Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sneak Peek: Gimghoul Lane

I decided yesterday while editing Small Joys (the book) that I could share a chapter of it with you.  After talking about it for long enough now, maybe you deserve at least a chapter.  This is one of my favorite chapters so far, and the one that pretty much just flowed out with very little effort.  It wrote itself as I immersed myself in sweet memories of running on Gimghoul Lane in Chapel Hill.

I spent a lot of time this week looking into publishing Small  Joys and think that I may end up self-publishing in hopes of getting picked up by a small publishing company at a later time.  Self-publishing with the company I am looking into will allow friends and family to purchase my book at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon, and there will be an e-book format, as well.  It's an expensive process that I'm going to start saving up for now, but I'd love your support along the way.  Without further adieu, I give you a glimpse into Small Joys.

______________________________________________________

Looking at my bright blue and pink running shoes in the corner of our bedroom makes my feet ache to be in them. I miss the rhythm of running, how each step feels like you’re covering new territory, one step closer to running farther than you’ve ever run before.  I wasn’t raised a runner; in fact, I loathed running for most of my life.  I would hear a friend mention going on a run to “clear her head” or see two women running together while pushing strollers filled with little people, and I didn’t get it.  
Running for enjoyment was such a foreign concept to me; I tossed it into the same category as other highly uninspiring activities like going to the dentist, eating prunes, and cleaning the toilet.  I couldn’t comprehend the idea that someone would choose to participate in such an activity, as all of my experiences with it involved gasping for air, chafing and developing unusual rashes in unmentionable places, and feeling sticky and wet from head to toe by the end of it all.  This was not the dream.  As happy as other people looked while running through the park or around my college campus, I simply refused to participate in that form of torture.
But then I started nursing school.  After two years of undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, I had been accepted into the School of Nursing and was excited to begin studying something that actually related to my future profession.  The days were long and mostly spent in a fluorescently lit concrete room with absolutely no windows; other days were spent at the hospital in ill-fitting scrubs resembling clown pants as we learned to do all of the nursey things that would one day lead to a license as a Registered Nurse.  Now this, this was the dream.  
Yet I came home every day feeling like I needed to escape.  I needed to get away from the fluorescent lights and the clown pants, from bed baths and all of the smells of the hospital.  I wanted all of the beautiful, outdoorsy things that I had never shown interest in before; I wanted forests with tall trees for miles and miles, and the sun peering through them, and that Earthy smell of dirt right after it rains.  I wanted Carolina blue skies and big puffy clouds that looked like giant pillows, and fields of flowers that I could just lie in while looking up at those big puffy clouds.  And more than anything I had ever wanted in the world, my legs felt an aching desire to run; they needed to run.  They had to move, and they couldn’t stand being underneath a desk for a second longer.  
So I put on the only shoes I had that resembled running shoes, grabbed my iPod and my inhaler, and headed out the door.  I knew of a place called Gimghoul Lane that was tucked away behind my dorm; I didn’t know much about it but knew its general location, so I started walking back there, decidedly waiting until I was hidden from the public eye before the actual “running” began.
As I turned the corner onto Gimghoul Lane, I knew I had come to the right place.  The houses looked like life-sized dollhouses, all with beautiful front lawns, well-loved gardens, tall pine trees climbing towards those big puffy clouds, and oak trees reaching up and over to bring a shaded peace to the Lane.  It felt like I had stepped out of the hustle and bustle of real life and entered into one of my favorite childhood story books.  
I turned on my iPod and started my first slow jog around Gimghoul Lane.  I think that I ran 0.3 miles on my first day, and I felt so proud of myself.  I was captivated by Gimghoul--the oak trees, the cute houses, the friendly house-dwellers.  And I didn’t feel the way I always used to feel when I attempted running at other times in my life; instead of feeling defeated and out of breath, I felt a small sense of accomplishment and craved another run on another day. I was spent from my short 0.3 miles, but the angst that I had felt from being indoors was vanquished.  My heart was happy and free, and the enchantment of Gimghoul left me convinced that I would be back the next day.
