christmas in july

For my writers group, we are working on an advent book of devotionals. It is hot outside. I sweated through my tshirt before 10 am. I went swimming and added at least a dozen new freckles to the bunch. Back to school supplies line the grocery store aisles, while I sit at my computer and try to think about Christmas.
It is kind of nice actually. Freeing. No presents to buy or cards to address or parties to attend or family commitments. Just Christ’s birth, which is of course everything.


I didn’t let them read 1 Corinthians 13 at my wedding. You know the whole love is patient, love is kind, etc. It seemed too cliché at the time. Everyone reads that one.
Recently I read it for a study I am doing, and I tried to not just run over the familiar words. Love. Agape. The expectations are too great. Who is ALWAYS patient, ALWAYS kind, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, ALWAYS perseveres, NEVER envies or boasts or is proud or rude…..I could go on. There is an obvious Sunday School answer to that question….but it’s not what I am getting at. I love my husband in a way that I know he is home, but I am often proud. I love my son in a way that I don’t think can go away. EVER, but I’m not always patient. I love my friends and family in ways that there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for them, but sometimes I fail them. That is my biggest hang up really. The last, love never fails line. It does. Often. I have learned the hard way, that it is even supposed to. Well, at least the kind with skin on. If it didn’t we wouldn’t turn to the love that meets all the requirements.
The Greek word for fails is ekipipto, which means to be without effect, to be in vain. In other words love is never in vain. This I can handle. I mean, I told my loser high school boyfriend that I loved him. And I meant it, as much as I could at 18. Love is like advanced Calculus. It takes practice. It builds. Not too many people can do it properly. We make mistakes. My 2 year old loves me, but if I neglect to give him his snack or don’t let him watch Cars ( again) he will turn on me fast. When I was in grade school I had a new best friend every few weeks. In junior high I had a new crush that I was “so in love with” even more often than that. In college it was friendships I tried to balance. I loved them and I knew what that was supposed to mean, but we started to spread out across the state. I started forgetting birthdays, writing fewer emails and missing events that I should be at. I was failing. Others were failing me. They weren’t there when I needed them. I broke up with boys, friendships faded. If we failed --- did this mean I didn’t love them. Or vice versa. I don’t think the tense ( past or present) of the verb matters so much as that none of it was in vain. That it had purpose. That we had meant it.

diet..........ughhh....Day 1

ok, so this weekend i was at the beach. the beach has a magical quality of making you want to lay there and soak up sun one minute, but also to get moving the next. hit the waves, go for a walk, throw a frisbee. Maybe it is just all those other skinny people in bathing suits, but regardless of the motivating factor on my first afternoon there I thought I would go for a jog. Anne Lammot ( a kick ass author) wrote an entire chapter in her book Traveling Mercies about being comfortable with her thighs in a bathing suit. She even named them her "aunties". My thighs do not have names and for everyone else's benefits I think I should keep them covered at all times. This means my bathing suits all have cute little skirts or shorts to match. On this particular day I was wearing a cute tropical tankini that came with matching board shorts. So about a half mile down the beach my inner thighs were burning. If you are skinny you have no idea what I am referring to. Your thighs do not touch. Ever. But while jogging mine experience enough friction to start a small fire. And speaking of fire they were burning so bad I finally broke down and took my shorts off ( of course i had bathing suit bottoms underneath). I was near tears......all the salt and sand and plastic shorts managed to wear through at least the top 2 layers of my skin on my inner thighs. I walked back with my aunties hanging out and very bow-legged like i had just ridden a horse and immediately went in to assess the damage and change suits. It was official, i had some serious fat rash.
So, now for the diet. ughh. 10 lbs by oct 1 ( that date b/c that is when my new insurance sarts meaning i can start trying to get pregnant). The only way i can lose weight is with:
1. competition -- me and my sister racing. The first one to 10 gets a free night of babysitting for a hot date.
2. accountability -- in leu of paying for WW ( weight watchers for you skinny poeple) online, i figure i will just post my weight each week on here. I saw a website where this guy took a picture of himself every morning and posted it. I'll spare you.
3. reward -- i always work on the reward system. If i make the 10 lbs by Oct 1, my mom pays for a pedicure.....

I forgot to weigh myself first thing in the morning. ( once again for you skinny people, you weigh less when you wake up, naked and just after peeing), but i did strip down and pee first. 155.

I went to Target and bought all kinds of healthy crap. I am mean when i am hungry, so i have to eat plenty.......I just need to make better choices and not waste any calories. I am trying to drink lots and lots of water and plan to hit the Y tonight. no excuses.
I'll spare you the Bridgett Jones-esque list of what i eat everyday.....but will post my weight and thoughts each week and maybe a few recipes.
Now, if you'll excuse me........I have to go make a smoothie.


1. What’s the one book or writing project you haven’t yet written but still hope to?
some random essays and thoughts that are random, but tangled and make sense as a unit, paid for blogging, some modern day proverbs.

