Tuesday, September 13, 2016

First House! And What I've Learned So Far.

It's time for a major life event random blog update! 

Isaac and I bought a house! For those who didn't see that coming, we didn't either. ;) We'd been looking on Zillow for quite a while but were "waiting," and at the end of June we realized there wasn't really a good reason to wait, and within a few days of talking with a real estate agent, we had found a house and put in an offer. That was followed by a month and a half of inspections, back-and-forth between parties, and awkward pauses when we thought things might fall through. They didn't, amazingly, and we closed August 15 and moved in 3 weeks ago. What a whirlwind!

We decided to do some major projects right away. Here are some pictures of those projects, which are very much still in progress.

 Before--the turquoise wall with the door is going away.


After--looking the opposite direction, from kitchen into dining room into living room.

Getting rid of ridges where the kitchen cabinets were.

Removing shower sliding doors.

Taking out the bathroom vanity and fixing the wall.

Bare little bathroom!

I've learned quite a bit over the last couple months. Some takeaways:
  • Diving into something this big this quickly is not how I typically make decisions (I agonize over pros and cons FOREVER), but it has been healthy for me. I have felt open-handed and at peace for the most part, even though I'll panic occasionally. I've seen a lot of God's faithfulness in moving us forward into a new season.
  • "Home" is a painful concept for me, even 17 years after leaving Kenya. I've been feeling pretty content and settled in Spokane, and suddenly in leaving our apartment and moving to a strange new house with its strange smells and new neighbors and new responsibilities, I've been overwhelmed by the same feelings I had when we left Kenya--rootless, out of control, profoundly sad. Every time I walked back into our apartment to move something out or clean, I cried and couldn't imagine being safe or comfortable anywhere else, ever. This summer my parents also moved out of their house in Minnesota, the one I spent my high school years and college summers in, and that felt like a final closed chapter of life there, too--all contributing to these feelings of loss of home.
  • As I mentioned, it was a miracle that the house didn't fall through, for a lot of reasons (e.g. a VA loan, if anyone has had experience with those). Our realtor even said something to that effect when we signed the closing papers. We hear endless stories of frustrating or dead-end house buying processes, and we can't believe how smoothly our process went--totally a blessing, nothing we did or deserved.
  • We have to prioritize needs over wants. We need to stop pipes from leaking onto our kitchen floor and to make sure the furnace doesn't vent carbon monoxide into the house through the chimney. I want to buy an adorable loveseat from World Market and tablecloths and towels that don't clash with the colors of the walls. It's not "fair" or fun to spend money on the essentials, but it's just reality. And just being able to own a house is an incredible privilege. 
  • Though I have grand landscaping visions--replacing the lawn with a wide paver walkway and a xeriscape of local grasses and brush, putting in raised beds, building a compost bin, and decorating with patio furniture, lights, outdoor rug, windchimes, and a firepit--this first year I have to settle for simply not killing the plants. This is a huge task on its own, and within the first few days we already had wilted roses, bolted lettuce, weeds weeds weeds, and patchy overgrown grass. 
  • Every project is a million projects. "Taking down a wall" also includes moving electric wires and patching and finishing the ceiling, walls, and floor. It leaves a gap in the baseboards, two different ceiling textures, and a need to repaint everything. The bulky ugly cabinets that were partially attached to the now-gone wall might as well come down too. And by the way, now there's molding only in the kitchen, which is weird, so we need to take it out, patch the holes, and sand. And the tile backsplash thing has a cracked upper edge, so now we're learning how to do tiling. Finally, we're drilling a huge hole all the way through the siding and installing a range hood and then putting up new shelves. All because we took down a wall. These are things Fixer Upper didn't quite prepare us for.
  • I have learned how to replace a deadbolt, remove sliding glass shower doors, mud and sand drywall, use a drill, reprogram a garage door opener, reseed a lawn, and keep spiders out of the basement--that doesn't include all the stuff I've learned about and just helped with. When Isaac is at work (I'm off for Eastern's summer break), stuff is still getting done!
  • It is also good to know when to let an electrician, plumber, contractor, or chimney repair person do the work. Though even coordinating those schedules and having strangers in and out of your home every few days is exhausting.
  • Finally, I have learned that there are centipedes in Washington state. I won't tell you how I know this, because I still want you to visit us. ;) They don't bite like centipedes in Kenya or Hawaii! And they eat other bugs! Hooray for centipedes!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Multipurpose Travel Journal

