Almost-Summer is For New Goals

In January, a friend invited me to her home for a writers gathering. Five of us were all linked through our writing and our friend. I had just finished reading one woman’s book; another woman and I connected over facilitating online book clubs; another has kids about the same age as mine. We drank coffee, ate muffins, and talked about our writing goals for the year.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Then we got to work. My friend had set up nooks around her home to give space to spread out, dream, plan, and work on whatever we needed to for a few hours of quiet. I opened my blogging calendar and mapped out some rough themes and ideas. One of my hopes this year was to write more, so I decided to try writing three times per week. I had tried this goal in the past to varying degrees of success, always amazed at those who blog daily and wondered if that would ever be me.

Now, as May comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about that goal to write more. I have blogged more and enjoyed the process but I realized that writing more and blogging more are two very different things. My creativity and energy went into blogging so any other ideas and projects were pushed to the margins.

I know that no one sets their calendars to the rhythm of my blog posts. A friend of mine actually noted when I was writing more and gave some good advice about finding space and time and voice.

I talked with my friend on a Friday morning a few weeks ago and starting thinking about when I could re-implement my goals. What perfect day would be good for writing more and blogging less? And then I realized that I could start whenever I felt like it. That, while goals create a good foundation, when they become limiting the point is lost.

IMG_8854So, last week I stepped back. I blogged when I had an idea and published when I wrote it, rather than scheduling it. I spent a day on the floor with Elle, rather than trying to play with her and squeeze in moments of writing. As we sat, chatting and building, she looked at me and said, I love playing with you, mama!

My goal is still to write more, but I’m thinking about how I can use my writing time more wisely. What needs to be public and what I can I work on long-term? How can I keep blogging – a medium I love – while saving my creativity for more in depth projects?

This shift in thinking has me considering other goals I’ve made that need readjusting. One of my favorite things about the start of summer is that it’s a time to reevaluate how those January resolutions are going. We’re not quite halfway through the year so tweaking and changing feels completely possible.

As I think about my One Word for the year, I’m remembering to lean into the shift of seasons. As tax season ramped up, my goal of working out before school fell to the wayside. Now that our schedule is shifting, how can I reintroduce that habit? Frank and I are doing a reset to our eating habits as winter fades and the healthier foods of summer come into season. And writing will look different, with both girls at home and life moving outside.

After that chat with my friend, I realized that, for as much as I love goals and outlines, I also love reevaluating them. When I take the time to recognize if my ideas are working or not, tweaking goals gives me as much peace as setting them in the first place.

Do you take time to reset your goals? How do you balance real life with your ideals?

The Compost HeapMy monthly newsletter, The Compost Heap is going out on Thursday! Are you signed up? It’s like an old-school blog, filled with all the things we’re up to, books I’m reading, blogs I’m recommending, and thoughts on daily life.

Twenty Years From Now

Life is all about the both-and, isn’t it? I both love staying home with the girls and I’m eagerly anticipating our next horizons. Living in this tension is hard work and I’m honored to be over at SheLoves Magazine today, sitting in those feelings. There are no answers, but I know I’ll look back on this phase without disappointment. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

annie-rim-twenty-years-from-now-2Exploration was part of life—from literally getting on a train to visit a new location to engaging with friends from different backgrounds and world views. This became a habit I held onto: Seeking out new information and ideas, either through books or over a meal with a new friend.

Fast-forward nearly 15 years and that quote doesn’t fill me with the same excitement any more. It fills me with nostalgia and wistfulness. The last time I traveled internationally was in 2011, before we even started trying to start a family. We’ve gone on adventures since then, yes, but they aren’t what I was imagining in my untethered early-twenties.

These days, you’ll find me at home in the suburbs, establishing healthy routines for our daughters and grappling with ways I can make a difference in my community through cultural interactions with our immigrant neighbors and by dipping my toes in the world of activism. Most often, life doesn’t feel glamorous or adventurous. It feels so very typical. When asked what I do, I most often shrug and say, I just stay home with the girls.

