Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Relationship with Online Dating

When I first became so desperate that I resorted to online dating to finding a life match, I was very embarrassed about it.  I remember the night I finally decided to do it.  It was a dark, cold night over Christmas break years ago and we had just finished a warm and filling dinner and I'd had an emotional amount of wine (I tend to get a little weepy if I have a few glasses), I tearfully told my dad that I thought I'd never find anyone and I'd better take matters into my own hands.  I signed up for eHarmony the next day.  It was exciting and scary all at the same time.  At this point, I can't even remember how many times I've been on eHarmony and then Match, when I realized eHarmony was slow and cumbersome, and wasted a LOT of my time and energy communicating with people who I realized I wasn't interested in as soon as we got to open communication, which took weeks.  Match is a lot freer and more open, so you can talk to people much sooner and therefore, weed them out faster. 

I've been using these sites on and off since 2010 and have had 3 boyfriends for a total of 17 months in that time.  I've probably spend a quality amount of the remaining 31 months (minus the months that I took to heal my heart) looking for my next heartbreak.  I don't even want to know how much I've spent on these services over the years and how much school work or housework I could be getting done in the time I'm spending online.  It's always a relief to find someone so that I can cancel my subscription, it's always a sign of commitment to the relationship for me.    

My friend Al is currently applying for a new job and she's sending out 3-5 applications a week.  I decided that finding a husband should be treated like a job search, so I've been staying up late the last few weeks sifting through men on match, liking, winking and emailing.  My goal is to send an email a day.  I've been pretty consistent on this.  The only way to get noticed is to put yourself out there, so I've been very active.  It is exhausting though!  I spend a lot of time and energy on my emails.  I structure my email like a letter with a greeting and opening sentence and ending with a quality salutation and my first name.  The email itself includes comments about things they've mentioned in their profiles, questions about things they're interested in and my thoughts on some of those topics.  They're typically only 3 short paragraphs (I don't want to overwhelm them), but I put a lot of thought into them.  Half of them go unread, and I probably only get responses from 1 person a week, when I'm sending out 5-8 emails in that time.  It is so disheartening.  If I do get an email from a guy, it is often not an actual email.  They treat it like a text or instant messaging.  It's called email; I expect them to put forth the effort to greet me, construct full sentences and then sign off with their name.  It's common courtesy and respect. 

I have lots of great pictures showing all of my interests.  I don't have any bathroom or car selfies, no pictures with ex-boyfriends cropped out and I'm smiling in each one of them.  I send out many more points of contact than I receive in any given week and most of the time the ones I receive I'm decidedly not interested in.  I've had friends and family members look over my profile, including a few of my friends' husbands.  They all say it looks great, I just don't know what else to do! 

I'm always asking older people I know if they know anyone who might be compatible with me, and they always say they wish they did, but they don't.  Last winter, I emailed a lot of couples that I used to be friends with, asking them to introduce me to eligible young men that they knew.  It was great to hang out with people I rarely see and meet their friends, but I wound up not being interested in any of them.  A great idea, but ultimately a failure, although I did have several really fun nights!

I've also become more picky as well.  Religion has been a point of issue in my last two relationships, so I've been vetting that a bit more, but I don't want to invest in someone only to find out a few months down the road that they would prefer to never pray with me and won't ever think about going to church with me. 

So, there is no recourse other than to keep hunting, being open in my social life and setting up dates with the ones who do email me back.  All of this has to be done without letting confidence take a hit every time I don't hear back from someone I'm really interested in, which can be hard when I'm home for the fourth weekend in a row after a week that I stayed up until 11:30 every night sending a total of 10 emails, all unanswered.  Nothing to do but keep living and looking.   

Thursday, October 30, 2014

the Importance of Balance

As today was potentially the last fine fall day we will have and as I'm still shying away from high-impact activities (cough-running-cough-cough) to give my legs a proper rest, I decided that one 25 mile bike ride this week did not suffice and that I needed another one tonight. Grades were due yesterday and I feel like I've been running non-stop for the past two weeks and early in the week I designated this evening as the one I'd spend finishing the bottle of wine I opened earlier this week and resting my leggies on the recliner.  A few things changed: I went for a ride, and I have much more wine left than I can responsibly drink on a school night.  :)

Although it was fine bike-riding weather, there were very few people out on the trail today.  Biking is a rough sport in the chilly weather: you have to dress like its 10-20 colder than it is.  So, even though it was 53 when I left the house, I probably looked like I was dressed for winter, complete with fleece-lined tights, heavy-duty socks and windproof gloves!  I was perfectly comfortable until about 6:45, when the sun started setting and the temperature dropped fast!

This might be the first legit selfie I've ever taken, but you can see how bundled up I was!

Due to the temps and sparse trail usage today, I was alone for much of the time.  In fact, I was so alone and so immersed in my own thoughts that when I came upon a busy intersection full of rush-hour cars, I nearly forgot that I needed to stop and wait for someone to let me cross.  Luckily I came to senses with a few feet to spare! 

The Loveland/Little Miami bike trail is very flat and general straight, which makes it perfect when you want to go far and not get worn out with hills.  This also makes it perfect for lots of "Look Ma, no hands!" moments, which I had a lot of today.  I rode up straight, with my arms comfortable at my sides for almost a mile today.  I didn't pass a soul aside from the squirrels and minibears (chipmunks) rummaging through the leaves, getting ready for winter.  I started thinking about balance and how important it is.  As kids, Bubba and I rode all the time.  We would ride anywhere, on anything and would push our balance and speed limits often.  That's actually how I wound up in the ER needing stitches on my chin at the age of 8: "dipping" on my cousin's bike.  Bubba is the one who had all the fabulous high-speed crashes, but I'm the one who got stitches--go figure!

When I got my road bike last year, I was so unsure of myself and so afraid that I'd loose my balance on those skinny little tires.  I've never been very good at keeping a bike on the path, so I very quickly realized that when going in a generally straight line, we can use our whole bodies to keep us upright if we get caught in a rut.  Sometimes you can't steer yourself out because you'll crash, so you just have to keep pedaling and fight with your legs, abs, arms and head to keep yourself balanced until you can regain control.  Life is a lot like that: when something tries to throw us off balance, we just have to keep moving forward and fight with every ounce of strength that we have to hold ourselves upright until we get through it. 

View from the handle bars... just leaves, trees, freshly-paved trail and lots of critters rummaging around!

