Friday, August 29, 2008

Woman on a Mission

I've been at home today and it's been wonderful. After a very hectic and chaotic week, it was nice to have a little down time--even better since Labor Day is Monday, which means an extra long weekend!

I got a lot of regular work done today for my job, but I also got to the grocery store and did my shopping for the week. I've got a chicken in the crock pot right now...and I made a blueberry pie...and sugar cookies...and I'll be making cheddar-bacon mashed potatoes and another veggie when it gets closer to dinner time. I love puttering around the kitchen.


I also painted my daughter's toenails. She's been running around, showing them off to whoever will look!

Anyone have plans for the Labor Day holiday? Weather permitting, we're going to the Arthur Cheese Festival this weekend. My darling husband is going to be participating in a Cheese Eating Contest. That was his only stipulation when he agreed to my proposal for going on a mini-vacation to an Amish community. I'm charging the batteries in my camera right now, so I should have lots of power for plenty of pictures.

I have to scoot now, but hopefully, I'll have some good pictures to share later this weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thank goodness for the occasional lunch break at work...otherwise, I probably wouldn't be posting at all this week.

Things are unusually crazy, just in general, plus classes started at the university, so I'm back to having early days and late nights three days a week. The good thing? In spite of the craziness, I'm keeping up with my plans from my Five Things in Five Days list. Not always easy, but I'm still doing it. I may have to start working on a new list--try and add more important things that I've been putting off for a while now.

Anyway, just thought I'd say a quick hi to everyone. I'll be catching up on everyone else's blogs later tonight or tomorrow.

Until then...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I...

I...was inspired to do this after reading Crusty Beef's post on August 19th.

I...suffer from staurophobia. You can read one of my old posts on it here.

I...still peek under my daughter's bed and make sure her closet door is closed tight before bed, just in case there really is a boogey man. This is entirely for my benefit, not hers.

I...love music. I would gladly trade in my television for unlimited free music downloads at walmart.com.

I...am pretty sure my husband would be upset if I traded in our television.

I...have a bit of OCD and sometimes it interferes with healthy relationships. Ask my husband how long I was in the basement last night cleaning while he was upstairs waiting for me to watch a movie with him.

I...believe in ghosts and magic, and sometimes I'm a little disappointed when it turns out there's a perfectly reasonable explanation.

I...am one of the most serious people I know, but I have a fun, sneaky side, too!

I...believe in God and I believe that He answers all of my prayers. Even when they're not the answers I want.

I...have been feeling better in general since I started getting more sleep. It's been hard to let some of the household chores go, but the extra 1-2 hours of sleep each night has done wonders for me.

I...believe I'm working in the wrong field. I might be good at what I do, but there's nowhere near enough space for creativity. When I was growing up I wanted to be a dancer (mom said I was too tall and there was no money in it...ummmm, "Dancing with the Stars"...); I wanted to be a hairdresser and makeup artist (mom said there was no money in that...ummm, hello Bobbi Brown, Sonia Kashuk, and all the award winning makeup artists, not to mention the Red 7 Salon (I miss you, David!); I wanted to paint (dad said my pictures weren't that good, but some of Picasso's stuff is kinda ugly); so on and so on. I don't think my parents were trying to kill my dreams, but they were looking out for my financial future. Too bad human services doesn't pay more...

I...am not very good at telling people when and why I'm upset or angry. Half the time, I can't even explain it to myself. I can write down what's wrong, but I'm not as good at verbalizing.

I...believe people should keep all promises. One of the quickest ways to get on my bad side is to make a promise to me and not keep it. A promise is a promise, no matter how big or small it is, and short of some kind of disaster, it needs to be kept.

I...have to stop here and get to the grocery store. I have a turkey breast cooking in the crock pot and nothing much to make with it. Trader Joe's, here I come!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hero Status Confirmed?

Today, one of my co-workers stopped by office to go over a handful of work-related issues. After he finished, but before he left my office, he stopped and looked at me and said, "Martha, it just seems to me that you shouldn't even be here."

