A Selfish Request

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that several wonderful single women whom I know appear to have lost hope of ever getting married. “It just won’t happen for me. I know.” I’ve heard that a few more times that I can count. Or “I’ll probably never get married. That’s just a fact.” I’ve said that one a few times myself. As time passes and you get older while watching your friends get married and have babies, it’s easy to believe that just won’t happen for you.

Now I also know single women who have hope that “it” will happen for them. And I don’t know if this is true across the board, but I know for me having hope requires making a daily choice for hope. I have to choose to believe that someday a man will come into my life and think that I’m “that one perfect person” for him. (There’s no such thing as a perfect person; there are just good matches and people who work really hard to make their marriages work.) Some days, that’s easy to believe. Others, it’s harder.

While I can sit and listen to my discouraged friends and try to encourage them, I often feel frustrated on their behalf. Yes, I pray for them. I pray for myself. I pray for their and my maybe-possibly-someday husbands. And I pray that if we don’t get married (which feels increasingly likely some days) we will still lead happy and fulfilling lives. (I think we already do most of the time.) I selfishly hope that others will see value and goodness in our lives.

All of this leads me to my selfish request for my married friends. I know that some of them pray for those of us who are single. Please continue to do that. We need it. We need prayers not only that we will meet our future spouses but also for hope, peace, and patience in this season of our lives. For me, the prayers for hope, peace, and patience might actually be more valuable at this point. I know that every Friday for the past nine years my married friends have been my daily prayer intention. Please choose to make us your intention at least once in a while. Please ask St. Anne to pray for us if asking Saints for their intercession is your jam.

Also, realize that we’re still there, and we want to be your friends. Engage us in your lives. There’s a good chance that on that Friday night when you think we’re off at the bar drinking margaritas (Yes, people have told me that they think I do that most Friday nights.) we’re actually sitting at home reading a book or watching a movie. We’d love to hang out with you. Invite us over if that’s best for you. Or we could help you get out of your house if you prefer. If at all possible, please do not make us do all of the work of arranging get-togethers in our friendships.

If you know someone you can set us up with, ask us if it’s okay and then do it. (Please ask, but I know that I’d say yes. I’m not the Lorax; I can’t speak for all of the single women.) Truth be told, a big part of the reason that I suspect that I just won’t get married is that the one time someone offered to set me up with a guy nothing ever came of it. See, if you’re spending your evenings reading or watching movies or hanging out with other frustrated singles, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if even your closest friends can’t find you someone they want to set you up with, well that you’re SOL on the marriage front.

Above all, please continue to love us, support us, and pray for us. We know that marriage is not always perfect. We know that our married friends don’t live perfect lives. We don’t either. But I suspect that marriage doesn’t leave you with that overwhelming feeling that you’re either going to end up dependent on the charity of your nieces and nephews or stuck lonely in a nursing home in your old age. That fear is really terrifying and can induce some really horrible thought patterns. So please pray for us. Like I said, I know that I pray for my married friends.

Lessons from Neville Longbottom

If you know me, you know that I love Harry Potter. I see a great deal of myself in Hermione. I have a mild to moderate crush on Bill Weasley. I’m inspired by Professor McGonagall. I think that I might be Tonks. I love both Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. I could keep going on this train. But the elder I wax, the character who strikes me time and again is Neville Longbottom.

On the surface, he seems pretty straightforward. He’s clumsy and forgetful. He isn’t too smart or too attractive. His best subject is Herbology, which is a commonly overlooked subject at Hogwarts. He doesn’t appear to be terribly brave. He didn’t demonstrate any indication of magical ability for much of his childhood. He lives with his grandmother. His parents are permanent patients of St. Mungo’s thanks to the “skills” of Bellatrix Lestrange. And yet, in the spite of all of this-or perhaps because of it, he is a true Gryffindor.

Despite his normal awkwardness, Neville shows strength in difficult situations. In the first book, Ron tells the eleven-year-old blunderbuss “Neville, you have got to start standing up to people.” The Neville to whom Ron is speaking not likely to stand up to anyone. He is shy and nervous. He doesn’t actively seek attention. He isn’t about to stand up to one of his own friends-let alone a powerful Dark wizard.

