Tag Archives: love

2012: A Stellar Year

Okay, obviously I haven’t been posting much lately on my blog. I started a new job and that’s definitely changed my schedule a little bit! But I promise I have lots of content coming up in the next few weeks.

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I started this blog. Not that I’ve been the most prolific blogger by any means, but still – pretty cool.

2012 has been the best year of my life. It feels a little crazy to say that, almost like I’m bragging. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. I managed to squeeze in lots of adventure into the last year, and it will be a challenge to match it all in 2013.

We started with the discovery that there is a little German town in Georgia. It’s called Helen and you will be able to gorge yourself on great beer, spaetzle, and wienerschnitzel. This can be overwhelming.

German food in Georgia

German food in Georgia

Xavier and his bratwurst

Xavier and his bratwurst

We also enjoyed exploring our adopted hometown of Atlanta. It’s full of unique and beautiful sights – urban treasures, if you will – and it’s always fun to discover them.

Relics in Atlanta

Relics in Atlanta

Atlanta also has a gorgeous old cemetery that’s full of photo opportunities. While some might find it odd to hang out in a place full of gravestones, it’s actually a peaceful and beautiful place with dramatic views of the skyline. After volunteering there during a community service opportunity, my friend Marie reported back that the cemetery caretakers wish the place was more like a park.

Exploring the cemetery...

Exploring the cemetery…

But Atlanta has real parks as well, and we spent our fair share of time in Piedmont Park. I love living right down the road from there. It’s a wonderful place to spend time with loved ones, including dogs.

Battling for a stick

Battling for a stick

Riley and Parley

Riley and Parley

We ventured away from Atlanta as well. Our biggest trip of the year was to Ecuador. This was my first trip and very much worth the wait! It was so great to spend time with Xavier’s family. I also loved seeing the amazing landscapes that the country had to offer.

El Panecillo, the Virgin overlooking Quito

El Panecillo, the Virgin overlooking Quito

An alleyway in Quito

An alleyway in Quito

Many homes in the city of Quito have embedded broken bottles in the concrete walls outside their homes - apparently they deter burglary.

Many homes in the city of Quito have embedded broken bottles in the concrete walls outside their homes – apparently they deter burglary.

We did venture outside the city of Quito and saw some beautiful sights in nature. I loved the volcano Cotopaxi – Xavier’s favorite place on earth – and was so excited to come across real wild horses while we hiked up there.

The volcano Cotopaxi

The snow-tipped peak of the volcano Cotopaxi, visible just beyond the winding path

We found this wild horse just up the pathway

We found this wild horse just up the pathway.

Two other fun trips we took were to New Orleans, which we did for Xavier’s birthday, and to Key Largo. I loved those.

Pretty scenery in New Orleans

Pretty scenery in New Orleans

And this year, I finally got to try two restaurants that I’ve been dying to taste for quite some time! The first was in New Orleans: you can’t go there without beignets from Cafe du Monde.

Cafe au lait and beignets

Cafe au lait and beignets

And we also tried a delicious burger from Shake Shack in Philadelphia! I loved it – and the concretes. Danny Meyer, can you please bring this to Atlanta?

Burgers from Shake Shack

Burgers from Shake Shack

The only thing better would have been eating that stuff with this view, which we enjoyed during our trip to Key Largo.

Key Largo... beautiful sunset

Key Largo… beautiful sunset

I think it’s pretty cool that in the space of a year I managed to try both skydiving and scuba diving. Low pressure, high pressure. Both were awesome, and I can’t wait until my next shot to try both.

Swimming with the fishes...

Swimming with the fishes in Key Largo… also, great hair day.

This is actually me, falling from the sky.

This is me falling from the sky.

My exercising took a great leap in this year, too! I guess I’ve been running for about six months now. I can’t say I’ve lost that much weight since muscle is much heavier than fat, but it was amazing to complete two 5K races and a 10K. I truly never thought I could do it. But I could, and it was even fun. Now I’m training for a half marathon in 2013!

Goofy grin for my cheering section

Goofy grin for my cheering section during my first 5K

Aside from all of my travels and adventures, I am really glad that at the end of 2012, I was able to begin a new job that I’m really enjoying so far. Yes, all in all, this was a truly great year. I can’t believe how fast it went by, and I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store.

