Monday, May 25, 2009

I fought the yard

...and the yard won.

There has been much evidence in the past to support the theory that I'm insane, but I always coolly brushed off such accusations with the defense that I merely vacationed at the Cliffs of Insanity. I hadn't actually purchased a condo there.

Well, today I'm here to tell you that I have no further defense. I'm offically a full-time resident at the Cliffs now -- in fact, I'm in the running for mayor. If I can just get my friend Molly the Pirate to agree to be my campaign manager, the election's in the bag. Who can say "no" to a pirate?

Back to my insanity. (Sorry, it tends to make me ramble).

As I've mentioned in recent weeks, we've been working on our yard this spring. To give a little bit of background, the people we bought the house from had purchased the property from a retired one-legged elderly lady who, according to neighbor testimony (including photographs), spent all of her time working in the yard. There is still evidence of all the energy she put into the landscaping -- beautiful curved concrete borders, loads of flowerbeds, huge delicious-smelling lilac bushes, etc. But the owners between this lady and ourselves were team long-haul truckers. Suffice it to say: they let things go a bit.

We've been slowly reclaiming the landscaping, but I wasn't able to do much last year. Maybe other moms can weed and garden with an infant in tow, but I could never figure it out. This year, Aurelia is happy to rub her hands around in the dirt (or eat the dirt, or rub her face in the dirt) while I garden right next to her. And I really, really want to make the yard pretty again. And put in a little vegetable garden.

So I spent $100 of poster competition prize money at Wal-mart (what? that isn't your nursery center of choice?) for seeds and corms and other plant terms I don't know that are supposed to turn into flowers and veggies if you put them in the ground and water them. Surely I can handle that?

Well, the good news is that I miraculously got most of the flower seeds into the ground last week. Now we have to finish the fence and paint it before the flowers get serious about growing, since most of them are vines I intend to have growing up the fence. Don't ask me how that's going to happen, because I don't have a clue. It just needs to.

Thus far, I've surprised myself by actually remembering to water the seeds and finding the time and energy to do so in the evening. This despite the fact that our hose isn't long enough and has several leaks precisely at the end by the nozzle, so I get annoyed and soaked every time I use it. But today...well, I feel like burning the gardening gloves and letting the weeds have their way with the "gardens".

WARNING: Hot steam venting ahead:

I cleaned out HALF of ONE flowerbed last week so I could plant seeds in it before I left to visit family for a long weekend. Tonight, after driving for six hours, starting laundry, a load of dishes, vacuuming, keeping up with a toddler who required my physical presence to do anything without crying... I headed outside to clean out the other half of the ONE flower bed. Then I saw some new weeds sprouting in the section I had already cleaned out, and figured I should keep up with the work I'd accomplished before working on the other half.

I couldn't even finish re-cleaning the first half of the bed. I was done. Nothing left in the tank except tears.

All I really want to know is: What kind of psychotic mushroom did I eat that made me think I could add on yardwork, when I can't even keep up with the bare necessities of housework???

On the bright side, I hear there are some nice vacation homes available in the Fire Swamp. Come by to visit anytime! Just ignore the weeds on your way to the door.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fitness Friday: Three for one!

Why do I feel an urge to go pick up an Alexandre Dumas book?

Oh, wait! That's , "all for one", not three for one. Nevermind!

Okay, so I've been out of the Fitness Friday loop for a few weeks. But as I choose to believe, better late than never! So let's see if I can fit all three recent assignments into this one post.

First, we were supposed to share pictures of our homes, specifically areas related to fitness. Wow, that's a good joke, Brenda! If I had time to clean my house, I'd have time to post! So, moving on...(But as a consolation, above is a picture of the rec center where I exercise).

The next assignment was to talk about how we sneak in exercise when we can't fit in our usual regimen. Umm...I use the stairs instead of the elevator? That sounds lame. Maybe this wasn't a good idea after all!

Honestly, if I can't make it to the rec center during the workday, then I just don't exercise. There is no other time in my schedule for so much as a set of sit-ups. Which is why it's crucially important that I get to the gym regardless of how hard it is to arrange me experiment schedule appropriately.

Let's see if I can do better with this week's assignment: what am I up against? Beyond looks are appearance, why is it so important to me to get and stay fit?

Well, I have the typical family history of heart attacks and strokes, but not any more so than the next ten people you run into. So I won't explore that very much. And in previous posts I've already talked about the need to set a good example for my child(ren).

I guess what I have to struggle with in particular is motivation, confidence and happiness issues. Getting up and doing something physical, pursuing a measurable goal, helps me feel like I've accomplished something. If I've accomplished something, I feel better about myself. If I let my confidence wane, it's not a pretty sight for anyone in my life.

So, to put it simply, being fit makes me feel like Lara Croft -- and that helps me keep the mindset that life is an adventure and God gave me gifts to be a hero in that adventure.

What I'm "up against" is the lie -- so easy to embrace -- that life is nothing more than the dreariness of endless laundry and having too many things to do.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wanted: One Re-set

I was thinking just this afternoon, after waking up grumpy and tired, forgetting to call my mother-in-law to let her know we were leaving the house (something I do EVERY SINGLE weekday morning), getting soaked in a nasty hailstorm that unleashed the very moment I opened the car door to transfer Aurelia to grandma's car, forgetting the library books that were due yesterday, miscommunicating with Jon about going to the gym...anyway, I was thinking I would love to have a "redo" for the day.

