America, Celebration, Family, Health, Summer, Travel

Bare Necessities

Leave it to my brother to come over to our house and make homemade mayonnaise. It’s a running joke for him that Chris and I never have what he deems that we “need”. Given, we were having a burger night and we didn’t have mayonnaise, so I guess he could make that point. However, neither Chris nor I like mayonnaise, so I can just as easily make the point that it isn’t something we need. Regardless, Jake made homemade mayo for those guests who required it and no one had a dry burger.

(Personal note: the good bulk of this post was written while on our honeymoon, so enjoy the warm, sunny photos while most of us are probably frozen in for the winter)

As a new couple, we’ve heard communication is key. Our communication is pretty good, but adding a second language to the mix while traveling for our honeymoon didn’t help. Our flight was routed through Panama City, and on our flight from Panama to Costa Rica, we were assigned to boarding group E. Chris, realizing that they would call all announcements in Spanish, asked me if they would say E or if it would sound different. I was absorbed in trying to read the signs in Spanish around us and thought he was asking me about the Spanish “y”, which is pronounced like the letter E and means “and” in Spanish. So, I said, “yes, ‘and’ is pronounced E”, which totally confused him. After a few more seconds, we finally got on the same page, and luckily on the same flight.

So, let me give you a brief overview of our honeymoon. It was beautiful. Tiers of natural thermal springs, running through the rainforest, like our own little personal hot tubs. We had an excellent time, this part of Costa Rica is one of my favorite places in the world.

The only slight downside to our trip was that the airline lost our luggage. Not like lost it, like it was delayed a few hours in getting delivered to our hotel. Lost it like we arrived on Sunday and our bag didn’t arrive until Thursday night.

At first, I was fine with it, then I became frustrated. But, such is life. My ever-prepared Chris made us pack an extra set of clothes and one bathing suit each in our carry-on bag, so we were pretty set for our first day of lounging in the hot springs. However, our zip lining and water rafting excursions required shoes that wouldn’t fall off, so our resort graciously gave us free transportation to the nearest town, which is how I ended up with these sweet $6 water shoes.

I also only had one t-shirt with us, which if you know me at all, is basically a state of emergency. So, on our trip into town, Chris was forced to go to about 10 souvenir shops with me as I scoured for a shirt I liked.

Shopping with me can be a painful experience of indecisiveness, but Chris was a trooper. When I finally found a shirt I liked, a blue tee with an cool zip-lining iguana on it wearing sunglasses, I asked Chris what he thought of it. His response was “it’s very you”, which shows just how well he knows me, because it is very me.

After I got my water shoes, iguana tee, and Chris got some hair gel, I felt much more settled. Maybe we didn’t need all of our stuff after all. Maybe we way over-packed. I definitely didn’t need all those t-shirts I packed. I had one with an iguana on it now. What more could I need? We both had shoes, dry clothes, a bathing suit, a towel.

But on a bigger scale, we had made it safely. We were well taken care of. We were healthy. And we had each other.

That’s really all we need.

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America, Architecture, Culture, Family, Funny, Garden, Outdoors, Summer

Marstiller in the Making

I asked Chris if he wanted to try to recreate my parents look on their wedding day for our own wedding day, but he politely declined. I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t know where to find baby blue pants or if he doesn’t think he could grow a mustache that quickly, but I think we could come close to pulling it off!

Ray & Angela circa 1987

Chris & Brittney circa 2017

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Chris and I bought a house! It’s in a local community, surrounded by golf courses and lakes, and by default, retired people. Actually, I think the retired people came first, then built the lakes and golf courses. Either way, it suits both of us perfectly.

I love the house, it was built in 1983, so it was celebrating it’s seventh birthday when Chris and I were born. It’s a little older and probably a little wiser than the both of us, and I imagine it’ll teach us some pretty good life lessons over the next few years. It’s got some retro finishes, so we are updating a bit. Chris decided he didn’t like the dining room light fixture too much, so I think that’ll definitely go, if anyone is looking for something along these lines.

As much as I like the house though, I really like the neighbors. We haven’t even moved in yet and I am already getting so much entertainment. The day Chris and I went to look at the house, we walked down the (very steep) driveway to take a look at the bushes that block our view of the road out front. As we were down there, our neighbor from across the street came out to introduce herself.

She approached us and immediately said that anyone wearing Birkenstocks (which I wear about 90% of the time, with and without socks) was good in her book. She had on the same pair. Confirming that either she is pretty hip or I am a grandma. She and her husband had lived there since the early 90s and she knew all about our house. She told us the best way to back out of our driveway. She told Chris that he needed to trim the grass (much to our amusement since we hadn’t even officially closed on the house yet). And, she invited me to a weekly ladies luncheon meeting that she and the other ladies in the neighborhood meet for on Wednesdays at noon.

