Sunday, July 31, 2011

Once Upon a Time There Was a Baby Shower

Once upon a time there was a girl, Amberella, who was with child. She had two sisters and an aunt who were wildly creative and wildly overachieving. Even Martha Stewart feared the lengths they would go to to throw a good party. When their bookish sister got pregnant, they knew they would just have to throw her the most fabulous book-themed baby shower ever seen.

So they decorated the party with many, many books. They even went so far as to make their own miniature books, complete with full-color cover and back and interiors (using only 10% of book content, as these were law-abiding sisters who cared about copyright infringement). They hung the books all over the party, from the chandelier, over the arches, and around the tables.

Of course, they couldn't stop at just books, so they made a delectable feast, complete with treats such as homemade grapefruit jellies. The jellies reminded Amberella of Hansel and Gretel and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...

...because they had festooned each food and treat with its own accompanying book. Like this delicious fruit salad (complete with fresh mint and cantaloupe cut out in the shape of leaves) and the accompanying baby book "Eating the Alphabet."

They also had a scrumptious cake, lemon poppyseed with raspberry filling, just like Amberella had asked for, and a scrumptious black raspberry punch.

Amberella got to open many, many presents, including a quilt that her Aunt Carollella had made her, based on the book "The Hungry Caterpillar" which she also gave her. Amberella was quite astounded that her aunt would go to so much trouble just for her and baby.

In fact, each guest gave Amberella's baby Alexandra a book to start her own personal library.

Amberella got to see many friends she hadn't seen in a long time.

She even got to see some she'd never seen before at all, like her nephew McLane, being held by his grandma.

Her family got to be reunited, including her grandmother and three of her grandmother's seven children.

She even got to compare belly bumps with her Skinny Minny aunt and cousin, who incidentally were not pregnant.

And she finally beat her sister-in-law in the belly bump game, after this sound defeat in Moab.

She even got awkward pregnancy hugs and rubs from some of her friends.

After a great day, she was so thankful for her two fabulous sisters and aunt who threw her shower, and everyone else in between.

(Amberella shown with fabulous sisters and mother, as fabulous aunt was behind the camera. Thank you to the fabulous sister on the right who took all the photos for her.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Don't Take Any Day for Granted

I posted yesterday about a young woman I interviewed several months ago who recently passed away. I asked her if she could say one thing to people, what would it be, and she said: "Take every day that comes, and don't take any day for granted."

I was thinking today about how easy it can become to take what we have for granted. What reminded me today is my pride. I'm taking a course on headline writing for work, and I've been quite insecure as the majority of others in the course are seasoned journalists, and I know little about journalism. Today in our class, however, a number of people chose some of my headlines as their favorites. This made me feel very good. Which isn't bad. But then my good feelings moved to prideful and smug feelings. "Hee, hee, look at me! I can write good headlines!"

But pride is quite a shallow pool. Diving into self-satisfaction, you hit your head on the bottom pretty soon. You can only get so much pleasure out of it.

That's one reason why I love this verse so much: "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

This is the alternative to self-focused pride (which is ultimately ugly and unsatisfying): The knowledge that we were created in the particular way we were - as handiwork - for the specific purpose of doing good for others. Now that is a pool that you can dive deep into. How wonderful is it that the particular talent or skill or temperament that God gave you isn't a coincidence? You were created for a specific purpose - a good one! Not to be self-interested or self-serving but to use your gifts and talents for others.

And this takes me back to taking things for granted. It can become easy for me to slip into taking my job for granted. But I get to write for a living! How cool is that? I also get to write about things that genuinely contribute to helping others.

This is perhaps one of the biggest lessons I've learned as an adult: That God did create us the way we are in order to use us to bless others. I did not take this as a given, growing up. Being the girl that sat moonily in her bedroom writing poetry, I assumed that like all artistes I was made this way to suffer. Starving artist and all. Not that I ever intended to starve (I like food too much), but I assumed that I would never be able to use my skills for anything practical. I assumed, as some twisted ascetic, that God created me how I was to suffer in order to become a better person.

