{pretty, happy, funny, real}

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.

Linking up (only one day late!) with Like Mother, Like Daughter.

{pretty}

We’ve been really appreciating the hand-me-down baby clothes from my mom’s group, with renewed appreciation every time baby bear grows into a new set of them. And she grows fast. Can you believe she’s 6.5 months old? And 22.5 pounds? Good thing we have plenty of cute 9-12 month size dresses that were waiting in the wings.

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This one is probably my favorite.

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Oh, and our cat, Mädchen, is pretty too.

{happy}

I’m slowly finding the joy in the moving process. It comes and goes. One especially good thing is that it is a nice push towards getting rid of possessions, and focusing on what’s really important. I decided at New Year’s that 2015 is the year of simplicity, and a big part of that is physical and mental decluttering. So Lucas and I have set aside ONE box each of books we will have available to us in the next few months, and the rest will go in storage. 0_o

My box so far:

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My first impulse was to grab a bunch of spiritual reading because that’s what I’d take if I was going to a deserted island forever. But then I mixed it up with plenty of things to read for fun, and for study (hello, music therapy books from college!).

Being a family with a considerably sized library (at least by modern standards), it’s hard to rule out so many books. But it has made us prioritize what we truly want to read, and I find that to be very liberating. I might actually read more since I won’t have a paralyzingly large selection of books to choose from. At least until I set up my Kindle.

{funny}

This. Baby. I’m telling you, she is absolutely hilarious.

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The faces, the belly laughs, and her newest thing: Attacking my face with both hands when I’m holding her, smashing my face onto her face, and slobbering all over me while making monster noises. I think it’s how she kisses, or indicates that she wants kisses.

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And OH, the laughter!!

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Next time she plays the recorder, I’ll have to take a video.

{real}

Moving to a new place is an adventure. But, the logistics are so incredibly burdensome. And it makes your house less livable.

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Ugh. Boxes are everywhere. Also I’m not a huge fan of baby cages on principle, but it is nice to have the option of a playpen at times like this when there’s just too much stuff for her to get into.

That wraps up my first {p,h,f,r}! This was fun!

A much needed break

I’m taking a break from Facebook, for the first time since college. I had Lucas change my password yesterday so I literally cannot access it at all. I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. When my addiction to endless scrolling is unavailable, amazing things happen. I go on more walks with my daughter. I read more books and less internet. I knit more. We play outside more. I get more packing and cleaning done since there’s one less place to hide. I write thoughts down here and on paper more, instead of dumping them on mommy groups and Facebook statuses, meaning I get less attention for my thoughts and less ego encouragement. I feel more free to engage with the world around me. I feel at peace. You should try it. 🙂

I’m reading Sense and Sensibility now. It’s slow going due to our chaotic life right now but I’m really loving it! It’s been years since I’ve read Austen, but I’m hoping to have finished reading her novels by the end of the year. What’s your favorite Austen novel and why?

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Mommy daughter coffee and reading date

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The longer this break goes on, the more I realize how much this addiction holds me back from doing the things that I love and living my best life. I’m so happy to be diving back into my obligations and hobbies wholeheartedly, without one eye on the notifications globe.

Here’s how to be

I can’t stand “It’s been so long since I last blogged because [insert excuses, self deprecation, promises to be more consistent, blah blah blah]” posts, so I’ll just say this: Oh hi! I’m back. A lot has happened. I had a baby. She’s six months old. Grab some coffee and chocolate or whatever you like to enjoy on lazy Sunday afternoons, and walk through some bible thoughts with me. 🙂
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Gratuitous new mom picture, and then we can move on:

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“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Mt 28:20

This is the last verse of today’s Gospel reading, for Trinity Sunday. This single line is one I keep in mind often, because it reveals so much about who God is, and who he is to me. It also has distinctly Catholic implications, which we will get to towards the end.

“And behold”

A preamble: “Look! Pay attention! See, this is true.”

