Posted by: charityliz | October 4, 2013

adventures in name-changing

Like most girls I know [who like to think of themselves as modern and independent, but deep down have a soft spot for old-fashioned traditions], when it came to getting married and changing my name, I always just assumed I’d take on the lucky-guy’s last name. Unless, of course, it was something that sounded awful with my first name, like, say…. "Kase". Luckily this was not a problem. Nevertheless I was surprised to realize how much emotion came up when I actually needed to sign on the dotted line and decide if I would drop my beloved last name – FOREVER! I mean, it almost felt like abandoning a form of my identity, namely the part of me that gets to claim all the cool Italian-American stereotypes. My husband-to-be even encouraged me to think about keeping my name and just adding his with a hyphen. Eventually though, I found my "center" again and realized that I had always wanted to change my last name as a symbol of my new and lasting connection to another soul for life. And so I changed it.

And [cue romantic music] they all lived happily ever after. The end. ūüėÄ

NOT!

Now as I’m dealing with the aftermath of that decision (i.e. trips to the social security and DVM offices, and countless calls to various vendors), I’m finally beginning to truly consider what this new name is all about. And don’t ask me why I didn’t think to do this any sooner, but today was the first day that I actually googled my new name. And I found that which I least expected…

an aspiring model.

Yep. Just what I need. Not just someone to share my name, but someone who has effectively staked her claim with our name on every possible social media and marketing site out there– just waiting for that big break! Creating a new email address with what I thought would be a unique name? — forget it! She’s already got that address plus a somewhat suggestive photo to go along with it!

Loving Disclaimer: This post in no way signifies my feelings about my budding marriage. I still love my dear husband and wouldn’t trade his name for anything (including even more trips to those horribly inefficient government offices). ūüėČ

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Posted by: charityliz | September 10, 2013

embracing life

My dad texted me this precious picture of my mom and nieces today, and as soon as a I saw it my heart was filled with joy and deep gratitude. And, of course, I couldn’t help but blog [i.e. gush] about it.

Just over two years ago, Mom was diagnosed with metastatic cancer; that big girl on the right in this photo was only a couple months old at the time, and she was Mom’s first and only grand-baby. We (our family) and the doctors didn’t know what was going to happen with Mom, but we started praying for God’s healing and we prayed for the doctors to have wisdom on her treatment and for Mom to have strength and hope…and for God’s will. It’s been a long road, with plenty of challenges, but we keep on praying…and here she is over two years later – with another grand-baby in her arms! And there’s even a third one that also joined the family about a year ago (not shown in this photo)! It’s incredible to me that my mom is truly embracing life now, and it reminds me of the scripture:

"Since his days have been determined, the number of months is known to you. You’ve set his limit and he cannot exceed it." – Job 14:5

And so I praise God for the life He gives and even the limits He sets. Knowing that He determines the number of our days and that He is good, I choose to trust Him for continued healing, and ultimately for His will to be done in our lives.

Posted by: charityliz | September 5, 2013

What was I thinking?!

Looking back on my last blog post, I now see how I was in a pool of emotion on the heals of my pending wedding day…and to some, it may have read as if I was not quite so sure about leaving the single world to become a wife. FOREVER.

But now that I’m on the other side, and I’ve seen it through a month (granted, most of it has been honeymoon bliss), I really can’t think of anything else to say, but WHAT WAS I THINKING?! Why did I have even an ounce of fear?!! Marriage is great! Jason is amazing! And as I suspected, God is still good.

And, speaking of marriage, while I would love to sit here and blog away about our adventures in Hawaii and the challenges and joys of moving into our first home together, and the not-so-glamorous return to the work world… I’m finding that time is now a shared commodity. And so, the blog will have to wait until next time….

– Mrs. CharityLiz

Posted by: charityliz | July 27, 2013

the end of an era

This is my last Saturday with coffee in bed as a single woman, and since it’s often been one of my favorite times to reflect on life and blog a bit, I am inspired to pause (which is quite challenging with wedding stuff swamping my brain) and appreciate the moment.

Recently my dear friend wrote about her engagement, relating it to a song that I’ve always loved that I learned back in college when I was in the Gospel Choir — I’ve got a Testimony. And today that song is running through my head as well, like a sweet song of joy rising up from my soul, reminding me to reflect and testify!

As I look back over my life
And I think things over
I can truly say that I’ve been blessed
I’ve got a testimony!

As I look back over my life
And I think things over
I can truly say that He’s brought me all the way.
I’ve got a testimony!

