welcome ... enjoy yourself

Thursday, August 29, 2013

dreams for our new apartment

I had planned to write a different post today.  A post about how being in a new space challenges me to create new routines and habits and how impatient I am to be settled in already.  But then I read this post from Rachel at Clean/Lusa Organics, and I decided this post needed to go in a different direction.  Rachel writes: 

And today I had a lovely idea. What if I shared posts with you now and then that were simply dreams, relayed as truth? What We're Manifesting.
So here's the dream post I could see myself writing a few years from now in our new apartment.  Here's the dream I'm manefesting.  (This is my short term dream for our life in our new place.  Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to share my long term dreams here too.) 

Moving into this apartment really started a new phase of our life together. We've grown so much as a couple and our love has deepened to a new level over the past few years. These past few years have felt magical living with Paul in our beautiful apartment.  Our neighborhood has felt like home since we first moved in.  Pedro and Diego have their favorite spots to walk, and we enjoy feeling like part of our community.  Some of my favorite neighborhood events are our summer cookouts, block parties, and the park concerts.  

Our apartment is a great place to come home to.  It's the first space that I have decorated and designed to my satisfaction, and I love sharing our space with family and friends.  We have great dinners and so much love and friendship has been shared in this space.  This apartment has seen us expand as a family, and I couldn't have imagined a better place to bring our little baby home to.  Life is certainly different than when we first moved in, but the essentials are still there: tasty meals, hanging out on the porch, evening walks, enjoying quiet time together.     

This space has been ideal for relaunching my painting habit.  I've been more prolific than I could have imagined, and I even managed to create a few new series and sell some paintings here and there.  I could see growing this into a healthy side business in the future.  

Paul and I both enjoy our jobs and are grateful that things feel steady and secure.  Paul's masters has been a boost to his work, and he is constantly pursuing professional development opportunities.  Having a solid purpose at work has helped him feel more settled here.  He's happier than I've ever seen him.  I still enjoy my work and have a better idea of the direction I want my career to develop.  It's surprising and may not have anything to do with my current position.  In fact, it has a lot more to do with painting, French and/or education.  

We've worked out a comfortable schedule visiting friends and family, and we've played host to many loved ones in our home.  People feel at home when they visit and come back often.  We travel and have lots of adventures, and I love taking lots and lots of pictures of our life.  I finally keep up better with friends' and family members' birthdays, and we make an effort to send letters and care packages to loved ones.  We've settled in to simple ways of keeping up with people we care about who are far away.  

Paul and I have found our niche here.  Milwaukee really feels like home, and though we may not be here forever, I can say in all honesty that we're happy here.  We feel settled.  We have developed community and have friends we'll have for a lifetime.  We live more in the present and while we have concrete ideas about our future, we're open to changes to our plans.  After all, we've been happy in so many unexpected places, we trust that wherever we end up will be the right place for us.  We support each other's dreams and have put down roots together.  We still have challenges, but we're happy and in love.  Life has its ups and downs, but it's still wonderful.  

Wow - that was enjoyable.  Much better than talking about having trouble remembering where I put my makeup and vitamins.  Dreaming is so exciting and scary at the same time.  Putting dreams into writing and reminding yourself you're worthy of what you aspire to is the first step to making them a reality.

Do you ever dream concretely like this?  Please share if you do!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

my paintings on a website!

My paintings of the Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs are up on the Ignatian Solidarity Network's home page!  I am so stoked!  Check out the website here (screen 3).  For more info on my paintings check out my blog posts here and here

I also did a guest post on my friend Sarah's blog a couple of weeks ago on advice for new long-term volunteers: 10 tips for new volunteers.  It was a lot of fun to write, and I'd recommend checking it out (of course I would - I wrote it!). 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

our new favorite place

One of my favorite features of our new place is the porch that runs the length of the front of our house.  I've been letting pups roam around the porch area when I get home from work, and they only come in to eat and to get treats.  Pedro is in his element when he can keep an eye on everything that's happening on the street.  He likes checking out the action from a safe distance where no strangers can bother him.    

