Sunday, September 30, 2007

Urban Grit

Ben and I live in uber yuppy suburbia. There are 3 malls within driving distance. Houses are being built everywhere. We are living where everyone else wants to live. Yet, ee don't really want to live here. It's nice for the convenience and the safety, but the cookie cutter quality of everything drives us both nuts. But we are here for now.

I do have to say that we have one of the most amazing grocery stores near our apartment. This grocery plays classical music, has dim lighting and employs a sushi chef. It has a great selection of (non-local grrr...) organic produce and tons of health food items. This store makes grocery shopping relaxing. I love shopping there. Until I get the bill and pass out. But that's besides the point.

There is a grocery store near the urban church we attend that is completely different. Ben and I went there once. We walked in and noticed two very odd things about the store. 1. The shelves are mostly EMPTY and 2. There are no checkout lanes. You had to pay at the counter where you get the cigarettes. There was Spanish pop music blaring over the speakers and it looked like the sort of place where drugs would be sold right out in the open. I mean the porn was, why not the drugs? I thought for sure someone would walk in with a gun. I had decided right then and there that if anyone looked at me funny I was going to throw my pop in the air, scream and run out. That's my new defense, create chaos and run. I think it might work... anyway, this grocery store makes you relax when you make it out alive.

The neighborhoods from where we live and where we worship are obviously very different. We met a guy last night who claims he went to jail because the police made him kill a man. I'm not sure how much, if any of that story is true, but you don't really hear that conversation next to the soy milk at the grocery store near here.

It's hard and it's easy to live here. It's easy to get comfortable and fit in here. And it's hard because I'm not ever comfortable. I keep thinking we have too much stuff, all while wanting more. I keep trying to remind myself to save electricity, we have friends who can't pay for it. I want to stay here because it's safe, but I can't wait to move to the city because I love it. I love the people and the culture and the rawness of the city. I have no idea how to relate to the people, and no idea how to help them, but I feel called and I can't wait until Ben and I really get to serve there.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

How we didn't die

Last night Ben and I went for a moonlight bike ride on one of the local bike paths. We had never done one of these before but my mom kept telling me how neat they were. Since it was the end of the month and we had already spent our entertainment budget, we figured a bike ride was free and a good idea! However, we had to get lights for the front and back of our bikes. Our original plan was to buy cheap flashlights and tape them on. But once we got to the store the shiny bike lights were calling to us and we were weak and bought them. Don't look at me like that. I'd like to see you turn down a shiny, flashing bike light. You can't do it. Also, we needed a water bottle. So our free dated ended up costing us some money. But can you really put a price on memories? Or exercise? Apparently you can and it's $35.48.

We pulled into the park parking lot with another group of people with bikes. I was kind of excited that there would be other people on the trail that didn't look like serial killers. Not that Ben looks like a serial killer, I just figured that my odds of surviving a serial killer attack increased with the number of people I had to out run to live. But they weren't going on a full moon ride. They were picking up their car from their bike ride earlier in the day. They were surprised we were starting our bike ride in the dark, but that's just how we roll. We are dangeresque.

Once we got started, we realized that we really should have taken the other trail that wasn't wooded. The moon doesn't help you on the wooded trail. The wooded trail is just dark and provides lots of places for things to hide and jump out at you. I wasn't afraid so much of people, although I kept thinking that us riding along singing Bicycle Race by Queen would be a great opening to a horror movie. One were we died a horrible bloody death. But that didn't worry me too much, because I know the type of people who live out where we were riding and they aren't so much the chainsaw murderers as they are the jack up their pickups and go squirrel hunting type of people. I was, however, afraid of dogs. I have an irrational fear of dogs and coyotes. I kept picturing a pack of dogs running beside us, us peddling for our lives and then getting eaten. I have a vivid imagination. My fear of dogs was not helped by my trip to India where packs of dogs really do attack people and where we almost got attacked by a very mean looking dog.

BUT! Back to the bike ride. After awhile of not getting attacked by dogs, I relaxed a little and began to enjoy the trip. It was pretty neat. The moon was brilliant. The night sounds were relaxing. The weather was great. Did you know that spider's eyes look like green diamonds when you shine lights in them in the dark? Did you also know that there are about a million spiders out at night? The trail just glittered as our lights caught their eyes. It was cool in a I-hope-I-don't-fall-in-the-grass sort of way. The trip was going well until I almost ran over an animal with my bike. Yes an animal! An animal ran out in front of us and I almost hit it! I think it was a possum, which are mean if you corner them. Have you ever seen a mad possum? It will give you nightmares. So after our almost encounter with an animal we decided to turn around. Also, my hands were cold and numb.