This isn’t the whole truth, but I never know how much a stranger really wants to know about all the ways I’m piecing together meaning in my own backyard. I still read a variety of books that challenge my thinking, my outlook, and my faith. I still seek out conversations and friendships with people who have lived different experiences, whether by choice or circumstance.

My husband and I were talking about this phase of life and parenting. I told him it’s a both-and feeling for me. I both wish we could travel and live a carefree life and I recognize the importance of tending our roots. Read the rest over at SheLoves and join the conversation!

What do you look back on, twenty years later, with fondness? What are choices you’re making now that are tough but you know will be good in the future?

Books and Resources That Give Empathy Toward the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I have had trouble reading the news lately. My heart breaks for what is happening in Israel-Palestine, not because I want to take a side but because it seems that peace is farther and farther away.

I have a lot of complicated feelings about the region, and I know I’m not alone. As I learn more and more about Liberation Theology, I truly believe that God calls us to stand with the oppressed. I’ve become friends with a Palestinian immigrant this year; our dear friends and neighbors are Israeli-Jewish; Frank’s family is Jewish. Personally, I have a lot of trouble figuring out what I think and feel about this decades-old conflict. (Yes, I say decades-old. I do believe what we are seeing now is a direct result of decisions made in 1948.)

I wanted to share some of the books that have helped me on this journey. These have helped me see the humanity on all sides. I think, regardless of your own conclusions, the longer we create an us-vs-them attitude, the less of a chance conversation and peace will really happen.

UnknownThe Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

This is the first book that opened my eyes to the complexities of this modern conflict. If you only read one book about the history and impact of Israel-Palestine, I’d recommend this well-researched piece. Tolan’s command of storytelling makes it easy to forget you’re not reading a memoir or narrative but this is deeply researched and incredibly balanced. Tolan takes no sides but simply tells stories. (I wrote initial thoughts back in 2015 when I first read it.)

41haVpeNLjL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

This incredible memoir, written by a Palestinian Christian brought a new depth to my understanding of the region. A Melkite Greek Catholic, Chacour has devoted his life to peacemaking in the region. A refugee from his home nearly his entire life, Chacour chooses to engage in discussion and relationship rather than deepening the divide of oppression. I hadn’t ever thought about the generations of Christians in the region and how this conflict has impacted them, so Blood Brothers gave me a deeper understanding of just how complex all of this is. (Last year, I wrote a post for the Red Couch Book Club if you’d like a more detailed discussion.)

51Fu5TQSL1L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Sharon and My Mother-in-Law by Suad Amiry

This short memoir was an interesting look at what life during the forty-day curfew of Ramallah was like. Amiry is blunt about her feeling of cabin fever, the unfairness of her dog receiving an identity card from Jerusalem when her family could not, and the daily struggle to maintain identity in the midst of a helpless situation.

51X-WC6f9UL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

This novel about the friendship between an Israeli soldier and Palestinian siblings is a relevant look at what many of the next generations are feeling. Inheriting a conflict creates different perspectives and Rothman-Zecher does a masterful job at remembering why the State of Israel was so important for that first generation of Holocaust survivors and why a “land without a people” is a myth. I will give the caveat that I wouldn’t recommend this novel to my grandmother, as there are some scenes that may make more conservative readers uncomfortable but, as so many novels do, this creates empathy and depth of character in ways that nonfiction can’t.

Other Resources

For a quick overview of the modern conflict, I’d recommend this 12-minute video:

(In short: Let’s not forget the effects of Colonialism!)

Last fall, I took an enrichment class at the University of Denver about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our professor founded an organization called Meet the Middle East, aiming at humanizing Palestinians and bringing about conversation. I’d recommend following along, especially if you’re local to the Denver area.

Global Immersion is another organization whose mission is to train “everyday peacemakers.” They frequently host free webinars focusing on the complex issues surrounding peace in the region and I have learned a lot through those.

Ultimately, I’d recommend digging into the “other side.” I’ve learned so much from remembering that there are no easy answers and that actual people are living in both Israel and Palestine.

