Defining (and maybe accepting) Vulnerability

Remember that group of friends I meet up with to talk about authenticity? How we’re working on a program for first years to talk about the questions we all face in school about self-awareness and acceptance? How hard it is to ask someone questions and be willing to answer their own?

Well, we had another meeting last week. But beforehand we watched a video that not only reaffirmed our plan of action, but for me, led to deeper thinking and reevaluation of how I see myself.

For those of you who don’t want to watch the talk by Dr. Brené Brown (it’s a bit long, but I promise it’s worth it), I’ll give a few quotes that have been floating through my head all week:

“Courage…is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. Courage is to be imperfect. It’s the compassion to be kind to yourself and then to others.”

“Authenticity is letting go of who you think you should be to be who you are.”

“Vulnerability is the ability to be seen. It’s the willingness to do something that has no guarantees. It’s the core of shame and fear and our struggle to find worthiness, but it appears it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

Those three words, courage, authenticity, and vulnerability, plagued me after watching and discussing the video. It seemed that everywhere I went, everyone I listened to, those words popped up in the conversation. It was like a radio had been turned on in my head and I kept picking up one clear signal. The other stations in my life were staticky and only came in when one of those words or phrases were used.

I’m not saying I was getting a divine message or anything, it just so happened that I watched the video during a week full of self-doubt and questioning of my future.

Take Dr. Brown’s idea of courage, for example. To be imperfect. To be kind to yourself. Now those are two very hard tasks. It’s so easy to be down on yourself and strive for perfection. There’s a stereotype at Loyola that the perfect student has a 3.5+ GPA, is president of at least 2 clubs, does service on a regular basis, maintains healthy eating habits/works out at the FAC, gets along well with all professors, earns high achievement in their major, and somehow always looks composed. Sadly, there’s a ring of truth to the image, even if an individual only qualifies for some of the above. I know I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to do well in school and in the community. But sometimes the amount of stress that leads to is more negative than positive.

I know I’ve talked about authenticity before, but Dr. Brown phrased it perfectly. Authenticity is about knowing yourself and accepting yourself, no matter the imperfections, fears, and doubts you face every day. It’s not about thinking so much as being. It’s taking down your walls to be who you are, even though you might risk everything.

Taking that risk is being vulnerable, and man did Dr. Brown get me with that one! I hate being vulnerable. I hate showing I’m weak. When I was little I taught myself to not be ticklish because, in a sense, it showed weakness.

Today, as a young adult, vulnerability is my greatest adversary, but I’m learning how to make it work for me. This blog is a way I get over my vulnerability. I’m allowing myself to be seen, sometimes by people I’ve never met before, and maybe never will. I’m opening up on paper, which is one step closer to opening up in person. I’m trying to do things that have no guarantees, like studying abroad for a semester and getting into a relationship. Well, there are certain things I know will happen with both of those cases, but I don’t know how they’ll change me in the end.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing about this in the first place, I have two reasons. The first: I write about what happens in my life, specifically ideas and things I’m passionate about. This is one of them. Second: I think these topics can be explored more fully at Loyola, and the discussion is necessary to create a stronger community.

Dr. Brown closed with this:

“How do we fix this [disconnect]? Let ourselves be seen. Love with our whole hearts. Practice gratitude & joy in those moments of passion. To feel so vulnerable means we’re alive. To believe we’re enough.”

Outrunning Your Stress

It starts with a twinge. Just a little twinge. And then a nip. Just a little nip that turns into a nibble. This nibble starts you moving, your meandering pace turning into a quick trot. You catch a glimpse of your pursuer in your peripheral vision. A shadow no longer biting at your heels but matching your hurried walk with ease. You pick up the pace and gain a few yards. Looking back, you can see that the shadow has turned into a substantive form and is now loping in your wake, strengthened by your anxiety. You break into a sprint, trying to shake the growling beast that is determined to bring you down. Fear grips you, things claw at you as you speed past, shredding every last bit of confidence while unidentifiable objects pull down your spirit. You aren’t going to last much longer. The beast is breathing goosebumps onto your neck and there is nowhere to hide, no place to go but forward. Always forward.

