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.

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Burnt Out

It’s official: I am experiencing a classic case of burnout.

Lake Shasta, where I would very much like to be right now.

Lake Shasta, where I would very much like to be right now.

To be fair, I saw this coming a long way off. Even before T and I found out we had to move, there was enough on my plate. I’m under an enormous amount of pressure at my office job, as well as trying to prepare my church choir for Holy Week with too little rehearsal time. We’ve taken on more responsibilities as volunteers at church, which has unfortunately been tied closely with feeling somewhat distant from some of our friends. I’ve been deep in performances for my community theatre show, which still takes up a ton of time and energy on the weekends even though we’re no longer rehearsing on weeknights. One of our cars was broken into a couple of weeks ago, causing us (especially me) to feel generally unsafe and violated. And of course, the cherry on top of all of this was the shocking news from our landlord as T was halfway to Mexico three weeks ago. It’s no surprise that I am simply done.

For me, the signs of burnout look a lot like a textbook case of clinical depression. I’m exhausted all the time, even when I’ve gotten plenty of hours of sleep. I find myself falling into periods of being completely unmotivated to do anything, even the things I enjoy. Because I don’t have the energy to spend time cooking or preparing food, I end up eating terribly, which leads to not feeling well. That’s usually compounded by anxiety-induced stomach aches. I tend to feed off of other people’s negative energy as well. If a challenge arises or someone gives me criticism, however constructive, I fall apart instead of rising to it. Unlike depression, however, burnout isn’t brought on by a chemical imbalance in my brain. I know exactly where it comes from, but the problem is that they are circumstances over which I have no control.

I thought that finishing the move would alleviate some of my internal struggle, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead of stressing out about packing and physically moving, I’ve replaced that with feeling unsettled in our new apartment and worrying about our finances. Aside from the fact that we are making very slow progress on unpacking, as well as the fact that we have almost no storage space whatsoever, it honestly feels like we’re living in a hotel. Our old place was privately owned, so it had lots of personal touches that truly made it feel like a home. This new place, much like our first apartment ever, feels very institutional with its all-white walls, hotel-grade bathroom counter, and ADA-compliant safety bar in the shower (not that that last one is a bad thing). I’m sure it didn’t help that our moving day coincided with changing the clocks, which just made it even harder to get up the next morning.

I’m sure there will come a point at which I need to stop “wallowing” over this move and the other stresses and just “suck it up” and “get over it.” Granted, to that I say, “Give me a vacation and then I will get over it,” but I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to be bitter and hurt by being forced to move. I want to be excited about the things that the new place has to offer, and I want to feel inspired and passionate about the projects at work and the exciting services we’re planning at church. I know God must have a reason for giving me all of these things at once, but I don’t know yet what that reason is, and until I know, it’s hard to stay positive.

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.

Why MAC Makeup Rocks

I didn’t start wearing makeup until the summer before I started college. Insert gasp here.

In high school I was one of those girls who was determined not to care about her appearance, because I thought that made you shallow. I didn’t put a ton of effort into my hair, my clothing choices, or my makeup routine. In fact, I don’t know that I even owned a single beauty product that wasn’t a flat iron until I was officially a high school graduate.

Oh, how the times have changed. T knew me back then and is probably either appalled by how much makeup I own now or thanking God in heaven that I saw the light and figured out how to make myself look publicly presentable. Why he wanted to date me during that phase is, and forever will remain, a mystery to me.

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Me at my high school senior prom. Yikes. Why, why, why did I not wear makeup?

When I took my first reluctant tiptoes into that world, I had no clue where to start. The beauty blogosphere wasn’t really a thing yet, so I didn’t have easy access to guidance about which products were worth the money and which ones weren’t, or what types of products I should be using for my skin type (picture 18-year-old me thinking, “There are different skin types?”). I didn’t even really know how to apply these mysteriously-packaged beauty aides to my skin to create an even somewhat aesthetically pleasing result.

In my travels through the ridiculous number of makeup brands out there, I’ve experimented with only a tiny fraction of the products that are available, but I’ve always had a hard time settling on the foundation that works best for my face. I’ve tried drugstore brands and expensive, upscale products. I’ve tried mineral makeup, which didn’t provide nearly the amount of coverage I wanted for my far-from-perfect skin. Eventually I was able to narrow my choices down to liquid foundation, but I still had trouble finding the right shade for my face or a brand that wouldn’t make my skin look cakey or my pores look huge.

Then I started doing theater, and I learned about a brand called MAC Cosmetics, which was not only a consumer brand, but also had a professional line of stage makeup. I figured since it was designed to last for hours under harsh stage lighting without sweating off, I should try it as an everyday foundation. It turned out to be magical.

