Saturday, April 30, 2011

Have Your Pad Thai (and eat it too!)

What was the last thing you did that made you nervous or anxious? That thing you were planning or test you were taking or person you wanted to talk to? Yeah, the one that made your feet sweat just thinking about it? I had something like that this, well two somethings like that this weekend.

Today was the culmination of months of planning for two different events. The first was a bridal shower for a dear friend of mine which I hosted with two other bridesmaids this morning. Our friend is so very special to us and we wanted to make her shower was special as she is. We spent most of Friday evening and Saturday morning shopping, baking, and decorating.

The second was a client event for my marketing job which was held tonight at Calhoun Square. My boss is celebrating 25 years as a financial planner and we wanted to honor him and also honor our clients. Not a small task! The marketing department at my work was in charge of this event. The marketing department is comprised of: me. I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders (placed there by me) to make sure the event ran smoothly and was everything we hoped it would be. I had support from my fantastic coworkers, but still felt oh-so-nervous for it! My feet were literally sweating as I drove to the event!

Well, I'm happy/elated/ecstatic/jazzed to report that both events went fantastically well. I can't sleep they went so well! Last night I couldn't sleep because I just kept walking through all of the details and now I can't sleep because I'm so happy! :) What's a girl to do!?

One downfall of the evening was that I missed dinner because I needed to go to ComedySportz to get our tickets just as dinner was being served. My sweet tablemates saved me some of the family-style meal from Chiang Mai Thai, but they were concerned that it was cold. They talked with our server who decided to get fresh food from the kitchen for me - how sweet! When I had taken two bites, I had to leave again for the next part of the evening. However, the server offered to box it up and put it in the fridge for me so I could come back after ComedySportz to get my dinner. Again, how sweet and thoughtful!

Now I sit at home, Pad Thai in hand, finally enjoying my supper. I found a Mike's hard lemonade in the fridge and am treating myself to a late-night snack and drink. My blistered feet (darn those cute shoes!) are propped on the coffee table and I'm feeling relaxed for the first time this week. What a satisfying feeling to have had the chance to be a part of two really great events today. Thank you, Lord, that they both went so smoothly.

A few takeaways for you from my day today:
  • Chiang Mai Thai knows how to host group events. Check them out if you have a group or even just you!
  • Always put more band-aids in your purse than you think you'll need. They're great for helping your feet manage in uncomfortable shoes.
  • In case you're wondering - yes, I do feel a little like Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice right now with my Pad Thai. "I'll have a number four, a number nine, make that two number fours and also a number eleven."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Small World

I got to attend my first Twins game at Target Field tonight! It was an amazing experience for many reasons: we had awesome seats, it was a gorgeous night, and I ran into people who have connections to my hometown.

I'll start with the awesome seats. We were given two tickets in the 8th row. Not the 8th row in the upper tier...the 8th row. Period! And actually it seemed more like the 4th row because there was a camera pit in front of us which took up the first 4 rows. Friends, I could see blades of grass! BLADES OF GRASS! I didn't feel worthy to be there!

The night was cool, but I was comfortable in a sweatshirt and coat. Every now and then a fresh, cool breeze would blow across the field and I swear I could smell the grass. Gorgeous evening. I saw the orange setting sun reflected off the Minneapolis bliss.

And lastly, somewhere in the 8th inning, we started talking to the couple next to us who also happened to be attending their first game in Target Field. They were from the southern part of the state and our hometowns actually played each other in high school sports! AND, the husband has done work on farms in my hometown! He listed off some family names, and I actually went to school with some of them. Crazy small world.

What a wonderful evening!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Garden in Progress

I saw online that you could start seeds in empty egg shells. It sounded intriguing, so I thought I would try it!

For weeks I have carefully cracked every egg that I used, washed out the inside, and set it aside to dry. Finally I had a dozen eggs and I could begin my planting.

Here is a picture of the final product:

I planted all sorts of things, and the basil has already begun to grow! I can't wait to see how the others do. I'll keep you posted!

A few tips if you decide to do this:

To crack the egg, I found it worked well to take a spoon and tap carefully around the top. I then lifted off the top and dumped out the egg in a bowl.

The egg shells are pretty sturdy when they're all dried out, but when you put dirt in and begin watering, they seem to soften a bit - be careful!

A knife point works well to poke the seeds down into the soil.

You can write which seeds were planted where on the egg carton, right across from the egg shell.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Doing Things the Right Way

Recently I remarked to Zac, "Gosh, doing things the right way always seems to take more time."

I can't remember what exactly I was commenting on at the time, but this line has been the theme of my life lately. For example, I can't remember how this project started, but Zac and I decided to reorganize the basement. We have some storage in the unfinished part of our basement and it seems that whenever we don't know where something should go, we store it down there. Here's what it looked like:

The shelves have gotten a little out of control, and we weren't sure what we had in some of the boxes. It was time to get organized.

