Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Big Blog News: Change of Address

After blogging at this url for almost three years, I've decided to make a big change and move on over to a new address. That's right. I'll be giving up my home at and moving in at While I'm feeling a bit sentimental leaving my first internet home (sniff sniff), I'm really excited to settle in to the new spot. It feels good to start 2011 off in a new home.

Married in Chicago
Just like moving in real life, moving all of my content over to the new url was much more difficult then I anticipated. Packing up 437 posts takes time! Thankfully, Neill is a computer wiz! If we did everything correctly, you shouldn't even notice the change in location. I've brought over all of my old content and so the new blog is pretty darn similar to this one. I did make a few small changes to the layout, which should make it even easier to navigate. Go check them out!

While I am saying goodbye to this url, I hope I'm not saying goodbye to all of you. Update your bookmarks and come say hi over at Married in Chicago.

catch you on the flip side!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas Everyone!!! I'll be spending the next week with my in-laws in the Wild and Wonderful state of West Virginia. I'm so looking forward to relaxing around the fire place, munching on all of the delicious snacks the house is stocked with, and playing the stack of boardgames just waiting for us on the dining room table.

the christmas tree

If you have some downtime this weekend, check out this collection of all thing inspiring in 2010 and take a minute to add your own!

Loads of love,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Using Curtains for Closet Doors

Sorry to leave you hanging with our bedroom revamp. Remember this board? Things are coming along well! I want to share pictures once everything is in place, but I've been waiting for our lamps to arrive (they were backordered). This has given us more time than expected to work on our bedroom. It is already feeling so much better and these last few tweaks are going to make it perfect!

Let me show you some of the layout of our bedroom, closet, and bathroom. I'll wait here while you click on the picture to see the bigger version.

look at my fancy drawing!

As you can see, we have a nice big closet (score), but the layout is a bit awkward. Our closet is basically the opposite of tucked away! This means there is absolutely no hiding from an unruly closet. And unfortunately, when our closet is messy it makes the whole room feel untidy. It goes without saying that this drives me absolutely crazy. How can I get any sleep when there is a messy closet in eye sight?

 I've tried to keep our closet organized and neat, but I'm just incapable of maintaining any sense of order in there for more than a few days. After struggling against my closet demons for years, I'm finally ready to admit defeat. (I say my demons because I've taken over the entire closet basically, so I can't even blame Neill for this one!)

So, we've decided to use drapes to keep the closet/bathroom area hidden from view. But, this can't just be any old curtain. I want it to look luxe and chic - not cheap. Cue inspiration photos.

All of these pictures make the curtains look chic and purposeful. By analyzing what they have in common, I hope to achieve the same result.

Drapery Style: All have a grommet, ring top, or rod pocket. This looks much more modern than a tie top, tab top, or anything with too much pleating. Personally, I love the modern look of grommet top drapes or ring top drapes.  

Length: The longer the better! The curtain rods are set as high as possible and the curtains end right above the floor or gently pool. Since we'll be using our drapes for a doorway (that has no molding), I'll position the curtain rod at ceiling height and plan for them to just reach the floor.

Fabric: Not only do most of these images feature fun prints or bold colors, but I think the nicest ones also seem to use a weightier fabric for the drapes. Cotton drapes may look flimsy on the wide doorway I will be covering, but I bet a silk duponi or even velvet would look stunning.

Number of panels: The pictures are kind of split on this - some feature just one panel and others have two. Either way you go, I think the trick is to order extra width in the fabric so that there is a fullness to the drapes. I've heard you should order curtains two times the width of your window size to add volume.

Here are some of the options I am considering right now.

west elm

pottery barn

pottery barn

I'm crushing hard on this last one - the color is perfect. If someone from Pottery Barn is reading this, could you please send me one of these in a 108' length? kthnx. That would be the sort of Christmas miracle I could really get into.

