Portland, Oregon: Also, 100th Post!

Portland, Oregon: Also, 100th Post!

As stated in my April goals post, in the last week of April I flew to Portland, OR, to visit the boyfriend on his days off. It was his birthday present to me (my birthday is the 22nd.). It was a wonderful trip, though my second flight there was a less than ideal.

Honestly I had forgotten all about that flight until now. As usual, the night before my travel day, I could not sleep for excitement. I had been at work for eight hours that day, and my flight was just before six in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep. It always happens, so I don’t know why I’m always surprised and frustrated. I was in an aisle seat, which I hate, but can deal with, as flights are only a few hours long and the aisle won’t kill me. But the man in the middle seat was a manspreader, and also snored disgustingly the entire flight, so I couldn’t sleep at all. It was physically painful. Another thing was that the man in the window seat had closed the blind and fallen asleep. He stayed asleep the entire flight, and I missed the bird’s eye view of Mount Hood. But I lived.

I forgot all that as I got in the car with my driver, who made my morning much better. The weather was gorgeous, and it was projected to continue my entire trip. At the hotel and famished, I ordered food and waited for Ben to show. He did, and I saw him first. He joined me, and we shared my flatbread and discovered that he hates figs.

We went upstairs to nap, then walked to a coffee shop, where we sat and talked and drank before walking to Powell’s. DSC_0334Powell’s was a labyrinth of books, some new, some used. I bought the new book composed of a collection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspirational tweets, a used copy of one of my new very-favorite books, The Sun Is Also A Star, and a copy of a book I had begun in another bookstore but never bought, Bittersweet, by the author of one of my other favorites, June. DSC_0341We had a snack at a pizza place catty-corner from Powell’s (Sizzle Pie) and decided to go to the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden was stunning! I couldn’t help laughing aloud sometimes because I could not contain my joy. It was a perfect storm; I love to be outside, to travel, in nice weather, with my love. We climbed up many flights of stairs set in the side of a steep hill, which had some pretty plants along it as well. It was the perfect time of year to visit, and the perfect time of day: golden hour. There was even a vista where we could see Mount Hood, finally. The International Rose Test Garden was much less impressive, as the roses are not yet even budding, but still delightful.

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We dined at Kell’s Irish Pub. I had a barley risotto with pesto and butternut squash, which was delicious. Dessert was at a Salt and Straw.

The next day, we picked up a rental car and some Voodoo Doughnuts for our ninety-minute car ride to Cannon Beach.

Upon our arrival, we drove the Pacific Coast Highway for a short time, then walked on the beach for awhile. I found a shark tooth.

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We walked through some stores, and lunched at a pub on the main street. I got some candy at a candy store, and we headed back to Portland, where we dined outside at a German place called Prost. My flight was a redeye that night, and I arrived at Reagan National before noon the next day.

Thank you, love. It was my best birthday yet.us japanese garden

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Four Things I’ve Learned about Love in Four Years

Four Things I’ve Learned about Love in Four Years

Today is Ben and my fourth anniversary. It’s funny; on the one hand, I almost can’t believe we didn’t just get together, because I’m still so crazy about him. On the other, it feels as though I’ve always known him, and when I didn’t, I was just waiting for him. (Not that my whole life was spent waiting for him, but a part of me was waiting.) Anyway, here are four things I’ve learned about love in these four years. I hope they help you in your journey, wherever you are.

Communication is non-negotiable.

I know, I know. It’s such a cliché: “communication is key.” But it is, it is absolutely non-negotiable. While it would be awesome to know automatically what your partner’s needs are, it’s not realistic. We’ve gotten pretty good at communicating, I think; we’ll make sure to bring things up before they become a huge thing that leads to a fight. This way, we have discussions and occasional disagreements, and not fights, whether small or knock-down, drag-out. You’re not a mindreader, and your partner isn’t either. Say what you want and need, as clearly as you can, and be sure to require the same.

Change is inevitable.

It always strikes me as amusing when someone asks me, “But how can you stay with one person for the rest of your life?” This question assumes that people are always exactly the same, that they don’t grow and change. While at their core your partner is not likely to change dramatically, their experiences and learning, with and without you, will lead them to become many different people during your lives. You’ll change, too, and that’s good! People should grow and learn and change. Hopefully, you’ll learn and grow and change together, or in ways that are complementary.

