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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Remember

Remember. verb. “To have in one’s mind an awareness of something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past.”

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Fall is here. The school routines have found us. I’m awake before the sun now, and I wear mascara every day. We fell easily into these rhythms. It feels like what we’d always done. (It is.)

Already, the easy breezy days of summer seem long gone. They were sweet, full of ordinary surprises. Sometimes I fear that I will forget them. The memories will disappear from my head, poof, like the definition of cosine and the way to fold a fitted sheet. So I write them down, just as I send myself reminder emails of online resources and copies to make. This is my to-do list: do not forget these moments.

I toted books to the park most days. I used to live minutes from the one with the lake. I brought lemonade and a blanket and, in the pages of a mystery, stopped fighting the quiet gift of rest. Teens playing Pokemon walked by, and I peeled back the layers of memory lying over the grass and walking trail: walking with the boy when our relationship was young, running long laps around the lake, eating sugar-laced beignets, following my brothers on rented bikes, paddleboarding at sunset.

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We slept outside on the dock one weekend. The air was clear and cool, and scattered stars kept us awake. We found constellations, and talked sleepily as sisters do, and listened in the pauses to the chatter of two teenage boys on a dock further down. We curled up under our sleeping bags and drifted off to the lullaby of shooting stars and waves against shore, the one composed just for us. I woke early, to bright sun and a lake shining like glass.

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We went sailing one afternoon, on the bowl of a lake. I sat near the bow, ducking as the boom swung and tripping over the keel every time we tacked. The boy sat in the stern calm and confident, framed by blue sky and blue lake and blue polo shirt. We’d talked of going sailing, just us, for years. When we finally did, I wanted to freeze time, bottle it, to return to sun and sweetness on lonely winter days.

We drank iced tea and ate tuna tacos at our favorite restaurant, up the shore on Lake Superior. When we were no longer hangry, we tripped down the steep shore, climbed rocks, skipped stones, snapped pictures. The water was clear enough to drink. Stones – heart-shaped, striped, perfectly round – loaded our fists, just as they did 17 years ago when we looked on the same shore together.

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I hold these moments as I look at the end-of-summer sunshine out the window. It reminds me there is still time left: time to go outside, to wander, to rest. So I strap on skis during our last lake weekend, even if the water is cold and the air colder. I bring my book to our tiny patio after school. I walk through parks, avoiding the geese headed south, on Sundays. The slow, sweet moments return. I won’t forget them.

What I’m Into: August 2016

August. proper noun. The finale to summer (sniff, sniff).

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Read on for all of the things I’ve loved in August – and all of my good excuses for why this post is a week overdue. Better late than never, I suppose?

Reading

Book of A Thousand Days – Shannon Hale. When a princess is imprisoned for refusing to marry her father’s choice, her lady’s maid keeps a journal of their captivity and escape. There were many things to enjoy in this tale – Dashti is a plucky narrator, there’s a hint of sweet romance, and the mystical, Arabian-esque setting reminded me of A Horse and His Boy in the best way.

Redwall – Brian Jacques. I know so many people who loved this series. If I really enjoyed fantasy, I might have been one of them. This summer has been teaching me how much I enjoy character-driven novels, and Redwall just isn’t that. It was really hard for me to get into, but I would still absolutely recommend it as a read-aloud for kids who love adventure stories, or as a more approachable book for readers who might love The Lord of the Rings in a few years.

Cinder – Marissa Meyer. Based on the cover, this did not appear to be my kind of book at all. However, all the recommendations I’ve heard were right – it was excellent. Cinder, a talented mechanic, is a cyborg (a human with some robotic limbs and a computer chip that interacts with her brain). As the country where she lives struggles under threats from other nations and a plague, the prince asks her to fix his android (think R2-D2). My only complaint was that this ended on one of those irritating YA cliffhangers so that you have to read the entire rest of the series to know if things actually work out. This is my pet peeve. I probably will read them all anyway.

Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson tenderly tells the story of her childhood through poetry. I absolutely want to use this as a mentor text for teaching poetry writing – she highlights small snapshots of memory with beautiful language and detail, and her honesty about issues of race would be poignant for class discussions.

