welcome ... enjoy yourself

Friday, September 28, 2012


I love all the beautiful colors fall brings.  As the air cools down, these lovely little white flowers appear all over a small field by our house.  They remind me to enjoy the next few weeks since white snow will soon be covering their space. 

I walk by this tree every morning on the way to work.  Won't be long before I'll be playing "crunch as many leaves as possible" on my walk.  

We grew this squash/pumpkin in our community garden and baked it for dinner over the weekend.  It was the first time that I had grown a squash for myself, and it felt pretty special. 

Fall and spring are my favorite seasons since they feel more like transitions between the more extreme seasons of summer and winter.  So many changes happen so quickly during fall and spring that it feels like each day is a treat. 

What are you enjoying about fall? 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

celebrating the small things

Instead of postponing our celebrations until I actually get a new job, Paul suggested also celebrating the small job finding victories.  Last night we busted out the sparkling cider to celebrate a phone interview that went very well.  We'll wait to bust out the hard stuff until we're celebrating the real deal.  Since I have no idea how long that will take, I appreciate being able to recognize the little milestones along the way and improve my job finding morale.  The little things can make all the difference. 

What little things do you have to celebrate?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

finding my firection

It had been a goal of mine since college to learn to drive a manual car.  My Uncle Johnny had first tried to teach me the basic points of shifting gears when I was kid, and I failed those lessons miserably - and all I had to do was try to shift gears.  When Paul and I bought a manual car last July, I finally had the perfect opportunity to learn.  I would either figure out how to drive our car or I would be stuck taking the bus (or be indefinitely relegated to the passenger seat).  I hated the actual process of learning to drive the stick shift car, and I resisted learning with surprising effort.  I almost even broke down into a few panic attacks, usually as my car was stalling on very steep hills.  But as in all happy personal growth stories, I gradually improved, and now a year later I feel completely comfortable driving our car (though I sometimes still avoid those steep hills).  

It's also been an important goal of mine to figure out my calling, my life's direction.  I have a general desire to "do good" and to contribute to positive social change.  But as I've learned, there are no jobs out there with descriptions that just list "doing good."  I need more specific skills and a more specific job calling.  And, in all honesty, I've been somewhat resistant to finding out what that calling is.  

I'm currently in a job that I enjoy and care about, but I don't feel that it is my ultimate calling.  Without the incentive of being told my job will no longer exist come January 1, 2013, I think I could have stayed here for a long time.  I would have felt semi fulfilled but would have wondered what more I could be doing. 

Right now I feel a little like I'm back on one of those steep hills, not sure where I'm going.  Fortunately I feel less panicky than when driving my manual car for the first time and more confident that I will get where I need to go.  My incentive is that I don't want to be sitting in the passenger seat of my life, willing to accept whatever comes my way without any direction.  While I think flexibility in life is good, I would ultimately like to be in a position that I feel called to, a position that challenges me and allows me to shine.  

If my driving efforts are any sign, within a few months I should have things more figured out - and will probably still be doing my best to avoid really big hills. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

today i'm thankful for

My first harvest of carrots ... fall weather ... rides to work ... looking forward to a trip home to st. louis ... new puppies named dory .. finding this blog ... shoe repair stores and getting to wear my fall boots again ...sushi date nights ... pregnancy announcements and planning baby showers ... getting to listen to new Mumford & Sons so soon ... phone conversations with libby ... our st. francis community ... new books from the library ... pumpkin soup ... job leads ... good work lunches ... giving gifts ... halloween costumes ... feeling inspired. 

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, September 24, 2012

milwaukee film festival

The Milwaukee Film Festival, one of my favorite events of the year, starts this weekend!  The festival will go from September 27th through October 11th and will include over 200 films from around the world.  I've been impressed with the festival's selection the past two years, and a few films have caught my eye this year as well.  Though I'll have a really hard time in the final selection of which movies to actually see (time and budget restraints will limit to me to 2 movies max), I'm intrigued by two "art as activism" films from the West Bank and from China.  

Five Broken Cameras
Described as "a modest, rigorous, and moving work of art" by The New York Times, this personal documentary follows Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat and his family through their West Bank hometown. Shot over five years by Burnat and completed with Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi, this award-winning work of cinematic activism depicts both family life and non-violent protest as bulldozers start razing olive trees and destroying the lives of those around Burnat. 

Never Sorry (see the trailer here)
Art isn't just a means of personal expression for China's Ai Weiwei. He uses it to cultivate joy, explore the public consciousness, and ignite political action. The subversive nature of his work has led Chinese authorities to shut down his blog, beat him, bulldoze his newly built studio, and hold him under secret detention. Unprecedented access allows the viewer to witness it all firsthand and explore his creative process. 

