Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cheers to a New Year!

It’s New Year’s Eve.
I’m sitting on a heating pad, writing a blog post.
And my Michael is vaccuming and mopping.  Husband of the year.
His parents get here tomorrow for a visit.

We were going to go to a co-worker’s house for a NYE party, but I strained my back, and I’ve learned (the hard way) not to play when it comes to my back, hence the heating pad.

NYE is a natural time to be sentimental, looking back over the last year.  And, hopeful and excited looking ahead to the next year.

2011 was a good year for us.
It certainly had its challenges (lots of frustration with medical problems and equipment, lots of work travel for me, my brother at war, tight finances).
But, it’s certainly had it’s blessings as well (great opportunities at work, visits with our families, new friends and I got my picture taken with Tom Brokaw).

In many ways, 2011 wasn’t what I really expected it to be.  For me, it was mainly focused on work.  So, time devoted to ministry and friendships was largely swallowed up by that.  

As for our marriage, I think we are going into 2012 stronger than we were a year ago, and very much in love, and best of all, on the same page. So, I call that a WIN.

Last New Year’s Day, we went to Starbucks, and sketched out our goals for the year.  We fell short on a lot of them. We tried.  I'm not thinking of this so much a failure, as we are a work in progress.

We did make great strides on the goals that we set TOGETHER.  It was the things we set out to do on our own where we came up short.

There’s no “I” in TEAM.
Guess we should stick together.

As for 2012 goals – eh, last year’s goals still sound good.  Plus, this year we begin some pretty big steps to our future life that I am mildly STOKEDDDD about. :)

I have been having some very grown up Google searches lately.... things like "minivan wheelchair modification" and "daycare costs in Northern Virginia."  All of this freaks me out, but in a good way.  All of this big stuff is still a way's off.  I think it kind of freaks Michael out that I'm already googling this stuff, but hey - I'm a googler - what can I say? We have to get a new President first. So this will really be a 2013 project, but 2012 will surely have a lot of Google searches. :)

Okay, y'all.
I think I'm going to make that appetizer I was going to take to that NYE party.  I'm getting kind of hungry even though I did have a bowl of black eyed peas while we were watching "Waiting For Superman," and I was crying my eyes out.

Gifts That Speak to My Heart

I'm going to let you in on a little thing I have a hard time with, sometimes.
Feeling like a woman.
Not to go all Shania Twain or anything, but let's face it.  Because my husband is paralyzed, and just isn't able to do somethings, I do them.
Some of these things are things that would traditionally fall on "the man."
Like fixing things, building things, lifting things, reaching things, driving, you get the picture.

I do all of that.

Also, because of our situation - and the fact that every time we go anywhere, I literally have to lift Mr. Wonderful up and put him in our SUV, and lift the wheelchair and put it in, I NEVER wear skirts.  I NEVER wear heels.

Add all of this up, and sometimes, I just don't feel very girly anymore.
Not that I was ever a really, really girly girl, but anyway.
It's not something I dwell on a lot, but it is something that can be aggravating at times.

Enter my Christmas gifts from my husband this year.
A collection of lip glosses.
A collection of perfumes.
And the darling little box pictured above.  A handmade, super girly box to put my wedding rings in.  My rings are hand-me-downs from my Granny, and they've never had a box.  So, at home, they are often just sitting around. Michael just noticed that, and got me this box on Etsy.


I felt so loved as I was putting my Christmas presents away.
This is how my man sees me.
As a woman.
As a lady.
Who is pretty.
And smells good.
And needs a place to put her shiny diamond rings.

Not as a grubby taxi driver/handyman/maid/nurse.
I needed that gift most of all.
And, he didn't even know that.

The beautiful thing about gifts is that they all speak.  They all say something.
And I loved to hear what these Christmas presents told me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Christmas at Home II

Last year, we started our own little tradition of staying home, our home, just the two of us, on Christmas Day.

I didn't make the giant feast that I did last year. No turkey and all the fixin's.  I can't remember if I wrote about it here or not, but we didn't make it to my sister's house this year for Thanksgiving, so I felt like I had just done the whole turkey, etc.  SO, I made the filet mignon and potatoes au gratin that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago, courtesy of an Omaha Steaks Groupon. :)

We had a snuggly Christmas Eve...

Read the Christmas story at breakfast...
I thought at breakfast about how cool it is to read a story that's 2011 years old... on an electronic device. Love it. :)

We opened presents...

Pardon the bed head and pile of laundry :)

About 20 minutes after the last present was opened, the Christmas tree CAME DOWN.
A lady who bought our old coffee and end tables off of Craigslist came by and took them, and I started an all-out organization project!

Gotta love a husband who vaccums!  I know I do.

We are making room for some NEW FURNITURE! :)  More on that later. :)
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow, we celebrate with M's family.  Looking forward to that, then more cleaning out/organizing, then getting back on the 2012 campaign trail.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas, y'all!

I hope you're in the spirit.
I think I am.
I'm snuggled on my chair in the living room (in a slightly new spot thanks to a little re-arrangement) with Brokaw, and we're watching the news and the Christmas tree is right in the window, in all its glory.

I'm having a beer.
And I can hear Michael in the other room, stuffing my stocking :)
I hear tissue paper.... which I may or may not have made a snotty remark about when he asked me to get it for him. I'm such a brat sometimes.

Lasagna is in the oven.
In the spirit of not killing myself this Holiday Season.

Tomorrow, we're having steaks, instead of the whole turkey plus fixin's.
I feel kind of bad about that, but kind of like I just did that whole Thanksgiving thing like, um, yesterday.

It's been a great week home from work.
I saw my sister! :)
We visited the wounded warriors at Walter Reed.
I saw two out of three of my nephews. :)
I saw my mom and Dave. :)
We went to see the decorations at the White House, and because we needed to go up the elevator, we went through a different way from everyone else on the tour and we saw BO THE DOG!! Secret Service wouldn't let me take his picture. I was seriously so excited to see him because while I've seen the President hundreds of time, Bo has eluded me!
We went driving around with EggNog Lattes and looked at Christmas lights around Northern Virginia.
We took an EPIC trip to Ikea. :)
Our living room is already mid-transition, there's a new cabinet in my bathroom, and I'm SO EXCITED about painting/changing the office/guest room because it has been driving me crazy forever.
I already love LOVE love the changes to the living room.
We spent a bunch of gift cards and that was SO MUCH FUN.

