Saturday, December 8, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
English - Yes, I'm trying to learn the language here (and doing well enough to at least get by), and yes, there are other Americans here that I can talk to (though I don't get to base all that often). But sometimes it would just be nice to be able to go out and get something at the store, put gas in your car, or go out to eat without having to think about what you're saying and just say it, knowing that the other person will understand you. I do realize how lazy this makes me sound, but it's actually very hard work, and very taxing, to think in a non-native language all day.
Rules and regulations - They don't exist here. Seriously, I often wonder if they do. I know there are signs and speed limits and cops, but nobody seems to take notice of any of them. And when you almost get side-swiped by the Italian in the Fiat Punto, you realize just how easy it would be to stay at home 95% of the time, not taking the risk of driving on Italian roads, and not getting in wrecks and having to, once again, explain to the Carabinieri that you were in the right, even if you are an American.
WalMart - Ack! Yes, I said it. I miss WalMart! Evil as though the darn retail giant may be, I miss being able to drive to Wally World at any time of day or night for that one item that I need and just can't do without until next time. Given that Italians have never heard of a 24-hour anything, such a premise is beyond ridiculous here...which makes me wonder...do I really need that one item that I can't wait until next time for, if I'm forced to wait for it here in Italy, and I survive just fine? Hmm...
Customer Service - When you walk into a store and get ignored because the girl behind the counter is snuggling with her boyfriend, who has his hands all over her butt, and three-quarters of his tongue down her throat, you know you're in Italy. What's even better is that this is an accepted practice here. If you need help, you are expected to ask for it (if you don't mind the dirty looks for interrupting the sales-girl's makeout session). It is extremely common here for you to not speak one word to anyone who works in the store during the course of your visit, including while they ring your purchase. And heaven forbid you don't have the correct change!
Clover-leaf interstate ramps - I know that's kind of a random one, but that whole "you can't get there from here" thing, we found out really does apply in Italy. You can easily get off on an exit, thinking you can just make a U-turn and hop right back on, only to find out that you're either on another interstate headed in a completely different direction, there's only an exit ramp and not an entrance ramp there, or you're five kilometers and about 30 turns away from the entrance ramp. Seriously, just ask Neal's college buddy Chris. I took him and another buddy of his to visit the remains of the Pompeii site when they came to visit, and when I missed my initial exit on the interstate, thus began one heck of a learning experience. I ended up driving all the way around Mount Vesuvius and still came in the opposite direction from which I intended!
110 power - I still have appliances that we were given from our wedding that I've not used. We were given a transformer when we moved into this house, which is currently set up beside the TV, with about five plugs in it (TV, VCR/DVD player, PlayStation, toaster oven, toothbrush recharger, etc.). We were given another from a sailor who married an Italian (thus, no need for his), and it powers the computer. For anything else I need, we've had to do without, but the Italian version, or go ghetto-style like with the toaster and toothbrush recharger in the living room beside the TV. I have two hair driers (unfortunately, that IS a necessity), and I can't even use my sewing machine because even using it with the transformer will burn up its motor. This has become a very expensive issue.
Radio - Actually, they have radio here, but there are only about three radio stations, and one of them is Virgin Radio, which is actually British (think Virgin Airlines). The biggest thing is that, once again, everything is in Italian at least 75% of the time. I really miss being able to channel surf on the radio, knowing each station has their own style and how to easily find country, christian, jazz, etc. instead of just listening to one of three pop radio choices.
There are plenty of things that I miss, but these are what I immediately thought of. Trust me, I could write a 35-page dissertation on what I miss about the US, but I'll leave that for another day.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The rules of the road are as follows:
1. GET OUT OF MY WAY
2. Anyone can do anything at any given time
3. Those lines painted on the roads are purely cosmetic, there is no purpose for them whatsoever
4. The person who pulls the furthest into the intersection first has the right of way
5. There is no such thing as a crosswalk, the entire road is a viable option for crossing
6. You MUST go at least double the speed limit
7. You MUST slam on your brakes and come almost to a complete stop when Polizia are spotted
8. Seat belts are purely optional. In fact, children are not allowed to use them. They are required to be up and about the cabin of the car at all times, smiling and waving at other drivers.
