Saturday, July 25, 2009

You'll Never Know Unless You Try...Right?

I have decided to try to train for a marathon. Let that sentence, and the realization that that is 26.2 miles, settle in for a second and then ask the question that my neighbor Ashley Johnson asked, "Abby, have you ever even run a half marathon?" The answer to that would be "nope." This very kind group of people have agreed to drag me along with their group in my attempt to do the impossible (we are fake running in this picture and look how worn out I still look).

Ashley (my SIL) has been training with this group for over a year and has already run one marathon. She and I have been taking some early morning runs lately and have been having such a good time together that when she asked if I wanted to come to Cape Cod and do a marathon with her in the fall, I just said "yes." I think I have lost my mind.

I am not asking you all to hold me accountable, because I am giving myself an out. This juncture in life, with two small girls and a husband with a demanding schedule may not prove to be conducive for becoming a marathoner (is that a word?). Jeremiah has been supportive about me doing it, and we've both agreed I should just try and see how it goes.
So, I rolled out of bed at 5:30 this Saturday morning and met the group for my first long run--10 miles! I sort of want to shout it and wear a sign :) It was hard for me. I have been running 5 to 6 miles three times a week for a long time and to double it with a group that keeps a faster pace than I am used to was a challenge. Look how intense I look (and apparently I also have a pot belly) in this shot--and you should know that everyone ELSE was smiling and talking the whole time.At the end, we were all feeling pretty happy (and sweaty). I am excited about adding a couple of miles next Saturday...sort of :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Answers

First, I did get spared...somewhat...from the terrible havoc of the stomach flu. I was nauseated off and on all weekend but it never...led to...anything :) If there weren't others (and men) around me who were experiencing the same symptoms, I would have been worried I was pregnant, because it sure felt a lot like morning sickness. Thanks for all of your prayers and well wishes :)

Second, I never did tell you the place I would live if I were to randomly pick and take family out of the equation. VIRGINIA. Is that weird? When I told Jeremiah, he looked at me like I'd just thrown a curve ball from nowhere. It is farther north but still Southern...I am not sure I could live life as anything but a Southerner, no offense to the rest of y'all :) But, while Virginia is still southern, it is far enough north that is has distinct seasons. Oh the thought of a crisp fall with all those changing leaves! Then, there is the fact that they have mountains and beach right there together, and all that history...

I went on a college tour (all of you HA alums, do you read "college tur" and hear Mrs. Merritt's voice like I do :)?) in high school and one of the stops was UVA. I loved that place. Everything about it. The secret societies, the honors dorms on the lawn with their own fireplaces, Thomas Jefferson's rotunda, the mountains in the background, the polo shirts and orange baseball caps,...I know I wouldn't live at UVA, but somehow that college colors my overall impression of Virginia.

Anyway, there is a lot more to where you live than seasons and landscape and colleges--as a lot of you pointed out. But it has been fun to dream big, and I so appreciated all of your advice!

Next, my bedding. IT'S DONE! sort of. I love everything on there, but I am so used to boocoodles of pillows that it looks unfinished to me still. I did some talking with Jeremiah and he has agreed to ONE more decorative pillow and a throw blanket, so I am on the lookout. However, even Jeremiah has thanked me asking for this new bedding. It's so crisp, and clean, and white, and feels like going to bed in a cloud. (This is one of the pillows I have a crush on, but it doesn't match the style of the bed at all...I think I may have to find somewhere else in the house to put it :) All this looking is killing me!)
Last, my camera is still not working (hence the no picture of the bedding). I did some on-line trouble shooting and it seems the next step is to buy a new battery. I tried at Walmart a couple of days ago, but they didn't have what I needed. It's a hard life as a blogger without a camera! I'll try to get the pictures I had on a disk so that I can at least have another post in the meantime.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

To My Mirror, on Our Anniversary

Gordon told us once, part of the reason marriage is so difficult is that we act as mirrors for one another. Reflecting the good and the bad, as no person before has ever done. And that is hard.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately--you as my mirror--and just how right wise 'ol Gordon was. For the past six years we've both done a lot of reflecting. You've shown me parts of myself that I didn't even see. A lot of them have been ugly parts. Parts that made you say, "It is NOT Ok to accept this as who you are. You can change it." The crazy thing is, you love me enough to point those parts out, and then stick around to help me fix them. To be patient when the ugly parts rear their head again, and even teach me to laugh at them.