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?
i rarely i'd just go to barnes and noble, but a coffee and a rice krispie treat and read all the pretty books. there is one out i have my eye on......everything i learned about being a girl i learned from judy blume

3. What was your first writing “instrument” (besides pen and paper)?pretty journals and new pens (ok, that is still pen and paper...but not like big cheif tablets or anythings)

4. What’s your best guess as to how many books you read in a month? school year ( non holiday month) 4-6, summer atleast ten ( 4 this week alone)

5. What’s your favorite writing “machine” you’ve ever owned?“writing machine”? laptop, but i am still partial to a good gel pen and a new journal. i write differently than i type.

6. Think historical fiction: what’s your favorite time period in which to read? (And if you don’t read historical fiction–shame on you.) i suppose shame on me too. i occasionally read historical firction......but i like memoirs does that count? i like pretty current stuff.......but like to read about people and places in parts of the world i don't know. i like to learn something as well as a good story when i read.

7. What’s the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?ok, i'm going to break this one up into eras.
kindegarden: bernstein bears
elementary school ( 2-4th grade). i heart ramona quimby. the whole series. also partial to tales of a fourth grade nothing and superfudge.
junior high: across four aprils ( hey..that is historical fiction right?)...and of course are you there god it's me margret ( haha!)
highschool...i know this is cliche but a seperate peace, catcher in the rye and cold sassy tree. i still love a good coming of age peice.

birthdays and the beach

Last weekend was my friend tina's birthday party fiesta....complete with pinatas and mojitos. Tomorrow I will be sitting on the beach hopefully with one of these in my hand and mint in my teeth...Here's a recipe ( copy and pasted from the if you want to join me.

3 fresh mint sprigs, 2 tsp sugar, 3 tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 oz light rum, club soda In a tall thin glass, crush part of the mint with a fork to coat the inside. Add the sugar and lime juice and stir thoroughly. Top with ice. Add rum and mix. Top off with *chilled* club soda (or seltzer). Add a lime slice and the remaining mint, and serve.

who says two is terrible?

This morning, I got plenty of strenuous cardio for way less than the 30$ a month most gyms charge. For the low low price of 3$ and a mandatory pair of socks – I spent a good hour+ chasing a few two year olds around bouncing bonanza ( think an old grocery store filled w/ bounce houses). I’d bet the sweaty pit stains on my white t-shirt that I worked out just as hard as if I’d gone to an aerobics class. This is a pretty normal morning.
Well, change out the bounce house with the park, or swimming, or the science museum, or the zoo, or library story time ( you would think that would be low impact – but chasing my son around and trying to get him to sit on his mat like the rest of the toddlers is enough to get my heart rate up). On good days there is a stop for coffee along the way.
Next comes lunch. Half the time it is shared with friends, the other half it is mac and cheese or pb&j. Turns out I love pb&j and little Debbie even more fiercely than I did in grade school. Then my favorite part of the day…..once I can finally wrestle Owen down is nap time. I usually get a bit of a snooze in myself……followed up with some reading, cleaning, ellen, the internet or my least favorite laundry until Owen wakes back up. Then, my second favorite part of the day……..snack time. I also partake in this one and we head back outside to play until “DADDY DADDY DADDY” comes home.
Two is supposed to be terrible. My summer has been anything but. My kid is funny. We laugh and hug and wrestle and play chase. Yes there is the occasional daily meltdown……and plenty of minutes spent in time out. Sometimes he whines and destroys and asks to watch CARS over and over but no one does it cuter. He howls at the moon and dances to any commercial with music in it and dips anything and everything into catsup. Sometimes he shares his lunch with the dog and body slams the cat and colors on the carpet ( or couch or wall or floor or yes, the cat). Last summer he was just learning to walk. He still stuck everything in his mouth. His vocabulary consisted of about a half dozen words, now we run and talk back and state our opinion. He tells me when he needs a new diaper or juice or his shoes off. “momma” has turned into “mommy” and it makes me melt almost as fast as the snow cones we share. Two is completely un-terrible.

sundays once a month

The wafer is easy. Thin and tasteless on my tongue. I do have to try really hard not to bite down or swallow until permission is granted. I know this is important. I try to pray the right things or at least clear my head.
This is my body broken for you.
The juice well, as I see it coming down the aisle to me, I worry that I might drop it.
This is my blood poured out for you.
Grape juice. That small tiny plastic cup is never enough. After my spiritual shot I just want more. I am taken straight back to the 3rd grade. All that is missing is a side of graham crackers.
Sometimes after these Sundays, I go to the store and buy a bottle.
I pour myself a tall glass over ice and it only takes less than an hour for my stomach to cramp. I should stick with wine.

