Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Prayers for the Women of Afghanistan

Photo Credit: Lynsey Addario, National Geographic Dec. 2010
So tonight I had a bunch of things that I wanted to get done, but after dinner I decided to glance through the new issue of National Geographic magazine that came today instead. My parents have always had a subscription to NG and I've always loved looking at all the amazing photography, so my dad got Cam and I a subscription when we moved to South Carolina. The December issue was no exception, and there are many breathtakingly beautiful photos. However, one article struck me so deeply that I literally feel like I can't do anything else until I say something about this. The article is called "Veiled Rebellion," and it was written by Elizabeth Rubin with photos by Lynsey Addario, and it discusses the treatment of women in Afghanistan. I'll admit, even though we have many troops over there, I really don't think about Afghanistan all that much, so this article was a real wake up call. While I'm not going to summarize the article since it's posted online, it basically talks about the extreme brutality and oppression that Afghan women face on a daily basis, and it's just heartbreaking. Violent abuse of women by family members is all too common, so much so that thousands of women each year try to set themselves on fire to commit suicide because they feel that is their only way to escape. The story features a photo of an 11 year old girl covered in burns who covered herself in gasoline and set herself on fire. Just writing that sentence makes me want to cry. The fact that there is a place on this Earth where an 11 year old girl would feel so hopeless that the only option she had is to light herself on fire is just sickening. The article talks about Afghan culture and why these attitudes toward women exist, and one fact was mentioned in the printed article (I'm not sure if it's in the web version also) is that 8 out of 10 violent attacks against women are committed by someone in the woman's family. Coming from my perspective of being brought up in a loving, supportive family, in a country that values equality, personal freedom, and human life, that fact that just dumbfounds me. Women in Afghanistan literally cannot do anything without a man, and while times are very slowly starting to change and some women are refusing to live this life of captivity, it seems that the majority of women are not so lucky. When I was reading this article, I couldn't help but to keep thinking why? Why would anyone ever treat another human being like this? How can a culture view the life of a women with such disregard? Why were those women born there, while I was born here? I think that's a big thing that struck me, why was I so lucky to be given the life I have where halfway around the world there is someone my age who was likely married at age 12, gets beaten by her husband, doesn't know how to read, and has absolutely no freedom? Why? I just kept thinking these women could just as easily be me, my mother, my sister, my friends, and potentially my daughter one day, and just because they live in Afghanistan, and I live in America, my life is no more valuable then theirs and no one should ever be treated like this. I started wondering what could be done to help these women, and this problem just seems so monumentally hopeless to me. While poverty and illiteracy and problems around the world, those problems seem almost easier to wrap my mind around finding a solution, whereas in Afghanistan, you not only have the issues of poverty and illiteracy (only 18% of women can read), but you're dealing with a social structure that's so restrictive it seems almost impossible to break through. If women try to leave their abusive husbands, they are likely to be attacked or killed. I can't help but think that even if you try to bring resources to these women, but how are they going to access them when they are being held captive? So while it seems like there is really no solution, I had to remind myself that the Lord is bigger than any problem we humans can create, and while helping women living in constant despair in Afghanistan may seem hopeless, Luke 1:37 says that "...with God nothing shall be impossible." (KJV) For whatever reason, the Lord had me read this article tonight, and has really put heavy on my heart how great the needs of these women are, so I am definitely going to investigate other ways to help, and I will be posting about any organizations or ministries that I come across. (If you know of any, let me know!) But for tonight, I am praying for Afghanistan--praying for the girls and women who are being treated in this way that the Lord would grant them peace and protection in the presence of fear and oppression that they live with on a daily basis, praying for strength and courage for the women who are choosing to be bold and take risks to bring education and freedoms to their country and create positive change, praying for the men that the Lord would break through years of cultural indoctrination of violence that makes them believe that this behavior is justified, and praying for all the troops that are currently over in Afghanistan, as well as their families that are missing them here at home. I am so thankful to God for my many many blessings, but my heart feels heavy tonight, and I am going to continue to keep Afghanistan in my prayers. (I would highly encourage anyone to read the article and look through the photo gallery)

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Beauty Buys!

