It is no secret that I adore my nephew, Ezra, with all of my heart. He has the kindest, purest heart and possesses the unique capability to see the good in everything. He’s observant, hilarious, and open to exploration; the simple things that make him happy encourage me to see simplicity as so marvelous and beautiful as well. He has a room full of toys but finds complete satisfaction in simply running “super-speed” while shouting, “Hey Mimi watch me run like Dash!”. He’s adorable, but what intrigues me about my small nephew, and all young children, is their ability to see the good in people. As we grow older, we become hardened by the world and its cruelty, distrust, and pain. I’m trying to learn something important here from my wild and curious 3-year-old nephew.
Ezra loves superheroes. He’s always asking to show us his newest (or oldest) superheroes, exhibiting their heroic talent like Hulk-smashing or Superman-flying. He loves a good fight (he’s always Hulk, the opponent is always less strong). What intrigues me about him is that he also loves the “bad guys”. He shows off Thanos (who I think is a bad guy) and others with equivalent excitement and satisfaction. He conservatively tells you, “He’s a bad guy,” but continues to interact and play with the “bad guy” understanding he is still pretty cool and interesting. What I think is so important about this is the childlike ability to empathize with and connect with the bad guy. I think there’s a lot of merit in listening to the other side.
In real life, we despise the bad guys. We even shy away from the “Other” in ways that I think are harmful for our growth and character. We don’t care about hearing what the bad guys have to say. Our lives are compartmentalized into “safe” and “unsafe” and we rarely venture to the side that makes us feel uncomfortable. I write this because I certainly feel this way. The world makes us fear the unknown, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar. It’s easy to live within your mindset, friend group, daily schedule and never venture into the marvelous world of the superheroes and bad guys, where things often become a little less binary than “good” or “bad”. The blurred middle is where we live, where a verdict can’t be placed on every person we meet without understanding the baggage, experiences, and tragedy they carry just like we do. This morning, I want to set a simple intention for this week to be more like my small, curious, and loving nephew. I’m not going to change the world or save a group of people, but hopefully I will save at least a small part of humanity that is quickly fading in the drowning depths of fear. I’ll always believe that love triumphs fear. This week, I hope to listen to the bad guys for just a little longer, step outside of my comfort zone to become a little wiser, and spread my love just a little wider.
“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” – C.S. Lewis
My life feels particularly desert-like in this respect right now. While I love my science courses and really find them fascinating, I deeply miss writing and reading literature and philosophy. When thinking about how I feel a little unbalanced because I am so focused my other passions, I decided I would share some books that are my favorites and encouraged me to have deep reflection. Some of them are autobiographical nonfiction, some are simply fiction, but they are all incredible and close to my heart. Here are 5 books you need to read and think about! I offer some of the thoughts that followed my reading of the books that maybe you would find helpful if you read decide to read them. Try to reflect on the passages and glean some of the important messages that ruminate throughout them. And just like I have to remind myself, remember that in life, balance is everything. Never let the other things you love fall to the wayside in pursuit of your dreams.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This is undoubtedly one of the most moving books I have ever read. I even wrote an entire post about my thoughts from this book, and I suggest reading that post after you have treated yourself to this book! Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a Stanford neurosurgeon who was unfortunately diagnosed with late stage IV lung cancer. This book is more than a memoir by a doctor; it makes you experience and feel what it is like to face death. This is a man’s honest and eye-opening journey to the end of his life. It is poetic. It is reflective and deeply emotional. I admire Dr. Kalanithi’s diverse passions and the ways he catered to both his reflective, literary side (by pursuing study in literature and philosophy) and the inquisitive, mechanistic side of life (through scientific study of medicine). He writes beautifully. This is a must read. I couldn’t put it down!
Thoughts for reflection: If I was looking back on my life, what have I made important? Have I been happy with my life or have I lived in chase of something else? What would I begin pursuing if I knew the moments I had were limited?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Quiet is a book for introverts and extroverts alike. This book transformed the way I view my idiosyncratic behaviors. It made me realize it is okay to want to stay home. It is okay to want to work alone and prefer small friend groups. It is equally okay to be gregarious and love social environments. It made me realize that the qualities exhibited by introverted and extroverted people are all valuable. This is a nonfiction book full of thoroughly researched information about human behavior. It is amazing! It has some interesting pieces of psychology and sociology throughout. It shows the functional and dynamic world that we live in and the ways that all the different moving pieces work together perfectly. Highly recommend. (Watch Susan Cain’s amazing TED talk here: Susan Cain’s The Power of Introverts)
Thoughts for reflection: How can I embrace who I am without feeling guilty or bad? What type of environment makes me feel most comfortable and loved? What parts of me are introverted and what parts are extroverted? How can I encourage others to be true to themselves in a conformist society?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Okay, I had to include this book because it is a classic read. Most people have read To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe in school for a class. For those that haven’t read, Harper Lee writes a book written from the perspective of a child named Scout about the struggles and perceptions of an unjust world. This book makes me feel childlike and more aware of the struggles within this world. For a child, Scout gives wisdom that we can all learn from. I think this book, published in 1960, can still give a powerful message to the society we live in today. Also, I have always had the biggest fictional crush on Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and the lawyer who fights for justice. Ahh.
