Friday, January 30, 2009

It's darn chilly when you're living in the Buff...

Our friend Travis always calls Buffalo "The Buff."

It is quite hilarious, I must admit, when he calls and says, "Are you two livin' it up in the Buff?" or "Is it chilly, being in the Buff all the time?"

He says, at the end of every story we tell, we should throw in the phrase, "And it all happened in the Buff..." (I don't follow this advice--not a good visual.)

I must admit, it really has been freezing in the Buff this winter.

Ryan interviewed at UB a few weeks after the infamous Buffalo "October Storm" in 2006. During this unexpected and early blizzard, Buffalo got several feet of snow and, because so many branches fell, some places lost power for two weeks. It was a mess, and the whole nation heard about it. So, when I told people that Ryan was interviewing in Buffalo, the common response was, "Are you insane?? I hope you like living in a snowdrift!"

October storm

Well, the truth is, last winter wasn't that bad. It really wasn't. I mean, yeah, there were a few really snowy days, but it didn't seem much different to me than a winter in Utah or Colorado (which I am used to). When the winter ended, I remember thinking, So, why all the hype? That wasn't a big deal at all.

This winter has been different: lots of snow, freezing temperatures, gusty winds. It's been cold, gray, and depressing since November, and it will probably be this way until at least March. Boo.

The newscasters are saying this is one of the worst winters Buffalo has had in 30 years. Hey, at least it will be a good sob story to tell our kids: "When we were poor students with only one car, your father walked to school every day in Buffalonian blizzards and sub-zero temperatures..." (This is true by the way. Ryan is a trooper.)

My commute into work this morning was horrible; I could barely see because of the blowing snow, I was afraid to go more than 30 mph because the roads were so slick, and I was 30 minutes late because I didn't want to lose my life by careening off the highway into a snowbank.

I hope I survive this frigid winter in the Buff...

Monday, January 26, 2009


It is high time I wrote a blog tribute to one of my favorite people in the entire world: Sister Deborah Tilley.

Deborah is wacky, hilarious, optimistic, strong...all around, she's one of my heroes. She had a stroke about seven years ago, and in spite of all of her physical challenges, she is always laughing and making others laugh. She joined our church almost two years ago, and she has completely changed her life and her perspectives. She is awesome. We drive her to church almost every Sunday, and we've gotten extremely close to her over the last year and a half.

We've had some classic moments with Deb. Here are some of my favorites:

-One day after church, Deb said, "Rachel, I'm real hungry. Can we swing through Wendy's on the way home and pick me up a bacon double cheeseburger?" Chuckling, I reminded her that we try not to spend money on Sundays, so we can keep the Sabbath Day holy. Instead, I invited her over to our apartment for lunch. Ry and I aren't gourmet chefs, and we didn't have much to offer, but Ry whipped up some French toast. Of course, Deb loved that Ry was the one doing the cooking and serving us. Ry also said the prayer to bless lunch, and he specifically said, "Thank you for our friend, Deb." After downing about five pieces of French toast, Deborah announced, "Ryan, that was way better than Wendy's. And I even got a prayer out of it too!!"

-When we took Deb to the Smith Farm and the Sacred Grove (a historical sight for our church), we brought her fold-up wheelchair because we knew it would be difficult for her to walk because she uses a cane and one entire side of her body doesn't work. The fold-up wheelchair is cumbersome and hard to push, but we figured it was better than making her trudge around the Farm. Well, when we wheeled her into the Visitor's Center, our missionary tour guide immediately said, "Ma'am, would you like to ride in one of our electric powered wheelchairs?" Deborah took one look at their high-tech contraption and told the missionary, "Girl, get me out of this Pinto; I want that Cadillac!"

-When I gave Deb her Christmas present this year, she held the package for a moment, shook it, and then said, "Girl, I hope this is a new leg--because mine sure don't act like it belong to me!"

