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Chosen

Today, when my husband, who is going through orientation at his new job, was asked if anyone present was from a different country, he raised his hand. And when the speaker called on him and asked what country he was from, he responded: Texas.

If you know Chris at all, this comes as no surprise. Everyone laughed and he was called Texas for the rest of the day, much to his amusement. If you know Chris, it will also come as no surprise that he was fairly adamant that we have a Texas marriage license.

So, we got married. In Lubbock, Texas. A little over a month ago. Even up until a week before, I wasn’t sure where we would end up getting married at or when, but it finally happened.

We’ve received so much advice over the past six months of engagement, advice about relationships, being married, running a household, loving each other, raising babies, everything. And we’ve honestly loved it. We like hearing what has worked and not worked for other people, we like hearing about the trials and errors, the ups and downs, the good and the bad because we know we’re going to encounter it all too.

We did pre-marital counseling with a pastor friend of mine and it helped us so much. I would highly recommend it to any couples looking to get married. It started us thinking on a lot of different subjects that we hadn’t really gotten around to thinking about just yet. It was excellent.

However, that pastor friend went on an excursion to Alaska in early June and I was getting a bit impatient, so we found a preacher in Lubbock who would marry us on a moment’s notice. I had prayed a lot in the previous weeks about who to have marry us and where to get married and when the pieces fell into place, I knew it was the answer I’d been looking for.

Chris and I neither one had met this man before, but he asked to have lunch with us on the day of our wedding to talk things over with us. He talked to us about the spiritual implications of marriage, about how it is the representation of the perfect Love that Christ gives to the church, how our roles in our marriage will be the thing that reflects Christ’s love the most to each other in our lives and about how long lasting and life giving our marriage would be. He talked to us about challenges and victories that marriage will inevitably bring. But the thing that struck me most was when he talked to us about choices.

In his words, he told Chris: “when you met Brittney, there was no spotlight shining down on her, saying she was the one you had to marry, you made a choice to pursue her. And, same for Brittney, she made that choice for you as well.” He continued to say that marriage would require choices from us. Love and attraction are there, but would wax and wane. It’s the choices that we make, the daily choices: the choice to love, the choice to pursue, the choice to stay married, to tough it out when life gets hard, that would hold us together.

And that’s what marriage is. It’s a choice. Chris chose me. Among many other mate and life choices he could’ve made, he put me first. And I chose him. Among a lot of other choices I had, I chose to commit to him, to make him my life mate.

That funny, loyal, true blue, Texan to the core. That’s who I choose. Over and over again.

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America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Garden, Health, History, Summer, Uncategorized

Potatoes, Po-tah-toes

My mom wanted me to write another blog post, so here I am.

She was sitting behind me in church yesterday and leaned up and whispered in my ear that it had been too long since I’d written a blog post. Opportune time, mom.

She, apparently, doesn’t think I need some creative burst of inspiration to produce any sort of written materials. I just need her suggestion and that is enough.

I guess it is enough, because again, here I am. Maybe sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us and tell us what to do. Maybe that’s the secret to life I’ve been missing.

Anyway, back to my mom. She obviously loves to see me practicing my hobbies, but there is one thing that comes around every Spring that she is not a huge fan of.

I love to grow sweet potatoes.

I love growing everything, but sweet potatoes were really my first love of gardening. I think it was just the fact that I’d never grown them before and I researched it and they were successful in the first year. This is really no thanks to me, as sweet potatoes are super easy to grow and do so without much coaxing.

But, in order to grow sweet potatoes, you have to have sweet potato plants. They don’t come up from seed or sprout in the ground like other potatoes do. They’re a different breed altogether.

Now, you can go to your local greenhouse or feed store and find the plants. But, you can also grow them really easily in your own kitchen and then transplant them outside into the garden once they are ready. And, the first year I grew them, I wanted to grow varieties that I couldn’t find pre-grown plants for, so I tried the kitchen method.

It looks like a bad effort at a science experiment at first. Which is what my mom dislikes about it.

You take half of a sweet potato, put toothpicks in it, pick out your favorite mason jars, fill them up with water, and set the potatoes in them.

And, you wait.

And, when you have guests over, you politely explain to them why you have mason jar, water potatoes adorning your windowsill.

It’s a weird process, I’ll admit. But, it’s effective.

