Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year of the cupcake

Does anyone else think that 2008 was the year of the cupcake? Just by Martha Stewart standards, there was always a bit on the website about cupcakes, and I believe there may have been a month in which there was a "cupcake of the day" or "cupcake of the week" or something like that on her show. I fell hard into the year of the cupcake. I made cupcakes instead of birthday cakes for all of my friends and family. I purchased a cupcake carrier at Target. I gave Becky a muffin tin, mixing bowl, and Sprinkles cupcake mix for her birthday. There were way too many cupcake books on the market for anyone's good, though I must admit I perused them myself at Davis-Kidd many a Saturday afternoon. And my Christmas list included jumbo muffin tins and ice cream scoops - not for ice cream, but for making perfectly measured cupcakes. I received both, and I was able to use both of them last night to make...






muffins!



Will 2009 be the year of the muffin? We can only wait and see : )

Monday, December 15, 2008

Three months...

Well, we've made it three months without a car! Let me tell you, it feels like an eternity, not a quarter of a year! I have had my ups and downs, days when I never want a car again, and days when I am tempted to just head out and get a big huge car loan to put me out of my misery!!

I must say thank you to all of the people who have helped us out with rides over these months: Becky, Justin, Catherine, Leigh, Lee, Ashley, Dorothy, Josh, Becca, Lesley, LaShonda, Gwen, Martha, the Vitullos, the Marks, the Coplins, and probably plenty more people I am forgetting! There are times and places in Memphis that are just simply not friendly for public transportation, and we could not have made it three months without the help of our friends. We were concerned at the beginning about getting to and from church, since MATA significantly decreases its service on Sundays, but thanks to wonderful friends at church it has never been a problem. Ashley took me to the grocery store the other night when it was raining, and it was such a blessing. I think that if nothing else, our not having a car gives our friends a way to help someone else out, to do their 'good deed' for the day as it were.

Some more great things about not having a car are exercising every day whether I want to or not, more face time with my husband since we walk everywhere together, less stress about crazy drivers/maintenance/break ins, and a bit slower pace to life. On Sunday, we walked to the grocery store from lunch, and we had about 40 minutes to wait until the bus came to take us home, so we just sat at Starbucks and had a drink, read through some Christmas gifts we had purchased at the bookstore, and talked a bit. We weren't rushed, we just sat and enjoyed our time.

Thanks again to everyone who has been so willing to help us out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My favorite cookies

I made cookies last night for a cookie swap on Thursday, and I thought I would share. Although I am a self proclaimed chocoholic, these are my absolute favorite cookies. I think that is because this is a family recipe. The shortbread has been made in my family for generations, originating in Scotland. Every time I knead the dough I think about my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmothers all making this same dough over the years. Oh, and I learned an important lesson yesterday - do not keep your blackberry on the kitchen counter while baking! There is this cookie dough lodged in between the keys!!


Jam Tarts

Ingredients:
1 lb butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Raspberry jam

Directions:
Beat butter and sugar using paddle attachment until well combined and fluffy. Add flour, small amounts at a time, and mix to incorporate. This may take a while. Dump out dough onto clean surface and knead by hand until dough is smooth and glossy. Roll small amounts of dough between two pieces of parchment paper until approximately 1/8 inch thick. You do not want the dough to be too thin. Cut out cookies using symmetrical cutters (any shape is okay), and cut small holes in half of the cookies (these will be the tops). Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes until set and just barely light brown on edges. Cool on racks. Dust the tops with powdered sugar. To assemble, spread a teaspoon or two of raspberry jam on the bottom cookies and place tops over the jam. If making ahead of time, wait to assemble with jam until just before serving, since they can get soggy if sitting too long.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Half-Marathon

Whew! Half marathon #2 is over, better than #1, but not nearly as good as I wanted it to be. I guess I will just have to work harder for #3!!

It was freezing - literally - Saturday morning the entire time I was waiting for and running the race. I believe the temp was around 28 degrees when the race started, and we were waiting in our little corral for about an hour. We had on plenty of extra layers to strip off at the start, and we ran back and forth to the port-o-potties a few times, but it was still frigid!

Miles 1-8 were great! We ran at a good, slow pace that we thought we could keep up the entire race. We stayed within eyesight of the pacers. We took our scheduled water breaks. Our 10k time was the best it has every been. All was well, and I was feeling like my 6 months of training had paid off : )

Then around mile 8, my joints started aching. Hips, knees, ankles, toes - yes, toes! I initiated several unscheduled walk breaks because my joints were screaming at me. No muscle pain, no real fatigue, just joint pain. Becky and I regrouped several times, set small goals of how far we would run without another break, and tried to finish off the race strong. I had to let Becky go ahead of me at mile 12 when my hips were aching again, and I got quite frustrated with myself. I had virtually no pain during our training runs, and I was quite disappointed that this problem arose during the main event. I made it through the last mile, and ran strong the last half mile or so.

After the race I enjoyed a solar blanket (still freezing), a good stretch, and some McAlister's potato cheese soup. I met up with Jonathan, my mom, Becky and her parents for some photos, then collapsed into the Flying Saucer for lunch.

I ran about 12 minutes faster this year than last, which is approximately shaving off one minute per mile. If I had been able to keep up my first 8 mile pace, I could have finished with about 2...maybe even 3 minutes per mile faster than last year. So, yes, I was disappointed, but I am glad that I at least salvaged a better time.

Plan for next year: add cross training (weight training and yoga) to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility to hopefully address the joint pain issue, and put in more miles each week to increase endurance. Also...I am not going to take off two months like I did last year!! I am going to try to get out again this week for a 3 mile run just to keep my body in that mind set, and I am going to participate in the cross country racing series put on by MRTC starting in January. I have never done cross country, and I hope it will be a fun, challenging change from road racing.

* My mom and Becky's parents took some pictures, and I will try to post some soon : )

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Second to last running blog, promise

I needed to get my running mojo back after a pretty lame running weekend, so I set out tonight on a different route from work to church. Slightly longer but considerably safer than the last time I tried, it was a pretty good run. The weather was pretty much perfect tonight - cool not cold and just a little breezy : ) I ran slow and steady, trying to make my legs run like they need to in the first few miles Saturday when they will want to run faster than they should. Good run. Feeling better about Saturday. If you live in Memphis come out to Midtown and Downtown to cheer on all the runners! The elites are amazing to watch : )

Work break!

This is a picture from last year's half marathon, right before mile 8. Note the multiple layers of cotton and fleece!! We were such running newbies : ) This year we will have actually running clothes that wick away sweat from your body, and I am planning on one layer instead of four! And hopefully on Saturday we won't have our photo taken while walking, but running...

Monday, December 1, 2008

carefree college days

"Hey, have you eaten yet?"
"Do you want to go eat?"
"Where do you want to eat, the Rat?"
"Okay..see you in a minute."

I am sitting in the lobby of the althletic building of my college alma mater, and that is the one side of a conversation I just heard. Ah yes, I remember when the most important decision of the day was Rat or Lair for dinner. The days when you could stop everything to write a paper, or study for an exam, or see friends. I cannot believe that I thought life was overwhelming in college. I kind of want to take these kids, throttle them, and tell them that life will never, ever, ever be this easy and uncomplicated again.

But I will not throttle them, I will go to my meeting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tapering and deleting 'just'

The training that began in June will end in eleven days. We ran about ten and a half miles Saturday, and that will be our longest run until our 13.1 on December 6th. It was a very focused run, void of the usual chit chat and instead the brief spurts of conversation were about race day planning. I know what I will wear race day. I know what I will eat the night before and morning of. I have my water breaks planned out along the course. I know where the uphill and downhill portions of the course are. I even know where our cheering sections will be. Now we taper: do some easy runs, stretch, hydrate, and mostly wait.

I may be making a lot out of running a half marathon. After all, I keep telling myself, it's just a half. When I talk with people about race day, I usually have to correct them, "No, I'm just running the half."

Then I think that this time last year, I was struggling to walk 8 miles, and here I am about to run 13. Two years ago walking 3 miles seemed like an eternity. So what I need to do is take the "just" out of my vocabulary. I need to rest up over the next week and enjoy my 13 mile run. Then I need to celebrate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Our newest crazy endeavor...

