Such Sunrises as Have Not Yet Been Seen

Happy New Year! It’s 2019, for good or ill. I had a pretty low-key celebration but I’m all about that so it worked. I hope the year is off to a good start for you but even if you’re in a tough place, it’s only January– plenty of time for things to turn around. See what I did there? Best of both perspectives.

The past year, as I said a bit last week, has been a bit of a whirlwind. It didn’t usually feel like that–the pace often seeming to be more like molasses–but I was on three continents! Two of them for quite extended periods. Five countries. Two jobs. There was a lot going on. I don’t really feel the need to reflect on it all that much again but I couldn’t avoid having a bit of a new year look back.

And once again, not a particularly clear idea of where I’ll be this time next year but whatever. It’ll be fine.

Before I go any further, it is of course important to start this twelvemonth with some very cute cats. Taking advantage of their uncle and aunt cats’ tree gifted to them.

Now that you’ve gotten a bit of a kitty fix, I will also share my baking adventure. Didn’t do a whole lot this Christmas but I did, just on Monday, make my first Yule log. Simple conception, kinda tricky execution, wonderful finished product, if I may say so. The recipe told us not to worry about the cracks, they add character, and I concur. A definite snow-dusted log of happiness. Such a lovely, airy, seasonal kind of dessert. I’d strongly recommend giving it a try. So long as you’re game to get stiff peaks in your egg whites.

Yes, it was very delicious.

I’m flying back to Michigan tonight, ensuring an adequate buffer between my return and the return of students on Monday. Plenty of time to readjust to Eastern Time, reacclimatize to the cold, and mentally prepare for the next six months. Yech, let’s not think that far ahead yet. June, what’s that.

Anyway. I’ve said before that I’m not really into resolutions and, surprise, I remain uninterested. All I’ll say, I guess, is that I hope each day to love more people more.

And this title, what’s with that. I don’t know, it sounded kind of poetic at the time and you know I’m a sucker for the poetic. But it’s true: each day is a day that has never happened before. Every moment of a moment of fresh opportunities.

Even when life is pretty mundane and pretty monotonous–that precise moment has never happened before, if only by reason of the date of its occurrence. And shouldn’t that be something to savor? I’m no advocate for change in life because change is hard but newness, that’s something I can get behind. Not necessarily to do new things or go new places, though those are good as well. But to do the same things in the same places and still feel that they can be new.

It is good to cherish the new, I think, and good to recognize the new in the familiar. Value time itself; it will not come again.

The sunrise can be beautiful for its color and majesty, of course. And there’s something incredible unique about each one, from each place you may stand to view it, for each second it lasts. Not something that can truly be shared, even with the most talented photographer.

Time is a weirdo so we should probably live and love in the moment. Each one is precious and can take you anywhere. I’ve no idea what adventures may await me but I’m confident that they are indeed awaiting. I’ll keep an eye out and let them take me by surprise all the same.

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Fast Away

I hope you all have enjoyed your Christmases, if that’s your thing. I certainly did. Plenty of running around and about but also plenty of time together and hope and joy and love. Obviously, lots of singing of Good King Wenceslas, especially yesterday. It is just the end all, be all of awesomeness that God is with us. How neat is that? Yay Christmas.

Important gifts received include several books that I’m very excited for, you know how I do. One of them is the final installation of a trilogy, so I obviously have to reread the previous books and so it’s really like a gift of three books in one. Yay books. But also, of course, the love language I like to receive is quality time so that was the most precious gift to have.

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The Princess on the Feast of Stephen

Being home has been really nice. First, just to get away from Michigan and work for a sec. Green. My home is green. Second, to relax in a place that I just know. There’s a certain level of know that comes from just being in a place for years and years and, for right now, Gig Harbor is the only place I have that with. I can remember the turns to a house I haven’t visited in ages with a spare moment’s thought–even with my disastrous memory. I can sit on the couch and exist in a place that I’ve existed in for a long time before.

It hasn’t even been that long since I was pining for a way–any way–to get out of here. And Michigan is not that far away. Even so. There’s a special joy in leaving but there’s also a special joy in coming back. Even back to places you don’t want to stay.

