Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It's hard to believe that it's already the last day of 2017. I wanted to reflect on it a bit before 2018 begins, but this year is a hard one to recap. Frankly, it feels like 2017 was two completely different years divided up by our July pregnancy news. I've never lived a less predictable year, and at times, I felt like I was just along for the ride; however, 2017 turned out to be the year I didn't know I needed.

In the first half of the year, we focused on creating. We decided summer 2017 would be the summer of writing, and based on a review from our friend Allie, we applied to the Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop with hopes of creating a productive writing summer. Our acceptances meant a lot to us; Tin House gave us something to look forward to together, but it also gave us each our own writing project (since we both wrote stories specifically for the workshop). It was a way to be excited for the summer again after our October 2016 miscarriage meant we wouldn't be using those months to navigate life with a newborn. I was reminded this year that writing is such a good thing. Successes and failures aside, the very act really does make me happier and takes my mind off whatever is bothering me. I don't think that it's exaggerating to say that writing saved us this year. We booked a casita in Taos, New Mexico for the entire month of June and made our own month long writing retreat. I wrote nearly two hundred pages, and we found happiness, fulfillment, and a deeper connection where and when we didn't expect to. I love how the writing process entails dealing with the problems of made up people; I forgot how cathartic and powerful that is. I love that I was reminded that Brendan is not only my loving partner and supportive friend but also my best reader. Being readers for each other was an aspect of our relationship I'd missed; it came back so easily though. During the summer, I really felt like myself again. I spent time making edits for my chapbook that will be published by PANK in the spring and served as a guest fiction editor for two issues of Driftwood Press. I still feel that I didn't submit or write enough, but I'm proud of what I did do, and I have a foundation for more work in 2018.

Despite our writing progress, parts of 2017 were quite tough. May, in particular, was really difficult as our would be due date came and went. I felt like I struggled through the end of school year activities and Mother's Day. But we got through it. And finally, when we were focused on other things (in Portland at the Tin House Workshop, actually), our wished for pregnancy happened, and when I saw those two pink lines, I couldn't quite believe it. 

What followed was that our pregnancy news pretty much consumed the second half of the year. At first, I had a lot of anxiety, and I really had to work hard to cope with that. I needed a lot of help from Brendan too as that first trimester was happy but also physically and mentally difficult. Now, the pregnancy is more enjoyable, but we are still sad about our loss. I think this year was about accepting that simultaneous sadness and joy. Writing about our experience has definitely helped me; I'm, once again, thankful for this outlet. 

Jane Johnson Photography
Professionally, it was a special year. I was honored with the Teaching Excellence Award in January and attended the Innovations in Teaching Conference in San Francisco in March. Though a change in cut scores meant I didn't work with remedial English students this fall, I enjoyed teaching American Literature I for the first time. I was also proud of the paper I wrote for this year's SCMLA conference in October. 

Travel wise, 2017 was another one for the books. We went to Austin, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Taos, Santa Fe, Portland, Connecticut, Maine, Tulsa, and Maui. We got to see family and friends across the country. I'm thankful for the people that we love everywhere. 

I know that 2017 was a hard year for a lot of people; in closing, I can say that I hope 2018 is a year of joy, peace, and bright new beginnings for all of us. 


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Maui Babymoon Part II

Greetings faithful blog readers!

We hope everyone had an amazing Christmas if you celebrate. Ours was wonderful, and we've enjoyed spending time with family and friends in Austin, celebrating Brendan's birthday, and celebrating Christmas part II with my brother and Erynn. We're also cat-sitting for our "cat-nieces," Kayla and Haley, right now, so there is a lot going on. I haven't been feeling great the past few days (runny nose/cough), but I think I've finally turned a corner to recovery.

As promised, I wanted to blog the rest of our Maui babymoon. Here's part one that left off on Monday evening.

On Tuesday morning, we woke up to a cloudy day, but we decided to get out early and enjoy it anyways. In one of our guidebooks (Maui Revealed), I'd read about the "Acid War Zone Hike to the Blowhole." It didn't sound that ambitious, according to the book, so we ate breakfast in the room and packed for a short hike.

Well, the book's version of the hike and reality were a little different. In reality, the hike was really muddy, not well marked, and (for the first hour we were there) totally isolated. I did get nervous because it looked like it might rain, and I didn't want to get trapped in the valley due to slippery conditions.

Because of that day's weather conditions and the pregnancy, we didn't hike all the way down to the blowhole, but we were still able to get a good view from above and watch the waves crashing in and out. We did spot two hikers at the bottom. 

