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OUTBOUND

Outbound from Boston!

(Warning: I’m in reflective mode and this will be more dramatic than it needs to be!)

 

Monday, August 31st, we set out from Boston on our two week adventure to Duluth. We are currently sitting in a Caribou Coffee just outside of St. Paul, just a few hours away from our destination. It all feels incredibly surreal to me. When I really try to think about it, I understand that this is a move and that we are not turning around. But for the most part, it feels a bit like a vacation. We traveled, saw family and friends along the way, will get to our destination, and then venture back to Boston. It feels like we’ve been in transition for months at this point, so the thought of something more finite and permanent is really hard for me to fully comprehend.

Maybe in a few weeks, once we’ve conquered all the insurmountable tasks that lay before us, I’ll feel a sense of permanence. But for now, I’m letting it be what it is. Because honestly, the thought of not going back, not seeing some of my best friends every week, not having our close-knit marriage bible study, not having ladies nights with my former roommates, not experiencing a New England fall (especially that we now have a car!), not being in the place where all our college friends come back to, not being able to visit Brother Sam and Mother Olga, not having such easy access to all the things that come with living in a big city…it’s a challenge. And that’s not to say that I’m not incredibly excited for what’s to come and for the ways in which God will lead us through this change, but with most worth it ventures, there is a sacrifice (or many).

I spent eight years and one week in Boston. Those eight years carry with them a lifetime of experiences, growth, relationships. I’ll never be able to craft the words to express how different, and better off, I am for having lived there. It wasn’t necessarily the city of Boston that did it, though it has a unique place in my heart for being the place where it all happened. Mistakes were made. Some really big ones. But I transformed from an ignorant college freshman to a more mature woman that I would not have recognized back then. I went from not knowing my creator to having an intimate relationship with Him. I did not know what real community was, and I now have the greatest one that spans countries and oceans. I grew, sometimes painfully, alongside sisters and brothers that I will forever be connected to in deep friendship and the sacraments. I met my husband at such a providential time in my life, and spent the majority of my time in Boston outside of college growing in love with him and integrating that relationship into the rest of my life. Kevin and I conceived and lost our first child, one that I know God has welcomed into His Kingdom for our benefit as well as that of many others.

Some people live eight years in one place and leave no better, sometimes for the worse. I cannot thank God enough for every little piece of my time in Boston. Every trial, every victory, every tear, every laugh, every person, every messed up commute (yes, I can say that now that I’ve left), every Sunday morning sunrise I saw on Newbury Street when I had to work those dreadful early shifts in the hotel, every BUCC retreat/SNL/spaghetti supper, every sacrament, every moment with the diversified variety of roommates I’ve had the privilege to live with…everything.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned (and will probably have to learn over and over again), it’s that God can bring an incredible good out of suffering, and to take the sorrows alongside the joys in growing closer to the Lord. Yes, we have suffered, and we discerned that it was good for us to leave, but boy, did we have an abundance of joy as well, and that is what I choose to take with me. (And of course we will visit!)

“Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

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Summer Highlights

This summer truly is going by so quickly. I am torn because as excited as I am for this next phase of our life, it breaks my heart to leave the people I love and the place that has so much significance in my life. To recap the summer that has just came and gone, here are some choice photos…

Just a few of us former residents of 728 at BU in front of the Grotto where my life was literally changed on a retreat nearly 7 years ago.

Just a few of us former residents of 728 at BU in front of the Grotto where my life was literally changed on a retreat nearly 7 years ago.

June was the Brotherhood of Hope Boston Alumni Retreat. A beautiful reunion of friends from both the CC at BU and Northeastern.

Precious time with the Dills and my family!

Precious time with the Dills and my family!

The weekend of July 4th, which turned out to be a bit more eventful than we had planned, was still a really beautiful one. There weren’t any real plans, so I got to do my favorite things of going to Pat’s Colonial Kitchen for brunch, visiting Washington’s Crossing Park, strolling around Peddler’s Village, and spending time with the Dills and my family.

:)

Time with Sarah. This girls been here with me for seven years. We grew in faith together, lived together in two different places, were by each others side on our wedding days, became neighbors, and have just shared many joys, sorrows, and everything in between. I’m going to miss this lady so much…but I know God will provide and our friendship will grow in ways we cannot predict.

The VB's flew out to the East Coast!

The VB’s flew out from AZ to the East Coast!

