Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bye Bye, Bookstore

Today I planned to go to our local bookstore so I could look for a gift. In addition to books (which are great gifts in themselves), they have a lot of cute cards and other little gift items. I asked Husband to go with me, and then he said the words that almost froze my heart, “Isn’t that store closing?” WHAT? How could the bookstore close? It’s the only bookstore in town. And it’s my favorite place to browse around when I have some extra time. We decided to go anyway. I hoped that Husband was mistaken about the closing, or at least I hoped the store might stay open a while longer. We arrived at the storefront, where we saw a small hand-written sign posted to the window that said: “store closed and will not reopen.” We actually didn’t need the sign to tell us. The dark interior and the vast nothingness inside (not even a single book or shelf in sight!) were enough of a clue. I stared at the windows of the storefront in disbelief, muttering “I can’t believe it closed! How can it close?” And I lamented that I missed the only consolation prize, which would have been shopping at the going-out-of-business sale, if they even had one. Husband put his arms around my shoulders and gently escorted me away from the store. He added an encouraging, “You can still buy books online.” Ironically, as I was just typing this post, Husband walked in the office and said, “What’s with the sad face? It looks like you’re writing an obituary.” He’s right, in a way. Rest in Peace, little Bookstore.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Found: a Frog and a Tradition

Last week my parents had a few out-of-town family members visit. I was glad to hear that they had an enjoyable time. But I was just as glad to hear that they revived a family tradition.
As a teenager, I got a frog (stuffed animal) that we named Greeney. (Clever, eh?) I thought it would be funny to hide Greeney in unexpected places, where my mom would find him. The first place, I think, was in the refrigerator.
She thought it was funny, and she started to play along. Whoever found him last would hide him in a new place for the other to find. Greeney hid under our pillows, in our shoes, in our closets, and in drawers.
And one time he hid in a care package that my mom sent to me while I was deployed.
I had just arrived at my deployed location, and I was meeting the people that I’d work with on a daily basis. I remember being a little nervous, since I was one of the most junior-ranking members there, and I was trying to make a good impression.
A fellow military member called my name and handed me a care package. I was so excited! I knew immediately it was from my mom. I opened the care package, and there, among other things, was Greeney!
One of the senior officers turned his head to look over at me and said, “What’s with the frog?”
I turned red as I explained, “Oh, it’s an inside joke from my mom.”
I’m glad she sent it, though. It made me smile, and it was nice to have something that reminded me of home.
Here’s Greeney, on my bed during the deployment. Notice my mom put him in a somewhat camouflage-looking get-up. Since then, Greeney has traveled back and forth from my house to my parents’ house, usually through the mail in birthday packages. A few of Greeney’s friends, like Kermit, have made a permanent home at my parents’ house. So, when my aunt, uncle, and cousin visited my parents last week, they renewed our “hide-a-frog” tradition. My mom included the proof in one of her e-mails, which made me smile. Though I can’t speak for the frogs (especially Kermit, who was clearly having a private moment), I think our family was happy to be reminded of this tradition.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cooking Battles, or Why Pumpkin Should Never Be in a Soup

