Monday, February 28, 2011

Long Distance Relationships...

When I was in 3rd grade, my family moved from Fort Morgan, Colorado to a working cattle ranch in the sandhills of Nebraska. It wasn't the first time our family unit had moved, but that move sticks out in my mind because it was the first time that I remember leaving friends behind. For the year following our move I exchanged letters/cards with my best friend in Colorado, Jon. I can vividly recall the Christmas card he sent me that year. It had a little gray mouse on the front in an over-sized Santa hat. To this day, thinking of that card brings a smile to my face.

At the end of 4th grade we moved again. Then again in 5th grade...twice. It became overwhelming to try to keep up with the friends I had left behind and soon the sending/receiving of cards/letters ceased. Even when I left high school, and to some degree college, friendships that once been day to day connections quickly faded. To put it bluntly, over the years of moves I had kinda developed an out of sight, out of mind approach to relationships as I looked at moving on to the next stage of life. I sometimes think about the names and faces that were part of my past. Faces that today would just be strangers in the crowd should our paths ever cross.

This past weekend marked 8 months since our move. At times I still find myself incredibly homesick for the familiar places and faces we left behind in Grinnell. Also this past weekend I ran away to Omaha for 30 fabulous hours to meet-up and chat (and eat sushi and drink wine) with my college girlfriend Jen. It's the first time we've gotten together since last spring (so we had lots to catch up on) and I brought up how much I'd been thinking about how hard I find it to maintain, in a meaningful way, long distance friendships. If anyone understands how much I struggle with maintaining long distance connections, it's Jen! (Thankfully she's patient with this less than attractive part of my personality.)

The thing is, I suck at long distance relationships. I don't think to send cards/letters. I don't remember birthdays. I'm horrible at mailing gifts even if I've taken the time to get/make something for someone. The times that I think about calling someone up for a chat are generally times I know they will not be available...like mid-afternoon while I'm at home and the most of the rest of the world is working. I've even become more and more sporadic with email communications because while it's nice to check in, it's not the same as a conversation. One would think with the popularity of Facebook I would find it easier than ever to stay connected with people, but I don't even know if we should open that often awkward connected but not REALLY connected can of worms. It's not limited to just friends either...I'm not much better at keeping in touch with family. I'm sure my Mom would be the first to agree that I can at times seem more distant than just through the miles that separate us.

What's my point with all of this? I'm not really sure. Except to say that I'm finding this aspect of our relocation more difficult than any other. I'm having a hard time finding a balance between holding on to what's important about each of the relationships with those that I have left behind (or that have moved on themselves) and letting go what will inevitably change because of the simple fact we no longer share the commonality of living in the same community. I want desperately to assure my Grinnell based friends (and those with strong Grinnell connections) that just because I have moved, they have not been forgotten. I hold them each very dearly in my heart each and every day. At the same time I think about the importance of giving myself time, and the permission, to explore new relationships in our new community. Relationships that will add, not replace, to the wonderfully rich fabric that is my personal social network.

It's definitely still a life lesson very much in progress...


peace

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why Didn't I Think of That...

I have a love-hate relationship with oatmeal.

I LOVE the taste of oats. We use quite a bit of oat flour in place of wheat flour these days and I love how it gives our pancakes, waffles, and muffins that distinctive nutty, oatty flavor. I adore granola...which is mostly oats in most cases. No bake cookies? Um, yes please.

However, I hate oatmeal as a hot cereal. Obviously it's not the taste...it's the texture. No matter how I try to get past it, my gag reflex starts to kick in about 1/2 way through eating a bowl. I've tried just about every thing I could think of to be able to enjoy the warm, filling, budget friendly goodness of a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, to no avail. And it's not just oatmeal, warm tapioca pudding and even Quinoa (which I normally can't get enough of) prepared like a hot cereal does the same thing.

Earlier this week Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times about McDonald's latest addition of oatmeal to its menu as a "healthy" breakfast option. (Side note: I'm in LOVE with Mr. Bittman's new opinion column and his no-nonsense approach to pointing out why the American food culture is so screwed up and fast tracking us to a future filled with obesity, disease, and environmental ruin.) I, like Bittman, think it's a little crazy to take the time drive through to pick up something you can just as easily make at home at a considerably lower cost. So of course I was all "You go boy!" reading his article. But then towards the end, this little bit grabbed me...

If you don’t want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat.

Cold oatmeal? Brilliant! I mean what's granola after all...toasted, COLD oatmeal. So guess what's I've been eating for breakfast this week...


Turns out that cold oatmeal doesn't trigger my gag reflex at all. A little drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of flax seed, and today, some fresh cut strawberries and viola!

Yea for oatmeal!!!


peace

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quite Dashing...

Last month I knit another pair of hand-warmers. Really, you say? Hand-warmers, that's totally unexpected. I guess hand-warmers are to me what socks are to other knitters...a tad bit addicting. What sets this sets this pair of mitts apart from the others, they were made for man hands. Scott's to be exact.