After the hike, we enjoyed pulling over on HWY 30 to watch extremely brave surfers ride these huge waves. We got some pictures on Brendan's camera.

We decided we weren't up for going back to the hotel. Though we were in non-fancy hiking clothes, I called the fanciest restaurant in Maui, Mama's Fish House, recommended by basically everyone, and got us a lunch reservation. It took us an hour to get to Mama's, but we definitely had the time to enjoy the drive.

We enjoyed the beautiful setting at Mama's.

Despite this being an upscale restaurant, the dress code is extremely casual (at least for lunch). We really didn't feel out of place in our post hiking clothes. 

We enjoyed one real and one fake Mai Tai (actually good!) at the bar before being seated for our reservation.

Here's our take on Mama's: we both really enjoyed it, but it wasn't our favorite meal (we still like the Lahaina Grill best). It's also super pricey. We shared one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert, and had one real cocktail and one mocktail, and our bill was still $150 post tip. The food is really good, and we're glad we tried it, but we weren't like "oh, we have to come here next time we're in Maui."

I did really love this chocolate mousse dessert though!

After Mama's Fish House, we spent the rest of the day shopping in Pa'ia before heading back to the hotel. We bought a cute "I Love You" banner made from recycled board books for the baby's room, and I bought a paper garland for my office. Despite the darker skies, we never saw rain on either of our hour drives. We snacked for dinner and finished watching our movie (Sicario, which was intense but really good).

We woke up Wednesday morning to still dark skies. I planned another "hike" to the nearby coastal trail. I say "hike" because at times you could hike out on rockier terrain, and at times, you were just on a boardwalk. There were lots of people all around. It was gorgeous though and, at about 4 miles, it was a good workout.

I took some soothing videos of the waves crashing in and out. The second half of the walk/hike, the rain started, and we were SOAKED by the time we reached the car (thankfully, we remembered our raincoats!) 

Since it rained all day, we spent a few hours reading in the room (I started Don't I Know You by Karen Shepard, which I'm loving) before heading out for our reservations at Warren and Annabelle's (we'd later agree it was the perfect activity for a rainy night). Warren and Annabelle's is a magic show for adults 21 and over. The magicians also perform at The Magic Castle in Hollywood and specialize in close-up magic. We choose to eat appetizers and dessert there and call it dinner. The food is fine but pricey and not spectacular, but the piano bar vibe is fun, and it was really nicely decorated for Christmas. We saw the earlier (7PM show), and I'm so glad because 9PM is basically my Maui bedtime. The magic itself was awesome. We were really impressed and enjoyed the two hour show a lot. 

Thursday morning, we finally got our sunny skies back! YAY! We put on our swimsuits, grabbed our snorkel gear, and walked down to Black Rock for more snorkeling. The water was murky, but we still saw plenty of fish. The coolest moment was when a turtle came within six inches of Brendan's face. Brendan didn't notice because he was messing with his camera. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he looked up and saw the turtle right in his face. The least cool moment was when Brendan told me (and several others) about the white tipped "harmless" reef shark he spotted. I'm both envious and glad that I missed it. 

Thursday ended up being one of my favorite days of the trip. After snorkeling, we hung out by the pool for several hours. The weather was great, we enjoyed reading on the beach and dipping into the pool. We shared an appetizer from the pool bar for lunch and just enjoyed being together and feeling baby girl kick. We also each went down the hotel's water slide many times (and enjoyed using Brendan's waterproof camera to document our hilarious faces).

We drove to Lahaina for dinner. We were hoping for an evening meal at Kimo's, but we didn't have reservations. While waiting, the couple in front of us requested a table for two without reservations and were told 45 minutes to an hour wait. They walked away. Another hostess got off the phone and said she could seat us immediately (we assume the phone call she was on was someone canceling their reservation because she immediately led us to a table with one of the best views in the restaurant--so lucky!). We had an excellent meal while enjoying a gorgeous sunrise.

Then, we headed to Local Boys Shaved Ice for dessert. Brendan got ice cream in the bottom of his shaved ice, but I didn't. We couldn't decide which was better: Local Boys or Ululani's, so we're glad we had both during the trip. 

After, we checked out the banyon tree all decorated for Christmas. Thursday night, we packed up our bags and loaded up the car. 

Friday, we were out the door super early for maternity photos at Makena Beach (more on that in a later post). Afterwards, we drove to very nearby Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve for snorkeling. Thanks to a local, we avoided getting in on the rocky side with "razor sharp rocks" that we'd already started wading into. I'm always thankful for a safety tip, so I thought I'd pass it along...go left, FAR left. 