Going Home

I don’t spend much time in my hometown anymore. Most family events ( holidays, birthdays, etc) are at the lake. When I do go back to BCS it seems like a strange place. Like most college towns, it is always under construction. It is weird to have this familiar place be so foreign to me, to have to ask for directions or suggestions of where to go. Even my parent’s house is new. What remains of my old bedroom is in one big brown box somewhere in the corner of the attic. Me and O slept upstairs on the day bed. I slept on the top part, and him on the pull out trundle bed. Most of the first night he kept trying to climb up tome, but by morning he was on the top, and I was on the floor. I’m not sure which remote to use or where to find a fork.
I experienced the same kind of stumbling around with some of my old friends. Some of it was easy enough. Margarita swirls and guacamole makes everything easier. But then there were new boyfriends and jobs and babies to get straight. Someone took a jab at my blogs. We got slightly heated when it came to religion and made bad uncomfortable jokes when it came to ex-husbands. It was good to see everyone, but sad for the slight uneasiness we all occasionally felt. It felt like the city. Good and familiar and comforting but occasionally new and confusing. People and places had new names. Frustrated to be lost in a place I used to know so well.

first ladies

Some first lady trivia……… ( answers after the last ?)

She believed that the deaths of her three children were punishment by God for her husband's involvement in politics.
a. Lucy Hayes b. Helen Taft c. Pat Nixon d. Jane Pierce

She wrote a weekly newspaper column while First Lady.
a. Florence Harding b.Edith Wilson c.Eleanor Roosevelt d.Rosalynn Carter

3. Temperance advocate whose husband, as President, banned liquor from the White House -- leading to this First Lady's new public nickname.
a. Margaret Taylor b.Ida McKinley c.Lucy Hayes d. Angelica VanBure

4.Her first child had a candy bar named for her.
a. Frances Cleveland b.Alice Roosevelt c. Nancy Reagan d.Hillary Clinton

5. She met her future husband at a country club dance, and later said, "I married the first man I ever kissed…."
a. Nancy Reagan b. Barbara Bush c. Hillary Clinton d.Mamie Eisenhower

6. She helped raise funds for Johns Hopkins University Medical School -- on the condition that women be admitted as students.
a. Nancy Reagan b. Florence Harding c.Edith Wilson d. Caroline Harrison

7. She convinced her husband, while he was a state legislator, to vote against an import tax on snuff, which she used in public.
a. Louisa Adams b.Dolley Madison c. Eleanor Roosevelt d. Lou Hoover

8. She served as her husband's secretary and advisor while he was President, and was the first First Lady to attend cabinet meetings.
a. Abigail Adams b. Rosalynn Carter c. Eleanor Roosevelt d. Sarah Polk

1-d, 2-c, 3-c ( lemonade lucy), 4-a (baby ruth), 5-b, 6-d, 7-a, 8-d
* quiz ?s taken from

………..oh but I actually have a point……………
Acts 13:50 “The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.”

a little background…..basically Paul and his friend Barnabus had visited several cities to spread the good news of Christ. The whole city had gathered and some of the Jews were jealous of the crowds. Because of their reaction they spoke boldly to the Gentiles and many of them converted. The Jews got a little irritated ( this was “their God” ) and this ( vs50) was their evacuation plan for Paul and his friend. ( in case you were wondering….Paul shook the dust off his feet and moved on to the next town!)

…… for the connection…….
Notice who the Jews purposely incited first! WOMEN! God has given women the gift (and burden) of influence. The biggest political influence back then ( and I believe it still is today) is women. We may not make the cover of Newsweek very often, and so far no woman has ever been president, and we still tend to make less money for the same job…. but WE ARE the wives and mothers and teachers! Apparently ( even if they don’t act like it)…….some of those men are listening to us. Take a look out your car window tomorrow if you happen to be on a Texas highway and thank Lady Bird for her beautiful influence. Too bad about Eve though.


I used to have a copy of einstein's desk on my desk., with this quote " If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk? " The only problem with that was I could never see it or find it amist my papers to be graded, memos, extra copies and candy wrappers. I don't really think Einstein was promoting messy so much as trying to put it in perspective. Maybe relativity and the dual nature of light ranks a little bit higher than housekeeping. Jesus sided with Mary rather than Martha on this one too. The teacher next door always had a pretty desk. It was perfectly neat. I bet she never lost papers or couldn't find test keys or ran out of copies. Her room either smelled lemony fresh or like bath and body works when she had a candle burning. It always made me envious.

Lately I have been thinknig about how much "stuff" we all seem to accumulate. We have been doing a little rearranging at our house. I moved the guest bed into Owen's room and alot of his baby stuff out. While cleaning and looking for places to put stuff........I wondered what we would do when we have another baby ( hopefully we will work on that sometime this fall!). There will be no guest room closet to store maternity clothes, scrapbooking supplies, wrapping paper, wedding momentos and my fat clothes in. My attic already seems kind of full. The idea of a storage unit seems obsene to me. When I get more stuff than my house, well maybe I should get rid of some of it before I try to buy more space. Earlier in the week I tried to purge myself of at least 10% of my clothes. I started counting things like how many t-shirts, or jeans or flipflops I own and was slightly ashamed. It was still hard to part with some of my items, even ones i haven't worn in years.......but it felt so good to see 3 full garbage bags and even better to give them away. Almost as amazing as seeing the carpet on my floor for the first time in a while. I also threw away holey socks, expired coupons and stale chips. Much of my house still needs to be purged. It felt like a great catharsis. Like all of this stuff has just been weighing me down. Don't get me wrong -- I still have 8 pairs of jeans, 6 plain white shirts and am just as materialistic as the next girl -- but I am working on that.

