Thursday, August 22, 2013

Grocery Gadget

I am probably one of the worst grocery shoppers. Even when I actually make and remember  to bring my list, I still manage to walk out without stuff on it. I am easily swayed by sales or coupons and end up spending money on something I won't eat or use, justifying it by saying, "But I saved 50 cents!"

Now that I am grocery shopping for more than just myself and I live at least 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store, I have to get better. And when J and I have tried to plan a budget and think about what this year will be like financially, I realize I have no idea how much I spend on groceries every week or month. I also shop at several different stores but have no idea how the prices compare. Sometimes one feels cheaper, but I've never tracked it closely enough to know if it's true. I'm not trying to be a crazy coupon lady, but I'd like to make smarter decisions in my weekly shopping.

In the age of the iPhone, I figured there must be an app that would help me do that. I asked for suggestions on social media, and just got one tip. I didn't really like that option, but by reading the reviews, I found Grocery Gadget. I'm still getting used to it, and it is taking time to build the database of what I buy. But overall, I think it will help.

I am able to create a weekly grocery list using a list of products or by adding new ones. Then I can get on before I shop specify quantities of stuff I need to buy and leave off stuff I don't without eliminating it from the master list. When I shop, I can scan barcodes to add specific item information to the database and put in the price of each item. The first time I used it, I added that info as I shop. It helped at checkout because I knew how much stuff was supposed to be. But I can also add the info when I unload groceries if I'm crunched for time at the store. I can add prices for items at each store I shop at, so I will actually know if I got it cheaper somewhere else or if I'm getting a good deal and should buy more at the cheaper price.

On the website, it tracks my spending by month, so I can actually account for what I spend on groceries and maybe I'll even start to see a difference. I'm also using it to track buying gas and even those 3 or 4 item trips to the store since those add up after a while.

We'll see if I can keep up the work required to continue to track it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A new blog

Today marks the first day of a new chapter in my life. I'm starting graduate school full time at Mizzou. Thanks to J, I'll be able to dedicate the next year to school to finish my masters, which will give me more opportunities in my field. It's exciting but also pretty intimidating since I've been out of school for eight years.

I've decided to create a blog dedicated to my school/professional life and let this one continue to be a personal blog. I'm not sure how much either will get updated, but I needed a professional presence on the web (and also tie it to my new name).You can find it at: You'll find that at the moment it's backdated posts from this blog republished there. But soon it will be more about my graduate school experience.

Don't feel obligated to follow the new one (or either), I just wanted to let everyone know that it is out there and might be updated more frequently than this one.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Fitbit and the power of competition

The university has a deal on Fitbits — a pedometer — for employees. You buy it at a discounted rate, and once you reach 1 million steps, they refund your money. A couple of my coworkers got them and decide to start a newsroom competition.

I was curious about how many steps I take and needed some motivation to get back to the gym now that the wedding is over. So I decided to get a Fitbit and join the competition.

Here's something you should know about me. I played competitive soccer until I was 15. Yes, my dad (also my coach for many years) always said all that mattered was having fun, but I was competitive and liked to win. Pretty much any physical activity, I could make competitive. I always wanted to be the leader on hikes or family walks. I can get into board games and such, but I never got that competitive with them (mostly because I'm not that great at them). But physical activity was always a competition.

It has been a long time since I've been in a true physical competition, but it all came back to me when I started this competition. The Fitbit app lets you see where your friends are, and you can see weekly rankings. 

And it changed my habits. I was going back to the gym and finding excuses to walk across campus or downtown. When I don't go out for lunch, I walk the quad. I park farther away when I am out running errands. I stop at the trail on my way home from work on cooler days. 

We also got a bike for J, and biking has become our new hobby. We live near a biking/walking trail that goes across the state. We've been biking various sections of it, increasing our mileage. (I get to wear the Fitbit while biking. I only got six miles of steps for riding 24 miles on Saturday.)  So that's my other activity to gain steps, and it's something we can do together (well, kind of, J rides much faster and challenges himself to ride farther than me and catch up).

I'm only a month in to the competition, but I have to say it's been good for both of us. Some really nice weather has helped us as well. Just need to keep up the momentum.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Registry tips

For us, getting married was not about getting gifts at all. But registry or not, people are going to want to give you gifts. Registries just provide some guidance. We were so blessed by everything we got — registry gifts, personalized items, specially picked out items, etc. I don't want this post to sound like we were ungrateful or greedy. I just know that registering can be overwhelming, and I read someone's blog with her tips for registering that were helpful. So I thought it might be worth sharing what I learned.

1. Use the thank-you card managers

This saved my life when it came to thank-you notes. Except for a few late gifts, I had all of my thank-you notes completed before the end of June. The online registries for the places we registered — Macy's, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel — had thank-you card managers. This told you not only what was bought but who bought it. I understand the desire to be surprised when gifts arrive at your door, but I was able to stay ahead on thank-you notes by checking this daily. I wrote the thank-you notes when I saw them pop-up there, but waited until I actually received the gift before mailing the card. I only made one mistake but caught it before mailing. I still had a lot to write once we got back from our honeymoon, but I'd say I got through at least half of the thank-you notes before the wedding.

2. Be careful of stores that constantly change inventory

I'm convinced I picked out wineglasses from Crate and Barrel three times. I repeatedly received emails saying items I had registered for at Crate and Barrel had been discontinued. So I was constantly picking out new items that I hadn't ever seen. It got pretty frustrating, and I actually dropped some things off that registry and added them on Macy's, where I rarely had discontinued items.

3. Department stores are the way to go

Macy's was definitely our best registry. The store runs good sales, and their inventory stays pretty consistent. Because we were registering for brands sold elsewhere (Lenox, Waterford, Calphalon), people used their favorite store to get us every day china, fine china or cookware. Macy's also gave us 20 percent off anything in the home store and had a rewards program built into the registry. So I'm able to get a really good deal finishing out some stuff as I use up gift cards.

4. Register at that store in your hometown where everyone goes for wedding gifts

This was my biggest mistake. There is one locally owned store in my hometown that sells jewelry, fine china, etc. Everyone in my hometown that gets married registers there. The store even puts your china patterns out on display in the months before your wedding. But I wasn't in town at good times to go in to register, and I just didn't think it was that big of a deal. Enough people came in asking about my registry that they called my mom. She sent them my patterns (the store also carried them), and we got a lot of our fine china from people going there. But since I hadn't registered, the woman dealing with most of it didn't have my information, and there ended up being a lot of phone calls and back and forth that I might have bypassed if I had gone in there and registered from the beginning. So if you have store like that in your hometown, I recommend finding a way to register there — it could save you a lot of hassle later.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cooking for two

A post about cooking on a cooking blog! Shocking considering how long it has been.

I'm learning a few things about cooking for two and cooking for a guy.

While we were dating and engaged, J and I ate out a ton. I cooked occasionally for both of us and put together some single-girl meals when we didn't have plans, but I didn't do much cooking in the last year. But I missed cooking, and I'm enjoying trying some new recipes and taking advantage of fresh vegetables.

Since we don't live just down the street from the grocery store, I have to think ahead and shop for the week. My goal is to cook dinner three weeknights — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — and have an option for the weekend. We have small group at church on Thursdays, so we stay in town and eat before going there.

What I'm noticing is that I rarely end up with leftovers. I might get one lunch out of a dinner, but generally, a meal that might feed me for three or four days is gone in one night. For someone who hates leftovers, this is mostly a good thing, and I'm glad that J likes my cooking. But it is nice to at least have lunch the next days, so I'm still figuring how much to make.

I've been trying some new recipes from Pinterest and keeping some of my standbys in the rotation. Here are some of our favorites from Pinterest:

Skinny Mediterranean Pasta Toss — This is by no means a budget-friendly meal. But it is really good, and J likes it even though it doesn't have meat in it.

Crispy Cheddar Chicken — This is really easy. I skip the sauce, we like the chicken as is. I use two chicken breasts and "everything" Ritz crackers.

Herb crusted chicken with basil cream sauce — The sauce for this is really good. When I used to have leftovers, I put it on pasta the next day.

Macaroni and cheese — I've only made this once, not the healthiest thing. But if you want really good, homemade mac and cheese, this is a good choice. I just wish I had cut the recipe in half. It was not great left over.

Honey garlic balsamic chicken — This is a really easy chicken meal to make, and J said it could be added to the rotation (the sign of a good recipe).

Summer stir fry — This is not your standard stir fry (I am not a fan of stir fry). It is summer vegetables and shrimp cooked in butter and olive oil. Super easy and really good. Even when I think I make more than enough, we devour it.

You'll notice this is a lot of chicken recipes — that is J's favorite. I usually work red meat in through tacos or spaghetti since we don't have a grill for steaks. I'm not a pork fan, but we are probably going to want some variety of meat mixed in. But J is a fan of my favorite vegetarian meals and sides — tomato pie, zucchini pie, roasted asparagus and a new favorite is roasted broccoli. But I'm on the lookout for good chicken recipes if you have some to share or another meat recipe I could work into the mix, please pass along.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Our house

So I post three times in a week and then fall off the radar again. But you probably aren't surprised.

Anyway, here's a post all about our house. J built (as in, he poured the foundation, framed it, painted, laid tile, etc.) this house before we met. It is the second house he has built. He found the property west of Columbia and built it in a barn-style to fit the rural setting. When we got engaged, he started working on plans to add a master bedroom. Thanks to the help of some friends, it was finished when we returned from our honeymoon. He also added the deck this fall.

The house was definitely a bachelor pad before I moved my stuff in. We started acquiring some additional furniture we wanted this spring, and then I got things where I wanted them when we got back from Maine. We still need to hang pictures around much of the house, but I've been waiting to get wedding pictures back. And he would tell you there are a lot of things that still need to be done. But to me, it feels pretty complete.

The house is about 25 miles west of Columbia. This is the first time I've had a major commute to work. I've always been within about 10 minutes of work (in one case less than 10 minutes walking). So that has been the biggest change for me. It's not a bad commute; it's interstate and there's no real traffic (in the summer at least!). But I have to rethink my mornings to leave in time for work or anywhere else for that matter. There's also not a grocery store (or anything except houses and farms) near us, so I have to plan ahead and make sure I get what I need when I'm already in town. And while I like the escape to the country and time to decompress in the car, I hate getting gas every week and how nasty my car gets from driving on the interstate all the time. I know, it's first world problems, but those are my complaints. We have started taking advantage of a great biking/walking trail that's about 10 minutes away.

Enough of my babbling, here are the pictures.

Living room, looking in from the front door

Living room, view from the kitchen


Kitchen, looking toward the master bedroom; laundry room is to the left

Master bedroom

Another view, walk-in closet is hidden but located next to the bathroom

Upstairs bedroom (ready for guests!)

We both kept our dressers and got a new one for our bedroom, so this is the room of dressers.

Upstairs bathroom

Second room upstairs — combined bedroom and office. (More room for guests!)

The office part of the room. Eventually, this will be divided into separate rooms.

And the deck that is furnished thanks to a generous gift from my aunts and uncles.

J would point out that I left off a major part of the house — the garage. But really, who needs to see our garage full of his tools. Although there is room for me to park in there, another first for me!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Maine, part 2

Here's the rest of the recap of our Maine trip:

Day 5: Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor
This was the farthest north we drove. It took about two hours to get to the park from our cottage. We were a little burned out on hiking, so we took advantage of the Park Road and drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain. More great views, even though it was a little cloudy.

We drove back down the park road and stopped at Jordan Pond. It is a freshwater lake that is incredibly clear. It was beautiful, and there is a restaurant right by it. We headed up there for lunch, and it was one of our favorites. The view alone put it up there pretty high, but the food was great. They serve popovers (big, hollow muffin-type things), and J had really good crab cakes. I had a veggie panini that hit the spot.

We had hoped to rent bikes and ride in the park a bit, but the bike rentals are all in Bar Harbor and logistically and time-wise we couldn't make it work. But we headed down to Bar Harbor. We explored the town and walked along a trail on the coastline. Bar Harbor was the only repeat place for me (I visited when I was 9), and it was familiar. We also found the big sandbar that takes you over to a wooded island. We only walked across the sandbar and didn't explore the island, but it was pretty cool. We got some ice cream and visited some shops before heading south. We stopped in Rockland for dinner.

Day 6: Wiscassett and Boothbay
On Friday, we only really had one thing we wanted to do. In Thomaston, at the turn to get to our cottage, there was a place called the Maine State Prison Store. It was a really cool store, full of things made by prisoners. There was beautiful wood furniture, model ships, wooden toys and even a Shawshank T-shirt that J got.

After that we decided to head south on Route 1 since we had only gone north in our daily trips. We did drive up Route 1 as we came up from Boston but didn't stop along the way. J remembered a town named Wiscasset, so we went there first. We wandered around the town and docks, and we noticed that all of the restaurants were dead but there was a huge line around this shack. We figured that must be the place to eat. It was called Red's Eats, and it had these huge lobster rolls. They were amazing, and apparently, this place is famous for them. The nice thing about a lobster roll is you get all the lobster without all the work. There were also amazing onion rings.

When we were done eating, J handed me the keys, and I got pick our next stop. I headed back north and pulled off to Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor. It was graduation day at the high school, so there was some traffic to get through, but we enjoyed walking around the harbor and the shops there. We headed back to the cottage and got ready for a nice dinner out. The woman that owns the cottage recommended Primos in Rockland. It was a really nice restaurant set up in an old house. It was a neat place to go, but it wasn't our best meal of the week.

Day 7: Boston
We flew in and out of Boston, and we decided to spend a day and night in Boston before flying back to St. Louis. We got up early Saturday to hit the road. We turned our car in and got travel passes for the subway. Then we took off for the Freedom Trail. We didn't make every stop on it, but we walked the whole thing. The highlight was Paul Revere's house, where an actor was playing Paul Revere and telling his story.

Once we got to the end, we took a water taxi across the Charles River. We took the subway out to Harvard for the classic picture there.

We didn't get to the library before it closed, but we walked around the area and sat outside a church. We also happened upon a memorial for the Boston Marathon. My parents had recommended a restaurant, Giacomo's, and that turned out to be our best meal. We both had lobster ravioli that was incredible. And then we headed back to an airport hotel to get some sleep before an early morning flight home.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Maine, part 1

(BTW, if you are in a reader, click over to see my new blog header.)

After the wedding, it was off to Maine! We had a wonderful time and high recommend our itinerary. I had some vague ideas of what I wanted us to do, a guidebook and some help from the owners of our cottage.

We stayed in a cottage right on the water in Cushing. It was a perfect retreat for us. We had great view of the water, a private beach, nice yard and cozy cottage.

There really isn't much in Cushing. We found the Olson House, which is about the only significant landmark. But we were about six miles from Route 1 and Thomaston, which had a couple of restaurants, and Rockland, which is busy little town, was another 10 miles or so. We basically drove up and down the coast seeing places and enjoyed our day trips. Here's a recap of the first half, as concisely as I can:

Day 1: Boston to Cushing
Travel day. Pretty successful minus the repacking our luggage at the check-in desk and getting swindled by Thrifty Car Rental.
But we got to the cottage about 7 p.m. and found the only place open was a cheap Italian place. We had calzones and called it a night.

Day 2: Rockland and Port Clyde
The woman that owns the cottage (she and her husband live next door) recommended going out to the Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockland. So that's how we spent the morning. It's about a mile walk on a rock wall out to the lighthouse. It was a little dreary, but we didn't get too wet.

We had lunch in Rockland and did some exploring there, including a visit to the lighthouse museum. We knew we wanted to go to Monhegan Island on Tuesday, and the boat leaves from Port Clyde. We drove down there to buy our tickets and check things out. We also headed up to the Marshall Island lighthouse, aka the Forrest Gump lighthouse.

We cleaned up for dinner and went to The Slipway in Thomaston. They had good seafood and a great view of the harbor. There was a beautiful sunset and a hill with a cross, so we watched the sun go down from there.

Day 3: Monhegan Island
We got up early to get back to Port Clyde and catch the boat to Monhegan Island. Monhegan is an isolated island that has a very small village and then a lot of hiking trails. In the village, there a couple of shops, a restaurant or two, a few inns and B&Bs, a church and a school. There are some "work trucks" but otherwise there are no vehicles on the island. All the roads are either dirt or gravel. The only public restrooms there, you have to pay for. A lot of artists live there or visit, and there is obviously a lobster and fishing industry, but that's about it. The boat is not that big and you can definitely tell you are getting pretty far out in the ocean on the way over. I was a little woozy by the time we got off and snatched up some ginger candy in the first store we came to and started feeling better.

We had picked up the trail map the day before, so we had mapped out our plans for the day. We picked up sandwiches for lunch and began our hike. We basically hiked the coastline of this island. It was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking at places. It was a really unique experience and our favorite day. When we got back to Port Clyde, we ate fresh lobsters on the dock.

Day 4: Camden
Camden is just past Rockland, and there is a state park there we wanted to visit. First we stopped in Camden to explore the town. There is a nice park right on the water with some crazy looking ducks.

We went into a Cappy's Chowder House that was said to have really good clam chowder. J was brave enough to try it, but I went with lobster mac and cheese. We both enjoyed our lunch but felt so full afterward we weren't sure we'd be able to hike. We drove up farther and sat for a while at Lincolnville Beach before going to the state park. We drove up to Mount Batty and enjoyed the views of Camden.

Then we went for what was described as a moderate hike to Mount Megunticook. I wouldn't describe the hike as moderate by any means. It was a steep uphill and the summit turned out to be much higher than Mount Batty, which we had driven to. But the views were worth it, and we worked off our lunch! We went back by Lincolnville Beach to pick up some seafood for dinner.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wedding recap

Hello again, blog world. I've finally come up for air after the wedding festivities, our honeymoon in Maine, unpacking and organizing our house, catching up at work and writing thank-you notes. It has been an incredible six weeks.

All of the wedding festivities were so much fun. I've known for a long time that J was the man I was supposed to marry, but I just couldn't believe the peace I felt the whole weekend. Everyone kept commenting about how calm I was before the ceremony. I was just excited to marry my best friend and see all of our planning play out.

Weddings are such an interesting event. It is just incredible to gather all the people that have been important in your life in one place at one time. Every stage of my life was represented at the wedding. I would have loved to have spent 30 minutes talking with each person, but of course, that's not really how a wedding reception goes. But it was awesome to get to see and hug friends I haven't seen in years.

Pictures are here.

Just to show who all came to the wedding: There was a table with my very first boss — a writer who did research for and served as a nanny for, my boss from my first real job and two other co-workers from that job. I just wish my co-worker from my current job had made her way to that table. Who knows what stories were told.

I had a great time dancing with my high school friends, and I was glad my Virginia friends made it to other events where I got more time with them.

The only hitch was a change in plans for our wedding night. But it meant that we got to ride in a limo to a hotel. The original plan was to walk to an inn around the corner. Considering it rained off and on that evening, the limo was a good change and our hotel was great. J also kept it from me until after the ceremony was over. He, with some help from my mom, had it all taken care of and kept it from stressing me out.

The other funny story was that I noticed a misspelling on one of the signs at the buffet. Spinach was spelled spinich. I was actually hugging a friend when I noticed it, and she got a kick out of it because I'm probably the only bride that would notice such a thing. And really, it was just funny. You can't control everything.

More updates about our honeymoon and married life to come. And if you are reading on a reader, click over to check out my new blog header.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Counting down

As I have said, blogging is at the very bottom of my to do list, and I've been fine with that. But I have a few minutes so I thought I would do a quick catch-up.

We are weeks away from the wedding. Sometimes it's hard to believe it's really happening, but most of the time I'm just ready for it to be here! Everything has come together really well. It's hard to do all of this long distance, but my mom has been great and having one contact for most things helps a lot.

I continue to be humbled as the replies come in for the guest list. I'm stunned by the people willing to travel for my wedding. It is truly going to be a party full of people from every stage of my life. What a bonus to getting to marry my best friend.

J has been working hard on the bedroom, and I think we will be able to paint this weekend. We aren't counting on everything being done when I move my stuff the weekend before the wedding. But it should be close when we get back from the honeymoon (in Maine!).

I'm wrapping up my second grad school class. I'm taking a break from class this summer and will go back full time in August. I will keep some responsibilities in the newsroom as part of my assistantship that will pay for school. I can't say that there will be balance when school is my full-time focus, but I'm hoping it's a little easier than teaching, working and being a student. And this summer will be a nice break from the teaching and being a student part.

Just counting the days now...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A gift from the past

I wrote this a while ago, but never got back to adding photos and publishing it, so here it is a month later:

About two months after J and I met, he moved into the house he built. As he was packing, he found an old Missourian newspaper from the moon landing in 1969, as well as a family history and journal written by his grandmother. (One of his family members had typed up the family history and journal entries and distributed them to the family.)

He brought both the newspaper and the history/journal over for me to see. I don't know if it was because he knew I would love reading his family's history or that he loved his grandmother so much he wanted to share this piece of her with me, but it was a privilege to get to read it.

J's mom is the youngest of eight by 10 years. Even though she is from such a big family, she was practically raised as an only child and stayed very close to her mother. By the time J and his brother were born, the other grandkids were practically grown, and his grandmother savored the time with J and his brother. And he enjoyed time with her as well.

In the journal, she wrote about the house her kids built for her. Her first night in the house was Thanksgiving night, and J didn't want her stay by herself for the first night so he spent the night with her. It became a tradition for him to spend Thanksgiving night with her, and he continued to do so into his teens.

J was also the designated mower for her yard, and she was always trying to get him to wear this yellow hat that belonged to his grandfather. J rarely wears it, but he keeps that hat around.

His grandmother died 10 years ago this month. Between the journal and the stories from J, I have gotten a small glimpse of the wonderful woman she was and the impact she had on J's life.

Fast forward to a weekend in April. We were blessed with two wedding showers here in Missouri. J's family had one for us, and then there was one at our church. My parents, sister, niece and nephew made the trek from Tennessee and South Carolina, and it was wonderful to have them there to celebrate with us as well.

These two matching kiddos were good party-goers,
and MM is an expert bow collector at showers.

At the family shower, we were given some really special gifts, including this gorgeous stained glass lamp made by J's uncle.

What caught us by surprise was the role J's grandmother played in one of the gifts. She had made embroidered quilt squares before she died and gave them to J's aunt and instructed her to turn them into a quilt to give to J when he got married. J's aunt followed through and gave us a beautiful quilt with those squares in it. There was a note with the quilt providing that background. I could barely hold it together when I read the letter out loud, and J was as emotional as I've ever seen him. He was choked up all the way home.

To top it off, J's dad, a carpenter, made a gorgeous quilt rack with a cross in the middle for us to display the quilt on.

Hanging up in J's (soon to be our) house. And look, the handrail is up!

Without J telling me stories and sharing her journal with me, I would not have grasped the importance of this gift. But I know J wishes I could have met her, so to have her as part of the celebration meant the world to him. And I am still blown away at the way the family carried through this wish from J's grandmother.

I believe his grandmother and mine will be celebrating together in heaven on June 1 when we say our vows.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What does healing look like? Part 2

In part 1, I shared my history of fibromyalgia. Here's why I started writing about it.

A part of me wondered — was I using the medicine as a crutch? Had God healed me but I was refusing to trust Him to find out? Did I really need that pill every night?

After I got engaged, those questions loomed larger in my mind, and I realized the next few months are the last that I will sleep in a bed by myself. If I was going to try going without the medicine, the time to do it was now.

I talked with my doctor here in Missouri about it at the end of January. She gave me some smaller doses of the medicine so I could begin to taper off. After putting it off for a couple of weeks, I went to half my dosage — from 50 mgs to 25 mgs. It turned out that the week I went down on the dosage, we got the first of two snowstorms. So life was stressful, and I was working a lot. But I told myself there was never a good week to do it and powered through.

But it was obvious from the beginning that the lower dosage wasn't going to cut it. The pain started to come back almost immediately, and I found myself in a fog from the fatigue where I couldn't even complete sentences.

So I started researching natural ways to get my body into a deep sleep. I powered everything off hours before bed and banned my iPhone from my room. I took warm baths with epsom salts and drank a nighttime tea. I read relaxing books before bed (note: Gone Girl is not a relaxing thing to read before bed!). I went to bed earlier than usual, and I didn't give up on exercising.

Even though I closed my eyes and slept for eight hours a night, I woke up feeling just as tired as I did the night before. The fog of fatigue was so heavy I forgot to pay bills and struggled to get through the day. The pain returned in my back and my neck. I pulled out the heating pad and took as much as Advil as I'm allowed to.

J was one of the few people that knew I was trying this, and he was so patient. Even though he knew about my illness, he had never seen me like this — in pain and so exhausted. He was praying for me and doing whatever he could to help — a lot of times that meant just leaving me alone. I know it can be hard to be so helpless as you watch someone else struggle, and I know it was hard for him not to be able to "fix" or "heal" me. But he stuck by me, and it showed me that he would not be deterred by this sickness. He loves and accepts all of me.

Anyway, as the days went by, I knew that my body needed that medication as much now as it did 14 years ago. After two weeks at the lower dosage, I went back to the original dosage because I knew the pain was reaching a point that I might not be able to recover from without prescribed pain medication. Three nights of good sleep later, the pain faded and the fog of fatigue lifted. J noted that I seemed like myself again.

It proved to me that the sleep disorder I have is real, and my healing comes through 21st century medicine.

But it still felt like I had failed or even that God had failed me, and I had to remind myself of the truths God showed me when I was first sick. It doesn't mean that God isn't present or doesn't care about my physical ailments or hasn't heard my prayers for healing. I believe that this illness is a part of my life for a reason even if I can't see why. But there are still unanswered questions for me as I move into this next stage of my life. I am obviously following up with doctors about those questions and will in the years to come. And I won't ever give up on praying for complete healing.

I also have to admit that I envisioned writing a completely different blog post. I had hoped to write about how I was able to stop taking the medicine and felt better than ever. I almost didn't write this one at all, but I think I probably needed to write this one more than if it had all been sunshine and daisies.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What does healing look like? Part 1

So here's something I've never blogged about: I have fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed 14 years ago this month (to help with the math, I was 15).

You've probably seen commercials for fibromyalgia and might be somewhat familiar with it. But here's the quick version of how it impacted me: For six months before my diagnosis, I had unexplained fatigue and back pain. In the weeks before I was diagnosed, I was also suffering from neck pain. In those six months, we saw a lot of doctors and had what seemed like every test in the book. I did physical therapy, took pain medication, slept like it was my job, but nothing solved the issue. I continue to be grateful to my parents for always believing that my pain was real and never giving up on finding an answer. They were the ones that actually learned about fibromyalgia through a friend and got me in to see the best rheumatologist in town. When I saw the rheumatologist, he checked 17 pressure points on my body, I reacted in pain to 15 of them (pain in 11 is typically enough for a diagnosis).

What was happening was that I was not going into a deep enough sleep to heal my muscles. I was put on a small dosage of antidepressants to resolve the sleep disorder, and the doctor helped me manage my pain with cortisone shots and pain medication. But once I started the antidepressants and improved my sleep habits (no naps, no caffeine, regular exercise, etc.), I got better. And it has been many years since I have had any issues or pain that wasn't resolved with a good night's sleep and Advil.

At the time I was diagnosed, I was devastated by the idea of having a chronic illness at 15. During the time I was sick before the diagnosis, I prayed for healing. I prayed for miraculous healing and for healing through an answer from a doctor. But a chronic illness was not the answer I expected.

Because of the pain I was in the day I was diagnosed, it seemed that I would live in pain for the rest of my life. I couldn't see that six months down the road, I would be able to function as a normal teenager and not wake up in pain every day. I couldn't see that I would go to college, have roommates, study abroad, spend the night in airports, work second shift jobs and completely forget about the pain.

I do remember my doctor giving me some glimmer of hope when he mentioned that I could grow out of it, that by my early 20s I could be free of it. But when my early 20s came and my doctor suggested coming off my medicine, I put him off. My life was busy and full, and I wasn't willing to change what had been working for so long. And then I got a real job and new insurance, and he wasn't my doctor anymore. After that I saw family practitioners that just kept prescribing what was working for me.

But a part of me wondered — was I using the medicine as a crutch? Had God healed me but I was refusing to trust Him to find out? Did I really need that pill every night?

In part 2, I will share what happened when I tried to answer those questions.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow, part 2

So I have always wanted to marry a guy that drove a truck. It wasn't a dealbreaker criteria, nor was it a reason to be with somebody. But it is icing on the cake that J drives an F250. Especially when 11 inches of snow is dumped on our town.

I have known from the beginning that J was a hard worker and does whatever he can to help others. He didn't have anything to prove to me, but I was still in awe at all of his hard work dealing with the snow during the last three days.

J picked up a co-worker and me from the newsroom on Thursday afternoon after we were surprised by the amount of snow that arrived. After dropping my co-worker off, we stopped in Walmart for food supplies and a shovel. The roads got pretty terrible when we got close to my house, and J had to circle back. Even in his F250, we got stuck for a minute on a hill — that's how bad things were.

We finally made it back to a street close to my house, and he pulled in to park on the side of the street. He then proceeded to shovel out a spot behind his truck in an attempt to protect himself from getting plowed in. But when he went to reverse into the spot, he kept sliding forward and into the curb. So he just kept shoveling.

After more than hour of this, a neighbor offered to pull him out. At that point I went inside to cook a pizza and warm up. It was another 45 minutes before J came in. I asked him what took so long, and he said he stayed out there to help shovel the neighbor's driveway. Of course he did.

Friday morning he drove me to work, and then he picked me up that afternoon and took me home before going back to work.

On Saturday morning, I woke up to find him shoveling my really long driveway. It took him almost four hours. He did all of this even though my street hadn't been cleared and my car was still in a parking garage at school.

I can't believe he went to all of that trouble for not just me, but a neighbor and a co-worker.

Here's a tip: If a guy shovels three inches of snow after one date, it means he's OK with being on the hook for a lot more snow than that in the future. Although I'm sure J's relieved that he'll only be responsible for one driveway next winter.

Here's hoping that we don't get another six inches of snow this week!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snow, part 1

Well, it has been a crazy few days, and there's nothing like a big snowstorm to make me love my job more.

On Wednesday, forecasters were predicting we would get 3 to 6 inches of snow on Thursday morning. As the early morning person, I decided to go ahead and go into work before my 6:30 a.m. shift started. When I left my house, there was not a flake of snow. By 9 a.m., it was coming down fast and complete with thunder.

Since the snow started after most people got to work, many ended up stranded as they tried to get home at midday when they realized it got bad. The interstate was shut down, there were cars and even buses stranded everywhere and the university ended up closing (a very rare event). By 3 p.m. we had 11 inches of snow — a much bigger deal than 3 to 6 inches.

It was the kind of day journalists live for. I was so busy managing our website and social media accounts, the first time I got up was to go to the bathroom at 12:30 p.m. (I did have a stash of food to sustain me.)

I was doing everything I could to inform our readers and share any information I had. I was tracking the MoDOT traveler map and sharing screenshots of interstate cameras. I was tracking everything people said about the snow using a hashtag. And I was trying to translate the information I was sharing with our audience on social media with those using our website. I was juggling so many things and easily had 20 tabs open on my browser, but those are the situations where I thrive.

Meanwhile, our outreach team was collecting people's pictures shared on social media in an easy-to-view format. This was our first experiment with the tool, and it turned out awesome. The team also had a Google map going that showed road conditions based on submissions from our readers and staff. All this stuff on our site was so popular, the site actually went down about 1 p.m. on Thursday. The tech guy got it up and running quickly, but it was a testament to how many people wanted the information we were providing.

I did make an escape about 4:30 p.m. to come home and get some rest before I went back bright and early Friday morning. On Friday, I did much of the same. What was cool was that people realized we were a good resource for information. People on Twitter started asking what we knew about road conditions at various intersections and roads around town. Using our Google map, MoDOT and anecdotal information from reporters and Twitter, I responded to each question. And that was my favorite part of the day. I loved that "direct" interaction with people and knowing that people turned to us for information.

This was one of those adrenaline-rush events that even though it is fun for me in my job is a pretty serious situation. Fortunately, there were hardly any accidents, and we didn't hear of any fatalities. But there were a lot of people stranded or students who had a long walk home.

But it was a reminder that the newsroom is exactly where I want to be during an event like this and that's what was missing in my time in Virginia. The bonus of this newsroom is that we got to do all of this stuff and teach our students how to do it at the same time. The downside, of course, is that two long days of hard work doesn't let me me off the hook for teaching class Monday morning. I'll be spending some time preparing for that on Sunday!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A year ago

I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately. It's at the bottom of my to do list right now, and I'm OK with that but I thought today was worth marking.

A year ago, J and I went on our first date. We had talked on the phone once, but it was basically a blind date. We met for dinner at Macaroni Grill, and it was one of those first dates where we never ran out of things to talk about. I didn't know then that a year later we'd be engaged, but I did leave that date looking forward to another one. And I'm so glad there were more dates after that.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Show us your singles: Beth

I am one of Kelly's success stories. I am engaged after meeting J a year ago through Kelly's Korner. So I continue to post about my single friends. Today, I'm going to tell you about my best friend from high school, Beth.

Beth, 29, Nashville

Beth is one of my favorite people in the world, and I'm so glad she gave me permission to write about her. Beth and I have been friends for going on 15 years. Most of that time we haven't lived anywhere near each other, but with a few visits a year and phone calls in between, she remains my closest friend.

Beth, far right, and I at a Beth Moore conference in 2010.

Beth lived in D.C. for seven years after college working in government and a think tank. She moved to Nashville about a year ago after completing her masters in communication. Returning to her home state of Tennessee (we're both from the Chattanooga area) was a tough decision, but she enjoys her current job in state government and liked Nashville so much she recently bought a house there.

Beth is an artist on the side — painting for friends and family, drawing my save the dates — and my birthday cards are always unique.

Beth, right, kayaking with her mom.

Beth loves to be outside, and on the weekends, you'll find her biking or hiking. She is a world traveler. Most recently, she has traveled to Switzerland and South Africa to see friends.

She is outgoing and has a full social calendar, but she prioritizes spending quality time with people that she can have deeper conversations with. She will cut through the small talk pretty quickly. Lately, she has been showing off her new house with gatherings of friends.

Beth, left, with her sister, Katelyn.

Most importantly, Beth truly lives out her Christian faith in everything she does. When she first moved to D.C., she found a church and volunteered her time to lead a small group of high school girls. Even after those girls graduated, she kept up with them and continued to mentor them. In Nashville she is volunteering with The Next Door, a drug rehab program.

It has been such a blessing to me to have Beth walk alongside me for the last 15 years. She is the friend that knows me so well and isn't afraid to hold me accountable. She is beautiful inside and out and definitely worth getting to know.

If you or someone you know are interested in finding out more, leave a comment or send me an email.