Friday, April 7, 2017

Three Cheers for Body Image Awareness

(If you are new to my blog or just popping over after some time away, I'm in the middle of a series I've entitle "The Story of Us" where, in honor of our 10 Year Anniversary, I'm writing about how my husband and I met. This is post #11 so you can catch yourself up by first starting out hereherehereherehereherehereherehere and then here).

I'm not entirely sure what exactly transpired between that first week of March and May 15th. Suffice it to say, it was a lot.

My roommate can attest that I went from making the statement that "I could never date Graham Crozier" to knowing quite literally that he was the one I was going to marry. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I told him that evening after he professed his feelings for me that "we could hang out more," I can honestly say I had no plans of taking the initiative and actually making that happen. Truly, those words were my cop out, my way to let Graham down easy. I was terrible at saying no, particularly when I knew someone's feelings were at stake. This is a fact we know quite well by now.

I liked Graham. He was becoming my dear friend and I was drawn to the spontaneous way with which he approached life. He had an uncanny ability to drop anything and everything at a moment's notice. As a person who was scheduled to the "Nth" degree, I was envious of this flexibility that seemed inconceivable to me. But his easygoing nature came with a few drawbacks. He would fail to remember commitments, lose track of time and show up late to meet me or occasionally not show up at all (ok, that was just one very unforgettable instance). I struggled with taking these actions personally and these behaviors left me skeptical as to whether a relationship between us could function well logistically speaking. We appeared to be nearly exact opposites in most categories.

But man was the guy ever creative!!! His musical serenades in the stairwells and at open mic nights were something to pay money for. He was thoughtful and romantic and, where other guys would shy away out of fear of being ridiculed, Graham would take it to the next level and do something unimaginably sweet for a girl. He asked deep questions and truly cared about your answers. And he was a doer. Where, left to my own devices, I was likely to waste away the rest of my breathing days holed up studying in my room, he got me out and doing crazy things. Graham lived outside the box and jumped at things this rule follower would never even consider. And gosh dang it! His ability to not care what other people thought of him was attractive to me. He drew me out of my shell and made me feel valued. And maybe most obviously was the fact that he was a pursuer. Hard core. And what girl doesn't like to be fought for in the way that Graham fought for me? Sigh.

Graham’s soul-baring conversation in front of Ashton Hall happened to fall just before National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Our college made this week a big focal point, putting together numerous events with the goal of promoting healthy body image and combating eating disorders amongst. One such event that week was the showing of a film that highlighted the subtle yet impactful toll the media has on our body image, perpetually sending us the message that we should somehow look different than we do. As a nutrition student, this week was an important one for me, one I was heavily involved and interested in and I attended every event that my schedule would allow.

On the day of the film, I ran into Graham. He asked me what I was doing that night and I told him about the movie event. He feigned interest and so I invited him to join me. Little did he know he would be one of two men in the sea of women in attendance. But seeing he was outnumbered 150:1 didn’t phase him, at least outwardly. He stayed at my side and took his seat next to me. Where some guys would run in the opposite direction, Graham sticks to his guns and walks in as if he belongs there. This is something I've always admired about him.

The lights dimmed and the MC took to the stage. As much as he was getting used to being overwhelmed by women as a male nursing student, I’m sure Graham still breathed a sigh of relief to no longer be sticking out like a sore thumb under the cover of darkness. The MC introduced the agenda for the evening and then told the crowd that she had a special little surprise to kick off the program. We were told to reach under our seats; one lucky attendee would find a gift taped to the bottom of their chair. Graham and I swatted the air beneath us blindly, feeling around for any signs of the prize. I came up empty handed as the lights flashed back on. I looked over at Graham whose face had taken on a bright shade of red. He appeared sheepish; of course he'd sat in that one “lucky” chair. Leave it to Graham. Stuff like this always happens to him.

