Mrs. for a year!

We just celebrated our first anniversary this Sunday. It’s hard to believe that we have already been married for over a year! Even though parts of it are a blur, I can still remember our wedding day as if it just happened yesterday.

We have had an incredible year. Unfortunately, I had so many naysayers warn me against marriage during our engagement. I constantly heard things like, “You don’t realize what you’re getting yourself into. Get out now while you still can,” and “The first year of marriage is the worst… just get through it and you’ll be ok,” and “You really aren’t going to get a prenup? What if it doesn’t last?” Well, I’m glad to confidently say that I love what I have “gotten myself into,” I would never go back and change my mind to avoid it while possible, the first year of marriage has been wonderful, and I’m still completely confident that we will never need what a prenup would have arranged for us. I am truly blessed with the best husband a girl could have.

To celebrate the occasion, Austin arranged for us to spend the night in the top tower room of a castle! We spent the night at Glen Eyrie and enjoyed our time on the beautiful, quiet grounds – walking through the gardens and watching the big-horned sheep and wild turkeys. We went out to eat for a nice lunch, then a nice dinner, then breakfast at the castle, then another lunch. He spoils me!

Because we stayed at the castle, we could hike their trails (which normally require an appointment made in advance and a signed release form). So Monday morning we sunscreened up and hiked the breath-taking Queens Canyon up to the Punch Bowls. These particular pools form when snowmelt runs down from the mountains. They are infamous in town for being frigid, and locals like to hike up to them and jump in. I’m proud to say I have done it once. And I am not ashamed to say I will never do it again, nor force anyone else to. Nevertheless, the water is clear, the canyon is just beautiful, and Austin had a blast climbing all over the rocks and making me nervous.

Finally, we came home Monday night and enjoyed a thoroughly nerdy Brummer night in watching Star Wars Episode IV and eating the delicious anniversary cake made fresh for us by the same woman who made our wedding cake. (Neither of us wanted to do the cake-frozen-for-a-year thing.)

So now we’re into year two of many many more to come! I can’t wait to see what adventures God brings our way between now and my next anniversary post in a year!

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Hypochondriac

I learned later that, reading books of medicine, you are always convinced you feel the pains of which they speak. So it was that the mere reading of those pages, glanced at hastily in fear that William would enter the room and ask me what I was so diligently investigating, caused me to believe that I was suffering from that very disease, whose symptoms were so splendidly described that if, on the one hand, I was distressed to discover I was sick (and on the infallible evidence of so many auctoritates*), on the other I rejoiced to see my own situation depicted so vividly, convincing myself that even if I was ill, my illness was, so to speak, normal, inasmuch as countless others have suffered in the same way, and the quoted authors might have taken me personally as the model for their descriptions. ~Adso, in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

This made me laugh audibly as I read (causing my husband to give me a confused look until I explained myself). I identify so much so that a general rule of mine is to avoid webmd.com like the plague, so to speak. Just a few weeks ago, for example, I was convinced I had narcolepsy. Turns out I was just tired and needed a short nap because I hadn’t slept well the night before and had a busy  morning…….oops?

However, if I did in fact have narcolepsy, I take solace in the fact that my experience of the condition was in fact normative according to the description on the infamous website. Maybe next I should look up “psychosomatic“?

*auctoritates is Latin for “authorities”

Beef and Potato Stew à la Meg

I love to cook. I mean, I really love to cook. I’m the kind of girl that, if given the choice, I’ll bake bread the old fashioned way before using a bread machine because I genuinely find it fun and relaxing. Or I’ll dig through recipe books to find a complicated foreign cuisine type meal that takes 5 hours and about 7 different pots and pans to make and then try it. Yes, I’ve been told I’m crazy. But I’m ok with that.

