Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mt. Ellinor -- Saturday, June 29

Lunch lookout, Mt. Ellinor

About a month ago, we went hiking with our friends Andrew and Wynne and their doggy in the Olympics and Andrew told us about the Mt. Ellinor trail, saying that it's a good dog hike and a bit tougher than the trail we did with them (Dry Creek).  So, when our friend Matt came to visit, we took the opportunity to give Mt. Ellinor a try.  

Matt up Mt. Ellinor
Matty is a friend of ours from Michigan.  I met his roommate, Andy, in SPH when I was getting my MPH, and Matty started playing in the Ann Arbor Ultimate leagues.  After he finished his PhD in chemistry, he got a job at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI and we didn't see him as often, but he still occasionally made it out to Ann Arbor to visit friends and play in hat tournaments, etc.  
Matt looking over the world

Matt decided that since he had his summer off from teaching, he'd do a gigantic road trip from Michigan to California and stop and visit friends, camp, run 200-mile long relay races... the usual.  So, he swung through WA to visit us, break in our brand new guest bed (our FIRST house guest!), and see the Olympics.  He spent Tuesday night with us, then hung around the Olympics until Friday evening, then joined us for a weekend sleepover and a day-hike at Mt. Ellinor.

The Mt Ellinor lower trailhead is about 1.5 hrs from Olympia, west of Hoodsport.  The trail is 3.2 miles to the summit.  Doesn't sound so bad, until you realize that it's 3.2 miles straight upward -- with a 3500' elevation gain, after starting at 2,600'.  So, we started hiking and our lungs immediately noticed that we weren't at sea level.  But it wasn't so bad.  I mean, it couldn't be so bad -- we were passing families with children and mothers with babies strapped to their backs who were descending as we were headed upward.  
Photo taken by Matt

The trail wound its way through the forest.  It was pretty steep, obviously, but had plenty of switch backs to attempt to make the gain easier.  My right calf was bothering me a bit as we were climbing, but I tried not to let it slow me down too much.  My main concern was setting a good pace because the boys let me go first.  

Max Dog, meanwhile, was having a fantastic time.  He was running up the trail, then running back to us and then taking off again.  He got a great workout.  We were a little worried a few times when there was a pretty steep drop-off next to the trail, but Max was a good doggy and didn't try to leap off the side of the mountain or anything.

Eventually, we reached the spot that the families must have all turned around: deep, deep snow fields up through some jagged rocky terrain.  So, once we got to a flat patch, we did what any normal kids would do: we had a mini-snowball fight in our shorts!
Throwing snowballs on a hot, summer day
(Photos by Matt)

After scaling a few snow fields and some steep, slippery run-off paths, we found a FANTASTIC spot for lunch.  It was a lookout point where we could lookout over what seemed like the entire Puget Sound.  Pictures cannot capture the incredible views we had!  We had a clear view of Mt. Rainer to the southeast and the Seattle Skyline over the Sound to the northeast.  We tried to locate the inlets and the lakes we knew, and the Hood Canal.  It was chilly enough up at this spot that we had to put on some extra clothes, but still so pleasant and beautiful that we enjoyed everything.  

Descending (Photo by Matt)
We had made it most of the way to the top (probably 2-2.5 miles up the trail), but there was still a lot of work to do in order to reach the summit.  We met some people who had just come from there and were carrying ice axes and hiking poles and realized that maybe, just maybe, we might want to wait a couple months for the snow to clear out a bit more before we actually hiked to the top.  We still had to worry about getting the dog down some of the rocky areas safely, which ended up being no big deal at all.  Max has no issue figuring out a safe and quick way through the slippery, rocky areas.  But, we decided to head on back down after lunch, since we had gotten what we wanted -- a beautiful hike with spectacular views.  

By the way, going down took a fraction of the time it took to ascend.  I think it took us 1 hr 15 minutes to reach our lunch spot and only about a half hour to make it down.  

We remembered to bring extra shoes to change into when we got back to the car, and towels to wipe the dog off, but we neglected to bring extra shirts to wear home so we could change out of our sweaty ones.  We're learning....  

