To Err is Human, to Arr is Pirate!

There’s this smell that is so perfect that I can’t help but smile and feel happy to be alive. Let’s see if I can share it with you.

Think of your favorite food, it’s aroma slowly building into a crescendo of mouth watering anticipation. Allow yourself to savor it. Think of your favorite flower, or a newly mowed lawn, or anything that opens its buds in spring. Envision that freshness of life surrounding you, green and blue and pink and orange and yellow. Think about your favorite music. Listen for the sounds that make you smile, the sounds that bring you peace, the sounds that fill you with energy.

Now, think about your favorite people. Those you love most, those who make you laugh the most, those who accept you for who you are unconditionally. Place them beside you.

Breathe it in.

It’s a lot, isn’t it? It’s like walking into a wall of emotion and memory, but it’s so good.

This was, incidentally, what my Saturday afternoon was like. Erin and I made our way to the Fells Point Privateer Festival, and oh boy, what a time we had! Such sounds, smells and smiles!

A very talented pirate troupe took the stage to serenade us with sea shanties.

Soooo crowded!!!

I have always loved street fairs. Not only do they provide an excuse to eat fried food and people watch, but they also herald spring’s persistence and the approach of summer. And that is a time worthy of rejoicing.

This festival was a new experience though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to local fests, but this was the first piratical fair I’ve experienced. I have never seen so many corseted wenches and tricornered-hatted men in my life. Seriously.

Reenactors chilling on the pier.

A tall ship!

I should probably mention that it wasn’t all food and professional pirates – if you wanted your own gear you could peruse the vendors and choose from hats, gowns, waistcoats, jewelry, and so much more to add to your wardrobe.

Ugh, I wanted one so badly! They're a pretty penny though.

 

Cthulhu-esque arm cuff.

 

I invested in this nifty vest. I was quite excited to wear it!

Despite the inevitable sunburn, I had a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed singing along to sea shanties, eating delicious food (bacon wrapped mozzarella sticks, anyone?), and absorbing the sights and smells of Baltimore in the springtime.

A Homeschooler in the Harbor

Little unknown or unmentioned fact about me: I used to be homeschooled.

From 3rd through 8th grade I learned from my parents via the Calvert curriculum, took classes with other homechoolers in a co-op, joined homeschool groups for knitting, choir, and even went to museum events specifically for homeschoolers. Oh yeah, and there was even a homeschool prom.

One of my favorite memories of homeschooling was getting to travel with my parents and learn along the way. Whenever my dad had business trips my mom and I would piggy-back along, and I’d become immersed in the city’s history and culture. During the day my mom and I would go to museums (history and art lessons), walk through parks (nature lesson), and visit the churches (architecture and culture lessons). In the evening we’d meet back up with my dad and go to dinner and try new cuisines and local fare.

In a way, this exploration and curiosity about new places has never left me, although at the moment I’m strapped for cash and time to continue these adventures to new places. Which is why when I do get the chance to see something new, even in a city I’ve gone to school in for 3 years, I get so excited and happy.

Just like this past weekend!

My parents came down for the Dean’s List Luncheon and we spent some time at the Inner Harbor, soaking up the sun and history of the USS Constellation.

Dragon boats galore at the Inner Harbor

The majestic sloop, USS Constellation

It was just like old times: learning the history of the ship, going aboard and watching a gun demonstration…The history nerd inside of me was quite content.

Right before he made the cannon go off

Captain's quarters

My dad really enjoyed himself, he’s a big fan of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Maturin books, and got a kick out of showing me all the parts of the ship and which sail does what and where the Orlop deck is and everything. It was so nice to be out in the sunlight, catching the smell of the ocean on the spring air, feeling the slight sway of the deck beneath my feet, and enjoying the time with my parents.

Mom and Dad enjoying their stroll on the pier

It was so sunny!!!

I never thought I would say this, but I kinda wanted them to stay a bit longer. Ever since freshman year I’ve reveled in being away from home and spending a limited amount of time with my parents. But this weekend I was actually reluctant to see them go. Maybe it’s a maturity thing, maybe it was the previous rough week, or maybe it’s just nostalgia. Whatever it is, I’m glad I’m at least able to recognize how thankful I am for my parents. Not just for giving me their time and energy both growing up and now, but also for their constant encouragement in my education.

