Sunday, September 3, 2017

This and That

Today's Secrets of Adulthood (via my Happiness Project daily calendar):

  • To keep going, we need to allow ourselves to stop
  • Self-regard isn't selfish
  • Starting over is often harder than starting the first time

Settling into life post-residency is much, much harder than I thought. And I don't have many pearls of wisdom because, well, I got the kids to bed about an hour ago, and we made a huge mess fixing scones today and the neighbors are setting off fireworks.


"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." -Audre Lorde

Reading: about gardening
Learning: about European royal dynasties
Loving: "Who Were Sargent's Women?" by Estelle Tang in Town & Country

I'm starting up a new series of posts soon called "What I'm Reading" - it'll be a chance to publish more and re-connect with the blog. Stay tuned, y'all.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Story of an Evolving Customer (Part I)

Hello! Long time no write. The official word on the street is that we are now residents of Indiana and loving it. We have own our house, we have an attached garage, our house is not almost 150 years old, and we have a fenced in backyard. Paradise when we're wearing bug spray.

The kids spend a lot of time in the front room, this weird, small room between the foyer and kitchen. It was a formal dining room but we use it as a tv/playroom. It's currently overfilled with a sofa, love seat, the tv + side table, and too many toys. It has a huge chandelier which we adults keep bonking our heads on and Will is trying to dismantle it himself. The room is painted tan with a deep red accent wall (same as the kitchen, which has two red accent walls). My main complaint: I really dislike the paint - probably excessively so because my house growing up had so many tan walls. Also, our last rental house had a red dining room. I'm just over those colors! They feel very mediterranean, which is not my style.

Enter Laurel & Wolf, an online interior design company. Firstly, though- this is not an ad. I was not paid by them; I actually paid money to them, ha. It's a one time fee - I had a 40% off coupon (check their FB page, they happen relatively often), so it was about $120 for classic. (Normal is $150.) For a "light" update, it's only $59/room. Or you can go as high as $250-$350. I preferred this style of payment to other online services I found, some which cost per item in the room. (Yikes! That adds up fast for a whole room look.)

Here's what happened: I gave them a lot of information - my style, why I need the redesign, the layout and measurements of my room, my budget and details around my budget, any additional details and furniture we want to keep.

For us, we* want to keep zero percent of our current furniture in that room. Those couches have moved to four different states with us and it is time to retire them. Most of our furniture is consignment, and their double life is really experienced the wear and tear.

(*We is the royal "we" - Will had zero say during this actual process, but I have consulted with him on numerous points, so I know his opinions generally on decorating.)

For the classic package, I had ten days to go back and forth with my interior designer. She sent me an initial concept board and layout, and then we went back and forth for days and days. My designer got back to me in under 24 hours, if not faster. She was easy to work with, respected my budget, and always worked with my needs/wants.

The room is weird. One side has double doors leading to the foyer. The next wall (outside) has two large windows which break up the wall unevenly vs. being in the middle (mixed feelings on this). The third wall is solid. The fourth side is a nine foot kitchen peninsula with cabinets.

So, here is what I requested - a cozy, calming room plus
1. Paint color
2. Sectional sofa
3. Side tables
4. Media counsel
5. New lighting
6. Window treatments

I wrote: "So, this is the front room of the house (formerly a dining room) and sightline from the kitchen. I'd like this to be the TV room, as well as a place where the kids can play and read. I'd like a sectional with a chaise and/or deep seating; we have three kids (4, 2.5, 1 yo). I'd like cordless window treatments for the large windows. We have built-ins already, and the kids keep their books there. I think we will need a small media center for the x-box. Nothing glass (table, etc.) or with sharp corners for the kids' safety."

Budget: $3-5k.


After seeing the first design, I decided that the sectional took up a weird space and it would be better to do a sofa + two chairs. I also thought the side tables were too trendy for me. I wanted more texture with the curtains. I didn't like the media table. My designer gave me three different choices for the two tables, and I picked the ones I liked best.


