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New Apartment Loves

We’ve been living in our new apartment for about two weeks, and now that the chaos of moving has mostly passed, I thought I would share some of the things I find positive about this place. Not only does it help me to remember that there are in fact good things about it, but it also lets you, the lovely reader, know that I don’t actually hate it here.

So what do I like about living in this apartment?

1. The crispness of smooth wood floors and white walls.

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Our old place was unique in its design, paint colors, and various features like the imprinted metal kitchen cabinets. It felt homey right from the day we walked in the door. That said, it wasn’t super clean, and no matter how hard we tried, we could never quite it to the level of cleanliness that we would have liked. Here, the walls are all white, which seemed sterile before we moved all our stuff in, but now they’re covered by curtains, bookshelves, and artwork.

2. The closest thing to a “picture window” we’ve ever had.

Sorry about the mess.

Sorry about the mess.

One day while I was off doing a show, T hung up the curtains we used to have in the old place. It was quite a pleasant surprise to come home to window dressings that were much warmer and more friendly than the standard vertical blinds, at least on one window. Plus I think the way we have the window framed by bookshelves creates an awesome focal point (and also the cats love to perch there and watch people walk by).

3. The laundry nook.

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As much as it is kind of a pain to have to stand on my little footstool to empty the dryer, I do appreciate that our laundry area takes up minimal space. It’s also nice to have a door on it to block some of the noise, which we didn’t have at the old place.

4. Our bathroom storage solutions.

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It was clear as soon as we walked into the bathroom for the first time that we would need all kinds of storage in there. The over-the-toilet shelving unit has been a lifesaver, though it’s just barely too short for the taller-than-standard toilet (shhhh, you can’t really tell). I’ve also been dying to try the wine-rack-turned-towel-rack solution since I saw it on Pinterest about a year ago, but we never had the need nor the wall space. Now that we do, I’m loving the fact that it’s both functional and artistic.

5. The magnetic spice containers that eliminate a big item from our limited counter space.

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The key to this particular success is that the sides of the fridge are magnetic in addition to the door. The spices don’t take up any extra space that we want to devote to decor, and they don’t make the fridge look too busy, but they’re all right there within reach.

6. Having a desk that’s much more central to the main room.

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When I started grad school, I thought I would use the desk all the time because it had a lower pull-out section that seemed super convenient for spreading out books or musical scores. I was right about the convenience, but very wrong about using it all the time. It was relegated to a dark corner of our already-dark dining room, so I couldn’t write papers or do other work while also talking to T in the living room. Our new set-up has the desk right next to the couch, so all I have to do is turn my head or swivel in that awesome bungee desk chair.

7. My little makeup station.

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Now that we only have one mirror and it’s in the bathroom, we have to be extra conscientious about bathroom time in the morning. In order to get out of T’s way, I set up a little makeshift vanity that houses my makeup and jewelry. And isn’t that cat ring holder the cutest?

8. The little personal touches that have made it feel like home.

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I was anxious to hang artwork pretty soon after we moved in, and as soon as we did, it felt much more like our home. Seeing our wedding pictures on the wall, as well as the other art that holds significance for us, reminds me that we’re still us and we’re still a family no matter where we physically live.

9. The complex amenities.

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Just outside our apartment, on the other side of the big window, is the complex’s only pool. It’s been warming up in the afternoons lately, so it’s fun to hear the kids playing in the pool after school and on the weekends. We also have a clubhouse with a fitness center that my brother has already come over and used (though neither T nor I has checked it out yet). The lake is right across the street, and on the other side is the light rail station that can take us downtown and beyond easily. I also appreciate the extra little security of being able to park in the garage directly below the complex, and our parents chipped in to pay for a second parking spot in the garage so we can both park down there. It makes me feel much safer about getting home late at night after rehearsals or performances, and it’s easy to check mail and toss recycling on the way to and from the car.

