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Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving makes me realize just how blessed I am

Moving. I hate it. But honestly, who doesn't? Your life is stirred up for the minimum of a month and everything seems chaotic. And for Type A personalities like myself I start packing at least a month in advance and I want to be unpacked within 12 hours of moving in (and surprisingly often accomplish this) . This will be my 11th move since I was 18. I'm a pro at it. But I still hate it.

With each move there is a mourning. A letting go. Even if it is just 20 miles away I am closing a chapter. A long time ago I wrote in a journal of mine "live in NYC for a year"... it was a bucket list type goal. Well, I didn't live in NYC for a year, but I have lived in Chicago for 1.5 years. And I've loved it. City living isn't easy. It has challenged me and made me learn a lot about myself. There is a new meaning to "just running to the store". And I never thought I'd be so good at parallel parking... even in 2 feet of snow.

One of my favorite streets in Ravenswood

I've been tucked away in my little Ravenswood/Lincoln Square neighborhood. I know these streets forwards and backwards from the hours I've spent walking them. I have a favorite ice cream shop, a favorite neighborhood pub, a favorite house, a favorite Thai restaurant, a favorite Indian restaurant, and a couple of my closest friends just a short walk away. And as I face this move to the suburbs I mourn the loss of what has been home. I know without a doubt I am making the right move, but I still mourn for the comfort of my sweet little apartment with the brick walls and character that only an old city building can have.

As I've sifted through my things... as I've mourned the loss of the city... as I've thought through all the reasons I know moving to the suburbs is the right option I've been faced with a strong reality. I am blessed.

Often because of growing up in the U.S. I can lose sight of just how blessed I am. Life gets stressful and it is easy to focus on the stress, but I am trying to focus more on the blessings. I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to move. Even more so, I am blessed to have a roof over my head and a lot of things in this roof. I am blessed to have a job I get to go to every day. I am blessed to have an incredible education. I am blessed to know that I CAN pay my bills.

So as I take this step that is hard, yet so right, I want to step into it know that by reducing costs, reducing commute times, reducing stress, and so many other things I am stepping into a place where I can bless many more others. And as my church steps into what they call the "Celebration of Hope" where we spend 3 weeks focusing on helping both worldwide and locally I am challenged. Challenged to look at the ways I'm using my time, my money, my education, and everything that has been entrusted to me. I want to use all of my blessings to bless others. So, as I take this step into a new season of my life, I'm asking myself "how can I best use my blessings, skills, time, and money to bless others?" I want to pack every box with a purpose. I want to live every second of my life with a purpose. I want to know that in my last breath, I made decisions that allowed me to love and bless others well.  Will you join me on this journey? Can we embrace just how blessed we are together?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Out of Hibernation Leapt the Manning Sisters and It All Felt So Glorious

For many of us, this has been an extremely long winter.  I have found it so unnerving with every ounce of my being lacking motivation to work out, clean, and be a productive member of society.  My extreme lack of sunshine is reflected in paleness, mood, and body.  I NEED SUN ASAP!

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time together bonding with my sisters.  You see my beautiful sister Mary Jane entered the world of the married a year ago and then more recently motherhood this January.  We had some fun bonding in between all of her major life changes and it was good.  Our baby sister Claire just got her license.  EEK!  I have been personally trying to spend more time with them as I know they both need girl time and it's important for us to be close.

This past week at work, Mary Jane and I had to replace a few office chairs that were worn.  There were 5 that were purchased.  Well when she got back to work, we got them on a cart and took them where there was some open space to assemble them.  We only assembled 4 of them due to the fact our shipping department got antsy and assembled it by himself.  We started pulling the pieces out of the box and of course we got bothered the whole time.  Our dad, brother and cousin all approached us at different points of starting and everyone had a different suggestion.  Give me a break boys!  We got this.

The old chairs practically leaped into the trash!
Chair Races....ready, set, go!  We did it  :)
I didn't have to work on Saturday.  It was a nice chance to catch up on some spring cleaning, sleep, and laundry.  I asked my sister Claire if she wanted to get a pedicure as we both needed one.  Upon getting the list of Claire's chores we were on our way.  We stopped by Starbucks first then it was on to  the Spa.  I wanted to catch up on everything that was going on in her little world.  She got asked to Prom by her boyfriend of 4 months.  She was excited at her new found freedom of driving and most of all just excited to relax a bit.  I told her that I would help her with part of the list (which included making dinner) in order for her not to get into trouble.

