Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

**Oops! I was planning on posting our Christmas letter for this year before Christmas for all to read, but I didn't get around to it. 'Tis the season for forgetfulness, I suppose. So before this year wraps up, here is our Christmas letter for 2008**

TALES OF BROWNS, YOUNG AND OLD…

So far the moral of our story is when life becomes predictable, God turns it upside down… but this is just the beginning!

Christmas 2008 Edition

As of December 17 of this year, Jim and I will have been married for two years. It feels like it was just yesterday that we were celebrating our new marriage with you. We have experienced many changes in our life together over the past two years, and we hope to share those with you in this letter.

Jim and I like to say that the moral of our story so far is when life becomes predictable, God turns it upside down! Jim and I experienced this first when he suddenly, and without warning, lost his job last summer. We began a six-and-a-half-month journey into unemployment, exploring career options, and endless questioning. This was a difficult and frustrating time for us in our marriage. Jim’s income had taken care of most of the bills to that point, and with a mortgage and car payment, we didn’t know how we were going to make it on my part-time income. I was fortunate to pick up another position at the hospital and work more hours while starting my final year of full-time nursing school. Needless to say, we were very busy! Adding even more frustration to the mix was that every door Jim approached for employment seemed to close; and worse, slammed. We both felt confused and lacking in direction as to where Jim should go and what he should do.

Despite our frustrations and lack of faith, God was working through it all. He continually provided for us in this time financially, and also through the encouragement from family and friends. Though our monthly income only totaled half our monthly bills, Jim and I were awed and blessed to see those needs met each month. We had many people in our lives praying for us and encouraging us constantly.

In August of 2007, a fellow musician in our church told Jim about an open Minister of Worship position at another local church. Jim visited that church and picked up an application, but felt no real direction as to whether or not to pursue the position. The application sat on our dining room table for almost a month before I encouraged Jim to fill it out. He did, and on the evening of October 31 (yes… Halloween) went for his first interview.

Three months later, in January of 2008, Quinault Baptist Church voted to call Jim as their Minister of Worship and Youth. We are both so blessed to see Jim being right where God wanted him – in ministry.

As for me, I graduated from Washington State University in May 2008 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. I was offered a full-time job in Labor and Delivery at Kadlec Medical Center, where I have been working for the past few years through school. Due to a setback, I was unable to start working full-time right away. At first this was disappointing, but God had other plans for me. Because I was working part-time, I was able to help out leading a group of youth on a mission trip and attend youth camp, which allowed me to participate in Jim’s ministry with him and get to know the youth of our church better.

We were also fortunate to sell our home this past March. We are currently living in an apartment, but will be moving again this February.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tales of Food Processors and Leaky Walls...

In my many years spent gathering wisdom and knowledge (OK, so only 22.5 years!), I have come to decide something: Santa, like God, is more interested in growing you than your personal happiness.

Why do I say this? Two reasons: food processors and leaky walls.

Jim and I came home Monday night from church to notice a puddle on the floor in our dining room. This wasn't terribly odd, as it was nearby where we were taking off our snow-covered boots, but it did seem like an excessive amount of water for a little melted snow and it had soaked through our basket of shoes. So I removed the basket of shoes, put down a towel to dry it up, and went to bed.

Six hours later (when I was leaving for work), the towel was soaked.

Being that I was running later for work and Jim had the day off, I left the towel situation alone. That night I came home from work to find the puddle had grown exponentially and water was running down the wall. And dripping from the window. Not your everyday occurrence, but Jim and I behaved calmly about it and mopped up the mess, laid dry bath towels down along the floor, and placed bowls on the window seal to collect the dripping water. Well, I did behave calmly until I had to take down all my Christmas cards and decorations from a soggy wall!

Twelve hours later, on Christmas Eve morning, we awoke to discover the bath towels sopping wet, the bowls overflowing with water, and the paint running down the wall, along with a sticky brown substance that Jim believes is the insulation from inside the wall.

What does this mean for us? Other than having a soggy wall flooding our apartment that was probably caused by the snow melting off our roof (with plenty more snow to go!), we are guessing we will be moving out quicker than expected as the whole wall will have to be replaced. And we are praying that our microwave does not give out, as it is on the same circuit as the wiring in the soggy wall. And that our apartment does not burn down. And that our wall does not give out. Need I say more?

I really shouldn't give Santa such a bad rap this year. He did bring us many delightful gifts, including a new family of snowmen and a new family of crockpots! However, I did get one gift that I am still scratching my head over: the Food Processor.

(my new food processor!)


Don't get me wrong, I know the food processor is Cuisinart's main contribution to the world of modern cooking, and it is a very delightful machine. I just have no idea how to use it. Or what to use it for. Other than for making delightful baby food, which will not need to be made for years to come. I guess it's time to do some research. Maybe I will be fortunate enough to stumble upon a helpful blog about using the food processor and become as accomplished as I am with my crockpot!

Here's my idea for the Crockpot Lady's New Years Resolution 2009: "365 days of using the food processor". I think it has a nice ring to it.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

League Champions!

Sixteen-plus weeks ago, my fellow-wives and I made a very crucial decision regarding football season: If you can't beat them, join them. So when our husbands formed a fantasy football league, we joined in with our own team to avoid the "Football Widow" phenomenon. Anyone else who is married to a man who loves football knows what I am talking about!

And we didn't just join them, we took it seriously. Before the draft, we studied up on player stats and reviews. We each spent a portion of our weeks analyzing the players on our team to determine the best combination each week. Fortunately, our hard work has paid off: after sixteen long weeks of fantasy football, "The Winning Wives" have won the league championship!

Are the boys sad about this? Of course! They all done got beat by a bunch of girls! Now if we can just get them to pay up our hard-earned money.

Really though, my husband tells me he's proud of me...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"You had me at... 5 hours of conversation!"

You know in the movie "Jerry Maguire", when Renee Zellweger tells Tom Cruise "You had me at hello"? Jim and I were watching that movie the other night, and he leaned over to me at that exact moment and whispered, "You had me at... 5 hours of conversation!".

It's hard for me to believe that exactly two years ago I was getting ready to marry this man. The time has passed by incredibly fast. Jim and I met May 2005, and after repeated encounters, Jim finally invited me out to lunch. After church with his parents. On his mother's 50th birthday. Awkward situation? Yes, but a) I knew his parents and b) I was a poor starving college student who had no shame when it came to free food. After lunch, Jim and I ended up spending five hours talking about everything - who we were, our likes and dislikes, our pasts, and what God was doing in our lives. The latter amazed me - what God was doing in both our lives lined up like two puzzle pieces fitting perfectly together. Jim told me later that he knew that day God had brought me into his life to become his wife. I, being skeptical, took a little longer to grasp the concept.

One year and five days after that fateful day, Jim proposed on bended knee next to the dead roses by the bathroom at edge of the grounds at Maryhill Museum. He swears it wasn't so, but that is exactly how it happened! And six months and seven days after that, we were married.


Two years later, I am more in love with my husband than the day I married him - and better yet, I am more convinced he is the man God had intended just for me.

And Jim, to quote a line from my favorite movie: "To me, you are perfect".

(December 17, 2006)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Confessions of a (Sort-of) Cook...

I have a few confessions to make. A) I have not made a menu in three weeks, and B) I have not cooked in three weeks.

Am I ashamed to admit this? Yes. After Jim and I began our Dave-Ramsey-inspired budget, I began to enjoy putting together weekly menus and making frugal meals that wowed my husband.

And then November came. We spent the first two weeks of the month out of town, and when we came home, I started working full-time. Even with those crazy days, I still was able to keep up with cooking, even though we were not following our menus at all.

The week before Thanksgiving, I began the Great Vomit Marathon of 2008. And my rule of thumb is: Never eat anything you have thrown up. Unfortunately, the GVM began the week I stocked up on groceries and made a whole chicken with the intention of using the leftovers in sandwiches and salads. So once I recovered, I was forced to clean out my refrigerator and throw out everything I had eaten prior to the GVM, which included the majority of the groceries I had bought that week. Somewhere in Africa there are little starving children crying over all that food.