Ok, usually I am not an Oprah fan........but I will admit that I watched it today. Her guest was an organization expert. He was talking about ways to de-clutter and some of his clients ( more of Oprah's guest) ...well they make my worst closets and my school desk look like the container store. He spit out some shocking stats.......things like we only wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. He also kept talking about how all this physical clutter leads to every area of our lifes......if you have stuff piled up at that you don't want to deal with at probably have plenty of stuff to sift through in your relationships as well. There is just so much that it seems to be too big to undertake, to much to change and put right that we keep just living in mess or around it. There were a few tips that I liked ( and some were also conclusions that i came to on my own as I sorted through my own stuff).

1. garage sale mentality -- this seems to work especially well for teens, but i fell for it too. If you go through your things looking for stuff to sell in a garage sale you will give up much more than just for charity. maybe this is appealing to more of our greed -- but hey whatever works. About a year ago some of my friends had a big garage sale that i participated in. I went all through the house and attic looking for things I thought people might buy. I was kind of fanatical and priced stuff I never would think to give to Goodwill. At the end of the day I didn't want to haul any of the stuff people didn't buy back to my house and ended up donating it.

2. New in, old out. Simple concept, but harder in practice. If you buy a new something, you have to get rid of an old one. Books for example --- buy a new book, give away an old one.

3. You shouldn't have to talk yourself into keeping anything. If you are going through your closet, garage or whatever and you pause ever so breifly to consider an item -- chunk it. Sometimes I worry about throwing something away that I will miss or need later or whatnot. Easy solution -- give it to a friend -- then you can always borrow it!

4. If you havent worn it in a year -- give it to charity. Easy trick, turn all your coathangers backwards -- then when you wear something, wash it and hang it back up the right way. A year later -- anything that is still facing the wrong way goes. He also did the same trick with kitchen utensils. Put all of them in a box somewhere handy and when you use one, take it out and put it in the drawer -- after a month you probably don't need anything that was left in your box.

don't thank me, thank oprah.......I'm still a little partial to einstein's theory on this one.
p.s. I am sure some of you that know me might be suprised to learn that the photo is from flikr and was not actually taken in my home.

my summer off

My summer saw taught me the art of doing nothing. All this rain has helped too. I tend to be a busy girl. I overbook myself on a regular basis. I am usually tired and off to somewhere else. As a teacher you would think I have it easy during the summer, but they are usually really full. The only 2 exceptions were the summer I married and moved to DFW and the summer I had Owen ( and I worked a bit before he got here). I wouldn't call either of those relaxing. Usually, I have summer school ( teaching or taking or sometimes both), random jobs ( bath and body works and tutoring) and sign up for silly classes for owen. Last summer I taught bits of summer school, an SAT prep class, cleaned out the chemical stock room and labs at school, ran a fish camp and carted Owen off swim lessons, little gym, physical therapy and play dates. This summer the stars aligned and I didn’t have anything planned. I didn't sign O up for anything. I am changing jobs, so for once I don’t have to plan and get ready for my department. For most of June I didn’t even know what I would be teaching ( preAP bio – just 2 sections ) so I couldn’t even plan if I wanted to. My school is brand spankin new and not quite ready…….so I can’t go work in my classroom. My old childcare situation kind of fell through so, like last summer I can’t just drop off O any time I want for full or half days cheaply. No more helmets or physical therapy for Owen. I did sign up for 2 soccer teams ( instead of the usual one)……but all the rain means we have only played a few games all summer. So instead I read books, go to the zoo, swim when the sun permits, watch cartoons, go to the park, go to storytime, wander around bookstores, take naps, snack ( so much for going to the Y), watch movies, play with friends, drink coffee and color. Occasionally I cook and clean or look up lesson plans on the internet……..but I’m not making them priorities or anything.

one word

My friend Tina's daughter, Maddy, has a unique habit. She picks one word that she associates with you after each visit. She is not quite 2 so maybe one word is all she can handle. You are then "Fun Michelle" or "Happy Jodi" until you see her again and then you are given a new word. Owen and her hang out alot and I can tell alot about thier visit from the word she chooses. We have been "Owen NO NO", "Owen share", "Owie Swim" , "fun Owie" and my personal favorite "Owen friend". I wonder if people had to choose one word to sum up our experience after each interaction, what it would be. Sometimes, I am afraid I would be "tired Michelle" or "stressed Michelle" or "busy Michelle" or something worse. I would hope for "Michelle friend" or "Michelle laugh" or nice or wise or caring....things like that. The best word, the one we are all called to be, and the one that I don't reflect nearly as often as I'd like, would be "Christ".