We all know this beast. Some of us more than others. But by the time we get out of high school we’ve dealt with it a few times and probably had a few close calls. This fiend that pursues us even in the most pleasurable of pursuits is stress.

And in a college student’s life, there’s a lot of it. From course work to jobs to sports to clubs to personal relationships, stress is part of the daily routine. There’s a difference, though, between being stressed in a healthy way, and having stress take over your life. The line between the two becomes increasingly hard to maintain, and as I look around me at freshmen wrapping up their first year of college, sophomores sorting out majors and minors, juniors searching for internships, and seniors getting ready to graduate, I see that line erase completely.

Why does this all matter you might ask? Well, besides the almost universal change-in-attitude-affect, people can also have physical side affects from stress. When I switched from homeschooling to a public high school, my stress level increased dramatically and I thought I was handling it pretty well…until my immune system rebelled against me and I developed a mild form of atopic dermatitis and alopecia. So not fun. But eventually I got a handle on it. I changed some of my routines and learned how to manage my stress levels. And I’m still learning, since college is a completely different environment from high school.

If you’re reading this and getting freaked out because a) you’re in high school,  b) you’re in college and you aren’t stressed or c) you’re a parent of a current or future college student, don’t be! (You’re probably snorting in disbelief right now, I mean, what was that first paragraph for, right?) I’m serious. When I was in high school I was told “College is so much easier,” and “If you’re succeeding under pressure now, you’ll be fine in college,” and I didn’t believe it. How could college be any easier and how could the stress lessen in any way?

I don’t have an exact answer, but it does. Maybe it has to do with your age, maybe there’s a mental advancement in compartmentalizing, or maybe you just know yourself better. No matter how, and no matter why, stress in the life of a college student is always present, but it’s always manageable.

In case you don’t believe me, and that beast is breathing down your neck, here are some tips to avoid or deal with stress while at Loyola:

  1. Breathe. Whether it’s meditation or just closing your eyes and inhaling slowly, it’s always good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
  2. Make a plan. Instead of blundering ahead blindly and hoping your luck will hold out, write down what you want to do and when you want to complete it. Setting goals makes the process more rewarding and easier to handle.
  3. Sleep. Chances are if you’re super stressed, you’re not getting enough sleep. I’m a big believer in the 10 minute power naps that pick me up at 1am. You’ll get through those 20+ pages of reading faster and write that paper better if you have a little sleep under your belt.
  4. Talk to someone (or several someones). Venting about stress is a good way to relieve it. Find someone who doesn’t mind you freaking out for 15 minutes so you can get it out of your system. Hopefully they can do the same with you!
  5. Allow for some “Me” time. Take a walk. Do something creative (it uses a different part of your brain from analytical thought). Sing in the shower. Being on your own can really clear your head and shake that feeling of being pursued by constant anxiety.

Taking a Break

Ready…Set…Wait for it…GO!!!!

And they’re off! Spring break has begun! Fresh air! More sleep! No homework! Freedom!

Well, kind of. By the time this is published, some students will be on their way home and others will be chomping at the bit to finish their last midterm. And, ok, fine, maybe I won’t get that much more sleep, and I know I have homework, but the fresh air and relative freedom still stands.

I say “relative” because I know my time isn’t truly my own. I’ll be running around, being enjoyably busy, and I know I’m not the only one. Loyola students tend to be fairly active during the week away from school. During my talks with friends I’ve heard some pretty interesting stuff. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thanks to the ease of travel in Baltimore, my friend Mary is flying out to see her sister in Pittsburgh. She’s really excited to see the Andy Warhol Museum and ride the incline (like that little red trolley from Mr. Rogers). I visited there a few summers ago and had a fantastic time. She’s in for a treat!

I know my roommate Erin plans to take the opposite route, and will be spending much of her time catching up on missed sleep. She also has her sights set on gaming, reading and hanging out with friends from home.

Likewise, my friend Ben told me he’d be getting some quality homework time in, because school will follow you where ever you go!

On a school-related note, some of my friends (quite a few, come to think of it) will be participating in Spring Break Outreach, a program that students apply for, and during which serve in communities across the east coast. There are eight sites, all in different states, all addressing different issues. My roommate Nicole will be learning about environmental and energy issues and visiting with organizations and local communities who are trying to address the problem. Lindsey, my fellow blogger, will be leading a group that focuses on prison reform and works with Baltimore agencies to educate students about the difficulties faced by current and past inmates. Other programs deal with rural and urban poverty, migrant farm labor, building communities, HIV/AIDS awareness, and racial justice.

