Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I've been meaning to..

- Tell you how we got up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to Minnesota in order to avoid snowy highways.

- Explain my hatred of cookies.

- Talk about how Shea's hair is really, really long because we're too busy to do basic things like haircuts. Though we did seem to find time to watch "Easy A." So maybe we're just bad at doing the boring things.

- Exclaim about how much I love my bed and every time I sleep somewhere else, I love my bed even more.

But instead I am...
-  Working on a big huge project at work involving a brand new website. It's going to be cool. But it's a lot of frustrating, detailed work right now.

- Preparing for Christmas No. 2 in Kansas this weekend. We hate New Years Eve anyway so what better way to ring in 2011 than with another Christmas?

- Figuring out when I can trek back to Minnesota to clean and paint our condo because our renters love cigarette smoke.

So I will see you soon. Be patient with me. I promise some super amazing stories and photos are on their way!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the journey

Saturday morning we volunteered with our church to feed more than 100 homeless Kansas Citians looking for a warm meal. My job was to unwrap holiday hams and turn packets of powder into a meat glaze. Shea's job? Much more important.

We spent the morning cooking, decorating, cleaning and serving. A nice sojourner helped me carry a broken chair to the dumpster only to take a wrong turn. He thanked me for my chair donation and said it was now part of his camp. Saved him a dumpster dive I suppose.

When we left, we got a view of our church all ready for Christmas.

Tonight we came back for church. Sang all the familiar Christmas songs, watched a little Mary and Joseph greeted by three tiny sheep, and held hands with our neighbors. We talked about the journeys we all have to take that - sometimes not ones we'd like to take. Like being nine months pregnant, traveling for more than a week on the back of a donkey only to give birth to a baby that wasn't your husband's in the dirt among barnyard animals. Or knowing you have to travel around town to find a warm meal before sleeping between buildings in order to find shelter from the cold wind.

This weekend gave me some perspective on my journey this Christmas. No matter what the journey, God's walking it with me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

frugality strikes again!

Dave Ramsey has once again foiled my plans.

We got in our heads that we wanted a house. BAD. Our apartment is fabulously large and cheap. Plus we pay one utility - electric - which averages at $40 during the winter. Friends, we have it good.

But the hard parts are the complete lack of storage. The inability to have people over. No where to grill or let Mac the dog run at least without a visit to the dog park. No bedroom door which means no separation between us and our needy animals. So in our frustration and the fact our lease ends next week, we started to look at houses. They were cute and financially possible unless you factor in utilities for a house that has gas heat. Then we found the PERFECT house and the woman was willing to negotiate.

We redid our budget for hours. And hours. We thought about giving up the iPhone, not paying so much extra on our mortgage or not putting ALL that money in savings. I started to get weepy because that's what budgeting, especially Dave Ramsey style, does to me. I hate him and his stupid money theories sometimes. Especially when I am looking at a fenced in yard and fire pit. But he is stuck in my head and no matter how much I try, it's like a nagging little voice that just won't shut up.

We knew we had to say no. In a last ditch effort to not make the hard decision, we offered her a ridiculously low rent with the assumption that in a year we could pay more. She considered it. But then another guy ponied up and is signing her lease.

Sometimes it's easier when God closes a door.

In a year, our second mortgage will be paid off. That's $28,000 paid off in two years plus a much better opportunity to sell the condo in the nearer future. In addition, this strict budget has allowed us to pay off a credit card ($2,000),  pay off a car ($8,500) and create an emergency fund.

So we'll live cheap for 365 more days. And will live so far below our means that our debt will get smaller. We'll be able to stay on track. That'll be good. I just don't always like it.

"You don't get to say "yes" until you've said "no" for  a while."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

my wish list

I don't need a single thing for Christmas. But I made a list. Because when I don't, the people at the Salvation Army are very happy to see me on December 26.

Note to gift-buying parties: I am an extra small, size zero, short, petite, midget length if available. Always. Unless you shop at Hollister and in that case I am a medium. But I don't know why you would ever go into a clothing store that advertises itself by using people without clothes.

Garmin Forerunner 405
*I realize it's out of the budget. 305s also accepted.
Tracks time, distance, pace, heart rate and calories burned. Also when I am caught in the rain and lightning and stranded at a Starbucks in my running shorts, someone can log online to find me instead of letting the phone ring five million times.

Lift concealer
I only wear makeup when I have to. But this eye goop makes me look way less tired and shockingly, I've decided that without it, I look quite old.

Etsy art

I loooooove Shirae's Etsy shop. Love. And if I have a daughter someday, this is how her room will be decorated. I think it's wise to start collecting now.

Dutch Oven
Even, low-heat cooking. Like a crock pot but better.

Luna Bars, in bulk

Tasty. Heathly-ish. Too expensive to justify buying regularly but if they show up under the tree, I will definitely eat them.

What the Dog Saw, by Malcolm Gladwell
If you haven't read Gladwell's other books - Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers - you really should.

What's on your wish list?

Monday, December 13, 2010

cookie extravaganza

Christmas is about cookies. Apparently. So Johanna and I faithfully followed tradition and made a lot of them. I packed up my baking supplies because when you're married, you have the cool stuff like a really thin cookie spatula.
We started with Oreo balls, which look...gross.

But much better as a finished product. I mean, I think I made a lot of them. I don't really know because three days later they are all gone. Mystery! (clue: they give me migraines, and I do not eat them)

Add in peanut blossoms, iced lemon rounds and molasses cookies.

And the grand finale, and my favorite peppermint bark. Thankfully there was a man around...

Instead of these cookies ending up in cute little tins to hand out to my neighbors and co-workers, it seems they have ended up in my stomach. Stay tuned for cookie extravaganza, part two.

