How do you say goodbye to the person who shapes so much of who are? That is what I have to do.

In many ways it has been a long goodbye, drawn out by time and forgotten memories. My nanna had changed so much in the last ten years–years marked with unspeakable losses and seismic shifts. She lost a grandson, a son, her husband, and a loving son-in-law. She sold and moved from the home she made with Grandaddy. And as all of this happened, little pieces of her drifted away. Her memories lost in a cloud of mini strokes (her spells she called them) until a major one finally claimed her.

Max keeps praying to Nanna every day. “Nanna, I hope you have a good life in heaven. I hope you are happy.” His father chuckles at his innocence while I tell Max that he can talk to Nanna whenever he wants.

This is the truth I tell him. The ones we lose are with us in pieces. For me, Nanna is with me in gestures and actions pieced in my everyday life.

Every time I open a book, Nanna is with me. After all she is the one who made me love them. Not because she herself was a great lover of reading (though she read her Bible every day), she would drive my brother and me to Kemp Public Library every week in the summer to check out books. It was there that I checked out and read some of my favorite books–The Velveteen Rabbit, Little Women, The Hobbit.

Last night I wound the hanks of alpaca yarn to knit a sweater for Madeleine. As I wound the yarn into lilac balls, I could see Nanna, yarn piled in her lap, with her crochet hook an fast fingers working on an afghan, hat, or scarf for someone she loved. While I never enjoyed crocheting even after she taught me, her love of yarn led me to learn to knit. Like her, I almost never knit something for myself.

My nanna was the consummate hostess. Every Sunday she made a large dinner spread. She set the table with a lovely white cotton tablecloth trimmed with flowers. These dinners were not necessarily a special occasion, but she made them that way. They were not just for our family. Each week new faces would join the table–sometimes the pastor and his family, sometimes aunts, uncles, cousins, and later my friends–they loved her lasagna. Her home was a gathering place for all. When I went to college, I took that with me. I knew food brought people together, so I used it to connect with those around me. When I was lonely or wanted to know people better, I invited them over for dinner. My closest friendships forged with bread and wine.

Before she passed, I asked her, “Nanna, do you remember how we used to make candy together?” She taught me how to watch the temperature by plopping the sugary mixture into cool water. She would stir, and I would add ingredients. Later, I would do the vigorous stirring while she added the ingredients until finally I would have to make it on my own. When I asked her, she couldn’t respond. Her speech already lost to the blockage in her brain. She squeezed my hand.

All these pieces–parts of me–remain even after a goodbye like the sweet lingering of fragrance of lilies from fresh cut flowers. Fudge, Sunday dinner, lasagna, rainbow sherbet, “Brookies”, crochet, hymns, singing, cards, libraries, poems, crosswords, doodles. These are the pieces left even after someone is gone.

It’s Time for Change

On July 3rd, I posted some disgusting pictures of myself on Instagram under a pseudonym as part of a preparation for a  28-day challenge.  They weren’t pretty.  I couldn’t believe I did it.  (I still can’t believe it. )I crammed my body into some bright orange workout clothes that I swear (you’re welcome) to never leave the house wearing and took pictures in front of our foggy bathroom mirror. And I hit post. No filters. Just me.  ACK!

We left for vacation that evening. I wasn’t ready to start the actual eating part of my challenge at all.  We were venturing out to Kansas City, and I did not want to give up KC’s finest barbecue. I also didn’t want to give up my diet soda…yet.  Somewhere in my mind I couldn’t think of a road trip without a diet soda.  This only reveals my skewed thinking about food and drink in general.  Also if I had started changing my habits, I would not have allowed myself to partake in that glorious cookie thing my brother-in-law made for dessert on our visit.  (It was out-of-this-world delicious and about a gazillion calories).  We returned from our trip on Sunday, and on Monday, I made my changes.

I decided no artificial sweeteners and no sugar.  I would limit my carbs to a handful and avoid anything too “starchy.”  I would also stick to 1200 calories/day. (I would likely not have made it this far without the discovery of Refrigerator Oatmeal.  It’s the best!  Seriously.  I’m not even hungry at lunch because this magic breakfast is so filling.)

