July 2017: What I’m Into

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

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Watching

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

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

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

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

 

Listening

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

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

 

Loving

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

 

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

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

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

 

Doing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Run: Reflections on a Half-Marathon

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

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

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

Fifteen years later, I ran 13.1 miles.

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

I could. Barely.

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

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

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

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

Running helps change that perspective.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2017: What I’m Into

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

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

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

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Watching

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

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

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

 

Listening

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

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

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

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

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

 

Doing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What are you into right now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Into: May 2017

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

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watching

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

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

Listening

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

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

Loving

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

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

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

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

Doing

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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What have you been into this month?

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Goals: Fall 2016 Edition

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

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It’s high time for the next round of seasonal goals! My summer goals were helpful in getting me off the couch and trying new things (see the updates below) – hopefully these fall goals will do the same!

Fun fact: I had one of my classes make 4 simple goals they could accomplish in 2 weeks and blog about it on our classroom site. One girl made a goal to go pumpkin picking. On the night of the due date at 8:00, she realized she hadn’t gone yet and dragged her entire family to a pumpkin patch. Hopefully my own goals inspire the same sort of devotion.

Go for a drive to admire the leaves – Fall is just depressing without this element, and there are places within easy driving distance where the leaves are gorgeous.

Run outside at least once/week (until it gets too cold) – My workout routine has fallen to pieces since school started. This will get me back on track AND outside before the snow flurries begin.

Go apple picking…

…then make caramel apples or caramel apple cake – Because yum.

Go to a farmer’s market – Specifically to buy a pumpkin. And maybe fall flowers. Plus veggies. So basically all the things.

Go to a football game – In my hometown, the entire town showed up at the football field on Friday nights. It’s not quite the same when you’re not in high school, but catching one game a season is still fun.

Read outside – I have a patio. I sit inside all day. I have no excuse not to do this.

Finish one embroidered quote – There’s a spot on my wall that’s been bare and waiting since I moved this summer. It’s time.

Watch a documentary – Learning new things sparks interesting conversation and stretches my brain outside of its usual 7th grade English confines.

Get into a (very loose) blogging schedule – Each month, I aim to post one post about teaching, one What I’m Into post, and one random post about whatever else is on my mind. This sounds boring! and easy! until I look at how much unscheduled time I actually have.

 

Summer goals – The Official Updated List!

Go to Weisman Art Museum – My sister and I stole an hour here. Modern art is often hit or miss with me, but there were a few pieces I found interesting.

Attend an outdoor yoga class – I definitely took advantage of all the free outdoor fitness classes in my area, and by the end of the summer I could see my abilities progress.

Watch Finding Dory in theaters – It was charming!

Go camping – My sister and my plans in June were thwarted by severe thunderstorms, but I made it to Lake Pepin later in August. It’s such a beautiful part of the state! The effort of camping – the packing up your entire life to sleep on the ground without electricity – is slightly overrated, but it was a fun adventure.

Attempt to slalom – I gave it a valiant attempt at the beginning of the summer, but alas. I’ll do some more balance work and put it back on the list next summer.

Go to concert or movie in a park – My sister and I went to Much Ado About Nothing, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, on the perfect summer evening. It was absolutely delightful.

Read a collection of poems – I picked up Wendell Berry’s This Day: Collected Sabbath Poems, but I only read a few of them before the summer ended. I’m attempting to read one while I eat breakfast, so this is a work in progress.

Eat at Betty Danger’s – We tried to get reservations here twice, to no avail. I got to check out The Copper Hen and Aster Café instead, which are excellent consolation prizes.

Find a new summer TV show – Fixer Upper won the day!

Watch a documentary – Didn’t even attempt. I did listen to a lot of podcasts?

Read Orthodoxy, The Tale of Two Cities, Cinder, and Night Driving – I joined a reading group to work through Orthodoxy, which challenged me to grow in both personal and intellectual ways. The Tale of Two Cities is now one of my favorite books, and I have been able to connect with multiple students over our shared enjoyment of Cinder. Night Driving is still on the list.

Go kayaking or paddleboarding with the ladies from my small group – prevented by a last-minute hiccup. Next summer!

 

What are your goals for this season?

June (2015)

June. Proper noun. The month of beautifully long, sunlit days, Father’s Day, National Donut Day, and the start of sweet summertime.

