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An Open Letter to My Husband on our Third Wedding Anniversary

An Open Letter to My Husband on our Third Wedding Anniversary

Dear Mike,

We didn’t get each other gifts this year, so I decided to write you a blog post. You have always been my biggest fan and advocate for my writing and unfortunately in the last year since I began my job, blogging fell to the wayside and probably no one wants to read it but you now.

Our lives have been and truly are amazing. We have had more adventures in three years than many people have in their lifetimes and I’m always ready for the next adventure with you.

Our wedding day wasn’t perfect, but by the end of the night, we were surrounded by people who love, support and continue to stand by us. We worked so hard on making that day beautiful, perfecting every detail and making every moment our own. Despite everything telling us we were going against tradition, we were ourselves and we know that being who we are makes us happiest, even if it feels like we’re always swimming upstream.

The first year of our marriage, we grappled with uncertainty while trying to apply and plan to move to Spain. It was frustrating, it was a lot of work, it felt like the process that would never end. I lost my job unexpectedly before we left and we settled in for what would be a year and a half of my not working and you supporting our family. I gardened, I cooked, I read and blogged. On the days when I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to us, you listened and tried your best to make me feel better. You supported every crazy idea I had during that time, whether it was starting a “green lifestyle blog” (it didn’t get very far) or supporting my making of travel videos.

 Our second year of marriage, we were lucky enough to live in Spain. Living in Spain together for a year was a time we will never forget and an experience we’ll carry with us forever. It brought us closer together and we are stronger as a couple because of it. We explored everything. We ate everything. We learned to cook everything. We relied on each other day to day and in unfamiliar cities and countries. We had never been more on the same page with each other. Everything we did, we did together and for each other.

But we had to come home sometime, and for our third year of marriage, we’ve lived back in New Jersey. I began a new and exciting career which you have supported me every step of the way. You encourage me to work hard and to be the best I can be. We traveled to Turkey and Iceland this year, not to mention our trips to Bourbon Country in Kentucky, Montreal and this weekend, New York again. We’ve renovated our kitchen, and mostly, our lives are pretty perfect right now.

I know that it won’t always be this way, and we’ll always have challenges that face us, hard decisions and crises that we can’t control. We’ve been through so much already together that I know we’ll get through anything. Cliche, maybe, but I believe it 100%.

Mike, you are the strongest person I know. You always do the right thing. You are ambitious, a hard worker, a wonderful listener, an incredibly intelligent man. You think and plan for the long-term but are always flexible and open to change. You’re a perfect puppy parent and an indulging, understanding, caring, and positive partner. You always remind me to be optimistic, you challenge me to be a better person, you inspire me to go the extra mile whether it’s at the top of a volcano or glacier, or to go the extra mile for someone else. You expect me to succeed in all that I do and never lose faith in me even when I’m unsure of myself. You clean the house when I don’t want to (which is all of the time), you do the dishes and chop the vegetables and are truly the best partner I could ask for. I couldn’t love you more for all that you do and all that you are.

I love us. I love the way we work together, I love the way we understand each other, I love the way that we support each other. I am happier than I ever thought possible when I am with you.

I’m ready for a lifetime’s worth of adventures with you. Like we both said in our E-Harmony profiles, “My bags are packed and I’m ready to go.”

Love you.

Mantra #2: Do the Right Thing

Mantra #2: Do the Right Thing

So you all know our first mantra now: Go, Do. It inspires us to think and dream without limits. It inspires us to always choose action over excuses.

Our second mantra started out as a joke, but is now one of the most uttered phrases in our household.

Do The Right Thing

Do the Right Thing was a mantra that started when Mike was having a phone conversation that I overheard. Apparently, the person on the other end of the line had made some promises, but the process to deliver on them was complicated and inconvenient. Mike, frustrated and at his wit’s end, said, “Well, I think we should do the right thing here” to try to cajole the other party into delivering on his promises.

Instantly, it was a new catch-phrase in our house.

Do The Right Thing is very much like Dumbledore telling Harry that what is right is not always what is easy. Anytime we have a moral conundrum on our hands, we remind each other to Do The Right Thing. If we have to choose between a long-term and short-term solution, we push to Do The Right Thing (meaning long-term, in almost all cases).

Do The Right Thing can be silly or serious. Oftentimes, it involves whispering “do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing” to each other if we are tempted to take the easy route (i.e. when I don’t want to get on the treadmill). Sometimes it involves a serious discussion about our financial goals and realities. Sometimes it just involves doing the dishes.

