Of Policemen and Freight Trains

Police Cars

Police Cars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I don’t understand about this state (county?) is the way policemen pull people over here. You would think a single officer would be sufficient for handling a single speeder, right? Yeah, so would I. But apparently you and I know nothing about the true danger these velocity-loving miscreants pose to peace-loving citizens everywhere. For it takes not one, not even two, but three policemen to handle one speeding ticket. I saw this riding home from work today and would have thought the situation must simply have been worse than it appeared except for the fact that this is standard practice. Nine times out of ten, a car pulled over on the side of the road is accompanied by at least two police cars.

Please help me out here–is there something I’m missing? Or is this just an odd feature of the county I live in? Maryland as a whole? Do you ever see this in your state (if you’re not a Maryland resident)? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On another note, I got to wait at the railroad crossing for a real live freight train today, not just a Marc train. Oh, what fun.

Eating Like a Family

One of the questions the interviewer asked during our IKEA home visit was, “How often do you have a formal, sit-down meal together?” What surprised me about this question was the way it was asked–the implication was that sitting down together for a meal was unusual enough to always be considered “formal.” When I responded that I wouldn’t consider it formal, but we eat supper at the table nearly every night (the only exception is when we might watch a movie while we eat on Friday night) and breakfast at the table every morning, she responded, “That is unusual today.”

Our mealtimes are scheduled and structured, and I think that’s a good thing. It gives us a time where we can focus on our food and our family. Our family of two may be small right now, but we’re trying to establish good habits for the future–habits of valuing our time together and taking advantage of the opportunities to get to know each other more. We were both blessed to grow up in families that made mealtimes a priority, and we want to provide that structure for any children God may give us as well.

When we were first married, I had no idea how to plan a meal, and my cooking experience was very limited. To help maintain my sanity, I bought a subscription to Aviva Goldfarb’s Six O’Clock Scramble, a weekly meal planning service. I had tried eMeals and a couple other services, but The Scramble was the first one I really felt comfortable with. The meals are easy, tasty, and healthy, and I love the layout of the recipes. I feel kind of like I’m part of Aviva’s family when I read the recipe intros! Even though the recipes were too large for a family of two, I loved having leftovers for other meals during the week.

I did let my subscription lapse as I became more accustomed to planning meals on my own, but what has lately caught my attention is The Scramble’s Family Dinner Challenge. The challenge is simple: commit to eating together as a family three times a week for the next four weeks. To help you in your commitment, Aviva will give you a free four-week membership to the Six O’Clock Scramble. That means you get a menu delivered to your inbox every Wednesday and full access to the database of past recipes so that you can mix and match your menu if something doesn’t fit your family’s fancy. What I think might be the coolest perk is that for just $10, she’ll add an extra 6 months to your membership. (At least that’s what it said in one of the followup emails I received.) Do you remember how I feel about the word “free”? The words “73% discount” mean a lot to me too, so I’m definitely planning to take advantage of that one.

A final note, because I guess people wonder about these things–I’m not receiving any sort of kick back for telling you about the Scramble or the Family Dinner Challenge. I’m speaking from my personal opinion and experience about a service that I think is fantastic and a challenge that I think is worth committing to.

Will you join me and take the challenge?

A Pleasant Dilemma

An IKEA Store along Alexandra Road in Queensto...

An IKEA Store along Alexandra Road in Queenstown, Singapore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we first moved to the area a year and a half ago, we’d been married over a year and were still sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Since that wasn’t really our longterm plan, we decided it was probably time to buy some furniture. We love do-it-yourself options, so after doing some research and finding one close by, we settled on IKEA as a reasonable option for basic, just-getting-started furniture.

This decision meant that one fine Saturday morning, we drove down to our local IKEA, and, after admiring the cool displays and agonizing over what to buy… we left with nothing because we couldn’t bear to spend the money. (Seriously, this is our modus operandi–plan all the cool things we’re going to buy and then leave with nothing but the money in our wallets.)

But have no fear! After talking it over more at home and doing more research, we finally decided for sure what we wanted to buy and went back armed with a list, the secret to frugal shopping. And then, I kid you not, due to IKEA’s amazingly compact packaging and my willingness to drive home with the seat as far forward as it would go, we stuffed our queen-sized bed (which I love), a double loft bed for the guest room, and two nightstands (similar to this one) into the back of our Honda Civic (not a big car, folks), and actually made it home alive.