Love is work.

By “work,” I mean that it takes conscious effort. It takes effort to meet someone’s needs. Sometimes you can’t give 100%, and that’s okay. Sometimes one partner has to give a little more – 125%, while you give 75% – but, ideally, it will eventually even out. Don’t fall for the “love is 50%-50%” lie. Love requires 100% from each of you. Sometimes you or your partner gives more, but it always adds up to 200%, because there are two people giving their all.

You are complete.

You are already complete. You are a whole, wonderful person. You don’t need another human being to make you into a “complete” human being. For lack of a better example, if you’re single and murdered, your murderer is still charged for the extinguishing of the life of a whole and complete human being. Don’t consider yourself “incomplete” without another person. It’s unhealthy and dependent. You need to be your own person, so that you can fully and wholly enter into a union. Would you want to be in a relationship with half a person? Acknowledge that you are your own, complete, whole person, and you can more fully love someone else.

Of course, I’ve learned more than this in four years. But, I believe these are the four most important things I’ve learned these four years. I hope they’re helpful, or enlightening, or validating.

Happy anniversary, love.

Why You Should Adopt, Not Shop

Why You Should Adopt, Not Shop

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I have a lovely little emotional support dog named Brie. Brie is the light of my life, and I didn’t know that I could love a non-human being as much as I love her.

Brie is a rescue. I’ve told her story many times, so I won’t get into too much detail here. Brie lived the first year or so of her life on the streets of Puerto Rico. When we adopted her, she was nine pounds underweight, had hookworm and mange, and had almost no fur. The day we adopted her, she kept coming up to me, and I loved her immediately. Now, she’s the prettiest, cutest dog in the world.

Brie’s Petfinder listing picture.

Brie has proven to me that rescuing a dog is the only way to obtain one. With help from my parents, I nursed her back to health. I trained her. I spent the majority of each day alone with her for the first two months we had her. I was most likely the first person to consistently love her.

Today, this dog sulks when I travel without her, plays with me, and naps with me. She is the sweetest little thing in the world. When she goes to the vet, regularly the vet asks if they can “steal” my dog. Absolutely everyone falls in love with her.

Brie this summer.

I’m not saying that a dog bought from a breeder cannot be beautiful, or sweet, or good, or loving, or all of the above. But, I also know that the fact that my dog came from a horrible situation and had my devotion when it came to her health, behavior, and love, has made her immensely grateful. Given her circumstances, it is amazing that she has turned out as happy, healthy, loving, and sweet as she is. But, she has, and she is worth almost twenty years of waiting and months of nursing and training.

If you’re debating whether to buy from a breeder or adopt a dog, I would strongly encourage you to adopt. Besides the ethical issues, a rescue will likely be the best dog you’ve ever had, and grateful and loving to you. All you have to do is put in the love, time, and work.

Small-Town Spring Break

Small-Town Spring Break

I’m sitting in a cute little place called Cafe Chocolate in downtown Lititz. I’m writing, and I’m happy. I’m seriously toying with the idea of interior design, but I know I have to finish this English degree before I do anything else.

It’s slower here; I know that goes without saying, but it’s nice not to be in a huge rush all the time. Even just being at home in D.C., everything must happen quickly: getting where you need to go, getting what you need to get, etc. At home, everything, including my life, seems to need to happen quickly. I need my degree yesterday and I need a full-time job today and I need to be married and soon there need to be babies and BOY! – It is exhausting.

I think I’d like smaller-town life. As a lifelong city kid, I don’t know that I could stay forever in a completely rural area, but Lancaster is utterly charming to me. You get all the benefits of living rurally, with a city nearby that is just big enough to satisfy most cravings. Food, nightlife, proximity to bigger cities – you name it, Lancaster has at least one.

I’m also, dare I say it, happy to be out of the South. It’s different up here. The South is so full of those old-fashioned rules and niceties – sir and ma’am and miss, an in-depth conversation with the waiter, small talk – and while those are nice up here, they’re not necessary or expected. It makes me look very good when I am in a place where my Southern manners are unexpected but usually welcome.