Balance is something I've been trying to work on the past year.  My life felt very out of balance last year and I've made some good changes for myself, but this struggle for balance is an ongoing one: the balance between work and home, social and personal time, sunshine and darkness, exhaustion and relaxation, love and apathy, want and need, head and heart, thrill and comfort, hunger and fullness, sobriety and silliness, rest and laziness, planning and procrastination, organization and chaos, action and distance, and last, but not least: hot and cold.  A balance of all these things is required to make a happy life, healthy relationships, an effective employee, a comfortable home and a peaceful, content heart. 

This balance can come easy to us when we're on a straight, smooth road and we can sit back and let things unfold in front of us, easily dodging small obstacles (like twigs) without ever having to redirect, but it takes a lot more trust to keep this balance when the road is a little rougher.  There is a section of the trail where the tree roots have cracked the pavement and I rode over that part hands-free too.  I had to use my legs a little more and I was a little tenser, but I trusted that my body would keep me balanced and that God wouldn't let me fall on such a pretty day.  I realized that life is a lot like that too.  When we go through rough times, if we listen to our hearts and souls and do what we really feel like doing and skip out on the things that we really don't feel like doing, we maintain that balance.  Maybe we let something fall to the wayside, but our lives maintain their balance, which is the most important thing. 

So tonight, I took a scalding hot shower when I got home to thaw out my hands and feed, tried to eat a dinner to replace the calories I burned today, had a few glasses of wine and about twice as much water, and propped my legs up for a few hours and didn't do a lick of school work, all in the name of balance.  I'm still tired and worn out, but I feel rested and ready to tackle the coming weekend. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Egg Sandwich: Summer lunch perfection

I am a huge fan of hard-boiled eggs and mayo, so it would stand to reason that one of my favorite lunches is an egg sandwich.  This simple little sandwhich consists of just three ingredients (5, if you count salt and pepper) and can be assembled in mere minutes.  It is wholesome, relatively healthy and packs the punch of two of nature's most perfect foods: eggs.  It is best enjoyed on the back porch with some cheetos and a slushy or a glass of milk (nothing beats a cold glass of milk on a hot day). 

For sandwhich nirvana, follow these simple steps below:

1. Peel your eggs.  Duh!!  Some vinegar in the water when you boil the eggs will help the eggs peel easily.

2. Lightly toast some bread.  Personally I'm a really big fan of white bread for egg sandwiches, but rye bread also works great as well.  I hate wheat bread--judge away!  The real key is to lightly toast the bread, you don't want it too hard and crumbly.  It should be just a little crunchy and retain its chewey-ness.

3. While your bread is toasting, slice your eggs.  An egg slicer comes in handy here, but in the absence of one (or if it's in the dishwasher because you used it yesterday), a vegetable knife and a steady hand will do the trick. 

4. Remove your still-warm, lightly-toasted bread from the toaster.  A nice 20-year old standard-issue Tupperware plate is the best way to serve the egg sandwich.

5. Slather both pieces of bread with mayo.  This is not the time to be skimping on calories, you should apply the mayo to the bread as liberally as you would spread Coppertone on a baby at the beach.  The mayo helps bind the sandwich together. 

6. Arrange the eggs on one side of the bread.  I try to overlap the whites and the yolks so that they're evenly distributed throughout.  Season to taste with good old-fashioned salt and pepper.  No need for fancy sea salt or fresh-ground pepper.

7. Place the other piece of bread on, smush lightly and enjoy!

If you're into veggies on your sandwich like lettuce and tomatoes, you could add those as well, but why ruin a good thing. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Teacher's Apology

A few months ago, my brother and sister-in-law both got pretty big promotions that were accompanied by significant raises.  The whole family was bursting with pride and my parents and I told anyone who would listen about how great Bubba and Jules were doing in their careers.  After an evening that I spent with my parents and some family friends, I found myself apologizing to my parents.  For the fact that I'll never get a promotion, or a big, merit-based raise for them to brag about.  Teaching isn't a profession where one moves up the rank, we just gain seniority and one day are appointed department chair and are expected to do a lot of extra work for a measly stipend.

I felt bad that I'll never accomplish anything of great stature for my parents to brag about and they told me I had better put those thoughts out of my mind, that while the things I do might not be recognized by society, they still matter.  Like being in charge of Key Club, the school's service organization and inspiring my students to help, understand and love others.  Like being involved in our Freshman orientation program to make the freshman feel so much more comfortable when they first come to Mercy.  Like when I come home late because I stayed after school to help a struggling student.  Like when I go on retreat and share part of my story with them and help them realize that even though I'm a grown-up, I still have a lot of the same thoughts and issues they do and that it's okay.  Like when I have to cut off the number of recommendation letters I'll write in the fall (10 is my limit!) because I have a lot of kids that want me to write theirs.  Like when a senior comes and asks me to be the one to cut her hair that she is donating to Beautiful Lengths.

I felt so honored that one of our sweetest and brightest seniors asked me to be the one to cut her hair for donation.

These things won't get me a raise, they won't get me bragging rights at the next family gathering or HS reunion, but they're the reason I get up every morning and come into work.  They're the reason I continually work on my patience, why I always try to go to bed on time, why I eat a big breakfast every morning, why I live my life the way I do and act and dress the way I do: so that I can be my best for my students, give them the love and respect they deserve and hopefully serve as a role model for some of them.  At the end of the day, their successes, accomplishments and happiness are my raise because it lifts me up and reminds me that what I do matters. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Where the elephant men are KING

I have spent many an afternoon riding my bike on bike trails since I was a kid.  As I've gotten older and returned to riding, I've noticed a prominent fixture on all the bike trails around town: the elephant man.  You know the men I'm talking about: big bellied, big chested, precariously but perfectly balanced on their skinny little tires with their knees jutting out away from their bike.  They always sport the bike-shorts-and-t-shirt look, which makes them look so cool with their shirt flowing around them while you feel like you can't catch a breeze. Hardly any of them wear helmets because they never leave the trail.  They all ride really nice road bikes, the kind of road bike their wives let them buy when they tell her they want to buy a motorcycle after retirement. 

The thing about these guys that really gets me is what makes them king: they just speed around that trail.  Going in the opposite direction I'll see them 2-3 times over the 8-mile loop.  When they pass you from behind, you don't know how someone so big can go so fast, but they do.  They're biking machines.  These guys spend hours and hours on their bikes every week.  Escaping their wives for a few hours, or burning off some calories so they can have a beer at dinner and some cookies with their grand kids without too much of a disapproving glare from their wives.  I just don't get how they can ride so much with their knees angled out like that and how that doesn't slow them down.  The most distinguishing feature of these men is their calves: they all have the most beautifully sculpted calves you've ever seen on a human being.  That is the true mark of the elephant men, their calves. 

