May (2015)

May. proper noun. The month of real spring and finals week and graduations. Includes holidays such as May Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and The Last Day of School (don’t try to tell me that’s not a real holiday).

May

It’s the end of the month, which means I’m joining Leigh Kramer’s link-up to share what I’m generally enjoying this month. Honestly, May has whipped by in a blur of hard and good things, and I’m feeling a little off-kilter about my current state of transitional living, so I’ve probably forgotten important stuff. Oh well. Here’s what I’ve got.

Reading

Paper Towns – John Greene. I have a problem with John Greene. I can’t put down his books, and I neglect all responsibilities for the few hours it takes to finish them. Admittedly, this is the best kind of problem. This book, about a boy who’s in love with a girl who disappears, is his typical style and his typical amount of excellence. The movie version is coming out sometime this summer, and it would most likely involve far fewer tears than The Fault in Our Stars.

86, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff. This darling book is a real-life collection of letters exchanged over years between a New York woman and a bookseller from London. She’s sassy and he’s British proper. It’s a quick, charming read.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. I have strongly resisted anything by Tolkien since reading The Fellowship of the Ring and being bored out of my mind by it. This one was more fun. And significantly shorter. According to my sister, this is proof that books meant for children are far superior to books for adults.

 

Watching

Friends, up to the beginning of Season 3. Watching a show about people in their 20s who have no idea what they’re doing is both relieving (I’m not the only one screwing things up!) and stressful (so you’re telling me this never gets better?).

Pitch Perfect 2. The plot was meh, but the music was aca-awesome.

 

Listening

James Bay’s album Chaos and the Calm was on repeat for all of finals week. It’s somehow both chill and motivating, both of which are necessary for end-of-school sanity.

Country radio stations have kept me company on long drives, especially songs like “Love You Like That” by Canaan Smith.

 

Loving

The Sugar Box blog makes me ridiculously happy, and this post about fantastic fictional teachers is spot on.

Minnehaha Falls. Wear Chacos, hike the trails, and get your feet a little wet. It’s even better if you have a good guy by your side.

Picture snapped by the boyfriend

Picture snapped by the boyfriend

After packing up all of my crap, I would believe these statistics about the amount of stuff we own. I’d love to pitch half my possessions and become minimalist, but I have a heck of a long way to go.

Birkenstocks. My mom laughs because I used to make fun of her Birks, but now I get it. They’re comfy and make me feel granola.

 

Doing

All the last stuff. Last friend date for the year at the Stone Arch Bridge and Mall of America. Last ResLife hangout at our end-of-the-year retreat. Last angsty, painful time pounding out papers and taking tests (halleluiah). Last time moving out of Hartill, my dorm for the last four years. Hello, emotions.

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(staff photo borrowed from Facebook)

Watching wonderful friends graduate from college, and helping my younger brother celebrate high school graduation a week later.

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(college graduation photos borrowed from Facebook)

Celebrating my cousin’s wedding (the day after Caleb’s graduation, no less). There are 27 first cousins on that side of the family, and all of us were there. Cue all of the family photos. Highlights include flying from MN to WI thanks to a really generous uncle, staying relatively dry in spite of the rain, and getting to sit in the copilot seat on the flight home.

wedding Collage

Currently driving back and forth between Minneapolis, the cabin, and home a heck of a lot and keeping most of my possessions in the back of my car. Ay.

Next month: running a half-marathon, moving into an apartment, starting a new summer job, and having all kinds of summer adventures. Be prepared.

 

What were you into this month?

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Cheer

Cheer. noun. According to Dictionary.com, “something that gives joy or gladness; encouragement; comfort.”

What finals and Christmas feel like together, as told by small children. Image via Pinterest

What finals and Christmas feel like together, as told by small children.
Image via Pinterest

Who decided that the Christmas season and the finals season should coincide? Scrooge, probably. Looming homework ruins my Christmas cheer. ‘Tis the season for sleigh bells and apathy. (Also for illness. I’ve caught a cold, and the pile of tissues growing on the floor beside me does not increase my motivation for the whole classes and assignments and being productive thing.)

