Thursday, October 31, 2013

12) Dance at a siblings wedding

I'm not exactly sure if the above counts as dancing... but I danced my you-know-what off at Matt and Kelly's wedding, and I loved every second of it.    The above photo isn't exactly Christmas Card quality... but it's pretty hilarious nonetheless.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve done a lot of reading over the past six months, and somehow I haven’t published a single Book Review in that timeframe.  How is that even possible?  There are a few fluffy books that I won’t be reviewing, but as soon as I read “Wild” I knew I had to blog about it.

First, a quick synopsis from the author’s websiteAt twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

When the book was first recommended to me, I wondered how interesting the book could even be when the bulk of the pages is dedicated to Cheryl's journey - literally walking by herself through the woods.  It seems like it’d be tricky to turn that monotony in to easily passing pages. But somehow that is simply not an issue – I read the book in a matter of a few days because it is THAT good.  The book is about Cheryl hiking… but it’s also much more than that.  Though she's alone for most of the time, it turns in to a relationship book, in a way. Stories about her childhood, her relationship with her mother, her relationship with her ex-husband, her relationship with sex, her relationship with drugs.  We learn so much about Cheryl – and details that make us cringe, in some cases – and yet we still like her so much.  It’s an interesting contrast – her flaws make her more human, I suppose.

There are chapters and passages that are extremely difficult to read (the pages dedicated to flashbacks about her mother’s death were really hard to read – I had to put the book down a couple of times to take a quick breather).  There are sections that are suspenseful and even a little frightening.  And there are quotation gems that I can’t get out of my head, months after finishing the book (“how wild it is.. to let it be”, “it was the end of an era that had lasted my whole life”).

This is easily within the top 5 books that I’ve ever read… I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.  I found it incredibly profound – in a weird way, it’s a memoir about Cheryl finding herself, but somehow in the process, I felt like I found out more about MYself... even as I read from my couch.  Filming has begun on the movie version, so I’d recommend reading it before that comes out (partially because the choice of lead actress is a little disappointing).

Do yourself a favor - go read this book.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quote of the Day: Tackle Life

“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherf*cking sh*t out of it.” - Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Sorry for the language... but I loved this quote.

Matt and Kelly: Newlywed Sunday

The morning after Matt and Kelly's beautiful wedding and reception, my brother Joe (the best man!) and I met in the lobby of our hotel bright and early.  We were armed with "window paint" and decals, and our mission was to decorate the groom's car.

It was pretty hilarious - writing stuff like "HONK FOR THE NEWLYWEDS" and "JUST MARRIED".

Our other two brothers were busy loading the car with tuxes and whatnot, but joined us shortly thereafter.  As we were finishing up, someone spotted the groom and we all darted away to hide behind a different car - so we were able to see his reaction.  It was awesome.

Shortly thereafter, we basically caravaned to the parents of the groom (also known as my parents) house for a "Newlywed Brunch" as our family prepared to leave Iowa and go back to their homes.  It was nice to have a more formal (and less alcohol-induced... :) way of saying goodbye to our family.  While our family is spread across the country - literally from LA to DC - we really rally for important things like weddings.   Of course, during the Newlywed Brunch I had my camera handy:

As the final guests were leaving, the entire Special-Maloney-Steil bunch found ourselves on the driveway at one time.  While we took family photos on the wedding day, this is one of my favorite pictures from the weekend - eyes squinting in to the sun, each of us moments away from heading back to our "normal" lives across three states and five cities:

It goes without saying that I absolutely adore my family - but I'm going to say it anyway.  During Matt's wedding toast he said that he felt like he won the jackpot when it came to his family... and I completely agree.  I am incredibly lucky - and I know it.

I would be remiss if I didn't end the Matt and Kelly Wedding Series with a photo of anyone but the lovebirds themselves.  Their engagement/wedding were among the highlights of my life - I feel humbled and honored to have been a part of their engagement, their wedding day, and their lives.  Part of the reason that the past 16 months have been so joyful for me, is that it's so obvious how in love they are.  They are truly perfect together.

Welcome to the family, Kelly.  I am so glad you married my brother.

Monday, October 28, 2013

the confusion of being catholic - part two

My post from Sunday brought up several really good offline conversations with some loved ones this week, and because it created so much conversation, I was able to hear a few ways in which I need to clarify.

First, the whole point of my post was that while Catholicism doesn't always fit me well... I believe it is the best religion for me at this point in time.  I recognize that there are very many wonderful religions out there (including of course the other branches of Christianity, many of which are fundamentally similar to Catholicism) that provide guidance and solace to millions and billions of people... and I think that's truly wonderful.

