Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Parasites, Trees, and Hobbies!

It has been forever, I know.  I’ll spare you my excuses and pick up where I left off... something about me living in the south.  This has been extremely apparent to me lately as I experience my second summer here in Parsons.  Last summer I was busy with my first year of marriage, dealing with my mom’s illness, trying to make some sort of friendships here in a new place.  This summer, I feel a little more free to actually live and experience new things.  And here are some new, “southern” things I have experienced this summer:  midges and giant ticks.  Midges are something I encountered for the first time on Monday.  I decided to take the dogs for a biking adventure at Big Hill lake.  When I got there, I discovered they don’t allow biking, so I had to hit the trail on foot.  I was instantly attacked by these obnoxious creatures. They look like a cross between a moth, a fly, and a mosquito...and they’re horribly annoying.  Apparently they’re usually in the swampier lands in the south, but sometimes they find themselves up here, annoying the heck out of people like me.  Giant ticks are also frustrating, but for a more disgusting reason.  We had ticks in NW Kansas when I was a kid, but they rarely got very large.  When it stopped raining out there, the ticks disappeared.  We went on a week trip to Colorado for a friend’s wedding in the beginning of June and left the dogs with Sam’s parents.  They love it out there.  They run and go completely native and come back with several of these pests embedded in their skin.  One day after we had returned, I was cleaning and saw something smeared on the floor. It looked like chocolate at first, but on further examination, I realized it was blood. I quickly checked Huckleberry for cuts and gashes, but found nothing.  A while later, there was more blood on the ground and I began to moderately freak out.  I checked Huckleberry again and again found nothing.  As I was cleaning up the blood, I swept something out of the way. It looked like a grey paintball after having all the paint squeezed out.  Then I noticed the legs. Ugh!  It was a tick that had fallen off of one of the dogs and then had been squashed!  I was so disgusted! It was the size of a dime and had been on my dog!  Over the course of the next few days, we found several more ticks on the dogs, including another dime-sized tick.  
Okay, enough of pests and parasites.  Let’s move on to storms!  The last week in May, we got hit with a decent storm.  Some time in the middle of the night I heard a huge thud that woke me up and seemed to shake the house. I assumed it sounded worse than it was because I was asleep.  I dismissed it and went back to sleep.  The next morning, we found this in our front yard:   

About one half of the neighbor’s tree broke off and slammed into our roof on its way down.  It really could have been a lot worse than it was, so we’ll consider ourselves lucky.  We are still dealing with insurance people and contractors to get the damage to our roof fixed.  We knew we needed a new roof anyway, so we may get one a couple of years earlier than we were expecting.
This next story isn’t really about living in the south.  It’s more about living on Earth, I think.  Anywhere you go, you’re bound to run into some interesting characters.  Granted, Parsons may have more than its fair share of these people, but everywhere has them. The other day, we were short on club soda at work, so they sent me to the store to buy some more.  I purchased every bottle they had and was lugging them back to my pickup when this interesting thing happened:  A couple left the store a minute before me and were each carrying a bag or two.  They looked pretty rough, but not too bad.  The guy was sporting a decent mohawk and the girl was wearing cut-off jean shorts and ratty hair.  As I made my way to my pickup, she handed the man the bag she was carrying and ducked behind a pickup.  She was blocked from my view, but the street had a clear shot of her, from what I remember.  She kind of shimmied, ducked down, and then a stream of water started pouring down onto the pavement.  This lasted several seconds.  She shimmied again while standing up, looked around, and ran to grab a bag from the man’s hands.  Now, either she was dumping an invisible bottle of water on the ground or she peed in the parking lot!  I was completely shocked.  To make things even better, as I’m getting into my pickup with about eleven 1 litre bottles of water, I accidently honk the horn.  They both whipped their heads around with startled looks on their faces, laughed, and kept walking.  I’m pretty sure she peed in the parking lot.  
Okay, enough gross/weird stories for the day.  I’ll change the subject.  Sam and I have been watching a lot of Cake Boss recently, which means all I want to do is make cakes now.  Luckily, a few of my friends/relatives have been paying me to do just that!  Here are a few of the cakes I’ve done recently:

I did this one for my Uncle Steve’s 54th birthday.  He loves the KC Chiefs and hates the Broncos, so my friend Stephen helped me out by making a scoreboard for my football field cake.  I filled this chocolate cake with whipped ganache.  I loved it!  I’ll be using that again.

Jodeci is a girl I worked with at Ernestos.  She decided to move to Texas for college so our friend Jordan ordered this cake.  It was a three-layer texas sheet cake in the shape of Texas, decorated with the Texas flag.  It was really fun to make!  And really fun to eat the leftover pieces I had to cut off.

I made this cupcake cake for my birthday at work. The decoration isn’t that great, but I had just got the awesome decorating tip to make grass and wanted to try it out.  And everyone at work loves cupcakes.

I made this several months ago for my cousin’s son’s birthday.  Sam and I are Atticus’ godparents. The blocks are a square version of the cake balls that are so popular right now.  They were good, but reeeeeally rich!