Man, I am ready for that lasagna.
And I'm looking forward to sharing Christmas morning with my Love.
We have our own little Christmas traditions, and while they are still young, they are fun.

We wake up and read the Christmas story out of the Bible, while we're still in the bed.
We eat breakfast.
We open gifts. (We just do stockings for each other, and we have a $50.00 limit)
We call our families.
We watch football.
We eat a special, super yummy dinner.
And the rest is, ahem, private married kind of stuff. :)

I love Christmas!
I hope y'all have a very Merry one!
We have so much to be thankful for this year.
Our Savior has been good to us.
Happy Birthday, Jesus.  Thanks for coming to earth and bringing us new life in you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Never Want to Forget This Time

I am experiencing one of those times in my life that I never want to forget.
I am like most people.
I think more, talk more and write more about the things that are bothering me, the things I'm worried about, and the things that aren't right in my life more than I talk, think and write about what is going right and good and just fine.

I don't mean to be that way.
But just like people say they don't want to watch "bad" news, but if all you play is clips of the Puppy Bowl and the water skiing squirrel, they don't watch. Well, maybe the Puppy Bowl isn't the best example, but you get it.

You're probably wondering by now what that photo has to do with what I've got going on down here in this 3rd paragraph.

Well, that is the most festive, wonderful worker for the Metro system in DC. I don't know her name, but she is a station manager at Farragut West.  And this season of my life that seems to be overflowing with blessings right now, started with her.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way into work, and I noticed her. Again. I have noticed her before, because she is always super cheerful, telling commuters "Have a great day, stop and enjoy the sunshine!" or "You can do it, it's almost Friday!" And now, she's decorated the station for the holidays, is pumping Christmas music as loud as she can on a little boom box, and wearing antlers.

I knew when she told me to "Have a blessed day" that day, what I was going to do.  I went up the escalator, bought her a little $5.00 Starbucks gift card, went right back down the escalator, and handed it to her, and thanked her for all that she does.  She almost cried.  It was the cutest thing ever.

That was when it started.
The very next day, a $5.00 Starbucks e-gift card popped in my inbox.
A couple days after that, co-workers provided me with several MORE Starbucks cards! And, I guessed how many Hershey's Kisses were in a jar, so I won that, too.

Remember this post from a few months ago?
I was so stressed out, thinking about Michael's home health care while I traveled so much for work.  Well, I have been super stressed out lately, looking at January, when I will be on the road almost the entire month, and wondering how in the world we were going to pay for the home health care.
An old friend, a girl I cheered with in high school contacted me, and encouraged me and Michael to apply for Medicaid.
We had tried before, with no success.
But, I figured, hey - we can try again.
It's a lot of paperwork.
It's an uncomfortable letting-in of the state into your personal business.
I think we both almost cried happy tears.
And we both slept all night long, good, for the first time in a long time, knowing that the huge burden of that huge expense had been lifted.

I was just back from my last trip to Iowa.
There was a knock at my door.
The mailman.
He's been bringing several boxes and packages lately that are Christmas gifts. But, I wasn't expecting him this day.
There was an envelope.
And a really funny card.
And one of the greatest surprises I have ever experienced.
A generous woman with a great, big heart who reads this blog - took the time and consideration to buy more than several gift cards for me.  And for us.  All tailored to the things I blogged about the day before.
It was incredible.
I cried as I texted Michael and called my mom.

I have heard of people being blessed like this out of nowhere, but I'd never experienced it for myself.
It blew me away.

Monday, I had to attend a meeting at our company's headquarters in Virginia Beach.  It was so great to see my colleagues in VB that I usually only email or talk to on the phone.
There was an end-of-the-year chapel/awards ceremony.
And little me was awarded the big deal award.
With it, came a significant "blessing," if you can read between the lines.
WOW.  I couldn't stop thinking about how God is just blessing me left and right.

In the middle of all of this, I dropped my phone in a cab the other night, and I was so sure it was gone forever. BUT NO.  The cabbie actually FOUND IT and RETURNED it to me! I gave him a reward, but still. This was just something else amazing.

On top of all of this, I had wonderful time with my sister and her friends and family, and I got to see my Mom and my stepdad.  They all blessed me with wonderful Christmas presents.

It is overwhelming, the blessings that have come to me in the last 2 or 3 weeks.  There are too many to even count.  All of this doesn't even count my health, my wonderful family, my loving husband, my job that doesn't even feel like a job, my vacation time at the end of this very busy year, my warm safe home, my working SUV, my pets..... you see.... God has been so good to me!

I know exactly what I want to do.
I want to remember this.
I want to share this.
I want to pay every bit of this experience and every cent of every gift I have received FORWARD.
So, if you feel like you are one of those people like I was, who just heard about other people being blessed, and wonder if it will ever happen to you.
I say, do not give up.
Keep on rocking on.
Keep on doing good.
Keep on believing.
He is in control.
He does still bless people beyond what they can imagine.
I am not making this up.
This is for real, and it is happening to me.

I understand to whom much is given, much is required.
Just as I have cried out to God in my desperation and weakness, I cry out to him in my joy and thankfulness.
God, use me in this.
Use us.
And if you want to keep blessing us, that's totally cool! :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Priorities, And Giving Up When You Have To

Filing our story from Chili's in Sioux City, Iowa
(Note: I wrote this post on the plane to Omaha yesterday. Publishing it from Sioux City right now.)

I blinked, and it’s the middle of December.
I swear it was August yesterday.  Why am I wearing a big fat coat right now?

I have a bad habit: I overdo it.
I thought I had learned a lesson about this during our first year of marriage, when I lost 30 pounds without trying (that I, of course, later found) and much of the hair in the front of my head.

