Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Grown-Up Christmas List

If you've never checked out the book The Five Love Languages, you should.  It's interesting reading.  My love language is actually receiving gifts (though, I do take much pleasure in finding the perfect gift for someone else, too) so Christmas is totally my love language.

(None of this undercuts the true meaning of Christmas for me.  It doesn't overshadow Christ's birth.)

My first real gift was having my family in one place.  We missed NutMeg on Christmas day, but I have this weird need to know that everyone is together in one place.  I would actually give up every single present for that to happen.

Of course, there were presents.  Beautiful, shiny, glorious presents.

This gorgeous handbag is every bit as beautiful in person.  Actually, it may be a little more glorious than I had imagined.  It fits everything.  It looks classy.  I'm hoping it rubs off on me.

 The Nook Tablet is a lot cooler than I imagined.  I didn't realize it worked as a web browser in addition to an ereader, so I've been getting Favorite's moneys worth out of the product.  One of my first purchases?  The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  I've heard about it for years.  I'm finally going to decide for myself.

You should hear Favorite sing the opening song from The Lion King.  This is one of my Favorite Disney movies, and I'm glad to finally be able to watch it on DVD.

Pretty soon, I'll take a picture of what I received from LilBro and NutMeg.  They made me a "Welcome" sign to go in front of my house, but since they know me so well, they also added a removable "not" sign to put in front of the welcome.

Don't judge me.  You know not every person is welcome at your house.  The same is true at mine, but we all buy outdoor mats that indicate otherwise.  It's a farce...and I'm bringing honesty back.

I was also blessed to receive gift cards and money--some of which I will be spending on upgrades around my house.  First order of business?  Picture frames in the hallway.  I have to lay out the order, and then I'll get them up and get you pictures.  I'll upload pictures of the pinterest project then, too.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Season

I knew you all would be waiting with baited breath to learn the winner of our little "Weight Loss Wager."  Well, hold on to your pants:  Me.  Turns out, I was only one good flu away from victory.  I lost no less than seven pounds in three days.  Favorite, who had gotten a little lax in his eating and exercise since he was suuuure it was in the bag, lost a little over two pounds.

My comment?  God bless us...but especially God bless the flu.  (Because I'm not too good to know where my bread is buttered.)

Despite Favorite's devastating loss, he still managed to have a great Christmas.  I did, too.  Our families are really generous, and generosity is a lifestyle.

Sunday morning, our pastor didn't preach a message about a baby laid in a manger.  He didn't talk about a pregnant virgin and her uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem.  Instead, he lovingly read from a passage in Matthew 11:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Who are you?  John asked.  I Am, Jesus replied.

At Christmas or St. Patrick's Day, He is.  On the fourth of July or Halloween, He is.  He is.  He binds up the broken hearted.  He sets the captive free.  He heals the blind.  And there's something in the present tense of "He Is" that breaks my heart wide open. 

God with us.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Minor Updates

A few updates of minor importance...

1.  Favorite finished the Pinterest project in the pantry, and it looks great.  I'll try to get pictures up soon.

2.  I have developed some sort of stomach flu.  Guess when it happened?  If you guessed the moment I stepped out of my classroom, you would be correct.  Lovely.

3.  I'm trying to wrap a present or two in between sitting down.  But both brothers, Sheena and NutMeg will be home by tomorrow...and that's worth smiling about :)

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge 12/21

1. Are you cooking Christmas dinner? How many will be round your table this year? What are we having?
I do not typically cook Christmas dinner; Mom and Gloria usually take that job.  Occasionally, I contribute, but Christmas dinner is much lower-key at our house than Thanksgiving.  We may have sandwiches or something, but I haven't heard the menu this year.

2. What is one must-have Christmas cookie in your house?
Shortbread.  Always.  It's an easy cookie to make, and it's something I do fairly well.

