How I Came to Own the Four Quartets

Of course, “own” isn’t quite the right word. But they are in my house, hanging in my entryway behind glass. They are mine.

Four Quartets is a set of poems written by T.S. Eliot between 1940 and 1943. They are widely regarded as the pinnacle of Eliot’s career and helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. Originally, they were published separately as pamphlets by Eliot’s employer, London publishing house Faber & Faber.  The individual poems are “Burnt Norton,” “East Coker,” “The Dry Salvages,” and “Little Gidding.” They were published together in 1943 by Eliot’s American publisher, and from then on they were called Four Quartets.

T.S. Eliot is my favorite poet. I’ve read and studied all of his works, and I feel a strong connection to him. I have a tattoo from his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that quotes, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” His Four Quartets have many of my favorite quotes:

“Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.”
— Burnt Norton

“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
— East Coker

“For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.”
–The Dry Salvages

“The communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.”
–Little Gidding

When I was studying in London in 2010, I was overwhelmed by all of the amazing bookstores. I adore books, and to be in a country where antique books were available so abundantly was incredible to me. Any book older than a few hundred years had to travel across an ocean to reach my country. Here, they were found every day in old estates and libraries. I spent much of my free time browsing bookstores. I must have gone to close to a hundred in my three months there.

My group was living at Pickwick Hall when I found the first two pamphlets. It was February 2, 2010. I was walking in front of the British Museum when I noticed a bookshop, Jarndyce. It looked too expensive for me, but I went in to browse.

Almost immediately, I walked to a cart that held new arrivals. There on the second shelf, I spotted them: The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding, paired together for £110.

It was too much money for me, certainly more than I had on me at the time. The shopkeeper was watching me closely. I doubt I fit his normal customer profile. I walked up to her with the pamphlets in hand and begged her to set them aside for me while I ran back to my room to get more money. She told me she couldn’t hold them, but that she would leave them on the desk for twenty minutes before putting them back on the shelf.

I nodded, wrapped up my scarf, and rushed out of the shop. I’m sure she never expected to see me again.

It was raining a light drizzle. I was wearing ballet flats instead of sensible shoes, and as I ran down the street I slipped on the sidewalk and fell down. It was completely embarrassing, and I’m glad I was alone. I walked the rest of the way nursing a bruised knee. I knew if I didn’t go as quickly as possible, sensible Callie would start talking me out of it. I’m not good with impulse buys. If it doesn’t happen within a few minutes of getting the idea, I’ll never do it.

I climbed the stairs to my room and dug out my weekly allowance. I decided it was worth eating sandwiches for a few weeks instead of going to nice restaurants with the rest of the group. When I got back to the shop, I was soaking wet and out of breath, but I handed over my money and tucked the pamphlets under my shirt to protect them from the rain.

I’ve never noticed that guy there until just now…

Here’s what I wrote on Facebook that day:

I found two first-edition printings of T.S. Eliot’s poems, “The Dry Salvages” and “Little Gidding,” which are the last two parts of “The Four Quartets.” They’re in good condition, which is amazing because they’re just pamphlets. I’ve been looking for them for years! I’m so excited.

It was a miracle to me to find them. Since they were published during World War II, not many survived. London (and the rest of the UK) was bombed many times and so many books didn’t last. The rest of my group thought I was a little crazy when I showed them, but that’s okay. I was beyond thrilled. A few weeks later, I took a trip by myself on a train and bus to East Coker to visit T.S. Eliot’s grave. I took tons of pictures:

The yard of St. Michael’s Church was so peaceful and SO green.

When I got back to the States in April, the pamphlets went into my London Memory Box wrapped in tissue paper. From there, they traveled with me to four different houses and apartments before I pulled them out again a few weeks ago. Sam has known for years about my desire to find the other two, and as a Valentine’s Day present, he gave me permission to order Burnt Norton and East Coker.

It took a lot of searching to find the other two in good condition. I wanted first editions to match my others. Burnt Norton came from a bookstore in Burntisland, a town near Edinburgh, Scotland. East Coker came from a store in Bath, England. I don’t think I ever would have found them for sale in the U.S. The only reason they make it to the U.S. is if people buy them and bring them over, like I did. Those people aren’t selling them any time soon.

Now, they’re all together, and it’s like they were together all along. It’s like I finally have all the pieces to the puzzle. I know I’ll treasure them for the rest of my life.

