Friday, December 7, 2012

In Mid-Air, Vol. 1: investment principles

"All around the world people want to be loved...they're no different from us"

From pop music to praise and worship, sitcoms to movies, and Bible study to staff meetings, I hear the strong message that agrees with Justin Bieber's radio hit here -- people have one common desire overpowering all the others, the desire to be loved.

Then in my own life I see that desire splashed across the front page in brilliant still frames and all-caps headlines. Freeze frames and glimpse my heart hardening and bleeding simultaneously.

We want that steadfast love. Trade anything for it.

Battles rage and we pit the wages of self-defense against the salary of unconditional love. You have to consider the entire benefit package over and above the hourly wage. Are we talking in minutes and hours or are we talking futures?

That darned salary business -- suddenly seems like we're working so many more hours than its worth? And our hourly dollar keeps shrinking more to nickels --forget dimes.

So it goes with Love. If we want to talk futures, we don't get caught up in nitpicking the compensation for every second of hard work. The harder we work, perhaps it seems the less we are paid off for our labor? But no, we're talking futures. Value can't be determined yet -- high risk
Long term yield.
That's when we'll know. Long term. High risk.

So in the economy of Love it goes a little differently. But there are guarantees -- Love is Always the right investment opportunity.
There will always be Losses.
Gains will always be more.
Someone always loves us more than we love Him.
He always loves us before we love Him.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Betty Crocker? Sorry, You've Got the Wrong Number...

In just two months of marriage, my husband and I have tackled the concept of roles in marriage on a regular basis -- sometimes directly through conversations and other times indirectly by the decisions we make wordlessly about what we will and won't do in the business of making a team in the home.

I grew up in a fairly "traditional" family organization: my dad worked outside the home full time Monday through Friday, and for many of my childhood years, my mom stayed at home with us and cooked all the meals (and sent lunch and coffee every day with my dad). My mom was our teacher, as we were homeschooled, and she was also the household manager and cook. She taught all of us how to do chores properly, and tried to teach my sister and me how to cook. (I wasn't at all interested in paying attention, but it seems like my sister learned a lot.) 

My husband grew up part in South America and most of his life in the U.S. He brings a different perspective on work and marital roles, but still one that is heavy on the "woman is responsible for the home" concept. I think his mom actually worked, cooked, cleaned, and mothered. Dad worked outside the home a whole ton, and did a bit of occasional cooking (he was actually a professional and very talented chef for some time). 

One of the toughest things for me to figure out as a new wife is time management. I am not sure how to juggle 3 meals a day for 2 people and keep an entire 1-bedroom apartment clean at all times, while simultaneously working a more-than-full-time demanding job in a management position, and trying to juggle hobbies that are truly important to me. I was finding no time to exercise, which is the one thing that helps me balance my mental/emotional/physical health. I know my performance as a wife has been sloppy, haphazard, panicky, and only occasionally soaring. One of the toughest things about this is that I know as disappointed as I was in myself, I was also disappointing my husband. 

For a little bit, I got buried in my sense of shame and disappointment. I didn't really know what was wrong with me -- where was my inner Betty Crocker?? This meant that almost every moment I spent anxiously considering all the things I could be doing and wasn't, and I couldn't sort out the "shoulds" in order to know what I really ought to be doing next. I was wasting way too much time frozen in anxiety, and, if we're honest, self-pity.

After many conversations, some of them pretty tough, my husband and I have agreed that perhaps being a woman/wife today isn't the same thing as it was for my mom, or even for his mom, or the majority of American wives 20+ years ago. It was time to do something about our expectations of self and one another. He has agreed to be more generous in his estimation of my efforts. I have committed to changing my scatter-brained ways of managing bills (easier said than done) that seemed to work for me as a single woman. 

My husband told me that he thinks the home is mine -- I am the manager of it. Therefore, if I see that something needs to be done, even if I can't do it, it's my job to delegate it. This took a lot of pressure off, and I felt empowered. It means that I need to always be thinking if there is something I can be accomplishing rather than twiddling thumbs or watching TV, and that I need to be efficient with my time, but it also means that I don't have to DO everything my own self. I need to be aware, and ask for help. My husband manages the finances in the daily as well as for our future. This is helpful to me because when it comes to finances I feel like I am always ad-libbing.

We've also decided to try out a new routine:
  • Rather than expecting that I make breakfast and lunch every day, I will make sure that breakfast and lunch items are available M/W/F. I'll get the coffee going, but on those mornings I go to exercise, and hubs gets his own breakfast and lunch ready. Then T/R, I will stay in and make a hot breakfast and prepare lunch.
  • Rather than expecting that I make some sort of fancy cuisine every night, I'll make something large on Monday night (or another night if it's better) that we can eat off of for a few days (lunch leftovers and dinner leftovers!), and then I'll do a couple simpler meals two other nights. My husband is a great cook (like his dad), so he is also willing to cook a meal once or twice a week. 
I know this sounds terribly mundane and maybe overly planned, but the mundane is where marriage gets hard, am I right? It was crucial for me to figure something out that didn't make me feel like I was failing if I didn't make coffee, breakfast, lunch, exercise, do laundry, clean the whole apartment, read, pray, walk the dogs, and get dressed to the business-casual-nines every morning before 8am. Then how about we don't go into the manic details of my office life, and finally I end the day with some sort of chef extraordinaire demonstration in the kitchen and more cleaning and pretty much my life is nothing but a cycle of insane non-stop behavior. Somewhere in there I am supposed to be a good companion to my husband, as well! Maybe some women can handle that, but I CAN'T (I tried -- no can do). 

