• Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 6.34.22 PM

    An ode to the books of our youth

    I’m one of those people that can never have enough books. I buy a new one or two or three every couple of months to add to my collection, even though I probably have  20 to 30 still unread. It’s … Continue reading

  • stew and bread

    Cooking Lessons as Life Lessons

    Yesterday I had the chance to attend the DC Metropolitan Cooking Show with my friend Julia. She loves being in the kitchen and cooking beloved family Italian recipes as much as I love my Cajun food. As we sat and … Continue reading

  • camp

    Family matters: a Cajun story

    Anyone that knows me knows how much I value my family. As an only child, I’m very close to my parents, and as the only “only” in my huge family, I was very close to my cousins growing up, and … Continue reading

Delighting in discovery

My first car!

My first car!

 

When you hear or see the word “discovery,” you may automatically thing big, bold life-changing things, like finding new species, coming up with a scientific equation, or unearthing centuries-old artifacts. But as I’ve learned in the last few months, discovery can also mean the everyday little things that we might take for granted until our life situations force us to look at them in a new perspective. Discovery doesn’t necessarily have to mean completely new, and it doesn’t have to be important to everyone or even understood by everyone; it can be something that’s just for you to marvel at and cherish.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered recently:

  • Getting your first car ever just before turning 30 can be just as exciting and life-changing as it is for a teenager. When I drove home in my newly leased reflex blue Mazda3 two weeks ago, I had that feeling — the one in songs and road trip movies. It’s been a long time since I drove around town in a car, and now that I am doing it in one that’s all mine, well, it’s just wonderful.
  • Volunteering at a library does make you more well-read. Heck, even having a library card makes you more well-read. I hadn’t used a library since college until about a year ago when I moved to California, and now I’m volunteering at my library in town, keeping the books in order on the shelves, and cleaning the gross ones. It’s unbelievable what’s out there (many times I ask myself, “Why did someone write about this? Why would someone want to read this?”), and it’s making me expand my reading horizons a bit more each week. A library is a perfect place for discovery.
  • Meeting people in a new city in your late 20s is harder than it looks. Especially when you start out without a car (problem now solved) and you live 45 minutes from downtown. You have to make things happen yourself. This means going on Meetup.com and joining running groups (have done one run so far), or signing up to be a volunteer (check), or taking on a part-time gig (check), or joining Match.com again (reluctantly, check). It’s not like arriving in the city fresh out of college when friends fall into your lap at networking events, happy hours, and work gatherings. This is where “pounding the pavement” becomes a thing again.
  • Your parents are always going to be worried about you. That’s their job. After living away from mine for several years, they got used to not knowing every detail of my life. But now that I live with them, things get scary again, when you throw in driving around a new city, meeting new people (men!), etc, etc. Best way to work through it? Talk it out, and get everyone on the same page about feelings, expectations, and needs. Then just know that they’ll still worry, and you all have to live with it.
  • It’s easy to get comfortable. But it’s better to challenge yourself and be true to yourself. Between moving forward in my new career path, making choices about people from my past, and not falling into old habits and emotional setbacks, I’ve been constantly reminding myself to keep my eye on the prize. So I cold called a tutoring center down the street and convinced them I would be a great addition to their team despite having no educational background — one step in the right direction for following my passion. I’ve turned down consulting projects that don’t align with my interests or my availability. And I’m striving to stay true to my needs when it comes to relationships of all kinds.

As I continue to explore my new world and my new lifestyle, I’m sure I’ll continue to make more discoveries, big and small, that play a role in what happens next. What are some things you’ve discovered?

Remembering my motivation

fortune cookie

In high school, the goal was to get into college and get scholarships. In college, the goal was to get on the newspaper, get internships, and get a job after I graduated. Once I moved to DC, I needed to find a place to live (a few times), find a new job (a couple of times), pay rent, let relationships go, and make friends and connections.

And for all of these things, I was motivated to do them because, essentially, I had to. You work to eat to live, and you find ways to make it all work.

In the year I’ve spent in California, I’ve been really lucky. I don’t have any obligations other than to pay a couple of bills. I still don’t even have a car. I don’t have to pay rent, and I’m still making money as a consultant. I’ve had the freedom — the privilege — to take my time and explore what I want to do with my life, and how I will get there.

But there’s a funny little thing about motivation: sometimes, when you don’t have to do something, it’s easier not to do anything.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been lazy. As I said, I’ve been working with multiple clients for a year, I’ve been working on my health and fitness (10 lbs. and counting down to prove it), and reconnecting with people from my past to feed my emotional growth.

