Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Currently Volume 11

The restaurant we went to for Easter brunch was on a lake and these beautiful pink-flowered bushes were everywhere! They were much more charming in person, but I thought I'd include this snapshot anyway.

Well, I missed my Sunday Currently last week, and this week I'm hours later than usual. I do have some pretty good excuses, but I also don't plan to make a habit out of it. I really enjoy and look forward to writing these posts in the early morning each Sunday.

I hope you all are having a beautiful Easter. We went to Mass and brunch in a nearby town that we don't know too well, and an older couple (they have been married for 56 years!) took us under their wing. We met them at church and they told us the best place to go to brunch, then invited us to sit with them, and they even insisted on treating us at the end of the delicious meal. Talk about generous and loving people, who clearly model their lives on the man whose resurrection we celebrate today. It's been a lovely Easter.

Reading A Severe Mercy, as well as catching up on some blog reading.

Writing This post, and jotting notes for some other ones. I'm also brainstorming ideas for some freelance articles.

Listening to peace and quiet!

Thinking about the kindness of strangers. My husband and I both hope that when we're 80 years old we will be as gracious and kind to a random young couple or two, as Tom and Betty were to us today.

Smelling my perfume, Versace Bright Crystal. I've gotten to the point where I only really wear perfume on special occasions, and today certainly constitutes as one!

Wishing my family and in-laws and friends--and all of you!--a Happy Easter.

Hoping and praying for the renewal that this season promises.

Wearing high-waisted, wide-bottomed light blue/gray linen pants from Anthropologie. And a pale pink top tucked in.

Drinking nothing at the moment. I think I'll go pour myself some water!

Loving my husband, my family, my God.

Wanting to make lamb next week. I love lamb on Easter and was going to make it for today, but our plans changed at the last minute. The recipe I love is in our cookbook--if I do end up making it, I'll share it with you all (the recipe, not the lamb!).

Needing a little snack. How I could possibly be hungry after our huge brunch is beyond even me. My husband jokes that I'm always eating! That's what a fast metabolism will do to you.

Feeling mellow and happy.

Clicking nothing at the moment--I just popped on my computer to write this post. But I think I'll check the NYTimes for some Sunday news. Are you clicking anything interesting?

Have a lovely evening!
(Linking up with Lauren.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Fun Interview

One of my blog readers, whose name I share, kindly asked me to be a part of her weekly interview series. Her questions were fun to answer and some of them really made me think! If you'd like to check it out, you can do so here. Thanks again, Kate!

Friday, March 29, 2013

DIY Lamp Makeover

I'm back home from my trip and missing my parents (and their cute new abode) already. We had so much fun! 

I wanted to share with you a DIY makeover project that I did for them while I was there. You know you're a serious DIY-er when you start taking to other people's houses, huh? The victim was this lamp. The base was chipping, and while there was nothing wrong with the shade, my mom and I decided it didn't quite fit the modern look of their chic new home (sorry Dad, we didn't consult you first!). 

So we went out shopping for inspiration and supplies, and now, it looks like this.

A crisp white shade, some mustard-colored spray paint, and the white ball on top completely transformed this lamp. It's funky, retro, and fun! And it really fits the look of the houseboat, which they have decorated with pure whites and solid colors. My mom and I both love it--my Dad, though, is a little unsure. It is really different, and would never have worked in their old house. We're hoping that as the lamp settles into its new home he will settle into liking it. At the very least, maybe he'll like that it matches the throw pillows! Or is that a girl thing?

Tell me what you think. Do you like the lamp makeover? 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Away on a Houseboat

I'm visiting my parents on their new houseboat on the Potomac, which is why I've been absent for several days. The internet is not up yet so I'm sending this from my newly-downloaded Blogger app--and crossing my fingers that it works! Assuming it does, I will be doing some wondering as to why I didn't do it sooner.

The houseboat is just beautiful. My Dad did all of the design himself and it's both functional and lovely. Quite contemporary, very light and airy, and not claustrophobic at all! As you can see from these quick iPhone shots, they have quite a view too-- the Jefferson and the Washington Monument. Not to mention the river itself, with its ducks and sailboats, and the quirky marina community that surrounds them. It's such a fun, vibrant little part of the city.

