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!)

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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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Sometimes I can't believe I get to have my family as my family. The previous post to this one delved a little bit deeper into why it's such a big influence and source of joy in my life. Two of the best things about my family are named Karley and Liz. When cousins are your best friends, that means you get to keep them for life! We decided around Christmastime that this summer called for a cousins road trip. I conveniently also wanted to visit my brothers out on the east coast, and boom! plans were made. Rudi and Stephanie are in suburban New York, living in New Jersey, while Alex and Heidi are in suburban D.C., living in Alexandria, Virginia. We had such a good time seeing family, sightseeing, and soaking up a week of no work or obligation.

Want to know what I've discovered? Donuts are my favorite (although this has been a life long love affair, not a recent discovery), the east coat has incredible history, and I miss my family.

Brian and I are the closest to my parents of all my siblings at a 2-hour car ride away. Although don't feel too sorry for them, since it's become almost impossible to keep up with their travels and schedule anyway :) There is, though, a part of my heart that breaks in this process of adulthood carrying on, the process of people I love following their dreams. I'm all about people forging their own paths and seeking the Lord's call, no matter theory. And then it takes people I love very, very far away from me and then I am tested in this faith of mine. I am reminded that God has each of us right where that needs to be, whether that's 2 hours, 2 days, or 2 weeks worth of travel away. Even my two partners in crime, travel buddies extraordinaire, Karley and Liz are looking like they aren't on the same geographic path as me. That's hard for me to take, but it's okay. I love them to pieces.

Here are a few pictures of our adventure out east this summer. (Have I mentioned how sweet it is to be a teacher during the summer? It is so sweet.)