Currently, I am:

-watching the rain outside

-sitting in Starbucks because the internet at my apartment went out due to aforementioned storm

-finishing up the reading for my first class of the semester (which is still in over a week!)

-in Madison, my new home!

This week, I’m excited about:

-being in a new city! “Learning” places is one of my most favorite hobbies, so I’m excited to have a new place to explore.

-my brand new (to me) bicycle! I bought it on Saturday from a used bike dealer near campus. It’s a restored 1989 made-in-America red and yellow hybrid! I love it. I bought it with my very own money (the biggest purchase I’ve ever personally made) and so I left it at home today due to the rain 😉

-not having class just yet! I do need to buy books, get my student ID and bus pass, and go to a few orientation/beginning-of-the-year social gatherings, but it’s nice to have another week of summer before things get crazy.

And I guess I’ll round this out with a few pictures!

We went on a tour of the Capitol when my family was all still here!

We went on a tour of the Capitol when my family was all still here!

From the Capitol overlook

The view from the Capitol overlook

I thought this picture deserved a bit more social media exposure. Dad on Lake Mendota...

I thought this picture deserved a bit more social media exposure. Dad on Lake Mendota…

One stop on our Environmental Studies field trip was at a dairy farm, where we got to meet the sweet newborn calves (among other things). This little gal was one week old!

One stop on our Environmental Studies field trip was at a dairy farm, where we got to meet the sweet newborn calves (among other things). This little gal was one week old!

And another stop on our field trip: Kickapoo Valley Reserve. 40 years ago, the area was supposed to be dammed in to become a recreational reservoir, but the project was scrapped. The rocks in the picture are part of what was finished of the dam, and that concrete tower would have been the electrical control center of the dam.

And another stop on our field trip: Kickapoo Valley Reserve. 40 years ago, the area was supposed to be dammed in to become a recreational reservoir, but the project was scrapped. The rocks in the picture are part of what was finished of the dam, and that concrete tower would have been the electrical control center of the dam.

Besides all that, I’m just working on getting all settled in here! Leave a comment if you’d like… I want to know what kind of stuff I should be writing now that my life is a bit more mundane, so I can keep it interesting for y’all 😉 

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a polish-filipino wedding!

Among the wedding party, that’s what we decided that we would call Niki and Io’s wedding if we had a wedding blog. Well, I don’t have a wedding blog, but I have this blog, so that’s how I’ll title my post about the joyous and beautiful wedding of two of my best friends, which I had the pleasure of witnessing last week.

Niki is one of my very best friends from college and she is very dear to me–in fact, she was my wifey first!

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January 2011

Luckily, Io is great enough of a guy that I didn’t think twice about letting my wifey go as she became his actual wife 😉

November 2010

With such a fantastic, holy, fun-loving couple at the center, of course their wedding weekend was nothing short of magical. I’m still basking in the love and joy of the experience! So I wanted to write a little bit about it in case any of my readership is at all interested. (I just wish I had better photos to offer… some of these photos are from Daniel Laprea and Bailey.)

On Thursday I took an early bus from downtown Houston to UT’s campus Austin, and my friend and fellow bridesmaid Ali picked me up. We stopped by Kerbey Lane, a UT essential, for lunch and I got to have my first Tex-Mex of the year! Next, we drove up to Marynia’s (Niki’s sister and MOH’s) house to drop off some bachelorette party essentials, and then Ali and I continued our “girls’ day” at a salon to get manicures and/or pedicures.

After arriving at Ali’s house, the rest of the day consisted of nonstop reunions! First, Justin, Johanna, and Christina (other college friends!) arrived because Johanna would be staying with us, and Christina was coming to the bachelorette party as well. Before I knew it, we were on our way to the Triangle (after dropping Justin off with the guys) for part 1 of the bachelorette party: pottery painting!

