January 2017: What I’m Into

January. proper noun. The first month of the year; also known as the month in which we get 12 inches of snow in one day and don’t even get a snow day out of the deal. (I’m not bitter. Not at all.)


December is such a trickster.

The holiday season feels so cheery and cozy. I actually believe that I can do the whole winter thing. It’s not so bad! I’m a hearty Minnesotan of the “bold north”! I will hygge my way through these cold dark days! My beliefs that summer is the only worthwhile season might change!

Under the twinkling glow of Christmas lights, even the end of 2017 looked satisfactory. I was making real food. I was investing in church and my people. I was doing more reading and writing, less Netflixing and Facebooking. I had figured out how to do insurance, for heaven’s sake. My life was all right.

And then January hit.

And some days this month, quitting my job and being homeless in Hawaii seemed like a legitimate option.

My complaints? Mostly, it’s still winter. I wince every time I walk outside, my shoulders scrunching up near by earlobes. On good days, I see a scant 20 minutes of sunlight on my drive home. I have to wear socks every day.

And there’s the extra annual anxiety about how little control I have over my life that crops up every January. What will 2018 (or the rest of my life, or heck, next week) look like? Who knows! There’s no guarantee of anything! All my plans will come to naught! My life is on the brink of purposelessness!

So let’s just say that I am currently a bucket of sunshine, and that I am glad January is behind us.


How accurately this sums everything up

I would continue my weeping and gnashing of teeth, but my tears might freeze to my face in this below-zero windchill. So let us move on to more cheerful matters, like those things that have warmed this chilly month for me.


Home – Marilynne Robinson. With this book, Marilynne Robinson solidified herself as one of my very favorite authors. This tells the story of the Boughton family. Glory comes home to care for her aging father, and his wayward son Jack finds his way back to Gilead at the same time. Though it feels like the entirety of this book takes place with Glory cooking at the counter and Jack sitting at the kitchen table, it was tender and heartbreaking and so, so lovely. I might even like it more than Gilead.

Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis. This is a book unlike any I’ve ever read. A philologist (what a fun word) is kidnapped and taken to another planet. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this had I not read C.S. Lewis’s other works – so much of his philosophy of the world comes out in this that it adds an entirely new layer to the story. I look forward to the other books in the series.

Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way – Ruth Reichl. This won’t be my last Reichl book. This slim little book of essays is all about Reichl’s complicated relationship with her mother and the world of women in the mid-19th century. It was well-told, and it made me grateful for all the opportunities I have.

Heartless – Marissa Meyer. This book tells the story of Cath, a girl who lives in Wonderland (of “Alice in Wonderland” fame), who is being courted by the king, but who dreams of being a baker. I typically love Meyer’s spins on fairy tales, but this one didn’t work for me. Wonderland wasn’t nearly vivid enough, and Cath’s character didn’t do much except pine after a person she couldn’t have – until a sudden and unexpected sprint of character development in the last 20 pages. Plot-wise, nothing much happened in the first 2/3 of the book, and then everything happened in a way that felt jarring and undeveloped. However, online reviews are divisive here, so maybe this one would work for someone else.

Flying Lessons: and Other Stories – edited by Ellen Oh. This is a collection of short stories compiled by the editor of the We Need Diverse Books movement. Some of the stories were charming – Kwame Alexander is brilliant here, too – but not all of them were winners for me.

Currently Reading: Refugee – Alan Gratz. Hannah Coulter – Wendell Berry. Book of Hours: Love Poems to God – Rilke.



There are multiple movies in theaters at this second that I want to see. I haven’t watched any of them. Yet.



Clear – NEEDTOBREATHE. Since I went to a NEEDTOBREATHE concert in December, my devotion to them has been renewed. I am especially obsessed with this song.

May You Find a Light – Josh Garrels. Though this is technically from his Christmas album, I think it’s entirely fitting for Epiphany, and I am listening to it shamelessly.

All I Ask of You – Josh Groban and Kelly Clarkson. Josh Groban has an entire album of Broadway hits, I discovered this month. This song is gorgeous.


