On Life and Road Trips (and Dill Pickle Peanuts)

mountain road finalphoto credit: unsplash.com

A sweet friend has been encouraging me lately to find my words again. I’ve known I need to, so why not today?

Oh, words. You are both a gift and my nemesis. Why must it be that way?

But I’m sitting here in my Superwoman t-shirt, the juniors size large that I bought and stretched over my belly even though it is SO. NOT. a maternity shirt, and maybe the silver logo is helping me feel a little more super-ish. So we’ll try and see where this all goes.

It IS May, after all. And baby is due in two months, and I haven’t written a word here in over four.

It’s definitely time to talk again.

Like I said, baby is due soon-ish. Which means that Mel’s belly is more than a little big-ish. I feel huge, even if people keep telling me I’m all baby. (I’m not…there is definitely more in, AHEM, other places.) But in the interest of keeping readers and because I haven’t taken a single belly shot, here we all go. (At least my hair is/was sorta cute today.) :)

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I’m feeling a lot better. Two months of IVs and a medicine pump did wonders, and sometimes I’m just incredibly amazed at how good I feel. There’s nothing quite like feeling death-ish (man, I really like -ish today) for months to make a person appreciate the good days.

The coffee love is back (thank you, Jesus) as is the burrito love. And other things. Like baked potatoes and steak tacos and french fries. And salad because all things need balance, yeah? But I will just tell you that this little guy is making me HUNGRY. (He’d better be cute to account for all the extra pounds I’ve packed on.) 😉

So now we’re really just in countdown mode. (And paint-the-nursery and buy-a-new-stroller-and-carseat modes.) Guess what? If you wait too long between your kiddos, their carseats expire. Who knew? Now we do. :)

Sadly, though, baby S will still be stuck with a pink pack and play. But I’m sure he’ll survive.

So I road-tripped it down south this past weekend. It was my longest to-date, and to be honest, I’m kind of surprised that I did it. And now that I’ve actually driven 13+ hours one way, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I met up with a friend in Chattanooga, and then we drove down to Auburn, Alabama, to meet up with a couple more friends. I had no idea how far I actually drove (1,798 miles round trip!) until I looked at a map. It was long! And, surprisingly…a lot of fun.

Honestly, I needed some good alone time…to process, to pray, and, yes, to hold my own little concerts. (Funny story…I forgot that my hubby’s dash cam records everything. Ahem. I made him swear he wouldn’t go back and listen.) 😉 And by the time I’d survived (and YES, I mean SURVIVED) Nashville rush hour, I was so ready to see my friend.

Two more hours of winding mountain roads that made a gorgeous drive, and we were reunited.

We laughed, we talked late into the night…and it felt like I’d known her forever even if this is only the second time that we’ve met face to face.

coffee with Jenn finalphoto props to Jenn and her awesome selfie skills 😉

LOVE HER. (This pic is from our first meeting…coffee several weeks ago.)

And the next morning we headed down to Alabama, and then our group was complete. We had three days of girl time and deep chats and laughter over some of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard, times of prayers and tears, and even a little shopping in one of the cutest towns I’ve ever seen.

Oh, and lots. LOTS. LOTS. OF. FOOD. (How did I not photograph this?) I guess I was too busy stuffing my face with mac ‘n cheese, chicken casserole, cinnamon rolls, pickle wraps, pepper jam on crackers, banana pudding…are you drooling yet? 😉

In all honesty, the whole weekend was an incredible gift, one that I didn’t know I needed so badly. These women are such a sweet blessing.

GSD selfie finalphoto props to Jenn…again. 😉

I hadn’t realized how lonely I was until I spent this time with friends. This pregnancy and all it’s brought with it…has been lonely. And just really, really hard.

That’s nobody’s fault, really. It’s just this phase of life and where we are. I choose to be content with the days as they fall, but sometimes it’s hard. And so when I get a gift like this past weekend, coming off it is almost a little depressing.

Distance is hard, and I miss them already.

But in the meantime, between visits…we pray, we Vox, we connect when we can. And you’d better believe I’ll be making some banana pudding soon…you know, in honor of my friends. 😉 And I also got myself hooked on dill pickle flavored peanuts…I had no clue they would be so good, but I sort of inhaled them. 😉 Sadly, I could only find the cashews on my drive back, but I’ve still got one bag left.  And, heck, they’re so good, maybe they’ll get their own blog post. 😉

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So life has been busy, it’s been full…and God is good.

In all seasons, in every day…no matter what it all looks like.

Here’s to words again…thanks for being here.

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Finding Words Before November is Over…

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Wow. I need to write some words before y’all just pack up and leave me for good. 😉

It’s been quiet around here, but not quiet in real life. We’ve kept busy, and life has been good, and I’m honestly not sure how we’re staring at December. Tomorrow.

Really?

And writing…well, it feels a little foreign but still-a-little like home at the same time. So I feel like giving it a go…it might be kinda nice to actually not go an entire month without writing, too. 😉

There’s a weird sort of frozen-but-not-slippery-yet rainish substance falling from the sky right now, and I’m honestly wishing that it looked a little more like the gorgeous, winter wonderland we had a week ago. So pretty. :)

I feel like there’s a lot of good in life right now…lots of little happy parts that make up a really blessed life. Sure, there are the sad parts, too, but I’m trying not to think about those too much. Especially coming off Thanksgiving, I’ve been trying to focus on the sweet blessings. There are a lot.

And none of them are sweeter than this. These people. My people. (This one is just a sneak peek. My favorite, favorite photo is making its debut on our Christmas card.) 😉

family2015 finalphoto credit: Epic Image Photography

So I also went to the East Coast this month. (Actually, the end of last month. Close enough.) 😉 The last time I wrote, I was literally running out of the house to catch a plane to New Jersey/New York. (Some of you found that entertaining. Thanks.) :)

That feels like ages ago, but then, it’s been ages since I actually wrote, so I feel like I owe you at least a little.