I'm looking forward to trying out our little agreed-upon routine adjustments. I tried to test it out last week, but both of us got deathly ill and it was also a short week. This week has Thanksgiving smack in the center of it, but I'll give it a shot anyhow. 

Anyway, I'd love to hear ideas from other people on how they figured out division of roles, daily meals (healthy!), hobbies, and just generally having a life once getting married. I also don't mind some quick recipe suggestions or time management / organization tips. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I know that there are a lot more things going on in this world today than a sports game. Most, if not all of them, are more worthy of heartfelt prayers than what I have on my heart today.

But I gotta tell you, my heart is with these boys from DC United, today against the Houston Dynamo.

We need to win by 3 to continue in the playoffs.

My husband tells me that it's not a sin to pray for the Boys in Black to win today, so pray I will! God works in mysterious ways. 

Boys in Black...

We've got your back.

In prayer. 

I have become a faithful fan. 
I am legitimately part of Olsen's Army, as I've even appeared in a pump-up video on TV!
I know these guys. I'm proud of them. They are young, they are underdogs, they have heart, and I love them. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Little Autumn Wonder

This tree is in my neighborhood park. It stands at the center of my vision as I turn down the main street to get to my apartment. It is majestic and awesome. Several weeks ago, with every leaf intact, it turned bright red and proud and full of absolute, breath-taking beauty -- literally. I'm telling you, good thing our speed limit is 10 mph, cause this thing was so beautiful I almost lost control of the wheel. I wish I had taken a picture of it's wholeness, but then there is something almost more beautiful about it when the leaves start to fall and just keeps on standing firm.

So blazing and bright -- it sends a message. It will not be ignored. This beautiful color-turning tree commands humility and wonder. Silent, still, immovable. Not showy, but undeniable in its power.

This is glory. This is the kind of natural occurrence, a thing of terrible beauty that happens without any involvement of an outside agent, that makes me know in the pit of me that something living, conscious, soul-filled, artistic -- some ONE made this tree, and designed it's processes, and started the repeating cycle that would remain in place unshaken for century after century.

And each year after year, these colors matter to one little me. And millions of other little people just like me.

Trees are worshipers of the best kind. They are rooted and grounded. Their branches raise upward, toward the sun, all of their days. They are un-self-conscious in their beauty. They simply live and grow and reach up and up, providing shade and offering a glimpse of heavenly design to passersby. Trees take nothing for themselves. Everything they do brings glory to their maker, and gives enjoyment to world around.

Trees are so solid and rooted, but their leaves are another story.

(I am more like a leaf. I am always leaving. I am shaky, I can be unsettled by a stiff gust of wind. My colors change, but not always beautifully. I fall to the ground every so often. I really identify with the plight of the leaves.) 

I find it so interesting to learn what is happening with the leaves as their colors transform. During Spring and Summer, they are green due to the chlorophyll which is present in the leaves and aids the process of photosynthesis, which is essentially the leaves using the sunlight, water, and other chemicals from the environment to make food for the tree to live and grow. Green leaves mean a busy, active tree.

The problem is, days get short. There isn't enough sunlight through the Winter for the leaves to continue photosynthesis. The trees store up enough "food" for the winter during Spring and Summer, and as Autumn comes the busywork slows and the tree gets ready to rest and thrive off the store.

The brilliant colors of the leaves are a signal that some of that stored food is trapped in the leaves. They're showing off a little bit -- They've done their job and done it well. Autumn colors are almost like the leaves' way of having a little party for all they've accomplished. Afterward, they fall down to rest.

I hate the Winter. I get easily depressed by short days, extra darkness, and leafless, dead-looking plants. I grit my teeth and must use great force to get myself outside on a daily basis. It's just rough, every year, and I know I'm not alone. Watching the leaves change color is like a tragically beautiful piece of music.

Autumn's loveliness makes me ache that something so beautiful is right in front of me, but the knowledge that it means Winter is coming is almost too much to bear. It's a little glimpse that beauty comes in difficult places. Seasons change -- the good ones and the bad.

This year, I'm trying to plan ahead. Plan things to emphasize happiness and keep busy and warm and surrounded by the things that matter and that remain regardless of the seasons.

I'm learning something from the trees, like always. They look lifeless and barren in the Winter, but in reality, they are resting. They are relying on stored riches, which they built up in times of plenty to survive in the scarce times. This is what enables them to stand firm -- stored riches, and a willingness to enter into rest. 

Look at that tree. No fear. Let the leaves fall -- they've served their purpose. This tree is ready to stand firm, surviving on stored riches and a peaceful hope for the future of Spring. This is who I want to be! Unshakable.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet...

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.

Joining the Army -- or 7 Quick Takes Friday

Internet connection temporarily intact (this will make sense in a moment)! Joining Jen's army tonight. You should too!

  • Currently composing in Word because for some reason my laptop cannot remain connected to the wifi in my tiny apartment. Could it be the PS3? My husband’s Toshiba seems to have no problem remaining connected, and neither does the PS3, but all our Apple products (both our phones, his iPad, my laptop) can’t seem to hold a connection for 2 second together. Does anyone know why this might happen?

  • Asked myself in the shower if there is any way to have too little self-pity. I decided there is no such thing as “not enough self-pity,” so I can pretty much attack that ugly trait with all I’ve got. No holds barred!

  •  Some days are just a gift. Today was busy to the last, but it was so good, somehow. Good moods, good vibes for the weekend, the end to a tough week, little triumphs, and it doesn’t hurt that I enjoyed a super sweet and fun date night with my husband. We went to the reception for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom ten-miler. They were revealing the new t-shirt design for 2013, and showing off their social media sensitivity (apparently they select two “social runners” each race… interesting trend you can check out on Twitter @cucb). Hubs won a guaranteed race entry AND a t-shirt, and we got some 2012 race shirt leftovers for about half price and twice the neon + reflective strips. Special, since that’s when we got engaged. Sometimes I get a reminder how good it is to marry your best friend … forever. Ok, enough syrupy stuff.

