Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can we talk for a second?

About this:

I've been seriously jipped on my Pop-Tart, and I'm upset. 

My Pop-Tart eating diminished when I figured out that each pastry was 210 calories. I was under the impression that an entire package of Pop-Tarts was 210 calories. Lies. Pop-Tarts are strictly Evan's deal for breakfast. Don't get me wrong, I love them just as much as the next person, but I try to opt for cereal, mixed nuts, or something a little more filling without an obscene about of calories and sugar in the morning.

While packing my lunch, I grabbed a pack of Pop-Tarts to pack with my applesauce, since we literately had nothing else in the house. I'm such a bad wife. I was pretty pumped considering this would be a "treat," and just thinking about them in my lunchbox waiting was enough to make me drool all morning! After eating my applesauce, I grabbed my Brown Cinnamon Sugar Pop-Tart package like it contained Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket. I pulled out the first delicate pastry and flipped it over, ready to devour it. My jaw dropped when only half of the pastry was covered in frosting! The other half had a wimpy thin layer of frosting! Part of me almost yelled out in a dramatic, slow-motion, NOOOOOOooooooooooo!

But I didn't.

I sat there and pouted.


And then threw the other Pop-Tart away. 

I'll show you Kellogg. Think I'll eat your wimpy half-frosted Pop-Tart? Think again! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Struggle

I am blown away with just how simple and uncomplicated my life is. I mean, yeah, I can't make bread, or sometimes work is frustrating, but in the big scheme of life I got it good -- exceptionally good. I don't have any guilty regrets hanging in my closet, a troubled childhood, or any deep, negative life-changing events. I don't feel the need to drink, do drugs, get high, or be in an menacing relationship to compensate or feel "cool." I can handle my emotions in a healthy way. I'm not trying to fill an empty void; I'm happy, whole, and normal. I know who I am, and who God is. But, now that I'm in the big "grown up" world my eyes have been opened to just how much darkness there is.

So many people are left bitterly in a hopeless black pit, without a light to see. Instead, they blindly reach for anything that meets them in the dark, desperately following without question.

I see people reaching, being deceived, and believing in things that don't matter; trying to fill the emptiness with something materially or emotionally tangible, even if it's a lie. People no longer understand what it means to be a good, responsible, and a real person -- nor do they want to be. Most are only concerned with themselves and what they can get out of it. Maybe I was naive in thinking that honesty, respect, and simple goodness was a natural quality that every person had. News flash Meredith, it's not true. Truthfully, it breaks my heart that they don't know Who to look for, or what to fill their emptiness with. I'm so blessed beyond words to have this simple truth and to feel fulfilled.

You never know what another person is going through, or has gone through, so choose your words meticulously. You don't know their struggle. I'm not saying to go through life tip-toeing around people. I'm saying to show them love. Show them compassion and mercy, without judging them. This world is so judgmental. Be the arm that is reaching out in the dark. The arm that will hold-on tight throughout rough waters, and be there for them no matter how many times they mess up. "People need loving the most when they deserve it the least" - John Harrigan. We hate admitting that we make mistakes and mess up. We like to think no matter what we've done, we rationalize why it's not that bad. The truth is: we're all meager humans deserving of nothing. Show them love.

"Everyone must carry two pieces of paper with him and look at them every day. On one it is written: 'You are dust and ashes.' And on the other: 'For you the universe was created."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I do NOT judge you when you use poor grammar

Are you relieved?
There is a person who doesn't judge you when you use poor grammar!
Just look through this blog and I'm positive you could rip it apart with a red pen.

I just figured I would let you know there is one person in the world who doesn't give a flying fig.
You're welcome.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Whore

I'm a book whore.
Ever since Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in her warm little cabin in the woods with Pa, Ma, Mary, and Carrie I've been sold.

Every year when my family would go on vacation, my mom and dad always gave my brother and I a little money to buy some souvenirs with. And every year my brother and I gladly squandered invested all of our money at the bookstore. We didn't care about t-shirts, colored seashells, or a memorable magnet. No, not even toys could tempt us! We would spend hours contemplating on what books to buy.

