Most recently, she's had to book her flight back home, which she's scheduled to leave at the very end of June, and I've already considered how different life will be for me, yet again, when she leaves me. I've gotten used to not being alone, and in a few months' time, the house will be quiet without a teenager under my roof. (This time last year, I'd sit in the silence of my home.)
People have already asked me: Would I do it again? Would I host another exchange student? The answer is simply: No. (Sorry AFS.)
I've loved our time together thus far, and I don't doubt that the next few months we'll have more great adventures together (Florida, here we come!), but I got a good one. It just so happened that I got the best exchange student a single, suburban woman could ask for. So would I do it again? No, because I wouldn't want to tarnish the beautiful memories I've had with my only exchange student.
The best part of this whole experience (and I know this even though we're only half way through!) is the friend that I've found. The Swede and I are great friends, and though our family roles are strange (mother/daughter, sister/sister, aunt/niece), I care deeply for her.
Let me share with you one final anecdote of our time together:
Back when we tried to witness the rare eclipse of the Supermoon in September, the weather wouldn't cooperate with us and we missed it. This kind of space event won't happen again until the year 2033. The Swede and I joked about what our lives would be like in 2033: my oldest child would be preparing for college, while I'm juggling the school, work, and sports schedules of my family and she would be returning from her latest adventures traveling the world and living internationally. It was then that I realized how much will change in the next 17 years of our lives. Yet, our conversation bantered about what our kids would call one another and how The Swede would have to explain that I was their un-elderly Host Grandma.
In that moment then, I also realized that this is my life forever more: Regardless of where we'll be in or where we'll go, I have made a lifelong friend. And just like any other parent, I'll love her wherever she is.
Moments ago, I posted my bitter feelings about celebrating the New Year. Mostly, I find the holiday to be filled with hypocrisy only because people will wait ALL year for this one special moment. Instead, I try to celebrate the very magic of the "New Year" every day I wake.
That's what New Year's is, you know? A night to reflect on all the past events in review and to make new plans for the future of you and yours. My problem with the holiday is: shouldn't we be reflecting, planning, and celebrating these moments all the time?
(So allow me to do just that.)
This year has been the best yet. Every year, I'm surprised by how the past year has trumped all the ones before it, and I truly think it's because I've found ways to celebrate every moment regardless of how big or small they may have been. Our lives are blessings and I'll treat every moment as a miracle. Every day there are so many things to celebrate: find them.
Looking back, this year has been filled with new and grand adventures like taking a road trip to Florida with my family, hosting a Swedish teenager, and falling in love. But when I reflect on the whole year, it's the small moments that make life that much more precious to me. Quite literally, this blog is titled: "It's the Small things" and now, more than ever, that's applicable.
I could go on and on to list all of the moments from this year, but when I reflect on all the memories I made in 2015, the easiest way I could share them is to show you.
Here it is:
but 2016 will be amazing.
I've always been bitter about New Year's Eve, and as I've gotten older, I've found that I'm not the only one who doesn't understand this silly holiday.
Sure, there's magic involved. We await the final few days of the current year, for at one magical moment at 12:00 AM, a new year has been set forth in front of us. Day 1 of another 365 Days.
People place so much pressure on themselves to celebrate New Year's Eve in the best of ways, feeling as if they don't, they won't celebrate the passing year with a final hurrah or kick off the new year with a bang. Mostly, people end up drunk and disappointed that this year didn't turn out the way they wanted and that we all have to return back to work in a few days. The magic doesn't last.
For me, this is just another night worth celebrating another new opportunity. I truly see any day as a celebration: another day of breath in my lungs and life in my heart, and if I'm really lucky, it's another day with people I love. That's what I see worth celebrating. That's where the joy lives.
It's a new year, yes, and maybe at midnight you even feel like a new you, but don't fool yourself into thinking that at midnight, everything starts anew. It doesn't. It's just another day, in a long series of days, that you've survived. Celebrate that.
And now here's my point:
Life is short. Our individual actions may only affect things on a small scale, however our collective actions affect this pale blue dot that we call home. This is not by chance that you and I exist here at random together. We have an opportunity of choices for our picking.
So let me tell you: Choose to do the right thing. Choose to be the better person. Choose to be courageous and brave. Choose to spread joy. Choose love, and then choose it again.