It was lovely to be reunited with Niki, our guest of honor, as well as my college roommate, all of the other bridesmaids, and several other lovely ladies who I was either meeting for the first time or seeing for the first time in a while! We all got to bond over our mutual distrust of ourselves to not make a disaster out of the pottery (I made a to-go mug for coffee, which I don’t think I ruined) and mutual love of Chuy’s creamy jalapeño dip! Another really fun part of the evening: this was a true Catholic bachelorette party. We had two infants and two pregnant women in attendance! 🙂

After painting our wares and re-acquainting ourselves as a group, we moved on to the Clay Pit, a fancy Indian restaurant between campus and the Capitol. I’d never been there [too fancy for a normal college meal], and it was fabulous. I got to have some of my beloved chicken korma, Marynia bought a bottle of champagne for us non-pregnant/nursing mamas to share, and we took the opportunity all sitting around a big table to tell stories about Niki, how we met her, and why we love her! It was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend of honoring and cherishing the lovely bride.

Part 3 of the party took place at Marynia’s home, where we (in theory) all drove in a timely manner to watch a movie and drink margaritas… but Bailey, Christina, Johanna, and I made the unfortunate decision to take 35 North, where we sat on the highway for at least half an hour, causing everyone else to delay the movie! Oops!

Regrettably, I don’t think anyone took a single picture during the whole bachelorette party! But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t memorable! (It just makes for wonky blog formatting, oops)

On Friday, I somehow slept until noon! (At the time I was thrilled that I had finally gotten so much sleep a week after my transatlantic flight, but later, this would prove problematic.) I woke up to Ali informing me that everyone would be meeting for lunch soon–as soon as we could all decide on a restaurant. [this part felt like college again. No one can ever decide much to the distress of this choleric.] After a lovely lunch at Hula Hut on Lake Travis, our little group congregated back at Ali’s house to catch up, go jogging (just kidding, only Bailey did that) and eventually get dressed for the rehearsal!

Mission accomplished (partly)

Mission accomplished (partly)

But first: Johanna and I crashed the men’s trip to Addie Roy to pick up the organ they’d be using for the wedding! I just wanted to see the progress of the brand new Schoenstatt Shrine they’re building out there, but it turns out that wearing a white dress to a construction site is maybe a bit ill-advised. Regardless, the menfolk got the organ loaded into a truck and on its way to the chapel, with many thanks to Johanna and myself, I’m sure. 😉 And the shrine looks BEAUTIFUL!

The reunions continued at the church (the chapel at Niki’s high school out in Westlake): college friends served as groomsmen, ushers, and altar servers! The rehearsal was very… thorough… and the chapel was warm… a sign of things to come! But alas, we made it through, and resolved all issues regarding where to stand, when to bow (hint: ALWAYS bow), and whether all the bridesmaids would fit in the first row (we did). And then we were off to Maggianos for dinner and for me to reunite with this guy:

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Eating Italian food while catching up with good friends in a fancy ballroom and watching a slideshow of embarrassing pictures of the bride and groom can’t be bad, right? Right.

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Bailey, Ali, the lovely bride, myself, and Johanna. AKA the “vintage girls”–we’ve been together since freshman year at UT!

Resisting the temptations of an invite to Rainey St., we bridesmaids retired to Ali’s house to watch Say Yes to the Dress (which has a new version totally devoted to the progress of one [inevitably terrible] couple’s wedding, apparently) and go to sleep at a normal hour. Which we all did. And then I didn’t sleep. All night. And then it was 8:30 AM and it was time to drink some coffee, grab our bridesmaid gear, and head to the Bridal Headquarters to get this party started!!

I hadn’t been in a bridal party since exactly 20 years previous, when I was a 3-year-old flower girl in my Aunt Patti’s wedding, so the craziness of the bride’s house the day of was kind of new to me. Brothers and brothers-in-law rushing to Party City last minute for balloons; everyone getting their hair and makeup done, convincing each other to have another bagel or a cup of tea, and soothing crying babies; the bride printing out programs and handing them off to a competent assembly line for folding, hole punching, ribbon tying, and insert stuffing… the most fun kind of insanity.

Half of the bridesmaids are ready!

Half of the bridesmaids are ready to go! [Johanna, Bailey, Ali, and myself, for the viewers at home]

And finally, everyone was ready, or ready enough, and we headed for the church! We girls got dressed in some offices in the school building across from the chapel. Occasionally we’d see members of the men’s contingent out in the hallway and have to shove Niki around the corner so they wouldn’t be able to see her in all her bridal glory…

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(With a nice view of my hair, there, on the left)

And she was glorious!

