Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Miscellany #2

Monday Miscellany is for recounting my weekend (in totally non-chronological order) and whatever thoughts are swimming around that may not make for great standalone posts. Enjoy!

I saw our local city college's closing night performance of Avenue Q this weekend with a couple of girlfriends, and it was hilarious (and kind of R-rated). It's a musical about the quarter-life crisis (basically) which involves puppets and racism and sex and unemployment and a bunch of other hot topics. The actors were really great, the set and theater were awesome, and I was laughing throughout the whole show. Another successful girl outing in the books!


A couple weekends back, I got to see my brother, sister-in-law and nephew in real life for the first time in a year! They had been living in China teaching English, and I am selfishly SOOOO glad they are back in the states. I mean seriously, how did I go an entire year without kissing this little guy's cheeks?


Last week I used a LivingSocial deal at a new place in town called The Painted Cabernet. It's basically an art studio where you are taught step-by-step how to create a specific painting, and you get to drink alcohol while you do it. Clearly these people know their market here in Santa Barbara: wannabe artists who love wine! I'm totally going again this weekend with Amy and hopefully a few other friends, and I'm super stoked! Here's my first masterpiece:


When I'm in a boring meeting at work taking minutes (yawn) and there comes a topic that I don't have to take extensive notes on (or really pay attention to at all), I doodle. Most recently, I've been writing out all the names Joe and I have come up with for our hypothetical future children. Last week I narrowed it down to two perfect boy names and one and a half perfect girl names. (The second girl name is still a little iffy, but I think I have the first name at least nailed down.) Of course, I can't control the genders of any of our kids, but I jokingly told Joe last week that we can have no more than two boys and no more than two girls, because there's no way I can come up with a third perfect name for either sex. I have a very specific, very ridiculous method of choosing my nonexistent children's names, and since I have to get Joe's stamp of approval on top of making sure the names fit my silly rules, the possibilities are NOT endless. (But I am super stoked about the names we have (more or less) solidified.)


I wasn't planning on doing it this year, but I signed up for VEDA again. It's Vlog Every Day in August, and it is a ton of fun. Last year it was a bit overwhelming (mostly because my laptop is VERY old and VERY slow, so editing took forever and often crapped out on me), so this year my plan is to do a bare-bones effort: keep them around two minutes long, one take using my phone, no edits. And if I miss a day or can't find anything worth saying about the topic, I'll deal. Mostly I decided to go for it because I'm hoping I'll be able to do at least a couple fun videos while I'm in SCOTLAND! (SO EXCITED.) Also, I apologize in advance for the fact that I absolutely cannot subscribe to all 100+ participants. But I'm going to try to keep up with a bunch of them and I'll explore the other folks as I have time.


Lastly: I am currently reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. One of the pastors at my church referenced it in a sermon recently, and I decided I needed to know the whole story. It's by far the longest book I've picked up in quite a while (800+ pages on my Nook!) but I'm liking it so far. I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to keep up with all the Russian names or that the story would just be dull or depressing, but so far (150 pages in) I am not regretting this decision. In fact, as an English major, I should probably be ashamed that I'm just barely picking up my first Dostoyevsky!


How was your weekend?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Situation

A few years ago on my old blog, I wrote a post after finding out that my grandfather had been having an affair with another woman, after 56 years of marriage to my grandmother. It was one of those posts where I just wrote my feelings, without much structure or destination. The bulk of the post was my shock and disbelief that a man who served as the Christian pillar of our family could do something so awful and despicable. I couldn't wrap my mind around it.

Something happened recently that made me go back and reread that post (from November 2009, three months after Joe and I got married). Before I talk about The Situation, here's part of that post:

It makes me fear for what kind of changes Joe and I will each undergo over the years. How many possible ways there are for us to screw up, to grow apart, to stop really knowing each other.

But I’m choosing to take this fear and, rather than run from it, face it head on. I’m choosing to be totally vulnerable to him, to give him every ounce of love I can muster up, and to commit to actively maintain open lines of communication so that when tough issues arise (as they have and will continue to do beyond 56 years of marriage), we will work through them.

And I’m choosing to look this fear straight in the eyes and say, “As much as I’m afraid of failure, I am twice as determined to trust in God for the success of this marriage.” I know we can’t survive of our own willpower. My grandfather has proven that.

All I can do now is focus on my own marriage, and determine here and now that I will NEVER follow his example. I will never try to make it work on my own. I will cherish every moment, whether happy or full of grief and frustration — EVERY moment with my husband. I will not let my grandfather’s decisions define my own marriage, except as the ANTONYM to how Joe and I are going to do things.