Now as the books go on, we (and his friends) start to learn some of Neville’s backstory. He lives with his grandmother because his parents were horrifically damaged mentally after vengeful Death Eaters attacked them with the Cruciatus Curse after Voldemort’s 1981 fall from power. (You know, that whole thing where the most powerful Dark Wizard of the age was defeated by a toddler who was born the day after Neville. That.) His parents don’t remember who they are, let alone who he is. This greatly impacts Neville. To be honest, there is almost no way that a child couldn’t be impacted by this experience. Both in word and action, his family constantly tells him that he cannot live up to his parents’ legacy. He has had no reason not to internalize this idea.

However even in his early years at Hogwarts, Neville shows hints of the bravery that will one day be acknowledged even by Lord Voldemort. Near the end of their first year, he is not afraid to stand up to Ron, Harry, and Hermione when he sees them doing something he believes to be wrong. Professor Dumbledore later commends him for this saying that it is harder to stand up to one’s friends than one’s enemies. He also stands up to an enemy (Draco Malfoy) at another point, but that is supposedly easier than standing up to the Golden Trio.

Neville is also capable of remarkable love and faithfulness. He is loyal to his friends, but more than that, he is loyal to his parents. As he tells Harry in the fifth book, he is proud of being the son of Frank and Alice Longbottom. His parents thrice defied Lord Voldemort; that is decidedly something to be proud of. They may not know him; the only gifts his mother gives him may be gum wrappers. But they were good people who fought valiantly for what they believed was right. Neville does his best to carry their spirit on. As he grows older, he works to fight for the cause that his parents supported and to become a person who they would have been proud to call their son.

In many ways, Neville seems to be determined to be someone of whom his parents would have been proud. He wants to live up to their legacy. He isn’t content to reside in their shadow. A large part of this is a desire to make them proud, but I believe that it also comes from a desire to continue their legacy. Just because his parents’ minds were destroyed and Lily and James Potter died, that didn’t destroy the movement. There will be others who will rise to take their place.

Neville Longbottom shows us the importance of standing up for what we believe in and for always striving to be better. Perhaps our world needs more people like Neville.

Intellectual Stimulation

As you’ve probably heard, I recently finished my masters degree. People keep asking me how I’m doing now that I’m done. They ask if I’m resting or recovering. I’m not entirely sure what people envision my life post-grad school to look like, but I don’t think they’re expecting what it is.

I spent about a week reading books that I’d wanted to read for a while. This meant reading two murder mysteries that I bought earlier in the year but didn’t yet have time to read. But towards the end of the second book I got bored. (I did finish the book.) The book was good, but it wasn’t pushing me or challenging me. Over the course of my grad school career, I’d gotten used to being pushed and challenged. And these books just weren’t cutting it anymore. I needed something else. I needed a new challenge. I felt like this:

So I went to my bookshelf and picked up G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. My brain required stimulation, and Chesterton is graciously accommodating me. Thus far, good ol’ Gilbert Keith seems more than happy to challenge me. He’s making me work and think in a different way than my grad school work did, but he is making me work.

It’s funny, but I’m not sure that I want to rest in the way that people might suspect. I’ve always enjoyed working and learning. I do need a rest, but my mind cannot sit idle. It needs to be pushed. Fluff and chick lit make nice resting places, but my brain can’t live there. My brain needs to be stimulated and challenged.

I suspect that I trained my brain into this over the course of my academic career. I’m sure that I have some natural predilection towards this, but I (and others around me) have also encouraged those tendencies in myself. I want to be one of those people who are, to quote Dorothy Sayers, cursed with both hearts and brains. I want to be someone who is always craving intellectual stimulation and seeking what is next.

So…now I need to go finish reading my Chesterton.

Coincidence? You decide.

There’s a story that I tell people sometimes, and today I’m going to tell it to you, the blog…the internet.

