Saturday, August 2, 2008

Go-Go Gadget

Remember Inspector Gadget with all his handy little.... well, gadgets? I spend a lot of time on the road commuting to and from my job, so I inevitably end up spending a lot of time just sitting in traffic.  All that time driving and sitting has given me some ideas about go-go gadget devices for cars.

1) Go-Go Gadget Lane Merger: About 98% of the time, I am a very calm driver.  I don't feel that I am easily given over to "road rage"; however, there are exceptions.  Like when there are signs for 2-3 miles warning everyone that we will be losing a lane of traffic due to construction and we're supposed to go ahead and MERGE into another lane.  Being a bit of a rule follower, I immediately move to the proper lane when directed to do so.  But then there are the few (and sometimes several) cars that think the rules do not apply to them.  They just zoom up to the front as if nothing is happening and then cut in line at the last minute as they are forced to merge.  This is where the Go-Go Gadget Lane Merger comes in handy.  When lanes are merging, simply push the button and long metal poles shoot out from the sides of your car.  They are not intended to injure anyone or anything; they are simply there to ensure that your car is not rudely passed by the front-of-the-line zoomers.  The people who followed directions and merged when they were supposed to will be right behind you in their place (possibly with their Lane Merger poles out) and the people who failed to merge will just have to sit there and wait their turn like everyone else.  I mean, if it weren't for these people, merging lanes wouldn't cause such a slow down.

2)  Go-Go Gadget Periscope (AKA Go-Go Gadget Decision-Maker):  This device comes in handy when you're stuck in a traffic jam and don't know why.  It seems like the people on the radio are constantly reporting the traffic around the Metroplex, but every time I find myself sitting in traffic, all the stations seem to be in the middle of a no-commercial music stretch (which I would normally welcome but can't help but be annoyed by when I'm trying to find out if there is an accident up ahead).  Traffic in front of you slowing down?  Simply push the button and your periscope shoots out from the roof of your car to give you a peek at what's ahead.  Once you can see above all of the traffic and up the road, you can decide whether to take the next exit or hang in there a few minutes until traffic picks up.  Honestly, I wish all cars had these.  It's like having your own personal helicopter to go ahead of you and scout out the situation.  

On a different note, here's a tip for how to stay calm when you're stuck in a jam.  Remember Princess Bride?  Of course you do.  Remember when Andre the Giant needs to get whats-her-face through to get medical treatment, but the road is packed with people?  He shouts in his giant voice, "Everybody mooooooove" and the people immediately part to reveal a straight shot down the road?  When I'm stuck in traffic I use my best giant voice to say, "Everybody mooooove" and I picture the cars parting in front of me.  This may reveal how simple-minded I am, but it makes me laugh every single time.  Instant stress-relief.

3) Go-Go Gadget Gas-Saver:  You know those trucks that haul new (and sometimes used) cars on a multi-tiered trailer?  Often times you'll see one go by that has an open spot in the bottom back side.  Or those 18-wheelers with empty flatbeds.  Well, whenever you see one of these things on the road, you pull behind them as you're driving.  Then you simply push the button and a chain with a hook on it shoots out in front of you and hooks onto the truck.  The chain quickly winds up as it pulls you closer to the trailer.  When you arrive a the edge of the trailer, a small ramp extends ahead of you (at the same time that the hook and chain release) and you drive right up onto the trailer.  Now you're riding along as if parked on a ferry.  Simply reverse the process when you arrive at your desired highway exit.  An instant gas-saver!

That's it for now.  Happy Driving!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's Up, Dog?

I've never really been a big collector. I have a tendency to be a bit of a pack rat if I'm not careful, just because I'm super sentimental and can't bear to throw things (cards, letters) away when they say something special or are from someone I love (which, if you think about it, would encompass about all of the cards and letters I've ever been given). But apart from the inability to part with things of sentimental value, I am not a collector. I did try collecting can tabs in elementary school, but that was only because I had heard that if you save up a 3-liter worth of them, you were in for some serious cash. Five bucks or something. (I was quite the entrepreneur in elementary school, always trying to sell things I had made or devise new ways to make money.) Since my family never really drank soft drinks, I could only collect them by getting them from friends or neighbors who were finished with their sodas. Which means that I collected about 12 before I lost interest. (Typing that, I realize how pitiful that sounds, but I promise I wasn't a little ragamuffin!)

Krister and I have begun a tradition of going to a local baseball game as one of our activities when we go on vacation. I ADORE this tradition! Who doesn't love baseball games? Since he's smart and tricky, he buys them from season ticket holders and we wind up getting great seats (which I don't really care about because I'm just there for the atmosphere and the food). Although I do not eat hot dogs in my regular life, I make exceptions when I am camping, watching a big game on TV, or attending a baseball game. It has not been a successful baseball outing if I haven't had a hot dog. Since we take lots of pictures on vacation, I realized that I am accumulating pictures of myself eating hot dogs. For the first time in my life, I am a collector! Now I don't eat a hot dog without capturing the event on camera. Following is the beginning of what I hope will grow to be an enormous collection of hot dog eating sessions. Enjoy! :)

My first hot dog eating picture in Central Park. Okay, so it's not a baseball game or camping, but who can pass up a cute little hot dog vendor?

Giant's game on our first trip to San Francisco

By the river in Chicago. Hmmm... yet another time I'm eating a hot dog when neither baseball or camping is involved.

At the White Sox game in Chicago

At the Giant's game on our latest trip to SF

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Abraham or Jonah?

