Today, as I thought of how to begin, much like Bilbo when tasked with completing the story of his travels, one quote rang in my ears. Even lost and alone at the tower of Cirith Ungol, Samwise Gamgee still found his courage at the very darkest of times. I think we could all take a lesson from Samwise the Brave.
In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.
Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the stars farewell.
Welcome to a new day, full of fresh sights, fresh ideas, and a fresh outlook on the same old situations. Today, as chilly spring winds howl past my third floor apartment window, I can’t help feeling a spark of renewed energy. I still don’t sleep enough or tidy as I go or keep to a concrete routine. My life is no different than it was yesterday. The same stresses loom a bit more imminently and I still wonder at all the questions I had before.
But today, for some reason, I feel revitalized. I can do hard things. I can be brave and loud and confident. I can be organized and motivated and I’m capable of making solid adult decisions, even if they do still terrify me. Today I refuse to be stuck.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of the week leading up to Easter and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. While Holy Week is a time of reverence and celebration for Christians everywhere, this year’s festivities hold particular significance to me as the week will conclude with me completing my baptism, confirmation and first communion at the Easter Vigil mass.
After almost two years of questioning and preparation, I will finally officially enter the Catholic church. I can’t wait! Not words I ever thought I’d use to describe the electric enthusiasm with which I approach these holy sacraments. Happy Holy Week! May yours be blessed.
Happy Friday! Today’s post is short at sweet, inspired by this friendly face and dozens of squirrel puns discovered through a quick Google search. However, it’s valuable advice that we could all take to heart a little more. In my experience, the things that terrify you tend to be the very best things for you. I don’t mean horror movie jump scares or the feeling of dread you get when walking the streets alone at night.
I’m talking about the electrifying thrill of taking chances in life, like that time you finally got up enough courage to ask out your crush. In school and work, it’s often best to err on the side of caution. However, when it comes to leading your best life, sometimes it pays to go a little nuts.
As I was deciding what to write for today’s blog post I scrolled through some old freewrites and came across this gem. I wrote it during those strange four months following the termination of a three year relationship and before graduating with plans to move halfway across the country for a fancy job in a steel mill. My life leading up to this point had always been orderly and structured and, if not easy, at least manageable with a killer game plan and tremendous support team. Suddenly, for the first time, there was no game plan beyond the next four months and I’d just utterly upended the status quo that had seen me through the better part of a difficult engineering degree.
Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I ever made. I had no idea what was in store for me when I set up shop in Valparaiso, IN. Since then, I have happily embraced my inner Elle Woods although I still need the occasional reminder to let her shine. We’ve all wondered if we’re on the right path, if what we’re doing is what we’re meant to be doing, if where we are is where we’re supposed to be. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away completely. To be human is to walk through life with your head held high, knowing full well that you’ll never have all the answers. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for yourself is to cease all of that meticulous planning, take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.
Looking back at my terrified, sleep deprived, boyfriendless, 21 year old self, I’d tell her to hang in there because things are about to get so much better.
Often I feel like the Elle Woods of engineering school, the dumb blond that tags along after all the smart people because I didn’t have anything better to do. I didn’t always want this. I decided one day that it was a good idea and I’ve been working at it ever since. To be fair, my Warner wasn’t a complete jerk but that doesn’t excuse all the things he did (and didn’t do). Still, I occasionally wonder at exactly how my engineering career began. I did it because I wanted to make my parents proud and there’s a chance that I stuck with it because I wanted some guy to think I was smart, good enough. I worked so hard to be and he never really rewarded my efforts. Not that I regret it. I’ve found success, with and without him.
Now, I’m single with no desire to get him back. I’m about to graduate from a prestigious engineering school with a great job lined up that I can’t wait to start. Everything is amazing but I still can’t help feeling like I don’t quite belong. I still feel like the dumb blond along for the ride. That’s not to say that I think I’m an idiot. I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without at least some smarts. But I look around and I see a bunch of other people doing it so much better, people who are so much more well versed in this world. My mom says I need to grow some confidence and she’s right of course. But it’s difficult when I keep fumbling my elevator pitch.
