Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Laissez les bons Temps Rouler

My friends and I are busy planning our ten-year Teach For America reunion. Almost ten years ago, we arrived in South Louisiana ready to help work toward the closing of the achievement gap.

We'll be heading to Baton Rouge for the reunion (I taught in a small, rural town called Franklin). On Friday night, we'll be having a Black Bean Burrito night (one of the rituals of our impoverished teacher selves!). Saturday, we'll do a service project at a school (and we're inviting our former students to volunteer with us!). That afternoon, we're having a crawfish boil (which my vegetarian self was never particularly fond of) and then traveling to the Fesitvale Internationale (oh, how I miss those Louisiana festivals!). On Sunday we'll have brunch at a friend's house and then play Ultimate on the lawn of the Capitol.

I've been trying to think of a craft project. I haven't done one since February. I'm thinking it might be cool to try and make a dress for Saturday afternoon. There's nothing better than dancing in a twirly dress...

I've only made a dress once in my life, and I'm absolutely terrible at following patterns. However, if I can convince my friend, Katy, to let me work on it in her presence (hooray for craft dates!), then we should probably be able to figure it out together.

Now I just need to decide on the pattern and fabric...

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ah, Summer

Even though I'm in my eighth year of teaching, I've honestly never had a real summer break. The first summer, I won a grant through the National Endowment of Humanities to study Utopian fiction in the Bay Area. Pretty amazing, but definitely not a lie-around-and-wallow-in-your-pajamas kind of summer.

The next summer, I worked as a Corps Member Advisor at the Teach For America summer institute in Houston. The next summer, I moved from Louisiana to Houston and taught summer school at KIPP. The next summer I did two weeks of professional development in New York, taught summer school again, got my classroom ready, and then traveled to nine Guatemalan cities during my seven-day break. The next summer I worked as a School Director at the Teach For America institute in Philadelphia. The next summer I was working full-time for Teach For America. The next summer I moved from Houston to Denver and started my Montessori training. The next summer, I finished my training, got married, bought a house, and moved back to Houston. The next summer, I was working full-time as an educational consultant.

And now I'm here. About to head into my first real summer. I can't imagine doing nothing, but I also don't want to feel obligated to do anything either. Let me brainstorm some ideas:

  1. Buy a fancy camera and learn to take photos.
  2. Learn Spanish.
  3. Spend two weeks traveling with my Partner-in-Awesomeness.
  4. Go to a yoga retreat with my best friend.
  5. Spend a week at the beach with my family.
  6. Write 100 lesson plans to teach character in daily community meetings.
Is there anything else I want to do? At this point, I should just immerse myself in the collecting and developing stage.
  • Are there things I want to explore around Houston?
  • What about getting my body in shape for the challenge of pregnancy?
  • What about teaching myself to can things like tomatoes?
  • What about sewing, sewing, sewing?

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Backyard Oasis

I'm trying to turn our backyard into an oasis. Right now, it's not very comfortable. We have different fences on three sides, and it creates a very incongruent feel. Because it doesn't feel very nice back there, we let it get messier than it needs to be. We have pots and bags of dirt strewn about, as well as two random IKEA chairs in haphazard places, which makes the situation worse.

We're in the process of getting a consistent fence all the way around the backyard. I also want to get some furniture, so we're more likely to hang out in our new backyard.

Occasionally, we host dinner parties out back, and we pull the furniture off the front porch and out of the house. It would be nice just to have it already set up. That makes me think that we should probably get the same kind of furniture we typically try to assemble out there, which would be a small couch and two chairs.

Hmm...maybe we could use the two IKEA chairs that are already out there instead of wasting our money and contributing to more stuff in the world. That would mean we would just need to buy a couch and a coffee table.

I like this couch from Amazon, but it doesn't look like it would be as comfy as other plusher couches.

I also like this couch from Amazon. However, it's really low to the ground, and it might be difficult to try and mix-and-match it with our existing chairs:
Then there's this one from Target.

Oh how I wish we could just win some backyard design contest on HGTV.

One last idea: I should check on Craigslist!

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Fancy Pony Land

My friend, Camella, had her wedding dress handmade by Lorna Leedy of Fancy Pony Land fame.

