Friday, August 28, 2015

Breakable things

I realized I haven't blogged the entire month of August. Time has a way of sneaking away like that. Honestly, I am not sure why I didn't. It was hot. The garden did nothing except grow weeds (and the occasional cantaloupe). I went to work. I took a lot of instagrams of my cat. Levent and I spent our evenings eating supper and watching Netflix together.

I am not complaining (especially now). I actually love the daily structure of our lives and the beauty that comes with monotony. It is predictable and in many ways, it gives us meaning. But there just was not a whole lot that I felt inspired to commit to (virtual) paper.

So it goes.

There are several moments in life that we always carry with us. For example, I know exactly where I was when I heard about 9-11. (Despite hearing pieces of nonsensical information all morning, I was standing in the marching band practice field, holding my clarinet, my freshman year of high school when I first heard the news). I know exactly where I was standing when I heard about the passing of my grandparents. It is as if these moments startle us so greatly that they become ingrained in our memories.They forever shape out a new reality (and new TSA regulations). Other times they reamin as emotional scares that never fully heal. It only takes a couple of words the fall, like a hammer, and shatter every single structure we try to make for ourselves.

A week ago Thursday, I added another one. I had just pulled off the pork chops from the grill when I noticed Levent's car pull up.When he rounded the corner, the world stopped.

His parents and his younger brother, Blake, where on their way home to Ohio after their visit to Kansas when they got into an accident outside of St Louis. While there have been a lot of small victories, both of his parents are currently still in the ICU, Shirley is recovering from facial reconstruction surgery and Wilbur is still in a medical induced coma, giving him the time and space he needs to make sure his brain injury heals. (Blake walked away from the accident with only a couple of scratches on his arm).

This is a scary, harsh reality of how brutal and breakable life (and we has humans) can be. It's hard to make a lot of sense out of anything right now.

Levent and his brothers have been out here for over a week now. Due to a work trip to Denver (which was awful btw), I was delayed in coming until just yesterday.  It is hard to see loved ones in so much pain (of all kinds). It's hard to know how to hold up and support Levent. I do the best I can (and marvel at his own personal strengthen). It's hard to wait. It's hard to pray.
This sums up my work trip to Denver
It is in these dark, messy moments where it feels as if the only thing that truly binds the human race together is of our pieces of collective tragedies. Yet, as a breakable human myself, I am trying to focus on the small moments, count the tiny victories, find hope in the moments of strength and bravery and to believe that love is ultimately greater than tragedy, no matter what happens in the end.

Abstract words and concepts aside, it's going to be a long couple of weeks for the Miller clan. We appreciate all the prayers, thoughts, and good vibes you can send Wilbur and Shirley's way.
Lunch break today on the St. Louis University's  School of Medicine campus

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Raleigh Vacation

Last weekend, I hoped on a painfully early flight out of ICT and headed to RDU (that's Wichita to Raleigh for those unfamiliar with those airport codes) for a mini vacation with my sister. It was beyond lovely. We enjoyed lots of coffee from various coffee shops in Leah's neighborhood, lots of good food, play time with Malakai, a movie on the lawn at the Art Museum, a day trip to the beach (and even though it was quite stressful, it was quite beautiful too), Sunday morning brunch on top of a Greek restaurant, and riding the free bus line down to the Science Museum. 
It was a lovely weekend. The weather even gave us a little bit of a break (most of the days). It was so great to be in an urban setting again and live (even if temporarily) in a world where it was not miserable to be outside. That's the dream.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Weekly update: Garden Bright Side

Well. Here we are, mid to end July and I have hit that summer depression. Why? Because it's a million degrees outside and my garden really sucks. That's why. (Plus, work is painfully slow, which does not help my outlook on life).

The bright side though is that I am not going to be canning hardly anything (if even that). In hindsight, that's really disappointing. But there is nothing I want to avoid more on a hot week is to spend it canning green beans. Oh well. There is always next year... and hopefully the point of my life when I am an elderly garden sage. I'll save my canning moments for her, at least this year.

My garden is really disappointing. My sunflowers are short. I don't know why. I have 9 tomato plants and only one of them has fruit on it. I don't know why. (Although it probably has to do with the soil). My pepper plants are finally growing, but barely. They've only gained a couple of inches since I planted them in the early part of May. I don't know why.
The only sunshine in this whole mess are my onions. They are big and beautiful and I know why. They were the only thing in my garden that was planted in a ton of manure I got from my supervisor, Maynard's farm. (That llama and sheep poop is pure garden gold). So at least I have that.
Another bright side is that I have somehow been able to enough produce to eat from friends and co-workers. My co-worker, Tina, has too many cucumbers. I will happily take those. My friend Amy is away on her month long escape from Kansas vacation and told me to raid her garden, which I happily did despite being scared of her chickens. I've gotten basil, tomatoes and green beans there. Another jackpot of free produce is actually the front desk at the Hesston Wellness Center where I work out. It's on the campus of a retirement community, right across their beautiful community garden. So far, I've scored a big yellow squash and a couple of yellow tomatoes that are ripening on my kitchen ledge as we speak/ as you read this.
I am happy to freeload off other people's bumper crop. I just hope that in a couple of days (or weeks) I'll at least have something worth mentioning (and eating) myself.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Humans and Planets

My Grandpa Zehr died 2 weeks ago. So this past weekend, Levent and I made the crazy 7 hour journey up to Iowa and then turned right around and came back less than 24 hours later. I haven't blogged about any of it because I am unsure of what to say.

