Monday, May 12, 2014

Quick Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

The Cuckoo's Calling was my first  experience with a crime fiction novel and was much more fun to read than I'd originally thought! The story begins with the untimely death of supermodel Lula Landry. Detective Cormoran Strike is hired by John Bristow, Landry's brother, after the police and press deem her death as suicide. Throughout the book you meet a large cast of well-developed characters and are kept guessing the entire time about which of them is actually the killer. Galbraith (Rowling) is an extremely detailed storyteller, allowing the reader to feel like they see, hear, and smell the scene being depicted. The first third of the book moved a little bit slowly as I tried to sort out the different characters, plot line, and setting. Once I became settled in the story, though, it was hard to put down and anytime I wasn't reading I wished I was!

A dynamic, thrilling read with a twist of an ending which I won't be sharing, of course! I'd highly recommend The Cuckoo's Calling if you're looking for a well-constructed plot line, characters who are developed to the point of being real people, not just serving as "good" or "bad", and especially if you want to try on crime fiction for size.

The Cuckoo's Calling was on my To Be Read in 2014 book list. Check it out for reviews of other books I've read this year as well as what's up next!

A Joyful Return

So it's been two months since I've posted. A lot has happened, including the first birthday of my son, and it really was a fabulous two months!

This hiatus showed me how much I actually think about blogging. I'd find myself coming up with all sorts of reflections and post ideas throughout the day and definitely missed posting. The time away also showed me that I have a lot of fears/doubts/uncertainties regarding blogging. Putting your thoughts and words out there for the whole world to see takes a bit of vulnerability. On the other hand, I found myself wondering whether it even mattered that I was taking a break. Did anyone notice? Does anyone even care? 

I didn't take a break from reading my favorite blogs, about 60 of them in total. 58 of them happen to be mom blogs... I really benefit from reading what they have to say, feel I have gotten to know some of them through their words, and love the community which exists in the blogging world. But I noticed that often I was wishing and wondering if my blog should be a little bit more like theirs, almost envious of other's abilities and success. Comparing myself and the way I write, what my blog looks like, what I choose to write about...Yet, I never set out for fame or followers when I started blogging. This blog was born out of a wish to have my own little space on the internet to document what's going on in my head and my heart, with an emphasis on my God-given ability to look on the bright side, the blissful side, of life. Yet, I found myself constantly comparing and wishing I was more like who I am not. And you know what they say: 

So I stayed away a little longer, knowing I couldn't return until my head was in the right place...until I was writing because I wanted to write, not out of a quest for affirmation or hope that others would read, and like, what I had to say. I needed to wait until posting could be joyful, for me, and not a hope of being a little bit more like someone else.

And so here I am. In a place where I feel like I just want to write, to document the things in my heart and head and try my hardest to be genuine, overcoming some of my fears and doubts and uncertainties about this whole blogging thing.

Until next time, sooner than 2 months from now this time...

Friday, March 7, 2014


I do my best thinking in the shower and while brushing my teeth. When I was working full-time I'm sure my boss figured this out quickly, as I'd often waltz into her office first thing with a revelation saying, "I thought of something while brushing my teeth this morning!" Now, as the understatement of the week, I'll just tell you I'm a reflector. Even when I'm not in the process of cleaning myself in some way I tend to think (and overthink) about what I said and what they said and what it all meant and how this moment fits into the larger context of life and purpose and where am I going and where have I been and what are my goals and how will I get there and...and...and...

Recently, while thinking about thinking, (which is actually called metacognition, so there's your word of the day. Our number of the day can be 8 for no reason whatsoever.) I wondered why these bathroom activities allowed for the most focused, productive thinking. Why was it that I came up with the best topics to write about, the clearest answers to prayers, and the most innovative solutions to problems while I shampooed my hair? The answer, I realized, was space.

I was once told that we can hear God's voice when we're not thinking about anything else.  It is in these moments that we have the space to think, to consider; we're not thinking through to-do lists, our thoughts relatively blank, no distractions. Unless you count rinsing the shampoo out of my hair, that is. We must allow ourselves space to listen and ponder and wonder.

