To the Millions Who Never Had a Birthday


My Big 2-0!

This picture is terrible, but I love it!

I know several readers were wondering why I didn’t publish a themed post about memories, resolutions, epiphanies, etc. pertaining to the celebration of New Year’s Day. I know many if not most bloggers take advantage of this annual occasion to write rather pensive “deep” posts reflecting on the past year.

Well, here are two things that were going through my head:

1) I tend to sneak “deep” thoughts into many of my posts. I didn’t think followers would mind a carefree break. (I seem to remember posting about Jo-Ann Fabrics or something deliciously trivial like that on the first?)

2) I prefer to save my major yearly reflection period for my birthday. It is reasonably close to the festivities of January 1st, and it provides a much more personal time of “starting over.” It’s my own personal new beginning.

The spoils of my cereal party

And it’s today! Woo-hoo! I am 20 years old and riding a train back from a lovely birthday weekend in Toledo. There will be many more pics from said trip, by the way.

What I Learned When I Was 19

  • My friends are few but fabulous.
  • I have Interstitial Cystitis.
  • I am happier when I am working.
  • People write books (good books!) in continents other than Europe.
  • I love food (good food!) even more than I thought I did. Thank you, Spain!
  • Hormones in all of their medicinal uses (birth control pills, antidepressants, etc.) will make you crazy before they actually work.
  • Yes, you can get high off of antidepressants.
  • 18 credits plus a part-time job is crazy but doable.
  • Every time you want to say something unkind, think of 5 kind things to say instead. 
The lovely Allie and her birthday ukelele

  • I miss the theater.
  • Human bodies function very differently at high altitudes.
  • I am very grateful for my sisters.
  • Packing up and moving always takes at least three hours longer than you expect it will.
  • Flash drives can go through the wash and still function perfectly well.
  • Phones cannot.
  • History can be beautiful and fun.
  • I love modeling.
  • Sometimes flying is cheaper than taking the train.
  • How to make Christmas dinner.
  • Lots of the cliches and stereotypes about Spain are true.
Kristen and Ariana. Breana is the yellow splotch in the picture of me with the cereal

  • “My drink” is coconut rum and Coke, or as I like to call it, a Malibu Libre. (NOTE: The drinking age is 18 in Spain)
  • I can survive without Wikipedia.
  • I cannot survive without Google Translate.
  • I need to do my devotions every morning.
  • Stephen Colbert is a genius.
  • Forgiving is the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do.
  • I like octopi for pets and squids for food.
  • I will own a parrot someday.
  • Denny’s is open all night.
  • Taco Bell is not.
  • Cowboys and Aliens was not as bad as the critics made it sound.
  • I am a much better driver than my reputation would suggest.
  • I am great with maps.
  • Fabric dye is the best $2.50 I will ever spend.
  • I will never stop wanting children, but I can wait.
  • In a lot of ways, Macs and PCs are exactly the same.
  • It is possible to be content without being happy.
  • Josh and I can survive and thrive in a surprisingly small amount of space.
  • I can dress creatively and uniquely with a surprisingly small wardrobe.
  • Love is stronger than hate.
  • I am lucky ❤

"Home Is Wherever I’m With You" (Toledo)

I know it’s the sweet cliche that all people who are truly in love are supposed to live by, but I have to be honest, I’ve been “homesick” plenty of times during the past year and a half of being married. I have loved my husband throughout all of those times, but I have also felt like a bit of an outsider.  

I haven’t often felt like I belonged in the big and strange city of Rochester, but upon returning to the hometown where Josh and I both grew up, I realize while sitting on the bed of a guest bedroom, that I don’t belong there either.   

Where is my home?


Oddly enough, here in Europe, thousands of miles from the familiarity I have spent almost twenty years of my life enjoying, I feel happier than I ever felt “at home” in Sayre, PA. I’m happy because I am home, and I’m home because I’m with Josh.

My new front door?

As excited as I was to visit the beautiful, historic city of Toledo this weekend, I had a hard time convincing myself that rushing off to spend three nights in a strange bed when I had just gotten used to my bed in Avila would be worthwhile. I just wanted to relax and unwind somewhere where I didn’t feel like a stranger–a foreigner. 

But when Josh and I finished fumbling with the ancient lock of our tiny hostal bedroom and collapsed into our separate beds in a suburb of Toledo (after being lost for half an hour), I felt strangely un-foreign. As I looked at Josh on his bowing springboard mattress (and ultimately ended up climbing into the tiny bed with him) I felt more relaxation, more acceptance, and more belonging than I have in my entire life.

Mmmm, European breakfast

I used to think that travel was only fun because you could always go home and rest when the excitement was over. Vacations away from home were always more stressful for me than they were restful. Tomorrow Josh and I are going to spend another day in a city that is not our own, return to a room that is not our own, and after that ride a train back to an apartment that is not our own. 

The next three+ months will be filled with trains, planes, hostals, hotels, and unfamiliar streets, sidewalks, and cities. 

And I couldn’t be happier. 

The world is our home now.