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Happy Callie, Checking In

I haven’t checked this blog in two months.  I know, I’m the worst.  I’m like the person that buys a really awesome potted plant, takes care of it, and then forgets to water it for a while.  (Actually, I’m not like that person– I am that person.  Plants are hard.)  But, here I am, dusting off the leaves and ready for sunshine.  And, to my amazement, my blog has stayed kicking without me, getting a steady stream of views through Google and Pinterest.  The roots are still very much alive.

This has been such an insane semester!  I did end up getting a new job; I was promoted to the lead secretary in the counseling department and I was put in charge of the high school’s College & Career Center.  I know, ironic right?  There I was, fresh out of college, ready to help kids figure out what to do with their lives when I’m still not so sure what to do with mine.  However, over the past few months I’ve found a lot of joy in helping kids discover a path in life that will take them where they want to go.  I’ve had to wipe a lot of tears and say, “Yes, the real world is scary, it’s true.  But it’s also awesome.”

Me at my desk. My office is decorated with college pennants, but the Hardin-Simmons one got prime wall space by my diploma.

One of my biggest projects this semester has been helping the seniors find scholarships.  I’ve spent countless hours scouring the internet for scholarship opportunities and talking to local scholarship donors.  I also organized Senior Awards Night, which was a huge ordeal and was probably about as stressful to plan as my wedding was.  Our seniors received $2.5 million in scholarships this year, partly because of my help!  The best thing this job has helped me realize is how much I love helping people.  Even though the job doesn’t pay much, it’s gratifying enough to make it worth it.

This is one of my projects for my students. I researched a bunch of scholarships and put them on slips of paper with the amount, due date, etc. I would remove them after they were due until they were all gone.

In March, I was finally approved to get breast reduction surgery.  This was something I thought about for a long time and I’m so glad I did it.  My chronic back pain is gone, I can exercise more, my clothes fit better, and I feel so much more confident.  The recovery process was difficult, but I feel back to normal now.  I’ve never been the type to condone plastic surgery, but now that I’ve been through it myself I understand a lot better why someone would want to go through that.  My surgery wasn’t for cosmetic reasons as much as it was to get rid of the back pain that often left me in tears after a long day of work.

Ready for surgery, but scared to pieces! I had never had surgery before.

The results have been more than I could ever have hoped for.  I feel 100% better.  I was out from work for nearly two weeks, and that made a stressful semester even more stressful.  However, I don’t regret it one bit.

Before, December 2012

After, June 2013

I spent my recovery surrounded by pandas…

… and a Panda, so I managed to recover just fine.

In other news, spring came and it brought bluebonnets!  God bless Texas.

My parents gave us this great old dresser.  Hopefully sometime this summer I will have a chance to paint it to match our bedroom.  Stay tuned for that!

My hair got super long…

Sam had a Star Wars themed birthday party, complete with a Darth Vader cake (chocolate cake recipe was Revell’s Food Cake) designed by me.

A bunch of friends came in to visit, and that was so great to see everybody and celebrate Sam’s special day.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Renaissance Faire with our friends Autumn and Vincent.

Ian the Korean came to visit!

Also, for the first time ever I got paid for a professional writing assignment!  I’ve been writing for a local magazine called NOW Magazine.  My first article will be published in July or August.  I will definitely post the link for you when it comes out.

Sam officially finished his first year of teaching today!  He cleared out his classroom and turned in his keys this morning.  That means we are moving again sometime this summer.  We don’t know where yet, but we are on the lookout for a Social Studies teaching position somewhere in Texas.  It’s always scary to be so uncertain about the future, but we are searching hard and I have faith something will turn up.  For now, Sam and I are enjoying the adventure.

Now you are all caught up!  I still have work for another three weeks, but after that I’ll be out for the summer and I’ll hopefully have more free time to devote to my little plant.

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Libraries, Cheesecake, and Chandler Bing

Our Christmas Tree. We received our amazing Yoda tree-topper for Christmas, but our tree is only a few feet tall. Next year we might have to upgrade to a bigger tree to better accommodate Master Yoda.

