Favorite Childhood Games/Tasks

Let me just go ahead and give a small disclaimer. I am a gym rat, a runner, and a strength trainer. Not a single thing about these elements of my now current self originated from my childhood. Contrary to my exuberant nature, most of these activities tend to be much more passive and subdued. That said, here goes. My favorite kid pasttimes:

1.) Reading. Yup. This hasn’t changed. I was the kid who brought her book to the grocery store, flipping pages while my mom flipped coupons in her coupon box. I had reading competitions in kindergarten with my best friend to see who could read the biggest stack of Bernstein Bears the fastest. I actually looked forward to time out because it meant quiet time to read. My mom got wise, and horror of all horrors, took my dear books away. Punishment indeed.

2.) Writing. Another mainstay. I loved to write stories as a kid, from early elementary school, all the way into high school and beyond. Mostly, my writing has always been autobiograhical or journal-oriented. I did take on a few creative writing projects in middle school, projects my Grandpa was proud to see. I get my love for the written word from him. Still miss you, Grandpa. Wish you could see me walk down the aisle in 23 days…

3.) Worm collecting. I’ve also always been a sucker for justice and I can’t handle watching anything suffer. Just after the rain, on weekends or week nights, my best friend and I would go collect all the worms that were left to dry out and expire on the asphalt, and place them back in the gutter or the grass, whichever had the most water, as our act of salvific heroism.

4.) Card games. My mom, my Aunt Betty, my grandma I never knew, and my great grandma are/were all avid card sharks. Solitaire was probably my favorite to play because it can be done anywhere anyhow and involves a good deal of competition. However, I am an extrovert, so my favorite version of solitaire was always double solitaire, a face off between my mom and I.

5.) Toilet Papering. I can still remember some of my earliest tping experiences, when my mom, and my friends’ moms, finally deemed us old enough for this semi-vandalistic activity. My mom was our driver, even rolling us through McDonald’s for a late night snack. This is also always in conjunction with sleepovers. It was a given. If there was a sleepover, some boy one of us had a crush on was getting his house smeared in white Charmin. No questions asked.

6.) Saturday morning chores. Let me clarify. I did not enjoy the chores. But, I did enjoy that mom and dad would bust out the John Denver every Saturday morning from the record player (yup, that vinyl life), and blast it through the house while we wiped off bathroom counters, straightened closets, and cleaned floors. “Grandma’s Featherbed,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Annie’s Song” are sentimental pieces for this not-at-all country girl who has come full circle to loving folk music again.

I’m glad to see while I’ve picked sports up along the way, some of my more formative passions have remained: reading, writing, justice, good old fashioned fun, and music.

Projects

Ugh. This list is not a happy one for OCD listers like myself. The joy that comes from crossing off projects on my life “list” is hard to rival. Therefore, the act of “listing” projects I am in the middle of completing is well, counterintuitive. Because, trust me, I already have lists on lists on lists of these projects in other places.

Nonetheless, here goes:

1.) My Wedding. Nuff said. This project (and all its sub lists) will be over in 23 days.

2.) My house with Zac. The number of projects this entails is innumerable, but mostly painting comes first.

3.) The Great Gatsby. My kids will finish this novel and its corresponding projects in about a weekish. And, then I’ll start Project Grade Like a Madwoman.

4.) The Common Core. Revamping lesson plans and curriculum for my high school English courses is a project in which I’ll be submerged for an indefinite amount of time.

5.) This. This #30Lists. We’re on what? Day 6? Ok, so 24 more.

5 Favorite Literary Couples

I am writing this post somewhat begrudgingly right now, which is unfortunate because literature is one of my passions. But, old books, famous literary couples, and vintage stories are the theme of my wedding, and well, my wedding is sort of owning my life right now, and by owning, I mean stressing the hell out of me. So, I’ll try to be my usual poetic romantic self in today’s list, but uh, don’t get your hopes up. Instead, just be amused by the irony of this stressed out little bride/English teacher’s life.

1.) Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. I admire Jane’s resolve, Rochester’s passion, and the redemption theme that runs rampant through their story. Jane does not compromise her integrity and faith for an immoral lifestyle or a life devoid of love. Rochester, after being purified through fire (literally) is fit now to be the husband Jane always wanted and needed. What was lost is restored, 10 fold. Reader, she married him.