We stopped in Hoodsport for some malts before heading back to Olympia.  When we arrived in Olympia, sweaty and dirty, we were all exhausted and crashed out a bit in the living room before even showering.  It was a great hike -- tough but doable for we humans, and perfect for our in-shape doggy.
Sleepy husband and dog, and an always sleepy kitty

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Capitol State Forest, June 28 2013

Little Flower
Because of last year's state budget, all state employees took a 3% pay cut until July 2013, but received extra leave time under the temporary salary reduction (TSR) leave.  I started my position in mid-March and have built up a few hours of this leave, which I had to take by July 1 or I'd lose it.  So, I squeaked it in on Friday, June 28 when I took a half-day.
Fallen Tree

Initially, Jon and I were hoping to take a weekend out-of-town with Max, and were looking at staying in Forks (home of the Twilight movies/book).  But, it turns out, if you plan that sort of thing last minute, all of the good places are scooped or cost the soul of your firstborn child.  So, we ended up sticking around Olympia, which worked out well for a number of reasons.  One of those was that our friend Matt was around town, so he crashed at our house all weekend, which we'll talk about later when we discuss the trip to Mt. Ellinor we did on Saturday.

I got home from work a little after noon on Friday, and Jon and I ran to the California Taco Truck for a quick lunch.  The Taco Truck has quickly become one of our favorite places for a quick meal because it's close to home, delicious, affordable, and the people who work there are always so nice.  My favorite is the mulita, which is basically pico de gallo, avocado, melted cheese, hot sauce, and a choice of meat sandwiched between two small tortillas.  Great meal for a small person.  Jon always get a burrito, which is gigantic, and oftentimes he is unable to finish it!  
Peaceful Leaf

After a quick lunch, we ran to our neighborhood REI store to get a Discover Pass so we could go explore the Capitol State Forest.  The Discover Pass is all of $30 and gets you into any of the state-owned lands (e.g. state parks and forests).  It's good for up to two vehicles.  We figured it was probably worth getting the annual pass, since the daily pass is $10, so three times in a state park and we've already paid for it.  

Haunted Forest

Capitol State Forest is just southwest of Olympia and is over 90,000 acres in size, spanning the Black Hills region of Washington.  (To note, I was unaware that there was a Black Hills region in Washington until we went to the forest.)  We entered the forest through the SW entrance just past Littlerock (From Olympia: I-5 south to exit 95, then head east), and wound our way through the gravel forest roads up steep hills until we found the spot where the McKenny trail crossed the D-4000.

We ran into some very dirty and happy mountain bikers about a quarter mile into the hike, and ran into some horseback riders much later, but otherwise, there was no sign of anyone or anything.  It was so quiet, except the babbling streams and calls of the forest birds.

We walked the McKenny trail for a while, until it crossed a road, then we turned back to try another loop.  We then hiked through until we were close to the Falls Creek trailhead, then turned back when we hit a pretty muddy area.  

It was a peaceful walk.  The forest was damp, though the trees let beams of light in on us.  We hiked about 6 miles in a couple hours, and it was a nice easy walk.  There were a couple of spots where there was a lot of growth over the trail that we had to make our way through, but it wasn't too difficult.  Max Dog thoroughly enjoyed prancing along the muddy trail.  
FitBit Activity Log

Capitol State Forest 
Capitol State Forest Map
Capitol State Forest Topo Map

A few more pictures:

1.  Dog in the distance                               2.  Gazing upward
3.  Thorny Plant                               4.  Happy Dog

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Once upon a PhDreary....

The last couple of weeks have been quite the emotional roller coaster.  I recently compared this feeling of anxiety to that of a serious breakup -- you know, with the butterflies in the stomach and the inability to eat and all that stuff.  Only, that anxiety has been going on for weeks instead of days.

I've been saying lately that the dumbest thing a smart person can do is get a PhD.  This is semi-true.  First off, it's a number of years that you subject yourself to constant judgement from others where you either feel like you're being micromanaged or you're not getting enough help, and probably nothing really in between that.  Secondly, most people in science geta job as a postdoc when they get out and postdocs make barely enough to live on!

