Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Unspoken Challenge

It is less than two months until my 25th birthday. The birthday that supposedly puts the final stamp on one's entrance card into adulthood. I haven't had the greatest last few months so I wanted to change things and challenge myself to spend these next two months very wisely.

What is this unspoken challenge? Well, I'm glad you brought it up. I'll reveal it...tomorrow. :P


I realize that quite a bit of time has passed since I said "tomorrow." I didn't mean for that to happen so lo siento! Anyway, I will reveal what this unspoken challenge is now and make it public to all of you. A lot of people before they turn a milestone age in their younger years create bucket lists. You know like "25 Things to Do Before I'm 25." Or instead they replace the word things with countries. I have several things on my bucket list but don't exactly have the funds to complete them all before I turn 25. After all, it is next month. (Yikes! lol) At any rate, though, I wanted not only to challenge myself again but to also end my 24th year on a great note. It's been one heck of a year full of mostly delightful surprises and that's really only just begun. So...what better challenge to give myself than to try to do at least one new thing everyday for the next two months? 

Yes, there you have it! That's my challenge. These 'new things' can really be small or big things (you'll notice that I started small in the beginning), can cost money or not but must involve one or more of the 5 senses. 

After nearly a month of doing one new thing everyday I am pleased to say that it has become a habit. This is exactly the right type of spice my life needed and I'm glad I have begun this journey. I will be updating this post every week with more things I have done up until Dec. 15th so please bookmark this page and check back! :-)

Without further ado, here's what I've done so far!

October 15th: made butternut squash and spinach soup
16th saw Sanford and Son
17 tried a new type of yogurt
18 made one of Grandma's recipes
19 saw a new 80s movie
20 toasted my parents' anniversary with some wine (first time ever lol)
21 Went to the Duval Audoban Society talk and learned about wildlife in Ecuador!
22 Tried a new sparkling cider (sidra) drink from Spain (El Bochero)
23 Made a new cookie creation with Galletas Maria (a cookie sandwich with peanut butter and honey in the middle!)
24 Tried peppermint tea from Serbia!
25 Talked to an international person ego works at Pulp and tried a new orange sherbet flavor 
26 Went to the Balis Park opening and went into many stores in the Sq for the first time!
27 -I'm blanking on this day! lol-
28 met a friend for "coffee" first thing in the morning
29 Played tennis on a Tues!
30 New recipe for chicken lasagna & I got my second migraine in my life
November 1 - discovered who does the song Capitão Fantastico
2 Had an authentic bbq dinner
3 Tried a Halloween Cadbury creme egg!
4 Tried out a gig app, went to a new Publix and got great deals on tea! Tried a chai spice tea
5 Tried a new natural bar of soap for my face!
6 Got a delivery from Hello Fresh & made a brand meal
7 Got ice skating lessons from US Figure Skating pros
8 Played tennis on a Friday!
9 Spent $3 on a lot of groceries and tried Coconut water
10 Saw two trains pass by at the same time on both sides of the tracks, ate Caribbean style paella
11 Did a gig with a different app an tried the Girl Scout flavored Crunch bars
12 Ate my first caramel apple!
13 Went to a new area of Jacksonville today and saw the sunset over a new spot on the river
14 Tried sardines (produced in Morocco)-they actually taste good! haha
15 Saw a guy at the bus station do full body push-ups on a pillar! Went to a Walmart late at night-haven't done that in years!
16 Went to my second ever JU football game haha
17 Made a new breakfast item and bought an all-natural soap (for my face) made mostly of olive oil and green tea!
18 Listened to an Indian (Asia) radio station and Created the most wonderful Greek yogurt combo ever- chocolate on the bottom, Greek yogurt and then cinnamon on top!
19  Slept on the sofa for the first time in weeks and then later took a nap. <-don't normally do that!
20 Tried a coffee flavored yogurt
21 tried a new sandwich concoction, went to a GlobalJax event and met a girl from Morocco and a girl from Belarus!
22 Stood in line for the opening of the Microsoft store, met two nice ladies (one that reminded me so much of Sarah T.), ran into Aida, tried a new frozen yogurt place.
23 found a page about Spanish speakers in Denmark and listened to a pop song in Danish, found a Danish singer who sings in Spanish (lives in Cádiz)...and more to come!
24 Tried an organic roobios tea from the Twinings brand 
25 Put egg nog instead of milk into my cereal! (and proceeded to do that everyday this week lol)
26 Saw the Legend of Zorro (the sequel to the original)
27 Mixed cinnamon into my cranberry sauce and had a Latin themed Thanksgiving meal a day early
28 volunteered at Trinity Rescue Mission, accidentally fasted on Thanksgiving Day, didn't have the traditional meal for the first time in my young life lol, went to a Starbucks on Tgiving, and saw what the line looked like at Best Buy before and after 6pm-too crazy
29 ate oatmeal with egg nog, did a little shopping on Black Friday in Jax for the first time ever
30 had a dream in Spanish where I didn't let anyone else talk lol, saw some of the boat parade for the 2nd year in a row and found a new place to watch fireworks and/or sunrises
December 1
didn't go anywhere on a Sunday (not feeling that well), tried a new Chai tea and Skyped with Santi in Spanish from my iPhone to his new iPad!
2 tried creamy curry chicken with coconut milk for the first time, 
3 first time I've been living in a house where all the Christmas decorations were up early (all of them were put up by today lol)
4 tried Hershey's Symphony candy bar for the first time ever mixed in with Greek yogurt and peanut butter-sooo good!
5 ate dinner outside in a tank top in 70/80 degree weather in December, made a Manoli inspired fruit salad :)
6 went to my first TEDTalk event which was also a live stream from San Francisco!
7 ate at Village Bread Cafe, hung out at Friendship Fountain and spent the afternoon writing a letter in Spanish, got fake proposed to lol and listened to a radio station in Turkish!!
8 Went to the beach (on my dad's birthday!) and it was foggy the whole time, went the farthest south of Jax Beach I've ever been by myself, listened to a radio station in Filipino! Got "promoted" to run a promotion for one of my clients on my own! :)
9  slept in a tank top and shorts while knowing that it was 60-70 degrees warmer here than where my family is
10 Tried curry couscous, saw a sunset by the river in my neighborhood-secret location-
11 Finished up the last season of Fraiser (never thought I'd watch that show going into this year lol), made fresh cranberry sauce for the first time ever

