What I’ve Learned: June & July 2016

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

  1. After returning from a lovely getaway to Branson and finishing a wonderful book at the end of May/beginning of June, I was left feeling quite sad. The thought occurred to me, I don’t like things I love to be over or come to an end. My mom can attest to the fact I’ve had these tendencies since I was a little girl, and apparently, some things just don’t change over time.
  2. I am much more productive when I have some accountability in my life. It’s easy for my summer (work) routine to become a little lethargic, but when I know I have a deadline and people are coming in and out of my office more, it’s amazing how much more focused and productive I am. It leaves me with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment at the end of the work day.
  3. While I’ve been a knitter since 2003, I’m never above being challenged by a new combination of stitches in a pattern. This month I worked on/finished knitting the French Cancan shawl, which included a beautiful lace & French braid border. The instructions were intimidating for me at first, especially the yarn over (YO) that began a row. But after trying other methods, I realized I just needed to trust the pattern and it worked!
  4. I’ve finally hopped on the Hamilton bandwagon – what an amazing display of musical brilliance! The Optometrist and I downloaded the cast recording and listened to it on our road trip to Santa Fe. It was a perfect accompaniment to appreciate a founding father and a modern musical theatre visionary as we traveled across great American prairies, deserts, and mountains.
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    What I did not know was that Lin-Manuel Miranda was one of the 2015 MacArthur Foundation recipients (a.k.a. genius grant). Of course he was.
  5. Each time I’ve been to the southwest, I’ve picked up a little piece of turquoise jewelry. During our recent travels to Santa Fe, I bought a lovely turquoise pendant to add to my collection. The gentleman at the jewelry store shared with me how turquoise differs in color throughout different regions in the southwest based on the amount of carbon in the earth. I found this science fascinating and fell in love with the lighter look of “dry creek” turquoise.
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  6. A new recipe reminded me of the half-used bag of quinoa lurking in my pantry. This protein-packed grain ended up making more than I bargained for, and thus helpfully sustained several dishes a few weeks ago (1 cup of dry = over 5 cups cooked). It was convenient to have this rice alternative pre-cooked and in the fridge, just ready for a quick reheat/add/stir into dishes with chicken or shrimp and fresh summer veggies like corn on the cob, squash, and zucchini.
  7. The Optometrist and I are learning how to play violin! He’s a mandolinist, which has the same tuning structure as violin, and I last played violin my junior year of college during a semester-long string fundamentals course. We have a dear, talented friend from church who is teaching us how to play and we’re seeing improvement already!

What I’ve Learned: May 2016

These are the four things I learned, or was reminded of, in May:

  1. God’s Word is living & active.
    As I journey through the Old Testament, I’ve become aware that passages in 2 Samuel correspond to similar accounts found in 1 Chronicles. Similar to the Gospels in the New Testament, details might be slightly different, but the stories of King David are reinforced through the inspired writing of God’s Holy Word.
  2. It is good to celebrate others.
    The end of the semester included a campus-wide employee recognition, and although I was not the recipient of a nominated award, it was a wonderful feeling to genuinely be happy for those who were selected and celebrate their well-earned achievements.
  3. It is good to celebrate with others.
    A birthday (divisible by five) seemed like a good excuse to invite a group of our people over for cupcakes (sugar free!) and ice cream. Having lived in our pretty little town for six years now, it was nice to gather some of my favorite individuals from work, knitting, and church under one roof to fellowship with one another. I’ve been reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, which inspired me to pursue gathering friends for an opportunity to celebrate. It just so happened my birthday was the catalyst, but the truth is that we all need times to simply celebrate life and God’s goodness.
  4. As I do every year near my birthday, it’s always good to take time and smell the roses.
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More than Enough

My how the summer has flown, yet I have many good things to show for it. Since I finished working in summer school, my body has taken revenge on me. Perhaps working forty plus hours a week and taking five credit hours of graduate level work wasn’t the smartest idea. However, the past few days have afforded me somewhat of a reprieve and I look forward to having a few more days to rest before I start it all over again. First things first, however. Photo recaps!