So on Tuesday, after another long day of nursing theorems and health assessment practicums, I laced up my shoes and headed back to Gimghoul.  I decided I could run 0.5 miles that day, which was the entirety of Gimghoul Lane; I started slowly again, falling into a rhythm that felt comfortable, yet ambitious.  I passed a dirt road that jutted off of Gimghoul and made a mental note to check that out on my next run.  The sun danced between the trees as I trotted down the Lane, and by the time I reached the end of the loop, I could feel my legs burning, evidence of a challenge well-met.  
I kept coming back to Gimghoul, over and over again.  I discovered Gimghoul Castle down that little dirt road, confirming that the Lane was even more enchanted than I previously suspected.  I found Lovers’ Loop, leading to an assortment of wooded trails back behind the castle.  And one day, as my music blared in my ears and I rounded Gimghoul Lane for a second time to attain by 1.0 mile goal, I felt the ground vibrating beneath my feet and gasped as a deer ran past me into the shaded woods ahead.  
Each day after my runs, I would walk back to my dorm, reflecting on the marvels I had found on Gimghoul Lane.  How could such beautiful things exist just beyond the very edge of a busy college campus? It felt other-worldly to me, like I had discovered the wardrobe that led to Narnia.  I was captivated by Gimghoul Lane, and though I wanted to tell all of my friends about it, I knew I couldn’t.  Telling others about it would ruin its enchantment; running into other people on Gimghoul was like having someone walk in on me while I was in the bathroom.  A myriad of avoiding eye contact and awkward smiles always ensued.  It just felt wrong to let anyone else in on this secret.
Gimghoul became my escape.  It was life on days that felt lifeless, it was comfort when I needed it most, and it was the peace I desired more than anything at the end of every day.  Gimghoul was where I reached many milestones in running: one, two, and three miles.  I left Gimghoul the day I needed to run more than three miles; the kind house-dwellers would think I was crazy if I circled the neighborhood more than three times during a run.  After all, there were plenty of other roads in Chapel Hill.  But I always came back to Gimghoul, even on my long runs.  I made sure to incorporate Gimghoul into my running plan for each day, no matter how inconvenient or out of the way it seemed when I moved further away from campus.
I learned some of the best things about myself on Gimghoul Lane.  I learned that runners are cultivated and not necessarily born and bred; I learned that running is in my blood just as much as nursing is, and that running satisfies a part of my soul that nothing else has ever touched before.  I discovered that you could learn to love something that you once despised and that hard work could turn you into something you never could have imagined being.  
Gimghoul Lane was the training wheels of running for me; when I finally felt comfortable enough with running, I took the training wheels off and headed out onto the busy but beautiful campus roads in Chapel Hill.  And from there, I discovered the Bolin Creek bike trail, Laurel Hill, the monstrous hill up Martin Luther King, Jr. Rd.  All of these were lovely, and I faced new challenges with each one.  But none of them compared to Gimghoul Lane.  None of them had quite the same enchantment that I had discovered hidden away in a small corner of campus, so I kept going back to get my fix of Gimghoul.  
Even now, over six hundred miles away from Gimghoul Lane, I still think about that place and all that I learned on that small little lane.  I’ve found many beautiful places to run in, from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina to the Monon Trail in Indianapolis, Indiana where I live now.  But Gimghoul still wins.  It wins for its charm, its quiet, its other-wordlyness that draws you in and consumes you so that you never want to leave its oak-lined streets.  
Gimghoul Lane is the place where a girl who never thought she could be a runner became one. It’s where a girl who hated running found that in the right place at the right time, God met her and taught her how to run with abandon, to leave the worries of the day on the pavement with each step forward.  It’s the place where a girl first learned to find a small piece of joy that was just for her, and where she learned to praise God for teaching her to do what once seemed impossible to her in the most beautiful place she has yet to know.  
______________________________________________________

I would adore your thoughts on this chapter and any edits you would recommend! Thanks for reading, and as always, lots of love.

