Teach Me to Know.


“Teach me to know my number of days
Hold out my heart from getting carried…away…”

Teach Me to Know, The Lone Bellow

This song, written by The Lone Bellow, is currently on repeat on my Spotify. The thought that each of our days adds up to a finite number (from which we are not in control), strikes my heart deeply. While somewhat intimidating, the idea of numbered days both inspires and grounds my present. The chorus reminds me neither to wish earthly time away (admitting my days are worthless) nor to stake all of my hope in what my mortality will eventually tear away.

Daily, I need this reminder that God is in control and nothing I do can increase my numbered days. While that may be a distinctly depressing thought to some, it inspires me. It provides confidence that each moment I live is not purposeless, useless, meaningless. It actually makes me more aware of the God’s great intentionality behind each present moment: I am living out a part of my finite life in real time. And, I’m moving ever onward.

Living this out, for me, looks like a desperate cry. It doesn’t naturally take the form of inspired confidence (carpe diem is a great battle cry – right?). Instead, I’ve had to search to find confidence in this statement. I’ve been working to reflect this in my prayer life. It currently looks like crying out to God to deliver on his promise. I cry out to more fully understand his view of time, which spans eternity (past and present). Slowly, I begin to see the mortality of my days, and I grow in thankfulness for the present. I begin to covet a precious moment snuggling with my dog. I treasure the dinners Bryan I get to sit down over candlelight. I love the routines of the week, the holidays of each year. I crave living presently, appreciating my experience of the light, dark, winter, snow, words, thoughts, looks, deeds as more purposeful (in their uniqueness and in their monotony) than they appear. I begin to grow (if ever slightly, if ever forgetfully) in wisdom. I begin to understand both my value and my humanity.

“So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
“Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.”

– Psalm 90:12-15


Reflecting on 2017.

Can I call 2017 the year of travel? It feels like we were everywhere at all the breaks. On top of making trips back to North Carolina at least every other month to visit family, Bryan and I also traveled to:





Spain (Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, Barcelona):

France (Provence, Chamonix, Paris):



My favorite things did not involve travel, however; They involved friends and family.

My sister and her husband came to visit for a Cubs vs. Nationals play-off game in D.C. and it was just the most fun and the best.

My book club read so many good books this year. I feel pure joy in gathering with these smart women. See our list here.

We took multiple trips to Asheville because Bryan’s parents completed The Land of the Sky Lodge, and staying there is so lovely and soothing and makes you long for mountain air after you visit.

We did a lot of hiking and a little camping.

We celebrated Scott & Kelly’s beautiful outdoor wedding. And it was everything you could want – both my families together and lots of happiness.

Moving to within walking distance of our friends. Perhaps this was the biggest milestone of our year. We moved to a quaint neighborhood where we can walk to the main street, as well as call our friends’ homes – oh, and Franklin has a fenced-in backyard! This move brought Bryan, Franklin, and I so much joy. I can only reflect now on the true physical nature of community. Community cannot survive solely on a week night meeting or on words spoken over a telephone. Community requires proximity to function the way it was meant to function.

Finally, of course, some of my favorite things are little and only important to me. Some sad things happened, like my childhood pup passing away. And yet, 2017 felt more like building momentum toward a life. Like the way that Bryan and I find animal warmth in our nightly habit of reading next to each other in bed. Or the way Franklin sits stoically beside Bryan on the couch and will paw him on the shoulder as if to say, “more petting, please?” Or the way we sort of just make random dinners “work.” I look forward to empty Saturday mornings  with just Franks, Bryan, and I with nothing to do because cultivating habits when you have nothing you need to do feels more real than anything.

2017, I am thankful for you.

Favorite Reads of 2017.

I read 55 book this past year (though I’ll fully admit to you that two were children’s books, and two were cookbooks). And from those 55 books, 39 were fiction, and 16 were non-fiction. Here are the top fiction and non-fiction books I read this year:


  1. Americanah by Chimamanda

    I don’t even fully know how to describe this book. It was hands-down, my favorite book of the year. I will read whatever Adichie puts out. She writes so beautifully and yet without sentimentality. She is harshly honest and yet empathetic. I was spellbound by the characters and the door she opened between Nigeria and the United States. And yet for all its statements about race relations, this book, at its core, is still just a love story between a girl and a boy. And I love it for that.

