What I’m Into: March 2016 Edition

I freaking love spring. Even though my car is positively yellow with pollen and the temperature fluctuates from 48 to 85 in one day, I love it. I love the colors, I love the sunshine, I love the warmth. I love the long, light-filled evenings. Basically, I’m a fan. Linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post.

What I’m Reading:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. This book blew me away. Surgeon Atul Gawande explores what it might look like if we accepted the inevitability of our own mortality, and if doctors specifically focused not just on prolonging life at all costs, but on helping people die well. One of the most compelling parts was considering how the seriously ill might choose to live their remaining days if they accepted the limits of their lives instead of living through invasive procedure after procedure on the slim hope of buying more time later. (This doesn’t mean assisted suicide). I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and have awkwardly worked it into dinner conversations with people who probably have no interest in discussing their own mortality, but what better mark of a great book than that you feel compelled to talk about it even in inappropriate contexts?

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller. I enjoyed this book about Miller’s own struggle to recognize the masks he hides behind and to recognize unhealthy and codependent tendencies. He is brutally honest about his own insecurities and the things he has used to cover them. This was a quick read and it made me think about how I conduct my own relationships.

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. Thirty-two year old Helen Carpenter seeks to rediscover herself after a bad divorce by signing up for a 3-week intensive wilderness survival course. She isn’t counting on her annoying little brother’s annoying best friend tagging along (cue the romantic tension). This is basically Wild as a fiction book. It had some charming moments and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything that will stay with me long-term.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. This is a YA fantasy book. I think it would have had more significance for me if I’d read Fangirl, but I haven’t. It’s a stand-alone story about a boy magician named Simon Snow. While there is the Harry Potter-esque set-up of a magical school and a boy who is destined to be the most powerful mage of all time, we pick up the story in Simon’s 8th and final year of school. There are passing references to fights with dragons and previous encounters with the insidious humdrum, but the reader is dropped into the middle of an ongoing story which makes the setting feel less stale. Each chapter is a first-person narrative from a different character’s perspective. I felt like Rowell was giving an intentional nod to all the conventions of YA magical school fantasy, then proceeding to turn those conventions on their heads. There is a mysterious headmaster, the Mage, but there are also gay vampires.  One fun element is that the system of magic spells is tied to common figures of speech, nursery rhymes, and even the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, so phrases like, “Easy come, easy go,” have magical power.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood fame). When 26-year-old Franny Banks moved to New York to become an actress, she set a deadline for herself. At the end of three years she would either be successful or give up and move on. Now that deadline is looming and Franny is frantically trying to navigate what she is and isn’t willing to do in pursuit of her dream. No great literature here, but it wasn’t poorly written and was a nice light read with a funny and charming protagonist.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I recently started a book club and this was our first pick. I LOVED this book and discussing it with others during book club made my appreciation of it even richer. It’s 1987, and 14-year-old June Elbus has just lost her uncle Finn, the person she loved most in the world, to AIDS. At Finn’s funeral, June sees a mysterious stranger who she later learns is Toby, her uncle’s secret lover. Unwilling and unable to completely let Finn go, June forges a secret friendship with Toby, the only person in the world who might just miss Finn more than she does. Through her friendship with Toby, June learns more about her own family, about compassion, and about what real love looks like.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron. This is a quick read that will make lots of women laugh (and maybe men too). While I’m not at the same life stage as Ephron was while writing this, I still enjoyed her humorous take on some of the more ridiculous aspects of what society expects of women.

Currently reading: Still Life by Louise Penny, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman , and Night Driving by Addie Zierman. Follow me on Goodreads for more of what I’m reading.

What I’m Watching

I finally made it to the end of Revenge which I’ve been watching on Netflix on and off for more than a year. The finale was somewhat satisfying. I also watched all of the Full House reboot, Fuller House. I think this is largely for people who are nostalgic about the original show as many details as well as entire plot lines are updated versions of well known Full House episodes.It’s corny, but as someone who grew up on Full House, I still kind of loved it.

This month we enjoyed a weekend getaway to a cabin outside of Asheville. While we were there we watched The Intern and Burnt (which I always refer to as “Bradley Cooper, Chef”). I liked both of these movies a lot. We also made it to see Zootopia which was cute.