We had time for a quick prayer all together, led by Marynia (chosen because she would be able to be both “deep and efficient”), and we, sans bride, headed into the church to join the congregation in singing the litany of saints before everything kicked off.

And then we processed. Despite my practice-walking, I did stumble slightly on my dress on my first step… but recovered! It was hot in that church in floor-length navy polyester, let me tell you. [James, who was an usher, informed us that he and Ryan, the other usher, stood at the back the whole mass and “just watched the thermostat rise.”] And someone, probably the aforementioned ushers, didn’t put programs in the bridal party row… so we were lost during the confusing Gloria setting and all the hymns!

But EVEN THAT did not take anything away from the absolute beauty of that wedding mass. The homily by Fr. Brian was thought-provoking and beautiful (a funeral homily, actually, but he pulled it off), the music was simple and gorgeous, and the marriage ceremony was perfect. Especially fitting were the vows: as one could predict, Io was incredibly emotional as he said his part… and then Niki came in in a perfect stage voice 😉 Very them. 

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I remember thinking during Communion… wow! It’s over already? I can only imagine how fast it flies during one’s own wedding! The joy and love just carry you through the ceremony.

After re-hydrating back in the school building, taking an effective and efficient number of family/official/wedding party photos in the church, and driving to the reception site, the wedding party was introduced at the Marriott! My partner, Marynia’s husband/Niki’s brother-in-law, James, was the tallest member of the bridal party, but I held my own in my 4-inch heels.

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This wedding truly was a Polish-Filipino affair, as advertised by the title of this post 😉 Niki, Io, and their families seamlessly integrated traditions from both cultures into the day. For instance, Io’s parents escorted him down the aisle before the Mass in keeping with the Filipino culture’s more predominant role of the groom, and after the ring exchange both sets of parents performed the imposition of the veil and lasso, an Hispanic tradition also used in the Philippines. And at the beginning of the reception, the Polish welcoming was used: guests threw/bestowed money on the newlyweds (their first money as a couple), and the parents of the bride presented them with bread, that they may never know hunger, and salt, that their lives may have flavor.

Then the ceremonial dances… Io and Niki danced to Ben Rector: (My first time hearing this song was actually at a Ben Rector concert with both Io and Niki, a few months before they got engaged, and they got really excited when he played it 😉 I wonder why…)

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Niki and her dad danced to Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof, and Io surprised his mom with Isn’t She Lovely. Both pairs could really dance! I know Niki’s family pretty well, but it was really sweet and wonderful to “get to know” both families during the weekend at the various events and through the fathers’ toasts at the wedding.

I mean, we all know how wedding receptions work at this point, right? Eating, drinking, general merriment, dancing… the dancing in particular was very lively! I was worried about my high heels and my too-long dress, but in the end, it worked out fine! Of course I had the best wedding date, and although Daniel and I hadn’t really danced together for over a year, we were able to bust out some decent two-step, cha-cha, and polka skills. I was very impressed by our polka, I must say. The Poles know how to party, and we kept up! 😉

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It’s not a secret that I had been really, really excited about this wedding for a really long time. The chance to catch up with so many wonderful friends, in such a joyous atmosphere, after being gone for so long was so. much. fun. Our table was Johanna, Bailey, and me, six of our best guy friends from college, and Fr. Brian, who celebrated the Mass. It was awesome swapping Canonization/World Youth Day stories with Daniel and James, laughing at Io’s dad’s crazy toast with all the guys, and looking forward to Justin and Johanna’s wedding next year!

My gentleman friends at our awesome table... Ryan, Daniel (me) and James

My gentleman friends at our awesome table… Ryan, Daniel, (me), and James. And James’ shirt.

At toast time, the DJ opened up the floor for people to offer some remarks (advice, nostalgia, well wishes) to the happy couple. James and I both debated saying something, but were edged out by time constraints. So instead we did this: wedding1

No regrets!

There are no pictures of this yet, but at some point a few members of the wedding party snuck down in the garage to decorate Niki’s car, in which we “sent off” the couple at the end of the night… even though they were staying in the hotel where the reception had taken place. We labeled Io as “whipped” on the driver’s side and Niki as the “ol’ ball & chain” on the passenger’s side. And, the piĂ©ce de rĂ©sistance, on the windshield: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I keep thinking of fun things from the reception: the “grand march” around the ballroom, dancing to “Love Shack,” someone not knowing that “Twist and Shout” is by the Beatles, so many fun line dances (The Wobble! Copperhead Road!! I love Texas), the 4-year-old who was intent on dancing (very violently) with every bridesmaid, getting the bride and groom up on chairs for the Horah… the list goes on. It was such a fun time with some of the people I love the most.