If I should do anything on this planet and within my lifetime, let me love.
Around the seventh grade, my eyesight had become so poor, that I was forced to wear glasses all the time. Originally in fifth grade I had gotten glasses to help me see the chalkboard at school. I didn't wear them then, deeming my glasses to be "uncool." I paid a worser price when by the end of the eighth grade year, I officially donning glasses at all times.
I grew to love my glasses, and still do. In many ways, they're part of personality. But they aren't me. I've always said that my eyes are my favorite thing about me... The way they change in the different sunlights or the way the green turns into a rich brown dependent on my mood. I love my eyes, but they've also spent the past 12 or so years hiding behind a pair of glasses.
Yet today, I woke up and without putting on my glasses, I walked myself to the window, pulled open the curtain, and admired the moon and the stars for the first time without my glasses. Beauty doesn't even begin to describe the emotion I felt in admiration of the night sky.
Back in the fifth grade, when I had first placed my glasses on my face, one of the most profound things I ever experienced was when I realized that trees had individual leaves. To anyone who has perfect vision already, this may seem unbelievable. I remember asking my mom if all trees had leaves like this and if the night sky was always so perfectly crisp as I then could see it, but only with glasses. I had spent the first 11 years of my life in some sort of nebulous haze. I had seen so little.
And yet yesterday, as my nerves abounded me, I felt overwhelmed with the excitement I'd soon get to experience. Back in late October I finally agreed to have LASIK, something I had debated doing for the past decade or so. For awhile I opted against it because I was fearful, and then I opted against it because I felt self-conscious of my face without glasses. Finally I accepted it as something I had to do. My glasses held me back, quite literally prohibiting me from seeing things completely and fully for what they are. Today, I woke and I saw.
After my half-hour long procedure yesterday, I sat up in the surgical chair and I immediately noticed I could already see my doctor's face. His cheeky smile welcoming me into the world of sight: sight without glasses.
He asked me if I could read the time on the clock from across the room. It read 15:37... a profound moment of recognition: I could see.
When I awoke this morning, finally able to open my eyes on my own and to look around, I didn't have to reach for my glasses. Things are clearer and crisper, but the simply amazing and astonishing part of it all is that these are my own eyes. I can see with my own eyes.
It's liberating, humbling, incredible, and quite literally miraculous.
Someone once told me that my eyes are my life's greatest investment, and today when I woke, I suddenly realized exactly what that meant.
I fear I cannot write for you at this current time.
For days, I've pondered topics of what I'll write about in this week's blog post. Ideas surfaced including that of terror in the US at the Sunday morning breakfast table or of instant gratification while discussing my broken Keurig machine. I started numerous commentaries, but they all dead-ended. I've saved them as drafts for the time when I'll be able to find the right words to share my thoughts.
And today of all days, with the devastating news of another brutal shooting, I should be quick to put my fingers on this keyboard and feverishly type away my raw emotions of how my heart is breaking for the world.
But... in my most selfish sense, while my heart does ache for the cruel, broken world we live in, one very powerful emotion is overriding all others: hope.
In the simplest of ways, I can say only:
The whole world is going to shit, and I'm falling in love.
I recently realized something quite significant about myself. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember, but only now have I recognized what it is.
I love easily and I can love just about anything on this planet.
Anyone who knows me knows I can fall in love with a tree. I've seen some beautiful behemoths standing tall and there's just something that captures my attention and I love it almost instantly. I fall in love with the sun, the sky, and the moon on a near daily basis. I can fall in love with the sweet aromas of freshly brewed coffee or the comfort of a home-cooked meal. I fall in love with the fleeting weather; like the warm sun on only half of my face or the first few spells of coldness we've recently experienced.
I can also fall in love with the way someone smiles with their whole face. I fall in love when listening to someone talk about something they're passionate about. I fall in love with people who have enormous dreams for the future that lies ahead. I fall in love with the sound of children's laughter. I fall in love with the way someone can look at me.
I love easily. I love recklessly. I love fiercely.
It isn't easy. In fact, most days it's very difficult for me. I remember once having the discussion with someone that sometimes loving this much seems like too big of a burden. But I was younger then and not as strong. I saw it as a responsibility then.
But now, I see love as an opportunity. And now, loving too much is something that I love about myself. If this is the worst thing about me, the fact that I'm going to continue loving despite the harsh truths in this world, then let me be a fool. A fool in love.
