Finding Jesus in the Temple

I hate to admit it, but often times when praying the rosary I’ll be mindful of the appropriate mysteries on the first & last Hail Mary. The rest of the time? Distraction. It’s a real tragedy and one I am trying to work on. During Advent & Christmas, I typically pray the joyful mysteries straight through. This gives me ample time to really work my way through the infancy narratives (while simultaneously never being enough).

Recently, I was struck by something that I haven’t encountered before. I was on the fifth joyful mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple – it’s a story with much significance in Jesus’ hidden life, but one which I so often gloss over. To try and stay focused, I’ll usually keep in mind one verse while praying: “did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” I’m not even sure what that translation is, but it’s always stuck with me from a homily way back when.

So I was repeating that phrase, imagining Mary & Joseph searching for Jesus, finding him, asking why he would do this to them while they look for him anxiously. And his response, on the surface, can sometimes seem a bit rude. Like, Jesus – have a bit more respect for thy parents. But no. It is not rude at all. Jesus was not where Mary & Joseph expected or wanted Him to be. He was where his Father needed Him to be. 

How often do I turn to Jesus with my naive question: where were you? where are you? why are you not with me? why are you not doing what I think, in all my mediocre human wisdom, you should be doing right now? But now I see His response: “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” I am just now starting to understand how He gave is the most loving, merciful, and just response of all.

There are [many] times we are seeking Jesus, seeking help and answers that only God can give, and we do not find that for which we are looking. At least for me, my mind will so often resort to, “obviously you just want me to suffer and remain where I am.” Well, maybe He does…in that moment. But I need to remember that He is always working, healing, and redeeming. It may not be in the way that I am expecting or wanting, but it is always in accordance with the Father’s will for my life.

“All things work for good for those who love God.” [Romans 8:28] Kevin used to say this all the time when we were dating. It was basically his catch phrase. Still, we usually will say it to one another when things are not going our way. Because while we are so overcome by the small details and moments of our lives, God is reigning over all of mankind. He is profoundly aware of our small details, but has the gift of seeing them in light of, quite literally, everything. 

I’m pretty sure that I’d rather our omniscient & omnipresent God do His thing than have me mess it up. So thank you, Lord, for giving us the fifth joyful mystery. Thank you for letting us know that when we feel like we can’t find you, you are assuredly about your Father’s business – which is always good.

 

Start building, start small

My love for Saint Andre Bessette runs deep. I don’t pray to him nearly as often as I should, but every time I think of him my heart melts with love. Constantly turned away and looked down upon for his physical & mental limitations – of which there were many – he eventually made a home with the Holy Cross Brothers (despite their reluctance). His placement was Notre Dame College in Montreal where he was asked to do the minimum – answer the door, welcome guests, and deliver mail. Talk about humble work!

At some point, he requested permission from the Archbishop to build a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph on the nearby hill. The Archbishop refused to go into debt and tasked Andre with raising the money himself. He collected donations over the years (“donations for St. Joseph”), building piece by piece as he went. At first, it was a little wooden shelter. This little structure grew & grew, people began coming for Mass, and great healings occured. Brother Andre did not live to see his work finished (which he insisted was impossible, because there will always be new ways to express this devotion), but what stands there today is a grand & majestic basilica honoring St. Joseph. The Oratory draws in a great deal of pilgrims every year, and for good reason. It has played a profound part in me & Kevin’s relationship since our first of three (we intend for many more!) visits in January 2013.

What strikes me so is that even with financial obstacles & little support, Brother Andre persisted his entire life with this one cause. While he never saw his work as complete, he also completely trusted with each small step. I know, in my own life, I’m quite hesitant to start something unless I have it all figured out. Unless the plan is laid, the details ironed out, and I see, quite practically, how things will fall into place. But not Brother Andre. He started so small that many probably thought his venture was completely ridiculous. Go take a look at the Oratory now – it brings magnificent glory to God and honors, in such a beautiful manner, the protector of our Church.

