November 2017: What I’m Into

November. proper noun. Meg March calls it “the most disagreeable month in the whole year.” At least we have Thanksgiving.

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I don’t have much to say on November, mostly because I’m not sure where it went. It was cold and dark, that I remember. I read a million 7th grade essays, more or less. And now, here we are, on the front end of the holiday season, rapidly approaching the end of the year. I’m not sure where 2017 went, either. How did all those days go by? And what on earth did I do with them?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Those questions can wait another month. For now, here’s November’s recap.

 

Reading

A lot. Especially, oddly, nonfiction.

The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis. A church in town put on a production of this, so I read the actual book in preparation. It is perplexing in the best way possible. It’s fun to read more of Lewis and see his views on heaven being the truest sense of reality woven throughout. This is one to come back to again.

Ex Libris – Anne Fadiman. This little collection of essays about the joys of books and reading is a delight. Anne Fadiman is whip-smart and observant and may have the world’s best vocabulary. The essay on reading aloud may be my favorite.

The Dog Says How – Kevin Kling. I enjoy Kevin Kling a lot – his interview with Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast is one of my favorites – and you can practically hear his voice narrating all of these essays. He’s quirky and funny and reflective, and I love all of his Minnesota references and the honest way he talks about disability.

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy – Peitra Rivoli. I’ve been doing boatloads of reading about ethical fashion (see this post if you missed it), and this book was fascinating. It’s a bit dense – my boyfriend will actually have to read it for an upcoming grad school class – but the stories are well-told. Highly recommended if you want to know the nitty-gritty of where your clothes come from.

Bomb – Steve Sheinkin. This is the story of the race to create the first atomic bomb and all of the espionage behind the scenes. It’s technically a YA book, but I learned a ton, the stories are intriguing, and it did a good job of discussing the moral conundrum the scientists faced. I may have dreamed that everyone I knew was going to die in a war the night I finished it (can you say highly sensitive person?), but it’s definitely worth the read.

Need– Joelle Charbonneau. Students in a small Wisconsin town begin to join a new social media site, where users type what they need onto the message board. They are then given a task to complete, and when they do so their “need” is fulfilled. The tasks start small (invite 6 people to this site), but soon escalate. This book is suspenseful and felt frighteningly possible. I didn’t love the ending, but other than that? Couldn’t put it down.

Auggie and Me – R.J. Palacio. A student brought me her own copy of this and told me I had to read it immediately if I liked Wonder. So I did. It’s a sweet addition. It also made me more excited to see the movie (and I am a terrible English teacher, because I haven’t yet!).

Caraval – Stephanie Garber. I have mixed feelings about this book. There was so much potential. Scarlett dreams of being invited to a magical game called Caraval. Once she arrives, she finds that her sister has been kidnapped, and she must save her to win the  game. The mood feels much like The Night Circus, or at it least strives to. But unfortunately things just didn’t click for me. Scarlett and the rest of the characters don’t really develop for most of the book, and then do in the space of one scene. There are so many plot twists that I had to Google whether there is a sequel, or if there was just something I misunderstood. The setting is too ambiguous to be truly captivating – I could never entirely visualize what was happening. The plot is intriguing, and I was definitely sucked in, but the ending left me unsatisfied and emotionally muddled. That said, I know people who LOVE this book, so it might be worth a shot for you.

Daughter of a Pirate King – Tricia Levenseller. This book tells the story of, you guessed it, the daughter of a pirate king who is on a secret mission for her father. She lets herself be kidnapped, and can’t reveal her true nature (and also can’t fall for her handsome, strangely kind kidnapper). It was fine. It might fly with the perfect audience – perhaps a girl who likes fairy tales and pirate stories, but is old enough to handle sexual tension? I don’t know any of those. Read the Bloody Jack series instead.

Currently reading: A Rule Against Murder – Louise Penny. Watch for the Light readings for Advent.

 

Listening

At this second? Music for Advent. I’m following the traditional church calendar more intentionally this year, so I’m trying to save the Hark the Herald Angels Sing sort of tunes for closer to Christmas Day. To fill the gaps, I’m creating my own Advent playlist, with plenty of inspiration from this and this. A favorite: May You Find a Light by Josh Garrels.

Otherwise this month has been all about this jazz-filled playlist.

 

Watching

Flipped. I grew up absolutely loving this book, and I was terrified to watch the movie when it came out years ago. What if they wrecked it? But they didn’t. It was everything it should be.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I hadn’t watched any of these movies since going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now I am dying to go back.

The Great British Baking Show, season 2. I can’t quit that show. Brita and I want to adopt Mary’s word “scrummy.”

 

Loving

I don’t love this article, exactly, but it is food for thought for all the teachers wondering why kids seem like crazy people.

This lasagna soup recipe. The hosts on the Sorta Awesome podcast talk about it all the time, and really, it is delicious.

The Thankful Tree in my classroom. I like my kids best when I remember that they are actual human beings with real lives and hearts. Seeing what they’re grateful for helps.

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The Christmas treats have arrived at Trader Joe’s! Give me all the chocolate-covered candy cane Jo-Jos.

Ikea. This is actually a love-hate relationship. How can a place so inexpensive add up to so much at the cash register? But I now have an actual curtain situation in my bedroom, plus these fabulous gold stars hanging over my bed.

 

Doing

Taking a bus to visit Adam. Overnight Greyhound rides are an adventure. The police only had to escort people off the bus once. (No, I’m not kidding. No, I was not in danger.) Otherwise, the trip was delightful. We went to Die Valkyerie, the opera famous for the Ride of the Valkyeries and my first foray into the world of really long operas. I still need some practice at fully appreciating them, but watching women riding horses “flying” over the stage while singing certainly was epic. The next day, we made it to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the U-boat exhibit was just as impressive as I remember. Dear friends happened to be Chicago the same weekend, and squeezing in breakfast with them on my final morning in town was the best surprise.

Celebrating Thanksgiving. My family members are delightful weirdos, who also make some good Thanksgiving food. As a bonus, my dad was able to surprise my sister at the airport when she flew in from California, and she stayed with me for a few extra days. Sneaking in a day with Adam and his family (and cutting down a real Christmas tree!) was lovely, too.

Finishing up the first trimester of school. I survived essay grading season. Barely. I also started up a weekly Creative Writing Club for girls. I have no idea what I’m doing, but it sure is fun.

 

As always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. What have you been into this month?

 

 

 

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Cheap: Clothing Confessions and How to Buy Better

Cheap. adjective. Relatively low in price; may describe an object that is worth little.

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“Where is that shirt from?”

This should be a simple question. It is not.

In high school, I hated being asked about my clothes’ origins. They were often thrift store finds, which was not hipster cool in my small town. “Oh, my mom found it somewhere,” was my default answer.

I don’t mind owning up to my thrift store duds now, or to the LOFT 40% off sale or the Gap clearance rack.

But recently, I’ve learned just how complex the answer to “Where is that shirt from?” could be. My t-shirt’s origin is much more than the store from which I purchased it.

