Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'm Glad God's the Editor of My Life



I've known for quite some time now that I really like feeling in control of my life---in control of my time, of my body, of my future, and of my circumstances. Of course, life experiences have taught me over and over again that although it's important for me to plan out the "story" of my life and how I'd like it to go and to end, I should plan on the Ultimate Editor throwing in some plot twists every now and then.

Last year at about this time, we were waiting (as we are waiting now) to hear back from physical therapy schools. It was Matt's first year applying, and though I'd heard it was highly competitive, I felt confident that he would be accepted somewhere so that we could forge ahead with the road we'd planned out. You see, I'm a woman with a constant plan--sure, there are times when I go into something and wing it, but not when it comes to our future; I had researched schools with Matt and prayed and double-checked that we'd correctly gone through the application process...in short, I had done everything I could to ensure that my husband could continue going for his dream of becoming a physical therapist.

When the news came early this year that he hadn't been accepted into any schools that first year of applying, I put a brave face on, but I was pretty bummed out. I felt like we were about to enter into a year of limbo where we wouldn't really be getting any closer to the goals we'd set up for ourselves, and if there's anything I hate, it's feeling like I'm in limbo.

Fast forward to today--

I was in church, listening to some fabulous talks on gratitude and the actions that it causes us to take in our lives and the effect that it has on us, and all of a sudden, it started to hit me--

This last year--more than any other year of our marriage--has been a time of joy, progress, and blessings. It got me to thinking of all that I'd have missed out on had we moved as planned:

If we'd moved, I would have been pregnant for the first time in a place that was possibly far from family, which meant I couldn't have the physical support of a mom, sisters, and mother-in-law taking care of me by providing frozen meals, maternity clothes, and some much-needed advice.

If we'd moved, my husband never would have been called into the bishopric, which has been an incredible experience for us both. My husband has always been a wonderful man, but having this calling, I have literally seen his spiritual and social growth right before my eyes. I have seen the Lord magnify his capacity to love and serve and learn and teach, and the spiritual blessings this has brought into our home are incalculable.

If we'd moved, my last experiences teaching at the school I'm at would have been pretty bitter. I had a very difficult group of students last year, and had we moved, I might have left the teaching profession forever. I'm still not certain that I've found "the" teaching position for me, but this year has at least helped to lighten my teaching heart, which had been very heavy for much of last year.

If we'd moved, I would have missed out on many of the precious experiences I had with my grandma before her passing. I knew her time to go would come quickly, so I took full advantage of every opportunity I could to visit with her and spend time with her.  Those are some of my most cherished memories with Grandma Austin, and I never could have had most of them if we'd moved away.

If we'd moved, we never would have had "the summer of fun and games" with all the good people we've met in this area. For several months now (and especially in the summer), we've invited people over anywhere from 1-3 times a week for games and treats (and sometimes dinner), which has allowed us to build solid friendships and feel like we truly have a lot of support all around us whenever we might need it. I underestimated the importance of still having a healthy social life once we got married, but now I understand that those relationships are still so important.

If we'd moved, I would be having my baby in a place far from family, and I likely would start to feel pretty isolated as the weighty responsibilities of new parenthood settled upon me. Here in this place where we've set down roots, I feel the support at every turn--just today, I had somebody offer me their newborn baby girl clothes and somebody else check to make sure that everything was okay and that I didn't need anything. I know there are good people wherever we'll go, but because of all the time we've spent here, our support network is strong and sensitive to our needs.

There are many more blessings that have come about this past year as a result of our staying, and I won't list them all. But I want the records to show how grateful I am that my Heavenly Father knows the beginning to the end and that He is much more able to see what I need than I am.

I don't know what this next year will bring, but whether we end up being accepted into PT school or not, I know one thing's for sure--

We are writing our story with the help of the greatest Editor that ever will be.

Matt & I Must Have a Problem with Celebrating Early...


