Misquoted

unnamedFor the past year, I have had a Post-It note above my desk, scrawled with a quote that struck me. I’m notorious for pulling quotes from books, essays, blogs, and even conversations; if something resonates with me, I write it down, always. As a result, the walls around my desk are covered with taped-up scraps of paper, my journal is dog-eared for quick reference, books are filled with makeshift bookmarks, underlined passages, and the occasional “!!!” in a margin.

The note above my desk, it says
Experience what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted

This has resonated deeply with me over the past few weeks and months as I’ve sat here for countless hours, thinking and writing about the things that haven’t quite worked out as planned. You have to be careful with this kind of examination, as it can quickly and easily lead to a landslide of doubt, sadness, and fear.

But that quote kept me focused on what was important: in the wake of not getting what we want, we are left with lessons, knowledge, and opportunity. It has reminded me to take a few moments for sadness, doubt, and fear (because I am human after all), then to pull myself together and ask “now what?”

I’m continuously astounded to find that even when I feel the most lost, I always have a plan if I remember to seek it. When I focus on what I have instead of what I don’t, there is always some goodness.

This morning, a few hours before I started writing this, I looked up this quote. I wanted to know who said it, and in what context. In this search, I found that I had written the quote wrong, leaving out one word that changes the entire meaning. It feels so appropriate and perfect to realize this mistake. This Post-It is what I experienced when I didn’t get what I wanted (the original real quote), and it has changed everything.

Day One

1472867_10152046639453559_1979935099_nI’ve never bought into the idea of New Year’s resolutions. It has just never made sense to me that people wait until the clock strikes midnight to make the necessary changes to become better and happier. This year more than ever, though, I have been looking forward to the reset. There has been something delicious and intriguing about a fresh year, a true Day One.

I’ve been listening closely as my friends state their resolutions, as if saying them out loud is akin to making a promise, makes them accountable. I’ve heard

Stop drinking”
Spend more time with my children”
Take care of my mental health, then find a dentist”

Some of these will be harder than others, but maybe part of the charm of resolutions is in knowing that everyone else is struggling for betterment too. With support, encouragement, and accountability, maybe we can all actually succeed.

I have a lot of goals for 2014, a year I hope will be productive and nourishing. As I said in yesterday’s post, this year has been pretty good to me. My goals aren’t about jumpstarting a whole new life, they are simply about spending more time doing the things I love.

Write more. When I was making a list of how 2014 could be better than 2013, most of my goals were related to writing. I laughed when I read it because writing is already such an integral part of my everyday life and the core of who I am, but somehow I know I need to do it more.
          :: I will write for at least one hour every single day. Even on vacation, even when I am sick. Even when I’m feeling wildly uninspired. It can be good work that gets shared, or it can be complete garbage that never sees the light of day. In the grand scheme of things, it all matters; the roses and the compost are both a part of the cycle.
          :: I will finish my novel. This goal is a bit vague because I’m not sure what I mean by “finish”. Maybe that means I will have a complete but unedited manuscript ready for a good overhaul. Or maybe that means I will have it tightened up and ready for publication. However the cards fall, I will at least have the story told, in completion.
          :: I will blog more. All of my blogs will be updated more regularly and I’ll focus more on broadening my readership. This year will be all about sharing.

Spend more time with friends. As an introvert (I’d more accurately call myself a “social introvert”), I often forget to initiate hangout time with friends. This year I’ll make a bigger effort to reach out and make plans for friendtime.

That’s it; my small list of goals. Read them, hear them, hold me accountable. What are yours?

The Note Jar

unnamedI kept a mason jar on my mantle all year. My intention was the spend 2013 filling it with notes of all the great things that happened to me, moments of sweetness to be remembered later. Like most New Year’s resolutions, my note jar got lost in the shuffle. As this year comes to a close, there are only 4 notes inside:

Two are about lovely moments with my cats. One is about snuggling; one is about playing.

One is about being invited to co-create Literary Traces with Michelle.

One is a note about a heart-melting six hours spent with a sweetheart in Jacksonville. This note is written on the back of my plane ticket. Seat 23A.

There are, of course, a million more great and memorable things that happened to me this year, but these four notes are a good synopsis.

There were those two notable moments with my cats, Pippi and Nora, yes. But this year we also added a new feline to our family: Ida. She came to us as a post-surgery foster, with a history of neglect and ill health. Her ability to love and trust after being treated so terribly has taught me a lot about strength and resilience.

