Sunday, August 31, 2014

Small Joys: volume 16.

Happy Saturday Sunday, friends (I started writing this on Saturday but had to finish on Sunday)!  Our's is a little gloomy here in the Midwest, but I see the sun peering through the clouds, maybe considering the idea of coming out today (that was Saturday. Sunday seems to be all gloom, which I'm ok with since I'm supposed to be sleeping for night shift this afternoon).  It's been a pretty full week in the Davis home; Scott is studying for boards, I've been cleaning/cooking/working/writing (which, by the way, is nowhere near as difficult as the stuff Scott is studying.  He keeps handing me notecards every once in a while to look at and my brain just feels like nothing when I look at them.  I actually laughed the other day because I thought some of the words on there were made up; they weren't. I felt really smart).  Our apartment is still a haphazard mess, despite my best attempts to keep it clean.  It's overflowing with our wedding thank you notes everywhere, books, study materials, boy laundry (clean or dirty? I can never tell what his system is.  Floor=mostly dirty, but do the smell test to see if it's clean enough to be worn thereby changing its status to clean?)

My joys to share with you this week are small, indeed, but they have been huge blessings in the midst of a lot of chaos.  Someday I'll talk about all the chaos, but for now, just know that it's there and that even in our feeling swallowed up by it sometimes, there's a lot of happy moments.  

No. 1: Reading. Oh man.  I've been reading like crazy lately.  Not any of the things I should be reading, like my ACLS (advanced cardiovascular life support) manual or my Med/Surg certification review book.  None of those things seem important right now even though they should be.  Maybe I'll pick those up next week again?  For now, I've finished two of my August books (Beautiful Ruins and The One and Only) and still need to finish Radical (I'm thinking I will push this one into September because it's too serious and important and big for me to rush through it). BUT good news: almost finished with Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet and am seriously devouring every word.  This is part of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book Club and will be heading off to North Carolina soon to sweet Jordan.  My other traveling book club (a little smaller, with only three people so far, and possibly a fourth?) just received Beautiful Ruins which I really enjoyed.  It was great writing, in my opinion.  I had thirty pages left and was doubting that Jess Walter could bring it all together and end it in a good way with just thirty pages to go, but he did.  It left me wanting a little more, but I think he did a great job with the book and the style of writing (several stories going on at once).  In any case-- here's to books! And reading! And staying up late to finish books! 

First long distance book club in the mail!

No. 2: Fall nails. I love painting my nails.  I don't do anything fancy (my friend Mariah at work always has super cute and fancy nails with amazing designs/textures/colors... maybe someday I will try to learn her ways!), but I do enjoy painting my own nails.  I've gotten manicures before and just find them to be an incredible waste of money unless you get gel polish, which can be expensive.  Now that I have a decent top coat (OPI, worth every penny), I'm finding that painting my own nails lasts just as long, if not longer, than when I get a professional manicure.  Plus with DIY I can sit at home watching Pretty Little Liars while painting.  That's a win in my book.  The alcohol we use at work to wash our hands seems to just eat away at any and all nail polish (except for gel polish), so painting my own just seems the way to go if it's going to chip anyways.  In any case, as you may know from my posts on here and on Instagram, I'm ready for fall, hence my decision to begin painting my nails "fall" colors-- neutrals, browns, darker reds.  Deep, full colors.  This one here isn't so full but falls into the neutral category; it reminds me of the colors my grandma always used to wear.  She was a lady who almost always had her nails painted (I remember painting her nails when she got to the point in her illness when she didn't want to leave her house anymore.  Just because she couldn't go out didn't mean she could have naked nails!).  

"Let's do Lunch" in the Sephora by OPI collection

No. 3: Visits with family.  Recently, some of my family from New York came to West Lafayette to move my cousin into Purdue for his freshman year.  Purdue is only about an hour from us, so we took a little trip down the road to meet them as they helped him move in.  We went to Scotty's Brewhouse after (which has become our favorite restaurant in Indy... so we were excited that there was one in West Lafayette, apparently the original!) and compared notes on Italy trips (they had just been in the Spring) and just caught up and laughed a lot.  I love these people and was so happy to see them.  It was such an incredible blessing to have them here and so random to us too-- what are the chances that we would all find ourselves meeting up in the Midwest?  

                             At Scotty's with the crew!                                  Margaret and me

No. 4: Writing.  One of my goals for August was to write more.  More blog posts, more of my book, more handwritten notes.  I've been slowly but surely working towards this goal and have done pretty ok with it.  I finally sent some letters out that I had been meaning to send (sorry for being months late, Shannon!) and started on our thank you notes the other night after receiving them in the mail! I've managed to write nine blog posts this month (including this one) which makes this month my second leading month in blog posts written (second only to February 2013 when I wrote 13 posts! Whew.  I must have had a lot of free time.  Oh yes, that was the month before we got engaged. Lots of free time pre-engagement and pre-marriage).  I'm still trying to write more than that, but for good quality writing, I refuse to rush the process.  And as for my book, this has been a month of brainstorming and researching.  I didn't come up with a super official outline, but there is a list on my phone currently of the chapters I want to write.  Since I do better with stream of consciousness/free flowing kind of writing that tends to produce shorter chapters, I'm modeling after Shauna Niequist and making it a collection of essays.  Many of the topics will be things I've visited on the blog before but they will be going more in depth than I have on here. I also did research on publishing and how to get the book published if I so desire.  For now, I'm writing because I love it and because I find the best version of myself when I write.  I'm not looking to make a lot of money or any at all, really, but I'm writing for self-discovery and for the hope that it will speak to someone somewhere.  But I am interested in publishing if possible.  So I think we can say progress has been made on this front? 

PS: currently reading an e-book recommended by Shannon (via Shauna Niequist) called Writing to Find Yourself by Allison Vesterfelt which is amazing regarding writing for self-discovery.  So glad to have found this 100-page gem.  

No. 5: Hosea.  I've been reading through She Reads Truth studies online still and am enjoying their Hosea study right now.  I don't have much to say on this, except that you should check it out.  I find their studies to be so wholesome and good.  

No. 6: Indiana skies. They are beautiful.  North Carolina skies are beautiful, too, but these Indiana ones take my breath away.  We have the most amazing view of sunsets from our apartment and I frequently watch them from our bedroom window or while sitting at our kitchen table (which I intentionally placed in our bay window for this reason.  Many people in our apartment complex cover the bay window with a tv. I KNOW! Insanity, right? But I'm a sucker for pretty views, so maybe that's me).  Here's one I had to snap a picture of the other night.  You can't see the clouds super well, but there's like three different types of clouds mixed into this one photo.  Long, thin wispy ones, fluffy cotton-ball ones, and darker ones (earth science wasn't my jam.  Please reference my friend Kayla or any other high school science teachers for details on cloud names).  

Photo credit: Oh, just me. Thanks iPhone. 

No. 7: Homemade lemonade.  This one wasn't my idea at all.  My husband makes AMAZING homemade lemonade.  We currently have many bottles of sugar water in our refrigerator so we can easily put together the lemonade with fresh lemon/orange juice.  I'm giving him 100% credit for all of this, I've never actually made any of it.  It's so delicious, though.  