Then I realized that I really needed a total re-set on my attitude and perception for the past few weeks, not just today. For some reason, I feel really insecure after a major test. In this case, the Biotech Symposium and my annual Research-in-Progress seminar in front of my department. I wasn't nervous beforehand -- I was just going to do the best I could do, and I was too busy concentrating on putting my talk together to be worried. But afterward, despite very encouraging feedback from the faculty, I found that I couldn't stop second-guessing myself.

Of course, it didn't help that I came down sick almost immediately after giving my talk. It's hard to feel good about yourself when you're congested with zero energy. It's even harder when your sweet little daughter is even more ill than you are. I'm still not quite over the "spring crud", but fortunately Aurelia is pretty much back to her happy self.

Anyway, I think I need some event, or maybe some space, if you know what I mean, to separate myself from my dip into "no confidence land". A week by myself in the Bahamas should do it.

But I don't see that happening right away. Or in the next ten years.

So what can I do to re-set myself? I want to get back to happy and gracious. I'm tired of grumpy and touchy. If you've seen my road-map showing how to get from one to the other, please let me know!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Powerful Moment

I may be behind the times, but I just discovered the amazing performance of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent". If you are even slower than me to keep up with current events, please go see the video here. In fact, even if you've seen it already, go watch it again! I think I'm going to watch it every day for a while to bolster my spirit. 

I don't want to spoil even the slightest part of the experience for anyone who hasn't yet watched the video, so please don't read any more until you've seen it!

Now, I just love everything about the performance, so I could go on about this for a while. I'll try to restrain myself. If anyone questions the power of music with integrity, I would point them to this as a perfect example of a song transforming an audience. At the beginning, the rolling eyes and skeptical laughter made it clear that nearly everyone in the room thought that Susan's dreams were ridiculous. As soon as she opened her mouth, however, all the "outside" stuff they were judging her by just fell away, revealing an amazing and captivating soul. 

But the song didn't just transform Susan from a nondescript Scottish country woman into a passionate and beautiful creature, a true daughter of our vibrant Creator -- it remade the audience from a group of cynical people ready to judge a person for the slightest flaw, or for even daring to present his/herself as someone special, into a group of fellow dreamers! How long the change lasts, only God knows. But even if it was only for those brief few minutes during the song, I believe they -- we --  are all better for it. 

Go Dream a Dream!! 

And for a great article talking about what we can all learn from Susan Boyle (okay, so it's for aspiring writers, but I think everyone can get something out of it), take a jaunt over to Seekerville.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fitness Friday: Reboot

The sun is out, the woodstove lies cold and lonely in the corner of my living room, and it's time to reboot my Fitness Friday efforts. The past few weeks have been even more of a challenge than usual for my exercise goals. I have two major events coming up in the graduate student sphere of my life, so working in the lab has been a priority that trumps anything important but not getting to the gym. Still, I'm proud that I did make it at least a couple of times a week. And now that I'm in the stage of writing up my research, it is easier to arrange my schedule around exercise. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Our Fitness Friday host, Brenda, gave us an actual assignment this week to help kick things off again. Here's my answers:

1. Introduce yourself: Hello, my name is: Megan. I'm a grad student studying infectious diseases, a mother of a 17 month-old little girl, and a wife in a wonderful 7-year-young marriage. And for a few more months I can say I'm in my mid-twenties.

2. Why I am back: I find that "meeting" once a week with other ladies working on fitness goals is very helpful to my own discipline. Sharing struggles and receiving comments on my own efforts (and, someday, progress!) are encouraging to my spirit.

3. My (fitness) goals in order of importance: First, I want to feel beautiful and captivating, and right now, for me, that means I need to drop fifteen pounds and tone up some muscles. As an aside, I want to make it clear that some of the most beautiful and amazing women I know are several sizes larger than me, and I know that beauty is about far more than what size clothes you wear. But personally I would feel much better about myself if I met my fitness goals. 

Second, I want my family to be healthy and that starts with me. Not that my husband has any less influence than I do in our marriage, but I make the grocery lists and plan the meals. And I'm usually the one planning our schedule. 

Third, we want to have more children and I don't want to gain ten pounds with each pregnancy! I need to get rid of the extra weight from #1 so I can fully enjoy the next pregnancy without being self-conscious.

And that's all for today! Hope to see you next week for another edition of Fitness Friday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wifey Wednesday: When Patience Pays Off

It's been a while since I participated in Wifey Wednesday, hosted by Sheila Wray Gregoire over at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. But the timing is perfect this week, as I'm sitting here smelling some lovely flowers my husband left on my desk while I was out this morning. They prove the point that patience (also known as "holding your tongue") really pays off. How's that, you ask? Read on, friend!

Last fall my husband (a grad student) gave a talk at a physics conference in Florida. At two previous conferences he won awards for his presentations, including a small but very welcome monetary award. We hadn't heard anything about the awards at the Florida conference, so we assumed that someone must have bribed the judges to steal the award from him...haha, just kidding.

Well, yesterday, out of the blue, he received the first place award certificate and a $300 check in his student mailbox. Yay!! I am so proud of him, and I'm thrilled to see his achievements recognized. He deserves the award, and much more. 

But a little bitty part of me was already spending the money. We've been trying to scrape up some cash to do some landscaping in our yard, since we finally got those awful hedges out. On Monday we got some estimates on the lumber and paint for a simple wooden fence. The award check would cover it oh-so-nicely. Hopeful, I asked my husband if he was thinking about buying us a fence with the money. He wasn't keen on the idea, having the philosophy that extra money, especially for an award he earned at a conference, should be spent on fun things that don't otherwise fit in our budget.