So, to be just a bit more counter culture (we are hardly counter culture as we would probably die if someone took away my blackberry and his iPhone), Jonathan has unplugged our tv. There is a long story including an argument in there, but pretty much we were spending too much time vegging out in front of the tube - and we don't even have cable. So in an act of emotion, the tv was unplugged Tuesday night, and it hasn't been plugged back in. We at first thought we might plug it in again last night to watch The Office, then thought "I wonder how long we can pull this off?" Thankfully I didn't miss the TV that much last night because I spent a good bit of the evening preparing dinner, taking a long shower after my run and talking to a friend on the phone. Maybe going sans television will help with the ADD I posted about last week.

Just as a point of full disclosure, I am totally the one in the household who watches too much tv. I often don't care what I'm watching, I just need to zone out. So this experiment will help me find other ways to relax besides turning off my brain completely.

In addition to making me interact more with reality, the no tv rule has helped me look at unnecessary electricity usage. The following things are plugged into electrical outlets currently at my apartment: living room lamp, office lamp, alarm clock in bedroom, cell phone charger, stereo in bedroom, and refrigerator. Really the only thing that needs to remain plugged in is the fridge. Okay, assignment for the weekend is to unplug everything else...and engage in fun activities with my husband that do not involve tv watching.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Megan's self-diagnosed Adult ADD

So I'm in the mental health profession (kind of...) and I know a bit about diagnosing behavioral health disorders.  I opted out of the actual class in my MSW program where you learn how to diagnose, because I did not want to be made to actually use that information at work one day.  Ignorance is bliss, as they say!  So, I think I am going to self diagnose myself with Adult ADD.  (Just not to freak anyone out, I do not think this is clinical or anything, and I do have great respect for adults who do truly have clinical ADD.  This is my attempt to be funny, and I do not want in anyway to seem disrespectful or flippant about a real disorder.)  That said, here is my evidence:

1. My home: When I do the whole home making thing, I try to make a list and stick to it.  However, without a doubt every time I clean my apartment, I am half way through with the dishes when I think that I really do need to clean the litter box, so I do that, and then it reminds me to clean the bathroom.  On the way from the cat's bathroom to our bathroom I realize that laundry really should get done, so I throw a load in the washer located in our creepy basement.  As I return the extra quarters to our little quarter holder on our dresser, I think that I need to reorganize the top of the dresser.  So I have half-clean dishes, half-clean bathrooms, a load in the washer that I will inevitably forget until I head to bed, and an organized dresser.

2. My work: Do not even get me started!  If I did not have my crackberry, I would get fired.  I have my hands is a trillion projects and they barely get completed.  It's not that I get tired of them or give up on them, I literally will be typing an email and think that I really should get a start on a report.  Halfway through the report I remember the ten people I need to call.  Halfway through my call list, I think of some random thought that makes me start writing the agenda for my team supervision meeting.  I do pride myself on getting projects and reports completed on time with high quality, but I feel like I run myself ragged in the process.

3. My play:  I have about three half finished baby blankets currently in my living room.  I blame this on the fecundity of my Sunday school class and office mates, though - not on my adult ADD.  Another piece of evidence, and the initial inspiration for this post, is the lack of skin on my knees currently.  I was running this morning with Becky - we had headed out to do a test run of the half marathon course - and I was watching my steps quite closely.  Then I heard a train, and what do I do?  I turn my head to look for the train, even though it really doesn't matter where the train is because it does not impact my life.  Not too seconds after turning my head I am plummeting to the ground, looking like a complete idiot.  Now I have two skinned knees and a little less pride.

I eagerly await advice on how to overcome this disorder without the use of stimulants : )

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

More running updates

I know all I do is write about running/training for the half marathon. I have had two good weeks of running and felt the need to share! Two Saturdays ago, we ran 8 miles, our longest run yet, and it went really well. We ran through Overton Park and the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood, chatting about the economy, the election, real estate, dog breeds, etc. Last Saturday we ran 6 miles, and we went an hour running without any walk breaks - the longest I have ever gone in a single stretch. We took a different route this time, heading downtown, and then turning South. I'm not sure if Becky had this thought as we continued going southward, but I definitely thought, "You know, Barry, I'm not sure I want to be in South Memphis at 6am the day after Halloween...." Our unusual route made sense, though, as we turned onto a street with large, old homes and Barry gave us a short history of Memphis during the Civil War and the ghosts that allegedly haunt the old homes. So I got 6 miles under my belt and a history lesson all before most people wake up on Saturdays. The best part about Saturday's run was that I felt great through the whole thing - no pains, no heavy breathing, no 'why on earth did I get up at 5:15am to do this???' I ended Saturday's run thinking, "I might actually turn into a runner after all."

Next week I am responsible for running 6 miles on my own since I'll be out of town. I need to call my sister-in-law this week and see if she wants to run with me. I still do not have the mental capacity to run for an hour by myself! Then the following week we run 10 miles. I might treat myself to a pedicure for running 10 miles...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Megan's Grand Adventure (or how many stupid things can Megan do in one night and still survive)

Yesterday evening, I set out on a master plan to get from my office to church. For those of you unfamiliar with the Memphis Area Transit Authority, MATA buses follow an east/west route. If you need to go North or South anywhere, it is nearly impossible by the bus system. So this is what I did...

6:15pm: Change from work clothes into running clothes in employee bathroom. Note that spandex can make anyone look good.

6:25pm: Stash drivers license in arm zip-pocket of running top, tie office key and file cabinet key onto shoelace, grab Blackberry and bus pass, and lock all other personal items (including clothes worn to work, wallet, and all other keys) in office file cabinet.

6:35pm: Catch bus. Ask nice bus driver where to pull the cord to get off at a certain intersection, and nice bus driver agrees to drop me off at said intersection even though there is not a stop there. (I ride the same bus everyday, so we have a relationship.)

6:50pm: Get off bus. Start running.

For the next several minutes, I learned the following: it is waaaaaay darker at this time of night that I thought it would be, cat-calling is not dead (grrr), running in grey clothes - even on sidewalks - is not recommended after the sun sets, and part of my running route does not have a sidewalk.

7:11pm: Arrive at church. 1.84 miles in 21 minutes - about an 11 minute mile if you take off the time taken waiting for stop lights.


Will I try this again? If it were not for the lack of sidewalk for about a quarter mile of the trip, I would probably do it again. That was the only part of the run where I was seriously concerned for my safety, because cars were coming off of a turn going faster than they should, and I was wearing grey. I think I will definitely try it again when it is light out at 7pm, but I am not sure I will repeat this trek during the fall and winter.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Only on MATA



This morning on my way in to work, the bus was quite crowded. Lots of people heading to work or to shopping, some folks chatting, others asleep. And through the din, a little "mew, mew, mew." First I thought it was a crying baby. No babies on the bus. Then I realized it was a cat! Originally I thought the man in front of me had a cat in his duffle bag, but when he got off and the meowing continued, I saw that a young woman sitting in the front of the bus had a cardboard box that she was talking to. The poor little cat was mostly quiet, but sometimes meowed when the bus would start or stop. Jonathan and I have joked about how we are possibly going to get our cat to the vet for her annual vaccinations, and apparently this girl thought cardboard box was best!




It took me back to my mom reading Henry Huggins to me at bedtime. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, little Henry Huggins finds a stray dog (Ribsy) while he is out and about in town. He wants to take the dog home with him, but he has to take the city bus home. So, he puts Ribsy in a cardboard box and carries him on the bus : ) Now when I'm reading this story to my children one day, I can tell them about the day a lady had a cat on the bus!




Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tired Legs and Bathroom Breaks

Becky and I ran our second 10k Saturday morning, and it went pretty well. We averaged about a 12 min/mile pace, and finished the race a good 30 minutes faster than we did our first 10k last year. We could have averaged more like an 11:30/11:45 min/mile pace if I had just taken a bathroom break before we started the race. I often feel the urge to pee after I've been running for a while, and I had the urge at mile 3.5, mile 4 and mile 5.5. Each time, I had to stop, or else pee my pants. I finally succumbed during the last mile, dashing into the woods while Becky waited at the side of the road. TMI, I know, but I just had to share : ) Despite the walk breaks for my bladder issues, Becky and I finished second and third respectfully in the race. Granted...there were four participants in our age group....All four of us finished within three minutes of one another, and I do feel guilty that I think we could have clinched first and second if I had just taken that one last bathroom break before the start. The half-marathon will be much better, because there is a mile-long line of port-o-potties at the starting line, and there are port-o-potties at every mile marker on the race course. I don't mind taking walk breaks because I am tired, but taking walk breaks for bathroom issues is frustrating!

So after the race, even after stretching a while, my legs and ankles were burning from the workout. Burning in a good way, but also in the way that makes you want to prop up your feet and watch football all afternoon. Did I do that? No, of course not. Becky and I hit the streets again at 2pm, this time sporting our matching "Rhodes Students for Obama" t-shirts, and we knocked on doors of registered Democratic voters to urge them to get out and vote. We hit 68 homes in a low-voter-turnout area of the city, and left a lot of leaflets on doors. Most folks we talked with were excited about the election and promised to vote this week in early voting.

After 1.25 hours of running and 3 hours of walking, I was pretty beat and ravenous! I had a Huey burger (real red meat Huey burger - I normally get turkey) for dinner and promptly fell asleep on my friend Justin's couch while he and Jonathan played video games. We went over to his house to socialize, but I just slept for two hours! Oh, I did wake up mid-nap to pee again...just to round out the day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gag Reflex

This is an excerpt from an article I was reading online via Yahoo. It makes me want to throw up:

McCain, who bestowed the nickname "Joe the Plumber" on Wurzelbacher during the debate, claimed Friday that "the response from Sen. Obama and his campaign yesterday was to attack Joe."
In fact, Obama, his running mate Joe Biden and their campaign have barely mentioned Wurzelbacher. Obama and Biden both attacked McCain for portraying Wurzelbacher as representative of most blue-collar workers, asking how many plumbers make $250,000 a year.
Nonetheless, McCain elicited boos from a fired-up crowd when he said of Wurzelbacher, "People are digging through his personal life and he has TV crews camped out in front of his house. He didn't ask Sen. Obama to come to his house. He wasn't recruited or prompted by our campaign. He just asked a question. And Americans ought to be able to ask Sen. Obama tough questions without being smeared and targeted with political attacks."
News organizations eager to learn more about Wurzelbacher did besiege his house Thursday and discovered and reported that he lacks a plumbing license and owes back taxes.
During an appearance Friday evening in the Space Coast community of Melbourne, McCain revealed that he had spoken to Wurzelbacher for the first time earlier in the day.
"I want to tell you his spirits are good and he's a tough guy. He's what small business people all over this country are about," McCain said to cheers. He encouraged the crowd, "Send Joe an e-mail and tell him you're with him."
Despite his criticism of the Democratic ticket, McCain himself has kept Wurzelbacher in the spotlight, mentioning him repeatedly in his appearances Thursday and then renewing the topic on Friday.
"Joe's the man!" McCain said Thursday during a rally in Philadelphia's suburbs.


Does he think we're not paying attention! Don't criticise your opponent - for something he isn't doing - and then do the exact thing you are criticising him for!! Uggh...politics as usual. I will be quite relieved when campaign season is over.

I will spend my Saturday afternoon knocking on some doors reminding folks to get out the vote! I will be sporting my quite stylish light blue "Rhodes Students for Obama" t-shirt : )

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Update

There hasn't been all that much to write about lately. I know my left-wing nut job posts are only interesting to me (but just remember, without taxes and state-funded health care, I wouldn't have a job....) so I will spare you. I watched Amazing Grace the other night because I needed a good dose of how leaders in government can make a positive change. If you haven't seen it, you should (if you live in Memphis I will lend you my copy), as it tells the story of William Wilberforce, who passed the bill in the House of Commons abolishing slavery (as well as mandating free education and animal rights laws).

Running is going semi-okay. I am on the back end of a cold, and upper respiratory illnesses do not mix well with running. Late sunrises and early sunsets also do not mix well with running. If anyone reading this runs during the fall and winter outside, please give me some tips on how you manage it! We have a 10k this Saturday in Olive Branch, MS, and I am looking forward to the adrenaline of race day! Becky and I had a good 6-mile run a few weeks ago, but since then we've both been off our game. Hopefully this race will be the boost we need to make it through our last 6 weeks of half-marathon training.

Jonathan and I have made it over a month without the car, and we continue to do pretty well : ) I have unfortunately learned that the bus comes every twenty minutes in the morning, so I have been sleeping later and getting to work later! It was better for my work habits when I thought I had to catch the bus at 6:55 : ) I am also attributing the sleeping later with the cold.... We had a dinner party last Saturday to thank the friends who have transported us around this past month. We had a great time, despite my realization right before I put the chicken in the oven that it was FROZEN! That led to an 8pm dinner time instead of 7pm. Jonathan and I joked with our guests that we were just tricking them into holding our eating habits! We routinely eat dinner at 9 and 10pm. We're just Argentines at heart.

Work continues on, and like everyone I have good days and bad days. I'm still trying to settle into management, figuring out the balance between allowing my staff to make mistakes and hand holding so that they won't make mistakes on the front end. Is this training for motherhood? I must admit that with all of the baby announcements adorning my refrigerator, I do long for the day when I am herding little ones around my home instead of herding employees in an office.

Speaking of babies, I attended a baby shower today at work and ate way too much! The problem with bite sized food is that it doesn't feel like you are eating a lot until an hour after the party. We had a fun party, and the mom-to-be was so stunned that it took her a good five minutes to realize the party was for her!

So there is my update of the goings on in my life : )

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hmmm...so I was a little angry when I wrote my last post. Since then, the college has assigned our class to a new professor. Maybe it was user error and not so much the actual technology.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Can you say....I told you so?

Warning: This would fall under the category of 'disgruntled posts.'

Last Spring, I got into an argument with the dean of the UT College of Social Work over online classes.  Dean Sowers comes to Memphis occasionally for meetings and to hold 'open forums' with students.  You know, because she tries to keep a finger on the pulse of students' lives (rolling eyes...).  One student stated that she would like more online course offerings, and the dean stated that they are planning to do that.  I raised my hand and stated that I did not think online classes were a good idea for social work classes.  I explained that since so much of social work is...well...social work, participating in a class where you cannot interact well with your professor and peers would not teach the skills needed for our profession.  I took an interactive course a few summers ago.  We could see our professor on a TV screen, and he could see us...barely.  The course was in mediation, and much of it was practicing with role plays.  The problem is that our professor in Knoxville could not observe the Memphis role plays, so we had no clue if we were doing it correctly or not.  

I explained this to the dean, and she came back with, "Well, Ms. Hulgan, what would you say if I told you that in 20 years all of your client interaction will be done through computers and you will no longer have office visits or field visits?"

I replied, "Well, I would say that the clinical integrity of my practice would be compromised with such a system."

Hmmmm...is it best to get into an argument with the dean?  We politely went back and forth and finally she told me that I needed to be more open minded.

Fast forward to today.  I am paying a significant amount of money out of pocket for my Financial Management class that is an online course.  We were supposed to meet on September 4th, and class was cancelled due to technical difficulties.  We were supposed to meet tonight, and class was cancelled due to technical difficulties.  I have an assignment due Monday, and our class has yet to meet.  

Yes, Dean Sowers, of course, why could I not see that online social work is the wave of the future?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do you know the feeling when something that seems so far removed from your life instead becomes very personal to you? That didn't make much sense. For example, when the planes hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, it knocked me off my feet but still seemed far removed from me. Then a plane hit the Pentagon, and there was concern of another plane heading for DC. At that time, my sister worked in an office down the street from the State Department, so what had been something horrible, but outside of my life, took a turn and stepped right into my sphere.



