Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Post About That Post

Just to be clear, I am not picking on anyone who makes a huge deal out of costs or organics or even lighting (oh wait, that's me!) when shopping. My whole point is that I think those are big deals too. I just didn't want my friends going through their mind and thinking what they had said and if it had ticked me off or prompted me to pick at them backhandedly. It was neither. That being said, continue with the grocery store post.

And if you already read it, here is more. If something I buy often is on a rare super sale, how much should I buy? At what point have I ceased to save money and am now spending money we will need for other things or wasting precious space in the pantry/closet? I always think I know and then am kicking myself when I have to buy diapers at $18 a package or George is impatient for cokes to go back on sale (which in St. Louis seems to coincide with holidays and major sporting events- get your cokes now, St. Louisians, before the Super Bowl is over. It's a long way to the Kentucky Derby!). I mean, the cokes can wait, but diapers, we gotta have those! This is also a problem with meat (because it is freezable), canned tomatoes, apple juice, shampoo, toothpaste etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Grocery Store- A Picture Of My Paralysis

I hesitate to post something new because I am still really excited about all of the discussion on the last two posts. I am so reflective (clearly) and it is nice to give more time to these things and have a good back and forth. For example, I am just now thinking that maybe my other problem with planning and being late is that I am out of practice. College was pretty awesome with all the flexibility, but you also had a loose schedule in that you had class every day. I have nothing in particular to do a lot of days- hence the need to work on what to do with freedom- and so when there is something that has to be done and has to be done by a certain time, I fall apart because I am not in the practice of living that way. This crazy stage of life! I have been thinking more about it. I have been thinking more about freedom too.

George and I were talking about how the voices we hear the loudest are the ones with the rigid rules. It is hard to be real clear and noisy about just letting people alone. And even that is not 100% what we need to do. Even my big thing that I am trying to do, be merciful, can't be the rule all the time. I mean, depends on what your definition of mercy is, but people do need a kick in the pants sometimes. Some of us are so quick to kick ourselves so it isn't always the case. I'm looking out for those guys. We just need to be discerning. We can't have a hard and fast rule, those cookie cutter rules I was talking about, to scream out that will always apply. But people do and that's what gets heard, not the more moderate sound of "let's let people use their heads and decide what works best for them." With that in mind, I want all of this taken very "to each his own"-ish. But I also want to hear what y'all know and think. And that may be that I am ridiculous. I mean, I am. But what besides that?

The grocery store is a petri dish for Abby's anxiety. Oh yes, the grocery store. So much freedom, yet so many decisions that must be made! Here is an example of those loud voices- be health conscious no matter what, be calorie conscious no matter what, be cost conscious no matter what, etc. etc. etc. And if you want to be conscious of all things, watch out! Because being health conscious is usually directly opposed to being cost conscious. And what kind of health conscious are we talking anyway? Are you freaking out over organics this week? Trans fats? Sodium? High fructose corn syrup? Unbleached Enriched white flour (or whatever it is)? My big thing for years has been sodium. I retain water. A lot of water. I had high blood pressure when I was pregnant with Amabel and I started paying attention to salt. By now I can tell a huge difference in my body and overall feeling based on how much salt I consume. Anyway, I am not saying you should care about sodium. I just care about it. But then, shouldn't I also care about organics? What about packaging? What about what the animal whose product I am consuming was fed?

Aren't you having an anxiety attack at this point?

One thing I care about is convenience and sanity. You won't usually hear that voice telling you that you just have to shop at the grocery store with the most pleasant lighting and the friendly elderly man who bags your groceries and carries them to the car while playing peek-a-boo with your baby and hands out stickers to your kids. Lately, I just tell the voices to shut up and opt for that store. Have you noticed that that store also has the best selection? And I am sure you've noticed, in Birmingham, Nashville, St. Louis or Timbuktu, it doesn't matter, that store has the reputation for being the most expensive. And don't you just love their deli case? And their bakery? We have thrown low prices out the window at this point, and most likely proximity as well. Is it worth it? I don't know. George says it's okay and this is one thing that makes me very glad not to be in charge. Poor George, he has huge papers to write, dozens of books to read, and I am asking him to decide where I should buy our groceries!

Moving on then. You're at Kroger or Publix or Dierberg's or Bruno's or wherever it is that the nice bagger man works. Incidentally, the nicest ones are at the Bruno's at the corner of Valleydale and 280. I used to drive over thirty minutes just to go to that Bruno's. Well, I had to drive thirty minutes to get most anywhere, but that Bruno's was further than I had to go (there was another Bruno's that I could walk to sometimes, but they just never had kalamata olives or sundried tomatoes and that got on my nerves). But now what do you do?

I had no idea about chickens. Call me naive, but I just didn't. I didn't know a lot of them were actually de-beaked and a lot of other worse things. I don't really want to talk about it. I know there is a much bigger problem with what is happening to many unborn humans, but if I can spend an extra dollar every other week to support chickens being treated more humanely, I'm game. It's really just about 80 cents, less than 7 cents an egg.

As for organic milk? All of the sudden everyone is buying organic milk. I have heard the horror stories about kindergarteners starting their periods and things like that, but I just don't know about the extra $10 a week it would cost to save us this problem that we are not having anyway. I could look into it more. But where do we draw the line? The extent of my looking into it was checking to see if they sold it at Sam's. The only thing at Sam's was the organic milk boxes which, oddly enough, do not have to be refrigerated. They cost $14 for 18 though and I can get 36 100% juice boxes for $7. Right, so twice as much beverage for half the cost. I called George just to see if he thought that was too much. I know, poor George, his wife cannot make a decision! Fortunately, George quickly decided that that price was ridiculous. I forgot to mention, the milk boxes were chocolate milk boxes. I considered this a strike against them, but mentioned it to George anyway as he would probably put that on the pro side. The chocolate factor was not enough to sway him, but my two little pairs of ears overheard and proceeded to persuade me that we did need chocolate milk, organic or not. In the end, I did purchase a gallon of non-organic chocolate milk, most of which was poured down the drain because I was so unwilling to actually serve it, but not until after said chocolate milk was driven all around St. Louis and stored in several refrigerators during the recent power outage. Now everyone thinks I feed my kids high fructose corn syrup disguised as milk, but I really just buy it and pour it out. And just that one time. Glad to clear that up.

Hmmmm. Eggs. Milk. What else do I stress about? Turkey vs. Beef? Nah, I go back and forth on that one. It is a boring discussion I have with myself every so often. I'll spare you. Oh, the trans fat thing. See to me, this issue is ridiculous. As far as I can tell, since I even became aware of what trans fats are, the only things that have trans fats in them are Oreos and fast foods. Oh, and evidently Crisco just took them out (thanks, Lauren!). But if you are eating Oreos or putting shortening in something or pulling through the drive through, you are probably basing your decisions on something other than health issues, so what is your problem? That's the thing, I don't expect my sweet treats to be healthy, they're not supposed to be. It's when you're not aware that makes things so disconcerting. Like I think I am making a fairly healthy choice to eat a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread only to discover that the "whole wheat" bread is made mostly with white flour and sweetened with corn syrup and the turkey has more salt in it than a Guthries basket. Mmmmm. Guthries. I am sure there are a million things like this that I am not aware of. It makes me want to be Amish or something- raise all the food and make it myself. It would be hard work, but it sure would save all that stress before getting to the checkout.

