographer, Adrian from Adrian Michael Photography. He and his wife, Sarah, were absolutely wonderful to work with and went above and beyond the stipulations of our contract. They arrived at the bridal suite early and left the wedding reception late without so much as batting an eyelash. They captured the memories, moments, traditions, and the spiritual undercurrents that we requested in such thoughtful ways, even braving the perilous task of photographing our extended families – which, in the case of my family, is something akin to subduing an army.

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Adrian is a fine art film photographer, meaning each photograph is carefully planned and executed. That said, hundreds of beautifully candid photos speak to his ability to respond to moments spontaneously as well. Jesse has informed me that to shoot in film requires immense skill with lighting and framing. The result is a photograph that achieves the effect that many digital photographers attempt to achieve through editing and filters. Honestly, I can’t rave enough. We were thrilled with the digital files and the developed film. Cost-wise, we prioritized photography above most other elements and were willing to drop a chunk of the budget for that cause. That said, we feel that Adrian is very reasonably priced, flexible, and of course, worth every penny.

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The Finery

My dress was a stunning blush pink beaded and lace mermaid creation. Mum, Mollie, and I spent hours combing the racks at Bliss Consignment Bridal and finally stumbled upon this beauty. The seamstress removed a mesh décolletage overlay, lowered the neckline, and swapped a corset for a zipper and handmade blush satin buttons to create a truly one-of-a-kind gown. The blush hue was romantic, feminine, and brought a unique characteristic to my dress – something I was determined to achieve while remaining within a conservative budget.

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My dream has always been to have a cathedral length veil falling whimsically about my shoulders but I was dismayed to find that such a piece boasts prices upwards of $250-$300. Mum combed the internet and YouTube, learning veil construction. She ended up buying a few metres of tulle at Fabricana for $20 (the staff are usually very knowledgeable and can recommend the type of tulle to suit your needs), a hair comb from the dollar store, and a wee bit of satin to cover the gatherings and set about making my veil!We found this tutorial and the writer’s discussion of fabric choice very helpful! When my dear “Auntie” Abi arrived from England for the wedding, she hand stitched some lovely little beads to the comb. She also came armed with a handmade lace and beaded headpiece inspired by this draped pearl hairpiece I had a love affair with. I will treasure that handmade, delicate hair piece for my entire life. It was so stunning.

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The bridesmaid’s Be Merry Textured Dresses were ordered from Shop Ruche. They had plenty of promotions and “bulk” order deals to choose from and I think we ended up with $40 dresses! The ladies shoes were ordered from Francescas and from what I’ve heard, ended up being comfortable and blister free! I am definitely an online shopping aficionado – the selection is so much wider and there is greater opportunity for sales. The trick is to have your girls take their measurements and choose their sizes according to the charts available on individual websites.

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The men were so incredibly handsome and trim in their Zara MAN Navy Coated Cotton Suits. Jesse swears by his Super Slim Fit Zara shirt in white. This cut of suit is certainly not for every guy but with a few alterations, it can be fairly flattering on most builds. Our guys looked incredible. And no, I did not plan to have a red, white, and blue palette on the Fourth of July. I am Canadian through and through and the holiday didn’t enter my mind even once 😉

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The lit’lins stole the show in their Gap shorts and button ups. My bridesmaid and cousin, Heidi, (mother to these three angels), waited patiently for news of a sale to reach her inbox and then ordered pairs for all four boys. The Gap and Old Navy usually offer discounts when you purchase a greater number of items at one time. The items we chose are now out of season but the same basic styles hit the racks again every summer. And of course, the suspender and bow tie sets we chose are available year round over at Sweet N Swag on Etsy. I believe the owner of this shop, Shannon, has launched her own website as well. The sets came within a week or two and quite obviously, were adorable. While the sets themselves are totally customizable, they range from $20 – $26, depending on the type of suspender you choose. Avery was delightful and lovely in her Burlington Coat Factory pink polka dot tulle frock! That’s right. Try TJ Maxx, Winners, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, etc. around Easter time and enjoy a completely expanded selection of girls frocks in summer shades. We paid $20 for a dress she could get plenty more wear out of (in fact, according to Heidi, she’s chosen to wear her flower girl dress to church almost every Sunday since. hehe).