I've been feeling a little like Pedro myself the past few days.  I've been really worn out and more sensitive than usual to people entering my personal space (physical, mental, and emotional: the personal space trifecta).  I was getting down on myself about this until I took a look at my August calendar and remembered I had something going on nearly every single day this month. And not just regular things like work and gardening, but two vacations, hosting dinners, packing up an apartment, completing our community transition, and moving across town.  No wonder I'm feeling like the well is dry.  I'm not a person that does well with a busy schedule.  I thrive when I have time to myself and can rest and recuperate.  

To get through this last week of craziness before things settle down, I'm taking some of my favorite advice I received in JVC: be gentle with yourself.  The things I do will get done, but they will not be perfect (AH!  My perfectionist self is already cringing just writing that!).  I'll take more breaks than I usually do.  I'll let the non-essentials take a temporary backseat.  I'll forgive myself if I can't do all that I usually do or work as well I can with rest.  And you can be sure that I'll be spending some time outside with the pups in our new favorite place.   

Monday, August 26, 2013

today i'm thankful for

My pirate husband ... Jimmy Buffet concerts and tailgating ... movers who work in rain storms ... a beautiful new apartment ... a neighborhood that already feels like home ... a shorter work commute ... getting moving help ... our new community member and her family ... babies and kittens ... outside masses ... knowing where my essentials are in an apartment filled with boxes ... star gazing on our new porch ... friends who give surprise house warming presents ... having the financial stability to buy in bulk ... the opportunity moving gives to take stock of all the things we own ... remembering how many cool kitchen gadgets we have ... picking tomatoes from the garden ... having a real life flower cutting garden ... having a great space that I can't wait to make our own ... 

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

more portland fun

I am stretching these Portland photos as far as they'll possibly go this week because I am super busy with our move!  Today is our official move day, and the movers are working hard as I write this.  Yes, we got movers because we are sooooo grown up (and lazy).  I went to the new apartment for the first time last night, and I love so many things about it.  I cannot wait to unpack and decorate and make it a home.  I have a feeling we'll be very happy there.  Now what was I writing about again?  Oh yeah, Portland....A few other special moments I enjoyed:

sipping wine with a view of the ocean with Paul's grandma, his dad, and his aunt (and Grandma's adopted dog Peanut).  The wine was actually Franzia because it's his grandma's favorite, and because his grandma is 90 and awesome, we drink it with her. 

eating at Local Ocean - look at that big smile on my face.  I knew crab chowder and crab cakes were about to be in my belly. 

spending time with my lovely sister-in-law and her new "friend."

a backyard barbeque with Paul's college friends.  I don't know how I was lucky enough to inherit the friends and family I did when I married Paul.  Seriously, he knows some amazing people, and fortunately they love me because I love a person they love. 

this amazing view of the Columbia River complete with sunshine and beautiful weather.

the pool that came with that beautiful view and some much needed relaxation time. 

girl time with this lovely lady.

brunch at a cafe that made me feel like I was right back in Paris.

these delectable delights and the pedicure that followed.  There was one last memorable moment outside the nail salon when my sister-in-law and I both realized that we had the time of my flight wrong, and I had exactly thirty minutes to get my suitcase, drive to the airport, check in, go through security, and get on the plane.  Needless to say that didn't happen.  BUT.  Southwest has a policy where you can fly stand-by on a later flight if you make it to the airport within two hours of your scheduled departure time.  So that's what I did.  And I made it safe and sound back to Milwaukee, Pedro, and Diego.  Ah adventures.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

pacific wonderland

Paul and I visited friends and family this weekend in Oregon and enjoyed exploring the Pacific Wonderland.  We spent part of our weekend at the Oregon coast in Lincoln City and Newport.  When Paul and I were still dating, we took a trip to Newport, and I felt so nostalgic retracing our steps as a married couple.  I love having a shared history together, especially one full of memorable adventures.  We drove past the lookout point where I saw my first whale and went to the restaurant where I had some of my all time favorite seafood (Local Ocean in Newport if you're ever in the area).  We visited a few new places this time including this gorgeous lighthouse.  The fog made the viewing a little difficult, but I think it added to the mysterious feel of all the pictures. 

Do you think you would ever want to live in a lighthouse?  I feel like it would be wonderful to see the daily changes of the ocean, but I couldn't deal with the isolation. 