All my life, I've been a huge fan of the Old Testament stories. Specifically, I love the clear message woven throughout each story that people are dumb, frail, filled with doubts and fears, and incapable of maintaining consistent faithfulness to God... but God still used them and worked through them to accomplish His miraculous purposes, and better yet, stayed in relationship with them out of His great love for His creation. I especially love the stories in moments when I realize how dumb, frail, filled with doubts and fears, and incapable of maintaining consistent faithfulness I am. It's such a relief to know that God has a long history of loving, working through, and rescuing people just like me.

It's probably for this reason that I often see my life through the lens of the Old Testament characters. When I needed a big scholarship for college, I prayed something to the effect of, "God, you parted the Red Sea for Moses and stopped the sun in the sky for Joshua. I know it is nothing to you to hook me up with this scholarship, and that is what I am asking of you. Please step in and help this happen. This is my Red Sea." Each night I would lay in bed and recount the OT miracles to myself as I fell asleep, reminding myself of God's bigness and power and ability to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable on my own.

Recently we've been faced with some big transitions as K finishes his residency year and searches for a staff position. For a while there, it was looking like we were going to be moving away to make that happen. Before I go on, you should know that I DO NOT want to move away right now. I LOVE where I live. I love my job. I love our church. I love living close to my family. I love our dear friends here. I don't expect to get to stay here forever, but with the hopes of starting a family soon, I did not want to up and leave our whole support system right now. I DO NOT want to leave.

But I thought we were about to. To prepare myself for the transition, I began to reread the Exodus story. Probably not the parts you would think, though. One of the most helpful parts of the story for me is the part before Moses goes back to Egypt and the whole plague thing starts to happen. Back up to when Moses flees from Egypt after killing that man and finds himself in Midian. He shows up out of nowhere and before you know it, the priest's daughter Zipporah is given to be his bride. Not a bad gig for Zipporah - she marries this Moses fellow, gets to live at home with her family, starts a family of her own, her husband takes on the family business and starts tending flocks.... until that annoying day with the burning bush. The day that Moses returned from the flocks and broke the news to her over dinner that God had spoken to him and they were going to be leaving Midian and heading out to Egypt to save God's people from the hand of the most powerful dictator in the land. Great. Sounds easy, Moses. I'm on board. Let's load our children up on donkeys and head out into the desert. Let's take away all of Pharoah's slave labor - I'm sure he won't mind if his whole work force leaves Egypt. It's practically a family vacation.

Zipporah was probably a better wife than I am, because that's exactly what she did. She left her family, loaded her sons up on a donkey, and headed to an unknown land to face a frightening task with the faith that God would be behind them all the way. (Personally, I think her faith was even greater than Moses' - I mean, SHE didn't get a burning bush.) She went not knowing if Moses would get killed by Pharoah and leave her widowed in a foreign land. Not knowing if they would ever return to see her father and her family again. (Thank goodness she didn't know about the 40 years of wandering in the desert!) I've always admired Zipporah for that. Remember, she didn't have the Old Testament to help her recount all of God's miracles. Now that's a leap of faith. Her story put my own into perspective. Yes, I might be leaving my family and everyone I know and love. Yes, we might be heading off into the unknown. But we're not having to go up against a dictator, and I know I'll get to return to see my family whenever I want.

Fast forward a few months to the time we had to make our final decision. Unfortunately, we were STILL waiting to hear back about K's job because apparently the process is interminable. Because of my job, we needed to make a decision, and there was certainly no clear choice one way or the other. Should we stay or should we go now? Either decision was a leap of faith because either left a lot of unknowns. At the last possible second, we decided... to stay.

I'm thrilled to be staying. Thrilled! But I had come to feel so peaceful about leaving, it feels weird to be staying. Which character am I? Am I Abraham, spared from doing the unthinkable at the last moment? Faithful in following what I thought was God's plan until He said, "Just kidding! You don't have to do it. Just wanted to see if you would." Or am I Jonah, directed to go to Ninevah (or in this case, Houston) and I said, "No way, Jose!" Is it my fate to be swallowed by a whale?

I should point out that theologically, I don't think there's necessarily a right or a wrong decision in this case. I don't believe that God has our lives laid out like lilly pads on a pond and it's up to us to figure our which pad to hop to next, hoping we've found the "right" one.... but all my life, I've asked God to personally direct my steps because I know that He can and desires to. And He has done it faithfully every time. Things have been so clear and apparent that it confuses me when they're not. What do you do when there's no burning bush? There's a song on CMT right now called, "Still Learning How to Trust." I guess that's where I am right now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Peace Walk

No, I'm not out protesting or joining a demonstration, although there is plenty going on in the world right now that I'd like to protest. Krister's interview is happening right now, and I decided the best way I could pray him through the interview was to go on a walk. Usually I take my IPod with me, but today I ditched the devices and set out to take in the morning. I've recently discovered my favorite street in my favorite neighborhood - with towering trees and houses that are old and charming without being ostentatious. I turned on that street and began to pray. As I walked, the stillness of the morning, with the exception of the persistent breeze, wrapped itself around me. We are facing a big transition right now with decisions and timelines that are out of our control. On this walk, for the first time in weeks, the noise of my fears about the future was silenced by the singing of the birds in the trees. I looked up into the branches, reaching their arms to the sky, and I let myself hope. I didn't hope for a certain outcome, or for anything in particular, I just hoped. The hope welled up inside of me like a cool mountain stream and made me excited about what God has in store for us wherever we go and whatever we do.

