Saturday, December 28, 2013

My year in review - Farewell, 2013!

In January my nephew was born. He was premature, he had life-threatening Rh disease, and we found out shortly after that he has Down Syndrome. He fought 10 weeks for life. He had surgery on his intestines due to Hirschsprung's disease and came home with an ostomy in March.

In February I went to counseling. I waged dark battles in the deepest recesses of my personal life. I fought daily, hourly, every minute -- to just not be overwhelmed.

At the end of March and beginning of April, we celebrated 2 very, extremely special weddings -- my friend Lindsay and my aunt Liz. Two wonderful women marrying wonderful men on opposite edges of the country, and I got to be a bridesmaid with my sister both times. Whee!

Mid-April, I went to the doc for a routine checkup and found out something was weird with my thyroid. After lots of "oh it's probably just..." reassurances, I was sent for an ultrasound and a biopsy, and scheduled for a total thyroidectomy due to highly-suspicious-for-cancer characteristics. [It was cancer, and I guess that chapter isn't quite over, so there's always a continuing story.]

In late April, I found out I was pregnant, and a new adventure began. We'd have to get the cancer out before the baby came, and at just the most strategic point.

In July, 10 days before I had thyroid surgery on a Wednesday, Liam died. Our closest family friend, a staple, always there in our lives, always defying the odds and overcoming countless obstacles, he succumbed to a seizure in the arms of his beloved. It just hurt so much. It still does. It still doesn't seem real. It was a permanent pause in the middle of an ongoing conversation. I still keep waiting to find out it's not real, but as the weeks and months have passed, I have forced myself to accept it by degrees, and I'm still working on it.

The funeral was scheduled for just a couple of days after my surgery. I was devastated that I couldn't go and sobbed and pounded on my steering wheel and for the first time just over halfway through an incredibly hard year I gave in and asked God, "Why??"


Then I got home and my sweet husband had the brilliant idea that we would rent an RV and pick it up right after my surgery, so the two of us, my sister and her husband and infant, and my parents could all go together to Alabama to say goodbye to Liam. I'd be able to pace back and forth to avoid post-surgical blood clots. We could all split the bill. It was hair-brained and last-minute, but with my adventurous husband at the helm of the plan, we pulled it off. We said tearful and sweaty goodbyes under a punishing sun and turned around to go home. I hope he laughed because we added an RV to the procession and ate plenty of pudding.

Surgery was hard. It was supposed to be a breeze, and as a hungry second-trimester pregnant woman, I asked them during surgical prep how soon I could eat afterward, and if a hamburger would be okay. They said I could have whatever I wanted, as soon as I woke up. Well, in reality, it was days before I could eat solid food, or swallow without tearing up, or move normally. A couple trips to the emergency room for calcium deficiency and lots of determined days later, I got back to normal. Eventually, I felt better than ever.

Near the end of summer we put an offer on a dilapidated home in Maryland. By the end of November, the day before the national day of Giving Thanks, we closed on the home and started our plans for renovation.

At the end of September, I took a week away up North with my precious husband and constant companion. We celebrated the milestone of one year of marriage -- one of the craziest, most eventful, painful and difficult chapters of our lives, yet we made it to year one together, with millions of new beginnings on the horizon. A lot to celebrate.

My precious little nephew spent more and more days and weeks in the hospital with another surgery at the beginning of November. I spent some of the most frightening moments of my life by the side of my sister and clutching his little baby fist as he suffered excruciating pain and crashed, sending him back in for another emergency surgery. The strength and perseverance of one little baby has challenged me time and time again this year, the way he just wakes up and keeps going, and keeps smiling, and keeps at it, with simplicity and without complaint. He does the next thing with such artfulness and no expectation of fanfare or recognition. I need the same as his spirit, that little baby. Not to mention the incredible strength of my sister and her husband, who've somehow made it through almost a year of the most difficult "everyday" I can conceive.

And in the midst of it all, in the background, I have experienced intensely personal and difficult trials. Trials at work and at home. Trials that have been persistent, and threatened to overwhelm, but in each case were overcome instead. By some miracle, I and we all have survived it all.

I do believe that my year has not been as hard as many other people have experienced. My challenges were unique to me, and it doesn't mean they're at the top of the hard list.

[Life worth Living. I tell ya.]
Many of the things that have hurt so much have only been painful because I love the people in my life so much. If I didn't love, and didn't have close relationships, or didn't feel too much of my emotion, this year might have been easier, I suppose. But sometimes easier means emptier.

There isn't always immediate meaning in every trial. You can't find a calendar or a quote book or a canned answer or greeting card that will make everything suddenly beautiful. You just have to wake up tomorrow and not accept defeat. And then wake up again and do it again. You can have moments -- moments when you say I just can't. But then when the moment passes you have to, and you can, because life isn't about you. And that is some good news right there. Life-sustaining news.

Our pastor & his wife and my Bible study pray for us and baby
I have intense faith -- faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith that the Holy Spirit of God is ever-present within me and has sustained me. I have never been less impressed with my own faith than I have been this year, but I've also never had a more genuine faith.

It's important to know what you believe, but it's more important to know WHO you believe. Sometimes what happens in real time makes no sense, even when you line it up with what you know to be true. So forget the facts, and remember the Spirit, and the relationship. That's all that got me through this year.

We've been so, so blessed. We've been humbled. We've been harmed. We've experienced life upon life and the valley of the shadow. We can't wait for what this new year will bring -- the chance to enjoy our new home and meet our baby (he'll be here any day now!). I'm thankful for love, life, a new day and a new year!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I wish you would read this

Did I take too long? Has it been too long til I told you what I won't forget about you?