My testimony today is that I’ve been through many seasons of life–I’ve had friends, and I’ve been lonely. I’ve moved to new places, I’ve been stuck in places, I’ve started new jobs and sometimes they’ve been really hard or boring, and sometimes I’ve loved them. I’ve joined new churches and prayed new prayers, and old ones too. I’ve had heartache and I’ve wondered why God allows so much pain and why He heals, but not always. I’ve enjoyed so many great adventures, and I’ve found my happy place in the outdoors over and over again. I’ve started new hobbies and then lost them. I’ve journaled and then stopped and then started again, and blogging seems to be the same way. I’ve been a cool kid and I’ve been an outsider. I’ve been insecure, and then I’ve found confidence. I’ve watched my family grow, and on holidays I’ve gone from being at the "kids table" to being an Auntie. I’ve found great wisdom in books and in mentors. Over and over again, I’ve been inspired by the words found in the Bible and then by people who have faith and live in a way that makes those words come alive to me. Sometimes I have that kind of faith and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m selfish (OK, a lot of times)…and there are also a lot of times where my joy comes in taking care of others. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve hurt people, and I’ve experienced sweet forgiveness and redemption. I get excited about new things, and I also can be really afraid of the unknowns in the future. I’ve gone years without going on a date, and then I’ve been on some random ones, and then I’ve fallen in love!

All of these little seasons have happened within a bigger season, or more like an era of life, which I have become so fond of–singleness.

The seasons we go through and the ebb and flow of life is beautiful, but also challenging and incredibly mysterious, in the sense that I never know quite what the next season or era will bring. But my testimony is that my God has been with me through all those seasons and I am absolutely confident that He will be with me through all the coming seasons! He’s been the rock, the one steadfast source of peace, hope and love– which is there regardless of who I am or what I’m going through.

And although this is just another Saturday with Him in my life, I’m also at the brink of a new era — marriage! I’m excited and I’m feeling blessed and lucky to have a partner to experience seasons with me! And (honestly) at times I get a little fearful thinking about the challenges that will also inevitably come our way. But if this era of marriage is anything like my era of singleness, I have nothing to fear and everything to hope for!

Hallelujah!
Give thanks to the Lord,
for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1

Posted by: charityliz | April 8, 2013

engaged!

A little over two years ago I met a guy at a little Mexican taqueria– ¬†errr, ok, ok…we actually met online and¬†then¬†we met at the taqueria. ūüėČ He knew I was special, and I knew he was nice, so we went out a few more times. Fun fact: he was that guy I was with during my infamously embarrassing¬†“mystery liquid”¬†date! That was just the beginning…
After another date or two, we decided to be “just friends”…and that lasted for a long time. And we became good friends. Then he went to France to study for 9 months. I missed him and he missed me, so five months later he came back for a visit and decided he ought to start dating me, lest I get swiped up by someone else! I was thrilled.
Fast forward through a year of dating (i.e. many joys and challenges of relationship-building and lots of sweet adventures together). On our way to visit my family for Easter, he decided to turn a family day into a once-in-a-lifetime day. ¬†The setting was perfect– a warm and sunny afternoon in the picturesque town of Paso Robles. We started with a relaxing lunch at a lovely¬†French bistro¬†and then went wine tasting at a¬†beautiful winery¬†just a few minutes outside of town. At special moments in the afternoon, he presented me with a series of three love notes, titled¬†Faith,¬†Hope¬†and¬†Charity— each an expression of a theme in our relationship and a reminder of God’s work in our lives. Then, at just the right moment, with the vineyards as a backdrop, he presented me with the ring that I had wanted, and he asked the question that I was anticipating. And of course, I said¬†Yes!¬†It was a fantastic moment for both of us. I will always cherish it.
Then we went to my brother’s home just a few minutes away, and we were greeted by my immediate family, who I expected to be there for Easter. But I was so excited to see them I could barely contain myself long enough to give them all hugs and then I just exclaimed,¬†I’m engaged!!¬†Of course they already knew because Jason had made sure they would be there to celebrate with us. But the real surprise was when his parents popped out of the living room at that moment. ¬†I was shocked to see them, and absolutely amazed at the beauty of having our families together to celebrate with us. And that’s what we did for the rest of the weekend!
Jason gave me more than I could have ever asked for in a proposal — a thoughtful, romantic and private day in wine country, celebrating the love that God has given us, followed by celebration with both of our families. It was perfect.
Looking back over my many years of being¬†single and thriving, I marvel at how God seemed to know that one day I would also be thriving with a man by my side. It’s still a bit of a mystery to me that God was able to orchestrate our lives so that we would meet and grow together in just the right timing. I could never have written this beautiful story for myself, and once again, as with many things in my life, I’m humbled and incredibly grateful that God is far more creative at authoring my life than I could ever be!

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Posted by: charityliz | February 15, 2013

dating

WARNING: this post could be a bit obnoxious to anyone who’s not romantic, or just plain sick of hearing sappy love stories.¬† Stop here if that’s you!

