Ready…Set…..Go?

The past few weeks have been weird. There’s a time before you leave for a big trip where you have lots of stuff to do both trip and non-trip related, but it’s just a little too early to do it, and you’ve got to just follow up on all of the regular day-to-day rigamarole. You’ve got to stick to business as usual, even though your mind has already boarded the plane.

And trips of this scale are anything but business as usual. I’ll be on the go. My longest stay in any place will be 5 days (Rome). There will be 13 sleeping-stop cities, with several day trips to places outside of the city I’m staying in. Six countries (not including pass-throughs), four of which I’ve never been to before. There will be a lot of new.

There will also be a good dose of the familiar. Returning to France and Italy (sappily) feels like coming home. I get to see two of my favorite people as they live and conduct their own research abroad, and my sister will be [maybe] joining me for the last leg of the trip.

I’ve strategically, and hopefully shrewdly, built people into this trip in ways I definitely did not last year. Airbnbs will be used less regularly, and swapped in for hostels, what look to be nice hostels.  And dang that price point is sweet. Even if I don’t really want to socialize, it will be nice to have people around to talk if I want to do so. And maybe I’ll even make a new friend or two. Plus, hostels seem to be superbly located, and have tons of convenient things built in otherwise (like laundry, cafes, bars, and lounges).

My 2016/2017 trip felt super disruptive. I feel like that’s kind of normal for travel, and makes a lot of sense given what happened in 2016; my life was disrupted fundamentally. In general, I feel like all of my planning and thinking ahead was focused on that trip, and not what lay beyond–the trip, even after I completed in 2017, had a weird aura about it.

That’s not the case with this one. I’ve got stuff to do while I’m away and immediately when I get back. I’m trying to think in small increments, and so far, that’s been working okay mentally. Leaving for six weeks, doesn’t feel as big as it did in 2017, 2016, and 2015. Planning this trip so fast meant not as much time to get myself too hyped up for it.

BUT. I’m ready for it, I think the right kind of ready. Seven plane rides. One bus journey. Incalculable train trips. INCALCULABLE. Annoying tourists. Metros. Trams. Museums. Churches. Walking. Sunburn(s). Breaking out my silly tourist hat. Adding 4 new stamps to my passport! Noms. Beverages (Beer and COFFEE!) Pastries. Gelato. (Okay just FOOD). I’m ready.

My only hesitation, per usual, is leaving behind my darlings. Look at how cute they are.

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Pittsburgh – Spring Break 2018

Spring Break 2018, my friend E and I left B-town for Pittsburgh to hang out with our dear friend, K! Our goals were few– hang out, catch up, and enjoy what Pittsburgh has to offer. We were so excited to see her because we miss her dearly. Our main cultural excursions were to explore the Carnegie Museums — the Art and the Natural History. It was such a fun space, and I definitely could have spent a lot more time there. I guess I just have to go back 😉

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Me super digging the plaster casts of architectural features from major buildings from the Western canon. The above photo includes a cast from the portals of the Abbey of Saint Gilles in France and is but one fantastic thing to be found in the Hall of Architecture. IMG_8430

The architecture wasn’t just amazing in copy, but the museum itself was fantastic. IMG_8465

AND not only was the architecture fantastic, there were dinosaurs.

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New Year’s…Resolutions?

I don’t really like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions– they always seem to be the trite “new year, new me!” kind of thing. I do, however, LOVE the idea of fresh starts and new beginnings. For instance, I have a slightly obsessive Sunday ritual where I essentially clean my house, wash my clothes, get all of the little odds and ends done around the house, so that the work week can start with everything ‘just so.’ There’s a whole lot of a benefits to this ritual for me (and some, to be fair, detractors), so I’ve taken today, a Monday, to be the “Sunday” for 2018.

Instead of resolutions, which I see as burdensome and onerous, permeated with the idea of unpleasantness, I have a few fun goals for 2018, that are instead tinged with fun. I have a few of those boring health and work minded ones too, but who wants to read about those?

