Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moab Day 2

Today was a nice slow day. We walked to Landscape Arch. Mike's parents continued on to Double-O, while we took a more leisurely stroll to Tunnel Arch. And then to Pine Tree Arch. After lunch, Mike and I took a bike ride. They just put in a paved path all along the highway, so Mike's mom dropped us off 10 miles north of town, and we cruised down into town.

The Whitneys (Mike's sister & family) arrived this afternoon, so we hung out with them for the rest of the night.

Moab Day 1: Through the Seasons

I've decided to catalogue our days in Moab so we can look back and remember.

Yesterday, we started off for our drive to Moab. The night before, it had snowed throughout Colorado, and everything was blanketed in a beautiful white layer. One reason we love driving to Moab is that sometimes you get to drive through every season.

Breckenridge was stunning, still in the lovely grips of a white winter. Every crevice and crack of Hoosier Pass was outlined by the fresh snow, and the river banks were still piled 3 feet deep in it. As it so often is in Colorado after a snow, the sky was a bright, vibrant blue. A perfect day to ski, but we were moving on to warmer climes.

As we reached Glenwood Canyon, early spring had arrived, and green grass started poking up at the base of the red cliffs.

In Grand Junction, it was late spring and the broom trees (not actual tree name, just what I call them) were already in leaf, and the reeds were growing along the Colorado River.

As we approached Moab, I was hoping, so hoping, to see summer, all the trees in leaf. But, alas, it is only March 30th after all. The forsythia and the cherry trees are blooming and some early cottonwoods are green along the river, but it is still late spring here. But by tomorrow and this weekend, it should be summer temperatures: 70s and even low 80s. Oh, the joy of heat and sun!

The view from where we're staying.

After we arrived last night, we had dinner on the patio of Pasta Jay's, where we could look out onto the sun's fading rays on Slickrock.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Our Way to Moab

We're going on our first non-weekend trip in a year and a half tomorrow! It will feel so nice to get away to the sun and peace of Moab. Some (who shall remain nameless) have worried that I am traveling internationally when pregnant. But fear not. Moab is in Utah. Which is kind of like a foreign culture, but only a couple of hours away.

Usually we just go to Moab for the weekend, but with our hip, swinging new flexi jobs, we are going for the week. I'm going to work while there (might as well be working in Moab as in the Springs, right?). And now that Mike is a store owner, he does whatever he wants...which usually means he works a lot, but also means he can take a trip when he pleases.

Last year when we went to Moab was quite a turning point in our life. I had just gotten home from my South Korea/Philippines trip. The week before I left, we had agreed it was time to bury the ice-cream dream as we weren't getting the funding we needed. When Mike picked me up from the airport, he informed me bleary-eyed in the car with 0 hours sleep under my belt that, amazingly, someone had offered to loan him the full amount needed to open the store.

We were scheduled to take our annual trip to Moab that weekend, so we went unable to believe what had just happened. I will always remember the late Moab afternoon we sat on this big rock, looking out over Moab, and made the decision to take the crazy leap.

After a very quick whirlwind trip to Moab, we rushed back to sign our lives away and our dream into being. Since then, our lives have been on this surreal parallel universe train. And now we're going back for our annual trip to Moab, aware of how life is always the same, always changing, and always unexpected. And that's pretty nice.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Bad Woman of Zebra Drive

*Note: title of this post has nothing to do with post. I just felt like paying homage to Alexander McCall Smith, one of whose books Mike read to me while falling asleep last night. There's nothing like my husband's lilting Botswanan accent to put me to sleep. Two points to whoever can name that book.

I am a bad woman. Sometimes I think I came broken because I don't do the things that women are supposed to do. I like to bite my nails, and I never intend to stop. (Pregnancy is making this much harder on me, as my nails are growing quick and strong. I can barely keep up.) I don't use words like miracle. I don't really like kids (despite the fact that the majority of jobs held in my life have been at children-centric organizations).

But lately, I've been reminded of one more way in which I seem to be broken in the way I'm supposed to act: I haven't had a single worry during pregnancy.

I keep reading and hearing about how pregnant women spend all their time worrying, especially during their first trimester. There are entire chapters in my pregnancy books about worry. I know women whose pregnancies have been a misery because they are so filled with worry.

Now, you might say, this is not a bad thing, Amber. It's not good to worry. But instead of worry, unreasonable gal that I am, I have guilt. I feel bad that I don't worry, like it means I must be a bad woman. Like if I were as noble and good as all my mom friends I would be filled with inner anxiety all the time. My mom has often jokingly said that it's her job to worry as a mother. But I think I've taken the joke too far. I feel bad for not feeling what a woman is "supposed" to feel.

But, on the bright side, I'm not worried! So that's nice. Perhaps I'll begin to worry later on or once my child is born, but, twisted guilt aside, I think I should just enjoy my worry-free life.

I used to be a total worrier. When Mike was looking for a job, I ate my heart out for the first two years. It was awful. I'm surprised I didn't give him and me ulcers with my worry. At some point, I just got sick and tired of it. (Worrying leaves you very sick and tired.) I realized that worry had done nothing for me but destroy my joy and peace, and that of my husband too. It had wasted years, and it had stolen beautiful moments of life.

So I stopped. Not out of nobility, but out of aversion. When that all too familiar feeling of tightness in the stomach approached when a worry came on, I shunned the thought, so tired was I of living a life in the torment of worry. Worrying really is a torment that we bring on ourselves. And now, after my worry aversion training, I find Mike's island-boy attitude has finally rubbed off on me. It doesn't occur to me to worry. Which is great! Worrying stinks! But I still feel bad about it.

I've asked Mike if I should start worrying in order to be a good woman, and he, sensible man that he is, has said no. I think I'll take his advice and remember how the lilies of the field grow:

"They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:28-34

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Outsourcing the Body of Christ

In our church, we're going through a study on the spiritual gifts mentioned in Romans 12:4-8:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Isn't it wonderful to know that we were each created uniquely and that we each have a special place and way in which we can help the church?

