December was an unexpected month. I mean, not that exactly — I absolutely knew that December would come after November, as did everyone else who uses the Gregorian calendar or is at least four years old and living in the Western hemisphere. I mean more that this December wasn’t what I expected.
Going through the month, I felt like the days were passing too quickly and I couldn’t keep up. I searched for “Christmas spirit” everywhere but couldn’t seem to find it. I did not bake a single batch of cookies the entire month. For a girl who likes to bake at least a half-dozen recipes, bring cookies and such into work or drop goodies off at friends’ homes, and save a sampler platter to bring to her Dad in Tennessee, that was a pretty low blow for everyone involved.
While it was happening, it didn’t feel like anything. I didn’t really know what I was walking through. I didn’t really blog (sorry readers), I didn’t really work out (sorry pants), and I didn’t read very much or complete any more of the awesome online classes I started. I barely finished listening to Serial. Looking back, though, I can see that this past December was so good for me. December was a month where my loneliness was met week after week by lovely new friends.
The thing about being career-minded and married and moving to a new city as an adult is that your friends are often very far away. Instead of seeing them every other day, you see them just once or twice each year. It’s natural to feel lonely in your new city. But, if you are like me, you might not recognize that loneliness even when it is filling your life. I apparently confuse it with things like work stress, seasonal allergies, or the crippling emotional blow that is entering another winter in Chicago. (I mean, seriously. It is cold.) And then I convince myself that work stress, allergies, or cold weather are good reasons NOT to go out and spend time with new friends, which compounds the loneliness that I haven’t even noticed I have.
I can be such a dummy.
The past six weeks my Chicago people and out of town guests totally rejuvenated me. Thanks to Abby for visiting pre-Thanksgiving and reuniting me with some lovely ladies I hadn’t seen in too many months. Thanks to the awesome book release party for connecting me with people I care about but haven’t seen in ages. Thanks to little girls who take dance classes and brought me to my first-ever showing of the Nutcracker (FYI the Nutcracker is WEIRD!) — and to the awesome hosts of the post-performance shindig. Thanks to the friend who came to stay with us for a week while attending a conference in the city. Thanks to my awesome family and in-laws for fun activities and hang outs over the holidays, and thanks especially to the two couples that joined us here in our Chicago apartment for New Years’ Eve fireworks. I had forgotten how much fun it was to relax, sip on homemade cocktails, bake a cake, and just have fun.
I watched some TV and read a few books and went to some cool places over the last month, but I’ll catch you up on those things later. For now, when I think about this December, I think about you. Thanks, friends, for making this life more awesome.
As I usually do, today I’m linking up with the fabulous Leigh Kramer to share what I was into during the previous month. For great shows to watch, books to read, recipes to try and internet things to click on, check out all of the posts here.
The sun is shining today, so even though it is literally 12* with a wind chill of 3*, I went out to grab lunch. I need to see the sun, my body soaks up the light and immediately converts it into happiness.
I’ve discovered this winter that while my calorie counts and daily food costs are lower when I pack my lunch, I really need the break that purchasing a meal requires. I need to stand up and physically step away from my desk. I need to bundle up and walk the block or two to grab warm food. I need to see other humans living and thriving in this cold to remind me that I can live and thrive too.
Today’s lunch: teriyaki chicken on napa cabbage with two BBQ pork bao, purchased from Wow Bao. I love Wow Bao. The WordPress App has trouble embedding links now, but if you’d like to check out Wow Bao just visit http://www.wowbao.com.
This weather has reminded me that I am strong. Because honestly? It has never been so cold that I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Is it a little crazy to walk four blocks to yoga at 9 p.m. during a polar vortex? Perhaps. But I did it anyway.
My home-loving introverted self may be genetically predisposed to living in the freezing cold Midwest after all. (Please note I never have to shovel snow. This may be a factor in my overall assessment.). A Saturday spent indoors baking and watching movies with my little family? Couldn’t imagine a better way to live. It turns out this whole winter-living thing is a little harder on the extroverts among us.
I really love writing these five-things posts each week — at times, they’ve been the most consistent form of blogging in this space and I enjoy taking a few minutes each Friday to reflect over the prior week’s intellectual encounters. However, I’m not sure they are hitting the mark for you. Stats don’t tell me much about what you like and don’t like on the blog, but they do tell me what you click — and the links I post just aren’t getting clicked very often.