I won't forget

that i don't remember before i knew you
there were earthquakes and hello kitty and you were always there, somewhere
when phones had cords on them, i talked to you and twisted it, the cord around my finger
i judged your girlfriends, like only a 7-year-old could
i remember the uniforms, the active duty, the dropping by
the days you were the only adult conversation

you told me you had broken all 10 commandments and i thought it was IMPOSSIBLE and i asked how and you said when i was 18 you'd tell me. i remembered when i turned 18. but then i understood, and i didn't ask how it happened.

little caesar's every friday night.
strawberry rhubarb pie.
never, no never any chocolate. but you would eat that french silk pie i learned how to make.

seeing someone be a friend to my parents, to my dad. seeing my dad be a friend.

"HI" -- it was ear-splitting.

that some people just turn up married.

japanese apple chewing gum.

that you believed in me. you believed in my writing. i was in the single digits, and you wanted to read it. you gave me double digits of hours of your time, reading my writing on lined notebook paper. you filled the margins. you made me believe somehow it mattered. it was okay to share. you gave me triple digits of pages upon pages of books about writing. you gave me writing assignments. you gave me your cheers and never stopped. i write every word, in part, for your honor.

i remember how much you missed her, and wished you could talk to her, and i think sometimes, maybe you pretended i had something to do with her. if you kept me, it'd be like having a tie back ... or hope for the future. i think your hopes came true.

the time with your babies, i love those babes like my own. such deep love. such a gift. do they remember?

foo fighters -- you always played it for the crying babies. you knew what to do.

then there were years and years and years of breaking. the years broke me and you. you knew what broke us. we knew what broke you. the pieces just unraveled and it was so, so unfair. but you were always there, somewhere. and my kiddish way, i hope i was always there, too.

oh those years were dark. those years ... for love and squalor.

emails bright and light and emails dark and letters and postcards and sometimes "HI!"

one day it was almost all coming to a halt forever. but it wasn't time yet. i sent a word, i didn't know, i just sent a word. it stopped the halting, thank God. it couldn't end that way, not like that.

then from above there came hope and there was light and love a complete, ravishing, beautiful thing that turned your life from turmoil to sheer, unadulterated joy. such a marvelous thing to witness.

a moment of silence for this beautiful phase. hallow it.








two and a half months have passed. i read the word.


i stumbled. i disbelieved. i collapsed. i screamed. i said no, no, no, no. for what felt like hours. for what felt like days. just swimming in rejection of this reality that altered the only reality i've ever known.

i've never known a reality without you running through. i never will.

i still wait. i wait for what you might say. i wait for recognition that i am accepted and applauded for who i really am. for what i really have to say. no pretensions. even if it wasn't what you would be or do or say. i wait for you to turn up.

i still do, i can't lie that every time my phone rings a number i don't know, i think of you. i think it might all be a cruel joke or just a bad, bad dream finally coming to an end. i answer to the stranger but i never hear that "HI!" not this side.

i wonder sometimes if you knew how much you meant to the person i have become? to all of us. did we let you know enough in life? i don't think i can even build the pyramid of words that would tell you now that it's too late, there's no way you knew while there was still time.

but o, how i have loved you. i have loved you with something unique. something like friendship. something like family. something completely other.

i wanted you to see my baby. i thank God you knew he was coming before you took your rest. i hope we heaped happiness upon happiness for you in the end.

i must, desperately, believe that i will see you again, and speak with you again, and tell you all it meant. and by then you will know. oh how i wish you would read this one last writing. and write in the margins. write that it's good, and it's okay, you of all people understand.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Honeymooners: NYC Edition!

I am not sure how I am going to write anything right now because my husband just taught me how to use the TV so I can "ffwd" commercials and change back and forth between the football game and The Voice blind auditions, sooooo ... ... this might end up being a LOT of pictures. I mean really, how can you expect me to tear my glance from the kaleidoscope of black/white/gold/teal/green that is MNF (Dolphins v. Saints) alternated with firefighters and 16-year-old girls indulging their secret wish to become famous singers??

Confession: I am ready for a coach besides Blake Shelton to win The Voice (no offense Blake -- you brilliant businessman). But I am not ready for Drew Brees to stop winning. Just keep that trend going. We'll see what happens.

Anyhow, last week my husband and I took our Honeymoon. Sure, it was our first anniversary, and yes -- I am 6 months pregnant. So if you think that bloating, constipation, regular charlie horses, hormones, lots of naps, and eating small meals constantly is sexy, then yes -- we had an incredibly sexy honeymoon!

But seriously, it was awesome. I loved every single minute we had together on this trip, and I don't want to forget it. My husband has many great qualities, but one thing I can't get over about him is the way he makes life fun. I can be serious and think too much -- and he thinks a lot, too, but usually it's about how to make today more fun than yesterday! He is always amazing me with the ideas he comes out with and I just get to enjoy the ride!

First stop was New York City. I have been there once, but it was over 10 years ago, for a few short hours, and I can't remember much about it except for bus smog, so this felt like a first-time visit.

Saw this and I thought "I'm in a movie right now!"