So good. So so good.

No. 8: Quiet nights in. Thursday night was my favorite night I've had in... a long time.  I had worked Wednesday night so I slept for most of Thursday, but when I woke up I decided I was going to dedicate the night to writing, reading, fall candles, catching up with NC friends, and drinking tea.  And I did all of these things.  I got to talk with my high school roomie and dear friend, Kirsten, for a while and shortly thereafter Skyped with Claire (and Susan for a brief moment, too!).  I love Skype because it makes me feel like I've actually just hung out with my friends.  I get the same feelings of euphoria and happiness that I do when I leave a friend's house in person; amazing that technology can facilitate that.  I also received our thank you cards in the mail and began the process of writing those out. I'm hoping fall brings more of these nights.  I love them, and my soul needs the respite that they bring.  

No. 9: Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  Yes.  I did it.  I purchased one in August.  Word on the street was that August 25th was their release date, so Scott and I showed up at our local Starbucks to study, ready for the PSL (chanting: PSL! PSL! PSL! Maybe that was just in my head). The barista looked annoyed when I asked for it (perhaps she had been responding to wants for this all day that day? Maybe she's an October-Scrooge?) and stated that it wasn't coming to their location until the following day.  After a brief terror-striken moment, I pulled my jaw up off the floor and asked for a tall decaf house coffee (come on, it was 8PM.  I only do caffeine that late when I'm working night shift) and walked away feeling defeated.  They also didn't have any milk or cream out and I was too sad to ask for any, so I gritted my teeth and drank my coffee black, feeling like such a baller.  Except that I added two packets of sweetener to make up for the lack of cream, so maybe that's not actually black coffee.  This story is so long, isn't it? Basically, I got a PSL on August 26th and I think it was even MORE delicious because of the extra day of waiting for it.  I drank half of it at Starbucks, went home to nap, and finished the other half en route to work that evening.  

PS: I really want to drink a PSL while watching PLL (Pretty Little Liars) one night just so I can say those two acronyms at once. Fun stuff, right? 

Well, friends, I hate to cut it off at 9, but I think these 9 have made for a pretty full week.  I hope that you are facing a good week ahead and that if you find worries facing you, that you leave them at the feet of Jesus.  And that you find the happy moments that are there in the midst of whatever heartache, sorrow, and stresses you face.

Lots of love, grace, and peace,

Friday, August 29, 2014

From where you stand

The 25th Hour Studio

I was inspired this morning by a conversation with one of my lovely former Penthouse roommates, Rachael.  Before you start judging, the Penthouse was the name for our cozy 2nd story apartment during our senior year of college.  There were five of us living there, thus breaking Chapel Hill's brothel law (which they are apparently enforcing heavily now on that street we used to live on, as per several Daily Tar Heel articles I've read over the past few months), and the year was entirely lovely and loud with the very best people living under our roof.

This morning we had a brief text conversation about being content in the stage of life that you're in and how incredibly challenging this can be.  We both come from different places as far as what our current life circumstances are, but I'm realizing that the feeling is always there.  I remember praying for this sense of contentment for months when I was struggling with engagement rings all around me.  Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be another friend with a shiny ring on her left hand and a soon-to-be-worn white dress in her closet.  I woke up every day never knowing how I was going to feel that day regarding sparkly rings and starch white dresses.  Some days I was incredibly excited for my friends and could barely wait to be part of their wedding and marriage; other days, I was writing tearful prayers in my journal and asking for the ability to be happy for my friends.  Most days, I was doing both of these things.

Do you know what's funny about praying like this?  God rarely just makes you happy.  Or kind, or content, or peace-filled, or patient (which is why I was long ago advised to NEVER pray for patience! A joke of course, but I do pray for this carefully).  He's not your fairy godmother, waving a wand and granting you your heart's desires, nor is he a genie in a bottle giving you three set wishes.  More often than not, you're given more chances to grow into those things that you want to be.  Which is why I laugh a little bit to myself when I think about how I prayed for the ability to be happy for friends with sparkly rings.  Because it led me to the year of nine weddings.  And in the year of nine weddings, I learned to be genuinely happy for those around me and the stage of life that they were in.  And I learned to be happy in my own, as well.

I still prayed fervently for this sense of peace and for contentment and true joy for my friends, and shortly thereafter, Scott and I were engaged and entering into the stage of life that I had so desired and envied for so long.  And do you want to know something? Even with the sparkly ring, I still struggled with feeling content even when I knew I was about to have the dream-- the wedding, the God-fearing husband, the friends all gathering to celebrate, the white dress.  And do you know something else? Even now, I struggle with feeling content with where I am.  My sense of happiness and well-being is so shallowly defined by my life circumstances.  I am tossed in the wind like an autumn leaf, so happy to be dancing around on a crisp fall day, and so immoveable and paralyzed when I'm pinned to the ground by a fierce rainy day.  When my joy is defined by my circumstances, I'm bound to be rollercoastering through life with the highest highs and the lowest lows, questioning what's wrong with me and why I can't be more "even" (is there medication for this? group therapy? a tarot card reader who can help?).

What it really comes to is laying your life at the altar and surrendering your circumstances.  Whether you are single, engaged, happily married, not-so-happily married, divorced, pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, a mother, a father, a homeowner, a nomad, working your dream job, or working to pay the bills, you are in a place that is so so important to the rest of your life.  And if you're not "living the dream" right now, know that maybe it's because you're looking for something outside of where you are.  Maybe you're consumed with what's next instead of finding good things with where you are.  Things will change, and you will not always be in the place you are in now.  But if you're always waiting around for what's next, you've signed a contract for discontentment.  You're like that leaf blowing in the breeze, set for your fate to be determined by the wind and weather that day.

Lay your life and your circumstances down and surrender to a God who already has the plan laid out for you.  You're not always going to know what the plan is or where it will take you, but that's where you learn to trust.  Do you know why I write my Small Joys posts weekly (or monthly, or bimonthly, or annually, depending on how much time I've been putting into writing at that time)?  It's to celebrate the small moments of happiness that can be found in whatever season I'm in.  It's about gratitude and being aware of the immense blessings that surround me when I feel tempted to float around in the breeze of my circumstances.  It's about being grounded and knowing that my real joy in life comes not from where I am in life, but from knowing that I've been rescued from this and from the deepest places of despair to a new life in Christ and to a life defined by bringing Him glory in all that I do.  And that includes my attitude about where I am in life.  He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30).  His plan is great than my circumstances.

I hope you have a happy Friday and that you are finding beautiful things in the midst of the somewhat mundane.  Feel free to send prayer requests or handwritten letters my way (I'll accept hand-typed letters or e-mails, too.  I don't actually discriminate with writing too terribly much).

Lots of love,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Look at Me

I've been on a Facebook hiatus for the past few days and am continuing it again after this morning.  My husband and I are currently in control of each other's Facebook passwords so that once I log out on my computer, I can't get back in unless he signs in for me.  He asked me to do this for him so that he could focus on studying for school and his boards, and after something he said to me the other day, I decided to take a break from Facebook as well.