I realize that stew is not the most exciting, most exotic, or most complicated kind of meal out there. However, it is a good basic recipe to have in your repertoire, and there are dozens of ways to make it. It doesn’t have to be boring old stew. I’m sure this basic recipe is nothing new… I like to find basic recipes and adapt and play with them to make them my own. I’m not rigid in following measurements unless I’m baking. And I’m NEVER rigid in following spices and flavors. I like to make recipes my own, and this stew recipe is no exception. Here it is, albeit in all of its not-so-exciting simplicity.

I start with these basic ingredients:

olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 pounds of stew meat or other beef cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small onions (I use yellow onions, but whatever kind of onion you like is perfect)
2 cloves of garlic
4-5 sticks of celery
4-5 large carrots
5-6 russet potatoes
1 can of condensed tomato soup
1 can of water
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by cutting up the onion. Don’t feel like it needs to be finely chopped. The goal here is a nice chunky, hearty stew. Large chunks of onion work well. Also mince the garlic at this time. (I LOVE garlic and put it in almost anything. Except this particular batch of stew, which I’m making for someone else….)

Now would be the perfect time to saute the onion in a little olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. However, to make a long story short, our oven and rangetop are currently out of commission, so I have to be a little creative. (God willing we’ll get a new oven tomorrow.) So in these pictures, I’m attempting at least to heat up the onion in the crock pot in a little olive oil while I chop up everything else. NOTE: don’t saute the garlic. It burns too easily. You can just add the garlic straight to the crock pot when you start throwing things in.

Also chop up the celery at this point and add to the onions to saute until translucent.

Ideally, now would be the moment that I would lightly brown the meat in a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. But again, I’m facing appliance limitations, so I just added it to the crock pot, which works just as well. I used stew meat here. The supermarket I buy it at cuts the pieces a little big, so I typically cut each piece in half. I want the stew to be chunky, but I also want it to be edible. Look at those pretty colors!

Next, wash the carrots and potatoes really well. Feel free to peel them if you prefer your vegetables to be skinless. I like to leave the skins on because they have so many of the nutrients, so I just make sure to scrub off the dirt really well.

Chop them up in good bite-sized chunks and then add them to the pot!

Alright, now it’s time for the liquid. I use a condensed tomato soup that, I have to be honest, I’m not entirely happy with. Don’t get me wrong, it tastes really good. But it also has a lot of high fructose corn syrup in it, which is not so good for you. Luckily, unlike their other soups, this particular flavor of Campbell’s does not have MSG. However, I’m still looking for a good condensed tomato without all the corn syrup. Suggestions are welcome! In either case, add the can to the pot, and then a can’s worth of water to the pot. I know it doesn’t look like a lot of liquid, but it is enough. Trust me. The point is good hearty stew, not watery soup.

Stir it all up to make sure everything is coated in the liquid really well.

Now you can start having fun. For this batch, since it was for someone else, I kept the seasonings fairly simple. Pretty much just salt and pepper. But you can do dozens of different things here depending on what you are in the mood for.

Some ideas:

Sweet and Sour

3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar

BBQ….ish

a few shakes of worcestershire sauce
cumin
cayenne pepper
bay leaf

Asian

1/4 cup soy sauce
minced ginger (which you can saute with the onions, being careful not to burn it)
maybe a little cinnamon or rice vinegar depending on what you’re going for
peas

Simple, but richer flavor

1/2 cup sherry or dry red wine
OR beef broth (I wouldn’t do both…)
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

My point is, there’s plenty of room to play with flavors! Once you have all your ingredients in the crock pot, cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. If you’re nervous about the liquid not being enough (I am cooking at about 6,500 ft after all, so my liquid needs may be a little different than yours), check every couple of hours and add a little more whenever needed. Depending on your flavors, serve this with anything from crusty bread to corn bread to rice!

Happy cooking!
-meg

Basic Recipe

olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 pounds of stew meat or other beef cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small onions
2 cloves of garlic
4-5 sticks of celery
4-5 large carrots
5-6 russet potatoes
1 can of condensed tomato soup
1 can of water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop up onion and celery. Saute in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add to crock pot.

