wintering

As I’ve mentioned, it’s been a bit cold. Not unbearable, but just really cold. I attempted to put air in our tires yesterday at 7am and it was -11 degrees…I got through one tire. Besides things like that being a challenge, though, and having to dress extra warm in & out of the house, it’s been beautiful. I’ve found myself not very motivated in a lot of areas – there is so much I had laid out on paper for 2016, but I can’t bring myself to really do right now. And maybe that’s just winter. We do what we have to do, and let the season be.

I love the reset that the new year brings, but I also think January (and February & March if you live north) have a resting quality to them. I think it’s okay that I’m not going out and doing all the things. Staying in and drinking a cup of tea is quite acceptable. Reading a book for leisure over starting that massive project – that’s fine. And it’s not as if I’m doing nothing – I have a full-time job. But I think working from home sometimes makes me things I need to be doing more than I am.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately and a bit of paralysis regarding ideas I want to put into action. But I’ve decided to let winter be winter. Spring will come in all of its newness; it always does. Right now, I can focus on the work I have in front of me, the beauty of wintering in a real home, and the luxury of a bit more flexibility than we had last year.

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The above photo is on Lake Superior. Kevin and I took a [short] morning stroll in Canal Park on Sunday (-18 degrees…yikes!) followed by a cozy breakfast in West Duluth. Slow paced life can be so good. Our day off (MLK day), we went out for another breakfast with friends. There is such perfection to being in a warm place with good people while the wind & snow continue on outside.

I hope you’re enjoying the season in all its fullness 🙂

Surprised & Delighted

This afternoon, I sort of last minute decided to host the Blessed is She Advent Gathering for some women in Duluth. I had mentioned it to a couple ladies a while back, but only got on the ball a couple days before the event. I decided to reach out to a few more people I knew, even if just acquaintances, and for the most part they all came! I was a bit nervous, since I’m the new girl in town, but it was a beautiful experience and here’s why.

Today was the first time since moving here of having an intentional gathering of women. While the transition from East Coast to Minnesota has treated us well, I was never quite optimistic about making good new friends, specifically with women. I love my brothers and sisters rooted in my college community, and I never felt a desire or need for anything more. And in a way, I always felt like if I were to open myself up to more people, that it would take away from the relationships I cherished so dearly. Those friends I had close to me in Boston as well as those who had moved away to all over the country. But with our arrival in Duluth, I knew I was going to have to at least make an effort.

And in terms of community, God has surprised me with goodness since day one. Contrary to what I had thought (or prejudiced), people have been so welcoming. We’ve had dinners, bonfires, social events, and church events. And today, having these women all respond with enthusiasm, having real, grace-filled conversations with them – it’s brought more consolation than I could have imagined.

I was even surprised to find out that I could relate more to many of the these women today than I could with some of my closest and most dear friends, particularly with our hardships and struggles. Not that I’ve all of the sudden forgotten my most beloved sisters elsewhere in the country (not in the least!), but I’m learning something important. That my heart has room for more. My capacity for love and friendship is so much greater than I thought.

We are made in the image and likeness of God who is love and loves infinitely. While we are not God, we are His created spirits and to love is one of our sole purposes. And the more we strive to be like Christ, naturally our ability to love should be all the greater. By putting limits on myself, I was putting limits on God. Ridiculous, I know. He has given me a great community with those who are far away (continuing to bless it), and He is now opening up a new one right before me. I don’t have to trade in something old for something new, but rather it can be both/and. This is God at work. And for everything, I feel an abundance of gratitude.

So with today’s retreat theme of “Delighting in the Promise,” I will continue to delight in the way God is walking with me in all things. His steadfast love is an unchanging gift that I would do well to remember at all times.

“Blessed are those who love you, O God, and love their friends in you […] They alone will never lose those who are dear to them, for they love them in one who is never lost, in God, our God who made heaven and  earth and fills them with his presence, because by filling them he made them.” – St. Augustine’s Confessions

 

Parks, Trails, & Lake Superior

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A year or some ago, I was made well aware (by Kevin) that Duluth had won some contest for “Best Outdoor Town in America.” It was so strange to hear since, ya know, being on the East coast, I had never heard of Duluth until meeting Kevin (sorry!). And now being here, I see that these people really do love their region and all the activities it allows for. There is an abundance of trails & parks, and my understanding is that these are all-year venues (including freezing snow time!).

Since we’ve been here, despite our crazy schedules and trying to accomplish what seems like a million things, we’ve also gotten to explore a bit. And I, at least, am very thankful for that because I still know so little about this area.  I have only actually driven myself on a couple occasions and I’ve been terrified out of my mind because of all the pre-winter construction. (I know…it’s Minnesota, it’s not like driving in Boston, but I still have to get acquainted!)