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Reading

Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver. I generally adore Barbara Kingsolver (The Bean Trees is one of my favorite books), and I enjoyed 2/3 of this one. The book follows 3 different characters all living in the Virginia mountains, whose stories are faintly connected. I loved the chapters about a crusty old man dealing with his hippie neighbor and a new widow learning to survive on her husband’s family farm, but the story of a park ranger’s summer fling was a little much for me. Maybe I should have been clued in by the reviews using words like “sensual.” Despite that, reading the lyrical descriptions of nature and the relationship of predator and prey felt quite apt the beginning of summer.

What Alice Forgot – Laine Mortiarty. I zipped right through this story of a woman who loses 10 years of her memory after a fall. It was quite addictive – each chapter led to new, surprising discoveries as Alice slowly learned about her unraveling marriage, her children, and how she had changed so much. The ending felt unrealistic (actually, I guess the whole novel was unrealistic), but this would be the perfect vacation read, if you enjoy being sucked head-first into a story.

Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans. I don’t read Rachel Held Evans’ blog – maybe I’m behind the times, but she’s a little controversial for me. However, this book felt gentler and more self-reflective, even though she maintains her matter-of-fact journalistic style. I appreciated that this book gives me permission to ask hard questions about church and to not shy away from doubts and questions.

I started A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but she got rather…adult. None of the language or sex seemed necessary, so I decided to move on.

Watching

Not much. A few episodes of House of Cards with the boy. A few episodes of Friends, which makes me feel exponentially better about life. And Legally Blonde, the only movie I can remember watching in full this month. The early 2000s are hilarious, and I had a quickly fleeting urge to go to law school.

Listening

TOO MUCH of the radio while commuting. I’m in a music drought and needing something that’s not on Top 40 stations. Unless it sounds like this.

This song and video are adorable. Dick Van Dyke is my celebrity crush.

Loving

I typically don’t take Internet dating advice seriously. But Aziz Ansari dispenses advice here that seems far more sound and logical than anything his character Tom Haverford would ever say on Parks and Rec.

Dresses that are glorified t-shirts. I have to wear the same t-shirt to work every day, so throwing on something easy, comfy, and cute makes post-work adventures more fun.

This advice encouraging women to focus on being original and honest, not likeable. I need this.

This quiz, which tells you your reading personality. I’m apparently a Mirror, meaning “The books a Mirror reader looks for provide a combination of catharsis and cautionary tale, reassuring the reader that her experiences are shared and familiar and that they are a part of her life—an important part—but a chapter, not the whole story.” Surprisingly insightful.

This necklace, which I want to buy and flash at kids every time they scream unnecessarily at work.

Salad in a jar. An actual Pinterest win. It’s heavy on the prep time, but being able to grab a Mason jar as I run out the door, then pull out a healthy, yummy lunch later is great.

Doing

I signed my first lease and moved into my first off-campus apartment. My new roommate and I are settling in, though paying for things like rent and Internet feels way too grown-up for me. (Though I waited longer to acquire a vacuum than to buy new dresser pulls, so maybe I’m not that grown-up after all.)

I ran a half-marathon and didn’t die. Here’s a recap if you missed it earlier.

I started a brand-new summer job working with a summer rec program. My days are spent driving through traffic, wearing the same flashy Parks and Recreation Board t-shirt, refereeing “That’s not fair!” arguments, walking laps the playground, doing head counts on field trips, and playing with kiddos. It’s 85% fun. I get to go down waterslides once a week when the kids go swimming, bait hook after hook for fishing contests, play coach for the basketball “team” a few girls organized, and avoid working on evenings and weekends. I’ll take it.

Teaching one swimming lesson a week to two spunky kids. It’s fun to keep doing something I enjoyed for the past few years, especially when I get paid to do it. 🙂

This month, for the first time since December, my boyfriend lived less than 10 minutes from me. We had a wonderful month together after a semester of long-distance, and we sure lived it up. Seeing the Cities from the top of the Foshay Tower. Paddleboarding on Lake Como. Eating Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. Walking around the campus island. Screaming (maybe that was just me) at Valleyfair. Sailing. Reading in the hammock. Traipsing through the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Now another term of long-distance  is beginning, and I’m trying not to freak out that one of my favorite people is back in D.C. I’m going to miss him so much.