So I ask for Saint Andre Bessette’s intercession today & all days. For the work of our family – that we might not be intimidated or overwhelmed at what God is calling us to, that we might be at peace with each small step we are taking. And how appropriate is this quote by him: “It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the best paintings.”

Let’s make 2017 a beautiful year for the small things – may they become great one day! In what ways will you start building, friends?

Praising God in Weakness

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

This passage was taped to my wall for a while when I was single. It spoke to me in a really big way. It particularly stayed with me during Lent of 2012. God was working something in my heart, and I was feeling it physically. During this time, I was struck with powerful imagery of the humanity of Christ. The poor analogy I made was the scene of the cartoon film Hercules when he gave up his godly powers, but continued fighting. He experienced what it was to be human, and how that manifested itself primarily was profound physical weakness. While Jesus is far superior to the fictional Hercules, I imagine He experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and physical limitations. Carrying His cross to Calvary was not a light, midday stroll. It was painful, difficult, and a burden He needed Simon the Cyrene to carry with Him. It was precisely through these moments of weakness & suffering, though, that Christ conquered. He reigned.

Now several years later, this is still one of my favorite passages of Paul’s. But it has take on different meaning. Since 2014 (maybe a bit earlier, but wasn’t paying too much attention), I’ve been struggling with a random assortment of health issues. Back in the day when I was so much more ignorant than I am now, I did not put them all together. Symptoms began popping up sporadically on top of things I had dealt with for years (but of course, was “professionally” told that all this was normal). So I really took my health into my own hands and began researching and experimenting.

2016 was the year of progress. I met with a surgeon who took my symptoms very seriously, and within three weeks I was recovering from a laparascopy during which they removed endometriosis. Then I began seeing a naturopathic doctor to continue my health journey – as I expected, we began to uncover much more. You see, for some reason, I was struggling with things like acne, daily painful bloating, stomach issues, back pain, random nausea, and continued severe menstrual pain even post-surgery. Much of this was all relatively new to me (who starts getting acne at age 25?!). Why now? And how come?

I’ve worked arduously to improve my condition, to eradicate these frustrating symptoms, and to reach a state of healing. While I had always been a healthy person by normal standards, I’ve done Whole 30’s, gone strictly paleo, and in the past six months been practically AIP (which basically means you never want to invite me over for dinner because it’s a burden on both you and me). I’ve swapped out pretty much any product in our home for a purely natural & organic substitute. I’ve strained the budget more than you can imagine trying to eat high quality food, while also eating substantial portions (it’s an effort to NOT lose weight). We’ve sacrificed a great deal in our life so that I can do acupuncture, take [the most expensive] supplements, do doctor-advised detoxes, and try out other occasional, but seemingly necessary, ventures.

And yet here I am. I am doing as much as I think I can do. And for the past month, an unwelcome friend came back to visit me. One that I have not had to really deal with since October 2014 when I gave up cow milk. It’s a golf-ball sized lump underneath the skin on my chin. The kicker is that unless the swelling really goes wild (which isn’t that often), nobody notices except me. But the discomfort, the pain, the inability to smile, the exhaustion of a long conversation, the difficulty with brushing my teeth or washing my face – it’s as frustrating as a mild health issue can be. I’ve experienced terrible illnesses & conditions in my life (besides the chronic pain with endometriosis, esophagitis takes the cake for the worst), but this one just seems to come with no explanation, interfering with my life in all the right ways. Why has it come back? After I finally felt like I was making some substantial progress all around? I have no idea. But maybe, just maybe, it’s something God allows me to experience, as Paul so beautifully states in 2 Corinthians, to keep me from being too elated. To rely on Him more than my own efforts. To recognize that I can do everything & anything, but He is healer, savior, & redeemer.