XO,
Cristina

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On Being a Writer



I should start by saying that I feel like one of those super trendy writers right now because I'm sitting in Starbucks with a grande flat white instead of at home near the bay window in my PJs, where my writing typically takes place.  Now that that important fact is out of the way, we can move on.  I've thought for a long time about what it means for me to say that I'm a writer.  If you asked me to tell you who I am, I'd tell you a lot of different things.  I'd tell you that I'm 24, that I'm a runner, a wife, a nurse, a dreamer.  I'd tell you that I love coffee and Earl Grey tea, that I hate bananas.  And I might tell you that I'm a writer, but chances are, I wouldn't.

For reasons unknown, I'm scared to tell people that I am a writer.  Maybe because I don't know what it means for me to call myself that.  Maybe because I don't believe that I really am one.  What does that term even mean?  I'm writing a book, but more often than not, I spend my time writing small essays that become blog posts.  But I don't identify with being a "blogger."  No offense to bloggers, but I just don't think I fall into that category of writing.  I don't use my space to try to build a bigger following or offer giveaways or freebies or anything like that.  In fact, the only regular feature on my blog that could be considered "blog-esque" are the Small Joys posts that I try to write every week.  Otherwise, I'm just writing short essays that so happen to be displayed on a blog.

Recently, though, I've become ok with owning the fact that I am a writer.  I take it more seriously and spend more time developing my craft.  I look forward to writing every chance I get and I get frustrated and upset when I've gone too many days without doing it.

This past weekend when I listened to Shauna Niequist speak, I felt so inspired by owning my identity as a writer.  She talked about how writers have to love reading, how this isn't an option.  I could feel my whole body nodding in agreement, thinking about how I couldn't wait to get home and crack open a book of my own at the end of the day.  I loved her reasoning for why writers had to be readers though, and that's something worth sharing with you.  She said that writers had to be readers because you can't join a conversation without knowing what's been happening in the conversation.  And I see what she is saying in that.  You could be trying to write a book about a certain topic, and maybe there's already a lot of books about that topic.  You have to know that what you're contributing is valuable and important, that it's different than what everyone else is saying.  Or that it's the same but a new way of presenting the information.

I'll confess to you that I love writing.  It's in my blood in a way that nothing else has ever been in my life, not even nursing.  I wake up with thoughts that I want to put on paper and I see things in my daily life that are so poetic and beautiful that I know I must capture everything about them in my mind, both for writing and also for the pure beauty of that moment.  Writing makes my life so much richer, my thoughts so much deeper.  I feel full after writing, like I would after eating my favorite meal.  Writing a book scares me because I don't want it to change me.  I don't want to pursue publishing so much that I lose sight of why I write in the first place.  I never write to an audience, it's always just for whoever is out there that will listen or read.

If I could rent out a beach house for a few months to claim as my writer's home, I would do it in a heartbeat.  Or a cabin in the woods, or a room out in the country.  I recently finished Donald Miller's book, Scary Close, in which he mentions such writer's retreats to write and finish his books, and I was insanely jealous.  I thought about how nice that would be to just wake up every morning, go on a run, brew a large pot of coffee, and write all day, every day.  Except that I would miss something in that.  I would miss the real living that inspires my writing.  I'd miss the emotional rollercoasters and the interactions and the happenings that inspire me in every way.  Maybe then it is best that I squeeze writing into the midst of a busy, chaotic life, between dishes and laundry, between night shift nursing and being a wife.

I think that when you love something enough, you make time for it.  You do it as much as you can, whenever and wherever you can.  Whether it's writing on index cards on a road trip to Nashville (this is how an entire chapter of my book was born) or waking up to practice your craft in the wee hours of the morning, you make time for it in your life.

I hope that you have something in your life that makes your heart sing, and that you find the time to practice that often.

Lots of love,
Cristina.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Italian Honeymooners: the Cinque Terre

Vernazza 

I started writing this post way back in December and just found it sitting in my "drafts" folder a few minutes ago (along with a slew of other posts I have half-written. Looks like I have some writing to do)! Consider this the second installment of our account of our honeymoon in Italy.  If you missed the first post about where we started our honeymoon (in Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure) feel free to check that one out. 

