Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Wrap-Up

Well, 2012 was certainly an eventful year. It was full of a lot of ups: Darby passed his prelim, we celebrated our 5th anniversary in Italy, we went on several trips with old and new friends. But there were a lot of downs, too: good friends moved, we left our church, Darby received some discouraging medical news, and we've watched some family members go through very hard times. Overall, I'm not too sad to leave 2012 behind me. Of course, I know that 2013 will bring its share of hard times. But I'm very excited for the post-school phase of our life to start. In the past, uncertainty has made me very nervous, but I feel like I'm much better at handling it now. I'm really not nervous about where we'll end up in 8 months---just excited to see what happens. We'll see if this calmness lasts as the time gets closer, though. :)

In addition to my 30 before 30 goals, I decided to make one general resolution for 2013. I want to work on being a better listener. This encompasses several things for me: not tuning out when Darby talks about science, stopping what I'm doing when someone wants to talk to me (instead of pretending I can read something online and listen at the same time), not thinking about what I want to say when others are talking, and being more selective about when and how I give my opinion. I've always kind of excused myself by saying, "Well, I'm just not a good listener." But I realized there's no reason I can't improve in that area. I'm hopeful that I'll have made some real improvement by the end of the year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas fun

Darby and I officially started our Christmas break a week ago, and, as usual, it has flown by. I always mean to post about each stage of our trip as it happens, but then I don't have Internet access or am too busy with family. So, I'll just hit some of the highlights.

As our gift to each other Darby and I ate dinner at Bacaro (which was on my Illinois Bucket List). It was super expensive but worth it for a special occasion. Darby tried something new this year and made me fudge for my stocking. It was delicious!

 We met Darby's parents in Branson on our way down and stayed in a cute little villa they had rented. We saw two shows, one of which involved a pianist/soprano/violinist/aerialist (all one person, talk about a Renaissance woman). It was great to just relax after the craziness of the end of the semester.
On the riverboat cruise
Then, we spent time in Wynne and Searcy, Arkansas, with Darby's mom's family. Darby's cousins are all about the same age, and it's always fun to catch up with them. His cousin Allison and her husband, Joey, have recently finished restoring their old house, and we were some of their first guests.

After that, it was on to Dallas where we were able to see Grandma, Aunt Katina, Aunt Lea, frousins Amy, Matthew, and Rob, and little frousin Samuel. We actually had a white Christmas, which was quite a surprise. Our car (which we just paid a lot of money to fix) broke down and had to be left at my grandma's. So, I rode with Hannah on a very treacherous icy ride back to Waco. We saw, I am not exaggerating, no fewer than 6 wrecks. One car had even run into the fire truck that had come to the scene for another wreck! Ice in Texas is a major problem. The one bright spot to the long drive home was that it gave me enough time to finish the scarf I was knitting for Hannah's Christmas present.
Matt, me, Darby, Rob, Hannah. Grandma went crazy this year and decided we could open presents on Christmas Eve.
Little Sammy. He was not thrilled that I was holding him.
Traditional girl frousin picture.
We woke up on the 26th to open presents with my parents and siblings. It's been a few years since we've opened gifts in our pjs, and it was a lot of fun. Then it was on to Darby's parents house to see his brother and sister-in-law and open even more gifts.
Showing off our new boots and matching coats. Hannah bought her coat when she went shopping on Black Friday with my mom. They bought me one to surprise me with at Christmas. I love it!

We will be in Texas for 5 more days. I'm looking forward to seeing even more family and friends, playing more games, and eating more totally unhealthy food. Hope your Christmas was a good one!

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Ornaments

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is putting up the tree. We have a very eclectic collection of ornaments, and I love remembering the story behind each one. As I've done in previous years, I thought I'd share some of the new ornaments we got this year.

Hannah started a tradition of giving all of us ornaments each year. Last year, she did a Mario Kart theme, since we all like to play together. My character is Baby Peach, but she wasn't available, so Princess Peach is a good stand-in. Isn't she cute?
I got this one when we went to Wisconsin with Darby's parents this summer.
Darby's mom gets us an ornament every year. Believe it or not, we didn't have a Texas ornament, so she found us this one on eBay. Hopefully next year we'll be unpacking our Texas ornament in Texas.
Darby put these adorable little mittens in my stocking last year. He knew I would think they were cute. And now that I knit, they're even more appropriate! Maybe by next year, I'll be up to making mittens.
One of my primary objectives in Italy was finding Christmas ornaments. I got this one in Florence. It shows my favorite view.
And I got this glass one in Venice. I was amazed it didn't break after being stuffed into my carry-on bag.


Our tree will never be magazine-worthy, but that's the way I like it. I love that each of our ornaments is meaningful. And I have so much fun searching for ornaments on all of our trips.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Agreement

So, Darby's eyebrows are -- how shall I put this? -- very full. In particular, he has several super long crazy eyebrows on the right side. They're always going in the wrong direction, and I'm always smoothing them down. I've asked him many, many times to let me pluck them, but he's very protective of his eyebrows. On Friday night, they were really bugging me, and I begged him to let me pluck them. After much negotiation, he agreed, but only if he could tickle me (without resistance) for one minute per eyebrow. Because I was desperate to get rid of those errant hairs, I agreed. So, I ended up plucking out four eyebrows, which means four minutes of tickling for me. Darby decided to spread it out, so he did one minute on Friday. It was basically torture, but I still think it was worth it. We'll see how I feel after the remaining three minutes. I just had to share this story because, as I told Darby, I think this is the weirdest thing we've ever done.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

November Books

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World by John Robbins
I have now read quite a few books about the dangers of the American diet, specifically with regards to meat production, but this one was by far the scariest. I almost had to quit reading it because I was so unsettled. It is very disturbing to discover the truth about where our meat comes from, which is why I think people avoid it. But, I really believe we need to do a better job of being educated and supporting businesses that follow higher standards than the bare legal requirements, even if it costs more money. Robbins is a big proponent of vegetarianism (and veganism, to a lesser extent), and he provides a lot of convincing arguments about the health, environmental, and moral benefits of such a diet. I still don't think I will ever be a vegetarian (and I will NEVER be a vegan...hello, ice cream!), but this definitely encouraged me to continue to reduce my meat consumption and search for meat and dairy products that I can eat with a clear conscience.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How A Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" by Rachel Held Evans
Rachel is one of my favorite bloggers, and you may remember that I really enjoyed her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town. This one did not disappoint. In the style of A.J. Jacobs' A Year of Living Biblically, Rachel set out to follow all of the Bible's instructions for women as literally as possible during the course of a year to show that the concept of "Biblical" womanhood is unrealistic. Despite what some claim, no one is following the Bible completely literally; we are all "picking and choosing." Her point is well made, although I'm not sure it will convince many who firmly believe that God has a specific design for women (a design that closely resembles the 1950s). But, the book is more than just a tongue-in-cheek way to prove a point. She looks closely at the stories of women in the Bible and ends up gaining a lot of insight about those stories from an Orthodox Jewish woman she befriends. My favorite part is when the friend explains that Proverbs 31 is not viewed by Jews as some sort of "godly wife" checklist. Instead, it's a song of praise that husbands sing to their wives. The biggest takeaway for me is that we need to stop wasting time trying to measure up to some kind of "ideal" woman. Instead all of us, women and men, should cultivate the gifts God has given us.