We decided to go Clean Sweep style, and take EVERYTHING off the shelves and organize them into keep, sell, donate, and throw piles. That was all well and good, but when we took everything off the shelves, we decided to tear down some of the wooden shelves. They weren't very sturdy, and we wanted to make sure our shelving would safely hold our boxes.

And since we had everything out of that part of the basement, we should probably clean it.

And we happened to notice that the part of the wall behind the wooden shelves had never been painted, whereas the rest of the cement block was. Yeah, we should probably paint that while we're at it. And don't ask me what the stain is on the wall. I have no idea.

Somehow this organization project morphed into an organize and clean and paint the basement project. Yes, we could have stopped at the organizing part - and we still can - but we saw more that needed to be done and we want to do it right.

So, our finished part of the basement still sits like this:

We are waiting to do the project right before moving our boxes back in. I know that we are making the right choice, but sometimes it's hard to do extra work.

This got me thinking about my brother. He purchased a house in the fall and has been remodeling it since he bought it. Sometimes he'll start a project and then discover from that project that there are 5 more projects that should be completed to do the original project right. I'm proud of him because he is taking the time to do it right.

I think about my friends who are intentionally parenting. They are painstakingly disciplining their children in order to teach them the difference between right and wrong. Their work isn't easy, but they're taking the time to raise their children right.

I think about when people get in arguments, it might be easy to avoid talking with that person about what made them upset and just let it pass. However, to do it right, they need to talk about what's upsetting them and come to an understanding with that person.

I think it's safe to say that most of the time, doing the right thing does take more time. But in the end, it's always worth it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mother's Day: Redefined

As I grow older and have more experiences in life, I become aware of different perspectives and can't go back to the way I used to view things. My purpose in writing this blog post is to share with you the empathy I have found for all women on Mother's Day and to help you see the holiday in a new way.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mom!" I said as I climbed the stairs to the kitchen. Mom was in the middle of about five different things in preparation for the day.

"Thanks! Can you please sign these cards for the grandmas? I'm just about done wrapping their gifts. Don't forget, we're going out to eat with the Rislows after church and we'll probably stop by Grandma and Grandpa's in the afternoon."

This was the typical Mother's day exchange between me and my mom. Mother's Day was a day when we'd give flowery cards to mom and the grandmas, and sometimes a small gift too. We'd all dress in our spring pastels to go to church and then out to eat afterward at a local eatery with a Mother's Day brunch.

Mother's Day for me has always been about my mom and to a lesser extent my grandmas. That is, up until recently as we've entered the adoption process and prepared to be parents ourselves.

Once in the last few years, I happened to attend a Mother's Day celebration where each mother was given a corsage. Lavishly, the flowers were pinned on to the mothers as they entered, toting children in with them. These women held little hands and got sticky kisses. I sat there without a flower, without little hands, and I felt very alone. It seemed to me that suddenly there was a special club that I was not able to be part of. The kind gesture to recognize mothers only served to remind me in a very big way of what I did not have.

The craziest thing was that I had not expected this. Never before on Mother's Day had I even thought - not even for a minute - that I am not a mom. I don't know why it hit that particular year, but it was hard. It was a feeling that I felt for a long time afterward; one that gave me much to ponder.

In processing this experience, I was reminded of a church we used to attend. Each Mother's Day, they would hand out small gifts to every woman in the congregation, even teenagers! I felt a little strange receiving a gift on Mother's Day even though I didn't have a child.

Now as I get older and have conversations with others who are yet to be parents, I really respect that church's decision to honor every woman on Mother's Day. The truth is, we never know where people are at or what they've been through.

It makes me wonder how those women feel who have..

  • lost a child
  • had a miscarriage
  • made the difficult decision to give their child up for adoption
  • struggled with infertility
  • been denied the privilege to adopt
  • lost contact with their children

I wonder if there's a way that we could celebrate motherhood more in terms of how we care for all of the children in our lives. I think about the older women in my life who have never parented children. How do they feel as Mother's Day approaches? Do they dread it? Do they ignore it? Do they celebrate it?

What would it be like if we looked around at the women in our lives and acknowledged the ways that they have helped us to grow into the people we are? I think anyone with children would agree with me that raising a child takes more than just the mom and the dad; raising a child takes an entire community.

