Grace of Gray Gables

My dream house would most likely be a light gray gabled one, perhaps with a dormer or two. I also like Tudors, Victorians, and Colonials. It would have white trim and a bright yellow door, and windows that let in natural light at almost every hour of the day. There would be a porch, either on the front of the house or the side of it, and it would have a bench swing.

The house would be on a big lot, one surrounded by trees, young and old. Maybe there would even be a small orchard, most likely of apple trees. I’d grow roses and tulips and peonies and hydrangea and anemone and daisies and cosmos and lilac, though in order to do that I’ll have to take a few lessons from my green-thumbed father.

The backyard would have a treehouse and a swing and a deck and plenty of green, flat space to play. Ideally there would be a creek at the back of the lot that bubbled cheerfully. Perhaps there’d even be a pool, for the heat of the summer.

Inside, on the first floor, a big white kitchen, a library/office, the master suite, a living room, and a formal dining room, and maybe even a family room with high ceilings. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a bathroom would take up the space. The living room, library, and den would each have a fireplace.

And there would be books, books everywhere, and flowers from the garden. There’d be art by lesser-known artists and prints by the greats. Toys would be kept in the finished basement with the laundry room. The walls would comprise a rainbow. The dining room would be pale orange, the living room light steely blue, the kitchen a light sage green, the den snowy white. The master would be sky blue, the girls’ room peach, the boys’ room green, and the guest room a bright, cheerful yellow. (The only thing missing is red.)

And, to complete the picture, a loving husband, three pairs of small feet, and a dog. And happiness, contentment, peace, fun, laughter, tears, and even sadness. Friends of ours and the kids’ in and out. A home. That’s my dream.

 

What I Love about Fall

Fall is coming, and people everywhere are rejoicing. Personally, I’m tired of melting. It’s early yet, but I’m so excited for fall I put together a list of my favorite things about autumn.

First there’s the obvious: the cooler weather. There’s something invigorating about having a nip of chill in the air after the soupy, languid days of summer. Something about a slightly lowered temperature is awakening: something is beginning. Of course logically we know it’s winter beginning and with it, the beginning of the end of the year, but despite this, it still feels like something new.

Different fashions and articles of clothing come out to play, including some of my personal favorites: cardigans and jackets and scarves and boots. The colors are darker and more muted versions of the bright and bold ones of summer and the pretty pastels of spring. Things become softer, thicker – cozier. Clothing feels less like a burden and more like a comfort.

There’s a greater variety of colors in nature in the fall. Autumn is second only to spring in terms of the variety of colors found in nature during the season. During the summer everything is verdant, it’s true, but in the fall it is as though all of nature has resolved that if it is going to die, it is going to do so in style. There are warm browns, bold oranges, glorious yellows, burning reds, rich burgundies, cool dark purples, you name it. It’s so beautiful.

Fall activities are fun, too. Pumpkin picking, hayrides, haunted houses, apple picking, taking walks, baking, making cider – all are fun things to look forward to, and to do. In addition to this, there’s fall foods. They center on apples, squash, pumpkins, maple, cinnamon, nutmeg – all number of sweet and fragrant ingredients.

Then there’s that almost indescribable smell of autumn. It’s a combination of mold from the leaves, coming rain and fallen rainwater, autumn blossoms, spices from cooking seasonal foods, and fires from end-of-season cookouts and beginning-of-season fires in fireplaces. All in all, it’s a homey smell, welcoming, cozy, and warm.

What do you love most about fall? Is there anything on my list you enjoy? Is there anything you’d like to add? Comment down below!

 

Fall Bucket List

Hello all!

Today was the first day in a very long time where the temperature was below seventy degrees. I wore leggings and boots and a thermal shirt. My hair was down and I didn’t feel the need to pull it up away from my neck.

I don’t know about you, but I actually enjoy summer and the heat of it – until I’m done with the heat, and then I am DONE. And I am currently DONE.

So, imagine my delight today when it was almost cold! I am in the fall spirit, y’all, even though it’s supposed to get back up to the eighties tomorrow for the foreseeable future. I thought I’d compile a list of possible things to put on your fall bucket list. Let me know your favorites, if you try any, or something I may have missed!

Go to a pumpkin patch

Take a ghost tour

Go to a farmer’s market

Sit by an open window and enjoy the crisp air

Go apple picking

Watch your favorite fall movie (mine is Hocus Pocus!)

Learn to crochet

Cook with butternut squash

Take a fall foliage drive/walk

Make chocolate chip pumpkin bread

Bake your favorite pie

Bake cookies

Volunteer at a food pantry

Read outside

Play catch

Read a mystery novel

Take Polaroids

Decorate for Halloween

Think of all the things you’re thankful for

Hope you enjoyed! Have a happy fall, y’all!