I thought about telling her that I have a day job and am not retired and therefore will not be able to make it, but I may wanna drop by sometime, so I left the invitation on the table. Jean and I might become good friends by the time it’s all said and done.

Along with the tips from Jean, we got an aloe plant and a St. Bernard’s lily from another lady in the community. And, the previous owners even left us a nice surprise, in the top of the closet, that Chris found while he was scraping our very 80s popcorn ceilings.

A used pregnancy test, positive in case you were wondering.

Let’s just say that maybe I am more amused by all of these happenings than he is, but he’s signed up for it: nosy neighbors, popcorn plaster, and me!

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America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Garden, Health, History, Summer, Uncategorized

Potatoes, Po-tah-toes

My mom wanted me to write another blog post, so here I am.

She was sitting behind me in church yesterday and leaned up and whispered in my ear that it had been too long since I’d written a blog post. Opportune time, mom.

She, apparently, doesn’t think I need some creative burst of inspiration to produce any sort of written materials. I just need her suggestion and that is enough.

I guess it is enough, because again, here I am. Maybe sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us and tell us what to do. Maybe that’s the secret to life I’ve been missing.

Anyway, back to my mom. She obviously loves to see me practicing my hobbies, but there is one thing that comes around every Spring that she is not a huge fan of.

I love to grow sweet potatoes.

I love growing everything, but sweet potatoes were really my first love of gardening. I think it was just the fact that I’d never grown them before and I researched it and they were successful in the first year. This is really no thanks to me, as sweet potatoes are super easy to grow and do so without much coaxing.

But, in order to grow sweet potatoes, you have to have sweet potato plants. They don’t come up from seed or sprout in the ground like other potatoes do. They’re a different breed altogether.

Now, you can go to your local greenhouse or feed store and find the plants. But, you can also grow them really easily in your own kitchen and then transplant them outside into the garden once they are ready. And, the first year I grew them, I wanted to grow varieties that I couldn’t find pre-grown plants for, so I tried the kitchen method.

It looks like a bad effort at a science experiment at first. Which is what my mom dislikes about it.

You take half of a sweet potato, put toothpicks in it, pick out your favorite mason jars, fill them up with water, and set the potatoes in them.

And, you wait.

And, when you have guests over, you politely explain to them why you have mason jar, water potatoes adorning your windowsill.

It’s a weird process, I’ll admit. But, it’s effective.

About a month or so later, you’ll start seeing plants emerge from the potatoes, both underwater and above water. Eventually when they get a little better established, you cut them off the potato, keep the plant still in the water for a few days while they produce roots, then plant them in the ground outside and let them go all summer long.

I started my sweet potato project a little earlier this year and I’ve had two potatoes sitting in the windowsill for about two months now.

About a month ago, my mom said: I think this one isn’t going to do anything, you probably just want to scrap it. Which I knew was just her way of trying to clear out atleast one of the offenders from the windowsill. Nice try, mom.

What she didn’t know is that one of the sweet potatoes growing in the window is a white sweet potato. If you’ve never tried one, try them! They’re really moist and have a lighter flavor than the typical orange ones. The other potato growing in the window is a regular orange one. The white ones, I have observed, are much more prolific than the orange ones. This one was almost sprouting already when I put started it in the jar. The orange ones take more time.

If you compare only those two, side by side, it looks like the white one is much further ahead and that the orange one is a dud. But, if you study closely, with a sweet potato trained eye, you can see where the orange one is just barely barely barely getting ready to break through with a sprout. I also know this because I have some sweet potatoes growing in the window in my office (what can I say, I’m obsessed) and the white one there is further ahead than the orange one.

I’ve heard all my life that comparison is a killer of joy. If you spend your time looking side by side at other people’s lives, timelines, accomplishments, you’re going to be miserable and not be able to see the great place that you’re at yourself. These two potatoes are the same in almost all regards. But one is designed differently, it blooms faster. Not because it’s necessarily better, but just because it was time for it to bloom. In this age of social media, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the lives of others, to compare, to try to rush, to push to get ahead. But, maybe it’s not quite your time to shine yet. Maybe there are great things in store, just about ready to break ground. Maybe you shouldn’t scrap the plan, thinking it’ll never work. Maybe you should just sit where you’re at, keep growing and changing day by day and wait for your time.

Maybe we’re all just potatoes.

