20 August 2014

This is the day we hung stuff on the walls.

After my 11 days post, my friend Lisa told me she didn't hang things up on the walls of her apartment for 9 months after she moved to Chicago because it didn't feel like home. I sent her a picture of all of our pictures either sitting on the ground or still in boxes. 

Today was my day. The gold frame may or may not have been lowered three times. There were a few times where I was sitting in the middle of the floor, surrounded by pieces of art that we're collected over the years, my fingers pressed to my temples, and my mind seeking visions for where everything should go. There are seven other pieces not shown in this photo that have a place on our walls, and as I type this, I'm quite certain three of those pieces will trade places.  

I've only clustered art once before, but I love how all of these big over-sized pieces work together on our "piano wall."

I'm tackling my room tomorrow. And my bathroom with the lone box of bathroom stuff that really wants me to unpack it. Did I mention we have two bathrooms? Yep. First time ever.

In other news: My friend Stacia challenged me to post three positives for three days. I'm going to do it. Right here on my blog. Here goes:

1. We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight. Which means I've made the best meal of our Los Angeles lives tonight. I felt like me. Happily plugging away in the kitchen making food that's good for our bodies. We ate the sun tonight. And I enjoyed the Elders' company. It's fun to hang out with 19/20-year-olds who come from small Utah towns and spend time in South-Central L.A.. 
2. Honey Pacifica Creamy Wildflower Honey is a life changer. I bought a small jar at Whole Foods a few days after we got here because it was the only one I could find on the shelf that was sourced locally. Yesterday we finished it off. Today I bought the BIG jar. I'm pretty sure I'm going to start buying bulk. Dear Everybody and their Sister/Brother: If ever you feel like gifting me something and aren't quite sure what to get, I will always happily receive this. For real.
3. During dinner, my girls made olive fingers. They've done this many times before, but something about seeing them do it tonight was so perfect and wonderful. They're comfortable and happy in this change. They're with me, and I'm with them, and that makes my heart feel like bursting with love for those sweet Lovey Doves. 

In other other news: I was challenged to the ice bucket challenge. I publicly accepted, but I'm running late. I haven't a bucket, am not going to go buy one, and my big pot has been taken up with soup. I will likely be dumping ice and water on my head tomorrow, but let it be known that I donated to two charities this morning and will get to a third I've been meaning to support (initially I wanted to support them by donating my time), but I got busy with moving and can no longer physically show up because of the distance between me and this organization in Oklahoma doing good work.

PS: Friends who use wide angle lenses. I'm in the market. What's your favorite?   

18 August 2014

Make Me a Mystic

Several weeks ago, while lying in bed, Jake showed me a post on On Being's site about a new publication of Flannery O'Connor's personal writings. It's called A Prayer Journal, and it contains many intimately familiar thoughts/desires/hopes/prayers. I especially loved the following:

Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth's shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, Dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. 
I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.

I've been dwelling on this old idea experienced through new [old] words.

16 August 2014

11 Days

We've lived in Los Angeles for 11 days.

Our stuff has been here for 9 days.

I left my Dot Spot home 20 days ago.

My Girls said goodbye to their Gram 15 days ago.

I left a dearest friend and Oklahoma 14 days ago.

Yes, two weeks ago, we started out on this journey of grad school [again]. I can't help but compare it to our first adventure with grad school that took us to the University of Chicago and Hyde Park. I remember after we'd been there for a week, my little family [which then consisted of Jake and eighteen-month-old Cora] was taking an evening stroll through our neighborhood. We were passing our church building, and I told Jake I felt like I was cheating on Oklahoma for how much I loved Chicago already. It instantly felt like home, and my only complaint was the family who lived right above us and how they let their children run around way into the wee hours of the morning (it was really frustrating, especially for a light sleeper who was with child).

I wish the second time around brought with it such instant comfort. In reality, I've been stuck in a rut. I hate admitting that. I'm usually so good at just rolling with it, but I'm quite certain I've slipped into a bit of a depression. One I've kept hoping would turn out to be crazy hormones. Perhaps it's a little of both. Hyde Park and Chicago were so much easier to explore. We walked everywhere we wanted in our neighborhood and took public transit almost everywhere else.

