June (2015)

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

June

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.

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Résumé

Résumé. noun. According to Dictionary.com, “A brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.” According to me, “The paper on which I try to make myself sound smart, qualified, and professional. It’s a struggle.”

This is my "Hire me!" face, if you couldn't tell.

This is my “Hire me!” face, if you couldn’t tell.

Lately, I’ve been polishing my resume and sending out applications for summer jobs. Unfortunately, in the interest of being professional, many of my best skills, developed over years of training, had to be left out. It’s quite depressing. Just think what kind of jobs I could have snagged had I been allowed to present potential employers with this, the honest version of my resume:

Education

  • Degrees: Communication Arts and Literature Ed (grades 5-12) and ESL Ed (grades K-12) – Able to stay up really late and appear chipper with small children the next day. Reads lots of YA lit. Remembers maybe 7 words of Mandarin Chinese.
  • Attended small Christian college – Knows big theological words like predestination and transubstantiation. Still doesn’t know what she believes about most issues.
  • Member of the Honors Program – Interested in everything, apparently.
  • Writer for the Examiner (spring 2015) – Sometimes able to be concise.
  • Speech team (spring 2013) – Performs Prose Interpretations without crying or throwing up.
  • Member of the women’s basketball team (2011-2012 season) – Willing to demonstrate the proper way to box out. Able spotter in the weight room. Was once in really good shape.

Work Experience

  • TA for Honors Program and Advanced Grammar – Anal about proofreading other people’s stuff (her own, not quite as much). Spends semesters writing sentences about the adventures of class mascots such as grapefruits named Ruby and koalas named Ace. Knows what a subordinating conjunction is. Good at bulletin boards.
  • Pool manager, swimming lessons instructor, and lifeguard – Can be in the sun from 8 am to 9 pm and not get sunburned. Able to catch small children jumping off the diving board over and over (and over and over and over). Treads water for very long periods of time. Tried really hard to keep accurate accounts, with occasional success. Can yell at that kid, in the blue trunks, hanging on the slide, without knowing his name. Quickly learns the names of troublemakers. Confident enough to wear a swimsuit and towel to the grocery store after work.
  • Assistant Resident Director – Loves her staff. Knows how many lamps it takes to make a classroom appear cozy. Patient attender of meetings.
  • Resident Assistant – Able to plan allllll the events. Takes irrational pride when her residents become friends. Can decorate an entire hall for $50.

Additional Experiences and Skills

  • Maintains personal blog using WordPress – Good at finding “productive” ways to procrastinate. Willingly reads lots of other blogs for inspiration.
  • Completed research in collaboration with professors – Can accomplish an amazing amount the night before a meeting.
  • Has nice handwriting.
  • Follows schedules to the letter.
  • Just learned how to add the accents over the e’s in “résumé.”
  • Able to put together a resume that looks nicer and is better organized than this one (hopefully). Whether it lands some employment for the summer is yet to be determined.

Scenes

Scenes. plural noun. According to Dictionary.com, “A view or picture.”

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

It’s August. Right now, I (and the rest of the universe) are wondering:

Where did the summer go?

In June when I returned from China, the days trickled by. Slow x’s on the calendar collected day after day. Then July came and someone hit fast-forward, the month exploding like a 4th of July firework, a brilliant flash, and disappearing.

Now I’m back in a dorm room preparing for the start of a new year, trying to remember that it’s still summer and that I am still allowed to go outside. My pool days are reduced to watery scenes, some sunshine and many splashes. I flip through them like photographs.

Children stole my heart. The redhead with freckles sprinkled across his nose, had never jumped in the deep end before. When I caught him, I thought he would grab my hand. Instead he wrapped his little arms around my neck, holding tight and safe. One tiny sweetie looked at me with big brown eyes and gave me flowers at the end of the week. She learned to swim underwater, slim arms clearing the way.

Kids fumbled towards success. One kid, far too old, refused to put his head under. The water inched over his eyes, forehead, hair. He discovered he loved diving for rings and asked to add a few more lessons to his week. I thought I might cry. Timid kids who didn’t like deep water turned brave enough to swim across the deep end by themselves. They quivered on the end of the diving board, clutching noodles and mustering courage. I treaded water below until they popped up relieved and triumphant.

The unexpected startled us. One chatty four-year-old with a buzz cut told me there was a “wat” in the baby pool and asked if we could go get it out. He and his dad had done it before. A kid with strawberry-blonde Einstein hair handed me a grapefruit on the last day of lessons, saying “This is for you,” and trotted away towards the deep end.

