Saving My Life: February 2018

As we officially reach the halfway point of winter, today I join Anne, Allison, Katie, and many others to share a handful of things saving my life right now.

Morning tea & crossword puzzle

The Optometrist and I have lived in our pretty little town for several years now (~10 for him, ~8 for me), but we have never had a subscription to our local newspaper. So for Christmas I decided a 3 month subscription would be a gift we could share (online for him, print for me). Lately we’ve found ourselves awaking early, feeding the kitty, fixing a cup of tea, crawling back in bed with the previous day’s paper, and enjoying a few quiet moments to have our bodies and brains awaken with local news and a mental challenge.

Sisters&Tea
Photo via my Instagram.

Covered tea cups

Speaking of tea, the quotation, “Where there is tea there is hope” is a mantra by which we live. And while we have a lot of mugs, we didn’t have any that were particularly “Christmassy,” so when we found this little beauty at our local grocery store, it just had to come home with me. “Peace on Earth” is found on one side, a little bird on the other, a loose tea strainer inside (removable), and pine boughs create a ring around the lid and on the saucer. It’s adorable and brings me joy.

I wasn’t specifically looking to find a mug with a lid but, since I’m such a slow tea drinker, the ability to cover my tea and keep it warmer longer has been such a help! (And we’ve also found one other stray lid (my mom somehow still has the mug) so now we interchange these two every time we fix two cups of tea.)

Lit candles in the evening

It started during Advent when we made sure to place tea lights into our Christmas tree and angel crystal votive holders (see covered tea cup photo above). These on our dining room table along with two tea light wall sconces, created a gently flickering reminder of the birth of Jesus being the embodiment of light out of the darkness. Even now, as the days stay lighter longer, the routine of lighting our evening candles continues to bring me comfort.

Daily journaling

Most nights before falling asleep The Optometrist and I ask one another, “What are three good things that happened to you today?” As 2018 began, I ventured on a more thoughtful approach and began journaling these three things (before bed), along with what I read, knit, and any other noteworthy moments of the day (quotations, blessings, prayer requests, etc.)

At the end of January I filled up this compact journal from Inkwell’s Press gifted to me by the artist’s sister (my dear friend Brooke) a few years ago, but also love the new pack of Rifle Paper Co. journals I picked up at World Market over the weekend to continue these daily reflections.

 

 

Roomba

For Christmas, our big gift to one another (that actually came in October because it was on sale) was a Roomba. We have appropriately christened our vacuuming robot “Scoop.”

With two humans and quite a large cat living in our home, the ability to vacuum the house, keeping it consistently cleaner than it’s ever been before, while doing something else a few times a week (i.e., fixing dinner, taking a shower) is worth every penny we spent.

Brené Brown – Washington National Cathedral

A few weeks ago researcher, author, and speaker Dr. Brené Brown spoke at the Washington National Cathedral and the conversation with her via this Forum afterwards spoke deeply to my heart. A few takeaways:

  • “God, give me the courage and strength to delight in your will and walk in your way with gladness and singleness of heart.” (adapated from The Book of Common Prayer)
  • Am I choosing comfort over God? Am I choosing my own human comfort over making a decision that is aligned with our beliefs?
  • Choose courage over comfort.
  • More vulnerable, less venerable.
  • Contribute more than criticize.

It’s also been interesting to look back on what was saving my life in 2016 and 2017, all of which remain a constant.


What are some things saving your life right now? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Read: January 2018

January has brought about a new year and lots of new reads!

Origin by Dan Brown

I have such strong and fond memories of reading The DaVinci Code in 2003 and Angels and Demons shortly thereafter. The subsequent Robert Langdon mysteries have fallen a little flat to me, including Origin, but I still enjoy this recurring character and his code-breaking, globe-trotting adventures.

Langdon once again returns in Dan Brown’s newest novel as he travels to Spain to reunite with Edmond Kirsch, a former Harvard student, now a computer scientist millionaire who is about to globally reveal the answers to humanity’s greatest questions, “Where do we come from? Where are we going?” But before Edmond can share his findings, tragedy strikes. Now Langdon must find a way to retrieve Edmond’s research and help make his findings public before the backlash catches him in the crossfire.