I went, first of all, to see some precious friends. That was so, so fun.

We also went to the Hillsong Conference. (That was fun, too. And loud.) 😉

And I got to spend a memorable day in the city with my sweet friend and her husband, and I crossed something off my bucket list. The Met. (I SO sound like I belong in the city, don’t I?!) 😉

I loved it and wished we’d had more time there, but I also loved that I got to just see it. (And take a few selfies.) :)

I love New York, but no matter how much I beg, T will just not even entertain the idea of actually living there. Yep. So I will continue dreaming my big-city dreams and visiting as often as he’ll let me. 😉

And the other big thing I did in November was run. I ran a 15k. 9.3 miles.

Y’all, that’s a lot of miles.

It kind of happened without a lot of fanfare and photos, but I did it. And I got this sweet (no pun intended) medal when I finished. Even though it’s cheesy, and I took a selfie cause I didn’t have any other pics, I’m pretty proud that I did it.

race selfie final

And now…back to 5k’s. Those feel like a vacation after 9+ miles!

So it’s Christmas now, and this is my favorite time of year. I’m not kidding when I tell you I could just sit by the tree for hours and stare at the Christmas lights with music in the background. I love it. And I hope there will be more words to go along with it all, too. :)

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving, friends. Thanks for sticking around here, even when I don’t write.

And I’m also over at Circles of Faith tomorrow, so make sure you check it out. :)

(((hugs)))

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September Friday Favorites (+ a GIVEAWAY)

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Hi, friends. And, happy fall! (I love that I can officially say that.) :)

So I’m sliding in late this Friday…and I’ve also written this post once already, and then I decided to delete the 1,000+ words and start over. I guess some days are like that.

I want to give y’all a glimpse into life…and also to share the joy when I talk about my month and my faves. I was in just a little too snarky of a mood when I wrote the first round…so we’ll see if the snark reduces a little this time. 😉

When I realized it was time to write this post, I decided that there are a lot of other things I could have (and probably should have) called it. Like…

That Post Where Mel Admits She Basically Hasn’t Written Anything in a Month

OR

All About Making Friends With Other Moms in Target

OR

The Day Mel Got an Extra T-shirt in the Mail and Decided to Ask if She Could Give it Away on Her Blog

So, let’s just roll with all of them, ok? 😉

Here we go…it feels good to end the 3+ weeks of not-so-many (translation: N.O.) words. (Don’t fall off your seat or anything, but I also already have a post written for next week. I. KNOW. I like Riesling, should you feel led to send me a bottle of wine to celebrate.)

😉

READ

We’re being totally honest here, right?

I haven’t read much at all this month. Sadly, not even my Bible has been opened every day. I think it’s a season…and I seem to go all or nothing, meaning I read twelve books at once or none at all. There are so many good ones out there, especially by women I know and love, but I just haven’t been able to…to focus long enough and actually keep a book open long enough to finish it.

And herein, I give myself some grace…and vow to do better tomorrow.

But I do have to share a blog post, written my GSD friend, Kayse. Honestly, the whole thing kinda breaks my heart, and I hate that this happened to her (you’ll just have to read it) BUT I love how she processed it and responded. So you should definitely hop over and read about the time a woman tried to parent her child in Target.

And as a side note, I’ve been feeling convicted about going out of my way to encourage other moms, especially after reading her post. Sometimes my to-do lists and shopping lists and general moods just get in the way of taking the time to encourage. Yesterday, I found out that being intentional can sometimes make my day…and someone else’s, too. I got to play a game of “soccer” with a sweet, two year-old boy and chat with his mama while we waited in line at Target.

And can I just say that it felt insanely awesome to trade confessions of the cereals we sometimes feed our kids? :) (No All-Bran in this house. Think Cookie Crisp. Which is delicious, by the way.)

WATCH

I’m beyond excited that there’s a new season of The Voice happening. Whoop, whoop! Other than that, I’m a TV failure. I know nothing about any of the current shows, other than an occasional flipping to HGTV in order to dream myself some big, home-renovating dreams. 😉

WEAR

This is always my favorite one. :)

So I have this dress that I’ve been waiting to wear. I saved it for a getaway my hubby and I were planning to have this past Wednesday-Thursday in a cute little town about an hour north of us. Sadly, our girl came down with strep throat (at least we think so…still waiting on results), and we had to cancel. (And are hopefully rescheduling for this coming week.)

So this beauty may get to see the light of day at least once this year. (Here’s a sneak peek…golly, I love a cute dress.) :)

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A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about how much we love a particular saying and how we both wanted it on a t-shirt. So, of course, I went to my beloved Etsy and found the perfect one and ordered two. They came, we both loved them…YAY! And then a few days later, I got two more in the mail.

coffee&Jesus finalPhoto Credit: SavChicBoutique (Etsy)

And I sorta felt like it was my super lucky day since I now had enough of this particular shirt to rock it for the rest of my life, but I knew I should tell the sweet girl who runs her Etsy shop about the mistake. And so I emailed Ashley at Savannah Chic Boutique and told her, and she was SO KIND and told me to give one of the shirts away on my blog and send the other one back. She’s just starting her store, and goodness…her stuff is so cute, and she’s such a sweetheart. (Hop over there or to her Facebook page and check it all out?) :)

And of course I said thank you…and now I’m so excited to pass on the love to one of you! Y’all…I love this t-shirt. And one of you will love it, too! (See the end of this post for how you can win it!) :)

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GO

So…my feet have been going a lot lately. I signed up for a horrendously long (to me) race, which means I. HAVE. TO. RUN. SO. I. DON’T. DIE. ON. THE. DOWNTOWN. CHICAGO. PAVEMENT. (9.3 miles feels like a lot. Just sayin’.)