But New Year’s, wow, 2018, am I right. This year has dragged on for ages, let me tell you, but the end of it has snuck up on me rather abruptly. A lot going on in the world but let me have a sec to make it all about me. It is hard to recall that I was in Korea, went to the Olympics, went to Australia and New Zealand, spent a long time living at home, then moved to Michigan all in the first eight months. That’s wild. My year-in-review thoughts are honestly all over the place. But I guess I don’t really need a year in review at this juncture. This time is ending.

The old year passes. Greet the new.

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And Bubba all curled up

I’m not sure what to expect for the coming year. I’ll be in Michigan to June, at the very least. So that’s about six months settled. But after that, it’s all fairly uncertain. Again. It’s a state that I’m kind of uncomfortable with–generalized uncertainty–but also at home with.

I’ve done a lot of relatively short stints in fairly diverse places since high school. And I just don’t really mind it, as much as I’d like to find a place I love and put down roots. It’s mostly been routes thus far. I may be staying in Michigan for another year. I may be elsewhere in the US. The dream, of course, would be another intercontinental move. Europe, maybe Oceania. Hard to say.

In the midst of uncertainty, the few things that are sure increase in value. And those things, for me, are the things I’ve been celebrating all week. Friends and family who love me and whom I love. The comfort and position that I have been blessed with. The consequential, profoundly true knowledge of an unconditional, boundless love from a perfect, omnipotent deity.

Some people live lives that are more predictable than mine but, in the end, precious little is truly certain. So I’m greeting the new year in a spirit of adventure, as every day should be met, because possibilities are endless when every moment is a moment that has never come before.

Anyway. Happy New Year. Fa la la la la la la la la.

A Weltanschauung of Joie de Vivre

My students the other day thought that there was a mistake on their vocab list, someone had forgotten to translate a French phrase into English, though the Korean was given–it was déjà vu. When I told them it was just a French phrase that we use in English, they weren’t particularly happy. Anyway, I couldn’t not have a title in English, French, and German when the French and German are also just used in English sometimes. If you need a translation, the title is A Worldview of Joy of Life.

So I had a lovely Christmas weekend. Saturday started with serving at a homeless kitchen-type ministry with some coworkers and finished back at the Kelsey’s for our work-friends Christmas party. We had a great time making pomander balls, playing games, making cookies, and doing Disney karaoke. They’re just really great ❤ On Sunday, I went to church and had a white elephant party with them afterwards, it was a lot of fun.

On Christmas day, I essentially did nothing, which was exactly what I wanted. I called my family and chatted with them for a while, and that’s really it. I mostly stayed in bed; I read, watched Netflix, and played Pokémon. Not exactly how I like to spend Christmas generally, but exactly how I wanted to spend it this year.

Going back to work on Tuesday was less than ideal, but I managed. This week is just another pretty much normal work week, and next week will be too, though we also have the incredible gift of having next Monday off too! Speaking of which, I have some meh-level New Year musings for you.

I think I’m slowly becoming aware of a shift in my worldview that’s taken place over the past few years. I’ve given up not just on changing the world (in any big, big ways) but also on just expecting the world to be a good place. The world is a pretty unpleasant place. Yes, of course there is loads of good in it as well, and many things are better than they were in the past (though we must never confuse ‘better’ with ‘good’). Let me be clear: I still hope for good in the world, I still hope for change. But I’m done thinking that things will improve, that people will learn from their mistakes, that knowledge and kindness and compassion will  increase and someday prevail. They might. Maybe.

All I have is me. I can expect things from myself; I can certainly expect failure, but also growth. I can educate myself–about current events, racism, ancient Egypt, different varieties of dogwoods, how to make pancakes from scratch. I can attempt, with perhaps childish naïveté and diligence, to suffuse my life with a Weltanschauung of joie de vivre that does not derive joy from the world because it is joyous, per se, but because the world exists at all and every moment of that existence is a literal miracle.

I can teach myself to be kinder; to rescind hurtful words with genuine apologies, to think critically while watching movies, to sincerely care when other people tell me things that give them pain.

I can involve myself with the world; I can serve, I can donate, I can educate, I can listen respectfully even when others are not being respectful, I can have compassion on those who have no compassion for me.

