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28 February 2011

NC Life 365 - Day 41

Welcome to North Carolina Spring/Summer. 
The first thunderstorm of the season is rolling in.

27 February 2011

Lenten Promises 2011

It's almost that time of year again. Lent is only ten short days away which means that Easter is just around the corner. I really look forward to Lent each year. I cherish the opportunity to sacrifice and give a bit more while allowing myself more time to think about my relationship with God as well as deepening my faith. The sacrifices I have planned this year will allow me even more time to contemplate and reflect on my faith.

This year my biggest sacrifice will be giving up television. Completely. No reality tv. No news. No nothing. My television will not be a source of empty-brain time. The only exceptions to this rule will be 1.) if I have company or 2.) if I rent a movie to watch. Given that people rarely visit my apartment, the first exception shouldn't come into play. And, since I cancelled my Blockbuster Online subscription, the second exception shouldn't come into play too often either.

One of the wonderful things about Lent is that we are also encourage to give, not just to give up. I sometimes think that the "giving" part can be harder than the "giving up." This year I plan to "give" more time to prayer. Specifically the Rosary. Since I won't be wasting time in front of the mind-suck, I figure that I will have plenty of time to get work done as well as time to pray. I intend to pray the Rosary three times weekly. Minimum. I also plan to read this new book called Rediscovering Catholicism which I hope will also lend me time for reflective contemplation.

Lastly I will be giving up my usual chocolate and ice cream. Granted, I haven't been eating much of that lately with my weight-loss adventure, but it is still something I like to give up during the Lenten season. I'm also going to try very hard this year to not "cheat" on Sundays. Technically we are allowed to break our Lenten promises on feast days (which is every Sunday as well as other days), but I'm going to try not to follow this technicality this year. While I enjoy eating ice cream and chocolate on Sundays, it does always feel like I'm cheating a bit.

Laundry can be fun

While playing with the camera the other day, I noticed how cool the washing machine in-flow looked. I took some pics as the water poured in, and I really like the effect.

My newest cosmetic LOVE

I have a confession. I have the skin of a 13-year-old girl. Not in the glowing, youthful glow of the young and innocent. No, I have the acne-prone, red, bumpy skin of a pubescent teenager. Not all the time. Only for about 50% of the time. Which, for me as a 30-year-old, is far too much of the time. Add that with the fact that I have sensitive skin that is also combination and my skin is really hard to take care of.

I've tried every product you can imagine. Dermatologist recommended products, Proactive, special cleaners, special moisturizers... my old dermatologist even tried putting me on the pill and an antibiotic to make things better (which is a whole different story for another time). Nothing works. It either dries me out or makes me oily or does nothing at all. It's actually quite frustrating. But I continue my search for that miracle cure.

I happened to be shopping in Ulta the other day (I've never shopped there before, but I thought it would be worth a try), and I stumbled upon the Mario Badescu line of skin care. To be completely honest, the simplicity of the label is what drew my eye. It wasn't flashy and neon and gimmicky. It is simple, clean, and minimal. I started reading labels and checking things out. I hate spending a ton of money on things only to find out that they don't work, so I decided to test out a few products before making a real commitment.

I decided to try out the Rose Hips Nourishing Oil and the Almond Honey Non-Abrasive Face Scrub. I recently read an article that discussed skin moisture content. Part of the reason people get oily skin is because they strip their skin of its moisture and then our skin overproduces moisture to compensate. I get wicked dry patches as well as oily patches, so I figured a good exfoliating scrub and a moisturizing serum. I tried the scrub as soon as I showered, and I LOVED it. It was gently, but it totally did it's job. I use it in every other shower, and I am loving how it is keeping my skin flake-free and soft. The Rose Hips oil is equally awesome. I apply it after I've cleansed and used my toner, and it keeps my skin super moist. I put my lotion on afterwards, and my makeup goes on more smoothly with fewer flaws.

I figured since these two products worked, I'd try out a few more. I also spent some time investigating the company online and discovered only good things about them.

I picked up the Aloe Vera Toner and the Moisture Magnet lotion today and, again, used them immediately. The toner is very gentle and is alcohol-free (which is essential for avoiding excessive dryness). The moisturizer is very thick and rich and a tiny drop covered my entire face and neck. I'm talking the size of a pea, people. It's only been one use, but I really like them thus far.

I also picked up the drying lotion which is an overnight spot treatment. I haven't tried it yet, but I plan on trying it tonight. Everything I've read about it has been total praise, so I am looking forward to it. I'll let you know how it goes. 