Life has a way of slipping by when my back is turned.  I can’t believe it’s 2013 already.  Sam wrapped up his first semester of teaching a few weeks ago, and he is happy for the break.  His first semester went well, though his coaching duties made it very busy.  I started my new job at the end of November, and I wrapped up the semester on December 21.  It feels like I hardly worked at all before Christmas break, and I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet, so I can’t really tell how work is going so far.  I enjoy my job, but it’s a little underwhelming.  I only work four hours a day and each of those four hours is spent either bending over a copy machine making sure staples don’t snag or migrating back and forth between my desk trying to look busy.  I work very quickly and there simply isn’t enough work to take up my time.  I work with great people and the work isn’t hard, so I’m not trying to complain or anything.  Maybe that’s the problem– the work isn’t challenging.  After slaving away for A+ grades in college, I feel underutilized running a copy machine.  It’s the same work I did in ninth grade working in the principal’s office for P.E. credit.

(Thank goodness they let awkward, nerdy girls like me get P.E. credit working in the office.  They saved me from a year of changing my clothes under my clothes and going to my next class all sweaty.  I did end up having to take a semester of P.E. in 10th grade, and I’m not kidding about this: my friend, Erika, and I would bring athletic pants to school in our backpacks and wear them over our jeans so we wouldn’t have to change for gym class.  Our P.E. teacher would always have some random activity planned, like volleyball or indoor soccer.  She even let us try archery– that lasted about twenty minutes until she realized giving a bunch of high schoolers bows and arrows and letting them go at it might not have been the best idea.  For those that didn’t want to participate in the activities, she let walk laps around the gym.  As long as we were constantly moving during class, we got credit.  That’s how Erika and I spent a semester walking laps around a gym wearing jeans and sweatpants at once.)

Anyway, I actually have an interview scheduled for Monday.  There’s an opening in the high school library for a library aide, and I really want it.  The position is full time and would be much more interesting work.  I’ve always loved libraries; I see them as a haven.  It’s where I always go when I need somewhere very quiet and safe. I don’t know if the job will work out because there are several other applicants who probably have a lot more experience than me, but I’m going to try anyway.  There’s also a full-time secretary position that I applied for, too.  I guess you could say I’m casting my nets far and wide.

Sam and I don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future… We don’t even know where he’ll be teaching next year.  That makes it hard for me to settle down and commit to things like this, but I’m learning to take everything one day at a time.  A few months of experience is better than no experience at all.  I know whatever works out will be the right thing.  I’m still very excited about the idea of trying a new  job soon… We’ll see what happens.

So much else happened last month!  December was very busy for us.  We celebrated our first anniversary on December 18!  Sam bought me a gorgeous necklace from James Avery that matches my wedding ring perfectly.  I was shocked… I didn’t even hint for it!  He picked it out all by himself and I absolutely love it.  He knows me so well.  We enjoyed a dinner at Carino’s Italian (that’s our go-to restaurant; not only is the food delicious, but it’s where we went on our first date, the night we got engaged, and the night we got married).  Then, we went and saw The Hobbit together, which I loved.

December 19 was our chinchilla Rigby’s first birthday.  We got him his favorite toy (a bundle of sticks he enjoys chewing to bits) and spoiled him with treats all day.  We love the little fuzzball.

On December 21, the world was supposed to end.  As a joke, Sam and I invited a bunch of our college friends to an “End of the World Afterparty” to celebrate, and they all showed up!  We ended up having eleven people in our tiny apartment, and most of them stayed the night.  It was a blast!  We ate a ton of food and played party games.

Sam and Ian were a little exhausted the day after the party. (Sam is the Korean on the right, Ian is the Korean on the left.)

The next day, we went antique shopping in downtown Waxahachie.  Then, Sam’s brother and his family arrived from Indiana on their way to Austin for Christmas with Sam’s family.  We joined them the next day and spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Austin. I did a lot of baking for Christmas!  I made a Christmas Checkerboard Cake using the same technique I used for my original Checkerboard Cake.  I also made my first apple pie!

The family helped celebrate my birthday and my niece Lizzy’s birthday (mine was on the 26 and hers was on the 28) by making us a panda cake!  I was beyond excited when I first saw it.

Lizzy even made me a Hello Kitty panda on the Hello Kitty dress-up app I downloaded onto my iPhone for her.  She accidentally upgraded it to the full version for $1.99 because I was dumb enough to let a kid who can’t read yet play with my phone.  Oh well, at least I got this:

We drove to Abilene to see my extended family.  We ended up playing games and I found time to see Les Miserables, which I also loved.  We made it home in time for Sam’s brother to pass back through on the way back to Indiana.  For New Year’s Eve, our friends Ben, Camille, and Anthony came over to celebrate.  We watched the ball drop online and I made my first cheesecake.  I tried a recipe from Betty Crocker for chocolate covered cherry cheesecake and it turned out delicious!  Everyone liked it.

