Wrap-up: Top 11 posts of 2016

Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.

Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment! 


If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:

1.  Mindfulness for the introvert business traveller, published on February 22nd

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2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

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3.  Our mindful Disney vacation, published on March 4th

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4. The best version of myself, published on April 21st

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5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

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6. A story of commitment, dedication, and love, published on June 17th

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7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

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8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

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9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

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10. Festive season yoga time-out, published on December 15th

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11. The top 11 books I read in 2016, published on December 22nd

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Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

What I learned in the past 10 days

I’m a bit late with the publication of this edition of the blog, and I apologize. You see, yesterday, I excitedly awaited the return of Mr. Wanderlust from a long business trip.

Today, although rain is in the forecast, I want to dance around the kitchen à la Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor, singing, “Good morning, good morning…” I am happy, and not only because it’s Friday but because Mr. Wanderlust has returned home. Over the past 10 days, I have regained an appreciation for single parents who do it all, every day.

It was also a valuable learning experience, with the following to add to the list of odd skills I have acquired:

– I learned how to add an HD channel to our digital TV tuner (no, we do not have even the most basic cable) in order to spend Sunday evening cosily watching the Toronto Santa Claus parade with Wanderlust Juniors. The mad wind did not help, but after spending several minutes standing still in front of the TV, holding the antenna in my right hand at shoulder height for a clear picture, I found a solution that worked surprising well: placing the antenna careful atop two rolled yoga mats snacked one on top of the other. Oh, how I wish I had taken a photo for your amusement!

– I learned to pump air into the tyres of our car when, after a cold weekend, while on my way to work on Monday morning, the tyre pressure light showed up on the dashboard. This might sound typical, but I tend to leave car repairs and maintenance tasks to Mr. Wanderlust. This was a new challenge for me and I must say I am proud of myself for facing it without too much trepidation.

– I became better at air hockey, which Wanderlust Juniors and I played at the local children’s hairstylist’s in-between their appointments last Saturday. In case you’re wondering, Wanderlust Juniors won every time (of course), but I enjoyed plenty of practice.

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I must confess, I am excited about the start of the Christmas season. The Toronto Christmas Market is one of our favourite annual festive traditions.

I also broke a few rules by decorating for Christmas much too early. I believe that the season officially starts on December 1st, but I broke my own rule and in seeking ways to keep Wanderlust Juniors entertained on a rainy Saturday, pulled out the Christmas decorations. We enjoyed a delightful afternoon rediscovering our favourite ornaments, and truly, the extra sparkle and bright lights are a welcome sight on these grey days. We normally get a real tree, but this year, simply because it’s already up and in the interest of keeping the season simple, we might just leave the little artificial tree that Mr. Wanderlust and I first purchased for our apartment 11 years ago.

Your turn: What did you learn recently? What have you done to break your own rules for your and your family’s benefit? Please leave a comment below. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

The in-between month

 

November. Living in Ontario, I acknowledge solemnly that this typically grey month is my least favourite time of the year. I call it the in-between phase when the trees stand bare, having been disrobed of their fiery leaves, awaiting the coming snow. This year, however, I’m choosing to acquiesce to the changes. Instead of resisting the transitions of nature, I welcome them. I retreat into the cosy comfort of the interior of my home, with its warm blankets on the sofa, the aroma of chicken broth steaming on the stove, bottomless mugs of tea and thick books, and laughter-infused living room dance parties with Wanderlust Juniors before the quiet of story time snuggles in the ‘big bed.’ I choose to delight in the in-between time as the sun continues to wane, remembering that soon enough, it will reawaken again and a new cycle of its year-long journey will begin just before Christmas. That idea in itself is heartwarming for me.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, how do you feel about November? Do you have a strategy for making the most of this time of the year?

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I learned something about stress

Last week, during a drive to and from cottage country for a work-related event, I listened to The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal. The idea that stress is not dangerous is relatively new to me. Ten years ago, I used to avoid difficult situations and experiences because of the stress and anxiety that they most often connote. Since then, I have learned that when we try to avoid potentially challenging situations, we often do so to our own detriment. Instead, by accepting each scenario as it comes, responding to it accordingly while keeping a focused and calm mindset, we can deal with stress in a mature and mindful manner. Our response to a situation determines our experience.