The nice thing about these products is that they aren't over-the-top pricey. All of these product combined cost me about $70. While it's more than I usually spend, I've realized that I won't get good looking skin at bargain-basement costs. So far, I'm pretty ecstatic with the quality and effectiveness of this line. The main ingredients are all-natural, and the products that I have seen all have six or fewer ingredients. And I can pronounce most of them which is always reassuring. I know it is early in the game, but I've got a pretty good feeling about this line. I'm excited.

And, well, sharing the same initials with the product line doesn't hurt either.

NC Life 365 - Day 40

What's your favorite type of berry?

I like mine blue!

NC Life 365 - Day 39

Goodbye, Winter Flannel Cozy sheets!

Hello, Cool Summer Silky sheets!

(Don't worry. The flannels are only being washed and stored away for winter. 
I haven't thrown them away.)

25 February 2011

Happy Mail

The Boy will be arriving for a visit in less than a week, and the Beast and I are quite excited. We haven't seen him in a long time, and we miss him terribly. Today I came home today and was excited to find a card from him in my mailbox. The picture on the front made me exclaim "awwww!" and laugh out loud all at the same time. How beautiful are Weim pups? Seriously?

NC Life 365 - Day 38

Today started out grey and blustery. But, thankfully, warm. Today is ending with a beautiful blue sky smattered with happy fluffy white clouds and warm Southern sunshine. It's still gusty and breezy, but it is a beautiful North Carolina spring. And the trees are really starting to bud. All is right in the world.

Charmed Life - My Baby Girl

When I purchased my charm bracelet, I also selected three charms to begin my collection. (I have to admit that my bracelet looked pretty sad with just three little charms dangling from it.) The first charm that I selected was a small, round, flat charm with an engraving of a Weimaraner on it. Since I wanted my bracelet to reveal the important things/moments in my life, it was only appropriate that my beast, Bailey, make an appearance.

Bailey is 8-and-a-half now, and I've had her since she was a wee pup. I remember fondly those first days when her ears were bigger than her head and her paws were that size of saucers. She was awkward and clumsy and amazingly cute. And sweet. She and I formed an inseparable bond very early on. My then-husband and I got her about eight months after we got married (she was just 8-weeks-old!), but I was the one who trained her and worked her and loved her. Because I wasn't ready for kids, she was my baby. I took her everywhere with me and even bent a few noses when I brought her (with my parents' permission, of course) to the family Christmas. I know now that our inseparable relationship early on wasn't the best idea for her development (she has a pretty bad case of separation anxiety that, thankfully, seems to be easing in her old age), but I just loved everything about her. Her sweet eyes, her velvety coat, her big floppy ears ... she was just precious. She loves people and kids and car rides and traveling and running and tugging and all those other crazy puppy-type activities. Despite being an old girl, she is still very much a puppy (and her small size -- she was the runt, after all -- doesn't do much to dissuade that perception).

In many ways, Bailey is my best friend. After the divorce, she was my constant and consoling companion. She packed up and moved 700 miles away from home with me and is always ecstatic when I come home no matter how long I've been gone. She listens to me rant and rave about my daily life, and she is always happy no matter what turmoil I am facing. She is my girl, and it scares me that her breed only is expected to live 10-12 years because that means I only have a few years left with her. But that just makes me love her all the more while I have her.

Isn't this just the sweetest face?

24 February 2011

I've always loved kiwi. How 'bout I become one?!

I'm moving to New Zealand!!!

Okay, not right this moment, but it is now a future plan for me. (And I'm pretty sure this isn't my usual springtime wanderlust!) After the earthquake in Christchurch hit, I started researching New Zealand. I've always wanted to teach abroad, and, given what I've learned about the small Pacific country, I totally want to teach there. The countryside is absolutely beautiful, and the climate is pretty diverse. They have snow-capped mountains and glaciers only miles away from beautiful beaches, and they are REALLy highly ranked according to the UN's HDR Education Index. They have some awesome public and private schools that look really appealing, and they even offer relocation bonus of 5k to teaching migrants.

While I definitely want to move across the world, I've decided that I'm going to wait until Bailey passes on. She couldn't handle the trip to move a few thousand miles away, and I don't want to leave her. I'm content to wait until her time comes while I save cash and make decisions about what I really want to do. If I do end up moving, I plan to move to the Wellington Region, preferably Wellington proper. It's one of the largest cities and has an amazing climate. It also happens to be one of the wealthiest and most ethnically diverse regions.

I mean, look at this place? Mountains, rolling green hills, blue sky, and sheep! 
It's like heaven.
Photo courtesy of: http://travelblog.viator.com/touring-new-zealand-an-insiders-guide/

This is Wellington. I can see my apartment from here. 
You know, the one that has views of the bay and the mountains. 
Photo courtesy of: http://www.lookon.net/wellington-new-zealand-capital-of-the-kiwis.html 

I'll be sure to keep you all updated. Who knows? Maybe this blog will go international in a few years! 