  2. The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

    Love love loved this book. This is a story abt the South, abt being sisters, abt friendships stronger than appearances, abt prejudices. The characters were unique and fascinating (esp. Leila) and the story alternated between funny situations and serious consequences. I listened to this book on audio but often had to rewind to catch the profound one-liners.

    For a book that talks abt race relations and observations in a non-preachy way, this book is lightyears ahead of Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult.

  3. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

    Started and finished this way ahead of book club schedule because it was that good. Though one to be savored slowly. The beautiful prose changed the way I viewed the world every time I put the book down. I can’t tell you the exact genre but it’s somewhere comfortably between fantasy, romance, history, philosophy, and poetry. It may be slow for some people’s taste, but for me it was total escapist fiction.

    Read it and tell me all your thoughts please.

  4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

    This book shows Moscow through the eyes of a Russian aristocrat imprisoned in the Metropol Hotel. His world passes before him in a subtly symbolic trick by Towles telling the chapters in the way a life unfolds. It deserves its place here because it is lyrical in its depictions of ALL THE EMOTIONS – loneliness, love, grief, compassion, greed, friendship, hatred, remorse.

  5. Home Fire by Shamsie Kamila

    Fascinating – I was literally consumed by the characters’ stories. The book has a fairy tale quality to it – and indeed it took me a few chapters to suspect it was a retelling of Antigone. Shamsie does a great job painting humanistic and dynamic perspectives from the five of main characters. No one of the characters is seen as completely villainous – though multiple characters easily could have been. Finally, the modern setting provides a natural opening for continuing the conversation about the intersection of immigration and terrorism.

  6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

    (sorry, I can’t leave this one off my list!)

    Everyone told me this book was a (capital-I) “Important Book.” I don’t disagree, but I found this book more than that. It was well-written – both entertaining and compassion-inducing. Read it and you will love it and you will be a better human for reading it. Naive as it sounds, one scene in particular helped me better understand how riots unfold and catch like wildfire. “Oh,” I gasped while reading it, “So that’s what happened.”

honorable mentions: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell || Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo || Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi || Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong || and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron


  1. I Was Told to Come Alone by Souad Mekhennet

    Souad Mekhennet is my new woman-hero. A Muslim German female reporter for The Washington Post, she has built her career going inside Jihadist tents, getting tea with ISIS leaders, snagging honest answers where so many reporters have been turned away. While sticking to her indefatigable goal of impartiality, Mekhennet tells the stories of people around the world fighting for their religion – in many instances at a significant danger to herself. This book taught me to look at journalism and Islam in wholly new lights.

    But it’s not all serious – Mekhennet is funny and honest and intersperses thoughts about jihad and politics with thoughts on how she will ever find a man who supports her in her career to marry.

    Everyone read this now.

  2. Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

    A book full of so much compassion and truth for my heart that I’ve had to digest in the smallest of chunks. I am still so spellbound. This book has absolutely affected my walk and confidence in God as well as the compassion with which I view others.

    If you struggle with self-confidence or compassion toward others, you really must read this book. But, take my advice, and read it slowly.

  3. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

    This is a book you have to sit with. The subject matter is tough – a journalist lives in an Indian slum outside of Mumbai for three years and tells stories gently but unflinchingly and you can’t get out of your mind. I read this while in India this summer and couldn’t decide how I felt about it. But it’s been half a year and I’m still in awe of this book. I can’t stop thinking about the characters – the corruption they face in trying to better themselves, and the raw human striving poverty cannot cover.

  4. The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks

    (I just can’t help myself. This one was so good).

    This memoir enchanted me. The entire time reading, I found myself dreaming of living in the countryside surrounded by nature and animals. Not everything is romanticized by Rebanks (plenty of talk of brutal winters, death, and financial struggle), but it is so clear he loves what he does.

    I particularly enjoyed reading how his life was opened by literature, how important a quality collie is in herding sheep, and how the simple things in life are truly the important ones after all. The contrast of education level and classes reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance.

honorable mention for cookbooks: Molly on the Range by Molly Yeh (entertaining stories, creative but time-consuming food) || The Yellow Table by Anna Watson Carl (easy delightful recipes)

An Assortment of Thoughts III.

Del Ray (our new neighborhood) on a lovely fall evening.

THIS is the most perfect hiking song there has ever been.


It is fall and I want to HIKE ALL THE THINGS.