It's obviously not that easy in Los Angeles. We're in a good part of the city, not too far from many things. And I'm grateful for the rent we're paying for UCLA graduate housing. It gets us in a good spot and easily saves us at least $1,000 per month compared to the market value of comparable apartments. We can walk to quite a few things, but most of the things we can walk to aren't really places I want to go too often. I mean, I guess I could make it super cool to hang out at the grocery store. After the exploring that we've done - that usually takes us to the beach - I've decided that if I could handpick a spot for me on the west side of L.A., it would be Santa Monica. What I couldn't walk to would be easily accessible by bike. I'm trying to get over this hurdle.

I felt like I'd explored everything I could in Oklahoma City, but it was easy to live there. It was easy to go take part in all my faves, and then go back to my cozy home in my lovely neighborhood. Maybe part of my rut is a lack of hardwood floors. ;) Seriously, though, I haven't lived in a dwelling this new….maybe ever? I think it's newer than our first apartment at Cokesbury on the campus of OCU. It's nice for grad school housing. But it's not at all charming. And this city isn't very charming. There's a lot to see and do, but it doesn't have the lovely architecture of Hyde Park, and the lovely old homes in Mesta Park. Besides the ocean, there isn't much eye candy for me. And I'm all about aesthetics. It's mostly a lot of getting from point A to point B. There is a life-sized cow sculpture in the front yard of a home on the way to Cora's school. It's quirky. I love it. I'm glad it's there.

Because I can't quite handpick the spot in this city I want to be in (and I've quickly come to understand that being in the right spot in this city is pretty important for its enjoyment - just like any city: I didn't love where we first lived in OKC when we moved back from Chicago because of the whole car dependence thing), I'm trying to find things that aren't superficial to keep busy with. I don't want to wish away the next 4-5 years that we'll be here for school. They're part of my life, my life will be happening in all of those years. But there is something difficult about going from being somewhat established/comfortable, minus Jake's crazy hours at work and basically non-existence at home, to being anonymous. From an old bungalow to sterile grad housing. From a school we LOVED to a school that's good so far, but to which I'm still warming up. I don't want to think, "We've been here for almost two weeks, only 206-258 weeks left."

I think it will help when Jake is in school. We had to move here pretty early for Cora to start school, but Jake doesn't start until the end of September. I'm used to being the queen of my castle with occasional visits from the king who's usually gone on business. I haven't been letting my freak flag fly the way it usually does. The way it needs to.

Okay, now that everyone knows I'm having a bit of a hard time, I want to share some things I've found enjoyable here:

1. There is a magnolia tree outside my bedroom window.
2. We're a family of four living in less than a thousand square feet, and it's working. Still some things to figure out, but we were a family of three in Chicago bursting at the seams in 1,300 square feet. I like the direction we're heading towards minimalism.
3. The smell (in most places). I don't know what plants/trees are emitting it, but when I walk outside of our complex, there is a deliciously sweet smell in the air.
4. The weather. Wow. Perfection.
5. The ocean. I can't even tell you how happy I am to be close. Here's my first post from Chicago. I tried to pretend like Lake Michigan was the ocean. I have the real deal here.
6. Jake's PhD program. This was his top pick. He's here, we're here. I'm excited for him.
7. I got some dreamy new dishes. This was a really big deal. I left all my Fiesta in Oklahoma. All of the bright vibrant, glossy stoneware. I wanted white. All white. And that's what I got. I initially wanted Wedgwood White, but then I found out that this charming English china maker outsourced the making of this line to Indonesia. I could have spent quite a bit of time trying to collect older pieces of the collection with the "Made in England" stamp on the back, but I found the Apilco Tuileries collection, and it had the same low lovely profile of Wedgwood White, but instead of a British company that now produces its ware in Indonesia, it's a French company that still produces its goods in France. I don't know why that was so important to me. It was a huge decision for indecisive me. Now I just need to find the perfect reclaimed wood shelf to display it on. I didn't think the shelf part would be so hard.

I think it's been strange trying to let myself catch up. I went from "We applied to 8 schools for PhD programs" to "We're moving to L.A.!" Then we went into get Dot ready to sell mode. Then we sold her in less than 24 hours. Packing, closing, preparing to leave friends who are all kinds of wrapped up in my heart. Driving halfway across the country, signing a lease on an apartment we'd never seen, working through the randomly complicated details of getting our stuff here, enrolling Cora in school, settling in. So many things. Big things. And there's a check by all of them. It's a relief, but it's weird to not be on the edge of my seat waiting for the next big task that I need to tackle. Is this where I breathe? Is this where I finally take the time to figure out if I want to go back to school too? Years. That's how long it's been on my mind.