Now, get them out on the road, or on some big hills, I could probably out-ride them, but on the trail, they rule. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Banana-lover's Lament

The past few years I've really been struggling with the banana selection at the grocery store, because they normally look like this:

I mean, seriously Chiquita and Kroger?  How is anyone supposed to eat these without getting a terrible stomach ache!  How do the monkeys at the zoo have nice yellow bananas and I, a human being, spending my hard-earned money, can't!?!  This is just getting out of hand!  And don't even get me started on the occasional batch that looks like it's on steroids because they're indecently long.  No one wants to eat that much banana in one sitting!

Another issue, sometimes they're sooooo green when you get them that even though they're ripe, they're still green, so by the time you realize it, they're too far gone, like these guys:

These have so much green on them, but have plenty of spots too!  How's a girl supposed to know when to eat her bananas when the characteristic markers are so screwy?

The main issue with this is that bananas have about a three-day window where they're ripe enough to eat, but not too ripe.  That means I end up eating 2-3 a day so that I don't waste them.  Then I have to go buy a new batch and wait 2-4 days waiting for the next ones to ripen and in the intervening time, I'm perfect-breakfast-and-snack-food-less.  The best system is to buy new bananas as soon as you start eating the first ones, but then you end up with bananas of varying ripeness all over your counter, waiting until they reach their perfect level of ripeness, which for me is a bit more than for most people, but I really HATE when they aren't ripe!

These bananas are at their peak ripeness!  

I never used to have issues with bananas before I went to Ghana.  Either bananas here have gotten worse, or I became so used to the sun- and tree-ripened bananas that were so small and delicious you could eat two, three or even four in one sitting.  There was no waiting around for them to get ripe, they weren't cut off the tree until they were perfectly yellow and they came straight to you the next day.  I miss those!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

running is FUN!

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm currently training for my first 1/2 marathon.  Since the Flying Pig is coming up in just a few short weeks, I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why I'm training for this race and why I'm just having so much fun doing it!

Like one of my best friends and running inspiration, MegD, I used to HATE running!  In fact, we would go for long, energetic walks where we would talk about how terrible running was.  When I found out that she was becoming a legitimate runner, I realized that I should probably give it a shot.

The summer before grad school, I was taking an NEH Summer Seminar in San Diego.  We were in class three hours a day and had about 4-5 hours of reading each evening.  I did not have the time to walk the 6 miles that my mom and I walk every single day of the summer when I'm home, so I started jogging.  By the time I got home from my 6-week stay in CA, I could run 3 miles.

As grad school and teaching got to be more and more overwhelming, I found myself running more and more.  I didn't have time to sleep (sorry students), shower (sorry sleep-time), do laundry (thanks, Mom), eat (did that in the car a lot), see my friends or have a life (grading papers on the couch was my "relaxation" time), but I made time for a run 4-5 days a week.  As I got into my second year of grad school and began writing my thesis, I became more serious about it: I invested in some Under Armour shirts, a nice pair of running tights and some fuzzy Smart Wool socks that cover my ankles and I ran through the winter.  I trained for my first 10k and ran it!  I made a lot of rookie mistakes and actually went through a great deal of pain because I unknowingly ran with a torn ACL for 6 months, but running is what got me through that terrible time of teaching, thesis-writing, getting over a terrible broken heart and missing my friends.

Red-faced, sweaty, sore, but a 10k finisher!!

Unlike work, I couldn't piss anyone off while I was running.  I wasn't going to have a class of students mad that they still didn't have their test back, or an upset parent email.  I wasn't going to let my classmates down by not holding up my end of the work or disappoint my professors because I wasn't fully prepared for class.  Running was something I could fail at.  I got to set the goals, the rules, the time frame, not someone who was holding my grade or paycheck over me.  The time I spent running was the only time that I didn't have to multi-task.  I became a very good multi-tasker in that second year of grad school, which meant that I was only 1/2 good at everything I did, but not running.  As hard as I was pushing my mind to make sense of all the archival materials I spent hours sifting through two days a week after school and reading an entire love-seat full of monographs, I was pushing my legs just as hard out there on the trail.  Having a physical manifestation of my daily mental exertion was energizing and liberating.  I often came up with good solutions to research issues while I was out on my runs, or I thought about nothing, or I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other.  I didn't matter what I looked like or what I sounded like.  I looked terrible and I sounded like a walrus, but I didn't have to preform or impress anyone.

After that 10k, I had to stop running and get my ACL repaired, followed by 8 weeks on crutches, 3 months of PT, countless hours at the gym on the weight machines, doing wall-sits and lunges, dancercize classes to get my coordination back, spinning classes to get my stamina back and two different braces.  I started running regularly again this past fall.

This brace did more harm than good, and I'm still struggling to iron out the kinks it left in the back of my leg.

I had been thinking about running a 1/2 since I got hurt, but I didn't really give it much thought before I signed up for the Bob Ronkers Running Spot Training Group as if that was what I had been planning on doing all along, which I really hadn't.  I put in so much work, building my legs into the muscular strangers that that are to squander all that away.  I worked hard enough that I rarely ice my knees anymore, and then mostly just out of paranoia than actual aches.  I deserve 1/2 marathon glory, I've earned it!! There have been some challenges along the way: I was actually hurt when I started training and had to cut back and go on steroids for a week in the middle of training, but the pain is almost all gone now, thanks to a really smart PT and some more dedicated work by me and LOTS of foam rolling. (If I had a dollar for every leg lift I've done in the last two years, I'd be able to retire!)

Every morning before our long runs, I show up and start asking people if they're excited to go run 8 or 10 or 12 miles.  When we get back from our weeknight runs,  I will normally ask if anyone wants to go do it again.  They look at me like I'm nuts, and maybe I am, but I'm just so darn happy to be out there running after I couldn't for so long.  Now, I'm just running for me, for fun, for joy, for sanity, for clarity, for cookies and ice cream, for personal glory and for God's glory.  Everything I've been through in the last 3 years, the emotional roller coasters, the break ups, the disappointments, the grad school and all the good stuff, the new friends and the self-love that I've discovered is all poured out in those miles that I've logged these past four months and all that's left is the most happy, confident, fast and strong Kelli that there ever has been!

