I have a theory that no one actually accomplishes anything they say they will in the first week of January. I mean, of course everyone goes in with the best intentions, but nothing substantial ever really happens. So now that we’re past all of that “it’s a new year!” over-excitement, I felt like I could finally make my list for the beginning of the year and start getting things done (including writing here more).

And thus, more than a week later than every other blog in the blog-sphere, my list for the new year.

(Side note: as part of my unlisted goal of embracing minimalism, I’ve limited myself to only a couple things to really focus on. That accounts for the lack of length of the list, which is rare coming from me.)

  • Science everything. Pretty much.
  • Read 100 books. (I plan to start a page on this blog to keep the running list – you can tell I’m off to a great start that the current count is exactly zero.)
  • Knit two sweaters. Of course I plan on knitting a lot more (and clearing out my acrylic yarn stash – more on that to come), but I’d love it if that could happen.
  • Run. Meditate. Listen. (Things I’ve been intending to do but have been postponing. Being a better listener was one of last year’s resolutions too.)
  • Be willing to be overwhelmed. I need to learn how to be okay being over my head.

 

Being back to school after break is a little crazy. Homework calls.

I love making lists. List-making is my thing. And, of course, since it’s the end of the year, a list is in order. Probably a personal list, a memories list. Not intended to be a checklist, or a list of the things that I wish had happened or that I wish I’d done. Just making note, I suppose. In no particular order, though I’ll limit its items to fifteen.

And with that, the 2014 list.

  1. I learned to knit.
  2. I figured out that minimalism was something I wanted to do with my life. Which leads to…
  3. I went through my closet (summer) and gave away about half of all my clothes. I’ve slowly been doing it with everything else. (Books haven’t been touched yet, though.)
  4. I baked bread. Yeasted bread, which I’d always been too scared to do. One loaf over the summer, two in October, two in December.
  5. The Brothers Karamazov happened. In about twelve days.
  6. I learned to love art again, mostly via taking printmaking.
  7. I had four weeks of women in leadership training (and then another week of extra leadership training during student leader orientation).
  8. My first existential crisis! (I don’t know exactly why I felt like putting an exclamation point there.) Starting to figure out what I want and what I don’t want.
  9. The first time I got asked to a school dance.
  10. I fell head over heels in love with the Pacific Northwest after the June trip to Seattle. It had been a while since I’d been there, but the joy in knowing that it’s my place felt really good.
  11. I discovered Vela. And then, the writing piece that convinced me to commit myself to becoming bilingual and made me ache for traveling again. It might be the best thing I’ve read all year.
  12. The fam went to Spain. I learned the limits of being a vegetarian while traveling.
  13. I cut ten plus inches off my hair and donated it. That changed things.
  14. I learned to really redefine family. Family is shared blood, shared genes, but also those with whom you share few or no genes who matter to you.
  15. And last but not least, I started this blog. I commit to continuing writing, although the current audience is small (hi Mom!) and life is busy.

 

And with that behind us, we plunge into 2015.

I used to consider myself a runner. In some ways, I suppose I still do, but yesterday morning’s run was the first run in probably a month. About a month ago, as the soccer season was ending and it was getting too cold to play on the field, we did a Sun Hill loop as a team – somewhere between three and four miles, an absolutely beautiful day. Running up at school is different from running at home, in lots of ways. I’m on trails at school, something I’m never doing at home, where the suburban neighborhoods offer pavement loops for me to configure and reconfigure in my head depending on how far I want to run.

I didn’t run very far yesterday – just shy of two miles – and it felt painfully slow at parts, knowing that I had run faster before, that when I was in shape I had run faster and harder and with more love and ferocity.

 

The first time I ever ran a timed mile was in the sixth grade: four loops around the track for gym class, with the teachers timing us. The boys went first, then the girls, and I somehow managed to find a friend who ran about my speed to run with me. At the very end I sprinted, and she was just a little behind. My mile came in at 10:10, hers at 10:11.

