Left Over

There are two ways to think about leftovers: evidence of plenty or that which has been passed over. I have been feeling both this week.

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Camaro, on the other hand, has been posing for a very artistic portrait

Very small Keegan was never the kid who never got picked to be on a team at recess, at least not to my recollection (we all know how meaningless that is but still). This was in part because I did have friends, some of whom were sporty, and in part because I mostly just avoided being in that situation because sports are the worst. Anything more athletic than four-square was very much anathema to very small Keegan. And honestly still is. In other words, ‘that which has been passed over’ is not a new feeling to me but I have been blessed to have avoided it in that common scenario.

On the Thanksgiving front, of course, there were a great deal of leftovers in the former sense. Really a lot of mashed potatoes. Turkey living a second life in many forms. The pumpkin pie that I made and devoured altogether too much of. So many rolls. All of which is a great thing. To be provided for. To participate in having plenty.

There are a few things that I’ve been waiting for lately, and none of them have come to pass. Not in a not-happening kind of way, but in a (hopefully) not-yet kind of way. It’s unpleasant nonetheless and I’d much rather have a yes or a no than a who-knows but here we are. Still. Waiting. Other things seem to keep piling up behind those things but it’s been slower than molasses on this side.

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If only I could look that good while waiting

Anyway. On to other things. It’s December. Christmas is practically here. Needless to say, I am pumped. There is a welcome, a comfort, in Christmas that invades me even when I’m feeling my least Christmasy. For that, I am very grateful. It is very easy for me to turn inwards, generally speaking, but it is doubly true in times like this when self-pity occupies an unfortunate proportion of my day. This season is the perfect antidote to selfishness–or, rather, it is the antidote and (as I said last week) I am imperfectly trying to be cured.

It’s no fun to be the dregs of mashed potato left over after a feast. But at the same time, I know that my God is a God of Plenty. I don’t believe that God is out there preventing me from getting a job because God wants me to do something else and it’s not the right time yet. I believe even less that God wants me to wait just for the sake of waiting, because it will build character or faith or something. What I do believe is that God is with me in waiting as God is with me in action; God is with me in times of plenty, when there is much left over, even as God is with me in times when I am left over, passed over, not yet chosen.


If I were a cat, I do not know if I would prefer to be an indoor cat or an outdoor cat. It partly depends on the indoor and the outdoor in question, I suppose. A nice house, friendly people, large spaces. Decent weather, interesting things, few predators. The real key, as any pet owner or parent of a human child could tell you, would be how well I was fed. Not needing an excessive amount of food, to be mindful of my cat health, but having plenty. Something delicious and timely.

I say this as a random tangent because I am very tired while writing but also because I’m considering the lilies of the field, if you know what I mean. The cats. Consider the cats. They always have food leftover in their bowl because someone cares for them. I don’t imagine that God is some great cosmic cat owner but at the very least, I’ve had some of that bread of life so I should be good. My cup runneth over and so on.


I won’t apologize for the above but I will acknowledge it as the ramblings of a lunatic. It is what it is. I should sleep more. I’d love to not work at Michaels with awful hours. Only time will tell.

I Beg Your Pardon

Before we get into Thanksgiving things, I want to have a little international relations moment. If you were unaware, the province of Bougainville–a part of Papua New Guinea–is currenly conducting an independence referendum. It is official, if non-binding, and it is highly likely that the results will strongly favor independence. Who knows what that may actually mean, in terms of Papua New Guinea possibly making them stay and that possibly restarting civil war, or a timeline of creating a new country. But I just thought you should know (and you can read a teensy bit more about it here).


I find the American tradition of a presidential turkey pardon for Thanksgiving to be just so odd. It’s also not as old as a tradition as I originally thought: a formal turkey presentation to the president started in the 1940s and the whole pardon idea didn’t really start until Reagan and it wasn’t a fixture until H.W. Bush. But, if you’ll bear with me a sec, I think that while bizarre, a pardon is perfectly in line with the holiday.

If we’re honest, we could all use a pardon or two. Not in an avoiding-execution kind of way or even a religious Jesus-is-merciful way (though also definitely that way) but just in general. We know none of us are perfect. And, when giving thanks for all that we have, I think it’s important to take a moment to pardon the ways in which each of us falls short.