I’ve been researching. And now, I can tell you that the cotton that makes up each fiber of your t-shirt was grown somewhere, likely Texas, maybe India or Uzbekistan. It was then shipped to a factory, spun into thread, and woven together into fabric. Another factory sliced the shape of sleeve and trunk. Those pieces were sewn together and ironed and packaged before they were shipped away for me to pluck from a pile.

Real people, in Vietnam and Bangladesh and China, helped.

I do not think about this process or these people when I scout bargains. Instead, I think about how much I’m paying. Most of the time, I wish it were less. Clothing companies know this. Consumers like me are one of the reasons that clothing prices are dropping, especially at retailers like Forever 21 and H&M. I’m not the only one snatching up camisoles for $1.99 or t-shirts for less than $10. Even I, with student loans and a teacher’s salary, can afford these! These prices seem too good to be true!

Mostly because they are.

There is a cost to all this cheap fashion.

It’s no secret that the quality of these bargains isn’t stellar. Take, for example, the Old Navy dress I snagged for $10 last spring. I loved it. I wore it nearly once a week. And now, less than 6 months later, it has not washed well. It’s pilling. The arm holes are sagging. It feels tired. I can already predict its fate: it will languish in my closet for a while, being worn less and less, before it gets tossed in the Goodwill bag. Its story is not unique. The average garment in a woman’s closet is worn just 7 times before it’s tossed. Seven. That number seems ridiculous, but if I think of how many times I wore that dress before it started fading, it doesn’t seem so outrageous.

Beyond causing me wardrobe angst, cheap fashion also has huge consequences for workers around the world. In the pursuit of lower and lower prices, most companies have moved their production overseas. Overseas labor isn’t all bad. It provides work to people in developing economies, and garment work is often one of the better options for people living in poverty. But shifting production overseas also removes many of the regulations companies must follow to protect workers. Nearly all companies claim to follow countries’ minimum wage laws, but those laws mean very little. Minimum wage is different from a living wage, where workers can meet all their needs with the wages they receive. For example, in New York, a sewing machine operator would make about $1660 per month. In China, it’s $147 per month. In Bangladesh, it’s a mere $43 per month. That means that $1.43 per day has to cover rent, food, and all other living costs. Bangladesh may be an inexpensive place to live, but it’s not that inexpensive .[i]

In addition to the terrible pay, garment factories are often less than pleasant places to work. Disasters like the Rana Plaza factory collapse are unsettling proof. In 2013, employees complained to management about cracks in the building’s structure. Soon after, the eight story building in Bangladesh collapsed. It killed 1,135 garment workers. [ii]

It’s hard to determine who is to blame. Factory owners may seem to be shirking their responsibility to their employees, and that’s certainly true in some cases. However, factory owners often feel powerless themselves. Fashion companies may demand that factories pay their workers more or update factories without increasing the prices they are willing to pay for goods. Other times, they ask for clothing to be produced on tighter and tighter deadlines, for cheaper and cheaper prices, leaving factory owners few alternatives than to work their employees for more hours or lose the job entirely.

The clothing we want, at the prices we expect, is hurting garment workers around the world.

So what do we do?

Great question.

The world economy and political sphere is complex. The more I learn, the more complications I see. Does decreasing the demand for cheap fashion hurt those same workers we want to protect? Is it better to support them, even when they’re getting ripped off, than to take our business away entirely? Do better working conditions mean that fewer jobs would be available overall? Is there any way to fix this issue, beyond eliminating greed on the parts of corporations and consumers?

I don’t have those answers.

But I do know a few things. I know that I, with all my Western dollars and sensibilities, cannot dictate how the world should work. It is not my job to say what the Bangladeshi government should set as its minimum wage, or to tell China what rights its workers should have. These are countries with cultures and economies and people much different from my own. And besides, it’s unlikely that I alone will convince even one clothing company, much less an entire country, to change the way it audits its factories or the prices it squeezes from its manufacturers.

On the other hand, I also know that a better way is possible. Proof? A bunch of college students were enraged by the conditions under which their campus t-shirts were produced. They convinced their campus stores to purchase from Alta Gracia, which is known for its humane work environment and the living wage it pays its workers.[iii] Another example: ABLE, formerly known as FashionABLE, is launching its AccountABLE campaign to actively publicize how its employees are treated, in every element from the safety of its factories to the wages and benefits employees receive.[iv] These are just a few of the companies who are committed to treating every person in their supply chain with dignity and humanity.

I also know that I have the power to consciously choose how I spend my dollars. It’s tempting to complain about being a poor, student loan-saddled teacher who can’t spend the money on sustainably sourced clothes. But that’s not true.

First, a reality check: I am not actually poor. Not in the slightest. I need nothing. Not food, not shelter, not even clothing. My closet is full of perfectly good outfits that are functional, and even sometimes attractive. I may want a flannel dress or a cozy cream sweater, but not obtaining them does not threaten my health, or even my true happiness.

Then, there’s the issue of my spontaneous (read: unnecessary) clothing purchases. I may consider myself a budget-conscious shopper, but a $16 sweater? Or a $10 tee? I’ll snag those with little hesitation. And those deals are often the items that get begin to look shabby after a few wears. Instead, I could save those dollars for purchases that are more purposeful, for both my closet and the world’s garment workers. Rather than nabbing the first cheap black dress that looks decent, being frustrated by its quality, then replacing it every spring from now until forever, I could be more intentional. I could consider the ethics of the company, the materials, and whether my investment will last longer than one season. This will take a little more care and a whole lot more self-control. But if my actions can help create a more sustainable supply chain, and a better wardrobe to boot, it seems worth it.

Will I ever again set foot in an H&M? Yes. Will I ever buy clothes that are not fair trade certified? Yes. But will I also do my very best to be a responsible consumer, who truly understands where my t-shirt came from? Yes.

 

P.S. Want to join me in supporting sustainable clothing companies? Check out a big ol’ list of my favorite resources here.

 

 

 

[i] Overdressed – Elizabeth Cline

[ii] The True Cost documentary

[iii] Overdressed – Elizabeth Cline

[iv] That Sounds Fun with Annie Downs podcast Episode 57 – Barrett Ward and FashionABLE

October 2017: What I’m Into

October. proper noun. The month in which we all quote L.M. Montgomery about being glad we live in this world.

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October in MN = boots and parkas at farmer’s markets

 

We are smack in the middle of Ordinary Time, somewhere between Pentecost and Advent. Boy, am I feeling it.

As I pondered what’s been new and novel in October, it hasn’t felt like much. This has been a typical Minnesota fall. The weather was lovely and temperate, until it wasn’t. We swung from Birkenstocks to boots over the course of mere days. The cold snap, the early darkness, the leaves shaken from trees make me retreat, hoping for soup and a book and solitude. It all feels ordinary, indeed.

The Psalms have been meeting me in these days. I read them in the morning, before hustling out the door, before facing my day of the usual complaints and small joys. The Psalmist had those, too. He felt the days of praise, the days of panic, the days of wondering where on earth God has gone. In the space of a few verses, he swings from terror to reassurance to revenge. Sounds like a typical day teaching seventh grade to me.

