March 2017: What I’m Into

March. proper noun. The month of spring break and continuing to dream of tropical locales where it’s not still. freaking. snowing. And of Lent.

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I unfolded from my car and crept into the Maundy Thursday service. The sanctuary was unfamiliar, a service selected at random from the Internet at a town midway between the Cities and my parents’ house. I felt a little dazed, and not because I’d been in a car for four hours. I just didn’t feel like I was ready for this, the high point of the church calendar.

That’s not to say I hadn’t tried. I did the Lenten fast and waved away unnecessary purchases for 40 days. The hand creams and books and Trader Joe’s daffodils stayed on their shelves. I added to my online clothes shopping cart but didn’t purchase anything. I tried to free up my mental space for more holy things. It sort of worked. But I didn’t feel like I found more room for Jesus. I didn’t feel like I got holier. Mostly, I just saw how petty and shallow I am, and I felt bad that I didn’t know how to fix it.

I’m sorry I’m not better, Lord, I thought, as I sat through the song I didn’t recognize and the sermon about Jesus’s sacrifice. I’m sorry that I waste so much of my time on the Internet. I’m sorry that I care so much about stupid things. I’m sorry I don’t pray more, or read theology more, or sit in stillness more. I’m sorry that I didn’t solve my sins. I’m sorry you still had to die for them.

And then I was walloped by how completely I had missed the point.

Lent is to help me see my need for a savior. It is not to help me save myself.

Jesus knew I would be more Pharisee than Peter, more spic and span outside than in. He knew I would absolutely care about the things man cares about. He knew I would believe my plans were better than his. He looked into my eyes, knowing they would too often shift away from all that blood and all that undeserved agony.

And then he died. For me.

I still don’t understand it, this Jesus, this grace. Daily, my brokenness splashes everywhere, and I wonder what the heck he was thinking.

This mystery is one I will never solve fully. A love this deep, that asks nothing and gives everything, is incomprehensible. There will never be a way for me to earn it, no matter how many striped t-shirts I avoid buying or how many chapters of John I read. There will always be more to discover, through all the Lents into eternity.

His grace is sufficient for imperfect me, indeed.

 

When I’m not contemplating the state of my soul, here’s what I’ve been loving this month.

Reading

Turtles All the Way Down – John Green. I once had a theory that it will never take me longer than one day to finish a John Green novel. That theory is still going strong. This story is told by Aza Holmes, who has OCD. The plotline itself is fine ­– the resolution seemed a bit rushed, and I thought the romance element had a clunky start. The real gem here is the front-seat view into Aza’s thoughts. It’s what makes this book 100% worth reading. You see her perspective on life and hear her questions about what makes a person human and how much choice we have about our own lives. It also made me realize straight-up how wrong the picture in my head is of mental illness. Though I know that “just getting over it” isn’t an option, I’ve never had such clarity about what it actually feels like to have a “thought spiral,” as might happen to someone with mental health issues. It nearly made me cry, in moments. John Green’s insight into teenagers’ brains is striking, and it’s even more so than usual in this one.

English Creek – Ivan Doig. I read this as a study of how to write historical fiction for another writing project I’m working on, and because I loved The Whistling Season. The detail that went into this 1939 Montana setting was astounding. I was surprised to find out Doig had made up the entire English Creek area, mountain ranges and nearby towns included. Admittedly, the level of scenic detail and description made this one a bit slow-going in spots. But the narration feels like a collection of winding old-time tales that Jick, the fourteen year old narrator, might tell around a fire during a blizzard to his some-day grandchildren. I especially enjoyed the characters – they felt like spot-on caricatures, in the way that the individuals in small towns become reduced to a few stories that somehow tell you everything important about them.

Chasing Slow – Erin Loechner. I went to hear Erin Loecher speak through the Faith & Life lectures here in the Twin Cities, and my mom’s theory that we could be friends with her was absolutely confirmed. I bought this book to pass on as a gift…but I definitely read it myself first. Reading about her journey to pursuing less – in terms of both prestige and possessions – aligned incredibly well with what I’ve been contemplating this Lent. It reminded me that striving to accumulate less is nice – but it’s only truly good when we use the remaining time and resources and energy to pour into loving others well.

Moon Over Manifest – Clare Vanderpool. This is a reread from a year or two ago, about a girl in the Depression who is left in an unfamiliar town who stumbles upon a mystery from the past. I still adore this one. I’m realizing how picky I am about endings, and this one nails it. It’s a beautiful mix of sad and hopeful and tender.

