It was a tearful goodbye, but I said it. That dream, the multiple degrees, the academic career? I don't want it anymore. A good-sized part of me never really wanted it. Once I finally recognized that and believed it, I felt a wonderful sense of peace and calm, so different from the uncertainty that plagued me from August to December. One semester of graduate school made me realize that I want to teach.
So this new year is bringing changes with it. I am leaving my current program, taking a semester to work and save and read through my monstrous stack of books, and enrolling in a teacher certification/master's degree program in the summer.
Changes come, but they can be so good. This is one of my steps toward a joy-filled life.
We are approaching the new year, and with it comes those silly resolutions. I used to have such lists for myself: eat healthy, exercise daily, read the Bible in its entirety, read a book every week, learn to do something (crochet, knit, ski, and who knows what else), write a book (or two), make straight As in school, etc. Those are all things I'd still like to do, or at least improve upon, but I go through the same pattern every year: make goals, put them off for a week, succeed for a few days, then fail and scrap all of them.
A lot of instruction on achieving goals tells you to make them tangible, practical, and somewhat achievable, to outline them in a shape you can actually figure out. For me, however, this doesn't work. I have learned, over time, that I must set a goal that is an idea--to be healthy, or happy, or always moving forward--and then within moments, I figure out which course of action best suits that goal. Literal achievements tire me out, makes me panic when I do not achieve the exact goal I hoped for. But achieving some kind of state of being? That fills me up.
So as I approach this new year, my resolution is simple and yet one of the hardest things in the world to do: I want to be joyful. I want to live a joy-filled life and to share joy.
Exactly how I'll do that remains to be seen.
The mini bus roll poster is by K. Barteski, available here. One of these days I'll buy it.
I read this poem as one about wonder throughout the year. It is easy to marvel this time of year, when we fill our worlds with beauty, but hard at other times. Today will be filled with family and friends, a church service with a full orchestra and choir and beautiful songs, and plenty of happiness. I want to grab onto that happiness and turn it into joy that'll stay with me all year long.
Fifteen years after I had to memorize the second chapter of Luke at school, I still remember these words from verse nineteen: "But Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart." I want to do the same with these holiday moments--treasure them and ponder them within, and hold that joy and wonder all year long.
Have a wonderful holiday, and practice keeping the joy of this season in your heart, always.
Cabbage Roses at the Shedd Aquarium, visited last week with my mom and sister on our way back from Milwaukee. It was cold and damp and those flowers were a surprising bit of pastel and softness in the surrounding gray.
It's been a crazy two weeks and next week is pretty packed, too. My mom and I are off to Wisconsin to bring my little sister home from her first semester of college. I'll be back with a post on Thursday...maybe.
Where did that come from? Our Christmas decorations are somewhere...in storage, I think. I'll have to make a few. This paper snowflake panel DIY from Free People looks like something I'll take on after I finish finals. We have some nice big windows and the light would be gorgeous shining through the patterns.
I got a misleading email earlier this week from the alumni group at my university. This tells you something about me: when I see the words "Holiday Cards," I think of paper goods, not a holiday event involving a sports team. I was a bit disappointed in opening the email.
But it did remind me that it's about time to plot out my Christmas cards, and I'd love to have you join in. I'll be sending handmade postcards this year, inspired by these pretty things I've found and gathered here. Would you like one? Just fill out this little survey and I'll add you to my list.
A friend just sent me the link to the New York Times list of 100 Notable books of 2011. I have yet to read any. This will change over the break. How many books can I cram in between December 13 and January 9? I'm about to become a regular at the library and finally pay the fines on those overdue books from the summer.
I read this book about a month ago. I didn't have time for it, really, but I made it, and I am glad I did. Ann Voskamp was dared by a friend to count one thousand gifts. She did, and found well beyond one thousand gifts. She found a deeper faith, a fuller life, even when it was not easier--especially when it was not easier. Voskamp is part poet, part mystic, part theologian, and fills her pages with imagery that will call to mind the Romantics and Transcendentalists and syntax that throws your attention around, grabbing you, engaging you, making you read twice to get just what that line is saying.