  • How about this dreidel?  I mean, did we really need to make the dreidel into a plush dog toy? I put it to you that NO, no this was not at all necessary. Which is why I didn’t buy it for my dogs. Thanks, Ross. Keepin’ it weird. But okay, they did have some other stuff my dogs needed...

  • Ross moved on to bigger and better things, and I finally acquired a selection of mis-matched frames for my big, empty dining-room-that’s-really-part-of-the-living-room wall. I don’t have pictures in them yet, but Snapfish keeps kindly reminding me that “I have free prints, what am I waiting for???!!”, so soon I will humor them and use my free prints. You watch.

  • Beth Moore, in a lecture I heard this week, made a fab distinction between irritation and tribulation. I think we sum this up in our mod society by saying things like “#firstworldproblems” or “#whitegirlproblems” or something of that sort whenever we know we are complaining about something trivial as if it is devastating. Beth was talking about how sometimes we waste so much energy on our irritations, so we are burnt out when it comes time to handle the tribulations, which are ultimately for the purpose of perfecting a good work in us. And the point is, let’s not get caught up so much in our irritations so we can be prepared for the tribulations. When I say it, it doesn’t sound groundbreaking, but when she said it, it did. Anyhow, can’t stop thinking about it as I drive around in my car getting irritated with all the slow drivers.

  • Exactly W H A T is NBC going to do in place of The Office and 30 Rock? "Whitney" is definitely not going to suffice. Maybe it will be a show in which Justin just raps it out about what he's going through as he tries to get over Selena. I know we're all interested.
Now go visit Jen and the rest of the QTers and keep reading for her suggestions of what to watch on TV once The Office and 30 Rock are both gone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

woman becoming

Just over a week shy of 2 months married and 2 months large and in charge at work. It's been nonstop action. Most days, lightly controlled chaos, similar to that "flexible" hold hairspray. I am less flexible than my hairspray, so these days can try my mental state from time to time.

The problem is perfectionism, because I have in my head what a "perfect" woman would be and do in all my varied roles, and this imaginary person lives 10 times the life I do in 3 additional dimensions. Pretty much, this woman is a monster and eats losers like me for breakfast.

The other problem is comparison. I compare myself with women I've known recently or in the past who've done my job much better than I do, and all I can see is my own failure to live up to their performance after 2 months of doing what they've been doing for 10 years. I compare myself with my mom and my husband's mom, who've also come on the radar with decades of experience not only at being godly women in general and wives in particular, but also very good mothers on top of it.

Admittedly, I also compare myself with other bloggers that I love, who all seem to be married moms of multiple children who they stay home and mother full-time, and blog/tweet/pin/facebook/speak publicly and also write books in their spare time. And where do they get this spare time when motherhood is a 24/7 job of keeping humans alive???

I really don't have the slightest clue how to add children to this mix, but thankfully, I don't have to worry about that ... indefinitely?

I tried to take some pressure off myself by finding a blogging community of women who are doing what I'm doing: trying to be a God-fearing woman plus a semi-traditional wife and also a bombshell and also a powerful businesswoman. Turns out that not too many of those women exist and also write blog posts for solidarity and troubleshooting. Or maybe they all just get so good at so smoothly that they don't need an outlet for expressing ideas and getting support from others?

Well, when I feel like I am failing at something (or all the things), my tendency is to duck and cover. The impulse is to hide from the things or eject the most difficult situations. Right now, I don't have the flight option, so I'm going to have to stand in the ring and fight. I'm just going to have to keep trying to figure out how to be all things that I am becoming.

Accept imperfection. Receive grace. Grow in patience and let time pass to create growth. Sometimes the immersion course is most effective. Other times, it's the daily slog through class after class that imprints the lessons into the long-term memory.

And, most practically, keep trying new things. If the way I thought it should be organized doesn't work, try a new way. Realize that I can't be all my roles perfectly 100%. Receive grace.

Step into a new role that is a sort of conglomeration of many things that women in our society have the opportunity to be. I am not 100% homemaker, not 100% writer, not 100% businesswoman. I AM 100% God's woman, and He has given me the chance to do many things right now, according to what HE has asked of me: love & obedience. Receiving grace. Not being anxious. Asking for help.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Message from the Crosswalk Man

Today as I left my coffee-shop work meeting, I suddenly found myself alone at a set of 4-way crosswalks on a busy street. The street is filled with diversity, crumbling old buildings giving way to bright new ones, and the chaos of construction ruffling the feathers of the rich and poor pedestrians alike.

Punch that crosswalk button and wait for the little light-up man to say I can walk across. Why do I punch the button? I am almost certain, even if I don't, the lite-brite man is still going to pop up when it's my turn to walk. I think I look at the button like insurance. I don't want to be held in place one moment longer than I want to, and if I don't press the button, that might happen. So don't experiment, just do it.

Standing there waiting for my destiny, an un-profound thought was pressed in my brain that has teased me several times in the past. The thought was simply unrelated to anything that was happening in that moment:

Sometimes, we hold on to pain because it is easier, and it feels better, than letting pain go.

I think being in pain makes us feel alive. It gives us a sense of unique identity. It makes us feel like we matter. Pain matters. If bad things happen, it matters. And if something that matters happens to us, then we are truly important. Even if we keep our hurts a secret from the entire universe, nursing them close to our hearts.

Or maybe we hold on for another reason.