During that time, I saw a profile of Lorna on Offbeat Bride and I swooned. What a fun wedding!

When Matt and I trekked to Marfa during spring break, we stopped by Fancy Pony Land for a visit. I'm quite shy about things like that, but I try to challenge myself whenever I can stand it. I walked right in and asked, "Are you Lorna Leedy?"

I feel like I met a bona fide celebrity. Plus she shared some of her trade secrets. For example, she uses a glue for plastics to set her vinyl appliques in place, so that she's able to sew them on. And, believe it or not, she uses regular scissors to cut out her designs. I'm stunned.

Her husband works for the National Parks service (on the river in Big Bend!), so they travel for his job. They spend half the year in Marfa and half the year in Washington state.

I try not to covet other people's lives, but her life is definitely on my If-I-Could-Live-More-Than-One-Life-I-Would-Try-That List.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Newest Ailment: Eczema

I know I admitted to having hypochondria earlier in the week, so I might seem a little like the boy who cried wolf.

But I cleared up my constipation (by eating a high fiber breakfast in the form of cereal or oatmeal) and am now ready to move onto a new ailment: eczema.

I never had eczema until I moved to Denver. The dry air really did a number on my hands, as well as two patches of really dry skin on my belly. A doctor confirmed that the dry patches were eczema and prescribed medication.

Since I'm always skeptical of medication (so often it covers the symptoms but doesn't get at the root cause), I avoided using it. The doctor said I could also use regular lotion; it would just take a lot longer to heal.

When we moved back to Houston, I thought my dry-skin troubles would be over. But here I am again with those two incredibly dry patches on my belly. Let me consult my Prescription for Nutritional Healing book to see what it says:

Okay, nothing really there. Let me see what I can find on the trusty internet:

  1. "Controlling stress, nervousness, anxiety, and depression can help in some cases." I definitely have stress. I'm working on it...
  2. I definitely need to stop scratching it. That will only make the skin more leathery. I am definitely guilty of scratching it.
I wasn't able to uncover much else. I think I should just start ensuring that I apply lotion religiously, both morning and night. It's not a severe case, so I'm optimistic that it will get better.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mid-Month Reflection

March is already drawing to a close. Craziness! Before April is here, I want to take stock of how I'm doing on my goals for this month, so I can hurry and accomplish any remaining things in the final week.

(Full Disclosure: I took a significant break after I typed that first paragraph to go and cross another item off my goal list!)

Eliminate at least two commitments in my life, as a way to make a clearing that allows me to pursue my life dream and make more time for relaxing.
Yes! I just did this. It was so, so tough. I am not a quitter. However, I need to stop over-committing and focus.

Finish all my work before we leave for spring break.
Pretty much, yes!

Enjoy spring break to the fullest!
Why yes I did, thankyouverymuch.

Eat in a way that makes me my healthiest self (and drink plenty of water!) as part of my "pre-mester" (which could be years!).
I haven't been as rigid as I originally wanted to be, but I think it's okay. I am still two months away from trying to get pregnant, so it's okay to not eat as well as I want to eat when I'm actively conceiving and pregnant. In general, I've been pretty good. I'm also realizing how much preparation it takes to eat well and travel at the same time.

Try to sail through another potentially stressful month (and stop filling up my calendar with so much darn stuff!).
Yes! January, February, and March have been packed tightly, but I see bluer skies in April and May. Hooray!

Send my friend a good birthday present.
Yes! Matt and I went to a funeral at the last minute, so I didn't get anything in the mail, but I did create a gift that I could send electronically (see photo above).

Learn as much as I can at the American Montessori Society conference in Boston.
I'm going next week.

Plan a fun get-together for my friends.
Yes, Bocce Ball and a potluck!

Finish our fence project.
Working on this desperately. It's a huge pain in the rump roast.

Buy comfy furniture for our backyard.
Working on the fence part first.

Plant tomatoes.
I'm getting really depressed by how little my seeds have grown since I planted them in January. Argh.

Schedule doctor and dentist appointments (for real this time!).
Hooray! Finally! I have really been dragging my feet on this one...

Start acupuncture.
I did do my initial visit. I decided against it for a variety of reasons, but I will go back to it if I can't regulate my periods through stress reduction, nutrition, and exercise.