People always ask if being homeschooled gives me an advantage. I don’t think I can answer that yet. But I know it definitely shaped my love of independence, reading and higher education, and new experiences. So, thank you, Mom and Dad. You’re the best.

*And for those of you who want to know (and I know you’re out there, I got asked this all the time when I was homeschooled): No, I did not wear my pajamas to school. I got dressed every day.

Contemplating Romantic Freedom

“What is your dream date?”

I always love those questions on surveys and “about me” sections in spring magazines. Yes, spring is here and love is in the air. Couples sashay across campus, holding hands and looking adorable, at least to the eyes of singles. It is those singles who read said magazines and laugh at the ridiculous questionnaires and advice columns on every other page. Because *dramatic eye roll* obviously it’s so revealing how I want to spend my time getting to know someone. Oh No! Spoilers!

Right.

When I was little, I thought dream dates were silly, because in my head I considered myself lucky to be going on a date at all. I was so concerned with the idea of being liked and sought after that I never grasped the point of dating – getting to know someone as a potential partner.

Like, Ew, right? Who needs boys? I sure don’t. I don’t need someone else. I can make it on my own. I’m a strong and independent young woman! That was what I told myself ages 12 through 20. This is quite possibly why I wound up breaking up with all my exes. Why I still break up with them.

Yes, I am that girl. The girl who gets into relationships, falls into them really, and has no reason to. The girl who always winds up breaking it off because falling means getting back up again with someone else, and I, supposedly, do not need someone else in my life. I can make it on my own.

And yet, I wonder. I wonder as I see schoolmates from home getting engaged. Or married. Or having kids. I wonder as I see my best friends falling in love and being so scared of putting their heart on the line, but knowing that in the end, it’s worth it. I wonder as I remember falling once, but in the end I got up on my own. My heart wasn’t worth it.

There’s a saying that once you stop looking for someone, they find you. I’ve never really been looking, but someone has always found me. Someone decides that I’m their someone. I’m their something to fix. I’m this thing that they have a right to inspect, to poke and prod and ask why without really listening to my answer.

So if I’ve been through all this before, if I know the routine, why do I let it happen? It’s kinda funny, see, after every break up, I say, “No more men. That’s it. I need a 6 month break. At least.” I’m not the only one, because, trust me, I’ve heard this from many other women on campus – there’s a constant push to find “The One” but retain the independence other women have struggled to gain for the next generation. And yet, despite all this, maybe a month after a breakup, there’s someone new. Someone to flirt with, someone to talk to, someone to look forward to seeing in the hallway. I don’t ask for attention. I don’t ask to be “courted.” It just kinda…happens.

The point of this is not to brag. This is just a thing that has been bugging me lately. It’s a thing that, frankly, I’m tired of and should stop letting myself get into. Maybe if I stop being so passive about how I feel, or don’t feel, I won’t find myself chasing after a wispy hope of redemption in the eyes of another. Maybe if I didn’t rely on this wispy hope of romanticized guessing games resulting in “perfect date” potential, I could actually be happy with my unromantic life choices.

Side Note: And in case you’re curious, that perfect date would involve a combination of museum, book store, food, and cuddling while enjoying a movie/TV show.

Transitions

As I sit here eating my Lucky Charms and sipping very strong coffee on a Sunday afternoon, I can’t help but feel that the adult world I’m stepping into and the adolescent world I’m leaving behind sometimes come together in beautiful ways. You’d really expect them to clash which, believe me, they do, but this weekend my life seemed to be a bit more harmonious than usual.

It might be that it started out with not having my classes on Friday, thus giving me the afternoon to go into Towson and run some errands. That phrase alone, “running errands,” just makes any shopping experience sound more adult. Heck, I was just buying more paint and chilling out at Barnes and Noble for a while until I met up with my friend Emily to buy some groceries. While I was alone for that time I felt more relaxed and contemplative than I’ve been lately.

