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Lent 2018: There Is Too Much Noise

I know I haven't been regularly posting on this blog over the last year or so, and that this post probably seems a little superfluous. However, last year I blogged some of my experiences over the course of Lent and talked about what it was like to study through Daniel and give up meat for 40 days. I thought some of you might be interested in my Lent fast this year, and I wanted to write about it before it begins. Check out the old posts here, here, and here

This year, Lent begins on my 24th birthday, and this year, I'm going to be giving up social media in all of its forms for 40 days. No more Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Youtube over the course of Lent, starting at midnight on my birthday.

Even writing the list of social media I would be giving up was exhausting. And here's a major reason I'm ready to give it all up for a while: I am so damn tired. My brain is so noisy all the time, and the amount of things I feel like I have to check, keep tabs on, update, or respond to is starting to eat away at me. I feel like every time I click on one of my social media pages, I'm losing a little bit of myself. I'm losing focus, I'm more stressed out, and I quite simply feel like nothing I do is ever exciting, daring, crazy, or smart enough to share. This is not the point of social media. It's not the sites' faults. I cannot blame anyone other than myself for how I feel about social media, which is why I need to step away from it.


I know this is a very millennial problem, but social media really is a mindkiller. I find myself scrolling mindlessly through all my feeds every day and being relentlessly bored with everything I find there. The algorithms for these apps and sites have changed over the course of the nearly 10 years I've been using them, and all I ever get are advertisements and reposted gifs, videos, and vines. My friends' and family's posts are buried under mountains of ads and drivel from pages I don't remember even liking or following.

Everything on these sites tells me to consume, consume, consume. I can barely sift through the advertisements and mindless chatter to get to the things that matter-- my friends and family, and the inspiring things the people I know do and create. I am tired of feeling uninspired. I am tired of the comparison game. I am tired of feeling left out, like I'm the only one white-knuckling it through mundane life while others are lounging and living carefree, exciting, adventurous lives. I am ready to look for genuine connection, the beauty in the everyday, and to rediscover my own voice, creativity, style, and loves.

My goals this Lent are to plug into authentic community-- find a church, attend bible studies, spend more time building relationships at work, work more on my relationships with my loved ones, etc.-- and to spend more time creating and expanding my mind. I made a goal that in 2018, I would write 100 pages of fiction and submit to journals and contests. So far, almost 6 weeks into the year, I've barely written anything. I'm ready to get back to creating. I'm ready to unplug so I can really devote more time to the things I love and the things I'm craving in my life.

I know that this is ironic-- I'm posting on social media to tell you about fasting from social media. This is just the day and age in which we live-- you can't escape your cultural context. But, I feel that it's important to provide my reasoning. Social media is such an enormous part of our community landscape in the 21st century.

I don't know what new avenues of self that this fast will bring me down, but I do know I'm ready for a change.

At the end of the day, all of my pages will still be there when I come back. The question is whether or not I'm going to want them back again.

Thanks for sticking with me through this ramblingly incoherent post.

I won't be updating the blog during Lent this year for obvious reasons.
Yours Oddly,
Ally

Reading: Best of 2017 & 2018 Goals

Hello again! Better late than never with this one, right?...

I thought I'd come at you with another post about what I read in 2017 and what I'm looking forward to reading in 2018. If you remember this post from December 2016, I said that I wanted to read lots of big books in 2017, and unfortunately I didn't get through any of the books I said I was going to read. Ah well. C'est la vie.

Here's my problem: I'm an emotional reader. I am highly guided by my emotions, and if I don't feel like reading something, I just won't do it. I had to take the Meyers-Briggs personality test during professional development for my job, and I'm an INFP (unsurprisingly). The Feeling/Emotional score I had was 90%. 90%! Needless to say, I had the best of intentions but was unable to deliver the goods.

Lemme tell you what I actually did do in 2017. I read 45 books, which I'm fairly happy with, and I beat my goal of reading 10,000 pages. I ended up reading 12,256 pages over the course of 2017, which feels like a massive number. I know word count would've been a more accurate or meaningful judge of how much I actually read, but I'm going to stick to my page count for this year. Here are some of my favorite books from this year. I think there are only going to be a few books on this list since 2017 seemed to be a rather underwhelming reading year.

Absolute Favorite of 2017 - Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I cannot rave enough about this book. It is so good. It is so good. It's formally interesting and strange, the story is beautiful and heartbreaking, and I couldn't put it down. I loved every minute of this book and was so sad when it was over. In case you aren't aware of George Saunders, he's a brilliant writer of short stories and he teaches at Syracuse in their MFA department. This is his first novel, and it won the Man Booker prize...clearly, it's amazing. This book has everything: ghosts, polyvocal storytelling, Abraham Lincoln... You should read it. Seriously. Read it.

Most Entertaining of 2017 - The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

This one's a little out there if you're not already a Twin Peaks fan. I started watching the show on Netflix during my junior year of college and I fell in love with it. When it was announced that there would be a new limited-run series exploring the world of Twin Peaks again, Alec and I were so excited! He got me this book as a gift for my birthday, and I read it all in about two days during my spring break. The book is a comprehensive history of everything that happened in the original Twin Peaks series, giving a history of the town, the people, and the strange occurrences and objects that pop up from time to time. It was really fascinating, and by the time we got to the series premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return, I knew so much more about the show. The book was interesting in that it paralleled a lot of what ended up happening or being explored in the new series, and I was able to make predictions based on all of the information that the book had presented me. It deepened the mystery of the show for me and made it much more engaging and fun to watch.

Most Thought-Provoking of 2017 - The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

This book was tough but very good reading. It discussed the ideas of beauty, feminism, race, and power in the most heartbreaking ways. Following Pecola's story and her family history was simultaneously beautiful and brutal reading, and I think this book will haunt me for a long time. I really want to read more Toni Morrison in the future, and think that everyone could benefit from reading her incredible stories. I don't know what I could say that could rightly explain why this book is amazing, and I think I'll just leave it to you to pick up the novel yourself and find out.

That's really it for the most important books for me this year. It was sort of a dry reading year, as you can see, but I'm looking forward to getting back to the good stuff in 2018. I did just recently start reading the Lord of the Rings series, and the first book proved to be very entertaining. I'm sure I'll write more about that adventure later.

I'm only going to set one very specific goal for 2018 based on what my 2017 reading list looked like. I realized as I was going through all the books that I read this year, only 15 of them were by women. Crazy right!? So, my goal this year is to have at least 50% of the books I read be by women. I feel that as an aspiring writer, and an aspiring writer with a feminist leaning, I should be spending way more time with the writing of women than I do. My hope this year is to write more even if that means reading less, but I still want to read more women and diversify my bookshelves.

That's it for my 2017 reading year and 2018 reading goals! It's not much, but I thought it important to document my favorite books that I read this year. If you're interested in my complete list of books from 2017, you can check that out here.


What are you planning on reading this year? I'd love to know!
Yours Oddly,
Ally


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