2016: A Story in Three Parts

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

By global standards, 2016 was pretty much a train wreck.  Personally, though, it was a beautiful journey that I will tell in three parts.

INTRODUCTION:

A year ago, I was an unemployed college graduate with no idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  You see, for the majority of my life, my intuition has been my guide.  Until this point, early every major life decision has been guided by instinct.  College?  My gut lead me to the right fit.  Major?  My heart found home in the English Department.  Work at camp in the summers?  It just felt right.

The future, however, holds infinite possibilities and the prospective paths had me absolutely paralyzed.  I had absolutely no idea of anything.  My intuition, the little tug that pulls me in the next direction, had failed.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I felt my heart tugging me back to Europe and, against all logic, I followed. Continue reading

Reverse Culture Shock & Moving Forward

Everyone always says that the hardest part about going abroad is coming home.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to being back in America.  At first, it was WEIRD.  It’s the little things about your own culture that are the oddest, the things you only notice when you’ve been away for a long time.  Used to everyone speaking different languages and a wide variety of accents, I found myself wondering why everyone sounded the same.  American accents are so bland!  Also, accustomed to the reserve of most Europeans, I found the open friendliness of Americans strange.  “Why are all of these people being so nice?” I wondered.  “I don’t even know them!” Continue reading

River Haze

This past weekend to celebrate my mother’s birthday (which just-so-happens to be on the 4th of July), my family took a boat cruise on the St. Croix River.  Although we live five minutes from the launching point in Taylors Falls and know the owners of the company, I hadn’t been on one of the ferry boats since I was a little girl.

Due to wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada, the air has been incredibly hazy over the past week.  For days the sky was stained white from the smoke that’s drifted across the continent.  At one point, we could even smell the smoke.It’s amazing how events have a way of effecting everyone–even people hundreds of miles away.

The haze made for some beautiful photos.  I’m no photographer, but I like to dabble with my iPhone every now and then.  Here’s a shot of the Taylors Falls Princess, one of the oldest ferry boats in the country.  Or, as my best friend and I used to say when we spotted it on the river from our school bus, it’s the “Fairy with No Wand”.

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Edited on VSCOcam

Closed for the Season

Well, friends.  Strawberry season has come and gone.  Thank goodness.

IMG_5118-0I’m not going to lie, I’m happy to see it go.  Although it was our shortest season yet (clocking in at two and a half weeks of picking), it felt like my family’s pick-your-own patch was open forever.  For two weeks, I was in the fields every day without break.  Although things slowed down significantly after the 4th of July passed, I got really sick of making small talk and trying to find pleasant ways to explain why the berries at the end of the season were smaller than those at the beginning.

Now that we’ve closed, it’s back to full-time fieldwork.  We’ve been hard at work during the non-open hours  over the past few weeks fighting what I affectionately call the Battle of the Weeds.  Now that we don’t have customers consuming all our time, a few days of solid hoeing should help us finally gain ground in our newer strawberry fields.

Now that we’ve closed, I get an extra half hour of sleep every night.

Now that we’ve closed, I hope to spend less evenings crashed on the couch and more on my bike.

Now that we’ve closed, I ACTUALLY need to figure out what I’m doing with my life.  (But more on that later.)

Here’s to the end of a short, but good season!  If you need me, I’ll either be sleeping or pulling weeds.

Mornings

Today marked the busiest day of the year at my family’s strawberry patch.  Within ten minutes, at least thirty cars of people were piling up to pick and we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to accommodate them.  I enjoy the bustle, but part of me lives for the few moments of silence just before the gate opens.

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Taken on my iPhone.  Edited with the VSCO Cam app.

The authenticity of being home

There’s something sacred about being home.  Yes, I’ve only been back in school for two weeks.  But I find myself gravitating back to the place I spent so many years.  I can’t seem to stay away.

Time passes differently here.

At school, the days are organized and structured.  Two hours of class.  An hour of work.  Twenty minutes between lectures.  Two hours until my roommate comes back.  An hour and a half to squeeze in a workout.  Three hours of homework time.  If I’m organized, productive, and lucky enough, I can spend an evening in my pajamas lying around doing nothing.  But, even then, time remains rigid in my mind.  How many episodes of this t.v. show do I have time to watch?  What time do I need to go to bed to get my full eight hours?  When do I need to wake up in the morning in order to increase productivity?  The things my brain does to get me through the day is exhausting.

When I’m home, time is elusive.  I pass from one task to another.  I get lost amid my homework and glance up to find an hour has already passed.  I strap on snowshoes like the hardy Minnesotan that I am and plow through the orchard.  I return to the house, rosy-cheeked and breathing heavily to find I was only gone for half an hour.  I sit at the counter, listening to Mom and Dad make plans to travel somewhere warm and laughing at my brother, and the minutes slide by so quickly I cannot even keep track of them.

My life in Morris feels artificial.  I’m trying to enjoy it for its merits, but really, it all feels like one giant chore.  Plow through another day.  Complete another set of readings.  Endure the tiny apartment.  Smile and be pleasant.  All the while, all I want is to spend my time doing something actually meaningful.  And I long for the comforts and familiarity of home.

It’s a good thing I’ve got so much homework this semester.  When the weekend is over and I have to go back, I’m going to be so busy trying to keep my academic head afloat that time is going to absolutely fly.

Then I can return home one final time and figure out what’s next.

I can’t wait.

Sketchbook Corner (Watercolor Edition)

Or shall I say… Watercolor Corner?

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a set of new watercolors from my little brother.  For the past few months, I’ve been scraping by on an eight-tint Crayola set that is five years old.  Yuck.  The new set has a massive array of colors and when I combine it with the big set of brushes I got for my birthday, I’m capable of achieving so much more with my paint.

