Thoughts on Momma-hood

Photo by We Love Your Love Photography, (c) Colleen Shawk
Photo by We Love Your Love Photography, (c) 2013 – Colleen Shawk

I haven’t blogged since before Eloise was born.  In the meantime, the blog has gotten over 4000+ hits thanks to the post on the nursery’s chevron wall!  How nuts is that?

So, since the last post, we have continued to re-do the house, one room at a time.  We are nearly finished with our sun room.  I haven’t been taking “before” photos, because I don’t want to remember the ugly wallpaper when it’s all done!  But, I’ll write a post showing the different elements of my new voice studio/sunroom.

By and large, though, our lives have been completely centered around this beautiful little creature who has entered our lives.  We are captivated by her every moment – what a miracle she is!  It has been incredible seeing how much she can change day to day, and how much she has changed me.  Since we got our house and had our baby, I have been shocked by how obsessed I am with keeping our house clean!  In the past, cleaning was never on the top of my priority list, I’m embarrassed to say.  But knowing that she will be healthier and happier in a clean environment, not to mention that we’ve had many more visitors over since she was born, I am constantly cleaning!

I’m also staggered by how much just HAPPENS.  Like, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to nurse the baby because I had no frame of reference for my body producing milk.  And I worried I wouldn’t love her, because I was just meeting her.  And I worried I wouldn’t be able to function on so little sleep.  And a million other things — and it’s amazing because, everything just happened.  Just the way she was formed in my womb – these things were entirely outside of my control.

I have lots of posts I’d like to write soon about craft projects I’ve taken on, redecorating our almost century-old house, marriage, and motherhood, but I really felt that Eloise was due a post first since I’ve been long overdue to write.  So, expect more coming soon!

The Official Guide to Painting a Chevron Wall // In 6 Simple Steps!

Did you just get home after a long day of work and have 20 minutes to kill?  If you answered yes, you should probably stop because this is not a good idea for you.  Otherwise, go on.

Did you just get a new place or are you in the mood to redecorate?  If the answer is yes, keep reading.

I have envisioned a gray & white chevron nursery for months – I think even before I got pregnant.  I mentioned it to my husband who, rather than flip out on me, embraced the idea.  And we then quickly recruited my bestie’s graphic designer husband to help (this is a wise choice).  Yesterday, they tasked themselves to this while we shopped for nursery decor.  They photo-chronicled the process so that you can recreate.


Step 1: Paint the wall one of the two colors you intend in your chevron and let it completely dry (this may take 2 coats).

Step 2:  Grid off your wall using chalk.  Your grid should be the exact width you want your lines to be – I wanted 7 inch lines, so they made 7 inch boxes.

Step 2: Grid off your wall with chalk
Step 2: Grid off your wall with chalk


Step 3: Cut painter’s tape to approximately the lengths you want, at a 45 degree angle and apply to grid.  You place the tape corner to corner, staying outside the boundaries of the new color.

Painter's tape applied to grid creating 45 degree angles
Painter’s tape applied to grid creating 45 degree angles


Painter's tape

Step 4: Paint the stripes between the tape lines.  Allow time for drying and then paint second coat (if needed… probably needed)

Step 4: Paint the chevron between the tape lines IMG_20130602_201201_256

Step 5: Remove painter’s tape before it is completely dry, so as to not flake the chevron, and touch up as needed.

Remove the painter's tape and touch up any spots as needed (in this case, the tape took some chips of paint off the wall)
Remove the painter’s tape and touch up any spots as needed (in this case, the tape took some chips of paint off the wall)


Step 6: Bask in your awesomeness while you allow the paint to fully dry and then come back in a day or two and wash the grid off the wall with a soft cloth and lightly soapy water.

Enjoy it while it dries - you just did something awesome!  Then in a day or two, wash off the chalk grid with a soft cloth and soapy water.
Enjoy it while it dries – you just did something awesome! Then in a day or two, wash off the chalk grid with a soft cloth and soapy water.


HUGE thanks to my incredible husband and our friend Steve on this one – I am so thrilled that this is the room where we will welcome our baby girl home!


Grateful // remember these things

New, clean, fresh cloth diapers. Definitely the best they will ever look/smell!


I’ve been feeling down the last few days.  Pregnancy has been getting harder on my body – I’m past the point of “cute baby bump” and into the “are you sure there’s only one in there?”-swollen feet-waddle-walk phase where everyone thinks I’ll go into labor at the drop of a pin (sidebar: why do random strangers think it’s ever okay to comment on how large a pregnant woman’s belly is!?).  Additionally, we still have not closed on our house which we were supposed to close on over a month ago.  As a ticking time bomb, so to speak, this has been very frustrating to me and my nesting urges are misplaced in this apartment which is too small, but we may still be living in primarily when Baby Girl makes her appearance.