I'll be home in a few days and back to my regular blogging. I'm off to see the Pentagon 9/11 memorial this morning, then meeting my mom on Capitol Hill for some lunch and shopping. I hope you're having as much fun this week as we are!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nutritious "Pizza"

When I get a craving for some tomato sauce and bread and gooey cheese, I usually resist the urge to order a pizza and instead make my own nutritious "pizza" using my broiler and ingredients I usually have on hand. Here's what to do.

Toast a piece of whole grain bread. I often do this step in the toaster, but you could do it in the broiler too. (The toaster is better at getting both sides crispy.)

After toasting the bread, drizzle on some olive oil. Then spread on a layer of tomato sauce and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Top with your choice of cheese (in this photo, I used ricotta, but mozzarella or goat cheese or even cheddar would also be yummy). For extra robustness and healthiness, you can add a layer of vegetables between the sauce and the cheese. Last night I used steamed baby spinach, and it was perfect.

Pop this under the broiler for a few minutes, until the sauce and cheese are warmed. Drizzle on more olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and some chopped fresh basil.

This is perfect as a light lunch, or as a quick weeknight dinner with some extra vegetables or a green salad to go with it. When tomato season is in full swing, I replace the tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, which makes it even more delicious.

It's better than pizza, if you ask me! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What I've Learned

Well, as a lot of you lovely readers know, my life over the past 10 months or so has been very different from my life before that. It was quite a culture shock to transition from city living to suburban living, to move from way up North to way down South, to graduate from a very intense and busy Masters program and into real life, with both its freedoms and its constraints. This has been such a time of newness and learning and "figuring out," and there have been some ups and downs. Today, I thought it might be fun to share some of what I've learned in these last few months.

iPhone shot of the morning light streaming into our little apartment. 

Cooking for two is always more rewarding than cooking for one.

Don't buy filet mignon from traveling salesmen, even if they tell you it's high-quality meat and it seems like a great deal (can you tell that we learned this the hard way?).

Always take advantage of military discounts! Even little ones, like 10% off at Lowe's and Michael's, do make a difference over time.

It's so much harder to keep a two-story, two-bedroom townhouse clean than it is to keep a teeny-tiny two bedroom city apartment clean.

Going to the gym can be fun! As long as it's a Zumba class you're headed to.

Curtains are tricky. I'm still working on my curtain style. I've never had so many windows to dress up in my life, and there was certainly some trial and error involved!

Trusting in God's plan, not my plan, is the best way to go through life.

A good vacuum is so important. We don't have one yet, and I get very cranky when I use the mediocre one we do have.

Starting out the day with a cup of tea and writing is such a treat.

Don't spend money on an expensive blender. This one does the trick beautifully.

Built-in bookshelves are a top priority for the first home we own. The stacks of books around our house are getting taller and taller!

Sharing a home with my husband is even sweeter than I'd imagined.

Painting furniture is the best way to give old pieces new life. And one of the best ways to give your home a fun, eclectic, look!

Things are cheaper in the deep South. Way cheaper.

Blogging is such a joy. Now that I've started this blog that I've had in the back of my mind for so long, I can't imagine life without Something Ivory and all of my lovely readers.

And so much more...

It might be fun to make this a series, a way to catalog and reflect on life as it changes and moves forward and takes us with it. Maybe I'll check back in with another few things I've learned in a couple months. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Tell me below or write your own post! What have you learned?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Science Fiction Philosophy

My husband really likes to read science fiction, and he often shares with me some of the more interesting or insightful plot developments as he's reading. (Science fiction is often insightful I've realized--a lot of his novels have a strong philosophical bent. Who knew?) The other day, he told me that the evil female lead character in his book decided that she was going to kill off 99% of the men in the world because she believed that in getting rid of men, she would also be getting rid of violence (her way of going about this is just a tad hypocritical, don't you think?). 