We saw so many beautiful fish while snorkeling, and then we drove to nearby Makena State Beach Park for swimming and sunning. 

We returned our snorkel gear, went to a coffee shop (Lava Java), and then went to happy hour (happy for Brendan at least!) at a bar to kill some time before watching a gorgeous sunset on the boardwalk. Then, we had dinner reservations at was still delicious (just like on our honeymoon), but we think Miso Phat replaces it as "favorite" in this category. 

After dinner, we drove to the airport, returned the rental car, and made it to the gate with plenty of time (our flight didn't leave until 11:59PM). I changed into glasses and PJs at the airport and slept most of the flights from Maui to LAX (despite a lot of turbulence) and LAX to Austin. We arrived in Austin on Saturday at 1:30PM and spent the rest of the day (after eating lunch with my mom) pretty much feeling exhausted. It was such a great trip though, and we're so happy we were able to go.

I'll always remember our babymoon as a super romantic and special trip. Week 24-25 proved to be a perfect time to travel. I had plenty of energy and wasn't uncomfortable at all. I would highly recommend taking a babymoon. If you don't have a full week, a nearby weekend getaway would be great too.

Maui was a perfect warm weather destination for December, and we had six really nice days (one cloudy and one rainy) out of eight days. We stayed at the Marriott Maui Ocean Club for the second time and loved it (the tight squeeze parking garage is the only negative remark we have. Everything else is wonderful). It was nice that this wasn't our first trip because we really didn't feel pressure to re-do things like the road to Hana or Haleakala and just focused on relaxing. Check out tips from our honeymoon for more recommendations (also, the snorkeling spots we enjoyed during a July trip).

 I'll check in soon with some Austin recaps. Have a great Friday before the long weekend everyone!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Pregnancy Weeks 21-24

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Merry Christmas Eve! We are home from Maui after a fantastic babymoon (part II recap coming soon) and are celebrating with family and friends at our Austin Christmas Eve party in just a bit. When we last left off with pregnancy updates, we'd just been given a good report at baby girl's 20 week anatomy scan. The scan definitely put me at ease more, and I've been enjoying this past month of pregnancy the most. Read on for this month's recap:

Week 21
Baby Size: A Carrot 

Baby girl celebrated her first Thanksgiving (well, sort of) in San Angelo. I couldn't stuff myself because there's only so much stomach space now that she is taking up more room, but I did have tons of thankful thoughts. The first friend I told about our pregnancy had her baby on Thanksgiving, which was a big surprise at 34 and 1/2 weeks (everyone is doing good). My parents joined us for a few days of continued celebrating in Midland, and everyone (Brendan, mom, and dad) was able to feel baby girl kick. Heartburn is still a thing, but I don't take anything for it because I find it more annoying than bothersome. Coming back to work after the holiday is tough, and I find myself turning in for bed at 9:30 sometimes. During this week, I start to feel movement daily, and it's so reassuring. A few of our sweet coworkers give us baby gifts, and Brendan's parents are gifting us with the crib (we are still picking one out). Brendan's mom has officially picked her grandparent name (Gigi); it's pretty sweet to imagine our parents as grandparents. 

Week 22
Baby Size: A Small Coconut 

Baby girl is probably officially a pound, which feels like a neat milestone. Our wonderful colleagues tell us they want to throw us a baby shower in Midland in January. We head to Babies R Us to scan some baby items in person. It's hilarious to realize that, despite research, we don't know much about items like pacifiers, bottles, etc. We do our best anyway; at least we find a glider that's comfy! We see a movie (Three Billboards), and baby girl is kicking the entire time, which is so funny. Finals are approaching, so we're working all day even on the weekends now (and wrapping presents in our spare time). Sweets and treats are in abundance at work. I definitely taste things but try not to over-indulge because I know my gestational diabetes test is around the corner. It's getting colder out, and I hate it because I have three pairs of pants that fit (I also have lots of leggings and tights though) and because it's so hard to get out of bed when it's cold in the house. We find out Brendan's family is definitely coming to our shower in Austin, and we're so excited.