Our house has finally started to quiet down. It’s a wreck and I have a ton of cleaning to do, but it was worth it to see so many people we love.  Now, I’m relaxing and watching Friends.  I actually saw my first episode of Friends during Thanksgiving when my older sister, Taylor, was watching one of the Thanksgiving episodes as a re-run on TV.  I know, I know– I’m about a decade late to the party, but I absolutely love this show.  I’ve been watching low-quality episodes online, and the box set is definitely going on my Christmas list next year.  The show is just so well written and the acting is great.  I’ve become emotionally invested in the characters.  I cried when Chandler proposed to Monica; it was just so sweet.

That brings me to my final point: Chandler Bing is one of the best men in television history, hands down.  He’s definitely my favorite character on the show.  He has such a kind heart and he’s hilarious.  He’s been through a lot of difficult circumstances, but he manages to laugh about it.  He’s good at making people feel better or calming people down when they’re stressed or scared.  He’s goofy and cute.  He reminds me a lot of Sam, which is probably why I like him so much.

So, happy 2013!  Watch this clip of funny Chandler moments, and let yourself laugh.  :)

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I Stayed Awake This Morning

Check out my ID badge! :)

Today was my first day of work at my new job!  I felt so strange waking up today.  For the past few months, Sam has been working and I’ve been staying at home.  Every morning, I would wake up at 6:45 and say, “Sam, it’s time to get up.”  I’d go to the closet and pick out a shirt and pants for him.  I’d go back in the bedroom and turn on the light, saying, “No, seriously, Sam, it’s time.”  He’d groan and pull a pillow over his head.  I’d track down a pair of socks for him and retrieve his shoes from the living room before prying the pillow out of his fingers.  “Sam, you’ve gotta get ready for work.”  He’d squint his eyes against the light and make an adorable grumpy face before reaching for the comforter to cover his face again.  I’d be one step ahead of him, having already pulled the comforter out of his reach.  He’d complain about the cold and I’d remind him that putting on his clothes would help with that.  Usually at this point he’d check the time on his Yoda alarm clock, affirming that, indeed, it is time to wake up.  He’d finally roll out of bed and shuffle into the bathroom to put in his contacts.  I’d manage to tame his bedhead with a squirt bottle full of water that is always too cold for Sam’s liking.  He’d finally get his clothes on and leave me at the door with a sleepy kiss, promising to have a good day like I’d request.

Here’s where Callie-from-Yesterday’s and Callie-from-Today’s paths split.  Callie-from-Yesterday would lock the door, turn off the light, crawl back under the covers on Sam’s side of the bed (it’d still be warm), and go back to sleep.  She wouldn’t even bother with setting an alarm.  She’d sleep as long as physically possible, usually till around noon.  Once her day was considerably shorter, she’d find tasks and projects to occupy her time until Sam came home later that evening.  Then she’d spend time with him and start the routine all over again the next day.

Callie-from-Today didn’t lock the door.  She couldn’t go back to bed because she didn’t have time.  She had work in 45 minutes, and she had to get dressed and eat a bowl of cereal.  Then she had to drive to her job and work at a local high school until noon.  There, she met some friendly people, designed a professional-looking cover page for teachers to use when making copies, answered phones in the front office, and took a tour of the huge campus.  While Callie-from-Yesterday was still asleep, Callie-from-Today was walking out with an ID badge around her neck and a spring in her step.  She’s excited to go back tomorrow.

It means so much to have a reason to stay awake.  For you, it might be your job, or your children, or classes at school.  Whatever gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you out of bed is a huge blessing that you should never take for granted.  Sure, everyone needs a holiday now and then, but no one wants to sleep in every day, with no one anywhere expecting you to show up.

It’s lonely, and I’m glad it’s over.  :)

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Too Great a Day

This weekend has been wonderful so far!  Yesterday, I got a job and Sam coached his first basketball game.  He finished up football season last weekend and he jumped straight into basketball.  He’s never actually played basketball, but they needed a coach and he was the one available to take the job.  He’s learning quickly, though, and he’s in charge of junior varsity so there isn’t as much pressure.