Two dear friends, Christina and Ky, got married in Connecticut and it was a beautiful celebration! A few good friends came from quite a distance and it was absolutely lovely reuniting for a bit. Emily and Ted (far right) are expecting their first child in November and we were able to throw them a little baby shower in Boston the following day with some local friends out here.

Mother & Daughters

I went home again to PA in August to celebrate my sister, Kristen (blue dress), and sister-in-law, Jenan, who are both expecting their first children in October! Both girls!

Such an awesome group of people.

The Dills (A, J, and JP) drove up to Boston for Ashlie’s birthday, and Elise made it out from Detroit as well! It was quite the reunion and we had a beautiful evening bringing together many loved ones. Mike (tallest guy pictured in back) is a seminarian for the Boston Diocese over in Rome and has been back for just a bit this summer. Brother Sam (second from left, back row) joined us as well! That guy. Aka my former boss, campus minister, and always spiritual father.

Friendship, sisterhood, love, hats 🙂

The four of us ladies, Ashlie, Elise, Sarah and I, did afternoon tea/lunch at the Boston Public Library for Ash’s 25th birthday! We got all fancy and it was splendid. We had the entire restaurant to ourselves on a Monday afternoon, and then strolled to the courtyard for some photos and boy, did we get some stares or what. We loved every second.

Siblings and some cousins at Fenway!

A couple weeks ago, my family did a large vacation in Plymouth, MA since my brother and his wife are currently stationed not too far away for the military. We rented a magnificent home on the water, and some extended family joined us as well. It was a week of games (sometimes a bit too competitive), relaxing, riding bikes along the coast of Nantucket (#worthit), and going to a Red Sox game at Fenway. A wonderful trip (so grateful to my dad!), and a kind of last hoorah before two babies arrive and cross country moves are made by multiple parties.

Boston friends! Oh how we will miss them!

Boston friends! Oh how we will miss them!

Sarah & Javi threw us a little going away party with some close friends, and gosh…I get sadder with every day we get closer to our move. It is so nice being with these people; we had a great time of fellowship and of course, P&P (the game “pencil & paper” that will forever be my legacy in Boston).

Various generations of BUCC Alumni, former roommates @ Priscilla, good friends!

Various generations of BUCC Alumni, former roommates @ Priscilla, good friends!

And finally, a night out just before we left celebrating a friend’s birthday. It was a gift to have another reason to see everybody before we left.

There has been much more goodness, but one can only make a post so long! I’m overwhelmed with how much there is to reflect and look back upon my eight years in Boston, but above all I am filled with gratitude. Deo gratias!

 

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Top Recipes // July

I’m a bit late – I wanted to post this for July since August will be the month of limited cooking as we’re in transition (I packed up pretty much everything kitchen related yesterday). But here it is! My favorite recipes for last month!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am looooving this grain-free sandwich/burger bread/bun. It really comes out like it does in that picture. It can be a bit dry, but I guess that also means it’ll last longer? We wouldn’t know. One batch makes 4 buns, I’ve doubled it to make 8.

This bread is also good – a delicious almond & flax seed mix. It’s a nice breakfast bread, and it’s essentially an excuse to get a good serving of Kerrygold butter.

This buffalo shrimp & cabbage salad was SO refreshing. Typically our lunches consist of kale, nuts, avocado (if we have any to spare), olive oil/balsamic vinegar, and some type of meat…sometimes. Needless to say, while I enjoy it, the repetition gets to be a bit much. So when we venture into new territory, it’s exciting. I’d had a head of cabbage in the fridge for…a while, but that’s why I love cabbage. It lasts long, it’s packed with nutrients, and it provides way more servings than you think it will. We also had frozen shrimp in the freezer and kinda improvised with a lot of other ingredients. But all in all, it had the essence of this recipe. It lasted several servings and was super tasty.

Paleo nachos. No explanation needed. This was the inspiration, but we’ve taken it every which way since. And I have not looked back. We always have sweet potatoes on hand, the rest of the ingredients vary. But it’s just.so.good.

Anything with eggs is always a free for all, but Kevin says my sweet potato quiche is the best quiche I’ve ever made – eggs, sweet potatoes (sautéed for a bit), arugula, bell peppers (sautéed with sweet potatoes). And topped with just a bit of sour cream.

My special homemade granola! Reasons I love living by Trader Joe’s – super inexpensive nuts & seeds! Which makes for an awesome grain-free granola. Cashews, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes…smash it all up, add some maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt, and bake for 12 minutes at 350. It’s so good. The perfect snack for me.

