Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chasing Joy

Hello from the past, y'all! I'm writing this in the early days of January 2013, full of the whimsy and hope of a new year - the kind that makes you feel like anything is possible, and that you're DEFINITELY going to succeed at achieving all your goals, and you are FOR SURE not going to fail. I felt this year needed a shove in the right direction, so I made a list of things (big and small) that I hope to do/accomplish/experience in 2013. Many are part of my commitment to The Year of Why Not? and, as I write today in January, there are things on this list that seem impossible. But here we go. I've added a few things throughout the year, but nothing has been deleted. Shtuff just got real, y'all. I'm publishing my successes and failures for all the Interwebs to see.

Please don't judge me.

In 2013...

1. Find a church home and group of people to live life with - and then get up in each other's bidness (in a good, making-me-better kind of way) - This came later in the year than I wanted, but I'm really thankful for the people I can call friends today. You are all making me better.
2. Watch less than 2 hours of TV per weekday - Ahem. No, this did not consistently happen. I love my shows, y'all. Please forgive me. I'll try again next year.
3. Read 1 book/month for pleasure - So, TECHNICALLY, no, I didn't accomplish this. But I came really close and read more this year than I have in a long time, which has been amazing. Check out my reading list below!
4. Travel! - I'm SO EXCITED about this one. This year, we visited a lot of places these eyes had never seen before - NYC, Knoxville, Nicaragua, Hong Kong. I LOVE exploring new places. Love. It. Next up (hopefully!) is London and Amsterdam in the Spring! What what!!

5. Take dance lessons - Donesky. Intro to ballroom + Intro to Latin Ballroom. Ask me how to Foxtrot. I can totally do it.
6. Start doing Pilates - I don't even get how I failed so miserably here. I love Pilates. And having abs.
7. Hike at least 2x/month - :( Could we make hiking up the stairs to my apartment count...?
8. Write for pleasure at least 2x/month - Blech. Maybe next year. But I'm getting closer.
9. Cook together (with more than 3 ingredients) - I guess I didn't specify how often this should be happening, so I can say I did it, even if it was just a handful of times, right? Right?!
10. Find the joy in today - This has been one of the biggest reasons 2013 has been one of the greatest years of my life. Enjoying today has given me hope and positivity I didn't have before. Check out these posts: Dear Life, Dear Life (Part 2)
11. Keep saying Yes! to life - Um, yeah. If I may, I'd like to use this point as an excuse for not accomplishing some of the others on this list. Extending The Year of Why Not? to 2013 has kept me really busy, guys...

12. Start planning The Trip - Yup. More to come...
13. Go to NYC for the first time - Been there. Done that. Wrote the blog.
14. Watch a Broadway show - See above. Check! Newsies was amazing!
15. Stay in a hostel - Yep! Hop Inn. $40/night for a dorm room in Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood of Hong Kong.
16. Go camping - We did a 3-day backpacking trek with the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center to the Ouichita National Forest in Arkansas. Yes and amen.

17. Be open to new friendships - This has been one of the hardest to do this year. But I am surrounded by amazing people who have made my life brighter and happier. My introversion and fear of rejection never stood a chance against the beauty of friendship.
18. Ride the Megabus - Not yet...
19. Be more positive than negative - Try it. It will change your life.
20. Laugh more than you cry - Unless you count the crying from laughing at this video, I think I accomplished this. I have my friends and family (and www.wimp.com) to thank for that.
21. Cut school debt AT LEAST in half - Well, we didn't cut it in half, but it's down by at least a third, and that ain't bad! 2014 will be a debt-slaying year!
22. Do something that terrifies you - Yes, times five, at least. For examples, click here and here.

