My entire life I have been blessed.  I have rarely wanted for anything (that I needed).  There was that ‘It’s my beautiful, Playskool Dollhouse’ that I never got, but who are we kidding, I didn’t need that thing.  I grew up in a loving home, with loving parents.  I married my middle-school sweetheart.  I don’t say this to boast or brag.  I say it to remind myself to be thankful because for the first time in my life, I am tackling true, ugly heartache.

My prayer has been for God to guard my heart.  Guard it against sadness, unfaithfulness, jealousy and resentfulness and fill it with joy and thanksgiving.  I have specifically prayed for God to show me things to rejoice about and things that needed my earnest attention in prayer.

This past month has been one for the books.  I’m can honestly say that I am losing my faith, my hope, and I’m quite certain I’ve lost my mind! :)  I feel like God has gone silent from me other than to say ‘Be thankful.’  Be thankful, be thankful, be thankful.  With a side dish of ‘Count your blessings’.

While it’s not what I want to hear, and while my faith is shaking like nothing I’ve ever experienced, I am, without a shadow of a doubt, thankful beyond measure.  A lot of people live their whole lives without experiencing a love like that I have for my husband.  If I’m granted no other gifts from God in my life, William is more than enough.  I’m surrounded by a family that is second to none.  I wouldn’t give up my friends for the world.

And while I wake up daily with a heavy heart, I also wake up rejoicing in what we’ve been blessed with and I say an earnest prayer that I begin to fully see that what we have is enough.  More than enough.

Be thankful.  Be thankful, be thankful, be thankful.  And count my blessings.

I’m not one to pour out my heart or air my dirty laundry on the internet, but I am one to lift others in prayer.  Especially if I know what they’re going through.  This experience has taught me to love fiercely, hug often, and most of all, to listen.  You never know what silent battles someone is facing.  When William and I feel more comfortable talking about our struggles, I hope it blesses someone.  I hope God’s glory shines all around our heartache.  Cheesy as it sounds, the words to one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs has been on loop in my mind for months, “some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers”.

As I said the other day, one of my New Years Resolutions this year was to read at least two books per month.  (read here)  For documentation’s sake, I thought I’d give a brief summary of the ones I’ve read thus far.  One of William’s good friends, Cody, suggested writing a mini book report on the books I read.  I really wish I had done that.  Or been able to do it.  I have discovered that after being out of school for so long, I am not very good and reading and discussing my thoughts about it anymore.  Oh lets be honest, I was never very good at it.

No matter, here are my little brain dumps on Books 1-10–likely for no one’s pleasure but my own.

  • Book #1: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Carter

My first read of 2013.  I’ve always been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln.  Such a stoic human.  Such a tumultuous time period.  The premise of this book starts with Lincoln surviving the attempted assassination by John Wilkes Booth and continues with what the author thinks would have happened had he lived.  A few things in particular stuck out to me about the themes in this book. Carter did a wonderful job outlining the political climate, albeit unrest, at this time in our history.  How far we haven’t come from those days. I loved that Carter was able to make the former President the central figure of the book while only having him appear in about 5-6 scenes.  According to an interview he did after the book was published, he said it was quite daunting to attempt to “put words into Lincoln’s mouth” and have them be historically sound while still in keeping with the plot of the book.  The result was a developed character that was as equally present as not while remaining the novel’s underlining protagonist.  This was a “just for fun” book as there is, clearly, no historical basis behind it, but I loved it all the same!

  • Book #2: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Not even going to lie to you guys, I did not love this book.  I think I would have actually enjoyed it a lot more had I been reading it in a discussion group or lit. class.  I read the entire thing thinking, “Wow this is one of those books.  There is a heap storm of symbolism going on in this sucker that I do not understand, nor do I care to.”  I do like a good “coming of age” novel, however, the protagonist in this one annoyed the poo out of me.  I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and tell him to snap out of it.

  • Book #3: What is the What by Dave Eggers

This was my first Dave Eggers book.  Loved it.  It is by no means a light read, however, it touched me immensely.  Easily one of my top 5 favorite books I’ve ever read.  My words wouldn’t come close to doing it justice, but what a powerful story of human suffering, perseverance, and will to overcome.

  • Book #4: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This was a quick read.  You’ll notice that a lot of my pairings thus far this year have been a long and a short book.  What is the What is about 600 pages long so I needed a quick one to stay on track!  I own a few Agatha Christie novels, but this was my first to read (reoccurring theme with me).  I love a good suspense novel and this one was wonderful.  I’m a gluten for period novels as well and this one was first published in 1939.  I loved that the copy I have still uses ‘electric torch’ instead of ‘flashlight’.  Ah, so good.