In a way, the fact that this apartment is smaller has forced us to come up with creative storage solutions and utilize every inch of space. We’ve added extra hanging rods to bedroom closets, built extra IKEA drawer units, and bought a whole collection of plastic bins from Bed Bath & Beyond. We got creative with hanging shoe organizers by turning them into storage for socks and underwear. We put a big metal shelving unit inside our outdoor patio closet, which now houses sleeping bags, bulky suitcases, and various household items that we have no room for inside, stored in the aforementioned BB&B plastic bins. More than ever, I feel the importance of having “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

I’ve read several times that you should try to have your house be ten minutes from guest-ready at all times. The more we get settled, put things away, organize, decorate, and make it our own, the more I consider that and try to abide by it. We’ll be hosting the first friend-gathering here next week, which will motivate me us to finish unpacking, keep things as clean as they were when we moved in, and develop a welcoming vibe that our friends will want to visit and that we will want to come home to at the end of the day.

Staying Afloat

I promise you, friends, I’m still alive. It’s been a very difficult three weeks, to say the least. After finding out on Valentine’s Day, while T was halfway to Mexico, that we had sixty days to vacate our apartment, my entire existence has been consumed with moving. I found us a new place before T was even back on U.S. soil. We negotiated last month’s rent and the return of our deposit with our landlord, which wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. We got the keys last week, and I’ve been spending most of my waking hours since then packing and moving.

The words “angry” and “upset” don’t even begin to describe how T and I feel right now. We feel violated and betrayed, and like nothing in our life is safe or sacred. One day we felt secure in our life and our plans, and the next day we were at the mercy of someone else’s whim, or at least someone else’s life decisions. Even though T assures me that the signing of a brand-new 14-month lease won’t affect us following through with any opportunity that comes up, I can’t help but feel like we’re stuck here for that much longer.

I really do want to enjoy the amenities that the new apartment and complex has to offer. We’ll be able to take advantage of the fitness center in the clubhouse, the light rail station next door, and the beautiful lake across the street from us. In the summer, I’ll be enjoying the built-in A/C while T grills on our patio because we’ll be living on the first floor for the first time ever (that’s the law in California). We might even be able to get a dog because of the dog park that the complex management plans to put in. There are plenty of positives about the new place, but it’s hard to be truly excited about them when a) we’re paying significantly more for them and b) we were perfectly happy without those things.

And of course this isn’t the only thing going on in our lives right now. I have a huge ongoing project at work, for which I have a big hand in its success or failure. We’re steadily taking on more responsibilities at church––I’m preparing our choir for Holy Week and starting to plan our summer houseboats trip with the youth group, and T has just become an elder and is the chair of the search committee to find a new youth director. And of course I opened a show last weekend, and while we aren’t rehearsing on weeknights any more at this point, a lot of this house stress overlapped with tech week.

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I am feeling a little better now that our bookshelves are set up at the new place.

So that’s what’s happening, and why I haven’t been around lately. Thank you for your patience with me, friends.

Happy Blog-iversary!

As of today, I have been blogging for an entire year! I’ve had a couple of blogs in the past, but none that have lasted this long or had any sort of following whatsoever, so this is quite exciting. I’ve been able to unpack thoughts on this blog, as well as share fun facts about my life and travels.

What does the future hold for Perfect Harmonies? Since this is purely a hobby for me, I don’t plan on trying to make any significant income from it. However, it is a very fun hobby and I’d love to grow my content and readership, so I do plan on making some improvements and implementing some new ideas around here. Look for fun changes over the next few months!

To celebrate Perfect Harmonies’ first birthday, here are some of my favorite and most significant posts from the past year.

The realization that my life struggles happen for a reason.

A solo trip to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios in London.

How I view my role as a wife, and what’s awesome about being married to T.

Top five things I’ve learned from working at a dental office.

One of the most life-changing decisions I’ve ever made.

