Saturday, December 31, 2011

Half-hearted, Undefined New Year's Resolutions

As we look forward to the New Year starting tomorrow (gulp), I realize that I have made a lot of undefined, half-hearted resolutions over the past week, but I have yet to figure out how I will fully carry any of them out in the new year.

Half-hearted, undefined resolutions:

1) follow sugar detox plan to cut most sugar out of Husband's and my diet (in reference to what I have read about excessive sugar consumption's connection to polycystic ovary syndrome)

2) start to make most of our food from scratch, buying as little processed food items as possible

3) start charting my cycles using the thermometer method (to see whether my body actually does have cycles, despite what it would lead me to believe)

4) eliminate most, if not all, chemical cleaning and hygiene products from our house and replace with homemade non-toxic cleaners

See? Not very defined. And at this point, whether I (and Husband, since much of this includes him) will be able to act on these resolutions is questionable.

For example, we have a flat-topped stove in our house. I love that stove. It is so easy to clean.

Plus, because it's flat, it doubles as work space for us when we are already using our two other limited counters for cooking. Not really a good idea. When one turns a burner off and takes a pot off of that burner, there is no reminder that a burner is still hot except for one tiny pale red light on the face of the stove above the burners. One of us (I won't say which) doesn't usually have trouble remembering not to set combustible items on hot burners, but one of us has forgotten on several occasions, resulting in charred oven mitts and, most recently, a melted tortilla bag.

The blackened brittle oven mitts were a slight inconvenience but quickly replaced. The melted tortilla bag was more irritating. Most of the plastic pulled easily from the stove, after it had cooled, but it was still obvious, to any eye, that something very red had been on that burner that shouldn't have been.

When I was younger, and silly putty and play-dough were in vogue, I used to like to press newspaper into one or the other, in order to see a perfect imprint of the picture. Colored comic strips from the paper were best for this purpose. What was left on our stove reminded me of that childhood pastime. There was no dimension to the plastic that was left, almost as if it had been painted on the burner, and I thought I could almost read the words from the tortilla bag, painted backwards onto the burner.

We tried to scrape the picture off with a spatula. And then with spoons, but to no avail.

Finally, Husband suggested we get out the Goo Gone to see if that would do the trick.

Husband was hanging a cork board on the wall for me when I got out the Goo Gone to try my luck again on the pasticky stain.

It came off easily under the chemical influence of the Goo Gone.

"Ahh... It worked!" I called to Husband in the other room.

"Good!" I heard. And then, "Do you think there's a non-toxic homemade cleaner that will replace Goo Gone?"


Obviously, whether Husband and I can commit to my resolution fantasies is yet to be seen.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in a Dirty Shed

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Oh, is it already December 26? 

Husband and I took a few days off of work and have been making merry in Minnesota with first his family and then my family.We're still at my family's house, but things are quiet this morning. My little brother and sister are still asleep (Both of them have the night owl genes that I did not inherit. I was gasping for energy already at 8:45 last night.), my dad is reading a book with some tea at the table, Husband is doing the newspaper crossword puzzle at the table, my mom is reading the rest of the newspaper in a cushy chair in the living room, and I am using my mom's computer to read up on the connection between polycystic ovary syndrome and sugar and contemplate the possibility of starting a sugar detox for Husband and myself.

Husband and I have had a wonderful Christmas with both of our families, but something that we did with his family has firmly anchored itself in my mind and is whispering promises to stay there for a while. 

On Christmas Eve, all of Husband's family was invited to the house of his younger sister, Younger H. She lives and works at a camp right now. When we arrived at her house, apple cider and other goodies in tow, we were greeted at the front door by a sign that read "No Room in the Inn" and Husband's brother-in-law M, who took our dishes and pointed us with a smile toward the little shed to the side of the house. 

Candles flickered around the inside of the shed as Younger H ushered us inside. She invited us to take a blanket if we thought we might be cold and then take a seat in one of the chairs crammed around the focal point: a small square wooden bin resting on a milk crate. Inside the wooden bin was a towel wrapped up into a baby-shaped form. 

I must admit, I was hoping we wouldn't be out in the shed long. It was cold. I thought the bench I was sitting on might be dirty. There were seeds or bird poop on the floor of the shed.

Younger H led us through a reading of the Christmas story via Luke 2, as well as some hymns. When we were done with the reading and singing, Younger H said (and this is not a direct quote),

"I just have a few things I wanted to say... I hope that being in the shed makes you think about how there was no room in the inn for Jesus. I'm so thankful that everyone in our family here has made room in their hearts for Jesus. It's easy to celebrate on Christmas with our family and forget that not everyone has made room in their hearts for Jesus. Take time now to think of someone you know who doesn't have room in his or her heart for Jesus this Christmas."