Week 23
Baby Size: A Large Mango

When one of my classes tries to recommend an eight mile uphill hike to me (in Maui), I mention to them that I'm pregnant. Half of them are surprised and half say, "I really thought so, but I didn't want to ask!" We have both our holiday parties at work this week, and we're still insanely busy with grading. If I stare at my stomach when baby girl is kicking, I can see it move, which is wild! I make Brendan stare at it until he can see it too because I think it's so neat. I email our families about getting T-dap vaccines. I have some really hungry days and some "I have to pee all the time days," but it doesn't feel like those symptoms are consistent. Kicking is constant though, and I'm so thankful for it. At the end of week 23, I finish my grades. It's a huge weight off my shoulders. Speaking of weight, I've gained about eight pounds so far.

Week 24
Baby Size: An Ear of Corn 

Baby girl is almost a foot long and about 1.32 pounds (according to estimates I found online). We're traveling this week, first to Austin for one night (my brother gets to feel his niece kicking, which is sweet) and then to Maui to celebrate our babymoon. Before we leave, I buy a few new bras. Mine were getting uncomfortable and for good reason! I've gone up one band and several cup sizes. Despite the long plane rides and early mornings in Hawaii, I'm doing and feeling good. I'm pleasantly surprised at how much stamina I have. We are very active in Maui (lots of walking, hiking, snorkeling, and swimming), and I have no problems keeping up. I'm surprisingly buoyant in the water and cannot hold my breath much at all, so snorkeling is all surface for me this trip (the water is clear though, so I can still see lots). We buy a few things in Hawaii for the baby (two dresses, a bib, and a banner for her nursery), and enjoy our last vacation as a party of two. I'll always remember laying on the beach and having Brendan feel our baby kicking. It's fun to relive our honeymoon and make new memories in Maui too. There are no cocktails for me, but at least there's plenty of shaved ice!

I'll be back soon with the rest of the babymoon recap! We hope everyone has a fabulous Christmas :)


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Maui Babymoon Part I

Greetings faithful blog readers, 
So far, Maui is just the slice of paradise we were hoping for. After a long plane ride here, we arrived at 2pm Maui time (6pm our time) and used the rest of the day to pick up our car, check in, unpack, and take a walk on the beach for an easy nearby dinner and music at the Barefoot Bar. In Maui, because of the time change, it’s easy to be early to bed and early to rise, and that works well for us. 

Day one started pretty early. I woke up at 5 something feeling totally refreshed. We started our day with an old favorite: breakfast at Sunrise Cafe in Lahaina (cash only if you plan to visit). Afterwards, we picked up our snorkeling gear at snorkel bobs. Prices have increased (we paid about 40 per week per person last time, and this time it was 58 per week per person—may vary by season?), but it’s hard to beat the convenience of snorkeling gear you don’t have to pack! After picking up our gear, we bought a few souvenirs in town (including two adorable Hawaiin dresses for baby girl) and headed to Safeway for groceries before heading back to our hotel. 

Luckily, one of our favorite Maui snorkeling spots (black rock) is just a beach walk from our hotel, so we got ready. One hilarious side effect of pregnancy is that I’m actually extremely buoyant, making it hard to dive deep to see fish. I just stay on the surface and can still see lots, and Brendan takes the underwater camera diving. Our best sight was a sea turtle that was delightful to observe. It wasn’t crowded, and we had him all to ourselves. 

After snorkeling, we showered and got ready for dinner at Lahaina Grill, which was one of our favorite Maui honeymoon meals. 

We’ve changed, but the great food at Lahaina Grill hasn’t! They were so sweet too and presented us with a pink Lahaina Grill bib when they noticed we were expecting. 

We started Alien Covenant (our hotel has DVD rentals), but I was falling asleep. We had an early wake up planned, so that was just fine. 

One thing we didn’t do in Maui last time was snorkel the Molokini Crater, and I was really excited for that. As an added bonus, the whales are in Maui. We booked a 7am boat ride on the Four Winds II and were at the dock as the sun was rising. 

We got so lucky! Flat water, perfect snorkeling, and multiple whale sightings. I captured video, but I’m unable to upload using this blogger app. One cool snorkeling sighting was a big old eel...neat! There was such a variety of pretty fish and turtles too. We were really happy with our tour which included breakfast, lunch, open bar (for Brendan), and two hours of snorkeling at the crater. There was even a water slide! 

After snorkeling, we drove to a scenic overlook for more whale watching. We spotted a few. Hopefully the pictures from Brendan’s camera will turn out. We stopped at our favorite shaved ice place (ululani’s), and I couldn’t resist buying a T-shirt (total tourist) before checking out the Banyan tree. 

We ate a delicious dinner at Miso Phat and finished our movie (not my favorite Aliens movie) before turning in. Side note: I’ve been snacking on so much pineapple: Cannot. Get. Enough. 