-This is my all-time favorite. When my dad was in town, he took us and Deb to the Anchor Bar for some original Buffalo chicken wings. After a few minutes of chatting, my dad excused himself to go use the restroom, and Deb looked at me and said, "Girl, you got a good lookin' dad. You better watch out or he gonna be snatched up in Buffalo!" As if this comment isn't hilarious enough, she then went on: "He look real fit. Mmmm, hmmm...I bet he look good in some shorts!" OH MY! I was dying! Was Deborah lusting after my father?!? After regaining composure, I assured her that I had seen my dad in running shorts many times, and it was not a sight worth writing home about. :) When I told my dad the story later that evening...well, I don't know if I've ever seen him laugh so hard.

-Deborah is also inclined to make random, loud coments in lessons at church. She'll just shout something out, and I don't think the teachers know quite what to do with her. There are too many hilarious comments to remember, but this past Sunday when the teacher was talking about the Resurrection, Deb proclaimed, "So I'm gonna get my hair back?!" WHAT THE?? I loved it!

Overall, I absolutely love this woman.

Here is another photo of us from this past Sunday, all bundled up to go out Visiting Teaching for church. Deb had been wearing that puffed-up stocking cap all day--even through all of our church meetings. Classic.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Pretzel in English Class

So...we had quite the incident in my 11th grade English class today.

At the beginning of class, I notice that a certain young man has brought one of those big, yummy, soft pretzels to class with him. He has it on his desk and is slowly tearing off little pieces and eating them. It's not every day a kid brings one of those delicacies into my room, so it immediately catches my attention.

Well, a few minutes later, I notice that this same boy is particularly sleepy during my mini-lesson on in-text citations for research papers...not that I blame him. I allow him to continue his short nap (as I wish I was napping myself), but when I get an opportune moment, I walk by and gently tap his shoulder.

"Walter, (name has been changed) wake up!" I have to prod him several times before he drowsily raises his head, drool on his cheek, and looks at me in confusion. "Do you need to go to the nurse?" I ask.

"No," he responds, voice slurring. "I'm okay." (Just remember, as my story continues, that he had this moment to escape--and he refused it.)

So, I continue with my oh-so-interesting lesson, and not ten seconds after I'd prodded him the first time, he is asleep again. We're not talking head-nodding, lightly dozing. He is DEAD TO THE WORLD asleep--his nose is actually inside one of the holes of his big pretzel as he snoozes away.

The other kids and I exchange glances of concern/amusement, but since we are headed down to the computer lab, I decide not to make a big deal of it. As all of the students file out of their seats, he wakes up, grabs his pretzel, and joins his enthusiastic classmates on their way to research.

Ten minutes later...we're in the lab. Everyone is working diligently. Students are tapping away at their keyboards, pouring over books, and composing brilliant essays. I look over, and, to my surprise, "Walter" is not as eager as the others--in fact, he is slumped over to one side, mouth open, cheeks slack--he is barely staying in his chair. With the way his body is contorted, he actually looks like the pretzel that is sitting beside his computer--uneaten and forgotten.

Now, I've seen some tired kids in my day--but this is a whole different type of tired. The lack of control of his body, the inability to speak clearly, the drooling, the staggering...he can barely stay in his chair.

I whisper to my co-teacher, "What should I do if I think a student is high on something?"

She takes one glance at Mr. Sleepy Pretzel Man and runs to the office for help.

When the security guard returns with her, I intercept them at the door. After all, I don't want to accuse this kid of anything...maybe he stayed up late helping his sick grandmother with her medicines or his little sister with her homework or feeding the homeless with a church youth group activity??

"Jay," I warn the security guard, "I don't know anything--I just suspect."

Well, Jay--who has lots of experience with drugged up kids--doesn't need more than a quick inspection of poor "Walt" slumped in his chair to make the pronouncement. "The kid's stoned out of his mind!"