Thankfully, you reflect good parts of me too. You've made me feel beautiful and protected and valuable and honored--things I could never have imagined accepting about myself, especially from someone like you. You've turned my cheeks bright pink with your unashamed love. Love that was embarrassingly, uncomprehendingly big and didn't need to be apologized for. Thank you. For seeing something in me, that nobody else did, and reflecting it so brightly that even I started to believe you.

I am sorry for all the times I've wanted to shatter the mirror--when it's reflection was too much. Even after all the challenges we've waded through...sometimes holding hands and sometimes both fighting for all we're worth...I still crave every second of you that I can get. I am so proud to be able to call myself your wife.

One night, when Grandfather was so sick, I lay in bed with Grandmother clasping one of her cool, hard hands within my own. I can still see her small face in the darkness, reminiscing about a great love that she was about to say goodbye to on this temporal plane. She looked at me smiling and said, "Tell me dear, in a love so true and young, what do you love most about my Jeremiah?" A million pictures flashed through my mind at once, but only one word seemed able to encompass all of what I wanted to say. "I just respect him so much. And it feels like that grows exponentially the more I know him." Her smile grew knowingly, and she patted my hand with the one I'd left free. "You've said it just right dear. I feel just the same way about Sam. And do you know what else? It won't ever stop growing."

She was right. It hasn't stopped. I respect you so deeply--for who you are in the light, for who you are in the darkness, and for who you are when you're reflecting all the hidden parts of me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Flying the Flag

It has become a neighborhood joke (in my mind at least), that whenever you see THAT hanging from somebody's porch, it's as good as hanging a QUARANTINE sign on the door. Damp bedding hanging to dry in the sunshine can only mean one thing--the stomach virus. Well, this week, we Maddoxs have been flying our Quarantine Flag boldly. It started with Mary Aplin on our drive home from Dothan Monday afternoon. Yep, disassemble the carseat, wash all parts, and spend hours reassembling and crunching your hands into tiny carseat crevices where they don't fit. Then Pace got sick on Tuesday night and I was up ALL night long with that poor baby whose body seemed determined to rid itself of all her internal organs by the way it was retching her around over and over and over. Last night, the evil visitor came for Jeremiah...guess whose the only one left...guess whose stomach has been feeling unstable for a day and a half. Yep, that's right, me. I am praying that the Lord is going to reward me for ALL the nastiness I have had to clean up, by not making me actually go through it myself. That's what I'm praying, but I'll let you know the verdict soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where Would You Live?

My camera is on the blink!!! and I took so many fun pictures of our weekend and can't show you any of them. Instead, you have a picture of some his/hers pillow cases I stitched and I'll throw in a couple of little boy onesies down at the bottom--since that's all I have on file that you haven't seen :). I wanted to write about our Saturday. It was perfection. BUT that will have to wait until I take care of my camera I suppose.

In the meantime, I've been wanting to ask all of you a question. You know we are going to Seattle in a year, for a year. Then....we don't know. We've always said we wanted to go back to Dothan, Alabama--the town we both grew up in. The town where both sets of grandparents live. The town where our roots and friendships run deep, for generations. The town that would allow Jeremiah to practice medicine with his Dad...There are a few of the main reasons we wanted to go back, but lately we've been allowing ourselves to question it.

Gordon said, "No matter where you live, you are going to fall on hard days. Days that make you question where you live and why the heck you live there. I think it's important for you to Make. A. Decision. to go back to Dothan and not just fall into it because it's where you've always assumed you would end up. Choose it, don't let IT choose you. That way, in the future, you diminish the possibility that you resent the reasons (or people) that drew you back there."

That may sound simple to all of you, but I truly never even questioned if we would go back there or not. Not seriously at least. It has been sort of ground shaking to truly open up to the possibility that we can live anywhere we want to. So I am asking, WHERE WOULD YOU GO? A lot of you live in different places across the US (and world), and I'd love to know why you live where you do. Or where you'd live if you had the opportunity to pick up and move? Jeremiah asked me at lunch the other day what state I would live in if I were to pick. To my surprise, I realized that I have a favorite state and even reasons why it is my favorite. I am not going to tell you what it is until I hear what you say, but I'll come back in a couple of days and tell you.