And lastly – let’s not forget the buffalo popcorn. A simple & fun snack for hanging out with the husband and watching a movie or playing a board game. Literally, just make some popcorn (pre-bagged or on the stove), heat up some butter & buffalo sauce…mix. Boom.

I’d like to thank pinterest for expanding my horizons.

 

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Carpe Diem.

It’s not every day you and your husband decide to drop your job (and primary source of income), leave the city you know, and take a leap of faith halfway across the country. Butttt that is where we are! We had been mulling over and discerning the possibility of moving to Minnesota for several months. Pennsylvania was an option, as was New Hampshire, but our hearts both seemed content (and thrilled) with Minnesota. However, it was St. Paul we were aiming for!

Things happened, job interviews were had, connections were made, someone (me) spent way too long lusting after cheaper real estate on zillow, we joyfully welcomed a pregnancy that altered some plans, but then that pregnancy went. And in those moments of loss and grief, we received peace and clarity. After Mass on July 3rd, we sat down outside the chapel and said it aloud: we should move to Duluth. I cling back to that moment, though, and trust that it was authentic and of God, because now as we get so close and I’ve given my work my notice, doubt inevitably clouds my vision! (Damn you, evil one!)

Yet even with the occasional doubt and fear, I know this is good. Even with the pain of leaving good friends and a home I love, I know God is calling us to greater things. Now…I’m not sure WHAT those things are, but I trust that they are GOOD. I am in no way tied to my “career path”, though it does lend a bit of security. So the prospect of potentially starting somewhere new and having more flexibility to “figure things out” was, and is, very attractive.

What will we do? Gosh, only the Lord knows. There is only so much we can do to prepare until we get there. Right now my head is filled with logistical nightmares of when to pack up my kitchen aid and how to sell all our furniture on Craigslist. I am re-evaluating a lot of things. I’ve always had my next move planned, and it’s always been on a certain trajectory. And while there was a time that I enjoyed what I do – that time has come and gone. While it will be tempting to apply to the classic HR jobs I’m used to, I really want to start fresh in something that gives me life.

I’d really love to do my own thing and work from home, if possible. I have a few ideas in my head and the wheels are spinning. Whatever I do is going to take some investment and patience. The frontrunners of the moment are:

  • Becoming a Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (a one year program, fairly affordable) and partnering with organizations that teach and/or promote Natural Family Planning. I’d love to work with people struggling with infertility, looking at nutrition first before undergoing tests & treatments that can be quite pricey.
  • Starting my own at-home travel agency that specializes in Catholic Pilgrimages (and maybe adventurous honeymoons!). I can somewhat utilize that hospitality degree and my love for planning & travel! I’d work with a host agency such as TPI or Outside Agents. They provide all the training and tools you need to start earning commission right from home.
  • Selling Young Living Essential Oils. Some people make this their sole income and it works. I somehow doubt I’d be one of those people, but nothing wrong with trying and maybe snagging a little supplemental cash. The best part is it wouldn’t be forced. I absolutely love these oils. I believe in their healing properties, and if nothing else, I get to spread the word of more holistic health options.

I’ll continue to pray on this and look into more details over the next month or so, but I would love if, when we arrive in Duluth mid-September, I can start working towards one (or more) of these goals. Doing something I love would bring me greater joy, but it would all be in service of cultivating a beautiful domestic life with Kevin and to support him in his mission and work. So may God bless our efforts and may the opportunities be great!

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Collections // 2

Reading // As is my way, I got a little caught up in re-reading some Harry Potter recently. On book six at the moment – I keep myself to no more than a chapter a day.

Cooking // whatever is in our freezer. We only have about three weeks left actually in this apartment (we’re traveling for another two weeks) and I want to make sure all the meat I bought in bulk once upon a time gets eaten! Which it will. No problem.

Baking // grain-free breads. I’ve found a few good recipes, but this is my favorite. It’s not an everyday occurrence (don’t want to make a habit out of eating “bread”), but it’s super tasty when we have it.

Watching // umm…one of the Marvel films every week. You could say Kevin and I have a problem, but we personally think it’s a fine art being able to watch a film over and over. Especially when the movie is so rich! Last night was Iron Man 3, before that Avengers, before that Thor, before that Captain America…you get the idea. We just really love these films.