This is a picture someone took on our 12-mile training run last Saturday at the Eden Park overlook.  This was the 6th time climbing that hill in the past three months... it's easy now! 

I'm so excited for the race to come and I'm sad that we have to start tapering and running less the next two weeks.  I'm looking forward to running all 13.1 miles of the Pig course and I'm hoping its so much fun that I'll want to go back out there and do it again and again!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

a year in my shoes

I’m currently training for the Flying Pig ½ marathon in Cincinnati and it is time to replace my shoes.  I typically get very excited to get a fresh pair of running shoes, but this year I’ve been dragging my heels a bit; my current pair of running shoes represents a lot of hard work, toil, pain, snot, sweat and tears.  I had ACL surgery in July 2012 and wasn’t cleared for running until after it got cold out.  I remember those first tentative jogs in one-minute intervals at LaSalle’s track on my way home from work.  I was elated and terrified all at the same time.  I felt so vulnerable and I realized just how much MORE work I had ahead of me if I was going to achieve my dream and run a ½ marathon as I had been planning to do later that year.  If I could train for and run a 10k with a torn ACL, I could totally run more than twice that distance with a repaired one! 

Once my muscles got used to jogging again, I was allowed to move from the track to the asphalt and gradually increase my milage.  At that point, I treated myself to the newest version of my favorite running shoes: the Asics Nimbus!  Last year’s version was wildly colorful and bright and they were just the encouragement I needed to put in even more hours at the gym and to start taking spinning and dancercise classes the gym to rebuild stamina and coordination in my right leg.  I remember my first successful 2-miler—it was cold and rainy and I ran faster than I had ever before my surgery thanks to the new strength and power in my legs.  I couldn’t have been happier.  Unfortunately, I developed pretty severe patellar tendonitis and then runner’s knee which I spent most of the summer working to banish.  I went thru two braces and tried a variety of exercises that were supposed to help my knee.  In the end I credit the 500 miles and many hills that I biked over the summer with rebuilding the strength around my patella that has enabled me to run brace-free for months now.  

So pretty, clean and colorful!!  They totally make a girl run faster! ;)

This fall, I started building my miles again and speed soon followed.  It also helped that I started treating my exercised-induced asthma that I realized I had after more than a few difficult hill-climbs on the bike that left me wheezing and winded for miles after.  Through all of this, my shoes were there, providing the cushiness that my knee needed and the colorful speed that my legs craved and my lungs were finally able to give.  Their wild colors elicited comments from older, awed onlookers who often cheered me on my way.  I felt fast, strong, unstoppable in them.  I had a few 5 and 6 milers during that time and was doing okay.

In December, I signed up for the Bob Ronker’s running spot ½ marathon training group and have been training for the ½ Pig since Jan. 11.  I’ve run a lot of miles since then.  Although I’ve been struggling with a hip issue since the start of training and can’t always log as many miles as I want, I have run every single long run and at least one week-day run.  A few of them had to be logged from the safety and warmth of the gym, but I did them all.  The 7 miler, the 15k (9.3mi) and today, the 10 miler.  My bright shoes have carried me through all of those miles: providing traction on the ice, a bounce in my stride, a beacon in the dark and cushion to my nagging hip issues. 

It was with some resignation that I went into the Running Spot to replace the shoes that have carried me from my first ½ mile back to my first double-digits ever.  These shoes are more than a piece of footwear, they are an inspiration to me.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Nimbus in my size (common problem for a size 11), but it was a good opportunity for me to try on a few other styles that the one I’ve been buying for the past 4 years.  I still wasn’t sold though, I’m waiting for my Nimbus to come in, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 

While I’m sad that my current shoes won’t get to carry me across the finish line on May 4, I’m glad that they carried me along a significant portion of the course today and that they carried me from a beginning-again runner to a runner who is on the verge of running her first successful ½ marathon.  Thanks for all the miles!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Holy Guacamole!

It is the end of the quarter, so naturally I'm looking for anything to distract me from the mounds of grading that I have sprawled across my executive-sized desk.  The sun showed its face for the first time in days and whispered at me through the open windows that I need to share my guacamole recipe with the world.  Spring really is just around the corner and maybe you want a fresh treat! 

I don't mean to brag, but my guac is pretty good and I think a lot of that has to do with the manner in which I make it, which is anything but traditional.  It is so smooth and creamy you won't believe there are no dairy products in it.  On the flip-side it is also chunky and hearty; the perfect combo!  The most important thing is the avocados.  They MUST be ripe!  You want the softer ones, not the hard ones.  It's okay if there's a few brown spots inside, just cut out any big or bad spots.  If they don't have any ripe ones, plan to make your guac a few days later, or just make something else.  The biggest issue with guac is not getting ripe avocados. 

You'll need to assemble all the usual ingredients:
1 lime, juiced (I just use the refrigerated stuff, but you can use a real lime too!)
1 garlic glove
1 T tightly packed cilantro
3 RIPE avacados
1/2 t cumin (I never measure)
salt to taste (I probably use 1.5-2 t of salt)
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
1 ripe tomato, seeded, roughly chopped (in the winter I just use a 1/2 can of petite-diced tomatoes)

For the magic:
1. In a food processor (or blender), combine cilantro, garlic and 2 T of lime juice.  Process until the cilantro is finely chopped.
Scrape down sides.
2. Add two avocados and process until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. 
3. Add cumin, salt and more lime juice to taste. (It should be a bit too strong at this point)
4. Add the final avocado, chunked and pulse 2x.  Check to make sure you don't need to add more salt, cumin or lime juice.
5. Add the tomatoes and onion and pulse 2-3x, until your guac reaches desired consistency. 

To keep it green:
There are several methods for keeping your guacamole green; I figure if each of them work, why not to all of them!
-Save 1-2 pits and put them in the bottom of the container and just scoop your guac right over them.
-smooth out the top and drizzle a little lime juice over the top so that most of it is wet
-cover the guac with plastic wrap and put the lid on your container!

My favorite chips to have with guac are the Tostitos Multi-Grain.  Aside from being addictive by themselves, they have the perfect balance of flavor and salt to compliment the gauc!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Lenten fasts and resolutions

I've made some pretty strange Lenten sacrifices in the past: there was the year that I vowed to only go the speed limit, which only lasted until I was late for work, two days in.  Another year, I gave up baked goods, except for special occasions without realizing the only time one typically has baked goods is on special occasions.  Then there was the year that I gave up listening to music in the car or on my own.  I spent a lot of time listening to Jim Scott in the morning and my own thoughts in the afternoon.  Everyone thought that one was strange, but that was the year of self-discovery for me, so it was a really crucial time and I needed a lot of alone time with myself and God.  Another year I gave up talking about my plight of loneliness and singleness.  That was a true test, but I thought all my friends really needed a break from me getting weepy on them every time I'd had a few sips of wine.  Last year, I decided to be more patient, which I kept failing at, but decided that it needs to be a daily goal to practice, not just during Lent, so this year I'm going back to giving something up.