I’ve felt a little stuck in a rut creativity-wise. Overall I’ve been very productive, but originating ideas hasn’t been as easy or as frequent as usual. Which, as an artist and writer, is kind of crucial and a little worrisome. Taking that time to be by myself helped clear up some of that creativity block, though.

Later in the evening Emily came over for dinner: breakfast! Pancakes, bacon, and eggs, even freshly squeezed orange juice! Between the food, the singing, the dancing, and the joking around with awesome people, I had a relaxingly fun night.

Claire brought out her ukelele and serenaded us!

Emily making freshly squeezed OJ!

So much good food

I know all this might sound a bit humdrum, but prepare yourself, because I assure that the low-key atmosphere of my apartment on Friday became electrically charged on Saturday.

How, you ask?

Because we hosted a gaming night and it was awesome.

Remember how I joined the gaming society at UCC? Well, Erin and I were missing that weekly adventure of RPs, strategic thinking, and general geekiness, and we had a lot of games, so we decided invite a bunch of friends over for what turned out to be an unforgettable night.

And by “lots” of games, I mean: Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, Cards Against Humanity, Settlers of Catan, Werewolf (think slightly more complex Mafia), Saboteur, Geek Out (trivia), a Firefly Card Game, and so many others.

And by “a bunch” of friends, I mean over 20 (during the course of the night, not all at once). If you had told me in high school that 1) I would know over 20 people who wanted to hang out and 2) these 20+ people had a shared love for general geekery and being goofy and that being with them is a beautiful thing, I wouldn’t have believed you. Parties and social events are usually the bane of an introvert’s existence, so I never would have thought I’d have so much fun mingling with so many people, let alone hosting them in my apartment.

This is only half the room. I've never had so many people over in my life.

Erin enjoying the food and company

In the end it isn’t the fact that I’m in a weird transition period that makes me stop to think, but it’s the way the two worlds I’m in between mix together. Yes, there was a sense of adult responsibility last night – everyone brought some kind of food and they mingled and had little chats – but there was an overwhelming youthfulness when the final group left at 3 a.m. after a wonky game of charades and I still had unspent energy.

I don’t know how long this period will last, but I hope it continues to surprise me and be as enjoyable as this weekend was.

Take a Break Already!

Oh, ow, my eyes. *Puts sunglasses on* That’s better. *Creak, tramp tramp tramp, squish* Ugh, mud. *Looks up at the sky* Wow, that’s beautiful. Nice to see you again, sun.

Of course, the brief spell of warmth Baltimore experienced this weekend departed all too quickly, but we got to enjoy it while it lasted. Admitted students toured the campus, current students reclined on the Humanities Porch, and I rolled up my sleeves to feel the breeze across my arms. But then I looked down and was blinded by my own paleness. You win some you lose some.

A taste of spring is so very welcome right now – it’s midterms. Everyone is getting cabin fever, especially as break is less than a week away!

Ah yes, Spring Break. A time for reveling, relaxing, and revamping for the second half of the semester. I will be having a pretty low key time at home, you know, doctors appointments, summer job search, museum visits etc. Yeah, not exactly the most thrilling or adventurous activities, so I asked around my friend group to find out what other Loyola students planned to do with their week of freedom. I got some pretty cool responses!

My roommate, Erin, is planning to spend some quality time with family and friends and, drumroll please, boyfriend who’s visiting from Ireland! She’s very excited – she’s been counting down the days all week.

My friends Victoria and Katie will be in Florida – one visiting her dad and the other  kicking back in Disney World with fellow seniors – definitely a smart idea since the North is supposed to be getting more snow!

A trio of my friends, Ben, Alex, and Allie, are planning to camp in Pokomoke River State Park (I’m kind of super jealous, the last time I went camping was freshman year of high school).

Many friends and acquaintances will also be working – my roommate from Ireland is currently interning in Vienna and another friend from study abroad said that he would be working in a music shop most of the time.

There are of course my more lackadaisical (SAT word of the day meaning lacking in enthusiasm or carelessly lazy)* friends like my roommate Claire informed me that she will be sleeping for the majority of break and pro-active friends who will be going on SBO (my previous roommate Mary will heading off to the Appalachian region of VA to tutor and promote cultural awareness).