Hanging out with my family at the lake for Father’s Day. I have an awesome dad and grandpa.

Come to think of it, I was at a lake every weekend in June. This summer is off to a swell start.

And so it begins...

And so it begins…

What have you been into this month? Head to Leigh Kramer’s link-up to join the fun and see what other bloggers have been doing in June.

Half-Marathon

Half-Marathon. noun. A race consisting of 13.1 miles, which leaves runners dripping in sweat, questioning their life decisions around mile 11, and craving chocolate milk. Also a race that is entirely worthwhile.

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Ten days ago, I and two great running buddies survived a half-marathon. (I hesitate to say ran, because by mile 6 my mom could keep pace with me for a block, which should tell you something about my speed.) This 13.1 mile jaunt was unlike anything I had ever done before. The furthest I had run before training was a 5k, and this was…longer. Significantly longer. Like long enough I had to start training 10 weeks before. And though running a half was possibly the longest 2.5 hours of my life, honestly, I’d do it again. But first, before I seriously reevaluate my sanity and the last ten weeks of peeling feet, sweaty sports bras, and runner’s fanny packs, let me share what I learned and how I survived.

Tell everyone so you don’t chicken out.

When I began considering running a half last fall, I asked a lot of opinions to see if everyone thought I was insane. (The verdict was split.) When I actually started training, I told tons of people so I could make sure I didn’t flake. It worked, apparently.

Have running partners so you don’t chicken out.

I did most of my runs solo (except for one time I went running with my boyfriend and wanted to kill him because he kicked my butt with no training whatsoever and talked the entire time), but I talked two other half-insane friends into signing up for the race with me. Knowing that my younger brother and friend were training and then getting to run alongside them made everything way more fun.

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Use a schedule to track your runs.

I taped mine to my wall and crossed out each run in Sharpie. Drawing big black x’s across the boxes was almost as rewarding as the endorphins.

Birds might attack your head.

On one of my long runs, I was attacked by a bird. Literally. Here I was, foolishly admiring how close I was to wildlife like the little bird perched on the fence, when I must have wandered a little too close to that dumb bird’s nest. As I passed, I heard a squawk and a flutter and felt a jab on the crown of my head. I squawked right back and kept running, a little more panicked. It happened again, same squawking and jabbing, right above my ponytail. I started to sprint while flapping my hands over my head (neither of these are natural around mile 4), watching over my shoulder like I was in the Hunger Games. The suspect bird eyed me reproachfully but kept its distance. Dang bird. But at least I have now survived a milder version one of Tris’s worst fears in Divergent, so that’s something.

Measure your mileage in manageable bites.

Don’t think about the 5 miles you have left – think about how you can totally handle the next half-mile. Ooh, life metaphor right there.

A good cheering section makes all the difference.

I had the best people supporting me. They got up early and waited at water stations to cheer and take action shots and jog alongside me for a few paces. It made the whole thing feel more motivating and epic.

Not pictured are my parents, grandma, and the brother who hates running

Not pictured are my parents, grandma, and the brother who hates running. But they were there and they were great.

Find what works for you.

This race was made possible by the TED Radio Hour podcasts, Aasics running shoes, and post-run McDonald’s blueberry pomegranate smoothies.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Actually, not really. I was mostly happy not to be last. But it does make death less likely and smiling more possible.

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Use common sense.

If you used the bathroom 25 minutes before the race and have a suspicion you might need to go 15 minutes later, for the love of God, just go. Having to pee for the last 7 miles of the run is about as fun as it sounds. And do other logical things like drink water and tell people when you’re going on long runs so they can find you if you collapse and eat lots (and lots and lots) of healthy food.

Basically, have fun and don’t die. That about sums it up. See you at the next race?

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April (2015)

April. proper noun. The month in which the weather sometimes cooperates, and my planner explodes because life goes bonkers, and I resist the temptation to buy swimsuits.

Original photo by Eduardo Amorim via Flickr

Original photo by Eduardo Amorim via Flickr

Reading

The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton. All of Kate Morton’s books kind of blend together for me, since they’re all mysteries with episodic flashbacks, but I did enjoy this one a lot. The story of a daughter unraveling her mother’s life had a few unexpected twists, and my sister had to assure me that everything worked out okay when I got too emotionally invested.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson. I laughed/snorted out loud while reading this unconventional memoir. Especially at the part where her father turns a dead squirrel into a puppet. If you’re not sensitive or squeamish about stories about roadkill, you’ll enjoy it. Just be warned that she’s crass and has salty language.