I’ve also heard from other students that they plan to hang out with family and friends (even to Arizona and California!), spend some time skiing, and more than once I’ve caught “Disney World” while walking through Boulder.

What are my plans, you might ask? Well….I haven’t quite figured them out yet! I’ve been eying a few art museums since I haven’t been to any this semester (and that just feels weird). I really want to visit the Barnes in Philly (so many Renoirs and Cezannes!) and check out the Brandywine Museum’s F.O.C. Darley exhibit. My dad will be celebrating his birthday by going to the Museum of Mathematics in NYC to attend a talk about math in Pixar movies (I’m actually kind of excited for that). Other than the usual hair cut, visit to my high school, and obligatory restocking of food, I have no idea what else lies in my future! I hope it involves a trip to Barnes and Noble, though. Maybe I’ll eventually get to see The Hobbit or catch up on Downton Abbey.

No matter what I do, I know I’ll enjoy my chance to breathe and recuperate from midterms!

Making The Loyola Investment

As you walk around campus in this nippy February weather, you’ll notice here and there signs of spring popping up from the earth. Along with the new blooms follow a new crop of students, coming in droves to tour the school and attend information sessions with their families. Pretty soon the quad and bridge will be clogged with newcomers on Saturdays, and you just might get asked by a lost parent where to find Boulder.

Sometimes, if you’re really lucky (and I’m being serious, this is pretty cool), you’ll be asked what you like the most, what you don’t like, and the most personal question, why Loyola at all? What was the deciding factor? What was in the balance?

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, you already know some of the answers. But not all!

To give you an idea of where I was by this time senior year of high school, I had heard back from a few schools, was still waiting on others, but had more or less narrowed it down to Loyola, Fordham, and Rutgers.

After taking the tour and seeing the freakishly large campus of my state university (and learning I’d have to take a bus to get to classes), I crossed out Rutgers from my list. I had already visited Fordham before I applied, but after I went to the accepted students day, I just wasn’t feeling it. I loved the programs they offered: their History, Women’s Studies and Irish Studies departments were very strong and they, too, had core requirements. I loved how it was in the city with the world at my fingertips. It was tied with Loyola, until I got their financial aid letter.

Suddenly I was faced with two schools I wasn’t very keen on and and third I had visited multiple times, but hadn’t had that “This is it” feeling which everyone talks about.

Don’t get me wrong, Loyola was on my Top of the Top List from the first time I took a tour! I really liked the campus, the students were nice, the department representatives I met were so friendly and open to questions, and the emphasis on service and core classes drew me in tenfold. But between the first time I visited to merely consider it and the second time for my interview, I still hadn’t been able to say “I can see myself here.”

February passed, and then some of March, while I watched my friends make their deposits to their dream schools. Then one bleak and rainy day (I’m not kidding, it was downpouring on the walk from my bus stop), I received a letter from Loyola saying I’d been awarded a merit based scholarship, which added a new factor to my interest in the school.

I attended the accepted students day in April, which included a breakfast for scholarship and honors program students, along with the crazy amount of activities to keep you busy. And that’s when something changed. There was no Eureka moment, no fairy chanting Abracadabra over my head to result in a poof of inspiration.

It was a gradual acceptance.

As the day wore on, I saw more that I liked, I heard more challenging and simultaneously appealing ideas, and I met more people I saw as like-minded peers. There was a sense of community I hadn’t felt at other schools, a deep grounding in the Jesuit teaching of core values. There were so many ways I could get involved on and off campus, I just had to know where to look. Even the dorms and living-learning communities were calling to me (give me a kitchen and I’m happy). I found myself being able to say that I could truly see myself as a Loyola Greyhound.

And that was more or less it. By the end of the day I had submitted my deposit and triumphantly called my sister to tell her the news. But there was a moment during that afternoon that’s always stuck in my memory and is one of my biggest motivators to do well.

