Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Am I So Scared Of?

In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd talk today about REAL fear---not the silly, "fun" fear that comes from watching creepy black and white films (like Wait Until Dark) or dressing up in gory costumes--but REAL fear: the kind that keeps you up at night wondering what you're doing with your life (or what you're not doing).

Throughout my adult life, I would venture to say that in most situations, I come off as relatively confident--and honestly, in many situations, I DO feel confident enough in myself and my abilities to come off as such.

However, I've got to confess something to you---there's something I'm scared to DEATH of:

Going after my dream to become a "real" photographer.

I don't know when my love of photography first started. I do know this---I've been a prolific picture-taker since about 7th grade. As for the real "artsy" side of photography, I think the moment when I really "got" the photo bug when Matt and I went on our first photo walk together, and it was like something clicked in my head: I'd always seen a lot of beauty in the world that I wanted to capture, but I really never knew how to frame it in the best way.

Looking back at those first photos (all the decent ones being Matt's), I know I've come a long way, and it's been such fun having a husband who knows more about the subject than I do.

But with photography (as with most things in life), it's almost like the more you know, the more you realize you DON'T know, and the harder it is to put yourself out there.

Does that make sense?

I was reading in my Oprah magazine the other day, and I came across this little quiz that basically asks you if you're doing something for the right reasons or not (or if you're just doing it to please someone else or to look good for other people). Here are some of the statements to think about (courtesy of Martha Beck):

*I want to experience the activities involved in this goal, whether or not I achieve the milestones associated with it.

*I'd want to have this experience even if no one else would ever know I had.

*I feel no inferiority, jealousy, or competitiveness around people who have done this thing, and no superiority toward people who haven't.

*I'd be thrilled to do this even if everyone I know thought it was weird or stupid.

Now, I'd be lying if I said I could answer all of those with a pure heart in the most positive way possible. The truth is, I DO feel inferior a lot of the time with my photography skills, but only because I so desperately want to get better and truly capture with the camera what I can capture with my eyes.

But I DO get such a thrill out of photography, largely because it forces me daily to look at everything in a different way than I did even the day before---it makes me reconsider my angles, search for a different light to shed on a particular subject, and try to find the beauty in the most mundane.

Basically, it's become a metaphor for how I'm trying to live my life in general.

My dream is to one day turn this little hobby into something more. The wheels in my head have been turning even more since I did a little photo session for my friend Kayla's family last weekend (my first paid gig!).

But almost all I could think about after I got the pictures back?

How they still didn't match what was in my head, and how I wondered if I would ever feel "good enough" to really sell my skill set in photography.

What's something you've done that's terrified you? How did you get past the fear?

Or, what's something that terrifies you now?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Uncultured No More!

I would venture to say that I've become a pretty decent cook over the past three years---

That is, unless you're judging me on ethnic variety.

Pot roast and potatoes?


Creamy white chili and anything with bacon?

Check check.

Venture outside of the typical white, middle-class cuisine?


It's not that I don't like different cultures' food---in fact, I would say that I'm relatively open to the idea when it comes to the idea of eating at almost any ethnic restaurant when the idea is suggested (unless, of course, you're trying to talk me into sushi, to which I say: "Stop being a grossie gross.")

But, since we don't exactly have the budget to be eating out every night (nor do we have the desire), I started looking into various so-called "ethnic" foods that I could make at home. Ideally, I was looking for recipes that use some of my latest health-craze kicks: quinoa, bulgur wheat, or couscous.

Last night, I found the jackpot, and I pretty much consider myself a professional Indian chef now.

(Just kidding.)

But, if you're on the lookout for a delicious Indian dish that's meatless AND healthy (and totally easy!), you absolutely must try this out:

Tabbouleh (Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites by Sara Wells and Kate Jones)

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups boiling water
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 medium cucumber, diced
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, optional
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Place bulgur wheat in a medium-sized bowl and pour bowling water over it. Lightly stir and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 45 minutes without removing plastic. After 45 minutes, place bulgur in a fine-mesh strainer and press on it with a spoon to remove excess moisture.

2. Place bulgur wheat, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, parsley, and mint (if using) in a mixing bowl and toss lightly. Add oil, lemon juice. salt, pepper, and cumin. Gently toss until everything is well distributed. Cover bowl and refrigerate a minimum of one hour before serving.