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison. We sped through this book in a week for my American Lit class, and honestly, I still don’t understand quite all of this story of creating identity and working through racial issues. It was a fascinating story, though, and the nameless narrator’s descriptions of racial tensions were surprisingly relevant. A word of caution: the story is also a little ambiguous and deep if you don’t have the brilliant Dr. Jones helping you make sense of it.

The Irrational Season – Madeline L’Engle. This woman is incredible. This book, organized by the seasons of the church calendar, is no exception. The random poems in this one aren’t my thing, and I don’t entirely agree with her theology, but she writes about spirituality like no one else.

The Princess Bride – William Goldman. I’m halfway through this, and it’s utterly delightful, like a slow-motion tour through the movie. Buttercup is far flaky than in the film, which makes her interactions with Westley even more entertaining.

Watching

Guardians of the Galaxy. Kind of. I was mostly internetting while my siblings watched, but I did realize that Chris Pratt will forever and always be Andy Dwyer in my head and that I do love him, in the same way you love a goofy little brother.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was quirky and too short (only 13 episodes? Come on.)

I’ve fallen off the Gilmore Girls bandwagon and have turned to Friends instead. I’m currently at the beginning of season 2 and ticked off about how long it’s taking for Ross and Rachel to get together.

The new Cinderella (again). No shame.

Listening

TED Radio podcasts. I get bored with my workout playlist on long runs, so I listen to interviews with people like the love scientist (apparently that’s a real thing) behind Match.com and a Pixar screenwriter instead. They’re fascinating.

Most played songs:

  • If You Ever Want to Be in Love – James Bay
  • Billion – Mat Kearney
  • Honey, I’m Good – Andy Grammar
  • Geronimo – Sheppard
  • The Cinderella score. Again, no shame. It’s a gorgeous background for doing homework.

Loving

This video is inspiring for unlikely athletes like myself.

Ghiradelli brownie mix. It’s the best $2 I’ve spent recently.

Cassey Ho’s workouts kick butt – and if you’ve ever heard her talk a hundred miles a minute while you’re collapsed on your yoga mat in pain, you know that this girl is in shape. So this video is heartbreaking and calls out a very real issue on the Internet.

This post about teaching scares me. I’m so concerned that I’ll be saying the same thing a few years from now.

Mac and cheese with salsa. TRY IT. I’ve loved it ever since reading the Sammy Keys mysteries in middle school, and it’s time I shared this wisdom with the world. Bonus points if you buy Annie’s mac and cheese.

This post is great perspective with the finals week of doom approaching.

Doing

Easter break. I kind of learned how to drive a stick in my brother’s new-to-him car and took lots of attractive pictures.

What a gem. An accurate gem.

What a gem of a photo. An accurate gem.

In which we all pretend to be normal.

In which we all pretend to be normal.

A Scotty McCreery concert as a belated birthday surprise for my sister. I pulled out the cowboy boots and discovered that Scotty’s even cuter in person.

The dear boy himself

The dear boy himself. Our seats were pretty great.

Biological sister and adopted former-roomie sister, who had the whole surprise concert idea.

Biological sister and former roomie/friend/adopted sister, who initiated the whole surprise concert thing.

The boyfriend came back to MN, and though we only a day and half together, it was full of good things, like my college’s film festival and a picnic at the Sculpture Garden.

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I would say #blessed. But I won’t be that person.

Other film festival friends

My classy film festival friends

All the ResLife: My staff had a professor teach us about spiritual transformation, played Walleyball, spent a weekend hanging out (including watching Mary-Kate and Ashley), and performed a skit for ResLife Challenge together. I love these sweet girls.

Photo borrowed from Facebook.

Photo borrowed from Facebook. Because these girls are too cute not to share.

All the Education stuff: I took three (THREE) MTLEs in the span of seven (SEVEN) days. The good news? I passed all of them and started making friends with the registration lady in all of my hours jumping through the teacher licensing hoops. The bad news? I am now significantly poorer and would like to lead some kind of protest against the expensive nonsense that is standardized testing. I also participated in the Ed Portfolio Showcase, where I talked about all I’d learned in the Education program and showed off some of my lesson plans. And then I registered for student teaching.

