She's hates me. She's hated me for 10 months. I'm not sure what I did, or what I said, or what reason she has, but it has been nasty. I've been told that I smile too much and that I'm obnoxiously happy all the time and I'm supposing that these would be the reasons for her disdain. Regardless, it has been uncomfortable. No... miserable. And I have my opinions of her too. They are not pretty opinions. They're pretty ugly opinions actually, thoughts that I don't think I'd like to make into words.

We'll come back to this situation a little later.

In my last post I asked you to recount the most amazing gift you'd ever received, and how that made you feel. Your answers were beautiful. I can resonate with some of the experiences listed. I also smile with joy at the ones too wonderfully unique for me to fully comprehend. Thank you for sharing them.

It's the season for gifts isn't it? People are shopping around frantically for the best deals. This evening while I was getting my nails done a grandmother came to buy this certain color of precise frosted blue nail polish for her 12 year old grand daughter. She was a little flustered that none of the colors were quite right. I smiled realizing how far we go sometimes for the perfect gift, even little gifts like nail polish :)

In all of this festive hulla-balloo, and given my conditions in life, I've been thinking a lot about gifts, mostly how I often feel so undeserving of them!

I'm 28 years old and sometimes I think I'm SO FAR away from where I should be at my age. It's a shameful feeling. I've had some amazing life experiences and I wouldn't trade them for all the money in the world (cliche, but true!) but in the end, here I am juggling my never-enough paycheck with insistent bills that I wish I could just ignore! And I'm still renting, budgeting things I never thought I could budget (like toilet paper), and in some moments fearing what's next. I just know that I could be so much more! I could be making so much more of a difference! People say that my parents are proud of me, but I can't help but think "Why?" I'm 28 years old and they are STILL coming to my rescue, often. I wonder if I'd have such generous love if the tables were turned. I certainly hope I would. I have the most amazing examples to learn from. Anyway, anyway... let me continue.

Recently, my parents gave me a gift. It was absolutely unexpected. And I am incredibly undeserving. I stood there to receive something, so huge, absurdly generous, and... well, how was I supposed to respond?

When someone gives you a gift, what do you do?

You take it.

It's a gift. Gift. NOUN. Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

So I took the gift, and spent the next several days with tear filled eyes thinking about the reality of my parent's kindness. It's absurd. Selflessness is so hard to comprehend! I just don't feel worthy of such generosity, and I also feel guilty in some way that there are so many people with deeper needs than my own. I realize that even though I don't feel like I deserve the gift, I know that I need it.

Well, I'm learning that the proper response to a gift is first gratitude, and then good stewardship. I'm still figuring out what that looks like.

I spoke with a friend recently who asked "Is there anything in life that is NOT a gift?" Good question. Well, if that's true, and if gratitude and good stewardship are the proper responses... then I think I need to have an attitude shift in a few areas of my life.

I am living now with an amazing gift, or really LOTS of amazing gifts and it is ever important for me to think about what good stewardship looks like. And just as I've been given these gifts, it's another gift altogether to learn how to pay them forward.

So we drew names for "Secret Santa" and out of a whole mix of names I drew HER NAME! Immediately I thought "Hell no! I can't buy her a Christmas present!" And then I heard this voice loud and clear and strong (in my heart at least), a voice that said "Oh yes you can, and you WILL".

And I thought about paying my gifts forward. Maybe I feel like she is undeserving, but I've been learning very vividly that we don't receive gifts because we deserve them. We receive gifts because we are loved. Pride aside, no... pride trashed, it is an honor to bless her for Christmas. And I will bless her with as much generosity as I can muster because we are alive because we are given the gift of life and I must learn that we survive by the gift of love...RECEIVED, AND GIVEN.



This photo has absolutely no connection with what I'd like to write about.
This photo was taken at bedtime on my last night with Solomon. He was really sick. He was also 17 years old. I was thinking about him today and how much I miss him. That cat heard all my stories. He was my closest buddy through all the most critical formative years of my life. He heard about every boyfriend, every crush, every over-dramatic situation. He watched me grow up. Pets certainly are special gifts aren't they? I wonder if you remember a pet similar to my Solomon? Anyway, I thought I'd post this photo in honor of him today.