2. Lightly brown meat in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add to crock pot.

3. Mince garlic and chop up remaining vegetables in large, but bite-sized, chunks. Add to crock pot. Stir in condensed tomato soup and can-full of water. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook on low 7-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours until meat is done and vegetables are soft.

Volunteer Day!

Austin and I volunteered for Denver Parks and Rec today with the company he works for. We spent the morning planting trees and raking pine needles, making one of Denver’s many parks beautiful and ready for the summer!

Huston Park, where we spent the morning

Digging the hole for my small team's first tree out of four

Tree #1

My husband's boss jumped in to help us dig the hole for our 4th tree

Raking pine needles

Austin worked too!

...and played 🙂

We had a lot of fun this morning! And now it’s time for a nap…..

More Thoughts on “Sick”

The subject of abortion has really been on my mind lately. You may or may not have read my post Sick from a few days ago. Clearly, it has upset me quite a bit. If you remember, I was fairly direct and blunt. I have to admit that I was writing with the emotions from reading the article still fresh and strong.

I still have those emotions but they have ebbed back to the normal levels, and I’ve spent the last few days more in mulling over my thoughts about it than in fuming over them. I want to add these quieter thoughts.

I’ve had many conversations with women whose lives have been directly affected by abortion. Many of them freely chose to have an abortion the first time they found out they were pregnant. They were formerly of the pro-choice viewpoint. Or they felt themselves panic at their situation and compromised their convictions for the sake of their one specific circumstance. Some of the women I’ve talked with were coerced into making a decision they didn’t want to make by a parent or boyfriend or spouse who felt more shame and panic than they themselves did. Many of the women I talked to were women who march in the very front of the “March for Life” every year in D.C. These are women who have had abortions, and are now fervently active in seeking ways to end the practice.

There is one thing they all have in common, regardless of their previous convictions. They all say, in so many words, that what they did was wrong. They know and assent to what I wrote about abortion in “Sick.” I have yet to meet a woman who was proud of her abortion, who told me she would do it again, who still defends the “right” for other women to do the same. Are there women like this out there? I’m sure there are a few, but I don’t think they are the norm.

Having said that, I want to clarify what I mean by taking action. By not just sitting by and ignoring this while it’s happening here. I did address that a little in one of the comments, but I want to expound upon that a little here. There are two parts to this.

1. Prayer

Yes. Prayer. I do believe prayer is active and effective. I won’t get into my whole theology of that here and now; I might save that for a later post. But I think this prayer needs to happen on many levels.

Prayer for leaders in our states and nation who make decisions about this. There is a lot going on in our country right now. Decisions about the national budget, healthcare, birth control options. There are controversies over charities that are supporting or not supporting other charities (I’m thinking specifically of the kafuffle that happened with Komen and Planned Parenthood). I don’t think the most effective way to influence these decisions is pickets and marches and petitions. Do they have influence? They can. But in a country where there has been a consistent pro-choice majority (although that did change in 2009 even though the vast majority still agree that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances), the reality of having pro-life legislation passed is unlikely. Yet, these decisions do come down to the individuals who make them, and we should keep those individuals in prayer. Pray for our president and vice president (whether you like them or not). Pray for the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Pray for the Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. Pray for our Senate Leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. And pray for our Supreme Court Justices. Also pray for local leaders, like your house representative, governor, and state senates. Pray that these men and women will have wisdom as they lead. Pray that you will trust God as he raises up leaders and works his will through them in our nation.

Next, pray for the men and women whose lives have been affected by abortion. I know some by name. You may not realize that you do. (Statistically, it is very likely that you know several women who have had abortions and have never spoken of it.) These are men and women whose lives are hurting because of a very traumatic experience. They may struggle with guilt or shame. They may face huge regrets. The women who have had the procedure may have serious and long-term physical effects like chemical depression, damage to their reproductive system causing infertility, infection. Pray for their physical, mental, and emotional healing. Pray for their restoration spiritually. Is abortion awful? Yes. Is it forgivable? Absolutely.