My mom had already started a roast so it was a matter of making sides and a salad to accompany it.  While Claire did her laundry, cleaned and organized her room, and dusted the back porch I produced the remainder of dinner.  No one seemed to be bothered by that so it all worked out well.

Then on Sunday, Mary Jane and I got motivated and finally went out on a walk.  It was warmer than it had been for a while and the sun was still shining.  I'd like to think we had some fun...
We may or may not have started off jogging when we realized that was a poor life decision...

We discussed our current fitness goals, men, Caribou (her daughter Carolyn Rose), and girl stuff.  There were a lot of laughs and honesty.  My phone ended up dying and her phone was left in the car.  Oh darn!  That meant there weren't going to be any distractions and Caribou was in her precious Grandma's hands.  We were only going to do one lap at the YMCA which is 1.65 miles but we quickly decided to do another one as to continue our chat. 3.3 miles down, some great laughs in and awesome bonding time with my sister we finally headed home feeling accomplished.

There is nothing more refreshing than the ritual of sister bonding.  I love hanging out with my sisters and even though we are all at different points of our lives that's what makes it even more special.  All of us couldn't be more different aside from the fact we all may or may not be over achievers!  I am the single, educated (2 degrees) career driven girl who has the social life.  Mary Jane is the educated (going on second degree) married girl with child at 25 and Claire is cute 16 year old who is maneuvering high school well with awesome grades despite her sports schedule, who is boy crazy and dreaming of what's next.

The Manning sisters haven't bonded like we have this past week in a very long time.  It was long over due.  One might say there were a few beautiful byproducts of this long winter.  Out of hibernation, leapt the Manning sisters and it all felt so glorious!

Welcoming Spring with open arms whenever it decides to stay....
Catie Manning

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our Crazy Life: Basement Edition

Hello! I am glad to be back! The move is over and we are settling in well. And I have to say, I am so glad it is all over. As well as trying to pack with a one-year-old, we were also patching nail holes, painting, and finishing up our basement.

Before we put our house on the market, we had to do something about the basement floor. We had a tiny leak last spring which got the carpet wet enough that we had to rip it out. Since then, we have lived with a pretty junky basement (not quite the selling type, ya know?).

And then we decided to just go ahead and redo the entire basement floor. (Why we get these ideas, I'll never know- we love to make more work for ourselves.) Here is the laundry room as we were in the middle of pulling up vinyl tiles.

After it was all said and done, we learned a lot about refinishing and staining floors. Here are the DOs and DON'Ts that might make your life easier if you decide to take the same path.
  • Do rent a diamond grinder to grind off old carpet glue, paint, and any other junk that is stuck to your floors. We rented ours from Home Depot but you could get yours from most tool rental stores. Some floors won't need such a heavy duty tool, so definitely research the best option for getting your floor back to the bare concrete. 
  • Do use a hot iron to remove old vinyl tiles (place a steaming iron on a tile for about 15 seconds and then use a paint scraper to peel back the tiles; its amazing how easy this is!), don't attempt to chip away at the tiles with chisels...its AWFUL and doesn't work. And just so you know, this will ruin your iron; mine has been banished to the home improvement bucket for future projects.
  • Do purchase a massive squeegee to use while grinding the floors down. You have to grind the floors while wet so there ends up being a lot of water on the floor that needs to be guided to a drain. Don't even try to grind the floors without water; you will go through the blades in no time and they aren't cheap! Hook up a garden hose to a tap to make the "wetting" process easier on yourself.
  • Do clean your floors, re-clean, and clean them again. This is a must. If your floor isn't clean, the stain won't stick well. Mops (using a "wash" and "rinse" bucket for sure), sponges, and scrub brushes all work well. Don't use the cheapo twist mops for this; they disintegrate pretty fast when used on concrete floors. 
  • Do make sure that the floor is completely dry. Also, a vacuum job right before you stain isn't a bad idea either. 
  • Do grab a friend to help out with the staining process. We used a garden sprayer to apply the stain which worked okay but we were new to the whole thing so we had to figure it out as we went. If you are going to use the sprayer, make sure to use some masking paper (12" is wide enough) on the walls to protect them. Have one person spray the stain and the other use a roller to blend the stain on the floor. We used 3/8" nap microfiber roller, but would recommend something else. Work fast as the stain soaks in quickly. We ended up with a lot of roller lines in the first coat, which didn't look good at all. After a second coat, rolling in the opposite direction, and a second coat with two people rolling the stain, we had a finished floor. It ended up darker than expected, not quite as "semi-transparent" as we expected, but we like the finished product despite that. What do you think?