As a kid, we are encouraged to give up something, to sacrifice, but as I got older, I really tried to get more creative.  I already have a lot of issues with Lent, like the fact that I love fish, especially if it is raw and wrapped in rice and seaweed and dunked in soy sauce and wasabi, or battered and deep fried.  So, other than remembering that its Friday, not eating meat on Friday is actually a treat, not a burden.  There were also those years that I tried to cut stuff out of my diet, or to eat less for Lent, but I have to question my motivation for that.  Was I really sacrificing for Jesus, or was I just trying to lose weight for selfish reasons in a time when I was supposed to be focusing on the Lord and preparing myself for Easter?

This year, I'm actually going the old-fashioned route and giving up cake, cookies and chocolate.  I have been craving these three things like a fiend and the urge to whip up a cake or bake a batch of cookies is so hard to fight.  I went an entire month where I had at least one home-baked brownie every day.  Then there's the chocolate that I keep stashed in my desk drawer that I surreptitiously grab out and go down the hall to what is essentially a closet to greedily eat in between classes.  This is going to be hard for me, and I will waver and want to give in, and I might nibble on some stale cookie crumbs in the corner of the drawer or a few chocolate shavings on the counter, but I'll have ice cream to comfort me and I'll be okay.

Why ice cream, you ask?  Well, spring is coming, I hate winter, and ice cream of the soft-serve variety is the promise of all that is good, warm and bright and if I don't have some outlet there aren't enough miles in Cincinnati for me to run to remain cool, calm and collected.  Plus, I've already cut down my weekly beer consumption significantly, so I don't feel like Lent is a good time to increase that!  Also, I don't crave ice cream like I crave those delicious concoctions of flour, sugar and butter.  I'm doing okay so far and even managed to make a chocolate dessert for my sister-in-law without eating any, although I did have to taste test the chocolate-fudge sauce and a good thing too, because it definitely needed a pinch of salt!

I'm already planning out what baked goods I'm going to make, come Easter, but for now,  I'll try to stay out of the flour and sugar and leave the unsalted butter buried in the back of the fridge. 

Why wouldn't you crave something as delicious as this every second of every day??!!??

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ignorance truly is BLISS

This past Friday, my school was off, so my friend, Mel, who teaches across the hall from me, and I decided that we needed to do something fun!  Things have been a little stressful at school and everyone has been really cranky, so it was nice to have something fun to look forward to on our day off and away!  We invited another friend, Ang, that we used to work with and her adorable baby son to breakfast at The Sleepy Bee in Oakley.  If you live in Cincy, you need to check it out--it's awesome, local, fresh, warm and wonderful.  Brunch with a baby and a friend who just returned from Florida and still had that sunshine glow was just what we needed to forget about the week gone by.

After breakfast, the two of us headed to the new Cinemark theater in Oakley (it was too early to partake in the great beer selection that they have!) to see The Monuments Men.  We both really thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was refreshing to just sit back and absorb some history for a few hours instead of figuring out how to get our students to absorb it, 85 minutes at a time.  I actually found it pretty humorous, but seemed to be the only one in the theater who thought so.  Granted, a lot of the jokes were made on the French, or towards the Americans in France, so I was a prime candidate. 

However, the movie got me to thinking as it normally does: I would have enjoyed this so much more if I didn't know better.  Life is Paris during the war was so austere that they would have been jealous of the Greeks' current situation.  Consumer goods were hard to come by; coffee, hosiery, meat, rubber were scarce and expensive.  Life in Paris in particular was so difficult that the French dug up all of their beautiful gardens to plant vegetables, they didn't have the same access to food that those in the countryside did.  None of this was reflected in the film, and the main female character wore stockings and cooked meat.  While this didn't detract from the movie, which I loved and will add to the list I give my students, it did take me out of the moment and linger with me afterward. 

The same thing happens when I'm in a museum or at some sort of historical monument.  Not only am I reading and looking for information, I'm also evaluating and analyzing how they summed up complicated history into something that can be understood by the average person who doesn't have esoteric knowledge of the subject.  It is really no different than what I do every day.  There are entire periods of history that I took entire courses on that I don't even mention to the Freshmen in my Modern World History class.  It is more in-depth than is merited in that kind of a class, just like an entire monograph (book) would be too much when only a short paragraph will do in a museum.  Even if I'm looking at an exhibit that I know nothing about, I still try to put it in context and NEVER take it at face value. 

Not much surprises me because if I know something similar happened in Europe and the US, it isn't surprising that it happened in Asia after that.  I especially love going to museums in Germany to see how they deal with Hitler and the Holocaust.  One of my best friends, Al, drug me to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and they simply focused on all of the money that the Nazis gave them to develop new engines and new vehicles that could be used for the war, but that would later have more practical and peaceful applications in a consumer society.   I would love to go to Russia and see how they deal with Stalin and the gulags and the Great Purge, or even how they answer the question that my students keep asking: Is Russia a democracy? 

In the US, we're very fond of living history, which I am SUCH a sucker for, but even how places like Williamsburg and Plymouth Plantation are created and run leaves a lot of questions about what is real or authentic or accurate.  While I was in grad school, I made the unfortunate misstep of taking a public history class, which has forever tainted any historical encounter for me.  Recreations can be very accurate, but they aren't real.  However, the real thing is old and dingy and broken and so isn't very accurate or authentic any more.  The arguments can make your head swim, but the important thing is to know going in whether you're seeing something as it is now, or as it was then.  Probably the most authentic and accurate thing I've ever seen is the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  It took me three trips to Europe and two very out-of-the-way train rides and the tiniest hotel room ever, but I made it there.  We had some okay beer, almost got run over by a few bikes, walked over countless bridges, were astounded by everyone's English, had some really BIG pancakes and made our pilgrimage to the Secret Annex.  The furniture has been removed, but the owners of the building demanded that everything remain just as it was, no furniture brought back in or anything, so there are simply the walls, floors and ceilings and the window that Anne looked out to see her oak tree, which has been sick and dying for years. 

