Quintessential New Year’s Post

It’s inevitable. Any blog post I write will be the first of the new year, and so it must naturally be rife with sentiments like, “Oh my gosh! 2018? Already? New year new me! As the world turns, so we mark the passing of the seasons with contentment and burgeoning joy.”

There it is. Bask in it.

Like most people, I made some resolutions. They aren’t your stereotypical change-my-whole-nature-and-body-and-being-in-365-days resolutions; they’re more like tiny tweaks, little realignments for what I really want to be doing anyway. I’ve always liked having the new year to do this, cliche as it can get. Yes, time is relative, and no, we don’t need to depend on a calendar date to change. But something about the new year, a new calendar of blank, unfilled-up months, a fresh slate to draw upon, makes it fitting.

I am going to share my new year’s resolutions, and not just because all the kids are doing it. My reason is twofold: one, putting them out in public is an accountability builder, even if none of you email me and ask how I did (please don’t). Two, I have a hard time remembering what any life resolutions are at any given time, so I feel like putting them on a blog will give me, at the very least, a place to refer to.

Luckily, I made my resolutions simple. In the past I’ve made some grand aspirations. I will work out every day! I will eat only vegetables and ancient grains! I will suddenly change inherent qualities about myself and take up activities I previously had no interest in! I figured that the best strategy, this time, would be to start small, to do things I know I can and will do, and to build from there.

One, I’m going to do yoga every day in January. I follow a YouTuber yogi who does a yearly January challenge, and I’ve never faithfully followed it along. So I’m going to try it.

Two, for the month of January I’m not eating sugar and sweets. My husband has a problem with eating too many sweets, and I love him but it really has come to a point where public shame is the way to go (he gave his permission to be so shamed). I am a classic sympathy eater, so if he eats sweets, I eat sweets. And for thirty-one days, I put my foot down. (February will be a free for all.)

Three, in 2018 I’m going to take my vitamins. I don’t eat super well (see point two), but I’m not the most unhealthy person either (see husband comment). I try to eat mindfully and intuitively, but I know I still have a few gaps in my diet, because while I enjoy healthy eating, I also refuse to do any kind of “diet.” I will never go gluten-free, dairy-free, or heaven forbid, vegan. When I was a child, I was a sick child, I ate as a sick child, I had many food restrictions as a sick child. When I became a woman, I put away sick child food restrictions. For better or worse. All this to say, vitamins.

Four, I’m going to wear more blue. It’s my favorite color. It’s pretty. It makes me happy. And blue always matches other blue.

I have a few other floating resolutions, but these are the biggies. I have plans to update the list month-by-month, throwing out some ideas and incorporating others. I got a lot of candy for Christmas, and there’s no way I’m saving it all for months on end.

So far, in the cliche, quintessential way, I’m very hopeful for 2018. I’ve been working through a lot of life stuff lately. Some of these things I have power over, and others I have none. The latter group often seems larger than the former. But for the most part I am hopeful. Little glimmers of light shine through the cracks as the old year shatters to reveal the new, and I can mark the passing of the seasons with contentment and burgeoning joy.



Being Still

Lately I’ve had the sense that I’m supposed to be more still. There are several things in my life I’m trying to get started, to make happen, to hustle into being, and time and time again it seems the answer that comes back to me is this: Wait.

And I didn’t think this would be such a problem for me. I’m Miss Introvert Homebody (that’s Mrs. Introvert Homebody to you). Being still is my jam. Nothing makes me happier than knitting and watching Netflix (the above photo is Exhibit A). When my best friend and I plan a wild Friday night, it usually includes staying home and dancing like old ladies to rap and injuring a ligament and retiring before midnight. It’s a good system.

But apparently, I’m not as good at being still as I thought. while I crave a life of stillness, I often loathe myself for being still. It feels too lazy to be peaceful, to wait. It feels like a waste. And so when I sense stillness being imposed upon me, I get belligerent. “Do you have any idea how wasteful this is?” I grumble. Instead of enjoying the rest in waiting, I do busywork to feel more accomplished. Instead of having hope that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, I drown myself in guilt for not doing more.

And so I run around in circles, doing more, trying more, and when all I try to do falls through and the message comes back, louder, JUST WAIT! I get more frustrated and more exhausted, until I don’t have energy to even do what one is supposed to do when waiting: being faithful in the little things. I’ve bought into the culture-wide lie that the little things aren’t good enough, that if I want to be successful, I must hustle! werk it! believe it dream it do it! So let me work on all that while I’m waiting!

And still the answer comes back: Wait. Busywork does not count.

And there’s really nothing to say but, “Okay.”