The final designs looked like this (not complete screen shots):

Here is the list of items suggested:

1. MONTCLAIR 3-SEAT SOFA // Sold by Crate & Barrel // $1,799.00

2. OLSON ARMCHAIR // Sold by Wayfair // $226.99

3. REDDING STORAGE COFFEE TABLE // Sold by Wayfair // $489.99

4. BARTLETT RECLAIMED WOOD METAL SIDE TABLE // Sold by Pottery Barn // $299.00

5. WYATT 60" MEDIA CONSOLE // Sold by Crate & Barrel // $899.00

6. BURTON 5-LIGHT DRUM CHANDELIER // Sold by Wayfair // $194.22

7. ROMANZA 60.23" TRIPOD FLOOR LAMP // Sold by Wayfair // $99.29

8. SUZANI EMBROIDERED PILLOW COVER // Sold by Pottery Barn // $79.50

9. FEATHER PILLOW INSERT // Sold by Pottery Barn // $29.00

10. BELGIAN LINEN CURTAIN, WHITE, 48"X84" // Sold by West Elm // $99.00



A few days after we stopped communicating, I decided to do the first step and look into paint colors. My designer gave me a wall color (Sterling), so I went to the local Benjamin Moore store to find it. Well, they were having a sale on sample sizes, so I bought four different shades of light gray to try on my walls. I like that because I have a starting point, but I can ultimately decide what I like best: Sterling, Grey Owl, Wickham Gray and Stonington Gray.

I am set on purchasing most of what she picked out, sort of (see below). I am going to call some of the companies to see if I can get a coupon for free shipping, etc. through the original site/ company (instead of through L&W) because I heard on the Young House Love Has A Podcast that if you are ordering things online, always always always call the company to see if you can get free shipping or a discount code. Most companies will oblige, especially with bigger orders! So, not necessarily buying all through L&W right now. But I have through September 4 too to finish my order.

Will and I are debating putting a ceiling fan in the room instead of a pretty drum shade light. The front room needs more air movement, so I suspect practicality will win out. If anyone has attractive ceiling fan options, please let me know.

I've decided I really prefer a swivel arm chair in the room instead of a regular arm chair, so I am hunting for a viable alternative to what my designer picked out. Not her fault - I was going down memory lane and how much I loved the two swivel chairs we had growing up.


Okay, more changes:

1. Paint color - still undecided. We're going to live with the samples for a few weeks in various locations.

2. Couch + two side chairs - I am ordering the couch she picked out, but I am changing it from the three cushion couch to the two cushion couch. I saw it on Crate and Barrel's website while I was perusing. (A dangerous activity... I found more pieces I love which are not in the budget!) It costs $100 less (not major, but it helps) and I love the look better. I found two swivel chairs I love at Wayfair and All Modern - prices are very different, and both cost more than the original arm chairs.

3. Side tables - on Joss and Main, I found a similar looking three table set which costs less than $200. The current budget has the side tables at $299 and coffee table (rattan storage chest) was $490. If I do with the set, that is savings of $890, which I can put towards the swivel chairs. I lose the storage chest, but I gain a round table (no corners) and a more flat place to play or put my coffee mug. I still love the storage chest (or the similar storage chest I found at Crate and Barrel), so we may purchase it later *if* we need it for the kids' toys.

4. Media counsel - staying the same.

5. New lighting - definitely getting the lamp, probably going to get a ceiling fan and light now. I'm kind of bummed but I would love the airflow.

6. Window treatments - still getting the curtains, etc.! Eventually I want to take down the shades and replace all with cordless options. I'll need to find a company to do it because of the window sizes.


I am guessing what you are thinking - Julie! Is Laurel and Wolf worth it? You just changed half your designer's plans! A big YES! I love interior design, and I don't feel like I need someone else to tell me how to design my home... but I struggle with the final decision making process. There are a few things I would never have picked out, but I love them (e.g. the media cabinet). I won't use L&W for every room in my house, but this room needed a boost and I am so glad for the help. I will definitely use them again at some point, maybe for the guest room or our master bedroom.

If you click on this link, you get $25 off your first plan, and I get a kickback too. Look for 40 percent off codes too.

One last thing - I did not ask for help with artwork because we have a lot of that, and I have a good eye for art. But if you want help, they offer that as well!

Stay tuned for more pictures and Part II.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Letter from Sea

Ahoy there. I am in a total brain fog right now. I called my dad and told him how I needed to start writing lists for myself because remembering to floss or, really, anything related to my own self care is hard. It's funny, and it's sad, depending on my mood. Today it was funny.