3. Santa likes a glass of milk with his cookies. Do you? What kind of milk is on tap at your house-skim? almond? soy? full fat (Gasp!)
It's full fat, vitamin D milk at our house, but we aren't really milk-drinkers.  I keep the full fat version around because it's lower in carbs and better for women with PCOS.

4. Time magazine recently named their 'Person of the Year' for 2011. This is the person the editors believe had the greatest impact, for better or worse, in the past year. This year they chose 'The Protester'. Your thoughts? Who would you name Person of the Year for 2011?

Oh, I don't know.  According to their list, I guess The Princess, but those people don't really impact my community or my family.  Around here, I think The Soldier would be high on the list--there are several coming home, and one in particular whose parents can't wait to see him.  (Happy to have you home, Sawyer!)  In my life, I guess anyone would be labeled an Encourager or a Prayer.  The list is longer and more distinguished this year than in years past.

5. December 21st is National Flashlight Day... when was the last time you needed a flashlight and did you know right where to find one? 
I needed one when I put my sideboard together last week.  Luckily, I have one on my phone :)

6. candy canes...yum or yuck?
Love 'em in their own right.  Don't care for them chopped over my chocolate.

7. What Christmas carol lyric means the most to you? 
I've always been partial to "Oh come let us adore Him."  It's haunting to me...and six short words fill me completely.  Odd how that happens, eh?

8. Insert your own random thought here.
One last gift to buy.  Grades are entered.  I got an A in my grad class.  Sleep in heavenly peace, indeed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weight Loss Wagers with Favorite

In "what's-going-on-around-my-house" news, Favorite and I are competing against each other in a weight loss wager.  We are both fairly competitive people, and I thought that might give me the push I need to make a concentrated effort to focus on cardio every day.  Don't get me wrong:  I hate being fat.  But I hate the idea of losing a competition more than I hate my size *yeahlikeI'mevergoingtopostthat* jeans.

And that was my first mistake. 

You see, competitive or not, you shouldn't ever wager with your husband...or any man for that matter.  Especially when it comes to weight loss competitions.  Because boys?  Will visit the little boys' room and lose 15 lbs.  Women add a spray of perfume and gain seven.

So what did I do when I learned that Favorite dropped 8 lbs in four days?  (Yep.  Eight.  It would take me three months to lose eight pounds.  Plus, you should see what he's eaten in those four days.)  I stopped competing.  I'm still going to have to pay up, but for two or three days, I just thought it didn't matter. And I acted like it.

That was my second mistake.

After 31 years on this planet, I finally starting to get that it's never going to be about "eating right" or exercising a certain number of minutes a week.  Not for me.  Instead, it's about doing something.  About living.  About enjoying.  And it's not about dread or resignation.

See, I don't really enjoy food.  For the last seven or eight years, it's become the solace that isn't really comforting.  I felt I deserved to eat a doughnut because I wasn't as thin-pretty-capable-fill-in-your-own-issue-here.  I should be allowed to avoid the gym, because things didn't come easy to me.  I shouldn't have to count calories, because I wasn't able to get pregnant.  All of it boiled down to a sense of entitlement that said, "If I'm deprived here, then I shouldn't have to complete x."  But I wouldn't call anything of that particularly fulfilling.  Replacement never is.

But then I read about these people who love to eat and cook and still manage to lose weight.  And I think, "I'm doing something wrong here."  Truthfully, I should've said, "I'm thinking something wrong here."  Perhaps that's the bottom line issue for a lot of people.  I want...  I deserve...  I should have...

None of those thoughts make us better people.  I've perfected that thinking process, and it sure hasn't made me a thinner human being.  (I'm not more magnanimous, either, in case you were wondering.)  But a resolution to enjoy, to do, to be a part of...  I wonder how that would change me...

