10 Things Anne of Green Gables Taught Me

Anne

There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about Anne of Green Gables at least once. And I mention her – or at least one of her very quotable histrionics – equally as often.

AofGGMy great-grandmother, who I had the very good fortune of having in my life until I was 16 years old, would give me a classic book every year for my birthday. My favorite was a copy of Anne of Green Gables. I didn’t read it right away; it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust until I was on the cusp of adolescence. I don’t know if I was too young, or the cover of this particular version didn’t capture me (I have, unfortunately, been guilty of judging a book by its cover on occasion). Also, it was a three-in-one volume and thus, probably, the thickest and heaviest book I owned.

But, thank God I did pick it up eventually. It became a most-beloved, well-worn copy. The dust-jacket is ripped, the pages yellowed and bent, the spine is broken in places. Anne became a steady companion along the way, a source of wisdom, a kindred spirit. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve continued to gain enlightenment from her pages. I’m thinking it’s time for me to return once again for a re-read. And perhaps a nice leisurely viewing of the movie, for good measure.

This week the world has been been mourning the death of Jonathan Crombie, who played (actually, embodied) Gilbert Blythe in the 1980’s mini-series, and made the hearts of teenage girls everywhere flutter with first love. His passing has caused me to reflect once again on all the ways Anne of Green Gables has enriched my life, and all the wisdom I’ve gained and carried with me into adulthood.

So, here are 10 things Anne has taught me.

You can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

We often find ourselves begrudging the commitments and obligations and duties in our life. At least I do. But, attitude is always a choice. And if I have a good attitude about something I must do, then I am sure to enjoy it 100 times more than if I grumble and moan about it the whole time.

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.

Who says we can only have one close friend? Not I! I am undoubtedly introverted, but my circle of friends are as dear to me as family. And on a different note, it’s always better to look for the ways that we’re connected, the ways we overlap, rather than for the things that divide us. Because once we find what makes someone a kindred spirit, we are better equipped to see the world through their eyes and accept how we’re different. The more kindred spirits we find, the more empathetic and kind we become.

It’s splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about, it makes one feel glad to be alive.

Curiosity at the world around us invites imagination. I read an article listing the Five Habits of Creative People, and in it the author mentions people who believe that knowing too much will hamper their ability to be creative (not at all true, by the way). But, Anne reminds us that we’ll never know everything, and that leaves a great deal of scope for the imagination; and in the meantime the world is too interesting for us to keep ourselves from discovering everything we can.

I’m not a bit changed–not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out.

When I look back on my life, on who I was when I was 12, 16, 20, 25, the core of who I am is the same. Life has scraped me a little bit, leaving some scars – I’ve experienced joy and pain, heartbreak and triumph, all of which has pruned me down and branched me out. I’m wiser and perhaps a bit more wary, but I love more because I have more people to love. And, it’s still me in there. I think my younger self would still be able to look at me and say, “ah. There you are. I know you.”

Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.

A fresh start every day. How beautiful is that? A new chance to ask for forgiveness, offer forgiveness, make amends. To start good habits and end bad ones. To be more productive, start new projects, learn new skills. To become a better friend, spouse, parent, child. To let go of bitterness and be kind, compassionate, and gracious.

The world calls them its storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.

Books are portals to enter other worlds – and they all come from someone’s imagination. I am in constant search of fairyland. Sometimes I remember the way to fairyland myself. Sometimes I am only able to graze it with my fingertips. Sometimes it eludes me altogether. But when I read, I am able to follow someone else into fairyland, and I can spend as much time as I want there.

I don’t want to be anyone but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life.

It’s easy to envy others for what they have. I have been guilty of it so many times; I sometimes joke that I have champagne taste on a beer budget. My school debt is a mile high and I work at a non-profit; my husband and I live on a strict budget. There are no diamond necklaces or puffed sleeves for me. I have to fight off envy – that sinister shadow. The reality is that we never know what someone’s struggles are, no matter how charmed their life looks to us. So, I daily attempt thankfulness for the rich blessings in my life. I am glad to be myself, and if I were asked to trade places with someone else (giving up my husband, my son, my gifts and talents, my hopes and dreams) to gain material things, well, forget it.

If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us.

This spring I have been working on my generosity of spirit. Looking for the best in others does more than give people the benefit of the doubt, it keeps the seeds of bitterness and distrust from growing in us. It’s hard to be kind in thought or deed when we are bitter. Nothing good comes from griping about the faults of other people. But a lot of good comes from seeing the very best in them; for one thing, it brings out the very best in us.