Younger H was in tears as she said this, and it was her tears as much as her words that convicted me and made the moment stick. It's true: I usually don't spend much time on Christmas contemplating those who don't know Christ and the joy and hope this season does not hold for them because of that. But what is also true is that I do not usually feel the anguish that Younger H obviously feels for those who don't know Christ.

The day of Christmas is past, and we who know Christ have been reminded of the hope that is ours because God deigned to descend to earth as our Savior. 

Encouraged by this reminder, think of someone you know who does not know Christ. Who can you share the Good News with in the coming year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Malted Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

Malted Hot Chocolate Mix

25.6 oz. pkg. powdered milk
6 c. mini marshmallows
16 oz pkg. instant chocolate milk mix
13 oz jar malted milk powder
1c. powdered sugar
6 oz. jar powdered non diary creamer
½ t. salt

Pour 1/e c. mix into a mug. Add ¾ c. boiling water and stir to dissolve.

Just to let you know—you need a really big bowl to mix this up. We wanted to double the recipe, but we ended up needing to make it in two batches. Even then, just mixing up one batch we had to use our two biggest bowls. We still ended up with powder on the floor.

Speaking of powder on the floor, do not dust your house before making this mix. Every surface in our kitchen and dining area ended up with a film of chocolaty powder over it by the time we were done mixing and pouring into jars.

One final editorial note: I'm not sure if we used the right malted milk powder. We used an Ovaltine Malted Chocolate Powder. The recipe didn't taste very malt-y, so I might try to find something a little more malt-flavored next time.

This recipe was taken from Gooseberry Patch Christmas 2010 magazine.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Domestic or International?

On Friday I got together with three ladies, two of which attend the same church as Husband and I, to talk adoption. I'll call the three ladies A, S, and H. All three of them have adopted babies within the last year through the same adoption agency. One reason that I was excited to talk adoption with these ladies was that they all adopted domestically. Because my sister-in-law and her husband recently finished an international adoption, I have felt more familiar and comfortable with the international adoption process (though still very uninformed about all things adoption). I wanted to learn more first-hand about the domestic adoption process.

A few things have stuck with me after my conversation with A, S, and H on Friday.

First, domstic adoption can be (though it isn't always) faster. All three of these ladies started their adoption process last December. Two of them have had their babies home for six months already. That means their entire adoption process took about six months. Wow. I must admit, it's a little hard not to let that in and of itself sway me away from international adoption. Especially because all three of these adorable bright-eyed babies were present at our Friday get-together. Sigh. I've recently been reading a variety of adoption blogs that a friend of my sister-in-law put together. (You can find them here.) I've read adoptive parents in the adoption process described as vulnerable, tunnel-visioned, desperate, and psychotic. Husband and I are not even in the adoption process yet, but I already feel that I can identify, to some extent, with those descriptions. My feelings tell me, "Fast adoption is good. The faster, the better. I want a baby now. Nownownownownownow." Obviously, my feelings are not entirely sane and dependable right now. My thoughts tell me, "Keep researching. Keep talking with Husband. Keep praying. You haven't decided anything yet."

Another thing that stuck out to me from our conversation was the topic of open adoption versus closed adoption. All three of these ladies have open adoptions, to some extent. The nice thing, they pointed out, about working with a smaller adoption agency, is that the social workers will work with you and the birth parents to decide how open the adoption should be. They do not apply a cookie-cutter shape to every domestic adoption. The idea of an open adoption had always scared me. I couldn't (and still can't quite) imagine the relationship dynamics that would exist if we adopted a child and his parents were still a part of his life. I am beginning to realize, though that there are definite benefits, for the child, the birth parents and even for the adoptive parents. All three of these ladies said they started out the adoption process feeling uncomfortable with the idea of open adoption but are totally comfortable now with the level of openness in their respective adoptions. However, they are only six months, at most, into these new relationships. I feel more open to thinking about open adoption than I did a week ago, but not entirely sold. More research!

All three of the ladies talked about their feelings leading up to when their babies were born. S and her husband were matched with a baby about three months before the baby was born. A had a similar situation. H was called a few days after her baby was born. In the cases of S and A, the waiting time up until the birth was stressful, to say the least. They had to wait until the babies were born for the birth moms to sign papers relinquishing the babies to their adoptive parents, and then there was a waiting period (I can't remember how long) during which the birth mom could change her mind and take her baby back if she wanted. Then, after that, there was a 30 day period during which the birth father could come forward and claim the child (because in both cases the birth father's location was unknown). H had had an experience, prior to her recent adoption, where she and her husband were called down to Florida for a baby, but the birth mom changed her mind. This was all new to me, as the situation is usually quite different in international adoptions.

