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2018 || Stewardship & Hospitality

Hello! I can't believe it's 2018 already. 2017 felt like a very long year, but I also am in shock that it's over.

I've achieved a lot in the last year-- graduated with my master's degree in education, moved into my own apartment, began a new job teaching in Detroit, and read a lot of books! Lots of wonderful things happened in 2017, chiefly that my sister got married in October and added her husband to the fabric of our family. It seems like the last year was all about growth and change, and I'm hoping for that to settle just a little bit in 2018.

Of course I want to continue to grow in this year, but I am ready for a little less of the franticness. I'm ready to settle into this new life-space and figure out what it means to move from college life into young-adult life. I'm ready to learn about who I am in this new season.

I know that people often choose a couple of words as their intentional guides through the new year, and if you read the title of this post, you know the two I've chosen: stewardship and hospitality.

These two concepts have been on my heart and mind a lot lately, and I think it's high time I paid more attention to them and let them guide me a little more than I have in the past. Stewardship is the idea that what I have (my body, mind, spirit, relationships, home, talents, things, etc.) were given to me and are gifts to be well-guarded and well taken care of. Hospitality is the basic principle of keeping heart, home, resources, and kindness open to all who need it. I think these two naturally fit together, and I'm excited to focus on them in 2018.


Here are some goals related to these two words for 2018:

Stewardship

1. Exercise every week.
2. Eat healthier and give up pop.
3. Build better relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and students.
4. Take better care of my home, car, clothes, etc.
5. Practice gratitude daily.
6. Actively work to improve talents and abilities I already have, and work to discover new ones too.

Hospitality

1. Build new community-- spend more time in my city meeting new people, join a church, etc.
2. Be more generous with time, energy, resources, etc.
3. Cultivate a more open heart.
4. Invite others in.
5. Balance my introvertedness with my deep need for community.

I'm really starting to feel settled into the city I live in and feel like I'm getting into the swing of things with work. This means I can finally start to direct more of my attention outward toward building community and being more present in work and life in general. I want to build up the relationships I already have and create new and meaningful relationships as well. I am really feeling the need to root myself more deeply in my home and to create more space for people there.

As you can see, I'm not really attaching numbers to any of the goals I have. I don't want to lose X amount of weight, or accomplish X things before X date. I want to allow myself the space for natural and organic growth with persistent effort in different areas of my life. This lack of accountability or

What are your guiding ideas or words for 2018? What are some things you'd like to accomplish in the new year? I would love to know!

Yours Oddly,
Ally


Refocus

Hello, there.

I have really been neglecting this space lately. I haven't felt inspired to write anything or to share my thoughts on what I've been reading. I've been feeling a little like my voice and what I write here don't really matter. I've been feeling discouraged because of work and the nature of my job as an inner city teacher. There are so many reasons and excuses I could give for not having written here.

I am feeling like I'll be ready to write here again in the new year. I want to start fresh and write more about my life on here. In a way, I've realized I don't particularly care if what's here is "high-quality content" or not. I just want to write about the things I care about and have a space to share them.

I hope you'll be here in 2018. I'm excited for a change of focus.

Yours Oddly,
Ally

November 2017 Reading List - Nonfiction (for once)

Hello, again! October was kind of a bad reading month in terms of quantity of books read. However, I did read Lincoln in the Bardo (which I will not ever stop talking about), and I think that makes up for not reading as much because it was such a phenomenally breathtaking book. I'm still kind of reeling from it, and I am so glad it won the Man Booker this year. I think Lincoln in the Bardo actually turned my entire year around in terms of reading; 2017 has not been a year for great books, unfortunately.

Like I said in my last post, I'm going to try to read more nonfiction this month. I don't tend to gravitate toward nonfiction, and I especially eschew self help books whenever I see them. However, I do have a few on my shelves, and I think the time is ripe to read them. I know I say this a lot, and perhaps this is just the product of being a young adult, but I feel like I'm in a time of major transition in my life right now. As such, I think reading books to push myself into becoming a better, more fully developed person should be a major goal. Fiction is absolutely a character builder, and I can abstract life lessons from novels all day long. Sometimes, though, it's necessary to read the unfiltered advice, memoirs, and ideas of others to gain some perspective or to build new knowledge. Here are the four books I'm hoping to read this month:

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti

Black Detroit by Herb Boyd


I know these books seem totally disconnected, and in many ways they are. However, I think that each book is going to bring me some meaningful and important knowledge in different areas of my life. Boundaries is going to be an interesting read from the standpoint that I'm a young adult learning to navigate the world of adult relationships, career, and family. Having a decent perspective on building and maintaining healthy boundaries is going to be really helpful as I move into this part of life, and reading about it from a Christian perspective is going to be doubly helpful for me, I'm sure. I'm hoping that this isn't going to be a complete waste of a read, but I've definitely been disappointed by things I picked up from the Christian bookstore before. My friends who've read it said it was really helpful, and I'm going into reading this with an open mind and heart.