***Tips: This recipe is GREAT with fried naan bread (which you can find in the same cookbook, which is totally worth buying!) Make sure that you actually buy fresh vegetables and parsley---this would NOT taste the same with dried. Plus, we tried this with the mint, and it's fantastic (just so you know).

Do you try different ethnic cuisines often (cooking or at restaurants)? Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

True Love Isn't a Fairy Tale or Even a Country Song

In ten days, Matt and I will have been married exactly two and a half years, and you know what?

I'm learning more and more about what true love means every week.

Take two weekends ago, for example--we had just gone to our appointment with the dentist, and we were both looking forward to getting some food at Herm's Inn and having some relaxation time at home.

Enter my crazy photographer self into the picture:

"Matt! Look how perfect the leaves are! If we don't take pictures NOW, we'll miss them forever. Pretty please can we go up the canyon and take pictures?!"

Looking over at Matt's face, I could tell he clearly didn't want to go--he would much rather get his homework out of the way so that he could enjoy the rest of his weekend without stress.

But, Matt being wonderful, he agreed to come with me.

Take a look at my shoes in this picture---while completely adorable (I'll admit it), they are not exactly on friendly terms with walking over a mile on gravelly paths, but that is exactly what I set out to do.

About halfway through the trek, I was starting to get blisters, and my shoes were not exactly helping me to walk quickly.

Matt could have done a lot of things in the situation---he could have criticized me (fairly) for my poor shoe choice, he could have made fun of me for being such a girl, or he could have done exactly what he did:

Give me a piggyback ride almost the entire way back to the car so my feet wouldn't hurt any worse.

Or for another example:

I had to get a colonoscopy yesterday (TMI?), and for those of you unfamiliar with the pre-procedure stuff, it isn't pleasant---you have to basically drink only clear liquids for two days straight and take laxatives to flush out your system.

It is decidedly unsexy.

But you know what true love is?

True love is being able to joke about the situation without fear or self-consciousness or shyness. True love means that when you're totally saying crazy things while still under anesthesia, your significant other doesn't laugh at you or make you feel stupid---

He just holds your hand and says that he loves you and that he's glad everything seems to be all right because he doesn't know what he'd do without you.

Sure, true love might not always be sexy or dramatic or like it is in the movies---

But it sure is amazing to love another human being more than yourself.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Spooky Spider Halloween Party (+ Game Ideas)

Each year, my mom throws a huge Halloween party for all her grandkids (and for us). This year's theme?

A Spooky Spider Halloween.

With Halloween being this Thursday, I thought I'd break down what a successful spider party looks like (in case you want to steal some last-minute ideas).

Step One: Have everyone don a costume. Attempt to take a picture of all the kids together, only to realize (yet again) that it's almost an impossible task to have every kid looking at the same camera and giving a semi-pleasant face at the same time.

Step Two: Serve up some spooky grub, including mummy dogs (hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll dough and baked at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes), smashed bones with blood (chips & salsa), and troll urine (apple cider).

Step Three: Don't forget dessert! (Candy corn ice cream/sherbet parfaits)

Step Four: Hide about 100 - 150 plastic spiders in relatively easy-to-spot locations and give each kid a plastic cup. On the word "Go," kids need to see who can collect the most spiders. Winner gets a spooky prize, like tattoos of kids in costumes, fake mustaches, or Halloween-themed pencils/pens.

Step Five: Play Spider Prey Steal (aka Donut Grab). String up powdered donuts ("spider prey") on string ("spiderwebs"). Each kid/adult must try to eat the prey without using his/her hands. Reward? You get to enjoy a powdered donut :)

Step Six:  Have the kids (or other party guests) make a paper-mache spider piƱata (use this page for some good ideas).

Step Seven: Play Spider's Web Roll-Up. To set up, use a different color string for each participant (use shorter pieces of string for younger participants and longer pieces of string for older participants). At the end of each string, attach a popcicle stick with the participant's name. Wind the string around chairs and tables so that all the strings are intertwined. At the other end of each string, place a large spider. Instruct players to find the stick with their name on it. On "Go!", each player needs to wind his/her string around the stick as fast as possible until they reach the spider at the end. (Since this is a problem-solving exercise, reward all participants who successfully reach their spider at the end.)

Step Eight: Pat yourself on the back for orchestrating another successful Halloween party!