I want to want the best for everyone involved throughout our adoption, should we definitely choose to adopt. I want to continue to recognize that the decision birth parents make to give their child up for adoption will have tremendous ramifications for them and for their child, for the rest of their lives. That's not a decision to make lightly or hastily. But I could see, through my meeting on Friday, how easy it would be to cross the line into just wanting the birth mom to sign those papers as quickly as possible after the baby is born, to be able to be sure that the baby is mine. By that point, your feelings, as an adoptive parent, are entirely wrapped up in this new baby, whether or not you've seen her yet. To have the birth parents change their mind will be incredibly painful. And yet, it still may be better for both parents and child if the birth parents decide to parent. Ouch.

So, all things considered, I left the meeting with A, S, and H wanting a baby. That's not new. I was feeling open to considering domestic adoption. That is new. But it doesn't mean anything new: it just means more research.

Thank you all for putting up with my rambling thoughts on adoption. I promise, Husband and I do have other things going on in our lives right now, and I promise that my next post will be about some of those things!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Adoption Discussion

I have again fudged my goal to read through our entire home library before buying or borrowing another book.

I bought a book on adoption.

Two, actually.

And now Husband and I are reading the first one together. I feel fairly justified this time in the decision to fudge my reading goals, however. Both Husband and I felt led to learn more about adoption. Reading a few choice books together will help us learn, explore our feelings, and further discern God’s will in regards to our pursuing adoption.

This first adoption book that we’re reading together, quite appropriately, is The Adoption Decision, by Laura Christianson. A couple people have recommended this book to us, and one chapter in, it’s already giving rise to discussion.

Our most interesting discussion came from one of the “Questions and Ideas for Reflection or Discussion” over the first chapter. The question is: “On a scale of 1 to 5, rate your enthusiasm and readiness to adopt. If you’re married, rate your spouse’s enthusiasm. Discuss your ratings together.”

Can you imagine why this might lead to colorful discussion?

At this time, I don’t want to share exactly how Husband and I rated ourselves and each other. Suffice it to say, we both judged the other’s enthusiasm and readiness correctly, but our readiness and enthusiasm are not the same.

Our discussion was good. Thoughts that came up included the idea that—get ready for brilliance—pregnancy and adoption are not the same.

A) When a wife gets pregnant, sometimes it’s a surprise. Adoption is never a surprise.

B) As a couple, you may or may not have done your research before your become pregnant. However, as a couple you must do your research before you adopt.

C) As a couple, you may or may not be in the same place emotionally and mentally when you become pregnant (though it’s better if you are). As a couple, you must be in the same place emotionally and mentally—or at least close to the same place—when you adopt because of the points stated above.

It is this last point that I took with me and have been pondering since our discussion. Husband and I are still considering and praying about the possibility of adoption. We’re still going to read both of the books and continue to read online. But we are also going to make sure that we talk regularly and honestly.

We want to be in the same place emotionally and mentally when we make our decision whether to adopt, not adopt, or wait.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Delightful Visit with Family

We have a small house.

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but that fact has implications for what I want to share now.

Husband’s older brother, J, and his wife, A, came to visit us this weekend. We were looking forward to this visit because: 1) we do not get many family members visiting us here in Iowa, when most of our family is in Minnesota and 2) because we usually spend time with J and A in the company of the whole family (Husband’s parents, other siblings, their spouses, and our one nephew). Couple-to-couple interaction like this doesn’t occur as frequently.

As I mentioned above, we have a small house. We only have one bedroom in our little house, so hosting guests is a little tricky. Usually we put guests on the floor in the living room. This is exactly what we did with J and A when they came, but I was especially impressed with their adventurous spirits because A is pregnant. Sleeping on the floor (even on a nice air mattress like they brought with them) is comfortable about 5% of the time, and I imagine that percentage shrinks dramatically when you’re pregnant.

So, we had a cozy weekend together. The words and phrases below give an accurate summary of what we did while we were together:


Pizza buffet

Gift shops

Wooden shoes



Amish Friendship Bread

I loved having A and J here. They blessed us so much with their company, generosity, and prayers.

Hopefully they enjoyed their time in Iowa as well, and I am especially hoping that they will share with the rest of the family how fun it was visiting us and how little it matters that we don’t have a spare bedroom to put guests in.

Bring on the next round of family!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A few Christmas festivities

Husband and I got our Christmas tree set up earlier this week. I was having a little bit of a hard time getting excited about Christmas because we hadn’t seen a hint of snow yet. (If I ever end up spending a Christmas in a tropical climate, my Christmas spirit is going to be really confused.)

