Saturday, December 21, 2013

t'was the night before christmas vacation

T'was the night before Christmas vacation, and all through the house
There was no scurry of packing, no, not from either spouse.
The suitcase lay still in the hall by the door,
The dryer stood full but wholly ignored.

The lovebirds were sitting all calm on the couch
While they smiled bravely and tried not to grouch.
Chris in his basketball shorts, and Sara in some too,
Had gone to volleyball -- a favorite thing to do.

When, middle of game, Chris and a friend collided
His ankle sprained just like that and swelled up, one-sided.
Away to the stage Chris lay down with a wince.
It hurt a whole lot and hasn't stopped since.

The call to the parents wasn't much fun.
"Our plans might be foiled before they've begun."
Mom and Dad understood, but it wasn't their favorite.
"Put ice on the ankle, and make sure to raise it."

With a little sad pout, Sara went to the store.
They had some first-aid things but they needed some more.
An ice pack, an ace wrap, a slide of the card
They'd soon ice it, and wrap it, though plans might be marred.

Now sitting, now waiting, now swallowing pills!
On the phone, doing writing, or giving water refills!
To the health center they go? Or just stay at home?
Go lay down now, rest now, maybe tomorrow we'll roam!

For sleeping, the lovebirds would be apart that night.
To keep down the swelling, Chris raised his foot a good height.
And can you imagine, the pain he would feel,
If Sara bumped his ankle? It'd be less than ideal.

So then, in the living room, Chris spent the night.
Snuggling pillows, not a sweetheart -- not due to a fight.
As Sara turned out the light and left him with a kiss,
She knew in her heart that her husband she'd miss.

In the morn they awakened. "How's it feel? You okay?"
And Chris tested and tried it (but avoided ballet.) 
A twelve-hour trip still didn't seem very smart
And so they decided, that day, not to start...

Friday, December 13, 2013


Chris climbed into bed and I flipped off the light. The room was cold, and I was not looking forward to the cool sheets waiting for me underneath our comforter. Nor did I think Chris was looking forward to my icy toes tucked beneath his warm calf.

"I'm going to go heat up the rice bag," I decided. I made that rice bag over a year ago, and while the stitching has not held up very well in some places, it's still perfectly functional. Plus, the bright red fabric makes it a lot easier to find than several other things in our household. Like cell phone chargers.

The weight of the rice bag always surprises me when I pick it up. I shifted it in my hands, enjoying the susurration of some thousand grains of rice. I hoisted it into our microwave, looking forward to the warmth it would hold. I leaned against the wall in the orangey dimness. Just listening.

And in that moment, it felt suddenly, strangely, like home.

There are a lot of things I would change about our apartment. It's never as clean as I wish I could make it, and never quite big enough to hold all of our stuff, no matter how hard we try.

Yet, listening to the hum of the refrigerator and microwave, in the chilly stillness, it struck me that my heart has put down roots here. It's not perfect, but it's ours, and that all by itself is beautiful.

I'm especially grateful to be aware of that at this time of year. Our families are a long way away, and although it's my parents' turn to have us for Christmas, sometimes I can't help but feel lonesome for another time and place. Roommates scurrying to pack, delighted to be going home for the holidays, and yet equally delighted to be coming back to live with me for another semester. My siblings and I decorating the house with red ribbon and setting up the porcelain nativity, all with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir playing in the background and Mom baking in the kitchen.

Here, our Christmas decorations are scant. Our home is quiet. The snow falls outside, making this North Carolina girl feel a little further from what she knows.

And yet, this is home. This is the life I have chosen, and the life I choose to love. Day by day, and in unexpected little moments, we make this shared space more deeply ours. We will imbue it with the meaning that comes of a thousand memories, all rubbing together, ready to make us warm.

Ding. The rice bag was done. I took it out, and the warmth sank into my hands like a long hug. I poked it under the covers, and climbed in after it.

Oh yes, I thought as I snuggled close to Chris and buried my toes in hot rice. This, this, is home. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

another "cumplemes"

We have a tradition at our house.

(Note: I love being able to say that. I think every family should have lots of traditions. They're just repeated moments of meaning and fun and goodness. The repetition aids memory, and I want Chris and I -- and our someday kiddos -- to look back on our life together as a really, really good thing.)

That tradition is to celebrate our cumplemes. That's our "month-iversary," except that we've adopted the much tider Spanish translation.

So on the eleventh of every month, we have some form of ice cream and some sort of pizza, and we make sure to spend it together. I've cancelled plans at least once because I realized that it was our cumplemes, and there was no way I was going to miss out on that special bit of one-on-one time with my husband.

Well, today is our cumplemes, independent of the fact that we are both fighting off colds and deadlines. We ordered this pizza....

Chicago style, baby!
ate some of this ice cream....

how much of it we ate is not open for discussion...
and hung out on this couch....

a better look at the pattern on the ottoman and pillows 
because we have spent the day coughing and schlumping in PJs, two things that are discouraged in places of any greater respectability.

Happy 15 months, Chris. Even when we're sick, being married to you is something worth celebrating.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

chiles rellanos casserole

Chris and I have been eating vegetarian dinners every other day for about a month and a half now. I love how much more cheaply we eat, how light the meals are, how much variety we have in our meals, and how creative I have to get to keep it that way!

I made this recipe tonight for the first time and we all raved about it. The original recipe can be found here, but I made enough alterations that I thought I'd post my own version, too.

1/2 pound fresh poblano peppers
1/2 pound fresh anaheim peppers
1 1/2 cup colby jack cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon chipotle pepper

1) Preheat oven to 450; grease a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
2) Quarter peppers, then remove stems, seeds, and veins. Immerse in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and allow to dry a bit on paper towels.
3) Place peppers, cut side up, in the baking dish, and top with cheeses. It's okay to layer if you have too many peppers for the surface of your pan.
4) In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour egg mixture over peppers.
5) Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes or until egg mixture is cooked through (test with a knife or toothpick.) Let stand for 5 minutes before serving with corn tortillas and a salad.

SO YUMMY. My word.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

happy halloween

Some pretty crazy things happen when you invite the missionaries over for Halloween.

In all seriousness though, it was a fantastic experience. We had two sets of elders over for dinner, then the sisters came over after they finished their dinner appointment. Everyone got their own hat to wear, but two of the missionaries surprised everyone with headgear of their own. One of them was the above wig -- very punk-rocker Ariel if you ask me. The other was a chicken. Not a fluffy, feathery chicken, but like a chicken you're going to cook, and then decided to put it on your head.

I love these people more than I can say.

The lot of us played Dixit and Bananagrams while we shared candy and snacks and even a veggie-and-cheese tray from yours truly. We even had one trick-or-treater despite the pouring down rain. My friend Deidra brought over her toddler, who knows every single one of the missionaries (and me) by name. There's just something unspeakably adorable about hearing a 3-year-old say, "Mommy, that's Sawa!" Not to mention "Ewder Melchior" and the rest.

As soon as they left, I almost turned to Chris. "Babe, can we do this every year?"

And I think he would have said yes.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

la viaje a Nauvoo

Last weekend, Chris had to work. Nothing really new there. 

What was new, however, was that the Spanish branch asked me to come with them to Nauvoo. Two families were getting sealed and several members were receiving their endowments, and the whole branch decided to make a big trip of it.

I didn't mind driving and was excited about the prospect of going to Nauvoo. I've only been there once, but that was a "get there, go to a wedding, eat dinner, drive home again" sort of thing for Josh and Katie's wedding. Delightful, but not very touristy. The branch promised that we'd see Carthage as well as go on a carriage ride specifically meant for sightseeing around the Church historic sites. I was totally game.