So, where would you live?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spinach Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

I found this recipe on, but I changed several things, so I think it would be easier to just re-type than to try and explain all the things I did differently. But that's the link to the original if you want a nice printable version. I made it for the first time about a month ago, with my friend Berkley. I tend to measure difficulty level by the number of pans I have to wash...there were four, which put this one a little high on my scale. However, if you have a friend in the kitchen to help you with the chopping and stirring (like I did), it helps, and the finished product is SOOOO worth it (even though it looks kinda messy over there).

Ingredients: 1 8 oz. package of oven-ready lasagna noodles, 3 cups heavy cream, 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 1 Tbl olive oil, 1/2 large onion diced, 4 cloves fresh minced garlic, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 yellow bell pepper, 1 Rotisserie chicken shredded, salt and pepper to taste, 2 cans diced Italian tomatoes, 1 cup Ricotta cheese, 1 bag fresh spinach, 3 cups shredded mozzarella, disposable lasagna pan as pictured above (this is not a necessity, but don't think this is gonna fit in one of your regular 9x13's. You gotta have something deeper and it is nice not of have to scrub the pan when it's all over. ONE less notch on the difficulty level)

Ok, so there are a lot of [FATTENING] ingredients, but just think how impressed your husband will be when you tell him you've made lasagna from SCRATCH, and then it is the most delicious thing you've ever put in your mouth. It's worth the fat, and besides I feel like fat doesn't count nearly as much when it's something I made myself :)

1. Preheat oven to 350. If you didn't buy the "oven ready" noodles like I told you to, then boil some water, cook the noodles, and add another difficulty notch to your belt.

2. In a saucepan over low heat, mix together cream, mushroom soup, Parmesan cheese, and butter. Simmer, stirring frequently until well blended. Leave on warm while you do the next step, but don't you scald that cream!

3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion until tender (I HATE crunchy onion), then add garlic and peppers. Cook until lightly browned and then add chicken. Let the chicken pick up some of the flavor (black bits, lets just be honest) from the bottom of the pan. Cook until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drain (but not completely) your two cans of diced tomatoes, and stir them into your cream sauce. This is one of those steps that wasn't in the directions, but I think is crucial. Adding those tomatoes cuts the rich cream sauce in a good way. I am sure it breaks some chef's etiquette--adding tomato to Alfredo sauce--but just trust me.

5. Lightly coat the bottom of your baking dish with enough cream sauce to coat. Layer lasagna noodles, 1/2 ricotta (I am just going to tell you I used my whole tub of ricotta and not the measly cup), 1/2 spinach (I know it looks funny to lay fresh spinach in there but just do it), 1/2 chicken mixture, and top with mozzarella. Top with half the cream sauce and repeat the layers. Finish with other half of cream sauce.

6. Bake 1 hour, or until brown and bubbly. Top with remaining mozzarella and continue baking until cheese is lightly browned.

The real recipe actually calls for one more layer of noodles (just below that second half of cream sauce) on top. I don't do that, but your lasagna may be more likely to slice into pretty pieces if you do. It will also slice better if you let it sit and cool for 20 minutes. HOWEVER, I prefer my lasagna hot and messy over starchy and pretty and room temp.

Serve with salad and watch your children and husband smile:

(Latte--my Aunt Alice--gave Pace this cute little outfit. Dapples got one too, but she was refusing to be part of pictures this particular evening :))

Friday, July 3, 2009

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

While we were in San Francisco, the girls were doing this with...MY DAD'S GIRLFRIEND. ooohhhh Do you like how I dropped that one on you? Yep, it's true. It's been going on for quite a while, and I haven't talked to you about it. So, pull up a chair if you care to hear, because I figure now is as good a time as any to let the cat out of the bag.

First, I'll tell you about Konie--which is her name. Konie Bryant, from right here in Birmingham. Her husband, who was an Orthopaedic surgeon, passed away (from cancer) three years ago. She has four awesome children--two girls and two boys. One of her daughters was my sister Taylor's grand-big sister in KD. Her other daughter, is pledge sisters with my sister Caroline. There are a lot more eery connections-- like her husband was in medical school with John David's (Taylor's husband) dad and they were good friends. My mom's best childhood friend was good friends with Konie and is actually the first person who mentioned her to my goes on. But mainly, there is a good reason why she has such awesome children and so many great friends--she is wonderful. She is pretty on the outside, but even prettier on the inside. You cannot help but smile when you're around her because she is always overflowing with joy. She is laid back, take me as you see me, loves children...I mean, we (as in my sisters and me) could not ask for anymore than she is.