As I was mentally preparing myself to make this changes, I started to evaluate other parts of my life that I wanted to makeover. I decided that I move less than I should.  This is generally only a problem in the summer as most days I hit my 10,000 steps during a regular teaching day; however, during the summer, I find my corner of our beige sofa a little too comfortable.  If I plop down on the couch particularly in my own little corner, I will get sucked into social media, Netflix, or other sedentary activities.  I pledged to myself to move 30 minutes per day.  Yesterday it was swimming with my kids for an hour along with walks to and from the pool. Monday, it was 30 minutes of Just Dance with Madeleine. (I’m awful but I don’t care).

But eating and movement weren’t the only aspects of my life that I wanted to change.  My outlook and attitude had become rotten. I started to think of myself in comparison to other people and their success. I honestly felt like no one wanted to read my posts on social media.  They weren’t interesting, and frankly, I was bored by my own life.

I also felt like I didn’t have strong relationships with others.  I felt like my relationships with people were shallow.  If I only know about your life because you posted on social media and I call us friends, what does that say?  I should know what’s going on with my friends because we had a conversation about it.  I should see their vacation photos because they showed them to me and I showed them mine….not by posting them on a site.  That’s not a relationship.  It’s lazy communication, and it doesn’t value each other.  It says, “Here’s my life for the world to see,” but it doesn’t create the intimacy that real friendships need.  It replaces the phone calls and personal text messages with forced “Happy Birthdays” from people with whom you have not had a real conversation in 15-20 years.  Sometimes I feel like FB is the gift cards of the gift-giving world.  Gift cards are cool, but they don’t suggest that you know a person well enough to select a personalized option.  We are often lazy gift givers and lazy maintainers of relationships.

So here it is.  My commitment to 28-days of change.  Changes in eating, fitness, and social media. In another week, I will shoot another photo in the same neon orange sports bra and shorts, but I’m hoping the change is less visible on the outside.  #wholebodymakeover #progressnotperfection

(Check out the recipe page for my favorite new breakfast.)

Warning: Spontaneous Emotions May Overflow


Today my dad would have been 75.  I didn’t realize it right away.  As every morning, I became caught up in my routine.  I woke, showered, ate, drove to school–the same as every weekday morning.

It wasn’t until a student came to me for a pass to work on Shakespeare scenes during homeroom when it hit me.

“Today is April…” I hesitated trying to remember what yesterday had been.

“The 25th,” she said.

I paused and jotted the number down as the realization came and my eyes burned with the holding back of preliminary tears.

“Here ya go,” I said quickly and handed her the small green paper.

I held my breath as she left and then released it slowly.

My morning went on as usual.  During my planning time, I checked my phone including a quick review of Facebook.  There it was again.  The reminder.  It’s his birthday.  I quickly tucked my phone away.  I wasn’t ready to deal with the full range of emotions such a realization brings.

And I went on with my day.  I talked about totalitarian governments.  A student brought up her father’s own involvement with air force intelligence during a brief discussion on spies.  There it was again.  I remembered you had done that too.  I answered her questions and moved on.

I taught Shakespeare.  Miranda proposed to Ferdinand, and Prospero expressed his happiness.  Students eagerly asked me about my proposal, and I told the story of how Jedidiah asked my father’s permission.  Jedidiah had asked, and he said, “Are you sure?”  It’s one of my favorite stories to tell.  And there it was again.

Once my day was over, I came home and looked at the calendar.  There it was.  Your picture and no longer just a birthdate and year…there was the death year.  There was such a finality to it.  Then I finally cried.  All of it, out like a flood.  I sobbed.  My throat burned and felt tight.  It hurt to swallow.  There it was again…finally.

And even though it’s your birthday, Dad, it’s there every day.  That reminder that you were, and then suddenly you were not.