I've been aching to blog for a while now. I'm finally in a more stable place in life, in a place where I have things worth sharing. I'm growing again. I'd like to be more consistent with sharing my life and my photos with you. For all of you who have been begging for me to write... this is for you :) I cannot promise anything astounding. Living in Korea provided endless entertainment screaming to be shared! But those days are over and I'm not sure how many great stories I can pull from my 8:00-5:00 life at US Bancorp Fund Services. I'll try though, I'll try. Currently, my puppy is shredding a pair of underwear she pulled from the hamper and prancing around the room as if she's won the Canine Nobel Prize. I suppose I've got a story right there eh?

Now, I'm going to try something new, and I'm relying on YOU to help me! I'll fail without your help! I'm in the midst of writing on a certain topic and I'd like to ask you a question. Your answers may or may not help me write, and I may or may not share pieces of your thoughts in my next post. Feel free to be an anonymous commenter.

What's the most generous gift you've ever received and how did it make you feel?



I just made this fantastic quinoa salad and I just HAVE to share it with you!
Quinoa (pronounced Keen Wah) seems to be a relatively unknown grain but it's just delicious and so easy to cook and it is SOOO good for you! Do a google search for "quinoa nutrition" and you'll learn heaps of great things about it!
But here, I'll just share the recipe:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
some quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
some zucchini diced up
some cucumber diced up
some red onion diced up

some cilantro chopped up
1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp sugar

Boil 1 1/2 cup of water + 1 cup quinoa.
Once boiling, turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Then let it cool off.

(While quinoa is cooking...) Make the dressing. Zest the lime. Then juice the lime. Add olive oil, sugar, and cilantro. This makes just enough dressing to lightly coat the salad.

Pour dressing over all the chopped veggies. Then mix in the cooled quinoa.

YUM! It's light, refreshing, and really healthy! You can also add black beans!

If you try this, let me know what you think, or if you'd change anything!


a pinch of creativity

"Enthusiasm is excitement
with inspiration,
and a pinch of creativity.”
(just a quote i read somewhere)
I don't consider myself an artist, but I find an incredible sense of satisfaction in dreaming up ways to renew old things. My home is full of former rejects, things people threw on the curb, things that had no value or beauty left in them. My father trained me well :) to collect these possible gems, to see elaborate potential in them, to make and enjoy incredible things without spending a fortune.
I'm a bit obsessed with my most recent project.
Lacking counter space in my new place I needed some piece of furniture to work as my coffee and tea station. AND I'm on a budget which means the cheaper the better. And FREE is always a great option!
And late one night, driving down my alley, I found the perfect reject. Covered in grease and cobwebs and crawling with moths... I knew it was exactly what I needed.

After some painting and loving and imagining... Voila!
It's a fantastic addition to my kitchen!

And while I was photographing my renewed masterpiece, I snapped a few photos of my new apartment. Just a few... Maybe you can notice some of the other renewed rejects :)


new growth

newgrowth (2)
This is a season of growth. I'm learning how to be content with a life that is different than I had expected. (Not that this is an eternal place for me...but an unexpected season.) And I'm not just learning to be okay with it, I'm learning to be thrilled with how beautiful the ordinary can be! I'm finding ways to spice up the hum-drum routine of my lifestyle. And since I'm stationary for a while, I'm given the opportunity to practice the skills and habits that are important to me. I'm getting more involved, building stronger relationships, and just trying to be overall more intentional with the choices I make. Not always easy... but like I said, it's a season of growth.

Keeping with this theme of "growth" it's fitting that I planted my very first vegetable garden! Not without the help of my expert-gardening-relatives of course! But today I harvested my first 3 radishes. In the picture you will find only 2 radishes. That's because I pulled the first one out of the ground, brushed off the dirt, and ate it. Yummy and spicy!

But oh the things you learn from a garden! Let me bullet point a few things for you.