Thanks for a fun weekend, Mom!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On the Edge

Lately, I've been feeling on the edge about something just under the surface.

I don't know any other way to explain it---I feel like something is about to happen or change or appear in my life that I didn't expect.

Maybe it's because not much has changed in my life over the past year and a half---in fact, this is the most stable my life has been in years (maybe the most stable it's been ever). In other stages of my life, things were always changing: boyfriends, jobs, the schooling situation, locations, etc. But as of now, Matt and I have been in the same apartment for two and a half years, we've been together for more than three years, I've had my teaching job for 14 months, and I've been in the same church calling for 18 months. My weekly schedule rarely varies (work from 6:30 - 5:00, go running on M/W/Sat, donate plasma on Tu/Th, and go to the weekly activities with my young women on Thursday nights. Every second, third, and fourth Sunday, I have a meeting, and I'm pretty sure that on most Sunday nights, we'll be playing board games with our friends. Throw in our weekly date night on Friday, and you've pretty much summarized my life.

Maybe it's just because I'm so used to change that I feel so unsettled lately, but I can't help feeling like something is right on the corner of my vision.

Sometimes the feeling hits me right before I go to sleep, and I'll scoot a little closer to Matt and put my arms around him to feel more secure.

Sometimes the feeling hits me when I'm reading around 8 PM at night, and mid-page-turn, I'll feel like something is off, or like I'm forgetting something.

Does this ever happen to you?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Be Astonished

One of my favorite poets ever--Mary Oliver--once penned these lines:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

So here, in no particular order, are a few things I've been astonished at recently:

*I am astonished that lately, random cats and babies seem to be drawn towards me like never before. I've never been the type to attract cuddly things, so this new attention is, well, flattering. Even if it comes from little creatures that can't express their affection in any other way except adoring eyes and affectionate rubs, but really---what other kind of affection do you need?

*I am astonished that at 27 years old (this very night to be exact), I voluntarily bought tofu and put it into a smoothie.

*I am astonished that it was hardly half-bad---in fact, I think I might be tempted to say I even enjoyed it.

*I am astonished that I caught the picture above through the window of our car while Matt was driving at almost 60 MPH on a country highway last Friday on our way home from the dentist.

*I am astonished at how different dentists can be. I had always gone to the same dentist for my entire life, and last Friday, I found a different one (mostly just because it was unreasonable to have a dentist that was a 90-minute drive away). My new dentist makes odd jokes and tries to get me to talk with all these instruments in my mouth.

*I am NOT astonished that I didn't like that.

*I am continually astonished by the exquisite treasures that autumn has been dredging up from her depths this year---everywhere I turn is a golden leaf, a shiny apple, a plump pumpkin.

*I am even more astonished that it hasn't snowed yet. This is a first for Logan, Utah.

*I am astonished that I actually am using one of my sick days tomorrow to go see a doctor about my stomach (finally).

*I am astonished that it's taken me over three years to make this appointment.

*I am astonished (but not really) at how excited I am that I don't have to go in to work tomorrow---in the middle of a workweek!

*I am astonished at how when my students get a dress-up day (for Red Ribbon Week this week), they somehow think that gives them license to act all crazy. Note to students: crazy hat day does NOT mean crazy 7th-grader day. Just sayin'.

*I am astonished at how much running helps me cope with stress. Last year, I was perpetually on the edge of a meltdown when it came to teaching. This year, even with an unruly group of kids, I am hardly phased by the majority of their antics. Either I got really good really fast at learning to just go with the flow of teaching middle schoolers, or running is the best anti-anxiety drug on the planet.

*I am astonished that no matter how many times I get playfully angry at Matt for making weird faces in pictures, those are always the ones I end up posting here on the blog.

*Speaking of Matt, I was astonished when I came home from the grocery store---gleefully announcing that I'd bought us some more apples---only to find out that Matt had eaten the remaining half of the tub of caramel in the fridge.

Drop me a comment below and tell me what has astonished you recently. Better yet, do a blog post on it and give me the link so I can check it out :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You Making Time for Pleasure?

Five years ago, I wrote a post about chocolate-covered strawberries that was not really about chocolate-covered strawberries---it was all about not saving life's pleasures or little special things for some "better" day in the future that never seems to come.