NC Life 365 - Day 37

Really, NC? This is your spring? Because that sure looks like a winter sky to me.

Secrets of the Charm Bracelet

I recently stumbled across Jinny's post "Wearing a Memory," I was inspired to write a bit about my own "worn" memories. A few years back (7 or so), I purchased a sterling silver charm bracelet (because, like Jinny, I don't wear gold) with the intent of chronicling my life in charms. I made the decision that every charm I purchased would have some significance and would tell the story of my experiences and my travels. I also wanted charms that prompted a conversation and wouldn't just be obvious typical touristy charms. That single bracelet with three little charms has quickly morphed into a growing, dynamic chronicle of my life with more tan 15 charms. Inspired by Jinny, I figured that I would take the time to bring each charm to life and share it with my readers. (I've also had the brainstorm to write my memoirs based on the charms on my bracelet, but that just seems far too laborious right now.)

Make sure you check back for my future editions of "Charmed Life," complete with pictures and all! First edition should appear tomorrow: The Bailey charm.

My Life's One Great Love - Part 3

As I looked for a place, I discovered that The Doctor had been asked to not renew his lease by his landlord. We talked about all of the crappy apartments available in the college town where I attended school and he worked and how it was impossible to find a decent place with a decent landlord without getting charged an arm and a leg. At some point in the conversation, we tossed around the idea of pooling our resources and getting a decent house together with enough room for all of our separate stuff. After some inquiry, we found a nice big house with two bedrooms that was only a few blocks from campus that was a decent price. And he was cool with my puppy (who was no longer a puppy!) living in the house. So we made it happen.

We shared a big apartment for two semesters before I got accepted to a PhD program and moved to North Carolina. In that time we had become close and fast friends. We shared so many interests: good food, good movies, good booze, good books … We definitely had our differences, but I will say that have a male roommate was a million times easier than having a female roommate. He was an awesome cook, and he actually cleaned bathrooms! Who could ask for more in a roommate?

In May I packed up all my stuff, hired a U-Haul and moved on down to Carolina. It was a pretty big deal. I had never lived more than 30 miles from my parents, so packing up and moving 650 miles away was huge. And it was exciting. I was eager to be a single girl living in a big(ger) city with lots to do. I couldn’t wait to meet new people and do new things and start learning and reading and just living. It was terrifyingly exciting.
The Doctor called often to check in on me and to see how things were going. He made introductions between me and some of old college pals (he had gone to the university a neighboring city). When I went home to visit, I made sure that he and I had time to catch up. He came down to visit me once or twice. Finally we decided that since the former impediments to our relationship were gone (his “professorship” over me and my now-dissolved marriage) that we would give it a go. And, while that decision came with all sorts of conflict and anxiety within me as a divorcee, it was the best decision I have ever made.

The Doctor quickly transformed into The Boy (as this blog refers to him). Being with him has helped me to grow and develop as both an individual and as a woman. He had a confidence in me and my abilities that I had only ever experienced from my parents. He has joined them in being my constant cheerleader and supporter. He encouraged me to take risks and to release the “me” that had always been there but had been hidden beneath the exterior that I thought others expected of me. He showed me how important it is to find happiness within myself before I can make the people that I love happy as well.

The Boy didn’t make me who I am today, but he certainly has encouraged me along my path.  His love has been something I have never before experienced. Of course, like all relationships, we have our “moments,” but the depth and breadth of the love that we share is at times overwhelming. He understands my quirks and maybe even loves me for them. He is my partner and my teammate, considering me and my feelings in almost all things. He asks my advice and actually values what I have to say.

Most of my happiest times in the last five years or so have been with him. Because we have so much in common, we laugh together every day. We love to eat good food, drink good wine and booze, watch good movies, travel with each other (and sometimes with the dog) and just spend time together. Just being together fulfills me. He is, without a doubt, my partner in life. Like any relationship, we have had our hard times. Every day can’t be sunshine and roses. But, thankfully, we have more sunshine and roses than grey skies and storms. But when I am ready to cut and run (which is sometimes my style), he is not. He wants to work on what is ailing us and make it through the storm.  I appreciate his determination to keep our good thing going.

In many ways, my young marriage and subsequent divorce was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It forced me to grow up and seek my own happiness. It released me to explore the world around me and find adventure. It revealed to me my own worth and standards of what I would accept and what was unacceptable. Most importantly, it gave me an open heart unwilling to compromise or settle that would eventually lead me to my one great love. I know I’m young to say that he is my “one great love,” but I honestly can’t imagine it ever being any better than this.

