Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Library Talks

Hi, loves! Happy Wednesday. It's so cold here today--tights, arm warmers, and scarf weather--and I'm busy in the school library where all the books are. "Library-ing," I think, is my new favorite hobby.
library-ing [verb]: to journey through the aisles of a library on a quest for interesting book titles, tragic romances, beautiful anthologies, and anything else that might suit your fancy
I know I've written about this before, but since coming to college, the library universe that is available to me has grown significantly.  The high school library was wonderful, but it didn't have the same old-book feeling that the college one does.  The sheer number of books is  somewhat overwhelming at first, but it's motivated me to learn the library's catalog system (still working on it!), and I highly recommend library-ing to anyone who's in the need of a cheer-up or a mental health break. Recent library-ing finds include The Awful Rowing Toward God by Anne Sexton, which includes some of the most magical and tortured poems I've ever read, and Women Saints of East and West by Swami Ghanananda and John Steward-Wallace, which covers saints like Brigid of Kildare.

Head and shoulders monochrome portrait photo of Anne Sexton, seated with books in the background
Anne Sexton (image: Wikipedia)
\From The Awful Rowing Toward God:
“Maybe I am becoming a hermit,opening the door for onlya few special animals?Maybe my skull is too crowdedand it has no opening through whichto feed it soup?” 
Stbrigid.jpg
St. Brigid of Kildare (image: Wikipedia)
One of the best things about library-ing is that it helps encourage writing.  When we read books and stories, we strengthen our ability to empathize with others and put ourselves in different mindsets, and this in turn helps us to write.  A creativity-boosting writing activity to try is free writing.  Just open a notebook and write whatever comes to mind--fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose--and try not to "edit" yourself as you go.  See where the words take you! 
What books have you discovered recently?  Stay warm today! 

<3 Frances

P.S. On a non-bibliophile note, I want to offer my sincerest prayers for anyone who is suffering today.  There was a mass shooting in California, and there was a major earthquake in Iran, and I'm thinking of everyone who is experiencing loss or tragedy. Know that my heart is with you. <3 <3 <3 <3

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November Lately

A birthday, a change in seasons, an extra hour, a few midterms, unbelievable tragedies, and a few signs of hope . . . all these things have happened since I last posted anything, and now, a little over a week into being 19, I'm hoping to get out of my "write everything in my head and never on paper" phase.  Writing in your head is great, but it's even better sometimes to actually translate those thoughts into real words.  (That said, I'm studying for a history test right now, too, so many of my thoughts are currently ancient civilizations-related. Stay tuned for a post on Gilgamesh.)
Anyway, I suppose it goes without saying that it's November. (Yay, the month that connects Christmas to Halloween!)  Here are a few of the things we've been extra excited about this month:



  • Stranger Things
    • I've never binged a show before, but over the summer, after coming home from my nana's funeral, I may have binged this with my mum and brother.  Maybe.  (Okay, yes, definitely!) But how couldn't I have?  Winona Ryder's Joyce Byers is one of the best television mothers ever, and Steve and Dustin are #friendshipgoals.

  • The Book Thief
    • I'm kind of "behind" with this one, seeing as the book came out in 2005, but if you haven't read it, please do! It's narrated by Death, it's set in World War II, and it's interspersed with Wes Anderson-esque asides revealing things about characters that only Death would be able to tell you.
  • Yoga and Pilates
    • Once upon a [very recent] time, I was a cardio junkie. Intense HIIT-type exercises an lots of running can release edorphins and make you feel like you've "hit the wall," but that isn't always the best thing when you're long-term goal is to reduce anxiety and be a more relaxed person! For now, I'm moving on from these sorts of hardcore activities and embracing yoga and Pilates. I love dancing, and I'll admit to having played around during a dance video the other day, but, when I do feel like "movement," I think that yoga/Pilates movements are the most beneficial choices. Everyone is different.  Magazines and websites will always make it look like you need to "go hard or go home," with thinspo and fitspo preaching extreme fitness, but that's really not the case.  Just find a sustainable way to relax and feel happy!  If you're into yoga or Pilates, know that I'm excited about 1) being able to get my palms to the mat when reaching for my toes and 2) looking like a graceful ballerina while attempting plies.
  • Patrick Watson
    • This is my brother's new favorite musician, and he's brilliant.  His song "Big Bird in a Small Cage" is tragic and beautiful and perfect. 
 
