a tribute LONG overdue: Jean Marie

December 19th. Some people see this date as one of the few left to check off Christmas to-dos, wrap up last minute holiday-related purchases, and start prepping for the family gatherings and festivities that will soon be upon us. But really this day is far more important than any of those things. This day, my friends, is when one of the greatest human beings alive today was born.

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Yep, that’s right. Today marks the birth of Jean Marie Moore, my fabulous mother. And it’s really quite unthinkable that there was no recorded tribute to her name on this blog before today. I, of course, have my own small biases towards her as her own daughter, but it’s really quite true that she objectively takes the cake for best mother on the planet, and an incredible woman in the more general sense as well.

[Some] things I love about my mom (as there are far too many to list here):

My mom is legit. And when I say she’s legit, I’m trying to communicate that she’s got all the organizational and practical qualities you would want in a mother. She’s always got a plan, and she’s just good at most everything. Let me give you some examples. We always had delicious home-cooked meals at the dinner table. She was the kind of mom who helped plan school parties and neighborhood get-togethers and birthday extravaganzas while successfully co-running her own business. She hand-sewed all of our dance costumes, as well as all of our best Halloween costumes. She essentially single handedly planned my wedding while I was at school in California, but in the way that allowed me to be involved in all the important stuff, while she quietly and seamlessly managed every detail. As Jeremy always says, my mom just gets stuff done like nobody’s business. She’s an organizer and a doer, but with the perfect balance of a go-get-’em spirit and a careful regard for the needs and desires of others.

She loves people. This is one quality of hers I am most thankful for, because she has passed some of this along to me, which I am incredibly grateful for. She’s the kind of person who would drop her own agenda in a heartbeat for the benefit of someone else. She’s a loyal friend and a wonderful neighbor, and gets great joy out of supporting others and seeing them receive blessings. Her love for others requires little of them. If you’re in her sphere of influence, her default position is to be interested in your good. Whether you be her closest friend, or someone behind her in line at the grocery store, she’s eager to bless you with a kind word, act, or gift.

She is hospitable. This, of course, goes along with her love for others. But more than just a desire to be hospitable for the good of others, she’s straight up good at having people into her home. She knows how to cook a meal and set a table. But even more important, she knows how to make her guests feel at home. There are few things more relaxing and reassuring than staying at my parents’ place, which she views as a blessing to be shared with others. She keeps a beautiful home, but instead of taking pride in it, sees it as a gift she’s been given. Her example has taught me to hold loose to the things of this world with a spirit of gratitude and generosity.

She is funny. It’s no wonder I appreciate a good sense of humor, considering my gene pool. Our family is a hoot, and my mom is a major contributor. Some of my best memories I have are of laugh-till-we’re-cry-ing moments with my mom.

I just connect with her. People dread becoming their mother, but I am glad to see signs of her genes in myself as I get older. On a simple note, we just enjoy a lot of the same things, and we think similarly. For example, the first winter I moved to Chicago I bought myself a down parka, only to travel home for Christmas to realize my mom had the exact same coat. “We’re frickin twins” is a family mantra often quoted between the two of us, and it applies frequently. On a more important note, I can talk to my mom for hours and feel like she completely knows where I’m coming from. She’s easy to be honest with, and our conversations often turn to the truly important things in life.

She’s just a good mom. This sounds fairly generic, but what I mean is that she’s been a great mother to me. I was a reasonably difficult kid with a pretty fiery spirit, and she did an incredible job putting up with me. She’s the perfect balance of friend and parent, and I am so thankful for her ability to care for me well over the years. There’s never been a shadow of a doubt in my mind what kind of love she has for me.

This is getting LONG, but I have to say two more important things about my mom:

She loves my dad. This cannot be overstated in times like we live in. Her example has taught me the importance of loving your spouse in a way that takes marriage vows seriously and values enjoying each other throughout your marriage. She loves my dad, but she also really likes him, which has served as a sweet example of what marriage can and should be.

She loves the Lord. She really does. She cares about how she lives and how she cares for others as a direct result of her knowledge of God’s saving grace for her. She’s an incredible example of faithful Christ following, and has been throughout my whole life.

So there it is. A tribute to my mama, Jean Marie Moore. Cheers to her, and to all of us who are blessed to have her in our lives! Xoxo!

Christmafication

It’s been a wonderful weekend. While I’ve still got one week left before the term is officially finished, all the really hard stuff is out of the way. And so I spent this weekend doing things other than work. And would you know it, our apartment was Christmafied this weekend.

willwtreeThat’s right. We got ourselves a tree. And I’m finally starting to become convinced that Christmas is perhaps coming soon.

