Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Of maps and hearts

I can't remember the first time I realized I like maps. But I know it was before Pinterest, before the crafting obsession and before moving halfway across the map. Maybe it was in the fifth grade, when we were studying the history of imperial expansions. Maybe that's when I looked at the maps of the Roman Empire doubling and then tripling, and I realized how many stories a map can carry.

Trevor and I collect maps from everywhere we go. It's ironic, really, because I can't read maps unless I turn the map to face my direction whereas Trevor only needs a 30 second glance to memorize the routes for an entire holiday. I don't even bother when I have him with me.

We saw this idea floating around on the internet to make a wall hanging with a map of the place you met and the place you got married. It proved tricky, unless someone maps out the internet (where we met), and I didn't want a constant reminder that we took our vows with none of my friends or family present. So we decided to make a collage of maps of places that we traveled to - six cities in three countries that we like for various (undisclosed) reasons.

We already had the frame. All we did was turn around the paper that came with the frame. Then we:

1. cut hearts out of the downtown of our maps; we chose downtowns because that's where our touristy selves romped and frolicked;
2. cut larger hearts out of construction paper to add a solid background;
3. glue the map heart onto the green hearts, thus creating double hearts;
4. tape the double hearts to the paper backdrop to keep them in place; mild measuring was done (we asked each other "How does it look to you?" "Good. How does it look to you?" "Good!" "Ok, we're good.")
5. reassemble the frame.

Heart map wall art - EuroAmericanHome Blog

While we're on the topic of maps, allow me to bring a West Wing favorite moment to your attention.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pennsylvania snow

 Mice mittens and Pennsylvania snow: EuroAmerican Home

I like the world when it snows. I like how the sounds are muffled and the night looks like the day.

I love the feeling of possibility.

Snow in small town Pennsylvania is not like snow in the big city. Snow in small town Pennsylvania is clean, immaculate and lightweight. It lures you to come out and play and then sticks to every fiber of your being. It's cold and dusty and irreverent.

And it's coming our way again this weekend.

This means I can wear the mice mittens that my mom bought for me ... when I turned 25. My mom is like that. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My expat resolution: the year of Enough

These thoughts have been brewing in my mind for some time triggered by:

- just a new year on the calendar;
- my upcoming birthday, the last one of my 20s;
- my one year anniversary of moving to the U.S. (this February);
- reading Daring Greatly;
- going through the talks in the Year of Enough project.

2013 is over, and what a year it has been! We did so many wonderful things, and so many amazing things happened. But what will define this past year is my move to America - the physical uprooting, but more importantly, the emotional overhaul and imbalance in self-perception that came with it.

After moving in February, then getting through the whirlwind of learning the small things and meeting a bunch of people the following months, I spent the rest of the year tucked away in a corner, rocking back and forth and whimpering "noooooo moooooore change!!!"

Leaving the only life I've ever known to move to a place I had never even visited was clearly a leap of faith, one that I was willing and courageous enough to take only because I knew that the support of my husband would be there to catch me, love me and care for me. But when the reality of every day life set in, I went into self-shaming mode. I became increasingly aware of everything, but the equation would always come out with a big fat minus in it. In other words, I became painfully aware of what I was NOT, of what I was failing to be or to do.

None of the people I met became my friends, not in the way my friends of 10 or 15 years were my friends. What was wrong with me? I wasn't trying hard enough. I wasn't putting myself out there enough. I wasn't looking for friends hard enough. I didn't say yes often enough.

I left a job that I was good at when I came here. Then I started to feel I wasn't doing enough to get a job here. I felt like I was failing myself. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I determined enough to brave the commute lifestyle? Why wasn't I trying hard enough to adjust to a way of living I didn't want in the first place?

There were other things bothering me. How can I be a good enough daughter for the parents that I left behind? How am I being a good enough friend for the people that have been there for me thorough thick and thin? Am I trying hard enough to keep in touch with friends back home and all over the world? What if my English is not good enough? What if my accent is not smooth enough?

You would think that all these questions might spring me into action. But in fact, it was quite the opposite. The pressure that not enough created in my brain and on my heart had an undesirable paralyzing effect. I felt overwhelmed, so the best response that I could come up with was stillness, numbness, almost a complete shut down. This came with "perks" such as lower self-esteem, fear to try anything that might fail, fear of failure and fear of the fear of failure.

I pride myself on not wanting more possessions. I think our house (medium-sized if I'm to compare it to American standards) is too big. I think that our car is too big. I don't want more clothes or shoes because I have enough and I dislike shopping. I don't want another gadget because I have everything that I need. I'm not craving material possessions because I know they come at a cost, one that my little family is not willing to pay. We don't need more stuff.

So why is it then, when I have everything that I need, I feel like I am not enough? Would I treat my best friend like that? Would I tell her: I think you're not doing enough. What's wrong with you? The answer is no. Would I put down my husband and blame him for everything under the sun? The answer is no. Would I walk up to a stranger on the street and tell him: For the record, I think you're doing at crappy job at doing this, this and this? The answer is no. Then why do I treat myself that way? The answer is I don't know.

But I do know that in this new year I will work on getting out of that habit.  I've decided to start working on shifting my perception from "I'm not (doing) enough!" to "I am enough!"

Living in the mindset of enough is not about becoming complacent. It's not about being lazy or inactive or settling for whatever comes my way.

Living in the mindset of enough, the way I understand it, is being grateful that right here, right now, what I have is enough to make me happy. That right here, right now, I am enough. That whatever my hopes, dreams, plans and aspirations are, they exist to complement what I already am - enough.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year: 1

Days until spring comes: 77

Degrees outside: -4 C

Degrees in Fahrenheit: No bloody idea.

Number of times it took to spell Fahrenheit correctly: 2 (am getting better)

Pieces of fudge eaten today: 5

Pieces of fudge smuggled from the kitchen to my home office when Trevor wasn't looking: 5

Number of fireworks seen on New Year's Eve: 0 (must be living in a parallel universe, where colored gun powder is not considered fun and blowing up your fingers is not considered worthy celebratory activity).

Number of bottles of wine I fell in love with: 1 (Hello Niagara grape, a U.S. native. Lovely to meet you!)

Number of resolutions made: 10

Number of times I heard December-2014-me cackling "I pity the fool who makes 10 resolutions": 100 => 10 cackles per resolution.

Number of days I will continue to write like Bridget Jones: ToBeDetermined. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy was so bad that I now have to wash it out of my brain and retrieve the goofy innocence of the first two books. Is there any way to unread a book? I didn't even finish it, so there must be a way. 

Happy 2014!

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