The Beautiful Life…

This weekend I achieved a relationship goal of cinematic significance. Every sappy love story has one great kiss in the rain. Allie and Noah from The Notebook, Paul and Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Charles and Carrie from Four Weddings and a Funeral have filled our heads with the romance and emotional significance of the watery embrace.

tumblr_m3o3ln6nzd1qks92eo1_500Turns out,  much like everything else in my life these days, my kiss in the rain was nothing like I’d expected. Instead of a semi-frantic meeting of impassioned lovers, J and I giggled through our rainy kiss with the sounds of a neighborhood block party going on in the background.

Saturday night, J’s neighbor, SuperMom, and I decided to put together a little Memorial Day grill out for Sunday afternoon. We recruited a handful of neighbor families who pitched in a brought side dishes, and piled what turned into a couple dozen kids into SuperMom’s garage once it started raining. After a traditional grill out menu, the adults gathered around to chat while the older kids made up some kind of dodgeball alternative and the little ones ran laps around the cul-de-sac, jumping in every available puddle.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier.

Take a moment to enjoy your beautiful life: the silly moments, the perfectly imperfect moments, the moments you’ll never forget.

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Zen and the Art of Painting

I come from a family of people who are, by nature, procrastinators. It always starts so well, usually with some sort of list. We outline the very logical and manageable steps to meet our goal with plenty of time to spare. Then, life. Suddenly, the absolute deadline is upon us and it’s all hands on deck to pull through at the last minute.

c700x420Which is how I found myself painting the baseboards in my guest room Tuesday night. I had to get them done so that the carpet guys could come Wednesday morning. As they installed the new floor coverings, I made the three-hour round trip to pick up my grandmother who was coming to spend Thanksgiving in that room. No minute like the last minute, you know?

Far from my first foray into baseboard painting, I’m a regular seasoned pro at edges and trim. There is something calming about moving a paintbrush along in patient, measured strokes. It isn’t a task that can be rushed, despite the looming pressure of carpet installation. It demands to be taken seriously. This is the kind of work I like to do alone. No distractions, no conversation, just a girl and her paintbrush. In the background, music plays to protect me from delving too far into my thoughts.

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Raj remarks that there is something lovely about washing the dishes.

“You know, I read that washing dishes can be an excellent form of meditation? The key is that while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes…it’s about be present in the moment.”

It is at once frightening and grounding to be so present in a simple endeavor. I’m struck with the thought that I rarely do only one thing at a time. Even in the most mundane aspects of my day I’m often mulling over some other, more complicated problem or replaying a conversation to parse for subtext.

We’ve now launched head first into the Christmas season. Soon, the pressure of gifts, holiday parties, and financial strain will be upon us. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the merriment, I pray you will find time to be still and just wash the dishes.

Or paint the baseboards. Just don’t wait until the last minute.

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day 25 | Monday Musings | of family ties, customer service, and a moment of remembrance…

Happy Memorial Day!

1) It was an emotional roller coaster of a weekend [more on that later] as I celebrated my birthday with a small fraction of my family. Though our numbers were small, I got to spend time with my oldest brother. Growing up, I barely knew him at all, as our age difference is a whopping 14 years. It wasn’t until I was an adult that we spent any significant time together.  Yesterday we had a chance to just spend a few hours sitting around and talking. We shared memories of our dad and different experiences we’d had with him.

True story, it was some of the best therapy I’ve ever had.

2) I don’t have many vices. I’m not into labels or having designer everything. I’d rather buy/wear pieces that don’t have to worry about. One major exception: I love Kate Spade. LOVE. If you tuned in to the list of things that make me happy, you probably noticed that a sale at Kate Spade is a happy trigger if there ever was one. I have a tradition of saving up and then buying a new bag at the Memorial Day sale, kind of a birthday present for myself. Each time I go in, the gorgeous bags and friendly staff at the Hagerstown, MD Kate Spade Outlet make my shopping experience one of perfection.

Last year I fell in love with and purchased this bag in a mere 13 minutes. I loved that bag.

And then, the unthinkable. The fastener broke. So much anguish. First world problems, you know?