goodnight moon

The house is eerily quiet. Owen is at his grandmother’s house for a couple of days. We are eating dinner in the living room, drinking wine and shaun is watching soccer on the Spanish channel. Not an untypical evening for us, minus the wine and I try to eat dinner at the table most nights. There is no little boy running circles around the couch, pulling the cat’s tail or throwing a fit until he gets ice cream. Me and Shaun have plans to play a game and go to a movie after dinner……..that is definitely an abnormality. It is weird to think that this used to be normal. There are conviences of course, for example I haven’t had to look at milk, cartoons, or diapers in 24 hours. I didn’t have to re-read the same book 5 times. I went somewhere for lunch that doesn’t have a kids menu. I wandered around B&N for an hour uninterrupted. I slept until an astonishing 9:15 this morning…..but tonight there will be no one to tickle or tuck in or read stories to. It is a very uneven trade.

Big Boy Bed

So we have decided ( more like he decided) to move Owen up to a real bed. So after a trip to Ikea and Target … Tuesday he snuggled in for a night’s sleep sans bars. At 4:30 a.m. I hear little tiny feet padding down the hall. I know what I should do. This is the beginning of the education process and I should take him immediately back to his bed, snuggle with him for a second and leave him on his own. However, like I mentioned, it is 4:30 am. The good parenting can start tomorrow. So I quickly scoop him up and place him in between me and Shaun. Within seconds his breathing relaxes and he goes back to sleep. I realize I really need to pee, and I might as well take him back to bed while I am up. At 6:17 am, a little crash and lots of crying. Owen fell off his big boy bed onto his legos below. Stepping on legos hurts like hell I can’t imagine falling onto them from a early morning stupor. Shaun, who should be getting up for work soon anyways goes off to rescue him. Still screaming, Owen once again is snuggled up next to me. It only takes a moment to calm him down and he is thankfully back to sleep. My mattress must have magic properties. Once Owen hits my mattress his breathing slows and you can just see his body relax. I know it is not the mattress so much as the proximity. His parents are right beside him. He immediately feels safe and loved and lulled to sleep by my snoring. I get that. I am almost 30 and I still desire that feeling. I remember being little and trying to sneak into my parents bed. When I was really desperate I would even lay on the floor beside them. We were never the warm or cuddly type, but I wasn’t scared if they were in the room. Knowing someone is there, right there is assuring. All the thoughts running though your head are quiet. I can’t help but compare this to our Father. Why aren’t we soothed so easily? If it is just a proximity thing all we must do is draw closer. Swallow some of that pride that says a grown up is too big to be scared or ask for help or crawl into their daddy’s bed. My son is not afraid to seek comfort, to snuggle, or to be afraid. Now someday soon I hope he gets used to his bed and can make it through the night without falling off or waking me up……but for now I’ll take my snuggles when I can.

tall nonfat one pump caramel machiatto -June 27

tall nonfat one pump caramel machiatto
That is my typical starbucks order: I think there is some kind of contest at Starbucks to see who has the longest order. Sometimes I go a little plainer w/ a nonfat raspberry latte or if I need something cold or it is a bad stomach day any of the iced teas ( black is my favorite, but the green and passionfruit are also super great) sweetened. I never brew my own. I never get it right, but at work I add half a splenda and plenty of creamer – preferably flavored to whatever is in the pot. My dad always took his with exactly 2 sugar cubes.
My love for coffee started when I was probably about 10 and it was biblical. Our Sunday school class always let out before my parents. All the kids would impatiently wait outside and rush in after the last prayer. We all made a beeline for the back right corner of the room……..just hoping that someone had brought donuts. For some reason, I also started pouring myslef a cup of coffee while the grown ups chatted and chose a place to eat. Black. I guess I thought that meant I was tough. It was bitter, strong and tasted worse than my dad's whiskey, but I drank it down in big hot gulps. There was no such thing as Starbucks back then so this habit was reserved for Sunday mornings only.
Then in the high school they opened up a coffee shop. Fancy coffee was still a pretty weird thing, but us highschool kids flocked to Sweet Eugene's. We thought we were very cool hanging out there. It was filled with couches and books and games. There was a giant porch and occasionally some bad acoustic music in the corner. I ordered Snickers lattes and tried to have intense conversations although I was still more worried about my outfit than any of the deep things we pretended to care about. My dad tried to feed this habit and broke out the expresso machine (he used to live in Italy). I just loved those cute little cups, but preferred something sweet and foamy. One night I drank an entire pot of expresso studying for a Calculus test. My stomach burned the next morning. That was only the beginning.
Due to an ulcer and some bad habits my stomach couldn't handle much caffeine during my prime coffee drinking years. Lubbock never had a Starbucks while I lived there ….and with Daybreak and J&B we never missed it. I grew to like hot tea. The walls were covered with these fun glass jars of tea to chose from and I don't mean stupid boxes with lame quotes on them but jars of dried leaves and fruits. You brought the jar to the counter, and they would scoop out some leaves and but in this cute little homemade teabag to steep. I took mine with half and half and some sweet and low. Then I grew up, started taking better care of my stomach, always ordering it nonfat and now coffee is back on the menu and a social activity at least a few times a week.
Tonight me and my friend Wendy went to a tasting at Starbucks. We went because we wanted free drinks and thought we would learn how to make machiattos and frapiccinos and raspberry lattes at home rather than dishing out the 4$ a cup. We showed up late and soaking wet and realized we were way out of our league. It was more like a seminar. There were only a few people in the group, all older or Starbucks employees and they definantly knew the difference between a Sumatra and an Italian Roast. None of them probably order those syrupy drinks. She had brewed 3 different coffees and taught us the four things to look for in a coffee: 1)boldness - the heaviness on your tounge 2)acidity – the tang or zip 3)aroma and 4)flavor –simple or complex. She also went over the characteristics of each region. For example Asian coffees seem to be earthy and African coffees tend to have more of a citrisy taste. Some coffees have hints of berry, chocolate or even flowers. All I can ever remember tasting is whatever flavor I had them pump into my coffee. So we tried each one and tried to match it to it's region ( I was the only one who got it right by the way……but I am not competitive or anything!). It was really interesting to look into these three little black cups that looked exactly the same and smell and taste really different flavors. She also brought out some pastries to pair them with. One tasted amazing with an expresso brownie, while another flavor made it taste bitter. The Kenyan coffee tasted awesome with a lemon bar, but paired with the Italian coffee it tasted like I had just brushed my teeth and drank orange juice. It started sounding like a wine tasting…..but I was amazed at all these flavors I had been missing or drowing out with whipped cream. It isn't just the coffee. I do this all the time. I miss moments because I rush them. I miss the complexity in people because I don't take the time to draw it out. I miss out on some of my husband's best traits by not pairing it with the right words or moments or activities. And my most important lesson, some things don't always need flavored syrups or sprinkles to be good. Somethings are even better just as they are.
Now, I don't promise to give up my machiattos...but somedays i will have a much simpler order of just a flavorful black coffee....and maybe even save a few bucks.

