Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chronology of love

We met in 2005.  In Kenya.  Two strangers in a foreign land.

October 2005, USIU campus, Kenya
The connection was instantaneous, loyalty unwavering from the start.

January 2006, on top of the KICC building, Nairobi, Kenya.
We lived together, listened and helped each other, made a home out of bare concrete walls.

November 2006, Guu Sita apartments, Kenya
 We fought, we made up; we lied, we repented; we regretted, we embraced; we turned an otherwise rough time in both our lives into a meaningful journey together.

July 2007, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya
 So of course, we got married.  It was a long and stressful 11 months of separation, full of endless immigration forms and static-y phonecalls, but on December 26th, 2008, we knew it was all worth it.

December 26, 2008, San Bernardino County Hall of Records, CA
 And so, the last few years have been all about integrating our lives...

Christmas 2009, with my Ma

New Year's Eve 2009, Redlands CA

September, 2010, Oak Glen, CA

And loving.

October 2010, Highland, CA
 We entered 2011 with a resolve to better ourselves as individuals, grow stronger as a couple, support and care for each other in spite of challenges and setbacks.

May 2011, Ford Park, Redlands CA

The year, for us, culminated on December 17th, 2011, when for the first time we had the opportunity to stand before both our families and friends and renew our promise to each other.

I become more confident every day that I made the right choice - my husband is a perfect partner for me in so many ways.  I respect him for who he is and who he wants to be, love him for what he is and what he is not, and am confident that he loves me equally.

So now that we've reached this point of peace and confidence in our lives, it's time to take the logical next step.

It's about to get REAL up in here... beginning July 2012.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dancing in the streets


A little late, but whatevs.  I had a wonderful Christmas weekend with TWO massive homecooked feasts (plus a modest breakfast, concocted by moi), lots of family nonsense, gift giving, my aunt's sweet potato pie (recreated by my brother), fresh cheese and chili tamales (which I've been craving for months), and the pleasure of helping make my husband's family's first Christmas in the USA a memorable one.

I have an entire week off of work, which I scheduled back in May, and the thought of which has been the light at the end of my tunnel ever since.  I have slept in till 7:30, crocheted a cowl, a scarf, and a hat, finished a novel, got my hair cut and a mani/pedi, taken daily siestas with my husband... and lived it up, basically.  I <3 Vacation. Six more days to enjoy before I have to go  back!

Since I will not be boozing it up this New Year's Eve, I was momentarily at a loss for plans... when an add in the newspaper caught my eye.  So, on New Year's Eve, we will be packing up our in-laws, boarding the Metrolink to Union Station, and walking over to the Ahmanson where we will be seeing:

I am sooooooo excited!  I can think of no better way to end the year than with Broadway.  Peace, friends!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Catching Up

It appears I have failed miserably at blogging regularly... sad, but understandable, since this has been  by far the busiest 10 weeks of my life. Let's recap, shall we?

First, I ran a race!

Mission Inn 10K - the starting line....
And the triumphant finish!
Thanksgiving happened, and I roasted my first Turkey!
I swear it tasted delicious, food just does NOT photograph well in my dark kitchen.
We spent a looooong day at LAX waiting for my husband's family to arrive from Nigeria.

The 5 faces of jetlag.
 And not even a week later, we were back at LAX to collect his parents!

We went to a Christmas party.
Yeah, we clean up pretty good.

The longest quarter of my life came to an end, and I passed both of my classes!  Information Management I even passed with an A, which I in no sense deserved, but luckily I teamed up with a diligent group who didn't turn me in for my slacker-ness (yes, I was THAT group member). 

A couple days later, my husband finished up his two-year journey to a Master's degree, and we went to his graduation.

Proud wifey.

Husband with my parents.

With his folks and brother-in-law.

Whew, this month has been beyond crazy, and I can't catch my breath yet....  I currently have around 5 dozen cookies circulating through my oven and pounds of cheese to slice for a holiday party tomorrow.  It's kind of an anniversary, vow renewal, Christmas, families meeting party all rolled into one.  Confused?  Me too.  If nothing else... there will be food!  Goodnight all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Missing the sun

Flashback Friday:  My grandma, on the left, with her friend, sometime in the 1940s I assume.