What do you think about using drapes instead of doors? Do you have any good tips for making it look stylish?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reverb 10 - Avoidance

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

What a great question! Unfortunately, there are quite a few things I wanted to do this year that I just never went for. A big boo to that. I wanted to:
-take spanish lessons (too busy)
-go back to europe with neill (too broke, too busy, too unsure)
-get my drivers license (too scared)
-paint our condo (too busy and too unsure - its hard to pick paint colors!)
-run in a 5k (too scared and too unsure)

I'm sure there are more too. If I can do even one or two of these things in 2011, I'll be really proud of myself!

*edit: just realized the question asked what I should have done - not what I wanted to do. The only thing that falls in the should category is getting my license. Too bad in 2011 I'd much rather travel through Europe than worry about driving.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reverb 10 - Healing

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leoni Allan)

I didn't start off 2010 with an ailment, a break, or a wound and I don't feel like I'm ending this year feeling particularly restored or cleansed. Truth be told, I'm having a difficult time seeing the relevance of this question to my life. I lived each day, doing the the things I had to do and trying to fit in the things I wanted to do. Perhaps I should have focused more on "healing" - but, quite frankly,  I didn't feel broken to begin with.
For 2011, I don't feel as though I have an area in myself or my life that is desperately calling out for a healing. Here is a quick run through:

Psychological: In general, I believe that everyone probably has some psychological dents or dings that can be smoothed out. But, most people who are able to successfully manage their day to day life do not need to be "healed." I'm content with my dings - they give me personality :)

Physical: I've already mentioned that there are things I want to do to improve my physical health, but  I'm thankful that I am in good health and don't need to pray for healing.

Relational: Everything is pretty hunkey-dory here. I've got good people in my life and my relationships tend to be pretty conflict free. I can be pretty slow to warm up to people, so perhaps in 2011 that is an area that I can work to improve on.

Spiritual: Feeling good, feeling great. I just wrote a series of posts related to this here, here, and here.

Am I missing any big area?

On a side note, I'm just over about half-way done with Reverb 10 and I've got to say I'm a little disappointed with  all of these hippy dippy new agey questions. I like the idea of reviewing the past year, but I was hoping Reverb 10 would focus more on creating actual plans and goals for next year.  Am I the only one getting terribly sick of them?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reverb 10 - Lesson Learned

Lesson Learned - What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

I think one of the most reassuring things I learned about myself this year is that I can make it through the tough times. I've had my fair share of wanna pull my hair out-hide under the covers-this can't go on oh shit moments this past year. Whether it was the stress of wedding planning or getting beaten down by graduate school, there were certainly times when I sincerely wanted to throw in the towel. For example, if you spoke to me a few months ago I would have probably confided in you that I was thinking about leaving school after getting my masters degree instead of staying on to work on my PhD. Why? Because never having a day off starts to take its toll on a girl! But, I made it through the rough times and this gives me confidence for my ability to tackle what ever is coming next.

As corny as it sounds, there were actually a few quotes that really helped me roll with the punches this year.

"When you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."
"Tough times never last, but tough people do."

"Keep calm and carry on."

 Do you have any good quotes that give you the motivation to keep going or help you make it through the rough patches?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reverb 10 - Action

With the crunch of finals, I got really behind in my Reverb 10 posts. Thankfully, I'm done done done with this semester!!!!!!! Here is the prompt from December 13th.

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

Ooo ooo I know the answer to this!!! The next big goal I am working towards is defending my thesis. There are a number of things I need to do to make this happen: analyze my data, write up the results, write a discussion section, edit edit edit, format the paper, send document in for a format check, schedule a time for the defense, distribute final paper to my committee, develop power point presentation for the defense, do the presentation, make any changes recommended by my committee, make any changes mandated by my format consultant, and submit final copy along with relevant paperwork to the graduate school. 

I get a little overwhelmed looking at this list, but it feels more doable to just focus on the next step--data analysis. My goal is to have my data analysis done by the first week of January. Hopefully I can keep up my motivation!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Celebrating Christmas for Jewish Girls : A Guide (Part III)

It is finally time to start talking about Christmas!!! Can you tell how excited I am? 