I love things that are multipurpose. For example: benches with storage space; sleeper sofas and futons; shoes that look nice, match everything, and that I can walk in for hours; and African kangas, bolts of fabric that you can wear, use as tablecloths, or carry babies in.

I like journals to be multipurpose as well. I'm sporadic with writing in a journal, but I do tend to fill up and treasure travel journals. They're packed with all kinds of things--chronicles of events, in-depth descriptions, prayers, photos, ticket stubs, bits of napkins with hotel or coffee shop logos, postcards, poem ideas. I'm scrappy, and I like to collect small, pretty, free things.

For our upcoming trip, I enhanced a journal I got as a gift a couple years back so that I can use it for many different things. As you can see, it's a bit random:

 The front. In case I forget (though I won't).


The back. Turns out the days in 2011 line up with the days in 2016, so I am reusing this March calendar that I've saved for 5 years.


Each city has a checklist page so I can note the things we do there.


I tucked in some coloring pages.


 Inside the front and back cover there are pockets for loose bits of things, like crossword puzzles.


I wrote poems on some pages, a few favorites and these haiku-like Japanese ones.


Here are frames I'll add once I print pictures.

Here's to mixed media travel journaling. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gradibirthary Asia Trip

This year, Isaac and I will celebrate his graduation from EWU, our 5th anniversary, and my 30th birthday. (It's our Gradibirthary, get it?) His graduation in particular feels momentous, since he has been working hard on his bachelor's and master's for the last 6 years straight. It's hard to believe this season is drawing to a close - exciting and also scary.

So, to celebrate the blessings of 2016 (a bit prematurely, I suppose), we are taking a trip to Korea and Japan this spring! After a lot of dreaming and saving for an international trip, it finally seems like good timing.

Planning for this trip makes me think of the first and only time I traveled overseas for vacation (i.e. not for furlough, school, etc.). My dear friends Martha and Cassandra and I went to France, Italy, and Greece our junior year of college, 9 years ago. It's fun to reflect on the differences between that trip and this upcoming one. As a 20-year-old, I was willing to forgo almost all comfort for the sake of saving money. We picked cheap, red-eye flights and overnight trains (fighting to stay awake the following day); stayed in hostels crowded with noisy young backpackers and slept in beds that only sometimes had sheets; ate bread and fruit and had one real restaurant meal in each country (and one time carried a pizza with us from one city to the next, eating it over a few hot days. I still remember the slimy lukewarm taste of that thing). It was gritty, tough, tiring, the perfect adventure for that stage of life.

For this trip, though still on a limited budget, Isaac and I are booking private rooms with our very own bathrooms; we're planning to eat as much delicious food as possible; we have normal flights and arrival times, and at least 3 nights in each city. I get to travel with my sweetie to a country that played a significant role in his life. It's a new kind of trip for a new season.

But many things, I imagine, won't be too different between the two trips: Walking, walking, everywhere. Journaling, taking pictures, writing poetry. Limiting the touristy sites in favor of just wandering, finding local spots. Puzzling over train schedules. And, of course, there's the anxiety.

Traveling with Martha and Cassandra was the first time I discovered how much I try to control situations and how awful I can be when I feel out of control, an anxiety that's magnified by travel. The conflicts we had on our trip and the gentle but frank words from my friends helped me understand myself and the impact my need to have things my way has on others. Marriage has made that even more clear, and I anticipate that this trip will continue to test it.