But probably one of the most beautiful sights came the next morning, after everyone dragged themselves out of bed before 9 to go to Mass at the Cathedral. We took up half of the church, y’all, between the bride’s family, the groom’s family, the couple themselves, and those of us friends who came out. Niki kept saying afterwards, “I can’t believe this many people love us so much!” The joy of the wedding day isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. I can’t wait to experience the joy that Io, Niki, and their new family bring to all of us in the future 🙂

my blog title and what it means now that i’m back

I started this blog about 3 1/2 years ago now, just before my 20th birthday and just before I left for my first ever experience in Germany, when I studied abroad for half a year in Freiburg. I finagled with the name for a long time, trying to get something clever or partially in German and came up short. So I settled for a little lyric snippet from one of my favorite songs at the time, which continues to be near to my heart.

It’s from “Ought to Be” by Audrey Assad, a little song from her first album which I love very much. She wrote it for her husband, but as she is a Catholic singer it is often read from a spiritual/religious perspective, which still works. I like it because it speaks to the experience of learning, and learning to love. It resonates with me in my youth, but I suspect it also has meaning to people who are older, because who has perfected the art of loving?

A sample of the lyrics, including my humble blog title:

“It may not be clear as the morning yet, it may not be strong as the restless seas

And it may not be red as the roses yet; it may not be strong as the old oak trees

But love planted deeply becomes what it ought to,

And hearts given freely become what they ought to

Love planted deeply becomes what it ought to be.”

At the time, I liked this lyric and this song because I didn’t know where I was going or what I was supposed to do, but I had faith that if I continued with faith and love that my life would become something beautiful. And I think that’s still true, but I also think that the meaning of that little poetic sentiment has come true in a lot of ways I wouldn’t have expected… life imitating art or something like that.

The differences between myself at 23 years old and myself at barely 20 years old… how do I even begin to understand them? I’m a totally different person now. I have a much better idea of where I want to be in life, professionally, personally, spiritually, etc. Many of these things, I have found or determined based on a lot of faith and trust in God’s love and the love of others.

When I made my Covenant of Love in October 2012, the personal ideal I found was actually very similar to the ideas in the song… staying firm and rooted in God’s love as a way of truly finding myself and becoming generous, loving, and all the attributes I aspire to. And I think that’s borne fruit in a lot of areas of my life. So I guess it’s fitting that the blog still has this title 3 years later, because there are still things I can learn from it.

Anyway, that being said, what place does this blog have going forward, now that I’m not in Europe and I don’t have exciting trips and foreign experiences to blog about all the time? I will admit that I leaned heavily on travel posts last year, partially out of cultural sensitivity due to who I knew was reading the blog, partially out of mental tiredness, partially out of what seemed the most interesting to write about.

I think I will continue to post about new things that I experience, and in general whatever thoughts, patterns, or ideas I think need telling. I am moving this week to a new part of the country where I’ve never lived and starting a new chapter of my life, and who says that’s less noteworthy than living abroad? I guess I’ll take some cues from what I experience and what I’m drawn to write about the most as I figure out how this blog thing will work from now on.

I’m excited!! Yay for new chapters. I’m glad I can take my faraway family/friends and readers along on some kind of journey as it begins…

a year in review

I can’t even believe how quickly this year has passed. As you read this, I’m on the long journey home: Prague -> Warsaw -> Chicago -> Houston. So if you could say a quick prayer for uneventful travel and no delays, that would be wonderful!!

I spent 10 1/2 months living in Dresden, and each one of those months… each day, really, was an amazing adventure and I am privileged to have had this opportunity. As always, when looking back, it’s hard to decide whether the time flew past or crawled by… in some ways, it seems as if I were just yesterday being picked up by my host dad at the Dresden airport, but in some ways that seems like thirty years ago.

To make sense of the time, and to reminisce a bit at the end of my stay, I’ve compiled some of my favorite memories from the year!

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