Favorite and I weigh at the end of the week, and we'll fulfill our wagers at that time.  Then, we'll start over.  For my do-over, I'm resolving to enjoy my break and live.  It's probably going to require me to get off my rear end and do something.  (That might be the definition of living.)  But there are people to enjoy, and events to attend and things to do.  The funny thing is, for the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Midweek Confessions: Volume 1

Click on the button to join E in Midweek Confessions (she's seriously one of my favorite bloggers!).

*  I still have 60% of my Christmas shopping to do.  I haven't wrapped anything, and I am just now starting to care.  I guess I had to get my paper and most of my grading out of the way before it mattered.  I also need help getting Favorite's gift, so I'm going to have to get on that.

*  I don't put up a Christmas tree, and nothing you say will make me sorry.  Christmas happens at our house whether it's decorated or not.

*  I just bought a nice sideboard to go in my kitchen/dining room area, and I'm really pumped about it.  I'm actually embarrassed to share how excited I am to spend some of my break decorating my house or getting it more put together.  I may actually put pictures on the walls.  (In frames!  With mats!  In a prescribed layout!)  I also have a little Pinterest project for my husband to complete.  I know we've been in this house for a year, but it takes me a while to get to stuff.  Does anyone else get ridiculously pumped about organization?

*  I got a pregnancy announcement this week and I didn't cry.  I was so proud of myself.  I didn't even feel jealous (not lying).  And that made me feel relieved.

*  My brothers and their significant others will be home in just over a week, and I'm far more excited about that than any Christmas present I could open.  Christmas just seems so homey to me.

*  My husband and I are in a weight loss competition.  So far, he's lost 8 lbs since Sunday.  I've lost three that I gain back and lose and gain back and lose.  Sometimes, being a girl sucks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sharing the Disjointed: Blogging about Life

When I'm not whining about grad school, grading papers or doing laundry, I'm usually sitting on my couch staring at a computer screen trying to figure out how to share my life with people I don't know.  (You know you're jealous).  I usually laugh over how disjointed my life probably seems--from telling students I can't keep clothes on to sharing our recent church displacement.

But disjointed is what life is.  We move from cleaning toilets to hosting Christmas without a second breath because that's what the day entails.  Why should my blog be any different?

This year was a tough year for a lot of people I know.  It was full of tough diagnoses, emotional trauma, budgeting and the highs and lows any relationship brings to the table.  So was last year.  And the year before.  And while I find myself praying that 2012 will be different, I keep wondering what different would look like.  What part of life would I be willing to erase for the sake of different?

More than once over the last three years, I felt that God was impressing, on me, the importance of authentic living.  Last night (and all day today), I kept hearing the words of Matthew 5:14-16:

Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven (The Message).
But the more I think about that verse, the more I remember the way I used to interpret it.  Shining my light meant I would wear the right clothes, say the right things, go to church Sunday morning and evening and on Wednesdays, spout Bible verses at people who were hurting and pretend the words "Jesus loves me" solved every problem.  (Hint:  They don't.)  I thought hiding the unsavory parts of life would show other people what it was supposed to look like.

I was a church person.  And what you just read was what I got out of Christianity.  Clothing.  Words.  Holier-than-thou.  Pretense.

Pretense is my natural inclination...even here.  I've been concerned that I'm sharing too much of my life with people I don't know.  Occasionally, I write something and wonder how I would feel if a student read it.  Frequently, I wonder what people think of me after they read a post.

Then, I think of the people who have poured into my life.  They stood on a stage and let me see all parts of them--from ugly to glory--and I'm the better for it.  Maybe that's what I'm hoping to do here.  I cringe when I think about the people who have read about our loss, but how can I possibly talk about what Jesus has become to me if I can't show you, tell you, where I've been?

A year ago, I thought I might take this entire blog down.  (There's an entire month missing in 2010 because of the delete button.)  I knew the content was going to be sad for quite a while afterward, and I just didn't see that sharing those things with the world was going to be beneficial.  I didn't want pity, and I didn't want to write.  Lying wasn't an option, and, other than rage and hurt, there wasn't much to share.

