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.

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.

Weekend Reads (and Watches)

Happy Friday! I’m off to winter camp this weekend with the high school kids from church. We’ll be spending the next few days with youth groups from several different churches in our area, attending seminars and worship services, playing games, and learning what it means to be faithful to God in all aspects of our lives.

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To tide you over until Monday and keep you entertained this weekend, here’s a compilation of some of my favorite internet gems from the past week or so.

What one guy learned from his week of wearing makeup.

A fellow believer’s take on why people leave the church.

The cutest little seashell ever.

As a wife, am I treating my husband fairly?

A vending machine of sorts that gives food to stray dogs!

I don’t actually live in San Francisco, but I’ve definitely thought, said, or heard almost all of these things at some point.

Looking for a new job? Avoid these five cover letter clichés.

On the list of the 25 most amazing college concert halls, number one looks awfully familiar!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

A Birthday Ode to My Husband

Sorry ladies, but T is basically the greatest husband ever. On his 27th birthday, I would like to share just a few of the reasons why I think he’s the best.

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1. He’s a wonderful man of God and a strong leader in our church. Not only does he participate whole-heartedly in music, he is a fantastic youth leader and is even taking on a much bigger leadership role on the governing board of elders. It’s inspiring to see how passionate he is about his faith and helping others grow to know Christ.

2. He’s brilliant. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to marry someone who was smarter than me. It always seems to me that T knows, well, everything. He teaches me things all the time without making me feel dumb, and that’s priceless.

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The mustache obviously makes him smart.

3. He’s great with all things smaller than him. He loves to snuggle our kitties (only on their terms, of course), and it’s so fun to watch him with little kids. Plus he knows exactly how to handle the not-so-little kids… by sitting on them, of course.

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Nora probably started meowing loudly and pushing his face away right after I took this picture.

4. He loves to play and often lets out his inner child. When he’s not being a technology master or reading books that are way over my head, he can usually be found playing video games from his childhood or watching old cartoons on a Saturday morning. Sometimes he’ll spontaneously tackle me or show me a YouTube video that end up with both of us scream-laughing. And of course, he loves Christmas more than almost anyone else I know.

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5. He’s thoughtful. Every year for our anniversary, he makes me a flower out of whatever material corresponds to that anniversary. So far I have one made out of paper, one of two-dollar bills (two years is cotton, get it?), and one made out of leather. How awesome is that? It’s a really special tradition that I look forward to every July 1st.

6. He’s always supportive of me. When I was pursuing a singing career, he was supportive even when it took me away from him. When I decided to give that up, he supported that too. I know he wants the best for me, even when I sometimes don’t know exactly what that is.

We're in everything together, even things that cause us to make these faces.

We’re in everything together, even things that cause us to make these faces.

7. He has taught me what it means to forgive and love unconditionally. Even on my worst days, he is an example of God’s great love and mercy. It’s only since we’ve been married that I truly understand how our relationships on earth should reflect our relationships with God, and what it means to be the bride of Christ.

Happy birthday, T! I love you!

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10 Surprising Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

1. T’s nickname for me is Toots. He’s been calling me that since we were in college. It doesn’t rhyme with Boots, which incidentally is my nickname for him.

Classic T&B on our wedding day.

Classic T&B on our wedding day.

2. My drink of choice at Starbucks is a grande soy chai latte.

3. My biggest pet peeves are sitting in traffic and when someone says that being around someone else’s baby is “good birth control.” Ugh.

4. I am probably overly emotionally attached to the Harry Potter series.

What a fun experience!

Visiting the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios by myself while in England in May.

5. In college I sang alto in choir and was on the verge of becoming a mezzo, until I graduated, moved home, and started with a new teacher who set me straight. Turns out I have notes above the staff.

6. The center diamond in my engagement ring is actually from my mom’s engagement ring. She got it removed and gave it to T while we were dating.

7. I still cry when I have to get shots.

8. I find doing laundry to be mildly enjoyable. It’s warm and smells so good when it’s done!

Clean laundry, not so clean anymore.

Nora appreciates clean laundry too.

9. My dream role is Christine in Phantom of the Opera.

10. I’ve never been stung by a bee.

What’s a surprising fact about you that most people don’t know?