I have many friends that are happily married and can attest to the beautiful (and often challenging) experience of married life, but one common piece of advice that I’ve received from nearly all of them is to enjoy the “dating phase” while I have it.¬† And I have to say, that’s great advice!¬† Yesterday was a fine example of the joys that come with “just dating”.

First off, it was my first Valentine’s Day in which I could actually claim that I had a Valentine. And that’s not just because I got unlucky every February.¬† It was because I was completely and utterly single until I was 32.¬† And while my single years were sprinkled with a few random dates, I was definitely a solidly solo, albeit thriving girl for all those years!

So I’m no expert on dating, and it’s not all easy…. but since I still consider it a new season in my life, I’m inspired to stop for a moment to reflect on why it’s so good, because yesterday captured it well.

1. Best of both worlds. I woke up pretty excited, and not just because I had a great date to look forward to that night.  The real perk of the morning was putting together little girlie gifts for my sweet and lovely roomies. I love that I got to enjoy the girls like I always have, and also have a special valentine later that night!

2. Anticipation.¬† I liked the build of anticipation all week long, as Jason sent little emails announcing that he’d made reservations for V-Day date and then trying to make me guess where we were going…I didn’t even want to guess because I just LOVE the element of surprise!

3. Dress Up.¬† I rushed home from work, went on a quick jog, and then proceeded to get all dolled-up, as I listened to my favorite Beyonce’ mix on Pandora.¬† Would that even be possible if I was coming home to a man already in the house??¬† I love getting dressed up for special occasions with Jason.¬† And to top it off, he was lookin’ snazzy as well — sport jacket and all.

4. Over & Above.¬† While I would have been more then happy with a rose and a card, my man greeted me with a beautiful rustic bouquet of tulips and a bottle of the fanciest champagne I know of…Veuve Cliequot (I mean, I know there’s lots of fancier champagnes out there, but those are so far out of my league, they might as well be non-existent in my world).

5. Sweet words with a little twist.¬† Jason also gave me a valentine card, composed in French.¬†¬† And although I could only make out a few words at first glance, I just melt at the sight of a love note in French! …and of course, I got to revel in the words later that night with the help of google translate.

6. Playlists. Jason even made a playlist for us to listen to on the way the restaurant… all of a twenty minute drive away. It was many of my favorite romantic country songs, most of which I’ve never mentioned to him. Oh, and he even got his car cleaned so he could pick me up in style!

7. Fancy Food. Our dinner destination was a cute little french restaurant, which brought back fun memories of our time together in Paris last year. We enjoyed a long, relaxing dimly lit meal–which was a lot fancier than we usually have, but the splurge made it special and it was absolutely delish!

8. Kiss good night.  After dinner Jason drove me home, walked me to the door, and kissed me good night like a perfect gentleman.  And then we parted for the evening, my heart smiling.

I realize that great relationships stay great for years to come, but I also have a feeling that things change and it probably gets harder to have “firsts” and surprise each other and pretend like you’re picking someone up for a date when you actually live with them.¬† And so I couldn’t help but just soak up the joy of dating last night, and just thank God for the unique blessings that come with this season.

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Posted by: charityliz | January 22, 2013

auntie

I’ve always wanted to be an auntie.¬† For the past 15 years or so, I’m pretty sure that I’ve spent far more time fantasizing about being an auntie over being a mommy!¬† Not that I’m opposed to being a mommy someday, but being an auntie always seemed simply fabulous to me.¬† And luckily, I was right. This last weekend proved it, as I was in auntie-heaven with my two nieces in my arms!!!

happy auntie

happy auntie

 

auntie with that crazy look in her eyes...they aren't impressed

auntie with that crazy look in her eyes…they aren’t impressed

 

sweet anna

sweet anna

 

snuggle

snuggle

 

checkin' out the surf together

checkin’ out the surf together

 

someday we'll go out on auntie's SUP boards!

someday we’ll go out on auntie’s SUP boards!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: charityliz | December 19, 2012

photo boothin’ with my boo

Can I just say I looooove photo booths? And no matter how many parties and weddings I go to with photo booths, I never get sick of ’em! I’ve had photo booth pics stay on my fridge for years, and they are still my favorite to look at! Jason and I happened to take our first photo booth pictures together last night at my holiday work party, and we both agreed that these shots were some of our best pictures together. (Now, I haven’t quite decided if that’s a good or bad thing, but it is what it is). Either way, I guess we’re both suckers for squeezing in a small box and hammin’ it up for a timed mirror camera — and somehow that captures us. Or, maybe I’m the only true ham, and he’s just willing to get sucked in for the fun of it. But in the end, I think it brings out the comfortable-playful-happy in both of us, and that’s pretty much all it takes for me to have a good time with my boo.

