Complacency vs. Contentment: Thankfulness

We have now been living in Corning for a little over a year.  The newness of the Finger Lakes region has started to ware off and to some degree the same could be said about our marriage.  The longer you stay in one place, in one pattern, the easier it is to not see the little things. The route to work with all turns becomes a blur, as do the days. Same can be said about life together in a marriage. Over time it is easy to forget or not even notice the little things as they days start to blur together. When this happens it is easy to become complacent.

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Complacency is settling, possibly unhappily, with the way life is. When life begins to buzz by it’s easier to complain and become grumpy. But instead of doing anything about it, complacency leads us to feel comfortable with the unhappy grumpy us in our mundane routine because it can be controlled.

Contentment instead is a state of satisfaction even if life is not perfect. It focuses on what is going right or well with a sense of thankfulness in and/or during our regular routine. This helps us let go of the pieces we can make us grumpy or irritated but we have no control over and helps the days feel more important, significant, less “blurry”.

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I am learning what it looks like to be content instead of complacent in our routine and current place in marriage. But what does that look like?

Saying thank you, a lot. I don’t have to think or worry about the bills being paid on time, the trash being emptied, the car having gas, or there being money in the checking account so I can buy groceries. Luke just takes care of those things for us. But because I don’t have to worry or think about them means I can forget they are getting done. They can become part of the routined haze unless I saying thank you; a lot: in a text, email, sticky note in a lunch pail or out-loud. If I say thank you it helps change my focus onto what is working well, what is going right.

Once I began to think with a thankful perspective and communicate appreciation for the little things, I began to see Luke’s actions differently. I began to recognize the “why” behind what he did big or little. For instance, my husband’s willingness to go to the store at 12am in the morning to pick up nyquil. That action showed me that he cares about not only my well being but that I get decent rest. Although I already knew these things to be true,I need constant vocal or physical reminders because let’s face it life gets to us and we forget just how much our spouse or loved on really does care about us.

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It may sound strange to, say: thank my husband for going to work everyday. But I see the deeper value or purpose behind his behavior. By always going to work, dressed professionally, on time, I see he has a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility to his co-workers and patients, and he cares about our financial security.  So when I thank him for a small everyday action, what I am really saying is I see and appreciate who he is: the roles he has taken on, and his values and ethics.

It takes discipline to remember to communicate my gratitude but overtime it helps develop perspective. I am able to see more clearly the emotions and values behind what Luke is communicating to me. In turn I am more aware of how I communicate and thank him through my behaviors back. It makes the little things Luke does for me or I do for him seem not so little anymore. Because when I get a small text in the middle of my day that simply says: “hey love u babe” it makes a big impact in how I handle the rest of my daily routine leading me more towards contentment and away from complacency

How about you?

What little things do you take for granted?

What little things are you grateful for/impact you the most?

2013 in review

I know we are a little more than a week into the new year but it has taken me a full week to get back into the normal routine of things (I can’t be the only one who’s in the post-holiday struggle for normality). As I look back on almost a full year with this blog I thought I’d review some of the highlighting events of 2013.

So here is a review of 2013 blog style:

January: survived our first NY winter:  A Lesson in Independence and explored our local museum’s winter events: 2300 degrees

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February: Started a new Valentines tradition: Valentine’s Pie: a New Tradition, and explored what it means to be newly married :Dispelling Marriage MythsMarriage Myth busting: Round 2

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March: Celebrate Luke’s birthday with brewery tours/tastings in Rochester: A Chemistry lesson for a birthday present, Shared about my allergy to barley: Why I am barley free: Part One, and celebrated Easter: Hot Cross Buns and Berry Salad

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April: Celebrated 6 months of marriage: Wow it’s been 6 months!, shared details about our wedding:The Dress and  learning how to look for a job: Patience: giving myself time

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May: Traveled to the West Coast for an Oregon vacation and my brother’s college graduation: Vacation Highlights Part 1: Family TimeVacation Highlights Part 2: Date Days

