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30 May 2013

My saddest food day ever

Last week I had some blood work done regarding my weird stomach issues. They told me when I left that no news was good news. If I didn't hear from them, everything was fine. So a week has passed and I felt confident that I was in the clear.

And then my doctor called today. She told me that all of my levels looked normal except for one. The Celiac's marker. Two of the three markers came back positive. Of course, I was all like, "That's okay, right? It's not 3 out of 3, right?" And, of course, she was all like, "No. Two out of three means you have it. Definitely."


I almost started to cry. But then I regained some perspective in knowing that it's not cancer or a death sentence, and whining and crying about it is just plain silly. But it is a bit of a big deal for me. I love gluten. Pasta, cakes, desserts, cereal, beer, beer, BEER! The idea of giving it all up is a little heartbreaking. Thankfully I know people who've been living gluten free for a while, so I can turn to them for support and advice, but no gluten is kinda freakin' me out.

The doctor told me that I could see a specialist right away (where they will endoscope my insides and take samples which isn't appealing at all) or do an elimination diet for a few weeks. If eliminating gluten makes all the difference, then I can visit a nutritionist for further guidance. If the diet doesn't help, then a specialist is needed because something else may be going on.

So, dinner tonight -- a heaping bowl of pasta and a chicken breast (BEFORE I got the dreaded phone call) -- was my last meal. No more tasty pasta for me. Sad face. Thankfully I can still enjoy rice and potatoes. Getting rid of those would throw me over the edge!

And, in a moment of fortuitous planning, we ordered a half dozen gluten-free cupcakes for the wedding. Now we may be upping that number. And there are gluten-free options at the dinner as well, so that's good, too, right?

So, today, the saddest food day of my life, I start a new adventure in eating. I'm not sure how I'm feeling about it yet.

28 May 2013

Following my momma's advice

One of my mother's favorite pieces of advice to her daughters was this: "The best two things in life a grown woman can have is a hysterectomy and a housekeeper."

This advice always struck a chord with me given that I asked for a hysterectomy when I was about 13 when I had just started my period. Not that my period was all that exceptionally rough or anything, but the prospect of having it every month for the rest of my life was daunting. I even asked my doctor about it back then and she quickly laughed at me. My mom found it highly amusing as well.

Mom had her hysterectomy after all of us kids were raised, and she was sure that she and Dad were done with the birthing part of child-rearing. Apparently pregnancy and childbirth had been hard on my mom's parts and had left her with a "tippy uterus." Yep. That's what the doctor called it. After Mom got tired of feeling like she had to pee all the time, she went in to have it taken care of. After a few weeks of healing, she said it was the best thing she ever did. None of us kids took it as an insult because we knew that she loved having us, but the effects that the stress on her body was too taxing to live with forever.

Then came the housekeeper. We never had a housekeeper when we were little -- money was too tight for things like that when there are so many able bodied people in the house to help -- but Mom worked hard to make sure the house was clean and tidy. She wasn't obsessive about it, but I don't remember ever feeling embarrassed when company "popped" in to visit. I knew the house was always presentable. When I was in high school, Mom hired a local woman to clean the house a few times a month. We were all busy doing our own thing and growing up, and Mom was a busy woman between owning her own business and working hard and doing things she enjoyed. Dad worked nights and spent a good portion of the day resting and working outside in the yard. So, in a moment of prioritizing, Mom hired a cleaning woman. Let's be real, no one likes to clean. We may be good at it or find it therapeutic, but no one really likes it. Every two weeks, Gerri came by the house to do all of the intense cleaning, and we kept up with the small stuff -- vacuuming, sweeping, keeping the kitchen tidy -- in the meantime. It freed up a lot of time for my mom to do things she enjoyed. After all, there are certainly more important things in life that dusting and mopping and all that. Especially with the first crop of grandbabies starting to pop up.

As an adult, I'm good at cleaning, but I hate it. It makes me sneeze and clouds up my head. I'm pretty sure it's allergies, but, whatever it is, it's miserable. JD hates cleaning as well. We'd both rather spend our time doing things we enjoy outside. Gardening. Archery. Even mowing the grass (which I actually enjoy doing). The problem is that a messy/unclean house causes me a ton of anxiety (I'm sure in part from coming from a clean house that was always presentable at a moments notice). So, after some serious thinking about my life balance and considering things that I can "let go" in my life to ease some of my stress, JD and I decided to go ahead and hire a bi-weekly housekeeper. Three dogs generate A LOT of mess, and just looking around and seeing dustbunnies around the house prevents me from being able to relax. So today a cleaning person is coming to take some of my anxiety away. with work stress, wedding planning, and general life to think about,  cleaning isn't a huge priority for me. But I still want a clean house, so I'm willing to pay someone to do it for us.