What would you add to this list? What books or resources have most impacted and helped your understanding of this particular conflict?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Searching for Moments and Space

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about pause and creating space lately. Mostly, this is because I’m not doing a very good job at actually creating these places in my day and so, I’m looking for moments that already exist.

IMG_8829From walking to school to the poetry I’m reading and all those other little moments, I’m learning to find what is already there.

It’s hard. In my mind, I know that every Tuesday, I have an hour and a half to write. And then it takes some time to settle in and I switch a quick load of laundry and… There’s always something else. For the most part, I’m pretty protective of my time. But I also love meeting up with friends because, without those face-to-face connections, community is hard. I use some of my “me time” to volunteer in Bea’s classroom because creating relationships with her teachers and classmates is a high priority.

In my imagination, I’d love to have a little writing shed in our yard or a weekend cabin to retreat to. Really, that shed would go unused because the reality of this phase of life is that all my work happens in the middle of everything, at the dining room table. And weekends are filled with all those little moments that create our family’s culture, not retreating somewhere on my own.

We were talking about this balance the other day in my MOPS group. Of loving these years and struggling to create time and space. Of pouring ourselves into our kids and families and recognizing those outside things that fill us with life and joy.

I’m leaning into these small spaces. It’s still frustrating on some days but the more I look for those moments that are already here, the more I seem to find.

How do you include moments for yourself in a busy day? What seasons did you find this easier or harder to do?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “include.”

Creating Space for Poetry

Even though I try to do a good job of balancing the books I read between memoir, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, sometimes things get off. A bunch come in from the library all at once or I have a particular commitment to read a specific book. Maybe one book just leads naturally into another which, in turn, leads me down a rabbit trail.

Last month, I read both We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates and When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. While one was a compilation of articles about race during the Obama administration and one was a memoir culminating in the founding of the Black Lives Matter Movement, both dealt with some heavy and uncomfortable topics.

I finished When They Called You a Terrorist feeling overwhelmed. I thought, perhaps reading something completely different would help clear my head while I processed Khan-Cullors’ story. After several starts and stops, I just wasn’t connecting. The stories and information I had just spent time with needed more time to absorb.

A friend suggested poetry to help me pause, breathe, and give space to what I had just read. The library came through and Counting Descent by Clint Smith arrived just in time. These are not light poems, by any means. They deal with the realities of being a black man in today’s world. And yet, by the very nature of the medium gives space for really big topics.

It reminded me of the importance of always having a book of poetry on hand. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite collections.

513UrUn5-yLThe Gift by Hafiz

I kept this volume of poetry in the playroom when Bea was small. As she toddled around and explored, I sat in a chair by the window and snuck in a poem or two a day. Frank’s aunt gifted me my copy and told me to open it at random – this would be my poem. I opened to page 139, “Muhammed’s Twin.” It continues to be one of my favorites in this collection.

 

 

41JMBgNaRgLLeavings by Wendell Berry

This volume by America’s farmer-poet was one I loved reading first thing in the morning. As a city dweller, I can easily lose sight of nature and Berry kept me rooted in the land. His poetry reads like a prayer, helping me to pause and notice my surroundings – from the chirping of birds to the rustle of leaves.

 

 

61S1ynjaEwL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

I’ve had this since high school and keep returning to it. I love cumming’s style and his ability to help me re-notice the most ordinary of things. One of the first postcards I mailed to Frank when we were dating was a cummings poem. I feel like he’ll always have a special place on my shelf of poetry.

 

 

 

When I finish Smith’s powerful collection, I already have Hagar Poems by Mohja Kahf ready and waiting. I’m remembering to always have poetry on hand and part of my reading routine.

What about you? Do you regularly read poetry? What is your favorite collection?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

What I’ve Learned By Walking to School

Nearly every school day since mid-August we’ve had the same routine: Get up, eat breakfast around 7:00, head upstairs at 7:30 to get dressed and brush teeth, leave the house no later than 7:50 (but 7:45 is better) to walk and arrive at school by 7:55 as the kindergarten lines up to go inside. It’s a routine that works pretty well for us. If we eat earlier and the girls have time to play a bit before getting dressed, it can throw off our entire routine.