In early October of 2014, I was looking for a job. I had a job that wasn’t great, and I was looking for something better. On a Friday evening, I was looking at job postings, and I saw what I thought said “ELA Long-Term Sub.” ELA stands for English language arts, and it’s what I wanted to teach. Do a long-term sub job for a middle school English teacher at a school twenty minutes from my house? That sounded better than what I was doing. I applied.

On Monday, the recruiter called me. The job posting had not been for ELA but rather ELL (English Language Learners). I’m pretty sure that the recruiter knew that I’d applied by accident, but she was willing to submit me to be interviewed if I was open to that. I went for it. I interviewed, and I was hired. And thus began a year of long-term sub jobs for ELL teachers.

At the end of my first week in that first ELL job, I loved doing ELL work so much that I started looking for master’s programs in the field. I’d talked about getting a masters in EL/ESL/ELL/TESOL for a while, but now…what the heck? I loved this job. I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life. I submitted my contact info with one university and went outside to do my dismissal duty. That evening, someone from the university called me, I applied the following week, I was admitted, and I started classes in February of 2015.


I told one of my bosses this story last fall. I remember saying that I’d gotten into this whole thing by accident, and she smiled. “This wasn’t an accident. Things like that are never accidents. They happen because they’re supposed to happen.”

Effective July 2, 2017, I’ve finished that degree. I am allowed to throw MEd (Master of Education) after my name. I am an EL teacher. I did what I wanted to do. And I still want to work in this field. I still love this field.

But the question of accident or coincidence or something else stays with me. Prior to that application, I had some concept that this field existed, but I had no clue as to what it really looked like. I had no idea what I was getting into.

I’ve said various times over the past several months that if I’d known what I was getting into I’m not sure that I would have started. There were hard moments. I was challenged, and I didn’t always respond well. Ultimately, I grew, but I had some dark moments on that journey. Do I regret it?

Not a bit. I’ve grown through this process. The challenges have been good for me. I’ve even enjoyed some of them. I didn’t enjoy the week when I worked so hard and pushed myself so hard that I became physically ill and mentally confused. I still don’t like watching videos of myself teaching/talking. But I enjoy teaching. I like the challenge of reading research articles about my field. The application of that research is a mental exercise and not exactly fun in the traditional sense of the word, but it was beneficial, for lack of a better word.

So did I get into this by accident or coincidence? I’d say probably not, but I’ll leave that to history to decide.

Socks

I was sitting there getting a pedicure and knitting a sock (Yes, I knit while getting a pedicure, but don’t worry; the folks at the nail salon are used to this by now.) when one of the ladies who works there came up to me. “You’re already working on another one? You were working on a pink one when you were here two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks ago?” I returned. “Oh, I finished that one. And then I finished the second one.”

“This is the second one?” I think she couldn’t handle the idea that I’d finished two socks in two weeks. (It’s worth noting that I’d actually been there THREE weeks ago, not two. But that probably wouldn’t comfort her that much. I’d also knit most of the foot of that sock she was talking about while watching a movie a few days after she’d seen me knitting it.)

“No, I finished that on Sunday. This is a new sock.” I showed her the two balls of yarn that I’m using to knit the sock. “I’m striping the pink yarn from those socks with this gray yarn.”

“Cool,” she said. “Stripes, I like it.”


If you only know about my knitting from my blog, you know that I knit mostly sweaters and occasionally blankets and shawls. If you know about my knitting from real life or Instagram, you know about The Socks.

The socks are all more or less the same, a fact that you can discover for yourself if you visit my apartment where you will find the socks scattered haphazardly around. (Madeline, one of my two cats, apparently has some notion that my handknit socks are her children and so she carries them around the apartment [quite lovingly actually] so as to share all of her favorite things with a bunch of…socks.) They’re knit with fingering yarn on size two circular needles. They’re knit top-down starting with about six or seven rows of ribbing, several inches of stockinette, a short-row heel, and a foot knit in plain stockinette. They’re simple socks. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the socks.