So, I’ve said before that I’ve never been a natural cook. But, a few cooking successes over the holidays made me think that maybe, just maybe, I might be getting the hang of this cooking thing. For Christmas, we made a ham, and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be truly delicious. In fact, I just talked to my dad on the phone, and he lamented that the ham they made recently wasn’t as good as the ham we had together on Christmas. (I really have no idea how the ham turned out so well, but I’ve embraced my good fortune and/or cooking fluke just the same.) And then, on a whim, I made my first-ever batch of cabbage soup before the holidays. Husband raved about it, saying it reminded him of the soup his mother and late grandmother used to make. I thought maybe he was just saying that to be polite, but when he gobbled up seconds and thirds, I knew it was the truth. I made it for my parents when they visited, and they loved it, too. My mom bragged about the soup to my uncle, and then he called and asked me for the recipe! Let me just say that no one has ever asked me, the girl who consistently has pots boiling over on her stove, for a recipe. So I continued on with my cooking, now with new confidence. I became bolder, taking risks with more complicated recipes. And my streak of cooking successes came screeching to a halt with a recipe called “Pumpkin Soup.” Oh, you’ve never heard of it? There’s good reason. Pumpkin can go nicely in a pie, or maybe even in a bread. But never, ever in a soup. Husband and I each took a spoonful of the orange soup at the same time. I couldn’t help but laugh right away because it was awful, and I knew that Husband was probably trying to think of something diplomatic to say to avoid hurting my feelings. I told him that he didn’t have to eat any more. He soldiered on, insisting it wasn’t that bad. He even added a little sugar to it to make it palatable. I, however, gave up after the second spoonful, and I ended up making hot dogs for the both of us. The pumpkin soup went down the drain, and maybe so did a little of my confidence. But just like anything else, I know that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Cooking can be a gamble. I think I’ll place my bets on another ham, and skip the pumpkin soup altogether.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost in Translation

Today at work I helped a Spanish-speaking client. I felt pretty proud of myself because I was able to answer all of his questions in Spanish. It wasn’t until after he left that I realized that the word I thought meant “policy” actually means “police.” I can only imagine what he thought when I handed him a form and politely asked him to “please read over our policeman.” Whoops.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Role Reversal

Husband and I seemed to have changed roles recently. Husband is now the one working on his Master’s. He just started his program a couple weeks ago. So, last night, he was the one glued to the computer, reading his assignments, with a furrowed brow and an occasional sigh. Unfortunately, my Master’s concentration is not related to his, so the only practical help I could offer was showing him where to order cheap books (like And, today, we changed roles again. Husband had the day off, since it’s a federal holiday. But I had to go to work. I think that this is the first time in our marriage that I had to work on a day that he had off. I came home from work, announcing, “Hi, honey, I’m home! What’s for dinner?” And I got my answer when I smelled freshly-grilled fajitas. These new roles don’t seem so bad after all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I made spaghetti tonight for a military family that just had a baby. It’s customary in our unit for the military spouses to volunteer to make a week's worth of meals for the family after their baby is born. I think it’s a nice tradition. Although I haven’t figured out whether subjecting other people to my cooking is an act of kindness or cruelty. (I’ll let them decide, after they taste the meal.) While I was making the spaghetti, I remembered the time that Husband (before we were married) made a spaghetti meal for someone at our last base, but under very different circumstances. A woman in his unit, who was also on active duty, lost her military husband, who was killed during his deployment. We both felt heartbroken for her, this poor woman that lost her everything and became a single mother in a tragic instant. Husband asked me what he should do for her. I told him that maybe he could make her a meal. And I suggested that he might want to give it to her sometime after the initial outpouring of support, when she might need it more. I had forgotten about our conversation, until one day when I was at his apartment and I noticed a pretty, white candle that had a fancy bow tied around it. “Where did that come from?” I asked, knowing perfectly well that Husband didn’t own many “pretty” things and would never buy such a thing for himself. “It’s from the woman whose husband died,” he answered. And he told me the story. He had made a spaghetti meal for her. She was sitting at her desk, and he dropped off the meal saying simply, “I made this for you.” She thanked him, and he left. A few minutes later, one of Husband’s buddies noticed the woman crying at her desk, and he asked her what was wrong. “That pilot…I don’t know his name…made me a meal,” she said. Husband’s buddy asked her what he looked like, and she said, “You know, that tall, skinny one.” (I laughed to myself at this point in the story.) “Oh, you mean, [Husband’s callsign]?” he asked her. She nodded. And the next day she brought Husband a candle to express her thanks. She was obviously touched by Husband’s gesture, and I was proud of him for what he did. (I also knew that I wanted to marry him, if not for his kindness, then for his delicious spaghetti.) This story reminds me that a seemingly small thing, like a meal, can mean a lot. It also reminds me of what I love about the military community: that through the ups and downs, we are all part of a team. Through the happy birth of a baby or through the tragic death of a spouse, someone is there to offer a meal. I can only hope that my spaghetti is as good as Husband’s.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