Fast forward to this February when IKEA hosted an event called BYOF (Bring Your Own Friend) Day. We had recently moved into our new house and were looking for a few items to flesh out our still-anemic furniture collection, and IKEA was giving away free items for visiting their store; all you had to do was print out the coupons and bring a friend with you. Now, Jordan will tell you, the word “free” and I have a special relationship. I mean, we are tight. So when I saw the promise of free breakfast, free lunch, and free big, blue IKEA tote bags, I was sold. I was willing to fight the madding crowds to get in on the deal. Besides, we needed the furniture anyway, and since we’re best friends, the “bring a friend” bit was easily solved, too. (Is that cheating? I’d like to think not.)

So we braved the crowds. And we braved the IKEA employees asking customers to answer a survey. I tried to avoid them, but we were finally flagged down, and being the non-confrontational person that I am, I sat down to answer their questions.

Turns out they were “trying to get to know customers better” and looking for some families who would let them do a home visit where they would look at the home, take some measurements, and get ideas for future store sets. I didn’t think much more about it after that, thinking they probably wouldn’t pick us, but then last month I got a phone call saying we’d been selected for an IKEA home visit. And in return for our hospitality, we’d get a free $100 IKEA gift card. (Did I mention how I feel about the word “free”?)

So this past Monday, three nice young people invaded our home, asked us lots of questions about our living arrangements, measured some rooms, took pictures of our house and yard, gave us $100, and left. The nicest young people I’ve ever met. 😉

And now I get to the dilemma: how to use our new-found wealth. Jordan has been eying this chair since the first time we visited IKEA, but we’ve also been in the market for a storage solution for our book habit. Decisions, decisions.

What would you do if you’d been given $100 to spend at IKEA? Spend it on something fun? Something practical? Let me know in the comments–who knows, you just might influence our decision!

“I probably won’t get much exercise today…”

Yesterday we planned a trip for today to the bike shop, but since we have a never-ending list of house improvements and everyday chores, we had decided to drive instead of ride. So this morning, in the interest of getting my exercise in before it got pushed to the end of the day when it was too late, I went for a 3.5-mile run.

After I got home and showered and we had eaten breakfast, we decided, “Hey, let’s ride to the shop after all.” As Jordan said, we don’t get to ride together much since our offices are in opposite directions, and it really was a beautiful day for a ride. So we rode 9 miles to the shop (it’s very close to my office) and then took a little walk on the local college campus while we waited for our fenders and Jordan’s bike rack to be installed.

We found two large trees whose shade we enjoyed as we ate the small lunch we’d brought with us. Then we lay down in the grass and just talked and enjoyed the lovely day and each other’s company, and we realized how much we need sometimes to just stop–take a break from our constant busyness and just be together. We finished our lazy hour by visiting a sandwich shop neighboring the bike shop, where Jordan treated us to a shared Oreo milkshake. (The shake had an interesting hint of a flavor that I described as “sort of like some kind of vegetable,” but it was cold and sweet, so we enjoyed it nonetheless.)

Then we picked up our bikes and rode the 9 miles home, where we discovered that one of the cats had managed to pull the runner for our bay-window drapes out of the ceiling… So I think we’re going to put up blinds instead since the ceiling appears not to be sturdy enough for the drapes. (*sigh*)

Our final task of the day I’ll share in pictures, but first a little explanation.

Whoever owned the house before us landscaped with flower beds (presumably–they’re weed beds now) all around the house. While a nice idea in theory, in practice they were a bad idea: the aforementioned homeowners had built up the flower beds to the point that they were trapping water around the house’s foundation and causing it to deteriorate.

So the plan is to tear out these flower beds and fill them in with sand, topped with gravel/stone and tile (for a decorative touch) to promote better water flow. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a “before” picture, but here are some “in process” pictures:

The flower beds were held in by walls made from these boards. The ones that are in decent shape we hope to use to repair the rotting retaining wall on the back of our garden.

The once and future retaining wall

The once and future retaining wall

Some of them, though were horribly rotted, making it extremely difficult to get leverage to remove the nails holding the wall together.