My one request, however, was that I have someone in the car who could speak passable English. My Spanish speaking skills are tolerable at best, and my listening skills...well, let's just say they have a long way to go. So I ended up with Yali, who is a few years younger than me, along with her toddler and baby. 

Early in the trip, the toddler declared she needed to go to the bathroom. So I pulled off, breaking from the caravan of cars, and we found a place to stop.

Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call. "Hermana Hagmann, esta bien?" 

"Si! La niña necesite el baño, pero esta bien. Yo tengo direcciones," I assured her, grasping my printed directions a little more firmly in my hand.

"Oh...okay, bueno."

"Pero gracias, hermana."

"Claro. Vemos pronto."

"Si. Ciao!"

As soon as I hung up, the phone rang again. It was Teandra, my fellow native-English-speaker friend in the branch. That conversation was comically similar.

"Hey Sara! You okay? I saw you pull off on the exit."

"Yep, we're great! Yali's little girl just needed to use the bathroom. No worries though, I have directions." 

", okay. Just checkin'!" 

"And I appreciate that! We'll try to catch up, but no big deal. See you there."

"Okay. Bye!"

Yeah stinkin' right. Thank goodness Yali's mom let her borrow the smartphone, or we'd still be out there, wandering the highways of rural Illinois. We finally got there almost two hours after everyone else, which also happened to be when they were leaving Carthage. I held it together pretty well until everyone wandered out of my car. Then I called my husband for a good cry. Turns out that the idea was that we'd call up to the lead car and let them know we needed to stop, and then the whole caravan would take a break, no big deal. I guess I missed that part!

Beyond that hiccup, it was a lovely trip. I hung out with Teandra and her husband (and their sweet baby!) and feel like that friendship was definitely strengthened. I can also sense a more warm and generalized acceptance from the branch. I'm so grateful they're persistent with their invitations. I think I'll have to go to more things in the future.

It was also fascinating how different it was to do temple work in another language. I could focus on such different things as a result, and it was a wonderfully spiritual experience. 

Moral of the story? You can't get that lost if you're on the way to the temple.

Friday, November 1, 2013

alone but not lonesome

Chris is not at home today. Currently, he's off in Ohio somewhere with his advisor, checking out a real-life warehouse and thinking of ways to make it more efficient. Or something. I dropped him off at 6 this morning and promptly went back to bed. He probably won't be back until midnight.

So I've been keeping myself company today. I just came in from a delightful dusky autumn walk to the library and back. Since I was going by myself, I brought along my iPod for company, to fill in any lonely blanks of my walk with some music. I also brought along my phone, mostly because I'm a girl walking by herself alone. It just seemed like the smart thing to do, much like carrying my keys in my fist, weapon like.

I failed to take into account, however, just how many pictures I would want to take on my walk. Someday I'll remember this, and have my camera at the ready, but in the meantime, my phone and I are unlikely pals in my adventures. (Some peoples phones are better for pictures than my camera. My phone is not of this camp.)

Wouldn't you know, three or four pictures and three or four blocks later, my phone informed me that it was out of space for the gorgeous and interesting photo-ops all around me. I grumbled internally, slowing my pace to frown at my phone. What on earth is on here, anyway?

So on my walk, I alternated between deleting (or gawking at) pictures and taking new ones. And sometimes I'd just stop and look, a grin spreading across my face and my eyes going wide.

we live near the historic district, so there's all sorts of details like this!
I was born in the autumn, and I take pride in that. I love cool weather and bright colors and warm drinks and school supplies and probably anything else you can think of that is associated with the fall. I've always wondered if it's a bit morbid to love the time of year when the year itself is dying, but maybe I just have a morbid streak, running deep.

Even with that deep-seated adoration of all things autumn, going through all those pictures ended up being one of the sweeter parts of my walk. There were several pictures of toddlers I've babysat, and a couple of stunning scenery and architecture pictures I'd forgotten I'd taken. And there were so many random little snapshots I'd sent to Chris, mundane little updates on our life together.

my favorite picture from the walk
By the time my two-mile round trip was ending, I was fill to the brim with love for this life of mine. I love that I have someone to send happy, quirky little pictures to, and eyes that find beautiful things everywhere, whether babies or trees or buildings. Today, I just loved being me.

It could have been a desperately lonely day, honestly. Having Chris around just makes everything in my life calmer and sweeter. But instead I wrote for a long time. Then, when it got too quiet, I played the piano. Then, when I got too restless, I went for a walk. Next, I might read, or practice Spanish, or tidy up the bedroom a little bit. It doesn't really matter what. My life is filled with important, special, beautiful things, and I am so grateful for that.

Being alone can be a terrible burden. But sometimes, it's a unique and distinct form of pleasure, too.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

our jam-packed summer, part one: may

I've been saying it all summer.

"Babe, can we please never, ever have a summer this busy ever again??"

The answer is always the same.

"No guarantees."

In a lot of ways, I'm glad the summer is over. However, I'm amazed by how much we were able to do, not mention endlessly grateful for the husband I have, who is fun and loving and delightful, whether we are off adventuring or just hanging out at home.

Our jam-packed summer basically started in mid-May. (We're disregarding the fact that it is technically in the spring.) I left for my second-annual Mother's Day Cali Trip where I got to visit with my grandma, mom, and little sister. We missed Jennifer the whole time, but she was watching her little sister graduate. Valid excuse or not, it reminded me how much we savor her bold, fun, beautiful nature and the incredible example she is of nurturing and respect. Mom and Grandma and Deborah and I had a great time hanging out, just making dinner and watching movies and going shopping. I am related to such wonderful people! Especially that husband of mine, who was so sweet about letting me go, despite how much he missed me and how challenging it was to hold down the fort on his own.

Shortly thereafter, we enjoyed a visit from my daddy! Every year on his birthday, given its convenient proximity to Memorial Day, he takes time off of work. This year, he used the time off to visit me! It was nice to sit and talk with him and give him a hug whenever I wanted to, just like old times. Parts of having him in my home were challenging, though. Growing up, we were taught to be respectful by giving Dad have the final say, and we were taught to be kind in part by being attentive to his preferences. His visit created such a different dynamic though, with him being the one in my home. I think we were both a bit hesitant, hoping to avoid hurt feelings. However, I also think in the future we'll do things a little differently, more confident that we love each other tremendously, no matter the setting. I'm looking forward to those future visits!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

broiler 101

I love the broiler.

It's fast. It makes things crispy. It's the doodad in the oven I didn't even know existed for the longest time.

However, there are many reasons I should not love the broiler.

I burn myself.

I burn the food.

I alternate burning myself and burning the food with such regularity that NOT burning anything ought to warrant a federal holiday.

And sometimes, I do this:

Yah, did you know that the broiler gets hot enough in 10 minutes that it will melt plastic through the oven vent under the burner? 

Me neither. 'Til now.

Monday, April 22, 2013

men and women

I went to the bank today, cashing several checks: a paycheck, a babysitting gig, reimbursement from a church activity, that sort of thing. The ATM couldn't read the information on one of them (ironically, it was my paycheck -- the one that is typed up and tidy!) so I had to go inside, trying to ignore the fact that I was out in public in sweatpants.

The teller quietly helped me with my transaction, because we were all listening to a conversation between a couple of tellers and one of the customers. They were all laughing, loudly, and their comments included any of the following, and more:

"Men are just lazy."

"My son-in-law does that."

"I'd be so happy if my girl wanted to be a sugar-mama!"

"Did you know women are 75% of the workforce?

"I'd love to be a stay-at-home dad."

"Women are the backbone of society."

The entire exchange was amusing, but it wasn't until I got back into my car that it struck me as very, very sad.

