Saturday, May 26, 2018

Field Notes Vol. 1: Half Marathon, Skirts for Lucy, and More

Something New: Freshly Painted Bedroom

Two weekends ago, I finally did a project that has been on my list for months: repainting the larger bedroom in my apartment. Now I'm (mostly) moved into that room and loving the new, bright space. I chose a light shade of purple called "Lavender Cloud." Some mornings, it does feel like I'm waking up in a shimmering cloud.

Something Old: My First Half Marathon (13.1 Miles)

At the beginning of this month, I did something that I never thought I would do when I began running five years ago. I ran a half marathon! 13.1 miles without stopping!! (If I was better with timely posts about significant events, I would have made time to write about this sooner...but oh well.)
My dad came down to support me and watch the race!

Wow, it was a crazy journey. I started training in mid-February, running on the treadmill while winter was fierce and toughing out longer runs in the chilly March wind, once the snow was melted. Going from running 1-2 miles two days a week to running 3-5 miles five days a week took some adjustments. When I started training, I didn't fully realize how much time it would actually take. Or how much more I needed to eat (yay, carbs!). Or that my knees and hips would hurt every time I walked up the stairs. But after I got used to the new schedule, adjusted my diet, and accepted the fact that I am a slow runner, training went more smoothly.

And the race itself? It was amazing. Perfect weather: 60s, cloudy, no rain. As we were starting out, the course went under an overpass and everyone cheered to make it echo. That was the moment I knew it was going to be a fun day.
I'm the blurry person in the middle, wearing the pink headband.

Just before the race, my spiritual director sent me an email of encouragement with Hebrews 12:1-2: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God." 

That verse was the perfect meditation for my run. I didn't listen to music, so my mind kept coming back to different parts of this verse, especially because I was offering my run for special intentions that family, friends, and coworkers had given me.
After the race, I was overwhelmed and happy to find friends waiting for me at the finish line! (T brought me flowers!)

My finish time was 2 hours, 45 minutes. Average pace per mile: 12 minutes, 30 seconds. I ran the whole time, no walking, which I wasn't sure I could do. But I put one foot in front of the other and kept going. Thanks be to God!

Something I'm Reading: The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing by Margot Livesey

In high school, I didn't like analyzing literature. I wanted to approach each story with no expectations and get lost in it. Also, because most of the story writing I had done up to that point was based on "inspiration," I didn't understand that writing is a highly intentional act.

Now that I've grown as a writer and make my own strategic choices, I realize how helpful analyzing other writing can be. It helps to see how a story or an argument is put together. What makes it convincing? What makes it exciting? How do you express and awaken emotions?

That's why I like this book. Margot Livesey is trying to peel back some of those layers to help you read more deeply. At the same time as she analyzes well-known literature, Livesey weaves in her own experience as a writer. It's lovely.

Something I'm Thinking About: Next Big Goal

What is my next big goal going to be? (Now that I'm finished training and running a half marathon.) Some ideas:

  • Develop my sewing hobby: plan projects to work on, learn more about garment fitting, get/make a dress form, go to a sewing workshop, set up a studio space
  • Plan and save for a pilgrimage
  • Make a reading plan/goals

Something I'm Making: Skirts for Lucy + Blouse for Me

I recently finished two skirts for one of my coworkers. She gave the fabric and patterns to me back in November, but I took on too many projects at once. So didn't get around to finishing them until this week. My favorite is the pink one!

I'm also working on a blouse for myself. It's very close to completion; I should set aside an evening to finish it up. But I hate cutting bias tape. And I have to do that in order to finish the neckline. Thankfully, it's not too much bias tape. The fabric is pretty, isn't it?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Leaky Faucet

There's a man I know who is like my leaky kitchen faucet. Sometimes, when least expected, he dribbles pure emotion, water falling into the half-full glass below. What to do with that? Know he cares and move on.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Watching My Friend Be a Father

Smiling baby eyes, quick heartbeat, dimpled cheeks, shrill laughter. Up, swinging over his head and launched—just for a moment—into thin air, before bouncing back down into safe hands, loving arms. Realize, little one, that I will always catch you.

Monday, February 12, 2018

When I Come Home from Work

When I come home from work and turn up the heat, the house stretches and yawns, like an old woman waking up from a nap in her rocking chair when her grown-up child lets himself in the back door.

Friday, April 28, 2017

5 Things I've Learned from 1 Year of Work

Wednesday marked one year since I started my current job. This is my first "real job," meaning that it isn't a seasonal, part-time, or volunteer position, but a paid full-time job. So, making it one year is an achievement for me. In honor of that accomplishment, here are five things I've learned from my first year of work.

1. Life Is Fluid

Our organization changes constantly: staff members come and go, departments are reorganized, and roles change. Updating our organizational chart has made this concept really tangible for me, since I move the boxes around, delete lines, or add names every time there is a change...and there always seems to be another one.

However, our organization isn't the only thing that is fluid. Life never stops changing. Over this past year, I've had to adapt as people move away, friends get married, and my siblings keep growing up. (My brother is engaged now.) Change is simply part of life. I'm learning to embrace it, but it is a hard, slow lesson.

2. College Gave Me a Foundation

A couple of months ago, I felt like I didn't actually know how to do my job. So I started to do some reading: What do I need to know to become a successful copywriter?

The answer: I already know the basics. Now that I have read more about copy writing, I've realized that my study of writing in college, especially of persuasive writing, gave me the foundation I needed for my profession.
  • Know your audience and what they are interested in.
  • Know your purpose for writing.
  • Make an outline.
  • Answer all of the audience's objections to your argument.
  • Back up your claims with proof.
All of these items are essential parts of writing about your product or service in such a way that people will want it.

I have plenty more to learn about copy writing, email marketing, and free lance writing, but it was a relief to know that I have a foundation. I know enough. I don't have to be an expert right now.

3. Draw Benefit from Everything

Through a series of conversations with MAK, plus reading a book called The Intellectual Life, I started to think about how each project at work, each email to a coworker, and each meeting can be a moment to grow. Each of these, even the most mundane, is an opportunity.

This paradigm shift has been important in helping me to set and work towards professional goals. If each task is an opportunity, how is the task in front of me helping me to grow as a writer, a professional, or as a human being? Something good can be drawn from it.

4. Do Nice Things for People. (They Notice.)

This lesson is self explanatory, but I'll give you an example anyway.

Last Friday, as she was leaving the office for the weekend, my boss gave me a nice thank you card--just because. Her card signaled to me that people are truly impacted when you go out of your way to do your best for them, whether that is through respect, good work, or acts of kindness.

"Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are." -St. Teresa of Calcutta

5. Rest Is Crucial

Work is hard. Sometimes I forget that, because I am doing mental labor instead of physical labor. It doesn't seem like I should get tired, but I always do. So, rest is crucial to restoring my energy and refreshing my mind.

I have learned, this year, that rest can take many forms. Sometimes going for a run is a form of rest for me, since exercise helps my mind catch up on all the things it needs to process. At other times, my rest takes more conventional forms, like reading a book or sleeping in on the weekend. I need to do these things, because rest gives me the refreshment and perspective I need before I focus on my work again.

These are just a few of the things I've learned from my work this year. What has your work taught you?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Receive His Love for You

I wrote this meditation for my household sisters, but I wanted to share it with you on this beautiful Feast of Divine Mercy, which is an appropriate time to receive and rejoice in God's love. 

Since I read the meditation to my household sisters out loud, they were able to close their eyes. You won’t be able to do that, since you are reading it on your screen, but I encourage you to read slowly and pause to close your eyes when you feel inclined to do so.

Before you begin, I want to remind you to use your imagination, but don’t force yourself to think of a particular image just because you think that is the “right way” to pray. There is no right or wrong way to pray this meditation. Simply allow the Holy Spirit to lead you where He wants you to go during this time.

Call to mind God’s presence. Breathe deeply and slowly, and allow your mind to become quiet.

Now picture yourself and God together, however that may look. Maybe you are a little baby and the Father is holding you close to His chest. Maybe you’re about 5 years old and you are making mud pies or playing tag with the Child Jesus. Maybe you are your current age and you are sitting in the living room with the Father, just hanging out. Whatever image springs to mind, stay there in your imagination.

Now God looks at you. It is a look of deep, pure, knowing love. He sees you—for who you are, for all you are.

How does it make you feel? 

Can you meet His gaze? 

Now He says your name. What does His voice sound like? Hear Him tell you, “I love you.”

Now feel His love wash over you like a wave. His love washes over your head, comes down and ignites your heart, flows through your arms to your fingertips, and goes all the way down your back, through your legs, and makes your toes tingle. You are filled with His love. You are surrounded by it. You are breathing it. Now it is shooting out your fingers and toes like sparks or fireworks.

Stay there for a moment. Let His love fill you, refresh you, and strengthen you.

[silent prayer time]

Tell Our Lord that you love Him too. Thank Him for spending this time with you. 

Open your eyes.

God made you because He loved you and is loving you. This is the fact that matters. It is why you exist. It is why you are called a child of God. You have a choice whether or not to accept that identity and to respond to God’s love. It is a choice that you will have to make over and over again throughout your life, because love is more than a feeling; love is a choice.

What will you choose?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Not Your Normal Trip to the Grocery Store

Today, instead of driving to the grocery store to pick up an onion for my chili and some salad for this week’s lunches, I spontaneously decided to walk there. I know. That’s not a normal person move; but, the weather was nice, the grocery story is only about a mile from my house, the neighborhoods are safe, and I’m young…so why not?

The walk there was dandy. Nothing to report.

As I was returning from the story with a string-pack on my back and a cloth bag full of groceries in each hand, I was thinking, “I must look ridiculous…people will think that I’m a bum…that I don’t belong in this part of town….” Then suddenly, “There are people who do this everyday.” 

It’s true. There are thousands of people in the world—probably more—who have no other means of transportation other than their own two legs. They don’t have a car, and they are not able to access a bus or train system, or they might be too poor to afford it. They have to walk anywhere they want to go. They walk to work, walk to the grocery, walk to church, walk to the library, walk to the pool, walk to everywhere. I am sure people get used to it eventually, but that still takes dedication in a world that is constantly zooming around past you.

I began to think about how not having a car to drive would affect me. I have a 20-minute commute one-way to work, so if I didn’t have a car, I wouldn’t have my job. I couldn’t have my job. It would be too far away from where I live for me to walk, and no bus could get me there (or anywhere close).

As I was walking and thinking about this, I felt a sense of solidarity with those who are forced by their circumstances to walk wherever they need or want to go.

Solidarity is not a new idea or experience for me. After all, that was part of what my time living and working in a maternity home was all about. Most of the moms had to walk, or ask friends for rides, before they came to live at the home. (Once they got there, we were able to provide them with bus passes, thanks to a grant.) I felt like I was really experiencing a small part of their lives—and others’ lives—by walking, even if it was only for this one trip.

It was good to be reminded of people other than myself and what their experience of life is like. My circumstances truly are a blessing.