About alb32

things I love: teaching, Micah 6:8, Ramsey, coffee, cozy socks, words, good beer, MPLS, good books, beards, Canada, questions, Cadbury Creme Eggs, life.

I don’t enjoy wedding planning; there, I said it.

Let’s have a heart-to-heart, a chat, some real-talk.

I want to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready for it?

I don’t enjoy wedding planning.

Shock. Gasp. Horror.  I know, I know. I am supposed to love this. I am supposed to find choosing all of these fun little details exhilarating and exciting. I am supposed to spend hours and hours looking on Pinterest to find all of the cute DIY projects we could create together. I am supposed to delight in this whole process because you only get to do this once/it’s your special day/it’s all about you/etc. etc.

But I really don’t and I think that’s okay. I am learning there is a lot of pressure in the wedding industry; there are so many decisions about the most insignificant details and we make these insignificant things far too significant.  There is a lot of pressure to be this bright and bubbly bride-to-be who is so excited about choosing decorations and the perfect shoes etc etc…

Well, that’s just not me. People have been reminding me that “this is the day I’ve been dreaming of my whole life”… “since you were a little girl”… and are cautioning me from not working towards that dream. Friends, I have never had a set dream of what this day will look like. I haven’t had a dream dress or dream flowers or dream venue (well, I’ll be honest… for a long time, it was my dream that Leonardo DiCaprio would be the man waiting for me at the end of the aisle but that ship has sailed). And even if I did, just because I had that dream, that doesn’t mean I “deserve” that dream (though let’s be honest, Leo didn’t deserve me) or “need” to make that dream a reality. I am learning that there are a lot of expectations from OTHERS about what my dream day could or should be, rather than what my dream day could be.

I think we’ve bought into this lie that we need to have this elaborate, unrealistic day where nothing will go wrong and everything is thought-out and just-so and perfect and anything less than that is selling ourselves short. I just simply don’t agree. In fact, let me tell you what my dream day includes? The man I love and the people I love all together, celebrating, laughing, crying, dancing, partying the night away. That is my dream. Everything else is fleeting.

I am also learning that it is a pretty disgusting industry that asks a couple to spend a gross amount of money on one single day; a mortgage? a new car? tuition? On one day. Let that sink in.

Ramsey and I have made a very conscious choice to spend as little as possible on this day for a variety of reasons.  Other than not wanting to buy into this idea that it is necessary to spend exuberant amounts of money on one day and wanting to be frugal and wise with our money, morally, I feel strongly opposed to this blatant idol we’ve created – consumerism at its finest.  I am trying as best as I can to not buy into this. This means not spending thousands on a dress I will wear once and rather spending less than $200 on a worn-already dress (that I love, by the way). This means not spending loads of money on things that are not important to us, even if that disappoints others and their hopes for the day.

Now, some of you who are reading this are probably concerned about my mental health, my stress level, or perhaps worried that I am having a pre-wedding-nervous-breakdown. I promise, I am okay. I am doing just fine. I just needed to be honest.

 

A few final thoughts:

1. I wonder if the people that say they enjoy wedding planning are: crazy/in denial/not being real with others/not being real with themselves.

2. Please stop telling me to enjoy every moment of wedding planning. Maybe it’s okay that some of these details aren’t that fun. Please be okay that I am not super-excited all the time about all of these things. And please, stop sending me great Pinterest ideas. For the love of my sanity, please.

3. Please stop suggesting I splurge, spend more $, need certain things, etc. Trust that Ramsey and I have made a conscious budget and want to keep it. Please be okay with that.

4. Rid yourselves of your dreams and expectations for our special day. Trust us that we are going to make the things that matter to us a reality and that we will not “rob ourselves” of a particular experience or joy.

5. Please, I beg you, ask me about things other than the wedding. The wedding is just a small piece of my life. I am more than a bride-to-be. I am a teacher. A sister. A friend. Let me be those things as well.

6. Know that I write this not to vent. To be honest, I write this because I don’t think I am alone and maybe, if we could be more real with each other, we could ease the pressure off of each other. Maybe, another future bride will feel a little more “normal” and a little less alone when she finds she doesn’t enjoy the journey of wedding planning.