Do The Right Thing has also been easier for us as it has become more deeply ingrained into who we are. We have come to take a lot more pride in Doing The Right Thing on a consistent basis. We want to be people who are trusted and counted on, and reminders to Do The Right Thing helps us steer ourselves in that direction.

Should I respond to this completely unhelpful, idiotic person through email with the terse, hostile response that is oh-so-tempting? Do The Right Thing. Should we eat leftovers or go to McDonald’s? Do The Right Thing. Should I really purchase another pair of jeans or another shirt for myself or should I put my money toward something more productive? Do The Right Thing.

Keeping ourselves in check like this can seem silly and cheesy sometimes, but I have noticed that it has become very natural for me as I make personal decisions. It makes it easier to resolve issues with my husband if we disagree. It makes it easier to do most things in life when I am committed to Doing the Right Thing because it makes my choices more obvious. It doesn’t always mean that I don’t get stressed or frustrated, but being committed to Do The Right Thing makes me proud of my accomplishments.

Doing the Right Thing means that Mike and I are almost always on the same page with each other, and we are committed to helping the other person get through the temptation of whatever the wrong thing is that they are faced with. This could mean anything from stopping Mike from eating that whole bag of chocolate chips, to him telling me that I should Do the Right Thing and change my attitude when I’m overly grumpy and committed to being in a bad mood.

Do the Right Thing isn’t always easy and it isn’t even always rewarding (“nice guys finish last,” anyone?). Do the Right Thing is personally satisfying though and is leading us to become stronger and more ethical people. Of course, Doing the Right Thing is many people’s aspiration in their lives, but we like to keep it very front-of-mind, that way it is more who we are, rather than what we wish.

Do you have a similar mantra for yourself? I’d love to know your mantras if you have them!

Mantra #1: Go, Do

Mantra #1: Go, Do

Mike and I have two mantras that we say to each other on a near-daily basis. I was never much of a mantra kind of person, but what started out as little jokes or reminders have somewhere along the way turned into very deeply-held beliefs that we possess today.

Mantra #1: Go, Do.

Go, Do started out just as the lyrics from one of my favorite songs from Icelandic singer, Jonsí. It’s a very catchy and uplifting song that inspires us whenever we hear it. It also spurred us on to start making plans for a trip to Iceland (more on that later!), but that’s beside the point.

The jist of the song is that we can go anywhere, do anything and that we should live life to it’s fullest. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff for a song, but inspiring, nonetheless. And the song found its way into my iTunes downloads just in time for our wild journey in Spain to begin.

“I’m not sure if I like anchovies or octopus. Should I try this?”
“Go, Do.”

Now anytime we’re stuck wondering if we should make the effort to go out or do something even if we’re tired, hungry, grumpy or anything inbetween, we tell each other “go, do.” It is a very effective way of saying that we will never regret the risks and efforts needed to experience something new and different.

And it is always, ALWAYS true. There has never been an instance where we didn’t learn something or experience something amazing by making the decision to step out the door rather than stay in. I don’t remember all of the nights that we may have had a pizza and played cards (though those days are a necessary part of life too), but I do remember when we wondered if we should really go out to that one tapas bar even though we weren’t too hungry but then had an incredibly interesting conversation with a Belgian doctor who spoke four languages. Or that time that we decided to check out some bonfires on the beach for a Spanish holiday and it turned out looking like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

The San Xoan Bonfires in La Coruña

Go, Do is a way of telling each other that our experiences are what makes life memorable and exciting. Go, Do is a way of not letting ourselves be homebodies and couch potatoes because there is just too much to see.

Should we go to that crowded bar during the playoffs where the atmosphere will be electric even though I hate crowds? Go, Do. Should we go see that museum exhibit even though it’s crappy weather and parking will be a bitch? Go, Do. Should we go to New York to see a show even though we need to find a walker for the dogs? Go, Do.

We hope to live our lives by the Go, Do mantra as there is rarely an experience that we regret just by getting out of the house and experiencing something new, fun and different. Go, Do doesn’t make excuses. Go, Do makes memories.

Are you a Go, Do kind of person? Do you want to be?

What Vacation Means to Me

What Vacation Means to Me

While Mike and I are on our trip to South Africa, I’ve asked a bunch of my blogging buddies to fill in for me here. Since vacation and travel has figured prominently into this blog since I moved to Spain, I figured it would be appropriate to ask others what “vacation” means to them–I know that everyone has a different philosophy when it comes to vacation, traveling and relaxing, so I hope you enjoy getting other takes on this prompt!

I thought I’d kick it off today though and share what vacation means to me.