 Today was Black Friday, and I'll admit, I slept in...and it was awesome. I actually don't mind the whole getting up early and being out with the hustle and bustle, but due to the fact that I'm flying home to SC in 2 days, I don't exactly have room for any 4 am doorbusters in my carry-on. However, my sister and my mom and I did spend the afternoon at Somerset, and I'll admit, I missed this mall! There is a nice mall in Charlotte, NC, but it's not as good as Somerset, and the mall in Greenville is just alright. One thing the mall in Greenville doesn't have is a Sephora. Ugh. And while Sephora does have a very comprehensive website, I still like going to the store to be able to check everything out. So I had to make a stop in the Somerset Sephora to pick up two products that are among my absolute favorite beauty finds:

Peter Thomas Roth Max Anti-Shine Mattifying Gel: I have extremely oily skin. Extremely. I have tried tons of different moisturizers and primers that are supposed to combat shine, however I've found them all to be useless, and usually they just end up making my skin more greasy. However, this stuff is different. It actually works. It's got a really silky texture, and a little goes a long way. When you put it on under makeup, it's like it actually creates a barrier to stop oil. Love love LOVE it. 

    Make Up For Ever HD Foundation: This stuff is great. Most foundations have really unnatural shades that are usually to pink or too yellow, but Make Up For Ever is spot on. They have a ton of different shades that are all really, well, real. This foundation goes on so smooth, and gives great coverage. It's by far the best foundation I've tried so yet. 
      I also got a coupon, a great sample, and my free birthday gift while visiting the store...I heart Sephora :)