About a month or so later, you’ll start seeing plants emerge from the potatoes, both underwater and above water. Eventually when they get a little better established, you cut them off the potato, keep the plant still in the water for a few days while they produce roots, then plant them in the ground outside and let them go all summer long.

I started my sweet potato project a little earlier this year and I’ve had two potatoes sitting in the windowsill for about two months now.

About a month ago, my mom said: I think this one isn’t going to do anything, you probably just want to scrap it. Which I knew was just her way of trying to clear out atleast one of the offenders from the windowsill. Nice try, mom.

What she didn’t know is that one of the sweet potatoes growing in the window is a white sweet potato. If you’ve never tried one, try them! They’re really moist and have a lighter flavor than the typical orange ones. The other potato growing in the window is a regular orange one. The white ones, I have observed, are much more prolific than the orange ones. This one was almost sprouting already when I put started it in the jar. The orange ones take more time.

If you compare only those two, side by side, it looks like the white one is much further ahead and that the orange one is a dud. But, if you study closely, with a sweet potato trained eye, you can see where the orange one is just barely barely barely getting ready to break through with a sprout. I also know this because I have some sweet potatoes growing in the window in my office (what can I say, I’m obsessed) and the white one there is further ahead than the orange one.

I’ve heard all my life that comparison is a killer of joy. If you spend your time looking side by side at other people’s lives, timelines, accomplishments, you’re going to be miserable and not be able to see the great place that you’re at yourself. These two potatoes are the same in almost all regards. But one is designed differently, it blooms faster. Not because it’s necessarily better, but just because it was time for it to bloom. In this age of social media, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the lives of others, to compare, to try to rush, to push to get ahead. But, maybe it’s not quite your time to shine yet. Maybe there are great things in store, just about ready to break ground. Maybe you shouldn’t scrap the plan, thinking it’ll never work. Maybe you should just sit where you’re at, keep growing and changing day by day and wait for your time.

Maybe we’re all just potatoes.

Update: today’s progress with the white vs orange

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America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Food, Funny, Health, Uncategorized

The Marriage Bread

Chris recently said that he was “getting really tired of calling me his girlfriend.” Most girls would probably be a little bit offended by that, but I knew he was thinking about a title upgrade, not a title downgrade, so I let it slide.

I’m not really known for anything significant. Some people are known for being great swimmers or accomplished pianists, but I’m known for random things, like being able to tell the difference between cauliflower and broccoli plants, knowing the exact percentage of cotton in different t-shirts by just feeling them, and drinking an exorbitant amount of coffee every day.

And, apparently, bread baking.

I found a recipe for bread in my grandma’s local newspaper a few years ago. And like the dweeb I am, I cut it out and saved it. No new age Pinterest recipes for me! (Just kidding Pinterest, you know we’re buds.)

According to the article, people submit recipes all year long to the newspaper and at the end of the year someone chooses the favorite from each category. This just happened to be the best in bread and it sounded good, so I kept it.

I’d never made bread before, which should be a testament to how easy it is. However, I’ve made it multiple times for multiple people and everyone loves it and acts like I’m a magician for being able to make it.

When Chris and I started dating, I warned him that I was by no means a chef and didn’t cook super often. Then, I realized that was probably not the best thing to say to a potential suitor, so I followed it up with “but, I could feed you.” Yes. I really said those words. On our second date.

Which in my mind meant, I’m not a great cook, but I can cook and you won’t starve. He laughed because I’d worded it all in such a roundabout way. And, he kept dating me, so hey, not so bad!

Back to the bread. Chris met my extended family after we’d been dating for awhile and one of the first few questions he was asked was whether I’d made him bread yet. I hadn’t and my uncle said “just wait til you try the bread she makes, you’ll want to propose to her on the spot!”

We’d been dating about three months at this point and both found this to be a funny quip.

As we travel to see each other, we don’t cook together very often, so I still hadn’t made the infamous bread when Chris had been to see me. When he came in early December, I made a loaf and he claimed it was the best bread he’d ever had.

Now, was he just saying that because I was his girlfriend? Probably. I think he’s a bit biased. But, unbeknownst to me, he did ask my dad for his blessing to marry me that same weekend. Coincidence? Who knows, but the girl who regularly wears socks with sandals won him over somehow, so the bread theory is as good as any.