The pattern is Dashing from the Spring 2007 issue of Knitty. I think this was one of the first patterns I queued up in Ravelry when I joined. I love the simple design with a hint of cables. The yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride superwash worsted purchased on spring break last year that I had intended to use for socks. Eh, close enough...


I think what makes knitting these for Scott even more special for me...he requested them...and he wears them quite often around our chilly old home.


I love that man. He makes my heart smile.


peace

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yellow...

Lexi came home from Tae Kwon Do practice last night sporting her new belt...


Even the dogs are proud of her...




peace

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tiny Pink Feet...

On a cold, snowy, lazy January day, I knit these adorable baby booties (Ravelry pattern link) for a little girl who we knew would be making her entrance into the world this month. Since that day they had been sitting on our living room book shelves, looking cute, but still needing buttons. Then the day before Valentine's day we got word that baby was on her way! After breakfast and coffee I took the 10 minutes to sew on buttons...and then spent twice as long taking pictures of the cuteness...





Friday evening we had the chance to go snuggle the special little recipient.




As you can see, we were all quite taken by her.

(And for the first time in a LONG time I left with a hint of that maternal instinct that makes me wonder if we are indeed done having kids. I'm pretty sure that answer is yes...but it's amazing how strong the urge to mother a tiny being again becomes when I spend a little bit of time with one!)

Congrats Matt and Jess! Welcome to the blessed life of being a family.


peace

Saturday, February 19, 2011

From White to Yellow...

Today Lexi attended her first Tae Kwon Do testing session. On Monday she will be receiving her new yellow belt from her instructor, Mr. Crawford. I unfortunately couldn't attend the testing with her, so I sent Scott with the camera to catch what he could of the experience.

Here Lexi and her fellow young white belts are performing their form, Chon-Ji.



And then, of course, there's the board breaking.



Scott and I are so incredibly proud of her. And more importantly, Lexi told me she is proud of herself. I don't know that I can express how hearing her say those words brings joy to my heart. As someone who, in adulthood, has found a great appreciation for how self confidence and self acceptance can come through the regular practice of physical pursuits (for me, yoga & cycling), I'm overjoyed that Lexi is starting to get a taste of those benefits at the youthful age of 9.


peace

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Like a Box of Chocolates...

My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." ~ Forrest Gump



Isn't that the truth. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude about life right now. Some days are easier than others. The return of the sun helps. And the loving support of friends and family near and far.

In general, our life is VERY blessed. We have our health, safety, and LOTS of love. For those things I am thankful. But sometimes it's hard for me to ignore the constant current of stress that runs through our life due to financial strain. Financial stresses affect so many other areas of life. I know it's simply going to take time before that strain lessens. I'm not a violent person, but if I could, I would totally punch financial related stress in the face.

I am looking forward to the day when I can run to the grocery store and not cringe when the cashier gives me the total for my order. For the day when I no longer feel guilty about spending the extra for fresh produce and quality meat products rather than the cheaper, processed alternatives. The day when when I don't have to say "No" so much when the girls ask to participate in an activity at school or a special summer event. For the day when there's something left in our checking account after I cover all of our basic monthly expenses. And the day when I can just enjoy an unexpected Valentine's Day gift from my love without turning into a crabby witch as I try to calculate in my head how much he spent even after I told him the budget really can't support extra expenses right now. I feel bad today for how much I'm sure my response to Scott's thoughtfulness crushed his intention to simply bring a bit of joy into my day.

Thank you honey for thinking of me on one of many days each year that we celebrate our love. Through all the uncertainty of life, I'm glad I get to share my box of chocolates with you each and every day!


peace

Monday, February 14, 2011

A More Relaxed Approach...

With the first year of pre-school comes Brea's first chance to carry on the tradition of hand-making Valentine's Day cards for her classmates. Unlike Lexi's first Valentine's exchange, which was a HUGE production that involved hours of work that I later regretted thinking we could pull off without a few words of frustration from us both, we kept this year's card making process very simple.

Side note: I thought maybe I had blogged about those fabulous cards...but I guess not. In fact the only post about our annual card making activities I could find was from 2008. Hmmm...apparently I don't ALWAYS blab on about nothing in particular.

Any who, Brea loved every minute of this year's card making and was even more excited to deliver them to her friends last Friday...




As much as the world changes, it's nice to know that some of the very simplest joys of childhood never cease to exist.

Sunshine and Snowmen...

Yesterday was all about sunshine, and melting snow, and getting outside, and recharging our solar batteries, and playing, and breathing fresh air, and laughing, and snowmen, and snapping almost 200 pictures of nothing in particular because THE SUN WAS SHINNING...







And maybe I freed my feet to soak in the sun...



Did I mention the sun was shinning?


peace

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kindness...

I love how the universe knows just when I need a little pick me up to keep moving forward with hope and a smile. The little sparks of goodness that have happened this week in our lives could not have come at a better time. Little rays of sunshine to off-set the bitter cold of winter and the worries in my heart.