I can be myself; stay home as much as possible, read voraciously, watch good and bad Netflix with equanimity, thoroughly enjoy food even if it’s boring, be awkward and laugh about it, be gay and fabulous, wear bowties on Tuesdays ect. ect. ect.

There’s a certain joie de vivre (if you’ll excuse the phrase) in the exultation of releasing my expectations about the world. It’s like that old line about accepting things I cannot change. When I’m free from all the weight of the world, I can deliciously and leisurely enjoy the simple pleasures of each moment and find it in myself to compassionately and earnestly become involved in bettering the world.

The above may have ended up sounding super self-centered, which is counterproductive so please bear in mind, if it sounded like that, I didn’t mean it to. Anyway. You know that I’m not much one for resolutions because a. we should resolve any and every time not just New Year’s b. people don’t generally keep them anyway c. they’re pretty lame. So let me be clear.

I want to be better, and I will work hard to become so. I want the world to be better, and I will work hard to make it so. I have few illusions about the success I will meet with, so I’ll start small.

And as for all the rest, I’ll act in hope without expectation.

On Failing and Succeeding to Combobulate

I hope you all have been having a wonderful holiday season. As it comes to a close and we face the looming prospect of another go-around with the world, I have some thoughts I’d care to share. Per usual, they’re not the most coherent thing in the world but they’re thinks that I’ve thought.

My favorite Christmas movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. You may recall it is in my top 5 movies ever. Watching it on Christmas day, I was basically teary-eyed the whole time. One of my favorite things about it is this: it’s not about how one moment, or a thousand moments, can change your life–it’s about how a life can change a thousand others. In fact, it’s not even really about how it can, it’s about how it does. George Bailey is a pretty extraordinary character (though he’s plenty ordinary, too) but every life has an impact on countless others. Because that’s how we work. We’re inherently social. Even if you were abandoned in the woods as a baby and never encountered another human being, you still have effects on, for example, your mother and, through her, a variety of other people.

There is no wasted time because all time spent is time spent, if you catch my meaning. Anything that is done is a thing that is done. Even the decision not to decide is still a choice. We are always moving and doing and spending time, whether or no. And in all that moving and doing and spending, we are among others. It’s like that tale of the thread tied to everyone’s ankle connecting them to everyone they ever connect with, forever.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is. Something. I’m not sure. So we’re going to abandon that and move on to story time instead, perhaps that will make things clearer (for the both of us).

My sister was planning on flying in from Genado, Arizona on Christmas Eve. Instead, there was a blizzard, the airport was closed, and she was stranded in Flagstaff. Naturally, we video called her and played Scattergories. The next morning, she walked two and a half miles through calf-deep snow to the train station where she caught a shuttle to Phoenix where she caught a flight to SeaTac where she was picked up to be driven about two hours to home. Upon her arrival, we had Christmas #3 with #4 to follow the next afternoon. With all the comings and goings of family and things, it was a bit hectic, as I’m sure many of your Christmases were.

With such things being such things–things. That’s what I feel about it. But at the same time, it is absolutely extraordinary that she was able to a) come despite a spate of cancellations and b) we were able to talk with her and play a board game while she was still in Arizona. I don’t understand the people who think technology has made us less social. Differently social, no doubt, but no less. Indeed, I think these technological means are critical to a young generation raised in an increasingly mobile and global world (at least, for middle-upper class Americans, but that’s another issue altogether). Of course while I’ve been very concerned to spend as much in-person time with her while I can, I’m so extremely appreciative of the time we spend together virtually.

As I said last week, Christmas is just a strange thing. That post mostly talked about the strangeness of the first Noël, if you will, and this week I’m struck by how strange it is still today, even outside of the religious sphere (if one could say such a thing). Coming home for Christmas, there is much competition for your time and it can be overwhelming. At the same time, though, there are a scattered (sometimes few) moments of complete and perfect combobulation. Many are familiar with the ill effects of discombobulation, but when you get the combobulation just right, sitting with your family, eating cookies, watching a movie, playing a game, just talking… there is nothing quite like it.