On my way home, I passed an elementary school down a side street. The playground beckoned to me and I headed out in search of a swing set. To my delight, I turned the corner and there they were! I headed across the field and selected the perfect swing in the shade. As a child, I would spend hours swinging and singing outside our kitchen window. Hours. Maybe because it gives me the feeling that I can fly, with the wind rushing past my ears. I began to swing, higher and higher. At once I was six years old again, with the whole world open to me. I took my hair down from its ponytail and let it fly in the wind as I breezed through the air. I leaned back and closed my eyes, then opened them to watch the clouds sailing overhead. The gentle creak of the swing. The breeze. The sky. The childlike wonder. Peace.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dumb Brunette

I can't say that I buy into the whole "dumb blonde" thing, although I had a sweet friend in junior high that seemed determined to live into that stereotype. Not being blonde myself, I haven't had to deal with the blonde jokes and everything else that seems to go along with this hair color; however, I must say that I sometimes have some very blonde moments. I have noticed a pattern: every time I go in to get work of any kind done on my car, all of my intellect (including my common sense) seems to fly out the window. I can't figure out what the problem is. Perhaps it's because I'm a global learner - I need the big picture before I can understand the individual parts - and I have no frame of reference for what these mechanics are telling me since I know very little about the workings of a car. But it's got to be something more than that. Maybe it's the fact that I feel intimidated in a situation in which I could easily be taken advantage of due to my ignorance about cars. For whatever reason, my dumbest moments in life seem to take place at these repair shops.

Here are some snippets from my trip to Jiffy Lube yesterday to get my state inspection:

- I turn in to the parking lot and pull alongside the garage. I roll down my window and ask the man who comes over if he has time to do a state inspection. Yes, he can get to me in about ten minutes, I just need to pull around behind the car he's currently working on. Now, I don't know what part of "pull around behind" escaped me, but for some reason I backed up and realigned my car in front of the car he was working on. I was waiting in line, but I was on the wrong side of the line! Worse yet, I didn't even realize this until the guy came back over and said, "Maam, pull around the back, please." Pretty smart, huh?

- Another mechanic comes in after doing the inspection and tells me that one of my lug nuts is missing off my front right tire. I ask him, "Could it be in my glove box?" Not likely. Apparently there is a key to some of the lug nuts that is kept in my glove box, which must have been where I got the idea. Or maybe I thought there were extras?

- While I'm paying for the inspection, the two mechanics are talking with me about where to get lug nuts and what they would do about it if they were me. They also tried to brainstorm with me about when my lug nut could have come off. When was the last time I had work done on the car? I thought back to the various times I've had my car serviced over the past year or so. "I got my oil changed at Wal-Mart a few months ago. Could that be it?" I'm not joking. That's what I came up with. In no other situation am I even remotely this flaky.

I'm sure the mechanics like to laugh at me once I leave, and I would too if I were them. For all they know, I'm just a dumb brunette.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Junior Mints 101

What could be more fun that going to the movies? That's easy - going to the movies with the perfect box of Junior Mints. You may think that all Junior Mints are created equal... but you would be wrong. The test of a really great Junior Mint is when you can set it on your tongue and press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. This action should cause the easy collapse of the Junior Mint and send the creamy freshness from inside the chocolatey coating out into your mouth. It should practically melt in your mouth. What you do NOT want is one that barely budges when you do this. If you have to sink your teeth into it, it's not a Junior Mint - it is a stale impostor, and it should be thrown out.

Now, every box of Junior Mints contains at least one or two impostors, but you're really in trouble if you run into more than that. How can you ensure that your experience with Junior Mints will be a good one? One way to test the box is to pick it up and shake it gently. Doing this should cause a light rattling sound within the box. If there are too many bad seeds, the box will feel heavy and the rattle will sound sluggish, as if they're all melted together into one gooey glob. The key to a fresh Junior Mint is that each one must me nicely encapsulated within the chocolate shell until that magical moment when you press it to the roof of your mouth. Sometimes you'll notice that there is a slight hemorrhage in the mint and the creamy filling has started to ooze out prematurely. When you see this, don't even bother putting it in your mouth. It's too late for that one, and it is assured to be gross and chewy.

Even if you have found the perfect box of fresh Junior Mints, there is still a risk that you will ruin them before the movie is over if you're not careful. Be sure not to hold the box for too long in your hands. That makes the mints snuggle together and melt into the dreaded gooey glob. Take out the mint and then set the box down in a cool place, preferably in the cup holder. This is one of the great things about Junior Mints in a movie - they don't make you thirsty, so you won't be needing a drink. I'm against drinking in movies because what if your bladder gets full? You'll either have to sit there miserable or get up and miss a part of the movie. Anyway, back to avoiding the gooey glob... I recommend giving the box a gentle shake every once in a while to make sure the mints aren't snuggling in there. I'm a fan of snuggling, but that should be left to people and baby animals, not Junior Mints.

One final thing you should know about Junior Mints is where to get them. Sure, you could fork over 4 bucks or so and get a box at the theater. The good thing about this is that you can almost be guaranteed that they will be fresh. But, that's a high price to pay. I used to just stop off at the closest convenient store on my way to the theater. Sadly, many convenient stores have stopped carrying Junior Mints (don't ask me why). Worse still, you won't be able to find them at Kroger anymore, either. For some crazy reason, Kroger carries Junior Caramels (?) but not Junior Mints. Really, I'm a bit speechless about this.

But there's hope! A sweet friend of mine knows of my obsession with Junior Mints and has located them for me at.... drum roll.... Office Depot! Now who would have thought to look there? I'm so excited about this discovery of hers! Thanks, Kellee!