I'm both excited and nervous to go home and see the results. I'm most excited about a super clean bathroom (the area I hate cleaning the most) and dust-free shelves. I'm most nervous about how my dogs are going to react to this cleaning ninja. We'll see when I get home. Fingers crossed.

26 May 2013

Is it too early for the dogs days of summer?

The weather this weekend has been perfect. The skies are blue, there is a gentle breeze blowing, and the temperatures have been consistently in the 70s. I turned off the air and opened up all the windows to get some fresh air. Of course this means there is a little more barking from the dogs as they get used to all the new noises, but the breezes and fresh air has worked wonders on my and the house.

Today, after working my rear off all day yesterday, I've been laying low. Apparently, so have the dogs. As soon as I went out to read on the patio, they all followed me and collapsed in the sun. They spent about an hour cruising around the yard, enjoying the weather. It was pretty adorable.

Bailey basking
Pickles prowling. 
Sunny sunning. 

It's in the mail

Well, there's no backing out now. The wedding invitations are in the mail. We're two months out, people. Game on!

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary ...

How does your garden grow?

Quite well, in fact!

Within the last week, zucchinis and flowers have been sprouting all over. Since these pics were taken, almost every squash plant has at least one little baby squash -- be it yellow or zucchini -- growing on it. A few have two. It's always so amazing to me to watch flowers magically transform into fruits and vegetables. The best thing about my garden this year is that I get to share it all with my little 6-year-old EG. She's a wonderful gardening partner!

See the little guy? The flower is still attached. 

The nasturtium is beginning to bloom as well, adding beautiful splashes of orange to a very green garden. 

The tomato plants are starting to produce little baby green gumballs that will eventually grow into juicy red tomatoes. 

The last few weeks of gardening have been quite challenging. It has rained more than it hasn't, and while all that rain is great for my plants, it's REALLY great for all the weeds. I can't really weed the garden in the rain, so there has been no way to keep up with the invaders. Finally, the rain stopped and I was able to tackle the mess this weekend. 

I spent THREE HOURS in the garden on Saturday, pulling weeds like a mad woman. The weather was perfect -- 76 and sunny with a wonderful breeze all day -- and the dogs had fun roaming the freshly mowed lawn while I dug in the dirt. In fact, our lovely little yellow lab puppy discovered a high spot in the garden fence that she can fit under. Two different times she apparently missed beng with me and I turned to find her halfway under the fence. Thankfully she backed out as soon as I yelled at her, so no plants were ruined. 

A few of my seedlings -- spinach and eggplant and peppers -- haven't really grown all that much. It's a little discouraging since everything else is growing like ... well, a weed. You can see the empty spaces in the rows in the picture above. I'm tempted to buy new seedlings from Lowe's and replace them. If I do that, I need to do it real soon. 

This angle looks much fuller. The tomatoes are still a little short but they are producing fruit already. And you can see the pops of orange in the nasturtium plants. 

As an added treat on Friday (which totally encouraged me to tackle the weeding this weekend), I finally got to make chevre stuffed fried zucchini blossoms. I first had them in NOLA years ago, and I've been dying to have them again. Unfortunately it's impossible to buy just the blossoms. Once I was sure that my plants would bear fruit, I plucked off a few blossoms to fry up. 

I mixed up a light beer batter using flour and Abita Strawberry Lager (any lager style works) and a touch of salt and pepper. I slit open the blossoms, removed the stamen (very delicately) and pipe in softened chevre (15 seconds in the microwave is perfect). After filling them, I dipped them in the beer batter and fried them in peanut oil (heated at just under medium). I flipped them once, and they were done in about 4 minutes total. Of course I couldn't wait to eat them, so I scalded my mouth biting into them.

Once I waited for them to cool a little more, I closed my eyes and tasted the familiar flavor that I had been longing for. JD's dad and brother enjoyed them as well. Too bad JD was out of town and didn't get to try them. But I'll definitely be making them again, so he'll get another chance. 

I'm not sure if they tasted so good because they were little cheese stuffed blossoms of goodness or because they were the first fruits of my garden, but they were delicious. And my belly went to bed happy. 

21 May 2013

Dog antics

JD set up a deer camera in the house to see what happens while we're gone. Here's what we found.

No shock there. 

One nosey little dog

Notice the little black dog creepin' on dinner?