Yesterday I finished reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

It's been raved about by the New York Times and many others. It's a story about a couple, David and Norah, who quickly fell madly in love, got married, and are expecting a baby. One blustery snowy night in Lexington, Kentucky Norah goes into labor and David, a doctor, delivers a healthy baby boy. But, right after their son Paul is born Norah delivers another baby, this time a girl. David realizes as soon as Phoebe is born there is something wrong with her. Pained by the memory of his younger sister who died as a sickly child, David directs a nurse to take Phoebe to a home for the handicapped. The nurse, unable to leave Phoebe in such a horrible place, moves away and raises her as her own daughter. David tells his wife Norah that Phoebe died at birth. The rest of the book focuses on how this one secret destroyed a family. Arguments, betrayal, and disappointment are all caused by this secret; It slips right under the surface of every disagreement, but can't quite be touched.

I personally had a hard time with this book, and I genuinely wanted to like this book. While reading it I kept persuading myself that I would eventually want to eat this book up...well, it never happened. The story itself is sad, but also incredibly irritating. Every build up in the book ends up dissolving away without any real resolution. Not one of the characters were likable to me; they came off as wishy-washy, very one dimensional, and slightly distant. The characters never seemed to actually feel the emotions they had. I understand every character has their good and bad, but in this book the character's weaknesses noticeably outweighed their strengths. Each time I thought, I had figured out a character's personality, they would do something completely counter intuitive to their character. For example Norah in the beginning is such a consistent, calm, caring person, a little childish, who never took big risks. By the end she was running her own big business, having multiple affairs, acting completely irrational, and always thinking the worst about people. The Norah I perceived as a young adult is not the one I would have formulated later in life. The idea for this story is actually interesting, especially the time period it was set in, but somehow the author didn't carry it out very well. It could have been a fantastically original book, but I was left feeling disappointed and "ehh" about it all.

I did like the references to Lexington, Kentucky (where I went to college) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where I'm from). It was neat hearing Edwards describe places that I knew so intimately. Sadly, this is probably one of the only things that kept me interested.

Overall I wouldn't recommend this book. I just keep hoping it was all a big joke, and I accidently read the wrong, stupid version. Let me check--nope, I didn't. Dang it. Lesson learned: don't believe everything New York Times tells you. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It Happened.

So I don't know if I mentioned it, but for Christmas this year I got a bread machine. 
My mother-in-law and her family have a running joke in the family that if someone doesn't make a Christmas list they are getting a bread machine instead as punishment. Well hardy-har-har I asked for one. And everyone though I was crazy. Well I am, so laugh it up!

Why a bread machine?
Because I suck at making bread.
I've tried what seems like hundreds of times (OK, actually maybe 3 times) by hand. And no matter what I do it never turns out right. Too flat, too burnt, too dense, etc. (That is precisely what happened each of the 3 times I tried).

Well it also turns out I am incapable of making bread from a BREAD MACHINE.

While it's raising the smell makes my mouth water.
When it's done cooking it looks perfectly golden.
Slicing it reveals a crunchy crust and a soft light middle.
The moment it touches my lips reveals...cardboard.
I believe cardboard might have definitely has more flavor.
How is it possible to make bread this horrible???
The directions are dump the junk in and come back when you've done whatever-the-heck-you-want for 3 hours! I've tried 10+ different recipes, even trying to tweak them, with all the same cardboard bread result. See other bread failures here and here.

So that was bread-failing Meredith talking, I'm now a new woman. Then I had an "it happened" moment. --You know like the first time your puppy goes to the door to pee outside. The first time you actually understand algebra. The first time you broke a million points on Temple Run. That is what this felt like ladies and gentlemen. I wouldn't call myself a bread-goddess quite yet, but it just might occur here soon. Tuesday evening it happened...the cardboard bread is now a thing of the past...a delicious, sweet, golden, and savory loaf of 100% Whole Wheat bread appeared in my bread maker. This recipe for 100% Whole Wheat bread has been the only one to date to actually work for me. It taste so good! I'm not sure if the stars were aligned but I'm to make this one again!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Smokey Mountain Weekend

I've been plagued with "Smokey Mountain Range Rain" stuck in my head all weekend. You know the song:

"Smokey Mountain rain keeps on fallin'
I keep on callin' her name
Smokey Mountain rain I'll keep on searchin'
I can't go on hurtin' this way
She's somewhere in the Smokey Mountain rain"

Unfortunately that's the only part of the song I know.
The whole way to Gatlinburg Tennessee I hummed it in my head while Evan whistled it. We decided we needed a getaway. Since a big vacation/honeymoon wasn't an option we packed up the car, the dog, and drove east to the Great Smokey Mountains for a long weekend. It was our last chance to go somewhere before Evan deploys in a couple months, and we were happy to leave Clarksville behind!