Yet, our mindset is only one piece of the puzzle. As a yoga and meditation practitioner and guide, I have learned that the state of the mind influences our physical and emotional states. As a student of Ayurveda, I have also learned that our physical energy and the energy of our environment have a tremendous influence on our emotional and mental wellness. If I spend a quiet evening at home, by 9 p.m., I feel blissfully tired, both in my mind and body. If, instead, I spend several hours before bedtime running errands and doing housework, my mind is abuzz due to my physiological state.

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Making time for apple picking at a local organic orchard.

September has been a busy time for our family. I typically avoid the use of that ubiquitous word because of its myriad convoluted meanings. For most of us, life moves fast and we must prioritize. The autumn Vata season is a time when we tend to start new projects, take on too much, and generally run ourselves off our feet, feeling spaced out and far from grounded. For me, whose dominant dosha is Vata, this is a time of year when I especially must make self-care a priority, eating warm and unctuous foods, keeping up with my daily warm oil massages, drinking hot liquids, moving slower, and enjoying plenty of rest. Yet, over the past few weeks, with changes to our family’s routines, I have not had many chances to slow down. Instead of going to bed earlier, I catch myself loading the washer and cleaning the kitchen at a late hour. We have been working diligently to avoid over-scheduling, paying no mind to the expectations of our fast-moving society and the priorities of the people who surround us. It has not been easy to completely isolate ourselves from those expectations, to heed only to our own directions. Yet, we remind ourselves that we know ourselves best and must continue to prioritize self-care, creating a schedule that feels intuitive and logical to us, whenever possible setting aside less important tasks for another time.

Here is today’s lesson: Stress is real and inevitable, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed, we must continue to approach life with a lighter attitude. Nevertheless, we must also make space for ourselves to slow down and pay closer attention to our own physical and emotional signals, instead of trusting the power of the mind to get us through challenging situations. Self-care must always remain a priority.

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Apples: a favourite Vata food. While raw apples are okay in moderation, baked apples with cinnamon are most Vata-friendly.

More information on Vata:

In a recent podcast episode of Yogaland, Andrea Ferretti and her guest Niika Quistgard discuss excellent tips for self-care during the Vata season for people with Vata dosha and for everyone else who lives in our fast-paced society.

How Ayurveda is helping me change my approach to exercise, published on April 13, 2016

Self-care tips for the Vata Season, published on September 16, 2014

If you have additional self-care tips to share, please leave a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Let’s talk about the mundane

I might never be less busy than I am today, and I am learning to accept this idea. If I am busy, it’s because I’m taking care of the people and the home I love. There will always be meals to prepare; sinks and toilets to scrub; clothes, towels, and bed sheets to wash, dry, iron, fold, and stack in the closets and dressers. There are always hungry mouths to feed, stains to wipe, and the laundry hamper doesn’t remain empty for long. You might be rolling your eyes, wondering why I am writing about something so mundane. The mundane is real life. We don’t discuss everything we do on a daily basis, but it’s there and it occupies many hours in the day. It’s a matter of fact. I used to think of the cleaning, laundry, and cooking routine as unpleasant, a waste of time that could be better spent at the beach, on the trail, or on the sofa with my journal and pen, a book, or knitting needles. Today, I remind myself that service is inescapable.

We clean, cook, and wash clothes for ourselves and our families. We prepare dinner in order to fill our bellies with delicious nourishing warmth while sharing it with our loved ones. We wash dishes after consuming a scrumptious meal. We mop the floors and scrub the sinks in order to continue to benefit from the space in which we spend so much time every day. I want my family to use a clean bathroom. I want them to wear clean clothes. I long to see the sparkle in their eyes as they walk into the kitchen and inhale deeply the scent of the yogurt cake or chocolate chip banana muffins rising in the oven.