This is obviously an extreme, non-realistic, abstract idea, but still it got me thinking. I have to admit that every war I can think of was started by men. That almost every example of terror and injustice that comes to my mind was perpetuated by a man. That violence is almost exclusively a male behavior.

But a world with all women? Though it might be more peaceful, I don't want to live in that world. As much as I love women, and being a woman, as much as I embrace all things feminine and graceful and pure and lovely, I am no feminist. This world needs men, good men.

Men and women are different--biologically and emotionally and spiritually--and I do believe that's something to be celebrated. We are made to live in this world together, feeding off of each other's strengths and weaknesses, bringing our own sense of beauty and rightness into the lives of the people we touch, helping each other to become our best selves.

And the truth is that we are all imperfect beings. The truth is that there will always be good and evil in our world. There are good men, and there are good women, just as there are bad men and bad women. Yes, we might be able to eradicate (or mostly eradicate) violence from our world if men were out of the picture, but wouldn't we be giving up so much more than we would gain? Men complement us, just as we complement them. 

I realize that this particular example, as I said, is an extreme one, but shadows of this philosophy do exist outside of science fiction novels. I think it's something worth thinking and talking about. What are your thoughts?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Teary Over An Ad

I've seen this ad on YouTube a few times, and there's something about it that really touches me. (Is that silly?) I think it's a combination of the sweet faces on these young girls, the pretty music, and the sad message. I don't have children yet but for some reason I can imagine one of these girls being my daughter, and thinking she is just the most beautiful little thing, and wondering how she can't see that herself.

Do watch it, and tell me if you were moved by it (or am I the only one who gets teary over ads?). 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 10


Reading A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, a beautiful story about a marriage. When I first mentioned that this book was on my reading list, a few of you responded and said you had read it and loved it. I'm hoping we can have a discussion about it when I'm finished.

Writing this, along with my first post for the Happy Wives Club!

Listening to cheerful birds making lots of noise in our backyard.

Thinking about logistics. I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me.

Smelling the oats that are cooking away on the stove. And speaking of whole grains, I recently heard a great tip for getting more of them in our daily diets--make a large batch of a whole grain (like quinoa, farro, or barley) at the beginning of the week and throughout the week, throw a handful of grains into salads or smoothies, or use it as the base for a main dish. I thought that was a good idea! I eat steel cut oats for breakfast and I typically buy only whole grain bread, but I could be better about varying the grains I'm eating and making sure I'm eating them with most meals.

Wishing you a happy St. Patrick's Day! I've never been too into this holiday, even after all my years at Notre Dame, but this week I did go to a special St. Patrick's Day Zumba Challenge, which was really fun! We did some Irish jigs and played our air fiddles and acted totally silly!

Hoping today is productive and peaceful.

Wearing a long, cozy cardigan.

Drinking Harney and Sons "Anniversary" blend tea with cream.

Loving the updates I'm getting from my parents, who are in the latter stages of designing and building their houseboat. I get to see it in a few weeks and I can't wait!

Wanting to do some shopping when I see my parents in D.C. I've been very good and haven't bought any new clothes in a few months, but I think everyone deserves just a little bit of spring shopping!

Needing to start working on my to-do list for today.

Feeling both excited and nervous about the charity runway fashion show I'm in this week! I think it will be a lot of fun.

Clicking on this cute story about Fergie's maternity style. I just learned that Fergie is married to Josh Duhamel, and that they're both Catholic and go to church. Hearing about celebrities who are serious about their faith warms my heart (perhaps because so much of Hollywood is secular and not too wholesome).

Have a lovely day!
(Linking up with Lauren.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

DIY Cooking Journal

I found the perfect book to make into a lifelong cooking journal, which I will use to record my personal recipes and reminders and kitchen tips--I couldn't be happier with it. This is actually a sketchbook that I found at Michael's, so the pages are thick and blank and beautiful and it has a hard, canvas cover (in ivory, of course). I do believe it will last a lifetime!