Soon after we turned around we realized that our shiny new lights came with cheap, cheap batteries and our headlights were dying. Crap. So we peddled faster and hoped we didn't run into anything. And we almost did. A man walking on the trail at night. By himself. Creepy. Peddle faster.

We made it back to the parking lot safe and sound. Ben and I were strapping the bikes on to the car when we heard some cats fighting and turned to see the creepy man from the trail walking towards us. Ahh! Ben handed me the keys and told me to wait in the car. As the man approached Ben I was trying to figure out if I could back the car over the creepy guy without hitting Ben if I needed to. I know! My mind! It overreacts!

Ben started talking to the guy and it turns out he wasn't creepy! Well maybe a little. But we freaked him out just as much as he did us. He saw our lights side-by-side on the trail and was convinced a car was driving on the bike trail and was going to run him over! He was relieved that it was just us riding our bikes at night.

Our bike ride was a lot of fun, and a little adventurous. I think the next time I would rather ride on a non-wooded trail and get better batteries. But it was a good time and was way better than just renting a movie. Although, that would have been cheaper....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Watch out for the tomatoes too...

Have I ever mentioned how much I love our new dishes? I just love them. The dishes are White by Denby. I love white dishes. They just make food stand out and look so pretty. White makes dinner all HELLLLLOOOOOO FOOOOOOODDDDDD!!!! Tonight I made a salad and I thought it was so pretty that I took a picture of it. Here, I'll share it with you:

See what I mean? Didn't that salad just just jump out at you and scream EAT ME! in your face? It's surprising how radishes do that to a salad. There really are one of the more brazen of the salad toppings....

I picked these dishes because I want to have people over and make them food and have them eat off of these plates. And this weekend I get to do just that! My First! Ever! Dinner! Party! Since I've been married anyway. Ben's siblings and their special someones are coming over for dinner on Saturday. I get to show off my mad cooking skillz for everyone. Which probably means ordering pizza. But! We will eat it on pretty white dishes!

We are also going to a corn maze which I am more excited about than I probably should be.

A dinner party and a corn maze! Life doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How about the cost of the bread?

Things have been busy. Some things have been funny but personal. Others have been sad and personal and others have just been personal. But mostly everything has been tiring. It's been a tired week.

Which probably explains the following story:

Last night I had gotten back from an evening of errands and grocery shopping (which I HATE with a burning passion of a thousand hateful things). I informed Ben that I had gone over our grocery budget by $16 this month and that we are just going to have to eat what we have. That butternut squash we've been avoiding? Have to eat it! Soup that we don't like? Have to eat it! I also commented that I wasn't sure how to grocery shop on a budget.

And then cried, "And I BOUGHT THE WRONG SIZE BOX OF CHEERIOS!!!" While banging it against the cupboard over and over, trying to make it fit. My logic at that moment was dizzying.

Ben took the box from me and asked, "well were the Cheerios on sale?"

"Umm... I forgot to check. I was kind of speed-shopping."

"Well that's one way to NOT shop on a budget."

And then my head burst into flames and my eyes popped out. I think there was some yelling and some slamming of things and some threatening to "ONLY BUY KROGER-BRAND CEREAL BECAUSE IT'S ALWAYS ON SALE!" And then I think I began to pull things out of the grocery bags and comment on if they were on sale or not. "THE KIWIS WEREN'T ON SALE. CAN WE EAT THOSE? HOW ABOUT THESE BEANS? I THINK I PAID 2 CENTS TOO MUCH FOR THEM." I was winning Ben's heart all over again!

Ben just kind of stared at me in amazement and quietly said, "It was a joke. It's not a big deal. That's why I said it. I don't care if you spent an extra dollar on the cheerios." All while backing away from me slowly.

And then I realized he didn't mean it and I was overreacting and ha! wasn't this funny now? Let's laugh at ourselves! Except Ben still doesn't find it funny. He thinks I am still mad and refuses to joke about it. Maybe that's wise.

But I did buy Kroger-brand granola bars. I did do SOME price comparisons. I had one in my lunch today and it was not good. It tasted like an apple cinnamon explosion in my mouth. Kind of like an apple cinnamon starburst. With a hint of granoloa. Only I didn't want an apple cinnamon starburst granola bar. I wanted a granola bar with a slight hint of apple and cinnamon. Needless to say the cheap granola bars are a big let down.