Let's face some realities in this world: everything is not pretty and everything is not sweetly good. There are a lot of ugly and terrible horrors on our planet. But I can promise you: there is beautiful goodness here too.
You need to allow yourself to find the good, to open your whole heart to it, to love what you love.
The miracle of life is that we are here.
Do you know how many circumstances needed to take place for this universe to create a being like you and me? Science can explain a lot. Yet, science cannot explain it all. Faith picks up from there.
You see, the miraculous part of life is that the same elements that create us are also that create the stars and everything else in this universe. We are quite literally the universe within itself. You are special and unique and just as beautiful as the universe we live in.
Awhile back I read an commentary from Ann Druyen. She and Carl Sagan were together for twenty years before Sagan's death. When she was asked about Sagan's faith and her faith was in question, she had a response that was beautifully eloquent and something we need to remember. She said:
"Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-- not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance... That pure chance could be so generous and so kind... That we could find each other... In the vastness of space and the immensity of time. That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and is much more meaningful."
I understand we all have different beliefs and this isn't something I'm trying to persuade you to believe in one way or another. However, there is an undeniable truth here that can not go unrecognized. Our beings are miracles.
The mere fact that I have the opportunity to stand beside you and exist in the same time and place in the universe is so sublime.
I was recently asked where I'd like to travel to most, and as I am an avid explorer and traveler, this is a question I constantly debate. The list of places I'd like to visit is long, but what I've begun to learn is that my experiences visiting these places would be much more meaningful when given the opportunity to witness them with a companion by my side.
I've literally stood at the tops of mountains with the people I love and, I am telling you, it made all the difference. The view from the top is amazing, but what was more incredible is that I was given an opportunity to stand beside someone I genuinely loved and witness this beautiful thing that lie ahead of us.
We are beneficiaries of chance. Let us not forget this. Nothing in this life is without meaning or depth.
Good, bad, beautiful, and ugly: I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to share these moments with you.
This morning I turned twenty-six and while I'm reveling in all of the birthday celebrations (my many thanks!), I am reflecting on this last year of my life. If I had to choose a year of which most changed my life, it would be this past year. It's been a wild ride, and it wasn't one I always enjoyed. In fact, this year made me grow in many ways I wasn't prepared for. Yet looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way... this has been the best year yet!
5 Lessons Learned:
5 Altering Moments:
5 Times I Realized I Was No Longer a Kid:
5 People I'm (So-Incredibly) Thankful For:
5 Things I'm Still Learning (& Will Continue to Learn):
5 Things I'm Looking Forward to in My Future Life:
A few weeks back, my exchange student I were discussing the year 2033 (because why not). In our most ridiculous fashion, we fired off the possibilities of how different our lives will be in the year 2033. Thinking about it, although I needed to quell all of my anxieties, I was actually excited for what the future may hold. Here are five things I'm most excited for in the future:
So here's to the future and all of the possibilities it holds...
Thank you for making these past 25 years amazing. I cannot wait to see what comes next.
I recently rediscovered my old blog... As in the blog that started my blogging days. I'd say that was when I was a fledgling blogger, but I think that's still true today.
The backstory for those of you that don't know is that when I was student teaching, I began to express some of my daily thoughts in the fashion of a blog in which my college friends read. What we all quickly realized is that while life was busy and hectic and we rarely ever saw each other (welcome to the life of an education major), we were all experiencing similar hardships.
For us, my writing provided the opportunity to relate. And so I wrote, and will continue to write for you.
I called myself "the Erratic Student" then; erratic doesn't even begin to explain me now. The old blog is hilarious, mostly because it was +3 years ago and my life is vastly different now. I'm a little embarrassed of some of the things I wrote back then, but I've always been good at making a fool of myself, so allow me to continue.
I present to you some of my former blog posts:
If you have the time, peruse these posts of the past. They're interesting, surely, but they also show how far we've come.
One thing has been entirely true throughout this process; the pen and paper, or even this keyboard, help share my joys, my burdens, and my experiences. And while I have a unique story to tell, many of you can relate. And for me, someone who often feels overwhelmed by our (in)significant lives, this helps me see the significance in our short times together.
Continue reading my friends. I'll continue writing.
"I have no special talent.