Thursday, February 28, 2019

Things I Learned This Month | February 2019

WOW this was a full month. I spent a whirlwind long weekend in New York for an event celebrating the mark of 100 days before Charlie's class graduates from West Point - one of the crazier good decisions I've made in the last few years. I'm so proud of my big little brother. And he got me flowers. Major brownie points.

I also got to meet the wonderful, beautiful Ellie, my best friend Liza's daughter. Also seeing Liza was super. She's a wonder woman - flew up to NY from SC solo with an eight-month-old.

Anyway. This monthly post has turned into an excuse to share the photos I would have written posts about if I had my life together, but the actual purpose is to share a handful of the things I learned this month with y'all. So. Without further ado, some things I learned this month.

1. Samin Nosrat, the author of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, had enrolled in a program to get her MFA in poetry when she learned that she had the opportunity to apprentice under a famous Italian cook in Florence. The rest is history. There's a strong connection between poetry and recipe writing, y'all - economy with words, vivid descriptions - I'm not even kidding.

2. Tossing a spoonful of baking soda into the cooking water for dried chick peas makes them heavenly. I got this tip from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and those chick peas were melt-in-your-mouth tender. I never would have thought I'd get excited about a new method to cook dried beans, but I so am.

3. The Greatest Showman soundtrack is superb. I'm super late to the game, I know, and I still haven't seen the movie. But Charlie's pals played this music nonstop during the weekend I was at West Point, and I love it. I will forever associate "A Million Dreams" with a bunch of cadets singing their hearts out as they prepared a spectacular brunch for their dates and friends.

4. "Tradition is to communities what memory is to individuals." This is a quote from Irish poet John O'Donahue that has me thinking quite a bit.

5. There are lyrics to the traditional clock chime. You know, the chime that you think of when you think of Big Ben or any church tolling the hours. This one. The words inscribed on a plaque in the Big Ben clock room are:
All through this hour
Lord be my guide
That by Thy power
No foot shall slide.

I learned this from a recent episode of Emily P. Freeman's podcast, The Next Right Thing. Which, by the way, is one thing I look forward to every single week. She's actually the inspiration for my monthly practice of sharing what I've learned. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Things I Learned This Month | January 2019

After a brief hiatus, we're back to things I learned this month! (The main reason this didn't happen in December is that my brain wanted to remember all the things I learned in 2018. Which was, frankly, overwhelming.)

There's a "magic" lipstick that looks bright green but turns red when applied. 

A friend of mine visiting from North Africa brought me a stick, because apparently it's all the rage there. I was seriously skeptical until we tried it - and it worked. I did some googling, and different sources say different things about the magic. The Daily Mail says that the lipstick reacts to your skin's pH level to turn just the right shade of red. Into the Gloss says that it contains a dye called Red 27 which is colorless when dissolved in a waterless base, but which turns red upon contact with moisture. Either way, it's fun to apply lipstick that looks like it should belong to Elphaba and turns out to be as full of pizazz as Galinda.

Coffee does have its uses.

If you know me at all in real life, you know that I drink tea by the gallon and avoid coffee as if it were drinkable mud. I just don't like the taste. But on some days, it is a valid option to functioning like a normal human. I got up at 3:30 am to take a friend to the airport, and after I dropped her off, I had several hours to kill before going to work. So I hied me to Starbucks, got myself a grande Americano that I doctored liberally with cinnamon, cocoa powder, cream, and sugar, and took my medicine while doing my devotions and lesson planning. It worked: I stayed functional until my classes ended and then went home to take a nap. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

I really enjoy the enforced contemplation of MRIs and acupuncture. 

I've been having mild, ongoing ankle issues that are exceptionally difficult to diagnose. As a result, I've spent awhile lying in dark rooms with lots of banging (MRI) and pins sticking in my ankle (acupuncture). I thought I'd chafe at the empty time, but instead I've found myself actually looking forward to it. For once I have an excuse to lie on my back and do nothing except daydream and pray. It's strangely rejuvenating. Silver linings, and all that.

Sometimes you have to learn by doing.

My church is piloting a translation ministry - the dream is to provide simultaneous translation of each evening service from German into English. When I was asked to participate, part of me thought, "I have no idea how to do this." A bigger part of me thought, "I'll never know how unless I try." I got to do a run-through while we tested technology during a service last week, and I actually really enjoyed it. Though, arbitrarily, my brain decided to fly through the sermon (the difficult part) with barely a hitch, and stumble haltingly through the announcements (the easy part). Lesson learned: concentrate just as much on the easy parts instead of assuming that since they're simpler they require less attention.

