Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Poetry

I am not what you would refer to as a literary critic.

I read mostly fiction, and occasionally some non-fiction, but after spending the last 5 years hanging around arty English lit types, I have to say my love of the written word has expanded. As I’ve stumbled through difficult pieces of literature, my patient friends have taken the time to answer the thousands of questions I have about writing and content, and have often taught me to think a bit more critically about what I’m reading.

Poetry is one of those things I never fully warmed to. I hated studying it when I was in high school and college. All the different types of poetry form to think about – is this free verse? Classicism? Acrostic? Ballad? Is it unryhmed iambic pentameter? (Should I even care if iambic pentameter is rhymed or unrhymed? I can see my poet friends cringing now). I really didn’t care.

That’s changed quite a bit. It’s hard to live in a university city like Oxford and not be exposed to famous poetry on a regular basis. Our city is haunted by the past lives of famous poets: T S Eliot, W H Auden, John Donne, and Gerald Manly Hopkins, just to name a few. I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of their work. It’s also refreshing to have a new perspective on something I used to avoid and immensely dislike.

Recently, I stumbled across this poem, and thought I would share it with you today. Even if poetry isn’t your thing, there is definitely many nuggets of loveliness in this to take away and think about.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, 1927.

Enjoy your Monday. You have a right to be here.

-Mandy

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Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Symphonies and Whistles

The ability to create beauty in the midst of chaos is something that is always intriguing to me.  I’ve found it fascinating to view art that has emerged from war zones and to see it’s powerful messages of hope stand valiantly in the face of darkness and despair.  I stumbled across this amazing little clip a few weeks ago and was so moved by these Congolese men and women’s ability to create beauty and order in the midst of the chaos around them.  ‘They seem to defy the poverty of their war-torn country’ and produce music that is almost angelic.  It makes me reflect upon my own ability/energy/willingness to make something beautiful from something chaotic in my own life.

On a similar note, I recently went to my high school reunion (another post on that possibly coming soon:) and ran into an old friend who has started a campaign calledfalling whistles to help end the war in Congo.  Their mission is simple and inspiring. Check it out.  Again, it made me think of the Congo and also the incredible power of beauty and love in the face of war and destruction.

-M.C.

Wednesday's Weekly Tip

Wednesday’s Weekly Tip: DIY! 7 New Stylish Ways to De-clutter Your Beauty Closet

Remember that episode of Friends where Monica wouldn’t let Joey and Chandler look in the hall closet, because it would reveal a hidden, messy side of her organized self?

Yep, that’s me.

I am über organized with most things, but after spending nearly two days cleaning up what can only be described as beauty product chaos, I was amazed I ever found anything I was looking for among the tangled necklaces, hoards of make-up, earrings, and array of scarves!

A former graduate wife saw this article on the Today show, and sent it our way (Hi, Jill)! I hope some of the tips help add a little organization to your life….like it did mine!

-Mandy

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: ‘pearls before breakfast’

If you didn’t run across this fascinating Washington Post article a few years ago, I hope you will check it out now.  It’s an incredible stunt involving world famous violinist, Joshua Bell, a 3 million dollar violin and rush hour in the DC metro.  ‘His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?’

So much food for thought…do people have the capacity to understand beauty in our fast paced world?  Or is it irrelevant because our priorities are skewed?  What is taste?  Do we have to be ‘told’ that something is beautiful for us to appreciate it?  Do children really have a ‘one up’ on adults in their ability to recognize the good and beautiful?

Hope you enjoy…and I hope you keep your eyes and ears open today to the beauty around you. :)

-M.C.

Expectations · Family · Inspiration · Sacrifice

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

                                                                                                                                   

written by Lis – a current graduate wife

I really love when a new month starts on a Monday. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my absolute favorite things!

With August beginning in such a fantastic way, I just knew it was going to hold a lot of my favorite things.

Now, I admit that I am a girl who likes order and routine, so when I am out of that routine, I tend to get grumpy. That Monday’s morning routine was different: there wasn’t one.  And you know what? I couldn’t have been happier!

On that first August morning, Tim didn’t wake up and pack his red bag for school. Instead, he was still in bed at 10:00 a.m. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t working at his desk, and he didn’t have his ear plugs in to help him focus on his studies: instead, the only thing he was studying was the little girl he was giving his undivided attention to. She was giggling, he was smiling, and I was counting my blessings.

We made it. We did it…again. One more semester behind us, and 29 days until we have to face the start of another one.

We spent the past week in Black Mountain, NC, and as I sat on top of that mountain and looked out to the tree-covered peaks in the distance (see attached pic), I was thankful. Even as I was resting on top of that mountain, I was already praying for the ones I know are yet to come. We have climbed three hard, long, and exhausting mountains: one for each semester of classes.  We have three times that many still to go, but the point is we have climbed and we have made it. And we can do it again.

The very thing I said was impossible, is proving to be possible.

We can do hard things.

I can.  He can.  She can too.

We are doing this together.  Together, we can get to each mountain top, rest, and get ready for the next mountain.