Loving – Alternatively titled “What’s Saving My Life in the Suckiness of MN Winter”

  • The Examen. I don’t do this reflection every night, but when I do, it helps me remember that not everything is terrible.
  • Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I’m still in the middle of this book, but it might be one of my favorites, ever. I’m reading it in small snatches because I don’t ever want it to end. It’s studded with brilliant lines that condense the deepest of emotions into a single sentence. Poor Adam gets these texts more than once every single time I open that book.
  • My microwavable rice heat pack. My grandma made mine, but I think you can buy them at Amazon or Target or wherever you buy random necessities like this. I’m using it almost daily to help my tight shoulders and make me not perpetually cold. I once put it on under a jacket before a long car ride, and it was magic.
  • Lemon ginger tea. Add a slice of lemon, and it kicks up the yum factor about 12 notches.
  • Spotify Premium. I cannot talk about how worth it this is. Also, how had I never tried Spotify’s radio feature before this month? It’s handy.
  • Argan Oil. I have the Acure brand from Target, but I know they sell it at Trader Joe’s and other fancier beauty places. My skin is insanely dry right now, and this eliminates the flakes and makes it almost dewy. It might even reduce the redness in my cheeks, too.
  • Keeping a blanket in my car. I use it on nearly every car ride. I may look like a nursing home patient with a lap robe. I care not.
  • Church community. I don’t understand how adult people find friends without church. The people at mine have been particularly lifesaving this winter.



Thrifting with my sister for a day before she flew back to Palo Alto. It felt like old times in college. I get to visit her in a week, and I am so excited.

Visiting Adam in Chicago. Despite a minor debacle where my phone died when I was alone, with all my stuff, in downtown Chicago, at midnight, trying to figure out how to get to Adam’s apartment…everything was great. We went to the American Writer’s Museum (see the typewriter and quote below – I highly recommend it), and went ice skating at Maggie Daley park, and read some good books, and ate donuts every day.

Attempting to cross country ski. I’m borrowing a pair of classic skis this winter, and I have never before been disappointed by days over 32°. I’ve only made it out on the trails one and a half times. The first time convinced me that I am not made for attempting to traverse hills on cross country skis when it’s icy. The half a time was me remembering my ineptitude and turning around after 5 minutes and one fall. C’mon, Minnesota. Give me a good snow (and a snow day too, perhaps?) and then good skiing weather.

Inviting people over. I am trying to get better about hosting things, and I’ve actually done this in January. It’s a good reminder that I don’t need to be Joanna Gaines with a degree from Le Cordeon Bleu to welcome people in.

A quick trip to Alexandria. One of my grandpas celebrated his birthday there, so my brothers and I drove up to meet the family for a few hours. We stumbled into a used bookstore before lunch and found some treasures – including a Marilynne Robinson I haven’t read yet!

Going back to school. This is the hardest part of the year for me. The kids get cabin fever, and it feels like there’s a whole lot of year left. On the bright side, we’re doing poetry. At least it’s a bright side for me – I am delighted by my own poetry assignments and would happily complete them. The students are slightly less enthused. Thankfully, they have been very into the Socratic Seminar discussions we’ve done, and it’s fun to hear their contributions to conversations.


What have you been into this month?

Linking up with both Modern Mrs. Darcy and Leigh Kramer.


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.


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.



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.



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.



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



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.


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.)



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.


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!



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!


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.


What I’m Into: January 2017

January. proper noun. The first month of each year, igniting joy and panic and Vitamin D deficiency.

bean boots.jpg

Despite all the fresh-start vibes most people love, January has never been my favorite month. It’s cold. It’s still dark. It’s lacking in holiday cheer. But there have been many bright spots to this month, too. Read on for some favorites.


Reading in the Wild – Donalyn Miller. Donalyn talks about strategies teachers can use to create lifelong readers. Her insights were helpful and gave me motivation to read more myself.

All American Boys – Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds. This story is told in two perspectives. Rashad is an African American boy who is accused of shoplifting and is beaten by a police officer. Quinn is a white boy who witnesses the beating – and who knows the policeman. The authors navigate a touchy topic with unflinching empathy. I highly recommend this.

Flygirl – Sherri L. Smith. This book tells the story of Ida Mae Jones, a fictional WASP during WWII. Ida is African American, but she passes as white to join the WASP. Though it was fun to read about the adventures and challenges of being a woman in a field typically dominated by men, I thought that some of the issues could have been handled in a deeper and more complex way.

