February 2018 – What I’m Into

February. proper noun. The month of love. And also the month where I consider moving somewhere not this cold.

mara-ket-504242-unsplash.jpg

This month was the Tale of Two Februaries.

There was the Vacation February. For one blessed long weekend at the beginning of the month, I flew to San Francisco to see my mom and sister. Brita gets to live somewhere with palm trees, you guys. This is great because, you know, good for her, but also because it gives me an excuse to leave Minnesota in February. I got to get the tiniest bit sunburned. I got to not wear a parka. I got to hike in a forest where there were actual leaves, and they were green.

The next blessed long weekend of Vacation February, Adam came to Minnesota for President’s Weekend. Thank you, presidents, for being born and giving us the day off. We ate good food. We danced. We got to sit next to each other. It was a delight.

And then there was Ordinary February. Ordinary February is even worse than Ordinary January because in February, it’s still freaking cold. And my tolerance of it is even lower. In Ordinary February, the hormone monsters also take over the 7th grade. The kids get weird and squirrely, and while they’re sometimes hilarious, they also make me very tired.

The moral of the story?

Take every February off. Entirely.

(I wish.)

And also, fine. Remind myself that there is good in the ordinary, for the 10,927 time. (That is not hyperbole.) Even when I have to get up before 6:00 am and even when it’s snowing again and even when I can’t handle one more interruption during class. There is still beauty and goodness here.

Here is some of that good from this month.

 

Reading

Hannah Coulter – Wendell Berry. I first discovered Wendell Berry when I read Jayber Crow a few summers ago. I liked it enough to buy a collection of his Sabbath poems. And even those did not prepare me for how much I would love and adore Hannah Coulter.  I have never underlined so much and texted so many pictures of paragraphs to Adam, especially in a fiction book. This is simply the story of one woman’s life. Her words and story are ordinary. But her insights are striking and beautiful. This moved up high on the list of my favorites, and I might tell every woman I know to read it.

Refugee – Alan Gratz. This book tells the stories of 3 different refugees – Josef is a Jew escaping the Nazis on the St. Louis, Isabel is a Cuban leaving the Castro regime on a homemade raft, and Mahmoud is a Syrian fleeing from war. This book is gripping and heartbreaking, while still being entirely appropriate for a young adult audience. I kept feeling like the author should just give these characters a break already – how could so many terrible things happen to a handful of people? But that’s also real life. Highly recommended.

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon. This book ramps up the awkward-teenage-love thing – by introducting an arranged marriage. Dimple Shah heads to InsomniaCon, a coding camp, with plans to develop her app. Instead, she discovers that her parents planned for her to meet her future husband. I loved this book. Until the last quarter. Rishi is the cutest awkward boy-in-love, and I thought the tug of war between how Rishi and Dimple handled their Indian heritage was handled well. However. In the last quarter, there was a steamy scene that, while not especially explicit, just seemed unnecessary. I also didn’t entirely buy the ending. I wanted to be able to recommend this one to my students without reservations. But alas. If you’re older than 12, it’s entirely enjoyable.

Garlic and Sapphires – Ruth Reichl. Food memoirs are just scrumptious. (Or scrummy, as Mary from The Great British Baking Show would say.) This book tells about Ruth Reichl’s experiences as the food critic at the New York Times. It involves more wigs than you might expect. Besides making me hungry for things I’ve never even tasted (squid ink? Truffles?), this story has surprising reflections on how we create identities for ourselves and how society treats different women differently.

A Dog’s Purpose – W. Bruce Cameron. This isn’t exactly my type of book. But when a student hands her very own copy of a book to me and tells me that I simply must read it, I can’t not. And this book was very dear. A dog is reborn into multiple settings to discover what is it, exactly, that dogs are here for. If you don’t cry at least once while reading this (a dog dies…multiple times…), you don’t have a heart. I managed to not weep while reading in front of students – but that’s because I got lucky and read the ending at home.

 

Watching

Folks, I finally started watching The Office. I’m just 10 years or so behind the times. My excuse is that I once had to watch 4 hours of the later seasons of this show with no context and it wrecked everything – until now. I’m glad I got over it. Michael still makes me so uncomfortable, but I am holding out for Jim and Pam. I’m just a few episodes into Season 3 (!!!!) and it looks like there’s no hope for them.

 

Listening

Havana, especially this cover by Pentatonix.

Fields of Gold by Drew and Ellie Holcomb. They are both so talented.

Random love songs, you know, for Valentine’s Day. And for any day when I have to grade things during my prep. Think L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole and Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours by Stevie Wonder.

 

Loving

Letterfolk Instagram. They share the best quotes. Case in point:

 

Cross country skiing. Well, this is a love-hate relationship. Skiing during a winter weather advisory is fantastic – until the falling snow actually freezes to your eyelashes. Heading out into untapped wilderness (okay, fine, onto fresh powder where track hasn’t been laid yet) with a friend who doesn’t mock your ineptitude is also great. But falling down icy hills (still. Again.) makes me question that I can be the next Jessie Diggins. Probably with good reason.

Speaking of Jessie Diggins – the Olympics. I get overly invested in people I’ve never heard of before the Olympic games begin, and I almost cried when I read the headlines that a fellow Minnesota girl had finally gotten gold in cross country skiing. And then this ice dance? Holy mackerel.

