Monday, December 31, 2007

Attack of the Killer Christmas Tree

My Most Beautimous Tree

So last Wednesday, as we sat sobbing over the dramatic ending to South Pacific (a present from my Hubs), I glance over at said husband and realize that our Christmas tree was in the process of falling on his head! Needless to say, I screamed. He reached out and caught the tree. My mother dove to the other side to hold up the rest of the tree, while the rest of us proceeded to pick up the several broken glass ornaments and pull the rest of the ornaments unceremoniously off my beautiful tree! And so, my Christmas tree is down and packed away already; although, I do have my other decorations still up. I have been very sad about this, as I love decorating for Christmas and try to enjoy my tree and all the other decorations for as long as possible (within decency!). I was planning on enjoying several more weeks with said tree...but, alas, that shall not be.

Taking down the tree after it's suicidal dive from the stand.

Drowning my sorrows in a bottle of Martinelli's.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas: Family or Gifts?

Merry Christmas one and all. I hope you each had as much fun as we did.

Christmas Eve we had a friend over who works with me whose family is across the country and across the world. We had a fun evening of game playing and fellowship and corrupting her by teaching her to play one of my famiy's favorite games, Hand and Foot (a variation on Canasta for those who are unfamiliar with the game).

Christmas day, we had a big breakfast and then spent the morning getting ready for Christmas dinner and playing games while waiting for my brother and sister-in-law to drive in from her parents family (several hours away). We had a good British meal – roast and Yorkshire pudding – and then sang Christmas carols, read the Christmas story, and prayed as a family (these moments have always been my most favorite growing up – as long as those three things, or even just the reading and prayer time, occur, I have had Christmas)! Following that was presents and then more games ("dictionary" this year – my favorite word/made-up definition – “mummichug” – a Tibetan dance done by pregnant women!).

In my normal, daily life, I find it relatively easy - most of the time - to enjoy my life as it is, even with my parents half a world away. However, holidays away from my family are always the hardest time for me - as they are for most people - and so when I can actually be with them at Christmas, I could go without a single present because their presence is enough. However, not only did we get to be together, but we also did the great present exchange – much fun!

I love giving presents. Well, let me qualify that. I love giving presents to people who don't judge the value of the gift but accept the concept of what a gift is as being the most important. Growing up in a culture where one didn't even open a gift from someone else in front of that person because one does not want to betray even the slightest flicker of disappointment or ingratitude, I have learned the lesson that what a gift is does not matter (and trust me, I - and my family - have gotten some weird gifts over the years!); what does matter is that someone else thought of you and took the time to find/make something they thought you might like. And that is all that matters.

Now, I just know there are people out there who will twist around a concept like that and say then that "because you like writing, I could give you one sheet of piece of paper then and you should like it and that should be enough since that's all that matters." Obviously, though, if that individual's attitude was simply to prove a point, they would be approaching the whole gift-giving concept with the wrong attitude, which kills the whole concept. And that poisonous attitude is what can ruin presents (both giving and receiving).

In my personal opinion, if I had a friend give me a plain three-ring binder filled with blank paper which cost them maybe three dollars total because they knew that I enjoy writing and that I despise perfect-bound notebooks but can only write in spiral bound ones, or even if they gave me a perfect-bound notebook because they didn't know my insane writing preferences but knew I liked to write, that is an act of love. If someone spent $200 on me and bought me all sorts of stuff – maybe even stuff I wanted – and yet they were ungracious or unloving in their attitude towards me or my life the rest of the year, that “stuff” would become just that – “stuff” from someone who has a bad attitude – and therefore meaningless. I’ve even run into a situation where one individual is really good at buying gifts – just a talent that person has – but she is so critical of what others give her, that I have become paranoid and disgusted about the concept of exchanging gifts with her because it’s lost the fun aspect, the love aspect.

Fortunately, we did not have to deal with such attitudes this year, and so the time of presents was sweet not for all the presents but for the love shown through them.

And that is my Christmas summary and gift-giving rant.

I take family love over gifts any day!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Garage Doors, Christmas Parties, Anniversaries, and Family "Fun"

Where does time go? I suppose if I could answer that question, I would be a millionaire, and yet I look at all that has happened the last few weeks and how little I have even been on my lovely blog, and I am bewildered by the disappearance of time.

Garage Doors
Shortly after I wrote my previous blog, our newest crazy thing happened. My dear husband went out to his car to go to work, and the garage door would not open. That was three weeks ago. We still have no idea what is wrong with the door, and quite frankly, we’re half-tempted to just leave it permanently because maybe nothing else will happen if we just leave this broken! Sigh. What else can I say?!

Christmas Parties
Ugly Tree was the first party of the season for us. We held our annual Ugly Tree Christmas party on December the 8th. For those of you who have never heard of the delightful Ugly Tree, let me give you a brief explanation. Essentially, my best friend and I have hosted a party together for the last four years in which everyone buys the ugliest tree ornament they can find. These get hung (secretly) on two of the world’s most hideous fake trees (see pictures below) then we all vote (by secret ballot of course)on whose ornament is the ugliest. Whoever wins gets a cash pool to which we all contribute, all the ugly ornaments, and the honor of baby-sitting the two ugly trees until next year’s party. Basically, it’s an excuse to have a Christmas party with a fun theme.

I about killed myself to get the house decorated in time for the party, but I did it, and it’s pretty and happy and we had a lot of fun. The week of the party, Monday and Tuesday (Monday being the day the garage door broke) I had a bunch of paper-work type stuff I had to take care of the evenings. Once we finally got that done, I had two nights to get the house decorated. The Friday before the party was my brother’s 30th birthday. And, it was also my sister’s Christmas concert. So we were out late enjoying the concert (minus one very annoying photographer who had the world’s brightest flash and seemed determine to cause seizures in the audience with his incessant picture taking) and then celebrating my brother’s birthday. Saturday morning of the party, I had to finish cleaning, finish last minute decorating, and it was the Saturday for Social Suppers – so I had to go do that in the morning! However, Amber came over in the afternoon, and we had all the food prepped and everything ready to go a good hour plus before the party! We were so proud of ourselves J

The other parties have included a dinner with two good friends of ours, my work party, and Chris’ work party. Needless to say, we’ve been busy. My Mum was able to come with us to a couple of those, which was nice. I think one of the hardest things about being so far apart from my parents is that it’s hard, sometimes, to picture normal life for them (or them for us) because we often don’t see or know any of these places. Getting a physical picture of people and places is helpful in feeling a little less disconnected.



Anniversaries
Our anniversary was last week. As my parents had just got into town around this time, we didn’t actually do a whole lot in the way of celebrating. However, we’re going to St Louis in January for a few days, and that will be our actual celebration. We have been married six years. It just doesn’t feel that long. Either way, we’re excited to be moving into our seventh year of marriage. I can’t imagine living my life with any other person. And that’s a good thing J

Fun Family Fun
Well, the good part of family has been that my parents are now with us and will be here until after the new year. It’s been so good to see them again; I hadn’t seen my Mum for a year and a half, and I hadn’t seen my Dad since August. My sister is also staying with us (she gets kicked out of the dorms at Christmas), and since my brother and sister-in-law only live a short distance from us, we’ve got a full house most of the time! And I loves it!

Fruitless Family “Fun”
The bad part has been that Chris’ father took it upon himself to contact us again, via a letter. We are not answering this letter because there is really nothing that could be said. How do you respond to someone who is so willing to twist truth and blatantly ignore or block out everything that is said to them? I have shed so many tears the last few months over all of this (particularly over the pain I see my husband in), I sometimes wonder if I will ever will be able to cry again. And yet, I know, despite all of the negativity and horrendous stress of the last few months, God is doing something good in our lives.

I’m not a big New Years resolution person. In fact, I find them somewhat obnoxious. But, truthfully, this year, Chris and I have set quite a few. We have had to learn some harsh lessons this year, ones that in the long run will change the shape of our lives – for the better, I believe. But they have still been painful. These lessons are giving us some new goals we want to focus on in the next year(s) because we have to do something. And at this point, that something doesn’t seem to be capable of involving his family.

We’re not happy about this. But how long do you beat your head against a brick wall before you realize that you’re going to kill yourself if you don’t quit?

So, that is the latest in this drama that used to be my everyday, commonplace life.

God bless you all and MERRY CHRISTMAS! Because, despite all, we still have thousands of reasons to rejoice, not least of which is the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blessings

My back hurts, my arms hurt, my legs hurt, and my feet hurt, but all in all, I'm a happy individual today. My house is clean, my floor is done, and Christmas can finally begin! I haven't blogged in over two weeks, and there are so many random ideas I've wanted to address, but I've been pondering on how to do that. Well, I've realized that all in all, these are things that I am just thankful for...so we will address them all that way!

1. Let's start with my car, Mithral Rae. Even though we did have to shell out a couple of hundred dollars to get the sensors fixed, she is at least working again, quite nicely, and seems to not have any inclinations towards randomly quitting her job in the middle of the road! We are going to find a way to get the more general repairs done on her sometime in the next few months; she’s been such a good car over the last ten years, I hate to give her up!