  • Book #5: 39 Steps by John Buchan

A while back, I purchased the Boys’ Adventure Series put out by Penguin Classics.  Not going to lie to you, I purchased them partly because I’m in love with the covers that were designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith who is also behind the beautiful cloth-bound classics that Penguin has put out that are carried by Anthropologie among other stores.  Regardless, several in the series I had never read before so I purchased them.  I enjoyed 39 Steps.  It was a fun novel first published in 1915.  It was Buchan’s first “shocker” novel.  The main character is a man on the run for most of the book, and I really liked how Buchan loosely tied the novel’s time period to actual events in British history.  It was a quick, fun read.

  • Book #6: Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson

This one was recommended to me by a dear friend of mine.  I would like to read this one again sometime.  I enjoyed it, however, I don’t believe I enjoyed it to the extent I should have.  The story is epic and tragic all at the same time.  The author experiences so much in a few short pages.

  • Book #7: Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

This book was given to me by my grandmother the day my college roommate passed away.  Inside she wrote me a message reminding me of the angels in our lives–both here and in Heaven.  It has taken me 5 years to bring myself to read it.  I cried through the whole thing.  It is a wonderful story.

  • Book #8: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

Summer of the Swans was the Newbery Medal winner in 1971.  Yes, it is technically a children’s or young adults book, however, I read it anyway.  Several years back, I asked my grandmother for “old books” for Christmas.  No idea why I did such a thing but it is on of my favorite gifts I’ve ever been given.  My copy of Summer of the Swans was one of the books given to me that Christmas in my “old book” collection my grandmother painstakingly put together for me, though I had never read it.  It was a quick read, but it will definitely be one I read with my daughter one day should I have one.

  • Book #9: Night by Elie Wiesel

I cannot believe I hadn’t read this before, but I had not.  What a powerful and poignant account of a horrible time in our history.  I have also never read The Diary of Anne Frank but after reading Night, has moved up to the top of my list.  The fact that the story is true breaks my heart, but it was the power of Elie’s writing is what drew me in.  I’m not sure what else I expect from someone who lived through one of the worst crimes in our history, but his writing was wonderful.

  • Book #10: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Again, surprising that I have not already read this but I am really enjoying it.  There are several passages that Bradbury so astutely writes in the early 50s that are 100%% spot on for how our culture is today.  As a huge advocate of the physical, written word, you can imagine the thought of premise around this book is simultaneously intriguing and disturbing to me.  I can definitely identify with the old woman who choses to go up in flames with her home once she’s discovered to be harboring books.  (No, I wouldn’t do such a thing for books, but I understand her emotional attachment to what reading gives to us as humans)

For Book #11, I’m reading The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard.  I’m actually 1/3 of the way in to it and really enjoying it.  I discovered my love for reading Westerns after reading Lonesome Dove last year.  A fact which is shocking considering I grew up in a household with one of those GIANT TV satellites in the backyard–which was really neat when it snowed and made the perfect place to make snowballs, but was NOT cool the other 364.5 days of the year when it monopolized every TV in the house.  How I complained when Dad took control of the TV to watch Tora! Tora! Tora! for the 3,022nd time or some all-weekend John Wayne marathon.  Ah well, yet another time my father was right.  And I’ll leave it at that because he does read my blog and I don’t want to give him too much joy in being right.

I’m always up for new book suggestions, so if you have them, I’m all ears!  :)

Confession: I have never kept a New Years Resolution.

Go ahead.  Judge me.

This year I made two New Years Resolutions.  One I’m right on track with, the other, is a little harder.  (Be prepared to judge me again)

My first New Years Resolution was to make sure I kissed William before bed every night.  Yes, you read that correctly, I do go to bed without kissing my husband goodnight.  If you’re one of those couples who doesn’t struggle with this, more power to you.  Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, do not.  William is a night owl, I…used to be a morning bird and now I am more of a neither avian.  Regardless, it is a struggle for me and so I decided to make a conscious effort of it this year, especially since he has been in grad school we rarely go to bed together anymore anyway.

My second New Years Resolution was to read at least two books a month for the entire year.  I stole this resolution from a dear friend of mine, Allyn.  Go ahead.  Judge me again.  Judgment all over the dang place.  Alas, I like the resolution and wanted to piggyback on her good idea.  I love to read and would imagine that on average I read more than two books a month anyway, however, I go through spurts typically.  I’ll read three or four books then not touch one for two months.  My goal with this resolution was to keep myself reading consistently.

