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April 25, 2012


When thinking of someone who is 30 years old -- someone other than myself -- I consider 30 to be "old"... not necessarily in the sense of "ancient", but more in the sense of "no longer considered young". 30 seems to imply more settled, in a way, farther from the night time social scene, with more experience in life, experience that would usually bring a secure job, perhaps a house, maybe a child or two. Yet now that it's actually ME that's turning the page from last chapter of my 20s to the first chapter of my 30s, I feel like "30" is so much less defined. Not necessarily because I haven't achieved all the things listed above, but more because the older I get, the more I realize that these benchmarks of age really aren't definable. The expectations that I had 10 years ago of how my life would look at 30 are quite, quite different than how my life actually looks now, and honestly, I don't think I would change a thing!

Now... has life been challenging? Yes. Have there been days when I've cried more than I've laughed? Perhaps. More specifically, have there been days when I think "What in heaven's name am I doing here?!?!". Most. Certainly. Yes. But there have also been days where the lessons learned were more valuable than the cost paid to learn them. And of course there have been wonderful, amazing, throw-your-head-back-and-let-your-hair-blow-in-the-wind-while-twirling-and-smiling kind of days. And it's these two last sentiments are the ones that I reflect on as I start a new decade of life.  

Those who know me well know my appreciation for quotes - words of wisdom, Bible verses, inspiring quotations - and I have quite a collection! I was inspired about a year ago when I saw someone post her collection of quotes in honor of their 30th birthday, honoring her birthday by reflecting on what she had learned in years past. I thought it was fabulous, and began to note personal reflections and also save quotations that I stumbled upon in books or online. This was quite enjoyable for me, and even more so with the discovery of Pinterest, where many quotes that I already had recorded were now available in print, and most in a really beautiful way! The following is my list of "30 for 30": Things I've learned, things I'm admitting out loud, quotes that inspire me and that I believe could be inspiring for others, and Biblical truth. I enjoyed collecting them and think I might try to make it a yearly tradition! So... without further ado...

1) There are a lot of things that I still don’t know.  And that occasionally makes me feel like I’m 11 again.  And sometimes that’s ok. The day you stop learning is the day you stop living. 

2) In the new world of creative writing, it is completely acceptable to start a sentence with the word “And”.

3) There are a lot of things that I want to do well, but I should probably just accept that perfectionists can never do everything well. (And neither can your Average Joe… StrengthsFinder, anyone??)


5) I enjoy drinking diet soda and eating gummy candy way more than I should.  (Yet I don’t stop! Bummer!). And when I think my hair looks bad, it doesn’t matter how skinny my hips look or how trendy my shoes are, I feel ugly.

6) You will most likely never regret taking a lot of photographs.

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8) Sometimes the best prayer to pray is...
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9) Travel not only opens your eyes to the world, but it opens your mind and your heart as well.  (And sometimes an open heart is more valuable than an open pair of eyes).

10) Do not marry someone unless you would be proud to have a child exactly like him/her.

12) $450 for a new memory foam mattress is money well-invested... newly married or not!

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14) Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration and misery.  (This might take an entire lifetime to really learn).

lettergirl... check her out - she's amazing!
16) Forgiving yourself (and not condemning yourself after, as well) is harder than forgiving others.  This is why God offers us grace, and suggests we do the same for ourselves.

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19) You will never feel 100% ready for something new, and because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Being or staying comfortable is not a good reason to avoid anything.  

[can anyone source this?]

21) Only boring people are ever bored. [If you think you are bored, go to the library!]


23) If you don’t act on it, you might never know what it (or you) could have been.  A year from now you might wish you would have started today.  You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.

25) In life, you get what you put in.  If you want love, give love.  If you want friends, be friendly.  If you want money, provide value.  It just might be this simple.

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27) The Internet is supremely helpful and can enrich your life with brilliant literature, delectable recipes and creative project ideas, can answer random questions and ease random fears, and can connect you with those you love.  It can also suck the time out of your day faster than any other non-living thing on the planet. Proceed with caution.