It's a lesson that was hard-won: six and a half years ago, I lost my almost-three-year-old nephew very unexpectedly. To say that my family was devastated is an understatement---his death rocked me to my very core, and though I couldn't tell immediately, his passing literally changed the person I was and my life's path forever.

You see, I was always the kind of person who saved the pleasurable things for later---as the blog post mentioned above says, I would put off using the things that were meant to bring me pleasure (nice bubble bath, fancy chocolates, perfume) for some future date, when all the stars would align and the moment would be "perfect" for using that item (or spending time with that friend or kissing that boy).

Those star-aligning moments almost never came, and more often than not, I just ended up throwing a LOT of stuff away because its prime had passed and was left wondering what I was doing during my high school and early college days when everyone else was out meeting people and going to games and having fun.

But after I got the news of my nephew's death, I did a 180---I changed to a major I loved (English) and dropped the one I hated (math). Because the drop of my major also meant I'd dropped a class, I was able to make more time in my life for pleasure---each night for the first several months after his passing, I "planned" an hour or two of fun or pleasure every single evening so that I would have something to get me through what were still very hard days.

It sounds like such a simple thing, but the fact that I was planning pleasurable things for myself every day made enjoying life's little moments of joy a lot easier (probably because I had so many more little moments to actually enjoy!).

Yesterday after church, I discovered a rope tethered to our tree outside and decided to give it a little swing. Even though I was only on it for about 90 seconds, the experience left me giggly and flushed and as full of energy as if I'd just gone on a good run.

And I got to thinking:

Am I making enough time in my life for pleasure and fun?

I'll have you know that this blog post was originally titled, "Have I forgotten how to have fun?" It was going to be all about how becoming a teacher and an adult and a wife has basically made me a more serious person and how sometimes I feel like a fun-killer (esp. at the school).

But you know, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I still WAS the changed person I had become after my  nephew's death---I still realize on a nearly-daily basis how precious every moment is, and I still am in the habit of looking for (and making) happy moments in every day. True, I could be better about "planning" some fun every day or letting myself get a little silly now and then.

But I was happy to discover that six and a half years after the fact, I have still learned my lesson:

Life is too short to not eat the chocolate-covered strawberries.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five Day Breaks Call For the Red Pants & Tackling Nagging Tasks

Only three days in, and my five-day weekend has already been pretty amazing:

Not only have I managed to squeeze in some fun (fall photo walk, pumpkin carving, and a trip to an antiques store followed up with lunch at Herm's Inn), but I've also managed to cross quite a few items off my "Nagging Tasks" list.

You should know, I'm a To-Do List freak, and last Sunday, I made a list of all the "nagging tasks" that I've been putting off for months---things like mending a broken tank-top strap, washing Matt's white Sunday shirts, and making some doctor's and dentist's appointments, to name a few.

According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, "Studies show that one of the best ways to lift your mood is to engineer an easy success, such as tackling a long-delayed chore."

So, because I've realized from long experience that the best holidays are the ones that combine some good old-fashioned loafing with some honest-to-goodness work, I started tackling my "Nagging Tasks" list this week. (I've given myself until the end of the year to get them all done.)

Not only did it feel great to find out this morning at our dental appointment that neither Matt nor I have any cavities (even after not visiting the dentist for about two years), it feels even better to know that "visiting the dentist" is now no longer a nagging task, which frees up some valuable mental energy.

Other things on my nagging tasks list?

*tackling our front closet clutter (I've been putting this one off all year)
*calling on my Verizon plan to negotiate a lower rate (I am ridiculously good at putting off making phone calls indefinitely)
*taking one of my favorite dresses in to get altered so I can actually start enjoying it again

What types of tasks do you always put off the longest?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Top 5 (Women's) Magazines on Newsstands Today

It's no secret that I'm totally obsessed with magazines and that I have been since I was literally 11. For several years, that meant an obsession with your basic fluff---magazines that only touted strategies for getting guys, looking hot, and staying in shape (with the occasional landscape gardening magazine thrown in to feed my brain and stuff).
Since getting older though, I find most of the "fluff" magazines repugnant and have since trended towards magazines with more substance.
So in case you're in need of a little mind enlightenment (with just a teensy--but productive--bit of fluff), check out one of these titles below:
5. Runner's World

I've found that although I love running, that love usually comes AFTER the fact---in other words, once I'm finished with a run, I love it, but getting the motivation to get out the door...

That's the hard part.

