life

What I’m Into: February 2016 Edition

 

The past few days have felt positively spring-like here in South Carolina and I am hopeful that it’s here to stay. As someone who is cold 95% of the time, even the mild winters we experience in the south can feel long to me, so I’m all about spring showing up. I’ve been struggling with my health a bit this month, and feeling generally tired and sluggish, and I think warmer weather might help with that as well. Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into this month.

What I’m Reading:

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas. This is the second Veronica Mars book in what I hope will be an ongoing series. As I said about the first one, if you are already a fan of Veronica Mars as a show and a movie, you will love these. If you aren’t familiar, you might still enjoy them just for the mystery-solving detective aspect, but some of the tone and the connection between the characters might be lost on you.

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman. This is the third book of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I read the first two books and I think half of this one several years ago. I was intrigued by the first two, but remember feeling like this one dragged. This time I listened to the audio version which is a dramatized reading almost like a radio play. Even with the great reading, it still felt a little long and plodding and much more heavy-handed than the other two in his criticisms of the church and of religion. Definitely not my favorite of the trilogy.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This is another of those YA books that I wouldn’t give to my young teenager, but maybe to the right older teen. The really powerful thing about this book is that it is an honest and revealing portrayal of mental illness in teens that isn’t always talked about openly. Violet and Finch meet on a ledge of the school bell tower, both contemplating their own deaths. In meeting, they save each other, at least for the day, and their meeting leads to a friendship that helps and challenges each of them in different ways.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. I am fairly recent Rob Lowe fan with most of my exposure to him coming from Parks and Recreation and his new show, The Grinder, so I enjoyed these stories about Rob Lowe’s show biz journey, starting as a teen heart throb in the 80’s If you’re not very interested in the movie and television industry then this might not be the book for you, but if you are interested in it or just like Rob Lowe in general than this is a fun and easy read.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. I’m a huge fan of The Princess Bride so I really enjoyed this book telling some of the behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the film and the people involve from Cary Elwes, who played Wesley. In particular, the stories about Andre the Giant, who played Fezzig in the movie, are funny and heartwarming.

In January I read about half of Sarah Bessey’s newest book, Out of Sorts, and fully intended to finish it this month, but I sort of lost momentum. It shouldn’t take too long once I pick it back up, but I’ve been distracted by other things. If you want to see what I’m reading and what I think of it, be sure to follow me on Goodreads!

What I’m Listening To:

I’ve been really enjoying Modern Mrs. Darcy’s new What Should I Read Next? podcast. This is a concept she used to do on her blog sometimes and has now converted into a podcast format where she invites a guest to answer three questions – name a book you love, a book you hate, and what you read most recently -and then gives three book recommendations based on that discussion. It’s lots of fun.

What I’m Watching:

I’m slowly working through the final season of Revenge on Netflix. Jonathan and I are trying (and sometimes failing) to stay current with Brooklyn Nine Nine, New Girl, and our new fave, The Grinder. To be honest, we’ve been busy and haven’t spent a ton of time watching shows together. We did see Hail, Caesar! at the theater this past weekend and we both enjoyed it even though the trailer is a bit misleading. Channing Tatum is hysterical in it.

What I’m Eating:

I went through about a 3-week period where I was eating Chinese takeout every Sunday evening. I just had to have it. The cashew chicken at Yummy Yummy II is bomb. I also made a ton of cookies and strawberry cream cheese muffins for the Bible Study retreat I went on at the beginning of the month. I use this bread recipe and just do muffins instead. I also add chocolate chunks because, why not? Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.

What I’m Writing:

On the blog I wrote about mindfulness with this post on walks without destinations. I shared a spoken-word poem about love in honor of the 9 year anniversary of my husband and I becoming a couple. I shared Vol. 2 of What’s on my Bookshelf. And I wrote about my continual struggle to fully live in the present even as I look with expectation to the future.

For Modernize I wrote an article on ways to hide cords, cables and other eyesores and started a series of style 101 posts. So far I’ve tackled Minimalist Style and Rustic Style.

What I’ve Been Up To:

For such a short month, February has packed a punch. The first weekend of the month I went away for a women’s retreat with the women from my Bible study. We stayed in this amazing house at Lake Lure, NC, which is where Dirty Dancing was filmed. In fact, it was a very Dirty Dancing themed weekend, complete with my friend Buffy and I doing a lip sync dance to Time of My Life incorporating some signature moves from the movie. Besides all of the great fun, it was also a rich and meaningful time and a great opportunity to get away.

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I heart these people. I heart them hard.

