мы идем в Санкт-Петербург

The bags are packed (almost), our visas are in hand, and we’re cleared for take off.

It’s been a while since I posted on here–the last month has been dizzily and beautifully full of family and friends as we completed our coast to coast journey.  In between visits and festivities, Luke and I have been doing our best to learn the language via online tutoring and hours of flashcards.

I’ve been working on a series about Misplacement during this season of transition and displacement from our California home as we wait to find our Russian one.  The last tweaks are almost done (yes, sometimes I actually edit things before I post them) and I’m excited to share these summer musings with you all!

In the meantime, I plan on sharing travel updates and discoveries on this blog.  I don’t want to spam everyone’s Facebook timeline with travel posts so if you’re interested in:

Joining our journey through the written word (and some pictures): follow this blog

Tracking our trek via image: follow me on Instagram

Contacting Luke or I in real time: message me on WhatsApp.

Luke won’t have a smartphone or possibly his current phone number, so your best bet is WhatsApp using my phone number.  I’m assuming you already have it if you’re interested in talking, but if not, put your e-mail in the box below and I’ll send it your way!  This will be the best way to get a hold of us directly, as opposed to messaging on Facebook or Instagram.

And so..The Adventure Begins

6 years ago this month, I was driving my trice-recycled ‘94 teal Chevy Malibu with the windows rolled down from my high school to the Senior Picnic–just days before graduation.  “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer came through the radio waves and it just seemed right.  I was full of optimism and excitement for a fresh chapter.  And what better way to kick off the next adventure than a class-wide picnic with my 700 other classmates?

If I remember correctly, the picnic was lame and I didn’t know where to put myself, like the rest of my high school experience, because some things never change.

I was driving to my last day of work this morning, in my ‘10 Ford Focus that mercifully doesn’t spray water in my face every time it rains like the Malibu did so I’m clearly moving up in the world.  Andy Grammer’s familiar tune came warbling through the FM again and I felt the echoes of that same optimism bubble up.  And then a new Maroon 5 song came on with the same tune they were using 6 years ago. Some things really never do change.

But some things do. I’m more cautious now than I was back then.  I’m not as willing to chase every idea but have learned to patiently wait for my dreams to surface.  I’ve stopped caring about eating lunch at the cool table and although I’m slower to act on new ideas, I’m braver in carrying them out.  During the last 6 years, I pushed to find the limits of how many things I was capable of doing simultaneously and now I’m content to find the few things in life that are worth pursuing deeply.

I’m thankful for nostalgic songs that inspire reflection–even if that includes some awkward high school memories–before starting this next adventure.  Besides learning the Russian language and acquiring a fur hat, one of my biggest goals for our time abroad is to grow in wisdom, character, and flexibility.  Hopefully by the next time I hear Andy Grammer on the radio in June, I can see those fruits in my life.

Until then, just gotta keep my head up.

It All Started With Anna Karenina

I promised some exciting news in my blog post last week so here goes…Luke and I are moving to Russia!  More specifically, to the Saint Petersburg area and even more specifically than that, to Pushkin.

This is old news for some of you and out of the blue for others, so I’ve compiled a list of the frequently asked questions we’ve gotten over the past few months.

Q: Are you crazy?

Maybe.

Q: Why Russia?

Luke spent a summer in Siberia a few years ago and it’s been one of his dreams to go back for a while.  One of the main goals for our time there is language acquisition, for Luke to use for further academic studies.  He’s also excited to gain more teaching experience, another important step for his career trajectory.

Q: What will you be doing there?

Luke has been hired by a language school to be a full-time English teacher.  I also plan to do some teaching on a part-time basis, while also pursuing some dreams and doing more professional development.

Q: Isn’t it cold there?

Yes.

Q: Why now?

Luke is between graduate schools right now and we don’t currently have debts or dependents to tie us down.  After reviewing our 5 and 10 year flow charts (no joke), we realized that if we were ever going to pursue this adventure, there’s no better time than now.

