Sugar cookies and public libraries


I’ve been home a total of two days and already had one crisis about the future. Welcome to the post-grad life. All that confident talk about waiting to see what God has in store for me, how I’m willing to follow and be obedient and be faithful until things start to happen is true, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have small meltdowns every once in a while.

We were making cookies, my mom and me. The short days make everyone sleepy, and we’d both been fighting sleepiness more than usual. Also, it turns out that yesterday was the shortest day of the year. Yes, this does make people more melancholy and woeful than usual.

We were cutting out sugar cookies, because those are the most sentimental of all the Christmas cookies for me. She was holding the parchment paper while I rolled out the ball of dough right on it. Then we’d cut out the cookies and peel away the extra dough instead of moving the cookies. It was making for fewer fallen angels and dopey trees.

It had only been one day of not having purpose and not knowing what’s ahead.

“I’m just feeling like I need hope, like I need perspective about what’s coming.”

She got it. “It’s only been one day. You’ve got lots of things coming up. Christmas is coming. You’ll go back to Loft and work. You can follow up with the places you applied.”

She’s right. It helped a little. Sometimes it’s hard to fight how you feel though. My mind was starting to agree with her though.

“You just have to act yourself into a better way of feeling.” That works. She’d know, being a former counselor. If I act with purpose and create some structure where there isn’t much, that’ll help.

I still felt the melancholy though.

It didn’t help that my dad came in and told my mom about their plane ticket reservation. She’s going with him on a business trip. Over Valentine’s Day weekend. Somewhere warm. It makes sense – someone should actually enjoy the warmth while he’s in meetings. I just graduated. I don’t get vacations yet. I wouldn’t spend Valentine’s Day with my parents anyways. It’s not like it’ll be much different that they aren’t there.

We kept rolling out the cookies and putting sprinkles on some. Rolling out cookies is a process. We’d only made a half recipe, but it took a couple hours to get them all cut out and baked.

Today I ran errands, created purpose in a day where the only thing I had to do was go to church for a short rehearsal for Christmas Eve. I braved traffic to the post office, went to meet my new boss and offer all my hours, grocery shopped with everyone and their grandma, and went to the library.

I went to print something, but when the printer was busy, I found myself looking at the books. And then looking for books I’d heard recommended.

And ended up walking out with all of these.

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Even though I’m already reading two books and won’t be able to finish these in just two weeks, most likely.

Well, maybe I can.

I told my dad that this is why I graduated college a semester early, to read whatever I wanted in larger quantities.

He laughed, but we both know it’s a little bit true.

Reading is a contribution to a future in publishing. And it give purpose. It’s like traveling to a warm place with someone you love but less expensive and more sedentary.

This is what I’ll be doing until I start working full-time. Thank the good Lord for public libraries.

The state of moving back in.


I should feel pretty accomplished today, but moving doesn’t feel like an accomplishment until the last cardboard box is empty. And considering that this is the current state of the union, I can’t feel done yet.

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And that’s even after getting the majority of my clothes put away (and storing a few things in the guest room temporarily). I told myself that I could open up the boxes with my books in them if I put my clothes away. So I put most of the clothes away and opened up all the boxes because in the short span of a few days, I’d promptly forgotten what each one had in it.

It’s 10:00, and I woke up at 7:30 and drove about 500 miles today, about 150 of which I took the wheel. I moved a whole bunch of things and vacuumed and cleaned out a fridge before we left. When we got home, I moved everything in and up the stairs to my room. Much effort exerted. Yet I just wanted to put my books on my shelf before I went to bed. It needs to be reorganized – by genre, I think. But for now the books are having interesting conversation. When else can C.S. Lewis and Garrison Keillor sit next to each other? Or Willa Cather and Kant? St. Augustine and Paula Danziger? You get the picture. Turn this into a seating chart, and we’ve got one strange event about to unfold.

Anyway, I’ll make book organization my reward for when I finish unpacking. Ugh. This is the time of year where I again ask myself why I have so much stuff. And where yet again I donate and sell and pare down, feeling only slightly relieved because there’s a lot left. I’ve got a stack of clothes ready to go to Goodwill already. Maybe I’ll go through my closet at some point and find still more remnants of childhood that aren’t significant enough to keep. You know, like the dried-out playdough or broken crayons that somehow made it through the last round of purging.