 

The seventh grade track team had an interesting coach, you could say. Somehow both of my middle school track coaches were elementary school special ed teachers in the larger town next to mine. I was practically the eighth grade coach’s secretary, and the seventh grade coach had a philosophy of having everyone run the same distance during practice, no matter what distance you wanted to race. Some days we’d run three, four miles in practice, even the people who would run the hundred meter dash the next day. We’d often end practice with two or three laps, and not slow ones either. I was never a long-distance person, but after that season I had more miles built into my running shoes than I had before, or have since, I think. At my best the following summer, I ran a 7:30 mile around the neighborhood.

 

I still don’t consider myself a long-distance person, partially due to lack of practice, partially because I’ve never been on a cross-country team or loved trails or ran more than four or five miles at a time. Sometimes I force myself to run, even though it feels wrong, somehow, right when I get started. I had planned to run yesterday, and am planning to run tomorrow. Yesterday my feet took nine and half minutes a mile. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

 

(Also, because I always think about it when I talk about running, this Miranda Ward piece, or a whole lot of other Miranda Ward pieces on running.)

I never read as much as I wish I do. It’s sad but true, and has always been true, even at the points in my life when I read seven books at a time. Now it’s hard for me to read two books simultaneously, finishing either in a timely manner is almost out of the question. I have, however, read two books in the past three weeks, and I think that’s okay. Anything is a beginning.

The first book was a quasi-assignment by my advisor: Mattieu Ricard’s Happiness. An invitation, a beginning, for the upcoming meditation mission. It was a two-week project with mechanical pencil annotations in the margins and vibrant yellow-green post-it notes marking the exercises should I need to come back to them. It’s an amazing book, definitely, and the fact that Ricard was a cellular biologist before a monk makes me love him so much more – exactly the mission in choosing that book for me. If there was no science, there would be no credibility.

Yet there was close to no science whatsoever in the other book I finished: a re-read of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I knew I needed to reread it before I started meditating, as it was the first book in my whole life that convinced me (at about age 11) that spiritual practice (particularly meditation) might not be a crazy thing and instead something that could be done daily. Granted, I’m not a religious or spiritual person in the least – I’m a scientist, an Atheist, and religion has always made me uncomfortable – but I do believe in practice, and Gilbert was the first to convince me that meditation could be a somewhat approachable practice. (Maybe it’s the “rereading-it-once-I’m-older” thing, but it seemed this time like she talked so much more about sex than last time… Time certainly changes the things you notice!)

 

I’ll finish this quick meditation reading overview with a beautiful quote from the end of EPL:

In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.

October must be one of my favorite months of the year. Weather-wise, at least, it’s beautiful here, and there’s a feeling of settling – not good, not bad, just regression towards and creation of a mean again. September is crazy and busy and tumultuous; October and November bring my favorite temperatures and a little bit more comfort in the ups and down, knowing that they’re more regular.

I was home for a little while this October and spent quite a lot of it baking. There were more cookies than I could count by the end of it.

popcorn cookies

(The ones above are a version of these cookies, which, in turn, are adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The whole back-and-forth of food bloggers is so beautiful, bouncing off each other’s ideas. This is a prime example.)

I also made bread, for the second time that I can ever remember. It looked too pretty, so I took pictures of it. I’ve fallen into the habit of avoiding taking pictures of things now. I used to do it constantly, yet it’s become so cliche unless done right that I avoid pictures of food now. Even still, bread.

bread 1

 

——

Halloween is usually one of my least favorite holidays of the year. Normally is. I sit around handing out candy, wishing I could be giving out dental floss instead without people looking at me strangely. Alas, no children I know would willingly accept dental hygiene products over sugar-laden treats.

I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years, trailing off several years ago after a certain memorable Cruella DeVil costume, complete with the half black and half white hair and a homemade cape. My sister, on the other hand, is very into Halloween and plans costumes months in advance (which I can say I only obsessively do with books and knitting…). This year, though, there’s a plan. It’s Harry Potter-themed and will be quite spectacular, I do believe. The group of us tried on our costumes last night, and this may be the first Halloween in years that I might actually enjoy things.