It's strange vacationing with your husband instead of your family for the first time. I kind of felt like a rebel. I was with a boy, in a cabin, alone, in the middle of the woods...rebellious I know. We brought some good books, shut our phones off, and planned on doing nothing! 

 The cabin was perfect!

 Evan using his man skills made us a cozy fire every night!

 Saturday we made our way to Gatlinburg to do some shopping and see the sights. I was surprised at how touristy Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge is. There were signs for tours, and tacky souvenir shops everywhere. Don't get me wrong, there were some nice shops, but were few and far between. The Lumberjack Feud dinner and show, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, and plethora of Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, aquarium, and magic show, made it hard for me to really enjoy Gatlinburg. Maybe I was just expecting more simplicity than cheesy attractions.  

Unfortunately it rained most of the weekend, so hiking wasn't an option. I think I would have enjoyed Gatlinburg more if I would have been able to see the more "nature" side of it. We ended up buying a glass blown ornament for a Christmas tree next year, and then staying holed up in our cabin for the rest of the trip. 

 The Smokey Mountains right outside our windows!

 We made breakfast every morning and then went out for dinner.

 Most of our weekend was spent being lazy, reading books, playing a games of pool, relaxing in the hot tub, and enjoying the view. Scout's favorite part of the trip was creeping on our neighbors off of our porch, and spending hours outside smelling everything...I think he had too much fresh air.

 Call us crazy, but we were also super excited to have...drum roll please...cable! We gleefully watched Full Metal Jousting on the History Channel and The Walking Dead. It was nice to have cable for the weekend, but I'm still glad we go without TV most of the time. We use our time more wisely, or at least know we are doing something more productive than rotting our brains.

 Scout enjoyed being a "Mountain Dog" but was ready for the ride home!

We had such a good time just hanging out and having no obligations to do anything, or go anywhere. It's a great feeling! Most of the time I'm always happy to be home, but this time around I could have stayed another week in the mountains and not complained!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Home Life in Modern Days

I've been in ISS (In School Suspension) with "Kevin" for the past week. I've had so much fun sitting in silence I picked up a few books from the library to curb the insane amount of merriment.
I checked out "Home Life in Colonial Days" by Alice Morse Earle. Before you fall to sleep at the very mention of this seemingly humdrum title let me explain. Ok, so most people would slowly die if they were required to read this book. The librarian asked me if I was doing research, which I quickly explained that I was just a fellow nerd reading some history.

 The book was pretty good, but I found a certain passage in particular to be really eyeopening on "Neighborliness." Today everyone is leery of their neighbors and strangers, which they have every right to be...there are a lot of crazies out there. But, even I can remember when I was little walking over to my neighbor's house with a cup to borrow some sugar, or a few eggs. But this was only because I grew up in a really small neighborhood, and I literately knew all of my neighbors like family, which might not be so common now. In the neighborhood I live in now we only know the neighbors across the street from us. When I say "know" I mean we've introduced ourselves, but I honestly can't say I even remember their names. I've tried waving "hi" or making eye contact to introduce ourselves to others, but neighbors turn with a blind eye, and scurry back into the safety of their home. Is it not a sad day in America when we look at our neighbors with a suspicious eye? When they are probably just as pleasant and polite as we are, but our first instinct is to assume the worst? Maybe we're more antisocial? I'm not really sure. Anyway, Alice Earle sums it up perfectly on just how much the foundations of our society has changed.

A picture of an old inn sign. This will one day be in the foyer of my house!

"Colonial Neighborliness"

"It is curious to see how completely social ethics and relations have changed since olden days. Aid in our families in times of stress and need is not given to us now by kindly neighbors as of yore; we have well-arranged systems by which we can buy all that assistance, and pay for it, not with affectionate regard, but with current coin. The colonist turned to any and all who lived around him, and never turned in vain for help in sickness, or at the time of death of members of his household; for friendly advice; for culinary aids to a halting appetite; for the preparation for feasting an exceptional number of persons; in short, in any unusual emergency, as well as in frequent every-day cooperation."
"We nowadays have generalized our sentiments, we have more philanthropy and less neighborliness; we have more love for mankind and less for men. We are independent of our neighbors, but infinitely more dependent on the world at large. The personal element has been removed to a large extent from our social ethics."