Monday, we had brunch reservations at The Plantation House, a new to us dining experience. The pancakes, Benedict’s, and views are all spectacular. This place is a good beat if you’d like to start the day off decadent. 

After brunch and digesting, we definitely needed our exercise! We drove to old airport beach for snorkeling, beach walking, and sunning. We were out for hours. The coral was hopping! Brendan got photos on his underwater camera (Pentax optio wg2, which he found on eBay for $40...very much recommend, so you can leave your phone/valuables safe in the car). Here’s a picture he snapped on our balcony with my phone before leaving. 

After we returned, Brendan got in the hot tub (I just put my legs in), and we shared an appetizer for dinner at a restaurant on the property before starting a new movie (sicario). Of course, I was falling asleep again, and we couldn’t finish! 

Today was another adventure, but I’ll leave it for a future post. There’s a movie calling our names. 

Hope your weekend was paradise! 
S&B (photo/video updates show L&Z are being loved—thanks Matt and Amanda!) 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Our Maui “Babymoon”

Greetings faithful blog readers, 

It’s been a whirlwind week with grading, finals, more grading, and finishing the Fall 2017 semester. It was stressful, but as I write this, we’re halfway to Hawaii, and I already feel the tension of the past week dissipating. 

We’re embarking on a special vacation: one we began planning back in September. When we realized our due date was April 5th, I knew I’d be too far along to travel during spring break. Brendan and I have always enjoyed our trips away just the two of us, so it was important to us to have one last vacation before baby girl joins us. 

Knowing our trip would fall over winter break, we began researching destinations. We wanted somewhere warm, but Zika virus meant many destinations were a no go. We also didn’t know how long of a flight I’d be up for, which was another consideration. We had a blast on our Hawaiian honeymoon back in 2013. Maybe it was because we were newly married, but there was something so special about that trip: everything felt easy, which was a luxury because we usually travel to places that take a bit of work and feature new languages, currencies, driving rules, and the like. Hawaii is both majestic and magical; it feels far away yet familiar. I’d hoped to be back for my 30th birthday, but Africa became the 2016 dream destination, and I’ve still been itching to return to beloved Hawaii. 

We loved every island we visited, but Maui became the natural choice for this trip because it was the most affordable and fastest flight (by fast, I do mean two planes and nine and a half hours in the air, but it’s all relative!) I was already dreaming of shaved ice, snorkeling, and walks on the beach, but I wasn’t sure if it’d work out. We’d planned our honeymoon a year in advance, and by the time we started talking about this trip, we were only three months away from our desired travel dates. My mom generously offered us a week of time share exchange, and I set about putting in our request. I selected a number of resorts hoping to increase our chances of getting to go, but I knew December was a popular time for Hawaii tourism, so I knew it may not be in the cards. Still, we waited hopefully. When our confirmation came through about six weeks later, I opened the email excitedly and couldn’t believe our luck: we got a room at the same resort we’d honeymooned at (and loved!) It felt meant to be. 

We booked our flights and rent car and bought another guidebook, but as the semester got busier, we didn’t spend much time planning. Then last week, it dawned on me that this was really happening. I was making final edits on the chapbook manuscript and realized I’d never even opened the new guidebook. But there was still so much to get done. Let’s just say I’ve never been more motivated to get my final grades submitted! 

So here we are: the two (and a half) of us. We’re going into this with few expectations. We just want some time together in a beautiful place; time to slow down and take in all that has changed and all that’s about to, and time to celebrate one thing that hasn’t changed: our love for each other and for experiencing this amazing world together. There’s no one I’d rather be here with, and there’s nothing I’d rather be celebrating. We may not be doing day long hikes, 17 mile kayak trips, or night walks across volcanic rocks to see lava, but I know we’ll treasure every minute of this adventure. 

When you’re pregnant, you get a lot of advice. At our work holiday party, I said something about how I cannot wait for our baby to be here. “But just enjoy this time,” someone said. As our daughter is kicking inside me, and her father is sleeping beside me, and I’m thinking about getting up to pee (again), I see what she meant. Periods of transition are weird, and it’s easy to let anticipation rule, but even when you know that the upcoming adventure is exciting, you can’t forget to appreciate right where you’re at. 

I hope Maui lets us do just that. We’re no longer two and not quite three; we’re ourselves but already somehow different; we have no idea what to expect or just quite what we’re getting into...

But here we are. And here is a perfect place to be. 

