July 25, 2014

Finally Friday

1. Maybe Finally Friday will be my Real Life Wednesday... It's kind of a ironic as a title, given that Friday's really mean nothing to me anymore as I don't actually get weekends off.  Although Fridays are exciting because that means I get to wear jeans to work and a red polo and not my all black uniform and I look AWFUL in black.  I look good in so many colors but black is not one.  So yes, Fridays are still exciting!

2. If you didn't catch the TFIOS referrance in the above paragraph - it's there.  I actually haven't read TFIOS, at first because my mother read it and was fed up with his lack of medical research and that you can't actually get stage IV thyroid cancer (she should know, she had thyroid cancer), and then because everyone else was reading it and if something gets labeled as OH MY GOSH THIS IS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD AND EVERYONE SHOULD READ/WATCH/LOVE IT before I get to it well... then out of principle, I cannot read/watch/love it.  Because everyone else.  I do know the whole plot line and get all the insider jokes and references, so hey, I'm not missing out on all the fun!  Maybe when the hype dies down I'll read it.

3.  On a coworkers recommendation, I tried coconut iced coffee the other day.  Oh my word... it's like putting the beach in your coffee. Why have I never tried that before????  As long as we are on the iced coffee tangent, I'm trying my hand at cold brewing coffee.  I'll let you know how that goes!

This Ivy House
4.  I went with my mom to the new Mariano's the other day to try their gelato and check out the tea isle and I finally got myself a tea infuser!  I picked up two bags of loose leaf tea while I was there, and I love it!  (Both the tea and the infuser!)  I had an infuser before, but it was more of a tea pot which isn't as convenient to carry around to work or for a grab-and-go tea situation.  I'm thinking tea bags are going to soon become a thing of the past with me.

5. It's a little frustrating when you find a book with a great plot idea, but poor execution and writing.  I found All Right Here, by Carre Armstrong Gardner and while I loved the idea of a couple, unable to have children, who find three abandoned kids and take them in and struggle with the question of can someone else's children ever really become your own... it just wasn't a well written book.  The book mostly stayed with Ivy, the wife, but occasionally flitted to a random subplot with her twin sister Laura and then once in a while gave a random chapter from the mom's pov which really had no bearing on the plot and no plot of it's own.  The husband got a tiny bit of POV near the end, but I would have loved to have seen so much more from him.  It also suffered, from what I've termed "Christian writer syndrome".... where it's not marketed as "Christian fiction" but it tries to be subtle and ends up being blatantly obvious and a little forced.  Again, great story idea, just not very well done.

6.  I have pressured my sister into doing a fashion shoot because she's beautiful and she got some new clothes and she never does fashion shoots.  *smirks* So I will leave you now to go torture - I mean, photograph her.  Until next time!

July 24, 2014

A Quiet Day Off

By what surely was a miraculous set of circumstances, I had the day off of both of my jobs today and absolutely nothing else on the schedule.  It's been beautiful.  This morning I attended Mass, went to my guitar lesson stopped by the library on my way home to pick up just a few books....

...Then I listened to Ed Sheeran and painted a birdhouse that I plan on giving to my cousin as a continue-to-get-well gift...

... and then while it dried, I sat outside under a tree with a book and my Kindle so I could chat with my Knight...

... and I slowly sipped a glass of lemonade with a few sprigs of fresh mint leaves in them out of a mason jar, because drinking out of a mason jar always feels so country and fun and mint leaves in lemonade are the bomb...

... and then I came inside and had some ice cream because Bro A and my mom had had the last two ice cream sandwiches, and he felt bad that I didn't get one, and I drank a lovely cup of fresh brewed coffee...

... and now I think I will go back to reading, enjoy dinner with my parents and whatever siblings happen to be home at the time, and then tonight head out to my young adult group that I haven't been to in ages and listen to the How to Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack that came today along the way... and end my day with good music, good friends and a good time with Jesus.

July 23, 2014

Things I Didn't Expect About Working in a Hotel

I work as a guest service agent (I'm the gal behind the front desk) at an extended stay hotel.  I've been there for two months, and here are some things I've discovered that I didn't quite expect!

