February Goals (2017)

Hey World,

I am not quite sure where January went, or how twenty seven days have flown past me with hardly a notice,  but it's already time for my February goals!


1. Get passport with my married name (!!!!!) 
2. Begin/Resume wedding posts on A Path Unpaved 
3. Go to Sauti za Busara for my MA thesis (research, part two!)
4. Keep going to Yoga at least 1x a week
5. Execute 2 kinds of "givingness" this month, that are not money-driven
6. Finish reaching out to my far-away friends for much needed catch-ups
7. Discuss our 2017 donation plan with BG again; especially in light of recent political events


Here's how January shaped up:

1. Set up method for tracking 2017 reading + page counting goals I have an Excel sheet set up, and six books (1,600 pages) already down for 2017! 
2. Kick off 2017 with Brady in Amsterdam  We went, we froze, and we drank lots of hot chocolate near canals! A low-key but beautiful mini-trip to start 2017.  
3. Write 'just because' letters & postcards to friends for January I am back on the bus, posting 5 cards and 3 postcards this month 
4. Change my name on social media accounts Done! What a relief :)
5.  Host an "Open Table" dinner for January I Hosted "Mr. Robato", with spicy beef ramen soup, salad w/ peanut dressing & some sushi for a party of 9. Reports say it was good!   
6. Decide how much BG & I will donate annually, and start a list of which organizations we're interested in  This is more of a process than I thought it would be, but we've had some good preliminary discussions, and made our first donation for 2017! 

xoxo,
M

A Totally Unspectacular Celebration

Hey World,

One Sunday afternoon earlier this month, I baked a confetti angel food cake, made a sweet sugar strawberry topping, and 'invited' Brady into the dining room with a random slice of cake to celebrate. 


There wasn’t an occasion to mark, such as a birthday, work anniversary, or a particularly successful week. It was simply just a celebration of…well, nothing. 


And to be honest, I kind of loved it. Why should there be a reason to have others over for cake? The box of cake mix (Betty Crocker, forever <3) cost me less than $5. And I only had to add water to whip it up – not five minutes from box to bowl to baking!

PS: How pretty is this hand-painted towel my mom gave us for Christmas? 
If you’ve got a box of mix and are waiting for a reason for celebrate (and maybe even a new spoon rest from Christmas you want to debut but couldn't find the event), open the box and just celebrate the calmness of nothing. Use it as an excuse to share a slice with friends or family, or put out a pretty napkin/towel/plate set. Plus you get a sweet treat out of it too ;)


xoxo,
M




Seven Years with Kiva

Hey World,

Today I wanted to share a bit about one of my favorite ways to give - Kiva. Kiva is an online platform where you can upload money to lend to small entrepreneurs or groups, aggregated from reputable micro-finance organizations around the globe. The best part? When you're repaid, you can re-lend the funds, again and again. 



Here's my story.


----

I gave my first Kiva loan in November of 2009, after being encouraged to sign up on my campus quad by another GWU student. 

I signed up with just $25, and gave it to a dressmaker in Togo. It took 14 months for Rosalie to pay me back. When she did, I re-lent it to Tenedje, a food market vendor in Mali for a year. When he repaid, my $25 then circulated to Amina, who ran a food stall in Kenya. Amina was the first person to default on her loan. 



In my first three years with Kiva, $25 (the equivalent of a dinner out on campus at the Thai restaurant, or a new dress from Forever 21) pinged across the African continent, and facilitated opportunities for three small entrepreneurs. 

I didn't miss the money.

---

In 2013, I tried a new Kiva program, "Zip", which are smaller loans ($5-$10) for American entrepreneurs. They all ended in default -- which is insanely uncommon, but I lost most of my $25. It took a year for my pride to recover, but last spring I read The International Bank of Bob during our DRC trip, and came away realizing that my $25 across four years had a decent run, and it was time to re-invest.

So in March of 2016, I put $75 into my account and picked loans with shorter repayment windows (to help keep my money circulating). That first go-around, I chose a women's group in Nicaragua and two women entrepreneurs in the Philippines, Lucita & Zenaida

When they all repaid, the money went back in for a group in Rwanda, Laos, and a farmer in Armenia. My Rwanda loan has finished repaying, and I re-invested in Shabana, a home product saleswoman in Pakistan.