Q: When do you leave?

The first leg of our journey is to get from the West Coast back to the MidWest.  We’ll be leaving SoCal at the end of June and flying for Saint Petersburg in mid-August.

Q: When do you come back?

We don’t have a specific date yet, but the teaching contract is for one year.

I also promised to reveal what our joint anniversary gift was from last week.  You might have guessed it by now…it’s a travel guide to the Saint Petersburg area!  We are so excited to explore our new city–some of our current top sights to see are the Hermitage Museum and the homes/estates of Dostoevsky, Pushkin, and Tolstoy.

Because after all, it did all start with Anna Karenina.

2 for 2

We’re officially clocking in on our second year of marriage today, and I’d give this whole married thing a solid two thumbs up.  So far, we’re 2 for 2 as far as amazing years of marriage go.

After birthdays and Christmas and Valentine’s Day, we both felt like our gift-giving abilities were limited so we’ve made it a tradition (2 years in a row counts as a tradition, right?) to go in on a gift together for our anniversary and pick out something that is edifying to our marriage or brings us closer.

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This year’s gift.  Can you guess what it is? 🙂

I’ll be sharing about the gift we chose this year next week on the blog (some related exciting news coming soon–stay tuned!) but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from last year’s anniversary gift.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage

We thought we had read all the marriage books before we got married, but we were wrong.  This one is my favorite because the author isn’t afraid to deal with the reality of a married relationship.

Central to the book is the concept of a “Love Account” that we each have with everyone else in our lives. When we feel loved, a deposit is made in the account. When we feel hurt, a withdrawal is taken out.  For two budget nerds, this double-entry accounting method of describing a relationship had a great appeal but I understand that it sounds a little too mathematical to some.

These Love Accounts explain why you can be in love with our spouse/significant other but still have an affair with someone else.  You can have two love accounts with lots of deposits each with two different people.  As you can tell by the title, the book then describes how to keep withdrawals to a minimum with your spouse and how to avoid making the wrong kind of deposits in someone’s love account who isn’t.  What I really appreciated about this perspective is that it explains why

(A) trust and love can be eroded but recovered

(B) it’s easy to get stuck in a non-stellar relationship (romantic or otherwise) but not be able to let go if the love deposits are just marginally greater than the love withdrawals.

One of the ways we can make deposits in the right love accounts is by enjoying recreational time together. During the chapter on this need for joint leisure, the author frankly states that if you don’t share any favorite activities, you’ll need to do some brainstorming to find mutually enjoyable hobbies and then ditch your favorites to make time.

We hear about sacrifices in marriages in vague terms, but I loved the bluntness of this author’s approach.  Being married might mean giving up your favorite activities.  And that’s okay.

All this to say, read the book.  Whether you’re married, engaged, dating, or not interested, it’s an insightful look at how we love.  It’s encouraged me to not always insist on my way. It’s also inspired me to be more intentional about finding ways to make those deposits into Luke’s love account.

For a $12 book, I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI.

Lead Me Not

I first learned about the wisdom of working out but not over working your self control in Social Entrepreneurship 101.  We were discussing how to facilitate change in a community and the professor referenced a study conducted by Dikla Shmueli and Judith J. Prochaska where smokers were asked to actively resist eating a treat in front of them for 15 minutes.  Every 15 seconds, they had to pick up the plate, smell the treat, and then put it back down without eating it.  For some, that treat came in the form of freshly baked brownies while the other group of smokers had radishes.

After the 15 minutes, the participants were given a 10 minute break.  The results?  Participants who resisted sweets were more likely to smoke during the break (53.2%) than those who resisted vegetables (34.0%).1

So if you’ve got some bad habits to kick, experts recommend that you beat them one at a time.  Giving up sugar, Netflix, and taking up running all in the same week might just pull your self-control muscle, making it too sore to even get you up with your alarm the next morning.

