a beautiful day in the neighborhood

This fall is the best fall. Today is the best day.

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I went on a meandering walk through my neighborhood this afternoon and discovered the loveliest views. It’s 65 and sunny. Neighbors are raking leaves, listening to music, and taking walks. The roads are quiet and the squirrels are out in crowds stocking up for winter. I was under the impression that most of the houses in my branch of the neighborhood were built in the early ’60s, but a few steps off the main road I discovered a Free Will Baptist Church and houses that must have been built around the turn of the 20th century.

instaRichmond

instagram collage

We went to Richmond for a couple hours yesterday so Daniel could do some research for a paper he’s writing. While he toured the museum, I walked down to the Capitol and strolled through the monument park, taking pictures along the way.

The high was 67, the sun was shining, and a breeze pulled lightly at my skirt as I walked. I sat on a sun-warmed bench and watched a squirrel groom herself from her perch in the nook of a mature oak tree.

new york for new year’s

ny1 ny3ny13 ny4 ny7 ny9 ny12 ny19Our recent visit to New York in one word? Relaxing. Surprising, because when I think of NYC I think of sensory overload. The 6 hour drive coupled with parking issues and various train and subway connections was exhausting, but it was lovely to settle into our friend’s cramped apartment, cuddle with his fluffy cats, and have the confidence of city dwellers to back us up as we adventured around the grid of gray streets teeming with hustlers, tourists, and commuters.

Our itineray was relaxed this time around, but we still got to take in attractions unique to NYC. On Sunday, we attended Lower Manhattan Community church, then headed over to China Town for 4-for-a-dollar dumplings with church friends. On Monday, we took the long commute over to The Cloisters, a museum devoted to the art and architecture of medieval monasteries and chapels. We ate Venezulean street food for lunch, then took the evening off.

We watched lots of Friends, ate lots of bagels, and drank coffee from the corner coffee shop.

On Tuesday, we stopped into a few vintage shops, shopped at the American Apparel Outlet, and ate delicious Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches in the East Village for lunch. We lounged until evening, then headed out to Brooklyn to attend a New Year’s Eve party. A fun anecdote: the hosts had received mail addressed to Sufjan Stevens, who apparently recently moved into their old apartment in the same building!

We spent the final hours of 2013 with new and old friends, discussing our favorite moments and greatest achievements of the year. Midnight came quietly. We idled away the night with a few more episodes of Friends and the sort of odd conversations that tend to arise in the wee hours of the morning.

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hiking at Shenandoah

hike shenandoah national park hk33hk6 hk7 hk10 hk11 hk13 hk14 hk26 hk29 hk25hk28I went on a 5 mile hike on a section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Shenandoah National Park with friends from church on Saturday. It’s one of the best things I’ve done all year. We stopped at overlooks along the way to rest and read some Psalms, and on the last stop we shared in the Eucharist. One of the girls said that the hike felt like a prayer. I agree. Thank God for this place.

 

one year in Charlottesville

One year ago yesterday, Daniel and I (and a small caravan of Daniel’s family members – mine were waiting for us in Virginia) packed up the final fragments of our possessions, got in my trusty old Saturn, and started the drive up to Virginia. I had never been to Virginia and Daniel had never been to Charlottesville. We’d rented a place with the help of a friend, but otherwise had seen nothing of our new home.

I don’t think there was a way I could have fully comprehended what this first move totally away from anything familiar would mean for us, or how it would change us. It has been lonely, exhilarating, difficult, and joyous. Daniel and I cemented our relationship here like never before. I learned to enjoy cooking for myself. I survived a winter that lasted longer than I anticipated, but not without long bouts of depression. I wrote 314 blog posts, visited lots of new places, cried innumerable times, and got caught up in the beauty of my new surroundings. I decorated (and redecorated) the apartment, made some real money selling vintage, and learned random new skills.

house by uva

August – Got a job at a local coffee shop (best job ever) / Bought pet rats / Watched a meteor shower on a farm / Saw Ralph Stanley in concert / Saw Obama on the Downtown Mall

September – Started ballet classes / Decorated the apartment / Celebrated my birthday alone / Visited Waynesboro and Staunton / Joined the Evening Choir at church

October – Attended the Black Voices Gospel Choir concert / Dressed as a flapper to attend a Halloween party / Fell in love with Cafe Au Lait / Survived Frankenstorm

luray caverns

November – Toured Luray Caverns and Woodstock, VA when Daniel’s dad was in town / Discovered the Saunders-Monticello trail / Hosted Thanksgiving for my friends and sister / Visited Carter Mountain Orchard / Attended the Tree Lighting ceremony

December – Saw snow / Went to Baltimore for the first time / Celebrated Christmas with Daniel’s mom and sister / Got a 50mm lens

January – Started Style Wise / Visited llamas at my friend’s farm / Wrote some poems

snow day

February – Questioned everything (the cold darkness of winter seeped into my heart) / Found meaning in practicing Lent / framed Daniel’s great grandparents’ marriage certificate

March – Presented a homily and got Freshly Pressed / Had a snow day / Visited Richmond / Celebrated Easter

April – Started a new job / Went to the Tom Tom Festival / Visited Jacksonville for my sister’s graduation

blue ridge moutains

May – Had an article published for Relevant Magazine / Questioned everything / Went to Richmond for Memorial Day weekend

June – Visited Skyline Drive for the first time

July – Traveled to Baltimore for a family event / Celebrated Independence Day in Harrisonburg / Visited Baine’s in Scottsville / Celebrated Daniel’s and my 3 year wedding anniversary / Wrote a guest post for a friend’s blog / Explored the Virginia countryside

Phew! I know the above summary is more for me than for readers who are interested in actual writing. So where am I one year later?