I've found that the best way to help me with my motivation is to constantly fill my mind with inspirational stories and tips about running, something Runner's World does in every single paragraph. (Reading books such as Born to Run and Eat & Run have also been helping!)

So if you'd like to get into the running mood, check out this bible for runners.

4. Ladies' Home Journal

This magazine is a recent discovery for me, but I have been seriously impressed so far--even though this magazine has its fair amount of fluff (I mean, check out the articles on the cover), it also has plenty more features that are definitely NOT just fluff---like one of the longest-running women's feature columns in the U.S., "Can This Marriage Be Saved?," which tells a (true) story of a marriage that seems doomed to fail, but then tells what happens after the couple seeks therapy and starts working on their union.

I love that this magazine is rooted in traditional values like family, marriage, and faith. While many magazines today shy away from acknowledging many of the values that our nation was built on, this one does not---even the celebrity interviews often talk about faith and religion, which I love.

3. Good Housekeeping

Another keeper of a magazine for upholding traditional values is Good Housekeeping, which I've subscribed to (and loved!) for almost two years now. To me, this magazine is all about how to make a house a home (but not with unrealistic Martha-Stewart-like expectations of perfection).

Two regular features I particularly like in this magazine:

*The column "Ask Heloise," which is all about getting advice on how to clean or de-stain difficult surfaces or items (I've learned a ton of really valuable cleaning tricks this way!)

*The fact that each month, they run a feature on a type of consumer good (like vacuums or cars or beauty creams) where they've run the top products through hundreds of tests and tell you which ones came out on top. Not only that, but some of the best of the best products get the "Good Housekeeping" seal, which means that if you buy the product and for some reason don't like it, Good Housekeeping will refund all your money. A company that's willing to put its money behind the products it promotes?

That's pretty awesome.

2. Country Living

To date, Country Living is the only magazine I've never had the heart to recycle after I'm done reading it. In my opinion, CL is the most visually stunning American magazine on the market today, and each month, I find myself breathlessly awaiting my new issue in the mailbox. I love the clean, elegant, and simple beauty promoted in the magazine, but I especially love that most of the time it actually seems ATTAINABLE. So many home decorating magazines feature ridiculously pricy renovations and furniture, but CL features a wide range of products, many of which are actually affordable (even for me!).

And as if all that weren't enough, I should have you know that about half of my pins on Pinterest all come from this magazine---I don't know how they do it so consistently, but Country Living consistently produces some of the most decadent photography and the most aesthetically beautiful homes and entertaining ideas I've ever seen. Plus, the magazine promotes a simple, close-to-the-land, ecologically responsible lifestyle, which I've been trying to incorporate more into my own life.

1. O the Oprah Magazine

And of course, my list could not be complete without the magazine I've been faithfully subscribing to for 8 years. The O Magazine consistently features articles that blow my mind, including articles by top authors, researchers, and poets. There are so many articles I've clipped out of this magazine so that I can have them forever---articles like the one about a couple who restored hundreds and thousands of dead acres in New Mexico and Arizona to their original, lush state, prompting the return of native (endangered) species. Or the article about Michael Pollan, the famed food researcher of our day, whose books In Defense of Food and Cooked have changed forever the way I feel about the food I put on my table and into my body.

Other features to love:

*I love how much Oprah promotes good literature. So many people in our world today seem to think that reading isn't that important, and I'm so glad that someone so influential has made it one of her life's missions to promote lifelong learning through the reading of great books.

*I also love the monthly column written each month by Martha Beck, a fully licensed therapist and excellent writer who talks about the psychological obstacles holding most of us back and how we can overcome them.

If you want a magazine of top quality, you cannot let this one pass you by.

Are you a fan of magazines? Any I missed?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Me & Perfectionism (aka Perfectionism & I)

This year, I'm teaching my students out of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Basically, every Thursday (usually), my kids will read a small section out of the book and then talk about it as a class. Last week, we were reading the part about "life-centers," which basically means the things or people that we center our life around. The book makes the point that life-centers that revolve around things or people are inherently unstable and that we should instead focus our lives around principles (because principles never change).

To help my students grasp how even life-centers centered around relatively positive things can become unhealthy, I had them do a little group activity---basically, one of the people in the group had to be the "patient" who was obsessed with a certain life-center (like school or work or a boyfriend/girlfriend), and everyone else in the group was a "counselor." The patient then presented his/her case before the counselors, and the counselors had to try and help the patient using examples and evidence from the book.