I started out of college with my fancy literary degree working reception in a doctor's office. Oh, how I loathed that job! Screaming babies and mean mommies and germs, oh my! After this, I moved on to data entry. Which was actually really fun. I could listen to books on tape all day while I entered map information into a database. Later, I moved on to "routing" which meant drawing oil and gas pipeline routes into a mapping program using a lot of math. Actually pretty interesting. But not exactly suited to my particular skill set.

I always wanted to be a writer or editor, but to me those seemed like far-off dreams for people who were in movies like 13 Going on 30. Real people didn't have those jobs. Especially not in northern Colorado. But then I got my break into copy editing, which led to editing, which led to writing. I've been so very, very blessed on my career path. Not everyone would call the title "copywriter" blessed, but for me, it's just so wonderful.

And what I've learned since I broke into the biz was that God didn't create me as I am simply to frustrate me. He also didn't create me the way I am so that I can glory in my own cleverness...even if I can write a darn clever headline. He created me the way I am to help other people and ultimately bring glory to him.

This isn't necessarily the lesson God teaches everyone. While I've been experiencing this season of blessing, my husband was going through quite the opposite - a season of learning that God is good even when our circumstances are not. And perhaps I will be entering a phase in which my time is used primarily vacuuming (certainly not a skill of mine) . But even when our vocation or daily activities aren't using what we consider our skills, I believe there are tokens here and there scattered throughout our day in which how and who we are are perfectly suited to help others and bring glory to God.

Don't take any day for granted. Don't take your skills and gifts for granted. Embrace every day as a chance to embrace the handiwork God created you to be to do good to others.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kaitlin's Legacy

One of the fun parts of my job is that I get to interview interesting people. Last month, I interviewed a Jamaican man living in Canada who, though he's not wealthy himself, spent almost an hour every day collecting recyclables so he could donate to the poor. This week, I got to interview Candace Cameron-Bure, whom I thought was the coolest girl alive in the 5th grade.

Back in February, I got to interview Kaitlin.

Kaitlin was 17 at the time and was sick. She had a brain tumor and when I talked to her she was in one of her bouts of chemo. She was soft-spoken and sweet. Very unassuming. But she had quite a beautiful and quiet faith in God - that he was good and that she wasn't here on earth for herself. She was offered a "wish" through the Children's Wish Foundation, which she donated in full to build a well for children in Uganda. Inspired by her, people from all over the world have given over $275,000 to build more wells in Africa.

Kaitlin passed away in May. I wrote an article about her for the blog, and you can read it here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On the Trail to Santa Fe

This weekend, Mike and I celebrated our anniversary with a little mini-holiday. I've been saving up airline miles for 4 years, and finally had enough for a 2-night stay at a hotel, so we got a place in Santa Fe for just $6.48. Nice.

We drove down Friday afternoon, the long way past Alamosa and south through many Indian reservations. It was a very peaceful and beautiful way to go...way prettier than I-25 and Raton.

On Saturday, we went to the French bakery at the La Fonda hotel for breakfast. I've gone there each of the four times I've visited Santa Fe and still love it. Then we strolled around Santa Fe and looked at the cathedral and the Loretta chapel.

We looked at the shops, and I bought earrings from one of the Native American sellers on the Plaza. (Krista, I used the birthday money you gave me. Thank you!) Then we sat on the Plaza and ate pastries from the bakery while listening to a mariachi band who were very talented.

For lunch, we ate at Tia Sophia's, a popular New Mexican restaurant. But heavy Mexican food doesn't really mix well with pregnancy, so I couldn't fully relish it. (Although I did like their corn battered chili rellenos.) In the afternoon, we went to Canyon Road, which is famous for its many, many art galleries (in the hundreds). I enjoyed it more for the architecture (I love the colorful courtyard doors) and the flowers.

Mike, being a true connoisseur of fine art, engaged in some performance art of his own.

For dinner, we went to Lotaburger, which seems to be the most popular el cheapo burger joint in New Mexico. We enjoyed eating like locals in the semi-dodgy, semi-1962 surroundings. After dinner, we swam a bit in the pool and enjoyed the hot tub.

Today, we drove up to Taos on the high road, a pretty high mountain road. In Taos, it was Fiesta. We strolled around the plaza, which was full of vendors, and I tried an Indian taco (otherwise known as Navajo fry bread). I've always wanted to try this, but, alas, pregnancy got in the way of my enjoyment of it (although, I don't think I would like it on the best of days - fried shell with beans and chicharrones in red chile with cheese...a bit heavy).