So where have we gone and is it really as beautiful as the Minnesotans claim?

Two Harbors. This town is about 40 minutes up the coast on the “North Shore” as they call it (makes me think of Beverly & Rockport in Massachusetts, but I’m sure I’ll adjust). Along Lake Superior is absolutely stunning – the coastline really is spectacular. It is filled with all different kinds of trees, giving it a woodsy feel, but also great rocks & beach and cliff-like areas. We stopped at a local joint and got some fresh, smoked salmon with cheese, which Kevin kept saying was a MUST DO. We sat along the coast as we ate and it really was a great time. This was also in September when it was in the 70’s…so, not freezing.

Chester Creek. This is one of those trails that’s in Duluth proper and just kind of hides down in the middle somewhere (if I’m getting my geography correct). It’s only a couple miles, but there are trails along both sides of the creek which are really cozy and beautiful, at least in the fall. At the end there seems to be some playgrounds for the kids.

Jay Cooke State Park. This park is about 20 minutes south of Duluth and by golly it’s beautiful. The rocks in the water are a very unique formation and make for an interesting landscape. The trails are quite nice too! We came a bit too late to see peak foliage, but there was still a great deal to be appreciated.

East Duluth. This isn’t exactly trails and such, but I am a sucker for beautiful homes & neighborhoods and here is where Duluth delivers. East Duluth is a bit more well-off I guess, and while there is still some classic Minnesota architecture (that leaves a lot to be desired – and I could be generalizing), there are some really stunning homes. The streets are clean and beautiful, with the full tree’s arching over both sides. These types of scenes bring me real joy.

The Lake Walk. Canal Park is probably the most well-known of Duluth’s sites (says the girl who really knows nothing…so I could be wrong). It is connected up the shore to the Rose Garden by the lake walk – a lovely place to stroll along the coast seeing a lot of nice city sites from a unique perspective.

The things people don’t tell you about when you move to a new place.

A few days ago, I walked out into our sun room and noticed what looked like a ladybug. I had Kevin take it outdoors because I just don’t do insects. Call me a wimp x10, I don’t care. If I see a fly in the house, I cannot sleep until it is dead and removed. I’ve witnessed some pretty bad infestations in my day (mainly via my husband who had pretty poor luck in past apartments) so I like to take preventative measures.

Sunday was the first day we’ve really had this house to ourselves since moving here and were so excited to start decorating and making it like a home to the extent we could. It was a fairly warm day here, especially for October; the sun was shining and the temp was in the 70’s. Upon leaving Mass around 11:45am, I noticed a LOT of ladybugs…and by ladybugs, I mean “asian beetles” as I found out. They were surrounding the entrance and the cars and I instantly knew that this was not normal. We pulled into our driveway and oh.my.blog. The entire outside of the house was covered with SWARMS of these awful creatures!

We found a way inside and to our absolute dismay (because believe you me, we have had enough hoops to jump through since being here) they were all over the house. They were finding their way in through every. single. window. Instead of having the relaxing Sunday we had hoped for, we spent HOURS upon HOURS killing these evil things. And gosh, it was as if killing one made five more appear. It was awful. Hundreds and hundreds of asian beetles. In our house.

By about 5:30pm, we decided we needed to leave the house for our own sanity. We felt we had put a big enough dent in the infestation, but that the only way it would truly get better is if we thoroughly insulated the windows ourselves. So off to Home Depot we went. I don’t seem to have a history of good luck with the staff at Home Depot (at least back in Boston), and gosh…it was the same. We stood at self-checkout for 20+ minutes for a reason unbeknownst to us. But we got what we needed. Several hours later (after a date at Applebee’s because I had a gift card and needed a drink) we had insulated most of the windows, killed any remaining ones we could see, and went to bed.

Now you may be thinking “woah, what a crazy and random thing to happen!” I know I was. But no. We did a little research and it turns out that, in Minnesota, on the second warm day after a cold stint (typically in late September to early October), the Asian beetles appear all at once and try to find shelter for the winter – aka nice wooded homes. And they prefer if they are surrounded by trees. Lucky us – we just so happen to be surrounded by acres of trees.

As it was, these bugs were annoying everyone on Sunday, not just us, though I’m not quite sure everyone else had to take the same measures we did. And if nothing else, we learned that we will need to insulate this house better for winter.

While every region has their pros and cons for sure, it’s been a heck of an adjustment leaving the East Coast for this midwestern/great lake/north land landscape. For instance, people actually do carry bear maze on them when hiking (I thought it was a joke). And that every seven years there is an army worm invasion in the city for two weeks. And if you don’t get your firewood by September, you could be SOL.