the other ranch- June 26

the other ranch

In my circles the ranch, always meant camp. Mo Ranch and where I spent most of my summers from ages 11-21. I haven't dedicated much writing to this place because it is one of the few things in my life that seems to be too big to tackle on paper. It is where I learned about friendship and family and first kisses ( well thanks to camp stewart dances) about being real and sharing a bathroom with 20 other girls, the importance of mail, my love for the late night conversation, the non-necessity of a hair dryer, that maybe jumping off a bridge isn't the best idea, some of my best practical jokes, that there is all kinds of grey, that sometimes it really hurts to send them home and lots lots more. Shaun has another ranch. One that he has spent almost as much time at, but in Colorado. There he learned to flyfish, how to sneak up on some elk, how to make gorp, how to clean a fish, just how much water a jeep can actually drive through. They are both beautiful: the Texas hill country and Stonewall Colorado. Ok, I know most people would pick CO hands down, but memories have made the first just as beautiful to me. Both serve meals family style and both mean sharing a bathroom with more than a few people. Both mean really hot naps in the afternoon and lots of walking. Mine had a river and forbidden ice machines and a chapel on the hill. His has snow capped peaks, bears ( yep we saw one), jeep trails and it's own chapel on the hill. It isn't marked with any cross or pews –but when you reach a summit there is something just a spiritual about it. Both are dusty and rocky and loud. Loud in a quiet sort of way. Lots of crickets and hummingbirds and the stars are so bright they almost scream at you. I have grown to love "the Ranch" along with Shaun and his family. My family, we are beach people – but there must be some mountain in me because I love forgetting what day it is, catching fish and just hanging out on the back porch with a good book. At the campfire one night I was getting a bit nostalgic for Mo and realized that i am happy to still have a Ranch in my summers.

I am - June 22

That is what God told Moses (exodus 3:14)……..and I think it sums it up. That word am has to be one of the most important in the English language. You might argue that "is" and "are" are equally important. I disagree. Is is not personal. It is how someone else introduces you. Are is how you talk about someone else. Am is how you describe yourself. Obviously God did not feel the need to finish the sentence because He is everything. Everything good at least.I am also a lot of things……although my resume is not as all inclusive as God's but I am…… a lot of things. A mother, a wife, a child, a teacher, a friend, a sister, an aunt…you get the idea. Most of those are easy to say because they don't require any desire. I was born, making me a child. I got married making me a wife. I get paid to be a teacher. Don't get the wrong idea – they all take skill and work….but these are easy ones to admit and accept. There are some damaging I ams out there that I have learned to avoid. There are other I ams that are sort of wishful. Hopeful. Hesitant to come right out and say. I read Bird by Bird and decided that I wanted to be a writer. Notice I said I want to be…….not I am . Technically I am typing here. Using complete sentence ( well sometimes). I am writing……..but does that make me a writer? Of course. But that doesn't roll off the tongue or pen so easily because it makes too many assumptions. I don't assume to be good at this. I don't assume that any one will ever pay me for it. I don't want to say I am………and allow confidence in this hope or pleasure. I dabble. I blog. I read. Can I just be an amateur writer? I don't think the word am goes too well with disclaimers. I run, but I see those skinny people in spandex at the gym or in races and think they are the runners and I well……..I am just barely keeping up. I think I have to be good at it to call myself that. Thankfully – the I am a Christian part doesn't try and follow those same rules. I would look around at church and say those women, the ones with ironed shirts and memorized verses -those are the Christians. I don't quite have it together….so I must just be pretending. Thankfully, it doesn't really work that way. I am because of what I believe. I am because I want to be. So on that note, I am a runner, a soccer player, a good joke teller, a photographer and maybe just maybe even a writer.