My parents and I stood outside Boulder and figured out the financial difference between Loyola and Rutgers (I may have taken it off my list, but that didn’t mean it was off my parents’). Loyola was a stretch, even with financial aid and the scholarship. But my dad put it into these terms, “This isn’t just a monetary investment. It’s an investment in you.” And honestly, it’s an investment in Loyola.

The Little Things

By the time it gets to the end of the week, I’m dead. My last class on Friday ends at 2, I walk home blaring Imagine Dragons and Weezer, and either dump my backpack and catch up with my roommates, or dump my backpack and do my laundry.

Today is the Laundry Friday.

I’m currently sitting in the laundry room with my legs propped up on the table typing away and waiting for the wash to finish before I pop it into the dryer. Every five minutes someone waves to me from the doorway.

Which leads me to why I’m bringing laundry up in the first place. Even though the stereotypical college student supposedly hates laundry day, I think it has its social and therapeutic qualities.

I know, this sounds really weird, but hear me out. The laundry room in my dorm is close to the back door so it gets a lot of traffic from students walking to and from classes. Certain hours yield more people doing laundry than others, so sometimes you’ll see a fair amount of people that way, too. It’s kind of the perfect way to say hi to friends before the weekend hits and you either hole up in your dorm or spend every waking minute outside for the next 48 hours.

Last year I would bring my homework along and try to be productive during the 1+ hour of being in a relatively distraction free room. It worked! I have the distinct memory of reading Thomas Aquinas for theology and writing rough drafts of my paper on societal standards on campus for writing. The sound of the machines has this rhythmic quality to it that just becomes white noise if you stay in there long enough.

Even after the whole process of doing laundry, it still has to be folded. And that is where the true relaxing comes into play. Yeah, OK, so you probably think I’m nuts by now. But I swear there’s something soothing about repeating the same action with warm, sweet smelling fabric. Granted, it can be pretty staticky and I’m so ready to sit down after folding what is two large loads worth of clothes, but it’s still a nice chore compared to taking out the garbage.

I guess the take away from this is to look for the unexpected pleasures in life. Meet ups with friends in uncommon places, homework in rooms not intended for studious behavior, and unwinding at week’s end through mundane “normal” activities. But that’s the best part of the college life. Always expect the unexpected. Life is more enjoyable that way.

Fwap Fwap
Whoosh
Smooth Smooth
Fold
Smooth Smooth
Fold
Stretch
Smooth Smooth (quickly now)
Fold
Stretch
Smooth Smooth (faster now)
Fold

Fold

Fold

Flip

The Laundry

Getting It

“I just have five more gen ed classes and the next three years will be all neuroscience and chemistry.”
“What!?!?! Five? Only five? I have like, I don’t know, fifteen!!!”
“Hahahahahaaaa, sucks for you.”

That is the rough summary of a conversation between me and one of my best friends last year. We had been talking about graduation requirements while enjoying the shade of a nearby sidewalk cafe on a hot summer afternoon.

To be honest, my reaction to “Sucks for you” was “Mmmm” as I sipped my drink. Because if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather be doing what you love sooner, instead of having to balance core (gen ed) classes with your major/minor requirements? As I reached for a french fry from the basket between us, I tried to remember when a core class at Loyola turned out to be something I “loved” without knowing it.

Maybe I had missed something, a discussion in Theology that really got me to think about a global issue, a poem in English that inspired me to write one of my own, a lesson in CompSci that made me appreciate the complexity of the web*. At the time, I couldn’t come up with anything. Don’t get me wrong, I liked those classes, loved them even, but nothing stood out that made the core at Loyola “essential” to my understanding of “the bigger picture.”

And then last semester happened.

I don’t know if it was the combination of classes, the professors, or just the content, but suddenly everything started to click. Every week I had a Eureka moment of “Oh my God! We just talked about this author in my other class! And he relates to both classes! Ah!”

Here’s a less vague example: My first core History class started with the Renaissance, as did my Art History class. Throughout the semester we’d be covering the same time periods, but focus on different aspects of society and I was able to see how politics and cultural trends directly affected the art world, in every era. My Art History class covered the 1970s feminist contributions which were later discussed in my Life Drawing class because the representation of the female nude is a huge point of contention. That Life Drawing class also had assigned readings relating to philosophy and the concept of what makes us truly human which my Philosophy professor ensured we discussed when we read Plato’s Timaeus. Those connections made those classes worthwhile. I was excited for whatever came next, knowing that it might relate to a different class.