I have often remained in the dull throb of my painful experiences, because I hate hurting so much that I don't want to do the work that is required to get to the other side. I don't want to wait patiently and take the steps to process what is happening, what I've lost, how I'm betrayed, how I've erred so terribly. I shove it down to where the pain is no longer sharp, but it remains very dull and long-lasting. If I let it come to the surface I could pull it out for good! But then I might lose control of my emotions, and that must never be. Nothing must stop me from moving on or remaining in charge of my destiny, least of all, me.

Punch a button, get that insurance that I need to keep moving right along.

And just like that I moved on from my thought, but tonight I also know that even though the hurt is sharper for a little while to process pain through to its release, it's worth the sweetness of relinquishing what ails. These things that nag and linger deep down make my heart creaky, its joints achey.

It sort of comes out of the blue, because it's not as though I'm going through some dramatic suffering lately. But that's the message that the lite-brite man brought me to share with you tonight.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Long Live the Underdog! -or- how I vanquished the serial killer -or- my 7 triumphs for the week

Once you've been inspired by my 7 Triumphs of the Week, please go visit Jen for some more mature reading, book recs, and a giveaway.

Here are all the ways I triumphed this week:

1 - I didn't get serial-killed. This morning my friend Muriel sent me a forward about how girls can be safe. There were several bullet points on different topics, but the further I read the more they all seemed to be like tips for not letting serial killers get the upper hand. Anyone who's known me since I first watched Unsolved Mysteries in 2nd grade, knows that I learned as a young child that anyone can be a serial killer. And it's my responsibility not to help them kill me. 

So anyway, I read this email, felt sufficiently creeped out in the house by myself, and decided to jump in the shower. Once I had fully lathered the shampoo in my hair, I suddenly heard the dogs start barking like CRAZY. I knew I had locked the front door when the husband left to work, but I suddenly worried that the serial killer had actually entered via the sliding glass door. I knew we'd had it open the day before and couldn't remember if I locked it. I was like, "God, seriously?? I just read this email and now I'm getting serial-killed?? This scenario did not appear in the email." 


Well, the dogs wouldn't stop barking and something started banging up against the bathroom door. At that point, I resigned myself to my fate and decided to grab my phone and call 9-1-1, for which I determined to jump out of the shower and wrap myself in a towel. I figured I might as well call 9-1-1 before I got attacked, so maybe they'd use the GPS and show up just in time to catch the perp and stop his reign of terror from ruining any other lady's shower. Suddenly, the "serial killer," a.k.a., my wiener dog who was supposed to be kenneled due to lack of supervision, burst triumphantly into the bathroom, barking celebratorily. With soapy-suds hair, shower still running, I put the dog back where she belonged, and praised the other dog for not escaping -- he was doing his tattle-tale bark, so with the tattle-tale and celebrator combined, it definitely sounded exactly like a serial killer had intruded.

Checked locks and finished shower unscathed.

2 - for some reason, it's really important to me to make food for my husband. If I don't do that, I feel like I'm failing as a wife. For some reason, making food more than anything is what I focus on to make him happy. This week, I experienced a major triumph, in that I cooked him breakfast every day, sent him lunch to work every day, and cooked him dinner every night.

3 - I actually made something really, incredibly delish. It's lemon pepper tilapia, baked in the oven. I blame my success on using mostly FRESH stuff: fresh cracked black pepper, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and freshly pressed garlic cloves. This was a big hit.

I still need a lot of help with red meat. The big problem is that I don't want to eat it, so I have no idea what I'm doing to it. It could be good, bad, OR ugly. I feel like I'm wearing a blindfold every time I try to cook red meat. Do any vegetarians have clues to share? Do any cooks have tried-and-true red meat rules to apply? Does anyone have a key for what the heck to do with all the different cuts of red meat? The main reason I don't eat cows: way too complicado. But also, cause the baby ones are really cute and they like have big brown eyes, like my puppies. 

4 - the Word of God presided over most of my days. We just found a church that we love, and I joined up with the ladies Bible study on Tuesday nights. The study in which I partake involves memory verses and daily homework (well, 5 days worth). It's been great so far, and really challenging in a good way. The more you get into the Bible, the more you want. So rich ... and I don't know how to explain it, but it makes the biggest difference in my daily life moments.

5 - my job has not clobbered me emotionally. This is definitely a change within my spirit, moreso than a  change in my actual circumstances. My job has only gotten more challenging, and my self-evaluation has not really given me any reason for pride. It's just that I know that I've been put in this place for a reason, and I know that my main purpose is tied up in my job performance, but in being what I was created to be, so I don't sweat the small stuff. I'm going to learn a lot, and accept each situation as it comes. Like it or not, the people I work for/with are going to be bathed in prayer, and I will evaluate every moment with a certain spiritual detachment that keeps me from asking my job to provide me with my personal worth. At least, this is where I am this week. It works a lot better than workingworkingworking with desperation, hungry for success, devastated by hiccups, and so intensely affected by the ups and downs of the approval coming from others. 

6 - I did not kidnap any babies. I saw the most precious infant, who was born at 6.5 lbs. Each little breath you could watch as it filled her belly and lungs while she slept. Every inch of her was tiny and perfect and so brand new. Her tufty hair was awesome. When she woke up to ask for something to eat, her brand new vision was so alert and focused. What a little angel! But I held it together and didn't snatch her. In fact, I kept my arms folded behind my back (thanks, yoga!) and looked with my eyes, not with my hands.

