Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Once Upon a Christmas Card

For those who are checking out this blog as a result of getting our Christmas card, thanks for reading, and I'm sorry. What, you say? Sorry for what? Maybe you didn't notice, but our Christmas card was actually more like a life update card with nothing on it about Christmas. Not even a Bible verse reference. Did you know you were friends with such self-absorbed heathens?

In our defense, we had the great idea to send a postcard this year, but found that with a limited word count came limited information. Okay, so we probably shouldn't have taken the Christ out of our Christmas card, but the idea was that you'd go to my blog and read this Christmas post that would make up for the lack of Christmas in our actual card. So, here are the elusive Christmas reflections you've been waiting for:

I've been thinking a lot about these two verses lately (italics mine):

"The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness..." 
(Luke 3:2)
AND
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit" 
(Isaiah 11:1) 

In my over-familiarity with these verses, I've completely missed the significance of the locations where God shows up. The "wilderness" and the "stump" have been overshadowed by more hopeful lines like, the "word of God" and the "shoot coming forth." I prefer the hopeful, happy parts of those verses rather than the deadness of the wilderness and the stump. Do you ever do this? Skip the parts of the Bible that sound negative?

Stumps and wildernesses are desolate, lifeless places. They're so lifeless that I wouldn't even dare to hope for life there. But God dares. Oh, He dares. Out of the stump of Jesse--the dead, useless stump of Jesse's line--comes the unexpected shoot of Jesus, growing so strongly that it bears fruit. In the wilderness, a place dry and sucked of life, comes the Word of God. And while we were dead in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), offering eternal life.

It's not just a nice Bible-thought either. I've seen it played out in friends' lives recently. Seen inexplicable healing in circumstances that seem irreparably broken. Heard stories of hope in places that are saturated with despair.  Witnessed life in the midst of deep, deep darkness. And I'm learning that these two truths exist simultaneously: Life is hard, dark, often hopeless, and disappointing AND God is good, sovereign, perfect, wise, and gracious. He is in the business of giving us the "treasures of darkness" (Isaiah 45:3), the greatest of which was the treasure found in a stable on a dark, unsuspecting night when angels lit up the sky for shepherds and Jesus entered the world wrapped in flesh.

This Christmas, I'm thankful for a God who dares to bring hope and life to given-up-on places and people. And hopefully, you haven't given up on me, even though our Christmas card was, admittedly, a bit un-Christmasy this year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fashion 1.0

I am not a trendy person. Classy, definitely at work. Plain, yep, especially on weekends. But not trendy. I'm too practical for that. If something's been around for a few years (right around the time it's probably going out but I don't realize it), then I'm willing to buy it. Really, I try to only buy clothes that seem classic and timeless so that I don't have to keep on buying new clothes all the time because I'm one of those rare female breeds who doesn't enjoy shopping.

It's not that I don't know what's in. Working with teenagers all day ensures that I know the latest styles. The problem is that I don't think I can rock the looks (and, more importantly, I don't want to look like my students). Oh, and I like to be comfortable. Like jeans and fleeces comfortable.


So, recently, I've taken the plunge. I've invested in some skinny cords and a long short-sleeved sweater. Honestly, the sweater doesn't make any sense to me. Why would you want to have a short sleeved sweater? And why should it be so long? Is it a dress or a shirt?  If the sweater didn't have the $12.99 price tag (which reflects the lack of faith I have in this look sticking around for a while), I wouldn't have even tried it. It's still too trendy for me. But the skinny cords have been around long enough that they've earned "classic" status in my mind, although when they first came out, I thought we were bringing back all the worst parts of the 80's.  I'm now the owner (I'm not quite ready to say "proud" owner) of some skinny cords, which I actually love, and a long short-sleeved sweater, which I also actually love.  Next up: leggings and/or boots to wear outside my pants. Not there yet. Might not ever be there. But I'm thinking about it.

My jeans and fleeces aren't sure what to think of this fashion takeover just yet, but they're my Velveteen Rabbit; they aren't going anywhere.

Regardless of my (lack of care for) style, I'm pretty sure that we'll all look back at our 2010 selves and wonder why we ever thought wearing ________ (fill in the blank) was cool. If nothing else, I'm giving my kids one more reason to make fun of me in the future. Your welcome.

Books, a smattering

Can you tell I've had another round of essays to grade? Just assume any blogging hiatus is a direct result of the amount of weeks I spend grading essays. It's Christmas break now, though (*sigh*), so here's what I'm reading these days. On my bedside table, all partly read or at least glanced at:

    Reason for God by Tim Keller. My sister-in-law gave me this book last Christmas and I'm just now taking time to read it. I used to read Christian living books all the time, but for some reason have gravitated away from them for the past several years. At the end of the day, the last thing I really want to do is deeply investigate my heart, but it's often what I need to do, so in a very tangible effort to move back into a more challenging, growing relationship with Jesus, I'm slowly making my way through this book. The good kind of slow that means it's sinking in, not the boring kind of slow. That being said, I highly recommend this book. Full of Truth and not overly complicated. Just how I like it.


    All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. My colleague recommended this book to me after learning of my love for nonfiction. He said that it would, and I quote, "Blow [my] mind," so I'm looking forward to devouring this memoir over the next few days. Haven't read more than the first paragraph, but oh, can Rick Bragg can write! After all, he did win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. I'll write again about this once I've read it, but it's safe to say that it's a worthwhile read, if not a mind-blowing read.


    Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff. I was given this book by someone who knows the reality of my relationship with Jesus and also the reality of my snarkiness, and let me tell you, I have laughed out loud on so many occasions while reading it! Basically, Acuff, a Christian, pokes fun at both himself and the general Christian public for all the "Christiany" things we do that are really pretty funny. Like mission trip loving people (boyfriend at home playing Wii vs. guy on mission trip serving the poor: boyfriend doesn't stand a chance). Or using "I need to pray about it" as a euphemism for "no." In the midst of all the hilarity, he manages to throw in some one-liner, convicting zingers that make Truth unavoidable. He's a sarcastic, witty, humorous, strong writer, and he doesn't take himself too seriously, which I appreciate (and need to learn). I'd love my writing to look more like his. If you don't want to buy the book, just head over to his website/blog and prepare to be entertained!


    Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Admittedly, this is a bit of a nerdy English teacher book, but if you like to write and you enjoy a sassy, snarky writing style that actually makes punctuation entertaining, then this is a book for you. This book makes me feel good about myself because it justifies my insatiable desire to fix improper punctuation. Did I mention the author's British? Enough said.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Husband Points

    If marriages were to function on a point system (I'm pretty sure that's in 1 Corinthians 13 somewhere), my husband just had a personal high score this past weekend. It was our FIVE year anniversary and he surprised me by taking me back to the bed & breakfast where we spent our wedding night! Major points.

    He also made reservations at Alleia, one of the best restaurants in Chattanooga, if not on the planet. We'd been meaning to go there the entire year we lived in Chattanooga but never got around to it. My mouth is watering just thinking about how delicious their food is! More husband points.

    Best of all, we had hours of uninterrupted, undivided time together, which, even after five years, 

    never


    ever


    ever 


    ever gets old.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    December begins

    I've always loved the first day of a month. It's like a mini New Year that gives me that fresh start, extra-air-in-my-lungs feeling that makes even a Wednesday have the freedom of a weekend. And today isn't just the first day of any month; it's the first day of my favorite month, December.


    Mostly, I like December for Christmas: 
    for the remembering that comes with Advent, 
    for family, 
    for seasonal music,
    for high spirits, 
    for lights on trees, 
    for a chill in the air, 
    for laughter and food and parties, 
    for time off work, 
    for anticipation of togetherness
    (both in this world and the one to come).

    Anticipation. That's the key, really. The key to me liking December so much, yes, but also the key to living joyfully in this life. It's not a rejection or dismissal of the gifts of this world but a holy dissatisfaction with them that sets me on tiptoe, looking for more, looking for Jesus--even in the midst of the wilderness, the valleys, and the uneven ground of this life. We were made for fresh starts, clean slates, and wrongs righted; we were made for heaven and for Him. 

    Isaiah 40: 1-5
    1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
    2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
    3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
    4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
    5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    This is how we do it

    Phil and I went camping last Wednesday night.
    I love everything about camping but the sleeping part.
    I'll pee in the woods.
    I'll build a fire.
    I'll chop wood.
    I'll cook in a fire.
    I'll forego a shower if I must.
    But my sleep is precious.
    And when I camp, my sleep is either cold or uncomfortable.

    Enter my heroic husband, who said his goal for me was to be warm and comfortable all night.
    I had my doubts. 

    BUT

    the following made my camping experience...not bad:
    5 layers (tank top, short sleeved shirt, thermal long sleeved shirt, fleece, & jacket)
    Smartwool socks
    Numerous hand a toe warmers--including several that we threw into our sleeping bags
    A zero-degree sleeping bag
    A fire that I (proudly) made
    An air mattress (thank you very much)
    No wind
    A very attentive husband

    I must say, there's something about unplugging and getting away from the zing of life, something about turning off the phones and not even reading a book, something about slowing down and staring into a fire and talking for hours about things that matter (or not). This yawn of life every once in a while is irreplaceable in our marriage. And that is why I agree to camp--even if I do sacrifice some sleep.

    Thanks, Panera!

    Last Thursday, I was out and about, trying to run a bunch of errands on my rare day off, when I realized that I was insatiably thirsty and hadn't actually had any fruit or vegetables all day. Nice. So, I decided to go to a nearby Panera to try one of their "real fruit" smoothies. That counts as fruit, right?

    While waiting for my drink, I notice a sign for the new cherry vanilla bagel, and since I'm always thinking of new food combinations, I asked the very fine looking guy at the register if he had tried it. I thought it sounded good, but I was having a hard time envisioning those flavors in a bagel.  He had tried it, but felt the same way, that it was an odd flavor for a bagel. (Insert our conversation about how great cinnamon crunch and asiago cheese bagels are). "Do you want to try a cherry vanilla bagel?" he asked. I just looked at him with "do-I-have-to-pay-for-it?" plastered all over my face. "I'll let you try it," he said. And of course, I let him give me a free bagel--toasted.

    So, here's my review of the cherry vanilla bagel, which boasts that it's "flavored with cherry chips, dried cherries and cranberries, vanilla, honey and brown sugar": It's just okay. It smelled divine, like homemade cake, but I think the flavors would go better in a muffin or something that's lighter than a bagel. I couldn't decide if it needed to be more sweet or if it was too sweet, which I realize sounds like a paradox, but I'm pretty sure cream cheese would have solved whatever flavor problem there was  (I didn't want to push my luck by asking for free cream cheese). Bottom line: I was glad the bagel was free. After all, it's hard to top the cinnamon crunch and asiago cheese bagels.

    P.S. I just learned that the cherry vanilla bagel is the "Pink Ribbon Bagel" honoring breast cancer. While that information doesn't make the bagel taste any better, I love that Panera is joining the cause in their own way.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Frequency

    I'm a quality time person. I love long, deep conversations, thinking until my head hurts, and asking thoughtful questions.

    In fact, I'm such a quality time person that I've often poo-pooed the quantity time folks who prefer gobs of time--shallow or deep--instead of the time concentrate I prefer. Of course, having the hubs in medical school and now residency has made me appreciate quantity time as well.

    So, quality time? Absolutely worthwhile. Quantity time? Still a lesser time form in my skewed view, but valuable. But frequency of time? Had never really thought about it.

    Enter my friend, Adam, who recently said, "People really underestimate how far a few phone calls a week at two minutes a piece can go for a friendship." Checking in often but briefly. So simple. I often let months go by without contacting (or hearing from) a friend and then I feel obligated to have an hour-long conversation with them so that I can catch up on a month's worth of information.  Usually, I don't have an hour, or my hour doesn't line up with their hour, so this concept of contacting people more often but less intensely really started to make sense.

    But it went against everything I believed in: quality time needed time in order to go deep. How deep can you go in two minutes?

    I threw (my) logic to the wind and started small by sharing with my best friend the plan to contact (call/text/email) her often but briefly. She was in. While we actually only talk about once a week,  I feel more connected to her than any other friend right now. I realized that frequency creates a sense of connection, even if it's a tiny sound byte of time. In fact, when I think about who I feel closest to at this moment, it's the people I communicate with most--not necessarily most deeply, but most often.