Yesterday morning as I scanned the local news on my office computer, there were headlines reporting a large number of car accidents and a few murders that took place over the weekend. Typical weekend in Memphis is what most of us would think. But as I scanned the information, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach as I recognized a name. Someone that I knew. All of the sudden, what had been so distant from me became quite close. A momentary news headline reminded me that behind every senseless killing there is a family, countless lives are forever changed, and very often parents have to make funeral arrangements for their children.



I am embarrassed at how callous I have become to the suffering of families who lose a loved one to violence. It took reading one name to jolt me back to reality. Many of you will go through life and never know anyone who is murdered. That is a blessing. If, however, we start to act like every murder victim in Memphis is a friend, or family member, or even someone we just met once, maybe we can start to make changes. There are many ways to affect change: contacting your legislator to demand laws giving harsher penalties to gun crime, contacting city and county leaders to fight for increased funding of prevention programs and gun control programs, mentoring kids and helping them see alternatives to violence, mentoring parolees to help have access to alternatives to violence, hiring young men and women at your place of employment for internships or other entry level jobs to give them opportunities to better themselves, vote for civil servants who make crime prevention an agenda item and have a decent plan to work with, give to non-profit or charitable agencies that work to reduce crime, go clean up a neighborhood and paint over gang graffiti...I really could go on.

There are two things that I think could make a major change for the better in our city: 1) take every murder seriously as if it were your own loved one, and 2) get involved in crime prevention in some way, big or small.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How MATA has changed my life

We are in week two of being car-less, and the social experiment is going well! I might start encouraging my friends and neighbors to ditch their vehicles and join us : ) We were already walking to the grocery store, restaurants and pretty much everywhere else around our neighborhood, but now we are completely relying on our shoes, our bikes, and MATA. Here is how my life has changed since not having a car:
1. I get up at 5:45 every weekday morning. Those of you who know me know that this is probably the biggest life change!
2. I make my breakfast and lunch every day. No more Starbucks, Sonic, Backyard Burger, Lenny's...the list could go on. This is one reason why I get up at 5:45. I hope that I will not only save money but lose a little weight in the process!
3. I start and end my day with a brisk 10 minute walk, sometimes accompanied by school children. One day I will need to write an entry about the morning routine around Snowden School. It is adorable and makes me want to have kids right now!
4. I have to leave work at a set time. Again, those of you who know me know that this is huge! I am a workaholic (at work) and I will often stay at work until every last little thing is done - even if that means coming home at 10pm. Now I have to leave at either 6:30 or 8:30 to catch the bus home.
5. We rely on friends more than ever. Becky takes me to running events and voter registration events (you have until Oct 6th to register!). MATA doesn't believe that people should go to church before 9:15 on Sundays, at least that's when their first round of buses leave the terminal. In order to get to the early service, we need friends to take us, and they are helping us out so much! We are currently searching for friends to get us home from evening church once we lose an hour of sunlight, because MATA also does not believe that people should go to church after 6pm.
6. We ride our bikes to church Sunday evenings. This is actually a LOT of fun! The weather has been gorgeous Sunday evenings, and we have a nice route on a not-too-busy street. I'm becoming a pro at shifting gears as we go up and down the gently sloping hills between our apartment and church. It also provides some nice cross training from my running.
7. I am actually reading my textbooks for class! You've got to do something on that 30 minute bus ride.
8. I have not paid attention to gas prices in the past two weeks. How's that for stress relief?

I know that not everyone has a lifestyle that would work without a car, but I highly recommend looking at your routine and seeing if you can walk or ride a bike. It benefits you and the environment : )

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's getting scary

With the election close upon us, I am getting queasy about how many Americans will go to the polls having NO CLUE what the issues are. Here is an excerpt from a Time article I read online:

Pausing recently at a Wal-Mart, she said: "Honestly, I don't know what to do. I really don't want to vote for McCain. You can tell he only cares about rich people. Sarah Palin wears glasses that cost $300. McCain's wife wears Gucci clothes. Which means they don't know anything about people like me." Into that stew of assumptions, she adds: "I hear that Obama's a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, that would be a problem, because the terrorists already attacked us." (He's not.)

There are so many things wrong with that perspective! If a multi-billionaire ran for president and was solid on the issues facing our country, I would vote for him/her. If a Muslim ran for president and was solid on the issues facing our country, I would vote for him/her. Ugghhh. Please people, read the position papers on the websites of our candidates to see where they stand on certain issues. The future of education, welfare, the economy, social security, civil rights, health care, foreign relations, war, the environment, etc. may depend on this election. Read the candidates' speeches and press releases to see what they stand for. Don't trust just one media outlet, because they all have biases. Do your homework before you vote - please!

Becky sent me this quote, which I must share:

"An informed voter is a voter
whose vote doesn't count any more
than the vote of a complete idiot."
- Benjamin Franklin

progress

Last night, we headed back out to the Bartlett running group. As we walked from Becky's car to the group of runners, a horrible reality hit me: Spunky is hiking in the Grand Canyon this week. Who will run with us? Other thoughts rushed to my mind: Maybe we just won't run the whole 4 miles. What if we get lost? Are we really good enough runners to be out here?

Becky and I, learning from our previous outings, took a moderate pace in the first mile and kept it at 12 minutes. We ran with two other ladies from the MRTC Women's Running program, so we didn't feel too bad about being at the very back. We ran the second mile in about 11:20, and had a short break at the stop light. At the 2 mile mark, the two ladies we were running with opted out of the water break and kept on going. Thankfully, two other ladies were there, and they pledged to stay with us so we would not get lost. Not necessarily planning to do it, we ran the last two miles without any breaks at all. I noted that if races didn't have the course mapped out, and I could only find my way by sticking with the people in front of me, I would probably run much better races. We paced ourselves pretty well on the hilly course, speeding up sometimes and slowing down sometimes to maintain a run. We finished the four miles in 46 minutes, meaning that the first half was 23:20 and the second half was a 22:40. Maybe not impressive to the rest of the group, but that is a negative split, and I am very proud of it! The experience was also much more enjoyable than finishing the course in 46 minutes last week while running and walking. I felt much more accomplishment to have continued on without stopping, even when my mind told me several times to just stop and walk.

So, we made a little more progress. Each day I feel more and more confident about the 10k in October!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Getting used to the back of the pack

Last night I headed out to the MRTC Bartlett running group by myself. Becky was resting up for the Cooper Young 4-miler this Friday, and I thought I would be brave and go by myself. I thought I would try to keep up with the pack of middle-aged women who run with the group. Haha - that's funny!

The run went like this:
Mile 1 - Megan keeps up with the middle-aged women (granted at the back of the group). Megan and Spunky (the older man who directs the group, and runs with the new folks so they don't get lost) talk about the Women's Running 5k, and when he hears that she ran it in 33:23, Spunky says "Well, that's good for your first race!"

"Oh no," Megan puffs, "is was like my 8th race."

"Oh," says Spunky, "then I guess it wasn't a good race?"

"Oh no," Megan puffs again, "it was my PR."

"....well...good," says Spunky.

At one mile, Megan looks at her watch and sees 10:30. This is the fastest mile that Megan has run since high school.

Mile 2 - Megan slows her pace a bit and thankfully Spunky stays with her. They keep up with the last two women in the pack, one of whom is 70 years old. Short walk break at a hill, and a short break while waiting for the Bartlett Blvd stop light. As the group runs across Bartlett Blvd, a nice man in a car yells and gives the group the finger because the runners are in his way.

*2 minute water break at the community club house*

Mile 3 and Mile 4 - Megan's face is red (although in her defense standing outside in the heat makes it red), she is huffing and puffing, but she is running. A simple rule is followed: walk on the uphills, run on the downhills and flats. Knowing that the finish is just past the last hill, Megan opts to run up it, pumping those arms like the Women Running coaches taught her. Finish time is 49 minutes, but with the stoplight and water break, the four miles were probably done in 46 minutes. That's an average of 11:30 per mile. Uggh.. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a tempo run.

Despite possibly being the hardest run I have ever completed, I felt really good afterward! After I got through my G2 and started breathing normally, I noticed that my legs felt good, my arms felt good, my abs felt good...pretty much everything felt great. My body was kind of saying, "yeah, that's what I like - get me moving!"