Warcross – Marie Lu. This book tells the story of Emika, a broke hacker who hacks into a world tournament video game, gets found out, and accidentally gets herself hired by the head of the video game to be a spy. While reading, I enjoyed this one a lot. Then I finished it, and I couldn’t figure out why I was disappointed. Until I realized that I wanted this book to be Ready Player One, and it wasn’t, and I would suggest just reading that one, which has more action and more depth and a more interesting and clear virtual world. The end.

 

Listening

One – Sleeping At Last. Sleeping at Last is in the middle of a project where he creates a song for each number of the Enneagram. It should be abundantly clear that I am a One after reading the introduction to this post. The first time I listened to the One song, I thought it was fine (typical). But then I couldn’t get the line “As if I could earn God’s favor given time/or at least “Congratulations,” out of my head. And then I listened to the podcast explaining this song, and it became even more meaningful.

 

Bridges Burn – NEEDTOBREATHE. They have new music and an updated concert schedule releasing soon and I am not excitedly messaging my brother every time they post updates on Instagram. Not at all.

 

Ain’t No Man – The Avett Brothers. It makes me feel like I should be at a barn raising, in the best way.

The Liturgists podcast has made a comeback, and they make me think really hard about things that I always thought were true.

 

Watching

Baking with Josh and Ange. I’ve only watched a few episodes of this, but it’s a cute how-to YouTube channel where the Ange half of the duo is the actress who plays Angela in The Office. She seems so…nice? and normal? in real life. Naturally, the episodes with guests from The Office are my favorites.

 

Loving

Allbirds. I needed some comfy sneakers for traveling last month, and Allbirds caught my attention. The alleged benefits? They’re comfy, sustainably made from wool, they don’t get smelly, and socks are unnecessary. After nearly two months of wear, I’m happy to report all those claims are actually true. I was worried that they wouldn’t be supportive enough for my old lady, high-arched feet, but I walked for most of a day in San Francisco in them and have worn them all day at school with no complaints. Plus, I don’t have to wear socks. Praise hands. I have the natural gray wool runners, and they go with nearly everything.

Being off Accutane. Last spring, my skin went bonkers. I’ve struggled with spotty acne since high school, but toward the end of college, I started getting painful cystic breakouts where I would actually ice my face because it would feel so sore. I tried medication and topical products, and for a stint, eliminating milk and low-fat milk products. Whatever I tried would work for a while, and then all the spots would come back. My dermatologist recommended isotretinoin (more popularly known as Accutane), and I’ve been on it since August. And friends? It was entirely worth it. There are some definite downsides to that stuff. My lips and the skin on my face have never been so dry (thank goodness for Aquaphor and argan oil), and I did have more joint and muscle stiffness than normal. But I’ve been done for almost 3 weeks and my skin has never looked better. Everything – from the big breakouts to the little blackheads around my noes – has been healed. I haven’t regularly worn any foundation or concealer to school since December. Dermatologists are magic workers.

This bread recipe. I’ve been attempting to make bread lately, and this turned out the best of any of the loaves I’ve made. The King Arthur Flour Baking Company Bread 101 videos are also incredibly helpful.

Library cookbooks. Did you know that you can check out cookbooks from the library and take pictures of the recipes and then make them even after you returned the physical book to the library? This world is a wonderful place. I’ve checked out The Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime and Come and Get It! and am looking forward to trying some new things.

 

Doing

Spring breaking! At the beginning of the break, a dear college friend and I met up in Chicago and drove to the Ohio-Kentucky border to hang out with another friend for a long weekend. Those two are the best. In addition to the required staying up way too late talking, we hit up Cincinnati for a concert, experienced some quirky local Kentucky culture and then went to Louisville to see Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and Please & Thank You (a coffee shop with the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten – good recommendation, Modern Mrs. Darcy). We also saw the Indianapolis Zoo on our way back north, which had a fantastic orangutan exhibit and would be worth visiting again when it’s warm.

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I capped off spring break by hanging out with Adam in Chicago. Even though he was in the midst of finals week, we managed to squeeze in a viewing of the opera Cosi fan Tutti, which is funny and thus a little more my speed than Wagner. Other than that, we mostly hung out in libraries. At least they were pretty libraries!

Heading home for Easter. Having the whole family in one place is sweet – as is eating a lot of good food. I will never tire of angel pie.