Then December came, bringing with it visiting Grandma Brown's delicious cooking and Jim's busy nights at the church. Any semblance of motivation left to plan and cook was gone. Not only do I not enjoy cooking for myself in an empty apartment, but there was no need with food only a short trip away at the in-laws' house.

Today, however, I have renewed motivation to begin planning and cooking again - a new crock pot! Yes, Jim surprised me today with a new crock pot and fancy travel case (to prevent the Great Halloween Crockpot Disaster of 2008 from happening again!). It is beautiful and shiny... and I can't wait to use it! What should I try first? John McCain's rib recipe? Cranberry-Apple Turkey Breast? Applesauce Chicken? Or should I attempt to resurrect my White Bean Chicken Chili, which for the life of me I can not remember how I made?

My new crock pot also came with a book full of delicious new recipes that I can not wait to try, including a section on desserts. Peach cobbler in the crock pot? Yum!

I think Jim may have given me the shiny new crock pot for purely selfish motives...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"A Christmas Thing"

As many of you know, my very talented and lovable husband is the Worship Minister at Quinault Baptist Church. This is our first Christmas at Quinault, and Jim is hoping to start a new tradition: a Christmas music/drama program. This year he has written, organized, and directed the program himself. The focus of the program is to enjoy a warm family atmosphere while enjoying a fun presentation of the Christmas story and the power of Jesus' Name. And (Bonus!) there will be dessert afterwards.

I invite you to come celebrate Christmas and the true meaning of the season at any of the three (3) performances. They are:

Friday, December 13 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, December 14 at 4:00 PM
Saturday, December 14 at 7:00 PM

There is NO cost for the event - please come and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fun Fact #4

Fun Fact #4: Daja loves Jack-In-The-Box tacos.

Seriously! More than any type of taco in the world (although Taco Truck comes in a close second).

When I started writing Fun Facts, I meant to put one a week on my blog for a fun little treat. And then I got sick (for half the month!) and started working full-time. End result? I stopped posting Fun Facts.

So here I am, fresh from balancing five 12-hour shifts and the Great Vomit Marathon of 2008, trying to make up for the past few weeks of nothing. Unfortunately, I just got home from 13+ hours of work, I'm alone because my husband is swamped with meetings, and I'm exhausted thinking of everything I need to do the next two days. So my spectacular Fun Fact this week happens to be what I am eating as I write this.

Jack-In-The-Box tacos are a rare treat these days. With our new budget and my new-found love of cooking, eating out has become the exception. But after two marathon days of projectile vomiting every hour, and three days of recovering, mixed in with five days of work... I haven't been in the mood to cook. Or shop. Our refrigerator is empty save ingredients for tomorrow and a package of uncooked bacon. And since I came home to an empty house with no one to provide dinner for, I gave into the magical power of the Jack-In-The-Box taco.

Jack-In-The-Box tacos are particularly special to me because I was introduced to them by my husband. The first summer we were together, we spent most nights running to Jack-In-The-Box for tacos and curly fries. Come to think of it, that strict diet probably explains most of Jim's digestive problems today. But still, when I bite into a crisp, delicious taco, I remember those summer nights getting to know the man God intended to be my husband.

The moral of the story? I love Jack-In-The-Box tacos. And at two for a buck, they are a great value, so I feel like Dave Ramsey wouldn't be too disappointed in me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventures in Florida... and at the Northwest Baptist Convention

**Due to the fact that my computer is on the fritz, I have been unable to load the pictures I took to accompany this entry. However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will just be thankful that my computer allowed me to post this update at all and not worry about the pictures. Sorry. I'll try to get them on sometime!**

It's been pretty quiet on my blog for the past few weeks, and it's not for lack of anything to say. Jim and I spent a week in Florida, flew home, and left out a day later for the Northwest Baptist Convention. What a busy time! Here's a summary of our travels:


Part 1: Jim and Daja's "Adventures in Florida"


Day 1 - We made the awful mistake of flying red-eye to Florida. I say "awful mistake" because we left out of Washington state at 7:00 Sunday night, and pulled in to Orlando at 12:00 Monday afternoon. Let's just say, we were a wee bit tired. Fortunately, we were able to check into our hotel and spent most of Monday sleeping.


Day 2 - Our summer clothes on, we took off to Epcot at Disneyworld. Unfortunately, the weather was overcast and cooler the whole day. It made for perfect weather for Jim while I spent the whole day shivering. Some of the highlights of Epcot: Test Track, a ride/exhibit put on by General Motors that simulates your experience in a car testing facility; the "Figment of your imagination" ride, starring Jim's new favorite Disney character Figment (a little purple dinosaur); and the spectacular fireworks show ending the night at the World Showcase.


Day 3 - Having not worn proper foot attire the day before, Jim somehow hurt his foot and is walking with a considerable limp. So we decide to postpone Disneyworld in favor of a relaxing day in. We head off to an outlet mall that was disappointing, and then playing miniature golf at a spectacular course called "Pirate's Cove". Bahama Breeze was our lunch choice, and we were delighted to experience this restaurant's Caribbean cuisine. That night, Jim and I went to "Pirate's Dinner Adventure", an interactive dinner show. It was a great time, including watching Jim get pulled up for audience participation and doing the Can Can with some other men! If only I had been quick enough with the camera...


Day 4 - We returned to Disneyworld to experience the Magic Kingdom, which really is magical. Highlights from this day include: Daja getting sick right before she was to get on Space Mountain and not being able to ride; the Runaway Train ride; the Buzz Lightyear ride in which you have guns to shoot targets on the wall (Daja 37,000 pts, Jim 433,000 pts); and Mickey's Philarmagic, a 3-D show featuring favorite scenes from Disney movies. We ended the day at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney, and then drove to Tampa for the next leg of our trip.


Day 5 - The original reason we went to Florida was to attend a worship conference in Bradenton (a town south of Tampa). The conference, put on by Integrity Music, featured some amazing Christian artists and worship bands. Jim and I worshipped with some of today's most influential worship bands and took classes from artists like Paul Baloche. It was a fantastic time of refreshment and renewal for Jim, and we both learned quite a bit about how to better lead worship.


Day 6 - The conference wrapped up in the afternoon, and we headed back to Tampa to catch our flight back home! Unfortunately, Daja woke up with a sore throat and ended up awfully sick by the time we made it home.


Part 2: Jim and Daja's "Adventures at the Northwest Baptist Convention"


Day 1 - We spent the first half our day driving to Portland, OR with Pastor Keith. I slept for most the trip, while Jim and Keith attempted to out-do each other with the worst joke possible. That afternoon and evening was a time of corporate worship and speakers to kick off the convention. Jim enjoyed himself while Daja ended up in the hotel room that night sick.


Day 2 - More corporate worship and speakers. We enjoyed very much a gospel acapella group called Common Bond 5. Keith took us to the Golden Gate Theological Seminary luncheon, which is his Alma mater and Jim's future Alma mater. Afterwards, Jim and I attended breakout sessions targeted at helping youth leaders, but mainly dealing with the questions raised about the proposed new restructuring of the convention. I am not the best to explain this, but the main item of business at this convention was restructuring the convention to better help Southern Baptist churches reach beyond their walls and reach others for Christ. This was proposed by the new executive director, and was apparently very controversial among the convention itself. But more on that later. After our breakout sessions, Jim and I attended a time of more (you guessed it) corporate worship and speakers.


Day 3 - Today was the "big day" at the convention... the day of the business meeting in which the convention would vote on the new restructuring. Before the meeting, I attended a luncheon for Minister's Wives where I defended my case that I am indeed old enough to be both a wife and a nurse. I'm not sure how convinced the other ladies at my table were! After a delightful time of corporate worship and speakers, all calling for the church to be reaching the lost, the business meeting started. For the next three hours, we listened to men and women state their opinions and objections to the new restructuring. Finally, a vote was called and the motion passed. We packed up our car and headed home, stopping off for dinner at Burgerville where Keith found a delightful new sermon illustration on a Burgerville cup.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I passed.

For those of you who know what that means... I passed. Yes folks, it's finally happened.

Does this make up for the broken crock pot? Almost.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More proof the crockpot rocks...