I think of you every day.  Some days are just harder than others.  Today is always one of those days.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Jedidiah’s Edition

This is a guest post by my handsome, but less-enthused-over-the-holidays husband.

Ah, Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as they say. I mean, it’s not true, everybody knows that the most wonderful time of the year is the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament, but I digress. I don’t think people realize just how much of their life is spent in Christmastime. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that the Christmas season starts halfway through November. Stores start putting Christmas stuff up right after Halloween, but it takes a couple weeks to build steam. By December 1 st it’s already at full speed though, so mid-November seems about right. That’s six weeks or so, or in other words: 12% of the year. What does that mean? 12% is a pretty big portion of your year, about 1/8 of it. You probably don’t spend an eighth of your time in a given year doing anything other than sleeping or working. But you spend an eighth of it in Christmasland. You’re probably saying, if you’re not Charlie Manx, where’s the
harm in that? To that I say: there isn’t! If you want to watch Christmas movies in October, or put up your lights early, more power to you. Whatever you do in the privacy of your own home doesn’t matter to me. What I have a problem with is when others force their holiday celebrations on me for an eighth of my year though, and of course I mean Christmas music.

Now let me say that – objectively speaking – there’s nothing wrong with Christmas music in theory. But in practice, the music is easily the worst part of the season. I mean, the whole tree-decorating bit is never fun, anything over like 5 ornaments is overkill. But it’s over in a few hours and you can move on. You spend weeks having to tolerate Christmas songs. And – again, objectively speaking – Christmas songs are the worst torture you can inflict on a person.

There are some really good Christmas songs, of course. It Feels Like Christmas from The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s In Every One of Us by John Denver and the Muppets. Even non-Muppet songs too, like White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Good King Wenceslas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen….ok, that’s all I have, the rest are straight up rubbish. They range from the boring trudge that is Handel’s The Messiah, to the date-rapey skeeze of Baby It’s Cold Outside, to the wheezy synth farts of Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Something about Christmas just causes songwriters
to collectively lose their minds and write the worst nonsense they can, and our culture obliges them by playing it over and over and over for 12% of our lives.
My wife thinks that Christmas songs are “cheery”, but this smacks of PTSD from exposure to too many Christmas songs.

Christmas is a sacred time for people of faith – Christians in particular are celebrating the birth of their lord and savior. So why are most traditional carols depressing? Sure, there’s Joy to the World! and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and you can tell they’re happy songs from the exclamation
marks. But once you get past those you’re stuck with Silent Night, O Holy Night, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and the list goes on and on. All low- tempo, low-energy songs that put you to sleep and drain every last bit of Christmas spirit from the room. It’s no wonder that Santa needs the 5000-reindeer power Kringle 300 jet turbine engine to keep his sleigh in the air these days.

Silent Night in particular is so depressing that, on a cold, miserable Christmas Eve in the trenches during World War I in 1914, with mustard gas and death in the air, it was the only song that a British soldier could think to sing. Away in a Manger may or may not be singing about a Jonestown-like mass genocide of little kids (Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and….take us to heaven?!?!). And these are the songs that are supposed to be sung in celebration of the birth of Christ? It would be like, instead of Happy Birthday, we all sang Hurt by Johnny Cash to each other over a lit birthday cake.

By far the worst offender is the Little Drummer Boy, and it’s not really close. It’s garbage on every level. It’s not catchy, it’s repetitive to the point of seizure-inducing, and it’s as slow as a funeral march. But worst of all, it makes no sense. Picture the scene – Mary and Joseph are in a smelly barn. Mary just gave birth and is exhausted, but is gamely putting up with an endless parade of shepherds and magi and whatnot when all she really wants to do is sleep. Joseph is tired too – I mean, based on the pictures, Mary rode the donkey to Bethlehem while he had to walk the whole way, while also putting up with a pregnant woman on a donkey. They FINALLY get baby Jesus to sleep, and are looking forward to an hour or so of uninterrupted sleep before the baby wakes up crying, and what happens? This jerk kid shows up and won’t stop banging his drum all over the place, and what’s worse, he acts like he’s doing everyone a huge favor the whole time! Baby Jesus is awake, the cattle start lowing again, the chickens are squawking, and the poor new parents are so exhausted they’re probably hallucinating. This is a song only the sadistic could love.