Neill and I celebrate Christmas with his family in West Virginia and it is always a great time. And you know what I've learned? Celebrating Christmas is a whole lot like celebrating Chanukah -- except with more candy. Yes, there are the obvious differences, but both of our family holiday traditions surround spending time with family, eating good food, and exchanging gifts. Hopefully, you don't need a guide to tell you how to do those things!

One thing that is different about Christmas it that there are so many more decorations. With Chanukah, all you need is a menorah and you are set. With Christmas, you've got stockings, wreaths, poinsettias, garlands, and Christmas lights--and that is in addition to a Christmas tree. We've never had even a hint of Christmas in our condo. Since we are always out of town for the holiday, it just seemed . . . unnecessary. 

But, this year--for the first time ever--I wanted to bring some Christmas into our home. I can't stress enough how absolutely wonderful Neill was this Chanukah. He set up the menorah, learned the prayers, helped make latkes, and lit the candles with me every night. It felt so good to have him be an active participant in the holiday that I wanted to do the same for him! If a Christian can celebrate Chanukah like a pro, I see no reason why a Jew can't celebrate Christmas!

See, in the past we've approached Chanukah like it was my holiday and Christmas like it was his holiday. I was in charge of all things Chanukah and he was in charge of Christmas. This year, however, our approach shifted. Chanukah was our holiday and I want to make Christmas our holiday too. I'm looking forward to celebrating Christmas in West Virginia with my in-laws for years to come, but that doesn't mean we can't bring some of the Christmas joy into our home! 

So I present to you everything you need to know about how to make your house look like one big Christmas party. For someone who has spent her whole life trying to ignore all things Christmas, it was quite a change to actually have to think about this stuff! There are so many decisions to be made, so many color schemes to choose from. I decided to keep things classic and stick with red, green, and white. I hope you enjoy! 
This is how Christmas dumb I am - I found myself googling phrases like "Where do you buy a Christmas wreath?" and "How to hang a wreath." And you know what I found out? They make products for that - wreath hangers! Who knew? But, you know what I like even better? This idea -- hang a wreath on each side of the door and use a pretty piece of ribbon to hold them both up (with the middle of the ribbon going on the top of the door and each end wrapped around a wreath). Here are the two I picked - both are variations on my red, white, and green color scheme.
Ornament Wreath

Berry Wreath

I was so excited when Neill's mom made me my own stocking the first year I celebrated Christmas with them. I want us to have stockings to hang on our fireplace too! I really like these simple white stockings from Garnett Hill.


+Stocking Holders
Oh my oh my oh my. Stocking holders might be by new favorite accessory! There are so many fun ones -- I just couldn't pick between these three.   

JOY stocking holder

Gift Box Stocking Holder

Reindeer Stocking Holder

+A Christmas Tree
A Christmas tree is probably the most iconic symbol of Christmas, however, with our small condo it isn't very practical. But do you know what is totally doable? An ornament tree! I don't know if I've just been living under a rock or what, but I've actually never heard of one of these. But, it just seems like the perfect way to get some glittery ornament goodness without having a tree. Here are three I've found:

Ornament Tree
Ornament Tree

Ornament Tree

I've never paid much attention to ornaments. So, I was surprised to see just how beautiful some ornaments are. But why oh why do I always fall in love with the most expensive accessories? These Waterford ornaments are just gorgeous.
crosshaven ornament
garland ornament

I think we'll need about twelve ornaments to fill our ornament tree. And since the ornaments are truly the focus of the ornament trees, I felt a little pressure to find the perfect combination. I love the folksy swirls of these first two ornament designs! To keep them the center of attention, I'll fill the rest of the stand with solid green, red, and white ornaments of varying size (all ornaments from c&b). 

Swedish Cookie Ornaments

Folk Swirl Ornaments

White Ornaments

Red Ornaments

Green Ornaments

Whew! Now that is a lot of Christmas sparkle!