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June: Went Kayaking in Rochester: Kayaking and BBQ, bottled our first homemade barley-free beer:  Bottling our first homemade brew and celebrated my birthday in Ithaca: An Ithaca birthday Adventure

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July: Explored local festivals: Two festivals and Korean BBQ, Fixed up the front porch: Home Improvement: The Front Porch Project, and traveled to Washington to be apart of pre-wedding events for my brother’s wedding : Pre-wedding Jitters

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August:  Particpated in my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal shower: Stina’s bridal shower and other wedding events, attended two local foodie festivals in NY: Smoke on the WaterTaste of Ellicotville, and hiked a local landmark: Walkins Glen State Park= Gorge-ous

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September: Looked back on my brother’s wedding: The Wedding, and shared more about my job-search: A New Year: Teacher without a classroom

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October: Picked pumpkins and attended an Apple Festival: Picking Perfect Pumpkins;  Apple Fest,  shared about my allergy to tree-nuts:Why I am tree-nut free Part one,  and celebrated a year of marriage with a trip to Niagara Falls :Niagara Falls anniversary Part One

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November: Kept busy with non-blogging activities and shared about them in: busy: and update

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December: Started two new holiday traditions: Post-Parade Cookies and Cocoa and Christmas Concert TSO. Attended our local holiday festival: Sparkle and shared our Christmas with my parents: A Very Corning Christmas present and A handmade and heirloom Christmas

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That is one very full blogging year! And that is only a small portion of the blog-post in this past year and doesn’t include any of my recipes. So what can you look forward to reading about this next year? You’ll find out soon enough.

Niagara Falls Anniversary Part 1: Maid of the Mist and Prime Rib

Well we are getting back to our normal weekly routine after an amazing sunny anniversary weekend. As promised here are some great pictures and details from our anniversary trip to Niagara Falls:

We left on Thursday around 5:00pm and drove the three hours north to Niagara Falls avoiding toll roads as much as possible. By around 8:00pm we were at the boarder crossing with our new passports and for the first time together crossed over to Canada. We checked in at the Best Western, dropped off our bags then went in search of a late dinner.

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Since we bought two separate Groupon Getaways we had several vouchers for food and activities, plus the hotels threw-in several extras with our room keys. For the most part this made planning our weekend and where would eat very easy. We walked to TGIF with our $20 voucher and got a good quick dinner. Then we went on a brisk cold walk to get a partial view of the Canadian side of the falls at night.

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Friday we switched into outdoor mode. Gearing up with tennis shoes, hats, and sunglasses we packed a picnic lunch and crossed back over to America to check out the Niagara Falls State Park. For a Friday the place was pretty quiet. Unfortunately, the park has been doing some re-construction of lookouts, hikes, and walkways which ended up limiting our exploring. But the view was beautiful and so was the weather. Following the rapids away from the falls we walked toward the trail to visit the Islands. For a virtual map of all that I am describing click here.

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The first Island has had several names over the years but the one that has stuck is Goat Island. Crossing the rapids on a pedestrian bridge you come to a picnic area and parking lot. Walking to the waterfront you can look back on the American Falls and get close to Bridal Veil Fall the mist of which was creating a rainbow.

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Again because of construction Luna island, a closer viewing point to the falls, was closed for construction so the above picture was as close as we could get. Rounding the viewpoint is  the ticket-booth and elevator for the Cave of the Winds tour which takes you to the base of the American Falls along wet walkways.  Continuing along the trail we came up to Terrapin point, the lookout for the American view of the Horseshoe falls. This was Luke’s first time to see these monstrous falls in daylight.

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Next we continued past the Fallsview Restaurant and on to the Three Sisters Islands. This area had already been remodeled and looked beautiful with many trees, drops in the rapids, and from the bridges you could see mist from where the rapids end and the falls begin.

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After all this walking, we headed back to the car for our picnic lunch. Then we headed over to the Maid of the Midst for our boat tour. We first took in the view at the observation deck, then we went down the elevator and climbed the stairs to the crows nest.