“I am”

This calls back to God’s revelation to Moses in the burning bush in the book of Exodus. When he asks God who he is, God answers “I am who am.” In short, he is being. God is, rather than one being among many, being itself. (h/t Fr. Robert Barron) Through him, all things are, and without him, nothing is, because he is To Be itself. That’s all very heady and confusing and not very personal, I know. But it’s an important foundation for what follows.

“I am with you

Through Our Blessed Mother’s Fiat, the eternal To Be, the origin of existence itself, took on human flesh. It’s the single most baffling thing that has ever happened. Why would he do that?? He chose to become one of us to reveal himself fully to us, and to be with us. To be better known and loved by us, he took on our physical form, and got down on our level and looked humanity in the eye. He spoke with a human voice. (I often wonder what it must have been like to hear the very voice of God made man!) And through his life, death, and resurrection, he revealed to us that he is love, and that he is with us. Love is with us. To be God is to be in loving relation to an other, and since God is being, being itself is relational. It’s the very meaning of God’s Trinity and Unity! There is nobody more passionately, boundlessly in love with humanity than our God is, and he wants us to be like him in loving the whole world. As he is our Father, he shows his children by example how we are to love. There is so, so much more I have to say on this as it relates to parenthood. But for now I’ll stick to our chosen verse from today’s gospel, okay? So today, what God teaches me about love is “I am with you.” He teaches by example. I’m here, he says. With you. I want to be with you. I am Love, and this is how you love. You be with. Regardless of your struggles, your failings, your ignorance, your anger, your crazy mood swings, your messy house, your waking up shrieking, ready to start the day at 4am, and anything else that might make you annoying or off-putting… “I am with you,” because that is who I am, says God. That’s who love is. We have all hurt our God time and time again, pushing back against what he asks of us, mistreating his other children, ignoring the needs of others, and many many other things that outright reject God’s will for us. Still he says “I am with you.” Even if we reject him and want nothing to do with him and put up all manner of walls around ourselves to keep him out at times, he’s always standing by, waiting ever so patiently for us to return. And that, by the way, is the best description I have of my “parenting style,” such as it is–Being With. (Although I see it more as just a natural extension of what I strive for as my “being a person” style.)

“I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

If you think back to the heady academic stuff about God’s nature as being existence itself, this part goes without saying. But then so is saying “I love you” over and over to someone you love. You don’t stop saying it because it is old news. You keep saying it, to show love and to remind the beloved. Here Jesus is reminding us that we are his beloved, to the ultimate extreme degree. When we say wedding vows, it’s “As long as we both shall live” or “Till death do us part.” (Perhaps this is different in the Eastern rites–I believe their theology on this is a bit different.) As humans, that’s the longest we can promise to do anything, and it’s a really big deal, to say the least. But Christ is God, eternal To Be, outside and around and within and through all of time and space, and he promises to us his “always.” He meets and surpasses any promise of love we can give. Of course. Because our human love is of Christ’s love, though limited by virtue of our nature as created beings.

My FAVORITE PART of this whole thing: Jesus, having taken on human flesh at the Incarnation, gave us his very body to feed and sustain us, beginning at the Last Supper/Calvary. He entrusted his body to us in the Holy Eucharist, safeguarded by the Apostles, handed down to successor after successor for twenty centuries, and shares it with YOU in any Catholic parish, any day of the week, so you can accept his offer of his Presence, again and again. Regardless of the many bad things that have happened because of human sin since Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, He has held fast to that promise to be with us, physically, forever. God will never force you to do anything! But rather, regardless of your past, he continues to offer his total, physical presence to you. He’s your Father, your brother, your friend, and he’s waiting patiently for your response. He wants to be with you. Won’t you go meet him? Sit with him? Tell him what’s on your mind? He’s the perfect listener, and he knows you better than anyone.

“I am with you always, until the end of the age.” How beautiful.

It’s so nice to write and share these thoughts! I really enjoy discussing things like this, so thanks for reading and commenting if you are so inclined. It takes a long time in a conversation between friends to get to the point where you talk about things like this, and my friend hangouts these days tend to get cut short by baby naps. Maybe I’ll keep writing, then. We’ll see.