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Woof. Bring on next fall and the EdTPA.

All the running. I’m up to eight miles at a time (and trying not to think about how running a half-marathon is 5.1 more miles than that). Getting over the seven-mile threshold has been the hardest so far. And all of the skin on my feet is peeling off. Nasty. But my knees and morale are still holding up.

All the assignments. Because it’s almost finals and the year is almost over. What.

All the grown-up stuff: I got a summer job (that required a resume and an interview)! I did not get an apartment. Yet. My roommate and I are researching and praying like crazy.

What were you into this month? Share your thoughts or see what others have been doing by checking out the What I’m Into link-up, hosted by Leigh Kramer.

March (2015)

March. proper noun. The month of St. Patrick’s Day, spring break for college kids (halleluiah), weather that is frequently disappointing, my sister’s birthday, and basketball madness.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into and up to this month. Head to her site if you’re curious how other bloggers have spent March, too!

Reading

This month started out as a weird reading month for me. A summary of my activity…

Didn’t finish:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon. The story follows two cousins who write comic books while one of the men tries to rescue his Jewish family from Europe as the Nazis take over. For some reason, I just couldn’t get into this one, even though it comes highly recommended and the writing itself is well done. Maybe it was my reading it in stunted 15-minute snatches while traveling, or the way Chabon would start chapters with brand-new characters who wouldn’t fit into the overall story until a few pages later. At any rate, this goes on the bottom of the maybe-try-again-later pile.

Finished:

Looking for Alaska – John Green. Leave it to John Green to get me back into the “I love books!” mindset. He has insight into the adolescent mind like no one else. I devoured this story of a boy at boarding school who falls in love with a moody girl named Alaska. Warning: PG-13 for sex, booze, and language.

Working on:

The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton. Like all of her other stories, it’s a winding tale of secrets and intrigue told in multiple perspectives. It’s fun.

The Irrational Season – Madeline L’Engle. I mostly want to be her best friend and have her pour wisdom over my life. Reading a few pages right when I wake up makes getting out of bed easier.

 

Watching

Cinderella. My sister chose this movie for her birthday. It was great fun. The costumes and sets and filming are gorgeous, the prince is dazzling, and the plot is slightly updated from the Disney classic, with enough newness to make it worth watching. My only complaint is that Lily James does a lot of breathy bosom-heaving. We can blame it on the corset.

The 6th season of Parks and Rec. I accidentally finished it on a Friday night (accidentally as in I thought there were 22 episodes in a season, not 20). I was not emotionally prepared for that.

House of Cards. Because there’s no way that I’m going to convince my boyfriend to watch Gilmore Girls with me.

The Great Gatsby. Extravagant and a little hopeless. Best watched with someone who will help you look for symbolism and theme and deeper meaning, or all you will get from it is the enjoyment of staring at Leonardo DiCaprio (though that’s admittedly not a bad thing).

Enchanted. I forgot about how splendid Amy Adams is in this movie. How is she so clueless without being the least bit annoying?

The Prince and Me. Because accidentally falling in love with a prince without leaving the Midwest is completely realistic.

 

Listening

T-Swift – How You Get the Girl

Echosmith – Bright

James Bay – Hold Back the River

The Well Pennies – All My Loving

Bonus: this ragtime version of Thrift Shop. It’s awesome even if you’re over the song.

 

Loving

White Converse. Because I finally can wear shoes that don’t cover my ankles and these go with everything.

This song is meh. But Tom Hanks is the best.

The Prayer of Examen. It’s exactly what I need at the end of the day.

This guest post by Micha Boyett. Because I am too often a frantic monster.

SPRING. I sat outside in shorts and a t-shirt yesterday and the sun actually felt warm. I can’t contain my excitement about this.

 

Doing

Spring break. I split my time between flying to DC to see my boyfriend and driving home to see my family. It was the best of both worlds. Highlights of DC: learning how to use public transportation, seeing the Library of Congress, and getting lots of quality time. Highlights of home: making puppy chow with my mom’s kindergarten class, prom dress shopping with a friend, and watching girly movies (see above).

The Library of Congress. One of the coolest places.

The Library of Congress. One of the coolest places.

Quad 4. Senioritis has hit. The homework motivation has died. Real life kinda sucks after spring break.