The checkout? Oh dear. Paper or plastic? What is to be done? For a while I've been wanting to follow in Jill Taylor's footsteps. Remember how she always unloaded the groceries out of canvas bags? Well, it only took me fifteen years, or however old that show is, to get off my hiney and look for my own canvas bags. I found them here. I think my parents will shoot me, they so wanted us to spend our Christmas money on something fun. Our first purchase was a big weather proof bag for the top of the van, worth every penny of the sixty dollars we spent. Worth twice that much really, but I'll take it for the easy sixty. Now I've gone and purchased recycled cotton grocery bags and organic cotton produce bags. I'll let you know how they work out. I didn't realize that paper bags are a lot worse for the environment than plastic bags in many ways, and we can all guess what's happening to those billions of plastic bags every year. No, they're not all crammed under your sink. Imagine though all the ones that are crammed under there, times however many millions of households there are in suburban America, all in a landfill. Or don't. Like I said, I'm not trying to be one of those voices or push my agenda. It did cost a bit upfront, and it's not the most festive of Christmas gifts, but I think I'll be glad in the long run. Plus, the plastic bags are driving me crazy! More expensive, as in way more expensive, and much cuter trendy bags can be found here.

Some of you want to click away and never come back. I know, I think about things way too much. But you do too don't you? I think the short answer is that there are way too many things to consider and we just have to choose what's important to our families. Anyway, just thought I'd share. Feel free to share your own stresses or dilemmas or even what you have found to be a solution. I promise I won't think you are pushing your agenda on me- unless you start sending me articles and pamphlets and stuff. I can't handle that. Better go make cornbread using cage free eggs and non-organic milk to go with our chili made with low sodium tomatoes and beef broth and ground beef (this time).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Beating Several Dead Horses

So most of the stuff from the last post was duked out on Mumblety Peg. Although, I really had intended to make my post here before the whole lateness issue was brought up over there. I was just excited to learn something about myself and to think that maybe it could be the beginning to solving my problem. I say it all the time- I have been flailing around wildly since I graduated from college. I cannot pull myself together and figure out who I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do. Obviously, I am a mom. But there is so much freedom and how that looks. A little too much freedom for someone like me. Because I do like to go with the flow. And there is no flow. I am supposed to make the flow. I am not good at making the flow. I freak out having to enter into the flow at an expected time and place. Does this make sense? It is weird, I know. But thank heaven for Pretty Funny for a Girl readers! You people are nice. You people know that I don't want to hear discouraging, unmerciful things; no one wants that. The Mumblety Peggers are different. But fortunately for me, they don't come around here; or if they do, they remain nice, quiet lurkers. So y'all didn't say anything even if you were thinking I should just figure out how to make plans and keep them and be places on time. Thanks for not saying that. I already know that. I am already trying really hard to do that. I am merely saying it is hard for me and that I think that is just part of my personality type. Our world is set up so as not to accommodate that personality type much, not like college where everything except class time is flexible. Thus the problem only really starting until after college was over. But I am realizing that that problem does not make me inherently flawed, despite what early goers say. They like to criticize and make the problem be other things, jump to conclusions about what that means about me that is simply not true. I am a late person; it is a problem, but it does not mean that I am a whole bunch of other things. It just means I am disorganized with time. My long lost friend Lindsey said a lot of things that indicated she can relate to this somewhat. She is great. But I could not say that on Mumblety Peg because I had resigned from the conversation. So I am saying it here. I guess I just said so, but I will say it again, Lindsey is great. She used to babysit Amabel for free so I could go to counseling. She was always doing something nice. I do not think she reads my blog, but if you know her and you see her, tell her hello from me and her cats hello from Amabel.

Here's another thing I thought of about the whole flailing around wildly part of my life- Isn't that all of your life, Abby? Why yes, it is.- My whole life I have been looking for credibility. I mean, haven't we all? We want to be good at something. We want to be acknowledged or appreciated or whatever. We just do. We want to be unique and interesting. Or I do anyway. And the thing I always heard was how smart I was, not from other kids because kids could care less if you are smart, but from my parents and teachers. I was a kid, so I also could care less about being smart. I wanted to be good at sports or super pretty or peppy or funny or interesting. Instead, I just had this way of somehow sleeping through class, (yes, literally sleeping) and still making decent grades. I took this very much for granted. And the sad thing is, now that school is over, I am actually not very educated because I was sleeping instead of learning. I mean, I made some decent grades, but I can't remember a thing. And so as we have said, school is over and the whole being smart thing, the only thing I ever got any credit for, is off the table. Because really, as an adult, can you even tell who is smart? Unless they are just really condescending about it, you can't. Or I don't think you can. Not really. So here I am, maybe smart, maybe just lucky for getting by somehow for all those years, and my credibility is on the line. I don't have a career to prove my credibility; it's just me out there trying to be an individual. It's a total upheaval of how life was for twenty something years!!!

I got into the whole smocking and sewing thing, and it was very nice to get a little credit for that. It's not so very uncommon down South, but it was just nice to be part of a group that I admired who I could kind of hold my own with. (Just to prove I did learn something, that sentence should read "with whom I could kind of hold my own" but it doesn't sound nearly so conversational). Then I got up to St. Louis and started being kind of criticized for it. I know, that's another thing I've got to move past; it was mostly strangers and people I don't know anymore anyway. Anyway, then I just started flailing more wildly. Really. People who did not know me before reading this blog know the most frustrated, crazy version of me. I think I have been more and more, from graduating to getting married to having kids to moving to St. Louis to moving again in St. Louis to moving again in St. Louis, unsure of who I am and certainly unhappy with who I am. Sad, isn't it? Well, and of course you have to take into account the whole me being dramatic thing, but yeah, that's sort of how it's been.

And I know, I know, we are supposed to know who we are in Christ. I know. That is really a dead horse for me. People are always telling me that like it will solve all of my problems. It solves a lot of problems, a lot of really big important problems, and I am very grateful for that. But I am talking about, in spite of being redeemed and being a child of God, there has to be something He wants me to do, something that is unique to me and my life and situation. I'm not talking about something that will make me worthy of His grace or of additional favor or that amounts to any kind of righteousness so let's not start getting into that argument; I'm just talking about what my life is supposed to look like. And it seems like people have either really narrow cookie cutter ideas of that, or generous live and let live sort of ideas about that. And you may never hear me say this again, but thank goodness for St. Louis because I have done a pendulum swing from having a horribly narrow view of this to having a much more generous idea. And now my problem is finding myself in all that freedom.

But what am I talking about? What cookie cutter ideas? I just used to have a really wrong attitude about a lot of things. I thought we all had to do the same thing and be the same way to be right, to be responsible. I just had all these crazy absolutes that didn't take individuals into account. Things like public school being wrong. Or being a stay at home mom being the only option. Or spanking being the only form of discipline. Or a certain sweet and subdued manner being the only acceptable personality both for myself and for my children. Even if some of these things are based on good ideas, they are not written explicitly in Scripture and it is unmerciful to myself and to others to insist on them. I'm so over that. Not that I don't still believe some of those things for myself, I just have a more open mind about them. Or really, God has shown me that I need to have a more open mind, a more merciful and generous attitude about things. Those words aren't quite right though- merciful and generous implies that I am extending grace to people but that they are not doing what they ought. I don't mean that. I mean that God has not told us just one specific way to educate our children- there was no public or private or Christian or classical or home school conundrum back then. And as much as it sounds sort of liberal and relativistic to say, there's not just one answer to these sorts of questions. I am sad that I used to think there was and that I used to push that agenda on myself and others.

It's like I don't want to be free. Freedom involves choice which means we have to do the hard work of knowing what is best. We have to pray and study and wait. Ugh. Wait? No thanks! I like my little ready made cookie cutter ideas that I can start pining away for right away. But I don't really like the cookie cutter idea at all. The cookie cutter idea was another thing I built around myself that has freaked me out and had me doing back flips. Once again, I have been freaking out trying to get just so in the flow. But on the other hand, I have no idea what to do when the flow is sort of up to me, when God says, "raise these kids to love me," and that's about it. Sure, we have other guidelines, but it's a lot of hard work trying to really figure out what to do with your freedom. I don't want to be fenced in, it makes me sad and just constantly feel like a failure. But the good news is that God didn't put up a lot of those fences, I did. He loves me and doesn't think of me as a failure at all. I am right where He wants me to be. But what's my job, my responsibility, my direction? Where am I going? The fences were nice in showing me what (I thought) I had to do.

