welcome ... enjoy yourself

Thursday, January 29, 2015

ignatian family teach in talk

Here is a video of the talk I gave at the Ignatian Family Teach-In this past November.  I spoke about the paintings of the six Jesuit martyrs and Elba and Celina Ramos I did my junior year of college.  It was such an honor to speak at this Teach-In where I first learned the stories about the Jesuits. 

Also -- I was about 10 weeks pregnant in this picture and feeling sick as a dog!  I got a nice surge of adrenaline that helped me get through it.  Though I did have to take a few minutes in the bathroom to pull myself together and make sure I wasn't going to sick on stage in front of 1,500 people. 

Also, also -- I haven't actually watched the video because it makes me too nervous, but I'm pretty sure it's a good talk :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

great with child

A few weeks into my pregnancy I got hit with some terrible morning/all day sickness.  I had been so happy to be pregnant, but feeling so sick all the time was really wearing.  I had all sorts of expectations about what being pregnant would be like.  I'd feel like a temple of life!  I'd feel like a calm, peaceful warrior ready to take on the biggest challenge of my life!  Um...no.  I felt weak, sick, flabby, bloated, and annoyed.  Not anything like I had pictured.

I needed something.  Some kind of perspective shift - especially as I started to feel better.  And this book delivered it.

Beth Ann Fennelly's Great with Child is essentially the pregnant version of Letters to a Young Poet.  A young mother herself, Fennelly agrees to write her young pregnant grad student letters throughout her pregnancy.  The grad student is nervous, unsure whether she is up to the challenge of being a mother.  Fennelly offers her guidance, wisdom, and humor in her nine months of letters.  They were so simple and so profound and they were exactly what I needed to read.

Recommended for all expectant mothers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

thoughts on pregnancy (20 weeks)

Saturday marked the half way point in my pregnancy.  20 weeks down in my first pregnancy, 20 weeks to go.  

Those were the most surreal sentences I have ever written on this blog. 

This journey has been unique.  Unique for me, obviously not unique in human history or anything.  

I had dreamed of becoming pregnant for a while.  When we first moved into our current apartment I had a moment walking into one of the bedrooms where I felt like I knew that I would hold my baby in that room.  It was just a flash, just a feeling.  But I somehow knew it would happen. 

When we came back from Europe we decided we were both ready.  

And then the months went by and ... nothing.  

There was disappointment mixed with relief.  Disappointment that a dream I (we -- Paul had it too) had would still have to wait.  And a bit of worry that maybe it would never happen.  But at the same time, a bit of funny relief.  That life - my relationships, my body, my roller derby practices - could continue without change.  

But deep down I knew that we were ready for the pregnancy whenever it would happen.  I had thought of being a parent since I was a little kid and after seeing my mom have difficulties with a pregnancy in her mid 30s, I also hoped I could have my kids by the time I was that age.  I had a dream - one that I knew would change my life - and it felt like now was the time for it to happen. 

One month we did have a positive test.  And then the next day, it was over.  One full day of excitement and disbelief and the fulfillment of hopes, and then gone.  The doctor confirmed it was a miscarriage, albeit an extremely early one.  The following weeks were a difficult time.  I ate a lot of ice cream and lots of cookies.  Roller derby, patience, and Paul helped me get through the worst of it, and then life went back to normal.  But there was still that mix of disappointment and relief every month.  

I, like many people, like to have a certain feeling of control over my life.  It feels nice to have plans, especially when they turn out how you think they should.  But sometimes I'm reminded that things have to work out in their own time. 

When I found out I was pregnant in September, I wasn't exactly expecting it.  The hope was always there, but I had been disappointed so many times that I really tried to push the thought that pregnancy actually could happen to the back of my mind.  But the test was indeed positive.  As was the one after that.  And the one after that.  And that fourth one I took just to be sure.   

I turned out to be so early that the first pregnancy test at my doctor wasn't even positive.  I had to wait 24 hours for a blood test to come back to confirm that I was in fact pregnant.  

We held our breaths for the next few weeks.  I was hyper vigilant with my body, paying attention to every tiny feeling and change.  

And then the morning sickness set in.  For the next couple of months.  Every day I joke up, enjoyed about fifteen minutes of feeling ok, and then I tried not to get sick until I went to bed.  By then I was pretty sure that this pregnancy was going to stick.  

We saw the baby move on the ultrasound at 12 weeks.  All of those hopes, all of the disappointments, all of the uncertainty about whether we could do this; I felt a bit of all of that looking at that little baby.  On top of complete amazement that that little baby was ours.  Our baby!  What a miracle.  

