The Return of the Blog

After a brief (6 month) hiatus from my blogging adventure, I have made it my New Year’s Resolution to return to writing. In my 6 month break, I have done some wonderful things, but I have also let myself get very busy and have forgotten to sit and reflect. As I find myself rushing from one thing to the next, I decided it was important to build this reflection time back into my life. Therefore, New Year, New Blog.

Last year, my blog had a monthly theme – which sometimes made for trite posts that did not really fit my monthly goal. So, I’m taking a new approach. Reflections. Musings. Creative Ideas. Stories. This year, my blog will encompass any and all of the above, and maybe some other things along the way.

For my first post (this time), I’m setting myself up with some goals for the year. I’m not a big fan of “resolutions.” I think that “resolving” to do something puts a bit to much pressure on me. What if I don’t do it? Will I have failed? Instead, I’m focusing on my goals for the coming year. I have made these goals broad enough that I should be able to meet them in some way. None of my goals are measurable – like lose 10 pounds – or anything like that. Instead, I have decided on goals that will help me to be a better, more loving, and more forgiving person. So here we are:

  1. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities. I get into a routine. I like my routine. It’s comfortable and doesn’t challenge me. But, it doesn’t offer much opportunities for growth. Some of my best decisions I made last year came from my month of saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities. I’m excited to see how many new doors open if I just keep myself open to the possibility.
  2. Say ‘no’ when I need to. The corollary of saying ‘yes’ is saying ‘no’ when something doesn’t feel right. I am a people-pleaser and I like doing things for other people. I like to be involved, and I like to help people out. Sometimes, this means putting myself last and burning the candle at all ends. I have learned that I need time for me. It’s okay for me to take the time I need and put myself first sometimes.
  3. Think of my mistakes as learning opportunities. I preach this to my students every day. Each and every day, I tell them to “Make Mistakes Boldly.” However, I am really bad at doing that myself. I will own my mistakes, but I will endeavor to not let them destroy me. Instead, I will look for the lesson and try to do better next time.
  4. Learn something new every day. This does not have to be anything big like learning a new instrument or a language, but something to open my mind every day. I’m excited to see what the world has to offer!
  5. Listen to Hear. This is probably my most important resolution. As a choir teacher, I have to listen all the time to help my students progress musically. But sometimes I wonder if I’m really hearing what is going on around me. In today’s political climate, it is possible to ignore what I don’t want to hear and focus on what I agree with. In surrounding myself with those with similar viewpoints as myself, I get isolated from others who have things to say. I think it’s important to listen to someone and say “I hear you” and not offer any rebuttal. My goal this year is to have meaningful conversations about everything and really listen to the other person – not to plan my response, but to hear them.

So that’s what I’ve got. I’m sure these 5 goals will produce a number of interesting stories and reflections.

Happy 2018! May this year be the best one yet.

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Challenge 3, Day 4: The Toast

The maitre’d greets us as we walk through the door. He is dressed impeccably in his well-tailored sport coat and silk tie. He asks for our reservation, and a hostess in an sultry black dress escorts us to our seats. The restaurant is a posh reminder of a forgotten elegance, days when people dressed to dine, when people went to see and be seen. As soon as we sit down, our waiter presents us with a bottle of champagne. “Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Jones,” he says as he pops the champagne bottle in one simple flourish. We toast to our new marriage and the journey on which we are embarking.

Prompt from 365 Creative Writing prompts. Story to be continued tomorrow.

Challenge 3, Day 3: Dancing

He’s a 10 year-old boy, and he’s a sensation. Every day at 4:00 PM, people line the street to watch the kid on the corner of 10th and Christopher tap. He’s unassuming as he straps on his worn down taps and presses play on his old CD player. He’s memorized every Gregory Hines routine he can find on YouTube, and can perform them perfectly. Each day, the crowd grows bigger and word-of-mouth spreads and the entire Village is clamoring to see the tap prodigy.

 

Prompt found on 365 Creative Writing Prompts.

Challenge 3, Day 2: The Ship

The massive vessel towered above the motor boats that lined the pier. The sturdy wooden planks harkened back to ships of old and seemed out of place along the modern New York harbor. The ship’s whistle drowned out the din or the busy city streets as it called for its passengers to come aboard. I pick up my suitcase, anxious for the adventure ahead, and I walk the gangway without looking back at the city behind me. I am starting a year away at sea, without the pressures of chaotic city life. As I cross the threshold into the ship’s main cabin, I am transported back to another time. The lush red carpet juxtaposed with the lavish gold accents are reminiscent of a luxurious lifestyle only seen in movies. A clean-cut porter greets me in hallway with a glass of champagne. “Welcome, Miss. Please join us in the dining room for the Captain’s Welcome.” I take the champagne, kiss my desk job goodbye, and prepare myself for the adventure of a lifetime.

Prompt from 365 Creative Writing Prompts.

Challenge 3; Day 1: Outside the Window

It is a blustery, windy day in June. The oppressive heat of the past week has given way to the grey, ominous clouds that promise rainfall. While this change is not unwelcome (the billowing smoke from a distant wildfire reminds me that the Earth is desperate for water), the dull light brings a sleepiness to the environment. I would much rather stay in bed with a good book and a cup of tea than go through my day-to-day routine. However, reality sets in, and I am reminded of the never-ending to-do list that needs attending. I longingly look to my bed; the woven blankets and fluffy pillows are calling to me, but I walk out of my room, prepared to face my day.

 

Prompt from 365 Creative Writing Prompts.

 

Challenge 3: Creative Writing Challenge

Well, this summer has gotten away from me, and now I’m a little behind on starting challenge Number 3. Between getting ready for a new school and traveling, I have been very behind on blog posts. All that is about to change! My next challenge is to write every day. Throughout high school and most of college, I loved to write scripts. I have invented several half-baked television show ideas and a multitude of barely started movies. However, as I went through grad school and started my job, I have let creative writing slip by the wayside.

