Honest October.

Fall2014-149I could not be happier for October to be ending.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good seasonal beverage as much as the next person, and I too have already taken multiple pictures of my feet atop dead foliage, but October just isn’t my favorite month. I feel like I should love it, should feel happy to live in a world where there are Octobers, because I love Anne Shirley and trust her opinion. But then I remember that Anne Shirley lived 1,059 miles north of me, far further north than all us Americans quoting her. Her October probably was grand, and so shall ours be… in November, when the weather settles into a predictable chill and the leaves finish what they have really only just started. Yes, today the leaves are looking amazing and it is chilly, but earlier this week it was in the 70’s and I sweat through my shirt. People, November is where it’s at.

Fall2014-153But it’s more than just that. There are lots of months that are disappointing (I’m looking at you, March of the Eternal Polar Vortex 2014), but October just always seems hard. Last year was the government shutdown that for most people stood as the butt of jokes or fodder for discussion. For us it meant a month where James missed dinner more nights than not, working too late and sleeping too little. It’s always the point in my semester where summer is too long forgotten and Christmas break is too far off to offer hope. Last October was a tense, tired, frustrating one for us.

And this October… this October hasn’t been much different. It isn’t that there haven’t been good things to happen this October- obviously there have been. There is always good mixed in with the hard. But there have been a lot of tears mixed in too, a lot of loneliness, a lot of exhaustion and frustration and hoping and anxiety. There have been so many days where everything has gone well, the day has been good, and then I just cry for awhile at the end and don’t even always know why. Very few of my posts this month have been about personal and present things because to be honest, some of those personal present things aren’t fun, aren’t entertaining, and have no pretty pictures.Fall2014-151I stopped sleeping well early in the month, something I always do when I’m anxious and struggling to manage it all. In the end, I know that there is only one solution:

November. Because sometimes the solution has less to do with fixing things and more to do with just hanging on until they change.

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Tomorrow, November comes and chases out October. And for us, that means the month that James will come home, even if we still don’t know the day. It means that this life that has felt like it is both ricocheting forward and strangely standing still can resume its path.   It means the end to this time that has been so good and taught me so much, but also been hard. It means concrete answers for where some things in our life are going, answers that have kept me awake at night all month.  I hate that I’m saying this, hate wasting any stage of life because I firmly believe in not wasting any season. And I haven’t. I’ve used these months as time to invest in work, invest in friends, host regular girls nights and travel. I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, and met God in new ways. They haven’t been wasted but they have still been hard.

So see ya, October. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Fall2014-156*These quotes are ones I have been carrying deep in my heart from my daily readings from Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest, which is seriously the best daily reading ever. I have been reading it every year for four years or so and it still hits me fresh every time. The readings for October have been spot-on what I needed to hear.

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When my mama comes to town.

Hannah: “Some people get paid to blog as a full time job.”

My mother: “And some people need to spend more time on their spiritual life and reading their Bible.”

Fall2014-145That’s right ladies and gentlemen (Who am I kidding? Gentlemen don’t really figure in my constituency), my mama was in town this weekend and all last week. She had a conference all week but that left her free in the evening to see the sites of the city with me. I was going to have an amazing blog post for you this morning, one with beautiful pictures of our many adventures around the city. But I don’t have much more than that one photo above and some delightfully blurry iphone pictures of us having a slumber party at the hotel to prove that we did anything beyond what this post is about to become about: food.

With my brother and sister-in-law-to-be we hit some of the DC restaurants that I have been wanting to try. The type that James and I usually avoid as a couple, meaning small plates and overly pretentious descriptions. After a couple tapas style dinners where we paid way too much for too little food, we have basically decided that we are not a couple who “does” tapas and are just waiting till this small plate craze ends and we can all go back to meals that entail day-after leftovers. We also dined at places with obscene waits and most of the ocean on the menu, two other things that James and I typically skip together. In fact, we generally skip eating out all together, and in my current single girl state I basically eat weird greens and eggs, hence the blessed joy of a week of other people doing dishes and serving up exciting dishes. Here are some of our culinary highlights of the week:

Farmers, Fishers, Bakers: The seaside cousin of our eternal favorite Founding Farmers. Awesome shrimp and grits, my current restaurant obsession. Bonus points for the fact that there was a precious scientist outside who had built a telescope and let us look at a something something color nebula. Yes, it looked like a barely noticeable blue dot, but I feigned excitement all the same.

