Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Year In Review

It's that time again - my 2014 in the books I read.  This year was significantly different in many ways though and I think my reading choices and my reading favorites from the year will show that.  As a result, I'm doing this book year in review a little differently.

The Book that Changed My Life in 2014: Court Duel by Sherwood Smith
Genre: Fantasy
One-sentence blurb: The politics of overthrowing an evil ruler and replacing him with someone who is good has never been an easy road to tread.
My life: For the last year and a half of graduate school, I had a great patron of the arts who handed over book after book for me to read and I eagerly consumed just about everything that came my way.  In fact, I have been so spoiled by her recommendations and our book discussions that I almost feel at a loss here in Boston despite having three library cards.  I must confess I started this book slowly until it gripped me and I finished it so quickly that I woke up the next day, excited to keep reading it and realized that the story was already at its end.  So I read parts of it again and again and again.  And then broke down and read it all over again.  And then I still continued reading parts of it.  It's like I couldn't get enough of Shevraeth but neither could I figure him out.  He confused me and inspired me, a puzzle that I couldn't solve but I wasn't really sure why I had to solve it anyway.  I haven't figured him out even now but somehow along the way, Shevraeth became a good friend and is now a permanent part of my reading fall-backs.  Some friends are made in the difficult times of our lives and those friends are the ones worth keeping.

Authors that Have Left a Permanent Impression:

Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult and Adult Contemporary (yep, I looked it up)
My life: Although I had a friend who told me about this author, it wasn't until I heard an interview she did on NPR that I started asking questions.  I sprinted through Attachments, Fangirl and then Landline.  I recommend them all but Landline will leave you breathless in a good way.  She explained in the interview that not a lot of books focus on the romance of life after marriage and her book focuses on it in a way that inspired me even though I've never been married and know little about romance in general.  Rowell's books remind you that love is about caring deeply and being loyal and how people are worth the sacrifices we make for them and they also leave a strong message that someone somewhere someday will love you for who you are, warts and all.  Given the difficulty of my living situation, these books were a message I craved to hear.

Keigo Higashino -
Genre: Mystery
My life: Confession: I've never really been into mysteries.  Murder mysteries?  I pretty much avoid them as much as possible.  I can't really say what possessed me to pick up one of his books from the library or why I continued reading past the first chapter when it was clearly a murder mystery.  But keep keep reading I did, and soon enough, I was laughing.  Out right and out loud.  I wasn't sure if it was a bad translation or just a misunderstanding of Japanese culture but when the wry sense of humor I sensed in one of the characters appeared again and again, I had to believe it was on purpose.  I finished the book and spent an entire year looking for ways to get my hands on more.  I've now finished three of his books and still clamoring for more.  I learned something new about myself: I can enjoy a good mystery.

Miyuki Miyabe
Genres: Fantasy and Mystery
My life:  Armed with a list of my Japanese friend's favorite authors, I went looking for this author.  Then, imagine my surprise when I was in the youth section of the library and found a large 800 page book by her.  Miyuki created worlds that always had me scratching my head but also left me inspired and thinking about long after the book was closed and the story finished.  It was tempting to live in her worlds but the interesting thing is that her worlds always, always asserted that life is better than any fantasy.  Live in the present.  Your good efforts will not be enough to change the world but somehow they will be enough to change you.  Good words to remember as I start to carve out a new life.


Summary of my 2014:

I spent eight and a half months of this year sleeping on the bedroom floor of a friend and six weeks sleeping on the bedroom floor of my sister.  I was unemployed for six months and looking for a job for ten.  I moved twice.  These first twelve months post PhD have been hard, harder than I anticipated.  And somehow the wounds from my graduate school are still so gaping and obvious that I bite my tongue to keep back the bitter words and the bitter tears.

In many ways, I am glad that 2014 is behind me.  But in some ways, I am shocked to find myself loathe to leave it.

With the stress and uncertainty of 2014, I also found that the loved ones around me are true and faithful and won't let me fall or give up or starve.  For that lesson alone, it was all worth it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Living Courageously

They say to live your life without regrets.

For me, regret is simply a by product of living.

Because I am not perfect, there are times I say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or choose something different than the best thing.

It's not then about living without regrets but living with them.

Knowing that I may say the wrong thing and do the wrong thing and choose the wrong thing and giving myself the courage to say and do and choose anyway



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Answers

Dear Erin,

We here at Google have noticed lately that you've been spending a lot of time in the past three days on Facebook and rereading old posts of your blog.  If you will kindly refer to the quote of the day that we posted on your email, James Joyce once said, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of thoughts."  Your every Internet action allows us the best interpretation of how you currently feel about your life.

Our big data analysis shows us that people who similarly spend large amounts of time as you have are usually contemplating their lives and are waiting for direction on how to improve them.  Our personalized ads, which we like to think of more as "life improvement promotionals" (LIP) are here to help you adjust to your new life in the Boston area.  Not only that, we place them along the sidebar and also interspersed on your Facebook newsfeed for helpful access to creating a better You.