1.  People give me stuff... all the time.  It's kind of awesome, really.  There's been a number of times when I've walked through the door at home carrying a bag with unopened drinks or food that a guest who's checking out and cleaning out their fridge has 'donated' to the front desk staff, or a beer that a guest didn't like and was like "Hey, you want to try this out?" (and who would say no to free beer?).  There's also many a night when the guests are out grilling on the patio and come in with a "Hey we cooked a lot of food, you guys want some dinner?"  Those are the best nights, and let me tell you... our guests sure can cook.

2.  I never know who will walk through my door.  Okay, I did expect this a little, but I expected it in a bad way - you know, stereotypical hotels are dens of drug deals and questionable escorts kind of way - but thus far it's proved to be you never know in a good sort of way.  Like the sweet lady from Germany who is a Michael Jackson tribute artist, one of the "top ten female racecar drivers in the world" (according to Sports Illustrated), a wonderful family in the process of moving to Italy that you discover homeschools and then find out that their story is going to be on House Hunters International.  Oh, and did I mention Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis???? Sadly... that was last summer, and I didn't work there then. But hey! It could happen again!

3. I get hit on by the guys.  Yes, call me naive - but hey! My only two jobs prior to this were a desk job where the only people I saw there the 19 other people in the office and a small chiropractic office where all the patients were old or families.  So far I've had one of the creepy meet me outside the hotel when you are done working type, one less creepy "have I told you you're beautiful today?", and a bunch of the  more friendly, "Hey, where's my hug for today?"  The last sort isn't so bad... even though some of them hug for a liittttllleee longer than I'd like, they're all friendly guys that hang out and chat with all the staff and have never tried or insinuated anything past the fact that they like hugs.

4. I've met people from all over the country and the world.  A surprising handful of people from Rhode Island (and yet for how small the state is no one has recognized the name of the town my Knight lives in!), East Coast, West Coast, Down South.  We've had a few people from Canada, England, Australia, Germany, Sweden.  It's pretty neat to check people in and see where they've come from and chat with them a bit about where they are going, where they live.  My hotel is right on one of the major travel highways of the United States and odds are if you are traveling East-West and North of the Mason-Dixon line, you'll end up driving down that highway.

5.  I recognize a lot more pop music than I did before.  Amazing how listening to a station that's not country music for eight hours every day can expand your musical horizons, isn't it?

6. The awesome relationships that have developed with our guests.  The great part about being an extended stay hotel is that most of the guests stick around for a lot longer than your typical one or two night stay place. A lot of the guests will be there for weeks or months at a time, or come back for a few days every couple of weeks for years.  Getting to see them so often provides a wonderful opportunity to get to know people a little better.  My favorite parts of the day are when guests I've gotten to know well come back from work or check in again after they've been gone and getting to chat and catch up with them.  We have some truly amazing people who have stayed and are staying with us, and that leads me to another I didn't expect...

7. How sad it can be when people leave.  After a while of seeing some people every day, you kind of expect them to be around forever.  Eventually though they have to go on to another job, or they get to go back home and we get faced with the realization that we'll probably never see them again.  We like to tell our guests that we're the Hotel California... you can check out, but you can never leave!

8.  That I would have a job that I'm truly excited to go to. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed my other jobs that I've had, but whether because of a long commute or some workplace tensions/drama or simply because it wasn't my goal for what I wanted to do in life, I haven't loved a job.  And I really love this job.  The guests are awesome and the people I work with are amazing.  It didn't take long for us to bond, and we have so much fun working together.  We prank each other, we give each other a hard time about everything, we talk and oh yeah, we do work.  That too.  But really, most of the time it doesn't feel like work because it's always changing and two days are never a like, and they've built such a fantastic work environment.  We've had guests tell us that they've never met a hotel staff that was so friendly, or acted so much like family... and while I didn't expect it, that is what I love most about my job. 

