Tuesday, November 30, 2010

seasonal confusion

Oh, Impatiens,

and Snapdragons,

how I love your ignorance that tomorrow is December.

Your incessant blooming has saved your lives. I intended to pull you up months ago, but I just can't bear to get rid of still blooming flowers.

I will enjoy your beauty until you either give up or the first snow wipes you out. If you so desire, feel free to stick around until next spring. Your colorful blooms will lift my spirits on the imminent dreary and cold days ahead.

Monday, November 29, 2010

turkey takeout

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving! I said it last year, but nothing makes me feel more like an adult than whipping up a holiday meal by myself. For the third time in my life, I took responsibility for Thanksgiving dinner, and everything turned out great.

I highly recommend a fresh turkey from Market Poultry at Eastern Market--juicy and delicious!

This year I did do something new, besides change my table decor and prepare a couple of different side items. Brad's parents came in for the holiday, and Brad and I also invited a couple from church to join us. At the last minute, the couple from church got sick and couldn't make it. For a moment, after worrying about the couple's health, I panicked about what to do with the certain excess of food.

And then a brilliant idea came to me.

The church listserv.

I advertised that people were welcome to join us OR they could get carryout from our meal. Within minutes, I had a couple requests for takeout. After Brad's parents, Brad, and I finished eating on Thursday, I put away the leftovers we wanted and gave everything else away. I felt so happy to feed others, and also that my three days of laboring in the kitchen would not be automatically thrown away because we ended up with way too much food.

Crisis averted. When in need, you can always count on the church listserv.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


From my table  to yours,

I wish you a day of celebration.

May you know God's mercies upon you.

And may your turkey turn out extra moist.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Gentle Readers. Thank you for being such an enthusiastic and loyal group to write for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

key ingredient

For years, I toiled to make the perfect mashed potatoes. I tried adding ridiculous amounts of milk, butter, cream, broth, and half and half, but the potatoes never turned out creamy enough, until last year, when I discovered the key ingredient.

Fat-free cream cheese works just as well as the original kind. Add a block, along with some fat-free milk, a little butter, loads of salt and pepper, and fresh rosemary (my special touch, courtesy of my beloved herb garden) and you will have some second-and-third-helping-worthy mashed potatoes. Plus, the cream cheese keeps the potatoes nice and moist so they taste almost as good reheated in the microwave.

I will never make mashed potatoes sans cream cheese again. May your mashed potatoes on Thursday give creamy a new name!

Monday, November 22, 2010

farewell farmers market

How do seven months pass so quickly? I feel like my beloved backyard farmers market just opened. Wasn't May 1st just yesterday?

The market's last day of the season was Saturday and I tearfully said goodbye. I miss it already. Next May feels so far away. But during the cold and potentially snowy days ahead, I will dream of flowers, organic greens, Honeycrisp apples, fresh bread, butternut squash, corn on the cob, tomatoes of all types, and all of my other favorite farmers market things.

Friday, November 19, 2010

the first and last article I will ever read in sports illustrated

Runners, aspiring runners, and supporters of runners, you MUST read this article in a recent Sports Illustrated. (Trust me, I have never picked up this magazine in my life, and I never plan to again, but Brad knew that this article would speak to my heart. And it did.)

You may be devastated, like I was, that Pheidippides's famous 26.2 mile run from Marathon to Athens wasn't really 26.2 miles, and that it probably didn't happen at all. (That's okay. I still plan to take a vacation to Greece, visit Marathon, and pretend the legend is true.)

But you will be encouraged by the stories of some of the finishers of the recent marathon in Athens, which celebrated the Battle of Marathon, and Pheidippides's legendary run, 2,500 years ago.

The article's author gets it. If he hasn't run a marathon, he's certainly spent substantial time around people who have.

Brad declared his official retirement from marathons after we completed the one in San Diego in 2009. But this article spoke to his heart, too. And I'm saving it just in case I can use it to lure him out of retirement.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

mums = massive fail

The elementary school across the street from our house is an eyesore, but I do enjoy the beautiful fall mums planted there.

