The calm (and the crazy) before baby

Pregnancy has been a beautiful experience. As I approach week 39, I’m simultaneously wishing for time to both speed up and slow down.

On one of our many walks around Cathedral Hill as of late.

On the one hand, I’ve somewhat reached that point where I’m physically ready to be not pregnant. I’ve had a fairly easy pregnancy with very little aches and pains (and I’m grateful!), but I am looking forward to…not…being…pregnant :). I also just want to meet this baby! He’s been moving, shaking, and kicking all this time and I’m just so excited to see what he looks like, to hold him, to get to know him!

Before the rain, wind, & snow washed away [most of] the pretty fall colors.
Then there’s the other part of me that is soaking up all this time with just me and Kevin. Our marriage always comes first and while we’ve longingly waited for this child, we’ve also been immensely blessed with 3 1/2 years of just us. We’ve had some legitimate struggles during that time, and we’ve learned to cope (and THRIVE) through it all. God has lead us to a place of such joy in our marriage, and while I know there is greater joy ahead, there is a twinge of sadness in these last days of Katie & Kevin.

Ultimately, though, we are [as] ready for parenthood [as we’ll ever be]. Enough talking about this mystery child and time to meet him!

During the last several months, we’ve had loooong to-do lists that only seem to grow. There’s something about having your first child that makes you realize “oh we need to do X before he comes.” There will always be all the things, but as of a few weeks ago we finally feel like we’ve done the absolutely necessary tasks. Now we are just relaxing (as much as we ever really relax) and awaiting his arrival.

What have we been doing in these final days? Oh ya know, going on all the dates we can at our my favorite places – taking advantage of being able to eat a few more things (which basically means some dairy)  before I go back to a stricter paleo diet. We also may have gone through Stranger Things Season 2 a little bit too quickly/immoderately. #noregrets #sortof #mvpsteveharrington

And before it got too cold (I don’t have a winter coat that fits over my belly), lots of walks – the hallmark activity of our family. We’ve dabbled with going outside this past week, but don’t make it super long since 30 degree weather and all.

Finally, just a little praise for my husband. He’s been a total rockstar throughout this pregnancy. Infertility was a struggle for both of us, but adding a new person to our family comes with it’s own [exciting] challenges. During this time, we’ve made a lot of decisions that will have a large impact on our family, not the least of which being to pursue Kevin’s business around both his sacred art and education. We’re not quite sure how long it will take to see some fruits of this venture, but we’re confident that this is what God is asking of us. So while Kevin has been working hard on laying this foundation (which is not a 9-5 thing), he’s also been doing like a million other things to make my life easier and to prepare our little Nazareth for the coming of this baby. Love you, Kevin!

Pregnancy Progress: 34 Weeks

I haven’t documented this pregnancy much – not sure why! Maybe because in the beginning I was hesitant to get too attached given our loss a couple years ago. Then I was in that awkward weight gain period for a while where i just looked super bloated – definitely not the “cute pregnancy” look. But here we are – I’ve made it substantially through the third trimester and life is pretty wonderful! So I’m just here to make sure some details of this joyous time are put into words.

Early Pregnancy

  • We found out we were pregnant on March 7th – feast of Sts. Perpetua & Felicity. It was a Tuesday morning, and I took the test before Kevin woke up – I like to surprise him like that. Surprised he was.
  • I continued to take pregnancy tests for five days in a row until I actually believed I was pregnant. They stayed lined up in the bathroom so I could confirm they were getting darker.
  • That cycle was the first in a long while that I thought there might be a possibility of conceiving. Many thanks to a combination of a fantastic surgeon (now my OB), a wonderful naturopathic doctor, a miraculous Arvigo massage therapist, a perfectly supportive husband who helped me to persevere, many prayers from friends & family, and, of course, our great & merciful God.
  • We had an early ultrasound given my history, and the doc found a subchorianic bleed, which made me all nervous (he didn’t seem concerned). It ended up resolving itself by the next ultrasound two weeks later. (For those who may encounter this and it turns out to be a real issue – my clinic administers progesterone to help!)
  • From the time our doctor confirmed the pregnancy (same doc that performed my surgery – he’s the best), I was put on progesterone injections as a precaution (again, given my history). True love is your husband giving you a shot twice a week in your lower behind.

