Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do You Believe in Magic?

I did something that felt super grown up yesterday. Over the last week I read the book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and took its advice. Written by Marie Kondo, a celebrity personal organizer and de-clutter-er from Japan, it tells you everything you need to know to employ the KonMari (her trademarked system) method of decluttering your life. I decided my closet was the perfect victim for this organizing trend, and so Monday was the day it happened. Be forewarned that if you drink too much of her kool-aid, you might start talking to your clothes, thanking your socks for their hard work, and greeting your home each time you arrive at the front door. Whatever, man. The closet looks good, so she must be on to something!


Before I go into the details of how and why this worked for me, let me just say I feel like I'm channeling Gwyneth Paltrow and all of her rich-person minimalism with this whole program. Suddenly I was like "Hmm maybe I'll make kale shakes for breakfast now...and name my firstborn child Apple...and be spiritual but not religious." Then I was all like, "But wait, Anna, remember how you like pop tarts and Jesus and not scarring children for life?" Right. So maybe not.

I digress.

First, I will say that it's always good to evaluate our relationship to stuff, and I found that this kind of confronted the root emotional reasons why we keep stuff, instead of doing a more legalistic "get rid of one thing each day" or "throw away everything you haven't worn in a year" type of method. Here are the steps she follows - distinctive from other advice you've probably heard about putting your house in order. The first step, obviously, should begin with getting rid of stuff.

1. Downsize by category, not by room. Don't go around the house tidying up one room at a time. Work on clothes first. (This is the only one I'm doing - since it's the only category where I had an extreme amount of excess, but you could apply this method to everything you own.)

2. Get ALL OF THE THINGS from one category and put them on the floor in one place. And I mean EV-ER-Y-THI-NG. Yikes. This is where my first-world-guilt kicked in. As I stared at that massive pile of possessions, I couldn't believe that this all belonged to me. Just look at that beaut.

My mountain of stuff. 

3. Physically pick up each item, and ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?" This was the most important question, and the central idea to why you should keep anything. You don't ask whether you wear the item a lot, whether you have worn it in the past two years, whether it is in good condition or not, or even whether somebody gave it to you as a gift. You should be surrounded only by things that you love, that spark joy for one reason or another.

4. Keep the joyful stuff - pitch the rest. For real. Get rid of every last item you own that doesn't have a spark of joy. Now, I had to think around a few things. For example, exercising is something I love to have in my life, but it doesn't spark joy at first - I know it always comes after the workout is finished. So I kept the workout clothes with this in mind. Or, while I don't absolutely love my school-issued Timothy Christian School polo, I do love my job, and it is a joy to work there, so I kept the shirt for our spirit day Fridays. Basically, I tried to be reasonable. After I got going, the "joy" test was very effective and I ended up making all of my decisions to keep or not to keep within about 90 minutes. I sent a crazy amount of stuff off to be donated. For those who are counting, that would be 9 large garbage bags filled to the top, along with a 3-drawer set and a huge storage container, all filled as well. I gave over half of my clothes away. 


5. Put each and every item that you keep back in a specific and intentional place. This seems simple, but it was a really important part of the book. One bonus tip she added: hang things on hangers so that they slope up and to the right. It just looks good that way. So I put my wedding dress on first, then maxi dresses, then regular dresses, followed by skirts on the end.


6. Reevaluate all you know about folding. You can see from some of my pictures how I've changed my folding habits. Here's an article with a few tutorial videos attached: http://goop.com/the-illustrated-guide-to-the-kondo-mari-method/. This is my favorite part, as I can get a good view of everything I own, and, unlike my old method of the stacked-up piles, I don't make a mess every time I want to pick one shirt off of the shelf.

Tank tops, sweaters, and t-shirts

My athletic t-shirts now all fit in one drawer! I gave 30 away in the donation pile. 

Jeans and other pants. 

So there you have it. My closet renovation. AKA, I have too much time on my hands because I'm a teacher on winter break. 

Happy tidying, everyone!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Round Table

This year's Thanksgiving was spent with my in-laws. Their celebration is a far cry from a crowded house, buffet style animal eating, paper plates, and card tables. With a smaller crew, we all fit around one table (my first time not at a kid's table was after I got married!), and we get to use real silverware! The nice kind, even! My mother-in-law, Beth, worked herself crazy for 24 hours straight to prepare the most ridiculously delicious spread. I was all like CHEESE! WINE! MEATBALLS! POTATOES! SWEET POTATOES! AHHHH! everywhere I looked. I particularly get spoiled with the first two in that list at my in-laws' home.


When we were all sitting around the table, the food coma almost starting to kick in, my father-in-law directed the conversation to a Round Table. He asked 3 questions of the table, and each person took turns responding. I thought they were very thoughtful.

1. What are you thankful for this year?
2. What are some goals you have for this year?
3. If you could change anything about yourself or the world, what would it be? 

The goals for this year ranged from hilarious (Nanny, Brian's grandma, simply blurted: "Survive!") to practical (Beth wants to be healthier, as if she isn't already putting us all to shame with her paleo lifestyle) to heartfelt (Ed wants to be aware of God's grace each day, particularly by always setting aside devotional time).

Earlier in the day, I chatted with my dad and got some group texts from my immediate family about the Packers (don't even pretend you weren't weeping when Bart Starr and Brett Favre hugged before the game), saying thanks for each other, and sharing pictures of crazy indulgent Thanksgiving spreads.

How is this my life? How is all this mine? I haven't really unraveled just how blessed I am. I just was overwhelmed with the people in my life yesterday. People who are open, kind, thankful for each other, generous, funny, and intentional with these days and milestones in life. Of course each year, as we switch between families, one of us will miss being home, but when you have such wonderful in-laws, it's got to be the next best thing. The coolest thing is that we are home no matter which family we're present with on each holiday. Brian's a son in my family, and I'm a daughter in his.

I shared my answers at the table, so here are my 3 responses.

1. What are you thankful for this year? First, for Brian. For being a fantastic husband, being a great buddy to spend all the mundane and exciting and frustrating and happy days with. For supporting me and making me think. I also said my fantastic parents and siblings. I know a lot of people with horribly hurtful families, and of course we are not perfect, but I could not have asked for better. I continued on to my in-laws, who have just opened up a spot for me and accepted me as I am. I can't join in on those "my crazy mother-in-law" rants, because mine is thoughtful and sweet and not a control freak and a great friend. Basically, my thankfulness this year is for all these sweet and wonderful people.

2. What are your goals for this year? I have a few outlined each year during my birthday, so I'm working on those continually. Right now, I've started my goal of watching every Seinfeld episode in chronological order and making plans to visit Harry Potter World. Less importantly, I want to run a half marathon this year.