And a little over a month later, on our trip to Breckenridge, Chris conspired with another couple we were with and we drove out to Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide and he proposed. And I said yes!

For breader or for worse.

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A Movember to Remember

Did I mention I’m dating Santa Claus this year?

For the past few years, Chris has dressed up as Santa for a Christmas event at work. And his dear co-workers were nice enough to document this year for me by taking a few pictures.

At the beginning of our relationship, Chris and I discussed some things that we are involved in every year. Part of it was just “getting to know each other” talk and part of it was a “this is me, so prepare yourself now” talk. His Santa stint in December was on his list, but at the top of his list was Movember.

For those of you who have never heard of Movember, I hadn’t either. But, Chris warned me that come November, there would be an inevitable addition of facial hair. Movember is similar to “No Shave November” except that you grow only a mustache.

The Movember Foundation is the group who promotes the cause and was originally started in 2004 as a way to raise awareness for various men’s health issues.

Chris had shown me pictures of his Movember ‘stache of 2016 and informed me all along that he would be continuing the tradition in spite of having a girlfriend this year. So, of course, I conceded.

To answer any questions that have already been posed to me multiple times by multiple different people during the month:

-No, Chris didn’t put on a fake, stick-on mustache. It’s real, trust me, it’s really real.

– Yes, I do realize he bears a small resemblance to Mario

– No, I don’t hate it. I don’t love it either, but it’s manageable.

And finally, to pay proper homage to the month, I present a pictorial I have appropriately titled:

A Movember to Remember

Because when you have a mustache, adding a funny hat is a must, right?

Again with the funny hats. Although I’m told “all proper Texans need a Stetson”

I also introduced Chris to banchan (the Korean word for all the little dishes of condiments) during this month. Not that it had anything to do with the mustache. Except for that he had it at the time.

And finally, an up close and personal (which he didn’t know I was taking) to remember it in all of its glory.

Until next year:

The Man.

The Myth.

The Mustache.

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Thoughts from an MOH

My best friend is on her honeymoon right now. I didn’t text her to check in to see if they’d made it safely to their destination but she sent me a message once she arrived. Not a message to necessarily tell me that they’d made it. She sent me her thoughts from a plane. 

I’m not sure who started doing thoughts from a plane. I want to credit her with it because I feel like she was the first one who came up with it. But, it may have been me. I’ll have to confer and get back with you on that one. 

Anyway, thoughts from a plane are literally just that: your thoughts about what is going on around you while on a plane. Maybe we started doing it because it can get terribly boring being cooped up in an airplane for a long time. Or, it could’ve been because you’re in such tight quarters that you can hear and see everything that everyone is doing. Either way, it’s funny to us to share our thoughts from a plane with each other. I wrote about it one time, if you want to read about it here

As I was saying, Jordan got married last weekend and part of my Maid of Honor duties were to write a speech, which I then relayed at her rehearsal dinner. 

I’m not a great public speaker, but I’m generally not terrible. I don’t think I did very well with this speech for two reasons

1. I wasn’t quite sure what emotions were going to be going on, so I was a little apprehensive about being overly emotional. I made it through just fine though.

2. I wasn’t sure what crowd size I’d be speaking to, so I’d made my speech more for a little bit more intimate of a gathering and there were quite a few people there. 

I feel like I’m generally better when I’m conveying thoughts through writing rather than speaking. It just comes more naturally. Even though I tend to write exactly as I would think/speak a thought. 

So, since I’d written the speech anyway, I thought I’d memorialize it in blog form. Because this seems like an official place to memorialize something of magnitude, right? 

Here they are: my thoughts for my best friend on the evening before her wedding: 

When Jordan told me that I would need to make a speech tonight, I wasn’t really sure what a Maid of Honor speech should be like, so I just wrote what came to mind. 

Jordan and I have been friends for a long time. Our families have been friends for over 100 years, so we technically have a long history together. But, I didn’t grow up with her, so I never really officially met her until we were around 14 or 15 years old. 

I remember the first time I heard about Jordan. I had just switched schools and some of my friends were hanging out by my locker, talking about this girl and her shoes. I have never cared too much for fashion and as an 8th grader, I cared even less. But, there was apparently a girl walking around in pink stilettos. And it was Jordan. 

It’s ironic that my first memory of hearing about Jordan has to do with shoes, because I swear, the girl currently owns about 500 pairs. 