So, the lesson from this is that I will only buy Ben Kroger-brand cereal if he makes me really, really mad.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A post in which I ramble

People frequently ask me how I like married life. I generally respond with something along the lines of, "very much, we have a lot of fun together and laugh a lot." This seems like an appropriate response and it's true. One of Ben's co-workers once made the comment that she wasn't too sure marriage was all that great which just kind of seems like it would make the conversation awkward and sad. Anyway, a surprisingly number of people act surprised that I enjoy being married and that we have fun. Because you know, that's why I got married. To be miserable. These people generally laugh and say something along the lines of "just wait 5 years, you won't have fun then." And what I want to know is WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT? Why would you tell some newly married person that they are destined to be miserable? I mean even if you had a horrible marriage, shouldn't you just let that newlywed stay blissfully innocent? Do they think that this warning is going to help me? I mean shouldn't a warning like that come BEFORE you pledge the rest of your life to someone? Isn't after you say I do a little too late to be handing out that kind of advice? But I digress...

I think Ben I will have fun our whole marriage. That's our goal anyway. I mean we don't really fight. Well that's not true. We only fight when Ben goes out of his way to push my buttons. And he does. I mean why else would do things like leave all the blinds drawn when he leaves for work? BECAUSE IT DRIVES ME NUTS. That's why. But me, I am a great wife who never pushes Ben's buttons. Ben is lucky to be married to me.

We didn't fight very much when we were dating either. I can think of 3 times we fought in the 2 years we dated. And one of those times was because Ben thought I was checking out these two guys when really I was just trying to figure out if they were gay. That was a pleasant night. I am guessing that there is something frustrating about spending time with someone you might want to marry while they spend the whole night looking over at the two guys across the restaurant. But I'm just guessing there. Because of that night we can't eat at Cracker Barrel anymore, which is fine because I don't really like the food, the decor, or the store, so it really wasn't that big of a loss. Now if we had fought at Chipotle, which we both love, we would have had to work through our feelings and just sucked it up and continued to eat there. Because the Guac! And the Burritos! And the hip music! How could we give that up? But as it is we fought at Cracker Barrel and now it's dead to us. Dead.

I've taken on a new strategy for our fights. If I can say a word or a series of words (which I guess would be called a phrase), that Ben doesn't know, then I win. So far I have won three arguments this way. I'm not sure this strategy has staying power though because I am pretty sure that I've used up all the words that I know the meanings to and Ben doesn't. Ben's also taken Greek, and while I think it would be fighting dirty, he could totally trounce me in an argument with that skill. But we have an agreement not to fight dirty, so I am probably safe.

This is now probably the most rambly post ever. I should close and since there is no way to tie all those thoughts together in a closing statement, I will leave you with this. A hot picture of Ben:

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I've started looking for a job in Kentucky. Why didn't you people tell me that this kind of stuff was exhausting? I mean really, this isn't so much fun. Part of the problem is that the jobs I've applied for I'm not really excited about. I'm qualified for them, but they would put me much further into a career path I really don't want to take and I'm not sure stabbing my eyes out with a pen is a professional move. I would like a job that excites me and that I am passionate about. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there are any jobs out there for blogging urban planning event managers. But if you know of one... send it my way.

The other problem is that we found out how much we will have pay for Ben's surgeries. Now I feel like I HAVE to find a job before we move. This hospital seems to want to be paid... and I agree that they deserve to be paid... we just don't have that much money....

This isn't how I pictured our marriage starting. This summer was supposed to be the easy months. The coasting months. The time when we were both working and could save money and pay off some school loans. We'd move to Kentucky in the fall and get settled there. We knew things would be rough... but not until after school. Ministry would be tough. We knew that. We were ok with that but this took us by surprise.

And yet, it's ok. We'll be ok. Things will work out because God's going to provide some way. I wish He would provide in a large check made out to the hospital but it's more likely that He will provide in helping us pay our bills over the coming months and years. And maybe that's what we need. Maybe being financially free now isn't what's best for us. Maybe it'll keep us on our knees. Maybe it'll keep us humble. Maybe it'll help us treasure what really matters.

Maybe this really is just one big blessing....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fat man in a little car

My parents are pretty active in the local Miata club. My mom and I were talking about their regular meetings:

Mom: What do you think about a Drive and Hike? We can meet at some park and have a picnic.