On the days when the routine feels too heavy, I choose to cultivate gratitude. Gratitude, in turn, reminds me to move with intention, to pause to smell the chemical-free lavender-scented laundry soap, to breathe deeper as the vegetables simmer in a pot on the stove. Mr. Wanderlust is quiet as he vacuums the carpets and mops the floors, but I sometimes like to sing while wiping dust off furniture. We work as a team, each contributing to the beauty that we strive to maintain in our home.

Some days, if the pile of laundry to be ironed is too high and seems overwhelming, I resist the urge to grab my audiobook. Sometimes, it works, and the choice to approach the task with mindfulness is a rewarding one. At other times, that audiobook is the best company. I make decisions as I go along, making choices that are right for me and my family right here, right now.

We are busy, yes. We are busy taking care of whom and what we love. We also, however, value our ‘slow time,’ and when we set aside time to pause and savour this moment that we have created by serving, it feels all the more rewarding. It’s a delicate balance and to keep it, we must continue to exercise our creativity, re-adjusting as needed, always returning to Gratitude.

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Down time. My parents’ garden is a perfect spot to rest while listening to the sounds of birds and watching busy squirrels running to and fro.

Do you have tips to share for managing a busy daily routine? 

Not missing out

On a particularly cold Saturday evening, two winters ago, and I was suffering from PMS-induced sadness. Wanderlust Juniors were tucked into their cosy beds and I sat on the living room sofa beside Mr. Wanderlust. Instead of breathing through the sadness, as I know I ought to have done, I sought to escape the dark feeling by averting my attention. I feel embarrassed to admit this now but there I sat, mindlessly eating pretzels while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed on my smartphone. I suspect I’m not the only one to have done that in the (possibly a very recent) past. It occurred to me only later that I was mindlessly checking my social media account not because of a genuine interest in what my contacts were doing at that time. It was merely a method of distraction that did not make me feel any better. Instead, it highlighted the fact that I was sitting on the sofa, snacking, while ‘everyone else’ appeared to be having a great time. Here’s a not-so-hidden secret: If we allow it, social media has the power to make one feel like the most popular person (particularly on our birthdays, provided that we keep that information public on our profile), then several days later squash that feeling with no remorse.

When later I snapped out of the delirium and plugged in my phone to be recharged overnight, it occurred to me how much time I had wasted ogling other people’s selfies taken at concerts or pictures of the meals they ate in upscale restaurants. And then, there have been times when I was the one posting photo after photo of my carefully styled display of freshly baked muffins, or of a fun day at the beach. That’s the game of social media participation. We either share photos of impeccably crafted moments or we spend time looking at similar images posted by others. Sometimes, those pictures serve as inspiration. At other times, they can contribute to a fear of missing out (FOMO – not that I need to provide this acronym, since I suspect the majority of you are well familiar with it and have probably experienced it at least once). When we share pretty, staged photographs on social media, we do not disclose the behind-the-scenes mess that might have occurred before, during, or after the photo was taken. We also don’t share how many tries it took to finally get the perfect share-worthy selfie.

Shortly after that sad experience of Saturday night FOMO, I made a decision to spend less time on social media. I chose to do so for myself and my family. I stopped touching my phone before 8 a.m. on most mornings and after 6 p.m. on weeknights by leaving it to charge downstairs in a special basket that I set aside specifically for that purpose. Sundays became tech detox days during which I did not open my laptop or touch my phone, unless absolutely necessary to do so for a few minutes. After starting to practise a more mindful method of social media use, it became apparent that a joy of missing out (JOMO, as coined by Christina Crook in her book by the same title) started to replace FOMO. I reveled in the beauty of going out for a walk without checking my phone for updates or sharing a picture of the sunrise. Instead, I remained present in the quiet, cherishing every nuance of the experience as it unfolded. I have been practising to stay with the experience, facing what is before me, acknowledging the moments when I don’t feel joyful, without seeking distractions.

I found an almost secret pleasure in going out for dinner and not posting a photograph of the food. I felt a rush of excitement at the realization that I could travel anywhere in the world and if I did not share any updates on social media, no one had to know where I was at the time. Then I realized that most likely, no one cared in the first place, and I am perfectly okay with that. As an introvert who values privacy, this notion felt liberating. Missing out? Not really. 