This week, we discussed the gift of prophecy, which is definitely my hubby's leaning and to some degree also mine. "Prophecy" conjures up images of a dude in a camel hair robe calling out doom and destruction. Which is what a lot of the OT prophets were like. But prophecy in the Bible doesn't only refer to foretelling future events, but also means "speaking forth" truth or wisdom.

People have never liked prophets very much. In biblical times because they dressed funny and smelled bad and told you you were going to die. Now because they can be loud-mouthed know-it-alls (the weakness of the prophet leaning). But social awkwardness aside, I would argue that we don't like our prophets within our own local church because we've outsourced that gift. (OK, really Mike would say this, because he's the one who pointed it out to me.)

In this age of mass communication, we are so very connected that we can go to many places to get our needs met. In music, we don't just have to depend on that one goofy banjo player in our town, we can taste from all the musicians of Bogota and New York and London. In writing, we don't just have to read what that moony chick poet who hangs out on the bridge writes in the local college newspaper, we can read all the best writers from Accra to Sydney. Which perhaps shrinks the need for your small town artists. Within the secular realm we can say, "well, that's just how it is; deal with it."

But within the church, I think we have the prerogative to say, "But that's not how it should be."

We are seeing the outsourcing of spiritual gifts that a local church relies on to bigger and perhaps better sources. We see satellite churches, in which there is not a local preacher but some incredible communicator from an urban church piped in. We see worship bands being piped in rather than relying on that one farmer who used to play the harmonica. In Bible study, we see national resources being used, rather than relying on the wisdom within the local church.

I don't necessarily believe any of these things are bad inherently, but I must wonder, what is the effect of this outsourcing of gifting on the people within your local church? What happens when they find no use or value in the particular gifting God gave them? This won't happen to the same degree to all of the gifts. Because you'll always need the servant to set up chairs, regardless of if the preacher is lived or piped in.

But when for women's Bible studies, you rely solely on Beth Moore, where does that leave the little lady prophets in your midst? Beth Moore is really smart and has really wonderful resources and things to say. It would be easy to rely on her more than someone within your own church who isn't, frankly, quite as good as her. Or what if when searching for truth or wisdom on a particular area of their life, someone from your church goes to the web and reads every article by wise men like Tim Keller or John Piper to make their decision, rather than relying on their own church? There's probably not someone quite as gifted as Keller or Piper in your own local church. But what does that do to the wise person in your local church?

What is our highest priority here? Finding the best, most excellent, wise person or prophet? I think that is what is happening, we rely on the super-prophets like Piper and neglect our local talent. In my opinion, the clarion call for "excellence" that has gone out among churches has led us to shun the local church - the Body of Christ - in order to rush to the feet of the hot new act.

What affect does that have when we, in effect, say to the hand, "we don't need you?" because we've replaced you with a bigger and better hand? It's not good. You're left with people without a purpose, feeling unneeded and undervalued in their local church.

I don't think we should all stop reading books by Beth Moore and tweets by John Piper. But I do think we should look around in the community in which God has placed us to truly be a family, part of a body, as it was clearly meant to be in Scripture. Notice the people around you and what unique gifts they bring to the table and affirm them in that. Seek their help, involve them in your lives. Embrace your local body, rather than outsourcing the Body of Christ to the best bidder.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things I Never Knew About the First Trimester

Apologies for the glut of pregnancy posts, but I've been keeping mum for a whole month! Do you know how hard that is for me?

I feel like I know a lot about pregnancy. After all, at 32, many of my friends are reaching the four or even five kid realm. But now I realize that you don't always hear a lot about the first trimester, because no one's "out" yet. While I've had a very easy trimester, there were sitll a lot of surprises. Here's just a few of them.

Holy Bathroom Trips, Batman! Everyone knows you have to go to the bathroom a lot in your last trimester, right? All that baby sitting on your bladder. What no one told me is that your first trimester can be just as bad. Because of heightened levels of progesterone, I had to go to the bathroom at least once an hour...if not every 30 minutes. At night, I was waking up four times. Four times! How am I supposed to grow a baby if I can't get a good night's sleep? (Some books suggest you sleep 9-10 hours a night when pregnant.) It's ridiculous. Our water bill is going to triple.

Tranquilized. OK, I knew that you got tired in your first trimester. But I didn't know it. I, who am usually energetic and love to be active, have become a total slug-a-bed (Old English term for a lazy person who stays in bed too long). I go to bed earlier at night (I'm exhausted by 8:30), I wake up later (I've been waking up at 7 or 8. It's magical.), and several times throughout the day, I feel like I've been hit by a horse tranquilizer. Luckily, I'm working at home, so I can just work laying down, which I have quite a bit. Some days, I haven't wanted to do anything other than lay on the couch all day long. Luckily, I'm getting back to my old self and getting my energy back.

Josey Grossy. I'm not Josey Grossy anymore. But I was during my first trimester. I knew that you were supposed to have morning sickeness and all kinds of digestive problems. I didn't experience any of that, but I did have one problem that made me feel like Josey Grossy: burping. I'm usually a very demure and well-mannered girl, but since I've been pregnant, I have the burps. It's awful. I don't like being Josey Grossy. But I guess it beats throwing up.

Belly Bloat. You're not supposed to show until you're four or five months, right? Well, what I didn't know is that my belly would start doing it's own thing much sooner. I was two pant sizes up (TWO!) by week 10. (At the time, I thought I was week 6 and was much more alarmed.) I nearly had to buy new pants for my work trip to Canada, as my usually baggy work pants were as full as they could be. I don't like it. Because I know it's not a baby pushing out, it just makes me feel fat. And I'm apparently very vain. Now that I'm "out," I'm less concerned that people upon seeing me are going to say, "Wow, look at Amber, she's really let herself go now that she works at home."

