Church | With Geese and Mary

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wild Geese
By Mary Oliver

Some days, this is my mantra: You do not have to be good. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Sometimes I say “want it wants” instead.

Either way, it brings tremendous peace.

Friday Round-up

Here’s a cool quote I heard this week:

The reason that Fear and Creativity are so innately linked is that Creativity will always ask you to enter into a situation where the outcome is unknown. That’s what Creativity does. And Fear hates that. 

-Elizabeth Gilbert on the podcast No Filter with Mia Freedman (#16 on the list).


I’m really liking Sampler. This week’s was scary stories and of course I was disappointed. Scary stories never reach satisfying conclusions. With the exception of Pet Cemetery. Maybe I just need to read more horror stories. Or maybe I don’t.

There are not enough good Friday podcasts. I listen to Dear Sugar, usually on Saturdays–what am I missing?


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 tomorrow. So excited for more music, and to see that cow shirt.

This routine is so beautiful I cried. (Word note: I always think of routines as boring. I looked up its etymology and it’s from the word for “route” (which, duh, why didn’t I see that?) and now it doesn’t seem boring but very apt. The routine you establish is your route to success.)



Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. But actually I’m listening to it. 4 hours in. 33 hours to go.

Torch by Cheryl Strayed. Barely started this one. Thinking I should have just picked up the book. Oh–because I’m listening to it.

Tonight bought Born For This by Chris Guillebeau and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which has been on my list for nearly a year. Would be reading it now if I weren’t writing. (I’m linking to author pages to make placing an Amazon order less convenient. Buy independent!)

The Hamiltome. (Which was bought through Amazon.)


The hus gets backs tonight and I can’t wait. I make terrible choices when he’s gone.

Pondering 2 Kings 4, the miracle with the Widow’s oil. To me it’s the story of sorrow and fear, and letting your friends carry you through it. And economic independence and self-reliance and awe an wonder. It’s a good one.

Monday Wisdom

This morning a friend was telling me that her friend had lost 60 kilos.

He’s been talking about losing weight for years, but he’d rather take shortcuts. You know those pills that make it so your mouth burns when you eat?


Anyway, he finally just started eating less crappy and doing some exercises and he’s lost 60 kilos.

So much of a good life is just doing shitty things we hate.

This year I resolved to do the things that bring long-term happiness, and a few days later Gretchen Rubin said this, “Don’t do something to make yourself feel better that in the long run is going to make yourself feel worse.” And that’s what I’m trying to live by.

Because it’s never the fire pills that work.

It’s always the broccoli.

This is a curated blog that goes off-roading

Did y’all have a good holiday season?

Actually the hus and I aren’t technically through with ours. We were too busy and Christmas was too crazy so we moved it to January 6th. The house is still decorated, and we’re still busy, and lacking in both a plan and gifts.


That’s okay. And if we don’t exchange gifts or have a fancy feast or stockings; if we don’t get anything for anyone else or bake or cook or do anything, really, other than observe–on our time, in our own home–a little moment for our second Christmas together; and if “we always have next year” doesn’t apply because we die before then, let it be said here that that’s okay, too.

There are a lot of rules and expectations around the holidays, a lot of demands, a lot of stress and entitlement and money. You can get caught up in it and miss the whole beautiful point. We didn’t want to do that.

So we didn’t.

More to come this gorgeous, new year of 2016.

Stay tuned!

Forget lessons! Make (up) music with your child

Jamming with your toddler: how music trumps reading for childhood development

Simple and fun musical activities can have enormous power in developing numeracy and literacy: try improvising a counting song, or making up new rhymes to familiar tunes.

But the true power of musical play lies in the unique blend of creativity, sound and face-to-face interaction; the learning is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.


Long before conventional music lessons start, jam sessions with your toddler (not of the messy sticky preserved fruit variety) can be an enormous developmental asset.

You might even find it a two-way street – if children can teach adults anything, it’s how to play. So take the time, play with your child, and “play” music together.

Motion Pictures 2015


Remember in Harry Potter how cool I was that photographs in the wizarding world moved? And, in some cases, were interactive? And that it kind of blew us all out of the water, that in 1999 (was it 1997?) someone had even conceived of moving snapshots.

Tonight my husband called me on his way home from work and told me to press and hold a live photo (the post-click world is weird)–any live photo–and watch what happens.

I found a picture I’d sent him yesterday. I put my thumb on it for a few seconds.

Okay. Um. What am I supposed to be seeing?

Hold your thumb there. Are you holding your thumb there? 

I’m holding my thumb! Maybe it wasn’t a live photo? I flicked to one I was sure was alive. Nothing is–and then I saw it! Our selfie swirled into a mini film. I held up my phone and could see myself mouthing “ready, set, go” and then a quick pose followed by our laughter as I brought the phone down to review the photo.

It was so candid. Our photo was clearly posed, and not all that well (judging from our smiles I snapped it a moment too soon) but that two second moment? It’s so fleeting and funny and light.

I keep replaying it over and over, wishing it were the moment I could post to instagram.


Things I would do with lots of time and money and will and energy and

Relocate pictures from living floor to living room walls.

Fix the clothes in my To Alter pile.