I was a bit taken aback and asked him what he meant.

"Well," he said, "it's not that you don't do a good job. You do. It's just that, well, I guess I just see you doing more. And it's not here."

I laughed. "You trying to push me out the door?"

He was serious. "No. I just don't think this is what you're meant to do. You're good at it. So good at it. Nobody else here could do your job. Nobody would want to do your job, believe me. We all think your job must suck, but it's a big help to all of us. I just think you'd be much happier if you were able to focus on being a wife and mother. When I come and talk to you about work, you're always so professional. But when someone asks you about your family, it's like your whole personality changes. You change. You. It's like you become human."

I raised my eyebrows at him. "People around here think I'm inhuman when I work? That's not cool, especially since I work in human services."

He roared. "No. You know what I mean. You're just softer when you talk about being a wife and mom. But when you're working, I don't know. It's like you're super human. Or crazy."

"I'd agree with the crazy part."

He left my office after that and I went to pick up my daughter. When I did, she barrelled into my arms, hugging and kissing me for all she was worth. Then she told me she loved me and that I'm her hero. I had to swallow over a huge lump in my throat. Super human or crazy--doesn't matter. I'm her hero.

At least until she's a teenager and I'm a big embarrassment, right?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Countdown to the End of the Day...

It's only 8:30am. I don't know how I'm going to make it through the day. It's been one of "those" days...you know, the kind where everything goes wrong and you feel like you should go back to bed and start the day over. Or sleep until tomorrow and pretend today never happened.

Ugh.

My alarm went off at 5:30am. Tired. So tired. Too tired to work out. Hit snooze. (I rarely hit snooze.) Went back to sleep. Alarm went off again at 5:40am. Turned it off. Slept until almost 6:30. Shoot. Have to get to the store before work this morning to get snacks for family support group tonight.

Shower, dress, eat breakfast. Sweating profusely. Humidity is horrible. Change clothes. Put on makeup, do hair. Sweat through second set of clothes. Change clothes again. Getting irritated because air conditioning is running and dehumidifier is on. Still sweating. Maybe all this sleep I'm getting has kicked my metabolism into high gear? Daughter crying...doesn't want mommy to go to work today. Pry child off leg and try not to feel horribly guilty. Feel guilty anyway.

Stop at Wal-Mart. Tear shirt getting out of the car. Buy snacks for group. Buy new shirt. Arrive to work late. Have allergy attack in lobby. Swollen eyes, runny nose, painful sneezing. Drop bag holding cookies for group. Broken cookies everywhere.

Get into my office. Change shirt. Dislike funky "new shirt" smell. Nothing I can do about it. Still sneezing. Drop pen on floor. Hit head on desk while reaching for pen.

Pause, breathe deep and try not to cry. Failed momentarily. Pulled it together. Decided to blog about it instead. Pray for me.

This is not the meaningful post I was planning. More later...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Zzzzz...zzzzz

So tired tonight. I've been getting to bed earlier, which is so fantastic, I can't even describe it. The only hitch is that now that I'm getting almost enough sleep, I really feel it when I don't. I woke up at 4am for no good reason and I couldn't go back to sleep. I've yawned so much today that my jaw hurts. I've got the Olympics on in the background, watching the men's springboard diving...I think that's what it's called.

Anyway, I'll try to post something a little more meaningful tomorrow. I'm just not together enough tonight. Good night, everyone.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Garage sale is done. Thank goodness! The good news is that we got rid of so much stuff, I can't quite believe it. The bad news is that there's still a ton left over. After so much time spent dragging all of it up from the basement, I don't want to put any of it back down there!

All in all, I can't complain, and honestly, a lot of the things we didn't sell can still be donated and used by people who really need it. I've got lots of baby girl clothes--four bins full--and even if we keep half of it as a "just in case we have another baby" backup, there would still be plenty (if it's a girl). Almost all of the baby toys went, along with several children's books and some bigger items (like a clunky old dresser) were snatched up early yesterday.