Falling Over Sideways – Jordan Sonnenblick. Wow, am I grateful not to be in eighth grade any more. Claire is 14 years old when her dad has a stroke. She navigates the way that changes her family, as well as all the other middle school drama, in a voice that is authentic and especially funny to someone who’s not in that life stage anymore.

The Merchant of Venice – William Shakespeare. Adam, my boyfriend, would have been a better English major than I was. Case in point: he routinely listens to Shakespeare on his commute. Though I was skeptical that I would be able to follow this story, he passed the audiobook on to me, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I catch while sitting in traffic. Portia is one of my favorite Shakespearean women so far.

The Uncommon Reader – Alan Benet. Imagine if the Queen of England became a voracious reader. This novella tackles that premise with whit and charm. The British accents make it a delightful audiobook.

Currently reading: The Call of Stories – Robert Coles. Cress – Marissa Meyer. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Audrey Assad – Inheritance. Audrey is the center of my winter playlist, and her newest release is gorgeous and centering.

Spotify Premium. If you see a promo urging you to try 3 months of Premium for 99 cents, do it. Except you might become addicted to music without ads.


La La Land. This film is everything that I want movies to be: it’s a musical with romance and surprises throughout and thought-provoking ideas and likeable characters including a charming female lead who wears adorable dresses. The ending took me aback and gave me a lot of feelings and made me think about this story long after the credits ended. So basically, go see it.

Rogue One. I decided to live it up and go to this movie on the night Christmas break ended. I questioned my decision a little bit when we got out of the theater at 11:00 pm and a lot when I had weird dreams all night. That notwithstanding, I thought the movie was solid, especially because it broke the typical Star Wars plot model enough to keep things interesting, and it had intriguing themes of self-sacrifice.

The Crown. This show is so beautiful. Everyone must watch it.


I don’t know if loving is the correct term for this article about the way we approach poetry on standardized tests, but it is thought-provoking.

Batiste Dry Shampoo. Judge if you want, but I don’t wash my hair every day. If I did, it would look and feel like straw. (Staticky straw, in the winter.) With this miracle potion, I can leave my hair down on day 2 and not be grossed out.

Are you burned out of politics? (Still?) (Already?) This reassurance has more grace and beauty than I can muster.

Zumba! My sister and I have started going to classes once a week. We are not gifted in hip-shaking, so we burn extra calories laughing at ourselves.


Jumping back into the school routine after Christmas break. These days have included mental health trainings, conferences, attempts to make kids interested in poetry, and the daily grind of grading and planning and talking in front of people.

Celebrating my grandpa’s 80th birthday with a weekend trip up north. Grandpa was an excellent partygoer – he tried sushi and saki at the hibachi grill and let us hang out in his hotel room until late, keeping him awake far past his bedtime. We’re so grateful for him and his active presence in our lives!

Time with friends. Some friends gifted Adam and I a double date at salsa dancing lessons for Christmas, which was so much fun! We’ve also played Pandemic with them a few times this month and finally beat the game…at the beginner level…

Attending a performance of Diana’s Garden, an opera from the time of Mozart, at The Ordway. This show tells the story of Amore, the god of love, trying to set the “natural order” of the world to rights by overthrowing Diana, the goddess of chastity. It was entirely a delight. I especially loved the 1950s staging.


Surviving winter. Some days more successfully than others.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – head to her site to explore more! And please tell me – what have you been into this month?


July (2016)

July. proper noun. Pretty much the best month ever. It’s made for celebrating.

strawberry cartons.jpg

July is my favorite month. It’s also the month that disappears so dang quickly. But we all know that against the odds, summer will last forever. Obviously. The end.

While I try to remain in that state of suspended disbelief, here’s what I’ve been into this month. As always, check out the link-up at Leigh Kramer’s site for additional recommendations!




Still Life – Louise Penny. This is the first of the Inspector Gamache mystery novels, and it will absolutely not be the last one I read. A resident of a charming town in Quebec is murdered, and the investigation influences the entire community. The story was intriguing and character-driven and not gory – everything a mystery should be.

