Posted in teaching

The (Very Exciting!!) Stages of a Snow Day in Columbia, SC

The day before:

  1. Ignore forecasts that predict snow or ice, because it rarely snows (and if it does, it’s always too warm for precipitation to stick).
  2. Say “yes” to every child who asks if we have school tomorrow.
  3. Say “no” to every child who asks if it will snow tomorrow.
  4. Go through the day normally. Leave a sticky note on your desk of things to do when you get to school tomorrow.
  5. Get the call on the way home that school is cancelled for tomorrow. Curse yourself for not bringing any work home.
  6. Eat dinner, hang out with roommates, finish a book, make tea, and go to sleep.


On the actual day:

  1. Wake up in the morning and look out the window at the…rain.
  2. Treat the day as a Saturday: go to the coffee shop, blog, run errands, start a new book, make tea.
  3. 12 noon: watch snow as it falls to the ground and instantly melts (flakes are flakes though!).
  4. Go running in the “wintry weather.” Ingest some flakes. Is this what it feels like to be a northerner?
  5. Prepare for school tomorrow (what a wonky week!).
  6. Realize that you lied to many children yesterday.

Happy snow!


Posted in literature

2017 Literary Highlights!

I read 78 books in 2017, and it was wonderful. Time to read has been the greatest surprise of post-college life, because reading is important to me as a person and it’s obviously important to humanity. And so, here are, in the order I read them, my literary highlights from the year!


A Girl From Yamhill – Beverly Cleary

The autobiography of the author of the Ramona books! This is actually only the first installment of autobiographies by Ms. Cleary (I think there is at least one more, maybe two), but this one reflects on her childhood and adolescence. Her life, as she tells it, is very different from what I would have imagined from the woman who created Ramona and Beezus, Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse, etc. She writes in a very matter-of-fact way; it isn’t very flowery and could even be called pessimistic. She uses this very matter-of-fact writing style to illustrate her simple, unaffectionate childhood. This book wasn’t strikingly life-changing, nor was the writing remarkable, but the story wasn’t what I would have expected and I loved learning about this author’s early life and inner thoughts.


This is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection – Sammy Rhodes

It’s no big deal, he goes to my church (just kidding, it’s kind of a big deal. I’m a huge fan). Sammy Rhodes is the RUF campus minister at USC (Perhaps the only good thing about USC??). He is a hardcore introvert and a very real writer. He writes about how awkwardness is essential to relationships in humanity. The content can be hard and heavy, but he lightens it well with some humor and realism. His writing style makes him seem personable and relatable, which is funny because he also talks about how he often dreads social events. He uses the hardness from his life to help and share with others. I underlined like half of the book because it was all great.


Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets – Sudhir Venkatesh

This was recommended by a professor in college and I finally read it like two years later. The author is, obviously, a sociologist, but he writes in a way that is easily understandable by normal people (like not sociologists). He studied a specific gang in Chicago over several years and describes and observes well the changes that occurred in gang life over all this time. He was very close with a member who was high up on the totem pole, who let him be in charge for a day (hence the title). It was clear from reading this book how much he loved these people he worked to study, from whom he was so different. Gang life is something I know very little about, and this book was so fun to read. I felt like I could travel to Chicago and go be best friends with these gang members because I had seen them in their real-life moments – not true, but it was amazing to learn about gang members as people and what gang life is like day-to-day.


High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

There’s also a movie for this book, but I’ve only read the book and it was amazing. The main character is a classic clumsy middle-aged British man who makes a fool of himself often, always putting his foot in his mouth, yet he desires a real and deep relationship. It was hilarious and relatable and heartfelt (and also the love interest’s name was Laura so that’s not a bad thing). I just got another book by Nick Hornby and my expectations are very high because of how much I loved this one.