Climbing the Mountain

On a beautiful Saturday morning, sunny and warm, my boyfriend, my dog, and I packed our respective bags and drove to Danbury, North Carolina. The drive was pleasant, on country roads surrounded by the green and golden fields of late summer. I snapped a few pictures of the adorable dog sitting on the passenger floor between my legs, and my boyfriend, Ben, ever the romantic, decided to participate in his favorite activity, finding the balance between angering me and amusing me. He took on a silly persona, and would not let it go for the better part of an hour. By the time he tired of it I was actually getting sick of it, or maybe he’d noticed the beginnings of my actual annoyance.

After an hour of driving the car went through gates made of painted wood and mountain rocks, the traditional entrance to a national park. The drive partially up the mountain was winding and shady; trees stretched high over the road prettily.

Looking out the window, I admitted, “I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it.”

“You’ll be able to do it.” Ben assured me. I petted Brie.

Once we entered the parking lot by the trailhead, I noticed a sign advertising a farmer’s market from eleven to two. We decided to attend on our way back.

After a quick bathroom visit, during which I waited in line much too long and knocked over the “Caution: Wet Floor” sign on my way out of the bathroom (Hello, my name is Grace, and it’s spelled I-R-O-N-I-C), we headed to the trailhead.

The beginning of the trail was paved, then quickly became gravel. The path rose and fell at extreme angles. My calves burned on the way up, and some muscles I’d been previously unaware of in my feet were aching and burning from the effort of attempting to cling on to something, anything at all.

I stopped every once in awhile to take a picture, and Ben, who had Brie on a leash, stopped every once in awhile for her. We steadily made our way up the mountain. Suddenly, there were long, wooden stairs ahead. I groaned internally, but we climbed.

“Stairs are so much worse than just walking uphill.” Said Ben.

“Yeah. Whoever designed this trail and put these in should be fired.” I responded. “Are we done yet?” I panted further upward.

“Almost.”

But after the stairs was another monster. I looked up, and all I could see was rock, up and up and up, for awhile. My breathing became shallow and quick, and my heart began to sprint. They were almost vertical, these large, mostly flat rocks loosely in the formation of stairs. Luckily, Ben noticed my panic.

“Come here, off the trail.” He said, stepping over to a rock-seat off the path with Brie in tow.

I was still in my spot just off the path. “No, no, I should do it.” I looked up at the steep steps. “I should do it now before my courage fails me.”

“Love, come on.” His voice was gentle and coaxing. “Come sit a minute.” After I continued to hesitate, he said, “I need a rest. Come join me.”

I slowly made my way to the rock. I sat and petted Brie in anxious silence. “I’m just scared of coming back down.”

“It’s okay, love, it’s okay.” Ben pointed out a middle-aged couple slowly and steadily

working their way up the stairs. “See? They’re doing it, at their own pace. You can do it. You can go as slow as you like. As slow as you need to go.”

“I have a problem with looking at the whole of a situation, instead of the smaller, more manageable parts.” I took a deep, slightly shaky breath. “But you’re right. I just have to do it one step at a time.”

“Exactly. And as slowly as you need.”

“But what if I get in someone’s way?”

“Then you’ll step off the path for a moment.”

I was silent for a few seconds. “I’m going to hate myself if I don’t do this. I’m going to hate myself if we’ve come this far only to turn back. And I’m gonna hate myself for not finishing it.”

“So finish it.” He responded, not unkindly.

“Okay.”

We climbed up the stairs and were rewarded with a small alcove of boulders with a decent view. I took Brie, and Ben climbed over to a boulder that jutted further out into the air. We rested there for a few minutes.

After a much easier, much shorter hike, we came through some trees and boulders to a panoramic view of the other mountains and the valley below. We sat on a ledge, myself far back, but the more adventurous Ben with his legs dangling from the rock, and ate the sandwiches we had packed, and I was glad we’d done it.

 

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How to Feel in Control

Everyone has those moments – or days, or weeks, or even months – when they feel like everything is out of their control. Sometimes it can feel like one is still a little kid, being shoved into the role of an adult with no training at all. Everyone can and probably does feel this way, at some point or another. So, I’ll share here my tricks for feeling like I’m on top of things.

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I write on my whiteboard.

I have a whiteboard with a slot for each day of the week. I keep it on the wall at my eye level by my bedroom door. I don’t typically use it to plan things day-by-day, though. I just write the most important or time-sensitive things that need to be done on it, and as I erase them, I feel better and better. When the board remains full, it’s a reminder that I still have something to complete.

