26 down, 70 to go

Today I complete 26 years. Am I where I imagined I’d be? Nope. Am I happy? Definitely.

My mom had 3 kids by the time she was my age. But you know what? I’m not my mom.

I’ve decided to focus on having faith in Jesus Christ, rather than having faith in outcomes (like getting married and stuff). Doing all the things (Sunday School answers) doesn’t mean my life will go according to my plan. But doing all the things CAN mean that I’ll have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the ability to receive revelation, which means the Lord can share His plan with me and help me achieve it.

26 will be great. I’m going to deepen my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ. He won’t ever break my heart or lie to me or cheat on me or anything. He loves me perfectly, and that’s all I need.

When Words Fail

I didn’t check my school email over Christmas break, so I missed the funeral.

We weren’t even particularly close. But we had one memorable interaction about a month ago that made me pay close attention to him whenever he was in my room.
*he’s goofing off in class, and I pull him aside*
Me: Hey ____! This is so unlike you! What’s going on?
Him: My dad got really mad at me this morning because he said I didn’t do the laundry and dishes like I was supposed to.
Me: Oh, I can see how that would throw you off. Did you do the laundry and dishes?
Him: Yeah! I always do! And he never notices!
Me: Oh man. That must be hard. Does your mom ever stick up for you?
Him: She’s dead.

So I knew like a tiny bit about his life. (AKA I knew that home life kind of sucked.) I think I tried to be extra aware of him and praise him a lot. Maybe.

The email said he was on life support due to a gunshot wound. The next email said he didn’t make it.

One time I passed him in the hall. I was on my way to pick up a class and idk what he was doing by himself. I should’ve stopped to talk to him. I think I said hi. Maybe I called him by name. I’m bad with names. Maybe I called him the wrong name. I could’ve invited him to walk with me. Maybe he’d just been bullied at recess. I should’ve asked him how his day was going.

I hate guns. [Lengthy paragraph about my political views that I just deleted. #prolife #protectthechildrenthatarealreadyonthisearth]

I get his class on Thursday. I’m not really good at knowing the right thing to say to grieving people. I feel like I always say the wrong thing. But when those kiddos come in on Thursday, I might not say anything. I think we’ll just listen to calming music and play the piano.

When I switched from 6th grade to Music, I did it because I wanted to help these “at-risk” (I hate that term) kids deal with life. Giving kids the tools to get jobs is absolutely noble and necessary and good. Yes. All the power in the world to general classroom teachers. But I care more about giving kids the tools to cope when something goes down like a fellow classmate unexpectedly dying. Or your parents getting divorced. Or not getting into the university you applied for. Or a psychopath getting elected to lead our nation. Life is freaking hard, and tbh knowing how to divide fractions isn’t going to get you through it.

But in my experience, music can. My first year of teaching was pretty much Hell, but I listened to “It’s Gonna Be Okay” by The Piano Guys on repeat, and it gave me hope and peace and strength. Coming home from the mission was hard, because I’d spent 21 years preparing for it, and I hadn’t really prepared for coming home. But listening to music I’d loved as a missionary helped me feel like my life wasn’t completely worthless without the nametag.

Finding out an innocent child died on Christmas was shocking. But sitting at my piano and playing a Beethoven Sonata I studied in college brought me the peace I needed. It didn’t necessarily take away the pain. I had to go to work the next day. But it calmed me down and reminded me that Someone bigger and smarter and better is in charge, and He’s got a plan. I want kids to be able to have that coping mechanism, for when words fail and all we can do is sit and cry and listen. That’s why I’m a music teacher.

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


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!