Growing up, my parents took me and my sister to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina almost every year. We went to Disney twice, and a couple of other domestic trips, but for the most part, my parents wanted beach time and a lot of putt-putt time. As a kid, I loved it and had fun every year. I thought it was the best thing in the world.

When my childhood best friend began going places like London and Paris though (where she met a swoon-worthy French pen pal, omg!) I was overcome with jealousy. I can’t say that a passion for world-traveling was born then and there, though. It wasn’t until college when I left the country for the first time on a cruise with a friend.

Holy crap, I’m 18 and allowed to order alcohol outside of the US! BEST. THING. EVARR.

And at 18, I thought cruises were the best thing in the world.

Then I met Mike, and went with him and his parents to St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.

As far as islands go, it wasn’t spectacular, but conversations with Mike about all of the places he had been in the world, about all of the things he had seen…I thought that seeing the world…would be the best thing in the world.

Meeting Mike definitely shaped my view on what a vacation “should” be for us. I doubt I would have ever had the same uncontrollable urge to see the world as I do now. But his enthusiasm is addictive, and traveling can be addictive.

And so I’ve been working on seeing the world. Vacations, for me, are not so much about relaxing, sitting at a pool, or souvenir shopping. To me, vacations are an opportunity to learn, see, do, explore. I don’t necessarily care if it is abroad or in the US (one of my favorite vacations was at the Finger Lakes in NY), I just want to see everything.

Vacations are an opportunity to take myself out of the comfort of my daily bubble and try to experience something outside of my personal norm. Vacations are an opportunity to learn something about the world I live in before it’s too late and I’m too old and feeble to see it. I don’t want to miss one chance to see something extraordinary, something different, something beautiful.

Vacations are an opportunity to be awed by nature and cultures and people. Vacations are an opportunity to challenge ourselves and to push ourselves to try new things, to expand our small, narrow points of view into something slightly wider upon each new experience.

And when we have children, vacations will be an opportunity to teach them about this fascinating world. It will be a way to kindle the fire of curiosity and wonder in them. It will be a way of showing them just how precious this world is, and how fun it can be to explore it. That is our sincere hope, at least. We hope to do everything we can to give our children the opportunity to learn, see, do, and explore.

But, I also understand that I’m living in a sort of fantasy-land right now, which is not sustainable for the long run. We will not always be able to travel everywhere. We won’t always be able to afford luxury vacations and meals. And I will have to go back and get a job when we move back home and traveling the world is much more difficult with limited vacation days.

To me, one of my greatest fears upon reentering the work force upon my return to New Jersey will be that I won’t get the opportunity to go, see, do like I’ve been doing for the past year. Instead, I’ll have to earn 10 days a year where I’ll scramble to see family as well as see the world. It horrifies me that a desk under some fluorescent lights could keep me from exploring. I understand that it is the reality of the world we live in, and it makes me sad. I hope that I’ll be able to find the best of both worlds one day: a fulfilling career and the ability to keep my desire to see everything & go everywhere.

It is my sincere hope that this passion and desire stays with me throughout my life and that we will be physically and financially fortunate enough to never stop exploring. To me, vacation means so much more than a break. It means the world.

What does vacation mean to you?

A New Look

A New Look

All of you people in Reader will want to click over today to check out my site’s new look. I’ll wait for you…

Ready?

Ta-Daaa!

I’ve been a busy little bee this weekend working on a site update! I wanted something newer and fresher, and I think this more modern layout accomplishes that.

I thought about hiring someone to redesign my blog for me because I desperately wanted to keep up with the beautiful websites of my friends in the blogging universe, but I ultimately decided to do it myself. I know my way around html and css, but I’m desperately helpless when it comes to php, which is the coding language WordPress uses.

In the past, I was always stuck spending hours looking for “free premium wordpress themes” on every tech website out there hoping for one that I kind of liked that I could kind of customize that would kind of work.

This time around, I wanted to actually ensure that I would like every little piece of my website, so I bit the bullet and bought The Thesis Theme for WordPress. It’s a theme that can work well on its own, or can be super customized to suit your needs.

This is the main Thesis dashboard where you can customize all of those little items.

If you know your way around some CSS and HTML and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, then you can go even further by going to their custom file editor and inputting your own code. I won’t lie to you…it would be immensely helpful for you to know your way around code if you purchase Thesis. One wrong line of code will bring your whole site down and it’s helpful if you know how to fix it (this happens to me quite a few times when I code ;P).

Regardless of your experience levels though, Thesis does have excellent support. Usually when I would post a thread in their forums looking for help, within a few hours, someone would respond to help me out. They also have an excellent directory of helpful tips that you can use to pimp out your site with all sorts of amazing features.

