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I don’t know if it’s because I have a natural ability to look on the bright side to begin with or if I’m just blessed with a quick turn around time on moods like Saturdays, but they never really last long.

This weekend was filled with some great times.

A four-hour long dinner date with our favorite local couple.  You know the kind, where the conversations last forever and just flow seamlessly until you’ve lost track of the time completely.

Coming home at almost 1 a.m. to sit down and start reading the new books I picked up that day.

Brunch with friends.

A lazy afternoon of napping and more reading.

And then a very lovely and swoon worth first run-through of my favorite regency period love story that will be my first show of the season.

And back home for dinner and more reading!

I had many reminders that countered everything else.  Knowledge that we will travel someday and that it’s okay that we haven’t yet.  That even without ivy-league degrees we are well spoken, intelligent people who have achieved quite a lot in the less than four years of being out of school.  In fact today I feel rather proud that what others have achieved with the help of famous connections and well-known programs I have achieved just through determination and hard work.  That most of those things that I want are attainable, and that there is a reason to why I can’t have everything right now.

The comments from everyone were a great boon as well; it is really nice to know that we all have those times.

Do you ever have those days were everything seems to want to remind you of what you don’t have or haven’t achieved?  I’ve had a couple of those days this week.

It’s just one of those weeks when everyone seems to own a home while I’m still renting relatively cheap apartments.

Or starting families when we’re still waiting.

Or traveling when I can’t get out of the valley.

Or just doing things that I just can’t.

During times like these I get stuck in the past a lot thinking I didn’t work hard enough in high school, didn’t try to go to a prestigious college, etc., etc., etc. and fuss over things that I can’t change and can only see now with 20/20 hindsight vision.

It’ll pass, but I hate having these moments.

I know that one day  I’ll have the home, the family, the job.  I’ll have traveled and written and made things to my hearts content.  I’ll have a small handful of things that will make someone else go “I wish I had done that” and that will be enough.

My search for a little color in the winter.

Also a little reminder of Man vs. Nature

*My money is on Nature*

If I was a superhero (and we all know how much I wish this was true) my arch-nemesis would wear the reds and creams of the Dr. Pepper can.   As it stands now, my arch-nemesis is simply… the Dr. Pepper Can.

I consider myself to be a person of relatively few vices… at least when it comes to what goes into my body.  I’m not an ultra-vegan health nut, but I still manage to have a better diet than the majority of the people in this country and I’m constantly trying to improve that.  However I falter at soda.  I love soda; have ever since I was a kid and I wish I didn’t.

I kicked the habit once, for the better part of my senior year of high school and lost about 10 lbs just by that; so I know I can do this.

So here’s the plan:

From January 1st through January 11th I’ve gone 4/11 days without a soda.  I currently have two days designated specifically as “no-soda” days and then am trying to fit as many other days as I can.  My goal is to have at least 200/356 days of this year be soda free.  I can have soda on 156 days or 3 soda days a week at most.  It might seem like a lot but for someone who likes to pick up a DP on her way to work everyday (6 days a week) it will be a challenge.

Though I’d love to see myself completely rid of the vile beverage my more attainable goal is I can make it so I drink no more than once a week at most.

Anyone have any suggestions for achieving this goal?

We wish you a Merry Christmas.

I hope you’ll Let your heart be light; from now on, our troubles will be out of sight.  If you know that if  Over the fields we go, laughing all the way, I hope you’ll Please have snow and mistletoe, Just like the ones I used to know.

When the night is over, I hope you’ll settle in thinking Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy cozy are we and that you’ll Sleep in heavenly peace knowing that Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

I hope you’ll dream that He appear’d and the soul felt its worth and of bells saying Ding dong! verily the sky is riv’n with angel singing.  That you will say Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation and they will be Singing sweetly through the night.

I hope you’ll wake with a feeling of Peace on earth and mercy mild and a desire to No more let sins and sorrows grow. And that you might seem to hear Words of good cheer From ev’rywhere Filling the air.

Love and Joy Come to You and

Although its been said many times, many ways,

Merry Christmas to You.


(We Wish You A Merry Christmas,  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Jingle Bells, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Silent Night, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, O Holy Night, Ding Dong! Merrily on High, O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard High, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World , Carol of Bells, Here we Come A-Wassailing, The Christmas Song)

Picked up my C.S. Lewis collection last night (finally).