7 - I rooted for the right teams. I love the Orioles. I don't follow them like I did 5 or 6 years ago (until the moment Rafael Palmeiro broke my freakin' heart), but they will always charm me like crazy. So proud of them for making it to the 2012 playoffs, for the first time in so many, many years. Their record never dissuades my love. I love them for who they are, not for the benefits they bring me. LOVE those O's! They have actually spanked the Yanks (New York Yankees) 2 out of 4 times they've met in the playoffs. At the moment, things are not looking too good in game 5, but it's no matter. Yanks may win the battle, but ultimately, they lose the war, wherein the war = being charming to Sydney. 

PS -- on my way now to watch game 5 between Nats and Cards. It's not very patriotic of the Cardinals to try and beat the Nationals, so if they win tonight they should probably all be tried for treason. I now live within a few miles of the Nats stadium, so I've adopted them as my tied-for-second-favorite (with the Rangers) team, and I reeeeeally hope they win tonight. It's also many years coming for them.

Long live the Underdog!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Working Wife

I was born without a talent.

I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me, to throw a pity party, or to bore you or repulse you. I am just telling you the truth. I was born talentless.

When it came to sports, I had two right feet, and negative-one hand-eye coordination.
I'm not a singer. I can't naturally harmonize (see my sister for that skill).
I cannot create visual beauty through painting, drawing, photography, etc (see my sister, again). 
I am not hilarious.
I am not fashionable.
Musical talent, playing the piano by ear, learning to read music -- right out.
I am not smart --  math and science mystify me. I can't understand the process and I can't understand why anybody cares! (But I'm certainly glad they do, because thanks, Doc.)
I have bad taste in music and movies. 

What I can do, and I believe I've done, since the day I was born (okay, exaggeration allowed), is work. Yes, I made that word emphatic.

Now that I'm an adult, I have gone through your typical courses of study, completed a bachelor's degree, gotten married, and it still seems I'm a dunce in the natural talents arena. I'm not a great housekeeper or decorator. I don't seem to have a knack for cooking or grocery shopping. I'm terrible at organization. But what I do well is work.

At work, even when I feel bad, when I want to hide, when I want it all to go away, I want to be there. I want to be there because even when I mess up, I know I can. I can accomplish tasks. I can cross things off my list. I can make things happen.

Often I wish my husband or my family could know me at work, because sometimes I think I am a different person there than he will ever know. I feel like I am the best of myself at work. People always want me, even when it's for bad reasons. What do they call it? Kickin' ass? Check. Takin' names? Check. Hugging people? Not very much, but sometimes. 

Now that I'm married, being good at work isn't enough. My husband gets home first and he's waiting for me. It's so strange that I work, and my husband gets home from his job before me and he waits for me. My talented husband, who's good at working AND cooking AND cleaning AND sports. My wise husband, who has a worthy piece of advice for everyone, and yet somehow chose to be with me, a blundering silly-sweet girl who loves hard and works hard and somehow makes up for the void of talents and passions by just putting in the effort.... This is so different than how I thought it'd be, when I grew up with a stay-at-home-mom who was an excellent cook and made coffee and lunch for my daddy every day.

At my wedding, my dad said some beautiful things, while I was wrangling my 3-year-old nephew-turned-ringbearer, so that he wouldn't set some lovely tablecloth aflame. He said that Husband and I will figure out what it means to be US, to be Me-and-Him. He said that we will find that there are unlimited answers to this question. And he said to save some of the generosity that we share with the rest of the outside world, and lavish it on each other.

Lastnight I got home late. I was supposed to leave 45 minutes earlier than I did. This might've been less of an issue if I'd communicated, but I got lost in the adult temper tantrums, the people who needed me, the deadlines. The pile of work that's never even close to done. My husband was left waiting and I failed him.

The whole drive home I was thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. I used to think -- no biggie. Just get married. I'll be good at that, at least. Wrong. Proverbs 31:11: "The heart of her husband trusts in her." This sounds so huge -- like, he knows she won't cheat. But what about when he's waiting for her so they can go running together? What about when he gets through tough days, treasures coming home to her at night, only she fritters away precious moments without even telling him she's going to be late? The heart of her husband trusts in her. But lastnight, I failed at being that trustworthy woman. And I haven't even been a missus for two weeks.

Maybe I just don't know yet -- I haven't learned. I haven't taken the course of study or done enough homework to know: what does it mean to be a working wife? What does it mean to be good at work, and great at being a wife? I love both, but one is surely more important.

All my blog-roll models that I talked about, they are wives, but their work is in their homes, with their kids and husbands. My work is outside, with a team of spirited staff and a huge field of unknowns to plunder in order to be successful. 

I am a woman. Can I do both? Can I learn and grow into a new kind of balance? 
I applaud the blogger Mamas -- and O! how I wish I could be one of them -- tomorrow.
But for tonight, I want to tell the Working Wives that I am joining them in a quest to be the best we can be, practically, at the place we are called. Where is our blog support community?? Let's get it going.

Wherever you are -- be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God. -- Jim Elliot

You're a Wannabe Whatcha Read

Allow me to 'splain.

[And once you're done, go see Jen for more reading!]

Several weeks ago, sometime during the Summer of 2012, I read something from one of my bloggers that was about finding one's true calling in life. She mentioned that I should take note of what kind of blogs I read (assuming I was a blog-reader, which was accurate, and I gave her a clue by reading her blog I guess), because that would show me wherein did lie the desires of my heart for my life. Thanks for the direction, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I'm sorry I didn't remember all the other things you said on the subject, but I promise that someday in my life I will carve out the time to actually read some of the books you recommend! (No deadlines, please.)

I really took this to heart and started analyzing the blogs that I read. There are some noticeable themes.

