Goals for 2016

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Now that the holidays are over, I actually have a moment to reflect on 2015, and how blessed I am. I am also taking this moment to think of all the things I want to accomplish in 2016 to make it the best year ever. I know that New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap. Everyone wants to lose weight, exercise more, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, etc. etc. For many, they start the year with a good push toward these resolutions, and then by February the ambition/motivation fails. However, I am not that type of person. Sometimes I do set too many goals, but as long as I complete half of my goals, I feel that my life is on track. What is wrong with having goals in your life that help you live up to your potential?

2016 is going to be a year of uncertainty as there are many changes that may occur. My husband and I may decide to move based on job opportunities. We don’t at this time know if that will happen or if we decide to move, where we will be moving. With such an undetermined future, it is hard to make certain goals. For instance, I would like to run a marathon and volunteer more, but my time and location may not permit such achievements. I find it is important to set reasonable goals, so you don’t become disappointed in yourself.

Here is my list of reasonable goals for 2016:

  1. Read more non-fiction books. I tend to read a lot of classics, bestsellers, and mysteries. It would be nice to expand my reading list a bit. If you want to see my must-read book list, click here.
  2. Travel to Sicily. Since moving to Italy, so many people have told my husband and I that we have to explore Sicily.
  3. Renew my driver’s license. This is a ridiculous one, but when you are an expat, it is a bit more complicated than just going online and hitting a renew button.
  4. Continue studying Italian – even if I end up moving away from Italy.
  5. Go ice skating. This was a goal of mine a couple years ago that I failed to do. Can you believe that a girl who grew up in Wisconsin has still never been ice skating???
  6. Continue making a few extra dollars on Swagbucks. Every year I use the extra money to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts. More often than not I use the extra money to satisfy my book addiction. If you are interested in learning more about Swagbucks, click here.
  7. Vote. As we all have heard, no matter where you are in the world, the U.S. is having elections in 2016. Even though I am not currently living in the United States, I am still a U.S. citizen and want to exercise my right to vote. It is a privilege that many people in the United States take for granted, and one that I am very proud to have.
  8. Spend one day a month internet-free. I find myself constantly needing to go on the internet, whether I am at home on the computer or outside of my house on my phone. What did we all do before the internet? Anyway, I find that I am too reliant on it, and so I would like to take a break once a month from the addiction of Facebook, kitty & puppy videos, email, etc.
  9. Keep a Thankful Journal. In 2015, my spirit was sometimes pretty low. Every day this year I want to write down something that I am thankful for. That way, if my spirit gets low again, I can turn to my journal and read all the positive things in my life.

I think I can definitely accomplish these goals. It makes heading into the new year very exciting. Feel free to share with me some of your goals for 2016.

2016 is gonna rock!

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Lots of Love As We Head into 2016!

Lucca, Italy

Lucca, Italy

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!

We unfortunately did not get to spend the holidays with our family and friends in the United States this year. We knew it would be a little difficult to be away from everyone at such a special time of year, so we took a little holiday R&R break and escaped to Portugal, which was wonderful! We are definitely feeling refreshed and ready for the new year – whatever it might bring.

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

I can hardly believe that my husband and I have been living in Lucca, Italy for almost three years. Time really does fly by sometimes. One of the main reasons that we chose to make the big move to Italy was our love of travel. Living in Italy has given us such accessibility to other parts of the world. 2015 certainly provided us with many amazing adventures. We explored 12 different countries, which includes visiting Italian cities outside of Lucca as well. (Find more details on my Travel Page, which I am constantly updating.) Our three favorite travel adventures this year were taking our first big cruise (on the Mediterranean), participating in a photographic tour through Cuba (hooray! Americans can go to Cuba legally!) and experiencing our first World’s Fair Exposition in Milan, Italy. A personal favorite moment of 2015 for me was when my husband surprised me with tickets to see Puccini’s La Boheme at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. It was definitely a dream come true.

