Happy Holidays // A Quote from ‘A Christmas Carol’

Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s a heartwarming quote from A Christmas Carol, my annual Christmas read, about the true nature of the season, as well as a pic of my favorite character from The Muppet Christmas Carol, Homeless Bean Bunny:

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“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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Favorite author of the moment // Daphne du Maurier

daphne du maurierMy love for Daphne du Maurier has been a slow burn. In high school, like approximately 97% of us, I read Rebecca and utterly loved it. Then we read “The Birds” in class and I loved that, too. Last year, I read her other short stories in a collection, and those horror-infused short stories still haunt me to this day. Then later on in 2015, I visited a secondhand bookstore in the city and bought three of her novels: Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, and The House on the Strand. I absolutely adored Frenchman’s Creek, her romance novel with themes of female freedom, and now I am looking forward to reading the highly-esteemed Jamaica Inn. Daphne du Maurier is my favorite author of the moment, and here’s why you should definitely put her books on your TBR.
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Happy May Day // a Sappho poem for you

Today is May Day, a day I have recently associated with spending time with my sisters, usually putzing around the Bronx Botanical Gardens and eating takeout, or reading my favorite books. May is my favorite month of the year; somehow it always seems magical to me, and May Day is an ancient, pagan ritual that goes back centuries. Now, we celebrate it for fun, but it used to mean a lot to a lot of our ancestors.

It was originally a celebration of spring and a day to worship Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. It was also associated, at times, with witches and the occult, whether it was positively skewed (as in healers and mystics) or negatively (during Puritan times).
But that’s all in the past. Anyway, I digress. I would like to share a poem here from one of my favorite poets, Sappho. Her work only exists in fragments, but her capacity to describe love, desire, heartbreak, and the strength of nature is undiminished despite the works’ brevity. Her work reminds me of spring, so it seems fitting to share here on May Day.

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Travel Diaries // Mini road trip to Mystic, Conn.

I love to travel, but unfortunately, I work. But since I tend to like money and not starving, it’s not so bad. But that’s why weekend trips, often spontaneous ones, are so important. My cousins recently invited me to tag along on their mini road trip to Mystic, Connecticut, and I was jazzed since I love pizza and Julia Roberts! I went with my cousins, my sister, and my brother-in-law, and we lucked out with a gorgeous spring day. Here are some photos.img_5615
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Some Shakespeare for your Saturday

So, today, April 23, is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and according to some sources, his birthday as well! To honor the Bard in a small way, here are his first and last sonnets.

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From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And tender churl mak’st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

The first sonnet is addressed to a male friend of Shakespeare’s. He’s trying to convince his friend to have children, so his beauty and legacy can live on. He’s urging his friend not to be niggardly and end his family’s line, that it would be “cruel” to the world. Wouldn’t this sonnet convince you to have children? 😉
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Here’s what I’ve learned about work/life balance

This year, the whole concept of work/life balance has been on my mind. With a new job, freelance work, and life goals, sometimes it feels so incredibly overwhelming.

I have almost zero work/life balance. Most days I get home from work late, eat dinner, take a shower, watch an old episode of The Office (which speaks to my stressed soul), and go to sleep. Not a lot of time for fun and/or relaxation, but in the past few weeks, I’ve tried really hard to change that. Here’s what I’ve learned.

 

1. Don’t take work home with you

This is really hard for me, because for so long I worked at home, so work was home. I still do this, because I’m writing this blog and for Hello Giggles, so my home is also my office. But in terms of my full-time job, I try to leave the drama, stress, and work at the office.

For me, this translates into trying not to complain too much about the more stressful/ridiculous parts of my job when I’m home. At home, I am ZEN. I leave the crap at work, and at home, I relax.

On the way home, however, I rant a lot to get it out of my system. 🙂 Let yourself get it all out before you get home, so you’re not seething when you should be happy and relaxed.

2. Invest time into your hobbies…be stubborn about it.

When I got a new job, I struggled with the 12 hours a day it would require, with the addition of my commute. That’s a huge amount of time to be not doing fun things. As a way to compromise, I started listening to audiobooks on my commute. I can’t even describe how much my commute got better! I looked forward to the drive, and I got to work happier. It really makes a huge difference when you find time to do what you like.

I also tried to get my errands done during the week: before work starts (there’s a convenient Walgreens close to my office), and during my lunch hour. That way, my weekends are all for me, and to enjoy the things I love to do, writing this blog among them.

3. Turn off your phone.

Technology makes it easier to be constantly connected to work, which isn’t always a good thing. I’m lucky in that I’m not really expected to work outside of work hours, but a lot of people are. They’re constantly reachable and so are constantly expected to be available to their bosses. I think it’s important to turn off that phone during important times, like when you’re out with friends or with your family.