*Warning: A long, sappy post is ahead. Proceed with caution.* Two years ago today, I spent a Saturday morning studying at the library, having no idea that my life was about to change so much for the better. I was in the military at the time, and I had just started a Master’s degree program. I studied for a couple hours in the library, but then grew restless and decided to leave. As I was getting ready to leave the parking lot, I got a call from my boyfriend, who wanted to meet up for lunch. We agreed to meet at my place. Once we got there, I first offered him a glass of water. He said that he wanted to get his water bottle from his car. “Why?” I asked. “I have plenty of glasses and bottles here.” “I’d just prefer to have my water bottle,” he explained. I thought it was odd, but I just shrugged my shoulders, and I started making the sandwiches. A few minutes passed, and I realized that it was taking him way too long to get a water bottle from his car. Just then I noticed an envelope sitting on my futon in the living room. I ran over to it, and opened it up. The letter inside started by saying that it was my lucky day and that I had my own personal scavenger hunt! The letter included a few rules: 1) to eat something first (he obviously knew me well, since food is a top priority for me), 2) to drop all of my current plans for the day because I would be occupied for the next 2 hours, 3) to look for a heart-shaped box at each location, which would have a clue to the next place, 4) to call the “customer service” hotline (his cell phone number), only as a last resort, and 5) to document each location by taking a picture. Clue #1 described the place where I first met a “skinny pilot” who I’ve “grown especially fond of.” It instructed me to ask the hostess for a heart-shaped box. I was so excited to embark on my scavenger hunt! I wasn’t sure if it was a proposal, but either way, it sounded so fun. I grabbed the letter, my camera, and a bag of Doritos (to satisfy rule #1, of course), and I literally ran out the door, full of excitement. As I was driving, I thought that how surreal this all was, and I wondered where this adventure would take me. I was a little nervous when I approached the hostess at the restaurant. What if she didn’t know what I was talking about? I said to her, “Hi, I was told there would be a heart-shaped box here for me?” She looked at me, and her face was serious. She said, “Just a minute.” At this point, I had no idea whether she had the box. She disappeared under the hostess desk for a minute, and then emerged holding a large, red, heart-shaped box. She handed it to me, without saying a word. I said a quick “thanks!” and ran out of the restaurant. I practically tore open the envelope, eager to see where I was going next. Clue #2 directed me to “my favorite place,” a place where we went on one of our first dates. He gave a few other details, and I knew it was the beach! I got to the beach, and I couldn’t find the box. I looked at the playground near the beach. I searched by the information center. After ten minutes, I asked a couple of workers there, and they said they hadn’t seen it. (By this time, I had almost grown comfortable asking complete strangers if they had seen a red, heart-shaped box.) Finally, in the distance, I noticed a red box, sitting on the beach. I ran toward the box. Inside was a Hawaiian lei (a remembrance of our Hawaii trip) and Clue #3, which described the restaurant where we had our first date. When I arrived at the restaurant, I approached the hostess station, where a group of waitresses (all young girls) were gathered. They were all looking at me and grinning, and they handed me the box. I read the note when I got back to my car. Clue #4 directed me to a park that overlooks a river, where we