Since I am so happy with my Thesis experience in redesigning this blog, you’ll see buttons on my site promoting them and a few other businesses that I support. I hope that if you’re looking into doing a facelift for your blog or if you’re hoping to start a blog, you’ll check them out because they’re all wonderful resources.

I’ve updated my about page and have added a few other pages, so I hope you’ll take a look around! I’m still tweaking a few little things, so if things look a little wonky or if something is down/not working, just let me know and I’ll promptly fix it.

What do you think of the new look?

Our Evolving Food Philosophies

Our Evolving Food Philosophies

About this time last year, I started reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Overnight, I wanted to change everything we did about buying and eating food. Mike was not on board with a complete overhaul of our lifestyle, and it caused many many MANY discussions that turned into arguments that turned into compromises. A year later, I can say that our lifestyle has changed pretty dramatically.

Localganic

When we were still in Philly, we started going to the farmer’s market weekly and buying the bulk of our food there. We would buy more organic options at the grocery store and less preservative-laden packaged foods. Now, the foods here in Spain are not quite as organic or local. While there are many fresh markets, organic produce is simply not the majority here. Also, even the fresh markets import much of their produce, and any organic produce is almost always imported as well.

But even though we cannot be as localganic as we would like to be at the moment, we share similar goals for our future, which is to continue buying the most local and organic meats, cheeses & produce as we can.

Headhouse Farmer’s Market in Philadelphia, taken right before we left in October 2011

Gardening

We also share the desire to become as self-sufficient as possible.

Mike has planted over 550 seeds in our garden this spring. I’m not sure if all or most will grow, but it’s a very ambitious statement to make: we want to grow everything we can. We want to be able to pluck our food out of our backyard, eat it as fresh as possible, or preserve it for later. We want to live by the seasons. We want to look forward to the best tomatoes we could possibly imagine every single year. We want our children to know the joy of a warm strawberry plucked off the vine and straight into their mouth.

Yes, I would love to have these tomatoes pop out of my garden in the summer every single year, thnx.

Meat

I cook meat maybe once a week. Maybe. When I do cook meat, it’s usually organic ground beef or chicken. Occasionally, I’ll buy a duck breast or another cut of meat that we rarely have. I don’t see us giving up meat entirely, but we very much enjoy the meals I cook without meat, so we don’t see any reason to change the way we currently work. I try to cook fish or shellfish once or twice a week, but other than that we’ll have vegetable-based soups or salads with fruits and nuts.

Mike is perfectly happy with the arrangement and commented to me that he really just doesn’t want to eat a lot of meat. He had meals recently around his coworkers (on a ship, where the food is prepared for them) and can’t believe that others eat so much meat in one sitting. He said he just doesn’t feel the need to eat a lot of it. I agree.

And now that I’ve been cooking mainly without meat for awhile, when I think about adding meat back into some of my dishes (like if I used chicken instead of chickpeas in my tomato curry stew), the meal doesn’t appeal to me as much anymore.

Cooking

I cook 90% of our meals when we’re not traveling, I would say. Maybe 85% if you don’t count those nights that I throw a frozen pizza in the oven. We go out to eat maybe once or twice a month. This is dramatically different than when we lived in the States, where we’d go out probably once or twice a week. I do miss eating out, I truly do. But cooking so much at home has forced me to get creative and it’s given me a challenge to use everything I can in our refrigerator before it goes bad. I am much better about this now than I ever was before because if I didn’t feel like cooking, there would always be the option to run out for sushi. Without that option, those beets in the fridge are going in the oven and we’re eating them, dammit!

Eating Out

While we’ve been here in Spain, we’ve mostly gone to restaurants that use very high quality produce and cuts of meat, so I don’t feel any guilt about ordering anything off of the menu. At smaller places I may not be familiar with, I know that the seafood is going to be incredibly fresh and local, so I’ll get that.

When we’re back home, I see myself being more choosy about the places we go out to. We don’t eat at chains, so we try to pick more high-quality or locally owned places, but even then I might start opting more for the vegetarian options if I’m not confident about the meat or seafood. We’ll see.

Grocery Shopping

But we’re not perfect. Very, very far from it. We will still buy chocolate candies that are mass-produced (M&M’s and Mars Bars, anyone?), I enjoy a good packaged butter cookie, and we just can’t give up tortilla chips and ritz crackers. We are not exactly where I want to be in regard to eating packaged foods, but I don’t think we’ll ever be 100% rid of them. When we’re back in the States, I’ll try to find organic equivalents of those things that I love and try to cut back on eating them even then.