It isn’t difficult for me to take things personally. Not typically in an offended sense but more just imagining that people are putting a lot more antipathy into their (in)actions toward me when, in reality, it’s just busyness or forgetfulness or misunderstanding. I am aware that I do this and it’s something that I’m trying to combat, slowly but surely. I hope. So if I come across as paranoid or overbearing, please consider a pardon. Not everything should be pardoned, and not everything can just be sloughed off. But still.

In the meantime, I turn to what I know to be evidence of people caring about me. Words and time and action and all that I definitely do have. The people whose love and care I don’t have room to doubt. For that, and for the surety that can get me outside of my own insecure mind, I am very grateful. The helpful side effect of this is that I end up thinking more about other people and their actual lives, rather than just being concerned with what they’re thinking about me, which I think is both healthy and productive. Empathy matters but it takes work, you know?


Anyway. I was having a conversation with a family member this past week and I was trying to assure them that the rest of the family did, in fact, love them. Beyond understanding. It’s just that my family is–as we all are–imperfect lovers. There is a baseline of love but the stress of a day or year or life can weigh down on us in ways that make us express that love in different ways–or maybe even not at all, the baseline still existing but being obscured.

Some of you may be familiar with Nadia Bolz-Weber, a pastor and writer. This week, she had this to say about Thanksgiving, family, and belonging: “…unlike your family, your identity in God is simply unaffected by the limitations of human beings’ ability to love each other well.”

I think, in a certain way, that’s what pardoning should be all about. It’s not ignoring misdeeds, letting people go back to doing the same bad things. It’s stripping back all the obscuring stress and actions and words and hurt. Revealing once more the baseline. Showing what’s really underneath: another turkey. Another human being, just like us. Another imperfect lover who might ask for a pardon.


I read Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol for the first time a couple days ago. I don’t know how I managed to get this far in being who I am without having read more than a few excerpts before but here we are. And, for any readers who may be uncertain, it’s pronounced redding jail.

There’s a lot to unpack in that poem and I don’t really want to get too into it here and now but if I may, I would like to draw your attention to one couplet. A theme that is repeated across the work, though Wilde himself wasn’t particularly religious.

But God’s eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.

Whatever laws and punishments, justice and just deserts human society may invent, God will always peel back our layers and love us all the same. It’s good to be grateful for all you have today (and each day) but there’s a couple thoughts on extending mercy and grace–that is the real language behind pardons, after all. If we are to be thankful that we receive mercy then so too should we extend it to others, undeserving as they may be.

To echo St Francis, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Kind

This week of vacation has been very pleasant for me. Mostly, I have done nothing, or nothing of note. I did take a quick trip to Cheboygan–or, let me rephrase, I drove three hours to Cheboygan, spent maybe forty-five minutes there, then drove three hours back through a bit of a snowstorm. Not much to see or do in Cheboygan, MI but I did get to look at Lake Huron which was the point.

Yesterday, had a lovely time seeing Ralph Breaks the Internet with friends, going to an Asian buffet (apparently the best in Traverse City, which is a tough time), and then eating the pumpkin pies I made and chatting the evening away. Very well enjoyed.

I don’t expect much in the way of happenings today, other than calling up relatives, as one does on Thanksgiving. I’m sure the video chat will be passed willy-nilly around and I won’t get dizzy at all. It’s cold outside (last night had a low of 14°F) and there’s plenty of snow on the ground so I’ll be tucked away inside all day and I’m perfectly content with that.

Anyway, a few quick thoughts on today that almost led me to title this post The Walk but I did not because while seeing another movie this week, this song was playing on repeat in my head and very nearly bringing me to tears.


The thing about me posting my blog on Thursdays is that I always post on Thanksgiving. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Trying to have good words for you on a holiday that I very much care about. Trying to think of things that feel as weighty as the premise of a holiday dedicated to giving thanks.

Words, however powerful, are only words. I do believe, strongly, in the strength of words. Actions, though, are the very substance of life. So on this day, and more frequently hereafter, may we not only give lip service to gratitude but may we allow our words of thanks to change us. May we not only say “Peace on earth” but also act as peacemakers. May we not only say “Love your neighbor” but also act in kindness to people different from ourselves. May we live out the things we say, and behave as though we believed in our own ideals.

This kind of sentiment is expressed well in the words of John F. Kennedy in his  Thanksgiving proclamation of 1963. I don’t really hold with the quasi-deification of the founding fathers, but I appreciate that it emphasizes the ideals toward which, in our best moments, we can strive.

Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers —  for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

Decency of purpose. Why do we do what we do? Why are we who we are? I’m not sure, but I am thankful that each day is another chance to figure it out.