Sometimes people say things to you that seem so hurtful, yet when you step back to consider it further, you realize that they were just being the mirror that you needed to see what you really looked like.  Scott said something to me the other day that, in the moment, really hurt my feelings.  I was cooking in our kitchen and took a picture of a giant bowl of apples that reminded me of Fall (in case you haven't noticed, Fall is my favorite).  I didn't realize Scott was watching me, but when I turned around he said, "What's with all of these 'look at me' pictures lately?" 

Ouch.  I knew what he was talking about.  I've been cooking a lot lately and have taken a lot of Instagram pictures of things I've been making.  I love food photos-- most of my Instagram feed is filled with what some refer to as "food porn."  I follow a lot of people who share photos of things they've made in addition to recipes, and I find a lot of my favorite recipes this way.  I also share a lot of my own recipes with people when I post photos of food, but I never thought of it as a "look at me" sort of thing.  Not until Scott said that, anyways.

As hurt as I was by this, it really made me think about why I post those things.  We talked about it in bed that night as we were going to sleep; I told Scott that he had really hurt my feelings by saying that to me, and he apologized and asked why I posted those photos.  What was I looking for? Praise? More "likes" from people? I told him I didn't really know.  

And because of that, my Facebook hiatus started.  I logged into my Facbeook, handed him my computer, and asked him to change my password.  I still have my Instagram but have been using it somewhat sparingly; I'm trying to put myself in a state of reflection to consider why I post these things.  Is it for praise? Is it to be a show off? Oh gracious, I hope not.  But maybe it is.  

I've quoted this many many times on my blog, but my favorite Shauna Niequist post is about this sort of thing, so I'm going to share it again.  It's from her book Bread and Wine which you absolutely must read if you haven't. 

"I think about how valuable it is to live the life in front of you, regardless of how tempting it is to press your face against the glass of other people's lives online, even though doing that is so much safer and so entirely addictive." Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine.

I'm think about this quote now because I'm wondering how my actions, words, online posts, etc. affect the people around me who are pressing their faces against the glass of my life online.  Do my posts make them feel as small as I sometimes do when I see other friends posting about adventures, happy news, achievements, etc.?  If comparison is the thief of joy, am I robbing someone of their joy by causing them to compare themselves to something I am or something I've done?

And it all comes back to glory.  I think that we are all self-seeking in this sense; we want praise for things that we've done, we want the recognition and the glory.  But if He (God) is greater than I, how wretched am I to point to myself with how I live?  If all blessings are given to me through grace (meaning, I am given these things freely-- completely undeserved), then how could I ever take credit for them? How could I try to glorify myself when I am so small and He is so big?  

That's what I'm thinking about this month.  That's what I'm reflecting on as I take a break from Facebook.  I'll be on every so often to check in-- press my face against some glass and see what other people are up to (and check out my Facebook wall for the floor I work on.  I find out so many things this way as far as updates about new things at work), but it will be just that.  I will keep the blinds closed for a bit on the window into my life, and I'll peer out every so often to see what's going on outside of my window; but the days of the blinds fully opened and "look at me" posts will be minimal.  

I'll say, too, that in my few days away from Facebook thus far, I've been so so productive and so happy.  I'm not constantly on my phone when I'm out somewhere to check Facebook statuses or look at new profile pictures; I actually have time to read, write, clean, work out, cook, etc.  I've finished two books during the hiatus and have felt happier than I have in a while, and maybe it's from the lack of comparing myself to others, the lack of pressing my face against the glass and peering into someone else's world.  I'm just content with what's going on around me and in our home.  

I have a book to recommend if this sort of thing interests you.  It was the summer reading selection for an incoming class at UNC a couple of years ago, and though I did not complete my own summer reading book the year I started as a freshman at UNC, I did read this one.  It's called The Shallows, and it's all about how the Internet has changed how we think and has actually rewired many of the pathways in our brains regarding communication and perception.  I read it at the recommendation of my friend, Shannon, and am considering re-reading it during this time of reflection about life lived out on the Internet.

I'm hoping that my blog posts will be more frequent as I take a break from Facebooking; with all of my extra time, I think I will channel writing as a top priority. You'll still be able to keep up with where I'm at in the journey, but maybe in not such a loud "look at me" way that my Facebook wall can sometimes be.  

What are your thoughts on sharing your life online? Do you post things regularly, or are you more of a consumer of the Facebook world?  I'm curious about how others feel about this, and how you reconcile the desire to share your life with others while trying to remain humble at the same time.

Lots of love and hope to talk soon. Hoping this week is filled with grace, peace, and many moments of joy for you!


Monday, August 25, 2014

August: an Update

Can you believe it's almost September? I feel like August just started, and we're already preparing to bid it farewell.  As I near the end of the month, I'm realizing that maybe I put too much pressure on August, and it's bending under the weight of all I've tossed on top of it.  But instead of freaking out and feeling like I need to do more more more, I'm trying to be content with where I am and what this month has brought.

In the back of my mind, I was saving September as my month for working on some small apartment projects-- painting our bathroom, mounting our TV on the wall, things that make your house feel more like you actually live there.  I've already stretched myself thin with work for September; I'm taking two classes at work in addition to my normal night shifts those weeks, and additionally, I picked up some overtime because we are in such need of people to work overtime right now.  I anticipate that September will whiz by, though I'm hoping I won't wish it away.  I'm not even coming close to overcommitting in October.  After seeing what I've done to myself for the month of September, I'm planning on fully enjoying my month of pumpkin spice lattes (which are now available in Starbucks, as of today!), scarves, and tall boots.  So my September ambitions will likely be small.

August hasn't been the breath of fresh air that I wanted it to be.  We've definitely taken care of some of the things that we needed to get take care of in our home, but there's still a lot left that I want to do with the month.  We finally found a desk chair (pretty early in the month actually!) that is now set up in our pseudo-clean desk space.  I have too many books, notebooks, etc. that tend to clutter that space, so I'm still working on getting it a little bit more organized.  I spent an entire day at the desk going through wedding photos and adding them to Facebook; I've also paid some bills at the desk, and Scott has done a little studying there.  It's serving its purpose well, and I think it's just nice to know that we have a space for reading, writing, studying, and drinking tea (I'll confess that I'm the only tea-drinker that sits at that desk!).  Here's a little peek at what the desk looked like when we first set it up.

A lot of big stresses have been taken care of this month.  We finally received our wedding photos which allowed me to work on designing our "Thank You" cards-- this will be my next big project once those arrive! Hopefully I can send them out by early October at the very latest.  I love writing letters to people, so I'm actually very much looking forward to this task.  I bought new pens the same day we bought our desk chair and can't wait to use them for writing notes of thankfulness to friends and family for their presence and kind gifts at our wedding.  

Another big accomplishment for the month: for all legal purposes, I am now officially Cristina Davis!  I also have an Indiana driver's license and will soon be receiving my Indiana nursing license plate in the mail.  I've been excited about these license plates since I moved up here.  They have stethoscopes on them and either say RN or NU as a prefix on the plate.  Here's a picture of one below.