Friday, July 17 – My last day working in summer school! Since my good friends Isaac and Stephanie had birthdays surrounding this weekend we began the evening by enjoying Mongolian cuisine and followed it up with all American ice cream from Cold Stone. I came home happy and full.
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Saturday, July 18 – I arose early to catch a morning matinee of the new Harry Potter movie. It’s a good thing I’ve read the books and know how the story turns out, so I wasn’t too sad upon leaving the theater.
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Sunday, July 19 – baking snickerdoodles and sampling them with glass of milk was the perfect way to spend part of my Sunday afternoon.
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Monday, July 20 – my summer has afforded me time to knit, knit, knit! I’ve since finished three dishrags out of this one skein of yarn! These are made from the Hobby Lobby brand 100% cotton yarn, which was on sale the last time I was there. They are so soft and look like they have flecks of mint chocolate chip ice cream in them. It makes them perfect for the kitchen!
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Tuesday, July 21 – My last night meeting online for my summer Youth Service in Libraries class. I really enjoyed it, and have since found out I got A’s in both the classes I took this summer. I am thankful!
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Wednesday, July 22 – Wendy’s has Magic Tree House audio books in their kids meals right now. I love that they’re promoting literacy as a “toy!” I’ve gotten this one, Stage Fright on a Summer Night, along with Hour of the Olympics and have found them both entertaining. The photo booth pictures tucked underneath came about when Photo Booth STL came for a fun event held at the Theatre weeks prior.
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Thursday, July 23 – rooftop view from the Theatre looking at the downtown area.
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Friday, July 24 – free lawn tickets to see Coldplay in concert in St. Louis with Markli was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. Being able to meet up with my college roommate Sally and her husband Nathan was an added bonus to the already memorable evening. Look! It’s Chris Martin!!!!
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Saturday, July 25 – the season finale of our summer concert season wrapped up nicely. I’ll be staying on, working as much as my schedule will allow, throughout this school year. I enjoy being around the creative and innovative people that work there and the kind patrons that grace our theatre with their presence. It’s been a pleasant addition and blessing to my summer.
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Sunday, July 26 – Maresa and I are Mac twins. As soon as Markli gets hers this weekend, we’ll be triplets.
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Monday, July 27 – last week found me doing some final overhauling of the Choral Library on campus, my independent study project.
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Tuesday, July 28 – baby booties to fit a baby’s…um, foot. I think they turned out as cute as a bug’s ear. I’m now working on some blue ones.
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Wednesday, July 29 – another free outdoor concert in town, this time featuring The Wallflowers. They can drive it home with one headlight. (One of my favorite tunes in high school.)
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Thursday, July 30 – another day working at the Choral Library, with an afternoon break outside.
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Friday, July 31 – my final day working at the Choral Library! This is, hands down, the scariest part of the work I encountered. I have left it in good, capable hands, who can hopefully make sense of this headache composed of men’s, women’s, and vocal jazz music.
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Saturday, August 1 – the girls and I took in a local taste of the farmer’s market on Saturday night. Along the way we met up with Aarik & Brooke. All in all, it was a most enjoyable evening of food, stirring conversation, and beautiful weather.
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Sunday, August 2 – on my way south to visit mom & dad I stopped and bought a People Magazine, featuring the cast of Saved by the Bell, twenty years later. How my adolescent Saturday mornings were defined by this show, along with Inside Stuff, of course.
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Monday, August 3 – vacation time with mom & dad! Going to Branson is a longstanding tradition for us, and we really enjoy the times we get to spend there together. I continue to appreciate the way many of the shows and attractions take an unashamed stance on Jesus and the power of the Gospel. Monday night we caught the Pierce Arrow show, which featured some good sing along music and laugh out loud comedy.
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Tuesday, August 4 – the hourly fountain & fire show at the Branson Landing was a great way to end our evening, especially with a full moon coming up over Lake Taneycomo.
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Wednesday, August 5 – me and my dad with the scenic Ozark mountains and the Sight & Sound theatre behind us.
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Thursday, August 6 – a new haircut, a return to town, and another night on the job.
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Friday, August 7 – I was fortunate enough to have a goodbye lunch today with my good friends Joel & Laura. Joel has a new job working as a music professor at a university out of state! How I will miss them so.
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My new favorite thing is Improv Everywhere. After hearing an interview with Charlie Todd on the Bob Edward’s Weekend show (NPR), I’ve recently discovered this New York City troupe. Their mission to “cause scenes of joy and chaos in public places” in an non threatening way makes me laugh right out loud. Check out their videos at Improv Everywhere. With this plug, I’m off to rest and get ready for a day of NYI Convention tomorrow and my big ten year high school reunion tomorrow night.

