30 March 2012

Friday Happiness: Elephants

Mama Mac just sent over a picture from her most recent vacation. I'm in love. 

29 March 2012

Just a Random Observation

I wore heels out tonight.

We went to a birthday drinks and dessert do. And I wanted to wear my blue heels

I love them. I felt stunning. 

But, after two years of working from home, barefoot most days, despite years of wearing stilettos to work, I can't walk in heels anymore. 

Conclusion: I need to wear heels more often. 

I missed it. 

28 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Chicago Sunlight

26 March 2012

My 23 Favorite Little Pleasures

Today's Scintilla Project prompt is simply: write a list of 23. 

1. Kisses from Joe. Anytime.
2. A comforting shower after a good workout.
3. The feel of a flannel pillowcase against my cheek.
4. Taking photographs.
5. A cup of tea with honey at night.
6. A cup of coffee, sweet and light, on a lazy Sunday morning.
7. Pancakes and bacon on a weekend morning.
8. Flowers. Anywhere.
9. Colors. Colors. Colors.
10. Smiles.
11. Seductive winks.
12. Reading a good book.
13. Writing.
14. Laughter with good friends.
15. Cuddles with Joe.
16. Sitting in airports.
17. Puppies!
18. Long, lazy walks.
19. Soft serve ice cream.....only ever with rainbow sprinkles.
20. Music playing while I cook dinner.
21. Nail polish.
22. Twirly skirts and high heels.
23. The feel of sunlight on my shoulders. 

Prairie Thoughts

This city by the lake, built on the prairie home of mine, she fits me perfectly in some ways. But she still manages to startle me sometimes. 

I grew up in the Midwest, yes, but my childhood Midwest is so different from that of  my adulthood. Michigan, especially eastern Michigan is heavily wooded. Thoughts of prairie grasses taller than a man's head seemed so surreal to me as a child.....as far away as Laura Ingalls Wilder's life. 

But then here, in this city. This urban oasis of steel and concrete and lights and the lake, there's still prairie grasses growing, even early in the spring. And for a moment, in my imagination, I can see the prairie stretching out far before me. 

Then the roar of traffic and a glimpse of skyscrapers reminds me, I am here, in Chicago, today and now. And I say a little prayer. Thankful for the light that I've been obsessed with trying to capture this spring. Thankful for the lake I love. Thankful for the sky and the skyscrapers and the sidewalks and the little reminders of the Illinois prairies in the midst of the great big city. 

I may have moved here for love. But love moves me here too. 

22 March 2012

Balloon Wishes

Because the only way I'll hold myself accountable is to put the whisper out into the universe. It seems like whenever I put a whisper out into the universe, things happen. 

Balloon wishes.

Hopes for the year:
  • Get fit
  • Gain muscle
  • Develop workout routine that helps stave off osteoporosis
  • Move more every day
  • Daily workouts
  • Daily walks
  • Bake bread from scratch (never baked anything with yeast before)
  • Perfect a cake from scratch recipe (baked several from scratch cakes, but always with some errors)
  • Try a new recipe per week (and/or develop some healthier versions of favorites)
  • Finally take the tango lessons Joe gifted me with for my birthday last year
  • Use only manual settings on my camera
  • Better blogging/blogging from the heart
  • More handwritten letters (got lazy in the last year)
  • More homemade gifts
  • Weekly "thank you" entries (on blog or in journal still TBD)
  • Study sign language with Joe
  • Make donations to already chosen charities
  • Finally set up that Roth IRA
  • Grow my hair long enough to donate to Locks for Love
  • Clean up computer files
  • Develop off-computer storage system for pictures

21 March 2012

To the Worst Kind of Bully

Write the letter to the bully, to the cheater, to the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn't quite. Now tell them why they can't affect you anymore.

Shame on you. 


Shame on you. 

You were the adult. You should have known better. 

Instead, you stood there when I came to you with a legitimate problem and a solution, and judgingly told me, "You'll always be a failure if you quit now."

And if that wasn't enough, you pushed even harder and asked, "Are you sure you want to be a quitter? You're just setting yourself up for failure."

With more wisdom than any seventh grader should possess, I got indigent and told you, "I'm not a quitter; I'm choosing the best education for me.