Seven quick takes: Long weekend edition

This format seemed as good as any to gently introduce myself to more frequent blogging. Disclaimer: I can’t really imagine you’ll be anything other than bored with this, but I’m posting it anyway. It’s the little things that make life what it is, you know? So here it goes:

1.  Something I learned the hard way: Caffeine, in moderate to high doses, anytime after 11am or so, makes me anxious, twitchy, irritable, and just unbearable. Don’t believe me? Ask Lucas. My new rule for myself is that coffee consumption stops at 11am, and is limited to one cup a day. And I’m trying to substitute tea some of the time, which is hard…as much as I like tea, it’s just not coffee. But, yay for taking steps toward better mental health!

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2.  My old habit of getting my hair cut once every 12-18 months has got to end here and now. A professional haircut goes a long way towards feeling more presentable to the world, especially if you have a stylist you trust to make your hair look awesome, and teach you how to keep up with it daily. And it can even inspire you to do other good things! Which leads me to #3.

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3.  If you’re a morning person like me, embrace it. Don’t wait to get out of bed when you wake up. This will help you take care of yourself and be sane. I’ve reclaimed my early mornings this past week as “me” time, for reading and writing and prayer and coffee and healthy, high-protein whole food breakfasts. And feeding the cat that becomes a ravenous little beast at 6:30am. It’s the perfect opportunity for quiet time in my house, since Lucas is so NOT a morning person. And of course, as my mother always said,

4.  A good morning starts the night before. I’ve reclaimed late evenings during the week as well. Instead of doing whatever I feel like (um, marathonning the West Wing and binging on either cupcakes or cabbage) and waiting for bedtime to sort of just happen on its own, I’m implementing my new 2014 motto of “Take the Lead” and making sure I actually do what I need to do to get me prepared for the next morning. It’s a lot of stuff. Maybe I’ll put it in its own dedicated post another time, with the morning routine. It’s basically a modified, Catholic version of FlyLady.

5.  Painting is really, really fun. I went to a painting class with my mom yesterday afternoon. It was a super-relaxing, very easy step by step class for non-painters. Being a musician, using different artistic mediums for expression stretches me out of my comfort zone, and expands the ways in which I think about art and life. That’s part of the reason I want to get back to writing more on here. In addition to the artistic aspect of the class, it provided some much-needed bonding time with my mom. And the painting we did was the Pittsburgh skyline at night, complete with the fountain at the Point, and the rubber ducky! I’m no van Gogh, but hey, pretty good for a musician, huh?

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6. I’m so blessed to live so close to so many of my close friends and the majority of my family. This weekend made me realize that a lot. If you have friends you love a lot, and I hope you do, go out of your way to make them feel appreciated and loved. I spent every single day of this long weekend with the people I love the most, doing fun, meaningful things together like cooking, baking, eating, drinking, concert-going, and painting…And most of all, talking and sharing our lives. My weekends are usually solitary recharge time and housework catch-up, but I want to make more of an effort to share them with friends and family instead.

7. To wrap up: this past week of finally getting myself set up to live more intentionally has done wonders for my whole-person health. Most importantly, the self-discipline and ordered living I am practicing has given me the freedom to rely on God, and to really focus on ordering my daily activities towards the Cross, towards giving glory to God and giving myself in service to others. Which is really the end goal of every day in the life of a Christian, to inch a little closer to heaven every day. If you’re like me, living like this is a little bit of organization and a HECK of a lot of divine grace away. The good news is that it’s free for the asking!

The First Year: Moving forward together

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Well, today marks one year since our wedding day. People always ask me if it feels like the first year has gone fast, and I never know quite how to answer. In all honesty, it feels like it has been exactly one year. That’s a boring answer, I know, but it’s true! So much has happened in our lives between the day we made our vows and this day, September 1, one year later. I’m going to go through an overview of our first year in a minute, but first let’s reminisce a little about our wedding Mass. Because it’s our anniversary, after all.

