Category: lights

Catching up on life

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  A new marriage, lots and lots of birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a dance event, a skiing trip in Colorado, huge amounts of interpersonal drama, and new jobs for both Michael and myself have proven to be just about all that I can handle.

It is ironic that, although I have been writing more than I ever have in my entire life, I think it’s the longest I’ve been silent on this blog since I started it.  Most of my time lately has been taken up writing for my new blog, forgingsignificance.com.  Right after the wedding I spent several weeks working on some quillwork for an artists’ market at my church, but since about mid-December I have officially taken the plunge and started working full-time toward becoming a freelance writer.

Since then, my days have consisted of lots of website tweaking and beating the pavement trying to submit articles to other sites.  I’ve consistently written at least twice a week on my own blog for several months now, as well as already had 3 articles accepted in other places.  Sometimes it’s frustrating and feels like I’m not making any progress; but then I remind myself that I’ve really only been at this a few weeks, and that helps puts things into perspective for me.

This post is just a brief summary, both for your sakes and mine, of what I’ve been doing the past few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write more regularly on here now that I’m in the swing of things :).

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Michael and I had the opportunity to go visit my New Jersey grandparents in October, just a few weeks after we were married.  I was so grateful that Michael had the chance to meet them both, but especially my grandfather, as he ended up passing away just a few weeks later.  We all miss him a lot.  He left quite a legacy.

I was able to do a few fall-specific things, like carve a pumpkin with Michael, meet my friend Sarah in Ellijay for their Apple Festival, and go to the Perry fair with my mom and younger siblings.  That was a really fun afternoon.  Perry is about half-way between Atlanta and Albany, so we met in the middle and made a day trip of it.  It’s hard to develop a relationship with your siblings when you live far away and they can’t drive and don’t have cell phones, so I’m always grateful for the opportunities that we do get.

I once again hosted a Christmas party this year, except this time I did 3 days in a row of Christmas parties!  We took this idea from a friend, and the thought was to try to incorporate as many people as possible, while also making an effort to focus on different aspects of the Christmas season.  So the first night was “celebrating friends,” which was basically my normal Christmas party.  I made dinner, we played games, decorated gingerbread cookies, etc.  One of the games was a new one – I wrapped little treats in saran wrap and made people unwrap the ball with oven mitts on.  It was actually a lot more fun than I expected!  You can read more about that here.

The other 2 nights were “celebrating others” and “celebrating God,” where we wrote letters to troops and did a lessons and carols service, respectively.  We had almost a completely different group every night, and it was really a lot of fun!  I was definitely tired by the end of day 3, though :).

One of the highlights of the last few months was New Year’s Eve.  Michael and I spontaneously decided to go to Birmingham for the night.  And it was really so much fun!  We hung out, played games, watched the ball drop, and enjoyed a great breakfast the next morning with people we love.  Nothing different from what usually happens when I go to Birmingham for NYE, but considering how much drama has been swirling around Michael and I lately, it was a welcome and much-needed respite.  You can read more about that trip here.

I also really enjoyed my birthday celebration a few days later.  It was a pretty low-key affair, but I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world (including my mother-in-law, who had just had knee surgery and could hardly walk!  It really meant a lot that she made the effort to come out.  I have great in-laws).  We had a potluck dinner and then went to downtown Atlanta to see the Christmas lights in Centennial Park.  The lights were gorgeous, and we even got a funnel cake!  I suppose that was my pseudo birthday cake, haha.

Several of my friends also brought gifts to the potluck, and as I opened them, I was overwhelmed by just how thoughtful they all were.  These people who had come to celebrate me together really cared about me.  I know it seems silly, as most people would say it’s obvious that I’m cared about…but when it feels like you’re being surrounded by selfish emotional drama on all sides, it’s easy to lose sight of that fact.  It was a wonderful night to be reminded that I’m cared for.

We went on a ski trip 2 weekends ago – Michael’s first time!  It was bitterly cold, but a lot of fun.  Even though I’ve been skiing several times before, I actually ended up being a lot more sore than he was.  I think I was so scared from how fast I thought I was going that every muscle in my entire body ended up tensing up, lol.  But we both made it through the day in one piece, so I count that as a victory! 🙂

All that aside, Michael and I have been trying to focus on taking care of ourselves and getting into a regular schedule.  We’ve become connected with a small group at church that focuses on outreach to internationals in Atlanta.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.  I’ve also started part-time work teaching a beginner ESL class twice a week.  It’s quite a challenge when you have Spanish, Chinese, AND Russian speakers, and there’s no telling how many people will actually show up!