Started with “The Screwtape Letters” last night, which are the (fictional of course) letters sent by an uncle, a “senior” demon, giving advice to his nephew – also a demon – on procuring a mans soul away from “the Enemy”,and am already about half way through.

“Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.  Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity he is ours – and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours.  I could show you pretty cageful down here…”

I could expand on why this particular passage struck me as special at this point and time, but just go turn on the news, go to any dot com news site and see what “meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades” are taking up the majority of our time and I’ll show you a good number of people who aren’t focusing on the later part of that statement.

Screwtape would be proud.

My across the walk neighbors are nice people. They have parties ever week, but they’ve never gotten out of control and always wrap up by 1 a.m., which is acceptable in my book. They are always courteous and we make little conversation when we see each other. They’re always inviting us to come over when they have these little parties, but we never do.

Part of it is because, well neither Ben or I have much interest in the college-type party scene anymore. You know the freeze your bollocks off standing outside while swigging cheap beer kind while playing loud music, etc. kind of thing.

The walls of our apartment are pretty thin so when they are all outside I can hear everything that is said. Last night it was this gem…

“Yeah, this my fiance…. (mumble, mumble)…. yeah, she’s celebrating…. she got divorced today and is burning her old marriage certificate….”

I’m not going to get on my soapbox here about everything I find horrible about what I over heard… much. I’m not against divorce. Sometimes its necessary; as not everyone gets married for the right reason, with maturity and consideration. Sometimes one of the people, or both just end up being horrible. There a numerous reasons.

It’s not divorce I’m against, but a willy-nilly lack of respect for marriage.

When Ben got home they of course asked us to come over and he declined and I launched into a longer version of my soapbox with him and then stopped and apologized.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m really not becoming some kind of self-righteous prude but…”

He interrupted, “But we’re people who respect marriage and what it stands for. I got ya’.”

He smiled and continued to eat his dinner and I knew he understood what I meant and I knew that he’s taking this seriously too.

I’m not a gushy, mushy romantic type person; in fact I’m very anti-mushiness. However, that moment to me was better than a hundred bouquets of flowers and stupid stuffed animals because “he gets it”.

All of this, everything I had and taken the opportunity to do this year, has a meaning. Somewhere in the inner workings of it all I believe is something I was meant to learn this year. Without any complex analysis or fancy metaphors I believe that it was my sign that it was time to grow up.

I will admit that for the last couple years my life has been about me, whats made me happy, encouraged my career, given me opportunities. Me, Me, Me. I don’t think this odd, I don’t know anyone that hasn’t gone through a “selfish period”, a time when you need to do things for yourself, usually so you don’t end up with a long “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” list and I think that’s okay as long as it doesn’t last forever. I knew that at some point I’d have to grow out of it and I feel like I’m on that path. Over this last year as life has changed and thrown me a few curveballs. It has also settled down with the advent of new jobs, new locations, and a new rhythm and the more it settles into something wonderfully comfortable the more I see what I want for myself changing. I want a little more of this, but little less of that. I have whole list of things that I ready now to do and to welcome into my life that I just would not have been ready for a few years ago and I think this year is preparing me for that.

It got called to my attention a rather harsh way, by someone who for lack of a better phrase should have handled it better, that there were those, despite my attempts who weren’t seeing me the way I wanted to. I still don’t know if this because of how I actually was or just how they were choosing to perceive me, but I decided that from then on I would never give them a real reason to say such things again. If those same issues ever get brought up again, if my integrity or abilities as a daughter, niece, granddaughter or friend ever get called into question again I will have the evidence to disprove them on the spot. I will be able to say that, even if that’s what you choose to think of me I know, without a doubt, that it is not true.

I also have a list of what I always wanted to be, not career wise or achievement wise (though I have those lists too), but as person. I strayed from that list for awhile, trying on other peoples lives or persona’s. As shallow as it sounds, I was just trying to fit in. I need some time in a new environment to realize who I wanted to be and that it was okay to be that, even if it wasn’t that exciting on the surface. A good life filled with love and integrity trumps an exciting life that is devoid of any of that. Now I’d rather be a good person than an exciting person any day.

I needed to learn to put others before myself more, even down to the littlest things like taking out the trash when I really would rather not. Practice a little bit more of what I preach and set a better example. To have a thicker skin. To live life for myself, but in a better way; to live a better life because those around me are well and taken care of.

When I read more about the virtue of Charity it all came into focus. Charity is not just giving to others, but instead is a balance of love and respect for others combined with a love and respect for yourself.