2.) Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley. Emma, albeit one of Austen’s more troublesome heroines as her flaws are obvious, is no less charming for faults and perhaps even more so. Mr. Knightley’s woo factor lies in his ability to always call Emma out. He doesn’t let her get away with poor behavior, but gently rebukes her, improving her character, as a good man ought. They sharpen one another. He is the kind of man I always hoped I’d marry, and soon will.

3.) Lois Lane and Clark Kent. This is a throwback to my Superman obsession of the mid-90’s, featuring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. What girl doesn’t want to be literally swept off her feet, become a superhero’s paramour, and be a hard-bitten news reporter? I’m still to this day a sucker for glasses, ties, and innocent farm boys in plaid. Big fan of my groom’s new need for glasses. It’s like I have my own personal altar-ego lover.

4.) Kate and Petruchio, or perhaps better listed at Kat and Patrick from the Taming of the Shrew and it’s modern adaptation, 10 Things I Hate About You. In this classic Shakespearian tale, a chumpy young man takes on the challenge of taming the “beast,” a wildly tempestuous and sharp-tongued young lady. Again here in this story is the encouraging thought that even the most difficult and shrewish of women have a man out there somewhere for them.

5.) Leah Price and Anatole Ngemba. These two characters from The Poisonwood Bible make my Africa heart happy. A missionary child growing up in postcolonial Congo, Leah literally goes native and marries a local Congolese man. They then become actively a part of political change and reformation in their country, choosing to live amongst the people, rather than journey back to the comfort of America. So much of me longs to have this couple’s kind of adventure, bravery and purpose.

I see bits and pieces of the Love Story I have with Zac, and want to have more deeply with him, in all these tales. I think it is because of their humanity, that we admire their love. It gives us a hope that something similar to what they possess, can be shared by us all.

 

Creative Tools

The word “create” for me is sometimes a daunting one. Unlike many girls, I did not seem to inherit the innate ability to craft or “put together” some aesthetic “look.” I can mimic, and I can learn, but somehow, any artistic endeavor I take pales in comparison to my other female compadres’ work. But, as I’m sure we’ve all seen pinned on pinterest for some wall poster, “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.” The sermon endeth there, however, because while I find myself increasingly using Pinterest as a tool, and that quote as a life lesson, it’s really not where I want to go today at all.

Instead, I shall log my creative tools perhaps a bit different than some others.

Most of my creativity comes out when I write, so I, of course need…

My Macbook Pro

My journal and a pen

My Bible (usually, not always)

The background knowledge of vast other amounts of other literature

A muse (music from iTunes, Pandora, candles burning, or the backdrop of the coast).

As a teacher, I also create lesson plans, so then there is the obligatory…

Suzy Zoo lesson plan book (no, I do not teach elementary school, yes I am still in love with this 90’s character set)

Colleagues’ collaboration

Work bestie’s brain to pick

Textbook

Novel or book of poetry

Pilot G-2 O7 pens (preferably in bright or pastel colors)

Next, I like to think I have managed to create a nice fitness routine, with of course, a few pieces of equipment…

Pink Everlast boxing gloves

Kettlebells

Medicine and dynamax balls

Mat (for abs and floor work)

My Saucony running shoes for half marathon training

My green and blue animal print Nikes for weight training and gym work

And finally, in my attempts to become more “wifed up” currently, I hope to create a nice home for Zac and I and so far, the following tools have been my lifesavers…

Painting gear and paint (mint and gray thus far)

Chalkboard markers

Mason jars

Lace and twine

 LASTLY, TRULY, COFFEE. COFFEE is needed for all these lists. It is the tie that binds.

Ideal Day

My ideal day is almost certainly structured around two very key elements: people and place.  And so, in no uncertain order, if I could have a day all of my own design, I would want it to look something like this…

Slow and savored, like a good wine, a day that can be sipped on gently, a day, that when memory recalls it, seems to span so much more time than 24 hours of beauty can hold.

With my love, and also so many magical appearances by my best friends.

A day exploring an unknown, exotic city, full of all the romance and mystery of the place. Where the local opens up to me just like it does in the books, and a storybook land becomes tangible before my eyes.

A lazy morning, with sun and ocean and a good book, on some beach with only the slightest of clouds, and the dreamiest of waves crashing.

A long afternoon, spent adventuring, tasting local fare, and drinking coffee down cobblestone streets, peering into shop windows and occasionally stopping to nosh at a bakery. My pup would be sniffing street lamps by my side.