Never say never, right? 

I knew, when I wrote that, that it wasn't always going to be easy. I knew Joe and I would encounter difficulties, and that there would be times when we'd have to work SERIOUSLY hard to make it work. I just never expected to be less than three years into our marriage when the first REALLY big test arose.

Earlier this year, I had let myself forget to cherish every moment. I was trying to do it on my own; I was running on autopilot in my marriage. I wasn't actively pursuing communication with Joe, and because of that, we were living pretty separate lives. We were like roommates. See, I had told Joe a million times in the earliest parts of our relationship that I needed "me time" -- time away from big crowds of people, time to de-stress and not worry about being sociable or fun. And I had drilled this idea so strongly into him that Joe felt like he was being the best husband if he just let me do my own thing ALL the time. But it evolved over time into me feeling like Joe just didn't CARE what I was doing or have any interest in being a part of it. I had NO idea it was because of what I had told him about my "me time" that he was acting the way he was. We weren't communicating.

In the meantime, I was developing new passions, and I felt like Joe wanted nothing to do with them. I was getting into hiking, running and personal training. I was studying for my NASM exam and spending a lot of time out with girlfriends at karaoke. I would think about asking Joe to come to karaoke, then figure he would only come if he felt obligated and wouldn't really like it, so most of the time I didn't ask. I just told him I was going out, and he stayed home -- and I always figured he was perfectly fine with that. I didn't realize until awhile later that I was beginning to resent Joe; I felt like he really didn't care if we spent time together. And all that time, Joe was feeling resigned to this life of separate-ness, thinking that it was what I wanted: my stupid "me time."

So that's the background (in a nutshell) for how The Situation all started.

One night in late February, I was at karaoke with two girlfriends, and one of the "regulars" from this place, Kris, came to our table to chat. He was interested in one of my friends, but we all talked casually and had a good time that night. I ended up talking with Kris more after my friends left (big mistake: not leaving the bar when your friends are all leaving), and we exchanged numbers because he was interested in joining my Color Run team. I'll spare all the details, but that was the beginning of the six weeks of my life I wish I could do over. Kris and I began to text, never about anything "inappropriate," except that the fact we were texting was, in itself, inappropriate. Then we started getting coffee together. Then we went on a few runs together. Then we were meeting up almost weekly so he could help me study my NASM flash cards. And I was keeping all of this from Joe.

It never got physical, and from Kris's (non-Christian) perspective, we weren't doing anything "wrong." He respected that I was married, and he had no intention of trying to pursue me romantically or physically. But he WAS pursuing me emotionally, in that he had begun to replace Joe as the person I shared things with -- feelings, opinions, interests, and time. And I knew it wasn't right.

Still, I kept trying to make justifications and excuses in my head for why it was okay for me to be doing this. It didn't help that Kris supplied me with his very secular perspective, saying things like, "I'm just like another girlfriend," or, "Would he care if you were hanging out like this with your brother? I think of you as a sister." He would tell me that Joe clearly had trust issues, and that if I didn't feel safe telling him about me and Kris, it was obviously due to something Joe was doing wrong. But eventually my shame and guilt (and the knowledge deep down that no amount of rationalization could make this thing "right") finally won over my selfishness, and I decided to tell Joe everything.

The entire Situation lasted about six weeks. But repairing the damage I did to my marriage will take much, much longer. Thankfully, I have a husband who is completely committed to our relationship and wants us to be happier and stronger than ever before. We've been seeing a really great counselor, and we are learning how to be better communicators, how to better support each other, and how to forgive and trust again.

There's much more to this story, but I don't want to share it all here. I may be sharing more than necessary as it is, but I feel like I need to stop carrying it around like a big secret, because I don't want it to have any hold on me.

One thing I don't want anyone to take from this is the notion that Joe did something to cause me to make the choices I did. He was trying to support me in the way he thought was best, based on my poor explanation of needing "me time" -- when in reality, as we discovered through the counseling process, I really meant "us time." Before I was married, "me time" was indeed just ME. But Joe is an extension of me, and I don't feel drained around him like I sometimes do in larger social situations. I don't have to perform or be "cool" with Joe, and I don't have to plaster on a big smile if I don't feel like it. There are of course other issues we've been uncovering and dealing with, but I'm trying to keep it as concise as possible while still getting the story across.

Anyway, please don't make Joe out to be a bad guy in this. He has been the most amazing husband to me from day one, and this awful Situation has proven him to be even better than I could possibly dream. He could have thrown in the towel and refused to trust me or forgive me, but instead he has covered me in compassion and love. We are surviving this, and we will survive anything else that is thrown in our path because we're both actively committed to it. And as much as I wish I could undo what I did, forget it all, or pretend it never happened, I have to remember that I am capable of ugly things. I have to stay on my guard against Satan's attacks, because I NEVER want to hurt my husband like that again.