On the topic of homework and not being productive, here is a non-comprehensive list of things I would rather be doing than tackling assignments:

  • Decorating cookies to look like elves and stars and angels
  • Taking a sleigh ride
  • Building a snowman and making it come to life so it can crack jokes like Olaf
  • Vacuuming (but doing dishes goes too far…)
  • Posting this list of my favorite holiday things so you, too, may be distracted. And so that your Christmas cheer may increase, obviously.

Enjoy, fellow procrastinators.

These dubstepping dads in Christmas sweaters

This rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside

This candy, which tops the list of treats I want to make when I finally get home for the holidays.

This pin

This shirt, which I want to wear every day until Christmas

The cool rhythms of this song

This post for when holidays are hard

This haunting version of Mary, Did You Know (You’ve probably already seen it, but it’s worth watching again).

(And everything by Pentatonix, ever.)

May we be filled with good cheer this week. Or at least finals survival instincts.

Finals

Dear College Student Who is Facing Finals Week,

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The college life is hard, man. I so get it.

(Unless you are the person who writes detailed lists of everything you must do each hour and gets everything done two days ahead of time and is highly productive all the live-long day and doesn’t ever get distracted by the Internet. Then I don’t get it.)

But if you’re fumbling through this week, a little unsteady, I am with you. If you are showing the following finals-week symptoms, we are in complete solidarity.

1. You wobble between boredom and stress and utter lack of motivation, which means that you alternatively stare at the wall and wander in circles around your room.

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2. You check Facebook more than you will ever admit, even though your frequency on the site makes you realize that it is a complete waste of time.

3. You watch a ridiculous number of episodes of Parks and Rec, because watching other people’s wacky lives is far more entertaining than homework and requires so much less energy.

4. You would really like to sleep all day long. But that feels even more irresponsible than watching Netflix all day long.

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5. You are torn between maybe squeezing out a few painful words on your last assignments and spending time with the friends who, in a matter of hours, won’t live a holler away.

6. You eat a random, nonperishable-ish crap like mac and cheese and chocolate chips and forget that vegetables exist because you don’t want to buy any more groceries and are out of meal plan money and strongly believe in eating your feelings.

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7. You become intimately acquainted with the dry shampoo bottle and oversized sweatshirts. Makeup, on the other hand, becomes a distant and unfamiliar friend.

8. You avoid processing the jumble of emotions that the end of the semester drags in, that mixed bag of fond nostalgia and exhaustion and mourning for everything that’s grown familiar and cozy, because it hasn’t sunk in yet that the year is actually ending. And your brain is also too fried to handle anything deep.

9. You post random lists on the Internet because how else would you logically spend your time?

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If you’re showing these symptoms, I wish that I had some motivating words for you, some word caffeine that will jolt you with the mojo you need to keep on keeping on. Unfortunately, I’ve got nothing. My motivation has vanished, and I have no extra to spread around. All I can tell you is this. (It may or may not be true, but it’s what I’ve been whispering to myself as I accomplish absolutely zilch): It’s okay. It’s okay to be tired and unmotivated. It’s okay to decide that homework is stupid. It’s okay to bribe yourself with Facebook binges. Finals week will soon be over, and once again your life will have structure and balanced meals and a point. Very, very soon, you are going to be okay.

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Now your “study break” is over. Get back to “work.” (Or go watch a movie or browse your favorite social media or take a nap. I won’t judge. In fact, I’ll probably join you.)

Sending love and motivation your way,

Anna

 

* All images in this post were found on Pinterest. Go browse their humor boards if your study break isn’t quite over yet.

December

December. Derived from the Latin word for ten, December is the twelfth and final month of the year. It is also often considered the first month of winter.

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Image via Pinterest

I’m linking up with Emily Freeman and sharing What I Learned in December. Keep in mind, I spent December preparing for finals. And procrastinating for preparing for finals. Evaluate this list accordingly.