If you have made it to the end of this post, you have earned your Junior Mints diploma. Congratulations! You are now ready for the perfect movie-going experience, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities hereto entrusted.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Diet

I have just created a new diet that, surprisingly enough, was inspired by a delicious piece of chocolate cake I had yesterday. It's called the Memory Keeper's Diet and here's how it works:

Day 1: Identify the 10 target foods that are likely to be your downfall while you try to stay on the straight and narrow at mealtime. Brainstorm the best places to eat those target foods. (e.g. French fries at Snuffer's, ice cream at Marble Slab, etc.)

Days 2-11: On each of these 10 critical days of the diet, you seek out those target foods you identified on Day 1, indulging in one target food each day. The key is that you must be fully present while you eat these foods. No talking. You must throw yourself into whatever you are eating, using all of your senses to take it all in.

Day 12 - ???: Now you are on your path to a new body and a new you! Want a piece of cake? Great! Sit down, close your eyes, and relive that delectable piece you enjoyed on Day 7. Got a hankering for cheese fondue? Go back in your memory to Day 3 when the melted goodness coated each bite of toasted bread. Delicious! (and calorie free!)

I will let you know how this goes. I actually skipped Days 2-11 because last week was Teacher Appreciation week and I was able to arrange my schedule to make sure I was always at the school that was having a luncheon that day. (Hey, you've got to take advantage of these things while you can.) That means I had two pieces of cake and a couple of cookies each day after lunch. (C'mon, how often do you have access to a dessert smorgasbord?) I'm thinking of those as my 10 days of indulgence even though it was more like 5 days of out of control sugar rush. So technically, today was Day 12.

It's been a good day. I got an excruciating headache at about 3:00 that I can only attribute to the sugar withdrawal. I sure do have a lot of respect for people who quit real addictions. I have thought of that piece of chocolate cake 7 times today, but I haven't had any sugar. Part of the Memory Keeper's Diet involves replacement behaviors. Yes, thinking of that cake was really great... but it was even better while I was eating a fresh mango. I wanted a glass of wine with dinner, but instead I had some skim milk. It's all about the memories. And the replacement foods.

Go make some memories!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


That title is meant to be pronounced in the way that Homer says, "Doh!" It's all about the toe right now, ever since a can of bamboo shoots rolled off the counter today while I was unpacking groceries and landed right on my foot. My big toe, to be more specific. I must say, I did a great job of not screaming with the same amount of enthusiasm with which my toe was hurting. Enthusiasm is probably not the right word - more like absolute anguish.

It's been a long time since I've hurt myself that badly, which is saying a lot because I'm quite clumsy and am often running into things. Just a couple of weeks ago I got the crazy idea that I could jump like a track star. Krister was reading in bed and I said, "Hold still and don't be scared, I'm going to jump over you." I proceeded to run at the bed and attempted to clear Krister's legs - vertically. Like Kobe Bryant jumps over the moving car in that commercial. Sometimes I overestimate my own abilities. I still have the bruise on my knee to prove it.

Anyway, so it's always impressive to me how such a small part of the body can cause such an enormous amount of pain. Even though I iced it and limped about the house like a total wuss, it is so swollen than when I hold both feet up next to one another and bend both big toes with the same amount of effort, the good toe disappears from view as it bends and the other one doesn't really go anywhere. It just sits there, fat and red. Not only red - the bottom of my toenail has taken on a deep purple hue. It's beautiful, like a sunset. The big bummer is I've been waiting all weekend to get out in this beautiful weather and go for a run, and I really WAS about to finally do it when this happened. So instead I had a beer and some cookies because I felt sorry for myself.

Toe long, friends!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bitterness for Breakfast and Meatball Karma

Last week I had the honor of presenting at a statewide conference. I was the only one from my district to attend the conference. Luckily, I ran into an old classmate of mine and the group from her district adopted me and let me tag along with them to meals and conference get-togethers so I wouldn't be a total loner. I was thrilled, as I'm not much of an introvert and don't enjoy spending days on end with only my own company (although I did enjoy my alone time at the hotel and found that I could do a wonderful kickline routine in the bathroom with the help of the many mirrors - not even the Rockettes could have done it with more precision!) Anyway, because I had procrastinated in reserving my hotel, the rooms were booked by the time I got around to it and I was thus staying at a Residence Inn by Marriott down the street from the conference hotel. Have any of you ever stayed in one? It was my first time, and it felt a bit like I had invaded a senior citizen's apartment. I kept expecting that at any moment a sweet elderly person would come through the door and stand bewildered wondering who I was and why I was there. Anyway...this is all background information for the two stories I want to tell about my time at the conference. As they often do, these stories both happen to revolve around food.

