Hail, January

I love January. I know it’s cold and dark and everyone’s miserable, but I’m not. I like the excuse to stay in, huddle under a lamppostblanket, and make soup. This is probably the month when I like homeschooling the most, because while the rest of the world is outside waiting for buses and warming up the car, we’re still inside sipping hot drinks by the space heater.

Other months are showy, demanding us to celebrate holidays, decorate loudly, and fill our calendars. January is quiet, slowly allowing the light to grow longer and easing the daffodils up from their sleep. January coos to us, “Free up some space now. Slow down a bit. You need to rest.” If we are wise, we oblige.

January is full of hope. She hands us a clean calendar and encourages us to dream. She reminds us that we are mortal, hemmed in by hours, days, and weeks, and light and dark. Still, she urges us to rise above and make this year something unique and wonderful.

January is the clearing-out time. Christmas comes with all its joyful trappings and threatens to take over the place; January is our sister in solidarity saying, “here you may come, and no further.”  We overwhelm donation centers with those things we thought we needed until just now.

January is kind to us in making us reevaluate. The loud voices in our heads tell us to achieve more! Do more! Go further! January quietly suggests that it might be better to do well at those things we’ve already undertaken — for the glory of God and not ourselves, for the benefit of others.

We’ll be distracted soon enough by other months. Hail, January. I love you. Do your good work while you’re here.

20 Things I Learned in 2014

I’m joining in the fun at Emily’s blog today, listing 20 things I learned in 2014. I pray this is not a exhaustive list. Ha.

1. I learned that World Market’s lavender bed spray is a great way to keep your bed smelling fresh and clean. I change sheets weekly — let’s face it, it’s more like once every two weeks — but in between I spray my linens down with the spray after I’ve pulled the sheets back in the morning. I let it dry while I shower and dress, and then make the bed. So lovely.

2. I learned how to make sourdough bread successfully. This was a major victory in my book. The fact that you can set flour and water out on your counter for a good amount of time, feed it with more flour from time to time, and end up with a bubbling mass of yeast, eager to be made into bread? Well, that’s just the best ever.

3. I learned that love is too frequently accompanied by a desire to control. For people I love. For people who love me.

4. I learned that London’s rush hour is infinitely faster than Manhattan’s, and it’s all “keep left” instead of “keep right.” Trying to navigate that reality in the London tube in a bleary-eyed sleep-deprived state with two full-sized suitcases in tow is, um, invigorating.

5. I learned how to play chess.

6. I learned how to manage the chemicals in the pool without any major algae outbreaks all summer.

7. I learned that jumping in a 38-degree pool on New Year’s Day 2014 was not the worst thing I could endure this year.

8. I learned that facebook can be a terrible place or a delightful place — it all depends on how you manage it. My friends from Hutchmoot have become in-real-life friends this year. They make me laugh harder, delight more, and think more rigorously. What a gift. Also (#9) the “unfollow” button is a powerful tool. Use it.

10. I learned that Evensong is the best value going if you happen to be near an Anglican church in London or Oxford (or somewhere else, for that matter). Free, world-class music. In Westminster Abbey, we sat with the choristers in the quire.

11. I learned that no matter how many times I submit a piece to someone else for publication, I will still be terrified. Maybe the greater thing I learned is that it’s normal.

12. I learned that a good use of time at the stove is firing up an extra burner, melting some butter in an iron skillet, and caramelizing an onion or two while you’re there anyway. Thanks, Shauna Niequist. (and by writing that truth, I learned (#13) that my Northern pronunciation of “caramelize” causes me to spell the word “carmelize,” which is wrong.)

14. I learned that I still have a lot to learn from my husband when it comes to quietly bearing things. He is so patient.

15. I learned that keeping an extra shelf for logging the books I’ve read this year (see the sidebar) is an effective accountability tool. I’m planning to do it again in 2015.

16. I learned that no matter how many times I visit, I still miss NYC. Sharing it with my kids this year was amazing. I always, always, want to go back.

17. I learned that Pinterest does not care about your book storage needs.

18. I learned that I can still roller skate pretty well. Thank you, Roll-On America in Leominster, MA.

19. I learned that no matter how many clever apps they make, I still prefer pen and paper for a schedule and lists.

20. I learned that podcasts are my favorite. Really, my favorite thing. It’s ridiculous. I’m actually planning an entire blog series about what I’ve been listening to lately. Did you get some sort of new shiny pod-phone-thingy for Christmas? I’m here to help you fill it up with audio files. You’re welcome.

So what did you learn in 2014? Leave a comment or go link up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.