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What have you been into this month?

 

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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?

 

 

 

July (2016)

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

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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!

 

Reading

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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

 

Watching

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.

 

Listening

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.

 

Loving

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.

 

Doing

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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The Copper Hen is delightful. These friends are delightful.

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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.

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Adios, #4!

 

Generally enjoying every second of summer that I can.

 

What have you been into this month?

June (2016)

June. proper noun. The month holding the longest day of the year and the start of summer. God bless it.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share all of the awesomeness from this month.

Reading

Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh. Another book crossed off my 2016 Reading Challenge list! This book wasn’t entirely what I expected. For one thing, I had always thought Evelyn Waugh was female. He is not. His story follows Charles Ryder as he befriends eccentric Sebastian Flyte and becomes entwined with his entire family and Brideshead, their estate. This is one book that my boyfriend and I read at almost the same time, and it made discussing themes of Catholicism and the dying aristocracy extra interesting. The mini-series has been compared to a more artful Downton Abbey, so I am hoping to find a way to watch it for less than the Amazon price.

Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline. This quick read pairs the stories of two unlikely women: Molly, a surly foster child, and Vivian, the old woman whose attic Molly must sort through as a community service project. The parts of the story told from Molly’s perspective were fine, but I was fascinated by details of Vivian’s life as an orphan sent from New York to small-town Minnesota. I’d grade it a solid B.

The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater. Every year, the island of Thisby hosts a race in which men ride water horses, fierce predators who come from the sea, and try to stay alive until the finish line. Sean Kendrick, water horse whisperer, has won four years in a row. One year, Puck decides to enter. She is the first girl to ever enter the races, she rides her own horse (who is not a water horse), and she is desperate. It took me a while to be captivated by the story and to piece together essential background information. Then, this book surprised me. For having fantasy elements, it reads more like historical fiction, and the way Stiefvater portrays relationships between characters is striking. I gulped it down in a weekend and found it incredibly satisfying.

Emma – Alexander McCall Smith. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a successful retelling of Jane Austen stories is almost as difficult to find as a single man in possession of a large fortune. This one, like Pemberly, is a rare jewel. All Jane Austen similes aside, this modern retelling of Emma is delightful. It stays true to the essence of the story and adds McCall Smith’s gentle charm. Though I am a snob about retellings, I can recommend this one without sullying my honor.

Currently Reading: Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton; Still Life – Louise Penny.

 

Watching

Love & Friendship – Apparently it was the month for Jane Austen retellings. This brand-new movie follows the plot of Austen’s Lady Susan. As you can tell from the trailer, it is Jane Austen at her sassiest. The plot is not quite as developed as some of Austen’s other works, and it’s no polished big-screen Kiera Knightly rendition. But the wickedly smart lines absolutely make up for it. Go see it.

 

 

Jurassic World – So this is possibly not typical sister sleepover fare. This is especially true if you know my sister or me. But we watched it when Brita spent the night at my apartment (see below) because Chris Pratt. We deeply admire him. After watching the movie, we stalked him on IMDB, as one does. We discovered that he was born in Minnesota, to which Brita exclaimed, “He’s from Minnesota?! We could have married him!” And that is what I learned about dinosaurs.

Okay, maybe I learned more than that. Like: I would like to ride a triceratops, no woman can ever run in heels like that crazy Claire lady, Brita or I would be way better for Chris Pratt than she is, and I make anyone feel like a movie warrior because I actually scream when dinosaurs jump out of the woods.

 

A few episodes of random TV shows, including Fixer Upper (like old-school Trading Spaces and House Hunters had a baby!), North & South, Parenthood, Friends, and Parks and Rec. I am uncommitted to anything as of late.

 

Listening

Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake. I have an excellent car dance to this song. It’s epic enough I should have been in this music video.

 

Sit Still Look Pretty – Daya. Preach.

 

This is my favorite recent Adele song. My cool friend Anneliese did a rocking a capella cover of it, but I don’t have a video of it (and she would kill me if I posted it, anyway). This one works, too.

 

 

Loving

This Thai salad recipe. If you want to save yourself a lot of time, just buy an Asian coleslaw mix and skip a lot of chopping. The dressing is fantastic.

It took me a while to get into the groove of summer. This post helped.

I haven’t tried this cookie recipe. I have fallen for Chris Pratt. They’re related, I promise. Just click the link.

When thrift stores turn up gems like a J. Crew gingham shirt and gold Sperry Top-Siders.