The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei
This is the second memoir of a Chinese woman I've read recently, and I'm stunned by how little I know about China's history. The author was a student at a music conservatory in Beijing when Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution began in the early 1980s. She was sent to a labor camp for 5 years, where she and some other prisoners surreptitiously practiced forbidden western music. Eventually, she immigrated to the U.S., where she was able to restart her musical career. Throughout her life, she mourns for the years she and other Chinese young people lost due to the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. It was not the most well-written book, but it was an interesting look into a part of recent history I was almost completely unfamiliar with.

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
I stole this from my brother's bookshelf at Thanksgiving. I still haven't read Miller's most famous book, Blue Like Jazz, but I figured this one might be a similar style. Basically, Miller argues that Christians have taken what is supposed to be an emotional, mysterious, unfathomable story and boiled it down to a set of propositions to agree with. I think this is a pretty accurate assessment. At times, Miller's writing style annoyed me, as he seems to be disingenuously self-deprecating, but, overall, I thought the message was good.

Lucky by Alice Sebold
This memoir, by the author of The Lovely Bones, details Alice's brutal beating and rape as a college freshman and the subsequent trial of her rapist. Although obviously difficult to read, the story is very engrossing, and it's interesting to read about how the rape affected everyone in Alice's life. What was saddest to me was how much Alice's integrity was questioned during the process. Despite the fact that she was seriously injured, there were many questions about whether she fought hard enough, what she was wearing, etc. This happened in the 80s, so I hope things are better now, but from what I've heard, female rape victims are still subjected to an unreasonable amount of scrutiny when they pursue prosecution.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Recap

We had a wonderful, whirlwind trip to Texas for Thanksgiving. A few highlights:
  • Visiting Whitney and her little boy, Finn
  • Baking apple pie and Grandma's rolls with Mom and Hannah
  • Playing Just Dance with Hannah and Matt
  • Introducing cousin Justin to our family's craziness
  • Walking and talking with my Dad
  • Enjoying a GIGANTIC Thanksgiving dinner with Darby's extended family
  • Eating my first meal at Babe's Chicken Dinner House. Yum!
Because we went to Oklahoma City with Darby's family, I had to miss out on my annual Black Friday shopping trip with my sister. I was sad, but she understood, and I was glad we were able to see all of Darby's extended family, especially his grandpa. 

The sibs


Hannah playing "airplane" with Matt. She's very strong.
The beautiful table at Darby's aunt's house. We were able to fit 18 people around one table. It was awesome!
As always, I have much to be thankful for: family and in-laws that I truly look forward to spending time with, close friends, both old and new, a spouse I can be with 24/7 and still not be tired of. Now I'm trying to maintain that spirit of gratitude as I push through to the end of the semester. I just want it to be Christmas! I have to remember that, when I was working, I dreamed of being back in school. This is what I want to be doing. That's my new mantra. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

7 random questions

Mica tagged me to answer 7 random questions, so here they are. (I LOVE answering random questions.)

1. Do you wear make-up every day?
No. I very rarely wear make-up. I've started wearing it a little more often now, especially if I know my picture will be taken, because I'm starting to look a little tired in my old age. :)

2. In your opinion, what is the best part of the holidays?
Playing games with family; FOOD!

3. Which character are you most like from Winnie the Pooh?
I don't know which one I'm most like, but I like Piglet the best because he (she?) is cute and pink.


4. What holiday movie are you excited to see?
Lincoln

5. How many pairs of jeans do you own?
6 - all Old Navy Sweetheart style - 2 skinny, 4 bootcut

6. What’s a gross fact about yourself?
My sister and I shared underwear until I was like 12. We wore the same size, so when my mom sorted the laundry, she just gave half the underwear to me and half to Hannah. We never realized this was weird until we happened to mention it to a friend and she freaked out. I still don't think it's a big deal since it was all clean, but I guess it's kinda strange.

7. What would you choose to eat as your “last meal”?
oohh this is tough because I like so many things. I think I'll go with BBQ brisket, homemade mac and cheese, spicy baked beans, grilled sweet corn, and Olive Garden salad. For dessert, my mom's brownies with Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream.

Now I think I'm supposed to tag 7 more people with my own questions, so here goes. The only people who I know for certain currently read my blog and have a blog themselves are my mom, Matt, Kalyn, and Whitney. But, anyone else who's reading this, feel free to answer either on your blog or in the comments. I'd love to hear everyone's answers!

1.  What's your favorite holiday? 2. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? 3. What hobby would you like to take up if you had more money/time? 4. What TV shows do you currently watch? 5. How long do you spend getting ready on a typical morning? 6. What does your name mean?/Why did your parents choose your name? 7. What's the best gift you've ever received?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Illinois Bucket List

Now that it's almost 2013, it's becoming very real to me that we'll be leaving this place (hopefully for Texas!) soon. Anyway, instead of just counting down the days until we leave, I'm trying to savor our last 7 or so months in the Midwest. In that spirit, I decided a bucket list was in order. Some things are local, and some are within driving distance. As you can see, many revolve around food, of course.
  • Eat at Maize, Bacaro, Escobar's, Radio Maria, and Luna
  • Hike at Turkey Run again
  • Do a tasting at Sleepy Creek Vineyards
  • Take a trip to Michigan
  • Go to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio
  • Visit the Spurlock Museum and the Krannert Museum
  • Go to Indiana to eat at the Beef House
  • Visit the Cracked and Crave food trucks
  • Try the gelato at Art Mart
Other C-U people: Anything else we must do before we leave? 

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Golden Rule

In the few weeks since we decided to leave our church, we've received several encouraging notes and invitations to lunch or dinner from members of the congregation. And they've meant so much to us. It's made me think back to the times I've been on the other side of the situation. I often assumed that people wouldn't want me to contact them. It might make them feel awkward, I reasoned. They might feel like I'm pushing them to come back. However, from this side, I don't see it like that at all. It's so nice to know people miss us.

I realized that I do this a lot. I assume that everyone else operates differently from me. I have such a hard time initiating plans with acquaintances. Won't they think it's weird that I'm calling them? What if they don't want to spend time with me? But when I think about how I would feel if an acquaintance from school invited me to do something, I realize I wouldn't think it was weird. In fact, I'd be happy. 

I've always viewed obedience to the Golden Rule* as not being mean to people or helping people when they ask. And I'm (generally) pretty good (well, not horrible) at those things. But, so often I don't give people the things that I would like to receive from them. I don't make a phone call, extend an invitation, give a gift for no reason, go out of my way to give a compliment. I really want to be better at imagining how I would feel in a certain situation, so I don't have to wait until the tables are turned to know how to respond appropriately.