Do yoga regularly (I mean it.).
Yes! Yes! (Keep in mind I only do 15 minutes of yoga at a time, but it's a start.)

Really track my cycle.
Yes, I've been doing this as much as possible.

Get an earpiece for my cell phone.
Not yet. Old-school earpieces are really hard to find.

Start walking after dinner.
No, we have not done this. It's hard to cook a meal and then fit in a relaxation ritual every night. Hmm...

Start relaxing at 8:30pm every night.
Yes! Even when I thought it would be impossible to get home by 8:30 every night, I managed to pull it off. Hooray!

Wow. I am on a roll this month. Posting my goals each month really holds me accountable for getting my butt in gear and getting stuff done. So thank you for existing out there in the ether and serving up a major dose of motivation and accountability!

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fear of Not Ovulating

I've suffered from hypochondria for as long as I can remember. When I was in 7th grade, I thought I had prostate cancer because I read a magazine ad that asked, "Do you suffer from frequent urination? Do you take a while to start urinating?"

So part of me hopes that my fears about not ovulating are connected to my personal history of paranoia and not to actual medical fact. I've been peeing on ovulation test strips every day for this entire cycle, hoping that the test line will get darker than the control line. It's a nerve-racking process, although I guess it's good preparation for peeing on pregnancy test strips!

According to my calculations, today is the day I'm supposed to ovulate (although it's kind of hard to predict, since my cycle is so irregular). I did pee into my cup and dip my test strip in, even though we were at a campsite in Big Bend. How's that for dedication?

The control line and the test line actually appeared to be the same color, but it was hard to tell if the test was accurate, due to the f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g temperatures. I'm sure the test strips were stored below their optimal temperature (in a bear box, no less!). I should repeat the test right now, since we're settled into a comfortable B&B in Marfa.

My goal is to make this process a normal part of my day, so it doesn't feel stressful or annoying. Ideally, we would do what doctors recommend and just have sex every 2-3 days, but since I'm already 32, I think it makes sense to be a little more strategic with the process.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Break

Ya-hoo! Matt and I had a rompin' Wild West adventure last week for spring break. I say "ya-hoo" because it's a phrase we picked up from a seven year-old we saw at The Gage Hotel. We watched him walk out of the hotel, jump on a lion statue, and shout (with the most endearing Texas accent), "Ya-hoo!" Matt and I have been saying it ever since.

Our trip started on Sunday. We didn't leave earlier in the weekend because I really wanted time to finish up my work, so I could be entirely free during our vacation, and Matt was eager to play in his soccer game on Sunday. At the last minute, we learned that we couldn't take our bloodhound, Hoss, into Big Bend National Park with us, so I had to take him to Camp Canine.

After a brief spat with each other (we were both irritated about various things), we drove six hours to Uvalde, a small Texas town that offers concealed handgun classes for a mere $25. We checked into a cheap hotel and attempted to swim. We quickly realized, however, that the pool was quite arctic, and that we would rather cozy up under the comforter and watch the National Geographic station (which, by the way, was showing an amazing special about sperm).

The next morning we indulged in the delicious free breakfast (they actually had a waffle iron that made Texas-shaped waffles!) and headed west. Thanks to my iPhone, we realized that we were heading into some nasty weather and that it might not make sense to camp at Big Bend that night. Again, thanks to my trusty iPhone, I booked us a room at a very fancy hotel for a mere $97. We indulged in the most scrumptious veggie burgers we'd eaten in a long time and started a game of Scrabble. We also stopped by the local book store, and I wrote down some books I want to read. Specifically, This Organic Life and Farm City.

The next morning, we headed into Big Bend. The weather was still sub-optimal, but we were eager to camp. As we entered the park, we saw a sign that indicated all the camp sites were full. Fight #2 ensued as we debated about what to do. Finally, we decided to stand in line for a primitive camping permit, even though our chances were looking quite abysmal.

Much to the shock of the obsessive planner that dwells within my head, a spot opened up at a primitive campsite right when it was our turn in line. The ranger booked us in the spot quickly, and gave us the run-down about what to do in case of mountain lion and bear spottings.

