Welcome, Christmas!

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I have not been this excited for Christmas in years. It took all my self-control to not burst into Christmas carols before Thanksgiving (don’t worry, I didn’t – I have standards, after all).

Today is the first day of Advent, a time of preparation for our Lord to come to us on Christmas day. Day one of my preparation involved putting my little tree up in my bedroom and decorating it with my favorite Christmas ornaments (a T.A.R.D.I.S., Rapunzel, Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse as the Brave Little Tailor, Max from the Grinch, and many others).

Whether you are religious or not, this time leading up to Christmas is a great time to feel thankful for what you have, as well as to think of others. One of my things for Advent is to try and get rid of a grocery bag of stuff a day. It’s amazing how much you don’t need when you really think about it (even though I am horrible about getting rid of stuff). Gazing at a stuffed animal I haven’t thought about in years makes me think, “There is a kid out there who would love to cuddle with this thing.”

So, that’s my challenge for you. Help someone this holiday. Welcome Christmas by being friendly to everyone, even the people you don’t like, which is my least favorite thing to do. After all, there’s so much hate in this world, so let’s make our corner of the universe just a little brighter.

Thankful for My Life

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Today an old friend texted me to say she was thankful for me, but also for the people and experiences that shaped me and made me who I am. Wow. That blew me away. So many times in my life, I want to hate the bad and hurtful experiences and people in my life. I mean, it was terrible. It seared and burned.

But without those people and experiences I would not be me. Without bad things, we would never appreciate the good. So today, I am thankful for my life, even the regrets. I am thankful for the people who hurt me and the people who loved me. I am thankful for my life because it is a beautiful life just the way it is.

Where Is Your Heart?

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Different things hold importance to me at different times of my life. Sometimes the things I love fluctuate in phases, just like the moon. But when I love something either the moon is full or you can’t see it at all. There is no half or crescent moon. To quote the false Isabella Thorpe in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, “I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” When I fall in love, I fall in love.

Ever since I moved back to the Pittsburgh area, I’ve been asking myself this same question over and over. Where are you? What is important to you? What do you hope to take with you wherever you go? And, the big question, where are you now?

Physically, I am in Pittsburgh. But they say that home is where the heart is, and mine is always with the friends I left behind in Ohio, even if they are no longer living in Ohio. Once I warmed up to the idea of living in a state that everyone back home criticized, there was no going back. Now I can’t imagine not living in Ohio.

But that’s the beautiful thing about hearts. They hold a lot of love. So it is okay for my heart to be split between two places. It is okay for me to belong to both Ohio and Pennsylvania. As I thought about that today, I remembered the quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.”

December marks one year until my planned graduation date for my Master’s degree. So, very possibly, I only have one more year left in Pittsburgh. My heart is here, there, and everywhere. And that’s okay. If reading Harry Potter taught me anything, it’s that love is one of the most powerful forces in this universe.

Wants vs. Needs

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I haven’t been this excited for Christmas in a long time. It’s not the gifts (that part always stresses me out and is part of the reason I have been such a Grinch the past few years). It’s the idea of spending time with my friends and family, and of the feeling of joy pervading throughout the air.

I have a lot of things to be thankful for this upcoming holiday season. I am thankful for my friends and my family, for a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and the life I have been given. My first semester of grad school will conclude the first week of December (that is a joyful thought in itself). I am thankful that I can live. That in itself is a blessing.

Even though I am of the mindset that Christmas should NOT come before Thanksgiving, I still think it is never too early to think about ways we can better ourselves. It is never to early to start implementing those changes.

Ever since I moved back home, I have taken a tiny room at the back of our house. The reason for that was when my dog Angel was alive, she was older and couldn’t make stairs well. With me being downstairs, she could come into my room much easier if she wanted to sleep with a human nearby. Now that she is gone (and I miss her terribly), I still have that small room at the back of our house and more stuff than I should have in a room that size.

A friend of mine said that for Lent, she took a plastic grocery bag and filled forty of them, one for every day during Lent. I loved that idea and so with Advent around the corner, I figured that was a great time to clear out the stuff I don’t need. Stuff is stuff. It fills space in our life, space that could be better used for holding love and joy. So that is my big thing for Advent. I do not need as much stuff.