Starting today, I'm going to keep a gratitude journal, my own list, hopefully to one thousand, hopefully beyond. And I'm going to try to take photos of the little things, the tiny things, because it is so easy to forget how much they matter--the sky in all its wonder, the dappling sunlight when you're up early, a quiet dinner at home, even something as simple as a clean, clear glass of water. These things are worth remembering, worth appreciating, worth our gratitude.
One Thousand Gifts was a gift for my birthday in September, and I am so glad it was given to me--I never would've picked it up for myself, as I don't really pick up books from Christian publishers anymore (I burned out on them years ago). This one surprised me. I should add that if it's not your faith, you may not feel quite the same way about it. Still, Voskamp's poetic prose might get you anyway...
Generally, when I first mention this, I get jaws-dropped owl-eyed stares of disbelief. You don't like WHAT?! Occasionally, this is followed by "You need to try my grandmother's/mom's/friend's/that restaurant's pumpkin pie and you will definitely change your mind." But I have tried the other pies, and I have not changed my mind. It's a texture-taste combination that I just can't seem to like. But aside from pumpkin pie, I do like (and occasionally love) anything and everything pumpkin-flavored: pumpkin spice coffee, chai tea, pumpkin rolls, seeds, bread, muffins, and candies...and now I have discovered this: pumpkin cheesecake trifles.
Repeat from ten am to six pm with one break to make coffee, one to warm up lunch in the microwave, and one to make a cup of peppermint tea, accompanied by occasional texts to an old friend who is an undergraduate English major and deserves to know just how fun it is to write graduate seminar papers on topics you only sort of care about.
It took me almost all day on Saturday to write six of the ten pages of my first draft that are due on Tuesday (the final draft will be twenty-something pages). They're not stellar, but they'll do for now. Guys, this does not bode well for my future as a grad student. I have apparently lost the ability to crank out decently-researched, adequately composed papers at a moderate pace. Hopefully I'll pick it back up soon.
Sometimes, while I sleep, my memories and my dreams mix up together and take me to the few faraway places I've been, only in the present or the near future instead of in the past. I usually wake up with a distinct sense of wanderlust and memory. Almost every time, I've travelled to Poland again.
That's a part of my story you don't know. It was just two weeks of one summer, my teenage years, and it was one of those experiences that shaped the person I've become--not just because of the travel, the expanding world, but because of something that happened in my heart, something still rather ineffable because I'm not sure what it was. It could have happened anywhere, I suppose, but it happened there.
It's part of the story that I want to write, that I need to write, but have yet to form. Yes, it's been around that long--six and a half years now. I wonder how long it'll be until the words reach the page? My friends from high school would laugh to hear me talk about Poland again. I guess some experiences just never leave your heart, even if you're not sure how they got there.
My photos from the trip don't look like this one, but my memories do.
I was going to write last night, but I have a theory-heavy class on Monday nights and it sometimes renders me unable to do anything intelligent whatsoever because my brain is spinning inside my head. This line resonated with me today because sometimes I sit in classrooms thinking about how we talk about so much but how much do we ever do? We talk constantly in one of my classes about social problems as embodied in the texts we're reading, the way this narrative reveals this truth, that narrative talks about that one, this author (if we even accept authorial intent as relevant to meaning), but do we ever actually do anything about it? Do we ever do anything to right the wrongs that we see recorded over and over again in literature?
Sometimes the academy gets a little too far from the experience of daily living, I think. Maybe it's different outside the humanities. Days like today, I want to skip class to go do something with a directly visible purpose, to go matter to someone in some small way, to take this indignation with the historical injustices we're reading about and use it to help someone else in the here and now. Ultimately, we cannot change the past, but we can make the present a little better and maybe help another person with the future.