We also painted the paneling to update the walls a little.  

The variations in the floor color are from the reaction of the stain with the components of the concrete. There are also concrete patches that took the stain differently. If we did it again, we would try applying the stain with rags to try and get a more even finish with the first coat, however you could also apply the stain with paint brushes. It is recommended that you apply a sealer top coat for high traffic areas and for some extra shine; we didn't use it as we liked it as is. 

What home improvement projects have you worked on lately? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hosting a Meaningful Bridal Shower

While there are some people who LOVE the bridal shower games and prizes, my best friend is not one of them. This past weekend I had the honor of throwing a bridal shower for my very artsy and coffee loving best friend. I searched and searched on pinterest for ideas that fit her and her soon to be hubbie. I was pretty excited how things ended up and thought I would share the ideas I came up with :-). (Thanks Pinterest for the help!)

Adel is a coffee lover... and that is an understatement. So I took the lovely idea from this blog. Check out how this project turned out for my coffee loving best friend:

The second project was writing out an actual recipe or a "recipe for a happy life together"... especially since Adel loves to cook, even if she doesn't follow the recipes exactly...

To go along with the cooking theme and also Adel and Josh's love for Africa I had Ruth, owner of Bound With Hope, make his and hers aprons with an Africa theme. Adel LOVES purple so when I found fabric that had a purple undertone to it with little Africas all over it I was super excited! For Josh, I chose a very African themed fabric. Ruth did an absolutely fantastic job... check them out:

Ruth also made her Painters Drop Wedding Date Pillows and Adel absolutely loved them:

When I was walking around Party City to try and found decorations an idea hit me (Adel HATES pink and all bridal shower decorations were pink). It isn't a new idea, but I know Adel. The last thing she wants is money wasted (she is after all the daughter of an accountant). While decorations can be fun, they aren't Adel. So instead of decorating a large amount and party favors that would most likely be thrown out, there was a donation made to I need Africa more than Africa needs me

And lastly, I had people write on a chalkboard created from a a canvas and chalkboard paint a message to Adel. Since Adel doesn't get married for a few more months, I can't post what the messages were (but I can assure you many of them were QUITE amusing). Adel is in the picture with each of her friends/family and on the night before her wedding she will get all these pictures to help calm the nerves and provide encouragement.

Since this is my 5th wedding party, I've had a little practice with this. My advice is to think about the bride and groom and what it is that fits them :-). In the end, it isn't about the money spent it is about the time spent together, the memories made, and the preparation and encouragement to enter into such an exciting (and nerve racking) life change! Congratulations, Adel! I can't wait to continue to celebrate with you over the next few months!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Fitness Challenge for Global Health

To all of Erica's friends, family, and followers:

Hi! My name is David Silbergeld. I have been close friends with Erica for many years now, and when I mentioned to her the details of a major upcoming event that I am participating in, she graciously offered to help out with fundraising by offering me the chance to write a guest blog on here (no beating around the bush, this post is in part about donations)! So, here's a little bit about me, about what exactly this event is, and about why I'm doing it, and hopefully a few of you out there may deem it worth donating a few dollars for the cause (literally every penny counts!)...

At the end of this month I will be participating in a cross-country bicycle trip, from San Diego to Washington, D.C., as part of a cycling team of medical students and other medical professionals raising funds for global health, sponsored by Ride for World Health, a 501(c)3 organization based in Columbus, OH.

