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?

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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.

Embracing being an “expert”

What do you think of when you hear the term “expert?” Maybe it conjures images of a computer technician, a wizened professor, or someone wearing a lab coat.

According to Merriam Webster, an expert is someone “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.”

Notice it doesn’t say anything about age, gender, or having to wear any kind of regalia. So in that case, I’m an expert!

I’ve been a member of the American Library Association since beginning library school in 2008 and for the past year or so the organization has adopted the theme of  Libraries Transform and have called on members to state their area of expertise.

At this time I would say that my main areas of professional expertise (“training and experience”) are teaching students how to search and manipulate results within EBSCOhost databases and assisting students with their research in our children’s and youth collection. I’m still very much a student in the areas of academic assessment, open education resources, and a whole lot more – but I’m learning!

LibrariesTransform-Expert


You might have heard about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from his book Outliers, in which he claims this is the “magic number of greatness.” However, in this online article, Rob Nightingale from Make Use Of  debunks Gladwell’s theory (and takes a closer look at the research upon which Gladwell stated this philosophy) and looks at other important characteristics and traits of how we can be an expert.

This, no doubt, includes how teaching is a tactic to faster learning. But boy howdy – if I made $1 for every time I taught EBSCOhost or lead a student through the process of finding the perfect children’s book for their assignment…well, I would probably be the wealthiest librarian west of the Mississippi!

Part of me still balks at the connotation of how being an expert might come across as having “arrived” or “knowing it all,” when I obviously have not and do not. And while I desire to be a lifelong learner in so many areas, on this last day of the Fall semester it gives me a bit of satisfaction that I can be proud of what I have learned, and how it is my goal and ongoing responsibility to share this knowledge with others.


In what area(s) would you consider yourself an expert? Or in what arena would you like to strive towards being known as an expert?

Learn: Fall 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this fall.

  1. Bigger is sometimes better
    Did you know they make triple size cotton balls? My current eyeliner is a bit pesky to remove at night and these giant cotton balls have made my evening routine so much easier!
  2. Sometimes upheaval is necessary
    When we bought our home we knew we would want to start updating the look of things down the road. And now that we’ve been in the house 4+ years, we’re now firmly “down the road” and are taking baby steps to bring said changes to pass.

    In October we picked out new paint colors, Pratt and Lambert lambswool and china white, and tackled painting the walls (lambswool) and cabinets (china white) in our laundry room as a test area. We loved these colors in our friends’ home and also love the end result in our small trial space, but like most good things in life, a little cleaning, purging, and patience had to be expected, too.

  3. Sometimes a good thing isn’t the right thing
    Over the past few years I’ve heard glowing reviews about Tieks ballet flats from various bloggers and celebrities. Even though they are rather expensive, the quality of craftsmanship and comfort has been routinely applauded.

    Typically I wear either a size US 5 or 5 1/2, but Tieks only come in whole sizes, so I ordered a cute green pair of size 5 shoes. They arrived, I tried them on and thought, “Hmm, they are comfortable but they feel a little tight around my toes.” I investigated their return policy and saw they would also send another pair in a different size to compare the two, so I ordered a size 6.

    I must admit, I was disappointed when the size 6 was too big compared to the size 5 that was too small. It’s really hard to fit my tiny feet, so I wasn’t at all surprised with this discovery, and appreciated the kind customer service representative that helped me return both with free shipping and a full refund.

  4. Time and effort over time pays off 
    While I’ve played piano since I was 6 years old, I’m always thankful when I’m re-reminded of the gift of this ongoing skill I’ve maintained.

    Over Thanksgiving weekend, our church pianist (and my friend) took an impromptu family getaway on Saturday and texted me that morning asking if I could fill in for her the next day for Sunday morning services. I told her to enjoy her time and I would gladly cover for her.

    That afternoon I looked over the order of worship via our church’s online scheduling software, realized I knew all the songs, and was therefore able to sight-read the piano arrangements the next morning while enjoy worshiping with my fingers and in my heart (and without too many glaring mistakes, thankfully).

  5. 7 and 5
    Our nephew and niece are now 7 and 5 and these are such fun ages to be around! Hearing about their lives in 2nd grade and Kindergarten was a real joy over Thanksgiving and The Optometrist and I are excited about being more diligent to be a part of their lives, school, and church activities.
  6. Positive stress is still stress
    As Christmas approaches, I’m determined to not get sick this year (especially since I’ve already had enough with fall allergies over the past few weeks)! The past two years have found me missing out on social, civic, and church Christmas festivities because of “the crud,” and I’ve realized this is because I not only over-extend myself, but I become consumed with too much positive stress.

    My university’s human resources department recently sent an e-newsletter about managing holiday stress in which I was reminded to set realistic expectations and priorities – i.e. it’s okay to say no to attending ALL the Christmas events and parties. Thus, in the coming weeks of December I’ve already begun writing REST in giant letters in my calendar to not schedule anything else when a week begins to look full.

    The gentle reminder from my sweet momma, over a number of years, always rings true, “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else is going to do it for you.”