Mile Markers - May 21

the first major purchase me and shaun made as grown ups was my car. a 2001 Xterra. When we bought it we were newlyweds. new to the city in our little duplex on Cooper and I-20. I have a long history of being hard on cars....
when i was 16 my parents bought me a car. a nice boring 1990 2 door black grand am. not exactly cool, but relativiely reliable. it overheated just often enough to scare me into not driving places i wasnt supposed to be. I drove a little bit too fast with the windows down and bad rap music blaring. A few days before graduation and 2 weeks shy of my 18th birthday it died on the feeder road on Hwy 6. Right in front of the Dairy Queen I worked at. I didn't think much of it. Used cars are supposed to break down. My dad called the next day and informed me that I blew the engine. I am not 100% sure what that means but i do know that we had to put it down.
For my 18th birthday and my graduation I got an equally boring car. A 1992 grey Taurus...or what I like to refer to as the grocery getter. The stereo wasnt nearly as good, but it had power windows and 4 doors. I did not look a gift horse in the mouth. I had been given not one but two cars. Now days I would just be thrilled if someone offered to pay for a tank of gas or change the oil. This was my college car. It took many trips around the Loop and even occasionally out to the strip. On my way to Mo Ranch I dropped the transmission, once again I am not quite sure what that phrase means……but it meant I was stuck in some scary town waiting for my dad to drive the 4 hours to rescue me.
Car #3 was supposed to be my college graduation present + my life savings of 6,427 dollars. It came a year and a half early, I can't remember what car malady was responsible but this time I had a much newer, less soccer mom 1996 forest green Jimmy. This car was unlucky and slightly possessed. My roommate backed it into a car across the street twice in only a matter of months. My roommate, not me because I wasn't know for my driving skills ( however I never backed into anyone….hmmm) My happiest moment in this car was driving ( or riding, because shaun was really driving) away from my wedding reception. Here in DFW I had a very unwelcome. On my first day of work someone slammed …and I do mean slammed into me at a stoplight. My back has never quite been the same since. The car also had an electrical short…which meant that the inside lights would just randomly turn on…usually in the middle of the night …meaning I would wake up to a dead battery. I drove a rental for almost a month…….and then a few weeks after getting my wrecked car back, someone else rearended me. This time I took the insurance check and hit the Nissan dealerships.
Buying a car is not quite like buying anything else. The first place we went to took my car keys to see what kind of trade in value and the little Asian salesman refused to give them back until we agreed to buy a car. Let's just say this tactic did not work, and I was glad to have a little bit of my dad in me. I drew a crowd while I yelled at the man to give me back me keys. Shaun and me finally found a slightly less pressuring salesman and got the car we wanted. I remember thinking, that I might have kids in this car ( not literally in the car, but while I owned it) and it would need to be kid friendly ( ie, have a backseat unlike my mom's new corvette). I drove Owen home from the hospital in it. FYI sitting in the backseat after a C-section is a bad idea. The baby will be just fine ( or scream wheter you are in the front seat or the back seat). I have always wanted a car w/ a sunroof. Well I finally have one, but now I never use it. Actually the seal isn't quite right and it makes this really really annoying whistle when you drive over 70. I have learned to tune it out but it drives Shaun crazy. As for accidents, there was an accident that involved me and an ATM machine and a door that will never quite close right….but that is about it. It was paid off in November. It has taken me to the mountains, moved me into my first house and more than one trip to the beach. Yesterday on the way home from Cooks Urgent Care Center and Owen's first breathing treatment it rolled over the infamous 100,000 mile mark. The blue popsicle that the ER nurse gave him was dripping all over the seat and I felt very much like a grown up. A grown up that didn't drive a minivan.