What I’m Listening To

I don’t miss an episode of Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? podcast and find it great fun to listen to while I’m running – something I have been making a big effort to do more of. I’ve also gotten into a band called I am They who I first heard in my friend’s car. I think they’re from Nashville and I think their music is perfect for easy listening. Very peaceful.

What I’m Eating

I have been making a very serious effort to eat better, which for me means limiting starches and sugars and eating lots and lots of veggies and fruits and fish and some lean meats. This means I have no enticing pictures to share with you. Except. I did make this lemonade cake for Easter. Which is one of my all-time favorites.


Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes!

What I’m Writing

As you probably know, I’ve been pretty MIA from blogging this month. It was an unintentional hiatus, but I’m glad that I took some time off. I was feeling a little burnt out and if you keep reading, you’ll see why. I did do some writing to apply for a summer writing fellowship I’ve heard great things about, but unfortunately I wasn’t accepted.

The two pieces I published on the blog this month were this one about my relationship with “Mr. Jones,” a homeless man who I give reading lessons to and this one about managing my anxiety. I also continued to submit one post each week to Modernize, but they are behind on their publishing schedule and don’t have anything new up yet.

What I’ve Been Up To:

March was actually kind of nuts. In the best way. The first weekend I drove up to the Charlotte area to visit my adorably preggo friend, Asharae. The next day I went to Spartanburg to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends who has a new boyfriend I felt the need to meet and pass judgment on.


The following week, Jonathan’s parents and sister came to visit for a few days during Spring Break. I was not on spring break and had to work during the day, but it was still great to see them. We’ve been back in America for 7 months and we’ve seen Jonathan’s family four different times, which is amazing when we’d only seen them twice in the previous two years. My good friend (and college roommate) Taylor also came up from Charleston to visit for an afternoon.

The next week I hosted the first meeting of the Badass Book Club where we discussed Tell the Wolves I’m Home. It was such a great evening and we had a great discussion. That weekend Jonathan and I went on a short getaway to Asheville, NC. We stayed in a cabin a little north of Asheville -actually it was the exact same cabin we stayed in on another getaway four years ago when we were living in Raleigh. It was such a sweet time and a great opportunity to relax and just hang out together. The view was beautiful and there was an awesome hot tub.

It was especially nice to get away because the following week I had to teach a two-day business writing workshop at a local company. This was my first experience doing anything like this and I was incredibly nervous and unsure about my materials, content, and presentation, but it went well and they have already asked me to come back and do the workshop again for a different group of employees.

That week was the week of Easter and part of my church’s Easter tradition is to celebrate the Seder (Passover) meal on Maundy Thursday. We do this in small groups in each other’s homes. I went to my friends Ben and Leslie’s house and celebrated with their family and another family from our church. We went through the traditional meal with all of the symbolism. Since there were six kids there, it was a little chaotic, but also a lot of fun.

On Easter Sunday we went to church and then shared a delicious Easter lunch with our friends Buffy and Ian and their kids (and Ian’s mom). Our dear friends Brandon and Christy happened to be passing through town that afternoon and Buffy and Ian kindly invited them to join us for lunch. We had a great afternoon eating yummy foods and enjoying each others’ company. Also, my mom sent me these Jasmine pajamas in the mail for Easter!


This last week of March was supposed to be a bit slower-paced, but I found out on Monday that I would need to prepare and teach a demo class at the school I tutor at. This was part of the interview process for a 5th grade teaching position I am applying to for next school year. I spent most of this week in an adrenaline frenzy. I gave the lesson yesterday morning and it seemed to go well, though I don’t have my hopes up about the position since there are other candidates with better experience and qualifications. But, you never know until you try!

If you’ve stuck with me to the end, thank you so much for reading! I hope you are enjoying spring as much as I am and I would love to hear about what you’ve been into and up to this month!

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 13: Fun Times With CoT

This week’s adventure is an ongoing adventure that started at the beginning of March, but this past week has been  full of particularly good moments. For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you are probably familiar with my infamous Co-Teacher who I refer to simply as “CoT.” Many people have suggested that I start a Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram that is just for #stuffmycotsays. I’m open to the idea.

