I step outside to put a plastic fruit container in the recycle bin; it’s bright and sunny. It looks like it should be warm, but it’s not. The quick calculation that there’s only 10 more days left until March is a welcome thought. Maybe then I’ll be lifted from this fog.

Still too dark and cold to run in the early morning hours, I’ve been staying in bed, later and later until I’m hurrying Alice through her morning routine. My girl isn’t one to be hurried, so you can guess how that goes. The house is semi-clean, but only because we had overnight guests the other weekend. Otherwise, my list of projects is very long and none of them appealing.

I wrote two posts within the past four weeks. I asked Daniel to read them last night, knowing the feedback I might get from him but unprepared for it. I knew they were both controversial; and it was the first time Daniel ever told me I shouldn’t/couldn’t publish a post. He said it concerning both of them. “I think you’ll regret it later,” he told me, especially the first one.

Usually Daniel suggests very little other than adding a comma or helping with some awkward wording, so I took his advice with gravity. He gave me suggestions on how to refine the second post, suggestions that I know are wise and sound and should be developed, but I don’t feel inspired to re-work it.

In regards to the first post, he told me sometimes writers don’t publish a particular piece for a long time after it’s been written. Reading between the lines, I think he was saying “don’t even think about it for a couple of years,” until I can re-work it on the other side of hurt and pain.

So I’ll wait it out—just as I wait for the sun to wake up earlier each morning and hang in the sky longer with each passing day. I wait for its rays to warm the ground, waking seeds and buds, taunting me to come outside, dabble in the dirt, and go for a run. I wait for the energy and enthusiasm to begin a new project. I wait in the space between crumbled hopes and the excitement of seedling ideas, between status quo and the Change to my routine that I know is coming (more on that later). I wait in the space between the hurt and the healing. I know I’m learning something from all this waiting, just not sure what.

Sleeping Strawberries


Forsythia in waiting - one of my favorite signs of spring.
Forsythia in waiting – one of my favorite signs of spring.

tree buds

I’m trying to enjoy this unhurried space I’ve created without exercise routines and projects to fill every spare minute. I read a book Saturday afternoon… unheard of. Recently, I’ve played more games and read more books with the kids than usual; I even painted a picture with Alice one afternoon. I’ve watched my two TV shows without my hands being busy, just sitting… also unheard of.

Tired of waiting for warm weather, the kids enjoy some late afternoon COLD fun.

It is a different space for me, but I think I’m getting used to it. It’s dimly-lit and silent, but peaceful and soothing. And even though it hurts at times, I know I’ll be alright for there are many traveling with me, to hold me up and walk the path beside me. To many of you who probably feel like your love goes unnoticed, you are continually there for me, and I thank you.

Life with a Geek – Part II

old setup

I know you’ve been waiting for them, so here they are….


Top 5 things I’m trying to love about living with a geek….

5. Unrelated to problems with our internet provider, our internet sporadically goes down as things are re-wired, re-routed, re-who-knows-what-is-going-on-in-that-office. (This phenomenon is actually what inspired this post to begin with. I was bored without internet for two evenings as Daniel re-vamped “something” downstairs in the office, unable to catch up on the latest Biggest Loser or Parenthood episodes—my TV guilty pleasures—I figured I’d write a snarky post about it all.)

4. Things are always changing (I don’t like change). Just when I think I’ve finally got it all down—the function keys, navigating our massive music library, the ins and outs of Internet Explorer-Chrome-Firefox-Safari internet browser (I’ve used them all by the way), Daniel will change something, and I’m back to square one. Then of course there’s always the latest operating system upgrades and software changes – Picasa versus iPhoto, SplashMoney versus MoneyDance, MS Office versus LibreOffice. Are non-geeks always looking for the next best software program too? My motto is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…. for the next 20 years.”

3. Lots of random computer parts, many with a purpose that I don’t understand.

brownie points
Extra brownie points to the first non-geek who can tell me what the “black box” does… or can tell me what Daniel is planning to make it do.


