welcome ... enjoy yourself

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

a walk in the park

Our neighborhood is home to an old, beautiful, ginormous park.  The park has a lagoon (above), a concert space, tennis courts, an empty pool, German statues, playgrounds, and an Urban Ecology Center location.  It's the most amazing park to have in our backyard.  I've been enjoying taking Pedro and Diego on walks here when I have a little extra time to spare.  I feel so calm in this park, and the boys love all the smells.  It's easy to forget we're in the city looking at the weeping willows and flocks of geese.  I'm looking forward to getting to know the park in the different seasons.  Fall is my favorite so far, but we'll see what winter and spring bring.  Do you have a favorite park? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

guest post: finding god while instagramming

I'm pumped to be sharing a guest post from my friend Meg today on finding God while instagramming.  I met Meg while we were both working on our masters degrees in Chicago, and we stayed in touch when Paul and I moved to Milwaukee.  I asked Meg to do a guest post after seeing all her beautiful Instagram posts popping up on my Facebook news feed.  I loved her perspective and the things she captured in her photos.  Meg currently works as a college campus minister and shares her photos at Megotraveler on Instagram.  Thanks for writing and for sharing your photos Meg! 

If you're interested in writing a guest post please send me a message at findingjoyinallthings870@gmail.com.  I'm accepting submissions that incorporate the theme of where you find gratitude and joy in your life.  Read other guest posts here.

About a year and a half ago I bought a fancy phone (read: phone with a data plan).  I was stepping up in the world.  I was about to graduate with a Masters degree. I was going to find the perfect job.  And I was in the process of beginning the rest of my life. Why not get a fancy phone and celebrate the moment?

Well, things didn’t go as planned and so the phone seemed more like a cheap parting gift, and at times I wondered if I should have gotten it in the first place. It sure didn’t help me find a job (that took over a year).  And it sure didn’t get me that degree (I earned that way before).  I was restless, and in a state of limbo, and so I did what any young, hip, overly educated person might do.  I piled the phone with Apps and hoped for the best.  This might not have been the most frugal decision, but one particular App became the conduit to seeing the world around me in a totally refreshing way.  Call me crazy, or even blasphemous, but the App called Instagram helped me see God in the world around me.  And I even found joy in the mind-numbing task of looking for work. 
In reality, taking pictures of my life and then feeding them through the Instagram filters became a part of my daily living.  In fact, Instagramming helped me pay attention, share my observations with others, and push me out of my apartment and into the world.  This pattern became a recipe of sorts and maybe a bit of evidence for the redemption of the fancy phone.  

So how did Instagram help me find God?


  1. I paid attention to things differently.  When I first graduated and bought my new phone I was totally preoccupied with the business of transition.  It seemed like everything in my life was changing.  I was leaving the world of academia, I moved, I lacked an income, and that list seemed to go on for days.  There was plenty to worry about, and even more reasons to drop God out of the picture and switch gears into a world of anxiety.  However, I picked up this new hobby that became a saving grace.  Within a short amount of time I started noticing that I was seeing the world around me in a totally different way.  The sun was rising and setting like it always did, but I started to really SEE it, and I took  a picture of it.  I began to see     that certain kinds of light illuminate details and that if I experimented  with different shots, I could focus on some obscure detail that became the picture that I posted.  Suddenly everything around me was beautiful and worthy of a picture.  I captured the essence of bugs, kids playing, rain collecting in a puddle, and fire escapes glistening in the light.  It was if I woke up and saw something fantastic in the life I was living every single day.  How could I not be grateful for creation and the life that I was living?

    2. I shared each moment with others and it changed them.  Over time I had posted hundreds of pictures.  Maybe weighing on the side of narcissism at times, I left perfection at the door and lacked a certain pre-tense in my picture posting.  I just saw so many beautiful things around me and I wanted to share that with everyone I knew, and those that “followed me”.  I took pictures of the food I was making and eating, and even got ideas from other Instagramers that I followed.  Every ginkgo tree served as my muse, and people connected those images to me because I LOVE those trees.  I started to take pictures of strange things as well, and people wondered  where I was and how they could get there too.  I started to embrace the perspective that the things I took pictures of brought joy to others as well. 