Update: today’s progress with the white vs orange

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Auto, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Outdoors, Summer

Give & Take

Teaching children is one of the great joys in life. Or so I’m told. 

I have friends who teach children daily and I don’t know how they do it. But, I teach a class at church once a week and for the most part, it’s joyous. Sometimes the teaching isn’t as joyous, but the learning definitely is. 

That moment when one of the kids is actually able to remember and apply what you’ve taught them, that’s the moment I think any teacher has to live for. 

Recently I’ve been teaching the class I fondly refer to as “the littles”. They range from 4 to 6 years old. They’re at the age that they soak up everything, the good and the bad. We’ve been learning about Job for awhile and they’d never heard the story before. 

For those of you who haven’t been teaching about Job lately, I’ll update you on his story. He was a good man. One of our first memory verses was “Job was an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord…” (part of Job 1:1) This is a memory verse that some of the kids can still quote, even weeks after they learned it. Proud moment. But the Lord allowed Job to be tested. Job lost everything. His riches, his family, his home, his livelihood, all his worldly possessions. Finally, he lost his health. 

As many of you know, my grandpa passed away recently. And I miss him. He, much like Job, was an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord. 

He was born on the farm we currently live on and grew up well below a poverty line that was not even defined yet. He got an 8th grade education before he had to start working. But, he could read the King James Version of the Bible out loud more eloquently than anyone else I’ve ever heard. 

He raised a son who loves the outdoors and that son raised me in the same way. I have more memories than I can even begin to number from hunting, fishing and farming with him. 

He was raised in a small country church that he went on to pastor, a position he held for most all of my life. He taught me for years, which is probably how I find myself now teaching the next generation in the same church. 

The memory verse the kids learned about Job being an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord is a good verse for them to know. But, it isn’t the verse that comes to mind when I think of Job. 

Job suffered. I’m not sure exactly how long he suffered for, but the Bible devotes 42 chapters to his life, so my guess is that the suffering was anything other than temporary. But during that time, he never denied God. He never blamed the Lord for what happened to him. He continued to be upright and righteous. In all of it, Job is recorded for having said this:

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)

This. Said by a man who suffered failing health, the death of his children, the loss of everything. He’s blessing the name of the Lord in his times of receiving and in his times of losing.

It’s really easy to bless the name of the Lord in our times of receiving. To say thank you for good things, to feel like God is blessing us. But what about in the times of losing? 

What happens if what you lost and what you gained joined hands and became the same thing?

We focus on our loss in death, but what if we look at what the Lord gave us? 

I was given a grandpa who I saw 2-3 times a week for my whole life, who loved me and told me so, who taught me the right way to live, who made such an impression in my life that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without his influence. 

My dad and his sister got a father who was involved, who was present, who prayed before meals, who worked hard to provide for them. 

My grandma got a husband for 55 years, a man who was faithful and loved her in a way that is rare to see in today’s world. 

There were countless other people who gained from my grandpa’s existence. A church family who got a humble leader, a host of family that he loved in so many different ways, and hundreds of others. His funeral was the largest I’d ever been to, filled with people I had no idea he’d affected so profoundly. 

There’s a popular worship song that uses this verse in Job as some of its main lyrics.  

“You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Today, we have a choice. In our trials and in our rejoicing. In our times of blessings and in our time of loss. The choice is left to us. But, I know what my heart’s answer will be.

Lord, blessed be Your name. 

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America, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Funny, Summer, Travel, Uncategorized

Thoughts from an MOH

My best friend is on her honeymoon right now. I didn’t text her to check in to see if they’d made it safely to their destination but she sent me a message once she arrived. Not a message to necessarily tell me that they’d made it. She sent me her thoughts from a plane. 

I’m not sure who started doing thoughts from a plane. I want to credit her with it because I feel like she was the first one who came up with it. But, it may have been me. I’ll have to confer and get back with you on that one. 

Anyway, thoughts from a plane are literally just that: your thoughts about what is going on around you while on a plane. Maybe we started doing it because it can get terribly boring being cooped up in an airplane for a long time. Or, it could’ve been because you’re in such tight quarters that you can hear and see everything that everyone is doing. Either way, it’s funny to us to share our thoughts from a plane with each other. I wrote about it one time, if you want to read about it here

As I was saying, Jordan got married last weekend and part of my Maid of Honor duties were to write a speech, which I then relayed at her rehearsal dinner. 

I’m not a great public speaker, but I’m generally not terrible. I don’t think I did very well with this speech for two reasons

1. I wasn’t quite sure what emotions were going to be going on, so I was a little apprehensive about being overly emotional. I made it through just fine though.