Over the weekend, I reached $25 re-paid credit again, and re-lent it to Agim from Albania, who is seeking a loan to make improvements to his stables. 

All in all, I've given Kiva $99 of my money. In seven years, I've turned that $99 into $300 (tripling the value), which has funded 15 loans in 11 countries...and counting! By July, I'll get enough repayments to re-lend two more times.
It's also fun to browse who to give to next: you can choose by organization, sector, country, or those near/far from their goal. Sometimes, you can even find a 2x opportunity, where a private donor or sponsor organization will match whatever you give for double the impact!

---

Kiva is a really easy, non-expensive way to facilitate opportunities for those around the world with big dreams over and over again, and allowing individuals to create their own impact for their families and their communities. If you have a classroom, or a family with young kids, Kiva may be an interesting way to explore the challenges others may be facing, but also the vast amount of opportunity we can share by supporting them to improve their own lives.



If you're interested, you can join here to find out more, and sign up. (Using this link pings me to let me know I've encouraged someone else to give too!) Join a huge community of lenders & borrowers, with almost one billion dollars of money circulating since 2005.




I am so thankful for my journey with Kiva thus far, and am looking forward to the chance to continue supporting entrepreneurs around the world for years to come.


xoxo,
M






NOTES:
* You can click on any of the names or countries mentioned above to read more about the specific people & groups I supported!
* All images shown above are from the Kiva website -- www.kiva.org 

Making Memories in the Ulugurus

Hey World,

One of the aspects I like most about Powersheets is setting monthly intentions to devote to relationship building. In my Year of post, I also set that as a major focus for myself for 2017!

I think creating memories is one of the best things you can do to build a relationship. I think about this a lot during our short home visits to make sure we help facilitate 'memorable' events with family when possible (and without too much $!), but I think it's equally important in developing friendships.


So, it was really fun last weekend to go on a 2-night trip with another couple to make some memories outside of the typical -- we drove just over 4 hours to another large town called Morogoro, stayed in a guest house that was owned by once Iringa-residents (and a couple who got engaged the same weekend as Brady & I, and are now expecting!), and hiking a nearby mountain range that I've heard lots of good things about.


We drove part-way up the mountain and parked the car at this village, which was probably the best decision we made the entire day. The walk to where we dropped the car from town had no views, and would have been killer! 

 


The whole way up was so green, and we paused a lot to bird-watch, pick wild blackberries, and rest and re-hydrate in any bit of shade we could find (despite all of this, I ended up burning my scalp!).



At the top was this radio tower, which our guide insisted we should take a picture of after our 3 hour summit. I much preferred the view the other way though...



 Come on; isn't that incredible?!


After our two hour power-hike down (to which my legs immediately pulverized themselves into jelly), we indulged in a double-dinner, which basically means we were all so hungry, we each ordered two entrees, and subsequently demolished them.

We finished the night before 9:30pm after some pretty terrible rounds of pool, but who's counting? :)


The next day we had a lazy breakfast, I learned that lime flowers are beautiful on a little nature walk, and then we headed back to Iringa! 

We're hoping to tack on to a group trip to a nearby national park in a few weekends with a few of our coworkers, and I am continuing to host a monthly Open Table events -- next week my theme is Japanese food! Creating and taking opportunities to make memories is something I want to keep deliberately dedicating time to.

What's on the docket for your memory-making list? Any go-to's before spring starts?

xoxo,
M






#VolcanoBound: Hiking For Lava in the DRC

Hey World,

I'm going to switch it up to another travel post, this time from our trip last year to the Democratic Republic of Congo to hike a volcano and see a boiling lava lake!

People, I can't even make this up. I couldn't believe it myself, or how truly spectacular the place was, until I trudged my way to the top. 

This is where our trip started, in a hostel on the Rwanda side. How pretty is this house? 


Getting across the border was fairly painless, although the morning we went was part of the Africa Cup (soccer) and LOTS of DRC residents were headed into Rwanda to watch the match! Think vuvuzelas EVERYWHERE. 



First lesson of the trek: Always be behind the guy with a gun. Always! There are the possibility of guerrillas or gorillas here -- neither of which I wanted to meet. They did a great job keeping the small group together, and safe (and hydrated!).


