America, Celebration, Family, Food, Travel

Better Together

Today is the birthday of someone really special to me. That’s not exactly what this post is about, but it is Chris’ birthday and he is very special to me and he loves to make goofy faces when I take pictures of him. 

My birthday dinner date

I’m traveling to Lubbock to see him for his birthday, so I’m at the airport. In true fashion, I was running late after making a few t-shirt deliveries in the area, so I was a little all over the place to say the least. I had about thirty minutes to get through security and to my gate before boarding. I was in the security line, stringing all of my carefully packed belongings amongst 4 different bins (liquids, electronics, shoes/jacket, carry on tote) and also trying to put my actual carry on bag on the belt when I quickly apologized to the guy in line behind me for having my stuff all over the place. He replied without skipping a beat: “it’s okay, we’re all in this together”. 

I don’t know why, but that reply struck a chord with me today. After a few busy weeks in my work/personal life, after all the things that are happening in the world that are hard to understand, after all of the inhumanity that seems to be running rampant, after living in a world where everyone seems to only be interested in their needs, in their wants, in what is going on with them, it was a stark, shocking reminder that we are, in fact, all in this together. We need to support each other, to look beyond ourselves, to switch our mindset, to take a new look, and to see how we can do something, anything, the smallest thing, to help someone else out. Encourage someone today. Be the voice that goes against the grain and says, it’s alright, everything is gonna be just fine, we’ll face this together. 

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America, Celebration, Culture, Family, Travel

Hello from the Other Side 

I’m not old. I’m getting older, but I’m not old. My friend, Jesse, told the kids at church that I was 30. Fortunately, none of them believed him. Unfortunately, they countered with the fact that I couldn’t be 30, I was definitely only 17. I don’t know which I’d prefer.

I like the age I am. My birthday falls after all of my friends so they’ve all experienced turning my age by the time I actually get there. Some of them were mildly distraught about being on “the other side of 25”, but I had no problem making that leap. It’s kinda nice to be out of your teenage, early twenty years. You’re a little more stable.

Emotionally (aka you’ve found out who your people are and you’re keeping them.) 

Physically (aka you’re done with the freshman fifteen and you’re maybe eating healthy every once in awhile). 

Mentally (you’re set in a career and you know what you’re doing with your life on most days) 

Financially (aka you’re a little less “downtown homeless” and a little more “chic hobo”) 

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s just silver linings. But, I like it here. 

Or maybe it’s because birthday celebrations with this guy make me extra happy

I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned in my 25 trips around the sun and I’m not claiming that they’re profound. Mostly they’re anything but. I find myself learning new lessons all the time, things I hadn’t thought about before, discoveries I hadn’t made about myself before. That’s one of the beautiful things about aging. You continue to grow. So here’s my condensed list of learnings.

1. It is okay to not be okay. Embrace it, live in it, dig into it, figure out why you’re not okay and how to fix it. Life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect. And that’s okay. 

2. Travel. Travel when you can, where you can, near or far. Sometimes going to a birthday party down the road can be as much of a cultural experience as traveling across the world. (Those of you who know what birthday party I’m talking about, that one was for you) You will discover more than you could ever know about yourself any other way when you travel. I promise. It will change who you are and how you view the world. 

3. Mind what you eat. Balance it, not too much or too little of any one thing. And include ice cream every once in awhile. Never completely eliminate the ice cream. 

4. Find people who are different than you and spend time with them. People from different cultures, people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, people from different religions and races, people with different views. You can learn a lot by not being around everyone who is exactly like you. 

5. Butterfingers are the best candy bar. Hands down. There is no comparison. (This was more of a personal understanding, but it’s the truth, so I thought maybe someone could glean from it)

6. Pray. Every day. Thank God for everything He’s given you. Turn your cares over to Him. Quit worrying about it. Just spend time talking to your Creator. 

7. Protect your skin. One word: SPF. Well, it’s not really a word. More like an acronym. But you get the point. Sun screen. Use it. Bathe in it. I hate to sound like a public health announcement, but your skin is the largest organ you have. Take care of it. 

8. Water. Drink lots of it. It’s good for you. Don’t question it. 

9. If you see something good in someone, say it. Recognize people for how great they are, how happy you are to have them in your life, or maybe just how cute their shoes are that day. People you know, people you don’t know. Add some sunshine to the dark world. Be appreciative. Be happy. Love others. We need more of that. 

10. It is okay to ask for the things you need. This is the most important lesson I’ve learned this year. There is nothing shameful about admitting that you are lacking in some way. Maybe you need time, maybe you need a hug, maybe you need space, maybe you need someone by your side, maybe you need support. I have always been the type to want people either to anticipate my needs and magically meet them. Or the type to fight to do things on my own, without the help of anyone else. But, people can’t know what we need, they can’t know our struggles, unless we verbalize that. We need to ask and seek out the things we need. We’re humans. We weren’t made to do it all on our own. Lean on someone. Share your burdens. You’ll feel better when you do. 