In my experience, graduate wives don’t realize the amount of stress and pressure that is on them until it’s gone. Until you are no longer living in the midst of the stress of tests, exams, projects, research papers, and finals, you don’t quite grasp how much it takes out of you. Often the graduate students themselves don’t recognize that they are being pulled in a hundred different directions and that while they fully intend to engage in everything they commit to, they really are not capable of giving any more than they already are; at least this is how it is in my home. When he spends time with us, Tim does his best to disengage from school and the pressures that medical school brings, but it’s still there. It’s still on his mind, it’s still a stress, it’s still a pressure or that nagging feeling of, “I should really be studying…”

But now that we have arrived at this mountaintop, the only question that has to be answered is “what do you want to do today?”  Sometimes the answer is, “nothing.”

The stress is melting off.  We needed this break, both individually and as a family.  We needed no time frame, no agenda. We needed a week with no internet, little cell phone service, and a lot of playing on the floor, eating together, playing games, and catching up on the “oh, did I tell you that…?”

I don’t know where you are on this journey of being a graduate wife. If you are only beginning, hear me say this to you: “You CAN do this!” The valleys are hard, exhausting, and will make your makeup run, but the mountaintops are beautiful and well worth the climb. Get some really cute, comfortable shoes and set out hand in hand with the person of your dreams to accomplish the very thing that only the two of you can do.

If you are finishing, hear me say this: “You made it! Great work!” (And I am jealous!)  Thank you for your dedication to this journey that we all have set out on.  Our individual paths are different, yet somehow the same. You are an example to me and the ones coming behind you. We need to know others have gone before and lived to tell about it! 

My goal for this journey isn’t just to survive, but to thrive. Not just to make it, but to run as fast as I can to the finish line saying, “if we hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have met, done, become, or grown the way I have,” and to say to my husband, “I hated you for making me do this, but now I am so glad you did.”

We can do this, we can survive, we can thrive, and we can eat a lot of chocolate along the way!!

The top of this mountain held other peaks waiting to be hiked, the laughs and screams that only white water rafting can bring, a baby asking to go and swing, and hundreds of lightning bugs that needed to be caught!

As you climb, don’t forget to count your blessings along the way–it is what will get you to the top and make the journey worth it–and when you do reach those vital mountaintops, don’t forget to share the joys you find there.

As a graduate wife, what mountains (classes, jobs, etc). are you currently climbing?

Beauty and the Budget

Beauty and the Budget: Project Plates

How many of you have moved into a rented space during your graduate school journey and instantly found yourself a bit depressed by the stark white walls around you?  How many of you have drooled over Pottery Barn catalogue wall displays and then ended up in tears when you saw the price tags? OK, that is a bit extreme, but if you have come close, know that you are not alone!  Continuing on through the dining room/living room, our next beauty on a budget project involves an easy solution to instant wall decor.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy vintage plates and saucers.  There is so much charm and beauty to be found in old chipped pieces of porcelain.   To quickly fix our white wall dilemma, I started searching for some flea market finds that would do the trick.  I found three of the plates above at the Gloucester Green market in Oxford and they were £2 each.  I found the fourth plate (bottom one) at a local charity shop for only 99p.  Finding fun vintage dinner ware is almost always easy, as it will be at pretty much every yard sale / charity shop / flea market that you find, and it is also always incredibly cheap.  Usually there will only be one or two of the set and thus it sells for pennies.  You have to embrace the theme “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”  If you haven’t done that before, let yourself be creative and go for it!  Don’t try too hard at visualizing the plate on the wall and don’t let yourself put too much thought into it.  If you like a pattern or a color, just grab it and build the others to match the same color family.  It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to match exactly, just keep the same theme or pattern or color family going on.  The key is finding pieces you like and that would work well together. I’d say start with 4 in a hanging and if you find more plates to add later, then go for it.

The next few steps are incredibly easy.

  1. Buy some plate hangers that fit the plate sizes.  They usually sell in small, medium and large.  If you are hanging a platter, you can buy a little disc that sticks to the back of the platter and has a small ring to hang from, called an invisible disc adhesive plate hanger.  (UK-Boswells-£1.19 each/ Ebay UK)  (US-any large craft store, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.)
  2. Slip the hanger around the plate.
  3. Arranging the plates can seem daunting, but don’t let it stress you.  Just start with the largest plate and place the others around it.  The spacing doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to keep around 3” between each plate to be most pleasing to the eyes.  Try placing them on the floor first to arrange them and then move to the wall. (You can take Martha’s suggestion and cut out paper to mimic the plate and then tape it on the wall first to get a better idea of your layout.)
  4. Plates are nice to be viewed at eye level, so keep that in mind when hanging.  I needed to fill a full wall in our dining nook so I opted to hang them a bit higher than eye level when seated.   I hope to add some more plates to the collection soon, so I left room to travel down the wall.
  5. Hang and viola!  You have beautiful wall decor and no empty pocketbook.

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Here are some favorites I found online that might inspire you as you are working on your plate arrangement.

Stay tuned as we will feature guest posts with several more DIY wall decor ideas for cheap.  And for all of you who aren’t allowed to hang with nails or do anything else to puncture the walls in your rented spaces, don’t worry, we’ve got some ideas for you coming up too!