Other than that, it’s a beautiful place. Really. 🙂

Roadtrippin’ to Duluth

It feels like both a day and an eternity since we moved from the East Coast to the Midwest. On the one hand, it really did just happen….like a week ago. On the other hand, it’s been insanity since we’ve arrived and I don’t really know what day it is anymore because it’s been so busy. I honestly don’t even know how to recap our move and the places we visited because I’m currently living in scatterbrainville.

However, we did it. The evening before we moved out was an absolute nightmare (we should have expected that). It was a complete scramble – we had sightings of skunks and racoons by our car as we were frantically trying to fit everything (getting skunked literally would have threw me into a pit of despair – praise God that did not happen!), we ended up working in the dark of our apartment since we’d given away all our lamps, we ended up having to last minute ship 9 boxes that just would.not.fit, words were exchanged (as were apologies)…but we made it through! The next morning, after leaving the apartment and not looking back, we stopped off at the convent of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth to see Mother Olga. And thank goodness. Instead of leaving in bitterness, we left in complete consolation. It was a grace-filled morning and we left Boston in a state of joy.

The peaceful morning with Mother Olga.

 

The next few days were spent in PA with my family. It was a lot of getting things done that we really hadn’t had time to do up until then, relaxing in my parents’ home, and preparing for our journey. I have so much to be grateful for when it comes to my parents. They have given so much and are a wealth of support.

The following weekend was at the Dills’ in State College, PA! This is where we really entered into our peaceful stage. It was a weekend of literally just hanging out with them as they live their life with a baby. Pure awesomeness. The search for pumpkin spice (fail), deep conversation, good food, laughter, Catholic scattegories, and prayer. It was a gift to be able to stop and see them en route to MN.

Me & Ashlie!

After PA we drove to Ann Arbor, MI – through northern Ohio…mehhh. But we arrived! And we got a full day with Elise & her fiance, Joey! I had visited Elise in Detroit once before and LOVED it so it was great to be able to share that with Kevin now. If you’ve never been to Detroit, go. It’s got such character and draws me into its beauty in unexpected ways. We spent the evening in Ann Arbor walking around U Mich and had a delightful dinner.

With Elise in her natural habitat.

The next couple days seemed to blow by, but we didn’t really spend an extended amount of time anywhere. We stayed at Holy Hill Shrine in Wisconsin, which was beautiful, but we didn’t get to explore much. It’d be nice to go back! Erin, WI was absolutely stunning and I now want to spend a dedicated trip exploring the rurals of this [foreign-to-me] state.

Erin, Wisconsin

Erin, Wisconsin

We had a night in St. Paul with a good friend, but then dipped out early to make it up to Duluth. It was a relief to arrive with our full car, but I made the mistake of thinking the stress of moving was behind us. In fact, it really hadn’t even started. Since our arrival, we have not stopped going. Car registration and issues. Unloading our Ubox. Picking up all our shipped boxes. Figuring out how to live out of a select number of boxes during this transition time. Job searching. Job interviews. And lots more.

Up to the old country :)

I’ll admit it’s been a lot of trials. But our God is good. And there have also been a lot of consolations. Through the difficulty, God has been affirming the decision we made to move here. I cannot express my gratitude for that because it would be very discouraging if it were just the trials. In fact, while I do feel a bit like a chicken running around with her head cut off, I’ve received immense peace about being here…and about staying here. While I’ve been trying to make plans like “in a year we will move to the twin cities,” I feel a calling to just be present in this place. No timelines. No additional steps. Just enjoy where I am. And with that, I can see a future here, which I did not anticipate. So for now, I will just see where God leads us.

OUTBOUND

Outbound from Boston!

(Warning: I’m in reflective mode and this will be more dramatic than it needs to be!)

 

Monday, August 31st, we set out from Boston on our two week adventure to Duluth. We are currently sitting in a Caribou Coffee just outside of St. Paul, just a few hours away from our destination. It all feels incredibly surreal to me. When I really try to think about it, I understand that this is a move and that we are not turning around. But for the most part, it feels a bit like a vacation. We traveled, saw family and friends along the way, will get to our destination, and then venture back to Boston. It feels like we’ve been in transition for months at this point, so the thought of something more finite and permanent is really hard for me to fully comprehend.

Maybe in a few weeks, once we’ve conquered all the insurmountable tasks that lay before us, I’ll feel a sense of permanence. But for now, I’m letting it be what it is. Because honestly, the thought of not going back, not seeing some of my best friends every week, not having our close-knit marriage bible study, not having ladies nights with my former roommates, not experiencing a New England fall (especially that we now have a car!), not being in the place where all our college friends come back to, not being able to visit Brother Sam and Mother Olga, being even even further away from my family, not having such easy access to all the things that come with living in a big city…it’s a challenge. And that’s not to say that I’m not incredibly excited for what’s to come and for the ways in which God will lead us through this change, but with most worth it ventures, there is a sacrifice (or many).