Franklin and I went for a hike today and the dearest lady complimented Franklin on his lovely manners. Those sort of compliments make me the happiest.

Franklin’s behavior is one of my biggest insecurities. Saying Franklin is crazy (which, let me tell you, would be a reasonable conclusion if you met him), feels like a judgment on myself. It feels like a judgment on my abilities and self-discipline in training him.

I know this to be untrue, but it is how I feel.

Is this how parents feel about their children?


I am neither flexible nor strong, but doing yoga makes me feel both flexible and strong. I’m always amazed when my body makes it through hot yoga (as in, keeps up with all the poses).

Showing up for yoga has been saving my life recently.

And now I want everything from Athleta.


It was Halloween, and we actually had a bunch of neighbors trick-or-treat! Franklin got a treat every time he sat politely.


These triple ginger cookies from Trader Joe’s are my new favorite fall treat.

Also, the perfect fall novel: Persuasion. I’ve been listening on audiobooks. It is slow, thoughtful, and atmospheric with an older, less “romantic” heroine.


Oh, how little I know, how little I remember, how little I can claim superiority on. Getting older only seems to highlight this.

Doesn’t it seem funny now, those dreams of being the big fish in the little pond? Ambitions seem kind of ridiculous some times.

I pray daily to remember how little I am. How unworthy, but how loved.


Reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading Romans 3:10-12.

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
    there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,”


Thank you, Madie girl.



If I believe anything about dogs, it is that they have memories as weighted with emotion as our own. And, if their wagging tails and whining voices when we return home, or their contented sigh when settling down next to us, or their “smiling” face when a familiar person approaches are any indication, we have our evidence; Dogs love us.

I won’t wax poetic on this, as books and movies and poems have been written ad naseum on this topic (though I don’t ever tire of them – see Lassie, Marley & Me, Racing in the Rain, etc), however, in light of recent events, I must admit my own guilt in taking a dog’s love for granted.

Last Friday, my childhood dog wriggled her nose, blinked fruitlessly with eyes that could no longer see, and breathed one final breath. She was 16 years full; Full of a life lived, and full of parts of my life I like to forget about now, though I am certain she did not.

Our adoption of Madie can only be described as serendipitous. After begging my parents for a puppy throughout my childhood, I finally got one in the 7th grade. We had just moved into a house with an acre backyard that was the ideal setup for a dog. I promised to walk the dog every day – and I staunchly informed my parents that he or she could ONLY be an Australian Shepherd (this was a terrible idea; I knew nothing about training and I’d never met an Aussie before, but, not to be deterred, I had thoroughly read the AKC website).

One spring evening, my Mom, sisters, and I stumbled across a litter of puppies at a local ice cream shop. A stray Australian Shepherd had given birth over Easter on a family’s doorstep, and the puppies were free to a good home. This was my moment – I attached myself to a small squirmy brown pup and refused to leave without taking it home. Mom was firmly opposed, but we called Dad (who was away on business) and the next day we welcomed a half-Australian Shepherd/half-mutt dog puppy into our home.

(side note: thank goodness we didn’t name her “Belle” (my favorite Disney princess), as I had initially suggested…it would never have suited…)

Madie quickly became “my dog.” She slept in my room, next to my bed, and obeyed my commands. And she had cleanest teeth of any dog I knew due to my crusade to brush her teeth nightly.

The timing of bringing this new animal into my life could not have been better. As a 13 year old, middle school years were hard years for me (as they are for so many people). I often felt like no one liked me. I didn’t play a sport and I wasn’t popular; I read a lot of books. I most certainly did not attend dances or go on dates with boys. And you know who sat beside me while I was alone on Friday nights? My sweet loyal pup. I read next to her, played piano music with her under my bench, and taught her new tricks.

I remember multiple instances of crying into Madie’s fur because I felt lonely, hurt, excluded, weird, ugly. And I remember being filled with reassurance from this warm, solid physical presence I could cling to. I knew that she loved me. She didn’t ask me to justify my feelings, nor did she expect me to talk. She just stayed beside me, willingly and tremblingly, offering her body in her best attempt to soothe and please her human.

I have no doubt in my mind that dogs (and perhaps animals in general) are given to us in the same way that we’re blessed with human friendship. Dogs fill a gap humans (especially introverts) desperately need. Not every emotion is best resolved with words. Madie was my counselor and my friend and she never spoke a word.