  1. Don’t re-read books. I love re-reading books. Picking up a familiar book is like a heart-to-heart chat with an old friend. They’re there to comfort you when you’re blue, cheer you when you need it, and re-reading books just fills me with warmth. In 2017, however, I feel like my tendency to re-read slowed me down; there was less of an urge to read because I already knew what was coming. I only read 40 books this year which is around 20 less than my normal output. In 2018, I challenge myself to read all new books. I have allowed myself three exceptions: one) if I am reading a series in which I have not read the whole thing, but would like to re-read an earlier volume, two) if there is something I want to re-read but have not read in the past ten years (for instance, I have a hankering to read Little House on the Prairie series again. and I have not read those since 1997), and three, see number 2.IMG_7447
  2. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text I have just discovered the magic that is a good podcast. One that I am REALLY excited about is Harry Potter and the Sacred text. In every episode, they take a chapter of Harry Potter and treat it as one would a sacred text, reading and plumbing the chapter based upon a theme. It’s magical. As a serial re-reader, I love the idea of approaching a series that means so much to me from a different direction. So, starting in 2018, I have decided to oh-so slowly work my way through the podcast, doing an episode a week. If I stick with it, I’ll be doing this for years! Capture
  3. Fun and Skills! I want to make sure I maintain my efforts at quilting and crafting. I would like to keep up with my previous years’ records of completing two quilts in 2018. I’ve already started one, and I have an idea for number 2. I also want to learn how to hand letter. I have always been rather proud of my handwriting and while some like to draw, I’m much better at word doodling (thought I do both). So this year I’m going to continue on my quest to learn hand lettering and calligraphy. Keeping on a theme, here’s one I made for my sister that I think is sorta okay. IMG_7010 (002).jpg

2017 Top Ten

2017 was a mixed bag. It didn’t suck as much (at least for me personally, world events is another story) as 2016, but it came with ups and downs. There were some pretty obvious highs, and some pretty obvious lows, namely, still grieving the loss of my mom played a very large roll that filtered into everything. You don’t realize how fundamental someone is to your life until they’re no longer there. BUT I like to take the time to reflect on what made 2017 bearable and okay. Here it goes, in no particular order.

  1. Eurotrip 2017! Eurotrip 2017 was amazing–I’m still working on finishing up the blogs, but other writing endeavors got in the way. Returning to France after the aborted trip in 2016 after my mom’s death was a little hard, and solo travel for so long sometime wore on me, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. In France, Croatia, and Italy, I visited sites, monuments, and museums of importance to my dissertation and enjoying every (almost) every second.                                                                                                                                                                         Me in Ancona Italy checking out the Arch of Trajan. DSC03132.JPG
  2. Fitzwilliam Arthur I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that I got another cat this year, especially after the loss of my mom. This (not-so-little now) kitten is such a goof and I can’t imagine life without him. IMG_3603.JPG
  3. Quilting I finished two quilts this year, one for a friend’s new baby (who is literally the cutest!) and one for my brother. I’m so happy to have found my craft, it gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment. My brother’s quilt was particularly special. When my mom died I was working on my sister’s quilt; she had asked me to make sure that I actually made a quilt for my brother too (a craft I had made a few years ago, I never finished my brother’s, largely because my idea far outstripped my abilities at the time.) I promised I would. So this quilt was super double special, it was for my brother, and for my mom.
  4. YMCA I was kind of bummed to need to find work over the summer, but I *really* enjoyed working at the local Y’s summer camp. I got to hang out with some cool counselors, awesome teens, and delightful kiddos all day long. It was nice to be reminded that I’m good at at other things and be given some perspective on what the world is all about. It made for an exhausting summer of crafts, sunburns, splashes, and giggles.
  5. Miss O I started nannying this year for a six-year-old girl and man. One of the best things I ever did. This kid is smart, funny, and just a lot of fun. Hanging out with her is another great dose of perspective. Oh and she loves Harry Potter so we’re basically soulmates. IMG_4101.JPG
  6. Friendsgiving in Nashville I had *such* a good non-traditional Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving with some of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places. I even brought my cats!
  7. Hard work!  It’s been a productive year! I’ve worked hard, and made some progress that I’m proud of, and I’m hoping that it will only get better in 2018.
  8. Self Care (and)
  9. Networks of Support These two kind of go together, and I think it’s why I feel like I’ve made more progress in 2017 than any before. From professional and personal friends and colleagues, and knowing when take a break, I’m a lucky to have access to a variety of support networks that I have availed myself of this year.
  10. Christmas 2017 This holiday season, to me surprisingly, was harder than last year. I think everything was too new last year for me to really process what the holidays are now that my mom has died. It starts with the anniversary of her death, immediately followed by my, my dad’s, and my sister’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas…then my mom’s birthday is New Year’s Day. The holiday season will forever be bookended by these bittersweet dates now. However, we did Christmas a little differently this year, didn’t try too hard and didn’t push it. Us siblings got small meaningful gifts for one another and “Santa” didn’t bring us presents this year, but that was all okay. I had a great Christmas, in spite of the sads, and it reminded me how thankful and lucky I am for the family I have, both related and chosen.