    Although my photographs could never replace the intimacy of a conversation or a letter, Instagram helped     provide me a way to remain connected to people I cared about, and let them know that I was doing ok.  It could have all been a ruse, but at least my family saw that I was fed, that I filled my day with good people, and that I was getting out of the apartment to do something other than job hunting.  And at the end of the day, I began to receive feedback that others were looking forward to my pictures, and wondered what adventure was next on my list.  Could it be that my pictures were helping people see the world in a different way as well?

3. I went on adventures SO THAT I could take pictures.  It was hard to find things to look forward to when I didn't have a job to go to, or little milestones to work towards.  I had to fight the temptation to think that I was stuck in this place forever, and that my life was going nowhere fast with unemployment.  So while I was taking pictures it started to feel that each image was uncharted territory.  I would go on a walk with a friend, take a picture of some trees changing in the autumn, and wonder what it would     look like if I came back to that same location in the winter.  That wondering became a list of places to visit.  I found that neighborhood festivals in the city were perfect grounds for people doing funny things, so I took the initiative and planned my day around applying for a few jobs  and then rewarding myself with a new experience.  Within time I found that my weekends  were full of good people and that we were having fun seeing things together.  I got out in the world and lived my life…and captured each and every moment of it.   

After a while, it felt like each picture I took was a moment of gratitude.  I could seek a moment out, live in that presence, take a picture of it, and then share it with people I cared about it.  Each adventure was a way for me to find more beauty and experiment with lighting and filters.  Additionally, each adventure really nourished a spontaneous side of me that could have easily have been squashed in the low budget, depressed, and worried state of not having a job.  I could have been stuck there, but I chose to live my life….maybe so that I could take the best pictures.  But I also wondered if my adventures encouraged others to do the same?

I’ve read a lot of articles about Instagram.  There is a lot of criticism out there about this App. I guess that the fancy filters can make it seem that people are living a sexy, glamorous life, but inside they are really sad and depressed.  I’ve heard that people simply take pictures and don’t really experience the moment. And I’ve gathered that some believe that connection to technology draws people out of relationship with each other and into a complicated relationship with a machine.  That’s probably all true to some extent.  Maybe even true of my own experience, and at the same time I would stress that intentionality can shift the wind of an experience.  At a time when I prayed for purpose and joy and connection in my life I ended up finding all of that in my living. 

Instagram became a neat tool to use but I never intended for it to be a replacement in living my life or making it look like anything it wasn’t.  So at the end of the day I'm glad that I have the ability to take pictures, that I can seize the day and go on an adventure, and that my desire to share beauty with others continues, all for the greater glory of sharing God’s world with others.

Monday, October 28, 2013

today i'm thankful for

beautiful walks in our neighborhood
the details of fall
pumpkin picking and the elegant farmer
the biggest pumpkin sugar cookie ever
a wonderful relaing weekend with Paul
dinner with good friends
lots of cuddle time with the pups 
this movie
a new photo editing app
having the financial resources to treat myself to a pretty skirt
homemade pear juice
paul picking up Thai food for at-home date night
another date to TJMaxx (we live large around here)
adding pictures of friends and family around our apartment
a yoga class that helped me feel like Superwoman

Thursday, October 24, 2013

the poison wood bible

There's a strange moment in time, after something horrible happens, when you know it's true but you haven't told anyone yet.  Of all things, that is what I remember most.  It was so quiet.
...I think we all had the same strange idea that if we stood there without moving forever and ever, we could keep our family the way it was.  We would not wake up from this nightmare to find out it was someone's real life, and for once that someone wasn't just a poor unlucky nobody in a shack you could forget about.  It was our life, the only one we were going to have.
This is one of the only books I've ever read that I could describe as beautiful and haunting.  Barbara Kingsolver's writing is breathtaking, and I stopped many times while reading The Poisonwood Bible to stop and sit with whatever sentence she had just crafted.  Like the passage above, she hits emotions right on the head - she gets to the emotional heart of whatever she's saying so well.  It made a heartbreaking story very enjoyable to read.  

The Poisonwood Bible is a story about a missionary family who travels to the Belgian Congo in 1959, led by the family's ferociously Evangelical father Nathan Price.  We hear the story told by Nathan's wife (Orleanna) and four daughters (Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May), who are each transformed by the Congo forever - but in very different ways.  While Nathan stops at nothing to convert a Congolese village to his version of Christianity, the women in his family struggle to survive and make a life as political turmoil erupts around them.  The novel follows the family over three decades, so you understand as a reader just how transformational the Congo was to the Prices. 