We trekked approximately 1.5 miles to our campsite and set up shop. Our spot was completely secluded from the main trail and also secluded from the side trail it was on. Heavenly! After ditching our heavy packs, we continued to follow the South Rim trail for about 12 miles. Then we hiked back down for dinner at the lodge. That night, we barely slept due to the frigid temperatures and the fact that my Therm-a-Rest had a dreadful hole in it, and I essentially had to sleep on the rocky ground. Ouch! No worries. The night sky completely made up for our discomfort. I've never seen so many stars. God bless rural Texas!

The next day, we headed to Marfa, the artist mecca of rural Texas. We ate at the Food Shark, imbibed delicious drinks at Squeeze, got our burning questions answered at the Chamber of Commerce, met Lorna Leedy of Fancy Pony Land fame, and relaxed at our B&B. That night, we journeyed up the mountain to the McDonald Observatory and then to the platform of the mysterious Marfa Lights.

At some point, we stopped along the highway to take photos in the Blue Bonnets. Anyone from Texas understands that it is very important to take annual photos in the wildflowers.

The next day, we ended our trip by driving all the way home. Matt then headed to Austin to hang out with his brothers and friends at South by Southwest. I flew to New York for a consulting job.

The trip reminded me of how lucky I am to have found my Partner in Adventure and Awesomeness. He makes me laugh. He challenges me. His hand always feels good in mine. I'm trying my best to savor this time in our life. We're healthy. We have complete mobility. We have energy. We can drop our dog off at Camp Canine and head west into the sunset.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Movies About Pregnancy

This post over at Progressive Pioneer inspired me to add some movies to our Netflix queue. We've already seen The Business of Being Born, but I just added:

I'm excited!

Also, she recommends a bunch of books that I'll have to check out...

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blog Recommendations

I read lots of good blogs by lovely women who already have kiddos (Progressive Pioneer, Sew Liberated, Soule Mama, cakies--just to name a few), but I'm eager to add some new blogs to my daily dose, written by people who are trying to get pregnant.

Any recommendations?

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


My amazing assistant teacher has been generously bringing me fresh-squeezed juice. I'm starting to wonder if home-juicing might be the best way for me to get some more vitamins and minerals into my diet.

Lord knows I do not need another appliance. We already have a crock pot, George Foreman grill, bread maker, KitchenAid mixer, waffle iron, blender, quesadilla maker, Cuisinart, ice cream maker, fondue pot, and orange juicer (and I'm sure I'm forgetting to name something). Crazy overboard, I know.

Hmm...maybe one of those appliances can be used to juice? Like maybe my Cuisinart?

I have a lot of trouble fitting enough vegetables into my diet. I don't eat any for breakfast, and lunch is just leftover dinner. At dinner, we usually put some vegetables into our meal and have a side salad with some nice greens, but we don't usually cook any additional vegetables.

My assistant teacher recently made me a juice with kale (which I never eat on its own!), a whole beet, ginger, parsley, and some other wholesome goodness. I know it's better to eat whole vegetables rather than juice them in order to get the fiber, but I imagine drinking the juice is better than nothing at all.

Do any of you have experience with juicing? Any recommendations about where to start?

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bocce Ball Potluck

For this month's Heights Time Bank potluck, Matt and I hosted an evening of Bocce ball in our driveway. I gave Matt a few ideas of things we could make for a main course. Once he picked macaroni and cheese, I decided we should run with the theme: "Bland in color but not in flavor."

For the mac & cheese, we followed my best friend's recipe:

  • Mix 2 cups cheddar cheese, 2 cups cooked pasta, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups cottage cheese, and 1 cup of sour cream in a bowl. Transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.
We also made a spinach and artichoke dip:
  • Mix one can of chopped artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, a thing of softened cream cheese, some thawed frozen spinach, a clove of garlic diced, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.
Finally, we made an apple crumble. Deliciousness!

I love having some sort of gathering at least once a month. Even when I'm no longer the time bank coordinator, I'm going to try and maintain the tradition of planning a monthly get together.

Next month will be a picnic at Discovery Green followed by a silent movie. So fun!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Library Books

I trekked to the library in preparation for our spring break trip. Originally, I wanted to go to the big downtown library, but Laziness beat me in arm wrestling and I went to my local branch instead.