I really got to know Jordan in high school. We had a class together and the first day I walked into class, there she was, seated in front of my desk, crocheting. She had her yarn spread out and could care less what anyone thought about it. I thought maybe during the lecture, she would take notes, but she continued to crochet. 

We did our classwork together, probably mostly because I was the one with the notes, and also because we were two of the only girls in that class. I’ll not bore everyone with stories of our youth, that most likely only the two of us would find funny. But, we began a friendship that has personally enriched my life a lot over the years. 

We are pretty much opposites when it comes to most things, so I think we both stretched each other in different directions in a way that causes so much growth as people.

Jordan wouldn’t let me have a slide show, but immediately, when I first started thinking about this speech, there was one picture of us that immediately came to mind. It was a picture of the two of us, on our last day of high school, right before we graduated. 

I had tried like everything to convince her to go to the University of Arkansas with me and she had likewise tried to convince me to go to OSU with her. But, both of us knew that the other place wasn’t where we were meant to be. So, we were going to be parting ways and on the last day of high school, that reality was sinking in a little bit more. 

You can tell in the picture that we had been teary eyed saying bye to all our friends. And, I know it seems a little bit childish now, but it was a big deal to us then. We were, in a tiny way, embarking into the unknown. We weren’t going to be full fledged adults by any means, because what 18 year old can really be considered an adult? But, we were striking it out on our own. 

We had no idea the people we’d meet or the new friends we’d gain, most of whom for Jordan are seated here tonight. We had no idea if we’d still be friends after it was all said and done. And, we had no idea the lives we’d eventually lead. So, the tears were understandable. 

But had we known then what we know now, how even though this step from high school into adulthood was a bit daunting at first, how it lead to so many great things, we may have still been teary eyed, but not because we were sad for moving on, but because we were overwhelmed and happy for the new things to come. 

And, as I’m writing this, I’m expecting that there will be some tears as Jordan and Jade now prepare to enter into a new, exciting phase of their lives together. But now we know that if we get a little teary eyed, it’s not for sadness of what Jade and Jordan are leaving behind, but for joy for the life that they’re about to walk into. Congratulations Jordan and Jade! I am so happy for both of you and can’t wait to see what blessings marriage brings to your lives!

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First Friday

I’ve got two instructions: 

1. pay attention to the time

2. no public sleeping

The second one is a legitimate concern because right before the instruction was given to me, I was trying to devise a way in my mind to sleep on top of my luggage in the airport so that if anyone bothered it, I would wake up. Guess I won’t be doing that. 

This isn’t my first time traveling alone, but I guess it’s my first time going this far and for this long by myself. So, it’s a little bit of a first.

A girl in the airport bathroom asked me if this was my first time to fly. I was in the middle of brushing my teeth (and trying to decide if the tube I’d squeezed onto my toothbrush was full of toothpaste or hand soap) so I felt like that was maybe a good indication that I wasn’t new at this. Or possibly that I was completely new at this and didn’t have a clue. It could go both ways, really. 

She needed help with her boarding pass because it was her first time flying. She handed me the paper and asked me where she should go. She thought her gate was 952A. We’re at a small airport, so I knew she must’ve been confused. I explained to her that she was leaving at 9:52 am and her gate assignment would be on the board. 

To which she responded: where’s the board? 

I’m not good at giving directions, we all know this. So, I gathered my things, having happily decided that I did, in fact, use toothpaste and not hand soap, and went outside with her to see what gate she needed. We found it and she told me that she was flying by herself and was going to visit her boyfriend in North Dakota and she had no idea how to navigate everything. 

I can very much sympathize. Not because I have a boyfriend in North Dakota that I’m going to see. But because I’ve been in her shoes, traveling by myself for the first time.  And, because navigation is not my strong suit either. 

Which is why it was surprising to be asked for help in finding something. And even more surprising that I was able to help. 

Looks like there’s a first time for everything. 

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What Did You Say?

Jake is redefining the meaning of window shopping. We’re sitting in the window of a hotel lobby (not even our own hotel, which is an explanation all itself) and I’m not paying attention to him. But, I notice he’s making motions, so I look up and what do I find? A little Vietnamese woman out on the street, carrying a board of bric-a-brac (nail clippers, fans, bookmarks, bracelets, lighters, sunglasses, and so much more. Essentially, a walking convenience store.) And Jake, motioning to her from the window. She’d hold up one thing and he’d shake his head. He’d point at another thing and she’d hold that up. Nope, not that one. After about 5 minutes of this back and forth, Jake decides on a map (which he has somehow already bargained and agreed upon a price for) and leaves the lobby to go settle up with her outside. Ridiculous.