Messes happened. The pool heater broke during the coldest week of the summer, when temperatures barely broke 60º. Lips turned blue, mine included. There was pounding rain during one lesson, blinding drops the size of quarters. One kid slipped from his pool noodle, too far from the side. He couldn’t swim. His breath came in shaky gasps when I pulled him onto the deck.

I hold these moments tight, fingers clenched. Like sand, they trickle from my grasp. I want capture every scene, pile them up, a dam to slow the passing of time. It doesn’t work. The summer still canters towards fall, the sunset sneaking in minutes earlier. My days as a college girl still slide past, ticking towards an end that seems both immediate and unthinkable.

When I remember school’s impending beginning, I get nostalgic, clinging to these snapshots of summer. Friends inquire about my break, and I flip through them again. I feel a little guilty about my tight grasp, that I’m not sailing smoothly into the next season, attitude carefree and come-what-may. I feel a little frantic that I might lose them, these seconds that made up my summer and mattered so much in the moment.

But as Madeleine L’Engle says, “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” As the summer spirals on towards the end, these moments aren’t fading like dissipating smoke. Instead, they’re adding to the treasure of summers and autumns and Christmases I’m collecting, one scene at a time.

 

July 2014

July. proper noun. According to me, one of the best months of the year for its sunshine and summertime vibe.

July

July, which is one of my favorite months of the year, is over. I don’t know quite what to do with this. Other than link up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into and share the things I’ve loved this month.

Reading:

Attachments and Fangirl, both by Rainbow Rowell. I discovered Rainbow Rowell when one of my friends recommended Eleanor and Park to me last winter, and I adore her. I devoured both of these books. They’re the perfect summer reads: romance-y but deeper than the typical boy-meets-girl, witty, surprising, and buckets of fun. (Warning: They’re PG-13 for language, but they’re never creepy or explicit with the romance part. I would recommend them to my mom without embarrassment.)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I try to read one classic every summer, and this was my pick for 2014. It’s a fascinating look at guilt and condemnation that is still relevant, even though our world is a bit less uptight than Puritan New England. It also reads faster than most classics. After wading through Les Miserables last summer, I appreciate that.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Barry. This book reminded me of my grandpa sitting in a rocking chair and telling stories, in the best way possible. Jayber Crow is the story of a small-town barber and Port William, the community where he lives. He lives a small, ordinary life, but his observations about the community and his philosophical insights are striking and beautiful.

 

Listening to:

“Classic” by MKTO. This is my jam right now. It’s poppy and adorable. And I would love to be called “old-school chic,” though the sloppy state of my summer wardrobe (think athletic shorts and flip-flops) makes this unlikely.

Ellie Holcomb. She sounds like fireflies at dusk and iced tea in Mason jars and hope.

 Scotty McCreery. I don’t like driving with the windows down, even on sunny July afternoons. (I know, I’m a horrible country girl.) But if I did, Scotty’s crooning would make the perfect soundtrack.

 

Watching:

More Numb3rs with the family. (But I’ve discovered that I can only watch one episode per night, or I have dreams that people are breaking into our house and that Charlie will be creating algorithms to solve mysteries about my life. Yes, my family mocks me for this.)

Tried-and-true movies. I’ve been spending most of my movie-watching energy on flicks I’ve already watched and loved. Like You’ve Got Mail – I could watch this movie on repeat. And The Princess Bride, the one movie with princess in the title that even my brothers don’t complain (much) about watching.

 

Randomly Loving:

This video. I’ve always been a Colbie Caillat fan, but this video made me love her for more than her California-girl vibe. Watch the video, and read the fascinating story behind the song here.

This article scientifically proves that you should fall in love with me. Okay, not just with me, but with people like me who read a lot.

I make lots of snarky comments about selfies. But even I approve of them if they look like this.

Word nerds, have I got a video for you. I fully intent to use this video on my future English students.

 This article, which is just the encouragement that I need to keep whacking away at my keyboard. It reminds me to show up, to make art in the imperfect circumstances that are dumped on me, and to be real.

Prairie sunsets. City skylines just can’t compete with the wide-open sky of the boondocks.

An unfiltered pic my dad took this summer. It's like the Lion King.

An unfiltered pic my dad took this summer. It’s like the Lion King.

 

Keeping Busy With:

Sneaking as many moments at the lake as possible. Because duh.

Tough girls go tubing with their brothers.

Tough girls go tubing with their brothers.

No makeup, messy hair, boating in the sunset. This is my happy place.

No makeup, messy hair, boating in the sunset. This is my happy place.

