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.

7QT: a move, a family trip, and the state fair!

  1. We have moved! It happened pretty quickly, but to sum it up – I had a few different people refer me to a position in the Twin Cities (the one that actually got my attention was a woman I met at Given). After a few interviews and an offer, we made the move to St. Paul within three weeks! (And we are praying that’s the last time something like this happens, but the Lord is humorous in his ways…). img_6232
  2. We are absolutely loving life here. Granted, we’ve only really both been here for two weeks with vacations and tying up loose ends in Duluth, but we are here, and it’s splendid. The Cities have so much to offer and I’m falling in love with so many different neighborhoods. And while I was a bit skeptical of our apartment location before moving, I really could not have been more pleasantly surprised.
  3. My new job is uhhhh-mazing. I have made a complete change in my career (no longer your friendly HR rep, but always happy to give employment-related advice!), and it’s a change I’m quite thrilled with. I’m working at the Parish & Newman Center at the University of Minnesota as the Development Director. While I had never worked for the Church before, I’ve known many to do so and not have the most positive experience. However, this team, this ministry, this everything – it is blessed. And I’m also working alongside the Brotherhood of Hope (they ran our campus ministry at BU). I have so much to be grateful for. img_6285
  4. Kevin and I went on a Krouchick family vacation to Park City, Utah, and I’ll admit – I kinda was like “Utah? Umm, okay.” But it was great. It’s always a joy spending dedicated time with my family AND the babies J. We explored the city, hiked some beautiful trails, enjoyed the fancy hotel life, and played far too many games of fishbowl. I’m already aching for Thanksgiving to come my way so we can all be reunited.
  5. On Labor Day, Kevin made his first trip to the Minnesota State Fair! I know, it’s absurd that he hadn’t been up to this point, but I was kind of glad I got to accompany him the first time. The funny part is that I HAD been before. It was quite random, but my best friends and I took a YOMO – you only Minnesota once – trip back in 2012 (our YO_O is an ongoing tradition, we’re considering Newfoundland next – YONO) and enjoyed the Great Minnesota Get Together. While this time around, I couldn’t exactly eat all the foods, it was still great to just walk around and take it all in.fullsizerender
  6. Speaking of foods I can’t have, I’ve been working with a naturopathic doc for the past few months and have discovered some interesting sensitivities (the big ones were foods I had already suspected, but hadn’t totally eliminated). So my absolutely no-no foods are: eggs, almonds, cashews, garlic, beans, and chili powder (this one confuses me too). So that’s now added to my avoid list, which already includes grains (although I can now experiment with rice & buckwheat on occasion) and dairy. It’s so interesting looking at the evolution of my diet over the past two years. I’ve gone from eating anything and everything (while still eating healthy & balanced) to whole 30-ing to paleo to paleo-ish to this. While I have very strong convictions around nutrition, I’m learning to let go a bit. Everyone’s body is different – I am still figuring out what works for me, and it’s such a process.
  7. It is September. And while we’ve had some terribly humid days in the 80s (which is nothing compared for my Arizona friends), I’m getting super excited for fall. Isn’t everyone? I did, however, mistakenly indulged in a PSL from Starbucks (coconut milk, of course), and it was too early. It just didn’t feel right. I’m going to hold off on any more of pumpkin until we’ve had a few days in the 60s. Every morning, I keep trying on sweaters hoping that my weather app will reflect chillier days, but alas, each morning I put those sweaters back in the drawers for a later time.

That’s us right now. I hope your day, your week, your month, and even your year are swell.

Two years!

Two weeks ago, on Memorial Day, Kevin and I celebrated our two year anniversary! On one hand, it seems so short and insignificant, but at the same time…long and quite significant. Our wedding really does seem like just yesterday, and yet so much has happened since May 30, 2014.

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We still feel like we’re just getting started. We are longing for some sense of stability – where will we live, what kind of careers will we have, when will we be blessed with children, can we buy a home yet? Classic questions for a married couple in their twenties, I’m sure. But all very real, nonetheless!

