A Thankful Holiday Season

Every year, I love the holidays. I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s, and not just the days themselves, but the days in between, where there is just this sense in the air of hope and anticipation and joy and truly “the most wonderful time of the year.” Christmastime, of course, is my favorite.

I hope this Christmas will be seasons better than this Thanksgiving turned out to be.

No, no details. Suffice it to say that my Thanksgiving ended on a very emotional note that left me saying, and at least partly meaning, “I hate the holidays.”

No. It isn’t true. Thankfully, because Christmas will surely sneak up on me, as it does every year now. I probably won’t be ready, but I guess all that matters is spending time with the people I care about, and not so much being ready with gifts. Gifts can come later.

Thanksgiving left me feeling not at all thankful, but the truth is I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Let me count the ways…

  • That there is even a holiday season to celebrate
  • My relationship with Dylan, and our fur baby, Penny
  • My parents will be home
  • My job at Arte Público Press
  • Having stumbled upon the lovely Kimberly Wilson—my new lifestyle guru—and her beautiful website, podcast, and blog
  • Bella Grace magazine—and a special thank-you to my Nonnie for gifting me a subscription for Christmas!
  • Seven Deadly Sins anime, and SDS fan fiction, my new guilty pleasure (Dylan said I jumped into an entirely new level of “nerd” with that one, a level that neither he nor any of his friends—whom I would often collectively refer to as nerds—have never reached)
  • The freedom to be myself in that respect, and to admit it on my blog because it makes me happy and damn it I don’t care who knows

and many, many more. It would take too long to list everything.

But now, let’s revisit that last one for a moment, to kick off a list of hopes and dreams for the holidays and some for the New Year:

  • Maybe to be myself a little more, without caring so much about what other people think, including my parents—not disrespectfully, of course—(#sorrynotsorry)
  • Write more, including blog posts, my fan fiction story, and work more on other ideas I have
  • Read more, including one or two French books, or at least watch one or two French movies
  • Try not to over-schedule myself quite as much, but I anticipate a lot of trouble with this one
  • Be calmer and more present in the moment
  • Go through my clothes and clutter; possibly try to create more of a capsule wardrobe
  • Do more inexpensive things with Dylan, such as picnics or museum outings, movie nights in where we cook, etc.
  • Buy healthier options next time I’m at the grocery store
  • DRINK MORE WATER—which is exactly why I bought my motivational water bottle, after all
  • Finish paying off my credit card and next time, buy an iTunes card instead
  • Get the church library books (900+) back on the shelves and organized before Christmas Eve service

The holidays always feel like a very busy time of year. Now that my fall semester at UH has ended, it has slowed down some, and that helps, but I always find myself a few days before Christmas running around trying to put together presents last-minute, finalize plans, bake cookies, etc. On top of that, the past two years, I’ve gotten sick with allergies or a cold or mild flu around the same time, so I’ll have to run around while not feeling 100%, and each Christmas Day, I’ve ended up having to take a nap at Dylan’s house in the afternoon to recover a little. Prayers, well wishes, and good vibes would be very much appreciated, in the hope that that doesn’t happen again this year!

As it is, this week already feels a little busy; the featured photo is from the planner page I’m currently on. I’d like to include a link to my Instagram in order to share what I wrote about that this morning, but my account is currently private, so I’ll just pen it here:

“I used to keep track of things in my head. But as soon as I went back to work at #ArtePúblicoPress, I had to start writing them down again. Now I write down things I want to do as well as things I have to do, and I think this way, it makes them more likely to happen. Thank you for cute planners and colorful highlighters, because it’s always easier to look at a pretty, fun #todolist and not feel as overwhelmed. Like life. Life is short, so make it pretty and fun as much as possible. You’ll feel better for it. I know I do.”

(Also, a special note to Dylan now, who commented Sunday night that I use too many commas: you’re right, as I noticed while copying that quote from Instagram to this blog post; I had to edit that piece on Instagram twice to get rid of two unnecessary commas.)

Maybe I should add that to my list above: be more comma-conscious! 😉

And a thank you for pointing that out. 🙂

Tous les jours

Bonjour ! C’est vendredi, et je suis retourné au travail…

I wonder how much more proficient my French could become if I were to write my journal entries en français. Obviously it would probably be counterproductive to blog in French, though, because none of my readers would be able to read it. But it was just a thought.

