Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Managing Chaos: 5 Years of Blogging

Okay, you can laugh at me. I'm laughing. The set-up was perfect. Somewhere in my mind, I was convinced I started blogging on April 19, 2009. Convinced. No doubt.

So, I checked the post on April 18, 2014 to discover... wait for it... I missed my five year anniversary of blogging. The one I've been secretly counting down to? Yeah. It passed.

April 5, 2009 is the real date of my blog's inception.

I'm laughing, and it feels good. Not only because I think/hope I've grown so much in attitude, prose and content, but because it's a good reminder that this is my fluffy blog of Julie stuff that sometimes feels serious, but at the end of the day, is still a public record of my thoughts and continued self-growth as a human.

As a five year gift to the blog, I've asked Margaret McCarthy (of m. Studios) to give my lovey an up-do. It's going to look a lot prettier, and, hopefully, grace-filled. Please continue to stay tuned! (And if you haven't liked the new FB page... why wait any longer?)

Lent this year was outstanding. I felt spiritually attacked more than usual, but mostly, I slowly lost my mind. Grace's sleep schedule + stuff to do + ALL MY WRITING OBLIGATIONS + housekeeping = frazzle dazzled Julie.

The writing obligations part, the part in all caps, is really a buzz kill at this point. If my former journalism mentor was dead, he'd be rolling in his grave. Instead, he's writing a book on President Jefferson in Virginia and not reading this blog post, so win-win-win. He really emphasized deadline, something, frankly, I hate. But fortunately/unfortunately for me, I have a lot of non-deadlines looming: get it to me when you can.

So, I'm throwing in the pride towel: you got it, Jesus. Take me, I'm yours. This writing? For you. This blog? I hope it glorifies you in its teensy, Seinfeldian way.


Thank you for all the comments, e-mails and readership. You all mean so much to me! I have laughed and smiled and felt truly touched by so many of you. Your encouragement is invaluable!

Please tell me: what topics do you enjoy hearing about? Any topics you are interested in reading from my view?

Wow. Five years. If you need me, I'm writing a new to-do list and enjoying our family visiting!

{I am being interviewed by Shaun McAfee tonight - 7 pm CST if you want to tune in!}

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My View (vol. 9)

St. Patrick's Cathedral downtown was the first church Will and I went to for mass. We went to five o'clock mass, and I still remember listening to the priest whose radio voice led me blissfully through the liturgies. We went to five o'clock mass there the next three months, missing only once, when we forgot about the conflicting calendar of New Orleans' official religion, Saints football.

The church is gorgeous, old, full of history, traditional and welcoming. Since having Grace, we've started attending the church closer to our apartment (equally staggering in tabernacle and architectural glory); I still try to go to noon mass there, when possible.


I love the scenes from Jesus' life on Earth behind the tabernacle, the gorgeous stained glass windows, the heavy, dark wood pews, the scallop over the Gospel/ homily podium, and the carving details in the columns and arches overhead. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five Favorites (v. 8)

Traveling with Grace has been a learning experience. I heard on the radio last week, in a "confessional" type program, a mom who wishes she had traveled more before having her kids. She said all parents thought this, and went on to say her laundry list of reasons why traveling with kids stinks.

Grace has traveled a lot - a handful of longer car rides, two plane flights, and two 1k mile round trips for Christmas and a MLK weekend/ on the residency interview trail, and all by her four month mark. But I hear, the older they get, the harder it becomes (for some parents).

I get it - it requires a lot more planning, lest you forget something essential (like, her binky). Here are my top 5 traveling with babies (sleep edition) favorites:

{one}

PATRULL Nightlight/sensor IKEA
We were given ours, but $3.99 is worth it times 10. It turns on when it is dark, stays on all night, and isn't overly distracting to other sleepers in the room, yet still light enough that Grace can see her hands in front of her face when she wakes up. Also comes in pink and white. Super easy to toss in the bag and go. Win-win-win.