Running. I started training for a half-marathon after spring break, and I’m telling everyone about it so I don’t chicken out. I’m only up to 4 miles (as of yesterday!), but running consistently (with a schedule!) has been motivating and endorphin-boosting.

Hanging out with my mom and grandma in the Cities. Cue thrifting and Cinderella-watching.

The continued summer job hunt. More applications are being sent out. An interview is approaching. Prayers are appreciated.

 

What have you been into this month?

Country

Country. noun. According to Dictionary.com, “The land of one’s birth or citizenship; rural districts, including farmland, parkland, and other sparsely populated areas, as opposed to cities or towns.”

All images in this post were taken on a summer walk by my family. Let's pine for the days of thunderstorms and green plants.

Let’s pine for the days of thunderstorms and green landscape, shall we? All images in this post were taken by my family on a summer walk near my house.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere.

This is no exaggeration.

I now live in a legit city, and I take great pride in the novelty of my upbringing. I get to claim outlandish things like that my hometown is six hours away and still in Minnesota, that my graduating class at a public school hovered around 20, and that the nearest Target was an hour away.

If you are not from the boondocks, it will probably sound weird that I miss it sometimes. Yes, even now that I have experienced the wonders of the five-minute Target run and pizza places that deliver and the view of the glittering night skyline over the 35-W bridge, I still ache for the beauty of my home country sometimes.

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Let me explain.

I grew up on a gravel road, seven miles from the nearest town, a mere hamlet with fewer than 200 people. The land is flat, a prairie of sugar beet fields dotted with tree rows and grain bins. In winter, the wind whips unfazed across miles, blowing snow into thick drifted fingers. On the unsheltered east side of our yard, blizzards swirl beyond the rickety barn, the world swiped clean with white. The next morning, the sky drooping gray, white lace drapes the cottonwoods outside my bedroom window.

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As soon as the crusty snow disappears from the roads, I itch to tighten my tennis shoes, call Buddy the yellow lab, and head out. Sometimes I run, headphones in, music thumping against the whisper of nature. I count the telephone poles, pushing step after step. When pickup tires rumble behind me, I pull Buddy to the side of the road, grass scratching my ankles. He strains against my hand on his collar. In late July, harvest blooming in the fields, he lopes off in search of deer, only the tip of his tail waving above the green. Sometimes I walk with my parents. We match pace and conversation, racing the mosquitoes and the sagging sun, stopping on the intersection to stretch and let my mom empty gravel from her shoes. The intersections measure distance traveled: half a mile to the corner with the little country cemetery, another mile to the tar, four miles total around the section.

In summer, threatening storms roll in from North Dakota, their clouds building as they cross the Red River. We can see them hovering over the water tower seven miles away. When the rain comes, it drips off the eaves of the porch and flattens swooping swaths in the wheat fields. The green of the fields, the trees, the grass in our yard heightens, brilliant against the smudged sky and faded barn. When the clouds drift off to the east, water gathers in muddy pools in the pockmarked driveway and swells in the coulee where Buddy will swim.

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When the leaves fade to crunchy brown and trucks scatter the road with dirt droppings, my grandpa and brothers head to the fields. Their bright orange garb glows against the faded landscape, a brown palette waiting for snowfall. Before I went to college, I would join them, dozing in the tree stand and twitching at the squirrels rustling through dry forest. We watched the clearing, guns resting and ready, the light on the line of poplars in front of us softening towards evening. My grandpa would whisper stories of his childhood as we ate chocolate pudding and cheese puffs, trying to crunch quietly.

Over the first few days of spring break, my sister and I brought some college friends up to our house. We drove them through our country, past the pool where I work and the church with an under-construction addition. They may have thought we were hicks. After all, we took pride in our new-ish bowling alley and didn’t find it creepy to know who lived in every house on the drive to town. If they thought that (and were far too nice to say so), I’m okay with it. I don’t expect everyone to get the understated beauty of my home land.

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I probably won’t spend the rest of my life in this same place. I honestly don’t know where I’m going to end up, whether I’ll live in a big city or foreign land or tiny town. But regardless of where I live out my days, my home will remain precious and beautiful. This is my country. It was the backdrop to my childhood. Its shape, the flattened plains and stretched trees and long straight roads, is etched in my mind. It makes my heart beat.