Reading and contemplating these sentiments, I am mindful of a line from 1 John: “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” In other words, may we not talk the talk but walk the walk.


Also this week, I went to see the movie Boy Erased. I have no eloquent words for it. It made me sad. It made me hurt. It was important.

It made me grateful for all I have, for the world that has changed around me, and for a knowledge of self and of God that leaves only room for love.

I am thankful that I am happy and whole. I am thankful that my God is kind. I am thankful that I am myself. In this time, I pray that you feel–beyond any doubt or fear or hurt or guilt–loved.

My Cup with Blessings Overflows

Attitude of gratitude is a very annoying and trite hinkety-pinkety and even so, I have started this post with it. Because it matters, though saying it aloud makes me want to cringe into nothingness.

My last couple posts haven’t been particularly uplifting. And that’s okay, it’s not my job to be uplifting. But it is tiresome to be always serious and sad. This post will be neither serious nor sad. To prove it, I will share this with you:

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Such cuties.

Anyway. Winter is well under way here in chilly Michigan. We received around six inches of snow early Sunday morning which would have had me prancing with glee had I not had to drive to Traverse City–the first one off campus, little Pádraig doing his best to get us through and over and around. He performed admirably, no major mishaps  though the roads, even where I wasn’t the first driver on them, were having a tough time.

Putting the couple touchy moments aside, the snow has been lovely. No falls for me thus far, no spills, no outtakes of any kind. I’ve got my equipment and I’m ready to take it all on.

And I’ve got to tell you that, while Michigan nature isn’t my usual, it can still really do it for me.

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Cozy inside, snowy outside, contented all around. Or at least doing alright.

Tonight is The Feast, which I expect will be nice. Everyone at school wears their fancy dress, we have a meal together, and then there’s an cooperative arts performance. Should be good fun, hopefully.

And then, get this: I have a week off! I just had a week off in October! And I’ll have more in December and January! So much vacation! I don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face but after Korea, it feels so nice to have actual, for real time off!

I think I might take a day trip to Cheboygan because a) it’s very fun to say b) it’s on Lake Huron which I haven’t seen yet and c) variety is the spice of life. If you are a Michigan person, feel free to advise me on other places to visit. At some point, I’ll go up the the Upper Peninsula again so I can see Lake Superior. Not sure where else in Michigan I’ll end up seeing.

All this to say, as appropriate for this time of year: things are nice and I’m feeling very blessed just in my general existence. Not sure exactly what Thanksgiving plans will be but there have been rumors of a few other house parents sticking around and we might do something all together. I’d be all about that. Making friends and stuff, I guess.

Also. I’ve found a super-simple recipe for pumpkin pie (yes, even more simple than usual) and I’m excited to give it a go. Frozen pie crusts because let’s not get carried away (and also I don’t have a counter to roll out dough) but the filling will be all me. There’s maple syrup in it, so that’s fun. Yay baking!

Whether or not it’s Thanksgiving time for you, whether or not you’re feeling happy and blessed, I’m wishing you all sorts of good things because things just seem to be pretty alright for me.

Strike the Harp

First, a little look at the cats because it’s always a good time to look at cat pictures.

Very cozy, I’m sure.

Second, on Wiktionary (the Wikipedia dictionary, extraordinarily useful and interesting for a person like me) there are three English etymologies for ‘troll’ and the third lists one meaning to indicate “to sing loudly, freely or in a carefree way.”

On Friday, I had a number of extended video chats with family members and it was lovely. I just like my family, they’re pretty neat. It’s always a bit dizzying to be passed around a room on a little screen but it’s worth it. I continue to be surprised by and grateful for the wonders of technology that allow such communication and contact. I’m also very excited to meet my new little niece when I get back to the US.

ALSO, I can’t believe I forgot, it snowed on Friday morning and it actually stuck for a few hours so that was absolutely lovely.

This week has been rather on the hectic side but I’m still alive and that’s really what matters. I guess.

The first week of my last term so let me give you a little rundown on what’s going on for me. My first class is the lowest level I’ve taught (aside from that bonus extra fun-time lovely joyous class from the summer term) and that’s less than ideal. My other class is a pretty high level and this is the third time I’ve taught it, second time this level and this course. So that one should be okay, even though most of my favorites leveled up.

