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Where Have All The Children Gone?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

That's our neighborhood. Lovely isn't it? We're a ten minute drive from downtown, which is super convenient but also far enough away from the "action" that this part of town is relatively quiet. The beach, Granville Island and major bus routes are all just a short walk away. This 'hood is popping with coffee shops and trendy restaurants and cute boutiques. And check out the view of the mountains off in the distance! I LOVE that view. Our neighborhood is very newlywed-friendly and we love living here. 

There's just one thing missing: children. No, I don't mean ours but children in general. 

If everything goes according to plan, Alan and I have at least another full year or so before we become parents. But with babies *hopefully* on the horizon, I've been noticing families more. Correction: I've been actively keeping my eyes open for families. While I occasionally see a mom strolling down the street, her little one in a trendy stroller with a coffee cup holder (note to self: must get one of those!), these sightings are few and far between. There really aren't many children here at all. 

I get that cities in general aren't usually considered an ideal place to raise kids. When you add the financial expense of living in our particular neighborhood it makes city life an even less ideal choice for families. We've played around with the idea of moving to the suburbs, where housing is more affordable and young families are more common, and it's certainly tempting. I completely understand why so many of my peers are choosing to make that choice, and I support them in that because it was the right step for their family. But is that the right step for us, for our family? I'm not so sure.

Alan and I didn't just choose this particular neighborhood because of its location or the amazing dining options it offers. We chose this neighborhood because we felt called here ... so much so that we only looked at apartments in this part of town! We strolled the streets and phoned landlords whenever we saw a "For Rent" sign. It didn't even occur to us to look downtown or in other areas because we felt that God had a purpose for us somewhere within this 20-block radius and we wanted to be obedient to that. 

We're still trying to figure out exactly what that purpose is, but I do know this much: this neighborhood of ours NEEDS families. It needs the squeals of little ones running around parks and green space. It needs the innocence and joy that children bring to a community to off-set the materialism and superficiality that is so prevalent here. It needs pillars; people who are willing to put down roots and commit, for better or worse. Vancouver is arguably the most transient city in Canada. Many, if not most, of Vancouver's residents are originally from somewhere else and are here for school or work or a year of living abroad. In a place where homesickness abounds and feelings of isolation are common, families are needed to help bridge the gap - to love and embrace the lonely, to mentor and support those who are far from home. To help create a sense of normalcy among the hussle and bussle. 

I'm not saying it's the right choice for all families. But the more I think + pray about it, the more I believe that it may just be the right choice for ours. 

snapshots of our wedding, part one

Sunday, January 27, 2013
This blog is supposed to be about my life as a newlywed and I realized that I skipped over a pretty important part of the story - namely, our wedding. Because I haven't really recorded the story of our special day anywhere else, and because it was the official happily ever after kick-off, I thought it would be appropriate to share it here.

First, let me just confess that I actually hated wedding planning. It was so stressful and overwhelming! There's so much pressure out there to have the "perfect" day and I think it got the best of me. I remember the pastor greeting me when I arrived at the church minutes before the ceremony started and me saying something along the lines of "okay okay, let's just do this. Let's just get this over!" I think my fists were even clenched like a boxer's. I would've run down that aisle if they'd let me, I was so eager for the whole shebang to be over and done with. 

Despite all the stress, our wedding day was beautiful. Once the music started and I began that slow stroll down the aisle toward my groom, all the chaos began to fade away and it was just us again. But I'll get to that part in another post. First, let's start at the beginning, with the stationary - 

We got engaged in early January and set our wedding date for early July. We decided to have a medium-size wedding with about 75 guests and, in addition to our home city of Vancouver, our guest list included friends and family from Montreal, Taiwan, Japan, England and California. With only six months before the big day, we had to hurry and get invites out as early as possible so people could make necessary travel plans. 