1. I am weirdly fascinated by Internet personality quizzes. Without them I would not know interesting tidbits such as my Disney villain alter ego is Maleficent, who’s power hungry and hates being left out. You should be terrified of me. Also, of all of the Friends characters, I am most like Monica. Translated for the Friends uninitiated, this means, “You’re a little uptight, but you’re a great cook, a great host, and a great friend.”

2. Blasting One Direction is fabulous motivation to finish studying for one last final. I know. I succumb to catchy pop beats and boys with ridiculous hair. It’s official. I have no taste.

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So. Much. Hair.
Image via Google Images

3. Speaking of hair, girls’ hair is gross. To the lovely women who live in my hall: I like you a whole lot, but it took half an hour to cut all of your hair off the bottom of the vacuum. That’s sick. There’s one downside of being an RA that I never anticipated.

4. Knitting is a fabulous hobby. As a preteen, I made one very lopsided dishcloth and have neglected the needles since then. Man, have I been missing out.

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Yes, this is our family’s Christmas picture, and yes, I was actually knitting.

5. Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, uses the adjectives drunk, last-ditch, and lethal more than most authors. (If you’ve read the books, this should not be that surprising.) This information comes from this article, which looks at the variation between words and sentence structures in The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter. If you’ve read the books and actually like English, it’s fascinating.  If you think word choice and sentence structure are snooze-worthy, I’ll share one more fascinating point with you: It’s scientifically proven that Twilight is emotional drivel.

6. Netflix is both a wonderful and very dangerous thing. One episode of a show ends, and you have a whole 14 seconds to decide if you will be a productive person or waste your life watching a screen. I am a slow processor! It takes me longer than 14 seconds to make good decisions! Since my discovery of Pinterest, procrastination has never been so easy. It may be a good thing my free trial runs out soon.

7. The creators of Frozen, the cute new Disney animated movie, really nailed the older sister/younger sister dynamics between Elsa and Anna. My younger sister is a melodramatic sweetheart who does not excel at long-term planning, just like Anna in the movie. Of the two of us, I am more likely to be icy and isolated. Though I don’t have any magic powers that I know of.

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The famous Frozen sisters.
Image via Google Images

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The not-quite-as-famous parallels. Can’t you see the similarities (even though this picture is more than 5 years old)?

8. Methods are survivable! For anyone who is not a “teacher candidate” at my school and has no idea what I’m talking about, methods is the semester of intensive classes that instructs future educators how to teach their specific subject areas. Normal classes all get squished into Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday are dedicated to observing and teaching in a real classroom. Nasty rumors get circulated about this semester. Younger Ed majors, I regret to inform you that most of them are true. You will be sleep deprived and have little free time and stress-eat chocolate late into night. But you will survive. One of my lovely classmates compared completing methods to running a marathon: you’re always exhausted, everyone is cheering you on but doesn’t really understand the pain you’re going through, and your prize for the months of training that got you to the finish line is a crappy t-shirt. I feel a little ripped off that I didn’t even get a t-shirt. But I did cross the finish line, at least.

This concludes the final What I Learned of 2013! As a learner-type girl, I love tracking my cool discoveries outside the academic world of college (and it makes my random Internet surfing seem much more justifiable). I plan on keeping it going in 2014, so watch for more What I Learned next year, too!

Jingle

Jingle. According to me, the sound of sleigh bells. Also another word for songs, particularly catchy, infectious ones.

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Image via Pinterest

Christmas would be so much more festive if it did not coincide with the end of the semester.

This week where “It’s final week” becomes a legitimate excuse for everything.

Even though my finals week is not that crazy.

Maybe especially because my finals week is not that crazy. Meaning I have slightly less panic and slightly more free time.

I watch New Girl. (Don’t judge my guilty pleasure TV. I know it’s a little crass and a little racy and it would be embarrassing to watch some episodes with my parents. I know. But it’s Zooey Deschanel. Really.)