And, now that I know I am susceptible to the kind of temptation that could draw me emotionally toward other men, our counselor advised that I should reconsider pursuing personal training as a career. Working closely with guys (whether colleagues or clients) in a fitness setting -- something I'm already passionate about -- is an invitation for Satan to creep in and create temptation to become emotionally involved again. So, because Joe and I both agreed with our counselor's wise advice, I've put personal training on hold indefinitely. I am bummed that training is pretty much out of the picture, but I'm taking responsibility for my choices, and I'm not about to put myself in a situation that could easily cause that kind of temptation.

I am just SO unbelievably thankful that God protected me throughout this Situation. I'm thankful that Kris wasn't physically abusive or pushy. I'm thankful that I felt God urging me to confess and make things right before the emotions had a chance to develop into anything more. I'm thankful that God gave Joe the strength, courage and grace to forgive me and continue to love me. I'm thankful for the friends I was able to confess to, who prayed for me and didn't abandon me because of my failure.

I realize it's a risk to share this kind of thing here. But this new blog is all about aspiring toward joy, and I feel a HUGE amount of joy now that I'm free of this ugly sin. God is good, and he has such good things planned for my relationship with Joe. I want to give a complete picture of our journey, even if it means exposing a part of my past that I'm not at all proud of. And maybe my story will help someone in their own journey.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hair Adventures!

I got a DRASTIC haircut this week. It's more drastic than anything I've done in about six years, and I am soooo in love with it! I thought it would be fun to take a look at my hair adventures for the last 7-8 years.

(Click to enlarge)

 This is a montage of my many colors and styles since 2004 (with a few throwbacks in the lower right corner just for fun) You can see that I had short- to medium-length hair (starting in the late '90s, not pictured) all the way until I met Joe in 2008. I never had the patience to grow it any longer than shoulder-length, so I'd inevitably chop it off once it got there.

But Joe wanted to see me with long hair. He begged me to let it grow out, and the trade-off was that he would play with my hair whenever I wanted him to, as long as I kept it growing. Honestly, my love for my husband (and for having my hair played with) was sometimes the only thing that helped me resist the urge to go for a big change.

I did come to love having long hair, for the most part. But there are a few things about it that got to me, like:
  • Catching it whenever I put my purse over my shoulder
  • Snagging it in the car door when I sit and close it too quickly (OUCH!)
But, while it was growing long, I enjoyed playing with the color and with different hairstyles (thanks to YouTube and Pinterest inspirations). And I felt super feminine, which wasn't always the case (ahem, March to December, 2006, aka WHAT WAS I THINKING?!).

So anyway. Awhile back, I told Joe I really wanted to donate my hair, and he agreed to let me do it if I agreed to dye it whatever color he wanted; but I had to make sure it wouldn't be pixie-short, so it needed enough time to grow out a decent amount. I decided it would be long enough right around the time I was getting my braces off, so why not go for a whole new look once I was done looking like a teenager? And thus: I am now the owner of a sophisticated, sexy blonde bob!

It turned out a few inches shorter in the back than Joe was picturing it, but I've assured him that I will let it grow out again, and hey -- it's not the shortest it's ever been, and definitely not a butch-looking cut like I've had before (ahem, SERIOUSLY, 2006!). And while I was blonde-ish in June 2010, that was just a subtle highlight over my natural dirty-blonde, and this new color is an all-over blonde with honeys and caramels throughout it, and I LOVE IT. I may even go a little lighter at my next appointment!

Side note: Do you think I look like "me" in the 1991 picture (my sixth birthday)? I feel like most people, when they hit age six or seven, start to look like "them" -- the person they'll be for the rest of their lives -- but I don't know if that was true for me. I think I may not have started looking like me until I was like 13. But I digress.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The most delicious pasta salad EVER.

I don't do a lot of cooking. It's not that I don't enjoy it, but I just struggle to find the time and energy to cook because it doesn't come naturally to me the way other things do (like making jewelry or reading books or writing blog posts). When I set out to cook something, it is ALWAYS an ordeal. And, if I'm trying out a new recipe, chances are I will get annoyed/flustered/impatient/pessimistic for at least a few minutes during the process. I stress about whether I'm measuring properly (do you pack it in to the measuring cup or spoon it in loosely? do you sift the flour before or after measuring? and so on). I get grossed out by touching raw meat with my hands. I fret over how long to leave something in the oven if I'm given a range like 20-30 minutes (which is it -- 20 or 30?!).

