Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Roots and Wings

The day I left for flight attendant training I was in a car wreck that put me in the hospital. I turned out to be OK but my car was totaled. Seeing as I was leaving for a life in th sky I did not figure I would need a car in the future. Of course, after actually moving to Denver I realized I had no way to actually get to and from the airport let alone grocery shop or anything else. So after a month of being confined to wherever my legs would take me and begging rides from friends, I bought a car.

Since I've been in Denver I've owned two cars and lived in 6 different places. Considering I've lived in Colorado a good 5 years I would say this makes me a little bit of a commitment phobe when it comes to my living situation. I've had roommates, I've lived alone. I've done the studio apartment where my bed doubled as my couch and dining room table. I've had a tiny house next door to obnoxious neighbors with crazy children and pets and I've lived in Capitol Hill and spent an hour trying to find a spot just to park near my apartment. When I first got my job in Denver I actually still had my apartment in Birmingham so the majority of my "things" weren't even with me. Moving so much has taught me how to rid of the unnecessary and keep my life as uncluttered as possible. I tend to be sentimental so it's hard for me to throw away old greeting cards or clothes I bought that bring back memories from when I wore them. But living in small spaces and hauling around these "things" grows to be cumbersome and at some point, I've learned, you have to let go.

On Tuesday I am letting go of my wings. I'm trading them for roots in the form of a mortgage. I knew this day would come where I would come to the time in my life where I would get married and buy a house. After all I feel you come to a crossroads in your life where you can keep paying someone else's mortgage in the form of renting or you can buy a place of your own. Neither my husband or I have ever owned a place so this was a new experience for both of us. We've spent most of our years out of high school moving from place to place and I think we can both agree it will be good to be settled.

No more lease signing or deposits you never get back. Being told how many animals you can have (and paying extra for them) or loud neighbors above or below or next door. Of course this isn't to say we won't have an extra burden now. Whatever breaks we have to replace. The yard has to be mowed by us and if the roof leaks or a tree falls on it, guess who has to fix things? But when you own a place you want it to be nice all around. It just won't do anymore to get some salvador dahli posters and tack them to the wall. Paint colors have to be picked with care. You don't just buy a futon and put it in the den and call it a day. Or use an old speaker as a tv stand. No, you want YOUR house to be perfect but must also accept it's not going to be. The process of buying alone will drain our bank account and of course after everything is said and done there won't be much left over. It takes time to furnish a house right and I must accept this as much as it kills me to do so.

Buying a house in Colorado means to me I finally have roots....which is so important when you are a flight attendant. After traveling all over week after week to so many different cities and staying in hotels night after night, it will be nice to come home to what's mine. It's also a little sad because it means I'm really rooted into one place. I can't just pick up and leave if I don't like my neighbors and moving states just for fun wouldn't be an option. I left Alabama behind 5 years ago but I wasn't really sure I wouldn't be coming back. Now I know in my heart I probably never will. While Alabama will always hold my past, Colorado now owns my future.

The home buying process has been draining in every sense of the word but I hope it doesn't limit us. I know I still want to travel the world and plan vacations. I know we will probably have to cut down the number of "big" trips we do, but I expect to still visit one new country a year at least. We have canceled our plans to go somewhere at the end of Feb. since we are closing on the 2nd and would have had so little time to move and get settled and time to recover financially. So May is now the official date for our next great adventure abroad. Although I'm sure with this buying a house...we will have plenty of new adventures waiting...

Friday, January 15, 2010

For the New Year's....

Since practicing yoga I've been researching into Hinduism and it's become an important part of my practice. To understand some of the aspects of yoga and where the words come from and what they mean, I felt it was critical to do my homework so to speak. Yoga is something I began when I was planning my wedding as a way to get in shape but it quickly became a mental life saver to me. In fact, a month before my wedding I had the symbol for Om tattooed on my ankle because it meant so much to me and I wanted to commemorate what was, what is, and what will be in the future (one of the many meanings of Om). Marriage was such a life changing event for me and I truly felt I would have been more than overwhelmed if I hadn't found yoga and Hinduism and Buddhism as a way to ground me and keep perspective on life.

One of the reasons we went to Thailand was because I was so interested in the Buddhist religion. I also wanted to ride an elephant in the jungle. So I though in light of those two things, I'd have a spotlight on one of my favorite Hindu deities, Ganesha.
In case you aren't familiar with Ganesha, I've posted this picture. When visiting my parents for Thanksgiving I actually noticed my dad had a statue of Ganesha in his kitchen. I was like, Dad you have a Ganesha? He of course, had bought it because he liked it (he has quite the collection of dragons, kimono ladies and other Asian characters throughout his house) without realizing the symbolic nature of the statue (much like people do when they buy Buddha's which he also had). Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and evil and Lord of Success. He is also worshiped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. As you can imagine he's one of the most widely worshiped and commonly recognized gods. This also explains why elephants are seen as sacred in the Buddhist religion and probably why they are treated so well over in southeast Asia as well.

