Merry Christmas! It’s still Christmas.

Christmas day has come and gone, but it is still the Christmas season and my family has a lot of celebrating left to do. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with Eric’s family, and I am thrilled that the celebration will be extended with my family this week as well. Hooray!
 
Until next year, here are some pictures of Eric’s and my walk around DC this past weekend. Have I mentioned that I love DC in its decorated glory? Even if the National Christmas tree is mostly a disappointment, the rest of the city’s decorations are not. 

 

In my opinion, the Capitol tree is far superior to the White House tree. All of the ornaments were handmade by school children in Washington state. They were so fun to look at! My favorite was one of Santa Claus, whose body was made out of a pine cone.
 
Union Station with decked halls.
 
I swoon every time we pass The Willard hotel. I think it is so beautiful.
 
Our national tree, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe it’s prettier at night? 
Or with a better camera?
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. See you in 2014!
 

Taking Stock

Making: these little graphics with a pencil and Photoshop, and having the time of my life doing it.
 
Cooking: nothing too exciting, actually. I am falling into a rut. Have any good ideas?

Drinking: a tall glass of water first thing in the morning, every morning. (before coffee)

Reading: a book that I can’t wait to finish so I can tell you all about it…

Wanting: a few extra days between now and Christmas.
 
Looking: at pinterest in the mornings before work.

Playing: my piano a little more often as I prepare to sing in a friend’s wedding this weekend.

Wasting: valuable brain cells stressing over things I can’t control.

Sewing: a dress that needs to be taken in on the sides–and failing, by the way.

Wishing: that my sewing skills were far better. Or that I had a sewing machine.

Enjoying: homemade hot chocolate and reading before bed.

Waiting: for the moment my plane lands in Oklahoma.
 
Liking: red nail polish.

Wondering: what life will look like in five years.

Loving: my family. I can’t wait to see them in a few weeks!

Hoping: that a magical elf has prepared dinner for us tonight when we get home.

Marveling: at the grace of God and His constant provision. Truly!

Needing: to stop and remind myself of things I know to be true. Frequently.

Smelling: the pine candle in our living room. “If someone could just figure out how to bottle up happiness and sell it…” Yeah, well they did.

Wearing: gray sweater, black and white tweed skirt, black tights, black boots, and the necklace Eric got me for my birthday.
 
Following: my to-do list, lest I lose it (my sanity, not my to-do list).

Noticing: how beautiful the trees look covered in ice.

Knowing: that things aren’t as difficult as I make them out to be, most of the time.

Thinking: about getting under lots of covers in bed early tonight with my book…

Feeling: content and overwhelmed (I know–so Jekyll and Hyde).

Bookmarking: random youtube workouts. 

Opening: a bottle of wine. Because sometimes a little celebration in the middle of the week does a body good.

Giggling: at Eric’s weird impersonations that come out of nowhere.

Feeling: grateful, and anxious to be with the people I love this Christmas season.
 
And you? (Original list from here!)

How It Ended

It began with a doubt: a doubt that maybe he was the wrong one—that maybe the right one was that guy I see every week but never talk to. But that was a fleeting thought. I forgot about it, actually. I forgot about it while I walked around D.C. with him and had a constant stream of dialogue floating through my head—like subtitles to a foreign film. And walking and chatting with this guy was foreign—exciting, in a new way. I didn’t even notice the subtitles.

Until it ended, that is. When the break up happened, a state of mourning ensued, and a few weeks passed. I was feeling better, which surprised me. I thought it would take much longer to feel okay. And then that other guy I saw every week began speaking to me. Long talks in the form of written words followed, and then came the hanging out.


We went on a long walk through D.C., and there was so much between us that the subtitles were non-existent. For some reason, they weren’t needed. And I noticed. I wondered why I didn’t feel the need for inner dialogue. Why wasn’t I having a conversation with myself in my head like “normal”? It took time, but eventually I knew that the end of the subtitles was significant. With him, I wasn’t aware of myself. I didn’t have to be because I was that comfortable. That was noticeable. And different. 

And with the disappearance of the commentary, I knew that there would be no more wondering, no more waiting, no more worrying about meeting the right one. Just like that, all of my doubts, all of the analyzing: it ended.

 

Reading lately

To lessen my seemingly unremitting feelings of bibliogret, I made a goal this year to read 15 books. Not that many considering that means just over one book per month, but: life and stuff, you know? But life feels lacking when I am not deeply engrossed in at least one book, so this goal was a top priority for me. I have so much fun scouring goodreads.com (want to be friends?) and adding to my ever-going list that feels less overwhelming when it is visual, and getting excited about a book that may hold some insight into a current life question I am pondering. 

So, I thought I would give a brief synopsis of some of the books I have read this year in case you share my enthusiasm. Now tell me, what book should I add to my list, and why? Convince me. When one has only one life to live, one cannot be too picky.


