September books: Daring Greatly and Worth the Wrestle

Great month for books!

DARING GREATLY, by Brene Brown

Just wow. Of all the books I’ve read, save the Book of Mormon, this book has been the most life-changing. I am so grateful for this book. A few key lessons:
1. Being brave is worth it, no matter the outcome.
2. The only opinions that matter are those of people with you on the field.
3. The antidote to foreboding joy (aka horriblizing) is gratitude

WORTH THE WRESTLE, by Sheri Dew

This book was also beautiful. The title comes from the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon, when he “[wrestles] with God” because of a question he has. The topic is timely, because the Church has begun encouraging questions more than ever. Although I don’t really have doctrinal questions, I do have questions about God’s plan for me. We can wrestle with Him about that too! He wants us to engage in the wrestle. It’s worth it.

Letting Sadness Drive

Sadness is an emotion I don’t have a great deal of experience with. My life’s been pretty happy in my short 25 years.

But sometimes sad things happen. My natural tendency is to try to cheer myself up, and sort of forget whatever sad circumstance there is. I’m really good at looking for the positive and focusing on that. This has helped me in the past, but I think we sometimes need to focus on the reality of a sad situation.

The other day, a well-intentioned person said to me, “Don’t be sad!” and I thought, “I think that’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever received.”

Be sad. Feel your feelings. Lean into your feelings. Write about your feelings. Sing about your feelings. Listen to Taylor Swift sing your feelings. Give yourself permission to FEEL, because that means everything’s working. It means you’re human.

I’m currently letting sadness drive. It’s been a new experience, but I think it’s important. I will be sad, thank you. And I think it’s beautiful.

August Book: The Glass Castle

The film of “The Glass Castle” recently came out, and due to my policy of always reading the book first, I obtained a copy and devoured it.

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeanette Walls about her life growing up with an alcoholic father and a slightly crazy mother. It’s pretty intense, and definitely not light or enjoyable. However, I found it informative, emotional, and in some ways beautiful. Life is hard, but the human spirit is capable of incredible resilience.

The movie was fine. I liked the book waaay better.

New Discoveries/ Recommendations

This Summer has been one of discovery, so I want to take this opportunity to recommend some of my new discoveries.

Music: Sigur Ros
I discovered this band while I was in Iceland. They’re from Iceland, and their sound is ethereally beautiful. They are in fact my favorite band.

TV show: This is Us
I’m like the last person in the world to discover this show, but it’s as good as everyone says. It’s also clean, which is a big deal for me. I’m not done with the first season yet, but so far I’m loving it.

Activity: cooking
I’ve started cooking, and I’m discovering that I’m not as bad as I thought! I’ve been tackling my food board (the first board I ever made on Pinterest) and it’s been so fun! I doubt it will continue once school starts again, but at least I have more confidence now.

Website: Goodreads
I’m also super late on this bandwagon. But Goodreads is social media for books. It’s fun to rate a book after finishing it, and nice to keep track of what I’ve read, what I want to read, and what I’m currently reading.

Exercise: Hot Yoga
I did hot yoga with one of my companions last week, and it was awesome. It’s yoga in 105 degrees, which is just as uncomfortable as it sounds. But it felt great after.

Fact of life: I’m always lost
Okay, this isn’t a new discovery. But it’s true. I hate going places by myself, and the real reason is because whenever I do venture out alone, I always get lost. It’s the worst.

July book: To Kill a Mockingbird

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a goal to reread everything I was forced to read in High School. This month I chose one of the first books we studied in 9th grade Honors English, and oh my goodness.

I remember liking it back in 2006, but the world sure was a different place a decade ago. Reading it in 2017 was an entirely different experience, and I think 100% of adults living in the US should read it before the year ends. I don’t think there could possibly be a more timely or important book, besides maybe the Book of Mormon. The issues discussed are SO RELEVANT today!!!! I literally thought racism was a problem of the past the first time I read it. Boy was I wrong.

This is a message that I think we would all do well to remember, brought to us by the ever-insightful Scout: “I think there’s just one type of folks: folks.” We’re all humans; all children of God. The color of our skin means nothing.

Reading this book again was a true joy, and it’s made it to my top 10 all-time faves.

A Surprising Discovery

So I’ve had a pretty epic first teacher Summer so far. #teacherSummer #teacheroffduty

I’ve checked off several bucket list items already, and I’ve been learning and growing like crazy. HOWEVER, as I’ve discussed here on multiple occasions, I am by no means where I’d “planned” to be at this point in my life. If all had gone according to “plan,” I would’ve met my soulmate a few weeks after getting home from my mission, fallen madly in love with him (but kept it to myself), been heavily pursued by him, finally agreed to date and marry him, and had at least two babies by this point while also having graduated with a teaching licence and put my husband through medical school.

Instead, I just finished my (super hard) first year of teaching. I was in a refiner’s fire for like 10 months, so hopefully I’m way more polished now. I have tons more life experience. I’ve been to EUROPE and learned about other cultures and all kinds of other interesting things. I ran a marathon in Southern England! I experienced authentic Finnish sauna! I went to King’s Cross! I navigated Iceland all by myself!