In the anger and fear and still-resounding rejoicing, God finds me. He accepts my anger and answers my cries for help. He walks with me as I face my enemies, even if those enemies are mostly inside my own head. He gives me spacious places to rest and catch my breath. He covers me with his wings. He delights in me, and I in him.

I am learning to abide in him, in the beginnings and middles of things. When life is especially ordinary. When the first steps have been taken, but there are many, many more until the end is in sight.

Here’s what’s bringing more life and more love to this ordinary time.

 

Reading

Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance. This book is hard to read in places, but it is so incredibly important. J.D. Vance grew up in the unstable, impoverished world of hillbilly culture. He weaves his own story of surviving an unstable childhood and eventually finding both a home and a sense of purpose with explanations of hillbilly culture. This is a story of resilience. As a teacher, it reminded me just how little of my students’ lives I see, and just how important it is for them to have stable, kind, consistent adults in their lives.

At Home in the World– Tsh Oxenreider. Tsh, her husband, and their 3 kids sold their home and spend a year traveling the globe. This book is part travel diary, part memoir, all wanderlust inspiration. I greatly enjoyed her thoughts on finding home and on the value of seeing the world. I’ll also be honest – the first part of the book seemed to be much more vivid and poignant than the end, but overall, it was entirely worth the read.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion – Elizabeth Cline. This book explains our current fashion industry, from our obsession with cheap clothes to the beginning of the overseas migration of clothing manufacturing companies to the ways that the environment and the labor industries in those countries are being taken advantage of to ways we can cut our own consumption. It is a bit repetitive in places, but I learned an amazing amount. (More thoughts on this topic coming soon!)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson. This was my Halloween read for the year, and it set the mood perfectly. Though I knew the basic preface of the story, I didn’t know exactly how it unfolded. It was surprisingly suspenseful in spots, and the moral reflections are what makes it a classic.

Ghost – Jason Reynolds. This quick read follows Castle as he accidentally joins a track team and learns to take responsibility for his life and choices. I enjoyed both the story and Reynold’s writing – his voicing is authentic and interesting. This is also part of a series following different kids on the same track team, so I look forward to reading the next installment.

Solo – Kwame Alexander. This book, by the author of The Crossover, follows the story of Blaze, the son of a rock star. Blaze is dissatisfied with the privilege and craziness of rock n’ roll life, and misses his deceased mother terribly. His self-discovery and exploration of the meaning of family takes him across the globe. While the premise was interesting, I didn’t love this one. The story seemed too unlikely, and Blaze never seemed to actually learn anything. For music lovers who adore all the rock references, it might be worth it anyway.

Currently reading: Caraval – Stephanie Garber. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy – Pietra Rivoli.

 

Watching

The True Cost. A documentary on Netflix about the real story behind the fashion industry. It’s fascinating and powerful. If you wear clothes, you should watch it.

 

Listening

Random playlists on Spotify, including Hymns for Hipsters and Acoustic Favorites.

 

Loving

Chai lattes. I am perfecting my own chai concentrate recipe, which has been a delicious project. The Teavana Perfectea Maker strains out all the loose spices and makes everything better (because chunky tea? Not good).

The MN Landscape Arboretum. I had no idea how big – and beautiful – the arboretum is. It’s part gardens, part park, part trails, part landscaped gorgeousness. The day we went, it was swarming with kids and picture-taking families and happiness, and it’s no wonder. I will 100% be going back.

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Leggings. These specifically. It’s finally cold enough that I’m not wearing shorts on the weekends, so now these are on heavy rotation. Add this and you have my favorite weekend outfit.

Fully functional computers. The month began with the battery completely dying on my 6 year old laptop. Apparently my computer is too elderly for the Apple store to fix, so my brother performed computer surgery. Happily, everything works now!

Paying off my car! I feel like a real adult now. (And then, in an ironic and unhappy twist, I got rear-ended two days later. The damage is minimal, but the timing is terrible. And I get the unpleasant adult task of figuring out insurance. Whoopee.)

 

Doing

Driving to Chicago for a weekend. It was a delight to see Adam, get Insomnia Cookies delivered, meander through a used book sale, and wander around the Chicago Art Institute.

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Wedding festivities! Two college friends got married over MEA break. Their wedding was beautiful and classy and Christ-filled (just like them!), and it was such an honor to be a bridesmaid. Having an excuse to dance with Adam was fun, too. Congrats again, David and Nicole!

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Having a girls’ weekend. My college roommate and friend found a weekend to come to the Cities and stay with me. We hit up all our old haunts and watched girly movies and laughed at the way we looked in face masks. It was great to see them!

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Attending Singin’ in the Rain with my brothers. My family watched Singin’ in the Rain half a billion times in my childhood, so expectations were high. As one of the boys said, “The girl who played Kathy Seldon was good, but she just isn’t Debbie Reynolds.” That said, seeing a stage enactment (complete with rain!) was delightful.

Celebrating Halloween. Some kind church folks hosted a Halloween dinner party. The trick-or-treaters were limited because of the below-freezing temps, but there was plenty of good company and good food (and good candy!).

School. Things are chugging right along. We’ve had our first conferences, we’re finishing The Outsiders (our first big unit of the year), and I’m currently in the thick of teaching – and grading – essays. Some days are hard – I had to scrawl a smiley face on a Post-It and stick it to my computer to remind myself to not be the cranky teacher after one particularly long week. But I can still laugh when kids spell atmosphere “admiss fear,” and overall, the good days outweigh the bad. I’m grateful for that.

What have you been into this month? Head to Leigh Kramer’s site for all kinds of additional recommendations.

 

September 2017: What I’m Into

September. proper noun. The start of fall and school and ordinary life.

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What to say, about September.

It is a month of transition, always. This year especially. On the very first day of the month, Adam and I drove the six hours to Chicago and he picked up the keys to his new apartment. Days later, my sister moved to California. In the midst of this, my second year of teaching launched.

I had tried to push away my simmering worries about this month for the entire summer. And then September arrived. There were, of course, moments of heartache. But there have also been moments of unexpected sweetness, of surprises I know I don’t deserve.

Transitions are hard. I want to anticipate all the pain, plan a perfect system that will minimize it. And I can’t. It isn’t possible to plan a routine that will eliminate emotional surges, no way to stop change or bottle happiness to apply on melancholy days. The seasons turn, mornings cooling and sun dimming. Relationships and faith and stages of life shift, too. Those shifts, while jarring, sometimes unearth blessings. I learn how to be brave, in small and ordinary ways that make life feel tender and full. I wade on, and watch for the pockets of beauty half-buried in the muddle, because that is what makes life, no matter its circumstances, good.

In all that this month has brought, here is what I’ve been reading and loving and doing.