Knowing too much takes a lot of the fun out of it, but I still keep going back.  I love museums and history movies and historical fiction.  I really love historical fiction, it helps me put things into context of the typical average people so that I can help my students relate better.  Although I know that there are a lot of issues with the way history is being presented, I will always seek it out, I will always expose my students to it and eventually my children as well.  Even if it is tainted, it is done with the best intentions, we just need to realize to take it all with a grain of salt and enjoy it for it's value to our culture and heritage and to help us understand how to move forward. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

on loving myself

For the past few summers, I've been helping to lead the senior Kairos retreat at my school and in my talks, one of the focuses always seems to be theme of learning to love myself.  This past year, I had a student come up to me after my talk and ask me "how do you love yourself?"  I didn't know what to tell her, started crying and gave her a big hug, because this is something that I have had to continually work on throughout my life. Since graduating from college, this is a lesson and a job that I've realized in the last three years is the single-best thing I could have done for myself, my friends, my family and my future husband and children. 

After graduation a lot of my closest friends moved away, and I spent a lot of time with people who were part of my bigger social group because we were the ones left.  I enjoyed getting to know these people better and making memories with them, but after a few years, I began to realize that those relationships were not enriching or life-giving and I began to pull away.  We didn't have the same values or life-trajectories and I began to get down on myself because I didn't want to go out and drink all the time, I had other things I wanted to do with my time and energy.  So, on more than a few cold, lonely winter nights, I sat in my favorite arm chair, eating my favorite pasta, grading papers, drinking a bottle of wine (sometimes the whole thing), and feeling proud of myself for being strong enough to say no and to risk being lonely to be happy.  There was a solace in sadness; at least I was doing what I wanted and being true to me.

Pulling away from these friends coincided with a 4-month long relationship that was never right from the start.  We didn't have a connection, we didn't love each other and he was wise enough to see that.  I was crushed.  I had put so much of my hope and my happiness into the fact that I had a boyfriend-- it could have been anyone.  It took me a very long time to get over the hurt and despair that I found myself in.  Here I was, 27 years old, with my younger brother getting married and a knee I had put-out while trying to get my ex to fall in love with me.  I spent a lot of time crying that winter, of wishing my life were so different.  I also spent a lot of time at yoga, which helped me in profound ways.  It gave me time away to focus on strengthening my body, which wound up strengthening my heart and my soul.  It helped me deal with my emotions in a healthy way and gave me hope.  It taught me that I am strong, valuable and capable and for that, I will be forever grateful. 

As I waded back into the dating pool I made myself some promises: that I wouldn't settle and that at the end of the day, WHO I was, WHAT I was and what I DID had to be enough.  I had to be enough for me when I laid down to sleep at night and when I got up in the morning.  I also promised myself that I would speak up for myself, I would tell him when he hurt my feelings or when something wasn't right.  I had worked so hard to be safe and confident in myself that I couldn't let someone take that from me.  And so, when I entered my most recent relationship, I told him that off the bat, one of our very first deep conversations.  But eventually, I forgot.  I couldn't love him the way he wanted me to, and so not only did I question my standards and beliefs, I began to question everything: my role in my family, my teaching, the friendship I was offering to other.  I couldn't make simple decisions about what to wear in the morning, or what color underwear without getting stressed out, I stopped trusting my instincts because they had created this huge issue in our relationship that was all my fault.  At the end of the day, I wasn't enough.  At the end of lots of days, I wasn't enough.  After three solid weeks of crying every single day, and an afternoon when I sat on his couch SOBBING that I didn't know how to make him happy, I came to realize that I had broken my promise to myself.  I realized just how unhappy I was and that our relationship, for a variety of reasons, was not enriching or life-giving to me and that I simply did not want to marry him.  After the shortest break-up of a 10-month relationship on record, I came home and cried for about 30 minutes, while I put everything that had accumulated at his house over the course of our relationship away, got a bit indignant that he didn't try to convince me to stay and then ate dinner and haven't cried since.

That love that I have for myself, so far down inside that has been supported and nurtured by the true friends that I have now, by my family and by God bubbled up inside and gave me the strength to end a relationship that I truly cherished and that I learned a lot about myself and life from.  The year-long road of self-discovery and self-love that I found myself on after that first breakup has served me well; I know who I am, I know what I want and I am confident that I will find it one of these days.  In the meantime, I'm going to spend time with the people I love, doing the things I love, being me!  This week, this means going to a happy hour where I knew not a soul and staying home with the dog on Valentine's Day so that I can get up to run on the snowy roads tomorrow morning with a bunch of other people just as crazy as me!  I'm not going to stress out over not having plans, I need to live life at my pace and sometimes that means I need to sit at home and chill or hole up and grade papers for hours on end, or soak up the Olympics from the couch. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

We came for the walk; we stayed for the fellowship

It always amazes me that we have the ability to connect with complete strangers when we find ourselves in the same situation, whether it be a fellow stranded traveler or someone in line at the grocery store who just happens to be buying your very favorite candy, or maybe someone you see everyday on your way to work.  Regardless, we have a connection to these people on a very human level and for a period of time, we are connected and fully aware of the other as a human being.

 My mom and I found this at Winton Woods park out on the trail as we walked our old dog, Meeko (pictured left) every morning.  We got Meeko when I turned 16 and because Australian Shepherds are working dogs, he needed that daily 6-mile walk to expend his energy.  Jo-Momma walks every day and I join her when I'm off.  We make a point of greeting everyone on the trail, picking up trash and acting as ambassadors to people who have never been to our little piece of paradise.

 Over the course of the past 12 years, we have come to know many of the people who are out there every day, rain/shine/heat/wind/cold and even on holidays and snow days.  There's a few people who we simply get a wave and a nod from and then there are those who will turn around to walk extra miles just to talk with us.  Mostly we stop to chit-chat about the weather, grandkids and the antics of my students while the dogs sniff each other out and enjoy their treats that everyone carries for them. Although we don't know each other's last names, we have a very strong bond.  When we had to put Meeko down, somehow everyone found out in the matter of days and we had cards show up at our house and on our car at the grocery store.  When I had ACL surgery, they all shared my triumph of being able to walk around the loop without needing to rest and then again when I could run the whole thing.  When we don't see someone for weeks, we worry and keep asking around until we find someone who has seen them.   