Then we ate gelato in a shopping area that reminded us of Poipu, Kauai.

From here, we saw the Rio Grande gorge.

We drove by the famous Taos Pueblo...though we were too cheap to actually pay to go in and see it. Then we drove home through the Cimarron Canyon. I've always wanted to go here, as my great-grandfather used to take my dad fishing and camping here. All the trails were closed because of fire danger, but I enjoyed at least driving by and seeing a bit of my dad's childhood.

And thus ended our trip. Happy anniversary to us!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Baby by 2011

*Mom and grandma, stop reading this post! It's too racy for you.

Since I made fun of a 1963 baby book, it's only fitting and fair that I make fun of contemporary writings on the topic as well. I'm sure we haven't yet risen to the height of human knowledge, so I wonder what may change in the next 50 years. Perhaps we will have discovered that feeding on hot dogs while pregnant actually creates super-babies, and we'll shake our heads that we could have ever eschewed the beauty of hot dogs. (I sure hope so.)

Alas, I cannot know. But I can find many fun tidbits that reflect our current culture that would make my grandma shake her head and say, "You cruddy kids!" in that particular way she has. So here are a few gems for you taken from a variety of the pregnancy books I've been given.

"Remove any nipple jewelry before you nurse your baby." (What to Expect When You're Expecting) Oh my gosh, I'm so glad I read this! I've been looking so hard for rust-resistant nipple rings to no avail! By the way, does this remind any other children of the 90's of our favorite movie? ("Dee, when your allergies act up, take out your nose ring!") I'm not even going to make you read the other tips on body piercings. Eeeewwwwww.

It's All About Me:
"What's in it for you?" (You Having a Baby) Most of us would probably read that line (a subheading in the book) and rush right over it. But it's indicative of our Burger King have-it-your-way modern culture that a book on having a baby would include a section telling us what we're going to get out of it.

Sex Quizzes:
"Answer each of these questions with a 1 to a 5, 5 being very true of me." (You Having a Baby) Is this Cosmo? No! This is a mainstream pregnancy book written by two medical doctors with a sex quiz included. Bet they didn't do that in the 60s.

Botox: "If you've used Botox and just found out you are pregnant, it's unlikely there's any risk to your baby. Studies have shown that when Botox is injected into facial muscles, the small amount used is not expected to circulate throughout your body. Therefore it wouldn't get to your baby." (BabyCenter) Sweet! Because the only thing more awesome than injecting botulism into your face, is injecting botulism into your face while pregnant!

Exotic diseases:
"Canavan disease is one of the most common degenerative diseases of the brain. Although it may occur in any ethnic group, it is far more frequent among Saudi Arabians and Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Poland, Lithuana and western Russia...Death usually occurs before age 4." (Your Pregnancy Week by Week) There is such a thing as too much information! No wonder pregnant ladies are so nervous these days. This book published in the US for Americans still warns us of what may happen to Saudi Arabians, Polish, Lithuanians and Russians! (You're chances in the US of getting it are 1 in 6,400.) Pregnancy books these days are scare factories telling you all the myriad things that might, just might, go wrong.

Orgasmic Birth: Mhm hmm. It's exactly what it sounds like. There are whole web sites about it. Please note, that I do not, I repeat, do not, own any book on this topic. It was hard to even bring myself to Google it. Let's hope my work's IT department doesn't check Google searches on employee laptops.

Positions. Should I just stop here? I really didn't mean for this post to become like this...but it's the material I have to work with. While several of my mainstream pregnancy books include helpful, ahem, positional tips, I certainly can't see my grandma reading such a book back in the 1940s, can you?

So there you have it. It's a good thing we're all waiting so much longer to get pregnant, as the material is only suitable for adults! The 1960s had some silly things to say, but you have to admit that we have our own touch of the ridiculous.