Now, maybe a planner or paper calendar or phone calendar would be better for you. But having reminders in places where they are easily and frequently visible is the adult equivalent of your mom’s nagging. However, unlike your mom’s nagging, you’re more likely to complete the task not just to get her to stop, but also because you know it’s on you to do it. It shifts the responsibility, which makes you more likely to do what needs to be done.

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I care for myself.

I shower. I wash my face. I moisturize. I take my medications. I dress in a way that makes me feel good and comfortable. I wear a perfume that I find delightful. Some days I wear makeup. I eat things that make me feel good. I go to the gym. I make my bed every morning. I try my best to keep my room organized.

Ever notice how you’re exhausted on the days you do absolutely nothing? When you accomplish little tasks, like getting dressed, or taking your meds, or making your bed, it can lead to increased productivity. Because you’ve already accomplished something, no matter how small, you’ll feel more capable to accomplish bigger things. (Making your bed is a big one. Your bedroom always looks twenty times better when your bed is made. It’s a big piece of furniture, and the namesake of the room. Treat it nicely.)

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I journal.

Now, this could fall under the umbrella of self-care. But hear me out. Journaling is, for me, a multi-step process; I type my journal entries first, and write them out by hand later. Typing my journal entries soon after the events or ideas have occurred to me ensures there will be depth and detail to my writing. But it’s writing out the words using a pen and a pretty journal that’s cathartic for me. As I reread the words, I feel those emotions again, but I also can look at them in hindsight, and with a more objective eye. It is a release and an examination in one. Keeping track of my doings and emotions ensures that these will not be forgotten, and the emotions will be processed. This leads to more success in other areas for me.

 

I reward myself when I finish a task.

This is key. When I finish my homework, or cleaning my bathroom, or my laundry, or what have you, I reward myself. Sometimes this reward is lighting a candle and reading a book. Sometimes it’s internet-related. Sometimes I watch my favorite show. Sometimes I’ll take a nap. But no matter what, if I’ve done something productive, I will in some way reward myself.

Rewarding yourself is a good thing, in moderation. For one thing, it’s a break between one activity and another, both of which may or may not be palatable, with something you do enjoy. For another, it is a way of showing yourself appreciation for what you’ve done. Appreciation is vital to any relationship – including that with the self. It’s easier to complete a task when you know something pleasant is waiting for you once you’re finished.

 

These are some of my tips and tricks for maintaining a sense of order and control in my life. Write a comment below if you do the same, if you try one of these methods and how it went, or your own ways of staying on top of your game. I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

Sunday Night Coffee

I’m sitting in Tate Street Coffee House with a friend. We’re in my favorite spot, the table in the window at the front. There’s a step to get up to it. I kind of like being on display like this; it adds accountability for me. If one is going to be on display, one should probably be doing something productive. It would be a little shameful to just be on Facebook or Pinterest, at least for me. Though I’ll admit it looks more romantic to be typing in a document or writing in a notebook than it does to be working on a spreadsheet.

There’s a certain kind of energy to a coffee shop at night, especially when it’s one in an area that looks like or is a downtown of some kind. The neon lights from the “open” sign in the window and similar ones shining from the surrounding businesses add a different vibration than when those lights are much less visible in the light of day. There’s an increased energy. In the middle of the day, when sunlight is streaming through the windows, there’s almost a sleepiness to a place like this. It’s relaxed, full of people quietly working or friends gathered together. In a coffeeshop in the middle of the day on the edge of a college campus, one is either killing time in between classes or quickly grabbing coffee before something important. At night, there’s a sense of urgency underlying the relaxation, almost overwhelming it. Only those with something to accomplish put caffeine in their bodies this late, especially on a Sunday night.

I’ve ordered unsweetened iced green tea. (I’m turning into my mother.) But here whatever tea they use is fragrant, and so much so that it’s almost sweet on its own. I can’t drink hot drinks; they do not quench my thirst, only increase it. I wish I did enjoy hot drinks, because it would be much more pleasant to walk around with a hot coffee in my hand than an iced one in the dead of winter. Idiosyncrasies are fun, aren’t they? Mine sometimes annoy me, but I try to accept them.

Tate Street Coffee House is nearly empty. It’s understandable, at half-past nine on a Sunday night. Classes don’t begin until Tuesday, so there’s not much reason for my kind of crowd to be in here yet. Soon the place will be buzzing to various degrees at all times of day. But not tonight. Tonight it’s quiet.