Cinque Terre is one of Italy's best kept secrets, though American travelers are starting to recognize its enchantment and are making it more of a travel destination in recent years.  When I first went to Italy in high school, I would get little response out of people when I said that I was visiting the Cinque Terre.  Now, I do find that I have to explain it to a few people, but mostly people go "Ohhh wow."  Because they know.

Cinque Terre, in Italian, quite literally means "five lands."  Oh, be still, my heart.  My romantic, literary soul just loves that.  The five lands.  The five lands include (from North to South): Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  The Cinque Terre is tucked away on the coast of the Italian Riviera and is perfect for those wanting an authentic smalltown Italian experience.  Scott and I are set on buying a place in Riomaggiore one day (our favorite of the hill towns that we visited and where we ended up staying during our time there) and I really really want this to happen.  Really.  We became friends with Costeve, the town butcher, and tasted the freshest seafood I've ever had in my life (there was a sign out front saying "closed for cleaning" which indicated that the little woman who owned the restaurant was literally cleaning the fish that her husband had just caught.  Moments later we indulged in the deliciousness of that seafood).  





One of the main attractions of the Cinque Terre lies in the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre in the ~6.5 mile seaside hike.  When we were visiting, two of the trails were closed which made our hike much longer, but SO enjoyable.  The famous Via dell'Amore (one of my favorite parts from my previous visit there) was closed, but we found trails that actually led us through Italian VINEYARDS.  I'm not even joking.  We hiked through the Cinque Terre vineyards, the ones that produce some of the best white wine I've ever tasted.  

Cinque Terre vineyards


Vineyards overlooking Manarola

One of my favorite memories from this part of our trip was watching the sunset on the first night in Riomaggiore.  We had arrived around 6PM from Santa Margherita Ligure by train, and we had hiked up to the top of the hill in the main plaza of Riomaggiore to get to check into our room.  We immediately took a liking to Luciano, the owner of several little vacation homes in Riomaggiore (homes is a very loose term.  We stayed in an adorable 1-bedroom seaside villa).  He walked us to where we'd be staying (more hills, more stairs) and spoke in impeccable English.  He was excited that we were honeymooning in Italy and even more excited that we'd chosen to rent a room from him in Riomaggiore.  He was so proud of the upgraded room that he had given us ("for free! You will really love this place!") and promised to make himself available for anything we needed during our stay.

We wandered down to Via Colombo, the main road where life unfolds in Riomaggiore, and started looking for a really good pizza place.  We had spotted a great sunset-viewing location when walking up the hill with Luciano and were set on a pizaa and wine sort of sunset.  

Via Colombo

Not our favorite pizza we had in Italy, but good enough for hungry travelers. 

Not pictured: the Cinque Terre limoncino (similar to limoncello) that
we enjoyed with our meal.  To be noted: do not try to chug limoncino
like you would lemonade.  Poor, poor, esophagus. 

The next morning, we were disappointed to wake up to the sound of pouring rain outside.  We had planned to do our big hike that day but settled for eating leftover pizza and limoncino instead while we made a plan for what to do next.  By 11, the sun was starting the peek out and the rain had slowed to a drizzle, so we figured we could at least attempt the hike that day.  Honestly, I think we would have been miserable if we had attempted this hike on a hot, sunny day.  The rain had cooled things down just enough to where we needed light sweatshirts and longsleeves to begin our hike.  I won't recount every part of the hike to you, but I'll just tell you to do it if you ever find yourself in Italy.  You'll want to cry during many parts of the hike, but you'll be comforted by the fact that you can stop for gelato in every hill town if you so desire.  And you can eat the sandwiches that you made from ingredients at the local butchershop-- tomato, fresh mozzarella, and lots of prosciutto.  And the photos you come home with will be worth all the times you wanted to cry or quit or just hop on the train back to your room.  






