Listening // my younger sisters cd mixes. Since she graduated and will not be needing a car in DC, my parents passed the Acura onto us (which we’re so grateful for!). She generously left some fun mixes in her car, and it’s funny what similar taste we have. A fun variety to, from Coldplay to Tupac to the Weepies…it’s all over the place.

Wanting // another Stitchfix box! I had a gift card from my birthday that allowed for two fixes (spent a bit over my allotted amount), and now I’m addicted. I don’t foresee it happening anytime soon, but a girl can dream!

Making // homemade organic & natural makeup! It seems that I go a little bit deeper each month into a more crunchy way of life, and partly because it’s so much fun and fulfilling to create from scratch (and to know everything I’m using/eating/surrounding myself with). I’ve made a pretty successful powdered blush and powdered foundation thanks to the recipes of Wellness Mama. The concealer didn’t turn out as I expected, but I think I know the issue…but it means I gotta re-do it. Another time!

Traveling // the past few weekends have been here in Boston, but August will be the month of travels – a grand family vacation on the Cape followed by another trip to Quebec! Followed by our cross country road trip to Duluth!

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Leaving the community I love.

In all those months Kevin and I discerned leaving, it seemed like the obvious thing to do – it was just a matter of when and where. There have been a number of difficult things about our time in Boston together – unfulfilling jobs, finances and the insanely high cost of living, public transportation, the Northeast mindset, the go-go-go mentality of city living…there’s no doubt that it was hard. But now that we are really moving…in a month…we are both struck with all the good things we are leaving behind. Primarily community.

Boston is my spiritual home. I’ve been here for eight years, and seven of those I have been intimately tied to a Catholic community rooted at BU. While some of my best friends have left since college, there are still so many loved ones here – and the community has grown as well. This is also the place where all those who are elsewhere come back to – it’s our hub. I’ve been spoiled with incredible friendships, and this place is the center of it all.

This past weekend it really hit me hard. It was a weekend filled with all my favorite people in Boston – having drinks with the ladies, hanging out at a barbecue, exploring the city, studying the Word of God, the sacraments…Christ is woven into it all, and that is why I know I am so bound to all these people. And why I’m going to miss them so much!

Last night, Kevin and I went on our evening walk (a little ritual for us), and we relayed to one another how much more difficult this is going to be than we anticipated. And for him – he came to this city four years ago for schooling, found the Catholic group I was a part of, met me/got married, and all this time he’s been surrounded by my friends, my community, living in my city…or at least that’s sorta what we both thought. But they have truly become his friends, his community, and he’s made this just as much his city. And now that he’s going back to his hometown, he’s just as sad as I am (well, maybe not as sad)!

Through all my tears on our lovely walk, Kevin turned to me and said, “So much of you is your love for your friendships, and that’s part of why I fell in love with you.” And then he made promises to ship me back here (or wherever it is I’ll need to go) as often as possible and to continue encouraging these friendships that are so life-giving (sound like anyone we know, Josh & Ashlie??). I’ve seen this happen with those who have left, and while distance isn’t exactly easy, we’ve been abundantly blessed with time together – we’ve grown together through Vocations, children, losses, and more.

Duluth will be a new experience, quite the transition, and I know it will be good. But leaving this city where my faith came alive and this community that continuously bears fruit will be difficult. It’ll take a huge amount of trust in God on my part. Trusting that these relationships will continue to grow in the manner they ought, that life will change for the better, and that God will bless all of us as we strive for the same goal: heaven.

And now I will be sappy and post this song that comes to mind…thanks for not judging. 🙂

Now let’s enjoy this last month!

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Giovanna Raphael

I’ve been a bit MIA on this blog for a while, but Kevin keeps telling me to get back into it. I’ve wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure about what to write! I debated whether or not to share what follows, but in the end, I don’t want to hide it – I want to acknowledge it.

This summer has been full. Yes, we’ve been out of the house more and taking weekend/day trips (and I want to write about all of it!), but it goes much further than that. Something big happened, and then something big happened again. And it’s lead to many life decisions, one of which is that Kevin and I will be moving to Duluth, Minnesota in the beginning of September. There will be much more on all of this later, for sure! But right now, I just want to acknowledge the gift (and loss of that gift) that has changed my life, Kevin’s life, and our marriage.

On May 26, 2015, I woke up and decided to take a pregnancy test. This wasn’t exactly anything new as this was my routine for eight months. Eight months of radical dietary changes, Napro doctor support, and lots of prayer. Eight months of people saying, “you’re so young, you have lots of time,” or “just stop thinking about it and it’ll happen” (not very helpful…but that wasn’t everyone!). Eight months of excitement, anticipation, and disappointment. Eight months of intense grace and growth in my relationship with God. Eight months of deepening my love for my incredible husband. I could talk so much more about those eight months, but the point of all this is what came next.