3. If you could change anything about yourself or the world, what would it be? This is that big question that always brings me to the same answer. The thing I would change is that justice would really happen, that it would really roll down like a stream for forever. That all that junk about what you look like, what zip code or country you're born into, what culture your family is from, would never hinder us from loving one another. That we would have those goggles to see each other as God sees us, that we would look at the heart. God infamously picks the left out, too old, too young, too poor, oppressed people to be great. I wish we all had more of that first-shall-be-last-and-last-shall-be-first conviction in our hearts as we govern societies, live intentionally, and decide how we're going to serve God in this world.

It was a very moving Round Table this year. If it sounds cheesy, it wasn't cheesy at all. It was great. And as much as we love our families, I know that it can be the hardest to be vulnerable and share from the heart with the ones who know you and love you the most. The more we practice this sharing, the more we open up to each other, I think the easier it will be to see the best in everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Letting Go of Good Things

Here's a rambling of my ideas, as of late.

It's been hard for me to write this fall, since starting at Timothy. You may notice that, over the past two years, it's been harder for me to write consistently. I think it has *something* to do with the juggling act of adulthood that hit me all at once when I got married, moved to the suburbs, and switched jobs to have my own classroom. All at once. 

I got bogged down with things like laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning and lesson planning and summer jobbing and it all just took over my day-to-day. 

Teddy and me. 
I have this habit in the morning that I've fallen into over the past few years. While I'm blow-drying my hair, instead of focusing on the styling thereof, I sit and scroll through interesting articles on social media and various news outlets. I get updated on the world and the world of my friends, both of the real and Facebook varieties. 

Well, this morning on my daily catch-up, I came across a post from Elizabeth Gilbert that was really great. Here's part of it: 

"Long ago, when I was struggling to become a writer, a wise older woman once said to me, "What are you willing to give up, in order to have the life you keep saying you want?"
I said, "You're right — I really need to start learning how to say no to things I don't want to do."
She corrected me: "No, it's much harder than that. You need to learn how start saying no to things you DO want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life, and you don't have time and energy for everything."
So she continued on with a statement she posed to many good, but needing-to-be-cut things in her life. This is what she said to them: I love you, but I'm letting you go. 
This just resonated with me so much. This fall has been one big blur without the catharsis of writing in my life. It was the beginning of the year rush and then the October slump and now we're entering the holiday hustle and oh my goodness I have hardly processed what's been going on. My life has been ruled a little too strongly by media of all kinds. From news to Facebook to Instagram to Netflix to Hulu to Huffington to blogs to Vine when I'm feeling ridiculous and everything in between. If I look back, this media monster has probably eaten hours and hours of my life this fall. In some ways, media is great. It connects me to the world and all that nonsense, but it really kind of disconnects me in the end. I've been consuming so much that I've been losing my ability to create. The only thing I've written in the last little while that I've been any ounce of proud about was my little tribute to my Grandpa Gesch. My uncle Curt dubbed it to be "perfect," and that is just about the best validation I could've asked for, coming from such a fantastic writer. 
So I've decided to take a note from Liz Gilbert, such an incredible writer herself, and say to my overkill on media: I love you, but I'm letting you go. I thought about it long and hard, and I figured out that the things that make me feel creative and alive and myself are the two simplest: reading and writing. And I'm not going to confuse reading with scrolling. I just started the book we'll be reading for book club when we meet over Thanksgiving weekend. And so as a part of all of this I'm back here, feeling good about writing, checking in on my life, and archiving where I'm at right now. 
So what have I been up to? 
One small struggle is that I am missing a lot from year to year. I miss last year. I really, really miss Calvin Christian School. I miss the city life. I miss living with roommates with whom I could share clothes. I miss my Teach For America hustle and realness and colleagues. I miss attending grad school (I know, nerd alert.) I miss living with my best college friends. I miss a lot. And I've only been at this adulating thing for three and a half years. 
Brian has been a huge catalyst for me becoming who I am going to be this year. He is here, he is supportive, and he is so, so dependable. I'm not even here, supportive, or dependable for myself! He gets the teacher thing, and I love building our friendship right along with our marriage. Sometimes I roll my eyes in annoyance at his quirks, and then sometimes I sigh with relief as he endures all of mine. Sometimes we watch dumb TV shows together (Hello, Bob's Burgers) and completely get each other. Sometimes we are in the day to day and that's all it feels like: a regular old routine day where our paths don't do too much crossing. Sometimes I can't even believe how much I love him. It's all of the above. 
One huge effort in my life is that I've been looking for and grasping at community out here in the Western suburbs. We've joined a small group in Oak Park, I've been attending a Writer's Group with my mother-in-law (actually super cool), joined a Thursday night volleyball league, I'm joining/starting a book club with my friend Reese, and I started a more intense Bible study with my mentor and another girl from church. When I see all of that in one list, I feel pretty proud. I'm starting to feel a little more grounded in all of life. I know and can surely feel that the grind of the fourth year of teaching in the third consecutive school is getting to me too, with all the upheaval that goes along with that. But these little groups, little connections that God has allowed me to receive, have made me feel oh so much more connected. To other people, to myself, to Him.
So thanks, Liz Gilbert, for the advice. I miss a lot of things. I'm learning to let some of those go to make way for the new. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stuff Students Say: October Edition

My mom tells me that if someone doesn’t know Jesus the best way to show them that you know him is to be so kind that they want to know where the kindness comes from. 

I don’t know if you have kids or not but if you do you should come to my brother’s birthday party. If you don’t have kids you can still come though too. 

Dear God, please protect us so that we don’t die too soon so that we can enjoy your creation and stuff. Amen. 

We're going to target you guys! Booya I love that place!

Guess what my biggest nightmare is! Applesauce! Or mashed potatoes!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Better Things Are Ahead

My Grandpa Gesch died this summer. My dad's dad. I haven't been able to write about it or talk about it much, because it hurts to think about it for too long. I know that avoidance is not the best way to deal with death, but it's unfortunately the method to which I'm drawn. Those two, Grandma and Grandpa Gesch, are pillars in my life. Protectors and leaders and spiritual giants that raised me right along with my parents. Carpool drivers and babysitters, devotional readers and scrabble game players, they are forever a part of who I am and who I want to be.


One of the most routine memories of my grandparents is one of the sweetest for me. I played soccer all through my childhood for my town's team. I was the only girl on my team for my fourth grade year, and loved meeting all the neighborhood kids that I didn't get to play with at school. Being somewhat of the odd one out who attended Christian school a town away in Oostburg, I had to take the bus home and get a ride to soccer practice each week while my parents were working. I'd hop off the bus, bike or walk a few blocks to Grandma and Grandpa's house, and sit down at the table where a stack of oreos, a glass of milk, and my two-person fan club awaited me. They'd ask about my day, update me on their walk to the post office, and generally just chat about life. I'd often lose focus and forget that an oreo was soaking in the glass of milk while we talked, so Grandma would go fetch me an extra cookie to dip in and save the other that had floated to the bottom on a rescue mission. After that, I'd change into my cleats and Grandpa would drive me to practice, with a hearty "Go get 'em!" yelled out the window as I sprinted out to join my team on the field.