In short, spring break isn’t so much a “break” as an opportunity for adventures. Preferably sunny adventures.

*Edit from my roommate Erin

Young and Restless

Don’t forget to
unwind once in a while.
do remember to
embrace your inner geek.

Young and restless is
optimal for inspiration and creativity.
use that to your advantage.

Have a day, or two,
arranged for
venturing to comic stores,
expressing yourself in color.

Nestle into bed with a book
or host a Disney marathon/sing-along.

I don’t care what you do, but
do it with passion.
enjoy the music, the friends, the laughs,
and most of all, the memories.

This is what gets me through long hours in the studio, but also gets me pumped for weekends filled with exploring Baltimore comic book stores and having an “art party” with Loyola’s Urban Art Club.

 

Changing the Lightbulb

Pretend you’re in class, or maybe at work, or heck, just doing something you enjoy. And you’re listening to someone speak, whether that be the professor, your boss, or just the thoughts in your head. And they say something that makes a lightbulb go off. Not the Eureka! kind of lightbulb that worked as soon as you screwed it in. I mean the lightbulb that you had to replace two times because first it broke and then you grabbed the wrong wattage.

The lightbulb scenario is my life right now. I’ve spent the past two and half years getting confused, turned around, and generally stressed. But since this semester began and I switched my major to Interdisciplinary Comm and Art, things are starting to make sense. The lightbulb is finally working.

It’s not like I understand life, the universe, and everything, that would be a bit much. I just mean that in my advertising class we talked about targeting and stereotypes, which came up the next day in my sociology class, when we discussed the importance of understanding culture and observing social interaction more carefully.

In my graphics class we’re learning about the elements of design and all the things that go into making posters, logos, and ads. I’m finding out that almost all of it is intuitive and I’m even able to apply techniques to my flyers for the Knifty Knitters. I never thought I would feel so comfortable in class.

I even feel more confident in the subject that has always been a constant in my college major choice. Landscape painting is proving to be a joy, and I’m starting to see how I’m influenced by my favorite artists while developing my own unique style. I’m feeling more creative out of the classroom than I have before, and I. Love. It.

To be honest, sometimes I still feel overwhelmed. I still feel like I don’t know what my future holds and please don’t ask what I’m doing after I graduate. I know a lot of my peers feel the exact same way; I know they’re under an extreme amount of pressure to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives when they don’t even know what they have planned for next Saturday. Success is expected and failure is not an option.

This is why the lightbulb is so important. It might not work first time, or the second, or the third. Maybe it’s a bit dim, or maybe it’s way too bright and you can’t stand the fluorescence. Sometimes the lightbulb breaks and after you pick up the pieces you stand there and think Why Me? Why Now? But when that lightbulb works, when you screw it in and it makes that connection and things begin to fall into place and suddenly life seems a little more manageable, that’s when you know you’re onto something.

And that something can lead you anywhere.

And that is where I end this analogy.

Last night I fooled around with charcoal pastel

I recently made this for Poetry Club

Thanks for the Memories

Well, I’m back! Yes, the Evergreen campus is my home once more, and I have a feeling this semester is going to be pretty sweet. I spent the past two days in running pants and oversized t-shirts while writing, reading, arting, knitting, and planning for the next week or so. A comfortable and quiet weekend. It’s a nice buffer to the crazy weekdays.

But why does this even matter? Well, the chilling out time has allowed me to think about the past semester. Aaaand also think about what’s to come. You know, like, those questions everyone keeps asking me “What do you want to do with your life?” “What are your plans after you graduate?” (UGH) If you couldn’t tell, I don’t have the answers to those two questions. But I do have the opportunity to thank Loyola for the following Highlights of 2013.

The first thing I have to say thank you for is giving me the opportunity to explore. Not just Baltimore (although that’s pretty great). But also myself. For the past year, mainly through this blog I might add, I’ve been discovering new aspects of myself I hadn’t realized were there. Or maybe I knew they might be there, but I hadn’t taken any steps to access them. Loyola gave me the chance to write freely, in different styles, about unexpected topics, and without fear that my views would be mocked or rejected.

