It’s Spring and here’s an essay

Huntsville, Alabama was labeled “The Valley of the Sickness” by the Native Americans who once lived here: a factoid I was told recently while at the doctor. I’ve been very wrapped up in this new thing in my life called allergies.

Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

Perhaps you’re life-long enemies?

Well. They’re new to me and to be perfectly blunt — they are rubbish.

So there’s that for you. In other springtime news, the grass is green and trees are blooming! (See photo above if you don’t believe me.) I’ve been walking around with my mouth agape and my iPhone camera at the ready. It seems that the valley (of the sickness) is waking up after her winter hibernation and is proudly displaying all the beauty she kept pent-up within her for months. I love driving around town just to see what trees have changed in the last week and which fields are now brilliant with color. Witnessing seasonal changes is one of the delights of moving to a new place in my opinion.

Hey! Let’s completely bounce off the topic at hand. I’d love to share just a little bit of my inward life with you in the most rambling way possible. 😉 It’s how I do it.

Care to join me on a little journey of the memory?

It was spring and I was 22. I was putting the finishing touches on my degree in Public Administration, working hard to complete all upper-division courses in a shockingly small window of time. I held a 21 unit course-load, had two internships for government agencies and tutored students in English on the side. Life was full and I was just barely hanging onto my health and sanity. When graduation day finally arrived I was riding high on a cloud of glee (albeit zombie-like glee.) This was a time of triumph and confidence: I had persevered through a challenging season and made it to the finish line feeling more in love with my God and in tune with my self than I’d ever been before.

Just a few short months later and my mountain-top had turned into a basin. I returned to my parents’ home – of my own accord and for multiple reasons – and felt like my life had taken at least two steps in the wrong direction. I applied for countless jobs and was met with an equal number of rejections. I felt entirely alone in my struggle to maintain confidence in my value as a person. I began to doubt my abilities as a young professional as well as my desirability as a prospective employee. My faith went through a dry season. I had no grasp of the Lord’s direction for my life. Life was utterly blah. (Which is totally a legit psychological description according to the DSM.) And it stayed blah for a good while.

Fast forward two years! (You were getting depressed, huh? Don’t worry, we’re back on a mountain-top and the view is fiiiiiiine.) I was again in a place of strength: I had worked on my relationship with the Lord and was experiencing the awesome combination of head knowledge and heart feeling in my faith. I had worked hard at my job (Yes! I did eventually land a job or actually a job landed in my lap) and felt like I had gained plenty of experience and honed some of my marketable skills. I’d met my future husband and I was a bride, loved and pursued.  This was a really REALLY great season.

After a quick jump over one year we find ourselves in real-time. Like, this year, this month, today. Let’s call this season a valley – not a basin but definitely not a mountaintop. Yep, it’s a valley (of the sickness! Ha, just kidding. But also not kidding.) And gosh darn-it, if life isn’t kicking my butt right now. I’ve found myself in a weird state of insecurity about just what on earth I’m supposed to be doing with my life. What are my dreams again? What are my strengths again? I think maybe I’ve lost them. Where do I fit in here? And oh my gosh, I live in Alabama. I LIVE IN ALABAMA. Am I even okay with that?

This is Natalie, reporting to you live from the valley (of the sickness) with much sneezing and itching of the eyes, and much questioning of the spirit.

(And also with much thankfulness for a wonderful husband who is not only my confidante but also a veteran sufferer of the allergies.)

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Are you squeamish?

This morning has been one to test my strength against my inner squeamishness. Here’s what has happened thus far:
1. Today is sunny and beautiful! The fresh air is too wonderful to waste so I decided to open the windows and let in the soft breeze. I then discovered yet another fat brown spider has taken up residence at the base of the screen cover. (That makes three all together!) Out comes the home-defense spray.
2. In an effort to tidy up our apartment, I gathered all the rugs and stepped out on the patio to give them a good shake. My hands were so full I couldn’t see that I was about to step on a juicy worm with my bare feet. Excuse me while I gag.
3. Rugs shaken and freshened, I turned around to survey the rest of the patio and found a dead bird in the corner, courtesy of the many outdoor cats around here. Thank you for the gift kitty kitty; but I find it objectionable.
4. While I was outside for just a few teeny tiny minutes, a gigantic black wing-ed interloper made his way in the door and decided to draw a battle line just inside the threshold while I was out. He may have snickered at me and swelled with his own power as I squelched a scream and danced around him to find a weapon but his power-play came to an end as he met my friend “boot.”
I am praying fervently that this is the end of today’s list.
Your home-defense, insect-killing, spray-wielding friend,
Natalie

 

Indian comfort food on a snowy day

The view from our front porch, brrrr.

 

Our Realtor warned us about a phenomenon that occurs here in Huntsville, Alabama: mass panic and desperation at the slightest inkling of snow. “Don’t bother trying to buy bread, milk, or eggs when you see snow in the forecast,” he warned, “those shelves at the store will be empty.”

Turns out he was right!

The past few weeks have brought an unusual amount of snow to the area – we were blessed with eight inches overnight at one point! (A remarkable amount according to locals.) I was thankful to have done all my grocery shopping ahead of time so I could keep away from the hysteria and stay warm and cozy inside for the majority of the snowfall. I even turned on the “Fireplace For Your Home” episode on Netflix to see if it had any sort of placebo-effect powers to keep me warm. (It didn’t. But it was pretty!)

Recently, I’ve enjoyed flexing my amateur-chef muscles by trying new recipes from different cultures and these wintry days provided a perfect opportunity to try Chicken Tikka Masala. The recipe I found on Table for Two was daunting at first, not because of the complexity of the instructions but because of the long list of ingredients! I discovered, however, that a large portion of the ingredients are spices that are quite common to have on hand. I only had to hunt down one spice (garam masala) that my usual grocery store doesn’t carry. Since it is a slow-cooker recipe, I was able to throw it all together in the morning and enjoy the rich scent as I worked at home throughout the day.

I am looking forward to making this dish again so that I can play with some of the ingredient ratios to make it “mine.” When I do, I’ll be sure to provide the recipe and photos of the dish myself. Until then, though, I highly recommend this recipe!

I’d love to hear: do you enjoy Indian food? Would you try this recipe? What would you change in it?