Here’s hoping that I won’t still be talking about doing this in a week. Motivation, don’t leave me now!

Newsy.


Today’s a set-your-alarm-for-8-but-actually-wake-at-9 day and a -drink-coffee-pronto-then-eat-brunch-before-your-11:45-class day.

This semester I don’t have any classes before 9:50, so I tend to wake up just before 8… most days. But the mold count is really high in Chicago, which means sore throats and yuckiness for all of us who tend to react badly to that, so I decided extra sleep wouldn’t hurt.

I’ve been blogging less this week because I’m in three writing intensive classes and one not writing intensive class. It’s fabulous because it exercises all the writing muscles, but it’s also exhausting. My main project this semester is writing a 25 page manuscript that is in publishing condition. So, naturally, I chose to write a memoir about family and loss.

I can see why people feel like they need to write books about writing books. The entire process so far (and I’m barely in the shallow end) has been full of questions and decisions and strategizing about how to best organize this and where do you start and where do you end and do you change your family member’s names for their protection or put them in so they’ll feel like it’s about them (cuz it is). Where’s the best place to write? Should you have eaten before you write? Should you eat while you write?

Is it okay to write while you feel super nostalgic about your subject matter? Or should you give yourself a bit of distance first?

I might have to write a book about writing this manuscript. Then write a book about writing that book. And by then, I’ll have three books written about basically the same thing.

Or maybe I’ll just move on after it. Take down the process in a journal and move on.

In other news, I’m trying out a new natural deodorant because I don’t want cancer from putting aluminum and parabens in my armpits. Last time I tried this, it was freshman orientation and I felt like I smelled the entire time (miraculously, I still made friends).

This time, I need all of you who will be seeing (and smelling) me in the near future to be on high nostril alert. If you hug me and I smell, I want a report. Not kidding.

 

Bookish.


If I wasn’t certain of it before, I am now. Not only am I human, but I am a bookish human. The word “bookish” seemed offensive to me at some point in my life, because it seemed flat, like oh, well, you’re bookish, so you’re like a book. You sit on a shelf and only get down when someone specifically requests you. You smell like paper and feel smooth and flat, and people have to care to read you. 

Now I’d like to redefine “bookish”. I currently have eight books sitting on the floor beside my bed. Three of them I am currently reading, and five of them I anticipate starting in the next few days.

Then there’s the bookshelf at the end of my bed: half full of books I’ve read and loved from all stages of life and half full of books I have yet to read. Venture to the living room to “my couch” (apparently Liesel and I have our own couches… we naturally gravitate towards different ones), where two other books sit. On the bureau, there are two more books.

In the quantity that some people keep boxes of tissues or lip balm or air fresheners, I have books. And they are as useful as lip balm, tissues, or air fresheners, though for different uses.

Bookish: (adj) sees books as a portal to living a meaningful and full life, possibly wishes for glasses in order to look more intelligent, feels at home in a library or bookstore, may quote books or paraphrase interesting readings without prompting or invitation.

I’m bookish. Man, college really is a time of self-discovery.

Walking, catalysts, and pans.


Update on the pans, in case you (like my Canadian friend) were wondering what transpired there: they were in the very bottom on a box all along, somehow obscured so that I could not find them.

I’m not in Austria anymore, but I was thinking back to before I left today. I remembered how I didn’t know what to expect and mostly pictured a lot of walking, coffee, trains, and classes. And German, though I didn’t realize how much. Then, when I arrived in Austria, I saw that the pretty, old buildings I expected were there, along with the trains, the German language, the classes, the need to walk, and plenty of places to get coffee.

And then there was the excess of free time, where I realized that I have a big part to play in creating my reality. Who decides my schedule? Oh, right. I do that. There’s a certain amount of responsibilities and assignments and requirements involved in that decision, but I decide. I decide how I get places and when I go. I decide when I don’t go and what I do instead.