I think I’ve learned my lesson and am ready to start on that list.

Elizabeth over at “That Married Couple” convinced me that I needed to share this post that’s been swimming in my head all weekend.

She writes about times in your life where you just have to “take the hint” that God’s trying to tell you something about your life. For her it’s been humility, for me it’s been charity.

About half way through this year I started to call this my “Year of Charity”, not because I had set a New Year’s resolution to do more good works or not even that it had been a conscious decision. I just suddenly found myself doing more for other. In a list form it might not seem like a lot, and no I haven’t built houses or donated gobs of money to my favorite organization. That wasn’t what this year was about. I’ve always been the type of person to give my spare change to the Salvation Army Ringers and chip in when needed. But something was telling me that this just wasn’t enough; I was on a path to discover a more personal side of charity this year and didn’t know it.

I’ll start by telling the things I’ve done, I hope this doesn’t come off as me assuming I’ve “bragging rights” or anything. Some of it I’ve talked about before and some of it I haven’t, this is just simply my year.

The LDS Boys

Being friendly and hospitable. I know, you’re probably thinking that this isn’t charity, but I beg to differ. A smile and a few nice words can make such a difference. Just this weekend I was stopped as I was walking to my complex by two young men, obviously LDS missionaries. They were lost and needed to find a particular street. I honestly did not know where the street was, but when I got inside I whipped up mapquest and found it. I couldn’t find them when I went back outside, but decided to keep an eye on the window. Sure enough about ten minutes later they were knocking on the doors in my building. I ran outside and told them I had looked up the street and where it was at. They were very thankful and sweet. They told me they were LDS missionaries and I replied, nicely, that I knew that and that I had quite a few LDS friends. They asked, of course, if they could share their messing and I said, no, I’ve had enough conversation with my friends and know what they want to tell me. We chatted for a few more minutes, I asked them where they were from and little things like that and then they went on their way. Even though I’ve been the one in the past to slam a door on a rather pushy missionary and I don’t agree with some of the tenants of their faith I try to remember that these are essentially kids. Kids with a strong belief in their faith, which is rare in this world no matter what they believe. Kids that have to spend two years with little contact with their usually very tightly knit families. Just because of those two things I respect them (as long as they aren’t too pushy) and remember that they deserve respect back. I wished them a Merry Christmas as they left and I couldn’t help but feel like that just being pleasant to them, helping them a little, made their day just a little better.

Craft Hope

The most basic acts of charity I have been involved in this year have been related to the website CraftHope, a group of crafters making items for a number of charities over this year. I’ve been able to participate in two out of the five projects (well two out of four as the first project was over after I discovered the site). I made 3 dolls and knit a blanket and hat that were sent off to needy children all over the world. Instead of just dropping off some money, I chose to spend my time and energy to do something for someone else; someone I will never know.

The Library and ASPIRE

Getting involved in the personal side of charity I believe has been my main lesson this year and that’s why I chose a few months ago to get involved in two other little projects. As I’ve mentioned before I just started to volunteer some hours at my local children’s library. Ironically I started just in time to be part of their annual “Giving Tree” project tomorrow in which they’ve been collecting hats and mittens for local children. We give the items tomorrow at a special story time with the Spanish speaking Head Start program. I’ve also become involved in the ASPIRE program; a program to pair up high school juniors and seniors with adult mentors to help them navigate the college application program. The students involved range from anyone just needing help reading an essay to a kid who will be the first of his/her family to attend college to those needing support in their decision because no one at home understands their desire for more education. My first kid was a young girl wanting to go into a theatre field, I got to share my experiences and opinions on how to get the most out of her education and just finished helping her narrow down her list of schools. My next student will touch on the other side of my educational experience – the financial side. I will be helping a girl who falls right where I did, not rich enough to actually afford college but not poor enough to receive most assistance.


The Fire

My second favorite moment of Charity this year I’ve shared with you already. It happened when one of the apartments in my complex caught on fire and little old lady and her cat suddenly found themselves without possessions. I was home that day and overheard my landlady mention they were going to give the woman the apartment next to mine to live in until they could renovate the other. The apartment was completely empty. Another girl and I had already mentioned get together some food for the woman, but I knew in a moment that we could do a little better. Within an two hours after the fire had been contained, before the woman even got home we had filled the woman’s kitchen with basic non-perishables, pots and pans, utensils, salt and pepper shakers. I had a mountain of extra stuff at my place that was getting ready to go to the Goodwill and she received most of it. Extra towels, sheets and blankets, I loaned her my airmatress, a bag of cat food and my extra litter box, some travel sized toiletres I had never used, some disposable razors, a pair of nail clippers. Even the woman from the Red Cross was a little surprised. With the help of a few of my apartment mates had given this woman a little comfort in her time of need. She met us later that day with tears in her eyes, it was a wonderful day.