Instead, focus on one goal at a time and eliminate the everyday temptations. Pick a different route to work if yours sends you right by the donut shop.  Put fruit instead of sweets out on the counter.

In 1 Corinthians 10: 13b, we are encouraged by the fact that, “ God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  We can trust Him to give us the strength we need to resist the temptations we inevitably will face.  But when possible, it is wise try to avoid temptations rather than continually facing and fighting them.  Some sins, like pride and anger–are hard to avoid entirely.  When Jesus instructed his disciples (and us) on how to pray in Matthew 6, He didn’t say “help us to resist temptation” but rather “lead us not into temptation.”

But if we’re constantly slapping our own wrists as we reach for the forbidden chocolate that’s hiding in plain sight in the pantry, we’ve destroyed our own defenses.  It’s far easier to snap back at our spouses, respond in anger to our bosses, or lose our patience with the kids when our self-control has been worn down by resisting small temptations all day long.

Research indicates that the average person spends three to four hours a day resisting desires. Plus, self-control is used for other things as well, such as controlling thoughts and emotions, regulating task performance and making decisions. So most people use their willpower many times a day, all day.

The good news?  Like our biceps, there are ways to strengthen our self-control and increase endurance for when life hands us marathons of temptation.  Eliminating the temptations and daily annoyances we can avoid is the first step as it reserves our willpower for the things that really matter. After that, Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, suggests,  “practice overriding habitual ways of doing things and exerting deliberate control over your actions. Over time, that practice improves self-control.”

Trying to supercharge your self-control workout by making dramatic lifestyle changes in a short period of time will have the same result as starting weight-lifting by benching 200 pounds. You’ll probably hurt yourself and give up entirely. The key here is consistency, not intensity.  That could be as simple as using your left hand to brush your teeth or saving an extra $5 a week!

As we strive to become more like Christ, eliminating the small temptations throughout our days and working out our self-control muscle can help us grow in the virtues of patience, kindness, and selflessness–character traits that could surely use some toning up in my life.

  1. Study cited: Shmueli, D. & Prochaska, J.J. (2009). Resisting tempting foods and smoking behavior: Implications from a self-control theory perspective. Health Psychology, 28(3), 300-306.

RSI of the Thumb

I’ve officially diagnosed myself with thumb RSI (thanks, WebMD).  RSI = repetitive strain injury where fine repetitive movements in the thumb cause tiny tears in the muscles and tendons.  The tendons run out of lubrication as there is insufficient time to rest and recover.

I blame Instagram, but I mostly blame myself for making scrolling on my phone my default posture when I’m not doing anything else.  This post will be brief, because I’m down a digit.

After several days in an existential crisis, I realized that my sore thumb was a symptom of a much larger problem.  Not only am I abusing technology by wasting time on my phone, I am actively seeking those dopamine rushes when a new e-mail, text, or notification comes through.  I’ve silenced all phone notifications and quit Facebook, but that doesn’t help much when you’re checking your phone every 5.8 seconds.

My first solution to this general feeling of emptiness is to find more hobbies.  If I’m looking to my phone for entertainment too much, I should probably pick up oil painting. My husband gently reminded me that I’m already an aspiring baker, fairy gardener, recipe organizer, writer, crafter, reader, runner, and QuickBooks novice, so perhaps my problem was not too much time on my hands but a misplaced hope.

We live most of our days with a vague longing that something will come in the mail one day that will change our lives forever.  It’s not just my phone I’ve been looking to for fulfillment.  I keep hoping my life will provide me with an unexpected excitement that I know I’d despise if it came because the anticipation is greater than the realization.

My thumb needs time to rest and recover from my anxious scrolling and so do I.  Instead of finding another distraction, my goal is to more fully participate in the hobbies, relationships and rituals I already enjoy.