It's times like this that root out any remnants of bitterness that might be sticking around in my heart. We've been having to pay $150 every month for a mistake my husband made last year, and it hasn't been easy, emotionally, to flush that much of our budget down the drain. Doesn't he owe it to me to try to make up for it if he has the chance? 

I'm not proud of that thought, but there's a lot of justification for it. Regardless, I gritted my teeth but bit my tongue. Time to put into practice "love keeps no record of wrongs". The only way I was able to keep my thoughts to myself, however, was to ask myself another question: If I could buy my husband's happiness with this $300, would I even hesitate? 

No - I would gladly spend it. I couldn't bear the idea of raining on his parade by asking him to spend the money on something as mundane as a fence. If it was a matter of not having enough for food or shelter, he would give it up without a second thought. I know this. So I gave up my bitterness and let the matter drop.

Then I get to my office this morning, after taking our daughter to storytime at the local library. A beautiful bouquet of spring carnations is filling the room with a fine fragrance. Even more lovely was the note attached to the vase, thanking me for my support as a wife and sharing a third of the award money to spend on myself (specifically, on clothes...but I've obtained permission to take a loan against the clothes money to get some spring flowers to plant before it's too late in the season). And as icing on the cake (almost literally), my favorite treat was in the little fridge: a glazed croissant and chocolate milk. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Clean Home Carnival: The Nursery

JulieMom is hosting the first ever Clean Home Carnival! I must have been reading her mind, because I spent last weekend completely cleaning and reorganizing the nursery. This is something that needs to happen in every area of my house, but let's take things one thing at at time, okay?

What inspired this bout of organization? Well, to start out, it was the first weekend in over two months that I haven't been sick or working extra time in the lab or hosting family. Why the nursery? To tell the truth, it's usually one of the last places in the house to get serious attention, because it is almost exclusively used for sleeping, and with the lights turned off and the closet door closed, who would know or care that I had a ton of stuff shoved wherever it would fit? But I had a Starbucks/shopping date on Monday with a local mom I occasionally buy lots of clothes from (her daughter is now about 5 years old). I needed to know what we already had in the next couple of sizes so we wouldn't end up with twenty pairs of shorts and no tops. We're into modesty around here, you know?

Still, I probably just would have gone through the two bags of "too big" clothes except for the fact that we were all stuck inside due to nasty, depressing weather, and Aurelia was getting ancy-pantsy. So I figured there wasn't going to be a better time to just pull everything out of the closet and organize it all -- Aurelia gleefully helped, and we were all happy. Me because the room was organized and the monkey because she got to play with her old, way-too-small shoes.

The end result: goodbye to two full bags, one full box and two large unused items; hello to nicely arranged clothes in the appropriate size and lots of closet space. I'd take a picture, but Aurelia's asleep in the nursery at this very moment and I have my priorities.

Now, I just need to: clean the rest of the closets and the cupboards, do something with our bedroom, finish re-modeling the outdoor room, pull the hedges, build a three-rail fence around the front yard, rake the leaves (yes, I just wrote that), completely re-do the rock garden, wash the outside of the house, and plant some new bushes and flowers. Let's ignore the barn for now. And the little barn.

On the bright side: it looks like Aurelia is ready to help out with the yardwork!

And she found the first flowers of the year, welcoming them with a gentle caress (so she must know the difference between a flower and the cat).

Scheduling by Quadrant

Yesterday, I admitted that I haven't been able to successfully use a day planner for some time. Whether I'm at work or at home, I usually just go from one urgent task to the next until it's time to wind down for half an hour and then go to bed. This works for me, in general, but it's not ideal. If I hit one little road bump, my whole day can be lost. Worse (in my opinion at least), I feel like I never get any real rest - even though the whole point of me not using a planner is so I don't have to acknowledge the harsh truth that I have too much to do, allowing myself to take a little bit of time to do things that I find relaxing/enjoyable/fun, like writing for my blog.

So, I'm thinking about trying another approach. Instead of scheduling exact plans for the day, I'm going to do something that sounds un-fun and scientificky (yes, I just made up that should try saying it, it's fun): schedule by "quadrants". Jon just finished reading a well-known book by Stephen Covey, called The Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Person. The author divides priorities into four quadrants (as seen in the diagram up top): Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not important, Not urgent/Important, and Not urgent/Not important.

Here's a slightly different way of looking at it:
I plan to try scheduling a certain (and appropriate) amount of time each day and week for all four "quadrants". Within the blocked out time period for Quadrant 1, for example, I could start an experiment that I need to finish before my upcoming departmental seminar, order lab supplies I'm about to run out of, make some phone calls for the Spring Biotechnology Symposium, wash a load of laundry so we have something to wear, pick up milk at the get the idea. But I wouldn't be scheduling the exact use of the time, just the type of work I need to be doing in that block.

It seems like it could be extra work at first, but I've seen the vastly postive effect that deliberately and purposefully planning how to spend our money on paper can have, and I have to wonder if doing the same thing with my time would similarly decrease my stress levels and increase my productivity. It's worth a try, especially since I've recently taken a vow to abstain from mom-guilt.

Now I just need to figure out which quadrant "Three Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" falls into. I know where my daughter would put it....

On Friday, look for a sample schedule for next week!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Efficiency: Overrated?

For those of you who know me well and realize I have a very dominant Borg-esque love of efficiency: please don't let the title of this post give you a heart attack. I assure you, resistance is still futile.

This post is spawned by something my husband has recently begun praying every night before we go to bed, something along the lines of: "help us make the best possible use of every minute tomorrow."