Lots of other people in our neighborhood had garage sales this weekend, and it was just slow all over. It's a sad day when the tight economy means people can't even afford to buy things at a garage sale. One lady down the street spent about $20 in advertising her garage sale, but it didn't do any good. Our sale was maybe half the size of hers, but we made more.

That's about it--I'm off to catch up on blogs!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Busy Weekend

We're having a garage sale today and it's absolutely crazy! There are either 18 people crammed into the garage and driveway or nobody for an hour at a time. All I know for sure is that putting this sale together was A LOT of hard work. I'll be glad when tomorrow at 2pm hits, because it'll be done. Whew!

On an unrelated subject, I've been looking over my Five Things in Five Days list. I haven't done too bad...I did start going to bed an hour earlier and it's made a huge difference. The only problem is that I was up really late last night (into the wee hours of this morning) putting price tags on items for the sale, and that really messed me up. I've been getting that extra 30 minutes of physical activity. Yesterday was actually over an hour while my daughter and I kicked around a soccer ball in the front yard. I've been doing really well with cutting back on my computer time--I think I only had one slip-up where I turned it on before my little one was in bed. As for the books, they're not all at bedtime, but that's okay. The munchkin gets a minimum of 45 minutes of reading time everyday. Some people have told me that's too much, but she really enjoys it and is gradually getting the hang of sounding out words and reaching the earliest stages of reading. That is really exciting!

I've got to run...my turn to sit in the garage for a while to give my hubby a break...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Five Things in Five Days

I'm on my lunch break at work right now, trying to fend off a bad case of indigestion from eating too fast, and I was thinking about things in my life that I want to improve. So, I've come up with an idea...Five Things in Five Days. I've heard and read that it takes, on average, 21 days to make, break or change a habit, but I'm going to try and make some changes in the next five days. I don't know how often I'll do something like this--maybe once a month?--but I'll try to change up the themes.

In any case, I've decided on Five Things in Five Days that I can do to be a better mommy.

1. Go to bed an hour earlier. On average, I get to bed at 11:30pm, which is way too late when I've got a family, a home and two jobs to take care of. My goal is to actually be in bed no later than 10:30pm on work nights. Plus, more sleep means I'll be less crabby and less prone to getting irritated with my little one.

2. I'm not going to use (or even turn on) the home computer in the evenings until after my little munchkin is in bed for the night.

3. I will devote 30 minutes to engaging in physical activity (playing outside, tag, dancing, etc.) with my little girl each afternoon or evening that I'm not working my second job.

4. I'll go back to reading 2-3 stories to my baby cakes each night instead of just one.

5. I will take one afternoon and play hide-and-seek with her for as long as she wants. You'll have to pray for me on this one...my girl could play hide-and-seek for hours!

This should be a fun way for me to make some of the changes I've been wanting to make for a while now. I'm actually looking forward to it.!

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Day in History and The Story of Us

My husband and I have been married for seven years. Seven. Here's a (slightly crooked) picture from the big day:

The fact that the photo is slightly crooked speaks volumes about our marriage in general. Nothing has really gone as planned, or as expected, or as hoped for...nothing has followed the straight and narrow for us.


We got married after maintaining a two-year, long-distance relationship. Our early days as newlyweds were interesting, to say the least. We didn't really argue, but I have to admit, I had a harder time adjusting to co-habitating than he did. It was sort of like, "Dude, pick up your socks and get your crap off my dresser." Over time, though, we settled into pretty decent routines. And wonder of all wonders, we discovered that I can cook! And I'm not being boastful or proud. I really can cook and I can cook well! Our first year was filled with all kinds of craziness, including doing laundry every week at the laundromat or at my parents' house...my darling husband trying to find a job...me finishing my Master's Degree...barely making it paycheck to paycheck.

We had our first real fight the day before our one-month wedding anniversary and it ended with me throwing a potato peeler across the kitchen. We went to bed without speaking that night. The next day was September 11, 2001. Our silence was broken when I was driving to work and called home, asking him to put on CNN to confirm what I had just heard on the radio...the second tower being hit in New York. That put things into perspective in a hurry.