 

And now, the best part: let me tell you what I do enjoy. I enjoy dreaming of my forever with my forever love. I enjoy planning our future together. I enjoying imagining the adventures we will embark on together. I love all of these things. I am so lucky. I get to marry the man I love with all the people I love surrounding us. I get to do life with so many amazing people. I am so blessed. I am so excited for 120ish days from now when I get to say “I do”.

 

 

But friends, I don’t enjoy wedding planning and I am learning that that is okay.

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“Her Only Crime Was That She Looked Like the Enemy”

Yesterday, my class learned from Sally Sudo, a survivor of the Japanese American internment camps and I sure wish Mr. Donald Trump (along with many other politicians who have voiced such strong and terrifying sentiments towards Syrian refugees or Muslims in general) could have joined us as I think we/we all could learn quite a bit from Ms. Sudo’s story.

She had a lot to say about her experience being Japanese-American during this time when, as she put it, her only crime was that she looked like the enemy. She described her family’s experience with the hysteria and fear of the “other” of WWII. She explained the living conditions and the persecution she, and others, experienced. She told us what it meant for her and others when, finally, in 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act that apologized for the wrong done to Japanese-Americans during WWII.

Have we forgotten so soon?

When asked why she thinks we should know her story today, she answered, “It is so easy to revert back to this mentality… this mentality of fear… If we don’t protect others, than we are apt to repeat the same mistakes again. It is important to know your rights and to protect the rights of others.”

In conclusion of this unit, I am having my students read the following article where Japanese-Americans who experienced the internment camps are asked to speak into what is happening with Syrian refugees. Check it out – it’s powerful stuff!

The dark memories of seven decades ago have bubbled to the surface in recent weeks for many people who were sent to Japanese internment camps.
NYTIMES.COM|BY JOHN ELIGON

significant days; the fight presses on

Two years ago today, I met Ramseyar83.1.jpg for the first time. Yesterday, the nation honored and celebrated Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the work he did for equality and justice for all. Five months today, Ramsey and I get married.

Want to know the crazy thing? In 2011, over 46% of Republicans in Mississippi would have supported a legal ban on our marriage because it is interracial; in 2000, Alabama finally brought to vote the ban on interracial marriage and 41% of constituents voted to keep the ban (yikes!). That’s not 100 years ago or 50 years ago; that’s far too close to today.

Though we have come a long way when it comes to equality and justice, it is important to remember we have a long way to go. Change doesn’t happen overnight and change requires thought, words, and action each and everyday.

I am thankful for all of the people in my life who work for justice, for freedom, for equality, for truth, for love.

(Also, you should read “Just Mercy” to see more about just how far we have to go to reach this “justice” and “freedom” we speak of having.)

My 2016 One Word: Stonecatcher

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It’s that time. Time to say goodbye to 2015 and welcome 2016. Some of us welcome 2016 with open arms; others, have a hard time letting go of all that 2015 held for us. Time to think of who we are and who we want to be. Time to set resolutions and goals for the year ahead. For many of us, these lists can be exhaustive. I want to exercise more, eat better, spend less, travel more, etc. I am a list person; I love lists and, quite frankly, I am good at them. I am pretty skilled in getting things done and accomplishing tasks. To be fair, I am not good at exercising more, eating better, etc… but I am good at doing surface-y things fairly well. I feel good when I “accomplish” things.

A few years ago, a blog I follow asked readers to ring in the new year with one word.  Not a long list of resolutions.  Not a to-do list of goals.  Not an amount of weight to lose or cigarettes to cut out. One word. Initially, when I read the blog, I was not sure if I liked this or not.I feel accomplished when I meet goals.  However, when I look back on my new year’s resolutions in the past, I cannot say I actually successfully accomplish them all. In fact, when I don’t, I feel really discouraged. So, for the past few years, I have attempted to be more thoughtful in thinking about what my word would be.