I start Where’d You Go, Bernadette and devour the wacked cast of characters and slight ridiculousness of vacations to Antarctica and mudslides. (The devouring is also because the book doesn’t have chapters, just snippets of communication between characters with a little first-person narration by a brilliant eighth grader. It’s impossible to put down. You just think, “Oh, one more email between Audrey and Soo-Lin,” and then you read for another 20 pages.)

I eat a lot of carbs. (Partly to get rid of all of the perishable foods left in my room before leaving for break, partly because cold weather means no outside runs and the camouflage of cozy layers, partly because I’ve got great plans for the New Year’s workouts that can wait until I have a consistent schedule and little more motivation.)

There’s a whole lot of procrastination going on. Any homework doing currently involves bribery of chocolate, a few (ahem. 20.) pages of my latest read, or some really great music. And since it’s December, that music is quite festive.

I have wholeheartedly embraced Christmas jingles, filling my headphones with snow and silent nights. I’ve been secretly sneaking these songs since it got frosty in November, but now I play them with abandon. It’s my one way to spread Christmas cheer.

I have quite the collection on iTunes, everything from the 40s-era 2-disk collection Christmas with the Stars to the punny Let It Snow, Baby…Let It Reindeer from my adolescent favorite Relient K. And then there’s the magic of Pandora and Spotify.

Out of this vast array, here are some of my favorites.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Mmm. This is maybe my favorite Christmas song. Maybe. See the previous post for proof. Check out the version by Jars of Clay (and their entire Christmas CD as well, especially if you need some songs that sound a little less glittery than typical holiday fare).

Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

A beautiful reflection from Mary’s perspective. In my mind, the prayerful melody makes this song worth playing far past December. And Amy Grant is like the queen of Christmas music.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

I don’t actually understand why I like this song. But I do. I belt it whenever it comes on in the car, and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit it.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Michael Buble

This man makes me swoon. Those deep notes at the beginning? Melting.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Our desperate need for a savior whispered through a simple, haunting tune. There are so many good versions. The violin-driven classic by Selah has striking harmonies, the Civil Wars version is perfectly melancholy, the one by David Crowder Band is exactly the yearning guitar-y greatness you would expect from the David Crowder Band.

Marshmallow World

Because it’s cute and makes winter actually sound fun. When the day’s high temp is 4 °F, I need that. Even if I later walk outside, roll my eyes at the arctic weather being “a time for play,” and get snarky to anyone who claims to wait for winter “the whole year round.”

If you think this is a complete list, you underestimate my deep adoration of Christmas tunes. If you tell me about songs that I should add, I will love you forever. (Or at least until December is done and my homework motivation has returned.)

Peace

Peace. Noun. According to Dictionary.com, “Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.” Also the lyric to many a Christmas song.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet, the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.

It’s an old story, this telling of peace and love that rests over the world at Christmas. We’ve been singing it since the shepherds and angels on the first Noel, back when no one knew the words to Silent Night, the magic of Santa, the stunning, salvation-bringing life the tiny baby would live. And it’s a mind-blowing one. The God of the universe becomes a baby squalling in the Bethlehem night because he loves us so dang much. Wild and sweet, indeed. But after countless repetitions, the story is memorized, the miracle plasticized in nativity sets and masked in sparkly marketing. It’s hard to think of the manger, where God begins to dwell with us, with reverence and awe when the story is familiar and swept over by festivities and finals.

And in despair I bowed my head.”There is no peace on earth,” I said, “for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

This doubting, restless heart so easily forgets the assurance of God with us. It’s ironic that this week, the crackdown before finals, is the week of peace in the Advent calendar. This is the week that sees me frantic and worried, my brow furrowed and my mind churning over the party I have yet to plan and the paper I have yet to write. I can count on one hand the assignments I have left to turn in, but my focus is crawling, my textbooks weightier than usual. Weariness sweeps over everything. I feel alone in weakness, in worry.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

But. Peace is not peppermint-spiced. It’s not found in jingle bells and twinkly lights. It’s not warm fuzzies at orchestra-swelling praise songs. It’s not even watery eyes at sweet, sentimental Christmas messages.

