Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birth Announcement~ Welcome Conrad Eugene Beck!



Baby boy was born... at 3:04am .... on... Saturday May 13.

We are all happy, overjoyed, and overwhelmed to welcome this little one to our family!

Conrad Eugene was 7lbs 4 oz and 19 in. long.

Conrad is a name of Germanic origin meaning "bold counsel."

Eugene comes from Latin and Greek origin and it means "well born."

Conrad Aiken is one of my favorite poets. Anders Eliot was named after T.S. Eliot, so we are continuing with the tradition of naming our sons after poets. :0) How did we land on this name? We like unusual names, we liked the meaning, and they're both saints' names, which we liked. He has a Great Uncle Conrad as well, so it is a family name on my Mom's side.  Also we just really liked these names and have liked it for a while. ;-)

St. Conrad (his patron saint) was a Franciscan brother and mystic of Germany, who died in 1894. His feast day is November 26. Additionally,  St. Eugene was a Roman priest who died in 657. His feast day is June 4.  This is another name we have just really liked for a while, and we loved the origins.

We are going to take some time to get to know our son, {brother, nephew, friend, grandson}.  I hope to write up the birth story and share it here soon(ish). ;-)

Thank you everyone for the warm wishes!



excerpt from my favorite poem, by Conrad Aiken

"Morning Song of Senlin"


It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning  25
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, for him I will comb my hair.  30
Accept these humble offerings, clouds of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Linking up with tuesday talk

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Let's Talk About *Mental* Health and Wellness



Today is the day. Let's talk about mental health openly and honestly for a minute.


Let's be honest. And when I say honest, I mean opening a window of fresh air to the stale and stilted air that is still subtly threatening to stifle community ...

(alliteration was one of my daughter's spelling words this week...ha.)  

Robin Williams. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Kurt Cobain. This is the society we live in.  I share the following with those who know that they are living in the same world as these people. I share it with people who see society as a reflection of themselves, not an "other" that they don't understand. How many people do you know who have diagnosed mental illness? In my book, the more the better.

A few times in the past 9 months, I've had to call a friend to get wise counsel about some of my personal, or more internal, struggles. I'm not talking about sins or merely marriage problems. I'm not talking about sugar crashes, and I'm not even talking about hormonal swings. I'm talking about my mental health.

I call one friend in particular during these times because like me, she is on medication for depression. When I'm really struggling, I need to reach out in order to find the peace of mind and the hope that I know is possible. I don't call the friends who seem to have it all together; I don't call the friends who wouldn't touch the topic of mental health with a ten-foot pole. I call one of the wisest, dearest people in the world. I admire her up to the hilt, and she happens to be on medication for depression, like me.

I say that because I've honestly shied away from this topic on my blog for a long time. I have felt a decisive backlash against the idea of mental illness in my close circles of friends. When my own thoughts spiral down into the abyss, I need someone to talk me back to a safe place. I need to talk to someone who can let it all hang out for a hot second. But then why- why?- is the thought of looking inward, the thought of one needing medication or needing a counselor- quite frankly- not something we discuss? Why don't we don't discuss it frankly, with openness and honesty?

I've shied away from it. I haven't brought it up much in conversation or on the blog, because I didn't know how to approach it. Guess what? That's a bad thing. :0)  I have caved to the temptation to allow mental illness to become taboo. Within these circles I have also felt a decisive unwellness in the wake of the apathy.  I've *literally* seen friends' marriages fall apart. I've seen people - in conversation with me- admit and then consequently brush under the rug their own struggles with you name it-- depression, anxiety, panic attacks.

My concern in these situations is actually quite grave. Recently I was sitting with some friends, sharing a cup of tea. I heard some things that literally made me stop and say, "Really?!" When I hear someone I love say, "Mental illness actually runs in my family...my aunt and my cousin take medication for anxiety and my brother-in-law has panic attacks," and turn around and say that "I'm fine," it worries me.