Have I convinced you to go, yet? I feel that the hike is best told in pictures.  We ended our hike at Marina Piccola in Manarola, suggested by my friend, Lisa, before we left.  This place didn't disappoint, though everyone else seated at the seaside restaurant wore lavish couture clothing, breezy sundresses, ironed polo shirts.  We were severely underdressed but were so happy to be sitting and eating food that we didn't seem to care.  We ate and enjoyed fresh anchovies, which this region is well-known for (as a side note: in the US I wouldn't go near anchovies.  I was spoiled by the freshest ones I've ever known in Manarola and won't settle for anything less here in the US).  We hopped on a train back to Riomaggiore; we would have hiked the last little detoured route if it hadn't been so dark and late.  Since we had started our hike late in the day due to weather, we couldn't quite finish the hike (and the via dell Amore was closed anyways, which would have been our quickest way home!). We rested well that night to prepare for our last day in the Cinque Terre the following morning.

After sleeping in, we woke up and headed down for coffee near the church in Riomaggiore.  We enjoyed caffe freddo (cold coffee) by the seaside and prepared for our day at the beach.  


Coffee with a view

We then headed down to the "beach," quite different from our East Coast beaches back home.  We were surprised to find large boulders that people were laying out on instead of the sandy beaches that we might have found back home or even further north in Monterosso al Mare.  






We were sad to leave Riomaggiore, especially without saying goodbye to Luciano, but considered ourselves lucky to run into him in the La Spezia train station on our way to Florence.  


I hope you'll travel to the Cinque Terre someday, and I hope that it won't just be a day passing through or a day trip from Florence.  I hope you'll stay there and allow the five lands to charm you into staying even longer than you anticipated, that they convince you to come back someday.  

It'll take me a long time to write the next installment of our honeymoon adventures, as Florence is a mighty task to take on writing about.  But hopefully I've left you with enough photos of the Cinque Terre to keep you occupied for a good while!

Lots of love and hope you are having a great week, friends.  It's sunny in Indy and fairly warm this week, so I'm sending warm, sunny thoughts your way.  

XO,
C. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Life We Had Planned



Have you ever read this quote before? I surely had not, until I was strolling through Trader Joe's one morning after work.  I found this card in the flower section where TJ's sells the loveliest of greeting cards.  They are printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, yet they are still on 99 cents.  Amazing!

I purchase cards from TJ's frequently and put them up as decor in our kitchen and living room, or I stash them away until I find the perfect occasion to use it for.  I also frequently wander through the flower and card section when I need some Cristina time or just need a break from a demanding to-do list.  In any case, this one stopped me in my tracks and made me think for a good little while.

Has your life turned out the way that you always thought it would? Are you following your 5-year plan, walking on the path that has been so carefully planned and laid out for you?

My guess is that life turned out a little bit differently than what you always expected.  I can say, without question, that mine did.  Growing up, I was pretty confident that I was going to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.  I was going to get married later in life after finishing school and find a way to juggle being a career woman with raising a family and being a wife.

Instead, I married young (something I do not regret), work night shift as a bedside nurse, and am more excited about the thought of raising our future children than I am about pushing to get to the top of my career.  And I think about my life in light of this quote on a 99 cent Trader Joe's card, and I know for certain that the life that was waiting for me has been so much sweeter than the life I had planned.

I think that's God's promise to us through Scripture.  It's common for people to quote Jeremiah 29:11 when talking about their future, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.'" Maybe you think of those words as a cliché with how often you hear them recited,  except that they aren't a cliché at all.  They're words spoken by God, and they're his promise to you.  They're his promise that though things may seem uncertain, He already knows the life that is waiting for you.  Though you may be calculating and recalculating your 5-year plan and wondering how you can possibly make it all work, He knows your entire life plan and watches with delight as it unfolds before your eyes.

And every single time, it's better than what you would have planned for yourself.  That's difficult to see in the midst of heartache, sorrow, and unexpected challenges before you, but those promises are still there and still true despite the valleys you must walk through to reach the mountain tops.