Doin' it standing up

One thing I've found this year is that I'm sitting down far more than usual when in my classroom. I've got a comfy chair and a nice desk, and I sit more than I stand. It's making me far too sedentary, and I'm feeling less engaged with my students. I'm not happy with it. All this coupled with recent research on heart disease relating to seated jobs and I've decided to try out the standing desk approach. I've been waiting on a new locking file cabinet before I could make the change, but today I decided things had to change now. During my 8th period prep, I cleaned out my desk and moved it into a colleague's classroom (he wanted it; I wasn't just pawning it off!) and switched over to the new set-up. The tables in my classroom are adjustable, so I jacked one up to the highest position and slid it into place. 

And here's the final result ... 

I'll eventually run a length of fabric around the edges to provide a privacy screen and to hide the cabinets underneath. I'll eventually get a stool that I can lean on if I need to, and I'd like a slight podium to elevate my tablet. But this set-up will do for now. 

Broadening my horizons

If you didn't already know, JD is an archer. He enjoys bow hunting and target shooting and all things related to his bow. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was obsessed. But he's not. He just really enjoys it. He's found a bow shop in Raleigh that he enjoys shooting at and hanging out in and even joined their pro-staff team. While there, he's met some fun people who share his interests which is fantastic. I've stopped by the shop a few times, and everyone is very friendly. And, ever since he found NC Hunter Supply, he's been hounding me to try it out. I finally submitted to his incessant asking and tried it out this past weekend. As it turns out, I have a mammoth draw length - 30 inches - which makes Jim very excited. And, even though I'm a righty, I am left eye dominant, so I would need a left-handed bow. Obviously, I wasn't amazing given that it was the first time I had picked up a bow since summer field days in elementary school, but I think it could be something I enjoy. And, since JD spends pretty much all of his free time working on his bow or hanging at the bow shop or going on shoots, I figure it's an opportunity to spend some more time together.

On Saturday, I tagged along as JD and two of his pro-staff buddies (one of whom is female is a very cool chick) when they went on a field archery shoot. It was a lot of walking through the woods and watching them shoot their bows, but I learned a lot and I didn't hate it. JD was pretty excited about the whole thing and today he ordered me a bow. Of course, we talked about it before he did it, but, in a few short weeks, I'll have a shiny new bow to learn how to shoot.

Lesley, John, JD, and Cindy

Jon and JD

16 May 2013

What a day, what a day

Today, for the most part, was a good day. The sun was shining, and I was able to read outside for most of the day with my kiddos. I even got a little sun on my shoulders and face. I was looking forward to an evening making crafty cards with friends to send to the soldiers. I rushed home from work to feed the dogs and change my clothes and feed myself, the abundant sunshine just making me happy.

As soon as I got home, everything shifted from happy-go-lucky to emergency mode. As soon as I let the dogs out, I knew something was wrong. Bailey was panting heavily and hyper salivating  What was even more worrisome was the fact that she could barely walk and she couldn't support her back end. She stumbled and fell repeatedly in the back yard and was acting totally out of her norm. After bothering the neighborhood vet tech, I rushed her off to the vet for an emergency visit. She couldn't get into the back seat alone, and, when we got to the vet, she stumbled and fell out of the car. Needless to say, I was more than a little terrified.

After a quick intake interview, they swept my baby girl into the mysterious back of the clinic to performa a variety of tests, primarily neurological. Her ability to walk was improving, but she was still suffering a weird array of symptoms. Her eyes were dilated at different sizes and her left side was weak and non-responsive to pressure. The three initial concerns were seizure, infectious disease caused by a tick bite, or a tumor. The blood work came back and ruled out the infectious disease and made a tumor less probable. After more tests, the vet narrowed her primary concerns to seizure/other neurological incident or a bad disc in her spine. Because she had improved significantly (but not completely) during our two-hour visit, the vet decided to send her own with some NSAIDs and a strict order for rest for the next five days, hoping that the cause of the incident was a bad disc. She's going to do additional research on a few of Bailey's symptoms to determine if she missed something, but now we wait for the next five days to see if she improves. Or gets worse. Or stays the same. Either way, now we wait.

I always get nervous every time Bailey gets sick because, let's face it, she's my baby. She's been my near-constant companion for the last 11 years and 10 months. She's helped me through a divorce and through moving 600+ miles away from my comfort zone and through grad school and through a rough break-up and through everything else that life has thrown at us. But she's getting old. She's already exceeded her breed life expectancy by a year. I know that sooner than later, the time will come for me to make some hard decisions. So now whenever she gets sick or hurt, those are the thoughts that first come to my mind. I know that it's only a matter of time before the next trip to the vet is The One. And I keep praying that I won't have to deal with that for a little longer.

If her back has a bad disc, I can probably deal with that. She'll require medicine and extra gentle care, but that's manageable  If she requires surgery to fix things, that brings other things into consideration. If she has developed a seizure disorder, I'm not sure where we go from there. That's an indication of something much more intense and severe, and I'm hoping that I don't have to deal with that.

