I’ve felt a lot of stress the past few weeks for a variety of reasons and the world is mostly a dumpster fire, so I feel compelled to document just how much joy and gratitude I felt as I drove home at 8:30 p.m. after a day of teaching, rehearsals, and parent-teacher conferences.

You know, to counterbalance the dumpster-fireness of it all.

  • I truly enjoyed all my students today.
  • We had a good first-off-book rehearsal of the musical.
  • I received much grace from the director and conductor for still struggling to play the second act.
  • I had great conversations with students and parents at conferences.
  • The remote start on my car still works so my car could warm up just a little before I walked to it (still took a good 5 minutes of driving to feel any heat though)
  • I was reminded several times over the past two days that I work with some really kind and wonderful people.

Most days, it’s tough for me to peer through the smoke of the dumpster-fire earth and find anything positive. So I’m quite grateful for the days when blue sky breaks through and reminds me of just how much good there is in my world.

A Long November.

So November is over and I didn’t write as often as I’d planned, but I did do the following:

Spent time with friends.
Spent time with family.
Saw one play and two musicals.
Kept my environs tidy (a big deal this time of year).
Watched movies.
Read books.
Listened to music.
Called senators.
Called congressmen.
Graded. And graded. And graded some more.
Laughed with my students.
Laughed with my colleagues.

Tomorrow is December 1 and a Friday, so for my Friday Morning Soundtrack I will fire up the Christmas music and on Sunday, start thinking about Advent. Time keeps ticking, and while I spend a decent amount of time every day in existential dread, I also spend a decent amount of time every day living a pretty great life.

And I can’t think of anything else to really be grateful for besides that.

38 Days.

Thanksgiving is Thursday, which doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. Today at church we sang “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” and “For the beauty of the earth” and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” I reflected on my week and wrote in my journal and led a discussion with other women about how we can do better at fellowshipping. I sang at a choir rehearsal to prepare for the Christmas program.

The holiday season is here, whether I’m ready. I feel I have much to do–at school, at church, at home–but I’m going to breathe. I can only do so many things in one day. I can do quite a bit in one day, of course, but some things can wait. Family, friends, sanity each deserve space and attention.

I count 38 days between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Day. Our focus for those 38 days can either be “Ugh I’m so busy” or “Waah I have so much to do.” Or.


Or you can “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” that your life is full and messy and even though you left the green beans in the microwave and slightly burned the rolls and the cat destroyed the ornaments and the gift wrapper at Barnes & Noble needs to just work the register, the holiday season still is not a disaster.

Lin-Manuel Miranda said it best this week, when he tweeted:

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I hope starting tomorrow, and this week, then 38 days after Thanksgiving, I can remember to start with grateful. And I hope you can too.


A quick word (rant) about health.

I am obese.

I know this because I have giant mirrors in one of the classrooms where I teach, but also because last year when I logged into the patient portal for one of my doctors to double check her instructions, I saw this: “counseled patient on dangers of obesity.”

Except that she didn’t.

Didn’t say a word to me about my weight or my health. I saw her for a problem with my voice–which she diagnosed and has been wonderful about–but I’ve seen her three times in the past year and she’s never said anything to me about my weight and how it’s apparently killing me.

I’ve made peace with the fact that I am never going to have a body like the starlet du jour. I bake too often and like chocolate too much, and at this point, I feel that life is too short to try and bend my body to society’s will.

But I am concerned about overall wellbeing and health. I want to have energy to do everything I need to during the day. I want my sleep to be deep and restful. I want my mind to be clear.

So two years ago, I started eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast. One year ago, I started Jazzercise. Four months ago, I doubled my daily protein intake (and holy cow, what a difference that has made!).

These were each small, easy changes that haven’t made me feel like the world is ending, and each of those changes has been 100% sustainable.

Friday I had a doctor’s appointment, and she did a full workup. Because I know I’m medically obese and middle-aged, I was prepared for all manner of high blood pressure and cholesterol medications, as well as admonishments to never again make Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Sheet Cake.

The nurse called today with the results. Every single test came back smack in the middle of every “normal” range. Glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol (and all its subsets)–all 100% normal.

I will probably always be medically obese. But after hearing all those test results, I remembered that there’s more to health than Body Mass Index. The rare mornings I don’t have oatmeal for breakfast, I can tell my brain is a little off the rest of the day. When I make it through a particularly tough Jazzercise song, I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment, though it is probably time to bump up the weights. And when I’m not absolutely starving throughout the day, I know I’ve put the right things in my body for me to be most effective.

One of my favorite websites, Beauty Redefined, reminds me that my body is an instrument, not an ornament. And apparently, I’m tuned up just fine.

If you look in the mirror and are unhappy with what you see, I get it. But look at other health metrics. And if you need to make some changes, start small, work with a doctor if need be, and recognize the smaller victories like waking up rested or lowering blood pressure or making it from breakfast to mid-morning snack without feeling ravenous. Those small indicators are just as important markers of health–I would argue more important–than any number on the scale.


I stood next to a table, watching my colleague, my friend, my writing compatriot laugh and rap along with a room full of kids. I soaked in that moment and reminded myself, “This. This is why you show up every day.”

I can get all kinds of ruffled up with righteous indignation about any number of injustices I am privy to on a daily basis. Sometimes, those injustices make me wonder if I wouldn’t be better off, happier, someplace else. Or, as I asked my Pop Culture class last week, “Have you ever had a day that made you question every single life choice?” Most of them smiled and nodded. I sighed, then had them each write me an essay on whether sampling in the music industry is creativity or theft.

If I looked hard enough, every day I could bombard myself with reasons to stop teaching. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even have to look hard at all. But no matter what career I chose, I imagine I would reach a point where injustices and my inability to do anything about them would threaten to take over my mindset.

As I watched a room full of kids–student journalists–laugh and rap and stuff their faces full of unhealthy food, I felt lighter. It reminded me to refocus on the things I can control, like teaching proper comma use or how to make ethical decisions–because I’ve taught all of those kids those things. And knowing how to use commas and make ethical decisions just might make them better people.

It’s so easy to lose sight of the “why.” For me, when I get to that point, I need to remember to take a breath, spend some time looking at what my students have accomplished, and acknowledge that those accomplishments don’t always produce external recognition. Sometimes the accomplishment is the kid who finally makes deadline, or the kid who finally takes a perfect photo, or the kid who finally writes a sentence without a helping verb.

Small victories, but victories nonetheless; victories that deserve my acknowledgement, especially at those times when the injustices blind me to the reason I keep showing up: the kids.