My hope is that you'll loosen your grip on the reigns of your life a little bit, that you'll allow yourself to dream and to follow dreams without becoming hard and stubborn in the midst of pursuing those dreams.  I hope that you see new opportunities that aren't necessarily in "the plan" and that you'll be ok with trying them on the off-chance that those opportunities are entirely lovely and maybe exactly what you needed without evening realizing it at that moment.  Loosen your grip on the life you had planned and be open to the life that is waiting for you.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Love,
Cristina.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Small Joys: volume 21

We skipped a week of Small Joys posts thanks to a week of vacation down in Tampa, but I think breaks are good sometimes.  I had the immense joy of hearing Shauna Niequist speak today, and while I would truly love to quote every thing that she came out of her mouth, I'll instead paraphrase something she said about writing that is just SO true, particularly for those in the business of memoir writing and writing about real, every day life.  She said, essentially, that in order to write, she needed time to live her life and to be in the midst of her neighbors and children and husband and community.  It makes her writing that much richer when she's been able to live a full life outside of her writing.  She referred to it as stocking the pond, which is something I do in my daily life.  It's taking in everything around you and seeing it with clarity and full dimension.  That's why pauses between posts can be good for me, and it's why pauses in even book writing are good for me.

No. 1: Meeting Shauna Niequist. Yep. This is definitely #1 on the list this week.  I discovered Shauna's writing just after college in our little Chapel Hill book club as we read Bread and Wine.  I remember sitting in sweet Shannon's living room tucked away behind Franklin St. as we ate berry crisp and drank wine and laughed about all of the things.  I loved Shauna from the moment I cracked open that book, and my love affair with her writing has continued ever since with devouring each one of her other books.  In person, she is just as lovely, if not lovelier, than she is in the pages of her books.  I'm definitely planning to go back when she releases her next book, Present Over Perfect.  So worth the three hour drive.  Also, major props to my dear friend, Laura, for road tripping with me!  I also blame her for the cute mint bag I bought at Charming Charlie and for all future deficits in my bank account in the name of this store.


No. 2: READING FOR FUN. Yes. In all caps.  This week I raced through 4 books and started a 5th one on our plane ride back from Tampa.  There is something so enchanting, so mesmerizing about winding through a story and immersing yourself so fully that you forget that it's a story written on pages. I love the feeling of being in a book and in a story.  Book reviews to come soon, but for now here's the list of what I read.
-The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner
-Scary Close by Donald Miller
-Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (which has now lead to me reading The Husband's Secret)
-Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (this one was finished just before vacation!)

No. 3: Warmer weather. I was worried that we would be too spoiled by the 80 degree Tampa sunshine to return to normal life here in Indianapolis.  However, we were greeted with 60 degree breezy days in Indy and even let our optimism run as far as to remove the snow tires from Heidi the Honda.  I'm reading for frozen margs, running downtown along the canal, and laying out by the pool.  

No. 4: Coral nails. With the warm weather come my favorite spring and summer nail colors, and this week I'm sporting Essie's Cute as a Button.  It satisfies my need for pink with a teeny twist and lots of promise for hot summer days.  



No. 5: Savor. Oh, yes.  How could I forget the book that prompted my visit to Chicago in the first place today to meet Shauna? This book is a daily devotional that includes excerpts from many of her other books in combination with some new material.  It's rich with new recipes, and today she encouraged readers to essentially check themselves if it had been more than two weeks since they had shared a meal from those recipes with friends and family around the table.  



No. 6: Darjeeling tea. Ok. You all know how very much I love Earl Grey tea.  But lately I've been drinking Twining's Darjeeling (pronounced like dar-heeling) and can not get enough of the stuff.  It's a delicate black tea that is just perfect for mid-afternoon or even a late-night cup as you enjoy a book.  Try the stuff. It's divine. 


No. 7: Pi day.  Today was a LEGIT Pi (π) day.  3.141592653.  So if you ate pie on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 in the morning, you did a good, good thing.  The pie pictured above is Angus Barn's chocolate chess pie which is so divine and scrumptious and diabetes-inducing that you'll just have to eat the entire thing with a large glass of milk or maybe a small cup of Darjeeling tea (as pictured above).  As a former unicorn (an entirely respectable high school mascot) and NCSSM nerd, I had to celebrate today.  

No. 8: Florida sunsets.  Maybe not just Florida sunsets.  Maybe all sunsets.  I think sunsets are one of those things that most people love, just like the beach or ice cream or fuzzy pets.  But Scott and I especially love them.  Growing up at Wrightsville Beach, we spent many date nights watching sunsets (and early mornings watching sunrises), to the point that Scott proposed down by the jetti at Wrightsville Beach two years ago.  There's something so lovely about sitting together and watching the light fade as yet another day ends, bringing with it the sleepiness of nighttime and the anticipation of a brand new day come morning's first light.  



