Archive | December, 2011

The Irony Of New Years’ Resolutions.

31 Dec

When I think of people making resolutions when a new year comes, I sometimes chuckle. If you want to change something about yourself, try to do it. Waiting until a new year doesn’t really change much. It just means that things that you didn’t change (or tried to but couldn’t) will be carried into another year. To me, a new year is mainly just changing the year on a calendar. Often we carry most things with us from year to year. Though we often say we’re going to leave certain behaviors or feelings behind, it doesn’t always work out that way.

I just feel like if you want to make changes, go for it. Right when you feel it. Waiting is not necessarily a good thing. Waiting can allow your mind to think of so many reasons to not make certain changes. Maybe the change you’re trying to make is too hard or too expensive or not drastic enough etc. But you know what? It’s your life. You can make whatever decisions you want. Change…..don’t change, it’s really up to you. But….if a few weeks down the line you break a “resolution” or change you’ve vowed to make, don’t blame it on others. It’s all you.

I’ve never been one for resolutions partly because I feel like I make a variety of changes throughout the year (emotionally and having new experiences). I’ve found that waiting brings out all the uncertainty that I’ve found in myself and brings the fear of failure to the surface. So…I’ve realized that I’ve got to beat the waiting and just get on with things.

Changes I’ve made this year (not as resolutions):

  • Changed colleges
  • Fixed some relationships with certain family members
  • Rediscovered my love of writing
  • Made new friends
  • Found yoga as a hobby

I just find it ironic that so many people wait until a new year to make changes in their lives. After all, what’s wrong with starting to improve your life not tomorrow but TODAY?

Advertisements

Two Book Reviews + 15 Books That Are No Longer Homeless.

30 Dec

On Christmas Eve, my grandparents informed me that they had a ton of books that they were planning to get rid of and said that I could take as many as I wanted. See, my grandparents have A LOT of books. They have a floor to ceiling bookshelf in their room that is packed with books, and there are at least 15-20 piles of books sitting on the floor in front of the bookshelf. So, the fact that my grandparents decided they needed to get rid of all the books that they rarely looked at was a feat in itself. Though I understood that they had more books than they had space for, the thought of giving books away made my heart hurt a little. But when I was told that I could have as many as I wanted, I was grinning from ear to ear. I then plopped myself into the floor and began scanning through the boxes of books, deciding which books I wanted to bring home with me. The books I chose were all ones that I have never read (except for a hardback Nicholas Sparks book that I just couldn’t part with). Anyway, after about 20 minutes I emerged from my grandparents’ bedroom with a bag of 15 books. I’m proud that I could save these 15 books from being neglected, and I can’t wait to read them!

A few days ago, I started reading Whistling In The Dark by Lesley Kegan. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I only made it to page 38 before I had to just give up. Normally, I can push myself through books, but I feel like this one moved way too slow for me. The author spent 30 pages talking about something that I knew within a minute from reading the synopsis on the back of the book. If I would’ve stuck with it, maybe the pace of the book would’ve picked up, but I wasn’t grabbed from the beginning, and that was a big drawback.

When I went to my grandparents house on Christmas Eve, I asked my grandfather if he had anything by Dostoyevsky, and he brought back this, Three Short Novels (Notes From Underground, Poor People, and The Friend of the Family) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I just started reading Notes From Underground this morning, and I love it so far! I forgot until recently how amazing Dostoyevsky is at writing psychological novels. I discovered my love for Dostoyevsky through my AP English class in high school. We read Crime and Punishment, and even though it took a little while to get into it, once I was hooked, I couldn’t get enough. Also, it was the first time I had ever read a Russian author, so that was exciting. I loved being able to feel like I was inside Raskolnikov’s head, while also feeling the emotion of a character who slowly loses his mind through committing murder. I mean, doesn’t that sound amazing? Okay, maybe not. But to the day, Crime and Punishment is still one of my favorite books, and I’m eager to read more works by Dostoyevsky to be able to gain a better understanding of his writing style.

Have you read anything really good recently? 

The Calm Of The Setting Sun.

29 Dec

I’ve always preferred sunsets over sunrises. I think it’s because the sunset is something I can see every day. I can’t say the same for the sunrise since I’m a typical college student and haven’t gotten up before 6am on my own accord since high school. Either way, there’s a certain calm that I take away from sunsets. For one, the simple act of the sun setting is the winding down of another day. Often times, our minds need a certain “winding down” at the end of the day too, so for me sunsets just reinforce that concept. But there’s something different about sunsets in the mountains. Something magical.

Being in the mountains has a calming effect on me anyway, and so watching the sunset in the mountains is even more special. Including the realization that it’s the end of the day, sunsets also explain that all things must come to an end eventually. This can be an inspiring thought or a sobering one, depending on which way you look at it. Nothing lasts forever. We’re taught that when we’re young. But does it ever really stick? If someone were to tell you tomorrow that nothing lasts forever, would you agree with them or shake your head in disbelief? Even with the constant daily presence of the setting sun, we may still not realize that nothing lasts forever. Not when things in our lives are happy, constant, or seem to be running smoothly. But even then, there is a world of doubt connected to the word “forever.” Maybe it exists. Maybe it doesn’t. It’s all rooted in your inner feeling.