I have begun growing increasingly agitated when I hear this. Honestly, I can't handle the stress of trying to make every minute be the best it can be. The only way to keep my sanity is to do something now, then do something else when that's done, and when I have any "down time" (waiting for the dryer to finish, or my experiment to incubate for example), fit in a few minutes for "leisure" activities. (Clearly, by the state of my blog, these down times have been far and few between lately.)

As much as I enjoy making lists and checking them off, I can't even force myself to use a day planner. If I were to try to schedule out each day, I would never be able to justify spending any time doing things I enjoy (and am even passionate about) just for their own sake. And I would quickly burn out. Well, I guess that's a kind of justification...

Anyway, I'm coming to realize that it's okay to ask God to help us make the best use of our time -- the pressure comes from my twisted thinking that asking for this means that I have to live up to it. So I suppose I'll have to stop elbowing Jon when I roll over to turn off the light. I'm also considering a different approach to time scheduling, which I'll post about tomorrow. See you then!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

If you don't prepare for it, it will come...

Well, we had a fantastic time up on the mountain last weekend. On Saturday all three of us floated around the awesome indoor river pictured above...about, oh, a hundred or so times. Aurelia even went down a little waterslide 3 times! She wasn't too sure how she felt about it, but she's a brave little one. And a toddler who plays hard all day is a toddler who sleeps hard all night. Which was a good thing, since we had to share a room and she normally doesn't like to sleep if there's another person in the room. (Yes, weird, I know.)

Normally I pack with the "must be prepared!" mindset. The unfortunate side effect is that we have to haul around a ton of stuff on trips, the vast majority of which doesn't get used. So I've been experimenting with a minimalist approach. For two nights, one pair of pajamas and one blankie should be sufficient. And why would I need to take more than one pair of jeans for myself? Haha. It turns out I was tempting Murphy beyond his limits. 

The first night, the jammies and blanket were soaked. I don't know what on Earth happened to Aurelia's bladder (or her diaper!), but everything was wet. That's fine, I can improvise (and in comparison to the second night, the amount of "wet" was merely a trickle, which made for a very unhappy little girl at 6am). 

My jeans didn't even last that long. On Friday night, they were subjected to smushed bananas and had a special concoction of drool and Oreo crumbs ground into them by adorable little hands. Oh well, at least I didn't have to leave the room much. The only time I really wore them in public was at our niece's 2nd birthday party on the way home on Sunday, and I assume none of the moms thought twice about my stained clothes. At least, that's what I'll keep telling myself.

Lesson learned: Okay, so I don't have to pack up the entire nursery for a weekend-long family vacation...but always pack two pairs of jammies and two blankets! Maybe I'll wrap up the spare set in an extra pair of jeans. Oh wait, I'd have to own a second pair of jeans first...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fitness Friday: Summer Plans

Back in the saddle again! So to speak.

I'm happy to say that I just finished up an ambitious project that has been taking up every spare moment of time for quite a while. I hope to be making an exciting announcement in that department in the near future, but for now I'm going to keep you in suspense!

What I can say is that I am greatly relieved, and I have every hope that the resulting reduction in stress and addition of time will help me on my road to fitness. I had to pare my schedule back to the bare minimum, which was actually an interesting exercise in prioritization. But it left me no time to keep up with my blog, as I'm sure you've noticed! What you don't know is that my house has received pretty much the same amount of attention. Eek.

This week Brenda asked us to talk about our plans to prepare for the summer. This is a great topic for me, as we're going to be heading to the white sands of Florida for a rare family get-together! My top "family" goal this year was to introduce Aurelia to her southern relatives, so we're really excited about this trip.

I'm not so excited about my post-baby body in a swimsuit. Actually, I'm shocked to realize that I haven't actually been in a swimsuit for over two years!! I used to be a waterdog, so I'm not sure how that happened.

Tomorrow that is going to change, for better or worse, haha. We're chaperoning a teen ski retreat. (And you're asking, how does a swimsuit come into this picture?!?).

Well, while the teens are up on the mountain tomorrow breaking their various appendages, Aurelia and I will be in the giant indoor waterpark. I won't tell you how long it took me to even find my swimsuit. And, no, I haven't tried it on yet.

Anyway, all of this reminded me that I should be thinking about setting some specific goals for physical fitness, using the Florida trip as a motivator. So I'll be doing that sometime this weekend, and (thank goodness), I can start working out again regularly on Monday. Between being sick and the big Project, I haven't been to the Rec Center in nearly a month. No wonder I haven't been feeling well, right?

Then comes the issue of clothes. A vacation is always a good excuse for a wardrobe update, in my book. Unfortunately, squeezing pennies out of our budget to pay for airplane tickets doesn't leave much room for the adult clothing category. So I'm going to be very selective, and pick a few high-quality, versatile pieces to "feminize" my summer wardrobe.

I'm starting with, which I learned about in Real Simple (I think...). The website has ongoing sales of designer clothes, which are still more pricey than my usual Ross fare, but the selections are very pretty and in my opinion generally more feminine and better fitted than off the rack items. Not that there aren't a few of those designer horrors that were clearly designed for an alien race. If you want to sign up, let me know and I'll "sponsor" you, which will give us each a $10 credit!

Okay, time to go spend some more mint Oreos to persuade the teens to behave. Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 13, 2009

If I had a spare $388

...this is what would be in my closet. I have no idea when or where I would wear it, but I just adore this dress. It is absolute perfection. I feel like a queen just thinking about wearing it.

I felt the need to share that with the world.

Now, I guess I should say something more profound, and possibly even interesting.