So far, I’m right on track!  I will say, this month I’m on the road more than normal for my job so I have enlisted the help of Audiobooks to keep me going, but I’ve decided that those “count” in my book towards my resolution so I feel good about it still.  The sub-goal of the aforementioned resolution was that I was to read books that I already owned rather than buying new ones.  I have more books than I care to admit that have never been read which I what I was attempting to solve by this rule.  There had to be an amendment to the above rule, however, because I didn’t want to purchase/rent Audiobooks for ones I already physically owned, thus paying for them twice.  So in my mind, I added said amendment and the rule-breaking crisis was averted.  (Yes, I like rules)  KBB, you’d be proud of me.  (I wish I could tag your TEDx Portland video but I cannot find it on the interwebs anywhere yet!)

This week I’ll be finishing up Book #10 for the year and on to Book #11.  I thought I’d give a brief run-down of the ones I’ve read so far for documentation’s sake, but this post is already a little lengthy so I’ll save that for tomorrow!  10 down, 14 to go!

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Using the ‘good stuff’.  Something I’ve been pondering for quite a while.  Let me clarify that I am not referring to any sort of illegal substance or even to the ‘good stuff’ referred to in the 2002 Kenny Chesney song!  No, no, my friends.  I’m referring to the ‘good stuff’ most Southern brides are showered with before marriage.  China, silver, crystal, serving pieces, linens, etc.

This post does have a little bit of back story that I’ll give…

It would shock a lot of you to know that before getting married, I actually tried to dig in my heels a little bit about what all ‘nice’ things William and I registered for.  I know not everyone is raised in a small town, but I was.  I, thankfully, was smart enough to listen to my mother and mother-in-law and their less than subtle urgings that while I may not want eight place settings of china now, I sure as heck wasn’t going to want to pay for it later on.  (I have actually had several soon-to-be brides approach me with this same question in the past few years and I have told them the same thing I was told.  William and I were blessed to have countless friends and family members wanting to buy us gifts for our wedding.  There have been so many times since I’ve gotten married that I have thought to myself, well, hey!  I’m so glad I registered for that after all!  So, while you do not need three sets of towels when you’re first starting out, register for them anyway.  You’ll either get them, or you won’t.  If you’re like me, three years down the road, you’ll be thankful you can swap out a set when the washing machine eats four of your towels and you still don’t have the money to go buy a full new set yourself.  So thank you, again, to all who bought us towels for wedding gifts!!!  I digress…)

So, while I started our engagement saying that I was not going to be like my mother or mother-in-law with all of their dishes and serving pieces…well…open mouth, insert foot. Five years later, I think I may actually be worse! :)  At some point and time “Momma knows best” just started repeating in my brain over and over again and I just went with it.  Bring on the countless china patterns (formal, everyday AND Christmas), silverware out my ears, crystal and glassware everywhere I look, and the list goes on and on.

Now, this is where I disagree with most Southern ladies.  You get all of this stuff, and then what do you do with it?  NOTHING.  Which, I understand that to most of the rest of the world who sees this Southern tradition, that big ole ‘NOTHING’ is exactly their point when they choose NOT to have all of this ‘stuff’.  I’m not here to debate which category of folk is right or wrong.  What I am here to debate is, if we’re going to have all of this ‘good stuff’, WHY DON’T WE USE IT!?  This is something that I was determined to change in our own lives once William and I got married, and I’ve taken a particular charge to change since we moved to Portland.  The added “I’m hauling all of this stuff all the way across the country and praying none of it breaks” pressure doubled my guilty conscience!

A few months back, I stumbled upon this blog post entitled ‘Use your good stuff’.  This lady, with amazing taste I might add, articulated what I had been pondering for quite some time!  She talks about going to estate sales and finding all of these treasures that were NEVER used.  She reached a point when she thought to herself, “Is this what people are going to say at my estate sale!?”  She began using, for example, a very expensive and personal vase her husband had given her for their 2nd Christmas together, and while someone may pick it up one day at her estate sale and notice its scratches and a chip or two, they’ll know that it was a loved treasure rather than something that stood collecting dust.

I’ve been thinking over the past few months on ways to use my ‘good stuff’ without making my guests feel uncomfortable or making dinner too ‘stuffy’.  I know it is not for everyone, but for someone who really enjoys making a beautiful tablescape, why does it always have to be so formal?  I think I’m making some progress, starting with dinner for two when it’s just William and I.  I’m using our casual wooden chargers I bought at Crate and Barrel and I use my serving pieces that go with my ‘Everyday’ dishes almost every night.  We’re using my cloth napkins and he sets the table for me each night.  (yes, this means I wash and iron napkins a lot)  I figure, if William and I are comfortable with what we’re doing, that’s the first step in making others feel that way as well.