Book read via: public library

Moxie
Moxie 
by Jennifer Mathieu

My high school experience in the late 90s is a long way from what many young women face in public schools today. Even though Mathieu’s Moxie is a work of fiction, the realities of teenage boys harassing girls are all too real. And yet, when young ladies like protagonist Vivian and her friends decide enough is enough, this collectively empowered voice makes a difference, proving once again, that we are so much stronger together than when we are divided.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC https://www.netgalley.com/

stillme

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Third in the trilogy of Me Before You and After You, Still Me just released yesterday! For a more thorough book review, check it out here.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC https://www.netgalley.com/

DearFahrenheit451

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence

I kept hearing about this epistolary memoir throughout the end of 2017, so as a librarian and lover of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, this was at the top of my must-read list in 2018.

Filled with irreverent snark, Spence pens short letters, as if writing to books she encounters in her public library, home, and other peoples’ homes. I don’t work with the public nearly as much as she does, with a different patron base on the academic side of things, so these quirky collection development encounters allowed me to be a bystander in my own profession.

I particularly enjoyed her musings on books I also have read and enjoyed: The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, the Big Stone Gap series by Adriana Trigiani, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris, and Belle’s dreamy library in Beauty and the Beast.

And now I have even more book recommendations to consider, including Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles, Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch, and In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians by Michael Cart.

Read via: public library

CourageIsContagious

Courage is Contagious: And Other Reasons to be Thankful for Michelle Obama edited by Nick Haramis

Read over a weekend, this brief collection of essays looks back on the important, culture-shifting role Michelle Obama played as First Lady of the United States: educated professional, advocate of children’s health, working mom, supportive wife, and style icon, just to name a few.  Some of these accounts are written by people you’ve likely heard of, but many are not, proving how she was, and continues to be, a woman of aspiration for so many men and women in our country (including yours truly).

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

LeanIn

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

As mentioned at the beginning of the month, my words for 2018 are LEAN IN. While I’m wanting to apply this concept in all areas of my life, this manifesto from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was a helpful rallying cry to jumpstart my year of living with intentionality and bravery in my professional and personal life.

Book read via: academic library

NeedToKnow

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

I love spy stories and this is a good one! Released January 23, check out my book review for more details.

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC. https://www.edelweiss.plus/

KillersOfTheFlowerMoon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Recommended to me by a colleague in the spring, I kept this on my radar throughout the rest of the year and at the end of 2017 I continued to see this on several “best-of” lists, along with nominations for numerous prestigious book awards. But the tipping point for me to buckle down and read (listen) came when it was announced the author, David Grann, is coming to our campus to speak in February!

Living in Oklahoma for less than a decade I’m still very much a student of its geography and Native American history. Thankfully, this book gave me a crash course in all of these areas, and more!

Centered around a string of Osage Indian murders in the 1920s, this is a story of white man’s deception and greed for Osage tribal members’ oil money and the founding of the FBI as agents came to Oklahoma to investigate these murders.

The one challenge I encountered in listening to this vs. reading it in print was keeping track of all the characters (since I couldn’t flip back pages to re-read), but this forced me to pay attention and keep moving forward, which I may not have done if I had been reading this visually.

Overall, this was a terrifically well-researched, narrative non-fiction, true crime novel; well deserving of the accolades it continues to receive.

Read via: public library audio book


Books I’m currently reading that I will likely finish in February: The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (illustrated edition by Jim Kay).

Book Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

stillme

Fans of Jojo Moyes, rejoice! Louisa Clark, the plucky heroine from Me Before You and After You, returns in Still Me. Following up from the plot in After You, Louisa has been contacted by her friend and former colleague Nathan, who also worked with Will in Me Before You, about the possibility of working for a wealthy family in New York.

Despite her newfound love with Ambulance Sam, Louisa needs a fresh perspective and an opportunity to let go of the past, so she agrees to the offer and proceeds to move from London to New York. And not just anywhere in New York, but to 5th Avenue, as the live-in assistant to Agnes, the immigrant (younger, second) wife of an American millionaire businessman.

There are fun parallels to The Devil Wears Prada as Louisa transitions to being a girl about the city, learning how to anticipate Agnes’ needs and helping her navigate obligations inherent with her posh lifestyle. But as her personal assistant, Louisa is also privy to family secrets and when her loyalty causes Agnes’ wealthy husband to question Louisa’s actions, the predictability of the book’s plot becomes less so. Louisa is now faced with the opportunity to reinvent herself again and have the opportunity to embrace her true love: vintage fashion.

As she explores New York City, it becomes a supporting character all on its own – Central Park, the neighborhoods, libraries, and diners she visits all enhance the overall atmosphere of the book.

The character of Louisa is entirely relatable to me with her desires of putting others ahead of herself, living a full and passionate life, and embracing her creative and quirky tendencies. She would definitely be the kind of gal I would want to befriend in real life.