While I’ve learned so much over the past two years, I have come to accept that I may never know the source of all of these ailments. I can work towards healing, but even when I attain the type of health I am seeking, we still may not be given a child (which is what so much of this has been for). Some days, I wake up and want to cry because I can feel the lump or the pelvic pain. But I don’t tend towards tears, or even mentioning it to Kevin every five seconds (which used to be the case). I don’t love these scenarios either, but at some point I need to accept that God’s grace is sufficient. Even when my face is in pain, or my period comes like a freight train, or when we have to buy baby shower gifts for another couple who accidentally got pregnant. These thorns in my side at least serve to help me turn towards my Creator and to appeal to Him as Paul did. Because, let’s be real, if all of this were to go away instantly, I think there’s a big part of me that would credit myself for all of my hard work. I’d thank God, but maybe only in that formal way that I know I’m supposed to.

So while I wait (and work for) my thorns to be removed, I pray that God fortifies me in Him. That the power of Christ may dwell more in me & my weakness. That He would use my small suffering in a fruitful way. For all of this, I truly praise Him!

In Christ,

Katie

2017: what lies ahead

I have a lot of goals for this year (many of which are not written here), and I’m okay with that. I love entering into this reflection period and looking ahead to all that God might work in us during this next stage of life. 2016 was another great foundation building year for our family, but still with many changes. I commented to Kevin the other day that it still feels like we are in the pre-planning phase of our life (which probably sounded quite negative to him), but it’s true. We’ve done so much, and yet some days feel like we still have this massive mountain ahead of us to climb. Of course, that is life. But there are specific ways we want to live our life while climbing that mountain (careers, children, a house, etc.) and we are just not quite there. And that’s okay! This is how God is forming us. And I really believe that He is preparing us for something wonderful. Our road is not common, and people often don’t understand while we are still pursuing these lofty dreams. But we know why.

So for 2017, I’m really hoping to develop better routines for the life stage we are in right now! And if God calls us to something else, we adjust. That’s how life goes.

Actively work towards our professional goals

  • Learn how to use our new used mirrorless camera
  • Put more energy into the blog (aka write more substantially)
  • Open up Etsy shop with Kevin’s art (step one of many other steps!)
  • Develop Kevin’s website further

Nurture my health (physically & emotionally)

  • Take a fitness class this winter to get out of the house
  • Limit coffee to 3x/week (unless I find I need to eliminate it entirely…been down that road before)
  • Read at least 2 books per month (get a good variety of spiritual, educational, & leisure)
  • Continue to purge & cleanse our life (been working on this for a while, and it’s going well!)

Go deeper in the spiritual life

  • Intermediate social media fasts (weekly)
  • Daily, non-negotiable prayer routine
  • Find a spiritual director! (They have been so elusive.)
Cultivate new & old relationships
  • Step outside my comfort zone in this new city and try to make quality connections with others
  • Send birthday/special occasion cards ON TIME
  • Call family members more frequently
  • Accept limitations and do not feel guilty when I’m truly not able to do something for someone else

Invest completely in our marriage

  • Create a formalized routine for breakfast/dinner together
  • Take a class together (maybe some sort of dance, like we did when we were dating)
  • Take walks together in winter (it’s the only season we struggle with)
  • Find new ways to pray together daily
  • Take a trip together (with any luck – to Quebec! again!)

I’m quite excited for 2017. And I am so grateful for this time of year. While in some ways it’s really just starting a new calendar, there’s a deeper level to is as well. And to begin the year in the octave of Christmas! That is not coincidental. May God bless us all in this new year!

P.S. – my Saint of the year (using this online Saint generator) is St. Catherine of Genoa!