A picture of sunbathing is so NOT appropriate on a cold and rainy day such as today.... but there you have it. Not that I'm dreading the winter. On the contrary, since discovering boots and leggings, I very much enjoy the colder months.  Not to mention the steaming hot beverages, stuffed squashes, homemade breads/cookies, Christmas movies and fuzzy blankets that abound during this season... fall/winter is glorious, really.
What I fear, however, is this:
Of course, I will never look this badass.  More like a soggy Basset Hound.  Yes, friends, I have this irrational fear of running in the rain.  I have never done it, and though everyone tells me how wonderful it is, how liberating, etc. etc.... no, thank you.  I know it's mental:  I do not like being cold, I hate wet feet, I'm afraid of slipping in a puddle or falling into mud and having to sludge my way home like some mythical dirt creature, scaring children and elderly dog-walkers along the way.

But it has to happen some time.  I'm aware that training in all conditions is vital because, as evidenced by this year's LA Marathon, it's very possible that race day will come with stormy weather.  Someday, I'll have to do it, especially on a rainy Sunday morning when I have to run with the group and can't hide behind the treadmill.  And I hope it's as exhilarating an experience as everyone says it is.  Sigh.

Today, though, is all about turning on the oven, piling up the blankets... and maybe doing some furniture shopping!
Exercise in Gratitude
Day 2: I am grateful for the salad bar in the cafe at work. Seriously. Eating gluten-free drastically limits my options for healthful eating out, and those options I do have are super expensive. Today, for under $4, I got an enormous salad with onions, mushrooms, beets, carrots, eggs, cheese, broccoli, tomatoes, roasted squash, sunflower seeds, and basalmic vinegar. So many nutrients. My body thanks me.
Day 3: Today I am grateful for learning. For a world full of information and experience, and my brain's ability to take it in, process and make sense of it all. Learning is not always a comfortable or pleasant experience, but the ability to learn from my mistakes and successes makes me a better person every day.
Day 4:  I'm grateful for Fridays.  The pace slows, and we all work a little happier in the shadow of the weekend  :)
I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ever thankful - an exercise in gratitude

"Thanksgiving should serve as a reminder, not an exception.  What if gratitude could become our default?  There is nothing as potent as gratitude when it comes to quelling a longing, calming restlessness, quieting anxious thoughts, filling emptiness, overcoming doubt, or celebrating abundance.  It is a force we can tap into at will, once with the ability to change our perspective and fuel our potential." - Kristin Armstrong

I've been thinking a lot lately about gratitude, happiness, and how I can more fully appreciate my life and the people around me.  I've always had a tendency to be anxious and a bit neurotic, but I've found that in the last couple years these feelings have ruled my life more than they should.  And that is ridiculous.  Gratitude is a choice, and rather than always focusing on what I don't have or what I can't control, there is no reason I can't take a step back, breathe deeply, and embrace life - the good and the not-so-good.  Because, who am I kidding?  My life is wonderful, full of love and potential and awareness and excitement.  I just need to choose to look at it that way, and I can't help but be filled to the brim with thankfulness.

That's why I'm challenging myself, for the 30 days of November, to list one thing every day that I'm grateful for.  I'll be doing this daily on my Facebook account, but will occasionally (at least once a week) compile my responses here also.  By the end of the month, I will have a catalog of all the things, large and small, that infuse this life of mine with so much joy every day.

Exercise in gratitude, Day 1
Today I'm grateful for my life. I could have been anyone, born anywhere, at any time, but I wasn't. I am me, here, today, and it is my personal belief that this life is the only one I will experience - so I'd better be thankful, and not waste a second of it.
So tell me.... what are YOU thankful for?

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's close to midnight, and something evil's lurking in the dark...