Firstly, women are the backbone of society, but I don't think it has much to do with our paid employment. Families are the fundamental unit of society, and mothers are the center of our homes. (Or ought to be.)We have God-given talents meant for nurturing.  One of our greatest challenges as women is being true to those gifts without drowning them out with hyper-management and overly high expectations in our home. (And if that's not you, that is DEFINITELY me.)

Secondly, I wouldn't outright agree that men are lazy. I will say however that just as many women struggle to find purpose and meaning and satisfaction in their roles as homemakers, I know many men who quail at the idea of being financially responsible for a house full of people. And just as we women have special gifts that help us as we care for others, I think men have a special strength and solidarity that helps them to succeed, too.

Why would God ask us to do jobs that come particularly easy to us? I bet Chris would like to have the flexibility in his schedule to peruse the Internet in the name of book research, or experiment in the kitchen for hours at a time, or take a nap so he can be a more cheerful spouse. However, I don't think those are the things that are going to make him grow into a stronger, bolder leader. He'd probably stay very much the same, or worse, start to stagnate his character development. I would love the structure and tangible results of a full-time job, when I could get home and relax guilt-free and know the hardest parts of my work were over. But I don't think that would make me grow either.

I guess what I'm saying is that each gender has specific strengths to use and specific weaknesses to root out through our more traditional gender roles, and I worry what we're losing by inverting them. Character development? A place to use our strengths? A sense of "Thy will, not mine, be done"?

Regardless, I am tremendously grateful for the life that we have, where I can be out of the workforce and instead spend my time developing the skills and character that I need in order to be a truly excellent mother. I'm grateful to have a husband who, although it's a huge challenge, has accepted the task of providing for our family and leading our home in righteousness. I'm an amazingly lucky girl to have someone who will watch Conference talks with me, pray with me multiple times a day, and so readily offer his help and support when I have any sort of quandary.

Today, we're celebrating our own little Valentine's Day. Free of commercialism, outrageous prices, or cultural obligation, we're just celebrating us. That we're in love, that we are working to become better people together, that we are so excited to be a part of this team. Today I'm celebrating the man in my life, for all that he is -- his strengths, and his determination to overcome his weaknesses.

I think that's worth celebrating. Don't you?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

broccoli slaw ala carbonara (aka, deliciousness)

So lately I've been posting Paleo updates...that it's pretty smooth sailing, that I'm starting to lose weight, that Chris misses carb-y snacks, etc. But what I haven't shared is the fun part.


I've really enjoyed trying new foods, new methods, and new combinations. We've had some amazing stuff lately. I'm not a very methodical cook though, so my measurements are always approximate and sometimes require a little more seasoning at the table. Some of them are just a little off even then, but sometimes, oh man. Sometimes, we hit on something AMAZING. Take this one for example...

Broccoli Slaw ala Carbonara (adapted from

I was so disappointed when I discovered it's too late in the season for the grocery store to carry spaghetti squash. Luckily, I'd just read about another Paleo substitute for pasta: broccoli slaw. Chris LOVED this first attempt and I'm already planning to make it again. Don't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes though; they really make the dish.

1 bag broccoli slaw
1 package of bacon
1 can full-fat coconut milk
2 T italian seasoning -- basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/3 jar sun-dried tomatoes

In a large non-stick skillet, dump in the broccoli slaw. Put it on medium heat and add 1/4 cup of water, then cover and let it steam, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, fry up some bacon until it's crispy. When it's done, set it aside to cool enough to crumble it.
Remember that pan of broccoli slaw? Add the rest of the ingredients and stir 'em in. Continue to cook the broccoli until tender, then stir in the bacon and tomatoes. Serve, maybe with a salad and some fresh fruit.


Friday, April 19, 2013

and dropping

I am pleased to announce that I have started losing weight on our new way of eating...just a little bit, but enough that it's definitely "losing weight" and not just the normal day-to-day fluctuation. I'm highly tempted to keep with this experiment after a month for that fact alone!

It's so interesting to me how specifically I have to target my weight-gain issues in order to actually lose any. When I was a teenager, I lost 50 pounds in 6 months by cutting out second helpings and most sweets. Now, I've cut sweets again but I've also cut out grains, especially snacks between meals. If anyone reading this is trying to lose weight, you may want to seriously consider what you're doing to gain weight to begin with, and then target that specific thing. Cut it out entirely if you struggle with self-control.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013




Two days ago, we received a large shipment (we're talking 1000 pounds!) of food storage from my very generous, very enthusiastic in-laws. FedEx Freight dropped it on its pallet in the parking lot, but it's just not in their job description to bring it upstairs. Rightfully so, of course, so Chris and I and the Spanish branch missionaries took all 1000 pounds upstairs, one box or bucket at a time. And the missionaries even made one extra trip, to grab the wood pallet and lean it against our patio railing.


I am so completely torn. The whole reason we kept the pallet instead of offering it for free to a good home was because Chris was so excited to do something Pinterest-y with it, especially for the container garden I was planning to start this week. ON THE PATIO.


I'm just so flabbergasted that I don't know what to do. I happen to love robins (The Secret Garden was my very first chapter book, and a gift from my big brother, so of course I'm partial.) It seems like such a betrayal of trust to destroy two days of hard work from this little guy. And who knows if he can make another one before the eggs need to be laid. But, I's my patio. The one bit of outdoors I can call my own.

What would you do?  Leave the nest alone? Shove it off the porch before the silly robin decides to lay eggs in it? Try to relocate it a bit so I can still garden, and let the bird decide if it still wants to use it?

I think what I really need right now is a Dickon. Maybe he'd talk some sense into the poor little bird.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

cheese and crackers

Today I had my biggest challenge yet on our Paleo diet. I babysat two little boys this morning, which included feeding them lunch at the end of my stint there. Cheese and crackers and fruit, as their mom requested. I don't know if you know this, but it's hard to make a meal out of a banana and 1/4 of an orange. Amid cries of "more cheese, please!" and "cracker?", it was hard not to join in on the grain-and-dairy crunchy goodness. A half an hour later, I learned how hard it is to entertain children under 5 when your blood sugar is low! So I shamelessly plopped them in front of a movie and that was that. Squash and pulled pork satisfied me almost perfectly when I got home..."almost," because I was so worn out that I took a nap too! Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to handle multiple kids! At least it makes that far off, someday first kid look a little less daunting, right?

Friday, April 12, 2013


What a fun day! Chris and I rode the bus to campus together, and I spent the morning working on my Sunday School lesson (Doctrine & Covenants 25 -- one of my very favorites!) That was followed by another salad for lunch and 5 hours of TEDxPurdueU!

My husband takes me on the funnest dates, seriously. I struggled to sit still for as long as we did, but so many of the talks intrigued me. One of my very favorite things about watching TED stuff with Chris is how often it leads to a conversation about how we're going to educate our children. The plan right now is to homeschool, but there are a MILLION ways to go about doing it, and neither of us have any idea what we're doing. Therefore, we enjoy exploring ideas and methodologies as we come across them. TED makes great fodder for that.

The Paleo diet is going fine so far. We had smoothies for breakfast, which was the first time I've ever gotten Chris to drink a green smoothie! He thinks they're yummy, but can't bear to look at them. Some days I can't say I blame him, but today it was a pretty normal color. And so tasty, too! I love having a way to use the bags of salad greens I buy before they go bad. We also had psuedo pork wraps today, which basically eating pulled pork piled on a lettuce leaf with other things like onions and tomatoes thrown on top. Maybe more of a taco than a wrap? Either way, I thought it was delicious, and kinda fun to eat off of a lettuce leaf. The best part was that we made it in the crock pot, so it was perfectly fine that we were gone all day.