July 15, 2014

Finding the Middle of the Road

I was on an island the other day with my Knight, and we were sitting on some rocks as we prepared to climb back up a cliff after having ridden our bikes up a hill much more strenuous than this out of shape prairie girl was anticipating, then climbed down the cliff to the seashore.  I was quite hot, and bemoaned the fact that I was wearing denim capris with the thought "I wish I could wear shorts!"  "Why don't you?" my Knight asked, chuckling a little.  "Hahaha, my sister's would excommunicate me. Maybe.  We've loosened up a lot, so maybe not," I joked.  "I know a lot of girls who've been posting on Facebook lately that they finally worked up the courage to wear shorts."  "I really don't get what the big deal is," my Knight shrugged.  "Find something that's mid-calf or knee or whatever. I don't see the issue."

"You know," I said, "when I was younger the thought of wearing pants was horrifying. The whole 'Oh pants are an arrow to your butt and men won't be able to look away!'"  My Knight laughed, thinking I was exaggerating.  "I'm serious!" I said, "That's pretty much a quote I read in a book once!"  "Wow," he shook his head, laughing.  "That's sad."

I've been toying with the idea of writing a post along these lines for a while, but that conversation is what finally prompted me to do it.  As a young girl caught up in the ferverence of The Modesty Movement, I had unquestioningly believed that wearing pants would probably cause men to sin and would certainly make them look at places where I didn't want them to.  As I got a little older, I relaxed a bit, realizing that men are not creatures with only one thing on their minds at all time.  Still, to find out that my Catholic, homeschooling boyfriend had not only never heard of this, but thought it was laughable, was eye opening.

Don't get me wrong, The Modesty Movement has it's heart in the right place, as a general whole.  Dressing out of respect yourself and for those around you and for Christ is something we should strive for... but it has it's problems that it is working on out growing out of. You probably recognize them.  Modest is Hottest.  You're going to make your brothers in Christ stumble.  Men are sexual creatures and it's the woman's responsibility to help them guard their eyes.  Pants are an arrow to your most private parts.

There are extremes to everything, and it is natural for something new to go from one extreme to another.  The Modesty Movement is relatively new still, starting in the wake of the conversions and re-versions of many of the member's of my parents generation.  They came from a culture that was jumping headlong into the sexual revolution where anything goes and the more skin you show the better.  It's only natural that in trying to correct this, a major part of the movement swung to the opposite extreme, the extreme that cried out for Little House on the Prairie dresses and Regency gowns as the only acceptable option.

Neither one of these extremes are the right answer.

We were placed in this period in time for a reason, it's okay if we look like we belong here. We don't have to dress in long sleeves and ankle length dresses with knee high socks year around to be modest.  We don't have to dig up 18th century patterns, sew necklines up as high as we can and wear shorts under everything.  Who does that reach?  Who is going to see us imitating the Amish and say "Man, I want to be like them! I've been dressing wrong all of my life!"

Our goal should be to dress beautifully and modestly, but in a way that people around us don't even realize we are doing so.  That's the true goal of modesty, isn't it?  To be in the middle of two extremes, to be so natural that no one even notices, at least, not consciously.  It's something I am still working on myself, finding that middle of the road, that balance between belonging to this day and age, and being appropriate and modest.  I know some lovely young girls who have mastered it... I was at one of our homeschool group functions recently, and I was admiring how stylish and how beautiful they were.  They weren't wearing Mennonite wannabe clothes, they were wearing pieces you could walk into any store in any shopping mall and find.  They were modest, because they had layered or selected pieces that covered what needed to be covered (they weren't all wearing skirts or dresses either), but it was so effortless that you didn't look at them and think "OH, they are dressing modestly."

The swing from one extreme to another is a growing pain, and every new movement has it.  I think we are slowly working towards that place of moderation. I've seen it in my community of friends and families as we've gone from a place where people who wore pants were ostracized to a place where we are less judgmental, more open to the realization of what modesty truly is.

Some people still wear skirts and dresses all the times, some people wear pants and skirts, but what they wear or don't wear isn't the point anymore. The point is the realization that moderation is key.  The point is realizing that obsessing over how each piece of clothing that you wear could possibly cause someone to sin is the opposite of being modest.  Modesty is taking care of your appearance, yes, but being... normal, about it.  Being unassuming, being effortless.  Being, well, modest.

July 12, 2014

If Coffee be the Drink of Love...

Whoever discovered coffee should be canonized, at least in my book. I've dubbed the coffee plant "the miracle plant", and I know there are millions of people the same way.  I even wrote a blog post dedicated to coffee.