Me: Sounds ok.

Mom: We are trying to get younger Miata drivers to join our group. I'm not sure our Drive and Dines are doing that.

Me: I think there is a Miata club in Kentucky.

Mom: Yeah, they meet at bars.

Me: Well that's how you attract younger owners. Have Drink and Drives.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wedding celebration

I've never actually written about our wedding celebration. Oh my goodness was it fun! Like so much fun it should be illegal. We celebrated like crazy; we had a lot to celebrate. Our wedding. Ben was alive still. My mom was alive still and not only alive but walking and had hair! It was time to celebrate! And so we did. With dancing and friends and lots of laughter. I have never danced that much and meant it in my life! I loved our reception. Here are some pictures:

Bryan and Emily being all cute.

My parent's being all cute.

Ben and I being all whatever we are. In love?

My brother and sister. Bryan is quite the dancer.

More dancing.

Me watching Ben "bust a move".

Ben and I being cute. (Just be glad I left out the kissy pictures, ok?)

Oh how we had fun! God answered my prayer for a fun reception. The people who worked at the banquet hall even commented that they hadn't seen people celebrate like us before. Like I said, we had a lot to celebrate.

To end, here's a video of Ben and I cutting the cake. Ignore the fact that's it's like a baby cake, a wedding cake in training if you will. It looked bigger in the store, ok? I didn't think it would look so tiny on a mirror and a giant table.


And maybe not. I was going to load a video, but it didn't work out so well. Instead here's a picture of Ben and I getting out of the car at the reception hall. Much cooler and you don't get to make fun of my cupcake of a wedding cake.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On why my day was soooo productive

10:45 - Computer mouse freezes, followed by the keyboard

10:53 - Have restarted computer 2 times

10:59 - IT guy shows up with new keyboard

11:00 - Explain there is something wrong with the computer, not the keyboard

11:01 - Get blue screen of death with the phrase "fatal system error"

11:13 - Leave to run errands

11:43 - Park at 30 min meter downtown

11:51 - Get copy of marriage certificate to change name

11:53 - Decide not to feed the meter because it'll be real quick

11:54 - Joke with the security guard. They take my phone.

11:55 - Presented with 4 options to sign in at social security office: 1. Have an appointment, 2. Social Security benefits, 3. Lost card, 4. Other reasons.

11:56 - Choose option 4 and get assigned number A186

11:57 - Realize I didn't bring my birth certificate or social security card. Hope I don't need them. Try to call Ben to see if he could look it up. Realize that security has my phone.

12:01 - Ask another couple there if they think I need my social security card. They think I do and should fill out that form on that table over there.

12:06 - Number A185 is called. Rush to finish form

12:08 - Finish form as A186 is called.

12:09 - Get told that I selected the wrong option when I signed in and was waiting in the wrong line. Get re-queued. Also get told that all I need is my drivers license and marriage certificate. Not sure if I believe her.

12:12 - Parking meter runs out. Decide to go feed it.

12:13 - Explain to security that they can keep my phone - I'll be right back.

12:15 - Go through security again. This time they take my mace. Decide I don't have that much stuff and should not keep going though security.

12:17 - Get back in waiting room. Hope that they didn't call my name.

12:19 - Notice all the interesting people. Government offices bring all of us together no matter how rich or poor. How nice.

12:20 - Watch some lady get really frustrated with waiting. She sighs loudly and crumbles up her number, slams it in the trash can and storms out. The rest of us hope that means we can get to the window sooner.

12:25 - Start to worry that my meter is going to run out again. Wonder how much a parking ticket would be. Decide it is probably more than the $4 parking lot I passed up for street parking.

12:30 - Lunch break ends and 3 more office workers show up.

12:31 - The couple who suggested the form to fill out gets called.

12:33 - The couple gets frowned upon because she's not a US citizen and didn't bring the correct paperwork. They are told to wait some more.

12:36 - The lady calls 190. Then 191. Then 192. Someone gets excited until they realize that they hold A192. The lady calls 192 again, I think just to be cruel. Then 193. She then stops calling numbers for a while.

12:38 - The lady calls my name.

12:40 - My name is officially changed. There is no fanfare or cheers. It is decidedly anticlimactic.

12:42 - My meter runs out.

12:44 - Get ignored by the guard who has my cell phone

12:45 - Still get ignored by the guard. See a police officer checking the meters near my car.