 

Reading

  • All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. Gorgeous. Haunting. Compelling. There are so many adjectives to describe this book, and none of them do it full justice. The story follows two main characters, a blind girl living in France and a radio-obsessed boy in Germany, and a smattering of others who intersect with their lives. The fascinating narrative structure and the sparkling descriptions made this book vivid and memorable – but it is also incredibly weighty. The death and hard choices and horror of war stand out. So, in the end, do the love and beauty and hope that are possible in humankind.
  • Wonder – RJ Palacio. What a dear, lovely story. Auggie, a fifth grader with a severe facial deformity, is starting middle school. While he tells the bulk of the narrative, his sister, his friends, and other characters are also given a chance to speak, which makes the story even more special and shows even more poignantly the importance of kindness. I loved it. My middle schoolers love it. Everyone should love it.
  • Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team – Steve Sheinkin. Let’s be honest – this history of early football is not my typical book. But I’m working on expanding the recommendations I can give to boys, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It blends stories of the formation of Native American schools and of early football with vivid characters (who just happen to be real people). It was engaging and made me unexpectedly invested who won football games played 100 years ago.
  • The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in this Game Called Life – Kwame Alexander. If you have sports obsessed kids who need some inspiration, this would be a great book to pass along. It’s a quick read of quotes, a few stories of athletic diligence from famous athletes and the author himself, and some cool sports photography. I wish there was a little more to it, but for fans of The Crossover, it’s a good one.

 

Listening

  • Shane and Shane – Psalms. This album’s musical take on Psalms is real and beautiful and feels like a deep, sweet breath.
  • My morning playlist. I made Spotify playlist specifically so I can avoid the radio while I drive to work. It’s heavy on the Audrey Assad and Ellie Holcomb and All Sons and Daughters, and it’s exactly what my mornings need.
  • For the Love podcast with Jen Hatmaker: Getting Vulnerable with Dr. Brene Brown. I think I could listen to Brene Brown talk about paint drying and still be riveted. I listened to this while hurtling down the interstate and trying to scratch out notes without going in the ditch. Brene is even more funny and real than in her TED talks.

 

 

Loving

  • Taking piano lessons. After buying a keyboard this summer, I decided that I need some accountability to actually play the thing. I began taking one piano lesson a month, and the extra coaching and accountability is helpful for bringing my long-dormant skills back to life.
  • The new bullet journal! I ordered a Leuchtturm1917, an Internet favorite for its dotted grid, build-in index, and pre-numbered pages. I love it. Absolutely love it. It feels both fancy and functional. You should bite the bullet (ha. ha.) if you’re considering.
  • All things apple. After visiting an apple orchard, baking apple cake, which tastes like fall and cinnamon and magic, is required. Purchasing orchard honey and eating it on toast (or, you know, with a spoon) is optional, but highly recommended.

 

Doing

  • Dropping Adam off in Chicago. My boyfriend started a master’s program at the University of Chicago this month, and thus we return to the bittersweet task of growing a long-distance relationship. Though much of Labor Day weekend was spent in the minutiae of moving, we still had time for me to bawl my eyes out watching Up and wander his new neighborhood and eat some great food with his family. I miss that boy dearly, but I am so glad that he’s exactly where he needs to be.
  • Driving home. I hadn’t been home all summer, but I fit in one trip to see Brita before she moved to California. We watched movies and stayed up too late and went to the grocery store and had the most ordinary and wonderful time.
  • Going camping, for the second time in my life. Some friends from church planned a fall camping trip to a state park in southeast Minnesota. I am such a novice camper that I couldn’t even find a flashlight before I left, but hiking and making s’mores and talking around the campfire with thoughtful people convinced me that camping might just be all right. This view from my tent in the morning didn’t hurt, either.IMG_3168
  • Celebrating a bride-to-be. One of my dear friends is getting married at the end of October, so September held a bridal shower and bachelorette party to celebrate the upcoming event. I’m so excited to share in the wedding so soon!IMG_3186
  • Attending my church’s women’s retreat. We escaped to a rural retreat center near Stillwater. Making new friendships and deepening others was sweet, and I’m grateful to attend a church with so many kind, intentional women.
  • All. the. school. We’ve kicked off another year! Honestly, the weight of establishing routines and building relationships and teaching content snuck up on me this year. This season has felt so full, especially as I realize all of the ways I need to improve. But I am enjoying getting to know my students more and more and seeing the small ways that my teaching is improving. There’s still so much to learn and do (isn’t there always?), but I am excited for what this year holds.

 

What have you been into this month?

August 2017: What I’m Into

August. proper noun. The dog days of summer.

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Ah, August. I always anticipate that August will be full of lazy, slow days. It never, ever is. Though I didn’t have to go to work during most of this month, it felt like most days were a scramble to fit in all the things before the summer ended. The world was (and is) spinning in crazy and tragic ways, and I don’t feel like I had the mental space to grapple with white supremacy and the threat of nuclear war and the hurricanes that are raging miles south of me. I realize what a luxury that is. But I truly believe that the small things that make us smile – the books we read, the cardigans we can’t take off, the time we spend with those we love – matter. There is still good in the world.

So here we are. Here’s what I loved as summer wrapped up.

Reading

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky. After reading A Gentleman in Moscow in July, I decided to tackle this book. Actually finishing it felt like one of my greatest summer accomplishments. It’s long. The exposition feels very long, and the resolution feels almost equally so. The middle is better – brilliant and insightful in parts, attention-grabbing in others. I especially appreciated how Dostoevysky kept us in suspense (did Dmitry do it? Is he telling the truth?), and I keep thinking about Alexey and how influential he is in the lives of the children he encounters. It is worth reading.

The Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard. I’ve heard so much buzz about this book, and I know so many middle schoolers who love it. I thought it was fine. Maybe it’s because there seem to only be so many ways to do a dystopian novel. Maybe it reminded me too much of Cinder, which had more likeable characters and felt better written. It is engrossing, through, and the plot twist does suck you in to the ending. I’ll recommend it to the kids who might enjoy it, but I won’t finish the series myself.

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld. This book was such a delight. It puts the characters and general plot of Pride and Prejudice into modern times. For example, Jane is a yoga instructor, Lydia and Kitty are obsessed with CrossFit, and Bingley is so eligible because he was on a Bachelor-style show called – wait for it – Eligible. It works because Sittenfeld changes the story just enough to make it not feel forced, while still keeping the beloved characters intact. A warning: it’s a little skankier than P&P (what isn’t?!), but nothing is explicit.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie. A reread of a favorite. Junior’s narration of his experience leaving his Indian reservation and going to a predominantly white school is hilarious and honest and surprisingly deep. Recommended for teens and everyone else.

Currently reading: All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr.

 

Watching

The Great British Baking Show – Season 1. This show deserves all the gushing. I am so sad to say goodbye to these bakers. They’re so delightful, and I would have been happy had any of the final three won.

Dunkirk. Though I sat in the theater for the duration of this film, I can’t exactly claim that I watched it in its entirety, as I spend more time looking at the back of my tightly squeezed eyelids. (War films stress me out. I can’t pretend that it’s fiction, and the suspense of people die suddenly, with great frequency, stresses me out.) That’s especially true in this one – a clock is basically ticking in the background for then entirety. I felt like I myself had survived Dunkirk by the time it ended. On the positive side, the time bending was clever, if not sometimes confusing, and the filming (what I saw of it) was striking.