Some people say that it’s about giving what you can. The little drummer boy didn’t have a proper gift, so he gave what he could, which was his talent. It’s a nice sentiment at first glance, but closer observation renders it nonsensical. What if he had a brother whose sole talent was belching the alphabet? I mean, The Little Burping Boy would be more fun to sing, but apparently it’s only okay to give your talent as a gift if it’s socially acceptable.


Both brothers should have just made a homemade card on a flat rock or something and just dropped it off the next morning after everyone got some rest. If some random punk showed up in the hospital room with a drum kit the night my son was born, I would have turned into Keith Moon on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Christmas should be fun! Quoting Elf and making candy and watching your kids get excited and finding clever ways to wrap your wife’s presents so she won’t guess what they are. It’s 12% of your life, for heaven’s sake, make the most of it. It would just be so much more fun if we cut our losses and started from scratch on the songs. Except for the Muppet ones.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Music Edition

This post has been on my mind since Thanksgiving, but I haven’t had much free time to write.  The original plan was to do a different holiday topic each day up until Christmas, but as usual, time got away from me.

Through the years, I have developed my own list of essentials.  My favorite holiday music, movies,  and traditions.  They are my must-do, must-watch, must-listen list that makes this time the most wonderful time of the year.  I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tradition songs as well as some modern editions in this first post.

We’ve had a barrage of performances at school this month in addition to our children’s own holiday recitals.  The quarter ended at school; grades were due.  I made Christmas presents for almost everyone.  Now I am almost ready for Christmas Eve…almost.

What keeps me going, keeps me moving at this time of year is the music.  In the background as I plan, grade, type emails, wrap presents, knit, make presents, decorate the tree, the music plays, and it makes my work cheery and light.

I have loved holiday music since I could remember.  I still have a musical stuffed Santa from the year I was born that plays “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and to this day, it is my favorite decoration in our home.  Even the music at church seemed somehow more harmonic and angelic.  When I grew older, I performed solos and sang in choirs.  Holiday performances became the most wonderful time of the year for me because I was doing my favorite thing—singing Christmas music.  Often rehearsals for these performances began in October, which is why I have never been bothered by the no Christmas music before Thanksgiving rule.  I had to sing it in October, so there was no avoiding it before Thanksgiving.

My husband on the other hand hates the thought of holiday music before December. He believes this is a travesty.  The kids and I get a kick out of sneaking a listen in the car on the way to school as soon as Sirius XM starts to play it.  (It’s not even a lie how excited I was to find the Hallmark Christmas Music channel there this year).  But he doesn’t love Christmas music even in December.  In fact, he often delivers diatribes about ridiculous lyrics or how they don’t make any sense.  (In fact, I’m allowing him to follow up with his own post here).

Without further ado, here’s my list of essential holiday songs:


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”–Judy Garland

This song is everything that Christmas is to me, which is why this is the only version of this song.  I am appalled each time I hear some artist add this song to his/her list of performances because I know he/she will sing “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” and despite arguments for others, this is not the lyric.  The lyric in the only acceptable version is: “Through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow.  Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”  That’s the message.  We go work through the year only to end it surrounded by our friends and family.  It’s what keeps us going until the holidays.  At least for me–because my favorite part is being with my friends and family—not hanging some star on the tree…which is the most random line in a Christmas song that I can think of at all.  We can thank Frank Sinatra for that one; however, his version isn’t even in my top 10 anyway.

“Merry Christmas, Darling,” The Carpenters

The Carpenters will appear on this list more than once because it is hands down my favorite Christmas album.  I played it so much when I made candy early in my marriage, that it may, in fact, give my husband seizures.  I still smell warm fudge when I play it.  This song is my favorite on the entire album.  Karen Carpenter’s voice swells on the line “I’ve just one wish on this Christmas Eve..,” and I am undone.  As I have lost some dear to me, that line is my one wish–“I wish I were with you.”