Now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I’m hoping to be able to update both blogs.  But for the most regular updates, be sure to head over to my new site (forgingsignificance.com) and sign up for my newsletter!  I always post there on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Rejoicing in my blessings

I’ve been blessed this summer and fall to get to see quite a bit of family members that I don’t often get to see.  First was my uncle, who came all the way from California to spend the week in Atlanta with Grammie.  They had a busy week, but I managed to snag them for an evening and have dinner with them.  It was great to see them both, but particularly Uncle Jeff – I see Grammie whenever I go down to Albany (which still isn’t as much as I’d like), but I haven’t seen my uncle in years.

I also recently got to have dinner with my mom’s side of the family for my Great-Aunt’s birthday.  Even though they live in and around Atlanta, I see them very rarely, so it was wonderful to catch up with them.  Actually, through unforeseen circumstances I ended up being able to spend almost an entire day with some of them the next weekend…but more on that in the next entry :).

Next on the list was my mom and sister.  My mom has decided that if she wants to see her kids, she just has to go and do it – there will never be a great time, and if she waits around until everyone is in town she will never see any of us.  So she just tries to come up to Atlanta as often as she can, and sees whichever of us happen to be around that weekend.  I’m very appreciative and blessed with that perspective that she has taken.  She came up a few weeks ago; it actually happened to be one of my busiest weekends of the whole summer, but I adore my family, so I made a point of seeing them for at least a little bit.  I got off of work early on Friday and was able to spend the afternoon with them.  First thing we did was take mom shopping for some jeans – 2 hours and lots of laughs later, she finally found some.  Poor Hope was getting very bored, though, so we took her mini-golfing as a consolation prize :).  (Oh….and as a side note….another result of this shopping trip was that I tried out a new way to hem pants that actually keeps the original hem!  It was a life-changing revelation.  Now short people can actually have pants that fit, too! :] ).

After the putt-putting Michael and I were already planning on going to Andretti, an indoor go-kart racing place right by my office, so I thought that after putt-putt I would have to part ways with mom and Hope.  But they decided that Andretti sounded like fun too, and so they tagged along with us there.  You should have seen Hope scurrying up the rock wall!  She was like a mountain goat.  The girl has no fear…it’s truly incredible.  That evening mom and Hope stayed the night with me, so I got the pleasure of spending even MORE time with them!  It was really an awesome day; I so rarely get to spend time with just the ladies in my family these days…

Come Saturday, though, it was off to work again.  Michael moved that weekend, so I was part of the muscle crew that helped him out.  Actually, I didn’t move much furniture at all…Amy and I stayed behind and cleaned his apartment after the guys had taken the stuff over to his new place.  I firmly contend that I had the much harder job, lol…  But it was worth it.  Because Amy and I cleaned the entire apartment while Michael was moving into his new house, he was able to just hand the keys into the office and walk away, and not have to worry about coming back later to clean.

But I must admit….helping Michael move wasn’t done entirely out of pure motives.  Stone Mountain was having their last laser light show of the year that night…and I really wanted to go!  We ended up finishing moving in plenty of time, so we drove out and met his parents for a picnic dinner on the grounds.  We did that because we wanted to get there early enough to get a good viewing seat, but that also meant that we had plenty of time to walk around the park and see the sights.  I had actually never been to Stone Mountain, even though it’s only about 30 minutes from where I live (which is really nothing in Atlanta terms).  They had a little village all decked out – although it seemed a bit confused, as it was sort of a mash-up of both fall and Christmas decorations.  But…I suppose you could say that gave it extra character?  But regardless of which holiday the folks at Stone Mountain were celebrating, my favorite decoration was definitely the pumpkins – they had a whole pumpkin scene set up that depicted the characters from Despicable Me.  Really a very cute idea, and very well executed, too.  And then of course the light show was spectacular.  I’ve actually heard mixed reviews about the light show at Stone Mountain, but I would definitely recommend it.  They did an excellent job melding animated lights, music, and pictures depicting a variety of topics and famous people from Georgia’s history – all on the side of a mountain!  There were even some parts in which they incorporated the enormous carving that makes Stone Mountain famous into the light show itself.  I found it absolutely mesmerizing.