Hungry Hungry Hippo. I am a hungry, hungry hippo. Mike already made fun of my sudden and voracious appetite before I was pregnant, so you can just imagine now. I feel a lot like Chris Farley in his mall girls skit (see below). "LAY OFF ME, I'M STARVING." Books say that you should eat an extra 100 calories in your first trimester, which is equivalent to one glass of milk or an apple. I don't know who they're fooling. I'm a whole heck of a lot hungrier than one extra apple. I'm waking up in the middle of the night, hungry and unable to go back to sleep until I eat.

Fear and Loathing of Sweet Potatoes. OK, I did know about food aversions, but I just wanted to throw my two cents of aversion in. Before I even realized I was pregnant, the thought of sweet potatoes, or anything similar, such as pumpkins or root vegetables, could make me want to puke. Mike had bought this vile bag of healthy vegetable "potato" chips, made up of taro, sweet potato, etc. For days, I couldn't get that disgustingly haunting smell out of my head. Some days, I would randomly think of the chips and want to vomit. Even now, thinking about it and typing the words, I feel like I better change the subject pretty soon. It's kind of fun to watch yourself lose control and rationality. I know sweet potatoes aren't evil. But don't come anywhere near me with them. Subsequently, my fear and loathing of sweet potatoes has somewhat extended to french fries, which are pretty difficult to avoid around here. Erk. Just the thought of them is puketastic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vanny Baby FAQ

Was the first trimester just awful? No, it wasn't. Because I'm a total dingbat. I didn't notice that I was pregnant until I was 2 months. And then, I thought I was only 4 weeks. I felt pretty fine, except for feeling like I'd been hit by horse tranquilizers. Several weeks later, when we went to the doctor for the first time, we told her that we were almost 8 weeks. Imagine our surprise when on the ultrasound, not an 7 1/2-week old grape-sized embryo showed up, but a little fetus with arms, legs and a face, and the doctor said, "I think you're a little farther along than you think you are." We were almost 12 weeks, at the end of our first trimester. So, for us, the trimester just flew by in ignorance and dingbattedness.

Have you been trying for very long? Isn't this a funny question that people ask? It's basically just asking, "Have you been having lots of unprotected sex for a long time?" Once you're pregnant, all kinds of taboo topics are on the table. In any case, no, we have not.

Are you going to give the baby a short name... (I hope)? No way. Mike is extremely proud of his ridiculously long name (Michael Jonathan Van Schooneveld), and definitely favors names such as "Anaximander," "Chaerephon," or "Artaxerxes." So I don't think we'll be naming our baby "Chad" or anything so easy and unpretentious. Our top name in contension for a girl right now is four syllables. Perhaps his long name is why Mike was always so skilled in spelling and writing.

Are you going to find out the gender? Heck yes I am. We have to know whether or not we will be painting "Anaximander Cornelius Van Schooneveld" or "Victoria Velociraptor Van Schooneveld" over the crib before baby arrives.

Are you going to call your baby a miracle? No. Being pregnant doesn't mean I will cease to use words according to their meanings. I'm an editor; so sue me. I may call my baby amazing ("to affect with great wonder, astonish"), wonderful ("eliciting wonder, marvelous"), or incredible ("so extraordinary as to be hard to believe"). But I won't claim that the natural (though divinely designed) act of childbirth is a miracle ("an event inexplicable by the laws of nature, held to be an act of supernatural intervention"). My mother, however, informs me that she will call my baby a miracle whenever she darn well pleases, which she can because she's the grandmother.

Are you so excited? Yes, we are. Neither of us have ever had that inner compulsion that seems to speed all other mammals toward procreation. Nonetheless, now that I am procreating, I figure there's nothing better to do than to just immerse myself in all the little fun and exciting aspects of it. This weekend, Mike finally agreed to go look at baby stuff at Target with me (for no real reason other than to have some outlet for baby excitement). I made my first silly and unnecessary baby purchase: a very cute denim tube top (with a loose, ruffly waist) for once I have a bump. I figure I won't need to buy any maternity clothes (since all my summer clothes are flowy dresses), so it can be my one little splurge.

I can tell Mike is excited because he has suddenly turned into a sentimental sap. Case in point: The other morning, I found Mike sitting on the bed, listening to a touching country song about family while looking at a picture of the ultrasound. It's pretty cute.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Special Announcement With Mikey Van

Hello to all y'all people who read Amber's blog. For this very special occasion, you get a guest entry written by her highly masculine and erudite husband, Michael.

The subject of our blog today is: eugenics. You may have noticed that, although I myself am a fairly diminutive specimen of manhood, I descend from the tallest race in the world, the Dutch (note that I do, in fact, love dairy products). This gives me hope that, although I may not be the most amazing thing the world has ever seen, perhaps with a bit of help I could create it.

In that spirit, I am pleased to present, for your pleasure, the future little Van Schooneveld.

Yes, Amber and I went to the doctor recently, and we are indeed expecting. We knew what we would see when we went, although we didn't expect it to be this developed (the doctor said 12 weeks, and we thought we were only 8 weeks). In fact we were somewhat in shock. The facts admit of two explanations: One, our baby is some sort of superhuman, a whole month ahead of normal development and soon to become some sort of titan. Two, we somehow completely missed the fact that Amber was pregnant until she was two months along.

I've chosen to believe the first. And although the doctor tells me that the baby is entirely lacking in desireable features such as wings, retractable claws, and a prehensile tail, it does seem to have all the usual things people want on babies (arms, legs, head, etc).

Our little bundle of awesomeness is set to enter the world on September 30th, a day that will live in glory, or possibly infamy. Not because of the birth of our child, because of Dominique Moceanu's. It's her 30th birthday. Can you believe that? I remember when she was in the Olympics and she was this young girl and I was the same age as her. And now she's turning 30! Which means I am too! In a couple more months. After years of being the youngster in my family, I'll finally exit youth both officially (by turning 30) and symbolically (by becoming a father).

So, feel free to post your well-wishes and pray for us and little Vanny all you want. We're very grateful.

Here's what our little angel looks like now.