Why every kid needs cousins, and why we will eventually give our nephew some of his own.

The story behind my right-hand ring.

Traveling to Brazil? Here are some of my observations about the Portuguese language.

How I overcame one of my biggest fears.

25 days of Christmas music.

The greatest trip of my life.

How to be awesome at public transportation.

I hope you enjoy reading Perfect Harmonies as much as I enjoy writing it! What are some of your favorite posts?

Life Happens

Sometimes in life, everything goes exactly as you had planned.

Other times in life, you’re at rehearsal on Valentine’s Day and you get a text from your husband as he’s literally halfway to Mexico, saying that he just heard from your landlord and the two of you and your cats have sixty days to move out of your apartment so she can move back in.

What do you do in those times? Well, you go into panic mode in the middle of rehearsal. You immediately start searching on Craigslist for something, anything, that might be available in your price range in the next month. Your freakout is compounded by the fact that your husband will be crossing the Mexican border in a matter of a few hours and will be largely inaccessible for the next six days.

Then you happen upon a listing on Craigslist that seems perfect. You realize that it’s open today (thank God it’s Saturday) and you drive straight there after rehearsal, all sweaty and haphazard after dancing for three hours. When you meet the office manager, you are incredibly friendly and charming while making sure to communicate your state of panic. She is super nice, offering you water and as much time as you need to text your husband photos of the apartment and answering all his questions, while you silently thank God that he is still in San Diego and hasn’t crossed the border yet.

In order to hold the apartment for 48 hours, the manager says, you have to put in an application and make a relatively small refundable deposit. After getting the okay from your husband, you go ahead with those things. Then the clock starts ticking down the 48 hours. Your husband crosses the Mexican border. And you start having second thoughts, doubting all the little things about the apartment that might not work for you, like the fact that there is absolutely no storage or the fact that the floorplan is inefficient enough that your furniture might not all fit.

Your mom tells you to calm down, that it will all work out and that she would be happy to go look at the place with you to give an outside opinion. The next day, you get what seems like a miracle text from your husband, who turns out to have wifi, and you are able to continue discussing the place and your options. And among all of this, you go to church on Sunday morning and several people come up to you offering places to stay or help with moving, and you remember what a fantastic, loving community you have around you. Then you realize that God would never not come through for you in a situation like this… and then you pray, and then you wait.

Of course, this is all hypothetical.

2014: Looking Back

What a year it’s been for us. 2014 took off running and never slowed down. I feel like every time we got through one major thing, something else major came up. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights as well).

Travel: T and I went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February, to visit friends. It was my first time in South America and T’s first international trip ever, and the language barrier was quite a challenge. I also went to England and France with my grad school chamber choir, where I explored Oxford, nerded out at Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studios, attended an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey, took in tons of champagne and World War-era history in Reims, and admired the Paris Opera House, drank incredibly thick hot chocolate, and stood in awe of the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Finally, I spent a month in Weimar, Germany for a summer opera program.

T and me with Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

T and me with Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

Work: I started two new jobs, one at the dental office and the other as the director of our church choir. T made great strides in his job as well, getting promoted and working towards some certification tests.

Family: Three new babies were born into our family, which has been a huge blessing. My dad got married, and my mom sold her house, bought a new one, and moved just yesterday. Multiple family relationships have been stretched thin and subsequently healed this year, and I hope for further strengthening over the next year.

Baby T and me at Christmas.

Baby T and me at Christmas.

Friends: Two of our best friends got married in July in a wonderful celebration. Three weeks later, one of them was diagnosed with cancer. It was a big shock to everyone, and it definitely caused T and me to think about our own health and lives. After surgery and chemo, our friend is now cancer-free. In the midst of all this, we’ve continued to strengthen the bond we have with our friends and learn to trust in God for His mercy and healing.