I know that part of my contentment here is the knowledge that my love will come home at the end of the day, and that I have no obligations, as it is spring break. There’s also the fact that the days are lengthening, and the air is warming. I love spring the most of any season. It is rebirth; it is beauty and youth and goodness. I’m going to enjoy it.

Oh the Places to Go! (Part I)

Oh the Places to Go! (Part I)

I’ve always loved the idea of traveling. As stated in a previous post, I love to learn, and I believe travel is an excellent way to learn about oneself and others, and our similarities and differences. Thanks to the boyfriend’s job, it is likely that I will do a lot of traveling in the next few years, a possibility for which I am immensely grateful. I’ve compiled a list of a few of the places I want to go. Buckle your seat belts, we’re going around the world!

New Zealand

I want to go to New Zealand because it seems like a place to have adventures. There’s ziplining, hiking, and the set from The Lord of the Rings series. (I’ve read the first book and half of the second, but I got bored after the Fellowship got separated. I’ll pick it up again. I’ll probably reread the first book again, quite honestly, to see if I like it better – not that I didn’t like it in the first place, because I did. Also, Ben wants me to watch the movies with him, and given that I refuse to watch a movie based on a book without first reading the book, I can’t watch the second or third movies because I haven’t read that far.)

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town looks so beautiful. There’s so much there – beaches, mountains, and history, not to mention nearby safaris and Victoria Falls. The architecture in Cape Town is very European, which I find interesting, though I know why it is that way. I’d love to learn more about Africa in general, and I think Cape Town is a good place to start.

Marrakech, Morocco

I can safely blame Casablanca for this. I know it wasn’t actually filmed in Casablanca, but the area looks so different from anything I know that I would love to go. Plus, Morocco is so close to Europe, it would be easy (and hopefully cheap!) to hop across the Mediterranean and continue the journey from Europe to North Africa.

Prague, Czech Republic

Something about Prague has always interested me. I have never been to Eastern Europe, and I think Prague is an excellent way to introduce me to it. It helps that the boyfriend has always wanted to go, as well.

Munich, Germany

I’ve always wanted to go to Germany. I’m a fairytale junkie (I have two beautiful old storybooks, both gifts), and as so many of the stories I love emerged from Germany, I’d love to see the country the authors had in mind when writing them. It would be like being in a fairytale, I think.

Innsbruck, Austria

When my father graduated college, he took a European tour. He sings the praises of Austria, especially Innsbruck. He always says it looks like a storybook, a fairytale. I’ve seen the Alps, and I’d like to see them again. Seeing the Alps as the backdrop to a charming city like Innsbruck is quite attractive to me.

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

I know Rio is very dangerous in certain places, but I still want to go. I had a friend in college who was from Rio and invited me to visit, and though we don’t talk much anymore, I’m still interested in Rio. I want to see that massive Jesus. Maybe I’d explore the rainforest a little, too, though it terrifies me – there’s so many things in there that want to kill you, like in the Outback of Australia.

Part II coming soon! Where have you always wanted to travel? Where have you traveled in the past? What was your favorite thing about that trip? I’d love to hear all about it -comment below!

What Love Does

What Love Does

Love, love, love. The things we do for love. We drive almost three hundred miles in a twenty-four hour or so period for a night in our love’s arms. We change our life plans.

My parents have always frequently reminded me, “Man plans; God laughs.” In the last few years I have discovered that has a decent amount of truth to it. I thought I’d fall in love forever later than I did. I thought I’d graduate college and move out sooner. I thought I’d always want to live below the Mason-Dixon, or near it. I never thought I’d have as many friends as I do, and certainly didn’t allow myself to dream of being as well-loved as I am.

That’s the thing about love; it’s transformative. It disrupts the best-laid plans. It takes the life you’d planned, the one that felt comfortable, achievable, and inevitable, and rips it to shreds. Love says, “There is another way. Take the risk. Jump. You may fall, or you may fly.” Love has you considering living in a new part of the country, a new part of the world. It makes you disregard statistics and naysayers that predict your failure.

