Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Things: What I Miss About the Czech Republic

At my new job my supervisor is often appalled that I don't pick up on a lot of pop-culture references. I tried to explain that I had spent the majority of my young adulthood in Europe. Unfortunately, he continues to be completely aghast when I do not recognise the names of bands and hit songs. But it all got me to thinking about how I have become so enveloped in the American culture around me that when little cultural clashes pop up, they really surprise me. Today I will talk about a few things that I have been noticing lately. They are mostly things that I miss about the Czech Republic, which I still consider to be my home. 

1. Walking
People walk. They walk for fun and for transportation. Getting around by foot is normal and everybody does it. Here in suburban US I only see people walking in the evening wiht their dogs aorund the block or along designated "walking trails". At 7:30 in th emroning in my town in the Czech Republic you will see dozens of people walking to work, walking to the store or the train. When I recently walked to the college campus from my summer residence one morning I was shocked to be the only person out. I miss that culture of walking. That is why I am glad that living a few miles from the gym, my campus mailbox and my job means that I have to walk more. I have missed that time of reflection. I often pray during my walks and the steady pace of stepping over and over helps me to keep focused on my conversation with God.

2. Greetings
In the Czech Republic greetings are very important. Saying "DobrĂ½ den" or "Good day" to anyone you meet on the sidewalk is considered polite. It is also imperitive to say this whenever you enter a building or room. If I were to walk into a doctor's office I would open the door and announce "DobrĂ½ den" to the whole waiting room. When I left the office I would say "Nashledanou" or "Goodbye" to everyone. I would do the same thing in the grocery store or the mall. I miss that here in the US because it makes transactions easier when there is such a clear-cut formula. At the smoothie bar, where I work, I am often slightly taken aback when customers approach me to make an order and do not offer any greeting.

3. Beer
For those of you who don't know, I like beer. I am not a crazy beer drinker, by any means, but I enjoy a cold glass of beer on a hot day. One thing I miss about the Czech Republic is the amazing beer. It is inexpensive and so good. You can go for a hike and stop at the tiny pub at the top of your climb for a chilly beer. Here in the States there are a lot of options for good beer. Craft brewing is a big fad, but the culture around drinking is different. With young people my age drinking is more about the thrill of having alcohol than relaxing and spending time together. I miss that freedom to enjoy beer with friends without there being an aura of rebellion surrounding it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekend Wedding Update #8

Last week it hit me: I have been preparing for the wedding as though it is the only thing that matters, but in reality the wedding is actually just the start of something much bigger: our marriage. I have been getting increasingly caught up in dresses, registries, dates, times, themes and venues, when the wedding day is actually pretty minor compared to what we are embarking on together. A lifetime. We want to be faithful to one another for a whole lifetime, Lord willing. It has only just now begun to sink in for me. 

One of my favourite novel is Anna Karenina. I love it because it is like getting to watch your favourite period drama, like Downton Abbey or Little Dorrit, in book form. You are given the private thoughts and motives of each character and allowed to see everything from their eyes. But one of my favourite things about the novel is the way that Tolstoy writes about marriage, in particular the marriage of Levin and Katya.

Half the novel is devoted to the courtship of Katya by the woefully awkward and idealistic Levin, but rather than stop the novel with the wedding, we watch the relationship continue to unfold as they become parents and deepen their love for one another. I adore Jane Austen, but each novel ends with the wedding. We are never allowed the pleasure of watching the rest of the journey.

So as I consider our impending marriage I look to Tolstoy, not Austen, for my literary guide to marriage. I have decided that I need to be preparing my heart and my soul as well as my dress for the next several decades of being with this guy. We have started our premarital counselling with our pastor and his wife. I am hoping this will be one way to prepare. I have also been treating my engagement ring as a reminder.

I know that it symbolises a promise by Sheldon to marry me, but I have been training myself to think, "This is a commitment to Sheldon for our whole lives. This is real and it has to last." whenever I find myself looking at my ring.

In short, we have moved forward with some of the wedding planning. We have rented chairs. We have contacted a photographer. We are working on food and invitations. But the wedding is just the beginning.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Best Time of Day

Breakfast-time is extremely important to me. It is probably my favourite part of the day. I am not a nice person when I don't have a few minutes alone in the morning to eat food, drink coffee and think. I don't eat a ton of food, my portions are actually quite small. But I always include a few very specific items. For the past two mornings I have been able to fully indulge in long breakfasts, because I have been off work. It has been delicious. This is my breakfast routine. 

1. Drink a glassful of lemon juice and warm water. This is meant to help your digestion rev up in the morning and work efficiently throughout the day. Does it work? I dunno. But even if it doesn't, it also helps by counteracting the dehydrating effects of the cup of coffee I drink every morning as well. I sip this glass of sour liquid while I prepare the rest of my food.