To help the students grasp what I wanted them to do, I myself took on the role of "patient" first and played a student who was completely obsessed with school---I described how I stayed up until 2 AM every night so that I could get my homework done perfectly, and I explained the enormous pressure I often felt to maintain the high standard of achievement I'd always set for myself. As my story got crazier and crazier, more and more students' hands went up, eager to give me advice and help about why my life-center was so unhealthy.

The kids had a blast with the activity.

Little did they know, however, that the reason I was so effectively able to portray a grades-obsessed student was because I used to be one. Not only that, I consider myself to be what I've termed as "a recovering perfectionist."

When asked to describe myself in three words, one of the first words that always comes to mind is "motivated"---from a young age, I've always had exorbitant amounts of self-motivation to set goals and get things done. As a whole, this is a quality I am proud of, but like anything else, too much of a good thing can be debilitating.

I don't know when I first realized I had a problem with perfectionism---I for sure know that I recognized it by 7th grade, which is the age my students are at right now. I remember even checking out a book from the public library all about perfectionism and how to overcome it. Despite the book's suggestions, however, perfectionism seemed to be a habit that I wasn't likely to kick anytime soon, not while I had high school to ace and college to prepare for. The problem only got worse as I found myself continually attracted to boyfriends who were either very motivated themselves (which often translated to competition in the relationship) or who were self-deprecating (which translated to a lot of criticism of me and my habits).

There was one point in my sophomore year of college that it got so bad that I was almost paralyzed by my perfectionism---I was hesitant to try new things because I knew I couldn't be perfect at them, and I hated to share my real feelings with people because I was afraid of how much they would see "the imperfect me" and not like it.

Surprisingly, my mission in El Salvador only seemed to make the problem worse---I seemed to be in a constant competition with myself and others to see who could be the most good and the most giving and the most productive, and I felt the familiar feelings of crippling fear weighing me down.

It wasn't until I married Matt that I really started to finally shift into "recovery" mode---it was so refreshing to be with someone who had found a balance between being motivated and being perfectionistic, and it was such a relief to really know, deep down, that I was loved despite all my imperfections.

I went on a run this morning, and I had to walk about 30 feet during a particularly difficult uphill stretch. I started to beat myself up about it, but then I heard Matt's voice in my head---"It's all right to walk. The great thing is that you're out exercising."

Before I went out on my run, I was getting down on myself about my blog---I've had these grand expectations for it for a long time now, few of which have come to fruition. It's made me question my writing ability as well as my ability to produce content that people are really interested in. But then I heard my own voice reassuring me that I don't need to continue abusing myself about not being where I want to be yet---I simply need to take life one day at a time.

I'm not sure if I'll ever be free from the grasp of perfectionism, but I'm still trying.

And for now, that's got to be good enough.

Are you a perfectionist?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Tell-All

*Guys, it feels SOOOO good to be back blogging again. Even though I desperately needed the break, it was kind of a love/hate thing because almost all I could think about the whole time was how much I missed the therapy of getting all the details of my days out onscreen so they weren't all rattling inside my head. Plus I was planning posts like crazy during any spare moments in my day---it's as if I'm unable to live life without planning blog posts around everything going on. While on the one hand, that's kind of screwed up, on the other, well....there are worse hobbies I could have, right?

*Yesterday I was teaching my country swing class here at the school how to do an easy (but impressive-looking) lift---I was playing the boy's part, and I had picked one of the smallest girls (all 4' 9" of her) to be my partner. And you know what happened?! We both ended up crashing gloriously on the floor because I totally lost my balance. I don't think I will ever live this down. I mean, if it had happened in a room full of people my own age, I couldn't have cared less, but do any of you truly remember how 7th grade is?

*I will be the laughingstock for the rest of the year. I already had a girl shriek at me as I passed her in the lunch room yesterday after the incident, "Mrs. Meidell, you actually DROPPED that girl? She's so tiny!"

*(Any chocolates and/or or Diet Dr. Peppers for my future troubles for said incident would be appreciated.)

*On an unrelated note, I ran in a 5K over the weekend. This was the first 5K I've run since my first one last year, and I was super excited going into it because I'd actually trained for this one and was hoping to get an excellent time (which, for me, is anything less than 9 mins/mile on average). I ended up being pretty disappointed, though---I only beat last year's time by 2 minutes, and when I ran in this one last year, I hadn't been running for months beforehand! So it goes, I guess.

