From “Oi” to “Hi”

It’s a funny feeling coming back from time abroad. You’re immediately flown out of the comfortable and thrown into a new culture, a different language, new sights, sounds and people. Then all of a sudden you’re comfortable again in your new environment. Your ears get used to the foreign language, you start to feel at home even though the food, the businesses, the people, the weather is entirely different from what you’re used to. But you have no other choice but to get comfortable because you just sat on 3 different planes for over 13 hours and are halfway across the world now.

It really is a beautifully, scary thing to think about how quickly the human body and mind becomes acquainted and unacquainted. How it feels connected and then entirely disconnected.

I remember so vividly walking off the plane in Sao Paulo, Brazil thinking, “Holy crap, I’m not in America anymore!” NO ONE spoke English. I was by myself in a foreign airport and the culture shock hit me square in the face. I was clearly far from comfortable but at the same time it energized me, challenged me to step out and get familiar.

When I arrived in my final destination, Curitiba, my stomach had butterflies as I followed the crowd to pick up my baggage and attempt to find my host who was supposed to be standing at arrivals holding a sign with my name on it. Sure enough, she was there and she embraced me with a hug that allowed a few of the butterflies to fly away.

I had no time to decide if I should trust her or not. I just trusted her because she was all I had. On our way home from the airport she started to point out landmarks and we started to communicate. Her broken English with a strong Portuguese accent was initially hard to understand and my perfectly American English was difficult for her to comprehend. But we quickly learned how to communicate effectively. I started using hand motions, posing questions in different ways, speaking slower, repeating. And I suddenly got used to her accent and could understand what she was trying to communicate. Those unfamiliar landmarks, that were at first almost too much for my eyes and brain to take in, started to become normal. We’d pass things multiple times and I’d remember, “Oh that’s the theater that used to be an old gunpowder factory!”. The street signs and names on buildings started to make more sense based on context and familiarity of words.

Curitiba, Brazil was starting to feel like home.

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Theater that used to be an old gunpowder factory!

I associate the term “feeling at home” with the people you’re surrounded by. If you surround yourself with people you love, people you feel connected with, people who make you feel comfortable, you feel at home. Not a geographical location but a feeling of connectedness and belonging. That’s what “home” feels like.

It happened so quickly in Brazil. Living with a family just made me feel like part of their own within days. Brazilians are some of the most gracious, hospitable people I’ve ever met. I just feel in love with life there.

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Enjoying a traditional Brazilian BBQ

Just as soon as my mind, body and spirit felt acclimated with my new surroundings, it was time to go. Rushing into familiarity and connectedness and rushed right back out of it.

My amazing host, Ivete dropped us off at the airport and we said our “See you later’s” through teary-eyed hugs. A week I would never forget with people I would never forget.

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My host, Ivete and me at the Botanical Gardens

Just as quickly as I was immersed into the Brazilian culture, I was thrown back into American culture. When I walked off the plane in Toronto, Canada, a security officer asked me a question in English and for a moment my brain wasn’t telling my mouth to speak because I was so used to not understanding what was being said. I had to tell my brain, “Carly, you can use your words now!” I could suddenly do all the same everyday things I normally do like answer people’s questions, order coffee at the cafe, start small talk with someone at the airport. All things that were impossible in Brazil without assistance.

“It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.” – Selma Lagerlof

I really knew I was back in America when I landed in my final destination, Detroit. My dad was there to pick me up in his Chevy Silverado pick-up truck. Yea, not a thing in Brazil.

In the days that followed my return to the States, I was surrounded by family and friends for Thanksgiving holiday and the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game (Go Bucks!) and I really do love this time of year but it just seemed like too much. I had just learned so much about a new people, a new place, a new culture and I was yearning to share it with others but reality hit. You really can’t get much more American than Thanksgiving, eating until you can’t possibly eat another bite. And football, screaming at the TV over a silly game that somehow causes young and old men alike to suffer from multiple heart palpitations  within a span of a few hours. From one extreme to another.

Not only was I thrown back into American culture way too quickly but I also started to realize how disconnected I felt from all my friends and family in the States. What had they been doing the past week? What did I miss? I feel like a bad friend. Oh gosh, do I even have friends? I also began to think about my responsibilities at work. Crap, I still have that job I need to pay the bills. 100 emails?! How will I ever get caught up? REALITY HIT.