Moana. Cute. Some fun songs. That about sums it up for me. I’m also not often cynical about Disney movies, but this is just too true.

 

Listening

Have a Great Day playlist on Spotify. My brother told me about this playlist, and it’s full of happy, energizing classics. Nice.

The Road Back to You. I am a Type 1 on the Enneagram through and through, and thinking about how I interact with the world has helped me get through some rough patches this month. I especially loved Episode 12, which featured a conversation with a husband and wife who are both Type 1s. I have unofficially diagnosed Adam as a Type 1, and this got me thinking through the different ways that our perfectionism shows up (and being encouraged that two Ones won’t kill each other).

Hidden Brain: You 2.0: The Value of ‘Deep Work’ in an Age of Distraction. This one is still on the brain. My more expansive summer free time has felt slightly sabotaged by my phone and its distractions of incoming texts and Instagram. Thanks to this, I have noticed how my day starts in a more positive way when I avoid social media for a few hours, and how much more focused I feel when I leave my phone in another room.

 

Loving

This is just excellent.

Trello as a digital recipe box. I have been using Trello, a free organizational website and app, to track the books I’m reading, but I recently made a board to organize favorite recipes. It’s excellent. I can sort recipes into categories, which makes it feel more organized that Pinterest, and including links to the recipes makes everything easy.

Going outside with a book. Every summer, I do this and think it’s magical and then don’t do it enough. I’m mourning the vitamin D and sunshine I wasted. But there’s still September.

Bullet journaling. Bullet journaling is 100% compatible with my personality, and my humble little notebook has made my summer free time feel much more purposeful. Every week this summer, I made a chart for my schedule and meal plan. Once summer school ended, I used the daily log idea to make sure I didn’t spend all day every day aimlessly surfing the Internet. It helped. I also just ordered this in Berry to start the school year, and I am SO EXCITED.

The “blardigan.” A blogger I follow coined this term (think blanket + cardigan) because this sweater feels like it was made from unicorn hair and magic. I wore it for almost a bazillion hours in the car this month, and I didn’t want to take it off even when we felt the southern humidity. It was the most expensive cardigan I’ve ever purchased (and I got it on sale), but the crazy cost might actually be worth it.

Massages. Give me a Groupon for an hour-long massage and I am such a happy girl.

 

Doing

Summering with the best of ‘em. In the dog days of August, I squeezed in lots of coffee dates, lesson planned in libraries and coffee shops, and indulged the back-to-school nesting bug (wash the sheest! Clean the closets!). I am never, ever ready for summer to end.

Road tripping to Chicago. My boyfriend just moved to Chicago, so I tagged along for a weekend trip earlier in the month when he went to check out apartments. We first attended a college friend’s wedding (after staying with a different college college friend). Then he introduced me to the University of Chicago campus, where he’ll be studying this fall, and we squeezed in a stroll around Promontory Point (one of our new favorite spots in Chicago) in between apartment viewings. We also stayed with the nicest couple through AirBnB, and I would totally use the site again.

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Road tripping to Florida. My cousin got married in Florida this month, so Adam and my sister and I drove down for the wedding. We drove through the night, had 48 hours in Florida, and drove back through the night again…which was…an adventure. We did get to stop in Rock City, GA, visit Epcot as well, eat Chik-Fil-A, and listen to Sherlock Holmes audiobooks, which made everything more fun.

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So. many. car. selfies.

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Wedding festivities!

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Our parents were in real Norway when we took this picture in pretend Epcot Norway.

Hitting the State Fair. My siblings made one last outing together before my sister moves to Cali at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. We ate all the food and walked through the best of the buildings. It’s not summer without Sweet Martha’s and cheese curds.

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Not pictured: Pronto Pups and turkey legs.

And now, the school year begins. Here we go…

 

 

July 2017: What I’m Into

July. proper noun. Perhaps my favorite month of the year; contains the 4th of July and my birthday and the height of summer within its short 31 days.

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Oh, dearest July. This month has been squashed full of friends and fun and a little work and squeezing every last drop out of summer. I never understand why it has to go by so fast.

Reading

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. Ah, this wonderful book. It’s currently ranking high in my favorites from 2017. The story follows a man who spends his life on house arrest in a posh Moscow hotel. I don’t always like sweeping stories that cover decades, but this is paced just exactly right. Towles’ descriptions, footnotes, and literary allusions are also witty and lush and delightful. (Plus, reading this inspired me to start Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Not just any book could do that.)

Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis. Another absolute favorite from this year. I read this a few years ago and didn’t love it. The characters, admittedly, are hard to like, and some parts are flat-out weird. But this time around, the depth and beauty of Lewis’s myth retold came through. Knowing the myth of Eros and Psyche, in addition to reading more of Lewis’s nonfiction, helped me see his thoughts on love and on humanity’s place before God much more clearly. Going to a book discussion to talk through the tricky questions didn’t hurt, either!

The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis. This summer has been full of C.S. Lewis. I am not complaining. Adam and I joined a book group to talk through The Weight of Glory, and throughout our discussions I was continually struck by the idea that we settle so much for the little, unsatisfying things that we know and forsake the hugeness of knowing God more deeply. Lewis’s wit and accessible metaphors are wonderful as well.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert. Liz Gilbert writes from her own experience about the practice of creative living. I didn’t think this was groundbreaking, but it was a timely reminder that valuing the creative process is just as important as the end product (and how that end product is received).

The Whole Brain Child – Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book is walks through how kids’ emotions interact with the rest of their brains. I read it as a teacher working to engage with all of students’ minds, and my biggest takeaway is that kids’ feelings need to be addressed before they can do any thinking about problems and solutions. A helpful reminder.

Currently reading – The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott.

 

Watching

Julius Caesar. Adam organized a movie night with a Christian study center around this film by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which sets Shakespeare’s classic in modern-day Africa. While the film is challenging to watch at some points (there’s a whole lot of murder and suicide), the setting definitely emphasized how timeless Shakespeare’s works are. His questions of power and rebellion are just as pertinent today.

The Tree of Life. I’ll be honest – I did not understand all of this film. It’s a dreamy, twisting representation of a man’s processing through his childhood, with extra commentary on the nature of life, family, and shame. The cinematography was lovely, at least, and it did spark fascinating discussion.

Peter Pan. Backyard productions with sisters are lots of fun.

Parks and Rec. This is possibly my favorite TV show, and yet…I have never finished it. Shame on me. I’m working on it.

 

Listening

The TED Radio Hour. This is my favorite running podcast – it dives right in to interesting issues, and the guests change about every 10 minutes so I get something new every mile or so. My favorite stories have been about a man who tried to get rejected every day for 90 days in A Better You, and the amazing exploration of kids’ brains in Unstoppable Learning.

The Liturgists. Favorite episodes from this month’s listening have been on the Bible and on the Enneagram.

 

Loving

This challenge. It’s ridiculously hard. I succeeded…but barely.