Is he handsome or what?  Basketball coaches dress better than football coaches.  He looks very official.  I’m enjoying basketball games more than football games so far because I know all the rules and can keep up with what’s going on.  Also, I get to sit much closer to Sam, which is always a plus.  It’s so fun to hear him give his players a pep talk and talk strategy with them before they hit the court.  They won their first game!  Sam insists that it was a fluke and that the other team was just exceptionally terrible, but a victory is a victory in my book.

Since football season is over, Sam doesn’t have to go up to school on Saturdays to watch film anymore.  The past few weekends, he’s been attending classes to learn how to drive a school bus, but he finished that up last week.  There was a scrimmage scheduled for today, but that got canceled so Sam ended up with his first Saturday off in a long time.  Two of our friends (Tyler and Ashley) were getting married today, but we felt rude trying to show up at the last minute since we didn’t RSVP because of the scheduled scrimmage.  However, we send them all our love and we are so happy they are finally married!

Because of our empty schedule, we were able to sleep in and take it easy today.  Sam promised me a big date night to celebrate my new job, so I decided to get dressed up and straighten my hair.  My hair is naturally curly and I usually wear it that way, and I’ve let it grow out over the past year.  In fact, I haven’t had a haircut since last December!  I didn’t realize how long my hair has gotten until I straightened all the curls out.

After I got dressed, I pried Sam away from his Xbox.  He recently bought two major games (Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II), so he’s been playing a lot.  However, he was more than happy to grab his car keys when I mentioned that I wanted to go out for steak.

We drove 30 minutes to Saltgrass Steakhouse in Cedar Hill.  It was so delicious!  We shared a ribeye and Sam enjoyed a baked potato while I chowed down on mac and cheese.  We also shared a delicious Sangria Margarita!

After dinner, Sam took me to two of my favorite places: Half Price Books and Barnes & Noble!  At the shopping center Barnes & Noble is in, we just happened to arrive in the middle of their big Christmas celebration.  There was a live jazz band, guys on stilts, and a huge Christmas tree.

We went inside Barnes & Noble and enjoyed some holiday drinks.  I got a pumpkin spice frappuccino and Sam got a peppermint mocha frappuccino.  When we got home, we realized we had accidentally left the heater on when we went out.  We didn’t mind, though, because it was wonderful to come home to a warm house.  Now, Sam is back on his Xbox playing with his friends, and I’m sitting here under a warm blanket working on my blog.  Life is wonderful and I love my husband, and this was too great a day not to share.

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Just Call Me “Employed!”

All ready for the interview! Here goes nothing!

So, if you’ve been keeping up with my blog (bless you), you’ll remember that I’ve been looking for a job for about six months.  You might remember the nightmarish interview I recently had, and the devastating phone call that followed.  I’ve applied for dozens (I mean that quite literally… I think the number might be close to 50) jobs and positions, and nothing has come through.  I finally found a shaky sense of peace about it all, but I kept applying to whatever openings I could find.

I was browsing the websites of local school districts looking for library assistant positions, when I noticed the local high school here in Waxahachie was looking for a “copy clerk” to work mornings part-time.  I applied just in case, and then promptly decided I would never hear back about it.  Lo and behold, a week ago I got a call from the assistant principal trying to set up an interview.  I was supposed to go in on Monday, but the interview got pushed back to today (Friday).

I’ve been so nervous this week!  I really wanted this job.  It was the first strong lead I’ve gotten since we’ve moved here.  The hours aren’t great (only 20 hours a week), but that’s all right.  The commute is less than five minutes; the school is just down the street.  Basically, they needed someone to run the school’s copy center, so I’d be making copies for teachers.  I’m more than qualified for it.  Since the position is at a school, all of the days off and holidays line up with Sam’s perfectly.  It would’ve been such a blessing to be able to have time with him during this very stressful time.

I felt great after the interview, although I started second-guessing myself after an hour or so.  They said they might not get back to me until after Thanksgiving Break, so you can imagine how excited I was when I got a call from the assistant principal a couple of hours after the interview.

I got the job!

I kept my cool on the phone, but the second I hung up I started squealing and jumping up and down, probably disturbing my downstairs neighbors.  I told Rigby and he acted excited (it was probably because I was feeding him a pumpkin seed at the time, his favorite snack).  I called Sam during one of his classes (oops) and he answered because he thought it was an emergency.  I might’ve yelled over the phone, I was so excited.  He said we’re going to celebrate later!