  • I can have the most excellent and strategic plan for planting the most elaborate garden but it is ultimately beyond my power to make anything grow. I have to trust and hope.
  • How amazing it is that huge and fruitful plants grow from just the tiniest seed!
  • Fighting against pests can be so tiring but I know it is important to protect the things that are valuable so the fight is worth it.
  • Eating fresh vegetables, especially those that I've watched grow from seed is so fulfilling and rewarding and exciting!

Well, enough about the garden for now. I've only harvested 3 radishes. I'll have more to write soon when I am swimming in zucchini and begging for recipes!

More to come. Thanks so much for reading!

This is my garden. It has grown so much already since I snapped this photo! It's about 4 x 20 and includes 3 kinds of tomatoes, 3 kinds of lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, butternut squash, corn, sweet potatoes, green beans, kidney beans, and nasturtium.


where has she been???

If you haven't noticed already, I don't tend to live a lifestyle of permanency. I think I can admit that the words "long-term" kind of freak me out a little. I'm not sure that I have a full-blown fear of commitment, but I do think I'm afraid of dedicating myself to the wrong things, or maybe I'm just afraid of wasting my time on things that won't be fulfilling for me, or for others. I'm going to be 28 years old this summer, and as silly as this sounds (especially to my readers who are umm... more "mature" than I am) I feel like I'm running out of time to do all that I dream of doing. Or maybe I'm just running out of time to dream! At my age, people are supposed to be married, or starting their families or buying homes. By the standards of my culture, I should at least have chosen a career, and should have much more than my mere $1,000.00 invested in a 401k. But here I am, this aging oddball, who hasn't rested for more than 2 years in any location ever since high school graduation 10 years ago.

6 months ago I shared with you the great news of a new job, new apartment, and renewed life here in Milwaukee. I'm happy to report that all is going well, and perhaps even better than I had imagined. It took me a while to get used to the 8:00-5:00 lifestyle again. And it has been a humbling challenge to get re-accustomed to the cost of living here in America. Budgeting creatively has become a new hobby among other things. But I am here, and happy. And though I'm aching to travel again (and will soon) I think I'm content with the idea of sticking around for a while.

Shocking? (My dad thinks so.)

After filling my blog with adventurous stories and cultural exchange mishaps, and photos from places many people can only dream of going... it has been really difficult for me to keep blogging. How can I top my scuba diving experience on the Great Barrier Reef? Or my video of eating live octopus? Or the stories from my silly students? Seriously... my life is pretty mundane and it's hard to imagine anyone would care to read about me at all.

But then again, I do have a life worth sharing, don't I?

And you do too!

So, I'm back! I have some things to share with you, like recent projects, some photos of my new living space, and even some thoughts that have been stirring inside of me.

Here goes... stories from the life of a young-professional, post-adventurous travels, and still making her mark on this world.

Do I still have any readers? Leave a comment and let me know you're here!


who's its and what's its and why nots and WHAT'S UP?!!

Well well, what have I been up to? Certainly not blogging!!!

The biggest news is that I've landed a job! And a great one at that! Beginning November 16th I'll be working as a Mutual Funds Specialist for USbancorp in downtown Milwaukee. I'm extremely excited about this new opportunity and definite adventure! I know I'm going to be challenged and I'm going to learn a lot. I feel undeservedly blessed to have been offered this job. I know people who have been searching for work for months and months, and this has all happened quite quickly for me. In fact, it took only 6 days from the time I submitted my application to the time I received the phone call with the offer. And from all that I've learned so far, I think I'm going to really love it!

In other news (the second biggest news!) I signed a lease for my new apartment! Mom and I spent the entire day yesterday scrubbing and cleaning previous tenants gross gunk off of everything :( but it looks and smells fantastically clean now and I'm painting tomorrow and moving in on Saturday and I will MOST DEFINITELY have pictures up soon. It's a charming little apartment in my favorite area of Milwaukee and walking distance to most of my friends and my church. It's also right on the bus line so my commute to work will be a cinch!