Thank you and goodnight.

p.s. For the nerds who want to see the raw data, even though they've probably seen it 50 times already, here's a link to a more accurate representation of our little angel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Cereal Deviant

Mike says I've already written about this, but I have no such memory, so I am writing it anyway.

I am married to a cereal deviant. He seems like a pretty swell guy from the outside what with his boyish good looks and green eyes. But don't be deceived. At home, he regularly breaks the universal rules of cereal eating.

You see, I am a Closer. I like things to be close-ended, not open-ended. In life, I take great satisfaction in starting something and finishing it, like a book that I read all the way through not because it is good, but because I finish what I start. (Deviant Mike, as a side note, starts books by reading the last page.)

My neat and tidy finishing habits carry over to my cereal eating. In my universe, you buy one box of cereal. You eat it. You finish it. You throw it away. You buy another box of cereal. Neat and tidy, no?

In Mike's universe, he buys 10 boxes of cereals. He opens each one and nibbles here and there like a little mouse. If he has only four boxes of cereal in the pantry, he will announce in despair that he has no cereal to eat. If there is a box of cereal that he opened but that he's just not feeling in the mood for anymore, he will simply let it sit there, uneaten, until it stales. You see, he is a Cereal Deviant.

And, I, Closer that I am, must come behind this nibbling mouse of a spouse and close all his unfinished business. I feel compelled to finish the cereal boxes that he has opened and moved on from like a 14-year-old boy with a crush, and eat it until every last bowl is gone, becuase there must be order in this world! Without me, the pantry, nay, the universe, would be a world of chaos.

But Mike commits further and worse acts of Cereal Deviance. Just this morning, he indulged in his fiendish activity. When the box of cereal gets to the very bottom, Mike won't finish it. He will let it rot before he will eat the last bowl of a box. Like a fastidious shiba inu, he doesn't want to get any little crumbs on his whiskers. So the box will sit there uneaten, until Vacuum Wife comes and cleans up after him, eating the last half servings in all the abandoned boxes.

This morning, there was one box of Great Grains sitting with one perfectly good serving left in it and one new, unopened box. (He likes to be prepared.) And what does he do? Ignores the old box and opens the new one! Fiend! Foul Harbinger of Chaos! When I point out his dastardly actions, he simply smiles a boyish grin at me and shrugs his shoulders in mock innocence.

Then I proceed to have a breakfast of crumbs, one last half serving of Honey Bunches of Oats that the Little Prince refuses to eat and one half serving of Great Grains. Someone has to pick up after the Cereal Deviants of the world.

Mike says that no one will sympathize with me, but will merely think I've gone mad in writing this post. But I ask that you fellow Closers will stand up for Cereal Justice and stop the Harbingers of Chaos in this world!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Decorating for Story

I've been trying to perfect my piano top for about a year now...since I painted it blue. (By the way, I'm going for my first piano lesson next week!) It's hard to find the decor combo that is just right. I get inspired by blogs like this one, with her perfectly coiffed mantles that look like they are out of a Pottery Barn catalog. But then it's just not me. My style is cobbled more than it is perfected.

And I realize that what matters more to me is the story behind the items. I love gathering tidbits that have a past and a story and a memory built into them.

Like a stack of books from my grandmother's home, including books about the Oregon Trail my father read as a boy and my great-grandmother's copy of Little Women. Like the carved thinking man a coworker from Burkina Faso who always started his emails, "My dear," gave me or the handpainted cross a coworker from El Salvador who has the best Latino accent I know gave me. Like the crazy Asian-lady head that sat for years on top of my grandmother's refrigerator which I would gaze up at while eating chocolate chip cookies at the ktichen table. Like the beautiful blue vase of my grandmother's that really is making everything way too blue but but which I can't bear to put in a cupboard. Or like the mirror from Walmart. (OK, not everything has a story.)

It makes for a rather random display of odds and ends that don't really match, but which I love.

All about our house is scattered the detritus of grandparents and great-grandparents and travels and adventures. I love to look at them and feel connected to another time and another place.

What is your favorite piece of decor with a story?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Heart Dresses

Although some have called me a feminist (which is pretty funny) and although I like to think I'm super erudite and nonconformist to society's expectations of women and all that, now that I have admitted my secret dream, I might as well tell you:

I love dresses.

No, I mean, I really love them. Like I dream about them. If I became a hoarder, I'd hoard dresses. I love old dresses and new dresses and bridesmaid dresses and sundresses. When I was a kid, I adored paper dolls and I'd read L.M. Montgomery's descriptions of Anne's dresses over and over and over. A personal goal of mine is to wear a dress every day of the summer. (I've always been a high achiever.) One of the main reasons I don't like winter is that I have to wear stinky, stodgy pants.

Something I have regularly heard from the time of middle school up until the halls of my workplace is: "Why are you so dressed up?" My answer: "This is how I dress," followed by a stuck-out tongue.

Let me enumerate for you the beauty of dresses so that you too can join me in femininity:

  • They are more comfortable than pants. Let the old myth die that pants are more comfortable. The dudes totally got the shaft on this one. There's nothing more comfortable than a long, flowing dress. Perhaps when we were oppressed by nylons and corsets, pants were more comfortable, but now dresses are fully superior. They allow for free range of motion of the legs, leaping and running across the hilltops.
  • They are forgiving. If your belly grows, your dress just moves further up your waist. In pants, you have to buy a new size. In my world of expansion and contraction, this is an all-important asset.
  • While being feminine, they leave far more to the imagination than the current vile trends in female pants, aka skinny jeans.
  • They're perfect for a pear like me.
  • I like wearing dresses because they make me different in my very small, very subtle kind of way.
  • You don't have to worry about matching. No more putting on this shirt with those pants only to find they don't match and switching shirts, then pants, then shirt, then pants. What, you don't do this? My outfits will sometimes permutate 13 times before I finally decide what to wear. Which is kind of sad. You'd think I'd come out looking more interesting with all that work, wouldn't you? With a dress, all you have to choose is which shoes to wear. (Which is complicated enough on its own.)
  • They allow you to still occasionally feel like a princess, even when your days are spent scrubbing toilets, answering emails, and all the other sundry non-royal business of life.