I made this cake for my friends Dawson and Sarah’s wedding.  The bottom layer was chocolate, the middle was white and the top was lemon poppyseed. This was my first multi-tiered cake.  It was scary and fun to make, and it was a great learning experience!

Other than dealing with those interesting things and making fun cakes, I’ve been working quite a bit and hanging out with people I like.  Last summer the natives assured me that it was abnormally hot and wouldn’t normally be like that.  This summer is just as hot, but somehow it seems a little better.  Maybe it’s the fact that we got a new air conditioner and our living room stays a comfy 72-74 degrees all the time now, or maybe I’m just getting used to being a southerner. Either way, I like life right now.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happiness, finally!

Just over two months have gone by since I last wrote.  November and December seemed to crawl by.  I think that’s one thing that heartbreak does to people.  I felt like I was stuck in mud, like I would never again be truly happy.  Thinking back on those two months, my memory is foggy and sluggish.  My last post was about waiting for my Messiah to come, knowing he would.  I’m not sure how I had as much faith as I did during those two months.  God has proven himself to me before, and this was the biggest test of our relationship by far, but somehow I knew he would pull through.  
Not long ago, our youth group was discussing Job and how he handled losing everything he cared about.  We asked the kids about how they would handle losing everything.  Most of them felt they would be okay, that losing their families, their homes, their livelihood (they’re in high school....they don’t have to worry too much about that part) wouldn’t change their faith or their outlook.  Even some of the leaders said things like this.  I couldn’t say anything.  I was on the edge of crying through the whole discussion.  I lost one person in my family and it shook me hard!  I know God is loving. I know he has the best in mind for us. But that he would take my mom away from us when she was so sure he would heal her was difficult to grasp.  I could explain it away saying “She was in so much pain, and so broken by cancer, taking her home was the most loving thing to do.”   And maybe that’s true.  But why didn’t he stop it before it got to that point?  She was completely convinced that cancer wouldn’t kill her, but it did.  I don’t know why she had to die.  I could go crazy asking myself why every day.  I suppose it boils down to the fact that being free from pain, disease, brokenness, and everything that isn’t the absolute *best* is the most loving thing.  God wants what’s best for us, and in the end, what’s best is for us to not be here anymore.  It hurts, but its true.  
So, November and December were pretty awful.  Toward the end of December, I felt less sad.  I wasn’t crying every day. I could hear someone say the word “mom” without losing it.  I still felt horribly sluggish.  I couldn’t get enough sleep (even getting 10-12 hours of sleep wasn’t enough!).  I assumed it was still just grief.  I think it was at least partly that, but there was something deeper making me exhausted.  I decided to go to the doctor and test my thyroid and see if that was the problem.  My thyroid tested normal.  So I got my hormones checked.  They were normal.  My doctor suggested insulin resistance might be an issue, so I got that tested, and she was right.  She started me on some medicine and I instantly felt better.  I fall asleep easier and more quickly, wake up easier and in a better mood, and have energy throughout the day.  I have lost about 5 lbs so far, I think, but I’ve been working out a lot too, so I’ve lost more fat and gained muscle.
I love not feeling exhausted and unhappy all the time.  I think it has helped my grief also.  I feel so much better about life in the last 5 weeks it is hard not to be happy and hopeful.  I still miss mom a lot.  I still feel like crying when I think about how much she’s going to miss in our lives and how much I miss hanging out with her and talking to her.  I even teared up typing that last sentence.  But mom was so full of life, laughter, and happiness, I can’t help but think that this is how she would want things.  After her mom died, mom talked about how she was sure Nana was still around.  There’s a verse in the Bible that says we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” and mom was sure Nana was in that cloud.  I feel like mom is a part of it too, and that makes me happy to feel happy right now.  
Anyway, I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking/baking lately.  We finally decided to get a new oven!  We bought it, installed it, and the electronics in that oven blew!  Luckily, we bought it at Sears, so they repaired it. It’s beautiful!  I baked in it for the first time last night.  So, hopefully soon I’ll post some of the new foods I’ll be able to make.  For now, you’ll have to settle for a picture of my new oven:

The other thing I’ve been doing lately, since I haven’t been baking and cooking as much, has been knitting.  My cousin and his wife are expecting their first baby, Atticus, in the next two weeks or so.  His nursery is navy blue, light blue, grey, and white with an elephant theme.  So, I decided to knit him a baby blanket.  It took me quite a while, but I just finished it this afternoon. Here’s the finished product:

I am pretty proud of how it turned out. I hope he’ll use it for a long time and totally wear it out.  I’m glad he’s going to be a part of our family.  I can’t wait to meet him and get to know him as he grows up.
Well, I guess that’s all for now.  My husband is taking me out for dinner tonight.  This is our second Valentines day together, and my second as a non-single, non-Valentines hating woman.  It is fun to have someone to be cheesy in love with.  I hope you guys have a good evening celebrating love in whatever form you decide.