That first year flew by, as did the second year.


In the summer of 2003, my husband was finishing his Master's Degree and had to complete an internship. We were put in a unique and difficult situation...he had to complete his internship in Wisconsin and at the same time, I was offered a promotion with a really nice salary increase at my company here in Illinois. We agonized over the decision and ended up living separately from September 2003 to January 2004, seeing each other only on weekends, as we had done when were dating. I found out later that some of our friends had actually placed bets on whether the "internship" was a secret code for a separation and divorce. Nice friends, huh?


We wanted to buy a house, but weren't quite ready yet, so we settled into a new apartment while my darling looked for a new job, with hopes of being able to put his new Master's Degree to good use. It was a difficult time as we re-adjusted to living together--it was like being newlyweds again, only instead of it just being, "Dude, pick up your socks and get your crap off my dresser", it also included the rigors of narrowing our choices for a house and wondering if we were ever going to have a family of our own.


By summer of 2004, we decided to build a house in a new subdivision and finally accepted that we were going to be looking into adoption. Nature hadn't exactly (ahem) run its course with us, and since we knew adoption would probably take a year or longer, we dumped our life savings into a down payment on our new house. It was Thursday, September 9, 2004 the day we signed all the papers for the house and handed over the cashier's check to the builder. I hadn't been feeling well--very tired and fatigued, irritable, uncomfortable. I'd called the doctor's office and based on my history, he thought it was my thyroid, but asked me to take a pregnancy test before my appointment on Monday. I grumbled about it--I'd been taking pregnancy tests on and off for three years, always with the same result. But fine, okay, whatever. I told him I'd take it Saturday and see him on Monday.


My husband was working on Saturday and I had bought one of those nifty digital pregnancy tests--where the words Pregnant or Not Pregnant come up, instead of those goofy pink or blue lines. I did the test that morning, September 11, 2004, set it on the counter and proceeded to brush my teeth. I glanced down after a few seconds and saw the word "Pregnant." I shrugged and thought, 'Oh, the NOT didn't come up yet.' I continued to brush my teeth and two minutes later, I looked at it again and yup, there it was..."Pregnant." I actually picked up the test and banged it on the counter, asking out loud why it wasn't working.


Suffice to say that those two minutes changed everything. I took another test, and when my husband got home, he went out and bought two more tests (different brands) and I took those, too. All came up positive. Holy buckets. I was having a baby! And our entire life savings just went into a down payment for a house! It was an anxiety provoking time, but of course, it worked out as best as it could under the circumstances.


On our fourth wedding anniversary, we were the proud parents of a three month old and I was getting ready to go back to work. Things had been tense between us (adjusting to a new baby and all), but that anniversary was...well, it was just bad. My second day back at work, my husband dropped a series of bombs on me (which, now that I'm thinking about it, all consisted of four word sentences--NOT four-letter words. There was no cussing. Just a series of short, curt, blunt sentences.) and altered the course of our marriage.


On September 11, 2005, while most people were thinking about the anniversary of 9/11, I was thinking about how only a year earlier, I'd found out I was pregnant, and now, my daughter was being Baptized. I took a lot of nonsense from family and friends for having her Baptized that day, but that's a whole different story by itself.


The rest of 2005 and a good chunk of 2006 passed like something out of the Twilight Zone for me. The times were mostly bad (for us as a couple) and scary (for our daughter, who was seriously sick during that time) and by the time our fifth wedding anniversary rolled around, I was walking around with a permanent headache. Things were better between us, but definitely different. There were no "Happy Anniversary" wishes between us that year. In 2007, things continued to improve, though by that time, we both fully understood that there was no "going back to the way things used to be." I was more accepting of that than he was...of course, my logic was that I didn't want to go back to whatever it was that got us into such an awful mess in the first place.


A lot took place between then and now, and I look back at it and see that I have changed, many times over. I always believed that the core of someone doesn't change over time, but these past several years have altered that belief for me. If I could have seen into the future back in 2005, I wouldn't have even recognized myself today. It's neither good nor bad. It's just different.