It’s both a freeing and frightening reality.

So, today, thinking back to my days of walking around Graz and (as Thoreau might say) “sauntering” from place to place without a goal in mind, I took a walk. I started walking and eventually gave myself a direction. Sure, the buildings were all brick, and there was a heck-of-a-lot of sirens and honking and cars and dust and people, but that’s Chicago. It was a different kind of wandering. Still the kind I need to do to foster creativity (I’ve found that walking is integral to my writing process) but just in my current setting.

I found myself in Lincoln Square, then decided to walk into the book store, where I spontaneously picked up a Billy Collins anthology and bought it, asking the clerk if this book store is hiring. Then I took a lesser known route home, trusting the Chicago grid to get me where I need to be.

You can wander anywhere, and you create the kind of life you want to live, to an extent. If I want to be the kind of person who up and walks to an adventure, then I’d better start being that person.

Sometimes, you’re your own catalyst.

Staring at raindrops.


Something about rainy days makes me want to curl up with a book and stare out the window.  Book in hand, fetal position assumed, stare out window.  You’ll notice this doesn’t include actual reading.

Sometimes you just need to stare.  You watch the rain come down and let the thoughts churn in your head til you’re ready to settle into a book.  I was all prepared to enjoy some sunshine with Crime and Punishment, but then this ominous raincloud came overhead.  I told myself that it couldn’t chase me back inside. (I’m tough, dontcha know.) I would stick around. Few raindrops?  That’s fine.  Hmm, I wonder how long it takes for them to get from that cloud to my skin? Back to Raskolnikov.  Wondering how exactly Russian names and nicknames work.

Ominous cloud keeps coming.  Ominous cloud starts dripping, just a bit.  Ominous cloud starts dripping a lot, and though my stubborn nature tells me that I should stick it out even though it’s not ideal and not comfortable and not what I came out here for, I go run up the stairs as the rhythm of the raindrops gets faster.

I don’t regret coming inside.  Better to take shelter when the conditions get bad and wait for sunnier weather than to try to convince yourself that the rain is comfortable and ideal and exactly what you were looking for when you came outside with your book and sunglasses.

Five minutes later, and the sun is back out. Blue skies, not a cloud in sight.  It does happen, people.  It does happen.

Books and fireworks.


I was going to be self-disciplined when we went to Barnes & Noble downtown tonight, and I succeeded… at first.

But then I saw the Bargain Books section, and who isn’t going to be drawn to that?  I mean, you can’t lose by looking, right?  So, I wandered over, saw a few things I didn’t need… Saw a few things I could definitely love forever.  Like a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writings, two novels and a bunch of short stories – all for $7.68 (plus tax, since apparently books aren’t considered a necessity).  I picked up the complete works of Shakespeare, too, but I put it back.  Because Fitzgerald beats Shakespeare today.

I started breathing kind of funny as soon as I saw the shelf with these collections of classic writers’ works.  They were hardcover with dust jackets and LOTS of pages of words.  And the price tag was less than $10, which is always cause for slight hyperventilation.

If you ever want to buy me something, buy me a classic book.

After we browsed the bookstore, we grabbed sweatshirts (and dropped FSF off) at the car and headed to the river to watch fireworks.  We had a perfect seat, elevated above the water, right at the edge of the hill, and directly facing the launch site.  They were some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.

I always think it’s the grand finale way before it happens.  They’ll shoot off a few in quicker succession than before, and I’ll wonder if this is the part we’ve been waiting for, but then it isn’t.  That usually happens a few times before the real deal.

Really, it’d be a lame finale if my impressions were correct.

But then the real finale comes, and it’s so much more striking than any other part of the show.  And I always wonder how I could have thought that anything else was last hurrah.  It leaves me speechless, takes my breath away.  It stands out, high above the rest of the show, with a grandness that can’t be denied.

So much to learn from fireworks.

Surprise books.


