Sometimes the best way to forget about the annoyances of the day (I'm talking to you, Supreme Court) is to let Simon Baker entertain me for an hour.
"Your eyes went empty like a cobra." Oh, Patrick Jane. You kill me.
We love witty guys.
Sometimes the best way to forget about the annoyances of the day (I'm talking to you, Supreme Court) is to let Simon Baker entertain me for an hour.
"Your eyes went empty like a cobra." Oh, Patrick Jane. You kill me.
We love witty guys.
A headline over at MSN.com notified me that today--January 18--is the most depressing day of the year.
Really? Today? Evidently it has to do with a terrible trifecta of post-holiday blahs, receiving your credit card statement and the weather.
I paused for a moment to search my inner self for depression. I'm particularly susceptible to it, so I'm usually on high alert. I did find some unnecessary irritation lurking in one corner, and over there I felt a little bit of momentary angst that one of my classes was canceled (but then I discovered it wasn't, so false alarm). I was a bit annoyed that I've taken so few pictures this month, but overall, I would not rank today as the most depressing day of the year.
For one thing, Jason had some family drive up from Eugene today for a special visit, and that was fun.
I also managed to bring home $5 in tips, though I only made a few coffee drinks this morning.
And! And! Today was significant from yesterday--and from tomorrow--because of this:
It didn't rain today. See! Plenty of frog ponds, some bamboo, my dad's banana plant hibernating for the winter, but not. a. single. raindrop.
It's been raining all week long, and the forecast promises rain all this next week, and for good measure we have ridiculous wind storms at night tearing the place apart. But today...there was no rain. And so we went outside and rejoiced at our good fortune.
It doesn't take much to convince us PacNWers to drive around with the top down. Of course, the Jeep doesn't ever have a top, but still. The girls were driving around with some serious exuberance.
Even Jules took it for a spin, such was her joy at the good weather.
Doesn't her hair just kill you? It's so ridiculously adorable. Also kind of adorable in its own way? The lack of rain. Just needed to point that out again.
So, no, I can't call today the most depressing day of the year. I bet today was a pretty awful day for some people, but for me, here and right now...it was just fine.
You can't fool me, Jules. I know you had a good day too. ♥
Over the past several days, I've been checking in regularly with Twitter to see what news comes from Haiti. From there I find links to aerial photos of horrific devastation, read stories of children receiving medical treatment without anesthesia, am heartened by tweets of recovered family members. And, in the midst of all the heartbreak, so many tweets that praise God. These are people who were desperately poor to begin with, and now this. Yet their faith sustains them.
Last week, while I was driving back from school, I listened to NPR reporter Jason Beaubien give a first-hand account (1:00 minute into the program) of what was happening on the street around him. He told of a little girl lying on a makeshift stretcher, covered in bandages, alone and naked except for a tablecloth covering her. As the reporter talked, I heard his voice crack. He apologized and had to take a moment to gain his composure. Thousands of miles away, I cried in my car for that little girl whose need had suddenly become so personal to me. Even now, as I listened to the report again, I weep. (Transcript of program here)
This morning, one of our church leaders gave us updates on the missionaries the church supports in Haiti. All the adults have been accounted for, but the lives of the children whom the church sponsors are still unknown. The man spoke quietly, tears in his eyes. And we all wondered, What about the children?
It is the stories of the children that has made this Haiti disaster so heartbreaking for me. While I am always saddened by the stories that come from natural disasters, I can hardly bear to read the stories coming from Haiti. So many about children. So many about collapsed schools and orphanages. At risk of being constantly in tears, I've prevented myself from reading too many.
I can't go to Haiti. At this point, I'm not sure that sending supplies would be helpful. What I can do is pray and financially help those who are on the ground in Haiti.
And now, twenty-two comments later, our little fundraiser for Haiti has come to an end. For the amount, I decided to multiply the number of comments by the number of years I've been blogging (six), bringing the total to $132. I didn't have a number in mind when I asked for your comments, but I am convinced that $132 is just the right amount to give. From here to Haiti, we did it together.
I sent the amount to Partners in Health, and as soon as I get a receipt from them I'll post it here.
Thank you for participating, and may we all continue to keep Haiti in our prayers long after they cease to be headlining the news. ♥
A few random things:
I throw all these things into my hat and pull out....
a fun little incentive.