The Care Package

They most important part of my year I don’t believe I’ve shared on this space and I apologize if the story is a little vague. To make a long story short around the end of March I received an email from my best friend; she’d had a rough year financially. She had work, but not enough of it was paying well. So she took an opportunity to earn some money, she was getting married at the end of the year and needed to save. Sadly to say someone took advantage of my friend and she suddenly found herself scammed out of a lot of money.

Imagine your current bank account, no matter how much is in there and now imagine what it would be like to wake up tomorrow and have it all, every last penny gone and you’ll understand what happened.

She wasn’t sure how to make it to the end of the month when her next job, a better paying job would start. I called, I consoled and I prayed and then I decided to take some action. My friend was not a spendthrift, she did not have tons of credit card bills she couldn’t pay. This had happened because she was trying to be responsible and I couldn’t just stand to the side.

I had already told her that I was going to send her a care package, but I decide that a little more “care” was necessary. So I got online, Facebook to be exact, and started sending out mass emails to everyone we knew in common, then to everyone one her friends list that I kind of knew or that had post a message on her account. It was a simple idea, if X amount of people sent Y amount of money she could cover her basic needs until the end of month. They would send me a sealed card with their donation and I would send it to her in my care package. The response was amazing old friends, teachers from college sent me a donation. The kids at our old college, many of whom still knew her but never met me, emailed me that they had set out a donation jar that day.

About two weeks later I sent out the care package. It had some bridal magazines, a coloring book and crayons, some snacks, a gift card and a stack a letters. I did not know how much was in those cards. She received the package a few days later while I was at work. She sent me a text message “got your package. Thank you so much!” I wrote back “Have you open the cards yet?” She replied “No, going to open them after work” So I waited and waited and by intermission there was a voice mail on my phone, it was my friend in tears thanking me for what we had done.

I don’t think I ever asked just how much was in those cards, or if I did I’ve forgotten, but I do know that along with the help of her family and roommate and others we were able to get her through the month and get her account out of the red.

———————–

There you have it, my year of charity. There are something here that I will gladly talk about and somethings that from now on will just remain between myself and the persons it affected, but I hope that maybe one of these stories might inspire someone else.

In I Corinthians 13, a passage usually translated about Love, is also translated to be talking about Charity so that when you read that famous last verse it is telling you that perfect Charity is made of three things “Faith, Hope and Love.” Perfect Charity is made and gives these three things.

Now I’m not saying I’m a model for perfect charity, probably far from it, but this year I can look back and even though I don’t make much money and I don’t seem to have a lot of time, I can look back on my actions this year and say that I have, either individually or all together, tried to give Faith, Hope and Love. I have tried to give Charity.

“Holding down the fort”, there’s a lot more to that little phrase than meets the eye. What does it really mean?

Is it keeping those around you warm, clothed and fed? Is it making sure the clothes get washed? Or that the dishes get done? Or that the bills payed?

It is all of these things. On the days when my fort is only whats contained in the four walls of my house than that’s pretty much it. If we’re fed, warm and have clothes on our back than I have succeeded.

However, more often than not the fort is so much bigger, encompassing not just Ben and I, but our families and our friends.

It is days like that when “holding down the fort” takes on a new meaning, a simpler one, but so much harder to attain. There are days when I can’t make sure that everyone is fed, or clothed or even treated fairly and on those days all I can offer is hope and that can be one of the hardest things to offer on a regular basis.

I could cook and clean and do all those little things forever, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. There is always someone around you who needs help in being reminded that there are still those who support them and love them; that tomorrow is another day and there is a reason to keep on fighting. That there is hope.

I might not agree with what they are doing or how they are going about it. I might be scared at how things might affect me in turn, but I have to remember that one of the biggest parts of “holding down the fort” is support and hope and in order to do that you’re required to put your opinions and worries to the side. So I say a prayer and remind myself that tomorrow is a new day.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” – MLK Jr.

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