Posts in life
This fresh morning
Collared Finchbill. Photo credit:  Paul Shaffner

Collared Finchbill. Photo credit: Paul Shaffner

I count myself along the myriad who fell in love with Mary Oliver in recent years. Her poetry is a buoy when I feel overcome by the dark storms of living.

In her memory:

“Invitation” by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

life, readingKate LSComment
Coming soon! (Or: Why does this blog look so different?)
Not my new studio (sadly). This is a photo from when I worked in radio.

Not my new studio (sadly). This is a photo from when I worked in radio.

I’ve been feeling a little restless lately. While I love my current job, I miss feeling a sense of completion, of creativity, of risk-taking.

Long angst-ridden, soul-searching story short, I’m starting a new project! I’m going to combine the best parts of my job (reading, analyzing, and discussing amazing books with wonderful people), my primary hobby (reading and listening to books!), my material weakness (buying books), and the things I loved about my old job (production, script-writing, researching, interviewing) and create a book blog/podcast, in which I will write and talk about everything related to books and reading.

I have quite a road ahead of me, but I’m super excited to get started!

life, podcastKate LSComment
2019 Goals
IMG_7211.jpeg

I feel less introspective and inspired this New Year than I usually do and haven’t picked a word of the year, probably because January snuck up on me and also because the end of the school semester was pretty hectic.

To be completely honest, I’m a little burnt out.

You’d think focusing on a single word would be the most doable, least intimidating kind of resolution, but I think in some ways one-word resolutions are more overwhelming because they’re so all-encompassing and hard to measure.

This idea seems more manageable this year.

In 2019, I’d like

MORE
exercise (a walk every morning or evening?)
sleep (go to bed by 10:30)
vegetables and home cooking (by first reading inspiring cookbooks!*)
learning (engagement in what I’m doing, whether that be reading, PL, grading, talking with friends/colleagues)

LESS
angst about grading papers/work
processed food
complaining (and zero gossiping!)
caffeine (even if this makes me want to cry)

That said, I stumbled upon this quote and it’s convincing me to focus on the MORE rather than the LESS:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
— Socrates

*I asked for hobby suggestions on Instagram because I realized pretty much all I do in my free time is read and look at pretty things on the internet. My favorite came from L, who suggested reading beautiful cookbooks as a hobby. I love the idea of not actually aspiring to cooking amazing meals but committing to being inspired. That sounds like something I can manage!

lifeKate LSComment
Bleeding on the page

I think my students still believe that if you are good at writing, it should be easy. Right up there with the belief that some people are just born good writers, there’s also the belief that skill = lack of effort.

I just gave my students an assignment in which they were to write an analysis of a passage from Huck Finn. One (very bright) student bemoaned how hard it is to get the words out. “I have the ideas in my head,” she said, “but it’s torture to get them down on the page.”

I hear her. I was writing along with the class and felt pretty much the same way. The difference between the two of us is I didn’t expect it to be easy. It’s occurred to me that perhaps the most significant way I’ve grown as a writer is my acceptance that writing is almost always hard.

“There is nothing to writing,” Hemingway said. “All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”

lifeKate LSComment
Summer update
  • We’ve spent the last 5 weeks in the US — we’re actually heading to the airport to return to Taiwan as I type. (Please forgive any typos. I’m posting on my phone.) It’s been a full but restful summer. We took part in an incredible rainbow-themed wedding, road-tripped around New England in my in-laws’ tricked out RV with my parents, and hit more thrift stores than I can count. :) Will write a separate road-trip post later (hopefully).

  • My in-laws have an amazing home. They own 100 acres on a mountain in Western PA. We spent much of our visit taking the four-wheeler around the woods, eating outside, sitting in the hot tub, swimming. It’s the perfect summer destination and I am so thankful for their hospitality (both to us and our visiting friends!).

  • I have newly come to love audiobooks. I want to write a separate post just on this, but in short, I got AirPods and a Brooklyn Public Library account and it’s changed my reading life dramatically. I’ve found I most enjoy listening to nonfiction and reading fiction.

  • I’ve read A LOT this summer! Best books so far: Less by Andrew Sean Greer; Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong; two biographies about RBG; and Elizabeth Warren’s A Fighting Chance. I’ve also listened to a bunch of parenting books (not my usual thing, but my daughter is pre-teening hard, so...)

  • I purchased a black maxi-dress with a minimal white floral print our first day back and I’ve worn it all summer! Seriously—I’ve probably worn it twice a week for the past 5 weeks. It is so nice to stumble upon an item of clothing that is so versatile. This has basically been the summer of my black dress and my thrift-store huaraches (which I have worn every single day since I purchased them).

  • As I’m approaching middle-age (I’m 35), I have started to find makeup interesting. Favorite additions — a beauty blender and highlighter. Now I’m on the hunt for the perfect MLBB lipstick.

  • I have also jumped on the natural skincare bandwagon. Coconut oil at bedtime and (diluted) apple cider vinegar mornings and evenings, and my face has never been clearer or more healthy-feeling. Lucy is not a fan of the ACV smell. She recoiled the first time she sniffed my newly-cleaned face and exclaimed, “That’s the opposite of perfume. That’s like STINK-fume.” Still worth it.

  • This is the first year in a loooong time I haven’t followed the World Cup beyond headlines. I’m sad about this. The WC has been my version of the Olympics. I used to always make predictions about what will change in our lives by the next WC. Four years is enough time to bring about major life changes. I have no predictions for 2022. I think partly it’s because we’re getting to the stage of life when loved ones are aging and I’ve become constantly more aware of the fragility of the world. It feels like a sharp turn from the optimistic daydreaming I’ve felt when making four-year predictions in the past. Am I more cynical or just more aware? Maybe it really is just that I’m getting older.

  • I have so much gratitude for the summer vacation that comes with being a teacher. It is such a gift to be able to be with my kids while they’re on break (I still remember the stress of arranging summer daycare) and have the TIME to travel.

  • I am finally thinking ahead to the rapidly approaching school year. It’s going to be the first year in which I’ll have the same teaching load as the previous year. I LOVE teaching juniors and seniors. The only thing I don’t like is getting attached to seniors and then having to say goodbye.

  • I gave the commencement speech this year. It was so nerve-wracking but also such an honor. Funny surprise — just as I was joking about “roasting” the seniors, one of them fell off the risers. It was really funny (because she didn’t get hurt).

  • Hard to post photos with spotty internet on the road, but here’s one of Lucy catching a dish within seconds of grabbing hold of the pole:

IMAGE.JPG
lifeKate LSComment
Nothing is boring

We have a letter board in our dining room that says “NOTHING IS BORING.”  Clearly that’s aspirational. :) We hear choruses of “I’m bored! What should I do?” as much as the next parent, I’m sure (particularly from one child). 

ACS_0007 2.JPG

I helped that child make a “Not Bored” list and she quickly came up with the idea of playing with the chemistry set in the kitchen. It kept both kids entertained for over an hour, so I’d consider that a win (even though things inevitably ended in a sisterly spat, as is wont to happen these days).

ACS_0002.JPG

It was also a fun opportunity to try out the iPhone X’s portrait mode. It’s definitely still beta-quality, but it’s fun.

ACS_0003.JPG
ACS_0004.JPG

Even more fun? The “bounce” feature, which turns Live Photos into GIFs. (Just open the Live Photo in Photos, swipe up on the image, then select “bounce”.) This is available on any iOS 11 device with Live Photo capabilities, not just the iPhone X.

Now I just need to figure out a way to embed Live Photo GIFs on the blog.

lifeKate LSComment
Brief update

Lunar New Year break

The whole family was thrilled that Shelby joined us for CNY break. We packed a lot into her week here! We spent three days on Green Island (lots of adventures and beauty, some ferry puking), wandered around Tainan, and saw waterfalls and mountain forests alike. We also spent a few days just hanging around the house. It was a near-perfect break!