23 February 2011

NC Life 365 - Day 36

An evening filled with Thai food, wine, laughing with the Murphy's, and baby-shower-envelope-stuffing. (Not for me, of course!!)

My Life's One Great Love - Part 2

I started grad school 18 months after we got married. As a teacher in NYS, I needed to have a masters’ to maintain my certification. I started taking classes and started meeting people who loved the same things I did: books, movies, adventure, and excitement. I quickly made fast and close friends with a couple of girls from my grad classes, and I enjoyed hanging out with them. All of them had significant others, and I thought it would be perfect to get Todd and I out of the house and socializing. Well, come to find out, Todd didn’t like going out to because the smoke bothered him. And it was too loud. And he just didn’t like it. (How I didn’t know this before is a mystery to me.) He and I agreed that, since he didn’t like going out, he wouldn’t make a fuss if I spent time out with my new friends. It wasn’t ideal; I wanted him to be involved. But I also wasn’t ready to sit at home in front of the TV every night for the next 50 years or so.

During this time, I met The Doctor. He was a professor of mine in a required lit class that I had zero interest in. He was young and good looking and smart and funny. But I was married and he was my professor, so there was a DEFINITE conflict of interest. I still enjoyed his company when the whole class went out for a pint after class. But I also knew what the situation was. He mentored me and suggested that I pursue a PhD in my desired field (American Literature) because I showed promise and potential. I had never truly considered that before (despite having dreamt of it in my early college years) because there weren’t any really good programs locally for me to attend. I couldn’t move because both my husband and I had good jobs.

In my second semester of grad school, my dad went through a pretty major health scare. It was a really rough time for me and my family. We really thought that he wasn’t going to make it, and that completely wrecked me. The thought of losing him still makes me tear up. I remember going home to bed and just sobbing until my body was sore. And my husband never reached out to hold me or console me. He laid next to me in the dark, listening to me cry, with his back to me. At that point I began to question what I had gotten myself into. How could I have not seen this? Was asking for comfort and affection that much to ask? I began to wonder if I could spend the rest of my life with someone who couldn’t comfort me in my darkest times.

After my dad made it through, I realized how short and important our lives really are. I decided that I needed to pursue my dreams and my desires. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world. I wanted read great books and talk to people about literature and authors and all of the things that drove me. At some point I decided that I wanted to pursue my PhD. I prepared myself to apply to a “local” school and, under the advice of The Doctor, to schools in Massachusetts and North Carolina that were known for solid literature programs. But this meant a heart-to-heart with the husband about what I wanted and needed out of life.

Well, that conversation didn’t go well. It boiled down to the fact that he never wanted to leave Upstate NY and was content doing what he was doing for the rest of his life. He even told me that he had no real desire to travel when I told him how important it was to me. The conversation continued, and I told him upfront that pursuing my PhD was something I really wanted, and it would require us to move to either Massachusetts or North Carolina (the “local” school had rejected my early graduate application). His response to me was, and I quote, “If you really want to move, I’ll go but I’ll be miserable the whole time.” To which I replied, “Then why don’t you just not go.”

That was pretty much the end. We toughed it out for a few more months, but it was obvious that it wasn't going to work. We were too different and had different aspirations in life. I couldn’t see myself giving up on my dreams at such a young age (23). Abandoning your dreams is something that old people do. Not those in the prime of their lives! After a lot of fighting and discussion and more fighting, he moved out in the spring before my second year. He left me and my puppy in a big empty rental house. I stayed there through the summer, but I knew I needed a new place for the coming fall when I had a new job in a different district and another year of grad school.

Our marriage lasted for approximately 3 years. It clearly wasn’t a match made in heaven, but it did prepare me for the woman that I was to become. 

22 February 2011

NC Life 365 - Day 35

My patent leather spectator pumps make me very happy.  I just love them.

NC Life 365 - Day 34

It's a pretty great thing when you look in your closet and find a never-before-been-worn silk scarf!

My Life's One Great Love - Part 1

I recently stumbled across a fellow blogger's post on the one great love of her life. (I'm a bad person because I didn't record the link or the blog! Blogger fail!) It inspired me to share a bit of my story with my wonderful readers. It's a long story, so I'll post it in three separate parts. 

I met my first love in high school. The spring of eleventh grade, to be precise. We didn’t go to the same school, and we met through a mutual friend. I had been visiting with Sam* at his home when a buddy of his, Todd, stopped by to visit. After I left, Sam call to ask if he could give Todd my number. I said, “Sure,” hoping that instead Sam would call. I had had a crush on him for quite some time but our friendship was too solid to risk messing it up. I was never a big dater in high school. I had two or three “serious” boyfriends and crushes, but how does one really define “serious” in high school? I had many boys who were friends, but not too many boyfriends. In fact, the majority of my friends were boys; I found girls to be deceitful and catty (which, to a large extent, is true today save for a few close chicas).