 

2016: a year in review

I’m going to tire of saying it, because I’m sure most people’s lives seem to be filled with more & more as the years go by, but 2016 was a full year. And a good year! We loved our time in Duluth with a fantastic community of people (my favorite Diocese!), we got to take trips to see friends & family for special occasions, and we made the move to St. Paul just like we had hoped for. Praise God! #gearns2016

I’ve started making a binder of our years in review (beginning with 2012, the year we met) and I was struggling for how to go about doing it. Do I go the Project Life route? I pondered it and said I’d only do like 2-3 pages per year, but then that became unrealistic because really how do you choose?! I thought of many ways to document our lives (I even made multiple trips to Michael’s – browsing, buying, returning), and in the end settled on what I had initially envisioned. I know people send out years in review for their Christmas cards – and I really like that idea – so I decided to begin our family binder of our years together. It may evolve and grow, but for now it consists of a one page summary (style and content varies each year) and a page of prominent photos (basically my instagram pics…because they’re already square). And we love it! Below is our 2016 (some content may seem a bit odd & personal as I wasn’t making it strictly for other people).

May you be blessed in 2017!

7QT: Christmas Celebrations

The Christmas season is still going strong, and while we could have been more intentional this Advent, we are grateful for the blessings we’ve received. Some of our highlights have been:

1 // Lessons & Carols at St. Paul Seminary –  since our first Advent together in 2012 (woah!), we have attended a Lessons & Carols Concert during Advent. In Boston, we went to St. John’s Seminary – typically the second Sunday (or Saturday night) in Advent – and it was always done sooooo well. It has always been the way we really mark the Advent season. Last year we attended the concert at our parish in Duluth – a bit underwhelming compared to the Schola at the sem, but still a treat nonetheless! This year we ventured out to SPS (in terribly cold & snowy weather) and it was, as always, a joy for the Gearns family. The one difficult part was not really knowing anybody. We said hello to a couple of seminarians that we’re acquainted with, but it’s such a different experience when I lack the connections to the Catholic community that I have in other places. I’m sure it will come, it’s just a void that is very noticeable.

2 // I’ve briefly mentioned how much I love our apartment, and it really shined this Advent. It’s not that it’s super large or fancy, but it’s got a cozy feeling to it (so much more so than our previous residences). We’ve really come into our own with decor and such – so just adding minor touches of a Boxwood wreath with a purple piece of fabric, an Advent wreath on a cake stand with beeswax candles, the a small nativity setup on our prayer shelf, and finally our purple cloth over our tv (a Gearns tradition) – it really lifted our spirits.

3 // We traveled to PA to spend Christmas with my family for the long weekend, and it was a good time. Different, since the older siblings/spouses/nieces were absent, but still a really great time with the rest of them. Sometimes it’s nice being home without every nook & cranny of the house crowded with people. I love it when we all get to be together, for sure, but the slower pace is also welcome. And like most holidays, my family hosts all the extended family the day of. So we still got to share the day with most of the cousins/aunts/uncles and had a delightful time!

4 // We saw the Nutcracker in Philly Friday night, which we looooved. Kevin and I saw it in Boston together when we were dating and have been longing to see it again. I also just love getting dressed up and going downtown for an occasion like that. So yay!

5 // I got some good quality time walking around my favorite spots back home. Kevin and I went for neighborhood walks – admiring all the beautiful colonial architecture (something that is sorely lacking out here in the Midwest, but I get it). Then I got to meet up with my best friends from high school at our favorite breakfast spot. The four of us have not all been together in a very long time – partly because one of them lives in Abu Dhabi now (world traveler, she is). So we had an absolutely lovely time and probably overstayed our welcome at the small restaurant.

6 // Christmas morning, Kevin and I went over to the perpetual adoration chapel at my family’s parish (it’s such a gem) and prayed for a bit. I absolutely love being able to do things like this – it really helps us to shift our focus as we ought for this wonderful celebration. After leaving the chapel, we prayed morning prayer on a bench outside and an elderly woman came up to us go give us a special prayer card for the precious blood of Jesus. She said it looked like we were praying for a special intention (which we were, and have been for quite some time) and that this prayer is incredibly powerful. So she gave it to us and then let us be. It was so beautiful!