It’s this race, and maybe the only thing that will keep me going is the chocolate at the end, but a confession? There’s a part of me that really, really wants to reach my goal of actually running the whole thing. I’m shooting for 1 hour 30…just under a 10:00 pace. We shall see. Sometimes I have really lofty goals…but sometimes I surprise myself, too. 😉

So I’ve been pricing trips to Indonesia lately, and I knew it was gonna happen. Two months ago, tickets were hovering around $900 each. (I know. I know. I shoulda bit the bullet and just bought them.) Yesterday? $1700. And so goes goodbye to any chance of an Indo trip Maelie and I may have had in 2016. (In reality, prices could go down again…you’d better believe I’ll be watching them like a hawk.)

BUT. On the flip side I’m headed out to New Jersey/NYC to visit my dear friend in a few weeks. That’s exciting, and I’ve been looking forward to it since April. :)

And, a random blessing today that doesn’t involve travel but that’s ok…my sweet girl is feeling so much better, and we even took a little walk today. I love her so much…and I’m so glad she’s (mostly) back to her spunky, silly, full-of-love, self. :)

Mae+Mel selfie final

So that’s September and what life is looking like around here. :)

I’d love for you to enter to win the t-shirt I talked about. Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the directions.

For reference, the t-shirt is a women’s size large that I think fits like a slouchy medium. I’m a size 6-8, and it’s a little big on me. (Trust me, you want this shirt. And if it’s not in your size, you can always pass on the coffee/Jesus love to a friend.) :)

Happy Friday, friends! Now click this link and enter. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Seize The Vine

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Several years ago I had the fantastic opportunity to take a trip to the jungle…like, the real jungle…in northern Sumatra, an island in Indonesia. (We lived there for several years.)

I was invited to join a group of friends for a crazy, whirlwind, three-day trip, and it included a day-long, deep-in-the-jungle hike. Being the adventure girl that I am, I jumped, quite literally, at the chance.

We made a quick, island-hop flight, endured a four-hour van ride (with some of us riding on top of the van…) through the potholed road from Medan to Bukit Lawang, and were dropped off a mile from our hotel, at midnight. Luggage in tow, we hiked through the dark, checked in, and crashed for a few hours before meeting at six a.m. for the start of our adventure.

Because we hadn’t had enough of that yet or anything… 😉

After watching an orangutan feeding just across the river from the hotel, we took off for our jungle-traipsing with a guide leading the way. Up and down, a stop here, a break there, some rock-scaling on the side…it was a tough hike, and I’m sure I spent more time looking where I was stepping than at what surrounded me.

This should probably be where I confess that I’d read too many travel books before the trip and knew the potential of creatures lurking around me. Tigers, elephants, poisonous snakes…yeah.

But at some point during that hike, we stopped for a water break, and I took the time to really look around me.

Vines everywhere…it was totally like the movie Tarzan. And I’d kinda had this dream to be Jane at one point in my life…

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, telling one of my favorite Indonesia stories. Will you join me?

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April Friday Favorites {+ a GIVEAWAY!)

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Well, given that I’ve barely written a single word this month, I figured I’d better get my word quota finished in one post.

Sorry about that…this one’s pushing has long passed 1,500. (But I think it’s worth reading, just for the giveaway at the end!) 😉

Some months are like that…and, honestly, there’s been a lot of processing going on…just not a lot of sharing the words. I’m finally good with that, I think.

But I really love this end-of-the-month post…the chance to update and just share my faves with y’all. And there were a ton this month because, between Easter (helllooooooo, cute dresses!) and a crazy-busy, FUN week of vacation for the three of us, there are just lots of stories to share.

So let’s get to it?

OH. And I’m throwing in another category…EAT. Because…NYC and Philly. 😉

I’ve also got a few fun things to share and a giveaway and the end of this post. Because one cannot travel and discover so many awesome things and NOT share them with the rest of the world, or at least her ten readers, ya know?

I know! (And also, I just love presents.) :)

I bring you the April faves…there are some goodies!!!

Read

So I finished The Hardest Peace. There were a lot of tissues involved…it was one of those books. Heart-wrenching, painful mixed with absolutely beautiful. I recommend it. Read it.

This, too…a friend shared it with me last week, and it’s spot on. Plus, I had a conversation with another friend before she even sent it to me that was basically the same thing. Will you pray for me, friends?

Right now…I’m a mama. And I want to love it completely without wishing for more. My more will come someday.

Also…I’m dying to read the latest Shopaholic book. Just because I haven’t read it yet, and she is stinkin’ FUN. NY.

Watch

My hubby and I have been sorta-kinda-addicted to Flip or Flop on HGTV. Seriously…I have no idea why watching a couple buy houses in absolutely disgusting shape and transform them into stunning beauties is so enthralling, but it is. (Psst…Netflix has the first season available for streaming.) I mostly-seriously said to my husband earlier this week, I think you should quit your job and we could flip houses! Wouldn’t it be fun?!

He didn’t go for it.

Ahem.

Also, with the loss of my childhood TV crush last week, Jonathan Crombie (aka: Gilbert Blythe), Anne of Green Gables has been on my TV a lot this week while I’ve drowned my sorrows in red currant wine. (Ok, not really. But someone tweeted that, and I thought it was insanely clever.) 😉 I totally bought the DVD trilogy back when…I don’t even know. When it first came out on DVD. Gotta admit that I’m a little devastated. I loved him. I think we all did. :( Rest in peace, Gil.

jonathancrombiephoto credit: IMDB

Wear

I’m still rockin’ the earrings. (At least I think I’m rockin’ em.) Golly, where have I BEEN? Now my ears feel naked without them. I’m loving this pair from Work of Worth, an awesome fair trade company. They’re huge, and these Might. Actually. Take. Over. My. Head.