I’m so thankful for this opportunity.  Most of my paychecks will go towards paying back my stack of student loans (goodbye, next ten years), but it will feel fantastic to contribute to our family’s income and not pay back my loans with Sam’s paychecks.  Plus, like I said, it’s nice to be home.

Some couples have a easy first year of marriage with no bumps… But we’re not that couple.  Some say, “I hope all of our years are as wonderful as our first year!”  Psshh, no thanks.  It’s not that Sam and I have fought a lot (or at all, really), but we’ve had a rough year with the rest of the world.  My last semester of college ended in an anxiety breakdown that caused me to quit my job.  Sam’s semester of student teaching last spring was anything but easy.  We spent the summer living with Sam’s parents in their spare bedroom, which was hard after having our own house first.  Then, Sam started his first year of teaching and coaching, working 70-hour workweeks coaching sports he’s not familiar with and teaching a subject his students aren’t at all passionate about.  I looked for a job for months and months.  On top of it all, Sam’s mom had a stroke and is quickly declining in health.  All of this has given us the chance to cling to each other and support each other, but it has been hard.

God knew what he was doing!  Out of all the jobs I applied to, this one will give me the most time at home and with Sam.  No, it won’t give me the most money, but there are more important things for now.  I’m excited to start my new job after Thanksgiving and get back into a routine.  Most of all, I’m excited that God always follows through, even when it’s not on my schedule.

Now it’s time to celebrate!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  :)

I have so much to be thankful for!

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Thank You, Smoke Detector

Dear Smoke Detector,

I am writing you to formally address a complaint I’ve expressed against you for quite some time.  I understand that your job description requires you to detect smoke.  However, your enthusiasm is becoming excessive.  This is my first year as a wife and I’m still learning how to cook; I don’t see any reason why you should announce my embarrassing mishaps to the entire apartment complex.

Furthermore, there’s no need for you to wake up every smoke detector in the house.  If our house is actually on fire, I’m sure I’ll appreciate your eardrum-molesting, soul-scraping screech, but no one was in danger last night when I was cooking chicken on the stove.  The chicken didn’t even burn.  I didn’t know pasta sauce had splashed under the burner the other day.  It was rude of you to make me open all my windows on a cold night, letting out all the warm air we spent our hard-earned money on.

All I’m saying is take a break around dinner time.  Go catch a movie or something.  Come back when the dishes are done and we’re watching TV.  I’ll smell the smoke; I don’t need your help for that.

In fact, maybe just take a long vacation and come back when my future son or daughter is learning how to make Hot Pockets in the microwave.  I’m sure we’ll require your services at that time.

Until then,

Callie

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DIY Mail Sorter

Bill.

That word can mean several things.  Some might think of ducks, some might think of a past president or celebrity.

When I see that word, I think of money: dollar bills, and the pieces of paper that come in the mail and take those dollar bills away.

Over the past few months, Sam and I have shed a bit of our newlywed status by becoming more independent and accepting more responsibilities.  That means paying for things we didn’t pay for in college: cell phone service, electricity, water, rent… It’s a lot to keep up with, and it’s exhausting to think that the bills will keep coming for the rest of our lives.

Since Sam is busy with his first semester of teaching, I’ve taken over most of our financial obligations.  I’m still looking for a job, but I’m still running into constant dead ends because I don’t have enough experience.  I only graduated last spring, so I don’t know how I’m supposed to gain experience if no one will hire me.  So, at this point, Sam makes the money and I spend it!  I don’t go on shopping sprees, though; I spend our money through bills, making sure we don’t get kicked out of our apartment for not paying rent, or get left in the dark when our electricity provider shuts us off.  I spend our money on groceries to make sure Sam doesn’t starve.

Keeping up with our mail has been an issue for me because it tends to float all over our apartment.  Sometimes I drop it off on the kitchen island, sometimes it ends up on the desk in our bedroom… It’s easy to lose track of it all.  I’ve been looking for a good mail sorter for a few weeks now.  Our town has several great antique stores, but none of them had exactly what I was looking for: I needed something that would have vertical slots for me to sort our mail so our bills don’t get lost.  I found baskets and other containers that were close to what I needed, but not quite.  I even went to Office Depot and considered buying a $40 stacking tray set, but couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money.