This week our family received the gift of a random act of kindness. Someone anonymously assisted with some of the expenses for Lexi to be involved in Tae Kwon Do. We are both grateful and humbled by the unknown person's generosity. What may have seemed like a small kind gesture, means a lot to our family. I sincerely hope Mr./Mrs. Anonymous knows just what a difference his/her kindness has made. It offers hope that regardless of how roller coasterish our life may seem right now...smoother days are ahead if we just keep holding on. And until that time comes it's a reminder that we are not alone.

Thank you kind souls of the world for spreading goodness. You make this crazy old, beautiful, complicated world a better place. Blessings to you.


peace

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mooooooommmm...

If I didn't know any better, I'd say the girls are getting a little annoyed by the number of times I've randomly grabbed my camera to take pictures of them doing nothing special lately...



What can I say...they are my muses.


peace

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's Not the Snow's Fault...


We're enjoying snow day here in central Iowa. The girls are chillin' in their PJs. I've canceled classes at the studio. I'm even treating us to an extra 2 degrees of warmth on the thermostat. (Oh 67, how tropical you feel.) My lunch is warming on the stove and soon I'll be making my way to a comfy spot on the couch, under a blanket, to knit. Snow days are nice.

We only got about 7 inches of snow, but thanks to the wind we have drifts 2-3 feet deep covering our yard. We now have 1/2 + 1/3 of a block worth of sidewalk to clear when it snows...that's 1/2 + 1/3 of a block more sidewalk than we had at our old house. BUT our driveway is MUCH shorter. (However after shoveling today I'm starting to think that old drive was a better deal than our new sidewalk.) Scott always tells me not to worry about shoveling, that he'll clear the snow after work. He leaves in the wee hours of the morning which doesn't give him much time before hand to shovel anything beyond what he needs to get his car out of the garage. But I would feel super guilty if I spent the whole snow day inside warm and comfy only to leave the shoveling for him to do after a full day of work. Plus, shoveling always seems like a good alternative workout option when I know I'm not to going to make it to class or the gym. (Unfortunately my back and I often have differing views on this particular side benefit.)

We have been the lucky recipients of a hand-me-down snow-blower from Scott's parents. Unfortunately when I went out to move snow today it wanted nothing to do with starting. So I grabbed the shovel and started scooping. An hour and a half later I stopped after finishing just the sidewalks and sweating completely THROUGH my hooded sweatshirt under my coat. I decided I had done my part. I left the driveway for Scott so as to not make him feel left out of the fun. Besides that, my body was saying it had had enough.

The thing that is really striking me is how angry shoveling snow makes me. I'm not sure why. I've been trying to take a yogic look at the feelings that arise when I shovel snow, trying to connect why such a simple task that I WILLINGLY take on brings up so much anger. The physical labor, especially on days like today when the snow is packed hard in spots, can be demanding but is nothing that is beyond my capabilities. Generally when I'm out shoveling I have plenty of time to just steadily work away. If anything the only thing that causes me to rush is the desire to get out of the cold and in to a warm cup of tea. Usually when I'm shoveling it's after a big storm when the rest of the world has also slowed down. There's less traffic (although what there is tends to be guys who seem to have nothing better to do than drive around in big 4x4s checking out what's going on) and the world around me is quiet. In theory it's a lovely chance to just enjoy the moments as I scoop away. Instead I just get mad. I'm at a loss as to why.

I have now eaten my lunch while typing and hear my knitting calling from the couch. After knitting through The Biggest Loser and Parenthood last night as we listened to the blowing snow, I have about an inch of my sock left before I start the toe decreases. Maybe I can knit my snow shoveling anger away...and finish up a sock in the process.

I've given Scott on a new after work duty today...stopping at the grocery to bring home beer. One way or another I'm gonna work this anger right on out...plus I'm pretty sure my achy back will thank him too.


peace

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Progress...


As you can see, the sock and I are getting along nicely. (Sorry for the less than fantastic photo...camera phoneage.) I think I just needed perspective.

I. Knit. A. Whole. Sweater.

This sock kinda feels like no big deal now. In fact, I'm kinda enjoying it and once again excited about the small stash of sock yarn I have waiting for assignments in my yarn basket. Thanks to all of you who have offered up encouraging words on my last sock post. You were all totally correct in your assessments of the situation.

In other news...this is my 600th post. Crazy, I know. Crazy that I've yammered on about little bits of our lives 600 times. Crazy that you all have stuck around to read what I yammer about 600 times. Thank you, thank you for sharing those little bits with me.


peace

Doing Right...

A snowy storm is settling over us today. In preparation Brea and I headed to the grocery store to restock our very bare kitchen. As we approached the parking lot, I noticed an elderly gentleman walking out across the mall parking lot, shuffling along with both hands full of shopping bags. We drove up to the gentleman to see if he had very far to walk and if we could offer him a ride. He thanked me but said he was just heading to wait for the bus inside the mall. As we drove away to go fill our own shopping bags with groceries Brea commented:

"That man was really old. It's good we checked to see if he needed any help."

In that moment my heart filled with pride. She gets it. She understands the importance of extending a little everyday kindness and compassion...even to those we do not know. My heart is smiling.


peace