Secondly, my favorite critic (my mom), argued that social work is a critical tenant of the Catholic church... and I think she has a valid point.  What I was trying to say was that the emphasis seems to be out of alignment in 2013.  It seems to me that there is so much in the Bible about helping the less fortunate, and so little about, for example, treatment of gay people.  And yet as a church, we focus so much time, energy and effort on the latter.  Just seems like a poor interpretation, to me.  

I think it's safe to say that I have a lot to think about - and a lot to learn, both about Catholicism in specific, Christianity in general, and other religions even more broadly.  There are facets of many, many religions which I find interesting, redeeming and worthwhile.

Thank you for reading.

Scenes From A Week: October 28

I cannot believe that November starts this week.  How is that even possible?  September and October absolutely flew by.  I love the fall - but it seems like it's kind of skipped from summer to winter... I am not pleased about this :)

"betrayal" and "revenge" were two shows I watched this
week.  hope that doesn't say anything about me... :)
beautiful weather this week (though a litttttttle chilly
for my liking)
i love the way that downtown looks
there was a huge fire in lakeview on fiday night.  an entire bar burned
down!  it was about six blocks away from us, and the smoke (and flames!)
could be seen from our living room windows
special / maloney double date on friday night.  much needed time to
relax with three of my favorite people.  (and about four beers too many).
saturday day date with scottie - we saw gravity in 3d.  highly,
highly recommend.  it was very intense.  if you're going to see it
in the theatre, the upgrade to 3d is worth the splurge.
we installed curtains in our bedroom!  our room gets extremely bright
(the blinds block exactly zero light) so we bought black-out curtains
and they work wonders.  they also add a little somethin' somethin' to our
bedroom decor, if i do say so myself.  (also, not the little buddha in
the lower left hand corner.  loooove that).
interesting skyline view, from close to the movie theatre

Sunday, October 27, 2013

on the confusion of being a catholic

Every Sunday, I wrestle with being Catholic.

I roll my eyes at the church on a regular basis... and even find myself cringing from time to time.

I was recently asked by an acquaintance about my religion, and while I said that I was Catholic, I reflected later about why I felt uncomfortable after answering that way.  I am a baptized Christian and confirmed Catholic, I thought, so why does it fit so poorly?

For the past decade or so, I've struggled with the disconnect between my religion, and my personal faith.  My belief in God has increased; my connection to the Catholic church has decreased.  The gap between those things seems unusual, and makes me feel uneasy.  Shouldn't my religion encourage my faith, rather than my faith discouraging my religion? If my religion isn't helping my faith, is it really my religion?

When your conscience and your priest are saying different things, who do you believe? What do you believe?

As I contemplate motherhood, the answers to these questions become increasingly important.  The stakes are high.

Contributing to the confusion is that I come from a lineage of really dedicated (and vocal) Catholics - opinions I value.  I willingly (and wanting-ly, if that was a word) married in the Catholic church.  I attended a Catholic middle and high school, and if I live in that community when I have school-age children, will most surely send my children there as well.


I also have major, un-solveable objections to many of the teachings that the church seems to focus on (though perhaps that’s changing subtly with our new Pope).  What I believe Jesus cared most about - things like giving to the poor and caring for the sick - those things seem to be mostly lost in Catholicism 2013.  

The problem with these issues, of course, is that the answers aren't black and white.  Will I ever find an organized religion that fits me snugly, but doesn't suffocate? A place that practices what I want preached?  Will I ever find a church that promotes the tradition... while encouraging critical thinking?  Seems unlikely… but I certainly won’t if I don’t look.  So why can’t I bring myself to look?

I was in New York last month, and found myself on the steps of St. Patricks Cathedral, one of my normal pitstops when I'm in town.  Its been under construction for the past few times I've been to the city, and yet I found myself drawn inside, past the scaffolding, again sitting in the darkness with others.  Some Catholic, many probably not.   Whenever I'm in an older church in a different city, I light two candles for two of my loved ones who are now gone.  I put my dollars in the slot, pick my candles, and say a prayer as I light them.  I sit down in a pew, and think my thoughts.

And a feeling comes over me, sometimes.  A feeling of power and powerlessness.  That I’m part of something bigger than myself.  And it feels good.

I don't know why I'm Catholic.  It doesn't fit me very well at all. 

I can't put in to words why I've chosen - why I am choosing - to stay Catholic even when other religions would probably fit me better.  God?  Tradition?  Comfort in the uncomfortable?

I know that being a Catholic isn't for everyone, and sometimes I don't even know if it's for me.  I think the Catholic church is shamefully wrong on many things – obvious things like female ordination, treatment of gay people, birth control – but also deeper things.  When walking around the Vatican last September I felt such disgust at the level of opulence – what a terrible response to Jesus’ message.  

Despite all of the things I don't like, I sometimes get that feeling when I'm sitting in my church.  Not every time, but once in a while and it keeps me walking in the doors.  I wish there was a more profound reason, but I don't have one.  And for now - for me - that's enough.