I can say with full confidence, though, that despite the struggles that come with marriage, there is always more than enough grace to compensate because of it’s sacramental core. And I would not want to be in this with anyone other than Kevin! We have both learned a great deal about ourselves and each other in year two. Like…a lot. With so many big life things happening (cross country moves, job searches, career planning, the continued fertility adventure), it would be a shame if we didn’t come through it more self-aware AND more united in our family mission. But we have!

One profound lesson I know I am learning is that the marriage comes first. Through frustrations, uncertainty, desires, and excitement, our Vocation is at the forefront of our actions. And it is a beautiful thing! It’s not necessarily a popular perspective these days, and I’m so grateful the Lord is showing us how to live out this sacrament as he calls us to – on good & bad days alike!

I love my husband, his unique quirks, his beautiful heart, and his ardent desire to serve the Lord through our marriage. He is just the best, and I feel like I’m rediscovering that each day. That’s a gift. I trust that things will only get better from here and I look forward to year three! #gearnses2016

February at its finest

Lately, despite a little bit of sickness (that’s what we get for diving back into grains – I knew the paleo lifestyle is what kept me healthy this past year! I’m back to it now after my week of frivolity!), we’ve been really living it up & enjoying our time together. We’re trying not to get a case of the February’s, and I think we’re doing a fine job.

[Early morning running along Lake Superior…trying to get back into a habit.]

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[Sunday breakfast at Va Bene #worthit #twosundaysinarow #ournewspot]IMG_1611

[Day trips with friends – and seeing a real life mine!]IMG_1605

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[Our short-lived relationship with grains – good, but not good enough.]IMG_1613

[Making new friends (or reuniting for Kevin) & enjoying good company.]IMG_1614

So take that winter! I hope you’re all staying warm & getting your cozy on.

Just another day

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Sunday. It’s my favorite day of the week. I enjoy all the Sabbath has to offer. Prayer, community, rest. Often Kevin and I choose to do something special to mark the day for the both of us – a walk on the lake, visiting a new place, eating something special, watching a movie, having company over. Sunday.

I could easily spend this Sunday like all the others, celebrating the turn of the month and being just a bit more closer to spring.

But today is different.

Today was the projected day that I would have held a child in my arms for the first time. My child. Many women spend nine wonderful months in hopeful anticipation of their due date. I had that mentality for just a little while before it was taken away.

I had all the possible names written down – boy or girl (still an untouched, yet adored, list in my email drafts – where I keep random notes). I’m not sure if we would have opted to know the sex ahead of time. I like the idea of waiting, but have never been good with surprises.

I remember back when we were expecting thinking what it might be like to deliver a baby in the height of winter in northern Minnesota (although we weren’t set on leaving at that point). I mostly made jokes about how we’d be snowed in and end up doing a home birth.

Just as any type A planner would, I had completed my registry with all the natural & organic goodies  – the bamboo swaddles, the organic sheets, the cloth diapers.

But none of it mattered. We never got that far.

I’ve tried to reflect this month on the emptiness that comes with passing a due date and nothing to show for it. Too many women deal with this time and time again.

And it’s a tragedy. It is sorrowful. It’s tear-inducing and hurtful.

But the most amazing thing of all is that there is healing. Healing that is unexplainable, but very real. Healing that is truly a gift. It is not a coincidence we named our child Giovanna Raphael: “gift of God that heals.”

While I can’t understand it, I know that I am in a good place. While my heart longs for children, I am also content. That contentment has days of sadness, but it’s still there.

So we continue on. We continue to hope and pray for what only God can give. I’m trying to do my part, but I shouldn’t be so naive as to think that it’s all on me. That’s a heavy weight. One I can’t carry.

In the meantime, I thank any of you who have offered prayers for our unborn child, the gift that I hope now rests in the presence of her Creator. And for the prayers for us as we figure things out and let them happen.

God is good and in that I firmly believe. My hope is in Him.

Deo gratias.

Our Christmas Letter!

We sent this letter our to friends & family with our Christmas card this year. But the blog version has links!

A blessed Advent & a merry Christmas to you all! It is from our new home near Lake Superior that we write this letter to you. When reflecting on this past year, this particular verse comes to mind:

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” [James 1:2-4]

It has been quite the year for us, and there has been excitement, doubt, frustration, and gratitude. But in it all, we knew God has been calling us to a deeper surrender.  When we reflect on the way God has blessed us this past year through everything, it absolutely amazes us.

