One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Monday, July 30, 2012

summer loving, continued

My grampy's name is Orland A. Rothlisberger. His middle initial doesn't stand for any name, it's just the letter A, but I like to think it stands for Atticus, as in Atticus Finch.

Sunset patio portraits (spur-of-the-moment candids! I would have chosen a better backdrop for mom but these were completely unplanned): 

Summer setting I: river birch with sunset backdrop:

Summer setting II: saltwater pool for a warm, relaxing, evening dip:

Today, on the way home from North Carolina and on my way to drop my grampy off in Culpeper, we stopped in Charlottesville and had lunch on the downtown mall at Rapture, one of our favorite places to grab grub in C'ville. I love summer food! Today we had fried green tomatoes for starters. He had a Caesar salad with buttermilk biscuit croutons, and I had an arugula salad with crumbled feta, strawberries, Virginia peanuts, and a locally-sourced honey-lavender vinaigrette. For dessert? He had two scoops of chocolate gelato and I had a scoop of salted caramel and a scoop of Mexican coffee gelato. Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

summer loving

I'm in North Carolina for a very short visit with family. Despite it being such a quick trip, I already feel like it's been absolutely worth the drive. For starters, I finally got to meet Zachary, the son and newest family member of one of my best friends, Coley.

Above: my mom holding Zack. He was smiling SO much, but of course as soon as I pulled out my camera he decided he was done. He was such a sweet, easy going guy.

I got to spend precious time with Coley and her daughter, Morgan. Morgan was super friendly to me, which made me feel like a million bucks because I never get to see her. For her to trust me, climb into my lap and lay her head on my shoulder, hold my hand, and give me a goodbye hug without extensive prior contact with me made my heart sing.

I am getting to spend more time with my grampy. Morgan even helped me take a picture of him (she loved my camera!).

 I am getting to spend time with my uncle Dan, who just moved from Richmond to Greensboro. While I'm sad to have lost my Richmond contact, I'm thrilled uncle Dan's in Greensboro, and he's got a gorgeous new home (and I'm his first guest!).

My parents' cat literally was running to greet me, following me around the house and rubbing all over me. What a nice greeting upon walking in the door!

Summer is in full swing and all of the trees are exploding with green and the tallest I've ever seen. I'm sad because I've missed the peak of my mom's gardenia bush (apparently countless, fragrant blooms were weighing it down in June--rats!), but I still smell the sweetness of summer in spite of the heavy heat.

It's good to be home.

Friday, July 27, 2012

dark circles

I've never met anyone who has said they have the perfect physical appearance. I've met some individuals who were confident in their views of their looks, but never anyone who was 100% satisfied or admitted to having flawless physical attributes. Even in this age of Botox and breast implants, fillers and fake tans, chemical peels, tummy tucks, and any cocktail combination of chemicals that promises to erase fine lines and wrinkles or cure a blotchy complexion, I've never heard of any quest for the so-called perfect body ever being truly fulfilled (maybe because everyone's definition of a "perfect" body is different?).

Of course, like any normal person, I have my own body issues. Despite exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, there are still areas that I wish I could tweak. Honestly, though? I'm actually pretty comfortable in my own skin. Today, however, I came face-to-face with one of my arch enemies. You may have heard of this one: it's the nefarious under-eye dark circles.

I am cursed with indentations under my eyes, not only seemingly accentuating any darkness under my eyes, but also intensifying when I don't get enough sleep. Which is, practically, all the time. Sleep issues are rife in my mom's side of the family. I have suffered from nightmares, insomnia, and waking up multiple times in the night for as long as I can remember. Troubling dreams have woken me up before, and there have been times when I didn't want to go back to sleep because of my tendency to slip back into the nightmares upon falling asleep again.

Needless to say, it's not unusual for me to have dark circles under my eyes. Today, I was going to the bathroom at work and stopped short when I caught sight of myself in the mirror. Were those black eyes I saw?! I ran up to the mirror and inspected my eye area. No, not bruises, but boy did it look like I'd been punched in the nose. I've never seen them that bad before (my mom once told me I had black smudges under my eyes, but that was when I was in the hospital...with viral meningitis...and she also said I looked like death during that time, so that doesn't really count). Ugh. I own and use concealer, but I'm beginning to think I'm wasting my money.

I've considered taking medication for getting more sleep, but I never actually go through with it. I drink organic nighttime tea and also have some to ease tension (it has catnip in it, too, which is supposed to help), and every now and again if I need to take a muscle relaxer or codeine (for a migraine) I'm guaranteed a good's night rest. I try to exercise regularly because some say that's good for helping one fall asleep. Even on the weekend's, I'm usually volunteering and running around keeping busy, so I usually want to go to bed.

On the way home from work, I kept thinking about those black smudges under my eyes. They're not the end of the world! I've come to terms with the little lines under my eyes because they're from smiling, and it's not like I'm ever going to stop smiling anytime soon. The dark circles? It might take me more time to befriend them (or, at most, tolerate them). As cliche as this sounds, they are a part of me. They even give me character, right? (Right??) My attitude started to shift, and I started thinking about the things I DO like about me. Thinking positively and being grateful for what I have been blessed with is a lot more fun than getting stuck on one small imperfection. Dark circles, meh. I'm moving on.