What about THE thing, though? The whole “figuring out what I want to do with my life” part? That’s where it’s been easier, many days, to think and stew and be afraid, rather than to act. I’ve journaled, I’ve whiteboarded, I’ve talked things to death with family and friends, but the getting shit done part has been the challenge. Recently, I got the reminder (again) that there is no better time in my life than now to try to make my life what I want it to be — this is the big chance I get — the chance that many people never get. That ripe age of 29 going on 30 with no kids, no mortgage, no debts, no health problems, nothing.

What do I have? I have a lot of opportunity, and I have a lot of support. I have things I care about, but caring only goes so far. It’s time for action, and it’s time to act like I have to do these things — like there’s no other choice.

It may not work out, and then I’ll have to try something else, but like before, I figured it out. And what’s worse than trying and failing? Not trying and then never knowing and being stuck in a continual cycle of what ifs and self-doubt. That’s my motivation.

To all my motivators out there — thank you for reminding me why I’ve made these choices, and what I’m capable of.

What have I done in one year?

whiteboard

 

A week ago was my one-year anniversary since arriving in California. When I stepped off the plane, I was excited to spend a few months in Central Coast’s wine country with my parents before diving into being a writer and consultant full-time. I figured I would end up in San Francisco, and life would be somewhat similar to what it was in DC, but with enough changes to suit my needs.

Talk about a change of plans.

A month in, I wondered if I was crazy for leaving a city I loved, a great job, and many friends. Three months in, after a visit back to DC, I was more comfortable with my decision, but wasn’t so sure about the plan to write full-time. Six months in, I had become a bit of a red wine snob, read more books than in the previous two years combined, and still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That’s when I threw all plans out the window.

My parents and I started going stir-crazy at the same time, and as a family, we decided to move to San Diego. They had lived here for two years previous to Paso Robles, and I had enjoyed my visits, so I said, why not? Nothing else was calling to me, and it made the most sense. Who could turn down beaches and consistent sunshine?

So I’m here now, and still not quite sure what’s next. Sure, I’ve been writing, doing a fair amount of consulting (I still need an income), and still running and reading more than ever. But what’s next? There are days when I look at this past year and wonder what the hell I’ve been doing, and where I’m going. There are many days when I wonder if I’ll make friends like the ones I had before, and others when I realize I may not quite want all the friends I had before. I question why I can’t figure out what I want to do, and wonder if I’m making it too hard.

And yet, it’s easy to get comfortable. It’s easy to become okay with being stuck, to not make any movement, because it’s not as scary as making things happen. Which is what got me here in the first place, right? If I had stayed in DC, doing what I was doing…would I have grown? Would I know what I know now about my relationships, about my interests, about what and who makes me tick? Probably not.

My biggest weakness is still my fear of things not happening in the way that I imagined them for so long. The fear of turning 30 and still not having met the love of my life, of still living with my parents and not figuring out my career, and of starting over. But then I remind myself that my parents essentially did this very thing (for the most part) – they changed careers, they found love again, they moved and started over. A few times, in fact. And they made it work, far beyond what they ever imagined.

So it’s been a year and I haven’t figured it out yet. My ideas and feelings and passions are a bunch of sticky notes on a whiteboard. But what have I done? Run hundreds of miles, read dozens of books, written thousands of words, reconnected with people from my past, and imagined a few new ways to live.When you look at it that way, I’ve done a lot.

Here’s to year two of my new life. Surprise me.

Send more #snailmail: National Letter Writing Month

lots of letters

Readers of my blog know all about how much I adore writing and receiving letters. I love it so much that I’ve had two mini campaigns (here and here) to promote snail mail with fellow letter lover Leslie. I love it so much that I have a box overflowing with stationary and notecards, pens and postage, and of course, my letters from others over the years. I think I need a bigger box — collecting letter paraphernalia has become a bit like my book buying habit — I get more before I’ve finished what I have. But I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. One can’t have too much stationary, right?

It’s National Letter Writing Month, so I wanted to share a bit more about why I love the special art of snail mail so much. Just in the past week, I’ve received a handful of thoughtful postcards and notes from dear friends back in DC, and after a few weeks off because of my move, I’ve written a handful myself to be delivered to friends across the country. Just the very fact that I have friends who send me mail ( some quite regularly) all because they know I love it, makes me smile  and makes me cherish our friendship even more. And the postcards I get from friends on their travels means even more to me (do you know how much international postage costs?!), coming from Australia and Hawaii and Italy and Mexico, and elsewhere.