I think of all they went through and all they accomplished, all the people they had in their lives, and here they were interested in a chat with me, a regular old 10-year-old kid, over a stack of oreos and a glass of milk. That's why I loved our weekly rituals so much; to them, I was worthy of stopping the day for their full attention. They helped me learn how to make people feel important.


When I think of my grandparents I think of puzzles, board games, a never-ending-scrabble tournament (Grandpa always quick to point out that Grandma was way ahead in the standings), and a two-a-day program of reading the Bible together. I think of kindness toward one another and a marriage based on true friendship and simple joy. I think of five brilliant boys that turned out to be my dad and uncles, how they raised the perfect guy to be my dad one day.

I think of being friendly to everyone because it's the right thing to do, and taking the higher road even if others choose to dwell in mires of gossip and judgment. I think of correspondence and encouragement, support and involvement. I think of musical talent, appreciation of nature, time spent in the workshop, and praying in German before lots and lots of meals spent together. I think of interest in other cultures, languages, and just a pure love of people. I think about a love of learning that never stops for an entire long lifetime.

I think about positivity and gumption and constant joking around. I think about that unending energy paired along with a slant towards understanding sadness and loss, too. My grandparents taught me that it's okay to have both sides of that coin very much alive in your life. I learned that it's okay to be a walking contradiction sometimes in that way. They were the first to teach me the lesson that as a follower of God you don't need to have it all together. They taught me one of my favorite truths in my life: that it's okay to not be okay. You don't need to be flawless on your own. God's grace is enough for it all.


I think about daily faithfulness and love and prayer and hard work and discipline and joy and family. All those good things.

I am such a blessed person, to have these themes as a part of the legacy I inherit. I consider myself to be so rich in all the best things: people, heritage, and faith. This is what I owe to my Grandpa and Grandma.

I don't know what heaven will really be like, but one of the cheesy things that I like to imagine is a kitchen table on linoleum flooring where my two grandparents are back at their rounds of scrabble, shared meals, and daily devotionals. When I'm extra cheesy, I like to imagine a spot saved for me with a stack of oreos and a glass of milk.

I don't know if God created heaven to be like that.

I do know this: If it isn't like what I imagine, He will have designed it to be something even 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Don't Let It Be

October can be hard. It can be, if I let it be. (Spoiler alert: I tend to let it be hard.)

In my lowest moments, I begrudge the rest of the world and their Pumpkin Spice Lattes, crunchy leaves, and comfy knitted sweaters, while I'm getting a little too anxious about the first quarter ending, my progress reports and grading getting finished, and finding myself again exhausted after the first few months in a new classroom in a new school. I'm exhausted with my job, but I'm also exhausted with myself, too. I tend to feel a little weary of my own lack of discipline, my own insecurities, and my own tired mistakes. For some reason, all of that hits me in October. And here we are, right in the middle of it.


And yet, here in the midst of a hard few weeks, I've had so many sweet moments. So much joy, too.

I think of (my first time!) visiting ArtPrize, led around by the best tour guide on earth (none other than THE Liz VanDrunen). I think of a good-natured husband, who actually shows interest in my art nerd interests and picked his own favorites out of the bunch right along with mine.

I think of reunions and a few weddings in the past month that just were full of happy moments and well wishes to fantastic couples. Beautiful wedding days, and, again,  good times with the one I married a little over a year ago.

I think of little notes from my kind, thoughtful, and happy kids, who remind me that I'm a good teacher after all.

I think of how I started playing volleyball again, and with that, remembered all over how much I love playing a sport with a team. Even if it is in the B league. (And proud of it.)

I think of coworkers that have been way too nice to me, helpful beyond their job requirements, and graciously accepting of my learning curve while I figure it all out.

I think of a small group and mentors at church, and how they are slowly but surely shaping my view of how capital-G-Good God's family is.

Hmm. When I put it this way, October doesn't seem so bad after all.

I think the slump happens because I let it exist. I think I won't let it be hard anymore. I will just let it be what it is: a beautiful and hard mix of busy-ness, a change in life pace, and full of reminders of connections and relationships that mean the world to me.

I'll be saying that to myself: Anna, don't let this season be so hard. Let it be all the good stuff that it truly is. Now go change into a cute sweater and whip up some hot chocolate, please and thanks.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Stuff Students Say: September Edition

The first month at Timothy is done! I'm adjusting, learning, but still totally the newbie. I'm loving my kids, their families, and of course my coworkers already. God's faithfulness still proves to be faithful, even through some changes! Huh. Who woulda thunk. Here are just a few gems from my kids this month:

(During the first few days of school, when I was going over routines for the bathroom procedure.)
Me: We use one pump of soap, wash our hands all the way, and then come right back out so another student can have a turn.
Student: Also, remember to tell the class not to poop on the floor. That happened to me once. It wasn't allowed then either.

Mrs. Whartnaby I know all about DNA and what it is. It's what makes you feel like yourself.

Student: Do you have any extra spoons?
Me: No, I'm so sorry. All out.
*Student proceeds to eat a yogurt and granola parfait with his fingers.*
Me: Ummm. Maybe not how we eat yogurt.

Student: Oh my goodness! In other countries, they worship idols!
Me: Well, you know that we also have idols in this country. Lots of them.
Student: Nope. Because there aren't altars and statues here.
Me: But we put things first before God in our lives, like money and popularity and toys and things. So those kinds of idols are all over. And we probably have more of them than most places.
Student: WOW you are smart! You know the Bible! 

Me: Wow, I'm loving these observations I'm seeing. Great work, scientists!
Student: You know, I've been a scientist since kindergarten. I made a lava lamp in kindergarten and that started it all.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When Everyone Gets Picked

Something so awesome happened in my classroom this month. I really can't take credit for it, since I didn't really have all that much to do with it. It was one of those golden moments of teaching when you realize that kids have so much more to offer than we give them credit for.

We do this project at Timothy in second grade where the kids make a model of a community. We look into the differences and similarities between places that are rural, urban, and suburban. The kids bring in recycled materials to think up and build their own skyscrapers, subdivisions, and silos. Then we have a painting day in the art room and all hell breaks loose. It's an adorable, fun, messy, and wonderful project that I had no hand in planning: my team just told me how to do the whole thing and I followed suit. It's great.


One of the elements, though, of the unit, is a questionnaire that we give the students about what kind of project they would prefer to create. It's good to have a variety of models in one classroom, so we try to see if at least a few kids want to make one of the three types of communities. I'm all for this. One element of this questionnaire, though, of which I was skeptical, was the part where each student could choose three friends that they would prefer to have in their group. I hate stuff like that. As an elementary teacher, one of my personal goals for my classroom is that it is a place where no long-term emotional scarring takes place. I've heard too many stories from people my age and older who still remember the time they were shamed for X, Y, or Z by the teacher, or remember examples of pure human evil in the form of recess time and dodgeball. I'd really rather not have my kids talking to their therapist as twenty-somethings, saying "Well, that one time, we did this group project in Mrs. Whartnaby's class and nobody picked me! I've felt isolated and alone ever since!" 