I have surprised myself by doing mostly alright, I think, with the very small people. I have one class of that low level with fifth and sixth graders but the other class is a couple years younger. That bonus extra class from the summer had some younger ones but that was one hour twice a week and three hours on Wednesday, this class is three hours twice a week which is a lot. But like I said, we’re all still alive. All in all, I’ve actually had some really nice classes with my students already and I think it bodes well for a mostly positive final term.

There have been a number of things recently that have been really less than ideal at work, though, and they’ve really soured things (more so than in the past). Some of them have been mis non-communications and general huge problems from corporate. They have made teaching pretty unpleasant even though my students have all been mostly good. Other things have been specific to our boss who just keeps making unpleasant choices. Which. Whatever. I think that’s about all I can say about it without exploding.

On a much better note, we got a new teacher. He’s from Australia, hired to replace our Welsh teacher who left which keeps our non-American population the same. He’s a nice guy, should fit in just fine 🙂

It’s also after Thanksgiving now so people can’t stop me from being super Christmasy. I mean, they couldn’t stop me before, but now they can’t even try.

I know Christmas time isn’t a happy time for everybody and that makes me sad. There are totally valid reasons for it, of course, but I wish everyone could feel like I do around Christmas because it’s honestly the best. Of course, as Muppet Christmas Carol instructs, I try to make the feeling last all year. But it’s so much easier during Christmas. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going to burst it makes me so happy. Which is cliché, but clichés are cliché because they’re true.

Even in my sad times when I remember that I’m not going to Christmas very much this year, it still such a cozy, warm, happy sadness. Christmas, obviously, is important for many other, much more important reasons but the one that I’m grateful for today, in this moment, is the simple, commercial–even secular–Christmas spirit.

I just want to strike the harp! My coworkers can attest: I often troll yuletide carols. And you should too.

Join the chorus. Fa la la la la la la la la.

Thank You for Saving the World

So I know today is Thanksgiving, and I’d like to address that. But I’d like to start with something else because I finally watched Wonder Woman with some friends last weekend and the more time that elapses the more I appreciate what a film it is.

In particular, I’d like to collectively ponder a quote from the end of the film. It doesn’t give away any plot, though I guess it does reveal the psychology of the ending so if you haven’t seen it yet, go and do so before continuing.

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.

First, I think it’s so mature and accurate to real life for a superhero movie to just say straight up that heroes can never save the world because people suck. In the end, we just choose. And choose every day, every moment, how to comport ourselves, how to speak to other people, how to act and think when no one else is looking. And, all too often, we will choose poorly.

Second, only love can save the world. I have no commentary for this.

It’s Thanksgiving and I would just like us to take a moment and pause to make a deliberate and heartfelt choice. To choose light and love. To enter into the greatest love of the God who came near and share it with another. And know, for that small moment, that we are living a part of saving the world. We will fall short of goodness again and again but, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “to this moment’s choice, give unfair weight.”

That is what I have for that. But this week has been pretty full so you’ll forgive me if I include a little more before getting to Thanksgiving, even if this post becomes cumbersomely lengthy.

On Saturday, I had some friends from church over and we played Settlers of Catan. I really love the game (a board game of… settlement and building if you’re not familiar) but haven’t played in ages. We had a lot of fun. I finished in the middle of the pack, but would have been a strong contender for first if we had rolled like Any sixes the whole game. I’m not bitter though, don’t worry.

It snowed on Monday, not for long and it certainly didn’t stick, but the flakes were large and wet and delicious. Yes, I caught a few on my tongue, heinous air quality notwithstanding. My friend caught me on video enjoying a bit of a frolic. She wanted me to upload the video but I’m too technologically un-savvy to figure it out, I’ll put it on Facebook and that’s the best I can do. Sorry Blair.

We also received our schedules for next term (*MY LAST TERM*) and it’s not terrible but it’s not great. I’ll tell you more about it next week when I’ve actually taught my classes. There was also a small breakthrough regarding Christmas but, again, more on that later.

Anyway, Wednesday was a half day as per usual. After work, we gathered at one of our apartments and had a small Thanksgiving-ish sort of time. And it was wonderful. (I refuse to the term Friendsgiving because a. we are not giving friends b. we are giving thanks c. one of the things we are giving thanks for is friends d. friends are a normal part of Thanksgiving e. it’s dumb).

It was a bit of an eclectic mix. Korean fried chicken, pizza dip, Kraft macaroni and cheese, dumplings, fig jam, and Costco pumpkin pie. In other words, exactly as Thanksgiving should be. In a pretty tame game of most likely, I was voted most likely to know how to dispose of a body and become a brutal dictator, and tied for most likely to start my own fashion line. All of which I took as the compliments they were.