I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.

We never know what’s coming around the corner; even a minute from now is a mystery. Of course, tragedy could strike at any moment. But we can’t live that way. What good would that do? So, we do the only thing we can: we believe the best instead of the worst, we do the best we can loving people and acting graciously, and seeking God. The best (as we imagine it) may not be around the bend, but like Anne, I’m a glass half full kind of girl.

Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.

Oh yes. Indeed. Spring is in the air, the world is turning green, tulips are pushing their way through the dense, spongy, damp soil, the songbirds are trilling; And my son is close to walking, he’s learning new words, patting my back with his soft pudgy hands, offering me wet, open-mouth, way-too-big kisses. These are joyful days. I’m glad to be alive.

Anne of GG

Really, a smattering of 10 pieces of wisdom is a hard place to stop when it comes to Anne. The books are so full of gems. They are a good place to turn to when you’re in the depths of despair. Or when you’re luxuriating in the beauty of the world that surrounds you. Or when you’re just trying to get through a normal day. The books, and there are eight of them in total, are full of beauty, and gentle adventure, and timeless wisdom. I am so glad that I got to know Anne, and all of the tender-hearted folks in Avonlea who surround her, all those years ago.

What have you learned from Anne? Is there another book full of wisdom that has stuck with you from childhood?

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Full House Isn’t Just A TV Show

For anyone who reads this blog – and let’s be honest, I don’t post often enough for many people to find their way here, and so it’s mostly my family and maybe a few friends – you may or may not know that my husband and I decided to move in with my parents for a time while we save up for a downpayment and deal with some pretty significant school debt (Ah, the joys of being a Millennial).

We also have a baby.

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Fox with his fox onesie and fox stuffed animal. I’ll exploit his name until he tells me to stop…

And my younger brother also lives at home.

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And my parents just got an adorable Sheltie puppy they’re calling Flynn.

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At any given time you’ll see 5 cars in the driveway. It’s a full house.

On several occasions this summer my mom filled up a kiddie pool in the yard and let my 2-year-old niece run around naked while she sat nearby on a lawn chair and looked benevolently on.

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Just call us the Clampetts. Or the Tanners; maybe that’s a little more flattering. Growing up, I loved the show Full House. But, adults living under the same roof looks a little different than in a sitcom. The saccharine life lessons Danny imparts to his eager daughters at the end of every episode – with Uncle Jesse and Joey nodding amiably in the background – just don’t hold up in real life.

On the one hand it’s a little embarrassing to be living with my parents again. On the other hand, we’re so grateful to be able to save up much more quickly than if we were renting an apartment. And, we’re getting a taste of how much of the world lives. Our next-door-neighbors are Russian ex-pats, one of whom stopped my mom one day and asked, “Do you have many generations living here?”

“Yes,” my mom replied.

“I like this. This reminds me of my country.”

But, it’s not so much like this country. Or, maybe that’s just a perception. Perhaps it is happening here more and more; I do know of a few others who have trodden this path. Cumulatively, college graduates carry the burden of a $1.2 trillion dollar debt. Trillion. That’s 6% of the overall national debt, folks. Not a lie. Sometimes I feel like my debt makes up half of that. It might as well be $1.2 trillion for all the teensy dent I’ve made by pounding away at it over the last 5 years – or at least that’s what I think on my not-so-sunny days. With this heavy load weighing on the shoulders of my peers, I imagine many folks find themselves in a similar position. Or maybe not. Either way, it’s the decision we’ve made in order to move forward more quickly.

There’s even a name for this little adventure we’re on: multi-generational living.

Some people probably do it a little better than we do. We fumble along with a chore chart and splitting up weekly meals – but no one is as organized about life in general as my father, who makes and checks off lists for fun. We try, while he succeeds. With 5 adults, a baby, and a 15 week old puppy, it’s more like a frat house (but with more spit up and less alcohol), than a residential dwelling. But it’s good. For a lot of reasons.

Having a baby is a lonely affair. You’re caring for another person – but a person you have a lot of one-sided conversations with. I’m thankful to have company on days when my husband works long and unusual hours (which is a lot). I like having some extra hands if I’m feeling overwhelmed with Fox. I like sitting around a dinner table full of people. As introverted as I am, it’s nice to have people around to keep me grounded.