Today people assume their own burdens, or expect the government to take care of it, at the cost of high taxes. How much more respectful would we be of each other if we all still lived this way? I believe there would be less rudeness and more courteousness. More hard workers and less thieves. Less government dependence and better communicators. Society would be be a more moral, trustworthy, and better steward of belongings.
I know I can't live with my nose stuck in a history book, wishing things were like the "Days of Yore," but sometimes I would like to hope that there are still neighborhoods like my neighborhood growing up still out there. Or, that we can make an effort to create this neighborly spirit in towns throughout America once again. So maybe the next time you see your neighbor getting the mail, instead of turning away cross the street and talk to them. Ask them if they need you to cut their lawn the next time they are away. Saronade them to Mr. Ronger's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Ok...that might be a little creepy, but you catch my drift don't you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unconventional Valentines

I think Valentines Day might be one of my favorite holidays, next to Halloween. Even if you don't have a hott date, it's basically a day to love other people. Getting a Valentine's Day note at school or in your mailbox is like hitting the jackpot. It just makes your day 1,000x better.

You know the usual boxes of heart shaped chocolates, dozen red roses, or an adorable bug-eyed stuffed animal, all complete with a sappy love card. Don't get me wrong, I think all that stuff is great, but for some reason when it comes to Valentine's Day Evan and I never actually do the usual things one is supposed to do to celebrate it. We didn't decide to do unromantic things, it just kind of happened every year, so we just dumbed it tradition! It's not out of spite, I guess it's simply because we don't go with the crowd, or like crowds in general. If we are together on Valentine's Day we usually do the complete opposite of what couples normally do. When Evan wasn't away at Asbury, an Army school, or deployed here are some of the things we did.

Valentines Day 2005: Zombie Movie...Instead of seeing the classic Valentine's Day chick flick. We were the only ones in the theatre on Valentine's Day, now that's romantic!

Valentine's Day 2008: I have no idea what we did on this Valentine's Day. Ergo I assume it wasn't anything Valentine's Day esc.

Valentine's Day 2009: If I can recall correctly I believe we ate at McDonald's, then drove around the back roads of Kentucky. (We were poor college students)

This year we had the ultimate romantic night: we went shooting guns.

 All joking aside, I actually have a really good time when we go together.
 Evan's target on the left, and mine on the can be the judge on who won! I might get super competitive.

So in love.

After shooting we stopped at Dunkin Donuts.
Donuts and coffee...the boy knows the way to my heart!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Family Weekend

This weekend my parents came to visit!
Our weekend consisted of a lot of overeating, doting on Scout, and hanging out. The big stop of the weekend was Antique Archeology in Nashville.

 If you watch American Pickers you will immediately know what I'm talking about. My parents are obsessed with the show. Mike Wolfe (the tall skinny one) opened a store in Nashville to sell his "picks." It was in a pretty cool old building.
The Rents
 There were a lot of unique things, which were pretty cool and definitely one-of-a-kind. The prices were kind of expensive, but if you found something you liked, you know you wouldn't be finding something like it anywhere in your lifetime. The majority of the merchandise was t-shirts, key chains, posters, etc. Overall it was a pretty neat place to see!

 Unfortunetly everything I liked was not for sale. (The clock above and this awesome coffee table) Lame.
To overcome my sadness I smothered bbq sauce on pulled pork at Bar-B-Cutie for dinner. It made up for the lost coffee table and clock. At the end of the weekend we had a fridge full of leftovers, a little more junk in the trunk, one exhausted puppy, and a messy house. But, it was all in the name of time well spent together.

Friday, February 10, 2012

La Vita Bella

Spaghetti is a standard meal every week at our house.
Mainly because it's cheap.
More importantly because it's delicious.

Spaghetti night is both Evan and I's favorite. This week we spiced it up by having french bread with spiced oil (I probably could have eaten just that). We also splurged and bought a fresh block of Parmesan cheese from the fancy cheese case. Ooh-la-la! Sorry, I forgot we're in Italy.