The sad part about the crock pot adventure is that I had to get up early to prep the meat (which included feeling like a butcher, since I had to cut the skin off of the pork shoulder. Freaky!) We got to bed late...add that to getting up early and today has not been a pleasant day to live on the inside of my head. But as I told Chris, I've been working hard to take it with a grain of salt, since any "why doesn't anyone love meeeee????" thoughts are bound to be more sleep-related than anything.

On that note, I am TIRED, so I am going to see if I can drag Awesome Husband off to bed. Ciao.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

8 months

Our apartment still smells amaaaaazing from breakfast. We had Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Eggs, which was delicious, but mine was incredibly ugly. What happens when someone has a fancy kitchen gadget that you don't? You're left peeling a sweet potato to oblivion. If I would have thought about it, I would have taken one of those "nailed it!" pictures. And it would have been hilarious.

Instead, I will just enjoy the sweet, earthy smells pervading the apartment and get out the salmon to defrost. We're going to try skewering them with broccoli for under the broiler. Tasty? I sure hope so.

By the way, for lunch, I had spring greens, broccoli, radishes (first time eating those,) pumpkin seeds, and raisins, all drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Easy? Yes. Tasty? YEESSSS. It's nice to remember that I really am a salad kind of girl.


Last night as we were drifting off to sleep, I murmured to Chris, "Hey, guess what?"

"You love me?" That's usually his answer.

"Yes!" That's always mine. "Guess what else?"


"Tomorrow is 8 months."

"You're right." He paused, held me a little tighter. "It's been a great 8 months."

There is no price too high for moments like that. I'm so glad I make him so happy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

boo hoo

I just finished making my grocery list for Paleo, Week One. Boy, it's depressing! All of the most expensive stuff and none of the cheap stuff. Nuts, dried fruit, grass-fed meats, and organic produce. LOTS of organic produce. Makes me glad I'm starting my garden next week.

This week Chris and I have had a mega carb purge, just trying to polish off everything in the house so that we don't have any fluffy, easy food that will tempt us away from our 30 day initiative.

I used to think I liked pasta, bread, oatmeal, stuff like that. Now I'm kinda sick of it. I guess that's as good a reason as any to be excited to start eating Paleo!

I think I'm going to call this my 8th mensiversary present to Chris. Maybe his 9th mensiversary present to me can be taking me out to cheesecake. ;)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

paleo with the husband

Food is just interesting. That's the conclusion I've come to.

I couldn't tell you how much time I spend in a day researching new meals and making my kitchen a mess. I love knowing that our grocery budget is smaller than it might be because I find ways to be resourceful by using the ingredients we already have on hand and using them in several different ways.

Then again, that's why this month's project is a little bit of a stretch for me. But you never learn if you don't get out of your comfort zone, right?

Chris and I found a tiny little grocery store that sells what I tend to think of as yuppie food. Grass-fed meat, organic produce, sauces and spices I've never heard of. It's not cheap, but browsing the store made for a great date. I mean, they sell rabbit there, people. Crawfish. And alligator.

Our project isn't to try bizarre meats, though. We went to the temple last weekend, and Chris came out of it with the idea that we needed to implement some changes we've been casually talking about lately. So we're "going paleo" for a month, to see how it effects our weight, concentration, skin, moods, etc. You can read about it most anywhere on the web, but this one has particularly hilarious Lego illustrations to go with it. Word.

Anyway, I'll be blogging our adventure for the next month, including recipes, health updates, and probably some whining about how expensive grass-fed meat is. But hey, I think it's going to be a fun ride.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

change, but not really

It's funny how much things can change, from one day to the next, huh?

Don't get me wrong; I still love my life. This is the only one I have, and the only one I could have had with Chris in it. That makes it the best, ever.

But there are hard days, too. Days when everything that comes out of my mouth roughly translates to "whining! drama! angst!" Days when Chris just doesn't think he can do grad school, and I feel like I've run out of helpful things to say or do. Days when the kitchen is completely nuts, there's a pile of stuff on the living room floor, and no, no I definitely did not make the bed.

I wish I could remember something when I was in the middle of those moments, though. These kind of days still have their wonderful moments. Simple, honest prayer. Sweet little kisses. Bright spring sunshine coming through the blinds. The anticipation of General Conference this weekend.

So maybe things haven't changed so much at all. It's all in how you look at it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

some things i love about my life

  1. Waking up to Chris' exclamation of "oh!" He forgot what side of the bed he was on and there was a person instead of the floor when he pulled back the covers. Teehee.
  2. People's indifference to my totally ugly cake for Relief Society. It was supposed to be centerpiece worthy and mostly it was just a wreck instead. But it was delicious and we laughed about it, so it didn't even matter.
  3. My increasing flexibility. I say this with a LARGE measure of humility, because I am certainly not a very adaptable, easygoing person. At least, not yet! Yesterday I fashioned a desk for Chris out of our coffee table, plus some plastic bins and cardboard. Then I rearranged our living room to accommodate. I'm pleased to say Chris loved the fresh new look and the desk. I figured it was kinda the least I could do when he's so sweet about spending more time at home while he studies.
  4. In-laws. We had a fantastic visit with them and I am excited for the next time we visit with them. I'm sure we'll play lots of board games, try new restaurants, and even work on my father-in-law's novel. So glad I married into this clan.
  5. Making friends! The longer we live in this ward, the more I see that we are in fact developing relationships with these people, not to mention social skills. We've got game nights, temple visits, and dinners as proof that there are opportunities to get to know people everywhere. Now we just have to work on returning the favor!
  6. Chatting with my parents, just because. Last Saturday was a hard day for Chris, so I kidnapped him for a long drive. We didn't have a destination in mind, but privately I decided I'd drive the hour to Indianapolis if he didn't stop me before then, and if he didn't stop me at Indy, I'd drive clear to North Carolina to visit my parents! We took an exit about 20 minutes down the freeway, but I couldn't help but wish we'd kept going. I'd love to give my parents a big hug. For now at least, I'll just anticipate visits from them in May or June, and call them just to say hi in the meantime!
  7. Web communities. Many LDS women in the greater Lafayette area (plus some not-LDS women) subscribe to an e-mail list, where people post activity announcements, free stuff, and questions. I love the warmth and trust in these e-mails. It makes me grateful to live where we do.
  8. My job. I'm still writing articles for, and still loving it. It's frequently a challenge to sit down and write, but I love the opportunity to grow, as well as share the tiny bits of wisdom that 25 years of life has given me. It's fun to see my readership get a huge boost when the FamilyShare social media specialists (hey, Jared!) post my work. I love knowing that I may have not only brightened the day of so many people with my cheerfulness, but also given them some practical thoughts for making family life more joyful -- like it should be.

Monday, March 25, 2013

more than fair

I came back from dropping Chris off at campus, through a foot of snow over the icy roads, with the scriptures on my mind.

Sometimes I have a hard time deciding what to read for personal study. Days can go by without me thinking to do it at all, so when I remember, I want something meaningful. However, if something isn't actively pressing on my mind, finding a topic to study challenges me. Cover-to-cover reading discourages me, since I get bored and/or lose which chapter I'm supposed to be reading. And I forget the option to read the Relief Society manual altogether.

So when I woke up this morning with a desire to read the word of God, I was troubled with the question, "yes, but what?" I mulled it over as I pushed through the shin-deep snow between my car and apartment building. By the time I made it back upstairs to 152, I'd decided I'd look at my Sunday School lesson. I won't teach for two weeks, but it doesn't hurt to start to prepare early. Besides, I reasoned, if I don't find something that really reaches my heart, at least I'll have the utility of getting familiar with my lesson. 

