Thursday, November 1, 2012

On incremental progress

About 9 months after my daughter was born, a group of friends were planning to run a half-marathon about 9 months in the future. At that point, I am not sure I could have run a third of a mile* without keeling over, but somehow I was convinced to start training to join them for the big run.  And so I started. Within a few weeks I had run an under twelve-minute mile, panting and wheezing by the end. Within a week after that I began suffering from severe vertigo. I gave up on running. After a bit, the vertigo went away

About a year after that, we moved from Oklahoma to Maryland. For the first time I was neither working nor in school, and I was desperate for something to do to define myself.** Our church had several ministries that I volunteered with. I hinted that I had some spare time, and BOOM, suddenly I was helping run all several of them. I again developed significant vertigo that laid me out a few days a month. I dropped out of volunteering entirely*** The vertigo decreased significantly. 

I may be a slow learner, but I am sensing a pattern.

A year or so after that, we moved to Texas, and a month after that my son was born. Having gotten a chance to reset my life twice, this time I decided to not do a darn thing. It's amazing how life fills up anyways - with friends, and chores, music classes and birthday parties, and now school. My oldest is off to kindergarten now and in the face of these free seven hours, I have been so tempted to fill them with hugeness, with glory and conquest and heroism.

Instead, stepping back for the small things has been its own sort of majesty. Managing the money just a little better, keeping slightly closer track of the myriad projects entailed in the development of two little lives (and two slightly older ones), pausing and taking in the pleasant reality of how very good the good things are. 

I've taken up running again. This summer, after all the madness of travel, I needed some place to put the difficult reality of how very exhausting life's challenges are, too; a gym with drop-in childcare was just the thing. I started slowly, so very slowly. And this week, I ran 1.67 miles in 20 minutes. It turns out I like running. The trouble was, I had been sprinting before, pushing myself to move faster than my legs were ready to carry me, holding the very breath I needed to fuel my pounding muscles. There just wasn't enough in me to meet the goals I was driving myself to. This time, running from strength and not from desperate need, trusting that my body can do just a little more than I've seen it do yet, has made all the difference.

Someday, I'd like to run a 5k, and I'd like to run in it under 30 minutes. But that's a goal for about two years from now. And that's okay.

Someday, I'd like a project that takes me outside these four walls again to make a difference, one where my skills intersect with real needs and I can point to tangible results from my efforts. But that's a goal for a few years from now. And I finally believe that that's okay, too.

- Addendum: Oh, the irony. I typed this post up on Monday afternoon. On Monday evening, I dropped 2lbs of frozen chicken on my toe, and broke it. I am now sentenced to 6 weeks of taking it easy. Time to put my money where my mouth is, I suppose. :-)

The successful completion of this recipe Sunday night marks the intersection of a lot of skills slowly accumulated over the last decade. There was definitely a time where produce went bad before I used up its bounty, where making a white sauce was daunting, and pie crust was out of the question. However, Sunday used up the rest of the veggie tray and leftover chicken, built a white gravy from scratch and rolled out the other half of the pie crust that had baffled my quiche last Thursday. Step by step, we get there.

Chicken Pot Pie:
(starting recipe courtesy of

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed 
(I cubed two pre-cooked chicken thighs and added to water with veggies to warm it up)
(1 large potato, 1/2" chop)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed (I didn't use this)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk

2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts (I used this one, split into two thin crusts. I did not refrigerate it again before filling)


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)

2. In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery (and potato!). Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

3.In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

4.Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

5.Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*half-kilometer :)

** I've got my own issues, but it didn't particularly help that something like 90% of mothers work in DC and that I was the same age as most of the nannies. #awkward

***Sorry for being such a spaz, y'all! 


Elin said...

I love you and miss you - but this post with the thoughtful conversions just makes me miss you more!

Will try the recipe though! :)

Becky said...

Aw, thanks! I love and miss you too! We read Life of Pi for bookclub here and it made me think of you and Josh, maybe?, discussing it at the Collections. Someday we'll end up in the same country again for a bit!

Let me know how the pot pie turns out! :)

annie said...

Beck, even though none of this was big news to me - the running or the transitions or the hopes of glory and conquest, the way you've written it out here gets right to the heart of things. I really love the way you weave things together. And probably need to chew on this one for a while! So good.