You might not feel God in the Catholic church.  You might feel it when you stick your feet in the ocean.  You might feel it when walking through the ancient ruins of Rome.  Or  you might find God in a mosque or a Lutheran church or a temple.  Maybe you feel God, or maybe you feel other emotions.  Strength?  Weakness?  Power?  Humility?

I don't know much, but wherever you feel God - or good - I think that's where you should go.  

With an open heart, and an open mind.

I think that's what Jesus would do.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Matt and Kelly: Wedding Day Part Two

When we got off the trolley, we headed in to the hotel.  We joined the wedding guests for the tail end of the cocktail hour, which was held in the hotels beautiful atrium area.  It was stunning!  After a few minutes (and "hello"s) there, the bridal party snuck away to line up for introductions.  I was lucky enough to be paired with my husband (for the whole day, actually - he was a groomsman and I was a bridesmaid, and we were lined up together to walk down the aisle... how fun is that?).  We had debated about what to do when we were introduced... and ended up doing a Frankenstein thing where he was Frankenstein and I ran away from him :)  I think it was cute?  In my memory it was hilarious and adorable :) 

The ballroom was gorge-ous.  Just beautiful.  I snuck in to take a picture before the guests were escorted in: 

Magical.  I also took some snapshots from my spot at the head table:

The delicious dinner was served, but I could hardly eat since I was giving a toast.  For archival purposes, here is what I said:

Hello!  For those who don't know me, I’m Kate… and I am the proud sister of the groom.
I should start by saying that I am overjoyed to be here today.  Kelly has been a part of our lives and our family for a decade, and I’m thrilled that earlier today - she became not just my brothers wife, but my sister.

Kelly, I’ve never had a sister before, but I hear that it’s customary for sisters to share clothes, or shoes, or secrets.  So after 27 years of being Matt’s sister, I thought I’d let you in on a few secrets about my brother.

1) Matt is a terrific timekeeper.  We used to drive to school together, and if I was even one minute late, Matt would let me know… by driving away.  Word to the wise, Matt means business when it comes to time.

2): Matt knows what he wants.  When Matt was born, I was already a toddler, so I thought I’d be the boss of my new little buddy.  And I was... for a while.  That lasted until about the time Matt turned four, and took charge.  And he’s been the boss ever since.

3) Matt is the most likeable person in the room - in any room, any time.  I always knew Matt was charming, but this message really hit home in September of my junior year of high school.  Matt was a freshmen, which meant that we were both going to the same school, and had a lot of friends and teachers in common.  I was the upperclassman, though, so I thought I should show him the ropes.  And I thought I was doing a good job, until I was introduced to someone as “Matt Maloney’s sister”.  And the worst part was that it was by a teacher.

Jokes aside, I am two years older than Matt, but I've looked up to him for my entire life.
Matt is the first one I call for advice… he has always been there for me - and I know he'll always be there for you.  I know that Matt will cherish you, the way that we cherish him.  (Well… maybe not exactly the same way…..)

I think I speak for the Maloneys, Steils, and indeed all 50+ Ranks, when I say - welcome to the family, Kelly!  If everyone will please join me in raising a glass, to my brother Matt and my sister, Kelly.
To the Newlyweds!

And most importantly... I meant every word.  I was unbelievably proud and honored to give a toast.

And then - the first dance.  As the newlyweds danced to "Hey Pretty Girl" (Kip Moore), I couldn't help but smile.

And I kept smiling, through Kelly's dance with her father.  I kept smiling (and maybe crying) as Matt took the dance floor with our mom.  They danced to "How Sweet It Is" and it really was.  It was so sweet.

The fun continued as the dance floor was opened up.  First to the bridal party, and then to the rest of the wedding guests.  The music was fabulous - and the dance floor was packed from start to finish.  A few highlights: dancing to Florida Georgia Line/Nelly "Cruise Remix" like a wild woman ("fire it up, let's go get this thing stuck!"),  seeing 50%+ of my Rank women freak out when Justin Bieber came on (um, myself included), participating in three dance-off style circles, and enveloping my brother and Kelly with love during the last song - piano man.  They were literally circled by people swaying as we danced around them.  It was really special.

And just like that... their wedding day was over, and the rest of their lives had begun.