Saying all of that, and as wonderful as she is, this whole process has not been easy and seamless. Mom has only been gone a year and a half, and I have this grating memory that likes to play over and over in my mind of two Augusts ago, Mom being sick, worried she was not going to be healed, and sobbing these words into my ear, "Your Dad is such a good man, and he is mine. I can't imagine him ever being with anybody else. I can't bear it." And me reassuring her, "Mom the reason you can't imagine it is because it's never going to happen. God's going to heal you. Dad won't ever be with anybody else." And here we are, what seems like two very short summers later.

There have been two main hurdles that I've had to stare in the eye and say, "Ok, Abby, it's time to put your big girl panties on and deal with this." The first was the hopeless romantic me who felt that a person found true love once--something as rare and special as that can only happen one time...right? Before we had children that I knew would need their father, I told Jeremiah that I fully expected him to jump off a bridge if anything ever happened to me, and assured him that I would do the same. Surely neither of us could subsist without the other! (I hope you read my wry, and not completely serious smile, between the lines of those sentences.) For a child, I think there is always a little piece of your own happiness tied up in the happiness of your parents. And it hurt to think my Dad must not have loved my Mom like I'd always believed he had. (Why wasn't he jumping off a bridge? Or at least spending the rest of his days missing her?) And it hurt to remember how badly my Mom wanted him to be only hers forever.

How have I compartmentalized that one? First, I think there is a lot of truth in the idea that it is the people with GOOD marriages that remarry the fastest. If you enjoyed being married, then of course you would long for that companionship again. Versus, if you had a difficult marriage, you'd be much more inclined to steer clear of the thing all together. Second, I know that my Dad (and Mrs. Konie) did not choose what God dealt him. If he had his choice, Mom would still be here, but the fact is she isn't. So now, he has to make the best he can of what he's been given. And finally, that grating conversation with Mom that keeps playing in my head??? I just tell it to be quiet, because that was Becky before she was redeemed. I know that Mom now, who is playing tag in the tall grass with Abraham and Sarah, would be mad as heck to see Dad in secluded misery (or jumping off a bridge) because of her.
Second hurdle--The me who loves her Daddy. My Dad and I have always had such an open, true, sweet relationship. We stay up late at night, we sit for hours at a time, we take long walks--and just talk. It's always been like that. I feel like, for whatever reason, even when I was small, we each sought out the other's company. And then, after he started dating Konie, I realized that I wasn't as close to the center of his universe as I used to be, and it hurt pretty bad. There was one trip he made to Birmingham, that particularly brought out these feelings. I was being snappy at Jeremiah and the girls (and had no idea why, truly) when Jeremiah turned to me and said, "Have I done something to you for you to be so aggravated?" I whipped around and said, "NO! It's just that my Dad has been in town for almost three days and he has not so much as stopped by to see me or his grandchildren!" Woah!! I threw my hand over my mouth and started crying. It was strange to just have the truth tumble right out of my mouth when I didn't even know it was in there. But once I realized what the problem was, and once Dad finally did stop by, you can believe I told him how bad he was hurting my feelings.

Well, we both cried, but do you know what he said after I got it all out? "Abby, I am standing here listening to you say some of the exact same things I vented to your mother when Jeremiah came into your life. It was hard to see myself transplanted by another man--even though I knew it was right."

And just like that it came full circle. I not only saw, but felt the big revolving, see-sawing dance that is life. I had moved on...and so are all of my sisters. We have lives and business and distractions and love, that have helped us move through the gaping hole that Mom left. Do I want less for him? Would I rather think of him sitting all alone in that big house by himself--or moving on with his life too? He's ours (mine and my sisters) and nothing will ever change that, but he's too special for us to keep locked up all to ourselves.

So, if we're gonna share him, what better person to share him with than a lady who can say, "Well, we don't have a pool like they want, but we do have this bucket and some pitchers!" :) And look what a blast they had. Thanks Konie...
If this doesn't make you laugh at the end of this post, then I don't know what will. That Dapples :)