 
Sending love and the Force for everyone!  Happy Veterans Day, too. Many of my family members have served, and we're all thinking of those who have made sacrifices. 
<3 Frances
 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

To Risk for a Butterfly

"Yellow decided to risk for a butterfly."
-Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

 

It's been almost four months since I've posted anything here or even opened a draft, but sometimes silence is needed for words to come, and I'm excited to be writing again.  Combined with the eclipse and a new school and a new job, it's almost like a new chapter is opening up, and I hope that, as the moon passes over the sun tomorrow, there will be a shift that allows the universe to open up to better, happier, more peaceful things for everybody.
When I was little, my great-grandmother shared a story with me about one of her dear friends, Janet.  Janet had a deep appreciation for all of the beauty of the natural world--especially rainbows. When she was in her fifties, she spent a day with her mother and my great-grandmother.  It was a perfect day, but during dinner that evening, Janet began choking and couldn't breathe.  "She died," my great-grandmother told me. "But the next morning, there was a rainbow."
I've held that story in my heart with me for so long that I can find its essence in all of my writing, and I kept thinking of it when we were in Santa Fe this July to honor my great-grandmother. On the day of her ceremony, we were all outside, and it began raining.  Not enough to force us indoors, but enough for a rainbow, and I took it as a sign of my great-grandmother being there, with us, watching over us. (I know that not everyone is drawn to spirituality/religion/etc., but for me personally, I've found great comfort in a belief in spirits and ghosts and saints.)

"The Lotus and the Rose" by Dixie Gladstone
As for how butterflies figure into this . . . recently, I've struggled with a lot of anxiety.  My mum has been trying to help me with it, and I've been coming to the realization that it's okay to "let go." "Letting go" doesn't mean not working hard or giving up ambitions and commitment.  Rather, it's a way of opening up to trust and acceptance.  By relaxing ourselves and opening ourselves up instead of shutting down/closing off/becoming rigid, we're actually much more effective than we are when we live in fear and angst and stiffness.  My grandmother and my great-grandmother both believed in this, and on a difficult Wednesday a few weeks ago, I was at work and found a pile of "giveaway books" sitting on a dusty stairwell.  Stuffed beneath several math textbooks was a copy of Hope for the Flowers, Tina Paulus' beautiful, poignant allegorical picture book that's "partly about life . . . partly about revolution . . . and lots about hope . . . for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)".  My mum used to have a copy of Hope for the Flowers herself, but she gave it away to a friend at a time when they really needed its love and optimism, and finding it felt like a meant-to-be miracle because it's not the easiest little book to come across. To avoid giving away too much of the plot, Hope for the Flowers is about caterpillars and their lives as they journey to become butterflies, and it makes a brilliant point about the courage it takes to become a butterfly.  I mean, think about it: you spend x amount of time as a caterpillar, and you get pretty comfortable, and then all of a sudden you're supposed to wrap yourself in a cocoon and put all your faith in the universe that you'll come out alright on the other end of the process. Anyone who has ever seen a dried up chrysalis with a dead caterpillar inside knows that getting into a chrysalis and hoping for the best doesn't always work out for our poor caterpillar friends; they really have to be brave.  But becoming a butterfly is worth the risks involved, isn't it?  If you want to make changes--real, remarkable, lasting changes that will make your life better--a  little risk is involved.  I'm not saying step into a place that is dangerous or that will hurt you just to "change" (there's a difference between "uncomfortable" and "harmful"), but try stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes.  I need to hear this just as much as/sometimes even more than anyone else does, and, as the school year picks up, I'm doing my best to embrace the opportunity to let go and open up. Take a deep breath.  You can do this.  You, too, can "risk for a butterfly."