23. Get healthy - I'm working on this one, but I'm not there yet. With the help of a personal trainer friend and a list of goals like this, my health and heart condition are even more important to get a handle on. I've been weight training, but still have a ways to go before I can say I'm healthy. Get ready, 2014. I'm coming for you.
24. Write your first travel blogs - Check out my posts about NYCArkansas and Nicaragua. Next up, Hong Kong! Much more to come!
25. Move downtown - My husband has called this one the best decision we've made in our whole marriage, and he was NOT sold on the idea when I pitched it. He's loving urban life like I knew he would! So miracles have happened this year. We're pretty pumped to be out of the 'burbs and enjoying Dallas' energy.

This year has challenged me in ways I've never been challenged. But it also changed me - like, the deep, deep parts of me. Or rather, brought out the me that is really ME. Free and optimistic and eager. It started as a list of goals, but turned into a way of living that made me forget about the goals and just chase after my joy. I didn't accomplish everything I set out to do, but I experienced a few things I didn't even know I could have put on my list, like dancing barefoot in the streets of Hong Kong at 5am with people from all over the world who I'd met less than a week earlier. This why not? philosophy wasn't who I was at the beginning. It was a choice - and often one I didn't want to make. There were many times I initially said no to a new opportunity and, seeing my hesitation and fear, my husband and friends challenged and pushed me out of my comfort zone, and then watched me twirl around in the freedom of it all. It wasn't all roses and backpacks and glee. It was also hard and stressful and exhausting at times. But still better than living safely.

Looking back, I'm just thankful. And looking forward, I feel like there's only adventure up ahead. Who knows what I'll add to the list in 2014!

Looking back on 2013, what was your biggest surprise and/or accomplishment? What are 3 things you hope to accomplish or experience next year?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Travels : Church and Waffles

We walked through the streets of the little town we weren't familiar with, passing families on bicycles, children playing in the road, and old women sweeping their porches. Sometimes, a stray dog would follow us for a stretch, but I think even they began to realize we didn't actually know where we were going. Getting around Granada on foot was... difficult. We quickly discovered that street addresses aren't considered necessary, and most homes and buildings don't have numbers on them. There are street names, but when they sometimes stretch on for a mile or two, you really need to already know where you're going if you want to get there on the first try. Directions are given by landmarks. If you want to get to the grocery store, it's about 4 blocks toward the lake next to the pharmacy. If you're looking for a salon, you need to walk 3 blocks that way, and it's across from the Bolivar family's home.

That's lovely if you know the Bolivars. We, however, do not.

It was Wednesday, and we were headed (we hoped) to a church called El Puente. The owner of Bicimaximo, Baker, told me about El Puente when we Skyped just before our trip. He had come to Granada several years ago for a short-term mission with the organization and is now a part of the church that has sprung out of it. The way Baker described El Puente and what they were doing in Granada convinced me that I had to see it for myself. So Wednesday morning, we woke up early, took another look at the "directions" to the church building, and set out. We walked half a block in the wrong direction, then turned around and set out again.

We found ourselves in a residential area, a side of Granada we hadn't explored yet and one with a 0% population of tourists. The homes were simple, with small yards, concrete walls, and tan faces looking at us like we were clearly not in the right place.

We were walking for what felt like way too long before deciding to stop and ask directions. I dreaded that, simply because my Spanish was usually only good enough to get me and the person I was speaking to thoroughly confused. I felt a little like Troop Beverly Hills tromping through their streets in my bright purple running shoes and Patagonia backpack, but the Nicas were kind and helpful and overcame my Spanglish and American-ness.

Note to self: All your super cool gear makes you look like a privileged fool in the real world.

Monday, December 16, 2013

1,000 Words : Doors of Granada

Bar none, my favorite thing about Nicaragua, and Granada specifically, was the vibrant colors I saw everywhere in the city. Sorry America, but we just don't do color the way they do.

As we walked through Granada, I couldn't stop staring at the doors. What we often consider a functional afterthought in the States, Nicaragua makes the centerpiece of the home. They are tall, sometimes ornate, sometimes simple, but almost always in a hue I didn't know existed. Here are some of my favorite doorways I saw walking through the streets of Granada.