12:46 - Rudely and loudly ask for my phone. Get mace as well.

12:47 - Run outside, jaywalk and get in car before the officer gets to my car.

12:48 - Leave with a new name and no ticket. Success!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

How to make a long day longer

Or how to make the most frustrating skillet meal ever.

1. Start with a long day. Preferably one where you get home late and start cooking dinner after 6, you know, that time when you normally EAT dinner.

2. Start with this recipe:

Mexican Vegetarian Skillet Dinner

Serves 6

6 cups peeled and cubed russet potatoes

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 cup green bell pepper, seeded, de-ribbed and chopped

5 cloves garlic, pressed

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

3/4 cup frozen whole kernel corn

1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives

3 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips or "noodles"

3/4 cup shredded low fat Cheddar cheese

Sour Cream, for garnish-OPTIONAL

Fresh cilantro, chopped-OPTIONAL

Cook potatoes in water for about 7 minutes; drain and set aside. Potatoes should be firm, not mushy and not hard.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat; saute onion, bell pepper and garlic until onion is translucent.

Add cooked/drained potatoes to onion mixture and continue to cook until potatoes are tender. Add cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Stir for about a minute, then add tomatoes, corn, olives and tortilla "noodles"; reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, add cheese and garnish with chopped cilantro and sour cream, if desired. Serve.

3. Ignore the ingredients you don't have like corn and cheese. Also ignore the ingredients you don't know what they are, like, Kalamata Olives.

4. Peel potatoes. Ignore the fact that the recipe called for cubed potatoes and just cut them in large chunks. Drop several chunks on the floor and want to cuss.

5. Cook potatoes.

6. Chop up other veggies. Also drop some of these on the floor.

7. Forget about your new large skillet and cook veggies until the onions are clear in your smallish skillet.

8. Add cooked potatoes and cumin, salt and pepper. Realize 4 things:
1. the skillet is still way too small.
2. the recipe called for six CUPS of potatoes. Not six POTATOES.
3. the recipe called for five cloves of garlic. You added one. And one more at this point.
4. that this recipe is only spiced with cumin and salt and pepper and will probably taste like cooked butt.

9. Tell Husband that dinner probably won't turn out and he should eat out.

10. Add tomatoes (fresh not canned because...ewww), and tortilla strips.

11. Cook for 5 minutes to create the most bland Mexican dish ever. Also, have no idea how or willpower to want to spice it up.

12. Survey the small, messy kitchen.

13. Toss bland crap out.

14. Let kind husband make you a sandwich.

15. Eat on couch while watching bad T.V.

In conclusion: don't make this recipe. It's not so good.

Monday, September 03, 2007

New Couch!

Ben and I bought a new couch this weekend. Finally!!! I hate the couch we have. It's old, ugly, small and falling apart. The new couch is new, pretty, brown (yea!), comfy, big enough without being too big and not falling apart. We'll get it in 6-8 weeks (sad).

I am happy with the couch we bought. It was in our price range, as opposed to the other couches we liked that cost over $1,000. It's what I had pictured our new couch looking like. I like the couch, I do not like the sales guys we bought it from.

When I spend hundreds of dollars on something that I am going to use for years and years and years, I want to not only like the item I am buying, but also the person I am buying it from. When I was mattress shopping I knew I would not buy a mattress from Morris Furniture because of that rude sales lady. The creepy guy at Ashely furniture made up my mind about their mattresses. The friendly and informative sales guy at Original Mattress Factory not only had a good product to sell, but doing business with him was good as well. He got my sale.

I wish we could have bought a couch from the local department store. The sales guy there did a great job of explaining what to look for in a quality couch without pushing any particular model he was selling. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford the quality they provided.

We bought our couch from Chris. He wasn't very helpful, but wasn't pushy either, so I could overlook that. My buyers remorse set in after driving home and realizing that the cost of the warranty was more than what he had quoted us.

I called Chris up to see about getting the price adjusted. Not only was he not helpful, he was downright rude. The difference is only $20, and we probably would have purchased the warranty anyway, but it really frustrated me that he treated me the way he did. I ended the call by explaining I was unhappy with the situation and hung up on him. I know that was childish, but I couldn't be on the phone with him one second longer. I wasn't going to fight too hard over $20 so I considered the conversation over.

I am happy we bought the couch, I just wish we had bought it from some other sales rep. From one I would have liked. Because for the next ten years I don't want to sit on my couch and remember Chris and that $20.