So, before I passed out the questionnaires, my class and I had a long, serious talk about how we show love in this classroom and that anybody's name we choose to write down needs to stay anonymous. (We defined anonymous first, though, obvi.) Because, you know, of the feelings. And the therapy.

So we filled out the questionnaires and I collected them and then it was the weekend. I finally got to my stack of papers on Sunday afternoon, as I am often want to do, and was pretty stinking pumped when I read the results. Can I tell you what I saw? EVERY KID IN MY CLASS HAD THEIR NAME CHOSEN FOR A GROUP. Not one kid in the room was lacking for a group member who picked him or her. Now, I know that all of God's children are precious, but don't you dare tell me that His children aren't quirky. And just like any class of kids, we definitely have our quirks. We have the socially different, the caller-outers. the aggressive, the passive, the shy, the dominators, and the clumsy. And yet each child, in spite of their inevitable quirks, had another in the room who deemed them worthy of being chosen.

On Monday morning, when I told them about their group assignments, I couldn't wait to tell them. GUESS WHAT SCHOLARS! YOU WERE ALL PICKED! Each and every kid had a sheepish smile creep along their face as they glanced around the room, wondering who had picked them, and then the glorious grin that occurred when it doesn't make a difference who wrote whose name down: the point remained that it was written! When everyone gets picked, everyone wins.

I just couldn't help but mentally draw all the delicious parallels to the other, most important way that all kids are picked and chosen: by their creator, long ago, to be fearfully and wonderfully made, for a real and significant reason. They've all already been chosen in a way so important that it doesn't matter all that much if they had a bad day at school when nobody put their names on a group project questionnaire. But for now, in an effort to avoid the therapists office for this issue one day, I consider it a sweet, sweet victory. Not one that I orchestrated, but one that I had the privilege to watch as it came to be.

I know I'm far from being a veteran teacher, and sometimes, in the thick of spring testing season, when I'd hear those wise reflections from seasoned colleagues about kids being more than test scores and the like, I'd take their word for it, but I didn't totally feel it yet. I was still being evaluated as if my kids were test scores, I was still sort of teaching as if my kids were test scores, so it was hard to separate what I knew in my heart to be true and what I saw in my own practice to be happening. I'm still getting there even now as I try to internalize it during each instructional day. But the other day, when everyone was picked, another piece of that truth hit my heart. When everyone gets picked, that's when the magic happens.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My 26 Before 27

It's time! I love lists and I love setting goals. Partly, of course, to break the rules and feel rebellious while I ignore them, but also to set a purpose for the next leg of the path. Yesterday I checked in on my goals from last year and I made some pretty cool progress! I'm starting out this new phase of 26-year-old-hood, and here is what I'm going to try to do during it:


1. Run in 2 events. Something about paying 30 bucks for a t-shirt and bib number makes me actually train and prepare for an event. I'd like to bring back at least two events into my schedule, as this year didn't have any.

2. Make someone a meal for a baby/life change/just because. I've watched my mom bless so many people throughout the course of my life through cooking meals. I honestly think she's packing up a meal for another family every time I call home. I remember my Grandma Gesch's letters in college always included an anecdote about how wonderful my mom is for cooking for them. It's not a bad thing to be known for feeding other people. Time for me to get on it.

3. Consider a permanent living sitch. Not that we can predict the future, but I know we would like to get into a house one day. This will be the year where research, saving, and planning takes on a more prominent and serious place in our daily discussion. I'm already addicted to RedFin, so oops. This would potentially be a HUGE step for us, and the idea of it already overwhelms me and makes me ridiculously giddy and exhausts me all at once.

4. Make risotto. Dang. We had risotto at the wedding last weekend and it was so good that it really went beyond description. Plus, being able to say that I can make risotto sounds super fancy, and you all know how #imsofancy

5. Stay updated on international news. One of the few great things about an extra long commute last year was the time spent listening to the radio. I was ridiculously up-to-date about all the things. I want to continue on in my news-junkie-dom.

6. Read all of the Psalms. When I think of times when the rubber hits the road, my heart is usually led to the Psalms. My dad sings the Psalms to old ladies in the nursing homes, and I dare you to find me an OCS graduate who can't recite Psalm 8 complete with the actions. I think it's a good place for this fickle-Bible-reader to start her 26th year.

7. Exercise in ways besides running. I screwed up my ankle big time this past spring in a pickup game of volleyball. When I was talking to my Physical Therapist and explained that I usually only run and don't do much else in terms of cross training or variety, she responded with a big DUH ANNA speech, saying that I needed to do other things too. So there you go. Personal trainer friends, I'm open to suggestions!

8. Have a sleepover. So I miss college and wanna watch movies with my friends, okay?

9. Take a class to learn a new skill. Calligraphy? Knitting? Ventriloquism? Time will tell.

10. Floss every day. I try, you guys. I really try. The latest trip to the dentist sent me off with a new resolve to make this happen. (I asked, "Is 3 times a week impressive?" And the lady was like "Mmmmm. Sorry honey.")

11. Make a math group project for my kids. Okay, this is a stupid teacher goal that non-teachers might not appreciate, but I hear and see all of these cool things that veteran teachers do with group projects. Meanwhile, I'm differentiating my little tail off so that every kid gets his or her individual needs met. That's all fine and good, but kids just really love the chance to create stuff together. I'm going to try to do this somehow in Math this year. Teacher friends, I'm open to suggestions!

12. Girls road trip. Brian will be gone for a week in January and a week in March for trips with his high school students. Therefore, I've resolved to get in the car and head out on the open road as well. This summer's trip with Karley and Liz only reinforced my desire to do this more often.

13. Get a library card. HAVING FUN ISN'T HARD...WHEN YOU'VE GOT A LIBRARY CARD! Plus I spend way too much on books. Oops. 

14. Read a new YA fiction series. Harry Potter really made my soul so happy this year, and I want to keep that YA joy flowing. I realize that nothing will ever measure up, but there's something about a series that's so addicting in the best possible way. Nerd friends, I'm open to suggestions!

15. Stay in bed until noon. SO. For the past two years, I've made it a goal to get up early to see the sunrise. And failed. Miserably. So I decided to take it in another direction. I haven't done the noon thing since college, and goodness knows that drifting in and out of sleep on a Saturday morning can be pretty freaking fantastic. It's like a goal to be lazy! I can't wait!

16. Watch every Seinfeld episode in order of its chronological release. All 180 epodes. Giddy-up.

17. Keep a plant alive under my supervision. Meanwhile, everyone I know is pregnant.

18. Try a cleaning schedule. Okay, before you write this one off as definitely not going to happen, I think if I chunk up the cleaning jobs, I won't let it build up because it's too much at once. Here's what I'm thinking: Monday is laundry day, Tuesday is floor day, Wednesday is kitchen day, Thursday is bathroom day, and Friday is for clutter. Saturday and Sunday will no longer be spent with shame and guilt-ridden hours of looking around at the mess and being too overwhelmed to chip away at any of it.

19. Visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. WHO'S WITH ME?!

20. Do something for this refugee crisis. You've all read Ann Voskamp's suggestions at how we can be a small help in this world full of brokenness, right? I want to stop reading headlines and start writing checks. Compared to most people on this planet, I am ridiculously wealthy. God is extravagantly generous with me - why can't I give a refugee kid a new backpack? There are so many little things we can do. Let's start doing them.

21. Attend a festival. Complete with a flower garland in my hairzzzz.

22. Watch the long Pride and Prejudice. Who would like to set aside a Saturday and do this with me? Oh hello, Colin Firth circa 1995. Hello there. 

23. Attend a theater or dance performance in Chicago. I am always so intrigued by the ballet ads I see downtown. And I have yet to meet a broadway show I didn't love. Time to get classy.

24. Paint a piece of furniture. True confession: I have two cans of aqua spray paint I'm not sure what to do with, so I figured I may as well make it a goal. That's just me being #Dutch and #cheap

25. Find a mission where I can volunteer or support or visit. Once again, see #20.

26. See live jazz music. This one is partly for Brian and partly for me. Before getting married, I really had no tolerance for jazz music. I get impatient and like my songs to run their full course within 2 minutes and 35 seconds. Brian, on the other hand, can throw in a little Wayne Shorter and be completely happy with a song over 7 minutes long. It's been growing on me and I'd love to experience some live jazz music together. Plus, we Chicagoans live in a cultural center of the genre! Excited to make this into a date night.

So there it is. 26 little things that help me make this life I lead my own. Got any ideas to add?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Checking In on my 25 before 26

Today is the day! My birthday! I had a birthday buddy in my classroom this year for the first time, which was super fun. I have my mind on a lot of things to accomplish this year, and that will come later this week, but today I want to reflect on my 25th year. I want to check in on how I've done with the list I set out to achieve by the time I turned 26. There were some big wins and of course some defeats. Here's how I did:

1. Refrain from purchasing clothes until January 1st, 2015. Success! Accomplished! I think Brian got a skewed sense of what our budget would be since the first 6 months of our marriage were completely mall-purchase-free, but he got over it when the new year came around :) It felt really good to accomplish this (pats self on back), but there is something wonderful about feeling great in a new outfit. I'm starting to veer into the quality-over-quantity territory, but it's hard to spend a lot on one item, trusting that I'll actually use it for years and years. One day I'll invest in those things, I swear. 

2. Go soft-drink-free for a year. IT HAPPENED! VICTORY! I consider this the biggest win of AGW's 25th year. I had my first Coke tonight after a full year without, accompanied by a fan-freaking-tastic Aurelio's pizza. Oh man. I think I got jittery immediately, but it was worth it. 


3. Sponsor a child. I did this one! Oforiwaa lives in Ghana and it's kind of pathetic how little effort it takes me to change a life in such a big way. Let's all do this, okay? 

4. Use money to bless people. Isn't there a thing about not bragging about tithing? I won't delve into the details, but once again, I saw this year how some people blessed me through their giving, and I think this world would be a better place if we took care of each other more often. 

5. Go wine tasting. Thanks to Brian, this one was accomplished. 

6. Use the broiler in my oven. Nope. Making food is hard, guys. 

7. Run for a good cause.  An unfortunate pick-up volleyball accident prevented me from running the actual event, but I can definitely say I coached for a good cause! I was a coach for Girls on the Run for the first time at Calvin and it was such an incredible experience. Absolutely a wonderful cause and loved the season with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade girls. 

8. Wake up really early to see the sunrise. Nope. Maybe I should give up on this goal. I see the sunrise in the winter when I drive to work in the darkness. That counts, right? 

9. Have a housewarming party. I threw Jen a baby shower, and I considered that my housewarming party :) I felt like a real live hostess, a true accomplishment of my year! Plus it gave me an excuse to make bacon-wrapped dates. Win win. 

10. Own a houseplant without killing it.  This didn't happen. Not because I tried and failed, but because I didn't even try. I can only conquer so many fears in one year. 

11. Write more consistently. This is always a goal of mine, and always something I struggle with. How can I make time for the stuff that brings me to life in the midst of all of the obligations of life? Writing is one of those things, yet I always struggle with making it happen. I think it will have to be on next year's list again. 

12. Go to a yoga class. Success! This was a great part of my year, just learning how to breathe and think in a mindful way. I'm so so so not an expert and I'm not even close to even being good. I'm kind of a perpetual beginner, but I went to 7 sessions this winter and really loved it. 

13. Always have a book going.  Yep! This was one of the best things on the list to accomplish. ESPECIALLY ALL THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS OH MY GOODNESS JUST CALL ME HERMOINE.

14. Make dinner and have people over to eat it. Done! Did this for Karyn and Shane as well as Jen and Andrew. Nobody died. It's not that scarring of an experience! Maybe I'll do it again this year! I can do hard things! 

15. Keep fresh flowers in the house.  I definitely accomplished this, especially with all my trips to Trader Joe's (hello supercheap bouquets!), which also fed my orange chicken addiction. 

16. Go on a road trip with Brian.  Done! We hit up Milwaukee this year, and also managed to do a friend road trip with Danny and Reese to Tennessee. It was wonderful. There was a cabin and Harry Potter reading and bacon cooking and puzzle assembling and cocoa drinking. 

17. Spend more time intentionally technology-free. All that reading helped with this a bit. Always a good thing to keep in mind. 

18. Be tidier. Yikes. This was not accomplished. I'm blaming my hour-long commute from this year. So there. 

19. Accessorize more. I did it! I bought a few statement necklaces, and Brian even got me one too! He bought the gold one that I wore to a family friend's wedding last weekend. Here's a picture of that and of the one I wore to meet my new kids and their parents. So sophisticated #exceptitsfromtarget #targetisfancy #hatersgonnahate #noshameselfie



20. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago for a new exhibition.  Oops. 

21. Paint a watercolor picture. Nope. 

22. Wash off my makeup every night. I did this! I'm an adult!

23. Try 10 recipes I have never tried before. I did. And now I know 12 recipes. #domesticgoddess

24. Get my planning for school done before the weekend for a full month. This helped my weekends big time. I did this the whole month of March and it just really made me less depressed on Sunday night. 