If you're in the Milwaukee area, check out the featured films and schedule here.  Tickets run $10 for adults, $9 for seniors/students and $8 for film festival members.  Can't wait!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

lazy sunday

I'm very glad to have a weekend that only has "relaxing" on the agenda.  I'm reserving today for staying in my pajamas, cleaning, journaling, and looking through old pictures.  This wedding picture caught my eye last night.  It came up as my computer screen saver, and the screen cropped the picture allowing me to notice my facial expression for the first time.  I love that our photographer captured this special moment of joy.  Found a surprise framer that I will always treasure.  

Photo courtesy of our amazing wedding photographer Christine LeGrand.  

What are you up to this fine Sunday?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

first goal completed!

I recently pledged to complete four goals by 2013 as part of Elsie Larson's "Four Simple Goals" challenge.  (For more information about the challenge, visit A Beautiful Mess.)

I am proud to say that I accomplished the first of my four goals this week!!  Though I'm not meeting with a spritual director per say, I will be meeting weekly with an awesome woman once a week to sort out some of the large transitions I've experienced in the past few years.  I recently took this stress inventory and got a score over 300; so yeah, probably a good idea to meet with someone!

I've been loving this simple goals list so far.  It's doable, not daunting and therefore much more realistic to accomplish.  In case you're wondering, I've also been exercising once a week, but I haven't started a painting yet.  Maybe this weekend!  I also just realized that I may be entitled to a reward now that I accomplished my first goal.  Any ideas?  

Have you set any simple goals for yourself to reach before 2013?

Friday, September 21, 2012

zapotec tomato

This week, I finally started harvesting my Zapotec heirloom tomatoes (which I pronounce zap-attack!!).  If you can't tell from the picture, these tomatoes turn pink when they are ripe and have a crazy fun shape to them.  I grew these babies from seed and transplanted them in early May, after we created the beds at the community garden.  I purchased the seeds in early spring from Gayla Trail's Etsy shop, and I loved feeling connected to one of my gardening heroes by growing seeds that had been part of tomatoes she had in her own garden!  

I felt so proud to pick my first tomato.  I had never grown anything else as big or delicious from seed before (all my other tomato plants were transplants).  My budding gardening skills are confirmed!  Now, what am I going to do with all of these tomatoes?  I guess it's time to test out my budding canning skills!  More exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

intentionally using technology

Last night's community night focused on how we use technology.  I share my reflections from last night with you by typing on a computer that will post this message on a blog.  Irony.    

I appreciate community discussions that challenge me to live more simply.  Last night, I reflected specifically on my computer and phone usage.  I talked about how it feels to be "plugged in" (even the terminology seems to equate a person to a machine).  I work in front of a computer for eight hours a day, have my personal and work email open all day ready to respond to new messages as soon as they arrive, and have my work and cell phone nearby to respond to any calls or text messages.  At the end of that insanity, I come home and usually check my email again (never know who could have emailed me in the fifteen minutes it took me to get home) and continue my web surfing, sometimes while sitting in front of the TV.  

This intimate connection to technology usually results in a tense-hyped-up-on-the-move energy, a general feeling of impatience and dissatisfaction, and a disconnection from the present moment.  

I'm realizing it's time to take a step back and unplug.  

I remember how relaxed I felt on our honeymoon in June.  I had turned my phone off so I wouldn't be charged for roaming fees while we were out of the country.  The effect of being disconnected was surprisingly dramatic.  When I was walking around, I was just walking around.  When I was eating dinner, I was just eating dinner.  When I was laying around the room with Paul, I was just there with Paul.  I didn't have to worry if I had missed a phone call, text, or email.  I could just be.  And the best part was that everyone got along fine that week without contacting me.  The world still turned.  And I felt better than I usually did.  I felt present.  

How can I bring that feeling to my everyday life?  I don't think I'm in a place where I can turn my cell phone or computer off forever.  There are times when people need to contact me by cell phone and times when I need to respond to emails.  My new challenge will be finding the middle ground between completely disconnecting and being a slave to my computer and phone.  My first baby step is to focus on Pedro and my garden when I get home from work instead of checking my email.  My second baby step is to only check my email once in the evening after I get home from work.  It might sound absurd to those of you with healthier relationships with technology, but to me I think these steps will be very helpful. 