For those of you who wonder how I teach English to Korean elementary school students without speaking Korean, the answer is 1) lots of gesturing and using very simple words and 2) coteachers. In every class I teach I have a Korean coteacher. The coteacher’s role varies from class to class and person to person – in my 20 months of teaching in Korea I have had ten separate coteachers. Some have split teaching time with me, some have refused to let me do anything, some have refused to come to class and had me do everything, and some have more or less been in the room for classroom management purposes only. They have had different levels of English proficiency, different levels of interest in teaching English, and different levels of friendliness towards me.

Having experienced a wide variety of coteachers I feel qualified to say that current CoT is one of the weirdest people I’ve ever met, and it isn’t just because of language barriers or cultural differences or anything like that. I have been working with CoT since I started teaching in Korea, so we’ve known each other for 1 1/2 years. In the past, she was a homeroom teacher and I only taught 1 or 2 classes a week with her to her own homeroom class. This school year (which started in March) she became the head English teacher and I now teach all of the 3rd and 6th grade English classes with her. She also shares my office space with me and we sit next to each other any time that we aren’t teaching.

Some specifics about her: She is in her early 40’s and has been teaching for about 15 years. She begged for the English teacher position because she claims to very passionate about English education. Although some of our weird interactions could be attributed to the language barrier, I have worked with many Koreans with both higher and lower English levels than hers (hers is on the higher end, honestly) and have never had these kinds of interactions.

Now that you know where this is coming from, allow me to share some of my most favorite bits of conversation from the past few weeks:

I think CoT is actually a toddler:

I feel like if I look away for even one second she will destroy something. This morning I tried to show her how to use the Smart TV. As it was trying to warm up  she pushed all of the buttons and promptly broke it. Then, I turn my back for on second while I was trying to figure out what she’d done and she takes the special pens that are designed to write electronically on the smart TV and tries to use them as erasers on the white board. I said, “Oh! Don’t do that. Those are special pens for the TV.” Then she picks up a dry erase marker and writes on the TV screen and uses the special pen to try and erase that. It’s 9 am and I am already exhausted.

No Time to Prepare:

CoT: I have cancelled the first week of classes because I had no time to prepare.
Me: Ok. Cool.
CoT; (finds ping pong paddles in giant mound of crap she has just moved into our office) Let’s play ping-pong together!
Me: Now? I thought you needed time to prepare?
CoT: Ok, not now. How about 20 minutes?

After cancelling classes the entire first week of school so that she could prepare:

Me: What is your plan for class today? (It starts in 20 minutes)
CoT: I have no plan
Me: Ok, well…it’s the first class of the year so I thought we should introduce ourselves. I prepared a ppt. Do you want to introduce yourself and explain the class rules?
CoT: I have no class rules.
Me: Ok, well do you want to introduce yourself and then I’ll just do the rest.
CoT: Good idea.

CoT Gets Up in my Biz

CoT: Are you sick? You look sick today.
Me: No, I feel fine.
CoT: I think maybe you’re not feeling well?
Me: No, I’m fine. Maybe I’m a little tired. I’ve been tired this week.
CoT: Oh. Are you pregnant? (hopefully)
Me: No
CoT: Are you sure? (with knowing smile)
Me: Yes, I’m positive.
CoT; Hmmm…. (smiling to herself like she thinks I’m lying)
Are you taking Vitamin C powder?
Me: No, but I take it when I’m sick. Right now I take a multivitamin
CoT: Is it a capsule?
Me: Yes
CoT: Mmmm…capsule is not good for your body
Me: Ok

I’m not pregnant, woman. I just gained weight. Mind your own biz.

CoT Gets Up in my Biz pt. 2

CoT: Oh, Li-lee. Oh Li-Lee. I think you have a lot of clothes.
Me: Oh. Ok. (Maybe I do, but I have 8 – 10 combinations that I wear to school on a rotating basis. So I wear the same thing once a week to once every two weeks).
CoT: Every day, a new color. I do like all of your colors.
(90% of my work wardrobe is black, white, or gray)
Now every day when she comes in in the morning she looks at me and simply says, “Oh. White. White, white, white, white, white. You are wearing white.”