Some of the LIP we provide you are as follows:

(1) Find a new place to live!
(2) 10 ways that you're scaring off men
(3) Helpful hints for dressing your husband more professionally
(4) Take time with your husband away from your newborn.

We know that moving to a big city as a single woman/married woman/married woman with children is difficult.   So, please take our suggestions seriously.  If you will note in all the pictures in the promotionals, we make people's lives better!

Sincerely,

The Google Life Coaches

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Connections

A few weeks ago, my roommate's friend from Idaho came to visit.  I went to pick her up at the airport via public transportation.  As we rode on the T, she looked around at everyone on their cell phones and asked innocently, "Doesn't anyone ever talk to each other?"

I looked around at all the strangers, quietly making their commutes together and shrugged.

The thing is, we do talk to each other.

When I was on the airport shuttle bus and saw people and their luggage piling on and cramming together, I wondered aloud how I was going to manage to get out of my seat and climb over the luggage to get off the bus when my stop came.  My seatmate looked at me, then at the crowds of people and turned back with a smile.  "Just cough REALLY loud."  I started laughing and he and I just grinned at the thought of convincing everyone that I had a communicable disease.

Last week, when our bus driver got the bus into a fender bender, despite the fact that we all had to wait for a new bus to come by to pick us up, when we climbed off the bus, every single passenger gave the bus driver encouragement and kind words.  She had admitted to us that she had never gotten in an accident before and the worry she felt for the situation was written all over her face.

Today, taking the T to Harvard Square, the driver called out in a sing-song voice, "We're at Harvard!"  and then said slightly more professionally, "Harvard Square."  I chuckled and looked up to find a girl across the aisle also chuckling at how happy the driver had sounded.  We smiled at each other for a second and then looked around to see if anyone else had also noticed.

There's the college-aged boys who rushed to get seats on the T and then looked up and saw me, standing beside them, in my skirt and heels.  Immediately, one of them jumped up and offered me his seat.  I tried to turn him down but he insisted and so I took his seat and then he stood our entire trip, without one word of complaint.  In fact, when we got to the same stop and alighted and parted ways, one of his friends noted I was going to the same bus stop and he smiled and nodded in my direction.

On the bus ride home today, a man and his adorable 3 or 4 year old daughter were riding together and carrying on a cute conversation in Spanish that included the girl giving her dad kisses and hugs.  When they got off the bus, the dad mentioned that they were leaving the bus to his daughter and picked her up.  The daughter turned towards all of us on the bus and called out, "Adios, amigos!"  And we all chuckled.  Some even called back out to her, "Adios."

We don't talk often but I'm finding I enjoy these moments, glimpses into the lives of people around me.  Glimpses into the friendliness we can show and share.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Good

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.  My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort to always cooperate with the good, that it may prevail."

~Helen Keller, Optimism (1903)


Hasebe - A commercial about learning to overcome discouragements and failures to achieve his lifelong goal of playing professional soccer.  Feeling lost since coming to Boston, this was a great reminder of the importance of not giving up on one's dreams.

I was looking for something silly to entertain me while I cleaned house last weekend and found myself crouching by my laptop on my floor to watch this and marvel.  People care about each other and deeply.



This song lately has been my favorite of this Christmas season.  It's a beautiful reminder of why I celebrate Christ's birth and life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Your Soul is Showing

Today, I talked with a guy at church about the Old Testament.  After sharing his personal thoughts, he said, "Wow, I'm baring more of my soul to you than you probably like."  I just smiled and admitted that I'd been doing a lot of that recently too.  He smiled, "Your soul is showing."

In full disclosure of baring my soul, here are things I've been up to lately:

I've been at work now for a month.  Turns out, most putts don't drop, most kids do end up being just people and most work is dull rather than otherwise.  (to quote Jenkins Lloyd Jones)  The honeymoon is over - now the real adjustment begins.

I got my library card from the Boston Public Library on Monday.  Rejoicing commence!  Also, I need book recommendations.  Please!

After a conversation with a coworker, I decided to pick up studying Japanese in earnest.  I promptly went to download an app for it and found Duolingo which is really cute and awesome and isn't available in Japanese  ...So, I'm learning German.

On Saturday, my roommate and I went on a quest to find Boston Cream Pie and we couldn't find any.

On Sunday, my roommate was giving a guy a ride to his car after a cookie exchange activity.  He yelled, "STOP!" when we got to his car.  My roommate slammed on the brakes and all the cookies in my lap (two plates full) went flying.

Yesterday, in English class (yep, I'm in ESL again), we discussed Wind Chill and Hypothermia.  I was freezing before I even walked out into the cold.  I think we should only study warm things in winter.