Turns out God’s plan was better than mine. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m grateful that I’m single right now! I have an amazing life, and I’m doing incredible things that I would never have done if I were married. I’m not saying life gets lame when you get married, but things change. And I’m grateful I’m in my present situation. My life is good.

June Book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Hi friends! So I’ve been MIA for the last month because I treated myself to a European trip (my first time!) as a reward for successfully finishing my first year of teaching. It was amazing, Finland was my favorite country, Europe>America, and I literally slept for 12 uninterrupted hours last night. It’s good to be back.

This particular trip afforded me with ample time in airports and on trains, which means I read quite a bit. The book I finished yesterday in the Reykjavik Airport is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance– my dad’s favorite book. I now know why it’s his favorite.

The premise of this book is a father and son on a cross-country motorcycle trip. The father shares his thoughts on proper maintenance of motorcycles, which is actually a metaphor for our lives. He also discusses quality in depth. Really interesting.

I found myself silently sobbing to myself in the airport yesterday, surrounded by hundreds of people that had no idea about the journey I’d just taken. Books are like that. You finish, and it’s hard to believe that no one else knows what you’ve just experienced. Reading is the best.

A Reflection on My First Year of Teaching

Cue “Celebration” because I’M DONE WITH MY FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING!!!!!!

I thought this day would never come. There were times when I thought I would surely die. It is a literal miracle that I survived this year. Praise the Lord!

This year was unquestionably my hardest so far, but simultaneously my best. It definitely yielded the most growth. Here’s a list of lessons I learned:

1. Nobody likes to be forced to do stuff. Never force.
2. Meet people where they are. Validate, and then teach.
3. Always express gratitude. Ingratitude is incredibly annoying.
4. As management goes, it’s easier to loosen up later than tighten later.
5. Exercise is a key to happiness for me.
6. Trials pay off if you see them through to the blessing. Not if you quit.
7. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.
8. God knows better.
9. Things work out. It will be okay.
10. Good leaders inspire with love, not fear.
11. Being single can be awesome. (Another post to come on this one.)
12. I’m happiest when I’m authentically Amber.
13. Being liked isn’t as important as being respected.

There it is. I’m grateful for this amazing, super difficult experience. Those kiddos will always hold a special place in my heart. Here’s to Summer!

May book: The Happiness Project

Okay, so I actually started reading this book about 9 months ago, but I finally finished it this month! I guess that kind of makes it sound like a boring book, but it’s really not. It’s well-written, engaging, interesting, and practical. By that I mean it could literally change your life.

The premise of this book (as you’ll see from the cover) is the author, Gretchen Rubin, writes of her experience spending a year trying to be happier. She deliberately focuses on one aspect of happiness each month for a year. Fun read, good stuff.

9 Reasons Gilbert Blythe is the Ideal Man

I’m on an Anne kick RN, because I recently watched the new Netflix series “Anne with an E” and was so overcome with love for Green Gables and Anne and Matthew and Marilla and Gilbert that I just had to watch the beloved BBC films as well.

I’m in love.

In love with Avonlea. And Anne and Gilbert’s relationship. And the whole small-town, book-loving, creative, passionate orphan girl turned successful author. And the idea of a perfect young man being in love with me since the moment he saw me, and never giving up on me, even after multiple rejections.

Okay, so maybe it’s not terribly realistic… But I yearn for a man like Gil. Someone who’s head-over-heels in love with me, but still respects me and wants my success and happiness, and continues with life even after temporary rejection, but remains loyal.

Here are a few reasons Gilbert Blythe is the ideal man:

1. He’s ambitious.
Off to med school while the rest of his classmates stick around to be farmers.

2. He’s studious.
He and Anne were the top of their class, and both worked hard and got great scholarships.

3. He’s kind.
He was always offering to help Anne. Even after she cracked her slate over his head.

4. He’s honest.
Ohhhhh if all men were like Gilbert. He’s straight up with Anne and tells her exactly how he feels. So much of the horridness of dating would be avoided if everyone was up front and open.

5. He’s loyal.
Even after being rejected by Anne, he STILL waits. He even calls off his engagement because “it wouldn’t be fair to Christine.” (This is totally different from Snape, because Anne wasn’t married. Lily was married. Snape was lustful and creepy; Gil was loyal and determined.)

6. He’s handsome.
I mean, this doesn’t really need an explanation.

7. He’s supportive.
He goes to Anne’s performance where she recites “The Highway Man” and GIVES HER AN ENCORE.

8. He’s useful.
Okay, this one takes some explaining. He actually helps Anne progress. Like, he gives constructive feedback on her book in a tough love sort of way, which she totally hates at first. But it ends up saving her writing career. He’s not afraid to be honest.

9. He’s forgiving.
Back to the broken slate. This boy is a saint.

So I’m not settling until I meet the living equivalent of Gilbert.