Basically, I'm a newbie in the kitchen. And I'm a passive newbie, so my progress as a cook has been verrrrry slow over the years. But I'm gaining confidence little by little, and I'm beginning to add recipes to my "Things I Know I Can Cook That Other People Will Actually Eat" file.

One of the things I can make without much anxiety is pasta salad. The original recipe came from my friend Konnie, who brought this salad to my bridal shower. I've tweaked it just a little to my own liking, and I've gotten a couple of requests for the recipe since I posted a photo to Instagram last week.

(Sorry I don't have step by step photos. I always THINK about doing that when I'm making something, and then I get too overwhelmed with the cooking process to add another piece to the puzzle.)

The Most Delicious Pasta Salad Ever*
*assuming your taste buds are the same as mine


For the salad:
  • 1 to 1 ½ boxes rotini pasta (I used Ronzoni Garden Delight for this pretty tri-color stuff)
  • 1 container crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 jar roasted red & yellow peppers (I get mine from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • About ¼ cup sliced black olives (I hate these; I just put them in if I'm making this for other people who like them)
For the dressing*:
  • 4 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz balsamic vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • A few sprinkles of Mrs. Dash garlic & herb spices (or other salt-free spices)
  • A few grinds of black pepper
*Hat Tip to my dad who gave me his dressing recipe; mine's just missing his secret ingredient, which I haven't had on hand to try yet!

  1. Boil the pasta per the package directions; drain and refrigerate in a sealed container for several hours or overnight. (I toss mine with a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.)
  2. Dice up the artichoke hearts and red/yellow peppers into smaller pieces and toss in the bowl with the pasta, along with the olives and feta cheese.
  3. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a cup or dressing container and stir/shake around until well mixed. Add more spices, oil or vinegar to taste (I think I ended up with about 5 oz oil and 4 oz vinegar last time).
  4. Pour dressing over salad. Start with about half a cup, then shake/stir the salad to coat. Add more dressing to taste/preference. (I end up with probably at least a cup of dressing because I REALLY love this stuff.)
  5. Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container overnight to allow the flavors to really sink in.
What I love about this recipe is it's so easy to tweak, and very difficult to screw up. You can adjust the veggies/spices to your liking, use a store-bought dressing, use a different type of pasta...the possibilities are endless!

Let me know if you make this! I'd love to hear what you think, how you tweaked it, how it went over at your dinner party, and all that jazz.

Friday, July 6, 2012

One week from today...

My braces are coming off!

I'm seriously so freaking excited about this! Here's a few pics of the journey...

Pre-braces: August 8, 2010 (Our first wedding anniversary!)
Aside from the silly face, you can see the crookedness on top and bottom.

Same day; here you can see the overbite
(and my eighth-grade throwback blue eyeshadow).

January 2011; spacers to prepare for the metal bands on my back molars.

February 11, 2011: Literally minutes after my braces were put on.
(I was faking this smile, in case you couldn't tell.)

Comparison photo. Top: May 2011; Bottom: January 2012. Major improvement!

May 2012: Almost done!
I'm so glad that the estimated time frame ended up being WAY overestimated. My orthodontist had given me a realistic window of 27 months, give or take three. That means my braces would have been coming off between February and August of 2013. Instead, it's been just over 17 months! WIN!

Stay tuned for the big reveal. We're going to a wedding the day after I get my braces off, so I'm excited to have a chance to dress up and smile big!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I did it!

I ran the 15K and I didn't die!

Tuesday night was amazingly itch-free! I slept through the night, no scratching, didn't even need to ice my hands or feet, and woke up feeling ready to tackle just about anything. Can I get a "Praise the Lord"?! (Seriously.)

Since I wasn't able to stick to my training plan too well for the last week or two, my main goal was just to finish. I set a hopeful goal of making it in under two hours, and I wanted to try to run the whole way without any walking breaks. But honestly, I didn't expect either of those two things to happen.

Well, I only walked long enough to guzzle a cup of water at two or three of the water stations, and also once when my music quit playing and I had to turn it back on. In total, that was probably less than a tenth of a mile of walking, so I'm gonna go ahead and say I ran the whole thing. I ran the whole thing!

And my official completion time was 1:49:33 (although as I ran past the finish, it showed 1:50:12, but I'm assuming that's because I crossed the Start line a few seconds after the race started). Definitely not a pace to brag about in running circles, but I'm 100% proud of it! I mean, considering my lack of training, issues with eczema, asthma, and the fact that this was my first time running longer than seven miles, I'll take it.