Peace, real peace, is knowing that the King is here, that Jesus promises to take carry my worry, that God is good even when sleep is lacking and motivation is missing. Peace is knowing that ultimately God and good win. Even in darkness more consuming than December night, God is still at work and has sent his Light to shatter the black.

Right now, I’m not feeling an abundance of peace. I am ignoring the textbooks sprawled next to me and yearning to be done. My efforts to find peace involve stress eating and Pinterest perusing. Wrong failing and right prevailing are not the first topics on my mind.

And that’s okay. God can take it. He doesn’t need my triumphant joy, my Christmas cheer, my attempts to manufacture some candlelight stillness in my soul. His peace is not dependent on my emotional stability. He has faced problems so much bigger than my end-of-semester doldrums, and his offer of peace still lingers, wrapped in grace and love.

Maybe, even right now in this season of the semester, I’ll be brave enough to believe and accept it.
Till, ringing singing, on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men!

Frazzled

Frazzled. adjective. According to the little dictionary on my Word toolbar, “Exhausted and confused or irritable; frayed.”

Even though it’s far less accurate, I am going to roll with the second half of that definition. Right now, I prefer to think of my brain as a worn-out electrical wire, outer rubber casing peeling away at the seams, staticky wires poking out at odd angles, rather than a sloppy mess of exhaustion. It seems a bit more endearing, like Albert Einstein’s nutty hair or one of those fuzzballs of a dog that permanently looks like it just stuck its nose in an electrical outlet.

Right now, I am not that endearing.

For the past few days, I have had 8,472 thoughts bouncing around in my head. Word counts and Chinese vocabulary and the grammar of Philippians 3: 7-11 and cleaning standards and Casablanca and Edgar Allan Poe and problem-based learning and running and media literacy and bilingualism are jostling each other for room. These ideas are all expected to come pouring from my brain to my fingers within the next few days, fully formed in lesson plans and essays and circled multiple choice answers. In other words, it’s finals week.

Finals week brings out the best and the worst in me. It showcases my organizational abilities and list-making skills, how I can strategize and plan so that second is squeezed of its potential. It shows me just how much I’ve learned over the semester. It brings out my competitive side, prompting smack talk like “You are goin’ down” to particularly frustrating assignments. It stretches my discipline and intellect to see what they can actually accomplish.

But finals week also brings out the not-so-hot side of strategic, competitive, achieving me. It makes me zoom in on the grades, the lists, the completion. Anything that stands in the way (like people or breathing) might get shoved aside. It makes me a big ol’ ball of stress who stares at her computer screen and sighs a lot, who speedwalks around campus hoping to waste as little time as possible, who gets a little snippety with anyone who asks for too much of her. In the words of Pinterest, “You know you’re stressed when you start getting on your own nerves.” And I am driving myself nuts.

Now, awareness of my own condition is great. It’s good to know that I’m beginning to fall apart at the seams and that the wires of my brain need a little patch job if I don’t want anything to start on fire. But there’s one little issue: I am no electrician, and I have no idea how to fix my fraying self.

I could quote research articles about beating stress. I could remind myself that I am loved and whole and intelligent regardless of whether I flunk a final. I could eat pounds of chocolate (for it’s stress-relieving antioxidants, of course). I could pray for a miracle that will sweep all of the things off my to-do list. All of these are good things, but if I’m really honest, none of this changes the fact that I would prefer not to fail my classes.

So what do I do? It sounds incredibly unglamorous, but I think the only thing left to do is keep on keeping on. I can accept that stress is a part of this week. I can say a little prayer for determination and energy, disconnect the Internet and its tempting distractions, and do what has to get done. I can take breaks for fun and friends, no matter how antsy I get when I’m not checking things off my to-do list. I can eat (a little) stress-relieving chocolate. I can breathe every once in a while. And best of all, I can remember that this stress-inducing season will soon be over, and my little frazzled brain will finally have a chance to recharge.

Until then, I would appreciate if someone stood by with a fire extinguisher. You know, just in case.