So I took it back, a year later. I just wanted it fixed, but the awesome staff replaced the bag with one that I liked even better. They were professional and sweet and I was incredibly impressed with how much they care about their customers and stand behind their products.

This is why I’ll buy Kate Spade for life.

3) I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to express gratitude for the men and women of the United States Armed Services who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure my freedom, as well as the families who must press on each day without their loved ones. I can never fully comprehend your sacrifice or demonstrate my sincere thanks.

I hope that the life I live, in some small way, makes the life that was lost lived, not in vain, but to fulfill a great purpose. It’s a heady responsibility to be among the living, but we owe it to the dead to take care of the country they died to protect.

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day 23 | Virtual Party Planning

I’m not having an actual birthday party this year, aside from a tiny family get together this afternoon (the get together is tiny, my family is normal-sized, just to be clear), so I decided to throw myself a little virtual party. All the glamour, none of the clean up, and I don’t have to wear pants. In keeping with the theme of my golden birthday, I’m going with a bit of a grown up princess party thing.

Not Disney Princess. More, fairy-tale-ish? No Grimm Brothers, though. Not fairy princess, either. Whatever, just look.

Birthday CollageLace Crowns|Sequin Dress|Gold Balloon|Lighted Trees|Cupcake Hearts|Straws|Sparkle Print

You can check out more of my ideas for the perfect Golden Birthday on my Pinterest board! Try to ignore that most of them come from baby showers or parties for two-year-olds. It’s my birthday, I’ll do what I want.

Happy Saturday!

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day 10 – My First Teacher

momMy mom didn’t teach me normal “Mom” things. She didn’t teach me how to cook, or impart secret family recipes for her great grandmother’s chocolate cake. She didn’t teach me how to tell when a vegetable was ready to pick or what kinds of flowers would attract butterflies but repel deer. My mom wasn’t one of those moms. You know the kind. The ones who have cookies ready for you when you get home from school and the one you run to for sympathy when you’ve had a bad day or scraped your knee.

Please don’t get me wrong, my mom isn’t a heartless sociopath or anything, she just isn’t super touchy-feely. You want sympathy and snuggles? Go find Dad.

But my mom taught me how to be a grown up. She taught me Algebra when I was in elementary school and schooled me on amortization charts and depreciation values. She shared with me her love of spreadsheets and taught me how to set up a budget. She taught me how to stand on my own, how to ask for help, how to accept a compliment.

My mom taught me that knowledge is sexy and that you can be pretty and smart. She never once told me to dumb myself down or be anything less than who I am to get the guy. She taught me to trust, but verify, that youth is the time to take crazy chances, and that there is no shame in walking away from situations that are dangerous to you mind, body, or soul.

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My mom taught me about commitment. She showed me that marriage is forever, so you should be careful with whom you start that journey. She taught me about consequences and follow through. “You can do anything you want,” she would tell us, “as long as you accept the consequences of your actions.”

She taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them, and that sometimes, things happen for a reason. My mom taught me that, when you get your heart-broken, it’s okay to spend a whole day in bed crying and watching movies. She taught me to take myself a little less seriously.

2015-05-09_19.14.46My mom taught me about self-control, self-respect, and personal responsibility. She would remind David and me that, “You can’t control how other people act. You can only control your reaction.” She taught me that just because you think something, doesn’t mean you have to say it and that if there is more than one way to interpret someone’s comment, always choose the one that is nicest toward you.

My mom taught me that love means choosing your battles. Hurtful words, once uttered, can never be taken back. She taught me that when you care about people, you do what needs to be done, even if it’s a thankless job. She taught me about selflessness, hard work, and independence.

There’s more. I could go on and on. As I set out on my journey to be a teacher and someday, Lord willing, a mom, I know this: If I end up being half the teacher my mom is, I’ll be twice as good as I ever need to be.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Monday Musings: of eyeliner overload and Easter weekend…

1) I’ve talked a little about being a Mary Kay consultant, but I haven’t harped on it, mostly to create boundaries in my life. I’m not really trying to use this platform to promote that business (though if you’re interested, by all means, hit me up *wink wink*)

onewoman-headerRegardless, I have a funny story and I want to tell it, so deal. Mmkay, pumpkins?

My neighbor, Maureen, called me the other day. A call from her isn’t the most unusual thing in the world, but it was a little out of the blue. After some pleasantries, she got down to business.

Maureen: Listen, you, ah, do Mary Kay, right?
Me: um, yeah…?
Maureen: Do you have any eyeliner in Bronze?
Me: …

Now, let me explain. I’ve known Maureen for just about 19 years and I think I’ve seen her wear makeup a grand total of zero times. Not a stitch, let alone a specific color of a specific brand of eyeliner. Turns out, the makeup wasn’t for her, but for her mother who was in a panic because the company decided to discontinue that particular color and she was trying to stockpile a supply before they ran out. Maureen informs me that her mother wants as many of them as she can get.

$300 later, I think she’ll be good for a bit. Sometimes, it pays to pick up the phone.

2) This is Holy Week for those that celebrate such things and Sunday is Easter. I’m not really a Holy Week girl, but Easter is a pretty big deal. I think it’s really interesting that despite the holiday’s religious origin, Easter seems to have gained a fair amount of commercial success, unlike most holidays that the early church repurposed from pagan traditions (Christmas shouldn’t be in December, just saying). What started as a strictly religious and fairly complicated holiday has turned into the unofficial start or spring with its frilly dresses, plastic eggs, and frightening anthropomorphic lagomorphs.

134abcd331ab1f4dc9be107e34e83ddcHave I mentioned that I fear people in animal costumes? No? Well, there you go. And clowns. *Shiver*

I’ve not been shy about my faith in this blog. I’ve not tried to hide my Christianity from you. I’ve neither pretended that being a Christian gives me all the answers or implied that I’m anything other than a thoroughly imperfect person in constant need of the grace of God. I’ve also not shoved Him down your throat. I can’t make you believe in God any more than I can make you believe in sunlight. I think it’s pretty obvious, but if you can’t see it, you’re probably living in the dark. However, in the spirit of the season and with the weight of the immense sacrifice that was made for you and me and everyone else, I would like to personally invite you to step into the light.

In Praise of Pi…

7 years ago, I received a Facebook event invitation. I thought it was a cool idea, so I responded that I would go. The only catch? The even was happening in March of 2015.

In fact, it’s today.

pi-day-2015Titled, “The only real Pi Day of our Lives”, the event was an awareness campaign that on March 13, 2015, specifically at 9:26 am, we would exist in the digits of the mathematical giant, pi. That little symbol that demystifies circles, pi is an important part of math, physics, astronomy, engineering, the list goes on. It is both irrational and transcendental and may have been used as far back as the construction of the pyramids in Giza.

In the spirit of pi day, here are some facts you might not know about pi (courtesy of the International Business Times)

  • The symbol for pi arrived in 1706 when William Jones used the Greek letter to represent the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. The symbol is not really a symbol – it is the first letter of the word periphery – ‘περιφέρεια’.
  • Pi is an irrational number in that its decimal value goes on forever, never repeating. Its value has been calculated to more than 2.7 trillion digits.
  • Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day – he was born 14 March 1879.
  • Most of the trillions of digits in pi are not needed. Just 39 digits allows you to measure the circumference of the observable universe.

So here’s to you, pi. After seven years, thanks for finally getting that Facebook event off my calendar!

Monday Musings: of Christmas and cats, but not Christmas cats.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

1) I had a really hard time making a Christmas list this year. It seemed I just didn’t want or need anything that could be wrapped and put under a tree (now, if someone would like to pay my tuition, feel free).  It got so bad at one point that I was threatened with scary clowns if I wouldn’t pick something. I finally picked a few tangible things, but best part of Christmas was having the people who are important to me together.  My mom, my brother and sister-in-law (scary clown lady), and A were all present for Christmas morning and the warm fuzzies were better than any present I’ve ever opened.

Doesn’t mean I’m giving back the gifts, though…

2) If you know anything about me, you know that the love of my life is an 11 lb orange tabby named Stuart.

Just look at that face.2014-12-07 18.21.12 I mean, seriously.

Stuart pretty much has the run of the house, like most cats. He likes to pitch a fit when he’s not getting his way (rarely), or when he’s on the wrong side of a closed door (always).

We do get our acts together and ignore him, sometimes, which of course makes him a bit upset. Here’s the thing, though: Stuart is kind of brilliant, for a cat. Christmas morning, Mom, A, and I are sitting in the kitchen, drinking coffee and waiting for the newlyweds to wake up, when Stuart, who has been crying for No. Discernible. Reason., suddenly disappears followed by a THUMP and a small CRASH.  A looks up, alarmed, while I pause and whisper, “wait for it…” Sure enough, a few moments pass and his cry picks back up, this time much louder.  A takes a quick glance toward the bathroom at the end of the hall and his engineering mind comes to a conclusion that seems ridiculous, so he simply says, “um…is he…?”

That’s right, friends, the cat got into the bathtub, knowing that the tiled walls will amplify his voice. Because he’s kind of a jerk.

Happy Monday!

I heard the bells…

It’s Christmas!

There are so many great songs that accompany this season.  Songs full of love and peace and joy.  But what about those other things that accompany this season? What about those who are facing Christmas deployed in our Armed Services or grieving the loss of a loved one? What about those who lay awake on Christmas Eve knowing that when morning came, there would be nothing for their children to open, because they couldn’t afford presents?

Henry_W_Longfellow_with_signature-cropI’m not trying to ruin your Christmas. Really, I’m not. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for being happy or successful. I just want you to know that if you are struggling to bring the cheer, you aren’t alone.

My favorite Christmas carol is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.  The words are based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  He wrote the poem in 1863 after the lost off his wife and after finding out that his son had been severely wounded in the Civil War.  If you aren’t familiar with the text:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rung so long the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

There is so much pain in these words, especially the third verse.  Here is a man for whom Christmas brings only heartache. If this is where the song ended, I doubt it would be my favorite.  Instead, the fourth verse follows, and gives me chills every single time I hear it.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

God is not dead, nor does He sleep. Even when everything seems to be falling apart, I rest in the assurance that God is actively working in my life for a greater purpose.  Things may seem dark now, but He has it under control.

From my family to yours, may you find your Peace on Earth.

Merry Christmas!

Monday Musings: Thanksgiving Week Edition – of shopping, menus, and kitchen disorientation.

How is possibly Thanksgiving week already?!  I swear it was just June and I was stressing about David and Maggie’s wedding and then it was September and my world was falling apart and not the Holiday Season is upon us!  I have one exam and one homework that I have to get through before I can unwind for the long weekend, but a quick update before I bury my head in the books for the rest of the day —

1) I have been known, in years past, to get up at the crack of 3 am to line up in the freezing cold to go Black Friday shopping.  These days, I look at shopping on Black Friday the same way I do hunting.  I have no moral objections, but I won’t be participating for the following reasons:

  1. It’s early.
  2. It’s cold.
  3. I don’t wanna.

I do however, take exception with stores who are opening up on Thanksgiving Day to jump start the consumerism that has become Christmas.  Besides the irony of pushing and shoving your way through a store to acquire more stuff on a holiday dedicated to being thankful for what you have; if you are in a store shopping, it means someone else must be working and not spending time with their family.  So, in honor of that auspicious idiocy, I’ve decided to take a pledge, and I encourage you to do the same. Don’t shop on Thanksgiving and let stores know that it isn’t okay.

2) I’ll be cooking the smallest Thanksgiving dinnerThanksgiving 2014 I’ve ever experienced, this year.  Just 3 (possibly 4) people.  I’m a little sad; I love cooking a huge dinner for a ton of people, but I think it will be nice, and it gives me an opportunity to change things up and make food that is a little less traditional.  Here’s our menu:

3) The other challenge is that I won’t be cooking from my home kitchen, but rather from my grandmother’s.  It’s not a huge deal, and it’s not the first time, but I’m feeling a little nervous about the disorientation associated with cooking in someone else’s kitchen.  It’s probably just my own special kind of ridiculousness, but it gives me pause.  I’m sure everything will be just fine.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving Week!!