Friends and new friends alike, don't be a stranger to this party. Say "HELLO!" and for every comment on this post I'll give $1 to PIH. I'm donating to them anyway, but this makes it a little more meaningful for you. And me too. Let's make a difference together. ♥
PS: If you're new to commenting, you don't need to register with Typepad to leave a comment. Just a name is fine.
*I'll keep the comments open on this post through Sunday.*
As we all know by now, yesterday the earth groaned and a small impoverished nation came undone.
In the past 24 hours I've spent time on Twitter, clicking links, reading tweets, retweeting, and following news organizations (like @nprnews and @MSF_USA). Occasionally I'll pop over to Facebook, but other than a few links, it's pretty quiet over there. I haven't watched much on TV because I don't want the girls to see any of the coverage, but perhaps tonight.
Though I'm sure many of you have favorite charitable organizations, here are some resources that have come across my path in the past few hours.
My heart is so heavy for the huge loss of life Haiti has suffered. I just can't imagine it.
(I also can't imagine why a prominent televangelist would say such devastation is a result of Haiti's deal with the devil, but I know he neither speaks for me or my faith. That is a discussion I'll leave for another day.)
If you know of any other charitable organizations/fundraisers that are focusing their efforts on Haiti right now, please leave info in the comments. The more aware we can be of what we can do, the better we can all serve the people of Haiti. ♥
On account of Jules's birthday being so close to Christmas, she hardly got a proper write-up for her amazing ability to turn three, but here, three weeks later, I have to tell you that I love Being Three. Which is to say, I love Jules being three.
I suspect she loves being three too because she's finally figuring out how to coexist peacefully with the rest of her family. She and Sydney actually play together--for hours!--and they laugh and call each other "darling" and "honey." Yes, there is no shortage of shmoopy names floating around our house.
There's also no shortage of affection in our family. Yesterday, as we were going out of church and I felt a cold blast of wind against me, I clutched Jules tightly in my arms even as she wiggled and cried, "Let me walk!" "But you have to keep me warm," I reasoned, which somehow made sense to her because she immediately threw her arms around my neck and said in my ear, "I'll keep you warm, Mama."
And she does, bless her. This is a child who will spit out her beloved bubblegum if it means she can help me in the kitchen. She won't hesitate for a second to go outside with me, and will happily go run errands with me in the car. She is passion personified.
On Wednesdays when Sydney is away at school, Jules and I head out to do the grocery shopping, easily having the grandest time we might have all day. She helps me bag groceries, "reads" the grocery list for me, tells me what the shoppers behind me are up to. It seems so remarkable to me that she and I can get along because parenting her from 12-34 months was...no Hallmark card. It doesn't help that I don't really enjoy babies the way a lot of moms enjoy babies. I've been wishing for Three Years Old for a long time.
And I'm happy to say, The Year of Three is here, and it's everything I dreamed of.
Even when we have some less-than-wonderful moments, she is quick to patch things up and be happy again. A couple weeks ago, we had a difficult lunch that involved many tears and tiny clenched fists. Eventually, apologies, smiles through the tears. "You still yuv me," she said to me, the phrase she's heard a hundred times, the l dropped from love like she's always done. "Even if I'm naughty, you still yuv me."
"I always do," I tell her. "I'll always love you."
"And I'll always yuv you," she said before throwing her arms around my neck in repentance and forgiveness. "I'll yuv you with my whole life."
I melted into a million dancing pieces. My whole life.
Yes, The Year of Three is just lovely. ♥
I love cookbooks. I love reading cookbooks. Reading recipes in cookbooks and magazines is one of my most favorite things to do. It's inspiring, relaxing, and informative all at once. Most of the time I look at a recipe and can quickly determine that my girls won't eat it, but sometimes I make it anyway. They'll happily munch on raw fruits and veggies while Jason and I eat Thai Curry chicken. I'm okay with that.
Over the holidays, I regularly used three cookbooks that made my life happier and more delicious. Just for kicks, I thought I'd review them.
The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking. Technically, I got this book years and years ago at a Books are Fun kiosk, but only have been using it loyally for a few months. I LOVE it. Added bonus: the girls love it because they love bread. If you bake bread or if you want to start baking bread, this is a great recipe resource. If you click through on the link above, Amazon has a "look inside" feature that will give you a good idea of what's in this baking book. I've made many of the recipes in here, and they always turn out yummy. The one I make most often is a classic apple bread that has applesauce in it. For Julianne's birthday I made Chili Cheese Bread (savory with a bit of spice), Parmesan Corn Bread (perfect with soup), and Apple Eggnog Bread.
