Saturday, May 31, 2014

My View (vol. 14)

French Quarterfest 2014

The people, the dancing, the music: it was an awesome experience - much more "of the people" than Jazz Fest, and very local!

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Grace the Conquerer

Dear World,

I am on the move. Prowling the floor like a jaguar through the jungle, I find myself stuck by the tv stand or against the leg of the coffee table. I am denied delicious treats of random wires, and I play with my spoon. Mom thinks she's tricked me into playing with a non-baby toy, but I'll tell you what a spoon is: delicious.

Mom and Dad keep talking about my PT and you know what that means: play time. Score. They're training me for the baby olympics. My right bicep might be low-tone, but my triceps?

Friends, Arnold is calling me for tips. Look at these skills:

Yesterday, I got another present from the parents: a Haba Walker Wagon. My ride is ridiculous. I can stand there all by myself. The wood is tasty too!

Okay, nap time. Gotta charge up. Over and out.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Perfect Detox

Starting this week, I'm forcing myself into detox. Computer time detox.

I do most of my work online, so I find myself at the computer often - and it's starting to really drain me. When Grace goes down for a nap, I open up my computer to type-type-type till I hear the familiar Call of the Awakened Beast. More often than not, however, I find myself reading home improvement and interior design sites. I find them fascinating. They're so organized! They're so original!

I read words like "decor scheme" and I think, What is my decor scheme?!?

Our apartment is cozy - it's big enough for us three, and a little snug when company comes over - we invite everyone anyways. Part of the Christian life is hospitality, and I want our house to be as inviting as it is beautiful.

But first, something we each must answer is the call of the present. We must do the dishes; take a shower; complete our work; attend mass; love our family, friends, neighbors and self; eat; sleep.

As the move approacheth, I've been overwhelmed by the piles I create around me. In my efforts to organize, I create more work. The logic is, the more I organize, the more organized I will be! Instead, I am exhausted by the ring-around-the-rosy activity. So, yesterday, I started conquering piles. It was also exhausting. But more satisfying - thank you notes, check. Packing up three boxes, check.

As I enter my real, grown-up life, I still feel my sea legs wobbling when it comes to meal planning or laundry or decorating or organizing. I suppose the reason I am most excited about our new home is that it will be just Will's and mine, and we'll both have income, and we'll have more space to grow as a family.

Still: the move looms. The computer distracts. And as I prayed to God, begging him to help me be more organized, I recognized a voice distinctly God's: Julie, stop procrastinating. You're not going to pack perfectly or complete your to-do list on time. Get over it and get moving.

Perfection is the opposite of progress.  

Today in the Gospel, we were told that God would never (ever!) orphan us. We are his family - he created us to love, out of love. This is essential to faith - the knowledge that, even when we do not feel loved, we are. Mightily loved. He even loves people who try to be perfect not as our Heavenly Father is perfect, but as HGTV Magazine is perfect.

Pretty perfect, but earthly standards.
This morning's Scripture passage was especially apt: "Be firm and steadfast; go to work without fear or discouragement, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not abandon you. He will not fail you or abandon you before you have completed all the work for the service of the house of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 28:20).

Sometimes, what we have now is enough to carry us forward. Packing boxes is less glamorous than perusing the interwebz, but infinitely more rewarding and helpful. Say yes to love and less to self - it's a good way to serve God by DIY, y'all.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

My View (vol. 13)

We moved here last June, and as cemeteries are one of Will's and my favorite places to visit, we stopped by the oldest one: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Catholic, of course.
And so began the pilgrimage (here is a map).

If I remember correctly, this is the grave of a supposed voodoo priestess.

But mostly, a lot of family plots.

And impressive mausoleums 

It was like walking through a city of the dead...

Part of me wishes I had gone on a midnight tour around Halloween - the other part thinks, I still can! (Just in May or June).

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Because You Can't Plan Perfect

I am in super planner mode. I love this mode. It means I get to write lists and then cross the things off the lists, and make more lists, and then re-write the lists in fancy ways. It's fun, because that's the kind of fun I like to do.

I get in this mode when I am:

A) avoiding work
B) stressed about work
C) reality is staring at me in the face and not blinking
D) coping
E) overly excited about something that clearly needs to be planned

(Cough moving again cough)

And so, it should be said that when I was pregnant with my dearest and loveliest Grace Harriet, I did not plan for her arrival. I continued to work 40 hours a week; I pushed through my morning sickness the best I could [I had the best and most understanding employers ever-ever too]; and, honestly, I had the best time being married, while also going through three tough major life events with him.

