Happy Little Things

Isn’t it fantastic that you can change your mind and create all these happy little things?
                                                         —Bob Ross

My mom always laughs when she tells me the story about the cake at my kindergarten graduation. I’ve seen pictures of it, just your basic King Soopers pre-frosted cake with sugary flowers decorating the sides, and on the top, spelled out in fancy cursive that none of the kindies could read, “Congrats Kindies! Class of 2016!” Mama tells me she chuckled when she saw that. 2016? How can that be? That’s forever from now! And then there I was, from the picture I remember, smiling up at her with a blue tongue and chocolate cake on my chubby cheeks, giggling and skipping off to the playground.

Forever happened, I guess. I rang in the big 2016, the year I’ve been waiting for, curled up with my sister on our living room couch. We tiptoed upstairs about five minutes later, and after I burrowed beneath my covers, I laid there in the dark for a few minutes, overjoyed and excited and afraid and nervous all at the same time. This is the first time in my life that I have absolutely no clue where I’ll be in a year, and that thought is thrilling and terrifying all at once.

I honestly do look forward to 2016, in all its uncertainty and vagueness. I think it will force me to be truly present in each moment, because like Mary Oliver says, “Things take the time they take.” I refuse to let this year swallow me in anxiety, as it could easily do. I will stare into the gnashing teeth of distress and tell those pearly-white blades, “Not today!” It will be hard, but I will learn to accept and embrace change. It’s kind of what I have to do. Not really a choice this time. But it will be good for me.

I will also take with me all the things I’ve learned in my 17th year. I’m 18 now, (an adult!) but I still have miles to go on the road of self-discovery. Anyways, I’ve compiled a list of what I will take away from this year, and I know I will continue to re-learn these things my whole life.

17 Things I’ve Learned While Being 17
  1. Boys are hard to get over. Allow yourself time for healing, but don’t drown in the memories or keep re-living the past. Don’t be in love with the idea of love. Appreciate a boy for who he is. And if you must let him go (which is sometimes the best possible thing you could do), realize that you might experience pangs of jealousy or anger, but don’t be consumed by them. Time does heal. And never do anything that leads to using another person for their body. That only leads to emptiness, a hollow ending.
  2. Friends change. People change. Forgive them for not being God because we all fall short of others’ expectations of who we should be. Don’t fabricate someone into a person of my liking or imagination–love a person for their raw selves, their identity, who they are and what they believe in, even if I disagree. It’s not love if I’m ignoring the parts of them I don’t like.
  3. I can accomplish tremendous things if I just try. Be open to possibilities and don’t pass up opportunities out of fear or uncertainty. Follow through with what you start. Be brave, and trust. I realized this through the completion of my Gold Award, something that seemed so impossible when I started but became a reality because I put all my energy and determination into it.
  4. Ask for help. Abandon and shred that papery scrap of pride that keeps you from leaning on others when you need it. The only reason my Gold Award was a success was through the help and generosity of other people. You’d be surprised how willing others are to help if only we would ask for it.
  5. Follow your passions. Do what you like. Don’t spend all your time on something you don’t enjoy just to please other people. Decide what’s important to you, and put all of your energy and presence into it. Don’t compare the way you spend your time to how other people do, either.
  6. Don’t be defined by your body. Your body can do great things, but never let it become the center of your every thought.
  7. People are forgiving. Mom and Dad are on my side. They do what they do out of love.
  8. Social Media is addicting. Stalking people and comparing gets me nowhere. It’s a waste of time. I know that I feel way happier when I give up social media for a day (which I really need to do more often.)
  9. Listen. Listen to others when they speak. Soak in words like a sponge, and when it’s your turn to talk, be genuine and honest in what you say. Don’t waste words.
  10. Words are powerful. Writing words, poem words, lyric words, speaking words, texting words–they leave scars, wounds, tears–but they also heal, restore, set free. Use them like lace and delicately weave the ones that speak to you into your heart. Collect them and document them, because one day you might forget the ones that mattered so much.
  11. Take naps. Go on walks. Non-busy days are just as important as busy ones. Take care of your thoughts when you’re alone or not busy. The world wants to make you feel bad for it, but our bodies and minds long for rest every once in a while. I learned this for the first time this year, that not being busy every second of the day is okay.
  12. Acknowledge your sins. Recognize your wrongs, and don’t run away or cover up or make excuses for what you know is harmful. And then actually set out to be different, and change.
  13. Read everything. Absorb. Learn both sides of an issue. Be transformed and informed. Think for yourself–don’t let others do it for you. Develop your own opinions even if they are counter to what’s being said around you. Especially with recent events and political issues, I have to remember where I stand or I risk being swayed and persuaded by every new opinion I hear.
  14. Appreciate teachers. Respect them and thank them, even if you don’t get along with them. The truth is, they are helping to shape you into who you are and will be.
  15. Don’t make yourself feel better through gossip and tearing others down. It will just make you feel worse about yourself.
  16. Never take anything for granted. You are not exempt from accidents or tragedies; everyone suffers them. Be thankful for waking up every single day, and if God wakes you up again tomorrow, praise him for it. I learned this from being in a minor car accident this year. Luckily no one was hurt and damage wasn’t too bad, but I realized that it could happen to me. Every breath is a second chance, like Jon Foreman says.
  17. My faith is whirlwind, and even though I doubt, question, feel utterly alone and human, I can see that God is not content to leave me alone. No matter how far off the path to heaven I wander, no matter how many times I spit in His face, He continues to speak to me through people, nature, books, events…my life is sprinkled with subtle signs, and as I reflect on my year, I see how intricately woven His presence is in my life.