Pray for those tied up in the industry. For those who are supporting the pro-choice agenda, pray that God will open their eyes to see what is really going on. Pray for their conviction and that they would then have a desire to make things right. Pray for the doctors and clinics that perform these procedures. Again, pray for conviction. Pray that they will act ethically and honestly in matters like offering to let mothers see their ultrasounds.

Pray for people contemplating abortion. Unplanned pregnancy can be traumatic and stressful (regardless of whether it was an accident or the consequence of something far worse like rape), and for many people the only way out that they can see is termination of the baby. Pray that they will be comforted and encouraged in the midst of their panic. That there will be people who can give them wise counsel about their other options. That they will have people in their lives whose primary motive in helping them will not be an “agenda,” but loving them and desiring their well-being.

I know this is a lot. But there’s one other action I want to suggest as well.

2. Listen, and then Talk

Please hear what I’m NOT say here. I’m not saying to preach from a soap-box on a street corner. I’m not saying to shoot condemning looks at a woman walking into a clinic that you’re picketing. What I am saying is take the time to get to know people who have a different view point. Honestly listen to what they have to say. Gently and humbly share your point of view. Again, make your primary, genuine motive be loving and caring for the well-being of the other person, not “winning them over.” This is not a battle that will be won by marching in the conquering troops and subjecting the opposition by force. The problem is not the socio-economic pressures and trends. They are merely a symptom of the brokenness of the human heart.

This is a huge, culture-wide issue. It will take lots of time and prayer. It will take the innocence of doves and the shrewdness of serpents. It will take small amounts of salt scattered in strategic places. It will take the time and effort of building true friendships one person at a time. And it will take an unyielding hope and trust in the good God directing it all.

The Hunger Games!!

I finally got around to reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. It took me a while to feel the interest. I’ve heard this book hyped up so much I was sure it couldn’t live up to all the ballyhoo. Add the cult-movie sensation projected to produce a $300 million box office by this Sunday, and just I knew it was going to be disappointing. (Wow… I think I’m a bit of a pessimist…?) Nevertheless, a friend of mine put the book in my hands and I flipped open the cover and dug in.

I have to admit, for the first few chapters it seems like my predictions about the book were coming true. I just couldn’t see what the big deal was. I don’t particularly care for novels written in the first person either, as this one is. It’s often difficult to really find the character and ignore the voice of the author.

But. I got to about chapter 5 and could not put this book down. My inhibitions in getting into this book fell away as Collins masterfully stepped to the background and let Katniss speak for herself. The pace, the impending feeling of doom, the slowing and then racing and then slowing pulse of the book makes for quite a suspenseful adventure. I could almost see and feel what Katniss saw and felt.

I came to this book knowing it was a major sensation, but I had purposefully shielded myself from finding out anything at all about the characters and plot. I feel the experience was much better for it, and I will recommend the same for anyone else out there who hasn’t picked it up yet. It’s better to come and be surprised. In that vein, references to the plot in this post will be vague at best. I have many more thoughts about some of the specifics of the story and I would love to discuss them. Feel free to ask me in person or send me a message to respond to!

I will also offer a big disclaimer. I would not recommend this book for young audiences. The major plot-line is distressing and some of the plot details are downright disturbing.

Having said that, this book is incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking.

The major thought that lingers with me after reading this book is, “How would I deal with something like this? If I lived in this society, and my name was drawn, what would I do??” It’s a haunting question. How much would my basic survival instinct take over? Would it be primarily fight or flight? Would I go mad? Would I try to hold to moral integrity? Or would life be more important to me in the moment? Would I even have any skills necessary to survive? Could I make it to the end? Or would I be taken out early on in the game?