In some ways, I feel like I’m starting from the beginning. I have a full time job that I’m still adjusting to, a good friend is moving away, and many of the social activities I enjoyed in the fall have been made unavailable to me due to work hours. I like myself better and I love Virginia, but I’m more homesick than I anticipated; it’s starting to hit me how much we’ve missed out on in the development of our friends’ lives due to distance and busy schedules. To be enveloped by the mountains can be a comfort, but it also serves as a visible sign of our isolation. Because, as much as we’ve tried to reach out, to branch out, we still feel alone much of the time. Life never gets easier.

But overall, I’m pleased that we moved to Charlottesville. I could settle down here and stay for a very long time. I hold out hope that things will get better soon.

uva chapel, leahwise.com

closure

The new year always throws me for a loop. I spent yesterday at home, off work, in a miserable mood, lashing out anytime Daniel so much as spoke to me. I guess a new year makes me feel obligated: to change bad habits, develop good ones, get motivated, achieve everything at once. In the final weeks of a year, I’m in full relaxation mode; not enough time to worry about accomplishing major goals or making significant decisions. It’s the only time, possibly all year, that I feel at ease and live day by day. All that being said, I don’t think I gave myself enough time for closure, and I’m hoping this list will help me sort 2012 out, close the book, and move forward.

blue ridge mountains

Five events that have been the best this year?

  • getting my name in the company newsletter at work
  • my last summer adventures with Florida friends
  • St. Augustine for our anniversary (even though it was brief)
  • seeing Obama in downtown Charlottesville
  • exploring Virginia

fossildandelion

Five events that have been the worst this year?

  • dealing with corporate crap at my former jobs
  • getting poison ivy
  • moving away from close friends and family
  • my bad attitude during Thanksgiving
  • doubting myself so often

kayaking st. augustine

What have you learned this year?

  • I am surprised by my own selflessness and selfishness. The pressure to figure out life really got to me this year, but I think I’ve settled into a more moderate temperament, trying to take opportunity as it comes and not be too hard on myself lest I completely destroy myself with internal verbal harassment.

lichgate

Was it the year that you had in mind?

  • I was so wrapped up in self doubt and work drama at the beginning of 2012 that I don’t really think I envisioned what the year would be like. I knew we might move, but I didn’t think too hard about it. If I had anything in mind, it was that I would become a successful fashion blogger and adored internet presence by the end of the year. It was my temporary solution to being miserable with my non-virtual life. Things were better than that, though, and I’m glad I moved.

wakulla springs flagler

What clothes did you wear the most?

  • My oatmeal colored Mossimo cardigan, like, every day.

dining room

What music did you listen to the most?

  • the Sherwood CD Jenny left in my car
  • Mates of State
  • Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise album (I listen to it a lot every year)
  • various Bluegrass music
  • the Simon & Garfunkel Pandora channel

What have you watched?

  • TV: Friday Night Lights, The Office, The Middle, My So-Called Life, The Cosby Show
  • Movies: Bernie, Take This Waltz, Perks of Being a Wallflower…

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Which people did you hang out with most?

  • Andrea and Mike in Tallahassee, a little group of church goers/PhD students here.

What new people did you come to know?

  • Many, many new people. We’ve met a lot of great people here: Daniel’s colleagues, church friends, small group friends, and my coworkers.

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What is the best thing you’ve read?

  • Fiction: Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games triology. 
  • Nonfiction: Still by Lauren Winner

Did you do anything this year that you’ve never done before?

  • I traveled to Virginia for the first time, moved far away from family for the first time, and became a barista.

Did some of your friends become parents this year?

  • Yes, but not close friends.

What was your biggest achievement in 2012?

  • Managing to make money selling vintage online.

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Best bargain?

  • A limited edition print of Jacob’s Ladder from Israel that I got for .50.

What did you spend the most money on?

  • the U-Haul truck.

What do you wish you’d done more?

  • woken up earlier.
  • practiced the banjo.

Favorite video of the year?

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What did you do on your birthday in 2012?

  • ate Chinese food at home and felt sad.

How would you describe your style in 2012?

  • uncertain. I spent a lot of time over-thinking my personal style. I think it’s settled down into a sort of casual-girly-grunge thing.

shenandoah valley

 

(list from happy, honey, & lark; from Rodeo)

Baltimore

Land of poverty, yarn bombers, abandoned buildings, and a thousand beautiful churches.

abandoned building baltimore

girl in sunlight church victorian chandelier steeple greek orthodox churchyarn bombingstained glass leaf keep space for peace indie shoppingThere seem to be more abandoned buildings in Baltimore than occupied ones. People linger in crowds on street corners and in alleys, boards nailed to the entryways of row houses, barbershops, and neglected historical buildings. Church doors are locked. In Baltimore, you see the effects of the recession in every direction. In Baltimore you see what apathy looks like. But you also see pride – and a firm resolve to love your home unconditionally, to stick by it even though your lack of resources prevent you from restoring it yourself.