Hopefully more love…

Love...

Love!

…. and a few more hot dates!

All dressed up and going out on the town

All dressed up and going out on the town

Happy New Year, everyone!

What was the best part of 2012 for you?

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love advice from the elderly

Atlanta_Sunset

After a solid run, I am happy to report that I’ve moved on and gotten a new job. Although I was obviously motivated to seek different employment, there was much that I enjoyed about my former position. (I even wrote about it on this blog).

Throughout a year of working with the elderly, many stricken by dementia, I have heard a lot of interesting stories. My job consisted of essentially torturing folks: administering memory tests to people who came to us because they had lost the ability to remember. I often felt guilty about being the dealer of anguish. So when people went on tangents between tasks, it didn’t bother me much. My patients loved to talk about their spouses. If someone gushingly mentioned that they have been married for decades, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I would almost always ask, “what’s the secret to staying happy for that long?” This has elicited many responses that I compiled and would now like to share.

What’s the secret to a long and happy marriage?

– “Well, I never hit my wife.”

– “Mutual respect and communication. If he has a problem with me, if I have a problem with him, we try to work it out together. Compromise.”

– “He traveled a lot over many years for his work. So I didn’t get tired of him.”

– “Well, I don’t know the secret to staying happy, but I can tell you we had a baby eight months after marriage and another one ten months after that.”

– “Talking. And respect. We talk all the time, and we respect each other.”

– “I call my wife the queen. And she rules with an iron fist.”

– “She never had to beat me…because I was honest. Always be honest.”

– “We’ve been married fifty years and it’s a lot of work. It’s hard. Anyone who tells you it isn’t hard is lying. And it’s not always 50/50 give and take, either…sometimes you have to give 100 percent and get nothing back!”

– “I married the right girl.”

– “Stay out of sight.”

– “I don’t know how we made it this long, but it probably wouldn’t happen again.”

– “We’ve been married for 70 years, and the secret is patience! Then again, he was also missing at war for a few years. When he came home we were bonded together. I think that kind of thing, if it doesn’t break you, it melds you together. A flat relationship when you just go to the movies, that’s not going to work.”

– “Let me tell you a story. We’ve been married 74 years. She’s been married 38 years and I’ve been married 38 years.”

Take from it what you will. I can tell you this. I’m a child of divorce. We hear lots of horror stories about relationships, and no matter how much you love someone in the moment, it’s hard to know what the future holds. But those people gave me faith. Faith that, while things won’t always be easy, they can be worth it. Faith that forever can really mean forever, that “till death do us part” doesn’t have to end in divorce.

And finally, from my grandpa, who has been married for 62 years:

“The secret is, you’re not the same person you were at first. We’ve each been five or six people since then. But every time one of us changed, we still liked who we became.”

Happy_Couple.JPG

My grandparents, married 62 years!

My Second 5K: The Monster Dash

The run is over, folks, and this Monster Dash 5K was even more fun than expected.

If you remember, I ran my first 5K just a couple of weeks ago. I registered on a whim, despite the fact that I’d already signed up for the Monster Dash as my goal event. That decision turned out to be a good move. Unfortunately, the day before the Monster Dash, I found out that they weren’t timing the 5K event! Since I had been training to break a time goal, this was disappointing. I had perused the entire website before registering for the 5K, and somehow neglected to realize that was the case. On the bright side, this took off the pressure to perform, which was a good thing – because Xavier had registered to run with me, and we wanted it to be fun!

Please indulge me while I brag about the man I love for a minute. He absolutely hates running, despite spending lots of time as a successful track and field competitor in high school. But he’s sweet enough to jog with me at least once a week, and determined enough to complete a five-miler out of the blue. (That is completely beyond my capacity as a human being and an athlete). I was so excited for him to join me in a race, but a little nervous. I had been training more than him – I didn’t want to hold back just for the sake of staying together on the course. So the lack of timing was a relief. It meant we could stick together and just enjoy the experience of running through the streets of downtown Atlanta, surrounded by people in costume.

(Of course, I used my Nike running app to time us anyway).

It was definitely fun to arrive to a race and find yourself surrounded by Halloween festivities. There were some really creative costumes out there. A few couples, especially, had really gone all-out with their ideas. One of my favorites was a pair that included a convict and a policeman. There were pirates, three blind mice, superheroes, and a whole lot more. Although I might be biased, my opinion is that our Greek Olympian costumes were the coolest of all – even if strangers approached my boyfriend to ask him what was under his skirt.

