I haven’t felt much like writing lately as I’ve been feeling kind of blah and uninspired. I’m sure it’s a combination of many things: I’ve been a little bit under the weather, but not sick. Sophie came down with strep throat. The state of our country has made me way more anxious than I expected. People on Facebook were nasty and unaccepting, on both sides of the fence. It’s been a little too cold to run outside. The sun won’t come out until after 8 a.m., which makes it REALLY hard for this Night Owl to function in the morning. And maybe this sounds like a “no duh” statement, but I had no idea how much I relied on the sun to get me going in the morning. Or maybe just operating in pitch black is the tough part. Everyone says this is typical January. And I’m hoping that’s the case.
Every weekend, I have a tradition where I sleep in and then spend the morning sipping coffee and reading all the blog posts I’ve saved in my Feedly reader from the past week. One of my favorite bloggers, Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy, published an interesting post called “What’s Saving Your Life Right Now?” She explained the concept comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”
The idea behind this prompt is most of us know what’s bothering us and can articulate all those things pretty clearly (see above paragraph as proof). But, she says, few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. What are these things — whether little or big — that are helping us live our lives?
I needed this prompt right now. So I decided to join Anne in listing what’s saving my life today. Some of these things may seem obvious, others probably insignificant, and some are rituals that I look forward to each week. So today — on February 2, the halfway point of winter — here is what’s saving me right now:
What’s Saving My Life Right Now
- My family, of course
- Discovering new places in Indiana
- The visualization of winter — bare trees, cold days, wearing my puffy jacket and hat — all the things San Diego didn’t have
- Soft falling snow
- Painting + Pie classes (canvas painting but with pie, not wine)
- Watching some great television with the family room fireplace ablaze
- “Homeland” is back 🙂
- My music mixes on Spotify
- Blue Apron dinners
- Writing nightly in my “one line a day” journal
- Pictures of my niece and nephews
- Texting my sisters
- Well-written articles with valuable insights such as this one.
- Knowing that I’m not alone in how I feel about the state of our country right now
- Two awesome podcasts: Happier with Gretchen Rubin and The West Wing Weekly
- The feeling of possibility with respect to several articles I want to write and projects to do
- Recently meeting Elizabeth Smart and listening to her share her brave and inspiring story
- Knowing that spring is only a few short months away
Want to join me in this challenge? Tell me what’s saving your life right now. Or better yet, make your own list!
Other Posts You May Like:
- The Ways to Be Happy
- Live Lobsters and Hail: The Simple Things in Life
- Election Thoughts: Choosing Hope, Not Hate
- 19 Life Goals from 19 Years Ago
1. We’ve had a few days of snow in the past month. A lot of people think that we are constantly battling snow being in Indiana. But Terre Haute’s climate is “mild” for the Midwest. We don’t get the snow you see in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or even the East Coast. But I’ve loved the few days we have had and am hoping for more before spring. Having never lived in snow before, it’s such an amazing thing to see. The little flakes falling from the sky and white powder accumulating on the ground. The dogs have taken to it pretty well (much better than I expected).
I try to make an effort to stop and observe the snow and nature around me, whether I’m walking the dogs, running alone or driving in the car. I took the photo above at a park that’s only a few minutes from our house. It reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
2. This article about the way each Myers-Briggs types feel about reading is awesome. I’m an ISTJ and the description is spot-on! Especially the part that described me as enjoying stories with main characters I can personally connect with. Bryan is an INTP and he found himself nodding in agreement on his description too. What is your Myers-Briggs type and do you agree with your description?
3. In an effort to be more productive in 2017, this writers suggests climbing your mountains Monday mornings. Or in other words, do your most difficult work on Mondays. I tend to gravitate toward doing this. I am most productive early in the week, with Monday through Wednesday being big productivity days. I started keeping a semi-bullet journal where I track my weekly tasks (I guess it’s more of a diary/tracker than daily journal). But I fill up the majority of the page early in the week. And as Thursday and Friday limp along, I’m less productive. Or I should say, I schedule less work those days and use them to do other things that don’t require as much brain power. I guess it’s working?
4. Recently I taught Sophie how to use a phone to call a friend. She is 9-years-old, and it struck me that I’d never taught her much about using a phone to call people. When I was her age, I was fluent in dialing and the phone being the main form of communication (although I’m quick to embrace texting and email, as talking on the phone is NOT my favorite past time).
I came back to this old article, that discusses what it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the Internet. I’m part of that Generation X that still remembers rotary phones, the yellow pages, learning the Dewey Decimal system to look up library books, having to watch live television, and waiting until your favorite song came on the radio to record to a cassette tape, or else go to the store and buy the entire album. This passage struck me, as I’d never thought of it as “two languages”:
“If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.”
5. Speaking of Generation X, LOVE this article: “Moderately Motivated Gen-Xer for Hire.” This is truth: “40-something professional seeks opportunity in an environment that is neither ‘fun,’ ‘playful,’ nor ‘collaborative;’ minimal responsibility preferred but not required.”