And then I stood my ground and made you transfer me out of the hellish AP English class with the horrid teacher who, when confronted with the fact that she gave a deaf student an E on a flawless paper because she had verbally expanded the assignment without ensuring that I got the expanded portion of the assignment said, "Well, KtMac is going to get an E at some point in her life, might as well be now." After that, with my parents' full support, I had gone to you, asking to be transferred to another English class, with a teacher who had proven herself willing to accommodate my hearing issues. 

Shame on you for making a tough situation even harder. 

Fortunately, between you and that hellish teacher, instead of defeating me, you pissed me off enough to be determined to never, ever, ever get an E on a school paper, quiz, project, or exam. 

You should be even more ashamed when, a year later, again with both parents' support and my teacher's encouragement, I came back to you, asking to transfer from the regular eighth grade English class to the AP English class (different AP instructor altogether), and you told me, "Why do you think you can handle AP English now? You couldn't hack it a year ago."

And again, with far more wisdom than you ever showed as a guidance counselor, I told you, "Because I have a teacher who believes in me."

As the adult, as the school guidance counselor, you should have had more tact and understanding when it came to special needs students, especially one who was actively trying to improve her education.  

Those weren't the only inappropriately snarky things you said to me, but those were the worst and most memorable. But you picked the wrong student to bully. Instead of scaring me, you pissed me off:

I graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA. 

I started college a semester ahead of all other freshman thanks to all the AP credits I earned in high school. Including AP English, without having completed the high school AP English course.

I graduated college, early, with honors, and several years of Arabic language studies. 

I earned a Master's degree, with a 4.0 GPA, despite having mono for six months and working full time in international politics, before most of my high school classmates earned their undergraduate degrees. 

I never once got an "E." I never quit. I never failed. 

Shame on you. 

Wednesday Wisdom: Know Who You Are

Lake Michigan. 

20 March 2012

KtMac Confessions: Ten

1) I am not a sci-fi fan, but I did manage to (further) seduce Joe by declaring Firefly to be my favorite tv show before we ever watched it together.

2) My eyes change color. It depends on my mood, what I am wearing, the weather, anything really. But I can't make them change color....they just do. 

3) Can't explain it, but the only things that ever really scare me are mountain tunnels and underwater tunnels. I hate those damn things. I get the sweaty palms and everything because I hate the idea of having nowhere to go if there's suddenly a crack. 

4)  Yet, despite my strange fear of tunnels, not much else truly scares me. I once told my favorite teacher I was terrified of losing my hearing. He told me that it wouldn't be as bad as I feared it to be. Almost exactly a year to the day, I lost my hearing. It was scary as hell, but turned out to be the very best thing that every happened to me. So since then, I realize it's a waste of time to be scared. 

5) I have used a fire extinguisher. It smells bad. I did also convince the guy on the 1-800 number to send me a replacement toaster oven, for free

6) I know today's Scintilla prompt is to talk about the time you got away with it. I'm a product of Catholic guilt. Even if I ever got away with "it," that guilt never really let me get away with it. 

7) I can fall asleep just about anywhere if I am tired enough and I have something soft by my cheek. In the hallway between classes in college? Not a problem (except for the concerned paramedics). In a bombed out, previously war-torn village where the only other person who speaks English is Joe? Poor Joe....I was out within five minutes. On countless plane and train and bus and car rides. Anywhere, really, just as long as I have something soft by my cheek. 

8) I have studied German, Arabic, French, and American Sign Language. Of these, I speak exactly none. But Joe often gets cursed out in Sign Language.

9) I am teaching myself how to sew. I surprised Joe with a quilt made out of shirts and dresses from the early days of our relationship for his most recent birthday present. He loved it. I will put together another blog post on that soon. 

10) I have two degrees in International Relations and have had some unique adventures abroad - Albania, Tokyo, Scotland, the Balkans by bus - but home is wherever I can snuggle up next to Joe every night. 

19 March 2012

It's the Simple Things in Life

I am a simple soul. When we get down to it, it really is the simple, little moments I love best. Today's Scintilla Project prompt asks: What does your everyday look like? Describe the scene of your happiest moment of every day.