The Truth According to Us – Annie Barrows. What a delightful, delightful book. Layla Beck is cut off from her father’s funding and moves to a small town to research its history, where she lives with the Romeyn family. The family was once upstanding in the community, but as Layla and Willa Romeyn, a curious 12- year old, discover, the truth of family and town history is not always as it appears. This summer, I have learned that a historical setting + a clever narrator + some non-gory mystery + a smidge of romance = my kind of book. This has everything.

The Nesting Place – Myquillin Smith. Myquillin, or The Nester as she’s known in blogland, is the queen of realistic yet beautiful ideas about decorating. This book was a kind guide as I moved in to my apartment (and possibly drove my roommate nuts by spontaneously rearranging picture frames).

Alone Together – Sherry Turkle. This book examines the intersection of human relationships and technology. I spent most of my reading efforts in the section about how social media and texting changes relationships. Basically, we are all hoping for relationships on our terms, with no mess (and no real connection). Reading this with my middle schoolers in mind is rather terrifying. Maybe we should all become Amish. Well, Amish people who read blogs.

Falling Free – Shannan Martin. PSA: This book comes out on September 22, and you ought to read it. I’m not just saying that because I’m on the launch team – I’m saying that because it’s a rousing wake-up call for those of us who sit safely in middle-class complacency. Shannan tells how she was saved from the comfy life she’d dreamed of and found herself on the wrong side of the tracks learning to love people who didn’t seem to deserve it. This is not an easy read, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and seeing just how important conversations like these are for a church called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to all.

A Prayer Journal – Flannery O’Connor. In college, my American Lit professor used this as a devotion to start class. I wanted to revisit it for myself, and I was loving Flannery’s honesty and strikingly real descriptions of what it means to have faith…until I had to return it to the library. Whomp. This might be worth buying my own copy.

Currently reading: Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins.

 

Watching

Sherlock – This show is way too intense for me to watch on my own. Even with moral support, I have to knit to keep my blood pressure stable-ish. BUT. This show is so well-crafted and intriguing. Plus, it teaches me how great my friends are. Case in point: my friend Janae offered to watch an episode at the same time I did and warned me via text every time someone was going to die, and my sister doesn’t get mad when I send late-night texts about the probable murderer in my apartment.

Fixer Upper – How I love this show. I may or may not have cried at one reveal.

White Collar – This is the best kind of crime show – no blood or gore, sharp dialogue, and an incredibly attractive main character. Thank goodness for roommates with good Netflix recommendations.

Ghostbusters – I like Melissa McCarthy, but honestly, this remake was not worth the two hours it took to watch it.

The Man Who Knew Infinity – This movie was being filmed at Cambridge around the time the boyfriend was spending a summer there, so I was already predisposed to like it. Beyond that, it is a remarkable movie. It tells the story of Ramanujin, an Indian mathematician studying at Cambridge around WWII whose intuition helped him make fantastic mathematical discoveries. The ending is a bit abrupt (as was the end of Ramanujin’s life), but I left with a new appreciation for how math is an integral part of our world, even though we don’t understand it all.

 

 Listening

Clemency – Heaven in the World We Know. I discovered this band through Spotify Discover Weekly playlists. Before this month, I had no idea that Spotify puts together a playlist of new music tailored to my tastes each week. What treasures I’ve been missing! “When I’m With You the Fireworks Go Off” is another favorite.

 

Jess Glynne – You Can Find Me.

 

The Chainsmokers – Closer. I don’t understand why I like this song so much, and I feel sort of bad it’s by a band called The Chainsmokers…but it’s been stuck in my head all month.

 

 

 

 

Loving

Grove Collaborative – This company is almost too good to be true. They give you great deals on natural cleaning and beauty products, and if you have good timing, you can get great freebies for signing up! (I scored The Nesting Place AND 2 different Caldrea products – for free – with my first purchase.) The Sea Salt Neroli dish soap makes me almost enjoy doing dishes. Disclaimer: I am not paid to say anything about this company, but if you use this link, I earn extra credit.

This article on evangelicals in this political climate puts words to my feelings about this nutty election cycle.