As for me, I try not to return emails when I’m out of work, and as for social media, I’ve turned off all my push notifications for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! Sometimes, being off the grid is SO NICE. I’m obsessed with my phone enough as it is without it flashing with notifications all the time.

4. Make lists—both for what you have to do, and what you want to do.

Because I have a lot of different responsibilities, the to-do list is my drug. I’m addicted to making lists and getting to cross things off, but I also make lists for the things I want to do, like watch a particular show or see my friends on a certain day. This helps me prioritize my down time, as well as my work time. Knowing that entertainment is as important to your life as your job is half the battle.

5. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

I fail at this ALL THE TIME! I am constantly putting pressure on myself to meet deadlines, do everything perfectly, and have time left over. Sometimes it’s just not possible, and that’s okay.

The whole idea is to not let work become your whole life. It’s been difficult for me this year, transitioning from working from home to commuting about three hours a day (both ways). I’ve had to manage my time better, become a lot more organized, and prioritize the things I was not willing to sacrifice.

What do you do to make your life more balanced?
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‘Candide,’ optimism, and laughing out loud

Oh, man. Candide is one of those books everyone should read once in their lives, if only for the laughs. Written by the genius wit Voltaire in the late eighteenth century, this slim satirical novel is basically an candideevisceration of the common “optimistic” ideology of the time that basically argued that tragedy (war, natural disasters, crime, murder) is no big deal, because evil serves a greater purpose: to bring good into the world. Voltaire HATED this philosophy, and so he wrote a funny little novel about it. (A funny little novel that cemented his status as one of the great genius thinkers of his time, and ensured his immortality in literature and culture.)

What it’s about: Candide is about optimism. Plotwise, it’s about a man named Candide who lives on a manor estate in Germany and who has been taught by a philosopher named Pangloss that the world they live in is “the best of all possible worlds.” Pangloss is a vehement Optimist, and instills in Candide the idea that tragedies happen for the best (for the greater good), and that the world they live in is the best it could possibly be. Right afterward, Candide and a dozen of other characters undergo a series of absurd, over-the-top, ridiculous sufferings, so that Voltaire can basically make fun of an ideology he abhorred so strongly.

I wasn’t kidding about the laughs! Everything each character goes through is so unbelievably exaggerated, like Pangloss being hanged, burned, and cut open, and yet at the end of the novel he comes rowing up to Candide like nothing ever happened. I read this mainly on audiobook, and I was laughing hysterically on my commute!

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The Coloring Book Craze

For a few months, I’ve seen big tables full of coloring books in local bookstores, and then for Christmas, my friends and family asked for coloring books and colored pencils for Christmas. This new trend is pretty awesome, and hinges on the idea that coloring books are therapeutic. They can even be as effective as meditation when it comes to stress relief.

Then, to my surprise, I received a beautiful coloring book from my sisters for Christmas, one that’s also a storybook. It’s called The Time Garden, and it’s drawn by one of the “big names” of coloring books for adults: Daria Song. It’s the “story” of a little girl who crawls inside an old-fashioned German clock and enters an alternate world, and it’s utterly breathtaking.

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Charles Dickens’ ‘Christmas Festivities’

For me, Charles Dickens perfectly sums up the Christmas spirit: hope, love, good cheer, optimism, and charity.

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This year, I’m reading all of Charles Dickens’ Christmas stories in addition to A Christmas Carol, which is my annual tradition. I’d like to share a passage here of the first paragraphs of the first story in that clothbound Penguin edition, “Christmas Festivities,” because it speaks volumes about the way Christmas should be appreciated and celebrated:

“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused—in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened—by the recurrence of Christmas. There are people who will tell you that Christmas is not to them what it used to be—that each succeeding Christmas has found some cherished hope or happy prospect of the year before, dimmed or passed away—and that the present only serves to remind them of reduced circumstances and straitened incomes—of the feasts they once bestowed on hollow friends, and of the cold looks that meet them now, in adversity and misfortune. Never heed such dismal reminiscences. There are few men who have lived long enough in the world who cannot call up such thoughts any day in the year. Then do not select the merriest of the three hundred and sixty-five for your doleful recollections, but draw your chair nearer the fire—fill the glass, and send round the song—and, if your room be smaller than it was a dozen years ago, or if your glass is filled with reeking punch instead of sparkling wine, put a good face on the matter, and empty it off-hand, and fill another, and troll off the old ditty you used to sing, and thank God it’s no worse.”

I love this quote, because it reminds me that Christmas isn’t about stuff, but about family and love. It’s one time of year we can all choose to be happy, cheerful, kind, and loving. And I hope that wherever you are, and whatever holiday you’re celebrating this season, that it’s happy and cheerful and full of love.

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