This article on the life of the average (tech-obsessed) teenager has me thinking about how to teach today’s students better.

My small group girls, who are there to do things like play board games and take road trips to support one another and order pizza. I am so very grateful for good friends.

 

Doing

On the first weekend of June, one cousin got married and another cousin celebrated her high school graduation. It was a good family weekend, which included such fun as going jet skiing for the first time, antiquing, doing hours of grading on the car ride, learning attempting to do the running man, and getting to ride in the trundle seat of an old car. Congrats to Gretchen and to Zach and Allie!

 

I haven’t been to my childhood Bible camp in years, but my sister and I met up with my mom for a women’s retreat. I still don’t feel mature enough to go to adult events, but hey, the line to go water skiing is way shorter and they have good snacks. The company is great, too. Bonuses: My brother is working at camp, so it was fun to see him, AND my college roomie lives a mile off our route so we caught up with her on the drive.

We. Finished. School. Halleluiah.

I decided to spend a few days at home while waiting for my summer job to pan out. While home, I made serious progress on my college t-shirt quilt, went on walks down gravel roads, and read a lot. I also got a massage. I had so many knots (thanks, teaching) that I was bruised the day after. The time with family was quiet and sweet.

We celebrated Father’s Day weekend at the lake. It was all usual forms of excellence. Except we could not get a photo of the two kids present and their father where all involved looked normal. This one will have to work.

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The park near my apartment featured an outdoor performance of Much Ado About Nothing. It was a delight to watch one of my favorite Shakespeare plays on a perfect summer evening.

My sister and I had big plans to go camping for the first time ever. Everyone whom we have told this goal and who knows us both well has been confused, because apparently nothing about us says “Let’s sleep on the ground, outdoors, with bugs and no electricity!”. We were set out to prove them wrong. Except on the night we were to pack up all of our very essential camping snacks and pitch our first-ever tent, there were severe thunderstorm warnings. So we swam in her apartment’s pool and ordered Chinese and admired Chris Pratt and read magazines and slept on mattresses instead. We excel at sleepovers, at least.

I thought I had great job plans for June! And then things fell apart, just slightly, and I have had more free time than I anticipated this month. It’s turning out to be an okay thing for the sake of my mental and emotional well-being, but it has taken me a while to adjust to not running on stress at all times. I’m finding many creative ways to use this time well, including visiting a cool old library, taking free outdoor workout classes at a park in my area, tutoring occasionally, volunteering for a field trip around Minneapolis with English learners, and boldly going to a Ginny Owens concert by myself. It’s been incredibly good for me. That said, if you need a highly qualified tutor, proofreader, or a babysitter and you live in my area, let me know!

 

What have you been into this month?

Goals (Summer 2016)

Goals. noun. The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

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I have never been so desperate for summer. It has always been my favorite season, but I am in dire need of rest and release right now. My plans for next Tuesday, when I am finally done with all school responsibilities, are not ambitious. They look like binge-reading and not setting an alarm. But I know that sweet summer will pass oh so quickly, and I am determined to make the most of it, in terms of both rest and adventure. Hence, the return of the goals.

Behold, my summer bucket list:

Visit the Weisman Art Museum.

Attend an outdoor yoga class, because it was one of my favorite discoveries last year.

Relive my childhood and watch Finding Dory in theaters.

I have never been camping (beyond a tent in the backyard) before. My sister and I are going to change that and go camping somewhere beautiful.

I tried (and failed) last year, but I want to make another valiant attempt to slalom.

Go to a concert or movie in a park.

Read a collection of poems. I’m deciding between Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems and Wendell Barry’s This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, but I’m open to other suggestions!

Eat at Betty Danger’s, because they have a ferris wheel and that’s cool.

Find a summer TV show. Rules: it must be something I haven’t watched before and be worthy of binge-watching. Current options: Parenthood? Friday Night Lights? North & South? Something a brilliant reader will suggest?

I want to keep learning this summer and watch an interesting documentary.

Go kayaking or paddleboarding with the ladies from my small group.

Read a lot. Especially outside. Topping the list is Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (which I joined a book group to discuss), The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and Night Driving by Addie Zierman.

 Make a new summer recipe. Hit me with your best recommendations.

 

Anything I’ve missed? What are your goals for the summer?

May (2016)

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

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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.

Reading

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.

 

Watching

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

 

Listening

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.

 

Loving

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.

 

Doing

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.

 

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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?