Natori bras. Maybe this is TMI, but I’m willing to risk it because the world needs to know. Ladies: Go to Nordstrom. You’re probably wearing the wrong bra size (I was), so get a fitting. Then buy this or this, because they are both awesome. They’re even on sale at this second!

All the tears from this video. Sometimes I love middle schoolers.

 

I have an emotional allergy to small talk, but this post reminds me how it can be significant.

Working air conditioning in my car! I endured most of the summer without AC. Finally, at the end of July, I decided had endured one too many sweaty 90 degree day and got it fixed. It so was worth it.

Lemon San Pellegrino. It’s basically expensive sparkling lemonade, but it’s delightful.

No longer being in a long distance relationship…because the boyfriend moved back! We’ve been dating for two years and he’s lived in Washington, DC for a year and a half of that time. He returned to MN less than two weeks ago, and I’m still over the moon that I haven’t had to do a teary airport drop-off.

 

Doing

 

Lots of driving! I went home twice in August. The first time, we saw a friend who’s been living in Switzerland and is now getting MARRIED(!!!) and had lots of low-key time. The second time, we had a family stay-cation involving a detour to the Duluth Tall Ships festival, my youngest brother’s senior pictures (he’s so old!), a drive-in movie, and a bonfire with friends.

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A day trip to Lake Pepin. It was such fun to explore a charming part of the state with an equally charming boy.

 

Sister dates to an outdoor production of Seussical the Musical, the Weisman Art Museum, Ikea, and the Mall of America. I lucked out in the good sister department.

 

Fun friend dates to shop for rugs, celebrate passing certification tests, and reconnect after trips abroad. My friends are so adult!

 

Wrapping up the semi-employed summer life. There was tutoring, going to yoga classes, babysitting for two cutie-pie kids, and volunteering for English classes. I also went with a group that offers field trips for non-native English speakers to the Stone Arch Bridge, the Guthrie, and two volunteers’ gorgeous house on Lake Minnetonka.

Ending the summer at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

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Getting ready for school! This is the first time I’ve started the first day of school on my own, and the amount of work it takes to ready a classroom, prep for an open house, and plan for just the first week while attending teacher workshops is no joke! We’re jumping in with both feet now, and so far there are only good things to report.

 

 

 

What have you been into in August?

 

 

 

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?

August (2015)

August. proper noun. The dog days, the last hurrah, the fond farewell to summer.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer, as always, to share what I loved this month. Head to the link-up if you’re looking for other good recommendations or are generally nosy about how Internet people spend their time.

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Reading

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson. Watch the movie, then pretend you’re spending a few hours with Amy Adams while you read about the incredulous, down-and-out Miss Pettigrew and her day with Miss LaFosse, the stunning socialite juggling three men. One of my favorite lines: “Miss LaFosse was sitting quietly with the radiant, shining look on her face of the woman who has just been thoroughly and satisfactorily kissed.”

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion. This book was all over people’s lists of best summer beach reads, with good reason. The story of the geneticist who creates a questionnaire to screen potential wife candidates was cute and quirky. Though I’m curious if I should be worried that I can empathize with a man who claims that, in regards to being on time, “poor synchronization is a huge waste of time,” and refers to minute-wasting chatter as “the inevitable small talk”?

Bread and Wine – Shauna Niequist. Shauna’s writing feels down-to-earth and comforting in this book, exactly like the kind of food she serves. Food is an interesting lens through which to write a memoir, and not quite all of the chapters worked for me. If I liked vinegar more and knew more about cooking, maybe I would have been head-over-heels for this book. As it was, I simply enjoyed it.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress – Rhoda Janzen. This wins the award for Funniest Book I’ve Read this Summer. Also Best Book to Read Aloud To Anyone Who Will Listen. Some reasons why: She describes a road trip in which one of her brothers had to eat a raisin that had been up her other brother’s nose. Her mom sewed patterned fabric strips on to the bottoms of her pant legs to make them last through growth spurts. Her father would carefully supervise their TV time and, whenever actors hinted towards a kiss, would mutter “Smut,” while switching the channel. These episodes are hysterical in Rhoda’s voice, which is sassy without being cynical, and which pokes fun at her childhood without being mean.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald. True confessions: I tried reading The Great Gatsby once in high school. I didn’t like it. This time, after watching the movie, talking about it with my boyfriend, and not expecting to relate to any of the characters, I could read for the rich writing and enjoy it much more. Fitzgerald made a classic out of this by the sheer force and luxuriousness of his descriptions. Maybe second time’s the charm on this one.

