The Sounds of Thanksgiving

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The smell of homemade pumpkin pie, sage, thyme, and turkey roasting in the oven—these are the smells I often associate with Thanksgiving. But since living in abroad over the years, I’ve learned to associate this holiday less with smells and more with sounds. While there may be an occasional familiar smell if some lucky American managed to pack a can of sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree in their suitcase, there are usually new smells that come along with each holiday—some good, some not so good—goat manure, sweat, sweet cake, whole wheat dinner rolls—you get my point.

But no matter where I’ve been on Thanksgiving one things remains the same—the sounds. Upbeat conversations about life and loss carry through the air harmonizing with the call to prayer. Children running around barefoot, laughing, playing, crying, and then snoring from the long-expected nap of a sugar crash.

Our Thanksgiving was nothing less than these familiar sounds. We celebrated on the rooftop of a friend’s house and 30 or so people came bringing their best dish cooked with local spices and whatever else they could find. And as it has become a tradition for our little group of expats, the Sunday after Thanksgiving we all gathered to play the annual baseball game. The kids who are away at boarding school return home and we have more than enough people for two teams.

Last year Ezra was only two months old and fell asleep on my lap as we watched Reed play his favorite sport. This year, Ezra ran around getting chased by local kids who loved his white skin and cute little stature. They tried to pick him up, help me when he was crying (because they were picking him up), and even play peek a boo with him. Hopefully one day soon he’ll actually understand all that’s happening, but for now he’s just taking it all in day by day…and tear by tear.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving we want to say thank you to those who follow along with us and remember us in your prayers. We really could not live here without you. On days when we find ourselves frustrated at the cost of living or crying in pain at the doctor’s office, or mourning the loss of a local friend, we think of you, and remember we are not alone in this journey.

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Ezra with our teammate. These two have grown to love each other, mainly because he feeds Ezra all the things!

Ezra with our teammate. These two have grown to love each other, mainly because he feeds Ezra all the things!

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Lazy Man's Guide to DIY Christmas Decor

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This post has two purposes. For us, it's a post on how to decorate for Christmas in a country that has limited supplies and those supplies can either cost a pretty penny or be anything but pretty. The other purpose is for all of you who may want to decorate for Christmas on a budget. You really don't want to spend money on things only used for a month and Amazon and Target just don't get you as excited as say...myself. 

So here's my lazy man's guide to DIY Christmas decor. 

1. REUSE GLASS JARS

Where we live there is an amazing yogurt brand imported from France. It comes in little glass jars and over time you end up having tons of jars lying around the house. We've used them for mixing essential oils, heating up baby food, and now crafts. I actually got this idea from my friend Rebecca who did an amazing job at painting the jars and making them say "Give Thanks" and adding tea lights to them. The only paint I had laying around was a small bottle of chalkboard paint, so I painted a square on several of the jars, so after Christmas I can just change them to match the next season. On each square I then used a chalkboard marker to write "Joy To The World", one letter on each jar. Afterwards I added a string of battery operated lights I had and voila. 

2. BATTERY OPERATED LIGHTS

Obviously this isn't a DIY, but a good pair of lights will make any project look better, this is the lazy man's guide after all. Best part is that these lights are only $12 on Amazon and you get three strands! They are wire so you can bend them and shape them for anything. I used them for the glass jars above, hung one above our entry way in the living room, and the other one above our advent calendar. I actually got these lights for our play tent for Ezra, but they turned out to be the perfect Christmas decor, and if you live overseas and can't use Amazon, they are so small you could fit them in your pocket, the perfect thing for a friend or family member to stick in their luggage.

 

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3. FREE PRINTS

So this is my favorite hack. Again, lazy man guide. You can always make your own, but painting glass jars was about as much time as I have around here. Besides I always like other people's art much better than mine. So in looking for advent guides (see next number) I found Tasha's blog. She has some gorgeous FREE watercolor Christmas prints, and when you print them out on cardstock they look like you purchased them from your local art fair. Seriously, these things are beautiful. Check out her blog, sign up for emails and you'll get a download to all her free prints. I ended up having some cardstock lying around so I have no idea what kind it was, but I recommend getting the thickest you can find. And if you aren't lazy and want more DIY Christmas guides she has some amazing blogs. 
Free Printables: (I used her 2016 ones)