Getting in my pregnancy groove

  • First trimester was not always the most fun, despite being so grateful for this little life. Looooots of nausea, crazy exhaustion, awful bloating. The hardest part was adhering to my strict diet when most of the foods I ate on a daily basis made me sick (ie: meat & veggies). So my NP suggested I introduce a few things back in during pregnancy, since the immune system lets up a bit during this time (I don’t have a harsh autoimmune disease, so temporary adjustments shouldn’t cause major problems postpartum). I began eating cheese, occasional goat milk yogurt, eggs, nuts, and some gluten free items (since we knew that I tolerate rice & corn okay). It was trial & error at first as I realized there were still some things that really didn’t agree with me, but for the most part it’s been alright.
  • I gained most of my pregnancy weight (or so I think – I see to have plateaued a bit in these past few weeks) in the first 20 weeks. In the first trimester alone, I gained 15 pounds! I attributed it to the addition of dairy into my diet, but looking back it may just be the way my body needed to adjust. In the third trimester, I’ve maybe gained 3 pounds so far? But back at 15 weeks, I was seriously concerned at what was going on haha.
  • Progesterone shots continued up to 20 weeks, at which point my levels were too high to justify continuing. So yay! It was a wonderful feeling to dispose of all those needles in the Whole Foods bathroom (they have a proper disposal there, I didn’t just choose a random place to trash my materials.)
  • We went into the 20 week ultrasound CONVINCED we were having a girl. Even when the ultrasound tech pointed at his male parts, I stubbornly said “GIRL.” Kevin gave me a look, and the tech corrected me. We could not believe it. But it made our name choice far easier because girl names are just too much fun.
  • Little boy began kicking – like, truly kicking – at 17 weeks. Kevin could even feel it. We spent a few weeks just laying in bed each night with Kevin reading The Hobbit to our baby and waiting for the kicks to start. It was perfect.
  • About halfway through pregnancy, my skin – which had been giving me problems for the past 3-4 years – completely cleared up. When I met with my NP, we were able to finally conclude that YES a lot of my health issues have been primarily hormonal, which is helpful knowledge as we prepare to navigate postpartum life.

Third Trimester

  • The week I entered the third trimester, sleep became my battle zone. I mean, I’d been used to waking up throughout the night to pee the entire pregnancy, but now I started getting sore legs! I’ve been able to alleviate the issue with additional magnesium via a nightly spray, but it’s still the one major discomfort of pregnancy. And even that, though, I can live with. I’m tremendously grateful for a fairly easy pregnancy, particularly at this point.
  • We invested in a birthing ball, which I’ve been sitting on at work at least 50% of the time. But boy, it’s hard work! My shoulders are not used to that kind of workout. Clearly my posture needs improvement.
  • I’ve been indulging in grain-free pizza a bit more than I probably ought. I’m somewhat taking advantage of this time of life with dairy. Because once baby is born, it’s back to the old ways! I’ve been slowly filling up our freezer with compliant meals/snacks for postpartum, which I’m actually quite excited for. It’ll be nice to go back to having set rules, as much as I’ll miss ma cheese.
  • We’ve taken a few classes: natural childbirth (Amma), newborns 101 & breastfeeding (Amma), abdominals after birth (Blooma – just me). We’ve also read a few books between the both of us, and been practicing and preparing extensively for the big event (which, in the end, is somewhat out of our control). We are very well-versed on pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding…but like, life with a newborn and what we do besides feed him…we have no clue. We shall take it as it comes!

I’m still a bit overwhelmed at all of the “to-do’s,” BUT I’m also joyfully awaiting the big day. What NEEDS to get done will be done, and everything else we will just have to take in stride. It’s hard to believe he could literally be here in like four weeks. We are so thrilled and so grateful and so humbled that God has given us this great gift, in His perfect time. I could write a book about the providence of God’s timing, but I will spare you. Know that it is good.

7QT: third trimester & other things

Linking up with Kelly!

