What is Culture?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately: what is culture? With the cancellation of event after event, game after game, gathering after gathering, we’ve been forced to withdraw from our collective culture piece by piece. It’s odd. Because we don’t feel like we are actively participating in culture on a daily basis. We just live our lives and run our errands and think about the next day.

But when ‘our lives’ come screeching to a halt, we realize that we were in fact participating in our country’s culture every single moment of our lives. Work is culture. Play is culture. Language is culture. School is culture. Relationships are culture. Sports are culture. The list goes on and on. It’s all encompassing. At the end of the day, we are all slaves to our culture. We don’t realize it, but we are. Having lived in Germany for over two years, I became hyper ware of the influence of culture. I actively felt like a fish out of water at all times because, well, I was.

I don’t have any particular point with this rambling post other than to say that maybe this season could be a time to reflect on our country’s culture: what about it works? What doesn’t? How can we improve it? Are we contributing positively to the collective whole or detracting from it?

And lastly, a lovely poem for you:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

–Kitty O’Meara

PS. Photo of me trying and failing to act Parisian in Paris a few years ago 🙂

Photos from life lately and not-so-lately

IMG_6986.JPGMy boyfriend and I recently did a little photoshoot with a tripod and my DSLR camera. It was so nice to use my big camera again. iPhone cameras have gotten so good that I often just use my phone. But honestly, there’s something so special about a tactile camera. I’m grateful for the reminder.IMG_6991.JPGIMG_6988.JPGIMG_6984.JPGBelow are a few photos from Washington last September. I also used my DSLR camera and I love how they turned out. There’s something really special about capturing candid moments with my family. B2393542-016F-4F47-8447-A505EE4F798E.JPG577FA579-ED35-4222-895E-EF243E88C77B.JPGE1C1928E-00DC-4996-B839-2B17809AE995.JPG17D2C0FB-442D-479C-AB3D-08AE749C5694.JPG1C77E201-4F95-4C3C-8F0F-CACF727B7EC3.JPGFDCE1AB2-BBB6-437A-A73F-573331FC9311.JPG8E6146E3-648E-4187-A469-B03D642C9FF4.JPG

A Weekend with Ruth

img_6792Processed with VSCO with a6 presetimg_6799img_6804Remember my friend Ruth, who I met during Fulbright? Well, she came for a visit last weekend. She is living in Del Rio, Texas right now with her husband who is in the air force. It was so special to spend time with her in a new location. She is a true friend.

A Lovely Quote

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“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it form the shore.”
–Cheryl Strayed

PS. Photo from here

Happy New Year 2020!

img_6165Happy New Year friends! 2019 year was pretty interesting. I moved continents, started a new job, met new people, continued getting to know my lovely boyfriend, watched my brother earn his Bachelors degree, and so much more. I am really proud of myself and really thankful. Mostly thankful.

My Christmas Letter 2019

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I love receiving Christmas letters. My family didn’t send one out this year, but my boyfriend (the handsome bloke above) is sending one out, which inspired me to write up a little post as a reflection on my year. And what a year it has been. Here are some of the main events:

February: I took my finals and passed all my classes in my graduate program in Germany. The first semester was in the bag. However, it just didn’t feel right.

March: I decided to officially quit my grad program and move home in April. But first, some fun! Trey visited me for two weeks and we travelled to Paris, Madrid, and Soria, Spain. Then I visited my best friend Jessica in Israel.

April: My parents flew to Germany and helped me pack up. Then we went on a bike tour through the Netherlands! Afterwards, I flew home to Texas, where a very happy Trey greeted me 🙂

May-July: I spent the summer at my parent’s house, applying to jobs and working odd jobs here and to make some extra money. I also went to Michigan to visit my little brother during his internship, turned 24, and made some wonderful memories.

August: I started my new job in Waco, Texas.

September: Began settling into life in Waco and figuring out the city. Trey turned 26 and we went to my cousin’s wedding in Washington. It was a blast!

October: Establishing a routine, meeting new people, and trying to figure out the crazy weather.

November: Thanksgiving at my parents’ with the family. I loved having five days off to relax and unwind.

December: The year is wrapping up and I’m looking forward to 2020. Christmas will be low-key and cozy at my parents’ house. I can’t wait to sit around, watch TV, and eat too many cookies.

This year has been full of transitions. I’ve had some health problems and some low points emotionally. But overall, I am really proud of myself and everything I’ve accomplished. Thanks to all those who stand by me as I stumble walk through life 🙂

PS Drawing below by yours truly!

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The Joys and Dangers of Nostalgia

I am a four on the enneagram, if that tells you anything. I like to summarize the four personality type as “Emo”. I’ve always been a romantic– it’s what makes me a good writer, artist, and speaker. I love the way memory influences my short stories, blog posts, essays, and more. I have the memory of an elephant, that is, I rarely forget anything. This is a blessing, and I’m finding out, sometimes a bit of a curse.

Some of my favorite childhood memories include making home videos with Jessica and Michaela, boogie boarding with my brothers at the beach near our home, and playing Harry Potter with my friend Maddy (we were Harry’s twin sisters!). In college, I studied abroad in Germany for a year, and was plagued by non-stop nostalgia thereafter. I remembered everything through rose colored glasses (the cafes! the language! the architecture!) and forgot about all the frozen nights spent in foreign train stations waiting for a missed connection.

I think our brain’s power to white-wash our negative memories is beautiful, actually. It’s what makes us look back on our lives at the end think and think they were pretty great. But for me, white-washing my memories can also be a trap. I struggle through the current hardships in my life and yearn for times past when everything was simpler. But was it simpler, really? Usually the real answer is no, it wasn’t.

I can get caught up in dreaming about my past lives, or the people I used to be closed to and mourn that things are different now. But honestly, I like my life now very much! Why am I tainting it with memories of the past?

It’s important to remember that everything that happens to us shapes us, but that’s just it– we are constantly changing. Evolve or die, baby! I try to be okay with the fact that some friendships that were once ‘active’ friendships have now shifted into the category of ‘commemorative’ friendships. And that’s okay too– they still serve a powerful purpose. All those friendships are different than they once were, but equally important.

As we go into this holiday season, let’s try to remember the joys of nostalgia (tradition! family!) and also beware of the dangers of over indulging in it.

Cheers!