Furiously Happy – Jenny Lawson. I read mostly of this during an evening that also included a torrential thunderstorm and a power outage. Jenny Lawson makes me snort-laugh. Even when I’m reading by headlamp. She advocates for those who suffer from mental illness with honesty and an amazing, ridiculous sense of humor.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens. I didn’t want to read this book. I attempted Great Expectations in high school and couldn’t get into it, so I avoided Charles Dickens until my 2016 Reading Challenge made me pick a book that intimidated me. I’M SO GLAD I TRIED THIS. I finished this book on the morning of my birthday, in bed, and I read the last page three times over because it was so beautiful. I could write pages and pages on all the layers of this story. A new favorite.

Meet the Austins – Madeline L’Engle. My new life goal is to join the Austin clan and move in to their grandpa’s seaside stable full of books. This book is nothing more than episodes in the life of the Austin family, and each is delightful. Madeline L’Engle is the only writer in the world who could pull this off.

Essentialism – Greg McKeown. This book teaches “the disciplined pursuit of less,” not in terms of possessions, but in terms of time management. McKeown encourages people to determine what is essential and to use their time for the things that matter most while saying no to merely good options. I have complicated thoughts about this book. His principles seem most helpful for business people or those who have more flexibility in how they structure their time than teachers do. Sometimes this mindset also seemed selfish – there will be occasions when you need to do things that aren’t in the best interest of your own time management because you are not the center of the universe. However, I was inspired to make sure I have strong priorities in place, both in my classroom and in the rest of my life, as a good framework for making decisions. McKeown also emphasized how his work has led him to prioritize things like family, rest, and play, which is a message I can support wholeheartedly.

Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton. One of the most beneficial things I’ve done this summer was join a reading group to work through this book. I wouldn’t say that Chesterton is particularly approachable – his writing is meandering and sometimes obscure. But he has some fantastic metaphors, and thanks to discussions with my group, this book has left me with some striking ideas about how poetry and wonder are necessary for faith.

Currently Reading: Redwall – Brian Jacques



Finding Dory – I was so nervous that I would be disappointed by this movie. I wasn’t at all. It kept all of the fun of the original without being too similar. Baby Dory is also the most adorable animated character I have ever seen.

The Secret Life of Pets – Cute. Fluffy. Made me want a puppy. (Also. The actress who plays Mona Lisa in Parks and Rec is the voice of the lead female dog, and it is wacky.)

Hello, My Name is Doris – I went into this movie expecting a light-hearted comedy. After all, it’s about how Doris, a socially awkward older woman, develops a crush on a coworker (played by Schmidt from New Girl!). This wasn’t light-hearted, and while it had some funny lines (and funny-looking outfits), it wasn’t a comedy. The situation could be amusing, but Doris is so earnest in her pursuit of the guy that it’s not. Overall, it was uncomfortable.

Fixer Upper – This is not the summer show I expected to love. But I want Joanna Gaines to be my best friend. I also want to see what she could do with a rental where she’s not allowed to paint or take out walls or put up shiplap.

Sherlock – I am only one episode in. But oh, Benedict Cumberbatch. I did not previously understand people’s obsession with him. It’s beginning to make sense.



Simply Happy podcast for TED radio hour. Some fascinating perspectives on what makes us happy.

The Liturgists podcast Episode 34 – Black and White: Racism in America. This month was a tough one, in our city and around the country. It will take brave, honest conversations like this one for healing to begin.

Some Kind of Love – Charlie Puth.



Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered graham crackers with sea salt. The longest name for the most delicious snack.

The world is not what you think, according to this article.

This thai quinoa salad. I wanted to eat the entire recipe in one sitting.

Aldi. Yay cheap groceries. I had never shopped there before this month. How did I survive college without it? I’m beginning to wonder.

Outdoor yoga classes. They are keeping me sort of fit and mostly sane.



Going to the lake! The agenda rarely varies (eat, read on the dock, swim, eat more, nap, kayak, roast s’mores, look at stars, watch movies, stay up too late), but it hasn’t gotten old yet.

Surviving without power for three days. It could have been worse. I could have gotten groceries the night we lost power, and I could have returned the headlamps I had borrowed for camping in a timely manner. Sometimes procrastination pays off.

Going to the Lion King. My parents treated me to the show as an early birthday present, and it was magical. The music and the staging and the costumes are incredible. It’s not too late to go see it (if you live in the Twin Cities, that is), and YOU SHOULD.