We aren’t hardcore runners, so when it came time to arrange ourselves in the chute, we debated for a minute. Should we line up at the 10:00/mile pace? What about the 11:00? In the end, we stuck to 9:30.

The gun went off and we took off, weaving in and around other runners for a couple of minutes until the pack settled into their paces. The course began right next to Phillips Arena and took us through the city streets. It was very exciting to be running through downtown Atlanta. Fortunately, we found ourselves towards in a clear zone relatively quickly. That was when the unexpected occurred. Barely a quarter-mile into the race and crossing a bridge, I tripped on a metal strut. I don’t know how it even happened. One second I was happily trotting along. The next, I looked down and tried to skip the metal thing. Then I was on my hands and knees on the asphalt.

The other runners were very concerned, but I bounced up immediately and was lucky to have just a couple of scrapes on my palms and knees. There was no blood whatsoever. The experience was a little startling. At least now I can say I’ve survived falling during a race!

Even considering that little mishap, the rest of the race was a great time. I loved running through all of Atlanta’s buildings, on quieted streets that are usually choked with traffic. Maybe because we were towards the front of the pack, we had mostly ample space to keep our pace, with minimal bobbing and weaving around other runners.

And somehow, we managed to beat my goal! I’d originally just hoped to break 29:00, knocking 30 seconds off my first 5K time two weeks prior. Imagine my shock when my Nike Running app clocked our 5K at 28:41. Although the race wasn’t officially timed, it was reassuring to have evidence of awesomeness on my trusty running app.

Tune in to find out what’s next…

Coming through the finish line

Adventure: Diving in Key Largo

Let’s get up to speed. I learned how to scuba dive, got my PADI open water certification, and fell in love with it all.

My partner-in-crime, coincidentally, is also a certified diver. When he lived in Florida, he dove all the time. He even has his own gear. So once I was certified, it was only natural that we would want to dive together. And thus came our next adventure.

Here’s the thing, and I write this for the other twenty-somethings out there who find their dreams limited by cash flow. Diving isn’t what you’d call a cheap hobby. Buying basic gear (fins, mask, snorkel, boots), scuba school, and my certification weekend set me back quite a bit. But once you’re certified, you can spend something like $50-75 and get on a boat. That’s a splurge, sure, but not completely unreasonable. The priciest thing is usually getting to the place you want to dive. To travel and stay in Mexico, Thailand, or Australia isn’t always cheap.

While you can travel all over the world to dive, we’re lucky to be within driving distance of a great choice: Key Largo. The trip is not what you’d call a short jaunt from Atlanta. But if you stop in Tampa and see friends, it’s divided into two very manageable portions. Since the dive season was starting to wind down, we found a stay-and-dive package for an incredibly reasonable price. So reasonable, in fact, that we will probably make an annual tradition out of this trip.

We drove. Down through Georgia, with a quick trip to Tampa. Andre and Catae graciously allowed us to crash at their place for a few hours of much-needed rest. Then we headed down through Alligator Alley. No forest fires this time, like last year.

Snapped out the window, somewhere on I-75 between Fort Meyers and Miami

Instead, we were graced with a lovely sunset hiding behind naked trees.

Upon our arrival to Amoray Dive Resort, it felt like we’d been taken back in time. Our room looked like it had been designed in the 1980s and never updated. With its white wicker furniture, neon upholstery, and a TV that had an antennae, it was like no hotel room I’ve seen recently. However, it was clean and comfortable. And furthermore, we could wake up, stumble sleepily down the steps, and be ten feet from the dock. We weren’t there for a fancy room, though. We were there to dive. And dive we did.

The next morning was simultaneously scary and awesome. We woke up early to grab my rental gear and secure our spots on the boat. It was packed! There were tons of people milling about, attaching tanks to gear, and stringing up weight belts. This was my first time as an independent diver and not a member of a class, so I took an extra-long time making sure that my stuff was properly set up. It was tough to focus. I was literally bouncing up and down with excitement, just like a little kid. I feel so bad for my boyfriend sometimes. He has to be seen in public with me. But just as quickly as my excitement mounted, it faded away when we anchored at the dive site.