Les Newsom says (I think he is actually quoting someone else, but he's the one who always said it to me), "Love God and do what you want," meaning that we should seek God, be actively trying to obey and serve him, but that because God hasn't given us more specifics, we can sort of do what we want after that. Steve Malone always called it "freedom within the fence" but that is a little confusing when I was referring to fences as bad things a minute ago. Anyway, as long as we're not running from God or disobeying him, there is really a lot of things we can do. The question I have for myself now is what do I want to do?

I don't know. I am starting small. I want to smock and sew whether people think it is (or my kids look) weird and old fashioned and froufrou or not. I want to read because if I really am smart then it will help me stay sharp, and if I'm not, it will help me be smarter. But also, because books are good and enjoyable. I have been reading a lot of books that I want to write about soon. I want to write. I love to write. I really like having a blog and keeping in the practice of writing. Thanks for giving me an audience to whom I can write (how's that for grammar?!) I want to bake bread. I want to bake lots of things, but bread is a frontier for me, maybe not the last one but a frontier that I want to pioneer anyway. I made my first loaf Tuesday. It was delightfully delicious if I do say so myself- cinnamon swirl raisin bread! Mmmmm. And I want to know God better, to learn more about who He is and what He's like and what He has to do with me. That is all I can think of right now, but that is pretty good for me. Usually it is what should I do either to be more likable or responsible or whatever. I will never be everything though, the hostess thing, among many other things, reminded me of that. So I am thinking I will just be who I want to be until God shows me something more or something else.

I think I say things like this a lot. I am not expecting to be a completely together non-flailing person from now on. But it helps to put it out there, even to hear your feedback if you like. I am ever working through these things, ever pressing on toward what it is I am to do. And I hope I might do a little less flailing and worrying and a little more enjoying the flow, at least for a little while.

Friday, January 26, 2007

My Free Spirit Screaming From Within The Cage - How's That For Drama?!

I hope that you are not all avoiding my last post because of the title. Perhaps you do not know that song, but that is what it is about, music, and not about something that broke my heart. It's a good post. You should read it. And you should comment. Just kidding. More than likely, people are just used to me only posting once or twice a week. Too bad, those people, you are missing out. But you will just have to catch up later because this post means the hospitality post will not be on the screen anymore. I did find a trick though. If you click on the title of a post, all the other posts vanish and the links are right under the bottom of the one at hand. That will save you from having to scroll all the way down to the bottom to link to other blogs and websites. Also, Whitney of Piklpaper told me she is going on maternity leave soon so order now if you need something in the next little while. I just updated the link because evidently there are now a few things no longer available and some new things too. She did an awesome job on my birth announcements.

Okay, sorry for the maintenance issues. Moving on. I have something to say. I am not a planner. For a while, oh seven years or so, I have been very stressed out. VERY stressed out. I keep wondering when I will be a grown up, when I will adjust to life after college, and just generally wondering what is wrong with me. I have figured it out. Nothing is wrong with me. I am just not a planner. Do you remember all the questions on the Meyers Briggs test that ask about if you feel lost without a plan or trapped with one? That question, with various wording and example scenarios, pops up a lot on there. Surely we've all taken the Meyers Briggs at least once. While tests like that are somewhat silly in that they try to compartmentalize people, they are telling in a broad sense. Generally speaking, you probably either are an introvert or an extrovert. There are varying degrees, and they recognize that because they plot you on the little graph. But neither thing, introvert or extrovert, no matter where you are on the graph, is better or worse. It's just how you are and that's a fine way to be. We can all agree on that. I am fairly certain that's how all of the different aspects are treated- intuitive or sensory, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. But in real life, there are some things that are just not okay. This bothers me. Why is it okay that on paper, having plans really stresses me out, but in life, that just means I am uptight. See, I never would have been called uptight in college. Dramatic, yes and very much so, but not uptight. I started papers at two o'clock in the morning the night before they were due. I would leave to go home, five hours away, at eleven o'clock at night. I would decide I just had to go to a concert in Atlanta and leave thirty minutes later or decide pizza would be awesome at four o'clock in the afternoon and convince everyone else of the same thing and off we'd go. And if I thought we were going to get pizza but everyone decided on chicken fingers, okay. If we were going walking at four but you called at ten til and said you couldn't go, okay.
But that is no longer acceptable. There are meal plans and dinner plans (one is an actual list of what you are serving for dinner for the next two weeks and one is a plan you have with another person or group of exactly what time dinner will be and what it will be and when it will be over) and vacation plans and financial planning and family planning and drive me crazy planning which is just sort of a catch all for all the planning people try to convince you you need to do to be a properly functioning person in society. But the planning itself is what is causing the malfunction. Does not having a plan make you feel like you're free falling and scared? Or does having a plan make you feel trapped and like the walls are closing in?

The walls are closing in! It's like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars (although, that is an analogy I use for anything stressful in my life lately).

There are people in my life that I refer to as time Nazis. These people are so hung up on what time we need to do something that they kill all joy in the doing. I am sure they mean well. They think that if we can leave at a certain time and then arrive at a certain time and stay for a certain amount of time and get home at a certain time, we will not miss any other time that we can use for something else. My dad is a time Nazi. I love my dad and even if he had any idea how to access my blog, I think he would be okay with me saying this about him. He has many positive things I could talk about. But mostly, I just want to talk about the time Nazi thing. Also, he thinks it is a good thing, no, a superior thing, to be a time Nazi. He's not the only one. I actually know worse ones than him, and they all think it is far better to be a time Nazi than a late and supposedly "inconsiderate" (which I am not) and definitely disorganized being such as me. But the point is that everyone would be screaming and yelling at each other to get in the car to go somewhere and then he would be screaming at traffic that slowed him down and cause extreme amounts of tension, and then, we'd get there ten minutes early! So maybe that is why I am so not willing to be pushed into a rigid schedule. Because no amount of punctual righteousness is worth hurt feelings. If you are late to my house for dinner and apologize, if I do anything but say how it's okay and you are welcome, I have become the rude one. Maybe you were rude to show up so late, but all you can do is say you're sorry. Plus, we're not talking about a wedding or a court appearance; it's dinner with friends! Clearly, I am usually the late person with the apology, not the hostess accepting the apology, and that perhaps, adds to my persuasion. On the other hand, I would have no idea if you were late to my house or not because dinner is never ready for the time I issue the invitation. I am not sure if people expect this, come to dinner at six= dinner will be on the table at six, or not, but just for next time you come over, come to dinner at six (in my mind)= come around 6:05 at the earliest, even one minute before six is actually quite rude because I won't have had the chance to throw the pile of laundry that lives on the couch onto the bed in George's and my room, and we will eat sometime before seven maybe, but probably no later than 7:30. Incidentally, I would say that the mind of hospitality can't be wrapped up in what time your guests just have to get there. If you are going to freak out that they weren't on time, you probably aren't really thinking of them in the first place. Plus, the freaking out has now sort of cast a shadow over the hospitable act of having them over.

This is more or less a talk back to all the people who try to run me around with their time frames and their schedules and make me a nervous wreck, and I don't think they read this blog so I guess it is just gossip. No, it's just sharing. I'm not telling you who runs me around, except my dad and he already knows that anyway, that's what a lot of the screaming and arguing was about. But the thing is, I get all the flack for being a nervous wreck. My identity has actually become that I am a nervous wreck. But isn't it really all of them who are the nervous wrecks? If they are the ones who have to have a plan and can't stand for me to be late, then they are the nervous ones. I am perfectly fine with whatever happens in the moment and even with being late. I just freak out because of all the looks and backhanded comments. Why do you care if I am late?