In conclusion, long live the dress!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recurring Dreams

I had one of my recurring dreams last night, my favorite one. I have two recurring dreams in my life.

The first: I am in an eternal quest to find a bathroom at night. I think this could be based on some deep repressions about my inability to express myself, or on the fact that I have a granny bladder and have to get up several times a night to go to the bathroom.

In my dreams, I'll be in the most bizarre places trying to find a bathroom. A huge university building with rows of classroom after classroom, but no bathroom. Malls filled with people I have to push through, searching for the elusive room. Sometimes I'll even encounter weird foreign toilets that I have to figure out how to use.

But you probably don't want to hear that much more about my toilet dreams. Let me now move on to my favorite: The clothing dream.

I have this dream every so often; usually about once a season when the weather is about to turn warm or chilly. Now that I'm thinking about it, I already blogged about this nearly three years ago. It follows:

I run my fingers down the row, feeling silk and cotton and linen slip past my fingers. Stop. A flash of red catches me. How could I have forgotten? I pull out the red silk dress with a black ribbon waist, the memory of buying it at that cute little boutique pouring back into my mind. How could I have forgotten? Yet it's hidden, a forgotten lily, in the folds of my closet. My fingers slip on. Purple. Blue. Green. My fingers grasp at more and more skirts and sundresses I'd forgotten.

My heart pulses as I pull each out, holding it up, trying it on, plotting what soiree I'll trot it out on the town for. I thrill at how cute each is and how cute I'll be.

Then I wake up. My mind runs through my closet, realizing it was just a dream.

I had this dream again last night. Probably because my sister lent me a cute summer dress yesterday. In last night's dream, I found three dresses I had forgotten I had ever bought. Oh, the joy! The worst part is waking up. The 2nd worst part is resisting buying clothes the next day.

You see, at heart and despite all my big talk, I'm just a girl who loves clothes.

So what is your recurring dream? Are you less shallow than me?

(By the way, Mike is in dork-dreamland right now. He just found a web site that carries Dork Tees. If you want to make his year, get him the Storm Trooper helmet, psychedelic style.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Glacier Update

I realized I haven't given much of a Glacier update in awhile. We've been in business 8 months! That's crazy. These first 8 months have really gone well, and I give credit to God's undeserved favor, my competent husband's hard work and the great product and location.

We're now coming to the end of the winter season. Getting through your first year and your first winter as an ice cream shop are definitely some of the hardest times. But, we have made our sales goals every single month thus far! We are also on track to make the amount that the average established ice cream store makes in a year. That's incredible for our first year in business!

Mike's also been making some great strides in wholesale accounts, too, which can really help your bottom line. Besides our store, here are the places currently serving Glacier ice cream:

He's talking to a couple others and always working to get more accounts. All this while learning more every day about running a business. Go, Mikey!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hugs and Kisses: What Kind of a Hugger Are You?

I never thought much about hugging until I married a man from a different hug culture than my own. There are a lot of cultural similarities about Americans. We like burgers and freedom and movies with armageddon-esque explosions. But we don't have a consistent hug culture. You never know what you're going to get or what you're supposed to do in any given meeting.

Here's my little guide to the various kinds of huggers and how to approach them.
  • The Side Huggers: These people want to be friendly...but not too friendly. They fear the intimacy of chest-to-chest hugging and find a friendly side back pat is a nice compromise. The side huggers are typically males (who are afraid of too much flesh contact with females or in-laws), females (who are afraid of non-marital chest-on-chest action) or work friends who haven't seen each other in awhile. How to approach the side hugger: It's good to just give in to the side huggers' advances. It's an easy, noncommital way of still being friendly.

  • The Full-Frontals: These people aren't satisfied with tepid side pats. They want full contact, full frontal, full on hugs. In a full-frontal hug, there should be no air in between you and your fellow hugger. These hugs also tend to be longer in duration, as they're really serious about greeting you. This is the category that my husband falls into. Upon entering my family, he was quite disappointed with the lukewarm pats he got and has been trying to reform us ever since. Unsuccessfully. How to approach the full-frontals: I find it's just best to give in. The more you squirm, the tighter they squeeze. The main choice you have to make is whether or not to let your arms hang limp at your sides and hope they don't notice or join in with the intense pressing. I find myself doing a bit of both. Just enjoy yourself in the affectionate company of someone less repressed than yourself. Of course, when a stranger, especially one that smells, gives you the full frontal, then it's just weird. I would employ the swift side hug reversal to avoid their embrace.

  • The Full-Frontals With Kisses: For some full-frontals, tight, intimate embracing just isn't enough. They need to add kissing. Sometimes several kisses. Sometimes on both cheeks. The main problem here is that you are already pressed so tightly that they can't go in for a swift in and out peck, they have to linger. I must admit that I always feel loved after a full-frontal with kisses encounter, but I need some recovery time before I have to do it again. How to approach the full-frontals with kisses: As with a full-frontal, your best bet is to give in. Don't kiss back, I mean, let's not go crazy. But try not to whimper too much.

  • The Lip Kissers: Oh, lip kissers, whyfore art thou lip kissers? Don't you know that you give us the willies? Lip kissers don't necessarily hug you too tight, but they are adamant that they will kiss you, and they will kiss you on the lips. Lip kissers tend to be males over the age of 67. I don't know if men hit a certain age and decide that cheeks just aren't cutting it anymore or what. How to approach the lip kissers: If it's your grandfather, it's hard to disrespect and say, "Eww, gross," and run away, as you probably want to. In fact, it's hard to do this to any elderly male. But even harder is allowing your lips, your pure lips that only have kisses for your husband, to touch those of a strange old man. You can do the last minute cheek turn, but these old men have learned a few tricks in their day, too. They're on the alert for lip aversion and are quick to dart in the last nanosecond before your avoidance tactic and plant a firm juicy one right on the smacker. Try not to disgustedly wipe your mouth with the back of your hand until you are out of the room.