Brenda over at The Family Revised has been writing a series of posts on women's fashion. I encourage you to go check out what she's written so far on the history of fashion and thoughts on how to be feminine today.

There's one issue, however, that Brenda hasn't discussed yet that my "dream dress" brings up. Once you're past proms and weddings, when do you get to wear beautiful feminine attire again? Maybe this is just a problem for those of us who live in small towns, but even when we make a trip up to the nearest city my husband and I have a hard time finding a place where we can dress up and not look entirely out of place.

A few years ago we had our anniversary dinner at a well-reviewed "romantic" Italian restaurant (I think it was the year after we had our anniversary dinner at Taco Bell...haha). I'm pretty sure I was the only person in a dress, and flannels and jeans predominated. Keep in mind that our anniversary is near the holidays, when people do seem to dress up more, so I was really surprised.

I sometimes find myself a tad jealous of my friends from India and Bangladesh, who wear gorgeous material on a daily basis. Then I'm shocked back to reality when I'm out throwing hay to my horse or gathering wood for our stove. I also think that a pair of nice jeans and a fitted t-shirt can be quite feminine as well as practical, so I'm not really complaining about daywear. I just find it frustrating that our cultural trends have become so utterly casual.

What do you think, ladies? Do you also wish you could show off your full beauty more frequently? Or does the thought of wearing satins and silks make you want to run for cover?

By the way, the dress is available here and I'm a size 8. In case my fairy godmother is reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fitness Friday: A new day

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done...
--C.S. Lewis

I love this quote. It's both a reminder and a promise to me. Yes, I have to start over every day - begin yet again to be a good mom, wife, daughter, friend, woman after God's own heart. I can't rely merely on what has gone before, or assume it will be any easier today.

But beginning again as if "nothing had yet been done" also means I can forgive myself...MUST forgive myself...for yesterday's mistakes and failures. I have a terrible habit of mentally beating myself up over events and choices long past my present ability to influence. What a waste of time, I know, but it's a trait I have to deal with.

So this post is just a reminder to myself, and anyone else with similar struggles, to greet each day with new hope and fresh resolve. I can't change what I did yesterday, but I can choose to let it go and make better choices today. Thank God that He gave us the gift of "days", right? A chance to begin again after resting our bodies and minds while the present becomes the past and the future waits with open arms.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fitness Friday: Superwoman syndrome

I have to say I'm at a bit of a loss with this week's assignment: Try something new. Honestly, I think I need to try something less. Does that count as "new"?

Keep in mind that I have had two weeks where it has been difficult to get anything done, and I'm still struggling with being I'm not my usual optimistic self. My husband is also out of town for research and I'm feeling the crunch of three big deadlines coming up in the not-to-distant future: I have to finish the first two parts of my research by the end of April, I'm almost single-handedly organizing the Biotechnology Spring Symposium and the book I've been editing for a friend has to go through a critique group and be delivered to the publishing house by March 1.

In my brilliant over-eagerness I also started an online critique group, signed up to review an advanced copy of a new book and committed to baking two pies for the upcoming missions dinner at church. Did I mention I have a house to run and a daughter who I want to play with? Forget trying to take care of myself or *gasp* taking time to rest.

I think I'm suffering from "super woman" syndrome.

So, while I haven't had the chance to try it this week (since I've mostly been stuck at home in bed, or at work when I should have been in bed), I think the something new I'm going to try again is saying "no".

Have a great Friday, and a joy-filled weekend.

For His glory

I sat talking with a single mom yesterday. The meeting was arranged in order for her to interview me for the graduate school recruiting department, but talk of my daughter led naturally to talk of her daughter. Her story shares themes with the lives of many single parents - complicated choices and even more complicated consequences.

She shared that her fiance lives across the country. Philosophy degrees lead to restricted job opportunities, so he went where the door opened and now sees her only once a month. Naively, I pointed out that she should be finishing up her own degree soon and could join him before long. It turns out that although she has full custody, her daughter's biological father lives nearby and Idaho laws will not allow her to move with her daughter except under very strictly defined circumstances.

Jon and I talked about this for a while, because we can see both sides here. If I were the father, I would definitely want to be close to my daughter. But it seems to me that the mother is paying an unfair price for choosing to give life to her beautiful child. A price worth paying, but still unfair. I guess we all pay for our mistakes, even when we make the best choice for dealing with the consequences.

Maybe the right thing to do would be for the biological father, assuming the fiance is a good and decent man, to rescind his legal right and allow his daughter to move away. I don't really know, and that's not actually the point I want to discuss.

What I'd really like to talk about is what I told this young lady after she shared part of her story with me: "I will pray for you."

Why do we say this? I sometimes find it hard to say, because I don't want to sound like an insincere prat. Part of me imagines them sarcastically thinking, "Great, that'll be a huge help for me." Especially when I talk to someone who could really use financial help or time. It could seem like the easy way out, instead of giving them tangible aid.

But as I was thinking about this, I realized that it is extremely important to tell people we will pray for them, what we will pray for them and Who we will be praying to. What if God is waiting for us to share this, so that He can act and show the person His glory?

Sure, we could just offer a sympathetic smile or hug and then pray sincerely for the person without telling them so. But when God answers the prayer, will they know it was Him? And isn't it more important to know God loves you and acts for you than it is to have your prayer answered, whatever that prayer may be?

Think about it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Need some more midnight oil

Much to my chagrin, when I had been hoping to increase my blog posting, I've instead been cut off almost completely from the blogosphere these past couple of weeks. So I sit here asking myself, "how did that happen?"