Then, there was this post.  It came as the result of a conversation with a friend who wondered why my writing was so much different than I was.

I guess that's when I got it.  Life is a gift--with all of its crazy, disjointed happenings.  Those happenings are shared and savored--by people who know and those we don't.  And while common experience ties us together as people, the uncommon experiences are the things that help us sharpen one another and learn to walk the unfamiliar path.

If my honesty draws one person closer to God, then a little bit of uncomfortable is worth it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Picture Dump

My paper is finished.  I only made it to page 19, but I can honestly say I did the best I could.  At the end of the day, what else could be expected?

Don't answer that.  I know what could be expected.  I've heard some of those expectations from the craziest of places (you're human, too, bud...and all of us fall short of the glory of God)...but I digress.  I've emailed said paper and am relieved it's over. 

I sat on the couch to look through my camera and realized I haven't unloaded pictures since September. Sad, no? Wanna see what you've missed?

Ronnie and Sheena got married, and Kate and I hammed it up for the camera.
My friends, Morgan and Jason, had a baby.  Good thing I got this picture up before Max turned 30. 
And for the record, he was the prettiest newborn I have ever seen.
Ronnie and Sheena at their bridal shower.

Casey, cooking in my kitchen for Sheena's bachelorette party.

I have tons of Homecoming pictures, too, but I don't think I'll post them in a public forum.  I'm just amazed at how much has happened in the last few months.  How did I already forget half of this stuff?

(PS.  Just got an email from my Prof.  He received my paper..  No turning back now.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Your First Birthday

I'm seventeen pages finished with a paper I can't expand anymore, because I keep thinking of you.  Tomorrow is your birthday.  Today is the first time I've recognized that fact without crying.  OK, I take that back.  I'm crying now.  But not for the same reasons I've cried in the last year.  I'm crying because I'm just a little bit proud of myself.

I'm proud of myself because I never thought I'd get here.  A couple of months ago, a place like this didn't exist for me.  Without meaning to, I would relive moments I didn't want to forget and find myself in the same angry, hurt place I had been since our unplanned goodbye.  Even though I haven't heard it for a year and a half, I never have had any problems hearing your heart beat in my mind, and I certainly don't struggle to remember the statistic that said you had less than a 5% chance of dying once we heard that sweet swish-swish that indicated we had experienced a miracle.

I still remember those things, but they don't sting the way they did.  You were.  I know that, and that is, perhaps, the most important part of this story.  Ultimately, I'd like to think that your short existence has made me a better person--more compassionate, more appreciative, more aware.  Those things weren't true every day of the last year and a half.  Baby steps.  Surely that's something you understand.

Somehow, I'm less uptight than I used to be.  You'd think the opposite would be true, but the experience of you and everything afterward has been a tangible reminder that some things are simply beyond our control.  I've never been able to admit it, but you were beyond my control.  I wanted to take responsibility for what happened, but I can't punish myself forever for something that was never in my hands.

Tomorrow, and for every day I live after that, I will remember every single part of our experience together.  I won't forget you--not just because I can't, but also because I don't want to.  Even though I'm moving to a different place, I will carry you with me.  How could I not?  You are a blessing.  Likely, the only one of your kind in my life. 

In the last two months, your father and I have talked about you every week.  We don't know where we will be on your second birthday, and we're finally OK with that fact.  Sometimes it's best to forget anticipation and enjoy the blessing of the moment.  Tomorrow, that's exactly what we'll do.  You didn't get your first birthday, but we do.  And I want you to know I won't waste it.

I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Last of the Infamous Grad School Paper: Updated

I thought the next time I posted, I would be completely relaxed and happy to report that I had officially finished my paper.  Unfortunately, that's not the case, but I was afraid if I waited until then, I would start getting phone calls from my out-of-town family wondering if I had met some unfortunate demise.