Yesterday was especially rough – I have been pushing myself harder at work because of the impending leave to be more productive.  I’ve been working extra hours before and after trying to get ahead and be prepared for the baby whenever she shows up.  And we’ve had a lot of shows and events lately that have kept me on my feet on the weekends when I could normally be resting.  So yesterday, I had the day off and I had this mental list of things I wanted to do to prepare the apartment in case the baby arrives early, but I had absolutely no energy to do those things.

I did not communicate this well to my husband, who went to visit his family yesterday after work.  I was particularly and inappropriately cranky with him when he got home because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to and he hadn’t been home to help me.  I knew there was a lot of exhaustion and hormones behind what I was expressing, and so did he, but that doesn’t make it easier on the receiving end.

So this morning when I woke up, several of the items I had listed off to him were done.  When I went to bed at 9:45 last night, he stayed up until 1 am pre-washing cloth diapers and other baby items, doing our laundry, and cleaning up our house.  I woke up so refreshed and thankful for such a caring husband who understood my heart and was so willing to take the load off of me.  I bragged on him all day.

A friend from college had her baby shower today about 45 minutes away from where we live, so my bestie and I spent the afternoon out there and I just walked back into my house.  It was wildly therapeutic to have a little girl time away from the house with her, and in the company of a bunch of other young mommas and soon-to-be-mommas, where I didn’t feel the looming pressure of “where on earth are we going to put this kid” every time I looked around our apartment.

When I walked in the door I noticed some of the furniture boxes were missing out of the living room, so I walked up to the second bedroom which as been the hoarding/storage area for baby stuff.  My sweet, kind, wonderful man spent this day off putting together baby furniture and putting together a make-do nursery to ease my heart.  I don’t even have words for how much this means to me.  The last 24 hours needs to replay in my memory anytime I’m feeling down.  I am so hugely blessed by how well my husband loves me, what a wonderful parent he is already, and how hard he works to settle my heart.  Truly, our daughter will have a very high standard for any man who would ever entertain the thought of being her husband, because she has an incredible dad.

In Giving, We Receive

Yesterday, I came across this article about this 77-year old homeless man who donated $250 to charity.  The man donated what he had begged off the street to give back to a ministry that had been feeding him for nearly two decades.  Stories like this make you think.

As you may already know, my job is in development, which is a non-profit’s way of saying “fundraising.”  I am responsible for the contributed income of my organization through a myriad of methods and campaigns.  Fundraising is about people.  It’s about getting to know people, building relationships, and helping people to know your organization well enough that they realize that what your organization does is important.  When a person attributes value to what you do, they can express that value through becoming a part of what you do.  That can mean volunteering their time, skills, resources… but it can also mean investing financially in what you do.

Mike and I give regularly to several organizations and ministries, despite the fact that our means are limited.  One of the best things about my job is that I get to see the other end of that spectrum: generosity from people who value our organization and have the means to do big things.  This is a huge motivation for achieving financial stability – being able to make a huge impact.

Stories like the one about this man, however, remind me that anytime someone places value on what you do and gives back, it is meaningful and important.

Some lessons I’ve learned about giving:

People give because they value what you do.

People give because they want to be a part of the good work you’re doing.

When someone is motivated to give, it doesn’t always matter what their means are – they will find a way to be a part of something they value.

People don’t give to get – they receive a greater reward from giving (read: In Giving, We Receive).

People are motivated to give when others are giving.  (I bet the charity that received this $250 donation has experienced a major bump in larger gifts after this story hit the press.  When we see someone of lesser means giving more than we are, it convicts us to remember what’s important).

If people aren’t giving, it’s likely because your organization/ministry has not done their job to communicate why it’s valuable, essential, and important.

{{do tell!}}

Why do you give?  Why don’t you give in some cases?

Birthday Gratitude // One Year Later

Last year on my birthday, I had just wrapped up an incredible internship at Americans for the Arts.  Mike and I gathered all of our friends together to help us move from the downstairs apartment in our house in Stephens City to the much nicer upstairs apartment.  We were so excited to be upstairs with doors on all the rooms, a roomier space, and a legitimate kitchen as opposed to the makeshift one in the old place.  We also expected to be there until at least May 2013 if not a bit later.

