Small Christmas crises


I’ve been having a lot of small crises lately, mostly small existential crises. Maybe not so much existential as transitional crises.

Like tonight at dinner while my parents and I ate spaghetti and talked about Christmas this year. Then I realized something, “Guys, this might be my last Christmas at home!”

Wide eyes, whiny tone. This was a realization I hadn’t had yet.

“Well, yeah, honey, if your plan works out, it will be.” My plan is to live at home for six months while I get a job and save rent money then move out. It’s just a plan. We’ll see what happens.

“Oh, no! Everything keeps changing. I get used to one thing, and then another changes. And it just keeps going.”

At this point, my dad is just nodding, like yes, that’s life. It’s not fun, but that’s what it is. 

This is a strange turn of events. Not only will I only get home a week before Christmas, but it might be the last one.

In the frenzy of grasping for familiarity and hoping to not feel regret or disappointment come December 26th, I said, “Well, we have to make sure we do everything!”

I’m making a list. It’s dumb. It’s not going to make it more like Christmas when I was little, and it’ll probably feel a little stupid to execute.

We have to read all the Christmas books! Out loud!

We have to make the gingerbread cookies that fit together into 3D models of Santa and his sleigh and reindeer! And decorate!

We have to listen to all the same music that we listened to for all the other 21 Christmases I’ve been around for! All!

Picture a cat that’s falling off the couch that stretches out its claws in a desperate attempt to stay on the couch and ends up clawing your pant leg instead and hanging on. That’s kind of what’s going on here.

We need to get a “Baby’s 22nd Christmas” ornament! Stat! Mark the occasion!

“Well, you can come sleep over here next year. I mean, then you can still open stockings with us on Christmas morning.”

The panic subsides a little bit. Then I think of sleeping in the guest room in the house I grew up in the night before Christmas. Will that be weird? Yes. But it’ll mean something is the same. This is helpful.

My mind is still spinning with the finality. Ending college, ending any semblance of childhood, ending education (for now), ending living at home (eventually), ending Christmas at home, ending financial dependence on my parents (soonish, no hurry on that one), ending calling this ‘home.’

But not everything upends. It changes, but some things will stay consistent, at least until the other changes feel solid. Then they’ll change. And I’ll be ready.

But I’m still going to read all of our Christmas books this year. Starting tonight after the gingersnaps finish baking.

5th annual all-day Thanksgiving chronicle


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Sheep mug for the win.

This is one of my favorite days of the year. Not just because I run to my computer every time something happens and have a running chronicle, but partly.

There’s also a lot of food involved, the best company, and good conversation.

This year I got up earlier than last year, because the potatoes had to be in the crockpot by 8am. I had intentions to help with the peeling, but I pressed Snooze a few too many times and ended up getting there after it was done.

Whoops.

Thanks for taking care of that, dad.

I’m thankful for my parents today. Thankful that they are happy to have me home, that they’re about to welcome me back home when I graduate in just 22 days and giving me time to figure out what’s next. They’ve been so gracious about not pressuring me to apply for jobs or be on the ball about anything. They listen to the crises about not getting things done and bring perspective and remind me to take one thing at a time. It’s been a blessing my whole life, but particularly so this semester, as I prepare to finish out a key phase of life and wander into the unknown.

It’s 8:50am.

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We set the table last night. The dishes are my great-grandmother’s china, 96 years old.

There she is, my mom’s dad’s mom. (still following?)

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Pretty sure this is before she got the china. Anyway, she lives on at our table now.

I’m thankful for getting to dig into my family heritage more this year, on both sides. I’ve gotten to write about some of it. It’s been formative, thinking about where and who I’ve come from and where I’m going. Also, I’m learning how to write about my own life in a way that brings other people in.

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This photo was taken around 8:30am, right after my mother said, “don’t you dare take  my picture.”

:)

My dad issued a challenge for a nerf gun war to the people coming to lunch today. This includes: Alex (my brother-in-law), Brooke (my sister), Stella, Brian, Alexander, and Jordan (our family friends, Stella was our piano teacher and we babysat for Alexander and Jordan).

I’m thankful for my dad – that he’s like this, engaging people and being excited about connecting over nerf guns. One of my friends saw his post and snapchatted me to let me know he is now her favorite human because he does things like this on Thanksgiving. He was pleased to hear that.

The day promises to be a success, particularly so if I get out of my pajamas and maybe get a workout in of some kind. I fell off the workout train in the middle of this semester, and what better day to get back on?

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9:15am, but first, the only protein I will eat all day and a view of the potatoes in the crockpot, which are starting to spread their starchy aroma around the kitchen.

10:49am

Workouts are done. Mom eats peanut butter and celery. The self-discipline here is just overwhelming.

This is the part of the morning where everyone wants a snack but doesn’t want to ruin their appetite for the late lunch of the century.