Some people will say it is because my being late is that I am inconsiderate or I expect the whole world to wait for me. But that is not true. I do not expect you to wait for me. I think it is weird that your time is so important to you that you can't wait until I can finish putting my kids to bed to start the bonfire (this happened recently, but I think it was just sort of an oversight more than anything) or get my baby nursed before eating (are you really that hungry?) but I am certainly not being inconsiderate; I actually tend to think you are being inconsiderate if anyone here is. And I know that the plane will leave or the worship service will start or the film will run whether I am there or not. Most television show reruns seem brand new to me at first if I catch the first five minutes because I never catch the first five minutes. And I had no idea for months that there were announcements at our church before the service began because I had never been there by nine. And I have never heard the announcements since. This does not bother me. And I do not expect our pastor to wait.

I do not know how it happens. I do not think I set my alarm later than everyone else. I am not hanging out playing solitaire when I should be getting ready. I don't think I am just so important that people will wait. I just end up being late somehow. I try because of all the people who I make so mad by being late, but I think it is counter productive. I think that the stress I feel from thinking "Oh no! I'm going to be late!" actually makes me all the later. I really do.

And why do we have to have a plan? Why can't you possibly come over tonight for dinner if I call at two in the afternoon and you don't have other plans? Really, tell me. I am not trying to be a jerk here. But I have been the jerk for so long because I function differently. I have been stressed and frazzled and not free to be me. I can see the humor in it of course. But I realize that if you are a time Nazi you probably can't. Or the time Nazis I know can't. They are too busy being mad at me because I was late last time we got together or because I haven't had them over because every time I think to invite them it is the day of or before because that is the earliest point that I know I can get to the grocery and get a meal ready that is presentable to guests but they don't want to come with that short of notice.

Maybe this is more for people who are like me but have learned to function with everyone else. If you are not like me, you probably have much criticism, and chances are, I've probably heard it. If you are like me in the late and not good with a plan thing, you might be able to help me not be late and be good with a plan. I think I would like to be. I would certainly like to not be the family everyone is annoyed with for coming in late to church (not sure if this is a problem, but people say stuff) or the girl who is constantly apologizing and stressed out over my messing up everyone else's schedule. I actually don't go to things sometimes because I will be late, not because I care, just because I don't want everyone to make a big deal out of me being late because it makes me feel like crap.

This is another of those things that maybe we can all be gracious to each other on. We are all so busy and planning helps ensure that we will work everything in for a lot of people. Planning ensures that Abby Edema will freak out though. And I don't know what to do about that. While I would like to be better with time and I know that having children who can feed, dress, and groom themselves will make me more punctual someday, I would also like this part of my personality to be okay. Is it really sin to be someone who runs behind and is not a planner? If it's not, then there you go. Maybe we can have much discussion on this. Maybe we will look at zero comments for several days and hear crickets chirp. Maybe I have made everyone who doesn't see how hysterically funny and ingeniously witty I am really ticked off. I haven't finished thinking through it myself. But I am kind of excited that I realized part of my problem anyway.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It Breaks My Hear-ar-ar-ar-ar-ar-ar-ar-ar-ar-ar-art

I went ahead and made it so four posts can be up at once for now since I am still thoroughly enjoying everyone backing me up on the hospitality thing. It has sparked many conversations at home too, and well, one actual argument last night after the kids went bed. My fiery temper got the best of me and it wasn't until about an hour later when we heard a muffled adult cough that we realized the previously vacant apartment next door is now occupied. Whoops! Sorry, new neighbors, I was just trying to make George think like a girl at ten o'clock at night- nothing to be alarmed about! This is the same place I wrote about actually waking George up to start a fight, right? Listen, if I can't joke about it, I will feel even more awful; and as the whole thing has come to rights, I really should be feeling better. In the end, there is a general consensus that I need to be more okay with what I am doing and quit being so riled up over someone else's mercilessness. I'm doin' alright. Right? Just kidding. Right. Now I'll just tell myself that a bazillion times a day for the next couple decades and maybe it will sink in. Well, you know you haven't heard the last of Abby's "inferiority complex." But for now, lighter fare.

The fun thing about my purse right now is that it is stuffed full of gift cards. Good times. George had a gift card to Best Buy, that also was an ice scraper (oddly enough), and got himself the Shins' new album and Regina Spektor's Begin to Hope earlier this week. Regina Spektor sings the song the post title refers to, and you're welcome for getting it stuck in your head. I don't listen to music much anymore which sort of does break my heart as it used to be a very large slice of my life represented by a pie graph. Part of it is that I find myself constantly wishing there was a volume button on life. I have some loud and whiney children. Don't we all? I want quiet whenever I can get it. So sorry Ray Lamontagne, Oasis, and Morrissey, I love you, but I love peace and quiet more. Two exceptions: U2 who are far and away my all time favorite and I will never tire of them and Jack Johnson who is like a musical cocktail- calms you down and mellows you out while tasting tropically delightful. And if Counting Crows would ever put out a new album, I could get pretty into that too. Another part of the not listening to music anymore problem is that George is always listening to some horribly droning Jay Farrar type. Really, I like almost nothing less that Son Volt and Jay Farrar. He has all these other bands that I mix up, which I'm sure are not mix up-able in the slightest: Hem, Belle and Sebastian, Clem Snide, The Shins, The Decemberists... Who are these people? I don't know. But a few songs have stuck out over the years, and then there is so much of it, I rarely hear the one or two I liked again. But with the Shins having their new album out, they had a few performances on SNL, Letterman, and the like. And I said, "Hey, that's the band that sings ___" (insert off key humming that George was somehow able to decipher). So George took me out last night and played the Shins songs I had said I remembered for me in the car. And then today it was still playing in the car (yeah, we take the van on our hot dates! Elspeth comes too!) for our thirty minute drive to ballet, then to the grocery store, then thirty minutes home. So the Shins have a new fan. I'm not sure how often I will listen to them. I decided that that went so well, I would try out Regina Spektor when I got home, but seven songs into it now I can't think straight and am fixing to pull my hair out because Elspeth is crying in the background and I have only had enough kid free-ish (they're still all around) time to play seven songs and now Elspeth is screaming and August is up from his nap early and the toilet overflowed. Yep, the toilet overflowed and I just came back downstairs to continue writing this post.

George cleaned it up. George is the best.

So I should go make supper. Maybe I'll try Regina and the rest of this post again another day. I was going to say all the great things I am going to purchase with gift cards. I have bigs plans. But I will just have to wait and share them later. I'm also still sitting on that one liner, much about baking, and thoughts on the book I've been reading (well, there are several even of just those!). Someday I'll get it all down. It is amazing to me that this time last year I couldn't think of anything to write!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hail to the Chefs

Well, you were all very gracious to me after my last post. I really appreciate your encouraging remarks and even ideas of what hospitality really looks like. I think with even a more generous definition of hospitality, I am still falling way short. But I really do have to say there are times and seasons for everything. I have been told a lot more than once that I had the gift of hospitality in a different time in my life; I never would have really banked on that either because it has never been an easy thing, I am such a stress case about having people into my home because they will see up close and personal what a mess I am! But anyway, all that to say, I am encouraged by all of you and I think it is best to take both criticism and even maybe some praise with a grain of salt (or whatever the expression is- when I go to write these things out, I suddenly find myself unsure of what we're actually saying!). But many thanks to all of you who sent me a little email or posted a comment; it meant a lot. I tried to post a comment in response but it wouldn't work- on my own blog! If anyone else has had this problem, let me know. I am thinking of removing the word identification. Then if spam becomes a problem, I will just put it back.

