Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sorry for Slacking

I know you have all been checking my blog multiple times a day wondering what's going on, so I apologize for the lack of blogging lately. : ) Since we aren't traveling throughout Europe anymore, we rarely take pictures. Therefore, this post will be a comprehensive update on the past few months.

I am working full-time at Carrabbas in Houston while taking some weekend classes in Nashville. Yes, I am flying back and forth. Yes, it is a little pricey. Yes, it is tiring at times. BUT, I am so happy to be able to start the program now. I am completing my concentration classes which are in Conflict Resolution. I will graduate with an MBA with a certificate in Conflict Resolution, which is my concentration. Each class is completed in 2 weekends with class all day on Friday and Saturday. The time passes quickly becuase of group exercises, and that also helps keep me awake! I really enjoy working at Carrabbas. My co-workers and customers are great, and I am making the most of this opportunity.

Michael started back to school a couple of weeks ago. He is taking a few classes and has also committed to teach an undergraduate course this year. So, for those of you who may not have made the connection...that means we are living in Houston until May. Speaking of living arrangements, we are still spoiled rotten by the Wrights, who have opened their home to us. It is really neat to see how well this situation is because it has been very smooth and easy. When I say we are living with a family from church, people are surprised that they are not family (but letting us live with them) and that we all get along so well. I don't know if they (the Wrights) will ever know how much we appreciate them, but we'll try to let them know.

I have been in Nashville this weekend, and I am once again reminded of how great it is to be around family and friends. And, I will be back in 4 days for another exciting round of class! That's all for now, and I'll try to have pictures next time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Several weeks ago, Lauren and I embarked on a road trip from Houston to Vegas. You might be wondering if we drove by choice, and the answer is no. Lauren and her boyfriend, Collin are both working in a management program at the Paris and Bally hotels, so it was our job to get Lauren, Sadie (their Chinese Shar-Pei), and Lauren's car to Vegas safely. You may also be wondering if we made the trip in one day, and the answer is no. We graciously took our time driving, and it was surprisingly an easy trip. Now, we were both glad when we finally arrived at her new house, but the journey was fun and memorable.

Once she figured out that we were not just driving around the block, Sadie behaved herself for the most part. Prior to this realization, Sadie was standing in the back seat of the two-door Civic with her head in between mine and Lauren's...not fun for anyone but Sadie. We stopped every few hours so we all remained happy campers, and, without fail, Sadie tried unsuccessfully to sit in the front seat. As we drove through New Mexico and Arizona, our stops became increasingly shorter since the asphalt was ridiculously hot, and Sadie was not interested in having her feet on the ground any longer than absolutely necessary. We enjoyed ourselves during the three day adventure, and I look forward to visits via plane from now on!

Michael and I have been in Houston for almost two weeks now. We are living with a family from church during these last few months in Houston. They graciously offered to "host" us while Michael finishes school, and we are blessed to be treated as part of their family. All is well for us, and I will update more when I can!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Meet Callie

While we were still in Vienna, Sara and David's second daughter, Callie Clark Whitfield, was born. It was sad to miss her delivery, but I met her as soon as I returned to Nashville. She's quite petite and squirmy, but we managed to take a good picture. She will be six weeks old tomorrow and continues to wiggle when you try to hold her.

For those of you who might be wondering, having another niece does not heighten my desire for children just yet. Yes, she's cute, but I like being able to give her back when she's fussy. :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

One Big Field Trip

I've been back in the states for a few weeks now, but I am just now finding the time to post pictures from mine and Richard's European adventure. Between the two of us, way too many pictures were taken, so I'm including the one from each city when we are in the picture. Overall, we had a wonderful time and managed to enjoy ourselves without killing each other. No, it wasn't a close call, but we definitely had our sibling moments. :) This might be a little long, so stick with me here.

Athens was just as beautiful as I remembered, and it was nice to go back to a familiar place. Richard's jet lag was ever-present during these first few days, so sleep came and went at some inconvenient times. However, we persevered and made the most of this historic city. We spent some time each day around the Acropolis, and it was not as hot as we anticipated. The view from the rooftop of the hotel was incredible because we could see the Acropolis illuminated, which made it even better. Communication was somewhat challenging even in the hotel restaurant, so settling for this picture was easier than trying to ask for a different angle that included the Acropolis.