I have no moral to this story, and I have no actual “end outcome”.  But don’t be surprised if you’re at our house for dinner and my table is fully set.  (and yes, I have been told by multiple people that when I have children all of this will go out the window, but both mine and William’s mothers did a pretty dern good job of sitting us down on real plates every night for dinner so I will give it my all!)  I am always aiming to make others feel at home in my house, but this is my own little social experiement I’m running lately.  Why does the use of our ‘good stuff’ have to be tied to a “special occasion”?  Why can’t we use what we have for “everyday occasions”?  Dinner with my husband is my time when I get his undivided attention.  No phones, no TV, no distractions.  Why can’t I bring my best to the table as well?  (and yes, all kinds of puns and metephors intended)  :)

100 Perfect Pairings

100 Perfect Pairings

One of my bests out here in Portland, Casey, struck gold on one of my new favorite cookbooks of all time.  I just had to share.  There are some classic Southern goodies that I can’t bring myself to trump, however, this is seriously one of the best cookbooks I own now!  100 Perfect Pairings by Jill Silverman Hough.  There are actually two separate cookbooks: one for main dishes and one for small bites.  Both cookbooks have healthy and easy recipes that explore the pairings between wine and food.  In the last few weeks, I’ve been cooking a few of them every night and literally only one hasn’t been a complete hit.

I’m not a knowledgable wine drinker, which is a huge reason I like this cookbook.  You don’t have to be!  She points out in the introduction of her book that you don’t have to understand everything about food and/or wine to make a beautiful and wonderfully paired meal–just a few key things are good to know!

In classic OCD Sally style, I’ve been making scrupulous notes in the book on each recipe I’ve cooked.  Any changes I would make next go around, what we ate the main dish with, which bottle of wine we tried, etc.  I feel a little ‘Julie and Julia’ if I’m quite honest with myself, but I am thoroughly enjoying it!  It definitely helps that my purchase of these books has coincided with William finishing up school so he has actually been at home at night to help me finish off dinner and sit down with me at the dining table for dinner.   He’s been so great about asking questions about the meal and spending time talking about the wine pairing.  It has been such a fun little adventure!

I know Pinterest is a wonderful depository for new recipes, but if you’re like me and still like a physical cookbook in your hand (or if you’re even more like me and get really overwhelmed by Pinterest sometimes), I strongly encourage this cookbook.  It has been the best $15.00 investment I’ve made in quite some time!

Happy Cooking!

In exactly seven days, I will be leaving with my amazing husband with TWO degrees to run away to Palm Springs for the weekend.  That’s right.  William is basically done with his Masters degree.  He still has to attend class for another month, however, he has completed his thesis paper, art show, final oral defense, everything!  I. am. so. proud.  (not to mention happy beyond belief that this part of our life is behind us!)  My work has topped the charts with stress lately so we decided a get away was in order.

To celebrate our returning to normal life, we booked ourselves a room at The Ace Hotel for Mother’s Day weekend!  I’ve been getting advice from amazing friends on where to go and what to eat and we have a tentative schedule, though all I really want to do is lay by the pool, soak up a lot of sunshine, hold William’s hand, and have a few of these “adult sno cones” everyone keeps telling me about!

The Ace Hotel- Palm Springs, CA

The Ace Hotel- Palm Springs, CA

Amazing pool scene at The Ace!

Amazing pool scene at The Ace!

Take me to the desert!

Take me to the desert!

On Saturday morning, I’m going to take a free yoga class that is offered to guests of the hotel.  Can’t pass up free yoga!  Sunday morning, I’m going to be in the pool taking water aerobics.  Yes, water aerobics.  Also included with the cost of our room.  Not passing up the opportunity!  AND Sunday afternoon, I’ve booked William and I Couples’ Massage Lessons!  We’re planning on going to some amazing restaurants recommended by one of my best friends, Heather.

Palm Springs is quite the happening place these days.  I’m glad I’ll have William on my arm!  This JCREW-clad lady might not quite fit in, but hey, I bought a big floppy hat from Urban Outfitters (an experience which, might I mention, made me feel SO old) that is pretty cool if I don’t say so myself.

7. Days. And. Counting.

 

 

So this is the problem with blogs.  It’s like what our mothers told us when Facebook came out.  “Once you put something on the Internet, you can never get it back”.  Well that’s what I did.  I went and talked all about my favorite movies.  And what did I do?  I LEFT OUT MY FAVORITE ONE!!!!

So, to pay homage to the greatest movie of all time, and to punish myself for omitting it, it shall have its own post.  Ladies and gentlemen (since I know you care…) my all time favorite movie:

DirtyDancing3-lgDIRTY DANCING

Gosh, what a great movie.  I hope I get to dance with Patrick Swayze in Heaven one day.  That would be amazing.  I have the soundtrack on vinyl.  I dance to it while I’m cleaning.  William walked in one day to me dancing around with the duster to the record player on full volume.  He said he could hear it at the street.  Oops.

That’s all I have for you.  I would like to apologize to Baby for ‘putting her in a corner’ and forgetting her.  To make up for it, I watched and danced to movie last night.  :)

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