I'm not so good at building this space into my life, especially lately. There are many times throughout the day when I pick up my phone as though I'm bored with nothing else to do. Truly, though, all my smart phone does is distract me from my own thoughts. I even found myself checking instagram at a red light! When did I become so removed from my own thoughts that I cannot sit at a red light without wanting to be entertained? And when did anything on instagram become so important...?

And then Lent began: a season of fasting, of working hard on my own impurities so that my heart is prepared for the Lord, of embracing suffering as a path to holiness, of praying more and giving more and needing less.

This year I'm intentionally making more space to pray and reflect and just be. Together Brandon and I will retreat to our bedroom by 9pm each night in an effort to treat our bodies better by getting more sleep and allowing for time to wind down from the day. We will cease using our smartphones at this time and read for at least 10 minutes, taking time away from technology and the distractions smartphones bring with them. We've always prayed together at the end of each day, but we will be adding an Act of Contrition to our normal routine. We hope that setting a time which is earlier than usual to start getting ready for bed will allow us to put more effort and thoughtfulness into our prayer, which sometimes had become a zombie prayer of sorts as we both struggled to stay awake.

I'm also creating space of less distractions during the day by not using my phone (for things other than phone calls and text messages) until 9 in the morning. Reading blogs and scrolling through facebook became my go-to in the morning, but I believe I can be more present to Silas or choose to do some spiritual reading during this precious morning time instead. I plan to leave my phone in the kitchen throughout the day as well so I'm not tempted to be on it as a distraction, and instead have to go get it if I need it for something.

Finally, we've decided that we will be attending adoration at least once per week during Lent. Perpetual Adoration is only 3 blocks from our home, so really we should be making it over there much more often that we do. What better space to pray and collect my thoughts and reflect on His holy sacrifice than right in his presence?

I'm certain I will be tempted to break the promises I've made this Lent...what's that they say about old habits dying hard? But I'm hoping that the extra space in my life will quickly become filled with prayer and reflection and peace. And being fully engrossed in how the current moment is being lived for God.

And with that, I'm off to our bedroom like Cinderella at midnight 'cause it's almost 9 o'clock!

Monday, March 3, 2014

There's always next time?...

I was really trying to be successful at 7 posts, 7 days. But in the end you win some and lose some, right? This weekend ended up being low-key but filled with visitors and friends, which was wonderful!

We absolutely love hosting at our home. Whether it's game night with friends, a spontaneous drop-in from Fr. Alan, or weekends with family, it is when there are shoes by the front door and the couches are full that our home feels most alive.

This weekend was especially fun because on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons Brandon's family was here to keep us company.

We celebrated a few birthdays by eating cake with the richest/sweetest frosting ever.

So...maybe I only finished 5/7 posts. But the way I see it, I was able to blog way more than usual this week and I was also able to spend time with important people in our lives.  And that's a win.

Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes about sleeping like a baby, the weekend forecast, and fears

1. My child is a nap-striker. Which would be just fine if I didn't want to read or write or bake or nap or work or sit and stare out the window...
As I rock and bounce and shhsh him for at least an hour a day, I'm always left wondering, "Should I just try cry it out?" But then I start thinking about him standing in his crib (because he does not stay laying if he's not soundly asleep) and reaching for the door and crying and I just can't bring myself to do it. I always wonder though...what if he actually isn't feeling good? How can you tell the difference between a baby who is fighting sleep and a baby who genuinely needs his momma?

Funny thing is, I guiltlessly let him cry when I need to take a shower...

2. Speaking of sleep, we've had a few rough nights around these parts. My 10 month old has indeed slept through the night before but now is waking up at least twice per night and usually one of the times he's up for a good hour. Ugh. It feels like we're dancing and he's leading and if I do something wrong he crys.