The Poisonwood Bible has made its way to the elite ranks of my 5 star rated books.  It includes three of my favorite historical fiction elements - excellent writing, female narrators, and a long timeline of events.  It doesn't get much better than this! 

Have you read The Poisonwood Bible?  What did you think of it?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

fall wreath

I made this fall wreath a few weeks ago using a tutorial from A Beautiful Mess - can you tell I'm completely obsessed with their blog?  It was really simply and enjoyable to make.  I hadn't done a craft project for a long time before this, and hot gluing and arranging the flowers reminded me how much I like creating things.  I had taken a break on crafting because I had spent too much money on projects I never finished, and I honestly felt a little burnt out.  But this project was the perfect thing to get those crafty juices flowing again. 

I recommend reading the tutorial on A Beautiful Mess for the wreath making instructions.  I bought my supplies at Michaels when most of the fall flowers were half price.  I couldn't find any usable orange and red flowers, so I made due with the colors you see here.  As with any project, I always consider the instructions a beginning guideline and just see where my creative juices take me.  Let me know if you decide to make one too!

Monday, October 21, 2013

today i'm thankful for

pictures that remind me of sunnier weather ... Paul's patience with the pups ... inspiration to be healthier ...weekend naps ... a successful garden workday ... reflecting on the success of this garden season ... a night spent reading on the couch in pajamas ... squash soup ... pumpkin cookies (St. Louis Bread Co style) ... warm showers after working outside all day ... Cardinals are in the World Series ... relaxing community nights ... making plans to go home for Thanksgiving ... watching a good friend go after her dreams and get drafted for a roller derby team!!!  

Friday, October 18, 2013

five simple joys

The dozen mini macaroons from the local bakery Rocket Baby, because they were delicious, reminded me of Paris, and were purchased by my parents for our house warming party.  

The cups of coffee drinks from Smith Bros, because they were purchased from my Grandpa's favorite fish cafe in Port Washington, WI.  My mom, Paul, and I had a delicious perch lunch there and remembered my Papa while walking along the lake.  I know he would have loved being there with us. 

The baby tree in Washington Park with the unexpected pink flowers. 

The emptied Wheat Thins box wrapped in yellow paper that contained a care package from my JV roomie - complete with a thoughtful card and pumpkin treat making supplies.  Kara has the most creative (and environmentally friendly) shipping techniques.

The fake sunflowers in Cedarburg that looked so pretty photographed.  Mom, Paul and I stopped by this small town on our adventure last weekend, and my mom and I reminisced about past visits and thought about how much my grandma would have loved being there.  

Sometimes the simple joys can be the best - and the easiest to overlook.  What simple joys are you thankful for today?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

olbrich botanical garden

Last week I attended a staff retreat at Olbrich Botanical Garden in Madison, Wisconsin.  We had the perfect weather, and we made the most of it by spending a lot of time walking around the garden grounds.  I came prepared with my camera and took almost 100 photos.  Here's a few of my favorites.

The garden is home to Thai pavilion gifted to the University of Wisconsin Madison by the Thai government in 2001.  The pavilion is one of only four located outside of Thailand, and its worth is estimated at between 1.5 and 2 millions dollars.  The Thai royal family approved the gift, so the pavilion bears the Royal Seal of the Thai Crown. Isn't it amazing all the hidden jewels that are hidden around our country?  

I wish I could find a way to live in a botanical garden.  I seem to always find my happy place when I'm surrounded by beautiful flowers.  It's easier for me to be present, peacefilled, and calm.  Just put a camera - or a journal - in my hands, and I'd be set. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

migrate or hibernate?

A friend of mine has a theory that every autumn she gets an urge to either migrate or hibernate.  She'll get the urge to move or travel or she'll want to just settle down and relax for a while.  It didn't take much reflection to realize that this autumn I am craving some hibernation...like really craving it.  All I've been wanting to do lately is to lay low, preferably in comfy clothes while eating comfort food.  

Instead, I've been putting way too much activity in my schedule, scurrying around like a squirrel trying to store all my acorns for winter.  I have something going on most nights of the week, and my weekends usually include visitors, travelling, or a too-long to-do list.

Paul and I discussed our different approached to grief over sushi last night.  Whereas Paul has been dealing with the loss of his friend by taking a semester off school and taking time for himself, I increased my activity to the max.  It was fine to get through the first few painful weeks, but the constant movement is really starting to wear on me.  