Matt and I found out soon after getting married that it can be tricky establishing holiday traditions for ourselves since we live so close to our families. Because our folks live just over an hour's drive away, we've spent all three Thanksgivings and Christmases as a married couple with them. We consider it a great blessing to live so close to so many that we love, but over the years, we've been trying hard to establish some traditions that could just be "ours."

Even though from the beginning, people thought our "early Christmas" together was crazy, I've grown to absolutely love it, especially since it means that the actual holiday is focused less around gifts and more on family.

This year for Thanksgiving, we decided to try something different, too--a pre-Thanksgiving feast/game night with some of the good friends we've made here. If it weren't a space issue, we probably would have invited about 25 people, but our little apartment just couldn't take that much goodness, so we had to content ourselves with just under a dozen. To make it easier on ourselves, we just did a few of the basics (turkey, punch, carrots) and had everyone else bring the rest.


This was my first time ever cooking my own turkey, and let's just say, it came about thisclose to being an absolute fiasco. Friday afternoon (the day before the party), I had holed myself up in our "office" to work on editing some photos for clients, planning on going shopping for all the necessaries later that night after a friend's wedding reception. When Matt came home from school, he asked me if I'd started defrosting the turkey yet.

"Uh..." I started. "I kind of haven't really bought it yet."

So off we went in a frenzy to the store where we decided that a $40 price tag for a fresh turkey was too much, so we bought a frozen turkey for $14 and prayed that it would somehow work out. We raced home to start thawing it out in cold water and were about to head out the door to the reception when we realized that the sink wasn't completely stoppered up, forcing us to wait about another ten minutes until the OTHER side of the sink could be filled with water and the turkey placed inside its ice bath.

Coming back from the reception and dinner after, we were forced to concede  that two hours had made little difference to the bird, putting us both into a mild panic--we were trying an overnight slow cooking method favored by Matt's mom, and the turkey was supposed to go in about an hour after we got home. A large pot of boiling water later, we were finally able to scrape out the neck and innards and though the turkey was still cold and hard in more places than we would have liked, we popped it in the oven at about 10:30 p.m.

We had company staying over that night (my sister and her husband from out of town), and we worried we would wake them up when we got up at 6 a.m. to check the bird, so we got a flashlight and spoke in whispers as we both knelt in front of the oven the next morning, bleary-eyed and clueless, trying to figure out if the skin had pulled away from the legs yet (since we couldn't just stick a thermometer in, considering that the turkey was in an oven bag). After twenty minutes of solid deliberation, we decided to let it cook for an hour and a half longer, at which point we'd wake up my sister for a third opinion.

7:30 a.m. found three of us (Matt, my sister, and I) deliberating over cooking times per pound, how the fact that the turkey was partially defrosted might affect its done-ness, and how certain parts definitely appeared crispier than others. Finally, Matt just said, "I'm just taking it out. We can cook it more later if we need to."

The turkey had to sit outside for a couple hours before being carved, so we tried to not worry ourselves too much over it and busied ourselves cleaning house. Luckily, when we carved into the turkey awhile later, it appeared we were just about right---it was a little bit dry on the very outside, but the inside was cooked through and juicy, and I comforted myself that I hadn't completely ruined pre-Thanksgiving by treating myself to several hot slices sprinkled with salt. 


Turkey (almost-)fiasco aside, I think I could get used to this tradition...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guess I'd Better Get Used to Pink...


Matt and I went in for my 20-week ultrasound this week, fully expecting that our hunch would be confirmed and that we would be told by the tech that it was  a boy kicking around in there.

Guess we'll never be trusting our hunches again!

Baby girl wasn't exactly being cooperative though, so it took almost 20 minutes (and a lot of very firm, uncomfortable stomach jostling) for us to find out. The funny thing is, when the tech all of a sudden said, "It's a girl!," both Matt and I were in shock a bit. In fact, both of us stopped just short of blurting aloud, "Are you sure?!"

When I confided that we'd thought it was a boy the whole time, the tech said she'd get another view just to double check, and, sure enough, it's definitely a girl in there.