9. It is illegal to have any less than 6 inches between you and the next car, this is reduced to 2 inches when stopped
More to follow, as I find them...
I don't think Italians could draw a straight line with a ruler...for all their art and architectural history, I've yet to see a level building
Italians would put the worst American rednecks to shame with the things they burn/bury in the yard/throw out the car window
Driving in Italy, what can I say? *see my post on this topic below*
The tighter the clothes, the better...this especially refers to those who are overweight
Italians have never heard of city planning. Everyone parks in the roads (which are already barely big enough for two cars to pass) and big trucks with deliveries often block entire lanes of traffic.
Italians don't use dry wall in their homes. They are concrete walls which are impossible to nail anything to.
Friday, November 23, 2007
We thoroughly enjoyed our Thanksgiving Day together. It was just the two of us, with loads of food, and it was nice and relaxing. I couldn't help missing family though. Thanksgiving being the beginning of the holiday season, it really makes it hit home harder that this will be my first year away from family during the holidays. I've been okay with birthdays and all, but the holidays are just completely different.
I think we're both getting more and more anxious to get back home for a visit, as we were talking all day yesterday about what we want to do when we get there, things we want to take with us, and things we could only get in the
All day Wednesday and yesterday, while I was prepping and cooking our big meal, I kept thinking of how Thanksgiving back home would be. My mom had told me that my immediate family was traveling down to
Since I’m from a large family, Thanksgiving usually includes a lot of people. Even if it was just the ones who lived in the same town, it was still six people, including two tweens, so it definitely wasn't quiet. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was the stereotypical huge affair that you usually see in the TV specials. My mom was one of twelve kids, and usually her oldest sister hosted, and there were constantly people coming and going, kids everywhere, and hugs and kisses all around. I miss those holidays.
Neal didn't seem to miss a beat with our quiet day. I guess it's partly been ingrained in him, given how many holidays he's missed out on from being deployed or working and not able to get home. But he's also an only child, so the quiet holiday dinners are more common and familiar to him.
I really did enjoy the time we got alone, him helping me cook, sitting at the table and nibbling on what was left on our plates after we filled up, and enjoying a glass of wine and a game of cards together. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect, romantic, or special Thanksgiving. It was just very weird, and probably one of those things about being married now (especially being married to a U.S. Sailor) that I will just have to get used to. New marriage, new family, new traditions.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Our little girl is named Ambar. She is from the Dominican Republic, and will be eight years-old in March. We have received three letters from her, and they are the most precious letters a person will ever receive. She is so curious about us, tells us about her family, asks us questions about ours, and it is just the sweetest thing to receive. We've sent her letters as well, along with a picture of us, and it is an amazing blessing to know that this little girl will have a better life because of our small $32 a month. Through Compassion, we were also able to send an extra donation so that Ambar and the other children in her school will receive gifts for Christmas.
If you have ever considered donations to a ministry, I would highly suggest Compassion. They are very transparent as to where they spend their money, send regular updates on special projects they are doing (for example, right now they're doing a special project in Africa to help mothers and babies who are HIV positive), and are highly recommended by several national groups. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me, or to view their website.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
While that statement can obviously be taken way beyond common sense, I agree with it for the most part. Looking back on the many decisions I made, things I did, people I befriended, etc. I realize that it would be a very sad life for me to constantly be focusing on those things that I should have done differently. After all, those things got me to where I am today. And it's a great place to be.
While it's never fun to look back at things you'd rather forget about, I think that those things make a person who they are, and there are many life lessons that can't be learned otherwise. It brings to mind how awesome God is, that he is actively involved in things being just right for our good. No, I don't like some of the things I've seen/done in life, but God allowed them to happen so that I would learn something, or to put me in a place to meet someone, etc.
I once met a girl in a desperate situation. I was on my way to a friend's apartment, but was running late from work. I was supposed to go to the bank to make a deposit that day, but had missed their hours and had to use the ATM instead. I didn't like making a deposit that way, and seriously considered just waiting, but I didn't want to have a lot of cash on me, so I went. While I was there, a girl with an infant in her arms walked up to me and asked me to take her baby. I was shocked, but asked her why.