    A couple minutes here and there also don't seem so intimidating to accomplish. I have time in the car, a minute while I unload the dishwasher, a few moments while I'm eating lunch to send a text. It's made me think about others more, about how my time can be shared with them, which is a pretty quality thing if you ask me.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Happy Halloween!

    Happy Halloween!


    From your friendly neighborhood aviator police pumpkin, known to the locals as simply "Stache" (Phil's and my tribute to my stache-sporting dad), "Jack" (evidence of my sister-in-law's mad carving skills) and "GT" (my brother wasn't quite adept enough to carve the Georgia Tech yellow jacket, Buzz). 

    And while no kids came knocking on our door for candy this year, 
    I can't say I'm all that disappointed.
    I'm pretty sure our dwindling bowl of Butterfingers and Reeses will be put to good use.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Quortes

    No, the title is not a typo. It's a tribute to my hursband, who enjoys joining me in adding unnecessary r's to words. Why text someone when you could terxt them? Oh, the potential that little extra "r" has! In case you were wanting to incorporate the extra "r" into your vocabulary, as a rule, adding the "r" works best in words with long vowel sounds in the middle of them and in words that don't already have an "r" in them. For example, "plant" easily becomes "plarnt" but "chair" doesn't work because it already has an "r" in it.

    Now, on to some quortes I just had to share:

    The funny:
    The FOX News weatherman referring to the 100% humidity outside tonight: "The air is juicy out there."

    The sweet:
    A groomsman to the groom at the rehearsal dinner of the wedding I was in this past weekend: "I hope you love her the least tonight."

    The sentimental:
    Me: "I miss Chattanooga." (Said to myself after going to Chattanooga for the wedding and seeing all the BRILLIANT leaves at the peak of autumn, driving by the Tennessee River, driving through mountains, and seeing my precious family.)

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Pray, please. Part II.

    Baby Joseph went to be with Jesus this morning. Please pray for  Joe and Melissa. I don't even know how to ask you to pray, but pray, please.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Pray, please.

    Our friends, the Denticis, gave birth to their firstborn son, Joseph, this week. They were only 23 weeks along when he was born. I started to write about this earlier, but my friend Melissa did such a perfect job of capturing the Denticis' story on her blog that I'm sending you there to read about it. Please take a moment to read their story and to pray pray pray for baby Joseph.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Cooking Therapy

    After the last post, I had yet another I-can-barely-keep-my-head-above-water week. Last weekend was the first time, maybe since school has started, that I actually enjoyed my weekend and didn't work straight through it.

    I take that back.

    I did have a painting day with a bunch of 7th graders for about 3 hours on Saturday, but at least I wasn't grading essays until the words ran together.

    I wanted to write. I really did. But my brain was too spent and too overwhelmed to even think about making any flying thoughts sit up straight and make proper sense on paper. So, instead, I cooked.

    I made homemade granola, homemade bread, stuffed shells, sweet potato fries, and probably a few other things I'm not remembering. I tried new recipes, adjusted old ones, and actually planned out our week's meals. It was as if all the weeks' (and months') stress and pent up energy came out in one big flurry of creative cooking that actually made me feel more sane. Strange? Maybe. But it gave me space to think, to process, and to think up blog topics for when my brain was ready to put them on paper. So, for now, here's the stuffed shells recipe. Enjoy!

    Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells
    (from Real Simple, May 2010)


    20 jumbo pasta shells (about half a 12-oz. box)
    1 24-oz jar marinara sauce
    2 15-oz. containers ricotta
    2 cups baby spinach, chopped
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 oz.)
    Kosher salt & black pepper
    1 cup grated mozzarella cheese


    1. Set an oven rack to the highest position and heat oven to 400. Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain and run under cold water until cool.
    2. Spread marinara sauce in bottom of a large broilerproof baking dish.
    3. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and bake until the shells are heated through, 10-12 minutes.
    4. Increase heat to broil. Broil the shells until the cheese begins to brown, 2-5 minutes. Serve with green salad.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    It pays to be a Georgia fan

    Remember a few weeks ago when this had me shedding rare tears? Well, today I went to court over it. I've never been to court before, so for this rule-follower who almost never got in trouble as a child, going to court and publicly acknowledging my fault was about the worst thing I could be asked to do. I woke up an hour early this morning worrying about what I would say, what would happen if I showed up late or if the judge made a snide comment toward me and I had to bite my tongue and simply say, "Yes, your honor."

    I hate not knowing what to expect.

    A little backstory: I went to the Municipal Court last week to set my court date. While scheduling my date, I asked if I could be moved to the front of the docket since I was a teacher and only had limited time off during the day. To my surprise, the woman said that it'd be no problem.

    Back to today. When I arrived, I was one of about 30 people who were all there for "lunch court." I had to go up to the clerk to sign a waiver and while I was there, I decided to check and make sure that I was at the front of the lineup for the day. I was not. So, I relayed how I'd been told I could be one of first, and the woman said, "Who told you that? We don't do that here." And to the lady next to her: "Did you hear what she just said?" To me: "Say it again." Me: "I was told that I could go toward the front of the line today since I'm a teacher and need to get back to my class." Mean clerk with eyes rolling: "I'll see what I can do, but we really don't do that." Me: "Okay, thank you."

    Thankfully, they called me first. I walked up to a table in front of the judge's seat where a pleasant and knowledgeable prosecutor was sitting. After explaining my situation to the woman, she quickly agreed that driving school was a fine option and as we were walking up to the clerk's desk to get the paperwork processed, the prosecutor (or so we'll call her since I don't know her actual title) made an off-hand comment about the University of Georgia. I looked at her incredulously. "You're a Georgia fan, I take it? We're few and far between in this state." She returned my amazed look. "You go for Georgia too? (Short pause) Well, what can I do for you?" As I contemplated whether or not to say "Drop my charges" out loud, she beat me to the punch. "I tell you what. I'm going to dismiss this case."

    I have never loved Georgia football as much as I did at that moment.

    While she filled out new paperwork for the next minute or two, we cheerily talked Georgia football. It wasn't quite the courtroom experience I had imagined. Minutes later, after speaking with the judge and being officially aquitted, I had to approach the mean clerk one last time for my paperwork to be processed. "You're case is dismissed. Have a nice day," she said without looking up. "So, do you need any paperwork from me before I go?" Without looking up again, she repeated, "Have a nice day." With that, I turned around and walked out--hopefully for the last time.