One of the greatest friends we made is a woman named Lynn and her dog, Lucky--a rescued beagle.  Lynn is in her 70s and is a very slight woman who is just as likely to complain about the heat as she is to put a sweater on Lucky anytime the mercury dips below 50.  Lynn is out there every day, and on nice days, even twice.  She carries a variety of treats for the picky eaters of the group and even carries water and a bowl in case any pooches need a drink.  Lynn has a few resting places that she frequents and sometimes we let Jasper off his leash and he goes tearing across the field toward her and Lucky, startling and delighting them both.  Because I don't get out to the park everyday, Lynn will often give me a hug when she sees me.  While she typically sticks to the paved path, every once in a while, Lynn hikes her walker over the curb and Lucky leads her down the actual road to go on an adventure and see something different than what we normally see everyday. 

This is just what she was doing this past week when the trail was too frozen for a 75 year old woman with a walker and an enthusiastic dog, on the same park road that I've already written about.  She was on the side of the road when snow plows, riding tandem, as they often do for more efficient clearing, hit Lynn.  The power of the walking community became evident immediately.  Within 24 hours everyone in our walking community had heard the news.  Although most of us don't even know each other's last names, we were able to get a hold of each other.  For instance, my mom knew what church one of the women goes to, so she called the church and described her and she got the number and my mom and the other woman went down to visit Lynn a few days ago.  At the time, Lynn was in the second of a series of surgeries that she will have to have, but her daughter was there and absolutely stunned that they showed up.  Lynn always tells her kids that walking at Winton Woods every day is her life, but they didn't understand until that moment when the people that Lynn shares a few brief moments with every morning showed up to support her and show their love in her darkest hour.  Lynn is in really bad shape: she's got four fractures in her back, a broken femur and ankle on one leg and a broken patella and tibia on the other. Her walking days are over. 

Lynn needs her community right now more than ever and this has caused this community to break the boundaries of their relationships, and to leave the park, to find out each other's last names, addresses, phone numbers and what they look like when they're not in their walking clothes.  This group full of the most unlikely of friends has rallied together in the coldest, snowiest winter in recent memory to support one of the members at it's heart.

**While I am very angry that this happened and am so very worried about Lynn pulling through all of her terrible injuries, my heart also goes out to that plow driver.  Who would have expected a little old lady to be in the road on a snowy, icy day?  No matter what the outcome for Lynn, I know that his life will be changed in a very profound way, so as much as I pray for Lynn's healing, I also pray for the heart and soul of that man who must be feeling so much guilt, regret and questions at this point.  I will continue to hope for the recovery of Lynn and for peace to that driver. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

looking in my eyes

A recent trip to the eye doctor had me reflecting on my sight impairment and how I've come to terms with it over time.  As a kid, I always hated eye exams at the nurse's office.  I would try to memorize the answers of the kid in front of me so I would pass with flying colors, just like I did the hearing test (I have very good hearing). 

I was a very good, although a tad over-enthusiastic student.  I had straight As all the time and never had to take my book home to do my homework, because I remembered it all.  I always had my hand up and participated often.  By the time I was in 5th grade, things changed.  I couldn't see the board, I started skipping my turn when we had to read and I started copying off the kids sitting next to me.  When you're the kind of student that I was, not being able to see the board is a huge problem and I felt so ashamed.  I found that if I squinted and pulled my eyes out at the corners I could see more clearly, so I made it through several months of 5th grade like that.

Finally, my teachers noticed and they sent me down to the nurse.  This time, I could only read the big E at the top and I broke down crying.  I had never failed at anything before,  and had rarely gotten a loathed "S" for satisfactory on a homework assignment; I always got "E"s for excellent.  And now, I had utterly failed.  I felt like I had let everyone down and that I should have tried harder, eaten all my crust and a lot more carrots.  I didn't understand that genetics played a role, I thought that it was something that I had done or failed to do. 

Sidenote: I took the parable of Jesus curing the blind man with his own spit to heart and would put spit on my eyes at night and pray with all my might that Jesus would cure my eyes....  I'm still waiting for that miracle!

As someone who had glasses since she was a little girl, my mom was super great about the whole thing and made me excited about the prospect of a new fashion accessory!  I still remember that first moment when I put my glasses on.  I could see EVERYTHING!! It was amazing!  I noticed things that I hadn't in a long time, and then we went outside and I could see the leaves on the trees, not just a big blob of green!  I realized that was now part of who I was, that needing glasses didn't make me less of a person and that it didn't change me, that it helped me to be myself again.  Once I made the switch to contacts in 7th grade, I really stopped seeing my eye sight as something that stood me apart from the general population, it had become just another part of my daily routine and annual round of doctors.

Then I went to grad school from 2010-12 and spent two years staring at a computer screen and books from the time I got to work at 7:30 until the time I went to bed around 1:30.  I kept increasing the zoom on my computer until I said something to my eye doctor about it.  He sent me out to get reading glasses--not the kind of reading glasses that some of my friends had prescriptions for, but the kind of reading glasses that my dad and grandma use.  I can read print just fine, but my eyes become fatigued very easily and then I have trouble reading after that.  When I bought them I was the only 27-year old I knew who used reading glasses, and I'm still the only 29-year old I know who carries them in her purse just like her grandma!  Now, I just joke about it.  I have the text on my cellphone set to a size a person 2 feet behind me could read, I keep my Word documents magnified to 200% and I'm generally unaware of what is on the right-hand side of most websites because I have them zoomed-in so far.  I always say that it is so my students can read things when I project them up on the smart board, but really it is so that I can read it without straining my eyes.

I've tried all sorts of contacts and currently have really great ones that give me really good vision.  I still can't read street signs until I'm close to them and I have a really hard time reading my phone when my alarm goes off in the morning before I put my glasses on, but I keep my eyes really healthy by wearing sunglasses, going to the doctor every year and always washing my hands before handling my contacts.  I know that my eye sight is so valuable, so I continue to try to soak in as many sights and words as I can until my tired eyes drive me to bed.  If anything it helps me to understand my students better when they struggle with something beyond their control. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hot Roddin' at the Cavalcade of Customs

This past weekend was Cincy's annual Cavalcade of Customs down at the Convention Center (what-up, Duke Energy??) and I got my annual tour of the weekend's best from the guy who taught me to drive and who is REALLY good at fixing cars (and rebuilding them too!!)-- the one, the only, Jo-Poppa.  He always needs a ride down on Sundays because he has to drive the car home after the show.