I feel lucky to be in an interfaith relationship. I truly believe I'm getting the best of both worlds. Not only do we get extra time to soak up the holiday goodness, but I think both of our lives are enriched by the new holidays and traditions we've been exposed to. While how we manage our faiths is bound to change over the years, for now we've found a happy combination that works for us--two parts latkes, one part Christmas ham, and one part chocolate covered marshmallow Santas.

Psss. Read Part I and Part II

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Celebrating Christmas for Jewish Girls : A Guide (Part II)

In Part I, I described what I would call the interfaith low point of our relationship. I was angry that Neill knew nothing about Judaism and unsure if he could ever "get it." I'm not quite sure what Neill was feeling at this point. My guess is that he was probably feeling confused ("Why is she so angry about this? What is the big deal?") and frustrated (Why is she acting like I'm a bad person or that this is my fault?"). But, I think there might have also been a part of him that understood where I was coming from to some extent. Having grown up as an ethnic minority in a predominantly White area, Neill knows a thing or two about being the odd man out.


In this post, I want to focus on how we got from Point A to Point B. I am writing this not only to reflect on our relationship, but also with the hopes that others going through the same thing might be able to take something useful from this.

How I Made Our Interfaith Relationship Work For Me*

+Being Honest With Myself
Even at 19 I was aware there were certain things that I would be unable to compromise on in regards to religion. For example, I felt strongly that my future children be raised in the Jewish faith and culture (i.e., no going to Church one week and Synagogue the next). I was honest with myself about what I felt were my deal breakers and I didn't even pretend to want to compromise on these.

+Being Honest with Neill
Given that there were issues I knew I could not compromise on, I directly asked Neill about his views and was honest with him about where I stood from early on in our relationship. I believe the conversations went something like this,

Me: Do you want kids?
Neill: Sure, one day. I love kids.
Me: Great. Just so you know - if I ever have kids they will be raised Jewish. Okay?
Neill: Um. Okay.

It probably wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that I interrogated him about his beliefs. Somehow, Neill managed to pass! But if he hadn't? I don't think I would have stuck around. I feel bad saying this, but it just wouldn't have made sense for me to invest my time and energy. For example, one of my deal-breakers was the belief that Christianity is the one true religion. Why would I be with someone who looked down on my religion?

It's worth noting that the process of being honest with myself and with Neill is not something that you can just check off your list and be done with. It is a continuous process. Plus, people's feelings on religion can change. Now that we are married I obviously wouldn't run in the opposite direction if Neill decided to recommit himself to the Church (at least not right away), but if that ever happened we would have A LOT of issues to work out.

+Letting Go of The Anger/ Finding my Sense of Humor 
Ohhh my good friend anger. It was hard to let you go, but I'm so glad I ditched you at the curb. 

Why did I have so much anger in the first place? The answer to that is much more complex than I can adequately describe here, but I'll share the key pieces of information. My grandfather on my father's side was a Holocaust survivor. He escaped from Austria and came to the United States, but the majority of his family did not survive. Obviously, this experience drastically changed my grandfather's world view and to a large extent his view of Christians. This was passed down to my father who then passed it down to me. But, by the time I was 19 I could see that this anger had not served my father well. Anger, unless put to good use, rarely does.

That's not to say that some of that old anger doesn't pop up once in a while. Now, however, I direct my anger at systems - not people. For example, instead of: "I'm angry at Neill" it is "I'm angry that there are school systems in our country that do not educate their students about Judaism and other world-religions." I fully believe that people are a product of their environment and so redirecting my anger in this manner is consistent with my values. Furthermore, statements such as this are more productive in that they suggest institutions that need reform instead of just raging at one individual. 

The second part of letting go of my anger at Neill was finding a reaction to take its place. For me, it really helped to approach situations with a sense of humor. Joking about our differences can sometimes help bring us together.  