I found all of our wedding stationary, and even a calligrapher, online through Etsy. We went with cursive fonts and a simple damask design. Our wedding colors with gray, yellow and purple ... there was no purple on the stationary, but it was the color we chose for my bridesmaids' dresses - 

I decided not to go with matching bridesmaids dresses. Instead, I gave all the girls a color swatch and let them find and choose a dress that they liked. It worked out perfectly! Each lady picked out a gorgeous dress and, without planning it, they all ended up with knee-length dresses with some ruching around the bodice. If you aren't married yet I highly recommend you consider doing this with your bridesmaids. The girls loved being able to pick a dress that reflected their personality and that they will be able to wear again and again. As you can see, they looked great ...

To save money, we decided to do most of the floral arrangements ourselves. The only arrangements that were made a professional florist were my bouquet and my maid of honor's (my sister) bouquet. Everything else ... the bridesmaids bouquets, the reception centerpieces ... were made with love by my mom and bridesmaid Jessica the day before the wedding! The florist wanted $45 per bridesmaid bouquet and about $300 for the centerpieces; we ended up making all four bouquets AND all ten centerpieces for about $150.

The bridesmaids' bouquets had yellow lilies, pink orchids and baby's breath. They were wrapped in silver sparkly ribbon that I got for a buck at the dollar store. We saved a lot of money but it was VERY time consuming ... to future brides: if you're doing your own flowers, go with something super simple and make sure you have a team of people who can tackle the project for you the day before. 

As for my bouquet, I went with yellow & purple orchids and stephanotis with rhinestones in the center. I'd made a binder of wedding inspiration back in high school and, amazingly, the only thing from that binder that I still really, really wanted was this bouquet. 

My Dad passed away three months before we got engaged. I decided to put some of his ashes in a little vial and attach that to my bouquet ... that way, he still walked me down the aisle. Of all the personal touches we included on our big day, that one was definitely my favorite. I wish he could have been there in person, but I know for a fact he was in spirit. 

Alrighty, that's it for today! I'll post part two next week with a special focus on my dress :)

Happy Sunday!

the struggle of contentment ...

Friday, January 25, 2013

One of the things I struggle with most is contentment. It's not that I'm unhappy - quite the opposite, really; this season of life has been incredibly joy-filled and continues to be. I genuinely love my life, it's just that there's always that anticipation in my heart for more ... for the next phase ... for greater, bigger, better. I'm sure there are lots of definitions for the word "content" but, for me, it means being satisfied. It means having your heart in a place where you are able to look at your life and think "yup. This is enough. This is more than enough. There may be better but if this is all I get, then I am blessed."

Oh sure, there are areas where it's easy to find contentment. I am perfectly content with my husband, thank you very much, and I'm not looking to trade him in for someone better because I believe I've already got the best guy on the planet! But then there are other areas where being at a place of true contentment would be nothing short of a miracle. My hips, for example. I am far from content with my body, and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

When it comes to contentment, one area where I've found myself struggling is with our current home and living arrangements. We are SO crazy blessed to have a two-bedroom apartment in our favorite part of the city. If you're familiar with Vancouver real estate at all then you know that it's not cheap to live here. To have found such a great apartment at such an affordable price is incredible. We're still putting finishing touches on our home's decor and there's still work to be done but, overall, we've got a darn good thing going on here.

Friends come over and tell us how fortunate we are to have so much space and even a balcony!  My girlfriends tell me often how much they love what I've done with the place. This home is more than enough for the two of us ... and still, every now and then I let discontentment creep into my spirit.

I whine about how unfair it is that my Montreal friends pay less in mortgage than we pay in monthly rent. I think about how inconvenient it will be when we have a baby and we need to move our office into the living room area ("will there even be enough space for that? Probably not. It's gonna look terrible!") When I'm elbow-deep in soap spuds doing dishes I find myself wishing we had a dishwasher. The neighbours upstairs are too loud, the guy next door smokes pot, the laundry room is always occupied and for crying out loud we can't even see the snow-capped mountains from our dining room!! (The fact that we can see them from our balcony often goes unmentioned and unappreciated)

For the past few months I've been dreaming and scheming about how awesome life will be when we buy our condo or townhouse. In doing so, I've been completely missing out on the joys this current apartment offers. I'm so thankful that my heart has been changing, albeit slowly, and that I've been appreciating our home more and more. The more I consciously tell myself to be content, the more blessings I notice and the more loveable, cozy quirks I find. This is home, and it is wonderful. Imperfect, but wonderful.