So, I admit that this isn't exactly a DIY project--the only "DIY" element is the cuteness! The cover of this sketchbook was just begging to be dressed up, and I thought that a simple fork, knife and spoon pattern would look chic and timeless.

At first I was looking around for stencils, and then I realized that I could just trace a set of utensils. So that's exactly what I did. It was a little bit tricky, as we all know that forks and knives and spoons don't lay flat, but with a little bit of wiggling I was able to make it work. Here's the step-by-step process.

And that's it! A very simple, sturdy cooking journal with a homemade decorative touch. I can't wait to begin to fill it with words.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Crossing to Safety

I could give all to Time except--except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The things forbidden that while the Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There
And what I would not part with I have kept.

-Robert Frost

I just finished Crossing to Safety and wow--what a poignant, mournful, subtle, beautiful book. The story follows two married couples whose friendship spans over 40 years, from the Depression through the 1970s. There is a strong, bittersweet undercurrent both in the two marriages and in the relationships between the four friends. It's a quiet book, but the writing and the story swirl around deep and personal topics--love, compassion, death, resentment, forgiveness. Here's a small excerpt from the end of the book:

Suppose she had died in childbirth under the care of that doctor whom I can't think of even yet without anger--whose name I have carefully forgotten. I would have left that delivery room a nothing, made nothing by the nothing that remained on that bloody table, but I would have survived her. I would probably even have gone on writing, for writing was the only thing besides Sally that gave meaning and order to my life. A nothing, writing nothings, I might have gone on a long time, out of habit or brute health.

It would have been an appalling fate. I am flooded with gratitude that I wasn't asked, quite yet, to survive her, that down under her cone of pain and ether she heard the anesthetist's exclamation, "She's going Doctor!" and brought herself back, thinking, "I can't!"

But of course she is going, as surely as Charity is though not quite so soon. The sentence is handed down and recorded and understood; some shadow of it was in Sally's voice just now on the telephone. You can't be close to the mortality of friends without being brought to think of your own.

Lest you think all of it is this melancholy, it isn't. There's the sweet amidst the bitter, the joyful past intertwined with the nostalgic present. I really recommend reading it, and would love to know your thoughts if you do.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


My mom likes to email me links to interesting articles and stories, things she knows I'd like to read. Quite a few of these articles have ended up featured on Something Ivory (remember this post?), so she now jokes that she has to be careful what she sends me!

Yesterday, she emailed me this New York Times opinion piece called "Is There Life After Work," and the subject of the email she sent was "Chilling." I knew what she meant as soon as I read the piece. The author is a woman named Erin Callan who devoted herself to her career above all else and has now found herself divorced and desperate to have her first child at the age of 47. She re-surfaced after years of being submerged in a high-powered corporate environment and is now living with deep, intense regret, from the sounds of it. Her writing is brutally honest and I admire her for taking what must have been a very hard look at her life and her choices.

Mostly, I feel very sad for this woman. We hear so much about the dilemmas facing women when it comes to work and family and the balance we all have to strike. This piece references Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, all of whom are successful career women with different approaches to their own work-family issues. We hear from women like these that it's very possible to have a career and a family; that sacrifices will need to be made on both sides; that it is imperative to have a supportive husband; that there will be guilt, and you just have to do your best. That you can be a very good executive and a very good wife and mother.

But this is the first I've heard, at least to this degree of honesty, about a woman who completely gave up family life for the sake of her career (she admits this--I'm not putting words in her mouth) and who is brave enough to write about the regrets she now has. This story is just as important--if not more so--than the stories of Sandberg and Mayer and Slaughter. While not everyone will agree with each of their approaches, these women have stayed married and had children and maintained high-profile jobs. I don't know if they have reached a good balance in their lives or not, but they are clearly thinking about balance, writing about balance, and they are trying for balance, from what I can tell.

Erin Callan's story is so important because she shows us what can happen when you don't try for balance. She writes:

"Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I’ve done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone. Even at the best times in my career, I was never deluded into thinking I had achieved any sort of rational allocation between my life at work and my life outside."