Just to give you an idea of what this will be like, there are three households contributing food… for nine people. 7 adults, and 2 children. There will be three pies (banana cream, pumpkin, and pecan), one meringue cake, and marshmallow fluff (which is NOT considered a dessert by table standards, only by sugar content). There will be turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, acorn squash and apples, Russian potato salad, a wild rice dish, quinoa salad with kale, cranberry sauce, challah bread, cornbread dressing, green beans, and the plethora of desserts already mentioned.

We will be full in twenty minutes. But it’s all about the experience (and the leftovers).

11:34am

Those potatoes smell so good. SO good. Like, would anyone notice if I dipped my fork into the crockpot a few times? Not that I would do that. It’s just a question.

12:18pm

My mom says these exact words, “I just can’t tell you how many times in the past week I’ve unwrapped a stick of butter… and another… and another.”

Good things are coming. When I came home, she’d already done a lot of the cooking and baking for today. There were 13 sticks of butter in the fridge. Today (two days later), there are 7 left.

This is telling.

1:32pm

Everything has gone in the oven or been heated. The place cards are ready, the green beans are steaming. Guests are coming soon.

4:05pm

Lunch has been consumed, leftovers have been divided up. Now Dad is organizing a nerf gun war. He’s making us all make targets and shoot them.

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7:12pm

It’s all over.

We ate a little of everything, talked, made targets for a nerf gun competition, and ate pie, and fought a nerf gun fight.

I’m thankful for this tradition and for a day to reflect on what I’m thankful for. Gratitude is for every day, but it’s good to have a day set aside for thankfulness.

And potatoes and pie.

And maybe nerf guns.

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We’re more than multitaskers


Today is one of those days where I had a lot to do and got a lot done but still have more. It’s been harder and harder to want to dig into these analytical papers I’m writing since I’m doing them all at the same time.

I was not made to multitask. (can I get an amen?) Hallelujah, I was made to do one thing at a time.

Right now it doesn’t matter how I work best. It matter that I still need to finish these papers. And they still need to be as good as I can make them, not because I need good grades at this point, but what’s the point in finishing if I’m not going to do it well?

So, it’s time for a pep talk. Maybe you’re trying to do everything at once right now, too. Tis the season of trying to do too much, right?

Hey, there, you? Can I have a minute? Can you put down the balls for just one minute and stop your juggling? We’ve talked about this before, how it doesn’t all depend on you. Yes, rest in that.

It will not all fall apart if you stop in the middle of the day to take a power nap. The world will keep spinning, and when you get up, you’ll feel stronger on your feet. Everyone will not turn on you if you take a snack break or put down the thing you’ve struggled with for a couple hours already. You’ll go back to it soon enough.

I know you think everyone else is getting more done. Maybe they are. Maybe they’re super-doers. But you just do what you can, one thing at a time. Chunk it up, is what my mom always said. So you do this little section of that today, and then, it’s done. And you save that little section for tomorrow. And you do little sections of everything until you can solve the puzzle.

Yes, this is Wheel of Fortune. Buy a vowel, guess one letter at a time, and when you’re ready, close the whole project off.

Yes, there are things you can’t do today. You can’t finish everything today. But that’s not worth focusing on. What can you do? One piece.

The other day my friend sent me a picture of an entire pizza with the caption “Every pizza is a personal pizza if you just believe in yourself.” That’s the spirit. And take it one slice at a time.

You’re capable. You’ve done things before. Maybe not this, maybe not all these, but you can do it. You’ll do. You will.

Just one thing at a time. To misquote the Bible, “We’re more than multitaskers.”

We’ll take the motivation as it comes, right? We’ll do what we can and maybe even a little of what we thought we couldn’t. And we’ll make it through.

Fast watches.


If I’ve set a clock, you better believe it’s fast. My alarm clock, the analog clock on the wall of Liesel’s and my room, both of my watches, and probably the microwave clock because I got to it first after the last power outage–they’re all about four minutes fast.

It’s anxiety. I feel the need to always be places on time, and I do that best if I think it’s later than it is. Well, actually, that’s not totally true. Sometimes this tendency to have the clocks be fast means that I just arrive places even earlier than I should. I’m not usually late for things. I just set my clocks ahead to ensure that I’ll be on time, even if I thought I was running a couple minutes late.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I didn’t start holding other people to this standard, too. I just caught myself looking at my watch. I was waiting for a student to show up to their writing conference. 9:15. Welp, they’re late. They weren’t late, both because the conference was supposed to start by 9:15, and there’s always a little grace that you can be a few minutes late. Also, it wasn’t 9:15 yet. It was 9:11.

I’ve been thinking about grace a lot lately, how showing grace to myself enables me to extend it to others, how the grace God has shown me sets a standard for how to show it to other people.

As in, I don’t expect people to be early to writing conferences, because no one can always live up to that. I don’t expect that everyone sets their watch ahead, partly because that’s not innately virtuous and partly because it’s not realistic for everyone to do that. Or practical.