Our dog met his altar ego on the street --  I assume this happens a lot in NYC
STIMULIIIIII
What dreams are made of
This photo taken by our awesome friends David and Crystal, who took us around and fed us and we repaid them by rudely forgetting to take their picture in return. Gotta love them!
Proportion of taxis to regular cars is obscene -- embarrassing show by regular cars
Excited to take my baby bump to see Rafiki -- she looks flattered
So, a lot has already been said about the Lion King on Broadway. All I can say is that it's worth a see. I am not sure I should overhype it any further. It did draw tears to my eyes. I did audibly "ooh" and "ahh" at unexpected theatrics. I had a great time -- and this is coming from someone who had no love for the Disney movie as a kid! You might like it too.

The Lion King was when strangers first started getting really vocal about my obvious pregnantness. I have definitely crossed that threshold and people who've never met me before no longer have any qualms about judging my proximity to alcohol (can it be absorbed by holding hands with someone drinking a rum and coke?? might not be good for the baby!), and offering me things like congratulations and extra cushions. In general, it's fine. Just weird. 

I kept feeling like I was in the opening scenes of Moulin Rouge with CITY STUFF coming at me in my face and disorienting me. Either that, or Blade Runner. Not in a bad way, just in a CONSTANT STIMULI sense.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for the best thing that ever happened to me...
Hands down, the best breakfast I have ever eaten. Buttermilk blueberry pancakes, complete with lemon peel and wild Maine blueberry compote on top. Served with homemade whipped cream and applewood smoked bacon. You CANNOT miss this if you are in NYC. Just don't do it to yourself. I wept for joy over this food. And not just cause of the pregnancy. 
This is what "magical" looks like -- above the escalator at the Disney Store-- where we stopped to find Mickey things for my nephews, a.k.a. "Mouseketeers"??
And finally, ENORMOUS Calico Critters, just to bring your nightmares to life.  Love these little guys!
NYC was a great time. I don't think I could live there, but I sure did stare open-mouthed the whole time. I would go back for a few days, very intentionally to "do NYC," and hopefully stop and meet Stephen Colbert next time.

All in all, a great way to open the honeymoon/anniversary/babymoon trip.

PS - while writing this, I have chosen Preston Pohl with Team Adam to go all the way this season. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Five Faves (vol. 1)

Linking up with Hallie for the 1st time ever today! She is super fun and reminds me to celebrate the small joys of life and share them with others. By reading hers and Grace's, I have made several discoveries of awesome in the world that I never would've known existed otherwise. Power of blogging, guys.

1.

I have started commuting a lot, so I've been trying to find things to listen to while I drive in order to cut down on the wasted time / stress / boredom of the traffic jungle.
This podcast is one of the best things that ever happened to me.


I don't know about you, but some days I just crave the opportunity to hear 2 women speak in a Southern twang to one another about their opinions on all subjects from what they're cooking for dinner to what Hillary Clinton's hairstyle says about the administration. Quote of the day had something to do with how there are certain things we don't need to see, and the underside of a man's arm is one of them. Come ON. How much truer does it get?

2.

Again with the commuting! A friend recommended the Waze GPS app to my husband and me and we have been using it faithfully since relocating further from our jobs. My husband knows his way around the area pretty fantastically, so he can almost always devise a back way around bad traffic if need be. I am a different story. I am the type of person that can't remember how to get somewhere until I've actually driven there myself once or twice -- don't expect me to find it just 'cause I've been there before if someone else was driving!

Waze helps me get around, but most importantly, it finds the fastest routes and sends alerts about hazards, accidents, police traps, etc. I love when it re-routes me due to morning traffic -- I swear I've taken 6 or 7 different routes to work in the past 3 weeks. I never get bored!





Not to mention that it's social, and I love feeling the kinship with other commuters as we go bobbing along our merry ways.

Drive safely!

3.

REVLON ColorStay Aqua Mineral Makeup

I love love mineral makeup, but it gets a little $!$!$! I have been trying to find little ways to save here and there, so one morning I rolled up my sleeves and started researching the best drug store cosmetics on the Wonderful World of the Web (WWW).

I then ventured bravely into the local CVS and made some experimental purchases. The Revlon mineral makeup is reasonably priced (under $15, and sometimes under $12, depending on where you buy it!). It matches my skin tone beautifully, gives a cooling sensation upon application, and even has a little shimmer to it! The other true story is that it lasts pretty much ALL day, but doesn't get all weird on me if I reapply.
(My least favorite part is the brush, but you can't have everything for under $15.)

4. 

Gungor.

This CCM is called "liturgical post-rock," whatever that means, and I find it very pleasant and challenging to my sensibilities. Honest lyrics and brightly skillful instrumentation caught my ear and my soul. It is not what you're probably expecting of CCM, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Give it a listen for free on Spotify!

Apparently I am just discovering them as they are about to come out with a new release! Sorta cool.


5. 

Vacation!! Pretty soon, I get to go to Cape Cod. I told someone this was in Maine. It is not in Maine. I really badly want to go to Maine, but just saying that the place that I am going in Maine does not actually get me there, I've had to tell myself. Maybe next time.

Currently I'm looking up things to do and clapping my hands gleefully at the prospect of a whole week traveling with my husband and dogs, far away, to a place we've never been before. Welcome, Autumn!


LEAST FAVORITE

I think it is the only decent thing to do here to add that I discovered something truly disgusting in the food department this week. I won't tell you not to try it yourself, but if you don't love gross things, I advise against this. And if you try to feed it to me at your house, I will NOT eat it just to be polite. It is Almond non-dairy "yogurt" substitute. And it is foul. I'm not going to name any brand names here. But you've been warned.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Spirit Had ACL Surgery



The question of how spiritual growth happens is a very compelling to me. I am trying to wrestle with the question for myself, and figure it out as I go along in my writing. I hope you will share your feedback!