Why does it worry me? I say this because I want to help that one person who is struggling, but is scared shitless to admit it.  It worries me because undiagnosed mental illness ends up with trouble. Undiagnosed mental illness ends in divorce. Undiagnosed mental illness ends in suicide. Undiagnosed mental illness ends in hospitalization.  I don't think this particular friend is in this deep, but we all need to be a little less scared.  We all need to get a little more open and a little more vulnerable. For once, consider: stop riding on the popularity train for the sake of your dear and precious reputation. Health is more important. It will bear no fruit to stay stuck in a bad cycle for fear of a little rejection. It will produce no growth to go on in dishonesty.

I've seen this stuff, I've seen this cycle, and it is very ugly. It ravages lives.  It may feel humiliating to admit you need a drug, but how much more humiliating and defeating are these other things?! Divorce, suicide, and hospitalization.  {What about isolation? Many live this lifestyle as well.}

I shared my own journey a few years ago. This is serious and personal stuff! I do not share this with the healthy in mind, but with the sick. Jesus didn't come to heal the well, but the sick.*  As I wrote in that post, I *don't* have it all together. My panic attacks have gotten better since that time, but my thought patterns in some cases have gotten worse. I get panicky and while it doesn't always turn into a panic attack, a lot of times my thoughts are not in the least bit logical. Stephen, my husband, and my children have to bear the brunt of my illogical feelings and depressive moodiness most of the time, and it isn't pretty or cute.   I don't share my story to help bring healing to those who think they're mentally healthy. I share it with people who see society as a reflection of themselves, not an "other" that they don't understand.  If you can't partake of the brokenness, don't  come knocking on my door. Don't come to my doorstep, don't step through my threshold if you've got it all together.

“Community is the place where are revealed all the darkness and anger, jealousies and rivalry hidden in our hearts. Community is a place of pain, because it is a place of loss, a place of conflict, and a place of death. But it is also a place of resurrection.” 
― Jean VanierFrom Brokenness to Community



I say that because community is the result of humility.  Pride is of the Enemy. When undiagnosed mental illness (not sin-- that's different) goes on haunting a person for very long, eventually if it is not treated or acknowledged, it blows up a person's very existence.  It will come to the surface as panicky thoughts that cannot be tamed. It will show up as fear and darkness that oppresses its victim and swirls around, manifesting as thoughts of suicide or hurting other people. It comes out in a shout at the victims of those who live with the person struggling.

We can go to the saints. We can pray about it and seek wisdom and devotional advice. But in the midst of all this self-improvement, we need community more than a starving man needs food. We need to get help and we need brokenness about mental illness more than a homeless person needs shoes.  We need the right way forward out of the cycle of bitterness, into resurrection, like flowers need water. We need to show grace to others and grace to ourselves like the roots of a tree need rain.

Now is not the time to burn with regret. Now is not the time to toss aside these thoughts, angry or upset because there is nothing to be done. Now is the time to be humble. Jesus died so that we could be humble. He took our sins so that we could move forward with healing.

Even when the mountain of sin, regret, loneliness, and anger overwhelms us, we need to acknowledge that pervasive depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can and should be treated apart from sin patterns. We should stop and pray to know the difference between sin and mental illness. Likewise we should stop and pray to know the difference between the problems "out there" and the problems within us.

How do we go about finding full mental healing?

1. Get Right With God.

Go to Confession. Get rid of bad habits. If you are living in sin, get back to the Church and to the teachings she gives us as a guideline for our lives.  Satan may be responsible for spiritual attacks. Figure out where you can do better.  

Now you can move forward. ;-)

2. Recognize that mental illness is never *anyone's fault.*

I am not an expert.  But depression isn't your fault- you didn't cave to some sin in order to get where you are.  I am in counseling, and my counselor is a professional. She has a list of objectives for my counseling sessions, and with each meeting she tries to help me reach those goals.   Come out of the darkness and find healing. Get a therapist, and tell your family and friends about your struggles when and if it's appropriate, and when you're ready.

3. Get Support and *Real* Community.

If you are that person today, call someone you know who is in the same boat as you. You shouldn't feel defeated, and you definitely need to know you aren't alone. Find like-minded people, and surround yourself with other people who know and admit they are broken. This is all we can do: regularly open up with those around you and those in the same boat as you.  Don't end up letting undiagnosed mental illness prevent you from a swift healing and full recovery.

