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Christmas Send-Off

I suppose today officially marks the end of Christmas week, but I hope you will indulge me by watching one more Christmas video.

If you are like me and might struggle at always keeping the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of your mind, this Christmas remake of Hallelujah by Cloverton will at least close your season on a good note.  An already beautiful song made even more poignant, I wish I would have found this earlier on in December.  May the remainder of your year be blessed!


Giving and Receiving

As with all things in life, I think we have seasons of giving and receiving.  Sometimes, you have it all together and are perfectly poised to lavish on others.  Then, there are times of transition when it is your turn to receive.

I find it easier to be on the giving end, doing for others, sharing with joy.  I love getting someone a good gift, knowing they are going to love it!  Or the excellent feeling of helping someone in need, looking past yourself to those around you.  It’s a wonderful position to be in.

Right now, we are on the receiving end.  So much love and support has poured in from family and friends, both near and far, in celebration of the approaching arrival of our little dude.  We have been floored by the limitless capacity for thoughtfulness and generosity that the people in our lives have shown.  I am so grateful for each & every gesture, kind word, and gift.  It is such a big transition to go from a couple to a family, so many things will change, but I feel ready.  My cocoon of support reassures me.

So today, I give thanks for each of you.

And whatever season of life you find yourself in, be grateful for it.  Receive the love and kindness with grace & gratitude, so when it is your turn to give, you may give joyfully & freely.


They Serve

Veterans Day is a time to appreciate those who serve our country by military service.  Whether their time of service has passed or is just beginning, those who take the oath to put country before self should be the focus.

I am very lucky to know many service men & women and their families.  It is a life of highs & lows, of benefit & struggle.  It is a life that requires strength, perseverance, flexibility, and resilience.  It is a community of support not unlike the extended families they all leave behind.

It is probably best described exactly as it already is: military service.
They pledge to support & defend, and then, they serve.
At home, across the country, they serve.
Over oceans, in foreign lands, they serve.
In jungles or in deserts, they serve.
In bitter cold or sweltering heat, they serve.
On their birthdays, over weekends, on holidays, they serve.
When their loved ones are dying or being born, they serve.
When situations are unclear, they serve.
When they don’t understand why or even disagree, they serve.
When people don’t even seem to care, they serve.
When our nation is at risk, they serve.
In times of blessed peace, they serve.
When our country is dysfunctional, they serve.
When it’s hard to remember why, they serve.
In ways public & ways unseen, they serve.
Through pain & hardship, they serve.
Through fear & uncertainty, they serve.
For freedom & security, they serve.
For their families, for friends, for complete strangers, they serve.
For you & for me, they serve.
No matter what, no matter when, no matter where, when duty calls, they serve.

Find a way to thank a veteran today.

And Suddenly Everything Changes…

So, there we were, two unsuspecting dummies, just enjoying a vacation in Italy.

We had spent the day on the island of Capri, taking the hydrofoil out from Naples after breakfast in the hotel. It was our most leisurely, unscheduled day of the trip – kind of a recovery since we were nearing the end. We arrived & quickly talked ourselves into renting a scooter. What could be better than putting around the island all day on our own!

We went to the northwest end of the island for an overpriced, but still cool trip into the Blue Grotto.
Blue Grotto

Then down to the southwest end to chill on the flat rock outcropping that they call a beach, lucking out enough to catch a bit of sun on the otherwise cloudy day.

Back through the center of the island, stopping this time at Anacapri for a walk around. Then back through “the” roundabout to park & stoll into Capri city for a different view of the island.

Each little ride provided gorgeous views & a chance to hold on tight to Sam and let the wind blow through our helmets.  It was a beautiful day!

On the hydrofoil ride back, I was thinking of how we were almost at the end of our trip… then I realized that we were almost at the end of our trip!  Some mental math starting churning, and I knew something was missing.  On the corner by our hotel, I popped into the pharmacy, telling Sam I just wanted to grab something real quick. I scoured the shelves then resigned to warily approach the gentleman at the counter.  All I could think to say was “test” and fortunately the man knew what I was talking about.