 

Doing

Watching the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Superbowl at U.S. Bank Stadium.  Well, I wasn’t in U.S. Bank Stadium. I was a few miles up 35W eating chili with church folks. I did not venture downtown once that entire week, and I am only mildly regret it.

As mentioned above, traveling to San Francisco! My mom and I flew out to visit my sister and had the best of times. Highlights:

  • Golden Gate Park, especially the observatory of the city in the art museum and the albino crocodile in the science museum
  • Dinner at the Cliff House, which had the best views (and the most delicious seafood)
  • Playing arcade games at the Musee Mechanique. Julie Andrews and “little Annie Hathaway,” as the guy on rollerskates who runs the place called her, filmed the arcade scene in the Princess Diaries there. That place is the weirdest and best.

Screen shot 2018-03-04 at 10.25.11 PM.png

Screen shot 2018-03-04 at 10.25.56 PM.png

  • The chilly hike through Muir Woods (especially Cathedral Grove) and to Muir Beach

9Vz7zVzjt4TSSY75bl77kfd8qm4FuWEomDb6pF5Ey7sMDEd8nfFsmRqQS2WIyf3kWGztuD5JBIlqrXefViBIpFPfy5jiHQcTbsgl1LphZ8_xwdqIUOxo6yzKg7kM5SIMY5qcwCMBkyLJjkkQEbZrqGQO8DthVpXv8CH9SRWxEQ3A2q5zOlT42ZnJRXqzBhFPSGUincF7fvz7qCm3usQOxX0A36.jpg

HRFuRcGJ3gCukOt0o8WVAwRUHP1HeJcQ4ICJIzBHefHnbKRZ4WExrNVyDiw-65zxAz9bY_Ka6FIDtK1baDu7TIetiICYt9j8Y4aHp_J1PBS1qGd-9Sl7sVPWiYFl2K7g5o97KjnKjEnPipcP_5pUc3yUYSsyxTW-otIwL2UFzEb3Hi2OYWRMuDbxI3rEE0uOR6FER0VwBR7uRokSoYM_OidONr.jpg

IaOLECv40FVmzkKtf4XVJYGsPEP5aPU6vCOFpa-dtP0ND-qlKZiOpNFw3rGLLjPfAXtLJVcRKB6kcqkz8AA2-6txkxnLW6nEqODScegfmILbaZiAqYpTc-UeNRsLiYnqoCnzsacVigPiSFIqlQDrvXBmwml8hE67dL65gxEMQl6rPTXgydkT_qgzgSgYBi3auZJYEnflMkFIQ8JxcpSwdWR2n2.jpg

  • Having traveling companions who agree that eating Boudin bread with Nutella in the car counts as an acceptable dinner and whom you still like at the end of a trip

MFgnzCh2__ZBgcpwA16rzIy8gqN0Fuqj956_eby_awtjGzWJKZgHOjvEIv5eAcYEh6mnZ94_vFxwT2q5A-lQOtlfnInneT2OJD2WDcIuVSculEyjVVSR_7gnrntn10gamzeIr1KpkSl4-lBCPzYR5HEf3feMsRL1W736ypeImz5zVWSc6ZxpNrfs08kXHTJn39Hl9yrQCLwbvjf-PPKI4VBZry.jpg

Observing Lent. For our Valentine’s Day Skype date, Adam and I both had ashes smeared across our foreheads. It was a strange collision. The kinds of reflections stirred up by Ash Wednesday and Lent don’t come naturally to me – it’s not often I contemplate my own mortality and the ways my heart’s idols need removing. I still don’t know what to do with what I’m noticing. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe the noticing and the turning my noticings over to God is sort of the point.

As also mentioned above, Adam visited! I hadn’t seen him in 5 weeks, which turned me into a sappy weirdo when I finally did get to see him. There’s no one with whom I would rather eat a belated Valentine’s Day dinner at the University Club or go swimming at a community center while we pretend it’s summer or be adopted by random strangers at Loring Pasta Bar who want to teach us how to dance the bachata.

 

What were you into this month? Head to Leigh Kramer’s link-up for more recommendations to see you through these final weeks of winter.

Advertisements

January 2017: What I’m Into

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

kelly-sikkema-168787.jpg

December is such a trickster.

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

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

And then January hit.

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

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

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

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

two-stages-of-winter.jpg

How accurately this sums everything up

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Watching

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

 

Listening

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Doing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What have you been into this month?

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

December 2017: What I’m Into

December. proper noun. The only month of winter that’s worthwhile, let’s be real.

rawpixel-com-445786

Ah, December.

Despite the below-zero temperatures rearing their ugly heads earlier than normal this year, and the cold, and a mild Grinchiness at the beginning of the month, I really did enjoy December.

Maybe it’s that Advent really resonated with me. I couldn’t leap straight into the festivity. I needed to warm up with waiting, and longing, and watching. I needed to contemplate the contrast of the world’s dark and Christ’s light, of pain and hope, of sin and salvation. Instead of Santa and reindeer, the deep magic older than time itself, as Aslan calls it, beckoned.

I felt deep appreciation for my church in this season, for the Anglican readings and candle lightings and the poetry of the prayers. My own devotions were more intentional, too. It all made me feel prepared (well, as prepared as is actually possible) for the celebration that, suddenly, was upon us on December 25.

The month ended in a flurry of family and activity and long car rides, leaving me drinking the Christmas season down to the dregs now that things have quieted. For mere days more, the stars still hang, the tree is still lit, the Christmas music still plays, and I am still attempting to comprehend the mystery of the Incarnation. It’s going to take more than 12 days. More than a lifetime, in fact.

A big ol’ 2017 reflection is on its way. In the meantime, before the 12 days of Christmas are over and I officially move on from the season of good cheer, here’s what I loved in December.

Reading

A Rule Against Murder – Louise Penny. I adore the Inspector Gamache series. This is another solid installment that did not disappoint. The setting of this book, a lakeside lodge in the Quebec wilderness, is as magical as a murder scene can be.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly. Darwin is gaining popularity, the telephone is spreading to rural Texas, and Callie Vee is an intrepid tomboy who stumbles into the world of natural science. This book had so much to love, including a strong and sassy lead character, a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century Texas, and an exploration of science and family and adventure.

Watch for the Light. These readings for Advent and Christmas by authors like C.S. Lewis, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and Kathleen Norris guided my thoughts in this most-beloved season. I absolutely plan to buy the Lent version for later in the year.

Of Mess and Moxie – Jen Hatmaker. True confessions: I read all the funny chapters of this before wrapping it up for someone else. I can’t speak for the more serious pieces of this, but her humor is true to form!

 

Listening

Advent and Christmas playlists. Songs on repeat this year included:

  • Follow the Shepherd Home by Mindy Smith
  • May You Find a Light by Josh Garrels
  • My All in Thee by Young Oceans
  • You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli
  • A Cradle in Bethlehem by Sara Groves
  • Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) by Amy Grant

 

Watching

The Last Jedi. While I would never claim to be a rabid Star Wars fan, I do accompany my siblings to the movies and enjoy the franchise well. After this movie, though, I discovered that I am capable of having some strong opinions about these films. This latest movie was enjoyable to watch, and seemed to be filmed well. It also busted all the fan theories, which I’m normally in support of. But there were too many weird things that weren’t explained well. What was up with Leia’s weird space walk? Why didn’t the stand-in Rebel commander just tell everyone what she was doing? Why did Rey believe she could save Kylo after so few conversations?

The Young Victoria. This story explores how Queen Victoria comes to power and the beginning of her relationship with her husband Albert. I enjoyed this movie a lot. Emily Blunt is rarely disappoints, and the same actor who plays Wickham in Pride and Prejudice plays Albert – a delightful surprise! However, I wanted something that explored Victoria’s thoughts and feelings with a little more depth – some of her decisions seemed too speedy or stubborn, and a little more information could have helped that pacing.

Victoria and Abdul. Another Victoria movie! This one focuses on the end of the queen’s reign and shows the little-known relationship between Queen Victoria and an Indian clerk named Abdul. Abdul is pulled from India for a ceremony, where he accidentally enchants the queen and becomes her “munshi,” or teacher and companion. Judi Dench is one formidable lady, and Abdul is disarmingly adorable, and together they make the story both tender and comedic.

The Crown. ‘Tis the season for dramas about British monarchs, apparently. I love this show so much, and I love that the second season is out, and I love that Adam will watch it with me.

Elf. Every year.

The Monuments Men. This is the only kind of war movie I will willingly watch, and I have wanted to watch it since it came out years ago. The best part of the film was how some of the character duos played off one another, but I did find the plot a bit lackluster. I also wish it were more historically accurate, so I’m planning to watch the documentary The Rape of Europa, which I watched years ago, to get my fix there.

 

Loving

Acure Organics Argan Oil. Thanks to drying medication and crazy cold air, my face got so dry this month that it started flaking. I added this under my face lotion both morning and night, and the flaking has ceased, hallelujah. I also haven’t broken out from it, which has happened when I’ve used face oils in the past.

Christmas treats. Caramel puffcorn (the recipe is on the back of the puffcorn bag – how handy) and Shannan Martin’s crack bark are my super easy go-to’s.

 

Doing

A million and one things.

Seeing NEEDTOBREATHE in concert! My brother and I attended their All the Feels acoustic concert at the State Theater. It was the perfect venue to see one of my bucket list concerts, and the band was freaking fantastically amazing. Especially when the turned off all the mics and did the final song and encore completely acoustic.

Seeing Ellie Holcomb in concert (the very next night)! ‘Twas apparently a weekend of bucket list concerts. Ellie’s voice is just as lovely in person, and she is completely enthusiastic and adorable. Case in point: she wore snow boots because she forgot to pack her other shoes, and she totally pulled it off. Since this was a small church sanctuary sort of gig, I got to meet her afterwards. She hugged everyone, and we talked about all of 10 seconds about being middle school English teachers (her prior gig). So basically, we’re best friends now.

 

 

 

Attending the European Christmas Market at Union Depot in St. Paul. My brothers and I met up with my parents for this event, which is honestly all about the food. If you like perogies, go.

Seeing A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie. The Advanced English classes at my school read this in December, and we brought some of them to watch an evening performance. Seeing how much they love the show – some of my 7th graders from last year came back again! – is always delightful.

Reading Dorothy Sayers’ Advent play He That Should Come. Anselm House, a Christian study group, held a reading of this play, which was originally broadcast as a radio drama. It was way more comedic than I expected while still being reflective, and I absolutely want to read her plays for other seasons. As a bonus, Adam happened to fly into the state hours before the event. We’ve loved sharing reading nights like this in the past, so it was the perfect kick-off to his time in MN

Checking out oysters at Meritage with Adam. They are not my thing, but hey, I tried. At least we felt very French. (We also attempted to check out ice skating next to the Landmark Center, but they closed earlier than advertised on Google. Boo. Next time.)

IMG_3367.JPG

Attending the American Swedish Institute’s Winter Solstice celebration with Adam and his family. On the tour of the mansion, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas, I discovered traditional Advent stars and realized that I already had them hanging in my apartment. I just thought they were random Ikea decorations. I love them even more now.

IMG_3364.JPG

All the school Christmas things, from Secret Santas and potlucks and parties…and attempting to make kids learn things while all they can think about is break. And let’s be honest, all I could think about was break, too.

Christmas break! So many highlights:

  • Downhill skiing with Adam’s family
  • Candlelit Christmas Eve soup
  • Playing Settlers of Catan
  • Christmas cookie baking with Grandma, my sister, and friends
  • Snowmobiling around my grandparents’ yard
  • Eating a lot of dessert…
  • Relearning to cross-country ski
  • Hitting up W.A. Frost and a friend’s NYE party
  • Having Adam in Minnesota! For more than 3 days at a time!

 

Whew. No wonder I only read two books this month. Here’s to a grand finale to 2017 and a beautiful beginning to 2018.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

 

 

 

 

What I’m Into: February 2017

February. proper noun. This year, a month of seasonal weariness and unseasonably warm temperatures.

walking in fog.jpg

The beginning of February is always depressing. Winter seems endless and dark and freezing. Yet, the end of this month always sneaks up on me. Here we are, in Lent, almost to the last third of the school year, with longer, warmer days approaching. I can’t complain.

As always, I discovered some wonderful things this month and shared time with some wonderful people. Read on for recommendations, or head to Leigh Kramer’s link-up to discover more.

Reading

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald. I will admit: I very nearly abandoned this book. Like most of F. Scott’s work, I am glad that I finished it, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy the process. This book tells the story how Amory, a young man born into wealth, moves from Minneapolis to an elite high school to Princeton to the real world. He finds and loses love and life’s meaning. A deep emptiness prevails in F. Scott’s writing, but his descriptions do make me stop, reach for a pencil, and underline, hoping I’ll someday write so aptly.

The Gospels in Our Image: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts – edited by David Curzon. This collection of poems centers around biblical passages. I’m reading this as my morning devotional, and exploring more artistic interpretations of events like Jesus turning the water into wine at Cana is challenging but awakening. I’m also discovering that I’m a total nerd who very much likes poetry, and this helps read it more consistently.

March: Book 3 – Andrew Aydin and John Lewis. This is a graphic novel details John Lewis’s perspective on the march on Selma and the surrounding events. Though this is the 3rd book in the series by these collaborators, they don’t have to be read in order. This book challenged me in multiple ways: I don’t often read history or graphic novels, and this was an interesting combination of the two. I also wasn’t actively aware of how violent and life-threatening the work of the civil rights movement was. I highly recommend this, to students and adults.

Flora and Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo. I believe I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I want to be Kate DiCamillo when I grow up. Her books have an innocent magic that I love as much now as I did when I was the age of her intended audience. Flora and Ulysses is a story of superheroes and unlikely friendships and poetry and love. It made me smile and tear up and text pictures of lines to Adam.

Cress – Marissa Meyer. This is the 3rd book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and I continue to love how Meyer twists traditional fairy tale characters and situations to fit a dystopian setting. I rarely read series, especially dystopian series, so that I plan to read the 4th book soon is high praise.

The Book Whisperer – Donalyn Miller. I read this in preparation to hear Donalyn speak. She believes strongly in the value of independent reading and student choice for creating lifelong readers who are engaged and in love with books. Ideas like this make me so excited.

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson (audiobook). A man with little hiking experience decides to walk the entire Appalachian trail, with some gear and a great fear of bears and an unlikely trail companion who has even less hiking know-how. Bryson sprinkles facts about nature and the trail into his tales of long hikes and the thrill of restaurant days, so this was both entertaining and educational, and I know way more about death by hypothermia than I did before.

 

Watching

The Crown. We are almost done with the series, and I sort of don’t want it to end.

 

Listening

Ellie Holcomb – Find You Here. I play this song most mornings as I prep my classroom for the day.

Hearts & Colors – Rich Man.

Ed Sheeran. And all the covers, including this. Watch it until the end. Please.

Bonus: Is anyone else as delighted by this as I am?

 

Loving

Schmidt’s deodorant. I’m not super crunchy in my beauty product choices, but I can appreciate that this deodorant doesn’t have weirdo chemicals that may or may not have adverse side effects. The bergamot and lime also smells amazing and the thing actually works – and this is coming from someone who sweats enough that Secret is ineffective.

Trello. This website and app is hard to explain – it’s sort of like digital post-its that you can categorize and move around. Based on Kendra’s recommendation on The Lazy Genius blog, I’m using it primarily to organize my book lists, and it’s miraculous. The color coding and detail organizing possibilities make me swoon.

Zumba! Brita, my sister, and I have continued to shake our hips once a week. I don’t think our coordination has improved, but at least we’ve sweated and had fun.

Evening prayer. Adam and I joined an evening prayer group at the church we’re currently attending. As someone who was raised in a non-liturgical church, I continue to be surprised by the beauty of liturgy. Finding a community that prays together is also a delight.

 

Doing

desk situation.jpg

School. Right about now, I am celebrating my one year teaching anniversary. It feels rather anticlimactic. The kids have spring fever, and I feel like I’m barely hanging on to control. My brain feels like the desk above. I still don’t know how much talking is too much talking, how strictly to crack down on off-task behavior, and how high my expectations should be for how much we can get done in a day. But, on the bright side, these students continue to make me smile. We’ve nearly survived the trimester with argumentative essays and poetry – I think we’re going to make it. Having a day off for President’s Day helped, as did attending a workshop with Donalyn Miller.

Attending a Wild game – for the first time ever. We were in the nosebleeds but had a connection that got us into the club room between periods. It was definitely the way to go.

Hosting a Galentine’s Day brunch. Some friends came over to celebrate Galentine’s Day, and I like to believe Leslie Knope would be proud. Props to everyone who brought yummy food and to Ellen Degeneres for inventing Heads Up – she knew what she was doing.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Adam. He surprised me with Sunday brunch at the Nicollet Island Inn. On Valentine’s Day itself, we made dinner together and went to a dance lesson. I am very lucky to have him.

Attending a performance at Orchestra Hall with friends. Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony was the headlining piece, and it merits repeated listening.

Driving to Fargo and back in one day for a wedding. At least there was good company en route and at our destination. We did get stuck in a snowstorm on the way back – curse you, I-94 – but the audiobook of Macbeth got us through.

What have you been into this February?

Faithful: What Matters in Education (and Life)

faithful. adjective.”Thorough performance of a duty; steady in allegiance; reliable.”

pernnigmonu-thought-catalog.jpg

At the beginning of January, the teachers on my team analyzed the scores from our latest round of standardized testing. I was not entirely pleased. Not because proctoring tests is not exactly my favorite use of my time (ahem), but because there was more red in my results than I wanted to see.

I skedaddled back to my classroom and spent my prep comparing data and brainstorming how to bring nonfiction scores up and having a minor panic that I’m not an okay teacher and my lessons aren’t purposeful and I must have missed something crucial in college even though I didn’t skip class and maybe a real, qualified adult needs to be in my classroom at all times.

Then I forgot to go to a meeting, as one does.

After these solid affirmations of my competency, I turned on On Being for my commute. Krista Tippet interviewed Eugene Peterson, the pastor who translated The Message paraphrase of the Bible. Part of their conversation stuck with me:

“The tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness, the smaller and smaller tasks we’re going to take on, because they’re the only ones with which you can be effective. But there has to be a standard that trumps effectiveness. And I have a word that I use for myself that helps me walk this path…that’s the word faithfulness. Faithfulness has to trump effectiveness.”

I cling, very tightly, to the norm of effectiveness.

I realized just how tightly again a few weeks later. My class was reading Arithmetic, a poem about the challenges of math. My quick pre-reading activity was having students discuss their least favorite class. That would get them engaged, I thought. Maybe it did. But as they talked, I heard what felt like a chorus of “ELA, ELA, ELA” across the classroom.

I brushed it off, at first. Later that evening, though, I realized how deeply their responses shook me when I turned teary and resistant to the idea of going to school in the morning. Was this not proof that all of my efforts were for naught? I was working late to grade, trying to plan things that seemed marginally interesting, and sharing snippets of my life so students could build relationships. If no one appreciated any of this, why was I showing up? No one was convinced that the way poets play with language is amazing. No one valued silent reading time. No one liked it. I had failed.

Let’s pause and summarize: I am a teacher who believes that in order to be effective, I must have stellar test scores and all 98 of my students must love every minute of my class. In addition, based on the educational theories I believe, most class time should be spent challenging students to use higher-order thinking to develop real-life reading and writing skills while also making them better citizens.

We have a problem.

I cannot do that effectively. No way.

Recognizing this leaves me leaning heavy on Eugene Peterson’s words: faithfulness has to trump effectiveness.

I still want to know what will create through the roof MCA scores. I want to know how much those scores actually matter. I want to know how to help struggling readers love my class, when every assignment requires intense effort from them. If I knew those answers, and had mind controlling abilities, I might be an awfully effective teacher.

But having all those answers, and all that control, isn’t possible. Being faithful is.

Right now, in the doldrums of February, faithfulness is simple but hard. It looks like continuing to get out of bed on Monday mornings. And Tuesday mornings. And Friday mornings. It means forcing kids to research beyond skimming Wikipedia because I believe that skill actually matters. It means brainstorming reading challenges so more of the munchkins read outside of class, even for ten minutes. It looks like making lessons as engaging as I can, not so my kids will love me but because it’s the best for their learning.

Faithfulness, in my attitude and effort and passion for my kids and my content, will be enough. It trumps effectiveness. For the sake of our students and our careers, it has to.

 

 

 

What I’m Into: January 2017

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

bean boots.jpg

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening

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

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

Watching

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

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

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

Loving

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

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

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

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

Doing

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

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

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

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

FullSizeRender.jpg

Surviving winter. Some days more successfully than others.

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

Save

February (2016)

February. proper noun. Recognized as Black History Month, the month of Valentines Day and Groundhogs Day; also the time in which we all pine for spring.

February.jpg

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into this month. Honestly, I’m not sad to say goodbye to February. Winter starts to suck at this point every year, and the post-college angst hit hard in this month’s transitions. But there were still some lovely moments.

Reading

All Fall Down – Ally Carter. This is a fast-paced YA mystery about a girl who saw her mother’s murder and the rest of the population of Embassy Row who thinks she’s crazy. This book will keep you hooked. However, Grace’s narration was a little whiny for me and the cliffhanger ending where everything has changed! But you must read the next book to find out how! is not my favorite literary technique.

Ishmael – E.D.E.N. Southworth. I’m following Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge, and this is my pick for the category where someone close to me (in my case, the boyfriend) chose a book for me to read. I can see why he picked this one – it’s one of the books that most inspired him during his high school years, and I enjoyed reading it to see the kind of person he idealizes. The main character is almost too perfect for me, though.

Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery. The sweetest book in all the land. I reread this one for the Reading Challenge as a book I’ve read before. Now I just want to move to Avonlea and become Anne Shirley. That’s all.

I Remember Nothing – Nora Ephron. I expected this book of essays to be just as delightful as Ephron’s other works, like You’ve Got Mail. Unfortunately, I think her writing needs narration (or Tom Hanks?) to come alive for me. It was fine.

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis. Lewis is the master of metaphor, and he makes theology clear and beautiful. This book is classic for a reason.

Currently Reading: Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire – Rafe Esquith; The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith.

 

Listening

I have some shame in admitting that I’m having a Justin Bieber moment right now. Especially with this song.

 

 

Charlie Puth – One Call Away. Related: I listen to the same music as my seventh graders. I should maybe be concerned by this.

Watching

Sense and Sensibility, as pregaming for a theater production. As well as the BBC Pride and Prejudice. (Again, I know. But with my mom this time.)

This YouTube series. Sensing a theme yet?

Gilmore Girls, because apparently Jane Austen alone doesn’t offer enough relational drama.

 

Loving

My parents and I laughed until we cried over this. (Side note: I’m possibly the only twenty-something on the planet who knows what the Lawrence Welk Show is.)

 

This is such a good reminder during February (because Valentine’s Day does such wacky things to our romantic expectations).

The new GIF feature in Facebook messages. Group messages with my siblings will never be the same.

This is fantastic. So is that guy’s smile. He just won’t quit.

 

 Doing

  • Becoming a real teacher! This month, I interviewed for, got, prepared for, and started my first teaching job. I’m teaching ELA at the middle school where I student taught, and I’m still getting a thrill from being able to tell cashiers at Target that I am an actual teacher. The middle of the year start date makes for some unique challenges: for example, we skipped right over any honeymoon period and are hard at work establishing new routines and expectations. But I love getting to know the kids and having my own classroom.
  • Before the job: 2 weeks at home. Highlights include: time with family, crafting during a blizzard, watching a lot of basketball, and subbing for a few days in a preschool class. I was more terrified to enter a class of 3-year-olds than of middle schoolers, honestly.
  • A weekend with the boyfriend. The overlapping of President’s Day (3-day weekend, yo) with Valentine’s Day was a happy coincidence. We fit in dancing, a play, ice skating, visits with both of our families, and lots of long talks.
  • Catching up with friends. I got to enjoy some long talks and a production of Sense and Sensibility by my alma mater’s theater department with dear company. So fun.

 

What have you been into this month?

Ditched

Ditched. verb. A word I made up for driving into the ditch. Not to be confused with being left behind on a social outing.

snowy road

‘Twas the day after a raging good blizzard. The wind was still howling, as it is wont to do on the prairies of northwest Minnesota.

The roads are fine when I drive the three miles to my grandparents’ house in the afternoon. When I leave later that night, I give travel conditions less than half a thought. It’s all of three miles. Roads should be fine, since this afternoon they were totally clear. Even though the wind has been whipping for six hours I shouldn’t run into any drifts, right?

Wrong-o.

I’m a mile from home, nearing the spot where the road is almost always drifted over. Even in June. I see one snowdrift, hit it, no a big deal. I might drive like a grandma, but I’ve got this. There are more ahead. Oh well. We’re already committed, Dora the Explorer and I. (Dora the Explorer is a car, for context. A Ford Explorer, if you were wondering.) So, like a good country girl, I gun it. Hold the steering wheel with loose control, go through a few, no problem, see that bump ahead and also see that I’m almost through, so go, go, steer a little to the left to avoid that biggggger tidal wave of snow and I’m bouncing and that one was harder than expected and almost there and a little more left and –

Ooooh – shhh – zmmm – vlumpt – whump.

My car has stopped. It’s still in drive. But we ain’t goin’ nowhere.

I throw it in reverse, just to see if miracles happen and I can get out the easy way. Nothing. Jesus does okay with water, I know, but he must be less experienced with snow. I leave it in reverse. (Whoops. Oh well, didn’t matter ‘cause we didn’t move anyway.) I call home. I tell my mom that I’m in the ditch and that this fair damsel needs rescuing. While I wait for the knights in shining…mittens? I assess the situation. Out the driver’s side window, snow is half-way up the door. It won’t open. I text my boyfriend a picture, forgetting that maybe he might freak out that his girlfriend is in a ditch, in the dark, and that she has not mentioned the state of the vehicle or the rescue plans. I decide to shimmy over the center console and out the passenger side door. I click the unlock button four times, because I am not getting locked out of the car that is still running after I just drove it in the ditch. The universe is not that cruel. I step out, and sink in snow up to my shin. Special. I don’t know why I got out of the car in the first place, actually. Examining my tracks will accomplish zero things. I’m not dumb enough to start walking home, because there’s a -25º wind chill. No exaggeration. The wind might be blowing express from the north pole.

2016-02-08 18.38.16.jpg

The phone photo. Should the boy have been worried?

I get back in the car and watch for the car lights from home. I’m so close that I can see my yard, half a mile away across the field. I check Instagram while I wait, because avoidance. Avoidance of thinking that well, this was stupid and how in the heck did I do this and why does it take so long for them to put on boots and come and get me?

Car lights leave our yard. The dad and the brother pull up and admire how I very clearly drove right off the road, in a straight, angling line. My dad points out that I did, at least, clear all of the drifts. The ditch just got in the way. We do not attempt pushing the car out, because we know a hopeless case when we see one. We drive home. I reassure the boyfriend that all is relatively fine. Except my pride, because I feel mighty foolish. I am supposed to be an independent country girl at heart who does not drive into ditches to avoid drifts.

My grandpa comes with his pickup. We go back out onto the frozen tundra with two shovels and a chain and more horsepower. My brother hands me an ice scraper. This is symbolic of my helpfulness in this entire process. They move a lot of snow. I, again, wonder what in the heck I was doing. The pickup, chained to the underside of the car, bucks all over the road, to no avail.

Time for plan B: the tractor. We drive to my grandparents’ to retrieve it. One hiccup: it doesn’t have lights. Oh, and it might not start. And it doesn’t have any heat. I thank my lucky stars that my grandpa has more sense than the rest of us and is wearing snow pants. And that he and my dad and my brother are nice to me.

Miracle of miracles, the old tractor lives. We drive, very slowly, behind it, our headlights blazing. No one in our ungainly procession drives off the road (except me, an hour earlier. But I had lights). The tractor plows straight through the troublesome drifts. The guys hook up the chain, and I try to helpfully hold the flashlight. The stars are nice tonight, at least. But my legs are popsicles. The car pops out. Halleluiah. It’s only been an hour and a half since I left my grandparents’ house.

It all works out. Everyone (and all vehicles) make it home. Not before I pray that, while driving my grandpa back to his house, I don’t lose control on the snowy parts and slide off the road. Again. And not before I contemplate for a nanosecond trying the drifted-in road again because there are tracks now! and I almost made it through one time! and OH MY GOSH, ANNA, ARE YOU AN IDIOT, JUST TAKE THE OTHER ROAD, my rational side says.

When I park the car, in the driveway where it’s supposed to go, finally, I question whether maybe I should have a chauffer for the rest of my life. I also wonder, not for the first time, at the irony of being voted the “safest driver” in my senior yearbook. It hits me anew, most striking of all, that my closest people don’t love me because I am a good driver or because I never require them to spend an hour and half standing in Arctic windchill fixing my messes or because I am flawless. I didn’t earn their love. It’s not gifted to me based on my merit. They show up when I need them, even when it’s not convenient.

And that is a miracle. Maybe Jesus can work in snow, after all.

Sweat

Sweat. verb. To perspire; the body’s natural reaction to heat, exercise, or occasionally embarrassment. I am naturally gifted at this.

2015-11-03 17.07.47

New Year’s resolutions are dangerous.

As we swung into January, my life was (is) in a state of flux. What else is new. Casting a vision for the whole entire year felt lofty, since I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing in two weeks, much less six months. So I decided to take it one month at a time. A few goals, manageable ones, that would inspire me to live my best life now [insert air quotes], to do the things I’m always meaning to do but never actually get around to doing.

I was realistic in January, I thought. My goals were:

  1. Go to CorePower yoga at least once using free one-month pass
  2. Try one new recipe
  3. Go out for coffee with a friend
  4. Finish an online art class I’ve had access to for a loooong time
  5. Watch the BBC Pride & Prejudice

I was making progress and thinking sweet thoughts about my brilliant strategy. I’d tried not one, but two new recipes within the span of a week, I had a coffee date scheduled, and I’d taken two relaxing beginner yoga classes before the month was half over. Not too shabby, right?

And then I got cocky.

I decided that beginner yoga was nice and all, but I was ready for a challenge.

So one day after work, I shimmied on my leggings and headed for Yoga Sculpt class. The class description cheerily claimed that we would “boost metabolism and build lean muscle” as we “move to upbeat tracks.” We would combine yoga moves with cardio and strength-training to “intensify each pose.” I’m kind of an athlete, I thought, and I don’t suck that bad at yoga. What could go wrong?

A heck of a lot, it turns out.

Bad sign number one: I walked in five minutes before class starts, and the room was full. I was forced to awkwardly scootch between two mats. On one was a shirtless guy who responded cheerily when I asked if there was room for me. On the other was a girl who brought her boyfriend and stared at me silently. How cozy. I hoped I didn’t smell weird.

Bad sign number two: it was killer hot. All of 95º. This is not hyperbole. I was already feeling sticky, and all I’d done was grab weights (yep, weights were involved) and sit down on my mat.

Things did not improve when the instructor came in to actually start the class. She was short, tattooed, and looked like she should be bench pressing rather than sun salutating. She turned on the playlist, which she claimed was inspired by David Bowie and space, and began shouting instructions over the blasting space jams. “Give me 8!” she’d say, “And count. LOUDER!” “How are you feeling?” she’d holler, and the scary yoga girls in Lululemon sports bras would whoop. I might have grunted. By our second down dog, I was already shiny. It was not the glisten of endorphins. It was sweat.

We lunged and squatted and pressed. My high-to-low plank sucked compared to the girl next to me, whose boyfriend ought to have been impressed by her push-up form. We did jumping jacks and high kicks. After too many leg lifts, I tried to “Pulse! Pulse! Out and hooooold!” I thought my glutes might rupture.

In retrospect, this hour of my life is mostly a humid, sweaty blur. I may have blocked it out. This is what I do remember thinking:

  • This is my sister’s exact version of hell. Working out with scary fit people in a hot room while an intimidating woman yells at you.
  • I might pass out. I think I need to sit down. What would happen if I fainted? Would that guy catch me? Gross. No one should touch me when I’m this sweaty.
  • In high school didn’t we stop having practice in the gym if it got this hot? Didn’t our coaches say it was actually dangerous?
  • Ah ha. That’s why people have towels on their mats. Because if you don’t, you slide all over your own sweat when you try to lunge. Lovely.
  • This hand towel is not cutting it. I should have brought a beach towel.
  • If she tells me to hold it up! one more time, I’m going to swear.
  • I am choosing to laugh about this. I am choosing to laugh about this. I am choosing to laugh about this.

Eventually, finally, we ended in savasanah. Normally, lying on my back, I feel peace as my breath travels deep. Here, I felt sweat dripping down my face into my ears. When it was over, I peeled myself off my mat. I tossed on my jacket on the way out the door, and it instantly stuck to me. When I took it off in the car, it released such a cloud of heat that I steamed up the car windows.

This was not what I anticipated from my New Year’s resolution.

Go figure.

Basically, nothing is what I anticipate anymore. Life keeps teaching me that I have zero control over anything, except how I respond to what I’m given. So I’m choosing to view this interlude as an experience (admittedly one that is more entertaining in retrospect).

May 2016 find me responding to further challenges with an intact sense of humor and the knowledge that any and all suckiness can’t last forever. Here’s to a little sweat and a whole lot of adventure.

 

Blessings

Blessings. noun. A bestowment of good, a prayer asking for God’s favor.

Jason via Flickr

Jason via Flickr

This new year still has a bit of shine to it. The six at the end is still unfamiliar, substituted for a five too often. It still holds possibility and freshness.

This can excite, all those blank days ahead. Who knows what wonders this new start may bring. Or this can paralyze. You see all that’s wrong, right now, and all the ways things may continue to spiral out of your grasp.

Maybe you’re seeing your loneliness. You wonder where your friends have gone and why everyone is so busy but you. The open, empty days look dreary. Have you done something wrong? Is there something wrong with you?

Maybe you’re bored. You’ve lost your purpose, somehow, and you’re not sure why you’re taking up space on the planet. Passion and curiosity and motivation have evaporated, and you’re left staring dully at your laptop screen.

Maybe you’re drowning. Stress comes in waves, knocking you down just as you’ve caught your breath. You’re tired of being tired. You want rest, for the panic in your heart to quiet, and for the racing in your mind to slow.

In this season of resolutions, you want to fix it all. You want a perfection of a life. You want to build more meaningful relationships and get fit and not spend so much time on Facebook and not buy so many scarves and eat less pizza and budget and live a balanced life.

You can’t do it all.

You don’t have to.

As you stare down this blank new year, wanting something better, I pray you would start small. If you want a richer life, build it, one tiny choice at a time. Today, this week, this month, find one thing that makes you feel alive. Think of what makes you most energized, what makes you lose track of time, what makes you feel like the truest version of yourself.

And then do it.

Write. Read. Color. Knit. Run. Bake. Paint. Dance. Organize. Talk. Listen. Hug.

Do your thing. Even if you have to do it alone. Even if it requires being brave and getting off the couch. Even if you have to carve 30 minutes from your jammed schedule. Even if you doubt it will matter come April.

Don’t believe the lie that you must go big or go home. May you have the courage to take one small step, to start where you are with what you have. May you move forward because you love yourself, because you care for yourself, because you believe you are worth the effort.

And even if you never do this, may you believe that you are still loved, still valuable, still smart, still talented, still worthy. Because you are.

Blessings on your week, friend.