It's simple. It is one of the best things of a reader falling in love with another reader. 

It's the moment when the day is done. All chores and worries can be laid to rest. All the ups and downs melt away. We can relax, finally. 

And we climb into bed to read. Sometimes we're a little silly and laugh before we settle into our respective reading. Sometimes we're tired and we get a page or two before we fall asleep. I tend to fall asleep book still in hand.....Joe's better about getting up, putting the book away, and turning out the lights. Sometimes we snuggle just so, other times we hold hands, and just last night found me reading on my stomach, flopped over Joe's legs. (Yes, yes....) And while we get lost in our own worlds, it's a treasure to feel cozy warm under soft sheets and hearing each other breathe in and out while we get lost in our books. 

I remember how excited I was the first time we read side-by-side before going to sleep. I never dared hope for a man who loved to read as much as I do. And since that first night, it's been one of my favorite moments of the day. We've done it no matter where we are....Chicago, D.C., Albania. Such a simple pleasure has become such a treasure to me. 

 In Albania.

 In Albania. 

In Chicago. 

18 March 2012

Let the River Run

Straight out of the camera, no edits. 

I always assumed the river was dyed all at once, but nope, it's dyed by hand. See the guy dumping the orange powder? 

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Chicago!

16 March 2012

A Romantic Lullaby

Today's prompt is: talk about a memory triggered by a particular song, or, what's the story of the most difficult challenge you've faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?

It started with a friendship formed over the most unlikely of books. With each other, we felt comfortable enough to be ourselves. But he was there and I was here and life seemed to be ensuring that friends we would stay. And so we did, for several years, until the night that I finally realized just what we really were

Within just a few weeks of that realization, we were official. Our mothers were asking as many questions as they dared, because they knew, as mothers do, that this was different. Over phone calls and emails and plane rides between D.C. and Chicago, we fell in love. 

I may be scattered

It was a long distance relationship, sure, with the usual hardships of falling in love while in different time zones. What made our romance even more bittersweet was the fact that it started with an expiration date, and we both knew it. But we both fell in too far, too deep for it to just be a casual fling. A mere seven months after that first kiss, we were standing, sticky in the June heat of a D.C. summer, on a train platform kissing good bye for the last time. No more D.C. to Chicago romance. He was off to conquer the world, or, at least, do his best to further U.S. relationships with the Republic of Georgia for a two year stint in the Peace Corps. After the final kiss, I stood, waiting for my train to work, crying and cursing myself for so enthusiastically encouraging him to join the Peace Corps all those years ago in the early days of our friendship.

A little shattered

We both tried so hard to be brave for the other, thinking it was best to let each other go. I came home from work that night and found a letter my bestie/roommate had left for me on top of a pint of Haggen-Daz in the freezer. 
It's gonna be fine.
You know in your heart, and he knows in his heart, that this isn't over. The kind of feeling you have doesn't stop because you tell it to.
Just accept that and don't worry about the words. You don't have to acknowledge it for it to be true.
Let him go. We all know he'll come back.
Don't cry because it's over. Cry because he's far away that that's hard, to have the man you love be far away. It hurts. 
But it's gonna be fine. I promise.

And so for a long, hot, sticky D.C. summer, I tried to let him go. I tried hard to remember that life works out the way it is meant to, not the way we want it to.

What does it matter

But then Georgia went to war with Russia, and suddenly, I spent a weekend without sleep, worrying. Worrying that he was safe. Worrying that the planned evacuation would go smoothly. Worrying that he'd go back to Georgia. Worrying that his dreams wouldn't come true. Worrying that he'd come home. Worrying that he'd go somewhere new. And then I really realized what I hadn't actually put into words during our whirlwind romance or the summer of letting go...

No one has a fit like I do

So while he waited for an official Peace Corps decision, I put my heart in my hand, wrote what I felt, and sent it into cyberspace to his temporary refuge in Armenia. And for a very long day, I did my damnedest not to check my emails or let my mind wander. 