 

Mastering the Art of Long Distance Friendship

co-authored by two long-distance friends, Emily Ruch and Chloe Sayers

And by master, we mean “navigate in the dark without a flashlight and minimal bruises along the way.” Everyone knows friendships change after college. What we didn’t anticipate was how the new marriages, new jobs, and new states could create both
emotional and literal distance between friends. No two friendships look alike and different friendships will react differently to the strain of distance, but here’s some lessons these two long-distance friends learned along the way.

1. Reset Expectations

When you live in close proximity, whether that’s a few rooms down the hall or across town, you grow to expect and gauge the health of your relationships by your frequency of 11212707_10153812461504908_672609704767413814_ocontact. Once you’re 3,000 miles and 3 time zones apart, that’s just not realistic. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to connecting.

…. and set Realistic Expectations

Now that the days of spontaneous coffee dates and late-night-dance sessions are few and far between, it’s important to regroup and set new expectations for the friendship. It is most likely unrealistic to think that you will be able to talk to each other every day. Sure, you may go through stages where texts are sent back and forth in quick succession, but typically you are on different schedules (or time zones). It’s important to find the routine of staying connected that can be easily obtained by both parties.

2. Be intentional

You’re not going to bump into your friend around town, so a long-distance friendship forces you to stretch that intentionality muscle and make the friendship a priority by scheduling time to talk, writing notes, and just generally not falling off the face of the earth.

3. Small talk is OK

One of the hardest things for me about long-distance friendships, is that I felt like I was spending all my time talking with friends on the phone just catching up. Since it would be weeks between talking and our lives were moving fast, there was a lot of just general ground to cover each call. I grew to realize that just keeping up with a friend was a blessing and not every conversation had to be a philosophical discussion to keep the friendship healthy and thriving.

4. Allow Yourself to Grieve

“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

Long-distance friendships are hard. If you are coming right out of college, it can seem especially painful and abrupt to have your best friend suddenly absent from your day to day life. It’s okay to grieve that loss, because that is what it is. This is not to say that you throw up your hands and throw in the towel, but rather give yourself some grace while you navigate the transition.

5. Make New Friends

Still working on this myself – seriously, after college how does one make a new friend? Suddenly it’s not as simple as walking up to someone at Swing Club and saying “Hi, I’m ____,” or striking up a conversation in the omelette line at brunch about that group project due tomorrow. But it’s an important step in the process.

Do you feel nervous about making new friends/your friend making new friends? It makes sense. There is an inherent panic that the introduction of a new friendship will somehow cause the existing pair to find someone that they get along with better/enjoy more. But this comes back to the intentionality that you set up; while life may have a mind of its own sometimes, you do have the power to make sure you don’t drift apart.

And making friends where you are will only strengthen your long-distance friendship. It will allow you to flourish where you are and lose some of that panic over the change, because you will realize that your friendship can remain strong in the presence of other relationships. If something is important to you, you will make time for it.

At the end of the day, you can make a long-distance friendship work but make sure to work in some face-to-face time too!

Onward and Upward

I can’t be my true self around my husband.  I can’t say whatever I want, do whatever I want, or act however I want.

 

And that’s a really good thing.

Because my true self is selfish and way too worried about schedules and spreadsheets (I would have made an excellent railroad operator).  My true self doesn’t think about the fact that she’s living with another human being who may not want to get dumped on about the day’s littlest details the moment she walks in the door.  My true self has sky-high expectations for her husband’s every word, thought, and action without holding herself to that same standard.  My true self is careless about feelings, quick to offend, and slow to forgive.

So thank goodness that my husband draws out the best in me and challenges me to be my better self instead of my true self.

“But shouldn’t we be able to be vulnerable and open with our spouses?  Shouldn’t our homes be safe places to share our feelings?”

Well, yes.  Of course.  But whether if you’re bound to someone in a marriage covenant or just split a rent check each month; you are no longer an autonomous being.  Our moods and words effect our housemates and spouses.  We should strive to build relationships that encourage truth.  But those beautiful relationships aren’t just the result of throwing all filters out the front door and saying whatever comes to mind.  Sometimes loving your spouse means shutting your mouth.