Since last Christmas, we have survived Boston’s worst winter on record (woohoo!), Katie wrapped up her part-time work with the Brotherhood of Hope, Kevin finished his time at the Academy of Realist Art as both student and instructor, we made a fruitful pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory & St. Anne de Beaupre, we celebrated a beautiful first anniversary the same week we found out we were expecting, and we suffered the loss of that same child (Giovanna Raphael).

We had been discerning moving for a while and were granted some clarity. We ended our time in Boston with a wonderful Krouchick family vacation in Plymouth, MA, said hard goodbyes to the dearest of friends, and began our cross country move. We were blessed with time to see loved ones along the way, and arrived at our new home in mid-September. We’ve since also welcomed our first two beautiful nieces, Millie & Evie!

Through the recent months of transition, we have been continually called to trust in God’s goodness & mercy. While we sometimes ache for the familiarity of life out East, God has granted us immense peace that surpasses understanding. And a whole lot of joy!

We have received great welcome here in Minnesota, and our hearts are humbled by how good life is. The community has been warm & charitable, Kevin has found good work, Katie is continuing her Boston work (remotely, obviously), and despite living in the woods (according to Katie), there have been no sightings of bears/wolves/bobcats (praise God!). Just bunnies, deer, & partridges. 🙂

Only the Lord knows what this next year will bring, but we have faith and are content with today. We consider it all joy because through it all we are more united in Christ. A good year, indeed! We are praying for all of you this Christmas season (and this new year of mercy!!!)! May peace & joy reign in your lives.

In Jesus & Mary,

Katie & Kevin

Giovanna Raphael

I’ve been a bit MIA on this blog for a while, but Kevin keeps telling me to get back into it. I’ve wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure about what to write! I debated whether or not to share what follows, but in the end, I don’t want to hide it – I want to acknowledge it.

This summer has been full. Yes, we’ve been out of the house more and taking weekend/day trips (and I want to write about all of it!), but it goes much further than that. Something big happened, and then something big happened again. And it’s lead to many life decisions, one of which is that Kevin and I will be moving to Duluth, Minnesota in the beginning of September. There will be much more on all of this later, for sure! But right now, I just want to acknowledge the gift (and loss of that gift) that has changed my life, Kevin’s life, and our marriage.

On May 26, 2015, I woke up and decided to take a pregnancy test. This wasn’t exactly anything new as this was my routine for eight months. Eight months of radical dietary changes, Napro doctor support, and lots of prayer. Eight months of people saying, “you’re so young, you have lots of time,” or “just stop thinking about it and it’ll happen” (not very helpful…but that wasn’t everyone!). Eight months of excitement, anticipation, and disappointment. Eight months of intense grace and growth in my relationship with God. Eight months of deepening my love for my incredible husband. I could talk so much more about those eight months, but the point of all this is what came next.

Anyway, woke up, took a pregnancy test, and was SHOCKED…[complete silence]…SHOCKED to see the second bright line. I went back to bed and sat on a sleeping Kevin and whispered “I’m pregnant.” You can imagine his surprise and sort of questioning tone when he said “what?” All that we’d been praying for had happened (the cycle after our pilgrimage to St. Anne’s as well!).

I won’t go into the details right now, but while we were able to experience excitement in the beginning, there were a lot of concerning things that soon arose. The next several weeks were unfortunately filled with much anxiety. There were rays of hope that came, but then even worse symptoms that took their place. Around 4am on July 2, 2015, I woke up and immediately knew what was about to happen. I woke Kevin up and he just laid with me for a while as I experienced the all-too-familiar excruciating pains that would normally signal my period.

A couple hours later, at 9 1/2 weeks, I delivered (would that be the correct term?) our first child. I don’t want to be too gruesome, but to all those pro-choicers out there who would deny the fact that I had been carrying a living human, this was most definitely a child that I held in my hand.