The less time I spent on social media, the more odd the thought seemed to me of documenting for others every outing, every meal, and every funny saying overheard throughout the day. In fact, I started to feel a pang of sadness each time the idea of logging into my Facebook account merely crossed my mind. I continue to document my experiences, but I do it for myself, in my journal, and I share stories selectively in person and via email with my family and friends.

A few weeks ago, I took the plunge and deleted my personal Facebook account, keeping my business page, which I visit briefly several times per week. I also post photographs on Instagram from time to time. I do not miss sharing and seeing what others have shared. Instead, I choose to meet with my friends face-to-face and communicate via old-fashioned email or phone calls in-between in-person meetings. When I sit down with a friend for coffee after two months, we often feel we have plenty of catching up to do because we haven’t been seeing each other’s frequent updates via a screen. Our conversation can then run deeper. I would guess that not many people share their not-so-positive news on social media, because such updates tend to be considered a drag. Yet, when we meet with close friends, we feel comfortable and supported to speak about what is on our minds and in our hearts instead of needing to filter the message before posting it for hundreds of contacts to read and judge.

I do not discount the merits of mindful social media use. I continue to publish updates about this blog and also enjoy reading news from other bloggers via their pages. When it comes to friends and family, I prefer to connect with them through more direct and intentional pathways. I take photographs for myself and my family. I write stories about our travels. From time to time, I selectively choose to be brave by sharing with the world some of those photographs and snippets of the stories, if I feel that they reflect who I truly am and serve to inspire others. The rest of the time, I continue to pursue life with all its messy and imperfect fleeting moments, seeking joy in what is before me.

Do you wish to contribute to the conversation? Please leave a comment below. Thank you, as always, for reading, and for sharing this blog with a friend.

The illusive five minutes

Dinner must be prepared at 6 o’clock every evening, whether or not I want to step into the kitchen after a long day at work; after that, the dishes must be washed. During the work day, the report must be prepared. I’m not immune to the urge to procrastinate, but I have learned that matters only get worse when I attempt to battle procrastination by pretending that it is not really there, lurking beneath the surface, tempting me to follow the random thought that has just popped into my head that would lead me to the Google front page and the search field.

The chatter in my mind goes something like this:

I’m awfully curious about how to make crispy courgette fritters, instead of the soft and mushy ones that always materialize on my frying pan. So, Google to the rescue! What’s another five minutes of Googling? I’ll get back to my report in a moment.

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I will just sit on the sofa for five minutes and quickly read a few pages of my book. After that, I will go straight into the kitchen and start preparing those fritters for our dinner.

You get the idea. It might sound familiar to you. We fool ourselves into thinking that somehow, a five-minute distraction will not make a big dent in our routine, that it might fine-tune our focus. Most often, what happens in my case is that the five minutes make me feel more reluctant to pursue the task. In fact, the seemingly insignificant break makes me resent the task before me. Those five minutes turn into 25 minutes and before we know it, everyone is starving and feeling irritable, and I don’t feel any more enthused about preparing dinner.

I could remind myself to focus on the task at hand, to remember the big picture and why I’m doing what I’m doing (to feed myself and my hungry family; to clean the kitchen in order to ensure that it remains welcoming; to prepare the report because if I don’t do it now, the work will accumulate and weigh heavily on me). That sounds like a valid way of going about it. Yet, I’ve been trying a different approach: meeting myself where I am. I allow myself to sit with what I’m feeling for a few minutes, acknowledging my current state and being honest about the inner dialogue that takes place in my mind. I listen carefully to my justification about why, after five minutes, I might feel ready to finally approach the task. Then, I continue to sit and breathe. Sometimes, I take a walk around the office or our home, moving slowly, breathing deeply. In lieu of a five-minute Google or reading break, I give myself a breathing break. I must say, it is a much more effective way to re-centre my mind and recommit to my intention to stay kind to myself while continually bringing my focus back to the present moment.