That being said, coffee has a special place in my love life, and as this past Friday marked three years since I told my Knight that I would love to be his girlfriend, I thought it only fitting that I share the story of us and coffee.

It all started out one week back in June of 2011, at the Minnesota Regina-Con aka Fairy Tale Novels Fan Gathering.  I'd headed there with hopes and dreams... I knew beyond a doubt that liked my not yet Knight very much, and I was almost even certain that he would be the one for me.  Someday.  It was exciting, and nerve wracking, heading up there but once we both got there, it felt so natural, and it was so easy to be normal, and be friends like we had been for the past three years.  

We connected on so many levels on that trip... we accidentally sat next to each other for every meal (no really, that was not planned!), we planned a murder mystery together, we navigated ourselves and two other friends out of St. Paul at 1am, but one of the most memorable things that we connected over that week was coffee.

It was nearly one in the morning by the time we actually got out of St. Paul, and then it was nearly an hour drive back home.  We managed to stay awake (well, my Kinght and I did. The other two slept in the back seat.) by listening to the radio and praying the rosary.  Naturally, the next morning we were exhauuuuusssteedddd.  The family hosting the gathering were not coffee drinkers, but the had borrowed a coffee maker and purchased some coffee to accommodate those who were. No body else wanted coffee that morning (they all slept), but My Knight and I were wiped and ended up drinking a whole pot of coffee between us.  I can still remember the moment when a thought struck me and I looked at the can of grounds and whispered to him in horror "That was DECAF".

A few days later, we were in town (and by that I mean a town with three blocks, a gas station, and if you blink you'll miss it), at the town hall to enjoy a talent show and swing dance party.  Again, we were very tired, and again as coffee drinkers were in the minority somehow, there was no coffee.  As we sat at one of the tables, waiting for dinner to be ready, My Knight, Sister T and I bemoaned the lack of caffeinated beverages. Then someone, I don't recall who, had the brilliant idea of scouring the little town for coffee. There had to be something somewhere.  Thus began the great coffee adventures of 2011.

As it turned out, the only place in the little eight block town that had any kind of life, or coffee, was the gas station about half a mile away (3/4 of a mile if you count the quarter we walked in the opposite direction).  After wander about for a bit and not find anything, remembering the gas station and trying to recall where it was, then walking down the state highway to get to said gas station, we finally made it to there and the glorious coffee machine.  I'd love to tell you it was the best coffee we'd ever tasted, but I honestly don't recall and it was probably your typical gas station brew. Nevertheless, it helped keep us alert and gave us another memory to smile and cherish.

Since that memorable start, coffee has continued to be a fixture in our relationship. Long distance coffee dates are one way in which we stay connected despite the miles in between.  He's given me several coffee mugs as gifts, this past Christmas I gave him a mug with his name written in Elvish on it.  Going out for coffee is something we do every time we are together.  Beating him to the coffee maker so I can make him a cup of coffee in the morning is one of my favorite things to do on our visits.  Someday, when we have a home of our own, I'm sure the coffee maker will have a central and grand location in the midst of our hourly existence.  Or at least, you know, a nice spot on the kitchen counter.

July 10, 2014

This is Me, Driving Around Rhode Island

No cute little graffic because lazy.

Anyhow... I'm out on the East Coast this week visiting My Knight.  His job is rather lacking in the days allowed off department, unfortunately, but we make it work and make the most of his days off and the time when he's not working.

Today he had to go into work (2nd shift), his mom was at work, his dad was at work, and his brother was at work.  Fortunately, they have an extra car and after receiving permission to drive it, I set off in to the great unknown to do some errands for our adventure we're embarking on tomorrow.

I swear for the first 30 minutes I felt like no one had ever let me drive alone before.