 

The Elusive Muse

Sometimes – or, if you’re me, oftentimes – your muse has abandoned you. I don’t care if it’s writing, drawing, music, or anything else. My muse is an elusive creature; either she’s incredibly shy or she hates me. There are methods many people use in order to entice their muses. These are the ones that have worked for me and continue to work for me.

 

Get inspired.

Consume something similar to what you want to create. If you’re a writer trying to write, read. If you’re an artist trying to draw or paint or anything else, look at some art. If you’re a musician trying to compose, listen to music. There is nothing new under the sun; everything is a retelling of the same few old stories. Drawing inspiration from someone else is what every creator has done after the creation of the earth, so do not be afraid.

 

Ask questions.

There’s the classic question: “What if . . .?” But my favorite question is, “What would I like to read?” It’s easy to replace the word “read” with “see” or “hear” or anything else. What would you like to see in the world? What is missing from the world that you can contribute? Find the answer, and create it.

 

Create anyway.

Even when nothing is coming, sit down and write something, words or music, or draw, or whatever it is you do – do it. My boyfriend told me something that really struck me recently: Keep ideas flowing. “The bad ideas have to flow too, or you’ll never get to the good ones.” The most important thing is to create, even if it’s bad, even if you destroy it later. You’ll have created something. You’ll have done something. And that, is something.

Why “Perfect on Paper” Doesn’t Always Work Out

Sometimes, when everything should work out, it doesn’t. Just because something looks perfect on paper doesn’t mean it’s actually flawless – especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Of course, paper can’t account for chemistry. But it goes deeper than that.

Sometimes, that person who has the same exact background as you – same religion, same school, same class, same interests, same job, similar family – who seems so perfect for you in every way – isn’t. It can seem like they are, even for a long time. But too much in common is actually a problem in a relationship the vast majority of the time.

I think what leads a lot of us to fall in love for the first time is that almost complete or entirely complete similarity. We see ourselves in another person, and find ourselves drawn to them for that reason. First love is a journey of self-discovery. Because of this, first love is falling in love with one’s self as much as it is falling in love with someone else. This is why it is so essential, for those who experience romantic feelings. Though first love doesn’t necessarily teach one how to love and accept oneself completely, and frequently does not, it can and should teach a basic self-love.

At the same time, similarity is why first love frequently falls apart. We see ourselves in someone else initially, and when we grow and change, sometimes we grow in different directions. Sometimes these paths are identical or complementary, but more often than not they skew in opposite directions. People grow and change. It’s what they do. It’s what they should do. It’s a miracle that my boyfriend and I, after over three years and much of that time spent long-distance, have managed to grow together. It’s a miracle that anyone does, frankly.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t important things that couples need to have in common. There’s values and expectations, and dreams, that must be considered, and should be quite similar. That makes for a lasting foundation, and for a future to work toward. It’s nice for couples to be from similar backgrounds, especially socioeconomic, and similar interests, but it isn’t necessarily something that can make or break a relationship.

The key is complementarity. There are things that must be agreed upon, and there are those that must be in agreement. By “in agreement” I mean that there are certain views, personalities, and styles, among other things, that should complement one another. Also, what one person in a relationship lacks, the other should provide, though they should work toward equality, if not in ability, than in the amount of effort put forth by each party. It should ultimately balance out.

Complementarity, and not being identical, is key, because too much similarity is boring. Conflict brings interest and passion. Too much conflict can be damaging, whether short- or long-term, to a relationship and/or an individual, but a healthy amount of conflict keeps the spark alive between two people. So many of us have heard of the overused trope of “making up” being almost or entirely better than being in a good, healthy place in a relationship. Maybe there is a little bit of truth to it.

Conflict indicates something else as well: investment. If you can argue with your person, come to a conclusion, and move on, it shows that you are invested in the relationship. Conflict shows that you’re not only willing to fight, but that you’re also willing to fight for the relationship itself. It shows trust; you trust that, even though your partner is seeing a less attractive side of you, that they will still love you. Their continuing to love you through it all is a reaffirmation of that love. It’s a sign of commitment.

So, for those of you in love for the first time, don’t be surprised if it ends. Most people don’t end up with their first love, though some do. But know this: you are going through something monumental. You are going through something important. You are going through something life-changing. And I hope you’ll be the better for it.

Before and After: Brie

Before.

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After.

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Brie. The little mutt that makes my life so much brighter.

Brie came to me about two years ago. She’s about three years old now. She’d lived the first year or so of her life on the streets of Puerto Rico. When she was picked up, she had hookworm, mange, no fur, and, though fully grown, weighed eight pounds less than she currently does at her ideal weight. She was literally skin and bones; her ribs were clearly visible.