Well, sometime later, Todd actually called. In all honesty I didn’t remember who he was. He didn’t really make an impression on me when I had first met him, but we chatted on the phone and subsequently had a date. It was crystal clear from the beginning that he was perfect for me. At least in terms of what I thought I was supposed to end up with. A good man who worked with his hands (like my dad), who came from a good, solid family (like myself), and who appreciated the value of a quiet life in the country (like where I was raised). He loved my family. And, more importantly, my family loved him. Our single date quickly turned into exclusive dating. (I think that during this time I was looking for a close connection to help me heal from a traumatic experience in the previous fall.) After high school, he went off to trade school and I started college and our relationship continued.

Within two years, people were already asking us when we were going to get married. Because, as we all know, that is what is supposed to happen next. And I really felt like that was what I was supposed to do. In my naïveté, I was ready to get married and start my life. I was to be a school teacher; he was to be a carpenter. We would get married, buy a house, have some kids, and it would be perfect. Just like Mom and Dad. So that’s what we did in February of my senior year of college.

Only it wasn’t perfect. And we weren’t just like Mom and Dad. We didn’t realize how hard marriage really was. We hadn’t talked about all those things that needed to be talked about before making the leap. We disagreed on money management. We didn’t discuss parenting styles or philosophies or even how many kids we wanted. We didn’t talk about the distribution of labor and chores. We had different ideas of what “fun” was. Looking back (because hindsight is indeed 20/20), I see red flags. But as a young girl who was eager to have her fairytale wedding, those red flags didn’t seem to matter. Little issues became big issues quickly. We both went into marriage thinking it would be easy and that love was enough. But, sometimes it just isn’t.

*all names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent).

21 February 2011

Being a Catholic is sometimes hard

Today I stumbled across this article in the Boston Globe regarding a mass of contrition held in Ireland to honor and respect the abuse victims of the many priest abuse scandals that have rocked the small country. What intrigued me most were the many comments that followed the article. So much hatred and generalization regarding the wrongs of a small few representatives of a 2,000-year-old faith. The anger and frustration is palpable, but it seems to be expressed by those who haven't been directly affected by these horrible situations; it seems to be outsiders casting judgement.

My heart truly bleeds for the victims of the priest abuse scandals. It is inexcusable for someone in such a position of power and trust to take advantage of his honored position by abusing the people who look to him for guidance.I have disagreed whole-heartedly with the way in which these priests have been moved around and shuffled and hidden in past years. Under the new pope (while I am not his biggest fan), the sex abuse scandals have been more openly recognized and directly addressed. Efforts to keep these horrific events a secret have decreased and a far more open discussion has begun. Of course nothing can ever fully rectify the wrongs and hurt that have been done, but ignoring the problem only exacerbates the issue.

The anger and frustration on the part of the victims and their families is completely understandable. If I had been in their shoes, I'm sure I would feel the exact same way. I would feel betrayed by a faith that I held dear,  and, to be honest, I'm not sure if I would ever be able to "get over" that. It takes a better person than I to do so. To be betrayed in such an intimate and vile way by a man you were told you could trust (by your parents, your grandparents, all of your family ...) with your deepest, darkest secrets is the greatest violation a person can endure. Especially if it happens when you are young and have no control over it. Their feelings are completely valid and understandable, and my heart truly bleeds for them.

What I don't understand is the vocal anger on the part of people who are not even a part of the faith. It's not that their anger is unwarranted because everyone has the right to be angry or upset over what has happened and the subsequent cover-ups. My issue is with the words and language that they use to condemn Catholics. It is easy to cast stones when you are on the outside. It is easy to be critical of something you don't understand and aren't a part of. It is easy to focus on the relatively small number of "bad" priests and ignore the thousands (millions?) who have gone before and done endless good for their parishes. It reminds me of the old adage, "a few bad apples spoil the bunch." Outsiders seem to only focus on the horrible deeds of a few without pausing to consider all of the wonderful things that priests and saints throughout the ages have done for humanity as well as the faith.

True, there have been priests who have abused their power and authority and have preyed upon the innocents in their care. That is, in every way, inexcusable. Any person who commits such a crime should be held accountable to the highest degree. But condemning an entire faith based on the actions of a few is illogical. It is the same thing as racial profiling and stereotyping. If the words "Catholic" and "priest" were taken out of the equation and replaced with any other race or religion, the public outcry would be met with counter-arguments of racism and prejudice. It just seems like it is okay to publicly condemn the "Catholic faith."