A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (five stars)

One of the best books I have read in a long time. The true story of a man who endures the terrible grief of losing his wife too soon, Vanauken leads us through their love story from beginning to end. The end of their love story is not the end, however, as much as it feels like it when you are reading it. And because Vanauken and his wife were good friends with C.S. Lewis, we get to read his wise words through his letters to the author. A beautiful story full of rich insight and comfort to anyone who has ever lost a loved one, or suffered any amount of hardship in life. 

Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor (two stars)
I picked up this book randomly in a book store and when I read the back cover and realized it took place a mile from our home, I purchased it. She is a first time author, too, which always intrigues me. Unfortunately though, I could not finish it. I gave it the old college try, I did. I found the dialogue to be rough and unnatural. The story was somewhat interesting, but the beginning was too slow to keep my interest. I wasn’t even curious to know what happened, and it was supposed to be somewhat of a mystery. I wanted to like this book–simply finish it–but I just couldn’t. Life is too short.
 
 
Tess of the D’ubervilles by Tom Hardy (three stars)
I wanted to read this book because it is a classic, and because I enjoy Victorian novels. I did not realize though, that it is a tragedy. I won’t give anything away, but a lot of bad things happen to Tess, and Tom Hardy has some strong views about women during this time period that were very modern for his time. For example: women who are taken advantage of sexually should not be scorned by society. It is hard for me to imagine living in a world where women are commonly treated as lesser beings for crimes committed against them. 

This book was scandalous during its time because Hardy dares to even reference the harsh realities of poor women in the 20th century. The shocking part to me was that I didn’t see anything scandalous about it, as a 21st century woman. I didn’t agree with Hardy’s entire commentary (in particular his skewed view of Christianity–although he got some things right), and I am not even sure why I liked this book so much as it is very sad and depressing most of the time. I think what I enjoyed about it was the historical context, and reading it through the eyes of someone living over one hundred years ago. In that sense, it was very enlightening.

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (four stars)
I had already read this book twice, but reading it for the third time was like reading it for the first, in a lot of ways. This is a beautiful book with a cheesy title. It is the fictional diary of a flawed young woman recording her Christian walk from the time she is sixteen. Reading how she changes, and how she doesn’t change, is so encouraging, and so relatable. Her struggles are so familiar and her realistic, frequently humorous attitude toward life is so refreshing. This is one I plan to keep reading every few years.

Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People by Calvin R. Stapert (four stars)
If I told you I am listening to Handel’s Messiah as I write this post, would that tell you how much love I have for this piece of music? “A phenomenon with no parallel in music history”, I wanted a book that would give me an even better appreciation for Handel and The Messiah, and this book was exactly what I was hoping it would be. The first half of the book gives the history of Handel and his coming to write The Messiah, as well as the impact it had/has on the world, while the second half goes through each scene, giving musical and theological commentary. I came away with an even greater amount of gratitude that The Messiah exists today, for our comfort and edification. I understand this is kind of a niche book, but if you have any interest in Handel, the history of music, or just history or music in general, I highly recommend this book.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (three stars)
There are a few books penned by L.M. Montgomery left in the world that I have not read, and this was one of them for a long time. The story of Valency, a twenty-nine-year-old who has lived a life of caution all her life, but is suddenly liberated by life-altering news and proceeds to live her life exactly as she likes–is funny and delightful. Blue Castle has all the charm one expects from Lucy Maud, but this book does not come close to Anne of Green Gables or Emily of New Moon. Still a lovely book and beloved by many of her fans, this is not one I foresee reading again and again.

Blog, INC.: Blogging for passion, profit, and to create community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho (four stars)
If you have any interest in blogging at all, this book covers everything from the basics to the complex. From advice on starting a blog, to figuring out the tax part when your blog starts making money, this book is packed full of helpful advice and inspiration. The perfect handbook for anyone trying to master the sometimes very specific and art of blogging.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (three stars)
As a huge Lewis fan, I have been reading his books for years, but had not read the closest thing he wrote to an autobiography until this year. While I enjoyed his telling of his conversion story, and his thought-process along the way, I was hoping for a little bit more. I had read a biography on him before this, and was hoping Lewis’s own story would answer a few of my questions. But it left me wanting. Perhaps it was my own fault for thinking of it as an autobiography when he gives no pretense that it is any such thing. This book just felt like something he wanted to write to have on the record, and lacked a little bit of his usual passion and wit.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (five stars)
From the author of Sea Biscuit, this is one of those books that if I could strap down everyone I know, prop their eyes open and make them read it, I would. Okay, not everyone I know. But, if you like history, biographies, WWII, the Olympics, track, running, Italians, or just plain downright absolutely moving true stories, I recommend you drop what you are doing and read this book. Without giving anything away, this is the story of an Olympic runner, Louis Zamporini, who joins the military during WWII, and survives the most unthinkable odds. I am not going to tell you this is a nice easy read, because it is not. It is super stressful at times. But Louis is an amazingly inspiring person and his story is just…stranger than fiction. To say the very least. He is still alive today, too. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

There are a few books left that I am dying to talk about, but they are stand outs in their own way, and I plan on dedicating entire posts to them. Stay tuned, my book-loving friends!