A balmy night, filled with enchanting songs and dancing whimsically through a light breeze, the kind of carefree spirit drifting inside of my traveler and I, causing us to laugh tipsily, with no substance involved but the sheer intoxication of wanderlust.

Laughter. Laughter so hard your stomach aches and no sound emerges from your vocal chords. The kind where your face scrunches up, your eyes water in their slits from cheeks so full of mirth, and you emit, if anything, a high pitched cackle as you gasp for air.

And finally, sleep. Good. Good sleep.

And the best part of this Ideal Day? I think it just might stand a good chance of happening this summer, when my soon-to-be-husband and I board a honeymoon flight to France and Italy. Viva la Vida and Carpe Diem, and Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, and all of that lovely poetic frill my heart eats up.

 

Pen-Pal

By far the best pen-pal experience I ever had was as a teacher. I don’t even remember the country, but I remember my students in suburbia were invited to write to a group of students overseas. I sold the idea of writing to them easily (shocking, I know). And they waited (impatiently) for replies from their buddies across the pond. Watching their excitement was all the reward I needed for organizing a somewhat messy task of mailing and stamping and sending. They asked tons and tons of questions, and of course, I gave them guidelines of what to say and what not to say to individuals their own age, living in a very different culture and space.

Now, Day 2 of #30Lists turns the question on me. How would I describe myself to a pen pal:

From the outside to the inside (and all the variations therein):

Green-eyed, auburn haired, petite

Pale is the new tan

Buff (for a girl)

Girly — think scarves, mani-pedis, tasteful animal print and lace, NOT glitter, hot pink, 6 inch heels, or bows

Matchy-matchy (Accessories must coordinate; I’m not one for the Bohemian thrown together look; when I do it, I just look thrown out).

Spastic, non-rhymthic, and always on the go

Child of God, sinner turned saint, rescued by Jesus

Planner (I still keep one of those ones with actual pen and paper, where I live on the satisfaction of lining out items)

Hater of clutter – there’s a place for everything, much like Solomon says there is a time for everything.

Lover of one very handsome, smart man I call husband in 28 days

Mother to one very ornery but incorrigibly lovable chocolate lab with an impish smile

Teacher of literature to over 1,000 students in these last 7 years, a sobering reality when tempted to think my job is anything but significant

Enthusiast for justice; empathizer for suffering; enemy of child and animal abuse, exploitation of human beings, and any kind of racist action or attitude

At times a pessimist, scared to hope

A sucker for a good story, a someone just trying to live a good one

Classic literature snob (John Donne is the best poet, second only to Shakespeare himself)

And, judging by the length of this list, I’m beginning to think, perhaps, a tad bit too narcissistic.

 

 

 

30 Lists

My fiancé really knows me. I mean, crazy knows me. I know because my bridal shower game proved it today when we answered almost all the same questions the same way, on two different days, in two different locations via two different media formats. You get the picture.

Well, because he knows me so well, he knows how much I like to write. And also how little time I have right now. And also my fear of crafting (because it does not come as innate to me as writing or organizing time). So, he found this gem of a project  through a friend of his, offered it to me, and I, perhaps naively, signed up to essentially write a list every day this month (the month I am getting married). I said yes because I do need to write. My soul needs it. Also, I am 30 this year, so you know it just seems fitting to write 30 lists with purpose. And because while this month is March Madness mixed with Wedding Bells, it is also a magical month and a season I know I will look back on long after all centerpieces are tossed, all gifts are unopened and all dresses are boxed away, and wish I could return to. So, when I am old and worn down with baby feedings and laundry lists morphing into grocery lists, I hope I can look back on this month and these 30 lists and remember the magic of it all.

Coincidentally enough, on my second of three bridal showers, and the first day of my wedding month, the prompt for today’s list is…

Ways to add MAGIC to my life

1.) Eat from fancy plates and serving ware more often. It makes me feel like a queen.

2.) Read back through special notes, cards, and books friends have made for me and remember the beautiful moments we have shared.

3.) Take our dogs for more walks in the rain, hand in hand with my man.

4.) Indulge in a cupcake whose flavor I’ve never had before.

5.) Pray with a friend. It’s not magic, it’s better than that.

In case you are interested in joining my 30 Lists challenge, here’s the link!http://30daysoflists.com

Fit 3.30

I suppose I’m like most girls. It’s approximately two months before my wedding day, and I’ve upped my usual 5 times a week to the gym to 6 times a week. I’ve limited my sugar intake (quite the fete for me), and I’ve invested in some good skin and hair care products. I’ve got fitness and health goals from here until next Thursday and back.

