Learn: end of Summer reflections

For the first time in a number of years, I feel like the summer lasted the appropriate amount of time. Sometimes it crawls by, sometimes it flies by too quickly, but this summer found a steady, restful pace for me. While I worked almost daily Monday-Friday and enjoyed a very quiet academic library, I was ready for our academic year to begin on August 20. As I reflect on May-June-July, here are some encapsulations about Summer, inspired by Janssen from Everyday Reading and Emily P. Freeman.

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Reading (favorites):

Listening:

  • Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
  • Yonder Mountain String Band
  • new Punch Brothers album All Ashore (we’re seeing them in concert this weekend!)
  • Billy Joel
  • Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Winter

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Watching:

  • The heartwarming documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? How the world needs more people with the sort of kindness Mr. Rogers demonstrated.
  • We’re now all caught up with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Blacklist and have moved on to past seasons of Doctor Who, finishing series 2,  3,  4, and 5.  I’ve began watching Chef’s Table and am loving it.

Exercising:

  • Morning neighborhood walks
  • Water rower
  • Lunchtime yoga

Wearing:

  • Letting my hair air-dry wavy (something I always wished I could have, now a dream come true, thanks to the ridiculous Oklahoma heat and humidity).
  • A “uniform” of mix & match separates (dressy tops & skirts), lightweight dresses, and sandals/flats/shoes without panty hose.

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Eating:

  • Ruth Reichl’s lemon pasta
  • Pioneer Woman honey soy salmon 
  • Enjoying using fresh herbs from our back porch to season dishes (cilantro, basil, stevia, and chives). After a few steady rain showers, I discovered how this amount of extra water allowed my herbs and other flowers to thrive…a good analogy for personal hydration and life in general.

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Traveling:

  • Pawhuska, OK – The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Boarding House. Both are definitely worth the visit/stay!
  • Kansas City, MO – hurrah for a little vacation that included seeing my dear friend Megan!
  • Branson, MO – our tried-and-true favorite place to visit.

Regretting:

  • Not making the time to explore local museums.
  • Good intentions but no execution of tackling several “unread shelf” books with summer themes.

What have you learned this summer? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

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These are the days of…

  • Turning another year older
  • Embracing a slower summer schedule
  • Oklahoma verdant and jungle-like
  • Morning walks around the neighborhood
  • Yellow rose bushes planted a year ago in our front yard, now filled with healthy, fragrant blooms
  • White-headed, sprouted clover in open fields
  • The heady fragrance of honeysuckle in the wild thicket of woods behind our neighbors’ house
  • A new cedar wind-turner, finished by The Optometrist
  • Placing a red & white checkered tablecloth over our puzzle table to convert it to a bistro table that overlooks the wind-turner and bird feeders in our back yard
  • A deep dive into the book of Esther in our Sunday School class and the conversations it inspires
  • The Blacklist on Netflix
  • Digital audio books borrowed from the public library
  • Anticipated vacation to travel to new places to rest, eat good food, and see beloved friends
  • Daily journaling
  • One new poem every day
  • One new recipe every week
  • The sweet, cool scent of ripened nectarines; my favorite summer fruit and the encapsulation of how this season smells to me

“These are the days of…” is inspired from Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Daily routine – Advent edition

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

—Annie Dillard

Recently, Katie from Cakes, Teas, and Dreams listed this quote and blogged about her daily routine, its everyday ordinariness, and the comfort this brings. When partnered with Emily P. Freeman’s clarion call to simplicity, over the past few days I’ve payed more attention to this sacred echo and the quiet moments that bring balance and order to my life in this season of Advent.

Weekday Mornings

The alarm goes off around 6:00 a.m. and I am usually the first to fully awaken. These mornings when the Earth tilts the farthest away from the Sun mean a few extra moments to lay in bed and by the light of my phone check the day’s weather, e-mail, Instagram, blogs, and read in Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman.

Shortly thereafter I putter around to feed Sylvester, turn on indoor Christmas lights, and return back to bed for a few last warm cuddles with The Optometrist and the kitty before returning to the kitchen to make us a quick breakfast.

Entering the kitchen heat from the vent warms my feet as I tap the iPod speaker to play Christmas music while I gather smoothie ingredients. It is most often a banana, ice, peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla & coconut extract, and almond milk (from Cooking Classy). Over the weekend I bake a dozen muffins, enough to last us the week, so I also pop two in the microwave with a little pat of butter to round out our breakfast (this orange cranberry muffin recipe is our current go-to, seasonal favorite). Before heading out the door The Optometrist and I usually incorporate a bit of reading aloud – the day’s Jesus Calling devotional and/or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers.

As I arrive on campus, I greet our student workers and staff before heading upstairs to my office and turning on my lamps and M&M Christmas lights. The library is busy with students studying for finals, but at this point they no longer require research assistance, so I relish the quiet refuge of my office. At the end of the semester e-mails are less assailing than they have been, but mornings usually mean catch-up time from what’s arrived since the night before. It’s also imperative I login to Blackboard to check for straggling assignments I need to score so students will have a better idea of their final grade.

Weekday Afternoons

Living in a small community means having only a 5-10 drive to and from work, which is convenient for going home to eat lunch. Most of the time this means we reheat leftovers and squeeze in a few moments to watch clips on YouTube via our Chrome Cast: Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, or Rhett & Link.

Sometimes we ride together, sometimes we grab a quick bite to eat at a nearby Chinese or pizza buffet, and sometimes we fly solo – especially on Thursdays when I often attend a lunchtime yoga class downtown, taught by my favorite teacher Mindy.

Returning to campus, I often have afternoon meetings and/or follow-up to-dos from committee work that needs to be addressed before the university closes for Christmas break or shortly after we reopen in January. This is also a prime time to clean accumulated clutter and organize files in my library office before the end of the calendar year.

Weekday Evenings

I don my handknits to stay warm in my car as a local radio station plays Christmas music and I return home to the inviting glow of our exterior Christmas lights, already on thanks to a pre-set timer.

On nights when we have a scheduled music/civic/church event, it’s kibble for kitty and a quick dinner reheat for us before we grab jackets, gloves, and scarves and head out once more. Lately Tuesday evening has been my night to meet up with friends to knit and chat at a local coffee shop and Wednesday evenings find us both at church, rehearsing Christmas choral arrangements for upcoming services.

But the best nights are the ones when we are able to stay home and cook together – especially soup or something else hearty and comforting that can take temporary residence on our Christmas china. As we eat with tea light candles lit around us we debrief about our respective days, mention conversations shared with colleagues, and update one another on upcoming plans that might have adjusted.

The hours after dinner are typically filled with a rotation of playing music together, watching a Christmas movie or something on Netflix (Broadchurch and The Great British Baking Show are two current favorites), gaming (him), knitting or reading (me), a cup of herbal tea (both), and a few text messages exchanged with my parents before bedtime.

Then before another day dawns I often read aloud from Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien, we ask one another, “What are three good things that happened to you today?,” and offer up a prayer of supplication and gratitude to Emmanuel, God with us.


These rhythms of life are grounding, are they not? Despite the hustle of the season, I hope you too are taking time to seek quiet, holy moments. Feel free to share your Advent routine 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!

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  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?