For a while, there were no monumental or landmark events (other than our actual wedding day), just the living of our ordinary life. Thinking back on last fall and winter, I remember distinctly feeling like a newlywed couple, blissful at our new state, but also trying to figure out how we wanted to live as a new family. Somewhere around late winter/early spring, that faded away as we got used to being married a bit more, and a new kind of happiness set ina deep, abiding contentment and peace that we still share. I’m not saying everything was or is perfect, mind you. But we do face conflict well together, thanks to Lucas’s peaceful nature in the face of just about everything (except MarioKart and rush hour traffic), and my perpetual need to have everything out in the open, everything spoken aloud.

Here’s us in our apartment on Christmas Eve:

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And in January, celebrating the wedding of our dear friends the Dolinars:

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In March, we got a cat! She is sweet and affectionate, and if you know us, you probably have seen way too many photos of her on Facebook. She’s curled up in my lap, purring loudly, as I write this.

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In April, in anticipation of my upcoming layoff, I started my own retail/network marketing company, which turned out to be much bigger, and much better, than I expected. Five months in, it is going extremely well!  I don’t want this blog to turn into an advertisement, but I’ll just say this: if you want to help support my business, let me know and we’ll chat in person. (A quick note about my professional life: I have NOT abandoned music therapy, by any means. I am still playing music, reading, studying, etc. I don’t want to disclose a ton of details right now, since this is about our anniversary and not MT, but rest assured that getting certified in MT, and starting my own practice, is a major goal of mine, and is part of my five-year plan. More on that later.)

In May, Lucas finished his first year of graduate school, which means he is halfway done with his degree!  We also found out that month that we had to move out of our new apartment in July, thanks to a communication foible between the new leasing company and us. It was extremely stressful, and their behavior about the whole thing was…let’s just say it was less than professional. I’m not bitter anymore, since it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.

In June, Lucas spent the month at the University of British Colombia, studying art song at the Vancouver International Song Institute (VISI). I got to go visit him for the final week of the workshop, and hear the amazing student recitals. Maybe I can coerce him to write a full post here on VISI. It was remarkable.

VISIBlog1Our happy reunion in Vancouver:

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Back on the home front, I had the task of finding us a new place to live. I also lost my job that month. With the help of family and friends, I found the duplex we are currently living in, and we’ve been here for about six weeks. It feels so much like home, I don’t even miss the old apartment anymore. We moved in mid-July, and I quickly found a new job, which started at the beginning of August.

This past week, Lucas started his second year of his Master’s degree, still working at three churches on the weekends, and playing voice lessons here and there. I am continuing to work as a nanny, running my business in the evenings. I am so blessed to have found my new nannying family! They are terrific, and the baby is just the sweetest baby ever. Lucas and I get to carpool to school/work together now, which is nice.

So, at our one-year mark, we have been through a lot as a married couplea lot of good things, and a lot of hard things. It is from a position of strength, unity, and peace that we move forward together into year two.

Today I sang hymns with a dying man, and here is my reflection on the experience.

John (not his real name) has been in hospice care for two years at the nursing facility where I am finishing up my pre-clinical music therapy hours. I went into his room with my MT supervisor and she introduced us, and we sang 5 or 6 hymns together. I only knew 3 of them previously, since the rest were I think early 20th century American Protestant hymns. But he knew so much about the composers of these hymns, the stories behind their composition, and a great deal about the composers’ families. I learned so  much from him, and it was incredible. This man’s deep faith was so apparent, there in the room where he was lying in bed, hooked up to oxygen and several other machines. He talked easily about his approaching death, and spoke of meeting his Savior with such joy and expectation. We sang “How Great Thou Art” and harmonized in three parts during the refrain, haltingly so as to accommodate John’s belabored breathing, but perfectly in tune. His smile throughout the singing and the tear streaming down his face were such an honest expression of prayer. We sang “Softly and Tenderly”, his favorite hymn, and as it closed with “Jesus is calling, calling Oh sinner, come home,” he began to weep openly. I was taken aback because I feared we had caused him distress, but all he did was thank us, over and over, for coming to sing and pray with him. We thanked him for all his history lessons and for sharing his stories and his voice and his presence with us.