1) Family-focused.
Most of my favorite bloggers are married, with children, and several of them also seem to be pregnant right now. [This also means that most of my favorite blogs happen to be written by women, but that's beside the point. Obviously I want to be a woman. Or if I don't, I'm not talking to you about it.]
The only problem with this is that until a week and 2 days ago, I was single. Or maybe it's not a problem and what that means is now it's really happening for me, because after a couple years of blog-reading, I'm finally living up to my Blog Models. I still can't quite relate with all the toddler-stories or parenting advice swaps, but it's not for lack of trying.

2) Sexy.
If you're pregnant, or have children, you are/were sexy fairly recently, to someone. This is a given. If you have more than one child, you are obviously a repeat offender in the "being sexy" department. Sexiness also comes from being creative, which you must be if you maintain a blog which I read regularly. Then there are experts in this field, such as Moxie Wife, who gives advice on keeping romance and love alive in the marriage, even after years, even after 5.5 kids, and even when you most likely don't have a lot of spare change lying around for pricey date nights. She's brilliant. I should add that all this sexiness is real and genuine and organic. This "Whole Foods" type sexiness -- no bondage or 50 Shades of anything. All home-brewed.

3) Hilarious.
This is huge. Most, if not all, of my favorite bloggers are tear-jerking, knee-slapping comedic women writers. Oh Jones is one of the funniest, but she has some stiff competition from Jen @ Conversion Diary and Grace @ Camp Patton.

4) Ultra-Smart.
Not that they beat you over the head with boring nerd stuff, but these women are great writers, they're well-read, and they have real opinions on things that matter. They have done the research, and they will make you think from time to time, inbetween your tears of laughter. Something that goes hand-in-hand with this is that they share their opinions candidly. They aren't scared to offend you by being politically incorrect. Jen @ Conversion Diary probably comes out on top in this category, but she has competition from all the others aforementioned. Something that I love is when women talk about what they're reading, and you can get this from Modern Mrs. Darcy (whose blog is linked above and is basically all about books), and I also recently enjoyed reading *about* the recommendations of a friend of mine, who blogs over at Logan and Janelle.

5) Self-employed.
For the most part, these women stay at home with their children. This is not to say that they don't work, because obviously maintaining their blogs, writing their ebooks, giving speaking engagements, and all the rest just doesn't happen by itself. Still, they are the masters of their destinies. They can prioritize their husbands and children and design their work schedules to fit their own personal preferences and convictions. The thought of such a life makes me drool, and I hope for goodness' sake that I can one day imitate. Haven't figured out how just yet.

6) Faith-filled.
Almost all of these family-focused, sexy, smart, hilarious and self-employed women are women of immense faith. Their blogging mission is driven by a purpose to follow their Creator. They write about their faith and they are honest and very unique in their spiritual pursuits. I want faith that is authentic, deep, and genuine. So many of my favorite bloggers exemplify this type of spirituality, and they inspire me every day. Of course, I am a - regular reader of some of the well-known greats in this category, such as Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore. Vastly different styles, very different from my own personal style, but greats, for good reason.

7) Fashionable.
They each have a unique sense of style, but it has to be said that most of my fave ladies frequently make posts about their wardrobe choices. Often it's getting creative with modifications, or planning how to look cute on a budget with a tight schedule, but always it includes vivid photos. Natasha at Little Pink Monster always seems to be trying a new crafty accessory or wardrobe piece for herself or one of her darling daughters.

BONUS: I love juicy photography. I get this from Grace at Camp Patton, and one of my personal besties, Little Llama. Interesting that one IS a med student and the other is married to a med student ... science and art strike again! Together!

Someday, I want to be like all o' them when I grow up. Tell me about YOUR Blog-roll models. Who do you read? What do you want to be when you grow up?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meet the Missus

It's been almost two months since I posted, and a wedding surely took place between then and now. One of the oddest yet certainly best days of my life. 

A few days before the *outdoor* wedding ceremony of very humble means, a cold front moved in on us. There was some debate for a few days about whether or not the clash of the fronts would take place on the day before, or the day of my very own wedding. 

3 days before the wedding, it looked like it was going to be the DAY OF scenario, and I was envisioning horrific nightmares-come-true of all our guests sitting in the reception hall at assigned seats, watching us wed.

My poor, stressed husband-to-be listened to my desperate cries about how it would simply be the worst thing I'd ever endured if it rained. I wanted the weather to reflect my feelings about the event, so therefore I wanted sun rays, fluttering butterflies, gentle breezes elevating my veil ever so slightly, and euphoric waves of fresh air and rustling leaves. Not to mention photographs with a backdrop of wild loveliness. 

My ever-so-sensitive husband-to-be told me to pretty much suck it up and deal with the fact that I am a grown woman, not a Disney princess, and the most important thing to me should be "getting married," not getting married in beautiful weather. And there was nothing we could control about the weather, so stop stressing and move on to the "controllables." My groom was so right. 

. . . . . . .

And the day of my wedding dawned one of the most beautiful this girl has ever lived through in her 28 years. I walked my dogs in the morning and cried choking sobs over the absolute GIFT that was the beauty of the day that the Lord had made. I felt like God, the Father-of-this-bride, handed me that beautiful day wrapped up with a bow on it. Breathtaking. 

I urge you to LIKE Scott Henderson Photography on Facebook so you can see the photographic evidence of this fairytale weather. 

I'm so happy we are married now, and so thankful for the day that went by faster than anything ever, but simultaneously felt surreal and perfect and fit-for-a-Disney-princess. 

Now for the nitty-gritty of learning to be a Wife, even when it rains. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes, wedding style

1- My veil came in the mail today. It is worth mentioning that I tried to purchase this in the store, and the clerk (is that a word anymore?) told me the veil was discontinued and she could not order it for me. She gave me two stores in the Dirty South to call, because supposedly they had the veil in stock and they could ship it to me. I called both, and apparently the South is dirtier than anyone knew, because they BOTH told me that the veil was in stock but in terrible condition.