With all of the responsibilities and chaos that daily life brings, achieving a sense of calm can be difficult. In a world full of people who are busy working, writing, loving, and living….it is often difficult to remember to achieve at least one moment of calm. No matter how easy-going our life may be, we could all benefit from one moment that is spent listening to the voice within us. After all, listening to that voice could give you the answer to a question you’ve been aching to answer.

So, if anything, take a moment during the daily sunset to achieve a calm within yourself. That moment could be the difference in a day full of tears and a perfect day filled with imperfections.

Losing Myself In The Stacks.

28 Dec

When I enter libraries or bookstores, I enter my own world. My first instinct is to find a book I want to read and then go to the farthest corner of the bookstore or library and sit down, blocking out everything but the book I hold in my hands. For as long as I can remember, reading has been a love and an escape. When I read, I lose myself. I am drawn into the book and away from reality. The world around me, the stacks and stacks of books….they melt away. They melt away until it’s just me and the book I’m holding. Many times, the books I read explain certain emotions better than I could even attempt. I think that’s what so magic about books or music. It takes a sentence or a song lyric, and the emotion that you’re looking for or running from is right there…staring you in the face so hard that you have to look away.

Certain emotions that books evoke within us can be dear friends or unwelcome demons. Either way, they are present. And maybe the fact that books can bring up certain emotions are reason enough to try to face them. It’s never easy to face pain or fear or heartbreak or failure. But is it any easier running away from it? Everyone knows the phrase, “you can run, but you can’t hide,” and it’s applicable in this situation too. Yes, it’s possible to run from certain feelings that you don’t want to face, but sooner or later they’ll catch up to you. And it’s far better to face them head on than having them catch up to you once the fire inside you that has kept you running for so long has burned out, right?

There’s nothing wrong with feeling emotion. If you need to cry, let the tears fall. If you want to laugh, throw back your head and let it out. If you want to scream, let the sound be heard in the treetops. Though the opinions of others often have an effect on other people’s actions, don’t let people hold you back from really living. All those emotions….the tears, the laughs, the smiles, the screams….they’re all signs. Signs of life. Embrace them. Let them have the ability to remind you that you’re living.

Next time you’re in a library or bookstore, grab a book you’ve been wanting to read and head to a spot at the farthest corner. The emotions within you are only a page turn away, and they’re waiting to be released. 

Above The Clouds With Fresh Bread.

27 Dec

The clouds have settled into the valleys of the mountains today. It’s as if the sky has moved closer, even though that’s not the case. Days like this make me realize that winter is approaching. Even though the temperature has increased through the day, the clouds tell a different story. The range in color from white to grey, while also varying in heaviness. The way they cling to the top of the mountains amazes me though. It’s almost like you can’t tell where the mountains end and the sky begins. When I was younger, I remember taking flights and loving when we finally got to the altitude that was over the clouds. We spend so much time beneath the clouds, living our day-to-day lives. And then we when take flights, we rise above the clouds and it’s like we’ve entered a different world. Above the clouds, it’s quieter. The sky stretches on forever, and there are no approaching storms to dampen our overall mood. The air feels lighter, more crisp. I long to live above the clouds. To have the ability to escape the chaos of reality and be immersed in a baby blue sky that stretches on forever, to be enveloped in a state of calm and pure wonder never experienced by others. It sounds magical, and as I look out at the view today, I dream of living above the clouds…surrounded by nothing but beauty and peacefulness.

Yesterday, I made my first loaf of bread using my grandmother’s bread machine. Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE bread. Therefore, having the chance to make a loaf was a pretty cool experience. My mom and I just looked up bread machine bread recipes. On kingarthurflour.com/recipes, my mom and I found one called “Bread Machine Bread: Easy As Can Be.” For my first time making bread in a bread machine, we wanted to first try something basic to see how it would come out. Therefore, I highly recommend this to those who want a “test loaf” if they’re just starting out using a bread machine.

For large ( 1 and a half lb. to 2 lb.) machine 

1 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

For small (1 lb.) machine

2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Directions: Put in liquid ingredients into bread machine first, then dry ingredients, and lastly the yeast (However, the order to put the ingredients in depends on your bread machine manufacturer, so be sure to double-check the order for your specific machine before beginning). *Do not mix ingredients (like the salt and sugar)* Finally, press Start on the bread machine. It should take about 3 hours for the bread to be ready.

My first loaf using the bread machine came out great, and I can’t wait to start making all different kinds of bread. If you make this “beginning” loaf, tell me how you like it!

 

 

 

In The Blink Of An Eye.

26 Dec

“Some choices we live not only once but a thousand times over, remembering them for the rest of our lives.”