(List copied from my phone's notepad)

We are creatures of habit so we often times do our best to avoid change. Change is often seen as the enemy. But one day, you'll come to realize -sooner or later- that change is good. Change lets you know that there's still more to learn in this life. More places to see and people to meet. More lives to touch. In order to do all of that, though, you must let go of some of your habits and routines. Without change and variety in your life, you will grow tired and weary.  However, with those two things, you might just feel more alive than you've felt in years!

Give change a try! How often do you try something new?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brothers are Blessings

In my case, I would have to argue that brothers are the best! One day, I'll experience what it's like to have a sister join my family -God willing- but for now I will continue to appreciate and enjoy the sibling relationship I've been blessed with: a brother and sister relationship.

And what better time to reflect on it than on my brother's birthday? Yes, today's his special day! He's pretty much been the best brother I could ever ask for...and though we both know a foreign language, we actually know two: the language we sometimes speak whenever we're together. I have to reflect a little on the past year because it has been full of adventures! It's also the end of a mini era. You see, I like to say that one of the best years of my childhood with my brother was when we were only 4 (me) and 7 (Nathan) years old. That was the year I started remembering tiny details in my memories. I don't remember another as a young girl being as fun or having laughed so much. And, what's more, we weren't just having fun being the crazy brother-sister pair that we were, we had adventures and we went places. I vividly remember playing outside at our old house and rolling down the hill, chasing each other, doing voice impressions and taking a supervised road trip out to our grandparents house. Our most challenging obstacle was the most ruthless ride at the Knox County fair: the Zipper. Neither of us was brave enough or tall enough to ride it, so no worries there. It was and has always been the thing we've yet to conquer when it comes to our grandparents' county fair.

Nathan's 10th (?) birthday. This was the year we unfortunately got lice at the same time. :(

Now, fast forward to last December. When I reached my 24th birthday, I caught up to him. Well, let me explain. I feel like our epic '4 and 7' year was repeated again 10 years later and now 10 years after that, when we were 24 and 27. I'd argue that this has been our best year together so far. We started my 24th birthday off by going to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I desperately wanted to spend my birthday (at least once) out of the USA and Nathan had recently gotten his passport. What reasons to go? We had a fun time on our first international [road] trip together. We also enjoyed Windsor a lot the short time we were there and would love to go back again some day. Little did we both know that that was just the start of exciting year being 24 and 27, twenty years after the epic '4 and 7' period. The two of us traveled again this time returning to our grandparents' very snowy, sleepy town in Northeast Nebraska for Christmas. We haven't seen snow there in over 15 years. It didn't matter though because we got to be kids again when we played in it! And....we rolled down the big hill with our cousins in the snow! If you ever get the chance to do that, it will be the most refreshing activity you'll ever do! haha But, WARNING: rolling down the hill when you're 4 and when you're 24 are two completely different experiences. I remembered it being less of a gravity-alterating experience when I was 4. Maybe your equilibrium changes as you get older? I'm not sure. All I know is that after rolling down the hill for the third time, I was so dizzy I felt drunk! (And for the record, I have never been drunk but I'm sure that was fairly close.) But....I have never laughed so much and so hysterically in my life! At that moment in time, there was no other place I'd rather be than lying in the snow with my brother and cousin nearby, laughing our heads off! ;-)

