Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where I have been...

In October 2013 I found out that we were having another baby.

I miscarried three years ago and have not talked about it much. It was hard. This pregancy was much quieter because I learned with my one miscarrage how terrible it is to have someone six months into a supposed pregancy ask you when you are due...then you must tell them you had miscarried. That well-intentioned person will then feel horrible and want to change the subject by talking about how they had a friend who miscarried thinking that that will lighten the mood. It doesn't. After this happens a few times you vow to yourself that you will not tell a single soul that you're pregnant the next go-around.

So, since October I have been gestating a new life...and that's about it. Other than trying to keep myself alive by eating when I don't want to...and trying to keep my business afloat. Basically hubby and the kids have done a lot of fending for themselves and the house has all but gone to pot.

With my first six kids I was full of all sorts of piss and vinegar in my second and third trimesters. I have had amazing pregnancies, thus have six amazing children to show for it and never have felt the need to stop. I had serious motivation, serious creativity, serious crazy ideas (that were good). With this one, I'm older (my youngest daughter will be turning six when this baby's born) and this baby is sucking my brains out of my head and the life out of my body...not that I'm complaining, I know it's all worth it. My second trimester has been very tiring and I have done a lot of resting (thanks to my awesome hubby and kids).

Today something happened. I was standing in church this morning and I wanted to write a blog post. I have thought of a few during the past few months, but the idea of actually concentrating on something for that long seemed very daunting and never actually happened. I thought about what I wanted to write about, I have it all planned out in my head, sort of. It will be titled, "Small children, small problems; Big children, big problems." Based on some great advice I got from a friend about 5 years ago now. Being in church is great, I really should be praying, but the reality is that I don't usually do much of that, but I do think about stuff.

When I got home, guess what happened? I turned into super Nazi mom and started making the kids pick up the damn house. And vaccum, and CLEAN the stuff that should have been done already. I inspected their rooms, had one clean the school room, I even took a giant pile of paper that was to be burned and shredded the whole thing 'cause I'm tired of it getting scattered around the living room. I moved all the jars and junk that have been collecting dust in the dining room the past 6 months and put stuff away and dusted and made my dining room look nice again. Hubby, who took this week off (Holy Week) asked me if I'd suddnely entered into my third trimester because I was going crazy (the good kind). I realized that if July 27th is my due date, the 3rd trimester is only about a week away.

The house is now clean, and here I sit, writing a blog post. Crazy for sure. Perhaps I'm not destined to be unmotivated for this whole pregnancy after all...

Even if I am, that's ok. At least we got a lot done today and I'm happy about that. I can actually have company on Saturday with a bit more confidence in my ability at being a homemaker.

Baby bump as of now.
 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chick Pea Love

Advent is another vegan season for us. And as I get older the more I fall in love with "ethnic" foods. Such as Arabic, Indian and Mexican. There are many varieties in the spices that we don't have in American food and the more I eat it, the more it becomes comfort food. These are some staples with the traditional Chick Pea that are our favorites.

The hummus and the falafel recipe both require a food processor. I was 37 years old before I bought my first processor (just last year). I really thought I didn't need one...and I didn't. But there were more and more things that I just couldn't make like the recipe stated...so I cleaned out space in my cupboard and bought a used one. I'm so glad I did!

I canned 14 pints of chick peas on Saturday and made a giant batch of hummus for coffee hr on Sunday. We're ready for Advent!

Hummus
This recipe was given to me by a special friend. This is almost exactly as she wrote it for me.

3 cans garbanzo beans - one with juice and two drained. Coarsely grind in a food processor. Save some juice in case you need more liquid later.
2 1/2 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 c tahini
1/2 Tbs cumin
1-2 tsp salt (depending on the beans you use, if they were salted or not, start with less)
-while processor is running, drizzle in about 10 seconds worth of olive oil in-
 2-4 cloves minced garlic
Season variation of the day:
thyme, sage, oregano
smoked paprika (cayenne optional) we like this one
zatar seasoning (contains salt!) we love zatar, need to find an Alaskan source!
chives/scallions
roasted red pepper (top with pinenuts)
olives
feta cheese

Add more seasonings 'till it tastes right. Try extra salt first, then tahini, lemon, olive oil. Flavors will blend if you let it refrigerate overnight.