*This reminded me of a recent funny story.
Darby: (out of nowhere) Do you know the Golden Rule?
Me: Of course. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
D: (barely suppressing a laugh) No...he who has the gold makes the rules.
(cracking up) Have you ever heard that before? It's hilarious.
Me: Uh, yeah. It's a really old joke.
D: (practically crying from laughter) I know, but I just think it's so funny.
Me: ???

Monday, November 05, 2012

October Books

Not too much reading this month. Falling asleep immediately when my head hits the pillow really puts a dent in my reading time.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
I loved Interrupted, so I was excited to read another book by Jen. This is written in a very informal, almost blog-like style that is quick to read. Jen embarks on a 7-month journey in which she radically simplifies 7 different areas of her life: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. At its core, the project is about getting rid of excess so we can focus on what is truly important. In month one, she decides to eat only 7 foods for the entire month. It is understandably very difficult for her. But the fact is, that is how much of the world eats. I think we often forget that we have an embarrassment of riches. The choice of what to eat is a huge luxury. This book was at once hilarious and inspiring. I highly recommend it.

Heroes and Monsters by Josh James Riebock
One of the strange things about reading on the Kindle is that it's not easy to read the book description. You have to be connected to Wi-Fi, so it's not a matter of just flipping the book over and reading the back cover. Since I often read books well after I've bought them, I sometimes have no clue what the book is going to be about. That was the case with this one. I thought it was fiction, but it is actually a memoir of one young man's spiritual journey. So, I was really confused for about the first half of the book. It's a strange book, full of metaphor and symbolism. What differentiates it from many other "Christian" books is that it is quite honest about the struggles of faith. Josh makes it clear that it is not an easy road, but it is a worthwhile one. The writing is a little disjointed at times, but ultimately it is an insightful look into what it means to live the full life God has called us to.

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould
This is a book my language assessment teacher recommended I read and comment on for my comprehensive exam. Gould explores the history of mental testing in the 19th and 20th centuries, exposing the fallacies that lay behind early intelligence tests (which heavily influenced our current standardized tests, such as the SAT). It's crazy to read about the way "science" was used to prove inequality between races and sexes. It definitely caused me to question all of the things we accept as truth today. The chapter on factor analysis is a little dense, but otherwise it is very readable. I recommend it to any teacher. 


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Engagement Fiesta!

The wonderful Mica and Harrison got engaged a couple of months ago. Somehow, Mica and I schemed up a taco night engagement party. Really, it was just an excuse to have a party, I made beef and chicken tacos and others brought all sorts of yummy sides and dips. So.much.food. It was a great time. I really enjoy hosting parties, but I'll never do it without some sort of excuse. This was a great one.

Mica made her own cake. Kinda sad, but she volunteered, and she's the best baker of us all. It was delicious.

Sweet little Korean baby, Ji-oo. Melt my heart. This was after they took off her full-body fuzzy jumpsuit. I was about to die from the cuteness.
Ester and Sun Joo during our rousing game of Scattergories. Darby laughed until he cried, so you know it was a good game.

Mica, Jin, and Cass
This is a horrible picture, but I just think it's hilarious how I am completely focused on my ice cream, totally oblivious to anything going on around me. I was glancing through my facebook pictures the other day, and I realized that there are many, many pictures where I am in the background chowing down. Awkward.
Jin, Cass, and I got HarriMica a couple of two-layer games: Boggle and Bananagrams. Here they are showing off their teamwork skills in opening presents.
It has been great getting to know Mica and Harrison over the past couple of years. They are a great couple, and I can't wait for their wedding victory tour!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I had a pretty (ok, really) low-key celebration this year. I wore my Halloween socks and passed out candy. (Mom, I wasn't wearing my new Hello Kitty Halloween socks because it was cold today, and they're ankle socks, but I definitely love them!) We had a good number of trick-or-treaters, but they were mostly older kids, so I didn't get to see any really cute costumes. I just have to enjoy the adorable pictures of my friends' kids on Facebook.


On Tuesday, I brought candy corn for my class. I thought it would be fun for the students to enjoy a traditional American treat. Now, most international students think American foods are way too sweet (even ones we don't consider that sweet, like muffins), so I warned the students before I passed it out that candy corn is super sweet. You should have seen the way they were gingerly holding the candy corn and trying to smell it before they tried it. It's exactly the same way I am when they hand me dried seaweed or cakes filled with red bean paste. It's funny how accustomed we are to our own tastes. Some of them liked the candy corn, but most couldn't handle the sweetness. Oh well. More for me. :)

Darby's mom sent us an awesome Halloween puzzle a few weeks ago. We worked it the day we got it, but I thought it was appropriate to share the picture today. We are such nerds.


Hope you all had a happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This justifies all of the time I've wasted on Pinterest

I've tried many things that I've pinned on Pinterest, and most of them have been at least moderately successful. But, the pin I tried tonight has literally changed my life. Someone had suggested using a KitchenAid mixer to shred cooked chicken. I was skeptical, but I decided to try it, because shredding chicken is the bane of my existence. It worked wonderfully. I can't even describe to you how happy this makes me. And I NEVER would have thought of that on my own. Now I'm just sad for all of the years I've spent shredding chicken by hand when my miracle-working mixer sat 2 feet away, just begging to be used. Just think of all of the hours wasted. Next time you need to shred chicken, try it. Just put the hot chicken in the bowl (I bake my chicken, but I'm sure boiled will work as well) and use the paddle attachment on low. After about 10-15 seconds, turn it up a little higher. I had to pick out a few larger chunks on my own, but overall it worked great.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What I'm loving right now

Aaahhh...this semester is flying by. All of the weeks pass by in a blur. In some ways, it's nice because I'm that much closer to Christmas, but I hate feeling like I'm barely hanging on.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that are keeping me sane:
  • Apple cider from Curtis Orchard. This stuff from a local orchard is crazy expensive but so worth it. I've tried other brands of cider, and they just don't compare. 
  • Pumpkin spice Hershey's Kisses. I hadn't tried these before this year, and they're really good. I think they're one of those things you either love or hate. I love.  
  • Parks and Recreation. Darby and I just started watching this show on Netflix. It reminds me a lot of The Office (in the days when The Office was actually funny). We also started watching Breaking Bad, but that show stresses me out. 
  • Pumpkin baked goods (all of them). I've made pumpkin scones, pumpkin chocolate chip bread, pumpkin cream cheese bars, and pumpkin gingersnaps, most of which I've eaten by myself. So much pumpkin to consume, so little time. 
  • My fleece pants and fuzzy socks. It has recently gotten cold (boo), but I do love being able to wear my fleece pants. They are the most comfortable things I have ever worn. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Grieving

As I've mentioned several times before, I try to keep this blog relatively upbeat. I want to be honest, but I also think it can be a little dangerous to share negative emotions online. When I'm angry or sad, I tend to exaggerate. I don't want that stuff to be out there forever. But, sometimes there are things that are too much a part of my life not to share. (Note: I try hard to never share anyone else's bad news, even if it affects me. I think it's up to each person what they want to share.)

