2016 Reading Challenge

If you know me well, you know I love to read. That’s why when I found out about the Goodreads app, I was all over it. One of its features is the ability to set annual challenges for yourself to read a certain number of books. While I wouldn’t say I read large amounts at a time, I do try to be consistent in taking time to read regularly. This year I resolved to read 15 books. Here is some of what I’ve read so far:

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
A collection of writings by a woman who died young, it was both thought-provoking and entertaining. Since the essays and stories were relatively short, it made for a quick, easy read. Sometimes I would have to pause at the end of a story to process what I had just read, and I pondered with awe how this girl came up with so many creative ideas and put them onto paper so beautifully.

Released from Shame: Moving Beyond the Pain of the Past
I bought this book for under a dollar, and I loved it. Right now I’m going through a phase of being fascinated by nonfiction that focuses on psychology, emotional health, personal growth, etc. This definitely beckons you to face the darkness of your past, or it teaches you how to better relate to those who have had a challenging past. While full of sadness, it also offers hope and healing to weary souls.

Women Who Run with the Wolves
This one took me months to read. I started it sometime last year and didn’t finish it until just a couple months ago. But I mean that in a good way. This was a long, dense, but amazing read. It explores ancient folklore and reveals psychological lessons we can learn from various stories. Written primarily for a female audience, it challenges women to embrace their femininity to the fullest. If you decide to read this book, take your time and savor it. Don’t pressure yourself to rush through it or it may become overwhelming.

Sunny Side Up
I guess this is technically a graphic novel. I haven’t read much in this genre, but I really enjoyed it. I was able to breeze through it in a day, and it provided somewhat of a mental break after the other longer books I had been reading. I actually was able to get a galley free from a library sale. Set in the ’70s, the story follows a girl who travels to Florida for summer vacation. It was seemingly light-hearted at first, but I soon realized  it included a more somber twist. Thought-provoking, yet tender as well.

Dreamtreaders
The first book in the Dreamtreaders’ series, this adventure novel explores the world beyond waking reality. It brings the dream world to life in a way I hadn’t thought about before. This was a great book to read before my bedtime to help me wind down at the end of the day. It was exciting and fun, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Spirituality is another subject I love reading about. The author is irreverent but genuine, and he brings up some excellent points and questions about the Christian faith. The book follows his journey between his fundamentalist Christian upbringing and his explorations of less conservative, more “worldly” lifestyles. The author’s relatability and honesty about his doubts makes the Christian faith seem less intimidating. An enjoyable read that made me think.

I have other books that I’m reading or have read, but the above list is a handful of the ones that have really stuck with me. Share in the comments what you’re reading this year!

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My New Year’s Resolutions

 

  • Clean out closet – completely
  • Clean out car
  • Keep at least one of these snacks on hand as consistently as possible:
    • baby carrots
    • cherry tomatoes
    • cucumbers
    • sugar snap peas
    • edamame
  • Achieve the ability to do 10 regular pushups in a row
  • Achieve the ability to do a pull up
  • Increase my jogging speed to a consistent 10 minute mile or less
  • Read 15 books

These are a few thoughts I wanted to jot down. I’m not big on resolutions, but I am big on setting achievable goals. What are your goals?

Woolen and Wonderful

I have had the pleasure of rediscovering a favorite hobby of mine: spinning. After running out of my last batch of wool, I was hesitant to buy more (I do try to live frugally). However, when a friend of mine announced that she was going to a sheep and wool festival, I couldn’t resist asking her to get some wool for me.

That spurred a conversation about how fun it would be to create a blog series on the journey of the wool. As she lives hundreds of miles away from me, she had to send me the wool, after which I would spin it, send it back, and she would knit something from it.

The first adventure in this journey involved the festival itself, which I will link to here, my friend Dorian’s blog (she speaks of this specific wool toward the end of her post).

The second adventure rests with me, the spinner. I was overjoyed when I received the wool in the mail, and could not wait to begin spinning.

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She had sent me a bundle of both black wool and white, and I set out to work as soon as I could. I was fascinated by the different textures of the wool; the white was smooth and easy to spin rather quickly. The black wool felt a little more coarse, and it was more difficult to spin a consistent thread.

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The string that resulted is called single-ply yarn, meaning it is one strand. From here I took the black yarn and the white yarn and spun them together, creating two-ply yarn. Two-ply will be much easier to work with because it is less likely to twist back on itself, and it is also stronger than single-ply.

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I had some leftover white wool, so I spun a little bit of white two-ply yarn to finish it off. I am proud of how it turned out, and of how my little drop spindle has held up all these years. Now I get to send it to my friend to see what she makes with it. Back to you, Dorian.

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Minimalism and the Internet

I am now settled into my new apartment with the adventures of adulthood knocking at my door. For the first month of my living here, I thought I would experiment with not purchasing a wifi plan and seeing how long I could last.