 

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4. ADVENT CALENDAR

Okay, so believe it or not, this is the first year I've actually done an Advent Calendar. I have no idea why, I just don't think we really did them growing up so I was late to the game on this one. But I wanted it to be more than chocolate (because I can't eat it, stupid dairy, and it melts so it stats in the fridge and I forget, plus I want it to have more meaning on what Christmas really is) Sooooo...I had this great idea to make my own advent calendar and then I would use this guide that corresponds with the Jesus Storybook Bible and write that day's page to read on the back. But in my research I ended up finding some amazing advent calendars already made for me! Hello, yes! So I'm linking the one I've used, but you can always use Pinterest and find other ones. I already had this spot above our table where I usually hang a "gather" sign. I just took it down and tied a string from one end to the other, then used clothespins to hang the cards. This actually did take some work as I had to print them off and make sure I printed the backs correctly (failed the first time), then cut them out and punch holes, tie strings, and manuever behind my large table to hang them up. Still much easier than making one from scratch. 
Advent Calendar Free Printable

That's it! I mean besides the tree, but I don't have any special tricks for that one. So I would love to hear from you all. What your lazy man decor ideas for Christmas? 

Standing Against Evil: My Thoughts on #MeToo

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I often find it hard to process campaigns, politics, hard issues, and fad movements. I think one reason is because I usually see the brokenness with a movement and how it seems to focus on absolutes. But I don’t want to write about my problems with a movement, especially one that is so important, instead I want to talk about my takeaways with #metoo.

Again, this is MY story, not yours, so please don’t assume I am speaking for anyone else other than myself.

1.     Since seeing #metoo in the last few days I’ve started paying attention to movies and tv shows in a different way. I’ve noticed that women are often subjected to the very thing we find offensive, and it’s often without a blink of an eye. In some instances I have seen people stand up and point out the accuser, but I can’t help but wonder why more isn’t done. I don’t want to call out anyone or any show so I’ll stop there, because my point remains the same. 

2.     I know just as many men who have faced #metoo worthy statuses. I think we need to focus on not just the way women are treated, but how humans are treated. This is in NO way to take away from women who have been abused or taken advantage of, this is simply to say that it’s not just women.

3.     Along with number 2, I have also seen a lot of women make remarks about men in passing…just watch your status updates during The Bachelor. For some reason it seems okay when women make remarks about a “hot guy” or they talk about how they’d like to make-out with him or worse. I’ve even seen this from married women. My thought is that as you read this spelled out, you find it appalling, but most of the time we don’t even notice that we are sexualizing another human being, only giving them worth based on their appearance.

4.     I have visited and lived in many countries and I have limited experiences with sexual harassment in the U.S.  That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, again, it’s just my story. I have however, seen and experienced sexual harassment in almost every country I have lived in or visited. Male stalkers, butt slaps, groping, strangers kissing you on the lips…and can I just say that all of these involved NO alcohol and no dark corners of a club. They were in the broad daylight walking down the street, standing in the metro, and doing my everyday life. I also believed it was because of the “culture” and country I lived in, and therefore I should just ignore it. Now I’m learning how wrong this is…I also knew it was because I lacked a male presence. Since marriage I have not traveled alone and I also have not had one instance of sexual harassment—yes, there is a correlation.

As humans we must stand up and fight against all evil. Evil will happen in the darkness and it will be hard to see, it will be disguised, it will “feel” like something that is our fault, it will seem as if we are responsible, but we must not be fooled. We must push back with truth and courage. Challenge those around you, don’t be afraid of what people will think, stand tall in knowing that you can be part of world change.

And if you are someone who has experienced traumatic harassment of any kind, please seek counsel. Seek trusted friends or family, tell your story to someone who is safe, let a counselor walk with you through healing. It will be the hardest thing you will ever do, but one day you’ll hopefully be able to look back and see healing and forgiveness in your own life and in turn hopefully be able to help someone else through their journey.

Refresh My Soul: Alaska

It finally feels like fall so to celebrate I'm posting part 1 from family vacation earlier this summer. If you were following along on Insta then you may already know that my parents took us on an Alaskan cruise. It was amazing! We had some great family time, got to see nature, and experience cold temps, which meant boots, scarves, and lots of hot coffee! My dreamland. 