Before serving drizzle over with sumac, paprika or cayenne. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita or chips.

Pita Bread
This recipe was given to us by the same friend. It is our go-to pita recipe now, I have made it twice this week already.

2 c warm water
2 Tbl dry yeast
-let yeast proof-
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl olive or veg oil
5 cups flour
extra flour

Mix the 5 cups of flour into the wet ingredients. You want an almost sticky dough.

Let rise 'till doubled. Preheat oven and baking sheets at 450-500 degrees F. Punch down. Pull apart into 2" balls, form balls, place on a well floured surface. Starting with first formed balls (they have risen some by now) roll them out (remember extra flour) and place how ever many will fit on a baking sheet. They should take about 8-10 minutes to puff up and bake. Best to store in a bag right away to keep them soft and pliable. If you used too much flour they will be much more crispy and not as soft.

A bowl of hummus and fresh pita.

Falafels
For this recipe I give full credit to The Shiksa in the Kitchen. Her recipe is fantastic. It is the first and only one I have tried making from scratch (I used to buy boxes of falafel mix, a great alternate!) But after I bought the 25lb bag of dried chick peas I was committed to finding ways to use them. This recipe is so good and easy, it's worth trying. I think the reason I like it so much is it works perfectly (for me) and I never changed it (I normally change a lot in recipes before I post them here).

1 lb (2 cups) dry chick peas/garbanzo beans
-cover with 3" of water and let them soak overnight-
1 small onion, rough chopped
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley (I have used dried)
3-5 cloves garlic (she likes roasted)
1 1/2 Tbl flour
1 3/4 tsp salt 
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I almost always skip the hot stuff)
Pinch of ground cardamom
Veggie oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, or peanut)

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that... but don't overprocess, you don't want it turning into hummus! I prefer mine more fine than coarse. Pour out into a bowl, mix with a fork, fish out large chunks, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one or two hours.

This is the part where she lists all sorts of suggestions if it's not behaving itslef and variations on the recipe. I'll skip to the frying...

Fill a skillet with oil to 1-1 1/2 inches. Heat slowly over medium heat. Form some falafels into round balls or small patties...I prefer small egg shapes I make with my table spoons. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown. Turn down heat if it goes much faster, heat up if it's too slow.

Drain on paper towels. Serve them traditionally with hummus and tahini sauce...or our favorite way is in a pita with lettuce, onion and tomato with some tzatziki sauce.

She also reccomends other "add ons" such as:
Israeli salad
dill pickles
tabouli
french fries
sprots
cucumbler slices
roaste peppers
roasted eggplant
sunflower seeds
feta cheese
yogurt

Tzatziki Sauce
This is my "vegan version" of it. It's not as great as the sauce made with the yogurt, but it's a great sub-in if you don't eat dairy. Some people also prefer it with sour cream.

1 cucumber -peel, de-seed, and grate or chop very finely, put to drain in a sieve or cloth-
1 cup vegeniase (you could try soy yogurt, but I always have vegenaise on hand) 
1 Tbl lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl chopped fresh dill (I use dry if it's winter)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and let refrigerate 1-2 hours. 

Slather it on everything and enjoy!

Here is Shiksa's beautiful photo of her falafel.
And just for fun...every time I make hummus or falafels we must watch GoRemy's "Falafel Song" and the "Hummus Rap". They are a hoot.
 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I reject your Monday and substitute it with my own.

What am I doing today? I am rejecting your Monday and substitute it with my own snow day. We will add in a sprinkling of chores, work and school. It will also be accompanied by a warm fire, fresh baked sugar/nutmeg cookies, Play-Doh, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Polly Pockets (the original ones you can swallow, of course!), Wartime Farm on youtube, a kid's movie production with friends and lots of hot chocolate and coffee.

My 3 littles enjoying the snow. Our last snow was in September!