Well, who knows how something that was meant to be an opening sentence turned into an opening paragraph! I'm wordy like that. I wanted to also compliment all my readers- and just to let you know, I know about some of you people who read and don't comment, I know exactly who you are... and you are welcome; but do feel free to comment if you like whether I know you read or not and whether I know you personally or not. Every now and then I like to just send out that little invite. I guess more people would read and/or have something to say if it wasn't me me me all the time. And that's what I was saying, I want to compliment everyone on their patience with me to get those recipes up. I know I promised them days ago, just another in my string of failures, but not such a big-y and not something that can't be righted even today. I am having a little trouble "formatting" all these so this will not look pretty; most of them are being cut and pasted because there are too many to type!

Southern Shrimp and Grits

Cooking Light – made by my friend Rebekah

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
2 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions, divided
5 cups water
1 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine first 3 ingredients; set aside.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in shrimp mixture, broth, and 1/4 cup green onions; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently.

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually add grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in butter and salt. Serve shrimp mixture over grits; sprinkle with cheese and remaining green onions.

Rebekah's lasagna, according to her, is sort of loosely based on the recipe on the back of the Ronco noodles box! She has a knack, so she does a lot of using what she has on hand and changing things up. I don't know how to relay that to you in recipe form, so I guess just go find yourself a box of Ronco noodles and get creative. Here is the recipe from said box, just in case:

Classic Lasagna from the Ronco Noodles box

¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans stewed tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
¾ c chicken broth

8 oz Ronco Lasagna, cooked and drained (Rebekah used No Boil and thought that they worked well)
½ lb Italian sausage
½ lb lean ground beef
2 (15 oz) containers Ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated and divided

Preaheat oven to 350F. Add meats to large skillet and combine with sauce ingredients OR 4 cups pasta sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally (reduce simmer to 5 minutes if using jar pasta sauce option). Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, ¾ cup parmesan cheese, eggs, and 1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese; mix well. In 13x9 inch baking dish, spread 1 cup meat sauce. Place 1/3 of lasagna noodles over sauce. Spread ½ of cheese mixture over noodles and top with 1/3 of meat sauce. Repeat. Top with remaining noodles and meat sauce. Cover with foil. Bake 1 hour. Uncover; sprinkle with reserved ½ cup mozzarella and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Bake an additional 30 minutes or so or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Chicken Parmesan(Elizabeth says she has no idea where she got this recipe from, but she thinks Southern Living)

4 skinned, boned, chicken breast halves
1/2 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 ts. dried Italian seasoning
1/8 ts. black pepper
1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 ts. olive oil
4 c. hot cooked spaghetti(8 oz. package)
3 c. ultimate quick and easy pasta sauce
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Ultimate quick and easy pasta sauce--heat oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat, then stir in all ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to med and cook 15 min.
1 ts. olive oil, garlic powder, 1/2 c. dry red wine or cooking wine or balsamic vinegar, 1 T. sugar, 2 ts. basil, 2 T. tomato paste, 1/2 ts. dried Italian seasoning, 1/4 ts. black pepper, 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained, 1 can Hunts original spaghetti sauce.

1. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/4 in. thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.
2. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, italian seasoning, and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge each chicken breast half in flour, dip in egg whites, dredge in breadcrumb mixture.
3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes on each side.
4. Preheat broiler
5. Place 1 c. spaghetti in each of 4 gratin dishes(or large casserole). Spoon 1/2 c. pasta sauce over each serving. Top w/ chicken breast, and spoon 1/4 c. sauce over each serving. Sprinkle w/1/4 c. mozzarella cheese. Broil 3 min. or until cheese melts. Garnish w/basil.

Elizabeth also made this delicious pie for after the meal! It is one from our old church cookbook in Birmingham.

French Chocolate Pie
1/4 tsp. cream of tarttar
3 egg whites
1 c. sugar divided
1/4 c. cocoa
1 c. whipping cream, whipped
3 T sugar
1 T cocoa

- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar.
- Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cocoa in a separate bowl and stir into egg mixture.
- Turn egg mixture into a well greased pie pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350.
- Cool thoroughly.
- Combine whipping cream, 3 T of sugar, and 1 T of cocoa and pour into crust.
- Chill until ready to serve.

I have also wanted to post recipes from when people brought me meals after Elspeth was born. Everyone seems to be dragging their feet about getting them to me though!!! But I can totally relate to that, and I am just glad they made them for us in the first place. My friend Annie brought us her Red Beans and Rice and I pulled the recipe up from her blog and have added it to my regular rotation. If you don't already read her blog, you should check in on it every now and then; she is always cooking up something delicious! You can link to the Red Beans and Rice recipe by clicking on it. I also highly recommend her Pan pizza recipe. I have much to say about that, but will just link you to it for now. Can you believe I have been up since 6:30?! It's like I'm turning over a new leaf! Eight o'clock approaches and my brain begs for coffee. Y'all have a great day and consider adding one of these yummy meals to your next meal plan!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Temporarily Jarring You From the Dream

Just also wanted to know what y'all think of this layout. I still will check comments on the post from last night that is now below. The links are at the bottom of the page now and there will only be three posts up at a time (though you can access old posts whenever you want). I just wanted the copy to be wider and this was a cool looking template, I thought. Like a newspaper. Plus, people generally stick to the most recent one or two posts anyway. Thoughts? Oh, I have a few new links too. They have been there a little while, but I forgot to mention them- just a few new blogs. My writing teacher at Auburn used to say that things that were out of place in our stories "jar[red] you from the dream." I use that a lot. This post sort of does that because it draws you away from the posts and focuses on the blog. But I essentially already did that when I suddenly changed the layout and color again. Maybe tomorrow we can all go back to the dream that is Pretty Funny for a Girl. I love that title. Not true to life really. But I still love it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Milestones in the Midst of Mayhem

I was recently rebuked for not showing more hospitality. I tried to be very apologetic and humble about the matter because I understand where the person rebuking me was coming from- although he/she spoke with little to no mercy or compassion. I tried to explain that we just haven't really been in a position to extend a whole lot of hospitality for a while. We have a very limited budget. For five months we didn't have our own home. And then we had just four weeks to move into our new home before we had a new baby who is still only four months old and eats pretty much every two hours still. It actually makes me pretty angry to think someone would expect me to don my apron and begin entertaining again right now. But I also struggle with finding the right medium between what I want to do and what I ought to do. I also take criticism very much to heart. The criticism was received about a month ago and since then I have had a flu, a ten day trip out of town, three visits to the pediatrician (well check ups for each child), two ballet lessons, and a three day power outage. Chaos- not really a whole lot of opportunity to be the model hostess in there. But I have not forgotten the hospitality I have been shown by friends near and far. And I really do want to be a friend to people. So we invited some people over for dinner for last night early in the week and then yesterday morning ended up canceling. They were not people who have criticized me and they have canceled on us plenty of times so I am sure they have forgiven us. I just couldn't figure out how to get a meal on the table for them. I have no idea how to get a meal on the table for my own family most nights. And by the time I figure it out and we all sit down, it is usually about eight o'clock. Then the kids don't end up in bed until 9:30 or so. Elspeth goes down even later which means we don't get a minute to ourselves until about eleven o'clock at night. Consequently, we don't end up getting to bed until about one or two in the morning. It is a mess. I find myself cleaning the bathroom, balancing the checkbook, writing thank you notes, making grocery lists and planning meals, doing pretty much anything that requires a moderate amount of concentration in the middle of the night. And so I am also tired. I end up sleeping in, after Elspeth's early morning feeding, until nine or ten. I am like some crazy nocturnal, disorganized freak these days. Furthermore, I have a guilt trip the size of a glacier hanging over my head for not having people over and for not doing enough home school and for not being cheerful and energetic enough and generally just not being some person I either think I should be or really should be. It's either that I am wrong or that the person who put a whole heap of guilt on me was wrong or maybe a little of both; but whatever the case is, I have been losing heart.