Bounce bounce bounce with his head in the crook of my left arm, on his side, while sshsh, sshsh, sshshing and then sway sway sway, little bounce, little bounce, sway sway, little bounce, sway sway sway sway, little bounce, sshsh sshsh, stand perfectly still and then little bounce, little bounce, sway, still still...until he's so sound asleep he's snoring. And then I gently lower him towards the mattress and those little eyes "pop!" open, back arching, waiiiilll. Back to the bounce bounce bounce...there was one night where I literally tried 10 times to lay him down.

And, yes, I have most definitely tried to lay him in his crib awake but then there's just screaming and gnashing of tooth (because he only has one!). I've tried to lay him down and sit next to the crib, I've tried holding his hand or rubbing his back or even rubbing his feet...

Truly the only thing that works is saying Hail Marys until he falls asleep and stays there when I lay him down.

I should also mention that this isn't an every night occurrence and I'm not feeling desperately tired or weary or anything...truly I should just stop complaining and remember it is indeed a baby whom I've been blessed with caring for. He surely won't be a baby for long and so it's pretty much a gift that I get to hang out with this little baby in the middle of the night....right?

3. Oh! And he (finally) has a tooth! It only took him ten loooong months, six of which we were positive his fussiness or having trouble sleeping "must just be teething..."  Why, yes, we are first time parents, why?

4. This weekend's weather doesn't exactly look....promising. -25 for the "RealFeel"? I think that means that the RealFeel for my weekend will be 71, because I don't want to leave my house. But, to look on the sunny side, this must be one of the last frigidly cold weekends we have, right!? I mean...the Polar Vortex will need to move on and visit other planets soon, right?! This arctic weather definitely makes me anticipate spring that much more. Think of how much we're going to enjoy it once it hits even 50 degrees. I'm positive you will see people sunbathing and running in shorts...

5. Lent begins on Wednesday and Brandon and I have been discussing what we'd like to do together this year to prepare ourselves and our souls for Easter. Our #1 goal is to be upstairs by 9pm so that we're asleep by 10. For some reason it always takes us right around an hour to get ready for bed. What is wrong with us? Well, actually it's because this is when we get in the bulk of our chatting for the day. Which leads to our #2 goal: no smartphoning after 9pm. Both will be quite the challenge for us.

6. Yesterday I blogged about FUDs and how they can get in the way of positive thinking and living in the present moment. We all struggle with FUDs. Can you think of a fear, uncertainty, or doubt you're experiencing right at this moment in life? 

Now here's a little inspiration for your weekend. What I want you to do is take the next minute and a half to watch the video below. Overcome that wolf within--you can do it!

7. Happy last Friday of Ordinary Time! Feel free to indulge all weekend and party like it's Fat Tuesday! ;)

Today's post is linked to Jen twice (and has anyone else ever noticed that her link-ups are all about the number 7?!) Number 5 for 7 posts, 7 days and an addition to the 7 Quick Takes link-up.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shooing the FUDs Away

Earlier this week I was hanging out with three friends and their babies, all under 2 years of age with Silas as the youngest at 10 months. All four little ones were playing nicely for the most part, going from toy to toy peacefully and taking redirection calmly when they probably shouldn’t grab a toy out of another kid’s hand or throw that ball at someone’s face. Us mommas were happily sitting against the four walls of the room, chatting about life and baby names and remodeling projects and spring while sipping tea and intermittently playing with our littles.

If you cropped out Silas and I from this room you’d see basically our typical weekday afternoon at home: I hang out on the floor watching as he sprint crawls towards a toy, chews on it for a bit, and then sprint crawl towards another. We look at toys and name their colors. I hold him on my lap while flipping through a book and then tickle his tummy just to experience one of his perfect little chuckles and smiling eyes.

Yet this felt different.  Sitting in that room of toys, light streaming through the window-covered walls, chatting with three other stay at home moms felt like a retreat from everyday life. I noticed how free this afternoon conversation felt. It was missing my typical distracted train of thoughts, the ones that somehow plow me over without warning, chugging along filled to the brim with my “shoulds.” Why didn’t I finish the laundry yesterday? The sink really is starting to get full. Do I read enough books to him? I should try to be on my phone less. This carpet needs to be vacuumed and look at all those handprints on the fireplace doors.