Sometimes I feel pretty inadequate as an aspiring music therapist, because my music skills aren’t quite where I want/expect them to be, because sometimes I am awkward with people, because I fear new situations, and a whole host of other reasons. All these reasons that cause me the anxiety that limits what I can give to others are focused inwardly, on myself. Reflecting on today’s session with “John” taught me to receive clients as a gift. Every single person on Earth is a blessing, and I am so blessed that I get to make music with so many of them, often when they most need something that the music can give them. Even though I still have new-career jitters, even though I have (sometimes crippling) self-doubt, I really love my job and wouldn’t change careers for all the money or security in the world.

“John”, even in his last days, months, or years of life (I’m not really sure what his prognosis is), who is spiritually and emotionally ready to die, who longs for the next world as his body keeps him in this one, taught me so many valuable life lessons in one half-hour music therapy session, that it will take me a very long time to process them all. He taught me three new hymns, he showed me it is possible to have patience, humility, and even joy through the hardest of trials, and he showed me what “dying well” looks like. But most importantly, I think, he showed me that no matter who you are, what you do or don’t do, what others think of you, you never know when God is using you to change someone’s mind and heart, to bring about His peace.

I have to say this one more time: I love my job.

Halloween Festivities

We had a small gathering of friends in our small apartment last night for a Halloween movie night, and I made some crafty DIY decorations.  I carved out apples in two different ways to make both tealight candle holders and cider mugs (for the hot spiced apple cider simmering away in the crock pot).  If you look closely at the tray with the apple mugs, you’ll see the cinnamon sticks we stirred our cider with.

 

And I dyed some old lace curtains from my college dorm using some leftover stale coffee grounds.  My goal was to get them a gross-looking, these-curtains-have-been-here-for-a-hundred-years-and-are-probably-haunted brownish color.  First, I boiled the curtains for an hour in the vinegar dye fixative (nothing fancy, just 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water in my stock pot on the stove).  If you’re using natural dyes that are berry-based, you need to use a salt fixative, and for plant-based dyes, use vinegar fixative.

Then, I put the coffee grounds in an old sock, and put the sock in a bucket of hot water for 10-15 minutes.  I timed it so that the end of that period would be the end of the fixative-boiling on the curtains.  I then put the curtains straight into the bucket of coffee-dye.

You can kind of see the sock in this one:

Next, I rinsed the curtains in cold water, washed them by hand in the same bucket using my homemade laundry detergent, rinsed again, and hung them up over the shower curtain to air-dry for a few hours.  I turned on the air conditioner on the dehumidifier  setting to speed up the process.  The coffee grounds all escaped the sock, actually, so the curtains were covered in them.  And then they got all over my hands and my bathroom. Ewww.  Next time I’ll use an old stocking instead of a sock.  At least my bathroom smelled like coffee for the rest of the day, and the cleanup was really easy!  Here’s the curtains drip-drying (yes, our bathroom is 50’s-tastic lavender and sea green, ugh):

They didn’t take very long to air-dry, which tips me off that they’re probably polyester or some synthetic blend.  Which would explain why they didn’t dye any darker than a vaguely tan color.  I would have liked them to turn out darker, but they still look antiqued this way. I’m pleased with the outcome.  Next time I’ll definitely check the fiber content, and buy a commercial fabric dye if I need to.  After the curtains were mostly dry, I used a brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to eat up all the coffee grounds that were still clinging to the lace, and then they were all ready to go. It was a pretty time-consuming project, but I was able to get a ton of other stuff done, and even go have lunch at the local cafe during it.  Here’s what they looked like hanging up, tied back with purple ribbon, with the whole display by the windows:

One other super-simple decoration I made was a quart-sized Mason jar filled with candy corn, tied with a thin purple ribbon we had laying around:

 

Lucas did his part to decorate, too.  When he got home from his two Saturday jobs, he brought home a small pumpkin and carved it into a jack-o-lantern for the entryway.

For that extra special festive touch, I had a simmer pot going with some dried orange peel, 1 drop clove bud essential oil, and 3 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil.  Our guests were greeted with scents of autumn even as they walked up the stairs to our floor!  I wish I could take a picture of how that smelled. That was my favorite part.