Halloween 1997 with my bestest friends, looking about as freaky as Catholic school kids could.  I think we were trying to be aliens?  Confession time!  I actually wore that shirt... uh, and the hat... on numerous non-Halloween occasions that year.  Mom must have been so proud.
I'm not a big Halloween person, generally.  Nothing against it, I just don't have the ambition to dress up now that there are no Irish nuns to offend with my costume choice;  I don't like being scared;  Pumpkins are better in mah belly than carved on the front porch; I don't think zombies are awesome OR that they are likely to bring about the apocalypse; AND I'm a big girl and can buy my own candy whenever I want to all. year. long.

However, there is one redeeming aspect to Halloween that makes it all worthwhile for me every year, and that is the frequency with which Thriller plays on every radio station.  (Monster Mash, not so much, but I won't go there.)  Let's just say there's been a whole lot of car dancing happening on the drive to work this week.

Have a great weekend!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flashback Friday - Remembering

My brother and I with our grandma, 1997.

This is an exceptionally fitting photo since today would have been my grandma's 92nd birthday (she passed away in 2009), and my brother's birthday is Sunday.  He gets to celebrate by helping us move to a bigger apartment!  I bribed him with the promise of pumpkin pancakes.

Life has been.... stressful lately.  Between school, the impending arrival of my husband's family, our generally hectic schedules, and various other issues, I feel like a weight has settled on my chest.  I keep reminding myself of the positive - good health (despite having a cold at the moment), a body that runs, a family that loves me, a job that pays the bills, a beautiful city to live in, hot coffee, canned pumpkin, and a resilient nature.  I will get through the next couple months and come out smiling on the other side.

Everything will be okay.

I tend to be... how shall I say... pessimistic by nature?  Not prone to automatically look on the bright side?  It's my Type A personality at work, which makes it all the more important to seek out and hold onto beauty and inspiration in this world.  Today that came in the form of a blog posted by my best friend of 10 years, who is courageously uprooting and beginning a new life in a new city.  I did that once, and reading her words reminds me that the open, adventurous, fearless part of myself is still in there somewhere.  Buried for now.  But I will get it back someday.

My grandma was always a quiet force that pushed me to push myself.  She did it with few words, but with powerful love and confidence that made me feel like I had no limits.  I miss her.  When I tell the rest of my family that I'm training for a marathon, and they tell me I'm crazy or worry for my safety, I picture her sitting quietly, smiling at me.  Proud.

I may have gone off track here.  Bottom line - life won't throw anything at me that I can't handle, so I'm going to suck it up and move forward.  Which means hurrying up and publishing this so that I can finish some schoolwork, going home to love on my husband, and a weekend moving boxes up and down stairs so that we can begin a new chapter of our lives in a new place.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

10 Personal Questions

 Let's do something fun today.

Fun in the form of sharing personal information on the Internet.  Fun, as in, school ate my brain and I can't think of a more substantive post right now.  10 questions.  Ready?  Go!

What do you have next to your bedside table? Alarm clock, lotion, hair ties, a book, a candle, my phone, a water bottle, basal thermometer and ovulation chart (long story).... and usually some other random stuff.

Do you have a tattoo?  Yes, I have a lotus blossom and a line from a John Keats poem on my back.

Do you believe in abstinence prior to marriage?  Not for me, not even a little bit.  It was really important that I got to know myself/my husband on that level before we got married.  I feel the same way about living together before marriage.  I love hearing other people's views on this though, and I know of successful couples who have opted for marriage first.  It just wasn't right for me.

What is your worst habit?  I am unkind to my cuticles.  I have also been known to sneak into the freezer before bed for a spoonful of ice cream.  Aaaaaand I tend to make a habit out of being a big control freak.

How do you handle finances in your relationship?  Or, how would you like to handle money in your future relationship?  We both direct deposit into a single bank account, and have 3 savings accounts that exist for different purposes (moving/vacation savings, general/car insurance savings, and overdraft protection).  I keep track of our itemized expenses on a ginormous spreadsheet, and of our overall inflow and outflow on another spreadsheet.  We each have an allowance, and set amounts that we can spend per month on things like clothing, hobbies, etc.  It's a a very functional system, but a pain in my ass to be honest.  I'll be really happy when we're making enough money that we don't have to break a sweat over every receipt.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?  I JUST got done changing it, and I'm not doing that again any time soon!  I'm not overly fond of Kathleen (attending Catholic school for 9 years has led me to associate that name with old Irish nuns), but I've made my peace with it.  When I was little, I did beg my family to refer to me as Olivia. 