So grab a blanket, sip some coffee, and enjoy the beauty of Alaska!

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Ezra James: 1 Year

Well it happened. Ezra turned one! We started the day with some pumpkin pancakes and then that afternoon we had a fiesta!! In the past month Ezra has started chatting all the time, he loves standing and keeps making us think he is going to take his first steps, but then at the last minute decides to squat and crawl. He is still not a fan of attention and being held by stranger (where working on that) and he also had his first sickness with fever and all. But he is slowly becoming a toddler. I can't even imagine what this next year will hold for our little man!

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5 YEARS!

Today, September 7th, marks five years married to my best friend, and only 6 years of dating and knowing each other. Seems crazy and to some I'm sure it seems like we hardly know each other, but to us, so much has been done! We've traveled to 11 countries together, had 2 overseas moves, brought a a precious baby boy into the world, and plenty of netflix and chill moments at home—I'm almost scared to see what the next 5 will hold! But if it only contained more netflix and you, I'd be happy. So here's to many more adventures and crazy moments with my love! 

And for those that care, a sappy slideshow together of the past five years, and if you really love me you'll listen to it while watching this song. (it's not included b/c ya know copyright issues) 

Ezra James: 11 Months

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Only one more month until this guy is officially a year old! I can't believe it. He is so close to walking, has 8 teeth that have popped through and is very opinionated. But he loves to laugh, shys away from strangers, but will stare at people all day long, and his recent opinion is to reject baths. He use to love the water and still likes swimming, but don't put him in the bath or he'll scream bloody murder...oh my goodness.

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Ezra James: 10 Months

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Lately, I've been so bad at updating Ezra's monthly photos. But maybe that's just me not wanting to admit that my baby is slowly growing out of his baby ways. This month he is standing like a champ, walking while holding on to all the things. He also loves swimming and has visited his sixth country this month. (but only his third if you don't count airports) This month he has also learned to play with others. We haven't gotten to be around other babies while living in Africa and it's been interesting to see him attempt to play with his cousins...and pets...and other friend's babies. So thankful for this time to expose Ezra to other children, and can't wait to see what this next month has in store! 

Take a Walk on the Safe Side

When comparing and contrasting Africa and the US one usually has a pretty good sense of what will be said—water, weather, animals, etc.—it's all different. But what I notice the most about my time stateside are the little things; the things that excite the senses and leave me wanting more.

Tonight I went a walk, something I've done many times before, but this time it was just me, the babe, and my spotify radio set to Ben Rector. (can I get an amen?) Normally I'm walking with the hubs, iPhone-less and we are talking about the current ramblings going through our brain, but tonight I only my own thoughts to keep me spinning. 

After awhile I started remembering my walks in the Horn of Africa. It wasn't the heat or the random goat crossing that I remembered, but instead it was the small stretch of sidewalk around the U.S. Embassy that we grew to love. A similarity, a small one, but something to bridge the gap. Then as quickly as the thought entered my mind I smelled something I never smell in my part of Africa—hamburgers grilling in the backyard. My senses had been awoken—green trees lined the concrete creating dancing shadows of sweet relief from the summer heat, fresh cut grass filled the air, water sprinklers played with the setting sun as rainbows formed over the perfectly manicured lawns, and I felt safe.

I wasn't looking over my shoulder for strangers, I didn't feel a sense to hurry through my walk, and I never once got a glaring stare for showing my ankles. (And in this case my shoulders and legs too) But please don't see this as something only attributed to Africa or a third world life. This is still a reality and many places in the US and even in our own city. Walking around the ritzy neighborhood of Dallas I still feel a little uneasy by the amount of people who seem to be up to no good and continue to have my walls up. Part of it may just be my life in third-worlds, but the other part may be for good reason, who knows. What I do know is that tonight I was fearless—not in the sense of bravery, but more carefree. 

So while I can't always live a carefree, fearless life, it's nice to enjoy those moments filled with summer bar-b-que's, fresh cut lawns, and shaded sidewalks. 

Gotta love the front lawn chairs, a trend I first saw in Dallas.

Gotta love the front lawn chairs, a trend I first saw in Dallas.

That rainbow!

That rainbow!

Sidewalks!

Sidewalks!