So I’ve been trying to focus more on the little things, the daily tasks in front of me. And oddly enough, I see some of what I’ve strived so hard to hustle into being come together on its own, just a little bit. Almost as if it’s not really up to me at all.

Almost as if all I need to do, is wait.




A Tourist


Yesterday the Russian and I were tourists.

We had breakfast at a random-but-delicious Greek diner in Nashville, then we went to the Parthenon. I’ve been there before, back when I lived in Tennessee for a few months. So for me, it felt less like touristing than it did being a local and showing a newbie the local sights. This, of course, in inaccurate, but it was nice to pretend.

The Russian isn’t really one for the arts, but he did marry a woman with an English degree, so he’s good at dipping his toes in. We milled around the art gallery under the Parthenon, looked at the collection of paintings based on Tennessee state symbols, and pondered how much of a hole buying two $7500 paintings would put us in. His favorite was a closeup of a ladybug on a leaf. Mine was a detail of juniper berries. Neither of us would compromise, so $15000 in debt it is.

It was a gorgeous warm, sunny day, the kind we probably won’t get in Pennsylvania until our annual February thaw. The place was full of people from everywhere, a mix of languages and dialects.

Hearing the Southern accent still makes me do a double take; I’m so unused to it, and I was even when I lived here. It reminds me that even though I consider Nashville an adopted city, even though I can get around without directions and show my husband the local sights, I still prefer a rugged Pittsburgh accent to a Southern one, a mess of damp hills to a dry plain of flatness, pierogis and sauerkraut to barbecue.

Despite everything, I’m still a tourist.

Weekend Pith: Don’t Forget to Dance


The Russian and I are going to a wedding this weekend.

And not to brag or anything, but we’re pretty good at wedding dancing.

Wedding dancing requires that perfect combination of class and awkwardness, which we can easily achieve if we dress nicely and then proceed to act, well, as we normally do. Wedding dancing requires the ability to pseudo-waltz, swing, and twirl while still taking part in original moves like my signature, the Flappy Bird, and his, the Gravedigger. Of course, we must also be proficient in old favorites such as the Chicken Dance, Electric Slide, and all variations of Don’t Stop Believin’.

Last year at a wedding someone asked us if we took lessons.

“Oh bless your heart, how sweet of you,” I more or less said.

While I like to think we are good, and there is something about dressing up and dancing while music plays and the stars come out, weddings are fun because they’re like a concentrated reminder of something we do every day.

We dance.

Not literally, which explains our lack of technical finesse. We dance daily by living, by taking joy, by being awkward, by having fun. And there’s not a doubt in my mind that I was sent the husband I have because he reminds me to have fun. I need to remember it’s okay, necessary even. I need to notice every little moment of magic, when silent music plays and invisible stars come out.

I need to remember to remind myself.

Don’t forget to dance. 


Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is Alex’s birthday. He’s not a huge fan of celebrations, but I’m hoping that this year is an improvement. Last year at this time we were on our honeymoon, and I had grand aspirations of being the best new wife.

We were all alone in a condo on the beach, I had the cleverest present already wrapped, and a delicious homemade cake was planned. It was going to be so awesome that he’d finally realize how fun birthdays can be and start to treat his own like a national holiday (like I do).

Unfortunately, this all came to naught when I got violently ill on his birthday. He spent the day mostly by himself while I stretched out semi-conscious on the couch. So much for being the best new wife.

It all works out, though, because this year we’re in the beautiful Arizona desert, I have another clever present, and I think  cake is also on the horizon (sh, don’t tell). And last year’s wonderful festivities ended up being excellent material for a short story.

So happy birthday, luv.


Work Zone

Alex’s driver’s license expired during our honeymoon. We left our rented condo on the Outer Banks at five in the morning. He wore a black Nike shirt with the words drive fast emblazoned across it in neon yellow, and I was sick in the passenger seat. We were driving a borrowed car.

“Lord, I better not get pulled over with this shirt,” he said.

The last few days of the honeymoon had passed in general misery. Three days earlier, on my new husband’s birthday, I had started feeling ill. At first it was dizziness and chills, but soon it progressed to vomiting and a high fever, creating a state of complete uselessness. Alex got to experience the full meaning of his “in sickness and health” vows less than two weeks into the agreement by cleaning me up, gathering our luggage, locking up the condo, and packing everything into the car. It was ten hours home.

All was going well until Richmond, Virginia. Traffic was thick – five lanes wide in each direction. He wove in and out of the mass of cars, leaving the slow movers behind and being urged on by the faster ones.

The car in front of us changed lanes and Alex sped up to replace him. “Oh crap,” he said, touching the brakes. Red and blue lights flashed behind us from a previously unassuming white car. We pulled over.