Question: Can you make an entire meal in a crock pot?

Answer: Absolutely!

Check this link out. The Crockpot Lady, as we affectionately call her, has successfully made an entire meal of rib-eye steak, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob in her crock pot. I can't wait to try this!

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/08/crockpot-layered-dinner-steak-potatoes.html

Question: Does this change how I feel about my crock pot?

Answer: Is it possible to hold any more love in your heart for an inanimate object? Then yes.

Tales of unemployment...

As many of you know, Jim and I went through a very difficult season in our lives and our marriage last year when Jim was unemployed for seven months. At the time I was going to nursing school full time and working two jobs at the hospital. Our monthly income added up to be exactly half of our monthly bills. To take on more hours at the hospital, I sacrificed any free time I had, including Sundays.

I wish I could say that I handled this time well, but the truth is I struggled. A lot. In my relationship with God, in my relationship with my husband, in other relationships. Although I knew God was in control, and was at work especially during this difficult time, my faith was very weak.

Jim and I have two very dear friends facing this exact season in their lives and marriage today. While I do not wish that kind of hardship on anyone, I feel as though I should share what God taught me during that time and how God blessed us in the end.

1. God always provides. This lesson was learned very practically as Jim and I counted up our monthly expenses and our monthly income, and saw a large discrepancy between the two numbers. Yet, even as our income was only half our expenses, each month every bill was paid and every need was met. We experienced the seemingly impossible - two bags of groceries left on our front step, a check in the mail, cash slipped into our wallets... yet, "with God all things are possible".

2. God has a plan. The question Jim and I most often asked during this season was "Why?". And we soon found out... seven months later. God had a specific plan for Jim involving full-time ministry, and He used unemployment to grab Jim's heart and place him in exactly the right place. Before this season, Jim struggled in his job, feeling unfulfilled and as though something was missing. Now Jim is at peace, knowing he is exactly where God wants him. That kind of peace is perhaps the greatest blessing we have experienced.

3. God is in control. This lesson may seem redundant after the last two lessons, but for Jim and I, it was very much something that we specifically learned. In the midst of the financial hardships and the why's, Jim and I struggled with knowing God was in control. Often during this season He felt so far away. Jim and I both felt that our prayers were hitting the ceiling and falling back down, and for the majority of those seven months, we did not see God's hand clearly. Don't get me wrong, Jim and I both knew that God was ultimately in control, but its one thing to know it in your head and know it in your heart. It wasn't until after this season was over that Jim and I were able to truly say in our hearts "God is in control".

There were many other lessons learned during this time that I won't go into. I think to sum up everything Jim and I experienced would be accomplished by a passage from Malachi. If you are not familiar with the last books of the Old Testament, I highly encourage you to read them. Malachi is my favorite book of the Bible, mostly because God puts His thoughts into terms simple enough for me to understand!

Malachi 3:6-12 (ESV)
"For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, 'How shall we return?' Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

As my pastor shared last week, this passage is often used in the context of tithing in the church. For me, it so adequately describes what God was trying to say to us through those seven months. God tells us, "Return to Me and I will return to you" and then He tells us we have robbed Him. How? We robbed God, so to speak, of ourselves and the blessings that He has for us. How do we fix this? By bringing our full selves to Him, leaving nothing out. And then, He promises us that if we put Him to the test, He will open the windows of heaven for us and pour down a blessing until there is no need. No emptiness, no confusion, no lack of gain. When Jim and I were able to fully surrender ourselves to God, the windows of heaven were opened for us. Not just in a practical sense dealing with our physical needs, but in all ways. God provided for every need - spiritual, emotional, mental.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homemade Chili

Tonight's Dinner: Homemade Chili with Cornbread Muffins.

Being the rebel I am, I hate using traditional recipes, so many of my dishes are "dump and cook" based on whatever ingredients I have on hand. This can result in a very good meal. It can also result in tragic meals. However, I tend to have quite a bit of success with this method. The main problem with cooking like this is that when I have a success, I often can not replicate the dish later. My own sad example of this - two weeks ago I made a delicious white chicken chili. Jim raved for days. And for the life of me, I can't remember how I made it! To solve this problem, I will start blogging my "successful" recipes to share - and reuse at a later date!

I love homemade chili. Growing up, Mom would make big vats of chili and stews in the winter, and we would eat on them for days at a time. Jim used to love chili... until his evil gallbladder started acting up. So when I sat out to try my hand at homemade chili today, I tried to make it as mild as possible. I think this chili would work out well for very picky eaters. And guess what - it can be made in your crock pot!

Daja's Homemade Chili
- 3 cans of beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can Great Northern Beans, 2 cans Chili Beans)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 12oz can tomato paste
- 1 12oz can tomato sauce
- 2 cups broth (I used 1 cup leftover beef broth, 2/3 cup leftover chicken broth, and 1/3 cup apple juice because I ran out of broth)
- 1 T Italian seasoning
- 1 med onion (I used 1 tsp onion powder instead... Jim's gallbladder can not tolerate onions either)

Step 1 - Brown ground beef in skillet over med-hi heat. I used 1 T flavored olive oil to brown the meat. Drain meat and place in crock pot.
Step 2 - Add all other ingredients. Stir if you are feeling particularly culinary.
Step 3 - Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. Stir occasionally.

If you wish, spice it up by adding sliced jalapenos, chili powder, or my personal favorite - red pepper flakes.

Serve with warm buttered cornbread muffins. Yum!

Fun Fact #3

Fun Fact #3: I do not know my left from my right. Or vice versa.

Yes folks, I may be the only nurse in the world who doesn't know her left from her right. I like to think that's not a make-it-or-break-it deal.

My husband discovered this for the first time last night. We've been married now for almost two years and dated for a year and a half before that - but he just realized this about me last night. Which goes to show either a) I am really good at hiding this or b) he really isn't observant.

The conversation went like this:

Daja: "Where is the wireless router?"
Jim: "It's on the right side of the TV."
*Pause*
Jim: "No, your other right."
*Pause*
Jim: "Your other right, Daja. The other side of the TV."

4 hours and 39 minutes later...

Jim: "Do you really not know your left from your right?"
Daja: "How did you figure that out?"
Jim: "Well, earlier you didn't know how to find the right side of the TV."
Daja: "And you just figured this out now?"

Monday, October 27, 2008

And a wee bit about frugal eating...

There is much celebration going on in my house right now. Why? Because I found an awesome new blog: $5 Dollar Dinners.

Many of you know that since we have become Dave Ramsey-converts, Jim and I have completely cut fast food and restaurants out of our lives. We live by a very strict weekly grocery budget now and have to find ways to make that money stretch. Beyond the money, now that we are no longer eating out, planning and preparation of all our meals has fallen on my shoulders.

I am by no means a good cook, but I like to think practice makes perfect. And that's what I do now, 7 days a week - practice. Along the way I've picked up some great skills and even better tools (like my crock pot!), and I find that I really enjoy cooking.

I have also put my impeccable planning skills to good use in the area of meals. Each week, I organize daily meals based on the foods I have on hand and plan a shopping list accordingly. I have been able to cut our weekly food budget down to $30-$40 per week, including all other groceries. Not only does this save us money, but the extra money allows us to do things we otherwise wouldn't have been able to. For example, we were able to attend the Liberty Christian School Fundraising Banquet with the extra money in our food budget. We were also able to participate in our church's annual Blessing Baskets by providing items for thanksgiving meals to families in need.

I have to admit, eating inexpensively is not always easy. I have found a few good inexpensive menu ideas, but eating the same meals over and over again gets boring. That is why I was so excited today to find $5 Dollar Dinner! There is a plethora of meal ideas on this blog that serve a small family on $5 or less. Check it out - you'll love it!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just a wee bit about personality types...

Jim and I attended the Liberty Christian School Fundraising Banquet tonight. As Jim is an alumni of the school, and I am related to him by marriage, and we have friends who teach at the school and friends who have their children enrolled, we receive all sorts of little loves notes from Liberty encouraging us to participate in their endeavour. Which we are happy to, given Jim's experience with the school and the core values the school operates on.