{two} + {three}

Kidco - peapod travel sleeper ($69.99)

It's the ultimate travel bed with the way it folds up tight - easily in carry-on, if necessary. Big enough for kids up till 3 years, we put a soft blanket down, and then put Grace on top with another blanket and binky. We were half a foot away, and it great for late night feedings and daytime naps. Based on how our daughter sleeps, it works for us. We did not use it when she was under 6 months.

This picture was drastically brightened so... fuzzy wuzzy is my iPhone.

I love this thing. I love it so much, I am not giving up the one we bought for Grace. Grace has a new one, and I have one in our room. It helps me sleep, and if mama sleeps, the world is a-okay!

That elephant ($22.50) is reallyreally great too - my MIL bought it at Target, and it is just bedtime gold. Nothing says "Go to bed, Grace!!!!!!!" like stars projected on the ceiling and a lullaby tune for up to 45 minutes. My mother (who has been visiting) was amazed how easily Grace goes down with it!

{four}


Also available in super cute stripes and other patterns
Okay, Hanna Anderson ANYTHING; but especially delicious pajamas. You will start singing The touch,/ the feel/, of coooooooottttten/ (the fabric of our lives!) after feeling how soft these pajamas are.

Warning: these comes in women sizes. You will be tempted to buy. (Do it!)

{five}

Sleepsacks: sleep wherever.
We forgot ours for the above pictured trip, but this sleep sack is classy. It keeps the babies warm, and makes them look good. Can we say, double win?

Girlfran looks good:
Sleepsack and wubbanub
Shout-out to Grace's wubbanub, which convinces me that life is better with the little pleasures.

Joining with Hallie for more fabulous favorites!

Monday, April 14, 2014

When People Make Mistakes (But Not You!)

Life, in all its glory, is pretty messy. Sin skips and trips us through life as we try to be faithful and nothing halts us up more than the compare and contrast game.

You know the game: Why did she do that? Can you believe he said that? I would never…

You would never… lie or cheat, commit adultery or covet your neighbor’s good fortune, speak poorly about another to the advantage of your own reputation?

The golden rule — to love our neighbors as ourselves — is not a friendly suggestion:  It is a commandment of God, and it teaches our heart to love until it hurts. And it will hurt, sometimes. Loving another does not mean liking them. It means giving them the benefit of the doubt, holding your own tongue from a harsh rebuke, gentle counseling when they are taking the wrong path, and forgiving.

It means training your mind to combat the vices planted by jealousy: why not me?

Instead of why-not-me, try, What does God have planned for me?

We all have a different story to tell, a different vocation to fulfill, and our own life to lead. None of us are in charted waters all our life; mistakes will happen. Things will not go as planned; but do not give up hope! God wants the kind of relationship where you wrestle together through the rough patches, like Jacob, unwilling to let go until he received his blessing.

As Holy Week approaches, let us remember that Christ died for us and our sins, and your neighbor and his sins, and that lady who honked her horn at you, and the co-worker whose jokes rub you the wrong way, and the guy who would not just take a hint. Instead of stewing, turn toward prayer. The Book of Lamentations, Job and the Psalms are full of frustrations.

Saint Ambrose wrote in Explanatio Psalmorum (XII, 1, 4, 7-12),
“In the book of Psalms, the way for progress for all men is to be found, and there lies the medicine for the health of all. Whoever reads it, will find the way to cure the wounds of one’s own defects with a specific prescription. Whoever takes the trouble to look at it will find, as on a training ground for virtues, various kinds of exhibitions. And one can choose for oneself, whatever one considers most suitable. The prize is thus more easily within one’s grasp.”
The reality is, we are humans prone to sin. Only God is infallible, and it is wisdom that recognizes our own fallibility as well as that of others’. Instead to dismissing or condemning, we should see others’ weaknesses as an opportunity to be a non-judgmental listener, a support system, and/or, someone to pray with and for them, and hope that they see our own weaknesses in a similar merciful light.