Big Magic is a book I'm excited to read because I'm hoping it'll jumpstart me into pushing myself creatively. I've read a lot of bloggers who've read this book and said it really galvanized them into working harder in their creative lives, and I really want to jump in with both feet on this one. I'm really missing writing creatively and working to build my portfolio for MFA applications, and I need some inspiration on actually living a creative life. 

How Should a Person Be is one of those more philosophical and artsy books that I've picked up to read a few times but then got distracted and lost the thread. I'm planning on finally finishing it this month because I truly do enjoy the way it's written, and I also think it's a gorgeous meditation on finding yourself in the midst of life's changing seasons. It's not exactly a memoir or self-help, and it's classified as fiction, so it really confounds the system of classification. I'm really looking forward to diving back in and seeing what I can get out of this strange little number.

Black Detroit was a book that I actually picked up on Halloween, and it has the least to do with the other three on this list. Since I'm teaching in Detroit, I should probably learn a little more about the history of the city and it's people, and I feel like my education has failed me in this regard. It's funny; I've lived in the metro Detroit area for my entire life, but I've never actually learned too much about its history. In elementary school, we stopped just short of the riots and never learned anything past the happy beginnings of the auto industry. This is going to be a good read just to have some information in my back pocket and to make me a little more aware of the lives of people who I don't usually read about. In many ways, Detroit has been a looming but quiet presence in my life, and now I'm in the thick of it. I'm looking forward to learning more through this book, and I know it's going to be eye opening.



I'm excited to dive into these books and expand my mind. I have a tendency to read inside my comfort zone and gravitate toward the books and types of writing that gratify me or that feel the most like home to me. I'm feeling the need to stretch a little bit and read some stuff I wouldn't normally read, and now seems like as good a time as any.

What are you going to be reading this month? I would love to know!
Yours Oddly,
Ally


November Space

I can't believe how long it's been since I've actually written on this blog. I didn't believe it when people said that first year teaching was the craziest, busiest thing ever, but now I totally understand. I feel like I'm never ahead of the curve on any of my grading or planning, and that I'm constantly forgetting something. I'm hoping that as the year goes on, it'll be a little different. On top of all the craziness of grading, I've also been blessed with a sinus infection and an ear infection over the last few days...Needless to say, I'm already ready for another break.

Please enjoy this old Instagram from 4 years ago because I haven't taken pictures in weeks.

October seemed like it went by incredibly fast. I decorated my apartment for Halloween and then I blinked and it was strewn with papers, grading to catch up on, and detritus from my sister's wedding. Yes, my sister got MARRIED in October...crazy! So much happened in October that I don't think I could write all about it here.

One of the best things about the month of October was reading Lincoln in the Bardo and also finding out that the book won the Man Booker prize this year. I can't recommend it enough! I feel that I've been having a really bad reading year this year, but Lincoln in the Bardo turned that right around for me. I would like to write a review of it, but I don't think anything I write could do it justice! I promise to get back to writing book reviews soon. I have so many books backlogged that I want to write about, but finding the time has been a little difficult.

In November, I want to create more space in my life. I feel like I've been running like a chicken with my head cut off in September and October, but I want to try and streamline things and make them a little easier as we move into the holiday season. I need to figure out some ways to make the after-work workload a bit easier, and I'm hoping to find some good ideas this month about organization and time management. I also need to budget better, but that's definitely an ongoing process that will take time to figure out.

The idea of creating space isn't just about time for me. I need to create space for the things in my life that matter. I haven't been studying my bible like I used to, spending time with my loved ones like I want to, or taking care of myself the way I need to. This month, I'm dedicating myself to creating actual space in my life for all of these things and making my time at work more productive and meaningful. This has been a crazy first two months of the school year, and I am ready to get my life in some kind of order so I can actually enjoy my time and do the things I want to do.

I tried to read scary books in October, and I'm going to try to read some nonfiction in November. I want to finish The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave, but I definitely have some nonfiction stuff that I want to get through this month. A major component of November is going to be finding the time to read for pleasure again, and I also want to read some books for self-improvement. The next unit I'm going to teach my kids is going to be focused on self-improvement, and I'm a firm believer taking the medicine that you prescribe.

Look out for a post soon detailing my November goals and reading list. Thanks for checking in, and I'll definitely be writing more soon!

How was your October? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
Yours Oddly,
Ally