I believe in the idea that as a Christian person, it is a good idea for me to read and study the Bible and pray. In fact, I love doing those things! Disciplines cause growth, right? And yes, I would love to grow. Yet when I honestly examine my crazy, out-of-control schedule and the impact aforementioned lack of control has on my psyche, I realize that I really don’t a) study the Bible or b) pray much at all anymore.

Eleven years of age seemed to be the pinnacle of practicing spiritual disciplines in my life. At that time, I was a reader, studier, pray-er, and journal-er. I would definitely say I got a lot out of those disciplines, and I enjoyed them. I could FEEL the growing. I felt “close” to God. Perhaps it was my innocence, but those were certainly “times of sweet refreshing,” and I miss that.

At first I thought that the problem was just the lack of disciplines at all, so I’m trying to pick those up again. Not out of guilt, but out of desire. Sometimes out of desperation, piled on top of the desire. 

Maybe I’m rusty, or maybe this year and all its joy and tragedy has left me completely emotionally drained, but I just don’t feel the spiritual life that I remember feeling in the past when I would approach these disciplines. I have felt this way on and off over a period of years, and I think that’s why ultimately I let my routine fall by the way-side – it wasn’t having the same impact, or I wasn’t feeling the right feelings in response to what I was doing, and that sense of deadness scared me so I just decided to shut it down. 

Rather than dealing with my sense of spiritual deadness, I stopped engaging in the activities that were forcing me to confront it.

Lately, I have been bombarded with messages of Grace. Our pastor is preaching a sermon series on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he’s talked much about grace. I participated in the Living Proof Live Simulcast this past Saturday, and Beth Moore’s entire teaching was about grace. Ann Voskamp writes about applying grace to ourselves in everyday life, pretty much nonstop. 

I think part of what made me feel good about my spiritual disciplines in the past, was the feeling that I was a good little girl for doing what I was doing – I felt good doing it all because it made me feel good about myself. Once that delusion is dissolved in the wake of grace, what is left?
 
I sit down at the Bible to start reading, and it sort of feels like chewing on rocks. I’m not getting anywhere. I’m a churched girl, I’ve read this book all my life, and yet somehow the passages seem disconnected from me and over my head. It’s like watching RGIII try to play football this season – it’s bewildering because we all know he knows what he’s doing, but somehow, going through the motions isn’t getting results. At least, not yet. 

But I am tired of spiritually living vicariously through spiritual teachers, when I know that I have the tools that I need right in front of me. I don’t want to do what I’ve done so many times in the past, and walk away from the pieces when the puzzle gets too frustrating. I believe that the Word is Life, and that Jesus left me His Spirit that I might HAVE life, and have it abundantly. 

Today I am frustrated trying to engage with Scripture. But I will keep it at it, as authentically as possible. I would love to hear from others if you’ve ever felt this way before, and what did you do about it?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Place & Time -or- A Memory and A Place

I grew up viewing the coffee shop and the bookstore as the two ultimate destinations in life. I usually looked forward to going to the bookstore to admire all the different types of blank books or journals I could lay hands on. I'll never forget my first blank book -- it was covered in 90s faux denim. The pages were lined. I wrote about everything that came to my funny, prepubescent mind and I loved it. I used it when we moved across country via mini van. Im still addicted to the blank book. Until high school I didn't like coffee, so I would drink tea whenever I had the privilege of visiting the coffee shops with my dad. Back then Starbucks had the Tazoberry frappuccino. Back then I was too little to know that the whipped cream on top was more than half the calories, and I had no idea what an annoying drink I was asking the baristas to make me. I was just a little girl enjoying Daddy time. Now I've worked in a coffee shop for years at a stretch, and I still go back as often as I can, both to chains and independents. It keeps me connected to my roots, to my dad, and to some of my dearest childhood memories.


A few weeks ago someone took to Facebook strongly criticizing northern Virginia and Washington, DC.  Apparently, Baltimore is superior. I won't argue against the charms of Charm City, which I happen to adore myself, but I got thinking about how much I really love DC and Arlington. My husband is tired of hearing me tell him how I privately vowed to myself on a 6th grade family field trip to a museum (which I hated!) that one day I would live in the glamorous national capital. As I grew older I began to see that might be unrealistic, and I dropped the matter. Through no searching of my own, a job opportunity landed in my lap and I've been living and working in Arlington since 2011. Loving every minute! I love walking wherever I want to go. I love all the runners and bikers -- and bike share! I love the sports bars and the way little villages of restaurants and shops sprout up around popular metro destinations. I love DC sports teams. I love how generous the wealthy can be. I love the ethnic restaurants and the myriad food trucks. I love the FREE museums (now!), and endless free cultural experiences in DC. I love going running through the monuments and admiring the architecture. I adore the crazy hundreds who play in kickball rec leagues on the Mall. I love the craft beer scene, the street festivals, and the fact that I can score a quick Guinness after a 10-mile training run. I love, more than anything, the amazing friends I have made living here, and that I met my husband here, and that he proposed to me with the backdrop of the Washington Monument and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. I love the cherry blossom trees! Peddle boats! Crazy tourists! Hot dogs! 4th of July. Chinatown. Every village in Arlington. Fro yo. Access. I love the controversy and the energy and the thousands of genuine people for every one politician. I love that Children's is where my precious baby nephew's life was saved. The place feels like home, and that's one thing I've not regularly been able to say about anywhere.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weird News

April 22nd I went to my OB for an ordinary checkup. She found a lump in my thyroid that was most likely just a cyst, but I had to undergo an ultrasound just to make sure.