We named our child Giovanna Raphael: “gift of God who heals.” This name had been on our hearts for a few weeks at that point, and it seemed quite God-given. We had already planned a trip back home to PA that weekend, so we took our child with us to be buried. A couple of our best friends, Josh & Ashlie, joined us that weekend with their little baby, John Paul. They were present when we buried Giovanna in our backyard. We wrapped her in the lace from my wedding dress. It was a painful, but beautiful experience. We prayed this lovely prayer from Sister Angelica, and we cried unashamedly at the loss of this precious life.

There is so much I still have to process from all of this. While I know I’m a mother, I don’t exactly feel like one. It’s been less than three weeks since I miscarried, but at moments, it almost feels as if I was never pregnant to begin with. Then there are the times when I just can’t help but cry over what is no longer growing inside of me.

At this point, that’s all I have to share about that. If anyone’s experienced infertility or miscarriage – be assured of my prayers.

One year!

May 30th, 2015 – our one year anniversary! So much to say, yet how can I say it all? I can’t. To put it simply, I am blessed to have married someone so perfect for me. I literally cannot imagine spending my days and nights with anyone else. Neither Kevin nor I are perfect – we have many flaws. And even together, we have our vices. But we are pursuing holiness and happiness together. And it’s an exciting journey.

This first year has been a whirlwind. Moving into a teeny apartment. Learning to live more simply. Surviving the worst winter of Boston on record (with many days of struggle because of it). Handling multiple jobs and schooling. But it has all been blessed because of the man I’m sharing it with. And the struggles have been outdone by the joys of our first year – our Canadian Honeymoon, Thanksgiving in PA, liturgical living, Christmas in MN, our Epiphany party, growing in love through golden hour walks, building our little Nazareth, our married couples bible study, Quebec, breakfasts together, laughing through Parks & Rec, SUNDAYS, gardening trial & error, and SO MUCH MORE.

I don’t have anything truly grand to say except that I love my husband, and that love goes deeper every day. And I am grateful for all of the people we have in our lives that love and support us in our Vocation. Here’s to an ever better year two!

Quebec, again.

This post is long overdue and will do not justice to the beauty that was our trip to Quebec, but I will try! We had been longing to go back to Quebec since our initial pilgrimage in 2013, but there just hasn’t been an ideal time until now. We lovelovelove Canada and try to go once a year (last year we went for our honeymoon). We were unsure if this trip was going to happen because finances are a bit tight, but we felt at peace with going and ta-daaaaa the Lord provided in many ways this month. God is good.

We started the drive up Friday evening and stopped for the night in Stowe, VT (stayed at the Stowe Inn with a groupon – so charming!). It broke up the long drive which was great, and we had a very relaxing trip up Saturday morning through the wonderful greenery and mountains of Northern New England. We crossed the border with no issues (not that there would be…it just always makes me nervous) and there we were!

A wee little stop in Vermont
A wee little stop in Vermont
Votive Chapel at the Oratory
Votive Chapel at the Oratory

The weekend was on and off with the weather – rainy then sunny then cool then rainy. But it didn’t really matter to us. We spent good quality time at St. Joseph’s Oratory – and gosh, the second we stepped foot back in there it was a wave of peace. Walking through the Votive Chapel is an experience. There are several different statues of St. Joseph above different stations of votive candles – each with a different title of his (Protector of our Church, Consoler of the Afflicted, Pure in Heart, Patron of Families, Patron of the Sick & Dying, Terror of Demons, Model of Workers). Needless to say, there were many prayers to be prayed and many offerings to be made.  We spent much time off and on in this Chapel.

Brother Andre's Chapel
Brother Andre’s Chapel
The Oratory
The Oratory

We also were able to spend some beautiful time in prayer in Brother Andre’s Chapel. Brother Andre (now Saint Andre) was the one who had the Oratory built in honor of Saint Joseph; a very humble man and being in his chapel (alone, nonetheless) was a moving experience. It’s probably where I received the most consolation of the weekend.

Outside the shrine
Outside the shrine
St. Anne de Beaupre
St. Anne de Beaupre

There’s so much that could be said about the Oratory, but…just go. Just go and see it for yourself. This trip we were fortunate enough to also visit the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre just outside Quebec City. I had been wanting to visit this shrine for quite some time, but even I had no clue what was in store for me. Driving along the St. Lawrence river (delightful!), we pulled into the town of Ste. Anne-de-Beapre and soon saw what had to be the Shrine. It’s amazing – just off the main road being all stunning and what not!