I really do pray that this woman finds and holds tight the things that really matter in life, and I respect her for her willingness to share such hard truths about her choices and experiences. Her story is one that we all need to hear and learn from, remembering that time is precious and we can't get it back.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DIY Vintage Window Frame Makeover

I started working on a fun and unique way to display our one-year anniversary cards, which I've written about before. I really wanted to frame them but that seemed a little bit too boring and predictable, and it was also proving to be difficult to find a large enough frame that was in my budget. 

I had remembered seeing a bunch of fantastic vintage windows in an antique shop nearby and suddenly I was feeling excited and inspired. The glass windowpanes are like mini frames, and I thought the vintage window would lend a cottage-y, whimsical look to the project. Here is the before picture of the window frame with the cards laid out on top (sorry it isn't great--I quickly snapped it with my iPhone and forgot to use my real camera). 

I decided to paint the frame a vintage gold (one of our wedding colors) to freshen it up. I also sprayed the hardware on top an oil-rubbed bronze

I love the way it turned out! However, I'm now at yet another impasse. I wanted to attach the notes to the back of the windowpanes so that they would, essentially, be framed and preserved under the glass. The problem is that I haven't yet found a way to do this. I bought glue dots, but they were very noticeable on the front of the cards. I bought a special glue online but when I tested it out, the dried glue was also quite visible. I thought about Mod Podge but I am afraid that they may cause our precious cards to wrinkle. I was hoping to go with a minimal approach to whatever adhesive I used and Mod Podge requires you to slather it on.

I'm still brainstorming but I'm not sure if I'll be able to solve this problem. I've actually been thinking lately that maybe it wasn't meant to be and that I should hang this window above my desk instead as a sort of bulletin board, attaching little post-its and notes to the panes (see the inspiration for this idea here). Sometimes you have to be flexible when it comes to DIY projects, adjusting your plans along the way. I do love this window and I put a fair amount of work into it, so I know it will be put to good use! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sermon in the Park

We had the most lovely Sunday afternoon. It was sunny and warm and there was a crisp breeze to keep us cool. We were after fresh air and soul food, so this is what we did. We drove to a beautiful local park and walked a big loop around the trees and the little duck pond, and had fun stretching our legs and chatting and looking at the cute puppies and children that passed by.

After our walk we found a picnic table in the shade, I whipped out my iPhone and we listened to one of Tim Keller's free sermons. I've heard Tim Keller preach twice at his home church in New York and each time, I left feeling renewed and rejuvenated in my faith in a unique way. He has a gift for making the Bible come alive, making it make sense for all of us in our daily lives as modern Christians. He's inspired, and inspiring.

We sat side by side and listened to this sermon on the jealousy of God while the breeze whistled above us through the trees and the sun glimmered on the grass nearby. We learned that God's jealousy is not like most human jealousy, that God's jealousy is angered love that always stays love and doesn't turn evil. We learned that God's jealousy is about His desire to have a love relationship with us, to have all of our hearts and all of our souls. We learned that we have a jealous God who wants to be our first priority, who wants our fidelity and our intimacy, all because of love.

On the way home I mentioned to my husband that listening to a powerful sermon in the middle of nature was like being in God's church. Absorbing His Word and feeding our spirits in the midst of the beautiful natural world He's given us felt at once magical and fitting. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 9

Looking forward to spending today with my husband. The scruffiness has got to go soon, but this Army man is going to enjoy the facial-hair-freedom of convalescent leave as long as he can!


Reading Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, which I hope to finish today. It's very beautiful and poignant, and I'm really loving it.

Writing some emails.

Listening to the morning quiet. I went to bed with a bit of a headache and woke up feeling better, but the silence still feels soothing and just right. For someone who loves music, it's funny how much I also enjoy silence.

Thinking about Daylight Savings (which I just realized happened today). It always seems to catch me by surprise!

Smelling nothing, actually!

Wishing our taxes could magically be done for us. I feel really grateful for the income I've made on a freelance basis, but it makes doing taxes so difficult!

Hoping...more like praying...for the strength to trust in God's plan and God's timing.