      Friday, November 26, 2010

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      I can't believe that Thanksgiving is today, and that means that 2010 is almost over. In a way it feels like this year flew by, but on the other hand, it feels like so much has happened that it's hard to believe it's been less than 12 months. I really love Thanksgiving because it's such a great time to look back on the year before the chaos of Christmas and really reflect on God's goodness and all the blessings in our lives (and the fact that it's basically a whole day devoted to eating followed by a day devoted to shopping doesn't hurt). This has been an amazing year, so now that my tryptophan/pumpkin cheesecake-induced coma has worn off somewhat, I wanted to give thanks for some good things in my life: 
      • My husband: Cameron has been in Oregon for the past few days visiting his family, but he flew back to Michigan yesterday, and I was so happy to see him when I picked him up at the airport yesterday afternoon. When we're not together, I really feel like part of myself is missing because really is my other half. He is such a huge blessing to me, and I'm so glad that we found each other at such  a young age. He is my best friend, and I am so thankful for the person that he is. We celebrated our first anniversary this year, and while I am no expert on marriage, I am really thankful for how committed that Cam is to working to make our relationship better and stronger everyday, and I am really looking forward to the years ahead. Love love love :)
      • My family: It's so wonderful to be back in Michigan this week to spend time with my family. I've really missed them being down in SC, so it's great for everyone to be able to be together. I am so thankful for them! It is really hard not to be living in the same state as them anymore, but I feel like now that we don't get to see each other as much, we really cherish the time that we do have together and don't take it for granted. Tonight we had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle's house, and now that we live further away, it was even more special to have everyone together. We talked, ate way too much food, and my whole fam even watched the Taylor Swift and Beyonce specials on TV together, which was so great. And I'm looking forward to going to Oregon next month and seeing all my family on the West Coast too :)
      • My friends: Being back in Michigan this week, I've had the chance to get together with some of my good friends from high school and college, and I am so thankful for the wonderful friends that I have in my life. It's so nice to just sit and talk with a good friend and reminisce about old memories and catch up on the new things in one another's lives. This year has brought changes for me and many of my friends as well, and we no longer live nearby one another, it's great to be able to get together and talk like nothing has changed. I am also really thankful for the new friends I have made in South Carolina. At first it was hard to be kind of isolated and feel like you don't know anyone, but now that we've been there for a few months, I feel really fortunate to have met some wonderful people. So whether I see them everyday or only a few times a year, I am thankful for both my silver and gold friends :)
      • Our travels: 2010 has been a year full of travel for Cam and I, and looking back, it's hard to believe all the places we've been this year! I've been trying to chronicle our adventures with this blog, but looking back, there are so many fantastic memories. Our country and our planet is filled with some beautiful places, and I'm really looking forward to continue exploring in 2011 :)
      • Our new home in South Carolina: I am soo thankful that Cam's job placed him in Greenville, SC, I really do like it. It's the kind of place that you'd never really go on vacation, but it's a great place to live. Even though we signed our lease for our apartment sight unseen, it turned out to be super nice and it couldn't have been in a better location. I also feel really fortunate that Greenville has such a charming downtown. Coming from Ann Arbor, we weren't sure what to expect, but I was so pleasantly surprised how beautiful the downtown is and how many great restaurants there are. It's also nice that Greenville is so centrally located within the Southeast; only a few hours in the car can take me to the mountains, the ocean, or big cities like Charlotte and Atlanta. And for a West Coast guy and a Midwestern girl, it's quite fun to get the experience of life in the South :)
      • Being employed: I am really happy I found a job. Period. And that Cam has a job. In this economy, being employed isn't something to take for granted, so I am thankful that we are both working, and enjoy what we're doing (for the most part) :)
      • Not having kids:  Ok, I know that this sounds silly, but this Thanksgiving, it's really something that I'm thankful for. I am really looking forward to having kids someday down the road, but I know when that day comes, it's all about them from then on. And I am really excited for that time in my life and being a mom. But until that day comes, I am trying to fully savor all the joys of not having kids. Being able to sleep in on weekends, pick up and go at on a road trip with my hubby, and spend money on frivolous things for myself. Being a mom in the future will be awesome, but for now I'm just trying to live in the moment and enjoy my life right now, because it's pretty great just being a family of 2 at the moment :)  
      • Volunteering: When I was living in Ann Arbor, volunteering at the Humane Society was something that I really enjoyed. So I'm really thankful that I've been able to volunteer at the Humane Society in Greenville. Animals love unconditionally and bring so much joy to people, I'm really grateful that I get the opportunity to spend time helping out every week. Good practice for when we get our dog :)
      • Health: Being in good health is a real blessing, and as a young person, it's something you kind of take for granted, but it's something that I'm really thankful for. My new gym in SC offers a lot of fun classes, and I've enjoyed being able to go on hikes in the mountains in not far from our apartment. It's great to be able to get up and move, and I'm grateful for that ability :)
      • Freedom: Another thing that I probably take for granted more often then I realize is the many freedoms that we have as Americans. I'm really thankful for all the men and women out the protecting our great nation, so I can have the freedom to travel, to practice my faith, and to live my life in peace :)
      • My faith: And above all, I'm thankful to the one from whom all these blessings flow, Jesus :)
      Well, it was a great Thanksgiving, but now, time for bed...there's a full day of Black Friday shopping ahead!! Night y'all :)

      Tuesday, November 23, 2010

      'Tis the season to be...cranky...

      Well, today is the day my Thanksgiving vacation begins, so I should be happy. But I should also be writing this post from somewhere over Kentucky using the plane's WiFi...but I'm not. I'm sitting in the airport. Like I have been for the past 2 1/2 hrs. Because Delta is terrible. Honestly. They are the WORST airline, and something like this happens to me every time I fly with them, which is unfortunately often since DTW is one of their hubs. And my irritation is two-fold because not only did I leave work extra early unnecessarily, but this is also screwing up the plans I had with my family. Ugh, I seriously HATE DELTA AIRLINES. (And apparently I'm not alone...) 