Here's what I walked away with (in my Envirosax, which I adore):

Pregnancy Books

Fiction Books
  • After You--"The complexities of a friendship. The unexplored doubts of a marriage. And the redemptive power of literature." Sounds interesting.
  • Day After Night: It's by the author of The Red Tent, which I couldn't put down. I love historical fiction.
  • Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single: Sometimes I need a milkshake in my diet of books. It looks like it will be easy to take down in a few big gulps.
Audio Books
  • Genghis: Bones of the Hills
  • Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival
  • Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy
  • The Prince of Tides
I'm excited to immerse in book during our road trip!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

A New Game to Add to Our Collection

My best friend got me two new games for my birthday. A group of us played one of the games tonight: Snatch It.

Here's how it works:

  1. You start with a bunch of Scrabble-like tiles and turn them face down in a central pile.
  2. Each player takes a turn flipping over a tile.
  3. When someone can make a word with at least three tiles, s/he says the word, grabs the tiles, and sets up the word in front of him/her.
  4. At any time, a player can grab one of the tiles from the middle and use it to make a new word using someone else's words (hence the "snatch it" title).
We played two rounds and had a pretty fun time. I'm always on the lookout for new games...

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Birthday Present Brainstorm

One of my goals for this month is to send my friend a good birthday present.

Hmm...let me think. He's outdoorsy and likes hiking. Maybe I should give him the book I gave Matt a few years ago.

What else? Is there something I could make for him that would be useful? What about handmade stationary with stamped envelopes?

Or what about a cooking class at the Whole Foods in his town? They have "Lunch Express" classes. For $18, you get a cooking class and a scrumptious lunch. That might be fun.


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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My First Acupuncture Visit

I went to the acupuncturist for the first time last week for a 30-minute introduction. I quickly realized: I am a mess. I am a stress fest.

The acupuncturist didn't even have to say anything to me; I was able to self-diagnose. Before I went in, I looked back over the length of my menstrual cycles for the past two years. I quickly realized: The more stress I have in my life, the longer my cycle is.

When I tried to explain my situation to the acupuncturist, I started crying. I was getting stressed about my stress.

Seeing the very tangible impact of stress on my body has inspired me to seriously reduce the stress in my life. I've instituted a nightly Relaxation Ritual, which seems to be helping.

I'm also not sure about whether or not I ovulate. He suggested that I pee on ovulation test strips every day to see if my LH levels rise. I'll also test my temperature every day (but I haven't been able to see a spike in the past).

Because my acupuncturist is so expensive ($150 for the first 1.5-hour visit and $85 for every subsequent visit), I'm going to take a stab at reducing my own stress levels through nutrition, exercise, yoga, nightly relaxation, a decrease in my commitments, and deep breathing. If that doesn't work, then I'll fork over some major bucks and try acupuncture.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Break

Ah...I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.

Matt and I will be taking off for spring break soon. First we'll travel to Big Bend for a few days of camping, and then we'll head to Marfa, TX. At the end of the week, Matt will head to Austin for South by Southwest, and I'll be traveling to New York City for a little consulting.

My goal is to have all my work done before I leave, so I don't have a modicum of responsibility or stress. I'll also need to get ready for the trip.

What has to get done? Let's see:

  1. Get books on CD for the many hours of driving ahead of us (from the library).
  2. Get some real books to read (from the library).
  3. Find a magnetic travel Scrabble game. These are impossible to find. I may need to borrow my friend's version again. Argh.
In terms of my packing list:

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Monday, March 8, 2010

In Good Times and Bad

I talk to my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders about how each of us has multiple urges to do things that often conflict with each other. In an attempt to simplify the concept for 6, 7, and 8 year-olds, I try to talk about it in terms of one voice that tells us to make choices that bring us up and another voice that tells us to make choices that bring us down.

One of Matt's family members just died, and I almost listened to the voice that was advising me to bring myself down.

You see, I was really looking forward to this weekend. I've had a tremendously stressful week (and year, for that matter), and I was eager to run, walk through the forest, get ahead on my work, do yoga, read, cook good food, finish my chores--you know--get my act together.