As is typical of Moyes’ writing, she infuses “all the feels” into Still Me: sweetness, humor, longing, sadness, grief, courage, living life to the full, and, of course, love. For those who have loved this ongoing story line, Still Me is not to be missed.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/

 

 

 

Book Review: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

NeedToKnow

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

It’s not often that I feel so nervous about the plot of a book I’m hesitant to keep reading, but I held my breath page after page, wondering what was going to happen next!

Releasing today, Need to Know is a contemporary spy mystery, filled with secrets and lots of questions. Vivian, who is a CIA analyst, finds out her husband Matt is a Russian sleeper agent. What is she going to do? Report him to the Agency? Cover up for what she has found and risk going to prison, leaving behind her four children? Try to bargain with the Russians? How much of her marriage is a lie?

Cleveland weaves a compelling scenario, based in reality, that keeps you guessing from start to finish. If you need a heart-pounding read without objectionable language and not too much violence, Need to Know is for you!

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC. https://www.edelweiss.plus/

 

Learn: Lessons learned from yoga

Photo I took of my local yoga studio

As a very young child my parents enrolled me in gymnastics classes, which I’m sure my educator mother knew was a great way to develop gross motor skills for my little arms and legs. After winning a few competitions in our town, my 5 year old self imagined being the next Mary Lou Retton. However, the next year my mom gave me the choice: gymnastics or piano? I chose piano and three decades, plus a degree in music later, I’m thankful I made this choice since playing for pleasure at home and at church is a part of my identity. (Yet because I’m so petite, I might have made a pretty good gymnast…)

Maybe it’s because I honed my sense of balance and flexibility at a young age, or maybe it’s just the way my body was designed, but when I discovered yoga in my early 20s, I naturally took to this practice.

When I accepted the offer to become an academic librarian in Oklahoma, I met a knowledgeable yoga instructor, also the nurse practitioner at our university, and began attending her classes at the local studio. Eight years and a series of teachers have come and gone but the studio remains a safe haven for me as I roll out my mat, smile or say hello to others in the class, and allow myself an hour weekly to breathe, stretch, and practice some quality self-care.

Last week I attended my first yoga class of 2018 and it prompted me to think about the lessons I’ve learned and why yoga remains an important part of my life.

  1. Fuel up

    Eat a light snack a little while before class. There’s nothing worse than the distraction of thinking about food when you’re in warrior one.

  2. Practice routinely

    The more often I go to class (and practice at home), the more comfortable I am with being able to naturally understand the directions and be in the moment, rather than having to watch the instructor the entire time.

  3. Judgement free zone

    There’s no room to judge myself or others. I’m only there for myself, so I don’t have to be concerned about the person beside me. And unless I need correction from the instructor to not harm my body, if I make a mistake, chances are I can just do the opposite movement the next round.

  4. Breathe

    It’s easy to forget the restorative nature of a deep, cleansing breath. Not only does this provide necessary oxygen to the body, but the simple pattern of breathe in…breathe out creates a calming, centering rhythm to focus solely on this one thing.

  5. Listen to my body

    I am a living human being, so my body is going to respond differently each time I practice. Only I can judge when I need to push myself versus be okay with the basic or modified version of a certain pose.

  6. Don’t give up

    There are times my body screams to release from a strength-building pose (chair, anyone?), but muscles and determination are built when the going gets tough.

  7. Christian perspective

    Sometimes the instructor shares a more universal thought or passage, but as a Christian I often take these broad sentiments and apply them with Scripture I’ve committed to memory, or turn my thoughts to prayer for deeper spiritual growth.

  8. Make the choice

    Like a lot of things worth doing, it’s sometimes hard to pull away from whatever is pressing, but after class I never regret the effort it took to choose yoga over something else that will still be waiting for me later.

yoga

Image source


Is yoga a routine part of your life? If so, what lessons have you learned from your series of practices?

My word for 2018

Adopting a word for the year isn’t a new idea, nor is it original, yet I’ve found it empowering to enter 2018 with a touchstone I can return to time and time again.

Last year, the word ENOUGH seemed to hover in my consciousness quite a bit.

Two years ago it was the Old Testament scripture Isaiah 41:13 (NIV),

For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.

A week or so before Christmas, a series of conversations, eventful changes, and the song Stay by This Hope propelled me to begin hearing the Lord beckon…

Lean in

(Okay, so it’s really two words, but you get the idea.)