You don’t get that in high school, and you definitely don’t get that in all colleges. There’s a lot of early specialization in state schools, and if there is a core, you don’t have to take 2  classes of Theology, Philosophy, English, History, and Social Science, courses which teach you to think in totally unexpected and different ways.

Unexpected. That’s the best way to describe it, I think. We’re reading Frankenstein right now in my Lit class and Rousseau in my Philosophy class. Suddenly the debate about human nature and man’s “natural state” takes on a whole new meaning. I just learned about comparative cost in my Microecon class and boy does that change my rate of procrastination!

Maybe it’s pure luck that my classes are working out this way. Maybe my attitude has changed from last year and I view classes differently now. Maybe I’m just paying more attention.

No matter why this change has occurred, what’s important is that it has. Last year I was frustrated at not seeing how my classes tied into each other. I was forcing that connection the Loyola brochures advertise as an advantage of the core. This year I see, hear, and understand those connections. I finally get it. And it’s beautiful.

*For the record, since this chat with my friend, I have realized all of those possibilities are true.

An Endangered Inanimate Species

There is a certain creature of collegiate life whose existence will soon be obliterated. It’s appearance is rather plain, leaving room for human modification. It attaches itself to the doors of residence halls where it feeds on the thoughts of passing strangers and the inside jokes of unsuspecting room occupants.

Oftentimes this versatile being is accompanied by a small, black utensil which acts as a distraction to prey, luring them to the white plastic void. A few subspecies have been discovered which pair themselves with a spongy surface that attracts loose pieces of paper.

Unbeknownst to the wider public, this secretly social critter is losing its place in the world of modern communication.

That’s right folks. The whiteboard is slowly but surely growing extinct in the halls of college dorms.

At least, it seems that way based on my quest for the elusive creature earlier this evening.
Yes, I really did walk around looking for whiteboards with my roommate. And yes, my own room has a white board, which we use for leaving messages about dinner, our whereabouts, silly quotes, and seasonal doodles. I don’t know what impression my neighbors have of me based on that board, but I’m sure it’s an interesting one!

A Famous quote

If you based all your assumptions about college on movies and TV, you’d think every door has a whiteboard and no one has anything better to do than leave cute messages for each other. It’s like in those middle school TV shows when the girl finds a mysterious note in her locker shoved in through the air slots. Everyone has a secret desire to find that note, or in college, the “Sorry I missed you, call me -(name)” scribbled on the board. It shows that someone’s thinking about you.

So, if we all go into college expecting to see whiteboards, and bringing whiteboards with us, then why aren’t they actually used?

Of the eight floors (I believe 152 rooms) I searched, there were only 19 rooms with whiteboards. Seven of these were blank.

Some of the boards had welcome back messages, but many had goofy jokes and drawings (like my own room’s)

Whiteboard2Whiteboard3

The interesting bit is that as I worked my way down from the first year to upperclassmen floors, the number of boards decreased. Well, with the exception of the floor for Ad Finitum, which actually had the most whiteboards.

Why this change? Why are there so few whiteboards in the first place? What has caused this change in communication?

It’s very easy to say technology, but is that all? Sure, blame it on the instantaneous text message, the Skype chat, the faceless email, but I feel like there’s something else to this picture.

The human element of interaction. Whether it’s a physical handshake or a physical note, it’s something that is becoming less and less prevalent in our culture. I’m not saying technology is bad, or we should stop texting and start writing missives to our friends. I’m just making an observation.

If you’re wondering how I came to make this observation in the first place, or at least to look into it, well, my boss asked me to. At first I thought “What? Whiteboards? Really?” but it slowly grew on me. I got excited to look into this seemingly random yet relevant topic and I think the results were worth it!

Deadboard

Spring Fever

Remember how I had major issues writing my first post? I sat staring at my screen for half an hour not knowing how to introduce myself and worried that people wouldn’t even read this. Since then it’s gotten increasingly easier, but this week I hit a roadblock.

It was like all the creative parts of my brain had taken a permanent holiday. All the negative, doubtful thoughts swarmed in and made it difficult to trust myself and my abilities.