The answer isn't pretty: it involved two colds, an ear infection, some looooong car drives, and a disaster of a short, a distinct lack of energy and time.

But there were some highlights as well: Dad's birthday (including a great night playing Cranium), coffee and a chat with my dear friend Molly who I rarely see, a baby girl who discovered singing (sort of), and an unexpected completion of a project.

So I'll be thankful that my daughter is getting better, I'm going to feel better, and my mom is coming up to help while Jon is off doing research in Florida. And I'll forgive myself, because sometimes, you just have to let things go.

But if you have any midnight oil to spare, feel free to send it my way! And/or slap me if I mention one more project I'm thinking of taking on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fitness Friday: Goals, greater

Warning: this is a long post. I didn't intend anything this ambitious when Brenda asked as to post expanded goals for this week's Fitness Friday. But it turned out to be something I thought I should spend some time on, so here you have it.

I used a worksheet from the website of Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love. If you'd like a copy of the full worksheet, let me know and I'll round up the link again. The text in blue is directly from the sheet.

1. FINANCIAL Income, Investments (If you can’t dream it, it won’t happen)

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Ps. 37:4

I’m going to skip this section for now, as I’ve already talked about my financial goals. To sum up, we’re on the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover and digging our way through “Babystep #2: Debt Snowball” with gazelle intensity.

2. PHYSICAL Health, Appearance, Exercise

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having not enough time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else – we are the busiest people in the world.” Eric Hoffer

Five-Year Goals

I have the energy to be able to hike, ride my horse and play with my children. I am wearing size 6/8 clothes, and I devote time to exercise at least 4 days a week. My family eats nutritious meals and healthy food choices are second nature.

One-Year Goals
(Unless I’m pregnant) I weigh 135 pounds. I’m strong enough to help my husband cut and collect firewood and I’m quick enough to compete with him in racquetball. I exercise every work day at the Rec Center. I ride my horse every weekend we are home, weather permitting.

Beginning TODAY!
I weigh myself once a week at the gym to track my progress. I get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep on most nights. I plan my meals so I’m not tempted to make unhealthy choices, but I also allow myself to enjoy food. Once the weather warms up, I take daily walks while dinner is cooking, with my family and dog.

3. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT Knowledge, Education, Self-Improvement

“Never rest on your achievements; always nurture your potential.”
Denis Waitley

Five-Year Goals
· Learn how to play my piano to the point that I can play the songs in the books of sheet music that I own.
· Refresh my French
· Learn another language
· Design a homeschool curriculum

One-Year Goals
· Pick up ballroom dancing again – so we can enjoy dancing without thinking about feeling uncomfortably inept

Beginning TODAY!
· Read or listen to one non-fiction book for every two novels on my list

4. FAMILY Relationship to others, Development of children, Where do you want to live?

Five-Year Goals
· Have a yearly “honeymoon” with Jon, just the two of us on vacation
· Develop a group of close friends now that we’ve settled down in one area – positive people I can learn from and enjoy being around
· Continue the habit of discussing interesting things with my husband every day, even though we don’t commute together anymore

One-Year Goals
· Read three “Parenting” books
· Set aside at least two weekends of the month that are just for our family to spend time together, with no other obligations outside of church
· Visit my Southern relatives and introduce them to Aurelia

Beginning TODAY!
· Write two letters a week to friends/family
· Talk to each of my siblings on the phone at least once a month
· Finish the video of “Aurelia’s 1st year” to send to my grandma

5. SPIRITUAL Church involvement, Personal commitment, Theological understanding

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139: 23-34

Five-Year Goals
· Host a women’s book club
· Have a family from church over for dinner and fellowship at least once a month
· Teach my children to memorize large amounts of Scripture (and memorize with them)

One-Year Goals
· Read the Message paraphrase of the Bible
· Re-read Captivating and complete the workbook

Beginning TODAY!
· Journal every day for at least 5 minutes
· Devote time specifically for prayer – however long it takes to drink a cup of tea
· Start going to Sunday School again

6. SOCIAL Increased number of friends, Community involvement, etc.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

I pretty much covered my “social” goals under “Family.”

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
*How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

7. CAREER Ambitions, Dreams, Hopes

“That every man find pleasure in his work – this is the gift of God.” Ecc. 3:13

Five-Year Goals
· Be an established editor
· Finish two novels to my satisfaction (and hopefully to a publisher’s)
· Write articles/adventures regularly for RPG publications

One-Year Goals
· Finish the research for my PhD and start writing my thesis
· Publish two articles on my research in peer-reviewed journals
· Submit to RPG Superstar 2010
· Have one adventure published by Paizo

Beginning TODAY!
· Submit a proposal for Pathfinder Society Scenario #23
· Finish editing Mark’s book (by February 1st)
· Complete the application for the Poncin Fellowship
· Run two Western blots a day, every workday

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The "R" Word

It turns out, I'm a wimp. Aside from a harrowing weekend of trying to finish editing a diamond-in-the-very-rough 110,000 word manuscript, all of my spare time in the past month or so has gone into an enthusiastic effort to break into RPG freelancing. In December I submitted what we geeks call a "wondrous item" to RPG Superstar. It was a cool idea: iconic but unlike any other item I've seen in the game. I had friends review it. I tweaked it until I was perfectly happy with it. I triple-checked the formatting. And I managed to get my neat idea across in 200 words or less.

Then I waited in eager anticipation for the Top 32 to be announced. At 2:00, today.

You can guess what happened. My name did not show up. Not even in the alternates.