Being a Mom in Bolivia

I wrote a post for Compassion's blog today. Check it out here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ocho Años

One fun thing about blogging is that I can go back and see what Mike and I have done in past years for our anniversary (which I would otherwise surely forget). As it turns out, we celebrated this year much as we did last year, by visiting a state park, going for a hike and a picnic! We're simple creatures. (Going back to see last year's adventure reminds me that it was 1 year ago that I hiked Pikes. Oh, how far the mighty have fallen! My Pikes Peak this year was a 1-block hill to an overlook. My belly has swallowed my hiking prowess.)

This year, we drove up to Mueller State Park after work, which is only 45 minutes away! We'd never been there before, but definitely plan to add it to our repertoire. It's so wonderful to be such a short distance from mountain seclusion! It rained and lightening'ed like mad on our drive, but calmed down by the time we got there. We took a short walk to an overlook...a short walk that felt quite long to this pudgy preggo.

It's hard to capture the view. To the left you could see the Sangre de Cristos, in the middle, you could see the Sawatch range, and to the right, you could see the Collegiate Peaks. Pretty amazing! It's the backbone of the continent, the continental divide and the highest point of the continent. Here, we ate a little picnic of bread, chicken salad, root beer and chocolate salami from Garden of the Gods Gourmet.

Then we took a short walk to a pond. If you're not from Colorado, you may guffaw at our little pond, but here in the dry lands, we take what we can get.

Then we walked down to another pond. This one was so lovely as it reflected the pines perfectly. We took many a picture, but I'll only make you look at one.

Lastly, we enjoyed the sunset over the Sangre de Cristos (far, far away, you can barely see them in the back of this photo).

On the way out, we saw two Great Horned Owls! One landed in a tree where we were taking a short walk. Then another flew over our car as we drove away into the dusk.

Happy Anniversary, Michael!

Monday, July 18, 2011

First World Problems

I meant to get around to writing a deep, insightful blog today, but I ran out of time, so here is a funny video instead.

(I hate it when I flip over my pillow and the other side just isn't that cold.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Junk Food Baby

I, like all other good pregnant ladies, check in once a week at BabyCenter to find out what my baby is up to this week and how big she's getting. There's only one weakness to the various "my baby is the size of a..." web sites...Who the heck knows how big a rutabaga is? These sites are really giving us Americans too much credit, assuming that we know the size and weight of any vegetable other than ketchup.

So if you think that bok choy is a Chinese cooking implement and jicama is a Spanish term of endearment, this is the baby-size guide for you!*

10 Weeks
Your baby is the size of an Oreo!

15 Weeks
Your baby is the size of a chocolate-glazed donut.

20 Weeks
Your baby is the size of a slice of pepperoni pizza.

25 Weeks
Your baby is the size of a Philly cheese steak.

30 Weeks
Your baby is the size of a bag of Cheetos.

35 Weeks
Your baby is the size of a funnel cake.

40 Weeks
Your baby is the size of a birthday cake! Happy birthday, baby.

I can't wait for my baby to be a bag of Cheetos next week!

*This post is only for entertainment purposes and is based on no scientific data.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Drei und Dertig

Yesterday, I turned 33. I've been waiting for this birthday for several years because it's such a fun number. 31 and 32 are rather boring, but 33 has such panache! I've always associated it with being a real-live, legitimate adult. After all, Jesus was 33 at the height of his ministry, showing that by 33 he had grown to the stature and maturity necessary for the ministry of the Son of God. (My friend who just turned 33 pointed out that it's also the age he died at.) But no matter, I feel like I have finally arrived. Being the baby of the family, you always worry that you're just seen as a kid. But who could see a 33-year-old as a kid? No, sir. I'm officially a wise, mature, seasoned adult.

Here's how we celebrated my new-found adulthood! Mike brought me flowers. Aren't they pretty? Mike and I thought we looked like a monster and a water buffalo in these pictures, respectively, but as I'm the one posting the photos, I have edited out all the water buffalo pictures. I decree that for the next three months there shall be no more pictures of the water buffalo! Especially not in shorts.

I worked in the morning, and then Mike took me to lunch at the Cliff House, a historic old hotel in Manitou Springs. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the view.

We also enjoyed the food.

Then I worked some more. For dinner, Mike took me to La Perla Tapatia, a Mexican place recommended to us by our friend from Mexico as the best Mexican in town. Mike didn't get anything, and, despite being a water buffalo, I couldn't fit much chimichanga down my gullet, but it was still tasty.