It does no good to say or think: If I had been in that situation, I would have acted differently. We can only learn, and lean more on God. Jesus, I trust in you. Holy Spirit, fill me with courage – give me the words to say.

The sooner we remember that we are responsible for loving God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, the sooner we can forgive as our Heavenly Father forgives, and love as our Heavenly Father loves.

Originally post at Ignitum Today.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My View (vol. 8)

Last weekend at Pensacola was glorious. It rained almost the entire time, but the company was divine, as was the view.


Our little family enjoying the breeze on the last day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Evolution of a Smile

"How do you get her to smile that amazing smile all the time?!" my sister-in-law texted me yesterday.

Stephanie, this is for you - courtesy of your brother's excellent photography skills.


"Okay, I can handle this..."


"Hi Mom! Oh my gosh, hiiiiiiii!!!"


"I'm exhausted."


"And... I'm up! Let's take another!"


Wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-wiggle.




C'mon gooseberry...




Finally, a workable product:


Was the picture worth all the effort?


Yes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Answer to Your Problems

The answer is a nap.


A nap won't directly solve any problems, of course. A clear mind, however, is innovative, focused and less emotionally-charged than a tired one. My problem-solving skills increase ten-fold if I am well-rested.

Am I currently well-rested? Well... not by any standard definition. I am, however, wiser than my former mindset that the minimum amount of sleep will carry me through life. Perhaps in the short term (college), sleepless night were a badge of honor. But now, when I hear babbles or crying through the baby monitor, I want to cry back. No no no no no no no no not now. It's 2:30 a.m. It's 3:30 a.m. It's 4:30 a.m. It's not time to get up. It's still dark outside.

When people ask me if my life is forever changed by having a baby, I think they really mean my sleep habits. So, I give them the un-wanted two part answer, complete with clauses:
  • No, because babies are a positive addition and not a waste of resources or time. I do not feel less of myself and more of a mom - I feel more myself, more a wife, and more a mom. Vocations grow out of love, and hardships (early wake-up calls, teething monsters, etc.) are borne out of love because they were created out of love, give you love, recieve your love. 
  • Yes, in all practical senses. I now have a small human being who depends on me. Grace could die without me, as I am her food source. Her father and I also provide for her emotional needs, protect her, and dress her in cute outfits. I am also way more tired than I ever thought possible, and I drink more coffee to compensate.
  • Clause 1: There will be struggles. The two weeks after Grace was born, my mom made me take naps, more than when I was little. (I, unfortunately, grew out of those too quickly.) Even now, Will makes me go to bed almost every night because I dwaddle and relish in all my "free time" - forgetting, of course, that Grace is a ticking time bomb just waiting to wake up and be fed and whose diaper might even need a changing. And if it's in the middle of a REM cycle, so be it! And if I'm having a particularly crabby day and he happens to be home, he gives me the "Sleep when your baby sleeps, Julie" speech and shuts the door behind him. 
  • Clause 2: It feels good to be coddled. Baby-raising (and growing!) is hard work, and it's okay to let someone take the lead and take care of you, be it your husband, parents, in-laws, siblings, friends, or community.
  • Clause 3: You will be tired, and you will be happy.
I should also say that I am a terrible sleeper. I love sleep, but falling asleep is hard for me. As a result of having a baby, I'm actually becoming a better sleeper simply by merit of being forced to recognize that I go to sleep now, or tomorrow I'll be the creature from the Black Lagoon. I'm also just plain beat by 10 p.m.

Post-feeding: this sleeping baby is tired because she woke up at 6:30 a.m.!
Sleep helps us tackle the big problems, the little problems, and the in-between tasks of the day that require much energy and concentration, and mostly focus. When I get a decent amount of sleep, I can make morning mass, have a good breakfast, exercise, be moderately productive around the house, write more, remember morning and noon prayers, and be mostly sane when Will gets home.

You know, the good things in life.