The Apple Eggnog Bread is amazing. Even if you don't like eggnog, you'll like this bread. I promise.
In fact, here's the recipe for a 2-pound loaf:
Add all the ingredients to the machine in this order, and bake on the basic white bread cycle. You can drizzle with an eggnog glaze--1 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 T eggnog--but I never do because the girls don't need to know that's an option. And frankly, neither do I.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks. The word on the Amazon street is that there aren't any new recipes in here that PW hasn't already featured on her cooking blog. I wouldn't know because I don't read her cooking blog. I read her Confessions blog, her Photography blog, and her Home & Garden blog, and that keeps me busy enough. Plus--and here's my little confession that I've never told anyone--I hate looking at recipes on the Internet.
As a general rule, I won't make a recipe that's on the Internet, no matter how good it is. I have a long and complicated reason for this, but it boils down to this: I want recipes on paper and printing from my laptop is annoying. I do use the Internet as a search engine in order to help me find a printed version in my cookbooks, and that's about it.
Back to the cookbook though...I pre-ordered it last fall since so many people were raving about PW's recipes, and I was not disappointed. I think it's charming and fun, and a lovely addition to my cookbook collection. The tomato soup is AMAZING. I made it three times in one week, and consequently gained 3 pounds. I sat in Sarah's kitchen as she made the pico de gallo and guacamole and ate it up as fast as she could make it. The creme brulee? OH. MY. SWEET. GOODNESS. The book alone was worth the money just for that recipe. And tonight I made the chocolate sheet cake, which smells very delicious but I have a tummy ache from eating too much of the icing, and will have to wait to try it tomorrow. I'm not usually a fan of chocolate cake, so we'll see.
My only complaint is that Ree isn't always very specific on her directions. I like things very laid out for me: melt over low heat? medium heat? what size baking sheet should I use? a pound of powdered sugar measures how much (4 1/2 cups, thank you Internet). So, she's a bit vague, but I can usually figure it out with some help.
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow. On my Christmas list was a crockpot cookbook. I've discovered that I really enjoy using my crockpot, but didn't have too many recipes to pull from. I had looked at lots of books, but was never really very happy with any of them. My dad, the fabulous shopper that he is (no sarcasm), found this one and gave it to me for Christmas. Even though it doesn't have any pretty pictures (which is usually a requirement for me), this is a great crockpot cook book. GREAT! I have made several of the recipes, and they have all been quite wonderful. If you click through on the link, Amazon will let you look inside the book at the table of contents, which will attest to the fact that crockpots can be quite handy for dessert and drinks too. Added bonus: the author follows a gluten-free diet, so all the recipes can be tailored that way (or not). Added bonus for someone, just not me: Evidently, the cookbook is a printed version of O'Dea's blog.
A few days ago, I made the Thai Curry chicken and it was quite scrumptious, albeit not quite the flavor I was hoping for (but I have in mind a flavor from a Thai restaurant in Salem). Next time I'll add basil. And maybe some pineapple. The azorean spiced beef stew was delicious, though. And the clean-out-the-pantry minestrone soup.
So, there you have it. Three of my new favorite cookbooks that I've grown quite fond of and will be regularly used throughout this next year. Since my parents also got me a zester, a flour sifter, and an awesome cast iron cookbook holder, my year of cooking and baking is off to a great start.
How about you? Any cookbook recommendations you can pass along? I can always make room on the shelf for more! ♥
I have a lame joke I tell in my classes. All of their speeches are timed, so I have a little kitchen timer sitting on the podium so they can (ideally) insure that they don't talk too long (rarely do they not talk long enough). I give a mini-tutorial on how to use the timer and end by saying, "I got the one that doesn't require a college degree, you know, because you don't have one yet." Ha!
I know. The students don't laugh either.
But I thought of that joke when I was filling out the application for Texas Tech. Evidently, a PhD is not required to go to graduate school, but you still have be darn smart.
I worked all day on Tuesday on my application. I ordered my transcripts, feeling proud of myself again that I got a 4.0 in graduate school, which will hopefully cover for me getting a 3.6 in undergrad.