 

Sociable Cider Werks. Adam and I tried their tap room, and their flight of cider was excellent. My favorite is no longer on the tap list, but the Freewheeler is a classic for a reason.

Playing piano. I invested in a decent keyboard this month, and it’s been refreshing to plunk away again.

Homemade iced tea. Making iced tea on my stove isn’t even hard, but it makes me feel so economical and thrifty. Trader Joe’s Mango Black tea with just a little simple syrup is extra tasty.

 

Doing

Teaching summer school. I recently finished up my brief stint as a middle school math teacher, and I am so ready to teach books and reading in the fall! For now, though? Lovely, unemployed summer.

Spending time with friends. One of our favorite couples is moving, and we squeezed in some evenings with them before their transition started. Rachel and Joel, we will miss barbecuing and playing board games with you!

Lots of lake time. Adam and I split the Fourth of July weekends with both of our families and got in some good time on the water. Then in mid-July, a huge storm hit my family’s cabin, and my grandparents lost most of the trees on their property. We drove up for an unexpected cleanup weekend, and it was tragic to see how much the landscape changed in such a short time, though the support from family and community was encouraging. Finally, we spent another weekend up north so I could celebrate my birthday at the cabin. Plenty of good food and waterskiing was the best way to spend the day.

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More birthday celebration! The partying continued with a quick catch-up with a college friend and with a fun date with Adam. We stopped by a Carnegie Library on our way to dinner at The Kenwood, and topped off the evening by watching Beauty and the Beast. (See the library connection? He gets me.)

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Half a million miles + cute but not comfy flats = no shoes in nice pictures…

Running a half marathon! Let’s be honest – running in July is not exactly pretty. Adam and I attempted a long run on the Fourth of July, and those were possibly the longest 7 miles of my life. We spent the rest of the month strategizing how to not die of heat stroke while still getting our miles in. It all paid off when, at the end of the month, we both survived our second half marathons! I finished in 2:14:53, 7 seconds under my goal time, and managed to run the entire thing. My blisters have almost healed, and overall I’m feeling great!

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My sister got up ridiculously early to cheer us on. She may not have got a finisher’s medal, but she wins all of the awards.

Celebrating weddings. Friends who live out of state held a wedding reception in MN, and another friend had a bridal shower…on the same day. Both events were sweet – so much love is in the air!

Writing. Though the blog was relatively quiet this month, I’ve been working on some side ideas and have been braver about seeking feedback (thanks, writing group!). It’s been both challenging and inspiring.

 

What have you been into this month? Linking up with Leigh Kramer, as always.

Run: Reflections on a Half-Marathon

Run. verb. To move at a pace faster than a walk; a form of exercise I used to hate.

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Six-year-old me looked out across the vast expanse of grass, stretching between me and my goal. My gym teacher had just done a terrible thing. She had brought us out to the phy ed field, told us to run around it four times, and clicked her stopwatch. I had been running for an eternity, it seemed, and yet the finish line was still an eternity away. There was no way my little legs were going to finish that mile. None.

I don’t remember crossing the finish line. I do remember sitting out the rest of gym class in tired anguish, and going home to report to my mom that I wanted to be homeschooled. That way, I would never have to run the mile again. My mom, I am sure, rolled her eyes as she sent me back to school anyway. Once a year, as I wheezed through another mile run, I questioned her judgment.

Fifteen years later, I ran 13.1 miles.

The irony of this is not lost on me. Though I had become vaguely athletic (I was a varsity athlete in high school, and I attempted one year of D-III college basketball), I was by no means a runner. I signed up for the half marathon anyway, just to see if I could do it.

I could. Barely.

On race day, my running buddy and I started slow but strong. Too soon, we were just going, well, slow. By mile 10, I was walking more than running. The last mile, which I forced myself to run in its entirety, felt like that never ending first grade mile run all over again. Crossing the finish line was not climactic. I desperately had to use the bathroom, and I was simply relieved to be done.

That was two years ago. Now, thanks to a convincing boyfriend and an open summer schedule, I am about to run a half marathon again. I’ve spent the past 11 weeks jogging around lakes, tracking my mile times, and building up my leg muscles. Everything I tried to forget about the first experience is coming back to me: the ache of cranky knees, the nerves before long runs, and the probable insanity of attempting to run so many miles. Before every run, especially anything longer than 5 miles, I am tempted to quit. What keeps me going (beyond the peer pressure of that convincing boyfriend, anyway) is how much running is teaching me about loving my body.

My body, like them all, is unique. I am 6’1”, broad-shouldered, with big feet and an athlete’s build. Though I can reach the top kitchen shelves without a chair, my frame often feels fraught with limitations. After all, this body does not blend in. It does not fit into pants with normal inseams. It is not delicate. It does not inspire tact in the middle school students I teach, as I often overhear encouraging, self-esteem-boosting quotes like “she’s gigantic!” whispered from new classes.

These limits provoke my mild intolerance most days. I cannot change the length of my spine, the span of my hip bones, the size of my feet, or the width of my shoulders. So I roll my eyes and resign myself to not wearing tall heels, to wearing dresses that flow gently over my hips and thighs, to joking about how easy my blonde head is to spot in a crowd.

Running helps change that perspective.

After a run midway through my training, I stood in my running shorts and confronted my bathroom mirror. Normally, I would poke my legs, noticing how they were paler and larger than I would prefer. I would examine the grossly fascinating blister forming on my left foot. I would hope and pray that all this running was firming up those glutes for the height of swimsuit season.

But after powering through long runs, decreasing my mile times, and perfecting my form, my muscles deserve more than half-hearted criticism. They have grown and stretched. They have voiced their complaints, and I have pushed them. My quads have gained definition after each run. My glutes have strengthened with every wall sit, lessening the ache in my IT band. The blisters on my toes are hard-earned, from pounding into pavement thousands of times. Using my body shows me its potential. I see all this body can do and how much it deserves my love.

The finish line of my half marathon is quickly approaching. I have no idea how those 13.1 miles will pass. Maybe my training will pay off, and I’ll be triumphant as I near the end. Maybe I’ll feel like a first grader again, counting every step towards the finish line and hoping to never, ever run again. Either way, what seemed impossible will have happened. My body will have survived a million and a half miles of training, give or take a few. And it will have earned my love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2017: What I’m Into

June. proper noun. The first burst of sweet summertime.

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June and its long, sweet days have slipped away. To where, I don’t know.  Why they had to leave so fast, I’m not sure.

This month has been jammed full of events and errands and emotions. Blogging fell off my radar, for a time, and that’s okay. Ideas are percolating on these slow summer afternoons. I’m learning to wait for them, to listen, and to know when to do the work of drawing them out. We’ll see what they hold.

In the meantime, here’s some of what’s been happening in June.

Reading

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Not mentioned – this very long tome, which has been abandoned for now.