Baked and Wired: Yes, it is silly to wait in line for 30 minutes for a cupcake. But oh the cupcake! Worth it. Even if any cupcake would be improved by turning into a cake of which I could have leftovers for breakfast (see aforementioned logic regarding small plates), these were pretty much as good as it gets.

Rose’s Luxury: I’ll admit, when the Washingtonian first ran a review, I trotted off as always to check it out… and was instantly turned off by the menu. Small plates of weird food. No thank you. But when Bon Appetit rated it #1 for new restaurants and everyone started talking about it, I remembered how much I love a good bandwagon and hightailed it to get on.  I waited in line for 45 minutes to put my name on the list and then we waited  another 2.5 hours for our table, mercilessly less than the 3-4 hours we were originally quoted. And it was worth every last minute. Twice over.  I’m not really sure exactly what we ate, but I know we spent the whole meal just discussing the symphony of taste happening at that table. At one point there was a cake made out of English peas that had been soaked in buttermilk and I was more than ok with that. Black magic. Wonderful, edible, black magic.

After this week I basically feel like I need to jump on another bandwagon and Whole-30 myself back to health. Can you use Whole-30 as a verb? If not, we should, and the whole Interworld is Whole-30ing themselves. Can you eat cakes made out of peas on the Whole-30?

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One time I went to Turkey.

One time I spent a little under a month in Turkey with a group from college…

And it’s been over six years but that country is still burned into my memory with in all its richness.

And I didn’t know anything about Turkey before getting on that plane so I spent the whole trip having my mind blown that magical story places like Troy and Colosse and Ephesus actually existed somewhere.

And we saw belly dancers, survived Turkish baths, marveled at massive churches, and hiked through white stone canyons.

And we ate foods that I had never tasted, consumed more double chocolate Magnum bars than should be allowed, and drank Turkish tea by the gallon, and all got sick after a 14 hour bus ride across the country and gas station cuisine.

And I had just started dating James that spring and it was our first time apart, and I remember thinking during those sparse emails that we shouldn’t do this apart thing.

And James went the following year so Turkey stands as a touchstone, a place where we were both separate, but somehow together.

And this video popped up in my newsfeed the other night and I found myself watching it at 1am, sobbing.

And I knew some of the reasons, knew that it was because I am still doing that apart thing and not always doing so great at it, and those images washed over me reminding me of another sort of separate-togetherness, of a time when I didn’t know that we would do that apart thing again and again and again.

And I thought of what our professor said to us as we stood in Antioch, how we feel something when we walk where the great heros of our faith walked, because when the Word became Flesh something broke in the divide between material and spiritual, something that touches us in a way our modern Western world forgets.

And I thought about those people who shared that trip with me. Some I haven’t talked to since graduation and others I see on a weekly basis. Some have had babies and grown families while others have buried children or parents or siblings, shared stories of infertility, loss, and pain. Some have married and others have walked through broken relationships. Dreams and love and death and life and happiness and sorrow have been ours in these six years since.

And I cried about all that too, watching those images of Turkey.

And I found myself going through old pictures of that place and praying through faces I don’t see anymore and longing for the day when the divide between material and spiritual will once again be broken.

