Monday, November 28, 2011

conversations with my husband

scene: in the car selecting music for the long drive

me: "I thought you would want to listen to the children's songbook (the songs we play in nursery) since you don't know any of them and you need to learn."
husband: "whenever I listen to those songs now, I'll only get stressed out. I only think, "hey [so and so], don't hit and push! [so and so], quit digging in the garbage!, [so and so], leave the lights on!"
*names have been removed to protect the innocent

scene: 2:30am, saying a prayer together after a very long (and fun) day in the citay (new york city)

husband: "we're grateful for the wonderful weather and food."
amen! Have I mentioned how amazing the food is in Little Italy?!

scene: the night before leaving for NYC for Thanksgiving
me: "Victor, this time we go to your mom's you need to help a little more. You always end up chilling while your mom cooks for you all day in the kitchen."
husband: "But I like being pampered by my mom. And I'm pretty sure she likes pampering me too."

And pamper him, she did.
It was a great Thanksgiving weekend.
victor's step-dad cuttin' the turkey
victor cuttin' his piece of the turkey

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The month of gratitude: A Love Story

image from here

It was three years ago this week that I met the boy that would become my husband. And now as I contemplate this first Thanksgiving as a married woman, I can't help but think about that Thanksgiving week three years ago, and how much has changed since then.

I had just arrived in Romania as a missionary and had no clue what I was doing. I was tired and jet-lagged, and after being assigned a trainer and a city that I would go to after I took care of some visa stuff, I found myself at the home of a member in Bucharest for dinner . Tons of other missionaries were there, all of them were there for a good meal, as well as some socializing, before heading back to various parts of the country later that evening.

One elder sitting by me said, "hey! I'm your district leader and we're going to be in Cluj together!" I smiled and nodded, but quickly disregarded it because I was too much in a haze to register what he meant. Then the time came to eat: a traditional Romanian meal that I would later come to appreciate, but at the time, my queezy stomach could not handle it. I was so worried because I didn't want to offend my hostess--but there was no way I was going to eat that greasy sarmale.

Then that same elder came to my rescue. He willingly volunteered to eat ALL of my sarmale. I thought he was being so noble! So heroic to help me! I didn't realize at the time that this is just how he is ALL of the time. He eats like a horse. And he has been my personal garbage disposal ever since. Doesn't that sound so romantic.

My other first thoughts about him went something like this: "your name is Castro? Hmm, just like Fidel."
one of our first photos together. castro is the one on the left.

Yep, that was about it. Like I said, I was really out of it. But I came to know this Elder Castro over the next eight months, and it was a unique situation because I wasn't in Romania to have any love interests. Therefore, I simply was myself with my fellow missionaries. I wasn't trying to woo them and I wasn't self-conscious of whether I was showing only my "good" qualities. When Elder Castro did something that irritated me, he knew it!

The months went by, and we were friends, if you can call it that. It was kind of a love hate relationship. When I still had eight months left in Romania, he went home and began to live a normal, non-missionary life, and once in a while I would hear from him. One day he sent me a letter telling me that he kind of liked me, and he kind of wanted to see if there was something between us. He wanted to invite me to come to his fancy schmancy Naval Academy dance, and hey, while I was in the area, why don't we go see the Broadway revival of South Pacific? That sneaky guy. He knew I just couldn't resist two of my favorite things: NYC, and Rogers and Hammerstein!

I was hesitant. I had a few reservations about it, but I think deep down I knew I would end up going. And I knew that perhaps it really might go somewhere.

So I went, and from the get go, I knew that this relationship was going to be different from any of my others. He knew exactly what he was signing up for. He already knew me: the good, the bad, the ugly! And yet he was still interested. It was so nice starting in a relationship where I wasn't worrying if he would still like me after finding out just how spazzy and ridiculous I can be sometimes. It was oh so nice to just be myself and be loved. And it's still like that. Honestly, that's my favorite part of it all.

our first dates

It was also one year ago this week that this same "Elder Castro" was asking my parents for permission to marry me. So considering all that has happened, I can't help but be grateful at this time of year for the relationship that has changed my life and for what a great year it has been.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The month of gratitude: my materialistic side

It definitely merits to acknowledge our greater blessings on a daily basis. But then there are also those things in life that you don't really need, but they make your life so much easier and enjoyable. Let's acknowledge some of them.

It's nice to have a car. And money to put gas in it.

Stores like Costco and Trader Joe's make me really happy.

I'm grateful for Skype. And facebook, for that matter.

Broadway musicals make life much sweeter.

GPS helps me to get out and explore.

My ipod makes many a situation easier: exercising, driving, singing time in nursery, etc.