Then we went for a hike up Bear Creek Canyon, on an old railroad grade. We'd never stopped here before, and we've been missing out! It's a very pretty trail along the creek, and would be much easier if I weren't in my delicate condition (it's fairly steep...for a pregnant lady).

We hiked about 1 1/2 hours and we got views of these rocks up close, which we before had only seen from afar on the road. The day before, I was able to hike 45 minutes, so I guess I'm finally getting back to normal.

At one point, we found a little side trail and a campsite that we stopped at to rest. It started raining like mad, and we hid under the trees for about 30 minutes before it died down. It was tres romantic. But we made it out, wet monster and wet water buffalo, and stopped at Agia Sophia for drinks. I got my favorite, the iced chai, which is more like a milkshake served in a tall skinny glass. Mike got his favorite, what I call his "little girl drink," a pink frothy berry white chocolate drink that would suit Strawberry Shortcake just fine. And thus concluded my thirty-third birthday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baby by 1963

When she first found out I was pregnant, my mom gave me a book she saved from when she was having her first child, Better Homes & Gardens Baby Book from 1963. Here are some of the gems I've found within its pages:

Smoking: "Opinion is divided as to the effects of smoking during pregnancy. If you’re a heavy smoker, doctors advise that you cut down to a great extent, but you needn’t quit entirely." I'm proud to report that I've cut down from 5 packs of cigs a day to just 2 packs.

Drinking: "An alcoholic drink contains between 70 and 160 calories and might be worth eliminating if your doctor is cutting down your caloric intake. Alcoholic drinks add calories but no nourishment to your diet, and may be harmful for other reasons." Well, if it keeps me skinny, I *guess* I'll cut down on my Cuervos while pregnant.

Exercise: "Violent exercise, such as horseback riding, tennis, and square dancing, may be harmful." Oh, man! If only I'd read this months ago! I have been violently square dancing for six months now!

"As an expectant mother you don’t need any more food than at any other time…It’s true that you’re eating for your baby as well as yourself, yet you mustn’t get fat…The up-to-date doctor therefore “weighs in” his patients when they come for their regular examinations, and in most cases insists that they don’t gain more than 20 pounds." Uh oh. I'm in trouble with this one. I guess I'll have to cut out even more alcohol to slow my weight gain.

Dentistry: "Try to make dental appointments for times other than the period of each month when you would usually be menstruating, as you may be more emotionally upset at those times than generally." Oh, so that's why I keep sobbing uncontrollably in the dentist's chair!

Appearance: "If your appearance is important in your work, you’ll want to quit [by the fifth month], or arrange to work at home after that." Because pregnancy makes you unattractive and fat, and you don't want anyone to have to look at that ungainly belly. Blech!

Diet: "Eat at least three slices of whole-wheat or enriched breads, buttered, every day." Now this is advice I can get behind!

Grandma's Advice: "Grandmothers are especially handy when there's a new baby in the house, although their older ideas on infant care may conflict with the instructions your doctor has given you. Be tactful but frank in telling Grandma that the doctor prefers you do it this way, and that's how you are going to do it." Yeah, mom. I'm not using leeches to heal my baby's fever. That's so 1700s.

Daddy Dearest: "If Father's willing, he might take care of Baby while you're busy fixing dinner or doing some of the household chores." But don't push it, and make sure there's a 5-course dinner on the table!

Dad and Diapers: "With a bit of instruction, any father can give Baby a bottle, or a bath, or learn to change a diaper. Don't be surprised if he objects to changing when there's a stool in the diaper." You mean even a man can learn to change a diaper?! But, again, don't push your luck. Interrupt cooking the 5-course dinner to change the poopy diaper because that would just be unreasonable to expect dad to do that.

I hope this has been as helpful and enlightening for you as it has been for me! (Mom, please forgive me for making fun of your book. I actually really like it. :) )

Friday, July 8, 2011

Confessions of an Overheated Teen Wolf

Well, I'm officially in my third trimester. I'm so legit. I haven't posted my inner quiverings and flutterings of pregnancy lately, which I'm sure you're just devastated about, so I will quickly remedy this situation. (In case you are really into quiverings, here are some of my reflections on the first trimester and here are some fun facts about the pregnancy digestive tract. Yay!)