We're so excited though, even if it means we'll have to play the name game all over again (since we'd firmly decided on a boy name, figuring we wouldn't need to worry about a girl name yet).

Besides marking the week we found out the gender, this week also seems to be the marker of when I could no longer hide the fact that I was expecting. Before, if I wore the right kind of drapey blouse or an oversized sweater, it just looked like I'd maybe gained a couple pounds (but not to the point where people started remarking on my belly).

That all changed this last week--as my uterus has moved up, so has the visibility of this baby, and everyone from my principal to my old college roommate's mom has started commenting on it. I decided the comments don't bug me as long as they're paired with adjectives like "cute," "adorable," and "little."

But, as I informed my husband one Sunday not too long ago, I don't appreciate being told that I look "very pregnant."

I know it will only get worse as time goes on as far as the comments go, but I'm happy as can be with my "little, adorable" baby bump right now.

I sure like 20-week pregnancy a lot more than I like 10-week pregnancy anyhow :)


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Lost Weeks

Sometimes I wonder if I'll look back at the last four and a half months of my life and wonder what in the world I was up to. I had relied on blogging as my personal journal for so long that now, looking back at the scarcity of posts, I'm wondering how I let so much time slip away.

And now that I've been away from regular blogging for what seems like such a very long time, it's like I have everything and nothing to say all at once.

I once told a friend who marveled at how I came up with daily blog topics that it is far easier to blog daily than to blog sporadically. She looked at me in disbelief, but I know all too well it's true--when you've made the commitment to come to the blank page night after night, you're constantly on the lookout for what to say. When you let yourself go off that schedule, well...

You get a rambling post like this one.

I can't tell you how many times I've realized over the past couple weeks that I took a bajillion pictures of something, only to never post about it (like the 4th of July or Halloween or our garden harvest).

I won't promise that I'll be better, but I find that I miss the daily practice of recording my thoughts, so who knows? Maybe you will see me more of me after all.

Things you might want to know:
-My students this year are overall quite delightful. It feels almost like a vacation after last year's nightmare.
-While the photography business thing is going along well, I've found that I've almost completely stopped taking pictures for pleasure. I need to remedy that, but it's a matter of finding time...maybe when the holidays hit and all this end-of-term grading is done, I'll let myself play around a little bit more.
-I am exactly 19 weeks today, just one week shy of being exactly halfway through this pregnancy. We find out next week at my 20-week ultrasound what we're having. Any guesses?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thoughts on Pregnancy {Part Two}

 (Sorry for the poor-quality phone picture--I still haven't upgraded to a smartphone. 
Notice the SeaBands snugly in place on my wrists! Picture taken at about 9 weeks along)

These thoughts were written down five weeks ago when I still hadn't gone completely public with the announcement.

I am now 12 weeks along, and while I've gotten used to many of the symptoms that have come with the first trimester, I am ready for them to be over with. Everyone keeps telling me that the second trimester will be completely different and a million times better, so I just keep steeling myself to wait just a couple weeks longer.

One thing that surprised me about this whole pregnancy process was the relief I felt when we finally started telling people. I felt like such a liar going around for several weeks because I had this huge part of my life that I was holding back, and I just wanted to talk about it openly instead of trying to hide it. I also wanted to be able to talk to women who had been there before, but I was really determined to wait until that 10-week ultrasound before telling a soul.

I didn't end up making it, of course---when every day felt like a thousand hours, I just couldn't bring myself to wait so very long to have a confidante who actually knew what it felt like. So I spilled the beans at 9 weeks to my family (and a few days after that to Matt's family). And while I'd intended to to wait until I was well into the second trimester to tell people at work, that didn't work out so well either.

But telling people was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders--it became a bit addictive, actually.