I'm the only one that fits you

Technology is a wonderful thing. Despite his status as a refugee in rural Armenia, and my decidedly not-refugee status in D.C., we were able to finally have the true heart-to-heart that we should have had before he left. Hearts were laid bare on the table. No words went unspoken. And at the end of that very long conversation, despite concerns over how the day-to-day would go, despite exit clauses written in just in case, we were together again. 

Whispering to pass the time

He transferred to the Peace Corps in Albania. I stayed in D.C. And for two years, we adjusted our schedules (he stayed up late, I worked early hours) and pushed the limits of long-distance relationship creativity. We whispered on Skype about how much we loved each other, and how much we missed each other, and how we couldn't wait for my next trip to Albania so we could snuggle and kiss and be together. 

Whisper for the days gone by

In the early days of that extreme long-distance courtship, we talked mostly of the dates we'd already had. The sweet memories of dancing together in so many places. The laughter we shared. The way we fell in love with each other. We shared the little things about each other that we'd fallen for. 

Whisper with the voice inside of you

Then slowly, but surely, as we both grew more confident that we had the right to dream of a future together, we began dreaming. We dreamt of puppies, and grad school, and where we'd live, together, without a plane ride between us. We watched movies together on Skype, shared stories of our days, played games online, and we dreamed. 

With this ring you will be mine

And two years later, on another sticky hot summer day, we stood together in Chicago, and accepted the key ring to our little love nest. We've learned all about each other. We know each other's likes and dislikes, the way we prefer to sleep every night, and which kisses work and which kisses tickle. 

With this ring I'll multiply

And now, here we are, two years later, Katie and Joe, Joe and Katie, planning and dreaming of a future together. There will be more moves on the horizon, but always together....no more of this plane ride/time zone/ocean apart nonsense. And really, as hard as it was, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

With this ring surrendering to you

Because we really got to know each other. We got to chase our individual dreams. Now we get to share our dreams and support each other. And as I learn every single day, it really is possible to grow even more in love with each other. We're the lucky ones. We listened to the lullaby our hearts knew all along. 

All lyrics from the Foo Fighter's Disenchanted Lullaby
A song Joe once put on a mixed cd for me in the early days of that whirlwind romance. 

15 March 2012

Because of You

Today's Scintilla Project prompt sent me happily down Memory Lane: No one does it alone. Write a letter to your rescuer or mentor. Share the way they lit up your path.

Oh Papa ~

From the very, very beginning, I was your girl. No denying it. We shared a special, unshakable bond. I was your girl. I wasn't your first grandchild, or even your first granddaughter, but there was (and still is) absolutely no denying I was your favorite, from the very beginning, to the very, very end. We loved each other this much but we always knew this much meant "more than the entire universe."

Because of you, I grew up with absolute, unwavering, unconditional love. Because of you, I know not to settle for anything less, or to give anything less, when it comes to those I love. Because of you, I grew up confident, and strong, and beautiful, in the way only the truly luckily loved do. Because of you, I had happy memories, even during the unhappy times. Because of you, I am who I am today. And for that, I'll always think of you with a smile and a quiet little thank you.

Because of you, I'll never see a twisty-tie without feeling the urge to save it for later, when I might need it. Same goes for the old-style coffee cans. Because of you, I have a treasured handmade dollhouse that I will keep for always. Because of you, I know to keep a few treasures that make you happy for pulling out during the bad times, like the Cabbage Patch Doll that only came out to play whenever I lost my hearing. Because of you, part of me always believes a man should carry a hanky. Because of you, I'll never stop thinking of trains (real ones or model ones) as anything other than magical. Because of you, I'll always cheer for the Detroit Pistons and consider a Ford to be the best made car (even if I was the first in the family to buy a non-Ford...). And I will always want whipped cream on my hot chocolate. 

Because of you, I learned how to greet the world with a smile on my face, every single day. Because of you, I learned how to let them see the light in my eyes, even when times were hard. Because of you, I learned to be nice to everyone....neighbors, clerks, waitresses, people who were mean to you....and to try to send them on their way with a laugh and a smile on their face. Because of you, I learned the truest compassion and empathy and how to feel for others.....even to the tune of not sleeping when someone else is in pain.  Because of you, I learned to treat others with a quiet dignity and respect, and to expect nothing less in return. And I conduct myself accordingly, every day. 