Typically at a fundraising banquet, you pay a large sum of money to sit in a chair, enjoy a catered meal, and listen to people beg you to get your checkbook out. I must say, while I enjoy getting to eat a meal I didn't have to prepare myself (especially these days; thanks Dave Ramsey!), typically the idea of going to a fundraising banquet isn't ranked very high on the fun scale. There are ways I could spend my time having more fun that doing the above-described events, if you catch my drift. But Jim and I are very happy to support LCS, and having scrimped and saved in our food budget money to afford the tickets, we were looking forward to the event. Even if it was just for the food.

I must say, we were very pleased with how the night turned out. The food was a delicious turkey dinner that left me ashamed at how much food I could consume in one sitting (okay, I did starve myself in preparation for this event!) and the speaker gave a very stimulating discussion on personality types. His premise for this talk was, "How can we love each other as Christ has called us to love each other if we don't understand each other?" Good point.

There were four distinct personality types he outlined tonight: the Saint Bernard's, the Golden Retrievers, the Rottweilers, and the Puppies. Saint Bernard's are the "boy scouts" of our society, Golden Retrievers are the "buddies" of our society, Rottweilers are exactly what you think they should be, and the Puppies just want to have a good time. Jim and I discovered tonight that we are both a mix of the exact opposite personality types. He is a Golden Retriever/Puppy, which means he is fun-loving, a people person, gets along with everyone, impulsive, and not as concerned with the results as having a good time getting there. I, on the other hand, am a Rottweiler with a smidgen of Saint Bernard. I am ambitious, determined, critical, stubborn, autonomous, and a terrible perfectionist. I know those of you who know me personally are finding this hard to believe, but there you go.

As the speaker was describing these different personality types and the traits they portray, I mulled over how Jim and I could be complete opposites in our personality types and have a functional marriage. I am stubbornly independent and need my personal space. Jim is very dependent and needs constant emotional connection. I am driven and obsessed with accomplishment to the point that I do not feel validation if I have not accomplished. Jim is easy-going and rarely knows where he's going, except to know that its going to be a good ride. I am precisely planned and organized in every aspect of my life, and Jim is impulsive and led wherever the moment takes him. Jim is warm and loving, I am harsh and critical.

And yet, it works. How? I do not know. All I do know is that every day, I am assured more and more that our marriage is the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who puts all things together. I am even more assured that left to our own devices, our marriage would be in shambles. Or non-existant.

Am I thankful for my husband? Oh yes. Do I struggle with how I interact with him? Often. When Jim wants to spend the day doing nothing important, relaxing and having a good time, and my precisely planned to-do list suffers, I struggle. When the way Jim lives his life doesn't match up to my critical standards, I struggle. When I desperately want to be alone and Jim is craving connectedness, I struggle. Sometimes I allow the Holy Spirit to work inside of me in those circumstances. More often, my sinful nature wins out and I wind up saying or doing something I regret.

Then I thought about how God placed us, with our differences, together in such a way that we complete each other and create oneness. Jim needs my attention to detail and planning and organizational skills as much as I need his ability to relax, unwind, and enjoy life. Even now, as I write this, Jim is trying to share a story with me while I struggle with my inward desire to quit listening to him and finish my blog.

The moral of this story? Thank God He is in control and He knows what He is doing. Because I sure don't have a clue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fun Fact #2

Fun Fact #2: I have an irrational fear of talking on the phone.

I admit, it's stupid. But I would MUCH rather get in my car and drive out of my way to talk to someone in person than call them. With the invention of the text message, my fear of talking on the phone has soared to ridiculous new heights.

My coworkers think this is hilarious. Anytime calls need to be made to patients, or to our own fellow nurses, I volunteer to do any other task rather than make the calls. Even though making the calls would allow me to sit for a lengthy period of time, something that I am denied often in my line of work. Thinking about talking on the phone (regardless of whether or not I know the person on the other end) produces more anxiety in my little heart than resuscitating a dying baby. Or being covered in amniotic fluid. Or being simultaneously pooped, peed, and spit up on by a terribly unhappy baby. All of which have occurred to me thus far in my career and I would rather do anytime than talk on the phone.

I also refuse to answer the phone. Many of you reading this blog know this. Caller ID has not improved my success rate in answering the phone either. I don't care if you are my mother, my work, or "Unknown Number"... I still don't want to talk on the phone. My coworkers have learned this about me, and now leave messages on my phone like, "Daja-I-know-you-won't-answer-the-phone-because-of-your-personal-issues-but-can-you-please-come-in-to-work-if-you-can-just-come-in-I-won't-bother-calling-back-because-I-know-you-won't-answer-by-the-way-your-fear-of-talking-on-the-phone-is-ridiculous-hope-we-see-you-soon!"

So I will issue this blanket apology, hoping that if you have ever not received a phone call from me and thought I was just ignoring you, you will forgive me. And next time, just text me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fun Fact #1

Fun Fact #1: I can not live without my crock pot.

If I were to choose one item, and one item only, to have with me on a deserted island, it would be my crock pot. I am convinced the crock pot has magical powers. What else can take random raw ingredients thrown together is no particular order, be left alone for 6 hours, and produce a delicious meal?

I recently found a fun blog: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com. The author of this blog has chosen to make a new recipe daily in her crock pot for 365 days. She posts the recipe along with pictures and the verdict each day. If you need good crock pot recipes, check this blog out!

If all else fails, do what I do:

-Step 1: Gather all leftover ingredients found in refrigerator.
-Step 2: Dump in crock pot.
-Step 3: Turn crock pot on.
-Step 4: Leave.

*The figurative "I" in this post refers to Daja, not Jim. Jim could live a perfectly happy life without the crock pot. Daja, however, can not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tales of MORE babies...

Can I just say it?

Everyone I know is having a baby. Or two babies, for some of you!

I'm pretty sure it's an epidemic. All I can say is... I'm not drinking the water!

On that note, it is such a joy to share in these young lives. There are several babies in this world that I call myself "Auntie Daja" around, hoping maybe one day it will catch on! I delight in every miracle of life around me, knowing for each one that God willed their life to be in His perfect timing.

I was so incredibly blessed to be an integral part in bringing my friend Jordan's miracle babies into the world exactly one week ago. What an amazing privilege it is that my job is welcoming new life into this world! And what more blessing it is to do that for those I hold most dear! Jordan, you allowed me to share in your incredible journey to motherhood and I can not express how thrilled I was to be there for that all-important beginning. I look forward to being part of your babies' lives and your new life as a mother.

And I will never let your daughter forget that she pooped on me the first time we met. Of course, I wouldn't be happy either with the person who pulled me out of my comfy water bed!

Need a Good Politically-Based Laugh?

If watching the Saturday Night Live parodies of the recent political debates hasn't done it for you, just watch this. I'm thinking this kind of logic has a future in risk management planning. Perhaps in my line of work?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7hA0I-l8so

Enjoy! I'm still trying to figure out if this is a joke or not.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tales of My New Grocery Budget...

As many of you know, Jim and I are now faithful followers of Dave Ramsey and have completely revolutionized the way we make, save, give and spend money. We dedicate time to writing out a complete monthly budget and have adopted the envelope system for saving and spending money. We have successfully worked this system for two months, and in that time we have paid off a credit card and saved money for upcoming car repairs, Christmas, and a vacation.

Another benefit of managing our money better is that it allows me to channel my obsessive-compulsive organizing skills into a new hobby - meal planning! Every week I sit down and write out a menu for the entire week based on our nightly activities and plans. I examine the contents of my refrigerator and pantry each week to determine what items I have on hand and what items need to be used up before they go bad. I then make out my shopping list, organizing it by where I can find the best deals and the aisles in the store.

Okay yes, I am a complete nerd, but through spending thirty minutes a week doing this, I have made my grocery shopping more efficient, enjoy healthy home-cooked meals everyday, and cut my grocery budget in half. I never wonder anymore what to make for dinner, and we no longer make expensive food decisions on impulse (such as eating out or last minute trips to the grocery store). By incorporating what I have on hand into my weekly menus, I was able to squeeze extra money out of our food budget to pay for a fundraising banquet last month that otherwise Jim and I would never have been able to afford.