Not the best idea.

I will say this: I’m not a fan of people who are addicted to their screens. Sometimes I can be that person, although I try not to be. I figured it was worth trying to go without internet and therefore purging what wasn’t adding value to my life. Hopefully it would force me to get out more.

The problem I had was that instead of going out more, I stayed in more. I cocooned. Being introverted, I already don’t like to go out much, and not having internet only made me feel more lonely and less connected. Sometimes, if I have several days off from work, I may not even leave my house because I see no reason to. I entertain myself with cleaning, crafting, and reading. Sometimes I would try to hang out with friends, but I’m also in that stage where I’m trying to find a community outside of college, which brings with it its own unique challenges. There are only so many things to do inside a house before boredom joins the party.

I want to view the internet as a tool, and I admit I do waste time on it, but if I’m not going to leave my house anyway, at least the internet gives me the ability to find new articles, watch movies, and see what other people my age are up to.

Hopefully as time goes on, I may find more valuable ways to pass the time, but for now, this is where I am in my journey.

Questions to Ask on a Date?

While I don’t know much about dating, I do enjoy looking at articles with fun date ideas – because sometimes the activities mentioned seem like good ideas whether you have a date or not!

We know that a first date can be awkward. What do you talk about? I especially don’t care for small talk, so the conversation would probably become uncomfortable for me quite quickly. In my thought process, I don’t really care how many facts about you I can recite, because knowing about you isn’t the same as knowing you. That’s  partly what distinguishes our relationships to our friends versus our celebrity crushes. Learn as much as you want about Jennifer Lawrence, but unless you take her out for pizza and spend time with her, chances are you won’t really know her that well.

That being said, I came up with the following list of questions that will guarantee success on any first date you go on.

Actually I have no idea if these are any good; these are just questions I’ve thought about in my spare time when my brain has nothing better to do.

If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for?

If you had a completely empty day ahead of you, how would you spend it?

Were you to pick any job besides the one you have, what would you want to do?

Do you like sweet, salty, or spicy foods?

What is one of your favorite places to go in town?

If you could pick any era to live in, past, present, or future, what would you pick?

What is something you don’t want to live without?

What is something you’re thankful for today?

What, if anything, do you want to change about the world?

Who do you want to be in the future?

When is your favorite time of day?

Where do you go to relax?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? (answer: the world will never know)

What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked on a first date?

*Disclaimer: Katherine Hill is not liable for any rejections or failures that result from using this list of questions, so please do not sue her. Side affects may include queasy stomach, palm sweating, frequent trips to the bathroom, and uncomfortable silences.

 

The Irish Harp

Summer 2012

It was my dream to play a harp in Ireland. I had spent years learning how to play the Irish harp, but only in America. Now that I was in Ireland, I thought it would be fun to play a “real” Irish harp. To my surprise, it was more difficult to find a harp to play than I thought it would be. I explored the streets of Dublin, but I never found the harp store. I visited a music store in Limerick, but all they had were ornamental harps, having no more than 4-10 strings. I became discouraged, but I did not give up hope. I knew I would have one more chance to find a harp during the evening of music at Newport.

When we arrived at the school house which held the event, I stepped inside and eagerly scanned the room. I saw a multitude of children playing violins, accordions, whistles, and drums. Then it caught my eye. Standing off-center in the midst of the children’s ensemble was the instrument I had been looking for: the Irish harp. My body shook, partly from the chilly air and partly out of excitement. I desperately hoped for an opportunity to play before the night ended, but I was nervous too. What would everyone think of me, an American, playing Irish music on an Irish instrument? I hoped that I would do it justice.

When my name was called and I was asked if I wanted to play the harp, I nodded eagerly. Rising from my seat, I stepped toward the front of the room, where the harper from the ensemble set the instrument next to an empty chair. I sat down to get familiar with the harp while Denis Carey introduced the piece I was about to play, which was an original composition of his. I am glad he did the talking; I couldn’t have spoken if I wanted to, my voice being scratchy from my cold. While he spoke, I ran my fingers over the strings, feeling the sound. The tuning was slightly different from what I was used to, so I decided it would be easier to transpose the piece from its original key to the harp’s current tuning so I wouldn’t have to change it. The harp itself stood probably less than 4 1/2 feet tall –– shorter than my harp back home. It rested just beneath my right shoulder as I stretched my arms over the soundboard, ready to play. In a matter of seconds, the introduction was over; it was time to play.

I began to play the first chords of a sad, sweet farewell tune, and the magic melody resonated off the soundboard, reminding me of my harp back home. My fingers glided over the unfamiliar strings –– rougher than nylon, but smoother than gut –– I’m not sure what they were made of, but I enjoyed their timbre. In those few moments, my nervousness, the cold, and the people listening all disappeared as I became absorbed in playing. In those moments, nothing existed but the music and me. I played a few wrong notes, which I hoped I covered up smoothly enough, but it almost didn’t matter. The harp was playing itself, and I was along for an enchanting ride.