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The Blooms

Kari at Confetti Floral Design had arguably the toughest job of the wedding – translating my lavish floral dreams to a stunning reality! I dedicated a substantial part of our wedding budget to fresh flower centrepieces, elaborate bouquets, and a romantic and statement making wooden arch design. Some may choose not to be as “wasteful” but flowers make my heart happy and complemented the venue’s beautifully kept grounds. My vision was of an English Garden Party, complete with wild and romantic greenery and fresh bright blooms. I wanted the flowers to take centre stage. Jesse is a minimalist and could get behind this idea wholeheartedly. The result was attention-grabbing centrepieces that required the help of very few trendy “bits and bobs” to decorate the spaces.

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My mum’s carefully selected and tended potted plants contributed a substantial amount of colour and beauty to the whole venue. This strategy is quite economical and probably achieves more bang for your buck. If you, your mum, your Grandma, etc. are the type to fill up your patios with potted plants every spring, try selecting blooms within your colour scheme and finding some galvanized metal pots or tubs to plant them in. You’ll have blooms all summer – the pretty pink geraniums marking the aisle are still going strong nearly two months later! The galvanized metal pitchers, cans, and tubs were either already in the garden (my mum hunts for them in the Winthrop vintage shops) or purchased when Target put all their stock on sale. Most Facebook Buy/Sell/Swap wedding groups have these available but some other hunting grounds include vintage markets (such as the one in Albion every year), craigslist, and thrift stores. I also picked up about half of our white centrepiece vessels at thrift stores or registered for them at Bed Bath and Beyond (guests gave them to me at bridal showers and I put them to use in the wedding) and Kari supplied the rest.

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Essentially, I showed Kari some photos (okay, a LOT of photos – if you think my timeline was detailed, you should have seen the novel I gave her!), told her the colours I wanted, described my “vision” and asked that all blooms be affordable, in season, and able to stand up to the heat as best as possible. The result is all attributed her skill and creativity! Her pricing is very fair and she’s a great resource for vase rentals as well. Kari did florals for my sister in laws wedding where the style was very woodsy and rustic – in other words, she has a diverse portfolio! 

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A word of caution for brides: when you walk into your reception, LOOK at your centrepieces. I spent so much time beforehand obsessing about the flowers and forgot to so much as glance at my centrepieces! Thankfully, they were almost the exact same composition as my bouquet so I don’t feel too regretful.

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The Candles and Things

We really didn’t have a whole load of decor. The venue provided so much natural beauty and the flowers were so striking that very little was needed.

My bridesmaid, Megan, and I picked up these glass votives for $1.99/4 pack and some unscented floating candles for $5.99/24 pack from IKEA. I didn’t want the little tin wrapping on standard tea lights to show through the glass and the floating candles melted gently into the glass after a bit. We bought Michael’s Creatology Gold Glitter, a can of modge podge, and a couple little sponge brushes and set to work creating romantic sparkly gold votives to dot the tables. Click here for the tutorial we used. Beware: you will need stacks and stacks of newspaper to keep this project contained. But it’s well worth it! I don’t have any shots of the candles lit but I assure you, they sparkled and flickered and glowed all golden and warm.

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I always love the meaningfulness that individual name cards invoke so Jesse and I trekked off to Opus to measure and cut huge sheets of berry coloured cardstock into little rectangles. I used one of his fancy gold pens to handwrite each guests name and then we hole punched them and wound them through the gold and cream coloured ribbon wrapped napkins. I scored several hundred meters of delicate gold trim ribbon from Fabricana for less than $30. The paper was a whopping $5, I think? The wrapping and bow tying was quite a fete – the boys complained, Jesse spent more time trying to find an ergonomic and efficient way of weaving and tying the ribbon than he did actually completing napkins, and Nan couldn’t seem to find a way to lay the name cards face up in the ribbon but somehow, we finished 150 of these little ones. Tedious, but worth the money you save.