      Ok, now that that's off my chest, on to my post...I don't even remember what I was going to write about anymore to be honest, so I'm just gonna take this post in a new direction. I really love the holidays, but during this season, I have a tendency to have extremely high expectations of how I want everything to be. And since life is well, life, it often throws kinks in to my perfect, sparkly, magic plans (aka, airplanes don't arrive on schedule!) During the other 10.5 months of the year, I really don't like when my plans get messed up, but during the holidays, that frustration is taken to a new level. I know that it's because I set my expectations so high for everything to be just so, and that's why I get even more upset when things don't turn out as a I planned. For example, my birthday falls in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I it's something that I always get really excited for. However, multiple times when I was younger, I would end getting so worked up about my party and wanting everything to be perfect. Then when my party finally rolled around, I'd end up being sick (strep usually, ugh) and spend my birthday in bed. So, while I still haven't quite learned the lesson of not getting so wrapped up in my own plans, this holiday season, I'm really going to try to not sweat the small stuff. I know that this is something that I can only do with the Lord's help because as a very detail-oriented person, I tend to get really wrapped up in the small stuff, especially around the holidays! But I know that with Cam and I living out of state from both our families, we have many more flights in our future during the holiday season, which means many more afternoons like this sitting at an airport in annoyance. However, I'm really just going to try to work on keeping things in perspective and realize that little hiccups to my plan are really not that big of a deal. I constantly need to refocus myself on what's important during this time of the year--being thankful for our many blessings, the gift of God's love to the world in Christ Jesus, and spending time with our families. Alright...my plane's FINALLY boarding...Michigan here I come!

      (So...I made it home to Michigan safe despite my 2 hour delay. Besides having a little time to relax, blog, and eat a jumbo bag of Skittles at the airport, I ended up having a long phone conversation with my mother-in-law, and it was really nice to catch up with her, especially since I didn't get a chance to go out to Oregon with Cam this weekend. And then originally, my parents were going to pick me up from the airport and we were going to drive the 2 1/2 hrs to Kalamazoo to pick my sister up from college because she wanted me to see where she was living this year, and then we were going to have to drive the 3+ hrs home. However, due to my flight being late, she ended up getting a ride with one of her friends, and was already with my parents when they picked me up from the airport. So while at the time this change of plans seemed like such a huge inconvenience, it actually ended up being a blessing in disguise in a way and everything worked out...like always does.

      I still don't like Delta airlines though. Just saying.)

      "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

      Wednesday, November 17, 2010

      I heart this blog...

      The more time I spend blogging, the more I'm starting to discover what an incredible number of great blogs there are out there, and it's awesome. Hyperbole and a Half is one of my absolute favorites. Enjoy.

      ('The god of cake' and 'This is why I'll never be an adult' are basically my life in cartoon form)

      Monday, November 15, 2010

      Sick day...

      Today, I stayed home from work because I caught the stomach bug that's been going around my office/that Cam had this weekend. This is the first sick day I've taken since starting work, and as nice as it was to have a 3 day weekend, being sick is no fun. Especially the stomach flu. To me, feeling nauseous/throwing up is the worst feeling ever. But thankfully, I'm feeling a lot better now, and even though I was feeling under the weather, I feel blessed that I have people in my life who always know how to make me feel better. Cam was actually still feeling a little sick himself, so he came home mid-day to work from home because he thought that he might still be contagious/to take of me, which was really sweet. It was nice to have his company, and he did a good job taking care of me. The best thing that was he was being so extra nice that he even (begrudgingly) agreed to watch Elf with me. Elf is one of my favorite movies, and even though Cam thought it was too early/he doesn't like Elf, he still snuggled on the couch with me to watch it. (and he was laughing the whole time, so I think that this whole not liking Elf thing is just a front...) It was kind of rainy and gross today, so it was the perfect day to watch our first Christmas movie of the season. And to top it off, my mom & dad sent us a pretty "get well" bouquet of flowers! So sweet! I am blessed :) Well, back to work tomorrow...hopefully my Christmas cards will get here soon!

      I love getting flowers :)

      Sunday, November 14, 2010

      Haul out the holly...it's Christmas card time!