And so far, I’ve been pretty successful. At the physical anyways.

What I’m realizing tonight is that my spiritual goals are lagging somewhere far behind, like some sad senior playing on the JV team.

Currently, my one spiritual goal for now until March 30th (in 51 days and 18 hours) is to finish a Bible study I’m doing on the life of the Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. If I work on my study 5-6 days a week for the next 7 weeks, I should be able to finish it before the Big Day. And what I’m realizing even more than just the ridiculous difficulty in keeping that one spiritual goal when I can squat my own physical body weight, is that that one goal is probably far more important than all of my physical ones combined. The aspiration, task, journey towards being spiritually ready for marriage, if met, or at least in process, is probably a much more profound, long-lasting, and selfless achievement than any number of inches counted around my waist or pounds dropped on the scale. Those external things, in comparison to the internal things, are much more vain, shallow, and fleeting than a Proverbs 31 woman would claim, for a noble wife, who can find? Her worth is far greater than kettle bell thrusters, heavy deadlifts, and Chanel perfume.

And the thing about studying John is this. That man loved Jesus. He was the disciple that Jesus loved, but boy, did John love Him right back. He loved Him. In a He is my best friend and my big brother and the man whose mother I will care for as my own kind of way. In a everyone else has left Him, scared, but I follow Him to the cross and I watch my Hero die an agonizing death because I love Him too much to ever leave Him, even in His darkest, most unutterably painful to be a part of hour kind of way. Perhaps it seems weird, but Jesus’ life, seen through the lens of John, as though I can kind of channel John’s soul for a few weeks, helps me see Jesus as my own Hero, Best Friend, Big Brother, and Savior better. I am beginning to grasp more of what it means to be a good friend. And to want desperately to be one.

And this, this is an even greater gift than the one I could give to my Zachary on our wedding day. To be a faithful friend to Jesus. To be the bride adorned for her heavenly Bridegroom. Not that I could ever give Jesus a gift He needs, but I think this is one He probably desperately wants. My spiritual fitness, my faith, my forever “I do and I will, til death does NOT do us part, and I am Your’s Lord, forever.”

If you are a friend of mine, I ask you, help me stay accountable to pursuing spiritual fitness and faithfulness to Jesus these next pre-nuptial days, and all the happily ever after ones too.

Because of Christmas

Let me tell you a story about this day, last year…

Christmas day, last year, I sat crying in a corner of my aunt’s bathroom. I smashed myself up against the corner of her armoire, where the furniture met my body and the hard wall.  After balling on the toilet, I managed to walk a few spaces, slink onto the carpet, and collapse into sobs. The audible sounds of my cousins’ and family’s mirth and joy playing games outside only served to mock and heighten my own sorrow and dejection. I refused to take part, I refused to go outside the room, I refused to be consoled. I accepted the offer of a blanket, and a nap on my aunt’s bed.

I was bitterly lonely, tirelessly hopeless, beaten down, despairing of the future, and heartbroken beyond words. I was sure many more Christmases awaited me as the awkward single member of the family, always awaiting the many questions about my (non)existent, or painful, dating life, one that seemed to birth only trouble and heartache, if it birthed anything beyond barren dreams.

Somewhere, though, in the midst of those tears, a tweet vibrated on my phone. A young man saw my sorrow on twitter, and sent out a white flag of friendly concern. A mere acknowledgement of my pain, and a simple wish for me to have a Merry Christmas.

Now, let me tell you a story about Christmas today, this year…

I sit on my bed, a little sick from the appetizers, and meals, and desserts of 4 Christmases enjoyed in the last 24 hours, and double the gifts, memories, and love than I’ve ever experienced in a Christmas before. The reflections of last night’s Christmas Eve with my fiancé’s family are still as warm and peaceful as the night itself. This morning’s fire and coffee and wrapping paper frenzy with him and my family is as clear as last minute. And this afternoon and evening shared with old and new aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and grandparents provides sounds and voices still ringing jubilantly in my ears. I played games, and I watched the light dance in and out of the diamonds on my left hand, and I rooted for the Applegates, of whom I now count myself one, and I kissed a man I will call husband in 3 months and 5 days.