As the notes of the final chord drifted away into the air, the room erupted with applause. I stood, smiling, and began to walk back to my seat. I received several compliments on my playing from people on the way, but there was no greater compliment than the praise from the composer himself, Denis Carey. I hoped he hadn’t noticed the wrong notes I had struck, and he didn’t appear to. His smile was almost as wide as mine as he told me how much he enjoyed my playing.

I sank back into my seat, filled with a joy deeper than words. My dream had come true.

My First Massage

There’s something beautiful about surrendering your body to the care of another. It’s humbling, but it’s also rewarding. Humbling, because you’re allowing someone into your personal space; rewarding, because there is a certain freedom that comes with being able to let go.

My birthday was recently, so I wanted to treat myself to a professional massage. I’m not a very touchy-feely person, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, being a little weirded out by the idea of someone touching me. But the therapist greeted me with a warm smile and made me feel at ease right away. She led me into a small, dimly lit room where soft music played in the background, talked me through what to expect, and then left me to get settled onto the table.

She started with my head; I had forgotten that head massaging was a thing. But it was great. She moved her way around the table, working on different parts of my body, not neglecting even my hands and feet. She massaged muscles I didn’t even realize I had, causing me to want to just melt with relaxation. It was only thirty minutes, and I was sad that it went by so quickly, but I felt wonderful afterwards. Not happy, exactly, but more at rest. Less stressed out than I had been after a long week.

Getting a massage might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a way to relieve some stress, I would definitely recommend it – especially if you’re like me and enjoy trying new things.

Aroma Therapy

 

photo by Google Images

Summer Adventures: Don’t Drown!

I didn’t think of myself as much of a control freak until I stepped into water.

Yes, it’s true. I didn’t learn how to swim when I was younger. And people are shocked when I tell them that. But I decided it was time to change that. It was time I learn how to prolong my life for another five minutes in case I was stuck in deep water, since that’s a pretty useful skill.

I went to my friends’ house a couple times, where I learned in their four-foot deep pool how to doggy paddle and float on my back.

And it was awesome.

The hardest part for me was being able to relax. I felt a need to keep my head completely above water and my feet on the ground; otherwise I felt like I lost control. But when you’re swimming you have to give up control. You have to trust the water to carry your body, and you have to trust yourself to stay afloat.

My friend Joanie told me repeatedly, “You need to relax. Once you can relax, everything will become so much easier.” And it did. And it felt amazing. Yes, I felt out of control. But being able to accept that I wasn’t in complete control helped me to enjoy the experience more. Now I can’t wait to get back in the pool and learn more!

Relax. Enjoy life.

Summer Adventures: Zip Lining

I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this many bruises on my legs, but it was worth it.

Recently I went zip-lining with some new friends made this summer, and it was awesome. That combined with the rock wall, vertical playpen, and flying squirrel swing was enough to get me pretty beaten up, but it was a great workout and a great rush of adrenaline.

One of the things I loved about an activity course like that was the people who helped me through it. I’m talking mainly about the workers who held the end of the rope so I wouldn’t fall while I was climbing. And the people who encouraged me to make it to the top of the wall/course. Sometimes all it took was a single person telling me, “You can do it!” to motivate me (or maybe even, “I bet you can’t do it!” in which case I was determined to prove them wrong). Something about encouragement while climbing is more instantly gratifying to me than in other situations.

Of course, there was nothing like concluding the day with my final ride on the zip line. I was tired, I was sweaty, and I got to just sit back and relax as I flew through the air.

Summer Adventures: Hiking

Trees are good at keeping secrets. The ones in this forest have years of experience, and years of memories, especially the ones with carvings of people’s initials to mark a special sweetheart spot.

Well, my friend and I aren’t sweethearts, but suffice it to say we are more or less co-adventurers for the summer. She and I went hiking in the Brandywine Creek State Park, where the woods provided a private haven and time stood still. We walked along about a 2-mile long trail, which wound up, down, around, and everywhere through the woods. Rocky, muddy, hilly, smooth. The trail led us next to the creek, where we stopped to eat a picnic lunch. We sat on a huge boulder on the water’s edge, shaded by a canopy of leaves. For a long time we sat in silence, allowing the current of the water to carry our minds away from everyday life.

Something about the shelter of the trees made it feel okay to talk about whatever we wanted. Okay, so maybe we didn’t solve the world’s problems, but we did talk about why we enjoyed certain books. And we talked about various happenings at a faraway place called school. And we talked about things that confuse us about life, things that make us happy, and things that hurt. Things that maybe we don’t talk about on a daily basis, but things that make an adventure all the more memorable.

And then of course after the hike we ate ice cream, because what adventure is complete without ice cream?