      I've been a little bit slow with posts so far this month, but that will be changing as we've already entered in to my favorite time of the year...Christmas!! Now I know that some people (aka Scrooges) think that you have to wait to get through Thanksgiving before it's appropriate to start showing holiday spirit...WRONG. While I believe that the joy and wonder of Christmas should be alive in your heart all year long, I feel that anytime after Halloween is appropriate to start expressing these sentiments publicly. After all, Starbucks started using their red holiday cups Nov. 1st (at least here in Greenville) and you better believe I was there getting coffee! Two radio stations in Greenville have already switched over to playing 100% Christmas music, and I've been listening to them all week (even if it did feel a little bit strange considering it's been in the 70's!). Anyone who knows me knows that I love Christmastime, and now that things are a little more complicated than they were when I was a kid, I want to make sure that I allow my self plenty of time to get everything done so stress doesn't overtake the joy of the season. When I was younger, the only presents I had to worry about were my sister, my mom, and dad. Now that I'm married, I have 2 families (in opposite parts of the country!) to shop and wrap for. That's why I started doing a little Christmas shopping here and there back in September, just because I don't want to have to try to squeeze doing it all into a few weeks and not have any time to do fun holiday stuff like bake cookies and watch Christmas movies. But I'll be posting more about Christmas shopping in the days to come...for now, the one major Christmas task that I accomplished this week is ordering my Christmas cards! I love stationary (honestly, my dream would be to open a combination stationary/candy shop) and think that people don't send out enough snail mail anymore, so the holidays are my chance to indulge my stationary obsession. I personally like sending photo cards, just because I love getting them from other people, and I think that it's a more personal way to stay in touch with people you maybe haven't seen in some time. Online, there are a million different options for photo Christmas cards, and if I would have had more time, I could have investigated more on Etsy or designed one myself. But since I wanted to get my cards ordered ASAP, I decided to go with what I know--Tiny Prints! I've used Tiny Prints to order photo Christmas cards for the past 2 years, both our Christmas-themed save the date 2 years ago and our first married Christmas card last year, and I was extremely pleased with the results both times. Tiny Prints has modern designs, a very user friendly website, and excellent customer service. My Christmas cards should be here next week, and I'll definitely be doing a follow up post once they arrive!

      Saturday, November 13, 2010

      Lean on me

      Ahh the weekend...it's always so nice to be able to relax after a long week, and lately, our weekends have been a little bit more laid-back which has been nice. Last weekend, Cam and I spent Sunday driving up in the mountains to enjoy the beautiful fall weather that we've been having. We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs between North Carolina and Virginia, and it's gorgeous drive. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, we were able to get an early start and the beautiful drive up the Parkway all the way to Grandfather Mountain which is about 2 1/2 hrs from our house.

      Stopping at one of the many overlook points on the Parkway
      Beautiful views of the leaves, which are still so colorful for November!
      On the way to Grandfather Mountain!
      We finally made it to Grandfather Mountain, which claims to be the most rugged mountain in the Eastern United State. There are lots of areas for hiking and picnic-ing, there's a nature museum and animal habitat, and there is even a bridge that is a mile off the ground! It had actually snowed the day before in the mountain, so it made everything look really pretty. After we checked out the swinging bridge, we decided to go on a little hike. There was a trail near the swinging bridge that said "For Experienced Hikers Only", but we both had our hiking boots on, so we figured it probably wasn't that bad, and started on our way.

      Snow!! Makes me feel like I'm back in Michigan :)
      The Mile High Swinging Bridge
      Such beautiful mountains
      The Mile High Swinging Bridge, with a view of Grandfather Mtn. in the background...aka where we did our hike!
       It was a pretty physical trail with lots of uneven ground (covered in snow) and there were quite a few areas with cables to hold on to. Everything was going fine, but when we got near the top of the mountain, there was a serious of ladders and cables. My hands are literally starting to sweat just typing this post, this part of the trail was so crazy intense for me that I would definitely say it's most frightening hike I've ever done. I'm not normally someone who is very fearful of heights, so when we were on the Mile High bridge, I was fine. But when I'm climbing up a ladder on the side of a mountain that looks like it was built during the New Deal era (and being held together by rusted nails), that makes me nervous. And when I have to climb up a ladder where if I let go I will literally fall straight down and that will be the end of me, and then I have to grab on to a cable and maneuver myself to another ladder and do the same thing over again, that's just not cool. But that's what we did. I really wanted to stop once we got near the top, but Cam encouraged me to keep going. Even though I was swearing at him the whole way, he knew that I could do it, even if I didn't want to believe it myself. My legs were shaking when we finally got to the top, but we were rewarded with a spectacular view! (It was then that Cam told me he was actually really nervous watching me climb up behind him because he said that as I was climbing up the ladder he just looked out behind my head and saw blue sky and then death below me...sweet).