And the Word will come back and fix all the brokenness he finds. Turkey-1 Turkey-2 Turkey-3 Turkey-4 Turkey-5 Turkey-7Turkey-6Turkey-8 Turkey-9 Turkey-12Turkey-10 Turkey-11Turkey-13 Turkey-14 Turkey-15 Turkey-16 Turkey-17 Turkey-19Turkey-20Turkey-21Turkey-18

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Clara

When I started grad school, I was quickly convinced that everything about it was absolutely terrible. Obviously I slowly came around and eventually signed on for 4 (5?) more years, but that first year was brutal. Along the way I did make a wonderful friend. Shannon was my fellow first year buddy, my fellow wide-eyed, overwhelmed, lost, tired soul. Two weeks ago Shannon became a mother to this perfect baby girl, Clara. I was so thrilled to stop in for newborn toes, squishy baby snuggles, and tiny  hands. Welcome to the world little one.  Clara-62 Clara-77 Untitled-2 Clara-55 Clara-110 Untitled-3Clara-115Clara-8 Clara-30 Clara-48 Clara-53 Clara-43Untitled-1

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Out-takes: Wedding style.

You are probably wondering why I am flooding this blog with more wedding photos, especially since this isn’t some sort of anniversary, nor is it one of those days the Internet dedicates to old pictures of ourselves, nor do I have any actual point or advice to share which correlates to these images. Nope. Nada. Zilch.

But it all started with takeout from P.F. Chang’s.

Ok, I should back up. It actually started when I decided to go out to my friend Susannah’s home in Fairfax Friday night after work. You should know that city life has totally spoiled my ability to trek out to the suburbs. If someone tells me that they live past the last metro stop somewhere, I just blink slowly and try to stave off the fear of being eaten by wolves or dying of starvation were I ever to trek out there. Past the last metro stop – do they have electricity? Plumbing? Chipotle? I know this is ridiculous, just as I know that growing up in a little town meant that I routinely drove 45 minutes to see someone. But still. Now I am old and weak and love me that city life.

All of this was confirmed when it took me THREE HOURS to drive from my office to her home. Mind you, the total distance is a whopping 32.8 miles, but in the hellish deathtrap that is Friday afternoon traffic in DC, it took me three hours. As in, 180 minutes. As in, in that time period, I managed listen my way through three rounds of the same NPR news updates, heard “Shake it off” twice, and despaired of ever making it at least 10 times. And when my frustration hit a new low, I seized hold of my phone in standstill traffic and called and ordered Chinese takeout to stave off the yelling. Obviously, by the time I rolled into her driveway, I had consumed most of an order of crab rangoon by myself, but I was still alive. Our classy evening involved reckless consumption of all the food I had hunger-ordered in my traffic delirium (lettuce wraps and cheesecake, just to name one of several rockstar combos), classy drinks made of un-chilled pink champagne mixed with apple cider and ice cubes, and a little “I Love Lucy” watching. If that’s not almost enough to erase the PTSD of three hours in traffic, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, in the midst of our wild reveling, we remembered that Suze had a whole bunch of photos that she had taken alongside our photographer at our wedding that I had never gotten from her. So, in lieu of actual exciting things that are [not] happening in my life these days, here is a dump of old wedding photos, very similar to the ones I overwhelmed you with here. Because anyone who has ever gotten married knows that you never get tired of seeing more perspectives of that day.

Hannah-11 Hannah-25 Hannah-27 Untitled-1Hannah-36 //Duck lips for a weepy moment with my dad and bossy fingers for everyone else, all the time.//Hannah-40 Hannah-41 //Bethany, the unsung hero of the wedding who faced her intense dislike for cats by protecting me from mine, intent on climbing up the wedding dress the whole time we took photos.//Hannah-44

Hannah-48Hannah-49//That look of glee because I managed to sneak an ee cummings poem into the wedding, despite some haters (my mom and James) and those awesome former students sang it and made me cry.//Untitled-2Hannah-64Now then. I promise to try harder next weekend to do things other than binge on takeout and drool over old photos of myself.

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Nick & Bekah

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Of college and grad school.