ate breakfast one morning. I looked for his car, but I didn’t see it. I wasn’t sure how he was putting the heart-shaped boxes at each place, but I was pretty impressed. Clue #5, the final clue, was to the place where we visited every Sunday morning. I immediately drove to our church. I couldn't wait to finally see him and thank him for such a fun afternoon. (I tried to take a shortcut, but it ended up taking much longer than it would have normally.) I walked inside the church, and I saw him sitting at a bench inside, smiling. He motioned for me to come over. We sat next to each other, and he gave me the final heart-shaped box, which had a letter. The letter explained that picked the church as the final place because our faith was an important part of our relationship, and he wanted it to always be part of our life. It also said how much he loved me. I finished reading the note, and we looked at each other, smiling. I suddenly felt a little shy. He said something (I’m sad that I can’t remember exactly what), and then he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. He opened a ring box, showing me a beautiful ring. Even though I had figured that this scavenger hunt was going to end with a proposal, I was still so overwhelmed in that moment. I hugged him, with tears streaming down my face, and said yes. Just then I noticed a few flashes of light. I looked over and saw our good friend that introduced us! He had asked her to take pictures of the moment. The pictures came out a little blurry, but it’s priceless to have that moment captured. I loved everything about the proposal scavenger hunt. I loved that it brought me to all the places that were special to us. It was like a literal drive down memory lane. And I thought it was neat that other people were involved, like the waitresses, who no doubt told their friends about how they got to be part of a proposal. Later, he told me a few other details that I didn’t realize at the time, which made the proposal even more special: 1) He wanted to come up with a creative proposal, and it took him months to think of the scavenger hunt idea. 2) He actually planned to have a librarian give me the first letter when I was in the library. But, I left the library too soon, and that’s why he asked me to meet up for lunch. 3) I also didn’t realize that he was in the same library parking lot (hidden from view!) when he called. 4) He borrowed his friend’s car, so he could make it to the places without me recognizing him. Ironically, we noticed later that the car was in the background of one of the pictures that I took! 5) He had our friend (the one that took pictures) deliver a couple of the boxes. She ended up seeing me run into the restaurants, which probably made her laugh to herself. 6) A little boy actually saw the heart-shaped box on the beach before I did, and he ran off with it! Husband sprinted after him, eventually getting it back and putting it back on the beach. Husband hid after that, and he got to see me open the heart-shaped box. 6) The church was initially locked when he got there, and he almost panicked. Thankfully, someone happened to drop by and opened the doors a few minutes before I arrived. 7) The heart-shaped boxes were originally plain, brown cardboard, and he spent many hours trying to wrap them in red paper. 8) He told me to take a picture of each place only because he wanted to make sure that I brought my camera for post-proposal pictures. But, I’m glad he told me to document each place because it makes for a fun memory now. I’m so thankful to Husband for making our proposal so fun and memorable. And I’m even more thankful to him for such a wonderful life together! Happy proposal day, Husband!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bonding over The Bachelor