Last night was really bad. Really, half of yesterday. I hit dinnertime and was ready to send all my kids to bed for the night. I've never had the thought that someone else could care for them better, but I play a game where I count how long it takes my absence to be discovered - even if it's walking to the kitchen or dining room, I am always followed. I know I am loved. Love irritates me sometimes. Love feels like an itchy sweater you wear because someone you love gave it to you and you're cold.

Grace never stops touching me. She has the sweetest touch and the softest hands, and sometimes, I move her over because she is choking me with her arm because she loves me so much. Laura loves to jump on me, even when I am not looking. She laughs with glee and does it again and again and again. I play along and sternly tell her to be careful, which only makes her smile and run faster. (She likes to be chased.) Stephen is extra clingy these days and likes to slap my hands with his hands. We play a special form of patty cake with his hands and feet.

I am loved, and it hurts. My depression doesn't tell me I'm alone. My depression tells me I'll never be alone; my depression tells me it's okay not to eat my favorite meals because I'll eat what they're eating. (But I'm not a huge fan of hummus.) My depression belittles me.

I still feel very lucky. I am loved. After Will came home last night, I was still decompressing and just crazy frustrated. I sat on the floor of the kitchen, back up against the cabinets. I was going to sit there while Will fixed his dinner. Instead, he sat down next to me and put his arm around me. He didn't care that I just angrily scolded him for potentially waking up the kids. (Well, maybe he did. I apologized immediately.) He cared that I had a hard day. Who else has that kind of support system??

For my birthday, my parents and in-laws gave me money to help pay for our new housekeeper. I haven't cried about it yet, but I know it's coming. My dad always reminds me that I am doing good work, that I am a good mom, and that this is hard. Not everything hard is worth doing, but parenting is - for me, the level of unconditional love grounds me. I am connected to four people who need me, who love me and deserve me. It is in love that I free myself from any lies. It is in love that I admit I need help; I need support; I need quiet to hear myself think, and be.

In the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss and Peeta talk about memories and then identify them as truth, or not. I relate to that. I was e-mailing with a young bride about learning to communicate better with her spouse. I tell her that she needs to let her husband help her, as he is learning to be a husband just as she is learning to be a wife. Communication will one day reach beyond talking; your spouse will be the voice in your head and in your heart as you yearn for goodness. Yesterday, when I wanted to yell and scream and be a toddler too, I took a million deep breaths and listened to Will in my head tell me what was true and what was not. Yes, the girls were being rowdy; yes they were being disobedient; yes, they are being toddlers; no, we never ever yell at them. And every time I did not yell, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God for this holy strength against my own weakness. Lord, I am so weak and miserable and brimming with love. Help me. Jesus. Jesus! I trust in you.

If last night was tough, tonight was a breakthrough. I was really worried when Will left for his shift and the disobedience started, but an easy dinner and Sofia the First really eased the tough time. Maybe it was talking with my dad or cooking bacon or snuggling Stephen or cleaning up or dancing with the girls but I made it through tonight with joy in my heart and it gives me hope that I'll be better one day.

Thanks for being my tribe, friends.


My "rules" for these posts are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Sunday, February 26, 2017

I'm a Christian and a Feminist: Come At Me, Bro.

As with any good discussion, we must agree on terms:

What is a Christian?

A follower of Jesus of Nazareth; a believer in his teachings, and a member of his church on earth. 

What is a feminist?

A person who supports women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

What does a feminist believe?

Women should be equal to men, and if they are not, action should be taken to promote equality.

What is equality?

The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.

Are we on the same page? Oh, goody. If you agree with the above, then you are a Christian and a feminist as well. If you do not think Christianity is compatible with feminism, then this is my ladysplainin' to why it's important (even if you don't identify with as a feminist, which is cool, yo).


To start, let's start with a brief discussion of patriarchy, defined as a group organized by men as leaders; e.g. a lineage with the father or eldest male being the head of the family.

This is a neutral term. I do not have an overall issue with patriarchy: I believe in Apostolic succession, men as priests, and hey! I took my husband's last name.

There are so many issues I want to cover, but I need to stay concise.

I have an issue with patriarchy presented as anti-feminist. Feminists are not fire-breathing dragons which chivalrous knights need to slay to protect their womenfolk. Nay! Feminists are not a one size fits all group. Their common link is an active desire for the socio-political and economic equality of women and men. This noble cause does not mean all feminists are great people; but every organization needs a few a-holes for humility purposes.