One thing that consistently bothers me is that I use cubed/granulated bouillion stock for our soups. I try to buy organic options, but I still feel guilty. Since I use them so often in soups and other dishes though, I just don’t want to prepare my own stock that often. Perhaps I’ll also kick this habit one day.

Has your food philosophy changed recently? Are you getting more on board with the localganic movement? Are you a vegetarian? Share your story!

Blog Tagged by Life, Enjoyed

Blog Tagged by Life, Enjoyed

We’re back from Portugal!! We had an amazing time and I’m very excited to show you everything we did. I have a lot of videos and photos to go through first though, so in the mean time, I wanted to pop in with something fun!! I was so excited to see that I was tagged by Life, Enjoyed to answer some fun questions.

1.) What is the goal you most want to accomplish in the next five years?

I wish I knew what my professional goals were for the next five years, but I can’t say that I’ve really figured that out yet. But in regard to personal goals/wishes, I would like to be very well on our way to adding new little members to our family in the next five years. 🙂

2.) Who do you think you’ll vote for in the 2012 Presidential election?

Obama. Hands down. No question. At this point in my life, I find myself to be deeply invested in social issues, and Obama’s platform lines up with the things I want for my country. I don’t want women’s reproductive health to be compromised by right-wing politicians with something to prove to conservative America. I want affordable healthcare for all Americans because I’ve been one of those people who had to take an unanticipated trip to the hospital that turned into 2 weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have destroyed our family had we not had health insurance. I want equal rights for our LGBT brothers and sisters, and I do think that Obama has made mistakes in this arena, but repealing DADT is a step in the right direction. I’ll vote for Obama because he’s the first president who recognized atheist Americans as a group of people whose opinions deserve to be heard.

I originally saw this on Pinterest, (not sure who created it) but I found this file reposted here. This quote makes me want to chest-bump Obama.

3.) Who is number one on your “free pass” list? (As in, free pass from your significant other, if the opportunity presented itself.)

I don’t spend a lot of time fantasizing about buff celebrity men anymore, but I do think that Justin Timberlake has topped the list since I was about 12. So I’ll go with that. (fun fact: I had over 300 posters and pinups of Nsync in my room as a teenager.)

Tearin’ up my heart 4evah, JRT. Source.

4.) Ideally, would you like to spend the rest of your life in a city, the suburbs, or a rural area?

This one was SO hard because I absolutely love city life. Living in Philly throughout my college years made me really appreciate just how available everything is in the city, and I love the excitement of being close to restaurants & shops. But, I do think that our future holds much more property than we’d be able to afford in the city. I personally lean more toward a rural, but not isolated, area. I think suburbs kill nature in a lot of ways, and when I go outside, I like to experience nature. I would love to have a property like my sister’s where there is a lot of land (7 acres), a wooded area, a pond, and where we can grow a family farm that could keep us busy and well-fed throughout the year. But I would still like to be within a 30 minute drive to a large city so I can still experience everything I love about cities without having to sacrifice the nature-lover in me.

Part of my sister’s beautiful backyard.

5.) What’s your alcoholic beverage of choice?

Wine. Of course. Wine is a big part of our lives because we not only enjoy drinking it, but we are always hungry (thirsty?) to learn more about it. We want to try everything and talk about it. We want to visit wineries both big and small in very different parts of the world to see and taste the differences. Drinking wine is definitely a learning experience for us, and I hope that it’s a hobby that we can continue throughout our lives.

6.) What is your number-one “bucket list” dream travel destination?

This one was agonizingly difficult. Growing up, I always thought SPAIN would be the best country in the world to go to. It seemed to have it all…culture, food, drinks, weather. Well, now I’m living here and it’s checked off of the bucket list. Then I wanted to go on an African safari, and we have one planned next month. Check.

So right at this moment (and it’s bound to change maybe a million times in my life) I would really like to be able to go to at least 50 of the 58 National Parks in the United States. I think the US has SO much to offer in terms of beautiful nature and wonderous sights to behold, so they’re all something that I would love to see, and I know that it will be valuable and informational to take our kids to see the beauty of nature on our family vacations. So right now, number one would be to get to as many National Parks as possible.

Also maybe India. 🙂

7.) What is your favorite thing to splurge on?

I love jackets and blazers and coats. Any type of outerwear, really. I left many of them in New Jersey, but my current favorite is my hot pink trench coat that I got at the end of last year at Lord & Taylor. God, I miss Lord & Taylor.

8.) Do you have a mantra, phrase, or quote that you repeat to yourself a lot? What is it?