A few years ago, I made a resolution to call my grandma once a week. We, unfortunately, don’t live near each other, and I thought this might be a good way to stay in touch. At first, I’d have to remind myself to make that weekly call. But, over time, I came to really look forward to our conversations, and I’d pick up the phone to call her without thinking about it. She became one of the first people I’d call if I had good news to share, or if I just wanted to chat. I’ve gotten to know her a lot better through our chats. One thing I’ve learned, ironically, is that she is a big fan of the Bachelor! It surprised me a little that my grandma, a practical woman who has good manners and good taste, was sitting glued to her TV on Monday nights, just like I was. (What can I say? I guess the guilty pleasure of reality TV runs in the family. However, my dad, who can’t understand why I like the show, would be quick to note that it’s not his side of the family.) The latest season of the Bachelor started last week, and I’m excited to see the love and drama (although probably more drama than love) unfold this season. But more importantly, I look forward to the Tuesday recap phone call with one of my favorite people, my grandma. Last Tuesday I called her to make sure she watched the first episode. “Of course!” she answered. Then she asked if I watched it, too. “Definitely!” I said. Let the bonding begin.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New name?

I started a new job this week. So far, so good! The position is temporary, but I’m happy with it. The environment is professional, and my co-workers are pleasant. I get dressed up each morning, and I feel like a new woman. And apparently I am a new woman, at least according to the business cards that came in today. My business cards (believe me, it was a little thrill to just type that) have my first name misspelled. They took out one letter and added a different one. Although, I actually think my “new” name is slightly more exotic. So for now, I will be a new, exotic me. That is, at least until the stack of a few-hundred business cards runs out.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The "face" of normal

This past week off was so relaxing, and almost idyllic. The biggest dilemmas we faced were what to eat (mostly soup) and what to watch (usually a goofy comedy, or Mythbusters). Yet, part of me is a little happy for things to get back to normal. And, I’m not going to lie, the thing I’m most excited to have become “normal” again is Husband’s face. It seems like it’s something of a tradition, or maybe even a requirement, for military men to grow facial hair when they have a chunk of time away from work. The prospect of not having to shave is just too thrilling for most military men to take, and they immediately neglect their razors for as long as possible. Husband stopped shaving a week ago. I didn’t protest because I wouldn’t want to interfere with military tradition. (That, and I knew my complaints would be useless against such a strong precedent.) The first day or so he looked almost normal, except with a faint five o’clock shadow. As the days went on, a slight beard started to grow, as did my dislike for his unshaven face. Now, it’s almost looking so outrageous that even Husband started having his doubts about it, especially before church. When we arrived in the church parking lot, he took a quick peek at himself in the car’s rear view mirror, and said, “Now I’m starting to look ridiculous.” (I didn’t disagree.) He joked that fellow churchgoers might pull him aside and beg him, for the sake of all that is holy, to shave. Unfortunately, he’s now at the point of no return. He has only this last day to go, before he has to shave for work tomorrow. We both have accepted (I, more reluctantly, than he) that his dark, scraggly beard will stay for just a little bit longer. But tomorrow, things will return to normal. Then I can finally see Husband’s handsome, clean-shaven face, and I won’t have to wonder who this bearded stranger is in our house.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Yes, please!

2009 is already shaping up to be a great year. Just a few minutes ago, our doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting anyone, so I thought it might be the mailman with a package. But it was even better…a Girl Scout selling Girl Scout cookies! Hallelujah, Girl Scout cookie season has started. It’s a little early, which is just fine by me. When I opened the door, she politely asked me in a quiet voice, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scouts..?” “Yes!” I exclaimed. Then she giggled when she realized that she asked if I’d buy some Girl Scouts (which I would, if each girl came with a case of cookies), instead of Girl Scout cookies. It didn’t take me long to decide on some Thin Mints. I’ve had an obsession with them for a long time. I think this will make up for an incident that happened a couple weeks before Christmas. I went to a party, and another military wife was giving some Girl Scout cookies away…for free! She was trying to get rid of her daughters’ stash from last year, before she got this year’s supply. She held open a bag, and I clearly saw two boxes of Thin Mints, just waiting for a good home. In the two seconds it took for me to reach out to take them, someone else snatched them up. I debated wrestling the woman to the ground, but I didn’t. (But only because it might have destroyed some perfectly good cookies.) Fortunately, I forgave the woman who stole, I mean took, my cookies. And now all is right in the world because there are multiple boxes of Thin Mint cookies with our name on it. Thank you, Girl Scouts. I’m happy to buy you, or your cookies, anytime.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Marley and Me

Husband and I saw Marley and Me with our family, and we all loved it. I couldn't wait to see the movie because I adored the book. But, I tried not to set my expectations too high because I knew that the movie might not live up to the book. However, the movie did not disappoint. In fact, I would say that it was just as good as the book. (That's high praise from a book lover!) I don’t want to give anything away about the movie, so I’ll just say to expect to laugh a lot. And bring tissues. At one poignant part of the movie, you could hear lots of sniffling throughout the theater, and I quickly wiped away a few tears, too. Just then, Husband leaned over and whispered a goofy remark to me, which he knew would make me laugh. So while everyone else is weeping together, I’m laughing as quietly as I can, my body shaking with laughter. I can only wonder what the people near us thought, when they saw me, the only person laughing at the saddest moment of the movie. Regardless, this was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, and I definitely recommend it. But, the inappropriate laughter is up to you.