Title from “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Shiny Showers and Homey Hostals

Whew! What a day! I am currently on a spontaneous birthday vacation to the beautiful historic city of Toledo.
Yeah, I know. The picture above doesn’t really reflect that. Let me explain.
Well, we just got here, and it’s dark . . . so not pics of Toledo yet. 
But much of this week’s awkwardawesomity (hey, I’m trilingual now. I can make up words if I want) revolved around the various bathrooms. Pictured above is Josh inspecting our new enclosed shower that will prevent the previously all-too-common leakage of water onto the floor every morning. This is a definite awesome, but was preceded by a whole lot of awkward.


  • Trying to shave in a shower that barely has enough room to stand up straight
  • A weird flusher on the very top of the toilet that pulls up instead of pushing down and causes such a voracious cascade of water that one can only hope to duck for cover in time . . .
  • Toilet bowls with almost no water in them. What do you call a large, concave, porcelain area without water in it? An amphitheater.
  • Buying anti-plaque toothpaste which I cannot use because of a genetic receding gum disorder. Thanks, dad!
  • Josh pretending to be in a relationship with our (male) professor for an object lesson about foreign cultures . . .
  • Doorknobs smack-dab in the middle of doors rather than off to one side
  • Being so lost in Toledo at 9:00 at night. Uh . . . just kidding, Mom! We got here without any problems whatsoever. It was great. Had a ball and stayed very safe :-/


  • New shower in our little apartment!
  • Super classy (clean) private bathroom in the hostal that cost us only $25 dollars a night!
  • Rocks. I’ve never been so appreciative of rocks. Out here they are enormous, colorful, covered in coniferous vegetation, and just generally cool.
  • The Library of Avila. I’ve never seen such a selection of movies at a library.
  • Easter break plans? Done. Tickets purchased and everything. I should be a travel agent!
  • Writing a poem in Spanish! I might find out someday that it makes no sense, but it sounds nice.
  • Turnip festival in the north of Spain. Not a joke. The political leader of the province was on the news kissing giant turnips.
  • Buying cereal for my cereal-themed birthday party on Sunday.
  • Oh yeah, my 21st birthday is this weekend and I’m on a romantic getaway to Toledo!

So I Married This [Blank] Guy . . .

And then proceeded to take dramatic photos of him and post them online. Haha, seriously though, isn’t he great?

Have you heard of the I Am [Blank] Because trend in lifestyle blogging? It is just about everywhere. I realize that I am a little behind the ball, but I’m putting a new spin on it by writing about the love of my life instead of myself. I had to tweak it a little to apply to a second party, and it’s a smidgen awkward, but I hope you can see my heart in this 🙂

I just want to pay a little tribute to this great man who has been with me through the ups and downs of our young lives and who I have loved much through it all.

Josh is weird because . . .
He is always in the mood to watch all 682 minutes of the extended Lord of the Rings film trilogy
He can study four languages at once without confusing them with each other
He discusses art intellectually. A regular Roger Ebert.
He sings along with foreign songs despite not understanding them
He thinks that building a computer from scratch would be fun
His mind is a bunny hopping from thought to thought and giving no hint as to how it got there

He is a bad friend because . . .
He gets hurt easily
He doesn’t realize that he’s hurt someone until it’s too late
He is forgetful
He can be overly critical
Sometimes he makes decisions that are best for himself without thinking about others
He is afraid of being wrong or looking silly

He is a good friend because . . .
He is genuinely interested in others
He is a wonderful listener, but not afraid to talk about himself
He reaches out to underdogs and outsiders
He loves inside jokes
He thinks of his friends more often than they realize
He always answers his phone
He will do anything if it means he can hang out with his friends
He is good at fixing things
He cooks

He is sad because . . .
Learning in a foreign language is hard work
He will be going to school for about 81/2 more years
His wife is always sick, and he can’t always make her feel better 😦
Our financial future looks pretty bleak
There was a recent death in his family, and we were unable to go home for the funeral

He is happy because . . .
He is in Europe (duh)
He brought Starcraft II with him
Our new apartment has WiFi
Things like coffee and bread taste so much better in Spain
He has a gawgeous wife 😉
God is good, and love is strong

He is excited for . . .
Exciting travels starting this weekend
Becoming fluent in Spanish (and hopefully many other languages)
Teaching linguistics
Seeing our family and friends again this summer
Being a father someday
Owning a home gym and a plasma-screen TV when we get rich
Building the aforementioned computer

I love you, Joshua John!

And P.S. Josh “proofread” this and loves it as well ❤

What I Wore: In ALL Things Give Thanks

Thrifted sweater, scarf, and socks; Rue 21 coat; Payless boots and bag; American Eagle jeans; Target flannel shirt

Here I am smiling despite the snow and giving thanks to God for His beautiful creation of crisp, clean, fluffy, white precipitation.

Here I am less enthusiastic but still overcoming my selfishness and looking on the bright side. I am in Spain, after all. It shouldn’t matter that I’m in the only city in Spain that gets snow.

And here I am succumbing to the frigid bitterness within!

Haha, in all seriousness, I am so grateful to be here. I am especially grateful that God saw fit to let the sun shine on the slushy, sloppy snow today.

How’s the weather where you are?

Also, stay tuned for the full photo shoot with Kelly Sullivan that I mentioned a few Awkward and Awesome Thursday ago!