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!