4. Get the medication you need.

For a swift recovery, medicine is not required, but it is highly, highly recommended. The reason I wrote the e-book on depression was so that people in a situation like this would feel less alone.  That's why it sits on my homepage for all to see. Because there is a real darkness in this world.  And medication is one way we can step forward in humility to fight it and defeat it.

Treated depression is depression ended. Treated mental illness? Same, same. Send mental illness back to the dugout where it came from. It shouldn't even be up to bat. Send it to the grave. Let it die, let it be done. 

Let's all get well. Together. In community.

*Matt. 9:12, Luke 5:32
Linking up with Tuesday Talk
Cross-posting at the ACWB
Adding my link to Catholic Mommy

Friday, May 5, 2017

7 Quick Takes ~ Almost There, News, and More News


happy cinco de mayo, all! :0)


~Almost there~

I'm one week away from my due date, so I'm getting excited about all things baby. Madeleine's 5th birthday is this weekend, so I have to pull together a little birthday party and wrap some presents one week shy of her new baby bro's birthday. We're getting her this tent and these little ice cream toys to go with it. I'm not bitter, I'm honestly just glad to have a distraction. I'm taking it one day at a time for dang sure.

I finally washed all of our baby clothes, got the bassinet down from the attic, and gathered a good supply of little tiny blue baby socks and diapers... in addition to the cute little basket of baby boy 0-3 mo. clothes. Can't wait to play with a baby!

And....I'm thinking of ordering this swing.... any strong feelings about this one in particular? (Comfort and Harmony brand, I have used Graco in the past)



~News~

My brother had a baby! And he is very handsome, if I do say so myself!!!  He was 9 and a half pounds at birth, born via C-section. Oh dear, I'm smitten. I can't believe my brother is a father. What a blessing to our entire family. ;-)
#handsomerunsinthefamily

~More News~

David and Ana


My friend, and one of the bridesmaids from my wedding, got married in April. She is having a celebratory party in June on Long Island. I think my Mom and I are going to go to NYC (with the baby). I'm not sure what we're going to do while we're there... or how long we will or can stay with a newborn. Any tips or recommendations?

Maybe I will walk past Jim Gaffigan while I'm there.  I lived in NYC for a  Summer, and it is definitely one of my favorite places in the world. I {{heart}} NY. The only celebrity sighting I had last time was no less than Jimmy Fallon walking past me on the street near Times Square. It was about 10 years ago though, so he wasn't nearly so famous back then!!!! :-)

~Nesting and Hatching~

I also thought I was finished with Winter Clothes Purge '17, but it turns out that was the beginning of a longer process.  I just keep finding winter clothing and piling it in a corner in my bedroom. Stephen collapsed some of the boxes I was hoping to use for storage. Do I really have to go buy bins every week? #iguessido #keepitreal

I have had so many projects crop up here at the last minute. Our car had an infestation of what I think are tiny carpet beetles. They are so so tiny... you can just squish them with your fingers (maybe 1 mm?), but one day Molly counted 7 and the next day she counted 37. NOT OKAY.

So... car wash and thorough cleaning of the car (with a huge belly) is on my agenda. Hurray! :-0


~Upcoming~

Last but surely not least, stay tuned for a piece I'm writing on mental illness.  I think that I have to come to a somewhat circuitous conclusion that we need to approach this topic with a lot of grace and love. The theme that keeps popping into my mind is "Know your own brokenness." I think it's easy to say we are all ok, (or to believe that based on the high reels), but there are some people out there really struggling. The TRUTH is if we think that way, we miss the forest for the trees. We all have big struggles. They look different, and we may try to diagnose others' problems, but the shit sandwich comes when we think we're doing "OK"... sitting on our duffs, assuming the popularity train will stop for us if so. ;-)

If you have a shred of depression, or a hair of anxiety, or if you're being buried alive... well either way, you're not alone, and I'm hoping that with my upcoming piece, I will cast a teensy bit of light on the subject, from what I've experienced. I have been linking up with Tuesday Talk and I recommend the link-up ;-)

~Instagrammers~

Bonus question: Who are your favorite follows on instagram?