Speaking of working out, I'm grateful for a free membership to a really good gym: "Semper Fit."So clever--I love the name. It's the gym on base and despite being surrounded by incredibly fit people, it has a good, non-intimidating atmosphere, which is exactly what I need.

And thank heavens for comfortable mattresses. And couches. I've lived before without a couch in China and it sure does make you appreciate them.

Anyway, you get the idea. These are just things in the last week that have popped into my mind, but I think that as we stop and be grateful for seemingly small and silly things, we realize just how sweet life is.

Because it really is sweet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The month of gratitude: Family

"You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."  
--Desmond Tutu
I have a wonderful family who has been nothing but supportive in every decision of my life. They are fun, they are loving, and most importantly, they are quick to forgive me for any stupid thing I have done or any harsh word I have said. That is love.

I have been blessed with amazing parents and I am proud to say that they raised me with a good head on my shoulders. The same goes for Victor's parents. They are wonderful. You always hear about having nightmare in-laws, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I have amazing and supportive in-laws and I am so grateful for that. 

So for this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful now for not one, but TWO wonderful families. I am blessed!
"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family." --Anthony Brandt

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Virginia in the fall is beautiful. The fact that it is mid-November and there are still colorful leaves on the trees makes me so happy. I'm used to freak snow storms coming as early as Halloween in Utah! 
I don't want it to end!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mission skirt resurrected

I had this skirt on my mission that I really liked because it was wool and houndstooth, which I love, but it was a bit on the frumpy side (see below). Naturally, I left it behind to make room in my luggage for all the new clothes that I bought!
I really wanted to recreate a cuter version of it (since refashioning wasn't an option)---maybe with some cooler or quirkier houndstooth. I found some cute corduroy houndstooth at Hobby Lobby, and then I just made up my own pattern, because I was too cheap to buy one. Because I did that, the skirt still needs some tweeking, but I wanted to wear it to church today anyway, and then I made my husband take pictures of me after. And it was then that I realized that I could never be a fashion blogger, because I felt way too awkward.

So, here is the finished product! (kind of)

Side note: I got the blouse and the shoes from this store in Phoenix called "Last Chance." It sells the stuff from Nordstrom Rack and everyone raves about how great of deals it has and people go to Phoenix just to shop there. I thought it was okay, but it wasn't as cheap as I was hoping, which made it a little disappointing. I guess I've been shopping at Goodwill too much!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The month of gratitude: Happy Veterans Day

I like this little picture I found on the internet the other day. This photograph always gives me the chills because I can't imagine what those brave people were feeling as they stormed the beach.

Honestly, before I got married and became a "military wife," I never thought much about Veterans Day. I never got off of work or school for it, so it seemed to come and go. And I don't want you to think that only now am I thankful for veterans because I benefit from Outback's free bloomin' onion special this week, because that is not true at all. It's just that as I hear about the men and women who have fought and those who are now fighting for our country, it all has just become a lot more relative to me and my life now. It hits closer to home now, and it makes me appreciate these great veterans on a greater level than before.

I've been reading a wonderful book called "The Infinite Atonement" by Tad Callister (it's a wonderful book, by the way: everyone needs to read it). Anyway, it was talking about sacrifice and how it is one of the highest expressions of love. For me this also teaches us that our willingness to sacrifice is one of the many Christ-like attributes--- along with attributes like charity, patience, obedience, and diligence.

As I thought about this, I was reminded again of how those fighting for our country are demonstrating this Christ-like attribute when I had the chance to listen to the words of President Obama in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day this year:

"What bonds this chain together across the generations, this chain of honor and sacrifice, is not only a common cause--our country's cause--but also a spirit captured in the book of Isaiah, a familiar verse. 'When I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am. Send me!"

"That's what we memorialize today. That spirit that says, send me, no matter the mission. Send me, no matter the risk. Send me, no matter how great the sacrifice I am called to make." (the whole speech found here)

I am grateful for all those who have fought for the ideals of America. And for those who continue to fight for them. I hope I can learn from their examples of sacrifice, along with their other admirable qualities. Happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

little pick-me-ups: Arizona edition

When I went to AZ, I went to my sister's school and helped with her 4th graders and their Halloween party. Oh wait, I can't call it that because the school isn't allowed to celebrate that "pagan" holiday in order to be politically correct. The kids couldn't wear costumes, and a few of the parents even kept their kids home from school that day. WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?!

Anyway, back to the point. The kids loved me! For some reason, they thought I was awesome. I'm not complaining. At the end of the day, a couple of them left me some notes.

They were calling me Annie all day, so don't ask me why they spelled it as "Anna." Mrs. Shields, you might want to work with them on their spelling more!