All that being said, I chose to join the faith during the sex abuse scandals. Despite all of the horrible events that were swirling around me, I saw the good and the merit and the value in the faith behind all of the scandal and unrest. I was able to see beyond the actions of a few and recognize the good of the whole. I guess it is the narrow mindedness that bothers me so much. It feels like a personal attack on the things that I hold so sacred by those who have missed the forest for the trees.

20 February 2011

And we have a winner ...

Ladies and gents, we have a winner for my most recent contest! If your name is JuRita and you run this blog, you've won!

Email me soon so I can send along the details of your win.


NC Life 365 - Day 33

There are a lot of corks in my house. 

(Don't worry, though. It's taken me YEARS to accumulate my collection.)

Faith by degrees

Today in my CCD class, my kids asked some relevant and appropriate questions about their pending confirmation in the Catholic church. Their questions, and my responses to their questions, made me think about the meaning of faith and grace and reflect upon my own confirmation not-so-long ago.

In the Catholic faith, children are traditionally confirmed at about 15 years of age. (This tradition dates back to before the Middle Ages when the life expectancy was much shorter and girls were married off much younger. Children had to be confirmed in the Church prior to getting married and having children of their own. You know, like 16 years old.) This means that my current students are set to be confirmed in the next year or so. Hopefully none of them have plans to get married or have babies in the near future! Anyway, most, if not all, of my students come to class each week because they are forced to attend by their parents. They definitely don't choose to come each week, but, because their parents want them to be confirmed, they come. The majority of them don't actively participate in our activities, discussions, or their faith, and a good number of them sit and sulk like, well... children for the entire time. A handful or more actively engage but from a questioning and sometimes confrontational angle.

Today we started off discussing what it means to "participate" in mass and faith. Our conversation then moved to a discussion on what the mass and the Eucharist mean. And, so often with this group of kids, we then talked about the many reasons that makes Catholicism different from the other Christian faiths. I, too, enjoy these discussions, and I love that they are curious about their faith. This topic generally leads the kids to question why they have to be confirmed (when other faiths do not), especially if they don't feel it.

One thing I love about the current faith formation program is that we encourage our kids to question their faith. We don't want them to make such a big decision unless they feel that it is the right decision for them. Simply doing it because their parents require it isn't the point. When we tell them that it is their decision, their choice, they protest because they feel that they have no choice. They feel that they have to do this because their parents are forcing it. Of course, I remind them that it is still a choice. It's not an easy choice. It's a choice that will require conflict and heated discussion and the risk of disappointing their loved ones, but it is still a choice.

Tonight a few students raised a new point. They want to be confirmed in the faith, but they don't "feel" it. Moreover, they don't know what they are supposed to feel about their beliefs and their faith. They are expecting some miraculous moment that solidifies their faith -- a lightning bolt from the sky or hearing God's voice. But, unfortunately, it usually doesn't happen that way. At this point, I shared my own confirmation story with them. As an adult, I went through RCIA for over ten months, preparing to fully participate in the Catholic faith. I was eager, excited, and anxious to finally partake in the Eucharist. When the time finally came during the Easter Vigil. I expected great things to happen to me upon taking in the Host. You know, fireworks and trumpets and angels singing. When it finally came time for me to fully participate in our church's most sacred celebration, I felt more of a fizzle than a bang. I was disappointed to say the least. I had hoped to experience so much more.

But that lackluster experience didn't define my faith. Thankfully. It has taken time and learning and prayer and introspection to come to a more full and complete understanding of my faith. Now I do feel something when I partake in the Eucharist. Not every time and certainly it isn't monumentous. But I do feel a stirring within my spirit. But the point is that there isn't one defined "thing" that we are supposed to feel when we are in the presence of God. It is different for everyone. And, sometimes, it doesn't happen for a long time. And I don't think it can happen without prayerful reflection and consideration of who you are and where you are in relationship to your faith. It has nothing to do with outside factors; it is all about you and your faith. Looking for a pre-defined and canned sign of faith will leave you disappointed. And, like the tides, such signs of faith ebb and flow based on your spiritual needs at any given time. I'm not always moved to tears during mass, but it has happened on many occasions. I know that, in those times, God and Christ are with me more closely then before because they know that I need something. I may not know what the need is right then, but they are there, providing for me.

Faith, and the feelings that come with it, are unique for everyone. That is what I want my kids to understand. Even telling them my own story is in vain given that their experiences could be (and probably will be) totally different. But I think it important that they realize that they needn't look for some magically amazing epiphany to confirm their faith. It often takes time and effort and work to come to a point where you can fully feel your faith. Some may take more time and more energy than others, but, if we are willing to put in the work, God will be there to reward our efforts.

