Sunday, November 27, 2011

Domestication

Domestication (noun): to accustom to household life or affairs

I have successfully entered the holiday season. My Thanksgiving dinner went very well, despite my decision to try to roast the turkey without an oven bag (requiring me to roast for a longer amount of time and baste the bird at least once every hour) and to use a lot of new (i.e. untried) recipes. Overall, I received rave reviews, including a dish-by-dish summary critique from my dad ;) Anyways, I feel that Thanksgiving was a success! (For a list of what I made for Thanksgiving, see the list I added here.)

However, this is where the rubber meets the road. I have two weeks to finish grading for the Hebrew Class with which I assist (including giving and grading the Final Exam). I have just under three weeks to complete my Greek class (a 10-15 page exegesis of Colossians 3:12-17 and a final exam of Greek nouns and verbs). I have just over three weeks to complete my holiday baking, which is no small feat. In addition, I need to shop for some Christmas decorations, get the tree up and decorated, and do my Christmas shopping.

Sometimes I miss the days where all I had to focus on were my Final Exams (or papers, or projects) and if I would run out of books to read over Christmas Break. As much as I love being a "housewife," I haven't really been doing anything "housewifey" yet. I know that out of any time of year, this is the time in which I will put the pedal to the metal. I have, however, taken some control of the pressures of the season so that I can actually enjoy the holidays and not rush through them.
  1. Limit travelling. With three sets of parents to see (plus grandparents and siblings), Doug and I took a long look at our free time, including if we would have enough time to travel everywhere. Thankfully, our family was able to work with us, not only concerning travel arrangements, but also by allowing us to spread out seeing everyone over a few weeks (Dec 16-Jan 4).
  2. Evaluate Christmas baking/cooking. I took a look at what I was planning on making for Christmas (for both gifts and for Doug and I), and found that it would be much better to cut a few of those items. A few items on my list had unique ingredients (like saffron or cream of tartar) that 1) I do not have on hand, 2) I most likely will not use again, and 3) are too expensive to get for one recipe. Another issue is that a lot of our family members have dietary issues (such a diabetes, high blood pressure, etc); due to these issues, a few family members could not eat ANYTHING I was planning on making!!! Finally, considering that we will be seeing some family members three weeks after others, I had to take into consideration how long the baking projects would last.
  3. Prioritize. I started thinking about grandiose Christmas dinners (I even started playing around with making roast duck.) until I realized that the week of Christmas (Dec 20-26), Doug and I will be in Lynchburg by ourselves. Is it really important to make a big, elegant dinner for the two of us, or is it more important that we get to spend time together and rest? Similarly, is it important to have a perfectly (and fully) decorated house, or it is more important to spend time celebrating Christ's birth?
  4. Preparation. Failure to plan is planning to fail. Doug and I made a list of how much we were willing to spend on Christmas (gifts, travelling, food, decorations). We started thinking about what kind of gifts we wanted to give (and decided to make holiday dessert baskets). I sat down and picked out a few things I could do earlier in December and which things could wait until the last minute.
So, even though Finals and reading was probably a lot easier, I think all of this will end up being a lot more fun!!! I will keep posting about what I accomplish this holiday season; hopefully that list will include a lot of rest, peace, and joy. And maybe some yummie recipes ;)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dreary

Dreary (adjective): gloomy, lifeless

After a great "weekend" or relaxing, the week has spiraled into dreariness. I really think it's the weather. Normally, I love the cool and damp days of fall, but it has started to become very miserable outside. Growing up, there was snow on the ground before the leaves were even out of the trees, but in Virginia, we have a few weeks that can only be described as dead. The leaves are on the ground in damp, brown clumps, the trees have lost all color, the grass is dying and brown, and it is dark outside by 5 PM. Worst of all, this seems to have happened overnight!!!

Anyways, this left me feeling very dreary and unmotivated. This is "midterm" week in school (i.e. catch up and cram week), on top of preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. While the imminent holiday season seems to be good news, it does add on to my list of tasks (which continues to grow daily due to extreme lack of motivation). How to get out of the rut of dreariness???

This morning I needed to go grocery shopping, which I was not too thrilled about. (Apparently buying all your Thanksgiving groceries early does not account for needing normal food -- bread, milk -- which requires shopping.) Still, I got up and went. It didn't take very long; I got home, put everything away, and ate lunch with Doug. We decided to work on finalizing our Christmas and Birthday lists (both of which are due to my family on Thanksgiving). Together, everything was making me a bit frustrated and irritable. It was during this that my husband gave me the advice I needed: "You need to rest tonight and go to bed early."

While every overachieving bone in my body fights against his statement, this really has turned out to be the best way to motivate me to get things done and use my time wisely. I often try to stay awake waiting for Doug to get home from work, which means we both go to bed late and sleep in late. For someone who works best in the daytime (in sunlight), this has cut my "work" hours significantly, especially once these winter days began. (Besides, lack of sunlight causes a hormone drop that leads to depression.) When I should be resting, I am trying to work. When I should be working, I need rest.

So I worked this afternoon on a few key items (at least this dreariness has not impacted my ability to prioritize) and "shut down" when it became dark outside, writing this being the obvious exception. I will relax -- read a book, watch a movie, eat a healthy dinner -- and go to bed at a decent hour, resulting in more "light" hours to actually get things done. While this seems like a simple concept, I don't think people realize (in general) how important rest is to productivity; it was that realization that led me to even begin this deceleration. but the manner in which a person rests is just as significant as getting rest. I was spending a lot of time trying to make myself "rest" (sit and do nothing) instead of actually rest (sleep).

Bottom Line: I guess my husband can be right sometimes too.

P.S. I have been trying to get a new "early bed/early rise" schedule for a while (mostly to be able to get some things done while Doug is still asleep), but I couldn't find proper motivation to make this stick. Now that I have seen the effect that missing out on daylight is having on me, I have plenty of motivation ;)

Update (Sunday): Well, I was in bed about 3 hours earlier than normal (and actually tired); however I had some difficulty falling asleep due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. the upstairs neighbors), so I read for awhile, popped in some earplugs, and finally fell asleep (almost 2 hours early)!!! I got up around 9:30 (90 minutes earlier than normal) and was able to get a lot more done today than most days. I felt awake, motivated, and "together" all day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Diversion

Diversion (noun): entertainment, recreation

Today begins the weekend for Doug and I, which means we can finally take a break from everything else to relax a bit. It is the day that we can finally watch whatever we have from Netflix (currently: How to Train your Dragon)or some other movie or TV show we've been meaning to watch, play games, eat good food, and just do nothing for a day. Tuesdays are definitely my favorite.

Now Wednesday is a different story. Because Tuesday is our official slack-off day, Wednesday becomes our official guilt-day, full of "I should have worked on more homework," "I should have done laundry," "I should have used my time more wisely instead of playing Frisbee Golf for 4 hours." Then Wednesday is spent in stress and terror of not being able to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

This week, however, we will not succumb to this on-set Wednesday guilt. Not only is taking a day off (a Sabbath, if you will) necessary for the human mind and body to continue growing and functioning normally, my lazy Tuesdays are, in fact, one of the only parts of my "former" life of accelerated frenzy that was actually beneficial to de-stressing and decelerating my life. So, now I'm off to enjoy myself!

P.S. I am reporting back (on Thursday) to let you know that I spent most of Wednesday calm, cool, and collected. I hit a brief "oh-my-word-look-at-my-to-do-list" incident Wednesday afternoon, but it subsided. (Hey, it's hard to quit worrying cold turkey!) I do have a lot that needs to be done, but I have four days. I think that has been the biggest issue for me -- my deadlines are Sundays and Mondays, not Fridays and Saturdays, giving me more time than I think I have during my guilt-ridden Wednesdays. Result: Tuesday was a successful diversion!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Delicious

Delicious (adjective): pleasing, especially to the taste

Today I bought my first turkey.

Now, I have cooked a Thanksgiving turkey once before (last year), but I sent Doug out to buy the turkey because I was cooking it for him and his roommates. So, while I feel confidant that I can pull off the classic and much-anticipated Thanksgiving turkey, I never realized the joy of picking one out. I mean, buying a turkey is supposed to be a mundane task: you have to figure out how many people are eating to find out how many pounds you need. (Then add a few pounds to account for leftovers...mmmm.) ANYWAY! This was a really special moment for me in that this is my first major holiday as a married, adult woman. Wow! Even though I was doing a lot of shopping today, the turkey was one of the first things I picked up, so I had this I-picked-out-a-turkey high while I finished gathering my groceries (and finished shopping in record time).

Hopefully the finished product with be as delicious as the exhilaration of buying it.

P.S. For you detail-oriented people, I bought an 18.5 lb turkey to feed roughly 6 people and have plenty of leftovers. I bought it about a week and a half in advance so I could put it directly in my fridge to begin thawing. I want it to thaw out a day or two early so I can prep and brine the turkey in advance.

P.P.S. The one thing I worried about was that, by shopping early, I would spent a lot more than waiting since many Thanksgiving items would go on sale starting this week. After checking the new circulars, I figured out that I only spent about $5 more to do my shopping early. While $5 is a good amount, it is a lot less than the $15-20 difference I was anticipating. All in all, it cost me $5 to have peace-of-mind that everything will be ready for Thanksgiving AND do all my shopping before the rush, which I think was DEFINITELY worth it.

November 24, 2011: My Thanksgiving Menu
Herb Roasted Turkey w/Cornbread Stuffing
Vegetable Stuffing
Cheddar Ranch Mashed Broccoli and Potatoes
Baked Sweet Potatoes (courtesy of my mom)
Sauteed Snow Peas and Onions
Pepper and Parsley Buttered Corn
Cranberry Sauce
Cheesy Asparagus Squares
Crescent Rolls
Desserts: Double Chocolate Almond Brownies, Dutch Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie

Friday, November 11, 2011

Distance

Distance (verb): to be superior to, surpass

Yesterday was a perfect fall day: overcast and breezy, but not cold. I was able to spend much of my day indoors catching up on schoolwork (Greek; mostly block diagramming which is NOT very fun), but I did get a chance in enjoy the weather that afternoon.

I had a tutoring appointment with one of the Hebrew 1 students who needed some extra help with the newer material before the upcoming exam. I made plans to meet her at Panera (great atmosphere, but a 15 minute drive from my house) late afternoon. I thought there would not be much traffic; schools had let out earlier, but it was prior to the normal evening rush. I was wrong. While the traffic was not TOO bad, I hit every red light (seven total) and spent the majority of my drive following a car going 25 in a 35 MPH zone. Needless to say, I was late, frazzled, and NOT enjoying the perfect day as much as I should have been.

I found her at a comfy booth waiting. I apologized profusely for being late; she was already there studying, so it did not inconvenience her. She had already gotten some coffee, and she had bought me a grande-sized coffee as well. This is where my new life paradigm kicked in. Panera was packed full of people studying and working, but we had managed to be at a very comfortable booth. On top of this blessing, I was getting an unexpected free coffee for my time/trouble. It really made my day.

I spent the next twenty minutes explaining morphological principles of Hebrew words, along with a few study habits that may help with memorization, and left. I sat in my car for a few minutes sipping my coffee (decaf, of course, with 2% milk and honey) and enjoying just being out and about. And, I must say, I felt very accomplished for choosing to slow down and enjoy life for a few extra minutes.

An added bonus: For the day, I was able to catch up on all my schoolwork, spend extra time making a big and healthy lunch for Doug and I (stir-fry pork and veggies with cheesy noodles), update our finances for the week, and relax all evening. Everything that needed to be done was done with plenty of time to spare. I guess when you start taking care of yourself, things just seem to fall into place more easily.

And yes, I realize that is not the most common usage for the word distance ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Decisions

Decision (noun): a determination arrived at after consideration

Four months ago I married my best friend. Life just hasn't stopped since then!!! After the wedding and the honeymoon, we barely had time to settle in before our social calendar was filled up through Thanksgiving with Bridal Showers, weddings, baby showers, weekend guests, visiting a friend in the hospital, and several parties (for holidays or just to see friends). Before we knew it, the holidays were coming, and we had barely had time to ourselves.

I feel that living a lifestyle like this -- full on, 100 miles an hour -- keeps a person from being able to have true joy and gratitude. There is no stopping to appreciate the changing fall leaves, the first frost, a great parking space, or any of the other little things that come into our lives. Therefore, I have made a decision to slow down and enjoy these things now, to make a habit out of being grateful for life and the joys it brings.