It was obvious that he wanted to disappear but the MC would have none of it. She refused to proceed with the next item on the agenda until the winner made themselves known. Graham raised up the envelope awkwardly and everyone turned. If he didn't stand out enough already, now all the hundreds of women were looking at him! Needless to say, the night was memorable.

As embarrassing as the evening had been for him, his prize was well worth it. The envelope contained a stack of 10 coupons, each good for a free beverage of choice at Cafe Ladro, a Seattle area coffee chain. Unbeknownst to me, I would soon be the benefactor of his winnings. Thanks to those ten pieces of paper, our next FIVE dates together were financed. And it was thanks to those coffee-sipping conversations that my feelings toward Graham began to transition from “friend” to “more than a friend.”

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On another note, I've been surprised and downright flattered to learn that y'all are getting such a kick out of Graham and my crazy love story. I so appreciate your sweet comments and those of you who have let me know that you are reading. I figured now would be a good time to set up a feature to make it easier for you to know when I've posted new content.

Drumroll please.....(this is BIG NEWS because technology is not my spiritual gift)....

I'm happy to share that as of today, you can officially subscribe to my blog! If you have been enjoying my posts, I would LOVE it if you would hop back over to the main page by clicking here and enter your email address in the "Subscribe to my posts" box in the far right column. Then I can send links directly to your inbox when new content has been published! (If you are using your mobile device, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "View web version" first to find the subscribe box). Thank y'all so much for reading! You're the best.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When an Introvert Raises an Extrovert

Just popping in real quick to say that I am so thrilled to be over at (Spirit 105.3's mothering blog) today sharing about some of my experiences of being introvert raising an extrovert. I would love it if you checked out the article on their website by clicking on the link here.

Can any of my fellow parents relate? I would love to hear about your own experience. Feel free to leave a comment here on the blog.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wasting no time

(If you are new to my blog or just popping over after some time away, I'm in the middle of a series I've entitle "The Story of Us" where, in honor of our 10 Year Anniversary, I'm writing about how my husband and I met. This is post #10 so you can catch yourself up by first starting out herehereherehereherehereherehere and then here).

February rolled around and I was still dating the Bellingham Boy.

He seemed to be falling for me hard and this fact terrified me. I was experiencing a whole slew of physical ailments and he took great interest in better understanding what I was going through. But for whatever reason his degree of compassion scared me and so I put up a wall to keep a safe distance. This was the beginning of the end for us.

One evening, Graham asked me to join him for dinner at Gwinn Commons, our college's cafeteria. Upon entering Gwinn, many students would survey the room and stake out a table and reserve their spot before getting in line to order food. Typically this room scanning practice took place to ensure one wouldn't be dining alone. Heaven forbid. Most of the tables in Gwinn were long and narrow with seating for 8-10, perfect for group dining. But there were a few tall pub tables near the entrance that only seated two comfortably. If ever your dining partner reserved a place there, you knew they meant business. It was one of these pub tables that Graham snagged that evening as we walked into Gwinn.

He checked in with me about life in general and asked his typical questions. Then he asked how things were going with the Bellingham Boy. I was questioning my dating relationship; my prior comments had made that obvious. I told him I was confused and that I felt myself distancing. And then came the real kicker: I asked for Graham's opinion.

Now anyone with half a brain sees this for what it was: a perfect opportunity to jump in and recommend a game changing move. "What should you do? Oh definitely you should break up with him. It sounds like you're not into him and there's a better guy for you."

But Graham is a man of integrity. He said none of this though he admits he was tempted. Instead, after checking himself and his motives, he provided me unbiased, sincere feedback. He absolutely did not tell me to break up with the Bellingham Boy. In fact, I think he actually gave me advice on how we could make things work. He confessed later that he really felt for the guy. I'd struck some chords that were close to home, paralleling one of his relationship experiences where he fell hard and fast and she got scared and ran.