No. 9: Butterbeer.  Maybe my favorite part of Harry Potter World was the frozen butterbeer.  Trust me, if you go, get it frozen.  My brother, Christian, got the regular and it just wasn't as good.  Also try butterbeer ice cream.  Eat and drink all the butterbeer! (Particularly if you are a cream soda fan!)

No. 10: King sized beds.  Scott and I consider it a pure delight when we can sleep in king sized beds instead of our queen that we have at home.  We always joke, "I didn't even know you were there all night!" We aren't cuddlers when we sleep; I always thought I would be but I honestly can't stand touching someone when I sleep, even if it is Scott.  There was something sweet about coming home and sleeping in our own bed again and knowing that Scott was there all night without the luxurious space between us.  I think one day we'll be excited for a king sized bed, but for now the queen will do just fine.  

That's all for now friends.  After spending 6+ hours in the car today, I'm wiped and feeling like maybe I need to turn my brain off for the night.  Or maybe I just need to go read for a few hours before bed.  I feel some Darjeeling tea coming on, either way.  

Lots of love and happy Saturday! I'm trying to reserve Saturdays for Small Joys,  but please forgive me if I slip up every so often.  Sometimes tan lines and good books consume me and I forget to check in!

Love,
C. 




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

On Taking Time Off



I'm the kind of person who feels guilty for taking time off of work.  Especially when I read the e-mails about being short-staffed and needing more people to come into work.  But the past year has been filled with adventures and stresses and worries for Scott and I, and we needed a break.  So for his Spring Break, we hopped on a plane and headed down to Tampa where my grandfather lives for a quick visit.  My mom and brother drove down with Gracie Lou to meet us, and we've spent the week enjoying what Florida is best known for: it's sunshine.

I've been fantasizing about this trip for the past couple of weeks and started packing my bag a week in a advance.  The trip was sort of thrown together on a whim once I got approval from work to have time off, but I've been looking forward to it ever since the day I booked our flights.  I had plans to enjoy the sun, work out a lot (so many pretty places to run around here), cook a lot for my family, read books, work on grad school applications, etc.  All the things.

The moment (I'm not even exaggerating here, it was the exact moment) I stepped off of the plane into Tampa I felt that dry, scratchiness that you get in the back of your throat right before you get sick.  That feeling that tells you that something is coming and you'd better take all of the Emergen-C, echinacea, and zinc you can lay your hands on before your body gets slammed with illness.  Instead of doing all of those things, I brushed it off and assumed that my allergies were getting the best of me.  I remembered my bottle of Allegra sitting in my medicine cabinet at home and cursed myself for not remembering to grab it before we left for the airport.  A quick stop at the drug store and I'd be allergy-free by the next day.

Except I wasn't.  The symptoms became more and more horrible, from a runny nose to a stuffed nose, dry throat, hoarse cough, wheezing, and general asthmatic mayhem.  I've continued to go out in the sun each day, determined to at least mark a few things off of my vacation checklist: reading and tan lines.

But in a way, it's been nice to have real time off.  Time when my body hasn't allowed me to burn the candle at both ends.  Vacation has truly been just that-- vacating from responsibilities and to-do lists and taking care of other people.  No, I didn't kick start my summer work outs with running every day and swimming in the pool.  I didn't finish my grad school applications, either.  But I did lay in the sun every day with a good book, and I have now managed to finish four books for fun (reviews to come when I return to Indy).

I think sometimes our bodies know when we need to rest, and they often find unusual ways to let us know that we need to slow down.  While I've hated the wheezing and coughing and boxes of tissues, I've enjoyed the sun and the stillness and the satisfaction of closing another book.  Who knows, if I hadn't gotten sick here on vacation I would have likely been sick at home and would have had to miss work anyways, so maybe things have a funny little way of working out in that sense.  Better to be sick in paradise than sick in the arctic tundra of Indianapolis.