At 16 weeks I felt the baby move.  It felt like a little goldfish swimming around in my stomach.  Or riding a roller coaster.  Or driving over a hill in a car.  None of those are particularly pleasant feelings, but I've appreciated the little reminders that our baby is safe and growing.  

Every week I have a mini celebration that I've made it one more step further into the pregnancy.  And each week it feels a little more likely that we are going to have this baby.  (And that I'm going to have to go through labor to get that baby!)

We're both so nervous and excited about the next few months - and the next few decades after that!  I feel like all we really know is that about everything is about to change.  And that our biggest adventure is about to begin.  

Thank you for reading if you made it all the way through this post!  I've been waiting to share all this for months, and it feels good to have out of my brain and onto this electronic paper.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

whose woods these are I think I know

Last week, Paul and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary at Speckled Hen Inn in Madison.  I had been working long hours the week of our actual anniversary, so we postponed our getaway for a week we both had more time off.  This was kind of a dual getaway -- we had wanted to have a night away together before the baby comes in June, and in case we didn't have another time to do it, this mini trip to Madison counted as our "babymoon."  And what a great little anniversary trip/babymoon it was. 

The snowy woods were so relaxing and beautiful.  Around our house a lot of the snow had already melted, but out here the snow still looked pristine and untouched.  It felt like the kind of snowy scenery you see in movies. 

This is a picture of the actual inn.  We didn't stay in the barn with the llama and the sheep in that first picture.  

A view of the little common space.  This was where we got our tea and chocolate chip cookies.  One of the best things about staying in a bed and breakfast: free cookies any time of day. 

Just before we were leaving, I took a walk around the bed and breakfast property.  The woods were just so inviting.  Plus I had to see the llama and sheep up close. 


I'm sure this property is beautiful in the summer too, but I'm so glad we got to visit during the middle of winter.  It was the perfect cozy location for a little getaway.  And the breakfast was amazing!!  Homemade maple syrup, scrambled eggs from their chickens, and delicious French toast.  I could go for a second round of that right now!

P.S. It was so exciting to make our baby announcement earlier this week!  I loved reading everyone's congratulatory remarks on Facebook.  Makes everything seem more real -- and June seem not so far away!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

our 2015 christmas card + a happy annoncement

I've been excitedly waiting to share our Christmas card here for a few weeks.  The final cards went out to friends and family last week so I can finally make it public here.  This year's card included a very happy announcement. 

Just in case you missed the small print in that picture of our Christmas card above -- we're having a baby!!  Come next June we'll have two pups and a baby running around our lovely little apartment, and we couldn't be happier about it!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

artist in residence

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was invited to be an artist in residence at Marquette University the first week of February to paint a portrait of James Foley.  Agreeing to do this felt a bit like jumping into the deep in with no water wings.  I knew I could do it - and was pretty sure I wouldn't drown while doing it - but it still feels unnerving.  Now the residence is just a few weeks away, and it's time to really get going on my prep work.  

I thought it would be interesting to blog about the process, both to share with others and because I have to document my process for the actually residency.  

The picture above is a photo of James Foley speaking at Marquette in front of the school's crest.  I've been asked to use this photo as inspiration for the painting.  I've taken this to mean they would like a portrait of James done in front of the Marquette crest.  So I'll most likely end up using that picture of him (but using others for help since his eyes are really dark) and will paint the crest different so you can actually see what it is.  

I'm going to write the rest of this post in question and answer form for simplicity sake.  Full disclosure: no one asked me these questions, but they would be the ones I would ask if someone told me they were doing an artist in residence!  

What lead to this invitation?  A campus minister found these paintings I did through my blog.  Well technically he had searched the names of the Jesuits online and my blog came up in his search.  Through that contact, I was invited to speak at Marquette about my paintings and the idea came up for me to paint a portrait during the university's mission week.  The theme of the week will be Who Cares?  Charity, Justice, and the Quest for the Common Good, and they would chose a person who fit that theme for me to paint.  

Who is James Foley?  James Foley was an American reporter who was kidnapped in Syria and beheaded by ISIS last fall after working as a freelance reporter for GlobalPost.  He was also a graduate of Marquette University and had worked for Teach for America before becoming a reporter.  

The more I learn about James the more I like him.  I didn't know much about him before I heard about his death last year.  

Did his family give permission for this?  Yes.  I'm not sure of the full details, but I know someone at the university (probably in mission and values) contacted the family and they consented to having a portrait done.  

What will the artist in residence thing be like?  I'll be painting the portrait of James Foley on campus in a public viewing area during Marquette's mission week.  I'll have a mini studio (with no walls) where people can watch me complete the portrait of James Foley over a three day period.  People will have the opportunity to ask me questions about my painting process and will be able to read more about James Foley in materials that will be on a nearby table.   

Do you get paid? Yes.  I will get paid a flat fee for all the prep work and actual painting I do.  Marquette University will also officially own the painting once I finish.   

What are your ideas for the painting? I've been looking at my old portraits to get ideas for this painting.  The portraits I did of the Jesuits were done with non-life like colors and with very watered down backgrounds.  Another portrait I did of Wangari Maathai (below) was done with watercolors and featured more life like colors.  I think I'll use life like colors for this but in a style closer to the Jesuits.  I've decided on acrylics rather than watercolors for this portrait because 1) they are more forgiving and 2) I've done a lot more work with acrylics recently and I want to go with what's familiar when painting in front of lots of people.  An audience = pressure.  

I really love doing portraits like this.  I love highlighting the humanity and the stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.  It is such a neat journey to learn about a person I admire and help bring them to life in a new way.  As with all the portraits I do, I hope that the end result will be something that the subject - in this case James Foley  - would be happy with.  More information on the residence to come as things progress!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

garden glow

While visiting family in St. Louis for the new year, we spent a night at the Missouri Botanical Garden garden glow.  The Botanical Garden is one of my favorite places in the world -- Paul and I even had our engagement pictures taken there.  The garden glow is just what it sounds like; a one mile stretch of the garden is lit up with various light displays.  Walking around the garden was one of the more magical experiences I've had in a while.  

The original entrance to the garden was the main attraction of the garden glow.  The ponds that usually feature Chihuly glass globes had light up globes that changed color in coordination with different holiday songs.  At the end of our walk my family and I got some hot chocolates and enjoyed them around one of those bonfires in the distance. 

Looking the other direction in the pond area you could see the lit up Climatron. 

These color changing light curtains were my mom's favorite exhibit.  The music in this section sounded like a xylophone and the curtains stretched high above our heads.  Those little ornaments hung high up in the trees.  

A close up of some flower lights that also changed colors.  

And second to the lit up maze (little lights were all over the topiaries that made up the maze, but it didn't photograph well), my favorite part was this huge tree with blue lights all over it.  It looks so simple, but it was really striking in person.  There must have been thousands of lights all over it.  

It was such a treat walking around the garden with my family.  The weather was perfect - chilly enough so you had to bundle up but not too cold that you felt like you had to rush through the glow.  Part of the magic was that you could only see part of the show from each part of the walk.  You would turn a corner and find a new surprising exhibit.  All the holiday music and just being outside with beautiful lights in a space that I usually don't see at night plus carolers and hot chocolate.  It was a perfect night.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

winter is here (proof in instagrams)

Last week I lead my first seven day retreat for a group of college students.  It was a huge accomplishment in my eyes, and I was really proud of how things went.  Those seven days happened to coincide with the full blown start of winter in Wisconsin -- and lead me to take yet another mini break from blogging.  

When the retreat ended Saturday morning, I drove to one of my favorite spots by the lake to take some photos and to just take a deep breath.  Lake Michigan is beautiful at any time of year, but there's something special about it in winter.  I love the colors, the steam that rises off the water, the way it feels even bigger and more expansive than usual.  

The view of the shoreline is always nice too.  So much snow and ice.  And hardly anyone in sight. 

One of my new year's resolutions was to exercise daily.  I'm counting walking as exercise, as long as I reach at least three miles in a day.  As a result, I've been more diligent about walking the dogs, and I've been taking more pictures than usual to make the walks more interesting.  (I'm sharing photos on Instagram with the hashtag #walkitout2015.)

I've never experienced winters like I've experienced in Wisconsin.  The cold just chills you to the bones - and sometimes even freezes the inside of your nose.  And it seems to last for-ev-er.  But so far this winter I've been finding lots of beautiful things to enjoy and have managed to stay occupied enough that I haven't had any stir crazy or spring fever feelings... yet.  (Updates on that to come.) 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

our three year anniversary

Today Paul and I celebrate our three year anniversary.  This feels like a good milestone for us.  We're still newlyweds but we're getting into our years where we can start to give legit marriage advice -- at least to people who are just starting out.  We have a long journey together to still look forward together, but we've at least figured out a few things together already.

I love this picture from our first dance (to Al Green's Let's Stay Together).  I had felt flustered on and off all day because I was so worn out from the days leading up to the wedding, and I was slightly overwhelmed (in a good way) with how many of the people we loved were all gathered together in the same space.  During our first dance, it felt like everything else melted away, and it was just the two of us.  In reality we were on the dance floor on our own, but we were surrounded by so many people we care about.  It's a great symbol of marriage.

The longer I've been married to Paul, the luckier I feel to be with him.  This was driven home this week, when he took over the morning dog walking shift when the wind chill dipped below -20.  Now that's love.