A Man Called Ove – Fredrick Backman. I adored this book. The story of Ove, a widowed curmudgeon, is unexpectedly hilarious and tender and raw. However, do not listen to the last five minutes of the audiobook while running errands. You will be crying too hard to go into Trader Joe’s. Or so a friend tells me.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas. This YA novel tells the story of Starr, an African American girl who is in the car when her childhood friend is shot and killed by a police officer. The book is timely and brings perspective to a situation that’s so often exploded by the media until the people closely linked to the event appear to be public figures giving interviews, rather than real people. It was engrossing. However, I do think that the book tried to do too much. It felt like the author wanted Starr to face every possible hurdle an African American teenager might encounter, which made some of the issues too thinly addressed. I would have preferred deeper insight into just a few issues, but I think it’s still worth reading.

The Cruelest Month – Louise Penny. This is the third mystery in the Inspector Gamache series, a delightful mystery series set in a little Quebec town. The murder in this book was creepier than in the first two, but I enjoyed how the author continued to deepen the bigger mystery that spans across the entire series. I’m excited to dive into the next one.

As You Like It – William Shakespeare. I much prefer Shakespeare’s comedies to his other works, and this one was great fun. There are a number of famous lines (“All the world’s a stage,” for example), and Rosalind is a fantastic character.

Currently reading: A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis.

 

Watching

Wonder Woman. I’m not a big superhero movie person, but I did enjoy this one. It portrayed of a strong woman who is motivated by love and avoided slamming the audience with a feminist agenda. Gal Gadot is a wonder. Bonus: the Amazon general is played by Robin Wright, who is both Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride and Claire Underwood from House of Cards. Who knew?

The Great British Baking Show. I’m nearing the end of season 1. In a particularly tense episode, two bakers help another finish when she’s in a panic, and a shot of two women holding hands in support during the final reveal made me cry. I love this show.

Much Ado About Nothing. This is one of my absolute favorite plays, and Emma Thompson is young and hotblooded in this version.

 

Listening

This podcast explains one expert teacher’s views on how to deal with rude, disrespectful students. It merits a re-listen right before school starts.
Loving

Jockey wicking slipshorts. Perhaps this is too personal. But it’s a great discovery, so I’ll share anyway. Unlike my old volleyball spandex that I usually wear under dresses, these slipshorts don’t ride up and help prevent obnoxious leg sweat. Find ’em at Target.

This post is old, but I laughed out loud multiple times while reading it.

A makeup tutorial from a real person who forgets to wash their makeup brushes? Yes please.

Volstead’s Eporium. Thanks to a teacher friend, we discovered a little-known bar that, like a speakeasy, is completely unmarked, doesn’t have a website, and is hidden in a back alley. Once you’ve been let in and gone down a sketchy stairway, suddenly you enter the 1920s. Everything is decadent, and entire rooms are hidden behind moving bookshelves.

 

Doing

Celebrating Adam’s birthday! We got panekoeken, explored the Minnesota Zoo, and capped it off the day with a fancy dinner at The Lexington. I’m so glad he was born.

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Attending women’s retreat. My brother spends his summers at a Bible camp, and my mom, sister, and some women from my hometown church spent a refreshing weekend there. The weather cooperated enough for us to spend some time on the water and for three of us young, brave souls to attempt to sleep outside in hammocks.

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Watching An American in Paris at the Ordway. The show felt like spring and magic. We also got appetizers at Meritage, a fancy French restaurant. Not despising beef tartare made me feel very French indeed.

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Celebrating a rainy Father’s Day at the lake. It was a quiet, slow weekend, but we at least fit in an inaugural boat ride!

Attending the first of many summer weddings and wedding receptions. The wedding was held outdoors next to a creek, and it was entirely lovely. Congrats to Jack and Kaela!

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Running. Adam and I are still committed to running a half marathon. Despite one 5-mile run that left me convinced my knees would never be the same, things are progressing well. My knees have recovered, and I’m rediscovering that a runner’s high is actually a thing.

The school cycle continues! I finished up school midway through June, praise the Lord. I had one week of freedom (read: one week of catching up on everything I don’t do during the school year, like babysitting and sweeping the kitchen floor) before summer school began. Now I’m teaching summer school for 5 weeks…just not in the capacity I expected. Based on student class sizes, I’ve been moved from teaching ESL to assisting a 7th and 8th grade math class. Yep. Anyone who knew my attitude towards math in 10th grade is laughing right now. I’m getting good classroom management – and fractions – practice.

 

What are you into right now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Into: May 2017

May. proper noun. It brings flowers. Specifically lilacs. Hallelujah.

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Spring has officially sprung! Here’s what I’ve been loving.

Reading

Lila – Marilynne Robinson. I adored Gilead, and this companion book was not a disappointment. Marilynne Robinson is a master. Her characters are ordinary and real and beautiful, and her rich, quiet storytelling is a treat. I can’t wait to read her others.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anna Fowler. I found Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald intriguing, but I didn’t know much about them before reading this book. Their romance is dazzling and more heartbreaking than I realized. This story of their relationship, told from Zelda’s perspective, provides an interesting contrast to the vision of Scott that comes through in his writings.

The Tempest – Shakespeare. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever read Shakespeare’s full volumes, but listening to audiobooks of his works is good mental exercise. I can’t say that this play is my favorite – it’s difficult for a plot to hold much suspense when a sorcerer is controlling the actions of everyone who is shipwrecked on his island – but I loved hearing the line“they did confine him…Into a cloven pine; within which rift imprisoned, he didst painfully remain,” and gasping aloud at the depth in the book A Wrinkle in Time, which references The Tempest multiple times.

Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper. This story follows Melody, a young girl with cerebral palsy. She is brilliant, but is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. Throughout the book, Melody learns to talk and prove herself. Melody’s voice felt authentic, I enjoyed hearing from her perspective, and the story challenged me to make sure that my perceptions of people are fair. However, if you’ve read it, tell me your thoughts on the ending. I’m conflicted.

The False Prince – Jennifer Nielsen. Sage is taken from an orphanage and gets wrapped up in a plot to impersonate a supposedly dead prince. This book started out okay and got better as the story progressed – it had some major plot twists that had one of my students checking in with me daily to see how I was progressing and whether I had gotten to the exciting parts yet. Reader-ly middle school boys seem to love this one.

Currently reading: The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas; A Man Called Ove – Frederick Buechner (audiobook); The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis

Watching

The African Queen and Casablanca. Apparently it was the month for introducing Adam to Humphrey Bogart. These classics are two of my favorites, and everyone should watch them.

 The Great British Baking Show. This show is an utter delight. Brits bake in a tent on the countryside. Picture bunting and British accents and shots of lambs in between shots of cake. The competition is also the kindest I’ve ever watched – these people are from all walks of life, from construction to graphic design to homemaking – and they are more supportive of each other than any other competition I’ve watched.

Listening

Blue Babies Pink podcast (and blog). Brett Trapp shares his “Southern coming out story” in episodes on his blog. He also has a podcast where he reads the posts. I’m not too far into the series, but both are fantastic. Brett is real and honest and tells his story – one that needs to be heard.

What Should I Read Next podcast. I like Anne Bogel (or Modern Mrs. Darcy) and her reading guides, and I’ve known about this podcast for ages, but I didn’t check it out until this month. Guests share 3 books they love, one book they hate, and what they’re currently reading, and Anne matches them with 3 books she thinks they might enjoy. I’ve picked up some fun recommendations, but I also just really love hearing people talk about books.

