Adventure is Out There…

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…but it scares me.

It is no secret that Bryan and I were involved in a bible study in Gainesville that really made our leaving one of the most difficult things we’ve faced yet. It became a tradition, as more and more people transitioned out of Gainesville, for our bible study group to send everyone off with a special night that included prayer, kind words, many tears/snot, and so much joy. My favorite part is the journal that gets passed throughout the group for the members to write letters to the couple/family who is leaving.

This journal arrived this week (because technically we were homeless for a while there) and it has rejuvenated my spirit. Though the words were sweet, touched my heart deeply, and brought tears to my eyes, it was the reminder of God’s faithfulness that really pierced deep. This group became our family. They were our lifeline. They were our answer to prayers. To have this book will forever be a reminder that God loves us and is faithful to those who seek Him. I did not wait very patiently for this community, but I waited nonetheless, and He provided.

As I wait again in this new season of life, I’m reminded that his promises are true and that there is a purpose in this transition. It may look like I am an adventurous soul based on certain events, but please do not mistake any of our latest endeavors for bravery. I am scared. Anxiety shows itself more than I would like it to. It is simply faith. Faith that I’m where God has asked me to be. Faith that this will be part of my story that will help others know Him like I do. Faith that my struggle here will result in someone else’s joy and success one day.

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Lord of the Rings

This quote was written in some of the last pages of the journal. I love you AL for putting that there. It is not always with excitement that I am swept off my feet, but it will not keep me from walking out the door because this “dangerous business” is far greater than me to stand in its way.

Settling In

We are officially out of our hotel room and into our rental. We are renting on the west side of Cleveland in the 2nd and 3rd levels of a house-turned-duplex. We have been knee deep in boxes for almost a week now, though I’m making enough progress that I can now use the kitchen. Kitchens here in these old homes pose quite the storage challenge and have required some creativity on our part to make the space work. I’m thankful to have had this week off before starting my new job on Monday to allow for some organization before we get too busy.

I have found myself opening boxes and just staring at them because I can’t make sense of what to do with all the stuff. The big appliances are no problem to store, but it’s the “junk drawer” stuff that has yet to find a home and clutters up the floors, counter tops, and shelves. Penny is of course no help, though she continues to master those puppy dog eyes.

IMG_6668We have made a list of restaurants we would like to try, though the list grows at a rate that would have us weighing 300+ pounds by the end of the year if we tried to keep up. We will attempt to take it slower. We have already found a few favorites, and they mostly include places with good drinks (strawberry infused whiskey+basil cocktail) and rich Midwestern fare (pierogis and things with cheese).

IMG_6658We went to Edgewater Park beach on the 4th of July for some sun, and to be around other humans, and to my pleasant surprise we are no longer the palest people at the beach! Ohio is proving to be a great fit for us so far. We watched one of the best firework shows I’ve ever seen at Lakewood Park and then walked home. I think I love urban living.

Celebrating our country in America’s heartland has a different vibe than in the South. There is a lot of national pride in the South, along with a love for setting things on fire, but celebrating our nation in such an old city has a special feel to it.

IMG_6661I will not paint such a glamorous picture of our new lives in Cleveland and fail to mention that we are still two people alone in a big city. I am anxiously awaiting the interaction that a new job will give me, establishing community with our neighbors, and maybe the new addition to my phone’s favorites list. In the meantime, Bryan and I will walk Penny around the neighborhood to expose our newness, visit new restaurants and bars, and push ourselves outside of our shy comfort zones to make new friends. And if anyone wants to visit you are more than welcome – just give me enough notice to find some sheets somewhere.

How to Survive Hotel Living

We have been in Cleveland, OH, a little over a week now and are still living the hotel life. We have signed a lease and will be able to move in within the week, but it will be about 2 weeks total of living with many shared spaces. I have compiled a list of things that have helped keep me sane during my time here:

  1. Don’t eat waffles everyday during continental breakfast. This will be tempting because when else do you have time and resources to make a waffle every day of the week? BUT, for the sake of your heart and stomach please do not indulge. Pro tip: enjoy your waffles during the week because weekend crowds make for long waffle lines.
  2. Choose a hotel with a gym. It is important to maintain some kind of activity level while living it up in a hotel. I pouted until I got this hotel with a gym, and have only used it once. In all fairness, my fitness apps do not work in the gym so I have to do them in my room.
  3. Leave as often as possible. Hotels are noisy. Doors slam, baseball teams play ding-dong-ditch, and wedding parties stand outside your window at night to smoke. Every day, I have left the room to run a menial errand, visit a new park, take Penny to the dog park, or go out to eat. It makes a world of difference and the longer I can stay away the better. IMG_6622
  4. Do not watch sad movies. I made the mistake of watching Titanic my first day here alone after Bryan went to work. Nothing like Leo’s death to get you in the mulligrubs – this may be a Southern term I’ll have to teach these Mid-Westerners. Stick to things like musicals, game shows, and dog agility competitions.
  5. Have really awesome friends. In one week, I talked to almost all of my friends and family at length. It helps so tremendously to have people all over the country who care enough to keep you company from miles away.
  6. Work on a project. I do not have room to spread out many craft supplies, but I do have access to a good quality camera on my iPhone. I also have the prettiest of subjects (Penny) and sometimes I take pictures of her to pass the time. She’s beautiful, you must admit!
  7. Read something, anything. Stop looking at Instagram! Along with attractions around Cleveland, I have begun to follow notable bookworms on social media. They have many suggested reading lists and I was in desperate need of some brain stimulation. I have listened to a few books lately through audible.com, but there’s something about physically flipping through pages that’s therapeutic to me. I settled on The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and so far so good.                                     Image result
  8. Bend the rules. There is nothing normal about living in a hotel, so the normal rules of your house may need to be bent slightly during the interim. Penny is never allowed on our bed at home; her hair is everywhere so we try to keep our bed protected. Hotel Penny can sleep on our bed and use it to look out the window because she has like 50 square feet of space to walk/sleep on and we feel bad for her. We know she’s a dog. At least I tell myself that, though I’m not fully convinced she’s not part human. We also very rarely ate out in Gainesville, but the kitchenette requires more creativity and patience than I currently possess. We have been eating out a lot, but are trying to make healthy choices when we do (a salad a week should cancel out the burgers, fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, and burritos, right?). TV in bed is another luxury we are enjoying that we do not practice at home. We like only having one TV so we can enjoy movies together, and we like not having it in our room so we actually get out of bed each day. In our current hotel state, our living room is our bedroom, our bedroom is our bathroom, our bathroom is our kitchenette, and our kitchenette is our office space. It’s cozy. So the TV is in all of our rooms at once and we have fallen asleep to some Family Feud and Indians Games. Ah, the life! IMG_6625

All in all, the first week was fine. I’ve made some friends at continental breakfast and with the housekeeping staff that provide human conversation. I’ve been forced to get outside because if Penny looks at me one more time with her puppy dog eyes I will probably die. I am grateful for a place to live, a rental that will be ready very soon, and a city that I already am very keen on and excited to explore. This is only temporary and it will be a laughable memory soon enough.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Friday we moved to Cleveland. Bryan drove for 9 hours and we checked into our extended-stay hotel indefinitely. We met with our phenomenal realtor Saturday morning and viewed some very promising rental properties. Our favorite will not be available until July 1st so that will mean two more weeks of hotel life (which isn’t all bad). We got groceries so that our little hotel room would feel a little more homey. Sunday we tried our first church in Cleveland and actually really liked it. Our schedules and changing locations haven’t allowed for much consistency in church going, so it was nice to use this day to refocus our minds and hearts.

During the service, they sang the beautiful hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness. I heard this many times growing up, but haven’t heard it in a long time. As I worried that morning about how I would combat loneliness when Bryan goes to work three weeks before me, or what I would do with a hyperactive dog in a hotel, or how we would choose where in this big city to live, or how quickly we would make deep friendships, these words were sung around me and I was swept away in His promises.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

I was reminded of His faithfulness; we’ve been here before and he provided more than I could have imagined. I have strength for each day and hope for tomorrow because the Lord sees me and cares about me. He has provided so many times before that I have no doubt he will continue to provide. He is so faithful to me, even when I don’t follow him closely. Yesterday’s sermon reminded me that I am not seeking after simple answers to questions, but I’m seeking closeness with the Father. That is my new goal as I start life in a new city, to seek the Lord above yes or no answers. My focus must shift. Thank you Jesus for showing me that you have me in your hands and your mercies are new for me to experience each day, in each new situation, throughout all of life’s journeys.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

We left the most beautiful place on earth yesterday; well the most beautiful to me out of the handful of places in the world I’ve seen. We stayed the last 3 nights in Atrani, Italy, on the Amalfi Coast. Atrani is a much quieter town than Amalfi or Positano, and only a 10 minute walk or 20 minute ferry ride to each respectively. We stayed in the best B&B at La Scogliera Rooms and had views of the Tyrrhenian Sea from the bed (not the Mediterranean Sea…not that anyone would think that…). Breakfast on the balcony every morning by the B&B owner and his wife. It was a perfect way to end our trip, slowly sipping cappuccino on a breezy summer morning.

We purposefully chose this as our final destination to give us time to relax and not plan so much before our trek back and move to a new state. This place met all expectations. We fell asleep on the beach, shopped in Amalfi town for ceramics and paper goods, lunched at a restaurant only accessible by boat and hung out at their private beach all day (that sounds much fancier than it actually was; it was mainly locals or Italian tourists in a shack so we knew it would be good), shopped for more ceramics in Positano and ogled over the gorgeous, bright purple flowers against indigo blue water and stark white walls, and swam in the sea.