Wearing nothing cute, not right now anyway!

Drinking hot tea with cream.

Loving that I married a guy who makes his wife a delicious to-go lunch first thing in the morning to take with her to an all-day Saturday workshop. And also loving that when she comes home exhausted, 10 hours later, she finds him in the kitchen starting dinner. Feeding each other is such a sign of love and these things mean so much to me.

Wanting to do lots of slicing and chopping in the kitchen. I know that sounds odd, but you would too if you had a brand new set of Wusthof knives! We found a nice little set for a fantastic price (thanks to a suggestion by my mother-in-law to look at the PX, which is basically a military-only department store). They are fabulous.

Needing to get some exercise today. Growing up, we often went on bike rides or hikes on Sundays after church. I'm ashamed to admit that I probably complained about these events more often than not, but thankfully I've grown up a bit since then--why I was ever unhappy about a bike ride is now beyond me! Anyway, it looks like the tradition was instilled in me and now I really love getting fresh air and exercise on Sunday afternoons--thanks, Dad, for always putting up with me!

Feeling proud of my brothers. My older brother works for Uber in Dallas and he had a really great, exciting few days (which included driving a Rolls Royce and a Maserati!). My little brother just landed an internship in Atlanta, so he will be nearby this summer! We are about 4 hours from Atlanta, but that's a whole lot closer than NYC. We're really excited about it.

Clicking on Columbia's homepage. If you scroll over that first photo that appears, you'll recognize a name I type often on this blog. There's just so much to brag about when it comes to that little brother of mine.

Have a lovely Sunday!

(Linking up with Lauren.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy Wives Club

Happy Wives Club

Around the time when I was just beginning to discover all kinds of great blogs (and Something Ivory was not even a twinkle in my eye) I came across a fun blog called the Happy Wives Club. This was when I was engaged and planning our wedding. At the time I couldn't get enough of books, articles, stories, and blogs relating to marriage. In our world today, marriage is not always respected (to put it lightly). I was young and didn't have any other married or engaged friends, and I think I hungered to surround myself with the words and ideas of people who were passionate about their marriages--how they made it work, how they lived as godly husbands and wives, and how beautiful their journey was (no matter how hard it got).  

For me, this habit came partly out of pure pleasure and enthusiasm for the huge life change I was about to undergo. But a big part of it was grounded in my belief that it's important to prepare for marriage, to plan for marriage, in the same way I was planning the wedding. I felt it was important to use my engagement as a time of learning and reflection and prayer, so that I might be better prepared to serve Him in my marriage and better prepared to act as the godly wife I knew I wanted to be.

Anyway, the Happy Wives Club was one of the places I went to think and learn. So I was very excited when Fawn, the gal behind the blog, put out a call to all bloggers interested in contributing to the newly re-worked Happy Wives Club. She is launching it as more of a website than a blog, with special themed categories and blogger contributors. I applied to write a monthly food post and I was very happy to hear that I was accepted! I don't know much more than that right now, but I will keep you posted. I'm hoping to be able to sneak in a few thoughts on marriage (after all, I'm one of the happy wives in the club!) in between ingredient lists and cooking instructions.

Until then, check out Fawn's blog! And join the club--I know there are a lot of happy wives who read Something Ivory.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I've noticed something about myself recently--I am always worried about something. If it's not one thing, it's another thing. If last week's worry has been resolved, this week's worry jumps in to fill its place. It's as if there's a "worry of the moment" slot in my mind and heart that has to be filled, and it's exhausting. (And kind of humorous--thank goodness I'm married to a light-hearted man.)

I don't consciously worry. I don't try to find things to become anxious about, or analyze my life until I can find something worthy of worry. It just happens. It's either become a perfectionist habit, or it's deeply ingrained in my DNA (thanks, Mama!), or a combination of both.

I realize that everyone has stress and anxiety and tension in their lives in one way or another. Unfortunately, my particular brand of worry has a tendency to become obsessive, to invade my dreams, to really consume my thoughts. But in a way, I actually have come to believe that some of this obsessive worrying has led me to success, greater success than I would have had without it.