      Where the trail started to get tough...
      Almost to the top...everything looked so pretty in the snow!
      We did it! :)
      The view was worth it (I guess haha)
      Having only been married a little over a year, I am by no means an expert on marriage (is anyone ever really?). But I do think that it's a really healthy thing for your relationship to push each other to do new things. When you face challenges of any type together, it forces you to really rely on each other, and it makes your relationship that much stronger. While climbing up all those ladders was bad, going down was way scarier, but knowing that I could depend on Cam to help get me through it made it possible for me to do something that I would have been way too scared to do on my own.

      I may look happy, but I am literally holding on that ladder for dear life!
      See, doesn't this look pretty/really really scary?
      This weekend we didn't do anything quite that exciting--Cam came down with the stomach flu last night and is currently curled up next to me sleeping on the couch while I write this post. But whether I'm out buying him Gatorade and taking care of him when he's sick, or he's coaching me down a ladder as I am freaking out like crazy person on a mountainside, I am so grateful that we can get through anything if we lean on each other.

      Monday, November 1, 2010

      Happy Halloween!

      My 2010 costume inspiration 
      (notice the sweet pink & green tablescape)

       Well, another Halloween has come and gone. It's really not my favorite holiday, I'd say that it's probably 6th on the list after Christmas (obvs), my birthday, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's Day, and to be honest it probably ties with 4th of July. I'm not really in to all the spooky, scary stuff like a lot of people are, but a big focus of Halloween is candy, so that is definitely right up my alley! (I bought 2 huge bags of candy for trick or treaters...and we didn't get a single trick or treater...oh darn, I'm so disappointed, whatever am I going to do with all this candy...hehe) Another aspect of Halloween that I'm a big fan of is dressing up, however, since it's not really appropriate post-college to look completely ridiculous, that's caused the holiday to lose a little bit of its luster for me. That being said, I still enjoy all things seasonal, and we had a really nice, albeit low-key, Halloween weekend. I made 2 pans of dirt cake, one for my office to eat on Friday and one for a Halloween party we went to on Saturday, and they came out great! The recipe is super simple, yummy, and both pans I made went over really well! 

      Creamy Oreo deliciousness

      I heart gummy worms
      As for our Halloween costumes, I was originally going to go as a peacock, and Cam wasn't going to dress up. Then I was going to go as a butterfly, and Cam was going to go as a butterfly catcher aka still not dress up but carry a net so he feels like he's participating. Then in the 11th hour (7:30pm when we were supposed to leave to go to our party at 9), we decided to go as Food Network personalities Sandra Lee (see photo above) and Alton Brown. I personally don't care for Sandra Lee's show that much; her "semi-homemade" motto is 70% store bought or prepared food and 30% of your own add-ins so you can take credit for making something, but the stuff she makes is about 70% crap and 30% just ok. However, her completely absurd "tablescapes" are slightly entertaining, as well as the fact that she has a cocktail time segment with every episode and I'm 70% sure she has a drinking problem. However, her and I do share somewhat of a resemblance, so getting into character wasn't too much of a stretch. Cam's absolute favorite show on Food Network is Good Eats, and its host, Alton Brown, is like the Bill Nye the Science Guy of cooking, and without a doubt the smartest host of all the shows on FN. Probably the smartest host of any show, ever. This guy knows so much about food it's ridiculous, and Cam has the all the Good Eats cookbooks and DVDs, which is why he decided to go as AB. They don't really look alike...at all...but with the glasses and the whisk and the name tag, you got the idea. Some people at the party had no idea who we were, but oh well, I still thought our costumes were pretty clever...but that's probably because we watch a ton of Food Network, hence why we chose these costumes in the first place. Here are a couple pics of how they came out! 

      Sandra & Alton

      Sandra Lee's two favorite things--cocktails and cake mix!
      (Btw, if you're as big of a fan of Food Network as us, and you haven't seen this website, check it out, it will make your day!) Happy Halloween everyone :)


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