Older 13-yr-old son cutting kindling in the garage.

Our Esse wood cookstove looking as handsome as ever.
11-yr-old son offered to bake cookies today rather than shoveling manure.

Mama's happy feet.

Checking on the cookies. Not sure why, but they seem to taste better when baked in the wood oven. I have learned that when the temperature gauge is pointing directly down at "hot" your oven is at a just right 350*. If it's hotter you can bake cookies in half the time. I have baked them perfectly before for only 2 minutes.

Cookies are done. Oldest daughter looking way too grown up and beautiful with out her braces.

My sweet "F" having frosting fun.
And just in case you can smell the cookies from here...you will definitely want the recipe. I think the magic to my grandmother's sugar cookies is the NUTMEG! They are so wonderful, soft, moist and delicious with or with out frosting.

Grandma Johnson's Sugar Cookies
2c sugar
1c shortening (you can use part butter, but shortening is nice in here)
2 eggs
-cream together these three first, then gradually add:
1 c buttermilk (I never have buttermilk so I always add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk)
Dry ingredients, sift these and add slowly while mixing:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
5 c flour (this can vary)

Refrigerate overnight or for 2-3 hours. This dough is very soft, you will want plenty of flour to roll them out and if there's not enough, you can always kneed in a bit more flour before rolling...best not to add extra if you can help it.

Bake @ 375* for 10 minutes. You want them just barely turning brown on the edges.They have a perfect crunchy bottom and moist middle and a nice top for decorating. My favorite is when they just come out of the oven with no frosting.

Both of my grandmothers raised their families on farms. I lived in Alaska growing up and they stayed on their farms in MI and VT and came to visit from time-to-time. When I make their recipes it makes me feel closer to them. The nutmeg smell always reminds me of these cookies and of her Long Johns; her famous doughnuts that were rectangle shaped and also contained nutmeg. She must have really loved nutmeg.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to get a job. If I could do it, you can too.

Yesterday Matt Walsh wrote a post called, "Some people don't deserve a living wage." What I got out of that post was how I'd like to tell my stories about how I learned the value of money, how I got my first job and jobs there after. Then after becoming a business owner, what I now look for in employees. If this post can help give someone the confidence they need, then it was worth telling.

When I was a kid, my parents didn't have a large income. We lived in an unfinished house (was a small cabin when they bought it). Little by little they finished off parts of the house. My dad is a jack-of-all-trades and he, with other contractor buddies, would add on sections at a time to make the house larger and more beautiful. They let the three of us kids know early on that they would not just hand us money when we wanted it. They would not be able to afford to put us through college. And they would not buy us a car. They were kind enough to give us a weekly allowance of $5 per week, I always thought that was a lot when I was younger and just made me more careful with it as I got older. My dad taught me the now famous "Dave Ramsey's Cash Budget" system before it was popular. I had: tithe, travel, spending, saving, and clothing envelopes. Those would change names and dollar amounts from time to time. He encouraged me to never get credit cards as they can suck you into their evil lair and clean you out in no time. I thank my father for this basic training and it has provided me with a good foundation for my lifetime.

When I turned 11 or 12 I got a lot of babysitting jobs and added those monies to my envelope system. (For boys out there, lawn mowers are needed! Undercut the fancy lawn service that is currently mowing your neighbor's lawn, and get to work!)

When I was 14 my aunt and uncle moved to Australia and they were going to adopt another baby...then she found out she was pregnant. This would be the only pregnancy of hers she would be able to carry full term. She basically had twins and wanted me to come stay with them for the summer. I could not pull off paying for the trip that year, so I got a regular babysitting job that summer at a neighbor's house and saved up enough to fly to Australia the following summer. My parents paid for my passport and many other expenses related to the trip, but I distinctly remember handing the travel agent $1500 in cash to pay for my tickets. That's a lot of money for a 15-yr-old kid.

When I came home I only had my drivers permit at the time, but my mother was willing to drive with me to the nearby town only 3 miles away. She told me it was time to get a job.