However as you can see from this picture…

…we now have snow! And please note how the snow is clinging to the trees in this picture. In Iowa, snow rarely floats softly to the ground. It drives, whips, and lashes, but rarely does it float. Yesterday, it floated.

The snow had perfect timing too, because Husband and I had set aside last night to work on gifts for friends and coworkers. Watching the snow drift slowly down outside made me relish the twinkling lights on our Christmas tree, warm air gushing from the floor vents, and gift-making.

We decided to make hot chocolate for our friends and coworkers this year, and as you can see from the picture below, we are not above mass producing gifts.

I hope the start of your Christmas season has been joyful (as in, I hope you’re taking time to revel in the mystery of Christ’s birth) and delicious (as in, I hope you’re baking lots of yummy cookies and drinking lots of hot chocolate).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Putting me in the Christmas Mood

This afternoon I was leaving Walmart with [what I hope will be] the last of my Christmas shopping. Being the good environmentally conscious person that I am, I had brought with me a few reusable shopping bags. I only ended up needing one for my purchases, and the other three were left to lay empty on a stack of boxes in my cart.

Our Walmart faces east, which means there is a south-north corridor for cars to drive on in front of the store. Today, it being Iowa after all, there was a stiff wind coming from the south, heading north.

As I stepped through the second set of automatic doors, that stiff wind caught my three empty shopping bags like kites and carried them out of my cart and away from me-- north.

If I had had time to think, my thoughts would have been something like this: "Ahh! Gahh! Do I stay with the cart? Or do I run after my bags? What if a car comes?"

But I didn't have time to think, so this is what I did: I let go of my cart for briefly and lunged at the closest bag. A lady who followed me out of Walmart grabbed the second bag, a little farther away than the first. I thanked her quickly and turned to look for the third bag, an orange one.

It was on a mission, with a motto that said something like, "The Arctic, or bust." I considered the quickly shrinking orange tumbleweed for a moment and decided it was worth the bruising of my pride to go after it. It was my only orange reusable shopping bag, after all.

I twisted my cart to face north and started lumbering as quickly as I could up the asphalt corridor. I noticed almost immediately that someone was running next to me. Glancing to the left, I saw, with bell in hand, the Salvation Army bell ringer, jogging like he was on a mission too. A grin creased well-worn laughter wrinkles on his face, as he turned to glance at me, and he sped up.

"I'm gaining on it!" he shouted to me over his shoulder.

And he was. Before long he caught it. By then I was no longer embarrassed but was laughing. He returned my bag to me victoriously and then headed back to his bell ringing post, ting-a-linging boisterously.

If there was ever something to put me into the Christmas mood, it was seeing that bell ringer laugh as he chased down my shopping bag.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

While I'm Waiting: Hoping

I was listening to the radio tonight as I washed and dried the dishes. Husband had to work through the supper hour tonight at the nursing home, so I was alone. Often, for me, doing the dishes alone affords some time for reflection that I might not otherwise take.

Husband and I are going to trim the Christmas tree when he gets home from work, and I was trying to muscle up some excitement for the project. We had all of our children’s programs at the library today, which always leaves me feeling happy and yet slightly bruised on the inside at the same time.

One of the songs that came on while I was drying dishes was a song I’ve heard many times before, but I didn’t even know who it was by: “While I’m Waiting,” by John Waller. The song seemed to fit what I want to be right perfectly:

The word ‘waiting’ is obviously used multiple times in the song, but the word ‘hope’ came up too. Hearing about waiting and hoping in the same breath started me musing on the Spanish word esperar. Esperar translates to the infinitive verb form of the English phrase ‘to hope.’ But, strangely enough, esperar also means ‘to wait.’ In Spanish, to wait and to hope are one in the same.

I was reminded again tonight that this is also true in my dealings with God: to wait on Him is also to hope in Him. I am waiting for something I want, but I can be hopeful because I know that whatever He gives me now and will give me in the future is good.

The other phrase in the song that really got me thinking was: “I’ll be running the race, even while I wait.”

I absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, want this to be true of me. I do not want to sit in front of my computer and write blog lament after blog lament over all the painful things that remind me that I’m not a mother yet but want to be (and who would want to sit and read a whole bunch of laments anyway? The authors of Lamentations get special treatment. Their laments are still read because they ended up in the Bible. I have no such trump card to play.)


That being said, I am going to try to get back to the purpose of this blog: being content with what God has given me while I wait. You will probably continue to hear about our child-longing periodically, but I will not allow that to take over the blog.