So, I was the very last person to finish, but I ran faster and stronger than ever. One of these days maybe I will reach my goal of keeping up with the middle-aged women...maybe even the one running with a jogging stroller!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to politics

Barack Obama will be a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman tonight, Wed. 9/10. I'm willing to stay up a little late to check it out!

Also, the first presidential debate is coming up pretty soon, Sept 27th! I believe it will air on PBS, so everyone should be able to watch it. (As a non-cable user, I didn't appreciate all of the primary debates being aired on cable). It will be in Oxford, and I actually looked into getting tickets last month when I found out it was so close. Unfortunately, I found no info.

If you aren't registered to vote, do it now! There will be voter registration tables at both the Cooper-Young Festival and Southern Football Classic this weekend in Memphis. You have up until October to register to vote in the election.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Personal Best 5k

Yay! This morning Becky and I finished up our MRTC Women's Running program with a 5k at Audubon Park. It was a perfect morning for a race - cool and cloudy! Becky was not feeling well - she's been plagued by different illnesses for the past few weeks : ( - so we split up pretty early in the race. I thought I was doing a good job of keeping a moderate pace on my first mile, but I ran it in 10:50 (which is fast for me!) - too fast. The second mile was done in 11 minutes (also fast for me), and the third mile plus 200 meters was done in 11:33. I still need to work on negative splits, but a 33.23 5k is my personal best! I kicked the last quarter mile or so really hard because two girls were in front of me that I did not want to beat me : ) They were bragging about running the 2007 half-marathon in 10 minute miles during our training runs. Based on their performance in our training runs, I find that hard to believe.... They were a couple of people ahead of me the whole race, and I am sure that seeing their backs for three miles helped me run faster. Becky amazingly finished in 34 minutes while being sick! I missed her finish, and I got really scared after I waited for about 20 minutes at the 3 mile marker that she was passed out on the side of the road. Not so! Personal records for both of us : )

Next big goal is a 10k on October 18th. We'll have 5 weeks of half marathon training between now and then, so I think we'll be pretty good. Our outcome in the 10k will give us a good estimate of how we'll do in the half marathon. December 6th is coming up soon!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another presidential campaign entry...

I cannot go without making some kind of statement about Palin's speech last night. I sat through as much as I could, but at 10pm I switched over to channel 50 to get my daily dose of Scrubs. If she's starting off her part of the campaign being that sarcastic, I don't think I can take two more months of her. I encourage everyone to go to this website to get the truth on attacks that both sides of the campaign are making. Politicians must think we're so dumb that they make extremely false claims in speeches and press conferences and don't think that we'll look the stuff up.

That's all for today. I am going to try to watch McCain's speech tonight; word on the street is that it's not as fierce as Palin's was. I am slightly interested in hearing what Cindy McCain has to say.

Oh, and I am going to get in touch with the local Dem campaign office this week to see about volunteering. I welcome friends to come too! If you have any opinions about this election, and the next four years of our country, I recommend getting involved! Even if you are a Republican, I would rather you learn the truth and get involved than do nothing. This is what living in a democracy is all about, right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lunch Break Blog

Laura Bush: "I am so glad that the first female vice president of the United States is going to be a Republican."

Megan: Throwing objects at television

* I want to make clear that I do not oppose Palin because she is a woman. I oppose her because she has 20 months experience being a governor, in which time she pretty much just un-did what the previous governor had done. I was upset because I feel that so many other women in politics have fought for years and climbed up the power ladder, and now Palin waltzes in with a short resume and perky haircut and we are supposed to be excited feminists all of the sudden. If McCain had picked a male governor who had only been in office for 20 months, we would be hearing the same outcry about experience.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC

It's convention time! Although I think I would be sick if I actually attended the Democratic National Convention, I enjoy watching it on TV : ) Last night I spent most of my time on PBS, but flipped back and forth during the commentary time (Yay Tom Brokaw!) to get some different perspectives.

Speech #1:
I thought Nancy Pelosi's speech was a little...ummm...mechanical. I was slightly disappointed since I do like her, but she acted like a robot.

Speech #2:
(there were other speeches in between, but I didn't pay too too much attention to them)
Ted Kennedy was pretty awesome making such an impassioned speech while undergoing treatment for his inoperable brain tumor. I especially liked his "pass the torch" section in which he engaged the young generation to take responsibility for our country's future. Say what you want about the Kennedy's, but they are modeling a "to whom much is given, much is expected" lifestyle. I think it is important when a man who can afford whatever kind of medical care he wants passionately campaigns for health care as a right and not a privilege.

Speech #3:
I was a little scared that Michelle Obama was going to be a robot like Nancy Pelosi, but I felt she really was speaking from her gut. The commentators explained that she had a big hand in writing the speech, and you could tell. If anyone in this country thinks that the Obama's are out of touch, you just need to look at their parents to see that they were raised like most of us are. Michelle Obama's dad was a blue collar worker and her mother a stay at home mom. My father is a white collar worker and my mother was a stay at home mom - in that aspect I had a more privileged upbringing in a Dallas suburb than she did in a Chicago apartment complex. To me, Michelle's speech hit home that she and Barack have spent their adult lives trying to give back to their community, help those less fortunate, and inspire those with means to use their gifts and talents to help the greater good. Yes, I'm pretty socialist in my political leanings. (I have often asked if one can be a social worker and a Republican at the same time....) If charity were taking care of the problem, I would rely on the goodness of common man. But charity isn't taking care of the problem, so I want to elect people to government office who will use our country's resources to help solve the problem.

I went to bed after Michelle's speech, so I don't really know what else happened. Tonight I'm interested to hear Hillary speak, and I am attending a watch party on Thursday for Barack's speech. I encourage everyone to watch the convention (PBS shows all of the speeches uninterrupted) and think about this election. I plan on watching the Republican national convention coverage next week to see what they have to offer, although I must admit I have a hard time listening to McCain talk. We'll see how far I get : )

Sunday, August 24, 2008

5 miles

Becky and I finally moved past our plateau and finished the Overton Park 5-mile Classic yesterday! I will not lie; I took two big walk breaks. Even with the walk breaks, I finished in an hour, at just over a 12-minute pace. Our first two miles were at an 11:40 pace, and our last mile was about the same, so although we didn't have a negative split, we were able to push through at the end. This is greatly due to the hill work and speed work we have done with the Women Run program through MRTC. Those practices have taught us how to run on tired legs, and I know for me the training paid off. We were lapped by the folks who finished first, and although it's never fun to be lapped, it was exciting to cheer for the winners as they passed us and marvel at their bodies keeping 5 minute paces. We finished last in our age group, but I still feel like it was one of the best races I have run!

Friday, August 22, 2008

hy·po·chon·dri·ac

noun - a person who worries or talks excessively about his or her health.

So yesterday, I'm sitting in the Kroger parking lot about to get some groceries, and I take a sip of water. For some reason, it is hard to swallow. I sit there for a moment, and realize that swallowing is actually really hard, as if there is something stuck in my throat or my tongue is taking up more room than it should. I look at the clock - 7:20pm. Is that enough time to make it to the Minor Med? I drive to the Baptist Minor Med across the street, but there is a large sign stating coldly that they do not accept my health insurance. So, I drive to Cordova, to the closest Methodist Minor Med, thinking all the time, "What if my throat swells up and I can't breath and I lose consciousness while driving??" I get to the Minor Med at 7:45pm; the secretary rolls her eyes as I walk in, because I am sure the entire staff was looking forward to going home at 8pm instead of seeing more patients. I explain my difficulty swallowing to the secretary, to a nurse, and then to a doctor.

There is apparently nothing wrong with me. No inflammation. No swollen anything. I get a prescription for something to gargle and make my throat numb (did not pick up...what's the point?), and a referral to an ENT if the problem persists. So, I spent $20, a good bit of gas, and my evening when I should have been grocery shopping to feel like an idiot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Life update

When people ask the common, "how are you/what's up" question, how do you respond? I have a memory of telling my 3rd grade community basketball coach "I don't know" all the time when he asked, "What's up?" I think my 9-year-old self wanted a more specific question, like "How is school," or "Are you excited about being at basketball practice tonight?"