On the first page of my journal in 2007, the day we left on our trip, I wrote, "I'm trying to talk myself out of nervousness and force myself to be laid-back." I've realized over time how ridiculous that approach is, how stuffing the fear doesn't work even a tiny bit. Though the anxiety may never go away, I'm learning to face it with grace and trust that God is taking care of me. It is freeing to go into our travels with a deeper awareness of my tendencies and a partner who reminds me that true comfort and security doesn't always look the way I expect, who's committed to working through the hard stuff with me and celebrating along the way.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Is it already almost Christmas?!

We did not get nearly enough snow last winter. The lack of snowpack in the mountains was devastating (extremely low rivers, drought, summer wildfires, etc.). This winter, though, is starting out pretty good, and we're hoping the snow lasts. Plus, I have (after 15 years of complaining about the cold) become quite the snow lover, so I'm having fun playing in it!

Here are a few pictures from a walk around the neighborhood and a snowshoeing trip on Mt. Spokane.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Make Me Brave

The engines get louder as the plane takes a turn on the runway and straightens out. Everything hums, and the passengers quiet down, all except for a little girl behind me: "Mommy, we're going to go faster and faster!" A pang of regret hits me, and somewhere in the middle of my panic, a sad smile finds its way out. I remember that feeling of awe as a kid, and I miss it so much: my body leaning back as airplane's speed increases, the elation as I realize we're air-borne, the land dropping off below, the climb through the clouds until even they become the ground under us.

Now, as the plane gears up and builds speed down the runway, I experience a moment of terror as it sinks in that I can't get off this plane, that it's going to take off with me in it, and I have no choice but to go along. As we lift into the air, I imagine over and over the plane taking a sudden nose-dive and heading straight back down. Every little bump and change in sound sends my heart into my throat. Eventually I will calm down (unless, God forbid, there's turbulence), and as soon as we land, I'll block out the experience until the next time (or until a Malaysian Airlines flight disappears or crashes). My body will take a good day to recover from the anxiety.

I'm not sure when I became afraid of flying. It's pretty absurd, considering how much I have flown in my life. All over the U.S. and to roughly 15 countries, some multiple times. (And this, of course, does not begin to account for all the other forms of transportation, undoubtedly more risky, in even more places.) In the last year, I've flown to Hawaii, Minnesota (twice), and Alaska, plus a couple smaller flights. As a baby, I slept in a suitcase on the floor at my parents' feet. I played with other little kids under the seats. I've flown alone, even internationally. I've flown in 6-seater props in Africa. In questionable planes. In planes where they had to first fix technical issues that left us stranded at airports overnight. And I was always fine, until...I'm not sure what. Nothing traumatic has happened, but somewhere along the line, fear took hold of me.

Our last flight from Maui to Seattle was quite bumpy. During a bad bout of shaking (the plane and me), I started praying "God, make it smooth, make it smooth, make it smooth." My attempts to control the situation only made me feel more desperate and helpless, and before I knew it, the words in my head shifted to "God, make me brave, make me brave, make me brave."

In adulthood, I have lost the excited faith of a child, the trusting plunge into uncertain circumstances, and I have forgotten how to take risks with boldness. I often can't move forward unless I know the outcome will be what I want, which means I can't move forward at all.

I have the sense that a season of change is coming. I've been relatively comfortable for the last 4 years...same apartment, basically the same job, same community. I'm afraid of anything that will shake that up, but I'm living in a fake world if I think that I can or should try to keep things the same. If I'm not letting God make me brave, I'll miss out on so much.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

River Float: A Digital Story

I love both words and images, and it's nice to have a low-stakes place like this blog to play around with them. Several years ago, I had fun posting a "short graphic novel" entitled "Dead Rat." I thought I'd do something similar and create a small digital story about a float down the Spokane River that we did yesterday.

River Float
Drifting Leisurely Down the Spokane River

Every summer since we moved to Spokane, Isaac and I tube with groups of friends down a section of the Spokane River that's just a walk away from our neighborhood. After bringing cars to the takeout place, making sure we have enough life jackets to go around, inflating the tubes, and walking down from the park to the river (all of which takes much, much longer than you would expect), we finally ease into the chilly water and start off on our hour-and-a-half float through several sets of rapids, plenty of lazy bends, and lots of nature.