On that front, I do have some news to share, however: Though Husband and I are not closing the door on fertility treatments completely, we are starting to take baby steps (no pun intended) into the world of adoption as well.

As a child and a teenager, I had always said I wanted to adopt, but since getting married, I had set the idea aside temporarily because I was intimidated by the substantial cost of adoption. Husband and I independently came to the decision that, despite the cost, now is the time to look into adoption. We’re starting with research, so when you hear about our baby-longing, it will most likely be in the context of our responses to what we have researched.

In any case, with the goal being contentment where we are now, other topics besides adoption that you can expect to be reading about in the coming months are:

  • Projects, current and future (gift ideas, food, home improvement, and so forth)
  • Experiences in my daily life that inspire thankfulness
  • Experiences in my daily life that inspire laughter (you all remember my coworker exchanging Satan for Santa—I’m expecting her to step it up, if only for the purpose of this blog)
  • Ways that God is teaching me and speaking to me
  • Book reviews (because despite my slip up I am going to read through our personal library and also because I just love to read that much)
I’m looking forward to this month leading up to Christ’s birth, and I hope that you will join me in learning to be content right where each one of us is.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Being Thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for.

I am especially thankful for this surprise on our doorstep a few days ago:

A family friend put this basket together out of branches and pinecones that she found at the gigantic branch pile outside of town. I am impressed at her resourcefulness, as well as delighted to be the recipient of such a beautiful gift.

I have many things that I am seriously thankful for, but I also have a lot of things that I am laughingly thankful for as well.

In the context of many serious things happening in my life right now, I have been especially savoring laughter. As you know by now, my husband has wit and exercises it frequently. I appreciate that.

I am also very thankful that at both of the jobs I hold I can laugh regularly with my coworkers. An incident that pops to mind immediately happened just Tuesday.

My fellow children’s librarian, whom I will call Ms. J, often mixes up words. She has often called me Valerie instead of Hillary, and many of the children who come to our programs are repeatedly called by names other than their own. Her natural warmth and friendliness make up for this, thankfully, and hardly anyone seems bothered by these frequent lapses. Working with her sometimes reminds me of a book I read as a child, The Vicar of Nibblewick, by Roald Dahl. It’s a short book, and if you can get your hands on it, I urge you to read it.

On Tuesday, my cohort and I were leading a story hour for kids ages 4-5. Ms. J was reading a story to the kids about a Christmas elf. I had never realized how close the names ‘Santa’ and ‘Satan’ are until this particular story was read, but when Ms. J read aloud that the elf was going to go and report on the children to the latter… well. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only adult in the room laughing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Resuts of a Doctor's Appointment

I saw a little quip in a picture today:

“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.”

I’ve thought about it off and on throughout the day because my mind is often tempted back to the thought, “Oh, if only I was pregnant right now, then I would be happy!” Part of me—a less realistic part of me—really feels that this is true.

But I know it’s not. Even if I were to find out I was pregnant tomorrow, something else would creep in that would ‘steal happiness.’ Worry about the baby. Worry about where we were going to move after the baby was born. Job conflicts. And so forth. As a worry-prone person, there are plenty of things that can steal my happiness.

Since it’s obviously true that having a baby will not be the thing to make me happy, then it follows that I can be happy without having a baby. And that is why the phrase above has held so much of my attention today.

I did not hear better news at the doctor yesterday. This doctor made me feel much more welcome and comfortable than the first doctor I visited, which was a blessing, but she told me in essence the same things as the first doctor I met with.

I may have polycystic ovary syndrome. However, from what I understand from my doctor, that’s sort of a catch-all term for hormone malfunction. Some hormone (or group of hormones) somewhere is not doing exactly what it should be doing. (As a side note, from the little bit my doctor explained to me about all of the hormones that are involved in a normal woman’s cycle happening monthly the way it does, I am amazed that there are any children in the world. Such complexity! Obviously God is at work.)

So, the doctor ordered a few more blood tests, for which I had samples drawn this morning. But the end result will be much the same, as far as wanting to conceive a baby is concerned, whether the tests come back normal or otherwise.

If my body refuses to cycle normally, which has been the trend over the last year, then we have a few options if our goal right now is to pursue pregnancy:

1) We continue to try to conceive without help. In this scenario we have no idea if or when I am ovulating.

2) I take glycophage, a medication that is normally given to people with diabetes. People with PCOS often have a similar intolerance to insulin as diabetics do. This might right the problem, if the problem has to do with insulin to begin with.

3) I take clomid, a widely used fertility drug.