I was 15. There are laws about hiring a 15-yr-old. I was also the most bashful teenager I'd ever met. My mother had me choose from a store that had higher turnover, I chose Safeway. She told me that I would brush my hair, put on good clothes, go in there, ask to speak to the manager, introduce myself and ask if they were hiring bag-boys (girls). If the answer was no, I would ask again in 4 days and not give up until I got a job.

The first time I went in I found the assistant manager. He gave me an application and sent me on my way. I returned with the application the next day and gave it to him, so he'd see my pretty little face. I came back in 4 days and asked again if they were hiring, he said no. I returned in 4 more days and asked him again. This time he remembered me, he twisted his face and said, "I wish I was... but I don't have anything right now." I went back the next week and he said, "There you are! I couldn't find your application so I could call you. I want to hire you today!" We headed upstairs and he did a quick interview, he had me re-fill out an application and I was informed of my new schedule.

Why was I hired? Because I did not give up. I showed determination, even if it was my mother providing the backbone and push to get me there...I am the one who found him while she waited in the car for me. I am the one who got that job and I worked there for two years. I was even able to use my work towards my high school credits, it was great! Did I love being a baggar? Hell no. It's hard work. I hurt my back, it snowed a lot, pushing carts in the snow is really terrible, I had to wear a skirt, I had to carry 2 dinky bags to cars outside with a smile on my face, I had to load bags of dog food into the back of giant pick-up trucks. I built muscles, integrity and confidence. And most of all, I had to put aside my bashfulness for the sake of good customer service.

After I turned 16 I started helping in the bakery when the store was slow. They were teaching me the ropes and soon realized that I could be a valuable member of the bakery team. I was transferred back there and given a raise and trained on our small cash register. I was moving up.

Later they wanted me to be a checker and I went through checker training. It was fun. I was not as fast as I wanted to be, I have never been a fast paced person. I really wasn't a good checker, I didn't move my rear. I started getting longer hours up in the check stand and one Sunday they assigned me to 8 hours in the Express line out in an Anchorage store in a not-nice part of town. That was one of the most miserable days ever. Cranky customers with a new checker who could move quickly in an EXPRESS line...not a good combo.

I started looking elsewhere. Three of my girlfriends had cool jobs at our local "Copy Center". I wanted to work there with them so badly. It was low key, not many customers, using computers to lay out brochures/fliers/business cards, etc. But the owner already had more workers than he really needed. That did not stop me. I looked at my schedule at Safeway and told the owner at the Copy Center what days I could work. For free. My home-girls could train me for two weeks, then he could decide if he wanted to hire me or not. It worked! He hired me after two weeks of volunteer training,

When I graduated I wanted to go visit my grandpa and uncle on their farm in MI. My uncle had told me anytime I wanted to come visit I could have a job alongside the other teenagers in the town planting or harvesting strawberry plants for him. I adored my cousins and had a glorious 3 week visit working HARD every day, passing out on their recliner, eating giant cucumbers from their garden, driving three wheelers around their farm, playing with the barn kittens, swimming in their river, visiting my grandpa, indulging in my aunt's mid-western cooking, and getting the best farmers tan of my life. It was the most amazing working vacation.

I returned to barely having a job at the Copy Center, my hours had been drastically cut. My dad was a manager at the glass shop in Anchorage and offered me a job. I was their "go-for" girl, basically their servant. I would sneak up to the front and get trained on the computer when I had time and soon enough I was transferred to another store to be their "CSR" (customer service rep) and work the front counter for them.

I got married. I got a new boss and he was a jerk. My husband encouraged me to quit and not work for an ass who accused me of stealing from the 'till and who enjoyed checking out my front-side instead of looking me in the eyes. So I quit. But then I was bored.

So I walked into the cutest little deli restaurant and convinced the owner that he needed me, I had a flexible schedule, didn't have kids and could pay me what ever he liked 'cause I was bored and my husband now paid the bills. I worked there for the summer and had a blast.

I know how to work hard. I also know how to play hard. I can be lazy or choose to hustle. It's all a choice, a decision I make every day. Thanks to having kids most of my slowness has disappeared and I passed it on to one of my kids. My mother giggles about that.