If taking control of your budget and the food you eat sounds like a good idea, but way too much work, I found this great website that sells weekly meal plans online. For $5 a month, www.e-mealz.com will provide you with a weekly meal plan including seven complete meals and a shopping list of items needed each week. E-mealz.com offers meal plans for two people or a whole family that are tailored for shopping at a particular store or a specific dietary need. For example, meal plans tailored to Wal-Mart will give you a shopping list of items to purchase at Wal-Mart with actual prices. They have meals plans that are low-fat, low-sodium, and even meal plans based on the Weight Watchers points system. My particular favorite: the coupon meal plan, which offers meals based on what coupons are available that week. The best part is that the meal plans for two average $35 per week, and the family-sized meal plans average $75 per week. What a great way to save money, eat healthier, and bring your family together for dinner each night!

One of the best gifts I received for my wedding was 12 meals from Entrees Made Easy. Being a full-time nursing student and working 12-hour shifts on the weekend meant that I had no time to shop or cook. It was so nice to be able to pull a meal out of the freezer before going to bed, knowing the next night Jim and I would be able to enjoy a delicious meal. Unfortunately, expensive Entrees Made Easy did not fit into our tight budget, and when our meals were gone, we once again resorted to fast food and ineffective grocery shopping. I wish I had known about E-mealz.com during nursing school. It would have saved Jim and I money, time and many poor food decisions during that stressful time in my life.

The moral of this story is taking control of our menu, like our money, has paid off immensely for Jim and I, and we highly encourage others to do the same.

Dave Ramsey would be so proud!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I REALLY Love My Basket!


Apparently this picture is supposed to be blackmail... I say, what's wrong with my basket? My purse isn't big enough to fit a whole Kleenex box in!
On a sidenote: thanks to Heather, for giving me this basket, and thanks to Suzanne for taking the picture and forwarding it to Jim with a request to put it on the screen during church!

And Speaking of Money...

Maybe it's the new leaf Dave Ramsey has helped me to turn over in my life, or maybe it's just plain common sense, but I've been studying into our current economic woes now for the past few weeks and I came across this article today from Forbes.com. Even for this financially-inept nurse, it put the proposed solution into a new perspective.

7 better uses for $700 billion

If the bailout sounds like a lot of money, that's because it is. What else could it buy? How about health insurance for everyone, or fixing all the roads and bridges?

Wall Street's crisis is about to become Main Street's crisis, as bank credit freezes and loans dry up. The government's fix: $700 billion to buy up the bad loans choking the system.

It's a monster plan, but there's little choice, according White House and Federal Reserve officials. Though much of the money may return to the nation's coffers over time as the Treasury sells off the mortgage-backed assets it will purchase, the bailout will severely limit what the government can afford to spend on health care, energy, infrastructure and education in the years ahead.

New bridges and guilt-free electricity

Let's start with the nation's infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates our nation's bridges need $180 billion in repairs, with our rail infrastructure in need of $185 billion in maintenance. California wants to spend $40 billion for the nation's first high-speed rail network to connect Southern and Northern California.

Saskia Sassen, a professor on Columbia University's Committee on Global Thought, points out that infrastructure investments would feed directly into gross domestic product, based on job and enterprise growth. And we certainly have the builders to do it. Unemployment in construction is 40% higher than in manufacturing.

Arizona Public Service, an electric utility, is building the nation's largest solar power array in the desert near Gila Bend, Ariz. It will be able to power 70,000 homes using only the sun's rays -- and will create thousands of high-tech green energy jobs. Construction costs will be about $1 billion, but the utility says the 3-square-mile project will pay for itself in about seven years. With $699 billion left over, you could put even more of the Southwest's desert to work in creating clean energy.

Peace of mind for the environment and our bodies

Health care and climate change are other major concerns. Kenneth Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University, points out that for $150 billion you could provide every American with private health insurance and create a universal automated health-information system.

When you consider that the National Cancer Institute receives $5 billion a year in funding, you could multiply its budget by 10 and provide private health care to every American.

McKinsey, a consulting firm, estimates it will cost the U.S. economy $150 billion a year to stabilize greenhouse gases by 2030. For three years, $700 billion could pay for the cost of both health care plans (in case one doesn't work) and cover the cost to reduce carbon emissions.

Defend the borders, the economy and our academic edge

Since global trade isn't going away anytime soon and America's ports are getting increasingly crowded, using the money for port expansion might be a smart idea. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, container volumes at U.S. ports have increased by 7% a year over the past 20 years, far outpacing capacity growth.

National security is also a concern. After five years in Iraq, most estimates for the war's cost tally into the $500 billion range. Unlike investments in distressed assets, paying for the Iraq war won't produce a return, but $700 billion would stem the government's future debt obligations to its creditors.

Then there's education. The U.S. currently spends about $500 billion annually on public education, yet still finds itself slipping behind many other industrialized nations when it comes to giving the next generation the skills it needs to compete globally.

The difference, of course, is that government spending for any of this would require a massive tax increase, with no chance of getting any of the money back. The upside: At least it would be a sure bet.

This article was reported and written by Matt Woolsey for Forbes.com.

Why? Because Dave Ramsey said so!

Dave Ramsey has become an unknowing participant in our marriage. The nice little illustration our pastor presented us with during premarital counseling of marriage being a triangle with three participants (you, your spouse, and God) has now become a square in our marriage. No longer is it just us and God. It now takes four to create a successful, intimate marriage abounding with peace.

I'm not really sure where this story begins other than at the beginning. Jim and I were married and became joint partners in a lot of his pre-marriage debt and a little of mine. At the beginning of our marriage, we kept our separate checking accounts and divided up the bills. This time was not one of any strife in our marriage; we each paid what we were supposed to and did whatever with the leftover money we wanted. And nothing was ever said about it. If I had $100 to spend as I wanted and I wanted to spend it at Macy's, I did. Marriage did not change my spending habits one bit. And I was ok with that.

Then July hit (I hate the month of July!) and Jim found himself unemployed. All the bills suddenly were dumped onto my happy little checking account (I emphasize the word little). Realizing my income did not match my outgo, I picked up another job at the hospital and started utilizing our credit cards for all purchases that I could, as it took every dollar I made to just pay our bills.

During this time in our marriage, I felt suffocated by the stress of handling our finances by myself and grew to resent Jim, both for "doing this to me" and for his spending habits, which ironically are not much different than mine. Our marriage did not have any peace during this time, and if I could have pulled it off, I would put on my cutest pair of red shoes and tapped them three times.

After seven months of unemployment, with a marriage that was surprisingly still salvageable, Jim was called to the ministry. I gladly relinquished all my financial responsibilities back to him. Unfortunately, once the credit card statements started to roll in from the time of unemployment, we both realized something would have to change in the way we managed our money.

Jim suggested we merge our checking accounts and took my credit cards away. At the time of the suggestion, I agreed with this wholeheartedly, but the first time I got a little itch to buy a new purse or new shirt, I resented this plan. Jim saw for the first time in our marriage how I spent money and did not like it. Every thing I spent, from frivolous purchases to groceries, was scrutinized by Jim. Any discussion we had about money ended with Jim becoming frustrated and me dissolving into sobbing hysterics. Needless to say, this did not bring us any peace in our marriage either!

So that brings us to a few months ago, when Jim brought home the materials for our Financial Peace University class and insisted I start to preview them. I refused to watch the tapes for a few weeks as every time I passed by them, Dave Ramsey's smiling face scared me. I told Jim he was crazy if he thought Dave Ramsey would help us. "He's just going to tell me I can't spend money ever again!" I would cry to Jim. But as the start date for our class neared, I finally buckled down and watched one.

Now Financial Peace University is made up of 13 one- to two-hour tapes, and I think I managed to watch the first ten tapes in a week. And I enjoyed it. Dave's plan for financial freedom and peace seemed so logical and so doable that I actually begin to look forward to the class.

Three weeks before the class was to begin, Jim suggested that we begin to implement Dave's plan into our lives. So thus began our love-relationship with the budget and the envelope system. We agreed on set amounts to spend each week on groceries, gas, and a "blow" account for any extra purchases, such as going to the movies or getting a haircut. We also began to set aside a little money each week for car repairs, Christmas, and an upcoming vacation. We made an envelope for each category and Jim withdrew cash to fill the envelopes with.