I wanted to finish three books by the end of this month, and this goal is still pending! I have finished one and shipped it off to Chancey-- it's called Beautiful Ruins and was my honeymoon read.  I'm 100 pages from finishing The One and Only by Emily Giffin, and Radical is one I'm hesitant to rush through because it's so thought-provoking.  I can't wait to crack open some new books in September... but there's still a few days left in the month for me to finish my last two books! Any book recommendations for September? I'm thinking of reading Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (meant to read this pre-wedding, never got around to it).  I've joined Goodreads to keep up with new books and to find book recommendations, but I always love a good recommendation from a friend!

One August goal is moving to September: joining a gym.  We've had a change in heart about where we want to join, and I'm going to wait for Scott to finish his busy period of studying this month before we go together to join.  Seeking Jesus has been something I haven't done enough of this month, but I am trying to be intentional about going to church and finding ways to get involved.  I know faith is best lived out in community with others, so I'm searching for how to do this with my forever changing work schedule.  

While it hasn't been the restful renewing month I anticipated, it's been filled with things that needed to be done.  There's only a few things left that I must do before I can enjoy my pumpkin season.

Hope you're all having a Happy Monday!

Lots of love,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Marilyn's Shoes

Many of you know of my grandmother's death this past summer and all of the heartache that came with that experience.  The past year has been incredibly hard because of our constant anticipation of that.  Last September we found out that my grandmother's back pain that she was having was actually metastasis of her breast cancer to her bone.  It was also in her liver and her lungs, which explained all of the shortness of breath she had been having.  She was going for a monthly thoracentesis (meaning they stuck a long needle into her back to drain fluid that had been accumulating in her lungs), but her PET scan at this time last year confirmed our worst suspicions of metastasis.  

From there, things seem fuzzy.  In September she made the decision not to seek further treatment for her cancer and to begin hospice care.  This was her third recurrence of breast cancer in my lifetime; she had been battling it for almost 20 years.  The last time she underwent treatment, she said that she would never go through it again (the side effects were very hard for her and to her, this wasn't worth it).  She did a brief treatment with oral chemo last year, but when that wasn't working she knew she didn't want to do "the hard stuff" with the intravenous treatments.  

Honestly, I was proud of her for her decision to pursue hospice care.  She seemed so at peace with her decision, and I just thought she was so brave.  I was fortunate to be given time off from work to go visit her with my mom last September, and I'll be forever thankful for that trip.  It was the last time I saw her when things were somewhat normal.  She had started wearing oxygen intermittently, so the noisy oxygen tank was a part of her life now, but otherwise, she looked pretty good and things seemed fairly normal.  

I cried a lot on this trip, though.  While driving down with my mom, I would tear up just thinking about what her journey ahead would look like.  Interestingly, I had a phone interview with my current nurse manager for a position on the floor I work on now while driving down to Florida to visit my grandmother for this trip.  I was certain that this interview was doomed; I was an emotional mess, my brain was all over the place (stressed about my move in November, not having a job, wedding planning, my grandmother's health), and I just knew this wouldn't end well.  But then it did. I wasn't offered the job right then (shortly after my interview the hospital went on a hiring freeze), but my nurse manager told me she would be in touch when she was able to hire again.  It was one of my favorite interviews I had ever had, and I really liked the nurse manager just from talking with her on the phone.  It's amazing how this blessing came in the midst of such heartache in my life, but as I celebrate 6 months working at this job this month, I'm remembering the day in September when I wiped my tears away and dialed the number to St. Vincent for the first of many times.  

Our first night in Florida, my mom went to the grocery store with my grandpa, and I was sitting in their living room watching Ellen with my grandma.  She had her afternoon routine of movies/TV shows she would watch, and Ellen was one she couldn't miss.  I was happy for laughter this afternoon after all of the sadness I felt driving down.  And then, during a commercial, the tears started again.  I hadn't wanted to talk to my grandmother about my April wedding.  No one gave us any indication of how long she was expected to live, so I had decided to avoid the topic.  Over the next few months, every time we talked about the wedding, it felt like I was planning a party she wasn't invited to.  I cried almost every time I got off the phone with her just thinking about how she likely wouldn't be there.  

During the commercials on this September afternoon, my grandma said, "Cristina, I don't know if I'm going to make it to your wedding.  But I hope you know that I'm always with you."  I did my best to hide the pain, but I was ugly crying at this point.  She didn't look over to see my face, but I think she heard me.   It was the first time I had to confront the reality of all of this, that cancer doesn't wait for all of the big important things in your life to transpire.  Her words were like something I would have read in a Nicholas Sparks book as I tearfully turned the next page.  I managed to choke out something like, "I know, Grandma.  It's ok, please don't worry about that." 

She didn't make it to our wedding.  The worst parts of her cancer journey surrounded our wedding.  She took a turn for the worst the week of our wedding, and though my mom tried to hide this from me, I could tell.  I was calling my grandma every chance I could, and I could tell she was hurting.  The week of our wedding was the last time she ever got out of bed.  From that point on, she was in so much pain that she remained in bed at all times.  I called her immediately after our ceremony-- Scott had gone through great trouble to make sure she could watch our wedding through a live video stream.  My heart shattered when she told me she wasn't able to view it online.  Something about the link wasn't working right.  I was heartbroken for this on my wedding day.  And though I smiled for all of the pictures and enjoyed the day as much as I could, it felt incomplete without her there, knowing that we had tried so hard so that she could see our wedding.  It made me sad to think I was enjoying myself while she was at home suffering.  All she wanted that day was to see our wedding, and I can just imagine her and my grandpa trying to get their iPad working so they could watch it, and I can see them getting frustrated and giving up on it.  My heart hurts again thinking about it.  

My mom went to see my grandmother the Monday after our wedding.  From that point on, she essentially lived in Florida until my grandmother passed away on June 10th.  She came home once for my sister's graduation, at which point I went to visit my grandma to see her one last time.  Nothing is worse than driving away from someone you love knowing it's the last time you will ever see them on this side of eternity.  

But I was thankful.  I was thankful because my mom's trip meant my grandmother was finally able to see our wedding video, as well as wedding pictures.  And just a few weeks before she passed away, our videographer that we had hired last-minute for the sole purpose of my grandmother being able to see all parts of the wedding (ceremony and reception) released our official wedding video, and my grandmother was able to watch it with the help of my mom.  

The summer before she passed away, she wanted to go Italy.  My grandpa wasn't a huge fan of Italy, even though they used to love traveling together and would go all over Europe.  My mom wasn't sure she could get time off of work for the trip, so I was going to plan a trip with her.  That summer was when things started getting tough for her again, so travel wasn't an option.  She never got to see Italy like she wanted to before she passed away.

So as my husband and I packed for our honeymoon to Italy, I tossed in a pair of her leather sandals that my grandfather didn't want in the house anymore.  It was hard for him to look at her old clothes and shoes; he couldn't even walk into their bedroom anymore.  He now sleeps in their guest room and uses their old master bedroom as a guest room when we visit.  I really liked the sandals and thought they looked really comfortable, so I asked if I could have them and brought them home with me.  