It turned out that she was heading back to her parents' house after being kicked out the year before. She had gotten pregnant, and because she wouldn't break up with her boyfriend and have an abortion, her parents kicked her out. Unfortunately for her, she realized too late that her boyfriend was not all that interested in being a father, and abandoned her just after the baby was born. She had no friends, and had no choice but to go home. But she felt that she couldn't take the baby with her, and was trying to "give" it to someone. I tried to reason with her, telling her that her parents must be horribly worried about her, and will just want to know that she is safe. I told her they wouldn't turn them away, but she was adamant. She told me that if I didn't take her, she was just going to leave her somewhere.
I ended up taking the baby. Knowing how it would look if I then gave her money, I offered to buy her a meal before she left. I was secretly hoping that I could stall her long enough to come to her senses. But she refused, and the "deer in the headlights" look in her eyes told me that she really would just leave the baby. In the end, her bus came, and she got on and left. I knew one of the police officers in the area, so I reported what had happened to him. I then had to hold the precious little girl until Children's Services came to take her. I asked if they could inform me of what happened to her, but because of privacy dealing with children, they couldn't. I really wished I had been at a point in my life to have adopted her myself. But it wasn't in God's plan.
It broke my heart to see this girl. Yes, I was sad for the baby, but her mother weighed more heavily on me. What must her experience in life thus far have been like to convince her that she had to abandon her baby in order to survive? She had to be in denial, given her actions. What guilt must she be living with now. I often think of this girl. I wonder where she's at, if she's managed to make a living for herself, and I pray that God will heal her heart from such a rough life. This experience for me was one of the biggest lessons in God leading you to the right place at the right time. Who knows what she would've done with that baby girl had I not taken her? It was a horribly traumatic experience, but if I learned anything from it, it was how much God loved that baby girl, and how much he trusted me.
I am still learning the lesson of God's timing. And every time, it still amazes me.
Monday, November 12, 2007
We spoiled that kid to death! She was another redhead, so she and Stephen have always had a special bond. She was the sweetest baby you'd ever meet - not that I was biased. She has always been the social butterfly, and the sing-song creative one. She loved listening to music, dancing (dad used to dance in the kitchen with her), and always got tons of attention wherever we went.
Karen's compassion is unparalleled. She has always been sensitive to everything around her. She used to cry at sad movies and shows. We had to fast forward through parts of "Lady and the Tramp" for a while because she would start crying when she saw the puppies and dogs in the pound. To this day, she is so compassionate, she will start tearing up when someone else is sad.
Karen is a huge blessing to our family, and to anyone around her. I still remember when she was around 3, she went through this phase of asking people, "Do you know God?" Mom and Dad were trying to teach her that some people know God and some people don't, and she just started asking people. It was adorable, and completely endearing. She was our little evangelist. And every now and then, you could tell God used her to ask the right person, to get them thinking. You never expect something like that out of such a young kid.
When Karen was dedicated, several people said that she would be a peace-maker. To this day, she has lived up to that. She can't stand disagreement and tension, and will do whatever she can to stop it. It works hand-in-hand with her compassion. It's amazing to see God in her, and how he works through her. People are always complimenting my mom on both of my little sisters, and how different they are. It's so obviously God in them.
Karen's now in the fifth grade and going to her first year at private school. My mom says it's been quite a transition, and she's had a hard time with her social tendencies. Something tells me that she'll level out and thrive there though. If anything, hopefully she'll be that evangelistic influence while there.
Karen is so special, and I hate that we've had to miss out on this last year of her and Sarah's lives. I can't wait to go back home and see them. I have learned so much through those girls, and I'm certain that God has used them in my life in many ways. If anything, I understand a little more the heart that a mother has for her children. Even though they're not mine, I can only imagine the love I will have for my own children, just based on the special place in my heart that those two have.