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view from the observation tower

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view from the top of the crow’s nest

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 As we waited in line for the Maid of the Mist tour, we put on our blue plastic ponchos. Luke was skeptical he really needed to wear it as he sweated waiting to get on the boat-I knowingly smiled. We crowded as close as we could to the front of the boat and off we went. First we took in a great view of the American falls as we rounded the last of the falls the wind and midst began to hit us and we were grateful for our hats and glasses.

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We then turned toward the massive HorseShoe falls. As we got closer the thundering of the falls roared louder than the boat’s engine.  We inched closer and closer and got hit with a windy down-pour of rain (aka Mist). Taking in the view from both sides of the boat as it turned around we saw the rainbow once again over the American falls.

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We got off the boat, up the elevator, and tried to dry off. Driving back to the Canadians side over the Rainbow Bridge turned out to take awhile in the rush-hour afternoon traffic. But with a great view and the windows down it didn’t feel too long before we were back at the Best Western getting ready for dinner. All the hotels and restaurants are so close to each other that we once again walked to The Keg located in the Embassy Suites. Grateful we made reservations, we were brought right to our table with a partial view of the falls.  (I’m sure you have to specifically ask or come early for seats right by the window).

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We watched the sunset and had an amazing prime rib dinner of which we only paid for tip outside of groupon vouchers!! We then went on a walk to explore a little more of the Canadian side tourism central with Starbuck in hand. On our route back we stopped by the Skylon tower to view a wonderful fireworks display over the falls around 9:45pm.

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again not my photos but pretty view

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On our way to our room we heard another whole set of fireworks go off. We hurried up the stairs to watched them from our balcony around 10:00pm. This was the last night of fireworks for the season and we think they may have been celebrating both Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day all at once! It was a great end to a wonderful day.

Next up: Niagara Falls: Anniversary Part 1: Canadian Side

Transition reflection

I’ve posted most recently about festivals, food,  and holiday decorations but I’m taking a break for this to reflect and share about some transitions ahead for A.Greene.

In 6 weeks and we will have been NY residents for a year! In this past year there have been many new experiences and challenges. For me a large portion of this was adjusting to living completely on our own.

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When we first moved I had little social interaction outside of skype, phone calls, or the grocery clerk. There were long periods of loneliness and boredom and a whole lot of time on Netflix. I struggled to adjust to the new life-pace. I had been in survival mode for months planning for a wedding while working. When we moved less than a month after the wedding I needed a large amount of down-time to adjust, everyone said so and told me I had earned it.

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But the adjustment wasn’t easy. I at first felt guilty and purposeless.  It took a long time to realize what I was supposed to be doing with my time. In the long run the time was not wasted: I learned how to create boundaries, how to balance my life, how to recognize stressors and handle stress properly, I got in shape, I learned how to maintain a household, learned how to cook healthy for two (check out my transcend category), edited two books, applied to jobs, and wrote more than 100 blog posts (see 6 months=100 posts!) None of that includes the learning and growing in my relationship with Luke! (For more on that just type marriage into my search engine and you’ll see plenty of recent posts).

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All of this to say, it has been a major year of transition and with this fall even more is coming our way.

Here’s what we are looking forward to:

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1. We are now going to be weekly co-leading a Young Married small group with our church. On Tuesday night we will get the opportunity to gather with people at the same place in life as us and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m looking forward to making new friends and to sharing our experiences adjusting to married life.

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2. I have some great job opportunities coming down the line: continued editing work and possibly teaching college-level English courses and/or substituting. I am curious to see what I end up doing, it’s hard to not get anxious wondering where I may be starting my career on the East Coast.

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3. Next weekend we will be celebrating our 1rst year Anniversary!! We are headed to Niagara Falls for a fun filled Groupon getaway!

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4. It’s months from now but: My parent’s are coming for Christmas! After a year of celebrating every holiday just Luke and I, we are ready for company come the holiday season. I’m so excited that it’s hard not to want to plan out every second of time together months in advanced.