But I don’t care because they’re so cute. (And I also realized that you can’t see them too well here, but it’s late and I’m lazy. But I did manage to take this in my kitchen. Really, Mel?! OY.) :)

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And, this dress. So, funny story. I ordered it from Maurices a week before Easter, which is a lot in the ordering-online-from-Maurices, world. (They are usually up there with Amazon Prime in terms of shipping. Yep.) But it didn’t even ship by Thursday night, even though I’d ordered it Sunday. And so I dashed…dashed…out of the Maundy Thursday service and sped (just a little) my bum over to the closest Maurices, skidding in the door ten minutes before they closed.

Aaaahhhh…breathe. They had it in stock. In my size. And, I LOVE it. It’s my new favorite dress. Maybe forever. :) Also, if you want one, you should buy it pretty fast because it’s selling out quick. I’m a 6ish, sometimes size 8, and I bought a medium. It was perfect.

Here we are on Easter. We’re cute, I know. And also, these two are my favorite favorites. :)

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Eat

Ok. I’m a world traveler, and I love…LOVE…seeing new places. But my husband and I have confessed, many times, that while we’ve seen the world, we haven’t exactly seen our own country.

And so we added a couple new places two weeks ago…and the whole vacation deserves its own post, which it’s going to get…but I couldn’t not mention how much I now love the East Coast. Philly was fun, the bit of it we saw, and the friends we saw it with were even better. My introduction to the city happened at Reading Terminal Market in the form of this donut.

And, really, there’s a REASON there’s already a bite out of it. Warm, gooey, cream filled, salted caramel-ly…it was beyond delicious.

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Go ahead. I’ll wait while you clean the drool off of your keyboard.
😉

That was the best donut ever. I’m still thinking about it. Often. (The coffee there was pretty awesome, too.)

And when we decided to do NYC for a day, I knew I couldn’t go there without getting a bagel with lox. Dude, I’ve read about these forever, and I had to try one. Had To.

And so when we stopped in a little deli for lunch, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. $3 for a bagel and cream cheese…and I added some smoked salmon. Never even LOOKED at the price.

I figured I’d get a slice or two of salmon, eat my bagel like a real New Yorker, say yum, and call it good. Bucket list, check.

Nope. Tobin comes over to the table with our food. Um, Mel? I’m not even going to tell you how much that bagel cost.

Huh? It’s a bagel with cream cheese AND. SOME. FISH.

the bagel final
Nope. Apparently, adding TEN INCHES OF SALMON to my bagel shot the price up FOURTEEN DOLLARS! Dude, we’re not poor, but really?! And so, the saga of Mel’s $17 bagel began. (And ended rather quickly because there’s no way I could eat all of that. Or even half.)

It was good. Not the best thing ever, but it was good. And if it happens again, I will specify…how about $2 worth of salmon instead of $14? 😉

But there was plenty about New York food to love, and the roasted cashews at Battery Park were a favorite, too. But I’ll get to that all next week. Aaahhh, New York, you now hold a piece of my heart forever. And, also, I need to come back for your pizza. I ran out of stomach space for that one.

But I’ll be back in October, and I can’t wait!!! (More on that one later.) :) :) :)

Listen

God gave me a gift while we were in Pennsylvania…the chance to attend Winsome, a retreat that is the God-sized Dream of a dear sister, Kim. It was a God-thing that the timing and location worked out, and being there was such an amazing gift. I got to reconnect with dear friends, share heart chats and LOTS of coffee, go deeper with friends I didn’t know as well, worship with my hands raised, listen to Truth from women who are doing such incredible work for God…

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The tears are running down my face right now because I just want to go back and do it all again.

One of the moments that weekend that meant so much was when a friend just asked, How ARE you? And she listened while I went on and on. 😉 And she had no idea how much I needed that. And now I miss her like crazy, too.

I also need to write more about the weekend.

So clearly, I have a lot of writing to do. Someone please make me do it? 😉

And how ’bout a giveaway? Golly, I love to give presents. :)

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Last week, I was exploring a little town in Iowa when Mae and I made a quick visit there to see some family, and I wandered into a little store, The Silver Spider. I fell in love with pretty much everything there, and it’s a miracle that I walked out without more treats. But I did discover Blue Q bags, and am now carrying a messenger one that I adore. (I also have the bicycle print one on my please-buy-me-this-for-my-birthday, list. Just fyi in case that’s important information for any of you.) 😉

But because I loved the bags so much, I bought this zipper pouch for one of you to win! Because, hello. Bicycles = SO. CUTE. and this pouch is awesome. It would work for makeup or a Kindle or your chocolate stash. (An iPad mini fits in there, too, if that gives you an idea of the size.)

And I’m completely on an earring kick lately, in case you haven’t noticed. 😉 These are from ViBella, one of my favorite fair trade organizations, and I think they’re adorable…as is pretty much ever piece of jewelry on their site. I hope you’ll give their facebook page a like and then hop over to the site to do a little shopping! Seriously…there are some gorgeous pieces there, and your money is going to provide jobs and education for people in need. Win-win. :)

And because it’s spring (YAY!!!!!!!) and that really deserved more exclamation points, but I’m trying to show some restraint, and because Dunkin’ has their any-size, 99 cent iced coffee between 3-6 pm back…a $5 gift card, which will cover your caffeine fix for a week. (Grammar people, please don’t pick apart that last sentence.) 😉

I’m throwing caution to the wind and using Rafflecopter for this one. (Rafflecopter and I have a love/hate relationship.) Click the link below and follow the instructions to enter. Good luck! And I’ll choose a winner on Monday morning.

I’ve missed you all. A lot. Thanks for being here. :)

The happiest of weekends to you. May you find some sunshine and a quiet spot to enjoy it all. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Day Hillary Clinton Made Me Wait For My Coffee

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I’d never been to Mount Vernon before, a teeny little town in Iowa. And I probably wouldn’t have ever entered its city limits except it’s where my brother lives, and so Mae and I hopped over there for a quick visit last week.

I pulled into town on the main street and noticed that the corner, where I needed to turn, was blocked off.