I think what saved Brie was that she is so friendly and sweet as molasses. A dog like that gets saved, no matter how ugly it is. Compared to the beautiful dog she is now, she was an ugly animal. Though, I’ll admit, she was still cute. She has a sweet face, and back then she had the saddest eyes.

I had been searching Petfinder for a few weeks, looking for an emotional support animal. I saw a dog called “Briana,” listed at sixteen pounds and short-haired. My mother’s requirements for a dog was that it not be a puppy, have short hair, be less than 30 pounds, and be female and fixed. “Briana” ticked all those boxes. The dog in the blurry picture was tall, almost gangly. But I asked my mother to email Lost Dog and Cat Foundation and request her presence at an adoption event at a Petsmart a mile from my house, just to meet her. It was her first, and, it turned out, only adoption event.

I got up early and we waited for the van to arrive. The volunteers opened the back doors of the van, and there she was, in a crate in the top right corner. I turned to my mother and said, “That’s my dog.” She was doubtful, to say the least. But she still ran inside and signed up for an interview.

Not too long after, we took Brie home. The consensus in the car before we’d arrived at Petsmart was that, should we adopt “Briana,” she would promptly be renamed “Brie.” “Briana” was too human a name for a small dog.

Brie gained weight, and I got her to be truly housetrained. To my mother’s dismay, she grew a long, beautiful, honey-colored coat. She became the most friendly, sweet, and affectionate dog in the world. That dog runs around with an actual smile on her face. She’s the sweetest and happiest thing. Sure, sometimes she’s a brat or annoying, but she’s truly a delight, and I love her more than I ever thought possible. She’s a fantastic emotional support animal; though untrained, she knows when someone is upset. She loves to be touched and talked to.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the best present I ever got.

 

Synesthesia

Synesthesia. A word a surprising amount of people have heard, but many do not understand.

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the word synesthesia comes from the Greek syn- and aesthesis, meaning “union” and “sensation,” respectively. Its figurative translation means “to perceive together.”

Synesthesia is, by definition, a sense impression made on one part of the body or on one sense that is produced by stimulus to a separate sense or body part. To simplify, synesthesia can be thought of as a “crossing over” of senses.

Synesthesia is not a disease, nor is it a hallucination. It is a genetic biological phenomenon, unlearned, more common in females than males. It is believed that one in every 2,000 people are synesthetes, the term used for those individuals with synesthesia. Famously, Vladimir Nabokov is reputed to have been a synesthete.

There is a widely-accepted theory that synesthesia is caused by a genetically driven overabundance of neurons in the brain. Synesthetes tend to be musical, artistic, and/or good at spelling and history. The musicianship and artistic abilities come from the lives of synesthetes being, for the most part, saturated with color. The enhanced spelling and history ability come from these colors, too. If the colors of the letters or numbers are amiss, the synesthete can more easily locate mistakes and fix them.

I myself have synesthesia. Mine manifests in the form of letters and numbers having colors, genders, and personalities, especially numbers under ten. I also “see” music. Music usually looks to me like colors, sometimes shapes, and occasionally scenes, like paintings.

The way synesthesia works for me is that I see that letters in a book are black. I know the ink is black; I see the ink is black. But in my mind’s eye, the place where one visualizes things, (for example, memories) the letters each have their own colors. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, because the words become tiny paintings comprising a larger, more beautiful whole.

My favorite words because of my synesthesia and the colors of its provides are “beautiful,” “meadow,” “dinosaur,” and “bride.” My favorite pieces of music are Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” which is deep blue and speckled with silver, with moments of the palest yellow. I also love “By a Sleepy Lagoon” by Eric Coates, which is peach and sky blue and green. The letter “A” is red, “I” is a pale ice blue with a tiny tint of lavender, and the letter “T” is forest green. They are that way because they’ve always been that way. I’ve never known a time when those letters didn’t have those colors.

Synesthesia varies from person to person. The colors of my alphabet, while they largely conform to those of most English-speaking synesthetes, vary slightly from that alphabet. My sister and my father have synesthesia as well, and their alphabets differ from mine, with some similarities. We get into joking fights about what color certain letters are.

I wouldn’t trade my synesthesia for anything. It literally makes my life more colorful. It makes music and reading more interesting and delightful. I’ve never lived without it, and I wouldn’t like to. If you’d like to know what color your name is, comment below, and I’ll let you know!

 

Works Cited:

Carpenter, Siri. (March 2001). Everyday fantasia: the world of synesthesia. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.aspx

Harrison, J.E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (Eds.) (1996). Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.