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We could get to the end of the year and leave shaking the dust off our feet, bitter and resentful (on both sides). But, while I look forward to the day where my little family of 3, instead of 6, has a home of our own, I am thankful for these days. And I am so grateful to have amazingly generous parents who have opened their home to us, and who love on my baby so well. I hope I look back on this year as being sweet and full of life.

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Hip Hip Hooray for my one-of-a-kind-out-of-this-world parents!

It’s A Marshmallow World

It’s been practically a year since I’ve written anything on my blog. My good intentions for writing have remained intentions only. But since the new year is almost upon us, I thought my blog needed an update. Also, beauty surrounds us at Christmastime. I need to talk about that a little bit.

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A pop of color in a frosty world.

Tonight, Wisconsin has planned to dump a pile of snow on us. About this time last year in one terrific storm we got at least 15 inches of snow. This time around the reports say we’ll experience a measly 9-10 inches. That should be enough for people to hole up inside – hopefully enjoying a cup of hot cocoa and a good book, or maybe a holiday movie. Some people might complain; even born and bred northerners grumble about snow and cold. But despite snow’s bad rap, I love a good winter storm. I take great pleasure in snow blanketing the landscape, muting the colors into soft grays and browns and whites and blending into the overcast sky. It turns the volume down on the world. Have you ever noticed that? Snow muffles sound. And in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it’s nice to have the hush of falling snow surround you.

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A blended horizon. Some say this is bleak. I say it’s BEAUTIFUL!

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Look at those lovely ice crystals frosting the branches.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is A Marshmallow World. It’s not actually about Christmas at all; it’s just a bouncy song about snow. Some people prefer Dean Martin’s version, but I will always love Bing Crosby’s voice crooning

It’s a marshmallow world in the winter, when the snow comes to cover the ground. It’s the time for play, it’s a whipped cream day, I wait for it the whole year round.

Just listen to Bing sing about a marshmallow world and try not to get excited about snow. Who wouldn’t want to live in a whipped cream world? With friendly marshmallow clouds? And going on sugar dates with your sweetheart? The edible imagery is just so sweet (pun intended)!

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It really is a Marshmallow World. Good enough to eat.

I’m also feeling a little bit like a marshmallow these days as I’m 26 weeks pregnant. I’m almost into my third trimester – and I’m starting to feel like it. But I love every time I feel the baby move or kick – a small reminder that there’s new life blossoming. What a blessing.

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26 weeks and counting

This is Steve and my last Christmas as a childless couple. We are enjoying the moments of spontaneity that will disappear in about three months. But also looking forward to all the joys that a child will bring, which includes a new season of Christmases. Little ones bring excitement and wonder to Christmastime that grows ever more elusive as an adult.

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I needed to include my favorite fat snowman ornament. How cute is he?

As for me tonight, I’m ready to snuggle down under a blanket, watch the snowfall, enjoy our first ever real-live Christmas tree, and read To Kill A Mockingbird.

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Our first real Christmas Tree! With a charming crooked star!

May you find beauty and blessing this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

(Also a huge thanks to my friend Britt from Reverie Photography who graciously let me use her lovely winter images that she captured today.)

Starting Small

YouShouldWrite

Confession: I am terrible at sitting down and writing. I have this sign above my desk at work. It reads: YOU SHOULD BE WRITING, with The Avengers pointing their fingers at me (Yes, there is a little graphic of Hulk right next to it. I’m not as infatuated as it seems. Really.). The language feels a little accusatory, but it’s a good reminder, when I remember to look at it.  I love to write (although, I must admit, it’s usually the satisfaction of finishing rather than the process of writing that I enjoy). I want to write; Ever since I was little I have had things to say and stories to tell. But when it comes to sitting down and doing the hard work of putting pen to paper, I will dance around it and come up with a million excuses rather than write. This avoidance makes it very hard to practice discipline, feed the creative juices, become a better writer, much less use the gifts I know I’ve been given.

One of my best friends, whose pen name is K.B. Hoyle, is a full time school teacher, a mom of three boys, and she still makes time to write . She has published four books so far and is on the way to publishing her fifth. I am in awe of her. In a recent interview she gave this advice to aspiring authors: There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. If you want to write, then write. No excuses. Write when it’s easy, and more importantly, write when it’s not. This truth burned a little bit because Writer’s Block has been my excuse for years. (You can read the rest of Karin’s interview here, and if you want to learn more about her or read her books – and I think you should because they are wonderful – visit her website, On Alitheia.)