28) Mistakes teach you important lessons. The only mistake that can truly hurt you is choosing to do nothing simply because you’re too scared to make a mistake.

29) As Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”


Makes sense to worry less and trust more then, right?

week 16.

Sunday, April 15th
Sunday afternoon on the couch with a delicious cup of Portuguese coffee, writing postcards to send to random people around the world through Postcrossing, a fantastic new project that I found that connects people around the world through postcards.  The more you send, the more you receive!  I have sent to China, Malaysia, and most recently, Fond du Lac, WI, just a few hours north of my hometown, and I have received postcards from Finland and Poland as well!  If you like sending mail, check out their site!

Monday, April 16th
One thing I love about living in Portugal is the large variety of natural food products available, like vegetables, fruit, and eggs, and I also really appreciate that people are so generous in giving them away!  We regularly get eggs from one of our neighbors and one of our friends, but for some reason we were out of them last week.  I bought a half dozen from the grocery store for a cake, one day before our neighbor brought over a dozen that her mom had just collected fresh from the chicken coop!  We decided to use the store-bought ones that were left, and were amazed at how different the coloring was between the two! Care to guess which is which??

Tuesday, April 17th
During a pretty stressful week, my dear friend Cristi decided to not only meet me for lunch, but to make and entire home-made lunch for me!  It was the most delicious chicken salad sandwich, and I'm pretty sure the Craisins had something to do with it... I can't remember the last time I had Craisins!!!  Once she graces me with the recipe, I will definitely send it to you! (and hopefully I can reproduce it with some ingredients that are available in Portugal!)

Wednesday, April 18th
I've got mail!  Forever on time with their good wishes, a birthday package designed by my dear mother and including not only a lot of lovely treats and gifts, but also some American necessities that I had asked for as well, arrived today!  I also got an Easter package from my family and a card from my Grandma, but may have forgotten to take a photo of them before they were taken apart/eaten/used.  Obviously the small pack of Cadbury mini eggs did not last long enough to make it into the photo... :)

Thursday, April 19th
My dear friend Isabel, one of the first to make sure I felt welcome and included in the choir I joined here in Coimbra, one who shares my love for all things vintage, and generally one of the kindest people I have met in Portugal, is unfortunately leaving us for an adventure in Spain for a year!  We took this photo with her snuggly shawl, which she was never without (and which is usually accompanied by another scarf and 2 jackets!), and which makes me feel like I'm not the only person who is always freezing in Portugal!  I will miss her dearly, but as an adventurer myself, I am almost always in favor of going out on a limb when the opportunity arises... After all, isn't that where the fruit is?

Friday, April 20th
Though there aren't anywhere near as many ways to save money/be thrifty in Portugal, we are very, very thankful for store-brand items!  In our entire purchase this afternoon, only the two items on the left - Kleenex and ground turkey - were not the Continente brand!  Granted, it was a small shopping trip, but still... we're grateful!

Saturday, April 21st
My wonderful husband surprised me this weekend with a road trip to Guimarães, a city a bit north of us that has been named the European Capital of Culture this year, and reserved an "apartment-hotel" for us so that we could save money, promising to cook me dinner and pamper me for two days!  We left Coimbra in a huge storm, with rain predicted all weekend from the north to the south, but since we had a little apartment and had already reserved it, we packed a few books, a few games, and took off with a prayer that the Lord would bring us some sunshine, or at least stop the rain for a few hours.  No dice, but a stop at IKEA kept us busy for an hour and a half (Swedish meatballs, anyone??), and sure enough, the Lord in all His goodness brought out the blessings!  We arrived in Guimarães with blue skies, big, fluffy white clouds, and enough sunshine to leave our coats in the car while we explored for 3 or 4 hours!  The entire weekend is definitely blog-worthy, so the rest of the photos will have to come later, but I thought this one at the famous Guimarães castle was fun and worth sharing!

April 16, 2012

week 15.