Procrastinating on the scholarly paper I needed to write after going on trip to China. Yes, I know this was in June. Yes, I know I’ve had all summer. Yes, I did turn it in at 11:03 p.m. the night before it was due. I do think cross-cultural communication is interesting, but procrastination habits die hard, even in the summer. Especially in the summer.

Turning 21. I skipped the whole 21-shots-at-a-wild-party routine and ate really delicious flourless chocolate cake with my family instead.

DSC_3934

Heading to the county fair to drink 4-H stand milkshakes and admire the shaggy cows, which my brother affectionately calls yaks.

Spending all day, every day at the pool teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding. But now I am done for the summer. Done. After going into the pool every single day for a lot of weeks, I am heading back to the Cities, where I will wear real clothes again. It’s very strange.

My mom happened to be at the pool on my last day. Don't worry, we didn't take our eyes off the pool for long!

My mom happened to be at the pool with a camera on my last day. Don’t worry, we didn’t take our eyes off the pool for long!

Writing…not much. Last summer, I was a weekly-posting machine and I thrived on it. This summer, not so much. I have a few messy drafts hiding in my computer, but words were slow to spark this month. Maybe I’m getting too perfectionist-y (again), or maybe my emotional and mental energy have been elsewhere (like in reading Rainbow Rowell books?). Whatever the cause, I’m trying to make peace with it.

 

What are you loving this month?


Real

Real. adjective. According to Dictionary.com, “genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic.”

This is me. In a swimsuit. For all of the world to see.  Things are getting real.

This is me. In a swimsuit. For all of the world to see.
Things are getting real.

 

Let’s get real.

Let’s talk about swimsuits.

Ah, yes. Every woman’s favorite topic of conversation when we are in the humid depths of summer.

If you were not aware, the swimsuit is more than just stretchy fabric made to get wet. In the time it takes to glance in a mirror, it can destroy shopping-day moods and inhibit beachy bliss and ignite modesty debates and ruin self-esteem. This is the kind of power I imagine dictators and Satan might like to have.

And I get to practically live in these little instruments of joy all summer. It is among the many perks of being a lifeguard, which include other wonders such as wacky tan lines, rowdy children, and working weekends.

Let’s just say that my self-esteem does not peak during these summer months, when I spend most of my waking hours clad in spandex.

For one thing, there are those horrid athletic swimsuits, the kind I wear for teaching swimming lessons. The tags on these suits may claim “streamlined” or “athletic.” I prefer the more accurate “skin-tight” and “concealing nothing.” Sure, I don’t have to check for wayward straps after catching kids off the diving board or hemlines that have ridden up when I demonstrate a new kick. When you have to say things like “Watch my legs, okay?” on a regular basis, this is something you worry about. But no one has any doubts about the size of my butt or how flat my stomach is, either.

Then there are bikinis, a swimsuit model I have not yet dared to wear publicly. It’s not because of the whole Modesty Rules debate (which is a topic for an entirely different post and a significantly braver blogger). It’s because I don’t think I can pull one off. When trying them on, I can barely sneak out the dressing room to show my sister. It’s doubtful I could bare my belly to the entire flipping world. Or the occupants of my small-town pool. Same thing. I’ll take splashy patterns and clever fabric camouflage over my midsection, thank you very much.

Summer sometimes leaves me wishing for real-life Photoshop, where some magical clicks could erase my imperfections, shave some inches off my thighs, suck some pounds from my belly.

This could be where I outline my new diet and workout plan and promise to post before and after selfies. But it’s not. Because I don’t believe that getting tastefully ripped would solve this problem. My fitness levels have been all over the place; since college, I’ve swung from working out for two hours per day with the basketball team to working out maybe twice a month in my busiest semesters. Through all of this, my attitude about my body barely wavers. Flaws still scream for attention like bossy toddlers, telling me to conceal this and cover that. So I don’t think working out more is the answer.

Instead, I think learning to love my body right now, as it looks at this very second when I’ve eaten too much guacamole, is.

This is such hard work. It’s hard because my belly isn’t firm, my thighs don’t have a gap between them, my butt isn’t perky and cute. It’s hard when I know that I don’t look like the ideal woman, the one concocted by a culture obsessed with slimness and a Photoshop-wielding media. It’s hard when my body is real.

But let’s consider the alternative. With enough professional training (and, let’s be honest, plastic surgery), I could come closer to “perfection,” whatever that means to you. But then the worth of my body would be in how lovely it looked. Its purpose would be to be admired, a sculpture in a gallery rather than a breathing moving, real human being.