I was strong for him and with him, and that felt good. It felt very married.

I love this picture - my perfect new baby!
We moved to New Orleans and I spent a majority of my time getting settled and unpacking, writing for my Story Sessions writing workshop, napping, binging on mystery shows of Netflix (specifically, Rosemary & Thyme, Poirot, and Monk if you need awesome show ideas), learning my way around New Orleans, getting my appetite back, swimming with Will, and more sleeping.

I channelled Will and decorated her nursery with our love. I tried to get really excited about meeting her. I daydreamed about what having a baby would be like.

Fast-forward to Grace Harriet's birth: awesome. Steady pace, epidural, no complications, and life-giving. I did not take any birthing classes beforehand (besides a free basics one at the hospital), and while it was mildly informative, I enjoyed seeing other pregnant woman and eating the complimentary cheese.

And I'm tearing up as I type this because I love Grace so much. She is my baby, and she is perfect. She is social and lovely and sassy. She smiles for almost all of my pictures, and we like to laugh together. I've never been so smitten. Grace has legitimately changed my life for the better.

Since Grace was three months, we've noticed that her right arm does not move as intentionally as her left, and she likes to keep her right hand fisted. In a possibly related note, her right leg is a bit weaker than her left. We've brought it up to her doctors, and by six months, we got the go ahead for physical therapy. Thus began a month-ish of interviews and multiple evaluations. Yes, a healthy pregnancy. No, nothing abnormal. Yes, she does have the most beautiful blue eyes.

My beach bum bebe
Finally, we met Grace's therapist - a vivacious woman who has been doing this for over 20 years, and has a young daughter with cerebral palsy. Ms. Lisa is an amazing resource of information. She is gentle and firm with Grace as she stretches her and helps her gain more muscle mass (needed for her fine motor skills as well as her gross), and teaches us how to ESTIM her, since we'll need to buy our own and do it twice (or more) a day to help Grace recognize and use those muscles more (she is responding so well to this treatment!). She'll get a tiny hand splint to help keep her right hand open more.

There are a lot of positives - whatever Grace has, with persistence and lots of therapy, she should do just fine. She has great range of motion, moves her arm and hand voluntarily, and is very flexible. She is able to withstand long PT sessions, and is generally in a good mood as we contort her body and during ESTIM sessions. We're seeing a specialist on Thursday - a physiologist who is triple board certified in pediatrics and sports medicine; the doctor himself also has cerebral palsy and a reputation for diagnosing hard cases.

Ms. Lisa working with GHB
But when Ms. Lisa and Will are talking during a session, and words like cerebral palsy and hemiparesis are being said towards Grace, I want to cry. They are not life-threatening conditions, and for that I am sososososo grateful. I suppose I am just in shock, of sorts - and it is the confirmation that my gut told me everytime someone said, Maybe she's just going to be a lefty.

No! It's something more. Something we did not plan on; or expect, for that matter.

At mass yesterday, I stopped feeling anxiety for Grace. It was temporary, and a good reminder to go to God. God, who loves perfectly. God, who gave his only Son. God, the Alpha and the Omega and the one who loves us and carries us and knows us each intimately. God has the best plans for Grace. I need to trust in him, and talk to him, and avoid the company of scary thoughts. It is Satan who plants doubts. Satan spreads sadness. Satan hates the hope Love gives me.

Mama Mary, full of Grace, guide me to be the best mother to GHB.
{statue at St. Patrick's on Camp Street, NOLA}
Grace is going to be okay. Struggle is okay. The most important things are to continue loving her wholly, doing PT with her, teaching her cheerfulness instead of shame, and continuing to praise and go to the God who made us, who knew each of us before the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). It's amazing to me how babies thrive in the love of their parents. I need to learn to thrive better in the light of God's love of me.

May I continue to be open to his plans, and plan along with God, the Great Creator.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pensacola-izing and #wiws

The most interesting part of marrying into a family is experiencing their "normal". Vacations in my family are usually in a sunny, cooler climate - usually northern Michigan on a lake.

My Baldwin family loves Pensacola - its heat, its beaches, its fishing opportunities, and the family history which keeps them coming back again year after year. 

It was a really special experience, complete with my MIL crushing us all in mini-golf, my SIL's epic sand castle, watching my FIL fly fish, and Grace's first experience in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The water was very "refreshing"... I enjoyed it once I got acclimated. 

