Labor Day Musings

It’s Labor Day, marking the end of summer and the beginning of fall, as far as I’m concerned.  And also as far as I’m concerned, it’s been the perfect weekend for this transition.  Saturday was warm and sunny, and Caleb and I spent the day in Keene, New Hampshire, soaking in one last summer day trip.  We toured the Horatio Colony Museum (a fantastic tour! Engaging, informative, private, and free!), had a delicious patio lunch at Stage, walked through the town’s weekly Farmers’ Market,  happened upon a special weekend art fair, went to Mass at the local Catholic church, and meandered through Keene State College (a beautiful campus, and, interestingly, one of the few liberal arts state schools).  Today, on the other hand, has felt perfectly autumnal — cool, windy and grey — and I’ve spent the day inside drinking coffee, writing, reading, and organizing my life (cleaning out my desk and catching up on e-mails, mostly; it’s amazing how much inner order can come from having order in these two realms).

I love it when time and circumstances line up in this way, creating a special kind of space for transition and for paying attention to time (the passing of it and the looking towards it).  It helps me to give thanks for the past, honor the present, and look forward to the future, and to overall cherish the sacredness of life.

Reflecting on the past and setting intentions for the future help me to cherish the sacredness of life, as well.  And so now, to reflect on my summer and the goals that I set for it…

Honoring Summer

  • Take a day trip to a new location each week that doesn’t involve some other sort of travel
    • There were many trips, day and otherwise, this summer.  In a whirlwind of the first weekend of June, we went to Port Clinton, OH to see Aunt Barb, to Cleveland for a dear college friend’s wedding, and to Columbus for our precious niece’s Baptism.  Later in June we spent a glorious week in Kiawah with Caleb’s family (but first, a weekend in Charleston) and a special long weekend in Shady Grove for my sister’s pre-wedding festivities.  We went to Bristol, Little Compton, Concord and Keene, and spent several individual days or parts of days in Boston seeing friends (and we hosted several different friends in Providence).  And we spent a stellar seven days hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, with our very best of friends (cousins and siblings).  We packed the summer with activity.hike
  • Eat/drink on the deck/patio of a new (to us) restaurant each non-travelling week
    • There was no shortage of good food this summer.  Enough said.  
  • Talk to an old friend on the phone/facetime/skype every week
    • Several weeks ago, I modified this goal to say that if, in the last three weeks of summer, I caught up with five old friends, I would call the goal complete.  And that I did!  
  • Write one blog post each week
    • I skimped on this goal these past few weeks, but feel satisfied with the time I spent writing for other, non-blog endeavors, so no hard feelings on this one.
  • Complete a few projects that have been on my list for ages:
    • Create a photo wall to display recently taken pictures
      • Yes!Magnet wall
    • Complete a writing project
      • Written!  Submitted!  Accepted???  I hope!  But, as I know all too well, I can’t control outcomes, only inputs.  So, I’ve done what I can and am letting go of the rest.
    • Buy and fill in a birthday calendar
      • Yes!
    • Hang artwork that has accumulated
      • Yes!Gallery Wall
    • Learn how to use Caleb’s camera
      • Yes!  …with lots of practice needed, of course.  And what better time and place for practice than in a New England autumn?!

Making life enjoyable

“Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.” — Omar Khayyam

This past weekend, I went home to Pennsylvania for a weekend of my sister Clare’s pre-wedding festivities.  On Saturday afternoon through Sunday, I hosted a bachelorette party (complete with a bridal party yoga class, dinner at a little Italian place, lots of bachelorette games and boozy punch, and a good-old-fashioned-sleepover in my parents’ home), and then on Sunday, the mother of Clare’s childhood best friend (who also happened to be my three siblings’ and my kindergarten teacher) hosted a gorgeous bridal shower in her home.  After the shower, we returned to my parents’ house for a family cookout.

During the planning stages of the weekend, I called the shower hostess to rsvp, ask if there was anything that I could do to help, and thank her for offering to host.  Graciously, she exclaimed that she was so happy to be able to offer a shower, saying “I am delighted by Clare and Katie’s lifelong friendship, and your family’s friendship means so much to me; celebrating these friendships and milestones are what makes life enjoyable.” 

These words deeply resonated with me.  Celebrating friendships, celebrating milestones — celebrating people and moments — are what make life enjoyable.  We each just have one life to live, and that life moves quickly, and that life can be really hard at times.  Why not make it a point to take the time and energy and effort to enjoy it through celebrating meaningful relationships and moments?

Designing My Summer

SummerA few weeks ago, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft discussed “designing the summer” on their podcast Happier.   They spoke about how their days of a three-month-summer-vacation are long over, but somehow, summer still feels set apart from the rest of the year.  Perhaps more accurately, they long for it to feel set apart from the rest of the year, and regret that often the season just passes them by without actually being any different, despite the mental feeling that it is different from the rest of the year.  Together, they “designed the summer,” each naming specific things they would do to make summer feel set apart and special (for an example, Gretchen will devote two hours each summer morning to re-reading some of her favorite books). 