You’ve probably guessed it at this point, the pregnancy test was positive.  I was shocked.  I always take them if I’m even the least bit late, and they are always negative.  I was also in the shower. The weird, possibly handicapped shower that was basically a slightly lowered area with a drain & curtain in the corner of the bathroom. The two pink lines were sitting on top of the toilet. I stared, returned the shower curtain quickly (Sam had been lecturing me on making sure I didn’t get all the toilet paper wet in this close proximity), and then took another peek. I’m not sure how long I stood there in the stream of warm water, but it was probably only a couple minutes, much shorter than it felt. I called to Sam, and he came into the bathroom a bit dubiously – I normally have my best ideas in the shower, and he gets a little tired of getting called away from what he’s doing to hear my latest epiphany.

Have I told you yet that I do not react to things like a normal human being? I am extremely slow to absorb anything of this magnitude and show the proper emotions.  So, I just looked at him with who knows what kind of expression on my face & pointed to the toilet. At this point, he’s probably thinking I’ve injured myself and can’t communicate how.  He glances over & very densely states, “I don’t know what that means.”  Instead of finding my voice and saying something sweet or cheeky, I can merely fish the box out of the trash & show him the picture on the back that states, gratefully in English, that 2 lines = pregnant. He, being more capable of sane response than I, looks at me wondrously & says, “We did it!”

I did eventually get out of the shower. There was hugging and “is this real”s and maybe a tiny pinch of crying, after I made him go get another one for confirmation, of course!  He’s staring at test 2, and I try to kindly remind him that you need to wait for a few minutes – he comes back with “No, You don’t!”  Then, we were both googling info like mad on our phones and sharing what we found: videos about fetal development, how to figure out how far along we were & the due date, how big the baby might be (almost the size of a Sweet Pea – thus began the nickname), on & on until we just had to go to bed.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been so shocked. I had taken a break from hormonal birth control over a year ago. A few months prior, we had decided to just let it be – we knew it was in God’s hands and we would be fine either way.  I was concerned, actually convinced that we would take a while due to family history on both sides.  I was wrong!  We feel so blessed.  After it finally sunk in, I feel all the giddiness & anxiety that comes with knowing your life is changing forever.

And we are already changed by it. Priorities shifted without a thought. Our little Sweet Pea is taken into consideration for all decisions. We’re joining the club. We didn’t, couldn’t understand it before, but suddenly we’re in it and welcomed heartily by its members.  There’s no turning back now, even if we wanted to, and we don’t want to. We’re all in, for the rest of our lives.

It’s a beautiful thing!

The Kind of Friend I Want to Be

I have been thinking a lot lately about friendship.  I have been blessed with many wonderful friends throughout my life, and I hope that I am as good a friend in return.  So, I started thinking: “what makes a good friend?”  I started building an idea gathered from what I would want from a friend, what I have seen from my own friends, & wisdom from the ultimate source, the Bible, and here’s what I’ve got so far:

A good friend is – loving, kind, accepting, forgiving, encouraging, honest, loyal

A good friend is not – self-centered, demeaning, indulgent

Let’s start with the nots first, since there are fewer of them.
Self-centered: I know that I am guilty of this.  I can easily get completely absorbed with my own issues – how I feel, what I’m thinking, what I need.  When I’m so focused on myself, I don’t leave any thought or energy to think of others, to think of my friends around me – how they feel, what they are thinking, what they need.
Demeaning: a friend should lift you up, not tear you down.  This is the opposite of encouraging, which I believe a friend should be.  I hope that I would never be guilty of this; it is not nice & very unfriendly.
Indulgent: a friend that is too tolerant is not helping to grow the other person.  How can you be iron that sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17) if you have blunted all of your edges to keep from hurting anyone?  You can see the fine line appearing to balance between accepting, forgiving, & indulging.  It is one that takes lots of prayer to navigate.

So that leaves what a friend is.
Loving: “A friend loves at all times” Proverbs 17:17  Loving at all times means infusing everything you do with love.  Love is the basis of friendship.
Kind: “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” Job 6:14  That sounds serious.  Some of these attributes start to intertwine & overlap, but they are all subtly different & important.
Accepting: We are all made differently; we all have our own flaws, our own struggles.  A friend accepts your differences, accepts you as you are.
Forgiving: “Be kind & compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32  Everyone messes up, makes mistakes, is wrong whether knowingly or unknowingly at some point in their lives – well, at many points.  We all need forgiveness, and not one of us has the right to withhold it.
Encouraging: A friend helps you see your good points, reassures you when you are uncertain, & lifts you up when you are down all through encouraging words.
Honest: A friend is straight-up with you. Thanks to the aforementioned kindness, the honesty is tempered with love and is therefore helpful & not hurtful.
Loyal: A friend is supportive, gives you the benefit of the doubt, and stands by you even through tough times.  A good friend does not abandon you.