My second thank you goes out to the school’s faculty. This is probably the most obvious acknowledgment, but one that is very necessary. You challenge me to excel, and you expect nothing less than growth and improvement. Thank goodness. Because sometimes I lose my sense of motivation, and remembering the professors who said “You can do better” gets me out of bed and back to my desk (yes, I am very competitive with myself).

Perhaps this is also fairly obvious, but, well, to all my friends: You. Are. The. Best. And Loyola, thank you for hooking me up with them via the Alpha (now Messina) program, clubs, convenient lunch times, classes, and being a beautiful campus that everyone wants to be part of. You guys (and you know who you are) put up with so much of my crazy and I am so lucky to have you as part of my life. For those of you who may not know what this “crazy” is, I still say thank you for being part of my life, no matter how infrequently I get to see you!

And finally, thank you, Loyola, for sending me abroad. Last semester was…unbelievable. People say studying abroad changes you, but I didn’t realize how true that was until I returned. I’ve seen so many new places (and I can’t wait to see more), I’ve found out so much about myself, and I’ve met so many people I would never have encountered if I had stayed here. I’ve become more independent, organized, thoughtful, and open to new experiences. If someone told 13-year-old-me what I would be doing now, who I would become, I wouldn’t believe them. I don’t think even 18-year-old-me would quite believe it.

So where does this leave me? A little nostalgic, going through all those posts to find ones that I could link. But also excited. I’m 21, in a fantastic city, at an excellent school, with amazing people – I’m in control of my life. I have the power to say yes or no, to try new things, to choose where my life is headed. And to all of my fellow Greyhounds reading this: You have it, too. So get excited. Take your highlights from the past year and turn them into something spectacular.

Missing the Emerald Isle

It’s almost been a week since I returned and as much as I’m enjoying good strong coffee and Christmas movie marathons, there are things about Ireland that I already miss. Although a few of them are seasonal, like the less obtrusive Christmas and holiday paraphernalia, some of them are of a more permanent nature.

Time for a List!

  1. That Irish Accent. When I was in Cork I was surrounded by people with Irish, German, French, Dutch, and English accents. I hung out with Americans in and out of class, but I still spent a good amount of time with very mellow non-American accents. Being back in Jersey has made me understand why people say Americans are loud and, well, easy to poke fun at. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have an accent (I drop my constants constantly), but I’m still getting used to my parents making “cawfee” in the morning.
  2. Respect for Pedestrians. Coming from the tri-state area means you’re used to all sorts of drivers, and if you visit the city often enough you know you have to book it across the street if you don’t want to get run over, even if you have a green light. I originally thought I’d have major issues in Ireland, with them driving on the opposite side of the street and everything. But honestly, they are some of the most polite drivers in the world. They actually wait for you to cross the street, and they don’t stop within a hairsbreadth of you or trigger a mini-heart attack while you speed walk past a sign that says “pedestrians have right of way.”
  3. Sense of Anonymity. Cork may not be a big city, but it’s large enough I wouldn’t run into 10 people from UCC I knew while grocery shopping. Coming from a small town where that happens on a regular basis really made me appreciate the just-right size of Cork. Not too big so I can walk to classes and stores easily, and not too small so that everyone knew my business.
  4. Food Quality. Especially the dairy products. I don’t think I had ever seen so many brands and types of butter until I went to Tesco in Cork. It took up half an aisle. I’m not kidding. The Irish love their butter, and they know you get what you pay for. I have been completely spoiled on fresh eggs, fresh butter, fresh milk, fresh cheese, fresh meat, fresh everything. If you shopped at the English Market you’d be guaranteed low prices and great quality while supporting local farmers and shop owners. My parents cook almost all our dinners from scratch, but I’m still going to miss buying a bushel of carrots with the green leaves still attached.
  5. Chips. Not Fries, Chips. You haven’t experienced Ireland properly until you have some chips at Jackie Lennox’s, Chipsy King, or, honestly, any place that cuts their own. The Irish have perfected chips: light and fluffy on the inside, crispy and crunchy on the outside. The only place at home that can compete from home is Cream King, and it’s only open in the summer, so I’m kind of bummed about that.