Hey, no one said faith was easy.

19 February 2011

NC Life 365 - Day 32

A sure sign of spring ...

... little pink buds on the trees.

It looks like the long cold winter may finally be over. 

NC Life 365 - Day 31

The sky with a nice cloud "smear."

NC Life 365 - Day 30

Whoever said that chives are perennials was right! I thought these bad boys had frozen in the cold winter, but the nice spring weather has brought new shoots!

16 February 2011

So cute I want to eat them!

I stumbled across Magic Onions today, and I absolutely fell in love with these delicious looking mice! I cannot wait for the opportunity to make them! I mean, it's chocolate, cherries, and almonds. How can one go wrong with that? The only change that I would make would be to use dark chocolate because I LOVE dark chocolate and milk and semi-sweet don't really do much for me.

Seriously, how sweet are these?

NC Life 365 - Day 29

Kiki (the Sago Palm, not this Kiki) is casting shadows all over the house in the evening sun. 

15 February 2011

34 years ain't nothin' to sneeze at!

Today is the 34th anniversary of my parents' wedding. In today's day and age, being married for 34 years is a pretty huge feat. I'm proud of them. And I'm even more proud to be their daughter. They have made it through hard times and easy times, rich times and poor times, fat times and lean times ... you name it, they've done it. They've built three wonderful and loving homes for their four children (not all at the same time, of course!), and they have instilled a firm sense of morality and values in each of us. They are giving to a fault, and they lead by example. Their faith in us and in each other is never-ending, and they are an inspiration to their children and grandchildren.

I've always heard the 1 Corinthians passage and never really thought much about it. But now, as an adult thinking about my parents on this important day, I see how much it applies to the deep and honest love that my parents share. 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. [...] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Even when my parents have seemed to lose all patience in us and in each other, they stick it out and see the good that is there beneath our frustrating and tarnished surfaces. Their love is simple and uncomplicated; they don't need fancy bells and whistles to prove how deeply their love runs. While we all may have the infamous "Short" fuse,  Mom and Dad are slow to provoke each other (despite knowing just how to push each others' buttons!), and they don't keep a scorecard of who did what. No matter what happens between them, they rejoice in each other's successes and truly feel for each other in trail and failure. They know that each day brings a new beginning, regardless of what came the day before. Every day provides them with the chance to once again show just how important they are to each other. 

I feel truly blessed to have them as my "marriage model." (Let' just ignore the fact that my attempt at marriage failed miserably.) Given the right partner, I can only hope to work towards the relationship that they have.

My amazing parents -
I love you.

On a very related note, today is also my grandparents' (Mom's parents) 63 anniversary. They've raised 6 great kids and have had a long, loving relationship. Because Gram hates her picture taken, I have no real pictures of them together, save one. But that one picture is an actual "picture," and I don't have it scanned in. Happy anniversary, Gram and Gramp!

My love affair with the moon

While I love the warmth of the sun, I'm definitely a moon girl. I love gazing at the moon and stars and the deep velvet of the nighttime sky. I always look for the rabbit in the moon and try to point it out to those who can't see it. (Do you know what I'm talking about? If not, see here for more info.) I find the moon to be so mysterious and temperamental (especially since she is always changing) and powerful (she does, after all, control the tides). Her light is so much more romantic and soft than the harsh rays of the sun. Just the linguistic difference between "sun rays" and "moon beams" says a lot about their respective characters.

I'm really loving the fact that the moon has been so visible in daylight hours for the past few days. Today, while at Lake Crabtree, I noticed her peeking over the tree line. And, of course, couldn't resist snapping her picture.

The moon over Lake Crabtree

NC Life 365 - Day 28

Another pretty day in NC. I'm pretty sure that spring has officially arrived. Looks like Punxatawney Phil may have been right this year. Lake Crabtree is a great place to find some nice sky expanses. Hopefully soon all that brown will be turning to green.

I like how the curves in this pic makes it look like I've captured the
curvature of the earth. 
The wetlands at Lake Crabtree.

NC Life 365 - Day 27


On a side note, do you get "asparagus pee?" Turns out that not every does. Or, at least, not everyone can smell if they do. It's a genetic mutation that has to do with the breakdown of the chemical compounds in asparagus. And women are more likely to have the gene that allows them to smell it or have it. I definitely have the gene. The Boy does not and always looks at me funny when I tell him I smell it. :)

14 February 2011

My new business idea

After about a week of come-and-go feeling crumby, I've finally succumbed and took a sick day today. I thought I was feeling better on Saturday, but Sunday I woke up and it was back. Maybe I was too hard on myself on Saturday, doing kickboxing and going out in the evening, but Sunday came and I felt worse than I had last week.  Now my headache, sore throat, raspy cough, and general nausea is back. Joy. I called in this morning, slept until 11, and now am up ... on the couch.