I don’t think my body was made to be flawless. I was not manufactured and edited to perfection, meant to be stared at and nothing more. My body was created to do stuff, to have adventures, to work and serve and love and play. It’s supposed to run for multiple miles in a row and hike the Great Wall of China and catch kids leaping into the pool.

When I’m caught up in my swimsuit woes, I’m forgetting that I have a job to do. And that job is not to look flawless; it’s to teach kids to swim and to offer a trustworthy hand and to do what keeps me happy and healthy.

And thankfully I don’t need a sculpted butt and pancake-flat abs to do that.

 

DSC_1576

June 2014

June. proper noun. According to Wikipedia, the sixth month of the year. Named for the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage. No wonder it’s wedding season.

 What I’m Into: June 2014

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

 

I’m switching things up this month and linking up with Leigh Kramer to share the things I’m loving right now.

 

Noteworthy Reads:

The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig

This delightful read follows the story of Paul, a boy growing up in early 20th century Montana. I adore historical fiction and coming-of-age stories, especially when they’re as well-written as this one. Bonus: This has a surprise ending that made me want to read the entire book over again.

Girl in Translation – Jean Kwok

In this semi-autographical story, Kimberly moves from Hong Kong to New York City. Kimberly and her mother work tirelessly in a sweatshop for very little pay, but they see Kimberly’s academic skills as a way to a better life. This book made me realize how easy my life is, but it never made me feel guilty – instead, it impressed on me the determination and work ethic of Kimberly and her mom.

Dakota – Kathleen Norris

In honor of living at home on the flatlands of northwest Minnesota this summer, I’m slowly working my way through this non-fiction work about life on the prairie and in a small town. So far, my favorite part of this book was Norris’s insights about how we need isolation to find out who we really are.

 

Jamming to:

J.T.’s latest, Not a Bad Thing. This is the song that I am most likely to belt out and car-dance to on my way home from work.

My mom’s Pandora stations… (One of the side effects of living at home for the summer. However, this is not as bad as it might appear, since she likes Audrey Assad, and my sister and I are introducing her to Us the Duo.)

 

Watching:

Saving Mr. Banks

I’m a little behind the curve and hadn’t seen this one yet, so I caught up on a long international flight. It was sweet and sad, just right for nostalgic days.

Numb3rs

One show that my entire family can watch together. Sometimes the nerdy math professors remind us too much of certain family members…

Random loves:

CeraVe lotion, the only reason my chlorine-dried, psycho-sensitive skin is surviving the summer

This woman’s art, made from flower petals and watercolors.

image via Love, Limzy

image via Love, Limzy

 

This boy band on Britain’s Got Talent. They may look like suspiciously like One Direction, but they are soooo much more. (Don’t get me wrong, I like 1D. But these boys can sing.)

 

This fascinating look at different ideas about beauty from around the world

Image via Elle.com

Image via Elle.com

Addie Zierman’s series about blogging, which gave me the kick I needed to get back in the game.

Sunny days. Because there have been approximately two of them for the entire summer and doing swimming lessons in cold rain is not my favorite and I am desperately in need of nice weather.

Keeping me busy:

My trip to China. Read all about it here. Further thoughts on returning to the U.S. of A.: my jet lag coming back was not even that horrible, and I miss eating with chopsticks.

Lots of lifeguarding and swimming lessons. Since coming back to Minnesota, I’ve jumped right into my summer job, and I have the sunburn to prove it.

Unpacking from college. Still. I hate unpacking. And my departure for China shortly after the end of school, combined with my small, storage-lacking room and excellent procrastination skills means that I may still be sifting through the last box of college crap…

July

July. proper noun. The seventh month of the year, named after Julius Caesar.

DSC_1330

July in a photo: sunset gorgeousness, windblown ponytails, family fun, zero makeup

(This post would be otherwise titled as What I Learned in July. But I didn’t want to break the theme, you know.)

Today, I’m being techy and linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. (P.S. You should read her blog. And her book Grace for the Good Girl. They’re rather fabulous.) Every month she does a summary of what she’s learned during the month. So behold, here is my very random list of stuff that I learned in July.

1. Spit unfogs swimming goggles. I tried it in desperation one day when all I could see through my goggles was vague blue fuzz, and it actually worked. I now have non-foggy goggles and a way to gain coolness points with little boys who love gross stuff.

2. If a little cutie tells me that she wants to be a swimming lessons teacher when she grows up and gives me flowers on her last day of lessons, I will love her forever.

3. When you go to Despicable Me 2 on your twentieth birthday, the theater will have far more teenagers than small children. (Lesson 3 ½: That movie is hilarious and I want a minion.) At least I’m not the only one with the maturity of a ten year old.

4. Les Miserables should be read as an abriged version. The plotline is fine, even good at some parts, but the actual plot only takes up half of the book. The rest is long, rather irrelevant and confusing, description. It is finishable (I actually did it!), but you might want to swear or throw the book across the room or quit and read something that’s actually engaging. Sorry, classic literature fans.

5. When you read a book as fabulous as The Fault in Our Stars (by John Green) after finishing Les Miserables, you will find yourself physically unable to put it down and you will read until 2 in the morning. Seriously. Snarky narrator, crush-worthy love interest, quotable lines, unexpected storyline – it’s one of my favorite books I’ve read this summer.

6. I really, really, really enjoy glue guns. And sewing machines. And scissors. And other potentially dangerous craft supplies. They’re like the female equivalent of power tools. (And this month I used them a lot. July’s project totals: 1 t-shirt quilt, 2 pennant banners, 1 yarn-covered letter banner, 1 book page-covered storage container. Pinterest rocks, people.)

7. Getting your wisdom teeth out can cause permanent nerve damage or be fatal. Thank you, scary pre-surgery video.

8. Having a new car that you paid for all by yourself is super duper exciting. Driving three hours by yourself after picking up said car is not. You may stab the seek button on the radio a lot of times and begin talking to yourself. However, getting the spiffy Nimbus 2000 (otherwise known as the Oldsmobile Alero with a Harry Potter-inspired name) is most certainly worth it.

9. The TV show Numbers makes me nervous. I should expect this, since everything with intensity and/or guns makes me want to pace around my living room or hide my face in a magazine. I feel slightly ashamed that even a TV show about math has this effect on me.

10. Hassock is a word. It means a padded footstool. And I have a retro avocado-colored one pilfered from my grandma’s attic.  At least it has more character than anything I’d find at Target.

11. I kinda like this “what I learned” business. And I might continue it. Check back next month (and weekly in between then, too)!

Ordinary

Ordinary: noun. According to my handy-dandy computer desktop dictionary, “with no special or distinctive features; normal.”

This summer, my life is quite ordinary.

No exotic missions trip where I travel and serve. No fancy vacation where I escape the prairie. No ministry where I see life change happen every week. No independent living where I strike out on my own.

Instead, I spend every day at the pool, where I teach kiddos to front crawl and tell too-brave dudes to go back where they can touch. I head home to food I didn’t have to buy and laundry I didn’t have to do. I read books and do crafts and go online far too much. I drive to the cabin and float on the lake and eat too much and read even more.

My most exciting upcoming plans involve getting my wisdom teeth out.

Yippee.

My summer is comfortable, familiar, and undeniably ordinary.

And sometimes that bothers me.

Sometimes it feels like everyone else is out having adventures in the great wide somewhere. They’re making a whopping difference in the world. They’re talking Jesus and meeting needs and speaking love in places that desperately need it.

And meanwhile I’m sitting in small-town Minnesota slathering on sunscreen and talking about the chicken-airplane-soldier. (That’s the elementary backstroke, for those of you who don’t speak Level 3 swimming lessons.)

Don’t get me wrong. I adore living with my family, the five other people who understand the awesomeness of evening walks and staying up late and eating ice cubes. I enjoy diving back into small-town life, where the photo of the town lifeguards makes the front page of the local paper and where driving on gravel roads is not just something they talk about in country songs. I love my job, where I get to be with kids and swim and be outside every day. I relish having enough free time to read and craft and breathe. But in comparison to the life-changers and adventurers I see, my life seem so ordinary, my influence so piddly.

But I’m beginning to realize that that attitude is a little crooked.

When I think like this, I put influence in terms of things I can see. I know I’m meeting needs when I see a hungry child get food. I know kids are encountering Jesus when I see them lift their hands in worship. I know I’m adventuring when I see new places and bump into new challenges.

However, I can’t limit my influence to what can be immediately seen and touched and heard. What about the kid who needs someone to give him confidence, not only so he can dive off the board but also for other scary stuff he might encounter? (Though there are few things scarier than the first time diving off the board, let me tell you.) What about the kid who needs a smile, even from a big ol’ intimidating lifeguard? What about the mom who needs another pair of eyes to keep her children safe? These are legitimate needs. And they are needs I can meet. Just because I’m not living across the world or seeing lives change every day does not mean I’m not having an impact. Right where I am, I can still make a difference, still love people, still change the world (or at least the part of the world that comes to the pool).

And even if it gives me sunburn, there’s nothing ordinary about that.