chin hickey - May 15

while i was in chicago and waiting for a train, this cute asian teenager walks past with a small dark mark slightly under her chin. i would know that trademark anywhere -- even if she didn't have a rectangular case strapped to her back. no i don't think she had been necking. i think she spends hours alone. well not completely alone. her and her violin. etudes and concertos and minuets. i used to be able to do that. i used to have a small pock mark on my neck that would occasionally be mistaken for a hickey.... but it was just a small light one that would fade within a few hours. one like hers took several hundred hours to earn. it is a badge. like caluses to a guitar player or gear scars to a mountain biker. playing the violin was never cool and i am not sure whatever possessed me to take it up. my family was musical. i mean we never stood around the piano and sang songs or anything.......but my pawpaw used to be a band director, my mom at some point taught piano lessons and my brother and sister were hard core band nerds. playing an instrument was never a was always a matter of which one. my parents just assumed i would take up the trumpet like my older siblings.......but i never wanted to compete with them. in the 5th grade i did not understand the social structure of music in highschool ( only choir was socially acceptable).......but after a preview w/ an eccentric strings teacher i chose the violin.......or maybe it chose me. within a few months the private lessons were lined up. me and suzuki became friends, thankfully i got to skip the whole practice on a box phase. i was good. not like some kind of child prodigy good. but good like i could practice and feel the music. when i played go tell aunt rhody i played it w/ a little bit of passion......even if it didn't quite match the notes. my parents fully supported this extracuricular. they never cared about sports or anything else, but they never missed a concert. my mom even took off work early once a week to take me to my lessons. my mom never leaves work early. i kept it up, even after it was definantly uncool to be in orchestra. my case was ducktaped from trudging it to and from school everyday. my brother can just hear a song and play it. i never had that ability....but i could make music from a black and white page scattered with notes. they made sense to me and my fingers just seemed to know where to go. i started practicing less and moved back a few chairs but always loved the ability to pick up this wooden block and make something pretty. mellow and deep and much better than words. now - my duck taped covered case sleeps underneath my guest bed. i looked up the value of the violin on the internet back when owen needed a helmet and was shocked to find it was worth almost 3 thousand dollars. i wanted to sell it to cover owen's medical costs. shaun wouldn't let me. it is dusty and the strings are loose and the bow hair is falling out.......but it waits pateintly for me to pick it up, dust it off and play something pretty

New Shoes - May 9 2007

I was walking down the street in Chicago, a late 20 something man and woman walked out of an office building. Obviously just off work. She had on a boring tan business suit and then you look down and see these very cool slip on tennis shoes w/ a fun print. I am in awe. Just by a quick glance at her feet, I think she is cool. I would want to be her friend….well you know if she wasn't just some random girl on the street. And then I had dinner and forgot about her.
The next morning I was strolling down Michigan avenue and see those same amazing shoes in the window at Payless. Yes, Payless. The magnificent mile in Chicago is known for its exclusive shopping w/ places like Hermes, Cartier and Tiffany – and I want something form Payless. I quickly go in, find them in my size and slip them on even leaving the store. Suddenly I have this moment where I think my new 17$ shoes are my destiny. That they will make me as cool as the cool as the girl in the beige suit and they will give me purpose. The purpose is about the dozen bums that I passed on my way here. All with Starbucks cups out jingling wanting my change. Sometimes I gave it to them, but mostly I walked past. Chicago is cold, even in May I held my jackets tight. If I was going to be homeless I would choose a place like San Francisco – not cold windy Chicago. So I decide to give away my slightly used, but still very cute Nikes. I tie the laces together and sling them over my shoulder and tell my companions be on the lookout for a homeless women in about a size 8 ½. I feel very benevlolent. Good and warm inside because I am going to give away my old used sneakers. We have a boat tour booked and I was slightly disappointed that there was no woman talking to herself on the stairwell down to the river that I had seen earlier. She would have made a perfect recipient of my shoes. The grey would have matched her holey sweatshirt. On the boat I did slip them inside my backpack instead of carrying them on shoulder, but was still confident that I would find someone to give them to on the way back to the hotel. I counted 4 men with very large feet and jingling starbucks cups on the way back. The tennis shoes were getting heavy to lug around and I was anxious to give them away already. The warm fuzzy feeling was starting to fade and my back was starting to ache.
The next day, I left the cool shoes at the motel and wore my old ones. This did complicate my plan to give them away….but I was thankful to wear shoes w/ arch support after biking 10 miles and walking at least half that many. Monday morning before my flight I was out walking near the hotel and was ready to hand them off, even go barefoot for a block or two if the opportunity arised. That might even be better. It would look really generous to take the shoes off my feet, rather than pull a used pair out of my backpack. Keep in mind when I say it would "look" more or generous I am not talking about a crowd or anyone to impress. I was thinking about God I suppose. I even distinctly remember asking God to put someone in my path. I prayed all the way to the train to O'Hare. Needless to say I didn't run into any more women in need of shoes. Plenty of people needed cash, a cup of coffee, a hot dog or maybe even a beer – but I wasn't willing to part with more than a few quarters here and there. I wanted to give away my shoes because it was convenient. It was easy. There was something in it for me. I had another pair waiting at the hotel and a whole closetfull at home. I never considered giving away my jacket or anything else I would miss. Just those stupid shoes. I was trying to lighten my own load and get a cheap warm fuzzy look how great I am moment out of it. God decide I needed humility a lot more than a homeless woman needed some Nikes.