 "What, how does this car work? Where is the key?"
"I'll just stop in a Dunkin' Donuts and get coffee. That'll totally help."
"Okay, good thing I have this GPS with me. How the heck do you work a GPS?"
"Forget going to the grocery store, CVS and the Dollar Store. I don't know those people. I know Wal-Mart. I'll find a Wal-Mart."
"How the heck am I supposed to know if the GPS is telling me the truth? What if this isn't the closest Wal-Mart? What if it dumps me in the middle of no where?"
"OH MY GOSH I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE HILLS NO ONE TOLD ME THE HILLS." (Hey, I'm from Illinois. Cut me some slack)
"Well. Missed that turn."
"Now I'm on a barely wide enough for two cars road. I'm going to get axed by a toothless Rhode Islander."
"Dang it I sound like my mom the time she swore she was going to get shot by a toothless Tennessee hillbilly."
"Oh praise the Lord, it's Wal-Mart! I'm alive!"

The drive home was much calmer.

July 4, 2014


Happy Fourth of July, one and all!  I hope you had an awesome day full of freedom and independence and American pride.  Between heading out to morning mass, helping friends of ours clean their yard after a small tornado went through and working at the hotel I didn't have time for a full blog post, but here's some photos from my day!

God Bless America!

July 2, 2014

Celebrating Life, Long Distance

Three years ago today, I was single.  I would be single for a few more days... nine, to be exact.  Well, eight, depending on how you look at it.  There was some timey wimey wibbly wobblyness in there.  You see, eight/nine days from now, three years ago, I answered a letter from a certain young man living on the East Coast with the reply that, yes, I did want to be his girlfriend.

Being in a long distance relationship certainly has it's challenges... one of which is the difficulty in celebrating things together like birthdays, holidays and sometimes even anniversaries.  We've never spent an actual holiday together (apart from the Fourth of July last year, but that marginally counts), we've never spent our birthdays together, and last year we weren't together for our actual anniversary.  That's really, really hard.

Despite the difficulties that separation brings, however, we've managed to find ways to celebrate the milestones and events in life together.  Necessity is the mother of invention, if I'm remembering the phrase correctly, and I have to say, I think we've come up with some pretty good ones.

Technology is a wonderful miracle, without which long distance dating would be much harder.  One of our favorite ways to celebrate birthdays, Valentines Day or just dating is to go on what we've termed a "long distance movie date".  We decide what film we want to see, look up to see what the closest corresponding showing times are (the past few times we've gotten luck with the time difference and found shows starting at the same time!) and then follow up the film with a Skype session at a nearby coffee place to talk about the movie.

Birthdays are always celebrated with several phone calls, a movie date if there isn't an in-person visit in a close timeframe, and we always open our gifts from each other while Skyping (if not opened at an in-person visit).  Christmas being the busy day that it is, we don't get a chance to Skype, but we do make sure to call each other and there is always a visit not long after during which we can properly exchange gifts and enjoy the mistletoe.  Valentine's Day is celebrated in a similar fashion... we've made a tradition of going out for coffee, Skyping and opening cards and little gifts to each other.  

(As an aside, coffee has a memorable place in our relationship, so the choice of a coffee shop is not simply because they are nice places to video chat.  Actually, the WiFi can be quite frustrating most of the time.  But coffee as a means of bringing us together and making me fall in love with him is a story for another day...)

My favorite way of spending time together when we are apart is something that was inspired by a song my Fairy Godmother shared with me last year, a little bit before our second anniversary.  He had flown out to go on vacation with my family and I about a week before and wasn't able to be here for the actual day.  We went out for a lovely dinner to celebrate while he was here, but we wanted to do something on that day as well.  

My Fairy Godmother shared a quote with me along the lines of "there is no distance between two tabernacles", and then shared the song "See You in the Eucharist".  And that is what gave me the idea for a long distance Holy Hour together.  We did it together for our anniversary last year, and for Valentine's Day this year before going out for coffee, and both times it was a truly beautiful hour.  It really does feel as if he is there, right on the other side of the Tabernacle that I am kneeling in front of.  Prayer played an very important role in our love story, and is an important part of our lives, and growing closer together in prayer is the best thing any couple can do.

And we have, of course, found ways of celebrating the little events in life too.  We call, we text, we text a lot, we send each other pictures - such as, if I'm wearing a cute outfit and want him to see it, or he catches a nice size fish - we share things on Facebook and chat and update each other on what we are doing and experiencing and feeling.  

Celebrating life together is a challenge, but it's an exciting challenge.  And it helps when you have the most awesome guy in the world to figure it all out with.