2 In Books/ Daily Living/ Health and Fitness/ What I Learned

Celebrate September {What I’m Learning, Loving and Reading}

I had forty-five pen pals when I was twelve.

(Hold your gasps, everyone has to cope with their middle school years somehow.)

I could give you many reasons for this odd habit: loneliness, boredom, fascination with meeting new people, incessant need to collect more Lisa Frank stickers. But without a doubt, my primary reason for writing to 45 different pen pals across the nation was the delight waiting for me at every mail delivery. To me there was no greater joy than receiving letters.

I still feel similarly today. Unfortunately I’ve maintained zero of those pen pal friendships from my adolescence so my mailbox rarely holds anything more than the occasional magazine or advertisement, but every now and then I’ll get a hand addressed envelope from a sister or a college roommate or sponsor child from across the globe. Those letters are gold. I hold them with reverence, sometimes ripping them open right there in the post office, other times waiting to get home to pour myself a cup of coffee and savor each word.

I want to give you that experience, too. A personalized letter, lined with honesty straight from the heart, the latest books I’ve read, the things I’ve been up to lately, the little things making my life happy, and bits of beauty and truth worth sharing. I’ll be moving the content usually shared here in these monthly round-up posts into the letter and there will be a direct way to reply so we can strike up a real conversation, and together create a little spot of intimacy in the middle of the usual business messages and promotional advertisements. I’ll send it straight to your inbox once a month, and you can imagine that it is a fat, hand addressed envelope arriving in your very own mailbox.

Let me know here if you’d like to receive this special piece of mail next month (if you received this post in your inbox you’re already signed up), but for now here’s what I learned, loved, and read in September.


What I Learned:

1. Depositing checks online is much easier than I expected

THREE years ago I moved and the closest branch of my bank was thirty minutes away. For THREE years I’ve been holding onto checks for much longer than I should, waiting for the next time I can get to the bank. I don’t know why I thought the mobile depositing app would be hard, but I did and so I put it off. (Did I mention it was THREE years of making hour long trips for the simple act of depositing checks?) Finally, I took the plunge and tried it and it is saving my life. Moral of the story: don’t wait THREE years to try something that might multiply your time.

2. Approaching life as a practice allows more room for grace

If I remind myself I’m just practicing it helps me from needing to be perfect. Because practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make better and better is good.

3. Write first

Instead of checking your email, updating your Facebook, editing a project, or any of those five-minute, less brain required tasks. Write first because otherwise all you’ll do is respond to emails and scour your iPhoto for the perfect picture.

4. Cooking 40 strips of bacon takes longer than I thought

But bringing it to a middle school women’s choir rehearsal when they have to come to class at 7:50 will grant you eternal favor among thirteen-year-old girls.

5. Five minutes is all you need to be whole

So I compiled a list of practices – things you can do in five minutes – that will help integrate your body, soul, heart, and mind into one whole being. You might want to take a look at it.

6. Put Your Long Runs in the Evening

I’m training for a half-marathon and all I want to do after the long runs is collapse and sleep for eight hours after them, so why not make that a possibility? Because no one wants to live a whole day after running thirteen miles.


What I Loved:

1. Newsies

This was the musical that made me into the theater geek I am. Recently we showed parts of the Broadway version of it to our high school choir and I fell in love all over again. (It’s on Netflix right now – trust me, you’ll want in on this action.) I may or may not wake my husband up with Seize the Day at full volume on a daily basis.

2. Frozen the Musical

We got to see the pre-Broadway viewing of this new Disney musical while it was in Denver this month and all I want to do is go back and watch it Let it Go over and over again. Since that is not a possibility I just belt it out in the car every morning. If you get a chance to see this when it hits Broadway you too can be mesmerized.

3. Bagged Salads and canned chicken

I realize there’s healthier versions of salads, but when your lunch options are tossing a bagged salad and a can of chicken together, or eating an entire box of Wheat Thins you can see why this is saving my life.

4. Lost

We started this series over Christmas break and have at last arrived at the finale this week. I can’t say all my questions were answered, but my heart strings were pulled and I feel as though I  just completed an epic saga with some dear friends. Plus, my sweet little brother and sister love this show and now I can share it with them.

What I Read:

Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg

I finished this at the beginning of the month but it is still on my bookshelf to read because I want to go back through it and spend longer with each of the profound truths the author brought to my attention. This is an excellent unpacking of the often misunderstood concept of Spirit and how we might tend to it and keep it healthy, thus in turn keeping the whole version of ourselves healthy.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple and Rishi are two late teens whose marriage has (unbeknownst to one of them) been arranged by their parents. They meet and wrestle out their culture’s tradition in the reality of typical American college life. Cute CUTE premise, rather flatly written.

One Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

My husband asked me what I was reading and I told him it was a story about a dysfunctional family working out their issues. He laughed. It sounds horrible by that description, but I enjoyed the realistic depiction of what its like to become your own person within the framework of a family. Very well written, very believable.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart

This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in memoir writing. The author is a college professor who specifically teaches on this art form and has laid out her book in a way similar to how she would teach her course. It is a great wisdom for all writers, and never have I seen a list of recommended memoirs so long or detailed.


That’s all for now, friends. I’ll see you at the end of October over in your mailbox and we can form our own little pen pal ship as we share the details and discoveries of our right-now lives.


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  • Reply
    Kirstin Troyer
    September 30, 2017 at 10:47 am

    WE love the newsies. My girls fell in love with it when they were little when they borrowed it from a friend of ours. Then we struggled to find it ourselves and I think finally purchased it.

    • Reply
      Greer Oharah
      October 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

      One of the best, by far!

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