Here is the significance of his form as described from about.com:
Ganesha's head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha's left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties.

The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.

I don't worship any Buddhist god's or anything, but I do feel like Ganesha is an important focus for the new year. He is a remover of obstacles and evil and I feel like this is really critical to my life now. Being newly married, buying a house, and thinking about the future I know there will be many problems that might arise in the New Year. It's inevitable. But when life gets hard I feel I can always channel my inner Ganesha and draw from within the power to move forward. There is so much I want to accomplish in the future and I realize that I can be my own worst enemy. As they say when working out, your mind gives out long before your body does. I am determined not to let my mind get in the way of anything I want to achieve in the future. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help for Haiti

In December while I was doing research for gifts that give back for Christmas, I stumbled upon mercycorps.org. Mercy Corps is a great organization which helps families and communities in need all over the world. What I like about Mercy Corps is they are constantly helping around the globe and you can donate anything from a few dollars to putting your money towards their specific mercy kits which provide everything from clean drinking water, to a goat kit, rice patty kit, the list of ways to help goes on and on. In light of the recent earthquake in Haiti I received an update from the website (which I am linked to on facebook) and found out they were raising money to help with the relief effort over there. I know there are probably hundreds of organizations like the Red Cross that are helping out but I thought I'd try helping out by creating a website where people could donate. I have seen a lot of people say their thoughts and prayers are with Haiti but what will really help more is money. Now I'm not a rich person but even I can donate what amounts to a few starbucks latte's. I figure even if 100 people just donates $1 it will help. Now no one certainly has to go through me to help but I want to spread awareness to the cause.
Here is my website: www.mercycorps.org/fundraising/natalie72
I'm setting a small goal of $100 and I have already donated (although it's not showing up because I donated before I set up my page) The great thing is you can donate in someone's honor so I made mine for my husband and he got an email telling him all about it. This is great if you have a birthday or something coming up for someone and you know they have everything and you can't decide what to get them. Being the poorest in this hemisphere I know a little will go a long way

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ice Skating in Evergreen

One of the reasons why I love the state of Colorado so much is that year round there is never a shortage of outdoor activities. Of course winter presents it's own set of unique challenges in finding "something" to do on the weekends. For the past couple of years Chad and I have opted not to buy ski passes to save money. 2008 was the year we were engaged and 2009 was the year we were married so during that time we needed to be saving money not spending a combined total of $900 on ski passes. Plus there's the fact that Chad now has a 8-4 job so we can't just take off during the week to the mountains whenever we want. Anyone who lives in this state knows that skiing on the weekends is nothing but long lift lines and traffic on I-70 and is something you want to avoid unless you have a guest in town. With the absence of this winter activity and the freezing temperatures and snow all over it's tempting to hid inside all weekend long. However, Chad and I are pretty active people and well...we just can't sit still for very long. When trying to decide what to do this weekend, I ran through my usual list of suggestions which all pretty much involved shopping. When those were vetoed I suggested the only thing that popped into my brain, "how about ice skating?"

Now I have not ice skated in well over 10 years and most of my limited time ice skating has been confined to an ice arena. Growing up in Alabama, lakes just don't freeze and thus there's no such thing as a "natural" ice rink. Even here in Colorado the only places I had seen to skate were in outdoor mall areas which were usually small and crowded. Well after a little research Chad found the perfect spot: Evergreen. (evergreenrecreation.com) Evergreen is only about half an hour, 45 minutes away but once you are there you feel like you are in a small mountain town like Vail or something. Of course it's much less expensive than a ski town and of course, a lot closer. I had taken some friends hiking up there when they came a few summers ago so I was familiar with the area, but had never ventured there in the winter. Since we wanted to take our dog out too, Evergreen provided everything we needed because right near the lake were hiking trails. Mostly we just let our dog run her little heart out off the leash in the woods because the trails were muddy from melting snow or slippery from existing snow but she loved it nonetheless. Then we walked across the street to this big frozen lake that a section of had been cleared off for skating. Chad has played hockey before so he already owns skates but I had to rent mine. For the two of us plus my skates it was only $16 which makes this one of the cheapest winter activites I can think of in colorado. The ice itself was actually sectioned off with a big area for skating then smaller areas set up for people to play hockey if they wanted. There were quite a few adults and children in the various hockey areas playing and even though there seemed to be quite a few people there overall, the skating area is so big you don't feel claustrophobic (or feel like you are going to be mowed down by an over excited 13 year old).