What Being a Wife Means to Me

It’s no secret among married couples that relationship growth never stops. You spend your entire life learning who the other person is and who they need you to be. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to me to be a wife and what kind of wife I want to be to T.

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Proverbs 31:10-31 is an excellent reference point (long passage alert).

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Here’s what we can learn from the wife of noble character:

  1. She is a rarity in the world. Very few women are truly this kind of wife, which is what makes one so valuable.
  2. She brings good, not harm, to her husband, and her goal is always to build him up and support him.
  3. She is a diligent worker. She gives 100% to everything she does and has a good attitude while doing it.
  4. She contributes in important and unique ways to the provision of her family.
  5. She shows grace and compassion to people who are less fortunate than her.
  6. She stands strong in her faith and is always dignified and classy.
  7. She is wise enough to put her trust in God for the future.
  8. She is called to teach and guide others in their own faith.
  9. Ultimately, she loves the Lord above all else and knows that her true value is found in him.

What do those things translate into for me, practically speaking?

  1. I will always take opportunities to build up T to other people. I once read somewhere that you should always affirm your spouse in front of others and never, ever put them down, and I try my best to abide by that. I should do whatever I can to support him however I can. Whether it’s bringing him dinner when he doesn’t have time to go home between work and youth group, taking over driving on a long trip when he gets tired, or doing the laundry/cleaning/grocery shopping so he doesn’t have to, I constantly look for ways to make his life easier and better.
  2. Individually, my attitude at work (any kind of work) should be positive, committed, and selfless, which not only allows me to benefit other people through my job, but also helps me provide for my family.
  3. I can be an example and a role model for others, especially younger Christians. Right now I’m learning how to do this in youth ministry, and someday I hope to be able to guide my own kids in their faith journeys and relationships with Christ.
  4. My own faith should be the number one priority in my life, after which everything else will fall into place. I need to trust in God’s provision for my life and know that I was created to be a child of God and to find my ultimate identity in him alone.

I know I’m not always the perfect “Proverbs 31 wife,” but the beauty of marriage is that I have a lifetime to work on becoming one. I also have a godly husband who will (and does) encourage me in my efforts to be the kind of wife for him that God wants me to be.

Ladies, have you ever heard of the “Proverbs 31 wife”? What does being a wife mean to you?

A Beautiful Wedding

This weekend T and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of two of our dearest friends. T was a groomsman, along with the rest of the guys in our group of friends, and us ladies got involved by helping out the bride in as many ways as we could. Besides the fun of being in and/or married to the wedding party, the guest list included tons of people from our church, as well as all of our youth group students. It was a beautiful day of celebrating our friends, the love they have for each other, and above all, the love they have for Christ and the reflection of him in their relationship and new marriage.

Me and T before the ceremony.

Me and T before the ceremony.

One of our girlfriends fulfilling her role as the (pre-ceremony) flower girl. :)

One of our girlfriends fulfilling her role as the (pre-ceremony) flower girl. 🙂

The bride's request of my brother: a "This is Sharks Territory" photo while she walked down the aisle.

The bride’s request of my brother: a “This Is Sharks Territory” photo while she walked down the aisle.

Giggles during the ceremony. Photo credit: one of our former students.

Giggles during the ceremony. Photo credit: one of our former students.

First kiss as husband and wife! Photo credit: the same former student as above.

First kiss as husband and wife! Photo credit: the same former student as above.

The cute cake!

The cute cake!

T, me, my brother, and my mom.

T, me, my brother, and my mom.

The bride and groom's first dance.

The bride and groom’s first dance.

T and his best buddy/fellow groomsman.

T and his best buddy/fellow groomsman.

Our friend group with the bride and groom!

Our friend group with the bride and groom!

The ladies of our group.

The ladies of our group.

T and me with some of our students.

T and me with some of our students.

T and me with some more of our students. Notice how T's face and head angle are exactly the same in both of these pictures.

T and me with some more of our students. Notice how T’s face and head angle are exactly the same in both of these pictures.

Our youth group kids after the ceremony.

Our youth group kids after the ceremony.

The youth group of our generation!

The youth group of our generation!