There were lots of people and a few police officers directing traffic, which is kind of a big deal in a little town.

I smiled, took a detour and a few extra turns, and found where I needed to go.

We said our hellos and then we all decided to take a little walk. Little because it is a small town (have I mentioned that?) but it’s a cute small town. If I had to live in one, that might be it. Anyway.

One thing I’m a sucker for is a unique, non-chain, coffee shop. They usually have the best coffee, hands down. And so when my brother and sister-in-law were telling me about this one, Fuel, only a block away, I had to try it.

We wandered toward there, and the crowd I’d seen before was now surrounding the door to this place.

What’s going on?! Move! I’ve got coffee to drink at 4:30 pm!

Ok, ok, so I only thought it… 😉

But a girl standing in front of a store informed us that, OF ALL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET, Hillary Clinton was in town.

And? She was drinking coffee at the place that I wanted to go. (Correction: according to Fuel’s Facebook page, she was having tea.)

😉

So there was this day in this little Iowa town. And while there was a lot to love about it…especially the uber cute store I wandered into and walked out of with the current-most-adorable-bag-ever…Hillary Clinton made me wait for my coffee.

Yes, yes she did.

Hubby and I had this little tongue-in-cheek text exchange after it all…I was proud of my wit. 😉

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And I’ve got nothing against Hillary, really. I probably won’t be casting my vote for her but that shouldn’t shock any of us. Though, she might have had a better chance if I hadn’t had to wait a day for my brew from Fuel. 😉

Which, by the way, was awesome. I had it twice the next day. If you’re ever in Mount Vernon, swing by this little place and say hello. The coffee is yummy, and the people working there were incredibly sweet.

There was also a horse for my girl to ride…the kind when you put in a quarter? YEAH. I hadn’t seen one in ages. Mae loved it, too.

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A total win for this coffee-lovin’ girl and her sweet daughter. :)

P.S. Thank you to almost the entire population of Mount Vernon for letting me get a photo of you. I got impatient waiting to actually get one of Hillary and decided to take your picture instead. 😉

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Lessons From Indonesia: Disliking Durian

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Happy Monday, friends. :)

It’s well into the afternoon before I’m even finding my blog today, but that’s ok. Some days, especially when you’re the mama of a four year-old, there are other things that are way more important. Like smearing copious amounts of red glitter glue all over paper and thankfully not the table.

We created a memory. A sticky, sparkly one…and I’m breathing thanks for it and for my sweet girl today. :)

It’s so funny. Every Monday, after I’ve posted, I tell myself that next week I’ll get this all ready to go before Monday.

I never do. Never.

Thus proving to all of you that I am a procrastinator in the truest sense of the word. 😉

Honestly, the weekend was a good one…it was busy enough and I’m still run down enough from being sick…that last night I was tired. I watched tv instead. (And that’s ok…I’m giving myself permission for things like that lately.)

And even though there’s always an elevation in my heart rate when I share a new story, I love handing over this piece of my heart to all of you. Even almost five years after life in Indonesia, that time in our lives still remains such a precious part of who I am. I embrace that, especially on the days when I want rice for breakfast. :)

This is one of my more quirky stories. I remember writing it at Starbucks late on a Wednesday night two years ago…there was laughter between sentences and a lot of caffeine flowing, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I love hearing from all of you, but especially if you’ve tried durian, I’d love to hear your thoughts. After all…this is just one snarky opinion, written by someone who’s not completely Indonesian. :)

And there are durian lovers out there…kind of a lot of them.

Enjoy. (And please forgive the quote I used…it may have been the most accurate and descriptive I could find.)

😉

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34

 Indescribable, something you will either love or despise…Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.
Anthony Bourdain

Durian.

From practically the moment we stepped into the country of Indonesia, and probably even before, we’d heard about it.

The elusive, unique, all-its-own-kind, supposedly-wonderful-but-often-detested, fruit so pungent it was banned from many places including airplanes, most hotels, and even mass transit systems.

Tell me…after that description, would you have high hopes?

Most people never do. You can smell the stuff just passing by a stall where it’s sold on the street and its hard, outer, spiky shell has yet to be cracked open.

But for some reason, I did.

Have high hopes, that is.

Durian.

It was rumored to have once been an event on Fear Factor, and that alone was enough to pique the curiosity of this girl who planned to adventure as much as possible during her time in Indonesia.

And not only was it in fruit form, you could buy it in ice cream or baked into bread or it could even surprise you when you bit into a donut.

Believe it or not we didn’t dive into trying it immediately. First of all, a chance didn’t exactly fall into our laps, and it didn’t come squirting out of a donut either…thank you, God, for that. And so we never even pushed for a chance to give it a try.

Maybe it’s because the smell was truly enough for me.

Our opportunity finally came in the spring of our first year.

We had some good friends who were Indonesian, and they wanted us to take us to the Chinatown area of Bandung for dinner one Saturday night. Tobin and I drove our motorbike, following them on theirs, to a tucked-away section of the city I had never known existed, and had an amazingly good meal of pork nasi goreng and pisang goreng with chocolate and cheese. (I actually still think of this night often…that was some pretty good food.) :)

After dinner we walked around the area a little and decided to go out for “dessert.” (Funny, because I thought the cheesy, chocolate banana qualified as dessert.)

It was quite the bike ride to get to our destination, but they finally pulled over in front of a stand at the side of a pretty busy street.

Hello, durian.

I’m not sure if I’m excited or not to make your acquaintance just yet.

Our wonderful friends knew what they were doing, and we clearly did not, so we just stood and watched as they paid for one of these large, brown, spiky fruits…an object that I was sure could be of far better use as a piece of sports equipment rather than something to eat.

But if so many people raved over this delicacy, there had to be something to love about it, right?

Our friends took the fruit, which was now cracked open, and offered us some. They showed us how to pull out a section, which we both did so, reluctantly, taking the smallest pieces.