As we walked the lower portion, the view was just incredible. Birds singing, trees rustling, and flowers abound. We took a lot of pictures. 


Here I am at the first big rest point --  I was cheerful and feeling great. I think I even got a sunburn! We ate through our snacks with reckless abandon, and made delicious sandwiches on fresh baguette for lunch. 


This picture is SO unflattering, but just hours after leaving the bottom, and all of the peaceful rest breaks, the climate changes, it gets cold and steep, and all of a sudden you are BROKEN while trying to climb up the last few hundred meters. The rough lava makes for a tough and unstable climb!


Joyous to be at the top is an understatement. Despite not being able to see a darn thing, we were thrilled to have made it to the top without facing rain or twisting an ankle! 


The highlight of our climb were the people we met at the top: these crazy adventure-seeking scientists! They had gotten (after many attempts and some wild stories) permission from the DRC government & the UN to film for a show, while conducting some research on the lava. Here are two of the group, belaying into the crater where the lava lake is!



The smoke/fog cleared up at night so you could really start to see the lava lake in action. 


Oh, did I mention this is a LIVE LAVA LAKE?! The world is filled with some of the most amazing natural wonders. 



Greetings from the DRC! 


We all got to sleep in these little tents inside cabins to protect us from the cold -- not too shabby!


Y'all, you had to BELAY yourself down to the bathroom. Needless to say, I was pretty glad to be fairly dehydrated and wait until we were more "in the woods" on the way down. This was my one and only visit for the night/morning we were at the top. 



The most wonderful part about this trip was just sitting on the edge of the boiling lava, and thinking about what a wonderful world we live in. Truly, I never thought I'd see something like this in my lifetime, and we could hardly pull ourselves away from the edge of the crater to go to bed.

For most of the mountains I've climbed, the reward of the summit has often been cold temperatures, leg pain, and a sunrise that doesn't quite seem worth all of the effort. Now I know a lava lake, makes every step worth it! 


xoxo,

Clean Slate-ing The House

Hey World,

Do you ever look around your house, and see all of the "what ifs" and "when I have time"s?

I decided last Thursday when I was preparing my monthly mantra, NO MORE! So I walked around the house at 11 o'clock that night with a critical eye-ball and wrote down all of the clutter-tasks I've been saving up like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter.

Then I set aside a couple of hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, setting my intention each day to: get as much done in the prescribed time as possible (with some husband help included!).


What we accomplished: 

In the Bedroom:
* Simplify my bedside table (motivation: here!)
* Categorize the book shelves in our bedroom & office
* Assemble all unwanted books to the book sale pile
* Clean our fan blades (my gosh, the dust I found!)
* Put away all clean clothes
* Re-fold all clothes in my closet
* Put away the remainder of holiday break luggage into the right rooms



In the Kitchen:
* Organize the two shelves underneath the island
* Straighten up all spices & throw away almost-empties
* Straighten up all dry consumables & throw away almost - empties
* Thaw & de-ice the freezer
* Return borrowed oven pans to our neighbor's house!

In the Office: 
* Drop off paintings to a local artist to get them tacked onto frames & ready to hang
* Organize my card drawer in my desk
* Organize my electronics door in my desk
* De-clutter the top of my desk


In the Living Room: 
* Buy chalk for our chalkboard
* Write a new quote up on our chalkboard for 2017!
* Wrap up the new vines onto the beams in the sun room
* Re-plant the pot in the living room with a living plant (...yikes!)




I didn't get everything done, but I made a huge dent in the list -- so I'm pretty proud of that! Is it too early in the year to have this count as spring cleaning?


xoxo,
M








A Joyful January

Hey World,

We are now more than one week into January. December came and went with my #20DaysOfWonderful challenge (you can find my snapshots here on my Instagram!), and now in line with The Year of Cultivation, I thought this graphic is particularly nice :)


Less than three years ago, you could find me sitting on a couch in my beautiful Harlem studio apartment in New York City, crying to myself almost every night. After months of not knowing what I was doing wrong, I decided to figure out what I could do to make it right

Yes, I had honest conversations with others about my unhappiness, and I sought other changes to my situation (including applying for and getting my current job), but I also sat myself down and wrote out 5 things that made me happy, and resolved to do at least 2-3 of them every. single. day.