Photo taken by my Dad at my senior recital at Notre Dame. 

For example, when I was preparing for each of my (4 in total) solo student recitals in undergrad and grad school, I turned into a particularly neurotic worrier. I really don't enjoy the spotlight of performing, I become incredibly nervous before concerts, and getting up on stage to play--even though I've done it dozens of times--is very difficult for me. So I worried and worried. And oddly enough, in part because of this fear and anxiety, I made sure I was 110% prepared for each of those recitals. I anticipated every mistake, every memory loss, every missed note, and I practiced and polished and perfected my pieces, and I worked on centering my nerves and visualizing a good outcome and staying inward and focused. Concentrating on the beauty of the music, the real reason I am a pianist, was another way I prepared. (If I was playing Bach, I would repeat a mantra like "Beautiful Bach" while slowly deep breathing. It reminded me of why I was going through this stress--for the sake of the music.) My recitals weren't perfect, but each one of them went very well, and occasionally I even played better than I ever had in lessons or the practice room. I was able to perform at a high level despite my nerves in large part due to the worry which prompted me to prepare, and prepare some more.

I do need to work on this worry problem. It's not healthy to constantly be stressed, and I think prayer and meditation are probably the best ways for me to become a more relaxed person. But I think it's helpful to remember that worry does have a place in certain circumstances. Perhaps the rule is that we shouldn't worry about things out of our control, but when it comes to things in our control, we should try to channel the worry into something positive and productive.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Childhood Home

My little brother, the baby in our family, started his freshman year of college this Fall, so my parents now have an empty nest. They have decided to relocate from Upstate New York to Washington, D.C. and downsize from a large, old Victorian to a chic and custom-designed houseboat on the Potomac. A big change!

The house I grew up in from 5th grade on is now on the market, and my mom just sent me the realtor's photos. For some reason, seeing them made me a little teary. I just love this house so much. Over years and many renovations my parents made this home into something unique, a home completely their own. It was a labor of love and I'm so grateful to them for giving us such a special and lovely place to grow up. It's bittersweet to see each room, looking lovely, but also looking quite bare and empty. The photo of the dining room, where I had my hair done on my wedding day, and the photo of the "Piano Room" made me especially leaky-eyed.

Here are some of the shots, in case you'd like to have a look.

Monday, March 4, 2013

No Glue But Mutual Liking

"And so, by circuitous and unpredictable routes, we...are at once drawn together, braided and plaited into a friendship. It is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore all our lives it has happened so thoroughly only once."

- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

I just happened to come across this passage in the book I'm reading at the same time that I was mulling over my thoughts for this post. It's just perfect--a little nugget dropped down from the heavens. I've admitted already that I don't have a clear philosophy on friendship, but over the last few days I have discovered something that may bring me one tiny step closer to clarity.

And this paragraph is exactly it. Friendship is unique, so different from our other relationships. Family love is unconditional, marital love is sacred and bound by vow, but friendship? There is nothing to bind friends together "but mutual liking." And that really is a beautiful thing. I have some lovely friends in my life whom I like to pieces, who bring me a lot of joy.

But I think this is also the very quality that can make friendship so perplexing. This relative scarcity of glue to hold the relationship together, the absence of rules, and the inevitable difference in expectations held by the two friends. Wallace Stegner is right to conclude that friendship--true, strong, and lasting friendship--is rare.

I've long struggled with acceptance when it comes to friends--it makes me feel vulnerable to say that, but it's true. I'm much better at acceptance in my marriage. I chose my husband, my eyes were wide open when I said "yes," and I decided to love him forever no matter what. We've accepted each other for who we are, all the while trying to be better and to make each other better, but knowing we will always have flaws and shortcomings. The important things all align and everything else is just a part of being human.

Acceptance of family is also something that I think comes fairly naturally to me and to most people. I will love my parents and my brothers no matter what--I couldn't help it if I tried. No, we aren't a perfect family, but these are the people God has given me. They gave me life, they grew up alongside me, and I accept them.