Look at that vibrant color!

The school has one up on me this year. Look at my mums below. See the hint of color on a few of the blossoms? That's the color they're supposed to be: a rich, brick red. Most of the blooms are brown because they're dead.

I have no idea what happened, but all five pots of my mums are dead. Can mums not tolerate plenty of direct sunlight? Does anyone know? I've tried to be diligent about watering them.

I'm disappointed the mums didn't last through my Thanksgiving company. If you have tips for keeping these plants alive (for next year), please share!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

managing the yucks

Losing a loved one, breaking up with someone, getting fired, finding out you (or loved ones) have a terminal illness, seeing a dream go down the toilet . . .  these are all events that can kick off what I call a "yuck phase", a period that's more than just a bad day or week. Having a severe case of the yucks can leave you feeling blue, isolated, ostracized, weepy, numb, and like you're the worst company ever.

I battled the yucks from July through September. And even though I felt like they got the best of me most days, praise God that I overcame them eventually. Brad and I are keeping our heads above the yucky drowning waters this time. Prayers help. Friends help. Comments, emails, and good thoughts help. Thank you all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

chin up and soldier on

Brad and I have suffered another miscarriage, a chemical pregnancy this time. From the beginning, the nurse cautioned that the pregnancy might not be viable, and it turned out not to be. Of course, we're disappointed, but are not overwhelmed by grief like we were last time. It's a loss, and another setback, but as my doctor said, we can't let fear paralyze us. We've got to stay in the game if we want to win.

This command is easier said than done. I never considered myself a fearful person until I experienced a miscarriage. Anxious and worried at times, yes, but not fearful. But once miscarriage strips you of all feelings of control, it's so easy to let fear overcome you. A friend of mine, also a two-time member of the club, told me that she's scared to get pregnant again. I understand how she feels.

A friend and his wife have had five miscarriages (but no baby yet). After the devastation of my first miscarriage, I often thought of them, and wondered how they handled so many consecutive losses. But I better understand now. Even though fear and anxiety are pervasive, hope springs eternal. Miscarriages are so common, but you never believe you'll have one. Then it happens and you grieve and consider it a one-time fluke. It happens a second time and although you're more nervous about the future, you believe that surely the next pregnancy will be successful. You take each loss as it comes, and cling to hope. Praise God for providing comfort, hope, courage, persistence, and faith. Think of how many babies would not have been born had their parents given up in the face of adversity!

Brad and I have no idea what the Lord has in store for us, but we know that he is sovereign and good. We see his grace in our lives. We are growing in faith and we feel our dependency on him. God works for our good and his glory. We pray that others see our experiences as a testament of this truth.

Thank you to those who pray for us. We appreciate it so much, and we ask you to please keep praying. Pray that we guard against fear and anxiety. Pray that we don't lose hope. Pray that we trust in the Lord's sovereign plan.

Last Christmas, one of Brad's aunts gave me a bracelet with the word "courage" inscribed on it. Little did I know how prophetic that bracelet would be for me in 2010.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

little things that will keep you up all night

One night last week, I had insomnia, which, praise God, rarely happens to me. Despite being exhausted and falling asleep while reading my book in bed (looking glamorous, of course), once I turned out the light, my eyes remained wide open. I eventually fell asleep for a few hours, but woke up at 3:30 in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. I initially blamed my sleeplessness on the start of a head cold: scratchy throat and stuffy nose. But when the alarm finally sounded, ending my night of misery, and Brad and I got up and made the bed, I realized the true culprit: Brad's pillow.

Somehow, Brad's and my pillows had gotten switched and I didn't realize it before going to bed. While tossing and turning, I thought my pillow felt flatter than normal and I couldn't get comfortable, but I never once suspected that I had the wrong pillow.

I've never been picky about pillows, but I am now certain that this is what kept me up half the night. Am I crazy? Has this ever happened to you?