I wasn’t going for “most eye-catching” ensemble when I left the house this morning, but I guess fuchsia pants and a bright red bag are not exactly subtle. They barely match, but I suppose it doesn’t matter what you wear to work if you can write press releases and get past your writer’s block to compose a few social media posts. (a little sustenance helps with that one)

This morning, I sat with my cup of coffee at the café by my place of employment to read a little bit of Charles Stanley’s book, The Source of My Strength. I stopped at Lifeway with a friend this past weekend, and they were giving them away for free to the first 50 customers.

I love surprises, especially surprise free books. (take note)

I paused to read the back cover and quickly realized that this book was meant to offer remedies for problems. And if you’re going to read a book that offers a remedy for problems, you’re going to have to admit that you have problems.

First chapter – about loneliness. What self-respecting person wants to admit that they get lonely? Probably not you.  Probably not me, either.  Yet, I’m sure everyone has at least passing moments if not debilitating bouts of loneliness. And the safest place to admit that is when you’re sitting alone with a Jesus and a book. No one will know, no one will judge.

So, I read the chapter about being lonely, because it’s hard to not be lonely sometimes, even though I’m never alone.

Just as a wrapped this post up, it started pouring rain.  Ah, the beauty.  Oh, the soothing sound of release, of clouds lettings their burdens go wholeheartedly.

Moving furniture.


I have a list of 92 books that I want to read this summer.  92.  You’d think that it’s ambitious, but I’m really playing catch-up.  How have I not read so many of the classics?  I mean, sure, I’ve read my fair share, but there are SO many that I overlooked!

So, I’ll read 92 books this summer. Or maybe that will end up bleeding over into next summer.  That’d be okay.

I’m nearing the end of my Purge, folks.  Yesterday, we turned a corner.  I moved furniture.

(this needs some more emphasis)

I… moved….. FURNITURE!!!!  *release balloons and confetti from ceiling and cue cheering track*

It’s a big deal because none of the furniture in my room had moved since I was twelve, when we stripped off the adorable wallpaper of teddy bears having a tea party and painted the walls lime green.  Then we added bead boarding and moved my furniture into the position it was in until yesterday.  My bed stuck out into the middle of the room, smack dab in the middle of everything.  I’m not sure why I thought it was space-efficient to take it from its place by the wall and move it right into my way.

And it was in my way.  I have actually tripped over my bed in my haste to get something on the other side of it.  No joke.  Tripped over my bed

Funny how when things are in your way it can sometimes take 7 years to move them out of the way.  My floor actually looks clean now (partially because I did so much cleaning work prior to the big move), and I have space to sit on the floor if I want to – and I just might!

It makes me wonder what other things I’ve been blind to, what obstacles I’ve ignored because they’ve been in my line of vision for so long.  My family will often set things of mine that have been laying around the house in my doorway, since surely I would notice it there and put it away.  I, on the other hand, typically step over it for a week without a thought before realizing that I should probably find it a home… not in my doorway.

It’s such a relief to have gone through most of my possessions and gotten rid of many of them.  I have two drawers left to go through.  That’s it.  I’m on my way to being a neat person.  I’m nearing the end of The Purge.

I’m getting rid of the obstacles and making room for newness.  I’m rearranging my life to move into adulthood.

Books and such.


I started adding books to my summer reading list this morning, and it almost made me want to retract my applications for summer jobs.  But then I remembered that groceries and plane tickets and child sponsorships cost money, so I decided to keep up the job hunt.

It seems that no matter how many books I’ve read, I’m still behind.  There are always classics that I’ve been meaning to get to that have just slipped through the cracks.  Then there are those new books that keep coming out (don’t they know that they shouldn’t publish any more high-quality literature until I’ve caught up?!?), so I have to add those, too.

Speaking of books, I know a place that has a bunch.  I spend a lot of time there.  Yep, it’s the library.

That’s pretty much where I live, in that green chair in the first floor on the left side as you’re about to go up the stairs.  Sometimes I mix it up, but that chair has an outlet next to it and is near the reference section, so it works out well.

It won’t be appropriate to spend four out of seven days a week at the library once I graduate.  So, it’s good to do it now.  That’s my stage of life: part-time jobs, living in a dorm, going to classes, and having a special spot in the library.

Maybe that’s what it means to be 19.