2. I wasn’t sure what crowd size I’d be speaking to, so I’d made my speech more for a little bit more intimate of a gathering and there were quite a few people there. 

I feel like I’m generally better when I’m conveying thoughts through writing rather than speaking. It just comes more naturally. Even though I tend to write exactly as I would think/speak a thought. 

So, since I’d written the speech anyway, I thought I’d memorialize it in blog form. Because this seems like an official place to memorialize something of magnitude, right? 

Here they are: my thoughts for my best friend on the evening before her wedding: 

When Jordan told me that I would need to make a speech tonight, I wasn’t really sure what a Maid of Honor speech should be like, so I just wrote what came to mind. 

Jordan and I have been friends for a long time. Our families have been friends for over 100 years, so we technically have a long history together. But, I didn’t grow up with her, so I never really officially met her until we were around 14 or 15 years old. 

I remember the first time I heard about Jordan. I had just switched schools and some of my friends were hanging out by my locker, talking about this girl and her shoes. I have never cared too much for fashion and as an 8th grader, I cared even less. But, there was apparently a girl walking around in pink stilettos. And it was Jordan. 

It’s ironic that my first memory of hearing about Jordan has to do with shoes, because I swear, the girl currently owns about 500 pairs. 

I really got to know Jordan in high school. We had a class together and the first day I walked into class, there she was, seated in front of my desk, crocheting. She had her yarn spread out and could care less what anyone thought about it. I thought maybe during the lecture, she would take notes, but she continued to crochet. 

We did our classwork together, probably mostly because I was the one with the notes, and also because we were two of the only girls in that class. I’ll not bore everyone with stories of our youth, that most likely only the two of us would find funny. But, we began a friendship that has personally enriched my life a lot over the years. 

We are pretty much opposites when it comes to most things, so I think we both stretched each other in different directions in a way that causes so much growth as people.

Jordan wouldn’t let me have a slide show, but immediately, when I first started thinking about this speech, there was one picture of us that immediately came to mind. It was a picture of the two of us, on our last day of high school, right before we graduated. 

I had tried like everything to convince her to go to the University of Arkansas with me and she had likewise tried to convince me to go to OSU with her. But, both of us knew that the other place wasn’t where we were meant to be. So, we were going to be parting ways and on the last day of high school, that reality was sinking in a little bit more. 

You can tell in the picture that we had been teary eyed saying bye to all our friends. And, I know it seems a little bit childish now, but it was a big deal to us then. We were, in a tiny way, embarking into the unknown. We weren’t going to be full fledged adults by any means, because what 18 year old can really be considered an adult? But, we were striking it out on our own. 

We had no idea the people we’d meet or the new friends we’d gain, most of whom for Jordan are seated here tonight. We had no idea if we’d still be friends after it was all said and done. And, we had no idea the lives we’d eventually lead. So, the tears were understandable. 

But had we known then what we know now, how even though this step from high school into adulthood was a bit daunting at first, how it lead to so many great things, we may have still been teary eyed, but not because we were sad for moving on, but because we were overwhelmed and happy for the new things to come. 

And, as I’m writing this, I’m expecting that there will be some tears as Jordan and Jade now prepare to enter into a new, exciting phase of their lives together. But now we know that if we get a little teary eyed, it’s not for sadness of what Jade and Jordan are leaving behind, but for joy for the life that they’re about to walk into. Congratulations Jordan and Jade! I am so happy for both of you and can’t wait to see what blessings marriage brings to your lives!

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America, Animals, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Funny, Outdoors, Summer, Travel

Pura Vida 

We found a boy with a machete to cut a way through the jungle to take us to see a waterfall. I wish it were less sketchy than it sounds, but it’s not. 


We were supposed to be fishing on Lake Arenal in Costa Rica. But, the wind had other ideas. So, Plan B? A “horseback ride to a waterfall”. My mind is conjuring up images of a peaceful, smooth horseback ride down to a quaint waterfall, a splash in the water, then back on the horse and to the barn. This picture encapsulates my mental image. (Also, there’s the lake I should’ve been fishing in the background.)


What I didn’t have in mind was climbing up and down very steep hills (more commonly called mountains) on horseback and nearly sliding down the mountain on the back of said horse. 


I also didn’t realize that our guide would be a 15 year old boy with a machete and his uncle. Who didn’t speak much English.

Or that they would need the aforementioned machete to slice through the jungle to create a “path” that would could “walk” (read: slide) down.