Singing: I made the difficult but absolutely right decision to quit my pursuit of singing as a career and instead focus on the things that truly matter to me. It was a long, hard, painful process, but I know it’s where God has been leading me for a long time. I will continue singing as a hobby and a passion, but from now on my career choices will be ones that contribute to our current and future family. On a positive note, I did get to sing one of my favorite roles for the second time, as well as add a couple of new roles to my resumé, and I will be starting rehearsals for a new show next week.

Church: Our church had been going through a process over the past couple years of determining whether or not to leave our denomination, Presbyterian Church (USA), because of some faith-based issues arising in the upper levels of PC(USA). After months of discussion and debate, a straw poll in June, and more months of discussion and debate (and lots of fragmentation and division within the church), our church body voted earlier this month to leave PC(USA) and move our church to a different Presbyterian denomination, ECO. None of it was easy or pleasant, but seeking the will of God and following His direction is ultimately more important than anything else.

Personal: I achieved many of my monthly and yearly goals, including saving money consistently and adding at least one new role to my resumé (see above). I also overcame one of my biggest fears, and I made the extremely important decision to quit the business of singing and focus on creating a future for my family.

And now, my goals for 2015!

  • Look to God’s will for my life and use it above all else to determine my choices.
  • Create a solid savings account that will go towards a down payment on a house.
  • Develop a healthier lifestyle, whether that means cooking at home more often or being more physically active.
  • Figure out what sort of career path I might want and take steps to get there.

Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless you in the coming year.

Currently…

Sometimes your blog just has an uninspiring couple of weeks.

T understands and supports my struggles.

T understands and supports my struggle.

That’s my life right now. When you get into a routine, it can be easy to miss the unique little moments in each day that are worth taking note of and holding onto. That’s not to say that nothing good is happening… in fact, quite the opposite. For the most part, I’m quite content with how life has been rolling along lately, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming holiday season and spending tons of quality time with my family and friends.

Here’s what has been occupying my time lately, and the things that are receiving my mental energy.

  • Reading: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. Did you guys know this was a book before it was a Netflix original series? I didn’t until I was browsing Barnes & Noble one day on my lunch break and came across it. I was a little hesitant to dive in, but I’m enjoying it so much that I’m already almost done with it. Her writing is so straightforward and honest, and she’s very candid about the emotional facets of her prison experience. I’ll be posting a review as soon as I’m done, which will probably be by this weekend. It’s that good!
  • Binge watching: Friday Night Lights. Holy cow, people. T and I are fully aware that we are super late to the party on this one, since our friends have been telling us about it forever, but we started watching it last weekend, and by the end of the pilot episode we were absolutely, 100% sucked in. I think we probably spent 8 hours on Saturday on it, and when we weren’t watching, we were thinking about it. Neither of us can get it out of our heads.
  • Planning: My church choir’s Christmas extravaganza. We’ve done Christmas concerts of varying sizes and difficulty levels since I was a kid (under the direction of my dad for many years), but this is the first time I’ve been fully in charge of it. It’s a little nerve-wracking, especially since I will be conducting an orchestra as well as the choir, and that involves a whole extra level or three of preparation. There’s a lot that goes into this, including preparing the choir during our weekly rehearsals, hiring orchestra members (thankfully my mom is a fantastic orchestra manager), prepping and distributing their music, making sure I’m completely familiar and comfortable with the score, rewriting the narration for our speakers, arranging the logistics and movement of people throughout the program, and more. The performance is on December 14th and I’m anxiously counting down the days (exactly 31 to go).
  • Looking Forward To: Taking the train up to Sacramento at the end of next week to join T at a conference… which really means he’ll be going to seminars while I go to coffee with a couple of friends and get in some snuggle time with our baby nephew. We may or may not also drive around and window-shop houses for sale.
  • Buying: Christmas presents! I’ve already bought a few things for T, my mom, and my brother, and I’m marinating some ideas for my dad and T’s parents. I love coming up with the perfect gifts for people.

What have you been up to lately?