Where do you want to go on your next vacation? Oh god, ANYWHERE!  I've been stuck in the IE for far too long.  We're thinking of flying out to the East Coast next year for a short vacation.  Maybe D.C.?  And perhaps a short trip sometime before then, Vegas or Arizona or something.

What is one political cause you feel strongly about?  Civil rights, and equality under the law for all persons regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor.  Also health care, but I don't feel strongly about it as a political issue per say.  I feel strongly that it should not be a political issue at all, and that we need to reconsider how impersonal and technology-dependent the whole system has become.  We've given too much power to the medical establishment, and we as individuals have relinquished too much control over our own bodies.  And I'm going to step off my soapbox now before I get started....

Have you ever stolen anything?  I stole one of those little roll-up horoscope thingies from the check out line in the supermarket once.  My mom saw me reading it later, gave me a look, and asked me where I got it (how do moms always know??)  I lied to cover my butt, but the guilt, oh the guilt, it was horrible!

Tell us something embarrassing about yourself.  I spent most of Wednesday afternoon avoiding school work by watching the Wonder Years episodes on Netflix... and may or may not have teared up when Kevin and Winnie danced at the prom.  Yes I DO blame PMS.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

(Not so) easy like Sunday morning

Sunday is, occasionally, my favorite day of the week.  I say "occasionally" because, with life being so hectic, nothing stays routine for very long.

These days, it begins at the crack o'dawn (5:30) with breakfast, and I'm out the door by 6:15 to meet up for my group run.  Initially I thought there would be no way I could get myself up so early on a Sunday every week, but it's actually become something I look forward to. This morning I beat the alarm!  Who am I??

Today was 8 miles with the group.  I was nervous going into this one, since last week was fairly rough mentally and physically.  Super busy at work, total burnout on Monday, knee pain, crazy back spasms yesterday (due to some sloppy weight lifting on Friday... my bad...). BUT it turned out to be one of my best runs yet!  I love how that happens.  I also love being a beginner, because I set a new distance record every week!

Of course afterwards I look something like this:


Complete with dirt lines, instead of tan lines.  I feel really hard core saying that.  For a second.  Then I just feel gross and run straight to the shower.

Afterwards there is always coffee.  Up until recently my husband and I had a little tradition where we'd go out for coffee and catch up with each other on Sunday mornings.  As much as I enjoyed that, with me running longer and longer on Sundays, it's just not possible.  Plus he got a tutoring gig on Sundays for a couple hours (or 3...) so, well, we'll catch up some other time.  Maybe after we graduate.  But there was still coffee!

Afternoons are spent sleeping pouring over textbooks till 3 or so, and our evenings are usually spent with my family in Highland.  I know, it's kind of pathetic that I'm 26, married, and still do laundry at my parent's house.  #1: I AM a mama's girl, and not ashamed to admit it.  #2: Well, frankly, my family is incredibly entertaining and I love spending time with them. 

Case in point:

We just can't help ourselves.  I hope you all are having a wonderful Sunday as well!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Flashback Friday - There was a farmer....

Yes, that is a young me throttling a chicken.  See that goose in the background? No this was not on a farm, this was my grandma's house in the middle of Highland, where at any given moment they were raising dozens of chickens, geese and ducks, numerous dogs, and what seemed like 50,000 cats.  *cue Elvis singing* In the ghettooooooooooo.....

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flashback Friday and my "Back to School" Manifesto

The campus of USIU - Nairobi, where I obtained my BA.  Those buildings in the distance are the hostels (dorms).  I miss that beautiful campus.  And the near-perfect Kenya weather.
  I had my first class of the quarter last night.  As I was sitting in my Microeconomics class with a bunch of 18-year-olds, trying to stay awake as while learning to calculate the slope of a graph for the 5,204,879th time in my academic career (oh the joys of prerequisites), I had plenty of time to look ahead and ponder what is in store for me over the next 10 weeks.