I was hoping I'd be writing a lot while I was down here, but for obvious reasons, I've not been doing so.  I have so many things I want to say, posts I want to write, chapters of my book to form.  But for now, I'm going to step away so I can finish another book.  Productivity will have to wait for another day.

Lots of love and hoping you all are having a great week-- it seems that the weather is looking up all over the country! Sending warm wishes to your corner of the world.

XO,
Cristina

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Goals: March


Photo credit: Melissa Vega, the 25th Hour Studios

I'm trying something new on the blog in the spirit of reading more in 2015.  I've always been a lover of books but have lately neglected reading for other seemingly more important things.  Don't you know I'm writing this as I should be doing my last grad school application (why are they SO involved)? The to-do lists could go on for days, but in the spirit of self-care and taking back what I love, I'm making time for books.  Even if it means that I only read 2-3 pages in those sleepy moments before bed, I'm going to try to read every day.  And I thought that maybe I'd share my book goals with you all, both for the purpose of holding myself accountable and also to send along some good book recommendations.  Who knows, maybe I'll even find myself in a book club again? I so miss my book club from North Carolina and wish I could start another one up here that was just as darling as that one.

In any case, here's what's on the night stand this month.

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai


This is one of our long-distance book club reads that is currently making it's way around the country.  I haven't cracked it yet but it's supposed to be really good, and I find myself very much looking forward to reading this one! 


Scary Close by Donald Miller

This is another long-distance book club book, but we're trying to do a live book club meeting via Google Hangout later this month instead of sending this one around to everyone.  I have mixed feelings about Donald Miller, mainly because his writing style just grinds my gears.  I loved Blue Like Jazz but haven't been able to get into any of his others since, so I'm hoping I can move past his writing style and love this one.  I've heard excellent things about it.  


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This is one I borrowed from my mom that I have to give back to her this week in Tampa.  I'm hoping it'll make for a fun beach/pool read this week when we visit my grandpa.  I've heard awesome things about this author and have been meaning to try her books for a while now.  Hoping for good things!


The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner 

I started this one last month but put it down to finish studying for my CMSRN exam.  I then picked up a different book and neglected this one for a while.  I'm already 1/3 of the way through this one and don't anticipate having any trouble finishing it on the plane ride to Florida on Saturday.

Have I talked about Florida enough lately?  Truthfully, I love my grandparents' house and have always loved visiting them.  It'll be sad to go back for the first time since my grandmother passed, but I think my grandpa will enjoy having a full house (though, he'll surely be glad to see us go.  He's an introvert like me, and a quiet afternoon at home doesn't bother him one little bit).  

Do you have any good book recommendations?  If you are a big reader or want to get into reading, you should surely check out Goodreads online.  I have an account on there and LOVE seeing what other people are reading and recommending, reading posts from my favorite authors, learning about their new books that are coming out.  

Also, I mentioned in my last post that my friend Mariah and I are currently working on this list for 2015.  I need to pick at least one of these to add to my March reading list, but I'm going to see how far I get with these others in Tampa first.  

And lastly, I have to recommend Dark Places by Gillian Flynn after finishing it a few days ago.  It always feels SO nice to finish a book.  I hadn't finished one in months so it felt especially rewarding to get to the last page and breathe a final "DONE!"  Dark Places was indeed dark, but Gillian Flynn keeps you on the edge of your seat for most of the book.  After a slow start, I found myself not able to put the book down after getting 75 pages in.  I wanted to read it all the time.  In the car at stoplights (I didn't, but I wanted to), during my lunch breaks at work, when I woke up each day and before bed each night (or morning, depending on my work schedule).  It's not your typical whodunnit thriller; it's so much better and so incredibly well-written.  Do check it out if you can handle a scary book.  I'm not a scary movie watcher, and truthfully, if this one became a movie, I would not be able to watch it, but it's worth a read.

Also, Shauna Niequist's new book Savor comes out in 5 DAYS and I'm hoping to venture to Chicago for her book signing next Saturday.  Can't wait to add this to the list, though this is more of a 365 day devotional book, so probably not one to read all in one sitting.  

Send more book recommendations and thoughts my way! I'm hungry for reading.

Lots of love,
C.