But, apparently not.
At least now, though, I can tell the signs my body gives me that I am getting overly stressed.

I work a more than full time job.
I commute at least an hour to and from work each way.
I am a caregiver to my husband, which can take up between 2-4 hours a day.
I started a volunteer project helping Wounded Warriors and their families at Walter Reed, which is quickly snowballing into something bigger than I can handle alone.
I like to have a clean house.
I like to make home cooked meals.
I like to shop at 2-3 different stores each week to save money.
I like to have a clean car.
We have two dogs, one of which really should be bathed every other day.
I am covering a Presidential campaign that has been going on for about a year, but is REALLY getting ready to heat up, for real, for the next 10 months.
I like to clip coupons to save money.
I like to stay in contact with my family.
I don’t like to miss ANYTHING.  Be it a story, a Facebook post, a Tweet or an Instagram picture. I admit, I am an information addict.
I like to spend quiet time alone reading my Bible and devotionals.
I like to make homemade Christmas presents.
I like to buy Christmas presents, and wrap them.

I don’t like to work out, but I do feel guilty about not doing it.
I like to keep this blog updated.
I don’t like to drive my husband back and forth to Baltimore for wheelchair repairs, but I need to, at some point.

I feel overwhelmed just reading over my little list here.

Last week, I couldn’t sleep worth a you know what.
I was waking up grumpy and with headaches.
My hands started breaking out.
Monday, I woke up so stressed I pretty much wanted to cry.
I felt like the to do list was towering over me, and the calendar was crowding my sunlight like an eclipse. So, I stayed home.  Worked from home. Got some stuff done for the show.  I made a huge list of things I wanted to do at home, having to do with Christmas gifts and the post office and making this and that and cleaning this or that.  Wanting everything to be perfect for when my sister arrives the day after I get home from this trip to Iowa.

Then, I did something revolutionary.  I scratched a bunch of stuff off, without doing it. 
Go ahead, shriek.  I did.  This is not me.
 But I have to cut the fat.
I can’t do all of this stuff.
Why do I do this to myself all the time?
 Set these crazy, impossible goals that are either not humanly possible, or simply not worth it.

So here is the list of things I am not doing:
-Bathing the dogs (Michael is making them appointments at Petsmart)
-Clipping coupons (this should say I am not feeling guilty for not clipping coupons, because honestly, it’s been a few months since I’ve clipped or printed anything)
-Cleaning my car. I’ll wipe the inside down before my mom gets here.  It’s not that bad anyway.
-Cooking for the Wounded Warriors this weekend. I can’t do it this week. There is no time. My sister is bringing oodles of cookies we will take those, and I have some supplies a co-worker donated, so I’ll drop those off on Sunday. But, sorry guys. No meals this week.
-Painting the ceiling in my dining room.  I know, there’s been marks on the ceiling since we replaced the lighting fixture this Summer. Sorry, Mom. I wanted it to be perfect for you when you came to visit, but it’s not going to be perfect.
-Making bread.  This year, Michael’s grandparents and aunts and uncles are getting cookies and magic bars in their Christmas packages.  No homemade bread. I didn’t have time this year to mix, knead, wait for  bread to rise, bake, etc.
-Homemade Apple Butter, not happening. I have some “spiced apple sauce” for my neighbors, if y’all are interested. You’ll have to refrigerate it, FYI.
-Working out. (this is another one that I’m really just dropping the feeling guilty part for, because I haven’t worked out since that hotel in Vegas the day before my birthday, in October)
-On that, I’m giving up the idea of ever celebrating my birthday.  Michael and I keep meaning to do it, but there’s just no time. And soon, it will be 2012. Oh well. I can celebrate next year, right? Oh, wait, my birthday will be two weeks before Election Day. Maybe 2013 we can go out to dinner like 3 times.
-I wanted to wrap our Christmas presents all super pretty with ribbons and little ornaments and all that jazz. I bought the stuff. But, it didn’t happen. Have fun opening the taped edges. Sorry, that’s all I have.

Don’t I sound so defeated? It’s dumb, isn’t it? I mean who cares about smudges on the ceiling of the dining room or if there’s a snowflake on your Christmas present, right?  Who cares if we have no homemade bread for a few months or if I spend $15.00 more a week because I’m not driving all across town with coupons, shopping at like 4 different stores for groceries and household supplies, right?

Because the things I cannot and will not compromise on just won’t give.  And they shouldn’t. That’s the whole idea of priorities, right?  I mean, my husband has to go to the bathroom and be bathed.  The pets have to be taken care of, the house has to be at least moderately clean, I have to work, pay bills, and travel for work, and to see family for Christmas. And they have to come see us, too!

All of this is an apology, really, for not making homemade Apple Butter.
For having dirt in the corner floor boards of my kitchen.
For being overweight.
For having grown out roots.
For not being perfect.

But, our life, health and well being is fine.
I’m good with God.
And I’m giving back to my country.

I have a lot to be thankful for.
I try to remind myself that I am “blessed, not stressed.”
But if I’m honest with you, I’m both.
Aren’t we all?

There you go.
My unedited thoughts on priorities and giving up, when you have to.
Major shout out to my husband who had my back today in mailing a package to my brother, and making arrangements for the pups!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Brokaw's Newest Thing

This is Brokaw's newest toy, "Chip."  I got it for him for Mutt Day.  Chip is awesome, because he came with 8 squeakers. Brokaw has been known to destroy a squeaker within 24 hours, so the fact that Chip has 8 means he will live a long life.  Note: I think Chip currently has 5 working squeakers.  He's been in our house for about a week.
The funny thing is, Brokaw likes chewing on the rattle in Chip's head.  So, I buy the dog a toy with 8 squeakers, and Brokaw is apparently not all about all the squeakers.  Whatever.  Brokaw has also started a new game, "Hide Chip."  He LOVES for me to hide Chip, then he goes and finds him.