2016 is a big year for me; with a wedding, exciting travel plans, and other changes in sight, it is a year that I can very easily focus on me and me alone. 2016 gives me plenty of opportunities to be entirely selfish. This is not what I want but I can see it being an easy trap to fall into. Connect this with one of the last books I read in 2015: “Just Mercy”. This book is disturbing and powerful, troubling and important. Bryan Stevenson challenges his reader to think about what justice and mercy really mean; he looks at this through the lens of the current (American) criminal justice system and the injustice that it breeds.

I have so many thoughts on this book that I can share at another time, but something that stood out to me was a conversation that he had with an old woman who had experienced significant injustice throughout her life:

“’All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence. Those judges throwing people away like they’re not even human, people shooting each other, hurting each other like they don’t care. I don’t know, it’s a lot of pain. I decided that I was supposed to be here [at the court] to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.’

I chuckled when she said it. During the McMillian hearings, a local minister had held a regional church meeting about the case and had asked me to come speak. There were a few people in the African American community whose support of Walter was muted, not because they thought he was guilty but because he had had an extramarital affair and wasn’t active in the church. At the church meeting, I spoke mostly about Walter’s case, but I also reminded people that when the woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus, he told the accusers who wanted to stone her to death, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ The woman’s accusers retreated, and Jesus forgave her and urged her to sin no more. But today, our self-righteousness, our fear, and our anger have caused even the Christians to hurl stones at the people who fall down, even when we know we should forgive or show compassion. I told the congregation that we can’t simply watch that happen. I told them we have to be stonecatchers.

When I chuckled at the older woman’s invocation of the parable, she laughed, too. ‘I heard you in that courtroom today. I’ve even seen you hear a couple of times before. I know you’s a stonecatcher, too.”’

Stonecatcher.

This conversation moved me to wonder: am I a stonecatcher? how can I be a stonecatcher? Am I throwing stones or catching stones? It’s been a few days since I finished this book and this idea of being a stonecatcher has been on my mind.

Stonecatcher.

I want to be a stonecatcher. I want to show forgiveness and compassion, even when it is most difficult to do. I want to show up and catch stones for those who hurt. I want to show up for my community, for my friends and strangers alike. I want to rid myself of self-righteousness and judgment and fill myself with love and compassion. I want to be less about me and more about others.

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So, that’s my word for 2016: stonecatcher. Feel free to ask me about it and hold me accountable. I’ll need all the help I can get. To the year 2016, may we be stonecatchers. May we fight for justice, mercy, and compassion.

Happy National Coffee Day: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…”

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

BY T. S. ELIOT

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Source: Poetry (June 1915).

“Your Very Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem”

This is what you shall do

by Walt Whitman

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

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Summer 2015: The Summer of Goals and Firsts

At the beginning of the summer, I set a list of goals for myself. I knew this summer would be different than most as I would not be nannying so I knew that I would need to be thoughtful and intentional with my time. I will be honest, at the beginning, too much time was difficult for me. I like to be busy and I like to be productive so it was difficult to feel out of my norm. However, this was a very restful summer filled with reading for fun, visiting with friends (old and new), plenty of delicious coffee, and time to be still!

Original Goal List:

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Here’s how I did on my goals:

Books:

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My goal this summer was to read a book a week; so often during the school year, I am so tired at the end of the day that I cannot keep up with my reading as much as I would like. I have learned that reading is my escape; reading is my way to refresh and recharge myself. I need to read consistently to flourish and to be myself.  I read some great and different books this summer.

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Books read: Rena’s Promise, Let Justice Roll Down, Stone Angel, Cutting for Stone, Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Go Set A Watchman, Mosquitoland, Traveling Mercies, By the River Piedra I Wept, All My Puny Sorrows, Me Before You, Prudence, Yellow Crocus, The Weight of Water, The Mapmaker’s Children, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Silver Star, WitnessThe Reason for God, Girl at War, and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.

A few, quick thoughts on these books:

Rena’s Promise – a challenging but important read as it highlights the story of two Jewish sisters who survive the Holocaust.

Let Justice Roll Down – I had a chance to hear John Perkins speak just a few weeks before the summer began and knew I wanted to read his story; he is passionate about social justice and equality for all and I found this an interesting perspective on his own experiences.

Stone Angel – though a Canadian classic, I had never read it. I thought it was a beautiful, raw, and honest reflection of life, death, love, and pride… definitely worth reading.