Thoughts for reflection: What have I become okay with that Scout, a child, would even know is wrong? Is the world we are living in today actually any different than the corrupt world that Scout was in? How can we fight for and seek the Truth in this life?
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Nerdy confession: I had to read a few chapters of this for a First Year Seminar class and I actually fell in love with it and had to read the whole thing (which took me a day). Randy Pausch writes an autobiographical book of important advice for living. Dr. Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and had recently been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. A young professor with small children and a wife, Dr. Pausch pours wisdom into this book that I use and remember every day. And yes, it made me weep like a baby (and books don’t make me cry). Just read it. Circle, underline, highlight his advice, even rip pages out and hang them up on your mirror.
Thoughts for reflection: How can I start using the advice that Dr. Pausch shares? Am I being sincere to myself and to those around me? How can I love more deeply with the days I am given?
Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson
This book is one of my favorite of all time. I generally do not prefer fictional books, especially romantic fiction books, but this is different. This book makes me feel safe, loved, and hopeful. This is one of the first books I remember reading as a young girl (which is funny because it’s a James Patterson book… I have always been older than my age), and I think it holds some sentimental value because of this reason. I grab for this book when I need to escape this frightening, stressful world. It is so comforting. Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas is about the interwoven relationships of love, despair, happiness, hurt, and life. It moves to you Martha’s Vinyard to watch the lives of two playful personalities fall in harmonious synchrony. This book is a gentle reminder that the most beautiful things in life are sometimes greeted with pain and suffering.
Thoughts for reflection: If I was writing for someone, who would it be and what would I want to say? How can I invite the playfulness and simplicity into my life that Suzanne and Matt have in their own lives?
Well, there you have it! Five of my favorite books that I think everyone should read. Don’t just read them though, feel them, embrace them. Write about what you feel and think deeply about what the author is trying to give you. I am always welcoming book suggestions that I can curl up with and get lost in. What are some of your favorite books?
Y’all college already has me feeling like I’m swimming in a large pool with the drain turned on. BUT with the good Lord by my side, some time management skills, and control over my attitude towards it, everything is going to be O.K. (I am actually hesitantly excited about my classes, especially forensics in literature!). But for real, pray for me. And I will pray for you! (Just let me know what you need). With that being said, I am very blessed to be able to live in a country where I can learn freely and with great instruction. I am blessed to obtain the free will to make decisions which I feel most accurately reflect my passions without being forced to study something I have no interest in. And I am blessed to have makeup to assist in my late-night bags, cold and thirsty skin, and indoor-intensive complexion! I have always been a makeup and skincare enthusiast and I am now even more concerned with taking excellent care of my skin to prevent molecular damage! So, listed below are some of go-to (and new) makeup items. I hope this semester finds you in good tidings of great grades and lots of unadulterated joy.
- bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipgloss in “High Roller and Life of the Party”. Found here!
- Becca Cosmetics x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfecter “Champagne Pop” found here!
- A Beauty Blender for all my blending needs (they are real). Find it here!
- Boi-ing by Benefit cosmetics for all the times I get stressed out, stay up late, or need extra coverage. Look here for yours!
- My favorite Sephora highlighter brush, because highlighting is essential when you are so, so pale and live in the frigid cold! Here.
- I love the Makeup Forever Mat Velvet foundation for the winter. It is oil-free and won’t cause skin irritation! On Sephora, here.
Some of my really important skin care essentials:
- NeoStrata Skin Active Exfoliating Wash (used once daily). This is a glycolic acid based wash that exfoliates and brightens skin! I have not had any problems with it, and have actually seen improvement in my skin.
- NeoStrata Bionic Face Cream. This is used in the morning, before makeup. All of the products in this line are anti-aging but truthfully it is never too early to start!
- I also used a prescription-strength retinoid cream formulated and sold by my dermatologist, Dr. Michael Gold of Gold Skin Care. Retinoid or Retin-A creams are proven to improve skin over time, including increasing skin cell turn over and resurfacing the texture of the skin! I couldn’t find this one online, but it is an essential part of my skin care regimen!
- Obagi Sun Protection SPF 35 sunscreen. I put this on after I have washed my face in the morning, but before the face cream! This is also only sold through specific retailers. Sun protection is very important because I want to keep my skin young and pretty when I am old and tired! And even more important is that I take measures to prevent skin cancer caused by daily sun exposure. Looking for a sunscreen that is oil-free or intended for the face or neck will help prevent clogged pores and breakouts.
Well, those are some of my favorite skin care and makeup products at the moment! I know this is not a typical post of mine, but sometimes it is fun and refreshing to share something else I really enjoy talking about. Thanks for reading!