1 // I’ve made it to the third trimester! I’m 30 weeks! I still can’t believe we’re this far along and will be meeting our baby boy this fall. I have a loooong to-do list of things before he gets here, but I’m also quite ready to just enter into that stage of life and let what happens happen.Also, our little boy is QUITE active! And I loooooove it. He has been kicking pretty consistently (with great strength) since 17 or 18 weeks. This past week he was a bit quieter, but then Kevin began reciting some movie lines from his favorite films one night and little boy was back to his normal self.

2 // COLDPLAY COLDPLAY COLDPLAY! We saw Coldplay for the second time a few weeks ago, this time in Minneapolis AND with floor seating. It was quite the experience. It seemed like a much more chill concert than Philly, and I really loved it. I was amazed how close we were to them – what a gift. They are so unbelievably talented – the absolute greatest performers.

3 // Kevin and I spent a week in August in San Diego on vacation with my family. It was so great seeing everyone, especially my two nieces! They are both almost 2, which is SUCH a sweet age. Seeing them interact with each other was incredible. They understand things and are trying to communicate (sometimes quite hilariously). I loved every second of it. One of the highlights for me was spending a day with Kevin and my younger sister going for a hike in Torrey Pines. I actually was not very thrilled in the moment (I blame pregnancy hormones), but it was a good day scattered about with cliffs, the beach, a random taco joint in an office park, and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. All the while finding a bathroom every 30 minutes.

4 // I recently splurged on a maternity stitch fix and it was great. Pricey…but great. I was SUPER impressed at how well everything fit. I certainly would not have been able to get all that right on the first try with my growing body. I ended up keeping everything because of the discount for buying all items and the credit I had – it wouldn’t have made a difference to return two items. I got a super nice pair of jeans, a great top that will work postpartum as well, the best cardigan I’ve ever owned, and two dresses (both work well for work and weekend wear).

5 // We hit up the Minnesota State Fair last Friday night, and while there’s not a TON for me to do and eat there, it’s always a great experience. I can always count on French Meadow Bakery to cater to at least some of my needs (they had multiple gluten-free options that night), and I was quite satisfied with a visit to their location. Gluten-free donut holes filled with nutella & marshmallow – umm, yes please. We also always enjoy our time seeing the goats. Love me the goats.

6 // One of my favorite things as of late is my new planner: Orderly Days by Motherhood Press. I have tried so many planners over the years. Some have worked well, and then I was unable to get the same one the following year. I love the Blessed is She planner, but unfortunately it didn’t really work out for my particularly needs last year and ended up sitting in my work desk most of the time, unused. Orderly Days is a very manageable size, and totally customizable. It has seven sections, so one part can be my monthly/weekly planner, one for work, one for our new business (more to come!), one for spiritual notes/journaling, and more. I really love it. I also love that I’m not restricted with what I put in there. I hole punch any printables that tickle my fancy and add them in where appropriate. I’m still figuring out how it’ll best work day-to-day, but it is a big YES in my book! Highly recommended!

7 // On Labor Day, Kevin and I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI. We’ve been there once before, last fall, and have been eager to go back. It was a lovely & peaceful day. And while last year, we were praying for a little miracle, this year we could give thanks for that little miracle! Oh how much can change in a year!

Collections // 8

Reading // The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Ligouri. There’s a few other books next to my bed right now, but this one was recommended by my spiritual director and, while I’m taking it slowly, it is without a doubt the most powerful work I’ve read on Mary…ever. Highly recommend. It may take my a year to finish at the rate I’m going, but it’s worth it!

Cooking // Ugh, sometimes nothing. Poor Kevin! This summer feels like it’s been quite full (how is it almost August?!), and while I grocery shop with the best of intentions, I usually find myself scrounging for something easy & quick most days. Which is tough because easy & quick doesn’t often align with my dietary restrictions. Buttttt occasionally I’ll be on a roll with some food prep, and we make it last. This soup is absolutely amazing and lasts us a few meals. Also, plantain cakes have been my jam lately. Blend ripe yellow plantains with a bit of coconut flour and gelatin and voila! a perfect protein filled fibrous snack that can be eaten sweetened or savory.

Baking // We got some rhubarb recently in our farm share box, and believe it or not, I had never had rhubarb before. I wasn’t interested in putting the effort into a paleo pie, but I did make a plain boxed cake (paleo!) and some strawberry/rhubarb jam to accompany it. The cake didn’t last long, but I think we still have a bit of jam! It’s delicious.