Here are 3 of my favorites:

@aspiringkennedy

Her photos are drool-worthy, she has adorable kids, and she frolics around London like it's her job... and I think maybe it is. I love her insta-stories so much! She seems authentic, but she also puts her best foot forward. #keepitreal #reflectwell

@nikkidinkicooking

Professional chef and author of Meat on the Side, I just love Nikki and I love her more because she has the cutest baby girl named Ivy and she always include her in her stories. She keeps everything very professional, but she has a great personality that comes through in her photos and stories.

@lindsayssweetworld

I discovered Lindsay through Tuesday Talk, and she quickly became a favorite on instagram! She is Catholic, has the cutest kids, and she has a great sense of style.

I'm not quite sure I got to 7 this time .... but! Linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes...

Monday, May 1, 2017

Monthly Recap vol. 42~ April 2017


~Lately~

I'm drinking in the beautiful Spring vibes around here. This has been a very mild season for our area, so I'm just so so happy to be outside as much as possible for walks, letting kids play on playgrounds, riding bikes, and enjoying our backyard before the weather turns brutal.  I'm also trying to live it up before this baby comes and the kids get out for the Summer.  Time. is. flying. Crazily enough, in my next monthly update, I'll be talking about new baby boy. So, I guess we all know what I'll be doing once the baby is here!  Summer plans: play with a baby. Let my kids play with a baby. Let my friends play with a baby. Let my Mom and Mother-in-law play with a baby! (!!!!!)

~Reading~

Nothing of great interest or anything exceptionally philosophical or intellectual. However....

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This was the best book I've read in years. So that's something (pretty big!)! ;-)  I know I'm way behind the times on this one (the book was on the NY Times bestseller list for 3 years....a while ago ;-) but I had heard so much about Hillenbrand's writing I wanted to read something by her. I was a bit intimidated by the premise of a WWII vet who gets stranded in the pacific. BUT suffice it to say, EVERYONE should read this book. Wow, wow, wow. If you want to appreciate your Veterans as an American, if you want to understand what it truly means to be a hero, if you want to understand the war better, you can't do any better than starting with a true story, and this true story is the cream of the crop.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book is squarely for kids, and it has won many awards, including the Newberry.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but Gaiman is able to toe the line of creepy, while still making the reader feel, ultimately, safe.  I think, to be honest, more books could use a bit of creepiness just to make things more real. He states in his essays that he is trying to capture the experience of being a child: they have a level of helplessness, because they want to understand the adult world, but they cannot. Thus many things with shadows or mystery are scary. He dips into scary without bending into horror, which is one of the reasons I like him. The concept of this book came from his studies of an actual graveyard in London. The setting is so unique: who were these people, what is their history? You don't have to think about death in a graveyard... use your curiosity and think about when these people lived, their life-span, how they view our modern world, and how they may talk and interact if a modern boy came to "live" or dwell among their spirits.  It's fascinating stuff... what other author today is able to pull this off (and so successfully, at that?) There are a few witches and mentions of the "the suicides" of the graveyard and that type thing... so...Although I liked it so much, I don't think I'll be letting Molly read it any time soon. Just the idea of it could give her nightmares, although me, or an older, less sensitive child, not so much. ;-)

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry

Funny, entertaining, easy read. Bonus points that I know Florida pretty well (grandparents lived there all through growing up; we went every year for either Spring Break or Easter) and he nailed it. More bonus points because my brother is moving to Miami to be near his fiance and son, and it centers around that area.  Barry's humor is sometimes hilarious, sometimes... offensive for lack of a better word. I wouldn't give it 5 stars for that reason, but it's still worth reading, I think.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

I read this so that I could preview-read it before Molly.  It is a story of a boy who discovers portals to other worlds hidden in the attic of his aunt and uncles' house. The book lives up to your hopes for such an interesting premise. I heard N.D. Wilson interviewed on the Read Aloud Revival podcast, and I liked his perspective, so I was curious to check this one out. Friends, Sarah Mackenzie really knows her stuff. Trust her recommendations! This book was really fantastic.  I would put his storytelling WAY up there right by Harry Potter, a little lower than the angels of children's fantasy literature (Lewis, Tolkein). How many times did this make me think of the wardrobe to Narnia?! I almost liked this story better than Harry Potter  (although I've only read the first), because it fits right in with Lewis' fantasy, it is less gory, and I would venture to say it is more entertaining. I couldn't wait to recommend this to Molly with the highest praise.  N.D. Wilson is terrifically talented and he deserves the lauds and praise coming his way.