This choice of study meant that I opened up my laptop. In true If You Give A Mouse a Cookie fashion, opening my laptop also meant deleting e-mails and scrolling through Facebook and Pinterest before I'd even thought it through.

After a few minutes, my brain caught up with me. Hey! I cried internally. You got on here to study! 

I know, I know, came the grumbled, regretful reply. Gimme a minute.

By the time that minute (or 5) had come to an end, I was sitting in rapt attention. I watched a talk someone had posted -- Elder Holland's "Because She Is a Mother" -- and wept freely as I listened to his sensible, heartfelt words of encouragement.

I knew, again, that God knows how to guide my path, even with my skewed sense of direction.

This was my mantra during the spring of 2011, and the words came back to me today. I might be weak enough to get sidetracked with social media, but I am also strong enough to want to learn meaningfully from the word of God. I believe that Heavenly Father uses our weaknesses to guide and bless us just as much as He uses our strengths. He can use my compulsive computer use, coupled with my honest desires for connectivity and obedience, as a way to give me exactly the kind of enriching experience I'd been praying for.

So what else might He be capable of, in His infinite wisdom and boundless love? How might He give my husband the perfect job, using Chris' weaknesses as well as his dogged determination to overcome them and provide for his family? I don't know. But I'm grateful for the reassurance that we will find out.

I'm also grateful for the reassurance Heavenly Father gives me in general. I didn't realize it until after the fact, but I was prepared to go to my scriptures this morning with the idea that He was going to tell me what I was doing wrong. I think one of the most valuable things about gospel study is that it gives us the framework we need to think differently. However, I forget sometimes that it's not just "you think you're doing enough, and doing right, and you're actually not." It's also "you think you're not doing enough, that you're doing something wrong, but you're not." That was the message this morning as I listened to Elder Holland's talk.

I have been scared to be a mother for a long time. I know that motherhood is putting everything you have and are on God's altar. I didn't think there was any way I could possibly handle that with sufficient grace, and I didn't want my kids to have to cope with a mother who resented the sacrifice she made for them. The sacrifice of the happy, exclusive little life I have with Chris. The sacrifice of my independence and freedom. Of my health. Of my sorely-fought-for successes against my temper and lazy streak. I've long feared that motherhood would mean giving all of that up. And in a way it does, but it's to Heavenly Father.

So there's the question: what might He give back?

What would He give me in exchange for my tiny, contented family? For my independence? My health? My willingness to take risks and have faith?

What would He give me in exchange for my everything?

His everything.

And today I'm in awe of that.

Monday, March 4, 2013

dream big

Yesterday, Chris and I were such goofballs. For probably 40 minutes, I threw cereal for Chris to catch in his mouth from greater and greater distances. (I'm avoiding bad puns about him being a great catch. You're welcome.) The limiting factor ended up being the size of the room -- not our skills. We giggled and cheered each other on and just played. I love having a husband who can be tremendously silly with me.

In contrast, we also spent a few hours listening to an audiobook, all about streamlining your life (via careful goal-setting, organization, focus, etc.) so that you can have more time to do what you really want to be doing. We love this book's funny examples, but yesterday it was the practical advice that really engaged us. Chris sat down and set goals, which functioned as guiding principles as he checked that his day-to-day actions aligned with them. By the end of it, he was a little stunned by how empowered he was now -- and how much more accountable that made him.

He might have been a little overwhelmed, but I'm still beaming with pride. I loved helping him identify his strengths and talk about ways to use them that would truly make him happy. I loved watching him commit to how he's spending his time, meanwhile acquiring paradigm shifts and new dreams. Truth be told, I need to sit down and do the same thing, but I love that my husband is such an example to me of vision and courage. I hope to be brave like my husband as I figure out what to do now that I have received my rejection letter from Purdue. Like him, I want to dream -- sincerely and big.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

valuing what's important

Man, what a life.

Based on the rest of the content of this blog since August, you probably think I mean I'm bursting with gratitude and in a state of disbelief of just how awesome my day-to-day existence is. Well, you're right.


You see, over the last little while, I have somehow turned into this ferocious person! Overly sensitive, easily offended, often critical, teary, angry, blah blah blah blah. For weeks. Maybe months, even.

I'm sure it's a combination of factors. Getting used to marriage as a life instead of an idea. Spending so much time with Chris, who, while wonderful, just operates differently than I do. Needing to learn more communication skills. Having someone who I know loves me know matter what and trying not to let that make me lazy. Learning, very slowly, how to give up perfectionism. Wishing desperately for spring and sunshine and warmth!

Regardless of why, we had a really silly bout of conflict this morning. It wouldn't even have been a "conflict" if I would just figure out how to explain myself calmly already. Instead it's exasperated sighs and rolled eyes and raised blood pressure and "to me, that feels an awful lot like an accusation, Chris," even when it's totally not. Ugh. I want to facepalm just thinking about it.

What brought me to tears though, was realizing I'd messed up, again. Once again, I'd gotten upset about something really stupid. "I used to never get mad at anybody," I told Chris tearfully. "I never wanted to be the wife or mom whose family was like 'you'd better to what you're supposed to, or she's gonna get ticked off!' ...And somehow, that's exactly what I've become."

You'd probably be crying too, saying things like that.

"What do I do, Chris?" I asked in the end, tilting my chin up to look up at him out of tear-filled eyes. My husband, the gentle, intrepid soul that he is, just held me for a few minutes. When he began to talk, his calmness and rationality formed an anchor beneath my stormy emotions.

Somehow, no matter how often I get annoyed with him over abominably stupid things, he always reassures me, "I just want you to be happy."

I feel the same way about him, of course. I wouldn't care if he earned minimum wage so long as he was a job he loved and he could spend time with our family. (Grad school be danged!) I love him. So I want to treat him well. I cook for him, even put it in cute containers so he can bring it for lunches. I (mostly) keep our house tidy instead of being knee-deep in chaos. That's something that I want to do for him -- even if it triggers every perfectionist tendency and makes me want to snarl, apparently.

But here's the kicker: that's not what he wants. We could eat cereal in a rowboat floating on a sea of clutter, and he'd be fine, so long as he had a cheerful wife. And if I give him something that he doesn't want at the expense of something he does want, then who exactly am I showing love to? Not him, though that's my goal. Just me.

In a way, I'm really just contributing to my image, not to the actual functionality of our home. "Wow, that Sara Hagmann, she sure keeps her house nice." "Yeah, and she cooks breakfast eeeeevery day." "And she is always so happy to volunteer!" "And dresses nicely every day, too." Yeah, well, maybe that's true, but she's also kind of a brat.

I prayed recently for help in valuing the things that are actually important. So really, this is just an answer to prayer -- and so is my husband. I don't know how he manages to reason through any anger he has at what I do, instead of needing to say it so it's not building bigger and bigger in his head. I don't know how he manages to be so nice to me every time I break down in tears. Which is, you know, every day.

All I know is that I'm grateful he gets it. That being patient with each other, as we learn to be like Christ, is exactly what we signed up for. So that's exactly what we (TRY TO) do every day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

a quiet week

This morning, it's raining, hard and fast. I'd miss home if it wasn't so slushy, more like a mixed drink spilled on the ground than the unadulterated floods I'm accustomed to in the South.

I'm intentionally having a quiet week. Recent days have been very crowded, and it definitely shows in the accumulated clutter. But Chris had midterms last week, meaning that a lot of my time was spent trying to keep his chin up. Sometimes I'd get impatient with him, fed up with encouraging a change that I couldn't see right now. Then I'd be sad about how easy it is to get annoyed about little things, and suddenly he'd be the one comforting me. I'm sure grateful for that man.