Looking back toward our put-in spot:

I never bring a phone or camera along because it would get soaked, but yesterday, we got to try out my parents' inflatable kayak, which they gifted to us. What a game changer! Our trip was much faster and a bit drier. We towed my dad in a tube--not bad for an old guy. ;)

Part of my paddle fell off, so dangit, I couldn't do any paddling and had to just relax in the front of the kayak with my feet up.

It was late afternoon. The sun was starting to set and the golden-y glow was lovely.

I didn't record any videos of the rapids because I was busy trying to stay inside the kayak and out of the water (and having too much fun), but I did manage to get a few clips from some smoother parts: 

(Song credits: "Nyatiti" by Andrew Bird)

Well, I guess that wasn't so much a story as it was a bunch of pictures with captions. Ah well.

The end.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer So Far

Wow, I can't believe it's August already! I think (fingers crossed) that we have finally said goodbye to the crazy, record-breaking 100-plus-degree weather we've had for weeks at a time and are starting to turn the corner into one of the best times of the year. It's still warm and sunny without being uncomfortably hot, work is mellow before school starts again, and fall is waiting to begin next month with pretty leaves, jeans and sweaters, pumpkin pie....

As I've mentioned before, one thing I love about Spokane is how close it is to so many beautiful places. For example, we're 4.5 hours from Glacier National Park in one direction and Seattle in the other. We're within an easy day's drive to Yellowstone, the Wallowas, the Deschutes National Forest, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Vancouver BC, the North Cascades National Park, the Selkirk Mountains, and the ocean (etc!). Spokane itself is fairly subtle in its beauty, but it's really the perfect hub for exploring spectacular places.

We've been fortunate to be able to do some fun things in the area this summer. Here are a few highlights from the last couple months.

Camping at Kamloops Island

Early in the summer, we camped with some friends near Kettle Falls, Washington. It was very dry, of course, so I imagine the Columbia River wasn't as pretty as it typically is, but still it was nice.


Our dear friends/family Ken and Maile came down from Alaska to visit with their new baby girl. We stayed in a little cottage with them and had a wonderful time catching up and visiting our favorite Seattle spots.

Photo credits go to Maile. :) There are more great pictures on her blog.

Lola's Visit

My friend Lola visited from Minnesota. I feel so blessed to have stayed close with a few of my high school friends, and she is one of them. During her visit, we got a group together to float the river, picked cherries up at Greenbluff, and took some very hot walks.

Nelson, BC

Isaac and I tend to spend a lot of time with people. I'm incredibly grateful for our community, but as an introvert I easily get overwhelmed and exhausted by being "on" so much of the time. Isaac treated me to a refreshing surprise getaway to Nelson during a weekend sandwiched between friend visits, a wedding, and a family reunion.

Family Reunion in Sunriver

We just got back from a week-long trip to Oregon for a family reunion. We drove first to the Wallowa Lake State Park to camp a night, then drove on to Sunriver, which is just south of Bend, to meet up with the family. What a full week! The cousins (10 of us including significant others and one kiddo) shared a house and the "old people" shared a house, and we hiked, biked, floated the river, cooked, ate, drank, talked, swam, and watched old family videos (picture me as a very uncomfortable 13-year-old doing a routine to a Backstreet Boys song). So much love!!

Near Lewiston, ID

The cousins at our last family reunion in 2000

Loooooove this shot of my mom and some of her sisters way back when

 The family now 

 The Deschutes River in Sunriver, OR

From there, I drove with my parents to Sacramento for a cousin's wedding on the other side of the family. Between Spokane, the Wallowas, Sunriver, and northern California, I could hardly get over the beauty of the drives--I'm pretty sure every road we drove on was some official scenic highway.

It has been a packed summer, but there's still time for a bit more fun!