So, what’s a girl to do when what she wants doesn’t exist?  Do it herself!

Here’s how I made my simple mail sorter for my kitchen counter out of three basic magazine holders.  It was an easy and fun project that I completed in less than an hour, but it makes a huge difference in my house.

First, I started with three black magazine holders I found at Target for $4.99 each.  They’re made out of sturdy cardboard.

I removed the metal label holders on the front of them.  They popped off pretty easily.  After that, I stacked them on their sides and decided how I wanted them to fit in the corner on my counter.  Here’s what the corner looked like before:

Clutter!  An ugly, cheap toaster we never use, Sam’s Gatorade powder, some random ribbon, and a stained plastic cutting board.  The only thing I deemed worthy to stay was our adorable desktop panda calendar.  I wanted the mail sorter to fit in the corner where our Darth Vader cookie jar was, so I planned accordingly and glued them together with a hot glue gun.

Looks great, but I wanted to dress it up a bit.  I found these old reading flash cards at a local thrift store and thought they were charming.

I love the classic font and the antique, stained look.  I cut them to size and glued them to the side to give the mail sorter a fun, whimsical feel.

After that, the black top felt too plain.  I pulled out an old paperback copy of The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty that I used in a previous craft project.  A professor assigned the book in a Southern Literature class in college, and I ordered this copy off Amazon for a penny.  It arrived with the first chapter missing, so I replaced it and use it for crafting now.  It has beautifully yellowed pages because it’s so old.  I used it to decoupage the top of the mail sorter.

Then, I cleared off my counter.  Everything found a new place, including Darth Vader, who now guards the fridge against Rebel forces:

And the mail sorter looks great on the counter!  It adds a lot of character to my kitchen.

This is a great project because it’s completely customizable.  You could use different patterns of scrapbook paper to make any color combination you want.  You could even make cute labels for each of the slots.

What do you think?  Should I have sprung for the stacking trays, or was this a good alternative?

Categories: DIY | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crockpot Pumpkin Bread

Happy Halloween, everyone!  To me, Halloween officially kicks off pumpkin season, which lasts until Christmas.  I love pumpkin!  Pumpkin frappuccinos at Starbucks, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies, and (my favorite) pumpkin bread.  I got this recipe from Nate at Let’s Get Crockin’.  I tweaked it a little bit because I thought the original recipe was a bit bland.  I added more spices to it.  I’ve never made bread in my Crockpot before, but it’s surprisingly easy!  The secret is to trap in the moisture with a tea towel and leave water in the bottom of the Crockpot for the bread to absorb.

First, gather your ingredients.  You can probably find most of this in your pantry.

  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cup of flour (sifted)
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 2 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. of ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. of apple pie spice
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda

First, mix the oil and both of the sugars together in a large bowl.

Then, mix in the eggs and pumpkin.

Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Don’t be afraid to taste the batter and add more spices if necessary.

Find a bread pan that will fit comfortably in your Crockpot.  I used our reusable glass Pyrex containers.  They were the perfect size for making small loaves.  I’ve also used a bigger Pyrex container to make a standard sized loaf.  The smaller ones worked better for me this time because I planned to send these to school with Sam to give to his fellow coaches today as a Halloween surprise.  When you find a pan or container that will fit in your Crockpot, spray it with non-stick cooking spray and pour the batter in, leaving a little room at the top for the bread to expand.

Pour two cups of water into the bottom your Crockpot and place the pan inside.  Don’t add too much water or it will overflow into your bread pan, turning your pumpkin bread into pumpkin soup.  That’s what I’m here for– I make all these stupid mistakes so you don’t have to.  :)

This part is important.  Find a thin tea towel and place it over your Crockpot before putting the lid on.  If you don’t have a tea towel, the original recipe said paper towels will work just as well.  This will keep all the moisture from escaping while the bread is cooking.

Bake on high for 3 hours.  Resist the urge to peek at the bread!  Every time you take the lid off, the heat escapes and it disrupts the cooking process.

When the bread is done, it should look like this:

These made adorable gifts for the coaches!  I wrapped them up in pretty orange ribbon and sent them with Sam this morning.  Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite holiday treats, and it’s so easy to make yourself.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Categories: Revell Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

October 30th is Sam’s Gotcha Day!

Happy Gotcha Day!  If you’re not familiar with that term (like me three years ago), you probably don’t know anyone who’s been adopted.  In the world of adoption, “Gotcha Day” celebrates the day when a child comes home to his or her forever family.  Growing up, Sam’s family celebrated his Gotcha Day on October 30th, the day his plane landed in Dallas and they got to meet him for the first time.  It’s a special day in the lives of any family with adopted children.  Here’s what Sam had to say about it in a post on his 2010 Gotcha Day:

Gotcha Day. I’m not sure if you celebrate this day with your kids, but it still remains important in my life. Gotcha Day is the day that I was adopted, which is October 30th. As a kid, my parents would treat me out to dinner (my choice of course) as if it was another birthday. We would eat cake and icecream, and then go upstairs and watch the video of me being carried off the plane that had flown from South Korea. Growing up I had thought that the day was about me, and how special it was for me to come to America. But now, at the age of twenty-one, I’ve started to see things differently.

This year I reflected on just how much my parents have given me in life. How  much time, love, and money they have spent on me without hesitating for a second. My parents were right in celebrating Gotcha Day as a birthday, because it was really like being born again, being given a new chance to live in a great home. I realize now, that instead of celebrating and honoring me all of these years, I should have been the one honoring and celebrating them. They have shown me the love of Christ and have given me more than I could ever repay. I love them with all that I have and try to make them proud.

So if you don’t celebrate that special day when your little child came off that plane and into your arms, I strongly encourage that you do so. Let them know how much you love them and how much it took for them to be with you. I hope that one day your children will understand just how much love adoption truly takes and that they too will appreciate you as much as I appreciate my parents. If you want to talk some more, feel free to call me. Love you all and God Bless.

 ~Sam

Isn’t he wonderful?  I certainly think so.  Here’s a picture of him on his Gotcha Day, October 30, 1989:

Look at those rosy cheeks!

That’s him fresh off the plane from Korea.  His mom, Sue, is excited to finally hold her new son.  His dad, Ron (in the background), is equally as excited.  I’m so grateful for all the hard work and dedication his parents put into Sam’s adoption process.  It’s a long road full of setbacks and uncertainty.  Without all their prayer and steadfast faith, I wouldn’t know my best friend and husband!

Sam on his big brother Glenn’s lap, looked after closely by his mom, Sue.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep.  Sam was peacefully slumbering next to me, and I had my head under my covers browsing Pinterest on my iPhone.  I finally came into the kitchen for a glass of milk and decided to find Sam’s Facebook post about Gotcha Day.  After I found it, I still wasn’t sleepy and it was 2 a.m.  I kept browsing through his old Facebook notes and found one of those classic “21 Questions” posts.   The last question he asked was, “Where do you think I’ll be in 25 years?”  This was on May 30, 2009, 5 months before we started dating. I answered, ” You’ll probably be married with cute little asian kids, who all are excellent spellers with fantastic vocabularies.”  That answer made me laugh alone in my kitchen at 2 a.m.  If only I’d known those “cute little asian kids” would be mine!  It’s amazing that, after reading that post from three years ago when Sam and I were strictly “just friends,” I was able to finish my glass of milk, turn off the light, and crawl into bed with him and go to sleep.

That’s why I celebrate Gotcha Day.  It’s the day that made what I love about my life possible.

PLUS, it’s the day I get to pull out one of my favorite pictures of adorable baby Sam:

Gah! The hair! The smile! The shirt that says “Brand New Texan”! So much cuteness!

Finally, Gotcha Day reminds me of the debt I owe Sam’s mom.  I have the journal she kept during Sam’s adoption process, from the day the idea of adoption came to her to the day Sam became an American citizen.  Unfortunately, Sam’s mom is currently battling the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and she’s had it as long as I’ve known her.  When I read her journal, I’m able to see the strong and determined woman she once was, the woman I never had the privilege of meeting.  I wish I could sit down with her and express my gratitude for bringing Sam from Korea, for loving him as much as her other sons, for accepting him into her family and being the mother he needed.  When I read her journal, I see how much she wanted him and it makes me so happy to know he was (and is) so loved by his family.  It’s too late to tell her all these things and have them mean what I want them to mean, but I hope she knows.  I’m so glad Sam has such wonderful parents that loved him when his own parents weren’t able to.  Here’s a clip from her journal on the day Sam came home.  I always cry when I read it.  Happy Gotcha Day, Sam!  We all love you and are thankful for you.

 

 

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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