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Just cruisin’

We got home this past Saturday from our Carnival cruise to Mexico! I didn’t want to publish all over the interwebs that we’d be gone, but now let’s talk about it! We did a 5 day cruise that left from New Orleans, LA and went to Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico. We went with my brother and his wife, and had a generally AWESOME time.

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I love the beach, warm weather, and shorts and swimsuits, not to mention having my bed made every day with towel animals decorating the end of it. What could be better?

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As I said, we left from New Orleans…I have to admit I was a bit worried when we arrived to the Big Easy and found cold, overcast weather waiting for us.

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In fact, all four of us got up the next morning and went to breakfast in sweatshirts and cardigans, only to realize it was sunny and 80 degrees! Hallelujah! So we laid out in the sun…

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Played some mini golf…

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Posed for cheesy pictures, dressed up for formal night (which doesn’t have to be so formal, but why not go all out?)…

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And ate until we couldn’t eat any more. And then ate some more. Truly. And this was the best of all of it: the warm chocolate melting cake!

15 Tips for a Cruise Vacation - Carnival Cruise Melting Cake

via Living Locurto

I want to go on another Carnival Cruise just for this dessert, but I suppose it might be more practical to try to make it myself.

We also did two shore excursions, one in each port. At Progreso, we visited the Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins. Totally worth it! There were plenty of ruins to see, but it was only a 15 minute drive vs several hours to see Chichén Itzá.

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And we swam/stuck our feet in a “cenote” or sinkhole.

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Afterwards, we ate lunch on the beach and played in the water before returning to the ship.

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The next day we went to Cozumel, where the water is AMAZING…

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And paddled around in clear kayaks and snorkeled in the Carribbean!

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After another day at sea (that involved some more sunbathing and lots of eating!) we arrived back on US soil in New Orleans. We walked around New Orleans…

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And, of course, got beignets at Café Du Monde before making the long trek back to my parents house in Little Rock, AR.

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We had such a great time and loved getting away from the cold weather, projects, technology, work, etc! I have to admit I’m really sad it’s over! I loved the warmth and the beach and the sun! And the food. And now we’re back in Arkansas, which granted, is beautiful in the fall, but I’m just not quite in a fall mood anymore.

Worse than that, though, I sort of loved the break from all the projects. Maybe it’s just because our list currently consists of blah no-fun projects that we don’t want to do…but ugh, I’d rather be on a cruise ship.

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Better break out the paint brush and see if I can’t trick myself into being excited about it!

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It’s going to be a good day.

I apologize, but today I’m taking a little break from the norm to share something personal. I don’t generally like posting my feelings out there on the internet for everyone to read, but I feel like I need to do this to remind myself how trying, yet rewarding, this past year has been.

A year ago today, the trajectory of our lives changed dramatically. We were working at the same company, and on the same day at the exact same time, we were laid off, along with several other people at the company.

That morning, we got ready and left the house to make our 5 minute commute to work. As we pulled up at a stop sign a few blocks from our house (I still remember exactly where), a thought popped into my head. “It’s going to be a good day.” I was a bit taken aback by this thought, because it was definitely not mine. If you’ve ever had a thought that was clearly not your own, you’ll understand what I mean. I am a major pessimist by nature, so these are not the types of things I think or say. It was so clear and so strong, that I wanted to say it out loud to Andrew, but decided to push it away instead. Everything went on like normal, until just a few hours after leaving our house, we found ourselves at home again, jobless.

It shouldn’t have been so surprising. Andrew had mentioned just a few months prior that he expected lay offs, for his position especially. He had even prepped his resume already. But it was surprising to me. You never think something like that will happen to you, let alone BOTH of you. First, let me just say thank you to everyone who prayed for us during that time, encouraged us, gave us job leads, etc. Our family and our church family were especially supportive, my dad in particular was the best encourager!! I can never say thank you enough for the ways that so many people touched us.

We were very blessed that Andrew found a job so quickly, though I never doubted that he would. He’s incredibly smart and makes one heck of a first impression (or so it would seem since he gets offers from the majority of places he interviews at). Within 2 months he was working again, and we were so grateful for the opportunity that had presented itself. But I was still confused, lost, hurt, and angry.

The whole process was a lot harder for me. Andrew moved on. I was stuck. Not because of getting laid off, really, but because I had a personal choice to make. Andrew’s job gave me the opportunity to choose whether or not I wanted to work. I’d never really had the option before, and I’ve always been a very determined person with the mentality that you go to school to get a job, you don’t “take a break” to travel or “find yourself”, etc. I’m practical. And staying at home when you don’t even have kids seemed like an impractical choice. But I didn’t love working a full-time job, and for once, I wanted to think about what I wanted to do, not what I felt I was supposed to do. When I made the choice to stop looking, I thought it was probably a temporary decision. I’d be ready to start looking again soon.

Meanwhile, I painted lots of furniture, wrote lots of blog posts, cleaned our house, and questioned everything. I worried that maybe I was throwing away the opportunity for a successful career. I worried that other people might think I’m lazy or selfish. And what about the money I could be making? I was stuck questioning my choices, and I was angry. Angry at myself for being indecisive. Angry at my previous employer for putting me in a position where I had to make this choice at all. Angry at God for not giving me clarity or peace about my decision. Even angry at Andrew, at times, for not deciding for me.