And what happens if you do fall? What happens when, for example, college takes longer than you had decided it should? Well, then love becomes the cushion for your fall. Love says, “I am here. I haven’t left just because you’ve fallen. I am here. I am here.” Love becomes an anchor for us, while at the same time setting us free, because even though you may fail, love will still be there. The reason most people don’t dream bigger is this: they’re afraid of losing love. “If I fail, will I still have friends and family who love me?” If love is true, you will, whether you fail or succeed.

I have, in the past, been someone who has often said, and believed, that “Love isn’t always enough.” That is an oversimplification. Love is always enough. It just depends on what we love more; ourselves, our friends, our significant other, our family. One could love one of those groups more or just differently than the other, and that is not wrong. There is no right or wrong way to love, if one loves truly. True love wants and works for the best for us, but also accepts us as we are with no expectation of the same.

Love allows us to dream bigger, to dream differently. It sets us free, because we know it is always there for us, whether we fail or succeed in our dreams. Love accepts us as we are, and hopes and works for the best for us. Love is always enough, and you are love. You are enough.

Self-Care

Self-Care

Self-care is one of those terms that has gone viral in the past few years. Typically, self-care is attributed to caring for the physical self, and seems to be marketed more toward women. Self-care seems to mean skincare, haircare, fancy baths, fluffy things, etc. While those things are important and certainly can be a part of self-care, they are only one aspect of true self-care.

True self-care means caring for the whole self. Yes, bubble baths and perfume and skin- or haircare are lovely and important, but they feed the physical. Can they feed the emotional or mental aspects of a person? Of course they can. But they cannot do the job as completely as other things can.

True self-care does mean working on the physical person. It means eating well, moisturizing, washing, exfoliating, exercising, and doing all those things that are wonderful for your body. It also means checking up on the body, with regular doctor appointments, nipping possible problems in the bud, and listening to what your body is telling you. It means setting up a sleep schedule and sticking to it.

Another area of self-care is mental. It is important to exercise your mind as well as your body. While I myself can revel in gossip sometimes, I also make sure to listen to news podcasts every morning to keep up with current events. If I want to know more about a certain issue, I research it so I can form a better-informed opinion. I listen to Ted Talks, podcasts, read books by authors with backgrounds like mine and backgrounds that are very different, and watch YouTube videos about anything and everything about which I want to learn more. I have friends with whom I can discuss current events and philosophy, to hear differing ideas and/or arguments. I sit and think about things, ruminating on things I have read or heard. I have always lived very much in my mind. I’m rarely ever bored, because there is so much to consider in the world and beyond it. I write, draw, and play piano. I try to challenge myself in some way every day, to help keep my mind sharp. I love to learn.

A now little-talked-about aspect of the self is the spiritual. Being in tune with the spiritual aspect of self does not necessarily mean joining or practicing a religion. Religion is an excellent means to teach and enforce morals, and to encourage tuning into the spiritual. Self-care in regards to the spirit means realizing that there are truths, whether moral or scientific or otherwise. It means realizing that some things are bigger than we are, but also means realizing our (and others’) power and importance. It means realizing that there is a common human connection that spans generations and centuries and languages and social classes and any other divide possible between individuals or communities.

The social aspect of the self is of paramount importance. As humans, we all long to be loved, accepted, understood, and to make and maintain connections with each other. Friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships are the best ways to care for the social self. Frequently romantic or familial love is considered the most important, but platonic love can be easily as rewarding and fulfilling as both romantic and familial love. Friends are the family we choose. Friends don’t necessarily want anything from us, the way a lover can (and frequently does), other than our love, which includes support and honesty, among other things. Friendships are easy to begin, and come in varying degrees of seriousness. We are allowed to have as many (or as few) as we want and need.

The last area of self-care to discuss is emotional (though there are certainly other areas as well). Some ways of caring for the self emotionally include journaling; talking, venting, and connecting with friends; seeing a therapist; laughing; meditation. Taking control of one’s emotional state can be difficult, but it is essential to living life with grace. This does not mean that one ought to repress one’s emotions; rather, it means that one acknowledges an emotion (or emotions), lets it run its course, and does one’s best not to let the emotion(s) change behavior in a negative way. It does not do to wallow, and it isn’t healthy or productive. Feel your emotions. Acknowledge that they are both important and natural. Then move along. You and your life and the lives of others will be the better for it.