Story #1: Bitterness for Breakfast
So there I was, the morning of my presentation. I was all dressed up and looking pretty sharp if I do say so myself. I got my materials and headed downstairs in hopes of enjoying a healthful breakfast. (A brief plug for Residence Inn: they have a free breakfast buffet every morning and it is the bee's knees! Waffles, oatmeal, eggs, hash browns, yogurt, fruit, muffins... you get the idea) As I strode into the dining area I glanced down at my watch to discover that it was only 7 minutes 'till 8:00 - the time I had agreed to meet my professor to review our material for the presentation that afternoon. I stood for a moment in a quandary, stuck between my desire for a good breakfast (the conference was to provide breakfast and it promised to be a plethora of stale pastries) and my desire to be punctual. Food vs. punctuality. Two of the things I'm biggest on. Hmmm.... since I was feeling extra professional that day, punctuality won out. I arrived at the agreed upon meeting spot at exactly 8:00, feeling proud of myself for making a good choice. I glanced around the lobby looking for my professor. No sight of him. Knowing that I can't make it without breakfast, I headed over the the stale pastries and waited my turn in line for my empty calories. I settled on a bagel (at least they had cream cheese - everything was going to be okay) and headed back to wait for my professor. There were no utensils provided, so I ended up tearing off a bit of the top part of the bagel to use as a makeshift spreader for the cream cheese. Here's the thing about me: I'm not a picky eater, but I love food too much to not enjoy every bite. Bagels are fine when they're toasted (I would even venture to say that they could be delicious given the right circumstances). But this bagel was untoasted. And DENSE. I glanced down at my watch again. 8:09. Maybe he's waiting for me in a different lobby? I called to make sure I was waiting in the right spot and discovered that he was still getting dressed upstairs in his room. Here's where the bitterness comes in. I did not mind sacrificing my eggs and oatmeal to be on time. I did mind, however, missing my yummy breakfast for no good reason. As I sat gnawing on my bagel and the clock ticked on, I grew more and more agitated. I began to chew to a rhythm, "Could've had oatmeal, could've had oatmeal, could've had oatmeal." I realize oatmeal isn't that exciting, but they had all these special toppings for it - raisins, brown sugar, chopped pecans. It was going to be really cozy. At 8:20 I looked up to see my professor headed my way. Yep - could've had oatmeal. And fruit, and scrambled eggs with syrup, and a glass of milk. But instead I just had bitterness for breakfast.

Story #2: Meatball Karma (don't worry - this one will be shorter!)
So the night before my presentation the officers of the organization hosting the conference threw a meet-and-greet type party in the hotel rooms on the 11th floor. I went with the aforementioned conference friends and made my way around the room. A little wine, a little cheese, a meatball, some 'Lil Smokies from a crockpot - I was livin' it up! Soon I found myself in a conversation with the aforementioned professor. He, too, had indulged in the meatballs and now had meatball sauce spread across his cheek. Not the corner of his mouth - his actual cheek. He kept wiping his mouth with his napkin, but there was no way he was going to fix the cheek smear. I tried to concentrate on what he was saying while debating whether to tell him about the stray sauce. I settled on ignoring it and did my best to focus on his eyes while he spoke.

The next day, I joined my professor for the formal sit-down lunch with several other colleagues from different cities around the state, none of whom I knew. I made small talk while I ate my potatoes and my buttered roll - yay for starchy foods! - and attempted to make my way through a pile of what were, at one time, vegetables. They now resembled something closer to rubber, but with enough salt I was able to get some down. I attempted to be charming and made sure to smile a lot even though I wasn't exactly entertained by the whole event. On my way back to my hotel after lunch, I glanced in the rear view mirror to reapply my lipstick. It was then that I noticed it - a long, skinny piece of very green lettuce stuck to my gums and hanging down over my top teeth. Lettuce from the FIRST course of the very long meal. All that smiling and being charming, and I had been flashing a leafy smile the whole time! Why didn't anyone tell me about this? Why didn't my professor say something? Oh, yeah. Meatball karma.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sugar Coma

Lately I've been on a personal quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, with the help of my dear friend, I cannot even explain the excitement that this website stirs in me (no pun intended!) each time I log on - millions of recipes waiting to be tried and enjoyed, ruined and perfected...a world of possibilities!

There are so many things that can go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie.

When Krister and I were first married I decided to make a batch and somehow I got confused by the butter measurements and used a POUND of butter rather than a cup. When they came out of the oven they were laid flat like roadkill and, when pressed with a fingertip, would actually leave little pools of butter behind, filling the holes like rain fills fossilized dinosaur footprints in the ground. It was tragic. I cried and cried, partly because I felt like an idiot and partly because butter is so darn expensive and I had just wasted a whole box of it for nothing. Sweet Krister didn't want the night to end in defeat, so he whisked me away to the store to get more ingredients and try, try again.

Ever since that butter-laden disaster I have had a personal vendetta against the chocolate chip cookie. I picture the ingredients laughing at me, taunting me, laying in wait to sabotage my efforts. And so I search. I try out recipe after recipe, dedicated to finding that one that will have just the right texture, the right flavor, the one that will be truly worthy of accompanying a big glass of cold milk. Thanks to, I feel closer than ever to attaining my goal, to claiming the victory over the ever elusive chocolate chip cookie of my dreams. I'm not there yet, but I am making a valiant effort.

My quest continued this afternoon as I tried my hand at a new recipe. Unfortunately I was left unsupervised in the kitchen with a whole bowl of cookie dough. You would think there was heroin in the stuff the way I was downing it. [Disclaimer: I have never even been in the same room with heroin, nor would I recognize it if I were, but I hear it's quite addictive and thus it works well to give you a picture of my inability to exercise self-control in this situation. Don't do drugs, kids.] What is it about cookie dough that is so irresistible? Part of the problem may be the fact that I have no way of measuring how much I've eaten. It's not like cake where I can see a receding line that marks the damage I've done, or like Junior Mints where I can see the delightful morsels disappearing one by one. Cookie dough just sits there innocently, begging you to sneak just one more spoonful, a pinch here, another pinch there.