These photos were taken in Newport, right before I dropped my lens cap next to these sea lions.  Think he was smiling because he was predicting my clumsiness? 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Holy geeze, things are a little crazy around here right now.  Paul and I took a great trip to Portland this weekend to visit family and friends (pictures coming tomorrow!), and now we have two days to pack for our move to our new apartment.  Last week my sister closed on her first house and my youngest brother started his freshman year of college.  Hello transitions! 

These pictures inspired me to think of this time of transition in a new way.  The events of our lives are like waves, washing over us, getting us all wet and salty.  Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, but always dependable in their impermanence.  Always something new coming, something that stays with us a little while, then makes room for something new.  This time of transition is the current wave.  I'll face it, enjoy it, and then wait for the next wave, the next period of change.  It's comforting to think of this change and instability and newness as just part of a cycle.  It makes it much easier to enjoy it instead of wishing it away. 

Is August bringing any new transitions for you?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

our morning walk

Thank goodness for morning walks with my pups.  This summer has been so full with traveling and visitors and gardening and adventures; and now it will end with a bit of craziness with a trip to Portland (OR) and a move to a new apartment.  The time I spend with the pups outside each morning does a lot to settle and relax me before starting my day.  I'm going to miss walking by this beautiful hillside and by the community garden every day.  I was glad I remembered to be grateful for these little walks so I can appreciate them before I transition to something new.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

book club!!!

My book club had our bimonthly get together last night, and it was fantastic!  I love our gatherings, and I'm already looking forward to our meeting in October.  I'm sure it will be here faster than I expect.  The ladies in my book club love eating, drinking, and socializing just as much as we love books.  Our book club meetings usually include more catching up than they do actual book talk, but we think we strike a good balance.  We chose a "fun summer book" for this month: Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.  What a fantastic fun summer book it was.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads and highly recommend it.  A quick summary: 

Bernadette Fox is considered a fearlessly opinionated partner, a disgrace, a revolutionary architect, a best friend, and a mother.  When she disappears before a family trip to Antarctica, her daughter Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence to help find her—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
The book's author Maria Semple used to be a writer for Arrested Development (one of my favorite shows), and her clever wit shows up throughout the book.  Her characters are lovable and complex and strange, and their interactions are often hilarious.  I enjoyed her descriptions of Antarctica so much that I told Paul that we will be taking an Antarctica cruise...right after we win the lottery.   

Yay for food, drinks, friends, and books!  These things pretty much complete my life. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

who's ready for fall?

August is the perpetual month of transitions.  This August, Paul and I are getting ready to move to a new apartment, Paul is getting ready to start his last year of grad school (!!!!), and our community is entering a new phase.  On top of transitions we have our end of summer vacation (PORTLAND!!), a huge influx of garden produce, and the general busyness of summer days - and honestly, it has me all a little tired.  

Now don't get me wrong, I love summer.  Milwaukee is at its best in the summer, and I endure seven months of terrible weather for these great summer days.  But because the wait for summer is so long, I feel like I have to make the most of every.summer.day.  The days are long and busy and full.  And I love them.  But I'm ready for things to slow down.  

I'm trying my best to be present and to find all the joy I can in this last month of summer, but it can be tough when I feel like I'm constantly on the go.  There's something about the approach of fall that sets off a need in me to change my pace.    

I think that's the beauty of changing seasons - another reason to love the Midwest.  Nature needs changes just as we do.  Nature has cycles of life, death, and rebirth, and I think our lives reflect that same cycle to a certain extent.  We need time to create and explore and enjoy life, and we need to follow it with rest.   

I tried to deny my desire for fall at first, because I know that with fall comes the end of being outside in one layer of clothes for about eight months.  How could I possibly be looking forward to extended insulation and hibernation?  But I can't deny it, I'm looking forward to fall (and my Pinterest boards confirm that).    

For this last month of summer, I'm hoping to enjoy where I'm at, hold my feelings of desire for the future, and be as present and accepting of where I am - both literally and figuratively.  How about you?  How are you feeling about the approach of fall?