About a Boy  by Nick Hornby

Such a fun book and Nick Hornby is just {heart eyes emoji}

If you're wondering how I read ~a book a week, refer to this post. To see my Reading Challenge progress, click here.

~Funny Things They Say~

Molly: How many gallons does it take to fill up a gas tank?

Me: About 20, I guess.

Molly: Then why did you only put 8 gallons in?

Me: Because a half a tank will last me a while, and it costs $20.

Molly: $20?! What a waste of money!!!

Molly: Most of my friends at school like Chik-fil-a WAY better than McDonald's. They said someone found a human bone in a chicken nugget.
Stephen: Which bone?
Molly: A toe. But *I* like McDonald's.
GAG  ;-)  And I was laughing hysterically because of the moral of her story!!!!! :-O

Madeleine: Can we get a bunny? Or we could get an ELEPHANT! (throwing up her hands) But it wouldn't fit in the house!

Frances: When babies read a book, they hold it up and look at the pictures. But they don't say "Oooh, la la." They say, "Oooh, ga ga."

lol she thought she was pretty funny when she said that :-) ha ;-)


~Listening~

Here's my playlist from March...



I can pretty much guarantee that if you download "Road Less Traveled," your kids will start begging you to play it again. ;-) Worth hearing...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-NAEvc-b6E
(modesty alert)


I listened to the "Missing Richard Simmons" podcast, and I felt that it was stirring up controversy for really no reason at all.  There was an assertion that (spoiler) he was transitioning into becoming a woman, based on...  no less than... a National Inquirer's story.  {seriously?!} I think he just got burned out. It sounded like he was spreading himself really thin to maintain popularity, and what he really needed to do was cut back on public appearances and focus on friends and family. So when he did that, it upset some people and maybe those same people are the ones who made the podcast. I say, Good for you, Richard Simmons. If fame and the public eye is messing with your real relationships, pull back. Who cares what they say or what they think?!

~Watching~


I loved re-watching High Fidelity recently. I read the book in the past couple of months, which heightened the appeal a bit. The humor is on. point. I had forgotten how awe.some. Jack Black is in that movie. And J&Joan Cusack. Hilarious.



I also tried watching (and did actually finish) the movie version of Unbroken.  While it was pretty true to the events, I felt the director (Angelina Jolie) did not make it personal enough. The writers of the screenplay and those who brought it to the big screen neglected some major details that would have benefitted the movie greatly.  How Hillenbrand describes his races, his experience on the raft, and the prison camps is enlightening and brilliant. The movie touches on each event in a cursory way, and so it's easy to feel the Hollywoodish production undercutting the real pain and heartbreak of his experiences. The book is so far superior with regard to detail as to almost be a joke... ;-)

~Kids Are Reading~

Nancy Drew: The Mystery at Shadow Ranch

A Birthday for Molly (American Girl series)

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

I can't keep up but I know she read a few others at school. A graphic novel and one that I'm actually not going to mention because I'm not a huge fan. Frances is a Kindergartener and she  is also an avid reader.She recently read out loud at Mass. She did great and wasn't nervous at all. ;-)



~Linking~

Some favorites...

Easter table decor @ Sometime Martha, Always Mary

I think these are really cute. Propped up those eggs look less like tombstones but otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing. Really I am not this creative and my crafty endeavors wouldn't really hold a candle to her ideas and executions! ;-)

The Most Powerful Interview I've Ever Done: A Chat About Suicide, Loss, and Hope @ Jen Fulwiler
God met me right in the midst of my brokenness with this interview about the suicide of Leticia Adams' son Anthony. I sobbed my way through it and I found it most life-changing in all of the *right* ways.  I told Stephen alllll about it which means it was the ^^^^^ superlative^^^^^.  I only tell him alllll about something... book, podcast, interview if it was stellar and this one was.

~Memes~

God gives us grace to handle what he throws at us. :0)

nuf saiad.;)



Linking up with Leigh and Tuesday Talk