But like all good things it is not so innocent once you've gone completely overboard. It's not good to feel sick before the first batch of cookies pops out of the oven. It's not good to see your finger swooping toward the bowl to grab another pinch of dough while your thighs are yelling, "Enough already! You're not even giving us a chance!" It's not good to wonder if you'll be able to eat dinner later after all that cookie bingeing. And, it's not good to eat dinner anyway, then follow it up with a couple more cookies and a few scoops of homemade ice cream. That, my friends, is what you call a sugar coma.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Yesterday was one of the best Saturdays I've had in a long time. Krister and I had planned ahead to make it a day of sabbath - we did laundry and cleaned on Friday evening so our weekly chores wouldn't get in the way of our restful day on Saturday. The next morning we slept in, drank hot tea and read in our pajamas (okay, only I did this part - Krister hates hanging out in his pajamas, as he's more of a get-up-and-go type guy), made cinnamon rolls (the easy kind), then got ready and headed to White Rock Lake for a walk and some more reading. We laid out our picnic blanket by the water and lounged with our books in the beautiful spring sunshine while the breeze played with the trees and the ducks flitted across the water before settling on its glassy surface. It was the kind of spring day that makes you feel that all is right with the world. I closed my eyes to drink in the moment - the pace, the air, the sounds of nature swelling around us. Bikers rode past on their morning excursions. A young couple cradled their newborn against the base of a tree nearby. It was lovely.

It wasn't long before more families joined us by the water and the lovely sounds of springtime were replaced by screaming children and raucous noises of every kind. It made me chuckle, as the noise level grew like some practical joke come to ruin our peaceful outing. My romantic Jane Austen notions of spending the morning reading in the sunshine came to a quick close, but I was determined not to let the harried scene steal away my former peacefulness. After all, sabbath is as much a state of mind as it is a circumstance.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying various relaxing activities and then finally turned on the television for some good 'ole basketball. It may be the sabbath, but it's also the Final Four, and something not to be missed in our household. We debated about what do to for dinner and finally settled on some Red, Hot, and Blue. (On a side note, if you've never been there, you really must go and order their sweet tea - your glass is an actual pitcher - it's the real deal.) We decided to forego the sweet tea and get take-out so we could enjoy our ribs in front of the game. On our way back to our house, potato salad in tow, we had an incident that did what the noise at the park had failed to do - rob us of that sabbath feeling.

We were less than a mile away from our house when a truck in the lane next to us began to swerve into our lane, nearly causing an accident. Krister honked at the truck, as I would have (even though I'm not a big honker) and the driver proceeded to gesture at us out his window and yell obscenities. I was a bit taken aback, as he was the one who was swerving around. He sped off in front of us and soon ended up on our left side, still shaking his arm in the air and yelling. It was quickly growing uncomfortable. Anyone who's had a mishap with someone on the road knows that the goal is not to see this person again after the initial encounter. No such luck. By the time we reached the light the truck had crossed back over to the far right hand lane and, as luck would have it, we ended up stopped right next to one another. This is the part that really pushed me over the edge and stole the last ounce of peace I had accumulated from the day's restfulness. The man began leaning out his window and yelling at us. He decided to raise the bar a bit on the obscenities and was now yelling words I've only heard in the worst parts of the worst movies. My body went into fight or flight mode, adrenaline rushing down through my arms, my pulse quickening. Krister and I stared straight ahead in an attempt to ignore him. This proved to be a difficult task, as I desperately wanted to peek to my right and make sure we weren't in any immediate danger. I fully expected that at any moment he would get out of his truck and try to drag me out of the car, or more likely would pull a rifle out from under his seat and aim it straight at us. Not looking was scary. I realize that probably sounds dramatic, but you were not there. You did not feel the rage, the unreasonable anger coming from this man in the old white truck. I think that was what made it so scary - the fact that this man was acting like a crazy person, unpredictable and irrational.

During the few heart-pounding moments that we sat helplessly stopped at the light under a constant barrage of verbal abuse, I suddenly thought of Christ on the day of his crucifixion. Let me immediately state that I am in no way comparing this experience with that of Jesus' last day. It's just that, I have never been in a situation in which I was completely innocent and yet had someone hating me from the depths of their being. The man in the white truck was clearly drunk, he clearly had issues, and he clearly goes through life (or at least that day) angry at the world for whatever reason. I knew that we were not the source of his anger, but simply the latest victims to cross his path. I felt transported in that moment to the scenes at Golgotha, to the angry mobs who mocked Christ, who spat at him and hated him with their ugly, seething anger. Never has one been more innocent and more hated at the same time. What must he have felt during his last hours, watching from his shameful perch as the vile cruelty of sin took on life in his mockers at the foot of the cross? Mercy. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I think Jesus knew that he was not the true source of the anger that day. There are throngs of people out there who are hurting, who feel kicked in the teeth by life and who lash out in anger at a world they can't understand and can't control, a world that hurts too much and loves too little. But Jesus was able to love them even when the pain of sin turned to burning anger in their bellies. I don't know how he did it. My first instinct at that light wasn't to love the man in the white truck. I just wanted to run away. I wanted to sneak around to the passenger side of his truck and let the woman next to him escape, to tell her "you don't have to live like this anymore." I wanted to go back in time and tell his mother to love him a little stronger. But in the next moment, the truck took a right turn and we continued straight ahead, his voice still ringing in my ears.

The other thing ringing in my ears was the voice of the angry mob yelling "Crucify him! Crucify him!" What an awesome savior we have. One who was loving enough to look down on the hatred and feel mercy, one who was powerful enough to crush the grave, to put sin in its place once and for all, to announce to the whole world that the curtain's been torn, the barriers are down, the captives are set free, that grace and mercy have the last word. I'm so thankful that Jesus was brave enough to come around to the passenger side of the truck, to open the door and tell me, "You don't have to live like this anymore."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ode to an Old Friend

I do not know from whence you came, or of your short-lived past
You searched for a way out in vain, your prison - walls of glass.
You did not find your way to freedom, water, and fresh air
Instead you lay upon my dash and drew your last breath there.