Listening

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Car rides alone call for well-loved audiobooks.

The Madeleine Peyroux Pandora station. It’s moody and swingy and just right for quiet evenings.

Locked Away – R.City ft. Adam Levine. Catchy.

Watching

Father of the Bride. The perfect movie to watch with one of your dearest friends on the night before her wedding weekend.

I’m back on the Gilmore Girls train. Though I’m not sure I can take the Dean/Jess drama.

Loving

Because Kid President is da bomb.

This is classic for the start of school.

If you don’t follow Love, Teach, you should. This list shows exactly why. Though I would add these socks to the list, too.

I, and all other English teachers, need this shirt.

If you’re in a relationship or ever want to be in one, this is such good advice. Hold me to this, people.

The smartphone life. I have joined the 21st century AND I have a baby Instagram account. (Find me here at @agirldefined!) I must admit, my old clunker of a phone and I had a good run. We shared four years together, and I might even miss the dinosaur a little.

Polka dot pants. The Pixie pant from Old Navy is working for me. Find ‘em on sale for extra happiness.

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Doing

Bachelorette party. We celebrated the bride the weekend before her wedding with a trip to Stillwater, the cutest riverside town. We kept it classy. Except that I bought my dress at a thrift store. Though this is the story with all of my fancy clothes lately.

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The bride and me. I like this girl.

Wedding celebration! I got to be a bridesmaid when one of my dearest friends married her honey. They were radiant with happiness, and it was fun to get glammed up and celebrate their love. Best wishes, Rachel and Joel!

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From freshman orientation group to wedding days…

Finishing my summer job with the kiddos. I had a sweet summer with them, which culminated in a trip to Wild Mountain, an amusement park with an alpine slide, waterslides, a lazy river, and Go-Karts in 90º heat. I went all in. I even scratched up my back going down the Black Hole, the scariest waterslide of them all. The kids might have been impressed.

Heading home, for a long-awaited break. I got my first-ever massage and a brand-new pair of happy shoulders. I also got my hair chopped off, crafted with my mom, worked out with my brothers, and avoided setting my alarm. And my dad was patient enough to take pictures with me. (Pssst. Check the About page for more.)

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All of my family was in the same room for the first time this summer when we dropped my brother off at college. There are now 3 of us enrolled at the same school. Significant tuition discounts should be given, I think.

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The gang’s all here

Hey ya, hey ya, my boyfriend’s back. And we’ve done all the things in the few days he’s been here. Dressed-up dinner, swing dancing, double date with friends, the Minnesota State Fair, hiking at Taylor’s Falls, and plenty of real life and conversation in between. He’s swell.

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Student teaching. And so it begins. The teachers are in workshops now, so I’m helping with admin work and trying not to get in the way. When the kids come in a few days (and I can actually start making progress on the edTPA), the real fun begins…

What were you into this month?

trust

Trust. verb. According to Google, “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” I’ve struggled with it ever since trust falls on 9th grade youth retreats. I am struggling with it now.

photo: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

photo: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

I’d been going to yoga. One Thursday I showed up to a toned pixie with messy hair leading the class. We started in child’s pose.

I sat on my feet, hips trying to touch heels, folded in half so my forehead touched the ground. I pressed back through my palms, feeling the tension. The teacher claimed that hips carry a lot of emotion. I almost believed her. “This week in my classes, we’ve been talking about trust,” she said. “So tonight, meditate on trust. Where do you need more trust?”

I’m sometimes oblivious to burning bushes, signs from God. This one was hard to miss.

Wednesday had been hard. Some of my distant, hopeful plans for the future toppled. My ideals were looking, well, idealistic. The months ahead looked hard, like work and angst. Letting go of my tentative outline sucked.