    I put two Georgia t-shirts on my Amazon Wish List today. I figured with the $180.00 that UGA saved me today, I owed them at least my t-shirt allegiance.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    me, lately

    What I've been reading...
    Connie May Fowler's novel, Before Women Had Wings, Language Network grammar book, Real Simple, Cooking Light

    What I've been listening to...
    José Gonzàlez, sermons from LMPC, and Pandora

    What I've been eating...
    Virginia's recipe for BBQ ribs, Edy's Slow Churned French Silk ice cream, the last of summer's produce (tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries).

    BBQ Ribs: Buy a rack or two of ribs. Boil them for 40-45 minutes in a large pot and allow to cool. Place in large Ziploc bag and pour in a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Marinate overnight. Grill 3-4 min per side to heat through.

    Where I've been...
    Chattanooga for Labor Day weekend and Atlanta another weekend to see Phil's family, Pepper Place Market, junior high football games, friends' houses, delicious restaurants, two different churches

    What's on my to-do list...
    Fold laundry, dust, tackle that last stack of boxes from our move, organize my files, exercise, read for fun, call my aunt, grade 67 essays, check the mail, write letters, blog (done)

    Deep things I've been thinking about...
    Church denominations, women in the church, being a working mom (NO hint about a baby here, just something I've been thinking about), whether to keep our current church community that's 25 minutes away or start over with a church community closer to where we live, how to streamline our lives so that we have a balance of giving our lives away and resting. These could all be blog entries of their own!

    What I've been watching...
    Confesssion: Glee. I'm blaming my sister-in-law for introducing me to this show.


    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    the most perfect memoir I've ever read

    I dare you to take longer than three days to read Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle. My guess is that you won't be able to put it down, that it will keep you up at night, that you will neglect work/children/exercise/dinner to turn as many pages as you can before you get so tired the words blur together and your eyes hang heavy.

    Walls tells the story of her bizarre, tragic, and unique childhood, growing up with parents who preferred to run from the law rather than obey it. Her life story is so unusual and unbelievable that I kept forgetting that the book wasn't a piece of fiction. After each chapter, I wondered how the rest of the book could be any stranger, but each chapter brought with it new and bizarre episodes of Walls' life. Despite her alcoholic father, living conditions so bad that she had neither heat/air nor indoor plumbing nor a refrigerator, the book isn't as depressing as you'd expect.

    Walls makes a brilliant move by writing the memoir from her perspective as a child, so many of her experiences, which adults would understand as awful and wrong, were simply normal to her as a child. The story, then, has an innocence and resilience to it that gives hope and redemption to an otherwise heartbreaking childhood.

    From the first sentence to the last, I really don't think I've ever read a more perfect memoir. I read a lot of nonfiction, so for me to say that this is my favorite is really saying something. If you've read it already, I'd love to hear what you think! If not, pick up a copy as soon as you can. I promise you won't be sorry.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Steal of a Deal

    Perhaps you remember my recent raving post about ALDI.

    Here's one more reason to love it:

    That's right. We bought a 7-piece patio set at a grocery store! 
    Patio furniture was way down on our list of home items to purchase, so I'd given up looking until I saw this little wonder.
    You'll never guess how much little we paid for it.

    It all began four weeks ago when I saw the box leaning up near the checkout. Price tag: $200. A great deal, but I just wasn't ready to drop that kind of cash.
    Three weeks ago, it was still there, marked down to $139. Still not ready to commit, but secretly hoping no one else would take it either. 
    Two weeks ago: price slashed to $100. Phil is with me. We seriously consider it, realize we have no way to transport it, get busy the rest of the day, and accidentally forget about it. I pine after the table and chairs all week, which tells me this isn't just an impulse.
    Last week: We return for our weekly grocery run, fully expecting the patio furniture to be gone. Surprise! Still there, and they're practically giving it away!
    Get this:
    $75.00!
    We drove home, put away the groceries, and then took full advantage of our new and generous neighbor who owns a truck (remind me never to buy a truck). When Phil and our neighbor returned to ALDI to buy the furniture, the manager came out and practically hugged Phil. We should have talked him down to $50. 

    So, just in time for fall, we now have a place to sit outside on our deck. You know where to find us during dinnertime for the next several months!


    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Busted.

    Hypothetically, if a 2-year-old who doesn't know any better keys your car in order to make a "pretty picture," the punishment would be a stern talking to, not a spank-your-butt-so-hard-it-hurts-for-days punishment. But, if an 8-year-old who knew better did the same thing, you'd better believe his ass would be hurting. I'm the two-year-old, I promise.

    After a long week and an even longer Friday, I was driving home from work around 4:45 p.m., taking the back roads route I've driven for the past five years. What I didn't know for the past five years was that from the hours of 4-6 in the evening, this particular left turn that I make every day is illegal. So, naturally, I made the turn, even seeing the cop sitting in the nearby parking lot. I guess he's just taking a little break there, I thought. Oh no. Not a break. Not at all. The moment I drove past him, I saw him whip out and turn on his lights. Busted.

    Since I'd never seen the sign, I had no idea why I was being pulled over, and politely told him so.


    That turn wasn't legal? 
          No ma'am. There are three signs posted there.
    I've lived here for five years and have made that turn every day and have never known that.
          I understand. Several people who live around here have said the same thing but I've written them up.
          It's a dangerous turn at this time of day.
    I completely understand that, and I know you're just doing your job. I'm not going to try to talk my way out of this ticket, but I just wish I had known.


    So, I'm now the owner of a ticket and a court date, both of which have yet to be processed. And you'd better believe I'm going to court over this. Even if I have to take off work. I'm guilty as charged, but I'm not going to have this go on my otherwise-squeaky-clean driving record and jack up my insurance premiums without a fight (or at least a respectful plea). I didn't know any better, but I'm getting punished as if I did. I'm sure he could make the argument that I should have known better, but if that turn is so dangerous and if people living around it all the time don't even know about the sign, then maybe the sign needs some flashing lights or something. And there's ONE sign, not three, but who's counting, right?

    I cried all the way home. Twenty-eight years old and I still hate getting in trouble and feeling like I got worse than I deserved. I don't remember the last time I cried, so I'm pretty sure the crying was about a lot more than the ticket, but it felt good--the crying, not the ticket.

    *big sigh* I feel better now. Thanks.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Apparently, clean really IS just a smell...