Watching them start to eat, clearly enjoying the entire experience, we put the fruit into our mouths.

Actually, I’m still not sure why it is even classified as a fruit…it tasted like stinky gym socks with a little garlic thrown in there.

And I do believe that was a very kind statement.

I choked it down and, probably-less-than-politely, declined seconds.

EW.

EW.

And I managed to keep it down, too, which I believe qualifies as a success worthy of some kind of medal. For it was truly that bad and it took all I had to keep myself from losing my dinner on the side of the road.

But the one thing everyone says about durian is that to appreciate it, you have to try it three separate times. Two of my friends even attested to this fact…after three times they liked it.

Honestly, that was hard to fathom after the one bite I had, quite literally, choked down.

Enter time number two.

As a birthday party/introduction to the Indonesian culture for new staff, several girls hosted a fruit party at their house. The party itself was actually a great idea…there are tons of incredible fruits available in Indonesia, and I would never turn down a chance to eat manggis (my favorite!) or rambutan.

After we’d all tried the good stuff, one of our hosts pulled out the durian.

In my head, I’m thinking…this is my second time. Surely it’s got to taste better than the first.

I watched the birthday girl have her first taste, and she swallowed it down like a pro, even exclaiming, Oh, it’s not that bad!

I just figured we’d lucked out and ended up with an exceptionally wonderful piece of this particular fruit, and her exclamation was followed by a few others who ate it and liked, or at least tolerated, it.

The pressure is kinda on here, Mel…

I reached for a bite, popped it in my mouth…and…

Blech…

Ok, ok, so I didn’t throw up, though if I had let it hit the back of my throat, I’m quite certain I would have lost my breakfast or lunch or whatever meal I’d eaten previous to the party.

That time, I spit it out right into my hand. I didn’t care who was watching.

And thought, What the heck does everyone see in this nastiness masquerading as a fruit?!

It was quite a while…over a year later…before I even wanted to go for my third try. I was pretty much convinced, by that time, that it was pointless.

Some friends and I were at a local shopping mall, and we passed one of my favorite restaurants there, which also served gelato. The workers there were always great about letting us sample the different flavors, and I noticed that there was durian flavored gelato.

Yes, yes, I realize what you are thinking by this point. Durian-flavored gelato is NOT the same as durian. Point well taken.

But if you want a happy ending to this durian-sized fairy tale, this is going to have to be it.

I took a bite.

Uhhh…mmm? Maybe.

Of course, we are talking about gelato here. Not some silly, spiky, grayish-brown, somewhat-spherical fruit.

Then I asked for another sample. Chocolate chip to wash the flavor down. 😉

And that, my friends, is where the saga of my life with durian ends.

That third attempt, in the form of an ice-creamish substance, was my last time.

 The truth is that I think everything is worth trying once. Or even three-ish times. But sometimes, there’s just no hope, and it’s best to move on to things we do like. Like cheesy, chocolate, fried bananas.

A year and a half later, we left Indonesia. Among the very long list of foods I was sad to leave behind were most of the wonderful gelato flavors available there, my favorite fruits, and many Indonesian foods.

But durian-flavored…anything…didn’t make the cut.

And I’m totally good with that. 😉

no durian sign final
Photo Credits: Hafiz Issadeen, Tagosaku

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: (3) On Getting Up Again

surfing final
So here I am on a Monday afternoon (or, evening…ahem…) and that’s because yours truly woke up with a monster migraine. Hello, beginning of the week and the inability to function and write a coherent sentence until the pounding-nails-into-my-temples feeling is gone.

I’ve mentioned this a time or two before, but I really am not a Monday fan. That was part of the reason I decided to share my chapters on Mondays…you know, to try to make Monday into a day I actually LOOK. FORWARD. TO.

But enough about the fact that it’s Monday. Almost Tuesday now. 😉

Also, you are not going crazy. I promise. I shared chapter one last week…this week, chapter three. I decided to jump around a little. That, and chapter two needs some revisions that my brain wasn’t up for over the weekend. And if I post chapter 26 next week, don’t be too alarmed. 😉

So today I bring you a different one, but this is one of my favorites. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I hope you enjoy reading about the time this clumsy girl learned to surf and the lessons I’ve learned from the wipeouts…and from the getting up again part, too.

_____________________

3

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Maya Angelou

Something I’d wanted to do since I was a little girl was learn to surf.

This is a particularly odd choice of goals since I grew up in small-town Iowa where large bodies of water were all but absent. Nevertheless it remained a dream…something I could see myself doing someday.

Before we moved to Indonesia, I only saw the ocean twice. The first time, we were in California for our first anniversary, and not getting killed by the waves? Was my goal. (Let’s just say I had a very unhealthy fear of death by large wave.)

The second time was when we were in South Africa, and the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean hovered in the 40’s, I’m sure. Just sticking my toes in was enough to freeze my entire body…no way was I going to submerge myself in that water!

I really didn’t even have a chance to learn to surf until we moved to Indonesia.

During our five years there, we made just three trips home, and we usually spent our Christmas breaks traveling. During that first Christmas in 2005, we took a two-week trip to Bali, where my love for all-things-ocean was kindled.

We swam, we bodysurfed, we boogie-boarded. We soaked up all that the glorious Indian Ocean had to offer us.

But I was afraid of that sport that required standing and riding a board propelled by ocean waves…surfing looked really, really scary.

So during our first trip, I didn’t try it, certain that I never would have been able to actually stand up on that board anyway.

During Spring Break of our second year in Indonesia, I went back to Bali with a few girlfriends. We spent our days between the beach and the pool, shopping, and eating all the yummy food we could never find in Bandung.

Our last morning there I had this nagging feeling. The whole week, I had psyched myself out of trying to surf, making excuses.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

So I hopped out of the pool, followed by two of my friends, marched right down to the beach (which was less than fifty meters away), and up to a guy renting out surfboards. Before I could chicken out, I hired myself a surf instructor and board for $5. (I love Indonesia prices.)