For me, it means checking my mood when I get home from work. Right before I turn the corner leading towards our studio apartment and right after making a few quick glances into the dark corners of the gardens to make sure our not-so-neighborly skunk isn’t waiting to sabotage me, I think “would I want to greet myself in this mood after a long day’s work?” If the answer is no (and it usually is, because even the best days at work end with a commute in Southern California traffic), then I pause and take a moment to reset my perspective on the day and stop dwelling over the little angsts from the past 8 hours.

My true self still shows up a lot.  I say things that are unkind and worse yet, I really mean them.  I am grateful that my husband and friends continue to shower me with love that appreciates me for where I am but also can see the better me and continually encourages me to become that person.

$800 Car Wash

I’m sitting on my couch, just marveling that I have the free time and mental space to write this blog post.  I got into my first (and hopefully, last!) car accident 2 weeks ago today and the last 14 days has been an endless game of phone tag with insurance agents, auto shops, and claims adjusters.

I am relieved and grateful to say that as of 4:30 PM today, we have a Ford Focus back in our lives sans all the dirt that clung to the windows and floor mats.  Since the old car was declared a total loss and we replaced it with its nearly-identical Ford Focus twin, we basically just got the world’s most expensive and longest car wash.  Nothing has changed except the musty “I moved across the country in this” smell has been replaced with that slightly antiseptic “new car” stench.

Very long story short, I lost a little bit of my naive faith in humanity—I had assumed that the at-fault driver would tell the truth—but gained it all back (and then some) due to the generosity of our friends, family, and co-workers as they helped get us where we needed to go during the last long two weeks.

Now that the massive car headache is finally subsiding, I can focus on more important things like Phase 2 of Mission: Minimalism. Coming soon to a blog near you.

 

3 Lessons From The Last 365 Days

Today officially marks my 1 year anniversary working in marketing for Buffini & Company and I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned during my brief stint so far as a young professional.

1. Have some humor

I am always far too serious. Luke and I learned this the hard way.  When we first started dating, he’d make an off-handed sarcastic remark and I’d assume he was dead serious.  Thoughts start racing: “How could he say that?  Am I dating a psychopath?”  Nope, turns out I just had zero sense of humor.  My roommate proceeded to put me on a strict diet of The Office reruns which helped me identify sarcasm out in the wild.

I’m not saying you need to be the office prankster, but developing a professional sense of humor has helped me not get too caught up in the smallest remarks and honestly, it just makes every day more fun.  You’re going to be spending a considerable part of your life at work, why not have some laughs at the same time?

2. Just Say No

For those of us who are new to the workforce, this might be the hardest lesson to learn.  We’re eager to please, eager to get new experiences and opportunities, and bring a lot of energy to our work.  All of these are great things with huge potential pitfalls.  In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes this powerful point: “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”  Saying no to things because you’re feeling lazy or aren’t working efficiently enough is a problem.  Saying no to things because you are trying to make the most valuable contribution to your company by effectively leveraging your skills and strengths is smart.  I’d encourage you to read the entire book, but here’s the jist of how being an Essentialist makes you a more valuable employee.

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

3. Set goals

Want to take the next step up the ladder or switch to a different department?  Got an awesome idea you’re itching to implement?  Those things won’t happen without clearly defining your goal and then breaking it down into actionable steps.  Give yourself a deadline and then get to it.

I’m fortunate to work at a company that encourages goal-setting and continual improvement.  As a result, I’ve experienced some positive spillover effects into my personal life as well.  I’ve always lived and breathed goals but often equated them with to-dos.  Learning how to make longer-term goals and then parcel those out in the near future has been incredibly helpful in making dreams come true.  For Christmas, my wonderful husband got me a Nomatic planner + journal that is designed perfectly to balance daily tasks, long-term goals, and everything in between. Take a look!

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Whether you’ve been working for 3 months or 30 years, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned so far?  I’d love to hear them!