Silver Lining

Talk about God’s timing and seeing the silver lining in the cloud! Yesterday I took my application, resume, and other necessary paperwork to the public school HR office around 10:30 and felt confident that I had everything in order. I left and went to campus to check my e-mail and pick up a USA Today (book review day, of course). Around 11:30 my phone buzzed, but since I didn’t recognize the number and didn’t want to carry on a conversation in the library, let it go to voice mail. When I checked my voice mail a few minutes later, I was so surprised to understand that one of the elementary schools had already been notified of my interest and called to schedule an interview with me! As I was talking with the principal, I heard another call come in, but let it go to voice mail so I could finish my conversation. As I ended the first conversation, I was even more surprised to discover that the other call was from a second principal at another elementary school in town! So I now have two interviews today! Both of the jobs are similar in work load and pay, so I will wait and see how they go, and then make a decision if I am offered a positions. I left campus with a smile on my face and God’s peace radiating throughout my entire being.

EDIT: And I have read 7 books during the month of July. I looked back in my trusty reading log and verified my status. Being ahem, “between jobs,” shall we say, has given me ample time to let the book worm in me shine forth during this past month. 🙂

How I enjoy the weekends, so. This whole working 40 hours a week thing has taken a little adjustment, and the weekend has become, yet again, my solace from the busyness of the week that has been. Just when I’ve started to get into my routine (now requiring me to be at the testing center by 7:30 every morning. Yuck.), the job is almost over. We’ve succeeded in grading thousands upon thousands of standardized tests. I’ve personally graded thousands of 10th and 11th grade English and Science tests. Since I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement, I unfortunately can’t share any great off task comments that I’ve read, but trust me, there have been some doozys and have definitely served to break up the monotony of the on task students.

Yes, my weekend has served as a reprieve from the busyness of the week. I sang in another small ensemble concert this past Wednesday night. While the dress rehearsals took up most of my evening/after work time, it was good for me to socialize and sing with friends. (Too much alone time is never a good thing for me.) The concert went well, and to celebrate, I went to Dairy Queen with some friends after. Nothing says job well done like a waffle bowl of ice cream and chocolate.

Thursday Kyle and I had a spur of the moment dinner, which worked well for us both. It was my first time having Greek food (where I have I been?) and to commemorate the occasion I had, what else? A gyro – however it’s pronounced. Tasty lamb and pork (I think) with such good flavor made it a great first-Greek-experience in my book. After dinner we dodged the raindrops and went to Best Buy where I bought the new Coldplay CD “Viva La Vida” for $9.99. Thank you Best Buy for a good buy on a CD I’ve been long awaiting. Yesterday morning was the first chance I had to sit down and listen to it in its entirety. While it’s definitely their own unique sound, I heard hints of Queen and John Lennon, as well as new minimalism techniques previously unemployed. For me, it is a brand new, artistic approach to their music, and quite frankly, I like it a lot. In the first few listens, “42” and “Death and All His Friends” are my favorites. All in all, it caught me by surprise, planted a smile on my face, and kept my toe tapping.

Thinking of other first time experiences, last night I had dinner with friends and afterward we watched “Sweeney Todd.” Okay, seriously? Why didn’t someone tell me that it’s way too creepy and gross for my liking and comfort level? I was so glad that I did not pay money to see it in the theatre – I would’ve been a basket case with accompanying bad dreams. I had to come home and watch part of “The Holiday” just to get my mind off of it. The universal appeal of one Johnny Depp was overshadowed by creepsters Tim Burton and Stephen Sondheim, in my opinion. And the one song I knew from it (the theme song) wasn’t even included. Big disappointment.