And when at last I noticed you, I was too lazy, far
Too dust you off, dispose of you (I never clean my car).
And so the days turned into months, and months to nigh a year
And always you accompanied me, a constant presence here.

Some days I thought of you as George, and other times as Gus
My withered mascot on the dash all covered up in dust.
I’d think of all your ancestors caught in an amber trap
Their fate much prettier than yours, preserved in golden sap.

Your death was not illustrious; your life, a fragile state
You flew in never knowing that the door would seal your fate.
But in a twist of irony your death preserved you, see?
For how many mosquitoes dwell a year in one’s memory?

We’d never have been friends if you had tried to suck my blood
I surely would have swatted you and washed you off at once
But since you suffocated and your needle ne’er took root
You got to keep me company each day on my commute

And then at last, on this spring day, it finally was time
To clean my car, inside and out, get rid of all the grime.
I did not take it lightly as I held the vacuum up,
And saw you, fragile mascot, disappear with just one suck.

And then my car was clean at last, at least for a small while
But when I looked to where you lay I quickly lost my smile
I know that I will miss your presence laying on my dash
So goodbye, George, goodbye sweet Gus, you’re gone for good – alas!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

If my life were a movie, that would be the title of it today. This day started like most other days, except a few minutes later than normal, as I had trouble rolling out of the warm bed. When I went to pick out my outfit I decided to wear pants so that I would be warm on this frosty day and so that I could wear my most comfortable flats to work. No such luck. Turns out it's that lovely time of the month when my stomach is inhabited by a giant beach ball. I looked like Santa Claus in my pants and couldn't even imagine trying to sit down in them all day. I was forced to wear a skirt because it was the only thing I could zip up and still breathe in... so the comfy shoes were out. Heels again - no big deal.

The clock ticked on, as clocks tend to do, and I soon realized I had better get a move on if I were going to be on time to work. Was there time for breakfast? Just barely, and then I would grab my yoga clothes and head out the door. I ran into the kitchen to grab some cereal and felt something wet come through my tights as I stepped onto the kitchen rug. I looked down to discover that the whole rug was soaking wet. The cabinet doors beneath the sink were opened to reveal the source of this mess, and I found that everything was soaking wet under there as well. Oh goodie. So much for the cereal. I glanced around the house at the mess I'd left behind... ironing board still out, dirty clothes on the floor, a few dishes in the sink... nothing major but still things I wanted out of the way before anyone came to fix the leaky sink. I proceeded to run around the house straightening things up. Yep, that's good enough. That will have to do.

I glanced at my water bottle on my way out the door and paused for a moment to weigh my options. I've kept this thing for so long that the plastic lid has actually cracked around the rim, which was really a thrill last week when it dumped over on my lap while I was driving. Hmmm... I could fill it half way up, bring it with me, and hope for the best... I could go without water for the day... what to do, what to do. The remembrance of last week's spillage and a lack of time won out and I left with no breakfast, no lunch in hand, and no water bottle. And did I mention I forgot my yoga clothes? It's just as well, I thought to myself as I drove away with a stomach the size of a beach ball.

Luckily, I still had a balance left on a Starbucks gift card a coworker gave me for Christmas. Yay - there would be breakfast after all! I victoriously pulled away from the drive-through with a fresh slice of pumpkin loaf and a tall nonfat chai latte. Mmmm-mmm! I got to the school and hopped out of the car to gather my things for the day. My purse, my folders, my latte, my test kits (which are like small suitcases), I was good to go. I was, however, a bit chilly. My tights just weren't cutting it in the 34 degree air and my legs were freezing! And did I mention that I was without a coat? Yep, left it at a friend's house last weekend. I set my latte on the roof and ran in circles around the car gathering everything I needed. Brrrr!!! Then came the trouble of locking the car. Did I mention that my keychain broke last week and I have all of my individual keys in a really inconvenient side pocket of my purse? I gathered everything in my arms, grabbed the latte (thankful for its warmth on my hands - at least one part of me would be warm) and made one more circle around the car to lock it from the driver's side with my single little key.

Yes! I'm here! I've made it! A little late, but I have arrived!!! I walked through the doors and - SLOSH! - my latte spilled all over my hand and went running down the back of the folders. Oh goodie. Nothing too terrible, but still, a series of unfortunate events.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Baby On Board

No, this is not my strange way of announcing to the blog world that we're expecting. It's just that I was driving to work the other day and I saw a little 4-door sedan drive past with one of those yellow "Baby On Board" signs hanging proudly in the back window. At first it seemed like a flash-back to the 90's because I don't think I've seen one of those in a while. But maybe I haven't been paying attention and those things are still cool. Wait, were those things ever cool? (My apologies to any of you sign hangers out there who may be reading this.) Even in the 90's when those things were everywhere, I remember thinking to myself that I would never hang one of those in my car window because I feel like it makes me more likely to be the victim of a car-jacking. My thought process was that if they know there's a baby "on board" they may want to steal the car, and the baby, in order to try for some ransom money. (I know, I'm really morbid, but this is how I think.) I certainly don't want anyone holding my baby for ransom, and once the car-jacker discovered how much is in our bank account they would probably just return the car and the baby and maybe bring us dinner. But, on the flip side, maybe it makes you less likely to be car-jacked. Probably they just want the car, right? They don't want a baby crying in the back seat while they're trying to be on the run or come up with a master plan for their life of mischief.