Sunday, April 8th
Happy Easter!  We are thankful that we were able to chat with my entire family via Google +, even though by the looks on our faces, this conversation with Grandma was a bit confusing!  (I think Luis Miguel is trying to hide a smirk watching us trying to communicate... and in the same language, mind you!) My brother hooked something up to the TV so the family could see the screen better.  If I remember correctly, I believe we were talking about a couple that is a family friend, David and JoAnn, who have a son, David, who also married a JoAnn.  It was confusing, but funny.  Guess you had to be there. She is the best grandma on the planet, and I'm so thankful for the technology that allows us to chat across the ocean... and take fabulous photos like this! Happy birthday, Grandma!  (Upon special request, I may also consider sharing a video of Grandma "dancing" as we sang Happy Birthday to her in Portuguese... but I should probably get her permission first!)

Monday, April 9th
This is our "Madrinha", Luis's godmother who has been like a 3rd grandma to him for most of his life.  While in Pinhel over the Easter holiday (so great that we had off today too!) we stopped by to see Mardrinha and Padrinho, and found them with their doors open, cutting X-shaped slits on the ends of lots and lots of homegrown olives.  Upon asking why they were cutting them like this, they let us know a little secret: after soaking the olives in water for weeks to months, you then cut slits in the ends and let them sit in ashes (as in, from a fireplace after the fire has died) in order to sweeten them a bit and enhance their flavor.  Then you wash them again and they are ready to be eaten.  Who knew?  Oh, the things I learn about homegrown food in Portugal! 

Tuesday, April 10th
"Why yes, neighbor friend, I will glady accept the free, homemade wine that a friend of yours made and that you are offering me for no reason at all except that you are very nice!  Thank you!"

Wednesday, April 11th
This pretty little field blooming with wildflowers right now is about a mile from my house.  And yes, I did ask Luis to pull over so I could take a photo for my photo of the day... :)


Thursday, April 12th
There are a lot of snails in Portugal.  Not sure why. There just are.  Humidity maybe?  Usually they are small, and you can find them randomly stuck on branches of bushes, poles of street signs, foliage in the road medians... just about anywhere.  Rarely, if ever, do you see them come out of their shells, and unfortunately, many shells have been abandoned as their inhabitatnts have headed off to snail heaven.  As we got out of the car this morning, we spotted this giant of a snail climbing up the half-wall separating the parking lot and the building.  He was just taking his sweet ol' time crawling away, feelers out to the world!  I used the macro setting on my point-and-shoot camera to get the detail, but I wish I would have left a little more of his surroundings so you could see how big he really was... I would say his shell was about the size of a large walnut or a half-dollar coin.  Have you ever seen a snail up close?

Friday, April 13th
Look what came in the mail today!  What great timing, considering we are currently planning a trip to Italy's coast this July!  The second highlight was the article "Undiscovered Portugal", where the author passed through Coimbra (where we live!) on his drive to a small town in the north.  I love it when our lovely little country gets featured in a magazine like this!

Saturday, April 14th
Today is special because it's the day one of my nearest and dearest friends was born.  Shari adds joy to my life and is always encouraging me to just be ME, and reminding me that I'm the only one who can be exactly that!  She'll add a fresh burst of life to anyone she meets, and her confidence in herself is always inspiring... I mean, she wears her hair like this because she wants to and she likes it... and isn't it stunning?  This is one of my favorite photos of her -- it captures her funky style... signature hoop earrings... the only thing missing are her gorgeous eyes, but I love this photo so much even without them!  Thanks for always encouraging me, Shar, even from across an ocean!  I love you!

April 10, 2012

week 14.

Sunday, April 1st
Staying in, but joining North Point Community Church live, with worship and everything!

Monday, April 2nd
Thanks to my dear friend Sarah, who brought me American (Italian?) spices when we met up at the Power Soccer World Cup in Paris, we had some delicious pasta sauce for dinner tonight!

Tuesday, April 3rd
I made this sign last week for a volunteer event that we had (called "Cha das Seis", or "Tea at 6"), but since the choir concert trumped the daily for that particular day, I saved it for today.  I have to admit it's a little rough, since I had just a few hours to make it, but it's pretty "American" in it's modern-yet-rustic design, so I had to share it for all my Portuguese friends.  :)  And maybe because I just love banners.  And signs with teeny tiny banners, too.