<3 Frances

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Writer Confessions and #Goals

I have to admit that I haven't been the most committed writer lately.  With school and work and etc. etc. etc., it's been challenging to find the time, energy, and inspiration to actually sit down and write anything worthwhile that isn't actually due for a class. I can't help but to feel bad about this.  I mean, if I'm not actually committed to writing, then I should probably stop identifying as a "writer." But I'm not ready to do that, so I'm going to try to recommit to writing.  No more slacking.  Obviously, studying and end-of-year projects will probably consume the next few weeks of my life (and graduation is coming up!), but I'm promising to myself that I'll do a better job of avoiding the distractions that normally steal my few moments of free time that should be spent doing something more productive than Pinterest-ing.  (Not that Pinterest is bad, of course--it's actually a wonderful tool for finding inspiration.)  

Image result for writer meme

Anyway . . . I suppose that I'm writing about this here to make my commitment to writing feel more "official" than it would if it were just something I mulled over privately in my mind.  And I also wanted to take the opportunity to encourage everyone out there (you, yeah, you, lol!) to set some fun goals for yourself for the spring and summer!  Make them positive goals that will help you expand your life and make the most of each day.  Write more.  Read more.  Learn dance choreography.  Learn a language.  I know this stuff all sounds sort of cliche and is mentioned all the time, but it can be meaningful in the long-term to commit yourself to making a positive life change.

Hugs for Wednesday!

<3 Frances



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads 4/20/17

School work has entered full on crazy mode.  The end of the year is always this way, with deadlines and exams and presentations and after-hours obligations, and I'm so so so grateful for every minute I have that's not booked by something. There's nothing quite like those ten minutes between when the alarm goes off and when I actually get out of bed in the morning, LOL.


  • Affirmations Are Powerful by Julia Grigorian 
    • I love Julia's blog (Drops of Jules), and this post on affirmations is something I've been going back to ever since I first read it. It's so easy to get caught up in worry trails and negative thinking patterns, but by being mindful of how we're talking to ourselves and perceiving our situations, we can really improve our overall mental health.  Julia's three-step affirmation process (acknowledging negativity, recognizing irrational thoughts, and empowering truth) is a very helpful tool, too.
  • Meet This 7 Year-Old Syrian Girl Writing a Memoir About Life Under Siege by Kareem Shaheem
    • This Book Riot article is about Bana, a seven year-old Syrian girl who has seen more suffering and hardship than many of us can imagine. And she's writing about it now. She. Is. Amazing.
  • Among My Swan (Full Album) by Mazzy Star
    • I have this on repeat right now.

<3 Frances

Friday, April 14, 2017

TGIF Playlist and Music Talk

Last night was a late one with Holy Thursday service carrying us into the darker, cooler hours of the night, but it was beautiful, and I actually set the alarm for 6:00 AM instead of 5:45 AM this morning to ward off fatigue.  Anyone who gets up early knows the difference that 15 minutes can make.

Today's Friday playlist is a bit of a mish-mosh of different decades and genres.  I've found that, for whatever reason, listening to the Bee Gees has helped me make progress with my writing projects lately. It's funny because disco-era music has nothing to do with what I'm writing about, but certain songs remind me of mixed-tapes played by my grandmum and mum.  My mum loves a lot of the music my grandmum listened to (Stevie Nicks, Nick Drake, etc.), and my grandfather always liked the Bee Gees, so those artists always show up on our playlists and tapes.

Stieve Nicks (source: en.wikipedia.org)

In middle school, I did a project on music history and famous artists (yes, I had a very fun teacher), and one of my best memories is of the day my mum took me on a musical history lesson using her CDs and our old desktop computer.  She had so much work to do for her job that weekend, but she devoted a few hours to helping me with my project, and the memory of us doing that together will stay with me forever.  I particularly enjoyed our journey into the 1990s. She was in college then, and despite many of the sadnesses she experienced in that time (losses, autoimmune illness, etc.), the music she found in the shelves of hole-in-the-wall record shops really had a big impact on her. Because she's so Jane Bennet-like, most people can't imagine her working at a college radio station decorated in Nirvana and Hole posters, but why subscribe to only one style when you can appreciate Beatrix Potter and Courtney Love at the same time?