The envelope system was a huge learning experience for me. Jim actually had to take me to the gas station one evening and teach me how to pay with cash at the pump. I have never paid cash at the pump before! Another learning experience for me was realizing that if I bought more expensive beauty produces, I would have less money to spend on food. Our bathroom is slowly becoming an advertisement for Suave products!

We've been on the envelope system now for a month and I would never go back. It fills me with such a sense of security to know that each week I have this much for groceries, every week. I love watching our "saving" envelopes grow larger and larger each week, knowing that this year at Christmas, I won't have to wonder how I will pay for gifts.

Beyond that, Jim and I have found financial peace in our marriage. Thanks to Dave, we've learned how to communicate with each other about money and how to agree on our spending, saving, and giving. Most importantly, we've learned how to dream together. We've set financial goals and are working together to achieve them.

Dave Ramsey has become a hero in our house. Jim and I are always throwing around "Dave says..." terms around when we are discussing just about anything. In fact, I used "Dave says..." to get my husband to clean out his closet! Just as Jim and I never want to go back to our lives before God entered them, we never want to go back to life before Dave. Yay for Dave Ramsey!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Updates

I realized today it has been three months since my last post. The unfortunate reality of my busy world is that when things are going poorly for me or things are just simply busy, I tend to become introverted. Here is my attempt to "update" any dissapointed readers of my blog on the last three months.


June 2008

June included my 22nd birthday and our first Vacation Bible School experience at Quinault. Fruit tart from Desserts by Kelly and having fun with the kids in our church - what could be better?





July 2008

It's official. I hate the month of July.

Okay, so maybe the word "hate" is a little strong... but I definitely DISLIKE the month of July.

Don't get me wrong, July is great and all with it's warm weather, the Fourth, summer vacations, etc. July just so happens to contain all the "emotionally challenging" moments of my recent years.

The past few Julys (or is it Julies? July's? I'm a nurse, not an English teacher for heaven's sake!) have included the loss of Jim's job and beginning of a seven-month period of unemployment, the suicide of a dear friend, and the most difficult times of my nursing career. Every shift I worked in July 2008 included the unexpected loss of a patient. When you work in a field where life and new beginnings are the norm, death is an unexpected and unwelcome visitor. Loss of a child is devastating for anyone, but when you feel as though you are supposed to have some semblance of control over the situation and you don't, it becomes especially difficult to stomach. These precious babies and one precious mother-to-be have changed both the nurse I am, and the person I am, today.

Despite the depressing state of my work this month, Jim and I experience some wonderful blessing through the ministries we were involved in with the youth of our church. We took part of our youth group down to Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in a missions-based organization called World Changers. During our week there, we were split up into teams with youth from all over the nation and each given a construction-based project to complete in that time. I, being the hardened construction worker I am, was paired with another adult and eight youth and given a house to roof. I am sure God was chuckling in Heaven watching the progression of this roof over the week! Despite my sparkly pink hammer and lack of construction skills (and general fear of dirt and germs!), I was able to successfully co-lead eight youth in roofing a house and use tools such as a staple hammer and a nail gun without harming myself or others. Jim is so proud!
Ken "fighting the bear"... a very special moment in Salt Lake City!

More importantly that the roof we provided was the work I saw God do in my own heart and the hearts of our youth. Between that week and the next week of youth camp, our youth shared the Gospel with people who had never heard the good news, grew closer to God, and began to discover what God's will for their lives might be. What an amazing opportunity to be a part of it all!
Jim, Nicole, Jon and I after climbing the "mountain" at Camp Touchet. What a day!


August 2008
July and August are tied for the busiest month of the summer. At work, the large amount of babies born and opening a new wing on our unit created chaos and doubled our workloads. At home, my childhood friend's wedding in Oregon kept us occupied for a few weeks. Beyond all this, Jim and I decided to facilitate a Financial Peace University class at church starting in September. This meant that we spent August previewing the material and reorganizing our finances. Money has never been a "strong point" in our marriage, and while it was difficult and painful to pull out old issues and deal with them, we are better and stronger as husband and wife for it. More importantly, we are on the same page financially for the first time in our marriage. Thank God for that!

Presenting Walker and Heather Orr... and Heather Orr with Daja Brown... It's amazing to think of how far we've come since planning our double wedding at age 8!


Mrs. Orr with the Megan, Suzie, and Katie Gelston... How precious!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tales of the NCLEX... it REALLY is that scary!

As many of you know by now, either through reading this blog or spending more than five minutes with me, one of my most important life goals is to become a nurse. It hasn't always been an important life goal; in fact, it only came about three and a half years ago. I was in my very first semester at Washington State University, living in a dorm in Pullman where every other girl in the dorm was a pre-nursing major, except for me and my five roommates. I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life, and had declared "Business" as my major during the summer orientation at the university because it was fairly well-rounded as majors go. It was also in this time in my life that I was growing closer to God than I had ever been. I had joined a sorority, met some amazing people (both those who knew the Lord and those who didn't), and had seen God work in a very real way that living in a rather sheltered, white conservative Christian, upper-middle-class upbringing had never exposed me to. For the first time in my life, I was seeking the answer to "Who am I, and what was I created to do on this earth?" and coming up with no clear answer.

One cold snowy November morning, as I woke up, I heard God speak. This was one of two times in my life that I have heard and felt Him speak to me apart from His Word or through others. He simply told me "I created you to be a nurse". I remember laying there a long time, thinking about these words. I have learned that when God speaks to you in an unmistakable way, it's as if a fire has burned His words across your mind and heart, and you can not think about anything else. I thought about nothing else except being a nurse for the next few days, as I wandered from class to class, as I went to my academic advisor and withdrew from the Business program, and as I applied for the pre-nursing program. Within two days, I had my major completely changed and the coursework for my next four years laid out down to the class I had to take that summer in order to catch up with my graduating class. I had even called home and told my parents about this new direction in my life. I remember my mother being quite excited and supportive, but my father's remark of "Why am I spending all this money so you can learn to change bedpans?" would stick with me throughout the rest of my schooling.

To make a long story short, I'll catch you up to where we are in the present day. I managed to cram two full years of curriculum plus a Spanish minor into one and half years, was accepted into the nursing program, and graduated on May 9, 2008.

The final step in my quest to become a nurse was to take the NCLEX-RN, which stands for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. We nurses affectionately refer to this test as "the NCLEX", "Boards", or "The Devil's Child". It is a standardized test developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to determine competency in a registered nurse. The test is based on a computerized system where the computer determines a competency level and then gives you questions based on that level. If you answer correctly, each subsequent question increases in difficulty. If you answer incorrectly, the questions get easier. Once the computer determines you have met the passing competency level, the test ends by the computer screen going black. The minimum number of questions one can answer to pass is 75, and the maximum number is 265. Once you have answered a question, you cannot go back and review your answers.

Needless to say, I took the NCLEX today. I hit question 75 and the screen went black. And then I tried not to throw up. I won't be able to find out if I passed or not for a few days, so I'm just going to work on keeping my food down.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tales of May 2008 = Graduation, Two Weddings, and a Vacation

May 2008 was a busy month for us! We started out celebrating my graduation from Washington State University on May 9. I think Jim might have been more excited about my graduation than I was... he's looking forward to not having to share me with nursing school! Here are some pictures from graduation:

The next big event for the Browns was Jason and Codi Jarrett's Wedding on May 17. Jim was a groomsman and I somehow ended up acting as wedding/reception coordinator at the last minute. The wedding took place at Promise Gardens in Pasco, and was wonderful, even in 104 degree weather. Here's a picture of Jim and me at the wedding:

As many of you know, Jim and I are often very busy and rarely have a moment alone. However, with school ending for me and the summer not yet started for Jim, we had a few days off during May which we took advantage of by taking a trip to Portland and the Oregon Coast. We spent two days in Portland with Jim's college roommate and his wife and two days in Lincoln City. We could not have asked for better weather in Lincoln City, and spent the majority of our time there on the beach. Here are some pictures from our vacation:

Our hotel in Lincoln City... right on the beach!
Jim made me a pretty picture on the beach...
The sunset on the beach.
The view on our drive home through the Scenic Corridor in Oregon.