    Do you ever have "human moments"? Moments when you trip over nothing while people are watching (like I did last week at work), or moments when you put your foot in your mouth (like I did tonight*), or moments when you rave about a new detergent that really turns out to be fabric softener?

    That's right, folks. Snuggle only makes fabric softener, not detergent, which means that the pair of underwear I was so fondly sniffing the other morning wasn't actually...clean. (Sheepish grin) In my defense, I never use liquid fabric softener, so it didn't even occur to me to carefully read the labels when I was in the detergent isle. I was so focused on finding the "he" symbol on the bottle that I missed the fact that I wasn't even buying detergent. I'm sure there's a sermon in there somewhere.

    Only a true friend would point out my error, so many thanks to Melissa for setting me straight and preventing me from "washing" more than a couple of loads in straight up fabric softener. No wonder my clothes smelled so good!

    It's back to the laundry detergent isle for me, and I guess I'll start using some liquid fabric softener in my loads for a while since I bought the 96-load bottle.

    * Tonight, while on a walk, Phil and I were talking about how much we love our neighborhood and how safe we felt in it. Right after saying that, we saw three cop cars parked outside a house, but some trees were covering up the house, so I didn't see any people. "Maybe it's a stake-out," I told Phil, rather loudly. About that time, we walked right by the front of the house where police were talking to a man and woman who had apparently been in some kind of altercation. I chose the look-straight-ahead-and-keep-walking route after that foot-in-mouth moment. Oops.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Clean isn't a smell, but...

    Clean isn't a smell, but I sure do love the smell of clean! The naturalists out there will tell you that all the chemicals in over-the-counter cleaners are bad for you, your kids, your floors, your skin, your pores, your lungs, and your overall heath. All we need is vinegar and water.
    And they're probably right. 

    BUT.

    I LOVE the smell of clean! Honestly, I love every cleaner aroma: the indoor-pool smell of chlorine and bleach, the lemon smell of Pine-Sol, and most recently, the clean laundry smell that stays in your clothes for days. I've washed with regular, cheap Purex detergent for years, but we recently bought a new(ish) he (high efficiency) washer that can only take he detergent.  So, I spent a good 10 minutes in the laundry isle at Walmart looking for he detergents and smelling them all. Snuggle (Blue Iris and Bamboo Silk) was a clear front-runner, and I must say, I absolutely cannot stop smelling my clothes! 

    It's really pretty funny. I kept getting wafts of that fresh linen smell all day long, and it had been several days since I had done laundry. Purex had nothing on this stuff. Confession: I even smelled my clean underwear tonight when taking it out of the drawer. Clearly, the brand lives up to its name when I'm nuzzling my underoos! I'm hooked! 

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Best. Homemade Lasagna. Ever.

    I can't take credit for this recipe because I got it from my sister-in-law who got it from her mom who got it from...Southern Living, I think. But let me tell you: it's delicious! So delicious, in fact, that my hand-written recipe card has stains on it because I've made it so much. While it's not my recipe, I have added a few ingredients to suite my tastes, so, without further ado, I present to you:

    Bekah's Homemade Lasagna
    10 lasagna noodles (I buy the oven-ready ones for simplicity's sake)
    1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
    1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
    1 small onion, minced (optional)
    2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
    2 16-oz. (or 1 28-oz.) cans diced Italian seasoned tomatoes, drained
    24-oz. container low-fat (or fat free) cottage cheese
    1 cup fresh chopped spinach (as much or little as you like)
    1 small bag shredded parmesan cheese
    2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
    2 eggs
    4 Tablespoons parsley flakes
    Basil, Oregano, Italian seasoning to taste (I usually put in at least a teaspoon of each)
     1/2 tsp. black pepper


    1. If using regular noodles, cook pasta according to directions on package.
    2. In medium sized bowl, mix cottage cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, chopped spinach and about 4 Tbsp parsley flakes and about 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Set aside. 
    3. In a large skillet, brown ground beef with garlic and onions, then drain. Return to skillet and add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and seasoning (basil, oregano, Italian seasoning) to taste. 
    4. Spray bottom and sides of 13X9 pan with cooking spray. Lay 5 lasagna noodles across bottom of pan. On top of noodles, add 1/2 cottage cheese mixture. On top of cottage cheese mixture, add 1/2 mozzarella cheese. On top of mozzarella cheese, add 1/2 ground beef mixture. Repeat layering steps one more time. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.  
    5. Bake at 350 45-60 minutes or until warm throughout. 
    * This recipe can be made a day ahead, put in the fridge overnight, and baked the next day. 
    **Other possible additions: chopped green peppers, mushrooms, fresh chopped tomato, fresh chopped basil, rosemary
    ***This makes a LOT of lasagna, so if you have a smaller family, consider inviting the neighbors over, or put half in the freezer for a night when you don't have time (or want) to cook!

    Enjoy!!!

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    And so it begins

    This morning at 8:00 a.m., 21 9th graders will be staring at me for 54 minutes. They'll be staring at me, but their minds will be elsewhere--wondering who I am and when the new lockers will come, worrying about finding their next class and making it there on time, worrying about who they'll sit with at lunch, wishing they had gone to bed earlier last night, wishing they had don t their summer reading, wishing they could have their cell phones. They'll also be bringing all kinds of invisible relational baggage into the room--something I often forget. They'll be thinking about the fight they had with their best friend or how their dad didn't come home last night or how they don't have any friends or how they miss their mom who died last year.

    And somewhere in the midst of all that, I'll be teaching them English.

    This morning at 8:00 a.m., I will stand in front of those 21 9th graders and will talk about the 180 hours we'll spend together this year with great expectation and dreams of being an inspiration. I'm hoping the kids like me, find the content engaging, and are respectful and awake. I'll have my own set of worries: am I too strict or too fun? Did I forget to tell them something? Could I teach any of this better than I already am?