    What have you learned this fall? Are you making sure you take time to care for your mind, body, and spirit with the Christmas season now upon us? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Saving My Life: Beginning of Fall Edition

As per the phrase by Barbara Brown Taylor, this is a look at the things saving my life as fall begins.

  1. Bath & Body Works Spiced Apple Bourbon hand soap with pumpkin butter

    During my last trip to Bath & Body Works, I discovered they didn’t have the Leaves scent in this year’s fall soaps, which is my all time favorite. I was so disappointed I didn’t take the time to try anything else new this season, but when a dear friend gave us this as a thank-you gift, I was excited to realize it is very reminiscent of Leaves. Washing my hands at the kitchen sink has been an extra special treat, thanks to this year’s new release!

    bbw

  2. Cross stitch

    Since mid-August I’ve been experiencing some consistent joint stiffness and occasional twinges of pain in my left pinkie finger. When you look at the sheer number of items I knit in July, it’s no wonder my joints and hands have needed a break! And while I know it’s in my body’s best interest to give my hands time to rest, it’s been so difficult to not reach for my needles and yarn (or sit down at my piano) during this stressful back-to-school time. But I’ve had to go through seasons of vocal rest in the past and have seen God bring about healing in His time, so I am making a concerted effort to trust His faithfulness once more.

    With this in mind, my patient mother-in-law recently gave me a refresher tutorial on how to cross-stitch. As a young girl I loved printed cross-stitch, but was always intimidated by counted cross-stitch. A few years ago I picked up this beginning kit from Cecilia’s Samplers in Branson, MO, determined to learn, so she showed me a few things, but after our visit I promptly went back to knitting. Now that I’m on the knitting DL, I figured this was the perfect time to devote my creative energies to a new craft, while not putting as much strain on my fingers. It’s been a fun, puzzle-like adventure to see take shape, X by X.

    This is “Simplicity” by Little House Needleworks.

  3. Adult coloring books

    As a child I wasn’t a huge fan of coloring. I loved activity books with word searches and dot-to-dot pictures, but the lack of precision of crayons was always frustrating to my small hands. Fast forward about 30 years and now that adult coloring books and colored pencils have arrived on the scene, this has been another way for me to decompress at the end of a long day. This is Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford, a past Christmas present from The Optometrist.

  4. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan on Audible

    While coloring, I have frequently set my phone nearby and listened to this spectacularly performed (not just narrated) middle-grade story that spans continents and time frames, all connected to themes of hope and the power of music.

    It was highly reviewed by Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival and it has lived up to her recommendation! Not only so, but it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read and so far my favorite overall book of 2017.

    echo-cover

  5. NCIS 

    And when my brain has needed a vacation, it has often found itself escaping via Netflix to NCIS headquarters to hang out with Gibbs, Ziva, McGee, Abby, and company. The Optometrist and I are currently working our way through Season 10 and I realized the other day, the reason I watch isn’t for the mystery or murders they solve, it’s for the character development between cast members. (I consider them make-believe friends.)NCIS


What things are saving your life as fall finally arrives?

Learn: Summer 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this summer.

1. Vacations shouldn’t be divided in order to conquer

The Optometrist and I do a great deal of “dividing and conquering” in life: taking turns fixing meals, tackling different parts of the store as we grocery shop, and handling different household responsibilities and chores. But the decision to travel with each other to his optometry conference in St. Louis and my knitting retreat in Nashville did not ever allow us to feel like we truly took a “vacation” together. While this was just the way it worked out this summer, in the future I think we’ll be more diligent about planning a trip where neither of us is required to be somewhere else for hours each day and then trying to fit in time to explore together.

2. Amazon donation program

Recently one of my dear colleagues and friends shared how you can re-use your Amazon boxes, fill them with items you wish to donate, and mail them away for free! We haven’t tried this yet, but have a couple of Amazon boxes (after cleaning out some cat hair) that could definitely be used to benefit a good will effort.

3. James 4:8 in Practice

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a – ESV)

Over the summer I continued with my daily Bible reading (current focus is to finish the Old Testament rather than the whole Bible this year) along with Margaret Feinberg‘s Overcomer Bible study of Philippians. Utilizing the color method, I was able to creatively study and analyze names, verbs, repeated phrases, etc. in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, was guided with application principles of what I learned, and also participated in a weekly Facebook Live video series (free and still open to everyone!).

The more I’ve been in scripture, the more grounded and peaceful I’ve been and the more I’ve been aware of my need to check in with God throughout the day. It’s been a very sweet spiritual practice.

4. Put down your phone and read

Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival, posted on Instagram several months ago saying, “I’ve been surprised by how much time I’ve had for reading since I’ve committed to picking up a book (rather than my phone) when I have a few minutes throughout the day.”

I’ve taken her advice to heart (not every time, but making a more concerted effort) to said no to the sleek white baby and yes to the old fashioned monograph awaiting my attention.