Your thoughts?

Sick

I was wide awake and feeling well-rested at 7:00 this morning, which is incredibly unusual for someone who struggles to pull herself out of bed at 9 most days. So as I ate breakfast, I perused facebook and found a link to this article. I recommend you read it before you continue. Don’t worry, it’s not too long.

After-Birth Abortion

Are you disgusted? Because I am. Five hours after reading this article, I’m still fuming about it as I go about my housework today. This has really ruffled my feathers and just plain ticked me off.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a firm believer that life begins at conception. That is, when the sperm breaks through the wall of the egg, the united cell is a legitimate human life. That human life has its own DNA sequence, its own soul, and is separate and distinct in being from the body of its mother. Throughout pregnancy, that child develops its own lungs, its own blood type, its own fingernails and eye color, and even the basic elements of its overall personality that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

You may disagree with me. I understand that. There are many people who advocate that a fetus is just a piece of tissue growing in connection with the mother’s body, and that such a tissue is not recognizably human. I challenge you to look for pictures like this one: a human embryo at just 6 weeks, with eyes, arms, legs, ears, and the beginnings of little fingers.

All of this to say, I am incredibly disgusted by the practice of abortion. To sound extreme and radical, but true: it is the cold-blooded murder of human life. Life created in the image of God. When we kill these children, we spit in his face.

But a friend of mine pointed out how desensitized we are as a culture to this mass infanticide happening in our backyard. It has become a part of “the way things are.” And that, in and of itself, is quite disturbing.

Enter this article. You may or may not have heard of Peter Singer. He is a well-known, and rather infamous, philosophy professor at Princeton who has become known for defending the “abortion” of infants up to 18 weeks after their birth. Yes, you read that right. These are 4 1/2 month old babies we are talking about. (But is this surprising coming from a man who wants to euthanize his own Alzheimer’s suffering mother?) Yet, even Peter Singer has drawn a line. He only advocates this method of abortion when it is in the interest of the quality of life for the child. For example, a child born with Down’s Syndrome that was not diagnosed with a test of the amniotic fluid during pregnancy can be put out of its misery, so to speak. I think this is an evil man clinging to the disgusting, but logical, conclusions of his system of “ethics.” But at least the man has drawn a line.*

But not these two. Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have erased all lines. All bets are off. Now, following the pro-choice mindset to its logical conclusion, it is perfectly acceptable and to be encouraged to murder a child for really any reason at all. They are not really human, but only “potential humans” (whatever that means… but remember, I think they are fully human at the moment of conception) and as such won’t really care or even experience their own termination. No harm, no foul.

And in their minds, this is just as acceptable in the case of fully healthy human children with no foreseeable quality of life issues! The only necessary reason for this “abortion” to take place? The convenience of the mother or father. They don’t feel like having a child. They can’t afford a child. Let’s kill it. After all, giving a child up for adoption is so emotionally distressing.

Are you kidding me?

This should sicken you. Not only should it sicken you that human life in the womb is being brutally murdered, not only should it sicken you that human life up to 18 weeks is being murdered in cold-blood, but it should sicken you because the more acceptable this becomes, the cheaper all of human life becomes. Next we’ll be euthanizing 10-year-olds who can’t pass fifth grade, athletes with sports injuries, adults who have been fired from their jobs, the poor and old and infirm. After all, aren’t these, too, people who aren’t living up to their “potential” as human beings?

We desperately need to pray for our culture. We need to cry out to God about this injustice. But we certainly cannot just sit by and ignore this while it happens.

Grace and peace,
-meg

*Ironically, Peter Singer is a vegan because he thinks “Western-style meat production [is] cruel, unhealthy and damaging to the ecosystem.” (Wikipedia paraphrase, Singer’s original article here.) Whether or not he would say it in so many words, Peter pragmatically views the life of a chicken as more valuable than the life of a human child.