I truly am grateful for my coworkers. For a place where I don’t I like working very much, I value my time at school substantially more because of them. They really have made a world of difference for my time here. I’m grateful for my church home here in Seoul, for opportunities to serve, for Paris Baguette, for just so many things.

I’ll be video calling my family tomorrow because it will be Thanksgiving in the US on Friday here. So that will be nice. Now that I have a few non-family Thanksgivings under my belt, it’s not such a strange feeling. Christmas, I’m sure, will be an entirely different matter, but I’m feeling pretty good for this Thanksgiving. I know people around me love me, and I hope they know I love them. I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful.

That’s all it is, really. I’m so thankful to have people in my life, present with me physically and virtually, who choose love. Maybe not every time, but as much as possible. Maybe not perfectly, but as best they can. According to Wonder Woman, you’re saving the world. So thanks for that.

Gather

So I know I’ve been a little etymology crazy on here of late, but that’s just because I’m that way in real life and it’s finally bleeding through on here. But anyway. Thank. Same origin as think. I quote, “The Old English noun [þanc–thanks] originally and chiefly meant ‘thought, reflection, sentiment; mind, will, purpose;’ also ‘grace, mercy, pardon; pleasure, satisfaction'” (from the OED). Any thinking creature should be thankful. I think therefore I am? I thank therefore I am. Gratitude is living.

The etymology of gather is pretty straightforward, it’s basically always had the same meaning. Interestingly, the very distant root is not only shared with together which has a similar sort of meaning, but also good. Things are good when they are whole and complete and together. This same root also led to an Old English word that we no longer use, gæd (fellowship, companionship) and it’s partner gædeling (companion). 

How’s that for a Thanksgiving post opener? Anyway, things that aren’t etymology.

Closed doors are not things that I typically think of being grateful for, but I am, I guess. Those closed to me rather than by me (I suppose there are some of those too). I do not think it would have been bad if I had gotten the job I applied for in Budapest or if I had stayed in Ireland to look for work or if I had started work at a private school in Santa Fe. But because none of those things happened, I am grateful that I have wound up where I am, doing what I am doing, rather than something awful. Truly, what I’m doing is not what I would call ideal but it is nowhere near awful, not at all. So I’m grateful for the closed doors that led me here.

I’m also grateful for my family. They weren’t all able to make it up to our house this year, but it’s a pleasure to see as many as I can. I’m thankful that I know my family, and know them pretty well. I don’t have many cousins, so it’s not super hard, but I’ll definitely never be one of those people who hears years later of the marriage or death or whatever of a distant cousin I’d never met. And that makes me glad. We’ll always have each other because we’re just sort of inextricably bound up together whether we’d wish it or not (and most of the time I wish it 😉 ).

My friends are also a great source of gratitude. They’re so cool. Friends old and new (though not too new because I’m real slow at making friends). Those who have stayed in touch across many miles and a variety of life changes. Those who have stayed in touch 24/7 because we need each other kind of a lot, not just because we send each other cat pictures and discuss doughnuts. Those who make a commitment to Skype or call or text or whatever because we care enough about our friendship (even when neither of us are quite organized enough to stay on schedule, it’s the thought that counts 100%).

There are many other things I’m grateful for, but I also want to take a second to think about people too far outside my circle for me to be directly grateful for. A friend recently posted on Facebook asking us to look beyond our own blessings and wish joy for someone else. So I’m grateful for those at Standing Rock peacefully hoping (and acting in that hope) for justice; I wish them success, protection, and perseverance. I’m thinking of the people in Syria and Iraq who so desperately need so much; I wish them protection, health, hope, and a peace within and without.

This strange holiday that we Americans and Canadians have has plenty of historical (and contemporary) baggage, I won’t deny  it. And it is problematic in many ways. However, the very fact that we have nationally celebrated holidays literally called thanks-giving is important, I think. We should give thanks. Lots of thanks, because we have lots to be thankful for. I have been blessed in so many ways and I pray that I can be a blessing and, perhaps more importantly, that I seek to bless others very far away and very different from myself.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends and family, hiwscipe and gædelingfar and near.

My Sword & My Thanks

So this week was the presidential election.

I can’t say nothing. But I haven’t yet managed to say what I want to say. Or even figure out what that is. So bear with me, I’ve bookended this post with some thoughts, partially coherent, substantially plagiarized.

I want to say that, as truly terrible what has happened is, we can move on. But we can’t. We must stay right where we are because for some people, their right to move on has been taken from them. Now we face the long dark. And we have to fight the long, slow battle. It will be difficult, but it must be fought. And it absolutely must be won.

My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage and my courage and skill to him that can get it.

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War Memorial Garden, Oxford

It’s a bit early for Thanksgiving, but often in my haste to celebrate Christmas as much as possible it gets short shrift. So here’s a little bit on Thanksgiving–without drama, mayhem, or even a particularly large scope– from my heart to yours.

In the past four years, I have spent Thanksgiving in a variety of interesting contexts, none of them at home. Once, I was in New Jersey with a couple friends and some strangers. Once, I was in Ireland and, at least on the day, I had class and dinner as usual, alone. But twice–twice (I’m blessed)– I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving with my sister. I flew up to Vermont, where she was in grad school, and spent a few days just the two of us, making Thanksgiving our own. Those precious few days constitute some of my most treasured holiday memories and so this week, I would just like to share a little about what made them so wonderful. I’m very, very thankful.

  • Lake Champlain is lovely.
  • So are the Green Mountains.
  • Burlington is one of my all-time favorite small towns in America that I have visited for less than two weeks in total all around the same time of year.
  • I particularly like Church Street ect.
  • They have a Christmas tree lighting on Black Friday that we went to both years. One year, it began to snow delicately right as the tree was lit.
  • Previous to the tree lighting, we treated ourselves at Champlain Chocolates.
  • I like Skinny Pancake.
  • Everything is named after Ethan Allen.
  • We are both decision cripples, so we watched a lot of Netflix and stuff, including Stardust, Twisted, and the first time I saw Frozen.
  • Mostly Twisted. Taken from us too soon.
  • We had some cooking adventures.
  • My sister is a very good cook, basically. But no one’s perfect.
  • We had these enormous pasta shells once–like lasagna sort of but in shells. They were good. And, like, hand-sized.
  • Cook the sweet potatoes first.
  • Don’t coat rolls with butter using a paintbrush (though in a pinch, you can usually manage to pick off most of the hairs).
  • Also, those rolls were delicious. Spiral-y and wonderful.
  • I can make good mashed potatoes.
  • Cabot cheese is super delicious and, unsupervised, we ate like two blocks in one sitting.
  • We also went to the Cabot factory once, which was super cool (and where we bought the cheese we binged on) but they don’t sell cheese curds which is disappointing.
  • Maybe because I was only there for a few days at a time and not during the absolute coldest, but I loved the cold weather. The coldest I’ve ever been in, I think.
  • Also, snow.
  • We wandered around the campus of UVM and took fun pictures in the snow and it was lovely.
  • Ice skating is cool, even though I’m not great at it (and have been like three times) but it’s particularly cool in Vermont because people like, ice skate there. A lot.
  • We saw a movie each time, too, though both times were foiled in seeing the ones we wanted to because they weren’t showing.
  • Driving back from the theater one year, it was snowing pretty heavily and she made me drive so I did. On totally unfamiliar roads in the dark through thick snow. It was fine, we lived.
  • She practiced all sorts of strange physical therapy stuff on me to study (mostly just pointing at things and naming them, as one does). It was weird but also sort of endearing.
  • Did I say it was pretty?
  • It was.
  • Did I say that the tree lighting ceremony was precious?
  • It was.
  • Did I say we became really invested in Twisted?
  • We did.
  • Did I say that my sister is much better than everyone else’s?
  • She is.

It will be nice to finally be home for Thanksgiving. But it will not be a Vermont Thanksgiving with my sister.

As we enter this new reality, I have no words of advice or encouragement or wisdom. All I know is that there is a King of Kings. I am a stranger in a strange land and my primary directive is to love. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–think (ACT) on these things. Reform the line, reform the line. Ride out with me.

There is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

Wick

Happy December, everybody! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty good week, made only better by the nearness of home and Christmas. It’s just the most wonderful time of the year.

First, I would like to share an excerpt from my current literary endeavor (admittedly a much faster read than my previous), The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s a rather lengthy quotation, but I found it so inspiring, well-written, and altogether touching that I just have to share.

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then that one is quite sure that one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by one’s self in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.