We were playing this the other night, and I realized something very funny.  One thing Brokaw has NEVER been good at is dropping a toy (or anything else for that matter) when you tell him to.  So, fetch has always been a one sided game with this Puggle.  Well, the other night, I wanted to get Chip back from Brokaw so I could hide him again.  And I said "stay," to get Brokaw to stay where he was so I could wrestle Chip out of his mouth. (This was how we would usually play 'fetch.') I said "stay" and Brokaw DROPPED Chip!  This went on and on and on.  Every time I say "stay," he drops the toy.

For some reason, in Brokaw's brain, "stay" means "drop it."  This has been going on for days now.  It's hilarious!  It works every time!

Brokaw is crazy smart, and he communicates like he's a person.  He's like my little toddler.  And, like a toddler, he apparently sometimes confuses words and their meanings.

And, also like a toddler, he plays hard, runs out of gas, and cries, then falls into a deep sleep.  I love my best good buddy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost Hat

This might sound really silly, but right now, I'm praying for my hat.
See that hat I'm wearing in the picture with my best friend, Ann?  I got that hat in 2007, when we went to a VT game. I LOVE that hat.  They don't make it anymore.

One time, I lost that hat in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and took Brokaw back up to the Wal-Mart parking lot with me, to try to sniff around and find it.
He did!

That was two years ago.
Now, I have lost it again. :(
I left it on the Metro.
It was the third thing I left on a Metro train JUST THIS WEEK.
I also lost a hat I just got a couple of weeks ago, as well as my black texting gloves I also just got this year. :(

I am usually so careful and responsible.  I am the girl who locked her keys in her car in high school, so she has the habit of making sure she has her keys before closing her door.  I used to be the girl who looked back to where she was sitting to make sure she had everything.

Guess I've gotten away from that.  I blame my iPhone.  I'm constantly distracted. Oy.
I didn't bother to report my original hat and texting gloves.  But my beloved VT hat? I totally went on Metro's website and filled out a "lost and found" form.  Hopefully I will hear something this week.  If not, I am going to be really sad.

Of course, it's just a thing.  I realize that. But that hat has great memories attached to it.  Like that game with Ann, and the fact that I wore it the night Michael asked me to marry him.  Plus, I like to show my support for Virginia Tech.  For the football team, and for the school in general, because even though I didn't go there, I'm a proud fan, and I always pray for the Hokies. They've been through so much.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Here's a little random tidbit about our blog.  Would you believe one of our top posts of all time is about Homemade Christmas Gifts?  Random, right?

Well, just in case you landed on this here blog looking for affordable ways to make someone's holiday, here are some more little homemade Christmas gift ideas I have been working on this year.

Of course, I will be baking my tail feather off. That goes without saying.
But, also, I'll be giving some of these things to friends and family this year.

Drink Mixes
This one is Chai Tea Mix.  You can get the recipe and instructions if you click on the link.  Here's the bottom line, all you need is some spices and other ingredients.  You can get that kind of stuff on the cheap if you look at the Dollar Tree and Aldi.  I found cute little jars at the Dollar Tree and at Ikea.  Follow the instructions, pour the mix into the jars using a funnel, so it lands in there all pretty like, and tie some cute labels around it.  Bam. Cute, cheap Christmas present!
I also made Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate.  Note, if you use this link, they forgot powdered sugar.  Add half a cup of that to each batch you make. TRUST me.  I got these cute little tags in the Christmas wrapping paper section of Target, and wrote what the mix was, on the plain white back of the tags.

I think my favorite homemade Christmas present I've made so far this season is Raspberry Vinegar.  I just mixed it up last weekend, so it's still in process, but I think it's going to be really neat.

I took this picture when I was making it last weekend.  It's been in our pantry for a week, and it's already WAY red!  VERY pretty!  This was easier than the drink mixes.  All you do is rinse some fresh raspberries, put them in a bottle, then fill it with white distilled vinegar.  Then, put it in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.
I got the bottles at Ikea.  So many cute bottle/jar options there.  As you see, I also used some Mason canning jars, so no worries if you don't have an Ikea in your neck of the woods!  Have fun making your homemade Christmas gifts, and let me know if you have any cute ideas! I love making homemade gifts, and even though we did have a little money to actually spend on Christmas gifts for our families this year, I still like giving some stuff that has that homemade touch.

Merry Christmas, y'all! Cheers!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Thank You Letter to the Internet

Dear Internet,
I have so much to thank you for this year.  For connections with special friends like Jamie, Melanie, Alicia, Erica, Heather, Amber, Melanie, Megan, Lynette, and Sib who know what this wheelchair journey is like, and what the wife/caregiver life is like.  I am forever grateful for the connections we share, the encouraging emails and texts and the funny stories we can talk about just with each other. The internet brought us all together.

I am thankful for Facebook, which has been the main vehicle for telling the stories of the Wounded Warriors we have prayed for, cooked for and gotten to know.  Like Derek, Nick, Matt, Chaz, Brian, Jessie and Jamie.  I am a better person for having prayed for you and served you.  I am forever grateful for all of your service, and your wives and moms and families for reminding me of how true love serves.

I am also thankful for the chance to reconnect with old friends from high school and college, as I traveled for work this year.  For picking up right where we left off.  I never would have been able to keep up with these people without social media.

I am thankful to all of the blog readers and Facebook friends who sent us checks and grocery store gift cards to join with us in cooking and serving the Wounded Warriors and their families.  This has been such an honor, and I couldn't have done it without your support.

I am just thinking about the role the internet has played in our lives over the past year, and I'm finding myself incredibly grateful.  It is a big part of our lives, but in a good way.  I don't know how we ever lived without it now! 

Internet, you are like water to me.

Saturday Morning Post

Happy Saturday, y'all.
It's cold outside.
The heat is running.
So is the humidifier. Ugh.
I'm drinking my favorite coffee (freshly brewed this morning), Starbucks Christmas Blend. I really wish they sold it all year long, then I wouldn't have to hoard it in December.
And I'm eating a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin I made the day before Thanksgiving. (I love my freezer)

The dogs have been fed and they're back asleep. So is Michael.
Ah, yes. The peace that is Saturday morning.