Anyway, woke up, took a pregnancy test, and was SHOCKED…[complete silence]…SHOCKED to see the second bright line. I went back to bed and sat on a sleeping Kevin and whispered “I’m pregnant.” You can imagine his surprise and sort of questioning tone when he said “what?” All that we’d been praying for had happened (the cycle after our pilgrimage to St. Anne’s as well!).

I won’t go into the details right now, but while we were able to experience excitement in the beginning, there were a lot of concerning things that soon arose. The next several weeks were unfortunately filled with much anxiety. There were rays of hope that came, but then even worse symptoms that took their place. Around 4am on July 2, 2015, I woke up and immediately knew what was about to happen. I woke Kevin up and he just laid with me for a while as I experienced the all-too-familiar excruciating pains that would normally signal my period.

A couple hours later, at 9 1/2 weeks, I delivered (would that be the correct term?) our first child. I don’t want to be too gruesome, but to all those pro-choicers out there who would deny the fact that I had been carrying a living human, this was most definitely a child that I held in my hand.

We named our child Giovanna Raphael: “gift of God who heals.” This name had been on our hearts for a few weeks at that point, and it seemed quite God-given. We had already planned a trip back home to PA that weekend, so we took our child with us to be buried. A couple of our best friends, Josh & Ashlie, joined us that weekend with their little baby, John Paul. They were present when we buried Giovanna in our backyard. We wrapped her in the lace from my wedding dress. It was a painful, but beautiful experience. We prayed this lovely prayer from Sister Angelica, and we cried unashamedly at the loss of this precious life.

There is so much I still have to process from all of this. While I know I’m a mother, I don’t exactly feel like one. It’s been less than three weeks since I miscarried, but at moments, it almost feels as if I was never pregnant to begin with. Then there are the times when I just can’t help but cry over what is no longer growing inside of me.

At this point, that’s all I have to share about that. If anyone’s experienced infertility or miscarriage – be assured of my prayers.

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All grown up.

Mid-May, I was in North Carolina to see my youngest sister graduate from Wake Forest University. Now…when you’re one of five children, it’s a crazy experience when the baby of the family has a big milestone. Everything she’s done has pretty much already been precedented by someone else in the family. But that makes it no less special; in fact, I think we all get super nostalgic seeing her go through all these life things. And it makes us realize that the littlest one of us is growing up! She’ll be moving to DC this fall to start work! #whattttt

In addition to the last one graduating college, there will be two new additions to the family this year! Both my sister and sister-in-law are expecting in October, and we are so thrilled and excited. But it’s also so crazy at the same time. And this year is a Krouchick Christmas year meaning there will be 12 of us under one roof – the mom & pop, three married couples, two young singles, and two infants! Obviously it’ll be awesome and I’ll want to bottle it up before we all go to our separate parts of the country (PA, DC, VA, CA, possibly MN).

Nostalgia is my middle name, so don’t mind if I cry three times a week with all the changes. But it is all good – we are all moving in good directions and I’m excited to see how these changes play out in our lives. #ilovemyfamily

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One year!

May 30th, 2015 – our one year anniversary! So much to say, yet how can I say it all? I can’t. To put it simply, I am blessed to have married someone so perfect for me. I literally cannot imagine spending my days and nights with anyone else. Neither Kevin nor I are perfect – we have many flaws. And even together, we have our vices. But we are pursuing holiness and happiness together. And it’s an exciting journey.

This first year has been a whirlwind. Moving into a teeny apartment. Learning to live more simply. Surviving the worst winter of Boston on record (with many days of struggle because of it). Handling multiple jobs and schooling. But it has all been blessed because of the man I’m sharing it with. And the struggles have been outdone by the joys of our first year – our Canadian Honeymoon, Thanksgiving in PA, liturgical living, Christmas in MN, our Epiphany party, growing in love through golden hour walks, building our little Nazareth, our married couples bible study, Quebec, breakfasts together, laughing through Parks & Rec, SUNDAYS, gardening trial & error, and SO MUCH MORE.

I don’t have anything truly grand to say except that I love my husband, and that love goes deeper every day. And I am grateful for all of the people we have in our lives that love and support us in our Vocation. Here’s to an ever better year two!

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