I was staggered by how many of our friends showed up to help and how awesome they were.  I’ll never forget the many, many boxes coming upstairs, or my sweet friend Marisa spending a couple of hours scrubbing down the bathtub so that when it was all said and done, I could take a bubble bath and have a moment of calm on my birthday.  Mike and our friend Eric went to Walmart at the end of the day to buy me bubble bath and bath salts so I could just relax and not spend the entire day in chaos.  It’s funny – I hated moving on my birthday but that day is a perfect example of how lucky we have been in the friends department.

Here we are, only a year later and nothing in our life looks the same.  We’re back in Ashland, OH getting ready to close on a house.  Our daughter will make her debut sometime in June.  We are surrounded by dear friends who we’ve known since college (and in some cases, high school), family, and have made some really incredible new friends too.  We have totally different jobs, totally different day-to-days, and we are so happy and eager for what’s to come.

I turn 28 today and it’s funny because this birthday seems so silly.  I feel like I’ve aged much more with all the change that has come in the last year.  One year just doesn’t seem to reflect the amount of blessing and change we’ve had.  I am so amazed and excited to think about what this next year will bring.  As we move into our house, as we officially become parents, as we get to know our little girl, as we settle into our lives here… and who knows what else may come… I am so excited and blessed to see what is to come.  And, today, I am so thankful for all that has come before.  That we have been lucky to have fun, devoted, intelligent, creative, thoughtful friends in every place we lived or visited is a huge blessing.  Thanks to Facebook for reminding me just how far our connections reach on a day like today.  It’s awesome to see messages wishing for a happy birthday from all over the globe!

So, thank you dear friends – I am absolutely staggered by all of you and the incredibly charmed life I get to lead.

Everybody has an opinion // controversial post

syriaI was inspired by my friend Jim Baker’s blog post earlier today on the etiquette of social media in light of tense times (you should probably check out his blog anyway because it’s one of a very small handful I consistently read and it’s pretty great!)

I have been thinking a lot of my friends who live in Boston and how they might be feeling right now.  Some of them were at the marathon earlier that day.  My husband Mike actually completed his first marathon about a year and a half ago in Erie in right around the same finish time that the bombs went off.  Anytime you can fathom those most important to you being hurt (or worse) causes one to shudder.  This moment is one of those close calls for a lot of people, and a very sad reality for too many.  It is heartbreaking.

So what I’m about to say is in no way intended to diminish the reality of this situation – this is a bad thing and people are justified in feeling upset, scared, angry, and a host of other emotions.

The thing that nags at me is this: we as a country don’t respond to situations like this very well, especially in social media.  It seems like at first, everyone posts heartfelt messages of prayers and thoughts going out to people in a tense situation.  This is a good thing – people need to know in this situation that they’re not alone.  But then within a day or so, it becomes heavily tempered about political points of view, a sudden patriotism for some that seems so artificial or anti-patriotism for others blaming everything on the current leaders.  This is the point where we start to turn ugly.  What comes next, inevitably, are posts/comments treating whatever the tragedy as if it is the single worst thing that has ever happened in the entire world.

I’m bothered by each of these things for different reasons, but probably by the lack of perspective people have for what is going on in our world the most.  Millions of people spend every day in fear of terrorism that encompasses their every single day… and many of those people are living in fear because we are attacking them.

Senator Lists the Death Toll from US Drones at 4,700 People

We have killed THOUSANDS of people, including many, many innocent people.  The title of this article is a little misleading, though, because there isn’t really a count on how many people US drones have killed in the last decade – no one’s keeping track.  “Using the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s count, the U.S. has launched between 416 and 439 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia since the U.S. first successfully weaponized an MQ-1 Predator a decade ago.”

This, in my opinion, is the worst thing in the world.  These attacks are happening and they’re happening as we continue to support them.

I’m really not trying to diminish what’s going on in Boston, or any of the other national tragedies we’ve experienced as of late – they are tragic and terrible and I hate them.  What I am trying to put into perspective is the reality that bombings like this are a regular thing on our planet and we only seem to take notice when it’s on our soil.

People in the Middle East where these attacks are happening spend every day living in a deeper fear than the Bostonians felt today, or than the residents of Newtown felt when school resumed.  But for some reason I’ll never understand, the social media response and the general vibe of our country is, “Who cares!  They’re not our people.”

Hold On // what I’m learning these days

Mike and I have been trying to buy a house for some time.  What we expected to be a slow process has sped up, and slowed down with many, many bumps in the road.  While we haven’t heard anyone say “Buying a house is easy!” or “My home purchase was so smooth and simple,” somehow we had the naive thought this might be.  But, nonetheless, we’re getting close to owning our home and we are very excited to soon be in the house we will bring our daughter to when we leave the hospital, and send our kids off to college from (we hope). 