*Yes, that Friedrich Engels. No, I'm not a Marxist, socialist, communist, or anything like it. I debated using the quote because of all the connotations of its author. Interestingly, it's occasionally attributed to Emerson. I don't really know what to make of that. Also, I'm usually one to overthink things, but I guess I do sometimes reach my limit.
Some days, the sky feels so close you could almost grab it by the fistful. There's a line of cloud above the trees, a space of blue, like the stretch of the sheet visible between the pillows along the earth and the blanket of even more cloud in the sky, gray-blue and so textured you feel like you should be able to reach up and grab it and pull it around you. Even from the roadside, rain dotting the windshield and the photo you're trying to take, trying impossibly to capture this so you can look it again, sky like this makes you feel the same as resting your back against a tree, barefoot toes in the grass, physically feeling the natural world.
Some days, even cold, wet, windy ones, the world can be astonishingly beautiful.
One of the papers I'm writing this term deals with homes, with spaces that we inhabit--our bodies, buildings, and our stories. I think everyone desires a safe space to live, physical and otherwise, a safe space in which our full selves can fully be.
I think that the physical spaces we create to occupy should be a reflection of the self, a space that moves us to be comfortable but also to dream of expanding that zone of comfort. For me, this is a room full of books and a great big window and a soft landing place--sofa, bed, or even a pile of pillows on the floor. Whenever my husband and I look at places to live, I analyze each room's potential to become a mini library, a little space that's in my world but opens me up to a million others.
What kind of space do you love? What space makes you feel comfortable, safe, and happy?
I've learned from experience that the blogosphere is an excellent source of advice, so I'm asking for some.
Since sometime during my freshman year of college, about four years ago, I've had continually-worsening lactose intolerance. Milk was the first to go, then ice cream, then regular cream in my morning coffee, then most cheeses, and now I can't even eat a few ounces of a low-lactose content cheese without feeling icky the next day. This is a bit of a problem, because almost every recipe I make regularly involves some kind of cheese. I'm running short on ideas now!
That, dear blog friends, is where you come in: I need to build up a new repertoire of dairy-free recipes. I'm pinning some here, but I'm picky. It has to be easy, not use too many dishes and pans to make, and satisfy two rather large appetites.
Do you have any favorite recipes that don't involve dairy products? Or know any websites with good vegan meals? Or have any particular favorite dairy substitutes? Any ideas would be great!
The list of books I want to read after the semester ends grows almost daily. I actually picked up a book this week and read it, even though I really should have been working on an annotated bibliography.
I probably can't afford to do that much more, but if I again read a book as a procrastinating tool, it'd be one of these three...
After hearing an interview with the author on NPR a few weeks ago and then reading Brandi's recommendation, I'm convinced I'd love The Night Circus. I tried to get my hands on this one at the library earlier this week when I had two hours between classes and forgot to bring homework for the next day with me, but apparently it's good enough that it's checked out of the university library and the four public library locations that have it.
I pretty much missed all the hype for Everything is Illuminated, but then, I rarely read anything that's popular while it's popular. I'm just frequently behind the times like that. My sister got me a copy of this and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for my birthday, so I'll be taking them both on over Christmas break.
I've read mixed reviews of The Marriage Plot, particularly from readers who loved Middlesex (which I thought was brilliant) and The Virgin Suicides (which I haven't read). It seems it's good, but not as good as his previous work. But then, how do you follow up a Pulitzer Prize?
So, what are you reading? And what would you like to read?
Dreams, big, small, adventurous, or simple, can be a food for the soul. They push us forward into the next day and the next and every one after that, giving us the impetus to expand our lives and grow. Most people probably have some sort of mental list of things they'd like to do before they die, things that may seem in the future but get closer every day...yet get lost in the every day.