I wrote up a curriculum vitae, which is like a resume except not quite. Mine is pretty lame. I have no awards, no honors, no stars next to my name. Technically, I have been published twice (once in an academic journal (page 20 if you click on the link), and also as a co-author for our school's speech textbook), but they're both pretty weak. I need to work on this.
For my writing sample, I revised a paper I wrote several years ago, which was really difficult to do. The paper itself was good (according to the professor's end comments), but when I reread over it to edit it, I had a hard time. Where the professor had written "Bakhtin begs to be discussed here," I could only helplessly nod my head. I've largely forgotten the how Bakhtin relates to the paper's topic, and felt completely unprepared to discuss him in any intelligent fashion. My ego was bruised; I did what I could. Adding to the paper's complications? The professor hadn't required a works cited page, and I can't find the original essays. Meh.
But I muddled through it, and finally started the Statement of Intent. It has to be 500-1000 words. It has to explain why, of all the applicants, the program should pick me.
I wrote it. I was ready to send off the entire application but then just before I did I happened to click on a link on Texas Tech's page.
If you're applying to graduate school--whether for your masters or PhD, whether for technical communication or otherwise--you have to read this article. Even if it's practically impossible for the school to turn you down (like it was for me and my graduate school that accepts nearly everyone who applies), it's good info to read.
Considering I'm applying for a program that I suspect is more competitive than any of the previous schools I attended, I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't read it before I emailed my application. Well, what would have happened is that I probably wouldn't have gotten accepted because my Statement of Intent was apparently exactly what admissions people hate. Personal anecdotes? Oh dear. Demographic information? Oh my. Use of humor? Oh no.
Not to mention the fact that I didn't include anything relating to current technical communication research (yeah, that's because I haven't done any...). I even started to wonder if I had picked the wrong program.
I was horrified that I was *this close* to sending in my application.
The good news is I have a much better idea of what I need to write.
The good news is I have the first draft done...the first of a recommended 10 drafts.
And the good news is I realized they changed their deadline information, so I'm too late for the fall semester and I'll have to wait to start until January 2011. Why is that good news? Well, it's not exactly, except that now I have lots of time to work on my application because I have until September 1st.
It was a shiny light bulb moment, realizing that this is going to be work (which I knew) and that I need to prepare for it (also knew) and join an academic community that focuses on technical communication (had not even considered it previously) even if I'm not really all that excited about technical communication. This is the degree I have to get to do what I want to do. The light bulb shining above my head is a bit too bright for comfort, but two days later I feel myself breathing deeper.
I have a Statement of Intent to write, GREs to pass, and research to do. And I have eight months to do it in.
I know what I want to be when I grow up, and I'm willing to work hard to get there.
Hopefully that'll be enough. ♥
Last fall I decided I wanted to become a full-time college professor. The hours are good, I really enjoy what I do, and the girls will get free tuition. Since I happen to teach at a small private liberal arts college where tuition is currently hovering in the mid-$20,000 range (let alone where it'll be in 13 years), then free tuition is a really nice perk.
Despite the fact that my job is inconveniently located 70 miles away, it is a sweet teaching gig. Although I'm perfectly happy with my 2-afternoons-a-week classes, at some point in the next 6-7-8 years I'd like to see if I can turn it into a full-time profession. In order for that to happen I have to get my PhD. Preferably before the next 6-7-8 years.
My major qualification for the program: it has to be done by distance. As in, mostly online with a smattering of on-campus work. Moving somewhere to go to school is not realistic (although it would make it so much cheaper because I could get a teaching fellowship). The local-ish universities are really not so local, and I've already ruled out University of Oregon because I refuse to be a Duck. Plus, they don't have the program I want. Even still. I just say no to Duck.
So my choices are already quite limited.
I've done a fair amount of research on PhD programs, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to study literature. I like literature. I do. I like it a lot. I even like teaching it. But I can't imagine myself as a full-time literature professor. It's not my thing.
What I have discovered over the past four years of teaching speech is that communication is my thing. I love teaching public speaking. If I could teach six sections of Fundamentals of Public Speaking for the rest of my professional career, I would. I love helping students overcome their fears of public speaking and deliver speeches about topics they're passionate about. Just this past semester I got to listen to students give speeches on issues they cared deeply about, from helping the homeless, to ministering to children with disabilities, to encouraging members of the military with Love Boxes. Time and time again I hear students say that they were dreading the class to begin with, but loved it by the end. It's very rewarding.