With my friends, I have a much harder time determining what acceptance means, what it looks like, when and how I should do it.

If a friend makes a moral decision you can't agree with, should you support her because this decision makes her happy? Should you accept her and her choice, even if your instinct tells you it wasn't right? If your core values don't align, how do you deal with that? Do you honestly tell her how you feel or decide to keep quiet, so as to avoid any kind of disagreement? What if your expectations for the friendship are vastly different? Do you accept whatever she can give or do you admit that the friendship is draining you and letting you down?

Mutual liking is wonderful, but what about everything else?

As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly that I should love everybody. Love my neighbors as myself. Love even my enemies. I try to do this, and only by God's grace do I succeed some of the time. But I don't believe Jesus was telling us to be friends with everybody. Some friendships become detrimental, even when you both really like each other. Some friendships start to make you feel unhappy and disappointed, despite all of the qualities in that person that attract you.

There are no guidelines on this. No rules to be followed. And I would guess that all of us women have struggled with our friendships in one way or another, so let's talk about it. What is your philosophy? How do you choose your friends? How do you maintain your friendships? What do you do if the friendship becomes strained? I would love to know.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 8

There's a cute story that goes along with this dinner. I made my husband two "eggs in a nest" and so he had an extra heart toast. When I asked if I could have half of his heart, and he said I could have all of it. Swoon! Whoever said that marriage was not romantic had it all wrong.


Reading Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. It's a little bit slow going but I'm hoping to find a few hours to read this afternoon to really get into it. Some of the writing is breathtakingly beautiful.

Writing this post, and working on another one to post tomorrow, maybe Tuesday. It's been a challenging one to write.

Listening to morning silence. But yesterday, after my mom said she was listening to Beethoven's Pastorale Symphony on the radio, I was inspired to put it on. It's one of my favorites of his symphonies, and I listened to it a few times throughout the course of the day. Thanks Mom!

Thinking about how excited I am to see my parents in a few weeks!

Smelling lemons. I just started a new habit of drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning, while waiting for the water for my tea to boil. I've read about the many health benefits of drinking lemon water in the morning (apparently it detoxes your body, gives you energy, makes your skin glow--Google it!) and it's a good way to get some Vitamin C into my body first thing.

Wishing I had discovered this local natural foods/health shop when we first moved here, instead of only a few weeks ago. They carry things like local cheese and honey, natural beauty products, and organic grains. I'm mystified why this shop would be located in one of the oodles of strip malls, instead of on the (one-and-only) cute downtown street, which is charming and Southern and quaint, and has too many empty storefronts. I think it's the responsibility of local businesses to make sure small towns and walkable main streets stay alive and flourish, and it makes me sad when I don't see that happening.

Hoping for a great week ahead.

Wearing PJs, but will be changing soon for church. We decided to try a new church today after being disappointed and uninspired by the two others in town that we have tried. Let's hope this one leaves us feeling uplifted!

Drinking English Breakfast tea with cream.

Loving the yummy meals we've been having. Last night we had whole wheat fajitas with pork, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. The night before we had breakfast for dinner (pictured above) with steamed asparagus on the side. Simple, fresh, healthy dinners always hit the spot for me, and my husband too.

Wanting to try Bare Minerals. Anyone use it?

Needing to finish up this post, eat breakfast, and get ready for church!

Feeling thankful for the sun pouring into our apartment this morning. The back of our townhouse, which has two big windows and a set of french doors, faces east (I think--does that make sense, if we get morning sun?) and the natural light we have almost all day is beautiful.

Clicking on Kate Middleton news. It's a guilty pleasure--I just think she's so beautiful and dignified and inspiring!

Have a lovely Sunday!

(Linking up with Lauren.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Knit Together

I wanted to post about friendship today, but I'm not quite done sorting out my thoughts, so that will have to wait until next week. I loved yesterday's devotion, so I thought I would share it and wish you all a happy weekend. How beautiful is that image of being knit together by strong ties of love?

Enjoy your weekend. Make your loved ones feel extra loved!

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