Heartburn – Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron may be one of my favorite humans to have ever existed. She wrote When Harry Met Sally, While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie and Julia, and some others…but she also wrote this book. From what I know, it’s somewhat autobiographical. Nora Ephron has this amazing way of not taking herself too seriously and using humor to get through life. She is talented at pinpointing very specific yet relatable feelings. My favorite quotes from the book: “The nurse gave me one of those withering looks that are meant to make you feel as if your thoroughly understandable rage is only female hysteria.” and “And the only thing that might have made it even more satisfyingly melodramatic and masochistic would have been to be lying in the bathtub; nothing like crying in the tub for real self-pity; nothing like the moment when every last bit of you is wet, and wiping the tears from your eyes only means making your face even wetter.” I love Nora and I love this book. It is a pleasant surprise every time I read it.


The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh

One of my favorite things to do with fiction is to open a book and start reading it without knowing what it’s about. This book came on good recommendation (although I don’t remember from where – it was just on my list and I decided to read it) and after reading the first page, I knew it was going to be good.

It’s about a girl who has grown up in the foster care system, and it starts on the day she turns 18 and is on her own. It’s a little dark, but in a good way. The character made a lot of choices that made me cringe but I was rooting for her the whole time. The author did a wonderful job with her characterization – she seems (to me) pretty accurately portrayed for a person who has grown up without a steady caretaker or the love of a family. She has some social deficits and naivete about some things and knows too much about others. She loves plants and flowers and gets a job working with a florist, who teaches her the Victorian meanings of flowers (hence the title). Every time I had to put it down I wished I could keep reading it. After finishing the book, I just sat and thought and said, “wow.” It was well-written, suspenseful, heart-wrenching at times, and lovely.


Kids Like Us – Hilary Reyl

This book is a young adult fiction book about a boy with autism spending the summer in France. I have some quite mixed feelings about the way people with disabilities are represented in TV, movies, books, etc., but Martin is characterized well. Reyl gives him some traits of someone with autism but makes it clear that Martin is one person with autism, not the entire population of the spectrum. In the story, Martin goes to a “gen-ed” school and develops relationships with his same-age peers, all typically developing (his friends at home are all from his school and have special needs/social deficits to some extent). He experiences many classic teenager situations, and his narration is charming. It was not a difficult read but very thought-provoking.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Object Lessons – Anna Quindlen: sentimental, down-to-earth, coming-of-age
  • Gilead – Marilynne Robinson: steady, wise, hopeful
  • The Dud Avocado – Elaine Dundy: story was funky – I just like this title
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein: lovable, creative, sad
  • Many Things Have Happened Since He Died – Elizabeth Dewberry Vaughn: thought-provoking, haunting, elegiac



Hooray for 2018 and for reading new books!



Posted in Uncategorized

What I Learned: December 2016

Last December was fun and exciting. It was my first teacher Christmas break! I got some sweet gifts from my kiddos and then very much enjoyed break. I was home in Clemson for most of the break and it was grand to be home.

I usually try to include at least five things I learned on these blog posts, but I didn’t write down many last December. Here’s what we’ve got –

What I Learned: December 2016

  1. Self-advocacy skills are important for everyone, not just people with special needs.
  2. Don’t live as if the world was the way you want it, because it isn’t and you will be very frustrated. Know that the world is broken and live with that knowledge.
  3. Being passive and being submissive are not necessarily the same thing. You don’t have to be passive to be submissive.
  4. When you’re tired and it’s dark outside, just go to bed. You don’t have to stay up just because you are a grown-up. You’re allowed to go to sleep.





Posted in writing


I have a hard time choosing titles for things: essays, lists, email subject lines, and especially blog posts. I know that the title shapes the perception of the content, and this is intimidating.

It’s about presentation, and whether or not a potential reader will enter in for more information, or if the title is enough to show them that they don’t want to see any more. It’s like judging a book by its cover, only it’s judging a blog post by its title. It’s not fair but it happens.

It feels so high-stakes sometimes to choose a phrase of just a few words that represents all that I have to say. I don’t want to skimp on anything. I want to make sure everything I have to say is represented fully and fairly.

My words are so close to my heart. I don’t want to put them in a position where they could be rejected. (I don’t want to put myself in a position where I could be rejected, and my words feel like an extension of myself.) I don’t want to send them out into the world unless I know they have a fighting chance.

I don’t think there’s a solution to this or even if it’s a real problem, but it’s a thing, and I think about it a lot. I want to make sure my words are best represented. Other people make this look so easy and thoughtless.