Today, I'm planning to get my Holiday bake on!! I'm planning on making Magic Bars, Chocolate Mint Cookies and Pumpkin Swirl Bread.  Well, maybe on the bread. Not completely convinced I have time for that.

I'm also going to continue making my homemade Christmas gifts.  I'll share more with you about what I'm making this year, I know last year that was a big hit.

I have SO MUCH to catch y'all up on.  Life has been super busy and super blessed around the Ritter house.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gifts Underneath the Tree

Santa, I mean Dana, was busy yesterday! She worked until last night fixing and wrapping Christmas gifts. We had the music playing as she hustled around the workshop.
Christmas gifts behind the tree
We have to come up with creative ways to display things in our home. No live plants because Katie likes eating them --she's even tried eating the needles off our plastic tree! Somebody else likes peeing on and chewing the gifts. So Dana hid things on the bookshelf and well behind the tree on the floor.

Hiding the gifts from the "kids"
Hard to believe we still have more than two weeks 'til Christmas. These gifts will eventually find their homes. Having the tree trimmed and gifts underneath makes it all feel so close. Egg nog anybody?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Morning Post

This is the first time I've done this, believe it or not. I am posting this on my phone, laying in the bed. I slept for 8 hours. Quick, some go see if he'll froze over.

What a busy, crazy week of no sleep! It all made for a very grumpy Dana. I wa so tire last night, I cried for no reason, like a 2 year old.

I would love to wake up slowly, have my coffee, browse the web and write this post from my comfy chair in the living room, but there is too much to do today.

Once my feet hit the ground, I am on.
Before anyone sighs, I know I do this to myself. I take too much on. I have been doing this since I was a little kid. I get it honest.

Whatever. I just need a little break and then I will be good to go to take care of the man, the creatures, the home, the newsroom and everyone and thing else that depends on me.

Today will not be a restful day. It will be a fun day though! Baking a cake for the youth cake auction at church. Cooking and delivering meals to the Wounded Warriors. Shopping. Cleaning. (not going to stress over that too much though, I figure I will be off Wednesday when I get back from NYC so I can do a good cleaning then.)

Okay. Well, Brokaw just brought me a Christmas ornament, and Michael just spoke, so I am back on duty. Two fur balls are ready to be walked and fe and someone else is ready for his pills and bowel care and shower.

I don't know how I do it all. It is definitely not always graceful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The View From Here

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around our little corner of the world.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Morning Post

On Saturday mornings, I pause in the quiet of the morning, sip on some hot coffee, and just let my thoughts flow onto the page.  Want to join me in this joyous ritual? Link up in the comments, and feel free to save and re-post the above logo!

Check out my fancy new Saturday Morning Post logo, courtesy of Mr. Wonderful.

Happy Saturday, y'all.  Go shop at a Small Business today, because it's Small Business Saturday.
As a girl who had food on the table growing up, everything she needed for school and activities like cheerleading, and a college education ALL because of her mom's hard work and successful small business, I urge you to do this.

We're going to.  I wish we shopped at more small businesses.  But, sadly, it's hard.  Especially in a big metro area like DC to even find stuff at small businesses.  Not to mention buying American.  Another thing I want to do, but find it difficult.  And I'm not even saying because of the prices, but because the stuff is so hard to find.

What have we done to our great country?
Okay. Starting to sound political. So, stopping now.

There's a Christmas tree in a box over across the room from me.  And two plastic tubs full of ornaments.  And four new boxes of lights. I say, just buy new lights every year. They're like $2.50. So worth not having the headache.

Yesterday, we went to Ikea.  As I mentioned above, I'm a horrible shopper who doesn't follow her convictions: It's cheap stuff made in China, sold in a huge big box store owned by Europeans.  Ahem.
Anyway.  I got some cool bottles and jars and I hope to fill them with homemade goodness for our family members this Christmas.

We're so lucky, because we are both going to see our immediate families around Christmas this year.  Last year, we mailed like 12 Priority Mail boxes. So, we're majorly looking forward to seeing our people.

We had to miss my family's Thanksgiving, which was a bummer because that's actually my FAVORITE holiday, and my brother-in-law and my sister always make a beautiful, bountiful feast.  But, I was still sick, Michael woke up Thursday morning feeling sick, and at that point we knew it was contagious, so we didn't want to spread it.  Not the kind of dessert we wanted to bring, you know?

Also, believe it or not - this is the first time Michael has gotten a cold since we got married! He has like the Fort Knox of immune systems.  I guess that's what having your hands on dirty, nasty, germy wheelchair wheels will do for you.  I hope he continues to get better and better.  It hasn't been that bad yet.  I definitely had it worse.  It got in my chest, and that's what worried me about spreading it to Michael, because, I've been coughing with all I have and he can't really cough all that great, so I may or may not have worried him into the Emergency Room.  Phew. Why do I do that?

So, yeah. We had a little Thanksgiving at home.  Watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I made a turkey breast and all the fixin's, which we have been eating for the past couple of days.  And we'll be eating Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and Cranberry Scones until March.  But, it's all good.

Okay, there you go.  Your Saturday Morning Post.  M's still sleeping.  B's not barking.  So, onto my coffee, my devotions, and.... Pinterest.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sick Day: no photos allowed

Today is a sick day --for real. Dana picked up a sinus infection and has been feeling it since yesterday. She didn't sleep much through the night. It was pretty bad this morning too.

Days like this are especially frustrating because she still has to do the stuff to get me squared away. Since I don't have to be at a job at a particular time I can sleep in with her and wear sweats all day (jeans and slacks are hard to put on).

Sick days are quiet and lazy. Hopefully a couple of these will be enough to get her well. We are looking forward to Thanksgiving at her sister's.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fortune Cookie

I got this with my meal at Pei Wei at the Minneapolis Airport yesterday.