I can never thank my mother enough for giving me the pep talks that I needed and really pushing me to get that job at Safeway. What an invaluable lesson I learned. I know that no matter what, I can always get a job if I ever were to need one. Will I make as much as I want? Maybe not, but it's hard to bosses not to notice good workers and if they are smart they pay them well to keep them around.

Now as a business owner of 10 years, I am disappointed in the work force of today. I want someone to waltz in and ask me for a job every 4 days so that I can see that if they are that determined. Because if they are that determined to get a job, they will be a fantastic worker. I have poached one employee from Sears after seeing her confidence and professionalism. My bashful self tried rearing it's ugly head and I almost didn't ask her. It was like I was asking someone on a date...I feel sorry for guys. But I did it, I turned around, handed her my business card and said, "If you are interested in working for me, please give me a call." She called me and worked diligently for me for two years until she moved out of state. I have had a couple amazing employees and a couple real doozies, that is really difficult to deal with.

Since I have turned into a confident, capable adult I have been offered two different jobs out of the blue. And I had to turn them down. What an honor to have someone recognize your strengths and ask you to work for them!

I am all for poaching. Why should I post a job opening, wade through applications, listen to people maybe tell the truth about themselves in an interview...no thanks. If you are a good hard working employee at your grocery store or local McDonald's it will show! Keep your head up, shoulders back, speak clearly, work hard, move fast. It makes a difference, I promise you! You will stand out from the crowd. You may get offered a job or if nothing else a better position in your company!

If you have a bright idea and think you can start a company. By all means, try! Being a business owner is fulfilling and rewarding. Hustling is a must. There is nobody there to keep it afloat besides you. If you are young and can live off of ramen and tuna then try it. Even if it is not a "success" you will learn a ton. If you put "owned a business" on your resume, that will get you big brownie points.

I truly believe everyone is capable of getting a job; be confident, respect yourself, put in clean clothes, speak up and keep going back and talking to the same person until they can't tell you no anymore. Be willing to take little money and work hard. Volunteer at a smaller business if you would die to work there, your time will pay off. You have to stand out from the crowd, this is a huge start.

I nabbed this adorable picture from here. Of course, this advise is for men or women. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Verbs of this moment

Currently: I am listening to : CCR Bad moon rising.
Having: a deep discussion about religion with a girlfriend on facebook.
Helping: my daughter write a comparison of Metropolotin PHILLIP's homily and the history they have been studying this semester at St. Raphael Ortho. Online School.
Planning: a new, fun idea for our church's Country Fair for this next summer.
Elapsed time since starting this blog post...appx 42 minutes. Am I good our what?!
Currently listening to: Phillip Phillips, So Easy.
Wishing: that I had some decent food to eat besides these retarded Resse's Peanut Butter cups.
Ignoring: the girls...they are having a pre-birthday slumber party for my almost 10-yr-old.
Thanking: my mother. She was kind enough to take my youngest for 2 nights, that helps.
Wanting: to write about something more meaningful, but my brain is fried.
Shutting down: Quickbooks and Excel. Bye work, see you tomorrow.

Check this out, my sister took two of our kittens home with her home tonight. This is the picture she posted and the caption...whoops. We feed them canned cat food. They are pigs!

You should have warned me they were such messy eater.
Currently listening to: U2, In the name of love
Update. Time elapsed since last update has been about 10 minutes. DD is still trying to write a paper and not bash the computer in. She keeps asking me things like, "will he notice if I don't send it in?" "why is school so not fun?" "this is so stupid!"...I just realized that she wasn't complaining...that's 'cause she was playing a game...grrr!!!
Relieved: that today is Friday. Tomorrow I plan to not think or go anywhere. Looking forward to that. Crap, I'm hosting a birthday party. Reason #32 not to have birthday parties.
Currently listening to: Front Porch, When the sun sets. My son wrote it. I LOVE this freaking song.
20 minutes. I gave my DD a firm pep talk and told her to underline ANYTHING relating to history in his homily.
Currently listening to: Phillip Phillips, Gone Gone Gone. 
Currently listening to: my boys in the room next door being spaz-oids at 10:45pm. I love them, but as they get older, they are much much louder and thump-ier and sound more like elephants when we are underneath of them in our bedroom.
Wondering: where DD snuck off to...oh right, I told her to get the bible.
Happy: that today is Friday. That sounds repetitive. I said that already, didn't I?
Figuring: I should send DD out to milk the goats, feed the cats and go to bed so I can go to bed too.
Currently listening to: 3 Doors Down, Kryptonite
Knowing: hubby is getting annoyed with how late I'm still up.
Just one more: Johnny Cash, Hurt (cover from Nine Inch Nails).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