So there you have it. To ancient times and distant music…

Anyway, this week featured an extra session for a class that we had missed earlier in the term. We made it up this evening and the lecture was entitled Globalized Racial Regimes or something like that. It was an incredibly depressing session in which we were basically really critical of development and aid and things like that, but at the same time, I enjoyed it immensely because we got to talk seriously about flaws in systems that implicate us every day and which, to be honest, I hadn’t really thought much about previously. And it wasn’t entirely depressing insofar as the professor reiterated that the opposite of what he was trying to do was say, “Everything is bad, therefore do nothing.” So there was sort of a note of hope at the end, though he said he mostly wouldn’t talk about it until the last class. But anyway, there’s a brief look to prove that I am learning things, I find those things for the most part very interesting, and there is a point to getting this degree (something which is always nice to hear).

Also, backtracking a bit, we had our program Thanksgiving (I’m not into the term ‘friendsgiving’) on Sunday and it was absolutely fabulous. There were the staples: turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and bread. There were also some dishes that I was unused to seeing on a Thanksgiving table but thoroughly enjoyed nonetheless: Chinese dumplings of some sort, Shloer (the adult soft drink?), and Snickers salad (which is apparently a thing, brought by an American). There was some small contention over the sweet potatoes– I wanted the kind with brown sugar and marshmallows and the Brits wanted plain roasted ones (I lost)–but it was all in good fun and a really great time. I will once again express how grateful I am to have such amazing coursemates and thank them again for being so awesome. Though one slightly sour note–on my way to Thanksgiving, I took the bus most of the way, then was going to walk for the last ten minutes or so. On the bus, the weather was fine, but of course the moment I got off, the torrential rain, severe wind gusts and sprays of hail began. So I arrived a bit wet, bedraggled, and generally worse for the wear, but spending the evening with friends warmed me up inside and out.

It’s now that time of year when assignments are causing anxiety and Netflix beckons ever more fiercely. I’m grateful that my course load doesn’t actually involve a huge amount of work, but I am doing my best to procrastinate on the small bit that is required. All things considered, I think I’m in a pretty good place to finish out the term strong. Or as strong as is sufficient. Sufficiency isn’t a particularly ambitious goal, but it is what it is. And I certainly am going to work hard, I’m not going to slack or anything, so don’t freak out. I’m a good student, I promise.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed last month’s weekly poetry. I won’t be continuing it this month, but I anticipate bringing it back sometime in the spring. It’s so easy, reading my book, to believe that it is spring (much the same way I often feel it’s raining if I’m reading about rain or frigid if I’m reading about cold) and the weather today certainly made a concerted effort to remind me that it’s December. By the same token, though, it reminded me of all the things I like about rain. Living here, my relationship with rain has been somewhat strained since it’s just over two miles walking to school, but ours is a tenacious romance. I love the sound of rain, the feel of it, the way it changes how everything else looks and feels and sounds. It comforts me. It embraces me. No matter how vociferously I complain, we’ll be lovers for as long as I live.

A Heart of Many Places

Today has been a day, and this week has been a week. It’s excellent that I write a blog. I’ve done my sort of anguished decompressing over today already, so now I can share the happy kind with you. I’m thankful for a house to come home to.

Also, just interrupted by a housemate who, what horror, has made too much pancake batter. So I’m going to have a pancake. Much more befitting the mood of Thanksgiving than some of the darker thoughts I thought today. I’m thankful for pancakes. Also, pie.

Firstly, I’m just loving the decorations all around town, especially around Grafton Street and Temple Bar. They’re just so festive, and have been so for a while but I feel that I can share them now without any backlash since it’s after Thanksgiving– a temporal decoration marker that they lack here. Anyway, here are some mediocre pictures of lovely Dublin at Christmastime. I’m thankful for cheer and goodwill toward men.

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Monday was the dress rehearsal for our performance of the Messiah which we then performed on Tuesday and Wednesday, both lovely performances if I do say so myself. It was, firstly, a lot of fun and a new experience for me and, to some extent, I didn’t even care how we sounded. On Wednesday, a number of my classmates were kind enough to grace the performance with their presence which was just lovely of them. It’s so much more meaningful when you’re performing for people you know. There’s much more heart, at least, regardless of the sound. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to have them there and, in lieu of flowers, they got me a little kitten who is the most precious thing in this world. I’ve been incredibly blessed by this awesome group of people. They’re my favorites. I’m thankful for friends near and far.

IMG_20151126_202723  This is Freddy (Handel) and he is my new best friend. I’m thankful for cats near and far.

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Also, more cat updates. The new cat is living with my sister for the present. His name is Bullseye.

 

This morning bright and early (a bit of a difficulty after the lateness of the performance yesterday) I gave a group presentation on EAL (English as an Additional Language) in the Irish education system–a topic I found really interesting– and the presentation went over famously. We were the first group, and I think we set the bar pretty high (sorry other groups who have to go after us. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you). I’m thankful for education and all the opportunities I’ve been given.

Aside: the pancake has arrived. Have I’m mentioned how thankful I am for pancakes? And wonderful housemates?

After the class with the presentation, I went and had some pumpkin pie (and an awesome pumpkin swirl cheesecake) courtesy of the Global Room for international students. The whipped cream left something to be desired, but the whole occasion was delightful. Then I just had a leisurely afternoon until the next class reading inspirational quotations and poetry aloud (either to my friends’ chagrin or pleasure, I wasn’t really paying attention). I’m thankful for pie. Also, literacy.

Then we had Research Methods which I will not discuss so as to stay positive. I’m thankful for teachers who are passionate about their subjects.

Then, in true Thanksgiving spirit, I video called my family. We’re spread across thousands of miles, but united in heart. Super cheesy, but true. At one point, the iPad with my image and voice was passed through the dining room, kitchen, and living room to ensure that everyone got to say hi and I got to see everyone. I felt like Zach from Bones in that Christmas episode where they’re trapped in the lab and his whole family comes to the door and they chat through the glass. And I mean that in the best way. It was really heartwarming even just to be able to see my family for a moment. I’ve haven’t been in Ireland that long, really. I was in England longer. But it was such a joy to see everyone and be able to take part, in some small way, in the festivities. I think it’s different because I was in England over the spring. I didn’t miss any major holidays. And the point of Thanksgiving is being together–with friends, with family, with friends who are basically family–just together. And I got a bit of that today. So I’m thankful for family and getting to be together.

That about concludes the fun happenings of this week. It was pretty busy for me (I’ve often said that my threshold for busyness is relatively low) but it was also just a really lovely one. In The Geography of Bliss, writer Eric Weiner says, “Some places are like family. They annoy us to no end, especially during the holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinies are intertwined.” And so it is. I’m thankful for family with whom any annoyance is still love, and that my heart can live in so many places.

And, as a sort of finale to this month of poetry, I thought I’d include one of my own compositions. (Oh my goodness, he’s going to share one of his awful teenage angst poems. Please let me die…). While I share such a sentiment which will be common among you, I’m sure (no shame), I’m going to share anyway. I think it really fits with the autumnal theme and I’m actually really proud of it, as opposed to most my my actual teenage angst poetry. And, for future reference, I did write this while a teenager, but I was in college and it was for a class. Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t really care what you think, in the end, because this is my blog and I do what I want. So there it is. I leave you this day with a thankful heart and some musings on the season of decay. I’m thankful for small, soft things that comfort.

Autumn Rhapsody

I open the box of sepia photographs,
crinkled like dry leaves in a cold November alley.
Through the narrow attic windows, a mysterious
darkness creeps, echoing the sigh of gas-lamps which
illuminate quiet lanes shaded by trees of propitious girth.
There is no traffic at this late hour, bringing a damp hush
to my end of the street. The lamp on the walk flickers
and summons spirits of streets long past, silent faces
near forgotten highways or on a trolley going down to the shore.
The gentle piano of a chill autumn night sends the whispered
strains of a nocturne for the rain through welcoming windows,
translated by the years as muffled chords from a distant radio.
Dim shadows of barren trees recall sumptuous ballrooms with
graceful dancers dressed in exquisite splendor; a quivering
branch an elegant leg, silk clinging to flesh long since
returned to dust. A solemn exhalation, the breeze brings back
breath to figures once friends and lovers, who lived lives
now only remembered on nights like this, when time’s golden lens
lends its light to such reminiscences. Filaments of tender thought
tremble in air roused by the stiff wind outside, whose ageless
blowing never remembers and never forgets. Outside the world’s
dim electric glow, trembling drops descend through darkness to
swell some great expanse of somnolent water. It is as though
a great clock is turning backward, and the rain is like remembering,
a phantasmal pattering on the inside of my eyes.
The musty air is an ocean lapping against memory, stirring thoughts
and ladies’ skirts and men’s overcoats, melding
into the soft pearls falling outside on my weary city,
flowing in rivulets across the pavement toward the storm drain—
a Lethe for our age.