I'll take it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Up In The Air

Our lives have been up in the air the past few months. As I type this post, Dana is flying home from Iowa through Minneapolis. She was supposed to land an hour ago, but their plane was grounded and they had to switch to another. So we're looking at another 3 hours till she's home.
Dana, Royce, Tyler and David
These guys are her on-the-road family. She's in good hands --except when the guys are all sick. They take care of her luggage, the driving, and all of the other guy stuff. BTW, this photo is from Orlando last month, not Iowa this weekend. Still, we do miss each other when she's on the road.

We were talking about how tough it must be for these couples with a spouse travelling so much. That's the way TV news is. Then we thought about the soldiers who are deployed for 18 months. And Dana's friend, a newlywed who lives here all week and her husband lives hours away.

For the last two years we have settled into some comfortable routines. We find comfort with that day-to-day rhythm. Meals, sleep, work, personal care all flow in that predictable pattern. We joke that we're like an old couple.

The election will keep Dana on the road the next year. She will be home most of the time, but will spend a lot traveling. There will be surprises and unexpected schedule changes. So whether it's Dana in a plane or our routine, things are up in the air the next few months.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Morning Post (From Des Moines, Iowa)

Hey y'all.
I didn't get a blog post out yesterday.  Doh!
I was trying to make sure we had a post up every day for November, for National NaBloPoMo, but, I failed.

Oh well.
Maybe there is grace in the blogging world?

I'm sitting up in a king sized bed just outside of Des Moines, Iowa.  I'm watching Paula Deen make a sweet potato cake on the Food Network, and I'm getting hungry! I'm pretty sure I have actually stayed in this very room before. We kind of come here a lot.  There's this little thing called the Iowa Caucuses that is very important in the presidential nomination process.  Maybe you've heard of it. It's in about 50 days or so.
I don't even know how many times I've been to Iowa over the last year, but it has been many.

And I actually don't hate it.
I mean, it is land locked.
And it's in the Central time zone.
But it's not like I have to live here.
The people are SO nice.
And they eat real food.
I love them!

I am so lucky that I have such a cool job.  If I could give everyone on this planet something, besides Jesus, I would give them a job that they love. That they are passionate about.  That doesn't feel like work.  Because it is seriously the best.  I love what I do.

This week, I covered a conference.  A bunch of meetings and speeches may sound boring to you, but I came away from this experience very inspired on a personal level.  I'm not going to go into details, because journalism is tricky like that -- keeping the personal and the professional separate -- but I will tell you...

That Condoleezza Rice is a freaking ROCK STAR.
That as I sat and listened to her speech yesterday, I downloaded her book right there in the ballroom on my Kindle.  I have no picture of Condi. Sorry, folks. I was in the back corner where they put the media and all I had was my iPhone.
You can read about her remarks here.
I love that she is a sassy, smart, well rounded girl who is not afraid to like and do what she likes - even if it is super unconventional.

Also, I worked on getting some interviews with the wives of some of the GOP Presidential candidates, along with our White House Correspondent.
We talked to Mary Kaye Huntsman.
And Anita Perry.
These women were fascinating interviews.  I am so lucky that I get a front row seat to get to know the candidates and their families.  This is amazing access, just as a voter, you know?

I won't go into details, because we are still working on our report. (I will TRY to remember to post a link when the story is online.) But let me just say that I came out of these past few days with fresh inspiration as a wife.

I confess: I kind of wing the wife thing.
I'm not bad at it because I naturally am very goal setting, encouraging, and I'm a natural leader.
But I think just relying on my natural self and my internal compass is lazy wifing.

These women are their husbands biggest fans.  They are their husband's soft place to land.  When their world is shaking.
I want to be that.

Our world shakes from time to time.  I can be insecure, and scared, and needy and feel overwhelmed and under appreciated.  Can't we all?

But, after hearing from two women whose husbands are in the gauntlet of their lives - I want to do this better. Different. Be intentional about my role as a WIFE.

Want to join me? What inspires you as a wife? How are you intentional about your role?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Rest Of The Story


I am so proud of Michael for sharing from his heart yesterday.  I know it wasn't easy. But look at the response we've had from you, our dear readers.  His words, even the raw, painful words were real.  And you felt that, right? 
Thank you.
Thank you for your sweet, encouraging comments.
Thank you for the love.
Thank you for putting yourselves out there, and sharing the painful parts of what you are going through.
We all have those days.
We all plead with God.
We all want to know why, or why not or why not now? Don't we?

When we're in the middle of the storm like we were last Friday ('the storm,' such a "Christian" thing to say, isn't it? haha), it was uncomfortable.  My poor husband.  There was nothing I could do.  Nothing I could say that would make anything better.  All I could do was hold him, wipe the tears off of his face, and try to remind him that it would get better.

That night was Michael's Birthday party.  He had been looking forward to it for weeks.  I tried telling him, we'll get through this, I'll get you dressed, and tonight, all of your friends are going to be together, and we're going to have the best time.  And your heart is going to be so full.  It will be the opposite of how you feel right now.

Eventually, bless his heart, he cried it out. I cried a lot too.  But, I felt strong.  And normally, MICHAEL is the strong one, an I'M the one falling apart.  So me being emotionally strong is not normal!  I believe God works in marriages.  We have seen this with our own eyes.  When one of us is down, the other has super strength, that is strong enough to carry the other one. I know that strength did not come from myself.  Because I too was mad right along with him.  I was heartbroken.  I agree that it's not fair, that he doesn't deserve this, and that it's enough already.  

But, I was strong.  Because I was given strength and courage.
So, I did what had to be done.
In the bathroom.
In the bed, as I wiped his tears, and got him dressed and lifted him into his wheelchair.

And though we started that day at about 3:00 in the afternoon, with puffy eyes and red cheeks, we did it together.
And by 7:00, we were laughing and joking and eating and drinking with Michael's best friends.
I was so happy looking over at him, splitting an okay pepper steak (we have become quite the little food snobs) that we had done it.

We had made it to the other side.
With a little help from our friends.

*The middle photo is us mocking our drivers license pictures. I look like a bug-eyed serial killer in my DMV photo, and Michael looks like a happily drugged guy who had a stroke. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not Strong Enough

Since I broke my neck people have commented on my positive spirit. There are plenty of challenges each day that go unseen. With those come discouragement and disappointment. Sharing those challenges with somebody else makes them more real.