Loving

I swear, this article could have been written about my students. I recently had two of them tell me that if I get married, they need to be invited to my wedding. Another asked me, in the middle of silent reading, what my favorite stores are.

This necklace in white. I think I’ve worn it at least 3 times a week since receiving it. It goes with everything.

Running. Sometimes. Adam convinced me to run a half-marathon at the end of July, and our training has officially begun. I am currently “enjoying” anything around 3 miles, but the long runs (my longest is 5 miles thus far) feel really, really long. Don’t tell me how many miles I have to add by race day. I’m not thinking about it.

Sunshine! The warm temps are finally here, and it’s all I can do to not wear shorts to school every day.

Doing

Attending a Kentucky Derby party. The race, was, well, shorter than I expected. But hey, it’s a great excuse to dress nicely and eat food with friends.

Watching La Boheme. Adam and I attended a performance of this opera at the Ordway. The first few acts are sad, but the last moments of the last act? Epically tragic. RENT is based on this opera, for context.

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Exploring the Twin Cities. In one weekend, we were able to hit up an estate sale on Summit Avenue and wander through an open house of a mansion that’s for sale. My standards for future houses have risen dramatically. We also stopped by the Grand Ole Creamery for pizza and ice cream (and to smell the homemade waffle cones. Delightful.)

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The parasol did not come home with me. Maybe it should have, since I got sunburned later that day.

 

Hosting an after-church tea with friends. I learned how to make scones for the occasion. They’re not that difficult. It’s a dangerous realization.

Celebrating Andrew’s graduation! My youngest brother graduated from high school this month. I still can’t handle the fact that he’s not 13 anymore! We all enjoyed listening to his trumpet solo during the band’s senior song, eating at the s’mores bar (I’m still thinking wistfully about brownies topped with marshmallow and a dark chocolate sea salt caramel) and catching up with family. Unfortunately, my sister was stranded overseas after flight cancellations and the party wasn’t complete without her!

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DSC_0970.jpgStarting off the lake season. We were ambitious with the paddleboards and tried to go around the lake…only to get stranded when the wind picked up and I panicked at the size of the waves. Lessons learned? Accept that falling in is not the end of the world (even when fully clothed), and Minnesota lake people are nice when you show up wet and bedraggled on their porch.

School. Almost. Done. This seems about accurate at this point.

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What have you been into this month?

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Adulting: 8 Tips for Graduates

Adulting. verb. “To behave like an adult; to do things that adults regularly have to do.”

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Photo by Megan Sugden Photography.

Dear Andrew (and other graduates),

Welcome to the real world. I’m still not sure how you got here.

When I graduated from high school, you were a pipsqueak with chubby cheeks and shaggy hair and a propensity to laugh until you cried.

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You still laugh until you cry, and until recently, you had even longer, shaggier hair. But you also look like a sort-of adult, and you run faster than I can, and you stay up later than any of us. You’ll wear a mortarboard on Saturday, and the women in our family will cry, and you’ll be so glad to be done.

Then the fun begins.

Henceforth you must be an adult, or at least pretend to be one. Adults have to do hard things. For example, they must get out of bed even if no one forces them to do so. They must ensure that they eat, because no one else will buy bread when it runs out. They must do the laundry, at some point, maybe. Target will tell you which hangers to buy, and your advisors will tell you what classes to take. But only your oldest sister can tell you this – the random list of advice that you will probably never read (but definitely should. Oldest sisters always know best.)

  1. Learn how to cook at least one thing well. You will sometimes be asked to bring food to events. Or, perhaps, you might someday want to wow someone with some nice home cookin’. (Guys – girls are really, really impressed by men who can cook.) Have at least one recipe that you know won’t embarrass you. (If you really are hopeless, Ghiradelli brownie mix works miracles.)

 

  1. Track your spending. You really need to. I didn’t do this until after college, and I wish I would have started sooner. Seeing cold, hard numbers and realizing exactly where you throw your hard-earned cash is sobering.

 

  1. Find a hobby that is not Netflix. Binge-watching is easy and entertaining. It is not fulfilling. You will be a happier (and more interesting) human being if you step away from the screen for a while and actively participate in something. Sing. Lift weights. Paint. Yarn-bomb trees in parks. Start a paintball league. Bring back planking. Take walks after dinner. Just do something.

 

  1. Meet deadlines. You don’t run the world (yet). That means that you need to respect other people – and their time. Showing up on time and meeting deadlines makes you seem mature, which is especially valuable if you aren’t so certain that’s true. It also saves you money. Let’s be honest – no one likes late fees.

 

  1. Do not begin a new relationship in your first semester of college. In your first few months in a new place, you need time to adjust. You need time to establish a solid friend group. You need time to let yourself change and adapt to your new surroundings. Don’t spend all of your time pursuing one person and neglecting the rest of your life. You need healthy balance and other healthy relationships to be ready to date someone, and trust me, it will take all of your energy to develop those in your first semester. Make yourself at home, then work on snagging that dreamboat.

 

  1. Remember your need for community and find it. We are not meant to meander through life alone. We need community. We need people to watch movies with on Friday nights, to laugh at dumb YouTube videos with, to sit in coffee shops with. Get out of your room, to events and churches and clubs and classes, and talk to people. Take the initiative and ask someone to grab dinner, or to attend a hall event with you, or to toss a Frisbee with you. You are not bothering them or wasting their time by asking them to spend time with you. People want to make friends, generally, and you are an interesting person who is worthy of being someone’s friend.

 

  1. Do not compare yourself to the Internet. Your life must amount to more than your Instagram feed or your number of Twitter followers. Otherwise, the most enjoyment you will get from a walk around the lake or a nice latte or a brunch with friends will be the likes you get on photos afterwards. That’s a piddly amount of enjoyment compared to the quiet thrill of being present in the moment and enjoying your life as it is, not as you want people to see it. And when you get snarky and jealous over the person who’s Instagram famous, remember: do not compare someone else’s public life to your private life. They don’t post the snapshots from the nights when they are convinced they’ll be single forever, or that time they failed a test, or that argument they just had with their girlfriend, or those times when they were so homesick they could cry. We are all human. We all have terrible days, and we all have good days. Filtered pictures do not change that.

 

  1. Know that everyone has one really terrible college semester. Mine was fall semester, freshman year. I didn’t feel like anyone truly knew me, or like I would ever find my place on that big college campus, or like I was any good at anything. I literally counted the days until I could go home at each college break, and I sobbed every time I had to return. But I kept showing up (I was paying tuition, after all), and tried to form deeper relationships, and gave myself grace. And like all terrible life seasons, it got better. If you’re going through one of the nasty seasons, you will not stay there forever. Things are not hopeless. Hang in there.

 

Many blessings to you, Andrew, and to all of those headed off on new adventures. May the transitions be smooth, the chances to do laundry for free be frequent, the backpacks light, and the memories stupendous.