Throughout this new year, I hope LEANING IN looks like:

  • being bold and unafraid
  • being aware and paying attention
  • being patient but taking action when necessary
  • being diligent
  • being intentional
  • being a good listener

And yes, there is a book called Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, which I am currently reading. Even though the specific focus of the book is for women to embody strength,  confidence, and leadership, this overall theme helps inspire personal applications in my personal, spiritual, and professional life and is the perfect tie-in for my word of 2018.


Do you have a word or phrase you’re carrying with you into the new year? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Knit: Fall & Christmas 2017

At the start of fall I mentioned I was on a knitting hiatus due to what I believe was a repetitive injury strain on my left-hand pinkie.

During this time of rest one creative measure I pursued was revisiting some beloved hand knits made over the past two years and entered them in the county fair.

Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, among all the knitters and crocheters (both share the same category) who also entered hand-crafted works of art, I won blue ribbons in the hat category and miscellaneous category (that was most surprising – compared to all the other items in this catch-all group), and a red ribbon in the gloves/mittens category!

Another fall goal was to sew pillows for The Optometrist’s academic office. These red chairs are ones he inherited (and loves) but they needed a fun contrast color. He picked out this blue material with white shapes and lines (looks very scientific or architectural – perfect for him) when we visited Quilts & Quilts in Branson, MO, over Spring Break. I bought two pillow forms and invisible zippers from Michael’s and after using this Hobby Lobby tutorial, I was very pleased (as was he) with the end result!


In other attempts to not chew off my arm since I couldn’t knit, I also had a reminder of how to cross-stitch from my talented mother-in-law.

img_1163

And then finally! In about late October, the twinges in my pinkie began to subside for longer stretches of time and I hesitantly began knitting again. Hal-le-lu-jah!

Since I have alternated in knitting hats for Christmas presents, plus a pair of socks for myself.

Pattern: Vanilla Socks with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel (pay for pattern on Ravelry)
Needles: US 1, 40″ circular Signature Needle Arts fixed circular needles
Yarn: Chaos Theory Fiber Arts in the Christmas Chaos colorway
Recipient: for me!

Using the Turkish cast on method, I cast on 10 sts and increased to 56 sts. Knitting these two-at-a-time, toe up, using a Magic Loop. The feet are knit plain/vanilla, Fish Lips Kiss Heel, the leg is all knit, a 2×2 rib for about 1 1/2 inches at the top, then used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

While I’m not quite back to 100% strength (probably about 94% most days), I’ve begun paying more attention to how my hands feel and if they are sore at the end of a long day of typing, I give them a rest in the evening. But the knowledge that I’m knitting (and playing piano) fairly consistently again is such a gift for me to not only create but engage in a bit of self-care at the same time.

Favorite knitting:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pattern: Find Your Fade
Pay for pattern by: Andrea Mowry
Needles: US 4, 60″ circular ChaioGoo Lace fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Pollen, Fools Gold, Bramble, Salty Tales, Pheasant, Dragonfly, Bali
Recipient: I’m keeping this one!

Finished in May when it was really too hot to wear this, it was such a soothing pattern and I’ve enjoyed having it in my wardrobe this fall and winter!

Total knits: 26

Baby booties: 4 pair     Hats: 10     Puppets: 1     Shawls: 3     Dishcloths: 3     Toys: 1     Socks: 2 pair     Fingerless mittens: 1 pair     Ear warmers: 1

2018 knitting goals:

  • Sweater – Since I had a bit of a setback with some pain in my left pinkie finger this fall, my goal of knitting an adult sweater when the weather turned cooler was put on the back burner. I’m determined to see this happen this year! I have a sweater’s quantity of fingering weight yarn and am considering the Hitofude Cardigan in Bare Naked Wools Better Breakfast Fingering in Mocha. And I would also like to consider the Coeur d’Alene sweater as a worsted weight alternative.
  • Heel – I’ve only knitted socks with either an afterthought heel or the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and am anxious to try a different kind of short row heel. Any suggestions?
  • Christmas ornaments – This was the first year in 8 years of living in Oklahoma that I didn’t make Christmas ornaments, because of my sore finger. Still in my Ravelry queue is the Bluebird of Happiness, which I can knit with leftover Hedgehog Fibers Bali from my Fade.
  • Advent calendar – I’ve seen lots of folks on Instagram or Vlogmas videos talking about yarn advent calendars. This seems like a fun way to add some beautiful yarn to my Granny Stripe Afghan!

If you’re a knitter or crocheter, what have been your favorite projects this year? What are you excited to make in 2018?