Inside St. Anne's
Inside St. Anne’s

This Church took my breath away. Everything about it. Whoever built this Church had a true devotion to St. Anne. There is just so much detail, so much complexity, and it all is weaved together so effortlessly in this magnificent structure. The whole thing was a treat, but I was especially fond of the little side chapel holding a RELIC OF ST. ANNE (bone of her arm!). I mean, no big deal. After Mass (which we understood very little of, but being Catholic and all it’s usually fine since it’s all the same), the Priest came over to give us more details about the Shrine. He talked of the miracles he’s been present for that have occurred in front of the relic, and my goodness…it’s unbelievable (but also believable!). We were so grateful for our conversation with him; it helped us to appreciate even more about the Shrine that would have gone unnoticed by little old me!

There was also the outside areas which were so simple yet so incredible. There is one particular chapel that is host to a number of relics of the holy land – it has 28 stairs which pilgrims are meant to climb on their knees – each step in reparation for Christ’s passion (and many of the steps have the relics built into them)…uhhhhh-mazing. To sum it up, the short time we had at St. Anne’s was powerful. We were able to pray at the foot of her statue (said to be the place of many miracles) with the petitions weighing most on our hearts.

 

Montreal
Montreal
Quebec City! Rainy, but still lovely.
Quebec City! Rainy, but still lovely.

The rest of the trip was more exploring Montreal and Quebec City. We had already seen most of Montreal that we enjoy – there are lovely parts (like Old Montreal, ohhhhh I love it), but there are also typical city parts…that I don’t particularly care for. Quebec City, though. Lurv it. Such charm. Such cuteness. The old city is huge and it is a feast for the eyes! Unfortunately, it was super rainy when we were there, but I still fell in love. And the Chateau Frontenac – ahhhhh the famous hotel that I read about in high school french class! It was a joy seeing it in person. Kevin and I decided that the next time we visit (which we will), we will reverse our itinerary and stay in Quebec City with a day trip to Montreal & the Oratory.

I hope to put together a mini Catholic Canadian travel guide soon (Kevin’s very encouraging of doing that) for all those dyyyyyying to visit. I hope I’ve sold everyone enough on this delightful province!

Back to the Oratory

A little over two years ago, when Kevin and I had been dating for 7ish months, we took a pilgrimage to Montreal together. We stayed at the retreat house on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Oratory, and a truly special trip it was. There were highs and lows to the weekend, and in a lot of ways, I really felt afterwards that this was it. I would be with this man forever. It’s kind of funny to say that now since there really were some rough patches over those four days. But it was the first time we openly spoke about marriage with one another…and children…and baby names. (That was as emotionally unchaste as we’d get until engagement.) 

 Montreal is a really special place to us (and really just Canada in general). And spending so much time at the Oratory was a truly spectacular experience. St. Joseph has always been a great intercessor in our relationship (hello 30 day novena that ended with a first date), so praying to him throughout that weekend also aided greatly in preparing us for our future. And there is something about the Oratory itself: it’s majestic, but humble. If you’ve been there and stood in the great shrine on top (with no one else around), you’d understand what I mean. For all of it’s simplicity, I could sense my unworthiness in a very real way.   

 There were other great aspects of Montreal that we got to explore outside of the Oratory grounds, and I was continuously stunned with beauty (could have also been the fresh snow). We spent an evening at Notre Dame in Old Montreal and that.church.is.beauty. Anddddd Celine Dion was married there, nobigdealthatdoesntinfluencemyopinionatall

 Anyway, we are going back this weekend and we are so excited. We’re at such a different stage in our life, and since it’s not January spontaneousblizzardseason, we’re hopeful that we won’t get snowed in like last time when we tried to visit the Shrine of St. Anne in Quebec City. That’s another place that we’re so looking forward to visiting. St. Anne is my patron Saint, and we’ve been praying to her in particular for some special intercession in these recent months. I so look forward to bringing our petitions and our love to that beautiful, sacred shrine. 

 And! I just can’t wait to be in French-speaking Canada again! The beauty! The elegance! The romance! The cheese! And the spring time!

Au revoir!