Studying English literature doesn't really make me a better speech teacher. What would make me a better speech teacher is studying communication and rhetoric. That specific area also happens to be an area the college wants to grow in. It just so happens that (as far as I can tell) there are only two programs in the country that offer distance education degrees in communication and rhetoric:
For a variety of reasons (mostly financial) I've decided that Texas Tech's program--a degree called Technical Communication and Rhetoric--is a better fit for me and my future at the college. The only thing I'm a little bit hesitant about is that it, naturally, emphasizes the technical aspect of communication. That's really not my field of expertise (or even vague knowledge of), so I have some serious homework ahead of me for that.
In fact, after working all day on my application I began to have some serious doubts that I am even PhD material. That story is coming tomorrow. ♥
While I was working at the coffee shop today, this super handsome guy took the time today to hand wash a very precious baby doll that had had a very adventurous year living the high (and messy) life on the Family Farm.
I had voted for the Baby Doll Replacement Project, but Jules vetoed that idea.
Mr. Daddy to rescue.
All of us ladies of the house were quite impressed with his heroic efforts in cleaning up Precious Baby (who alternately goes by the name "Shirley" or "Temple"), and have decided that future baby doll washings will always be given to Daddy.
He's our hero. ♥
I love starting the year over. It doesn't always have to be starting the calendar year over, either. Whether I'm starting from my birthday, starting from my wedding anniversary, or starting from the school year, new beginnings inspire me.
When it comes to how I talk, I think the pull of the school year calendar is generally stronger than the regular calendar. I don't think I'll ever be able to break the habit of referring to the new school year as "next year." As in, When do you think you'll get a new car? And I'd say, "Next year" (but I really mean this year, just in the fall). In my mind, "years" run from September to June (and then July and August belong only to themselves).
When it comes to how I think of life resolutions, however, January still wins out. I'm sure the media is largely responsible for creating this sense of starting anew, when really it's just buying a new calendar, but still. I like January 1st.
It feels bright and shiny, with a hint of new car smell.
It feels like permission to leave pain behind.
It seems like the perfect opportunity to take a deep breath and say, "What can I do differently in 2010 than I did in 2009?"
On January 1st I thought, What vice can I leave behind? What goal can I set for myself? What change can I embrace rather than fight against?
The last question is the most glaring. I can't ignore the fact that Jason isn't going to a teaching job tomorrow. I'd say it's the first time in 12 years he's been home the Monday after New Year's day, except he didn't go back to work in January when Jules was born. He stayed home, and boy oh boy did we all love that.
Instead of harboring disappointment, I can embrace the fact that Jason is home, with us. And truly, aside from the tiny substitute teaching paychecks, him being home is amazing. I stopped doing laundry in September, and never looked back, except to give Jason a tutorial on how to wash clothes on the delicate cycle. I'm not talking about throwing clothes in the washing machine. I'm talking about sorting, washing, folding, and putting all the clothes (except mine) away. I'm seriously lucky.
The girls love having him home, and I do too. And we are fortunate to be able to make it through this year--err...this school year--without him working full-time. That's amazing. Amazing.
And so that's my goal for this year: to love this life. This time with Jason, the preciousness of my girls, the closeness of family, the memories of my grandmas, the hours of reflection my 3-hour commute provides me, the view from my office window--I've been going through it with a small chip on my shoulder. I try not to be discontent, but I confess that I'm often distracted by how we're not living life as I had expected. Not living quite as I wanted.
But what I wanted isn't what I got, and I have to work with that. It's more than the cliche of making lemonade from lemons; it's realizing that I wasn't given lemons to begin with. I was given lemonade, it just tastes differently than I expected. The flavor isn't always perfect, but it's still sweet.
Not too sweet.
But sweet enough.
I don't know what this year holds, what kind of job Jason will get, what size our family will be at the end of the year, or whether or not we'll need a new car. I don't know if we'll lose someone we love, or if someone we love will bring someone new to our family. No matter how much I plan, it's still so much a mystery.
What is in my control is how I receive this glass of lemonade, and how thankful I am that it has been given to me at all. I don't write that with Pollyanna optimism--my 2009 gave me enough heartache to keep me realistic--but I write it with the conviction that I was not meant to live a life of bitterness, resentment, or sadness.
I was meant to love. The fact that I know this is possible even after our 2009 gives me hope that my goal is absolutely realistic.
My 2010 is planned out: I'm falling in love.
The rest is a mystery. ♥