Do you have a practice or tips that help you to stay focused and avoid distractions? Please leave a comment below.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Less noise, clear focus

 

We visited my parents in ‘cottage country’ and while there, lounged on three different beaches, went snorkeling, SUPing, and hiking. We watched glorious firey sunsets, sat by the bonfire and toasted marshmallows, then gazed at the stars sprinkled across the velvet sky. We ate freshly picked local blueberries, peaches, and corn. We fished a snake and crayfish out of the lake, observed them more closely, then released them. We rode on a mountain roller coaster and one of us even decided, on a whim, to go ziplining for the first time. We reveled in the tranquility of nature away from the city.

August113While away, I also celebrated my birthday and set a new intention for my personal new year:

I want to live with less noise and with focused intention, directing my attention to whom and what matters most.

Over the weekend, I picked up my phone once per day for a few minutes, quickly glancing at my email to ensure that there was nothing pressing to which I had to respond. In truth, I was reluctant to pick up the phone. I have grown tired of the noise and overload of information. In spite of the quick glances at my email, I enjoyed an extended break from technology and, specifically, social media. I did not miss it.

Maybe the fleeting, magical days of summer are to blame, or maybe it was the effect of getting away from the everyday routine, but the tech break sparked ideas in my mind: I could delete my social media accounts. Yet, I know that many people use Facebook to send private messages, and it’s good to keep in touch. It’s also a great way to communicate with the wonderful readers of this blog, for whose support I am always grateful. Perhaps I could take a sabbatical from social media for a few months?

August112For now, I have decided against taking a true sabbatical from social media. I will still be here, will continue to publish stories on a weekly basis, but social media posts from me will likely become less frequent. Time is precious, and I don’t want to waste it in front of a computer screen.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the beach, on a forest trail, or hiking up a mountain.

I would like to know how you make space for intentional living with less noise. Please leave a comment below.

 

Milestones and memories

I remember my father’s 50th birthday, when I called him from a phone booth at a gas station near a field in the south of France to send my wishes. In Toronto, it was 11:30 p.m. on Friday and my parents and grandmother were still in the midst of a quiet celebration at home, preparing to retire for the night after a long workweek. In Provence, where Mr. Wanderlust and I were enjoying our honeymoon, it was 5:30 on a crisp Saturday morning and the first yawning light of the sun started to appear. We were on our way to the meeting spot from which ‘our’ hot air balloon was to be launched. Alas, the Mistral was too fierce that day and the flight never took place. Instead, we had breakfast in Apt at a café table in the town’s square, then anxiously squeezed our way through the uncomfortably tight crowds of market shoppers snaking through the narrow cobblestone streets lined with vendors.

I also remember my father’s 40th birthday, during our first summer in Canada. His friends had arrived cheerfully unannounced with snacks and cold beer to enjoy while lounging on the balcony in the heat of the afternoon. Likewise, I remember his birthday dinners from my childhood, when my parents’ friends would arrive at our apartment and greet my father at the door with hugs, exclaiming how long it had been since they last saw each other. Then, a few of the guests would turn to me, marvel at how I’ve grown, and one man, Papa’s friend, presented me with a Mickey Mouse pencil. I beamed in delight as I realized that someone must have told him that my birthday is the day after Papa’s.

Perhaps I remember my father’s celebrations so vividly because they have always felt like my own, with our birthdays so close together. I suppose I stole my dad’s spotlight, made him share it with me, but in truth, I loved the special treat of a joined celebration. As a little girl, I was proud to walk beside him, sheltered by his tall shadow as we made our way home together after school. Our lives are different now, and my 60-year-old Papa is only a few inches taller when we stand side-by-side (see the photo above from my wedding day, 10 years ago). I continue to delight in (almost) sharing a birthday with him and am humbled today by the passing of time. Happy 60th, Papa!


