It has been way too long since I wrote a blog post. It’s amazing how quickly life gets in the way when you let the habit slip. And there has been so much life over the past six months! It would be impossible to do it justice in a single post. Since my last update I…
Learned the meaning of ‘homeownership’ and a few of the joys and woes that come with it.
Watched my personal Wonder Woman marry the love of her life.
Was swept off my own feet by the shiniest of knights. He’s a keeper!
Returned to my home state where I climbed to new heights with new people.
Congratulated friends and family members as they welcomed new families into the world.
Sent up a prayer to my guardian angel.
And of course, I had to stop and smell the flowers.
There have only been a few times in my memory when my life completely exploded. Once or twice, there were tears involved and a monumental helping of uncertainty. Sometimes there was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the ride as everything was turned upside down. No matter how terrifying or thrilling it may be, there’s something bittersweet about waving goodbye to the person you used to be. But in each and every one of these cases, my world was forever changed for the better. All those pieces that had been blown sky high came falling back to Earth and landed exactly where they were supposed to. I’m thanking God every day for all the dreams that are coming true. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Last year I made a promise to myself. I would write and post something every day even if it was simply to caption a photo from my most recent adventure. Thus began my Photo of the Day blog posts. Often, that was all I could manage. While my writing and photography skills have both sored to new heights in the last 12 months, I’m afraid my time management has all but left me.
Therefore, today marks the start of a couple of new writing goals. By virtue of recently befriending a fellow reader, writer, shooter, athlete and foodie, I have decided to take a step back from blogging in order to participate in April NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I plan to continue to post regularly, three times a week rather than my previous five, while using the off days to dig into a novel idea that I’ve been in the process of finishing for the past seven years. It’s high time I did something about that.
Many blessings to everyone this Easter. I hope you’ve enjoyed my random sparks of inspiration, potluck recipes, fantasy quotes and the occasional freewrite. I look forward to sharing much more but am excited to be embarking on a new literary adventure.
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.
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.
Good enough for now is never that for very long. Change is the only constant for humanity. You’re both growing. The only question is whether you grow together or apart. In school and in work, perfectionism can be a terrible trap which holds you back from your true potential when a good enough job will do. But when it comes to people; friends, family, romantic interests, don’t ever settle for good enough for now. Be a perfectionist. Believe in unicorns and fairytales and the existence of true love.
More than that, live in such a way that you can look in the mirror everyday and find yourself capable of both giving and receiving that kind of love. It’s not easy. Convincing yourself that you deserve to be deeply and truly loved is one of the most difficult things you may ever do and even if you succeed, you might find yourself doing it all over again the next day. Every person on the planet has wondered this at some point but it’s a battle worth fighting. If you can hold out for the right people and take the initiative when they do come along, you’ll have a life of few regrets.
Every year my family and I pool our resources to find the perfect Christmas gifts for each other. During the last few Christmases this has resulted in some truly fantastic variety under the tree; everything from concert tickets to fantasy novels to knives to jewelry made from old bullet casings. However, there is one item on the Christmas list that never changes. Every year, without fail, my dad asks for a box of homemade raspberry thumbprint cookies. This recipe came from an old school friend of mine, a family recipe scribbled onto a scrap piece of paper back in middle school. The paper is now wrinkled and stained, the ink smudged in places. You can always tell which recipes are the good ones by how dirty the years have made them. Here it is, the secret to the best raspberry thumbprint cookies I’ve ever made.
1 cup butter softened
⅔ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
Raspberry jam (Homemade is the best. Keep an eye out for friends who enjoy caning delicious jams and jellies and make sure to ask for a couple extra jars around the holidays or whenever you have a hankering for some fabulous baked goods.)
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract (for the icing)
2-3 teaspoons water
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter, sugar, almond extract and flour until smooth (until the dough begins to stick together). Refrigerate dough for one hour. Roll dough into roughly 1-inch diameter balls. Use your finger (or another round utensils) to place a small hole in the center of each cookie and fill it with raspberry jam. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until just barely beginning to brown.
Allow cookies to cool completely before icing them. To make the icing, mix powdered sugar, almond extract and water together in a small bowl. Drizzle over cookies and serve with a steaming cup of tea for the full experience.