So it is with us. Recently we've faced so many disappointments that are directly related to my disability: bum shower chair, bum old wheelchair, bum new wheelchair, bum bum. Like a flood surge overwhelms a town, these constant frustrations have overwhelmed us.

This weekend I was DONE. It was a bathroom day --the worst part of our routine. My body didn't cooperate and D had to help me. It's so very frustrating for me to sit there as my WIFE coaxes things along. We have a long list of things that have gone so bad lately. This was the last straw.

Dana got me through it and into the bed. Then I lost it. I cried uncontrollably because I felt so helpless.

For several years I was okay with this whole gig. I remember hearing people say, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." I've heard people talk about his miracles. I've sung hymns and praise songs, prayed, shared, and sobbed. But this weekend I cried out to God because I'm not strong enough.

It's not fair. Ask anybody who has known me any amount of time. I am a good guy. Not that anybody deserves this, but not me. If there were some noble purpose in it I might consider it, but no. I hear the word "miracle" bandied about: our pastor talks about the church receiving a financial miracle (i.e., a million-dollar donation); newspeople talk about a medical miracle (i.e., successful treatment against the odds); sports fans talk about a miracle win (i.e., a lucky break).

It left me asking, "Where's MY miracle?!" People have been praying for me and believing for my miracle for seventeen years. If faith is coming to the end of myself, I'm there. It's not a headache. It's not a tumor. It's not an infection. Short of significant medical breakthrough, there is nothing any man can do to fix it. If God is able to heal my body, or anybody else's, bring it on.

When people comment about us being inspirational we wince. This is our reality: so much of this sucks. Some days are WONDERFUL; others are bareable; a few are downright heart-breaking. Most days we wrestle through the limitations and hardships that come with having or caring for someone with a disability. It affects everything:

  • I'm a job seeker with a disability,
  • we get up two hours early because I have a disability,
  • we cancel our plans because of my disability,
  • we can't go some place because it is inaccessible,
  • we have to get healthcare because of my disability.
Some days, like this weekend, it just comes to the point I cannot take it. I'm not strong enough to bear it all. There is nothing I can do to fix it. The one who supposedly can fix it doesn't. It hurts. It doesn't give in. It is always there. I would that it would all go away. When it doesn't, we suck it up and push through.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Remembering to Laugh

We usually go to bed between 8:00 and 9:00.
But, last night, we were up late.

And, I'm so glad we were.
Because we watched the ABC News/Diane Sawyer special about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. 

And, it was amazing.  Watch it.
It will make you laugh.
It will make you cry.
Not in that order.
You will pull for them.
You will see something that you see in yourself, even if you haven't had a tragic brain injury or other major bodily injury or physical challenge.
This is the tough stuff of love.
This is the story of love winning.
This is the love story we all want to have, without the hard part.

God bless Gabby and Mark.  I wish them a full recovery, more good days than bad, and children.  Really, really cute, healthy little children.
May they never stop laughing.
I need to remember that.
You do have to laugh, don't you? Or, you'll never make it.

This is what is set up on our bedside table right now. :(

We have our own little health challenge right now.  It's not a big deal.  Not yet, anyway.  Let's hope it stays that way.  You remember, I'm a Stager, right? This is the stuff that is staged so that I can take care of our little problem.

I would really appreciate it if this little problem understands that I have to travel to Iowa on Friday, and I have to leave my husband in someone else's care for a couple of nights, so it needs to get better, STAT, mmkay?

Too bad it doesn't work like that.  If I could patch this whole thing up and put some Neosporin on it and make it go away, I obviously would have done that a million years ago.  But, I can't.  I hate having to realize this over and over.

And, yet, I still try to control it.  I still try to heal the little things in 48 hours so I can leave and not feel guilty.  So I don't have to trust anyone else.  Because I suck at that.  I admit it.  Totally suck.

But you know what I learned a long time ago? When I was a kid?  Quitters never win.  Winners never quit.  And, just because I technically have no control over this little issue, doesn't mean I'm not going down without a fight.

It will be okay.  Don't think this is a big huge deal (this is mainly a disclaimer for our families, namely, my mom who is the biggest worrier on the planet).  It's not.  It's a tiny deal.  But, it's a deal.

If Gabby Giffords can get shot in the head and learn how to speak and talk again, we can handle this little situation.  And maybe not laugh about it, directly, but laugh, none the less.

Monday, November 14, 2011

10 Random Things

1. I went to the White House today, it never stops being cool.
2. I wish I could get the time back that commuting costs me. I wish I could fix dinner while I was on the metro.
3. I have heard from two people in the last two days who found our blog and have similar situations (one able bodied spouse or partner and one disabled). You are a big part of why we lay our junk out there. Thanks for contacting us!
4. My nephew's birthday is Friday. Why are all nephew cards super lame?
5. I had writer's block today. My usual cures, Matchbox 20 and a latte' helped. Phew!
6. I am eager to see our families for the Holidays, can't wait to get some solid plans set!
7. I wish my eyebrows would wax themselves. I don't have time to deal with them!
8. I am headed back to Iowa on Friday. I am looking forward to a few days on the campaign trail, but I will miss my Michael. I may or may not have been having political withdrawals.
9. I love people (especially in the customer service profession) who speak English. I love you.
10. I wish I was a better blogger and that I wasn't literally phoning this post in.

Maybe I will do better tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday Weekend Together

Birthday basket from Dana
For my birthday this week Dana gave me a gift basket. It was the perfect gift. She went to World Market and bought things she knew I'd enjoy:

  • Assorted beer
  • Bailey's chocolates
  • Ginger chews
  • Danish cookies
  • Assorted teas, and
  • Carr's crackers
Then, Friday night she invited several friends to dinner at a local sports bar. The eight of us had a great time sharing appetizers and stories. We had great food and drinks.

