Winter Solstice

Yesterday was winter solstice, and we had 3 hours and 41 minutes of daylight. I finished grading my finals on Wednesday, and yesterday was my first day of winter break. I don’t take it for granted that I have a job where I get winter, summer, and spring break.

Yesterday I took Mac on a walk during the lightest light we had. It was about 11:15 am when these photos were taken. When I say that we have 3 hours and 41 minutes of light, it’s never really bright light. It’s more like the great poets Simon and Garfunkel once said: a hazy shade of winter.

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Starting today we have 7 more minutes of daylight with each new day. It’s so comforting to know we are on the upswing of light. This winter has been mild temperature-wise, but the darkness has been hard for me. I love knowing that the light is slowly but surely making its way back.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Merry Christmas, my friends!

My Top 10 Books of 2017

One of my goals going into 2017 was to do more reading. I have always really loved to read, but struggled to find time to do it beyond reading whatever book I’m teaching. But I think it’s such a valuable practice, and it’s like using a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more habitual it becomes.

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I did not read these in 2017, but I did look at them in 2017.

So, here is the top ten books I read this year! Not all of them were published in 2017, but but they were new to me this year.

  1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Read this if: you are looking for a thought provoking, but exciting read that deals with complex issues in a fascinating and enjoyable form.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  2. Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller. My favorite theology/Christian living book of this year, but also not a difficult read at all. Read this if: you want to be challenged, grow, and think about God more.
  3. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I just finished this one recently. I was really curious about his new book, and it was an interesting if not sad perspective on mental health and teenagers. I love that he gives teenagers a voice that is valuable. Read this if: you want to learn more about an honest perspective on teenage anxiety/OCD.
  4. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. I was super curious about Lorelai Gilmore’s writing, and it did not disappoint. Read this if: you’re looking for the perfect, easy-mindless beach read.
  5. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. This was a top-rated historical fiction novel on Goodreads last year. It’s about WWI. (It was really nice to read about not WWII. Does anyone else feel like every book out there is about WWII these days?)  Read this if: you are looking for a historical fiction piece that is both interesting, easy to read, and deep.
  6. A Prayer Journal  by Flannery O’Connor. Honest and beautiful, this is a very simple prayer journal. Read this if: you want to learn how to pray with honesty.
  7. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. Read this if: you need an easy, funny read with nuanced humor.
  8. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg. I heard rave reviews; this did not disappoint. Read this if: you want to learn about resilience, or are experiencing tragedy or grief in some capacity.
  9. English Lessons by Andrea Lucado. I love me a good memoir, and Andrea’s experience of growing up as a pastor’s kid really resonated with me. Read this if: you want an honest and easy read about Christian living and doubt.

And, drumroll, my favorite book this year…

Textbook Amy Krause Rosenthal by Amy Krause Rosenthal. Amy Krause Rosenthal, or AKR, as she calls herself, is a phenomenal and inspiring author. AKR caught my attention for her absolutely incredible Modern Love Column earlier this year about her terminal diagnosis and her husband. This book was my favorite of this year. Read this if: you want to think about life in a new way, be inspired, or enjoy unconventional writing.

On my list for 2018 include, so far, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (I have been meaning to read this for soooo long), Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, and Sisters First by the Bush Twins. What are your books to read for this new year or your reading goals? Please share! (And I’m not saying that in a “please comment on my post” kind of way. I genuinely want to know!).

(P.S. If you’re on Goodreads, be my friend! I love following friends and getting suggestions from Goodreads).

The Odyssey of [to] Homer

I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas on my blog than by recapping our travels of another great holiday, Labor Day. The one town in Alaska that we didn’t hit on our summer travels that I’d really wanted to see was Homer, and so this year for Labor Day we made it a priority.

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The best thing about Homer, aside from being the Halibut fishing capital of the world, is that it can be the source of many great puns based on The Odyssey. The English teacher in me was loving it. I believe at one point Derek, exasperated, asked me to stop calling on the Muses and talking about how Odysseus must be sooooo tired from his travels. I’m hilarious!

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Homer is an 11 hour drive from Fairbanks, so it was definitely ambitious of us to try and make it that far just over a three day weekend. I had initially planned a trip to Homer this summer with my friend Stacy, but we had to change it to Talkeetna last minute. I had heard amazing things about this little coastal fishing town.

We hauled everything into our car after work on Friday, and then made the drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage. (About halfway through our drive we looked at each other and said, “we are never doing this drive on a school night again”. To people who are from Alaska 6-7 hours on the Parks Highway might be nothing, but to us, it is terrible.) We stayed overnight in Anchorage and then drove 4.5 hours from Anchorage to Homer.

Once we finally made it to Homer we were immediately in love. We had an amazing little Airbnb that backed up into a moose sanctuary. We also loved loved loved (incorrect grammar just so I can express my deep love!) the Homer Spit! There are a ton of little shops, fishing charters, and restaurants that all jut out on the Spit into the Gulf of Alaska.

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Mac’s first ocean experience!

Initially we had booked a fishing charter, but ended up cancelling it because we brought Mac with us and had to check out of our Airbnb and couldn’t bring him fishing (duh). We ended up being grateful to have a slow day in Homer, walking along the beach and enjoying some local restaurants. We ate at La Ballaine for brunch, which was really good, and we had halibut for dinner one night at a place whose name escapes me. (Okay, if we are going to be honest, Derek had halibut and I had a cheeseburger, because I love cheeseburgers and I will order one 99% of the times we go out to eat. I know, I know. I was in the halibut fishing capital of the world, and ate a cheeseburger. C’est la vie).

The town was beautiful. It was quiet and peaceful and not too touristy. It felt just right for us, a nice little oasis away from Fairbanks before the school year and winter really set in. We loved walking along the beach and along the spit and relaxing. It was perfect.

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View from our little Airbnb
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Brunch – my high school’s football team had just played Homer, and some of my students were on the front page!

 

The only thing I wish is that we had been able to stay longer! We had to leave on Sunday and drove back to Anchorage, but the plus side is we got to eat Moose’s Tooth pizza for dinner. It’s no Lou Malnati’s, but it is quite good. (#deepdish4ever).

We are hoping to make it back and go halibut fishing next summer if our schedule allows, but if not, it was the perfect little town and a great weekend getaway.