In the midst of all the travel, we welcomed my in-laws for a visit to Lucca. It is always nice to show family and friends our wonderful home and all the things that we love about Lucca and living in Italy. We were thrilled that they came. We also hosted Thanksgiving again for the third year and had a wonderful turnout of about 20 people. There were many new faces this year, and we enjoyed it very much.

While we saw every travel moment as an adventure, some of the trips were actually work-related. My husband participated in 5 conferences this year in Berlin (Germany), Arizona (USA), Zaragoza (Spain), Helsinki (Finland) and Budapest (Hungary). He has had a very busy year. All of the conferences he’s been to recently have been very productive, and he’s working on multiple different projects.  One really successful one has been patent inventor and assignee disambiguation (basically, knowing that “MIT” and “Mass. Inst. of Tech.” refer to the same thing), which is really important to do accurately if you want to understand how universities and companies combine different skills to create technology or how scientists move around the world.  He’s solved that problem for 4 million patents worldwide, and there’s a lot of interest in using his results!

I too have been working. I completed my work on the Introduction to Network Science book that I was helping to edit. Then I signed a contract to do some work for IMT – School for Advanced Studies Lucca, where I also edit publications. I am very fortunate to have these opportunities. I never for one second saw myself as an editor, but I rather enjoy it most of the time. I will say, however, that working from home has its difficulties. It is easy to lose one’s motivation and concentration at home. It can also be difficult to spend so much time within the house. I started consistently running miles outside every week just to get a bit of fresh air. It not only provided the break I needed, but it turns out that I actually started to enjoy running. Who knew that would happen?!

We have no idea what is in store for us in 2016. My husband’s contract at IMT-Lucca is ending at the end of May. He is currently applying for jobs in the United States, as well as other places in the world. However, he has also been offered an extension of his current position if we choose to remain in Italy. We are going to let the Lord and fate guide us these next months. Please keep us in your prayers as we may have some big decisions to make. Whatever happens, we know that we are blessed with wonderful friends and family who continue to support us. We love you all very much!

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

2015 Thanksgiving Reflection

Thanksgiving

This was our 3rd Thanksgiving celebration in Lucca, Italy. When my husband and I moved to Italy, we thought it would be nice to host Thanksgiving. We never really had the opportunity to do so in the States. We thought that there had to be other people living in Lucca, who maybe missed having a real Thanksgiving.

I realize the original Thanksgiving may not be as romantic as the history books make it appear to be, but the holiday has progressed into a time of wining and dining with friends and family, and that alone is something to be thankful for. Preparing a Thanksgiving feast for our new friends in Italy, has been such a great honor, and we have enjoyed it more and more every year.

Who could not love the suspense in going to the butcher to pick up the turkey (il Turkey pickuptacchino)?! Every year, we worry that the turkey won’t arrive on time, or that we had accidentally ordered a cornish hen or something. (We don’t really have a lot of confidence in our Italian communication skills yet.) Additionally, the size of what we get has to be able to fit inside of our miniature Italian oven. However, we never have anything to fear. We love our local butcher so much! He always presents us with such an amazing turkey. It has been an interesting lesson to learn as well, as ordering turkey really is not a normal Italian thing to do, so everyone in our neighborhood knows we are Americans now. However, they were friendly and many people, whom we didn’t know, wished us a “Buona Festa” (Happy Holiday).

Besides our beautiful turkey, that my husband spent all day preparing to perfection, we had all the other traditional foods that are uncommon in Italy. This included: cranberryTurkey sauce (yes – I prefer the canned version), yams, brussels sprouts, green bean casserole (with the French’s onions of course), homemade stuffing (magically prepared by my husband), and many desserts with pumpkin and apple. You need multiple plates just to try a little sliver of everything, and it is wonderful. My husband is an amazing cook, and many of our guests bring wonderful dishes as well. Every year we have more and more people attend our little Thanksgiving and that wonderful company is what I remember the most – even more than the amazing food.

If it turns out that this was in fact our last year hosting Thanksgiving in Lucca, it was fantastic, as every year has been, and we are so blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people.

To all our friends and family in the United States and all over the world, I hope you all had a very blessed Thanksgiving!!!