All the other stationary and signage was designed and executed by Jesse. He opted for a very simple, clean look with colour requests from me. The invitations were ordered from Jukebox Print and the seating chart table lists from Staples. Both companies did a great job, Jukebox in particular. They have consultants who inform you if the colours you’ve selected tend to look different once printed and advise you on how to achieve the same effect with a colour that prints more true to form. We were thrilled with the quality of our invitations. The table lists were tacked on to a wooden board painted white by Jesse. He also hand painted our “Jesse & Olivia” logo onto the signage and seating chart. He did a fantastic job. If you know what you’re looking for in terms of wedding stationary, he can probably realize your vision for a reasonable price. Chat with me if you’re interested! I hear he’s newly married and could use some extra cash for his wife’s upcoming birthday present.

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The Eats

I have two statements to make regarding the food at our wedding. 1) It was stupendous. 2) It was raved about by every single person we talked to after the wedding. That salmon? Out of this world. I felt far too self-conscious going back for seconds of the cedar plank salmon before any other table was even dismissed for dinner so I begged my cousin to take extra helpings on her plate and sneak it back to me. She did and I scarfed it down. Mmm. Karen Bergen, our caterer, was so flexible and easy to work with. Everything was made from scratch and we truly got everything we wanted for a price and taste factor you can’t compete with. Including fresh baked pies from scratch!! Come on now. We have enjoyed Karen’s catering three times now and I therefore feel I am the authority on her food. Book her!

I wish I could link readers to her website but its nonexistent. She’s a tricky one to get in touch with but chat with me for her contact information!

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One of my bridesmaids and best friends designed, baked, and decorated our chocolatey cake of floral delight. My one bite of it was delicious but rest assured, I am waiting anxiously for that one year anniversary so I can yard the top tier out of my freezer and truly dig in. She’s a newlywed, professionally trained pastry chef and she makes some seriously decadent desserts (the wedding was not the first time I’ve sampled her repertoire). Leave a comment if you want to get in touch with Liz for your own wedding or event.

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The Absolute Necessary

And finally, I have to brag about our wedding coordinator, Jodi, from Jodi Marie Events, who ran around accomplishing any number of large and small tasks throughout the entire day. We are so grateful for her flexibility in providing services, her expertise and suggestions, and for the way she completely took over and allowed me, the ultimate control freak, the peace of a stress-free day. I would highly recommend finding a day-of coordinator and I would highly recommend Jodi! Plus, it’s always a bonus to be arguing with your mum about this or that aspect of the wedding and have someone agree with you, to your mama’s face, no matter what. She embraced the bride-rules mentality even when my mum didn’t 😉 The mark of a truly great coordinator. Sorry mum, that’s my only dig of the post – promise!

And there you have it. There are so many aspects of wedding planning I could never get to writing about – the details are vast and well, detailed! My number one piece of advice for any bride would be to write lists about lists and then stick to said lists! Oh, and calm the heck down at all times. There is absolutely NO good and honest reason to be a monster about a wedding and that’s wisdom coming from someone who has been known to bite a head or two off in her time. I could thoroughly enjoy our wedding day and step forward into new families knowing that no one felt mistreated, unheard, or disrespected. Including my new husband. Even though both my mothers were understandably stressed leading up to the wedding, it was all so much more lovely and special because I wasn’t the cause of that stress. If you read my post a few months ago, you know my thoughts on brides behaving horrendously. It shouldn’t happen.

So ladies, hold it together. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

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Settling In

I thought I was well overdue for an update.

Jesse and I have been married for almost three weeks now, a fact I am hard pressed to believe sometimes. It’s such a radical change to be one person one day and to be a new one the next. A week after we got married I said nothing’s changed and yet everything has changed. Our relationship carries the same nuances, we have the same arguments (*gasp*), we laugh about the same things. I think in our hearts, we’ve been married a very long time. The change lay in the knowledge that we are united under God – a new family. I would akin it to the transformation we read of in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, new things have come! (ESV, emphasis added). We are a new creation under Jesus with new value.