I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Means

We discuss what we will do in class and I write it on the board.
1. Review 2. Dictation quiz 3. Textbook page 16, etc.
The first class arrives 5 minutes early.
CoT, with no preamble, runs to the front of the room and says. “Number One: What grade are you in?”
The children look like they have no idea what is happening. Some students aren’t even there because class has not officially started yet. I figure she changed her mind about the order of things.
As she dictates,  I erase the first two things on the board and switched them so it said 1. Dictation quiz 2. Review
CoT: No no! Change it back. Review first and then dictation.
Me: But you are doing the dictation first. Like, you are in the middle of it right now.
CoT: No, just REVIEW first and then we will do dictation. (Big smile)
(Turns around to the class) Number Three – I’m in the sixth grade.

CoT Decides Depression is Not Serious

(Out of nowhere) CoT: How do you feel when you’re depressed?
Me: When I’m depressed I just feel sad and like I don’t want to do anything and like my life has no meaning or purpose.
CoT (huge grin): Oh, I am glad to hear that! That doesn’t sound very serious!

CoT Discovers Spring, Apparently for the First Time

I am trying to prepare for a class that begins in 5 minutes and which CoT has prepared nothing for.

CoT: Lily (in sing-songy voice where my name suddenly has four syllables), please come look out the window. Me: At what?
CoT: The flowers are blooming. Please come look at them.
They weren’t blooming. The trees barely have buds on them.
Me (nicely): Well, they are almost blooming. That will be pretty (I try to go back to prepping for class)
CoT (whiniest voice ever): Oh, Why won’t you look out the window? They ARE blooming. They ARE blooming. And repeated that like 6 times.

The Wonders of Spring, Continued

Arriving back after teaching with a different teacher all morning. CoT seems to have been waiting for me.
CoT: Oh, you are here! (Immediately goes to the window, opens it and looks out) Oh look, The flowers are blooming. They ARE blooming. Look at them bloom. I can count the blooms. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There are many flowers. Do you see them. Wow. Oh Wow. They are moving me. Do they touch you?

Do they move you? Are you touched?

Do they move you? Are you touched?

I Am a Poet and I Don’t Know It

CoT: Wow! We had a fresh spring rain yesterday. So nice. So fresh. So many flowers.
Me: The rain was heavy last night. I don’t know why the flowers didn’t break off and fall to the ground.
CoT: Wow. Your words. They are so poetic. What you said just now. So poetic.

Hours later.

CoT: Say again what you said earlier. I want to write it down.
Me: (I don’t even remember what i said) Umm…I don’t know why the flowers didn’t break off and fall to the ground?
CoT: (Repeats this over and over then says) Wow, you are a poet. I am with another poet.


Be Poetic! Do It Now!

CoT: Oh, Lily, please say something beautiful. Like before. What you said. Like poetry.
Me: Well, I’m not really sure what would be beautiful to you. The things I said before were just normal things to say.
CoT: Say something. A sensitive, emotional thing. Like yesterday, you said there was a bee and a butterfly in the classroom and you said it was “like a zoo.” The “like a zoo” part. That was so impressive. I have never experienced this before.

A few hours later…

CoT: The flowers are pink. Light pink.
Me: Yep, baby pink.
CoT: (Chuckles delightedly.) Oh yes! Baby pink! It is so cute. Today’s word is baby pink! Baby pink with Lily!

Then she sat at her desk and repeated “Baby pink” 30 – 40 times.

CoT Gives Me Prompts

I begin to suspect that CoT is feeding me prompts in the hopes that I will say something poetic.

CoT: What do you think of human beings?
Me: ?????

CoT: Remember the time your friend came to visit almost two years ago?
Me: Yes, I remember.
CoT: Can you tell me about that?

There are more stories, but they involve more strange personal details about my CoT’s life that I’m not going to share publicly. From this sampling, I think you can see how every day is an adventure with CoT.

I started sharing some of my conversations with CoT as a way to help myself laugh at what can sometimes be annoying and difficult to deal with all day long. Many of our interactions are the kind of things that can be frustrating or difficult in the moment, but become very funny in the retelling. And seeing these interactions in a humorous way has really helped me let go of some of the frustrations I feel towards her and to honestly see her with a lot more compassion than I did before. Never knowing what to expect from her had been bringing me a lot of stress – I had come to dread being at work and was beginning to get snappy and short with her in our interactions and had gotten to the point where I really dreaded going to school. Like so many other aspects of life in a foreign culture, learning to look at things with humor and let the weirdness be funny instead of frustrating has been so helpful for my peace and sanity.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.