What I Learned From Losing my Duolingo Streak

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2018 was to do Duolingo French every day. I did awesome for 69 days straight, and then one day I missed and the streak was over.

This green crying owl accurately embodies the emotion I experienced when I realized my streak was broken. (This image is NOT mine. My streak was 69 DAYS, and it was French!)

So I was bummed for a bit, and I’ll admit I even considered paying $7 to repair the damage (as I mindlessly did the other day for Spanish, which is a language I’m already fluent in. #whatismyproblem). But I was able to put it out of my mind until the end of the day, when I called my dad to tell him all the horrible things that had happened that day.

I started telling him about how I’d gone to bed at 2:30 the night before because my friend got kicked out of her apartment by her evil roommates and she told me the whole story which took 4 hours, and by the the time she was done telling me the story it was waaaay past my bedtime and already a new day so my duolingo streak was broken and I couldn’t work out either so my goals were failed and I suck………

Then my dad cut in. He was like, “If I’m understanding you correctly, you didn’t do duolingo or work out because you were helping a friend.” Ummm yes… “So what do you think is more important? Meeting a personal, arbitrary goal? Or serving someone in need?

Obvi service. My only real goal is to become more like Jesus, and let’s be honest doing duolingo isn’t really getting me there. When it comes to good, better, and best, SERVICE and putting others’ needs before my own are the best things we can possibly do to become more like the Savior.

So now whenever I open the duolingo app and see my broken streak, I’m reminded that I broke it because I care more about people than numbers. I’d even go so far as to say that helping my friend would have been more important than my scripture study or other super important things I do every day. Mosiah 2:17.

Lesson learned: people first.

The Day I Realized I’m Rachel Lynde

Okay, Imma get super real today. Or tonight, rather. It’s almost 3am, and I’m wide awake as I toss and turn in my bed, pondering on some of my deep flaws. Tbh it’s been pretty overwhelming.

Here’s the situation: I’ve always known I was opinionated. Amber Blair has opinions about everything, and she’s not afraid to share them. But whhhhhhhhy? Why do I always have to give my opinion? Literally nobody asked for it. I was thinking about that when this line from Anne of Green Gables popped into my head:

“Mrs Rachel was one of those delightful and popular people who pride themselves on speaking their mind without fear or favour.”

lol that’s me. But not really lol, because this is not funny. Rachel Lynde is not a character you’re supposed to like. She’s kind of the worst.

Also this:

“Mrs. Lynde dearly loved to be asked for advice.”

I LOVE it when people ask my advice.

So here I am at a moment of reckoning: that awkward moment when you realize you embody the characteristics of one of the least-likeable literary characters of fictional history.

How do I feel? Ashamed. Scared. Angry. Like I want to run away to Iceland, where no one knows me, and start a new life where I never give my opinion on anything unless expressly asked. Oh to be able to start over.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem like the most plausible or productive option for me at this point in my life. As wonderful as Iceland is, and as much as I loved vacationing there last Summer, opportunities to progress in my career and in other aspects of my life are probably pretty thin on the line over there. Alas.

So what am I going to do? Hiding away in my shame won’t get me anywhere. (As a side note– it kind of sucks to realize that it is in fact my own fault that I’m not married.) So I’ll do my best to get over my shame, and then work as hard as I possibly can to never give opinions. Obviously I can’t do this on my own, so this will involve serious help from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who knows exactly how to help me. (Alma 7:11-13)

I think things will be okay. I’m still super embarrassed of the last 26 years of my life and how I made people feel uncomfortable and judged all the time. But I am capable of change through Christ. Hopefully everyone who has known me will be able to forgive me and allow me to progress. I am hands-down the most flawed person I know, but I believe my weaknesses can become strengths.

January Books: Turtles All the Way Down and Till We Have Faces

Turtles All the Way Down was recommended to me by Lauren, who told me it was the most influential book of 2017 for her. I can’t say it was quite an impactful for me (easily Daring Greatly) but it was educational and thought-provoking.

The premise is the main girl has debilitating OCD, which affects every aspect of her life. It was rather uncomfortable to read, because I kept wanted to say, “Gahhh just stop! Be normal!” But mental illness is not a choice; nobody wants to be controlled by his or her mind. But tragically millions of people are. Compassion is the answer.

For some reason I can’t get a photo of the cover of Till We Have Faces to load… So sorry about that.

Till We Have Faces was amazing.

It’s a retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, and CS Lewis spins in all kinds of new levels of doctrinal insight and beauty. If you’re unfamiliar with this myth, the super watered-down version is Psyche is extremely beautiful, and the goddess Venus gets jealous, so she commands that Psyche be sacrificed to her son Cupid. But then Cupid falls in love with Psyche, but Psyche isn’t allowed to see his face. Then her sisters come to take her away, and they tell her she should light a lamp so she can see his face when he’s asleep. She does that, and he wakes up, and she is banished forever.

The main character of Till We Have Faces is Psyche’s sister Orual, who is not beautiful. The story is told by her, and it’s her journey of realizing that she doesn’t actually see anything the way it really is. We have to gain experience in order to see clearly, and won’t be able to really see anything until we “have faces,” or come to the other side and look back.

I was overcome with my deepened understanding of the doctrine of mercy after reading this book. Lewis is a master at teaching allegorically.

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.