Not much left of this one.

Not much left of this one.

We had to split some of the boards to get the nails out. (Getting all the nails out was a necessary step for properly disposing of the wood.)

Jordan hard at work.

Jordan hard at work.

While Jordan finished up with the nails I wasn’t strong enough to remove, I started shoveling out the dirt.

Just getting started!

Just getting started!

I made decent progress on it (didn’t take a picture when we were done), and then it was suppertime and we were tired and sunburned, so we stopped for the evening. I’ll try to share more pictures when it’s done.

And now, just for kicks, a picture of our lovely backyard + garden that has been sadly neglected.

A bumper crop of weeds this year, I think.

A bumper crop of weeds this year, I think.

The Trouble With…

Tonight I will quote Ronald Reagan:

The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

My take: Anyone who believes a thing only as it is explained to him without examining and understanding for himself the facts available to him is only fooling himself when he thinks he truly knows the thing.

That is all.

Torticollis

It began last Monday morning at work. I hadn’t done anything unusual; I hadn’t even ridden my bike to work that morning. But suddenly I realized my neck hurt when I turned my head to the right. It felt rather like I had slept on it poorly the night before, so even though I hadn’t noticed it that morning when I woke up, I assumed it would pass. I tried to stretch it some throughout the day and hoped that the next day would be better.

Instead of getting better, though, the pain got worse. Tuesday I woke up sore and stiff after a fitful night of trying to ignore the pain in my neck. Turning my head more than a little bit to the right caused a sharp pain in my neck and upper back. It was beginning to feel more like a pinched nerve than sore muscles. But I decided to tough it out and even did my bike commute.

Then I woke up Wednesday, and I could not lift my head off the pillow. The slightest motion sent pain shooting through my neck, and by this point it had spread to the base of my skull. There was no question that something was seriously wrong and that I had to see a doctor.

Using Angie’s List, I found a chiropractor with good reviews and then sat and waited for the office to open so I could call to make an appointment. Fast forward to 3:00 that afternoon, the first available appointment. (I spent most of the day sitting on the couch reading The Onion and trying not to move, if you’re interested…) As I sat in the waiting room filling out my medical history and making as little movement as possible, I thought to myself, “I sure hope the doctor knows what’s wrong and how to fix it.” I felt like a cripple and had visions of being semi-paralyzed for the rest of my life.

When I finally made it to the examination room (dragging Jordan along with me), the nurse told me my blood pressure was high, but that if I was in pain, my readings could be higher. Um, yes. Then the doctor arrived, and I explained my symptoms and the fact that it had happened without any warning or apparent provocation. When I finished, he immediately responded with “torticollis.” The only other time I’d heard of torticollis was Rooney’s. So my first thought was, “Isn’t that something babies get?” followed by, “Surely this doctor is confused.” The more he described it, though, and the more questions I asked, the more convinced I was that he was right. And then I wanted to cry tears of relief because he knew; he understood. He even said he’d experienced it himself.

“Torticollis” literally means “twisted neck,” from the Latin tortus, “twisted,” and collum, “neck.” My chiropractor said in my case it was likely caused by temperature: when the days are warm and we have our fans running at night, the contrast of the cold air at night can cause the muscles to seize up. Since mine occurred during the work day, we determined a possible cause was the air conditioning vent directly over my desk. When the muscle seizes up like that, the chiropractor described it as being something like catching a cold or a virus, and that in this case the “cure” was heat and stimulation to force the muscle to relax.

After electrical muscle stimulation (on an extremely low setting because of the intense pain!), a neck massage, and a chiropractic adjustment, I was not in perfect health, but I had regained a significant amount of mobility. I survived helping in the nursery at church that night, although there was a moment my muscles gave way while I was holding a child… But don’t worry, I didn’t let go! (After that confession they’ll never let me work in the nursery again.)

After the same treatment Thursday and today, I’m feeling very nearly back to normal, with only a slight twinge of pain when I turn my head as far as I can to the right. I go back to the chiropractor again on Thursday, at which point I’m hoping this will be nothing more than a painful memory.

Three Years

Dear Jordan,

Purple for our wedding colors, lilies for my bouquet.

Purple for our wedding colors, lilies for my bouquet.