+Involving Neill in My Family's Traditions
Whew! After all of that hard work, we are finally getting to the fun part! Once we figured out that Neill was willing to learn and I was willing to teach, it was time to get down to celebratin'. In thinking about what was really important to me, I decided that I didn't care whether or not Neill had a large body of knowledge about Judaism. In general, what mattered most to me was that he got my flavor of Judaism. In other words, I wanted him to understood my beliefs, my culture, and my faith much more than I wanted him to know factual information on the religion.  

And what better way to learn than by doing? Sure, Neill was like a deer in headlights his first time at a Passover seder, but now after a few go-arounds through a haggadah he is a pro!

I remember the first time we went to celebrate Chanukah at my mom's house we practiced the Chanukah song in the car the whole way there. Now, fast forward five years. This past Chanukah, Neill blew my socks off by being able to SING THE HEBREW prayers for lighting the menorah ALL BY HIMSELF. Yep. Pretty amazing, right?

And of course, Neill took an immediate liking to the food. But, I guess it is pretty hard to not like a bagel with cream cheese and lox :)


+Clearly Communicating Expectations
This is last, but certainly not least! I don't think I can over-stress how important this was to making things work. Because we are still figuring out how we want to celebrate these holidays and developing our own traditions, we still have to communicate about our plans. But, sometimes I have this nasty habit of thinking that Neill should just magically know what I want (example: "What do you mean you didn't know I wanted you to cancel band practice so that you could be home all 8 nights of Chanukah????"). So, I have to work doubly hard at making sure I communicate what I want. This means that I have to first decide what I want in advance. For me, this can be the most difficult part! But, I appreciate that it helps me be more purposeful in how I celebrate the holidays. I've found that if I can clearly communicate with Neill about what I'd like, Neill is usually more than happy to make that happen.

 So there you have it - the five things I think are the vital elements to our interfaith relationship: honesty with self, honesty with partner, having a sense of humor, involving your partner in family traditions, and communication. 

With all of these things coming together, Neill and I have been able to successfully navigate our interfaith world. In fact, the longer we are together the less it feels like we even are an interfaith couple! If you take away the labels of "Jewish" or "Christian", we have more beliefs in common than not. And when we pray, I believe we are praying to the same God. Plus, as Neill has become more invested in celebrating Jewish holidays, I've found myself becoming more open than I ever thought I would be to celebrating the Christian holidays in our home.

In Part III, the last installment, I'm going to talk about how we are bringing the Christmas cheer into our home for the very first time!

*I can't really speak to how Neill came to terms with our interfaith relationship.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reverb 10 - 11 Things

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

Can I just say 11 pounds? Because I really don't need to be carrying around 11 extra pounds right now.


Apparently this is what five pounds of fat looks like.  Here is what one pound looks like with a size reference.

1 pounder

Isn't that just grrreeeat?

I've thought about starting some sort of food blog to help me be more mindful of what I'm putting in my body, but I've never followed through. Perhaps something like what Jenna does at That Wife? I tend to think of myself as a "healthy eater," but I have a sinking feeling that if I really analyzed about everything that I ate I might be surprised at how unhealthy my diet actually is.

 I don't think losing 11 pounds would change my life much, but I do think I'd feel better about myself!

Reverb 10 - Wisdom

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? 
(Author: Susannah Conway)

Another easy one! I made a big big big decision this year - I got married! I'm confident that not only was the decision wise (i.e, showing good judgment) but that I also I made the decision prudently.

our first kiss

As of tomorrow we will married six months so it seems a little premature to talk about how this decision played out. But, so far so good :) 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Celebrating Christmas for Jewish Girls : A Guide (Part I)

Now that Chanukah is over, it is time to move on to Christmas.

Yup, that is right. I'm going to go all in this year and go two for two.

But, before I talk about our Christmas plans this year I want to share with you how we got to this point because it has been a long road, baby. Let me explain.