2. Thanksgiving was one of the best Thanksgivings we have had in several years. We drove down about ten hours to Texas to spend it with Chris' aunt and uncle and their four vivacious children. We had a lovely time with delicious food, drives around the city (which I love!), cuddling kids, expressions of thankfulness (including a surprise announcement from Chris' aunt about kidlet number five coming in June!), and just a general relaxing, cozy, thankful! Thanksgiving. We were both in desperate need of escaping Springfield (and our house) for awhile, and to be able to do so with loving and accepting people was wonderful.

3. Dishwasher updates. Upon returning to Springfield, we found our kitchen floor was almost completely done being tiled, and indeed, as I write this, not only is our kitchen floor completely done, but this weekend we finished redoing the dining room floor, putting in dividers, and (this is the reason for the sore muscles) completely cleaning up the disgusting dirtiness that my home had turned into! (I spent 6.5 hours just doing the cleaning. Keep in mind, our kitchen, dining room, and living have been one big jumbled mess for over four weeks, and, as with any construction project, dust has been getting everywhere. Add into that the fact that I’ve been sick, we’ve been out of town, and it’s really difficult to keep a clean house when nothing is in its right place and it’s constantly getting dustier because of grout, tile, sawdust, etc).

Our home is now sparkly clean, ready to be decorated for Christmas, and the kitchen/dining room actually look better with the tile in the kitchen than they did before all this happened!

One of the most amazing parts of all this is how faithful God is in taking care of our needs. When we were first debating on how to fix our floor from the great dishwasher flood, we decided we would have to tile the kitchen floor rather than simply replacing the laminate because the particular brand of laminate we originally used in flooring was - of course – discontinued. And, while we did have some extra boxes of laminate left-over from when we original put the laminate in the house, we were going to be just short in being able to redo both the kitchen and dining room.

Dreading the cost of tile (and losing our beautiful floor), Chris and I went out hunting. We finally found what we wanted and brought it home only to decide it really wasn’t right. At that moment, my dear brother dropped off a whole bunch of tiles at our house that go beautifully with our kitchen and were given to him (boxes and boxes and boxes) by a hardware store because most of the boxes had chipped pieces in them. Cobble them together - and we had enough to redo our kitchen. So, even counting what we paid my brother to do the tiling on the floor (a topic both of us were completely clueless about), all in all it cost us maybe $250 to fix all of the mess. Plus a few weeks of frustration - but hey - considering what we thinking it could cost...it's a blessing. God really does take care of our every need - large and small.

4. Tied directly in with the idea of a clean home is another cleansing concept. For the last three months, Chris and I have been embroiled in a nasty, sad, and at time rather pathetic situation with his immediate family. This has been a long time building (years literally) and involves some odd issues. While I won’t get into details about any of that here, the basic upshot is that – as far as we can tell – his family is no longer talking to him (us) and they seem to have no inclination to try to work through any of what has happened – and indeed, seem to have moved on in their lives to the point where we really don’t know if they will ever have an interest in reforming any kind of relationship with us again.

Obviously, this is a hard place for anybody to be. Acceptance by the people who are your family is a basic desire of any person, no matter how good or bad their parents may be. It’s the reason one can find children who’s parents abuse them who will stand up for their parents.

There is so much involved in all of this mess that I really don’t feel comfortable discussing it in such a public forum as this. However, the result from our end has been three very emotionally frustrating and even depressing months. In getting to this point of realizing that we may or may not ever have a healthy relationship with his family, we have spent many hours processing and analyzing and – vital of all – praying. We have finally hit the point where we have to move on – with or without them. We have to put our lives back together again. It is sad that things are the way they are, but we can’t spend the rest of our lives wondering if they will ever turn into reasonable, caring people.

And so, for both of us, restoring the physical peace of our home from the chaos and mess that has overtaken it, can be seen as a symbolic representation of what we are doing with our emotional and mental selves.

So where does the thankfulness come in?I am thankful to be married to a man who is willing to give up a lot of important things in order to not only become a better man but to develop his own faith and beliefs. I am thankful for his humility and willingness to be honest about his own life.

I am thankful that we have not had to walk through all this alone, but that we have had friends who have been willing to pray with us and put up with our rather chaotic emotions for several months.

I am thankful that God has so clearly demonstrated to us – over and over again – the last few months how much control He has over our lives and that He is always taking care of things – no matter how bad or how frustrating.

And, I am thankful that, somehow, in all of this, I know that everything will be okay in the end. Maybe not what we would ideally want, but God will be with us and we will be okay.

Severe lack of blogging

And sadly, for at least a few more days, while I have multiple things bursting out of me dying to be written...I probably won't have time. However, until that time comes...listen to this entertaining song instead!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

And the fun just doesn't stop

OK, so I'm really not that negative of a person. Slightly on the pessimistic side at times, especially when I'm tired or feeling overwhelmed, but really...not that negative as a general rule. However, this craziness has got to stop. I literally can trace for the last three months week by week the non-stop disasters that have been following us. Basically, something happens, we get about one week (two on a really big thing) to settle into it, figure out what to do, yadda, yadda...and then something else comes up.

  • Crazy family issues (this is a non-stop stressor that anytime everything else is being quiet likes to crop up and be irritating - or just crop up and be irritating when it wants to!)
  • Myrte (who, btw, is not doing so well - I'm still completely out of her life - but she's gone straight back into all sorts of fun things)
  • Food Poisoining
  • Poison Ivy
  • Dishwasher disaster (and thereby, ripping up my kitchen floor disaster - which is still a mess, although scheduled for fixing asap)
  • Strep Throat (feeling somewhat better, but I was way to tired this morning after doing a little bit of housework)

And the most recent...my beautiful, faithful, beloved car of ten years - who incidentally goes by the name of Mithral Rae - don't ask - it was just one of those phases I went through where everything had to have a name. For example - my old laptop's name was Freddy. OK, so maybe it wasn't just a phase - I guess I did name our new, current laptop Leo! Anyhoo...Mithral Rae has suddenly decided she's tired of being faithful and has started this new thing of suddenly dying. Which, when one is driving down the middle of a busy road, can be a very disconcerting never mind dangerous concept!

Now, she did this a couple times to me a few weeks ago, so we sent her to the shop, and they proceeded to charge us $60 to tell us they couldn't find anything wrong with her. However, I was not comfortable driving a car eight miles to and from work every day on very busy roads when I knew (despite the non-diagnosis) that she was being tempermental and obstinant. So, Chris and I switched cars (his drive is much shorter to work and on back-streets primarily). Well, he had only one problem with her in a couple of weeks...until yesterday...when she proceeded to die three (?) times in the span of about half an hour or so...including while he was driving down the middle of the road.

So, Mithral Rae is now in the shop...

Since writing the above, I have received a phone call from the car shop. The particular issue is - as far as they can tell - one that should only cost a couple of hundred of dollars to fix. However, Mithral Rae has also been shaking a lot lately and have some odd rattlings, gurglings, etc. Now, you have to keep in mind, she's ten years old and has a LOT of miles on her (about three trips back and forth between Washingston State and Missiouri never mind tons of other trips). So, while she was in the shop. Chris asked for them to check out her other cranky issues. Apparently nothing major is wrong, but it's a lot of little things that need replacing, tightening, aligning, etc to keep her healthy and running more smoothly. The entire bill, if we decide to have everything fixed that needs fixing, will run a little over $1000.

And so now we face that huge question of to pour the money into her or not. She is only technically worth about $600 book value any more. However, she's a great car that we have not had to pour a ton of money into over the last few years. If she will last for several years more (which she really should given that there's nothing seriously wrong with her, just bits and bobs that need some help, and she's primarily only driven in town now because she's getting a little old for huge long road trips)...is it worth it?

GAH! I hate decisions like this! And amounts of money like this! If it's not one thing, it's another!

God bless us every one!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And the Diagnosis is....

Strep throat.

I finally managed to find a doctor who would take me as a one-time patient, and he took one look at my throat and said it was an extremely bad case of strep throat. And so I am now on antibiotics, should be uncontagious (is that a word?) in about 24 hours, and will spend the next few days trying to get better.

I find it ironic that the first case of full-blown strep throat I have had in YEARS (probably four or more years) is after I have quit teaching and gone to work with adults!

So, if you have been around me lately and your throat starts hurting, please go to the doctor right away. Because I may have infected you :(

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Honey and Lemon

So, I've been essentially confined to my couch for the last three days drinking in the powers of honey and lemon and hot water and blessing God for the invention of the lap top! I did try to go into work today and subsequently got kicked out and sent home (through the power of very strong suggestion) by my boss! You know you're sick when you're boss...who really does need you to get some of that work done...sends you home.

Apparently I grew up during the era of doctors thinking that removing tonsils is a bad idea even if you did get tonsilitis on a consistant basis multiple times a year as a child. I was always told that I would grow out of these tonsil issues, but, alas, I have not. Any time I even get a hint at a sore throat, it promptly blows my tonsils out of proportion, coats my throat with nasty, sore, gunkiness, and wipes me out so much that I wind up flat on my back (well propped up) on my couch for several days trying to work up the energy to be able to do anything ever again! Fortunately, I have a very patient husband who takes excellent care of me, but I really do truly hate being sick as an adult because most of the time you're by yourself, and even when you feel woozy and tired and flat out awful - you still have to fend for yourself if you want anything.