We skated about 2 hours although apparently we could have gone longer because they had lights set up outside and the place didn't close until 10pm. After the sun set it started getting chilly and I wasn't really dressed for an all night skate-a-thon. I will say though it was quite the thigh workout and not to mention a lot of fun. I've never skated on a frozen lake before so it was quite the experience for me.

Like most people nowadays Chad and I are trying to save money anywhere we can and it's amazing how creative you can become when on a limited budget. Even though I'm not the biggest fan of winter, there truly are some fabulous activites in this state that can get you up and moving and don't cost a fortune. I love being outdoors and so it's great to know that even when skiing isn't feasible I have other options to play in the winter wonderland that is Colorado. I just can't wait to share this secret with others when they come out to visit.

Who knows what we will discover next?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dirty White Yankee Chinese Auction

(picture: The Allens and Magee's aka Algee's with our end result gifts)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I know I am a little late in these greetings and have neglected my blog these past few weeks but as always things got crazy between Christmas and New Years.l Truly this year I was not so prepared for Christmas. I had a lot of expenses come up before the big holiday and with my payday being December 22nd I really couldn't do much shopping for anyone or for Christmas dinner food items until then. My little brother came in town on the 22nd as well so it made for a whirlwind few days until Christmas day.

Thankfully my family has taken on a tradition which I imposed upon my in-laws this year since they were in town as well. You see last year my husband and I as well as my parents and brother traveled to San Diego to be with my sister and her husband. Since the vacation itself was a present I proposed we play a game which I had played at a friends Christmas party that year. The game itself has many names, Dirty Santa, White Elephant, Yankee Swap or Chinese Auction. I traced the origins of this game and the theory of the Yankee Swap was that it came from the Civil War Days. Back then, the Confederates would often trade or swap some of their prisoners (Yankees) for Confederate prisoners which was a useful strategy for them as the war went on and soldiers became hard to find. However, they weren't always completely honest about it. They would trade Yankee prisoners who were very sick or badly wounded without telling the Northerners. That meant that they got rid of prisoners who were of no value to them in exchange for battle ready soldiers. So you can see the connection that Yankee Swap became a name for a game which you could swap gifts you didn't want or need.

The rules we play by are pretty simple, you have to bring at least one gift and one bad gift to the table. The bad gift is something you don't even have to spend money on, it can be what's laying around the house. The good gift has to be something people want like a gift card or a nice blanket etc. This makes the game more exciting. Then everyone gets in a circle and we roll two dice. If you get a 7 or 11 you get to pick from the pile of all the gifts until they are all gone. Then the second round is timed and for 15 minutes you roll the dice and can steal others gifts which remain unopened. This becomes fun because you are basically fighting over gifts you have no clue what's in them. The third round everyone goes around the circle and opens their gifts. You have to display them so everyone can see. Then in the last round we roll the dice again for 15 minutes and if you get a 7 or 11 you can steal the others. However, if you roll doubles you have to put something in the middle and the next 7 or 11 has to take from what's in the middle. This is a convenient way to get rid of the bad stuff you don't want. Everyone had a blast this year and there were gifts from wendy's and home depot gift cards, to a fleece blanket made by my mom, leather chaps (which I ended up with) and coffee, pajama pants, socks etc. Last year we all went to the thrift store so the amount of "bad" gifts was a lot more but this year I would say there really weren't any bad gifts, just some more wanted than others and some recycled t-shirts etc from our houses. It's a great way to re-gift without being tacky!

I really enjoyed having my family and Chad's in town to spend the holiday with us. We all cooked dinner and each family made different dishes and we combined them and had a fabulous evening. I would say the Allens and Magees get along exceptionally well and I cannot wait to celebrate more holidays together. However, next year should be exponentially better because we are buying a house and people can stay with us. This year we were living with our friend to save on rent so the living space and kitchen were tight and my parents had to stay in a hotel and chad's in the mountains. My sister wasn't able to come either which was unfortunate. However, she did send me that great FEED bag from feedprojects.org that I had been eyeing so for her gift I am very thankful!

While everyone celebrates different traditions across the world, I think the most important thing to remember is that Christmas isn't about the gifts or how much you spend it's about who you spend the day with. Since everyone is tight on money due to the economy it made sense for us to have a stress free game where everyone could participate and even if you don't go home with as much as you came with, you can still have a fabulous time. I really miss having all our family here and hope they return soon!