  • The One-Arm Double Pat: This is primarily practiced between two men who like each other but want to maintain that they are strong, football-watching, manly men. They approach from afar, lean in, touch shoulders and quickly and firmly pat the other man's back twice. A variation of the double pat is the Hand Shake Hug, in which a man approaches another, as if to shake hands, then once he has grasped the other's hand, he pulls him in and authoritatively pats him once or twice. How to approach the one-arm double pat: I don't know the protocol on this one, as men rarely offer the fraternal double pat to a lady. I'm not sure if there's some subtle signal men give to each other to say, "Hey, I'm about to go in for the double pat," because it seems to happen so seamlessly and mutually.

  • The Tara Hug: My sister's hugs are so unique that she gets her own category, though in her category can be included many variations of the side hug - ways women avoid touching people. My sister leans forward, and your shoulders might imperceptibly brush one another, but no more. She then presses three fingers from both hands perfunctorily into your scapula. This is one of many techniques employed by women to not touch you because you're probably grody. Men have also created their own versions of the Tara Hug to avoid actual physical contact. For example, my brother-in-law has created a backwards elbow tap greeting, as the back of the elbow is apparently the least grody part of a body to have to touch. How to approach the Tara Hug: It's best to help these people get over their repressions. Grab them tightly about the waist, burrow your face in their bosom, and don't let go. At least, that's what I would do. Unless it's my brother-in-law, in which case you just go with it.

  • The Hesitator: The Hesitator isn't sure which category you or he/she fits in to and performs a bird-like dance when meeting another Hesitator. Not sure how to approach, they lean in slightly for a hug, then pull back, then begin to offer a hand, then pull back, then slightly lean in, etc., etc. This can go on and on as you uncomfortably feel the other person out for what kind of hugger they are. Usually, the unsure advances end in a polite side-hug, as that seems like the most tame and amenable thing to do. The worst-case scenario is when a Hesitator's lurching advances are met with a perfunctory handshake, as if to say, "How could you have thought we were close enough to hug?" Hesitations usually occur between business associates, new introductions and acquiantances who haven't seen one another for awhile. How to approach the Hesitator: It's good to just put this person out of their misery. If they've shown that they are open to a hug but afraid of your rejection, just give them a quick pat and move on.

Now that we've reviewed the most common species of huggers in America, what kind of hugger are you? Did I miss any?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Had Allergies Before They Were Cool

I would just like the record to state that Mike and I had allergies before they were the cool thing to do. These days, I don't think I know more than 4 people who aren't either gluten free or soy free or dairy free or sugar-free. It's what all the cool kids are doing - being tested and diagnosed for allergies. But, as lifelong allergy sufferers, Mike and I feel like the cool kids are appropriating our nerdly territory. Long before all these trendy new diets, we were the ones on the playgrounds with inhalers and at home on our nebulizers.

When I was a little kiddo, I had to go through the less sophisticated food testing in which you denied yourself of certain foods for a period of time: no wheat for a month, no dairy for a month, etc. As it turned out, I did have mild allergies to milk, wheat and oats (as very many people do), but thank God my parents decided to just feed them to me anyway. A life without dairy is not to be conscienced.

My main allergies have always been environmental: grass, dust, mold, and anything that is alive. Really, anything. If it has hair, I'm allergic to it. One of my great prides in life is my ability to be allergic to any animal you place before me.

"Oh, no," people say, "you won't be allergic to Snickers, he's a yorkshire-poodle-seal mix."

I consider it a great accomplishment when I break out into instantanteous hives and a swollen lip. My body's great weaknesses are far more powerful than your dog's fancy breeding. I defy you to find a mammal I'm not allergic to. Tonight at small group, the leaders had specially shampooed their couches in hopes that I could sit on them (I usually sit on a folding chair). But within minutes of sitting down, my lip was fat and I was sneezing away. Mwahahaha! Their shampoo is no match for me.

But Mike's allergies are much more spectacular than mine. He says, "If you don't have to carry an inhaler at all times and occasionally hit yourself with an epi pen, you don't have allergies."

He has food allergies (fruits make his mouth swell), but more than anything, he has stupendous allergies to...everything.

When Mike went for allergy testing as a kid, they did the prick test on his back. For the prick test, they draw a chart of about 40 boxes on your back and then in each box they put a little drop of an allergen. Then they close the door to give the reaction time to develop, and leave you alone in your anguish, as you can't reach your back to scratch it. They shouldn't have left Mike alone.

Mike left scratch marks on the wall. Really, like a werewolf. His reaction was so bad that he couldn't control himself. He had a cast on his arm, and he left bite marks all along the length of his cast - he needed any way to divert his attention from his back.

When the doctor finally came back in the room, he took one look at Mike, said, "OH MY GOD!" and ran back out of the room. He gathered the staff to marvel at the fantastic specimen that is my husband. Everyone gathered around to see: His entire back was a huge welt. The doctor was an allergist from Denver and he said, "In my entire 25 years of practice, this is the worst reaction I've ever seen to a scratch test."

They never did figure out what all Mike was allergic to, as the welts had fused together beyond their boxes. The doctor simply said, "Just be glad nothing worse has happened to you."

That's my husband. In our first years of marriage, when we still lived in Fort Collins which was far worse on his allergies, we frequently would have to cancel engagements because Mike had turned into Quasimoto. Have you ever seen Hitch with Will Smith's allergy reaction? That would be my husband. He will just occasionally wake up with both eyes swollen shut and a monstrous visage. On the one hand, I want to comfort him, and on the other, I want to grab out a camera to document his mutation.

Nowadays, he's much better. We haven't had to stay home because he's morphed into a monster in a couple of years. But Mike is constantly medicated. If he's just 5 minutes late in taking his drugs at night, his eyes will begin to swell shut. For this reason, we can never stay at small group too late or he will transform. He can't take allergy shots, as the minor amount of allergens in them could kill him.