My MOM found the veil on the website of the store in the first paragraph of 1, and she said it showed no signs of discontinuation, so I just attempted to order it online, and voila. It's here. I wore it at work today to give people the giggles and lighten the mood. My mom says I should wear it to work every day after the wedding. Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

All of this is a lesson in persistence, which my fiancee is always trying to pound into me. With words. He doesn't hit me.

2- I have been driving around for nearly a week with a box of ornament hangers in my car. I ordered them online thinking they were silver and they showed up BRASS. Gross. Well, interestingly the DESCRIPTION mentions that they are brass, but I am getting married so am I really expected to notice this stuff?

I am returning them for some black ones (I think...?) and I filled out the nifty little exchange form and placed it in the box, but somehow the box has been riding dirty with me all week in the passenger seat of the car with no A/C, and it's no closer to getting returned. Help! I might just order more online, not fool around with returns, and give everyone a BRASS ornament hanger for Xmas 2012. Best idea ever!

3- How many people pay attention to wedding programs? Do you ever keep the programs? This is really important for me to know, because I'm about to start thinking about how much effort to put into these, what content to include, whether or not to make enough for each guest or just make people share.  Etc. Classy, I know.

4- What things ended up mattering the most in YOUR wedding? What do you still remember, from that blur of a day? What things seemed important beforehand, and ended up not mattering? I really want to know. We are down to the wire, and I would love recommendations for things to just SKIP altogether.

5- I am really looking forward to getting married! I just want to be married to my beloved. All this hoopla is funny to me.

6- Traditional vows vs. Writing Your Own vows? Why?

7- What songs do you consider ESSENTIAL wedding reception songs? Not necessarily for dancing, because we're still on the fence, but for background music. I am working up a playlist. English and Spanish suggestions encouraged.

I leave you with a song that I remembered lastnight that certainly canNOT be left out, as well as a photo of our awesomeness. But first, for more and better Quick Takes, check out Jen, the Mother of the Quickness.

We gettin' married! Try and stop us. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Five Senses in Quito - as I Remember

I wish you could smell it. 

It smelled like eucalyptus. Wet grass. Herbal cleaning supplies. Bus fumes. Pollution til you choke. Fresh bread and melted butter. Tea of anise. Dust up from the ground, at someone's foot or a soccer ball sent.

I wish you could hear it.

Horns honking, all of the time. Doorbells ringing, long like a song, and someone yelling down from the third floor to see who wants up. Dogs barking. Roosters crowing. Karaoke. Rapid rhythm -- vibrant emphasis -- near constant laughter of Spanish conversation. Food .... sizzling. Beggars, children, begging in a sing-song. Buses and trolleys rumbling. Volleyballs bouncing on concrete. Vendors vying. Waterfalls roaring, demanding, overtaking, pounding, forcing all the thoughts from your head but thoughts of their majesty; all the breath vanished from your chest.

I wish you could see it.

Faces everywhere. Gleaming smiles and persistent dimples and warm brown eyes and golden-bronze skin. Then, some eyes sad, empty, or spirits broken and breaking in deep-down places. Stray dogs -- everywhere -- the kind you'd pay a grand for in the US. Trash, and the beautiful, hollow dogs gratefully consuming it. Bright graffiti, brilliant, the kind that put you in awe of some talent, yearning to know the message and the fire alive in some artist's spirit and mind. Sloppy and messy, uninspired graffiti, speaking of recklessness, destruction only, no artistic idealism. Concrete, concrete, and more concrete. So much cement. Colors, smashing across the concrete surfaces, dancing across the bricks, defying the starkness of broken glass piercing upwards from soil-like cement. Clouds, reaching down like distant relatives, close enough to touch, if they could be held. Gorgeous, colonial architecture of intruders. Sunset. Green so bright you were in fantasy land. Clouds so thick you should be able to punch them. Native dress so humbling.

Quito, downtown. Sunset. Real sky.

I wish you could taste it.

Empanada de aire. Morocho. Fresh juice from unheard of fruits and vegetables every morning. Fresh, flaky, warm bread every morning. Queso fresco. Milk so delicious. Guitig -- mineral water, right from the earth. Choclo. Popcorn with aji -- food of the gods, if you ask me.

I wish you could touch it. 

Plastic cups with ridges, used to share one drink with many -- many. Cool water. Bubbles on the tongue. Cement seats, or are they steps. Metal bars and plastic chairs on buses and trains. Hand sanitizer. Tissues. Warm mugs in the morning. Alpaca. Volcanic soil. Arms and hands, always ready to embrace. Hot leaves of aloe vera, smearing and heating the sore throat, soothing the swollen parts. Waterfall spray. Reigns -- blisters from pulling. Strap of my woven purse, clinging. The skin on Alma's hands -- weathered from work. The silk of Cecilia's hair, still baby-like, wavy, beautiful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Appetizer" for Ecuador Trip

Saturday was a day for Baltimore. The Inner Harbor was filled with gigantic ships for the Star-Spangled Sailabration. Lots of goings on, but my party and I were most interested in taking a look at the Ecuador ship.
See the Condor?
See the Ecuador flag and "love life" motif
Before boarding we received some safety instructions:

Very endearing and insightful stuff. It truly was a task getting up the ramp onto the ship, especially for the ladies of the party who wore stylish sandals instead of gripping soled shoes. The sailors stood at the top to take our hands and assist us aboard. 