I preferred beach bummin' with my bebe. 

I highly recommend the kidco baby beach pod for baby naps and protection against UV rays. Grace was reasonably energized against naps, but her Royal Highness of Teething usually succumbed eventually.

Dress: J.Crew via ThredUp
Belt: J.Crew
Necklace: {Bought many moons ago}
Shoes: Minnetonka mocs

Gracie's dress is Carter's and her headband is from Etsy. 

This vacation/ graduation celebration is the beginning of a new reality. First of all, holy packing, Batman! Ahem. My fabulous friend Catharine is coming Memorial Day weekend, so I'm hypothesizing how to arrange the living space with boxes. We're also selling furniture, so there is that. 

Will is studying medicine (in general via the stacks of books by his desk) and Spanish. I'm writing and devising a better way to schedule my time. For example, mornings are just tough for me. So they are a better time to run errands and household activities. Afternoons are best for writing, and late afternoon for running. So far, so good, right?

But back to Pensacola dreamin'. This trip was awesome. I've been foiling my husband and FIL's shoot the moon efforts in Hearts, catching up on reading Dante and starting Dorothy Sayer's mystery short stories. 

Everyone got sunburned somewhere and Grace got little spots. Jury is still out if Grace has her mama's fair Irish skin or her father's tannable skin. 

What kind of vacations do you like to take? Any favorite places you've visited? What is your ideal vacation plan - are you a relaxer, an explorer or a planner?

Happy Monday!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My View (vol. 12)

Hello from Pensacola, FL - the former birthplace of both of Will's paternal grandparents, and a favorite vacation spot of the Baldwins since my FIL was a tot.

We're staying in a very nice hotel,

But we're mostly at the beach. 

I am reporting to you from the hotel room where I am drinking coffee Will fixed for me two hours ago (re-heated) and eating my yogurt. The Baldwins are early risers (unlike most Robisons) and GHB has not been sleeping as soundly in this new place. Oh well. 

This trip is Will's graduation gift! He is now Dr. Baldwin MD, MS - and crazy excited to be back in the hospital. He's even studying at the beach! I got him medical Spanish audio CDs and quick study/ pocket copy as his graduation gift. He loved them!

Nothing riveting to report here: ignoring my to-do list for a few more days. 

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Because I'm Happy!

Clap along, y'all!

Grace in her ballet-esque outfit. I love bringing out her "new" clothes from storage!

Grace is...
  • Sitting up on her own
  • Teething on top
  • Gnawing all non-baby toys (RIP Will's Biostats notebook)
  • Rolling more
  • Using her right hand and arm as support more
  • Eating stage 3 baby food
  • Napping and sleeping well
  • Smiling and happy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How To Organize for the Hopeless Disorganized: Desk Edition

Raise your hand if you're feeling disorganized. Raise your other hand if you'd rather sit on the couch and cry about it than clean. Hey, me too! Now, turn those hands into fists and shout, "I WILL PREVAIL!"

Okay: attitude. Check.

Whether you live in a small or larger space, the starting point is the easiest/ first place to make yourself feel accomplished. Set a time for ten minutes and move fast: kitchen, living room, bedroom. If you have kids to help, even better. If your other half is around, grab him too. Share the fun!

We're not deep cleaning here, people. Keep it easy breezy.

My personal downfall is my desk area. I say desk with quotation marks, as my desk is also our kitchen table at present. One and a half more months and then we move, and then I'll have my own desk and room! I'm looking for helpful additions to keep my papers neat and my mind focused. Here's what I've got so far:


Also comes in silver for the stylish
Fun, functional, affordable and pink! What else does a girl need?


Does anyone else think Heaven will look like The Container Store? Okay, a stretch. We won't be bring all our messes to Heaven. Still - so lovely, and everything has a place!

I am very much an "out of sight, out of mind" person, which is why I keep my papers scattered across the kitchen table.

Stylin' and simple.
Now we're talking! I can still see what is in the drawers, but the tight mesh keeps everything inside. I also love the  "Brocade Collection" for desktop needs.


The elephant in the room is the absurd number of books I keep near my person. This is why I want bookends. To Etsy I go!

I love this pair - did y'all ever read Anne of the Island? Remember Gog and Magog?
turquoise foo dogs, bookends, asian home decor, bookend, chinese dogs
Exactly how I pictured them in electric blue

I love how fun and classic they look - and how nicely they would keep my books guarded! They come in other colors as well, like gold and kitschy yellow.