I am not a naturally optimistic person. I’m overly dramatic, overly sensitive, and prone to despair when things don’t go my way. Not incredibly attractive qualities to have, but I’m working on it.

So when I’m feeling despair and like the world is ending, I try to remember what my dad said at our wedding (or was it my sister’s? It was probably both). He said “Things are never as bad as they seem.” And generally, he’s right. The world really hasn’t ended when I thought it was going to.

Also, when I feel like something is out of my control and I’m despairing about that, I try to just say “It’s out of my control.” When I recognize that there is absolutely nothing I can do to make the situation better, then I just have to live with it. I’m actually very surprised how much this has worked in regard to the question of when we’re leaving Spain. No one will tell us, no one will confirm anything, and so there’s nothing we can do but try to enjoy it while we’re here. Things are never as bad as they seem 😉

9.) What is your most-hated household chore?

Everything. I’m possibly the worst housewife ever because my husband does the majority of the household chores like laundry, sweeping the floors, dishes, etc. Every once in awhile I’ll get the urge to do some heavy-duty cleaning, but they’re pretty short-lived spurts. I’m more of the “organizer” of the house and I’ll like to rearrange things and put things in their place. But only when I feel like it.

I have a feeling that hired help is in our future. At least I love to cook and do a pretty good job at that.

10.) What is your all-time favorite television show?

24. Jack Baur is the best thing that ever happened to television, in my opinion. I began watching it in college, then got my dad hooked on it, and then Mike. I haven’t seen all of the seasons yet though, so Mike and I are in the process of watching all of the seasons on Netflix now. I’m also a big Daily Show fan.

11.) What has been making you happy lately?

My dogs. Forever my dogs will make me happy. I miss them terribly when we travel, and Mike and I often talk about how the dogs’ happy little faces are the highlights of our day. I most look forward to the mornings when they are SO happy to see me…like it’s Christmas morning every single day. It’s a wonderful feeling. They are always the best way to cheer me up.

Love those little tails!!

I’m feeling too lazy to pass this on, but I’d love to know what’s making you happy lately if you have anything good to share!!

Happy Birthdays, Mom & Dad!!

Happy Birthdays, Mom & Dad!!

My Dad celebrated his birthday on Friday and today is my Mom’s birthday!!

When I was living under their roof as a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get out of the house. In fact, I wanted out of the state! I had big dreams and big plans and I was lucky enough to have parents who supported those big dreams and plans enough to send me on my way to Philadelphia.

Back then, when I was away from my parents, I didn’t think too much of it. I moved away and never really expected to live near them again after high school. I went through college building a stronger relationship with my parents as I matured, but it wasn’t until both Mom and Dad lost their jobs in 2008 (in the same week) that our relationship would change permanently.

Dad quickly found a job, but it wasn’t in Ohio where their lives and home was. It was in the Northeast. Since it happened so quickly, Dad needed to move out to the Northeast while Mom stayed in Cincinnati to sell the house. My Dad ended up moving in with me and Mike. It could have been disastrous to our relatively young relationship, but it was the opposite. My Dad’s presence was always welcome to us, and we enjoyed having his guidance as we were starting our lives together.

It was also absolutely wonderful to watch my Dad and Mike develop a relationship and a bond with each other. When my parents found a home and my Mom moved up to New Jersey 6 months later, it was much the same. Mike and Mom had a great opportunity to become closer, and I can say with certainty that their presence has been a shining light in our lives.

Any time we needed advice, Mom and Dad were more than happy to give it, but also gave us the courtesy of saying that it’s “just their opinion.” They’re usually right anyway. 😉 Whenever we needed help, Mom and Dad could come down to our house and help us solve any problems. We would cook for each other on a weekly basis. We would go out places together and other days we would stay in and play games.

My parents quickly became our best friends.

Now that we’re in Spain, I miss my parents terribly. I miss having their presence in our weekly schedule. I miss being able to cook for them and I miss hugging them. Our video chats with Mom and Dad have become the highlights of our weeks. We enjoy telling them all about the foreignness of everything around us and we especially love to see my Mom’s reaction when we talk about our more adventurous food escapades.

I don’t know where we’ll all end up in this world. I know my parents don’t want to stay in New Jersey once they retire, and Mike and I aren’t 100% sure where our future will take us. It makes me so much sadder than I ever thought I would be. Though I’ve always been close with my parents and have enjoyed our relationship, since they’ve moved to New Jersey and gotten to know me and Mike as adults, I can’t help but wish that relationship could continue as-is indefinitely.

But of course, just as I would want them to support me with the decisions I make in my life (like moving to Spain) I want to support them in wherever their life takes them as well. I want them to be happy and I hope that we’ll all be in the position to be able to visit often even when we’re no longer within a half hour of each other.