In listing all of these things, I am giving myself a model to strive toward and holding myself accountable to it.  I’m not claiming to be all-knowing or even a good source for information; I’m just sharing my thoughts.  It hopefully didn’t become too sanctimonious because I am preaching to myself more than anyone else.  It’s funny how the mind can know all of these things, but they somehow don’t always make it through to our words or actions.
I want to live this out.
I want to be a friend worth having.
I want to be a great friend.

It’s Just That Simple

Woah, it’s been a long time!  Apologies for the negligence. Now to the subject at hand:

Sometimes, I get grouchy.

It’s the ugly truth.  I can be whiney, too.  It really isn’t pretty.  Thankfully, my husband gets the brunt of it, and he loves me anyway.

Speaking of thankful, I just unintentionally experienced the method that so many prescribe for grouchiness & other negative forms of mood: to count one’s blessings.

Here’s how it happened: I’m up late-ish, trying to get stuff accomplished, wasting too much time on Facebook, getting tired & too far away from my last meal when I come up with this little gripe-fest of a status:

Things that annoy: Sam is working tonight & tomorrow night; England has a lack of pumpkin enthusiasm for fall…well England has an overall lack of fall in general; I keep getting all the updates from TV shows I like about the new episodes that I won’t be seeing anytime soon; I miss shopping in dollars; I’ve stayed up too late & am now hungry again. That last one is probably the real issue.

I hit post then think: “geez, Kim, right ray of sunshine, you are!” – apparently my inner voice is starting to take on a rough English accent … let’s just hashtag that “unexpected side effects of living in England” & move on.  So, I jot down this snippet to keep from becoming my friends’ own fbook wall version of Debbie Downer (womp womp :/ )

For balance, things that are great: good friends, getting to hangout on google+ with my parents & sister at the same time, having the ability to shop at all & my new cozy sweater I wore today, a bowl of fruit & a pint of ice cream, having my husband home at all. Yep, life’s good!

And bam!  What do you know but I’ve got the pep back in my step thinking about the wonderful things God has blessed me with!  That little status just barely scratched the surface of all I have to be grateful for in life, & I’m already a little less whine with a little more cheese.

So, next time you are feeling low, remember to count your blessings. Cliché though it may be.

Sometimes, it’s just that simple

For the Love of the Games

I am a fan of the Olympics.  They are a time of great endeavors & national pride.  They are a few weeks chock full of excitement, during which years of training may or may not come to fruition for thousands of athletes.  They are simply awesome!

Living in the host country of the 30th Olympiad had some serious perks.  Back home in the States, you generally catch the highlights in the evenings.  The most popular events are played for you with dramatic commentaries and the iconic trumpeting of the theme song – so good!  However, the BBC went all out for coverage of London 2012 with 24 channels (48 total if you HD & non) literally labelled “BBC Olympics 1 HD” and so on.  These channels would be dedicated to whatever sport was happening with non-stop coverage…no commercials!  If there weren’t 24 sports happening at a certain time, the higher channels would play a never-ending loop of the day’s coming schedule with it’s own fantastically dramatic song.  You could watch every single heat, match, or round of whatever you like.  Also, our Sky coverage let us push a certain button on our remote that took us to an interactive menu for the Olympics – fancy!  What this basically boils down to is that I got very little accomplished in the way of productivity for two & a half weeks.

I did miss the Olympic fanfare & the excitable commentators of NBC.  The BBC would usually get someone reputable to commentate the sports (like Michael Johnson for athletics), but sometimes the UK perspective was just too much for me, or too little.  They would openly cheer for their athletes instead of keeping up with the action, or once the results were in they would focus on the British athlete who did not win instead of the actual winner, and something about their attitude towards the US athletes sometimes would rub me the wrong way, sort of like how it feels to be a Razorback on Fox Sports.  (I’m probably just being sensitive since all I wanted to know about was how awesomely we were dominating the Games, and they weren’t too keen on that.  I pretty much stalked the London 2012 website every day to track our medal standings – China had me worried quite a few times there, but we pulled it out in the end, or crushed it you could say with our 104 medals!  Yes, I am an obnoxiously proud American; I’m aware that it’s stereotypical.)  And sometimes they were just boring … but seriously, you can’t beat being able to surf 24 channels of all Olympics, so my overall impression is very positive.