My instructor gave me a quick crash course in how to move from lying on the board to standing, all in Indonesian, of course. (I nodded my head and pretended to understand.)

Two minutes later we were out in the ocean, and as I stood in the chest-deep water for my first run, I felt like throwing up my breakfast. What on earth was I doing?

I carefully climbed onto the board, which my instructor was holding for me, and I watched the wave come up behind me. He let go…and I flew forward, hanging on for dear life.

But did I stand? No.

Did I even try to stand? Hmmm. Nope.

We laughed, he said something to me that I couldn’t translate, and I went back for another run, determined to at least move this time.

Again, I watched the wave come up behind me and felt my heart start to beat like crazy. As he let go of the board, I pushed myself up. I actually got one leg underneath me before I tumbled off the board.

Hey, it happens, and I’m pretty sure I scored graceful points for the somersault I did on the way down.

Third times the charm, right? I grabbed my board and faced the waves once again, determined to get it right.

Same story as before. As he let go of the board, I pushed up with everything I had, and I was standing!

The thing I forgot? Was that one must balance in order to stay ON the surfboard. I was so busy celebrating that I lost my balance, face-planted into the water, and came up sputtering after inhaling half of the ocean.

If you’ve ever gotten saltwater in your eyes, just multiply the pain times fifty or so.

It hurt.

I hurt.

And I was totally mortified that about a hundred people, give or take, had witnessed my thrashin’ wipeout. Sometimes there were just disadvantages to being the sometimes-uncoordinated-but-way-too-brave, white girl who thought she could surf.

Thankfully, I can laugh at myself in the midst of pain, which is probably what saved the day from being a total disaster…because on the next ride, I was determined to succeed.

My instructor had barely let go of the board when I popped up, steadied myself on both legs, and rode that board all the way in. A few feet from shore, I hopped off, looked up at a spectator who’d obviously witnessed the entire scene, and gave him a grin as if to say, You didn’t think I could do that, did you?

I spent the next hour riding wave after wave. Sometimes it would be a beautiful ride, sometimes I’d wobble, sometimes I’d completely wipe out…

But I couldn’t stop smiling…because I was following through on a dream I’d had for myself, and it was a beautiful one. There are few feelings I’ve had in my life that top what it’s like to ride a surfboard into shore.

There were several trips to Bali and other beaches over the next few years, and each chance I had, I’d rent a surfboard for a few rupiah, run out into the ocean, and ride the waves like they belonged to me.

Sure, there were wipeouts and face-plants. (Lots of them.) There were days when I fell more than I actually surfed. A couple times I probably came close to severely injuring myself when I took some hard falls.

But learning to surf taught me a lot about life…because there are going to be those days. Days when we feel victorious as we rise above everything…conquering the things that threaten to tear us down. There are also those days when, no matter what we do, the waves are just too much and they knock us down…sometimes harder than we were expecting.

But no matter what…I’ve learned to always get up and keep going.

We recently passed a shop that had a surfboard for sale, and I joked about buying it to use on Lake Michigan.

The truth is that the surfing part of my life is over, and I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever hop on a surfboard again to face the waves.

But I know the lessons I learned from those rides…and they are worth every wipeout.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Please Use Caution When Opening Your Drink…

smilebooth2 final I should have titled this post something more along the lines of…

Allume 2014.

Family Reunion 2014.

Lessons From a Really Great Weekend.

On Meeting With an Agent and Other Things That Whisper Hope.

A Weekend of Blessings.

Or, all of the above.

I flew in late Sunday night after a glorious five days spent in the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina. Seriously, y’all (do you HEAR me getting all Southern already?!) I heart this city. I have plans to bring some of you TO this city. If I didn’t love where I live so much, I’d be tempted to move my family down there so we can eat fried green tomatoes and sweet potato cake for the rest of our days.

Maybe I love it for reasons like this…

cupcake quote finalBecause, YES. I do want to live in a city that has signs like this on their sidewalks.

Or, this…

cutepuppy finalMel walks into cute, upscale boutique.
Is greeted by cute puppy.
Immediately trades browsing for puppy cuddles and a picture.

But chances are, I love it most of all for this.

allume4-1024x768 finalMy heart sisters. They are forever that.*

When I started my blog back on that lonely, cold morning in January 2011, I had no idea it would turn into Community. Family. Sisterhood.

These are my people…

The ones who stay up late and chat deep and laugh loud with me when I totally explode my drink mid-flight. Yes, yes I did.

Mandy&Mel1 final

The ones who, when you finally meet in person for the first time, are just as wonderful and sweet and encouraging as you knew they’d be.

AmyB&Mel final
The ones who take the time to hold my hand, share a hug, and whisper Hope to me in a season that doesn’t feel like there’s much to hope in.

Mel&Kate final
The ones who pray me through a knee-knocking meeting with a literary agent, the kind in which I hand over my proposal. (aka: My. Heart.)

Laura&Mel final
The ones who don’t count how many cupcakes I eat in one weekend.

DelonnaGindiMel&Kim final
The ones who will sit and drink coffee and share life, even just minutes before they have to leave.

coffeeshop final
The ones who make me smile just because they’re near me.

Tracy&Mel final
The ones who will stand by my side as we worship our Father and trust that He is good in ALL.

MelAmy&Crystal final

The ones who share their dreams and stories…the pretty parts of them and the not-so-pretty, too.

Meetup finalLoved the God-sized Dreams meet up!*

Yes, I went to Allumeand it IS a writing conference…an amazing one. Logan and her team did an awesome job, and I’m so grateful for the prayers, sweat, and tears they put into it for all of us.

But it’s also so much more than a writing conference. It’s that place where I find so many of my friends…sisters. It’s a place where we just get each other. It’s a place where we raise our hands and praise Him…completely…even when it’s hard and the tears flow. It’s a sweet, precious gift, and when it’s over…well, it takes more than a few days to process it all.