I am so lucky to have my parents, and contrary to what my teenage self thought, they really ARE the best parents in the world. I love them with all I have and I can’t wait to see them when they visit Spain in May. Though I don’t want to wish the next few months away, I do hope their arrival comes quickly.

Happy birthdays to the two people who taught me everything about unconditional love and support. I love you both.

Why I’m keeping my name, but that’s not where the decision-making ends

Why I’m keeping my name, but that’s not where the decision-making ends

It’s been 16 months since our wedding and I haven’t changed my name.

Growing up, I always thought that I would take my husband’s name. I’m not a doctor or a lawyer or a writer with important published works under my name. My name isn’t particularly awesome or bad-ass, but I like it because it’s neutral and short. Weger. Way-grr. Everyone pronounces it wrong, but it’s not the end of the world when they do (except my last boss never ever EVER said my last name right, and you’d think after a year and a half of trying to gently correct her it would have sunk in, but no).

But regardless of my feelings for my last name, I was going to change my name to my husband’s because…that’s what you do. I even paid for the Miss now Mrs service that apparently helps you get all of the paperwork together for the name change. I wouldn’t really know because I never used it.

And here I am, still with my last name, 16 months after my wedding. Why didn’t I change it?

  1. Right after our wedding, we booked plane tickets for Amanda and Corey’s wedding in Texas. I couldn’t change my name then because my plane ticket needed to match my ID.
  2. In January, after Amanda and Corey’s wedding, we first got wind of a possible move to Spain, and it was possible that it could start as early as March (ha!). I didn’t think I’d have time to get all of my paperwork done then. When March came, we would be leaving in April, by April we wouldn’t be leaving until August, and then August turned into October. Now we’re living in Spain and I’m unable to go through the process at this point.

So those are the practical reasons why I didn’t change my name. I suppose I could still change it when I go back home and it would be no big deal at all.

Except….

I don’t like Mike’s last name. Even Mike isn’t a big fan of his last name. If he didn’t have his government clearances in his current last name, he might even change his name to something completely different because he just doesn’t like it very much.

And the biggest reason why I’m not changing my name?

Mike doesn’t want me to.

That was pretty surprising to me, honestly. Mike’s reasons were that his family ruined my wedding in almost every way possible and didn’t respect me long before that. His relationship with his parents has been stressful since he started to become more independent from them as an adult. We’ve cut off ties completely with them and I could never imagine being a part of their family after the way they’ve treated us. I was never, and will most likely never be, welcome into his family. That doesn’t give me much incentive to take a name I’m already not thrilled with. Add that Mike is against me taking his name for the above reasons, and it looks like I’m staying a Weger.

It makes me a little sad in some ways because I always pictured having a family name. It’s not groundbreaking stuff for a woman to keep her name these days, so it’s not that bad, but just not what I had expected for myself. At the same time, taking their name feels a little repulsive to me. I wish I didn’t have such a strong gut reaction to it, but I do.

And then the next big question is what will our children be named? Will they take Mike’s name even though he’s deemed it not good enough for me to take? Will they take my name and confuse everyone by not being named after their father? Will Mike be harassed by a macho-man type who thinks it’s figurative castration that his children don’t have his name?

I have to admit, it does sound better to me to name my children after my family. It sounds much nicer to honor my family who has been there for us through everything, who have supported us and loved us no matter what. It sounds more special to me to make the conscious choice of naming my children after people who we respect, admire and love rather than people who have treated us like dirt. I would be happy knowing that my children would be connected to and loved by the people with whom they share a last name.

But the social implications of going against tradition can be irritating to manage. The questions of “why” we chose what we did would be prevalent throughout our lives, and I know that I definitely don’t want to relate our family issues to every curious person. Would the answer “it’s just what we chose to do” be good enough? Would people judge me as some sort of controlling whacko who didn’t let her children take her husband’s name?

Or is it just a name? Should they take their father’s because it’s simply the way the world works? Is it not worth bucking tradition because it’s easier? Is it not worth the frustration of people judging us for making a nontraditional choice? Am I overanalyzing the importance of a name? (Okay, don’t answer that–I know I am. But I still have strong negative feelings when I think about taking the name of people who hate us.)

Of course we have time before we have to figure everything out, but it is important to me for us to come to some conclusion about this. Mike is not opposed to our future children taking my name, but is just unsure of how to deal with the questions and judgement that might come as a result of that decision. We’ve already agreed on not hyphenating our children’s names, though it would probably be more socially acceptable than the children taking my name.