A trend I stumbled upon on wordpress was this #oneword2016. After reading through a few articles I got the impression that this is a one word “mantra” dedicated to 2016. I started contemplating some of the words that I would like to implement into 2016. Some of the words that came to mind were words like real, strength, imagine. All of these words were fitting for my life, but for some reason I felt inclined to think of word that didn’t “fit” my life. A word that wasn’t something that didn’t just come to the top of my mind. A word I had to search for.
Then I thought of Open. I would like to be more open in 2016.
Open to having coffee with a stranger.
Open to reading books I don’t think I will enjoy.
Open to having meaningful conversations at odd times in the day.
Open to change.
Open to suggestions.
Open to commitment.
Open to challenging myself mentally.
Open to challenging myself physically.
Open to creating novel ideas and writing about them generously.
I would like to be more open. I dedicate 2016 to the year I step outside of my comfort zone, explore new ideas, learn more about the world, make silly choices, and be a more open person.
I encourage you to find your #oneword2016. Analyze where you could use some remodeling in your life. We all need to rearrange our perspectives sometimes.
Comment your #oneword2016 so I can be a part of your journey to liberation, success, and happiness!
I am thankful that God gave me the ability to experience beauty.
What is beauty? Where is the idea of beauty derived from? What molds our minds to think something is classified as beautiful? I am not talking about exterior, superficial beauty. I am talking about things that are truly beautiful. Truly extravagant and truly awing. This type of beauty leaves me humbled and thankful. It makes me feel small but important. It leaves me confirmed in my faith and sincerely amazed. Have you ever seen an illusionist or magician perform and leave thinking, wow that was incredible. How did that happen? What was the trick or the hidden performance that caused the illusion?
I feel this way about things that are beautiful.
The biological sciences leave me almost daily in a state of appreciation and utter awe. Every day, every second, every single millisecond, our bodies are performing some incredibly complex and intricate processes. The human body blows my mind. My biology professor, Dr. Laura Stephan, was lecturing this morning about a protein found in the mitochondrial matrix (remember from middle school, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!) that is so fundamental to our beings that it is a testament to the enormity and intricacy of our God. This protein, ATP synthase, is the sole proprietor for the functional energy created by our cells. This may sound like mumbo jumbo but let me elucidate – this single, microscopic molecule enables our cells to produce energy, which enables our cells to do amazing things like fight disease and fix problems in the body. I am able to write this post and think these thoughts because of a tiny, seemingly insignificant protein. I am able to laugh and enjoy apple cider and watch endless amounts of Netflix because these minuscule mechanisms within my body are functioning – and not just functioning but functioning in a way that is conducive to living and thriving. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me, but that is beautiful. The way everything fits together so well, the way everything works at the right time and halts at the right time, the way the body has all these crazy complexities that allow me to live and breathe is absolutely awesome, in the true meaning of the word. Beauty to me is seeing how God enables our lives. He put all of those proteins in the perfect places. When I was being created in my mother’s womb, all of my cells came together in a fashion that enabled me. So much is going on in our bodies at a given time that it is almost incomprehensible. I think God works this way. He silently creates these beautiful pieces of our lives and when we are exposed to them, it takes our breath away and leaves us in awe and wonder. God has shown me the beauty that He is capable of uncovering. It makes me hopeful and excited to know that my God can make things so indefinitely beautiful.
Last night I attended a symphony at the University. I love classical music, but this was my first attendance at a true symphony with an orchestra. It was incredible. Hearing sounds created by instruments that came together in a way that seemingly flowed into a single piece caused my thoughts to navigate towards what was actually going on. Individuals on the stage were performing with their instrument, those sounds were combining with other sounds; the sounds danced around each other, and then that music traveled to my ears and I was enabled to experience the combination of it all. During the symphony I just thought to myself Thank you God for allowing these things to enrich my mind and fill my ears. This is just another form of the beauty you allow me to see. Whenever you let God take you to something beautiful, you know it. Last night was one of those moments.
Beauty is all around us. Maybe you have difficulty seeing beauty; if that’s the case, I encourage you to look for the beauty. He has placed it all around us: in the leaves, in conversation, in our bodies, in the mountains, in His merciful grace, and most prominently in ourselves. God has given you a beauty so unique to you that no one else can replicate it. He has given us the ability to recognize this beauty in others and verbally acknowledge it (I think we should utilize this ability more often). God, thank you for the beauty you have shown me. Thank you for the incomprehensible, transcending, munificent, and amazing beauty you have allowed me to see. I pray that you guys see this same beauty around you and within yourself.
Like the magician, we see only what is exposed to us. But instead of living a life of wonder and incessant pondering of unanswered questions about how the magic tricks are working, God is transparent. He lets us know that He is the illusionist behind all things beautiful and all things wonderful.
I am a morning full of thoughts
and slow, perfect sips of coffee
I am the protagonist of a torn, soft cover novel
I am the curve that makes a graph infinite
I am red lipstick carefully, meticulously applied
I am a reddish smeared napkin placed haphazardly in the garbage
I am the silence in a room full of noise
I am the sober words of a heavy conversation at midnight
I am not the crash of the wave,
but I am the slow, steady, and always constant pull back into a chaotic sea
Happy Friday guys, a poem written by yours truly