I’m not going to stop writing these weekly wrap-ups, but I’m more than happy to try some new things or add new elements to keep them fresh and hold your interest. Do you wish there were more funny posts, more photos or pinterest pins, more recipes? Do you like having quotes included here with each article? Any topics you’d like to see less of? Let me know.
And now, let’s get to it:
One. Abby Norman tells the story of Atlanta’s snowpocalypse, in The Lamest Roadtrip Ever: A Victim of Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse Tells All.
I used to mock my fellow southern-city dwellers too. I didn’t know that I didn’t know until I drove home Wednesday morning pretending I was a bob sled driver. It was the only way I could stay sane while maneuvering my 1996 Camry on what looked exactly like the outdoor skating rink just after the Zamboni went for a little spin. It turns out I am awesome at bobsled driving and totally deserve a gold medal.
Two. “Women Are Not Permitted To Teach” – But Real Life Just Won’t Cooperate, by Kristen at Wordgazer’s Words.
You would think, if God really intended women to be limited to teaching their Bible insights and spiritual knowledge only to other women and to children, that the teaching of women would in all practicality be incapable of truly benefiting or lifting up men– at least, not in those venues where women are apparently forbidden. Shouldn’t God limit the abilities of women to what would suit their proper sphere? Shouldn’t men find, since God never intended women to have anything spiritually authoritative to teach men in a church setting, that they as men don’t actually learn anything valuable when they listen in on women teaching in church?
And yet the Father seems to keep on creating women who are so creative, intelligent and capable that they reach, almost despite themselves, outside that supposed proper sphere. And throughout Christian history, when it comes to divine giftings, the Holy Spirit has just never seemed willing to obey the rules.
Three. Rachel Held Evans’ post Privilege and the Pill.
[A] woman who cannot afford birth control is more likely to consider herself unable to afford a pregnancy, which makes terminating that pregnancy seem like the best, most affordable option. And the cycle continues.
So those who oppose coverage of birth control based on their religious or pro-life convictions must take into consideration the fact that lack of coverage may actually lead to more abortions. And we must remember that shrugging off birth control as something people should be able to easily pay for on their own betrays some of our own economic privilege in this conversation.
And then, please take a look at this “response” post by First Things contributors, twisting Rachel’s attempt at a difficult discussion into something honestly a little nasty. We can do better.
Screaming and shouting ridiculous, mean things to scare away reasoned dialogue is not an effective means of discourse.
Four. Quasi-related to #3, an amicus brief has been filed in the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood cases challenging the constitutionality of RFRA altogether. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s posted over at SCOTUSblog and it’s on my list of things to read this weekend. The historical grey areas and give-and-take of religious freedom in America are so interesting. A vigorous reasoned discussion about the limits of our constitutional protections is far superior in every way to, let’s say it again, screaming and shouting ridiculous things. Check your sources, people.
“The intense passions about religious freedom and women’s reproductive health in this case have obscured the issue that should be decided before this Court reaches the merits: RFRA is unconstitutional,” the brief argued. The filing represents the views of seven organizations, telling the Court that they “are united in their concern that RFRA endangers the vulnerable — who otherwise would be protected by the neutral, generally applicable laws of this country.”
Five. And to wrap us up this week, something that is honestly SO OUT THERE and a little crazy, but really made me think: Penelope Trunk’s 13 ways to keep your debt from holding you back. And it’s not what you think.
Don’t stop taking risks – the price is too high.
One of the most common regrets people have at the end of their life is that they didn’t take risks. They played it too safe. Most of your life will include some form of debt. If you put off doing what you want because of your debt you are way more likely to have regrets than if you pay your debt off really slowly, or if you never even get it paid off.
Quick tech question for you blogging experts: Wordpress has begun auto-numbering my lists in some way where it says 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. instead of 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. I’ve been spelling out the numbers as a quick fix but that is obviously not really helping. If you know what is going on can you help me out? Thanks!!
I had a lot planned for this past weekend and this work week. A serious cough and another polar vortex shut all of that down. I haven’t been outside my apartment since this past Friday, and I’ve been drinking orange juice, ginger ale, and water like nobody’s business.
Regular blog posts will resume shortly, but the schedule may be a little off for the rest of this week. I’m planning to go into the office for at least half a day tomorrow, and I may be too wiped out to keep up with the editorial calendar.
But then again, maybe tomorrow will be awesome. Let’s plan for that, and trust that it will come.
This afternoon I felt well enough to take down the Christmas tree. I wanted to leave it up until Epiphany, and then got busy and never took it down. I know, I know: it’s almost February. But, it’s not February yet.