The beautiful thing about hibernation - and freezing cold weather - is that it gives you an excuse to slow down.  During the slow down, you can take time for yourself.  Time to sit and time to be.  Time that is necessary to process through things that you ignored in the flurry of warm weather activity.  I've used activity as a necessary distraction, almost a salve for pain, but I'm ready for the space and growth that comes from just being.  I think my cravings for hibernation are a good sign that 

What about you?  Do you hibernate or migrate?   

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

guest post: joy in love and loss

I'm very pleased to share a guest post from my friend Amy with you today!  I met Amy when we were both living in Chicago and participating in events with the White Rose Catholic Worker.  Amy says this about her life: "I spent the past several years experimenting with truth and living the gospel in Catholic Worker communities in Chicago and New York.  I now live and work at the Jonah House community with my husband Ted and we are expecting our first child."  Her reflection is longer than my usual posts, but it is so beautiful and so perfect for this autumn season.  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and lovely photos Amy!

As an adult, I have seldom been worried about losing anything. Besides a brief sense of grief and betrayal after having my bike stolen, I can’t think of an instance over the past several years in which I felt or feared something being painfully taken from my life. This left an odd gap in my emotional universe that I would absurdly try to fill by conjuring up instances in which loved ones died or I was restricted to bed rest and had to grapple with a life of confinement. But I didn’t worry about these things. I watched them like plays, sometimes had a good cry or used my morbid fancies as fodder for an exercise in melodramatic writing.

Though I did experience a sense of “missing something,” I also took pride in this lack of worry about losing. I chalked it up to a sense of healthy detachment. This detachment, to some degree, came naturally, but it was also something cultivated over time. I’d recognized over the years, the constant grappling and the deep traps people, including myself, would fall into because of an unhealthy relationship to which they were deeply attached. I’d seen the stressful and guilty compromise that came from an attachment to a job or social position a person was desperate to keep. I’d read the work of many a Christian mystic and Buddhist philosopher and thought, “Aha, I must have successfully achieved detachment!” Contentedly single, I confidently gave advice to friends struggling with a partnership or the lack thereof. I counseled with people in transition struggling with what they were leaving behind; the home, the work, the relationships.

I believe in the significance of healthy detachment as a tool to understand one’s self and one’s perception of reality and to navigate right relationships with people and things. However, I’m beginning to wonder if what I personally had been experiencing was not so much this form of detachment as a long spell of living without being in love with anyone or anything. Recently, I moved to Baltimore. I live in a communal home on a cemetery. If living on a cemetery sounds unappealing to you, you’ve never seen this one. It is holy ground and it is, paradoxical to its function, full of life. These twenty-two acres are filled with fruit trees, a garden, a little forest inhabited by deer and a fox and about a dozen feral cats, as well as four guinea fowl who fill me with delight every time I see them. I fell in love with this little corner of creation during my first visit, before I ever dreamed of living here, and that love grows each day; I imagine how I can contribute to its beatification and preservation and how I can derive ways to thoughtfully share it with others who may not for whatever reason have access to such a space.

Since I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed something strange growing inside me. The joy of spending each day on this land is accompanied by a growing anxiety. What if we’re not allowed to stay? This is property owned by the archdiocese. What if they tell us they tell us they don’t want us here anymore? This anxiety does not come from any legitimate concern. The Church in Baltimore has had an mutually amicable agreement with Jonah House for twenty years and when it was revealed new young people were coming in there was only enthusiasm – so why the anxiety? I have a sense of a future here, ideas of projects that will fill years to come. This is someplace I want to live, I love it and I’m worried about losing it.

A few nights ago, my husband, Ted, with whom I’ve shared just over a year of married life, went to bed and fell asleep before me. This is a rare occurrence and gave me the opportunity to lie beside him and look at him and consider who he is and who he is to me. An increasingly familiar sensation came over me as I contemplated this dear man; along with the sweet swelling of love, I felt a twinge of fear. What if something happened to separate us? What if he died? Ted is not sick; he is not a fireman or a soldier or someone whose life is continually in danger. But, I watch the news. I saw in India that yet another building collapsed on its residents. They weren’t doing anything dangerous, many were simply sleeping. I know that in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan a drone can drop a bomb on an innocent family sharing a meal in their home. Closer to our own home, seldom a day goes by that I don’t hear about a shooting in Baltimore. My concern though, I admit, is not so specific. I don’t expect anything particular, the feeling is more general. I recognize that I view this fragile human life as one that is integral to mine. I grow ever more in love with him, I imagine a future together with him and I am worried about losing him.