Mostly, I've been really hating these last couple of weeks because it's been a lot of stress.  First, I had a matter of days to edit my 200+ page dissertation.  After I included my advisor's edits, I realized that I wasn't positive she actually read the whole thing, but... she said I could send it out....  Then, I had to prepare for an hour-long oral presentation on my work.  I hate formal presentations.  I don't even like talking in class.  I really, really don't like it when super smart people fire questions rapidly at me and I'm the sole person to raise my sword and fight back.

So that brings us to the mantra.  A friend of mine last year introduced me to this mantra, which I'm pretty sure comes from the movie Finding Nemo, but whatever.
Keep on swimming.
Keep on swimming.

Now, it's good that I am who I am.  I'm pretty independent.  I'm not a crier.  I do well at picking myself up.  But, man, I just about lost it today.  The weight of it all and then, the inspirational words given to me by my mentor included only something along the lines of: "You're smart.  But you have to speak confidently, else everyone will jump all over you."  Something about sensing weakness and vulnerability.  It's like we're in the jungle, and I better be the lion.  So, lemme roar a little.  

Nonetheless, the answer to my mantra tonight: "I'm mother effing Michael Phelps."

I guess that doesn't fit well with my jungle theme, but I'm sort of all over the place right now.  What do you expect.

12.5 hrs and I will have proved myself to all .... And you can call me "Docta'."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Reflections on a PhD

A fellow PhD candidate asked me what my perceptions are of getting a PhD in epidemiology from Michigan now that I'm on the inside looking out, instead of when I initially asked him about the PhD program as an outsider looking in.

This has brought up a string of thoughts and emotions because, for the most part, my experiences have been great.  I could talk about how exciting my work is here, and, while work is supposedly the most relevant part of a PhD experience, mine has really been so much about personal growth and understanding of the world and my place in it, as an individual and as a researcher that I think of this the most.

I started the PhD program in my late 20s, after 2 college degrees from Minnesota, a few year stint in corporate America, and a couple years in the MPH program at Michigan.  I came in with a very solid idea of self.  After all, I wasn't 18 anymore, going through the whole, "OMG, who am I?" phase.  I had a firm grasp on who I am and what I'm made of, and was done questioning my beliefs and standards.

But, oh, how getting a PhD has changed me!

Even my closest friends may not notice the subtle differences within me, but the last couple years of obstacles and frustrations that I've learned to overcome has taught me more about who I am and what I need and how to get it.  It's been a great check-in to adulthood.

Further, I've learned the importance of having a support team at my side.  My good friends Erin and Erin were individuals I never expected to be so close to; and Steph also jumped into our lab later on to share in friendship.  Though all three overlapped with me during the MPH program at Michigan, I never really knew any of them very well.  But, "here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why." (That's a Vonnegut line)  And I couldn't have asked for better friends to venture through the process with.  We've whined together and laughed together and cried to each other and hugged each other.  The three of us have celebrated each others' accomplishments and held each others' hands.  The nice thing about getting a PhD (at least, in my lab) is that we are not competing against each other for fame, glory, advisor time, or publications.  So we are nothing but supportive.

As I think about the explorations of self on which I've expeditioned, I wonder exactly how to verbalize all of the huge things I've learned that make a difference in everyday life.  For instance, while I've always been a really hand-off, independent worker, I've learned when it's time to ask for help, and I've learned to trust in others, because, even if their way to solve a problem might be different from mine, that difference could help us solve it faster.  Collaboration is so important in life, because we all come from different experiences and ways to solve problems.  This paragraph was definitely filled with two very different examples of learning, but they weave together so well.

I guess it's really hard for me to explain all of the details that I feel have changed and formed me, but even organizational skills and processes, methods of finding information, strength in self in leaping large hurdles, and other such tiny details have all become refined.

Though, still, some days I hate my life because of 16-hour work days, and dreams about my work, or screwing up analysis and having to redo it, I, honestly, love it despite the insanity that overlies the process.  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Last course requirement

Today, I fulfilled my last doctoral course requirement by presenting my dissertation work for an hour in Epid 890.  It was amusing, and I had far too many slides, but I have a while to edit them and figure out what I need to say.