Because of you, I persevered. Because of you, I succeeded when others said I wouldn't. Because of you, I never lost faith, even when the times got hard. Because of you, I never feel lonely. Because of you, I know how it's the little things that really matter in making life wonderful. Because of you, I am a simple, happy, easy-to-please soul.  Because of you, I knew what true love looks like between a husband and wife. Because of you, I know I've found a man who will love me just the way you adored Grandma every day (even when she was being ornery). And I have no fear for Grandma, because I know when the time is right, you'll be waiting to take her hand and welcome her home. 

Because of you, I've learned how to die with unbelievable, incredible dignity and grace. Because of you, I know how to let go, even when I really don't want to, for the sake of others. Because of you, I believe, no, I  know that the truest love survives even death. Because of you, I know I am never without my guardian angel. I miss you, every day. 

Life without you here just isn't quite the same. I'm so relieved you missed the days of the worst hearing loss (your heart would've been shattered), but my biggest regret is that Joe will never meet you and see just why he reminds me of you in so many little ways. But the truth is, you live on, and because of you, I am a better person today. 

I love you, this much.  
Your girl

14 March 2012

KtMac Today

I've been feeling so overwhelmingly inspired by the lessons and classmates in Susannah Conway's Blogging from the Heart class. Along with some incredible schemes with an amazing friend slowly, finally, coming to fruition. But maybe too much so. I have so many thoughts and ideas and inspiration and stories all swirling around my head that my heart doesn't know where to start. 

So this evening, as I was reading a classmate's lovely post about a childhood realization, I came across The Scintilla Project. The Scintilla Project will send me a series of prompts to help me write over the next two weeks, and I'm already appreciating the help in focusing all my ideas.

Today's prompt is quite simply, a return to the beginning. Who are you? Come out from behind that curtain and show yourself. 

I'm KtMac. I'm more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, but my love Joe often ignores me and takes my picture anyway. I'm learning to just go with it. I'm the one who always carries my camera, a back-up memory card, a bottle of water, and my journal in my purse. My favorite color is yellow, the color of sunshine and happiness. I believe in the flirtatious power of a great wink, or, if you're like me and can't wink, a great pair of sunglasses. 

There's almost always a smile on my face, accompanied by a giant dimple on my left cheek. That smile always gets bigger when Joe is around and is being his usual naughty self (which is often). Which also means I giggle, a lot. I adore dangly earrings. Both because they're awesome, and because they help keep my hearing aid on. Silver is almost always the preferred metal. And these days, I never leave home without lipstick or a stack of bangles, each of which have a sentimental meaning.  

After several years of a long-distance relationship, Joe and I have spent the last two years making our home in sweet, sweet home Chicago. I spend my free time, when not annoying cuddling Joe, reading, taking photographs, learning to sew, scheming, exploring this city of ours, and trying to really capture the magic of a Chicago sunset. It's a happy life. 

Wednesday Wisdom: Listen Close to Me

My Michigan sky.

13 March 2012

Chicago in the Summertime

Oh Chicago, I can only hope today is the promise of a wonderful summer together. Such a beautiful afternoon photowalk has me daydreaming of more great afternoons this summer. 

12 March 2012

Today, Happiness Is...

New everyday kicks. Adding that much needed dose of color to my daily life.

Sunny yellow tulips chosen by Joe. 

New date night heels. Blue. Suede. Yes. Even though they look satin-ish in this picture. Need excuses for Joe to take me out tonight. Any suggestions?

Great early morning workouts. 

Cheery birthday bunting still hanging around. 

Leftover mini birthday balloons tucked into happy purple mums. It's a great start to the week!

09 March 2012

A Love Letter to the Birthday Boy

The surprise birthday breakfast has been enjoyed. The birthday bunting is hung. The presents are ready to gift. Dinner plans have been made. The cake is ready and waiting. All that today's little birthday celebration needs is for the birthday boy to come home from work. 

And in the meantime, I write a little birthday letter. 

Happy birthday My Love ~

I know we talked about how as you get older, birthdays just become another day. But the truth is, it's not just another day....it's a day of you. You being alive. You being special. You being here, right now, in my life and our life together. It really is a special day.