The topic resonated with me, especially considering the fact that this is the first year that I don’t have some sort of official “summer break.”  I’ve actually felt a bit glum entering the summer, mourning the fact that the days are longer and the weather is golden and I still have the same work obligations.  I have always looked towards the summer as a time to relax, rejuvenate, travel and have some fun, and I want summer to remain a time for all of these activities whether or not my day-to-day life differs as drastically as it did when I was a student and had summers “off.” 

Listening to Gretchen and Elizabeth as they brainstormed convinced me that the antidote to my grieving the loss of an extended summer vacation is to design my summer, to come up with a few activities that will make summer feel like summer.  My season was kickstarted this past week during a beach vacation with my in-laws, and as I sit here in the Charleston airport, returning home, I feel truly in the summer state of mind.  I’ve mulled over various ideas these past few weeks and am settling on these five, effective immediately.    

Designing my summer

  • Take a day trip to a new location each week that doesn’t involve some other sort of travel
  • Eat/drink on the deck/patio of a new (to us) restaurant each non-travelling week
  • Talk to an old friend on the phone/facetime/skype every week
  • Write one blog post each week
  • Complete a few projects that have been on my list for ages:
    • Learn how to use Caleb’s camera
    • Create a photo wall to display recently taken pictures
    • Complete a writing project
    • Buy and fill in a birthday calendar
    • Hang artwork that has accumulated

Channeling Atticus Finch

Somewhat recently, I entered a social situation that I knew leading up to it would be challenging for me.  I was about to spend the weekend with an individual whose personality —more than anyone else with whom I have had an ongoing relationship — consistently clashes with mine.  This individual’s worldview, words and actions make it really hard for me to like him, and I’m ashamed to admit that my dislike has manifested itself in subtle but slithering ways: a skeptical facial expression here, a stony silence there, and at worse, a curt verbal response or a refusal to engage in conversation. 

In the past, I have spent a lot of time trying to trick, cajole and force myself into liking this person.
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Places to play in…

Teresa Camping

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”    —John Muir

When we lived in Boston and had access to the most fabulous public transportation system (if my loyalties to the MBTA went unswayed in the midst of horrible delays and cancellations during last year’s treacherous winter, I think it is fair to count myself as one of this transit system’s greatest enthusiasts), C and I didn’t have a car.  I loved everything about not having a car — the financial savings, the absence of stress about traffic and parking, not having to worry about having a designated driver when we went out — and it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I realized we would need to buy a vehicle when we moved to Rhode Island.  Read more

Examining September

Dancing
Yugoslavian folk dancing is a family tradition. We danced the afternoon away at my Aunt’s wedding.

What am I most grateful for this month? I am grateful for my extended family.  One of my aunts recently got married and celebrating this milestone with my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles felt like a bubble bath and a glass of wine for my soul. 

What am I least grateful for this month? On the one hand, I am surprisingly accepting of the fact that my new job is part-time.  Thanks to C’s graduate student stipend, we can make ends meet — wihile also saving a little and having some fun, though we do live quite simply — with me only earning a part time salary, and I have welcomed the extra time that I have to read, cook, spend time with C, and write.  On top of that, I really love my job, and I would rather be earning fifty percent and loving what I do one hundred percent than the other way around.  On the other hand, I have been feeling guilty about only working part-time and also about not using my non-working hours more efficiently.  I am not grateful for these feelings of guilt and I would like to spend October thinking about what I need to do to remedy them.  In particular, I would like to think about how I can make my non-working hours more productive and satisfying.  Read more

Every Minute

Dear God

I love coming-of-age novels, stories with strong female characters, and books that provide glimpses into the everyday lives of people in different eras and areas.  Betty Smith nailed my criteria for a good read with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  It is the type of book that I know I will reread numerous times throughout my life, and at the times when I’m choosing to delve into new books instead of revisiting old favorites, I can gather a shot of strength and inspiration from quotes like this one.

Examining the examen…and my past month!

clover-828698_1280

I just finished reading Jim Manney’s A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, a reflection and guide on praying “the daily examen.”  Though the examen is an ancient practice, Manney writes about it within the context of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. (Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, an order of Catholic priests also known as the Jesuits, in the 16th century and the Spiritual Exercises was a practical guide instructing the Jesuits and others on how to experience the presence of God.)  The examen itself is a method of prayer in which one reflects on the events and experiences of the day in order to detect God’s presence within them and therefore live with increased sensitivity to the movement of the God in one’s self and one’s life.  If the examen is a “how to manual” on experiencing God, then Manney’s book is a how to manual on praying the examen.Cover Image Manney Read more