We only have terrible quality pics because we didn’t have time for pics during daylight hours and because my parents were still learning to effectively use their iPhone cameras. (As an aside, my parents got iPhones. This is a big deal for the people who are practically Amish.)


My early birthday celebration also involved this. We had fun candles. We did not have cake. My parents were bringing me homemade bread and think they’re funny. (They sort of are.)

Hanging out with the boyfriend. He came back to Minnesota for a wedding, and then we spent some time with his friends and family at their cabin. I will never get sick of sailing with that boy.


Partying! For my birthday, that is. I spent the day doing exactly what I wanted: drinking Izzy for breakfast, reading in bed, eating Punch Pizza for lunch with my sister, wandering through a stationary store, talking with my favorite people, roping some friends into joining me for a waterskiing show and dinner. Here’s to another year of life!


The Copper Hen is delightful. These friends are delightful.


Brita makes this flourless chocolate cake every year for my birthday. Just another reason I love her.

Field tripping. I’ve been volunteering with an organization that takes non-native English speakers on field trips around the Twin Cities. We’ve been to the Minnesota Historical Center, KTIS radio station and Northwestern, and The Minneapolis Arts Institute, and it’s a delight to see familiar landmarks through new, curious eyes.

All the moving. And unpacking. I moved out of my very first apartment and into a new space. I also switched classrooms at school and have lots of boxes to unload. Order is finally beginning to emerge from chaos, but feeling settled is a slow process.


Adios, #4!


Generally enjoying every second of summer that I can.


What have you been into this month?

May (2016)

May. proper noun. The month when summer is so close, you can almost taste it.


We’re keeping it short and sweet this month. I’ve been busy, and trying to hold my sanity intact as students get antsy for summer has taken up lots of mental space. The only thing I’ve been consistently good at is making crack broccoli. I’m still posting because routine, thy name is Anna, and because there are still some gems here. If you want further recommendations, hit up Leigh Kramer’s link-up.


All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven. Enchanting but heartbreaking. School weirdo Finch meets grieving, popular Violet on top of the school bell tower. Violet is contemplating ending her life. Their romance is unexpected and sparkling and tragic. Similar to The Fault in Our Stars, but with mental illness instead of cancer.

Currently reading: Saving Francesca – Melina Marchetta; Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh.



I cannot recollect one movie or TV show that I watched in May. This is the truth.



The Sorta Awesome podcast. Megan Tietz and her rotating crew of co-hosts explore all kinds of topics that make life awesome. These podcasts are chatty, but also reflective and informational. I’ve really been enjoying them.



We need less Christianese and more of this.

This delightful summer salad recipe.

Almay Intense I-Color Liquid Eyeliner for blue eyes. I am not necessarily good at eyeliner, but I know that this eyeliner goes on more smoothly than others I’ve tried, and I love how the flecks of gold that make an ordinary brown eyeliner seem prettier. Plus, I can wash this off without eye makeup remover.

All teachers will tell you that this is so true. Especially the end-of-the-year-teacher pic.



Surviving at school. We are ready to be done. I had one kid tell another “You are slowly driving Ms. Christenson insane.” That about sums it up. Except I’m going to try harder to be positive than that. My eighth graders wrote some short stories that are fun to read, and right now they’re in the middle of giving speeches. Sometimes they’re hilarious. My kids actually showed improvement in grammar and vocabulary. And best of all, we only have 5 days left.

Catching up with my boss/mentor from my RA days and getting to see her cutie pie daughter. I love good conversation and entertaining kiddos.

Spending an evening with just my parents. My mom had an appointment in town, and my parents decided to fly out of Minneapolis to surprise my sister while she was on tour with her college band. Before they left, my mom and I got pedicures, we went out for dinner, and my parents helped me grade homework. They should come to town more often.



I discovered later that night that my toenail polish glows in the dark. I find more joy in it than I would like to admit.

Spending a week with the boy in MN. He was an usher in a wedding. I met the bride and groom at their rehearsal (an interesting dynamic) and got sunburned while helping set up at their wedding. We also went swing dancing, discovered that you can effectively use one paddleboard with two people, and spent some low-key quality time together.