But most people who see me knitting them would disagree with you. The socks go almost everywhere with me. See, all of those shawls/sweaters/blankets that I blog about get knit at home, and the socks hang out in my purse. Going to a movie? Perfect! I’ll knit half of a sock while we’re there. Spending most of the day in the car with someone else driving…that’s a great chance to knock out another half of a sock. Getting coffee with a friend? I’ll be able to knock out at least a few rows of a sock. The socks keep my hands busy. And the best part is that there’s a reward at the end. I get a comfortable pair of socks that is perfectly crafted to fit my foot.

If you look at my yarn stash, there are skeins upon skeins (I won’t count them for you, dear blog; neither of us really NEEDS to know how many.) of sock yarn. Sooo many colors…and generally speaking, there’s only one skein of each color. I have many skeins of Plucky Feet by the Plucky Knitter, and most of those will end up being socks someday. Others are going to become sweaters or that Find Your Fade that I need to make; it’s probably (No promises; I have indecision issues going on with my knitting.) going to be on a blue/blue-green spectrum. I like knitting with Feet, and the finished product is great. It wears well, and it’s super comfortable.

I have a couple skeins of Dream in Color’s Smooshy because DIC has these Hamilton-inspired colorways, and that’s so cool. (It is.) I bought a skein of Angelica (see my pink socks at the top? Those are my first pair of Angelica socks! Now I’m making a gray and Angelica striped pair. So. Cool.) and I loved those pink socks, but I knew I’d also need Eliza socks to go with my Angelica socks. So…I put Eliza on my wishlist, waited for it to come back into stock at Eat.Sleep.Knit, and as soon as it was back, I bought the Eliza yarn. And as soon as the Angelica striped socks are done, I get to make myself some blue Eliza socks.

I have a skein of yarn that I bought purely because the example photo on the company website made it look like the yarn was Tiffany blue. I don’t know why, but I love that shade of blue. This wasn’t the first time that I’d bought a skein of sock yarn because it looked like Tiffany blue. It won’t be the last. But when the yarn got here, it was greener than Tiffany blue really is. No matter; it’s a lovely minty green, and I’m hoping that it’ll make excellent socks. (If it doesn’t, that’s okay. Sock yarn also makes great shawls and cowls. Some even makes great sweaters. Case in point: I’m knitting a sweater out of sock yarn right now.)

The point of all this rambling is that I love knitting socks. They’re not as glamorous as blankets or sweaters, but they’re absolutely useful. I love the way that hand-knit socks feel on my feet. They’re warm and cozy. I don’t wear store-bought socks unless absolutely necessary anymore because I prefer hand-knit socks so much. Maybe no one ever sees them. Maybe no one ever knows that I’m wearing a pair of green-yellow socks with my outfit that has no green or yellow in it. Or maybe no one knows that my pinky-swear socks perfectly match my pinky-swear sweater. I know. And to me, that’s all that matters.

Sometimes it’s fun to have a secret…even if that secret is that your socks are in a colorway named after a Founding Father’s wife.

I’ll Tell You What I Want

I love The West Wing. I’d gladly name a daughter Ainsley if I could find a man who would let me. (Ainsley means “Anne’s lea,” which is a great reference for this St. Anne loving lady. Ainsley Claire, tell me that isn’t a lovely name. And it lets me name a daughter after St. Anne and St. Clare; it’s a win.) I love the character development and the camaraderie between the show’s characters. One of my favorite things about the show is the relationship between Josh Lyman and Donna Moss.

Josh knows that Donna is almost always the most competent woman person in the room. (Except when Margaret or Abbey are in the room; those women get it done.) He knows her strengths and her weaknesses, and he knows how to use them-for better or worse. He doesn’t always take her seriously, but he always respects and values her opinions when it matters. When the chips are down, Josh is there for Donna. He’s not a perpetual white knight or a saint in a stained glass window. He makes fun of every guy she even considers dating. He teases her about all sorts of things. He mocks the fact that she’s from Wisconsin. When he’s angry with her, he makes sure that she knows it, and he is not fair to her or kind. Basically, he’s a normal angry person.