“The Christmas Song,” Nat King Cole

From the rising lines of the orchestra in first measure, I am hooked.  This song is such a part of the background of our family parties that I can’t imagine opening one gift without hearing his lovely baritone voice.

“Jingle Bells”, Barry Manilow featuring EnVogue

I have never liked the song “Jingle Bells.”  Call it trauma from all the bad versions I’ve heard at piano recitals during my childhood, but Barry Manilow’s version’s features a different syncopated chorus that you can’t help but sing along.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” Bing Crosby

Nothing makes me smile more than singing “Rooty-toot-toots and rum-a-tum-tums.”  This is my only reason for including this song.  It is essential that I sing that line often each year.

“O Holy Night,” Josh Groban

There are so many beautiful versions of this song, but recently my favorite has been the version by Josh Groban.  I am also a sucker for the Christian-poppy version by Cindy Morgan and Bryan Duncan from 1995.  Not because it is particularly amazing or even a good version, but it is the Christmas duet that my uncle and I sang when I was in high school.  Nostalgia, folks.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Andy Williams

This song encompasses what I feel about the season. It’s an essential list of all I enjoy at this time, and Mr. Williams’ version is the best. (My husband’s own version follows a close second for its solid accuracy and truth.)**

“Christmas Waltz,” The Carpenters

The Carpenters, A Christmas Portrait, is the first time I heard this song.  With lyrics as sweet as candied ginger, it brings me joy and has me waltzing in the kitchen and singing as I spread royal icing on gingerbread men.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”, Harry Connick, Jr.

Nothing.  We never do anything on New Year’s Eve.  Honestly, we fall asleep even before midnight.  But I still love the promise of romance in this song and all its sweet simplicity.

“Sleigh Ride,” Leroy Anderson

I can’t imagine the holidays without this song.  Orchestras often end their Holiday Pops concerts with this song, and I have clear memories of walking out of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra’s annual holiday concert into the cool, crisp Texas air arm-in-arm with my dad singing along.  I wish I could do that again, but I live it a little bit each time I hear it.

While singing these songs signals the start of my favorite time of year, I have grown to also love these contemporary versions:


“Believe,” Josh Groban

“Silver Bells,” John Legend

“Cold, Cold Winter,” Ingrid Michaelson

“Present without a Bow” Kacey Musgraves with Leon Bridges

Guilty Pleasure Bonus:

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,” *NSYNC

Amber’s Essential Christmas Playlist


*My husband’s version of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” features the line “The kids jingle belling, and I’m what-the-helling.”  This line describes his entire feeling during the holiday season, and we love him for it.

Shakespeare on Joy: A Week of Joy #4

It’s no secret that I love my job.  I especially love teaching Shakespeare.  Most of my teaching career, I have only taught Shakespeare once per year and in most cases Romeo and Juliet.  However working at a performing arts school affords me with plenty of opportunity to promote the Bard.  This year I have been given a Shakespeare class.  I also coordinate our efforts and involvement in the Parker Shakespeare Festival.  Last year I had my doubts about middle schoolers loving my man Will, but I was wrong.  We increased student interest in studying more of Shakespeare’s work after our successes in the festival.

Joy Choice #4: There’s always time for Shakespeare and more Shakespeare and more Shakespeare.

I had so much work and so many projects to spend time on today.  I needed my plan time to send emails, but instead, I worked on Shakespeare scenes with students.  We worked on scenes from Antony and Cleopatra, Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   When it came time to return to class, I was so centered and in high spirits. It made me so happy, and the projects and work I had to do—they kept.  Sometimes you just have to take a moment to do what you love and share it with a few others.

“I wish you all the joy that you can wish” (The Merchant of Venice)


What joy did you share with others today?