Nothing anyone said to me would have helped me shake the knot that had formed in my stomach and so, on Valentine's Day of 2004, I broke things off with the Bellingham Boy. Horror. Over the phone. Double horror. It wasn't supposed to happen that way but he forced it out of me. I'd planned to wait until at least the 15th because that somehow made me feel like less evil of a person but I wear my emotions about as subtly as if they were written in Sharpie across my forehead. He knew something was heavy on my mind and I couldn't hide my cold feet. He didn't understand why we were ending. Honestly, I didn't really either at the time. I just knew we weren't right and I couldn't let down my guard.

Graham and I often speculate whether I needed this first relationship to "wear me down," so to speak. Would I have let anyone in, regardless of who it was? Probably not. Lucky for Graham, the Bellingham Boy took one for the team and broke me in and paved the way for my relationship future.

When the news trickled down to Graham that I was single and back on the market, he wasted NO time. Like as it zero minutes. I'll leave it to you to guess who I spent that post-break up Valentine's Day evening with. Yep. The Graham Crozier. And of course his ex-sorta-girlfriend-and-now-my-friend-too Danae. Classic. He offered to take me out, you know, to help me "get my mind off things." Seated on each side of him, we ate our desserts in effort to soothe away our singleness on the holiday of love.

Three weeks later, Graham asked to me join him on an evening walk through the neighborhoods that surrounded our campus. The homes nearby were straight from a fairytale - made of red brick, with adorable archways the frame in the rounded front doors.

Graham had something weighing heavy on his mind. One of his other female friends was having a crisis of faith and he was torn up about it and needed to vent and process. So I joined him and we walked and talked. We made our way up the steep hill, past the dorm known as "Ashton" and then along the edge of the cemetery that was always so much spookier in the moonlight. Panting and out of breath, we reached the crest of the hill where the road leveled off and the neighborhood streets grew flatter and we could speak with greater ease. We didn't have a destination; we were simply wandering.

We made a long loop, meandering through houses, the street lights illuminating our way. Graham told me all about the situation with his friend and, once he'd cleared his mind, the conversation moved onto more general topics. Eventually we found ourselves back on campus, strolling past Ashton Hall. It was here that Graham stopped abruptly and planted himself on the rock wall in front of the basketball court. This was unusual and I was taken aback. It was apparent that he had something more he wanted to say and he motioned for me to take a seat next to him. My stomach dropped and my throat went dry.

Oh gosh, I thought. Suddenly I knew exactly what was happening.

Graham's entire demeanor had shifted. He avoided eye contact and appeared paler than before.

"Well," he started. "There's not really a way to say this other than to just come out and say it: I have feelings for you."

My heart was pounding and my insides felt twisted in knots. The pieces were all coming together.

I thought of all the times I'd wondered briefly could he have a thing for me? But then proceeded to write them off as "just the way he was with all girls." All the instances where it seemed he *might* be pursing me were easily explained away. Deep down I think I did know about his feelings, certainly not at first, but eventually. Yet I couldn't fathom how someone could be drawn toward the side of me that he had come to know - the good, the bad and the ugly. And so I denied all the signs. I had shared with him some of my insecurities, my health issues and he had seen first hand how I could prioritize keeping up my own grades and over caring for people. This always filled me with such shame. Yet somehow he snuck in the back door and got around the edited self that I presented to the rest of the world. I couldn't wrap my mind around how someone could be attracted to the real me so I ignored any evidence that would indicate it were so.

Thoughts were flying through my brain like lightning and suddenly it dawned on me that he was waiting for me to say something. Always quick with my words, I responded with that one assurance every man wants to hear:

"Oh!" I exclaimed.

It came out complete with all the undertones of alarm and surprise that I was feeling.

What else should I say? My mind raced and fear and dread overcame me, witnessing this sweet, sweet boy putting himself out there. I cared about him deeply and had grown to cherish our friendship immensely. First and foremost, I did not want to hurt him. I wanted to let him down easy.