Does this reflection resonate with you?  What ideas or tips do you have for live life more simply ?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the devil in the white city

A member of my work book club recently recommended one of her favorite books by Erik Larson: The Devil in the White City.  I had been looking for books to read to reach my 50 books goal, so I picked it up from the library.  

In Devil in the White City, Larson tells the story of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the men who created the fair, and the serial killer who took advantage of the chaos in the city by quietly murdering dozens of people.  The book is historical non-fiction, but Larson writes so eloquently that the book feels like historical fiction.  There were so many times reading the book that I wished I could have seen the fair for myself and wished that the architects had had more time to make the fair building permanent structures.  I can only imagine how spectacular the fair must have been to all those travelling from small towns around the country to see the magnificent buildings and exhibits the fair had to offer.  

For a history nerd like me, this book was a perfect read.  I think history, architecture, or Chicago lovers would also enjoy reading this.  And I have a feeling that throwing murder into the mix also makes this book attractive to a much wider audience.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

edible fruit forest

This weekend, we began planting our edible fruit forest at our community garden, designed in permaculture style.  A food forest is a "designed and managed ecosystem" that "mimics the architecture and beneficial relationships between plants and animals found in a natural forest or other natural ecosystem."  I am so excited to be building something that will hopefully be around for decades to come.  It reminds me of the saying "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is now." 

Our work day was casual and communal, lots of people sharing their time and skills to build something together.    These work days are so energizing for me and remind me that great things can happen when a group of people work together for the same cause.  

I'll be giving a more in-depth peek at our baby forest over at Peas and Justice later this week! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

tough community meetings

Last night, my roommates and I met to discuss a really difficult topic regarding a community member's status in the community.  I had been dreading this meeting for about a week and had trouble eating because the butterflies were going to town in my stomach.  

I usually find any way I can to avoid conflict and confrontation.  And surprise, surprise, I've found that this usually makes uncomfortable situations worse rather than better.  Living in community has given me many opportunities to practice approaching conflict in a healthier, more direct way. 

I felt so proud of our community last night: each of us approached the conversation with an attitude of humility and prayerful openness.  We also used the RESPECT model of communication in our meeting, which allows us to invite the next person to speak and doesn't allow for cross talk or interruption. It works well for our community of introverts and extroverts who have different ways of communicating in groups.    

I'm learning that being honest about my feelings and communicating them in a non-violent way does wonders for my relationships.  Being straightforward has felt so much better than holding onto feelings and assuming a person understands what I want or will magically fix whatever is bothering me.  My relationships in community are stronger when I'm upfront about what I feel and think.   

Community sometimes requires really tough decisions.  In past roommate situations I might just have let things go until my lease was up.  Let things quietly fester, at first hoping they would get better, then realizing that resentment and bitterness had really damaged the relationship.  Our community approached this situation head on, and I believe we are stronger and healthier because of it.  
These types of honest conversations are helping me approach other relationships in my life differently.   My community has been a good practice ground for developing relationships that are based on openness, honesty, and a mutual effort at supporting one another.  It's not easy, but it's worth it. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

today is good

Spent the last Saturday of summer doing laundry, running errands, attending an adorable one year old's birthday party, and eating this delicious mixed berry tart.  Finishing the day snacking on Nutella and watching Game of Thrones with my love.  Life is so good.

Friday, September 14, 2012

eat mangoes naked

My latest SARK obsession is the book Eat Mangoes Naked: Finding Pleasure Everywhere.  I have been finding a lot of joy (and pleasure) in this book lately and have been reading a chapter or two here and there.  It's a good book to enjoy bits at a time. 

With recent challenges in my community, with my health, and with finding a job, SARK's advice about finding pleasure and joy no matter what else is happening has been sooooo helpful (see how many 'o's I just put there?  That's how helpful SARK is.)  SARK writes about her process of accepting and creating pleasure during really difficult times.  This is part I've been really taking to heart: 

"What I've noticed is that pleasure might recede, but it's always closer than we think.  I began cultivating much tinier pleasures...I marveled at perfectly steamed broccoli, the curled edges of my new candle, rainbow colored dust motes.  My usual pleasures might have temporarily stopped, but I just narrowed my vision and shifted my perspective, I could locate tiny pleasures!

...joy and pleasure are not reserved for when "things are good."  They can be our solace when things are not good at all." 

This Friday afternoon, I am enjoying the bright sunshine, a small chocolate covered salter caramel, kind and thoughtful coworkers, preparing for a garden workday, finding a special necklace I thought I had lost, looking forward to our movie night, 90s music on my Pandora radio station, feeling excited about meeting some former Jesuit Volunteers tonight!  