Though Literary Traces only lasted for three seasons, it continuously kicked my butt weekly and forced me to write outside of my comfort zone. I write every day, but that particular project made me see that there is a pattern to what I write about, and it challenged me to break free from that. The deadlines, prompts, and public forums were invaluable to me, and those tools stay with me every day.

Finally, Jacksonville. There’s nothing that challenges and teaches me more than love. Whether it’s friend-love, romantic-love, or something in between, there is always so much to learn and practice. This year has been filled with all three, and I am thankful for it all (yes, even the heartbreak and rejection).

Rolling into 2014, I wouldn’t mind if it were a lot like 2013. Give me the same, but give me more. Give me more cats (but no more added to my household please). Give me more time and inspiration to write and push my creative boundaries. Give me more love and friendship.

And maybe most importantly, give me the ability to give even more, more, more of myself.

Making

turnoverI was barely a teenager when my mom taught me to sew. It was intimidating at first, deciphering patterns and holding tender fingertips so close to the machine’s stabbing needle. But in time it became second nature; I could practically thread a bobbin in my sleep. Now, I often choose to sew by hand, favoring the hypnotizing monotony of pulling each stitch taut.

My grandmother taught me to knit, but my aunt taught me to purl. That first winter, I read the whole Harry Potter series while knitting, propping the open books against a coffee mug and turning the pages only when I finished a row. By the time I started Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I had finally moved beyond a simple garter stitch.

I learned how to cook while spending weekends in Grafton with my high school best friend. We’d choose elaborate dishes from cookbooks and bring them to life in the kitchen of her family’s 100-year old farmhouse. Her mother taught me how to eat fresh artichokes; one by one we plucked the leaves and scraped the flesh away with our teeth.

Last week I made dinner with a friend who was visiting from Omaha. She scrubbed potatoes as I chopped onions and tossed them into a sizzling pan. To be honest, it was awkward and bumbling at the start. There was tension between us, a lingering trace of resentment, heartache, and distrust from a decade-old rift. “I’ve missed you, you know” she finally said, as she tucked the pan of potato wedges into the oven and gingerly shut the door. “God, I’ve missed you too,” I agreed, pulling her into a tight hug. In that moment, I realized we were making so much more than dinner; we were making amends.

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This piece was originally posted on the Literary Traces site.
All week, on the site, different writers will be exploring a theme of ‘making’. Don’t miss it!

Thankful

1175310_10151776050238559_739570288_nI try to live intentionally, always aware of the goodness. I try to give love and thanks freely, notice the smallest details of sweetness, and take nothing for granted. Sometimes these good intentions get lost in the shuffle though; I’m not immune to getting wrapped up in all that I don’t have, rather than what I do.

It’s no secret that I’m generally disgusted with the holiday that is Thanksgiving, a tradition steeped in genocide, rape, gluttony, consumerism, and animal slaughter. Honestly, I don’t even know how it’s a thing. Over the years, though, I’ve sown my own traditions. For me, it’s important to spend this day thinking about and mourning for those who have lost their lives, dignity, and homes– not just a few hundred years ago, but last year, last week, yesterday. At the same time, I embrace a day of reflection for what I’ve lost myself, and what I have. This year has been big, and I have so much to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for watching new friends say their first words and stumble through first steps; I’ve watched old friends do the same– all were equally breathtaking and liberating.

I’m thankful for the technology that allowed me to connect with friends in Vermont, California, Italy, and Bosnia through the hardest and most confusing times this year. I felt your hugs and love from thousands of miles away, and am thankful for bonds that strong.

I’m thankful for all who gave emotionally and financially to Ingrid and Ade when they lost their beautiful son, Kamil; to Scott, who is still thriving against cancer, but continuing to collect medical bills; and to Pippi and I, when she needed incredibly expensive medical treatment last month. I’m not surprised by your generosity, but awed all the same.

I’m thankful for the Whiskers volunteers, who show up every day (including holidays), to provide food, love, and care for the 130 resident cats– and for volunteers and rescuers all over the world. You are literally the difference between life and death.

I’m thankful for the challenges. This year has been packed full of struggles, heartbreak, failure, and pain. I’ve been forced to reassess everything, get creative, and push against my boundaries. I’ve learned and grown in ways I didn’t know were possible (and in ways I haven’t even discovered yet, I’m sure).

I’m thankful for it all– all of the good and bad, the exciting and mediocre, the sweet and sour, the beautiful and hideous; all of the everything that reminds me every day that I am alive.

Thank you.