And I found myself nodding in agreement when reading this: “Strengths include the ability to work independently for years or even decades with minimal feedback and/or praise, as well as a marked level of comfort working with antiquated systems, outdated standards, and unending group email chains. Cumbersome processes will in no way detract from productivity levels, provided productivity is measured by way of exceedingly complex written reports.”
6. I keep a running list of television shows I want to watch, or movies to see. Because if I don’t, I just end up re-watching “The Killing” for the hundredth time, or getting sucked into a “Law and Order: SVU” marathon (not that I don’t do those things anyway). So in recent weeks I’ve watched “Marcella” and “Top of the Lake,” both on Netflix. “Lake” was pretty good. I just started “River,” and debate whether to dive into “The Wire” (not sure if I can handle McNulty after “The Affair”). I’m waiting (somewhat) patiently for season 2 of “Better Call Saul” to go to Netflix, and season 4 of “The Americans” to be released on Amazon Prime. What have you binge-watched recently?
What’s going on in your life? How is 2017 treating you so far? Do you have any television or movie recommendations for me?
Music is not something that I’ve written a lot about on this blog. Although it’s always ever-present in my life. Perhaps because various songs always accompany me on the road, at my desk or in movies, they are so integrated into daily life that I rarely give it a second thought. But so many singers, songwriters and songs have impacted my life in deep ways.
I have a bit of an eclectic taste in music — country artists, alternative, acoustic, and a real weakness for 1970s singer-songwriters and bands. I’ve discovered some great music over the last few years. If you’re curious, here’s a sampling of what I’m currently listening to on Spotify.
Mary Chapin Carpenter remains my favorite. I’ve grown from 18- to 41-years-old with her words and music a constant by my side. Her 15 CDs sit on my bookshelf. (Yes, I still own CDs — an entire tower of them.)
Lyle Lovett, Dawes, Jason Isbell, The Head and the Heart, and Jackson Browne made a very long drive from El Paso to Dallas, Texas go by in the blink of an eye this past summer. And Harry Chapin’s songs are the anthem of my dad and family road trips when I was a kid. These are just a few of the many musicians who have made an imprint on my life.
I know of no bigger music fan than my brother-in-law, Steve, whose house is lined with vinyl albums and CDs, and he writes thoughtful posts about music on his blog, Parallax Moves. He and my sister, Sari, are always adding to their top albums list, going from the top ten to now 250!
For Steve’s birthday last year, I put together a list of my top six albums, along with some thoughts about why I made the choices I did. I’m already working on my next set of favorites since Steve’s birthday is next month. It’s hard to narrow your favorite albums and songs down to five, ten or even 20. I don’t know how Sari and Steve selected 250.
I also started wondering if “young people” today are even familiar with the concept of an album. So much music is released digitally now, and you can buy or listen to individual songs. Is “album” an outdated term? I’ll leave that to Steve — and you — to answer.
Without further ado, here are my top six favorite albums. Stay tuned for more!
Hell Freezes Over, The Eagles
I fell in love with The Eagles when I heard this album as a sophomore in college. This collection is one of my most frequently played CDs, and it includes all so many classic songs (granted not “Lyin’ Eyes”). Many music aficionados would argue it’s a cop-out to include a “greatest hits” type of album to a favorites collection. But I would argue Hell Freezes Over is a live album that marked the reuniting of The Eagles, and it also includes individual songs that were not recorded as Eagles songs otherwise (e.g. Don Henley’s “New York Minute”).
The Joshua Tree, U2
This was a tough call since it was either The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby (and my first concert was U2’s Achtung Baby tour in 1991). But when I look at the songs I still love today, it’s always “With or Without You,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Where the Streets Have No Names,” and “In God’s Country.” The songs are timeless and showcase how only musicians can create such powerful music and songs.
Greatest Stories Live, Harry Chapin
Greatest Stories Live is a symbol of my childhood and long road trips driving to and from Lake Tahoe. But what puts it on my “top albums” list is how the album and Chapin’s songs are timeliness. When I heard the songs as a kid, they were dad’s favorites songs. At the time, I could recognize the poetry in the songs. But as an adult, the songs have different meaning as they speak about a life lived, regret and reflecting back on the past (e.g. “Dreams Go By,” “Mr. Tanner,” “Taxi,” “Circle,” “Cat’s in the Cradle”). So now as I listen, I understand why dad loved them so much.
Stones in the Road, Mary Chapin Carpenter
Since Mary Chapin Carpenter is my favorite musician, it was really hard to select a top album. I wanted to include Come On, Come On since that album really made her a well-known name and how I was introduced to her. And of course, the songs are always compelling. And now after listening to her latest album, The Things We are Made Of, I feel that’s now one of her best works. But Stones in the Road (the follow-up to Come On, Come On ) spoke to me immediately and continues to as I listen to it today. The songs really showcase Carpenter’s talent, diversity and lay the foundation of her future songwriting.