One thing that has been fun is that George has seen my need for a break and we have had different friends meet us at a restaurant on the night where kids eat free. I wish I could have each of their families over and make a big spread, but I am so grateful they are willing to meet us out. And two other things have really been encouraging in spite of what seems like a pileup of failures- one major milestone for each of my two eldest. First of all, about a week or so ago, Amabel read her first book, a reader from our homeschool curriculum. She was really excited and proud; and of course, so was I. She wanted to call my mom and tell her, as her Nanna is her biggest fan in her mind (of course, George and I would beg to differ, and it is probably actually August in the end). My mom was so encouraging to her; she has a cheerleader personality that I think she has worked really hard to refine. I am glad for Amabel and August and Elspeth that she is such a positive and unconditional figure in their lives. Incidentally, I am glad for me too. She was at every track or cross country meet I ever ran in (literally, except one) cheering at the top of her lungs even though I was usually dead last! She made a special point to call me the day after she talked to Amabel last week. She said she was really proud of Amabel and her achievement, but that she was also very proud of me for what I had achieved, teaching my child to read. That was a very encouraging to me. I had not thought of it that way. I suppose it is quite the accomplishment for both of us!

And August has had his own little achievement. We thought it would never happen. The child, at three years and four and a half months no less, has given up his passy! I just got sick of it. I was so tired of the whining. He is so impatient and so used to being the baby (okay so that's my fault) and I have a real baby to take care of now. I couldn't stand the fussing over wanting a snack when I was trying to feed Elspeth one day last week. I told him what he needed was a nap which sent him into fits and he ended up being sent to bed and pitching an even bigger fit because he couldn't find his passy. So I told him he didn't get a passy anymore. I told him he needs to learn to be a big boy and stop acting like a baby and that if he could get through his nap and through the night without a passy, we'd go to the zoo the next day and ride the train and buy a prize. He made it through the nap and I asked him if he was ready to throw his passy away. Nope, not yet. He made it through the night and we went to the zoo. Unfortunately the train wasn't running. But he was okay with that. He just wanted to see the animals. It was a great day for seeing the animals by the way, who knew how alert and playful they are in thirty-five degree weather. After we got back from the zoo he said he was ready to throw his passy away. I didn't even ask; he just said it was time. We all gathered around the trashcan and in it went. There was much hugging and high fives and then we went out for pizza. Way to go, Aug! And we have made it successfully through two bedtimes and a naptime since!

Things right now just are crazy. And you can't please everyone. I guess there always will be that somebody who thinks you aren't doing enough whether they say so to your face or not. But whatever people say, we're getting somewhere, I think. We may not be getting everything right, or even many things right, but we're working on it. I think we might even have more milestones to report again sometime!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hip Hip Hurray!

The power is back on. It took quite a while this time. Shortly after my last post, as George and I were literally getting into bed, the power went off at his mom's house. Fortunately, it wasn't too too cold to sleep through the night with the heat that was trapped in the house. We went out for lunch and to the movies the next day and returned at sundown to find still no power. We scrambled to pack everything up in the last of daylight and head back to our apartment complex. We have been staying across the parking lot with our now more intimate friends, Josh and Ami. They showed us amazing hospitality and kindness as we overwhelmed their family of three with the five of us rowdy Edemas. It was really fun to have another couple to chat with at night (and we didn't stay too late this time because we were sleeping downstairs!) and another little toddler for the kids to play with. There's still always that feeling of imposition, but they were very gracious and made us feel like we would be welcome even if our power was on full force at home. We stayed two nights and then this morning there was much delight in seeing the fleet of power trucks drive up into the neighborhood. About an hour later we had lights and heat! The temperature has dropped dramatically; it is in the twenties now and my prayer is that everyone without has their power restored sometime today. I can't imagine what people are doing without generous neighbors such as we have.

An additional blessing is that Elspeth did sleep through the night every night, and slept in late even, in spite of being in all different beds and homes. That was my biggest frustration and God was merciful.

So what do you do when you have been a big big baby and God is gracious and takes care of you anyway? Well you should know, Abby, you do it all the time! But I don't know. It seems like there should be a limit. I know we're supposed to forgive seventy times seven. But what about screwing up seventy times seven?! It seems like I should be making some progress- growing some patience or mild mannered-ness or calmness or something! Maybe it's slow progress that is not yet visible to the naked eye? And I guess grace is for something. And that something is the chaotic wreck that is me! And I'll give another Hip Hip Hurray for that!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

Now imagine how very hacked off I am about the third evacuation-caliber power outage in six months. Just when everything was unpacked, just when Elspeth was finally used to her bed again and sleeping through the night (for the first time last night since Christmas), just when I had almost caught up.... time to pack it all up (even the fridge and freezer) and head out again. I use the term fighting mad when I'm real mad. This was worse. This was crying mad. This was even napping mad (napping mad: a state of anger so intense and all consuming that one must go to sleep to shake it off). But thank goodness we have somewhere to go. As of now, George's mom still has power (oh, as well as 28 out of 44 apartments in our complex- it's always our row!). There is supposed to be more heinous weather on the way, but we took a gamble and stayed in town to be together. George felt he shouldn't leave again and I didn't want to take the kids to Nashville alone. I am over the angry part of my day for today, and I have high hopes of the power coming on again tomorrow and having all of this ice storminess behind us. Now lookie there, that sounds optimistic for a change! Y'all enjoy cozy warmth and bright lights (and with much gratitude, so will I); there's folks all over without that!

Friday, January 12, 2007

After Much Panicking..... Phew!

Imagine my relief, at one o'clock this morning, to discover that we were not several hundred dollars in the hole but rather that I had recorded that $300 payment from last month twice!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Good Pink is Hard to Find

So that was a lot to read. And I don't blame you for saying "Haaaaaell no. I'm not readin' all of that!" But you're missing one of the only times where I had almost all positive things to say! I think I will have a week of one liners so you can catch up if you like. I have one good one, and I haven't had the chance to post it. Now I've gone and overrated it. Well, all I have time for is one liners anyway. I am still catching up from vacation. Who knew we had so much to iron and launder and mend while still also having so much to shop for (is it just me or have my children all three grown two inches over the holidays?!) and return? Gift receipts, people, gift receipts! But first, recipes? I might get the time later today or tomorrow. During my catch up time, I am also going to be trying to figure out this new version of Blogger. I nearly had a conniption fit after finally getting that super long post up and then not being able to view it for almost a whole day. I could view everyone else's blog because they had all already made the switch. So last but not least, Pretty Funny for a Girl has made the switch. And we are back to our old color scheme which is a little too peachy, I fear. I have this same problem when I try to find pink floss for smocking. DMC needs a new pastel pink with just a smidge more blue. So does whoever makes pink hair bows, as I discovered today. And now, so does the HTML color palette. Well, we'll see what we come up with. I may just go crazy and change everything. Ooooh, I just had a great idea, cardinal and straw! Hootie hoot, 'cause that's so cute!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The First Post of the Year- and it's a big'n

Well, I have just realized that George has a bit about our trip on his blog as I was coming in to write about it on mine- yes, you have to go through Mumblety-peg to get to anything else on our computer! But maybe it will be fun to get the male and female recap; or maybe some of you don't read George's blog and you can just enjoy this for being a new post.

I am so easily overwhelmed. I talk about being overwhelmed on a daily basis. Our trip to Alabama and Nashville overwhelmed me with happy circumstance. I am bubbling over with joyous memories of our wonderful vacation! What a change! It was so nice to be over our illness and out of town (and that's not specific to this town, anyone needs a break from any town after not getting out in four months and moving, having surgery and a new baby, and being sick at Christmas etc. during that four months). I just felt the negative kind of melt off me. Not that I didn't bring my same Eeyore-ish prone to the grumps personality with me, I just escaped the things that usually get me down. The whole ten days was a huge success story!