I didn’t know how much I needed to be there this weekend…how much I needed to just go and cry and laugh and beand then find some healing. And there was…it wasn’t the kind of healing that makes it all go away. It was the kind where God used people, over and over, to remind me that He still loves me so much and that there are so many blessings still to be had. Even in loss.

There were some cool God stories…and I’ll share those someday. Stories about how God opened up seats BOTH TIMES on full flights so my sweet sister and I could sit together and share life and eat cupcakes at 20,000 feet for a bit longer. Stories about how God brought two precious women…now friends…into my life to bring some Hope to a heart that has just begged for a glimpse of light.

MIssy&Mel finalI love this girl…she has such an amazing heart.
And she makes some of the most awesome jewelry ever.
(See Mel’s necklace.) 😉

Dawn&group finalWith my friend, Dawn, in the middle next to me. LOVE her, her story, and how God planned our meeting.
(And we’re with two super awesome women who I wish I’d had a chance to talk with longer!) :)

Today, though, just think of this post as the scratch-the-surface-and-dump-my-photos kind. Feel free to share some smiles or grab a picture. One of the whole twenty…maybe…I took. 😉 And if you’d like a copy without the watermark, just let me know and I’ll send it your way.

To the wonderful women…friends…sisters…who were part of this weekend. Thank you. You mean so much to me…and though it’s hard to put into words, I think you understand just how much that is.

Until we meet again. And I hope it won’t be too long.

*I’m not sure which of my GSD sisters get credit for these photos. But, thank you!!! :)

Sig

Pieces That Make a Story

worldinpieces
Fifteen years ago…and I can’t believe it’s been that long…I hopped a plane with some friends. Our destination was the country of Peru, a place that, at the time, seemed about as far from home as one could possibly be.

And it was great…it was three plus weeks of laughing, learning, memory making…and most of all, getting my first glimpses into the heart of my Father and how He was at work in another place.

I’d grown up with missions…at least from the perspective of missionaries who’d visited my church. I’d come to understand that missionaries were people who planted churches, preached sermons in another language, and started Bible colleges. Therefore, I knew I’d never be one.

But Peru changed that.

It was on that trip that my Father began speaking to me and opening doors in my heart that had always been closed. It was during those weeks God told me that if I was willing, He would give me a place. Somewhere.

Where that was, I didn’t know, but I was sure that God was calling me to be a teacher, and I made plans, almost immediately, to return to the place that had captured my heart.

Enter: a year and a half later and a boy. 😉

His name started with a T, he had an amazing smile, and I fell head over heels within minutes. (That’s kind of embarrassing to admit now.) He was settled, had a good job, and there was no way missions was even on the horizon for us. Oh, yeah…us. We became an us pretty quickly. 😉

There was a part of me that was devastated to give up Peru…but by then, well…love. I was heart-deep in it.

A ring followed, and then a house…before the wedding, even. Don’t worry…he was the one only who lived there. 😉

In the tiny part of my brain that is logical, I knew. His job was stable, we’d just bought a house…we were staying. Or so we thought. 

So we said our I-do’s, ate pie, and jetted off to Jamaica. We came home from our honeymoon, I started a new job as a nanny, and BAM. He called me on a Wednesday morning. Mel, I got laid off.

Total shock. We had not expected this…especially not to him. Tobin is good…and he’s good at what he does. And there’s a whole lot more to the story, and it has nothing to do with his abilities and talent and everything to do with his name being randomly chosen from a list in order to downsize.

But, really…that was the door we needed to close in order for more doors to open.

For the next nine months, he searched like crazy and interviewed like crazier. The job market was horrible, money was tight, and we started to wonder. More, if that’s even possible.

We prayed over it before emptying our bank account to purchase two plane tickets for Nicaragua and Honduras. Two weeks in March were spent with missionaries we knew. We were hoping…praying…wondering…was this it? Was God calling us to something else?

We came home from that grand adventure…and we were confused. There were no strong pulls for either of us to Central America, we were teetering on having about no money, and we were starting to lose faith.

And then came a job offer that would at least pay the bills. Buy us some time until we could figure this out.

But by then, we knew. We knew the call, and we knew that saying no wasn’t even an option.

And so…we prayed. And waited. Pushed on a few doors. Cried when they slammed back in our faces.

Finally, two years later…His answer. Indonesia.

Really, God? A country that really IS about as far from home as we can get?

After locating it on a map 😉 and praying it through, we knew our answer was an overwhelming YES. Less than six months later our house was sold, our cars about to be sold, most of our belongings were gone, we’d sent our dog on ahead to Jakarta (yes, yes we did…), our bags were packed, and the monsoon of goodbyes began.

And we went…and it was life-changing. It was the best and worst, it was life-altering and felt strangely like a piece home…it was His plan. I don’t paint a picture of Indonesia that is all sunsets and beauty…though the sunsets were spectacular and the green about as beautiful as anything can be.

Indonesia was a paradox of joy and struggle, of hope and heartbreak, of embracing and longing. It was all of those things, often all of them at the same time.

And like any good piece to the journey, it ended, and we said goodbye to people and a place that had embedded themselves so deeply into our hearts that we were forever changed.

And now we sit in the middle of what came next. Ok, ok, so maybe we’re not exactly sitting…who has time to sit with a toddler running around?! 😉 We’re doing our best to trust His plan and embrace each moment as it comes, knowing that our Father always, always has a far greater plan than we can ever imagine.

Tobin and I will celebrate twelve years in just a few weeks, and as I look back, I see so many pieces. I see pieces that didn’t always make sense…

And yet…He took them. He is still taking them. And He is writing our story with them.

And I might not know what He’s making out of the pieces of the now, either…but I know it’s going to be good.

Because He is good. And He writes some pretty incredible stories.

Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass

Sig