What I said next was just about as poetic as my initial response:

"Sure, I think maybe we can hang out more often."

That wasn't really what he'd asked for. But he was going to take what he could get, even though I'd just handed him the friend card. This rejection was unlike any of the others for me. I didn't actually want him to go away and leave me alone. I wanted to hang out with him more. I liked the guy a lot. It was just that we were so very, very different. I couldn't see how we could possibly work together and I lacked romantic feelings at the time.

Plain and simple, I just wasn't ready yet. I'd come out my relationship only three weeks prior and I was thoroughly confused by all of it. Graham recognized that. But this time he wasn't about to let me get away again without first telling me straight up how he felt. And I'm so very glad he did.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Salad with Grapes and Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese

I interrupt my recent #grahamandkelsiestoryofus series to bring you a salad recipe.

"Say what!?" you ask. I know. Like when does a salad recipe of all things trump a good romance story?

Today, y'all, today.

This has been a week of cooking (and much of it even successful!) and I'm hoping to get a few more recipes coming your way in the weeks to come (in addition to completing my love story, for the two of you who are waiting with bated breath). ;)  I served this salad on Tuesday evening when I hosted the ladies from my Bible study table for dinner. I have since been inundated with requests for the dressing recipe (ok fine so just 3 of the 8 of them asked) BUT STILL. So I decided I would kill two birds with one stone and do the public a favor and get this recipe out into all of your hands. Plus, the title of the salad begins with the word "Spring" and that is the season that tell me it is here the Pacific Northwest so I'm going with it. And just hoping the sunshine follows suit.

You might find this dish to be a timely addition to your Easter table, come to mention it. It's fresh yet it feels fancy and is fairly straight forward to prepare (though much more so if you have a food processer to do the pistachio chopping). It has been a hit every time it's been on the table. You begin with basic mixed greens and you dress them up with red grapes. Then small chunks of goat cheese are shaped into little rounds and then rolled in pistachios, creating a delightful combination of crunchy and creamy on the tongue. The process of making the cheese balls is admittedly a bit cumbersome but I figure my kids are almost to an age where I could set them up assembly-line-style and they could whip them out like nobody's business. ;)

It's really the dressing that makes this salad though. It consists of six basic ingredients that you shake together to combine in a mason jar. A single batch of it will dress two large salads easily and so you can enjoy it on multiple occasions. The dressing calls for two fresh herbs - basil and chives - and if you're looking to test out your green thumb, these are two I would highly recommend adding to your garden. Chives in particular couldn't be easier and plus they look really pretty amidst landscaping and in pots. They come back every year which is essential for our green thumb self esteem. I've had great success with both planting from seeds and beginning with starts. If you go the start route, buy at least three plants to make sure you always have an adequate supply ready to clip when a recipe calls. Harvesting them is easy - just trim off a handful (never the entire bunch) with kitchen sheers, rinse and chop. Clipping your herbs in this way actually stimulates more growth and you'll find new chives growing where you trimmed in no time! Enjoy.

Spring Salad with Grapes and Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese
(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

1/2 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios, finely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese
1/2 cup Easy Herb Vinaigrette (recipe below)
2 (5-ounce) package gourmet salad greens or spring lettuce mix
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place pistachios in a shallow dish. Divide cheese into 24 equal portions, rolling to form 24 balls. Roll each ball in the pistachios until well coated. Set pistachio-crusted cheese balls aside.
Combine Easy Herb Vinaigrette, greens and grapes in a large mixing bowl and toss to coat. Add goat cheese balls and toss again gently. Sprinkle with fresh-ground pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 8

Easy Herb Vinaigrette

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Combine all the ingredients in a pint-sized (2 cup) mason jar and shake to combine. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pears are NOT dessert

(If you are new to my blog or just popping over after some time away, I'm in the middle of a series I've entitle "The Story of Us" where, in honor of our 10 Year Anniversary, I'm writing about how my husband and I met. This is post #9 so you can catch yourself up by first starting out hereherehereherehereherehere and then here).