Listen up, future divers. Here’s how you enter the water from a boat. You rarely just climb in like you’d enter a pool. Instead, you execute a “giant stride entry.” This involves standing on the edge of the boat, taking – you guessed it – a giant step, and then dropping into the water. From there, you float for a second, meet up with your buddy, and descend. Xavier went first. When it was my turn to follow, I stood paralyzed at the edge of the boat with all of my gear on. It was about four or five feet to the surface of the water, and with my crippling fear of heights, it was just too much to bear. Moments away from my first real scuba diving in the gorgeous Florida Keys, I panicked.

The first mate of the boat was a very nice guy, but he started to get impatient. “I’m going to give you a little push,” he told me, leaning over to knock me overboard. I thought about skydiving and just went for it before he could touch me. The drop was quick and easy, as these things usually are once you get over your fears. And then Xavier and I sunk beneath the surface together for the very first time.

Well, let’s talk for a minute about just how incredibly awesome scuba diving is. First of all, when you dive a coral reef, you’re going to view the most amazing things. You sink gracefully to the bottom of the ocean floor and at first it’s a little creepy because, you know, you’re sinking. But you can still breathe. And you can see! Imagine going to the aquarium, and looking through the glass at the schools of fish, the gently undulating coral, the occasional big fish that swims by and scatters everything in its path. When you dive, you’re not just watching that. You’re inside of that.

Second of all, you’re weightless. You’re floating. You’re unencumbered by gravity, and you can play with that for fun and for utility’s sake. My dive buddy was the best at this. It’s considered an absolute no-no to touch the coral with any part of your body or gear; for one, you’ll damage a delicate living organism, and also, it very well might be poisonous. Xavier gets around this by floating upside down on his head to look under reefs. He’s the most fun person I know outside of the water, so it was only fitting that we had a blast thirty feet deep.

That was the only photo we got of us together underwater. If you think taking a self portrait is challenging in the best of circumstances, this was a nightmare!

For you lovebirds who are looking to dive together, I will also offer this piece of advice: kissing underwater is a challenge, but not impossible. Just remember that if you try to adjust your lips, your mouths will be flooded. This makes for somewhat awkward moments and will require you to stop kissing and immediately reach for your air supply. Fortunately, practice makes perfect – and practicing is fun!

On a whim, I purchased a disposable underwater camera. These exposures don’t even come close to doing justice to what we saw: a shark, an eagle ray, a manta ray, a sea turtle, huge barracudas, the most colorful little fish. But I brought it underwater for two of our six dives, and the shots are pretty cool.

This one was taken in a moment of utter awe. It’s upside down because that was my viewpoint. I was simply playing in the water. I’d somewhat mastered my buoyancy, and was enjoying the weightlessness by laying backwards and floating upside down. I was completely lost in my own little world when I looked up and saw a giant school of fish around me. It sounds really corny, but I was one with them, and for a second I felt like a fish and an impostor all at once. Most of all, it was so exciting to be there. The moment was overwhelming in the best possible way.

Next, we played around a bit. This is my boyfriend showing me in scuba-signs that he is okay.

And here he is in the midst of a school of largish fish.

Here I am, awkwardly trying to pose for the photograph and keep my fins above the coral reef.

And here I am exploring some more. I think that’s a grouper under the reef. You can see its creepy glowing eye.

In a nutshell, diving is amazing. I cannot wait for our next trip.

Although we spent hours underwater, there were plenty of sights and adventures on Earth’s surface. Our resort had kayaks, which we enjoyed after an initial hiccup in sea navigation. (I won’t elaborate, but let’s just say it wasn’t me – I was a coxswain, remember?). We explored the mangroves around the bay and worked on our tans under the strong rays of sun. Sunglasses? Who needs ’em?

The view from the resort was amazing, especially at sunset. We sat on the dock and enjoyed our own musical entertainment.

And for some reason, one morning I awoke early enough to catch my first sunrise in years.

The trip to Key Largo was a raging success. How could we not have a blast swimming with sharks? We enjoyed a very relaxing long weekend. It was also the grand finale to an action-packed summer that put my finances in the proverbial hole. Fall around here is going to be a lot tighter. But that means exciting budget adventures, creative recipes on the cheap, and lots of time to explore Atlanta with my camera. Sounds great to me!