He pulled out his wallet. We looked ruefully at the expired date on his license, but said nothing. Soon the officer, a Virginia State trooper with a light khaki uniform and a hat atop his shaven head tapped on the window. Alex rolled it down.

“Are you aware of how fast you were driving?” the officer asked in a solid Virginia drawl, every r dutifully pronounced.

“I’m sorry; I don’t know sir,” Alex said.

“You were going eighty-seven miles per hour in a fifty-five mile an hour work zone,” the officer replied.

“I apologize, sir. I was just trying to go with the flow of traffic.”

“In the state of Virginia, anything over eighty miles an hour is considered reckless driving. I’m gonna have to write you a ticket.”

Bullcrap, thought Alex. He had seen no indication that it was a work zone, people were flying past him, and he wasn’t driving recklessly by any stretch of the imagination. He silently cursed our out-of-state license plates.

“Can I please see your license and registration?”

I’d been rooting through the glove compartment this whole time, a job made much harder by the fact I couldn’t even sit upright without my eyes crossing. When our neighbor had leant us the car, he hadn’t told us where he kept the registration. All we found were coupons, endless coupons.

“I can’t find it,” I whispered to Alex. My head was spinning and my stomach twisted. I had started crying. Part of me hoped the officer would see how upset and sickly I was and let us go. This would be a really great time for my stomach to make good on its promise to reject everything I’d put into it in the past twenty-four hours. I was prepared to throw up now, over all these coupons, if it meant taking one for the team.

Alex finally found the pale blue registration card and handed it to the officer, who went back to his unmarked car and ran everything through. I envisioned the discovery of Alex’s expired license, accusations of a stolen car, detainment in a Virginia police station, and a huge fine. And I was so sick.

The officer soon returned with some papers. We held our breath.

“If you could sign here,” he said, “and take this, you can be on your way.” He handed Alex the license and the registration card along with a piece of yellow paper. After a final warning and a polite goodbye, he drove off to entrap some other unsuspecting honeymooners.

We carefully got back onto the highway. I laid my head back onto my soft leather seat and focused on the ceiling.

“Well, crap,” said Alex.

“How much is the ticket?” I asked.

“Four hundred and fifty. How did he not notice my expired license?”

“It’s good he didn’t.”

“Of course I’m wearing this stupid shirt! That was a funny one, Lord.” He laughed in spite of himself.

Five hours later we finally made it to our home exit off I-80. Just a half hour to our new apartment. Just thirty more minutes until a soft bed and fresh water and ibuprofen.

It was then my stomach decided to make good on its promise.


The Beginning of Adventures

el paso.jpg

It’s not really the beginning of all the adventures. We’ve already been to El Paso. It was hot, and pleasant, and you could see Mexico right over the poor excuse for a river. It was lovely.

Tomorrow we begin the long-term adventure to Arizona, to the desert where we’ll be spending the next two months. In the many times I’ve been to this lovely state, it’s always been summer, which I think is probably the worst time to go.


And yet, it’s not really that bad at all. It’s beautiful. Just a different kind of beautiful than my own beloved state. I’ve been drinking in all the greenery here, hoping it’ll tide me over, a little nervous of leaving the protective hills and peaceful trees for the always open landscape and wide open sky of the desert.

There aren’t many clouds out there. You can’t get your bearings or mark time by the passage of giant masses of water vapor. In El Paso at an open air mall I looked up to see a patch of sky bordered by buildings all around me, and I was bewildered. All that was up there was blue, no framing trees or hills or clouds. I felt lost and disoriented for a moment.

There have been many times I’ve felt so bewildered, for reasons besides the sky. This past year–one year of marriage, yay!–has been bewildering in many ways (not because of marriage, okay. That part’s been great). I’ll look up from all that’s going on and try to get my bearings on the clouds and trees in my life, and when I don’t see them I become disoriented (and also really crabby). I’ve had to realize that my bearings do not come from the fickle sky or the changeable landscape, no matter how decent or reliable they might sometimes be. My bearings must instead come from the earth, the Rock I stand upon.

All other ground is sinking sand, which I realize is the desert, but that’s beside the point.

Everything is Beautiful

With the arrival of March, we enter “Still Winter”, a season known to the rest of the world as “Spring”, and one of the most depressing parts of the year in Western PA. The weather is a yo-yo. You can literally wear shorts one day and a parka the next (this week was like that).


I used to hate this time of year. Every warm day made me incredibly giddy, but with every temperature drop my hopes were dashed. More than once I’ve trekked through snow on the way to church Easter morning, snow boots paired with a floral dress.

Last year I focused on just getting through winter to better days, and this year I tried to love it while it was here. And I’ve realized after everything that I actually absolutely love Still Winter.