Leo was very disappointed that the holiday jungle gym went back into the closet.
The lights on our balcony railings are still up, but we haven’t turned them on in weeks. It’s way too cold for me to take them down! They may just stay out there until Spring. No one can really see them, right?
So, tell me this and don’t sugar coat it: what’s the longest you’ve ever left up the holiday decorations?
Well, now that our freakishly cold Midwestern winter has started to spread across nearly the entire country, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up since my first “winter gear” post earlier this season. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that surviving a Midwestern winter isn’t about fortitude or enthusiasm, it’s about having proper winter gear. Google and fashion magazines aren’t really as helpful as you might think — I learned the most from your comments, asking my coworkers what kind of gear they use, checking out the people on the bus to see what name brands and styles look the most comfortable and commute-friendly, experimenting with a few different things, and finding what works for me. For those of you who have been sending tips and tricks along the way, thank you.
1. Layers. Everyone talks about layering, but before this year I always considered a cute tank with a v-neck sweater to be layering. I’d never engaged in layering for warmth. Now, I wear warm-layer leggings, wool socks, and a tank underneath my regular outfit every single day. I love the fleece-lined leggings recommended by my friend Kristen, I like the texture and feel of regular ole’ thermal underwear, but most often I’m rocking the Cuddl’ Duds I included in the photo below. I also layer on a fleece or moderately thick sweater that I can wear in the office if necessary without looking like a college kid in an 8:00 class.
2. Outerwear. I purchased a coat which is great for moderately cold days (where the low is like 10* to 20*F) where I’ll be active or getting in-and-out of a heated car frequently. But that isn’t really my normal day. Because I walk to the bus stop and then stand still for two to twelve minutes each morning and evening, I needed something for my commute that was seriously warm. Everyone seems to wear North Face coats here, but the cost was very high and a few people I work with recommended the Lands’ End Squall coat series. I did my research, including an online shout out to several of you guys on Facebook, and decided that the Lands’ End Long Commuter Down would be the best fit for me.
3. Sizing. I’m typically quite hot-natured, and have always gotten overheated easily on the bus/train. Thus, during my commute to work in DC I never tried to wear warm clothes underneath my winter coats. I learned pretty quickly that my size Small coats couldn’t really handle the kind of layering I needed to make my commutes passable. So, I ordered a Medium in my new coat. It was huge. It is so large that I almost returned it for a smaller size because I felt silly wearing such a large coat inside my warm apartment. Now that I’ve been actually wearing it, though, that extra space in the arms and shoulders is the best thing ever. I can fit a very thick sweater or a fleece zip-up under my coat and there is still plenty of room for moving around. Also, extra big is extra warm.
4. Footwear. I thought that my rotation of knee-high leather boots would be perfect all winter, but post-snow sidewalks are treacherous and disgusting, so I’ve been avoiding them on my commute and just carrying them to work in my canvas tote. I picked up this pair of fleece-lined snow boots because they were cute, but I’ve been hearing great things about Sorel and Merrell boots and may snag a new pair for next season on clearance if I find something that looks good.
5. Socks. I try to wear warm wool socks every day, and if they are the thin ones I’ll just wear them all day, changing into work-appropriate shoes during the workday. I also keep a pair of knee-high pantyhose in my bag and can switch into hose and heels at a moment’s notice if I have a big meeting. Seriously, though, regular cotton socks just won’t do when you are out in the weather — wool socks (preferably the ones that go all the way to your knee) are required.
So far, my new large coat, snow boots, and effective layering have been keeping me incredibly warm. Each day I make it to work without crying or giving up, I feel a little more like a winter-weather superhero.
Am I missing anything? Any other tips you’d like to share for those of us surviving our coldest winters ever?
How to Write: A Year in Advice from Franzen, King, Hosseini, and More, by Joe Fassler in The Atlantic.
Modern Mrs. Darcy’s favorite books of 2013.
A 9-Step Guide on How to Dress for Winter, written by a Djibouti resident helping her kids adjust to Christmas weather in Minnesota.
A wrap-up of the year’s writing prompts over at Ploughshares (a new literary-focused online magazine I’ve recently begun following): For Those About to Write (We Salute You) #16: Bring on the New Years.
David Marshall’s short essay on Christmas wishes: All I Want at Signals to Attend.
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
— Scrooge’s nephew addressing Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Let us remember, this Christmas and every day, that we are all fellow-passengers in this life and treat each other kindly, with generosity and respect.
A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.