So I will translate that first sentence for you: “Hello! It is Friday, and I’ve returned to work.” Which…I have, actually, and it’s really nice to be back. Maybe I can’t totally say that I’ve returned to work because when I did work here over the summer, it was an internship, and not an actual paid job position, which it is now, but the point is, I sit at the same desk—which I’ve started decorating to create my own space, and I need to go to Hobby Lobby this weekend for flowers and glitter—in the same Arte Público Press office, doing some of the same work, with most of the same people. My boss, Marina, told me that she would eventually like to have me start doing some new things, but for now, she says, “we’re so behind” and that the only thing keeping her from going crazy is knowing that I’m coming in to work to complete some of those projects. I’ll admit it, though: I really actually don’t mind the spreadsheets. The review mail-out I worked on yesterday is a little more of a hassle, but it’s also nice to just start back doing a few of the same tasks, because I know them. As she said when she introduced me to Jamie, our office coordinator who is a guy but the whole time we were emailing about the process of hiring me I thought he was a girl, “Thank God, I don’t have to train her!” …Yes. Thank God.

And while on that note, TGIFATFIFO! (Thank God It’s Friday And That Friday Is Finally Over!) Except, my weekend now must be spent with a fairly extensive To Do list, at the top of which is finish my study guide for Tuesday’s French test, and carry it around with me, and, truthfully, toward the bottom of which priority-wise is “make time to take care of me.” Maybe it’s lucky that I’ll end up procrastinating on most of the homework, because maybe sometime while I’m doing that, I’ll slip in a journal entry, or a manicure, or a bed day, and I will feel better for doing so. Special thank you goes out to Kimberly Wilson for the express permission via Twitter to have a bed day! Not to fan-girl too much, but I recently discovered her through Bella Grace Magazine—remember how much I love that publication?—and I’ve subscribed to her podcast, Tranquility du Jour, and I listen to it on my way to and from work and school, stuck in Houston traffic at least three and a half days each week. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. She also FOLLOWED me on Twitter, which made me really excited—!

—Okay, deep breath…there. I will be zen.

And now that I can check “update my blog” off my list with one of my favorite highlighters—Zebra Eco Zebrite Double-Ended, designed not to bleed even through Bible pages—I am going to brush my hair, light one of my three-wick candles from Bath & Body Works, and read, or journal, or write…or maybe work on my test review, but probably not that one.

That’s okay. 😉

“Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

My dear James Michener, I’d like to thank you for giving me, when I was about 17 years old, this quote that so describes why I love the art of writing. Before then, I don’t think I had anything to describe it so accurately. But now, if only you could give me the secret to tangling with human emotions once again…

When I was a senior in high school, I spent a few months working in a family friend’s law firm, and he commented to me one day about how the art of writing is like the art of law: you never fully perfect it. That’s why it’s called “the practice of law”—and, therefore also, the “practice” of writing. It’s been ages, though, since I’ve really felt like I’ve practiced it. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it; I guess even this blog post counts as a form of practice. But does it take me anywhere?

It’s hard to write when I’m not sure of what to say. Because, see, the thing about writing is that it’s supposed to be me, creating, and speaking, and leaving an imprint of myself on the world. But I have no idea anymore of what that imprint looks like. Not should look like, but does look like. I’ve felt very much lately like I don’t know myself, and that’s a very unhealthy place for me to be. I’ve had some bad days within the last couple of weeks, very down days, and I think it comes most directly from a place of insecurity, that is fueled by this idea that I don’t know who I am, what makes me me. Maybe that’s why I love songs like Billy Joel’s “Vienna” and magazines like Bella Grace so much: they tell me what I wish the world would tell me more: that I need to slow down, pause, take a few minutes and a few deep breaths.

But the reasons why I want to be told to slow down… “Slow down, you crazy child. You’re so ambitious for a juvenile.” I don’t know if they’re true, or if I only wish they were.

I’m also that type of person who wants to know what the world thinks of her, and particularly in this romanticized way that probably only exists in poetry. I want to be the type of girl that inspires quotes like the ones I find on Pinterest, like these:

she walked in moon dust
and stars were sprinkled
in her hair

[Unknown]

❤︎

She always had that about her, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thoughts that wander off the edge of the world.

[Joanne Harris]

❤︎❤︎

Maybe I am that kind, and maybe I’m not, and probably I’m better off not knowing one way or the other, because it could very well be the mystery there that makes it beautiful.

As for me…

“Who in the world am I?”

— Alice

50 Little Things That Make Me Happy

Because sometimes, it’s important to just focus on what makes you happy,
and in no particular order.