And with that, my rose heart unfolds into 2016 with passion and humbleness. I step out into this new day, into this vibrant arctic sky, and breathe.

~2015 end of year recap~

Favorite experiences:
~Staying in a convent for Sister Rose’s jubilee. This hot July weekend in Wichita is filled with happy memories for me. Our entire family came and surprised my great aunt Sister Rose for her 50th jubilee (50 years of being a nun) and we got to stay on the top floor in the “nunery” (hehe). Each of us had our own separate room with a twin-sized hospital bed in it, and at mass, the Sisters actually made the host and it tasted like the best bran muffin ever. I was hoping when I went up that the priest would give me a giant piece of Jesus, cause dang. It was one of the happiest and goofiest weekends of 2015 for sure.

why hellooooo there

~Journalism convention. If you ever want to see me get excited beyond my own control, take me to a national journalism convention with my best friend. This was such an amazing few days in April (perfectly timed around 4/20) that the national journalism convention was held in downtown at a fancy hotel. It made me realize that yes, this is what I want to do with my life, as our small group of future journos laughed at people practically dyed in the color green on the light rail. It was great. (Read about those few days here)

~Learning to play the harp. It’s my dream instrument, and now I can play it (sorta!)

Favorite place to visit:
~CHICAGO!!! My mom and I went to Chicago for the first time this year, and I fell in love. I fell in love with big cities, with bright, prophetic streets that somehow belong to you despite you never having walked on them before. It was an invigorating experience that I will never forget, and if I end up there next year for college, then that’s all the more reason for my heart to keep on singing today. Read about the fairytale here.

~Cali (twice). California will always have my heart. I feel at home when I go back, and I miss the rolling waves sometimes more than I realize. We went for Josh’s Bar Mitzvah in August, and my mom and I went again for college visits in October. I loved every minute of both trips. (This post touches on my romance with the golden state)

~As always, I loved visiting our own personal Walden cabin in Salida, the quiet Chadron prairie, and our Texas fam. 🙂

The best meal is:
~Babo’s bananas foster cheesecake, on porcelain dishes in a quaint Texas home with locusts blaring outside the window in the sticky July air, wishing they could have a bite, but then you must tell the little guys no, it’s too late, as you lick your plate shiny clean and sigh with every syrupy cell in your blissful body. Seriously, it’s that good.

My favorite books:
~The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This was a beautifully written book about a girl who grows up in foster homes and has trouble with finding who she is–until she gets a job in a flower shop and learns the Victorian “language of flowers.” As someone who is obsessed with flowers myself, this was definitely one of my favorites this year.

~Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Okay, I admit, I read this one for school, but I loved it all the same. It was elegantly grotesque, and I love the way Emily Bronte writes. It’s not your typical love story–it was selfish, brutal, and disturbing–but it was utterly intriguing at the same time.

~A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggars. This was my absolute favorite book I read this year. The title pretty much sums it up, as it was definitely quite sad and at times heartbreaking, but the way Eggars writes is engaging and hilarious and poetic. It’s a memoir of his life as a young free person trying to raise his kid brother after both of his parents die and trying to balance that with living his own life. Full of anecdotes and utterly raw emotions, it was filled to the brim with quotes and inspiration for the writer-person in me. I loved it.

~Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Yes, this is a children’s chapter book, but I’d never read it before and now I’m sad about that. One of my new friends at Joshua Station (where I built the library for my project), Alyssa, a sassy 13 year old, recommended it to me, or I guess more like wouldn’t let me leave without taking the book and promising to read it. I’m glad I actually did read it instead of doing a Google summary because it was one of the better kids’ books I’ve read, and I was bummed I didn’t read it in 5th grade. I probably could’ve learned a lot from the don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins whole deal. It was a quick and good summer night read for sure.

Have a magical 2016 🙂


18 years happy

The greatest of gifts

 Papa Elvis crashed our Christmas, thank you very much

Post-midnight mass

I figure, if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one.
—Calamity Jane

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