It’s like the title is bait but you can’t always catch a fish, you know?

It’s like sending out a resume or going on a first date where presentation is everything. The goal is to come off as confident but not cocky, independent but not standoffish, open-minded but not a follower, smart but not a jerk about it, caring but not too emotional, humble and kind. Somehow it works out.



Posted in What I Learned

What I Learned: November 2016

Last November was full, but not as busy as October. I took lots of pictures of my kids at school (which I can’t post unfortunately!) and read a lot of books and went on a trip to the farm with my family and was with my family again for Thanksgiving.

What I Learned: November 2016

  1. You can’t always teach yourself the things you need to know. This means that you can’t be 100% self-sufficient.
  2. Invest in sleep. It’s good.
  3. Kids are innocent but they’re not sinless. Humans are not born basically good even though they’re born cute.
  4. It’s good to ask for help, but it’s not the job of the person helping you to do your job for you or make your decisions for you. Don’t ask for help just because you don’t want to make a decision.
  5. With most positive things: the more you have, the more you want. Use self-discipline.


6. This sounds pessimistic but it’s helpful: It’s better to expect no one to notice that you got your hair cut and be surprised when one person notices than to expect everyone to notice and be frustrated when only person does. It’s a perspective thing.




Posted in Jesus, life

I’m Not in Charge!

I like to be in control, or even to just feel like I’m in control. I am addicted to routines because they let me feel like I’m running the show. I tend to think pretty rigidly when making decisions. I do not like the in-between.

But every once in a while, the Lord reminds me that thinking this way isn’t trusting Him. Getting my way all the time gives me zero dependence on Him or faith in His providence or goodness.

When I’m in these situations, I’m reminded that I’m not in charge, and that makes me feel squirmy. I want to know what’s going on; I want to run the show. I want decisions to be made definitively, and now: yes or no.

However, I’m definitively not in charge. And this is a good thing, however squirmy it makes me.

There are obvious reasons that it’s good I’m not in charge, and they can be summed up like this: I’m not God.

I read an article recently that said one way to have “better mornings” is to wake up and immediately pump your fist in the air and say, “YEAH!,” like a baller. I guess it’s the same idea as doing power poses, like telling your body that you are awake and powerful and ready for the day.

But my thought is: maybe I should start my mornings by pumping my fist and saying, “I’m not in charge!” This way, I can start out knowing that my plan is not what’s going to prevail. This way, I can begin my day with a thankful and trusting attitude. This way, I can be prepared to submit to His plan instead of getting mad when mine doesn’t happen and then rolling my eyes and then repenting and then submitting. Submission is much more direct when I come from a readiness to do it.

Here’s to that squirmy truth: I’m not in charge. Because, as it turns out, I haven’t seen eternity from its beginning to end. I only know the mind of one broken person. The plans I have for me are to get what I want. My providence for myself looks like chocolate chip cookies and fiction.

God will bring glory to Himself. Sometimes, that makes me feel like a baller, and sometimes that makes me feel super squirmy. But always, He’s in charge. Always, He’s good.



Posted in What I Learned

What I Learned: October 2016

Last October was busy with weddings and bachelorette weekends and hurrications…and teaching five days a week, too. I had just gone a full year without coffee (an experiment) and was reunited again, yay! Last October was full and exciting and exhausting. Here is what I learned:

What I Learned: October 2016

1. People appreciate you being present and listening to them. Of course, people appreciate more than just being listened to, but it’s a start.

2. Being with old friends is part reminiscing and part making new memories – I thought it might be just reminiscing or that it might feel like we had never been apart, but it was different. It was special because we knew we weren’t often together so that made the time together so sweet.

3. If you don’t write something down, you will not remember it. That’s just how it works.

4. Habits (and not just old habits) die hard…after successfully going a year with no coffee, I decided to see how long I could go without diet coke (so it has now been a year since I had diet coke!), and this was very difficult. Especially the beginning.

5. You can’t pretend you’re not here. Be where you are.


6. Don’t make Wednesday the longest day of your week – it makes the week feel so much longer.