But, the most memorable thing for me was after dinner she asked if I wanted to go to the piano bar at National Harbor. This was after she had already done so much. Just her and me going to a silly piano bar. We were there with a bunch more folks singing along to old hits and favorites as these two piano players kept us entertained.

Dana knows what makes me smile.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Morning Post

It feels like it's been a while since I've been here on a Saturday morning, with my coffee and my recipe magazines and my thoughts and my computer screen.
How sweet it is!

A few thoughts about yesterday.
That is just crazy.  My sister loves the number 11, so I thought of her all day long.

It was Veterans Day.  I am so proud to say that both of my grandfathers, my dad and now my brother are Veterans.  I am proud of their service and sacrifice and honored to be a part of a family with such a history of military service.

I am also so proud and thankful for our Wounded Warriors that we are getting to know now, as they recover from their life changing injuries.  They are truly amazing guys!  I am speaking of Derek McConnell and Chaz Allen, specifically.

Quickly, on that - we are still making meals and delivering them to Walter Reed Bethesda pretty much every weekend.  I want to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you that have supported us with grocery store gift cards!  I am hoping to connect with more Wounded Warrior families soon, and see if I can provide them or their families with meals, too.  Jessica Allen, wife of Chaz who is one of our courageous Wounded Warrior Vets, also has some ways you can help on her blog (see links below).  Jessica is a firecracker, and a get-it-done kind of girl.  She's also a great writer, so check out their story!

You can help with household items or  care packages.

Here is a little tease.  Don't say I didn't warn you on getting some tissues.

I *love* this song! You may remember me posting about it last year.

When I first met Jessica, she said something that really stuck with me.  Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I have a history of battling with my pride, and accepting help from others.  I don't want anyone to feel sorry for us, or for Michael.  I don't want to be anyone's hero and Michael doesn't want to be anyone's inspiration.  But, it happens.

Jessica was telling me about someone offering something to them after Chaz's injury - I don't remember what it is - but she said she was like, "Don't do this because you feel sorry for us.  Don't do this because my husband stepped on an IED and lost his legs.  Do this because you think we are awesome, and we are rocking this thing out."

I. loved. that. idea.
Don't step in and help or think we are an inspiration because you feel sorry for us.  Or because when you see us, you automatically think, "I could never do that."  Because you probably could. Love is a very powerful thing!  Step in and help or think we are cool because we are doing this.  We are rocking it out.  Offer to help or give us props because you want to join in on that energy that is simply rocking something out.

Thank you, Jessica, for opening my eyes to experiencing a challenge in that way.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Birthday Buns

Today is my Michael's birthday. (The first 30 candles are implied.)  Cinnamon buns and birthday candles have become a tradition in our house for his birthday.  I got the idea from seeing a friend's Facebook pictures a few years ago.  It's a fun way to start the celebrations!  This is our third set of birthdays since we got married, and it's a great feeling to feel like we are actually settling into our own traditions.

I am so glad this guy was born.
I am so glad he married me.
I am so glad that he will always be older than me.  :)
And that on his birthday, I also get to enjoy birthday buns and cake.

Michael, I love you even more than icing.
I hope you enjoy every moment of your day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some Trees Look Like Fire

I took these pictures of a few trees in our apartment complex today, as I was heading into work.  I can't decide which shade of the fall colors I like best.  The yellow and fire-orange ones are tied.  I'm leaning toward orange, though.

I love Fall, I really do.  It is so beautiful.  I love the leaves, and all things pumpkin, and all of the fall candle scents.  And I like boots.
But, I just don't like what Fall leads to... you know... it's a slippery slope to... WINTER.
Ack! I don't usually curse on this blog, it's a family blog, you know.
My denial of cooler temperatures was able to continue today because it was almost 70 degrees. 
I have not packed away my flip flops yet.
But soon.  Soon socks will be a daily must.  Soon, I will be wearing black pants every day for 4 months.  Soon the Metro will be more packed because of commuters in heavy coats.

But that's okay.  At least there are Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Gingerbread Lattes.  And I do love Thanksgiving and Christmas is okay.

There you have it.  There's my little Fall pep talk.
Does anyone else want to enjoy it until Christmas, then take a nap, and wake up to Cherry Blossom time in April?
Let's do it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Love Is...

It's before 5:00am and I'm sitting in my blue chair in the living room, watching the morning weather, wincing through the "news" about Michael Jackson's doctor, and absorbing heat from a heating pad on my neck.  I woke up with a crick (sp?) in my neck yesterday and it still hurts! Ouch.

I've been reading "Crazy Love," by Francis Chan.  If you ever want to feel like you are a horrible Christian, get this book! I say that in a good way.  He really challenges us to step up and live our faith, not just talk about it and not just phone it in.

Yesterday, I read where Mr. Chan suggested you take 1 Corinthians 13, you know, the one famously quoted in weddings.

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not
delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres."

Mr. Chan suggests looking at this a different way, replacing the word "Love," with your name. So for me it would be "Dana is patient, Dana is kind... She does not envy..."

So, I read it like that.
And I almost fell on my knees reading my Kindle, right there on the metro.

I am NOT patient.  I am only SOMETIMES kind.  I DO envy, all the time! I do boast.  I am so proud, I do not even like to accept help from anyone.  Okay, I don't think I really dishonor others, but I can be totally self seeking, I have recently been more easily angered (especially at my poor husband!) I can keep a record of wrongs (don't even ask me about my birthday) I doubt trust, give up hope and want to give up sometimes.

Wow. What an awesome wife, huh?  I was feeling really convicted when I realized all of this.  But, I'm thankful for that conviction.  So, this is my repentance. The truth is, I know I cannot love like this (pardon me, that was not on purpose!) on my own.  I need Jesus to pull this off!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The View From Here

I am the only girl in a row of reporters at GOP Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann's speech this morning.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anybody Want to Buy Me a Prize?

A ponied of Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend sure would put a smile on my face! I love that stuff! Christmas Blend is my ultimate favorite though, can't wait until they stock that soon! I saw a bunch of boxes being delivered to one of my Starbucks the other day, so hopefully very soon!