First of all, I packed fairly light. There was to be a washer and dryer everywhere we were staying so I only brought five outfits per child for a ten day trip, highly unlike me I know but I'm not sure if we even have ten outfits for each child right now anyway. And that cut way back on the pre-travel and during travel chaos. But you know me, there was definitely pre-travel chaos! George also made the wise investment of a weatherproof travel bag for the luggage rack. He pulled the extra captain's chair out of the middle of the van too. So we had oodles of space inside the cabin which was a huge change from our big trip this summer when we weren't also packing baby tubs, bouncy seats, and travel cribs (okay, just one of each of those; excuse the dramatic use of plurals). Imagine all of those extra things with all of the bags inside and the extra chair! I do not think at all like George does; this is very much a blessing, especially in this case. And though that did save even more in the chaos department, we still found ourselves up until three in the morning trying to get ourselves together to leave the next morning and didn't even get out of town until three in the afternoon!

Part of that (the staying up and leaving late) was because we made it a priority to work in a Christmas celebration with George's family that we had been forced to cancel on Christmas Eve. It was nice that we did somehow work it in before leaving. We had a little egg nog (store bought icky kind with major corn syrup, but sometimes you just have to take a shortcut), a little mulled cider, and the exchanging of the gifts. George and I had decided to only get each other one gift this year. His gift for me was still on backorder on Christmas morning and my gift for him was one I had bought before the decision was made, so it was fairly ho-hum for his one big gift- I would've chosen something much more exciting had I known at the time that it would be all I would be giving him. My parents were very generous in giving us a check about a week before Christmas. My younger sister had given me the old birthday/Christmas combo gift several weeks ago, something we do often for each other because we both have December birthdays and we can get each other nicer gifts with the "combo." So basically, all that was under the tree for us grown ups on Christmas morning was the one gift I got for George (and a picture of what he had ordered for me printed off the computer), a gift for the two of us from my sister in France, and a gift for each of us that the children had picked out when they went shopping with their grandmother. The gift from my older sister turned out to be some delicious multiple award winning extra virgin olive oil from Greece and what promises to be a fabulous wine from France for a future special occasion (I'm thinkin' our seventh anniversary in May, or Valentine's if we can't wait that long!). Oh, and my younger sister got George the Cardinals' World Series DVD. And the kids got us some cute little gifts that really surprised me. I got a watering can because my old one had broken. And George received a birdhouse that the children had helped put together. We are so blessed with sweet family and friends that make the whole season a celebratory time. And the emphasis really should be on giving, but it is still nice to get things, right? Well, I think so. We tried out taking turns giving out presents on Christmas morning this year instead of how we used to take turns opening; it pretty much works the same way as far as turns go, only the turn is to find a present for someone else and give it to them. It was exciting to hear the kids shouting out "I want to give one now!" instead of "my turn to open!" I think my spoiled little heart still screams "my turn to open!" inside against my will. But it was my turn to open when George's family came over, at least as much as it was anyone else's; and George's brother and sister gave me a great fleece jacket, something I really needed and love because it is pink (which is evidently no longer available, so you can't see the color on this link, sorry!) and has the pull string waist from the inside so it gives you a little bit of shape (Stacy and Clinton would be proud!) I would say that this was just in time for our trip, but one of the unfortunate things about the South (yes, I said "unfortunate things about the South"... deep breaths!) is that it is insanely hot there, even in December, and no jacket was required for most of the trip. But I love it so, I wore it anyway! Katie got the kids a super zoo pass to that free zoo everyone thinks should make me love living here (just to be clear, I do love the zoo. It is a great zoo and is amazing that it is free! It is just not part of my daily life, nor are the other great free attractions, so it doesn't negate all the other things that are part of my daily life, which as I said, are mostly personal and don't have too too much to do with St. Louis specifically anyway. For example, the largeness of the city is a daily thing for me and it is hard for me to be unaware or unaffected by it. However, with the zoo pass, the zoo can be much more a part of my daily life than before.). The pass gives us free train rides, and as far as August goes, that is all we ever need. It also gives us free parking and some free meals and free admission to the children's zoo which you normally have to pay for. George loves the zoo in winter, so I am sure we will break in our new pass during his winter break from classes. It was a gift I requested for the children, but was as much for George and I as for them. I also received a renewal to my subscription to Cook's Illustrated , something George's brother does for me every year that I really appreciate and enjoy. And George got a great shirt and jacket (which he has seriously worn every day since) from his brother and the Sufjan Stevens Christmas box set from his sister. So aren't we glad we worked this little event in, regardless of how late it made us going in to Nashville? But back to that (this may be a good time for a break, this is a long post and I am nowhere near finished!!! Here, I'll space it with little asterisks so you can find your spot)...


Time in Nashville was really great. I have had "issues" in the past with my family, as I know everyone who reads regularly has picked up on. My parents were divorced for several years and then remarried(to each other again), and it has just taken me a while to hash out all the before, after, and during things that I never really recognized or dealt with until after. They have been back together now for seven years, so hey, it only took me seven years to work through twenty-nine years of expectations, dysfunction, etc. I feel like I have finally hashed it all out and can be with my parents and know what to expect, be reconciled and at peace with everyone with no "elephants in the room," enjoy them for who they are, and appreciate all they have done for me (rather than dwell on what might not have gotten done as I had been doing). This is a place I never thought I'd get and is an encouragement to me as I face other sorts of long term type challenges. I hope any of you might be encouraged too. Even less than a year ago, I sat in front of our church elders in tears as we shared our testimonies when we joined. There was still so much of my life and testimony that was really hurting for me. I think God has healed much (even all?) of that and I am really excited. I have never entertained the idea of living in Nashville again because of all of the unreconciled feelings I had. I have found myself over the past few months missing my family and Nashville so much. I was half expecting to get there and be so over any sentimentality I had built up and kind of get back to thinking "anywhere but Nashville." Instead, I just found what I have envied in so many of my friends in the past in myself, a real longing to get back where my family is. I have loved Nashville for its geography and its climate and even its food and shopping. I have run from Nashville because of my roots though. I am finding my roots there to be a happy thing though now, and I'd be excited about them pulling me back sometime.

As George mentioned, my mom is a fantastic playmate for the children and allowed us to catch up on the rest we had missed being up late with Christmas preparations and that whole 3am the night before leaving thing. I think I just needed extra rest after being sick too. She is also a super shopper, which I am not and usually don't appreciate. Our shopping list was of the particularly fun variety this time though: slippers for me and a diaper bag for Elspeth. Oh, and we had to be sure to check out the new smocking store in Franklin, very exciting and inspiring! Here are my new slippers, great for an apartment with hardwood floors and concrete basement floors (when our computer and laundry, both big workspaces for me, are in the basement). They are toasty warm, which helps my feet stay nice and soft and keeps me from being frustrated that all the pumice stones and lotions don't work- they do work, just not when you then go around barefoot all day! They also have great arch support for my very high arches. Mine are the blue, not the pink, because George thought the pink would show dirt and look dingy too soon. Super cute huh? My parents both have a couple of pairs of this brand; they are supposedly well worth the hefty price point and last quite a while. You don't have to get sheep on them; I just liked the type of soles used on the sheep model, it's a little sturdier I think. We never found a diaper bag. That was a fiasco in and of itself. We did find one but they got all mixed up about the monogram and we ended up not getting it. So the irony is that I am going to try to look for a sweet baby bag in St. Louis when I couldn't find one in Nashville or Birmingham (didn't get much of a chance to look in Birmingham though). I bet I'll find one here too. And then I'll eat crow for all to see. I'll post about that when it happens.