“‘Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled all I touched. Oh, my two, my dead. Dead by your own hands or by mine? Nothing can take away those years” 

Cutting For Stone – interesting! A very different story than one I’ve ever read. I appreciated the integration of science and history into this fictional story. Powerful read.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James – a lovely story; a beautiful tale of friendship, love, and loss along the way. I couldn’t put it down and purchased a copy to keep.

Go Set a Watchman – so many thoughts; this may be a blog post all by itself! Definitely worth the read.

Mosquitoland – a sweet story of a young girl’s journey and the friends she makes along the way.

Traveling Mercies – honest; raw; powerful; needed.

By the River Piedra I Wept – bizarre; too new-agey for me. I didn’t get it.

All my Puny Sorrows – so beautiful and tragic and lovely all at once; a Canadian author I had never heard of before but I will definitely be picking up more of her books. The complicated journey of suicide and all those this struggle impacts. So, so beautiful.

“It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.”

“… I will bow down before her suffering with compassion.”

Me Before You – a surprisingly enjoyable read! I am not one for love stories but this one really swept me away and I will definitely go see the movie when it comes out.

Prudence – bizarre; not recommended. Had a lot of potential but missed the mark.

Yellow Crocus – an interesting story of the complex relationship between a slave milk made and the baby she raises.

The Weight of Water – I love free verse and tales of coming of age. Lovely.

The Mapmakers Children – an interesting look at the Underground Railroad.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – no no no. If I didn’t have the need to finish any book I start, I would have stopped halfway through. Waste of my time.

The Silver Star – love the author and love the story.

Witness – once again, free verse is a powerful story-telling agent. This tells an interesting story of the complications of racism and prejudice in a small town.

The Reason for God – my first Timothy Keller read; I appreciated what he had to say, though it was a bit “heady” for me at times. Worth the read and a good conversation starter.

Girl at War – a powerful look into the Bosnian genocide.

Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl – quirky, different, I liked it. More my style than The Fault In Their Stars.

Eat Better:

Meh. Not so successful.

More Activity: yes! See 10K and soccer below!

Teacher Certification:

Well, let me tell you, becoming certified in a whole new state is a lot more work (and money!!) than I had expected. After forking out a bunch of money to register, apply, and send in all the necessary paperwork, I needed to take 9 exams! Unfortunately, I did not know how difficult it was to book these exams. But, I successfully completed seven of my nine exams this summer (even the math exam – woowoo!) and will finish my final two in September. 7/9ths certified! I’ll take that as a win. Perhaps the funniest moment of this whole certification journey – the test I was most nervous about  (math) was my top score!

Relax and Be Still:

Yes. Absolutely. It was lovely.IMG_0002

Here are some of my firsts that I enjoyed:

First time at Empire Coffee:

Last summer, I ventured to discover as many new coffee shops as possible. This summer, I wanted to find a coffee shop that was quaint and felt like home. I was successful and found a coffee shop that is sister-run (how awesome is that?), is bright, fresh, lovely, and feels very much like home. Enter “Empire Coffee and Pastry“. It is really lovely and you should definitely check out this Northeast gem.

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First 10K:

I am not sure if enjoyed is the right word but I am really glad I stuck with it and completed this race! I am not much of a runner but wanted to challenge myself and my body. For my first run – my goal was to run the whole thing and to finish! Success on both counts. I ran the 10K in 1 hour and 3 minutes and I am very proud of that!

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First Adult Soccer Team:

I haven’t played soccer since high school but I have been wanting to play ever since I moved to MPLS. Easier said than done. Finding a league, much less the courage to try to start a team meant 6 years with no soccer. This summer, with the help of some pushy encouragement from others, I successfully created a soccer team and entered us into the recreational summer league. This was so much more enjoyable than I expected. It was QUITE the workout and a definite reminder of my age but it was so great to be a part of a team again and be active while in community!

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First Trip to NYC:

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So much to see; so many people! Beautiful city with so much diversity to be celebrated; food… art… fashion… music… Cannot wait to go back!

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Summer 2015, it’s been real. Sad to see you go. Excited for what is next!