Watching // I can’t believe I’m gonna say this…Downton Abbey. For years, I’ve had friends telling me how I needed to watch it because I’d love it. I resisted because I know how addicted I can get. Well, I gave in. And it’s awesome.

Listening // ehh not much other than the radio on my commutes, which can be so repetitive and annoying. I need to opt for more silence.

Wanting // to have all the time in the world to do all the things before this baby comes! Since I work for a campus ministry and August is around the corner…that’s not gonna happen. Fall is a full schedule!

Making // LOTS. Well, Kevin is. We have some exciting things in the works. We recently made the decision for him to pursue his art full-time. This has been a long time coming and the Lord has been steering us this way for a couple of years now. We are finally saying yes! And we are so excited.

Traveling // Off to San Diego in a few weeks! My brother and his wife & daughter live out there, so that’s where my big summer family vacation will be this year. Kevin and I are so excited – these vacations are usually a preeeettttty nice getaway for us. And I’ve never been to San Diego! Land of the perfect climate.

1 Samuel 1:27-28

For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition which I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

889 days. It was October 2014 when we decided to change up our NFP routine and actively try for children. It was sooner than we had originally intended, but it was clear that God had wanted us to get started…or at least try. After eight rough months, we did conceive a child who lived a short life here on earth, but is now our little one in heaven interceding for us. We continued to wait, pray, and work hard (surgery, elimination diets, lifestyle changes, somuchmore).

And PRAISE GOD! On March 7th, we found out that I was pregnant! While the wait was often not easy and many tears were shed, I could not be more grateful for how the Lord worked and for the timing of this gift. This trial has brought Kevin and I closer together, it has put our trust in the Lord to work, and it’s allowed us to take note of so many other blessings throughout these past few years that could easily have been overlooked.

Life is still a bunch of unknowns for us, but that’s okay. This pregnancy has been full of so much peace and a tremendous amount of joy. I know for certain this is the Lord’s work, and not mine (as much as I’d love to boast it is), because of these fruits. What shall we do for childcare? How will we financially thrive? What career changes might need to be made? Will our current living situation suffice? Will we survive without any family around? Lots of questions and no answers. But still, that’s okay. God’s grace is flowing and I have every confidence that these things will be figured out in due time. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” [Matthew 6:34]

Also, since so much time has passed on our wait (and yet, so little compared to what many couples experience), we’ve been blessed to witness many of our friends and family welcome babies (and second babies) into this world. We’ve seen our friends cope with tremendous obstacles during this season of life: military demands, life-changing prenatal diagnoses, cross-country moves and new jobs, postpartum anxiety/depression, and marital struggles. We’ve been inspired by their faithfulness and love, despite the difficulties presented to them. We’ve also been able to see the joy that a new child brings to their lives, even when the struggle is real. (That’s probably because we know such wonderful men & women.) They allow these hardships to bear fruit in their family life, and this gives Kevin and I strength as we embark on this journey. As well as a whole lot of wisdom to benefit from.

So while I could easily complain about how long it’s taken (I’ve certainly done enough of that over the years) and how much money/time has been spent on my health (which has actually been a real blessing), I sincerely thank God for this gift. I really trust that His timing is perfect. And if this pregnancy does not result in a healthy child born this November, than we will continue to trust that all things work for good for those who love God. But for now, we simply say deo gratias.

Baby Gearns coming November 2017 🙂

Three years!

Today, Kevin and I celebrate three years of marriage! It’s our octave+ of anniversaries continued. May 22nd, he asked me out. May 27th, he proposed. May 30th, we got married. June 1st was our first date. A great time of year!

What a gift it is to be married to Kevin. I recently have read a couple of articles talking about how things usually tense up by year four of marriage for a variety of reasons, and that these hardships are often the cause of so many problems and divorces by the infamous year seven. Now, I’m not naive enough to think that life going forward will always be easy. But, we’ve actually had a good deal of hardships in our first three years. We remarked the other day that we never really had a “honeymoon period,” with the exception of our actual honeymoon.