I don’t think I talk enough about grad school on this blog. I mean, were you to just be perusing innocently through ye old archives, you would most likely think that I just live a life of excessive brunching, going on walks with the hubs, and pining for donuts. Otherwise known as “how female bloggers make the world look.”  But the truth is that I actually spend most of my days turning my brain into a PhD and turning my students’ brains into wrinkly masses of French knowledge, or so I desperately hope. I spend most of my days reading books replete with death and prostitutes, grading student work, and trying to make the difference between the imparfait and the passé composé exciting. That last one is obviously accomplished through a song,  and thank you former high school students for teaching me that. The apathetic undergrads I force to sing it thank you slightly less.

Lately I was thinking about the differences between college and grad school, between school as your life and life facilitate by your schooling. This realization came about when I was exhausted from my weekend so I just decided to sleep in till 10:30 on a Tuesday morning to be rested for my week. [If you are a parent with babies, I invite you to stop and yell soft expletives at the screen because I know that this is a childless luxury. But you do get to have soft squishy babies to squeeze and that is pretty awesome as well.] I woke up and one of my first thoughts was, This is how grad school is different than college.

Before I even go on, I should add that by “college” I am mostly talking about my college experience at a small liberal arts college, otherwise known as 4-year camp with harsh grades. It is its own world at these colleges, an all-consuming, friend-filled world of professor devotion, campus pranks, and utmost loyalty. I loved this world and I still think very fondly on it and all that it gave me.

In college, you have few responsibilities beyond yourself. Yes, you have a massive amount of work to do, and yes, you have all the other tasks that extracurricular fervor makes you do, but you typically don’t have to question where your food and shelter are coming from. The cafeteria and your dorm exist to suspend you in something not quite like childhood, but not yet adulthood. You often don’t clean for indeterminate amounts of time and if you pull three all-nighters in a row, you crash and burn like a solo ship in the sea. You pack every minute with tasks, scheduling meetings for obscene times like 10:25 pm, and sometimes you fall asleep at the library because you are so overwhelmed. Everyone, at every small college, in every major, is busy and stressed. And with good reason. Your life is ruled by deadlines and commitments, grades and transcripts, acceptance into societies or groups and letters of recommendation. After four years you heave a huge sigh of relief that it is over and then promptly grow depressed and nostalgic for college and all that it was.

In grad school, pretty much none of that is true. Are there grades? I think so… kind of. I have a massive pile of work and information to accumulate, but the deadlines are few and long and nebulous. Things like “I need to write a dissertation in the next 2-4 years” or “I will be tested on this massive comprehensive list of books come springtime so I should start reading.”  I read and write more than I could have even imagined during college, but it is more concentrated in one discipline. No one expects me to spend my semester on Shakespeare and WWII and Political Economy with a side of bowling. There are no extracurricular activities taking up your time and constituting a love-hate relationship in your life. Some poor representative from a grad student union keeps on coming to our office to try to get us to care/ join and we always try to find polite ways of sharing the truth which is: “Nothing you do or say can make me add some non-essential commitment to my life. End of discussion. Unless this includes free meals, and then by all means continue.” Because free meals becomes the quest of much of your energy. This isn’t college, which means grad school has to share mental space with rent payments, grocery shopping, waiting in line at the DMV, chores, and the myriad other things that make up Adult Life Time Fillers. Your responsibility isn’t just to your student self, but also to your students. I am painfully aware that I teach students who have sacrificed to be here, who are taking out loans and working, and who will spend years paying that off. If I show up to work exhausted from two all-nighters, I waste their money and their time. But then again, nothing on this planet could make me pull an all-nighter in grad school. Nope. Not happening. I would just instead look at my long yawning deadlines and work in nap time.

Because this is grad school, not college. The responsibilities are greater, but the stress is less concentrated. It is way less fun, but you sleep so much more. I’d say it is a fair trade-off.

Any other grad students out there? Or any college students who feel I have grossly misrepresented you?

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