I have 22 days and 10 hours until I present my dissertation work for real.  The countdown is beginning.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The time to hesitate is through / No time to wallow in the mire

"The time to hesitate is through."

I have 29 days until I defend my dissertation.  Which means, I have about 10 days to finish writing it and get the finished copy to my adviser for edits before I submit it to my committee.  It's currently 38,000 words and 148 pages, but that should increase quite a bit before I'm done.  

It's going to be a whirlwind next few weeks with a lot of big and important events.  It's going to go like this, except imagine that you're the MicroMachines man saying all of this:
Present work to peers next week, finish writing dissertation, edit dissertation, hand to committee, create dissertation Powerpoint, give mock dissertation presentation in lab, run to Washington for a weekend to meet with new employer, find a place to live, come back to Michigan, perfect dissertation presentation, parents arrive, defend dissertation, throw goodbye party, paint bathroom and hallway, parents leave, pack up house, do edits to dissertation, submit to Rackham, finish packing up house, drive across the country, start work.

More on all of this soon!  Right now, TO THE DISSERTAT-MOBILE!

p.s. This is how I'll feel on Feb 22 after I defend...  Like ALL of these people combined.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stress me out

Forbes has a list of the least stressful jobs of 2013 (find it here).  On the top of the list is university professor.    This is absolutely laughable.  I'm not sure if they've met any of the science faculty around any major research institution, but that's about the most stressful job I can imagine.  Meeting and working with faculty members here at Michigan's School of Public Health has convinced me to stay as far away from academia as possible.

For example, many professors I've studied under are awake all the time.  Awake AND working.  Yes, ALL the time.  For instance, an assistant professor I worked with last year has 2 kids and a nanny because she and her husband are both science professors and don't actually have time to spend with their children.

Not only are these people teaching courses to a bunch of whiny grad students, but they HAVE to get grants funded.  Most professors here have it in their contract that 40-60% of their salaries will be paid by their own grants.

Do you know how hard it is to get a grant these days?  Well, let me give you a little story about that....  I helped work on a grant last year.  It was awesome.  Just a beautiful grant.  It was in the top 1% of grants during that submission.  It did NOT get funded.  Nope.

There is so much competition being a research professor anywhere because of the competition for funding that people work 20 hrs a day and neglect their own families.  How is that the least stressful job of 2013?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ricotta Pancakes with raspberries

I made lasagna recently, and bought a huge tub of lasagna to do so.  I had about half the tub left and was looking for something to do with it when I saw a Facebook post from my dear old friend, Karina, who mentioned eating lemon ricotta hotcakes.  Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner of what to do with the leftover ricotta!

I hunted down a recipe for ricotta pancakes last night and modified it based on the contents of my cabinets.  I put in some almond extract to serve as a proxy for the lemon flavor, because it actually does a good job with the sweet-sour senses (and is very potent -- a little bit goes a long way).  Then, I topped with about 3/4 of a pint of raspberries because they are the best thing in this entire world.

So, tonight, J and I had ricotta pancakes and vegetarian sausages for brinner (breakfast for dinner, thank you Scrubs)!

Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes
made about 16 medium-sized pancakes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs, divided  (If you need a primer: watch this short video)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Maple syrup, powdered sugar, and berries to go atop (we used raspberries!)

Drain excess liquid from ricotta by setting it in a fine mesh strainer about 30 minutes before you start cooking.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. 
Mix ricotta, milk, egg yolks, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer until stiff and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients to the ricotta and milk mixture, whisking until just combined. Whisk in a small amount of the egg whites to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whites.
Heat a griddle over medium-high heat (I set it at 325 degrees F), and brush the surface with butter. Use a measuring cup (I used a 1/4 cup measure) to pour batter onto the griddle. Cook pancakes for about 3 or 4 minutes, then flip, cooking until both sides are golden brown.
Top with Maple Syrup, powdered sugar, and raspberries.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I went to the Dexter Cider Mill yesterday with Chani, Kolby, and Ariane.  It was my first time at a cider mill since moving to Michigan a half decade ago, and apples, apple orchards, and cider mills are sort of a big deal around these parts.  This year, unfortunately, because of the hot, hot summer and crazy climate changes, Michigan lost 90% of its apple crops (and a large majority of its other fruit crops), so we're a little short on apples.  But, the cider mill was still a great time.