As in, there’s a line between believing the best of people and expecting them to live up to perfection at all times. This isn’t about people meeting or not meeting my standards; it’s about seeing them as humans with a wide margin for how they will act, having broad expectations, a variety of ways that people can behave.

If they show up at all, that’s something. If they show up on time, what a nice surprise! Early? So nice. Not necessary, but nice. 

Does it sound like lowered standards? I hope not. Having grace for people means that I know they have a best behavior but that no one lives up to that consistently. I don’t. You don’t. I might think I’m doing you a favor by saying that you are perfect and never disappoint, but really, I’m setting you up for failure.

I’m not to the point where I can set my clocks to the actual time. I’m not even really to the point where I won’t berate myself for being late, especially in these days where I still don’t have a phone and can’t send an anxious apology text: I’m coming – sorry I’m late! But I might be on track to seeing you as a person who might be on time but might not, and just accepting you when you come.

Marker for growth of some kind.


One of my good friends from high school, Emma, is visiting me in Chicago this weekend. She’s sleeping on my couch, and we’re exploring things I haven’t yet seen in my time living here (There. Are. So. Many.). And we’re going back to things I love.

We were standing on a train platform waiting for a train back to school late last night (late for me, which means before midnight and after ten), both of our feet tired from walking and standing for hours.

“Four years ago, we were still in high school,” she said at one point in the conversation.

It has been four years, hasn’t it? We’ll have our five-year reunion next year. And for the rest of our lives, we’ll be getting progressively farther and farther from high school.

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This morning, when I woke up, Facebook told me I’d posted this picture four years ago today.

My acceptance letter. There I am, in my (likely) post volleyball practice splendor, proudly holding the envelope that means I’m going to college in the city where I wanted to be. In my letter jacket.

Almost everything in that picture is changed now. I suppose the only thing that’s the same are the acceptance letter (which I still have… some day I’ll throw it away) and the fireplace, which is made from stone.

My letter jacket no longer hangs on my body but in the coat closet at my parents’ house. Our family room (pictured behind me) has been painted and rearranged (twice) since then.

I haven’t played volleyball since that last game of my senior year. (but just saw on Facebook that my alma mater’s team is going to State! Finally, someone achieved the dream.)

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly is different about me in the intangibles. I mean, visibly, my hair is a slightly different color right now, I have two more piercings than when I started college, I think my face looks a little different. But what you can’t see? I’m not ready to identify that.

I eat more protein now. Eggs! Beans! Who knew I could have such a diverse palate? I’m my own chef. I’ve tried making new things – and sometimes failed miserably.

“You know this place,” Emma said last night, after I said I thought we needed to walk west in order to get from State to Dearborn. A small feat, but I thought, yes, sometimes, I do. I’ve gotten decent at orienting myself in Chicago. Not fabulous, but decent. I can navigate the brown line and most of the north side pretty easily and can get to either airport without a problem. That’s something. I can get to any part of the Loop.

Sometimes I walk a mile in the wrong direction after I get off the train, realize my mistake, and walk back. So I know some of this place, and I’ve gotten better at walking longer distances. And worse at double checking the direction.

I know I write about different things now. I’ve thought sometimes about if I should start a new blog, get a fresh platform. Some of my posts are from 2011, yikes! That wouldn’t be a big deal if I hadn’t been 17 that year. Some of the posts are cringeworthy. (but hey, I can still write cringeworthy posts)

But it’s true to the process, both of learning to write and growing up.

Today feels like a landmark. Four years ago, today, I was just beginning to be a part of college, just starting that process of figuring out what I wanted to study, who I wanted to be, and how I’d fit into a new place. And now, I’m 41 days away from reintegrating into the place I left – but a different version of it.

I can’t say much for certain about what has changed in those years, but I’m marking today. We can tick it off of the wall as growth of some kind.

Good is on the way


I sat at my dining room table in the seat where I can see out the front windows and watched a guy rollerblade past.

It’s November 4th, and he just rollerbladed by in a sweatshirt. The sun is shining, and the leaves are still on the trees – some of them even still green.

I had a thought yesterday, Today is a perfect day. I felt like I had to check myself because I never say perfect and mean it. Perfect is a nearly unusable word since nothing ever is.

But yesterday very nearly was. Not because of what happened but because of how it felt. (even though it certainly wasn’t a bad day- I spent a few hours of it working at the chocolate shop near campus making oreo turkeys)

We’ve had cold weather here in the past few weeks. Not too cold, but the wind got pretty strong and cold there for a few days. It’s hard to feel light on those days. I mean, you can feel light because it feels like the wind might pick you up and dump you a few blocks away, but lightness of heart is harder to come by.

Those days are cloudy. Nobody skips.

Nobody rollerblades.

Yesterday and today feel light. The weather has hit 70 both days. We’ve worn short sleeves and sunglasses.

It feels like a gift, a concession for the cloudy days and a reminder that you never know what good thing is about to come your way.

I’d like to live like good is coming more of the time.