Saturday, September 22, 2018

In My Office on a Fall Afternoon

Here I am again, inside this room.

A room with a view: green fringe growing up from the gutter, a footbridge scattered with leaves, and an austere old house blinded by the afternoon sun.

Yet here I sit, removed from it all, behind the bars of my blinds, trying to think think think...until the brain slips out of me and onto the floor. Oh no...not again!

Why does thinking require such great strength? And as much water as exercise?


Monday, August 20, 2018

A Harmonium Project Meeting in Leonardo's Coffee Shop

They filter in and greet each other, ordering their hot and frothy drinks at the bar.

One man is dressed in a white button-down, black pants over black socks and shoes...and a bright orange stocking cap. Another looks Chestertonian, with round spectacles, portly figure, and flattened curls. Some others are tall. And there's a single woman in a purple t-shirt.

A band of eight-strong crowded around a table, reminiscent of The Bird and Baby.

Culture matters. Let's resurrect our town.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Only in America

A thunderstorm passes by late Friday afternoon. I am forced to pause my work because the storm is so close and violent that it kills the internet for ten minutes.

Time to eat my muffin.

On a tired rainy afternoon, there's nothing like a warm muffin with the chocolate chips melty on your fingers so that you have to lick them when you're done eating. My conversation with my mom floats back to me as the seconds count down on the microwave.

"I made chocolate chip zucchini muffins this weekend," I told her.

She chuckled. "Only in America do we turn leftover vegetables into baked goods..."


Monday, July 23, 2018

Field Notes vol. 5: Procrastination, IKEA, & New Sewing Project

Something Ironic: Procrastination Leads to...

Being in the right place at the right time? 

Last week, I put off two errands I needed to run, figuring that I could do them later. Then the errands both turned into an opportunity to do something helpful for a friend.  I was able to take a load of donations to Goodwill for some friends who were moving, along with my items, saving them a trip when they were crunched for time. And when I finally ventured to Walmart to buy paper towels and a few other cleaning supplies, I was also able to pick up a back brace for a friend whose back was hurting. So that was cool. God used my procrastination to benefit others. How ironic is that?

Something New: IKEA

A friend and I went into IKEA for the first time ever this Saturday, but since we were unfamiliar with the layout of the store, we ended up going around it backwards. 

If you aren't familiar with IKEA, everyone is supposed to enter through the same door and follow the arrows on the floor through the entire store, until you get to the checkout line. Well, we skipped the actual store and went to the "self-serve furniture" area first. That's the warehouse section where you pick up your box of self-assemble furniture after you've already seen it on display. Yep. 

Eventually, my friend and I found our way to the display area of the store, which we enjoyed, but we were the rebels going against the flow the whole time. No marketing traps for us!

The trip ended up being quite productive, since my friend has been planning to upgrade a few things in her living room for a little while. We found some awesome coordinating pillows, lamps, and a cube shelf within her budget!

My Next Sewing Project: Coral Linen Dress

Here's a sneak peek at my next sewing project, a coral dress that I've been thinking about making for at least a year and a half. Now I have the fabric, a medium weigh Irish linen. Next step, wash and pre-shrink the fabric!


My goal is to finish this project by mid-September so that I can wear it to a wedding. That might be a bit ambitious, depending on how picky I decide to get about fit. We'll see.

A Great Piece of Advice

"God's plan included you, so make sure your plan includes God." Words of wisdom from a friend's dad. Amen to that.




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Field Notes Vol. 4: Realizations

Something I've Realized: I'm Too Polite

This past week I attended a young adult event in Pittsburgh. There were about 50-75 people there and, after a short talk, there was ample time to mingle, buy drinks and snacks, and hang out. Well, someone I already knew started talking to me and, instead of politely moving on when the conversation turned one-sided, I stood there and pretended to keep listening. I kept thinking I should walk away from that group, but I wasn't sure how to do that. I wasn't assertive enough to do that. 

So it was a good reminder that I need to work on my mingling skills, particularly the art of gracefully exiting a conversation I no longer want to be part of. Here's to being polite, but not too polite!

Something I'm Thinking About: Holiness Is Ordinary

Speaking of that young adult event, the talk was about Pope Francis' most recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, which I read a few months ago. The talk was a good refresher and gave me some food for thought this week, specifically this idea: that holiness is found in doing our ordinary tasks more perfectly.

It is hard sometimes to be attentive to the ordinary things, so this definitely presents a challenge. For example, I need to focus more on my real work instead of being distracted by checking email. I need to take the time to prepare a good meal for myself instead of rushing to do more activities. I need to be present to God during my prayer time instead of letting my thoughts chatter endlessly.

Yet, I also find a lot of hope in this idea. It means I am already on the right path. I don't have to grasp at something more or different. No, I simply have to do what I am already doing with God and for God. And that's great! I can do that.

Something I'm Trying NOT to Do: Cram Too Much In

Almost every second of every day, I am making a list. I have to-do lists, to-buy lists, to-plan lists, to-schedule lists, to-tell-people lists, parties-to-host lists, books-to-read lists, and the list goes on... 

Can anyone relate to this? Seriously, it feels like my mind is a never-ending whirlpool of things I need, should, could, want, dream, plan to do. Most of the time, I can effectively channel this energy, but every once in a while I try to cram too much in, to get too much done in one day, or to schedule too much in a single week. And that's not good, because then my calendar becomes my to-do list and it's harder to be present, because after this, I'm on to the next thing...

So I am trying to pace myself. Am I doing a good job at that? Well, I did decide today to procrastinate on taking the recycling out and dropping some donations at Goodwill. I guess that counts as pacing myself.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Field Notes Vol. 3: Ordinary Time

Something Old: Sunday Brunch

My favorite family tradition is having brunch together after Mass on Sunday. Although I wonder if I should even call it a tradition because it is so informal. We just come home from Mass, cook something yummy, and linger at the table after we're through, chatting and laughing.


Even as a single person, I maintain this tradition most weekends by either having brunch with friends or taking the time to cook a nice meal for myself. It is a good reminder to me that each Sunday is a little feast, a time to rejoice and celebrate the gifts Our God has blessed me with. 

How do you celebrate Sunday? 

Something New: My Porch Garden

After two summers of wanting to grow something, I finally created a mini garden on my back porch! It's pretty simple, because I didn't make a plan or build any planters or start seedlings. I just went to Lowe's, bought a few herbs, a flower, and a tomato plant on sale, and put everything in old pots I'd collected. A co-worker also gave me a few extra plants she didn't need for the landscaping at work; those went along nicely with the red dahlia I bought.


Most days, I eat breakfast and dinner on my porch. My new garden is a cheery addition to that space.

Something I Finished: Josephine Blouse

The blouse I posted about a few weeks ago is finished! Last weekend, I looked at the unfinished blouse laying on my sewing table and said to myself, "You're so close. Why don't you just finish it?" And then I did. It took me about an hour to attach the cuffs and redo the neckline finish that I was having trouble with.

It's hard to take a selfie in the mirror...

As the first sewing project I've done for myself in a long time, I'm happy with how it turned out. Plus, the pattern was simple and easy to follow. The pattern maker, Rae, includes super simple directions for different seam finishes, which I wasn't familiar with before this project. Seam finishes are so much easier than I thought!!! Sure, it adds a little extra time to the construction process to finish all the seams, but it is worth it because all of the raw edges are enclosed and then the garment looks professional inside and out.

I would definitely make the Josephine Blouse again, but I might try the next size up. I made the XS for this version and it is just a little snug under the arms. Not uncomfortably so, but enough that I'd like to try the S next time and see if the fit is better.

Something Worth It: Taking Communion to the Nursing Home

Once a month, I take Holy Communion to two nearby nursing homes. I have to get up early on Sunday to go to the 8:30 Mass, but it is so worth it! The thirty people I visit make me smile. Here are a few scenes from my visit last weekend.

If it's possible, I like to sit down next to the person I'm with while we pray the short prayers before Holy Communion. But sometimes, I have to squat next to their chair or bed instead. After Tillie received Holy Communion, I stood up again and this was her reaction: "Wow, you're tall! You should go to Pittsburgh and be a model!" 

At Ruth's room, I knocked on the open door before going in. "Who is knocking?" she said, a bit grumpy until I told her that I was there with Holy Communion. "Oh yes. Do I know you?" I remind her that I've been there before and tell her it is good to see her sitting in a wheelchair instead of in bed. 

And then there is Michael, a man of great prayer, who never forgets to tell me, "Thank you for bringing Jesus to me." 



Saturday, June 23, 2018

Field Notes Vol. 2: Camping Trip, 5k Club, and More

Something Relaxing: Canoeing and Camping in the Boundary Waters

Last week, I went with some friends on a canoeing and camping trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). The BWCA is a canoe-only wilderness area that borders Minnesota and Canada. This was my first backcountry camping trip and I really enjoyed it! 

Look! I caught a fish! 

Being on the water every day, fishing, taking naps in my hammock, hanging out by our campfire, and spending a whole week outside was refreshing for my soul. I feel more relaxed and focused than I have been in a while. Plus, being away from my regular activities for a while always gives me a better perspective. 

Something New: Steubenville 5K Club

This morning I was able to check out a new activity: Steubenville's 5K Club! I came across the Facebook group a month or two ago, but wasn't able to make it to any of the runs until this morning. The group runs twice a week: Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Each week the route changes to cover a new part of the city, which is a super fun way to explore! 

It was good to get out of the house and get a run in, since I haven't been running much in the last two weeks. Vacation threw me out of routine. I'm ready to get going again and meet some new people along the way.

Something I'm Reading: Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

Actually, I finished this book on Thursday evening, but here we go. Wise Blood is one of two novels by Flannery O'Connor. Because of her Gothic style and unattractive (but very human) characters, Flannery is an acquired taste. Many people don't like reading her stories. But I've always found them interesting, so I thought I'd give this novel a try.

In the foreword to the book, O'Connor describes it as a "comic novel." The word comic is deceptive; the book is not funny, but quite serious. It's a comedy in the sense that it has a happy ending, not a tragic one. By the end of the book, the main character seems to finally understand the impact of his sins and the need to do penance for them. 

Here's one passage I love that shows O'Connor's master craftsmanship and wry sense of humor. Watch for the punch line at the end. 

"The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying any attention to the sky." 

Something Precious: A Flower

As I was coming into the coffee shop to write this blog post, a little girl handed me a purple petunia. I'm pretty sure she picked it off of the potted plant on the sidewalk! But still, the unexpected gift brought me joy. It's the little things!