So, now that the huge disclaimer is through, I can get on to the point of this post. Darby and I decided about a week ago to stop attending the church we've been going to for the past 4 years. I won't go into all the reasons for our decision, but, of course, I'm fine with talking about it privately.

It was not an easy decision, and I knew there would be challenges, but I've been surprised at just how sad I've been. In a way, I think it's a lot like a break-up. I know it was a good decision but it doesn't mean I don't miss it. We have so many friends there. Of course, we'll still spend time with the people we were close to, but it's not the same as having a guaranteed time to see them several times a week. And it feels so weird to not be there at our usual times --- Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night . . . not to mention the many weekend activities.

Of course, we're planning to visit other churches, but Darby's out of town this week, and I just couldn't make myself go alone. And there's part of me that thinks: Am I ready to commit again? If I'm being really honest, I'll just say that I am so tired. I know being a part of a faith community is important, and it's not supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows. But, I am drained. Any advice from those of you who have been through this? How did you start over?

Friday, October 12, 2012

September Books

The Best Spiritual Writing 1999 edited by Philip Zaleski
I picked this up on a whim at the used bookstore several years ago and finally got around to reading it. I can't believe I waited so long. The short essays and poems on spirituality (in a broad sense) were beautiful. If you can get your hands on Andre Dubus III's essay entitled "Fences & Fields", please read it. It is one of the most touching depictions of fathering a daughter that I've ever read.

One More River by Mary Glickman
This was a sweeping, multi-generational story about a son's quest to find out the truth about his mysterious, ne'er-do-well  father. It talked a lot about the experience of Jews in the southern U.S. in the post-World War II era, which was interesting for me. It was a sad story, but very gripping.

Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
I had heard a lot about this book and borrowed it from my brother when I was home this summer. It's based on research done by the Barna group about outsiders' view of Christianity. Of course, the responses were pretty negative, which, sadly, does not surprise me. A major part of the book is spent convincing people that these perceptions are real, which didn't really apply to me. However, I appreciated the suggestions on what we need to do to change those perceptions --- basically judge less and love more, although the advice was a little more concrete than that. I don't agree with all of the author's conclusions, but it's definitely a worthwhile read.


The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner
I love self-help books, especially ones about developing discipline. This one was kind of a disappointment, though. A lot of it was based on Taoist thought, which is interesting but just not my thing. Plus, the author's writing was somewhat disorganized. I did like some of the principles though, like focusing on process instead of product.

Three Willows by Ann Brashares
I absolutely loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, so I had to read this book by the same author. This is about a slightly younger set of friends, but is written in much the same style and with similar themes. So, of course, I loved it. Some of the characters from the original books make cameos, which was quite fun. 


Monday, October 08, 2012

She's got her love to keep her warm

This weekend, we made the 8-hour drive to Little Rock for Darby's cousin Molly's wedding. The wedding was at this beautiful little riverside chapel with outdoor seating for both the wedding and the reception. Unfortunately, a cold front blew in on the day of the wedding. It had rained steadily all day and was in the 40s. By the time of the wedding, the rain had (mostly) cleared up, but the ground was incredibly soggy and it was cold and windy. I was shivering in my sweater dress, tights, boots, and jacket. I felt so sorry for the bridesmaids in their little dresses and open-toe shoes. I don't know how they survived. It was still a beautiful wedding, though, and the bride didn't seem fazed by the weather at all. I guess others aren't as whiny as I am. :)

Molly and Darby. Doesn't she look gorgeous?

So, I practiced smiling in preparation for this picture, and I think it worked. My problem is that when I smile for real, my eyes get very squinty, which I hate in pictures. So, I have to ignore the advice to "smile naturally." I can't believe it's taken me 27 years to figure this out.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happiness is giving up things

As I've written about before, I've become very interested in the idea of creating my own happiness. I was especially inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. One pattern I've noticed recently in my life is that it's often the things I give up, not the things I do, that contribute significantly to my happiness. This has surprised me, given my focus on setting and achieving goals. So I wanted to share three things that I've given up in the past year.

Running. I set a goal to complete the couch-to-5K program, which I accomplished. I hoped that I would become one of those people who loved to run. I didn't. Yet still I kept forcing myself to run, hating every step of it. Finally I woke up and realized that there are tons of other forms of exercise I actually enjoy (elliptical, yoga, group aerobics classes, walking). Why was I forcing myself to do something I hate? I gave it up about 9 months ago and actually enjoy working out again.

Yard work. Gardening is one of those things that I feel like I should enjoy because so many other people enjoy it. But the truth is, I hate dirt, I hate worms, and I'm not really a fan of being outside. So, I already accepted some time ago that I will not be a gardener. And yet, there was this feeling that it would be shameful to hire someone to take care of our yard. After all, we could do it ourselves. Isn't it a waste of money to pay someone to do it? But, a friend started a lawn care business, so I finally gave myself permission to outsource the job. For the first time in 4 years, our yard looks really nice. I don't get this pit in my stomach when I drive up and see all of the weeds that I know I should be pulling. And I finally got rid of the guilt of not doing it myself. Because honestly, we all could do lots of things ourselves. For example, make our own clothes. But we've decided it's worth it to leave that job to someone else. And I do choose to do things that other people outsource, such as cooking all our meals and filing our taxes. It's just about finding the balance that works for us. 

Shopping for clothes. This was a biggie. Recently, I started thinking about how I could free up more money to give to charities. One of the things I immediately thought of was clothes. The more I thought about it, the more important it seemed. Because not only was I investing a lot of money in clothes that I didn't really need, I was also investing a lot of time looking for those clothes. I decided in July that I wouldn't buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. And it has ended up being a great decision. Before, I was always dissatisfied with my closet. I'd think, "If only I had ______, then I'd be happy with my wardrobe." But now, I know I can't buy anything, so I don't even waste time thinking about it. It's forced contentment! And on a less important note, I've been able to see more clearly that I should be focusing on quality, not quantity, with my clothes. When I resume buying clothes, I'm going to stop picking up random shirts here and there and instead only buy pieces that are actually missing from my wardrobe (e.g., a brown belt, black sandals that don't hurt my feet).
Note: Please don't interpret this as judgment on other people buying clothes. This was something I thought was necessary for me personally, but I don't think everyone needs to do it. It would be very hypocritical for me to say it's ok to pay someone to do your yardwork but not ok to spend money on clothes. :)

What about you? Has giving up something made you happier?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If you happen to see a gold ring...

My dad had a business meeting in Chicago last week, so he came down to spend the weekend in with us. On Saturday, I thought I had a fun evening planned for us. We would go to our church's tailgate party and then to the football game (which Darby and I had gotten free tickets for). Well, while tossing around a football at the tailgate, my dad's wedding ring fell off. We (and at least 20 other people) searched for it for over an hour to no avail. It was crazy. We knew it could only be in a small area, but it's like it just disappeared. This was my dad's original wedding ring, which he's had for 33 years, so I was really sad for him. We finally gave up the search and went into the game. It was an awful game (we lost 52-24) and really cold on top of that. I felt so bad. What a lame night for my dad!