And we really have a special love. I adore that....but more importantly, I adore you. 

I adore how hard you've worked and how close you are to earning that MBA. How you've found a great job, doing what you love, and you come home happy every day. Not everyone is lucky enough to find a job they enjoy, but you did and it shows.

I love how incredibly handsome you are, all cleaned up in a suit to go out dancing, or all comfy in a t-shirt and pj pants on the couch. And the way you say, every single day, "you're so beautiful," not because you have to or feel like you have to, but with that catch in your voice that makes me realize it's because you truly believe it. Which, I believe, has made me even more beautiful because of that love. 

I love how we've settled into our rhythm. We can have our time together and our time apart and absolutely nothing gets in the way of cuddle time.  We've really hit our stride this year and we both have enjoyed the magic of being comfortably in love with each other. 

I love the way you treat me. Flowers just because. Kisses whenever. Laughter often. Our life together is sweet. 

You are an amazing man. I'm so lucky we've found our way to where our hearts knew we'd end up all along. I can't wait to see what adventures this next year brings for us. 

Love always, 
Your Katie

08 March 2012



* Today....has been extraordinarily productive. The gym, the shops, the bank, two loads of laundry, three giant bags of trash, one key project at work, two key projects at home, and making dinner now kind of productive. 

* Today....will most likely end on the couch, drinking tea while snuggled under favorite blankets (that never got put away after the bachelorette party last weekend) with Joe. Whether it's snuggles while reading or watching Netflix is still TBD. 

* Today....has me wishing it wasn't quite this windy so I could go back out and figure out just how I took these pictures. They were overexposed by accident, but I love them this way (as opposed to the correctly exposed ones).

* Today....I feel a general sense of excitement about life in general these days. I can't quite put my finger on it. But I'm happy to be excited and happy. 

* Today....reminded me why I dislike our apartment during seasonal changes so much. It's warmer, yes, but not warm enough to have the heat off. But warmer than the minimum temperature required to trip the building's furnace all day long. Translation: it gets mighty chilly in here during late afternoons now. 

* Today....means only one more day before I can FINALLY gift Joe his birthday surprise. The one I've worked on for so long in secret. The suspense of keeping a secret is killing me. 

* Today....I feel pride in the way my muscles ache after this morning's workout. I think I've finally found the right weights for each machine so I can complete the reps, but feel the burn (in a good way) afterwards. 

* Today....just found little and quiet ways to remind me of how lucky we are to live in such a great place.

07 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Oh March...

2 March.

6 March.

06 March 2012

KtMac Confessions: Blogging from the Heart

I did it. After all the quiet, beautiful changes I've made in the last year, I've finally reached out and found a way to help myself better put into words what I'm thinking and how I feel and what I see. 

You see, I've started taking Susannah Conway's Blogging from the Heart course. 

Blogging from the Heart

I'm hoping I will discover how to put my true self out on the pages. To be more introspective. Because I really do believe that I discover and understand myself best the more I write. I've been eagerly looking forward to this course and can't wait to see how I evolve over the next six weeks. 

05 March 2012

Love is Making Its Way Back Home

I just can't stop watching this lovely video my fabulous friend Tiger shared with me: 

A Midwestern Start to March

On a bus ride up to Madison last Friday, I woke up from a light little nap to a world gone white with swirling snows. 

These images aren't grainy film shots, but digital pictures made grainy by the swirling, white-out condition snows. 

But I do think the graininess is what's making me fall in love with these images over and over again. Despite the fact that snow is never how I want to start the month of March. 

I do believe that here in the midwest, and even in my own life, the adage "In like a lion, out like a lamb" has almost always been proven true of March. 

I started this weekend in the farm country surrounding Madison to help organize a bridal shower for a dear friend. 

Then we traveled down to sweet home Chicago for her bachelorette party. Delicious dinner, fantastic drinks, and laughs courtesy of Second City made for a great girls' night out. 

Then after all the girls went home, Joe surprised me with purple flowers and I crawled into bed ridiculously early to nurse the first cold of winter. 

March, you've come in like a lion alright.....now, please, please, please, become a lamb. Sooner rather than later.