About me: I am currently a fourth year MD/MPH student at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, before moving to New Jersey at the age of 16. I graduated from Georgetown University in 2007 with a BA in Chinese and a premedical concentration.  After college, I traveled to South Africa with the Peace Corps, where I was involved in a variety of projects – including children’s after-school programs, environmental NGOs, and crime prevention – but found a particular passion as a capacity builder with a home-based care organization, providing care for patients suffering from diseases ranging from hypertension and diabetes to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. My interest in world health continued through public health expeditions to Northern India and the Dominican Republic during medical school, and I plan to enter a residency in Family Medicine and to remain involved in global health throughout my career. I view the Ride for World Health as an opportunity to challenge myself physically and mentally, to form lasting relationships with medical students from around the country and, most importantly, to support an invaluable cause by asking interested people to sponsor my ride. I have never done a ride remotely like this, but have participated in nearly every team sport you can think of, and I enjoy the opportunity to push my limits doing crazy things like this.
Where the donations go: The organizations that will receive the funds raised through this year’s trip are “HEAL Africa,” “Empower and Advance,” and “PODEMOS.” HEAL Africa, founded over a decade ago by Congolese surgeon Jo Lusi and his wife Lyn, sponsors a full-service training hospital in Goma, Congo and community-based initiatives in public health, community development, and conflict resolution.  It helps to support a Congolese staff of 28 doctors, 54 nurses, 340+ community development educators, a small administrative team, and hundreds of Congolese volunteers. Our donation will go primarily towards women’s health including safe childbirth, fistula repair, and HIV and contraception education. Empower and Advance is an organization dedicated to empowering members of vulnerable communities. Their current project is an innovative curriculum to train secondary school graduates in Haiti to become Emergency Community Healthcare Workers. The Partnership for Ongoing Developmental, Educational, and Medical Outreach Solutions (PODEMOS) is a student-founded organization with the goal of developing international sites for outreach and clinical care where medical and health profession students can be involved in caring for and learning from patients from marginalized populations. PODEMOS initially identified three underserved communities in Honduras  with which to build sustainable partnerships and is working to develop medical-cultural exchanges in these sites.
If you would like to support my ride and these projects through a contribution, please visit where you will also find more information about the project and our itinerary.

Thank you all! And a huge thank you to Erica for her support!!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

I Propose a Challenge!

Yesterday at work, I had a confrontation with a coworker.  He gets stressed easily and I get stressed easily.  In this part of my journey, I am trying to focus the next 6 weeks on my reactions.  I am working on being calm for those who are around me that seemingly "spaz-out".  I hope that I can learn to diffuse some of the stress through not making situations any bigger than they are.

So in this confrontation, I realized several inconsiderate notions that I was allowing to occur.  I was selfishly seeing that the tasks on hand should revolve around me where as I should have been considerate an asked when it could be fit into his heap of work.  I was too busy in my own little world to see that.  I also didn't realize that my coworker had not eaten anything.  He was what I call hangry (anger caused by hunger) and being that he too is a diabetic he definitely needed to eat something and make it a priority.

I am sure that you all have seen this article gliding around cyber space about how this husband is going to get a divorce.  Immediately you think--what??  Not the d-word!  But this divorce is a positive one!  huh?  Just read:

Texting and email can be used for good, yet it has it's drawbacks too.  How many of you are chained to your email?  Or your phone in general?  How many times do you feel the need to check the weather, check your Facebook, tweets...etc?  How many of you feel that you can text better than you can talk? Sometimes texting might be easier, but nothing is a replacement for a face to face conversation.  We all do it.  Technology can trick us into believing we need it for survival and that we need everything done right now...Good Knight!  How did we ever do it before smart phones!  No wonder no one has patience...

Texting has killed the art of conversation making.  It's awkward to pick up the phone and tell someone they are on the way...why not text, you say?  I will tell you why!  I want to tell that person and put some excitement into it, or not!  I want them to feel that they are important--too important for just a simple text.  Texting and email has eliminated the emotion and left interpretation wide open.  So you know if you weren't insecure enough or you already didn't like face to face interaction...whew! (wipe the sweat off of your forehead) Your covered!

Eliminating emotion from the deal doesn't really help anything, it just makes it a little easier for someone to be a coward.  Break-ups via text?  Yes. That happens more times than you think!  Individuals getting fired via email?  You better believe it!  Whatever happened to just doing it face to face?
Today, I will not be chained to texts....will I survive?? (GASP!)

Technology in general has made our lives easier and efficient in a lot of ways.  It has also made it easier to make excuses.  It IS easier to accommodate a short text rather than engaging in a long conversion.  But that is because our lives are so busy that we almost skim over the fact we thrive and need the human touch!  It also makes us more selfish.  Our time is our time and yet everyone expects everything to be done right now.  If we want to ignore someone's text or email, we can.

Can you ever imagine a doctor texting you the news, "You have cancer.  Here is opt a and b..."?  Or a nurse texting you the oh so comforting words, "it's gunna b OK" ?  No!  Because they know interaction with the patient are necessary no matter how hard it is.  There is a level of compassion there when they speak to a family about real life situations and scenarios.  They know it is a tough position, but I am pretty sure that they know that is apart of their job.  They have to confront situations head on and speak to the individuals involved no matter how ugly it can be.  That is hard business, but they do it!

