Catholic Things

Exciting things happened in the Catholic world today. The Conclave elected a new pope in just a little over 24 hours. Everyone, myself included, was a little surprised when the Argentinean Jesuit Priest Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica. I was really excited to hear that he chose Francis as his papal name. He’s the first pope in history to chose the name, an ode to the Italian saint Francis of Assisi. I was fortunate enough to travel to Assisi, Italy while I was studying abroad in Florence and it is such a great little town. One of the coolest parts was visiting the old Franciscan hermitage, Eremo delle Carceri. It’s tucked on the edge of a mountain so you have to take a series of winding paths and wooden staircases to get there to get to the 12th century buildings. ImageThe buildings themselves are quite primitive, Franciscan monks would go to the hermitage solely to meditate and pray. As a Catholic and a giant history nerd, it was a great experience and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to visit.

Image

Check out the view from the grottos looking down onto the city of Assisi. What a great way to connect spiritually with our Creator. 

Image

 

St. Francis is known for his renunciation of worldly possessions and for his extensive work providing religious education to the poor and needy. He is also the patron saint of animals, the environment and Italy. While I was studying in Florence I wrote a paper on one of his most famous writings, Canticum Fratris Solis (Canticle of Brother Sun). I love the elegance of the ancient writing style.  

It’s an exciting time for the Church. The conclave showed a certain amount of flexibility in old traditions by electing a pope from outside of Europe, the first ever in history. I pray that God will bless Pope Francis with an open mind and an open spirit as he takes over the Church in a much different world than when it was founded thousands of years ago. It’s not easy to be a Catholic these days. Things often feel stiff and old-fashioned, but I’m hopeful that the Church can adapt in to a more welcoming, comfortable environment for people of all walks of life. One of these days. 

Viva il Papa!

Sewing Things

The new desk got it’s first piece of as– action yesterday. What? We keeps it PG ’round here. Especially now that my family is reading along. Hiiiiii family! 

Last year shortly before my aunt died, she gave me her sewing machine. It’s a memorable moment for me because when she handed it to me, I said “Well, you’ll have to teach me how to use this thing once you get better.” The words felt stiff as the tumbled out of my mouth because they were painfully, obviously untrue. They hung awkwardly in the air as I shifted on my feet. Though it was still early in her sudden cancer diagnosis, we both knew that she wasn’t getting better. 

It’s worth mentioning here that my aunt Pat, also my godmother and namesake, is another woman in my life that this blog might as well be named for. She never married and never had children yet still managed to provide the ultimate role model for a housewife. She was an exemplary woman and nothing short of an inspiration in all that she did for not only our family, but for her church and her community. I miss her everyday.

Shortly after she died, I signed up for sewing lessons at a local fabric store down the street from our house and it was quite the adventure. I’ve never had a particularly domestic soul — my Barbies and American Girl dolls had lame outfits and never ate because I had no interest in pretend cooking, let alone the real thing. But alas, I got married and a husband and he actually requires real food and decent clothes so domesticity became a necessity. Rude. 

Anyways, sewing always intrigued me, I think because it is so antiquated. I love that it’s a bit of a dying art. I mean, I hate that it is. But I dig the exclusivity. I showed up for the first sewing lesson 30 minutes late (typical) and upon leaving the girl next to me mentioned that I could always “take cooking classes” (typical again). But I trucked on and I’m so glad I did. It was a great experience and I learned just enough to get by. I’ve made a few things here and there and even managed a pretty great beach tote for my mom and mother-in-laws this past Christmas. 

I still struggle with a few things, namely cutting. I don’t know why but I struggle with it. I really want to invest in a good rotary cutter and mat. Any suggestions? I obviously don’t want to spend a whole lot of money, but I figure it’s not something to go cheap on. 

Also – and excuse me while I get technical here – but whenever I sew two (or more) pieces together the top one always stretches out so that the two don’t end up sewn together perfectly. Is this making sense? I’ve tried a few different things to fix it but it happens every time and it usually ends with me having to fold over the part that stretches and sew over it. Not pretty. I have no clue if this makes sense but if anyone out there in WordPress land reads this and knows what I’m saying, advice is greatly appreciated!

So like I said, I got to use my new sewing table yesterday for the first time and I followed this tutorial to make a quick, simple clutch for a gift for a friend. I’ve done it a few times before and it’s a great tute to go back to because it’s so simple but the result is great. I added a piece of thin fusible fleece to give it a little more structure as an actual clutch (the original tutorial is for a diaper clutch). Sidenote: Can’t wait to show pictures of the office looking cute and organized. It’s still a WIP (work in progress) so it’s a mess right now. 

ImageI love the fabric I used for the clutch. I picked it up at Hobby Lobby around Christmas and had just enough left for this project. Cute, cheap fabric has been so easy to come by ever since Hobby Lobby opened here in Mount Pleasant. I used to have to travel up to North Charleston to Hancock Fabric and it was a terrible experience every. single. time. Horrible customer service. Long wait times. Messy. Unorganized. Never again.

Here’s the finished product. I have a ton of costume jewelry laying around so I grabbed a random pin/broach thingy and stuck it on there for a more finished look. 