*Can I brag about my outfit for a minute guys? As you know, I catch onto fashion stuff pretty slowly, but I thought my first attempt at mixing prints/patterns here turned out pretty good. If nothing else, it's a sign of how much my style has evolved in the past three years because I would have NEVER put these pieces together before. Are you a fan of mixing patterns/prints?

*Funny teaching story (for me, anyway---not so much for the students):

Last Monday (so a week from yesterday), my Spanish class was signed up to use the computer lab like we do every Monday to review vocabulary on Quizlet. It's usually one of my favorite days of the week because the kids are usually completely engaged in the review games, and I get a little peace and quiet and some extra time to grade papers. So last Monday, everything was going hunky-dory until this one student comes up to me and informs me that people have somehow enabled the discussion board and are slinging insults, swear words, you-name-it back and forth on it. I marched back to her computer, checked the board, and told the class they'd better knock it off or they'd lose computer privileges for the rest of the day. (The reason why I didn't just punish the students who were involved was because they're all logged onto the same account, and the new computers in that particular lab don't require the students to log in under their own student number, so I had absolutely no way of tracking who was involved.)

The students were good for about 5 minutes until some mysterious stinker managed to get back on and type some dumb comment like, "he he where did everyone go" or something like that.

In an impressively calm voice, I told the students to log off their computers and walk in absolute silence back to the classroom. With impressive calm I told the students to take their desks and face the walls, and with impressive calm I told them to write the numbers from 1-100 in Spanish over and over again for the remainder of the class period (a total of almost 30 minutes).

(I'm not lying----I was calm as a summer's morning about the whole thing, which probably just made it freakier.)

When there were still five minutes left of class, I told them all to face me, and I proceeded to tell them (very gently) that if things like this continued to happen, I would make their life a living hell in my class.

You'd think I'd dropped the F-bomb by the way the kids reacted, but I quickly put a stop to all the gasps with a single look.

I don't think I'm going to have any more problems in my Spanish class.

*That story was a lot longer than I thought it'd be. Sorry about that. I'm just so proud of how my blood pressure didn't raise in the slightest during the whole encounter---this marks new territory for me as a teacher, friends. It also marks the first time I actually had to follow through on a class-wide threat.

*Wanna know what else marks out new territory? The fact that I pretty much had only pleasant (or at least non-confrontational) parent-teacher conferences last week. True, there was one parent who obviously thought her son could do no wrong and started to get pretty defensive with me, but it sure didn't escalate anymore after I told her that her son had been caught blatantly cheating on an exam.

*New territory, friends. This is good.

*What is also good is that I get no fewer than THREE days off this week from school (starting tomorrow) for our fall break. Long live vacation days!

*What would you do with three days full of blissful nothingness ahead of you?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Attack of the Mutant Carrots

For a  few weeks now, Matt and I haven't been able to stand even the thought of looking into our vegetable garden. We were so blessed with an overabundance of every kind of produce and so bogged down with the task of how to possibly USE it all that we swore we could never look a tomato in the face again (much less eat one) after this year.

But this last weekend, we and the garden had had enough time apart that we repented of our past neglect and decided to see what kind of mischief she'd been up to these past few weeks.

You wanna know what happens when you decide to neglect an overabundant vegetable garden during peak produce time?


The craziest thing about the whole situation is that this bumper crop of mutant carrots is only the tip of the orange iceberg---we still have half a carrot row left to harvest, and we just discovered while chopping up these root wonders that just ONE of those giants is enough to feed a family of four for Sunday dinner.

No joke.

I feel like had we left the carrots any longer, they would have sprouted legs and started to develop minds of their own.

Oh wait....

P.S. Thanks for being understanding about my little break from blogging---it was just the rejuvenation I needed to feel like myself again. The break also gave me a good opportunity to see how much I (still) love blogging---because of my years of doing blog posts, I found that I was much more conscious of the little details of daily living that make me happy, a skill I was particularly glad I'd developed last week when the stress of my job hit big-time. (Plus it gave me some time to brainstorm a couple awesome posts that I'll hopefully be putting up soon). Thank you so much for following us in our journey---your thoughtful comments and support make it all worth it :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Taking Charge + A Blog Announcement

It's been a hard last week or so---slowly but surely, I have been feeling the all-too-familiar crushing weight of my job combining with the all-too-familiar crushing squeeze of my other daily and weekly responsibilities.