Some without a purpose…

extra keyboards
Three keyboards without connecting computers… and an extra mouse, just in case


Another example of extraneous computer parts, after telling Daniel that I wrote a blog on “living with a geek” because the internet was down, he responded by telling me tomorrow evening when it’s down again he’ll hook up the other router. Do non-geeks have extra routers in their homes?

2. The ZONE – When Daniel gets “into” a problem, I have learned not to try to access his brain on any other level. Here is an example of a phone call I made to Daniel while in the zone:

Natalie: Hey, it’s me. What time do you think you’re coming home this evening?

Daniel: (long pause)…. Who is me?… Oh, Natalie… what was the question?

Natalie: What time are you getting home this evening?

Daniel: This evening… hhmmmm, what day is this?

Natalie: Tuesday

Daniel: hhmmm…. What time is it now?

Natalie: 4:30

Daniel: (long pause)… I’m not sure.

Natalie: Can you IM me when you know?

Daniel: Know what?… Oh yes, when would you like me to call you?… Hold on, I have to set an alarm to remind myself to call you.

(Dear, sweet man… I have given up calling you.) I have found texting or IMing works much better, even though I know an immediate response to either is not likely.

1. Geek-speak – If you’ve never experienced two geeks talking to each other, you need to understand that it is literally!! another language. Feel free to let your eyes glaze over and your thoughts drift to the dusty corners of your mind because that will probably be more interesting than the current conversation—when was the last time I scrubbed the inside of the dishwasher?—and the geek-speakers won’t notice your inattention anyway.


Top 5 things I’ve learned from living with a geek….

4. Apple… enough said.

3. When Daniel tells me “It’s too complicated to explain,” it really is too complicated to explain.

2. The term “raspberry pi” does not refer to a fruit pie, nor does “python” refer to a snake. The “man pages” are not for just any man, and the “man pages” can also be used by knowledgable women. Linux is an operating system only people with lots of spare time run—and I was just told that we will soon be running it too. Apparently Daniel thinks I have lots of spare time (remember what I said about change?). By the way, I still do not know what “GitHub” is, even though that word is said more in our house than my own name, and just wait until I figure out how to get your kernel to boot.

1. Backup, backup, backup – not that I actually do this. Daniel has this all running automatically, and I don’t worry about a thing.

0. (Sorry, I guess Daniel’s rubbing off on me; sometimes I start with zero instead of one.) For brownie points from the geeks out there… simple user interface is everything! In my next life, I will probably teach a college course on this topic since I’ve heard so much about it over the years.


Top 5 things I love!!! about living with a geek…

5. All the household software programs I can dream up at my disposal. Need a menu-generator? Daniel has promised to write a program to generate a monthly menu with all of my dietary stipulations. Also complimentary database programs—a running log, a budget spreadsheet to compare multiple years of information, a spreadsheet of projected expenses for remodel projects—all at my fingertips just by request.

4. A handy-dandy blog administrator. I had no idea how to set up a blog, nor did I have the gumption to actually do it myself. Even now that it’s set up, I still go to Daniel with all my technical questions. Recently, he implemented a traffic analyzer so we can chuckle at the phrases people google which lead to my blog.

3. Everything is optimized and configured exactly how I like it. Honsetly, I know I don’t realize everything that Daniel has optimized for me. But one of the newest features is that my iPod now automatically syncs every time I plug it into the laptop. God knows I needed that after I recently lost years’ worth of contact info because I didn’t bother to sync my iPod since there was more than one step involved… way too complicated and time consuming.

2. Two computers, several accounts on each computer, all talking to each other = mind-boggling, but also a wonderful, beautiful experience!

1. Any computer problem is not my problem. Can’t get my pictures to upload… LibreOffice crashes when I write the word “geek”….. Need a new motherboard because the current one is on the fritz…Oh Daniel – where are you? (What is a motherboard anyway? Sounds like something I need to replace because I think mine is on the fritz too.) I don’t even bat an eyelash at computer events that might give another person severe heart palpitations. Blue screen of death… slow internet connection…. forgot to save a document—I’m fully confident that Daniel will restore everything to its rightful manner. I cannot tell you how much I love, love, LOVE! not dealing with technological problems.