Sweet Baby James, James Taylor
This album was a no-brainer to chose since it’s the record that brings us “Fire and Rain,” which is one of my favorite songs. Sweet Baby James also contains some of Taylor’s best songs: “Country Road,” “Blossom,” and of course, “Sweet Baby James.” Taylor himself is often cited as one of the first to included in the singer-songwriter movement that began in the early 1970s. I think this album is emblematic of that depiction of Taylor and his music.
American Idiot, Green Day
I’m not a big fan of the punk genre. However, I’ve always enjoyed the groundbreaking music of Green Day, with “Good Riddance” being in one of my top ten favorite songs. Perhaps it was seeing them perform at Lallapalooza in 1994 at Aztec Bowl when they were still fairly unknown. I think American Idiot is a work of art on its own. Every song Billie Joe Armstrong wrote for American Idiot is part of the overall album’s story of Jesus of Suburbia and the disillusionment of my Generation X.
What are your top albums? What musicians do you always listen to? Do we share any commonalities? Do you have recommendations for me?
When I reflected at the end of 2015, I wrote that the year was defined by new, adventure and non-stop. When I think of 2016, one word comes to mind: change.
Change defined this year for us in a big way — moving from San Diego to Indiana. It was scary and exciting, but has been a wonderful thing too. Of course I miss my friends and family in San Diego, and some of the adventures we were able to have there. But we’re really loving our life in the Midwest — making new friends, enjoying the change of seasons, exploring Indiana, the cool fall weather and our first snow. Change has been good and we’ve rediscovered a sense of wonder and newness that I didn’t realize was missing before.
I wrote recently about my blog turning seven years old. I love that I’ve been making these year-end photo collages for the past seven years as well. They give me a chance to reflect on all the memories during the year and seeing how much joy and love exists. Of course there are always challenging, depressing and tough times (2016 certainly had its share). But what keeps me sane is trying to focus on the positive and reflecting on the happy times. Thank you for reading Leah’s Thoughts and being a part in my journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to a great 2017!
Other Posts You May Like:
- Looking Back at 2015
- Looking Back at 2014
- 2013: The Year in Photos
- 2012: The Year in Photos
- 2011: The Year in Photos
- 2010: The Year in Photos
Seven years ago today — on December 21, 2009 — I published my first blog post and Leah’s Thoughts was born. Many call this day the blog-o-versary. I like to think of it as the day I began writing my own story.
In many ways, I’ve devoted my life to telling stories. When I was in elementary school, I wrote creative stories. In the third grade, my teacher said I wrote the best three-page story about a girl who didn’t like Christmas. In middle school, I wrote and published my own newsletter that I sent to pen pals and people across the country.
In high school, I discovered journalism and knew I was meant to writer stories professionally. I joined the school newspaper and loved every minute I spent in that class from my sophomore to senior year.
I was a journalism major at San Diego State University, and found myself writing for The Daily Aztec newspaper. And when I graduated, I started work at a publicity assistant at KPBS where I worked helped tell stories for the San Diego public TV/radio station. From there I went on and did several other jobs, all having a writing component attached to them — whether it was writing about San Diego State in hopes of recruiting prospective students or ghostwriting speeches for the university presidents. Writing never left my blood.
But in late 2009, something changed. I started to realize there was a story I was not telling — my own. I’ve been writing for others for so long, I wanted to share my own experiences as a mother to a 2-year-old daughter, not knowing what the heck I was doing as a parent.
So I started writing. I wrote about how I hated to sunscreen Sophie to go to the park (that feeling has since passed). I wrote about my love of bookstores, my decision to only have one child, all of Sophie’s first days of school, and my struggles with motherhood.
I wrote about the loss of my beloved dog and cat, leaving my secure full-time, state job to start my own freelance writing business and be my own boss, moving my life across the country, and so much more.
In the past seven years, I’ve published 524 blog posts. So many stories, feelings, rants, thoughts, recipes, book reviews … I chronicled it all here on my blog.
The world of blogging has changed considerably since I started this site seven years ago (my commentary on that subject is a post I’m saving for another day). So many bloggers talk about getting their pageviews and readers to the “perfect” number, or playing chicken with social media followers to get the attention of brands and PR reps. Many want to get paid for sponsored content. And I’ve read bloggers who go on-again-off-again with wanting to quit blogging (to which I always think, “I want to quit the gym!”).
Writing my blog has always been — and will always be — about telling my story. I have never cared about pageviews and statistics. I care about the words and stories I tell, and that they are honest, real truth.
I don’t write what society wants to read. I write for myself to have a chronicle of where life has taken me. And I’m still humbled and grateful to the people who read my words. I may not write as much as I used to, but as long as I have words to write and things to say, I’ll keep writing them here on my blog.
I know some of you have been reading here since the beginning. And to those of you, thank you! And to new readers and people who have joined me along the way, I am thankful you stop by from time to time.
Here’s to the past seven years … and to the future, whatever stories are told.