Go to the doctor, I keep hearing. Easier said than done. We have such a ridiculous health care system in this world that because I've switched insurance companies with my new job, I have had to say goodbye to my faithful and beloved doctor of eight years and have been searching for a new one. I have finally manged to get into one of the doctors who was recommended to me (one of about seven - none of the others of whom were taking new patients), but the earliest appointment I could get is in January, and I sincerely hope that I won't still be needing her at that point because of this particular problem right now!

Sadly, however, this nastiness means that I shall have to forgo seeing the Ballet Hispanica which I was going to go see tonight and have been looking forward to seeing for about four months :( Sigh...stupid tonsils. Stupid sickness. Stupid timing!

And that's my grump for the day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Travel Lust

I admit to. I have a lust for something - and it's surprisingly not dark chocolate! I'm sorry my dear husband, but I can't help it. The idea of traveling places...*sigh*... such happiness!


There is a part of my being that thrills to the idea of hopping a plane and going to see a new (or old) place. Being able to touch and see for myself the places that I have spent my whole life reading about...that idea gives me this sparkling, wonderful feeling that makes working 40 hours a week seem worthwhile if it will help fund that desire!


Now, I know, some of you will say, "But think of all the places you have been. Think of all the adventures you have had that other simply dream of." And, believe me, I'm not denying the magic and delight of those adventures or the mystery and memories of those places. And yet, the travel lust is not satisfied. There is still an entire world out there that I haven't seen!


I long to see the pyramids of Egypt, to see if the Sphynx really does look as majestic as the pictures present it, to climb the Alps, to touch the Great Wall of China, to see the Pantheon of Greece before it burns to the ground, to walk to Golgatha, to see the birthplace of my Lord, to visit Rome and see the Colleseum, to walk through the Louvre of Paris, to hear Gaelic before that language disappears off the face of the earth, to find out what Mexican food tastes like in Mexico, to see Boston, Washington DC, Philladelphia, to sit in the The Eagle and Child and imagine being able to overhear the conversations of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, to visit PEI and see Green Gables, to go to the opera in Sydney and see if the gym at Evangel really is a miniature of that building...the list goes on and on.


I have always had a goal of visiting every continent (Antarctica might be negotiable) before I die.

Now, I look over the last few years of my life, and even in these few short years, I have done a fair amount of travel. Since I've been married, we've gone to England once, Thailand once, we've visited Tenneessee, we've done a road trip from Washington State to Missiouri...and those are wonderful memories. And yet, it's been nearly five years since I've seen my aunts and uncles and cousins (and now even second cousins - I think that's what they are!) in England. It's already been a year since I was last "home." And, there is this always nagging longing in me that craves seeing more...going more places, experiencing new cultures, languages, foods, life.



Is it sad that I can sometimes be frustrated that when I consider traveling I feel like I sometimes have to choose between going to England or Thailand because I want to see family? Who, in their right mind, would be frustrated about such a decision?! And yet, again, there is this world out there of places and people and adventures that I haven't had yet.


Due to some recent conversations with various individuals, some of our priorities have been brought into question. And in considering those priorities, I realized, yet again, how deep my love of travel is. And so my longing has been reawakened, if anything, more deeply than ever before. And, since I fortunately have an amazing husband who not only understands my crazy longings but sympathizes and is more than happy to go along with them...this concept is going to be placed nearer the forefront of our lives again. We'll see where the road takes us for, to quote a hobbit of great wisdom and rhyme:



"The Road goes ever on and on


Down from the door where it began.


Now far ahead the Road has gone,


And I must follow, if I can,


Pursuing it with eager feet,


Until it joins some larger way


Where many paths and errands meet.


And whither then? I cannot say."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"The Second Spring" or "Why Autumn is My Favorite Season"




"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." ~Albert Camus

I love the crisp feel of a cool Autumn breeze.
There is a distinct leafy, crispy perfume associated with Autumn that causes me to throw open my windows to try to absorb as much as possible.
I'll go out of my way (and risk being late to work) to drive through tree-lined streets to watch the leave change.
The sound of crunching leaves under my feet is one of the most satisfying sounds in the world.
I revel in cooler days where I get to start pulling out sweaters and boots and other fun warm weather clothes but are not yet at the point where I shiver and hurt because of icy chilliness and have to bundle up like a snow-monster.
There is a peace - like the calm before a storm - that descends upon the world as nature is gearing up to fight the long, bitter days of winter.

Everything seems brighter (even than in summer), calmer, and more at ease than at any other time of the year.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fun Food Fixes

A relatively common conversation I run into with various friends and acquaintances is that of food. Or more precisely, food budgets. In this economy where prices are rapidly going up, how do we afford good food (I despise the fact that healthy food is so outrageously expensive!) and what do we do about those days when we come home from work or whatever and we just don't want to cook dinner? Going out to eat will blow a food budget in no time flat, yet it can be such a tempting solution sometimes!

Well, personally, I am now attempting three new ideas to solve some of our food crises that arise.

1. Planning! Now, don't laugh at me. I know this is such a basic tool, but I'm so bad about planning out ahead of time what our meals are going to be. So, for the last few weeks, Chris and I have been sitting down on Saturdays and determining what meals we are going to make for the week ahead, what items we need to buy to complete those meals, etc. Now, has this worked perfectly since we've started doing this? No. Changing several years of habits is hard and (for this last week) cooking when my kitchen floor is torn up because of mold just wasn't appetizing to me! However, I think we're getting the concept, and we shall see where it takes us.

2. Share Colorado. What is Share Colorado? It is an non-profit organization (actually through Catholic Charities) which - because of its size - can buy huge amounts of food for way cheaper than the individual would pay at the grocery store, and then proceeds to turn around and sell that food to individuals families and groups for extremely low prices.

Different churches can volunteer to be host sites for this program (my brother's church is where we go), and people order through that church and pick up their groceries every month at that location.

I really like it because (a) unlike some programs of this nature, you are not required to buy a certain amount of food from them or spend a set amount of money (b) they actually sell (again, unlike many of the organizations of this nature I've run into the past) fresh fruits and vegetables of all sorts. The meat is always good quality; we've never run into any out-dated products. And the amount of food you can get for the money you spend is amazing! Plus, you can donate extra money for some of the basic food boxes to go to families in need, and I know the food is good because it's the exact same stuff I'm eating!

This program has really started changing some of our meal planning and food budgeting just because of the amount we save. I highly recommend it!

3. Social Suppers. This is another fun organization I have recently gotten into. And this is for those days when I don't want to come home and cook a meal. Social Suppers essentially is a place you can go where - for pretty good prices - you can assemble all the ingredients for several meals which then get placed into your freezer until you're ready to cook it. Then you pull it out, thaw it, pop it into the oven, and the only cooking left to do is any sides you might want to have with it.

Now, these are a little more expensive than if I would have just made this meal at home from our own ingredients. However, it has several advantages:

1. It's cheaper than eating out, so we're saving ourselves money there, and we actually get more food from these meals than if we went out to eat.
2. The meals are varied (anad amazing!) and provide some interesting new experiences to our dining life (along with some great new ideas for meals I can make).
3. I go with some girl friends of mine, so it's a fun time to socialize and hang out!

So, these are my latest solutions to the never-ending problem of What's for Dinner?!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Eragon

Eragon by Christopher Paolini. This is a fantasy book full of your classic good vs bad themes, dragons, elves, etc. One fact that really makes this book a fascinating read is taking into account the age of the author when he wrote it. 15. It's a really well-written book, fully developed, great plot, even good usage of literary devices. And he was 15!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming!

So, the last few months have been, quite frankly, unbeliable. Every week, just about, something else comes up or is added to the crazy stressfulness.

It all started in August with a frustrating conflict with a group of individuals which is continuing to carry on. Don't know the resolution of that issue....parts 250 + will be sure to come.

Then, of course, was also the Myrte stuff.

Now, these first two stressfulls have been on-going. One thing after another after another...dragging their feet, refusing to go away...slowly sapping energy, joy, time, etc. The following three are relatively minor things in comparison, but woven into the craziness of the initial two - I'm exhausted! And, the last three have all taken place over about four weeks.

First, Chris started coming up with these random spots on his legs and hands. After doing some research, we thought it was fleas...I had a few minor bites...looked like the pictures we were finding...so we takeled it. Now, please understand, we have two dogs, and they run around outside. Normally they get bathed every other week and get flea-stuff once a month. However, with the disaster my regular routines have been in for the last few months...that hadn't been happening. Anyhoo, three days later, two very clean and defleed dogs and a thoroughly vacuumed and boraxed house (Borax is amazing at killing fleas, btw)...we hoped the problem was done.

Well, the spots turned into rashes and a few days after all that, we realized he had poison ivy. Now, that's bad enough, but he got the poison ivy from some plants that had snuck into our backyard...and so we also need to deal with that mess! And all that time deep cleaning...*sigh*

Just as he was starting to look human again (it was so gross!), I inadvertantly poisoned us with fish, and we both have had food poisoning for several days. My stomach is still a little upset from that.

Then, to top it all off...last night occured. We have been smelling this odd smell for a few weeks, but hadn't been able to track it down. And then the dishwasher decided to leak...and Chris noticed that when he stepped on a floor board a few feet away (we have laminate flooring in our dining room, kitchen, and living room), water would gush from underneath.

So, having an amazing fix-it-all brother, we called him up, he came over, pulled out dishwasher out, and - to my horror - the smell became highly apparent, my asthma immediately started kicking in (I'm highly allergic to mold), and the extent of our problem started becoming apparent.