I think all along I just needed lots of time and self-reflection. By the time the new year rolled around, I decided to stop caring about the money. We were doing fine without it and my happiness was worth that to Andrew and I. And I decided to stop caring about what other people thought. I don’t let other peoples’ opinions affect my choices about anything else and I never have, so why would I get a job for anyone’s sake but my own?

Oddly, these realizations made me want to try working again. In early March, a temp job as a Staff Accountant at a local property management company practically fell in my lap, so I decided to give it a shot. After 6 weeks of full-time, I started feeling overwhelmed with my to do list and frustrated that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. I was able to switch to part-time and work 2 days a week.

Working again and realizing that for me personally, a full-time schedule isn’t worth the extra income, was a freeing experience. I’m still working 2 days a week and I don’t know how long I’ll be at this company, but for now I’m just along for the ride. I’ll work as long as they need me, and enjoy having a little more structure in my week and a little more money in our kitchen fund.

But that’s really all just background and context for what I actually wanted to say in this post. Which is that the past year has been hard, but also so incredibly rewarding. I take so much comfort in that little thought God put in my head that day…it was a good day. If it’s possible, I think it lays claim to the start of both the hardest and best year of my life. I’ve shed a lot of tears, but I’ve also made a lot of discoveries about myself, about Andrew, and about God. Our marriage has grown. We’ve had to examine and re-examine what’s really important to us, what we truly value. We’ve realized how many people care about us and will be there when times are tough. We’ve been able to spend more time with family, we’ve entertained more and made some truly amazing friends!  I’ve had opportunities to do things that I couldn’t do if I was working, like babysit my precious niece and spend quality time with my sister-in-law, help my mom repaint her kitchen cabinets, invest in friendships that I didn’t feel I had time for before. Andrew’s been blessed with some amazing career opportunities.

Right now, life is good. It’s such a relief to have a time of rest and calm after a year filled with changes. I’m finally happy with where I’m at, and I’m feeling settled and content. I know this is just another phase of life, and that things will probably look very different for us in a few years. But I wanted to write this down so that when we do face another trial or something happens that we question, I can be reminded of God’s goodness. Reminded of how amazingly He took care of us and provided for us. Reminded of the fact that God had something planned for us that we didn’t even know to ask for. Reminded that today is going to be a good day.

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Our 3 year anniversary

Andrew and I got married 3 years ago today. I was 19, he was 22, and we were both still in college. Pretty young to be getting married, we know, but we’d known each other for so long and knew it was what we wanted to do.

Three years might not be a long time, but life is so completely different for us now than it was that summer in 2009. Andrew and I have been through a lot together, and each experience has taught us something new about ourselves and about each other. We have grown and changed, but one benefit of getting married so young is you grow together and don’t know anything different.

But through all of it one thing is still the same. I’m married to my best friend.

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Putting a price on junk

Garage sales are such a weird phenomenon, don’t you think? Don’t get me wrong, I love garage sales and I’ve found lots of great stuff, but it’s still kind of a funny concept. “I don’t want this crap in my house anymore and I thought maybe you’d like to pay a quarter to haul it away for me?”

So that’s what we did. I purged my house, combing through every closet like 3 times asking myself “Do I really need this?” Usually the answer was no, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I got rid of it!

I ended up filling my car pretty full of stuff to drive it to my sister-in-law’s house where we were having a combined sale. I don’t think my car has been this full for a long time, but my garage was definitely thanking me.

Combined we had quite a bit of stuff, but certainly not enough to warrant a “HUGE SALE” sign. Considering she and I had a garage sale together just 2 years ago, though, it would appear we accumulated a lot in the past few years. (There are several more tables in the garage you can’t see and surprisingly quite a bit was already gone by about 9 am on Friday when I took this picture). 

We started on Friday and it was a good thing, too, cause that’s when we made most of our money. I never would have thought that Friday would be busier than Saturday, but maybe today everyone decided they would rather sleep in than brave the heat. I know I felt that way.

Since Andrew came with me today, we brought a bookshelf that I couldn’t load myself on Friday. It’s one of the heaviest pieces of furniture we had, and it’s just a bookshelf! There was no way I could be of much help loading it, and it would’ve been hard to get it back up into the truck on his own (not only is it really heavy, but it’s an awkward shape, too). So, he used his noggin and backed the truck almost up to our front door. Then he slid the shelf on it’s side on top of a blanket through our house, out the front door, and straight into the bed of the truck.

Isn’t he clever? And then we sold that puppy for $15. Yay! As it got later and later today we started marking down prices, adding more stuff to the free pile, and practically harassing our customers trying to get them to take stuff for free. We may have even given a few things to children that I’m sure their parents were just thrilled about! Eventually it got to the point that we had a “Free” table, and “10 cent” table and a “Prices as marked” table. And it was starting to look pretty bare.

Around 12 we decided to go inside to eat lunch, and in hopes that we might get rid of a little bit more and have less to load up, we left everything in the driveway and put a big “Everything’s free!” sign at the end of the driveway.

Several things did disappear. People love free stuff apparently! When we loaded everything up later we only had 3 small boxes, and just after we had it loaded someone stopped and asked if they could take it off our hands. We were more than obliging as it meant we didn’t have to drop it off anywhere. I call that a win-win. Except I think I won bigger. Overall we made about $350 (that was our stuff, my sister-in-law’s, and a few things thrown in by 2 other friends). Personally I made about $112, and considering that I thought it was all junk, I’m pretty pleased! I think I’ll put it in my furniture fund so I can do some garage saling of my own!

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