That was one problem that Elle never had. She was a people person, even if they didn’t like her. She always said hello and goodbye and dolled out compliments to the competition. She had an amazing capacity to forgive people, even Vivian, and managed to win nearly everyone over. She was good at making friends. I met my best friend because she introduced herself on the playground in third grade even though she was the new kid at the time. I only had to say hi and follow her to the swing set. Now, I read books on how to talk to new acquaintances. Approaching people I don’t know well and fostering friendship does not come naturally. In fact, it is appallingly unnatural. I like people and I like getting to know them but I can’t stand failing at it.
I need to be more like the Legally Blonde star. I need to unleash my inner Elle. I know that deep down, it’s in there. I’ve just never been brave enough to let it out. She can be incredibly thoughtless and naive and yet she manages to make friends wherever she goes and does it with a splash. I need a little more of that.
Do you eat when you’re bored? Do you nap when you’re overwhelmed? Do you get distracted with pleasant hobbies when there are still pressing items on the day’s agenda? There’s a chance you’re not stuck in a rut at all. Maybe you just need to go for a run. Today, for the umpteenth time, I discovered the rejuvenating powers of an afternoon jog through the neighborhood. It was sprinkling outside as I began my workout but with the weather warming up, the misting was a welcome and refreshing wake up call.
Summer is on the way and the world is beginning to stir from it’s black and white slumber. Soon color will return to the trees like the birds have already. People will linger outdoors on apartment balconies and wooded lakeshore trails to savor every drop of sunshine during the longer days.
The world is waking up. Get outside and be a part of it!
When people hear that you’re from Colorado they often respond with a conspiratorial raising of eyebrows and a knowing smile. There seems to be a general assumption that, as a Coloradan, you partake in certain recreational activities for which Colorado has become known in recent years. This, in my opinion, is a rather unfair assumption. Allow me to set the record straight once and for all. We don’t all like to hit up the local dispensaries when we’re in town, not when there are so many mountains to summit instead. This is my rocky mountain high.
To any avid book nerds looking for a good read and the perfect winning dessert recipe for a Saturday evening with friends, I recommend Pat Prager’s Peanut Butter Bars buried in the pages of Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a novel by J. Ryan Stradal. This mouthwatering read is full of recipes like the famous, blue ribbon winning peanut butter bars (page 211) and is bound to leave you with a few introspective questions and a satisfied smile on your lips.
2½ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (Seal graham crackers in a large ziplock bag and use a rolling pin for best results)
1 cup melted Grade A butter
1 cup peanut butter
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon Grade A butter
Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, peanut butter, and sugar. Pat into a greased 9-by-13 inch pan. Melt chips and butter and spread on top of the bars. Set in the refrigerator until firm. (I found 3 to 4 hours to be plenty of time for the bars to solidify but if you’re worried, you can always stick them in the freezer for a bit just to be sure). Cut into bars.
Chapter 6 of Atomic Habits imparted a couple shining jewels of wisdom that I currently find myself regularly struggling to remember in my daily life. They are however, very worthwhile lessons to take to heart wherever you are. James Clear is constantly echoing the idea that tiny changes can lead to big rewards and this chapter was no different. In these pages, Clear addressed changes regarding a person’s environment through the following words.
“A small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do.”
I’m constantly surrounded by clutter; on my dining room table (my makeshift home office), in my Barbie sized apartment kitchen, at my desk in my actual office. It’s difficult to focus on a project at work when the dirty dishes in the sink keep staring at you over the top of the computer screen.
“You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.”
This is the level of organization and self control to which I constantly aspire. I desperately want to be the architect of my environment; the sort of person who washes the dishes immediately after using them, who opens the mail before adding it to the pile on the coffee table, who returns books to the shelf after reading them. I can’t wait for the day that these become automatic, ingrained habits.
Do you ever have those days when you drag your feet for no reason? No matter how you try, you can’t seem to motivate to do any of the things you know you’re supposed to do.
Today was one of those days. It’s okay. If you had one too, don’t beat yourself up. It happens. Tomorrow the Sun will come up and I will be productive. I will smile and laugh and peel myself away from the sofa long enough to go out into the world and experience the small joys of life. Tomorrow I will say yes to everything, all of those daunting, difficult, uncomfortable things that will bring me one step closer to a more fulfilled life but today, I did the responsible thing and took a nap.