But...the year gets better! Through careful planning and saving on both of our parts, we were able to take another international trip together. This time we'd have to hop this thing called  the Pond (at different times) up with each other somewhere in the wonderfully large and lively city that is Madrid, Spain! :) Nathan signed up for a three week Ambassador study abroad program with faculty and students from WSU in Spain for the month of May. I work remotely and do freelance work so I'm not tied to a physical office here in Jacksonville. He had the timeline for when he'd be going and I had the flexibility to travel and still work at the same time. Side note, though, I was already thinking that this would be the year I would travel back to Spain and Sevilla (where I studied abroad). I just wasn't completely sure which season or which month I would go. all worked out in the end and we met up one morning very early at Nathan's hotel near the Atocha train station. The fact that my own brother, who was sitting in the lobby the entire time, didn't even recognize his own sister -after we hadn't seen each other for 4 months- is crazy but true! There's also not enough time to tell it here. It makes for a really good 'first time we're in Spain' story, though! :) Due to some hiccups in my travel plans, I got to spend more time in Madrid than I thought....and I got to show Nathan a few of my favorite places there while doing our best to speak a good amount of Spanish together!

Nathan and  I in sunny Madrid, España and in front of  the Alfonso XII monument in Retiro. 
If you have heard even just one story of my study abroad semester (which wasn't that long in reality), you may have heard me also mention how I can't quite describe in words how much that semester and that country meant to me. The same is true for when I returned to Spain. And when I saw my brother and when he came down to Sevilla for more fun after his program ended. I have been to a number of places by myself but to be in a place where I've not only been before but with a family member? It was the best feeling in the world. It's been almost 6 months since our time there but it feels like it all just played out last week. It was the rich, vibrant icing on the wonderfully crafted cake that was this past year. I know we have many more international and domestic trips to look forward to (note, we haven't planned anything else at the moment!!) but this was a fantastic start to our trips overseas. I hope they can continue and that we can explore many more countries together throughout our lives. And, you all know that I'm not quite done with Spain and will be back. There are also many, many more Spanish speaking countries that we've both only read about and have yet to discover so rest assured, we won't be leaving too many -if any-countries off our list.

Después de tapas en la mejor bar de tapas en Triana (Sevilla): Las Golondrinas!
But, as amazing and wonderful (and short) as our time together was in Spain, the fun didn't end there! We would see each other for the third -out of four times- this year during this month! Our cousin in Iowa was getting married and we had plans to be there for the festivities! I flew up to Ohio and then drove out to Iowa and Nebraska with my parents and Nathan. We all haven't made one of those road trips out that way in about three years. And, if memory serves correctly, we haven't made this trip in the fall let alone in October. What's important about the month of October is my parents' anniversary (29 years!!!) and my brother's birthday. What's shocking is that I haven't been home in the month of October (for either occasion) since 2006, my senior year of HS! Which also means that the last time I saw my brother during his birthday month was when he turned 21! Yes, it is crazy, I know, haha. I'm glad that I was able to reset the clock so to speak on that counter and that I was able to attend the wedding in Iowa as well as have a short visit at home too. And...the last big thing about that week and weekend was this: the last time we were at a Willats family wedding was when I was 3 and he was 6! We had fun during our uncle's wedding (because we were in it, haha) but all of us only have a handful of memories from the day. I have even less. But, with her wedding, we will remember the beautiful ceremony and all of the fun times afterwards at the reception! Also, it was another time in the past year where I have never laughed so much at one time! It was a great end to a great year of me being 24 and Nathan being 27.

He's been a part of my life for almost 25 years and I couldn't imagine having grown up with a better brother. From all of our crazy made-up words, to our play fights (we didn't fight that much as kids so we had to pretend to fight sometimes) to all of our real fights to all of the laughs, tears, moves and changes in our lives, we've been right by each other's sides. A friend of mine told me a few years ago how much family meant to him. He said that if you can't love your own brother, how can you love your friend or a stranger? You honestly can't love others if you don't first love yourself and your family. (For me, God falls into this category too.) My brother may get on my nerves sometimes (and vice versa ;) but I will always love him. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to even have a brother almost everyday. I also know that not everyone has a sibling, at least one that they get along with and/or are on speaking terms with them. I haven't found anyone in this world -so far- who not only gets my sense of humor and knows me better than I know myself but shares my love for other cultures and languages. You'd think that after 20+ of knowing each other, we'd run out of things to talk about....but it's just the opposite! We're both always growing, changing and maturing into the people God has called us to be. Some years might be more challenging than others, but we're always there to encourage each other and remind one another not to take life *so* seriously at times. (Self nudge? haha)

This post has gotten quite long so I will wrap things up here. It's been an awesome ride with you so far, Nathan, and I can't wait to see what this year and the next 20+ years bring. Near or far, we're always on the same sheet of music! And, I hope we don't ever become a boring brother-sister pair and that we'll always be able to have as much wild and crazy fun as we did below! Happy, happy birthday to you, mi querido hermano! I raise my cider bottle to you and wish you a fantastic 28th year! :-D

P.S. I'm not a copycat anymore! I'm learning Portuguese now and not Arabic (like you). It only took me 20 years not to copy you! hahaha