2. Protein. I get a huge headache in the middle of the day if I do not have protein right away in the morning. It's gotta be an egg, some nuts, some peanut butter, meat...anything, otherwise I wilt. I usually opt for an egg. Sometimes I fry it. Sometimes I poach it in the microwave. At the house I am living in right now the microwave is very beep-y and poaching an egg is very noisy. 

3. Coffee. While I am preparing my egg I like to make a single cup of black coffee in my small pour-over funnel. It is a very simple process of putting a paper filter in the funnel, resting it over the mug and pouring hot water over the couple tablespoons of grounds. As it funnels through I work on tidying up.

4. Something sweet. I have a big sweet tooth. I love eating something sweet with breakfast. Usually it will be a piece of fruit and a pastry-like item like a donut or a muffin. Lately I have been obsessed with the jumbo cinnamon muffins they sell at my grocery store. I eat half a muffin (which is practically the size of a normal sized muffin) as I drink my bitter coffee. But this week I am trying to avoid sugar in my diet, so I have replaced my sugary treat with raspberries. They are a splurge for me to buy, but I have been buying them anyway, because I told myself I deserved it. 

As I eat my breakfast I like to be alone. If I am interrupted during breakfast by roommates or other folks, I try to contain my irritation and be polite. My favourite spot in the house to eat my breakfast is at the kitchen table by a large window which looks out over the patio. Sunlight shines onto my face from the right and I can see the lovely summer weather outside and think about the rest of the day. I love how during breakfast time, if I don't feel rushed, I feel like there is possibility in the day ahead. I can enjoy beauty and peace first thing and then face whatever comes next. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Count Olaf's Guide on How to Look Awesome in Your Work Uniform

I have now worked at the smoothie bar for two weeks. I have pretty much got the lay of the land. I know how to ring up customers on the register and only have to call customer service for help every fifth time. I know how to whip up four of our six smoothies by heart. I am getting better at writing on clear plastic cups using a permanent marker. But you wanna know what totally blows my mind about working at the smoothie bar? People don't recognise me when I am wearing my uniform. 

For some reason, when I am wearing my black baseball cap with the name of my store emblazoned across the front, my white collared shirt, black tie and black pants people don't know that it is me. This is completely hilarious, because I don't feel like a different person, but somehow by seeing me in a different context and with my uniform people blank out. I have had friends from my former improv troupe look straight at me, watch me wave to them and still not know who I was! Professors and acquaintances from school and town have looked straight at me and don't know me.

I am reminded of my favourite childhood book series The Series of Unfortunate Events. The main villain, Count Olaf, uses a number of ridiculous disguises throughout the series. The joke is that even thought the disguises are terrible and should be ineffectual, none of the grown-ups can recognise him. Even if he just puts on a fake moustache, Italian accent and calls it a day, they think he is someone else. Only the protagonists, the intelligent young Baudelaire orphans, can see that it is obviously Count Olaf wearing a false moustache and using a ridiculous accent.

I feel like Count Olaf. My disguise is a simple baseball cap and black apron. No part of my face is obscured beside my forehead, yet people still think I am someone else! I guess I look a bit different with my hair pulled tightly back and wearing clothes I would never choose to wear, but still...It is kind of a fun feeling. I can crouch behind my smoothie counter and pretend to not be me.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Weekend Wedding Update #7

I have been having wedding panic again. The other day I had a day off work and I thought I would spend the whole thing just knocking out things for the wedding. But I ended up not knowing where to start. I did some research about string lights and chair set-ups, but halfway through the day found myself sitting on a park bench freaking out over how much there was left to do. I felt flooded with the hugeness of the task of planning a wedding for so many people. How was I going to ask for help?! I didn't even know what to ask for! I reached for my pen and trusty pad of paper to do something that I did in high school all the time. I wrote out my cry of help to God like a letter. Then I opened up my Bible and read Psalm 4 over and over, until my wave of panic subsided enough that I was able to go on my way. Later that day the same waves of panic came back when I was with Sheldon in the parking lot of our local Aldi grocery store. This time he was able to comfort me, help me calm down and create a battle plan for the next few days of planning. 

Sheldon is an extremely calming presence. He just exudes peace and calm. I love it, because my personality is excitable and prone to jump from one thing to the next. Sheldon, on the other hand, can focus fully on one thing for hours at a time. Of course this can have drawbacks. Sometimes I want him to be more snappy and move at the same pace as me, but ultimately it is really valuable that he is so thorough and methodical. He is the same way about wedding planning. He is not panicking at all. Instead he keeps a careful log of everything in a binder that he keeps in his backpack at all times.