The following week I subbed at the school I tutor at for the entire week, so that kept me pretty busy. That weekend was Valentine’s Day and we had an oh-so-romantic dinner of burgers and fried pickles after which I fell asleep. Epic romance.

The next week we had agreed to stay with some of our friends’ kids for five days while they were out of town. We moved into their house on Wednesday night and stayed with their 3 kids and 2 Saint Bernards until the following Monday. It was fun and tiring all at once and kind of a unique opportunity to imagine what life could look like for us in 15 years. I think Jonathan and I may have had slightly different experiences of it, but it was fun to do together.

What have you been up to and into?

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We took our temporary kids to see this giant tree. Cause we’re super fun like that.

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Our temporary dog was not as easily won over.

 

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Call Me Maybe: A Guest Post About Embarrassment, Failure, and Karaoke

I am so excited today to be featured over on Lindsey Smallwood’s fantastic blog, Songbird & a Nerd. Lindsey asked me to write about a time when I experienced something out of the ordinary – a time when novelty causes us to notice. I could almost have picked any day of my two years in Korea at random and found material for this, but I chose to write about a less-than-glorious moment and what it taught me about Failure, Shame, and letting Life shout the loudest.

“Perhaps the only thing Koreans love as much as kimchi and soju is singing karaoke, or norebang as it is called in Korean. Singing is such a deeply embedded part of Korean culture that it’s virtually unthinkable to be Korean and not sing (sort of like being Korean and not drinking, but that’s a different story for a different time). Much like golf in America, singing karaoke is a perfectly normal and acceptable thing to do as part of a business meeting or work event.  

When we’d first arrived at the restaurant I’d scouted the room for the telltale sign of the cart with the microphones, speaker, and video screen and had been comforted when I didn’t immediately see one. I should have known there was always one in reserve.”

Read the rest of this post here and be sure to check out other stories on Lindsey’s blog!

Life in the In-Between

I’m living an in-between life.

The days grow longer and hotter, the mercury already rising near 90 some afternoons, and I remember what it is to live coated with a constant sheen of sweat. But even as I dread the oppressive heat and the thick cloak of humidity beginning to descend, I remember that the cool kiss of the air in the mornings and the smell of the jasmine in the park and the dozens little voices screaming, “Hello, Lily Teacher!” from across the school yard will only be memories sooner than I know.

I measure my days in lasts – last cherry blossom season, last hikes, last baseball games, last weekend trips, last nights hopping in cabs and speeding home through the city with its crazy drivers and its flashing neon signs. Last few months of stability before this life disappears and I’m trying to find my place all over again.

Soon we’ll have our last home church meeting as the family who hosts us returns to the US for the summer. And then we will have last meals with our friends as one-by-one we leave this place and return to our Before lives. But we are not our Before selves.

For months I’ve dreamed of home – of a place where no one stares at me while I try to run errands or pushes me out of the way on the bus. I’ve dreamed of my mother who hugs fiercely and breathes deeply every time she sees me, so she can remember the smell of me when I’m gone again. Of a grocery store full of foods whose names I know, where cheese doesn’t go on cookies and where a watermelon never costs $16. And I’ve dreamed of my friends, the ones whose lives I’ve missed little by little as we’ve each taken two years of steps in different directions. But the closer I get to home, the more I understand that this home doesn’t exist anymore. At least not in the way I remember it.

I see it most clearly when I talk to my friends in America. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing the role of Before self in our conversations, unsure if this New self still fits. And as each day brings us closer to our return I find myself clinging to this life we’ve built – to all the strange and difficult things that have become oddly familiar, and to the adventure of it all, something I’ve nearly forgotten in my months of homesickness.

“What if this is it?” I wail to my husband. “What if this is all the adventure we are ever going to get and I spent so many months ready to move on?”

He says adventure is only over when we choose to see it that way. He says adventure is a gift that comes in different shapes and sizes – we only miss it if we reject the gift entirely.

I try to pray about all of this. About being torn between home and this strange place that has crept its way into my heart and about the fear of no longer belonging. I try to pray and I find myself reading Mary Oliver instead. She writes at the end of “The Summer’s Day”.

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

And the words come to me like a grace.

You are already living your one wild and precious life, Love. Pay attention. Today may be all the adventures you will ever live. What are you going to do with it?

And I catch my breath. Because in the midst of all of it – the fear, the uncertainty, the longing for things that don’t exist anymore, the warring desires to stand still and to run forward–isn’t this still the question that matters?

We are all living in the in-between, caught somewhere between who we’ve been and who we are becoming. But we are all also living in the very center of our one dazzling life. Pay attention. What is it you plan to do with that today?