I knew, from years of  experience, that the only thing keeping me from a major meltdown was the fact that I was still managing to go on 5-mile runs a few times a week. And while everyone else in my close circle of acquaintances was looking forward to a relaxing weekend full of inspired messages from our church leaders, I was trying to keep my cortisol levels down enough to focus on grading the massive amount of over 200 assignments and tests I had been forced to bring home so I could have all my grades current for parent/teacher conferences this week.

I usually love General Conference weekend---it's one of the two Sundays all year that you get to stay in your pajamas and watch "church" over t.v.,  but this time, all I could think about was how I was thisclose to getting sick and how my stomach had felt tied in perpetual knots for about 8 days straight.

Then, a little miracle happened.

During the Saturday afternoon session of Conference (a 2-hour block filled with inspired talks given by various church leaders), I lay down in a patch of sunlight on my in-laws' living room floor and promptly fell asleep. I was exhausted and frustrated and completely spent.

Then, without any warning, my eyes flew open about an hour later---I sleepily looked at the screen, and all of a sudden, my brain was wide awake:

The words coming out of the speaker's mouth literally felt like my Heavenly Father Himself was speaking directly to me.

The speaker (one of my favorites) was talking about how if we don't take time to take care of ourselves (and our health) now, we will surely take time to be ill later. He continued by saying, “Fatigue is the common enemy of us all-–so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill.”

It was as if I had been awoken purely so that I could hear the memo straight from heaven about what I sorely needed---I had been praying for relief from the stresses of my life, yet I had been keeping up a frantic pace that could only lead to exhaustion and breakdown.

With that talk in mind, I made a decision:

I need to put my mental wellbeing first, or I won't be able to be an effective teacher or an understanding and loving wife or an inspired leader in the young women's program.

Therefore, I have decided to take a break from blogging until I have found sufficient time to replenish myself.

I don't know how long it will be (I'm hoping no longer than a week), but in advance, I appreciate you all for understanding----I love blogging, but I feel this is something I must do. I thank you for your continuous support in reading and commenting on my blog, and I hope you'll stick around long enough to let me get my head back on straight.

Hopefully I'll be back soon! In the meantime, you should definitely check out the message that inspired me so profoundly here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Staying Up On Friendship

In high school, it seemed like I was almost always the one instigating all the parties---various collections of friends would text me every weekend to see what was going on, and somehow we'd all end up at my mom's house, playing Risk or watching scary movies or just chatting on the couches in the living room.

You'd think with a designated-hostess past, I would be the one to get all of our friends together now that we're all grown up, but not so---

Turns out, the adult Torrie is WAYYYY different than the teenage Torrie.

For one thing, as a teenager, I didn't often like to spend too many "quiet evenings" at home doing things like cleaning or watching three straight hours of Chuck while perusing the Internet to look at blogs or paging through magazines.

Funnily, that's totally my favorite way to spend a weekend now.

Luckily for me, I have friends who have gladly stepped up to wear the proverbial hostess hat, thus ensuring that our friend group (and all of our spouses) actually get some face time once in a blue moon. (Thanks, Kayla!)

Last Friday, we got the gang together (complete with spouses and lots and lots of babies) for a potluck dinner and a whole lotta catching up.

Every time I spend time with old friends, a part of me flares up again from the inside, almost like I'm remembering something about myself that I'd forgotten for a long time. This feeling is a large part of the reason why I always get so determined after these semi-annual gatherings to spend much more time continuing to build on old friendships, but it's hard----most of my friends have small kids and full-time jobs and mortgages and church callings, and we're all just so busy.
It's easy to let life get in the way, until, before you know it, a year has passed and you (once again) haven't seen or talked to the people you've always called your best friends.
Sad, isn't it?
Anyway, I'm grateful that we made this get-together happen last Friday. I'm grateful that Matt and I were able to make it down, even though we'd both had horrendous days and had to agree not to say much on the car ride down for fear that we'd get in a pointless argument because our tempers were running so high.
Luckily, good food and good company goes a long way in helping to bring a shot of good humor back.

What's your trick for keeping up with old friends?
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