The final event for us in May was attending David and D'Neil Stjern's wedding on May 31, 2008. It was a beautiful wedding and we really enjoyed ourselves. Here's a picture of Jim and me at their reception:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tales of my upcoming weekend...

What an exciting weekend I have coming up!

Today:
-Sleep in... very exciting
-Get my hair done... only the best feeling every!
-Attend my Convocation, where I will be honored for the past four years of life-sucking work I have done to accomplish my BS in nursing.

Tomorrow:
-Sleep in... for the second day in a row (that never happens!)
-Get coffee with two of my favorite girls!
-Get an HOUR-LONG massage with one of my best friends!
-Put on my pretty new dress, cap and gown and GRADUATE!
-Celebrate over lobster dinner at Anthony's with my family

Saturday:
-Sleep in... for the third day in a row (did I die and go to heaven?)
-Help Jason and Sarah move into their new house
-Spend the night with Jason and Sarah with takeout, HIMYM, The Office, and Super MarioKart where I will spend the night conquering Baby Peach (much to the delight of my husband)

Sunday:
-Go to church
-Take my mother and mother-in-law out to lunch for Mother's Day
-Take an afternoon nap (I must have died and gone to heaven!)
-Spend the night holding snugly babies at work

Can anyone imagine a more perfect weekend? I can't!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Big "Getaway"

Details from our big "getaway" experience:

Yesterday: Drove to Walla Walla for a wedding. Correction - worked a 13-hour shift, came home at 7:00 AM, slept until 1:00 PM, and then drove to Walla Walla. Fortunately, my husband was kind enough to dump me off at the hotel before he had to be at the wedding rehearsal so I could get a few more (two) solid hours of sleep. Later we enjoyed a delightful rehearsal dinner (No Jim, I don't mean we "rehearsed" eating dinner!) at The Marc that included the most amazing huckleberry pie ever known to mankind. Much later, we ended up in the hotel room with (Surprise!) ESPN on. I must comment that, as Jim and I do not possess cable TV, anytime we are someplace with cable TV and access to the remote, you can bet good money that ESPN is on. Not that watching ESPN is the joy of my life... because it isn't. However, running on very small amounts of sleep, I was content to sack out while listening to the endless commentary of men "obsessed" with sports. I now know everything there is to know about the Final Four match-up, Opening Weekend for baseball, the latest pro basketball scores, and what is with the Blue Jay's "throw-away" jerseys? Is "throw-away" the right term? I'm pretty sure I was mostly asleep by that point.

Today: Woke up TOO late to hit the continental breakfast and still make it on time to the church. My stomach later cursed me loudly throughout the ceremony. I sat in the back pew with Reese, Shauna, and baby girl Alivia, which was immensely joyful as I spent the entire time watching baby girl sleep with her mouth wide-open. There is nothing cuter than a newborn baby sleeping with her mouth open! The ceremony lasted approximately one hour and included congregational singing of no less than four hymns, as well as a special song and scripture readings throughout the ceremony. Baby girl made it throughout the whole ordeal without a peep, which is more than I can say for my non-pregnant stomach. Afterwards, made awkward conversation with the little group of people we knew at the wedding, all of which has babies. Basically, this meant that they exchanged baby stories while I felt like the 5th wheel. There is not much one can say in a conversation about dirty diapers and getting up every two hours for feedings when a) the only place I change poopy diapers is at work, and b) I sleep a solid 6-8 hours a night. Oh, the blessings of not yet having babies! Later, we all hiked over to the reception and enjoyed a delightful brunch-style meal (which my stomach was immensely thankful for!) and good conversation with friends. After the reception, Jim and I debated whether or not to stay in Walla Walla or to scoot on home for the evening. Luckily for me, we decided to scoot along home, and I promptly fell asleep five minutes outside of Walla Walla.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tales of babies, babies, and more babies...

*Writing this, I am 29-ish hours out from meeting little Alivia Grace - happy birthday!

Maybe it's because I work where I do, or because our friends are starting to have babies, or because it's spring... but lately babies have been on the mind. Constantly. It's kind of ridiculous.

Jim, being 6.5 years older than me, is at that point in his life where his friends (and graciously mine, by association!) are reproducing. And it's very exciting. The first one of his group of high school friends became a father at 5:46 AM yesterday. Others will soon follow. One of my dearest friends, who has been trying to get pregnant for 3.5 years, just discovered she is pregnant with twins! Another of our dearest friends has the potential to adopt in the very near future. Two of my friends are planning on getting pregnant this fall.

I love pregnancy, birth, and newborn babies. That's the reason I work in the field I do. There is something so wonderful, so miraculous about the whole circle of life. I love that God has allowed me to work somewhere where He is so evident to me in everything I do and see. That and I get to spend my days/nights holding babies. What fun!

However, the recent epidemic of pregnancy among our friends has elicited two thoughts in my brain: a) I love having job security! and b) Why not us? The "why not us?" question has circulated in my brain and openly to my husband, who views things slightly less skewed than I do. I believe this is because he doesn't possess as much estrogen as I do.

Jim's view is a) he doesn't feel ready to be a good father and b) we are not financially in a place for a child. He is far more concrete in his views on this than I (and my emotions) are. And it's true, financially we are not in the best place for a child. We know we could do it, if we had to. But it's not where we would like to be for the sake of our child's future.

So - to answer the many questions we have received since we were married - we are not actively trying to get pregnant. Actually, we are actively trying to NOT get pregnant. However, this did not work for two of our friends (!) and ultimately we know God is in control, no matter what steps we take to either get pregnant or not get pregnant. The moral of this story is, if I were to be pregnant tomorrow, it would be amazing and awesome and such an incredible blessing. But otherwise, don't be expecting this body to be popping out babies anytime soon!

Jim came to the hospital to visit little Alivia Grace and her thrilled parents yesterday, and after he left, Alivia's Daddy told me he thinks we will be next. Hmm.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tales from "Moving 101"...

I have a running list of updates going for the 2008 year. I'll post them to get those of you new to our blog "up to speed" on our life so far (which would be most of you, considering this has only been up for 2 days!)

Update #1: After six months and 13 days of unemployment, Jim was called by Quinault Baptist Church to be their new Worship/Youth Pastor! We are so amazed and blessed by this opportunity.

Update #2: I am finishing (finally!) my LAST semester of nursing school. It's hard to believe, but I will have my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing May 9, 2008! Yay for almost being a "real nurse" (as opposed to a fake one!)

Update #3: I have bangs. It was slightly traumatic, but I seem to be recovering nicely.

Update #4: After 6 months on the market and 1 month off the market, we have sold our house. And we have 3 weeks to find an apartment and move. So between finishing clinicals and classes, taking finals, applying and interviewing for nursing positions, and working, I will be looking for an apartment and packing my house up. YIKES - but what an amazing blessing at the same time!

Update #5: We have found a great new "pad"! And after two days of packing (following two days of Daja confined to her bed with sickness), we have moved in. Unfortunately it's not as easy to unpack as it is to pack :(

Elaboration of Update #5: What a comical time this was for us! As usual, the basic laws of JimandI's universe apply: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Let's begin with step one...

Step One - Packing
We opted to move in the weekend of March 14 - 16, figuring this was the best time because a) it was right at the end of my spring break, and b) I did not have to work. Instead, I worked the nights at the beginning of the week. My schedule looked like this: Work Monday night, sleep Tuesday, pack Wednesday and Thursday, move Friday and Saturday. I went to work Monday night thinking "wow, I really don't feel well" and left Tuesday morning thinking "give me the bottle of NyQuil and nobody will get hurt!". I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed, getting up only to replenish my body's NyQuil supply. I still did not feel up to snuff on Thursday, but knowing that we were going to move the next day (plus I had my first "real job" interview on Friday!) I dragged myself out of bed and starting packing my house. Luckily for me, one of the women from our church came over and packed my kitchen while I blew my nose repeatedly.