And then of course, I would be much remiss in a post about family if I left out my visit to New Jersey a few weeks ago.  It has been several years since I’ve seen my mom’s parents, and I had a little bit of unused vacation time left from work, so I decided to take a day off and go visit them while I could.  I got up at an absolutely ungodly hour – the plane left at 6:00 in the morning from both locations – but I suppose the plus side of that is that once I landed I still had almost the entire day before me.  And my boyfriend Michael took me to and from the airport in Atlanta, and my cousin Michael did the same in New Jersey…so I really can’t complain about having to get up so early.

Anyway, the days I spent with my grandparents were well worth whatever inconvenience it took to get there.  Even though we didn’t do much, I treasure the time that I got to spend with them.  An added bonus was getting to see my Aunt Joan and Uncle John for most of the day on Sunday.  They came all the way from Connecticut, a 3-hour or so drive each way, just so they could spend a few hours with me.  Because my visit was so short (and I didn’t have any means of transportation), I really couldn’t take the time to visit my other family who lives in the area, so I had just thought that I was not going to be able to see them.  I felt very loved and cared for from them taking the time and initiative to make the trip to come see me in New Jersey.  I was very grateful for the stories and laughs that I shared with everyone while I was there.  As my grandparents get older, and the time I have left to spend with them becomes less and less, it becomes more and more valuable.

I’m so very blessed to have such a wonderful family.  Sure, they have their quirks.  There are of course times when they frustrate me to no end.  But at the end of the day, they are awesome and I love them dearly, and couldn’t imagine life without them.  Don’t take for granted the friends and family that God has put in your life.  Don’t forget how blessed you are to have your own personal cheerleaders.  Don’t nit-pick over their small flaws, but make the effort to see the whole package.  Rejoice in them and take the time to thank them as often as you can for how well they love, care, and look out for you.  And if you feel like you don’t have people in your life who do that…rejoice in the fact that God always will :).

Extending the season

Well Christmas is over, the decorations have been put back into the attic for another year, the ball has dropped on December 31st, and I’ve started school again.  However, I’m not quite ready to let Christmas go just yet, so I’ve decided to extend the season just a little bit more by writing about my Christmas escapades from after my Oregon visit.

After returning to Atlanta, I hung out there for a few days.  I had bought tickets for mom and I to go see the Nutcracker ballet at the Fox theater the upcoming weekend, and there was really no sense in driving home to Albany only to turn around and come back up 2 days later.  I made the most of my time while I was waiting, though; the most memorable trip definitely being the one to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Every year the Botanical Gardens are transformed into a magical winter light extravaganza.  My camera, while very good, does not even come close to doing it justice.  But I did my best :).

Christmas went by in a blur.  I’m used to spending weeks at home over winter break; it was very strange only having a little more than a week in Albany before heading back to Atlanta.  Chris and Julia came down for a few days around Christmastime.  It was nice to see them.  Having the entire family together all in one place is getting rarer and rarer these days.

After they left, I had a few days with just the family before our old friends the Roberts came into town.  We played games, and went out to dinner once (and were rather silly while there – I’m somewhat surprised we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant, hehehe), and read books…much the same as what we did once the Roberts got here, actually.  Except Josh also got his learner’s permit.  Oh…my…word.  Such a terrifying thought to think that my baby brother is driving!!  😉  Well, I suppose time does march on, doesn’t it?  It has to, or we wouldn’t already be a week into 2014 :).  Updates from my awesome birthday festivities coming up next!

Can you believe he’s got a license now?!?

The whole gang!!

Matt’s reading a book called “The man who loved books too much.”  I thought it was a fitting title 🙂

Lantern festival and Hallyu Concert

What an introduction I had to Korean festivals this weekend.  Elizabeth and I left midday on Saturday for Jinju, to see the lantern festival, and it was an adventure from the start.  We were going to leave earlier, but I had a “cultural trip” with my school in the morning, so we decided to leave a bit later.  I went to a pottery maker’s place with about 70 of my students.  We made pottery and had snacks and took pictures with each other and overall had a lovely time.  It was fun :).  The girls all seemed in total shock to see Teacher outside of class, lol :D.  After we finished, a few of my co-teachers took me out to lunch, so by the time Elizabeth and I left Gyeongju for Jinju it was well after noon.