Being single and sick is sometimes pretty rough. There is no one around to get you medicine or tissues or hot tea or run to the store and buy you soup and crackers and all those little things that make us feel better. There's no one around to walk the dog when she's being annoying, and there's no one to just be there and hang out with me. This isn't me complaining though! This is me coming up with a million dollar franchise idea. Ready for it? Here goes ...

Singles Sick Service! Great idea, right?

Here's the main idea: When single people (like me) of all ages are home sick for whatever reason -- flu, col, allergies ... you name it -- they can call this service to come and provide all the necessities on an on-call basis. The service would have to be affordable and can be ordered by family members and what-not as well as individuals. It would be staffed by RNs and nursing assistants and people of that sort so that a level of professionalism can be guaranteed.

I could really use that service today. I'm out of milk and juice and fruit.

13 February 2011

The Angular Beast

 Bailey is quite a petite little pup, but I realized today how angular how she actually is as she was lounging in the sun today. I seized the opportunity to take some photos of her. She normally flees at the sight and sound of the camera, but she was surprising tolerant of my antics today.

The rolling hills of her abdomen.

The draw of her thigh.

The ridges of her boney ankles.

Her hairy shoulder and the folds of her ear.

Her shoulder.

Her furry little paw.

This one is a bit gross, but it is the inside of her ear. 

NC Life 365 - Day 26

The moon and the sun were out today at the same time. It made for a nice juxtaposition. I only wish they were close enough that they were in the same photograph. But, if that happened, I think there would be some major gravitational pull issues going on.

I like how the jet trail is highlighted by the afternoon sun.

NC Life 365 - Day 25

Bailey's stitches are out! I took them out yesterday as she slept in the sun. Now she has a nice little ruffle to the edge of her ear.

Girls love make-up

Jenn over at First Comes Love recently posted about the mysterious and intriguing contents of her makeup bag and encouraged others to do the same. I figured that I've been feeling under the weather, and a mini-photo project would be good to keep my mind off of feeling ill. A "photo" project about one of my favorite girly things: makeup! How could I say no?!

I don't actually have a makeup bag. Part of the reason I don't have a bag is that I have too much to fit into a bag!! I use a couple of Rubbermaid-style drawer systems to organize all my stuff.

I pretty much ADORE eyeshadow. I think it is because my eyes are just boring brown, and I like to add color to them to make them more interesting. I have two full drawers of eye shadows in every color and texture that you can imagine. I've got neutrals, brights, pastels, creams, powders, liquids ... you name it, I've got it.

My favorite variety of eyeshadow is the HIP (High Intensity Pigment) line from Loreal. They come in mattes and metallics, and they are little duos. A little of these goes a long way, but they do work to create a dramatic affect. I don't wear them every day because they can be pretty intense, but I do love putting them on. 

For a girl who only really wears lipgloss, I've got a lot of lipstick. The Boy loves it when I wear lipstick, but I find lipstick too high maintenance. There's the constant touching up and reapplying and worrying about if it is smeared or messed up. Lip gloss is so much easier to handle.

Despite my love for eyeshadow, I actually never use eye liner. I have quite a few different colors, but I never use them. Maybe because I don't really know how. But that's a secret, so don't tell anyone.

I mainly use three different blushers, depending on what time of day it is and where I'm going. I use the Neutragena pretty much every day, and the two Revlons (not at the same time!) at night if I'm going out. It's a much more sultry and intense which isn't really an appropriate look for teaching 6th graders.

I'm also a fan of mascara, but I can't seem to find a brand/style/color that I love and want to stick with. I've tried waterproof, non-waterproof, black, brown, clear, plumping, extending .... and, while I wear it every day, I'm definitely not brand or style loyal at this point. Which, given that I've been wearing mascara for more than half of my life, is kinda weird. 

My all-time favorite beauty aid/tool would be my brushes. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE makeup brushes. I'm currently using an all natural bamboo set that I really like. The effect and sensation of using makeup brushes compared to the brushes that come with makeup is completely different. I have makeup brushes for blush, finishing powder, foundation, concealer, mascara, and about five different brushes for eye makeup (which makes sense given that I love eye makeup more than anything!) I strongly recommend using real, professional style brushes with your makeup. 

(The cutest thing in the world is that Quinn --daughter of Quinn's Momma, obviously! -- has started showing an interest in makeup. She's 2 1/2. I gave her some of my old brushes, and she LOVES them. It is sooooo cute to watch her "apply" her makeup. Too cute!)


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