But I have met an unfortunate demise.  At the risk of complaining about this paper every single step of the way, I should inform you I'm ten pages in...but that's all I have.  (I am now fourteen pages in.  Who knew I would be able to get so much more out of the point of view manipulation present in Night?)

I need ten more pages.  I'm praying they will come fairly easily.  I'm planning on pounding out five more tonight and then maybe five tomorrow.  If there's ten pages worth of material left on this stupid subject.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Long December: Another Post on the Month That Will Not End

I wasn't going to post tonight, but then I was all "What if my faithful readers really want to hear about trauma narrative and how it's grossly under appreciated in the high school classroom and that severely affects our interpretations of pieces like Elie Wiesel's Night and causes our students to think they understand events like the Holocaust when they actually only understand a gross misrepresentation of an event that can't be articulated?"

When I had that thought I just knew I needed to come and talk with you. 

I really appreciated your kind comments on my last post.  (Though, it would be nice if a few of you would attach email addresses to your accounts.  Normally, I would email you back if you comment on a post.)  The holidays are tough around here.  I told Favorite I feel selfish admitting that, because there are worse traumas taking place and I need to keep that in mind.  What he said reminded me of something I quoted in an earlier post:  "Your cancer doesn't fix my broken back."  I guess I forget that grieving is a process that everyone goes through, and it takes a different form for everyone.

There are just a lot of days when I wish this process was over.  Or, even better, nonexistent.  Thousands of women have walked in my shoes, but I find myself frustrated because my standard dictates that I'm not supposed to be here almost two years later.  I'm supposed to be moving on, in a different place, working through, insert your own "working-it-out" phrase here.  Instead, I do stupid things like look at birthday cakes made to mimic the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar and sing "Long December" and laugh at the part "maybe this year will be better than the last."

The narrative in my head sometimes convinces me that part of the healing process is knowing that the one stint wasn't it for us.  The logical side of my brain (which doesn't function often) says there is no reason to court hope when every sign points to the fact that my body is irreparably broken--there's a "feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls."  And then there's just me--no logic, no narrative--that doesn't want optimism or pessimism.  I just want to accept what is and move it to the back of the closet.

I've come to admire the women in my life who do a lot of side-along support.  They're sneaky in their encouragement--popping up when you least expect them and turning the subject to something worthy of a belly laugh.  It's weird, but I don't hear "Let's have dinner" when they talk.  I hear "I haven't forgotten you."  While I'm in the process of shoving all of this junk to the back of the closet and praying for invisibility, there's something in me that just needs to be seen.  Not praised.  Not justified.  Not even comforted.  Just not cast away. 

Last Sunday, Pastor Josh talked about peace.  He pointed out that, as Christians, we are called to be a people of peace, but that can't happen if we can't find peace with God.  I've started to think that may be the theme of this holiday for me.  I'm not talking about finding peace with what has happened.  Instead, maybe I need to seek peace for what will never be.  But I'm trying to savor the lesson and trying "to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass."

Thanks for giving me an outlet to work through them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Silent December

It's December.  I used to look forward to December with great anticipation.  All good things happened in December when I was a kid.  Snow.  No school.  Christmas.  Family.  Presents.  And, honestly, the world just seemed a little bit cozier in December.  (I really feel the same way about football season in my small town.)

But now I dread it.  I dread the first day because it leads into a second, and the pattern continues.  I dread it because of what didn't happen and what can't be fixed.  There's still snow and family and no school and presents, and I still love those things.  But there's something else that lurks behind all of those things that makes it just a little less sparkly than it was in the past.

There's more hope this month than in any other month in the calendar.  And I will simultaneously thank God for that hope and curse it under my breath, because unfulfilled hope has a way of stinging like a slap to the face.

This month, in the back of my mind, I silently celebrate the birthday that won't come and will go unremembered.  I light imaginary candles for nonexistent people and pray for this month to go as fast as possible and be as silent as possible because I can't really muster enough joy to share it with the world.

But I could do with a few silent nights.