Going Home

going-home

Right now I am sitting in a comfy chair in my parents’ study. A couple of days ago I was frantically trying to tie up all loose ends at work so that I could relax this week without worrying about anything. Right now work does not even exist. It might as well be a figment of my imagination. I am home in Oklahoma, and currently my DC life is a blurred memory. And I get a whole week of this.

In order for Eric and I to get here, we had to sit for a few hours and be transported. Because that is how travel works. And it’s really weird if you think about it. Flying is the strangest thing. If someone told you that there was this amazing ride that took you above the clouds, and you could look out the window and see patches of earth through the coverage, and that you could actually fly through the clouds and it would look just like cotton candy, wouldn’t we all be glued to the window? Instead, flying is known as  the event that simply gets you from one place to another. So closing the window and sleeping is actually something people feel okay about doing despite the ticket price.

Of course, I close the window and sleep at times, too. But other times, you might guess it was my first time to fly based on the amount of cloud-pictures I am taking.

But, I mean, really:

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While we are up in the clouds, let’s talk about two things that make flying a whole lot better.

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I broke down and bought a neck pillow last year, and it took all of five seconds of being on a plane to make me wonder why I had never thought to buy one before. Saturday morning, when I was resting peacefully on our early morning flight, the man next to me was changing from one awkward position to another every five minutes in an effort to obtain even 10% of the level of comfort I was experiencing. In my head I was telling him, “I’ve been there, dude. You need to just break down and buy a neck pillow.” I don’t think our brain waves were connecting.

The other thing that makes flying great is alcohol. I used to tell myself I wasn’t an alcoholic and therefore didn’t need alcohol to make anything better. And then I flew to London where they give it to you for “free”, and it changed my entire flight experience. Now, I refuse to buy it for $5, but when I have free drink tickets, I don’t miss the opportunity. In another lifetime, I might have thought that Bailey’s Irish Cream in my coffee at 8:00am was something to avoid. I have now seen the light. The light, however, only shines on being in an airplane. When I start having Bailey’s before work at home, we can have a talk.

If you are wondering right about now, what that large pink, boxy rectangle is, I will tell you. It was the pre-cursor to the ipod made by Creative Labs, and let me tell you: it was really cool seven years ago. As we say in Oklahoma, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Two hours after we landed, I was at my youngest sister’s baby shower. She’s the pregnant one in the middle. Amanda is on the far left, who hosted the shower in her beautiful home, and from whom I stole the following two pictures.

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This is my other sister, Julie, and my friend Emily:

sally

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I can’t wait to meet Sally’s baby girl in November. If she looks anything like baby-Sally, she may possibly be the cutest child this world has ever seen. And that is not just a biased-sister talking.

And now I am going to go not be at work and eat an Oklahoma farm breakfast with raw milk. I have been looking forward to this week for so long.

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P.S. Remember when Sally got married?

The Significance of Decision-making

Here’s something writing has taught me about life: scrolling mindlessly through my phone before bed is worse for me than reading a book I enjoy before bed.

When I am scrolling mindlessly through my phone before bed, it is easy to convince myself that I am relaxing and it’s fine that I am not reading (which I enjoy immensely more).

And here is how that relates to writing:

If I did not have this blog to record my writing from three years ago, I might think my writing style has, for the most part, remained stagnant. I might think that writing almost every day didn’t do that much to improve my writing. I might think that discipline is just something you do to torture challenge yourself–that it doesn’t yield results.

What I mean is that the small steps we take every day that build upon each other, are easily forgotten. Or simply overlooked. We know where we are now, but we have forgotten what it took to get here.

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I think it should be encouraging that every good decision is a  triumph. Whether it is choosing to eat something delicious and good for our bodies instead of something mediocre and non-beneficial to our bodies, or choosing to be patient with our spouse instead of angry, it is good to be reminded that our decisions and efforts add up.

It is good to be reminded that doing the things we enjoy, rather than the things we do for no reason at all, mean something. Just like every sentence I have written stacked up to over 300 blog posts, every night of reading instead scrolling or scrolling instead of reading, has become a part of where I am today.

There is significance in writing on the days I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like that in the moment at all. But when I look back over three years, I know I didn’t create a blog by not writing every day. And I actually find that quite shocking. Because that is how finite my mind is.

There is significance in winding down with a book before bed instead of browsing instagram beyond the point of enjoyment. There is significance in every thought we think, and everything we do. And when we are drawing our final breath, it will be because every one of them before that was numbered.

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Do you forget that small moments are significant? Do you think it is comforting or scary that they are? Or do you not think every decision is significant? I would love to know your thoughts!

Books that changed my life

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The Bookstall

By Linda Pastan

Just looking at them
I grow greedy, as if they were freshly baked loaves
waiting on their shelves
to be broken open–that one
and that–and I make my choice
in a mood of exalted luck,
browsing among them
like a cow in sweetest pasture.
For life is continuous
as long as they wait
to be read–these inked paths
opening into the future, page
after page, every book
its own receding horizon.
And I hold them, one in each hand,
a curious ballast weighting me
here to the earth.

What books do you consider to have had a profound impact on the way you view the world?

There are plenty of books that have moved me, or shaped the way I think about a particular subject, caused me to see things differently, or inspired a new appreciation. There are so many books I love. But if I had to narrow it down to a few that I can say with confidence changed my life in one way or another, well, a few would immediately come to mind.