My new challenge is writing every day this month. While I won’t delve into a new script, I will do short writing prompts every day. Stay tuned for post #1

Challenge 2, Book 3: Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Well-behaved women rarely make history.” This quote has always been compelling to me. As a fervent feminist, I have always interpreted this to mean that in our society, women need to stand out in order to be heard. I am by no means one to make a ruckus or to be in the center of attention, and I certainly never misbehave, but I’d like to think that I can make history as well. So, I loved reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich‘s preface in which she explains the origins of this phrase and how the now iconic quote has taken on a life of its own.

Ulrich explains that the phrase came from a scholarly essay that she penned in 1976 about the funeral sermons of women, and it was written as an aside. Years later, the quote has shown up on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tote bags, and it has become the motto for a strong feminist movement. The slogan takes on a different meaning for everyone who says it. For some groups, it is a rallying cry, for others it is a reminder of a slow and steady march, and for others still, it is a license to have fun. To Ulrich, the quote examines how women who break the mold are remembered by history while those who are more conventional fade. This idea sets up the rest of Ulrich’s book focusing on three women from three distinct time-periods who acted in unconventional ways and recorded or shaped history.

The bulk of the book explores the work of Christine de Pizan, a 15th Century Frenchwoman who wrote “City of Ladies” – a book of women biographies; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 19th century suffragist; and Virginia Woolf, 20th century writer. Ulrich explores how history influences the work of these three women and how they, in turn, each made history. She chooses a turning point in each woman’s life that helped them further their work in their respective fields.

Though the book often jumped from time period to time period, it was an in depth look at how these three ordinary women did something unconventional and made history. This further’s Ulrich’s point about woman’s history as a whole. Going back to the titular quote, Ulrich explains that the slogan originally depicted the dearth of information about women in history. Historically, women who were relegated to domestic roles did not do thing that were chronicled. Yet, all of these women have a history that shaped their communities. Ulrich’s goal was to point historians to examining  at the history of these “ordinary” women to uncover the hidden history of ordinary people.

While this book was not as quick of a read as the other, fiction books I’ve read this month, I found Ulrich’s writing to be compelling, and I found the histories told to be worthwhile and important. I highly recommend this wonderful account of women’s history.

Challenge 2, Book 2: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Well, the best laid plans do not always work out as planned. While I did finish this book in a week, moving and finishing school has prevented me from writing about it until now… such is life.

In a contrast to The Paris Wife, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary was a much lighter form of historical fiction, with a heavy emphasis on the fiction. While the first book kept true to the historical events of 1920’s Paris and the lives of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary used 1940’s London as the backdrop for a fictionalized fast-paced mystery, complete with espionage, false identities, and a plot to kill the prime minister. The events were not necessarily historically accurate, but issues of the day were well-represented (such as threats from the IRA and the bombing of London by the Nazis).

Like The Paris Wife, this book had a strong female protagonist who was at the center of all of the action. Maggie Hope is an intelligent, American (though English-born) woman who gets a job as a secretary for Winston Churchill, working in the underground war rooms. Though previously she was denied a more substantial job that would use her intellect, she takes the job as the typist and is quickly thrown into the world of espionage, intrigue, and national security. The book takes many twists and turns as many potential villains, and love interests, are introduced, and it is captivating throughout. I love classic whodunits, and this was a fun read set in a time period I find fascinating. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is the first in a series of Maggie Hope novels by Susan Elia MacNeil, and I’m very excited to read the rest!

Challenge 2, Book 1: The Paris Wife

Okay, so school has kind of gotten in the way of my reading a book a week challenge, so this first book took a week and 2 days. I’m back on track with a Monday to Monday book week now.

For my first “Read a Book a Week” Challenge, I read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. The book follows the first marriage of author Earnest Hemingway to his wife Hadley. Though the book is based on their real marriage, it is a fictionalized telling of their life in Paris and their travels (and trials) around Europe. The book is mostly told from the perspective of Hadley, the devoted and insecure wife, but some important chapters, focusing on Hemingway’s affairs, are written in third-person, italicized prose. I loved this shift in perspective because it made Hemingway’s indiscretions that much more painful. Hadley was dutifully telling their story,  but every so often the prose would switch; Hemingway would be distant and Hadley would have no idea about the affair. Furthermore, these shifts in perspective captured Hemingway’s short and direct writing style as if these were stories that Hemingway was telling himself.

Aside from the creative use of perspective, McLain does a beautiful job of developing Hadley and Hemingway’s relationship from the time they met throughout their time in Paris. She paints a clear picture of how in love they were with each other while highlighting the challenges of their relationships. It is a beautiful portrait of their marriage, but it puts the spotlight on Hadley, who spent their in Hemingway’s shadow but became her own woman in the process.

The novel also includes familiar characters who were friends of the Hemingways throughout their time in Paris, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and other literary figures. It’s fun to have these characters sprinkled in, adding a bit more depth to the literary world of Paris in the 1920s.

McLain’s writing is beautiful and inviting. I had a hard time putting the book down as I was swept into the wonderful story of Jazz Age Paris. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and strong characters!

Sticking with my theme of historical fiction and strong female characters, my next book is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Report to come next Monday!

 

Challenge 2: Read a new book a week

I love to read. However, during the school year, my time for leisure reading is limited. Now that the year is coming to a close, I have more time for reading for fun! So, my plan is to read a new book every week starting today.

This week’s book: The Paris Wife by Paula McClain. I picked it up from the library a few weeks ago, and I now finally have the time to read it! I’m excited to start reading!