After my last post, I bet you might be wondering how it all went down. Well the simple act of typing out my thoughts around the question of the tree actually made me feel great about living in a fake-Christmas-tree-despite-a-lack-of-legitimate-excuses home. So fake tree discussions started up again, even followed by some online perusing for dealz. I’m 90% sure we’ll be sporting a fake next Christmas, but it wasn’t in the cards for 2012.

So we started our tree hunt the best way we know how: by driving to the HOME DEPOT (booyakashah! no shame!)! Our goal was to get one of those miniature trees (maybe 4ft tall), which we’d heard cost about 50% more than we spent on our giant Scotch last year. [Whoa! Talk about opposite of dealz, right?! Yeah, I know. But I was determined to make some tough calls for the sake of Christmasing up our place, and we were mentally prepared for the expense.]

On our way in, we passed a row of Scotch Pines lined up outside the Depot. You can bet I gave those trees an I-know-about-your-fakey-dyed-pine-needles-and-lack-of-fragrance stare, saying with my eyes, You don’t fool me, SCOTCH; I know what you become after Christmas has gone.

After picking up some other goods, we made a beeline for the back of the tree lot, where apparently they keep the miniature trees. They must have been out, because the trees we’d been told about were nowhere in sight. However, there was a pile of trees that looked pretty small. Turns out they were 5 feet. We figured that would do, and headed to the check-out, where the man with the scanner proceeded to tell us the tree was TWELVE DOLLARS. Jigga who?! YES! Talk about a DEALZ. SUCCESS! And so we got ourselves a little Spruce, which fit nicely into the back seat of our car.

I can’t tell you what a wonderful time I had decorating the little Spruce. Jeremy helped some, but I mostly did it on my own while Jeremy worked on a project in the kitchen (finally getting some home-made trim on our window! woot!), and it was a charmingly relaxing way to spend the evening.

Here’s the whole tree, propped up on some old suitcases so it fills the space a bit more like a regular-sized tree might:

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Ooh I just love it! I had to move our Shepherds in a Nearby Field Keeping Watch Over Their Flocks by Night a little closer to the nativity, but it was well worth it. There’s just nothing like a Christmas tree to give your house a beautifully natural warmth. Jeremy is a great husband, because even though he finds them ridiculous, he always lets me string one strand of Random Sparkle lights, which would probably be more fittingly named Spastic Sparkle. I just love the twinkling. Here’s a fun little close up, flocks visible in the background:

treeandflocksOne thing I love about decorating a tree is putting up ornaments I’ve had for years. I get such a kick out of my very own tree with little memories hanging from each of the branches. Here’s another little closeup of the Spruce all decked out:

ornamentsIt feels so good to have some Christmas in our little home. It’s coming!!! Oh, and one upside to having a little tree this year was using our extra bulbs for a little impromptu Chrismafied centerpiece (we’ve had these babies since our very first married Christmas!):

bulbsBoo yah! Happy Christmastime!!!

Christmas?

IMG_0304It was another day full of tea and study today, this time with friends. I’ve been working to keep up with everything these last few weeks, and it felt like a relatively successful day of continuing to cram an insanely baffling amount of information into my brain. Tomorrow is my last exam of the semester before one last week of other coursework and then two beautiful weeks of rest. Family-filled, holiday seasoned, sitting at mom’s kitchen counter eating someone else’s food kind of REST. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

It hasn’t really felt much like Christmas around here, what with all the hard core studying and rain and generally warm weather. Also, there was the issue of the tree this year. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof.

Behold, last year’s glory:

IMG_1928You can just feel our living room bursting with Christmas cheer, can’t you? Jeremy and I were awfully proud of snagging this Scotch Pine at Home Depot for double the height and half the price of a tree we’d normally have. But in the end there were three problems with the Scotch:

1. It was shaped weird, so I took my everyday scissors and hacked away until it looked right. Which resulted in sap all over my hands, and my clothing where it still resides to this very day.

2. It didn’t smell, and everyone thought it was fake (Jeremy and I decided we’re pretty sure Scotch Pine needles are dyed). It smelled for about a half hour after I trimmed it, when the sap was still wet, but only if you stood pretty close to it. Isn’t the point of having a real tree the joy of coming home to the scent of fresh pine? And the respect of visitors to your house when they notice you’re a real tree family?

3. This sucker left SO MANY NEEDLES ALL THE WAY DOWN OUR BACK STAIRS. SO MANY. And despite many many many vacuumings, we had a significant quantity of lingering Scotch Pine needles at least through March, perhaps even April. Oh em gee.