Contentment. It's a great lens through which to see. And now if only I could get a hold on my body image issues ...

High tea at the prettiest patisserie ...

Saturday, January 19, 2013
For Christmas, my husband gave me a little certificate which said I'd be having high tea in January at Patisserie Fur Elise, a new French pastry shop downtown. It was the PERFECT gift because I've been dying to check this place out for months. 

The patisserie is in a lovely Queen Anne-style Victorian heritage house. It's gorgeously decorated, with round wood tables and plush, comfy chairs. The teacups are exquisite, as you can see from the photo above, and there are crystal chandeliers everywhere. I truly felt like I was a princess sipping tea in my urban chateau. We found out from our waitress that the patisserie was actually a wedding gift from a generous groom to his pastry chef bride. He gave her carte blanche and she designed the entire shop from scratch, ordering custom-made chairs and tables and fabrics. I think that's incredibly romantic! I wish I had taken some photos of the building and the tea room but I got really distracted by all the delicious treats coming out to our table. 

Treats like these ...

We started off choosing tea from the tea menu (I chose an award-winning black tea from Taiwan; Alan selected a rooibos tea) and then our food was brought out. It was a great mix of sweet and savoury: croissants, whipped mousse, French macarons, scones and the most amazing cucumber dill sandwich. I've been to high tea before but this was Alan's first high tea experience. I think he was a little taken aback by the pink decor and the extremely girly feel of the place, but in the end the amazing food won him over. 

Everything was delish, but that little pastry in front (pink with the white chantilly cream) was my favorite. Strawberry mousse that was so light I could've easily eaten a dozen in one sitting! Luckily for me, they aren't just a tea room .. they also sell pastries in their shop, including full-size ones of all the desserts shown above. I'm sure I'll be back several times - for the high tea and to pick up a few take-home treats when I need a pick-me-up.

If you're in the Vancouver area you should definitely check them out:  Patisserie Fur Elise, 847 Hamilton Street (one block from Robson). Reservations recommended. 

January Goals .... And A Notebook

Thursday, January 17, 2013
Okay, so I have this little addiction to stationary ... specifically notebooks, journals and agendas. I have dozens of them scattered throughout our home, most of which have never been used, but I just can't stop myself from adding to my collection. There's something about a blank notebook (especially one with a pretty cover) that screams creativity. It's like they call out to me as I walk past and promise that brilliant ideas and poetic prose will come to me if I just add them to my shopping cart. And like a sucker I fall for it, every.single.time.

When I spotted this lovely agenda on Etsy my heart skipped a beat ... 

Pretty cover? Check. Lots of space to schedule in appointments and coffee dates? Check. Fun space to document goals for the month? Check. Affordable? Ummmm not so much at $35 plus shipping. *sigh* I shall covet from a distance. 

So, instead of recording my monthly goals in loopy cursive writing in that nice kraft notebook with the gorgeous cover (yup! still coveting!) I'll just jot them down here. There's only two weeks left of January, so I'm a little behind on the whole monthly goal making thing, but better late than never right?! My goals are pretty simple ... which is a good thing since I've only got 14 days to accomplish them ... 

1. Get more photographs / artwork up on our walls. Currently, we only have 3 framed photos in our living room. We have HUNDREDS of photos from our wedding, honeymoon, recent trip to Hawaii, etc so there's no excuse to not display a few more of them. 

2. Cook something in our new slow cooker. We got a slow cooker for Christmas from my sister and my husband's been rocking it! He made a beef curry stew the other night that was *to die for* ...  I, on the other hand, have yet to use it. Delicious meals that pretty much cook themselves? I really need to get into this.