Amsterdam was our favorite city for several reasons. First, the canals and bridges are user friendly, which is different from other canal cities I have visited. Second, communication was easy because most people spoke English. Third, the Euro 2008 matches were about to begin, and they were decorating and gearing up for the festivities. Since we saw how enthusiastic they were, Holland was our team of choice...until they lost. Lastly, the city was easy to navigate. It was small enough to see everything with ease but large enough to still feel like a city. We took a canal tour, which was very unique and fun. Fun fact to know and tell: of the people who live in Amsterdam, the foreigners will soon outnumber those actually born in Amsterdam. Therefore, we ate several different types of food (Indian, Indonesian, Argentinian) and loved them all. The red light district is further down the canal in this picture:

Berlin was another revisited city for me, but I have a completely different perspective this time. In an attempt to see the highlights within this big city, we utilized the hop-on/hop-off bus for a self-guided tour. We stopped at the Brandenburg Gate and ran into one of Michael's friends from Houston (Ben) who was traveling by himself for a few weeks. It was a complete surprise, and we enjoyed his company during our last night in Berlin. We found a great area near a main shopping street with several restaurants where we ate and watched the Euro matches each night.

Our time in Warsaw and Auschwitz was packed full of history lessons. We took a city tour of Warsaw, which was nice since it is not as tourist friendly as other European cities. Did you know that Chopin was from a town near Warsaw? Neither did we until our tour guide (whose English was humorous) showed us a statue they made of him in a city park. In Auschwitz, we spent our afternoon touring the concentration camps. For a place where something so terrible occurred, it now looks very pretty. What an experience to walk through the camp and learn more about the events that took place there. I'm not exactly sure why, but there was a bear exhibit near Old Town in Warsaw where we took advantage of a photo opportunity with the U.S. bear.

You faithful readers may recall my first trip to Prague with David and Sara in January. Well, let's just say I have a new and better opinion of the city after being there in June! We had a magnificent tour guide who made learning about Prague that much better. Since the main attractions weren't too spread out, we walked everywhere. Prague was a close second as far as favorite cities are concerned, and I know the ease of navigation within the city was the main contributing factor.

We returned to Vienna before heading back to the states, and Richard did some solo sightseeing. Since I had a LITTLE packing to do, I had to send him off on his own for the day. He did a great job, and I am so glad we had these few weeks together. Without a doubt, we had some bonding time, and I know we are grateful for it...the good and the bad. :) An older Canadian couple said it best when they described their time in Europe as an extended field trip. My only regret from our trip is that I managed to have a 50 pound backpack, which I had to carry around for 2 weeks. Regardless, our long field trip was a big success!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Last Supper

Appropriately so, I enjoyed Wienerschnitzel as my final meal in Vienna before returning home. Although I've tasted some fine schnitzel over these past nine months, tonight's was especially good. Ben, one of Michael's friends from Houston, came to visit for a few days and joined Michael, Richard, and me for dinner. Having familiar faces with which to share meals makes a big difference for me. Until recently, our family had been the only visitors (which we greatly appreciate), and it's been refreshing to also have friends come and be a part of our life here.

Our ride to the airport train comes in less than 5 hours, and most of the packing is complete. Thankfully, my parents took home two huge suitcases when they came in April. I realize now that there is no way we would be able to haul all of our junk back home without having had their help. Mom and dad, thanks again for lugging our stuff around because I know it wasn't fun. :)

These past two days have consisted of several "lasts," most of which I am glad to see go. Our shower here is less than satisfactory, so, needless to say, I bid good riddance to it this afternoon, and I doubt I will ever look back. I rode on the bus and U-bahn within the city for the last time, and I probably will miss public transportation once I start paying for gas again. However, I will not miss being able to get places in the exact time it takes to more waiting for buses or planning an errand around the bus schedule. I cannot imagine having children here, especially young ones, and being dependent on public transportation. One day, I will remind myself of this. I used Skype to call someone, and I'm excited to have a cell phone where the conversation is not hindered by a bad connection...well, at least for the most part.