There is a point in the show where Josh feels that Donna has broken his trust. Now, he made some mistakes that led to this situation, but angry people are seldom reasonable. He chooses to overlook how he may have contributed to the situation. However, he does look at how much he misses Donna. He is honest about how valuable she was to him. But he’s hurt, and he feels betrayed. So he pushes her away. That’s not ideal or desirable, but it is realistic.

Josh doesn’t always understand his assistant/friend/life support, and I think that’s part of the beauty of the relationship. Donna is a little bit crazy, and that’s why I both like her and relate to her.  Josh doesn’t expect to understand Donna all the time-or even much of the time, and after a certain point, she doesn’t expect that of him either. That’s real life, after all. Your partner doesn’t always understand you, and they’re likely to tease you once they know you well.

Similarly, Donna understands Josh better than he understands himself. (To be fair, I’m not really sure that he understands himself at all. Let’s look at how long it took him to realize that he was interested in Donna if we need evidence.) She knows what he needs and how to help him succeed. She continues trying to help him even when he rejects her help. And if he pushes her away, she finds other ways or other people to help him in her stead.

There’s something I find really appealing about this relationship. (And it’s not just the Vaseline-screen romance of a fictional story.) I love the give and take, the banter of this relationship. These are two flawed human beings who are trying their best to do the right thing with their lives. In the context of the various stages of their relationship, that means that they’re trying to do what is best for one another as much as possible.

It doesn’t always work out, and at times, they don’t treat each other in the best way. But for the most part, they respect one another, and they want what’s best for the other. Yes, Josh can be selfish. Donna can be petty when she’s irked. They’re human; the show makes that remarkably clear to the viewer. But it’s a realistic relationship.

When I look at the fictional relationships I enjoy from modern television, I see realistic relationships. Josh and Donna are flawed humans who try to do their best. They’re fun. They’re witty. They’re real. And I love it.

But more than that, I want it. I want that relationship.

Except…I really want to be Donna with Josh’s job. I really do. But that’s a different post.

Guarding Your Time

The last week of April 2016 was one of the worst weeks of my life. I was taking two difficult and intense graduate courses, and it was finals week-The Reckoning, if you will-for both those courses. I’d been a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding the Saturday prior, it was allergy season, and my mind and body were both struggling as the week began. By the time the week ended, I’d failed a large assignment and earned the first (and thus far only, knock on wood) B of my grad school career. I had massive chunks of time that I couldn’t remember, and while I’d done all of my work, I was a wreck both physically and emotionally.

In retrospect, I hadn’t done a good job of guarding my time. My time is one of the most valuable things that I have, and I hadn’t guarded mine. Heading into finals week, I’d allowed myself to be distracted by numerous things, and on top of that, I hadn’t taken good care of my health. It’s no wonder that I was run-down and became ill. I hadn’t practiced good self-care.

I’m heading into a seven week period during which I need to write my master’s thesis while working full-time and taking a three-week online professional development course. Looking at the requirements of my final project for my degree, I know that this is going to require an enormous amount of time and energy. So this time, I’m not taking any chances. I’m allowing myself to two “social” events in the entire seven week period. I’m going to a friend’s bridal shower, and I’ll celebrate Father’s Day with my dad. My own birthday can go fly a kite. Grad school ends the next day; birthdays are allowed to be celebrated belatedly if need be.

Speaking from years of wisdom, someone recently told me that if you don’t take care of yourself when you’re young, no one will take care of you when you’re old. This is a season in my life in which I need to take active action to take care of myself. It’s not that I don’t love my friends and family. It’s that I cannot allow my health or my mental well-being to fall by the wayside. I’m no good to my students or friends or family if I’m not practicing good self-care.

So I’m choosing to guard my time as a way of practicing self-care. I have ways of de-stressing. I can bake. I can watch Netflix. I can annoy my roommate. But I need to take care of myself. And I need to be able to put on my own oxygen mask before I worry about anyone else. I’ve read far too many articles about how women struggle with self-care and/or the results of poor self-care. I’m going to be proactive in this season of my life. I’m going to take good care of myself so that I can be a good friend/daughter/coworker/teacher/minion to others.

It’s all about balance.