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Plus in general we are just getting busier! In the past several weeks there have been birthday parties, dinner meetings, conferences, day-trips to visit friends, co-worker events etc. They are taking up our evenings and weekends more than ever before! It’s a great change (no more boredom or loneliness) but it has been a stretch.

Just as it was difficult to adjust to so much time on my own, so it has also been difficult recently to get out of my introverted state and get out there and socialize more. With transitions (even when they are good ones) there comes new stressors and challenges. As the routine shifts, I have to again adjust  and re-learn how to balance all over again. But it is so worth it.

As we move into the time of holidays what changes or transitions are you anticipating?

What adjustments do they require of you?

Happy Mother’s Day

We are spending this Mother’s day sleeping off last nights travels back to New York. We had a wonderful time with family out in Oregon. We wish we could spend mother’s day with our moms but I think we did the next best thing by seeing them the week before.

Speaking of moms-I’ve got great ones. That being that I include both my mother and my mother-in-law. I am blessed to be able to celebrate two amazing women this year 🙂

Mom 2 aka my mother-in-law

Mom 2 aka my mother-in-law

My mom

My mom

I could write forever about my moms but I think for this year, continuing on the wedding season theme, I will share a story:

My bridal shower was on a hot sunny September day this past fall in SoCal. As my mom and I packed gifts in the car from those who couldn’t come, in also went a big black and white rose print bag which I couldn’t place. It was from my mom. She told me I would have no clue what it was, which of course made me so curious I couldn’t wait to open it at the shower.

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After some fun games, great treats, and catching up with my female friends and family it was finally gift-time. There were some great surprises, sentimental touches, and awesome picks from our registry. But nothing prepared me for what was in that rose printed bag.

I looked at the card : “something from home to take with you no matter where you live”. I pulled the heavy bag onto my lap, quickly tore out the tissue paper and began to pull out a red and white quilt pattern. I asked my mom: “Did you make a tree skirt for me or is this yours?” See my mom had been taking quilting classes for the past six months. In that time she had made a Christmas and Thanksgiving wall hanging and a beautiful tree skirt. So my first thought was that she was either giving away her tree skirt or she had made one for me.

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Then she encouraged me to pull the whole thing out. I was shocked as she and my grandmother helped me unfold a complete queen size quilt all in red and white to match my beautiful red headboard (see sleep after marriage ).

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As I admired the details she told me the story: My mom had been working on this since the beginning of her quilting class, the second she knew I was engaged. She casually asked me to look at some of her quilting magazines and noticed me eyeing the  red and white pattern with the 8 point stars. She quickly took the pattern, went to the store and got started.

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All those other quilting projects were cover ups for her real masterpiece. The many annoying times she asked when I was going to be home or how long I’d be gone was so she knew when she could secretly sew the quilt.  This gift was gorgeous, totally unexpected, and I know my mom put hard work into it. The pattern was for intermediate to advance quilters but she did it anyways. That’s my mom for you.

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It took on even more significance when we found out we were moving to the East Coast. I would still have this beautiful piece  from my mom that would remind me of home. Through the winter my mom’s cotton quilt has sat folded on top of the cedar chest in our bedroom.

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Now that it is spring we have moved it to the bed.

So Happy Mother’s day Mom! And thank you for the hours of prayer stitched into each piece of this quilt-I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Our First Vacation

We moved to Corning New York the week of Thanksgiving and since then we’ve stayed here. So it has been almost 6 months since we have seen any of our family face-to-face. But we are very excited that today we are headed back home!

My brother is graduating for college (yay!).  Fortunately my brother’s college is less than an hour away from my in-laws home. We decided this was our chance to spend time with almost all our family (both Halvorsons and Greenes) and celebrate and we do have a lot to celebrate.