And now that I'm not spending every waking moment in front of a computer browsing job openings, or at Kinko's printing resumes, or re-wording my cover letters.... I've been letting my creative energy run wild. Grr...... haha.

Years ago, in my early teen years, the neighbors threw this little cabinet on the curb. For some reason I snatched it from its demise and ever since it has been one of my favorite pieces of furniture. I know it's nothing special, but I love it.
Well as you can see, (this is post-sanding) it needed some love. I told mom and dad that it needed to be "born again". So I spent some time out in dad's garage and well... you can see the results.

Now, if you're confused, it is SUPPOSED to look old still, but with a new charm. And after I took this photo I dusted it and polished it a bit more so bear that in mind. But I'm planning to use it for a TV stand in my new apartment. We'll see...

Finally, I thought I'd reminisce for a moment.
In mid-July I was watching the sun rise over Trinity Beach in Cairns, Australia with my treasure-of-a-friend Michelle. We were talking about life and future dreams. At that point, I didn't really know what life was going to look like post-travels. I was planning to return home in September and after that everything was one big uncertin cloud. But for some reason, sitting there on Trinity Beach I felt comfortable. I remember telling Michelle "I don't really know what I'm going to do with my life, but I really feel like God is going to guide me every step of the way and I'm just not worried."
Well Michelle had it in her mind to make a reminder for me, so that I'd keep that calm faith, so that I'd remember to trust God and believe that he truly is GOD! She scribbled in the sand for me. (see below) And for real, it has been a picture in my mind ever since!

I've had a few meltdown moments as my finances have been dwindling. I had some angry moments. (...moments where dad had to say "Hey watch your mouth!") And at times I've felt like all of my adventures and experiences have been nothing but a waste of time and money. But I'm human, and I have emotions, and sometimes it's just really hard to get past my own control of everything (see previous blog post). BUT I WILL SAY that this memory from Trinity Beach has indeed kept me thankful. I've been ever-reminded to thank God for all of his provision whether that be finances, food, a bed, a family, a church, or delightful french-pressed coffee. And I guess I just hope that someone else can read this and be encouraged. God is so faithful, he really really is. And I'm saying that now as I'm at the other end of the tunnel. But truly, honestly, I was saying it and believing it all the way through. Sometimes I felt a bit schizophrenic being frustrated and hopeful at the same time. But as a good teacher Greg Laughery always says "Life is all about tension".
So be encouraged. And thank you THANK YOU thank you for all of your prayers, your notes, your support, your time, for buying me breakfasts and coffee and making me dinners and for cleaning my apartment and for helping me afford security deposits and for letting me share my life with you. I'm a blessed blessed girl.
Stay tuned!



(surfer alongside China Walls in Hawaii 08/2009)

Wow, it's been so long since I've written. I've certainly been busy while also being bored out of my mind. Or at times I've been cripplingly frustrated, while also feeling quietly at peace. How does that even work??? I know... I must be crazy.

Let me capture for you the reality of my life at present.

I'm home in Zion, nesting with my incredible parents who are generous enough to support me and keep me encouraged to the best of their ability and energy. I am unemployed. I have decreasing finances. My best of friends live an hour's drive away. And I have this nagging craving for kimchi that is quite the challenge to settle! I've been home for 2 months now and I spend most of my days online searching for jobs, writing cover letters, sending off my shining resume, and taking the family dog for walks to ease my nerves. I've filled out 5,056,413 applications for employment and have eaten at least that many dark chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter cups. I've had moments of careless frolicking, and moments of writhing tears. Never a dull moment... never.

It's maddening when you don't have control over your life. I'm living with my parents, they are providing food for me, and often filling my fuel tank. Mom has been thinning her closet and giving me piles of her unwanted clothes. I spent this past week in Milwaukee but was depending a fair bit on inviting myself to people's homes so I could share in their dinners. In my job-search, I can't help but admit that "it's all about who you know" and I've been re-kindling any connection that might work towards my benefit. Plainly speaking, I can't really do anything on my own right now. Lame...