I feel less woeful today than I did one day after my appointment in October, but I do feel tired. Husband and I will have some big decisions to make in the coming months. And we definitely have a lot of reading to do. We intend to be well-informed before we make any major decisions about medications.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Second Doctor's Appointment

I watched a BBC mini-series over a few nights last week called The Buccaneers. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Edith Wharton. Husband watched the first of five hours with me and then gracefully exempted himself from the remaining four hours.

The Buccaneers is more depressing than Pride and Prejudice, which I love. I was telling Husband about this the night after finishing the movie.

“It’s just so much more depressing. The adultery and unhappy marriages… and the Duke was under so much pressure to produce an heir.”

Husband looked at me, shrugged, and smiled. “Well, I can relate. I’m under tremendous pressure to produce and heir too!”

If you think of it today, and if you’re the praying type, please say a prayer for us! I’m off this afternoon to get a second opinion after my doctor’s appointment of over a month ago (which you can read about here). Please pray that the doctor will be able to accurately assess my physical state and please pray that we will accept whatever news we get with contentment and peace.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Blew It

I was hugging Husband and looking up at his face, but he wasn’t looking back at me. His eyes were trained on my desk. His eyebrows raised incredulously. “What is that?”

“Oh,” I giggled embarrassedly. “A… book.”

I blew it. I blew it intentionally, even with a six-foot-two conscience raining meaningful glances on me.

You may have guessed what I did. I read a book that wasn’t mine. A friend did loan it to me, which is kind of within my rules, but I asked her for it. That’s definitely not within my rules. What’s worse, I stayed up really late reading it. And what’s worse still is that when I finished it, I promptly went to the library to check out the second book (on CD though, this time). And I’m fairly sure I’m going to finish the series (a total of four books) before I go back to my own collection.

I’m irritated with myself. And yet I still want to finish the series. I was thinking to myself this morning, why in the world did I have such a strong desire to read this book, right now, when I’m supposed to be reading through my own collection?

The answer that I came up with—and I’m pretty sure it’s close to the mark, if not dead on—is that I wanted to read something that didn’t matter.

I don’t buy books willy-nilly. Mostly I buy books that think will have some significance for my life, books that I will want to reference later. And for that reason, I have been reading only books that matter in the last two months.

This time, I wanted something that didn’t matter. I wanted an escape.

And because I’ve come to that conclusion and I’m pretty sure it’s accurate, I realize I have some soul-searching to do. The last month and a half have been pretty stressful. But if I feel an almost overwhelming desire to escape into a novel, then I have obviously not handled the challenges gracefully. Or rather, grace-filled-ly.

I read in Matthew 17:21 just a few days ago, “… I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, Jesus isn’t giving his disciples a blank check to go spend on whatever they want, but he is saying to them, With Me, nothing I ask you to do will be impossible.

I have the Holy Spirit living inside me. Nothing God asks of me should feel impossible or drain my reserves. I shouldn’t even be using my reserves. I should be using God’s. It’s time for me to soul-search and try to relearn how to tap into God’s resources to do what He asks me to do without trying to do it myself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Project Updates

Natural Hair Care Update

As many of you know, I haven’t been using shampoo or conditioner on my hair for the last two months. You can read about my plan here.

I feel it necessary to offer a quick update of my hair care because some things have changed:

1) I have gone back to the apple cider vinegar hair clarifier. The honey didn’t seem to make much of a difference on my hair, and honey is more expensive. Plus, for a reason that I still have not figured out, my bottle of honey conditioner began to smell absolutely terrible after about two weeks of sitting in the shower. Honey doesn’t go bad in my cupboard; so why in my shower? I still don’t know. But in any case, that was enough. I’m using vinegar again.

2) I have started conditioning with coconut oil occasionally. My hair continued to be pretty frizzy most days, to the point where I was almost ready to give up on the whole business and go back to traditional conditioners. However, I’m glad that I did give coconut oil a try because it has worked wonderfully. A very little bit goes a very long way, which leads me to believe the large jar I bought is going to last me probably for the rest of my life. I had been using coconut oil after every wash (so, every four days), but now I’m using it every other wash or every three washes, depending on how my hair is feeling.

Facial Cleaning Method Update

As you may know, I don’t use a traditional face wash. I clean my face with oil.

In general, I’m not sure anymore what I think of this method of washing my face. I love how I only have to wash my face once a day with this method. And in general, my face is much less oily than it was with traditional face washes. And I still love that this is better for my body and better for the environment. Those are the trump cards. I do, however, have a few concerns and/or complaints:

1) Some nasty breakouts in the last month, more so than I’ve seen since junior high. Face-wash-induced? Hormone-induced? Hard to say. I’m going to give it another month and see what happens. I have read that adding essential tea tree oil can be helpful for acne-prone skin. However, I haven’t wanted to spend the money on that yet. Adding tea tree oil might push this face wash method out of the realm of economical.