25. Listen to the Lord. One of the hardest things about my year was following this rule. I had to decide where I was going to teach for the 2015 - 2016 school year, and discerning what God was saying was a hard thing. I ended up leaving Calvin Christian, a place I absolutely LOVE, for Timothy Christian, a place that was at the time an unknown. I don't think that God "wanted" me to leave or stay, but I do think God wanted me to serve him. So, no, a sign didn't come down from heaven. And no, I didn't hear His voice. But I do believe that I was listening to the Lord's leading when I had to face that tough choice. I'm learning the hard way that God works in wonderful and beautiful ways, blessing my life in the day-to-day. I feel God's presence right here at Timothy Christian School, and I'm loving the idea that I get to teach God's kids every day. Listening to God doesn't take away the doubts that I have; rather, it makes me at peace in the tension between certainty and confusion, where I tend to usually dwell. Listening to God makes me know that it's okay to live in that tension too. 

It's been a good year :) 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

LuLu Love

Something amazing happened last week.

One of the dearest people in my life had a baby girl. Jennifer Herther gave birth to Leona Louise Herther, affectionately dubbed Lulu, last week Tuesday. I met Lulu on Thursday, immediately fell in love with the kid, and sat wide-eyed at Jen for the valiant feat she accomplished.

I suppose that things like this happen every day. People have babies all the time. But this one was somehow more real to me than all the others.

You see, I knew Jen as a Dennison. Jennifer Dennison. I knew her as my kindred spirit roommate in Pilsen, the older sister I never had. My running buddy, my fellow social-justice-activist, my wardrobe sharer, and my froyo sidekick. When we lived together I would pick Jen's brain in all sorts of things, from theology to dating advice to health care to please-can-you-help-me-understand-what-an-HMO-is-and-call-up-your-doctor-friends-for-advice-thanks. I still like to pick her brain on her latest nutritional advice and home-buying perspectives and maybe one day she'll be dishing on all the ways to raise kids organically. She's the one that knocked a few ounces of sense into me when I was dating the wrong guy(s) and yet never judged me or looked down on me in the process.

Jen represents a big part of my life: those two all-important years spent in Chicago. Living in the city shaped who I am in so many ways. They were my first years paying the rent. My Teach for America years. My oops-I've-gone-on-seven-first-dates-and-they-all-flopped-years. Jen was there for it all: the good, the bad, and the hilarious (because when you come home from a long day of teaching in CPS all you can do is laugh). Jen is the friend who met me and showed me that I was good enough, flaws and all. What more can you ask for, than someone who finds out about your real, messy self, and then happily accepts you anyway?

Le bebe.
So all of that, and much more, is who Jen is to me. I see myself in her. I look up to her. And for the first time, someone who was so present in the life of adulthood Anna has taken this step into motherhood. It was an overwhelming feeling to meet Jen's kid for the first time. (I cried immediately. Obvi.) 

It's a weird thing, to be a girl in your twenties. First they ask you who you're dating or why you're not dating. Then they ask you when you'll be married. Either it's not moving fast enough, or (in my case) you're getting engaged too soon. Then they ask you if baby fever has set in and when that deadline is pending. To be honest, I have never felt "baby fever." I have felt immediate love for my niece and nephew, total heartbreak at stories of loss, and pure joy for all of the other babies in the lives of my friends and family. I don't know if so-called baby fever will ever hit me (I don't think you have to be ill to choose to have a family one day!) and that's okay. I'm thankful for the timeline God's set before me, and for now I am enjoying it so much that I don't mind seeing other people at different points on theirs. 

So no, seeing Lulu for the first time wasn't a pang in my heart for my own. I felt something different instead. As Jen detailed for me the story of Lulu's birthday (with hilarious interjections from her husband Andrew, as per usual) I just sat there in awe. She approached her delivery day with such grace, so much composure, and incredible poise. The best thing about the story was that it wasn't by any means a perfect or easy experience for her. As I sat and listened to her graciously explain all the medical mumbo jumbo to my ignorant self ("Wait, what does five centimeters mean? Is that bad? Oh wait, that's good! Okay, keep going!"), I felt a new respect for this friend of mine. She laughed her way through explaining the chaos and out-of-body experience of bringing a baby into this world. I sat in total and complete awe at what she's been through, at how she fiercely loves her family, and at how God so perfectly chose her to be Leona Louise's mom. Like so many other times, her experiences reminded me that if she can do hard things, so can I. She inspires me to be brave, to embrace everything meant for me in this scary and beautiful world. 

My kindred free spirit is a mom. And I couldn't imagine anything better. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summertime Sadness

It's my ritual at the beginning of every school year to wistfully look at pictures from the summer. It's okay, I love my job, I love my kids, but saying goodbye to summer is so, so hard. Plus Brian's been playing Lana Del Ray on vinyl so I got that Summertime, Summertime Sadness up in here. I babysat all day long during the summer, so it wasn't quite the total sleep-in-until-noon laziness that one might expect a teacher on summer break to exhibit, but it had its amazing moments nonetheless.

There are a few days of summer that I'd really, really love to relive. Here are just three of them.


This was the only photo snapped on a day trip to New Buffalo, Michigan. Reese, Danny, Brian and I headed up there (thank the Lord for summer schedules and free Thursdays!) and spent all day in the sun and water. The Warren Dunes have officially become my favorite beach within a few hours of our place. We spent all afternoon bodysurfing (or attempting to do so) and laying out. This is also where I started the last book in my big literary adventure with my friend Harry Potter, with my number one Harry enthusiast friend and encourager, Reese. When I think of a carefree summer, I think of this day. 


Ah! This day was so wonderful. This is the day that one of my favorite people on earth, Melanie Rae Lawrence herself, was asked to marry the handsome and wonderful guy of her dreams. She of course said that yes she would. I can. not. wait. for their wedding in May. She deserves every bit of happiness and warm fuzzies that she gets. 

Oh hayyyy Tayyyy! Okay she told me that I could call her Tay Tay. She did. I'm not kidding. We're friends now. She gave me relationship advice, friendship wisdom, and generally blew us all away. Couldn't have asked for better compadres for this adventure. I know there are a lot of haters out there as always (and best believe they gonna hate, hate, hate), but I could not have been more impressed with her live performance. Taylor, we'll be seeing you again in 2017. Just keep bringing it back to Chicago, friend. You can count on Karley, Mel, and me to be cheering for that throwback performance of You're Not Sorry, Fifteen, and Fearless that the little 11 old fans won't be old enough to know. 

Ahhh. Three fantastic days. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Year Four

'Twas the night before year four,
and all through the apartment,
nerves were running high,
excitement in every department.

Okay that's the best I could do with this fried brain of mine :)

Tomorrow is the FIRST DAY of school! Again! I thought this whole beginning-of-year thing would get easier as I get more practice, but no. With Brian and I both starting tomorrow, the Whartnaby household is just a leeeeeeettle up tight at the moment :) Along with the stress, though, always comes excitement and I just am so thankful for a chance to meet my kids and get to know who we all are as a class.