The Cavalcade always provides great entertainment because the crowd is as diverse as the cars themselves.  You have everything from show cars that one wouldn't dream of driving, the average hot rods and street rods that spend weekends cruising the town, down to "Rat-rods" that often don't even run.
 Before showing some of my favorite highlights from the show, I have to shine a light on Gladys, the family station wagon and weekend cruiser that my dad rebuilt into a bad ass hot rod a few years ago. 

When we first got Gladys she was black and white and pretty banged up.  Jo-Momma liked it because we could park anywhere since you didn't have to worry about dings!  We had to sit on blankets because the springs were coming out of the seats and driving it was akin to driving the Big Comfy Couch, if such a thing could be driven.  

 Jo-Poppa completely overhauled it, with basically on the frame and dash being original.  To the delight of Jo-Momma and I, it even has AC!

Of course the perfect accent to the black is my dad's favorite color: green!!!

One of my new favorite things that I love about car shows is watching the pin-strippers.  These guys work really fast and do everything free-hand, right on people's cars!  I can literally stand and watch these guys for hours, although you'd have to follow them around if you wanted to watch that long.  

Here, he is just starting to put the white on as an accent to the red. 

This is the back of the car that this guy did.  The girl was sketched out in free-hand, but the rest of it was totally free-hand.  

This is the finished product on the front.  Only took about 5 minutes

This beaut is a "Show" car, because they are only for show.  Much like china dolls, they are beautiful, but taunt you because you wouldn't dare take them out for a spin for fear of messing them up.  Just like those dolls that sit up on the shelf collecting dust and mocking you.  

This Firebird is another show car, that I totally would have broken the rules to drive.  It looked fast just sitting there!  The paint was a perfect mix of baby blue and teal with the most brilliant Diamond-Shine finish I've ever seen!  

I LOVED  the color on this Bel Air and had to include it!

There wasn't anything too special about this Ford.  It was well-maintained, so most of it was original.  I was totally geeking out over the brocade upholstery on the seats with the metallic-shiny leather around it.  My great aunt Marcy drove an old Buick similar to this car, and she would have totally loved these seats.  The other feature of this car that was also awesome, is the fact that it has suicide doors.  I failed to capture that in the photo because I was so excited about the seats, but if you look at the door post, you'll notice that there is a latch, but no door because it opens from the rear. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I *snow* love the woods

Tonight, on the way home from an impromptu trip to Costco to obtain various items in bulk, the most exciting of which was 5 tubes of my favorite toothpaste for $12, and a pit stop at Chick-fil-A for the most delicious, wholesome and real of all fast foods, my mom and I took a detour through the woods.  It had been flurrying like crazy since we had left the house, so we knew it would be pretty magical.
Winton Woods is only about 4 minutes from home and, as kids, our bus went past it every day.  It was actually quicker to go through it, but Jan-the bus driver never did.  She always favored the adjacent neighborhood instead....  EXCEPT when it has recently snowed.  My brother, Bubba, and I were the first ones on the bus and we would always ask her when we got on if she would take us through the woods.  Jan-the bus driver would normally wink and say "we'll see."  By the time we had finished the route and were heading back past our house on the way to school, kids would start chanting to go through the woods and as we neared the bottom of the hill just before the turn into the park, we would all hold our breaths in the hopes that she would turn and take us through the magic, snow-covered wonderland that is Winton Woods in the wintertime.  When Jan-the bus driver did turn, we would all cheer and then everyone was quiet as we kept wiping the steam of the windows with our coat sleeves, to the chagrin of our mothers.  No one drew on the windows, the big kids didn't taunt the little kids, everyone just looked out in wonder at the splendor of the snow on those trees.  The trees make a perfect tunnel over the road that in the summertime provides lush, green coolness, but in the winter transports the lucky park-goer to another world entirely, where all is fresh, clean and new and where you can't help but marvel at the splendor God has created for a few fleeting hours.

I didn't have my good camera, so couldn't get one from the road in the dark, but this is a picture of the woods from last winter, you can see just how majestic it is!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Who am "I"

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Ghana, West Africa.  While I met many intriguing, strong and wonderful people there, I want to talk about one in particular: Solomon, who drove a shiny red BMW like a bat out of hell, with his thick arm and lemon-head shaped face hanging out the window, all-the-while honking wildly. He was one of the host-fathers of my group and the self-appointed social coordinator, which is no surprise considering his nickname was "Action Man."   The Action Man would often be out with us students on a Thursday or Friday evening after class before we all headed home and after plying us with more Guiness or Star Beers than we wanted, he would insist that we eat with him.  Upon finishing, he would lean back, pat his ample belly and proclaim, "I am myself again," as if the time elapsed since his previous meal had somehow made him less of himself, or someone else. 

Now, any of you who get hangry know that this can be a real feeling, but I've always seen it that he was most happy and content, and therefore most himself when he had a full belly, a buzz and people he loved around him.  I've been thinking about this a lot in my own life, particularly in the past few months.  I always think to myself: I wish I liked reading literary books, but I stick with my historical fiction and historical monographs.  I wish I was more artsy, but love sports more.  I wish I could go to bed early enough so that I could wake up early enough to exercise before work, but I always have "one more thing" to do before bed and I'm really bad and waking up before the sun.  I wish I wore heels more often and looked like a boss walking in them, but I love my sensible flats and warm boots.  I wish I ate all organic food and could swear off junk and fast food, but I'm just an average girl who lives by an average grocery store and I love me a good McD's breakfast sammy every few months when I'm out and about early on a Saturday morning and I've been known to stop at Wendy's for a JBC when I'm hungry in between meals and hide the evidence, and I'm a real sucker for Pepsi from the fountain.  I wish I liked snacking on almonds like all the skinny, fit people, but I've always been partial to a handful of pretzels and whatever hunk of cheese I can rummage up. 

But guess what, I read lots of great stuff, I can spend hours in an impressionist museum, I get up early on Saturdays to run, bike or yoga, depending on the season, I have some pretty kickin' high-heeled boots, my butcher can tell me what local farm all my meat came from and all my summer produce comes from the back yard and I am a pretty fit person.  I recently spent 5 days with one of my best friends who I hadn't seen in a year and I was thinking about all the things that are different about us.   I realized that people probably see things in me that they wish they were more like and that I just need to be me and stop trying to cultivate the things that I admire about other people in myself, because those things aren't who I am.  That's why I like those people--they do things I don't that I think are awesome and they enrich me through their actions and stories, just as I enrich them with mine.  So, this then, is me, Kelli: the teacher, daughter, friend that God made and that the people in my life cherish, nothing more, nothing less.  No Kelly, Kellie, just simply "i."