Day by day, I start feeling more acquainted and connected to my new, old environment. I feel more comfortable with reality and start to re-connect the pieces of my life that were so quickly obliterated in Brazil. However, as I put together the pieces this time, they fit together in a new way. I’m not in Brazil anymore but that experience will never leave me. Before I left, I was missing pieces. Now, I move forward into the life God has for me, bringing with me just a few missing pieces that He allowed me to bring back from Brazil. Missing pieces that will continue to shape me, grow me, teach me and hopefully allow me to influence others.

A Look Back at 2014 in Blog Life

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog! It’s so exciting to look back on 2014 and reflect on all the life experiences I’ve had. I also didn’t realize how many different countries my readers came from.

Have a very happy New Year!!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The pain in my butt!

The title of this blog isn’t a saying used to describe a nagging wife or a battered, old car. No, this is literal. This is the story about the pain in my butt.

About two weeks ago, I started noticing a pain located right around my tailbone. I was still completing my 1/2 marathon training runs and participating in boot camp classes on my lunch hour. However, each day, the pain grew worse and worse. After finishing a 10 mile run, I felt tired and ready to sit down and rest. That day my body didn’t want me to sit down. The pain had gotten even worse. The next couple of days I could barely walk, let alone run. I created a standing desk at work just so I didn’t have to sit on my tailbone all day!

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I am still strong, despite my setback

Finally, the pain got to be so bothersome that I started asking my running coach, my co-workers and my family what could be wrong. After explaining the area of the pain and the severity of the pain, my running coach was certain it was caused by wearing two different pairs of running shoes while training. The same thing had happened to her earlier in the running season. Just a sore tailbone that needed ice and rest. I thought for certain that was why the pain was happening because I, indeed, had been wearing two different pairs of shoes depending on my mileage for the day.

The next weekend came and I was heading back to my hometown, Toledo, to attend family events. That two and half hour drive home was UNCOMFORTABLE to say the least. When I got home I was almost in tears and immediately laid down and iced my butt!

Pushing through the pain!

The next morning, my lovely mother, who against my will, took a photo of my rear end, finally solved the mystery! We sent the photo to my sister, a nurse practitioner and she knew immediately what it was. A pilonidal cyst had formed right in between my cheeks! But, the cyst had developed into an extremely painful and infected abscess.This is caused by an ingrown hair and bad hygiene (aka my lunch hour sweaty workout classes without showering!) My sister ordered me to get to the doctor immediately to get the abscess drained.

By the time I arrived at the general surgeons office at Toledo Hospital, I didn’t care what it took, I wanted the abscess drained! I’ll spare you the gory details but what was to follow was the most excruciating pain of my life! Two numbing shots in the rear that didn’t necessarily do their job, lots of yelling and tears and a whole lot of pain later, the abscess was drained of its infection and it had been packed with a medicated string to keep the infection from returning. Not only was the drainage immense physical pain, I was also experiencing emotional pain thinking about the months and months of training I had completed for my 1/2 marathon. Thinking about the race and the possibility that I might be on the sidelines cheering instead of lined up at the start. I had worked so hard and this stupid abscess was keeping me from reaching my goal!

Upon leaving the hospital, I started thinking more about the concept of pain. I really had never experienced pain like that, ever in my life. Then I started thinking about how lucky I was. Good lord, I had a 20 minute painful procedure. I wasn’t dying. I still had all 4 limbs. I still had a job, an incredible family, a roof over my head, a healthy body. I had so many things to be thankful for in the midst of the pain!

Continuing to ponder the concept of pain, I realized that the pain I had just been through was nothing. I started to think about the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House who have a young child enduring months and months of chemotherapy, doctors appointments, traveling, financial hardships. That’s pain. I thought about Jesus suffering on the cross for our sins. That’s pain. I thought about those that have lost a loved one from a horrible car accident. That’s pain. I thought about that paralyzed soldier that fought courageously for his country. That’s pain.

By the time I pulled into the driveway, I realized that the pain I had experienced was meager compared to the pain of this world. Life is all about perspective. I am thankful for that painful, infected abscess on my booty. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on pain in this life. I have been so fortunate not to have experienced much pain. I’ve realized that I’m not unstoppable. I need to take care of myself, even at a young, thriving age. A change of undies, baby wipes and more showers are in my future to say the least! (Uh, I really hate showers!) God has given me an incredible body, capable of incredible things. God also puts little roadblocks in your life (like pilonidal abscess’s on your butt) to grow you, teach you and equip you for the challenges that life brings.

