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.