Friday, December 10, 2010

getting back on track

As noted by my series of sad, complaining blogs followed by a series of complete absence of blogging, I have been in a funk. Today I feel out of my funk. I can't make any promises for tomorrow, but here's my funk-ridding recipe, at least for a day.

Add five miles of running. I ran a mile outside before my throat burst into flames, and I was forced to get over my fear of showing up at the gym and having the front desk guy's make comments like "Oh, you still belong to this gym?" Two months ago I ran 13 miles with a hurt knee. Shove it. In my gym absence, it appears they've gotten the hint on adding new treadmills, eliminating the inappropriate angry girl pop videos and the addition of towels. They did not get the hint that standing two feet behind my treadmill for a 20-minute session of staring at my butt/talking on a cell phone is inappropriate for an employee. Take what you can get.

Add one bubble bath and with a side of a good book. Normally I hate baths, mostly because I never really clean my bathtub to an acceptable level. But I pushed through. And spent the evening reading The Girl Who Played with Fire. Unfortunately for me I though that I was reading the one about the hornet's nest, looked it up for the link and figured out who the bad guy Zala is. I had not figured that out yet. Damn. Must forget surprise ending.

Stir in one viewing of the Hallelujah Chorus. Even better if you watch it in flash mob, YouTube form, here. I cried. At work. Turns out that means, I am altruistic according to this study. Music chills equals more likely to give blood? Thankfully they think I'm too small to take my blood... I mean, otherwise I'd totally do it.

Add a pinch of  a clean kitchen and completion of a class. I was going to take a picture of my kitchen counter for you, but then realized no one would ever come over for dinner again. So now it's clean. And my grad school paper and presentation are done.

Top off with a heavy dose of perspective from a dear friend. A long talk with my wise friend reminded me that Christmas IS about celebration, love and eating a lot of cookies. But it's also about sacrifice and obedience. Everybody needs that kind of friend, who understands, hurts as much if not more than you and never ever would tell you you're crazy and blowing it out of proportion. I'm lucky!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

all I want for Christmas

I'm in a Christmas funk.

Because we have this lame little tree that our kitten keeps knocking over. Because there is no one else to make the cookies, buy the presents, wrap them, fill out the cards and earn the money except us. Because I don't get to spend it with my family. Because I keep eating cookies and keep feeling guilty and fat. Because we keep our apartment at temperatures so chilly that I don't take showers so that I can avoid the horror of leaving my hot shower.

Merry, merry.

So I've determined that we should skip Christmas/the month of December and go here.

"We'll have a fresh Christmas tree waiting for you, and supply you with a basket of ornaments; you'll wake up to bountiful country breakfasts and end the days with delectable dinners; there'll be time for skating, sledding and skiing, or just cozying up to the wood stove! There will be all the tastes, and scents of the season, together with family and friends, twinkling lights and overstuffed stockings."

And by family and friends, they mean Shea and I.

The package includes:
Three nights in a Vermont country inn on 570 acres
Full breakfast and afternoon snacks (hot cider, cabot cheese and cookies)
A Christmas tree to decorate and a stuffed stocking
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners

And we could go to Christmas Eve church here and ponder what Christmas is really about.

No presents. No cooking or baking. No small talk. No "Christmas Story" marathon. No driving white knuckled on icy roads.

It'd be the best Christmas ever.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I am..

feeling extremely unmotivated to be running and mad at myself for it. It's cold. And the 64 degrees we keep our apartment at to save money makes it VERY hard to get out of my warm bed in the morning.

loathing laundry. I do laundry at my parent's house. Then it comes home in baskets and sits there. Then I still have at least three loads to do at our apartment. Plus, I still need to find another box to pack up the rest of our summer clothes to put in our nonexistent storage.

in love with the homemade chicken noodle soup I made last night. I am declaring this winter as the one where I add more soups to my cooking routine. Suggestions, please?

kind of lonely. There is something about the work, materialism and stress that comes with holidays that makes me ache deeply for more innocent times and child-like wonder. 

excited about the weekend. Spending time with several groups of friends, getting our final project for class done, celebrating the first anniversary of our church with dinner/comedy show and hopefully making more soup.

Happy weekend to you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

the eyeball sweater

Today I went to see my fourth grade buddy at the school where we both mentor. My friend, J, is super sweet despite her need to always establish I am a Crip and not a Blood. Usually she greets me with a hug and huge grin. Today she was curled up in a ball with her jacket hiding her face. I asked the teacher what was wrong and he said "oh not a big deal."

J didn't want to show me the tears streaming down her face so I just started making a paper chain for her Christmas tree. She even let me use red but still refused to speak. Pretty soon she wrote me a note.
"Sarah, I'm sorry i'm not playin with you. the kids made fun of me about my hands. i'm never eating again. sorry."
Turns out, a marker exploded onto her hands during indoor recess and her hands were now a shade of green - all over. The kids in her class thought that was pretty funny. She did not. I wrote a note back and asked her if she wanted me to help her wash them, and the first words she spoke to me: "Leave it alone, Sarah."

But 50 links of paper chain later, eating a lunch (I carried her tray so the kids wouldn't see the green hands),  and my time off work up, she shyly asked if I could help her wash her hands. We scrubbed those hands raw for 20 minutes and sent her back to class looking less like the Grinch. And I got my huge hug goodbye.

It reminded me of a sweater I wore that my great-grandma made me - white with balls of purple and blue. While sitting in a circle in kindergarten, a boy who shall remain nameless (though don't think I don't remember his name) called it the eyeball sweater.

I cried. And never, ever wore the handmade sweater again.

So maybe it wasn't a big deal to the teacher. But J's green hands and my eyeball sweater - very big deals to a tender little heart.