I try to explain that to my husband. We love each other deeply--the sacrifices we've made just to get where we're at are testament to that--but I tell my husband often that I love him differently now than I did three years ago or seven years ago, or even nine years ago when we first got together. We know each other on completely different levels and have learned to cope with that.


I think the love between us is wise beyond the years of our marriage. The priest who performed our wedding ceremony told me that a few years ago, at the same time he told me that he and God had faith in our ability to heal the damage that had wreaked havoc on our relationship. I couldn't see it then, but I see it now. I see it for what it is. I may not always like it, but I get it.


We've covered a lot of territory in the past seven years...gone the distance, I guess.


Speaking of which, our song is "The Distance" by Evan and Jaron, which nobody ever heard of until it was used in the movie "Serendipity". We danced to the acoustic version at our wedding, but you can hear the un-acoustic version and see the last few minutes of the movie "Serendipity" here.


Oh, and honey...Happy Anniversary. What a crazy ride it's been!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

I've been busy with my camera.


Here are some pictures from my garden:


Come on now, be honest. It kind of looks like two creepy, green eyes staring at you, right? The picture itself turned out really well. No editing or anything. Just nice, vibrant color!


That tomato is taking forever to ripen. I think it's afraid of being eaten...

We had a busy day Friday. My husband and I took a rare day off from work and spent it out as a family. We opened the museum and closed the zoo. We hit the Museum of Science and Industry bright and early. The munchkin had a blast at the train display...

Isn't that size difference amazing? She wanted so badly to climb up on the train, but there are signs all over now that you have to stay off--bummer. I wanted to climb up, too.


Okay, I enjoyed the train display too. Look, I'm an engineer!

We had lunch after the train display and then went on a tour of the U-505 Submarine--the only German submarine in the United States! The historical value alone was amazing. I have to tell you, though, I got a really, really eerie feeling while walking around inside. No photography was allowed, so I can't show you anything from it, but it was...well, it was something else. If you're ever in Chicago, I highly recommend it. Here's a shot from the outside...



We checked out a lot of the displays, including the Idea Factory and the display of farm machinery. The munchkin went crazy over Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. Words can't even begin to describe it. It's one of those things you have to see to appreciate. We ended our trip with a stroll down Yesterday's Main Street and a stop in Finnigan's Ice Cream Parlor. I'm sure I consumed a full day's worth of calories in the sundae I ate, but it was totally worth it.

Poor kiddo was exhausted...


Before she fell asleep, we gave her the choice of either heading home or stopping at Brookfield Zoo. She opted for the zoo, so off we went.

We got there around 3:30 and it was perfect because everyone else was leaving. It was like having the zoo all to ourselves! We wandered around--the weather was perfect, right around 78 degrees, sunny, but lots of shade from the trees. The little one was tired, so we toted her around in her wagon. We made our way to the lions, the elephants, giraffes, camels, zebras, tropic world, the ostriches...


What else? Oh wait...there was the bison.

Isn't he an ornery looking bugger? He was the biggest out of the four of them that were out, but had the sweetest eyes.

The munchkin and her daddy got wet in the elephant sprayer and they were just cracking up...


We stayed for dinner and poked around until the staff literally started to shoo us out. Rush hour was over by then, so it was a smooth ride home. After putting the little one down, I could barely keep my eyes open. Lots of walking, lots of fresh air, lots of relaxing...I crashed last night. AND my darling husband let me sleep until 9:30 this morning. I don't remember the last time I got that much sleep and I'm feeling good today!

So, that's what I've been up to. Hope everyone else is having a good weekend!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Template Problems

For whatever reason, for the past two days, my blog's template has been completely wacky. The colors weren't right, I couldn't see the links, couldn't put up posts, nothing.

So, I've temporarily picked this template. It's not quite what I'm looking for, but it'll do for now. Sorry the left margin is crammed with so much stuff...I'm going to have to sort through it all and re-arrange everything.