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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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Asia, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Travel

Settle Down, Seoul

There’s some political unrest in Korea, in case you haven’t heard. One of my friends sent me a message the other day about how they were glad we weren’t in South Korea right now, but I had just been wishing I were there. 

His message reminded me of this post I’d written when I was there last. Same country, slightly different political outburst, but here it is: 

I accidentally got caught up in a political rally today. 

This happened in Thailand a few years ago, when I dared Jake to go wave the huge Thai flag. 

Jake at the Shutdown Bangkok rally

I don’t know if political rallies can be your thing, but I really kinda like them. Such a sense of national pride, even if it isn’t my own nation. 

A couple of my friends are a news anchor and a journalist for a newspaper here in Seoul, so both of them have been catching me up on the political climate. 

Hyoseung, the news anchor

This rally has nothing to do with North Korea, so no need for immediate concern. In case you don’t keep up on South Korean politics like I do, their president Park Geun-hye has recently been impeached. It’s a long story, but some people have accused her of being involved with a cult and all sorts of other things. She had a 5% approval rating and was finally impeached a few weeks ago. 

As I am told by my friends, even though she’s been impeached, they are still calling for her to resign her position. (Which if you’re reading this now, and not when I originally wrote it, you’ll know that she did resign). I’m not exactly sure why, some of the more technical political terms get lost in translation. But, you get the basic idea. People aren’t happy with her. 

We were taking a taxi back to our hotel today when we were stopped by a lot of commotion. I knew that there was going to be a candlelight vigil tonight in the city (as there has been every Saturday night since the impeachment) to peacefully protest the president. I also knew that they were expecting a million people to show up to said candlelight vigil. I, however, did not know that the million people would be marching down the sidewalk that leads to our hotel to get to the point at which the protest would take place. Which is what the taxi driver hurriedly spouted off to us in Korean as he dumped us out in the middle of the madness. 


I love the Korean people because they openly embrace Americans. So, upon seeing that we were walking with them, we were quickly given flags to carry and Korean flag pins to wear. We were asked by about 100 different people where we were from. We had our pictures taken with more random people than I could keep track of. I eventually just stood off to the side, holding my Korean flag and waiting for people to come stand by me for their picture. Someone came up to us with a video camera to ask us questions and film us as we were walking along. 


Then, someone asked us what broadcasting network we were with. Which got me to thinking: maybe I should become a journalist. I do have an affinity for crazy crowds and political unrest. 

If anyone needs some quick, unofficial coverage of a B list event, let me know. Until then, I’ll be down in Hongdae, eating these little beauties. 

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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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Asia, Culture, Food, Funny, Travel

Jet Lag Junkie

Jet lag has set in, which means I’m up at 2:48 am drinking a coffee and eating a kiwi. From 3 – 4 am, I went to the hotel gym for some yoga to start off the day, then was at breakfast, wide eyed and ready by 6. 

The unfortunate thing about being up so early is that nothing is open. So, it doesn’t really benefit you to go wander the streets. There is one place in the city that opens at dawn: the fish market. 

Early morning eel cleaning

Noryangjin Fish Market is where all the best restaurants in the city come to buy their seafood. Not surprisingly, there were no other tourists there at 7 in the morning, so we were quite the spectacle. Probably because I kept stopping to take pictures of stuff like this.

Is shark fishing even legal?

Yes, I wore white shoes this day

After our fish market tour, we made our way to a neat little shopping district. 

We ducked into a random restaurant that we walked by for lunch. It was the sort of place that requires you to take your shoes off at the door and sit on the floor to eat. 

When we were properly barefoot and seated, we realized that there was no menu in English. Our waitress also quickly realized that we didn’t speak Korean. A conundrum ensued, in which she was presumably asking us (in Korean) what we wanted to order. She was getting blank stares in return, so she did what any good waitress would do. Babbled at us in Korean, made a two sign, and just brought us something. 

Two steaming bowls of something.  

Still unsure of what we’d gotten ourselves into, I started pulling out chunks of bone and meat, hoping to identify something. If you’ll remember back with me to What Did You Say?, unidentifiable bowls of meat and vegetables don’t always work out in my favor. 

But, it tasted pretty good. Jake’s review of the stew was a little different than mine. 

I believe this is a correct direct quote:

“It doesn’t taste exactly like dirt, but just a little bit.”

Later in the day when we met up with some friends, I hesitantly asked them exactly what we’d eaten. 

It’s called Haejangguk, a spicy mixture of pork bones, vegetables, and broth. But, more commonly, it’s referred to as “Hangover Stew”. 

I’m not sure if I should be offended that she mistook my jet lagged looking face for being hungover or thankful that introduced us to the delicious Korean remedy. 

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