Attempting to go dairy-free. I started on a hastily researched whim as an attempt to reduce cystic acne without going on medication, and my highly scientific experiment has told me it hasn’t made the situation worse? It may have improved? I’m still undecided about the whole thing. I do put almond milk in my tea and have an excuse to buy the expensive gelato because it doesn’t have milk in it…but I also eat cheese when necessary (read: too often?).  I may cut out everything dairy for another few weeks and see.

Frantic job applications. I didn’t get the summer school position I was hoping for, and I’ve been scrambling ever since. I am hopeful that I’ve have a solution soon.

Getting a new roommate. I have to admit, I have been incredibly blessed to have found kind rent-sharers on short notice/by miraculous coincidence.


What have you been into this month?

March (2016)

March. proper noun. The month of the start of spring, St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, Easter (sometimes), my sister’s birthday, and spring break (and all the teachers said amen).



Life has been swinging right along, and March has disappeared exceedingly fast. Maybe it’s the weather that has not been awfully temperamental by Minnesota standards. More likely it’s that my plate has been full recently. Read on to find out all that I’ve been loving. Linking up with Leigh Kramer, as always.


The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith. This mystery redeemed my opinion of J.K. Rowling’s adult fiction. (I attempted, but strongly disliked, The Casual Vacancy.) She is the queen of intriguing little details and story-winding. It works well for mystery. I’m excited to read the sequel.

The Selection – Kiera Cass. Think dystopian world meets The Bachelor for teens. It’s light and fun, but the ending – one of those read the next book to find out who Maxim chooses! – was frustrating.

Self-Raised – E.D.E.N. Southward. The sequel to Ishmael, a book I was introduced to by the boyfriend. While Ishmael was all about the main character’s rise in society through moral perfection, this one held much more intrigue as a side character attempts to escape a scoundrel of a husband. Fun fact: the author was friends with Harriet Beecher Stowe and is among one of the female writers who influenced Northern politics after the Civil War, according to a random book I noticed in a bookstore.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie – Jordan Sonnenblick. Steven is just a drummer with a crush on the hot girl in his eighth grade class…until his brother gets cancer. This is more sassy – and less weepy – than your typical cancer story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Currently reading: The Lake House – Kate Morton; The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown.



Lincoln –I know this movie is old news, but if you’re behind the times like me, watch it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It touched on all aspects of Lincoln’s life, from his role as a father to his tenuous political relationships, with artistry. Bonus if you watch it with a history major.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding IIMy Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of the movies that my family has practically memorized, so we all went to the sequel together on Easter weekend. The plot isn’t as original as the first, but it got just as many laughs from us. Especially from my parents, who thought it was hilarious to watch a movie about rekindling marriages with their children. We thought it was… awkward…but funny.

Parks and Rec – It’s possible that I need to add some variety to my TV watching, but I’m at the point in the show where the Leslie/Ben thing is just beginning and everything is delightful.



Hamilton – I knew about the opening number to this Broadway show from the Oscars performance. Then the boyfriend introduced me to the rest of the songs and the actual storyline. A story about a Founding Father told in epic hip-hop? I enjoyed it so much that I downloaded the entire album for the long drive home. I don’t normally grin foolishly while driving down I-94. Or listen to 90 minutes’ worth of podcasts about a single album. Definitely did with this one. Two of my favorites are below.

On that note, I also discovered NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast through their episode on Hamilton. It’s smart and nerdy and fun – the kind of NPR I can get behind.


The Piano Guys Pandora station has also kept me sane during some long after school grading and planning sessions.




Listing the small, good things that happen at school in the same notebook where I write all of my notes and to-do lists.


Crack broccoli. Oh my yum.

My meme/classroom rules bulletin board. Kids actually look at it. Except one of them once walked up to the board, pointed to the picture of Grumpy Cat, and asked “Is this you today, Ms. Christenson?”






Having brunch at J. Arthur’s with a friend. We had good conversation – and a single pancake massive enough that I got 3 meals out of it.

Going to a Piano Guys concert. My college roommate got Piano Guys tickets for her birthday, and I was the lucky duck who got to accompany her. Watching them perform the 8-hand version of “What Makes You Beautiful” and seeing them bring actual bagpipes on stage for a mash-up of “Amazing Grace” and “Fight Song” was amazing, to say the least.


No pics from the concert…but the venue wasn’t too shabby.