This week we have been prioritising scheduling chair rentals and light rentals. We hang around in coffee shops with internet a lot, because his apartment doesn't have internet. We sit side by side mulling over crazy chair prices: 5.45$ for "Natural wooden chair with padded seat", 6.45$ for "White chair carved from Alpine ash trees that have been artistically distressed with goat antlers" or 8.35$ for "Mahogany throne". Who would have thought that the doggone chairs would be the most expensive component of the wedding so far?!

Anyway. We have accomplished a few things this week. We know where our rehearsal dinner will be.  We have decided on desserts after the ceremony. We have chosen a song for me to walk down the aisle to. I can't tell you which song. You'll have to wait and see. Basically a lot of little things have been coming closer to finality. The hard part is that it takes a few days for things to get finished. You can start one thing and then the company doesn't answer the phone. You write an email and wait for an answer. You have an idea, but it can't be finalised for a while. Remember how I said that I am a little more flighty and Sheldon is calm and steady? Well, his steadiness to complete what he starts really comes in handy here. I am so glad I am marrying him.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Three Things: Summer Projects

"When summer vacation comes I will finally get to read the entire works of Dickens!" 
"When summer vacation comes I will be able to carve nine miniature figurines of the entire Fellowship of the Ring out of soap!"
"Come summertime I can run a marathon!"
"I will make a dollhouse using only recycled wine corks once school is out."

Do you guys say that kind of thing too? Even if you are not in school do you still try to pack a million things into your vacations? I do. I am the worst about putting way too much pressure on vacations to "get things done". I usually end up only getting one of the things done, if that! I have been learning with age and maturity that one mustn't put too much pressure on vacations. But despite my newfound wisdom I have a few serious projects in mind for Summer of 2016. Here they are.

1. Read War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy
I don't really know much about this novel. But I guess it just sounded like a nice, hunky book to keep me busy for the whole summer. One of those books you want to be able to tell people at parties, "Oh yeah, I have totally read War and Peace..." So I started reading it over my fifteen minute breaks at work. The trouble is that it is hard to concentrate and get into the novel in just fifteen minutes. Especially because everybody speaks French all the time! You have to look at the footnotes to find out what they are saying in French.

2. Get Married
I know this one is pretty obvious, if you have been following my blog for the past few months. But it is two months to go and it feels like things are really getting down to the wire. I am having trouble not panicking. All I want is for the day to feel special and beautiful and for no one to die of stress.

3. Get Ripped
This is my last goal. I want to be a totally ripped bride. I want to have cut arms and awesome toned legs and sweet abs. Basically I  want to be the hottest bride around. Of course I have a lot of work to do in this department, but I am a hard worker. When I know what I want I work until I get it. I am going to try to do the 60 day workout plan called Insanity. I am just waiting for my DVDs to come in the mail. So look out. Amazing muscular bride alert.

How about you all? What are your summertime goals?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Summertime is here!

Hello friends!

I have missed you. I have missed spending the day thinking about what I will say to you. I have missed obsessing over the way my post looks and whether the amount of text balances well with the amount of words. Well, no more! I am back. I plan to continue my regular Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday posts. 

I walked away from my blog for two whole weeks, because things got supremely crazy with finals. Not only was I finishing school projects and getting ready for exams, but I was also starting my new job at the grocery store and moving out of my college apartment. Not to mention wedding stuff and visits from my mom and Sheldon's parents. Whew! Making it through those two weeks was a miracle. It is an absolute miracle that I have a job, a place to live and I did not flunk out of school. At the end of each day of those two weeks Sheldon and I just prayed for enough strength to make it through the next day of exams, visits or moving.

These are a few things that helped me make it through all of the papers, assignments and work.

- Prayer. Like I said, just asking for strength each morning and night.

- Take it one day at a time. Sheldon taught me this. Don't borrow worry from tomorrow. Just be grateful for the day you have and let the worries of tomorrow alone while you survive the current day.

- My mom. She came to visit for about four days right before finals week. Of course that is not the ideal time to host out-of-town visitors, but it was so sweet to have her encouragement and presence.

- Sleep. Each night I went to bed around 11, whether or not I had finished everything. I knew that if I didn't sleep nothing would get done the next day. The only night I let myself stay up til 2 was the last night of finishing an art commission after I had already finished finals.

- Sheldon. This man is my rock. You guys probably already know this if you have been following my blog for any length of time, but Sheldon is a good, good man. He is steady, thoughtful and kind. HE always puts me first. He helped me by making me food to take to work, picking me up after my late shifts and helping me move.

I am so glad to be writing this post from my new bedroom in the home of the same couple I have lived with for the past two summers. I rent out a bedroom and bathroom in their house. It is clean and spacious and lovely. I don't have anything else to move. I don't have school to worry about. Now I can focus on my job and the wedding and writing on this blog for all you lovely readers. See you soon!