Fortunately, we don't have to replace the dishwasher...just a few pieces need to be fixed and it should be okay. However, by the time we were done last night, most of my kitchen and half of my dining room laminate flooring was pulled up. We have to clean it - bleach it - and then replace all the laminate again. About half of the flooring was ruined, the other half will - hopefully - be salvagable.

And so I say...ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!




Where my dishwasher used to be.



Chris screaming in horror (and at the stench!).




My hero! My brother. :)




See the pretty flooring at the far left corner.
Yeah, that used to be my whole floor!



What is left of my dining room.
Calista and Mara were very concerned by all
the crazyiness.



The garbage pile of laminate and my troublemaker
of a dishwasher.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Poisoned Us!

It was accidental, and I'm still not exactly sure what happened, but both my dear husband and myself have been in high amounts of discomfort over the last three days. I came home from work Friday night and cooked fish (with side dishes). About two hours later, we were both commenting that our stomachs hurt. And since then, while we feel fine otherwise, we have had severe stomach issues. And so I am led to the conclusion that we have food poisoning, and it's all my fault! Yes, my dearest keeps telling me to not blame myself, but really, it's hard not to. I feel very guilty :(

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Children Thoughts

So even before I got married, the question of "when are you going to have children" is one that has been in the air. Even my roommate in college bought me a card when I was first engaged saying "Well, now we don't have to ask when you're going to get engaged. So, when are you going to have a baby?"


Granted, it's a natural question. The general pattern of life is that one does get married and then goes and has children. However, why does everyone think they have the right to ask?

Now, I'm referring here to people who are essentially complete strangers to me or even acquaintances from work etc - but not people who I count as good friends or family. When they start questioning Chris or I when we are going to have kids, why don't we have kids, etc, it's a little irritating! Stop and think about that for a moment. In my small world, I know of at least three women who desperately want to have children and who physically cannot get pregnant. Having that question asked can completely devestate those women and, quite frankly, explaining all that to someone who really has no business asking, is not something that those women should be subject to. Now, fortunately, as far as I know, I should be able to have children just fine. However, these strangers who don't know me or my situation have no idea the reasons why we don't have kids yet - how do they know they aren't causing cruelty in their question? How do they know I'm not just holding my head up because I have to while inside I'm dying to have children?


Another common argument that has been presented to us is that having children is pleasing to God and something we should be doing, etc. And yet, I have to question those people who bring this up by asking about the (yes, even Christian families) families who have children, ship them off to daycare within weeks of their being born so they can go back to work and live out their oh so important working, adult lives, allowing their children to be brought up by virtual strangers for the major hours of the day and - even more importantly - those children's major developmental years. And, yes, I completely understand that in many cases they have no option about this - but there are also many cases where they do have options and they simply don't feel it is [a] important enough that they be home with their children and make them be their priority or [b] they like their job and career to much, are afraid they would simply be bored at home, and really don't see the importance of their being around. And, yes, I have had some of these actual conversations with women! Is it right to bring a child into the world and then to abandon it to strangers in daycare? Is it pleasing to God?


Anyhoo...these ideas are ones that quite commonly Chris and/or I face. And thoughts of children are ones that have been dancing around my brain quite a bit more of late. Some of it is the realization that come December I will have been married six years, and the social norm part of my brain is saying, it's about time to have kids. Some of it is that my sister-in-law recently married a widower with two children, so of course, in a previously childless arm of a family, that idea has been pushed to the forefront. Some of it is that my friends all around me are beginning to have children and it feels kind of like "the thing to do!" And some of it is the fact that I really do adore babies and love playing with kids, building relationships with them, and just the general idea of their existance!


And don't get me wrong. I want to have children some day. I know that for sure. However, I keep running into the question of do I want to have children soon? In the next few years, are we looking at changing the current course of our life?


Some days I look at that question and say "yes, I think I do." And yet, more often, I look at that question and say, "I'm not sure." And while some people have told me that you never are 100% sure of wanting to start the children process, you just get used to it, I somewhat dislike that attitude. I know women who unconditionally have wanted a baby, even in their sometimes moments of saying, "I don't know if I'm ready for this" they still have had that urge, that drive to bring a child into the world, to hold a baby, to create someone beautiful. I don't like being half-hearted about things, and quite frankly, I don't want to go into this time questioning whether or not I want this.l


I wonder sometimes if my moments of "sure I want a baby sometime soon" are not simply the results of the subconscious social pressures we feel all around us so often. Those pressures that say, you're nearly 27, you've been married a good number of years, you're young, you're capable, you need to start having children. The same social pressures or expectations that cause people to ask personal questions like, "So when are you having kids?"


Far too often, I look at the life I have right now and say, "No, I'm not ready for that step." I feel like I'm still growing up, that there are things that need to be resolved, developed, whatever you want to call it, before I'm really ready to devote my life to a child. There are days when I wake up and, quite frankly, the thought of not being able to curl up for hours on the couch and ignore the rest of the world while burying myself in the adventures of this fictional character or another, distresses me! And yet, there are other days, when I think of doing different things with a child - going to the apple farm to pick apples, playing in the parks with children, holding a child, loving them, teaching them - sounds like the most delightful experience imaginable.


I desperately want to be a stay-at-home mom; that is a huge priority for me. And quite frankly, if I were to have a child right now, I don't know how we would make it work. I can't bear the thought of leaving my child in the arms of a stranger so that I can go work eight hours a day. I can't bear the thought of having a child who doesn't go through that stage of "I adore my Mummy because she's the most important being in my life" because Mummy has never been there for that child! I've seen those children, and it breaks my heart.


And, there's another part of me that recognizes the limitations (worth it - but still limitations) that come with children. I still have yens to see so many places, to travel, to experience new cultures and people and ideas. And having children does limit some of those options. Oh, yes, we could move overseas and/or still travel somewhat, but not like you can when there are only two to pay for and not three or four or five. And I've seen quite a few older people in the last few years who have hit retirement age, are finally free to do what they want to do - and yet for so many of them, going to Branson is a huge event and the thought of walking the streets of Paris, seeing the Pyramids of Egypt, touching the Great Wall of China, is very tiring and not something they have a great desire to do!

So, to answer the question that apparently everyone seems to interested in asking lately: When are we going to have children? I have to say, "I don't know!" Possibly in the next few years. Possibly not for several years after that! I guess we'll have to see where the argument flows. In the meantime, I will continue to test the question out from time to time (not trying to bias my answer because of the impertinent inquiries of virtual strangers!). And I will enjoy the life that has been given to me now, at this time, as it is.

A Month and a Year

Although it has been nearly a month since I last wrote on this blog'o'mine, it feels almost like a year. And then in other ways it feels only like a few days. Time is very awkward like that. It won't consistently feel a certain way at any given moment. There are those weeks where it feels interminable and makes you wonder if Friday will EVER come. And then you get to Friday and you're looking at the week going, what happened?! Where did my week go? I guess that's one of the reasons I'm such a big fan of lists and calendars and details - if I can look back and see what I've done, check off what I've accomplished, it assures me that I didn't just throw away a good week's worth of time on nothing. :)

In the Myrte update: Myrte has moved out (by her own choice and sadly not in a very courteous fashion). To be honest, I'm not quite sure what has happened or what is going on but since she moved out, it has been confirmed she has definitely gone back to at least a couple of the negative lifestyle choices she was making before she moved in, and there has also been a lot of concern from a lot of people as far as what else she may be doing or not doing. I won't go into details on here as it is her life and her business; although I will admit, since writing is a cathartic activity for me, I have written out a huge long blog for my own personal venting moment about all she has said, done, etc since the last time I wrote! Ah for catharsis! I won't post it, but it felt good to get out of my system!

The largest personal piece of news on that front is that she apparently has decided that I am Public Enemy Number One and she has kicked me out of her life! Still not quite sure how I got into that role with her, but oh well. I will continue to pray for her, and I hope that she doesn't turn away from the working of God in her life. God has given me such a burden for her, and I can see the great potential she has within her to be this amazing, influential human being, if she would only develop that. But, it is God's hands, and the only thing I can do is pray.

On a personal level, while I am a little hurt emotionally (although generally when I feel that hurt attacking me, I just have to remind myself about the issues/mental/emotional state of the one who did the hurting, and I get over it quickly), I have so much peace spiritually, it's been wonderful. I know that the Lord has led both Chris and myself and a myriad of other people in dealing with Myrte, and I have nothing to be ashamed of, sorry for, concerned about as far as my behavior, words, actions, and even - for the most part [hey, I'm human, I get vindictive sometimes!] - my thoughts go.

My dearest of husbands made the comment the other day that he wasn't quite sure if all of this had come about in our lives to teach us lessons or Myrte lessons. Either way, I have definitely learned quite a few things in this roller-coaster adventure.

One of the biggest lessons that has and is continually coming through to me (and I've been running into this lesson everywhere - chapel, church, personal devotions, random letters from people, conversations with other people, and of course that quiet prompting of the Holy Spirit) is that I have to let God control the situations in my life. Now, given my navigatory personality, I like to plan my steps, I like to have goals and methods for reaching those goals, and analysis of what I'm doing etc. The problem is, that I then limit the Lord's guiding to whatever fits into my predetermined methodology! Taking action from the prompting of the Holy Spirit and then not trying to control/predict/analysis, etc what happens after that is very difficult for me to do.