3. Start a prayer journal. I've been reading an amazing book called The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears. It's a fantastic read, which I'll share more about in another post, and one of the things the author recommends is keeping a prayer journal. So often we get all worked up about the prayers that seem to have gone unanswered that we miss all the ones that do get answered. The book illustrates how amazing it is to look through your journal and marvel at the unexpected ways God chooses to bless us. It's also neat to see how our prayers evolve ... sometimes we start praying for one thing and end up praying for something completely different. This has happened to me many, many times.

So those are the goals for the next few days. Welcome 2013! You shall be fabulous.


A New Year, Another Chance

Saturday, January 12, 2013
The bus that I take to work each morning passes by a church that always has the best quotes on its outdoor message board. This week, the sign read: A New Year, Another Chance To Get It Right.

I LOVE that.

It's such an optimistic way of approaching the next 365 days and it applies to so many areas of my life. I am a hardcore resolutions girl - I make them every year, I break them every year, then I make them all over again the following year vowing to do better. This year, for the first time in probably forever, I didn't sit down and make a detailed list of goals to accomplish ... partly because I was traveling home from Hawaii and was jet-lagged and distracted but mostly because, really, all the goals and resolutions I've ever set in my life boil down to the same thing: I just want to get it right.

This year, I'm approaching the whole resolutions thing with more grace and flexibility than I have in years past. The focus is going to be on consciously taking steps in the right direction, rather than checking off a specific goal from my life's never ending to-do list. One step at a time is my new mantra, and taking baby steps in the right direction is my aim for 2013. For me, "getting it right" means making healthier food choices, exercising more, being more patient (with others + with myself) and writing more. I was born with a writer's heart ... this incessant need to dream on paper ... but somewhere along the way I lost touch of that. It's time to start dreaming again, and I'm hoping this blog will be a tool for me to do that.

This isn't my first attempt at blogging. I kept a diary from the age of eleven to the age of seventeen, and began writing a blog (which, really, is just an electronic diary) about five years ago. It started out as a craft blog where I posted photos of all my creative endeavors; then it slowly evolved into a whatever-I-feel-like-writing-about-today kind of blog. I never had many readers and most of my posts had no comments or feedback, but I didn't care because I was writing for myself. Unfortunately, I stumbled into a bad case of writers' block and the number of days between blog posts became longer and longer until eventually I wasn't really writing anything at all. I closed the blog and, months later, started a new food/cooking blog that never really took off ... probably because I'm actually not a very good cook and much prefer EATING food than I do WRITING about it. So, long story short, I closed the door on blogging and went on my merry way.

I didn't think about blogging again until a few weeks ago when I re-read some of my old blog entries. I have such detailed reflections on my time in university, the decision making process that eventually lead me to move out west, my first few months living in my new city. That season of my life is documented with sincere entries that I poured my heart into writing and re-reading those posts took me back to a time and place I'd already forgotten. But then it just stops. Entries about my courtship with my now-husband are few and far between. Posts about our engagement and wedding planning are virtually non-existent. Our honeymoon? Our first-month anniversary? Our first big fight as a newlywed couple? Nope, no posts on any of that. There's just silence ...

That realization made me incredibly sad. The rest of the world wide web might not care where my husband and I went on our first few dates or what I ate or what I wore ... but I care. I might be the only one interested in how we adjusted to living together as newlyweds, but shouldn't I be writing about the things that I care about? Isn't that the whole point? I don't want our newlywed life to go undocumented. I want my future pregnancies to be recorded with more than a monthly bump photo. I want there to be a written history of our family as it grows and blossoms into something precious; I want our adventures and trials to be forever preserved. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now I want to be able to re-read the things I wrote and smile at how far we've all come.

So, that's the goal. I openly admit that at times this blog will be completely presumptuous and self-absorbed. If you choose to read along, you can expect lots of self pep talks and "woe is me, the sky is falling" and lots of photos taken with my camera's ten-second timer and TONS of grammatical errors. But you can also expect honesty and open sharing. Promise. Pinky swear.

Hopefully 2013 will be the year that I finally "get it right" as a blogger. One step, one blog entry at a time.