 I must confess, maintaining a work-life balance has not always been my strong point.  My life without school is hectic but generally carefree, but academics is always the straw that breaks my back.  You'd think after 20ish years of school (oh. my. god) I'd have some things figured out, right?  Ha!  So this year I've decided to be proactive and create a manifesto of sorts that I can refer back to.

In order to make this quarter a success.....

I will NOT:

1.  Let running become a source of stress, and instead rely on it as my relief from stress.  Yes, I want to progress with training for this marathon, but I must keep things in perspective.  I am working full time, taking two classes, moving to a new apartment, helping 5 in-laws move to a new apartment, and hosting my parents-in-law for a month that happens to overlap with my final exams.  And training for a marathon.  AND keeping up with normal domestic wifey obligations (which includes a LOT of cooking) So you know what?  In light of all that, if I find that I can't keep up with the training and have to drop down to a half marathon?  I will NOT be disappointed.  There is a fine line between pushing your limits and crossing your own boundaries - I will try my best to distinguish.

This is my "5:30am" face.

2.   Be overwhelmed by my classes and begin to doubt my own intelligence.  I'm taking a class in Information Security, and I'm going into it very un-knowledgeable about IT in general.  This is a crisis of confidence waiting to happen.  I tend to be very impatient with myself when I don't catch on to something right away, which was fine in high school/undergrad because I didn't find the material very challenging.  This grad program is different though - these are concepts I don't really understand after one reading.  I have to work for it, and that's good for meI just have to remind myself that working for it is normal, and I'm not just dumb.

3.  Place undue strain on my marriage.  My husband is under a lot of stress too, with his last class this quarter and a big scary comprehensive exam that he has to pass to get him Master's.  Unfortunately, we handle stress in very different ways - he becomes obsessed with one thing he's working on (a paper, studying for an exam, etc) to the exclusion of all else (meaning me and most other household considerations);  I, on the other hand, become obsessed with keeping all my balls in the air, give everything equal priority instead of making school (or whatever) top priority for a little while, and fall apart when I can't keep it all together.  Fundamental incompatibility.  Instead of being frustrated by the perceived lack of support, I will be patient, stop pressuring myself so much, and try to enjoy some stress-free time together whenever possible.


1.  Try and get most of my school work out of the way before December 1, so I can enjoy the time with my husband's family.  They are traveling a long way to stay with us and I have no idea when we'll be able to make a trip like this happen again, so I'm going to make the most of it.

2. Take time away from the day job if I need to.  They give us vacation time for a REASON after all.  I should stop hoarding mine like it's leprechaun gold.

3.  Be frugal and shop sensibly.  I admit, the thought of getting a new apartment is super exciting, and my list of things to buy keeps growing exponentially.  I will keep it under control and not enter 2012 sans a savings account.

4.  Take enough time for myself to relax.  Keep up my twice-a-week yoga habit.  Run for the joy of running.  Read a non-school-related book.  Keep up with my obligations joyfully and, if I find that I can't, not feel like a failure for stepping away for a little while.

Now that that's said, let the quarter begin!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flashback Friday!

Today we're going waaaaaay back:

My grandparents, kicking it poolside.  This had to be in the '40s sometime.  Those bathing suits just rock my world!
So I ran 4.46 miles this morning, and it didn't even feel like trying  :)  It's been a rather... challenging week, on so many levels, so this was a much needed boost to my confidence which I hope to elaborate on later. 

I also worked a full day, came home, and cleaned 75% of my apartment in less than an hour.