I'm Jewish and my husband is not. I don't want to speak for him in terms of what he considers himself because I think that is a really personal and complex decision, but suffice it to say he grew up going to Catholic school and his family is Christian.

second date (2005)

When we first started dating my DH told me that I was the first Jewish person he had ever really known. I can't remember exactly what brought this up, but I sure do remember how I felt afterward - I couldn't imagine that it was possible for someone to live their whole life and never have met a person who is Jewish.

Furthermore, it made me angry because as a Jewish person growing up in a largely Christian world I have been forced to become familiar with Christian holidays. I couldn't avoid the information even if I had tried. And, at the time, I felt there was no reason in the world that made it okay to be ignorant about other religions and their beliefs and holidays. I thought by adulthood that any thoughtful person would have made an effort to educate themselves on other religions. So the excuse (which is how I saw it) that he didn't know about Judaism because he had never met a Jewish person just made me angry.

3 month anniversary
I felt that it shouldn't be my job or the job of any other Jewish person to educate members of the dominant religion on our faith and culture. I am not the spokesperson for Judiasm and I resented being put in that position.

On top of the anger (or maybe underneath of it), I think it made me a little sad. Everyone wants to be understood by their partner and I think I started to question whether it was possible for Neill to understand me.

So if you couldn't tell already, I had some strong feelings on the subject! Looking back, I think this could have been a point where either one of us decided to throw in the towel (remember, we had only been dating a few months). I was realizing that it was important to me that my partner respected and understood where I was coming from as a Jew and I could have made the decision to stop pursuing an interfaith relationship. On the other side of things, Neill also might have decided that he would rather date someone who celebrated the same holidays as him and didn't have the same anger over his lack of knowledge of Judaism.

But, we didn't (obviously). In fact, somehow we were able to get to the point we are today - enjoying the best of both worlds.

Chanukah 2008
Christmas 2006 - I have a stocking!

In Part II, I will address how Neill and I navigated our interfaith relationship. And then get to the fun stuff - our Christmas plans for this year!

pss. read part II here!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reverb 10 - The Party

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. 
(Author: Shauna Reid)

Well, this is almost too easy. 


Reverb 10 - Beautifully different

December 8 - Beautifully Different (just a day late!)

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

There are tons of things that are "different' about me, but I'm pretty sure they are currently being underappreciated. For example, I like to leave the carton of soy milk out on the counter after using it instead of putting away. DH doesn't like this very much. Perhaps I need to explain to him that this is what makes me beautiful?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reverb 10 - Make

This one is easy! After spending all day cooking on Sunday for our Chanukah party, I feel like I've been making a lot lately. I'm not sure which dish was technically the last, but I do know which one was the easiest - Deb's mom's noodle kugle. I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen pretty much word for word (with no cherries), so I won't repost the recipe here. But let me tell you - IT IS EASY. AND DELICIOUS. This makes a winning combination. It all came together with egg noodles, eggs, sugar, cottage cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt.

I love cooking so there are always dishes that I want to make. But, a while back this recipe for pumpkin pie bars caught my eye. yummo. I have wanted to make these, but just haven't quite been able to find the time for it. However, it is probably better for my waistline if these stay on the "to-do" list rather than move over to the "scarfed down" category.

Reberb 10 - Let Go

Remember how I said I was going to be flexible with my commitment to this? Well, this was actually yesterday's prompt. I didn't get to it because my day was jam packed with preparing for my Chanukah party and studying for finals. It is a good one though - so I'm going to go for it today.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

When I first read this prompt Sunday morning I was immediately taken by the question. I'm obsessed with letting things go. I like nothing better than to go through our house and make a big pile of all of the things we don't need/don't use/don't want. 

I don't want to be defined by things. I don't want to be overrun with things. I don't want to hold on to material possessions just for the sole purpose of having things. And so I purge (my stuff). I tear my closet apart and purge the dress I will no longer wear, the jean jacket I've had for two years and never worn, and old jeans that don't fit. I tear our cabinets apart too and ask myself questions like "Can we survive with only 1 spatula?" and "What is the minimum number of mixing bowls we need?" I argue with my husband and try and tear his things apart too.   