As Mother's Day 2011 draws near, please take some time to consider the following three questions:
  1. Who are the older women in your life who have served as secondary mothers to you and impacted your life in some way?
  2. Are there any single women or any women without children in your life that you could acknowledge on this special holiday?
  3. If you're planning on holding a Mother's Day celebration, is there a way that you could turn it from an exclusive celebration into an inclusive one?
Let's make a point to recognize those important women who have been overlooked for too long.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Liberation from Life on Pause

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that my husband and I are in the adoption process. It can feel stressful at times, but what I didn't realize until lately is that while I don't always feel stressed about it, I am stressed about it. That stress is taking its toll.

The stress is a quiet kind of stress. It's not big and it doesn't come at you all at once. Instead, it's quiet and constant. For example, we are trying to tuck away every penny we can find for our adoption. We've been doing that for nearly 2 years now. Think about how many times a day you make a purchase or a money decision. Each time we do, in the back of our minds we are asking ourselves questions like,
  • Do we really need this?
  • Is this the best price we can get?
  • Do we have the money in our account right now?
  • What will this do to our adoption savings?
Those little reminders when we use money remind us of the adoption, but not necessarily the smiling faces and tiny hands we will someday hold. It reminds of saving, of scraping, of squirreling away extra funds and wondering if it's ever enough.

We have reminders of our adoption when we see families pushing strollers through the mall, or moms taking kids out of their car seats at the grocery store. When we see friends' children it reminds us of our little ones out there somewhere. We don't know when they'll join us, and each day we wait is another day that separates them in age from our friends' children. I always dreamed of my friends and I pushing our strollers together, or our children having sleepovers together. At the rate we're going compared to some of our friends, I think their children will be babysitting ours!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that each day is a readjustment. Each day is a question mark with the future being an even bigger one. We hesitate to plan and we hesitate to spend because we don't know when we'll get THE phone call.

All of this came to a breaking point a few weeks ago when we learned that there's a very good chance our children won't be in our home anytime in 2011. What a blow. We were feeling certain we would be celebrating Christmas with them in 2011. Now who knows when we will meet them. It's hard. And we're tired of life being hard.

SO, guess what? We planned a vacation. That's right. We are spending money we "should" be saving, and we are going out of state. What better way to make an adoption happen? I figure we'll get a call that we need to be in Ethiopia when we are supposed to be on vacation. Oh yeah, did I mention we purposely did not get traveler's insurance? I feel rebellious.

Planning this vacation has liberated me. I was putting my life on pause. I didn't mean to but it just happened. I was waiting for these twins to come and feeling like I was holding my breath until they did.

No more.

Get ready, I'm hitting the PLAY button!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Adding to the Library

I love books. I always have, and I think that's in part due to my mom. One of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go with her to the library and fill up a huge bag with books to read. It was bliss!

It's no wonder that as I begin preparing to be a mom, one of the first things I'm buying is books. It's also about the ONLY thing I can buy because I don't know how big our kids will be when we get them, or what gender they will be, so clothes, shoes, diapers, cribs, etc. are all out of the question at this point! It's okay though, I don't have a problem buying books! :)

I went with a friend to a kids consignment sale yesterday and found some real steals! It was half-price day, so I paid between $0.25-$1.50 per book. I got six!

Here's a picture of the books I got:

I purchased:
City Patterns by Nathan Olson
Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington by Frances E. Ruffin
Fidgety Fish and Friends by Paul Bright
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (a READING RAINBOW BOOK!)
Flower Girl Butterflies by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard

I am trying to be very intentional with my book purchases, and I always make sure to read them all the way through to ensure the messages they are giving are ones I want my kids to hear. As an adult, I'm amazed at how some books just don't go anywhere. I want my kids to have entertaining books, but those books should also have a clear message and purpose. If you haven't read my previous post on the things I learned about stereotypes in Children's Literature, make sure to check it out here.

One of my favorite books that I purchased yesterday is "Flower Girl Butterflies." My friend Anne actually found it first and showed it to me. I love it because the main character, Sarah, is black. It has been very difficult for me to find books in which the main character is black. However, it's not a book about her being black, it's a book about her being the flower girl in her Aunt Robin's wedding. She's nervous. She's nervous about everyone looking at her, she's scared to forget what she is supposed to be doing or trip while she's walking down the aisle. It's a simply fantastic book that addresses fears girls might have if they are a flower girl in a wedding. So much more goes on in the story and I don't want to give it all away, but it is a very well-written book and the pictures are beautiful. I am including my two favorite pictures here:

My second favorite book is "Whoever You Are" and I love it because it talks about how all of us around the world are different from one another, but we also have many things in common like joys, love, pain, smiles, and hearts. What a message of unity!

I also really dig the Martin Luther King, Jr. book. The illustrations are actual photographs and painted pictures. It serves as a history book of sorts that explains civil rights in kids' terms. I think it will be a great talking point for me and my children.

I'm excited to add these books to the collection and someday spend hours reading them with my children before bed, on a blanket in the grass, or in homemade forts. There is much to look forward to!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Local Ethiopian Event - Mark Your Calendar!

I'm excited to share with you the details of the 2011 Ethiopian Cultural Show. The theme of the night is "Embracing Our Roots as Past Meets Present." It looks to be a fantastic event with dancing, music, food, art, poetry, and even a fashion show.

The keynote speaker is an "Ethiopian professor from Harvard who was the founding member of the African American Studies department at Harvard and the Ethiopian Student Association International." Thanks to Lelna for passing along this information to me. She will be dancing and reading poetry at the event!

Contact me if you need more information!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dress Shopping

Tonight I went dress shopping with a friend and had a blast! There's something liberating about trying on things that aren't your usual style. I think the key is being able to laugh at yourself.

A few laughs from the evening:

A dress that was so short that it would have made a better shirt.
A dress that was so tight on the backside that I thought I was going to get stuck!
A flap on my friend's dress that was supposed to be decorative, but just looked like the stitching on the dress came out.
A dress we called "The Carpet Dress" because the fabric looked just like carpet.

I wish I would have brought my camera so you could laugh as well. I guess you'll just have to go to a nearby store and have your own dress adventure! Remember, try on something that's not your usual style! It's always good for a laugh!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Winter is GONE!

Do you know how I know? Because we had our first campfire of the season! It was just as relaxing as I remembered it to be.

This year I hope to have more campfires and more meals cooked on the grill. Last summer went by so fast, and I want to make the most of each warm day this time around. I can't wait to live outside more.

Hope you're enjoying the change of seasons!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Community of Believers

I just got home from spending the evening with our house group from church. There's about 20 of us that get together every week at a church member's house to snack, chat, and learn about the Bible together. Tonight we talked about Acts Chapter 2, specifically Peter's perspective on Jesus and the Holy Spirit and also about what it looks like to be in a community of believers.

The topic of community is something that always tends to strike a chord in my heart. I've enjoyed my stints of living in close community with others both at college and while I traveled with Youth Encounter. Sometimes, though, it's hard to find that in the present. I am blessed with many friends, but we all live all over the place. My parents always give me a hard time because whenever they ask how far away from me a particular person or place is, I always say "20 minutes."

Creating community isn't always easy, but I am finding success. Small group tonight was one example of that. I'm getting to know a smaller group of people well, and allow my life to intersect with theirs.

Listen to what Acts 2:44-47 says about the community of believer's shortly after Jesus' death:

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (from, NIV 2011)

When you read this passage, what areas stand out to you as things you are doing well right now? Which pieces do you crave more of? What can you do to move forward and recreate this kind of community today?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Drive-By Gratitude List

The other day my brain was wandering and it came to rest on things I was thankful for. I decided to post a blank piece of paper on the fridge and put some markers close by. Each time I thought of something I was thankful for, I added it to the list.

Sometimes I wrote sentences, sometimes words, and sometimes I even drew pictures!

I had so much fun doing this, and I encourage you to give it a try. It's a fun way to turn our thoughts to the blessings we've been given.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Oh, Amber

As the weekend approaches, I get almost giddy with thoughts of all I might accomplish. So many things that have been piling up could get done. Oh, how good that would feel!

Sure, weekends are for relaxing, but just think of all the THINGS I could get DONE! Wow! If I keep my eyes focused on the next item, and if I work work work, there's a chance I could cross off all of these 26 items by Sunday night.

Is the crazy alarm going off in your head? It should be.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." According to this definition, I am insane.

To say that history repeats itself would be an understatement. I find my history repeating itself all the time. Just this January, I wrote this blog on the same theme that I write to you about today.

As weekends approach, I tend to load up any free scraps of paper with to-do lists. Then, I try desperately to cross off each task on the list over the course of the weekend. Inevitably, I can't because I need more time than is in a weekend to finish these ambitious lists. I come to the weekend's close with a few stragglers still hanging on the to-do list, which I then transfer to a new to-do list for the following week. I usually feel badly about myself that I wasn't able to get everything done.

What would it look like to have a not-do list? I laugh out loud as I type that! That would be so fun, wouldn't it? I'd love to make a list of everything I'm not going to do this weekend. Oooh, that would be liberating! I'm not going to stress out. I'm not going to clean. I'm not going to do things I don't want to do. I'm not going to set an alarm. I could keep going with this!

Well, I think what I REALLY will end up doing this weekend is making a good try to get some of the things off of my to-do list. But I'll also put relaxing on the list. For starters, I'm going to go enjoy a lovely cup of tea...

Good luck with your weekend plans, whatever they are. And let's both put at least one item on our "Not-Do List." :)