As I sit now contemplating what Madie offered me, it saddens me to know I can only thank her from afar. But that is how life goes. When I went away to college, Madie became a little less mine and a little more my parents. I saw her only on holidays, and she acquired new preferences and routines. It’d be easy to be angry or saddened by this but I know that in those years she was offering her same presence to a new companion – my sister and my parents.

Over the years, Madie’s eyesight declined, her mobility decreased, and she grew grumpier (as any dog is apt to do). I continued to treasure a dream that Franklin and Madie would snuggle up on the couch next to each other in warm companionable silence. But, that was never to be – their age difference was too great: they fought and growled at each other on multiple occasions, so for my own sanity we kept them separated. Perhaps this was the hardest thing for me – to understand that my childhood dog was not perfect, and that a lot of who she was in these last 2 years was not the puppy I grew up with.

Madie was a very lucky dog overall; she was rarely sick, outlived both of our cats, had a giant yard to roam and pool to call her domain … and she frequently feasted on Cheez-Its and ice cream (thanks to my indulgent Dad).

Her mortality reminds me that death comes to all – and almost always takes dogs before their owners are ready. And yet, grumpy though she was, age had no effect on her love for her family. It still makes me smile to remember how her tail wagged when I came home the last time I saw her. She licked my face the same way she always had and curled up in my lap, seeking that massage her now-old bones so craved.  It was then that I could whisper in her ear how much she meant to me, though it didn’t yet occur to me how important that physical comfort she gave me through the years was.

In many ways Madie saved my life; she listened when I was at my most insecure, when I had no words to express my feelings. And I hope to remember that though anyone can offer a body and an ear, it’s only a dog who can offer all of that with no ounce of judgment, and no demands for a reasonable explanation.

And isn’t that just like God? To love so unconditionally?
Please tell me a dog is not a divine gift.

Alas, my keyboard is wet; I still love you sweet, Madie girl. You’ve meant so much to me. 


“At their best, that is what dogs do: they make us happy. At our best, we make them happy, too. That can only be true because we share so very much with them, and the foundation of what we share is our emotions.

“Dogs are emotions – living, breathing embodiments of fear and anger and joy, emotions we can read on their faces as clearly as any language.”

– Patricia McConnell

Back to School 2017.





IMG_4459(above are snapshots from our Labor Day weekend in the mountains – the most relaxing way to start the first week back to school!)

The first day of school has passed. All in all, a good day (read: I came home without paint stains and with all of my hearing intact!).  The sweet snuggly three year-olds (I’M ALMOST FOUR! – they will remind you) in my class are just the cutest things ever. This year, I feel more in my element than I have ever been at school. I have a graduate student, and a smaller class than in my previous three years. This year, I’m an SLP in a full-day preschool class which is very different but not the worst thing in the world.

As I mentioned last year, scheduling may be the most important part of the beginning of the school year; it helps to ensure productivity and prevent laziness.

Today, as my stubborn Franklin refuses to walk in the rain, I’ve finally sat down to post again (… after promising photos from India and Europe … I’m still not delivering … oops! … we’ll just skip over that ...). I’m thinking through what a healthy and manageable schedule looks like for this year. It looks pretty similar to last year’s morning. Though, with the darkness outside, I may opt for coffee at 5:45am and walking Franklin at 6:20am instead. Then, generally after work, I will walk or run with Franklin before prepping for dinner.

What I’m pondering this year is a regular weekly routine. Bryan and I have moved to a new neighborhood (which means my commute is slightly longer) but that I can now walk to yoga classes, and delightful dinner spots! Some tentative thoughts:

SUNDAY: Evening Yoga
MONDAY: After-School Therapy (4p & 5p)
TUESDAY: Free After-School Yoga
WEDNESDAY: 7:45pm Hot Yoga
THURSDAY: Community Group
FRIDAY: Yoga?? Later Date Night ??

How are your days being shaped by the schedule of the school year?

With Love,

PS: Things I’m loving recently:

  • Finally listening to Anne Bogel’s “What Should I Read Next?” podcast
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. It is so delightfully written – otherworldly almost, with beautiful observations and authentic-seeming character relationships.
  • Teaching Franklin new tricks, like “raising his hand” for listening check (don’t worry, we still need to work on general social manners, too).
  • The chill trio Time for Three (listening now thanks to Tsh Oxenrider).