Earlier this year, Candy Chang, a cofounder of Civic Center and TED fellow among numerous other accomplishments, launched Before I Die, a project that transformed the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans into a giant space to articulate and share dreams. It's a giant chalkboard, with spaces for people to fill in their hopes and dreams. Some of them are inspiring, others a little heart-breaking, and a few are even kind of funny.
Since the initial project, Before I Die has been recreated in at least nine other cities, using the Toolkit from Civic Center, and people continue sharing their dreams. What would you write? You can share your dream here.
All images are borrowed from here, available for use for publicizing the project. Oh, and yes, I found this on StumbleUpon. I'm sure I'm not the first person to blog about this project, but I really, really love it.
Guys, I just discovered StumbleUpon. I know, I'm like a billion years behind the rest of the web. I mean, I've seen it before, sure, I just never tried it. But yesterday, Tina, author of English Muse posted about it and I clicked on over. Now I'm hooked. I've got a whole bunch of things I'll be sharing with you soon.
So far, this is on the list of the coolest things I've found.
It was posted by him and made by them and it's a little bit awesome.
If you're on StumbleUpon, I'm liltoiloflove. If not, you should join, unless you have things that you really should be doing, like schoolwork or real work, because the internet is a very easy place to get distracted in.
...discovering that if you click the "history" category on Pinterest, it's basically a collection of nineties memories (with a healthy dose of eighties nostalgia, but I'm a bit young for most of it). It's too bad that I'm too old for Book It!, because I got a lot of pizza as a kid, especially during my chapter-book-a-day phase...
...and I am grateful for (and really enjoying) apple pie for breakfast. It's a tiny indulgence and a tiny slice, but oh so tasty with hot coffee to accompany it.
But even more than these little things, I have something a bit bigger to be grateful for: my grandfather took his first steps with a prosthesis yesterday, and he will be bringing it home and start learning to walk again next week! This is the biggest move towards finally being independent since the accident he was in over two years ago (which I briefly wrote about this summer).
So what is making you smile today? What are you grateful for?
The colors weren't the same this morning. The sky was clear, the blue less mixed, the pinks and golds a little more hidden. I'd lament not taking my camera out yesterday, but I realize that even if I'd come back in, grabbed my camera, and gone out to try to capture the beauty of the sunrise with a few more megapixels, I may not have caught it. That's the thing about nature--it's transient, always shifting and changing and moving into whatever's next.
So I'm happy with what I caught today: a hint of color at the horizon, and the roses before the dew had time to dry.
More details about this poem and about Dickinson's work in general can be found here.
Guys, I'm not a morning person, not in the slightest. We've had to wake by seven every morning for over a week and my body is not too keen on being disturbed an hour to two hours earlier than usual.
But I've got a new thought for myself: stop bemoaning the mornings you get up early, tired, stiff, and make your way to the window or outside to catch the sun's first foray above the tree line.
Autumnal sunrises are exceptionally beautiful. And it's not just the sun that's lovely--it's the entire sky, cast in ephemeral golden-pink amidst its usual blues and grays.
I used to know the beauty you find when you wake early, three years ago, in the semester that I had eight o'clock classes every day and woke at four-thirty for work every Saturday. Since the summer, though, in luxuriating in my later-starting mornings, I've missed a lot of sunrises. I don't know if catching a few more will motivate me to get out of my warm bed as winter makes its slow approach and the dawn air has a distinct frosty bite, but at least I know something lovely awaits me on those mornings that the alarm sounds all too soon.
Tomorrow I might walk to the end of the cul-de-sac, my little point-and-shoot instead of my cell phone in hand, and capture a few more moments of the day's beginning, this time without houses in them...have a lovely morning, and keep looking for beauty.
Lately, I've been practicing gratitude more consciously. I'll tell you more about it next week. Today, I'm going to share three things that I am grateful for, rather than three things I'd love to have.
Yet I want to tell a story, and I am looking for one. I hope it will be my own and that my own will be worth telling, but I'm not really sure yet.