    But right now--right now--is calm, joy, anticipation, knowing that God has so clearly called me to this and trusting that He will not give me more than I can handle. This will need to be a year of trust, of leaning on Him, and with that in mind, this is my prayer for the year:

    May my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
    like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants.
    Deuteronomy 32:2

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Movie recs

    Happy-Go-Lucky
    My friend, Sarah, recommended this this me, and, as she described it, "It's British and it's a comedy, but I wouldn't exactly call it a British comedy." This 2008 gem stars Sally Hawkins who plays Poppy, a carefree elementary school teacher who constantly sees life as half-full. While the movie is upbeat and cheerful, it also has more serious side stories woven throughout, making the film a bit complicated to place in a genre. And, because it's British and has the happy-go-lucky feel, the movie has a slower pace, is full of odd quirks, and lacks a plot based on significant conflict. While I wouldn't say it was my favorite movie, it was definitely intriguing and one that I enjoyed and would recommend to others. If you like quirky foreign films that don't drain you emotionally, then this is a movie for you!


    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    I can't say enough about this movie that Phil and I picked up at the Homewood Library the other day! Winner of the 2008 Golden Globe Awards Best Picture of the Year and nominated for four Academy Awards, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a must-see movie. It's based on a true story about Jean-Dominique Bauby, a famous editor for Elle magazine who suffered from "Locked-in Syndrome" after suffering a stroke. "Locked-in Syndrome" means that a person is physically paralyzed from head to toe, unable to do anything except blink. However, their mental capacity is in perfect condition: they can feel pain, hear, comprehend, think, and formulate sentences in their head, but they cannot communicate apart from blinking; hence, they are "locked in" to their own body. This fascinating movie tells the story of who Bauby was before and after his stroke, and how he went on to write a book from his locked-in state. It gave me compassion and insight into caring for people with disabilities and a new appreciation for my health, family, and my ability to communicate. An extremely powerful movie.


    27 Dresses
    A girly movie from beginning to end, but I love Katherine Heigl and thought it would be a good way to pass an evening with Phil gone. I give the movie a B. Definitely not a waste of time, but also one that I'm glad I didn't pay for. It's a cookie-cutter wedding/marriage chick flick complete with predictable scenes, a hopeless girl who finds the right guy in the end, and a guy whose perfection is the reason so many girls today have unrealistic expectations of men. That being said, it was a movie with lots of "aww" moments and one that I really liked. I enjoyed it the way I enjoy a beach read: shallow, indulgent, simple, but really entertaining and not a bad way to spend your time once in a while.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Age(less)

    Old. My sister turned 15 at the end of July, successfully got a permit last week, and is now on the roads making all her other 9th grade friends jealous and making me feel, well, old.

    Young. One of my former students, who is now a senior in high school, was in my classroom this week and asked, "Mrs. Johnson, how old are you?" (I tell her). "Wow. I thought you were, like, 22 or something." (Do the math, sister. That would make me a senior in high school when I taught you.)

    Old. Last week was Open House at school, and for the first time, I was closer to the parents' ages than the students' ages. Again, old.

    Young. My neighbor: How long have you two been married?
                  Me: Coming up on five years.
                  Neighbor: Wow, I thought you guys were newlyweds!
                  Phil: We still feel like newlyweds.
                  Me: (high-fiving Phil) You definitely get points for that response, babe.


    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Vote for the Austin Hatcher Foundation

    Pepsi is giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars to charitable groups through their Pepsi Refresh Project, and my friend, Amy Jo, and her husband have submitted their foundation, the Austin Hatcher Foundation. The general public votes on which charities they want to support and Pepsi awards (in this case) $250,000 to the top charity. Out of thousands of applicants, Hatch's House of Hope is currently ranked #33 (!), and with voting ending on August 31, I'm trying to spread the word so they can make it to #1.
    For those who don't know, Amy Jo and her husband started the foundation when they lost their son to pediatric cancer several years ago. Go here to learn more about their story. The foundation provides practically for the children and their families, and I encourage you to go to their website for more information.

    I'm asking you to vote DAILY for the Austin Hatcher Foundation (it only takes a few seconds), and here's how:


    TEXT 101703 to Pepsi (73774) 


    AND 


    GO ONLINE tohttp://www.facebook.com/l/23724NmXzsxp3yCOyW5S7ZyDROQ;www.refresheverything.com/hatcherfoundation


    Thanks for partnering with me in helping hurting families, and thanks to Pepsi for such a generous funding project.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Embrace the paste

    There's a lot standing between me and the perfect tan. For one, 100-degree days keep me inside more than I'd like. For another, I have fair pasty skin. And I'm fine with that, really.

    I'm also a sucker for funny and true news stories.

    So, pasty white girl + love of funny news = THIS.

    I love that Scottish scientists got 100 people to volunteer to have their buns studied...and sunburned. I wonder how that advertising went: "Show us your buns and we'll heat 'em up for ya," or, "Do you suffer from white-butt syndrome? Enter our study to find out if yours will tan!"
    It was probably more like, "We'll give you cash if you'll let us expose your butt to dangerous rays."

    And all those Scottish villagers were like, "Cash?!? Simulated sunlight?!? Yes please."

    Honestly, though, who has a tan butt? Who? The only way to get one is to lie naked in a tanning bed (which grosses me out a little, although I'm a bit of a germaphobe), to wear a thong on the beach (eww), to do one of those spray tans (cha-ching expensive), or to use a self tanner (the safest). But even then, what's the point? The only person who sees most of our butts is our significant others, so do those significant others really care all that much whether or not our derriere is the same color as the rest of us? Chances are, their butts are white too.

    So, here's to white rears, sun-deprived Scots, and anyone who wears a thong in public. More power to you.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Quick 'n Easy: Ranch Parm* Chicken

    Ranch Parmesan Chicken

    6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    1 cup Ranch dressing
    1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
    1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    1-2 tsp ground black pepper
    1-2 Tbsp melted butter

    Marinate chicken in Ranch dressing anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Coat marinated chicken in breadcrumb mixture and place in a greased 9X13 baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake uncovered at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until juices run clear.

    Enjoy. each. delicious. bite.

    *"Parm" = my Rachel Ray tribute. Love that lady's cooking, although this isn't her recipe.

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    facelift

    First of all, I'm not sure if "facelift" is supposed to be one word or two. A quick Google search reveals that both seem to be acceptable. (Nerd alert that I even took the time to look it up!) I'm going with one word, though, because it's more efficient and, well, it just looks right. I promise I'll explain grammar and vocab better to my 9th graders in a few weeks.

    Anywho, procrastination often breeds creativity, which lead me to give my blog a little facelift over the weekend. It used to have a more of a subtle brown motif--very simple and kind of antique looking. Nothing wrong with it, but it left something to be desired. So, out with the old and in with color, background, and interest.