As I consider this sensation of worry accompanying love, I recognize that it is not something new that has developed but something dormant that has resurfaced. When I was a child, I had nightmares almost every night. Though the content varied, more often than not the terror centered around something happening to one of my siblings – usually kidnappings, sometimes murder and diseases were a few of the ways that I lost those who were most beloved to me. I remember, before my sister Grace was even born and long before I had any consciousness of debates about abortion I had a dream that my parents had decided not to go through with her birth. This dream struck me with such sadness that it weighed on me after I awoke and for days to come.

I think, over the years, I had learned to cope with the fear that accompanies love by loving less. Not to say there were not people or places or things I treasured. On the contrary I’ve friends that feel as close as family and places I continually revisit in memory, if not in person. But I approached all those relationships with a clause of impermanence. I may stay in touch, but I will move on. I began every job and relationship with the preliminary thought, “this is not likely to last.” I didn’t live in the same house for more than a year or in the same region for more than three years. Now, an enduring commitment to a particular person and to a particular place has robbed me of that strange security of transience. I am sincerely attempting rootedness in an ever-shifting world.

In marriage, the tool of detachment, as I had utilized it before, no longer brought the sense of healthy boundaries it had but acted instead as an infringement on the intimacy and trust that are so key to the unique bond Ted and I had intentionally chosen. Likewise, to always have the attitude, “I can leave at any time,” while trying to form a new community, inhibits me from being a truly engaged participant both in challenges and in celebrations.

I do believe in healthy detachment but I am learning to detach not from love and its inherent risks but from the accompanying fear of loss. Each time I feel that fear creep in I try to remind myself to transform it with gratitude and the paradoxically peaceful urgency of treasuring each moment I have with this person, this place, this way of life. I practice trust in a God that abides as everything else changes and that this God is the source of love that abides even if, even when, the objects of our love are lost. I practice recognizing that what I love is not mine to own but a tremendous gift to experience and engage with, with thanksgiving, as long as I am able. Really, nothing is mine except the moment by moment opportunity to live out love… and that is one thing that is worth holding onto.

Monday, October 14, 2013

today i'm thankful for

spending a great weekend with my parents ... the most unbelievably gorgeous fall weather in the history of the world ... a staff retreat spent at a beautiful garden in Madison (see above) ... a successful house warming party ... walks with Pedro and Diego around our neighborhood lagoon ... getting to make dinner and wash dishes with my mom (it was so simple, but so nice) ... taking my parents to our favorite local spots ... a trip to Port Washington and remembering my Papa ... leftovers ... pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffin, pumpkin chai latte ... having a house full of people we love ... getting to be with my dad on his birthday ... the opportunity to drive my dad to the airport and begin repaying the dozens of times he's made those trips for me ... enjoying happy hour with Paul's coworkers ... pretty new lipstick ... new tea flavors ... my St. Francis community and a great lesson on faith... how gratitude turns everything into enough 

Friday, October 11, 2013

canning workshop

Our community garden dreamed of having a canning workshop last season, but with all the work days creating the actual garden, we ran out of time to can.  We made canning a priority this season and scheduled a whole Saturday to hang out in the kitchen together.  Two of our garden committee members are canning queens (and one is a master preserver!) and were kind enough to teach the rest of us the canning process.   We opened the workshop up to all of our gardeners and used garden funds to offset the workshop cost so that finances wouldn't keep anyone from learning.  

The day was divided into two parts: tomatoes in the morning and pears in the afternoon.  Everything seemed to go a lot faster with all the people we had helping, and before I knew it we had several dozen jars full of beautiful food.  Each participant went home with a jar of tomatoes and pears.  We were all so excited, and I feel I am so excited to can more and now that I know the basic skills, I feel confident enough to can on my own now.  Just need to pick up my own canning kit, and I'm set!

Please excuse the weird quality of these photos.  I took them with my mid grade camera in weird light, and this was the best I could with them. 

If you're interested in learning to can, you can check with your local community center, library, university extension program, or nature/ecology center.  There's lots of workshops out there if you keep your eye open for them.  Pickyourown.org is also a great resource to check out for canning information and recipes.  We used this recipefor our tomatoes and this recipe for our pears.  

Have you canned before?