Last week we also helped some of our friends move to a new apartment. It's in the same complex, but with another bedroom which they will set up as a nursery for the new baby. As we walked box after box across the parking lot, I couldn't help feeling grateful and sad. Ned and Amanda don't know anybody here but us. They would have asked more people to help, but there was no one else to ask.

When Chris and I move in August, to an apartment that will be more affordable and closer to campus, I anticipate we will have more help than we actually need. In part, that's because we're renting all of our furniture, except the bookshelves we assembled and our filing cabinet. (I always said the first items of furniture I would own would be for books and papers, so this makes me tremendously happy. I am such a nerd.) Everything else, like dishes and clothes, will just get tucked away in boxes. I unpacked it all by myself. I could probably move it by myself again.

But I won't have to, even with Chris still putting in a full day's work each day that week. I will be very surprised if we don't get an outpouring of help from the members of our congregation. We're a family, made up of a hundred or so families, each person looking for ways to look after the next. True, we're not always good about that (I'm sure not,) but in a "family" that size, someone is bound to be able to see and fill the need.

That's part of the reason that this week is a quiet week. I could keep giving and giving, while the dishes pile up and the dust bunnies proliferate, and I take less and less pride in my home. I've learned from experience, though, that I more joyfully contribute when I've worked on taming a little of my own chaos first. Not perfect, not pristine, but manageable.

I sense this year will be a very busy one. In a couple of weeks, my in-laws will be visiting us. I'll spend a week and a half of May visiting a dear handful of women that I have known longest and loved most. A week later, we're anticipating a visit from my dad, and I couldn't be more excited. In July, Chris will be in Italy for a conference, where he'll present a paper to basically every expert in his field. Then we'll move in August.

With all of these exciting, wonderful, and demanding things piling up, it's nice to know that it really is okay for me to sit on my couch and write a blog post. It's okay for me to tell the sister missionaries that I won't be available until the end of the week, and spend the time cleaning my house instead. It's nice to know that my worth doesn't depend on how much I get done. And it's amazing to have a husband who knows just what scripture to suggest so the Spirit can remind me of that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

my valentine

I've been doing a lot of thinking this week.

Not only because Chris and I have been married for six months (see, Hollywood? it IS possible! ;) ) Not only because Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and Chris will be my very first (and totally permanent!) Valentine.

But also because not so long ago, my life was so starkly different.

Since I was a teenager, I have been more excited -- and more anxious -- about getting married than most people I knew. I always had a crush on some boy or another, trying to envision what life would be like with him always around, or at very least trying to practice the kind of thinking and feeling that my future wonderful marriage would require. Cindy can tell you it was awfully naive, and downright unhealthy from time to time.

It only got worse as I settled into adulthood. The impatience I'd felt as a teenager to establish my own family and home stuck with me, even though I was a little embarrassed by it. Years went by without making the kind of connection I desperately wanted. I wondered if my urgent desires, no matter how I tried to surpress them, left other people overwhelmed or unsettled. The impatience deepened into anguish, and I felt very, very alone.

Everything changed a year and a half ago, though I had no idea at the time. I was soaring on this updraft of confidence and enthusiasm that the Lord and I had fought really hard to gain, and then this good-looking, mellow, intelligent guy casually introduced himself. I absolutely snatched him up. I knew what I wanted, and if he wasn't okay with that, he would darn well have to let me know.

And then he was okay with it. Sure, there was a brief time when he needed to figure some things out, especially about himself, but overall, Chris has always loved my passionate nature.

Marriage has made me try to rediscover that part of myself, in a way. The anguish associated with being single -- the hopeless sense of loneliness and inadequacy -- defined so much of me, and now, it's gone. I certainly still have to work to retain hope. I miss my friends often. I still don't feel good enough sometimes. But the depth of that emptiness and fear and frustration has been filled up. Instead, I get a seemingly endless supply of love and patience and simple companionship from a certain blue-eyed man. Instead of just being crazy, I get to be crazy about him.

Without the constant preoccupation of singleness blaring through my mind, I've realized a few new things about myself. I can be impatient, resentful, and proud. Sometimes I have a spirit of entitlement. And I really don't love cleaning my apartment every day. (I'm sure you're not surprised.)

My awareness of these shortcomings has definitely sharpened in the months since our wedding. However, my reservoir for dealing with them has deepened exponentially because of Chris. The flow of forgiveness and affection and understanding into my life is already changing me for the better. Chris' deep love for me helps me to wait, to have mercy, to be humble. Because of him, I can reallocate my passions to conjure hope rather than anxiety.

In short, just having Chris around teaches me about the joy inherent in the Atonement.

And while I'm excited to celebrate Valentine's Day with my husband, things like that give me cause to celebrate our love every day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

food poisoning

I made fajitas yesterday, in part because it's one of Chris' favorite meals of all time, and also because it sounded like the perfect opportunity to use up some homemade psuedo-refried beans that had been in the fridge for a bit. (Black beans, salsa, spices, blender. Yum.)

I heated up the batch in the microwave and put a generous spoonful on my plate. I took a bite, swallowed, and did it again. And then I stopped. There was something not quite right about them.

I sniffed the bowl. I looked at Chris. I sniffed the bowl again and with a sigh, scooped out the beans into the trashcan.

"What's up?" Chris asked.

I shook my head. "I just don't trust them."

Rightfully so, too. I went to bed with a stomach ache and an hour later was up again. While I could give you details so TMI that they'd make a Catholic cross herself, I'll just leave it at this - my insides really, really wanted to be my outsides. All. Night. Long.

But this blog post is not about how nasty I've felt since 10pm yesterday. The impact that food poisoning has on one's day pales in comparison to my super-hero husband, who got up and took care of me without having to be asked.

He held me as I gave him the full details on my night, poor guy. He talked me into trying to drink a little water. He went to the store to get Gatorade for me, and even thought to ask what flavor I wanted. He sympathetically endured the continued sounds of my heaving. He promised to come home early from school, and probably would have stayed with me all day if he hadn't already rescheduled his research meeting twice. He even dragged the couch across the apartment so I could lay down nearer to the bathroom and be in the same room with him. 

He's so often grateful for how well I take care of him, making dinner, keeping the apartment tidy, 101 random errands. That's sweet of him, but puh-lease:

I totally married up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

more than words

As I dried my hands from washing the dishes, I noticed - all at once - that dusk had fallen.

An hour before, the afternoon light poured in through the sliding glass doors, filling the room with yellow brightness. Now there was a wan, blue glow, and the sky was turning pink around the edges, like a shy blush. I sat on the couch for a few minutes to take it in. I stretched, trying to mollify the tension in my shoulders. My eyes were still sore from my tears this morning; the ache made me weary and pensive.

It did not, however, make me melancholy.

In the dusk, I reviewed the morning mentally, as though I was rolling a morsel over my tongue. Though parts were bitter, and occasionally peppery, it only served to give complexity to the overall sweetness.

Briefly, I thought of laying in the morning darkness, grieving and confused, as I listened to Chris' soliloquy on why exactly he's finding life so hard these days.

Mostly though, I thought of the way he'd carefully cleared away my confusion, assuring me that it wasn't my fault. I thought of the way he kissed me as we sat on our bed, surrounded by used tissues and tender, renewed hope. I remembered the thought that flashed through my mind as we made breakfast together: it's so good to have him back. I thought of the sound of our water glasses clinking as we toasted "to better days."

I thought of the purposeful light in his eyes as he snatched up a whiteboard marker and readjusted his days to reflect the new understanding he gained of his priorities. "I love you more than I know how to say," he'd told me afterwards, putting down the marker and holding my hand.

I know just what he means. We've discussed in the past how I (like many people with English degrees) tend to use 10 words where one would satisfy. I want to make accurate statements, and often feel that means giving the whole picture instead of just the most representative piece.