As I head into this new year, I will hold onto that feeling which I fear will be felt all too seldom in the months to come. None now know the next or the next or the next and for me, I’m feeling much more intimidated than excited for things new. However, knowing that combobulation can be achieved is perhaps enough to see me through periods of irksome discombobulation.

At any rate, I at least have some candy to last me a few weeks, if I scrimp.

I’ll see you on the other side of the closing of the year. I wish for you all the happiness that can be wished, not because I want your life to be easy but because I want your life to be joyful in the midst of discombobulation.

С Новым Годом!

I felt bad having Irish post titles and no Russian, so here’s a good one. I hesitate to give you a pronunciation, preferring to leave non-Russian readers floundering with fun Cyrillic letters, but maybe I ought to. Anyway, it means “Happy New Year!”, New Year’s being a major celebration in Russia, even more than Christmas I hear.

Fine, it’s S NO-vym GO-dom.

Anyway, I had a lovely Christmas and I hope the same for you. I’m actually writing this post on Wednesday because I will be spending all of Thursday (from early morning until late night) at the Hoh Rainforest. If you’re unfamiliar with the forest, you should familiarize yourself because it’s amazing. Since I have zero idea when next I’ll be in this country, much less in this state, I wanted to do something really Washingtony. And nothing says Washington like the rainiest place in the continental US (not sure if that’s a verified claim, but probs close if not number one).

It is a really strange feeling, having a one-way ticket back to Dublin and zero idea what my life will look like come September. I find myself looking forward once again to November, hopefully having written my dissertation and gotten a job of some description, settling into ‘real life’ (not that I’m actually looking forward to being an adult but…). I don’t know, it’s a whole thing. I’ll manage somehow, I suppose, a gazillion people do every year. But that’s not really what I like to think about, I’d rather imagine that no one else has ever become an adult and I’m blazing a trail into the vast unknown where monsters lurk around every corner and the chances of survival look grim. Leave me to my little devices, they make me feel better.

Sorry for that little tangent. Sometimes I have these little oh-poor-me moments. It’s easy to get into that sort of vein around New Year’s. I’ve never been much one for resolutions, partially because I (like a gazillion others) forget them so quickly and partially because I’d rather just try every day to live better. I know goals and things are important, and I do have them if the circumstances are right, but for things like New Year’s resolutions I just don’t usually go in for it. There’s a great line from a great poem (ugh, he’s back to poetry) that sort of sums it up. Longfellow, in A Psalm of Life says, “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,/ Is our destined end or way;/ But to act, that each to-morrow/ Find us farther than to-day.” So there’s my resolution, I guess, every year. Not really to do anything different in particular but to find myself farther along, somehow improved, in a better place, this time next year. This time next month, next week, tomorrow. To always be moving in a better direction.

The horror! A math metaphor just occurred to me and I’ll share because it’s super accurate but I’m hereby registering how uncomfortable I am with math metaphors (and math, generally). Sometimes, y will oscillate up and down, but I always want to be moving in the positive x direction.

Ugh, math.

Also, I lied, let’s have a New Year’s resolution: in 2016 let’s make NCIS: Bremerton a thing. #NCISBremerton

On a totally unrelated note, when I said at the beginning of this blog that I have always failed to keep a journal, that wasn’t quite true. In fact, I do have a journal that I do continue to write in. I’ve had it since New Year’s Day 1997, in fact. The thing is, I typically write in it once a year, sometimes twice and sometimes not at all, and write only a page at most. For example, I gave the years 2007, 2009, and 2012 a miss but wrote three times in 2005. It’s actually super awesome to see the different things I talk about and how I write, not to mention the development of my handwriting (and spelling). A quote from one of my favorite entries, dated 4 January, 2001: “I Maeb Snowflaks with Krista anb Xanbra it WaS Fun!! We Maeb aBunch The Ent” How precious. If ever I become famous, my biographers will definitely have to reference it. Quicky fact check, though, her name is Xandra, I have never met anyone named Xanbra.

Anyway, here’s to the new year. However you celebrate, wherever you are, and wherever you’re going, I wish you all happiness. In words not entirely suited to virtual communication but expressing a wonderful sentiment nonetheless, I leave you with one of my favorite little blessings:

May the roof above us never fall in,

And we friends gathered below never fall out.

Happy New Year!