It is interesting that they warn you in advance that the tour is only for the external vessel, because within minutes of getting our bearings on deck, Jhonny had sweet-talked our group of 5 (including 3 Ecuadorians) into a private tour of the vessel's interior. 

You can't really use words to describe the majesty of these ships. They are so complex and ornate, and they travel the ocean, which is so mysteriously frightening to me with it's unknown depths and unpredictable temper. This ship in particular symbolized national pride as well as hope -- for I saw in all those sailors the hope for a career that was worthy of a little boasting and yielding in some adventure. Many of them were equivalent to what we know as Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy, studying and preparing to become officers. 

Our "tour guide" spoke mostly to Jhonny and his brother in Spanish, and they would occasionally explain to us "gringas" what we were seeing. I couldn't help but compare their experience with my dad's young adulthood as a US Navy enlisted, submariner. I don't know all the lingo, but I know the challenges of military dependency, and I possess a deep pride in all military service. The things I saw on this ship were precious to me, and beautiful, because they related to my life and memories, but also because I knew how special it was for the men to see something like this from their home country in their second country.
Love this!!


We were able to see many ornate things, from walls to floors of the interior cabin. Every detail was polished to perfection. My photography is not the most professional, but it does the job.

Replica of the sword of Simon Bolivar







One of the most moving areas was the "school room." We saw a couple of students studying, and our "tour guide" for the moment showed us a box where the sailors keep records of their hopes and dreams. They will revisit these at a 25-year reunion. He also shared with us from a photo album containing photos of the 1978 tour. 

I glimpsed an interesting sight before we left the school room: an anchor with a crucifix centered on it. What an interesting image.

Thank you to my companions for making this tour happen, and thanks to our tour guide for taking the opportunity to show off a little piece of Ecuadorian pride! Too bad we couldn't stay aboard and head for Ecuador! We'll have to wait until July for that.

Vamos a Ecuador

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saturday in Annapolis -- in which old places are made new again

Yesterday deserves a little celebration.

The week was a long one for me and Jhonny. We were trying to move my belongings every day after work, and everyone knows how stressful moving can be. On top of that, it seemed like every day some additional drama would hit the fan, and we would try our best to deal with it using our already depleted resources. I would declare that we were successful, by the grace of God, but we were also tired and in need of rest. Yesterday we got it.

While I waited for Jhonny to complete his triathlon training I worked on unpacking, organizing and "making tough decisions" (delicate term for throwing away crap that I just moved). When he was finished we met up, ate lunch, packed up our two dogs and got ready for some fun with little to no pre-planning.
Our original intent was to visit New York City yesterday, but that was before this week happened. The lovely pups came with us and wound up staying with Jhonny's little brother. 

We headed to Annapolis to see what we could find, and if those findings might include free parking.

First stop: neighborhood in Eastport. Landing place: a park bench overlooking someone's private dock.


The bench reads "In Memory of Daniel C. Roper, 1995-1995." We were startled by this extremely short lifespan, and used the iPhone to look up his name. We found this poem, written by his mother. Absolutely tragic. How does a person recover, we wondered. Maybe one never does. It was a sobering moment, but it also made us even more thankful for the moment we were experiencing just then, and all the blessings we have been allowed to keep for our whole lifetimes. You never know how long somebody will be yours, and we are all just on loan to one another anyway.

Spent some time enjoying the small beach in front of the small bench.



Jhonny said it smelled like fish, which of course any beach often does. The smell truly seems like home to me, perhaps because of how many beaches I've visited in my life, and because I've lived so close to one beach or another for the majority of my days. Perks of being a Navy brat?

Eventually we decided to move on, but not before dreaming a little bit about owning a condo like those surrounding us. We watched a nice lady setting up her patio with wine glasses and bottles to choose from. Jhonny was hoping she would notices us and invite us in, but alas, she seemed selfishly distracted by the gorgeous view just beyond her private dock. Maybe next time...

Remember that free parking I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well, Jhonny found some. And it was in a super convenient location, to boot! We were just down the street from the City Dock area of Annapolis, parallel to the Naval Academy, and we didn't get towed or anything! Jhonny has impressed me one million times with his ability to find free street parking and claim it, in the midst of every busy city we've ever visited together. I assured him that his parking skills are the only reason I am marrying him. He said he'll take it.

Immediately upon disembarking from the car, we heard the sounds of partying happening over a mysterious stone fence. Jhonny tried to climb over, but was halted by the accusing eyes of a self-righteous elementary-aged girl, who seemed to recognize that we were uninvited guests. Oh well, no harm done.

We moved downtown and made a snap decision to board a tour boat. I lived in the Annapolis area for 8 years, and spent countless days and nights strolling around downtown, but I'd never enjoyed the view from one of the most important Annapolitan vantage points -- the water.

The boat offered snacks and "adult imbibements", as well as a very silly/jolly captain who coined the previously quoted phrase. All in all, it was a perfect ride with a non-annoying breeze and warm sunshine.


Sailboat on the Severn

Naval Adacademy Bridge

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
I think we left at possibly the most beautiful time of day, and enjoyed the very earliest part of sunset from the water. Maybe it was touristy, but I love love loved it.

We finished off the evening by visiting Buddy's Crabs and Ribs. I had often passed by in my many years as a resident of The Area, but had never actually paid a visit to the place, so again I had a brand new experience in a very familiar town. Joy! The food was good, the atmosphere was fun, and Jhonny ate a ton of ribs and huge crab arms (which I think are actually called "King Crab Legs" or something).

Walking back to our car (which had not even been towed!!), we happened upon a delicious summer night party of neighbors projecting a movie onto the side of a townhouse. The State House gleamed in the background, and we declared the Summer the best season ever.