Or that it would be such a slippery, steep, and narrow “path” that I would need to hold someone’s hand the whole time to navigate. 


These poor guys had to switch spots to constantly be in front of me to help me every step of the way. I know this because they kept talking to each other and saying “ella”, which I knew was me because I was the only girl in our group of 4. 

I only fell down twice, and laughed through most of it, as the ridiculousness of what we were doing kept setting in more and more. 


I also didn’t realize that this hike would take nearly two hours to complete and that it would be the most intense hike I’ve ever done. 

So, here’s me, not thinking about what I’m actually getting myself into. What’s new? 

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America, Celebration, Family, Funny, Missions, Summer, Travel

BFBFFL

It seems like every day the Internet is coming out with a new saying. Call it slang, call it an abbreviation, call it annoying, but I can’t keep up. I got the original ones: the lol, idk, idc, even the wbu, the ily, omw, I’ve got it. I got a little lost around the time when smh came about and I’m not sure I’ve caught up since then. But, I did catch the BFFL. 

Two things about this post to keep in mind:

1. I wrote this in November. Before they were even engaged. Because I knew. 

2. Jordan doesn’t know I’m posting this. Love you, Jorj! 

My BFFL (also known as best friend for life) just found her BFFL (a term recently coined by me, also known only by me as: boyfriend for life, which we can now call her fiancé. Or, we could just call him Jade) My big question is: can I call him my BFBFFL? (Best friend’s boyfriend for life) 

I’ll probably just continue to call him by his first name and save us all the confusion and explanations. 

They always say when you find “the one”, you’ll “just know”. I’m not sure who “they” is. I’m also unsure of who my “one” is because I’ve never “just known”. I’m pretty unsure of a lot of things in life, but in this case, my uncertainty produces certainty in the fact that I don’t think I’ve found “the one” yet. 

I think sometimes maybe it takes a little while to recognize “the one”. Which is what your friends are for. Here’s my version of the saying: when you find “the one”, you may not know it, but your best friend certainly will. 

Which is where I come into play. I just need it to be universally known: I called this. 

Let us rewind and I’ll take you back to the exact moment. Let me set the scene.

We were at a sweaty, dusty, tiny little airport in southern Laos and I was anxiously awaiting Jordan’s arrival. We’d made plans in the preceding months that I would arrive in Laos a week earlier than her to begin teaching a nutrition program with a missionary there and she’d join me to finish up. She would’ve come with me, but she had the small matter of graduating with her master’s degree standing in our way. So, she stayed to graduate.


After impatiently waiting for an hour, I finally spotted her. It wasn’t hard, being that we were the only two blonde people in the airport and stood a head taller than most everyone else. 


She’d told me on the phone from Thailand the night before that she had a lot to fill me in on from her graduation week. I got the story on the ceremony, the festivities, family updates and the guest list. Then, she mentioned that she’d met someone. They’d gone out with a group of mutual friends and he was sweet. They’d had a great time together. She proceeded to tell me about all of his best attributes and we both agreed that a lot of his qualities were what she was looking for in a significant other. There was only one down side to the transaction: he didn’t ask for her phone number.

Jade, we may never let you live this one down.

Note to all boys everywhere: if you meet a girl and you are interested in seeing her again, ask for her number. It’s the universal sign of interest. It will also save her (and her friends) the agony of trying to figure out if you really do like her and allow us all to skip to the “but how much do you think he likes me?” conversation instead. 

So, that’s where 75% of Jordan and I’s conversation ended up at for the next week. We went over the meeting, the conversations, the background, the exact exchanges. A Facebook friendship had begun, which was a decent substitute for the lack of phone number exchange. We atleast had that established. 

But, even though he hadn’t asked for her number yet and even though we weren’t 100% sure he was even interested, the more and more I heard Jordan talk about this guy, the more convinced I became that he was “the one”. Remember, she’d only met him the weekend before and I’d never even met him at this point, but I “just knew”.

So, I told her that. 

We were both in our cramped little hotel room, in the air conditioning, in the hottest part of the Lao afternoon, laying backwards on our twin sized beds, talking about this boy from Texas and I said: “Jordan, I think he might be ‘the one.'” 

And, she laughed. 

Not just like a light laugh, like haha, very funny. But, a real laugh. I was pretty certain though. 

I called it, ya’ll. From the very beginning. 

I’ll fast forward for you: phone numbers were exchanged, dating ensued, followed by a relationship, and here we are. 

I officially have a BFBFFL. 


Congrats, Jade and Jordan! I can’t wait to celebrate you guys (and the fact that I was right) for the next few months! 

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