First of all Overheating. Up until just a week ago, I was innocently telling Mike, "You know, they say you're supposed to be hot when pregnant, but I just feel normal!" I should have kept my mouth shut. Suddenly, I find myself sweating at every turn. In group settings, I find myself uncomfortably lifting my hair off of my neck and fanning and wiping the perspiration off my upper lip. I look around and notice no one else is doing this. I ask, "Is anyone else hot in here?" and people tepidly respond, "It might be a little warm." But what I'm talking about isn't a little warm. I feel like I'm in a sauna in my own body.

Last night, Mike and I were driving. It was 65 degrees outside - pleasantly cool - and we had the air conditioning at 71 inside the car - which would usually give me the chills. But I was still cooking in my own juices. Although I could objectively feel that cool air was touching my skin, I was my own radiator. It's tank tops and pony tails from here on out.

Teen Wolf. Do you know that you get thick, luxurious hair during pregnancy? Did you know that this thick, luxurious hair grows not on your head but in the sideburn region and on your belly? Well, now you do. I've always had modest peach fuzz on my face. Now I have mutton chops. I don't generally stare at the side of my face, but I did yesterday, and Hello Teen Wolf! Why "teen" per se? Because it would be so much more depressing to be called "Middle-Aged Wolf."

And my bikini modeling days are over. Man, they were fun and lucrative while they lasted. But now how am I supposed to show off my cute preggo belly if it's covered in hair? For the sake of saving my dignity, I will tell you that I don't actually have long, luxurious hair on my stomach. But I have some. And that's enough. Gross.

Somebody Get Me a Respirator. I. Can't. Breathe. I don't usually resort to writing gimmicks such as placing a period after every word. (No offense to those who do; I'm just a pretentious English major.) So let my lowered standards of communication be a sign to you of how much I can't breathe. My organs are all up in my business. Allow me to demonstrate: I had an appendectomy. Usually the appendix is down by your right hip bone.

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important announcement: Never, I repeat, never, should you google images of "Where is the appendix?" You will see things you never wanted to see and need intensive mind-washing therapy.

We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast. Ahem, so yes, the appendix is usually quite low, down by your hipbone. I had the privilege of learning exactly where my appendix was last week. It was several inches above my belly button. Usually scars for appendectomy's can be hidden in the bikini line, but not mine. My scars will be several inches above my belly button. I guess my bikini modeling career really is over. That just shows you how squished my poor little lungs and diaphragm are. They've got appendixes and kidneys and stomachs all up ons. (I'm not sure where exactly the stomach and kidneys are during pregnancy, but there's no way I'm googling to find out.)

Lastly, I've disturbed you enough with talk of hair and bikinis, so I'll leave you with one last image, me at 28 weeks, the beginning of the third trimester. I was even so considerate as to wear the same outfit I did for my 18 week picture, for your comparing pleasure. (Pay no attention to the Teen Wolf Sideburns.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

As We Were Meant to Be Seen

Yesterday afternoon, the rain was pouring outside, I had a pint of cappuccino gelato, and I watched Enchanted April. What a superb combination. It brings me great sorrow to know that few people have seen the movie. Fast: Get thee to a Blockbuster or a Netflix or a nunnery, or wherever you obtain your movies, and watch this film!

I'll try not to descend too far into a salivating review of all that makes the movie so scrumptious, but I will tell you just a bit about it. At first glance, it might seem that this movie is simply a women's romantic, escapist movie. It's about four British women who want to get away from their dreary, wearying lives and rent a villa in Italy for the month of April.

At second glance, it might seem that this movie will be another feminist awakening movie, in which the female heroines discover their sexuality and eschew the conventions of husband and home. I always loved Kate Chopin's writing, and even the book The Awakening itself. But although I agree that women can become trapped and blurred in the ordinariness of life, I certainly reject that the solution to this problem is to romantically drown oneself in the ocean.