    I'm no graphic designer or layout extraordinaire, but I like it.

    And I hope you do too.

    I hope you like it so much that your face is pulled taut in a permasmile like Joan Rivers' (sorry Joan).

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    It's been a while...

    since I got my hair cut. 
    Like four months.
    And it was a bad cut with a stray middle layer
    that I was too lazy to go back and have corrected.
    My new hairdresser pointed out how bad it was.
    Oops. 
    But today--today--I got a GREAT cut from this place that my sister-in-law recommended.
    Short hair cuts start at $30 and long at $40
    including wash, dry, style, and tip. 
    Whadaya think?
    Pardon the photo booth lighting.


    It's also been a while...


    since I last dusted my blinds.
    To tell the truth, I'm pretty sure I've never dusted any blinds 
    in any house I've ever lived in.
    Quite a confession.
    To my credit, I've only been in this house for a month
    but
    I'm pretty sure the people who lived here for 3 years before we got here 
    didn't dust either. 
    Shame on them.
    So I went to trusty Bed, Bath, and Beyond today and bought an Oxo duster.
    The best part? It goes in the wash.
    Good thing, too, because halfway through dusting my blinds, 
    it needed to go in the wash.
    1.5 hours and lots of coughing later (I'm not exaggerating): 
    my blinds pass the finger-swiping test.
    I'm hoping it'll never be that bad again.
    I've seen the error of my ways and will, from now on, be a duster of blinds!


    Mine's not quite so crispy-white now.


    And it's been a while...


    since I've been hit on by a creepy guy.
    I guess it's only been about a month. Remember this?
    But today it was a face-to-face person.
    In Bed, Bath, and Beyond. 
    I was standing there looking through a 21-page wedding registry 
    trying to decide what to purchase.
    He was the third person to ask if I needed help. 
    He stared a little too long.
    And was a little TOO helpful.
    And smiled a little too much.
    Despite my clear please-go-away signals, he lurked. 
    So I said thank you and walked away.
    Then he walked up to my friend and I a few minutes later.
    His words:
     "I just want to let you ladies know that you are very beautiful women." 
    Insert fake smile and polite thank you as he walked away
    followed by eye rolling and the word "creeper" coming out of my mouth.
    Mean, I know. Really mean.
    But seriously.
    If he was that desperate, he should know to look for a rock on my left hand.
    Maybe I should have been flattered, but I was just kind of creeped out.

    Happy Wednesday to me!


    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Mel

    I'm terrible at remembering friends' birthdays. Really terrible. So terrible, in fact, that I spent an hour with my friend Melissa today before I realized it was her birthday (and only then because someone else wished her a happy birthday)!

    Anyway, in honor of Melissa's life, I want to give her a blog-toast. Clink!

    I like to give my friends nicknames, and anyone who's my friend knows that. Melissa (lucky girl) was dubbed "Mel" early on in our friendship, and whether or not she likes it, it pretty much stuck. So, here are a few things about Mel that I admire/am fascinated by/am blown away by/am intrigued by (in no particular order):

    • She is one of the most intentional people I know. For example, she decided that instead of getting a set of china, she'd like to have a piece from all her friends' sets to make a mis-matched collection that will remind her of the people she loves every time she uses them. She and her husband also only have art on their walls from people they know so that their house is full of unique talents applied & shared instead of generic pieces. Those are the kinds of things I love but would never think of. 
    • She's creative. In addition to being a great writer (check out her blog!) and seamstress, she just comes up with unique ideas all the time. She's always working on interesting projects like this one to organize her jewelry. 
    • She's confident. Not cocky, just sure of herself, of what she believes, of what she prefers. I like that.
    • She reads. A lot. I'm not just talking classics, here, although she reads lots of those too. She reads everything. Harry Potter, British poetry, children's books, Jane Austin, Twilight, cookbooks, magazines, modern novels. You name it. One of my favorite questions to ask her is "What are you reading?" because I can't wait to hear the excitement in her voice when she tells me about the books.
    • She's a great wife and mom. 'Nough said.
    • She asks good questions. Mel always seems to know how to ask good questions--questions that will get people talking, questions that will get people thinking, questions that communicate that she cares.
    • She runs...and likes it. Ever since middle school when the track coach tried to recruit me for the track team, I knew that I did not enjoy running. For practicality's sake, I do run (occasionally), but I really don't enjoy it (although a little "Soulja Boy" does give me a nice distracting beat). So, basically, I'm amazed by anyone who actually likes to run, which means Mel's love for running = an awe factor for me.
    • She's thoughtful. She's the kind of person who makes chocolate chip cookies every time we go over for dinner because she knows they're my favorite. She's the kind of person who does remember friends' birthdays. The kind of person who opens her home, buys random gifts, and texts because she thinks of you. I'm grateful to know that kind of friend.
    • She loves Jesus. And not just in a I-go-to-church way, but in a real God-in-the-grit-of-life way. She loves Jesus in a way that makes me know Him better.
    So Mel, here's to you on your birthday! May you nap often, read much, and eat well! Cheers!

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Ice Cold B's, Hot D's, and Base B

    Confused by the title? Read this and take a gander at the picture I've included and you should be able to put it together.

    America is tuning in to its favorite pastime tonight with the All-Star game, so Phil suggested a traditional baseball meal: hotdogs and beer (with a few extras thrown in). To his credit, he also suggested the title of this post.

    After a week of working 13-hour days and us adjusting to extremely limited time together, Phil got off unexpectedly early today (only an 11-hour day!), so we were able to slow down a bit and enjoy some relaxing time together. Nothing like baseball and watermelon on a summer night. Can I get an AMEN?

    I have to admit, though, that it feels funny posting about something so whimsical when others in my life are going through much more serious and difficult events. I have a friend whose van was hit by lightning the other day (and she and her kids lived to tell about it), another friend who's spent the last three days at the hospital with her four-week-old, and two new friends who just moved to Birmingham from far away and know almost no one. So, by posting about baseball and beer, I don't mean to be insensitive to those in darker, more complicated places.

    I've been there too.

    But I'm learning that it's good to record the whimsy too. Good to remember that all days are not dark days, that sometimes light breaks through and the burden eases and simple pleasures like hotdogs and baseball still exist.