5. Have a giant stack of books ready to read

With that in mind, in June and July I read several books from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, all of which I requested either from our public library or my academic library’s InterLibrary Loan service.  As always seems to be the case, they all started arriving about the same time, which created piles of books around the house. (a.k.a. the best problem to have)

My trick for not feeling overwhelmed by all the books at my disposal was to write on my calendar the date it was due to give myself a visual cue on how much time was left before it needed to be returned, then alternated the types of stories I read to shift my mental focus – ex. a murder mystery followed by a light-hearted YA novel.

My final selection I chose from the MMD list, The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, is one I started today and am loving it already!

6. When needing a reading break, have a solid queue of other media ready

Visual media – I tell you what, The Optometrist buying us a Google Chromecast has changed the way we “watch television” (Internet streaming since we don’t have cable). Our BluRay player had been our portal for streaming YouTube and Netflix, but when it no longer supported YouTube (even when it did work you had to still type out your search, one letter at a time) and was consistently cantankerous in connecting with Netflix, he ordered a Chromecast and voila, we’re now able to use our phones (both his Android and my iPhone) to “talk” to the device, immediately relaying what’s on your phone to the TV.

And our summer streaming pick from Netflix? Broadchurch. 

Audio media – I’ve been a podcast listener for over a decade, but discovering some new ones, or really good episodes of shows I’ve long appreciated, have been great ways to be informed, inspired, or entertained. Using the podcast app on my iPhone I rotate what the I’m listening to (like the order of books I choose to read) and use the “Up Next” feature to create a playlist so after one podcast is through, a different one will immediately follow.

Podcasts saving my life this summer:

Shauna Niequist

Making Oprah

Fresh Air

Up First

And after hearing rave reviews about the Audible version of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, I bought it on sale, and am LOVING this middle-grade WWII novel about hope, kindness, and the power of music; all things I love, but in tandem? Perfection.


What things have been saving your life this summer?

Learn: Spring 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of spring.

1. Summer = health

I know it’s not ‘officially’ summer yet, but once finals week and spring commencement are through (and they are!), my schedule slows down drastically and I’m on summer-mode. Once again, I’m reminded that summer me is the best me.

Mental health: Since I have a 12 month academic contract the slower pace enables me to use personal and vacation days without the worry of not being on campus or having to promptly respond to e-mail. I know this is somewhat self-imposed pressure, but I also know I’m not the only one. The lightning of my work load allows me time to run quick errands in the middle of the day, get caught up on back-logged tasks (a lot of academic library reading), and give myself more grace and time to enjoy creative pursuits: home renovations, trying new recipes, casting on lots of new knitting projects, and stocking up on books for pleasure reading.

Physical health: Living in Oklahoma in May is truly the sweet spot; consistent rain keeps everything green, fruits and vegetables are fresh, the humidity is blissfully low so I can enjoy crisp morning walks around the neighborhood, and attending my weekly lunchtime yoga class is a gift to myself for an hour to simply breathe, stretch, and be quiet.

Spiritual health:  Last year I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines. For Christmas I received her newest offering Present Over Perfect from The Optometrist and waiting until now to read it was such a providential decision. This now sets a summer precedent of cherishing her writing at the best possible time, when my soul is most receptive and uncluttered. On Mother’s Day she spoke at Willow Creek, her home church in Chicago, and her statement of I’m someone who…_____________ helped me rethink the way I give, love, and serve.

2. Faith in practice

Hearing Oklahoma Senator James Lankford give the commencement address during one of our May exercises was a special opportunity. He had several applicable words of wisdom and advice for those departing from our university, one of which was this, “If you have faith, and you live in your faith, walk in your faith.”  This has resounded deeply within me and has served as a good reminder to be proud of who I am as a committed Christian and a person of faith.

 3. I can get by with less.

Recently The Optometrist and I underwent some blood testing, which required a bit of overnight fasting. Leading up to the time of the blood work we were conscious about making diligent menu choices, but even after the blood work was complete and we were cleared to eat again I realized I not only did not want to eat rich/fattening foods, but I wasn’t as immediately hungry as I thought I would be. (This coming from the girl who often gets hangry, is really saying something.) Perhaps my metabolism is thanking me for changing things up a bit?

4. Steadfast love

I recently blogged about my goal of memorizing Psalm 103 this summer and am pleased to report this goal is coming along well! I’ve found the most meaningful and productive moments of memorization come as I am out on my morning walks, carrying around a printed copy of just this Psalm, breathing out this ancient text. “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”

In both versus 4 and 8 David mentions God’s steadfast love and as I continue to read in the book of Psalms, I am now keenly attuned to each instance of this repeated phrase (and it happens a lot!). How thankful I am for God’s abiding, changeless, stubborn, and wholehearted love!

5. Savor, don’t hoard.

I’ve long had a tendency to save something I really enjoy and/or something that doesn’t come around very often: the final cookies in a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies (Samoas, please), and monthly magazines (Magnolia Journal is currently my favorite) are two that namely come to mind.

But my tendency is then to wait too long – the cookies grow stale before I’ve finished them and the new month’s magazine arrives before I’ve sat down to fully read the previous month’s.

So as the summer begins I’m reminded to fully live in the moment, savoring and enjoying the simple things, without guilt of the completion of a task, or worry about what’s to come. It’s been freeing and liberating!