What little pleasures and joys are you finding solace in?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

summer highlights

Ah, what a summer.  So busy and full of trips, gardening, and lots and lots of fro-yo!  I usually don't take time to reflect on a season, but I had a lot of fun putting together this summer highlight list.  I'm really glad I've been taking more pictures because it helps me to remember special moments and events that might otherwise become a little hazy.  Summer 2012 included...

a trip to Portland, OR to celebrate Memorial Day with my sister, brother, Paul, and Paul's family.  I loved showing  Libby and Mike around my favorite part of the Pacific Northwest.  It's also really nice to spend time as "mostly-grown-ups" with my siblings. 

creating the St. Francis community garden.  It's hard to believe that the garden just began this season.  We now have around twenty-five garden plots, a plot for a local community meal program, and two handicapped accessible garden beds.  Before the season is over we'll also have a canning session and install fruit trees and fruit bushes.  So proud of all the hard work we've put in and all the tasty vegetables we've grown! 

our honeymoon to Quebec.  This was one of the best trips I've ever taken.  Our daily schedule usually followed this routine: wake up, eat, explore a beautiful historic city, eat, nap, walk around a little more, eat, drink, sleep.  I think that fits my description for the perfect day.  The icing on the cake was getting to chance to speak en Francais! 

a trip to Denver, CO for the wedding of one of our great Jesuit Volunteer Corps friends.  We had a great time visiting with old friends and exploring the city a big.  Again, lots of delicious food and drinks were consumed this weekend.  I'm starting to notice a pattern with these highlights...

farmers markets and our CSA box.  So many good fruits and vegetables were enjoyed this summer. 

and a trip back to Portland, OR to finish off a top-notch summer.  This time I got to visit with my dad and youngest brother (who loved the Portland Timbers game and stocking up on lots of tax-free sports wear).     

Not pictured above: backyard barbecues, concerts, camping, and lots of walks with Pedro and Paul.  You may have also noticed the summer included a new hair do.  Yes, I am enjoying rocking the new red headed look.  I liked it so much I'm getting it redone tonight!  

I am really looking forward to autumn this year: the crisp weather, wearing my favorite boots and vest, pumpkin everything, apple and pumpkin picking, cider, squash soup, and fall colors.  I'll also make sure to take lots of pictures so I can remember all the little moments that I might otherwise miss. 

What were your favorite parts of summer 2012?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

taking care of myself

I've heard the advice "take care of yourself" no less than three times in the past two days.  Maybe somebody's trying to tell me something?

I've been feeling some anxiety around a few things in my life right now (including my health), and I probably haven't been taking care of myself the way that I should.  In the midst of this, I'm even more grateful for having this blog as a way to remind myself of the many things I have to be thankful for.  Like having a job with paid sick time, a loving family and husband, pretty tea cups, and soothing peppermint tea.   

Practicing self-care is such an important part of daily life, but I sometimes forget to prioritize it.  Today my self-care included resting, reading a good book, blogging, a little art journaling and watching a good show with Paul.  Tomorrow it will involve gardening and a new hair cut.  Sometimes the little things can make a big difference, and they can make me a much better person since they fulfill and rejuvenate me!  

What types of self-care do you enjoy? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

the growing power conference

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the Growing Power Urban & Small Farm Conference.  For those not familiar with the organization, Growing Power "transforms communities by supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environments in which they live through the development of Community Food System.  These systems provide high-quality, safe, healthy, affordable food for all residents in the community."  The agency is the unofficial head of the burgeoning urban farm movement, and I happen to be lucky enough to live in the same city as its headquarters.  I managed to snag a scholarship to the conference and attended the speakers, breakout sessions, and one of the urban farm tours. 

The best part of the weekend was feeling so alive and refreshed being around others who felt the same passion for rebuilding our broken food system.  I kept thinking "these are my people!!"  It is such a special gift to feel that you are connecting with your calling and that your calling is to part of building healthy food systems for our communities.  

Have you heard of Growing Power?  Here's more info on the conference.  And more info on Growing Power's founder Will Allen.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

four simple goals (before 2013)

Elsie Larson posted a challenge on her blog A Beautiful Mess yesterday to choose four simple goals to meet by the beginning of 2013.  As a fellow list lover, I gladly accepted the challenge!  I recommend checking out her blog for the official rules.  Here are the four simple goals I am setting for myself for the last four months of 2012: 

1. Meet with a nutritionist: A recent diagnosis has caused me to shift a lot of things in my diet.  I want to make sure I'm getting the vitamins and nutrients I need while also having some variety in my meals.  My local acupuncture clinic has a nutritionist that has a very wholistic approach that I would like to meet with.  BOTF!