The other A-mazing perk of living in the host country is actually getting to attend Olympic events – check that one off the Bucket List!  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am extremely grateful for it.  I got to go to 3 events: gymnastics, beach volleyball, & wrestling.  Most of our tickets came from friends already living here who were then able to enter the tickets lottery over a year ago.  We were able to buy some re-released tickets once we were living here as well.

In order to attend the events in London, we drove to our nearest outlying underground station & used the travel passes that came with the tickets to get to our venues.  Good call #1 for the London planners – a day pass included with each ticket that covered all public transit within London.  This encouraged people to use the abundant transport resources of London without dealing with tons of people having to figure out buying their own passes & such.  Actually there were a lot of points on which I was thoroughly impressed at how logistics were being handled.  The flow of traffic was shockingly smooth throughout our experiences.  Lots of things aided this including but not limited to: an extensive planning & marketing campaign to prepare locals for the increased numbers, excessive signage (England is always very good with signage – check back with my driving post for more proof), and an army of volunteers directing visitors at all of their steps along the way that included actual Army personnel, police, & civilians.  Every tube station had police officers which was a good move for security as well (some bobbies even had guns which is not standard practice here).  As you exited the tube & at all areas around Olympic venues, there were volunteers with vests & ID tags & the polo/khaki combo denoting themselves to visitors & giving assistance without even being asked most of the time; they kept up a steady stream of general instructions & information.  There would even be volunteers on raised chairs like lifeguards with megaphones directing traffic with useful information, like “Please stay to the right if you are proceeding to the Olympic Park.”  Even more amazing was the general attitude of the volunteers which was light & happy that made you feel very welcome.  They weren’t all stressed out & barking orders; they were joking around & smiling at you.  One lifeguard chair guy was even jovially welcoming people over his megaphone.  It  was pretty great!  Oh, I forgot about the Army members running the security checkpoints that were also friendly & at ease – maybe a little too much because I got hit-on a couple of times by the uniformed gents.

The atmosphere was energetic & thrilling.  All around were people dressed brightly in the colors of their country.  Everything from t-shirts, scarves, & hats to the cape-like wearing of flags to face-paint or full spandex body suits.  Not to mention the matching track suits of the team members!  For one trip into the city, we ate lunch at a place in the shopping center located just outside the entrance to the Olympic Park, and our entertainment was “Spot the Athlete.”  They were there, just mixed in with all the other people trying to get place to place.  From our different trips, we got to get a picture with a US boxer named Jose Ramirez, & I got a shot with gold medalist wrestler Jordan Burroughs.

Quick rundown of the events I got to see: First, Women’s Gymnastic Team Finals at the North Greenwich Arena, my friend, Katie, lucked out with these tickets from the lottery & took a group of us to revel in the amazing performances of the Fierce Five.  It was a surreal experience to be there, watching the US girls solidly take home the gold.  You almost need the repeat of performances in slow motion three times like on TV to cope with the awesomeness of what just happened.  In real-life, it happens almost too fast to take it all in!

Look at all of our pride!  Next, I watched a couple of Beach Volleyball matches at HorseGuards Parade with Tina.  We caught men’s Norway v. Latvia & women’s Netherlands v. Brazil on a beautiful sunny day.  These tickets Sam & I purchased a few weeks prior, but he ended up being unable to attend.  Luckily, Tina could come, & she is more than enough fun to make up for my missing hubs.

Check out our awesome headgear!  The neat thing is that I went home & watched the television coverage of our match to catch some screen shots of us in the background:

Awesome!  Lastly, Sam & I got to go watch some Freestyle Wrestling finals, including seeing Jake Varner win the gold at the ExCel Centre.  We learned a lot about the sport & had a blast finally going to London together.

It was truly remarkable getting to attend these Olympic Events, but I have to stop talking about them because I’ve run out of adjectives & cannot let myself use amazing one more time.  Luckily, I’ve already got some tickets lined up for Paralympic Athletics for a chance to get inside the Olympic Park finally & see the astounding efforts of people who have not let physical disability keep them from aspiring for greatness.  If Olympic athletes impress you at all, I dare you to not be inspired by Paralympians.  Read up on the history of the Paralympics & get yourself psyched up for some more great sport!  Otherwise, we’ve got a long countdown until the next Olympics, brought to you by Casa Brasil: