Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Peace on Earth...


is not the absence of trouble;

it is the presence

of God.

--Carol McLeod from Just Joy Ministries--

Merry Christmas, friends.
See ya next week.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Crazy-- Are You Polite?

I probably should have written a post about this earlier in the month. But I was busy baking.   And now we're definitely in the throes of Christmas parties and gatherings. I've already gone to three, and I have the potential to attend two more this weekend.  

How do you feel about Christmas parties?  I like them because the word "Christmas" is part of the term.  And while I love socializing with my best friends at the party--the people I know really well, typically the hosts--I know that I can't just follow them around like a lost puppy.  The hosts are!  They're buzzing around the room talking to all of the people they invited, refilling cups, leading games.  This means that I, the guest, am responsible for my own social interactions for the remainder of the evening.  This usually involves going up to strangers--the hosts' family members, work colleagues, neighbors--and striking up a conversation, hopefully one that's not about the WEATHER, and maintaining it for at least 15 minutes or until everyone starts exchanging Secret Santa gifts.  

This can sometimes be a problem because I don't consider myself the friendliest person.  People have said I am friendly but I don't feel that way. I've watched friendly people interact. One of my best friends is one of the most friendly people I know.  She's just truly, really genuinely interested in...everyone, right from the start.  That's not my M/O.  I'm a bit more reserved and introverted.  There's some residual shyness leftover from my childhood. Then add to that the fact that I just don't trust anyone as soon as I meet them.  These quirks can become problematic when you're trying to get to know someone at a party.

So anyway, my friendly friend sent me this essay earlier in the year and I found it to be incredibly fascinating.  It's called "How to Be Polite," and in it a man talks about what he learned from reading etiquette books as a child.  Here are some of my favorite parts:
  • "What I found most appealing was the way that the practice of etiquette let you draw a protective circle around yourself and your emotions. By following the strictures in the book, you could drag yourself through a terrible situation and when it was all over, you could throw your white gloves in the dirty laundry hamper and move on with your life."  
  • "My ability to go to a party and speak to anyone about anything, to natter and ask questions, to turn the conversation relentlessly towards the speaker, meant that I was gathering huge amounts of information about other people."
  • "When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: 'Wow. That sounds hard.'"
  • "Politeness buys you time. It leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. And yet — many of them are now great friends."
My mind was blown. After reading that essay I realized that the key to talking to people is to just be polite, and that will carry you through.  Since reading it, I have been clinging to favorite excerpt #3, which is to not ask ANYONE about their job until absolutely necessary.  It's funny, so far I haven't had to do it and let me tell you, it's REALLY great for maintaining conversation.

So after reading that, I'm sure you can imagine how happy I was when I came across this article:  "10 Habits of Remarkably Polite People."  I dove right in.  My favorite parts:
  • "You're at a party. A friend gestures to someone several steps away and says, 'Let me introduce you to Bob.' Bob sees you coming.  And he stands there, waiting for you to come to him in some weird power move.  Remarkably polite people, no matter how great their perceived status, step forward, smile, tilt their head slightly downward (a sign of respect in every culture), and act as if they are the one honored by the introduction, not you."
  • "Some people share incessantly on social media. And maybe you occasionally see what they've been up to.  But polite people don't bring those things up. They talk about sports, they talk about the weather, they talk about how The Walking Dead is a metaphor for life in corporate America, but they only talk about personal subjects the other person actually discloses in person. Maybe it seems like the person wants everyone to know about a personal subject, but in fact that's rarely the case. So unless his or her social media broadcasts were specifically directed to you, always wait." 
  • "They never speak just to share the greater glory of themselves.  How can you tell? If you're talking about something just because it feels really good to share it, and there's no place for the other person to add value, you're just patting yourself on the back.  When remarkably polite people want to talk about themselves, they ask for advice--but not humblebrag advice like, "I notice you keep your car really clean; what wax do you recommend for a Porsche?"  Ask a question that shows you truly value the other person's expertise or knowledge. The person will feel good, because you implicitly show you trust his or her opinion; you actually get input you can use. Win-win.  And totally polite."

The comments about social media really stood out to me. I know I've been there. You see someone at a party who you happen to be friends with on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  You haven't seen them IN PERSON recently, but you know they've been announcing things or saying certain things on those social media platforms. You wonder if you should mention those status updates and pictures. That's me, usually. Sometimes I think "Hmm, but I know this thing about this person."  But also, it's so weird now that people could start conversations with "So I saw on Facebook that you're XYZ."  I've never liked that!  I made a decision last this year to severely limit what I share on Facebook.  I just like telling people certain things in person.  I started missing the days where seeing someone after a few weeks or months didn't involve a rundown of everything they've already tweeted out to everyone.

So there we have it. I've effectively written a NOVEL about something that I'm sure most people view as plain 'ol common sense.  I hope this helped somebody.  I can't wait to put some of these things into practice over the weekend.

Happy Christmas-partying!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Faith Through Hearing-- Calming the Crazy

Between last Monday and this past Sunday I baked over 100 cookies, two different varieties. I attended three parties, and hosted one of my own, on a weeknight, at my apartment.  I did this while working, doing chores--because I had to clean and re-clean the kitchen about a dozen times (I think I washed the same bowl about five or six within the span of 36 hours)--and trying to get started on my own Christmas shopping.

I think I'm done baking cookies until Christmas Eve. I had to freeze what remained of my peanut butter chocolate chip cookie mix that I used on Sunday because it was calling to me from the fridge.  And I've been really bad about working out lately.  But the Christmas shopping still isn't complete.  So there's that.

I think this year, I'm finally beginning to understand why people are sometimes stressed during the holidays.  I don't know how it happened, but I get it.  I really do.  After baking all those cookies and hosting people for a night I ended up having to take a day off work because I was so exhausted. 

But this is how it goes right?  Even the best laid plans sometimes unravel like a torn sweater and things end up being rushed/last minute/cluttered. And in an effort to make the holiday season and celebrations perfect, we stretch ourselves too thin, which can sometimes result in attitude that's less than celebratory and more cranky and irritated. 

The two things that have really calmed me down and helped me focus on what really truly matters--what Christmas is about--are my YouVersion Bible App and the daily devotions that come with it.  It has a whole category for Christmas.  So I just want to share with you some of the readings that have really stuck with me and pulled me out of some of those crazy moments that have come about over the past two weeks:

Isn't Christmas awesome?  Isn't God awesome?  Yeah.  I think so. 
Anyway, you'll be happy to know that I've been using this week of December for some much needed rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.  The apartment isn't that clean, and Ben and I have been watching movies on Netflix and playing with the new WiiU console.  No parties until Friday.  Loving this week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jewel Eats--Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup

I know it makes no sense that I'm posting about food right after we've just celebrated the biggest food-centered holiday on the planet.  It almost seems kind of...wrong, right?  You're still recovering from the 'itis that occurred after Thursday's monstrous meal, and Friday's feast of leftovers, and Saturday's big family brunch.  Or maybe that's just me?  

I feel like I'm still having a hard time buttoning my pants while dusting off the stiffness from days of stuffing my face and not exercising.  And next week, I've got a busy schedule of baking, baking, BAKING.  Yes, it's Christmas time.  But to reset our bodies with the right types of foods while attempting to get back into some sort of exercise schedule (spin class is booked for Friday), Ben and I agreed that it's time for a detox week.  Yes, before we dive headfirst into cookie swaps and Christmas parties we need to "get healthy" again.   

Our detox meal for last night (and tonight since there was plenty leftover), was this delicious Lemony Chicken and Orzo soup from Bon Appetit.  

What's Cool About This Soup:
1.  There aren't that many ingredients.  You don't even have to mince up any garlic or onion.  But I added a carrot because I felt lazy, and also for color.  And also because we have way to many carrots in our fridge.

2.  It uses chicken thighs, which I love because they're cheap.

3.  It's a nice upgrade from your standard chicken soup because it has lemon in it.  I squeezed a whole lemon into the broth when everything was finished cooking, then I served it.  

4.  It's low sodium...if you want it to be!  The best thing about homemade soup is the choice to use little or no salt, instead of having a factory stuff spoonfuls of salt into a can of soup.  I used low-sodium chicken broth in this recipe.  

So yeah, go make this. It's fresh.  The lemon gives is zing.  It's cheap.  It's perfect for days like today in D.C. when the temperature has dropped from 70 degrees to 30 again.  And it's actually pretty low in calories and fat.  Unless, of course you choose to serve it with some white bread with tablespoons of butter.  Hey, I'm detoxing but I'm not crazy.  Butta makes it betta, I always say. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'm Thankful for Everything

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that Thanksgiving shouldn't be the only day that you "give thanks" for all you have.  Reflecting on the ways the God has come through for me, blessed me, saved me when I didn't deserve it, granted me favor, loved me and even just plain listened to me is something I strive to do every day, at least a few times a day. 

I feel like the words "Thank You" are not enough.  They just aren't enough.  I feel like we need some kind of long German word for when you're feeling immensely grateful for something and want to express your gratitude but you know the words "Thank You" aren't enough.  Is there a German word for that?  

Anyway, I'm not going to start listing off things I'm thankful for because I can't list everything. It won't fit into this post.  And if I attempt to my heart just might explode.  If you read a few posts on this blog you'll get a good idea of some of the things I'm thankful for.  One of those "things" is you.  

Thank YOU for coming here for the first time, or coming back here for the second, third, or tenth time, and taking the time out of your day to read what I have to say about...anything, really.  I really appreciate it.  You're one of the reasons why I keep writing. It's been such a joy to share my life with you, and I've been so honored that some of you have chosen to share your life with me. 

So yeah, thanks for being here.  I see you. And I love you.  

“Every time I pray, I mention you and give thanks to my God.”

Philemon 1:4

Happy Thanksgiving.  Here's a bit of Thanksgiving reading if you're interested:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Life With...RRP

It is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend and colleague Laura!  I've known Laura for a few years now, and met her when she convinced me to join the union at our company.  And it paid off--our union was able to secure free healthcare that year for all the employees at our job! Crazy, right?!  Some things have changed since then (we have premiums now; whomp,whomp) but Laura is still one of the few people at my company who actually understands what life is like as a working sick person!  Enjoy getting to know Laura!

Who are you and what are you passionate about?

I'm Laura, a 34-year-old lawyer, journalist, and union activist. I am passionate about fighting for fairness, equality, and civil rights for everyone. Oh, and there's a special place in my heart for all things Disney.

Tell the readers a little about your disease, and how you reacted when you were diagnosed.

I have recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or RRP for short. A lot of people have heard about the human papiloma virus (HPV). RRP is a rare type of HPV that grows mainly on the vocal cords, but also can grow in the trachea, bronchial tubes, and lungs. The wart-like growths have to be removed surgically, usually with a laser, and—here's the recurrent part—they keep coming back. However, it isn't contagious and is definitely NOT an STD.

I was diagnosed with RRP when I was 11 months, so don't remember how I reacted. I'll bet my parents were a bit freaked out, though.

People with a chronic illness face a lot of challenges (A LOT)!  --What’s one challenge that you’ve faced so far in this journey and how have you dealt with it?

The biggest challenge with RRP is the repeated surgery. Like full-out general anesthesia surgery several times a year. I lost count a while ago, but I'm guessing my total lifetime surgery count is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300. 

It's not easy having to go to the hospital all the time, getting poked and prodded with needles and feeling like crap for several days afterward. I'm going to be honest--I've cried over it on several occasions.

But I'm a people person, so I usually crack jokes with the nurses and other staff while I'm there. I hate to admit it, but I like the high of the general anesthesia before it knocks me out and whatever drug combo they give me before that to calm me down. And throat surgery is a great excuse for eating ice cream.

Who or what helps you make decisions about your health?

My parents helped me at first, and my husband has been with me on this for the past 9 years. But the biggest help was actually the RRP Support Group I found on Facebook, a group specifically for patients with RRP and their friends and family. Everyone shares their experiences and different types of treatment their going through so that we're all up to date on the latest research. It's what made me decide in 2010 to start going to Johns Hopkins University Hospital, one of the best hospitals in the country (and only 45 minutes away!). That was one of the best decisions of my life.

I have a ton of funny and memorable hospital stories. Can you share one of yours?

My surgeon had me and my parents come in for surgery early in the morning because there was a chance he would have time around 8:30 to squeeze me in instead of the 3:30 time slot I was originally given (which really sucks when you can't eat or drink all day). Well, that didn't work out, but he insisted we stick around the whole freaking day just in case (I actually went for surgery at 3:40).

By mid-afternoon we were all tired and getting very slap-happy, when this doctor started walking back and forth in front of the waiting area and he seriously looked just like a pirate in scrubs. Of course my dad started making all these "arrrr" noises every time the guy walked by. In between standing on one foot on some wooden block that had come out of the wall.

What advice do you have for other people, young or old, who are living with your disease?

First of all, know that there are others out there like you, who share your experiences and your raspy voice. We may have a rare disease, but we're not alone!

But more importantly, don't ever settle for disease maintenance. There is no cure for RRP, but doctors and researchers are making breakthroughs in treatment all the time, and the latest one could make a big difference for you and your quality of life. Insist that your doctor pursue these treatments, and if he or she won't, get a new doctor.
And finally, what brings you joy?

My family, my friends, my union brothers and sisters, and good food!

If you want more information about RRP, Laura recommends visiting the website for the Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis Foundation.