Bubbles and Joy: A Week of Joy

When I went to Children’s Church, we used to sing a song…”It’s bubblin’, it’s bubblin’, it’s bubblin’ in my soul.” I loved it.  There’s just something about bubbles.  I like blowing bubbles with my kids in the pool, blowing giant bubbles at the science museum, drinking my bubbles in either champagne or Diet Coke, eating the bubbly part of the pizza crust.  I love bubbles.

I especially love bubble baths. (Joy Choice #4)  I took a long one tonight.  #ichoosejoy

The Joy in Stories: A Week of Joy #3

I have a busy schedule for the next few months.  I could document it here, but I will spare you the details.  This is common practice for me.  I like to be busy.  A good friend of mine often reminds me, “Busy people do.”  And I certainly do.

I rarely take time to actually watch a television show in real time.  The year before Madeleine was born, my husband gifted me with TIVO, and we have never stopped storing an exorbitant amount of television in its cache. (Seriously, we will never be able to watch it all.)  Lately I’ve been catching up on shows using subscription services like Netflix and Hulu, but tonight I watched a show while it was on–commercials and all.

Joy Choice #3:  I stopped to watch This Is Us.  I never do this.  I catch up on weekends and ball my eyes out while my husband occupies himself with football.  Not tonight.  Tonight I made time, set aside my work, and watched the entire program through bleary eyes while it was broadcast.  (Oh Big Three, why do you do this to me?!?).  Bleary eyes?  How does this connect with joy?  It’s this simple:

Stories bring me joy.

Stories are exactly why I spend my days doing what I do. It’s why I read.  It’s why I teach Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Harper Lee.  It’s why I passionately share these stories with my students. It’s why I spend ten minutes a day listening to my students share some of theirs. It’s why I ask my children to recount their days over dinner, and it’s why I’m writing this tonight before turning in, snuggled under cotton sheets  with my Kindle in my hands.  I love stories.  It brings me such happiness to watch/listen/read stories.  There’s such joy in every one.


Joy in the Morning…a Monday Morning: A Week of Joy

Joy Choice # 2: Today was our first day back at school after a restful and relaxing break. None of us were wanting to lift our heavy feet into the car to make the trip to school. My mind was filled with all the “I have to’s” that needed completion before the first bell. Max and Madeleine were still sleepy. Their heads resting on their chests and bobbing slightly when we hit a slight bump. It was going to be a hard day, and it was Monday. I knew that my “joy choice” would set the tone for the entire day. So what was it?
I turned up the radio. It woke the kids up. Sirius XM was playing a Jimmy Eat World song. It was “Sweetness,” and while I am not a Jimmy Eat World fan, I have loved this song since it debuted in 2001. (Jedidiah and I were engaged). I couldn’t tell you the words really. I just know the “Are you listening? Whoaoaoaoao” part….and my kids do too. (Apparently we listen to this song more than I am aware?) So instead of dwelling on the “have to’s” I decided to make the choice to play air guitar at the red light. Max started giggling. Madeleine raised her hands up and started strumming as hard as she could. Max soon followed nodding his head up and down, laughing all the while. We sang all the “whoas” at the top of our lungs and played our most glorious air guitar. Immediately our mood changed. The day suddenly felt lighter and brighter just after some emo-rock and some righteous air guitar.
So grab your air guitar and sing those “Whoa’s” as loud as possible….”Are you listening?”