But I do need love, friendship, joy, peace, contentment, gratefulness, and happiness. That won’t come from owning things. That will come from the people in my life, through interactions with them, and through giving. This could be giving a physical gift or it could be giving of my time or money, two things I hold dear since I don’t have much of either.

This past Sunday, I went to the Pittsburgh Zoo with my friends to celebrate my birthday, which was a lot of fun. However, the reality is that I can’t afford to take time and money every week for a new adventure. I want a new adventure, but I don’t need it. What I do need is contentment in where I am in life, even if it doesn’t seem like the most “exciting” life. Every life is a God-given blessing, even if it seems small. Sometimes the smallest ways we give are just what the world needs.

23 Blessings

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Today is my birthday! In honor of turning 23, I decided to take a step back and use this time to reflect on all the goodness and blessings God has given me in my 23 years of life. So, here goes!

1.) My amazing parents

2.) My two crazy but lovable siblings

3.) My new dog, Gus

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4.) A roof over my head, even if it’s not the roof I wanted

5.) I never go to bed hungry

6.) My car

7.) My job, at which I never had a bad day yet

8.) My friends, both in Pittsburgh and in Ohio

9.) For the faith community I found in Pittsburgh

10.) My education

11.) My ability to read and write

12.) All the traveling I have done in my life

13.) I lived away from home and moved back with more appreciation for it

14.) For the people in my life who have guided me along

15.) For libraries

16.) That I got to know all four of my grandparents, even though only one is still living

17.) For extended family who stand by you, no matter what

18.) For the beauty of nature

19.) For my health

20.) For my eyes, which are my favorite physical feature

21.) For my hometown library, which triggered my desire to be a librarian

22.) For the Harry Potter books, which led me to everything I am today

23.) For life

Growing Up Does Not Have to Mean Boring

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This week, I will turn 23. For a while I was scared of that fact, since I really enjoyed being 22. I learned a lot. It was fun, scary, sad, lonely, joyful, and captivating. But since I am not in Neverland, I cannot say 22 forever, nor can I go back to being 7.

This time last year, I was in a dark place where I didn’t think I would have a job, I was terrified of moving and leaving my friends, and I thought my life was over. This week was the job interview that changed everything. This week was the anniversary of the day I was accepted to graduate school, on my birthday, of all days. This was the week that changed everything for the better. I grew up a lot this week.

Then December came. I already loathe winter, but it was made even worse by the fact that I graduated college and then my dog died the next day. Adulthood came upon me too fast, and I was unprepared for it. Throwing myself into my new job and my dream of becoming a children’s librarian, I devoured children’s books and films, rekindled my love for Disney films into a blaze that consumed me to the point that could quote my favorite films without thinking about it, even if I had not seen the film in years.

Then I joined my new church, where at first I felt out of place, like  a carton of eggs on a bread shelf. Occasionally, I still feel like I don’t belong. But then I remember why. I never feel out of place with certain people in the group (shoutout to Katrina and Shannon in particular), but with others I will never belong. Yet those are the ones whose approval I tried all these months to gain. It seems silly, looking back on it now. But now I realize it is all part of the growing up process.

I will never stop acting like a child. I will never grow up. If growing up means I must become boring, angry, and bitter like so many adults I know, then I want no part of it. When Shannon and I went to Fallingwater this week, all I could think about was a magical fairyland deep in the woods. Come on, even the name has an other-worldly feel to it.

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Call me crazy, but I prefer to believe that unicorns exist because the idea of them makes me happy. I like to think that somewhere out there is a dragon I can tame so I can ride it and cut my commute to work. I love the idea that a fairy tale is out there for me. I don’t mean the prince charming-happily-ever-after foolishness. Instead, I believe in magic. I believe in a pure, unadulterated, childlike wisdom that only comes with innocence and the desire to know more about the world, an Alice-like curiosity that cannot be satisfied. Yes, I am about to turn 23. But I will never, under any circumstances, allow myself to grow up. To forget what it is to be a child is to forget how to live. If you want to become old and bitter, go right ahead. I choose a life of joy and freedom.