I had it narrowed down to midwifery or architecture/historic preservation. Could it be more opposite? Maybe. I'm passionate about both things. Empowering women and birthing mothers in the birthing process. Studying/creating/designing/repurposing spaces - adding beauty and usefulness to our built environment - which I've always been so incredibly fascinated by. I've been leaning towards architecture/historic preservation. It floats my boat. My favorite textbook in college was my art history text, and my favorite chapter was the one dealing with architecture, specifically the section on green architecture, and by green architecture, the author was talking about repurposing old structures to have new uses and remain viable rather than be demolished. (My second favorite textbooks where ethics/human rights. And the class I got the highest grade in was psychology. I never missed a question on a test, and on one test, the scantron machine misread the last 15 question of my exam, and marked them wrong. When I showed my professor, she'd already set the curve to the person who'd missed the next highest amount of questions, which gave me like 115% on that exam. Social work, public policy, urban planning, and PA school have all been on my list as well.) I'm still holding out to see how all of our schedules will work out to see if it finally feels right to get down the business of working towards a career I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

23 July 2014

Three Sleeps

With three sleeps left in Dot, I've had laundry detergent on my mind. It makes perfect sense to me because I won't be able to use my favorite detergent anymore as we switch from having our own washer and dryer to a communal laundry room. (But I'm getting my very own dishwasher!)

I've been a loyal user of Charlie's Soap for the last two years. What I love about it:
- all natural
- biodegradable
- unscented
- it leaves our clothes super soft without fabric softener
- for something unscented, it makes my clothes smell fresh and clean. I always sniff a piece or two as I'm switching between the washer and dryer. That's my favorite "clean scent."

I would continue to use it, but for Charlie's to be optimal, you must have a washer free of residue left by other detergents. It suggests running a load or two with towels and rags and double the amount of Charlie's to "detox" the machine. Using shared laundry facilities, there is NO way I'm going to go through the extra effort.

In the last two years, I've grown to dislike scented laundry detergents and fabric softeners (I think they're overwhelming), so unscented is a must. I also think that clothes that have been washed/dried with fabric softeners/dryer sheets feel funny on my skin. I used to ALWAYS use Downy. And I used to love how my clothes would smell and feel, so this is new for me too. It's a lesson in less is more.

I also prefer powder to liquid detergents now. Charlie's! How could you do this to me?

As I've been researching brands, I think that Nellie's Laundry Soda is in the lead. Are there any other natural, biodegradable powder detergents that leave my clothes soft without fabric softener/dryer sheets I should be looking at?

09 July 2014

Swimsuits, Yoga, and Dandelion Wine

It all started when the swimsuit I ordered came in the mail. I tried it on, and I loved it. 

I've tried on about 30 swimsuits since March. I bought one, and then returned it because I realized if ever I bent over, the top wouldn't stay put. No good. 

I was nervous about ordering a suit I'd never tried on, but one of the reviews said that she had trouble with one-piece suits because she had such a long torso. DING DING DING! That's my problem too. After hearing that someone else with super long torso syndrome thought this suit could be a winner, I took a chance. When I put it on, it was perfect. See how I don't have a wedgie, and my chest is covered. This is a miracle, I tell you.
After a celebratory, I FOUND THE ONE, picture, I decided to move along with some yoga. I passed my camera, and one thing led to another, and today's yoga practice ended up being well documented. The focus of my practice today was arm balances. Let it be known that I got my swimsuit at 9:00 this morning, put it on immediately, and I still haven't taken it off. 

The following are a series of shots showing the progression into a headstand:

I overshot it. I think I saved this one, but it's a good example of why I don't stray too far from something to catch me on the other side. I'm still working on a solid core. Proof:

But sometimes practicing too close to a wall (in this case a door) can get in the way. See how my left leg needed to move farther than the door would allow:
I moved back a bit on my mat.

I concluded with "Wild Thing," which is one of my favorite poses right now. I like opening up my heart.

I'm off to change out of my swimsuit. I think seven hours without the prospects of swimming is enough, though if I didn't have anywhere to be, I might just keep it on. Dandelion Wine is begging me to start reading it, and it's just about time to go pick up my girls from Summer on the Farm at Keystone.

PS: My swimsuit is the Haute Wave one-shoulder one-piece by Kenneth Cole. I got it here. And it's the first one-piece I've purchased in over a decade.