I like to think that my grandmother traveled every mile of Italy just like we did.  Her shoes saw it all-- from the coast of Cinque Terre to the best meatball I've ever had in Florence.  They went on our bike ride through Portofino and through the streets of Rome while it poured rain.  I took the above photo so that I could document Marilyn's shoes in Italy.  Proof that she had been there.  Maybe she never physically made it there, but her shoes did.  And for a lady who loved shoes, that's a pretty big deal.   

Her life inspires me in many ways.  She was a lover of adventures, and for her last few years on Earth, she did things that made her happy and didn't worry about what other people would say about it.  When I went to visit her before her cancer came back, we spent every day driving around to different beaches, going shopping, going to her favorite restaurants.  She treated herself to dessert and Hardees biscuits every week when she lost a pound at Weight Watchers (something we always made fun of her for-- who eats a 700 calorie biscuit after losing weight??) She and my mom took a trip to Europe a few summers ago to visit Paris and London, and at 75 years old, she walked all over Europe until her feet felt like they would fall off.  Her shoes taught me to do the same things in Italy.  We walked every day until I felt like my feet needed to be cut off.  We stayed up later than we should have, ate gelato 2-3 times a day, climbed incredible hills and mountains to see the most beautiful views we had ever seen.  

Life in Marilyn's shoes is undoubtedly a very full one.  I hope I carry this with me for the rest of my life, though stresses and heartache may come.  I hope I live every day like she did. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

It Takes a Village: volume 2.

The village that supported us as we started our journey in marriage. Photo credit: The 25th Hour Studio

Last year when I moved to Indianapolis, I wrote a post called It Takes a Village to thank everyone who helped me with my move up here.  Lately, I've been feeling nostalgic about last fall when I was moving, and it's made me feel incredibly grateful for everything that has happened in the past year.  I'm learning that all of life requires community and the village that surrounds you.

Community is one of those things that you never fully appreciate until you don't have any.  I can speak to this from the standpoint of moving to a new place and not knowing more than a few people that were Scott's friends.  When I lived in North Carolina, I was a stone's throw from my church and the community that surrounded me there, and I was a quick drive from my closest friends if ever I should need a running buddy, coffee date, Harry Potter movie marathon, game nights, etc.  What I craved more than anything when I moved up here were those things, but I found that they couldn't be fully enjoyed alone (minus the Harry Potter movie marathon.  That can be done anytime, anyplace).  I missed the closeness of friends, both in distance and in sentiment.  I still don't have community like I did back in North Carolina, but I do have a little village here.

My village is entirely lovely, and it is made up of a lot of different groups of people.  It's my coworkers at St. Vincent who love me well and who are patient with me as I learn and try to better myself as a nurse; there's Scott's dental school friends who have taken me in as their own from the beginning and included me in everything from the aforementioned game nights to Thanksgiving dinners when we couldn't make it home to be with family. My village is our new community at College Park church and those who have welcomed us as family there (despite my frequent absences due to my night shift schedule), and it's old friends from NC who live up here and have made me feel like home is not so far away.

I'm finding that the stage of life that Scott and I are in right now as newlyweds takes our entire village.  The photo above is possibly one of my favorites from our wedding.  It's symbolic of our village that has supported us throughout our relationship and as we made the decision to commit to each other as husband and wife.  If anything in life takes a village to be successful, it's marriage.  It takes encouragement from those around you in a way that no other relationship in your life has required.  I remember being at my sister and brother-in-law's rehearsal for their wedding last September and hearing something that completely changed my perspective on how I encouraged others in their marriages.  The pastor told all of us (mostly close friends and family that were in the bridal party) that it was our responsibility to Ashley and Chris to do everything in our power to honor them as one by encouraging them and pushing them towards each other at all times; I remember him explaining that this was important in dating when the couple was seeking marriage at some point, but that in marriage especially, their full commitment to one another called those around them to honor their marriage and to be sure to not say things that would tear them away from each other.

It makes sense, doesn't it?  I don't know why I never thought of it this way before, but I'm so thankful for their pastor for how he explained this concept.  It's so important.   It affects how I interact with every single married person in the world, but especially those whose village I am a part of.  How I speak about the spouses of my friends can very much affect their perception of their spouse.  Here's an example of what I mean.  Say a friend comes to you with a problem in their marriage; maybe they feel like their spouse isn't paying enough attention to them, or maybe they are arguing a lot more than usual.  They're coming to you to and looking for advice on the situation.  What do you say?  I know what a common response is to this sort of thing.  We want our friend to know that we love them and think that they have been wronged, so we say something like "I can't believe they'd do that to you" or "I don't understand how they could possibly act that way!"  It seems like you are supporting your friend, but you're actually casting their spouse in a bad light and causing your friend to think that their negative thoughts about how their spouse is acting are justified.  And as part of their village on their marriage journey, you've done your friend and his or her marriage a great injustice.  My guess is that it was entirely unintentional and that you were attempting to show them support, but how many times do we do this?  I can think of so many times when I have said things like this.

Since hearing this last September though, I've tried to be more intentional about not doing this sort of thing.  I've tried to encourage my friends in positive ways in their marriages and relationships, trying to push them towards resolution instead of dissolution.  And even though marriage takes a village, I've learned, too, that some do not survive even with their village surrounding them.  My heart is broken for some of my close friends who are going through divorces, but I have learned that even they need their village, possibly more so than ever before.  I've tried to apply this same principle to their relationships as well-- though they are no longer with their spouse, how constructive is it to bash that other person?  It's hurtful on so many levels, in my opinion.

I've had this on my heart lately and just wanted to share, especially in light of so many friends who have recently gotten married and who are trying to figure out how to make this big important thing like marriage work.  Don't forget about your village.  And if you're part of someone's village, don't let them down. Honor them by loving them and encouraging them in every way.

My apologies for my sporadic postings lately-- three posts in one week and then radio silence for another?  I'm a work in progress in more ways than you know!

Lots of love and happy Monday to you all! Hope the week ahead is filled with lots of big and small moments that bring you joy.


A few more photos of our "village people," if you will.  
All photo credit to the 25th Hour Studio

The ones who have been there from the beginning

Part of our Indy village

The Penthouse ladies (Jessica is a honorary member!)

A big part of my North Carolina village

Thursday, August 7, 2014

These Are a Few of my Favorite Reads

Three posts in one week is outrageous, isn't it? For someone who at times has gone 1-2 months without posting (I'm going to blame this on wedding planning!), this seems terribly unorthodox.  I always wanted to write a post a day, but it doesn't seem that it's in the cards for me with my weird work schedule.  Maybe someday? I'm finding that blogs are a dime a dozen these days, and the fact that you are taking the time to read mine is something I am so appreciative of.  I've logged into Facebook multiple times recently to find someone I'm friends with announcing that they have decided, against their better judgment, to start a blog.  I admire their ambition, yet always cringe when I read that they are doing it not because they want to but because someone told them they should.  As someone who loves to write, I can't throw myself into that category.  I started my blog because I love writing, have a lot on my mind that I want to share with others, and view it as a small ministry opportunity through which I can encourage others (unless you read on a day when I've gotten up on a soapbox and am ranting about something).  