Other than my mild seasickness/motion sickness from boating and cliffside views, these few days were absolutely perfect. The food was amazing, light seafood and lemon everything. The lemon tiramisu we got on our first lunch there was the best dessert I had all trip (and that includes many, many cones of gelato and tiramisu). We took our time here and meandered up into the cliffs for amazing views of the sea. We slept in every morning. We swam in the clearest saltwater I’ve ever seen. We made friends with Pino and Pina (the B&B owners).

We came back with more freckles, a very slight Italian vocabulary, a contentment in our hearts, and memories that will last our whole lives.

Rome, Italy

Rome is the quentessential site for Italian site seeing, in my mind. I was intimidated by the city, but knew I would kick myself if I visited Italy without seeing Rome. We stayed in another airbnb, and it was the cutest little apartment with great natural light and a loft bedroom. We had a bad experience with a taxi driver first thing in the city, so that started us out on the wrong foot a bit. We tried to see as much as possible, but we only had 2 1/2 days so failed to see quite a bit.

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We were able to check off many of the iconic sites: Vatican City (Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica), city center (Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps), and Ancient Rome (Pantheon, Roman Forum, Colosseum). It was amazing to see these sites that hold such historical value and to imagine what was there before. This trip has also shown me how limited my vocabulary is since I can only say things are “awesome”, “breathtaking”, or “bonkers”. I should read more.

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Spanish Steps

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I hit a wall during this leg of the trip, so had to have a day of recovery. Rome was hot, our apartment was hot, and all the restaurants were hot. Combine that with all the people who were everywhere all the time and that equals a panic attack. Taking many breaks was key during this leg and the second day went much smoother because we had a strategy. Coffee, sites, indoor church, lunch, sites, gelato, sites, aperitivo, sites, dinner, gelato some more, bed.

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The food in Rome was some of the best of our trip: pizza, Michelin star restaurants, old-fashioned trattorias, and family owned restaurants. The people were friendly, but we had to search for that more than in other cities. This was very much a working big city and we would see many professionals (in full suits) out for lunch with the tourists before heading back to the office. I felt sort of in the way.

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Overall, I feel I didn’t do Rome justice because of my physical state during this part of the trip and would definitely revisit to give it another chance. The food alone would bring me back, but maybe in December.

Florence, Italy

Buongiorno!

This morning we said goodbye to Florence after a four night stay in the wonderful city. It was the longest we’ve been in one city so we got to unpack a bit more. We stayed in a pretty local area, but still within a 15 minute walk from all attractions. The city was crowded with people, so not as many pictures during this leg of the trip, but it was our favorite city so far. It has art/culture, lots of great gelato, beautiful churches, charming piazzas, kind people, really good food, and really good wine. We learned that Florence has about 4,000 Americans who live in the city so they’ve adopted a few American traditions and holidays (Thanksgiving, Halloween, etc.).

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Day 1 (Saturday): climbed over 400 steps to the top of Duomo to get the most spectacular view of the city, almost immediately after stepping off the train. Toured the museum there as well. Dinner at a young Florentine bar and then we explored the area of Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). Lots of romantic views and huge crowds for people watching.

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Day 2 (Sunday): explored the Pitti Palace (home of Medici family who founded and ruled over Florence) and the Boboli Gardens behind the palace. It was very hot and there was a lot of walking but it was like something out of a fairytale. We had a three course lunch paired with wine across the street which gave us a great opportunity to relax and cool off. The food was so good! We napped off our boozy lunch then went out to see more of the city, including the Piazzale Michelangelo. We had a light dinner at a wine bar that was full of locals and shared a salami plate and, of course, more wine.

Day 3 (Monday): wine, wine, wine! We booked a Tuscan wine tour with a sommelier and the owner of the company is a Master Sommelier. Our tour guide was hilarious, went to GA Tech so we all had a good laugh about her learning words like “fixin’ to” and “y’all” during her first encounter with the U.S. We visited two wineries and went to lunch in a village outside of Florence. This food was my favorite because our guide ordered classic Florentine style dishes, which were hearty and full of flavor. We were so full that we just had a light dinner at the Mercato Centrale and finished with gelato!

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Day 4 (Tuesday): this was museum and walking day. We hit the Uffizi, Accademia, Santa Croche Church, and Galileo Museum (full of science and math). In between these world-renowned sites of Renaissance art, we did plenty of shopping. Florence is known for perfume (the women here smell amazing), paper goods, and leather goods. Finding legitimate shops is a little tricky because there are so many tourist traps claiming authentic products with outrageous prices. We ate sandwiches on the street for lunch and this was one of the best decisions we made the whole week! For dinner we finally got Florentine steak since they are known for their T-Bone. My mouth is still watering as I think about it.

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We are heading out now to our next city and hope to take today easy to give our leg muscles a break.

Ciao!