...or not.

The thing is, we're not really in control of our lives, ever, even when we think we are. Right?

I keep thinking to myself "I just need a job... and then I can afford to purchase this or that, and then I can move into an apartment, and then I can afford to eat out, or I can drive to Milwaukee without dreading the cost of gas, or then I can tithe out of a real salary..." I stress about all of this as if it matters most, like I can't be settled until I'm in control again. But since when is it all about me? And since when is it MY power and authority that controls anything that happens in my life? And would I really wish for that control if it could be mine? Heavens no!

During these insecure and monotonous moments, may I be ever aware of God's gentle and abundant provision for me. What a beautiful family I have! My mom prepared the most perfect bedroom for me, painted stylishly with some of my own furniture and everything. Mom has been giving me free roam of the kitchen and the funds to cook anything I crave. Dad has been meeting me at the gas station to fill my tank. My neighbors have been treating me to breakfasts. My friends have been welcoming me into their homes! Other friends have been helping me to find employment and giving me excellent references. My church is only an hour away (which is much better than 2, 3, or 5 hours right?). You see, I have it all, right in front of me, like thoughtful gifts of love. And this is just a season, which will pass like all seasons do. And when I do find a job, and when I'm more financially capable, and when I'm not so reliant on other people... I must remember that I'm still no more in control of my life.

God just provides in different ways. The important thing is that he provides.



Hi Everyone. Let me fill you in again (briefly) on what's happening with my life.
I'm home, back in Zion, Illinois. Returning to life back in USA has been an adjustment, but I'm staying busy and enjoying almost every moment of it.
Since I was too busy to even think about blogging while I was traveling this summer, I'm updating my favorite memories in little pieces for you. So read back if you'd like and you can see other fun moments from my wanderings through Australia.
As always, thanks for reading! And leave a comment to let me know you stopped by!
Hugs and kisses!

Welcome to The Whitsunday Islands, one of the most beautiful places in the world! Captain Cook discovered these Islands back in 1770. I was thinking, how awesome it must have been to discover a place of such rich beauty! What a thing to write home about! Anyway, The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands along the Queensland coast that make up part of the Great Barrier Reef. The coastal land is nothing special really and Nick and I found ourselves a bit bored. But words really can't describe the stunning beauty seen once you leave the shore and weave through the islands on the bluest water imaginable.

This is a photo shot from Airlie Beach looking out towards the islands.

And here are two people very excited about their vacation!

We boarded a boat called the Mantaray. It became our home for a day of snorkeling and beach bumming and whale watching. (We didn't get to see any whales though.)

This is the Skipper.

Probably the best part of the trip was our stop at Whitehaven Beach. I've never seen anything like it. It's the largest beach in the Whitsundays and it's about a 2 hour boat trip from the coast. I could have spent days there!

We had a little sand sculpture activity. Nick made a whale, and I made a smiling sunshine. You can pick the winner, post your opinion in the comments :)
Vacation...what a beautiful thing...


noosa and beyond

Our second day on the road we stopped at Noosa Beach, a famous beach on the Sunshine Coast.
We mostly just relaxed, paid an ungodly amount of money to use the internet to let mom and dad know we were safe, and took ice cold showers in the beach house. Refreshing! We also had a nice picnic lunch on the beach which included something like turkey, avocado, brie sanwhiches on raisin bread. Delish!

We had fun watching the kids play.

And even more fun looking at interesting people like this guy!!! Hot!!!

And it gets better! He's got a bare-bottomed son and a little girl who just doesn't quite know how to react to the bare-bottom :-)

And the journey continued... Here are some images from the road.

And then one night I made spaghetti. I had a briliant idea to make garlic bread with English Muffins and butter/garlic. I wrapped them all up in foil and put them on the stove flame. And they were delightfully...ummm.... disgusting.
Let me just say that we ate like royalty on this trip, and only once did we eat at a restaurant. We shopped for groceries and dreamed up our own best camp food ideas and only on the rare occasion were we disappointed. And WOW did we save a lot of money!