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We’re doing clinics at “stations” right now which means we’re traveling around Vietnam with a bunch of med students and government officials to government clinics and doing some outreach. They’re very good with us, keeping up with who we are and how we’re doing. This guy is even so nice as to carry my passport picture around just in case he needs to remember my name.

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That’s me.

So, after our first clinic station, they informed us that we had been invited to lunch. Where at? We didn’t know. But, our bus dropped us off at the entrance of a gate and we walked in. To this.

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I’ve seen some full tables before but nothing quite like this. We were seated with some of the Vietnamese medical students and were joking about having to put bowl on our heads because there was no more room.

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Hospitality is great but also kind of terrifying. Because you don’t know what you’re going to be served. You just know you’ll have to eat it. And when I sat down, I knew it was going to be one for the story books.  I also happened to be seated right next to the main “translator”, who is in charge of our group (she requested the seat next to me), so I knew I was in for it.

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Stuffed bitter melon, which I had decided not to try

We started with a table full and you automatically start looking around and wrapping your mind around what you’re going to have to try. You mentally prepare for battle. And you bravely dive in. But, then the war changes. The battle you were fighting is over and you think: I’ve made it. Then, bowls are changed out and people scurry around and all the sudden, a new fight begins.  This was a tough one, guys. Mostly, I had no idea what it was. My original plan was to stick with the fruit and some corn and see if I could make it. But, two seconds later, a lettuce wrap was being made and handed to me with whole shrimp in it (legs, head, shell, everything) dipped in fish sauce and ready to be eaten. And, when you’re handed something, there’s no escape.

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My “translator” feeding me the bitter melon five seconds later…

(PSA: If you haven’t ever traveled to third world countries, greens are one thing they advise not to eat because of the water they’ve been washed in)

I should also tell you that halfway through this meal, one of the Vietnamese students leaned over to Jake and said: “you’ll need to take a pill after this meal.” I had already guessed that, but I’m glad she felt the need to go ahead and tell us.  I’m not sure if Jake will need the pill though because at the beginning of the meal, the man of the house came around insisting that the men at the table take a shot of “banana wine”.

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Jake happened to be the first one he approached and after some insisting, he took it. So, he got a dose of medicine early.  Halfway through the meal, I began to question where we were at? It seemed to be a home, but more like a mansion. It had a waterway in the middle with rooms and stairs going off in different directions. I was informed by our “translator” that we had been invited to the home of the former Vice President of Vietnam. So, this was a big deal. Who knew?

Our lettuce wraps and fruit and corn and other various concoctions were only the appetizers. The meat dishes came out later, along with this soup, which they called “black chicken soup”.

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I asked what the meat dish was and she said “duck”. Okay, I can do duck. I took some, put it on my rice and ate it. It was good, a little different than the other duck I’ve had. It was darker and chewier and had a lot of cartilage. But, it was fine.

 

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My duck and rice and what I think may have been a potato.

After lunch, they took us on a tour of the gardens, as most of the fresh things we had eaten were from the garden. And, they were kind enough to give us sun hats to wear.

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My “translator” friend gave me and one of our other guys a little bit of a private tour, explaining what the different plants were and how they were prepared. We went by a cage with a dog and some chickens in it and the guy with me commented that it was surprising to see a dog so well behaved in a cage alongside chickens and how we wouldn’t see that on our farms in America.

We were asking her about the things we saw and as we were going along, the guy said, ask her what these greens are?  I recognized them from our table and so I called her back to have her tell us the name, but she didn’t know. The gardener happened to be nearby, so she called him over to ask and he spoke to her in Vietnamese. She said, this is the plant that you eat with the “duck”. I said, oh, yes, duck, because we had it at lunch. And the gardener said, “no, no, no, not duck! Dog, woof woof!” Only then did it dawn on me why the dog was in the cage with the chickens. And why that meat at lunch had been so dark and chewy.

Where’s that pill they were talking about? I think I might be needing it.

{post blog update: no one in our group got at all sick from that meal, in case anyone was wondering}

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