Happy Birthday Karen! I love you!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I used to love working out, and every time I do, I love the high that I get. I've also determined that though I've never been a runner, it's high time I become one. I've been attempting off and on through the summer, then sprained my ankle (I refuse to give up!), but I'm finally back to it. I still have to be careful with the ankle, but I'm doing fairly well.
Starting out, I weighed 160lbs at my heaviest. I'm finally down to 150, but it's taken two months to get that far, and it's time to kick it into high gear. My measurements and everything are below.
Starting out (10/23/2007) :
Weight - 153
Waist - 37
Hips - 40.5
Neck - 14
BMI - 27.1
Weight - 150.5
Waist - 35
Hips - 40
Neck - 13.5
BMI - 26.6
Goal: (by my 27th birthday, 03/30/2008)
Weight - <130
Waist - <30
Hips - <38
Neck - <12
BMI - <23
My other motivation...
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
So anyway, lately I've been catching up with some old friends. Of course, by old friends, I mean friends from high school, and those from my first couple of years of college. We moved around alot when I was young, so I didn't make really close friends until my late teen years. As I'm only twenty-six, some people may not think those friends are really all that "old," but it's one of those cases where you're really close and for one reason or another you lose touch, keep meaning to call, etc. etc.
My girlfriends from high school never missed a beat. We were all fairly close, having all been home schooled, and it's as if we never lost touch (only a lot has happened since then obviously). It's so nice to see that the growing pains, stupid mistakes, and constant self-questioning are a common theme among us. Whether it's the natural sheltering that happens to home schooled girls, or just a product of being young and naive, I don't know. But it's almost therapeutic to see that someone else went through similar crap to what you did, and thinks the same way about things.
But while those girlfriends were relatively easy to find and get back in contact with, I can't help but think of those whom I'd met after high school - friends that were just as great, but for some reason, I've lost touch with. And of course, now that I'm married and living in a totally different country (temporarily, thank goodness), it can seem overwhelming knowing that there's no really good way to get in touch with them even if I could.
To the girlfriend who was there for me while I was moving out on my own, whose cell phone number I still have, and could easily call: "Hi there. It's Janie. Remember me? Last time I talked to you, you were having a baby, and I never got by to see her because I was planning a wedding, finishing my senior year of college, and dealing with general drama in my life. I know that's no excuse, because if I was a good friend, I would've made time. But can you find it in your heart to talk to me, now that I have the time? I know you're dealing with a two year-old now, and there's no way we can just go out for coffee or something, but is now a good time to talk?"
How horrible it makes me feel to know that I've let her down. Sure, we played phone tag for about six months after her baby was born, and neither of us are the phone type. She and I both took our time calling each other back, but it always worked for us. The last time I thought of calling her, it was about two months before I was leaving the country, and I felt like a heel trying to keep up a friendship, just to move away soon after.
Then there's the girlfriend who's a couple years older, who moved away after graduating from college. We used to keep in touch by phone every couple of weeks, and emailed regularly. Somehow, the emails became less and less frequent, and eventually, I had a hard time figuring out how to contact her. I always had her email, and we were both "too busy" to respond quickly, then forgot to respond, and it became a relationship of forwards and random emails here and there. She was a great shoulder to lean on when I was a senior in high school, and had the biggest crush of my life. She was logical, like me, and we understood each other. Even though we couldn't be logical about our own love lives, we made sense of each other's, and listened and said what needed to be said. How did I let that go?
There's the girlfriend who I met in college, who was in a few of my classes. We hit it off immediately, and even though we only had a few classes together, we knew the other understood us. We didn't have classes together for about a year and only saw each other in the hallways for a while. Then, I found out she was dating my best guy friend, and I couldn't have been happier! We had another class together during the semester she was graduating and planning a wedding, and I made the cakes for their wedding. After they moved, I kept up with them occassionally, but because her husband was friends with my boyfriend, any time they'd talk, my boyfriend would tell me they said hi, and eventually that was the only way I kept up with them. When I broke up with said boyfriend, I talked to them once more, but let what someone else said manipulate me into thinking they were mad at me, and I left it up to them to call me if they wanted. Big mistake.