We never had that totally romanticized period where we just saw everything through a rose-colored lens. I don’t think we’ve had that since our first six months of dating. We’ve had ups and downs, and some of those downs have been darker than I ever thought we could experience. But through God’s grace, every single low has brought growth. And we’ve moved into a place of greater joy. What has always been present in our marriage is a conviction that this Vocation, this marriage we have, is God’s will and it is authentically good.

I like to think that I had a good sense of the person Kevin was back in our early days of dating. Many of those qualities that first attracted me to him are still thriving today – his wit, his wonder, his wisdom (accidental alliteration). But because I know him better, I can appreciate these qualities even more.

A good friend of mine recently commented, “you guys seem to know how to have fun together – that’s important.” By fun, he didn’t mean things like brewery tours, drinks out at a bar, concerts and shows, etc. What he was referring to, though, was doing very simple things, with laughter and smiles. And it’s true. That’s something I’ve come to realize only in the past year. We don’t have all the money in the world to do all the things, but that’s totally fine. For instance, one of our favorite pastimes is simply going for walks together. No matter what kind of state we’re in – peaceful, annoyed, giddy, melancholic – walking brings us to a good marital place. Solvitur Ambulando – it is solved by walking. The wisdom of St. Augustine.

I continue to enjoy being married to him more and more. There’s so much to be grateful for, so much to say about his character, about the fruits of our marriage. I just love him. And I’m incredibly excited for year four. I’m pretty certain t’s gonna be a good one.

Anniversary Year Two

Anniversary Year One

Community that spans years & miles.

I have no idea how to put into words the complete beauty and heavenly bliss that was our recent trip to Boston. Boston will forever be my spiritual home, where I spent eight of the most formative years of my personal life, where I also met my husband and began married life. Many of our friends have moved away from Boston by now (not all!), but every trip back there is still so great. The most wonderful part of this particular time, though, was that basically my entire college Catholic community (#bucc) came back: all of my best friends. (Fun fact: this is the first time EVER that my four best friends and I have been in the same place WITH our spouses – it was epic). But the big reason we all reunited for this long weekend?

FATHER MICHAEL ZIMMERMAN

Mike Father Michael is one of my absolute dearest friends. Christ used him in a very specific and profound way to bring me back to the Church in my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t that I had left the Church, but I was extremely far from God, living a life that now makes me cringe when I look back on it. And I was hurting in so many ways. From the time that Mike invited me around, he was a constant support. Our friendship became something truly special, and I was constantly amazed by his holiness and zeal (and goofiness – we always had a good laugh). He has a great gift of evangelization, and I know I’m not the only one who has been deeply impacted by his witness.

BABIES! My 20th birthday (hence my blue cake teeth)!

Throughout our remaining years at BU, Mike continued to be one of the most unique and important supports for me as I journeyed along in the faith. When he told me that he’d be entering seminary following college, it just made sense. And praise God, seminary is only minutes from where I lived post-graduation. So we still got to frequent Mass together (we recently laughed about this because most of the Saturday Masses at my local parish were funerals…sometimes in Spanish…but we pushed through haha), and grow in friendship. He also got to meet Kevin as the two of us began our relationship – a great joy for me! Since that time, we’ve had plenty of long distance phone calls as he’s been studying in Rome and we’ve made sure to get together when he’s back in the US.

2013 – Mike, me & Kevin – just before he left for Rome!

An Ordained Man

Our entire community has been looking forward to Mike’s ordination for years. It is just so evident as to how wonderful he is given that people traveled from California, Texas, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio – literally all over. And the entire reunion and celebration was total perfection (minus the lack of sleep I got, but a sacrifice I’d happily offer again!).

The ordination itself was so moving, so beautiful. Cardinal Sean’s homily, the laying on of hands, the music (“Oh God, Beyond All Praising” – my all time fave), the new Priests! I’ve been to a few ordinations before, and they are always wonderful, but there was something truly special about this one.

And the festivities to follow – my goodness. Party after party after party. The reception for Father Michael was incredible – lovely and soul-stirring toasts given by Mother Olga and a fellow Priest, the BUCC community singing “Prince of Peace” (a college classic for us all), and just being in the presence of such phenomenal people. Afterwards, a smaller group of us went to Father Michael’s parents’ home for a late night barbecue – it was so nice to have a more intimate gathering with the newly ordained man.