Photo by Chani Hodonsky

We went in for pumpkin donuts, and I got a cinnamon roll with apple cider glaze.  Of course, we got hot apple cider, and I also bought a jar of pumpkin butter.

Pumpkin butter.  I don't really know what to do with this stuff, aside from throw it on some toast (and maybe sprinkle some cinnamon on it?).  So, today, when I was deciding that I must have chocolate chip cookies, I had the idea of putting pumpkin butter in them!

In fact, I found a recipe for pumpkin butter chocolate chip cookies and followed it.

The recipe:

Step one:Melt 6 tbsp butter and let cool.

Step two.While butter is cooling, mix the following in a separate bowl:
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour,  

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, 

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda,  

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, 

  •  1/4 teaspoon of each: ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, 

  • Plenty of cinnamon because its good.  (Yeah, I didn't measure this well, but just started shaking it into the bowl.)

Step 3.In butter bowl, mix: 

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 

  • 1 large egg 

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin butter

Step 4.Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients 

Step 5.Add semi-sweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips.  Lots of them.

Step 6.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 12-15 minutes

Update:  Husband names these the best cookies I've ever made.  I promptly reminded him of the Chocolate Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookies and he then couldn't decide which was better....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"There comes a day in your life when you wanna kick back, Straw hat on the porch when you old perhaps. Wanna gather your thoughts, have a cold one, Brag to your grandkids about how life is golden"

Saw this comic in the Sunday Detroit Free Press this morning and thought it'd be great to share it.  It works on so many levels, speaking to all of us throughout any life stage through which we're metamorphosizing, and speaking to me and my work in aging research.   

Hope you enjoy it, and remember to live every day with smiles and joy, even through your troubles and hardships.  Lean on your family, find bliss in your friendships, and bring joy to those who haven't found sunshine in a long time.  Life is good.

And, to recognize Nas who wrote the lyrics that title this post:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just the two of us, building castles in the sky

I hope every girl, young lady, and woman in the world has a dad who believes in her as much as my dad believes in me.

(Unfortunately, it is not the case, and that makes me sad.)

I love you, Dad!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Don't do it for anything but the love of movement and location,

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This question takes on different answers at different phases in life.  When we're kids, we want to be cowboys or astronauts, and maybe that switches to artists or musicians, then melds to doctors and lawyers.  But, somewhere in there, we pick a path that may or may not be within the scope of a dream we once had.  For some it's more random than others.

Even in our 30s, have we found it?  My dad had a friend who finally realized, in his 50s, that he wanted to be a teacher.  So he went back to school.  And, quite frankly, good for him.  Dream big, and don't let yourself get caught up in a job that feels menial.

My career choices went something like this:

  • Age 5:  I wanted to be an astronaut like Sally Ride.  I wanted to explore space and feel what it was like to float.  I wanted to look at the Earth from outside of the atmosphere, to take it all in.
  • Age 10:  I wanted to be a pediatrician.  Not only that, I wanted to work internationally and save all the kids in Africa who didn't have access to health care... the ones they showed dying of starvation or infectious disease on TV.  I wanted to make a difference.
  • Age 15:  I wanted to be a musician.  I wanted to spend my life composing songs that expressed emotions that others could feel understanding within.  I wanted to play at night clubs, alongside amazing drummers.  I wanted to be inspired with every note I played.
  • Age 18-22, the college years:  I had no idea what I wanted to do anymore.  I wanted to be a chemical engineer, a musician, a philosopher...  I think there were a few other majors I explored, too. But I decided to major in math.  Why?  Because I liked math just fine, and I had taken a lot of math classes.  I threw in an extra major in statistics because it seemed more likely to get me a job.
  • Age 22-26, the working years:  I still had no idea what I wanted to do, but I thought it might be something more like genetics or molecular biology.
  • Age 27:  I wanted to be an epidemiologist.  I could save the world and the world's children, similar to my dreams at age 10.  I could do math/stats.  I could incorporate molecular biology.  I could work on different projects, with different collaborators, so my life would always keep me interested.
So, here I am.  An epidemiologist.  I've got an M.P.H. and am breaths away from a Ph.D. from one of the top schools in the nation.  But, even that doesn't just give me a career.  My pathway isn't just outlined.  This is fantastic, but means making decisions.  Do I teach or research?  Academia, government, or industry?  Do I continue building myself a little niche within the epigenetics of aging and chronic disease, or do I widen my net to include cardiovascular, genetics, molecular, and/or environmental epidemiology?  Do I direct myself toward computational biology and statistical genetics, or not?