7 // Now I know Christmas is not all about gifts (obviously), but I do want to mention a couple of things that I was SO SO SO excited to receive. My fabulous husband, who knows me so well, bought me this amazing lunchbox. Given that I eat practically an AIP diet (autoimmune paleo), my lunches are typically one container with spinach/kale, some protein, and then a variety of vegetables. And I’m not complaining about that because we eat well and I usually enjoy it very much. But sometimes it’s nice to have a little variety and separate the foods for a different experience. This lunchbox, eco-friendly, safe from all toxins, & cute! has multiple spots for all your fixin’s – vegetables, nuts, fruit, meat, two sealed containers (one for a dressing of sorts and the other for more liquid type foods). I am newly rejuvenated to eat lunch in 2017. So thank you, Kevin. You have won this round of gift giving. Other honorable mentions – this dress, these boots, and the annual matching sportswear that my dad gets everyone in the family (I’m being serious, he really knows how to pick this stuff). As always, I’m too spoiled, and my family is overly generous. But I’m super grateful as most of the gifts are quality investments that really help us out. So praise God for all that we have been provided for – we really do live super well.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!

Let’s re-claim the Advent season.

Every year, Advent seems more & more overtaken by secular Christmas. And don’t get me wrong, it can be so pleasant to walk around the city with lights flickering all around, or to get my Christmas cup at Starbucks, or to hear Christmas music as I walk through Target. All of that gives me the warm & fuzzies. But it’s out of place! Because Christmas has not yet come! I’ve found myself pretty frustrated this year as I scroll through facebook and instagram (weeks ago, by the way) and read captions of “Christmas time is here!”…because it’s just untrue. And I try so hard to enter into the silence of Advent (which would be easier if I would simply avoid social media…working on it!).

The first Sunday of Advent we were at Mass back in PA, and the Priest gave a pretty on-point homily about this time of year. Remember last year when a bunch of people went all up in a frenzy that Starbucks was ruining Christmas because of their updated holiday cups? First off, Christmas does not belong to Starbucks. It is a feast for practicing & believing Christians. If you let big franchises and celebrities ruin your holiday, you may need to re-evaluate your own perspective on what Christmas really is.

The Priest’s point was: let the world celebrate how they will celebrate. If they want to listen to “Christmas music” and decorate their homes and have parties, let them. But we need to our part in reclaiming the liturgical seasons. Advent will not make a cultural comeback until those of us “in the know” start celebrating it as it ought to be celebrated. We need to witness to the world the beauty of waiting and the reason for which we wait. It doesn’t have to mean we shut ourselves off from the world during these four weeks, but it may call for us to discern where to sacrifice.

Let us reclaim Advent within our own little Nazareth’s. And may the choice to live the Christian way resound with those around us.

Election Reflection (see what I did there?)

I reluctantly voted. I did not want to, but have read over and over by Priests and Bishops that it is my “obligation.” I respectfully disagree because for that to be true I would first have to acknowledge our government as a legitimate authority (which I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time). And while I was quite undecided as to what I’d do until very recently, I gave in and “exercised my right” as the people say.

No matter the outcome of this, or any, election, our hope is not and should never be in government or its leaders. As human beings, we ought to do what we can to love our neighbor without government intervention. Government simply cannot take the place of people loving & serving one another, and to think that it can is a prevalent and dangerous thought into today’s society. All our government does is steal, use the threat of violence to accomplish its agendas, and feed the deadly sin of envy. All under the lie of “for the people.”

So how can we, despite the downward path of our nation (which is most likely to continue), still work for a better society?