Well, now you’ve had a glimpse into my view of Geekdom. Please note, I did have Daniel read both of these posts to ensure I was using my technological terminology correctly and also to ensure he felt fairly portrayed. While it is fun to poke fun at his geekdom every now and then, I really do admire Daniel and his amazing abilities. I would NEVER be able to do what he does with the intensity and passion he has. In fact, I’ve even thought if (God forbid!!) I were ever looking for another partner, a man with technological experience would definitely be a positive asset. I count myself extremely fortunate not to have to worry about computer/technological problems since I abhor them, and the conveniences of living with a geek far outweigh the inconveniences. Thanks for making my life simple, Daniel. I’m not sure I’d own a computer if it weren’t for you.

thumbs up
“I’m Daniel Miller, and I approve this message.”

Life with a Geek – Part I


There are a lot of things one doesn’t realize when he/she signs the dotted line of the marriage license. Daniel and I didn’t realize the implications of the crazy collision between introvert versus extrovert. Nor did we understand how one partner’s obsessive compulsive tendencies would cause the other partner stress and vice versa. Also, we didn’t know that one of us preferring to sleep with a sound machine on would bring forth snide remarks and nasty glares from the other partner (you can’t see those glares in the dark, but you can feel them).

One of the biggest aspects of marriage I didn’t understand 10 years ago was how marrying a geek would completely alter my life. My man is a self-professed, professional geek. He’s good at it too. In order to build my case, I need to give you a little background information. Daniel went to college at small school known for its engineering courses. It was not uncommon for him to spend hours on a Saturday afternoon working on one calculus problem. Daniel graduated with honors with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering coupled with a math minor.

After graduation, Daniel has spent the past almost 10 years working as a software developer. If he comes home from work in the middle of a problem, I know with certainty that supper conversation will be almost incoherent (maybe I exaggerate… a little) and that I will find him at the computer later that evening until the problem is fixed—sometimes at 2am. If per chance he doesn’t solve the problem before coming to bed, it’s not unusual for him to emerge from the shower exclaiming “Eureka! I’ve got it!” Ok, I’ve never heard him say “Eureka,” but you get my point. The man lives and breathes computer problems.

Another sign that I live with a professional geek is that we don’t have a regular alarm clock/iPod docking station like I’m told most people have. We have a “squeezebox” which is an alarm clock that communicates and shares music files with our ipods and our main computer. After five years of owning it, I still do not know how to set the alarm on the squeezebox even though Daniel has shown me at least five times.

Finally, in his spare time Daniel is developing his own text editor. Also, he has contributed multiple software programs to the open source community, which may be the reason he has had several job offers from companies we’ve never heard of without Daniel initiating interest in the job to begin with (nope, not moving to Norfolk).

One of the first experiences I had with Daniel’s geekdom came when I was in college. He visited my dorm and proceeded to delete program after program from my computer.

“Do you use this?” he would ask me.

“No… but…” I’d reply.


Delete… delete… delete… until I was almost in tears, very sure that my computer would never run correctly again, that after he walked out the door in two hours I would never find my 80 page (not an exaggeration) articulation paper due in a matter of days.

Well, guess what… my computer was fine. Everything was still there; my paper was turned in on time. I didn’t know enough at the time to decipher whether or not my computer ran any faster after it had been purged of all the “fluff” (deciphering a fast computer from a slow computer is a skill I’ve honed over the years since I’m repeatedly asked if our computer is running better after Daniel tweaks it), but my computer didn’t crash or burst into flames like I was expecting it to.

Ever since then, I’ve pretty much trusted Daniel to do whatever he wants with the technology in our house—I should say I have happily, gleefully, ecstatically! trusted him. Whenever there’s a manual involved, I automatically hand it to Daniel… not a details girl when it comes to remotes, iPods, switches and wires.