Oh my. When Mr. Pretzel opens his eyes long enough to realize who is standing in front of him (it isn't friendly Mrs. is the entire school security team, the school nurse, and a couple of administrators), THAT woke him up in a hurry! (I've never seen a kid look so guilty in my life!)

Jay later told me "Good work!" for my prowess at detecting young druggies disguised as innocent pretzel-eating students.
I have to admit as a P.S. that this experience, although it makes for a rather humorous blog post, actually totally ruined my day. I hate realizing all that my students go through and the ways that they hurt themselves and their bodies. But since I still have 50 essay outlines to read tonight, and am therefore trying to keep myself in an upbeat, cheerful mood, I'm not going to write/think about that right now. It makes me too sad. Another day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Ry and I took a fun trip for the long Martin Luther King weekend: We flew to Baltimore to visit one of my best friends from college, Lindsey, and her husband, Joe.

We have recently discovered the joys of Southwest Airlines and are convinced that we will never fly another airline again. (Our horrendous experiences with United should be the subject of their own blog entry...but all I am going to say is NEVER AGAIN!) Anyway, Southwest had a special deal a few months ago--all flights in or out of Buffalo were 50% off. What a steal!! We booked our flights to Baltimore right away.

My favorite part of the trip was just chatting with Lindsey. We hadn't seen in each other in several years, and it was so fun to catch up and talk about life, marriage, memories from the dorms (Oh my!), engagement stories (Linds was particularly amused by an embarassing tale about a "Cowboy Jig"), and other varied topics. Monday, we slept in, made homemade bread, ate all the homemade bread, and talked the entire day. It was perfect!

In the midst of all this talking, we did make a trip to Washington D.C. on Saturday. It was perfect timing; we were there just as the Obama hype was beginning--so we got a fun taste of the patriotic spirit--but we just missed the intense overload of the Obama mayhem--so we escaped the crowds and craziness.

The weather was freezing, so we did a lot of sightseeing from the car. We also spent several hours at the Holocaust Museum, which was sobering and thought-provoking. I hope we make it back to D.C. before we leave Buffalo because there is so much more to see!

It was crazy to watch CNN today and see the streets and monuments swarmed with people...we were there just three days ago!!

Although we didn't see Obama on Saturday, we did see the 7,000 Port-o-Potties they brought in for the big event. We thought they really added to our lovely photo of the United States capital:

Another highlight of the trip was seeing one of my favorite teachers from high school who now lives in Baltimore with her family. She has a four year old son who, of course, immediately took to Ryan. Within two minutes of our arrival, little Will was climbing onto Ryan's lap. His mom said, "Will, what are you doing? Don't be impolite to our guests." He responded, "But I just want to sit on Wyan's wap..." Pretty dang cute, if you ask me. Ryan is dying for one of these little chubsters of his own. He and Will also put on a pretty fun puppet show.

All in all, it was a great trip!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mr. Fat Foot

I was shocked to see Ryan's foot today. He says it feels a lot better, but it sure looks horrible!!

I don't think this photo really does it justice--but if you compare the widths of the actual ankles, you'll probably be able to tell which is swollen! Even the top of his foot is swollen and bruised, randomly enough.

Ouch!! So bruised AND so fat!

And on a happier note, my students LOVED my hair cut!! (Or at least they said they did...) Phew!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A drastic new 'do...

Well, folks, I got my hair chopped off on Friday. I am still a little shocked when I look in the mirror...and even more shocked when I run my hands through my hair in the shower. (Where did it all go??)

My hair has been fairly long or very long since I was about nine, so this was a drastic change for me...but it's a new year...why not have a new 'do?

Let's hope my new haircut looks a little better than it did when I was nine:

We have a very quirky older guy at our church (who sometimes makes the young ladies feel uncomfortable, although he is harmless), and he said to me today, "You look exquisitely beautiful. What did you do differently today?" I said, "Well, I got about seven or eight inches cut off of my hair." He responded, "No, that's not it. I think it's something with your makeup. Are you doing your makeup differently?" At this point I am thinking, Umm...random...why would he notice my makeup? But I responded, "Yeah, I did something different with my makeup--I actually wore some." I had to wear a little makeup for the hair debut, right?!