We then had a Sunday breakfast at Mother Olga’s convent with the BUCC folks. How do I explain the grace that overflowed? Some of these people I talk to on a daily basis (looking at you #allthemarriedladies), some are still very close friends but with less frequent contact, and some I have not seen since college. But it was like stepping back into our old brownstone on Bay Stated. This community is real and beautiful. We socialized, but also shared graces of our lives as well as prayer intentions. Then we booked it to Father Michael’s first Mass of thanksgiving. Again – WOW THE BEAUTY. I can’t describe what it was that made this so incredible, but man it was. And Kevin and I got to bring up the gifts, which was so special! Seeing Father Michael celebrate Mass was a tremendous gift.

Reunion of all Reunions

The days that were not filled with ordination festivities were spent with my bffs. An accidental sleepover with three of our families in an apartment (a memorable experience), one-on-one time with a few people here and there, playing with the babies & toddlers, a ladies night out, living the joy that is growing families (there are now seven kids between us – some moving & grooving, some in-utero), and just enjoying the rare moments of being physically present to one another.

 

Looking forward to our big family vacation happening next spring. I think most couples committed whole-heartedly as we said our tearful goodbyes, pretending it wasn’t going to be many months until we [hopefully] saw each other again.

Thank you, Father Michael, for your yes. We all will be praying for you and your Vocation of selfless love. And we owe you a ton for this monumental reunion.

Alleluia, Alleluia

A very joyful Easter to you all! He is risen, and all is well with my soul.

This past Lent, like so many of my recent Lents, was not exactly a “successful” one (whatever that means). My personal circumstances have changed a lot in the past couple of months, and consequently, I wasn’t exactly doing as much as I had originally hoped. But as I find year after year, my heart flooded with joy at the Easter Vigil. Singing Alleluia brought tears to my eyes (as did most of the Mass). I was, and am, so grateful for this great celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Whatever I may have thought of the previous forty days, I know that God was still tilling the soil in His own way. He was building up the hunger for the Easter season. As JPII so famously said, “we are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.” That doesn’t mean that we forget the cross; quite the contrary, we live with our eyes on the cross, but with the confidence and hope in Jesus’ resurrection.

Amidst my joy for this wonderful part of the liturgical year was (and is) also a deep sorrow. As we were so unbelievably fortunate to celebrate the beautiful Paschal Triduum at our wonderful parish (that we have felt so much at home with for the past several months), there are countless Christians around the world who must worship in secret and in fear. I’m not usually great at empathizing with others that seem so distant from my present state, but God has really placed this intention on my heart. I’m horribly ashamed of all the unnecessary interventions our US government has taken upon itself in the past couple of decades (and century, really). While we are fed constant propaganda meant to garner support for terrible wars, there are so many people suffering the consequences. I am convinced that the situation would be better in the middle east were we simply not involved. I’m not saying it would be perfect by any means – there are clearly deep-seated problems. But our government’s imperialistic plans have not made life for Christians any better.

My political ramblings aside, the situation in the middle east is a frightful one. And this Easter season, I truly pray that no matter the circumstances, all Christians may be able to experience the great joy Christ calls us to. And that God would particularly bless and console those who suffer greatly for love of Him.

P.S. The beautiful lettering above is from my good friend, Ashlie. Check out her new Etsy shop!

 

Brick by Brick

The following post – an exercise in creative writing – is a little way for me to honor my husband, whom I love so much! While architecture walks are an institution for our family no matter our location, this piece particularly hearkens us back to our days in Massachusetts, when we were surrounded by stunning homes, worn with age. Happy valentine’s day, my love!


Straight ahead of me is the red brick I see so often in my dreams. It’s not perfectly new and unworn, but tested by time, and therefore timeless. I’m reminded of my hometown in Pennsylvania – a small but wonderful place outside of our nation’s first capital – idyllic streets lined with colonial styles that make me yearn for a simple life. Tall windows, proper proportions, white lining, and green shudders. All this I take in with just one breath, one deep breath that brings comfort and joy.

“What do you like about it?”