I Choose Joy: A Week of Joy

In early December, my children and I were driving home from a late night rehearsal in Littleton. When I say Littleton, I mean as-far-away-as-one-can-get-from-Parker-Littleton. We were all in horrid moods. Madeleine and Max were fighting, and I was tired of listening to whiny children after a day of teaching.
“Stop!” I yelled. Their voices quieted immediately. “Guys, we’re being ridiculous. We all need to stop. Let’s choose joy instead.”
Max, who was particularly tired from late night tech week rehearsals, continued to whine, so I asked Madeleine, “What did you do to choose joy today?”
She talked of playing her cello in orchestra and dancing in musical theatre. Immediately her stern face gave way to a bright, beaming smile.
“What about you, Max?” He paused. “Well, today…”
Frankly, I don’t remember what he said, but that’s not what is important. Every day since then, I have asked my children, “How did you choose joy today?”  The love telling me about what makes them truly happy, and it brings me so much pleasure to hear them share their joy.
This is a challenge for myself too. I tend to get wrapped up in what needs to be done and what hangs looming over my head. Instead, I need to stop and choose to do or focus on what gives me joy.  I’m tired of not living the joy-filled life that I want.
This is a really long introduction to say that every day this week, I will be posting what I have done to choose joy.
Joy Choice #1: Today I finished the first sock of a pretty pair.  Knitting brings me happiness.  I love the feel of fine sock yarn between my fingers.  I like the way the loops join row-by-row interlocking around each other like mini fingers. I love a finished project–when all those minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. of work finally come together into something that I hope will bring someone else happiness.  The same kind of happiness is brought me to make it.
How did you choose joy today?

Music Monday Returns: Youth

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday.  He’s younger than I am, but only by a few months.  Despite the small distance in our age, he regularly reminds me that I am older than he is.  This week as I celebrate his finally turning the same age as me, here’s the songs on my current playlist.

  1. “Suit and Jacket”, Judah and the Lion:  There is no other band right now like Judah and the Lion.  Their goal is to produce the music they grew up listening to with the folk instruments–banjo, mandolin–that they play.  “Suit and Jacket” is my favorite.  It is an anthem for slowing down and figuring out what you really want not what society forces.   My favorite line–“I’m not trading this fire for a cold, cold heart.”
  2. “I Need Never Get Old,”  Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nigthsweats: I’ve written about this song before, so I’ll spare you the repeat.  I’m still enjoying this lighthearted love song.
  3. “Fountains of Youth,” Local Natives: As a teacher, I am hopeful that our future generations will upend the mess we’ve made of it.  I suppose that’s how it’s always been.
  4. “Good Morning,” Grouplove:  I go to bed at 10:00 p.m. every night if not earlier.  My schedule demands I be an early riser. And while I have always been a morning person, a still harbor illusions of staying up late and having a good time.  An old girl like me can dream, can’t she?

Listen to my Spotify playlist here.

Confession: The Source of My Ambition

I’ve heard a few times this month, “I don’t know how you do it all.”  Admittedly I do a lot. I work hard to balance the demands of my numerous roles–mother, teacher, department leader, grad student, web designer (I didn’t actually ask for that one), mentor, friend…Lots of women do these things, and lots of women do it better than I.  I wasn’t always this driven.  In fact, until about sixteen years ago, ambition was a foreign concept.

Throughout middle and high school, I heard that I wasn’t living up to my potential.  If I would only stop being to apathetic toward, well, everything, then I would absolutely be successful.  When I went off to school, it didn’t change all that much.  It mildly helped that I was paying for class, but I didn’t work  hard.  I wasn’t a diligent student or a devoted worker.  I just plain didn’t care.

Then it all changed.

Sixteen years ago, I met ambition.  He was tall, dark, and incredibly handsome. He was a hard worker and oh-so-smart.   At first, he was soft spoken and shy.  He was awkward, and frankly, I was thankful that he didn’t sound like a girl. He knew music, literature, and jazz. He was good at math.  I wasn’t, but I knew that I wanted to solve x when the equation was him + me.  If I wanted to impress this gentleman, I was going to have to turn it up. What did I do?

“Dear Reader, I married him.”

The truth is that I don’t do it all on my own.  Not at all. Not even a bit. I wouldn’t be able to juggle all that life throws at me without him. He’s calm and rational while I’m utterly emotional and a raging storm. He’s funny so I don’t take myself too seriously, and he reminds me that I can be rather selfish.  Above all, he pushes me to be my best self because all I really want in the world…my only true ambition is to make this man proud of me.

Happy birthday, H.B.


This is likely my husband’s face every day when he hangs up the phone with me. It’s my favorite picture.