So for those of you who do not get to experience real, live, 100% pure geekdom first-hand, stay tuned for my top 5s of living with a geek. (I know—you’re sitting on the edge of your seats!)


** And yes, those chocolate bars mentioned last March are STILL sitting on Daniel’s desk as seen in the top picture, although he has actually started eating one of them. Not sure if this is a sign of a geek or of super human powers which I have yet to uncover.**

A Few Peaceful Memories

This entry was written almost 2 weeks ago as I was getting ready for the scrap booking retreat I went on last weekend.

water lillies
Thinking spring! (Photo by Daniel)

Yes, I admit it. I’m part of the popular cult of mostly women who keep AC Moore and Michaels in business by buying scrap booking supplies. I’m very “old school” in my scrapping techniques, using stamps and ink pads to “make my own” even though it’s A LOT more convenient to buy the same (nicer) item for half a dollar more than the one I’m fumbling to make.

Scrap booking is a love-hate relationship for me. I love the pictures, the supplies, a chance to use my hands and be creative. I love sitting with my high school and church girlfriends each month as we talk, laugh, and sometimes cry while we intermittently manage to adhere pictures on a page over the course of several hours. I love thinking about the memories the pictures stir up, remembering my kids petting the sheep at the fair or eating their first bite of ice cream. I guess I like to live in the past, probably a bit more than I should.

First bite of ice cream
Ian’s first bite of ice cream

However, my “do it yourself” scrap booking puts me far behind where I’d like to be. I like to think if I bought all of the stickers, embellishments, (a Cricut) etc, that I’d be a lot closer to having current scrap books for my kids, instead of being almost 2 years behind. So the “hate” part of scrapping is feeling like I’m never finished, never can say “I don’t have to think about that for another month or two.”

But my love of scrap booking supercedes any dislike, and so I press on while giving myself permission to be eternally behind, as most scrappers are. To try to catch up this winter I used my Christmas/birthday money to buy myself a table (and a room) at a scrap booking retreat. Fifty kid-free, husband-less, chore-less hours dedicated to scrap booking and just enough sleep to keep me awake for the drive home on Sunday.

work room
The Work Room – where it all happens

I was excited at the prospect of all that time to spend scrapping, but possibly more excited to leave my own four walls for two whole days as I have been struggling with a lot of self-induced stress. However, even in the weeks before the retreat, I found it hard to make time to sift through the hundreds of pictures on our computer so that I could order the pictures I needed for the retreat. I even found myself thinking if I didn’t order pictures in time, I could easily spend the time making cards, writing, reading, running,… Oh, and did I mention eating?

Female Superbowl – yeah, we do ok for the weekend.

It was down to the wire—time to order pictures or time to plan alternative ways to spend my weekend. As I pulled out my scrap books to figure out where I left off scrapping, I realized I had barely done any scrapping since January of 2012. Then I remembered the time or two I did scrap this past year I came away feeling overly burdened and uncreative. Instead, I began taking non-scrap booking projects to the monthly get-togethers. I had chalked it up to lack of new ideas, a scrapper’s block.

But as I looked through pictures on the computer, I came across one of my brother-in-law, Alicia’s husband, and I tried to decipher if the picture was taken before or after Alicia’s death. That’s when it clicked. My lack of scrap booking enthusiasm this past year was not about being bored by the same old layouts or supplies. The last scrap booking marathon I had was last January when I spent one day at the scrap booking retreat, scrapping Ian from February 2011 through August 2011—the hardest time of my life between Becky’s diagnosis and Alicia’s death.

Looking back, I distinctly remember the two weeks following the retreat as being one of my lowest times since Alicia’s death, and I wonder if the day at the retreat was partially to blame for this. And so, I had sub-consciously stopped scrapping, way too painful, similar to that time in my life when I no longer wanted to scrap book my wedding— too painful to think of all that day had promised in relation to where my marriage was at that point in time.