The hardest part for me has been finding the balance point. History teaches us that God uses the actions of man to fulfill His purpose. The question I have kept running into is how do I respond to other people/things/events and yet simultaneously let God have control of a situation.

I think my biggest sticking point is that I may pray and seek God's guidance on an action to take, but then following that action, rather than letting Him worry about what happens next, I parse and analyze it and project and try to plan and predetermine what my next response will be, and basically get myself in a bit of a tizzy because I have no way of knowing what's going to come next! And truthfully, other than my life, I have no control over any other person on the face of the planet. I have to let God deal with all that. Which, in some ways would seem to be a simple thing to do - I mean who really wants to have to deal with everybody else's problems in the world - but in others is frustrating for me! I guess it's that conflict-avoidance personality coming through again.

A friend of mine recently sent me a quote from Elizabeth Elliot that is the perfect summation of all of this.

For starters, Elliot is referring to the scriptures in John 15 about the Vine and the Branches (a set of scripture I've also been running into a lot lately!):

"1 - I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
2 - He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful...
4 - Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5- I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing...
9 - As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
10 - If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
11 - I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12 - My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

The quote from Elizabeth Elliot is as follows:
"To go on from one day to the next, leaving the unsettling things with God, being free and whole and serene because we are secure in our home—this is what “dwelling” in Christ and His love means. The people and the things about which we simply do not know what to do we can commit to His love as well, asking Him to find room for them."

In other words, I don't have to worry about it.

God is in control, and as long as I continue to try to dwell in His love, live within His prompting, seek His heart, what happens with other people does not matter. I do not have to seek the approval of the world. I do not have to fret over people who may or may not like me or who chose to judge my actions or priorities.

If I am dwelling in the Lord, then I can have peace and joy in the face of whatever the world may throw at me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Choosing My Life

So the last few days - week plus - have been a little crazy for me. I've had so much on my mind and yet no time to write! So frustrating!


The Myrte front is a good place to start.

Things have been, for the most part, encouraging in this area. I was complaining to my darling husband the other day that God seems to have (very unfairly in my eyes!) been teaching Chris and I some extremely hard lessons in our own personal lives that are coming back to play in relation to Myrte! There are so many times she has had a question or a problem that has come up that we literally have just worked through or really gotten to a better understanding of in our own lives. And we have a good answer with Scriptural bases and real life examples for her.

Saturday was interesting because she had hit a hard point where she was struggling with wanting to keep going in this battle. My heart breaks for her sometimes because she has such lies that the Devil is feeding her, and when she's frustrated or restless, she becomes so blind to truth because these lies are all she can see. And she has lived with some of these lies for so long, it's hard for her to break away. We spent several hours talking with her...the end result being that she decided to not leave us and give up. When Chris and I walked away from the situation though, I felt like I had been talking to Myrte but for half of the conversation Satan had been answering back. Thank God for His angels surrounding all of us.

One of the big issues we have discussed over and over again has been that of control. Not just self-control, which obviously is a factor in all this, but the dangers of allowing other things to control you, and how even a little tiny thing can actually be exerting terrible control over us if we are not wary.

I have really been dealing with this issue myself lately as the Lord has shown me that in my frustration and even anger towards a situation that has been a part of our lives for some time, I am allowing that situation to control me. Now, I know, in regards to this particular issue, that I cannot exert control over the situation. Only God can do that. However, I do have the choice of either responding so strongly to what occurs that it controls me and my life and my emotions and even my joy. Or, I can forgive and then, by the grace of God, make choices and take actions that - to the best of my ability - control my own responses and attitudes and words. The situation may never change. But I don't have to live a life controlled, manipulated, disgusted, or discouraged by it.

And that is where both Chris and I are at. For those of you dear readers who know what this situation is, please continue praying for us. We are trying to make the best choices we can, not allowing all of this yuckiness to control us but choosing to take certain actions, steps, and even say certain things that will change what we allow to impact our lives. This may be seen as confrontational to the other people involved, and we are putting up some tighter boundaries than we have in the past out of the necessity of protecting ourselves emotionally, but we are not trying to hurt or respond out of anger or even frustration. We are wanting to forgive and, yes, love, while simultaneously taking the actions that will put a stop to some of what is going on at least while we are around. It is a tricky line to walk, and we are praying for the wisdom of God in navigating it successfully.

That is the short version of my jumbled mess of a brain lately. I'm sure I'll be back with more!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Myrte Update

Well, one week down, and things are going pretty well.

Myrte seems to be settling down into the idea of living with us, even though it's definitely challenging. There are some severe behavioral changes that have to happen, never mind the mental and emotional challenges facing her. Fortunately, she's not trying to pretend that things are fine when they're not, and she's being very open and honest about the times when she is struggling and needing help, etc. It's involved an occasional few less hours of sleep than I normally like to have, but hey, I'm willing to sacrifice that!

Talking to her and trying to help her work through her very thought-processes in relation to some of these issues is definitely one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts. It's interesting to talk to someone who has grown up in the church, yet who seems to be missing some of the vital keys that make Christianity so different from any other religion - legalistic or not. And I must say, Chris' experience with Lakeland has been so perfect because he knows not only the right questions to ask but also how to provoke an actual thought out response and not the "Sunday School" answer per say.

I must say, I have breathed some very thankful prayers over the last week or so (not for the first time - mind!) for having grown up with parents who were willing to allow me to stretch my brain and experiences while I was young so that analysis of not just faith but my entire process is quite a natural experience for me. I've needed every bit of analysis and self-honesty I've been able to muster up the last few weeks!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I'm in Mourning

I just found out Madeline L'Engle died today. And I am very sad. She is an individual I always wanted to meet. Her books always amaze me, from her children's stories to her journals. Her way of thinking and her presentation of faith and Christianity has challenged me over and over again to analyze my thought processes, how I see life, the important things in life, even my writing style. A great author has died leaving behind a fantastic collection of writings...I wonder what I will leave behind when I die?

My Rebellious Teenager

So, life update. I have a friend of mine who has been really struggling with her life lately. For the purpose of my blog I shall call her Myrte (my rebellious teenager). These struggles have led her down many, many paths that are both harmful to her physically but have also been destroying her emotionally and mentally...putting every relationship into jeopardy, and pushing her farther and farther from God. Truthfully, it has been quite frightening to watch her rapidly free fall into one of the most degenerate lifestyles I've personally had to deal with.

This free fall has been speeding up over the last six months or so. The whole time she was getting deeper and deeper into garbage, she would swing from one side to the other saying she desperately wanted to change, wanted to get her life back to normal again, was ready to change this time, was "getting better"....and then she would turn around and be right back to what she was doing the day before - and generally even more. One thing she did realize early on was that she is not capable of conquering any of this on her own. Months ago, Chris and I offered to open our house to her as a place she could come and stay and change her life, but that offer came with very specific conditions and stipulations. And we told her that if she was not capable of following and agreeing to those stipulations, we couldn't help her because it meant she really didn't want to change. Well, despite everything, she's always been pretty honest about what she's doing and thinking - confused and not necessarily honest to herself - but honest as far as she could see the truth. She told us she didn't want to change enough to follow those rules.

Well, a few days ago, she had a demonstration of God's love and forgiveness and redemptive power from a very surprising source. This demonstration shook her so much, she finally realized what she was doing to her life (which all of her friends and family had been desperately trying to get her to understand for months), and she came to us and asked us if we would consider taking her into our home - all stipulations intact.

Well, we are doing so. And I feel like I have suddenly gone from having no children to having a rebellious teenager in my home (even though she's actually a month older than I am!). We have written out a contract detailing our expectations of her and the standards by which she has to live to stay here. This is going to be witnessed by several individuals both as a safety measure for us as well as a physical representation for her of what she is choosing to do with her life. If she ever decides she can't handle this anymore, she is allowed to sign and date and close out the contract, but she has to physically sign her name to it and tell us she no longer wants to follow an appropriate lifestyle.

It's scary. I won't pretend it's not. I know that Chris and I are taking on a huge job which is a weird one because she is an adult and not a child, and ultimately, every decision is hers. We're asking for lots of prayer right now for wisdom on what to say, what to do, what not to say, when to pressure, when to lay off, what reactions to have to things, and lots and lots of patience. She will literally be going through a moderate physical detox as well as a mental and emotional detox and transformation of her life.

I don't begrudge her any changes I have to make to my life to assist her in this way...as long as we are actually benefitting her somehow. And I pray we do.

So, that is a huge change in our life right now. And, Lord willing, it will all be worth it.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ren. Fest.

So, today I got to do one of my favorite things...go to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. This is a medievalesque festival that my Amber introduced me to back in my Sophomore year of college, and I love to go to every year. Unfortunately, the last few years we have not been able to afford to go...but today, at last, I got to go back.

Ren Fest is a fun place to be. There are all sorts of crazy people dressed up in fun costumes, having random conversations, selling fascinating things, and basically just having a good time. There are tons of crafts and interesting musicians (the best ones this year were easily a group of "Scottish" bagpipe players - great group!). Of course I have my renaissance dress that I bought several years ago, and it's a great excuse to dress up (I guess I never will grow up in that regard - I love dressing up!).