Scan 9-3

Posted by: charityliz | November 25, 2012

an Italian-American confession

While my family may not be the most legit Italian American family, there are two things we take very seriously: Bocci Ball and Spaghetti Sauce. ¬†I’ll save my thoughts on the former for another time and just focus on the spaghetti sauce for today. ¬†Not only is there a sacred family recipe, but it seems that there’s also a “special touch” required to make it just right.¬† Even when using the same recipe, each family member’s version tastes a bit different.¬† My grandma wins on the most consistent…I had her sauce nearly every Sunday afternoon while growing up, and it is unmistakable and reminds me of quality family time.¬† My mom’s sauce is also quite good, but tastes just a bit more tangy & savory than Grandma’s. ¬†And Mom’s sauce wins for the amazing garlic aroma that fills the house when she starts the sauce, and she also wins on the meatball pairing…nobody makes better meatballs soaked in sauce than my momma!¬† However, even with the two matriarchs perfecting the family recipe for years, I have to say that my little brother wins the grand prize for best sauce in my book.¬† Yep– despite the fact that he’s had less experience, sometime during his college years, he really put his talent to the sauce pot and proved that he has that special touch– perfectly thick and stewed tomato sauce!!!¬† Mmmmm, mmm, good!

I, on the other hand, do not score very high when it comes to making the coveted family recipe.¬† Sure, I’ve made it and it tastes alright.¬† But I usually lack the patience to create the perfect saucy effect which requires 6+ hours of simmering ¬†and cooking down.¬† This of course, has put me in a bind, as it is truly against the family morals to buy spaghetti sauce.¬† As matter of fact, it’s a downright shame to get the “store-bought stuff”, as the family calls it.

Now here comes my big confession:

I buy the stuff, I use the stuff, and I actually LIKE the stuff!

And in an attempt to avoid completely shaming my family name, I will now try to defend myself. ¬†The fact is, I found some pretty good stuff!¬† Behold, the Rustico Pomodoro Sauce, by Trader Joe’s….

Not only does this stuff taste almost exactly like my family recipe, but it can be prepared in a fraction of the time for a reasonable price. ¬†It also says something about Naples on the label, so heck — it might even be a family recipe after all! ¬†Furthermore, last weekend I made a batch of¬†Gagoots & Peppers¬†for my boyfriend and one of his buddies. ¬†Gagoots & Peppers¬†is another family recipe which is basically an Italian stew that uses our spaghetti sauce as a base.¬† And if you get the sauce wrong, the whole thing tastes wonky.¬† But ya know what?¬† I tried the Rustico Pomodoro for the first time in this recipe, and I gotta say, there was hardly a difference.¬† And most importantly, the two men in my kitchen (who are admittedly not Italian, but at least claim to appreciate Italian cuisine) thought it was tasty.

I rest my case. ¬†Long live Trader Joe’s!

Posted by: charityliz | November 8, 2012

hit it, girl!

I’ve been hearing a lot of people raving about Zumba for the past couple of years, but still never got around to trying one of the classes at my gym it until tonight. It was a completely spontaneous choice, with very little reason. And let me just say, this class does not disappoint!

Highlights:
* As soon as the music started I could not help but smile, and I’m pretty sure that goofy smile was plastered on my face 90% of the class. The other 10% of the time, I was concentrating too hard to smile, trying desperately to master those sassy moves, albeit looking like a completely uncoordinated dork the whole time; I’m sure of it!

* The woman leading the class was this sassy, young, upbeat, black woman with an endless whirl of smooth energy that flowed out of her body. I was absolutely mesmerized by her rhythm, precision, style and confident attitude. Basically, I’d kill for moves like hers! The more I looked at her, the more I pictured myself looking just as smooth (and then I’d glance at myself in the mirror and I’d have to face reality).

* The soundtrack was amazing– there was everything from hip hop to Top 40 to rumba and salsa, to slow R&B (cool-down song). After each song, I kept telling myself, "OK, time to go…you can barely do these moves, you’re covered in sweat, and you’ve done enough of the class to get a taste"…but then the next song would start to play and I was hooked in again.

and now for my favorite highlight….
* About halfway through the class the instructor moved from her station at the front of the class to the far right wall, where I had strategically tried to hide myself from being noticed. But now she was literally two feet from me, and before I knew it, she was shimmying backwards, shaking her hips and slapping her booty. And all at once, she looked straight at me, screaming, "Hit it girl! Hit it!" — so as to get me to slap my booty as well! I’m not sure if anyone has ever told me with such gusto to "hit it". I was too flustered to hit anything, and I’m sure I looked like a jaw-dropped 11-year old staring back at her, my feet cemented in place, with that goofy grin on my face as she glided past me. It was pretty funny.

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