When first you came into my life, I wasn’t sure what to think of you. You seemed so square, so immovable. I wanted to be vibrant and free. As I got to know you better, your thoughtfulness, intelligence, and insight drew me in. I met your parents and began to suspect I wanted to be part of your family. I spent even more time with you and uncovered your sometimes dry and sometimes goofy sense of humor that meshed so well with my own. I grew to appreciate your quiet strength that supported me when my exuberance sometimes gave way to melancholy. My heart began to grow with yours.

Three years ago today I married you. We promised each other the best of our lives, the rest of our lives’ remaining years. And we continue to grow together. Sometimes through pain, sometimes through joy, but always through love. The man I once could not imagine being with became the man I can’t imagine being without.

I love you, always.

Surviving a Busy Life: Schedules

English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway stati...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A major aspect of the recent difficulties I mentioned yesterday was the fact that our schedule has been out of whack ever since we moved in December. It’s always hard to get back into a routine after moving, and that fact compounded with the numerous repairs our house needed/still needs meant things have been extremely seat-of-the pants lately.

And I thrive with a schedule. I like knowing exactly when something needs to happen and how I should be spending my time. Otherwise I will find myself deep in the bushes when I should be washing dishes. (Not that it doesn’t happen with a schedule; it’s just harder to justify wasting time when your minutes are allocated.)

So last night over supper we re-created our evening routine, wrote it down, and stuck it with a magnet to the fridge. We can talk all we want about how we need to do better with our time, but if it’s not on paper in a prominent place, it doesn’t happen.

Something different we did this time was include time approximations with each task. Times may vary, of course, but here’s what our evenings look like with rough time estimates: Continue reading

Farther Along

Yesterday and today were trying days for me. I’m thankful for a patient, loving husband who sticks with me when I’m being difficult and who helps me by reminding me of things that I know are true.

I’m also thankful for a God who does the same. Due to the thunderstorms today and the lack of good rain gear for biking, I took the bus to work. That gave me time to listen to some music; this song came up first on my playlist and was a big encouragement to me. (I discovered as I was researching the song that in March the artist was giving away 5 albums for free on NoiseTrade. So bummed I missed it!)

 

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves ’em both
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I’ve seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin’ that line back home

So much more to life than we’ve been told
It’s full of beauty that will unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
And wash away all the things you’ve done
Forgiveness alright

Chorus

Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin’ for my soul
And I’ve got no place left go
Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin’ on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I’m free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I’ll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the son of god is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we’re the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon

Chorus

from Love & War & The Sea In Between

Dear Clover

I used to like clover. I enjoyed the pretty white and purple flowers and would spend more than a little time searching for the lucky four-leaves. I even ate the purple clover. (The white ones don’t taste as nice.) Then I decided to tackle this:

I'm looking over a patch of clover

I’m looking over a patch of clover

See, at some point in the past, our lawn has been landscaped, and there was a patch of something in a circle in the front yard. Since I didn’t know what it was, I decided to let things grown until I could clearly tell what needed to be pulled and what needed to stay.

The blight of our front yard

The blight of our front yard

Last weekend I decided it was probably clear enough what needed to stay that I could start pulling weeds. After a couple hours of pulling, I had made some progress, but I was starting to realize the magnitude of my task.

Making progress

Making slow progress

See, what I didn’t realize was that clover roots are a veritable network of misery beneath their pretty surface. (Pull up a clover plant by its roots sometime; you’ll see what I mean.) In other words, it was not easy to pull, and its roots ended up being so intertwined with everything else that I ended up pulling up all my wildflowers too because of the hassle of trying to keep everything separate.

On the bright side, I discovered I have lovely, dark, rich soil.

Love that color!

Love that color!

Three afternoons of weed pulling later, I did eventually manage to get it all cleared out. (I also pulled up three maple saplings in the process that had volunteered to grow in the middle of my flower patch.)

Finally done! (Until next year...)

Finally done!

A few days later, I witnessed the reward for my hard work.

One of my favorite flowers!

One of my favorite flowers!

Well, hello there!

Well, hello there!

In the end, it was worth it. I guess I don’t hate you anymore, clover. At least not until next year.

Have any great gardening tips or stories? I welcome them in the comments!