When you give a girl a scarf...

...she'll need a shirt to go with it.

And when she searches for a shirt....
...she'll need to raid her closet.

And when she raids her closet...
....she'll find that it needs to be cleaned.

And when she cleans out her closet....
....she'll need to try on some clothes.

And when she tries on some clothes...
....she'll need to take some selfies.


Outfit #1.


Outfit #2.
And when she takes some selfies...
...she'll need to share with the world how good she looks in her size 16 clothes.

Haha. Do you believe me?

Now, this is what "the bully" in my brain is telling me...



Do I listen to the bully? 

I hear him. Trying to taunt me...but I'm tired...tired of feeling this way. In fact...I'm done...it's over...I'm over it... I'm having a boxing match in my own brain. And I know what it feels like to win, to beat the bully who was part of me, to punch him in the nuts, he deserves it, punch him, kick him where it hurts. I have tasted it, I have felt it...and it feels right and good and peaceful.

This is what I want for myself...this is my new goal:



Not to be fat.

Not to be skinny.

To be contented.

And with that; to be happy, peaceful, loving and kind.

I really think you can only achieve that if you love yourself. If you love yourself you MUST include all-of-you. Your belly rolls or your 6 pack abs, your thigh gap or great calves, your huge jugs or your petite girls, your gorgeous birthing hips or your cute boy hips, your great smile or beautiful eyes, your double chin or cleft chin. People don't stare at your belly rolls or sunken checks when they look at you, they look at your smile, your beautiful eyes and your confidence and inner beauty outshines it all!

This is all a pep talk for myself...if it makes an impact on someone elses life, all the better. But this has been my inner dialogue for a while now...me getting stronger, the bully getting weaker.

We are made in the image and likeness of God. What does God look like? Is he too pale? Too fat? Too ugly? Too thin? Of course not! He is beautiful and kind and He loves you; He loves me. You should love you too. Don't you dare think that He created you poorly, He did no such thing. You insult Him when you speak that way. You are perfect in His eyes, don't second guess God, that's just a bad idea.

Now, look at me. (Posting this picture makes me squirm! But that's ok...I'm over it, right?)

Do you see my flaws?

Do you?

Look closer, look harder, they are there.

You don't see them?

People don't see yours either unless you point them out. Do you show up at work and tell your co-workers how crappy your customer service skills are? Do you tell your clients that you don't really feel like doing their paperwork that day? Do you tell your boss that he should fire you because you don't really know what the hell you are doing? Of course not! We do what we gotta do. We pretend. We emulate people we respect, we strive for something more, we try harder every day. We pretend. So this is me, pretending. I'm pretending to be self confident and I'm getting better at it.

Try it, I bet you'll get better too.

*This post is brought to you by the best. scarf. ever. My beautiful sister knitted it just for me for my birthday and I love it and I love her.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

17 years and counting...

It was another beautiful fall day. The trees were plump with ripe leaves, my very favorite mixture of colors covered the mountain behind the beautiful Orthodox church that day. The sun was shining in the clear blue sky. As the frost from the morning thawed everything dripped with a heavy dew. But I didn't notice any of that.

Because today was my wedding day.

I was nineteen. I was naïve. I was bashful. I was self doubting. I was ready to dedicate the rest of my life to my friend of five years who claimed to love me. Was this the "right" decision? That remained to be seen...