Mr. Wanderlust and I have been knee-deep in home renovations. Do you want to know my secret to staying focused and maintaining a calm demeanor while spending the weekends painting the walls of our house? Audiobooks! You might be thinking, Isn’t it a distraction to listen to audiobooks while painting? It’s not very mindful, is it? Perhaps not, but given that I am not a big fan of renovations (see: I strongly dislike them), I give myself the proverbial pat on the back if I can stay fully focused on painting the walls for 15 minutes. I also sometimes enjoy listening to audiobooks while out for a morning walk, but that depends on my mood. Most mornings call for quiet and calm, with my soundtrack consisting of the chirping of the birds, the whispers of my deep breathing, and the soft landing of the soles of my shoes on the pavement. My approach to audiobooks is different from my approach to reading, but that’s a subject for a different post. In the meantime, I will share with you a few recently discovered favourites:

The Nightingale by [Hannah, Kristin]

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (or the audiobook)

In the recent years, I have become a fan of fiction set in WWII. The Nightingale was recommended to readers who liked Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and that was my motive for choosing this book. I enjoyed the excellent narration of Polly Stone, whose French and German accents and pronunciation, and dramatic vocal changes, were very effective. I liked this book so much that I now have the hardcover or paperback version on my wishlist. This was the first book by Kristin Hannah to which I listened, and I long to read her words for myself, to enjoy her wonderful storytelling in thorough detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (or the audiobook)

The Light Between Oceans is beautifully written, with a slow-and-steady narrative that effectively reflects the pace of the life of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne on an isolated island. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the narration by Noah Taylor, though I do admire his acting work. Despite that, I was riveted by the turbulent story of Tom and Isabel through their loss, heartbreak, and lessons in love and faith.

The Husband's Secret by [Moriarty, Liane]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty (or the audiobook)

I was reluctant to pick up The Husband’s Secret because I generally am not a fan of chick lit. However, after reading a recommendation from Modern Mrs. Darcy, whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I decided to pick it up. I was impressed not only by the story itself and the excellent character development, but also by the narration by Caroline Lee. Moriarty’s storytelling reminds me somewhat of the style made popular by Maeve Binchy, in which the lives of many individual characters in one community become intertwined, creating a cohesive picture with a poignant message of friendship: We are never alone, though often lonely. Unlike Binchy, Moriarty’s books address heavier issues with a lightness that keeps the reader turning pages.

What have you been reading or listening to lately? Please leave a comment below.

Anniversary

My ears popped as I stood in front of the ornate bathroom mirror, putting on the delicate pearl earrings. As I moved about the impeccably decorated hotel suite in my wedding gown, then posed for photographs with my mom, my ears still had not gone back to normal. Nervousness, I remembered, is what can sometimes make one’s ears pop unexpectedly. Yet, I was not feeling nervous or anxious. I was certainly excited. I was about to marry my best friend of the past seven years. I took comfort in the notion that, after having spent almost every day of those seven years together, my heart was aflutter at the prospect of making our bond official. ‘Bring on the happy nervousness,’ I thought as I was about to walk up the aisle with my father to the muted notes of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. If only I could actually hear the music clearly!

All the sounds were muffled to me, as though I was swimming under water, carefully attuning my ears to the above-surface vows spoken to me by the man I love. My own voice sounded almost like a croak, but I had no time to pay it any attention. Seeing the peaceful joy on Mr. Wanderlust’s face, I knew he didn’t care about the sound of my voice at that moment. And then, there was the kiss to the erupting sound of applause and cheers from everyone in the small chapel who had come to celebrate our special day with us. 

Sometimes, imperfect conditions nudge us to pay closer attention. When one of the senses is not right, the other senses awaken with a thirst for clarity, ready to take in the full experience of what is before us. Sometime later, when the wedding party and our families ventured outside for photographs, the pressure in my ears gradually eased. All it took was a bit of patience and careful attention paid to the one thing that matters most: LOVE.

Today, Mr. Wanderlust and I are celebrating 10 wonderful years of marriage. Ten years after our wedding day (and 17 years since  becoming a couple), I am still working toward becoming a better listener, cultivating greater patience, and maintaining grace under pressure. As we are about to venture into yet another round of DIY home renovation, this weekend should provide me with many opportunities to put those lessons into practice.