In happier news, I had my first opportunity to play piano in our praise band tonight at church. I’ve been playing on Wednesday night for the youth service for several weeks, and always enjoy it, but getting to play some great hymns of the faith, which I grew up singing, and then pulling out “Friend of God” for offertory made my heart overflow with musical happiness. And since the piano at the church is a Steinway makes it all the more better. Now that I don’t necessarily HAVE to perform, playing and singing are a lot more fun, and the pressure of perfection is no longer a concern. For this, I am so thankful. Thinking of church, we are hosting the Power Team later in August as a combination revival/community and school outreach. I remember seeing them several years ago at SBU, so for an average church our size to host such a recognizable group is quite the undertaking. But we’re up for the challenge and the Lord has already begun working, placing people on my heart to invite. If anyone is in the area and wants to come, it should be quite the event. Our goal is to have 500 people in attendance each of the five nights they are here, and we’re already thinking there will be a lot more than that. We’ll soon find out!

On the reading front – this week I met some of my new classmates in the MLS program. I’m pleased to say that they are all very normal and nice. Therefore, the librarian stereotype that is steeped in tradition is being broken, one book loving individual at a time. Including yours truly. 🙂 The summer reading program at the library also kicked off this week and our community One Read pick for the summer is “The Whistling Season” by Ivan Doig. I checked it out on Tuesday and am excited to read it and be a part of the upcoming fall events, which will surround the plot and characters of the novel. So between working 40 hours, “The Whistling Season,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and the ever-pressing need to work on quizzes for my online class, I’m one busy girl. And it’s just the way I wanted my summer to be.

There’s something to be said for routine, even in the summer. And I think I’ve found it. In the past few weeks since school adjourned, I applied for several part-time jobs around town, not receiving positive results from any of them. After Kim, a friend from church, clued me in to a position she knew of through her work, and a few interviews later, last Monday I started working a full-time summer job grading standardized tests for the State, and technically for the University. I admit, looking at a computer screen and grading over 1000 questions (the same question) every day is a little mind numbing, it’s still a decent paycheck and I get to sit down and be in the air conditioning, so I can’t complain. I’ve even made a few friends, which is always a good thing, and a reminder of how small the world is. Arriving at work every day by 8:15 has proven to be an interesting challenge. In each of the jobs I’ve ever had, arriving at the same time (especially before 9:00 a.m.) has been a non-issue, so I’m chalking this one up for the memory books! Due to about a 20 minute commute, dealing with both 8:00 and 5:00 traffic, I’ve quickly discovered that packing my lunch and setting out my clothes the night before makes my morning much less harried. Today we finished a huge portion of grading so tomorrow will be bring about training for a new test and working with a new group of people. Bring it on.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been able to do some fun things with some fun people. Some of them have been:
– taking a mini road trip to Bolivar with Aarik & Brooke. Seeing the Daveys and eating lunch at Kathy’s Pasta made for new memories and reminded us of the past. And when did the Walgreens pop up on the corner of Aldrich and Springfield?! The wheels of progress continue to turn…
– a few weekends ago my family and I attended a Cardinals game (beating the Astros, I might add), and the next day we journeyed to Branson to see the new musical based on the life of Noah. It was a sold-out sneak preview and had very few technical glitches, so the performance perfectionist in me was relatively at ease through the show. The weekend also included spending time with family, having lunch with Addie, and doing some shopping on the way home.
– before Aarik and Brooke ventured east for the summer, we, along with Kyle, saw “Young @ Heart” at the RagTag a few weeks ago. Older people being exposed to modern music, and marveling at the resilience of a “can do” attitude made for a heartwarming movie-going experience. Last week I finally got around to seeing “Prince Caspian” with Markli – see Facebook for fun photos. I had heard mixed reviews for Narnia 2, as I saw it advertised in one location, but left the theatre thinking it was pretty good. I had re-read the book a few weeks ago to refresh my memories of the C.S. Lewis classic, plus I’m a big sucker for comparing the book to the movie, and this time was not an exception. While there were several liberties to the visual story line, I didn’t feel like any of them were out of character that conflicted with its literary inspiration and really loved the Regina Spektor song “The Call” that helps conclude the movie.
– For the 82nd consecutive year, my family met for our annual reunion this past weekend. This was the first year without my grandma, but her presence remained close and dear. My mom and I chuckled at the memories of her in a dither worrying about fixing enough food to fix when people would stop by her house. She needn’t have worried – food was in an abundance and I was proud that I took the time to engage in conversation with some family members I previously had not gotten to know very well. The thought came to mind on Friday night, this is who we are: broken and wounded, transparent and vulnerable, and yet reliant on one another as we reach out to each other year after year. As I grow older, I desire to continue the tradition of meeting together yearly, which my great-great grandpa desired for his family to maintain. There’s something about our reunion that always makes me feel like a kid. The feel of cool grass between my toes, which often results in receiving my first bug bites of the summer, the marvel of seeing the first lightening bugs flicker in the twilight sky, the assurance that my belly will be full of good food, and the happiness of sharing who I am with those I love always does my heart a world of good. Enough to last me until this time next year.