This past April, I got back in touch with her, but only through email, and even then, it's scarce. Unfortunately, from what she said, it seems that my one-time best guy friend in the world is actually upset with me, and I've not garnered the courage to call and chat with him. One of these days, I will call and at least talk to him and see what's really going on, because he was an amazing friend. I have to pray through that though, and gather the courage to possibly open up some old wounds. But it's worth it.
Then there's the couple I was best friends with during college. They were part of a whole group of friends that used to run together. After I broke up with above boyfriend and was newly married (and all the drama that ensued with that situation), I tried to get together with them. Knowing that they would want to discuss some of the drama with previous boyfriend (they had only heard his side), I was willing to talk to them about it. Unfortunately, it apparently wasn't what they wanted to hear. Though they said that they still wanted to keep in touch, it was obvious that they were bitter about the situation. I have always questioned whether I should've handled the situation differently. I tried not to involve mutual friends for this reason, but had my hand forced, and lost what I thought were good friends. In this case, maybe one day they'll see the real picture. But it still makes me sad, knowing how much we all went through together, and how when I did something that I felt was best for me, because another of their friends didn't like it, I ended up being the bad guy. I guess that's usually the case when you finally wise up. But I still love them and miss them.
On a good note, I recently got back in touch with a guy friend from several years ago. He and I had met at a church conference and called each other regularly. I started dating a guy who was not comfortable with that, and I ended up just not calling any more. I found him online, and when I realized all that had gone on in his life in the five years since we'd talked, I felt awful! He had some important moments in his life that I had missed. Moments that I thought I would never miss in a friend's life, but I did. Luckily he understood, and wanted to know about my life in the past five years as well, but I still felt awful. I let a guy come between me and a good friend, and he was not the only one. I am only now realizing that my priorities were in the completely wrong place in my early twenties.
These aren't the only friends that I've lost touch with. There are many many more. Overall, I've learned many lessons through these lost relationships. Even more so now that I'm in another country, with limited relationships available. I'm beginning to realize the truth in the song, "Make new friends" that we were taught in preschool. I'm learning just how important relationships are. I'm also learning that you can't cater to everyone, please everyone, agree with everyone, or avoid conflict in friendships. I've learned how important it is to maintain my own friends, apart from the guy I'm dating/I marry. I'm also learning that though I love my husband, and we love spending tons of time together, and he's a great listener, I can't depend on him to meet all of my relational needs. I need friendships outside of my marriage, if for any reason, just so I don't drive my husband crazy with my constant "chit chat" gab!
Anyway, though it isn't New Years' yet, my resolution is to work on the relationships I have, had, and to gather more of them in general. Friendships are hard, and there is so much more involved than just the stuff I put in this post. But they are essential because God made us social creatures (especially women, lol), and worth it.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Today's thought: rate chasing.
Definition: people move their savings money around to different internet savings accounts in order to take advantage of higher interest rates.
Neal and I are doing this currently (sort of). We started an HSBC online savings last year for our emergency fund because the highest we could get with our bank was somewhere around 3%. HSBC had 5.05% at the time, with a special of 5.5% for a month. Given that the difference was so huge, and that we knew HSBC by name, we went for it. Now just this past month HSBC, along with many other banks, lowered their rates (down to 4.5% - ouch!) because of the Fed rate cut, so we went window-shopping. We found a bank that had a much higher rate (5.19%), so we've opened an account, and are going to sit back and see how it goes.
Although ours is just being savings-wise, apparently this is a big thing to do. I've heard of people opening credit cards to take advantage of an introductory 0% offer, then using that money to invest until the offer expires, and paying it off the day before. So you're essentially doing the same thing the banks do: using someone else's money to invest with, and keeping the interest income. While I believe I'm pretty money-savvy (it took a long time unfortunately), I think this is still a little bit more risky than I'm comfortable with right now. But more power to those who are doing it, I guess.
Here's an interesting article on this phenomena: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/13/business/yourmoney/13money.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
So anyway, this is an interesting topic to me. I guess I just don't feel quite as much like a bank snob now for moving our savings for the higher rate. And I guess it's essentially the same as playing the stock market - just a lot safer!