(Big Sigh)

Ah well. If that's the worst thing I encounter this week, that's okay.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Super Slacker

I might be a day late, but I do have a menu plan. Instead of Menu Plan Monday, I'll call it Tardy Tasty Tuesday.

Monday (yesterday)~ Well, all of us were a little under the weather, so it was soup and sandwiches. Good comfort food.

Tuesday (today)~ I made cheese quesadillas with brown rice, and my daughter and I split a big bowl of raw sugar snap peas. Yum.

Wednesday~ Oven fried chicken with leftover brown rice and whatever vegetables I pluck from the garden.

Thursday~ Italian marinated steak with vegetable radiatore and zucchini.

Friday~ Not sure yet. The hubby and I both took a vacation day (no work, woo-hoo!), and if we spend the day at the zoo or the museum, we'll probably splurge and eat out. Otherwise, I might make egg salad and dice up some bell peppers--we'll have a picnic on the deck!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Desperate Prayers

I think that in times of extreme desperation, most people pray. Sometimes the prayers are nothing more than jumbled thoughts or words, sometimes they're formal and flowery, full of scripture. I think even the most hardened people pray at some point in their lives. I'm Catholic, but I went to college with a woman who was a few years older than me, and a self-proclaimed Atheist--and when I say Atheist, I mean Atheist in the most extreme sense of the word.


But I'll never forget during senior year, when she took time off to have her first baby. When she came back, she had shared how something had gone terribly wrong during the delivery and for several days, things were touch and go for her tiny baby boy. Nobody was sure if he was going to make it. She told me that she remembered standing outside of the NICU, looking at him, attached to wires and tubes, struggling to take each breath. And she found herself thinking and sometimes even out loud, begging, pleading, bargaining and bartering with someone or something that wasn't there. She just wanted her son to be okay. She said, "I don't know what I was doing. It's not like anyone was listening. The doctors were doing what they could, and it must have worked, because he's fine now."


I remember giving her a strange look and saying, "You were begging, pleading, bargaining and bartering with someone or something that wasn't there. I've gotta tell you, that sounds an awful lot like praying to me."

She went into a monologue about how she's not religious and doesn't believe in anything but fact. I smiled and said, "Well, it's a fact that you were desperate for your son to be okay and you were pleading for it. And he's fine now. Maybe God was answering your prayers."

I watched her face slowly change and could almost see the light bulb blink on over her head as she considered my words. "Maybe..." she said.

What got me thinking about all of this is the result of a book I started reading. I'm an avid reader and I'll read just about anything I can get my hands on. I don't always enjoy what I read (the current book being a good example), but I typically find something that jumps out at me, even if I'm not enjoying it.

This comes from the novel Disobedience by Naomi Alderman:

When the attendant took them down to the mikvah pool Esti had spoken secretly with the Almighty. She had said: "Please, Lord, cleanse me and make me whole. [...] I will be different." [...] In recent years, though, she was only able to utter the first word of her prayer. "Please," she would say in her heart as she entered the water, "please." Each time, she wanted to continue the prayer, but did not know what to request.

I think about the number of times I've prayed, but the prayer seems aimless, like I can't grasp exactly what it is that I'm praying for. I think those are the dark hours, when the prayers are desperate, that I'm grateful God knows my heart. On the days when all I can utter is the word, "Please," I know that God knows exactly what it is I'm praying for and why I'm praying for it.

The times I've whispered, "Please," as my daughter sits in the middle of the night, barely able to take a breath, as my husband and I fumble with her medication to bring her some relief...when the load I'm carrying seems too heavy...when a migraine has me in its grip and tentacles of pain are squeezing my head...when I'm angry and struggling to keep my temper in check...when my husband is having a bad day at work...each time I meet with a client who is in the throes of human suffering...each time, I just whisper, "Please," and I know God is listening.

And you know what? I think He listens to everyone. I believe in my heart that all prayers are answered. Granted, it's not always the answers we need or want, but they are answered, which is why I keep praying, no matter what.