I spent eight years and one week in Boston. Those eight years carry with them a lifetime of experiences, growth, relationships. I’ll never be able to craft the words to express how different, and better off, I am for having lived there. It wasn’t necessarily the city of Boston that did it, though it has a unique place in my heart for being the place where it all happened. Mistakes were made. Some really big ones. But I transformed from an ignorant college freshman to a more mature woman that I would not have recognized back then. I went from not knowing my creator to having an intimate relationship with Him. I did not know what real community was, and I now have the greatest one that spans countries and oceans. I grew, sometimes painfully, alongside sisters and brothers that I will forever be connected to in deep friendship and the sacraments. I met my husband at such a providential time in my life, and spent the majority of my time in Boston outside of college growing in love with him and integrating that relationship into the rest of my life. Kevin and I conceived and lost our first child, one that I know God has welcomed into His Kingdom for our benefit as well as that of many others.

Some people live eight years in one place and leave no better, sometimes for the worse. I cannot thank God enough for every little piece of my time in Boston. Every trial, every victory, every tear, every laugh, every person, every messed up commute (yes, I can say that now that I’ve left), every Sunday morning sunrise I saw on Newbury Street when I had to work those dreadful early shifts in the hotel, every BUCC retreat/SNL/spaghetti supper, every sacrament, every moment with the diversified variety of roommates I’ve had the privilege to live with…everything.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned (and will probably have to learn over and over again), it’s that God can bring an incredible good out of suffering, and to take the sorrows alongside the joys in growing closer to the Lord. Yes, we have suffered, and we discerned that it was good for us to leave, but boy, did we have an abundance of joy as well, and that is what I choose to take with me. (And of course we will visit!)

“Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Leaving the community I love.

In all those months Kevin and I discerned leaving, it seemed like the obvious thing to do – it was just a matter of when and where. There have been a number of difficult things about our time in Boston together – unfulfilling jobs, finances and the insanely high cost of living, public transportation, the Northeast mindset, the go-go-go mentality of city living…there’s no doubt that it was hard. But now that we are really moving…in a month…we are both struck with all the good things we are leaving behind. Primarily community.

Boston is my spiritual home. I’ve been here for eight years, and seven of those I have been intimately tied to a Catholic community rooted at BU. While some of my best friends have left since college, there are still so many loved ones here – and the community has grown as well. This is also the place where all those who are elsewhere come back to – it’s our hub. I’ve been spoiled with incredible friendships, and this place is the center of it all.

This past weekend it really hit me hard. It was a weekend filled with all my favorite people in Boston – having drinks with the ladies, hanging out at a barbecue, exploring the city, studying the Word of God, the sacraments…Christ is woven into it all, and that is why I know I am so bound to all these people. And why I’m going to miss them so much!

Last night, Kevin and I went on our evening walk (a little ritual for us), and we relayed to one another how much more difficult this is going to be than we anticipated. And for him – he came to this city four years ago for schooling, found the Catholic group I was a part of, met me/got married, and all this time he’s been surrounded by my friends, my community, living in my city…or at least that’s sorta what we both thought. But they have truly become his friends, his community, and he’s made this just as much his city. And now that he’s going back to his hometown, he’s just as sad as I am (well, maybe not as sad)!

Through all my tears on our lovely walk, Kevin turned to me and said, “So much of you is your love for your friendships, and that’s part of why I fell in love with you.” And then he made promises to ship me back here (or wherever it is I’ll need to go) as often as possible and to continue encouraging these friendships that are so life-giving (sound like anyone we know, Josh & Ashlie??). I’ve seen this happen with those who have left, and while distance isn’t exactly easy, we’ve been abundantly blessed with time together – we’ve grown together through Vocations, children, losses, and more.

Duluth will be a new experience, quite the transition, and I know it will be good. But leaving this city where my faith came alive and this community that continuously bears fruit will be difficult. It’ll take a huge amount of trust in God on my part. Trusting that these relationships will continue to grow in the manner they ought, that life will change for the better, and that God will bless all of us as we strive for the same goal: heaven.

And now I will be sappy and post this song that comes to mind…thanks for not judging. 🙂

Now let’s enjoy this last month!

Merry Christmas from Duluth!

A most merry Christmas to you all! Currently, I’m resting in our lovely hotel room right on the edge of Lake Superior (spectacular views). Last night, we attended Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. Kevin introduced me to Bishop Sirba, a real delightful man! And so our solemnity began!

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This is my first Christmas away from Pennsylvania and away from my family (who I miss very much!), but we’re making the most of it and it’s beautiful being here in Kevin’s homeland. I’m really enjoying myself. And my family was blessed with this past weekend together in DC for our annual Philadelphia Eagles game!

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I hope you’re all having a joyous Christmas and that it continues throughout the entire season! I’m sure I’ll be back later with a plethora of pics and updates!