 Fresh Parmesan cheese
Mangia! Eat!

Have you ever heard men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti?
This week I've definitely been a full fledged classic spaghetti woman.
Poor Evan.
Work has been extra stressful this week, my parents are coming for a visit this weekend, the clock of Evan having to leave is always ticking down in the back of my mind, and this past week we got some bad news with a close family friend. In the last year there has been multiple instances of young people passing away, or having severe complications out of nowhere. One day they are healthy the next their in a hospital bed fighting for their lives.

Brigitte has been having eye trouble, which makes her vision incredibly blurry. She's hoping she doesn't lose her sight completely. She has 2 young boys and a daughter that's my brother's age.

My friend Brenda was sitting at her computer one day and her fingers went numb. She went to her doctors as a precaution and it turned out she has an extremely aggressive cancerous tumor in an untouchable part of her brain. She has 3 young kids.

 Amy, my childhood friend's mom starting having pain in her legs. Tests showed that she had Leukemia, and is still struggling for her life. No one in her family is a match for a donor, so she's put on the never ending wait for a match.

Yesterday we learned our friend Peggy was in a medically induced coma with bleeding on her brain. Peggy, her husband, and young son flew to LA to have a minor surgery on a nerve that was being pinched along her jaw. 20 minutes after surgery she was put on life support to save her. Her blood was not clotting correctly, and they did tests that found she has a rare blood disorder (1 in 5 million). The doctors still don't understand why she's bleeding on the complete opposite side of her head that they were working on. She's had bleeding on her brain for over 24 hours...the doctors say if she does survive she will most likely have significant brain damage.

Sometimes it's just hard to understand why we, or others, are put into horrible, dark situations like these. It's just been one person after another. One prayer group after another praying fervently with no answer, no healing. God can work in miraculous ways, and I'm trying not to doubt that. But, after going through everything with Uncle Don, who I truly believed God would heal, I just can't hope for a miracle as easily as I did before. I feel horrible admitting this. I feel like I'm dooming these people by just thinking it. I guess I'm not doubting God, I'm just having a hard time understanding why. Why does he choose to heal some people, but not others? Why do really bad things happen to really good people? I am broken for these people. 
I've been wrapped up in this all week.
And you know what?
I don't think I will ever know the answer to this.

Instead of wondering why, I will fight. I will pray, I will hope for a miracle, and I'll remember La Vita Bella.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The D Word

From the looks of it Evan will be deploying again back to Afghanistan this spring.
Deployments are complicated.
 I've tried writing what I think about this about a thousand times now. All that ends up happening is my face looking like this:
So, to de-frazzle myself and you (if you're frazzled) here are some complimentary photos to adorableness to melt your heart.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Death of Diets

Two ladies beside me during my lunch break were talking about diets. Not just any diets mind you. Apparently there are programs out there where you inject yourself with daily SHOTS that curb your appetite, and then you eat only 500 calories per day. WHAT? Someone please tell me this is a horrible no good joke. I started to feel light headed at the very thought of this self induced torture. Who in their right mind would give themselves shhhaaa...shhhoo....shots. There I said it. And on top of that who would choose to only eat 500 calories a day?!
Can somebody explain to me why a person would want to be on a diet like that?
Then again, who wants to ever be on a diet?
I get hungry just thinking the word diet.

My heart feels heavy for people that feel like they have to go to that extreme length to lose weight. I know, I've been there, done that. I was at the point where I was disgusted with myself. I hated puffing after a simple flight of steps. I hated not being able to cross my legs comfortably. I hated feeling my thighs give each other a hug with every step. I hated sitting with my arms crossed over my stomach. I hated having zero self-control when it came to food. I would eat until I was absolutely stuffed at every meal, even if I wasn't hungry. I would feel stupid and guilty for overeating, but did it every time anyway. Dessert? Don't even get me started on's still my weakness. Deep down I was highly embarrassed at how low I had let myself sink, emotionally and physically.

Maybe it's the shots, maybe it's limiting yourself to 500 calories a day, but it seems like you would be even more miserable on a diet like that, rather than just being a little heavier than you would like.
I guess you have to come to realize diets don't work.
You can't take shots and live on 500 calories a day for the rest of your life.
That's the easy, quick fix.
I know I don't know it all, but I do know for sure there isn't anything healthy about that diet.