Step Two - Moving, Part One
Part one began on Friday morning. Being the loving, considerate, and deperate person I am, the I called on two of my friends to help me start moving the "little stuff" - one was 39 weeks pregnant, the other has congenital heart defects. Between the three of us, each handicapped in our own special way (I'm pretty sure my handicap is mental), we were able to move some quite a few small items.

Step Two - Moving, Part Two
Part two began on a gorgeous Saturday morning. Jim was scheduled to umpire at the little league jamboree all morning, so we agreed that we would wait to move until one in the afternoon. I spent the morning doing one of my favorite pastimes - shopping for storage and organization solutions. I stopped for to pick up lunch at Bruchi's around 12:45, and in the 10 minutes I was inside waiting for our food, it began to rain. Not the "spitting" rain, as Jim so delicately puts it, but pouring rain. Hail, in fact. I made it home, where a group of people from our church had arrived to help us move the "heavy stuff". We voted to move small boxes first in covered vehicles before moving the furniture in the now-wet-and-muddy trucks. My mother managed, while carrying a box of glassware, to slip and fall on the driveway. At the time, it appeared that she had just scuffed up her knee, so I didn't think anything of it... Later she found that her hand was in quite a bit of pain and she could no longer bend her leg. Needless to say, after four hours in the Emergency Department, we discovered that she had broke her hand and probably has some ligament damage in her knee. She is currently still at home, laid up with a cast on her hand and a splint on her leg.

Besides those few "hiccups", we were able to successfully move. Jim finished up the move for me while I took my mom to the hospital. Of course, when I returned late that night from taking my mom to the ER and home again and then running around the Tri-Cities trying to find a pharmacy open on a Saturday night... I arrived to our brand-new apartment full of random furniture and boxes with no rhyme or reason or walking paths... and my OCD took over my body and put me fight-or-flight mode (fight-ing with my husband over the lack of work he did, flight-ing to get everything unpacked and put away!)

But don't worry, the TV was set up.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Band Stuff...

I am a musician. I'm pretty sure that and my love for doing laundry are the reasons why my husband married me :) In public, I play the violin, but I am a closet drummer/vocalist. Thanks to the revolution that is Rockband, I can come out of the closet (not like that - stay focused people!) and drum/sing to my heart's content. And when they come out with a headset microphone, I can do both AND look like Britney Spears! (Just kidding about the Britney Spears part... I hope I don't look like that...)

Luckily for me, I have dedicated friends who allow me to indulge my ambitions. And we have a band. Dr. Awesome, Bam-Bam, and Daja-Star (collectively known as "Jason Is Jealous" - great band name, I know) get together on a regular basis to rock out. No Rockband song can defeat the musical talents of Dr. Awesome, Bam-Bam, and Daja-Star... except maybe that song by The Who...

Watch out Jeremy Eder... one day I will out-drum you... maybe.

Tales of a Pastor's - no, wait, sorry - Minister's Wife...

After six-point-five long months of unemployment, Jim was called into the ministry. I was (and am) so thrilled to see Jim get the chance to do what he was created by God to do... It is a dream come true for us. My desire for Jim was to see him in a job doing what he feels is God's will for his life, and I truly believe that leading worship and youth is that for him.

The part that I must admit I was hesitant about when we accepted the call from Quinault was my part - Pastor's *ahem, I mean* Minister's Wife. Me? A Minister's Wife? Really? It was (and still is!) difficult for me to remember that if God called Jim to be a minister, and me to be Jim's wife, than He must have called me to be a Minister's Wife.

Everyday is a new learning process for me. No one gives you a book detailing every part of being a minister's wife: "Pastor/Minister's Wives 101". Well, maybe that course is offered somewhere. Perhaps at my husband's alma mater :) I am still mulling over elementary decisions... What is my ministry role? What ministries am I supposed to be involved in? If my husband leads the youth group, do I need to be there? What time do I need to be at church? What time does church even start? Where am I supposed to sit during church? What am I supposed to wear at church? Fill in your own questions here...

Another aspect of being a Minister's Wife: Your husband's time is no longer yours alone, or even yours to share. This part I am sadly not adjusting well too. After six-point-five months of my husband ALWAYS being home ALL THE TIME and driving me CRAZY and I was NEVER able to have a moment alone at home, the new question is: When will my husband be home? Is he coming home? Will I ever see him again? That last questions passes through my head when I watch him walk out the door at 6:45 AM Sunday morning, knowing that he will not be home again until 9:30 PM or later that night. I had heard these complaints from various pastor's wives I know, but it's one of those things you think "That won't happen to ME"... just like my little 16-year-old patients who seriously believed having sex wouldn't cause THEM to become pregnant.

For all my complainings and grumblings, there are so many blessings involved with being a Minister's Wife. Quinault is an amazing church with truly wonderful people that I have the privilege of knowing and serving. The more I attend church and allow myself to open up to these people, the more God blesses me with their friendship and love. And even with the sadness of leaving our old church, I know that there will be new wonderful beginnings at this new church. I am looking forward to the "firsts" I get to have - "first" VBS (yes folks, I am using my musical/cheerleading spiritual gifts to lead music again!), "first" mission trip with the youth, etcetera, etcetera.

I will try to sit here and dwell on those blessings while I wait for my husband... again... Either that or I will watch another rerun of The Office. Win-win situation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mine? Mine? Mine?

Speaking of jobs...

As many of you know, since I do not possess children to delight in myself, I spend a considerable amount of time each week delighting in other's children... at that perfect age when they are cuddly and warm and don't talk back and are completely satisfied with simply having something (anything!) stuck in their mouths... AKA less than 48 hours old. The best part is they actually pay me to do this! Well, not just that, only for the wee hours of the morning when I am working night shift and don't want to do actual work so I hide in the nursery snuggled with a randomly chosen baby. Yes folks, I am a labor and delivery nurse. Or at least, I want to be a labor and delivery nurse (currently I am a labor and delivery nurse technician). For the past three years I have had the delight of coming home at 7:00 (AM or PM, you pick) smelling of amniotic fluid and placenta, and for some reason (unknown to my husband), I want to continue this tradition.

So, in this quest (And being the good-little-almost-graduated BSN student I am!) I carefully constructed my cover letter and resume and filled out an application for a full time R.N. (that stands for "real nurse" in my world!) position in the Birthcenter at Kadlec Medical Center. I was called back for an interview two weeks later, so I carefully picked out an interview outfit and practiced answers to the ridiculous questions everyone is asked in an interview situation (What are your strengths? What are your weakness? If you could be a food item commonly found in the refrigerator, what would you be and why? Who comes up with these questions and why? Seriously people!) and lined up the appropriate references.

A week before my interview, I stopped into my manager's office to have some paperwork signed prior to the interview and she asked me "What is your back-up plan?" My heart dropped. Back-up plan?!? I don't have a back-up plan! I hadn't even considered applying to other places of employment. I spent that final week before my interview mulling over this predicament. By far my favorite suggestion for a back-up plan came from Dr. Ortolono: Night cook at Denny's. As appealing as that idea was, I decided that my back-up plan would be stay-at-home wife. Jim told me he supported me in this, but I think secretly he would have been disappointed to not have my impending salary :)

I'm not exactly sure how to share the interview story, so I'll just post the basic transcript (slightly edited to allow for time). Prior to my interview, I was sick to my stomach with nervousness over how it would go.

Daja arrives for her interview ON-TIME (yay for me!) and enters her manager's office. Manager and assistant comment on Daja's attire (very professional) and invite her to sit down.

Manager: Why do you want to work here?

Daja: Umm.... Umm... I like it here? *sweating and fidgeting nervously

Assistant: Oh my gosh, don't be nervous! We love you and want you to stay here and work for us forever! You totally have a job! Don't cry!

Manager: Thanks, you totally gave away our hand. Remind me to never take you to Vegas.

Daja: ... *hyperventilating due to combination of nervousness and relief

The next 15 minutes we spent discussing whether or not I should renew my nurse technician license in June. And that was it. Moral of the story folks... Daja has a full-time job. In labor and delivery. As a registered nurse. This is also very exciting has it seems that everyone we know is getting pregnant. Yay for job security!