Rachel Huffington's Ultimate Ginger Cookies are every bit as amazing as they look in her pictures. 

I've been wanting to try these cookies ever since I realized they call for a full 3/4 cup of minced fresh ginger, and they did not disappoint. They smell heavenly, the texture is everything I wanted it to be, and the sharp kick of ginger is a perfect companion to a cup of tea. Also, they are good with peanut butter. But then, I think that just about anything is good with peanut butter.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

wisdom from friends (and Taylor Swift): remember to enjoy this stage of life

“I’m so glad I’m not in my twenties anymore. It can be overwhelming and confusing and frustrating, because so many things are uncertain - where you’ll live, what you’ll do, who (if) you’ll marry. But remember to enjoy the freedom. Because while you gain stability with years and narrowing down options, you also lose the freedom of having your options wide open.” 

My friend smiled at her baby and took another bite of her salad while I mulled over her words. 

It’s strangely comforting to hear people in their thirties and forties and beyond talk about how difficult things could be when they were in their twenties: it helps to know that my uncertainty and occasional frustration are the norm. 

Cue Taylor Swift's "22": We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It's miserable and magical. My friend Angela and I have decided that this song is about all of your twenties, not just 22.

My least favorite question is “what do you want to do?” 

I know that until June I want to teach English in Munich. After June, when my contract ends, I have absolutely no idea. (Ok, well, I have lots of ideas, but zero plans.) I don’t know where I’ll be seven months from now, much less have a five-year plan. I’m learning to accept that, and even enjoy it. My friend was right - I enjoy a kind of freedom as a young, single woman in my twenties that I probably won’t have for the majority of my life. So why spend my time fretting that I don’t have plans when I have the freedom to entertain all sorts of possibilities?

It’s a process, but the Lord is helping me work through it. 

For my last few big decisions, God has faithfully shown me the next step - but it’s been about three months later than I think He should have let me in on His plans. So I’m working on preparing faithfully, but not freaking out when I don’t have concrete plans. 

One thing I have learned: I have a habit of declaring that I will absolutely not do something and then, in the course of a year or two, turning around and doing it. It's gotten to the point that it's rather ridiculous.

"I am absolutely not interested in going to Wheaton.” I went to Wheaton - and can't imagine a better place to have spent my college years.

"I am studying English Literature. Not German. Not as a minor, definitely not as a major. Nope.” At the eleventh hour I added German as a second major. It was a fluke - I still didn't want to study German academically, but it got to the point where it would have been dumb not to. 

"No way am I studying abroad during college - I've lived abroad. I want to spend four years rooted in one place. My semester abroad in Oxford was a highlight of my college career. Not only did I learn to love research papers (yes, I'm crazy), but I still keep up with friends that I made there via a monthly Skype book club. We've read 26 books together in the last two years.

"I'm not going to live in Germany after college. I do not want to continue down a road that could leave me torn between two countries for my entire life...Ok, fine, I’ll move to Germany, but it will only be for a year, and then I’ll go back to the states.” I write this from my apartment in Munich, which I am living in for year two as an English Teaching Assistant. 

I'm beginning to learn wisdom. Im working hard to not make any hard and fast declarations about what I will - or wont - do. Which gives me even more freedom, since Im learning to consider things that I might want to automatically rule out. 

In the meantime, I’m putting into practice an Instagram caption I wrote in June: Life is all about learning what to hang on to and what to let go of, always maintaining a strong sense of fun.

Some things I’m learning to let go of:
  • My desire to be settled without uncertainty - because let's face it: even when I think I'm settled,  something is bound to change. 
  • A self-imposed need to know what I want to do with my whole life - because even if I had a 50-year plan, it would so not last. 
  • A fixed plan for any given day - because interruptions and changes of plan happen all the time.
  • Comparison with other people’s jobs, relational status, or bandwidth. 
Some things I’m learning to hang on to: 
  • Jesus. Always. 
  • A commitment to making space and time for the people in my life - whether that’s through FaceTime, messaging, and snail mail with friends stateside; having friends over for lunch; or initiating coffee/tea dates with an acquaintances who I want to get to know better. 
  • A sense of wonder and adventure - this applies to small things like stopping to enjoy the smell of scented candles as well as larger things like taking an overnight bus with friends to go to the Italian coast.
  • Making time for things that make my soul rest - at the moment primarily cooking and reading. 
Where are you in your journey? Are you feeling settled? Uprooted? Clueless? Completely pulled together? In the midst of all of that, what do you cling to? What do you need to let go of?