He was a gangly "geek" if you will. Geeky in most things like most geeks are...computers, Star Trek, Star Wars, Church theology, politics, etc. He was my opposite, if you will. He was also not at all like my father and not at all the type of person I had imagined marrying some day. But was that a bad thing? I was an Alaskan girl, after all, the state is full of robust hunter like men in all of their manly glory. Was I "supposed" to marry someone like my father? Someone less geeky perhaps? Someone less zealous in life? Someone less intent on having silly old me for themselves?? I really couldn't decide, you see, I hadn't "fallen in love" with him.

He certainly had with me. He had some compelling arguments and had great wit and humor that he used to try and convince me. I had to rely my gut as my guide. His arguments did convince me that he would never leave me. His arguments convinced me that he loved me and that loving a wife is a husband's job. He convinced me that he had a great career, that he was awesome at what he did and that he would be a great provider so that I could be a mother (my life's dream was to be a stay-at-home-mom).

But, what if?

My indecision caused him great stress (not to mention my own stress). He was patient with me and didn't push me. I wanted to cancel the wedding and he said that was fine. My friend asked me, "do you love him?!" and I had to say yes, but I didn't think I really meant it. But the thing that really stuck in my craw was "Well, what if I let him go?  He runs off and eventually finds himself another woman?" No, that just wouldn't do. I was jealous of him before I ever thought I loved him and before he was mine.

That jealousy caused me to commit to him. I realized that if nothing else, even if I never had those warm fuzzy "in love" feelings that he would love me, take care of me and, if nothing else, be my friend. My gut and my head won the argument against my "heart" because it didn't know what the heck it was doing.

Seventeen years later I am here to report.

I realized those fuzzy feelings are typically feelings of lust. I have lusted my husband on and off for 17 years. Other men too. I tell him about those feelings as he tells me about his. We don't get upset or hurt by it for some reason...many other friends think we're crazy to talk about our "crushes" or "dang, he's hot" sort of things with each other. I don't know why we do it, but we do. The feelings and crushes disappear as soon as we confess them to each other too.

*Please note that this practice of sharing so honestly is NOT for everyone. I am so confident he will never leave me and that is why I don't get offended when he says such things. Most women are not this secure and so I believe this would be hurtful in many marriages, not a positive thing.

Love is something different. Love is giving of yourself, it's HARD to love, because love is actions. Constant attention to the person you're supposed to be loving. That is difficult work. I personally suck at it. I didn't realize, until this year that I've had a wall up in our marriage for 17 years. The wall of self hate. That wall has caused me to not let my guard down, not be really giving of myself. This year, I had a light bulb go on in my brain the size of the sun and it blew my mind. I have not been the same since:

"You can't truly love someone else until you love yourself."

Very simple, but very true. It his changed me. It has changed the way I see people. It has changed the way I react to people. It has changed the way I talk, treat, respect and act to those closest to me. The ones who needed me to change are beginning to see the new/real me. The one who finally sees that God loves me like His child that I am, and with that true knowledge, it will drastically change a person.

All of this to say simply this:

17 years of marriage is very hard, very good, but mostly hard. It can, however, be done. You have to LOVE, give up your own will constantly, and take a verbal beating from time to time. Conflict in marriage is not a bad thing. If you don't ever fight you won't figure anything out. If you have the capability to simply discuss with no feelings involved, more power to you. My husband is quite fiery and I have discovered I am as well. So our fights are LOUD!

After 17 years of being married to this man I am now: the mother of 6 amazing children, the owner of a self made business of 10 years that I run from my home, not self doubting, still a little bashful in person at first, probably still naïve, confident and self admittedly, awesome.

I thank my husband for most of this (not all, after all, I am awesome). Not only for sticking with me, but encouraging me to come out of my shell, to embrace some of my more insane ideas and run with them. To remind me that I am awesome and I can do great things if I put my mind to it.

The cool thing is that as time has gone on he has grown less geeky and more robust. He has even started hunting in the last five years (that's hot). I think he's very handsome and am VERY glad he's not out there with some other woman. I'm glad he's mine, all mine.