Wednesday, April 4th
I saw these fun twine eggs on Pinterest and couldn't resist such a classy -- and easy -- project!  Plastic egg, paint (because I'm a perfectionist and didn't want even a tiny sliver of purple plastic egg to show through!), hot glue, and twine!

Thursday, April 5th
We filled our day off with errands -- a visit to the University for more paperwork with my degree equivalency,  a visit to super-overpriced antiques stores, lunch with friends, and a visit to a beautiful park, where I happened upon this modern-yet-historic cross with Coimbra as a backdrop... breathtaking!  The Portuguese discoverers of the 13th and 14th centuries were known to use a cross to mark the lands where they arrived, which I think is a pretty fabulous idea!

Friday, April 6th
Do you think Jesus would mind if I used this Good Friday to begin to organize our "messy room"??  I think He would appreciate it; after all, it does say in the Bible,  1 Corinthians 14:33, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace"... and unfortunately, I don't think that at the moment, we could use the word "peace" anywhere near this room... I think it could officially declared the final resting place waiting room for unfinished projects instead...

Saturday, April 7th
We went to an Easter party thrown by our American friends and had lots of fun showing families and their kids some American Easter traditions!  Other than the few places in Portugal that paint or decorate eggs for easter, they don't really dye many eggs here, and only a few people that we know give baskets of goodies, so it was nice to see some American traditions while away from home!  This was my favorite part of the day -- seeing Luis share the real meaning of Easter with the kids using "resurrection eggs", each with an item hidden inside that represented a part of the story of Christ's death and resurrection, and our forgiveness and eternal life as a result of it. I have quite a few great photos where everyone is smiling, but I couldn't resist posting this one... the kids were SO attentive, and very eager to give the answers to every question Luis asked... even eager enough to get very, very close to his face! (Funny enough, I have had the experience while in conversation with my share of Portuguese adults as well! Close talkers!)

April 6, 2012

week 13.

Sunday, March 25th
Strawberries on sale... summer is coming!

Monday, March 26th
Waiting outside before choir rehearsal... 8.30 pm and still a little light in the sky... This photo barely does it justice, but the transition of colors and the slight ombre effect was spectacular!

Tuesday, March 27th
Dress rehearsal for our choir concert at the Sé Nova, a 17th church here in Coimbra where we are preparing to sing the first requiem written to honor Inês de Castro.  Singing in cathedrals like these make every other weekly rehearsal worth it!

Wednesday, March 28th
My dear friend Cristi, along with my sweet husband and various colleagues, came to support me and our choir and orchestra for the concert this week. (PS - who are these people who plan a concert at 9.30 pm on a Wednesday?!?!  Just sayin'...)  What an amazing, spectacular opportunity I had to sing in this space with this group, and moreover, with the composer present!  (Photo stolen from courtesy of my friend Pedro!)

Thursday, March 29th
Somebody needs a car wash...  Apparently there was a large dust cloud that originated in the Sahara desert and moved toward Europe last week, making the little rain we had seem "dirty" and making allergen levels skyrocket.  Welcome, spring!

Friday, March 30th
These breathtaking flowers are blooming right outside the front door of the building where we work!

Saturday, March 31st
Lunch with a few of our favorite couples led to an afternoon out at the movies... and an hourly countdown since Wednesday of the time remaining before The Hunger Games began!  Both Cristi and I read the books, and I must say that the movie really lived up to first book's storyline!  Even when I knew how the story would end, I was at various times sweating, crying, and desperately clutching the kleenex in my hand.  Not sure if I would have found it too harsh had I not read the books (most likely)... I mean... it is kids-killing-kids gladiator style, after all... but after reading all three books in one weekend, I couldn't NOT go see it.  Consider yourself advised to read the books first, which I do believe should be a general rule of life... and I digress.  Here's our cute group, photo courtesy of our sweet Brazilian friend, Nathália.  We are so blessed to have these people in our lives!