Lately, I have said "Oh, life..." when people ask "What's up?" I thought I might enter a little life update here on the blog, since the words never come to me in conversation.

1. Home - Jonathan and I were considering a change for a minute, but as soon as we kind of got on the same page together, we found out the change was not going to come. How's that for vague? The change would have involved a move and a job change, but it did not happen. After all of the dreaming/worrying about the change that turned out not to be, I find myself thankful for the position I am in right now. I was eager to embrace change, but now content that it has not come.

2. Work - Everyday is a new chance to learn more about management/supervision. I am still a new supervisor, and I vacillate between loving it and hating it. I think I'm becoming a better manager as time goes by. The best thing about my work is that I feel my personal interests and skills are being used daily, and that keeps me going.

3. Transportation - We are about to sell the Jeep, at which time we will go without a car for however long it takes us to save up for a new car (hopefully summer 09). This is an adventure, and we got a taste of it last weekend. We rode the bus to/from work Friday, completed all of our Saturday errands on foot, got a ride with the Coplins to our social event Saturday evening, rode the bus to/from church Sunday morning, biked to/from church Sunday evening, rode the bus to work Monday, got a ride with Becky to running group and a ride with Becky home. We are going to have to be better planners and say no to a few things, but we will make it work. I also now have ammunition for the day when my 16-year-old children ask for cars!

4. Running - Last week was a good running week, with advances both in speed work, tempo runs, and long runs. The goal of running the half marathon in December seems do-able for the first time! With the addition of biking on Sundays, I'm also increasing my overall fitness. Now I just need to add a core workout once a week.

5. Knitting/Crocheting/Sewing - I am almost done with a sweater/hat set, almost done with a blanket, and plan on breaking out the new sewing machine this weekend. The sewing machine has been sitting in a corner since December (gasp!) because I'm too much of a chicken to put it together. I kept telling myself I would take it to a store, but that entails making an appointment and paying for it. I'm just going to get out the instruction book and see if my memory from sewing as a kid comes back to me. My goal is to make birthday presents for my brother and sister-in-law using the sewing machine, and I see them Labor Day weekend, so that is my motivation to get on it! I will post pictures when these projects are done.

6. Bible Study - So with all of the stuff I do in my day, my Bible study definitely gets pushed to the very bottom of the priority list. Obviously that needs to change, and I will take all the encouragement I can get : ) I was better when I was part of a group Bible study, but I need to learn to be independent. Perhaps more thoughts on this later.

Okay, so that's the answer to "How are you today, Megan?"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wedding Weekend!

Last weekend was a Pollock family wedding, and we had a ton of fun! Thursday afternoon, my Mom and Dad drove in from Dallas, picked up Jonathan and me, and we headed up to Lacrosse, Wisconsin. On the way, we stopped in at Lambert's (home of the throwed rolls) and ate way too much food!! But honestly, when someone yells "HOT ROLLS" you cannot help but throw your hands up in the air : ) We arrived in Wisconsin Friday late afternoon, dropped our stuff at the hotel and went to my aunt and uncle's home for bbq and family time. I LOVE my family, l-o-v-e them! We are all strewn about the country, so we only get to see one another at weddings and funerals and occasional family reunions. The last time we were all together was August 2006 for my grandfather's 80th birthday party. Of course, a Pollock family gathering would not be complete without some political banter and when-are-you-going-to-give-us-some-babies conversation. My Great Uncle Archie asked me what I was going to do when I get my Master's Degree, and I told him "make babies," to which he gave me a big hug. (There are no children past my generation yet in the family). The Pollock women presented Kate, the bride, with a basket containing the family cookbook, various kitchen utensils, and all of the random ingredients one needs to make the stuff from the cookbook. My contribution was a bottle of Corky's BBQ sauce and fluted cookie cutters (for my favorite recipe - jam tarts).

Saturday morning I got a pedicure with my cousins Lauren and Maggie, Aunt Mary, and Mom. Then my sister Katie, her boyfriend Navy Scott (my brother's name is Scott....so I have Brother Scott and Navy Scott), Dad, and Jonathan joined us for lunch at a cute little coffee shop. Then back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

The wedding was beautiful and tailored very well to the bride (Kate) and groom (cousin Nate). They are both musical and there was a lot of music, performed by the college choir Kate was formerly in. The girls were beautiful, the boys were handsome - great wedding! The reception was a lot of fun, and it served as another mini-reunion for the Pollock clan. I think the hit was when Aunt Mary pulled out a mini bottle of Jack and then proceeded to pass out more mini bottles she had stashed in her purse. Cousin Andrew also shared the Jack from his hip flask. Ah, yes, my family.... Can you expect the Scotch-Irish to celebrate without whiskey? Honestly! Post wedding we switched clothes and headed to the bowling alley for more fun : ) I think bowling should be like golf - lowest score wins!

Sunday morning we said goodbye to my sister and Navy Scott, and then attended a present opening with the bride and groom. I think this must be a midwestern thing - we did not have a present-opening reception the day after the wedding, but the three weddings I have been to in the midwest all had these. Thoughts? Nate and Kate will have a very nice home with their gifts, and they were very cute opening everything to "ooo's" and "ahhhh's." We headed to my aunt and uncle's home for an afternoon of knitting, playing games, taking naps, and general goofing off. We went to see a movie together and then played more games!

Monday morning, Jonathan, Mom, Aunt Sue, Cousin Joshua and I went to Noah's Ark, the largest waterpark in America. We had a lot of fun, and everyone laughed at me because I get very scared on any type of amusement/water park type rides. Unfortunately the day ended early due to a thunderstorm, but we still had a fun day getting to play. Monday evening we took my Gran and Grandfather on a river cruise of the Mississippi and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. It was relaxing and great to spend the time with everyone. Of course we headed for ice cream afterward, and then back to Aunt Sue and Uncle Earl's house for more games.

Tuesday morning we had brunch with the family before making our way back to Memphis. A nice end to a long weekend of fun!

I have a bit of the first-day-back-from-vacation blues, but I am trying to be happy : ) I will try to post some pictures from the weekend later on tonight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Social beings

I know that we humans are social beings, and I even believe that God specifically made us that way (the whole "it is not good for man to be alone" thing). I was thinking about that this morning as I was attempting my practice run. I didn't run very much. I ran for about 10 minutes and walked for about 30 minutes. I was supposed to run for 25 minutes according to the training program. When I have my running buddy (Becky) with me, I can run for 25 minutes. Why is that? Is it the motivation? Honestly, we are complaining half the time we're running! We do encourage one another, and talk about random things to keep our minds off of the running. But my favorite running times are when we are just next to each other, not talking, just running, just listening to our feet hitting the path beneath us. It's common knowledge that it is easier to exercise (especially if you are new to it) with a partner or group. Why? I just am curious as to what my body does differently when I am by myself as opposed to when I am with Becky.

So as I walked this morning, I also thought of other things that are easier when other people are around. I am so much more productive when someone else is nearby. They don't even need to be doing the same thing I am doing. For instance, on Tuesday evening, Jonathan was home and in the office grading papers. I did three loads of laundry, washed the dishes, sanitized the kitchen, and cleaned the bathrooms all while he was sitting there. Had he been out with a friend or out of town for something, I would have sat on the couch watching mindless TV all evening. I know this because we have been married for three years and I have seen the pattern. Why is that? Is it because he is being productive too? Nope, I act the same way even if he is just playing video games. Just having someone else at home seems to motivate me, and I don't understand why.

If anyone has any thoughts on this (especially if you were a psych major in college) I would love your input! Does this happen to anyone else? Is there a way to cure this? Jonathan is going to be out of town for a week in August, and I cannot afford to be nonproductive for an entire week!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Memphis needs a train!

Or a subway...or more buses...or something! The Hulgan household already operates on one vehicle and MATA. Jonathan takes the bus at least once a day, twice a day if I can't drop him off at school. I take the bus to work about once a week - usually less because Jonathan lets me have the car.