Today, however, I took a deep breath and scrolled through picture after picture of my Alice-girl in 2011—her smile, laughter and light-heartedness told the story that we still go on, that in-between our tears our laughter remains and we continue making good memories. So I ordered my pictures in time for them to arrive for the retreat. Whether or not I will spend my weekend working on them remains to be seen, but at least I’ve taken the first step. And maybe just as I now want to scrap book my wedding day because of the healing that has occurred in my marriage, maybe someday I will be able to scrap book Alice’s happenings in 2011-2012.

*  * * Afterthoughts * * *

As you know from two posts ago, the retreat has come and gone. I was able to scrap December of 2010 through January of 2012 for Alice over the weekend. It was harder than I expected it to be. I must admit I was glad my girlfriends had not yet arrived at the retreat as I scrapped the last picture I took of Alicia from Christmas of 2010. I sat “alone” with my thoughts, my anger and my sorrow, and that was just what I needed for the time being.

My friends arrived shortly afterward, and I was glad for the distraction as I continued working through the year—trying not to dwell on the emotions that weren’t pictured, but which permeated every single event. I remembered why we celebrated Easter late that year, why we went to Longwood Gardens in June, and of course Alicia’s face was missing from the vacation pictures as well as Christmas of 2011.

I’ve wondered if this might be the end of my scrap booking for a while again. I’ve struggled with more emotions this week—maybe because of the memories the weekend produced or maybe because it’s the middle of winter, a very hard time for myself (and many people) longing for more sun and warmer weather.

While those hard memories of 2011 into 2012 still linger near the surface of my mind, I am trying to dwell on the happy times too by remembering my Alice-girl, snuggled in her Daddy’s arms and splashing through the fountains…holding on tightly to the few peaceful memories of 2011 in hopes of continuing the healing in 2013.

sitting with Daddy

in motion



my girl

with Ian

Fountain Stroll
Missing you, sweet Alicia


Ode to my KitchenAid Mixer

monster cookie 1

Dear KitchenAid,

I know it’s been a long 60 hours for you, but I wanted to thank you for working as hard as you did. You put in long, hard hours this past Christmas, and I apologize for an additional laborious weekend so close to December. I wanted you to know how much I truly appreciate your mixing abilities and willingness to work with me.

We’ve gotten to know each other a little better over the past 2+ days. You’ve realized I would love to be a pastry chef… or at least you think I’d like to be a pastry chef. However, I’ve come to realize I don’t care enough about the appearances of my product in order to pursue that profession. (But I have a feeling you already knew that from helping me decorate cakes for the kids over the years. It was never you, KitchenAid, that was the source of my frustration. Instead it was the lack of my own abilities.)

I also appreciate your ability to change direction in the middle of a project. You were pumped up and already in the first stages of making a double batch of chocolate chip cookie bars when I realized I did not have near enough brown sugar and was not about to run to the store by way of snow covered roads to get more. You were able to switch gears quite quickly and did not voice any complaints at the amount of time I spent finding a compatible butter/white sugar/no brown sugar recipe. Thank you for your flexibility.

Anyway, dear KitchenAid of mine, I know my mother-in-law is sad she sold you to me and would love to have you back. To be honest, I had no idea the quality mixer I was getting when you came to my house, but just so you know—I’m keeping you for good. Also I’m thinking that after this weekend you’re already dreading what I have in mind for the coming week since my boy’s birthday is right around the corner. But you’ll be happy to know he wants an ice cream cake, and I’m happy to oblige given my cake decorating skills.

Oh… and finally, I promise next time I’m asked to contribute food to a get-together, I will give you a well-deserved rest and take something that does not require your services. Sleep long and well, KitchenAid.

Tastefully yours,

The Baker

Hard at work
peanut butter chip brownies
Originally chocolate chip cookie bar which morphed into peanut butter chip brownies since the brownies required the same amount of butter and white sugar, and no brown sugar.
monster cookies 2
Monster Cookies
Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (I found out this weekend that one can floss a cheesecake. Wow – I never knew! Obviously, mine was not flossed… or in any way fussed with.)
creme de menthe
Creme De Menthe Paisley Chocolate Drops – This was my first time making them, and they were a big hit at tonight’s get-together.