So, I have decided enough is enough. This past weekend two old friends and I met at a coffee shop to catch up. But, rather than chit chat, we ended up inspiring one another. We committed to writing 15 minutes a day for one week. I figured I should start small with a goal I knew I could accomplish. In a week we’ll see each other again and ask how the challenge went.

Discipline is Good For Me (And Probably You)

journalThe week’s not over, but I have already gleaned a few things.

Writing every day means I can’t make excuses. Even if I’m not particularly inspired, or I’m busy with other things, it forces me to write anyway. Yesterday, I sneezed and sniffled my way through the whole day. I really wanted to curl up on the couch with some ginger tea and partake in a mini-Battlestar-Gallactica-marathon (I know, nerd alert. But seriously, jump on the bandwagon, people. The show is so good). But, I couldn’t indulge my nerdy obsession until I’d finished writing.

Writing everyday teaches me to be okay with imperfection. Perfectionism normally cripples me, it keeps me from trying things. Or, if I do try something, my perfectionism keeps me from finishing it. It’s a matter of control, and I need to let it go. When I write my daily 15 minutes, I force myself to drop my perfectionism like the bad habit it is. I can’t edit as I go along, and I must leave the grammatical flourishes behind; All my thoughts spill out continuously onto the page in front of me – clumsy phrases included.

When I write everyday, I feel more productive. It gives me something to accomplish, something to look forward to. And when I finish, I feel satisfied. So satisfied that I continue to be productive in other ways; Writing spurs me on to use my time more wisely. Perhaps I’ll also become a little wiser in general (one can hope, right?).

And best of all, the more I write, the more I have to write about! My ideas come more easily and naturally. I feel more creative and more inspired everyday. Discipline has always been hard for me to keep up, but there are some grand rewards for following through.

I think I can safely say that writing makes me a more creative person. I know there are writing roadblocks ahead, but for now, it feels pretty good. I might just keep going, even after this week is up.

What creative activity are you disciplined about? What has it taught you?

All Good Things

A few months ago I got married to the best man I’ve ever known. At a barn in Wisconsin. It was a beautiful day in October. The only beautiful day in October, actually. It was a blessed occasion – not the least of which was because of all the help and encouragement I had received in preparation.
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Leading up to the wedding, I spent many late nights making things by hand – cutting, folding, and pasting library card pockets to be included in the invitation, measuring and cutting burlap for the table runners, rolling and dipping wool into scalding hot water and then numbing cold water to make “billy balls” for flowers, sewing clutches for all my bridesmaids (even though I’d never used a sewing machine without the supervision of my grandmother, and even that was nearly twenty years ago). The list goes on. Sometimes I needed help – and my friends were more than willing, even though they often made this disclaimer: “I’m not very creative.”

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clutches for my bridesmaids

Most of those projects deserve a post of their own, so I will leave the details until a later time. Needless to say, though, that the whole process prompted me to think a lot about what it means to be creative. And the question:

What is Creativity?

In my mind creativity is not limited to the artistic pursuits that we often associate it with – the visual: painting, drawing, photography, graphic design. Those things are certainly creative, but they are not the whole measure of artistry. Could not a perfectly baked bundt cake, an original poem, or even a thoughtful gift be creative?  I would argue then, that most of us are creative in one way or another. Perhaps we can’t cook to save our life, but we can stand up in front of a crowd and deliver a witty line that gets people laughing. Perhaps our paintings are abysmal, but we can look at a messy room and see just how it should be organized (can’t that be a creative process?!).

We all have been given gifts. And we all have things we do that bring us joy – even better if they bring those around us joy. I love to make good food.  Although I often try my hand at other things (with varying success and commitment), I always get drawn back to the kitchen. And I experience even more pleasure when I make something to share with others. We need to get in touch with those gifts we’ve been given; and more importantly use them. It’s then that we become fuller versions of ourselves and a blessing to others.

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a pot roast I made for an evening with friends – taken with my friend’s camera phone

So that’s it. Creativity is bigger than we give it credit for. It’s whatever gift we bring to the world. And it’s at the heart of all good things. Of course, all I really know is my own experience. So much of the time my life feels mundane – I can get stuck. But here’s to my new adventure: that of finding All Good Things in my life.