After a very long time of chasing around possible topics in my head, I decided to make a list, and finally experienced enough confidence to start writing. So here I sit, or lie, rather, on my bed, surrounded by pillows, snuggled up in my hoodie, and listening to movie scores, telling myself I will dazzle you all with my …

Top 15 Reasons to Look Forward to Spring Semester at Loyola

New Classes
A fresh start, a clean slate, call it what you will, but it’s so nice to come back to school with limitless possibilities. Personally, I’m looking forward most to my Printmaking class and Major Writers Lit class.

Roommates’ Birthdays
Two of my roommates are celebrating their birthdays this semester! Everyone loves the opportunity to go out for dinner, relax for a bit, and enjoy each others’ company.

Winter Formal
Ok, so I didn’t go last year, and I don’t know if I’ll go this year, but the Winter Formal sponsored by the RHA is pretty cool. Every year Loyola students line up for tickets to go to the Aquarium to dance the night away.

Poetry Club’s Valentine’s Day Celebrations
I think one of my favorite memories from freshman year was experiencing the chaos of Valentine’s Week in Poetry Club. There’s an Erotic Poetry Night, in which students read poetry geared towards the day of love (laughter guaranteed). The club also makes, sells, and delivers Valentine candy-grams as a fundraiser (I promise I will go into detail closer to the date! No spoilers!).

Waking Up to the Sun
No more stumbling around in the dark when you get up for class! Now I’ll actually get up when my alarm goes off!

Titus Andronicus
This year’s symposium play is Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, made up of an all female cast (including my roommate!) and is scheduled for February 21-24.

Flowers Blooming
You can’t deny it. Spring flowers smell fantastic. Despite the allergies that come along with it.

Picnics on the Quad
I don’t care if it’s a cliche. You have to. It’s so much fun, just sitting with friends, chatting, eating a packed lunch, and later lying on the quad watching the clouds go by.

Knitting Club’s Trip to Lovely Yarns
I am determined to get the Knifty Knitters over to the local knitting shop in Hampden. I’ve never been there, but Lovely Yarns seems to be a beautiful and interesting place.

Finger/Splatter Painting Outside
My roommates and I have decided to get a large roll of paper, spread it out on the lawn, and finger or splatter paint it. Just for kicks. Having fun with paint isn’t just for kindergarten!

Soaking Up the Sun on Humanities Porch
By far one of the student body’s favorite activities. As soon as it gets warm everyone vies for a coveted rocking chair on the sunlit porch of Humanities. It’s perfect for people watching, doing homework, and, in my case, starting to sunburn early.

Spring Movie Releases
I don’t know which I should be more excited for: Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness or Wait…Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

Barbecues
Or at least the smell of them! One of the few times I get homesick is when I smell charcoal cooking something delicious out on the quad or by the dorms. Always reminds me of the street fairs back home!

Strolling Around Sherwood Gardens
There’s a public block by Loyola that has wonderful gardens and is full of families and wedding parties in the spring. It’s a good way to get off campus and experience multitudes of tulips.

Loyolapalooza
If you don’t go to this music/food/friend fest, you are missing out on a LOT. Every year Loyola students pack the quad to listen to good music, eat great food, and share a few more memories with friends before the semester ends. Last year Jack’s Mannequin and The Palace at 4 AM rocked the stage, but I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year!

As you can see, springtime at Loyola is pretty sweet and goes by surprisingly fast! Even if I don’t get to do everything on this list, I’m still looking froward to a spectacular semester.

Photographic Evidence

Wow! I haven’t written in a month and it feels … weird. At first it was nice not to stress about writing a post during finals, and then it was also nice to enjoy my Christmas peacefully, but afterwards I kind of missed it. Really missed it, actually.

By the end of break I was itching to write about my adventures and, oddly enough, get back to my hectic life on campus. Sometimes the schoolwork can be overwhelming (It’s only been two days and I have so much homework!), but I think if I wasn’t as busy as I am, I wouldn’t be happy. I need activity in my life; whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional, I need something to be invested in.

I think that’s why I was so busy over break, and let me tell you, this was no resort in the Bahamas or skiing in the Alps!