Below: my dark circles on full display during a hike (pictured next to me is my stepdad). This was after six hours of sleep and a very intense 3-hour hike earlier in the morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

being a girl

Today I was telling someone how I wished that women could be granted one paid day off from work per month to deal with feminine cycle issues. There is just way too much going on in our bodies during this time, and having to deal with discomfort, pain, headaches, nausea, multiple trips to the bathroom, bloating, and lack of focus really does equate to a sick day. However, if I used one day per month I’d be almost halfway through all of my paid time off (PTO, which combines sick and vacation days) for the year. Hence, we females should have an increase in the number of our personal days. Well, at least that’s my unofficial theory.

I can understand why some men think this unfair. They want more personal days, too, darn it! However, the response which I got from the man with whom I was speaking still managed to tick me off. The guy that I was talking to said, “Well, if women get this one-day-per-month break for feminine cycle issues, then guys will use that as a reason why they should get paid more than women.”

Screeeeech! That’s the sound of the brakes in my head as I’m racing toward a brick wall of “WHAT THE ?!?!” My first reaction was quite rude (something along the lines of when men bleed from a certain anatomical part for five to seven days every month, only then can they complain—verbatim it’s something I won’t repeat). Then I tried to be a little more logical: “Well since men depend on women to GIVE THEM LIFE and they wouldn’t be here on earth without their mothers, they can…” (wait a minute, never mind; sorry, that too is unrepeatable).

The man with whom I was debating is not a chauvinist pig. He is, in fact, very supportive of women and women’s rights, believes they should be paid equally, respects women of authority and would be proud of his wife if she were the major “breadwinner,” and etc. So why did he not blink an eye or hesitate to say that men would use that extra personal day to punish women by giving them smaller pay? In our glorified free country, in this 21st century, why is it that a women’s biology is still seen as a factor for her to get less than equal pay? I’m actually not disagreeing with his cause-and-effect explanation of how men would try and use that excuse; but why would they want to use that excuse in the first place? Being that once a month it’s a very difficult thing to deal with, is it such an unreasonable request? Will we ever be able to stop punishing women for taking on double duty?

Take maternity leave, for example. So many of my friends are under the impression that they get paid maternity leave at their jobs. I tell them to carefully check their benefits again to see if this is in fact true. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only guarantees that you can’t get fired for being pregnant and taking 12 weeks of maternity leave. UNPAID. FMLA does NOT say you get paid. A lot of employers will let you use your sick time and vacation time—and short term disability. Because having a child is a disability. And you don't really need that relaxing vacation or a sick day when you've just had a baby. Out of the question.

America, wake up and appreciate your mothers. According to Wikipedia, Sweden grants 16 months of paid maternity leave per child; Estonia boasts 18 months of paid leave. I scroll through a chart of paid maternity leave and see smaller/poorer countries in Africa, South America, Central America, and Asia all with paid maternity leave. What’s next to the United States for paid maternity leave? A big fat 0.

How are we still here? Why are we so behind the mark? America’s views on women scare me. We have some politicians who want to dictate what a woman can and cannot do to and with her body. We have some pharmacists who won’t dispense the emergency/morning after pill because it’s against their religion. We have some women who may not get that next promotion because she had a baby (God forbid the career woman does such a thing!).

I’m 26 and unmarried as I write this post. I’ve had people ask when I’m plan to settle down; I didn’t realize I lived in Victorian times and was considered an old biddy by society. I’ve had people warn me of a ticking biological clock; I didn’t realize the state of my ovaries wasn’t allowing them to sleep at night (oh dear!). I live with my boyfriend because financially it makes sense and we’ve been dating for almost three years, so while it seems to be the most logical thing for both of us, others are worried about our reputations, our relationship, and hell, even our eternal salvation. But are they asking him all of these questions and warning him of doom and gloom? No. Because I am a woman, because I have ovaries and therefore a ticking clock (“TICKING!” I shriek just like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny), because apparently a woman’s reputation may be tarnished but not a man’s, because people think it’s their business what a woman plans to do with her body and when, and because people may genuinely care about my feelings and want to protect me from potential disappointment, I am the one who is asked, advised, discouraged, pitied, and nagged. It doesn’t help that both of my sisters married young (and fast) and that I’m from the south. But more importantly, it doesn’t help me that I’m a woman. The woman is the one who wears the scarlet letter.

Back to my initial argument. Today I was incredibly productive at work, was sympathetic and positive during a mini crisis, and to top it off I worked late. I didn’t cop out, I didn’t curl up under my desk gulping down ibuprofen, I didn’t sneak in a flask (wine does wonders for cramps), and I didn’t give anyone attitude. Did I feel like doing all of these things? Yes. Was I miserable and wanted to go home? Absolutely. Maybe giving women a day off every month isn’t realistic, especially in a mostly-female workplace when they all start cycling together (unless they’re all on birth control). Maybe it truly is unfair to the men of the workplace. But I long for the day when men don’t immediately say, “Fine! We get paid more since you’re too PMS-y to come in and carry the load.” For once I want to hear empathy and other possible solutions offered. I want women and our biology not to be viewed as a setback to our nation and used as an excuse to promote gender inequality. I don’t believe it’s a punishment for original sin (I won’t even mention my thoughts on original sin—that’s an entirely different story). It’s a biological process and necessary for the creation of life.

I stick to the song my mom, my sisters, and I belted out in the car all those years ago: “I’m a girl and by me that’s only great…I adore being a girl.” But honestly, world? Lay off. Let us become the strong individuals we are meant to be not to be measured by or against men. We are our own entities.

And, while they appreciate your concerns and well wishes and hopes of a long and fertile future, please stop stalking my ovaries. Thank you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

another summer Sunday

Below: an organic sprouted grain pancake with homemade organic raspberry maple compote. 

Below: photographs from a stroll on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.