As a writer of postcards and a receiver of bills, I think a letter holder would be quite dandy. I really like Modcloth's

It is adorable, holds just enough mail without overwhelming a girl, and affordable! Anthropologie has a similar one for almost 3x the price.


Hyper Links Giclee Kiss Table Lamp (Modern Gloss White Base)

Hyper Links Giclee Kiss Table Lamp

Light is always a good thing to have on or near a desk! Otherwise... how can you see the mess?


And an honorable mention to See Jane Work for having chic office supplies! I enjoyed perusing the website.

My next step - once we move - is to find an area rug, curtains and decide on the color scheme I want for my office, since I'll be spending 5 or so hours a day in it. Not too hard, right? Any favorites to share on this subject?

UPDATE: Two area rugs bought during a Mother's Day sale - one at 60 percent off, and another for 10 percent off. I'll post pictures later on!

Originally posted at The Mirror Magazine!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My View (vol. 11)

This week has been exhausting, ending with a fantastic visit with Grace's physical therapist.

Grace is the best baby. She is smiley and sociable, low-key and always up for putting everyday objects in her mouth (instead of baby "toys"). She can roll and mostly sit up on her own. She could be a yogi or ballet dancer with her intense flexibility and range of motion, especially in her hips.

Grace has mild developmental delays (we believe) in her right arm and hand. This is not just her "being a lefty" and, in retrospect, I would have pushed harder to have her evaluated before her six month mark, instead of waiting until then to see if improvement comes naturally.

In the picture above, Ms. Lisa is helping Grace into a position to work on her shoulder strength and keep her spine straight, since she tends to favor her stronger side. She can support her weight equally in her legs, until she gets tired, and then she favors her left side.

Luckily, we're on the fast-track for care since we are leaving LA in a month and a half, and Grace is such a charmer. Miss Lisa is a wonderful lady and I feel very grateful for her and her skills. It is great to know that Will and I can do specific exercises with her, and no longer have the helpless feeling of wondering what we could be doing, or if what we're doing is proactive.

Grace is strong, happy and a good sport, and I'm really encouraged by what I see.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

#7QT: O Larger Town of Bethlehem


Home sweet home! Grace and I flew to PA on Monday, met my MIL and found:
  • a fantastic grocery store
  • half-day daycare options (one super close to the hospital!)
  • a house (also close to the hospital!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • a beautiful historic downtown
  • a few colleges
  • Catholic churches
  • a friend!
  • lots of area to explore and scenery to enjoy - truly charming
  • the Peeps factory
Little lady loved PA; she got up extra early to enjoy her time there.

A little bit about Bethlehem, PA: it was founded in 1741 on Christmas Eve by Moravians, on 500 acres of land from William Penn. Be still my little American Studies heart.

Moravians are the hipsters of Protestantism - they started their crusade 60 years before Martin Luther did, and 100 years before Henry VIII started getting busy. The founder of the Moravians was burned at the stake for heresy in 1415 so... do you think they still hold that against Catholics? Because I was hoping to find a babysitter or two on campus. Fortunately, the area was flooded with immigrants (across the river... they could not live on the 500 acres for many moons), so there are plenty o' Catholic churches in the area.

Freedom of religion, yay!


This house is going to be an adventure. Built in 1886, it is now lived in as a twin. Its gorgeous interior is in need of a paint job in some places, a bit of woodwork repair, and a few appliances - namely, a fridge, a dishwasher, and portable A/C units. Maybe it's the HGTV magazine I bought or the Young House Love book I got for my birthday, but I'm excited. The house does have a washer/dryer, more than enough space [my want/need] + a one car attached garage, and Will can walk to the emergency room [his want/need].

Front hall
Get excited for house fix-up pictures. They're coming to a blog near you.


I'm taking a free class on Dante's journey from Hell to Heaven and it starts Monday! You should join me! Starting with the Inferno, we're reading one canto a day, watching one video lecture a day, and writing one response a week. It's my summer indulgence! It's offered by Holy Apostles College & Seminary, a really incredible school.

Desperately Seeking Beatrice.

David McCullough (aaaaaaamazing historian) was asked about the five things to teach high school students. I love all of these.

It's been really great thinking about teaching in the fall. I'm looking forward to showing kids how history is more than a string of dates and events, but an intricate web of Who and What and Why. The motivation, the intrigue, the insults, the scandal and the common good. If you can memorize, cool. But if you can make connections? Even better. History is not a straight line - it's a wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey ball of people, places and things. And I love it.