Sometimes, don't you just feel like a rockstar?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cinco millas

I haven't done a workout recap in a while, so here are my stats for the last couple weeks:

8/29 - Yoga, 1 hour
8/30 - Ran 3.09 miles, Body Pump 1 hour
8/31 - REST
9/1 - Ran 3.93 miles
9/2 - REST
9/3 - Ran 2.5 miles, walked 3 miles
9/4 - Walked 7 miles
9/5 - REST
9/6 - Ran 3 miles, Body Pump 1 hour
9/7 - Yoga, 1 hour
9/8 - Ran 3.75 miles
9/9 - REST
9/10 - Elliptical 2 miles, weights
9/11 - RAN 5 MILES!

I'm super excited about that 5 miles, both because it's the further I've ever run, and because it was easier than I expected!  It was a much needed confidence boost, because we're increasing a mile a week for the next couple months, and I now think I just might be able to hang with it.  Happyhappyhappy.
That's how happy I am.  Yes, I have too much fun with Picnik photo editing.  And yes, my forehead really is that wrinkly.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Breaking the fast

It is NO LONGER 110 degrees outside.

In fact, it should only get up to 85 today.  I woke up itching to get in the kitchen, frantic to turn on the oven and make some magic happen.  Visions of chocolatey cupcakes and savory quiches danced through my head.

But, since it is the end of the week and our fridge is barren, I settled for a simple breakfast:

My friends, meet the plaintain:

It's like a banana that you must cook first, and it's incredibly versatile.  It can be eaten when green or bright yellow, and then it tastes like a starchy, slightly banana-flavored potato.  Or you can eat it when it's so ripe that the skin turns black, and then it is soft, sticky-sweet and flavorful.

Last night my husband took some unripe (bright yellow) plantains, sliced them in half (with the skin on), and boiled them until they were soft.  We sliced and ate them with stew like a potato.  There was a whole boiled plantain left over which we stuck in the fridge.  Since one of my favorite kitchen activities is taking foods unfamiliar to me, usually my husband's traditional foods, and turning them into something unusual, I give you:

Plantain Pancakes

1 plantain, boiled and cooled
1/2 cup flour (I used a Gluten Free whole grain blend 
that I whipped up myself, based on this recipe)
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup milk (I use almond milk)
1 egg
splash of vanilla extract

Mash the plantain in a bowl until it is fairly smooth, though some chunks are okay.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.  The batter was slightly thick, so you may want to add a little more milk if you prefer thin pancakes.  Grease a pan with butter or cooking spray and heat it on a medium flame.  Plop a pancake-sized scoop of batter, spread around a bit, flip when necessary (you know the drill).

They came out think, dense, yet still fluffy and flavorful.  We were working with an unripe plantain so they were not very sweet, but a little maple syrup on top fixed that.   Next time I think I'll use a riper plantain, and swap out the vanilla for cinnamon and cardamom. 

Deeeeelish.  Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Flashback

So, all the cool blogs these days have "features," right?  Weekly themes with cute names that readers (all... 3 of you?) can look forward to?  Well, since I happen to have a LOAD of old pics on my computer and am making it a goal to upload lots more, here's introducing.... FLASHBACK FRIDAY!

This is not so old actually, I think it was taken back in 2007.  Here I am standing on the railing of our 4th floor apartment in Kenya, watching a truly epic thunderstorm roll in.  I was having a wonderful granola one-with-nature moment... then Kunle came out, asked if I was trying to commit suicide, snapped a picture, and made me come inside before I was struck by lightning.  Thank goodness I married a sensible man.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Long overdue

This weekend the Husband and I spent a much-needed weekend at the beach.  Long Beach, to be precise.  It was lovely  :) 

Kids chasing seagulls... made me nostalgic

The Queen Mary, and.... paddleboarders?  Is that what this funny looking hobby is called?
Monks need their exercise too
Lighthouse on a gorgeous day
Long Beach is such a hodgepodge of busy harbor, oil rigs, tourist destinations, and beautiful residential areas.  Chaotic, yet peaceful.  We walked over 10 miles in two days, just taking in the sights and breathing in the cool salty air.  It was restorative.

And just in time too, because school starts up in... two weeks?!  And so will begin the busiest 10 weeks of my existence.

Till then, I'm going to close my eyes and pretend that I'm on a sandy beach, instead of in a cube.