How We Celebrate

People often comment on how clever and thoughtful we are when it comes to our celebrations and gifts. Perhaps we can take a bit of credit for creativity, but the truth is that it's all planned. Every bit of it.

Some of the best advice we got in premarital counseling was to clearly communicate our expectations to each other. If I had secretly always wanted my husband to give my flowers on my birthday but never actually told him that's what I desired, then I had no right to get upset about it.

So early on, we set out plans for how we would like to celebrate holidays, birthdays and other occasions. That's not to say there's no room for spontaneity or change, but it does alleviate potential hurt feelings and provide something to look forward to.

Image via Flickr

Here are some examples:

*Valentine's Day - we do a chocolate exchange (yum!)

*Birthdays - we do surprise gifts (I know, we plan to surprise)

*Christmas - we request gifts (there are too many other gifts to think of for other people) within a budget

*Anniversaries - traditional gifts within a budget (so fun to come up with gifts to meet the year)

On top of our customary gifts, we might request something. This year on my birthday I asked Eric to plan a day trip getaway and keep the location a surprise. This is a major gift because I am a natural planner and therefore organise most of our travel. It doesn't come as organically to him but he does it well, so it's a nice break for me and a big effort on him part.

These planned traditions do not take away from the romance but add to it, because we trust the other's intentions and don't try to outdo each other. It works well.

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Five Reasons I Love Travel

When I was 17, my grandparents took my family on a trip to Israel. I told the travel guide how excited the whole trip made me, and she told me that traveling gets in your blood. By the end of the trip, it was. I had caught the travel bug, and there was no turning back.

Since we got married six years ago, my husband and I have visited something like fifteen countries. We save our pences, travel every chance we get and I am always happy we go. Here are some of the reasons I love traveling so much:

1) Worldview
I like to think that I have a pretty good understanding of the world, but it's not true. Every time I go somewhere, I learn so much. Prejudices I didn't even realise I have get challenged. I discover new ways of thinking, working and speaking. And I appreciate the world's diversity a little more.

2) Identity
Nothing shows me more about what it means to be an American/white/professional/Christian woman than seeing what life looks like through someone else's eyes. I get why people think Americans are loud when I travel via train in Europe. I understand that Christian churches are incredibly different - from the American South to Central America to the Middle East and beyond. And I realise that the U.S. government really is strange when compared to other democracies.

3) Food
We look forward to sampling food from each place we visit. I do not understand people who travel and then go to McDonald's because they are afraid of local cuisine. I have my limits on what I will try, of course. I think you learn a lot about a culture, its values and history through its food.

4) Challenge
Planning a trip, especially to a different country, is like a puzzle. Transport, lodging, meals, sight-seeing, etc. must all be considered. I spend a lot of time finding deals and putting together itineraries - and I love it. My husband enjoys the challenge of getting us around when we are there - following maps, figuring out trains and buses and finding shortcuts. The challenge of communication is always interesting, particularly with a language barrier.

5) Connection
Traveling with someone is an incredible bonding experience. You have stories to tell forever and you learn something about them on levels it's hard to achieve in daily life. I also find that traveling is a great way to connect with myself. Even when I'm with a group, I take some time alone to think and wander and take the opportunity for self-reflection and growth.

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