And my bar for happy was simple: buffalo sauce, meeting up with a friend, going to kickboxing class, making a smoothie, hosting a fun activity while babysitting, indulging in a JustSalad, reading fifty pages of a book for pleasure, making it to subway train on time, taking a walk in the sunshine, and finding a penny on the ground.

Then, in the evening if I had achieved those checks on my "happy list", it was to be considered a good day -- it was as simple as that. Turns out, there are a lot of pennies laying around New York City. And I cooked my own meals. And it was easy to take a walk, read a book, or get to the station on time. 

I created a world where happiness became a choice I could make, rather than a responsibility I felt I had to live up to. I looked for the joyful. I searched for pennies like my life depended on it, and I grabbed happiness for the day, just like *snaps* that.

So make today, and every day this month, Joyful & Exuberant

xoxo,




Image source is directly from www.marcjohns.com. You can visit his website to see more prints and artwork!

Monthly Mantra: Then When?

Hey World,

It's time for the fifth (!) edition of monthly mantra (with a short delay for New Years)

In case this is your first time stopping by, at the beginning of the month I share one quote I've come across to give a positive frame of reference for the coming weeks. They will be shared without explanation, as inspiration comes to each of us differently!

If you have any suggestions for a single sentence mantra, leave it in the comments, and you may see it in an upcoming month! You can check out all of my previous monthly mantras here. 



xoxo,
M


Image Source Blog Appetit

The Year of Cultivation (and the New Name)

Hey World,


First of all - Cheers! It's 2017!


I sat down and tried to write this post at least a half dozen times, but each draft never quite captured what I wanted to share. I knew I didn't want to talk about what all happened in 2016, because I (randomly) do my annual recaps in the summertime. 

I also knew I didn't really want to talk about what 2017 is going to hold, because we're only 4 days in and I can't really be too certain about anything (other than the fact that we are definitively out of food in the fridge & this season of the Bachelor is definitely going to be dra-ma-tic).

At the same time, a new year is a lot like a fresh start because it feels new. Every time you write the date, you have to make sure you put a 7 not a 6! It's that kind of different.


So for the remaining four months of my Powersheets, and the rest of 2017, I want to really harness the quote above: creating a future that is kind -- to myself, my family, and to others. That's why I'm keeping my Powersheets word "cultivate" and extending it into the rest of the year! 

It's a year that will come with renewing, rejuvenating and deepening friendships and relationships as I approach the three year mark of living in Tanzania (!).

It's a year where BG & I think seriously about giving back to others consistently, not just with our time, but also financially, to organizations which we believe positively impact the lives of others.  

It's a year where I will increase my efforts on thinking diligently about what I put out into the world -- spreading positivity and good vibes at work with my team, at home with my family, and on social media. 

It's a year to close the book on things that pull me down, which means finishing my MA thesis (come hell or high water!) and making payment plans for my student loans, and spending free time on activities I love or are interested in (calligraphy, anyone?!). 

It's a year to continue chasing the dream: creating a happy married life, building up a nest-egg of savings, plotting adventures to new places, and taking steps to make the 'impossible' more possible.

Finally: 2017 is also the year of the new name. I talked about changing my last name earlier, but what I didn't share then, and have told hardly anyone, is that I added a middle name during all of the legal changes as well. Aside from my given middle name of Lynn, I added my mother’s maiden name as my second middle name! I am now officially Marisa L.B. Grimes, and couldn't be more in love with my new identity (and now the cat is out of the bag, you'll be seeing it around!)I really feel like my new name holds such weight in this new chapter of my life, and I am excited to see how 2017 will be a memorable first installment! 


Okay, seriously finally: I wrote this a few years ago in an annual recap post, but I love it so much I want to share it again:

I hope your year is a life lived with intention. 
I hope it's 12 months of contentment, or working towards it. 
 52 weeks full of personal fulfillment and growth. 
Finally, I hope this year is made up of 365 days you are grateful for. 

I wish you nothing but the best for 2017, and I sincerely believe it will be great! And if you ever need a snail-mail pick-me-up reminder, don't be afraid to ask :)

xoxo,
M