My summer reading list is coming along. Monday I finished “The Inner Voice” by Renee Fleming, and since then have dabbled in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Dandelion Wine,” and “Me Talk Pretty One Day” (so excited about David Sedaris’ new book “When You’re Engulfed in Flames”!). While I was in Springfield a few weeks ago I cashed in my last few dollars on a Borders gift card and redeemed a 30% off coupon to buy this year’s Pulitzer winner for fiction, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. It now joins my ever-expanding to-read list (sooner or later…). During our family reunion weekend I was so pleased that my cousin Linda from Dallas was in attendance again this year. She and I had a lovely conversation about books on Saturday night after stuffing ourselves with fish and hushpuppies. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect evening.

After a wonderful night of music, fellowship, and being stirred by the Rob Bell “Breathe” Nooma video at church, this is what my week looks like halfway through.

Doing What I Can

Last week was a tough and stressful one – taking the GRE on Saturday morning and preparing for a test on Italian vocal composers on Monday. Plus it was cold, snowy, and gross, which didn’t help my desperate feelings and ponderings of God’s plans for my future. After much frustration and tears, the Holy Spirit has brought me peace and the reminder that God sees where I am and hasn’t led me this far to leave me. Therefore this week, I have done my best to live in the moment of breathing fresh air, drinking clean water, laughing with friends, and rehearsing some terrifically fun music (i.e. Orff’s “Carmina Burana”).

Happiness and blessings come in all shapes and sizes. A few that have made my life a little sweeter over the past week or so are:
– watching the return of “The Office” with Aarik, Brooke, & friends, and subsequently winning a faux Olympic bronze medal (made out of a yogurt lid and paper clips inspired by the episode “Office Olympics”) for knowing trivia about one of our favorite TV shows
– calling my favorite 6 year old to wish him a happy birthday and hearing him say, “Sarah, I’ve been missing you for so many days”
– finding out that I just may get into the library science grad program, despite missing the necessary GRE hoop-jumping score by a lousy 10 points
– enjoying my new-to-me Corel dishes, which once belonged to my grandma. Her memory lives on as I come to my table and dine 🙂
– receiving lots of great mail this week: including a wedding invitation from my friend Hannah, my “Real Simple” magazine, a letter from my other grandma, and an update from friends on the mission field sharing how God is at work where they are
– listening to the Cardinals on the radio and know that they are WINNING lots of games
– engaging in quality phone conversations with dear friends Addie, Megan, & Sarah. God has blessed me with some wonderfully sympathetic, esteeming, and kindred-spiritied sisters in Christ
– watching the Nooma video “Rich” on Wednesday night at church, which convicted and reminded me of how blessed I truly am. Then fellowshiping with friends at Steak ‘n Shake after our Wednesday night gathering
– attending the spring opera, Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amor,” and hearing my very talented friends demonstrate their hard work
– having God’s Word come alive to me through reminders the that “the battle belongs to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17) and “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Words of truth that have spoken volumes to my soul
– reading more of Karen Kingsbury’s books. She’s my new favorite. Spring reading makes me anticipate compiling my summer reading list. I always have so many options! Maybe if I post it here, I will follow through with each selection…maybe. Oh, and I’m pondering writing a book. It might be a long shot, but I have this idea in my head that God has given me, and with Him all things are possible…
– living out of my heart – baking banana bread and snickerdoodles and sharing them with friends so I can be a blessing to others through simple, homemade gestures

And now, it’s another Saturday. French toast and bacon, working on a presentation about the vocal music of Gustav Holst, possibly seeing the new Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” and grocery shopping at Aldi (my new favorite discount hangout) will probably be the extent of my day. How I desire to live a simple life and enjoy its unassuming pleasures.

As my mom shared with me this morning, I share with you: “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~ John Wooden

Yes and amen.