Monday, January 19, 2015

17 Years Ago Today …

… I landed in Atlanta, GA, from Romania and then Amsterdam. And although I have occasionally looked back, I have never, ever considered, not even for a second, to ever return to my homeland, after I realized that living here was possible.

And 17 years feels and sounds like a lifetime. Much has been lost and gained. Much has been lived, most of all.

Lived in 3 states and 6 homes. Worked for 5 companies. Switched careers more times than I can count … 

Climbed The Twin Towers in NYC that are now gone forever. Climbed The Smokies and The Rockies. Ate gumbo in New Orleans and chowda in Boston. Cooked turkeys for Thanksgiving and watched baseball and fireworks for July 4. I’ve watched the sunsets in Key West and Waikiki Beach, and sunrises on Monument Valley and bison roam in Yellowstone.  

I married twice. Raised kitties. Became an aunt twice. Welcomed my family into my new life. Got bruised many times, and stood up and walked again.

Got my citizenship and I cried. I cried a lot in these years!

Made friends and lost some, too. I still say my prayers in Romanian, and I write my mom every day. I am still looking forward to my adventures and I still feel like a foreigner. I feel like an intruder, to some extent, and I feel like a guest when I visit back “home”. Where is “home”? I do not know. And I do not care. Home is this planet that welcomes me, every day. No matter the latitude of my being.

I wrote a piece 5 years ago , and it still rings true.

Every year, on this day, I pause, I stop breathing under the weight of realizing this miracle that my life has been. And I pray that every one of you knows what a miracle your lives are – every second of every day, with every accomplishment or loss, which are, in fact, neither. But simple lessons and simple days passing, making a lifetime for each one of us.

These are some of the first pictures I took on American land, in Myrtle Beach, SC - my first American home. In a lot of ways, I will forever be looking across The Atlantic, for the first half of my heart to complete me. 

“It’s something unpredictable/ But in the end it’s right”.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 in Review: A List of 50

2014 was a pretty weird year, as most of them are. A combo of good and bad, it was a year of sadness, when we had to say “good bye” to a dear aunt as well as another one of our beloved kitties. As much grief as all that brought us, we had a couple of things or five that really made this year special and made us (especially me) grow more as a person. And for that I am grateful!

Here are some of the highlights of 2014, counted, in no particular order at all:

1. Camped for the first time in 2 years!

2. Delegated more.

3. Shut off the TV more. Yes, I am completely behind in all of the “hip” series, and it really does not feel weird. At all.

4. Actually finished my biggest knitting project – my first dress.

5. Continued to press “snooze” every morning, but woke up earlier (at 4.30-5.00 AM) almost every week day. It still feels great to press that button!

6. Rented a car for the first time in my life, all on my own. And nothing fell out of the sky either!

7. Flew across the Pacific for the first time, and it completely terrified me. But in the year of missing flights over The Pacific – I survived it!

8. Visited Hawaii for the first time and dipped my feet into a new Ocean. And despite its absolutely uncontested paradisiac beauty, I have no desire to move there.

9. Made a couple of new friends. Yes!

1. Continued learning to live more minimalistically. It looks like a real possibility and we’re both continuing to pursue this in the years to come.

11. Said “no” more, to spend more time with me, my husband and our life.

12. Facetimed with my nephews more. (is this the year that we coined the word “facetime” as a verb, too?!).

13. Used my crockpot more.

14. Shopped for more healthy food.

15. Reconnected with old, old, old (childhood and high school) friends, through the magic of Facebook.

16. Picked up painting, as a new hobby that I have always wanted to try.

17. Spent one-on-one time with my sister for one full week!

18. Took the train to the Big City for a one weekend commute. Took the train for the first time in 16 years of living in the USA.

19. Went to the movies more.

20. Took my mom’s very worthy example, and made more coffee at home, instead of drinking it from the company’s very unclean common Keurig.

21. Used more chap stick and less lipstick. I am definitely becoming more of a mountain and desert girl!

22. Paid off most of my own debt as well as our family’s debt.

23. Got rid of (big) things we were not using that just took up space and cost money in maintenance.

24. Tackled remodeling projects that were needed for a long time, around the house.

25. Just like I have always made my own chicken (or veggie or beef) broth, I made my own “cream of mushrooms condensed soup” to use for my casseroles.

26. Put together my first designated craft room.

27. Finally planted enough peppers to use for canning.

28. Painted more. Than ever before.

29. Went to bed earlier.

30. Although the event was not the happiest of all (a funeral), I got to know my husband’s family better.

31. My wonderful husband transferred all our family videos from VHS to digital format.

32. Spent Thanksgiving at home, not on the road, in some empty restaurant with toxic food for dinner.

33. Still hate improv!

34. I finally, deep-cleaned my bathroom cabinets and got rid of a million bottles and bags I never needed for years!

35. Used egg whites as a mainstay, instead of real eggs.

36. Made peace with the fact that I cannot do politics at work. And just did my job, with drive and accountability (as always), without getting side tracked by useless “politics”. (I know, you’re rolling your eyes, but it took me 39 years to figure this out!).

37. I continued to try new foods and flavors: I actually tried Hawaiian shave ice and it’s actually amazing on a hot August evening in the desert.

38. Listened to NPR more.

39. Finally convinced my husband to hang outdoor Christmas lights around our front door. Our house finally says “Christmas”.

40. Got lost in The Rockies, for one weekend, hiking new trails and going off the map with no wi-fi or phone reception for a few days in Wyoming.

41. Hiked in The Rain Forest for the first time and fell in love with the eucalyptus trees.

42. Learned more about the culture I leave in – we visited a Mormon temple for the first time

43. Travelled for work, but made time to revisit with dear old friends.

44. Visited a Buddhist temple for the first time and remained in awe for the rest of my life.

45. Jumped back on the yoga mat. Finally – after 4 years!

46. I learned that there is no point in trying to asking a Hawaiian bar tender to serve you a virgin mai-tai. It will not happen!

47. My husband rubbed my feet more.

48. I told my parents “I love you” more.

49. Allowed my cats to sleep with us again.

50. Thought about death more, and with more respect for what I have been through so far. Tried to make peace with it all.

I shot a lot of pictures this year – a trend I will continue to keep for the rest of my days. But if there is one picture that stands out in my mind’s memory from this year's photo album is the one below: this is a sunset in Oahu, as we were having dinner at an open air grill restaurant – the kind where you cook your food yourself. It’s beauty, and peace, and God’s presence, and the promise and hope that the world is round and tomorrow will rise again. It’s been the wallpaper on my phone for almost a year and the light I have been chasing every day. 

We got a whole new year ahead, you all! Let’s see what we can do with it next!
Happy possibilities to all of you and let’s all meet safely on this new year’s other end!