I smile because I knew the question was coming. This is how the games goes. I smile at my husband and look back upon the charming home. He awaits my answer, even though he knows, perhaps better than I can articulate, what arouses my spirit in this moment.

The architecture game is what we call it. While we wait for the time that house hunting is a reality for us, we dream. Leaving the dinner table just in time to catch the golden light that pours a unique shade of beauty onto the earth no matter the season, we stroll.

Him and I walk hand in hand, fingers intertwined as I am lead gently along a new street. Perhaps it was our time of learning to swing dance early on when we had just begin dating, or maybe it is simply a privilege of married life, but I intuitively know where he will lead and every part of me instinctively follows.

We pass by small cottages and large mansions, industrial buildings, and historic institutions. Though sometimes it proves difficult – we have a very distinct aesthetic – we encourage one another to find at least one good feature in all that we pass. Each structure has an element of beauty simply by virtue of being created by man, who is created by beauty himself.

Every now and again, though, we come to a house like this one. This humble brick home. The large bay windows help us to envision the family Christmas tree that will shed a glittering light onto the snow during those short days after the winter solstice. A sweet oval balcony that seems to be made for sipping coffee and reading the paper on an early summer morning. We acknowledge the proper placement of the chimney in the middle of the roof, which allows for a more equitable distribution of heat throughout the structure during the inevitable bitter months. And I see the front door and realize that it will remain incomplete until I place upon it a simple boxwood wreath.

Some of these points we discuss, others are unspoken, but well understood, between me and my husband. And while we look upon the home and see a delightful future for ourselves, it is the house itself that acts almost like a reflection.

Here we are, in the latter part of our twenties, and we are still just beginning. We often work hard for what seems like minimal payoff. It can be so easy to gaze upon a neighbor’s admirable vinyl home and resent the path we’ve chosen. For them, vinyl brings to life their hopes and dreams; our vision requires that we continue with clay, refined by fire. But when we stand here, together, gazing upon this hidden treasure in this somewhat unfamiliar city to us both, we are reminded that our hardships are not for naught.

Made from the earth, brick is a natural material that has proven itself over the centuries. It offers greater protection from harsh elements such as fire, wind, and water. It is far more sustainable and requires less maintenance as time goes on. And yet, brick is not as commonly used today in the building of the standard mcmansion. It requires a heavier investment. It may call for patience and a willingness to delay our gratification. And to have an authentically beautiful result, there must be careful planning and a strong vision.

Just like the process of a good house, we are building a firm foundation. The days that seem to drag on with financial stress, marital burdens, and general life malaise are the ones in which we are placing those bottom bricks. We develop a rhythm, a technique, and we can, at some point, start to see the fruits of our labor. Day in and day out, it is easy to miss the forest through the trees. But when we step back and take it all in, we catch a glimpse of something great that is already under way. It starts to resemble the sketches both in our hearts and on paper.

And so, we walk this evening, we share our vision, and we lay our bricks.

As our apartment building comes into view, and our hands still held, we share a gentle kiss knowing that another brick is in place.

The Lifestyle Catholic: an introduction

The Lifestyle Catholic (TLC) is a pet project of mine that began in my head about a year and a half ago. The ultimate vision was/is to create a website that offers ideas & inspiration on how to integrate the transcendentals of the Catholic faith into the practicals of our daily lives. Topics would vary all the way from health insurance to supporting small Catholic businesses. I had high hopes for it, recorded ALL the ideas, even began a separate blog…and then nothing happened. Or rather, life happened. As I should have expected, my time & effort were directed elsewhere with working full-time, seeking out medical help for infertility, making lifestyle changes as I understood my body & soul to need them, and ya know, being a wife, sister, daughter, and friend.

Then I attempted to hold myself accountable by submitting this as my action plan for the Given Forum, a young women’s Catholic leadership conference in DC. After attending this amazing forum/conference/retreat in June 2016, I felt a great spark propelling me forward in this project. And then more life happened – a new job, new city, more adjustments, more health-related things, etc. Now here we are. This may not align with the grand vision I once had, but I think I owe it to both myself and to the wonderful women behind Given to see this through in whatever manner I am able.

So I invite you into this – to read, to participate, and to offer your own suggestions. May Brother Andre intercede in this small endeavor as we hope to grow and evolve into something greater!