MAC products currently in my makeup arsenal.

MAC products currently in my makeup arsenal.

MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid lasts all day on my face without wearing off, and the NC-15 shade matches my face closer than any other foundation I’ve ever tried, especially with a color-correcting primer underneath. It feels smooth when it goes on and doesn’t smell nasty like many other similar foundations out there. I follow that with MAC’s Prep + Prime Transparent Finishing Powder, which is hands-down the best finishing powder of all time because it makes my skin feel incredibly soft to the touch and doesn’t flake at all. I’ve also used their Mineralize Skinfinish bronzer, which comes in multiple shades, including a light one that doesn’t make my skin look too orange. Throughout the day, I carry around a compact of Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in the same shade as my liquid foundation, for little touch-ups.

Recently I’ve added additional MAC products to my daily regimen. In the fall I started using the Prep + Prime Skin primer, which adds a nice subtle shimmer beneath the surface of my foundation. And every day I finish off my makeup routine with a spritz of the Prep + Prime Fix+, which sets everything and keeps it lasting all day.

Every once in a while I get tired of paying so much for MAC products and I go off in search of something comparable for less, only to find that I’m not as satisfied with those products. It really is the only brand of makeup that works on my skin across the board through all of their different products. I would definitely be open to trying out some of their other types of foundations and finishing solutions, given how much I have loved the ones I’ve used so far. Plus how can I resist their recycling program? If you bring in six empty MAC containers, you can trade them in for a free eyeshadow or a free lip product. It’s a win-win!

If you use MAC makeup, how do you like it? If not, would you ever consider using it?

Note: This is not a sponsored post.

Faithful

What does it mean to be faithful? It’s a broad subject, and it could mean a lot of things. How do we stay faithful to God? What about to ourselves or to other people? In what areas can and should we be faithful? And what about when people aren’t faithful to us?

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A couple of weekends ago, T and I and one other leader friend took twelve of our high school students to a weekend winter camp, where we attempted to help our students answer these questions. We attended large worship services/teaching sessions with youth groups from other churches, and the kids also had the opportunity to go to two smaller seminars taught by the youth pastors. Each of the seminars covered topics related to being faithful, such as “Faithful with Technology” and “Faithful in Stress and Anxiety.” There was one specifically for seniors, called “Faithful from High School to College.”

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Our whole group.

Along with all of my girls, I went to “Faithful in Relationships,” where we learned that that really means remaining faithful to God and yourself within a relationship as well as faithful to the other person. Every person has needs in five different categories (physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual), and each of us must have our needs met within our relationships in certain ways. According to the youth pastor teaching the seminar, in order to be in a healthy relationship, we should look for our needs to be fulfilled in reverse order of that list (spiritual, then intellectual, then social, then emotional, then finally physical). Of course, most of us don’t usually do that, but rather look first for someone who we are physically attracted to or who we think can fulfill our physical needs (or desires). Spiritual compatibility often comes as a last priority or an afterthought, if it’s even considered at all.

Listening to the speaker.

Listening to the speaker.

I also chose to attend “Faithful in an Anti-Christian World” because our current series in high school ministry is about apologetics (knowing and sharing why you believe what you believe) and various worldviews that are different from Christianity. The youth pastor explained how he began to question his faith in college because of people who were hostile toward him and his faith. As a history major, he did lots of research into the historical background of the Bible and the life of Jesus. Once he had gathered the facts, he said, he reached a point where he had to make a decision about whether or not to believe that it was all true. He encouraged the students to do the same.

For me, one of the biggest takeaways from the weekend was that God is faithful even when other people aren’t, and he is faithful even when we aren’t faithful to him. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like God’s presence in our lives is contingent on our presence in his life, but that’s absolutely not true. His faithfulness is unchanging no matter what we do, and because of that, we should strive to be faithful to him in return.

Faithfulness is one characteristic of God that I don’t think we talk about enough. I know in my head that God is faithful, and I’ve experienced his faithfulness in my life, but usually we focus on “love,” “mercy,” and “justice” when we study the character of God. Sometimes one of his traits can be highlighted for us because of our life circumstances, and for me right now, I need to know that God is faithful. I need to know that he will never give me more than I can handle, because I feel like I’m at that point. I need to know that even when I don’t necessarily follow the path that he has laid out for me, he won’t turn his back on me, but instead he will go in front of me and lay a new one. I need to know that I can trust him to guide my steps and my choices, confident that I’m going in the direction he is sending me.

Tell me how God has been faithful to you!