In the meantime, I keep finding myself desperately hung up on some concerns that should be minor, but feel so major at the time.  One day it was that I didn’t know how we would afford the necessary items for our baby like a crib and a car seat, another it was concerns about childcare (well, that worry lasted a little longer than a day), and yet another it was that we were being totally irresponsible by trying to do everything at once.  And the thing I keep learning throughout all of this time is to HOLD ON.  Every single one of these worries was completely washed away in a few days after praying about it and releasing control.  Every. single. one.

Funny thing is, I knew they would be, even when I was frantic.  What I’ve been learning is the patience and waiting part – that just because something hasn’t happened in this moment, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  This is big – I’m a glutton for instant gratification.  Something tells me that God is tempering me to be a parent, a better wife, and a better employee. 

{do tell!}

Have you already been learning this lesson in your life? How? 

Why I Stopped Blogging // A Whirlwind of Blessing

I haven’t blogged in a really long time.  It’s been 7 months since my last post.  Initially, I started this blog so that I’d have better odds at getting a job in my field.  At the time of my last two posts, I had secured a job and an entirely new life began in a whirlwind that still hasn’t touched down.  I lost the purpose for this blog.

Since that time, our life has continued to be in a constant state of change, and yet we’ve had a remarkable peace about it along the way.  We are pregnant with a baby girl who will be born in June.  We are shopping for a house.  Mike is working in a job completely different than he had planned to do when we moved here, and he’s incredibly fulfilled by his work.  My job has challenged and tested me from the first day, and I am truly thankful for the incredible people I work with and for the community we serve.  We have started working with the religious life ministries at AU (our alma mater) and I’m leading a small team of some powerhouse women who inspire and encourage me on a daily basis.  And with all of that, I still didn’t feel like I had a reason to write.

A part of me feels like no one would be interested in the day-to-day babblings of my life.  A part of me has been far too exhausted/busy to think about writing.  And more than anything, I worried that I craved the approval of others a little too much and needed to pull back a bit.  But, I feel inspired to write again.

So, as we continue to move through these ridiculous blessings and challenges that have come our way, I will be writing to help process this whole becoming a mommy/homeowner (read: grown up) thing and you are invited to come along for the journey.  It’s a crazy one!

We’re Moving!

OHIO!This week’s lesson: Your entire life can change on a dime.

On Friday, one of my best friends told me about a job at a place I’ve been hoping to work for someday.  So, I put my application materials in that day, and here we are, it’s Wednesday and after a crazy 14 hour round trip to Ohio…

I got the job!

I will be the new Assistant Director of Development at the BEAUTIFUL Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield, Ohio.

I’ve long been a fan of this place, having attended several performances there, and have frequently joked with Mike that if they ever offered me a job, we’d drop everything and move home.  For those readers that don’t know, Mike grew up in Mansfield, we met in the town right next to it, Ashland, when we were both in college there, and it’s where the Cooks all live and the Fieldings are only about 90 minutes down the road. 

It’s home.

This job is very much what I hoped to be doing, and I had expected it to take several years to work my way up the ranks and pay my dues before a job like this would come along… yet God provides for our hopes, our dreams, our wants, and our needs.  We have been praying for the opportunity to move to Mansfield for quite awhile, and expecting that could happen as soon as a year from now, but never guessed so soon.  This is a HUGE answer to prayers for our long-term.  While we hadn’t at all expected to move quite so soon, this is a huge opportunity for us and we’re very excited.  I will change some of my plans for school, but still plan to finish my master’s degree in Arts Management in spring of 2013.

It’s going to be incredibly hard to leave all the people we love and care about here in Virginia.  We have said a million times how ridiculously lucky we’ve been to have such a wonderful group of friends, a church we love, and a school that has been so outstanding… it will be very hard to say goodbye to all of this.  I don’t know how to begin to thank you all for the wonderful memories, laughs and tears, and the deep friendships we’ve formed.

If you’re one of those people we’re going to be saying goodbye to very soon, or saying hello again to soon, and I haven’t had a chance to call you yet to tell you what’s going on- please forgive me.  This has all happened extremely quickly, and I am doing my best, but I know there are several people I hoped to talk to personally before posting online…  We’ll talk soon.

{{Can you help us?}}

If you’re not busy on Saturday, July 28th, live in either the Winchester or Ashland area and would be willing to help us load/unload the truck… we can desperately use your help and will provide food and beverage!  Or, if you’re around the Winchester area in the next few weeks and would be game to help us pack, we’d really love that.  (We’re going to definitely need some boxes ASAP!) If you’re available, please shoot me a quick email and let me know if you’re free.  Or if you hate helping people move, and just want to be sure to see us before we go, we’ll plan some sort of large gathering soon.