Monday, August 12, 2013

today i'm thankful for

wedding flowers ... a cold glass of water in the morning ... rain for the garden ... reconciliation ... four days till Portland!!! ... sharing good news with friends ... having a job I look forward to going to ... a weekend run date with a good Milwaukee friend ... having a great partner like Paul to share household responsibilities with ... coworkers who are patient with my communal bowl hoarding habits ... Diego's new ability to sit and (kind of) stay... conspiring with new blogging friends ... so much good rooibos tea ... meeting the new Milwaukee Jesuit Volunteers ... a new hair color ... things falling into place with our transition out of community ... donations to our moving boxes stockpile ... friends who make from-scratch Indian meals ... weeks that start off very nicely ...

Friday, August 9, 2013

30 self portraits in 30 days (update)

I'm liking this challenge more than I thought I would.  Turns out if you take enough selfies - and you focus on parts of yourself you really like - you inevitably like how some turn out.  Here's my recent favorites.

My favorite pictures are the ones above - the ones where I was trying to capture a wink.  I guess we know where my talents lie...and it's not in winking.  So how about I just cover that up with some sunglasses? Happy Friday!  

See part 1 of my challenge photos here

Thursday, August 8, 2013

accessible gardening

One of the goals of our community garden is to make our space more accessible to people with varying physical abilities.  Coming into this project with no experience in accessible gardening, I've had a steep learning curve and I feel like most of the time I'm making things up as I go along - which is about how I feel about gardening in general.  But I also feel that we're making at least slow progress with improving gardening accessibility.  Last year, we partnered with a local Eagle Scout to install two raised beds that we've dubbed our "no bend plots." 

The beds are three feet high and four by eight feet across.  The two gardeners sharing this plot both use scooters and have benefited from the raised height of the bed.  They have been able to plant and do general gardening activities without having to leave their chairs.  

At the beginning of the season, we realized that water access would be an issue (like I said, making this up as we go along).  One of our garden committee members came up with this nifty technique for making the hose connected to our rain catch system easier to reach.  It has been working well so far and has allowed these gardeners to water their garden plot independently. 

BUT....what to do about all that grass surrounding the bed?  Grass does not get along well with scooters or walkers or wheelchairs.  Especially when the grass is wet.  We've seen lots of spinning wheels and frustrated faces.  The gardeners have been troopers, but we want gardening to be as pleasant and enjoyable for them as it is for the rest of the gardeners.  We've looked into this option for dealing with the grass issue and this guide for making paths more accessible, and the plan is to work on these projects next season. 

When talking to one of my coworkers of our ongoing quest for garden accessibility, she invited us over to her house for a tour of her garden.  My coworker uses a walker and has made great changes to her backyard garden, transforming it into an accessible paradise.  First - her wonderful deck complete with a sitting area, lots of pots, and a wide ramp down to the lower portion of the garden. 

She's made good use of ledges, covering them with pots of herbs for cooking.  She can access these right outside of her backdoor. 

Pipes are installed around her deck area with extendable hoses for easier watering of her backyard plants.  

One of my favorite parts of her garden was this raised tomato bed.  The downward angle of the bed makes it easier for gardeners in wheelchairs or scooters to get closer to their plants.  A necessity for planting, weeding, and harvesting.  It also has a smaller width which makes it easier to reach the middle of the plot (another perk for folks who have difficulty bending and reaching).  If we would ever add additional "no bend" plots to the community garden, I'd like to use this design. 

Notice that the whole backyard area is covered in flat, hard surfaces - not grass.  While not great for overall water drainage, covering grass is almost a necessity for gardeners who use assistive mobility devices.  Grass does not get along well with wheels. 

I was very appreciative for the opportunity to see my coworker's garden and for what she shared about her gardening journey.  She even shared one of her first tomatoes with me!  YUM.  

This whole accessibility adventure has been extremely educational and a great lesson for me.  I take so much for granted, including my health and even something as simple as being able to walk through grass and bend down to harvest my vegetables.  I've began seeing our garden in a new light, wondering how we can ensure access to all parts of our garden for people with all types of abilities.  Gardening is such a wonderful, therapeutic, nurturing activity; it really should be available to everyone.  

Have any accessible gardening resources?  Please feel free to share!