Hole: "Doll Parts"

Bee Gees: "Stayin' Alive"

Stevie Nicks: "Landslide"


NIirvana: "About A Girl"

Mazzy Star: "Fade Into You"



<3 Frances

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Realistic Health Goals and Letting Go of Control

Hi, friends <3.  I'm more awake this morning than I usually am, which is saying a lot because I'm typically out of the apartment by 7:20 every weekday.  Don't think that's because I like getting out that early, though--if I had it my way, work wouldn't start until much later in the day, even though I'm much more of a "morning person" than I am a night owl.  I used to be a night owl, and I still really love TGIF movie nights, but work obligations have forced me to adapt to a morning-oriented routine. I've found that getting up and dancing on Saturday and Sunday mornings has helped me to adjust because it gives me a positive association with earliness.

dancing + chocolate + books = happiness

Anyway, with my increased energy this morning (which I assure you will likely fade before my first class, lol), I got to thinking about control and societal expectations and ideas surrounding control. There's no doubt in my mind that most people have some sort of innate desire to be in control. It's comforting to feel like you've got a grip on what's going on at all times, and that makes a lot of sense given evolution. I mean, when in survival mode, control can be beneficial. It provides reassurance that things will work out at least enough that you and your family will live another day. But, like everything, control has a "shadow side," and sometimes the very things you think you need to control/are controlling end up controlling you. 
I know I've definitely struggled with control.  I'm a "creature of comfort" and really, really like routine and predictability.  Chaos = anxiety = ugh, and, as I mentioned earlier, society really does like to amp up the whole "be in control and everything will be fine!" mentality.  I'm still just "seeing the light" with these messages, too, so I'm by no means immune to them, but it's been helpful to be more aware of them.  I mean, look around you . . . so many magazines, articles, ads, etc., feature actors and models talking about their rigid fitness regimes or diet plans or daily schedules.  Don't get me wrong--I'm all about feeling healthy and happy and making life a happy, relaxed place for yourself, but I've been slowly realizing over the years that sometimes giving into all these media messages is really unhealthy.  Everywhere we look, there is a celebrity describing her "typical day.":
She gets up around 7:00, immediately drinks warm water with lemon, oil pulls, stretches, and then hits the gym for an intense session--weights and cardio, five to six times a week, with one active recovery day thrown in for good measure. She avoids sugars, additives, and salt, and she limits her carbs to 1/4 c oatmeal at breakfast, a sweet potato at lunch, and 1/2 c cooked quinoa at dinner (which doesn't happen any later than 7:00 because #digestion, right?).  Oh, and then there's a piece of dark chocolate (JUST A PIECE) at night if it's a Friday or Saturday. 
Okay, so now that we've read this, it's time to examine our own lives.  Just like with everything, there's a light and shadow side to this.  On the light side, we can say, "Oh, okay, maybe instead of staying up till two AM and then getting up at six AM, I can try to go to bed earlier.  That will help me feel less exhausted, and maybe my skin will clear up.  And maybe I'll try lemon water in the morning and that dance/Pilates/etc. video I saw on YouTube when I have time after school.  That sort of thing might energize me."  But on the shadow side, we can say, "Okay. No more rice. Ever. And only a 1/4 c of oatmeal, even if I'm hungry.  And I need to incorporate weights into my training now, and I can only rest one day a week, and then I need to walk for 60 minutes to make up for it . . . " This sort of thinking might make us feel "in control" temporarily, but whenever something interferes with our plan, we feel like everything is falling apart.  We become dependent on our routines and our rules, and if we can't live up to our expectations of ourselves, we fall into negativity and self-criticism.  

Is this healthy?  Trust me, darling--it isn't.

Audrey Hepburn: "Happy girls are the prettiest." (Image from smooth.com.au)

One of the best pieces of advice that I've ever received (and I admit that I need to do a better job following it) is balance.  Balance and moderation.  This advice came from a loved one who has passed on recently, and I've been trying to focus on it more because of how true it is. Complete carelessness and excessive control haven't ever benefited anyone.  Find a happy medium for yourself--a place where you can just exist and lead a full, happy life with things that you look forward to, manageable responsibilities, and some sort of meaning. The best thing about this happy medium is that you can start striving for it RIGHT NOW. You don't need to order any fancy products or sign up for a service. All you need is yourself.

<3 Frances