Image

Happy Tuesday! xoxo, p

 

Pre-op

The main reason I wanted to write a series on my surgery is that when I took to the Internet to educate myself on the procedure, most of the websites, articles, etc. were about the experiences of teenagers or the elderly. At 24-years-old, I wasn’t ever able to fully relate to what I was reading so in retrospect, I went into my surgery without a real specific picture of what was to come. Hopefully, this post can be helpful to any 20-something woman (or dude, I don’t discrimi-hate) who is in my shoes.

Here’s a short list of what I recommend pre-op and I’ll follow with explanations.

  • Stock up on the following: comfy clothes, comfy shoes, mindless entertainment.
  • Pack a bag that inclues: the above and a toothbrush and deodorant
  • Attend lots o’ pilates and/or yoga classes to increase core strength
  • I had suuuuper long hair that I knew would be a pain in the b-u-t-t to deal with since I wasn’t able to shower for about a week post-op. I cut it to just above my shoulders and am sooooo glad I did.
  • Choose a surgeon you are seriously comfortable with. Like, I would love to have drinks with mine or babysit his kids or something weird like that because I’ve known him for so long and had no problem with him cutting a 14 inch incision down my back.
  • Know that this won’t be easy. Sorry, but it’s true. But it really helps to be as mentally prepared as possible.
  • Keep your spirits up. I wrote one of my Bible verses on my hand the morning of surgery. It was comforting to be able to look down and read it whenever I started to get anxious.

My surgery was scheduled for January 10, 2013 shortly after the madness from the holidays slowed down. This meant lots of surgery-related Christmas presents such as: comfortable pajamas, yoga pants, baggy t-shirts, comfy socks, fuzzy slippers, multiple crossword and Sudoko books, movies and all 10 seasons of Friends on DVD (!!!!!). I should mention that mindless entertainment is key here. Anesthesia seriously messes with your brain not to mention the gallons of morphine that I pumped into my system every chance I could. I probably watched about 30 episodes of Friends while at the hospital and I hardly remember any of them. I packed a book in my  bag and it never saw the florescent glow of the giant hospital ceiling light. It took me about a month to be able to really focus  enough to read a book or magazine.

From the moment I decided on surgery, my doctor recommended that I start participating in pilates/yoga classes to increase core strength. He said this would be very helpful to recovery since I would be relying on my core so much to make up for what my back muscles wouldn’t be able to do. Probably my biggest regret throughout this process is that I did not pay close attention to this advice. I’ve always been averse to pilates and yoga (ironically because Pilates always felt rough on my back) so I just kept procrastinating and before I knew it, it was December and wasn’t even worth the effort. Even though I kept up with my normal workout routine, I do think I could have benefited greatly from the focus on core strength. I’m currently 8 weeks post-op and I still have to push myself up with my arm while lying on my side to get up from laying down. 

I feel it’s worth noting why I decided to have a major surgery 3 hours from where I live. Dr. Watt didn’t know anyone he could recommend to do the surgery in Charleston and it didn’t seem worth the effort to establish a relationship with someone new. Honestly, I can not believe I even considered for a millisecond finding a surgeon local to my area. Having the same doctor who had treated my scoliosis from day one ended up being remarkably comforting and certainly made the whole process much easier than it would have been. If you’re going through this, I highly, highly recommend using a doctor that you know well and feel comfortable enough with to ask as many questions as you want.

Be mentally prepared for what’s to come. Going into the surgery as a 20-something-year-old by this procedure’s standards means that you are old. I know, I know 30 is the new 20 blah blah blah. Not in this case. Scoliosis surgeries are most typically done on teenagers and young adolescents. Our body’s ability to heal at 15 years old is significantly better than at 24 years old. There’s only a 9 year gap, but boy, does it make all the difference. When I was doing my research, I assumed the following: I might only be in the hospital for two days instead of the typical four, if I wanted to, I could ride the three hours back home to Charleston as soon as I was out of the hospital and I would probably feel 100% after about 4-6 weeks.

False. False. And False. I think all of the above could have been possible for a 15-year-old, not for an old fart like myself. I was in the hospital for 5 days. I barely survived the car ride from the hospital to my parent’s house, let alone a three hour drive. And I am now 8 weeks post-op and not at 100% (I still have to bend down very slowly and can only sleep in certain positions, for example).

Hopefully, this post isn’t discouraging or disheartening. I wanted to be as honest as possible so as to know exactly what to expect. Even though it seems like all I had to say was negative, know that so far, I would not have changed a single thing. I definitely think this surgery was worth everything that I have gone through and am so thankful for the medical technology and advances that exist! After all, straightening your spine does have its advantages: Pre-surgery I was 5’5. Post-op I am now 5’7 holllaaaaa, my posture is much improved and I now have an excuse to shop for a new wardrobe!

Here’s a quick before and after shot:

IMG_0451 IMG_0452

Night before surgery                                                        1 week post-op

Pretty cool, huh? Here’s my post about the Day of Surgery.

xoxo, p.

Absence

Reasons for not blogging:

Bronchitis followed by the stomach flu. Seriously. I would not wish this ish on my worst enemy. 

I’ve watched about 6 seasons of Bones throughout this process. Not. A. Joke.