Flying to Washington DC. I spent my spring break with some of the very best company. We drove to Harper’s Ferry, wandered through the National Gallery, ate out an irresponsible amount, and went to a concert at the Kennedy Center. While he worked during the week, I joined him for lunch and learned how to use public transportation so I could check out the fascinating exhibit on news coverage of 9/11 at the Newseum, the Air and Space Museum, and some fun shops.


Celebrating my sister’s birthday. We got donuts and went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Can you tell she likes dessert? The next day, my whole family got together for a Rend Collective concert. Their Irish feisty-ness is such fun.


This family is pretty feisty, too.

Celebrating Easter. I didn’t have any extra time off from school, so I fit 12 hours of drive time into a regular weekend. It was worth it to play Dutch Blitz and eat a lot of Absurdly Addictive Asparagus with my family.


Not pictured: elbow throwing or swearing


Teaching. It has been a month of a lot of progress and a little frustration. I read somewhere that adolescents misinterpret emotions and directions up to 40% of the time. I’m beginning to believe it may be more like 70%. On the bright side, my students make me laugh, and I am gaining quite a list of interesting quotes, like this one: After looking at my example on the board, one student said, without sarcasm, “You’re really good at the ELA thing. You should go pro.” My response: “Yep. I did.”


What have you been into this month?


Done. adjective. According to Dictionary.com, “Completed; finished; through.”

Yes, I am a complete sap. Image via Pinterest.

Yes, I am a complete sap.
Image via Pinterest.

So apparently I’m done.

My junior year of college is complete.

The rooms of Phileo 2 are empty, their inhabitants tricking out into the world beyond Northwestern. The dusty pennants and the banner graffitied with ballpoint pen are down, soaked with excited girly screams and snippets of hallway conversation. The rooms will never be filled with the same blend of spunky and sweet and hardworking and kind women; next year, different lives and stories will cushion the industrial furniture and white walls. I know that many of the sweet girls will still be on campus in the fall. But no longer will the same group gather to eat fondue or roast s’mores over the stove burner or talk about art or build the community I dearly loved.

These babes. I like them so much.

These babes. I like them lots.

The Hartill staff has dispersed, spread to summer housing and foreign cities and familiar homes. No longer are we cemented together by our common duties and struggles. That the year with these beautiful women is done cracks my heart. I just love them so much. Through JoJo’s from Trader Joes and books read aloud and vulnerability and desperation to be understood, coworkers have become deep friends and sisters. I’ve been cheered by their goofiness, shaped by their Christ-love, stretched by their wisdom, encouraged by their tender hearts. No longer do we live just halls apart, the threads of our separate lives knotting together every week. We’re cut loose, linked a little less tightly.

So much love for these women.

So much love for these women.

Friends pull away to their summer lives of work and travel and separation. Chance encounters in the coffee shop and casual weekend movies don’t work quite as well. I don’t receive the everyday afternoon update on the building of their lives. We’ll all be reunited in the fall, both changed and the same. Slowly we’re moving on, chipping closer to real life, with brand-new announcements of engagements and fast-approaching graduations. This summer, we feel that.


Longtime, lovely friends


More awesome people who play intramural volleyball

The rockin’ intramural volleyball team

This is weird.

The closing of the year is always a strange thing. For the last days on campus, end-of-the-year loom dark over finals and move-outs. I try to swallow them until the whole thing is done. And then, all at once, it is. Tests over, assignments in, room empty, goodbyes said. The car pulls out onto Lydia on a one-way trip, burdened with stuff. And after six hours and only a few breaths, I’ve slipped into the comfortable routine of home, though my boxed-up college life still lingers in the entry. But I feel like it’s just another school break, that a few days more will find me packing my clean laundry and trucking back to the Cities for another helping of this year, the same people and routines and scenery and themes.

But that’s not true.

It’s really done.

All that remains of this year are the moments that I tuck away, like trinkets in under-bed boxes, to later rediscover, a little dustier and a little dearer. Late-night dance practices in end lounges. A lamp-lit circle of girls crowding my dorm room, sharing their ordinaries. Weariness tempting eyelids down under fluorescent classroom lights. Cinnamon tea warming hands on frigid mornings. Prayers from tired RAs dissolving inexplicably into laughter. The warm-sugar smell of cookies baking in dorm ovens. My rapid heartbeats as student eyes watch for a lesson’s beginning. Salty stovetop popcorn and chick flicks. Wandering red lines scratched over messed-up grammar tests.