Even though my confrontation yesterday was hardly enjoyable and it made me a slight afternoon grump, it was needed.  I needed to literally see my coworker's stress (and feel it too!) to know that his stress is real.  He is a little rough around the edges and we can joke about it now.  This morning we even hugged it out!  But he needed that interaction as much as I did.  We made light of the words spoken and left it in the past.  We just simply bonded.

Today I want to propose a challenge to you.  One day this next week, divorce your technology (which ever it may be) and go out in your community and bond with your fellow humans!  Leave your phone and iPad in the car and just go get a coffee with friends.  Discover one place new to eat just by driving around--not looking it up on your phone.  Go on one technology free date.  Just one.  Who knows!  You might actually enjoy a text free dinner!

I challenge you to look at the way technology has masked the very need of face to face interaction.  You might find, like I did,  it's nice to just hang out care free and not being chained to a piece of metal.  It was nice simply talking to friends without considering what fire I was going to have to put out next.  It was liberating actually....almost a little piece of paradise!

Now entering the text free zone...
Catie Manning

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dear teenage self, beauty really DOES come from ashes-Eating Disorder Awareness

This post is a letter to my high school self when I was struggling with exercise anorexia severely. I talk about God in here because He is the strength that has brought me to where I am. Whether you are a Christian or not, I hope that if you struggle with this you can relate to the fact that we all believe lies about what will make us happy, and for those of us that have believed that controlling our food and exercise (or lack of controlling them) will bring us fulfillment and happiness are dead wrong. I truly hope that if this is a struggle you currently have, you will have the strength to stare it straight in the face and tell it that it will not control you anymore.

Dear teenage self,

The teenage years are hard. They start in middle school... and those 2 words alone send shivers down 99.9% of adults' spines, because those are the most awkward and hard years of your life. They are full of body changes, friend changes, life changes, activity changes, and a lot of mean comments. Even when you are 27 almost 28 years old you will remember the mean comments. Let's get real for a minute, the mean comments that you remember most are the mean comments you made yourself. While for the most part you are a gentle nice person, there are a few times you let your mouth run away from you. But let me be honest, this is something you will still be learning to control even when you are 27. The mean comments you remember from other people, thankfully have helped you learn to be a better person.

But what I want to talk to you about in this letter, my teenage self, is when you were 17. At 17 I remember life revolved around cheerleading, tennis, being social, figuring out what college you were going to go to, how you were going to be a nurse, and control. Control over the activity you were doing and the little food you were eating. Life looked really good on the outside... in fact despite the hard break up you had had and the fact that your best friend wasn't talking to you... despite the fact that things in so many areas of your life were falling apart... you made it look like you had it ALL together on the outside. The scary thing though was this, that you were allowing the "you look so good you've lost so much weight" comments feed your unhealthy habit. You have all the lies down of "I ate before I came" "I'm not really hungry" "I haven't felt well...". You eat a bagel in the morning and go to both cheerleading and tennis practice and don't eat anything else except maybe a banana the rest of the day.

Your senior pictures were bad, you were a size 0 for the first time since middle school, but it was a few weeks later when your cheerleading pictures for the year were taken that are the worst of all the pictures you have from this time. This picture is still up in your parents house and at the age of 27 almost 28 you will cringe. You will look at it and see how thin and straggly your hair is because of the lack of eating. Your arms look like sticks and your eyes are sunken in. Oh teenage self, your outside look does not define you.

It was shortly after this picture was taken that you look down in the drain to see all the hair falling out and you realize, you finally realize that this type of control isn't helping all the other chaos and hurt in your life. In fact, this type of control is hurting you far more and will continue to hurt you for years to come. But in this one moment you make the decision. You make the decision to eat and to control the amount of exercise you do. And let me tell you something amazing, there truly is beauty that comes from these ashes and you will recover from all the pain you are feeling right now.

Undereating and overexercising is something you will still struggle with in your late 20s. But you will continue to choose to make a conscious effort to not do things that will put you in danger of this happening. And you wanna know the crazy thing? You do become a nurse, but it isn't your first or even your second degree, it is your THIRD. Because before going to school to become a nurse God will take your ashes and help you get degrees in both exercise and nutrition so that you have the tools to help people who are struggling the way you once did.

High school self, you are going to learn that your worth and beauty are not found in your looks or in your control or in what you can or can't do, but your worth is found in your Heavenly Father. So high school self, I'm SO proud of you for looking this struggle in the face and choosing to change because it was in that one decision that God was able to make a beautiful and incredible story and career path.

Sincerely and with love,

Your older self

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