I'm glad my husband was born this century. He would most likely be dead if he had to live in another time. So next time you cool kids decide to test yourself for allergies, just remember, us nerds had them first.

Eating My Veggies

Now that I'm working at home, I'm taking more time to cook dinners and make sure we're eating healthy. One of my weaknesses lately (read: the past year) has been veggies. Sometimes I love veggies and sometimes I hate them. I've gone from the highs of eating buckets of farm fresh veggies daily to the lows of my daily dose only coming from the lettuce and tomato on a burger. (Yesterday's veggie serving did indeed come from my Smashburger.)

I've found the best way to deal with my tumultuous relationship with vegetables is to find recipes I love and avoid forcing myself to eat things I hate. (I dislike raw veggies or steamed veggies. Unless they're dipped, nay enshrined, in cheese.) So I'm trying to brainstorm great ways to eat vegetables. I know that when I ask questions of you, dear reader, you sit there mute, pouting at my request for interaction. But just this one time, pretty please, will you help a gal out?

I'll even do you a favor and tell you some of my favorite go-to veggie recipes that will get me to eat the things:

Roasted Asparagus
I love asparagus, especially roasted. Here's my favorite way to eat the cute little guys:

Turn oven to 400. Place asparagus on cookie sheet (I use a pizza stone), and drizzle with almond oil (or just olive oil) and celery salt. Toss. Cook for 12 minutes or until getting a little crinkly. I don't know why, but I love asparagus with celery salt. It's a great combo.

Southern Greens
My Florida grandfather, and subsequently my mother, loved to eat his greens this way. I suppose it would only truely be Southern if I cooked them in bacon fat or hamhocks, but I don't keep those ingredients around the house.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saute pan. Add heaps and heaps of spinach. (I usually fill the pan to overflowing, as it cooks down so much). Add one or two garlic cloves, minced. Cook until tender and bright green. Drizzle with hot sauce (Tabasco or otherwise) and vinegar to taste.

Summer Squash With Basil
I adore basil in the summer time. I simply can't find enough things to put it on. This is one of my favorites.

Thinly slice half a summer squash (yellow) and half a zucchini. Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add squash and zucchini and 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook until tender and bright. Add a goodly amount of torn fresh basil. Sometimes I'll add fresh sliced tomatoes or onions if I'm in the mood.

Amber's Almond Green Beans
This is one I made up while playing around one day, and we thought it was delicious.

Boil water and cook green beans for 15 minutes. Heat butter in pan and toast some sliced almonds and a clove of garlic, minced (can you tell I like garlic?). Combine with green beans and add a dash of lemon juice and sherry. Season with salt and sprinkle with a small amount of shredded parmesan.

OK, now it's your turn. What will get you to eat your veggies? Any interesting spice or herb combos? Any surprising way to hide vegetables in your meals?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Arrested in Chicago: Part Trois

I'm on my way home again, just slightly delayed in Chicago. Well, 2 hours delayed, which gave me a 5 hour layover and puts me at home at 12:00 am. Boo! But thanks to technology, I'm watching the Biggest Loser while waiting.

My last days in Canadia were good. I did get to try some donuts from a local bakery. Not bad. But they were more crueller like (doughy/yeasty), which I actually don't like. (Sorry, Nancy, I've never liked cruellers. They don't soak up enough grease.) And the frosting was too sugary. (Gosh, I'm such a brat.) I'm assured that next time, I'll have the best donuts in Canada (as my coworker's mom owns a bakery).

Now I'm just hanging out, hoping I do indeed get home today, and people watching to pass the time. Most interesting specimen of the day: A couple who are clearly on their way to LA. The man in a tight-fighting "Guess L.A." T-shirt and his orange-skinned platinum girlfriend positively bedecked in pink. Pink Uggs, pink purse, pink sequined sweat pants, pink hoodie and pink coat. They also had two matching chihuahuas, with their hair trimmed to be short everywhere except around the face, like a lion. Poor doggies. They had pink carrying cases, of course, and at least one, if not both, were named Princess.

It was hard not to stare at this couple, like a beautiful pink trainwreck.

Hopefully I'll be home soon, where the women aren't orange and the donuts are greasy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canadian Delicacies

Many of my Canadian moments today involved food, so I thought I'd share some of the Canadian delicacies I've come across. After eating almost every meal out for 5 days, I feel like I'm going to puke...or that could be because I just ate a neapolitan pizza all by myself in my hotel room. Oops. I guess room service is dangerous that way. So here are a couple of the odd foods I've come across.
  • Ketchup chips: Yeah, ketchup chips. Eww. I remained open-minded and tried one, even though they were all purply with ketchup powder. They were vile. I think the makers of these chips should be tried for potato abuse. Nonetheless, I'm bringing a bag home for my hubby to try.
  • Poutin: Pronounced like the Prime Minister of Russia. They're fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. I haven't tried this...but it sounds horrible. What did those innocent, lovely cheese curds do to deserve that kind of degradation? That's cheese curd abuse. This could still be the pizza talking, though, as any food sounds dreadful to me right now.
  • Le Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich: I had this for lunch yesterday, and was told it's the poster sandwich of Montreal and Quebec. It's a kind of smoked corned beef, served on rye with mustard. It tasted a lot like a reuben. It was very tasty, although the beef was very greasy - it looked like each piece had been bathing in oil. I'll probably stick with the reuben.
  • Souffles: Guess what souffles are...Here's a hint, they're not a fluffy French chocolate dessert. They're orange and leave fluorescent powder on your fingertips and are promoted by a hip cheetah. They're just puff Cheetos in French (obligatory French labeling on all packaging). I never knew that puff Cheetos were so chic.