So maybe that's why I blog. Hundreds, thousands of words later, I'm still just trying to say how much I love this man.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

hot stuff

This, my friends, is my super-hottie husband.

We went clothes shopping for him the other day, to pick up some things for winter, so that he wouldn't die of cold or boredom. Who wants to wear the same layers day after day?

He insisted that I help him pick out a couple of sweaters and a new heavy coat. "After all," he said, "the only one I care about impressing is you."

And oh man, am I impressed. It's more than the rich colors and sharp lines. It's the way he carries himself because he knows he looks good - confident, yet relaxed.

I hope to help him feel that way all the time. Sometimes it's difficult because we get frustrated by how much the other person has to learn. At the same time, when we reveal a weakness, it means that we trust each other enough to hope that we will be loved anyway.

I wish I could remember to see it that way more often. I love this man more than I know how to say, and being married to him is the highlight of my life. I'm so grateful that he's on my team, and aspire to be the best teammate possible to him. After all, my love can lift and build confidence, as well as create a safe learning environment.

When he feels encouraged and safe, he gets to be the very best version of himself possible.

One with those nice broad shoulders, and that killer smile.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

safely trust

By 9 a.m. this morning, my husband was already having a hard day.

Adulthood is hard. Things like insurance and taxes and getting out of bed every day seem so normal form the outside, but from the inside, they're strange and weighty and nerve-wracking. Add graduate school to that, and all of it gets multiplied by a billion.

This morning, I hugged Chris, trying to hold him together while a sense of overwhelm and inadequacy pressed down on him in waves. We sat in the car for a long time. We prayed. When he finally got out of the car, his head still hung low and his shoulders slumped. We signed "I love you" to each other, like we always do, and I drove away.

It's so hard to see him like that. I see him desperately wish for skills and strengths that he doesn't currently have, and I see him diligently take care of me in ways I never thought possible. He helps me so much to be brave, to be patient, to laugh it off when life gets hard. During times like this morning, I ache to do more for him. I want to do more than just hold him, and talk to him, and encourage him to turn to the Lord, and manage his home. I get frustrated because I just...can't. There isn't anything more to be done that what I already do. It breaks my heart a little.

At that point, I remembered Dad's advice to take the car on the freeway, for the sake of charging the battery. So I went home, and then took the stretch of highway toward Indianapolis, just because I'd never taken it before.

There's something about driving a little too fast, with the music up a little too loud, that cleans out the cobwebs from my soul. It's like a huge stretch, after my spirit has been sitting in one place for too long. By the time I got home, my hope was restored and I felt ready to accomplish excellent things today - even if it meant needing to bolster up my husband all over again.

After all, that's what I'm here for. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in [a virtuous woman].

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

coming home

It's been so fascinating to compare the return from this vacation to the return from the last one.

As mentioned, Chris and I went to Texas for Christmas. We partied with the Roberts clan, wandered at the zoo, caroled on the river, and constructed gingerbread houses. And I got to play with a handful of the little cousins. Or were they nieces and nephews? Either way, it was so. Much. Fun.

Over Thanksgiving, we also took a little trip. We intended to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and their four little boys. They're a rowdy crew, as we learned on our last visit with them, but man do we love them. Chris wrestled with them (or maybe they wrestled with him!) until they were all completely tuckered out. As for me, I got a few special little moments of feeding baby Jacob, comforting sensitive little Miah, laughing out loud at Jadon's endless energy, and catching a glimpse of the old soul looking out of Jon's eyes.

A repeat of that experience was not to be had for Thanksgiving, however. One of the boys got sick, placing the whole gang under quarantine. But, we pouted, we've practically already left! We tried to make it work, we really did. In the end, we reluctantly decided it wasn't a good idea to go see Jen and Bob and the boys. Chris simply couldn't risk getting sick with all that he needed to do for school.

And so Plan B began to form.

Chris' best friend, Josh, lives in Madison, Wisconsin, right between where we live in Indiana and where Jen lives in Iowa. We were already packed, we reasoned. We already budgeted for gas and food, we mused. Josh probably deserved a little harassing, we decided. So, we called.

"Of course you can come visit!" he said. It's so fun how excited he gets about things. "I uh, just bought a house though. So I'm going to be painting all week. And will probably put you guys to work. But yeah, you should totally come!"

And that's exactly what we did. It was an incredibly different week than Christmas was. Completely unstructured, meals at strange intervals, plenty of manual labor, and plenty of cold. Still, we LOVED being there, and when we got back to our apartment, I cried.

I remember snuffling into Chris' shoulder. "It seems like I should be excited about being here again," I said, "but I'm not." It's only now, after the holidays are done, that I realize why I was so upset.

I was exhausted.

The first semester of graduate school is just plain hard. So are the first couple of months in a new place. So are the first few months of being married. We had needed a break from "real life" so badly that I was scared to go back. (And I wasn't even the one in school!)

Contrasting that to where we are now, I feel so richly blessed. We survived the first semester. We know each other better now. We know what to expect - and what it's best to just ignore. We are better, happier people than we were a few months ago. Our focus, organization, and drive is growing. Our goals and subgoals are becoming more clear.

In short, after Christmas, I actually felt like I was coming home. No longer overwhelmed by the newness of it all, I could finally soak in this life that we've come to love. I realized, hey, we're getting the hang of this! And that's a wonderful feeling.

That said, I'm sure that new challenges are on their way. They always are. But I also know that  together, we can face whatever comes our way.

After all, that's just what we do.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

fear & courage

Mirrors in the dark scare me.

When I was a little girl, probably 8 or 9, I slept over at a friend's house. Like all of my close friends tended to be, she was the adventurous sort, and thought it would be fun to try summoning a spirit. So we snuck into the master bath while her parents were sleeping. We stood in front of the big mirror, with the door open behind us for a quick getaway. "Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary," we chanted, staring into the mirror and squeezing each other's hands. Aislynn chickened out first and ran away, leaving me staring into the mirror in the darkness. Something moved, and I ran out. To this day, I get a shivery feeling down my spine, so when I get up at night to use the bathroom, I always turn the light on, brightness be darned.

Heights scare me.

I can remember sneaking out of my house as a 6-year-old while my mother was napping. The neighborhood was quiet, and I was still in my Minnie Mouse nightgown. Two houses down, I climbed on top of one of those nondescript metal boxes that have something to do with the power company. Looking down, I thought about jumping, but instead, I sat down and slithered off the side and went home. Even through college, I hated climbing to the third floor of my apartment complex, with its exposed stairwell. It wasn't until two years ago that I figured out it wasn't so much hitting the bottom that scared me, but all the nothing in between.

Being imperfect scares me - probably scares me more than anything else.

I remember a time when a former friend unexpectedly and unabashedly called me all sorts of mean things. While the most lasting hurt came from the ferocity of her critique, at the time I mostly grieved that she might be right, that what she said about me might be true. Chris can attest to how deeply that worried me, since he was the one to hold me while I finally cried about it. He's always reminding me, one way or another, to have hope and see who I am holistically.

Today at church, we briefly discussed how the Holy Spirit influences us to value the things that matter most. My thoughts went immediately to my very messy apartment, and the harried feeling I got every time I look at it. It doesn't particularly bother me when it's messy, but I do worry about what it says about me that my home is in such a state of decline, and what other people might think. After that short comment in Relief Society, I told myself once and for all that the only reason it was messy this week was that I'd been working so hard to find a new apartment for Chris and I in the fall, and that was that. No blame, no guilt, no anxiety or fear.

And that is the power that the Atonement has in our lives. Yes, we are meant to become perfect, and yes, we have a lot of work to put in until we get there. Rather than wanting to give up, though, swallowed up in fear and impatience and the exhaustion that corresponds with both, we can turn to the Savior. Jesus Christ is perpetually ready to comfort and strengthen us in our efforts to be like Him.