A few days later, I had the ultrasound. The u/s techs are pretty much silent and the process lasted no more than 10 minutes. I was only able to catch a glimpse of the pictures he took of my thyroid "nodule." At home, I googled similar images and got the hunch that my thyroid on the right side wasn't looking right at all. 

Thus, I wasn't surprised when my OB called me back and said that I needed a biopsy as soon as possible, and then a visit to an endocrinologist. She was pulling as many strings as she could to get me seen as soon as possible, but there were a few insurance hoops to jump through that things ultimately got delayed by a week. 

The FNA biopsy was really unpleasant: it felt like my windpipe was being crushed when they administered the local anesthesia, and then they took 6 samples from the nodule in my thyroid (which left my neck muscles aching for a couple of weeks). The nurse and lab tech making slides chattered about how they do thyroid biopsies 4 or 5 times a day, which made me feel like a needle-in-a-haystack experiencing something as common as a cold. Not a bad thing.

A couple of days later my primary doctor called me back and said that the nodule was exhibiting suspicious features of cancer and my entire thyroid would need to be removed. She told me the endocrinologist would explain more details to me and asked me if I was okay? "Yeah, definitely. I know everything's going to be okay."

It's hard to explain my feelings about this whole process. I wasn't expecting it, and the stress of dealing with insurance and at least 4 different doctors and many different lab techs is new to me and gets my heart rate up. It doesn't concern me too much in a big way, because I know that thyroid cancer is easily treatable, and not that painful of a process in comparison with most of the well-known cancers out there. 

It's still humbling to admit to myself that my body is susceptible to something like this, even when I feel healthy and try to take care of myself. I wonder if my anxiety is to blame? If I am guilty for not resting more? If I need to do major change in the way I handle stress? I feel like somehow this might be my fault for not being more serious about taking care of myself.

However, the cause is really unknown and I can't speculate too much about this. I know it makes me know deep down that someday I could be receiving much more terminal news on the other side of the phone line, I am not going to be here forever. So it makes me less patient with things that seem to be a trivial use of time yet take up the majority of mine, and it makes me very hungry for something in my inbox besides advertisement emails. I want real connection with real people.

Anyhow, the following week I visited the endocrinologist and she explained to me that I most likely have either papillary or follicular thyroid cancer (means nothing to me), and that it would be surgically removed and I would go on to take thyroid hormone for the rest of my days. She gave me a list of surgeons to call and some pamphlets about post-surgery treatments. 

On Friday I talked to a surgeon and she was super cool and explained to me the whole process and we got a date set (July 24). She said there is no way to know for certain if my situation is benign or malignant without removing and analyzing the thyroid (50-75% chance of malignancy at this time). She explained the slight risks that come with the surgery, things like post-op bleeding or damage to vocal nerve, but she is a specialist in the area of thyroid surgery, so the chances of such things are down in the single-digit percents. This lady seems really awesome, like I'd probably want to be friends with her in real life. She even gave me her email address. I'm glad that insurance blocked all the other, more geographically accessible surgeons. She's where I belong, I feel sure of it. 

Right now, the next steps are to take lots of Vitamin D every day for a month, follow up with the surgeon in a month, and get things squared away at work for the time off (just 4 days). 

And somehow deal with the feelings of guilt that this is a nuisance to so many people who care for me, especially my poor husband, who really wanted to take a vacation this year and may instead be using time off to take care of me after surgery while I can't drive. 

Thanks for people who've prayed for me. I need a lot of prayer. My emotional reserves are low after many repeated stressors have introduced themselves to me in the past six months or so. I recognize that I don't have the sharpest coping skills, and yet I desperately need the health and energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other right now. All my sleep is severely lacking and seriously disrupted with discomfort, frequent wake-ups and regular nightmares. 

The truth is, I KNOW that EVERYTHING is going to be okay. I just want to handle this situation well and calmly and not be too selfish, as I always tend to be. 

Isaiah 33:6

English Standard Version (ESV)
and he will be the stability of your times,
    abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is Zion's treasure.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon Monday {2.2013}

So, I believe we discussed at the beginning of April that it had really been since the beginning of December that I've run any sort of real distance.

I began to dabble in April with bringing my activity back up, and I didn't do a great job but I didn't accomplish nothing at all. I took fewer, longer runs rather than more frequent, shorter runs. I also did several yoga classes, but I'm still working on finding the right one for me.

Now it's May, so I think it's time to start settling into a routine that can begin to blossom into ever-accumulating distances and a healthy amount of cross-training -- by July. The training calendar that I've chosen for the marathon begins for realsies in July, but ideally one would be running 15-20 miles per week by that point.

As you can see here, that's about how much I did for the whole entire month of April!:



No worries, though. It's always cool to see the training build on itself.

Tonight I tried the treadmill because of the blah weather out there. I walked 2 miles at 4.2 mph on an incline, and really I sweated! Really I did! I like that form of cross-training surprisingly, and I was even able to read on my iPad Mini during the workout.

It got me thinking: could I ever walk a marathon*? I believe I have at least 1 or 2 friends who have, so I'd love to hear from them.

*Marine Corps Marathon does allow participants to walk, but suggests a walking participant would need to maintain a 14-minute/mile to keep up with the time restrictions.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The B's of A

Cheers and prayers for the Fulwilers, especially Jen, the mom of new lil Joseph and also the matriarch of 7 Quick Takes.