What is it that I want to do, exactly?  Because there are jobs in all sorts of positions for which I can make myself a great candidate.  I can postdoc in order to explore and learn a little more about something, or I can jump into a career.  It's always exciting to see what the next step will be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"We press play. Don't press pause. Progress, march on!"

For all the states that have ballot items involving hate and bigotry coming up in November, vote for love, acceptance, and equality.  Denying rights to our loyal American citizens sets us back in time to previous centuries and supports closed-mindedness and ignorance.

Let's join ranks with the nations who push the envelope to ensure all citizens are treated equally and benefit from the same rights.  Let's promote actions that will help to destroy ignorant stereotypes.  It is these ignorant stereotypes that destroy our youth through schoolyard and internet bullying.  And, this bullying has taken the lives of so many American youths.  We should all be proud to be the beautiful humans we are, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.  And we should educate our children and each other that kindness wins.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"I will never miss you because of what we do, but what we are together"

I've had a lot of friends and acquaintances ask me, lately, how married life is going.  My initial answer is that nothing has changed.  And that's what I love about it.

But, in reality, it's gotten me thinking a lot about the constructs of relationships -- relationships I've been in, relationships in which I've been a confidant to either side or both, relationships I've observed.  And, someday, I'll go in depth about all of this, but tonight I'll just ponder upon "why marriage?"

A few years ago, J asked me if getting married was important to me.  My answer was "yes," but I couldn't really put a finger on why.  I'm not a religious individual, so marriage doesn't have the overtones of God that some people experience and find important when they wed.  I actually tend to believe that marriage is an institution that is far too controlled by the government.  Why should I be able to marry my committed partner, and have the rights and recognitions that go along with that, when I have good friends in serious relationships who can't share the same rights?  And, despite equality talks, why should I care about a signed slip of paper and a tax break?  Because of these things, I haven't really been able to get a good grasp on why marriage even matters to me.

After J and I got engaged, we started having talks about what sort of a wedding we wanted, and I think that's when it started becoming clear to me why I wanted to get married.  Ultimately, we decided to have a wedding with as many of our closest friends as could fit in the venue we chose.  And we chose a large venue.  We wanted our friends and family to help generate ideas and creations for our wedding.  J's best friend married us, while one of my best friends read a hilarious Neil Gaiman poem.  My mom created the decorations, and a whole slew of our friends and family helped to decorate the reception hall.  It was fantastic.  Every piece of our wedding had parts of us, our family, and our friends within it.  We wanted a wedding that would celebrate love in all ways -- the love we have for each other, the love we have for our friends, and the love that our families have shared with us for our lives.  It is our friends and families who helped us become who we are, and, thus, they are important to the construct of our love.

The act of getting married wasn't us saying that we were MORE committed to each other.  We already had made those promises to each other.
The act of getting married  wasn't to change our lives around for each other, because we accept that we are each individuals.  But, we already were willing to shift, concede, and compromise whenever necessary.
Marriage is, in a sense, a conversation of our promises with our loved ones, to let them in on our plans, our hopes, our dreams.  It is an open phone line for them to share theirs with us.  And, maybe that is why I knew that marriage was important to me: so no one ever questions my motives, my truths, or my devotion.

A couple weeks after we got married, J was playing with his ring and said to me, "It just feels right."  And that's why we got married.  Because the ceremony, the friends, the rings that we wear, the smiles we share -- they complete an invisible circle that creates our own little perfection.

From now on, when someone asks me how married life is going, I will remember that response: It just feels right.

We are not friends
because of the laughs
we spend
but the tears
we save

I don't want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
to speak

I will never miss you
because of what we do
but what we are

-Nikki Giovanni