This year I had a moment of sadness, however, as the beautiful fairy grove that used to be located in one part of the festival grounds has been transformed into a barbarian camp where they have mock battles with fake swords. :( All the fairies have been forced to wander randomly amongst the crowds. It was a very sad moment for me.

Of course one of the big things with Ren Fest is the food. They have amazing food. Way over-priced, but still amazing :) Turkey legs and crepes are my favorites (especially the dessert crepe with strawberries and chocolate and ice-cream!). We brought a friend of ours with us this year, and he introduced me to a rather odd meal I had never seen before - Scottish eggs. Namely a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, and deep-fried. Looked disgusting, but apparently he thinks it's amazing!

I also got a henna tattoo. For those who don't know, henna is a plant grown in India, South Africa, and the middle east (those are places I know of) that has been used for years as a type of temporary dye for the skin. The tattoos last about 2 to 4 weeks, so for those who never actually want a real tattoo, but like the look of a temporary, non-rub on type one...it's a fun option. I've had a small one done on my hand before, but this time I got one on my back. Much fun :)

One of the best parts was just getting out of Springfield for a day. Spending the day in the sun with much entertainment, good food, good company, and a relaxed atmosphere. Yay Ren Fest!





My henna tattoo...when it's actually dried, it will be a dark brown and not black.

The Captains Jack and Barbosa look-alikes at the fair this year. Captain Jack did an amazing job impersonating Johnny Depp's character portrayal.

The rather revolting looking Scottish egg!

A fairy :)


Chris having a lot of fun terrorizing the sheep at the petting zoo!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Random Thought

So I realized today that the state of my house - ie. how clean it is, if I'm keeping up with the laundry, did I pay the bills, etc, etc, etc - is oftentimes a reflection of my mental and emotional state. As I got up this morning to go to church, I knew that when I returned home I was going to have to face the rather disastrous thing that used to be my tranquil, well put-together, organized, clean home.



What happened? Well, events over the last week or so have caused me to feel like a battering ram has been jammed into my stomach over and over and over while at the same time weights have been carefully placed around my neck designed to slow down all mental and physical processes as I struggle to stand up and operate against them, the total end result leaving my physical and emotional being in a state of pain, confusion, and shock. Thankfully, I'm finally beginning to move past that point somewhat; although, my body is still seriously sore (though, in all fairness, I think that might have something to do with dragging huge suitcases and boxes up to the fourth floor of Lewis Hall to get my sister settled into her new dorm room). And for the first time in nearly a week, I was actually happy and satisfied to be cleaning up my house and removing the chaos of incomplete laundry, abandoned dishes, random piles, and all-around bleaghness, putting it back to it's usually neat outlook.



Truthfully though, despite the fact that I have developed good routines over the last few years that help me (normally) keep my home neat, tidy, liveable, and more importantly, my haven from the outside world, when I found myself that attacked spiritually and emotionally, my routines tumbled down around my ears and I just flat-out did not have the energy to devote to them.



The funny thing is that I'm pretty sure had I tried to stick a little more closely with those routines and regular schedules, it might have actually helped. Not because I particularly had a lot of energy to devote to cleaning my house but because it would have maintained a little normalcy and even more importantly, not added to my stress levels by forcing myself to live in a chaotic home!



*sigh. Hindsight is an interesting thing. Totally useless for changing the past. But I suppose if I use it to shape and change future chaotic moments, maybe it will be worth it!



And that's my random thought for the day.

Essay: Lifeless Dwelling of a Living God

As I walk through the narrow, cobblestone lanes, following a pilgrim’s path through Canterbury, the air is chill yet vibrant, waking up every cell in my body with its brisk massage. The cobblestone under my feet feels smooth yet bumpy. To my right and left are tight rows of houses and stores, all jammed on top of one another, joggling for elbowroom. The antiquity of the buildings is evident, even to an uncultured eye, making one wonder at the history of this place. Before me, tips soaring above the rooftops, lies a glimpse of the Canterbury Cathedral. Leaning down from an arched entranceway to the Cathedral, a metal, forbidding statue seems to glare upon all individuals passing under its guard. A look at my guidebook informs me that this is a statue of Jesus Christ. The wind seems to blow colder, and I shiver in response to this revelation – this forbidding image, my gracious Lord? I pass underneath his watchful gaze and head for the heart of the huge structure.

The building’s outer structure is intricately engraved with the images of saints and bishops, worshipers and pilgrims. The whitish stone walls seem to rise higher and higher ending in spires that look like the fingers of a giant clawing at the sky. Archways line the sides of the building protecting stained-glass windows that lie hidden in their depths. While awe inspiring, the building is no more than another cathedral, many of which I have visited, admired, photographed, and left. Later, I have shown the pictures and talked about the beauty of the building, but never have I encountered a cathedral with a soul – with the presence of God residing tangibly within its walls.

I enter the building at the far side, noticing a hush fall over all who enter with me. Immediately, I feel like an insignificant thorn on a rosebush. Taking a few steps forward, I turn and face the far reaches of the massive edifice. Above me, the ceiling rises so high I have to strain to admire its intricate design. To my right and left are two rows of seemingly endless columns that climb to the ceiling and reach out to one another, forming an archway beneath which to walk. At the far end of the columns, I can barely perceive a screen of stone which I assume leads into the inner sanctuary. Taking a breath, I step confidently to one side of the church and walk along the rows of columns. To my left, covering the wall of the cathedral, are tombs and plaques of those who have died. I could easily take days reading all the inscriptions and tributes found within the plaques. My guidebook provides a succinct recounting of the lives of the numerous archbishops who are buried inside many of the tombs. Looking at the ornately decorated tombs, I wonder if the archbishop’s lives were really as simple as the book portrays. Military officers and soldier’s memorials also line the walls in great profusion. “In Memory of…having faithfully served his country…World War I, World War II, India, South Africa, America…leaving behind his wife and children.” The inscriptions are endless and yet ever similar in idea. The cathedral seems a place of death and burial.

While there appear to be miles of never ending tombs and plaques, I do eventually reach the outer wall of the inner-sanctuary. My mind tells me that the beautiful stone statues of the archbishops standing over this wall are amazing. My heart remains untouched. I walk into the sanctuary and look at the wooden pews built for the upper class of society. Many of the seats have names on them: important people, religious people, people beyond my social standing. A note informs me that last week the 104th Archbishop was just enthroned here. Moving farther on, past the pews, I see encased in glass a Bible that is used only when an Archbishop is enthroned. Ahead of me are the altar and a set of stairs leading up to the Archbishop’s chair. Dating from the Thirteenth century, it is an impressive throne cut from cold stone. Seeing a throne for humans in a Cathedral that is supposed to be God’s strikes me as odd. I walk forward to take a closer look at the altar and throne, and it is then that I observe him.

A middle-age man is standing motionless before the altar. As I move around to the side, I examine his face. He seems to stare unseeing at the altar, body upright, hands loose at his side, no emotion in evidence. Just then a voice comes over the intercom system asking all to please find a seat or stay where they are and join in a moment of prayer. I move to one of the pews and sit down. As the voice prays for the nation, for leaders, for the world, the man reaches out pleadingly towards the altar, and a look of utter heartbreak spreads across his face. Falling unheeded to the floor, tears begin to roll down his cheeks. Oblivious to any around him, he is silently crying out to the Lord like a hurting child.

I bow my head in awe and feel the exhilarating presence of life flowing through my veins, even as tears form in my eyes. I have felt the warm presence of a living God in this cold sanctuary of prayer.

Essay: Obliteration

In one afternoon, my perspective of the man changed completely. This man was ---------, my ballet teacher of eight years in the Southeast Asian country of Thailand. His students called him Ajarn, the Thai word giving importance to one who has a university degree. Although American-born, I had lived my entire life in Thailand with my missionary parents resulting in my studying ballet with this man.

I had always viewed Ajarn -------- as an edgy man, having a square shaped face with deep-set, slightly slanted Asian eyes; a square, if slightly flattened nose; a square neck leading to a squarely shaped body with two long rectangular legs set underneath. His feet, however, were prime examples of the curvaceous arches that mark a great dancer.

Ajarn’s beliefs were also very squarely set in his life. In Thailand, where to be Thai is to be Buddhist, he was the most devout Buddhist I had ever met. His faith in his religion was sincere and unshakable. Many times a year he would take his students to meditations and Buddhism training. Being a Christian, I never participated in those trips; however, I would often arrive for my ballet class and find a number of students sitting around him in a silent circle on the floor while he lectured them in Thai on how they should behave and live as good Buddhists. He was ever leading them in the pursuit of peace within their lives. Roughly translated, he would promote ideas such as, “Peace is the goal of your life. To maintain a peaceful existence, you must remember who you are in comparison with the other creatures of the world. Be wary of pride. You are no greater than others; be careful of harming any other being.” Ajarn was like a father to all of us. Indeed, in that Asian culture, when a teacher takes a student under his wing to train, he essentially becomes that student’s father. Even the legitimate parents of a student would acquiesce to such a teacher’s demands.