Dad still managed to smile after the ring debacle. This was before he bundled himself up in blankets and cinched his hood all the way around his head. Did I mention it was cold?
I haven't given up on the ring. I'm going to continue to call the Assembly Hall lost and found and will probably go back at least one more time to search the grass. It has to be there somewhere! When I was about 10 or so, I took off a ring my grandma had given me and laid it on a bench in my neighbor's yard. When I went to put it back on, it wasn't there. We searched and searched and never found it. Then one day, at least 8 years late, my neighbor rang our doorbell, and he had that ring in his hand! He said he had seen it while mowing and thought he remembered me losing one. Isn't that crazy? I'm hoping it won't be 10 years before I find my dad's ring, though.

Despite the lost ring and disappointing football game, it was a fun weekend. Dad, Darby, and I had a lot of really good conversations. And Darby was happy because I made an apple pie for my dad (I seem to only make apple pies when my parents visit). My mom was planning to come, too, but she was hosting a luncheon on Saturday, so she had to stay home. We missed her, but I know it won't seem very long before Thanksgiving is here. It's already the 5th week of the semester. Whaaattt??


Monday, September 17, 2012

Reality Check

This morning, I started my ESL practicum, in which I spend 100 hours observing/teaching at a local high school. My supervising teacher wanted me to meet her before school, at 7:30. Ouch. I'm used to my grad. school schedule of never having to be anywhere before 9. I survived, thanks to my trusty Hello Kitty travel mug.

I observed three classes: Life Science for ESL students, Physical Science for ESL students, and a regular ESL class. And, wow, I'm exhausted just from watching! Sometimes I get frustrated by the things my students say, their seeming lack of attention, etc. But, after watching these freshmen and sophomores, I will never complain again! I had forgotten how high school students actually act. I blame this on TV shows like "Friday Night Lights" and "Glee," which portray teenagers as basically adults, just with more drama. No, high schoolers are definitely still kids. That being said, the kids are very fun and seem really eager to learn. And my supervising teacher is wonderful. I think it's going to be a great experience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

August Books

Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
I'm a big fan of Kathleen Norris's work. This is an interesting look at the history of acedia, which was originally one of the 8 evil thoughts but was subsumed under sloth when the 7 deadly sins were created. It is defined as a spiritual apathy. Norris explains how she has battled acedia in her spiritual life. She points out that many of the feelings we attribute to depression might have a spiritual rather than physical origin (although she is very clear that she does believe in depression as a real illness and believes she has suffered from both clinical depression and acedia). It was interesting to think about the responsibility we have to rouse ourselves from spiritual apathy. The book tended to drag a little in the middle, but I think it was a worthwhile read.

The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams by Trent A. Hamm
I had heard about this book on one of the personal-finance websites I read, so when it was offered for cheap on the Kindle, I decided to check it out. I mainly read these books for inspiration to keep going with saving. I don't really expect to learn anything new (live below your means, budget, etc.). This book had pretty standard advice. I got a little annoyed by the author's tone, though. He acted like everyone should be striving to earn enough to quit their job and stay home and write, but I don't think that's a desirable goal for everyone. Bottom line: I think there are better personal-finance books out there.

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
This historical fiction novel is set in World War II. The Mona Lisa has been hidden in a French chateau (this part is true), and a Louvre curator and her French revolutionary boyfriend team up with two Swiss secret agents to recover the painting before a Nazi leader can steal it for his personal collection. This story was fast-paced, and the setting was interesting. I'm not sure exactly how accurate it is in its detail, but it seems to portray WWII-era Paris well. A good, quick read. 

Second Honeymoon by Joanna Trollope
This was a Kindle Daily Deal, and I got it on a whim. It's about a British family's struggle to adjust to life after the three kids have left the nest. I thought it portrayed quite realistically the challenges of transitioning into adulthood. The characters were sometimes frustrating in their whininess, but overall, it was a good story. 

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
The second of the three free Francis Chan books I got for my Kindle. This one argues that Christianity has moved away from its original purpose and that Christians should stand out in their attitudes and service. I know a lot of people LOVE this book. I thought it was good, but I liked Interrupted (one of my July books) better. 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
A man at church gave me this book to read after I expressed frustration in my sometimes inability to say important things without getting emotional. I really appreciated the practical advice the authors gave. They said that the goal of every crucial conversation should be to be 100% honest and 100% respectful. This is a challenge for me. I worry a lot about offending people, so I end up not being completely honest. I was glad to learn some strategies for telling hard truths in a respectful way. I've also been trying to take their advice to remember the purpose of the conversation. Often, my goal shifts from exchanging ideas with someone to winning some kind of fake debate. I'm trying to curb this. I highly recommend this book.

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper
This is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who goes to help in her sister's candy shop in London during the plague of 1665. The main character is a redhead named Hannah, so, of course I loved her. :) It was a great story, and I enjoyed learning about this time period, but it ended rather abruptly. Perhaps there is going to be a sequel? 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

LABOR DAYYY!

Over the long weekend, several of my friends from Robinson CofC got together for our first (hopefully of many) reunion. We rented a house on Lake Whitney, which is near Waco. It was such a wonderful weekend. I was a little nervous because all of our husbands came and they didn't really know each other, but everyone got along so well. When we were in high school, we used to dream about the day that we'd all go on vacation together with our families. And it finally happened!

We started planning this trip back in November, I think. When we were all at church in Waco over Christmas, Stephanie got really excited and came up to me and Jessica and shouted LABOR DAYYYYY!! So, that has been our constant mantra. 

There was (slightly) less silliness than our old slumber parties, and we couldn't really stay up past 1 a.m., but other than that not much had changed. We talked and talked and talked, ate our weight in junk food, and laughed until our sides ached (and Stephanie snorted) playing games. We didn't have karaoke, but we did sing along with Darby on the guitar and Jessica's husband, Chase, on the banjo. And instead of tubing in the river behind Jessica's parents' house, we swam in the lake, sporting our awesome dollar store Disney princess floats.

These girls were such a huge part of my childhood, and I'm so thankful that we're all willing to make an effort to keep up our relationships. We missed Krista, Bobbi, and Adriel. Hopefully they'll be able to join us next year. There will definitely be a next year!

Whitney, Jessica, and Stephanie getting ready to make s'mores on the grill.

Whitney's baby, Finn. Despite what it looks like from the mess in this picture, he was one of the most well-behaved toddlers ever. It was so much fun getting to spend time with him. Whitney is one of my oldest friends, and it is so fun to see her as a mom. She and Clint are great parents .

Jon and Stephanie

Jessica and Chase

The view from our patio. We were very close to the lake, but there was about a 20-foot dropoff to actually get to the water. So, we rode in the back of Darby's parents' pick-up truck down this tiny gravel path. Classy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A very old freshman

Monday was my last first day of school (probably). Of course, I thought the same thing last August. :) I definitely won't be staying another year, so I'm pretty sure this is it. I'll never say never to the possibility of getting a Ph.D., but as of now, I just don't see it. My enthusiasm for school has waned quite a bit since my freshman year of college nine (how can that be?) years ago.