08 July 2014

Three Weeks

When I wake up in the morning, it will be exactly 3 weeks until we close on Dot. That means that in less than 3 weeks, we need to be packed and have all of our stuff loaded and on its way to California. Now seems like the right time to get packing. I've been waiting for it to feel right.

I've felt my anxiety bubbling up a bit. It started on Sunday. One way I can tell I'm entering into a place of more anxiety is that my thoughts get all scrambled, and I get obsessed with things. Random things. Like swimsuits and dishes and new shoes for my girls. It's so weird. We're getting rid of our Fiesta (basically all of our dinnerware and bakeware). I started looking into replacement options and couldn't stop. Hours and hours and hours. Bone China, Stoneware, Porcelain, modern or traditional, patterned or not, where do the companies manufacture their products, etc. And all I want is simple white everything. I'm making a move toward simplicity really complicated.

I think these obsessions are distractions from the task at hand. I'm idling away so much time on things that don't matter to try and avoid what I need to be doing - packing up this chapter of our lives in this place. I noticed yesterday that my heart was racing. I spent much of today with my hands shaking slightly.

I'm in the middle of transitioning. I still have a fair amount of time in Oklahoma, but because I know the move is happening, I'm really just wanting to get it over with. And in the middle of wanting to move already, I don't want to miss out on the precious time I have left here. I'm hoping that because I realize this, this little brush with anxiety will be short lived. I've had three days of stalling out, and I'm ready to get moving again. I also haven't been sleeping much. That isn't helping.

I'm making a little plan to get rid of the stagnancy.

1. Take a walk everyday.
2. Detach from electronics as much as possible.
3. Perfect my side crow with scissored legs.
4. Engage in as many good conversations with my Oklahoma Lovies as possible.
5. Make it to the temple thrice.
6. Go to bed earlier than I have been.
7. Read Dandelion Wine
8. Get packin'.

07 July 2014

Baby Rose [and a Pregnancy Announcement Photo Shoot]

My friend Ashleigh is having a baby. I've written about her more than once, but here is a post from a while back that is a good summation of her and our friendship.

Jake and I have done some major life events a little ahead of the curve of our peers, namely getting married and having kids. So it's so fun when friends who have been there all along the way take their turns in these events. I am ecstatic for this new person to come, and so sad that I'm going to be about 1,300 miles away when Baby Rose makes his/her debut in the world. 

[May I interject something? Of course. For all of the things we've done ahead of the curve, I think it's so funny, and kind of awesome (and a little terrifying) that after having been married for 10.5 years, 2 kids, and a dog, we are embarking on a PhD program in the school year where we'll both turn 30. Yep. That's us, too.]

Ashleigh asked if I would take some pictures of her and Andrew to announce their happy news. Of course I said, "YES!" But please know this: I am a huge lover of surprises. I love when I'm surprised, and I love when other people are surprised, but not being able to openly discuss the whole "ASHLEIGH'S HAVING A BABY!" news with anyone was so hard. I was admittedly "Freaking Excited Sue." Since the good news has been shared with family and friends, I'm happy to finally share a few of the photos from the shoot we did. 

We chose OCU because it's a special place for them. It's where they met, the university from which they graduated, where Andrew proposed, and where they were married. 


They were married in the chapel at OCU, and the lighting inside was both tricky and beautiful. The chapel has four large stained-glass windows that represent the four seasons. They are lovely when the sun shines through them. The day of our shoot was overcast, so Ashleigh and Andrew would be in perfect position, and then the sun would either come out just as I was taking the picture, or go back into hiding. Their sign was also a little tricky because perfect light on Ashleigh and Andrew often meant a glare on their sign. The shots in the chapel are all without post processing and in natural light. I love how warm they came out. They had their "first look" before the wedding on the stairs in these photos, so they have photos from their wedding day and photos announcing Baby Rose in the same spot. Andrew worked in the Gold Star Building, which is the Law Library, while he was a student at OCU. I love that they switched the message on their board to match the mascot and most iconic building on campus. 

I'll leave you with two photos where the sun got the best of us in the chapel. They're both when the sun came out just as I was hitting the shutter button. I majorly messed with the exposure on the first one (I think the graininess gives it a vintage-y feel, and I like it, despite its lack of clarity). I like the dark one for the colors of the "summer" window outlining their silhouettes. 

I wonder if my journey in photography will be much like my journey in pottery - where what is unintended often pleases me more than what is intentional.



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