Granted, there were hundreds of entries, and I know that I was competing with an immense amount of talent. Which is why I'm proud of the fact that I even took a chance on myself and entered the contest. But I was certain I would make it to the next round. Not arrogant. Just certain.

Have you ever seen the movie Gattaca? If you haven't, you should definitely pick it up at your earliest opportunity - it's a fantastic sci-fi movie that grows more relevant every day. But I digress. There's a scene in the movie where the main character, one of the last of his generation to be conceived naturally and thus considered "inferior", is asked how he beat his quality-controlled younger brother in a contest of endurance. By all measures of physiology and genetic expectation, the younger brother should have won. But twice when the brothers swam out in the ocean, as far as they could go, the superior brother called it quits first, and was hauled back safely to dry land by the brother who was supposed to die young of a feeble heart. Sputtering and beaten, he finally asks - how?

The answer: "I never saved anything for the swim back."

I thought about this scene when I realized that I had not braced myself for the possibility of rejection. I threw all of my hope and expectation into this contest. I didn't save any of myself back.

Now I'm paying the price. Although a $1 hot fudge sundae from McDonald's helped dry up the tears. (Yep, I'm that emotional. Call my silly or call me sad, that's the way I am.)

I'm not going to quit. My husband, who I admit may be partial and/or a survivalist, assures me I am creative and someday, somewhere, someone is going to realize that and fall in love with my writing. I hope he's right, because I've realized through this process that I really want this.

I'm reminded of the time I first took a pregnancy test after Jon and I started hoping for a family. I thought it was something that would be great if it happened, but it would also be fine if it didn't - at least for a while. Then the test came up negative. And I learned in that moment that, more than I had ever imagined, I wanted it to come up positive.

In the end, I'm going to be glad about this turn of events because I learned something important about myself. And as surely as Aurelia brightens up my life with her delightful smile and toddler talk, someday I'm going to see one of my adventures (and maybe even a novel?) in print. I'm going to make it back to shore. More important, I'm going to head out to sea again too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fitness Friday: Accessories and Attitude

Our Fitness Friday assignment is more pro-active this week. We're supposed to "tweak our wardrobe", however we choose. I challenged myself to do something to improve my wardrobe every day of the week. Here's the run-down:

Sunday: Today I braved up and wore a dress that I just loved when I bought it, but later decided was too "fun" for me. I had my eye on the dress for some time at the mall, and snatched it up when the store was down to the last one, which happened to be my size and over 70% off. I wore it once in Paris, but haven't worn it since. Last week I read a quote from a famous fashion designer, who quipped that "The most important thing about a dress is the woman wearing it." So I asked myself this morning, do I want to be the kind of woman who wears this dress? The answer was yes, so out of the closet it came.

Monday: Okay, more of a challenge today. I don't have time to sort through clothes I should get rid of and I already spent my monthly clothing budget on some new support from my favorite Victoria. So what can I use that I don't normally use? Aha!

Perfume! I rarely wear perfume, although I have some lovely scents in my bathroom cabinet. Today I'm spritzing on some "Tribute", from Mary Kay. It may not be a huge change for my wardrobe, but maybe it will turn a few heads in my direction or make someone in the elevator smile. (Err...I mean the STAIRwell).

REPORT: Moments after getting home tonight, I breezed through the bathroom to "freshen up" before cooking dinner - lipstick, hairbrushing, and another puff of perfume. Jon immediately said, "You smell nice!"

Tuesday: Time to toss out the frumps. Again. I'm surprised I have any clothes to wear, since it seems like I'm always cleaning out my closet. Here's a picture of the discards:

Total discards: One holey and shapeless robe, one ill-fitting undershirt whose top has long gone missing, another shapeless shirt that looked cute up until about the fifth washing, and one winter coat that has spilled latte on it from over a year ago and a bajillion pill-beads. Buh-bye!

Wednesday: Okay, another challenge. Today I'm going to add some new items into the standard rotation. I received some lovely things for Christmas that I haven't started using yet, and I have several wardrobe pieces that I put away during my pregnancy that haven't seen the light of day since.

Thursday: Shopping time! I have $20 of credit at Ross and I'm meeting my MIL to pick up my daughter at the mall after work, so I'm going to leave a little early and see what I can get to spice things up. What I'll be looking for: headbands and skirts. (Now let's just see if I can stay out of the baby clothes section!)

RESULTS: Sadly, Ross only had two skirts in my size. One was lavender and polyester and the other was shapeless black. No luck on the headbands either. But I did find this shirt, which I was shocked to find that I liked.

Me, in animal print???

I only tried it on because it felt soft, said Jones New York, and was marked down to $2.99. Turns out that I like how it looks on me. Cha-ching!! (Oh yeah, and I left the tags on in the picture to show that it was new...'cause I'm sure you think I'm cheating...haha).

Friday: Okay, I'm using the picture above to demonstrate my wardrobe tweak today. Necklaces! Thanks to a best friend who makes and sells gorgeous jewelry (link to her creativity blog in my sidebar: A Bit O' Shine) and a judicious hint a few years ago to my husband, I have a lot of pretty necklaces that I stopped wearing after having Aurelia. She's old enough now that chewing on my jewelry isn't usually an issue, so I'm making a deliberate effort to accessorize with them.

OVERALL RESULTS: On the way to work today, Jon commented that I looked really nice, and specifically gave me an "A+" on everything from boots to hair.

That's my week of wardrobe tweaks! *Phew* Tough assignment, Brenda! But interesting.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fitness Friday: Feelin' Good

Our assignment for Fitness Friday this week is to talk about things that makes us feel good.