Look to me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. D&C 6:36

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9

Thursday, January 10, 2013

business and busyness

It's been a busy week.

Chris and I are looking at apartments, so we can beat the rush for fall housing. I love our little apartment, with the beautiful sunset view and the in-unit washer and dryer and the cheerful newness of it all. Plus, it's our first little love nest. What's not to love?

That said, it's also more expensive than we can technically afford. We didn't have much choice in the matter - Chris' stipend is hundreds of dollars less than we were expecting - but it would be so nice to feel like we were living within our means.

So, we're apartment hunting. A flurry of phone calls, hours of website perusing, and many a conversation to update Chris on the latest insights. And this week, apartment tours began. I have high hopes to find something not too dingy, but honestly, we lived in West Valley City, Utah. Clearly, we can handle something less-than-pristine.

I've also been doing the final rounds of meeting with professors. I'm not sure who is on the applications committee, but since I mention professors by name in my personal statement (due to commonality of research interests) those professors might as well know who I am. It's been delightful to meet with such helpful, interesting, intelligent people.

Chris and I have also had a few fascinating conversations as a result, like this morning's talk about whether literature ought to invite sympathy or empathy, and why an author or reader might favor one over the other, and how one might achieve either. I've always loved  Chris' intellectuality, and today was one of those happy moments that reminded me of that. Especially because I don't think the conversation is done yet. Goodie!

We got back from visiting Chris' family for Christmas not too long ago, too, and it was a BLAST. The thing about fun vacations, though, is that it's always hard to get back into the swing of real life. Chris can tell you that I was not excited to let him go back to school, and that I am also unenthused about the perpetual clutter in our apartment, or about the extra 10 pounds of stocking candy and restaurant food I have lurking on my figure. Still, we loved spending time with Nancy and Bruce and all the rest of the clan, so we wouldn't trade it for anything.

I'm also still working on a lingering writing project for I've written several articles already for pay (yay!) but need to edit a few of them. I also plan to write more. The only payment for those will be the joy of being published, but I'm okay with that. At least it will mean I'm maintaining my resume, right?

Tomorrow marks 5 months since Chris and I got married. Even in that short time, we have learned so much and come to love each other more and more. Just when I think it doesn't get any better than this, Chris reminds me how important my happiness is to him and does something small (and wonderful) to contribute to it. I'm a million times grateful for this man and all he adds to my life -- purpose and confidence and patience and security. 5, 50, and 500 months later, I know he'll still be making me laugh, making me think, and making me the luckiest girl in the whole world.

Sounds like a pretty good life to me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

the hardest thing today

There are few things I really love to do. I can do many things tolerably well and enjoy that I know enough about them to get by. But as for things that I love, things that define who I am and how I spend my time, they're few and far between.

Teaching is one of those things, though. I love chattering about the knowledge I've acquired, and seeing understanding and hope dawn in people's eyes. Epiphanies are exciting things, and facilitating one is one of the best feelings in the world.

I especially enjoy teaching the gospel, though. Nothing can replace the sense that a classroom full of Christians are unified, building each other up and teaching each other about the Redeemer of the world. The peace in the room clears the cobwebs from our souls - a breath of fresh air and a sweet brightness enlivens our hearts. That just can't be beat.

So, you'd think that I'd be really, really excited about my new calling. I'm a Sunday School teacher after all, and since it's Gospel Principles, I get to deepen my love of basic truths. Pretty fantastic, right?

You'd think so. Except I'm teaching in the Spanish branch.

It's so humbling. Every gringo in the branch seems to have served a Spanish-speaking mission, or gotten their education in Spanish, or practiced hard for more than a decade, or all of the above. Then there's little ol' me, with a couple of years in high school and a couple of semesters in college, and just happens to be, somehow, willing to use what comparatively minuscule knowledge she's got.

So yesterday, I taught Sunday School, in Spanish, for the first time. This must be how a missionary fresh from the MTC feels. I depended almost completely on my written lesson plan, as well as smiling and nodding (though my eyes had all the glaze and fear of a deer in headlights) through the comments I couldn't understand. Which was most of them.

My class was very forgiving, though, and we mostly just laughed it off. Chris helped to fill in the blanks in my vocabulary. Most importantly of all, the Spirit was present, giving me a layer of composure and purpose - as well as teaching my class what they needed to hear, I assume.

And the Spirit did teach me, as well. Yesterday I learned that doing really hard things makes all the little annoying things seem like nothing at all.

"No matter what else I do today," I told a friend, "it couldn't possibly be harder than that!"

It was a joke, especially considering that Sundays definitely aren't "hard" days for me. In retrospect, though, I wonder how else to apply this principle. Most of the troubling things in life right now are interconnected "little annoying things." Things like cleaning my kitchen. Budgeting. Not getting enough time in a given day with my husband.

That, of course, leads me to rejoice. And wonder how on earth I got it this good.

Today, I will probably miss Chris terribly. It's the first day of the new semester, and therefore the first day in weeks that we will spend more time apart than together. This is guaranteed to be the hardest part of my day. But I take comfort.

It sure makes washing those blasted dishes look easier by comparison.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

grad school application

Today, I submitted my first graduate school application.

To some, this is mundane business, but for me, it's the culmination of probably three years of work.

My undergraduate degree was stressful, calling for more commitment and more focus than I thought I had. I got through it through, because of -- and sometimes in spite of! -- a set of supportive, entertaining friends. With this in mind, it was easy at first to ignore the glimmers of desire I had to pursue more education. I'd never be able to get a Masters, I thought. Look at how hard it was to get this degree! I just don't have what it takes for graduate school.

Yet the desire stayed. Through tumultuous relationships and cross-country moves, doubt and anxiety, there was still an ambition in my heart that I wasn't brave enough to face.

Then, I got married. Having Chris in my life has changed everything. Or, at very least, it's enabled me to actually be who I have always been. Chris is teaching me to love that I get disproportionately excited about things, or as he puts it, to love my "exuberant antics." He helps me to realize that it's okay to get upset with people sometimes, because there's such a thing in the world as gentleness and forgiveness. He also supports and encourages me on a daily basis, without which today never would have been possible.

Based on a steady trickle of personal revelation on the subject, I believe that getting more formal education is going to make me a better mother. My heart swells at the thought that, even now, Chris and I are working to give our children the kind of life and home that will give them the best possible chance of happiness.

In addition, it's the pursuit of our own dreams and ambitions that will give them that. I'm so grateful that I don't have to choose between them. If I am patient and work hard, every dream can and will come true, ranging from a doctorate to motherhood to, I don't know, learning to play the cello. God loves me, and wants me to be happy, and put a very special man in my life to remind me that every day.

See? Dreams really do come true.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Today, I...

Got up at 5am. It's part of my new year's resolution to establish a healthy lifestyle.
Unpacked from an awesome trip to see Nancy and Bruce, Chris' parents. It was fascinating seeing his family dynamic for ten days. I can definitely see where my husband gets some of his traits, from the snarky sense of humor to the gentle, matter-of-fact generosity.
Narrowed down my writing sample for my grad school app to three possible essays. I need to figure out if the longest one suits the requirements -- and be realistic about whether or not I can quickly lengthen the other ones.
Started a poem.  Something about astronauts and gravity and promises and love. My notes are scrawled all over the mirror in the bedroom. Gotta love whiteboard markers!
Planned meals for the week. I love having enough staples that I only need to pick up few things, having a stockpile of recipes we know we like, and having someone wonderful to cook for! Check out upcoming posts where I'll share a few of our favorite recipes.