The problem of living far away from relatives is that you don't really get to know them. Okay sure, you know them and you've grown up with them, but it's different then living close and sharing every day life together. For me, Grandpa's passing made me mourning the fact that I did not know him very well. For example, during the memorial service, I learned some things about him that I did not know, like how he dropped out of high school after 2 years because he didn't want to take typing (and, well, the real reason was that he just wanted to be a farmer). I learned that he didn't install running water into the farm house until he married my Grandma because she was "used to such things."

All this makes me really wish there was some way to bend time and have a chance to "meet" our older relatives when they were younger. I would like to see my grandparents when my Grandpa met my Grandma when she was a student at Hesston College. I would like to know what my parents were like in the 20s (and maybe borrow some of my mom's cloths). And when I am older, I would like to do the same for my niece, nephews and my kids (if I ever have any). I would pay big money to be able to see and interact with little Sanford, running around with my uncles on their parent's farm, tying goats to wagons and racing them down hills.

Ever since going to the Planetarium in Chicago and learning that my friend, Jilly loves space, I've kind of been obsessed with it myself. (It also might have to do with the fact two really cool space things recently happened. First, Jupiter and Venus were recently seen in the sky, seemingly side by side. I actually got to see that when I was flying back from Chicago to Wichita. It was magical. Secondly, NASA's new horizons probe finally made it to Pluto. And we learned that PLUTO IS AMAZING! Yeah, outer space is nuts).

All this to say, sometimes it feels as if human lives are like planets, orbiting past each other. We only see parts of peoples' lives. We get to be with each other for a small a window of time, before schools, jobs, families, life and death spins us off in a farther direction. For better or for worse.

I would like to believe that parts of our friends and family are carried with us, long after we leave each other. With family especially, I hope that it is woven into our DNA so that each generation leaves only their good attributes with the next generation, whether we know it or not. Thus, my grandparents are a big part of who I am, even if I don't always realize it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Garden Update: July edition

I went to the Newton Farmer's Market this morning only to come away empty handed. That is maybe the first time in my life that has ever happened. Usually, farmers market suck me in like no other. Not today, friends. This gathering of farmers sweating under Kansas' grueling sunlight was really quite sad (as was their semi-empty tables).

So far my experience this year with the Newton Farmer's Market and my own annual attempts to grow things isvworse than usual. We had a really weird, hot then cool and wet spring. Then more intense heat but with whole weeks of temps dipping back into the 60s. (Don't get me wrong, I am happy for that, but my tomatoes, not so much). My pepper plants have barely grown an inch since I planted them back at the beginning of May. As I've said, it's been a weird season. No wonder the Newton Farmer's Market has been on a struggle bus.

I've been really working on trying to be less OCD in general, but especially when it comes to gardening. I can be very obsessive about it to the point of it stressing me out and causing me so much anxiety that I have to take medication. Not this year. That's been my goal anyway. Actually, so far I've done better than normal. Sure, I still have my moments but for the most part, I'm okay. What will happen will happen. (And maybe I will not do any canning this year and that might be a glorious relief). It's also a million degrees outside again. It's not like I am itching to get out there. The best thing I can do is to not look at the neighboring plots around mine at the community garden. How do they get their tomato plants to look so lush? How in the world are squash bugs NOT EATING YOUR SQUASH?! I turn green with jealous rage. See? It's best if I do not even go over there unless I am in need of an onion.

I am determined to take some soil samples this year up to the the county office to get them analyzed. I am convinced that the horrible Kansas soil is my main problem. Since I am now in a rental with a massive garden space in the back, I am excited to ditch the Bermuda grass filled community garden for, hopefully, less grass green pastures. But I kind of want to know what I am getting myself into before next spring. Now, I just need to remember to actually do that...

Even though the farmer's market has sucked, I have been able to get some local produce from here and there. My friend, Amy and her family are off on their annual summer exodus from Hesston. Before leaving, she told me to help myself to their garden. So far, the only thing that's been ready has been basil, but I am excited to "help her out" by eating her produce. (That is, if I can get enough gumption to face her evil chickens. Turns out, I am semi-terrified of chickens).

Maybe some day, I'll have time and energy to really dig into gardening. But for now, I am doing what I can. At least I have delicious onions to eat and the occasional flower to pick. (Although, I must confess, that this sunflower is a volunteer that came up around the community garden compost pile. I have a couple of sunflowers coming up, but it turns out that caterpillars love sunflowers. So that's also been a struggle).