The Jeep is being difficult, and we actually looked into going completely car-less at one point. But we can't. Because MATA doesn't function before 10am on Sundays. And we need to get to church! Honestly, if MATA had an earlier schedule on Sundays, I'd totally chuck the Jeep and completely rely on public transportation : )

Also, I am never cosigning on a car with someone who lives in a different state. I am very grateful for my dad cosigning on my car loan with me four years ago, but now that the car is paid off and I'm trying to get a title...having the first signer 500 miles away is causing a bit of a red tape nightmare! Thankfully, my dad just happens to be driving to Memphis on Thursday, so he'll get to hop out of his car and join me downtown at the county clerk's office to get the car title and immediately sign it over to me : )

Seriously, cars are quite a lot to deal with! I am slightly jealous of my sister, who at 30 has never owned a car because she has lived in cities with such great public transportation, you should be ashamed if you own a car. Until Memphis becomes one of those cities, I suppose we'll make through with our little Jeep.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ear Infections and Lightning

Two interesting things have happened to me in the past 24 hours. First, about midday on Friday, my voice almost completely went out and I started burning up. The office first aid kit's thermometer measured my temp at 100. I'm a 97 degree kind of girl, very rarely do I actually register "normal," so I was slightly concerned. Around 3pm I got a headache and was concerned (please don't make fun of me, but I have some mosquito bites...and yes, West Nile did pop into my head), so I got an appointment at my PCP for later in the afternoon. Well, I have an ear infection. I thought only babies and toddlers got ear infections! I seriously did not think adults got these, but now I have one. This is why Jonathan and I skipped out on our Sunday School class's game night. With all the babies and pregnant moms out there, I didn't want to give my germs to anyone.

I did end up getting out to the Friends for Life 5k this morning. I didn't run the whole thing : ( I walked about three stretches that probably totaled 3/4ths of a mile. I finished in 40 minutes...my worst time since I've started training. Uggh... But, interesting thing that happened is this. Around the 2.5 mile mark, it started raining. For a few minutes it was wonderful and felt great! Then the lightning came!! When I reached the 3 mile marker, I saw a huge bolt of lightning and immediately heard the crash of thunder. I mean immediate! Like, the lightning hit quite close. Eek! I sprinted harder than I ever have that last tenth of a mile and ran into the building. So even though I didn't run a very good race, I think I came as close as I ever have to a lightning stike!

Becky's parents both won 2nd place in their age divisions : ) Yay Jane and Tom!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The clothes make the (umm) woman

Last weekend, Jonathan was a sweetheart and we headed out to Saddle Creek to check out the Summer sales. We are going to a family wedding the first weekend in August, and I wanted to get a summery dress to wear, since all of my dresses seem to be black (yuck for a wedding). Well, I couldn't find a dress. Either they were too casual or two expensive, or not in my size. I did come across a lovely gem: a stone, summer-weight suit at Banana Republic for 60% off. I virtually got a Banana Republic suit at a Target price - my kind of suit! Of course, Jonathan looked at me as I showed it off in the dressing room and said,

"It looks great...but don't you have a suit like that already?"

"Oh no," I said, "I have a camel, winter-weight suit. This is a stone, summer-weight suit."

Thankfully, he didn't put up too much of a fuss, and I bought it. I rarely buy clothes, but when I find something like this, I cannot pass it up. I also told him that I can wear it to the wedding. And I didn't need to buy new shoes.

Since I didn't want the first time I wear the suit to be at the wedding in Wisconsin, I gave it a trial run at work today. I had a training this morning, so I needed to dress up anyway. My staff kept asking me if something was going on, because I looked so professional. Nope, I just thought I might try something other than the black pants/shirt-that-is-made-out-of-tshirt-material-but-isn't-a-tshirt combo that I wear almost every day. : ) It's comfortable and it has made the cut for the wedding. I also feel more like a professional when I have on a suit. Sometimes I think I'm still a teenager just playing at having a job.

Well, I just wrote a blog about clothes. I promise I'm really not shallow!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Adoption Success Story

If you live in the Memphis area, I encourage you to watch the local news Wednesday and Thursday to see a Youth Villages segment about a successful adoption. It will be aired on channel 24 at 6pm on 7/16, on channel 30 at 9pm on 7/16, and on channel 24 at 11am on 7/17. I normally don't advocate watching the local news : ) but this time is an exception!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Argentina

Here is my week late update on our trip to Argentina. First, some explanation of why we went:

Our church, 2nd Presbyterian Church in Memphis, has a long standing partnership with the Presbyterian church in Argentina, specifically La Mision. La Mision is located in the Barrio Flores of Buenos Aires, the largest city in Argentina. Barrio Flores is a mixture of poor and middle class homes, and it has the reputation of being the place in BA to get drugs. When we asked Marcelo, the pastor, why he decided to plant his church in this neighborhood, he stated that everyone told him that a church would not grow there and his ministry would not survive. For anyone who knows Marcelo Robles, that was his invitation to plant the church. God is doing amazing work through La Mision. We met so many people who had amazing life changes (mainly spiritual, but also physical) after visiting this church. I was humbled that every story started with, "and then my friend, _____, invited me to La Mision..." When was the last time I invited a friend to church?

A large ministry of La Mision is reaching out to the poor in BA. There are three barrios they specifically target: Las Palomas, Parque Rojas, and one I don't remember the name! I probably also butchered those spellings. Don't judge me...I don't know Spanish. Everlides is the resident social worker for the church, and she goes out to these barrios everyday to check on the soup kitchens and also to make house calls and see if there are any needs the church can meet for the people. She has a beautiful relationship with the residents of these barrios.

Parque Rojas is where the "under the bridge" community relocated after the fire in early 2007. When we visited last summer, it was a community of clean, white, single story rows. Granted it looked like the equivalent of an American mini-storage business, but it was the government housing BA had provided the community. Since the government knew how much La Mision gave to the community, they gave La Mision and entire block of the new housing space to use as a soup kitchen. This year, two main things had changed: 1) the homes are now built up on with scrap wood, cardboard, etc. to make little porches in front of the buildings, and 2) the soup kitchen is brightly painted! The soup kitchen feeds breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner to approximately 200 people a day, Monday-Friday. La Mision pays for the food 4 days, and the government pays 1 day. The food is prepared and served by members of the community and also La Mision church members. The government is building* a group of 5-story apartments for the community to eventually move into. * It is actually being built by members of the third barrio that I can't remember the name, and it won't be completed for another 3 years. This means that the 'temporary' government housing will be for 4-5 years.

In Las Palomas, the soup kitchen that Crossroads and M101 jointly built last year is doing very well, and feeds 80 children a day. Norma and her family (can't remember her husband's name) live in the house attached to the soup kitchen, and she runs it. They also have cell groups at the soup kitchen throughout the week. Cell groups are the backbone of the church. They are small groups that meet daily throughout the city, and they are the places in which God is worshiped, people get to know one another better, and non-Christians are invited to learn about the church in a loving, non-threatening way.

The other barrio (apologies again...ask someone else from our team - they can probably remember it) is built literally on a garbage dump. It is on a hillside and there is one main path off of which all the houses are built. Let me explain how these houses are made. There are some that are made out of cardboard, particle board, sheet metal, etc. Others are built out of red brick, although I don't remember seeing any rebar sticking out of the tops of the roofs (like I saw when I built walls in Mexico as a teen). The rebar stabilizes the brick. There are no foundations to the homes, and they are unstable. The families are pretty much squatters and get their electricity from tapping into the city's lines. Sewage is not open like it is in the slums I saw in Nairobi, but it is not as well kept as we are used to. I say that to give you an idea of the poverty these folks live in. Despite that, they keep there homes very nicely, are the sweetest people you will ever meet in your life, and the children play outside. In all of the barrios where we worked, I was so happy to see the children playing in the streets, running around, and being kids. In my Memphis neighborhood you rarely see children playing outside. I ran past a Boy Scout troop playing ultimate frisbee on the lawn of a church a while back...that is the extent that kids play outside communally in my neighborhood.