I facilitate a class at a university in town and today we talked about our FUDs: Fears, Doubts, and Uncertainties. Everybody has FUDs, showing their annoying little faces in many corners of our lives.  My own doubts distract me, cause me to mistrust my ability to raise this tiny child into a confident, humble, Lord-loving, joy-finding man. I’m uncertain if I’m as productive as I should be, as focused as I could be, as domestic as I need to be. I fear what could happen if I lose the balance between me-time and we-time.

It’s so easy to be controlled by our FUDs. Like an oil spill, our fears and doubts and uncertainties leak into our thoughts, drip, drip, drip into the ocean of our minds, tainting reality. Dwelling on the “could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve” takes us right out of the here-and-now, instead thinking hard about the past and future, on what cannot be undone and what has not yet transpired. Our fears, uncertainties, and doubts blur what is good and true and takes away the gift of the present.

While watching the babies play I was relaxed and engaged, both in the current conversation and in what Silas was doing. There was no mom-guilt, no distracted thoughts... things I “should” be doing didn’t even cross my mind, because I was there to socialize and that was exactly what we were doing.

It made me yearn for this peace when I’m at home, sitting on the floor just me and Silas. While of course cleaning around the house and laundry all need to get done, Ican't allow doubts or fears or uncertainties to motivate my behavior or overtake my thoughts. I’ll be aiming to control the FUDs that sneak in and instead choose to focus on the gift of taking care of my son, enjoying these peaceful, fleeting moments with him.

Today's post is number 4 for 7 posts, 7 days. To read more and maybe find a few new blogs to follow, visit Jen!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Five Favorites (vol. 11)

Just like many women, I use a plethora of products to beautify myself...but rarely do I talk about them. Today I'm coming out of the dark and sharing my five favorite, tried-and-true beauty products:

Would you like to witness a miracle? Use this mineral veil after applying the rest of your makeup. It makes your face look flawless and keeps your makeup in place all day. I learned about this stuff when I was 17 and have since received it every year for Christmas from my mom. In high school and college I was never a foundation wearer--sometimes I would wear tinted moisturizer, but that was it! For my wedding day I bought the BareMinerals Foundation (in Fairly Light for this very pale girl!) and liked it so much that I've used it almost every day since. The mineral veil is $20, and that may seem like a lot, but I promise it always lasts me right around a year (and then Christmas comes around and what do I receive!?...)

Let's just say I've been around the block with many a mascara, always searching for the right one. I tried out Full 'N Soft per Grace's suggestion and oh my sweet goodness gracious I really like it. This stuff stays on but doesn't get flaky and makes my lashes look longer and fuller without feeling heavy and clumpy. Cha-ching!

For the nights when you know you really should wash off your makeup, but you really don't feel like it (otherwise known as 23/24 nights over here.) These are the best. Pre-moistened but not drippy, they make my face feel tingly clean but not dried out and can even take off waterproof mascara in a cinch! I once bought some generic brand because I'm frugal and a sucker for a good sale...for the following 50 days my face wasn't quite so happy and I was wishing I had spent the extra $.30. SO worth it.

I have used this eyeliner literally since I began wearing eyeliner because it's what my mom uses too (thanks Mom!) I've always worn it in Espresso because black eyeliner just seemed like I really wanted to be goth or something. What I love about this is what you don't have to do: you don't have to use a sharpener, you don't have to press hard, and you don't have to find a sponge because there's one attached! It goes on nice and smooth and doesn't smudge. Winning!

So I'm sure this must be cheating or something because I've already talked about LPAD in a previous Five Favs but I just wouldn't be able to face the mirror if I left this off of my favorite beauty products post...I love it for every season and there's no convincing me that another color will ever take it's spot in my heart.

Do you have any beauty fav's I should know about? I'm pretty susceptible to trying new products and would love to add something to my ever-present Target list!

Today's post is killing birds with stone: Number 3 for 7 posts, 7 days hosted by Jen and an addition to my favorite link-up hosted by Hallie

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