7 quick takes that I Instagram'ed. I call this the B's of A (things I did in April that start with B).:

1. Bacheloretting

My first limo ride into Hollywood was classified as worth it. I think/know I liked it better than the destination. 
2. Bridesmaiding
My aunt got married to a wonderful man on the Queen Mary 4/6/13.  This was post-veil, pre-dress. We're related!
3. [Feeding the] Bears
This was the dirtiest, grossest, biggest stuffed bear ever, so naturally my husband decided to feed it ice cream. Note our friend's "Beeriodic Table" t-shirt, which all the ladies (and gentleman) didst love.

4. Beaching
Hermosa Beach was so cold and windy! I was wearing a scarf and three shirts atop my sundress. Note the random swingset in the background, which I did enjoy.
5. Blossoming
Naturally I assume that my pictures of the same blossoms millions of other people photographed in DC will be important to you. You're welcome!
But have you seen this cherry blossom photo?:
They were forreal making an amateur music vid on the banks of the Potomac during CherryBlossom season.
6. Bebe duckies
This was milliseconds before she started squawking and jumped in the water with her adorable bebe offsprings. I love that she first flashed me a view of her pretty navy blue under-feathers (technical duck terms here, people).
7. Blessing

Thanks to all those who sacrifice to make my homeland so free that I could travel coast to coast. 


PS. How's THAT for procrastination? See Grace @ CampPatton for the homeland of this week's Takes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beauty Spot: NOT a tutorial on sock buns

Did you try anything new today? When was the last time you played with a fashion trend you were a little afraid to debut? Tell me about it!

When I went to California, I noticed that it was considered stylish to walk around with a donut on ones head -- Apparently a.k.a, "sock bun."

Which led me to Google, which led me to this tutorial video:


Apologies on behalf of Mr. Kate if that annoyed you. You can also read her blog DIY here. For those easily annoyed, I recommend the blog route.

I finally decided to give it a try this morning, but I couldn't really tell if I had done it right, so I kept taking selfies with my iPhone to make sure I didn't look like a snarling monster with footgear visible atop my cranium. I am incredibly embarrassed about selfies, but I am going to show you anyway, just for Ss & Gs (bonus points if you know the reference or meaning of that abbrev).

Result:

From above

From the side (at the office)

Front and other side
So, I wear my hair in a bun frequently, but it's just the twirl and twist and pin kind, rather than the sock kind. I have to say, I received many more compliments on this version of the hair-do. I am no expert, but I believe that the greater symmetry of the sock bun yields higher approval ratings.

Some ratings I received today:
"You look like _________ (some TV show I can't remember the name of but might've been Rodeo Drive?)."
"You look prettier than usual."
"I can tell you're channeling Spring today."
"Oh! You look nice today!" (Surprise from my husband.)

However, if you see my forehead, the illusion of symmetry is officially dissed. I was blessed with an artistically asymmetric hairline and forehead, accentuated by the so-blond-it's-invisible part of my hair that frames my face and always has, adding to the visual receding hairline look that is special to me. Chances are, if you're a brunette or have a straighter hairline, this will look even better on you! Go forth and try.

*Suggestion if you have thin hair, cause I really want to know if it works: try a sock bun with a baby- or child-sized sock! Brill, right?

I also found that there is apparent Sockbun culture. You can follow @sockbuns_swag on Instagram, and if you tag them in your photos of your personal sock bun, they might re-Insta your pic, if that's a thing you like.

NOTE: I did this with wet hair and used some hair putty and a tiny bit of spray to tame the flyaways. Due to Mr. Kate's promises, I can't wait to see what it looks like tomorrow when I take it down.

YOUR TURN! Repeat of question above:
Did you try anything new today? When was the last time you played with a fashion trend you were a little afraid to debut? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Running Fearless -- They call us Endurance athletes

"For I am already being poured out as drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." 2 Timothy 4: 6-8

I was going to tell you about my training progress for the Marine Corps Marathon. Somehow, it doesn't seem appropriate right now.
Thank you from my heart to all the volunteers and emergency responders and ordinary citizens who experienced the explosions at the Boston Marathon today.

People who run marathons could be professional runners, sponsored by big companies such as Nike, or they could be just like you.

They are just like me.

I have seen some amazing people running races: people with amputated limbs. Women and men with triple-digit numbers painted on their backs indicated the number of pounds they've lost in an epic struggle to be healthy. I've seen pregnant women giving their unborn babies their first trip across the finish line. People with cancer, suffering visible effects of chemo, finishing a long-distance run ahead of me.

But there is a vast number of plain and ordinary people who decided to do an extraordinary thing, and subject their bodies to intense training for months. Those are people like me, only much faster runners (after much practice), more experienced, and more dedicated to their training.

Both the groups mentioned above, not the professional runners, are the people who would have finished in the second half group of finishers. They were among those crossing the finish when the bombs went off, and certainly filled the group of those held back from the finish closely following the explosions.

I can't even fathom the number of hours, weeks, months of training represented at the finish line yesterday by all these individuals.  Personal dedication to a very personal goal.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27

The finish line is rooted deeply in your heart throughout every single moment of training, because there are many opportunities to give up, and you must keep that end goal in mind.

Yesterday the finish line and all it represents was desecrated. The people who make success possible -- the spectators cheering for their beloved athletes -- were violated where they should have been rewarded by seeing their runner cross the finish. This angers me, devastates and deeply sorrows me. It also makes me feel defiant in hope.