Next: Sunday

Friday, October 25, 2013

Weekend Reading

Some of my favorite blogs have started doing a weekly roundup of articles or posts that they came across and  found interesting, and I love the idea.  I am always sending or receiving interesting articles, and I thought you might enjoy them.  I am not sure if this will end up being weekly or monthly or maybe just once in a while.  Also, I make no promises that the articles are new (many are not).  Here goes:

Ten words to cut from your writing

Tell a friend they are a good mama

Can emotional intelligence be taught: 

A Sandy Hook parent's letter to educators

A question that can change your life

Are you an introvert or an extrovert, and what it means for your career

If every Big Ten school were a 'Parks and Rec' character

Study says first-borns are smarter (a case study of my brothers would prove this is not true):

Matt and Kelly: Wedding Day Part One

On Saturday, October 12, my alarm went off early - just before 7am.   I was already awake when it went off, thinking my thoughts and thinking about what I needed to do before I left for the morning.  I had be waiting for 10/12/13 for over a year... and it was here.  The joy!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Matt and Kelly: Rehearsal Dinner

After a productive and fun wedding rehearsal, the bridal party hopped back on the Guest Shuttle and moved on to the rehearsal dinner.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Matt and Kelly: Rehearsal

After the bridal luncheon, my grandma and I drove back to the hotel to get prepped for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Matt and Kelly: Bridal Luncheon

After a super quick pit-stop at the hotel to drop our bags and change clothes, my mom and I met up with my grandma and the three of us ladies headed to the Country Club for Kelly's bridal luncheon.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Scenes From a Week: October 21

I haven't done one of these in ages... but I would like to bring it back (even though I'm a day late).  :)

This week brought a variety of really different things and experiences.  My cousin welcomed a baby son (extending our family name by another generation!).   Another dear cousin will welcome her daughter before my next "Scenes" post.  I spent part of Friday evening FaceTiming with my parents and Scott for my dad's birthday.  Scott and I drank too much wine on Friday night at our favorite BYOB sushi spot in our neighborhood.  On Saturday I detoxed by taking the longest run I've done since the half marathon in July.  Running makes me feel calm and focused like nothing else can, and I haven't done it nearly enough lately.   Scott and I went to Beerfest on Saturday evening with a few Specials and a few friends.  On Sunday, I went to a baby shower for Scott's cousin Lindsey, whom I adore.   Sunday late afternoon was spent wandering through Lincoln Square, a neighborhood in Chicago that I don't know very well.  Overall, it was a wonderful week, filled with experiences and people and moments.  Those are the best things, in my opinion.

Quote of the Day: Finding Myself

“All this time I was finding myself… and I didn’t know I was lost” – Avicii

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Matt and Kelly: Wedding Week

Matt and Kelly got married last week, and I thought it was only right that I document this on my blog.  I love the archive purposes that this blog brings, and since I've been suffering from some annoying writers block (bloggers block?) I am hopeful that this will start things up for me.  A million pictures and some commentary below!

Quote of the Day: Day Planning

"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult" -  EB White

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rugged Maniac Part Two

Scott and I ran the Rugged Maniac race a few months ago, but I just stumbled upon these hilarious pictures and thought I'd share.  Now that my scrapes and bruises have healed, I've changed my tune a little bit, and I'd consider running the race again.  It wasn't that bad, was it?  :)  (Ughhhh - yes it was).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

to Kelly


Today is October 12, 2013, and it's a day that you've been planning and working towards for the past 14 months.  More than that, probably, because even before your engagement, you'd undoubtedly thought about what it would be like.

And now it's here - your wedding day.

You have been my brother's girlfriend for the past decade, and while I've considered you so much more than that for the past few years, there is something very fitting about the way in which our relationship is changing today.  You might be the one getting married, but I'm the one getting a gift - a sister.  This is a gift I will cherish forever.

The time has come - the planning is over, the work is done, and the celebration is beginning.  If I had advice to offer you, I would say to drink it in.  On the alter at your ceremony, look in the crowd and commit the feeling to memory.  Eat a big piece of wedding cake.  Stare at your wedding rings.  Refer to Matt as "husband" whenever possible.  Hug your mom, hug my mom, and hug all three of your sisters (including me).   Taste your champagne.  Kiss your grandmothers.  Have a moment alone, reflecting on all that has happened, and all that to be.  Dance with your husband, your father, your father-in-law.  Dance with your girlfriends.  Look around at all the love around you.

Happy wedding day, Kelly.  I can't wait to be your sister.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

on having a sister

When I was little, there was nothing I wanted more than a younger sister. 

A built in friend, someone to share secrets with, and to team up against my brothers.

I'm older now, and I cherish each of my brothers, but the yearning for a sister has never gone away, and now it never has to.

Later this weekend, my brother will get a wife... and I will get a sister.

It's a day that I have been looking forward to for more than their 14 month engagement, because for years before that, our family knew this day was an eventuality.  Their love and affection is obvious.

What I hope is also obvious, is the excitement I feel for my brother and his wife-to-be, and indeed, the excitement I feel for all of us.  I feel so lucky to not just love Kelly as my brother's love, but to actually adore her as a friend.

And a sister.