So that's the Nashville shopping; we hit all the sweet baby boutiques and I got my fill of eye candy for a while. But we also got our fill of favorite foods. We went to Phillip's, my favorite deli with out of this world pasta salad which is always included on the itinerary usually right before or after visiting my grandmother in the nursing home. We have never been to Philip's without running into an old friend and my mother commented on this sadly as we were near finished with our meal and had not seen anyone we knew yet. "Oh well, we're eating sort of late I guess," she said. And I said, "we haven't left yet." And almost instantly the athletic director from my old high school walked in. Understanding that my old high school had about 66 people total for grades 9-12 at one point and now has way more than that in each class will help you understand why it was so exciting to see him and introduce him to George. He asked about you, Rachael.

We also have a favorite pizza that can only be gotten down South, as far as I know. We got together with old friends from both high school and Auburn and had Mellow Mushroom pizza, in my opinion the best in the world. I have tried and tried to find comparatively good pizza up here, but folks around these parts are more interested in what is called St. Louis style pizza with ultra thin crust and provel cheese which is a cheese that is great on salads and other places but not my favorite on pizza. I think provel is sort of indigenous only to St. Louis and they're pretty proud of it. I can't help but prefer the Mellow Mushroom mozzarella and parmesan on a hand tossed crust. The company was even better than the pizza though. Our children are all pretty close in age and play great together. And you know when the kids play great, the parents actually have a chance for real conversation. Conversation comes even more easily with brownies a la mode and Baileys coffee, mmmmm! Their generosity did not stop with a delicious meal and good company; somehow I made it out of their house with a really nice baby gift (two darling pink outfits!), a great Christmas CD (we listened to it on our way to Birmingham- who cares that it was the 29th!), and some cutie fabric (George says it will look great in my stack of fabric here! ha ha!). I think we should go over there more often! Seriously, all the gifts aside, we should go over there more often. I think they might appreciate if we leave before ten o'clock next time though!

Another favorite eatery near Nashville is Meredy's Breadbasket, a great little bakery with the best fruit tea ever! I met a dear friend of mine from high school and Auburn, the one who ended up not liking Auburn and transferring. We actually talked about that and she said she thinks she would've liked Auburn if the circumstances in her life had been different. Point well taken. Of course, she wasn't really trying to make a point because she is truly the most gracious person I know. I told her that I hoped I had been supportive and gracious to her when she struggled with the homesickness and she confirmed that I had been. The reason, I remember, is because there was a time that I had hated Auburn (more deep breaths, yeah I really did). I remember driving back from meeting a friend for the weekend in Atlanta and there was literally a cloud hanging over the western sky in the direction of Auburn and I just thought that was a picture worth a thousand words. So when my friend came behind me and had similar homesick feelings, I was able to understand even though I had fallen in love with Auburn by then. All that to say that some things are really a matter of time and place and we have to do our best with that. The time at Meredy's place that day was a real delight. I had not until then gotten to meet my friend's little girl who has just turned one. She was adorable. The pastries and coffee were just as I remembered, the conversation was wonderful because of with whom I was conversing, but also because I had managed to leave Amabel and August at my mom's house with George, and I even grabbed a fruit tea on the way out for the road.

The time in Nashville bookended our trip. We were in Birmingham for a long weekend in between all of these events. There were still so many people in both places that we wished we could have seen. We just missed friends in Birmingham that had come up here for Christmas. We were too sick to visit with them before we left here and then they headed back to Birmingham the day we headed back up to Nashville. I had two other friends from high school that I tried to get together with in Nashville but the timing just didn't work out. I also missed spending time with my favorite aunt and uncle (Can I say that on here? I don't think any of them have any idea I have a blog. Besides, I didn't say which aunt and uncle I was referring to). We did have one other family that we got together with when we came back through Nashville (that's actually when we did most of this stuff). The Campbells were good friends of ours in Birmingham and they moved to Nashville shortly after we moved to St. Louis. I reckon we'd see them either way, but it is most convenient that they live only five minutes from my parents' home. Elizabeth always makes a great meal whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner (nope, she's not afraid to have guests for any meal!). We had a great dinner this time with a yummy dessert to follow and lots of conversation late into the night. Yeah, we have a pretty bad habit of staying too long. If you are ever thinking of having us over, you may want to practice subtle ways of shooing us out, or even just stating a departure time when you let us know what time to arrive (i.e. "Could y'all come over for dinner from six to nine next Friday?"). It's just that the kids played so well and we had so much catching up to do! It was a really nice night. I think I will post several recipes to honor each of our kind hostesses, if they will share their secrets with us. I must have you all taste that fabulous pie!

It would be hard to pick a great recipe from the Birmingham trip, just one that is. Rebekah (also affectionately called Ru- but just by George and I) is a hostess and chef extraordinaire. She was a little easier on herself than usual this year and delegated out a few meals. I made Annie's super red beans and rice, so with her permission I might re-post that here, and pimento cheese for my two meals. Rebekah took care of dinner the next two nights: a fabulous lasagna (she ignored my suggestion to just by the big frozen ones at Sam's and made a sensational one from scratch!) and shrimp and grits on New Year's Eve. Now I don't like shrimp. I wasn't gonna say anything 'cause ya know I'm just so polite (did you read my sister's post about the foie gras? you've got to!). But I had second helpings of this! I actually haggled over the last of the shrimp with Stephen (also affectionately called Stu- again, just by George and I). Way to go Ru! Mmmmm boy! Can I post both the lasagna and the shrimp and grits? You have to share the recipes first, and I know you will because you owe me (wink wink). Ahem, anyway, we did some good eatin'. We also had some great breakfasts most of which I missed out on because Elspeth decided to quit sleeping through the night on our trip and wake up to nurse every two hours (hurray! sigh...). But one morning I was able to grab a helping of Ali's super creamy grits casserole . I will try and track down that recipe too. Aren't y'all hungry now?

Well, it wasn't all about food at the farm (not actually in Birmingham, but right outside Tuscaloosa about an hour from the Ham), we had a wonderful time visiting old friends. I was the first by two children and three years to have kids. The other four couples at our weekend get together truly helped us raise Amabel back then. We had a whole batch of free babysitters for Amabel and even Aug too after he was born until we moved away. Then all of the sudden, they all started having their own children and we weren't there to get to know their precious children or to help them out as they had helped us. This weekend their investment paid off just for a while as Amabel helped keep an eye on all their little ones. We still supplied half of the children there, but it was really exciting to see all these babies and who they are for longer than looking at a photograph or grabbing a quick meal out. We had lots of game playing and wine drinking (wine being a generic term for all manner of tasty drinks) and even rang in the New Year, but that was sort of a low point as we have all become worn out parents (okay, so if you know me, you know I am never in bed before midnight, but when everyone else is tired and your baby hasn't let you sleep, it's easy to feel tired hours before you would normally go to sleep!). Then on New Year's Day we had a little game watching (War Eagle!) and more eating Rebekah's fabulous food, chili this time, and more visiting. We had an extra family come up just for the day, my dear friend Michelle and her husband and three children were able to come over at the last minute. Michelle's children are all pretty close to the same age as mine and that means that they play really well and allow us some time for better conversations than we can get on the phone. Our husbands are both in seminary so that means that we and they have much in common. I was really glad they were able to get out to see us.

So now my heart is full. It was just a great great time. I did get a little bit of a sinking feeling after playing the license plate game all the way home (Dontcha just hate that? It's like you just can't help yourself, you have to look at the license plate. Because where are those people from?!) and after pulling off at our exit noticing that all the tags were suddenly Missouri tags. "Nice attitude!" George remarked. Well, I'll work on it. I'm re-energized now! And if you have read this crazy long post that took ten days to live and two days to write, you better go grab a coke and re-energize as well. Happy New Year y'all!

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