I will leave you with one final thought. My best friend just sent me a very timely get well soon card that included a verse from Corinthians that really embodies this entire blog post:

“So we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Lessons from Half Marathon Training

Since this blog’s titled EnduRANce, I thought I’d actually write a post about running. I’ve been training since June for the Nationwide Children’s Columbus 1/2 Marathon in October. I train with an amazing group of friends and runners every Thursday evening and Saturday morning who are also fundraising for my current place of work: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned on my training journey:

1. Running allows for deep thought. 

Most people run and listen to music or run and talk to someone. I usually run and listen to the same 11 songs that are currently on my iPhone over and over again. However, sometimes it’s nice to leave your iPod, texting conversations, favorite music, the world, etc. behind for a bit and spend some time thinking about your life. I’ve done some of my deepest, reflective thinking during my long runs. This past weekend I ran my longest mileage yet, 11 miles, with nothing on me besides my car key. It actually felt pretty amazing to run with me, my thoughts and nature. Try it sometime!

2. The human body is an incredible machine. 

God has blessed the human race with an incredible body. One that can run miles upon miles, endure military bootcamp, push itself past physical limits, recover from a serious illness or injury or sit on the couch and eat chips all day. Training for my half marathon has exposed me to runner’s incredible stories of perseverance like running 100 miles in 42 hours. That’s insane! When I participate in races, even 5k’s, I often get emotional watching so many human bodies fight to keep going. I don’t know what it is but it just gives me the chills and makes me feel so strong and thankful for the body I have! We have a choice to take care of our bodies or slowly destroy them. Taking care of them leads to greater blessings!

3. Running is a great way to see new places.

As dreadful as a run on vacation sounds, it’s a great way to see a new place! I not only ran around a beautiful lake in Cadillac, Michigan during a family vacation but I also have done my fair share of sightseeing in Columbus on my own two feet! I take every chance I can get to run somewhere instead of drive. It’s much cheaper and better for you. Plus, nothing beats discovering a new place on foot. Maybe even take time to stop and smell the roses! 

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4. Training for a half marathon means eating dessert guilt free.

Who doesn’t love a rich and decadent dessert every once in a while? I have a major sweet tooth and I don’t feel as bad about that considering I just got done running 10 or so miles. It might catch up with me in 20 years but for now, I feel okay about indulging in an ice cream sundae or this incredible Mexican brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (pictured below) on occasion. 

 

 

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5. Training can lend itself to new friendships

Through my involvement in a training and fundraising team, I’ve not only been able to run for a cause greater than myself, I’ve also been able to meet new people and develop new friendships. What’s better than making new friends while getting fit? It’s pretty easy to make friends with a runner because you instantly have something in common. Plus, running’s usually better with a friend to keep you motivated!

That’s about it for now! I could go on but I don’t want to bore my readers and I’m ready to bed. Running all the time makes me tired!

The Case of the Floating Nike Flyknit’s

As I waded through my dark, damp (very damp), apartment with my roommate and a kind neighbor, I was pleasantly surprised to find my beloved Nike running shoes floating on top of the water in my flooded bedroom. I picked them up and they were bone dry. 

You might be asking yourself why my shoes were FLOATING in the first place. Well, I moved into my new apartment on a Saturday. I moved out of my new and very wet apartment on a Tuesday. That Tuesday was also my second day of work at the Ronald McDonald House! 

This is why I moved out: (to an apartment on the UPPER level!)

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My room after the flood

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My living room and kitchen after the flood

I was able to salvage most of the belongings in my room except for my mattress and bed frame. My roommate’s mom did countless loads of laundry to take the smell out of my roommate and I’s wet clothes and sheets. The bottom drawer of my dresser was pretty well saturated but for now, it’s cleaned and still opens. It eventually will need replaced. 

My roommate and I got rid of most of our food and the living room couch was destroyed. Other than that, we salvaged all our kitchen gadgets, including my new stand mixer! Phew!

The incident occurred around 6pm on a Tuesday evening. I was relaxing in my room on my computer when everything happened. My roommate was still on her way home. I first noticed the rain when I looked out my window and saw my poor, BRAND NEW car getting pelted. I snapped a photo planning on sending it to my family. Shortly after that, I heard water running. I thought it was just my roommate using the sink. Much to my dismay, it was water gushing into my apartment through the cracks in the door. My first thought was to stuff towels under my door so the water didn’t get into my room. That thought escaped me fast as I realized the water wasn’t stopping anytime soon. I quickly grabbed my purse, bookbag and laptop, closed my roommate’s door and headed toward the exit. I tried opening the door but it wouldn’t budge. The water pressure was so forceful it probably would have knocked me on my butt anyways! 