The next four months passed. The Bellingham Boy and I dappled in long distance, both of us in our first ever official dating relationship. He came to visit me in Seattle on a couple of occasions and we even obliged Jackie's double date wishes and went out to ice cream with her and Brant so they could meet my new boy. For our first solo dinner date, he took me to the Red Robin down on one of the Seattle piers. Graham jokes that it was at this point he knew our relationship wouldn't last. He felt a more unique dining experience was need to woo me (darn that Graham - he knew me better than I even knew myself!)

We were both poor college students so the boy and I awkwardly waded our way through the uncomfortable relationship waters of who would pay for what and when. I went home to Bellingham for Christmas that winter and we spent some time together in person but the vast majority of our relationship took place over the phone. I was 19 years old and had never been kissed and that wasn't about to change. We never made it anywhere close to first base. I'm not sure we even approached the pitcher's mound though we did hold hands a couple of times which felt like pretty big news in my book.

Meanwhile, Graham kicked himself for missing his opportunity, for not putting his feelings out there earlier. But that somehow didn't deter him from spending time with me.

Guys, I'll be completely frank here for a minute, lest you get the wrong impression of me. I am a FIRM believer that once one is in a committed relationship, friendships with members of the opposite sex must change. Personal experience has taught me that men and women can only spend some finite number hours one-on-one together before an attraction for one party or the other begins to form. So, one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex while in a committed relationship was a big no-no in my mind.

Yet somehow, Graham tells me our trip to B and O Espresso on Capital Hill took place while I was dating the Bellingham Boy. I am horrified and insistent I would never have agreed to an outing like that while I had a boyfriend. But, the guy has proven himself to have a memory as sharp as steel when it comes to his pursuit of me so I have to believe he's probably right.

I say all this to further illustrate just how "safe" Graham felt to me. He hates that I use that word to describe him. He longs to be the guy who caught my eye and swept me off my feet from the get-go. But the fact that he was a safe place for me is such an essential piece of our story. And I find it incredibly romantic. I was so comfortable around Graham; he put me at ease. For the first time in my life, I was completely myself around a person. From the very start. I wasn't trying to impress him or put up a front by showing a more put together side of me. My walls were down and he got to know Kelsie Wilson for the real Kelsie Wilson. And that's the girl he was beginning to fall for. I find this beyond romantic. I mean, right!?!

But back to our non-date date to B and O. ;) I console my horrified self by saying I agreed to accompany Graham because he must have asked me casually if I "just wanted to grab some dessert and coffee." I had never been to B and O before so I had no idea that it wasn't your typical bring-your-back-pack-and-study sort of coffee shop. It was a sit-down dining establishment with a full blown dinner menu and dim and moody lighting in the evenings. They also just so happened to serve dessert and espresso and so could be called a "coffee shop."

What sticks out to me most about that evening is how Graham ordered a pear poached in red wine, almost too pretty to eat, it's flesh a deep crimson. I balked at his dessert choice. Fruit? Really? For dessert? If it doesn't have chocolate and come a la mode, I don't consider it dessert. I ordered a real dessert that night - one of the tall slices of cake that had been displayed beautifully at the entrance to the restaurant. We sampled each others' desserts (ok, so the pear was actually kind of good) and made fun of each other for choosing them. We talked about life and Graham asked me how things were going with the Bellingham Boy. Honestly, I think I really appreciated having an unbiased guy (ha!) to help shed male insight into our dating relationship. He always asked me such great questions with incredible intentionality.

The check arrived and things grew momentarily uncomfortable. I don't recall who paid but, if it was Graham who covered the bill, I'm sure I chalked it up to him being gentlemanly. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was interesting and like what I had to say mattered. This Graham guy was a really good friend. I should have seen what was coming.