So why did Jonathan and I go for a second time? Last year was a whirlwind and we were kind of in shock most of the time, so we wanted to go back and try to have a more settled experience. Thanks to semi-following a budget and a raise I received this year, we were financially able to go. We want to use our resources and skills to serve, and we also knew that by going we would grow. We can go! Our church teaches us to be missional Christians, and you can do that by praying, giving, and going. If you have the ability to go, then go! I must admit that the week before we left, Jonathan and I were discussing short term missions, and whether it is worth it. Would it be better to give that money to a career missionary than to spend it on a week's trip? Would it be better for only first timers to go on short term trips, and for second timers to just stay at home and encourage others to go? Well, after being down there for a second time, I definitely feel that multiple short term missions trips are worth it! I was surprised at how easy it was to pick up relationships formed last year, and we were told over and over and over again by the members at La Mision that they were encouraged to continue striving in their work for God simply by us making the trip down there.

Alright, now for the actually trip details:

Members of our group: Tim Jewitt, Paige Householder, Joseph and Mandy Inger, Brian and Leslie Poole, McKee and Courtney Humphreys, Jon and Caedmon (age 7) Becker, and of course the Hulgans

Other 2PC folks already in BA: Mary Wilkes Harris, Lizzie Wilson, Frank Jemison, and Georgia Lackey

Our wonderful Argentine friends: Petti, Ceci, Ariel, Eber, Everlides, Mariciela

Friday, 6/27: Fly out from Memphis. Our original flight was canceled, we were put on an earlier flight that was actually delayed so much that it left an hour after our original flight was to leave, we had to change airports in NYC, and then our flight to BA was delayed. Ah, the airline industry : )

Saturday, 6/28: Arrive in BA! We were welcomed at the airport by Bill Martin and Marcelo, which was a lot of fun. We worked around the church most of day doing cleaning and light painting. I went to Las Palomas with Jon, Tim, and Petti to pass out information about the church and advertise that the church would be cleaning up the neighborhood on Monday. In the evening, we headed to the city center to have dinner at a food court with some university students. We got to meet two students who had just recently started their involvement with the church, and Courtney shared her testimony.

Sunday, 6/29: Morning worship at La Mision! A great service, and thankfully Jon preached (translated into Spanish) so we were able to follow the sermon. We were able to meet with some of our friends from last year. Here are Gisella, Millie and Leo:

Sunday afternoon we went to a market with gauchos! I had my first empanada of the trip at the market : ) I like this market because it is mostly Argentines there, and it is not super touristy. Jonathan picked up a cup for mate, and I purchased a woven bag.

Jonathan thought it was funny to take a picture of me looking half asleep. Wait, I was half asleep :)


We went to a very nice buffet restaurant for dinner Sunday night, and we began our week of eating way too much. We also enjoyed our first glass of Malbec of the trip!


Petti and Ceci


McKee and Courtney

Monday, 6/30: We spent the morning cleaning up the main streets in Las Palomas. There are piles and piles and piles of trash, because many folks make their living by reselling items they find in the trash. It was good work, and the neighborhood did look much nicer when we were finished. The time was also an opportunity to show that the church cares about the neighborhood and its residents. In the afternoon, Leslie, Brian and I went to Parque Rojas and helped get dinner ready at the soup kitchen. Leslie and I grated A LOT of carrots, and Brian chopped up an unknown vegetable/fruit thing...we still don't know what it was. Leslie and I both escaped the grating with all of our fingers intact, although she did need suffer a small flesh wound.

Tuesday, 7/1: I can't really remember what I did in the morning...something probably involving painting. Jonathan and the rest of the guys went out to the third barrio and moved a mound of sand. In the afternoon, we went back to the barrio, praised the boys for their expert sand movement, and put on a children's festival.

Frank and Nathan
* The kid was laughing and giggling the entire week,
but of course he would not smile for my picture!
Folks practicing for a skit (that actually was preempted by clowns)
From the left and going in a clockwise circle:
Jonathan, Petti (semi-hidden), Tim, McKee, Mandy, and Brian

Oh yes, getting silly before the festival!

Dancing for the kids!
From the left: Anna, Leslie, Courtney, me, Katelyn (an American student from Georgia), little Caedmon, and Paige

We went out to an amazing pizza place Tuesday night for dinner! We rode the subway into the city, rode the bus back because it was so late. Some vandalism was done to the church Tuesday evening, but it happened while we were all gone, and nothing was significantly damaged. The incident was a reminder, though, that not all of the neighbors like what the church is doing. We were encouraged, though, that La Mision is able to be a bright light for God in the neighborhood despite having enemies.

Wednesday, 7/2: Jonathan and I spent the entire day at Parque Rojas. We spent the morning adding to the painting on the soup kitchen.





Paige, Mary Wilkes, and Petti

And in the afternoon, we put on another children's festival.

Frank becoming a clown




Kids eagerly waiting for us to finish setting up so they could come in!

Thursday, 7/3: We spent the day working around the church: cleaning, painting, etc. Georgia and Joseph led the way by painting beautiful murals in the children's section of the church. I did not get any pictures, but I'm sure you can get some from the other team members. We went to a tango show Thursday evening, and I ate a very large steak!

Friday, 7/4: This was our tourist day. Jonathan and I had breakfast with Claudia, the lady with whom we stayed last year. We had a great time with her catching up and looking at pictures of her daughter's 15th birthday bash. The group headed out to the city center and we got a tour of the main sights. There was a farmers strike going on due to a proposed tax being levied, and we witnessed just a few protesters. Apparently the protests have been much worse at other times during the summer. We stopped at a marketplace near the port and bought a beautiful photo that I need to get framed. The buildings are very colorful, because when the immigrants settled the area, they used left over paint from their ships. The tradition has held.



We had our farewells at La Mision, and a small contingent came with us to the airport.

Ari and Jonathan

And then it was "goodbye BA!" ...or so we thought...

After 5 hours on the plane on the runway, the flight was cancelled and we headed back to the city. We did get to sleep in and enjoy the city one last day.

"The 9th of July" Avenue

The Obelisk
You may be able to make out Jonathan, Brian, Tim and Leslie at the bottom


We finally headed out on July 5th and made it back safely on the 6th.

What a long post! Thanks for getting through it : ) It was a great trip, and I'm so glad we went. Hopefully we'll get to go again!

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone craze


Yes, this is my husband standing in line outside the AT&T store this morning for his iPhone! (Thanks Beth Mills for the heads up!)

He said that he tried very hard to stay out of the lime light. The photographer took about 3 pictures and Jonathan turned his back to the camera each time. Welcome to the paparazzi! He does look like the quintessential iPhone user, though, doesn't he? Scruffy beard, long hair, DS Lite in hand for queue entertainment.... He was just a magnet for having his photo taken and put up on the Commerical Appeal website!

We walked to the store around 6:30 this morning and I got my morning run in on the way home. You would think that all the Memphis crazies would have gotten off the streets by 6:30, but not so. I will not go into details : )

Unfortunately, the iPhone is not working right now, and when he calls AT&T he is directed to Apple, and then Apple directs him to AT&T. This is why I have a Blackberry : )

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Soon, I promise...

I haven't had time to sit down, sort through pictures and thoughts, and get an Argentina post out. Jonathan and I were talking in the car last night on our way home and both noted that we miss Argentina very much. Maybe it is the laid back way of life, being asked whether we wanted to eat every three hours, goofing off with the team during down time, or the 50 degree weather... We miss the camaraderie, the feeling you have when an international, multi-lingual group of people are passionately working on mundane yet extraordinary tasks together. I suppose if I close my eyes, I can smell the exhaust fumes, taste the dulce de leche, and hear the sweet sounds of Spanish praise songs. Next year cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We're back!

A day late, but we're back from BA! I'll write a real blog post when I have some more energy....

Friday, June 27, 2008

I wanted to run this morning before my 10 hour flight, but Jonathan was a bit unsure about running in my shoes and then packing them. So he adjusted one of our fans to be a little 'shoe dryer.'




Sigma was fascinated...


(The red thing is a ribbon we've attached to the fan to entertain the cat.)