One big change, of course, is my move this year to Timothy Christian School. It's just a few miles from our place, so I'll no longer be weathering the tolls and long stretches in the car every day. I said goodbye to my kids at Calvin with lots of tears (on my part) on our last day in June (but you need to understand...they were the best class ever though!), and yet here I find myself in a place where God provides for me, where God allows me to occupy a space that uses my gifts and passions. He keeps allowing me to find joy and challenge in my work, something I don't take for granted. I am a fortunate girl. Here are a few pictures of my classroom; it's all set for tomorrow!









Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Problem We All Live With

Friends, can I share something with you? Something very near and dear to my heart? On my drive home today I finished up listening to this podcast and it just completely undid me.

It addresses one of our big issues: the problem of what we are all going to do (or not do) about that achievement gap in America's schools. Children of color are disproportionately losing out on a quality education in America. At grossly high rates. The title of the podcast, The Problem We All Live With, is appropriately borrowed from Norman Rockwell's painting of Ruby Bridges, bravely walking to her first grade classroom despite the hate, slurs, and violence in her way.


Here's my thing about this topic, really quickly, before you write this whole social-justice-nerd's case completely off.  Ira Glass (bless him), together with a guest reporter, tells the story of this age old problem. During the podcast, they play a recording of a town meeting in 2013, hosted by a school board, that is addressing one (predominantly white) community's outrage against students from a nearby poor, black district being allowed into their school. At one point, a white parent takes the microphone and uses her time addressing the school board to say something like: "THIS ISN'T ABOUT RACE. THIS IS ABOUT VALUING EDUCATION." And there's my thing.

Have you noticed that? Have you noticed that the mantra THIS ISN'T ABOUT RACE always happens to come from a white person? I've heard this time and time again in my own life, in my own circles. Hey, before I knew better, I would say that! But now I know better, so I can't leave it at that. I hear the response over and over: "Oh, stop making this all about race. It's just perpetuating the problem if you talk about it. Let's get past it for once and stop pulling that card."And just like that, centuries of hurt are brushed aside as if they don't exist.

You know what I hear when I hear someone tell me that a public education equality issue has nothing to do with race? I have a vivid flashback to a certain movie called Mean Girls (you may have heard of it). Regina George, the ultimate queen bee, the recipient of all her high school's social privilege, stands up in the middle of a crowded auditorium of her fellow female classmates and says, "Can I just say that we don't have a clique problem at this school? And some of us shouldn't have to take this workshop, because some of us are just victims in this situation." And everyone in attendance rolled their eyes at her ignorance. She didn't see the issue. Why should she? She had only benefitted from those messed up social systems. My hope is that we can expect better from ourselves. My hope is that we can listen our way out of ignorance.

I don't want to be that person who says "Not me! Not my issue! Not my problem!" Let's not be blinded by privilege. I know I was for a long time. It was only when I set my pride aside, stopped getting defensive, and started listening that I could start to get a grasp on what is going on in this country of ours, particularly in our schools. After I listened, my eyes were opened to the truth that so many of our brothers and sisters live out every day.

Will you give it a chance? Take about 45 minutes in the next week or so and try it out. The link is below.

Let's not settle for not knowing. Let's not live in ignorance. Let's know better.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

One Year Cheer








As you can see from the last post, it's been one fabulous year of marriage. Imperfect, sometimes tricky, funny, adorable, and yes, fabulous. Brian and I are so quirky in our own ways and I'm so glad to have someone as weird a me. What better way to commemorate than with a trip! 

We celebrated with a one night stay at the Pfister Hotel (fancy!) in Milwaukee. I've always wanted to stay there and it was just as interesting and old and cool as I envisioned. We took a tour of Lakefront Brewery, strolled along the river walk, got coffee, shopped, got free treats from our hotel, and decided that one day everyone should move to Milwaukee. It is Chicago's friendlier, smaller, less-traffic-riddled, more-local-feeling kid sister. I love it. We ate at La Merenda and could not believe our taste buds with plates full of goat cheese, Spanish potatoes, pork empanadas, chorizo, spinach, risotto, and veal. It was so stinking delicious that my mouth is watering more with every word typed.  We have my brother Alex to thank for the restaurant recommendation. The next day we strolled around the marketplace in the Third Ward neighborhood and ate lunch at Benelux (reallll good as well). It was the perfect way to celebrate one year of marriage together. 

Sorry to our checking account, Brian, but I liked it so much that we need to celebrate every year with a little trip somewhere, right? Or at least will you guys all move to Milwaukee with us? I'd like to take over a small city with everyone I know and make it mine. Okay cool. Sounds great. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

One Year Takeaways

When I joined Teach For America I learned about the word "takeaways" and used it often. My managers and supervisors were always asking me things like: "What are your takeaways from your behavior management coaching session?" "What are your takeaways from your first week of teaching?" "What are your takeaways from the webinar on differentiation?" There was so. much. reflecting. When you're on the crazy road of TFA and have to travel along a very fast learning curve, you have to constantly reflect and adjust. Well, it's a habit that I can't quite shake, and so here I am using it for marriage! (Romantic, I know!)

View More: http://hannahwhite.pass.us/annaandbrian

July 12 marked our first anniversary. I love looking at our wedding pictures over and over, reliving the amazing day we had. It really was the best day of my life. I have a vivid memory of my cheeks hurting so badly because I smiled so much. I also remember hardly getting anything from the bar (maybe one glass of wine?) because I was dancing for three hours straight and just chugged water for hydration purposes. My parents threw us a fabulous party. My dream.

It's been one year with my man. Brian has been such a fantastic husband, I could get really gushy, but I'll try to spare you a little bit. All I can say is that I couldn't ask for anyone better. Learning about married life with him has been one of the best adventures of my life.

From time to time, I annoy Brian with these reflection questions and ask for his takeaways for things in life. ("What are your takeaways from Christmas this year?" "What are your thoughts about how this year of teaching went?" "What are your takeaways from that song in church this morning?") Poor guy. He humors me and does his best to answer them. I applied this to marriage and asked him the other day: "What are your takeaways from our first year of marriage?" Like a champ, he came up with great ones to add to my own little list. Here are a few things we learned about being married for one year, from Brian and Anna. I think his are the best ones.


1. Little things matter. (B) Doing dishes, paying the bills, running to the store to get the groceries, wiping down counters, and making the bed seem to be menial things. They end up being the big things. Most of the little things cost very little or no money at all, and end up making the biggest difference to both of us. (Ladies, Brian agreed to do all the dishes whenever I cook the food. Get jealous.)

2. Go to bed angry. (A) I can't take credit for this nugget of wisdom - it was passed along to me at some juncture from someone - but I can't believe how true it is. I understand the heart of intent when someone says: "Don't let the sun go down on your anger." I even believe the biblical reasons for it. I'm going to interpret that to mean "Don't hold a grudge - don't drag out feelings of discontent and bitterness." I am NOT, however, going to interpret that to mean "Work through disagreements at 11:30 pm while drowsy, emotional, and cranky. Delve into the depths of your differing points of view on politics, religion, and relationships when most of the world is entering its second REM cycle." It's just not helpful. But oh my goodness you guys, I feel so much kinder and thoughtful and more forgiving after a full night's sleep. Problems are so much easier after you sleep on them. Our solutions are reached 100 times faster this way.