Anyway, that sure brightened up my day. Nothing like a good note telling me that I'm pretty and the best sister ever to make you feel happy. Now if only my real sisters would tell me that....sisters, I'm waiting.

The Capital of the Confederacy.

The Marine Ball was held in Richmond, Virginia. I was excited to go because I always love seeing new cities, and Richmond, after all, has a lot of history---including being the capital city of the Confederacy, complete with the White House where President Jefferson Davis himself lived and governed during the War of Northern Aggression.

Overall,  we left with mixed feelings about the city. A lot of the downtown area was really janky and sketchy. The hotel told us that the river walk and Civil War Center was cool. So we went. It was pretty, if you like the whole industrial look.
But we did find some good stuff. So, this is one of the reasons I love my husband so much. He loves trying new things with me, and I love adventuring around with him. When I told him that I was in the mood for a classic diner breakfast at a local greasy spoon, he asked and found a place. And it was exactly what I described.
I was intrigued by the fried apples listed on the menu. It was pretty much like warm apple sauce. Yummy and greasy.
Then we adventured over to the 17th street farmers market.
And after that, we went to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Poe grew up in Richmond and went to college there. I love Poe. It was even more fun with it being Halloween/Autumn time.
Poe was only 5'8". A man more compatible to my size. 
So, there you go. Maybe we can go to Richmond again sometime and get to see what else it has to offer. I'm sure it can't all be janky! Just kidding...overall, I like Richmond...kind of.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Belle of the Ball

Remember all the hoopla this summer with celebrities getting invites to the Marine Corps birthday ball? Well, guess who also got an invite? Me! Unfortunately, both Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake are going to different balls than we went to, but we still had a grand old time.
Us hitting up the dance floor, just to say we did. And, the birthday cake. 
Happy Birthday, Marine Corps! Semper Fi!! 
(Does this make me sound like a faithful military wife? I'm working on it)

Side note: I did my own hair. I was pretty proud of myself.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beginning the month of gratitude

People---and by "people" I mean mostly guys---are celebrating this month as "no-shave November." Well, good for them. I, for one, will be making a more conscious effort this month to count my blessings (which includes razors). I love Thanksgiving, so I want to give it a proper build-up like Christmas gets. And I have a lot to be grateful for, so let us share and be grateful together!

Something that I have been extremely grateful for this week is something that is perfectly described as the "tender mercies of the Lord." David A. Bednar teaches that tender mercies "are real and they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often the Lord's timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them." (for the entire talk, click here)

There have been MANY times in my life where I have experienced these small moments, but the ones that have been called to my attention the most this last week, as silly as it sounds, are experiences with flat tires. I wrote about an experience a year ago about this, and I still have been blessed in this department. 

(side note: I have, in fact, been taught how to change a tire. But seriously, it's hard for me! It helps if you are strong and I am definitely not)

So when my sister's tire has a blow-out on the freeway going 75 mph, there were A LOT of tender mercies involved:

* It could have happened way out in the desert where she works. It didn't: rather it happened right by the exit to her home.

* It could have happened on a day when she was alone. It didn't. It happened on the one day during my trip that I went to work with her. This was more of a tender mercy on her part, because I think it's safe to say that she totally would have had a pregnant girl nervous breakdown if she had been alone. (Because she's actually pregnant, in case you haven't heard)

* And this last one is more of smart thinking on my brother in law's part, but they had roadside assistance to help, since as I said, changing a tire is hard for me (you know, because I'm a tiny little woman!---name that quote)

I don't think these things were consequences. It's just one tiny example of how the Lord is watching out for us, and making things a little easier for us through these small "tender mercies." And so first and foremost this month, I am grateful for this. And so grateful that He is not exclusive in whom He helps out. 

"The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." 1 Nephi 1:20
photo documentation of our "adventure"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I went to Arizona

I just got back from Arizona, land of 85 degree weather. I conveniently missed the snow storms that hit the east coast, and now it's back to lovely autumn weather here, so it's a win win win (the ideal: Michael Scott, anyone?).

The desert was pretty. It had been a good 15 years since I had been to AZ, so I really couldn't even remember what it was like, or remember seeing big cactus plants everywhere, so I took a lot of pictures of them---like, more than I took with me and my sister who I hadn't seen for 5 months, but not as many as I took of her ADORABLE dog.
In case that wasn't enough for you, how about some ADORABLE videos?!

I love how she does the cute head tilt when you talk to her.
She even plays hide and seek!
You probably are thinking that I am the dog equivalent of a cat lady. Oh well. Dogs are way better than cats anyway. I just wish I could get a dog as well-behaved and lovable as my sister's.

So I actually did do other things besides obsess over the dog. I'll talk about that later.