Me and my girls at the pottery place

So anyway, we got to the bus station, bought our tickets, and were all set to get on the bus as it pulled into the station.  But then we noticed that something was wrong.  The bus was there, but no one was getting off, and the people waiting to get on outside were getting into an argument with the bus driver.  Well, apparently, the Korean bus system doesn’t believe in limiting ticket sales.  Even when the seats are all filled, they keep selling them.  The next bus wasn’t coming for another 2 hours, and we didn’t want to wait, so we boarded anyway, and sat on the floor in the aisle of the bus – for 3 hours.  It was the longest bus ride of my life.  I’m all for new experiences, but that’s one that I hope to never repeat.

Once in Jinju, we realized that apparently no taxi driver in the city knew where our hotel was location.  After asking close to half a dozen drivers, and wandering around some on our own, we finally found our friend Frank, who lives in Jinju, who guided us to the hotel.  But apparently, our hotel is super anal about only letting 2 people stay in a room, and we were planning on putting 3 in the girls’ room – Sarah and Adam came down from Hwacheon and met us :).  The hotel employee actually chased us into our room when he saw three people go up the stairs and told us that we could only have 2.  Everyone was stressed and on edge at this point, so I went in and talked to the guy (who mercifully spoke English!), and explained the situation.  He finally allowed us to pay a little bit extra (about $10) to have a third person stay.  I was glad that it worked out so easily; it could have been a pretty bad situation.  So the first night I slept on the floor and Sarah and Elizabeth in the bed, and the second night Sarah elected to sleep in the tub.  Ahhh, Korea, never a dull moment.

So buses and hotels finally figured out, we at last were able to enjoy the festival.  And what a festival it was!  Unless you’ve been to the lantern festival in Jinju, you’ve never seen real lanterns before.  These lanterns tower over people, depicting enormous scenes and animals with incredible detail.  When the lights turned on during the opening ceremony I literally lost my breath.  They looked like something from another world.  The lights reflecting in the water, the floating bridges bobbing gently between the lanterns, the fireworks and sparklers punctuating the air…the entire scene was simply magical.

Some pictures from the festival….

The next day was spent just relaxing and walking around Jinju.  We looked at the booths and tents that were set up, found a grove of bamboo to hide from the sun for a while (I love bamboo!!!), ate chicken on a stick and drank green tea lattes.  After the sun set, we went back to the lanterns that were floating on the river.  We bought pre-made “wishing lanterns” and set them out on the river, singing songs from the Tangled soundtrack the whole time.  I was feeling just like Rapunzel – if you haven’t seen the movie, check out the link below to see what I’m talking about.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD_IEqxp-e0&feature=related

Me in the bamboo grove
Me setting my wishing lantern afloat

After setting our lanterns afloat, we were actually able to make our own.  We made a turtle, and named him Frederico.  Unfortunately, the lantern making booth closed at 11:00, far before we were finished, so the last 30 minutes of the creation of Frederico were a little rushed, and our poor baby was finally hung up for display leg-less and face-less :(.  But oh well, he knows we love him :).

Making Frederico 🙂
Giving Frederico a kiss 🙂

We got back from Jinju just after lunch on Monday, and I spent the afternoon watching Tangled.  A fitting ending, I think, to the Jinju lantern festival :).

Monday night was another new adventure – my first live K-pop experience!  The Hallyu Dream Concert is the biggest concert in Korea, and music lovers fly in from all over the world to see their favorite Korean pop stars perform live.  They line up to enter the stadium hours and hours before the shows starts, and decked out in their best fan attire – I’m talking balloons, signs, shirts, headbands, even full-body animal suits (I’m assuming  they were Beast fans).  It was a great concert, but I was glad to finally be home – Jinju wore me out.  I also was able to spend some time talking and watching YouTube videos with my host sister after I got back, which was nice.  I’ve been having host family issues for the past few weeks, so it was great to be able to spend some amicable time with her.  All in all, a lovely weekend – I got to see Sarah, got to be Rapunzel, got to hear some great music and see some pretty amusing costumes, and got to spend time with Elizabeth and my host sister.  Next up: Andong and the Maskdance festival!!

THRONGS of people…..I’ve never seen so many screaming teenagers at once