In one of my courses, we talked about the nature of the novel, what really happens, what's important, and some theorists who posited that the digressions are actual the substance of the novel. It's not the ending, necessarily, but the getting there. That seems the kind of story I want to tell, one where the end goal is really a final digression, and all the little extra diversions along the way are where the substance is found. It also seems the kind of story I want my life to tell.
Have you heard any good tales lately? Do you have one to tell?
Most photos from the Victorian era are formal, with stoic expressions that look as if one is trying to contain all emotion, whether positive or negative, behind a tensed face. The reasons given are various: photos were an expensive and formal event, photos were taken postmortem, people were unhappy, it took so long for the image to be captured that maintaining a smile was difficult and painful...you get the idea. Basically, smiling was unacceptable and difficult*. That's quite a blanket statement to lay across an entire era, and apparently it's not entirely true.
Enter The Smiling Victorian. An old friend of mine share a link that led me to this group on Flickr that collects Edwardian and Victorian photographs with smiling subjects. Even a slight smile will do, so long as one does not look entirely drab.
I especially love the number of images I found of sisters together, smiling of course, apparently happy to be with each other. Most of the writing from the Victorian and Edwardian eras that I've encountered is something much less than happy, so I am happy to come across something that shows that at least a few people--women in particular, if you go through the set--were smiling, at least long enough for a photo, and that really is something.
*Of course, most people know and acknowledge that this isn't completely true, but it's an idea that pops up quite frequently.
Perhaps you'll be as intrigued by this one and that one as I am. There must be a story involved, but do you think we'll ever be able to know it? Maybe I'll invent it. I've been looking for a good story to write.
Lately, I've been in the mood for Over the Rhine. Maybe it's because my husband has been in Cincinnati all week for work, or maybe because so much of the Drunkard's Prayer album complements changing seasons so well, but I keep putting the CD on in when I'm in the car. This print, by lovesugar, was inspired by one of my favorite songs from that album (and I love every song on that album). I'd love to hang it somewhere in the house we don't yet have, surrounded by black and white pictures of us and the people we love. Doesn't that sound perfect?
While walking out of the grocery store last night, I spotted an ad on the ground in the parking lot. It had some surprisingly good words, so I took them and stuck them on a picture.
I didn't read the rest because I didn't want to know what it was for--it had one of those fill-out-and-reply forms on it, and I feared it would be for something concrete and definitely mundane. I also wonder if maybe someone else would see it and grab onto that thought for a moment.
At this moment, I'm not sure what dreams I want to reach for. A few of them are vying for my reach, but I'm actually pretty content with the moment I'm living in, between specific dreams while still always reaching for an intangible, ineffable dream of the way my life will be, regardless of its details. This simple contentment with the present is something I should always dream of and reach for.
That's my photo but I don't remember taking it. I found it between other photos planned for something two years ago. I believe it was a happy accident. I know finding it amongst the few pictures still on my laptop was.
It's all about the blue. Occasionally I have little deviations to yellow or green, but I always come back to blue. I blame my mother and the blues that have always filled my family's home--cobalt glasses, a blue and ivory kitchen, and a collection of blue-splattered stoneware.
Last time I wrote about the color blue and my little love for it (and aqua hues, too), I got some really cool comments. I especially liked the thought Kim shared: blue is a reliable and trustworthy color. It's friendly, it's comfortable, and it's calm. I've recently discovered a love for navy that has finally returned four years after I work an unflattering box-pleated navy skirt with a polo for the last time. Navy has everything I love about blues in general, but adds a little bit more class.
I think I need a blue dress...no, actually, I think I need another blue dress, a pair of navy tights, and the right short of shoes (but I don't know what that would be. Thoughts?).
Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy your weekend! My husband is getting home tomorrow night and we're spending the weekend house/dog sitting for my parents...and studying. I have fall break on Monday and Tuesday and Cory is heading out of town for job training, so you might actually hear from me.