But this movie is not romantic escape nor feminist manifesto. It instead is (in part) a beautiful portrayal of the renewal of love between estranged husbands and wives. Each of the four woman are on a different journey, and I'll simply focus on the two married ones. Both of the women, Lottie and Rose, are sick to death of their husbands. Lottie's husband is preoccupied with business and only considers her (along with everything else in life) as a means to his business ends. Lottie in turn is needy, clingy and desperate for his approval. Rose's husband is also preoccupied with his exciting life as a romance novelist and really doesn't know how to relate to his religious, stodgy wife. Rose on her part is judgmental and closed off, assuming she bores her husband.

So Lottie and Rose decide to escape from their lots and their husbands and rent a villa in Italy. As soon as they get there, Lottie seems to soak up all the beauty around her like a parched flower. Once she herself feels full of the beauty around her, she realizes how she has been withholding her love (and her beauty, therefore) from her husband. Her love has been conditional on being loved back exactly how she wants to be loved. But a needy and simpering person is always hard to love.

She realizes that it would be wrong to withhold this enchanted place from her husband and invites him to the villa. He comes perhaps more to hobnob with her influential friends than to be with her, but when he sees the new Lottie - not coming to him as a needy, neglected wife, but as a fulfilled, confident woman - he finally realizes how beautiful she is. He tells her, "You're so beautiful." "You think I'm beautiful?" she asks in wonder. "Yes. My only question is, why weren't you beautiful sooner?" When we don't come to marriage with needs and conditions to be met, but as confident whole people, our beauty naturally shines through.

And then there is Rose. Rose doesn't want to invite her husband because she's sure he is not interested in her. And he's not. He in fact shows up in hopes of bumping into the beautiful single woman they are sharing the villa with, Caroline. He is, seemingly, creeping towards an affair. Rose, in turn, self-righteous though she is, flirts with the owner of the villa and seems to be tiptoeing her own way toward an affair.

Rose is so sure that her husband doesn't love her and isn't interested that by the time he shows up at the villa (not to see her, but she doesn't know that), that she is overwhelmed and passionately embraces and kisses him. He is flabbergasted that his rigid, cold wife has turned into this beautiful, passionate woman. He is able to see her as she truly is, or as she was meant to be and he is enraptured and forgets all about the beautiful single woman.

Perhaps this seems a bit naive and romantic and to put too much weight on the woman's responsibility. But the movie doesn't dismiss the husband's oafishness. It does, however, show how a simple change in the wives' attitudes can have a tremendous impact on the behavior of the husbands. It doesn't skirt away from the difficult issues - that marriages are hard and people have affairs - but it does show that we can each make small decisions that can turn the direction of a marriage. It's like the Love Dare in Fireproof, but in a far more palatable setting for one such as me.

My favorite part is this, after Rose and her husband have reconciled, Lottie and Caroline speak about Rose:

Caroline: "Isn't she beautiful?"
Lottie: "[It's] love...You know it's a great thing to get on with one's loving and not to waste time. I suppose you think that Rose's husband is just a middle-aged, red-faced rather ordinary man, but he isn't."
Caroline: "Isn't he?"
Lottie: "No. Rose sees through all that. She sees what we can't see because she loves him."

Eros love, when unhindered by our expectations and critical attitudes, allows us to see through the superficialities to the true essence of a person. When I look at Michael, I don't see what others see, a short blonde guy with ice cream stains all over his clothing who isn't always taken seriously. I see...well, I won't tell you what I see because it would make you uncomfortable, but it's good. Likewise, when Mike looks at me, he doesn't see my bitten-to-the-nub fingernails, split ends and chapped lips. He sees me, as much as one can this side of heaven, as I was meant to be seen. And that's pretty wonderful.

So if you, too, want to descend in mushy thoughts like these, you should go watch this movie.

(By the way if there are any men left reading this, my husband, though skeptical at first, also really enjoyed this movie. It doesn't hurt that it has two actors he likes, Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent. But it also has such a positive message for marriage, that you should watch it with your wives. :) )

Voila! Un Petit Salle de Bain Pour Bebe

This post of our finished "baby" bathroom has been a long time coming, but I've been waiting to get up the strength to hang up a picture. "Baby" is in quotes because there is nothing baby about this bathroom, except for the fact that it is where we will be bathing said baby. But there aren't any elephants or pink bows, so try not to be too disappointed.