I had always wanted a couple of things for my friends: academic conversation, and group literary Halloween costumes (I had pictured Gatsby then but Harry Potter is so much better). October right now has just felt like pieces are falling into place. Granted, sometimes they’re not, and you have to shove them back together to look presentable, but it’s all okay. It’s tea and leaves season, after all, and November’s not looking too bad either.

jars of tea

keep trees

 

I’ve been in a reading slump lately.

It’s kind of crazy for me to be in a reading slump, considering I learned to read early and have gone nearly non-stop since. Yet it’s been about a month since I finished a book, and I’ve started several. It’s weird, and unlike me. In some ways I think it might be the context – the busyness and slight insanity that is life right now. Well, always, but in particular right now. Oh well.

 

Even so, I’ve been trying to read a little bit in the moments that I feel it. Therefore, first time posting reading notes on this blog. I hope for this to become a semi-regular thing, and I just felt the first tonight. Here goes nothing.

– I picked up Steinbeck the other day for the first time in years. The Pearl is now at my bedside, only a little way through the short volume. I should really finish it this week.

This Cheri Rowlands Lucas piece was a description of a feeling I have a lot in regard to writing, especially given that I like numbers and data better in the first place. If I could just write in chemical equations all the time (or was fluent enough to think in them), all would be fantastic.

– I talked about this Rookie piece with some of my friends a couple weeks ago. It rings very true and relevant to teen girls.

– Ngozi Chimimanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus was started but not finished a couple weekends ago. I’m maybe halfway through but haven’t had time to plug away at it. Should happen soon, though no guarantees.

– I have fallen so thoroughly, incredibly in love with Vela Magazine. So so so much. I’d originally found it through Miranda Ward, one of my favorite young women writers, but it’s so much more than that. Beautiful pieces of late? This Miranda Ward piece. This emotion-laden piece on travel and love and taking care of each other. And, discovered tonight, likely one of my favorite things read this year so far, and maybe one of my favorite essays ever, this piece on living bilingually and bilingual relationships. Vela’s pieces are so beautiful and so nicely curated. I kinda just want to read all the archives in one sitting, although unrealistic.

– Given how much baking I’ve done over the past 60 hours or so, our kitchen might hypothetically have a lot less flour and sugar and butter less than it does. Good thing we stocked up. I spent quite a bit of time before starting (and even during the process) searching for recipes, and I was struck by the honesty at the beginning of this post. It needs to be said sometimes. I’m glad it was phrased here in the way that it was.

– The book I remember finishing most recently, not for class (aka not The Scarlet Letter or The Rediscovery of North America), was Emily Transue’s On Call. Medical memoirs are the best. I absolutely need to get my hands on Atul Gawande’s latest book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. (Amazon link)

– Also to get but completely unrelated (though released near to Gawande’s): Amy Poehler’s book! Smart Girls is the best, and I am waiting for the impulse, Amazon Prime, and a perfect long weekend to read this.

– On a more serious note, after a really great quote in a travel magazine article, I’m hoping to discover something in William Blake. Hopefully the school library has a copy of Jerusalem, the book quoted in the article. It looks like there might be a lot to discover there.

 

That’s a lot, looking at it. More than I expected, though it surely could be longer. I’ll sign off on that. It’s a rainy night where I am, a perfect night for reading inside. I’ll be off to do just that.

I take comfort in routines. I always have, especially school routines. When I was younger, it was the timer we’d set every morning to count down the minutes until I had to go out to wait approximately three and a half minutes for the bus. It was (and is) getting my schedule at the beginning of the school year. It’s eating approximately the same breakfast at approximately the same time every day. It’s being where I want and need to be intuitively, little thinking involved. It’s knowing, in my head and in my heart, a sense of consistency, if not belonging. Just knowing.

(more…)

I never know what to say at the beginning.

It’s that lapse of the right words, my mind drawing a blank or struggling over what to say.

This time I’ve determined that I have to just do it already, and not stumble over “perfect” phrasing.

Here it goes.

Number one. Beginnings. Hope. Lots more to come.

We’ll begin here.