He did seem like a peaceful man to my eyes. Always neatly dressed in a simple style that blended with his personality, Ajarn spoke gently and softly. When, as a class, we were being lazy or not working as hard on perfecting our training as he felt we should, he would literally lecture us for hours on how to perform better. He was forever challenging us to stretch ourselves farther and farther into our art. “As dancers, your goal is not to perform for yourself but for your audience. If you are so focused on techniques that you fail to grasp the message of your story, your audience will never be touched. You must show discipline in your lessons; being lazy will simply hinder your future opportunities not only in dance, but also in every area of your lives.” Despite all his lectures, Ajarn would rarely raise his voice. The intensity of his speech was all that was necessary to focus our attention on him as he would sit cross-legged on the floor in the pose of meditation, lecturing us on our talent, our art, our lives.

In contrast to his gentle voice, Ajarn had strength of iron when he walked amongst us correcting our technique while we were dancing. If we were not pushing ourselves hard enough to lift our legs that extra half-inch, Ajarn would wrap his manacle-like hand around the errant leg and push it up higher until we would wonder if our backs were going to snap in half. Then, he would release his hand, and, in that gentle voice of his, he would command us to hold it there – use our muscles. And we would.

I loved him. Ballet was my world, and his commands and directions were the axis of that world. Despite his strength and determination to push us to our boundaries and then beyond, I never feared him. Well, I never feared him until that day.

I will never forget that steamy, tropical afternoon. As I sat stretching my muscles out on the smooth wood floor of the studio, a fellow student, Ayra, sat beside me. I noticed she was quiet, but that was not unusual. All of a sudden, Ajarn stormed into the room, focused only on his prey, oblivious to any others. He grabbed Ayra’s hair-bun, forcing her to the floor where he proceeded to scream in her face for the next hour in a voice unlike any I had ever heard come from him. To this day, I do not know what caused the onslaught against her; my abilities in the Asian language were not strong enough to follow the tirade that came so quickly after Ajarn’s entrance to the room. Later, I never had the courage to ask her what had happened. During the tempest, I sat curled up, half-hidden under the bars. I was too stunned to move, too wary of the monster in front of me to act.

Where had that gentle nature gone? The peace he was always admonishing us to seek was no longer evident. Ajarn was a changed man, a cruel fiend, a tyrant. His strength was no longer for teaching but for punishing. Neat clothing array, hair flamed out over his head in no set fashion, soft-spoken ways dissipated - he was a nightmare.

The next day, everything was back to normal. As I cautiously entered the studio, Ajarn
was sitting cross-legged on the floor lecturing on peace. In the following days, weeks, months, years, he acted as he always had before his eruption. Yet he was changed in my eyes. He no longer was representative of peace and honor; he was a volcano full of hidden power and cruelty. My love and regard for Ajarn had been indelibly altered in that single hour.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Avoid Tetanus Shots!

So, I have discovered, as is true for most medical things in my life, that I have extreme reactions to tetanus shots! Sometimes I think that if given the option for one thing I could change about my body, it would not be to lessen my Thorley style back-side :), but it would be to have a stronger immune system. It's like if something is out there to catch - I catch it. If something can be caught lightly or hard - I catch the worst variety possible. This tetanus shot I had the other is horrific. And a prime example of this whole phenomenon in my life.

I innocently go to the doctor for my yearly check up. Which, on a side note...I love my doctor, and I now have to find a new doctor because of my insurance change, and this makes me very sad...any who...this doctor, whom I love so much, asks me when I got my last tetanus shot because she can't find any records of it anywhere. I confess, silly me, that I can't remember. So as her parting words to me after quite a long consultation, she informs me I need to get my tetanus booster and the nurse will be in to do it before I go.

That was Thursday. It hurt. A lot (not the actual getting of the shot - that was mild - but the whole extreme soreness of the arm that developed). By Friday night, I had a temperature of about 100, could barely move my arm, my shoulders and neck had completely swollen up, I was exhausted, and had a huge, nasty red welt type thing where the shot had been given. It's now Sunday, and I can still feel a continual stinging in my arm where I continue to have a rather large, nasty looking red, swollen lumpish thing where I received the shot. At least I'm no longer exhausted or running a temperature - look on the bright side I guess!

So, my final conclusion is that tetanus shots are evil, and I'm not sure what would be worse - actually getting the tetanus or dealing with the prevention!

That's my gripe and I'm sticking to it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Boxing up God

I wrote the following two paragraphs two Sundays ago. We were in the middle of worship service, and one of the songs was talking about how expansive and beyond our understanding God is. Being a good reader, I made the connection between that and a conversation I had recently had with a dear friend of mine. As I love to write, and process best through writing, I took a few minutes in church at that time to write down the following thoughts I had as a result of that connection.

In our human minds, we have to try to see God from the minute perspective that we have. I had a conversation with a friend recently about how much she resented people trying to put her in a box – forcing her to be something she does not want to be. After talking with her for awhile, we (Chris and I) raised the point that people don’t put us in a box. Yes, they have a box that they mentally see us in, but they cannot actually shove us into the confines of their box without our consent. And that is the key. We choose how we live – who we are – regardless of the perceptions (boxes) of those around us. Yes, other people can have an impact on who we are, that cannot be denied. But how we respond to that shaping and pushing is still our choice. No other person can force us to be something we do not choose to be. A wise individual will recognize that we all do this to one another and not feel affronted by other people doing the natural human action of boxing people up. It is the human way of trying to grasp that which is so far beyond us. A wise person will also remember that he or she does the exact same thing to other people – consciously or unconsciously.

In the same way, we do this to God. The trick here though, and with humans, is to realize that we do have these boxes (expectations/perspectives) that we put around other, and to do our best to keep the walls of these boxes flexible enough that not only can that person (or God) change the look of our boxes, they can change the very shape, size, and content. It takes humility and an open mind to be willing to allow our perspective to be changed. If we refuse to see anyone else but by the box we have placed them in, we have a warped perspective of whom they are. Most people morph and change over time. How much more so does that apply to God. Trying to place Him in a box leads to stale religion and liturgy with no meaning. Recognizing that He is as vast and diverse – while simultaneously being omniscient and omnipresent – than anyone other being, will allow him to move and shape – not just our perspective of him, but the very fabric of the boxes we place Ourselves into.


Those were my thoughts a few weeks ago. Imagine my amusement when, on Sunday, pastor stole my ideas in his sermon. And expanded on them a little bit! For the past few weeks, he has been talking about how important it is, as a Christian, to not sit idly by and expect God to come to us and do great things in our lives. Our God is a living, active God who constantly is on the move doing new and vital things. Assuming that the way in which we experienced God at one point in our lives will stay the same forever and ever, is ridiculous. Yes, that experience we had with Him when we were 16 was precious and great, but is He always going to meet us in that way? Probably not. Paul talks about growing and eating more adult food instead of milk. So, why shouldn’t our perspectives and experiences with God morph and develop as we get older (both literally and spiritually)? We place unrealistic expectations on Him; no one wonder people sometimes become disappointed or feel jaded. That’s like meeting someone you used to play with as a child and expecting that person to be exactly like the five year old they were when you last saw them despite the fact that they’re now 32!

Any ways, those are the basic ideas behind this boxing thought I’ve had rolling around in my brain the last few weeks. It’s been a good reminder to not only remember that I have changed over the years – and so hopefully others won’t refuse to reshape their own perspectives of me, but that I too need to recognize the changes in others and be willing to shape my perspectives of them and not try to shove them into the box that I originally formed for them in my mind.

Just a last note. I was talking to my Dad about this, and he commented that it has been proven that one of the common features of all societies (and I remember talking about this in one of my TESOL classes) is that people have to categorize things. I wonder, sometimes, if that is not one of the reasons we are so limited in our mental usage. We don’t allow ourselves to – great cliché phrase here! – “look beyond the box.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mutually Exclusive

So my darling husband and I had an interesting conversation two nights ago.

Over the last few months, I've made some rather huge changes in my life. All of this has been done through much discussion and prayer (and occasionally gobs of tissues) with my husband. I'm thankful that we have worked so hard on our marriage in the last few years that there is basically no subject that we don't discuss in our marriage. Makes life quite simple.

Any who...when I decided to quit my teaching job, there were several reasons for that decision, two of which are the following:

1. Teaching is a very demanding job. I've begun to realize over the years exactly why so many of the best teachers whom I have come into contact with are either divorced or single. It's obviously not impossible to teach and be married, but it definitely puts strain on a marriage and requires a goodly number of sacrifices either from the job or from the marriage. Now, to some degree, that might be due in part to the particular classes/age levels/subject matter I taught - either way - my dearest of husbands has put up with a lot over the last few years. So, one of the reasons I had for leaving my teaching job and taking a slightly less time-consuming job was that I wanted to have a job - for at least a small time in my life - that I worked for 40 hours a week and then leave there and not have to worry about extra grading etc. I wanted to be able to do things on a weekend without factoring in how many hours of grading or lesson planning I needed to do, and if I would have time to do them if we went out and did _________ (fill in the blank with any number of a myriad of activities). I wanted to be able to hang out late in the evening during the week and not be constantly worrying about dealing with all the students the next day. Basically, I wanted more free time to "live" my life - not just pour into teaching. For those who don't know, I've never actually held a regular 9-5 job in my adult career. For five years I taught ballet which took up nearly every evening during the week and much other time as well. Or else I worked a job but was in school full-time as well which meant all my free time was taken up. And I went from all that straight into teaching. That's why the luxury of leaving work on a Friday and knowing you truly don't have to think about your job for two whole days is such a novelty to me!