I am the one who drives the Christmas tree train in our marriage thus far, and when Jeremy responded to my usual, “it’s November, man, let’s get a tree” by saying something along the lines of “you really want a real tree again? Remember the Scotch?” I had no words. All I could hear myself thinking was, what a gosh darn hassle that Scotch Pine turned out to be. Which made me reply to myself with, are you kidding me? Did you just call a REAL LIVE CHRISTMAS-SPIRITY CHRISTMAS TREE a HASSLE? How old ARE you, woman? 

So ever since I had that conversation with myself, I’ve been dragging my feet on the whole tree thing. Jeremy suggested that we should get a fake tree, to which my response was, “we don’t have children or allergies. We have no excuse for a fake tree.” Which is funny, because I grew up with a fake tree, so you’d think I wouldn’t be so anti (although, to be fair, my parents had both children and allergies throughout my entire childhood).

I felt so torn. Did I want a fake tree? NO. Did I want a real tree? Um, not really. Did I want no tree at all? HECK NO! Who do you think I am, SCROOGE??? (Well, actually I did play Ebenezer Scrooge in our 6th grade class production of A Christmas Carol, to which I still have some of the lines memorized. But that’s another story.)

So here we are, December 11th, with no Christmas tree in our apartment. The only signs of Christmas in our apartment are the advent calendar my mom sent us in the mail (thanks, mom!!!) and my grandpa’s nativity (THANK YOU, grandpa!!!!! Mary, Joseph, and the wise men are slowly journeying through our house toward the empty-except-for-livestock stable).

Well, I’ve recently made an executive decision. This weekend (even perhaps this week!), when our exams are finished, we’re going to have an evening of holiday-prep festivities. We’ll compromise on the tree situation and spend too much money on a miniature tree, make Christmas toffee, hook the outdoor lights up, and watch a Bing Crosby classic. No matter that we’ll be out of town for Christmas. I think it will help us switch gears into relaxation for the holiday mode. And give me one last year or real tree-dom so that I can embrace the fake we will inevitably have next year.

ten on ten : december 2012

Well, today marks my first experience joining Rebecca at a bit of sunshine for ten on ten. It was a gloomy, cold-enough-to-be-snowing-but-never-actually-snowing (boo, hiss) day here in Chicago. I’m feeling a little under the weather, but I managed to get myself out of the house to study my way around the neighborhood. I love Logan Square, and it was nice to do some walking in the brisk, fresh air. Ok, here goes: one picture every hour for ten hours on the tenth of December. Cheers!

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December things

IMG_0153Got to enjoy this baby today: The Caramel Brulée latte. What a wonderful creation. It seriously does for me in winter what the iced Caramel Macchiato does for me in the summertime. Especially when it’s served in a mug, topped with whipped cream (INDULGENCE) and those dreamy bits of caramel hard candy deliciousness. OH. kay. Yum.

It’s the end of week 3/5 of the Adult I/Internal Medicine course that will take me to Christmas break. I think I’m suffering from remnants of PTSD (induced by my peds course), but I’m doing my very best not to treat the last five weeks of this term like a continuation of the first ten. I keep telling myself, it’s not too late, you’re not behind yet, there’s time to do well yet.

Three things specifically have been a blessing to me in the past week. First, the arrival of the Canon has been surprisingly comforting. Perhaps it’s the distraction, or simply the challenge to develop in areas unrelated to my study and to take a little more notice of life as its swirling around me during this especially busy season. There’s a blog I check up on pretty regularly written by a crafty, Jesus-loving woman with 4 kids, a husband, and a passion for photography. She invites her readers to participate in a monthly photo project she calls ten on ten, which involves taking one photo every hour for ten hours on the tenth of the month. The point is to find beauty and joy in the normal, day to day moments of life, even in the midst of especially difficult, busy, or boring seasons we go through. I’ve always thought this would be neat to try, and the new camera makes it feel like an especially fun and doable challenge.

The second blessing is (as it has been before) my clinicals. I had my third day of this new internal medicine rotation on Thursday, and I was just struck by what a gift it is that I get to do what I’m doing. My new preceptor is awesome (I’m three for three on great preceptors so far) and the environment she creates is one especially suitable for learning. I can’t believe how much I am learning in such a short period of time, and I continue to thank God that clinical is still the absolute bright spot of my program. I love the patients I see, and each time I spend a day in clinic I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement for my future work.