2) I have to wash more washcloths now because I didn’t use to use washcloths to wash my face.

3) This method is more time consuming than a traditional face wash, so when I’m especially tired or in a hurry, I get a little impatient with the time this takes.

Book-Reading Challenge Update

Two months ago, I decided that I wanted to read through all of the books on our bookshelves. We have a lot of books and, embarrassingly, I haven’t read nearly all of them. I decided that it was high time I remedied that.

I challenged myself to read all of those books, and to refresh your memories and mine, these are the guidelines I’m following:

1) I may not check out any library books or read any library books while completing the challenge.*

2) I will update with my progress every two months.

3) I may, however,  read book our book club selected each month.

*Exceptions will be made if a friend or family members wishes to loan me a book. I may, in that situation, except the book and read it.

My progress has been so dismal over the last two months that I didn’t even want to report. And I certainly felt no need to update the pictures of my bookcases.

This is my progress. Besides one book club book, I have read two books. Two. That’s it. I normally consider myself an avid reader (and I’m a librarian, for crying out loud), but this just goes to show how incredibly busy the last two months have been for Husband and me.

From my bookshelves, I have read:

Closing the Achievement Gap: How to Reach Limited Formal-Schooling and Long-Term English Learners, by Yvonne Freeman and David E. Freeman

I bought this book a while back because of the adult ESL class Husband and I teach. Although this was an interesting read, it was actually geared toward teachers who teach school-age English Language Learners.

This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti

This really was an excellent read. I didn’t think it was necessarily well-written, but the subject matter was just what I needed (more on that another time, perhaps). In the U.S. we’re pretty quick to shrug off the possibility of spiritual warfare in our lives. After all, there has to be some natural and logical reason for everything, right? Although Peretti’s story is fictionalized and imaginative, the theme rings true: there is spiritual warfare, and prayer does make a difference.

I am also in the middle of two other books: One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp and Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. Both of these are very, very good books, but I’ll withhold any reviews or opinions until I’ve finished them.

Favorite Husband Quote of the Day and Something Learned

Time has gotten away from me again. This is actually my favorite Husband quote from a few days ago, but I still thought it was worth sharing.

I have just finished blow-drying my hair with a diffuser with my head tilted upside-down. I am excited because, in my opinion, the technique had the desired effect of making my wavy-curly hair look more wavy-curly than usual.

I say, “Honey, do you notice anything different about my hair today?”

Husband pauses to carefully consider my appearance. He’s been put in this situation before, poor guy.

“You didn’t have your clippie pin* and… go back!” Husband says, while pantomiming me clipping something at the top of my head and then waving one hand back over his head and down one shoulder.

Translation note:
  • four bobby pins

In Husband’s defense, he was right. I usually do use bobby pins to hold back some of my hair. On this particular day I had left my hair entirely down. But he had not noticed the beautiful extra-curliness of my hair that I was so very proud of.

Husband’s interpretation of what I do to my hair on a normal day tickled my funny bone and deflated some of my excitement over my hair, but it also taught me something. Or rather, it reminded me of something that I have learned before and have had to relearn over and over again.

Nobody—and I mean nobody—scrutinizes my physical appearance with as much fervor as I do. I know this is true, and yet I still spend time and energy thinking about and trying to improve my appearance.

I have long been disappointed with myself because of this importance I place on my appearance, and it has proven difficult for me to moderate that down to a healthy desire to look presentable.

I’ve prayed about it. I’ve memorized Bible verses and then taped them up next to my mirror:

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.” (1 Peter 3:3-5a)

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Prov. 31:30)

I’ve studied abroad in a country where it was neigh impossible to spend time and energy on physical appearance.

And yet.

Still I concern myself with my appearance much, much more than I ought.

But Husband’s words were a good reminder for me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Family Road Trip

This past weekend Husband and I took a loooooooong road trip to celebrate Husband’s grandma’s 90th birthday.

It just so happened that we were all able to travel with Husband’s whole family: parents, siblings and their spouses. This was wonderful because Husband and I don’t get to see family nearly enough for my liking, living hours away from all of them in a small Iowan town.

Right now, Husband and I have one nephew. No nieces. My nephew is absolutely adorable, and even though he is a year and a half old, the first time I met him was three months ago when his new adoptive parents, Husband’s sister and brother-in-law, brought him back from Ethiopia.

This was only my second time seeing him, and if my previous blogs here and here are any indication, I love children. And, apparently, I am especially enamored when they are family.