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted for the next few years. I predicted how much hard stuff I could handle before my measly strength gave out, how far my emotions would swing in a few months. “I can’t,” throbbed in my mind when all I saw were my own trembling hands, knuckles white with pressure. So I held my own little whispered hopes close. I’d just started to give voice to them.

And then, one conversation, and my plans crumbled.

I spent the day grappling with the mental aftermath when not wrangling kids. I wanted to stomp, stick out my bottom lip, and cross my arms, like the diva seven-year-olds I work with. It would have been so much more satisfying than sitting quietly, watching the playground, wondering if I’d get my way.

Two weeks later, I still want to pout most days.

I should be better at this. The past months are littered with evidence that I have something to trust in. I got a miracle job for the summer. A random conversation linked me to a roommate just in time. Just days ago, my cranky car got fixed without leaving me stranded for more than an evening. Clearly, I have not been cosmically ditched. And still I forget. Still I refuse.

It sucks. I want to stretch into the mythical day when all will be well and I will be content. I itch to instantly unfurl branches that reach further and touch more: more warmth, more adventure, more happiness, more space for the life I long for. But I’m stuck, rooted here and now. Growing is slow. It hurts, the cracking of stiff bark, old ideas, to make room for new shooting of fresh leaves. It goes inch by inch. From my stunted height, my plans still seem best. I ache for them to be fulfilled.

There has to be something better. I want to ask “What if?” with hope, not fear. I want to believe that those June evenings I spent reading in my boyfriend’s room, him listening to lectures, our knees touching, won’t be the only golden days. I want to believe that college was not the height of God’s provision of community and purpose. I want to know what it means for the Lord to be my strength and my song.

“Trust yourself to try something new,” the yoga instructor said. That night, I tried. I tried growing branches in tree pose, stretching my fingers towards the sky. I tried taking my peace fingers, grabbing my foot, and straightening my knee. I wobbled and broke the position. I tried again.

Now, I feel like I’m failing at trusting. I keep feeling the tension, losing my balance, and breaking the position. It hurts. But I have to keep trying again.

golden

Golden. adjective. The color of late summer, of the minutes before sunset, of serendipity.

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We’ve been eating peaches all weekend: they are golden rimmed in red, edible hot sun and sweet rain. A pie turns to juice in our mouths and disappears. The white fan moves the evening air, all humidity and laughter. The brothers who eat and tease, the dad who listens, the mom who sasses, the other family who color the conversation, sit around scratched-up wood tables. They tell stories about people I don’t know, of wedding crashing 50 years ago. Their words mix with the lake water in my hair and the smell of piecrust, simmering into joy.

The twenty-somethings and moms gather on the lawn, yoga mats sprawled. The leader, in hot pink leggings, intones “inhale, up dog; exhale, down dog.” I lose my breath, and my Warrior One wobbles when she nears. “Left hip down, right hip forward,” and I shift, muscles stabilizing. I hear “good adjustment” and wonder if it’s for me, the girl who knows no one and feels too young, too tall, too much into cardio for this. But still I try. When I lay in stilled savasana, breath slow, eyes closed, tongue dropped from the roof of my mouth, golden sunlight fills my palms.

The pictures blur, twenty-two candles and golden glow. We eat cupcakes, extra frosting on hand, even though we’ve had dessert twice already. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this birthday, the first without my family around the table and my sister’s flourless chocolate cake. But I am sandwiched between two friends who planned an evening of surprises, with breadsticks and minions and girlish chatter. Though I’d forgotten to invite it, love joined the party.

It’s too late. I’m the only one who ever mentions it. I yawn. I don’t know how he does it, the boy a time zone ahead of me. Someone finally clicks and the call ends. Though this is hard, this communication through computer, I glow golden as I brush my teeth. He cares what I think, even when my words are scrambled. He loves me. He admits it in front of his roommates.

The professor in the movie, wearing a beanie and jeans, claims, “We should concern ourselves, not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit.” Hector, the psychiatrist on an international quest for happiness, finds it in a flight home. When he asks the stewardess if the plane can go any faster, his face is golden, lit with love. I know where I’d fly for happiness, given the chance. But apparently happiness doesn’t take miles of travel to find. I don’t know exactly what I’m pursuing. But I want to be surprised by happiness here. I think I’m learning how.