As I stand in this place of leaving our temporary home and returning to a place of familiarity, I am filled with a sense of gratefulness for this entire experience. I would not trade any challenging moments or times of joy that we have been fortunate to have in Vienna. At the same time, I cannot act as if I am not glad to be moving on, because I am. We have been blessed. For the rest of our lives, we will always have Vienna, but for now, I say, "Auf Wiedersehen, Wien."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Quick Update

Richard and I are having a great time on our two week European adventure. We are half way through our itinerary, having visited Athens, Amsterdam, and Berlin. We've balanced our time well between enjoying ourselves and relaxing. Our motto (compliments of Richard) is, 'All we have is time.' Therefore, it's unnecessary to plan to far in advance or worry about what we will do. Since I like to know what lies ahead, this has been a little adjustment, but I really am having a good time. Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf myself...we shall see. But seriously, it has been such an easy and pleasant trip except for the fact that Richard's allergies have been bothering him. He's been a trooper regardless, and I am so glad we are able to experience these cities together. Even though I'm not the biggest sports fan by any means, we've really enjoyed our routine of watching the Euro 2008 matches each night. It's fun to be surrounded by such enthusiastic people, and, if we had been thinking, we would have tried to get tickets to a game since some are being played in Vienna. Oh well.

We head to Warsaw tomorrow followed by Auschwitz and Prague and then will be back in Vienna next Wednesday with one full day before heading back to the states. Speaking of which, I am excited, but I'm not allowed to express that excitement during this trip since no one likes a Debbie-Downer. It's hard to believe that this much anticipated end is finally approaching. I am so grateful for the opportunity Michael and I have enjoyed by moving to Vienna, and I know that appreciation will continue to grow in the future. Right now, I'm just ready to spend time with those I miss so much and the little one I haven't met yet. All in good time.

Michael's project is due Monday, so he is beyond busy at school. The timing of this trip with Richard has been perfect, since Michael probably has spent more time in studio than our house over the past week. I'm proud of how hard he works because let's just say that some of his classmates don't share his same work ethic. He's tolerated quite a bit, and I know he's ready to be home as well. Chris, a friend from school in Houston, is coming to visit the last week of June. Due to complications with air mile usage, Richard and I are leaving before Chris arrives, but I'm glad Michael will have someone to keep him company during that final week.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Trip of Champions

As I mentioned earlier, a few of my friends came to visit recently! Lesley's short adventure was crammed full of sight-seeing, good food, and an all around wonderful time together. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures because they are on her Denver. Thanks again for coming, Les--I had so much fun!

Jordan and Julie arrived just in time for a random cold and rainy day amidst the warm, enjoyable weather. We braved the nastiness and did some sightseeing to take advantage of their limited time in Vienna. One of Julie's lifelong wishes has been to see Venice, so that was our first destination. I don't know that I can do justice for Julie's reaction to Venice as we stepped off the train, but she was quite impressed to say the least. Jordan and I were very fortunate to have Julie's sweet spirit remind us just how great it was that we were in Europe. We spent 24 hours in the city and made the most of our visit.

Our next stop was Nizza Monferrato, Italy where a childhood friend, Rachel, and her husband, Guiliano, live (sorry if I misspelled his name). Many families in their region have some type of vineyard, and we were lucky enough to visit theirs!

I included this video so that you could see just how incredible the countryside is. We were thrilled to spend time with them, and they were wonderful hosts in spite of being sick. They also took us to a traditional Italian feast where we ate very tasty food. We were completely spoiled during our time in Nizza, and we loved EVERY minute of it! Thanks again for having us!

We had high hopes for Milan but were not that impressed. Luckily, we decided to take a short trip up to Lake Como, which was beautiful. The lake was set in between the mountains, which were covered with houses. We walked down the bridge (middle picture), which extended into the middle of the lake to get a better view. While we were standing at the railing, a boat passed by a few yards away. I noticed the man near us moving away from the edge and did so myself. At the same time, Julie and Jordan are saying there's no way the water could come up on the bridge. Well, guess who didn't get wet? That's and the random man who snickered when the girls were splashed with water.

As if our trip couldn't get any better, we then had the privilege of going to Barcelona for three days. We all agreed that Spain is a magnificent country. Thankfully, we all thought the hop-on/hop-off bus was a good idea so we could see the most of the city during our short visit. Overall, it was very convenient, but we did have a few mishaps when we missed stops and/or went the wrong direction. Regardless, we have fabulous memories. Tapas are a typical Spanish cuisine, and we went to the same restaurant twice because the food was so good.

We made a list of all the funny stories that occurred during our trip, but I don't have it with me, nor do I think it's all appropriate blog material. However, I hope it's obvious that we thoroughly enjoyed our time together and the new places we experienced. Thank you to my dear friends who took the time, money, and energy to visit me! [For those friends reading this who were not able to come, I still love you just as much because I know you would have come if you could have. :)]