I’ve been exploring some different techniques/subjects, which has been a blast.  Since this is a watercolor-only edition of SK and I’ve put a lot of thought and time into all these works, let’s take things one by one…

(Please excuse the crappy image quality)

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These mountains were the first thing I painted upon receiving my new paint.  I gave this one to my best friend as a belated Christmas gift.

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I had a blast painting this sunflower on Christmas day.  I gave it to my summer partner, Eva, (who loves yellow).

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This is my amateur attempt at capturing The Lonely Mountain from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  It took forever to paint–so many layers!  I rewatched one of the films while I painted, staying up WAY too late to finish.  But, gosh, am I pleased with the result!  I loved it so much I sent it home with my older brother, who shares my love of Tolkien.

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Okay, so the picture quality is REALLY crappy here.  It looks much better in person.  This was my first real attempt at painting people since getting the new brushes and paint.  I originally started out doing lots of people (see previous Sketchbook Corners for examples), but it was difficult with only one brush to work with.  I started this one on a whim–the basic sketch took only a couple minute.  I finished her up at a sleepover, which was actually pretty challenging as I had to balance the paints on my friend’s couch while avoiding her over-excited pomeranians.

Did this one last night as well.  I wanted to experiment more with painting people, and I'm quite pleased with the result!  I've been reading several YA fairytale retellings, so I imagine she's either Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or has a story of her own.

I painted this last night while watching the premiere of Marvel’s Agent Carter with my mother. I wanted to experiment more with painting people, and I’m quite pleased with the result! I’ve been reading several YA fairytale retellings, so I imagine she’s either Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or has a story of her own.

Finally…

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This took FOREVER.  I did the background and sketches of the trees before New Years and didn’t pick it back up until last night.  The details on the trees took what felt like hours.  And yes… it’s inspired by a Taylor Swift song.  (My favorite on her 1989 album).  Painting all the black got annoying and adding words with white felt like a risk, but I’m definitely pleased with the result!

That’s all for this edition of Sketchbook Corner!  Check by in a few weeks to see what else my hands come up with.  If you haven’t seen them, do look at my previous SK posts and see how I’ve improved!

Also, because I’m curious… What painting is your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

Cleaning out the closet

It’s my first full day at home, and in light of the fact that I will be immobile due to wisdom teeth surgery tomorrow, I’m trying to get things cleaned.

Since returning from studying abroad a year ago, I haven’t been home for more than a week at a time.  Due to this, my bedroom has become a dumping ground, a corner to shove things in as I transition from place to place in life.  After a year, it’s gotten pretty out of hand.

The thing about cleaning out your closet is that I’m not only discovering things I didn’t know I had, but am relearning things about myself that you had forgotten.  Rifling through the pages of middle school notes, sketchbooks, and attempts at poetry make me feel like I am meeting the younger version of myself.  I’m finding things I used to be passionate about.  I discovered a couple passive aggressive letters my best friend wrote me in high school where she apologetically tells me everything she hates about me.  Reading through her words, I think about how much I have changed and wonder if, deep down, I’ve really changed at all.

Confronting my past is actually very useful because my main goal over break is to figure out what the future holds.

Sentimentality aside, it will be great to actually be able to use my closet, desk, and dresser again.  It’s a long process.  The main portion of my room is currently dirtier than it was when I began.  I’m covered in dust from pulling things from corners and shelves that haven’t been touched in years.  But progress is being made!  I dragged my younger brother with me to WalMart earlier this afternoon to buy organizers and I’ve put together three bags of old clothes to donate.

It sure will be great to have a clean room again!

When was the last time you cleaned out your closet?  Did you find anything surprising?

A blissful pause

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m incredibly thankful for the past few days of peace, rest, and family.  I’m also thankful to finally be able to listen to Christmas music.  (Yes, I’m one of those snobs.)

It really has been a perfect break.

The extended family was here on Thursday and I handled the “So Amelia, what’s next?”question as well as I could.  I ate lots of turkey and mashed potatoes.

On Friday, I finally got the Mother/Daughter shopping day that was supposed to come in October.  We shopped from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon, taking advantage of Black Friday deals.  I also got lunch at Chipotle, which in and of itself is always an answer to prayer.

Our family tradition is to attend the Taylor’s Falls Lighting festival the day after Thanksgiving.  There’s a small parade down the six blocks that make up main street of the small historic town.  At the end of the parade, there is a countdown and all the Christmas lights in town are lit at once.  We also popped in the old one room schoolhouse (the oldest in Minnesota!) to see all the arts and crafts that the local third graders have been working on for the past couple weeks.  My aunt and uncle came to the event with us and, so night ended with soup and cider at our house.

Yesterday, Mom and I took advantage of Support Local Saturday and made the rounds in all the cute little shops in the area.  We found some good Christmas presents for family and friends, as well as delicious homemade fudge.  The afternoon passed curled up on the couch pretending to watch the Gopher/Badger football game.  I say pretending because, while the rest of my family attentively cheered for the Gophers, I sat and read Dracula.

Today marks the end of break.  I’m not looking forward to going back.

Over the past year, I have not been home for more than a week at a time.  It’s always a transition spot, somewhere I go to jump from here to there.  As a result, my room has become a dreadful dumping grounds.  I long to settle for a while, to clean the mess, to organize the stacks of books that don’t fit on the shelves, and lie low for a while.

Two and a half weeks, friends.  Only an Early Modern English recitation, final portfolio, two ten page essays, and two finals standing between me and a month of Christmas bliss at home.  It’s the final stretch.

I’ll survive by overdosing on holiday cheer and covers of Taylor Swift songs…