More love:
The problem facing the humanities, in my view, isn’t just about the humanities. It’s about the liberal arts generally, including math, science, and economics. These form half of the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects, but if the goal of an education is simply economic advancement and technological power, those disciplines, just like the humanities, will be—and to some degree already are—subordinated to future employment and technological progress. Why shouldn’t educational institutions predominately offer classes like Business Calculus and Algebra for Nurses? Why should anyone but hobbyists and the occasional specialist take courses in astronomy, human evolution, or economic history? So, what good, if any, is the study of the liberal arts, particularly subjects like philosophy?  Why, in short, should plumbers study Plato? 
My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees. Henry David Thoreau is as relevant as ever when he writes, “We seem to have forgotten that the expression ‘a liberal education’ originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.”
Clap clap clap for "Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers" by Scott Samuelson, The Atlantic


I also love that learning cursive is a mind good and not just an aesthetic pleasure - like these purple tulips.

Happy weekend! Linking up with Jen! I am actively awaiting my copy of Something Other Than God to arrive...!!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

O Lord, More Sleep Please: National Day of Prayer Edition

Today, I felt like an Easter person. A person who celebrates Easter in her heart and not just her head. I really feel the power of new life and second chances upon me.

It started so early Monday morning, when I thought we were going to miss my 6 am flight because I forgot about the Jazz Festers needing to head home, and in prayed fervently to Mama Mary to help me reach the plane in time. She delivered, understanding the extra stress it would have been since I carried my seven month old in her baby ergo and a bag with only 4 diapers.

I pray for my sanity.

We made our flight and Grace charmed all of our seat mates with her impeccable behavior, smiles, eyes, and winsome attitude. I felt very proud to be her mother.

I pray for Grace: her safety, her happiness, her life, her soul.

We flew to Philadelphia, where we met my mother-in-law and drove to Bethlehem, PA: home of the Peeps manufacturers (my favorite Easter treat) and our future home in a month and a half. Will stayed behind to go to class and gave me the task of finding our new home and prepping for our next step, which I accepted with glee.

I pray for Will and his time in residency: that is be fruitful and amazing learning experience.

At first, I was excited because I am ready for more SPACE. I feel cramped in our townhouse, and I don't want to hear the neighbors. I want Grace to have a play area, Will to have a man cave/dark room to sleep during the day, and I would love an office- and maybe double all those rooms as guest areas. More storage space too, please.

I pray our application is accepted, and for our new landlord. I pray we are safe and protected in this next home. I pray in thanksgiving for our current living arrangement and for our awesome realtor.

Last Sunday, after the last our house guests left, and the house returned to that comfortable quiet I feel when it's just the three of us, living and breathing and enjoying each other, the conversation turned to Baldwin Bebe #2 and speculation on when he or she would join us. And it really wasn't until Monday, sitting on an airplane, holding my baby, that I realized what a marvelous gift this next child would be, and for all my stressing, another baby sounds like the most delightful plan I can think of - and yes, Grace is teething right now.

Two weeks after we conceived Grace, I went to one of our parish priests to discuss my possible pregnancy (a test had not yet been taken) and he told me it was okay to feel anxiety, excitement and wonder. Will and I wanted to have kids right away... but this seemed fast? It was a new understanding of "in God's time" with our active participation. He told me that Mary felt the same way when the angel came to her, and what really matters was her yes, her fiat.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you...

I'll never stop writing or cooking or having to do laundry, but by jingo! What's the point of being so happily married if we don't invite a few more characters on stage?

Lord, when it is time, we are ready. I pray you stay close to us in our marriage and in parenthood, and that our lives will glorify you.

Life never gets simple. People who are bored are missing the chances to find new hobbies, get to know themselves better, seek out interests and interesting people. If I had one prayer, it would be in thanksgiving for coffee. I had the worst sleep habits before my baby. I still have them, but reasons change for why I've changed them (necessity for my own sanity). I overuse the word "yes" and Grace has given me new reasons to indulge her rather than myself. I like the shift in scenery.

So, I write to you today to share the fear that has been lifted from my heart. The fear of the unknown and inexperienced: because our second baby is going to be just as awesome as Grace, and stretch our hearts further and wider.

Jesus suffered death for me; I can suffer suspense and a little sleep deprivation for the sake of the Kingdom.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.