IMG_8633Really, anything can throw off our routine. It can quickly go from a well-run schedule to me nagging and asking sarcastically if Bea has ever seen a pair of pants before and if she knows how to put them on. (Model mothering right there…)

On the mornings that unravel, I’m tempted to buckle the girls in the car and drive. Even with the parking lot chaos, it would increase our chances of arriving on time. But more often than not, we still walk. It might mean we miss the second bell and Bea has to go in through the office. But it also means we have some breathing space between the rushed chaos and the start of school. It means we get some fresh air, a short walk, and time to hold hands and talk about the day.

I have to be intentional about putting aside my frustration on those walks. If I remained upset, they would do no good for a reset. I breathe, too, and remember that starting school excited and calm is much better than starting it with a grumpy attitude. So, I leave my last lecture at the door and as soon as we step onto the sidewalk, we talk about the blossoming trees, which specials Bea will have, and who she’d like to play with at recess. We talk about books and activities and notice our neighborhood.

By the time we reach school, even if we do have to go through the front doors rather than the kindergarten entrance, we are calmer, happier, and ready to give hugs and kisses. Elle and I wave to Bea, play on the slides for a few minutes and walk back home, ready to face the day.

This practice was especially important during those cold winter walks when our five minutes to school was a chance to see the sunlight and get outside. Now that it’s spring, it makes sense and this routine has taken on new life.

It’s reminded me that, even though it may make us late, building in space for pause and recalibration is so important. I know this is nothing new – that pause and rest and breathing all help me make better choices. They give space and perspective – both physical and mental. And yet this is something I forget over and over again.

I love May for many reasons but a big one is that it feels like a walk to school. After tax season and winter and going into head-down, hibernation mode, we’re coming up for air. We have a chance to recalibrate before summer when our schedule changes again. We are still in the school year routine but with all the hope and promise of dinners eaten outdoors and playtime extended after homework is finished.

This is the last week of Eastertide, this season of celebration. We are entering into Ordinary Time soon, which I love as much as any feast day. This year, I’m giving space between these seasons. I’m remembering to celebrate, yes. But I’m also remembering to look forward to a season of rest and recentering.

What ordinary habits have taught you extraordinary lessons? How do you pause and breathe during the changing seasons?

Squeezing Thousands of Years Into a Minute

I’m reading a book about the history of food and modern farming. I find it incredible that, even though we’ve been farming since 8500 BCE, it’s still a blip in the history of humanity and digestion. Our bodies still haven’t adapted to a sedentary, grain-based diet. (See: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage, pg 4.)

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Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

If 150,000 years can be compared to a minute and a half, I need to rethink my view of adaptation. I ask the girls to adapt all day long – from an unplanned errand to a switch in who picks up Bea from school, teaching flexibility is a surprisingly big part of the parenting process.

Or maybe it’s part of the human process. I like a predictable schedule and often wish I could adapt to surprises and changes with more grace and ease. The reality is that I need time to process new ideas and perspectives. I often read the news or a book and then need to dig deeper, figuring out this (new to me) information.

I’ll emerge and want to talk about it with Frank, only to realize that I’m unloading a bunch of internal processing in the course of a conversation. Essentially, I’m asking him to squeeze hundreds of thousands of years into a couple minutes.

Ok, my analogies are mixing but what I’m remembering is that adaptation takes time. Yes, in the course of human history, 150,000 is a blip. We haven’t been farming all that long so of course our digestive systems haven’t had time to adjust. And yet, we’ve been farming long enough that none of us have any ties at all to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We wouldn’t know how to survive, even though it’s the foundational norm.

I’m giving myself grace as I deconstruct and rebuild foundational norms, whatever they may be. When I get discouraged at the slow pace of society in general, I’m remembering that these long years are a blip in history. I need to stretch back and remember that life is a slow process and adaptation is often imperceptible.

Are you able to adapt quickly or do you need time to process? How do you ground yourself in history?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “adapt.”

Books Referenced:

51INTf4BPsL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.