Today, I was running to my Spanish class (love it when the bus is late), and a girl I was walking beside asked me what class I was going to. It turned out we were headed for the same class. She said, "Are you a freshman, too?" It's a comfort to know that, even though I sometimes feel like a senior citizen compared to the college kids I see every day, I still look like an 18-year-old.

Here I am during my freshman year at ACU (with my sweet roommate, Jeanine).
And this is me a couple of months ago (with Katy's baby, Ansley, and Darby's thumb)
I feel like I look a little older, but I guess I haven't changed that much. What do you think? I'm getting very mixed messages. The other day I got off the elevator in my building and a student came up to me and said, "Excuse me, ma'am. Can you tell me where room 4002 is?" So, she obviously thought I was an instructor. And when I was interviewing incoming international students, two of them called me "madam." Ha!










Monday, August 20, 2012

Meant to Be

This weekend, I met Brittany and Erin, two of my Fat Tuesday girlfriends, in Las Vegas for a mini reunion. We had tons of fun exploring all of the hotels, seeing Cirque du Soleil, eating our weight in ice cream and cake, and playing penny slots.
The GIANT sundae that Britt and I split. Shamefully, we ate less than half of it. If only you could get ice cream to go . . .
Me and Erin playing the part of cute couple

It was so great to spend time with these girls. Our similarities really came out this weekend. To name a few:
  • Our religious application of sunscreen in the land of extreme tans
  • Our excitement over the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor
  • Our inability to stay out past midnight
  • Our belief that no meal is complete without dessert
  • Our disdain for facebook oversharing
  • Our function over fashion approach to shoes. No traipsing around in 6-inch heels for these girls!
  • Our baby faces. We were asked by many club promoters if we were over 21. Yes - the reason we won't be going to your club is not because we're too young but because we prefer to go back to our hotel room and play Skip-Bo. 
We were destined to be friends. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

In my quest for a stress-free (or at least stress-minimum) Christmas, I decided to make my Christmas cards this summer. I enjoyed it so much more than I have in the past because I wasn't rushing. There was only one downside: As I was working on them, I kept getting really excited thinking that Christmas was just around the corner. Then, I'd remember it's August and I still have an entire semester of school to complete before Christmas. Very sad. I resisted turning on the Christmas music while I was working, but it was very tempting. I love Christmas!


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

My newest hobby

As many of you know, Mica taught me how to knit in March. I thought I would enjoy it, but I had no idea how much I would love it. It's very addicting. Even so, my first project took quite some time. I started a scarf but ran out of yarn before it was long enough. When I went to the yarn store to buy a new skein, they were out of that color and wouldn't order any more. I was so dejected. I left the store crying, and put my scarf away for about a month. My sister convinced me to just continue it with a contrasting color. So, off I went. I figured out how to join the skein, but I realized I wasn't going to like how it looked. So, even though it pained me, I ripped the entire thing out and started over, this time making it narrower. It went much faster the second time around and looked more consistent.

Modeling my work. It was about 100 degrees that day, so the last thing I wanted to do was put on a scarf, but I suffered through it.

It's stacked on top of itself in this picture, so the edges aren't actually that uneven. It's definitely not perfect, but I guess that's part of the charm.
For my second project, I decided to go up one level of difficulty and do a ribbed headband. After much trial and error, I figured out how to do ribbing, and I'm loving the way it looks. I think I'm about halfway done. As with most of my crafty projects, I am perhaps more proud of this than is appropriate. Ribbed fabric is so cool because it's very stretchy.

Knitting fits in very well with my other favorite pastime: watching the Olympics. I've been happy as a clam for the past week sitting on the couch all evening long. Now, I just have to decide what project to do next!

Friday, August 03, 2012

July books

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Darby read this book a couple of years ago, and I asked him to hang on to it so I could read it. Although it starts out a little slow, this story of two cousins who create a famous comic book series in WWII-era New York picks up in the middle and then veers off into an absurd side plot before the touching ending. I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters, but the book was about 200 pages too long. Further evidence that I don't enjoy Pulitzer-prize-winning books. Why do I never learn?

Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker
I had heard good things about this author/blogger, so when one of her books was offered cheap on the Kindle, I decided to try it. This woman and her husband worked for an unspecified mega-church when they felt that God was calling them to completely change directions and start a church that would focus on reaching out to the "unchurched" in Austin and becoming an integral part of their community. This book really resonates with where I am in my spiritual journey right now, as I think that most Christians (myself included) are doing a poor job of "loving our neighbor." One point that really hit home with me was that many Christians are so burned out on church because we're constantly "blessing blessed people who should be on the giving side of the equation by now." Yes. I think, in general, the church has become very inwardly-focused. We're more concerned about making sure that everyone believes the same thing and policing morality than forming relationships and serving others. This was a very convicting read.

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Kalyn highly recommended this book, and I had some Amazon birthday gift cards, so I ordered it. It's a combination cookbook/memoir (my absolute favorite genre) about the joys of family dinner. The author writes about how dinner has evolved as she and her husband have moved from childless couple to parents of two children under two to parents of school-age children. She encourages readers to make home-cooked dinners a priority even when work and other commitments take up time. Jenny is very funny and not at all preachy. This book just makes you feel good about cooking. 
 
The Land of Later On by Anthony Weller
In this small, strange book, a man commits suicide and finds that there is indeed an afterlife, but it's nothing like anyone expected. With the help of Walt Whitman(!), he embarks on a time-traveling, continent-jumping journey to find his recently-deceased girlfriend before she gives in to pressure and chooses to be reincarnated. It is a weird story, but I found it quite engrossing. 

A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling
This memoir was written by one of the student leaders of the Tiananmen Square protest. I was woefully ignorant of this event. Now that I teach mainly Chinese students, I've become more interested in China's history. It was very interesting to read about the events that led up to the massacre from someone who was in the center of it all. Chai Ling escaped political retribution in China and moved to the U.S., where she married an American. There is a lot of controversy surrounding her role in the protest. Many argue that she saved her own life at the expense of the students who were under her leadership. She wrote this book to tell her side of the story and to share about her conversion to Christianity. Now, she runs a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping child sex trafficking and forced abortions and gender-selection abortion under China's one-child policy. Chai Ling's story is very interesting, but the book is a little disjointed. At the end, in the acknowledgments, Chai Ling thanks her editor who helped cut almost half of the book. I think the editing job was rushed, and some necessary sections were cut. This was a good introduction to recent Chinese history, but I'll definitely read other perspectives.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I Love the Olympics

  • Reminiscing about the many hours spent watching gymnastics during the 1996 and 2000 summer games with my mom and sister. 
  • The heartwarming commercials. Have you seen the Target commercial that shows kids' reactions when they open their college acceptance letters? I teared up. 
  • Making fun of the announcers, especially the gymnastics guy. I love to hate him. 
  • Not hearing anything about Suri Cruise or the Jackson family on the Today Show.
  • And, most importantly, not only do I not have to feel guilty for watching 12 hours of TV in one day, I can actually feel virtuous about it. 
Are you an Olympics fanatic like me? What's your favorite event? I've always been partial to gymnastics, but I've gotten really into swimming this year. And I happened to catch kayaking (random) on TV this morning, and it was awesome. Basically, I'll watch whatever's on. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Small love

After brushing my teeth, I walk to the bed and start throwing the decorative pillows on the floor. Darby likes to lay his towel out on the bed to dry, and since he goes to bed later than me me, the towel's usually there when I get in bed. Like always, I turn down my half of the covers, scooting his towel to the edge of the bed. But, for some reason, on this night, I am struck by my own selfishness. Couldn't I just hang up the towel?