2. Exercise once a week: Though I'm still walking Pedro and walking to work everyday, I've been missing the endorphins that come from a good run or work out.  I feel so much better when I exercise regularly, and I feel that I owe it to myself to help my body feel good.  

3. Finish four paintings: Few activities bring me more joy than painting.  The process is so therapeutic and soothing for me, yet I seldom paint.  I would like to make enough time to paint to produce one nice painting a month.  

4. Meet with a spiritual director: I've experienced a lot of big changes in the past couple years (moved to Milwaukee, started a community, got married, now looking for a new job), and I would like talk some of this out with a spiritual guide.  I've met with a spiritual director in the past when trying to discern some big things, and I found it very helpful.     

I recommend checking out A Beautiful Mess for the official rules -- which include setting rewards for yourself for when you meet a goal.  The only problem with coming up with my rewards is that I can only think of food related rewards!  I'm turning into Pedro!  Instead, I'll pick a few treats like dates with Paul, little pieces of jewelry, or a trip to the art supply store.  If I accomplish all four goals, maybe I should reward myself with these...now there's some motivation!

What four goals do you want to accomplish before January 1, 2013?

Friday, September 7, 2012

just because flowers

"Just because" flowers were waiting for me when I got home from work the other day.  Mr. Paul also took the dog to the vet, picked up my medication (BOTF!), and grilled delicious salmon for dinner.  Simple, intentional things make life so good.  Can we stay newlyweds forever?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

i'm sconezin'

Ever feel like you're just jonesin' for a scone?  I know just how you feel: you're sconzin'.  I give credit to our friend Steve for coming up with this great phrase this weekend.  After we had one too many scones, we got to use the second best word of the weekend: we were in scomas.  Sometimes life can be so punny.  

Anybody have any good scone recipes?  Cause I'm definitely sconezin' this morning.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

portland, oregon

This Labor Day, I had the good fortune to experience Portland with these three wonderful guys.  A good portion of the trip involved me forcing them to pose for pictures (see above).  The trip included some of my favorite things: walking around downtown Portland, a visit to the Downtown Chapel, spending time with friends and family, a Timbers game, and a trip to the Gorge.  We also went for the first time to a dam on the Columbia River and saw dozens of salmon migrating upstream.  Let me tell you, that is an impressive sight.  You know what was also impressive?  All the delicious food we ate: 

oyster hash and peppermint tea at this cute cafe... 

fresh, seasonal blackberries from the Beaverton farmers' market (tasted like candy)... 

a maple bacon, blunt, and sprinkle doughnut from Voodoo Doughtnuts (Yes, you heard that right.  My dad ordered a blunt doughnut.  Only in Portland)...

and pumpkin ice cream from Mike's in Hood River, OR.  

One of the highlights of the trip was watching the Portland Timbers take down the Colorado Rapids (not a huge feat considering Denver's record, but a victory is a victory!).  My dad and brother were singing the Timbers Army songs for the rest of the weekend (Portland Timbers, We Adore You).  I also loved staying with Paul's aunt, uncle, and cousin; they are such wonderful hosts and help us feel right at home.  Can't wait to go back again. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

made it back safe and sound

Paul and I spent our Labor Day weekend in Portland, Oregon, with friends and family -- including my dad and brother who travelled out from St. Louis.  We had a wonderful, busy, fun-filled weekend, and I'm in definite recovery mode today.  I love our quick trips out of town for the nice breaks, fresh perspective, and rejuvenation they provide.  Weekend trips usually help me appreciate my everyday routine more, and I never enjoy my bed quite as much as the first night back from a trip.  There's just something about being back in my own place.  And of course, in a few weeks, I'll have fully recovered from my trip and will be ready for my next adventure. 

I'll be back tomorrow with more pictures of our trip! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

excited for fall

Though I know fall won't officially begin for several more weeks, September 1 always feels like the start of fall for me.  I've noticed a few trees changing colors and have noticed the days slowly getting shorter.  There's a slight crisp to the evening air, but that might just be because I've been hanging out in Milwaukee and Portland.  I try to be as present as I can during autumn because I love the season, but I know it also means a cold winter is coming. I'm looking forward to pumpkins, apple picking, warm chai lattes, wearing boots, sweaters, and my favorite vest, warm fires, beautiful colors, falling leaves, and apple cider, and delicious soups. 

What fall things are you excited for?