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reverb10 - Wonder

So I've already messed up with this Reverb 10 challenge - I missed yesterday! oops. But that is the way life goes sometimes. I'm giving myself permission to be flexible in my commitment to this project. If I miss a day here and there it is because other things took priority.

Here is the question for today

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? 
(Author: Jeffrey Davis)

To prompt my thoughts on this I looked up the definition of "wonder." As a verb, wonder means "to think or speculate curiously" or "to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe." As a noun, wonder means "the emotion excited by what is strange and surprising; a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, sometimes tinged with admiration."

After mulling over this definition, I must conclude that I don't have much of a sense of wonder in my life. I tend to be a bit cynical and it is hard to cultivate a sense of excited interested when you're too busy making snarky comments.

It is a shame too. I'm in the lucky position of getting paid to learn and do research. Looking at the first definition I provided, you could argue that it is actually my job to wonder. In my previous line of work this wasn't the case and I missed learning new things. Now, however, I've slipped into viewing learning as a chore instead of something to relish. 

While I don't think I'll ever stop loving snarky comments, perhaps it might make sense to try and cultivate just a teensy bit of wonder into my life. But, I'm not sure if I even know the first steps to doing this! How do you cultivate a sense of wonder?


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reverb10 - Writing

December 2 Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

I'm currently working on my thesis right now to get my master's degree in clinical psychology so that I can move on to working on my Ph.D. A lot of different kinds of work go into a thesis, but at the end of the day it all comes down to writing. It doesn't matter if you become an expert in your topic through countless hours of research, design an elegant study, collect data, or have interesting conclusions. If you don't write it, it doesn't count.

I'm at the "approved proposal" crest
Last year, when I started my project,  professors suggested that I make time to write everyday. They advised me to schedule a small amount of time every day that I could devote just to writing, even if it was just half an hour. It sounded so simple, so easy. Thirty minutes a day and before you know it - a thesis! But, you know what? I never was able to follow through.

Not only did I want to take mental breaks from my project, but I found it very hard to get geared up to only work for 30 minutes. Thoughts like "I won't get anything done in just thirty minutes so why even start" made it hard to get motivated. Of course I didn't write everyday - I kept telling myself it would be a waste of time! 

There are lots of other obstacles to writing everyday, but most of them I can't control. Negative thinking, however, is something that I can work on changing. The truth of the matter is, 30 minutes is enough to: edit a few pages, read two or three articles, or write a couple of paragraphs. Focusing on what I can accomplish in the time I have will help me meet my goal of finishing my thesis by June*.

*Whether or not this happens by writing everyday or just once or twice a week, I don't care. I just want to be done already!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Psss. Guess what? I've decided to sign up for Reverb 10 as a way to reflect on this year and make some goals for 2011. Each day I'll be answering a prompt as part of this project.

The prompt for today was written by Gwen Bell.

"Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?"

I think my word for 2010 would have to be "planning". Neill and I planned a wedding as well as, more figuratively, a future. 2010 was also my first full year in graduate school. Not only did it take a lot of planning to get there, but the first year includes a lot of planning for things to come. In general, I think a lot of my energy in 2010 went to laying the groundwork for what I hope to accomplish and what I hope life will be like in the future.

I hope 2011 can be captured by the word "celebrate." I'd like to celebrate anything and everything possible in 2011 with good friends, good food, and good wine. In fact, I'm already getting a jump start on this by making a commitment to celebrate all 8 nights of Chanukah this year! 

Happy Chanukah!

Happy Chanukah everyone! Neill and I lit the candles, sang the Chanukah song, and now he is making dinner. I might have sneaked a few pieces of Chanukah gelt too :) Do I have it good or what?

For those of you who may not be as familiar with Chanukah, provides a nice little summary of what Chanukah commemorates. They write:
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.
When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.
So basically it boils down to the same thing a lot of Jewish holidays celebrate - They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat!