Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Wednesday list...

1. For the Love with Jen Hatmaker is one of the podcasts in my regular rotation, and yesterday I listened to one in her Giving series that I think will stick with me a long time. In it, she interviews two different people who have started organizations doing amazing work in some very hard places. She talks to Susan Ramirez, the founder of an organization called National Angels which works to provide practical support to foster children and foster families; and to Jon Huckins, the co-founder of Global Immersion Project, a peacemaking training organization. Here are a couple of the things that stood out to me, and why I think this podcast is worth a listen: In her talk with Ms. Ramirez, it was really inspiring and helpful to hear about VERY PRACTICAL ways in which a person who maybe doesn't have a calling or isn't in a place to foster or adopt can still minister to this very vulnerable group. The interview with Jon Huckins was challenging in a different -- also good -- way. He talked about how often for Christians the concept of being a peacemaker is a little bit nebulous and cerebral -- we have a thousand yard view of being a peacemaker. But what does it really mean to be a peacemaker? He presented ideas such as how being a peacemaker requires stepping into spaces of conflict (which we more often avoid), and requires making peace with turmoil and anger inside ourselves. it was a really interesting and challenging conversation, and made me curious about the book that the Global Immersion Project recently published, and just curious to maybe dive into studying more about peace and peacemaking in the Bible myself. Here's the link to the podcast if you're interested in checking it out:

2. The other night I woke up in the middle of the night for some reason and while it is not abnormal for it to take me a hwile to go back to sleep, this time it was for a really annoying reason: having a one-sided conversation with a person/people online whom I don't actually know. Because I have decided -- for now -- not to waste my time adding to the cacophony of arguing on the internet, I am going to briefly vent here by mentioning a couple of my biggest  peeves: 1. generalizing people by just one or two of their identifying characteristics/social groups (think: "teenagers always do this" or "all Catholics are like this" or "old people are...") 2. Condescending tones and attitudes. This sometimes comes from unlikely places, like when I hear or see someone mention "flyover states." You know what, random person I don't know? You may think you're being cute and funny, but implicit in that term is the idea that those places don't matter. Try something else: the Midwest, the Great Planes, the Middle States...anything else that is less dismissive and condescending. Condescension often comes from intellectuals -- or psudo-intellectuals, or people who spend too much time in an echo chamber of their own "brilliant" ideas and beliefs. It's okay to tell me something I don't know, or challenge something I believe, but a condescending attitude is the fastest way to get me to stop listening.

3. I recently watched the short series Derry Girls on Netflix, and it was so delightful! It's set in Northern Ireland during the mid-1990s, and follows the lives of a group of high school girls (and one dude cousin who hilariously ends up at their all-girls parochial school because he's from England and the adults decided he'd be safer at the girls school). Everything is so perfectly awkward, perfectly 1990s, and based on the reviews I'm going to say perfectly Irish (being that I'm not actually from Ireland, I can't attest to that 100 percent, but suffice it to say I enjoyed the setting immensely). The characters were so real, the relationship dynamics so nuanced, and the nun who is the head of the girls' school is my absolute FAVORITE.

A short list this week since I rambled on and on. Have a great Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Wednesday list...

1. Jeremy and I are taking a trip to London this summer! Every time I say it or even type it out I get a huge grin on my face, and it's on my mind this week because we purchased plane tickets. I'm having to remember to pace myself when it comes to planning and dreaming. It's my second trip to London (once in high school, once in grad school) and Jeremy's first. I'm partly excited because I'm an Anglophile and there's just so much to explore in this city. I'm also super excited to share the experience with Jeremy. And as an added bonus -- we're going to get to go to Reims, France and watch the U.S. Women's National Soccer team play in the World Cup! Since marrying Jeremy I've become more of a soccer fan, and attending a World Cup game had made a spot on my bucket list. Also...I want to give an early shoutout to my parents and my niece who will be keeping our kids alive and having fun while we're gone. They are the best!

2. I came across this article [link] in the past week that I found really thought provoking. It's about parenting young teenagers through those first stages of puberty -- basically taking the time to explain to kids what's going on with their brain developmentally -- so they understand why they feel and act so differently all of a sudden. Not necessarily directly related to me at the moment (although toddler/preschooler brain development is REALLY similar to puberty brain development), but something to file away for the future for sure.

3. Growing up, Mary Poppins was one of my favorite movies and is still one I can watch and enjoy over and over again. Needless to say, I made a point to go see Mary Poppins Returns as soon as I could once it came to theaters. It was "practically perfect in every way." The acting, the music, the sets, the story, and the heart were everything I hoped for and I imagine I'll be listening to the soundtrack on repeat for a while.

4. Of all the random errand and chore combinations, for some reason I find the buy-and-change-the-light bulbs one to the most annoying. Of course, I also find a too-dark house to be annoying so I am nothing if not contradictory.

5. I finally picked up a book that's been on my nightstand for ages -- Audacious, by Beth Moore -- and I'll be alternating between that and a sci-fi/adventure/mystery that I have for review (Quantum Mayhem, by Lesley L. Smith).  I also couldn't help myself today at the library and picked up two books. One by an author I've never read -- Jo Walton -- that was recommended for fans of Golem and the Jinni, and one that simply sucked me in by the cover. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer, #2) Muse of Nightmares is the fantastic sequel to Laini Taylor's fantasy novel Strange the Dreamer. Muse has everything I'd expect from a novel by Laini Taylor - creative world building; lush, lyrical prose; compelling characters; and spot-on pacing. There's redemption, revenge, and a LOT of emotions (sometimes too many emotions for my taste, but if angsty romance is your jam, that shouldn't bother you!). One of my favorite things that Taylor does in her books -- and in this duology particularly -- is explore the idea that things aren't always what they seem on the surface, and are probably a lot more complicated than what they first appear. Taylor deftly asks the question: can hope grow out of tremendous heartache and loss? 

Good Luck with That I've mentioned before that when I'm in the mood for a feel-good straight-up It romance, Kristan Higgins is one of my go-to authors, and her newest book Good Luck With That  is no exception. It has a charming setting, witty dialogue, messy families, loving families, close friendships, and of course swoony romance. Good Luck With That also explores a somewhat complicated theme -- that of body image, eating disorders, weight, and obesity. For this reason, I expect there will be some readers that are more critical of this novel than others, because people tend to have a lot of deep feelings and varied experiences surrounding those themes. That said, I thought Higgins did a great job of treating this controversial topic with sensitivity. 

That's what I've been reading lately! What about you? 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Wednesday list...New Year edition

Happy New Year, everyone! Are you back in the swing of everyday life yet? Still suffering from Holiday Hangover? Did you ignore the "holiday season" altogether and are just waiting for everyone else to catch up? We spent a wonderful week in Missouri with my family (wonderful IN SPITE of a little stomach virus. But who better to take care of you when you're sick than your mom and dad? Hi mom and dad!), and I'm letting myself ease into things now that we're back home (my present self is high-fiving my past self for getting the house extra clean before our trip. I love coming home to a really clean house).

I love the rhythm of the new year in a similar way to how I like the rhythm of changing seasons. Every day is a fresh start -- in some contexts, every moment can be a fresh start -- but for me there is something special about a definitive marker, an external motivation. Several years ago (and I have probably talked about this before) our friends began the yearly New Year's Day tradition of reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the next (even if the goal is as straightforward and un-fancy as -- keep my children alive one more year). Life has evolved to a place where that group of friends can't always do this together anymore, but I still find it a helpful practice to spend this time of year doing some reflecting and dreaming.

There are so many ways of approaching New Year's goal setting, approaches such as...

1. Don't set any "New Year" goals. Set goals whenever you feel like it. On a random Thursday in March, for example

2. Practice quarterly/periodic goal setting. Author Tsh Oxenreider talks about this some (you can read about it here), referencing her practice of scheduling "Think Days" throughout the year. It seems to me to be an approach that is both business-minded but also perfect for people who don't want to think past the next couple of months.

3. Re-frame it. My friends Sarah and Jonathan have started making "skills lists" in January of skills they want to work on throughout the year, instead of setting goals. The Lazy Genius suggests asking: what are you looking forward to this year? as a way to take a break from any pressure one might feel in the idea of "goal setting."

Personally, I like all of these approaches. But I also like some good old fashioned reflecting and goal setting. HOWEVER. I have learned to be okay with changing gears mid-year. I like to mix up specific goals with more nebulous theme words or phrases. This year I've been framing things in terms of priorities rather than goals -- what are my priorities for 2019? Are there specific goals I can set that fall in line with those priorities?

So even though I've said a lot of words already, in the spirit of The Wednesday list here are just a few reflections on the previous and upcoming year:

Four things I learned (or re-learned) in 2018:
1. It's okay to change direction, shift your focus, and reevaluate previous goals and plans. Y'all. When I looked back and my 2018 goals I just had to laugh. I  think the only one I actually accomplished was potty train the kids (all the hallelujahs on that one) and of the remaining goals, only one of them stayed relevant to my year. I completely changed direction and focus. THAT'S OK. Goals are for me, and if I learned something from erasing them instead of checking them off, then they still served a purpose.
2. I am not a naturally-inclined entrepreneur, and -- most important lesson of all -- THAT'S OK. 
3. Discomfort is necessary to growth.
4. How to froth milk with a mason jar and a microwave. Game. Changer.

Three goals/priorities for 2019, and three things I'm looking forward to:
1. Run a half marathon (I'm signed up! One step down...)
2. Write five days a week -- whether that's random essays, more blog post, or creative fiction. Less restriction on the "what" and more just getting words out and on the page.
3. I want to prioritize connecting with people: writing letters (I know, sounds weird to some of you, but I LOVE writing letters), texting, calling, inviting people to our home or out to do fun things. This also includes connecting with my family -- using our everyday opportunities (meals, movie watching, whatever) intentionally.
I'm looking forward to...
1 Some travel plans we have shaping up for this year.
2.Re-discovering bread baking.
3. Trying out a version of this quarterly Think Day idea (it may be more like a Think Hour. I've got preschoolers after all). I'll keep you posted.

So here we go. Bring it on 2019.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. This YouTube link isn't the best version of this song, but I am OBSESSED with The Light of the World  off of Lauren Daigle's Christmas album.

2. I can't remember where I heard about the podcast Circle Round. It's a story podcast for children, and each 15-20 minute episode tells a story which is partially narrated and partially acted out radio drama style. Most of the stories are based on folk tales from around the world, and it's really just delightful. We don't listen to it a lot in our day-to-day life, but since it's the season for road trips I've downloaded a few episodes again. I'm not sure how much the littlest pays attention to it, but my four year old enjoys listening to them, and it's a nice little entertainment break for the kids (one I don't mind listening to myself) when we're on a long car ride. One of my favorite stories is the episode "Stella and the Dragon."

3. Jeremy and I finished watching the second season of Amazon's Marvelous Mrs. Maisel this week, and I'm happy to say it was just as funny, smart, and captivating as season one (it also still comes with a foul language warning, so...consider yourself warned). I really enjoyed how they began to flesh out the stories and character arcs of some of the supporting cast, and I thought the show did a great job of moving the story along in an interesting and logical way, keeping the best things about season one but continuing to move forward. And the setting! I am still blown away by the way they have created this sense of time and place that is so vivid and vibrant.

4.I was getting ready to do a short yoga workout this morning (they're all short, but I felt like I needed to qualify the comment so no one out there starts thinking I'm a legit yogi), and I started thinking about one of the best lessons I've learned over the past few years. It's something I've heard from a lot of different places, framed in a lot of different ways, and applicable in a lot of settings; but what it boils down to is this: the best way to do a thing is the way that works best for you. Example: my best week includes two to three days in which I do a 15-25 minute yoga workout. But I have found through trial and error that if I am too precious about that workout it doesn't get done, and surprisingly the number one factor in my success is sometimes doing yoga first thing in the morning in my pajamas. It's a small thing, and it feels a little like a weird thing, but honestly just taking away that one road block (changing clothes) makes all the  difference. Anyway, that's just one example, but it was a good reminder this morning that the best way to do a thing is the way that works best for you. Sometimes that looks like what someone else is doing and sometimes it doesn't.

5. I hardly ever burn candles (I tend to use my essential oil diffuser instead) but for some reason I've been in the mood for one lately-- maybe it's a fall/winter cozy thing. Maybe a longing for a fire in the fireplace, while living someplace where that isn't super practical (and maybe not possible -- I wouldn't bet on the safety of our house's fireplace). Yesterday I bought a candle from Target (the Chip and Joanna line, naturally) and it's divine. Woodsmoke Cedar, a scent that could be overbearing, but instead is just the right amount of outdoorsy, wintery smell. It's exactly what I was in the mood for.

Happy 6 days until Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Wednesday list...(in memoriam)

December can feel like being on an express train  -- decorating, gift buying, parties, concerts, movies, traditions, travel. We want to simultaneously slow down and sip hot chocolate in front of our fireplace while gazing contemplatively out at gently falling snow, no obligations in sight; and also wring every last drop of fun and memory-making and glittery sequins out of the Holiday season. But some years, a shift in perspective is forced upon us...

Jeremy's grandmother passed away this week. She was 101 years old. Isn't that amazing? To be honest, I find the idea of living that long pretty exhausting, but think about the perspective one would have living that much life. GG (as the great-grandkids called her) was a teenager during the Great Depression. Her husband had polio. She was a young adult during World War II, and saw her son-in-law off to Vietnam. Telephones to cell phones. Typewriters to computers. Washing clothes by hand to having an automatic washing AND drying machine in your home. Television. 

I didn't know GG very well but from what I did know of her  and what I have learned about her through stories and memories, is that she was a picture of steadiness, faithfulness, toughness, joy, generosity, and fierce love. I wonder if living so much life helped give GG the kind of clarity it takes to live a life that isn't necessarily flashy, but one that impacts generations. 

In honor of GG, this week's list of thoughts is four memories I have of this quietly remarkable woman:

1. She was a gardener -- and I mean, she had a big, store-it-up-for-winter kind of garden. Even when she couldn't manage the garden herself and got help from her daughter, she was actively did what she could to be involved.  I even have pictures from this past June of her shelling peas with my kiddos. 

2. She loved the Dallas Cowboys. Every Sunday you could find her parked in front of her t.v. watching "her boys."

3. She made some of the best peanut brittle I've ever had. In fact, Christmas Eve at her house was a snack-lovers feast: millionaires, peanut brittle, pecan brittle, chocolate dipped peanut butter balls, cookies, peanut butter chocolate chex mix, original chex mix. Everyone else brought the savory snacks, but the sweets were GG's specialty.

4. She LOVED her grandkids and great-grandkids. Anytime one of her grandkids or great-grandkids would walk in the door her eyes would light up. 

Thank you GG for leaving such a legacy of love and faithfulness. Your peace and rest are well-deserved, but there is no doubt you will be missed. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I am elbow deep in Christmas cards at the moment although funnily enough, not my own. My brother-in-law and his family are living overseas working with Syrian refugees, and I agreed to mail their Christmas cards since it's so much cheaper. Because they are missionaries, their Christmas card list is...long, to say the least. But, I'm looking at it as their Christmas present. My goal is to have their cards mailed next week so I can get our cards in the mail. I know some people get stressed out by the idea of sending Christmas cards, but it's a tradition I love and one of the few that I prioritize.

2. I was in the mood this week for a cheesy Christmas movie (think Hallmark-type) and I tried one out on Netflix, but I really should have just stopped watching it halfway through. So. Boring. And I have a high tolerance for cheesy Christmas romantic comedies, but this one was just too much. (too little?). I need a good palete cleanser. I'm watching my beloved White Christmas with my friend Stephanie this weekend, so I may bust out While You Were Sleeping. And speaking of Christmas movies...I took the kids to see the new Grinch in the theater last week. It was really good! I liked that it really felt like just an expanded version of the book and original movie, not something completely different. All the key elements were there -- rhyming narration, a three-size-too-small-heart, the precariously balanced sleigh full of stolen Christmas that is saved at the last minute, Max the cutest dog.

3. Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is out today! I'm so pumped! Now I just need to know when the next season of Sneaky Pete is going to be making an appearance.

4. I've been floundering in my reading lately. Part of the problem is that I'm trying to finish knitting a gift hat for a friend, so I'm spending more of my evening hours doing that instead of reading. Part of the problem is I'm dividing my attention between two books (Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings and Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor). Fellowship is a library book, and I've had it checked out for WAY too long, but it's not...riveting reading. Interesting enough that I haven't given up on it, but not a page turner. And I'm mostly concerned if I get too deep into Muse of Nightmares I won't sleep until it's finished (I'm tempted to save it for our long road trip to Missouri for Christmas).

5. I'm loving Christmas music season. Pandora has some great Christmas stations that are getting heavy use these days at our house.

Happy Wednesday!