What I miss most of all, or rather, who I miss most of all are the people. The Irish are extremely friendly, outgoing, and have a very quirky sense of humor. From shop owners to students you’d be greeted with a smile and wave, and I can’t tell you how many times a 5 minute conversation turned into an hour discussion. I know I’ll stay on contact with my friends via Facebook and all, but those group invites to see The Hobbit and Merry Christmas Wishes tug at my heartstrings a little. Hopefully I’ll be back soon!

A Weekend Filled with (Dutch) History

As I’m writing this, snow is falling gently, adding to the afternoon’s quiet peacefulness. My ‘balsam & cedar’ candle makes the aura of Christmas even more pronounced, in case you missed the wrapping paper and ribbons lying on the floor. Oh, and don’t forget the Christmas Jazz I’ve been listening to.

You could say I’ve settled into being home quite pleasantly. (The clothes I washed yesterday already have cat hair on them. Oh yes, I’m home.

But, as much as I would love to expound on the advantages to being home early for the Christmas season, what I really planned to write about was my…(drum roll please) Trip to Amsterdam!

You have no idea how psyched I was to find out the art history course I took at UCC included an optional trip to the Dutch capital. So excited in fact, that I bought my plane ticket before the trip was fully confirmed by my professor. Which of course guaranteed that not enough people from the class signed up to go and I was left with the (slightly terrifying) circumstance of traveling to  a foreign country the day after Thanksgiving by myself. Luckily Erin swooped in and offered to come with me, which made the weekend all the more fun and adventurous.

I need to point something out that I’ve noticed since traveling during this semester:

Europe is old. Compared to the US at least. I mean, you hear that all the time, but you don’t really get it until you stay in a hostel whose building is 400 years old. Or you walk out of a 19th century train station to gape at the surrounding buildings that look like real life gingerbread houses (but more sophisticated). Really.

For example, one of the many opera houses of Amsterdam:

The Rijksmuseum:

A shopping mall:

But getting past that phenomenal architecture to the contents of those buildings. Amsterdam is a city filled with history, and to keep track of it all, there are over 50 museums. Erin and I only made it to 5, but oh man, it was an experience.

The first one we went to was the Diamond Museum – I had no idea Amsterdam has such a history with the precious stones. It was really cool to see them being cut (at Coster Diamonds) and then learn about the whole mining and development process. The museum also had some pretty nifty displays:

Yes, that is indeed Van Gogh’s Starry Night with diamonds glittering in the sky. Speaking of Van Gogh, the museum dedicated to him is a must-see. Yes, I am a huge fan, but even the casual museum-goer would enjoy the rooms bursting with color, expression, and would gain a better understanding of the man behind the brushstrokes. On Friday nights they even have live music and are open till 10!

One of my favorite museums I went during my time abroad would have to the Rijksmuseum, which Erin and I visited the following day. I of course took the obligatory picture in front of the “I amsterdam” sculpture:

The museum is beautiful both inside and out and filled with amazing treasures:

The Netherlands have a rich trade history, hence the room full of model ships.

It's so simple and elegant!

 

The streets of Amsterdam are filled with unexpected delights, like street artists doing their thing:

Dutch waffle shops:

Stores like the “Otherist” featuring truly other-worldly object like preserved insects, fancy briefcases, pre-WWII glass eyes, truly unique salt and pepper shakers, and art prints of Cthulhu-like creatures (sorry, no pictures).

Erin and I also went to the Tulip Museum (very small), and a canal tour at night, and on my final day I visited the Amsterdam Museum which offered a very comprehensive history of the city with fun, interactive displays. But that was after I took a nice morning stroll around the quiet streets and went to Mass:

Dutch aged cheddar cheese is Mm-mm, perfect!

Tulip market

Art market

 

The church I went to Mass at - gorgeous inside!

 

I think Amsterdam was one of my favorite cities so far, even though trying to pronounce a language with words that have 10 consonants and 3 vowels is pretty difficult (and embarrassing). Despite the cold, I’d really love to go back. All that art and history right at your fingertips, yum!