In any case, I love supporting other writers in their blogging endeavors and sometimes get totally bogged down with all of the blogs I try to keep up with.  I thought I'd share some with you that I find to be truly special.  There's a wide variety of topics that these blogs cover, but I never have discriminated.  My blog is mostly a lifestyle blog-- sometimes I talk about fitness, sometimes random goings on around me, lots of times things that make me happy, sometimes Jesus and coffee (these always seem to go together, don't they? More so than Jesus and wine, even though that's mostly what he drank), sometimes friends and family.  So I tend to like other blogs that talk about a whole lot of small somethings instead of big, scary, specific topics like raising children, financial planning, politics, etc.  I do read some more specific ones (now that I'm thinking about it, I do read a financial planning one.  Oh, rats), but mostly it's the random, day-to-day ramblings of writers that I like to read.  Without further rambling myself, here's a few of the blogs I read and what they're all about.

One: Annie B. Jones.  I call her Annie Buttersworth since this is the address to her blog and her maiden name (I'm pretty sure that's what the B. is for in Annie B. Jones).  Oh, Annie.  I feel like she is one of my best friends, even though we have never spoken.  She writes the way that I think, and I love finding writers who can capture what's going on in my brain.  She writes freely and expresses herself with honest emotion.  I remember reading a comment several months ago by a reader who said that she seemed to be writing about a lot of sadness lately, and I believe they said something about her complaining or whining a lot.  I was offended for Annie when I read this.  At the time, she was contemplating moving to a new place, had just changed careers, and was feeling unsettled with friends moving away and big changes happening in her life.  She wasn't whining, she was just writing to express how she was feeling with all of the change going around.  I love this blog and would consider it to be the one I keep up with most often.  One of her posts was the inspiration for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Book Club (long distance book club), and many of her posts have been comfort for me when I feel like my own life is so mishappen and scattered all over the place.  I'm so thankful that my dear friend, Shannon, introduced me to Annie's blog a couple of years ago.  We both follow this blog and will text each other or e-mail about one of her recent posts (hence, our long-distance book club!).  I made this #1 on my list here because I think it's an important one to check out.

Two: Shauna Niequist.  Oh my gracious.  I have had a girl crush on Shauna since our book club read her book Bread and Wine a year or so ago.  If you haven't read any of her books (Bread and Wine, Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet) GO TO THE BOOKSTORE RIGHT NOW!  Bread and Wine was amazing because it is a GENIUS book idea: a cookbook within a book about life.  It's about fellowship around the table and food memories that she has from growing up, and each chapter includes some sort of recipe related to an event that she wrote about in that chapter.  Her blog is just as amazing as her books, and truthfully, I feel like she is another kindred spirit of writing for me.  She is another free-flowing writer who writes about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I adore writers who share what is going on in their life without all of the fluff.  They tell you how it is, in the most beautifully honest way that they can, and you feel like you share in a part of the joys, sorrows, and uncertainties that they are going through.  I've got her book Bittersweet on my nightstand waiting to be devoured as soon as I finish my current 3 books I'm reading, and I just can't wait.  I know it will be good.  I received the surprise of my life when I opened up Cold Tangerines to read this past Christmas at my grandmother's house.  My mom had given the book to me, as purchased on Amazon, and when I opened it up I found a note from Shauna with her signature inside.  I'm so thankful that my mom is a thrifty girl like me and that she shops Amazon; how else would I have received such a lovely gift?  Read her blog.  She is good for the soul.

Three: Shannon Weynand. Shannon will be surprised to find herself here; I'm sure of it.  She is one of the most humble people I know, and her writing is incredible.  Shannon is referenced a lot on my blog, so I feel that I would be doing you wrong to not introduce you to her blog.  Her blog was originally created so that she could keep friends and family back home involved in the goings-on of life at college.  I think she still uses it for this purpose, and unlike myself, she rarely self-promotes or announces when she has a new post up.  I think this is part of her humility, and I love her for this.  When she has something particularly important to write about, she'll drop an e-mail to let me know she's written something.  She also writes from the heart and posts about her own big life events, the smaller ones (my favorites to read about!), her interest in speech pathology (now her career!), marriage wisdom, Jesus, coffee, running, books. Oh, how I love this blog.  It's always such a joy when I check my blogs to read in the morning and see that she has a new post.  

Four: Espresso and Cream.  My high school roommate and long-time friend, Lindsay, introduced this one to me a few months ago when Madison posted about her engagement ring.  She wrote about how she has a really gorgeous platinum engagement ring but chooses to wear a plain gold band every day that is somewhat beat up and very worn; she wrote about how she related this to her marriage, and how marriage isn't always shiny and sparkly.  I loved it.  Ever since then, I have followed her through posts about clothes, good recipes, and her struggle with miscarriages more recently (happy update: she is healthy and pregnant right now, which makes me so happy for her and her family!).  She writes about a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and she is entirely lovely.  I started following her in Instagram recently and think that she falls into my "girl crush" category as well.  So adorable and so honest with her writing.

Five: Iowa Girl Eats.  Another one that I've followed for years, Iowa Girl Eats is written by a lovely writer who focuses her blog on running, eating healthy foods, and traveling.  You're in for a treat with her blog, and not just because of the amazing recipes.  I think her blog is similar to Shauna's book, Bread and Wine.  You get amazing recipes that are healthy (sometimes she splurges on some unhealthy ingredients, but everything in moderation, right?) and mixed in with the recipes, you get little bits about her life with her small family.  She has a great recipe archive that is user-friendly, and she also keeps an archive of workouts to do to bust you out of gym boredom.  Her love for new recipes and running are things I relate to, and I have loved this blog since midway through college when someone first sent it my way.  If you're looking for relatively simple, healthy recipes with a dose of happy things from her life in Iowa, I'd highly recommend this one.  Her blog is an oldy but goody in my book.

Six: The Small Things Blog.  This blog is another one that I've followed for a few years after discovering her hair tutorials on Pinterest. Kate is classic and lovely.  Her blog used to primarily focus on beauty, and I used many of her hair tutorials in my year of 9 weddings.  Now, she writes about her 6 month old, David, fashion, beauty, product reviews, etc.  I think I love her because she shares my roots in Durham, NC at the Summit Church.  While I never met her there (it was a large multi-campus church), I always felt connected to her through this.  Her blog is really amazing for hair tutorials, though.  She used to own her own salon and though it has closed down now, she posts a lot of video tutorials for super cute hairstyles.  I feel so invested in her lifestyle posts because I've followed her for so long, and like with Iowa Girl, I felt so happy the day I learned she was pregnant (yesterday I learned she's pregnant again, and felt happy for her all over again!).

Those are the ones I'll share for now.  I'll do a post another day soon about newer blogs that I'm checking out, but for now I'll stick with my classics, the ones I absolutely have to check every day.  Two of my family members have recently started blogs, a handful of friends, and many of my favorite writers (their's are not actually new, but new to me!).  I'll be keeping an eye on those and posting some updates with those links soon, in case you are interested in adding more to your reading list.  