<3 S, B, and a well cared for (thanks Amanda and Matt!) but already missed L&Z

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Tis the Season

Greetings faithful blog readers, 

Around here, we put up our Christmas decor the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. I love the sparkle and magic that happens during this time of year, but simultaneously, it's our busiest time at work, and I feel lots of tension after a long day spent teaching and helping students revise their papers. Next weekend, I'll be frantically grading finals, and I don't want the happiness of the season to get buried under a pile of essays. 

Here's a few things I plan to do and to keep in mind this holiday season; I hope my list inspires you to reflect on (and do) whatever is important to you. 

1.) Take time to say "thank you"

After a long semester, I know it means so much to me if a student gives me a handwritten, or even emailed, note of thanks. Being appreciated for what you do just feels good. That's why, my number one mantra of this season will be to say thank you. We're gifting our housekeepers, school secretaries, doctor and nurses, and co-workers notes and gifts to show our appreciation for all they do. Not only do I want to acknowledge the people who do so much for me, but I also want to make an extra effort to be kind to strangers: hold open doors, spare some change, smile and be friendly; for some, the holidays are a rough time, and your kindness could mean more than you know.

2.) Give back

I feel overwhelmed with how many worthy charities there are out there, but this week, I want to sit down with Brendan and pick a few charities to give to. Sometimes, I think I get trapped in thinking I can never do enough instead of focusing on what I can do. Picking charities that spend their dollars wisely and making a contribution has become a tradition I look forward to. This year especially, I think we all need to remember that people's worth as human beings is not connected to their financial situation. I'm disturbed when I read comments (by certain politicians) indicating that people are to blame for their own needs. You never know what landed someone in a difficult position. The truth is, any of us could need a helping hand at some point (and likely will more than once). I'd encourage anyone struggling with finding empathy to do some "soul searching" this season; I truly believe the meaning of life (to big answer to the question "why are we here?") is to help others.

3.) Ditch "perfect present" pressure

I'm not going to lie: tracking down the "perfect gift" for everyone on my list can often leave me feeling like a grinch, but this year, I'm ditching all the pressure. The purpose of a gift is to show people you're thinking of them. I'm saving gift receipts, so my recipients can choose something else if need be. I'm also enjoying wrapping small and silly presents: sometimes it's nice to simply get something useful.

4.) Don't let the news negatively impact you

Back in graduate school, I didn't pay attention to the news because it would put me in a bad frame of mind. In fact, my and Brendan's first disagreement was about this very issue (he ended up buying me flowers, which is how I knew he was a keeper). Now, I do read the news daily because it helps me make real world connections in the classroom, and I want my students to be involved citizens, but I still believe going overboard on news consumption is a fast recipe for unhappiness. One rule I have: reading, not watching. Television news is not for me. My second rule: acting, not venting. When I read something that upsets me, I don't wait to take action: I contact my representatives. Do what you can, and then let go. Venting to a friend is sometimes necessary, but it has never improved a situation.

5.) Take time out

Brendan and I took a break from grading (and test writing) this weekend and saw Three Billboards. I laughed, I cried, and it was an amazing film. We almost didn't go because there was so much to do, but then I realized our days of seeing movies in a theater may be limited, and I didn't want to miss a chance. We had a really good time, and it reminded me to take time out for experiences. Whether it's a yoga class, a trip to the coffee shop, a walk around the neighborhood (which was our Sunday activity), or listening to a podcast, take time to do something just because it brings you joy or helps you relax. Likewise, when your social calendar fills with holiday parties, potlucks, gift exchanges, and invitations to travel, don't feel guilty for saying no. Better to know yourself than to agree to something that will increase your stress.

6.) Take in the Lights

Who doesn't feel instantly happy looking at Christmas lights? We'll be sure to take some drives through festive neighborhoods just to look at lights.

7.) Make time for friends

Most of my life in the next ten days will be all about grading, but I've scheduled a lunch, a mani/pedi, and an evening out with various friends, so I'll have a nice break from the monotony of grading and get to spend time with the people I care about too.

8.) Hot Chocolate

I'm going to make myself some :)

9.) A Christmas Movie

Bad Santa, A Muppet Christmas, and Home Alone are some of my favorite Christmas movies (all have been on Netflix in previous years). I definitely plan on finding a holiday movie and enjoying it (with some gingerbread cookies my mom brought us, of course!)

We're already nearly a week into December, but we wish you all peace, love, and hope this holiday season. Here's to taking in the wonder & joy (even if you need to temporarily put aside a stack of papers to do it).


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