It seems like a lot of the food is as heavy as American food, and as heavy as a lot of the heavier American food - like Southern or Midwestern. Tasty, but a little much to eat every meal out. But there is a time for heavy: Tomorrow I'm getting a taste of Canadian donuts. I'm super excited. I hope they're good. I've had a lot of bad donuts in a lot of countries (I try to sample the donuts in every country I can), but I have faith in Canada.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Canadian Moments

So, Sarah wasn't satisfied with my Canadian moments yesterday, so I've been trying to gather some better ones today. These aren't necessarily very interesting, but little tidbits I've picked up along the way, mainly after a nice evening with a coworker and his wife, Aaron and Emily.
  • Canadians drink milk out of bags. We were having coffee after dinner and I asked for milk in my coffee, so Emily handed me a pitcher with a bag in it. At first I couldn't really tell what it was. I thought they'd put a baggie over a pitcher of milk to keep it fresh. It took me a minute to figure out how to pour it...I'm slow. Emily says it's cheaper than jugs. That makes sense. She said kids will have little bags that you stick straws through, how we have little milk cartons...But that would remind me a bit too much of an udder.
  • Canadians spend their free time watching rotisserie chickens rotate. Perhaps this is a bit of an overstatement, but they do have a local channel that, much like the fireplace channel (which I found out tonight also exists), is solely made up of footage of chickens roasting. I don't get it. In what situation would you want and/or need this? If you're hungry, wouldn't this just be cruel? And if you're not hungry, then why watch? However, considering the crud contained on American shows, I would have to say that a nice turning bit of poultry is a better option.
  • They call elementary school "public" school. That's just confusing.
  • They have pizza days in "public" school. Every so often the kids get to have a pizza day (or hamburger day or corndog day) on which the kids bring a little form stating what kind they want and a couple of bucks, and the teacher orders pizza. How fun! Our solution to this is just to feed kids that kind of crap every day in the lunch line. ;)
  • After kids go through "public" school and whatever they call middle school, they go to "collegiate institute." That there's just a fancy way of saying high school. I picture a bunch of snooty boys in knee socks playing cricket when I hear "collegiate institute." Maybe it's their way of sounding British.
  • Which brings me to my next point: Did you know Canada isn't really independent from Great Britian? I had no idea, and I like to think I'm a well-informed gal. They're a protectorate or something like that. Emily repeatedly referred to "the Crown," when talking about government. Apparently every Canadian pays $1.70 in taxes a year to Great Britian. Rise up and foist off your British oppressors, Canadians!
  • They say pasta like...the "a" sound in my name. Not like "Pah-sta" like we say it...which is kind of funny, because usually we're the ones to butcher other languages, but this one we got right (by Italian standards, anyway).

That's all for today, folks!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm In!

So, finally Canada let me in to their country. It just took me from Sunday morning to Tuesday at 1 am. I think it took me the same amount of time to get to Korea. In this light, it makes London seem so much more exotic! I flew to Toronto and got in at 9. I called the shuttle company and they said if I wanted to catch the shuttle, I had better run, and get there now. So I ran like a mad cat to catch the shuttle. One man I passed on the way shouted out after me, "What are you, training for the Olympics or something?"

When I finally made it to the elevator in one last desparate sprint to get me to the shuttle that would whisk me to a bed, this older couple pokes on up. The husband gets in the elevator. The wife stands outside the elevator.

"Honey, I don't think this is the right way," she says.

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not."

I'm sweating and trying not to scream at the nice old people. (Traveling for 2 days makes your reactions a bit blown out of proportion.)

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not."

Finally, the doors close with the husband on the inside and the wife on the outside.

"Awesome!" I'm thinking. "I need to get going now. Didn't they just see my Olympic dash?"

Of course, the husband starts pushing every button to get the doors to open back up. "You've got to be kidding me," I think.

The doors open again.

"This isn't the right way, honey," the wife repeats.

"Yes, it is."

"Not, it's not."

"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WOULD YOU JUST GET ON THE STUPID ELEVATOR?!" I scream at the women. But only in my head.

She finally steps on. "OK, but I don't think this is right, honey."

I'm manic at this point, and I - nonconfrontive, polite, sweet, accomodating me - say, "I'm about to miss my shuttle." This is pretty aggressive for me.

They just look over at me, uninterested, and don't comment. Humph.

Finally the elevator gets moving and spits us out on the ground floor. I start running again like a mad cat. Only the shuttle isn't there. I run about from post to post, desperate to find any way out. I ask around and finally realize that the shuttle is late and hasn't turned up yet...the shuttle they told me to run for.

So, after my outburst in the elevator, I'm left, sweating and standing lamely at the shuttle desk (which is vacant), just waiting, while the elderly couple slowly shuffles by me with their shuttle driver, who was waiting for them, escorting them to their nice lovely ride home. Humph.

Anywho, I finally made it home around 1 am. I was so excited to sleep in to 8 am! Oh, the glory! But the person who was in the hotel room before me had left the alarm set to 6:30 am.

Why, universe, why? Why do you hate me?

Once I'm woken up in the morning, I'm up. After so many inconveniences and delays, this was what almost finally broke me. But I was too tired to put any real effort into breaking and decided to just do my makeup instead.

Today was full of meetings and some Canadian moments, which I've decided to record:
  • Our meeting started today and one person raised her hand and said, "I have an announcement to make before we get started. Today is Justin Bieber's birthday." I'm sure it was just a joke...but, still.
  • I've noticed a new usage of "eh" that I'm unfamiliar with. People seem to be saying, "Eh?" at the end of a sentence like we would say, "What?" I'm not sure if I'm supposed to repeat myself, say "eh" back, or offer them a beer.
  • Today, several people said, "Wow, what a beautiful day! The sun is out! I haven't seen it in days!" People, there was no sun today. I don't know what they were talking about. There was a vague yellowy thing that seemed to be showing through various layers of fog and cloud. In Colorado, we call this a "cloudy" day. Here, it is classified as a "sunny" day. (OK, maybe this last one will make me sound like a big meanie, but really, that sun was weak...Said purely out of my sadness for missing the 60 degree (real) sunny day in Colorado.

Those are all my Canadian moments for now. I'll try to keep track of them!