(All photos are mine! If you want to use one, just ask).

How to Eat at Chick-fil-A, Guilt Free

On clinic days at work, when patients don’t show up, we’ve been saying “that’s what happens in the dog days of summer.” Nobody feels much like doing anything. Even for our geriatric patient population, for which going to the doctor is both a social event and an adventure, laziness has prevailed. I think that’s applied to blogging, too. We’ve been busy and there’s much to write about, but somehow the summer has been flying by and my blog has been abandoned.

There’s a lot going on down here in Atlanta this summer. For one, we’ve had some controversy about fried chicken sandwiches. As an Atlantan – or Atlien, if you will – I must admit that I love Chick-fil-A’s food. Until recently, I experienced a little surge of pride every time I remembered that the chain got its start here, and not just for sentimental reasons. Chicken-loving Georgians have an extra-special treat in the Atlanta area. It’s called Dwarf House and it’s basically a Chick-fil-A with a sit-down restaurant attached. If you arrive in time for breakfast, there’s a buffet. It’s really delicious, and you can only try it down here. I remember how excited I was to stumble upon a Dwarf House.

(Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that ‘dwarf’ is offensive. This makes my photo souvenir of that trip so much less entertaining).

This enthusiasm for Chick-fil-A is more poignant if you know that I am not the biggest fan of fast food. By “not the biggest fan,” I mean, “I avoid it like the plague.” However, Chick-fil-A has always been the exception to that rule because it’s so damn good. The waffle fries are beyond amazing, the chicken otherworldly. Whether you eat yours in the form of a tender, a nugget, or part of their sandwich, you just can’t beat it.

Unfortunately, Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, decided to run his mouth and make some very hateful comments. I don’t like to mix politics with fried chicken, and you shouldn’t, either. But the fact is, Cathy’s public statements brought to light some very important realizations. Primarily: Chick-fil-A donates lots of money to organizations that work towards preventing all people from having equal rights.

I love those chicken sandwiches, but it makes me sad that the money Chick-fil-A makes off of my lunch is financing a lifetime as a second-class citizen for people all over our “free” country.

That doesn’t have to be a factor.

A Chick-fil-A sandwich costs somewhere around $3.50, depending on your location.

Want one? Of course you do. Feel guilty buying it? You don’t have to. All you need to do is love ketchup.

Here’s what you should do. Find your local Chick-fil-A, head on inside, and order a sandwich to go. You can add fries if you’d like, but don’t get anything to drink. The idea here is to order items are relatively expensive for Chick-fil-A to prepare. Soda is the cheapest thing for them to get, but the markup is ridiculously profitable. So avoid it. Get your drink somewhere else.

When you order, be sure to ask for extra sauce on the side. When the cashier asks what kind of sauce, name a few – Polynesian, buffalo, BBQ, roasted honey mustard BBQ. Don’t be shy. Overdo it. Smile bashfully as you explain how much you love this stuff.

Then, obtain as much ketchup as you can. Remember, you love ketchup. You cannot get enough.

My dad works in the packaging business. I emailed him a few photos of Chick-fil-A’s expensive new ketchup packets, the ones you can dip or squeeze. He estimated that they each cost Chick-fil-A less than five cents. We’ll call it four cents. Now let’s conservatively estimate that a chicken sandwich costs Chick-fil-A about $2 when you factor in the meat, the labor wages of the staff who cooked it, etc. That means Chick-fil-A is making about $1.50 of pure gay-hating profit, some of which will be donated to organizations dedicated to “protecting traditional marriage.”

That being said, this is the point where you take $1.50 worth of Heinz ketchup packets, or rather, approximately 38 of them. Just slide a few handfuls on top of the chicken sandwich in your empty bag. It’s free for patrons. And you love – I mean, LOVE – ketchup on your chicken sandwich, or rather, chicken in your ketchup.

If you bought fries, help yourself to twice as much ketchup. You really, really, really love Heinz.

Next, take your sack of ketchup and chicken and find a peaceful, happy place to eat. Your love for ketchup has allowed you to eat a guilt-free chicken sandwich.

(This suggestion should be taken with a grain of salt. My math skills aren’t the best and my cost analysis of the chicken sandwich is obviously from the perspective of someone who doesn’t quite know what she’s talking about. All in good fun, friends).