I hope you have time to check some of these out, I find them to be truly lovely.  I consider all of them to be a thousand times more wonderful than my own, which I think is a haphazard concoction of my whole life put into a blender that was never turned on.  You get big chunks of some things, small pieces of the things I put time into preparing or cutting up, and a lot of chaos and unrecognizable things tossed in at the end (Greek yogurt? Sure! Orange juice, why not?).  But I'm thankful for all of you who read and encourage me in my writing.  I appreciate it more than you'll ever truly know.

Lots of love and happy reading!  I just know you'll love these blogs.

Grace & peace,

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August: A Month for the New.

A peek at what I was doing last August: bridal portraits!  I wonder what this one will bring
Photo credit: John Crouch

Maybe I shouldn't say August is a month for the new, but for renewal.  After a summer filled with travel, heightened emotions, and getting used to newlywed life, I'm looking forward to a fall with a little more calm.  A little more reading, writing, running, and cooking.  More Jesus and fresh air and pumpkin treats (oh, October. Please come quickly).  But first, August.  At home, August is hot and humid.  North Carolina Augusts meant getting relief from the heat with the salty air of Wrightsville Beach, a dip in the Atlantic, frozen yogurt, wet kisses from Gracie Lou (our family golden retriever), and the charm of Carolina's campus filling up with students for the fall.  This is my first August in Indianapolis, and I think it's going to be a little bit different from my North Carolina ones.  It's hard for me to believe that I'm approaching my one year anniversary in Indy, but there it is.  November 8th marks a full year.  So what will my first August look like? Let's look at some goals for this month.

1. Finish a book. Or 3. It's been a while since I've actually finished one.  In my last post, I mentioned that I'm reading 3 right now.  My goal is to actually finish all of these books.  I'm close with one, halfway through another, and 3/4 through the third.  I mentioned my long distance book clubs in my last post but never explained what that looked like.  Basically, everyone reads a book, writes notes and love letters inside, and mails it off to the next person.  Here's to finishing my books and mailing them off to the next lucky reader this month!

2. Write a detailed outline for my book.  I've actually changed the direction of my book completely since I first started writing it.  I've done a little research from other writers who have my kind of writing style, and I've realized that what I was trying to write wasn't me at all.  It sounded like a horrible self-help book.  So I deleted many many pages and decided to try again.  This month, I want to write out a plan for my book and pick up writing again.  I am not really planning on pursuing publishing the book or developing a strict timeline of any sort at this time.  I want to get it bound to give to my closest friends, but I don't think it'll ever be something I pursue on a larger scale than that.  It's more that I want to be able to take my love for writing and do something bigger with it than I have so far.  I love blogging and sharing thoughts and dreams with friends and family, but I also want to know that I did something else with my these words that gets translated to something you can hold in your hands and read before you fall asleep at night.

3.  Make our desk a workable space.  I used to do so much at my desk (which is one of my most-loved possessions.  I found it on sale at World Market when I moved into my first apartment in college and haven't wanted to part with it since): studying, writing, reading, crafting.  I decided not to bring my desk chair with me to Indy because it was hot pink and not really "cool" for an apartment with a boy, but I haven't looked for one yet since I've moved up here.  With Scott studying so much for school and boards and me needing to study for my Med/Surg certification, I think it's time for us to have a workable desk space.  So goal: find and purchase a desk chair, clean off the desk (currently covered in disorganized papers, old bills, wedding cards, etc.), and open it for business.  This goal is falling under an umbrella of home projects I'm going to be starting this fall.  Home projects can only go so far when you live in a rented one bedroom apartment, but I'm going to do what I'm able to in order to spruce the place up a bit and try some fun crafts and projects.  Coming soon: wall collage projects with honeymoon and wedding photos (once we have these!), painting a room in the apartment, styling coffee tables and bookshelves, and refinishing/staining our coffee table.  That's just a small taste of what's to come, mostly Pinterest and Young House Love inspired.  (I also am interested in hiring Fancy Chancey, former roommate and dear friend, to come be my professional organizer for a week in Indy.  Dear Fancy, if you're reading this, I'm for reals.  Come play and teach me your ways of organization.  I'm so angry that I never took advantage of learning them while living with you! I was too busy building leaning towers of dishes in our drying rack and using too many cups to drink out of!)

4. Join a gym.  I already know the gym I want to join, the same one that Scott goes to.  I was supposed to join after we got married, but life got a little chaotic and I didn't want to pay for a membership when I knew I wouldn't be able to commit to go.  So, goal for August: join the gym and make a workout schedule that is realistic.  I know with night shift that I will not go every day.  So maybe come up with something realistic, 3 or 4 days a week to start with, and see where I can go from there.  I lost a lot of weight my summer after graduating from college, and I feel like since then I have let bad habits seep back in and have let things slide that I shouldn't.  I feel soft and like I've lost all tone.  I would love to be able to get in shape again, not just for looks, but to feel strong and healthy.

5. Get my Indiana driver's license.  I've been flying under the radar up here with my North Carolina license for 9 months, but it's time to make it official.  Indiana, you're my state now for however long we are here for, and I've decided to make the commitment to you.  Hoping to knock this goal out next week!

6. Change my name.  Facebook will tell you I'm Cristina Davis, but my legal documentation all points to Poveromo still.  Because we booked our honeymoon flights under Cristina Poveromo, by TSA regulations I had to remain with this name until July when we made our trip.  Now that the trip is over, I have to get used to saying I'm Cristina Davis, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Ronald Scott Davis.  Farewell, Cristina Poveromo.  You were fun for 23 years-- I loved hearing people butcher your pronunciation with Provolone, Povermo, Pover---how do you say this? And I loved the instant recognition by others that I was Italian.  But Cristina Davis is the same lady, just flying incognito with a somewhat simpler name.  At least our kids will be early in the alphabet with their last names; I was always so jealous of such kids when we had to line up for anything by last name!

7.  Seek Jesus.  This wasn't meant to be last.  I think it's the most important thing I want to do this month, actually.  Before our honeymoon, I had started a She Reads Truth study of Ruth and felt like I was learning so much from this Old Testament book.  Now that we are back, I want to dig deeper and spend more time praying for those around me.

I think 7 goals are enough for this month-- I don't want to overload myself to the point that I can't actually accomplish my goals! I also need some time for fun things this month.

Lots of love.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Small Joys: volume 15

It's been a minute since I've posted a Small Joys post-- what better time than in August, my month of reflection and renewal? I'm taking a break from editing and posting our honeymoon photos right now to get a little writing in before work tonight! Hope your Monday is lovely and that the week ahead is filled with small, joy-filled moments that take your breath away in the midst of all the hustling and busy-ness.

No. 1: Freshly made beds.  Yes, I'm the person who will make our bed at night just a couple of hours before we climb back into it just so I can feel like the bedroom is clean.  My mom raised me to be a bed-maker; we were never allowed to leave for school until our beds were made.  Lately, our bed goes unmade due to the fact that Scott sleeps in it at night and then I climb right back into it in the morning coming home from work.  He claims that we have too many pillows on our bed and doesn't like having to take them all off at night, so when I'm working I try to leave the bed unmade for him.  But oh, how lovely it feels when I have a few days off and can justify having a clean, well-made bed again.  I'm writing to you now from the foot of such a freshly made bed, and though I will be napping in a few short hours pre-night shift in it, I am loving the neatness of it for now and am thrilled with how clean it makes our bedroom look.  Such a simple thing to bring such happiness.