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The weekend of the 4th

Being an American is not a source of pride for me. I am not convinced many people would be after going to overseas and sitting with people to whom American foreign policy and consumer choices directly impacts.

So it might surprise you that I actually like the 4th of July. Not because I am patriotic, but because I love holidays, especially in the summer. If there is ever a reason to break away from the mundane and celebrate, I am for it. That's why I love birthdays so much. The 4th of July is no different, especially since it's like the only day in the year where I get to eat a hot dog.

The weather this weekend has not been bad. In fact, I had my AC off all day on Friday (which, by the way, was a day I did not have to go into the office!) The temp is pretty killer right now, but we got lucky and had a very nice weekend.

Because that was the case (and because I had the day off), I was able to get into my very sad looking garden for a little bit. (Oh gardening. You will never cease to frustrate me. I really, really, really need to get my soil analyzed). But let's focus on the bright side, I did manage to harvest enough green (and purple!) beans for supper. That's a win!
 Because my garden is struggling (and because of the cool May we had), I decided to go down to Wichita on Saturday morning and go to the farmer's market. I had one thing in mind: tomatoes. I really wanted tomatoes.
...but I also got cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes and fresh tortillas as well. So it was worth the drive to Old town.

Saturday evening, Levent and I were invited to go to his friends' house for a 4th gathering. We cooked out, had cocktails, and played lawn games. When the end of the evening came, we all packed up and headed to North Newton to watch the fireworks. Everything about it was delightful, including the cool breeze.
this peach basil moscow mule was awesome 
And hey I guess I am going to do one "patriotic thing" this weekend. Tonight, we are going to watch the final game of the Women's World Cup. (Any type of world games is the only time I unashamedly cheer for the US). Can't wait.
Happy Holiday everyone!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Ah Chicago

Chicago will always be my first love. Well, as far as cities go. 

Growing up in Illinois, Chicago was my first experience of a big city (and the site of many, many field trips). It wasn't until we were practically all grown that my sister and I realized how incredibly cheap it is to take the amtrak train from Bloomington to Chicago. (It's like $14 one way). Leah and I have spent several day trips in Chicago, mostly spending our time eating (because, seriously, Chicago is so tasty). 

Chicago is also my favorite city because it is the only major U.S. city where I've lived for any amount of time. Sure, my time there was really brief. (1 month in the neighborhood of uptown for orientation for Radical Journey and then 3 months in East Garfield Park when I was the cook for DOOR Chicago). It was really during my experience living in Uptown that my view of the city expanded. Part of our orientation was learning how to get around in a new place. Thus, our teams spent many hours riding the L and the bus, learning how the city is on a grid, and as long as you know which way the lake is, you really cannot get lost. That September in Uptown continues to be one of the best things I've ever experienced in my life. (Although, let me just say that learning to get around in Chicago was nothing like learning how to get around in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I never did master riding the Kombis).  

Okay sure, the only times I've ever been in Chicago for more than just a day have been in the summer or fall months. That is when the city is at its best. It is beyond lovely. (I think I would really want to live there if it was not for that dang winter and lake effect thing). 

Regardless, I still love Chicago in all of her shapes and forms, jewels and harsh realities. Plus, Chicago is maybe the only city in the world that I feel like I have mastered the public transport system. Meaning, my travel anxiety in that city is extremely low. This means that I can actually relax and enjoy myself. If I get lost, I can figure it out. That is a big deal for me. I was a little nervous as my Dad took me to the amtrak station early Monday morning that I forgot what I learned all those years ago as. But as soon as I was on my way, all my doubts cleared. 2011 was the last time I was there. Things were different. But it did not take me long to brush up on the CTA. 
 So why was I in the city this past week?

Simple. To see my ultimate bestie and her husband, both of whom are my favorite people to travel with.  (They just moved back from Bolivia and are in the States until August when they will move to Qatar. So making the effort to go see them was a super high priority. It also was super convenient that Lucas' sister lives in the city).
After they met me at Union station, we walked over to Greek Town to have brunch at Meli. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon at Adler Planetarium, had supper at The Brazilian Bowl and topped the day off with cupcakes from Molly's cupcakes

This is a significant find. I have now found this exact graffiti in 4 different places in the city now.  
On Tuesday, our main goal was to spend as much time outside as possible. After all, the weather was divine there the entire time. (I went from 98 degree days in Kansas to suddenly being in a world of highs of 78. I was in heaven). So, we decided to have breakfast up in Lincoln Park/Lakeview (I am not exactly sure which neighborhood we were in) at Aje Cafe before heading downtown to do all the touristy things. 
I was expecting very little from this tiny coffee shop. But it was my favorite meal all day! 

My favorite part of Millennium Park is actually the lesser-know "stream" area. (I don't even know the name of it). I love putting my toes in the cold water. So refreshing! 
We ended our time at DMK Burger Bar for "lupper" before I had to start the journey back to Kansas. 
It was a lovely 48 hours with good friends, good food and good weather. Ah, Chicago, you will always be my favorite.