There’s something about the the trees so bare and the grass and brush so many different shades of brown, all waiting for something to happen, that gives you this sense of incredible hope. The tops of the trees are thick with tiny buds, which will burst out in a week if we have a good stretch of warm days. And time seems thinner; I feel the accumulated hope of many years and generations all coming together with the spring.

Everywhere I look I see something beautiful. It’s usually very mundane things, like a house or a bush or a rock and some snow. But I can’t help it. My eyes get pulled in and I can’t stop staring and feasting on the beauty. There are things I think are so beautiful and I can’t explain why.

This weekend starts Spring Break. While Alex will be spending it in sunny South Carolina with his sports team, I will be in sunny Oil City, PA. It’ll be nice to catch up with family and friends, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate (I lied. It’s not that sunny).

My town is a forgotten one, a place that used to be great and isn’t, and I think that sense of failure and hopelessness is unconsciously imprinted onto everyone’s mind. Facebook has a meme page for Oil City, with some referring to it as the Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King. Lovely stuff.

But there is beauty there, too. There are tree-covered hills healed from decades of abuse, majestic brick buildings and painted gingerbread houses built by old millionaires. There are good people who need hope, who need to look at things and be captivated by beauty without understanding why.

So that’s what I’ll be thinking about this spring break and Still Winter. I hope I run into others who think about it too. And I think that practicing that kind of focus can do some amazing things. I’ll have to try and see.



Avoiding Mid-Life Crisis

Today’s post sounds pretty informative, until you remember that I’m only in my twenties. Sorry about that. 

I’m bad at waking up early. I do all the tricks: drink water before bed, put my alarm on the other side of the room, keep the curtains drawn back as best I can. But somehow I’m still always rushing. I wake with the alarm, bring it back to bed with me, and fall asleep with it. 

Sometimes I wake with minutes to get ready, and I start crying “oh no, oh no, oh no!” And I wander around the room wringing my hands and lamenting my life. Alex calls these moments my midlife crises. 

“Let’s go to bed early,” he’ll say, “so you don’t have a midlife crisis tomorrow.” Good advice, if a little odd. But sometimes it still doesn’t work. Sometimes my brain decides to stay comotose until twenty minutes before class. Sometimes I forget to pack a lunch or brew coffee. Sometimes we’re running to school, slipping on ice and bounding over roads, racing the bells that chime the hour. 

Sometimes I get home so utterly exhausted I want to do nothing, when I have everything to do. I start to cry and wring my hands again, hating and loving and lamenting.

These are the moments that make me a volatile person. I never thought myself someone with a short temper, but maybe instead I have short nerves. Neither of those is good, and I wish I’d caught it sooner. Alex waits for the storm to pass, and I realize that none of this is worth a storm. Nothing is worth treating the people I love this way. 

So I give myself permission to make little decisions to avoid midlife crisis. I take ownership of my days. I decide not to go to this one class today, or to be a little late to this other thing so I can have dinner with my husband. Even a year ago I’d be wracked with guilt for playing hooky. But nothing is worth being Crazy Lady. 

The biggest challenge, of course, is taking ownership of myself, of reminding myself to nourish what is most important and to remember what isn’t. It means being independent of my circumstances and choosing to be myself, whole, calm, and strong, even when a hundred crazed outside voices tell me otherwise. 

I’m still working on all this, of course. But recognizing that I must is a start. It’s a start I hadn’t made before. 

Call in the next ten minutes, and you too can avoid mid-life crisis!

To My Russian



I love you
for being myself
and getting to grow
into someone else.

I love you
for inside jokes,
morning kisses,
vanilla cokes.

I love you
for silly faces,
karate fights
and swimming races.

I love you
for crying tears,
for working sweat
and wrestling prayers.

I love you
for what I needed,
I love you
the unexpected.


I’ve always liked traveling. When I was young my family drove all over the South and Midwest, staying with family and visiting historical sites along the way (we were homeschooled so we had to make it educational). We visited Chicago, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Nashville, and Orlando. I fell in love with St. Augustine (the city, not the man).

We’d always travel down South in the winter, halfway into February when we were most sick of snow. The balmy temperatures and the fresh, floral scent in the air meant a kind of freedom. We weren’t stuck in snow drifts. We were on an adventure.

Somewhere along the way I lost a little of my love for adventure. It’s been replaced by an annoyingly grown-up need for security and planning. Sometimes I wish I could drop everything and be a gypsy, but then I remember I have a job and a house and an education (and anyway, my husband says no).

But it looks like there will be a return of adventure for us in the months ahead. Opportunities have come our way and although it’s a little terrifying to take them, we realize that we must. Everything that needs to work out will.

So stay tuned for our adventures, and go on a few of your own while you’re at it. :)