As Matt got updates from his family about the situation, I kept asking, "Do you want me to go with you to the funeral?" He kept saying that neither he nor his family thought it was necessary for me to be there.

When I woke up Saturday morning, Matt said he had just booked his flight to Indiana. He needed to leave within the hour. Again, I tried to be a good partner by asking, "Should I go to support you and your family?" He kept insisting that it wasn't necessary.

I almost listened to him. I wanted to listen to him. I wanted to be off the hook. I wanted to make the argument that it's too complicated to find dog care for four days in an hour. I wanted to believe that it was too expensive to spend $1,000 on two last-minute plane tickets. I wanted to think that it was impossible to coordinate a substitute for my class for two days of missed instruction.

And then I listened to the voice that urges me to make choices aligned with what I value. I value family and being there for each other and dropping everything to show your love, to provide a shoulder, to hold a hand. Those things are way more important than a relaxing weekend.

These are the commitments we make to our partners and our family members and our friends. I am there for you. I am your person.

Our wedding vows come to mind:

  • Matt, I love you because you make me laugh out loud on a daily basis, like when you come up with alternate names for our dog, Hoss, such as Hoss-tage, Hoss of Pain, or Hoss-car Myer Weiner.
  • I love you because you challenge me to be a better person, like when you made me promise to tell the Penske truck people that we scraped the moving van.
  • I love you because we create adventures together, like Halloween scavenger hunts or road trips out West.
  • I love you because you care so much for other people that you inspire all of us to be more caring. You do things like put toothpaste on my toothbrush and leave it out for me, or come home on the worst day of winter with slippers and a Chia pet herb garden.
  • I love you because I smile every time I wake up to you and when I come home to you. We play together, brainstorm together, create together, read together. Your hand always feels comfortable in mine.

Matt, because I love you, I promise to treat you the way you want to be treated and with the respect you deserve. I promise to build trust with my words and actions. I will be your cheerleader, your nurse, your editor, your therapist, your teacher, your student, and your partner in adventure. I will deeply appreciate all of your positive qualities and not let the passage of time dull that appreciation. When life challenges us, I promise to focus on the resiliency of our love. And if I stumble and fail to live up to my promises, I will look you in the eyes, hold your hands, and apologize with sincerity. I will be my best for you.

Yes, I will be my best for you, Matt, even when I am instinctively selfish and self-centered. I will always try to be my best for you.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Oh, Chickens!

I love that our chickens just welcome themselves inside whenever the door is open. I shoo them out rather quickly, since they aren't wearing diapers and they are quite the little poop factories. But it makes me smile every time.

Happy Friday to you!

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Loving Oneself

I've been trying my best to make a clearing for myself. I fill up my days with so many to-do items.

If I stop and ask myself why I'm such a doer, an answer starts to emerge. Why do I do, do, do? Well, it's because I want to achieve, achieve, achieve. And why do I want to achieve so much? Because I am seeking affirmation and validation from other people. Why do I seek so much external affirmation and validation? Well, that answer is a little more complicated.

First, my biological father didn't want to have anything to do with me when my mom found out she was pregnant. I'm pretty convinced that a blow like that can set one back in the mental health department. It's rejection at the deepest level. For all these years, I've been trying to prove to others and myself that I'm worthy of love.

Second, seeking external affirmation and validation from others is part of our country's Puritanical roots. We are only truly good if the community deems us good. It's built into the ethos of our country, and it feeds the consumerism machine. If we thrive on external affirmation and validation, then we are susceptible to advertising that tells us we need the newest, shiniest thing in order to be accepted.

So how does one go about shifting the balance from external to internal affirmation and validation? That's another slightly more complicated question.

Let me take a stab at generating some ideas:

  1. We should surround ourselves with people who build us up rather than tear us down. I'm doing pretty well in this department (thank, Matt!), but I should do a better job of making sure I provide this for my friends.
  2. We should analyze our actions through this lens. Every time I'm tempted to take on a new project, I should screen it. Am I truly doing this for myself or for someone else? Awareness is the first step.
  3. I should practice daily self-affirmations. I've gotten into the habit of saying thank you for everything I'm grateful for as I fall asleep (and take my 25 deep, abominable breaths), but I should try directing compliments at myself. I should think back through my day and celebrate what I love about myself. In fact, I should try to do this throughout the day as things occur. I should say a lot of "I love you because..."
Any other ideas?