  • Have thought-provoking conversations with others and learn to think critically. Most of us are very good at being proud, opinionated, and emotion-driven, which keeps us from seeking truth. (I am terribly guilty of this, but thankfully have a wonderful husband who has been helping me grow in this regard.)
  • Give charitably to individuals & organizations that you believe you ought to support. (And how much more so could we all do this without the government stealing our resources and using them immorally?!) Take away the government’s “social policies” (which often do far more harm than good) and it is still our moral obligation to serve others according to the gifts God has given us.
  • Engage in community! Families, churches, neighborhoods, schools (private ones, homeschooling co-ops, universities, etc.) – beautiful support systems that help us grow and live fruitful lives. Good relationships will lead to a better society.
  • Do honest work. Work in business, education, healthcare, whatever. Stay at home with your kids raising little humans. But do it earnestly, and have enough courage to turn away from corruption and evil when confronted with it.
  • Love your neighbor. Yes, it’s great to care for those in need all around the world. But we often do so and neglect our next-door neighbor. Your co-worker having a rough day. The homeless person you drive by everyday on your commute. The cashier at the grocery store. Extend kindness to the people God has placed in front of you and make real connections.
  • Care for the vulnerable. There are many among us who need our care in a profound way. Lend some help to the expectant mother who is faced with a tough road ahead of her. Show generosity to the poor in ways that you are able. Look after the elderly and disabled. Peacefully advocate for the lives of the unborn. There are so many people often overlooked that could use our attention. And be genuine – grow in virtue and see all of these individuals as valuable parts of our lives.
  • Pray! Maybe you don’t believe in God or the efficacy of prayer. I still think this is by far the most important. Pray for conversion of hearts to the truth. When everyone’s heart is converted, then maybe we won’t be so naive as to think we need select men & women lording over us and directing our actions.

May God have mercy on us all. The world, our country, our neighbors, ourselves. God’s goodness will still reign no matter the craziness we see happening. Christ is the Victor. God bless!

Autumn without the treats

Just two years ago around this time, you would have found me in the kitchen using up all the flour & sugar making some deeeeelicious treats. Fall has always been my prime time for trying out special recipes and getting into a good grove with baking my favorites (I still have a fall baking magazine from 2012 that I just cannot bear to get rid of because there are so many goodies inside!). But for nearly the past two years, I’ve been eating paleo.

Last year, I pretty much relied on Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain books. They are so good. And it was fun to learn grain-free baking! But in recent months, my restrictions have increased (boooo!) and I am now grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free, egg-free, nut-free (almonds/cashews), garlic-free, and mostly sugar-free. This pretty much puts me in the AIP camp (autoimmune paleo).

I’m usually pretty good at eating as I should (and trying to make it interesting!), but man oh man! the fall goods! the pumpkin! It’s sometimes depressing walking into Trader Joe’s and shielding my eyes from what used to be some of my staples. I know that a more virtuous person than me would accept these limitations and not dwell on them. Me, however – I need to get creative and find ways to keep me satisfied without lusting after Kevin’s english muffin with pumpkin cream cheese (which I still do…).

Some of my saving recipes as of late that still give me that taste of fall (all paleo/AIP):

  • Crockpot Clam & Pumpkin Chowder from the Urban Poser – I haven’t made it with clam yet, but usually incorporate some sort of protein (turkey patties, prosciutto). It is delicious and we’ve had it once a week for the past several weeks.
  • Pumpkin, Bacon, and Chive Biscuits from the Urban Poser – THESE BISCUITS! They are fantastic and totally compliant. Well, they call for eggs, but I instead used flax-eggs with great success.
  • Squash Porridge from the Urban Poser – one week I had this four days in a row – any type of squash works. It’s that good. I did have to remove the chocolate chips (even the dairy/soy/nut free ones!) as well as the honey when my doctor and I decided I should avoid allllllll sugar. But with the strawberries and a bit of coconut manna, it’s still pretty dang wonderful. And what a breakfast to wake up to on a fall morning! I pop the squash in the oven immediately upon waking, do my morning things, and then enjoy this bad boy.

Other things that I’ve daringly incorporated into my diet for the sake of their incredible health benefits are sardines (actually pretty good as long as I do NOT mistakenly get the ones with skin & bones….gross), chicken liver (the first time I cooked these I had to mentally get over what I was eating, but have since enjoyed them!), and more collagen. So it’s been a new type of fall for me, but I’m surviving :). Let’s pray this is all temporary, though, and that full healing will come!