When we got married, I put a ring on his finger and said "with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you." I often think about that vow in terms of some grand gesture of love, some big sacrifice on my part. And if I'm faced with a situation like that in the future, I hope that I'll rise to the challenge. But I have dozens of chances every day to honor him with "all that I am," and that includes something as simple as taking 2 seconds to hang up his towel instead of kicking it to the side. 

This incident really troubled me, as I got to thinking how often selfishness prevents me from doing good things, even simple good things. How many times have I put off calling a friend I know could use encouragement because I'm "too busy"? How many times have I searched for an excuse not to help someone with an unappealing task? 

When I hear about situations like the recent shooting in Colorado, I feel so helpless. And the truth is, much of life is completely out of my control. But, certain situations are under my control. The absolute least I can do is to choose love in those situations. I might only have a handful of chances to do some grand good deed in my life. But every day, I have the opportunity to practice "small love" towards those around me. I pray that I'll see those opportunities and take advantage of them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On listening to my food conscience

So, in my June Books post, I left out The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan because I knew I wanted to do a separate post about it. Without being overly dramatic, I have to say that this book changed my life. Of course, I've read other books and articles and seen documentaries about the startling lack of diversity in the American diet and the cruel treatment of livestock, but for some reason, this one hit home with me quite a bit more. It's beautifully written and, for the most part, not too over-the top. (Although it does target McDonald's as pure evil. I don't get this. There are tons of fast food restaurants. And, confession, I love McDonald's.)

I've known for a long time that I need to make changes in the animal products I buy. But I'm so used to trying to save money on groceries that it seemed daunting to begin paying over $3 for a dozen eggs or $10/lb. grass-fed beef. So, I did basically nothing, except trying to cut back on my meat consumption in general. After reading this book, I decided I had to do something more. I had convinced myself that it was all or nothing, but I realized I could make changes gradually. So, I started buying milk from grass-fed cows and free-range eggs, both of which are available at Meijer. And I made a compromise on the meat. The University of Illinois sells beef and pork in its "Meat Science Lab." It sounds really scary, but basically its a butcher shop staffed by students. The animals are not grass-fed, but they are raised locally. I am assuming that conditions on the smaller university-owned farms are better than the giant slaughterhouses. And the prices are not too much higher than Meijer. I still want to switch to grass-fed beef at some point, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Besides the meat issue, this book also convicted me of the need to avoid processed foods. I've always known non-processed foods were generally healthier (less sugar, preservatives, etc.), but I never realized how much of what we eat is basically corn. This lack of variety is troubling for economic as well as dietary reasons. Avoiding processed foods helps fight against the overproduction of corn. I feel like I do ok, as I don't eat frozen dinners and prefer homemade treats to storebought cookies and candy. But, I definitely have a long way to go. I've given up my flavored creamer in favor of half-and-half and milk. And I'm trying to switch from diet soda to water flavored with pure fruit juice. Eventually, I'd like to make my own granola, granola bars, and tortillas, which I consume regularly. Of course, I won't ever completely get rid of processed foods, but if I eat well most of the time, I won't have to feel guilty about my indulgences.

Anyway, I never want to be one of those preachy people who tells others how horrible their food choices are or doesn't let their kid drink Kool-Aid at a friend's house. So, I'm definitely not judging anyone who makes different food choices than I do. Obviously, I'm not doing everything right. But I feel good that I'm not ignoring my conscience so much anymore. And it might be years before I'm where I want to be, but at least I'm moving in the right direction.

I highly recommend the book, but be prepared: If you read it, you might become one of those hippie food people you've always ridiculed. It happened to me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Happy "Hannahversary"

My sister came to visit last week. Immediately after she left, Darby and I left for a family trip to Wisconsin, so I didn't get a chance to post. We had such a great time. Since she happened to be here on mine and Darby's 5th anniversary, my mom coined the term "Hannahversary." We had fun playing board games, Mario Kart, and Just Dance 3, baking red velvet cheesecake brownies, and eating at some of our favorite Champaign restaurants.

But, hands-down my favorite activity was karaoke. A little back story: a few months ago, I went to "Korean karaoke" for the first time (where you sing in a room with only your friends, not in front of a crowd). I loved it so much and really wanted Darby to experience it, so we did it again a couple of weeks ago. Darby liked it, but he said he preferred regular karaoke because he likes to perform. This is kind of hilarious to me, as it doesn't really seem like his personality, but it's true. Hannah is a natural performer herself, so we decided to go while she was here. We met a couple of friends at Memphis on Main in downtown Champaign. Darby and Hannah broke the ice by each singing a song by themselves. Then, Hannah, Jin, Cassandra, and I sang "Lady Marmalade." I am very good at that song, having sung it about 3,000 times in high school. (I was always Li'l Kim, of course.) Later, Hannah and I sang "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," which was one of our middle school specialties. And Cass wowed us with "I Will Survive." But the undeniable star of the show was Darby. He sang 4 songs, and everyone LOVED him. He was such a great performer. Considering that he was in a band when we first started dating, it was a perfect way to spend our anniversary. Brought back a lot of memories of my "groupie" days. :)

I'm so glad Hannah took the time to come visit us. It was great to have some sister time. We've started planning our sister trip for next summer. I can't wait!

Excited after our successful performance

Friday, July 06, 2012

June Books

Breathless by Jessica Warman
This young adult novel is about a girl who is sent to boarding school after her brother's mental illness destroys her family. As you can imagine, it was a bit of a downer. And the main character's high school experience was so different from mine that it was hard to relate to. But, the characters were interesting, and I like that it didn't gloss over real issues as many teen books do.


Winning the Clutter War by Sandra Felton
This was offered for free on the Kindle, and I got it because I like to motivate myself by reading books about organizing. I was not the target audience for this book, which is directed at people who have serious clutter issues (not just laziness, like me). But, I did find some of the tips useful. One thing I'm really trying to be better at is doing all of the little things like closing cabinet doors, pushing in drawers, hanging clothes back in the closet, etc. It takes hardly any time and it really does make a big difference in how the house looks. 


A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
This is another young adult novel. I knew it was going to be good when I read the first sentence: "On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'" I mean, come on, how could that not be great? I wasn't disappointed. Maud, a precocious orphan who's adopted by three spinsters with ulterior motives, is so likeable, and her story is very intriguing, if a little predictable at the very end. Highly recommend.