  1. A hot cup of coffee.
  2. A hot shower.
  3. Sunny blue skies, especially without clouds.
  4. Shapes and pictures in the clouds.
  5. Sassy music.
  6. The lush, grassy green field behind my church, because it wasn’t always lush and grassy green.
  7. Pretty things.
  8. Sparkly things.
  9. Books.
  10. Fresh notebooks.
  11. Office supply stores.
  12. Brand-new issues of Bella Grace magazine.
  13. Freshly laundered sheets.
  14. A clean, newly detailed car.
  15. Burning candles.
  16. Burning fireplaces.
  17. Perfect, untouched snow.
  18. Fresh flowers in a vase.
  19. The new wood floors in my house, and the feeling of how they transformed the familiar space.
  20. The feeling of my fingers flying across a laptop keyboard.
  21. New episodes of my favorite TV shows.
  22. Whenever Taylor Swift releases a new album.
  23. Summertime.
  24. Postcards.
  25. Letters.
  26. Driving through pretty neighborhoods.
  27. Silky soft sand.
  28. Manicures and pedicures.
  29. Carrying my own shopping bags (grocery bags excluded).
  30. The feeling I get from wearing high heels.
  31. Writing.
  32. Christmas lights.
  33. Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  34. Dessert.
  35. Breakfast for dinner.
  36. Character customization in my video games.
  37. Banana splits with extra hot fudge.
  38. Milk chocolate, melted in a bowl.
  39. Adorable baby animals.
  40. Yearbooks.
  41. Whimsicality.
  42. Disney and Pixar movies.
  43. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays.
  44. Lemon pastries.
  45. Peaceful and quiet alone time.
  46. Shopping.
  47. Pleasant surprises.
  48. Vintage, like typewriters and Polaroid cameras.
  49. Making and keeping new friends.
  50. Being able to carry on a conversation in French.
  51. The way Granny always (and is the only one to do so) sings “And many more…” at the end of “Happy Birthday.”

❤︎

What 50 (or more) little things make you happy?

Bella Journey

I want to promise that this is the last time I’ll ever do this… and my intent is that it will be. But the truth is, I just don’t know.

I can’t say that I’ve always entertained the idea of blogging, but for the past two or three years, it has often crossed my mind, and I have tried it. But the problem was always, what to write about? What would people care about, be interested in? And once I have a theme or topic in mind, how to present it? After all this time…maybe none of that ever mattered.

If I’m being honest—which I’m trying to be—this is attempt number…let’s estimate 12, at blogging. At writing for the public. At this moment, as I type the first entry into the Day One journaling app on my iPad while my plane to Houston from Frankfurt takes off, the idea was inspired by this new magazine I’ve just barely begun reading called Bella Grace. The tag line on the cover declares that “Life’s a Beautiful Journey” and, carefully reading to savor the first few pages, they yank me into that realization. Life is meant to be absolutely beautiful as an entire picture, and too frequently it is a lack of view of this entire picture that forces us to think that life couldn’t be any worse, and to treat it that way. I’m one of the guilty ones—too frequently pessimistic and narrow-minded. I’m here to change that.

Even though perhaps I should, to my friends and family who have seen it again and again, I won’t apologize for my many different attempts at blogs and my failure to stick with one, and for the eventual disappearance of every one of those before. Why am I not sorry? Because to me, those unlasting attempts were a way to help me figure myself out at the time, and for this moment. To learn about me. Who I want to be. What I want to say.

In this Spring 2016 issue of Bella Grace, one of the stories is called “Before I Die” by Rachel Paukett. Inspired by words stenciled on an outdoor wall, she asks herself two very specific questions:

“What do I want to do more than anything else before I die?”

“If you were free to be yourself, who would you be?”

To the first, I would have originally answered, “Write and publish a novel” which has been my biggest dream since childhood, and the only one I’ve really held onto over the years. But suddenly, my answer would be “Follow a dream” because it holds so much more possibility and promise, without disregarding my dream.

The second question, for me, brings up another that I have often asked myself lately: “Who do you want to be? What kind of person?” and I continue to explore that, as I have over the course of my entire life. I’ve been popular and friendly, and unpopular and unfriendly. I’ve been honest, and I’ve been a liar. I’ve been optimistic and adventurous, pessimistic and reclusive. I’ve been the realist, the idealist, and the cynic. I’ve been my friend, and I’ve also been my enemy. Basically, since childhood, I’ve tried on all different personalities, and played with all different attitudes, and every day I still have to ask my mirrored reflection, “Who are you, and who do you want to be?” …Right now, as usual, I don’t have a complete answer. But I’m only 22.

My friends seem to know who they are, and they all have graduated from college as of this Spring. At least one of them already has a job, and another is on her way there. Not me—and I’ve joked that I don’t know whether the fact that I’m still in college makes me feel like a slacker or an overachiever. (A: Double major : overachiever.) My boyfriend seems to know, best of all of them, who he is. I think I know who people want me to be. But what about me? My opinion matters, and right now, the jury is still out. Juries can take a while to deliberate—and trials are more akin to marathons than sprints. (Not that I’m athletic enough for either.) Life is a journey. The journey to know and to love yourself as you adventure to discover new surprises every day.

“Never let a day pass without looking for the good, feeling the good within you, praising, appreciating, blessing, and being grateful. Make it your life commitment, and you will stand in utter awe of what happens in your life.”

— Rhonda Byrne, Bella Grace issue 7, p. 19