Patriarch who was pro-women? Jesus. If you're a Christian, He's the guy (God) you want to listen to on this:
"Jesus, the founder of the faith, did indeed live in a male-dominated society, but he was radical in how he rebelled against the cultural values of his age. His treatment of women pushed far beyond his society’s boundaries to love and honor women in ways never before seen. The gospels tell of his extraordinary conduct towards women, which takes on a radical nature when considered in the context of the oppressive environment for women in the Ancient Middle East. By looking at Jesus’ actions through the proper lens, I want to demonstrate that Christianity was instituted with a profoundly pro-women attitude" (CJ Curtis, "Jesus and Women: Rebelling against Misogyny", The Augustine Collective).

Next: we don't need feminism.

This is probably the most debatable amongst people who see more equality on a regular basis. For me, women got the right to vote less than 100 years ago. As much as we pride ourselves as progressive people, humans actually need at least 100 years for real change to occur organically - even with legislation supporting it.

My big (anecdotal) sticking point for why we need feminism is the blatant misogyny (defined as "dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women") which occurs against certain types of women. For example, feminists themselves. We can't accept that they have different ideas, so we call them fat, man-hating cows because that is a scientifically proven way to change a person's mind. And what about pro-life ladies? You mean, anti-abortion, anti-women nazis? Yep. We need to change the attitude and conversation there too.

Feminists have room for improvement too. And if you want to have a conversation, you need to show that you're genuinely interested in the person, not just making a point.

I am a conservative, and it greatly me that feminism is such a derisive idea - how else can we call for the preservation of a culture without the strength of women?!?


The elephant in the room/ why people say Christians cannot be feminists: BUT FEMINISTS SUPPORT/ GET ABORTIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay. Yes. And no. But yes. As a Christian, I am against abortions. As a feminist, I am against abortions. I am for preserving and protecting life at every stage - especially little women! Check out the female birth rates in China and India. Our tithing as the Baldwin family is mostly split between the church, the woman's shelter near our parish, and the homeless shelter down the street from the hospital.

Still. As a woman who has been pregnant three times... I get it. I do not agree with it, but I understand why women want other women to have access to abortions. I had three really hard pregnancies, even with all the medicine and support readily available to me. I know women deserve better. I want babies to go to loving homes. Will sees people who should not be parents have a lot of kids and the poverty cycles continue. It is truly heartbreaking. We need more empathy in the public discussion on this.

(And I'mma pause you right there if you start to move toward the comment box to mansplain or momsplain the gift of children to me. I know the beauty, and I know the sorrow, connected with my little human beings in my care. Will and I are dedicated to our children, and we're currently facing a reality that another child right now might emotionally break me because of my PPD. Unfortunately, not all women have amazing and supportive husbands like my own.)

So! Instead of viewing these women as selfish, start viewing these women as scared human beings; start seeing that these women need support and love; start acting like you give a damn about the woman in question; and most importantly, stop blaming the woman for getting pregnant. A woman is fertile about 6-8 days/month and a man is fertile every single day. Mhm.


Abortion is wrong. Period. The pro-life movement tries to show that, but as I mentioned before, every movement has the a-holes which ruin the message for others. This is another reason why is it SO important for we, as Christian women and men, to stand up as feminists. We must be seen as allies, not enemies.

Feminists do not all agree. And that is okay. That is bi-partisanship. That is community. As my college friend Hannah commented on this issue,
"I'll refer you to a quote I love from Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist:
"As long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as long as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.”
Because while it should be always synonymous, too often people twist Christianity to support agendas of abuse, neglect, and cruelty."
So, please. Enough with telling women that they should smile and they should radiate rainbows and never fart and look pretty and stop talking and sit down and always ask, Please, sir? Can I have another? Please. Just stop telling us what we can or cannot be. If you, dear reader, value equality, then you are not threatened by strong women. You can handle room for improvement. You encourage women in their pursuits and do not say, Thank God you are not like other women! Oh! NO. To be a woman is a far better experience than the way we dress or act or speak. The beauty of womanhood is in our sisterhood - our feminine genius, our creativity, our passion, our tribal protection of our own, our ambitions and our grit to right wrongs.