2. The other major reason I gave for leaving teaching when I did was to work on my masters. I was trying to do that and teach and it was HORRIBLE. When you are already working 50 to 60 hours per week, tacking on 10+ extra hours every week is extremely hard. Yes, yes, I know tons of people do it, but I'm not tons of people. I'm me. And I'm learning to be nice to me....So, by finding a more 9 to 5ish kind of position, I opened up my schedule a little better to make getting my masters a little less frustrating.

Side note: For those of you who don't know me well, I love school. I love learning; I even like homework in some sick way :) I have every intention of someday earning my doctorate, partially because I'd love to be able to teach on the college level, but even more because I want to earn my doctorate! I know, I know...I'm an odd duck...I can't help it. I just love learning. However, also for those of you who don't know me too well, I have a tendency to stretch myself to thin at times. I forget that I'm really not super-woman (a very frustrating fact btw), and so wind up taking on too much and having to let other things suffer - which sadly often becomes friends and family. This is an area I've really been working on the last few years.

Back to the main point: Here's the problem. Reason 1 and Reason 2 are somewhat mutually exclusive. It's hard to have more free time when you're taking on doing a masters full time and still working full time!

This was the issue my dearest of husbands raised the other night (the night before I was on the verge of signing all my paperwork stuff to start school in the Fall). We wound up talking for several hours (we're really bad about that. We start these conversations right before bed and end up staying up way too late because we have to finish the conversation! Plus, we're both so analytical, that one small point can lead to 10 other points which lead...well, you get the picture), and the final upshot is that I'm not starting my masters this fall. In fact, I'm going to do something I'm going to take some time off for a whole year. Scary thought - Hanna take time off?! Yes, I know, it's mind-boggling to me as well, but there you have it.

The funny thing is that I never even considered taking time off. This just seemed like the next immediate step I had to take regardless of whether or not I was still currently teaching. But my husband knows me well enough to be able to look at my face and realize what I could not - that ever since I started this new job, I've looked exhausted and unhappy. I personally didn't notice anything. Sure, I was tired, but it's just having a new job - I told myself. But when Chris brought up this idea and we talked about all the different surrounding aspects to it, I realized how much relief and even hope I felt at not starting school this fall. And that is a serious wake-up call for me.

Why? The job is relatively straight-forward - lots to learn, but I'm picking it up fast. I had my schooling all planned out. But, as is sometimes my nature, I was looking to the future but not stopping to look at the what was actually going on around me. And Christopher felt like he was being left behind as well...and that's never good. So, we are taking a year to ontologize but also to pray and search for where God wants the two of us to go and what he wants us to do. We hope to get involved more deeply in some of the different ministries our church offers or other areas that are out there. Not take on too much, but try to put some feelers out to see if maybe God will open some doors or otherwise clue us in to what He wants from us!!! C has also talked about opening up his job-options a little more by pursuing a masters, but he's never settled on what area, partially because of my tendency to forge on ahead and forget to wait and catch up all the other details of my life!

All in all, this was a somewhat humbling conversation I held with my husband, but it was beneficial. And I feel so much peace right now about this decision, that I'm alsost holding my breath in anticipation to see what we might discover next!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Short Story: Popcorn

Popcorn

When will this day be over!! One more class, one more class…I can do this.
Samantha walked over to the open door and smiled at the parents bringing their little three-year olds to dance class.

“Hi Morgan,” she said, “you ready to do some dancing?” I don’t feel like being Miss Happy-Teacher. “Why don’t you grab a mat to put your bag on and you can help me start our dancing row.”

Ten minutes later, she was facing six little three-year old girls. Each one was dressed in pink tights and a little pink leotard. On their feet were slippery black tap-shoes. “All right, zip those hands on your waists and squeeze your feet together. You ready to do some dancing?”

“Yes,” came the yells of the little ones. Oh, my head. It’s amazing how much vocal power they have at that age.

“All right, it’s time to wake up Mr. Music. On the count of three let’s see if we can yell and wake him up. One, two, three…”

“WAKE UP MR. MUSIC.”

The little girls jumped and wiggled in their glee.

Samantha walked over to the CD-player saying, “Are you awake Mr. Music?”

A deep man’s voice replied, “Of course I am. I’ve been working here just as long as you have today? What, did you think I could take a nap in the middle of all this racket?”

Samantha jumped and turned quickly. There was no one in the room but her and the kids. She shook her head. I must be more tired today than I even realized. I’m hearing things!

She reached out toward the CD-player and hit play.

“Here we go again, playing the same old music over and over. Why don’t you spend a little money and buy something new. Don’t you know how sick I am of this CD?” The voice was low and gravelly – definitely a man’s voice.

“Who said that,” Samantha whispered.

“I did, ding bat.”

“Who are you, and where are you?”

“You just pressed play on me, dear, and told the little brats over there to wake me up.” said the speaker. Samantha just stared at the player. Cautiously she touched it. Still hard…metal…

Just then Alyssa came over and pulled on her black dance skirt. “Teacher, Mr. Music is awake, I want to do some shuffle-steps.”

Samantha shook her head to get the man’s voice out of her brain. “All right Sweetie, I’m coming.” She left the music playing and walked over to the kids. No more voice was talking. I’m imagining things – must get more sleep tonight.

The kids were actually working hard today. They did shuffle steps, and jumped in a box, and did some taps with their heels and toes. Samantha walked over to the CD-player and turned the music off. For a moment she thought she heard a man yawn, but she quickly put that thought out of her head and walked back to the kids.

“I think we better do some popcorn jumps,” said Samantha.

Big grins popped out on their chubby faces – they loved popcorn jumps.

“All right,” Samantha said, squatting down low to the floor with the kids all mimicking her action, “let’s sizzle.” They all made sizzling noises and then jumped us as high as they could (for a three year, two inches is a huge jump). “POP, POP, POP” came the shouts of the children.

Samantha blinked. She could have sworn Morgan’s white leotard had been pink when she came in. Get a grip on it, Sam. “One more time!”

“Sizzle, sizzle, POP, POP, POP”

This time, there was no mistaking it. Savanna hadn’t had white hair when she came in the room. Samantha looked around the room again – it was just them. Then, she looked at the kids…all of them, their hair and leotards looked white…. “All right,” she whispered, “um, everybody do a beautiful tap bow. Go change your shoes to ballet shoes.”

As the kids walked back to the mats, she eyed them closely. They all had on pink tights, pink leotards and slipper black tap-shoes. Savanna had black hair; just like she had always had black hair.

Samantha sighed and turned to put on her own ballet shoes. Twenty minutes, I can do this. Don’t loose it Sam…

“Miss. Samantha, I need some help tying my ballet shoes.” Samantha walked to the kids and spent the next five minutes tying ribbons and helping them make a straight row. Finally, she walked in front of them and turned to face them.

“Ok, ladies. We better stick some glue on our hands to make sure they stick tight on our waists while we do our ballet steps,” she said as she held up her imaginary bottle of glue.

The next few seconds were filled with the sounds of “shhh, sssss,” as the little ballerinas squeezed their imaginary glue on their hands.

“All right, zip them on your waists! Are they stuck on there?”

“Miss Samantha, my hands are stuck, they won’t come off my waist,” said Morgan.

“Good, Morgan.”

“No,” Morgan whispered, “they’re stuck. They won’t come off.” Her eyes began to fill with tears and her lower lip trembled.

“It’s just pretend,” said Samantha. “See, my hands can come unstuck.” With that she pulled her hands away from her waist, where they had been “glued” on. Well, she attempted to pull her hands away from her waist. They wouldn’t come off. They were stuck. Seeing Miss Samantha’s hands wouldn’t come off her waist either, Morgan began to wail.

“Shhhh, shhh, Morgan. Is everyone’s hands stuck?”

All the little girls nodded and Samantha could see five other lips begin to tremble. Don’t panic, don’t panic. That’s all I need is six hysterical children and no hands to deal with them. Do something, anything!

“Everybody sit down.”

They all flopped on to the floor. Amazing how hard that is with no hands to use.

“All right, I don’t know what’s happening, but I think it must be something special. Maybe it’s magic” What am I saying, magic? Whatever…they’ve shut up. Think, think, think…

“Maybe if we made a wish the magic would fix our hands? Do you think that would work?”

At the word magic, most of the girls had stopped crying and looked up interested.

“Like Harry Parter,” asked Alyssa?

“Yes, just like Harry Potter.” Thank you J. K. Rowling. “Do you think making a wish would work?"

Most of them nodded their heads, so she continued. “All right, at the count of three everybody wish as hard as you can. One…two…three…” They all wished then…little noses screwed up in concentration…nothing happened. Morgan began to cry again. Samantha sighed. Just then Savanna popped up and yelled, “I unglued, I unglued.” Everybody’s hands popped loose and the little girls got up and began jumping up and down and yelling in excitement.

“Good job everybody,” Samantha said. Well, she had to say something, didn’t she! She glanced at the clock. Thank goodness, it’s time to go. I can’t handle any more weird things.

“Everybody give me a beautiful curtsy and let’s go home.” Everyone bobbed a little curtsy and then ran and got their bags. That had to be the fastest day ever that they had cleared out of that room.

Alone, Samantha changed her shoes and collected her record-book and music – cautiously taking the CD out of the player. As she stepped out of the door she looked around. Everything looked normal; everything looked peaceful. She gave a little shiver, sighed, and walked away. Time to go home and take a bath.