Lately, in the fall

Linking up with Kelly & gang!

fullsizerender

  1. Kevin and I seem have a lot going on right now (who doesn’t?), but we’ve also had a really nice pace of life. September kind of came and went, leading right into the perfect autumn weather I crave all year round. Actually, it’s been pretty dang perfect for the past month, which makes me question why Minnesotans are often complaining of the weather (remind me of this in three months)!
  2. I am loving my new job and all that comes with it (prayers are appreciated for the success of this campus ministry!). But I’m also incredibly grateful that this new phase is allowing Kevin to spend more dedicated time on his art. He’s got some fun part-time work and is able to focus the rest of his time to his creative projects. I look at him work and gain profound respect for fine artists. He is integrating geometry, calculus, philosophy, history, drawing, and more all into one. I admire him like crazy. And am very excited to see what comes of all this!
  3. Our mornings have been SO nice. Maybe it’s because I actually enjoy the work I have to do in my day, but I have no problem getting up early and sticking to routine (most days). And our apartment! It is the first place we both feel totally at home since getting married. Every apartment has their drawbacks, but I think this one may be my favorite physical space I’ve ever lived in (apart from my home home). fullsizerender1
  4. We recently took a day trip to Wisconsin, which was…an adventure. We got up crazy early to drive along the Mississippi (Minnesota side) through some fun looking towns, eventually landing in LaCross, WI. I’ll admit, I get a wee little judgy of places because I’m so used to East Coast charm (colonial feels, all the brick, cobblestone streets, quaint facades), BUT I still enjoyed seeing the place. It was not our final destination, though, so we got some coffee and moved on. To Viroqua. Here’s where the real disappointment comes in. I read all about this area and the surrounding region – the reviews were wonderful and I was half-expecting Stars Hollow. It was the most boring place EVER. And instead of finding a world-class farmer’s market, we found an Amish horse race (literally, HUNDREDS of Amish men riding horses). Not to mention that at this point our phones received no reception, so we pretty much drove around with our atlas for five hours looking for an apple orchard. All in all, it was still a good day, and the fall weather did not disappoint me. We found an orchard (a huge difference apple picking in New England vs. midwest), and then made our way back to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe! That was a treat. And I cannot wait to go back there.fullsizerender-1
  5. I’m on a huge Joaquin Phoenix kick. Why, you ask? Well, Kevin was itching to watch Signs, and while I normally stay far away from anything remotely scary, I gave in BECAUSE the movie was filmed in my hometown. At the beginning of the film, it literally says “Bucks County, Pennsylvania…” It was filmed there AND takes place there (double win!). I also actually really, really enjoyed it! After that, Kevin got me to watch The Village (another M. Night movie with Joaquin). While the story has a lot of flaws and was a bit disappointing in the end, there were many redeeming features: the music (tearfully wonderful!), the love story (simple, yet so lovely!), the location (Pennsylvania…duh), and some really magnificent shots that I’ve re-watched over and over for their beauty. Then I proceeded to watch Gladiator (one of my favorite films of all time). I believe that was Joaquin’s first performance I had ever seen, and I remember thinking him the creepiest of men. I was also profoundly impressed with his acting range. So, it’s been a good week – now time to read a book or something.
  6. Kevin and I are godparents! This should be number one, not number six…but we are SO excited! And so grateful! A couple of our best friends had their second child, a beautiful little girl named Abigail,  on October 8th and we are overjoyed with the role we get to have in her life.
  7. We are going to Coldplay again! I was NOT expecting them to do another round of North American shows for the Head Full of Dreams Tour, but they are! And they’re coming to Minneapolis next August! So we got tickets. Much closer seats than when we went in Philly (which was still awesome), and a lot more expensive. But who can say how much longer they’ll decide to tour in the US?! We can’t miss this type of opportunity.

Alright, now gonna enjoy a relaxing weekend with some continuing lovely fall weather (it could go away any day now…).

P.S. – Kevin discovered he can draw on the iPad mini (no, we don’t have a stylus pen yet…just his hands). This is one of his many fun doodles that takes him no more than a few minutes. img_6451