Brad, who insists on a pancake-like pillow and is far pickier about pillows than I am, had his best night of sleep in weeks with my fluffy one. (Grrrr....) I had to fight him to get it back.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

goodbye garden

I nearly broke my back this summer beautifying my backyard, until the end of August, when I quit. I haven't weeded, pruned, deadheaded, or tidied things up back there since the conclusion of our entertaining month. Dinner parties ended, the company left, and I got lazy.

The poor yard suffered a slow and excruciating death.

Especially my little garden.

On Saturday, I called it quits and vowed to try better next year.

I ended up with a decent final collection of produce: green tomatoes, tons of yellow bell peppers that are still green, jalepeno peppers, and another eggplant (significantly smaller than the first one).

Brad and I filled seven large trash bags with yard waste. And I haven't even touched my flowers yet, many of which are still blooming.

Goodbye, garden! Only five long short months and I will lavish you with attention again!

Monday, November 8, 2010

so this is how the rest of the world lives

I love being a laptop and a mac girl now. I feel like I have a new best friend--this computer follows me everywhere. Here I sit, blogging in front of the TV with Brad next to me on his own laptop. So this is what everyone else has been doing for years! Owning a laptop takes multitasking to a whole new level.

This new toy, though I love it dearly, is not entirely a good thing. I used to limit my computer time at home to blogging or looking something up on the Internet if I needed to. But now, whoa. If I'm not careful, this little laptop will suck me in and before I know it, my night is over.

When Brad and I begin Skyping with each other from different rooms in the house, someone, anyone, please take our laptops away.

Friday, November 5, 2010

like old china

I have a motley collection of students in my class this semester: lovebirds, Pig-Pen, and now a brand new group--the fragile ones. These students have tender hearts and end up with hurt feelings easily and often. They take constructive criticism and questions about their research project personally and they act as though my feedback will either make or break them. With every other student or team, my constructive criticism goes in one ear and out the other. To have students not only listen to but care about what I have to say astounds me. 

I tiptoe around these students, who are like old china--ready to shatter at the slightest pressure. I'm often at a loss for how to deal with them. I want to give honest feedback, but I have to carefully consider my words and delivery. I give them the grades they earn, but when I write that "B" or "C" on top of the assignment, I grimace a little, knowing that hurt feelings will ensue.

After class one Thursday, I complained to Brad about having to coddle these sweet, but breakable students. He looked up from the TV and said, "You, of all people, are complaining about others being too sensitive? Are you kidding me?"

My husband, he nurtures me, but he also calls it like he sees it.

So, I tiptoe, and cheer lead, and try to deliver bad news (and bad grades) to these precious, fragile ones with care. Life will toughen them up soon enough. I don't need to be the one to do it. I want to prolong their sweetness as long as possible.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

#8: please shower

I have one more item to add to my "how to improve your chances of getting a job list": don't stink. Literally.

I interviewed one of the sophomores in my class for an undergraduate teaching assistant position next semester. Although he "dressed up" for the interview (collared shirt and khaki shorts = dressing up for college students), answered my questions appropriately, and seemed to really want the job, there was still a problem--a huge one, in my opinion. His body odor made my eyes water. That 15 minutes trapped in a small conference room with little ventilation with him almost made me vomit. Did he not know that he stunk? How could he not know?

I actually like this kid and was disappointed not to hire him. He's smart, friendly, and conscientious, but apparently not with personal hygiene.

Monday, November 1, 2010

a year of meals

Last November, I began coordinating the making and delivering of meals to DC church members in need. Two other women at church coordinate meals for families living in Maryland and Virginia. 

In the past twelve months, I have set up a total of 158 meals for 20 families: 18 had new babies, 1 family moved across the country, and 1 mother underwent surgery. I have emailed with over 100 volunteers, and 85 of those have made at least one meal this year. Many have made two or more meals.

Here's the thing: I don't feel like I've done anything. My faithful meal makers and Meal Baby make my job so easy. I love serving the congregation in this way and it's been a real blessing to get to know some new people.