Most likely, I'll never be the victim of a car-jacking, but I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about worst-case scenarios and what my best plan of action would be should I ever end up in one. For instance, I have this fear that when I'm sitting on the passenger side of the car and Krister is outside gassing it up, someone is going to run over, jump in the car and drive off with me still inside. (I'm guessing ending up with me in the car would be even worse for a thief than having to listen to a crying baby.) I try to think of the swiftest thing I could do to get to safety. If I were really fast and James Bond-like, I would reach over and pull the key from the ignition in one swift move and then hurl the keys across the parking lot. This would buy me time to at least get out of the car, and it's a good idea to get the keys away from yourself rather than hanging on to them because you don't want to get attacked for the keys.

Or what if you're walking along a crowded street and someone comes up behind you with a gun and tries to force you to walk somewhere with them? According to my dad, the best thing to do in this situation is to pretend to faint and just collapse to the ground. This is a good move for a couple of reasons. First, it comes as a total surprise to the gunman, really catches him off guard (or her, I guess, though what are the chances?) Second, it kind of ends the conflict before it ever begins. No one is going to then shoot the person who's lying on the ground passed out. And they can't just try to drag you along behind them as dead weight because that would draw all sorts of attention. See what a great plan this is? I remember my dad telling me about this tactic one day just in case it ever happened to me. Hmmm... maybe I come by this morbidity thing honestly...

Also when I'm in a room I often mentally rehearse the best escape route in case an attacker comes in. (I promise I don't feel like the world is crawling with terrible people who are out to get me!) It's always smart to go somewhere with a window. There's a window in our bedroom closet (weird, I know) and I love it because if someone broke into the house we could shut ourselves in the closet and just climb out the window. This would also be handy in case of a fire. I guess if I'm going to worry about escaping, I should probably devote more time to worrying about getting out of burning buildings, as I'm sure that's more likely than having an intruder in the house. But, then again, if you only go by what you hear on the local news, you would think that there's a pretty even chance of either situation happening and that there's a pretty darn good chance it's going to happen to you next. It's probably not even healthy for someone with my imagination to be watching the news at all. Especially once I have a baby on board...

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Tomorrow night at 9:15 it will be two weeks exactly since I got the call that my grandfather, my dad's dad, had taken his final breath. He took it with all of his children and his wife gathered around him. He took it after three solid days of being surrounded by loved ones - sang to, prayed over, and loved on. I have written about Grandaddy before in a previous post (Leave Something Beautiful) and, though he lived an amazing, inspiring life, it is not his life that I want to write about today. It is the way in which he left by which I have been so touched and given such a sense of peace since his passing.

It was a Tuesday night when my parents got the call that Grandaddy had taken a turn for the worse. Hospice had been called in in the weeks prior, and it appeared to Nana, a former nurse, that this would be the end. All of their children and their children's spouses drove to my grandparents' ranch and arrived around midnight. Grandaddy had been placed on oxygen and was given a prognosis of just hours to live. The next morning, however, Grandaddy announced that he wanted to get up. The announcement in itself was amazing, as he had barely uttered any words the previous day. My father dressed him and brought him into the living room to sit with his family. Everyone was amazed by this, as they thought he would never again rise from the confines of the hospital bed set up in his bedroom.

Mom and Dad called me that evening to tell me of the day they shared with Grandaddy. He experienced an inexplicable amount of alertness and vitality that day, which apparently often happens when someone is about to die. (In fact, my dad remembers Grandaddy, who was a doctor, telling loved ones of dying patients that it is common for someone to rally strength to say good-bye just prior to their death.) A woman from their church brought communion and the whole family shared in Grandaddy's last communion service. Their Episcopal priest came out and did a Last Rites service for Grandaddy. These events were deep with meaning for the whole family and were fitting ceremonies for my grandparents, who have spent the last several years pausing each day at 5:00 for their evening prayers and scripture readings.

Grandaddy was able to sit up for most of the day and respond to his children as they took turns blessing his life and thanking him for the qualities he had so faithfully instilled in them over the years. They reminisced about stories from their childhood and all of the adventures they had been on with this fearless adventurer. They sang his favorite hymns to him (and even a rousing rendition of the Aggie Fight Song). My father gave him his last bath, his last shave. They shared with him in his last cup of coffee.

To the last, Grandaddy hung on to his spark and his sense of humor that had always been such a significant part of who he was. He pretended to try to trip people as they walked past, he squirted my father with the shower hose when taking his bath (Grandaddy always did love a good water fight), he was fully present with his family as they said their good-byes to this man we all loved so dearly. It was a beautiful day and the perfect way to honor his beautiful life.

Even though I wasn't there, I feel a deep sense of peace about the last days of Grandaddy's life. I feel thankful to have known his so well and for so long. I feel honored to be a part of his family and of his great legacy of love. Grandaddy lived a full life with no regrets, and he shared of himself with others so fully that those who know him are left with no regrets in his passing. His death was a good-bye in the truest sense of the word.

Good-bye, Grandaddy. I can still hear your hearty laughter ringing through the house; I can still feel your scratchy mustache when you'd greet me with a kiss; I can still see your strong hands working on the ranch, teaching me to build tree-houses and rafts, but more importantly, teaching me the value of a strong work ethic and what I am capable of when I try my hardest; I can still smell the thousands of pine trees we would plant together to make this world a greener place; I can still remember the encouragement I felt in your presence, the way you listened to people with your whole being. Thank you for who you were, for it has made me who I am. Thank you for leaving me with so many wonderful memories. I will hold tightly to them until we meet again...