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The Halvorson side minus grandparents

The Greene side minus grandma and Luke's bro

The Greene side minus grandma and Luke’s bro

This is our first true married vacation together (unless you want to count the honeymoon). So it has taken some work to figure  out responsibilities in order to get us ready to travel from coast-to-coast. I think ahead about all the little details including seeing what the weather will be like, writing and packing cards, and planning out outfits based on the activities we have going on.  Luke on the other hand focuses on the big picture, the travel plans themselves, and is completely comfortable throwing clothes in a carry-on bag the morning of the flight.

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There is nothing wrong with doing things differently it is why we are a great team. But my goal is to make sure we don’t assume the other person took care of something before leaving only to realize neither one of us did as we our on our ride to the airport.

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We are excited and anxious to be back in the northwest and to see some of our closests friends and family. The past few days leading up to vacation felt like they dragged on. But we are finally here! With snacks, movies, and books packed for the flights we are ready to take off. So I will see you all in a week. By then I’ll have plenty of pictures and stories to share. 🙂

Favors from Friends (a great way to save)

Your friend/family network is one of your most important assets during engagement. And a great way to save when wedding planning is to ask favors from these talented people. It saves you time, money, but also stress because it surrounds you with the people you care about and trust in this important time.

Here are some areas you can call in favors for:

Hairstylist

I asked a close friend in our college group who has experience working in salons to do my hair.  I loved that I could be honest with her about what I liked and wanted.  It was nice to have someone I enjoy spending time with curling my hair the morning of the wedding and styling my hair in the bridal room. I am grateful I got to skip the hair salon all together.

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Personalized Bridesmaids/Groomsmen gifts

I also asked a good family friend to make my bridesmaid gifts. She is an esthetician but her hobby is to make crystal jewelry. We met up at a Starbucks and talked through the designs and sizes for bracelets. The end products were dark purple glass bracelets with golden clasps. She went above and beyond what I asked, making purple dress-shaped gift bags for each bridesmaid.

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Makeup

I enlisted another close family friend who is a Mary Kay consultant to do my makeup. We love to talk and laugh and could honestly share with her what I wanted.  I was glad to avoid a high fee for a makeup artist or a trip to the mall.

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Photography/Videography

I was able to ask a close friend to do my photography. She had done several weddings and engagements before.  I am a little camera shy and especially when I’m expected to be affectionate in public while photos are being taken. But it helped that I knew her so well because eventually I relaxed and learned to be myself around the camera.

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Our photographer suggested we rent out video equipment and have someone we trusted film it.  So we asked a trusted friend in the college group to do the video for our wedding. He knew the photographer so they worked well as a team.  Then the photographer and her husband edited the film, made copies, and mailed the DVDs out.

Officiant

Last of all, we chose to ask my great uncle to preform our wedding (he helped my great-grandfather preform my parent’s wedding) but due to his busy schedule he didn’t think he could come. While we were at lunch with his family his daughter , also a pastor, offered to be our officiant.  We met up with her and her husband for some awesome dinner and talked through the ceremony. She  got to know our hearts and personal story. In the end we were able to keep up a family tradition and my great uncle did get a chance to come and do our communion and prayer time.

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You may be thinking . . .well I don’t have a network with those talents.  But you may have friends and family with other talents. What about cake decorating? or catering? Maybe they are good with arranging flowers? Maybe you know musicians who would love to preform at the wedding? or who are good with a sound board who could be your MC or DJ? Or maybe they are just good at organizing details. If you can trust them and they have expirence-ask for their help! If you can’t ask them to do a large favor, there are still many little things that can be delegated out. ( Stayed tuned for more on delegating).

Most importantly: Do not forget to say THANK YOU!!!!

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I am blessed with wonderful family and friends who were willing to help make our wedding day amazing without any expectations in return. But just because they are volunteers does not mean you shouldn’t thank them. We wrote thank you letters to everyone who helped contribute, paid the photographer, videographer, and pastor (and invited them to the rehearsal dinner since they came to the rehearsal). I paid for the supplies for the bracelets, although not for the labor. And for my hair and makeup stylists? Well they got gift certificates for facials from our esthetician friend.

It all tied together so well. Thank you once again to all those who volunteered to make our wedding day so special.