But I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow. That would be immensely boring and I have enough pictures to make this much more interesting. However, I will explain a few events because not all pictures tell an accurate story!

Christmas at Grandpas

The Annual Ugly Sock Contest

My aunt started a crazy tradition of having an “ugly sock contest” and I usually got stuck with all the horrible socks. This year I got my revenge!

James

I think this was one of my favorite parts of break. My cousin who lives in New York City asked me to cat sit for her during New Year's weekend so I brought my friend Phoebe & Stacey along on the journey into the city and spent five glorious days exploring together.

 

Misty misty morning

At the Lego Store

The Intrepid Explorer!

Bethesda Terrace

Beware the Weeping Angels!

Our walk in Central Park turned into Let’s-Find-All-The-Places-Where-They-Filmed-Doctor-Who. Which was brilliant! I think we climbed on every boulder in the southern half of the park until we found the right one.

Superman Alex
While I visited my sister in chilly Massachusetts, I finished up this hat for my friend Alex.
Off to Sherlock...

You'll never believe where we went next!

At the ballThe Daintiest Thing Under A Bonnet Charity Ball hosted by the Baker Street Babes. A Sherlockian dinner and auction whose total proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project. (Photo Cred – Melinda Caric)

Silent Auction

Photo cred Melinda Caric

I got to spend a few days at home reading, doing laundry, and curling up with my cat, but it’s safe to say I had more fun running around with my friends than sleeping!

Somewhere in there I played Cards Against Humanity, saw Les Mis and Django Unchained (I can’t believe I got carded to buy my ticket), and almost made it to The Hobbit.

And that, my dear readers, pretty much wraps up my winter break! I hope you all had a wonderful time with your family, or away from work, or enjoying yourself in some small way. Here’s to a new year and a new semester!

See ya around guys!

Presenting: A Crafty Christmas

I sit here, sipping my Chai tea
letting smooth tones
of Christmas jazz
wash over me.
The foggy gray sky offers little hope
of wint’ry snow
or distraction
from final’s mope.
But in a bag I have a small yarn stash,
which will be used
to make presents
worth more than cash.

With finals drawing near, so too does Christmas. This means many things for college students:

  1. Shopping for gifts is a perfectly good procrastination excuse.
  2. More reasons to bake and eat cookies!
    Lemon Pomegranate CookiesPre baking - I think they look like jewels! Mocha Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookies
  3. It’s socially acceptable to wear dorky Christmas sweaters.
  4. (Free) Department dinners.
  5. Knitting comes in handy for whipping up last minute presents.

Ok, so the last one is kind of tailored to my own Christmas plans, but it’s more common than you think.

I grew up in a crafty household, and quickly learned that hand-made presents were cherished more than those I bought at the store. It sounds horribly cliche, and maybe I over do it when I paint my own “gift wrap” (paper bags, since I’m too lazy/broke to buy holiday paper), but I promise you those hand made gifts are worth all the hours you put into them.

I remember when I first learned counted cross-stitch and I spent several years churning out kitchy samplers and ornaments for my family. Shortly after that came knitting and crocheting which launched my brief career in scarves. There were also short stints of beading and I’m pretty sure everyone remembers those woven potholders!

Sooner or later everyone in my family received (or is receiving) something I made, and I don’t mean that in a pompous “I’m better than you are” way at all. It just kind of happened. And those hand made presents, no matter how young and inexperienced I was at the time, still hang on walls, get put on the Christmas tree, or are worn when the weather gets chilly.

You may not be the best artist (I know I’m not) or craftsman, but you don’t have to be. The only thing that matters is that you put care and (this is so cheesy) love into the production of the gift. I like to joke with my friends at knitting club that if I’m working on a project and I keep on messing up or the pattern is frustrating, I’ll put it down and let it rest so it doesn’t get bad karma. It sounds silly, but it’s true. You can really tell when knitters had a hard time with a project (tight stitches) and/or if they put a lot of effort into it (resilience despite a few mistakes).

Sometimes the process of making something means more than the end result, which I think a few of my fellow knitters are discovering!

Knitting ClubA Knifty Knitter!

No matter what you choose to make or buy, it’s the thought behind the gift that makes people smile.

Another Knifty Knitter!A Final Knifty Knitter!Teaching how to knit Socks