Crazy workman Mike worked his crazy brains out to finish the bathroom before the heat of the summer ice cream events came on. Good job, Michael! Here's what it looked like before:

And here is what our petit salle de bain pour bebe looks like now:

I don't know how to take photos of such a small room, but I'm sure you're not here for my mastery of photography anyway. In short, here's what we (read: Mike) did:
  • Took down the big mirror (which surprisingly makes the space look smaller) and replaced with a cheap but nice looking mirror from Lowes.
  • Replaced the lighting (which was broken) with nice lighting from Lowes.
  • Painted the walls frappe from Benjamin Moore. (Mike's a total paint snob, and isn't "frappe" a lovely name?) This is the same paint we used in our kitchen.
  • Replaced the old toilet with a low-water toilet. (Did you know that you can get these for just $20 with the rebate that Colorado Springs utilities will send you? And they use a less than a third the water.)
  • Replaced the cabinet with a cabinet/sink from Home Depot.
  • Hung up an old picture from Target that was gathering dust in the garage.
  • Accessorized with the Better Homes and Gardens collection from Walmart (which I love). By the way, would it make me crazy if I ironed the shower curtain? It's looking a bit crinkly.
  • And last, but certainly not least, Mike tiled the floor. Isn't he keen? Guess how much this tile cost...Really, guess. I dare you. $25!!! Isn't that fabulous? We only needed 25 square feet of tile and this real slate tile cost $1 a square foot at Home Depot.

Not bad for a $25 floor, huh? Here's what it looks like from straight on, in case you really wanted to know what my soap dispenser looks like, you weirdo you.

I know it's not going to win me any design awards, but it was quick, cheap and easy. All things which I like. And that concludes our home renovations...for now. ;)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Perks of an Emergency Appendectomy in a Foreign Country

*Note: I call this an "emergency" appendectomy solely for drama. I also call it a "foreign country" rather than "Canada" for the dramatic and fearful effect that our polite neighbor to the north could not garner on its own.

Polyanna, though seriously annoying with her cloyingly sweet outlook on life, is a role model of mine. I try, like the song says, to accentuate the positive. So in contemplating my last week in Canada, I realize a number of good things that came out of it.
  • I've gotten to lay around doing nothing for a whole week. Not that my life is so super stressful right now to begin with, but, hey, I'll take a week off reading and surfing the web.
  • People are super nice to you, and you get tons of attention. My mom and dad came this weekend and showered me with food (our love language). My dad rubbed my feet and gave me a neck massage. (It's handy to have a chiropractic father.) He also did my grocery shopping for me while my mom and I watched cartoons. My sister came on Friday and did my laundry and vacuumed while my brother-in-law mowed the lawn. Besides getting chores done, I feel so loved.
  • With the advent of Facebook, the amount of sympathy and attention you can get is unlimited! In the past, I would have had a limited group of people who would know about my poor ailments and to pour love on me. But now, I can inform literally hundreds of people at a time to pity me!
  • People send me flowers. I love flowers. I've gotten 4 different bouquets this week, including a cheery fish vase picked out by my brother-in-law and a gargantuan vase of 2 dozen yellow roses.
  • In Canada, I didn't get to go to Niagara Falls, but I did see my first-ever groundhog on the drive to the airport. Those things are huge! They look like little monsters and could seriously put the smack down on the scrawny little prairie dogs we have out here. I also got to see some fluffy white sheep on a pastoral farm and eat a "Canadian maple" donut from Tim Horton's. Who even needs Niagara Falls?
  • Many people have commented that they think it would have been really hard to be in a hospital room and then a hotel room alone for several days. But for me, a true introvert, it was awesome! I have secretly enjoyed myself quite a bit this past week.
  • And here's the biggest one: Had I gotten appendicitis at home, I would have lost a week of maternity leave. For my maternity time, I am taking all my vacation and sick hours, so those hours are like gold to me right now, as they will just barely add up to 8 weeks off. Because this happened on a work trip when I was away from home traveling, I don't have to take a week of sick time, whereas if I had been at my cozy little home in the US working, I would have had to take my valuable sick time now. That, to me, is worth it all.
In conclusion, I plan to now regularly orchestrate traumatic life events that will garner me: flowers, food, unlimited internet access, alone time, and groundhogs.