(In case you're curious about how we spilled---for my family, I wore a shirt that said, "Baby is Loading" and laughed about how long it took everyone to notice. For Matt's family, we announced it at my niece's baptism, so I just used my loud teacher voice and told everyone that our present for our niece wouldn't be coming until April. Once again, it was funny how long it took some people to figure it out. I had always planned on doing something a bit more dramatic to announce it, but I was so sick and tired by that point, I just didn't care anymore.)

It's funny how my expectations of pregnancy and my reality of pregnancy have really not matched up. I was always seeing these clever ways on Facebook on and on Pinterest of announcing pregnancy, but when I was actually in the thick of it all, it was all I could do not to go around with a sign that said, "If I look grumpy and/or nauseated and/or hormonal, it's okay---I'm pregnant."

Hopefully I only have a couple more weeks of this icky-sick time to go...

Note: I am now 17 weeks, and I'm feeling loads better. I still have a picky appetite that I never had before and I still don't have any energy to do housework, but at least I don't have to worry about the nausea or fatigue so much anymore.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Baking Up a Little Autumn



Even though this here blog might not show it, I've been doing pretty well at going through my "To-Enjoy List" for autumn. Just last week, Matt and I went to the Thriller dance performance (so fun!), and I finally squeezed in a mini fall photo walk last weekend while we still have some leaves.

While I still haven't mustered up the stomach to try anything with pumpkin yet (the second trimester is going better, but not that much better), I did manage to make up a dish that just screams fall. No, really---it screams it. Watch out.

The best part about the whole dish? It helped alleviate some of the guilt I've been feeling because we haven't hardly used any produce from our garden since most of it makes me feel nauseated. Cheers to that!

Apple-a-Day Casserole (from Taste of Home's Prize-Winning Recipes 2007)

6 medium tart apples, peeled and sliced
6 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold butter

Combine apples and carrots; place in a greased shallow 2-qt. baking dish. Drizzle with orange juice. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and nutmeg; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over apple mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes longer or until the carrots are tender.


Happy fall baking!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Shifting of Priorities


I made a comment today that pregnancy has made me feel like a completely different person--one I've never met before, and one I'm definitely not used to. If you had asked me before to describe myself in 3 words, one word that I would ALWAYS include on the list would be "motivated."

Pregnancy has changed that word.

Even though I'm officially in the second trimester and feeling a bit more energetic and a lot less sick, I have found that the shift in priorities that came three months ago is still in effect--

Before, I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy worrying about the presentability of my apartment, my weight and overall fitness level, my to-do lists, my wardrobe, how many books I'd finished that month, the level of traffic on this here blog, etc. It's like I had this constant mental picture of what I wanted my life to be like and was constantly measuring myself against it to see if I was there or not.

(I'll let you in on a secret--I was rarely measuring up to where I thought I should be.)


The waning energy levels and morning sickness of last trimester made me quickly realize that I couldn't care about all that as much anymore. I no longer had the energy for much housework or extra grooming, to-do lists become somewhat of a joke, and--irony of ironies--reading makes this here English teacher feel even sicker to her stomach than usual, so I haven't touched a book in months.

My non-pregnant brain never could have grasped this level of un-motivated-ness. I would have judged myself for my complete and utter lack of concern about all the things I "should" be doing to keep up with outer appearances.

Now, I am in this almost-blissful state where I simply pour my energy into the most essential tasks for each day, and I let myself go for the rest of it.

It's pretty liberating, actually.

 Now, this is not to say I haven't been busy--I'm still putting in 50+ hours at the school to take care of all my teaching responsibilities, and in addition, I've been putting 10-15 hours a week into my photography business. I also got a new church calling (I'm in the stake young women presidency now), and I try to pull myself together enough to make sure that Matt doesn't feel neglected through all this.

And even though listing all of it out like that makes it seem like an exhaustive amount of work, just the fact that I've allowed myself to just go easy on myself for the rest of the things in my life has made it all seem do-able. In fact, I haven't felt this relaxed about life in general since before I started my teaching job. 

So even though pregnancy is still not my favorite, I have it to thank for this newfound loosening up.

Thanks, baby.


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