Marine Corps Marathon, which I will run in October, is a qualifying race for Boston Marathon. Your time has be up to standard. Boston Marathon is so popular that entries are limited in this way. I doubt my performance will be fast enough to qualify. I'll be running alongside many of next year's Boston Marathoners. I dearly hope that no one backs down in fear.

Two things I am dwelling on this morning as news reports blare around me about the search for the bomber:

1) We will never be free from tragedy in this life, often perpetrated unjustly by hateful, sick people.

2) We never know what day will be our last due to unexpected circumstances, and we should never hold back from living as fully as possible.

We are called endurance athletes. 

We don't give up when other people would. We believe deeply that the gain will be worth the pain. We hold confidently to hope that the suffering is worth it, because we're enduring for ourselves and for others (many endurance athletes are running for a cause to raise money for charity). It's a spiritual sport.

So how do we apply this deep-seated faith as endurance athletes when faced with such a horrific, cruel, hateful event as some demented bombing the very finish line that represents our goal?

It will be different for every one of us. This how I apply it:

I believe in one God, holy and righteous and just. I believe He gave us all free will, and offered us Himself in the most profound way possible: by dying for us at the hands of injustice. I believe His heart roars in anger at such events. And I believe He is a God of vengeance, who will avenge every single person hurt by what happened yesterday, and in every terrorist attack that has ever occurred. His vengeance is perfect. He will not allow any soul to escape absolute justice. Either the guilty will experience it themselves full on, or the body and soul of Jesus will absorb the punishment of the guilty.

I believe that God will heal the victims for eternity, permeate any soul that opens up to Him, and He will fully restore for ever and ever any experience of tragedy. The healing will be so full and complete that they will not regret the wounding. This is a God who loves so deeply that He never stops recreating -- He takes the evil intentions of injury and turns the experience of horror into a gift, something so complete and holy that victims will be the most blessed among us. He is so good, and so powerful.

I believe God alone gives us the ability to run these long distances, or bike, or swim. I believe it makes the heart of God smile to see us use and push the bodies He's given us. I believe He wants us to internalize spiritually the lessons we learn from our bodies in training.

Above all, I believe that a time will come when evil people lose their opportunity to act. I believe that Good will obliterate Evil, and ultimate war will be won. I don't believe this earth or this life will be purged of evildoers until that ultimate day. Yet I have hope that every moment of tragedy will be so deeply restored that the loss is unrecognizable, and that is what I look forward to. Not safety and security in this temporary life, but a life of permanence that is so whole and so healed that fear is nonexistent. And I will keep on running for THAT life, without fear of who could hurt me now.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [...] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:1, 3-4

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Mid-Air, Vol. 2: Into the Light

10,000 feet up, headed from the land of interminable Winter we've been experiencing in the DC area to the land where it's always Summer(?): Southern California. I'm in a wedding in long beach and the bachelorette party is in Hollywood. Um, ok! I think this is fairly awesome.

Right now, though, the best part is that I'm moving forward into a longer day. I am enduring a 5+ hour-long flight, but I'm gaining 3 hours back to my life. The sun will most likely shine the entire plane flight. This is like a miracle to me after the way the cold has hung on. Best news is that even though I lose some time when I head home, the likelihood of it is that I will return after 6 days to weather that's finally taking a Springy turn.

Maybe even some cherry blossoms?!

For now:
I'll being staring with a better-than-birds-eye view at the grids landscaped below me, paying homage to a less complex view of life. I'll enjoy hearing hubby's laughter (tears?) over Life is Beautiful, and I'll soak up the soundtrack of one of my all-time faves -- our in-flight film, Life of Pi.

Waiting for me upon landing? Heaps of loving family, adventure, excitement, new experiences, the thrill of two lives becoming one, and my squeezeable little nephew, 3 months and a day and already a veteran of cross-country plane flights (following in the footsteps of his mom, aunt, & uncle!).





Monday, April 1, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon Monday {1.2013}

Hello, fans! *crickets*

[Well, fine, as long as you're not camel crickets. Camel guys, hoping someone somewhere loves you. Jk. Really. You're gross.]

My husband left me tonight believing that I would write something. And I have so much to say but I'm having a hard time getting started. I think camel crickets was a great opener. Now that opener is closed.

*     *     *

So, here's the thing:

Last year on March 17th, I ran my first marathon. I know that endurance events are becoming a huge "thing" for peoples of all fitness levels in the USA (we like to give our extra money to anyone willing to take it). I decided to join the crowd, but DANG it was hard, and my legs were all, like, "Nah" when it came to walking after my 26.2 miles of running were finished.

So after that I ran some 10-milers and got engaged, and some half marathons and some 10Ks, and I got married and got promoted and got super stressed out.

Safe to say, good reason or no, I haven't really run serious distance for about 3.5 months. It took a lot of waiting and webpage cursing/refreshing and then somehow $99 later, I was registered for the highly sought out, competitive race, Marine Corps Marathon 2013. [Dun dun duuunnn.]

In 2011 I was a spectator as my new-boyfriend-turned-current husband ran the marathon.

In 2012 I was a martyr completing the 10K very painfully, and then standing on the sidelines to cheer on the marathoners (I love the cute smiles of a hurting runner when they take your encouragements to heart -- endorphins FTW!).