I begged to be allowed to sit next to this little munchkin, and his mom graciously agreed with something to this effect: “As long as you don’t mind having every car on the interstate pointed out to you and don’t mind finding cheerios in places you didn’t know you had, you can claim a seat by him!”

Because his mommy has called him Li’l Dude on her blog, I will adopt the same name for my blog.

I bought our camera along specifically because I was excited to get to sit next to him, and I was determined to get some fun and adorable pictures. Of course, I know that when Husband and I are blessed with children of our own, we will not just be looking for the happy smiling poses, but when we’re just an Aunt and an Uncle, our relationship with Li’l Dude is a little one-sided.

This is the first picture that Husband was able to snap of Li’l Dude:

He was aiming for a smiling shot.

This is shot number four:

By shot number nine, I felt like we were getting the timing right:

This is my absolutely favorite shot of the whole trip, even though it’s blurry:

Doesn’t this picture just make you want to laugh too?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Favorite Husband Quote of the Day

Setting: I am trying to decide what earrings to wear with the necklace I have on over a turquoise turtleneck in the morning before leaving the house. I have one earring in one ear and a different earring in the other ear. I walk into the kitchen where Husband is cutting up potatoes.

Hillary: Which earrings do you think I should wear with this necklace, honey? I cover my left ear with a hand and let him look. Then I cover the right ear for a few seconds.

Husband: Well, I think they both look nice…. But I would pick the one in your left ear.

Hillary: Thanks. I think that’s what I was going to choose too. I start to walk away and I hear behind me…

Husband: Of course, I really have no idea, but I figured it was safe to give an opinion. By this point, I’m sure you’d have weeded out any ones that would be damaging.

Oh, how I love this man.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our House is not Childproof

One of my highlights over the past few months is a group of women I cook with. We have been getting together about once a month, at different houses, and I’ve enjoyed these dates immensely. All of the women in the group except me are from either Guatemala or Mexico, which means that I’ve been learning to cook many delicious foods that I’d never previously heard of.

Many of these foods, as delicious as they are, I will never try again because they are deep fried in oil which:

1) seems especially unhealthy to me and

2) scares me. (Picture me working as a cook for a camp. Picture me and one of the other cooks making lunch one day: hush puppies fried in oil and fish fried in oil. Picture us both with our backs turned for a minute – a minute. Picture ceiling-high flames. Picture a lot of baking soda everywhere. Picture all of the hungry campers eating leftover pea soup and lukewarm hotdogs. Enough said.)

In any case, I do enjoy these cooking dates, as much for the company and the chance to practice Spanish as for the food.

Last night it was my turn to host our little group. I think I have to put quite a bit more brainpower into getting ready to have the group to my house, and that is because I am the only woman in the group who does not have children. Therefore, my house is the only house in the group that is neither child-friendly nor childproof before the ladies come.

I thought hard. “Toys!” I thought. “They will bring their kids, so I should have some toys available.” So I borrowed some toys from the library story hour supplies. And as an extra flair, I checked out some board books from the library for the kids to look at.

“DVDs!” I thought. So I tied the door handles to our DVD cupboard together so no little ones could get in there to play.

“Chocolate!” I hid the bowl of chocolate that normally sits on our coffee table in our bedroom.

“Books!” I took most of the books that would be in reach and hid those in the bedroom as well.

In spite of my careful preparation, these are a few things I learned from having a toddler in our house last night:

1) Carpet in the kitchen is always bad idea. Carpet in the kitchen is an especially bad idea when eating chili. With toddlers. Who want to feed themselves.

2) Chocolate desserts are probably also not a good idea when toddlers are in the fully-carpeted house, especially when they may make a mad dash with a fistful of it.

3) We will not have glass coasters when we have toddlers. Even though they survived one night, they were used as cymbals more than once. I don’t think they will be asked to survive years of toddlers.

4) Heavy glasses are not suitable beverage holders for toddlers.

5) Yarn tied around door handles, even when the yarn is knotted, is not enough to fend off a persistent toddler.

6) Magnets look delicious and therefore must all be tasted. Magnets should be out of reach of toddlers unless they are meant to go in mouths.

7) Everything that is just out of reach but still in sight is probably the most interesting thing a toddler could possibly find to play with and must therefore be reached, no matter the cost.

8) Crayons are for eating. According to toddlers.

9) Food that is not available to be eaten at a given time should not be on eye level with toddlers, even when the food happens to be raw potatoes or seasonings.

10) Candles in glass jars on the coffee table? Mmm-mmm. Nope.

I learned a lot.

Our house simply is not yet childproof.

“But,” I told Mark last night as we scrubbed chocolate goo off the cupboard doors and picked up stray beans and rice crispies, “I haven’t changed my mind about wanting one.”