I am blissfully content, dreamily hopeful, refreshed, expectant of good years to come, and thankfully happy beyond measure. There are no more single Christmases for me. No more silent prayers in the night that it be my last holiday season alone. I answer questions now about my wedding on March 30, and, to be honest, on most days, it still feels unreal.

And that certain young man who tweeted at me last year? Well, he’s sitting beside me. And, I’m whispering to him, “You fell in love with a broken girl.” And he’s whispering back, “We’re all broken. It’s just that, together, we’re less broken now.”

And I catch my breath, and I thank God for him. And I thank Him for hearing my anguished cries last Christmas, and for answering the prayers I’d knocked down heaven’s doors with for years. And I know this is His best earthly gift to me, the man I will love and cherish for the rest of this life, til death do us part.

And so now, let me tell you just one more story about this day, many, many, some two thousand years ago.

Christmas Day, some millennium ago, a woman cried, writhing in pain, and a baby howled, drawing it’s first breath, and a first time father heaved a prayerful sigh of relief, and also overwhelming exhaustion, and Messiah was born. And the prayers of an entire people since the dawn of time were answered in that night. The world was broken, spattered in war and smothered in evil, sickly, twisted, and with nothing but silent promises from old tablets to measure any kind of hope by. And God gave them a Man, the Man that is Him. And He came down to join us in the filth, and to walk beside us in the weeping, and to love us in the grimness of the dying, and decaying. And to rise victoriously not just from a women’s womb, but from a rich man’s tomb, and to give us wholeness, and healing, hope and joy, peace and shalom.

You see, this year for Christmas, God gave me a man to love me and protect me and hold me these next (I hope) 50+ years. But God already gave me, and the world, a Man, so many Christmases ago. A Man to teach my man to love me and protect me and hold me.  A Man who will not leave me, even after death. A Man who will take me beyond the four walls of this home, or this earth, but into glory. A Man who doesn’t just make me less broken together with Him, but who makes me Whole entirely because of Him.

Last Christmas, and this Christmas, and for all the Christmases to come, and to the ones when I am sitting by His new throne, on the new earth, God gave me Himself.

Out of all the gifts I got this last Christmas, and in probably all the years past, Zachary will always be the best. But, you see, he is just an earthly reminder, that Christmas has always been about God, giving us, a Man.

 

Because He first loved us…

Come, celebrate with me today. Come, today, join in declaring God’s entirely unmerited and unspeakable goodness.

Because this exact day one year ago, I was weeping on my bed, heartbroken. I despaired of ever finding love again. I thought God had forgotten me.

And then, this afternoon, at approximately 1:25pm, I said yes to spending the rest of my God-given days with the man whom my soul loves.

And because, long before Jesus gave me Zac, He gave me so much more than a mere mortal; He gave me more of Him. He gave me heartbreak, so He could give me hope. He gave me pain, so He could teach me the intricate beauties of joy. He gave me loss, so when He gave me life again, I would ever only praise Him.

Because today, after I slipped a ring on my finger, I spent an afternoon with people (those both near and far) who love me, and who love my fiancee well. People who have walked with both of us through dark, dark days, have seen our trials, our crucibles, and our innermost fears. And because today, they got to share in our celebration, our joy, our dreams, and our futures. Because God gave us the kind of friends who love well, because He first loved them.

My cup runneth over. I have so much. My fiancee once asked me, a while ago, if pain was a greater muse for me than joy.

Oh no, my love. I weep such tears of great blessing tonight. I weep because of the love poured out on me today.

I rejoice because He first loved us, so that we could love each other.

 

P.S. For those who don’t know the story… Today, Zac took me to the San Juan Capistrano Mission. After touring around for a while on a simply beautiful, blue-sky October day, and enjoying the rich, multi-cultural and religious history he and I love so much to explore together, we sat down at a koi pond/fountain in the center of the mission courtyard. We chatted, we ate our favorite candies, and we snacked. We instagrammed, and tweeted, and then Zac proceeded to share all those mushy things lovers share, and he got down on one knee, and he opened a box. I said, yes, and we spent the rest of our afternoon celebrating with friends and family at one of our favorite downtown Riverside eateries, Simple Simon’s. It was all things us, and it was delightful. Hoping only one day will top it, and that’s a day slated for sometime early this Spring. 🙂

IMG_6652IMG_6659IMG_6648IMG_6666 IMG_6668 IMG_6669 IMG_6670IMG_6656