The water level up against my door

The water level up against my door

Next thought, I’ll jump out of the window. Next thought, there’s a screen on the window. Final thought, I’ll break it because I’m going to drown. So, that’s what I did. I shoved my purse and bookbag out and lifted myself up out of my living room window. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The street looked like this when I stepped outside: 

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Notice my Honda Civic, the water only inches from leaking into my door! I was more worried about my new car than anything in my apartment. 

Fast forward. The fire trucks arrived and were able to calm the water rushing down the street. I was also able to get my car onto dry land. Several other apartments were affected so the whole neighborhood was out trying to figure out the situation. The water level finally lowered and my roommate and I were able to wade through our flooded apartment to find anything we needed for overnight. Several residents who lived on the upper level helped us carry things to our cars. I was so thankful and overwhelmed by the support of the neighbors! My roommate and I ended up staying at a friend’s house before moving to a new apartment the next day. 

Looking back on the experience, finding those dry Nike Flyknit’s reminded me that no matter how bad you think a situation might be, there’s ALWAYS, ALWAYS something to learn and something positive to take from it. On that day, the simple fact that my running shoes were dry and clean made me happy. 

Now, I’m sitting in my clean, dry apartment on the upper level relaxing after a 3 mile run in my Nike Flyknit’s that once floated in the filthy water of my flooded room. 

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My new, dry bedroom!

I also have a beautiful dry room and a comfy bed to sleep in thanks to my generous Aunt Ruth! I am so thankful for my friends, family, strangers, The American Red Cross, my co-workers and God for getting me through this tough experience that ultimately taught me a great lesson and humbled me. 

Expressing my love through food

Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day weekend. It’s also in our hearts and sometimes even in the food we eat! I have pledged to ALWAYS make something heart-shaped on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day gets a lot of negative publicity. But, come in. Give in and if you aren’t going to show any love for the holiday, at least show your food some love.

Below are two easy to make “Heart-Shaped” recipes to add some love to your Valentine’s Day weekend or any weekend for that matter!

Heart-Shaped Meatloaf

(Recipe adapted from about.com)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Meatloaf:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef and 1 lb. ground turkey (or 2 lbs. meatloaf mix)
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Meatloaf Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard ( I didn’t particularly like this ingredient so if you’re not big on mustard, leave it out)
  • 2 Tbsp. firmly-packed light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with non-stick spray.

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2. Heat onion with olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes until soft. Add minced garlic and cook additional minute.

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3. Add the onion mixture to the ground meats. Add the bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, milk and beaten eggs to the meatloaf mixture. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix well.

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Here’s the finished uncooked product. I promise it tasted good!

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4. Place a large, sturdy heart cookie cutter on the prepared pan, and fill it with the meatloaf mixture. Pat it down firmly and smooth the top, then remove the cookie cutter. Repeat with all of the remaining meatloaf mixture, leaving 1-2 inches of space between the meatloaves on the baking sheet.

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5. Mix together all ingredients for the glaze.

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6. Use a pastry brush (I used a wooden spoon) to brush the glaze onto the heart-shaped meatloaf. Then cook for 20-30 minutes until meat is fully cooked.

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Enjoy with your best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, Mom or Dad. As long as it’s someone you love!

Now, for dessert!

Heart-Shaped Peanut Butter Brownies

I cheated on this one and used Betty Crocker’s Peanut Butter Brownie mix.

All you need is:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil

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Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Pour into baking dish and bake according to box directions.

(Mine took about 38 minutes and they were still doughy, just the way I like them!)

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Let brownies cool completely and then use a cookie cutter to cut out a heart shape. (I used the same cookie cutter from the meatloaf recipe)

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Might I suggest serving your brownie warm paired with a scoop of Jeni’s Buckeye State ice cream. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Enjoy filling your food with love this Valentine’s Day and everyday!

XOXO, Carly

Super Bowl XLVIII: Healthy Edition

Typically, Super Bowl parties are synonymous with greasy chicken wings, pizza, chips and dip, cookies and maybe a veggie tray here and there. Needless to say, if you’re on a diet or simply trying to maintain healthy eating habits…you’re gonna starve.

Tonight I made broccoli cheese bites that are perfect to munch on during the game while being health conscious. They’re not just healthy, they’re delicious,cheesy and so simple.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 package of frozen, chopped broccoli (thawed and drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

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All you’ll need are these 6 inexpensive ingredients!

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Add all the ingredients into one large mixing bowl.

Use your clean hands to mix all ingredients together and form small patties.

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Place the patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Place in over for 15 minutes, flip patties and cook an additional 15 minutes.

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The end result is crispy yet cheesy broccoli bites that you won’t regret having seconds of!

Enjoy the game!

Recipe adapted from Stacy Snacks blog