I asked people what they love about letters so much, and here’s what a few had to say:

snail mail tweets

fb letters

Pretty straightforward if you ask me. I think a handwritten letter is one of the most sincere and genuine forms of communication, and of respect. It takes time, it takes thought, and it takes feeling. And the memories of both writing it and receiving it are surely to last a lot longer.

So if you’re ready to send out some snail mail, check out my Pinterest board for some inspiration and options to start your own big box o’ letters. Then share in the comments whom you’re writing letters to this month, and why you love snail mail so much. And of course, let me know if you’d like to exchange letters with me!

Some of what's in my letters box

Some of what’s in my letters box

 

For the love of books

bookshelf

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  – Cicero

I think I’ve read more books in the last 10 months than I have in the last three or four years. I suppose that’s what being on a part-sabbatical while working from home in the country does for you – it’s given me a chance to get a library card again for the first time in years, to hungrily devour books long on my “to read” list and revisit favorites from my youth. It’s made me choose reading over TV and the social media, led me to staying up late just to finish one more chapter (or the end of a book), and it’s reaffirmed that reading is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life.

In honor of National Reading Month, I wanted to acknowledge some of the books, characters, and reading moments that have stuck with me through life, out of the hundreds (thousands?) of books I’ve completed.

  • Little House in the Big WoodsThe Book of Goodnight Stories: a wonderful illustrated book of fairy tales and fables, broken up to last an entire year. It was one of the first books my mom read to me. I still have it, and look forward to reading it to my children someday.
  • The Long Winter: I think this was the first Little House book I ever read. My mom got it for me at a library booksale, a weathered and creased version, with the original Garth Williams illustrations. It got me hooked on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story, and I have since read all of her books in the series many times over (including now!). Laura was probably one of my first literary heroines. The Long Winter and the books rounding out the series are my favorites: Cap Garland! Town revivals! Almanzo’s Morgan horses!
  • Kindertransport and Clara’s Story: the first two books that I built a collection around of Holocaust stories, which I was fascinated by for years, especially after a trip to Germany at age 12.
  • Jane Austen: all of it. Read my post on her birthday here, and my own life lessons from her books here.
  • An Old-Fashioned Girl: my favorite Louisa May Alcott novel (yes, even over Little Women!). A sweet, good heroine, complete with a love story and a family’s plummet from rich to poor. Also, the introduction of the velocipede. I read it multiple times. Read my post on another one of Alcott’s books, a little-known “thriller.”
  • The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn: the book that sent me down the rabbit hole of the Tudor dynasty and the fascinating lives of Henry VIII’s court. Mostly historical fiction, but I’ve been diving into the non-fiction, too. Alison Weir does both well, and Philippa Gregory is always good for a scandal.
  • The Mitford books: I found this sweet series about a small-town pastor and his friends by Jan Karon quite by accident, but was absolutely taken by it. Less about believing in God, and more about believing in the beauty of friends, family, and love, these books are good for the soul.
  • Shakespeare: I read the requisite plays in high school, and some of his sonnets. But after taking a class in college and reading more of his work (Titus Andronicus, anyone?), I became more devoted. Favorites: Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III.
  • The Bregdan Chronicles: also originally known as The Richmond Chronicles (and the version I own), this historical romantic fiction series based before and during the Civil War is mostly out of print now, but the author is coming out with a new book.
  • Maniac Magee: a youth book I read a couple of times in elementary school about a young orphan boy on the run who makes an imprint in a racially divided town. There’s a kid called Mars Bar in it, and a lot of cake making. And running.
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (and its sister books): Rebecca Wells hit straight to my heart with these books about four Louisiana women growing up and raising their families together. Need I say more? The movie doesn’t do justice to the book.
  • Anne of Green Gables: I would be remiss to leave this series off the list. I read through these books so many times they are like a comfortable blanket. My favorites were always Anne of the Island and Rilla of Ingleside. I’m still looking for my own Gilbert Blythe.

I could go on forever. There are so many books and authors that I love, but this is just a little glimpse at what’s impacted me the most. You can also read my post on an ode to the books of our youth, with some contributions from friends.

How have books and reading impacted your life? What are some of your favorite books that have stuck with you over the years?

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