The third way I’ve felt especially blessed this week is through friends. We’ve celebrated THREE birthdays this week, which means we’ve actually seen our friends a decent amount, and I am just so thankful for the ways God has blessed us with real friendships here. It’s not something I take for granted, because I know it’s often not easily come by. I’m keenly aware that there may be no other season in our lives quite like the one we’re in now.

Jeremy is working hard prepping for his finals this week, and I should probably follow his lead and get moving myself. Love and hugs to all of you far away!

DSLR

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I’ve been seriously thinking about getting a DSLR for about a year and a half. Last year my dad let me borrow his Canon T2i between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that I could give it a bit of a test run. I loved it, thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures with it, but in the end just couldn’t stomach dropping $700 on myself after only several months of contemplation. In part, I knew myself well enough to recognize my own tendency to really want something, get it, and then come up short in the follow-through department. I told myself if I still thought I wanted a DSLR in a year, maybe I would consider making a case to my husband for such a purchase.

I’m not an artist, but I’ve always been drawn to photographs. I still remember my high school photography class, watching my photos sit in developer, waiting for them to get nice and sharp before switching them to the stop bath and then the fixer. I loved taking pictures and learning about how to do it well. While my work and graduate studies are stereotypically left-brain, there’s a creative streak in my DNA and photography has always been a creative outlet I hoped to explore and develop.

About a month and a half ago when I was in the deep, dark depths of pediatrics, fretting endlessly about making it through, my husband said to me, “Erin. If you pass this class, I will buy you a camera.” And so November 23rd, Black Friday 2012, we ordered me a brand new, beautifully discounted DSLR.

It arrived in the mail last week, and I’ve been dying to spend some day time experimenting with it a bit, so I promised myself I could spend this morning taking pictures before getting my school work on. Here are a few of my first DSLR shots from today:

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More than one family member has asked me how I decided to go with Canon’s Rebel T3i, which is incredibly similar to Nikon’s equivalent, the D5100, so I thought I’d say a bit about that here.

First, I perused through many many many online reviews, articles, and blog posts about the differences between these two cameras. (Some of the ones I found most helpful/informative were by the phoblographer, cnet, the discerning photographer, Devin Coldewey, and Gordon Laing, who was by far my favorite and has a 20-minute video highlighting the 10 most important differences between the D5100 and the T3i).  I also had the benefit of having a dad with an incredibly similar Canon model to the T3i (as I mentioned before, he has the T2i) and a father-in-law with the Nikon D5100. So I spent a decent amount of time getting their input on their respective cameras. I learned the following:

The bottom line: these two cameras are so similar that either one you choose is going to essentially give you the same features and photo quality. Especially if you’re a beginning photographer, like myself, the differences between these two cameras are seriously minute. Almost every single review I read said something to the effect of, “If you don’t have brand loyalty, this is a very difficult [read: near impossible] decision to make.”

I found reading about all the minute differences to be helpful, because while I’m very convinced these two cameras are equally great, I was hoping one would feel a slight bit more like the right fit for me. [Full disclosure: I also went in with a miniscule bias toward Canon, as a result of a clunky point-and-shoot I used to have that took strikingly great pictures.] In the end, I chose the Cannon for the following reasons:

1. I was interested in a DSLR for learning photography, and Canon generally seemed to be the brand I saw in the hands of serious photographers.

2. The Canon felt slightly more complex, and gave me the impression I could grow into it for a long while. While any DSLR is much more complex than any point-and-shoot, the Canon seemed a little more geared toward fine tweaking than the Nikon.

3. Gordon Laing emphasized that the Canon was slightly better for individuals who like to edit their photos (using photoshop or what have you), while the Nikon was slightly better for individuals who like to take a picture, and have it finished without any editing/tweaking after the fact. I also read that the photo software that comes with the Canon is a little better than Nikon’s. I don’t have photoshop, so I thought that might make a little bit of a difference.

4. Canon is said to take photos whose colors are slightly more accurate to real life and especially well suited for portraits, which I sort of prefer. Along similar lines (although less significant), I like the way the Canon displays pictures on the LCD, which is also said to be a bit more true to what the actual photograph will look like.

5. Lastly, I think my previous experience with my Canon point-and-shoot has me believing that Canon really does take better pictures (which is not agreed upon across the board, according to reviewers; this question is up for debate, and most reviewers will tell you the photo quality of the Nikon vs. Canon is so incredibly similar it isn’t even worth comparing). So in the end, I think I had a bit of that brand loyalty they all talk about.

Hope this was helpful for any of you trying to make a decision! I still really think that both are great options, and I probably wouldn’t try to sway someone either way. Perhaps some day, with more experience, I’ll feel more strongly!