The gentle handling of these moments is sweet, heavy with God-breathed blessing. Letting them go is hard, a little hesitant, as life keeps drifting on. But it’s expected, this shifting forward of life. The seasons warm and cool, hesitant and apprehensive girls slapping on Resident Assistant nametags become a little less unsure, shaky voices firm with confidence. And then the cycle starts anew.

This year is fading in the rearview mirror, with all of its difficulty and beauty and stress and joy.  It is done.

But here, now, today, another season begins.

Thankful (edition 2)

Thankful (edition 2). adjective. Defined by me as what we celebrate on Turkey Day. Also my emotion for the following things.


Image via Pinterest

1. Kindred Spirits

I am surrounded by so many great people. Kind, funny, fabulous friends invest in my little life by watching movies and eating lunch and sitting in chapel and having fits of laughter while praying and talking about futures and feeding encouraging words. You are, as Anne Shirley says, kindred spirits, and I love you for it. And I’m sorry I’m often not a good friend in return. With my git ‘er done mentality, I often forget that the rock stars around me are as worthy of time as my to-do list. Friends, I’m thankful for you, and I want to work harder at showing it.

2. Stars

As I drove north for break, I was greeted by black skies and bright-burning stars. They proclaimed, “Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere,” and I loved them for it. At school, the night sky is wimpy, colored pink or navy or charcoal gray. On a clear night, a whole six stars might wink at you. In the country, night is thick and black. Countless stars streak across the sky. It’s stunning, and it’s one thing I miss as a city dweller.

3. Peanut butter


Image via Pinterest (surprise, surprise)

Peanut butter is an all-star. It plays well with others, pleasing the varied company of bananas and grape jelly and chocolate. It can hold its own when scooped straight from the jar (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this). It is delicious in all forms, from the natural stuff made with nothing but nuts to the highly processed, sugary junk. It can top bread and pancakes and ice cream and crackers and most of the worthwhile carbohydrates. It nourished me every morning of high school. It is a key ingredient in Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (or so they claim). It’s pretty much the best thing ever.

4. Kids

I love middle schoolers. Right now, I get to hang out with them all day long on Tuesday and Thursdays. It’s awesome. Exhausting. But awesome.

Those kids are hilarious and awkward and sweet and sincere and trying so darn hard. They simultaneously make me want to give hugs all around and pull all of my hair out. I would not like to be in their shoes. Actually, you could not pay me enough to go back to eighth grade.

This is me in middle school. Not my favorite season of life.


But I made it through the awkward years, and I want to tell these kids, “I survived and you can too!” I want to inspire them to actually give a rip about school and learning and being a good person. Or at the very least, get them to do their homework and read a book every once in a while.

I also adore children of the smaller variety.

On our first morning of Thanksgiving break, my sister and I got to go hang out at our old school and make pumpkin bread with the kindergarteners my mom teaches. (We also ate pizza with my dad and sang happy birthday to my little brother and saw great people. But that’s beside the point.)

Brita and I had four messy little munchkins who licked their hands and spilled sugar (and licked that off the table, too) and crinkled their noses at smelly pumpkin from a can. Could I handle that energy and messiness every day? No way. I prefer teaching kids who are capable of stirring without splattering the table and their neighbor and themselves with pumpkin. But our little group was precious and enthusiastic and way fun. They also reminded me how much I love little dudes, which I sometimes forget in the big-kid world of college.

5. The Nimbus 2000 (This is my car, for those who have not yet been acquainted.)

I know nothing about cars. Case in point: I tried to check my oil before driving home, and a nice boy stopped and helped me because I looked so clueless. (How do you get the hood open, again?) But even with my lack of vehicular knowledge, I know a few things about my dear Nimbus 2000. It’s named after Harry Potter’s first broomstick, which makes me smile. It has a charming (read: tacky) Christmas tree ornament dangling from the rearview mirror proclaiming that name to the world. It gets me to school and Target and home and other important places. And it has not busted on me yet, a gift for which I thank God every single day.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

On this holiday, I pray the mashed potatoes are abundant, the fellowship fills your heart with joy, and the blessings and gratitude overflow.