IMG_1581.jpg

Nintendo Switch

I bought Paul a Switch for Christmas and it has been a huge hit for the whole family. The biggest hit? Zelda, of course. 3/4 family members are obsessed (I am the lone holdout). The Switch has been a bonding point for a chunk of our staff housing community — four families got consoles over the holidays and it is a normal occurrence to have friends of all ages stopping by to compare notes and share tips. (Meanwhile, I'm loving Mario Kart and Puyo Puyo Tetris.) We even had a grown-up Switch party — we set up two gaming areas and then ended the night with an epic game of 1 - 2 -Switch. Hilarious.

Capsule wardrobe 2.0

I've been thinking a lot about decision fatigue recently, initially sparked by Better than Before (Gretchen Rubin) which discusses how habit-formation helps us by taking away the necessity of making decisions. I've long been intrigued by the idea of uniform dressing (ala Obama) but haven't felt quite ready to bite the bullet. I've decided to go with a cross between a uniform/capsule/"no-brainer" wardrobe. Last weekend (instead of grading papers), I pulled out my favorite (roughly) 30 items of clothing and folded/put away the rest. I'm going to rotate through these items until I get bored and/or the seasons change; after that, I'll switch out the 30 for warmer-weather clothing. So far, it's been great. I pretty much rotate between 4 button downs, 1 sweater, and 3 tees. All the clothes hanging on the rack fit well and require no thought. 

Haircut

I cut my hair over Christmas break! Then I cut it again just a month later! You can't really tell from the picture, but it's properly short — the back of my neck is fully exposed and I sure can't tie my hair back in a ponytail anymore (which was precisely the point). I've basically had the same hair my whole life and I have spent 90% of my waking hours with my hair in a ponytail. It's kind of nice to have to wear my hair down for a change. Having short hair is actually much higher maintenance, but surprisingly, I am enjoying actually having to care about my hair. For the first time in my life, I blow dry my hair almost daily. The awesome thing is it takes about 5 minutes (as opposed to 30, before). I also use a flat iron on the regular. Who am I??

ACS_0007.jpg

Reading update

I've recently read

  • Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (intriguing)

  • Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (fun!)

  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (for the second time — still a cringy-yet-engrossing read)

  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (first time rereading since high school and I'd forgotten how good it is)

  • the aforementioned Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

  • On Writing by Stephen King (absolutely lives up to the hype).

I'm 4 books ahead of my 52-book goal for the year. It hasn't been hard. Just about to dig into Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe for AP English. 

IMG_1622.jpg
lifeKate LSComment
Word of the Year: LIGHT

This year’s word is “light.”

Light — sunlight/sunrise. I want to wake up early and develop a morning routine that may include exercise, prayer, reflection/journaling, meditation, or even just pleasure. I want to greet the day with enthusiasm. (This means going to bed at a decent hour every night and perhaps tracking my time for a week to see how I can better approach my days). 

Light — the opposite of heavy. I tend to take myself (and everything) too seriously. I feel like I am getting even more uptight with age. This year, I want to lighten up a bit. I want to see humor in awkward situations and I want to let things go instead of overthinking everything. (But please don’t tell me to lighten up... that probably won’t end well. :) 

Light — clutter-free. I want to create and maintain streamlined systems to lighten up my environment. This means figuring out (once and for all?) how to keep papers organized at school and clothing organized at home. 

Light — I want my (newfound?) positivity to be evident to others (Matthew 5:16) and I want it to be contagious. I’m especially thinking about my children and my students, who carry burdens of their own. I want to lighten their burdens instead of adding to them (even when I am piling on the homework).

Light — My faith is complicated and can be a source of disquiet rather than strength or comfort. I know this isn’t right — God says he is our light and our salvation. (Psalm 27:1) I want to know this deep down. 

Happy 2018, everyone. 

lifeKate LSComment
Design Mom Living With Kids House Tour

I love Design Mom (Gabrielle Blair seems like she would make an excellent friend — she is so smart and thoughtful) and it is very cool to see our humble-but-beloved Taiwan apartment featured this week! I am especially happy about this little tribute to our home because we'll be in a different apartment next year.

Working on this post reminded me, yet again, to be thankful for our home and life here. 

Enjoy! (Warning: it's long.)

lifeKate LSComment