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    I adore ALDI

    I'm late getting on this boat. I know it. But give me a break--I've been out of the city for a year and where I was had one ALDI that was 40 minutes from my house. So yeah, I was an ALDI virgin until yesterday.

    To clarify any misunderstanding (which necessarily happens when you throw the word "virgin" into a sentence), ALDI is a small, European-style grocery store with huge knock-off prices, a "put in a quarter to get your cart; return your cart and get your quarter," we-have-our-own-brands-that-are-just-as-good-as-the-flashy-ones, bag-your-own-groceries, we-only-accept-cash-or-debit-cards kind of place. And did I mention the prices? Oh my.

    So, ALDI fliers showed up in my mailbox this week, which made me wonder if, in the past year that I've been away, Birmingham made a good choice in the midst of all the bad ones (remember our brilliant ex-Mayor, Larry Langford?) by building an ALDI near my house. Turns out, ALDI is 2.91 miles from my house!

    Here's a glimpse of the savings from my $30 (!) grocery bill yesterday:

    • $2.79 for 28 bottles of water
    • 25 cent peaches, plums, and nectarines 
    • $1.50 a pound for cherries (and they were already separated into 1-lb. bunches so you didn't have to guess how many pounds you were purchasing)
    • $1.00 salad dressings
    • $5.99 for a bag of about 6 frozen chicken breasts
    Just a glimpse. I was so giddy leaving the store that I almost called my mom to have someone to celebrate savings with! I didn't need to buy any wine, cereal, fresh meat, or other refrigerated products this time, but I needed to save a little something for next time anyway. And there will definitely be a next time!

    By the way, if the whole process of putting a quarter in your cart, etc. is a little foreign and intimidating to you, check out this link that explains how everything works and you'll look like a natural in no time.

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    My latest reads

    It's about time for another book post, and I squeezed in a little pleasure reading a few weeks ago on our Johnson family trip. Many thanks to my friend Andrew for letting me borrow from his oh-so-quality library. Here's what I've been reading:

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
    by John Boyne
    Since high school, I have been both fascinated and sickened by the Holocaust, so when this movie came out a couple of years ago, I really wanted to see it. I'm glad I didn't, though, because I like to read books first and this book was beautifully written. It's a quick read (I read it in a couple of hours), but the story runs deep with friendship, heartache, innocence, intuition, and creativity. For those who don't know the story, Boyne creates a fictional story about a childhood friendship between a German boy and a Jewish boy who is in a concentration camp. The most moving part of the story is the innocence that both boys maintain in the midst of what we know to be such a tragic genocide.


    The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
    by James McBride
    My non-fiction for the week. I saw this book years ago at Barnes and Noble and had heard wonderful things about it  (it's a NYTimes Bestseller), but ended up not buying it. So, when I saw this on Andrew's shelf I knew I needed to read it, and I wasn't disappointed. As the subtitle suggests, James McBride tells his story, but also the story of his mother, interspersing actual conversations he had with his mother in the writing of the book. He tells of how she bore twelve children, all of whom went on to college and most of whom went on to earn other advanced degrees. He tells of her challenge being white woman in a black culture and of his own identity challenges being biracial. He tells of his family's poverty, his mother's unmoving trust in God and education, and of his own transformation from rebellion to what is now his livelihood (music and writing). It's a powerful story, and even more so because it's true.


    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
    by Sherman Alexie
    I read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven when I was in college and was drawn to Alexie's unique writing style. So, when Andrew recommended The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to me, I was in. It's Alexie's first young adult novel (although there are parts that I wouldn't want too young of an adolescent to read), and it was a quick read, complete with funny pictures that give it that diary feel--similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid but aimed at an older audience. Not only was the story clever and full of emotion, but it was also beautifully written. Alexie has a way of writing phrases and sentences that I have never heard before, and I love that kind of ingenuity. He tells the semi-autobiographical story of Arnold Spirit, a goofy, made-fun-of 9th grader  who struggles with finding his identity, struggles with friendships, struggles with his culture, struggles with girls, and struggles to be both part of his people and to distinguish himself from them. A great read!

    Books I've barely started that are sitting on my bedside table and that I hope to read before the beginning of the school year:

    The Discomfort Zone
    by Jonathan Franzen
    Really can't tell you much about this yet, but it's a non-fiction book that was given to me by a friend and the first chapter is interesting so far!

    Jayber Crow
    by Wendell Berry
    I've become a huge Wendell Berry fan after reading Hannah Coulter last semester for one of my classes. He writes brilliantly, and I recommend any of his books for a book club because they always spark good discussion. I got this book from my sweet sister-in-law, Kari, for my birthday and began reading it back in May. However, after just a couple of days, I was derailed by school and moving and had to put it down until this week. So, because I can't remember anything about it, I'll be starting it over this week and can't wait! I'll write about it again when I'm finished reading it.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    My first days back in Birmingham: the bad, the good, and the funny


    Not one, not two, but THREE truckers honked at me on our drive here from Chattanooga. 
    The bad news: Truckers between here and Chattanooga just aren't as classy as you'd hope they'd be. 
    The good news: I've still got it.



    Three hours at the DMV.
    The bad news: On top of seeing TWO of my former students (and having to remember their names, which I did after only a short delay), the printer was messing up and made my paper license look like a shiny cartoon. I was told that my official license wouldn't make me look orange. We'll see.
    The good news: For the first time in Alabama DMV history, every employee whom I spoke with was kind and pleasant.

    Our cell phones don't get enough reception at our house.
    The bad news: We had to cancel our 7-year long loyalty to T-Mobile and our oh-so-cheap plan.
    The good news: We have switched to Verizon, will not drop any more calls, have matching phones (his is black, mine is red--be on the lookout for a blog photo story to come), AND I am in love with my ring tone. It makes me dance. Makes me.


    In an effort to "simplify, simplify, simplify," I'm parting with around 70 books.
    The bad news: Parting with books is such (sweet) sorrow.
    The good news: I'm hoping to sell about 25 of them on half.com. The rest will be part of our donation tax write-off.

    Three days into being here, I absolutely MUST have Taziki's Friday Special.
    The bad news: There's a good possibility that I will crave this every single weekend. Not good for the pocketbook or for variety.
    The good news: I live 10 minutes from a Taziki's and, better yet, I can make the Friday Special at home (although it's never quite the same)