Here are some photos:

No makeup in this one, taken right after the cut.

Going out to dinner, all spruced up.

Ready for church!
Now that I am at least somewhat used to the haircut, I think I will stop making Ryan take pictures of me posing after I style it each day. It makes me feel a little ridiculous...and quite vain.

My neighbor Mahogany doesn't like my new hairstyle ("WHY, Miss Rachel, WHY??"), but I love hers!

Well...since I got a new haircut on Friday, I guess Ryan figured he may as well get a new injury! He got a horrid sprained ankle while playing basketball with his classmates, and he has been laid up all weekend. If you look very closely at the photo below, you will notice he also got some hot new glasses. I much prefer his new glasses to his new foot injury--I've been waiting on him all weekend!! (Not that I mind, Ryan!)

So, tomorrow, I debut the hair to 130 high school students. I'm somewhat frightened of what they'll have to say...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year!!

I love New Years...and not for the partying (never do much of that)...I love having a fresh start and renewed motivation to better myself at the beginning of each year.

I know I could treat any day of the year like New Years--after all, it's just a made up holiday, an arbitrary date someone probably came up with as an excuse to drink champagne and kiss ladies--but, for whatever reason, I do feel differently as a new year begins.

When I was a teenager, my mom had us do a special New Years Family Home Evening at the beginning of each year; she gave us categories like "Favorite family memories from the past year" and "Things I worked hard on this year," etc, and we brainstormed individually and then shared as a family. I've always been quite a sentimental, melancholy sap, so I looked forward to this FHE, and I've kept copies of my brainstorms from year to year. For me, it's always very meaningful to look back over a year of my life and realize all that I overcame, how much I changed, and how Heavenly Father blessed me. Holidays give me an excuse to pause--reflect--evalute. I love that.

Ry and I continue to do this FHE Activity with each other, and I'm sure we will with our kids too!

But New Years isn't just a time to reflect on the past; it's also a time to hope for the future. I am one of those dorky people who has about ten New Years Resolutions. This year, I have a few specific goals that I hope help me grow stronger spiritually and physically. I even made myself a weekly check-off chart to track my progress. Can you tell I'm excited? :)


Thursday, January 1, 2009

It happened in Sun Valley...

Ry and I have spent the last week with his family in Idaho. They are awesome, and it's been so fun to be with them.

His grandparents own a cabin in Sun Valley, Idaho, and it's a family tradition to go to the cabin every December 26th-December 31st. We ski/snowboard, read books or chat around the fire at night, play games, eat delicious meals prepared by his amazing mother, and just bond as a family.

This week, I told Ryan that I love Sun Valley because I fell in love with him here. It's true! After we'd been dating for about six months, we went to the cabin with his family; it was the first time I had ever met them, and after a fun-filled weekend, I knew I wanted to become a Nielson! On the drive back from Sun Valley to Provo, Ry and I talked openly about getting married for the first time.

A year later, Ryan and I went to the cabin for our honeymoon. I have fond memories of sleeping in late, listening to his grandpa's Nat King Cole CD on the cabin's speakers as we ate leisurely breakfasts, finally making it to the ski hill about 11:00, and then snuggling on ski lifts and cruising down the hill for a few hours each day. Ry patiently taught me how to snowboard (I am terrible!), made me peanut butter shakes every night, and, in the process, convinced me that I had definitely made the right choice in marrying him!! :)

Now, every Christmas that we celebrate with his family, we are up at the cabin for our anniversary. It's fun to go out to dinner in Sun Valley and reminisce about our first week of marriage and all the great times that we've had since.

On December 28th this year, we celebrated three years of marriage!! Hooray!