In 2013, I'll be a Marine Corps Marathoner, and I can't wait for those Marines to roar me across the finish line. #scary. [I know so, cause my Marine Corps Hubs is currently yelling in Spanish at the FIFA.]
This is nice, but in real life they're yelling a lot more and gutturally.
[Via.]

My hubs dearest is a Marine [in remission? what do they call it?], so this is a very special time for us and we run with thoughts and prayers and love and tears with memories of many amazing Marines who have walked in our lives.

*        *         *

So let's hear it: who's running? What training plans are you using?  What's your race goal? 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

What a Wonderful Wall*e

Hard to believe that it's been one week today since my friend Wall*e married the love of her life.

She's a beautiful bride!

Even though I and many of my other friends are already married and engaged, her wedding somehow felt different to me. Besides being incredibly emotional because of the epic romance years-in-the-making that she shares with her husband, it also sparked in me some kind of early-life crisis. Not just a general life crisis, mind you, but a crisis of friendship.

You see, Wall*e does nothing halfway when it comes to her relationships. As I have witnessed over the last ~8 years, she is "all in," to the hilt of every relationship. She has taught me so many things about friendship and how to be a friend, as well as just a person in general. I have so many treasured memories with her of moments that changed my perspective on life, God, love, snacking, dancing, self-image, church membership, family, work, and so many other huge topics.

Sanblan & Wall*e, back in ancient times

As I watched Lindsay walk down the aisle to dedicate her life in romance and friendship to one man, forsaking all others, I knew our friendship would change, and I was gripped with this intense worry that perhaps I hadn't made the most of the years we had together as single girls. I worried that now I wouldn't be able to make the most of the time we still have in close proximity, before her life or mine moves us apart geographically. Then I began to generalize this fear to all my other relationships.

I can think of many wasted opportunities and careless choices to put work over love, things before people, worries before relationships. This does not satisfy! I can't abide this kind of life, and I don't want to harbor any regrets like this.

I don't really buy into the "no regrets" philosophy, because I think even the pain of regret holds a lesson for now, and for the future. Listening to what makes us regret is an educational process. Still, once we've culled the lessons, I believe in tossing the leftovers and not dwelling on things we wish we'd done differently, or more, or better. Just live what's learned.

As I tried to listen to what was making me feel worried, like I was losing something, I realized that my Wall*e has been such an example to me of what a true friend should be. More than anything, I needed to actively spend time appreciating what I had received from her as a friend. I reflected on a few lessons she's taught me, and I thought it wouldn't do any harm to share.

1-Be Yourself. I know it's very trendy to say this and indoctrinate elementary kids against peer pressure, but what I mean here is that, in friendships, it doesn't do any good to try and say the right things if you don't mean them, or to get jealous over the roles that other friends play in the lives of friends and feel like we should copy their other friends, or to try and make ourselves pleasing and presentable to our friends according to what we think they want from us. Lindsay has always been so thoroughly and earnestly who she is, never trying to compete or tow the party line. She has let her personality shine, has been honest about her flaws, and completely generous to allow her friends to have other friends, and maintain her true friendships with many. She doesn't try to hide her pains or problems, and doesn't expect anyone else to do so either. This is so simple that words don't do it justice, but the ability to be herself is something Lindsay has mastered, and the good that it does to the souls of others is incalculable.

2-Be Generous. Lindsay has always amazed me by offering me more grace than I offer myself. She anticipates how my life stressors might impact my friend "performance," and never expects more from me than I can give. She is forgiving and generous in her estimations of others. I have always been on the receiving end of this generosity, and I hope that I haven't abused it. This is the kind of quality that makes one able to go forward unafraid in a friendship. And it's the kind of quality that makes you feel like it's okay to frantically re-dial a friend's number over and over for help in a dire situation (which I have done literally or figuratively many times). I have never been afraid to tell Lindsay the truth, even when I'm ashamed of myself, because I know she isn't judging me and she will help me recover from disappointing myself.



3-Be Light and Dark. No one needs a friend who is all one or all the other all the time. We all desperately need to know that both light and darkness are real in life, and trust ourselves and our friends to journey through both light and darkness together in honesty. My friend has done this expertly, both personally and alongside me (and others, I know it). Along with this comes the idea that the burdens of life are shared and the power (so to speak) in friendship is balanced. It's not one person always talking about her burdens and the other person always listening and advising, there's a give-and-take, such that when one is down, the other pulls her up, knowing that soon she'll need the friend to turn and give her the next helping hand.

4-Be Loyal. You can't be a friend without being a friend through thick and thin. Good times come and bad ones are just as real. A friend is not a friend who rejects one with whom she disagrees. A friend stands firm and stands by, committed to loving through it. It is more important to love truthfully than to demand perfection.

5-Be Sure to Snack. There should always ultimately be some breaking of bread together. With Lindsay I have eaten burdensome helpings of creme pies and inappropriate numbers of peanut butter pretzels. I don't regret a single bite, and I'm pretty certain each snack break bonded us in a new way.

There's no doubt that I've been blessed with many amazing women as friends. Lindsay has continuously been one of them for the past 8 years, and hope we can be white-haired wacko ladies together one day. My goal is to make the most of opportunity and learn from my friends how to be a better friend.

Also, Wall*e, we have got to figure out how to get more pictures together! We never seem to pose when we are together -- far too busy talking about the important things in life, presumably. ;) Anyhow, thanks for being my friend, and being my teacher, and being yourself. I wish the rest of your life in marriage will be an unimaginable treasure.
More amazing friends!: Saundie, Muriel, McFearless, Wall*e, EAR, Sister, My Jessica