Here's how I looked at about 1.5 miles in:

Determined. Serious. Strong. "Bring it on!"


Aaaaaaand here I am at the finish line...

Tired. Sore. Ready to collapse. "I'm not even gonna TRY to make one final sprint to shave a few seconds off my time."

The aftermath: My knees ache like I'm 90 years old, and I got seven or eight pretty ugly blisters on my feet (a product of the eczema). But all things considered, that's not too shabby! My knees will be okay -- they're not injured, just tired. The blisters will heal eventually, too.

The original reason I wanted to do this race was to push myself a couple miles further than I'm used to, in order to gauge whether a half marathon could really be in my future. And honestly? While I'd hoped I would leave the 15K feeling pumped about training for a half, I'm not really sure about it now. It's not so much because of the creaky knees or fear of running a longer distance; it's more about the fact that two hours is a LONG time to be running. I love a good hour-long run, give or take 15 minutes, but once I reached about mile seven yesterday, I was over it. Not because my legs were tired or my lungs were fighting for air. I just wasn't interested in spending any more time pounding the pavement. I wanted breakfast! And social interaction! And maybe a mimosa or three!

So while I'm still not ruling out the possibility of doing a half marathon someday, I'm feeling less inclined to strive toward it in the immediate future. And I think that's okay. I can stick to 5K's and 10K's and mayyyyyybe, if I can work on improving my speed a bit, another 15K. But this realization that I don't need to train for a half marathon this year like I had been planning -- it allows me the freedom to explore other fitness endeavors. Lord willing, as soon as my feet are all cleared up from this eczema, I can get started on developing my skills as a Spinning instructor. And, I'm actually really stoked about doing martial arts with Joe, too. I had my one-week trial recently, and while I'm sure I have a TON of work to do on my form, I felt like I fit in pretty well and got a great workout. It's going to be fun kicking butt alongside my husband!

All in all, I'm glad I went through with the race yesterday, despite the risks. Praise the Lord for giving me a night of relief from the pain and itchiness so that I could be refreshed and ready to take it on!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Whining and hoping (and itching and running).

So this eczema thing?

It really sucks.

Note: Not my foot, but this is basically what it looked like at its worst.

I don't want to dwell on this too much, because I don't want to get all Negative Nancy up in here. I'm thankful it's not worse, and that it seems to be improving, however slowly. Daytime is pretty easy, with little to no itching (probably because I sit in an office that is kept at like 20 degrees so I'm basically numb all day). But at night, just as I'm winding down, my feet and hands itch to the point that I cannot stop myself from scratching. I've had to put ice packs on it in order to numb it enough that I can fall asleep, and then I wake up around 3 AM (every. single. night.) itching like crazy again.

The good news is, it's looking better. The bumps aren't as raised, they're starting to disappear, and it doesn't hurt rubbing my toes together. (When it was at its worst, my toes felt like I had big, gritty dirt between them and it was even less pleasant than it sounds.)

Anyway, I've been to Urgent Care twice and I have an appointment in a million years three weeks with a dermatologist (and I keep calling to see if there are any cancellations for a sooner appointment). My biggest concern is that this might become a recurring thing. So let's all pray (big time!) AGAINST that, yeah? At my second UCare visit, I asked the doctor if I should stop exercising until this clears up, because I noticed it seemed to feel worse after sweating and wearing socks and shoes (did I mention I've worn nothing but loose-fitting flip flops for two weeks?). She pretty much said, "It's your call, but it might be wise to hold off on exercise for awhile."

But! But! But!

I have a 15k to run tomorrow!

And I keep going back and forth on whether I should do it. Joe doesn't think I should, because he sees how miserable I've been and doesn't want me to risk drawing this out any longer than necessary. But I think I'd be super disappointed if I didn't follow through on this. I know I wouldn't do very well, since I haven't exercised AT ALL for a week, and I haven't run in almost two weeks. But I've been SO looking forward to running a longer race.

So I made a deal with myself. If I sleep through tonight without any itching frenzies (which, let me tell you, would seriously be a miracle), I will run the race tomorrow morning. If I have even one little fit of waking-myself-up-scratching, I'm out.

Feel free to pray boldly with me for quick and complete healing, relief of ALL pain and itchiness, an uninterrupted night's sleep, and an extra boost of energy to conquer those 9.3 miles tomorrow!

Pretty please? :-)

In the category of Way More Awesome news, my sister is here to visit me for a week! Joe picked her up at the train station this afternoon, so I'll get to see her in approximately 15 minutes when I get home. YAY! Super excited for some Sneezter Shenanigans these next few days.

Sneezter Shenanigans circa 2010