No. 2: Italian breakfasts.  Alright, I'm not going to lie to you.  I could eat Nutella-stuffed croissants for every meal of every day.  Italy spoiled me with the breakfast pastries and Nutella galore (they serve it like it's butter over there.  It's laid out each morning with butter, jam, and other breakfast condiments). Today I made a nice American breakfast filled with homemade breakfast potatoes, Polish sausage, and scrambled eggs, but I'm secretly wanting those delicious Italian croissants and espresso again.  In attempting to get back into shape and resume our healthy lifestyle, Nutella and croissants just don't fit into the plan.  Ah, what a tragedy.

Our FAVORITE Italian cafe for breakfast
in Florence: Scudieri.  For 5 euro we could
each enjoy a cafe Americano and a Nutella-stuffed
croissant with chocolate sprinkles on top. 

No. 3: Wedding photos.  We've gotten a few sneak peaks at wedding photos from our photographer, Melissa Vega, but I'm so excited to see them in their entirety soon!  Here are a few that she's posted online (check her out on Facebook under "The 25th Hour Studio").  She's amazingly talented and so creative, I knew when I decided to use her for our wedding that I wouldn't regret it!

Photo credit: Melissa Ashley Vega

Photo credit: Melissa Ashley Vega

No. 4: Books.  Oh, books.  I've always been a bit of a bookworm.  When I was little, my bedroom was the only one upstairs in our house, but my mom could tell if the light was on from downstairs.  I had a small walk-in closet and would stay up late in my closet with the light on reading Harry Potter books (does this shock you, Mom? I'm not sure you knew about this!) so that she couldn't see that I was still awake.  Even now, I relish any free time I can find to read books.  I'm currently reading... three books, which I typically don't do.  I'm reading one for book club (Radical, by David Platt), and even though I haven't been able to make it for the past few Mondays due to honeymooning and working, I've been keeping up and will hopefully return to book club soon for discussion.  I started Emily Giffin's new book a few weeks ago called The One and Only, but it was a heavy book to take to Europe, so I left it here and started Beautiful Ruins instead while in Italy.  It takes place in a town near Cinque Terre, where we spent the beginning of our honeymoon, so I kind of had fun reading it while I was staying there.  One of my favorite bloggers, Annie B. Jones, brought up an idea for long-distance book clubs, so I think I'm making this book part of that.  I'm actually participating in two long-distance book clubs now, one called Sisterhood of the Traveling Book Club with my old book club in Raleigh (Susan, Claire, Jordan, and Shannon) and one with my former roommate, Fancy Chancey.  Any book recommendations, friends? I joined Goodreads online and have been enjoying going through book recommendations on there, but I always love a recommendation from a friend.

No. 5: 1% milk.  I went about 2 weeks without drinking milk while we were on our honeymoon and it was the happiest day for me when I was able to purchase a gallon of milk from the grocery store the day after we got back.  Most people drink vino (wine) and l'acqua frizzante (sparkling water) in Italy, but I didn't see milk in many places we went to.  I drink milk daily and sometimes twice a day when I'm home, but while there I didn't really notice that I was missing it so much.  When I got home and poured my first glass of cold milk, it was heavenly.  I realized then just how much I need milk to be a part of my life.

No. 6: Handwritten notes.  I did my best to keep notes on our trip to Italy while things were going on, but sometimes I didn't do so well with this.  Now that I'm back, I'm trying to go through the notes to see what I missed about our days there.  I have a stash of pen-pal letters that I forgot to mail pre-honeymoon, so I'm working on getting those out this week and starting new ones for pen pals old and new.  I'm going international with pen pal letters this fall, and it looks like I'll be writing to my dear friend Rebecca (who is in the Peace Corps in El Salvador) as well as some friends in Europe.  I found this picture on my phone when I was going through our honeymoon pictures and wanted to share it.  Apparently I get my love of journaling and writing from my grandmother, who kept a journal we never knew about while she was living.  I love this excerpt because it briefly mentions the first time she ever met Scott (if you can't read it, it says "Cristina left on Monday.  Got to meet her boyfriend, Scott (nice guy).").  Yesterday would have been this sweet lady's birthday, and in honor of her, I'm going to continue to write letters to friends and in my own journal about life happenings.

No. 7: No-bake treats.  I never got on board with no-bake desserts when this were becoming popular. But after a visit home, I'm game.  My sister-in-law had these no-bake energy bites that Scott and I thought were delicious and pretty healthy, and we've been making them ever since.  I take a couple to work (one for my late-night, 2200 snack, and another for the morning around 5 or 6 to hold me over for the rest of the shift) and Scott snacks on them instead of some unhealthier treats that I sometimes keep around.  I highly recommend this recipe to anyone who is looking for a somewhat healthy snack or dessert item.  Here is the link to the no-bake energy bites.

No. 8: Gossip Girl.  This is possibly super lame that I'm admitting this, but I've been watching this show for weeks on Netflix and can't seem to stop.  I HAVE to know what happens with Chuck and Blair.  I used to follow the show in late high school and early college, but then I just kind of stopped watching TV for a while and paid too much attention to nursing school books.  I keep Gossip Girl on now any time that I am cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, etc.  It's nice background noise and maybe I'm more invested than I should be in the characters.  I feel like they are my friends now, which is admittedly sad for someone who is still trying to meet real friends in a new-ish city.  

No. 9: Studying.  That's right.  I like to study.  I like school.  I've been thinking about school a little bit lately, but I'm not sure if I'll go through with applying quite yet or where I would even apply, but it's on the mind.  My actual studies have been for my Med/Surg Certification exam, which I'm hoping to take either later this fall or early next spring.  I got a little behind on studying while in Italy so it all depends on how quickly I get myself back on track (are you wondering how I'll do that with all of the Gossip Girl episodes and books to read? I'm wondering this, too!).  I think I'm meant to be a lifetime student, though.  I really do love studying and miss syllabi, freshly sharpened pencils, school supply shopping, etc.  

No. 10: Colorful running shoes.  I miss running so much and feel so sluggish without it.  I put on my bright colored running shoes the other day to run some errands and realized just how much my feet missed them.  My goal this fall is to work my way back up to running longer distances.  I'm hoping Indy weather is better than Wilmington weather for this; our relatively cooler summer gives me hope for long runs through the city this fall.  Any Indy friends interested in running with me? I miss my old running buddy, Shannon, more than I can possibly express.  We would make an event of it-- catching up with one another while running through the beautiful roads in Chapel Hill, enjoying coffee after.  I'm looking for someone to do this with in Indy and would welcome anyone who is interested! I'm a slow runner, 10 minute miles are my jam.  

Lots of love and joy to you this week, sweet friends.  Set some fun and challenging goals for August and get to them, the month is already 4 days old!  

Grace & peace,