3. Don't be defensive. (B) Listen to what the other is saying without needing to build up your own case. See the heart of what's going on. Defending something implies that an attack is happening, which means a fight. No need for fights. If I can put it into caveman terms for you: Fights bad. Conversations good.

4. Thou shalt not watch agreed upon TV series without the other. (A) Now, both of us have been guilty of a little Netflix infidelity as of late. Brian totally went ahead on House of Cards, and I recently broke this rule with Orange is the New Black. Honesty is key, though, and we're working through our issues here. Admitting there's a problem is the first step, right?

5. It's really important to eat together. (B) This has been a big one for us. I love being married to a teacher, because he totally gets it. He understands the pace of life, the stressful breakdowns, and the Sunday night blues like only a fellow teacher could. A teacher's life means stretches of chaos and stretches of catch-up and rest. In all the ebbs and flows of busy life, having even 20 minutes of eating and talking together with no screens and no other distractions has become one of the best parts of my day.

6. Always keep dessert in the house. (A) I never knew how important this one was. I think it's a Whartnaby family thing, of which I am now a member, so I guess it's now my thing too! I've never seen the effects of cookies, brownies, and treats work such wonders. It's magical and so simple. Want the recipe for a happy Brian? Just add ice cream.

7. Cuddle a lot. (B) Ha! His tough guy public persona is a goner. Sorry, Brian.

All practicalities aside, I turn to a puddle when I think about how God worked out our story, about how I got this guy placed in my life at just the right time! Life's not perfect, but so far we've been granted a pretty fantastic path. Providence has never seemed so real to me as it does now.

It's been a great year :)
More dessert. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Writing and God and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Summer has been full of trips and family for the first part of June, and then it went full swing into summer-job-mode. I'm nannying this summer, which means my days are full of pool time, tennis lessons, and summer tutoring. Not to mention all of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich making, sock matching, and fort building.

It's sort of funny to me that most all of my life's earnings have centered around helping parents raise their children. From nannying through the summers, to babysitting in college, to teaching primary-aged kids for the past three years, I spend most of my time with little people. I wouldn't have predicted this for myself, though. I have friends for whom this kind of path would make sense. You know those girls? The ones that swoon and put out their hands the second a baby enters the room? Yeah, not me. Or at least it used to not be me. I still have anxiety about holding teeny tiny babies and am convinced they're allergic to me, but I am so fascinated with the people God made around me. When you love people, you can't help but absolutely love kids. I love that kids can handle so much responsibility, are so capable of deep thoughts and understandings, and that kids remind me to put my whole heart into everything I do. They are such whole-hearted people (thanks, Brene Brown, for your phrase!) and I learn so much from that mindset of living every day. Teaching has given me such a respect for the field of education, and nannying has given me such a respect for stay-at-home-moms. Heck, for moms of any variety. You people are amazing!

Even with all of the learning experiences and work opportunities, I'm finding that this summer has been a little bit more hectic than I thought it would be. My head starts to absolutely spin when I think of the prospect of teaching next year: it will be my fourth classroom in four years, and my third school in four years. I'm really thankful for the open doors, but also exhausted with the changes. I know it takes over 40 hours of logged time in my classroom for me to set it up, and I'm looking ahead on the calendar with disbelief at when that is going to happen.

Yesterday I had about seventeen different tabs open, all looking at possible classroom layouts, unit plans, teaching blogs, Teachers Pay Teachers (bless it!), and Pinterest. It got to the point where I started to whimper out loud in an actual panicked whine. I had to stop. So I shut my computer and walked away for 24 hours. And here I am again. A little less scatter brained. As I type Brian is YouTubing funny Domingo Ayala baseball videos, so I suppose that's a little distracting, but that's nothing compared to the beginning-of-school-year-anxiety that was hitting me last night. But that's cleared now, and here I am. At this page.

I love this blog, simply because it's mine. I'm pretty sure my mom is its most faithful follower (hey Mom!) followed with my Auntie Lee as a close second (hey there!), but it's not making me any money, sponsorship deals, or popularity in any way. I love it because it's a space for me to speak, to practice this thing I love so much called writing, and it just never goes away. I love that this blog is here whether I update it once a week, once a month, or once a day. Sometimes, though, when I let it go for a few days or weeks without coming here, I get itchy. Do you have that too? Do you have that thing that you know takes effort but is really good for you? Something that, neglected for a few days, starts to make you itch? Writing is that for me. Running, to a lesser extent, is that for me too, but writing is my thing.

Ever since I was a Christian (we're talking from about age 10 or so) I would journal down my thoughts about God every few days. As I grew up, and wanted to appear to be a stronger Christian to myself (ha!), I would set these rules for myself to write in my journal daily. Every day.  It began really well, and then it turned into a weird self-imposed legalism where I would lose every time. I would put the date at the top of each entry, which only compounded my guilt, since each time I opened up the journal I would face the affront of the previous entry's date. Each new entry's writing started something like this: "Oh my goodness. It's been 3 whole days since I've written or thought about you, God. I'm so ashamed." Shame and guilt as you begin your talk with Jesus? Hmmm. Not the best.

Then, my mentor at church told me to stop writing the date at the top. She said that God was less concerned with the regularity of entries and more concerned with my heart. Was I involving Him in my daily life? God just wants to be made known to me, that's all, and so you know what? I took a break from journaling altogether. It's been about 5 months and I think it's been really good for me. No more fake laws to break, and no more fake laws to grit my teeth trying to uphold so that I could feel good about myself. Just one more way that I try to earn my own ticket, to believe the lie that I'm pulling my own weight on this ride. Silly me :)

After these past months, I think I'm ready to start writing about God again. I think I'll mostly do so in my journal as usual, and maybe sometimes I'll transfer those thoughts to this space here so my mom and great aunt can read them (or maybe a few other people too!). I process best through writing things down; words are the way I forage through this world. Words are why I'm an immediate over-sharer, why I have a steady book addiction growing on my nightstand this summer, and why the best thing Brian has ever given me was a handwritten note on yellow legal paper on the morning of our wedding day. I think words are how God relates to the world (Jesus is, in fact, The Word incarnate), how he created the world, and how He speaks to me. I've heard His words lately, in the middle of my spinning brain about things going on, things to come, and the anticipation (always) of what's next.

In the middle of this hectic summer, I really have felt that pull to get back to my words and my God. I've been reading a lot about the other ways people connect, guilt-free (that's key), to their faith lately and it makes me stand in awe at all the ways we grow and learn with this sovereign, compassionate God. Nannying this summer has allowed my brain a change of pace, so that in between the pool and the peanut butter sandwiches I've started to feel that itch again, so I'm back here again at this place. The more I write, the more I want to write. It feels good. I hope you find your place this summer too.