In no particular order, the following books are the first that I think of when I think of books that have helped shape me as a person, the way I think, or the way I view the world. I love how reading challenges your thinking and develops patterns and forms the way you view life. The power that words have in our lives, and the power we have to choose the words we read, is crazy to think about.

Anne of Green Gable (all 8 books): Oh, Anne. She reads, she writes, she loves school, she breaks her slate over boys’ heads and reads Ben Hurr during geometry class. But she is so much more than that. This young woman’s hopeful outlook on life, her unbridled love and passion for the world and every beautiful thing in it, and her excitement for learning, made a profound impact on my childhood, and the rest of my life.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: This book did a number on my brain, that’s for sure. This book changed my perspective on sin. Or at least, provided a very real angle that I had never considered before. It forced me to be extremely honest with myself, and face the truth that I am faced with temptation every moment of the day. That awareness was an important reminder for me.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: this novel made all other novels look like light and fluffy drivel. Maybe that is an exaggeration, but there is truth to it. There is a reason this book about crime, family, human nature, fairness, and life and death is regarded as one of the best books ever written. It raised my literary standards to a whole new level.

Ah! I can’t believe I just created such a narrow list. I am leaning toward regret in trying to reduce every  profound literary experience I have had to such a short list. The truth is, it cannot be done. This is only a start. But now I would love to know what books have made a profound impact on you. Do you have a ready list in your mind? Do tell.

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P.S. Fifteen things we learned from Anne

A Guide to Loving Ballet

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[my senior year of high school]

Do you like ballet? I have a deep, undying love for it. If I could help everyone in the direction of loving, or at least appreciating, ballet, I would consider it an honor.

You know how when you have an idea or a feeling that comes to you over the span of only a fraction of a second, but when you try to vocalize it, it takes several minutes? Some things cannot be expressed in words, which is news to no one. Ballet is one of the many ways humans are able to communicate, and in my humble opinion, it is no less important than any other form of self-expression.

I started taking ballet in second grade, and quit during my freshman year of college. Although I never danced professionally, my eleven years of training taught me the love of expressing myself through dance, as well as many, many life lessons. The discipline of the art, the musicality, the personification of music–every bit of it moves me. The professional dance world is a place I cannot personally comment on, other than what I know from other people’s experience. I know it has its drawbacks, but take away the negative aspects that come with striving for perfection in a competitive atmosphere, and you are left with the art of grace and beauty set to some of the most beautiful music ever written.

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[picture via]

I am thankful that ballet has taken more of a spotlight in pop culture today, with shows like Breaking Point, Dance Academy, and mini series like the ones produced by aol.com and Teen Vogue. Despite the occasional cheese and drama in these portrayals, I think it is good for the average Joe to know a little more of what it takes to be able to wear a tutu and pointe shoes. Speaking from personal experience, it takes a lot of bloody toes and blisters, for starters. Professional ballet dancers make very little money, and ballet as a whole relies mostly on the generosity of private donors to survive. Yet somehow it’s all worth it. The more publicity, the more appreciation ballet receives, the better off everyone will be. Yeah, I actually believe that. Even if you never take a ballet class, you can experience the joy of ballet as an engaged member of the audience.

Whether or not you love ballet, or you are being dragged into the experience because someone you know loves it, the more you know, the more you will enjoy it. If you don’t know much about ballet, and you have a desire to learn, let today be the day your education begins…

Here are a few things you may or may not know about ballet:

1) Dancing on pointe is painful

If you guessed that balancing the weight of your body on your toes is painful and challenging, you would be correct. While it definitely gets easier with practice and time as callouses form, wearing the shoes all day for class and rehearsal is the recipe for sore and blistered feet. The shoes are covered in pink satin, but on the inside they are canvas (and blood-stained…have I mentioned blood?), which rubs against your toes. Pointe-shoe-technology changes as ballet evolves, and improvements do come with time (for instance, more shoes are being made with other materials lining the inside, such as suede), but the overall structure is the same.

2) Pointe shoes are expensive

Most professional ballet companies provide pointe shoes to their dancers, but if you do purchase them they cost between $50-$80 a pair. For a principal dancer, pointe shoes can become “dead” (unusable due to wear) in the course of one performance. So, yeah, that’s a lot of pointe shoes.

3) There are a lot more aspiring dancers than there are open spots in ballet companies

Despite the fact that ballet dancers aren’t paid very much, the amount of dancers working toward a professional career is far superior to the number of positions available. The perfection that ballet requires, combined with the competitive professional world, means that a ballet dancer’s survival goes beyond just her talent and ability. It requires a great deal of mental stamina, as well.

4) Ballet has its own vocabulary

Every move a dancer makes can be broken down into a series of steps that he or she has been learning since the first day of class. As a dancer’s technique progresses, she/he continues to build upon what she/he has already mastered, until the entire vocabulary is learned. The ballet vocabulary is in French, and is universal. An American student could take a ballet class in Russia, and be able to follow the teacher’s instruction based on the French terms and demonstration.

Below are some videos to get you hooked on the art and beauty that is ballet:

Do you enjoy ballet? Are you/were you ever a dancer? What is your favorite type of dance? Should we talk about ballet again around here? 00