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Therapy Dog

I got to take Hoss to school with me last Friday!

Hoss and I worked really hard last year to get him certified as a therapy dog, so he could officially visit schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.

The Delta Society has a neat program where they let you take the test first. If you pass it, you can then complete a home study kit and become certified. Hoss and I did spend time training before we took the test, but we didn't want to enroll in formal classes, and I didn't want to waste a lot of money or time on anything if he wasn't going to be able to pass the test.

The test was extremely difficult. It was a series of role-plays with multiple evaluators. For example, Hoss and I had to walk through a crowd of yelling, angry people. Then they intentionally dropped a metal bowl on the tin floor. Through it all, Hoss could display nothing more than "mild curiosity." We even had to pass by other dogs, approach a belligerent woman with a walker that she kept slamming on the ground, and pass by a hamburger toy with scented goodness.

It was so amazing to have him at school. The children were extremely excited to see him, and yet his presence made them much calmer and more grounded. He handled the excessive petting quite well!

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to Cook with Dried Black Beans

I'm trying to make the switch from canned black beans to dried ones from the bulk aisle. I've read in lots of places about the toxins hiding in the lining of canned goods (oy vey). Matt and I eat a lot of canned black beans, so I'm eager to figure out how to soak and simmer them in a way that works for our recipes.

So far, the process is not working. I rinsed and soaked them in large pot while I was at work. Then I boiled them, turned down the heat, and let them simmer for an hour and a half. Unfortunately, when it was time to cook our black bean and yam quesadillas, they were hard and dry. Ugh.

Hmm...I just did a little more research, and it seems like my original directions were solid. I think the problem may be a) I think my version of "simmer" is much lower than it actually should be (apparently a simmer is just below boiling--who knew?) and b) I should have let them cook a little longer than 1.5 hours. It seems that it can take up to three hours.

I will definitely try again. It's not too much extra work if I set up the soaking before I leave for work (7am) and then start the simmering when I get home from work (4pm). I'm all for eliminating unnecessary toxins whenever possible...

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Monday, March 1, 2010

March: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Photo courtesy of Nikki McClure's 2010 Calendar

It's March. Hooray! I always like the start of new months. It represents a mini-moment of reflection and rejuvenation. It's like a little version of New Year's all over again.

What should I celebrate about February?

  1. I enrolled in a course about how to start your non-profit and a course about how to actualize your dreams.
  2. I met all my consulting deadlines.
  3. I made quilt to auction off at our Montessori fundraiser.
  4. I met up with lots of old friends for dinner.
  5. I attended professional development at the Houston Zoo.
  6. I planned a night of bowling for a group of friends.
  7. I attended a stress management workshop.
  8. I took major steps toward accomplishing my life vision.
  9. I tracked our monthly spending regularly.
  10. I've been running consistently.
  11. I read lots of books about conception and fertility.
  12. I maintained my blogs regularly.
What should I aspire to in March?
  1. Eliminate at least two commitments in my life, as a way to make a clearing that allows me to pursue my life dream and make more time for relaxing.
  2. Finish all my work before we leave for spring break.
  3. Enjoy spring break to the fullest!
  4. Eat in a way that makes me my healthiest self (and drink plenty of water!) as part of my "pre-mester" (which could be years!).
  5. Try to sail through another potentially stressful month (and stop filling up my calendar with so much darn stuff!).
  6. Send my friend a good birthday present.
  7. Learn as much as I can at the American Montessori Society conference in Boston.
  8. Plan a fun get-together for my friends.
  9. Finish our fence project.
  10. Buy comfy furniture for our backyard.
  11. Plant tomatoes.
  12. Schedule doctor and dentist appointments (for real this time!).
  13. Start acupuncture.
  14. Do yoga regularly (I mean it.).
  15. Really track my cycle.
  16. Get an earpiece for my cell phone.
  17. Start walking after dinner.
  18. Start relaxing at 8:30pm every night.
I'm excited about the month!

Note to self: Here are some goals for next month that I don't want to inundate myself with this month:
  • Start looking into the driveway project.
  • Get a potting area set up in our backyard.

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