Once again, the hours have ticked by while I wasn’t looking and now the darkness outside my windows is complete with a huge partial moon hanging high in the sky and the clock preparing to announce the new day. I have completely and utterly failed to stick to my desired bedtime but at the moment, I can’t bring myself care.
My evening was hijacked by an epic tale of radiant knights who wield fantastical blades and armor as they charge into battle. Their glorious deeds are chronicled in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. I have fewer than 50 pages left to read of Book 1, The Way of Kings, which is considerably less than the 250 remaining pages that I started with when I sat down to read after a short afternoon jog through the neighborhood.
The book, a brand new copy before this read, has been well loved. The spine is cracked in several places, the glossy cover creased and scratched, the corners of its crinkling pages just starting to turn up from use. Digging my nose out of it long enough to serve up dinner was extremely difficult. My food almost went cold as I ate with a fork in my right hand and the heavy novel held open in my left.
I’m sure I’ll be writing about this book again but amid the most recent excitement, one phrase stuck out to me.
“Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right.”
How many times have you caught yourself granting a favor in the hope of reciprocation at a later date? Or maybe you find yourself lending a hand because it’s the polite thing to do. It’s what you’re supposed to do. I know I’m guilty of it.
When was the last time you did something good for no other reward than the smile that it brought someone’s face? That is the kind of person I want to be.
Maintaining effective habits begins when we take notice of our daily actions and reactions to the world around us. Subconscious routines must first be conscious decisions fueled by dedicated practice. Of course, it’s very easy to go on autopilot. According to James Clear in chapter 4 of Atomic Habits, actively acknowledging our daily habits can be a huge step toward leading more productive lives. Often, it can be as simple as a brief verbal confirmation that you do in fact have your keys in hand before leaving your apartment. This is a method called pointing-and-calling which can be employed to reduce errors and boost efficiency all at once.
Never be ashamed to talk to yourself. Many people use the pointing-and-calling tactic without realizing it, talking through every item in their gym bag to ensure they haven’t forgotten anything for their workout or speaking aloud an itinerary as they embark on a busy day of travel. This calls awareness to those little mundane activities in order to avoid autopilot mishaps.
However, it can also be an intentional strategy. In chapter 4, Clear recommends creating a habits scorecard which is nothing more than a list of all the tasks you complete each and every day without fail. Everything from snoozing your alarm four times to that 2pm cup of tea which propels you through the end of your work day is a habit to be considered. Once you have your list you can then rate each of your habits as positive, negative or neutral habits. Positive habits are routines which encourage effective problem solving while negative habits tend to do the opposite. You can then use your list to pinpoint specific areas for improvement throughout your day. As stated in previous chapters, developing productive habits has nothing to do with overhauling your current routine and starting over. In this step you’re simply “getting yourself to acknowledge the need for action.” What’s on your habits scorecard?
Never show up to a party empty handed. It is one of the cardinal rules of adulting. When in doubt, pick up a six pack of your favorite beer on your way. This has been my standard go-to when heading to a backyard get together but after nearly two years in Indiana, I am no longer the new kid on the block. As such, I felt like it was time I started actually contributing to these friendly potlucks.
While no one ever complains about extra beer at a party, continued social distancing measures have provided me ample time to learn a few new recipes and where better to test them than a casual Superbowl party with friendly faces? I’m happy to say that these crab rounds were a huge hit.
These Legendary Crab Rounds plucked from the pages of Creme de Colorado Cookbook look fancy but are fabulously simple to make. Mix your ingredients into a cheesy spread for your french bread, bake to a light golden brown and voila! You’re the Superbowl superstar. No one needs to know how little you actually slaved away.
I have no idea what I’m doing. How many times does that sentence cross your mind in a day? It’s so easy to look at other people and remark on how wonderfully successful and put together they seem to be when in reality, we’re all thinking the same thing.
It drives me insane at times. There are so many questions that it feels like I should have found answers to by now. How does another degree compare to a few more years of work experience? What are the best ways to cultivate in-person relationships amid a global pandemic? Where do I want to be in five years? If I had to describe myself in one word, what would it be? These and many more plague my lonely angst riddled brain in the quieter moments when working from home or else relaxing solo style during yet another uneventful weekend. The faintest hint of monotony seeps into our daily routine if we’re not careful.
But it’s okay to not have all the answers. No one does. We’re all just human, going about our lives the best way we know how. What question are you answering in your life?