Here's my list off the top of my head:

1) Racquetball - this is the first thing I think of because I just finished an invigorating game with Jon. When we first got married, the little apartment complex we lived in had a racquetball court. So we picked up some rackets from Play-it-again Sports and a rules pamphlet from the student rec center and started bashing a little blue ball around the court. We've kept it up on and off, although I had to quit when I got pregnant. We just picked it up again last week, and so far I've won half the games! And Jon wasn't even using his left arm...haha.

2) Horseback riding - My first pony, Silver, came into my life when I was 9 years old. (Well, Bonnie was first, but due to the frequency of occasions she tried to kill me I tend not to count her). I've loved riding ever since, but my current horse gets to lounge around in the pasture eating hay far too often. Again, something I quit during my pregnancy...but I haven't really picked it back up yet. This summer! (Assuming baby #2 isn't cooking by then). Anyway, riding through the wheat fields on my horse is very refreshing to me, just watching for wildlife and galloping away to my heart's content (helmet firmly on head, Mom!).

3) Finishing something - I have a lot of great ideas. (I think). But I'm not so great on finishing through. This is something I'm definitely working on. Anyway, on those occasions I do finish something, I feel like I'm on top of the world. When I actually clicked the "submit" button on RPG Superstar, for example, I found I could live off that boost of confidence for quite some time. Even little things, like making it to the gym today despite the fullness of my schedule, make me feel good.

4) Getting a new "toy" - or new clothes, new books, etc. We're getting new phones soon, and even though I don't think I'll be able to get the one I want, I'm pretty excited about it. I even enjoy when friends or family get a new gadget.

5) Writing and editing - I'm surprised at how much I enjoy this, actually. Sitting with a mocha, a laptop and a manuscript to edit (or even better, an adventure proposal to submit) makes me feel great. Sometimes I dread the thought of working on a rough manuscript, but once I get going it's really quite fun.

6) Making someone smile/Helping someone
- Doesn't this make everyone feel good?

7) Providing good meals for my family - I don't know how much I really enjoy cooking, but it makes me feel very good to have a decent menu planned every month, within budget and full of variety and good nutrition.

Time to head back up to the lab and check on my bacteria! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hair...or not?

This morning I decided to write a post about hair, as it seems to be a topic of great interest these days. (See these posts at The Family Revised and Breathing Grace). The problem is, I can't remember what exactly I was going to write about.

What happened to my memory??

Huh. I'm sure it was very interesting. Perhaps even life-altering.

Wait! I just remembered. Nope, not as profound as I thought.

Here's the thing about hair - like many wives, I have my hair long right now because that's what my husband likes. I actually like it either way, but my problem with keeping it long is that I am completely, absolutely, inept at styling my hair. When it's short-ish (shoulder-length), I can just dry it really quick and leave it be, and I think it looks okay. When it's long, not so much...

So, I realize that one service that I would willingly and gladly pay for is for someone to actually teach me how to style my hair. You know, kind of like how Mary Kay consultants teach you how to put your own makeup on and look nice, unlike the department store cosmetic counters that apply it for you. On those too infrequent occasions I have my hair cut and styled at a salon, it always looks so nice. Then a couple of days later we're back to straight blow dry or a wet braid after my morning shower.

Granted, I have been taking more time in the morning to dry my hair, and have even discovered that it looks good in a simple black headband (I've avoided headbands ever since 5th grade or so, when I had to use them to grow my bangs out). But anything else I try only looks good for about 10 minutes. When I see other women casually create a sophisticated bun with a pencil, I want to pull my poor, neglected hair out!

Every once in a while I'll break down and buy some new product or hair-styling device. Sometimes they even work! For the first use, that is.

Did I miss out completely on the hair-styling mojo gene? I assumed it was on the X chromosome, but maybe mine got cut out during meiosis or something. Is there any hope? Why doesn't anyone teach this??

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ftiness Friday: Add and Subtract

Time to blog again! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!!

Our assignment for Fitness Friday this week is to talk about adding something and subtracting something. I've been thinking about this all week, and here's what I came up with:

I want to ADD calories to breakfast and SUBTRACT calories from dinner. I was at the library earlier this week and checked out a great issue of Good Housekeeping (July 2008), that has a ton of helpful fitness tips in it. One of the things I read is that people who consume between 22-50% of their daily calories at breakfast do a better job of maintaining or losing weight over time. I don't remember the exact details (and the magazine is in the car, which requires a cold trudge through a couple feet of snow...brrr), but I started eating larger breakfasts earlier this week. So far, I am less hungry throughout the day. I'll let you know how it goes.

I also want to ADD more gratitude, which should SUBTRACT stress. From the same issue of Good Housekeeping, I read that it's physically impossible to feel stressed when you're grateful. Wednesday I had several frustrating incidents involving technology, and I put this plan into action. Instead of being angry that I couldn't access my newly downloaded audiobook, I thought about how grateful I was that Jon bought me a present as thoughtful as audiobooks for my mp3 player. After our monthly budget meeting I also chose to be thankful that we have enough money to cover our necessary expenses, instead of worrying about how several new bills are going to stretch our resources. I have to say, so far it's helping.

The holidays were not good for my fitness goals, but I've been to the gym every day this week (except for yesterday, when it was closed). As an added bonus, I even got to play racquetball with my husband, which we used to do almost every day when we were first married. (un?)Fortunately, it's been so long since we played that we're both super rusty and I could actually compete with him! Haha...

Well, see you all next week!