But for now, she's resting. Sleeping in her bed and relaxing. She's not allowed to go upstairs alone or roughhouse and play with her brother and sister. Which, right now, I think she is pretty okay with that.

And, of course, worrying about my girl made me bring out her baby book and bask in her adorableness. I've taken pictures of pictures to share, so they aren't the best quality. But her beauty comes through. :)

Love that puppy face. 

Sleepy girl. 

Look at those ears!!

Words to live by

I love it when I read a book and encounter something amazing. While I was reading independently with my students (I'm currently engrossed in The Life You save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage), I happened upon this wonderful little footnote, spoken Peter Maurin, circa 1933:

"The world would be better off
if people tried to become better.
And people would become better
if they stopped trying to become
better off.
For when everybody tries to
become better off,
nobody is better off.
But when everybody tries to
become better, everybody id better off.
Everybody would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer.
And nobody would be poor
if everybody tried to be poorest.
And everybody would be
what he ought to be
if everybody tried to be
what he wants the other fellow to be."

Eighty years have passed and the words still bear truth. This is why I love reading. No amount of internet searching would reveal this tiny footnote in the opening of a relatively obscure biography. One must explore the pages to find the gems.

15 May 2013

I'm engaged! Again!

When JD and I decided to get hitched, he gave me his mother's diamond ring. It was a large solitaire on gold band. I was very happy with it, but JD wanted to have it reset into something special for me. While  I appreciated his sweet gesture, I reassured him that it wasn't necessary. But we went to Diamonds Direct a few weeks ago (after checking things out earlier when my MOH was in town) and picked out a new setting. I was concerned about what they were going to do with the gold from his mother's band, and they said they could ship it back to us when they were done with it or melt it down into an initial pendant for me. While I would love a sweet piece of jewelry like that (even though I'm not into the whole monogrammed and initialed trend), I thought it would be sweeter to have our flower girl's initial - "E" - made. While she won't be able to wear the necklace until she is a little bigger, it is made from the gold from her grandmother's diamond band. Eliza probably won't have many memories of her grandmother when she gets older, but she'll have this to remind her. When we picked it up last night, I couldn't wait to show me soon-to-be SIL how pretty and dainty it was!

While picking up the necklace, we also finally got to pick up my ring. After three and a half weeks of a bare hand, I got to be engaged again!! I had forgotten what design JD have settled on and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it. I would marry JD without any jewelry or anything because, in all honesty, the ring is an unnecessary tradition, but I certainly do love what he gave me. :) It's classic with a vintage styling that I'll love for the rest of my life. None of the pictures that I've taken seem to do it justice. 

In the fancy box. 

On our invites.
The pink in the invitation makes the ring look pink. It's not.  

And twelve hours after getting it, JD took it away. He's gone to get it appraised so we can insure that bad boy. But he promised to drop it off at my work, so I can get it back as soon as possible. I love that man.

Talented Friends = Beautiful Wedding Guest Books

Way back when this whole wedding planning business started, I found an sweet idea on Pinterest for a wedding guest book. Since no one ever uses a guest book beyond the actual wedding day, the idea of creating a piece of art to commemorate our wedding day was really appealing. Instead of having people sign a book that will then be shoved into a drawer or box, we'll be having our guests leave a thumb/finger print on our "tree" with a signature or a brief personal message. All of the tree designs I saw on Pinterest were pretty, but none really spoke to me. And then I remembered that I have the privilege of working with an amazingly talented artist! I showed her what I was thinking, and this is what she "threw" together...

Our wedding date is in the right corner.
Our prints will be going on the low branch directly above the date. 

Our initials are actually carved into the tree. 

This tree is so pretty that I almost don't want to cover it in fingerprints!! But I'm sure the pink, brown, and green that will eventually make up it's foliage will be wonderful, especially when we think about all the important people who came together to add those prints on our special day. I'm looking so very forward to seeing the finished piece in July and hanging it on our wall to remind us each and every day how truly blessed we are to be loved so much.

So. Many. Blossoms.

I intentionally planted eight squash/zucchini plants this year in the garden because I planned on harvesting blossoms to make goat cheese stuffed fried squash blossoms. In order to have squash and zucchini (or any fruit for that matter), you have to let the flowers develop into fruit. But, if you harvest the blossoms before they become fruit, they become a very tasty snack. To ensure that I had enough plants to have both vegetables (or fruit, if you want to be technical) and tasty snacks, I planted double. This may prove to be a faulty plan because I currently have every plant in bloom with at least three flowers. In case you're bad at math I haven't pulled any blossoms to fry up yet because I want to make sure that they actually produce fruit. But if they keep blossoming at this rate, I'll be frying squash flowers before the weekend is out!


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