During our wedding ceremony, my uncle read from Genesis 2 where God instructs husband and wife to cleave unto one another – to embrace the new family they have become. When you’ve identified with one family for your entire life, embracing a new family (even one made up of the two of us), is a lofty endeavour. A life-changing journey that requires one to recommit themselves to the task every.single.day. My favourite example thus far of the challenge happened yesterday. My car decided that mere days after returning from a tune up would be a perfect time to implode from the inside out. It was leaving a trail of green liquid in my wake, the likes of which eventually started sizzling away on my radiator, creating a blanket of smoke around me each time I came to a stop while driving. I called my husband, of course. He told me what to do and what was likely wrong. Do you know how hard it was not to call my dad after I hung up the phone? I told myself, no, there’s a new sheriff in town here. I can’t slap Jesse’s ego to the ground by calling my Dad who knows everything always. Old habits die very, very hard though. I didn’t call him, obviously. But I wanted to. Not because I don’t trust Jesse but because we’re talking about a lifelong default setting. Anyway, I conquered yesterday’s “new family” challenge; we’ll see how I do moving forward.

Now, the real reason I decided to write was to talk about the logistics. Home, job, etc. The wedding, our time in Cabo, and marriage itself still feels too new and special to splash all over my blog. Sacred, almost. Over time, I’m excited to write about new challenges and joys. Very soon, I would love to do a post that breaks down some of the wedding vendors we used and some of the projects we undertook by ourselves. You know, that “classic” wedding blog post. I have to do it. But that will be all for a while.

I will say, as it pertains to our living situation, we have been overwhelmed with the sheer volume of STUFF we were given (just for getting married!). Our friends and family absolutely spoiled us. I love looking at pieces in my kitchen and thinking of the person who gave that item to me. I love the thought of saying, years from now, that this cake stand, or this serving platter, or this pan, was given to me on my wedding day from a certain special person or family. It’s a kitchen bursting with love. We were able to move forward with buying a couch, bookshelves, kitchen chairs… all because we are surrounded by people who love us enough to help us create this basement oasis. We got a little giddy last night, thinking that our home isn’t going anywhere. We don’t have to ever stop playing house because we’re not even playing house! It’s real life and we are loving every moment. Combining our book collections was probably one of the single most enjoyable tasks in our lives. We have this massive bookshelf filled to the brim with Amish books, Christian western romances, weird books about weird people (Jesse’s, obviously), and gory Cormac McCarthy’s. I’ll admit, I was a little disgruntled when “The Solitary Envoy” and “The Little Princess” ended up sandwiching “A Clockwork Orange” in our alphabetical organization. It’s just so wrong. Nevertheless, that bookshelf is a beautiful sight, though it’s quite the hodge podge of genres. I guess that’s to be expected when you combine a pie-on-the-windowsill-girl with a modern designer.

As far as work goes, Jesse continues to work full time through the summer, in anticipation of the upcoming school year at Capilano. On the first day of our honeymoon, I was offered a position as a Public Health Nurse at my dream location! I start out working under the New Graduate program but will eventually transition into a casual position. From there, I’ll be applying for internal postings. For those of you who have been kept up to date on the job front, you’ll know what an answer to prayer this job was. I’ve been applying since graduation and for a while there, it seemed as though every door I came to was slammed shut in my face. It was very discouraging and disheartening and I was very near accepting a position in Medical just to have some income. It’s shocking, really, how often I wait impatiently for hope, something to stand on, grumbling and worrying all the while about the outcome. I create scenarios in my head of what would have been easiest and best for me. Each time that God the Father comes through, I am left in awe of the perfection of his timing. I’m a repeat offender, so much so that I don’t know why He continues to give these gifts. My engagement, the wedding, my job… I am forever trying to live the words of the author of Hebrews, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23, NIV). He promises that His plans for me are only good and yet I question and stumble and worry. And He proves Himself faithful to me over and over again. Such grace for a woman of little faith.

Anyway, I start tomorrow – praise the Lord! I’m soaking up every last moment of my homemaking time in this suite (although the amount of homemaking going on at this very moment is quite abysmal). I know the next few months are going to be very different for us and I’m excited to get started. I’m finally a wife and a nurse and our life is full of one grace after another. Now all we need is a few kids, right, Jesse?