Some decisions can be extremely hard to make, while others seem to be made in the blink of an eye. I’ve come to realize that I make better decisions when I don’t give myself a long time to ruminate on them. The decision to transfer to Asheville was like that. One day my best friend told me she was leaving Wofford, and that same day I decided that I couldn’t be there without her. My switch to Asheville was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and it was made in the blink of an eye. However, I know that if I had given myself time to think about it, I would’ve given myself a hundred reasons to just stay put. But the thing is those reasons wouldn’t have been legitimate. They would have been pity reasons. Reasons I rattled off because I was too scared to admit that I was not happy with where I had chosen to first go to college.

Fear is like that for me many times, and I think other people experience it too. The ability of fear to hold you back from things you truly want to do. Or the ability of fear to keep you from realizing how you truly feel. That’s what is great about blink of an eye decisions. They’re made quick in order to not give you time to back out of things due to fear or the thought of failure. It’s a way to beat the voice in your head and make the decision before it has time to interject.

In 1933, FDR said that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Maybe he was right. Are you scared of the fear? I feel like in terms of decisions, many people are scared of the end result. They’re scared that they may not get the result they want, or worse, that they’ll fail altogether. Are we really that afraid of failure though? I remember hearing a saying that read: Fear of failure may never be a reason not to try something. Though I’m guilty of allowing the fear of failure to hold me back, I’ve recently begun to understand that you’ll never know the outcome of things if you don’t try.

Coupled with failure though is pure uncertainty. Many people are just afraid of not knowing how things will turn out. I’ve definitely found myself in this trap myself. But truthfully, we can’t predict life. We don’t know what we’ll face throughout our lives. So why should we back away just because we’re afraid of the uncertainty? Life is full of uncertainty. That’s a given. The trick is being able to realize that we can either view life as frightening or as a daily adventure. I don’t know about you, but I’d choose a daily adventure. Over and over.

Find Your Inner Yogi.

25 Dec

Happy holidays everyone! It’s been a nice Christmas here full of family time, opening presents, eating lots of yummy food, and just having the chance to all be together.

This Christmas I got a yoga mat (like the one pictured below). I’ve recently gotten into restorative yoga in Asheville, and so my mom figured I needed my own mat for the times when I wanted to do yoga but didn’t have the time to catch one of the restorative classes during the week.

According to restorativeyogaposes.com, restorative yoga is a therapeutic style of yoga that promotes deep relaxation for the body through supportive poses. The more the body is supported the deeper the relaxation can be experienced. In full relaxation, there is no movement, no effort and the mind is silent. Restorative yoga helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system allowing for improved digestion and the reduction of muscle tension, chronic stress, fatigue, blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and blood sugar levels. While the body relaxes in restorative yoga poses, health is promoted throughout all of the organs, tissues, and body systems.

Here are some restorative yoga poses (with definitions and techniques) that I’ve done in restorative yoga classes:

  • Salamba Savasana (Supported Corpse Pose): This pose helps calms the brain and reduces stress, headache, fatigue, and insomnia. It relaxes the body and helps lower blood pressure. Technique: 1) From a sitting position turn to one side and gently lower into a side-lying position, then roll onto your back. 2) Take care to position the legs evenly angled away from the midline of the body and the arms out the side, palms face up. Make sure the shoulder blades are relaxed and spread the collar bones. 3) Allow the inner muscles of the legs, arms, and face to soften. Release any lingering tension in the body as you scan head to toe. Let the eyes be heavy and close the lids dropping inwards into the pose and releasing the external world. 4) Remain in this pose for 10 to 30 minutes while you integrate your mind, body, and spirit and allow your whole being to refresh and renew once more. 5) To release from the pose being by wiggling the fingers and toes, waking the body and then stretch the arms overhead and lengthen the spine with a few deep breaths. Bend your left leg and roll onto your right side. Stay here for a few breaths before pushing up to a comfortable sitting position.
  • Supported Reclining Twist: This pose is especially beneficial at the end of a practice to restore and rebalance the nervous system. The internal organs benefit as well as blood. Technique: 1) Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent. Place a bolster or pillow to either side of you. 2) Roll to one side and allow the entire length of your spine be supported from the bolster behind you as you ¼ turn back onto the support. 3) Hug the other bolster placing it between your knees and drawing it close the chest.

These are the only 2 I remember for now, but once I get back to Asheville and get back into the swing of the restorative classes, then I’ll have an update. Overall though, restorative yoga has helped me immensely. I have Cerebral Palsy, and I had tried yoga before. However, because of my CP I hadn’t been able to do many of the yoga poses. However, with restorative yoga, the poses concentrate on relaxation and comfort, so I’m able to do them. Plus, there are always variations to different poses if there are certain positions that are difficult or painful. Therefore, I encourage all of you to embrace your inner yogi. Even if you’ve never tried yoga or never really wanted to, it’s at least worth a shot. It has greatly decreased my anxiety and stress.

Also, my mom let me use one of her yoga cds called Yoga Zone: Music for Meditation, and it has been great background music for all of the restorative yoga poses!

Keep in mind too that I’m new at restorative yoga, so I’d love some feedback or suggestions if you have any! 🙂