Our femininity does not detract from another's masculinity. We are not here to challenge. We are here to be ourselves and preserve ourselves. We are not here to ask permission to exist and have wants, needs and desires, or to serve. Feminism says, We can have all of these things. We can choose. We can choose to be a wife, we can choose to be a mother, we can choose to work, we can choose to travel, and our worth is not dictated by our actions or looks. We are DAUGHTERS of the Lord, and we laugh and dance because it pleases Him for us to be fully alive.


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Goals for Grace, Grief for Me

"We have joy in our days. There’s sadness, too, but we move on." - Scott Watkins on his wife's life-threatening allergies (including to himself).

This line really struck me. I am currently going through a grief cycle with Grace. As I read in another blog post, the grief will probably never end. It will come and go in waves, and just as I adapt to the "new normal", she'll have a new bridge to cross, and we'll figure out another new normal.

My number one goal for her is to be independent. She is a strong, brave toddler. In fact, as I was typing the earlier part, I noticed how quiet she was... because she was in the kitchen, pushing a chair to the counter to get gummy bunnies. Instead of this being a mama's fear, it becomes my pride and joy. I tell her not to push a chair in the kitchen and to ask mom for help; she is rewarded with gummy bunnies. (But just one pack.)

Grace exploring after pre-school yesterday

My number two goal is for her to know her own dignity and strength. Before driving to Ohio for a wedding, we tried a dress on Grace. She exclaimed, "I am so beautiful!" I love that. We should all think so highly of ourselves. On the other side it, I am trying to teach Grace to trust her body more. She has the strength and the ability, but her balance is weak. We work on stairs a lot. I'm trying to teach her to be okay with falling. We all fall, physically and otherwise, because we are human. It's the attitude about falling that separates us between existing and thriving.

Grace on a trek through the snow
My number three goal is to keep up a "try" mentality. There are always going to be experiences and people telling Grace what she can and cannot do. My parents used to tell me that I wasn't a math person because I've always struggled with numbers (turns out I have dyslexia, but that is a different story). I recognize that they were trying to lessen the brunt of my struggles. The more they told me that when I struggled, the more it cemented. The more I became resigned to a calculator. My brilliant husband, on the other hand, constantly challenges me to do mental math and introduces me to games to help me practice these mental olympics. By pushing myself as an adult, I feel the importance of continuous trying.

A while back, I posted this story on my instagramOne of the biggest question marks for me is how best to push Grace in practical ways. There are so many things we do with both hands!! Fortunately, Grace is extremely self-motivated and always asking me how she can help. So when she asked to peel the clementine by herself tonight, my heart leapt. This happened, of course, after she initially fell off a chair trying to get a second clementine first. Grace cannot catch herself on her right side, and this can be very scary. She fell and cried, and we picked her up and told her she was so brave. Then she said, I try again? YES! Of course. And she climbed up and down without incident. Now, with only a little help to start, she peeled and ate the fruit by herself. Grace, you're amazing. Innovate your abilities, people.

Maybe you are thinking, I want this for my kids too! Or, Don't you want this for your other kids too? Well, of course. But here's the difference: typical kids do not have to learn how to use their muscles. Typical kids do not have to learn to use one side of their body. Typical kids do not have to overcome a stroke. And this is why I am grieving. I want to give Grace everything. But I can't. She has to propel herself. Sometimes, she asks to be carried down the stairs and I say no. Not because I am a heartless wench - but because I want her to thrive. I stay with her while she walks slowly. She is three years old, after all.

Family walk.
Grace, in short, must learn what it means to be human. She has been given a gift of empathy, innovation and trial. She has suffered much in her short life, and she will suffer more. I cannot stop this from happening. Even now, we are introducing her to walk-aid, which is an e-stim for her leg. She will get electronic current sent down her leg to signal her dorsal flexors to work properly in her right foot. The hope is that, in the future, she will not need her brace. We do not know if this will happen, but we try anyways.

A final note on grief: I am not crying every day. I am not in mourning. I do feel a deep sorrow in my soul out of love for my child; but I cannot let this grief stop me from letting her live life to the fullest. It is certainly a teeter-totter of emotion! I am (still) learning to trust myself as her mother, I am learning to try again, and I am learning the dignity and strength in being the caretaker of someone who requires extra needs.

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