The Crux of the Matter: Crisis, Tradition, and the Future of Churches of Christ by Jeff W. Childers, Douglas A. Foster, and Jack R. Reese
Darby and I bought this book to prepare for the class we're going to teach in the fall. It was a very interesting read. The authors argue that the CofC needs to stop denying its history (e.g., saying that we are the continuation of the Jerusalem church in Acts) and acknowledge that, for both good and ill, we are a product of the cultural climate at the time of the Restoration movement. They also emphasize the importance of refocusing on the cross (the crux of the matter) rather than issues of worship style and other less important matters. I think this is a great book for anyone who's concerned about the future of the churches of Christ. The authors are very honest about the challenges ahead but also very optimistic. Additionally, the book includes a paraphrase of the book of 1 Corinthians in more modern language, which I found very powerful.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The beginning

11 years ago today, I offered to give Darby a ride to watch the fireworks with a group of friends from church. He brought his huge binder full of CDs and played different songs for me in the car. Now, Darby feels like that was hugely pretentious, but, at the time, I thought he was so cool.

We stood together on top of the Baylor parking garage, watching the show. I wanted desperately for him to hold my hand---I even did that thing where I rested my arm right next to his on the railing, but he didn't do it.

After the show, we went over to our friend Daniel's house where some of the guys set off their own fireworks. I have always had a fear of fireworks, especially when they're being set off by teenage boys. But I might have played up my fear just a little bit, so that Darby would comfort me. It worked. :) He finally held my hand. Now, he tells me that he saw through my act all along. Oh well.

I think we've only spent one 4th of July apart since then (when I was in Mexico). We've watched fireworks on the suspension bridge in Waco, at Nelson Park in Abilene, in downtown Nashville, on the beach in Florida, in tiny Monticello, and in Champaign. Every year, I think back to that first 4th of July. Both of us were so nervous. I'm so glad Darby took the plunge and reached for my hand. Neither of us had any idea that, 11 years later, we'd still be watching the fireworks together, holding hands.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Makes My World Go 'Round

My friend Kalyn was recently asked, "What makes your world go 'round?" for an art show application. She encouraged her blog readers to answer the same question. So, here's my list:

What makes your world go 'round?
  • The 15 minutes Darby and I spend catching up on our days after I pick him up from the lab
  • Holding babies
  • Playing games with my parents, brother, and sister
  • Eating cookie dough from the bowl
  • The bittersweet feeling of finishing a good book
  • Remembering silly inside jokes from high school
  • Custard Cup - duh!
  • Sunday afternoon naps
  • Long talks with friends 
  • The excitement of the first day of school  
  • My grandma's homemade Chex Mix and strawberry bread and Christmas candy . . .
  • Exploring new cities
  • Monthly e-mails from my college girlfriends
  • The first cool day of fall
  • Frousin "taditions"
  • Enjoying my daily bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee with Darby
  • Real mail in the mailbox
  • Fields of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush (miss this so much)
  • Trying new recipes
  • Being called by one of my nicknames - KK, KJ, Kaykey
What about you? What makes your world go 'round?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

30 before 30 update

I had a wonderful 27th birthday that started off right with a French toast breakfast prepared by Darby and included phone calls, cards, and Facebook messages from so many friends and family, a delicious dinner at Destihl, and, of course, presents. I'm not ashamed to admit that I still get really excited about opening birthday presents. I was good this year and waited to open (almost) all of them until my actual birthday. Perhaps the best gift I received was the news that my sister is coming to visit in a couple of weeks! This is such a welcome surprise; I'm happy I don't have to wait too long for her to get here!


I feel like my birthday is a good time to give an update on my 30 before 30 goals. Completed goals are in bold, and in progress goals are in italics. With 3 years left, I feel like I'm doing pretty well. 
 
Education
1. Get my master's degree
2. Earn a graduate teacher certificate
3. Take at least two Spanish classes
4. Begin studying two other languages (Started Italian)

Hobbies
5. Learn to sew
6. Create a card stockpile
7. Start a successful container garden
8. Take piano lessons

Finances
9. Save 10% down for a house
10. Increase retirement savings to 10% of our income per month (I'm up to about 5% from nothing.)
11. Increase percent saved on groceries each month to 40% (I'm up to 35%).
12. Get life insurance for both Darby and me

Travel
13. Go to Italy
14. Visit 3 new states (We're going to Iowa for a wedding in July.)
15. Go camping

Cooking
16. Learn how to cook steak (This was easier than I thought. The secret: buy a good steak. :) Who knew?)
17. Take a cake decorating class
18. Completely replace 3 storebought staples with homemade versions (I've replaced salsa, and I'm working on chicken broth.)
19. Whittle "to try" recipes to under 100 (I feel like this is one step forward and two steps back sometimes.)

Health
20. Switch to antibiotic-free animal products (I've switched to organic milk and eggs, and I'm working on beef. I'll post more about this sometime.)
21. Maintain my goal weight (except, see 23 below)
22. Take four different fitness classes (I did KickFit with Mica last semester. It was awesome!)

Family
23. Have a baby (I know this is really weird to put at as a "goal," but it is one major thing I hope to do before I turn 30, so it's in.)
24. Go on a trip with my sister

Spiritual
25. Create two new units for the Cradle Roll class
26. Teach an older children/adult Bible class (Darby and I are teaching an adult Bible class in the fall. I'm still a little shocked that someone okayed our plan, but we're going for it. We'll see what happens . . . )
27. Read 18 spiritual books.

Friendship
28. Plan/attend three Fat Tuesday reunions (We have one planned for SingSong in February.)
29. Plan/attend at least two reunions with my high school friends (We have one planned for September!)
30. Start/join a book club

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why I'm Not Daddy's Little Princess

I really dislike the term that you often see emblazoned on onesies and bibs: "Daddy's little princess." I love my dad, but I've just never related to that stereotypical representation of the father/daughter relationship.

My dad didn't give me everything I wanted. He gave me a lot, and then he sat down with me and taught me how to budget and save for everything else.

My dad didn't rescue me from every difficult situation. Instead, he gave me advice about what I could do to solve the problem. When I needed to learn the hard way, he let me.

My dad didn't emphasize appearance. I believe that he thinks I'm beautiful. But it's much more important to me that he thinks I'm smart, capable, and talented.

I didn't have my dad "wrapped around my finger." My dad didn't (and doesn't) always agree with me. He taught me that it was ok to disagree and showed how to disagree in a loving way (I'm still working on that one...).

In many ways, I am a lot like my dad. And in many other ways, I hope to be like him. He has been a great example throughout my life.  He doesn't treat me like a delicate princess. He loves me unconditionally, but he also challenges me and respects me. And I am so grateful for that.


Me looking like a munchkin in Dad's shirt.

Playing with the girls. Ah, the good old days before Matt was born. Kidding!!
All the kiddos
Me and Dad in May 2011