Oh, what a world we live in. What would you think of children who have their mother’s name and not their father’s? Is it as big of a deal as I fear it might be, or is it not so bad? What assumptions would you make about me or Mike based off of what last name we give our children?

I don’t know whether others’ opinions will influence our ultimate decision, but I am curious about how we might be perceived. No matter what, I think we’ll make the right decision for us, whatever it may be.

We Were on a Break…

We Were on a Break…

Oops. I suppose I’m supposed to apologize for not writing here in awhile, but the break was kind of nice, actually! I’ve been pretty productive recently and it feels great! I don’t want to abandon this blog though, so I’m going to get back to updating it as often as possible.

Our trip down to the South of Spain was successful! After a few days of being routed and rerouted to different buildings, different departments, we weren’t sure that we were going to get our official paperwork. It was pretty stressful and frustrating to be in lines for hours and hours only to be told that we had been given form A to fill out and we needed form B.

But it’s done. We’re legal. We have awesome stamps in our passports now, I have an ID card that will get me on any international US naval base and we both passed our driver’s tests! We have to wait 3 months for our licenses to arrive. No one said that the Spanish government was in a hurry, huh?

Speaking of the slowness of Spain, our Christmas packages that were being held up in customs have officially been sent back to the US. I think. I just hope they make it back to my parents because I don’t want the money they spent on us for Christmas to be lost. That would be pretty tragic.

So we’ve been here for nearly three months now, and I’m no fan of exactly how things are run in this country because every step of the way has been painful, frustrating, annoying and pretty awful.

BUT. But. I can say that when I try to put those feelings aside, I’m starting to get more used to living here. I like it even. There was never any doubt that this would be superior to the beauty of New Jersey, and it is really, very beautiful. The weather is getting nicer and less rainy, and I am getting excited to experience this area of Spain in the Spring and Summer because I think it’ll be awesome. I’ve made a couple of new Spanish friends recently, and having those companions to talk to has also certainly made my outlook on life a little sunnier.

The view from our bedroom is still breathtaking.

I’ve even started a new blog project which will be very different from this personal blog, and I’m so excited to tell you guys about it, but it’s not ready yet. From this new project, I also have the opportunity to do some freelance writing for a local Philadelphia magazine, which I’m hoping works out because that would be so exciting for me to be published.

I’m happy to be back! Be on the lookout for a few more posts this week because I’m feeling inspired!

My Big Important Dreams in 2012

My Big Important Dreams in 2012

As I lay in bed last night thinking about the new year, I realized that I want to look back on 2012 as a time of growth & achievement.

I’m 25 years old and I’m starting to realize that all of the Big Important Dreams I’ve had will only come true if I work really, really hard at them. And honestly? I haven’t been doing such a great job at that. I always assumed that “things would work out” in my favor, but unless I work at it, that may not be the case.

My Big Important Dreams have been changing dramatically over the last few years. Instead of a luxurious home with fame, fortune, designer labels and summer homes, my Big Important Dreams have actually become Modest Important Dreams. I’ve grown up and realized what’s really, truly important to me.

My Big Important Dreams:

  1. Be my own boss
  2. If I can’t be my own boss, work for a company with ideals and philosophies that match my own
  3. Do something creative and inspire others
  4. Have the ability to stay/work at home with my children in their early years, work around their schedule as they grow
  5. Despite working around my children’s schedule, have a satisfying and personally fulfilling career
  6. Live near a city I love
  7. Bring extra money into the household that will allow us more comfort and stability
  8. Travel and appreciate the world around me

Now that I’m in Spain and have no career, I have a lot of self-reflection time. I know that the perfect career for me won’t just drop into my lap, and if I ever want to be my own boss, I will have to make that happen for myself. If I want the freedom and flexibility to raise a family the way I want, then I have to start working toward that now, before I even have children. If I want to have it all, I have to work at it myself. I have to act.

I don’t want to be one of those people with Big Important Dreams but don’t have the Big Important Work Ethic to achieve them. I don’t want to blame circumstances or other people or anything for not going for what I want in life. Here I am with all of the time in the world to pursue my Big Important Dreams, and so 2012 will be the year that I lay the groundwork.

I have some projects that I’m working on that have excited me and made me happy. I have both long and short-term goals. I have a plan A and a plan B, both of which I think are realistic to achieve if I work hard. I have a supportive husband, I have the time, and I (think) I have the money to try.

So here’s to 2012. I hope that it is an inspiring year. I hope that it’s a year that I try a lot harder than I did in 2011. I hope that it’s a year that I can look back on and be proud of myself.

How are you adjusting your dreams as you get older?