Buy some killer winter boots.

Put up some bookcases. Fill with books.


Read more blogs.

Sort through our pictures from the past three years and get them printed on wood.

Get the others framed.

Figure out gallery arrangement.

Hang photos.

Find gorgeous, perfectly-sized, reasonably-prized mirror for dining room wall.

Figure out which artifacts to display on new bookshelves, arrange around dining room mirror.

Repaint the trim from off white to proper white (sigh).

Replace the bulbs in my kitchen. Actually, I could do that tomorrow….


Hire someone to replace the bulbs in my kitchen

Hire someone to put up the pictures in my living room, and pick out three good bookshelves for me to choose from.

Choose best bookcase, send person to store to buy, bring home, and assemble.

Hire same person to hang above-mentioned ideal mirror.

Can that person wash and fix my leaking car, too?

And act as my body-proxy so that my clothes can be altered by an actual seamstress(/-ster) that they might hang correctly when finished.

Embiggen our walk-in closet to accommodate my growing boot collection.

Clean the dirty white carpets upstairs.

Replace with hardwood floor….

…while we’re on vacation.

Plan dinner for in-laws.

Host dinner.

Attribute credit for delicious food, gorgeously decorated, perfectly-lit home to me. Me, in my well-fitting clothes as I regale my company with tales of my travels abroad.

Me, of money, of time, of enormous energy, willpower, and—



Another Year Closer to 30

In my last year of college I shared an apartment with two roommates and together we had a blog. I blogged more frequently then than ever in my life and they remain among my favorite posts ever. The fun of that time in my life shines through all my writing. Which is funny because I remember it being a time of heavy thoughts; of pondering the big, wide, messed up and beautiful world, and how I fit into it; of fear, and of restlessness.


I turned 28 yesterday. Summer birthdays are great because you don’t have to go to school! But they’re not great because everyone is gone on vacation. Or, you’re gone on vacation and so you don’t get to have parties with friends, or celebrate on your actual day with loved ones. Or maybe you did, but I spent every birthday from 10-17 at summer camp, and a whole bunch of birthdays after that in all different places….Actually, a whole lot of different places. Look at this:

18 Stockton, California. Friends.
19 Provo UT. Roommate/best friend.
20 Stockton, California (though this birthday fell the week before my sister’s wedding and I don’t recall actually celebrating it). ?
21 Salt Lake City. Roommate/still not quite friend.
22 Amman, Jordan. Miranda, who didn’t even know it was my birthday because we weren’t really friends. But we ate at my favorite Chinese restaurant and watched Pirates of the Caribbean 3.
23 Prague, Czech Republic. Fellow conference-goers.
24 New York City. My BFF Joe, and then two guys I didn’t really know that well but who drove up from Philly to eat Thai food and fro yo with me!
25 Dubai,UAE/Payson,Arizona). I think my actual bday was in AZ, but I’m counting Dubai here because it’s the first time I celebrated with friends in years, and it was my very first surprise party! And we put on my favorite movie and I promptly fell asleep. Ah, to be 25 again. This one was also notable because my beloved now-husband flew out to AZ and celebrated with my parents and grandparents, whom he had never before met. And also I had only known him 6 weeks, but that’s another story.
26 Nizwa, Oman. Only one student knew it was my bday, and she bought me a box of cereal. It was a completely dull birthday, but I really loved the cereal. (Thanks, Nelle!)
27 Houston, TX. My then-fiance and I cleaned out his closet, then went out to dinner.
28 Houston, TX. My now-husband was in Kansas City, but my dear in-laws bought me cake (2!) and sang me Las Mañanitas and Joyeux Anniversaire and Happy Birthday and I blew out imaginary candles. The hus and I destroyed an ice cream cake. And I helped my friend pack up her kitchen.

What a list, huh?

I was thinking today about a bucket list I made when I was 21 and itching to get out of college and explore the world. I reviewed it a few years ago and remember being impressed with the progress I’d made, but couldn’t remember the list or the progress! So, here we go. Another list of my life:

1. Graduate May 2009.

2. Anna, don’t fail math.  Worked my butt off. Earned my B+. Graduated on time! Yay!

3. Make it back to Yemen. Ah, one day Inshallah :/

4. Master Arabic. In retrospect, this was rather an ambitious goal. Maybe I’ll modify it to: gain a level of proficiency sufficient for professional use. 

5. Read all the books on mah list (which has grown to include Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls and Wicked. Thanks, Megan! 🙂 I haven’t re-read any of the books I included, but I did read Hemingway (or most of it?) and started Wicked (weird. didn’t want to finish.) and got to all but two of the books i intended to read. Remaining: Loser’s Guide to Life and Love (what even is that book?) and Peace Like a River (another one I started and didn’t finish. Still have it on my bookcase.

6. Go to Grad School, ya bum! Applied 3 times, accepted 2 times. Still haven’t gone.

7. Go Skydiving. Should have gone before leaving Dubai. D’oh!

8. Get SCUBA certified I may have to amend this too as I’ve heard that people with crappy sinuses aren’t allowed to do the course due to exploding heads?

9. Then dive in the Red Sea and Australia. Still haven’t made it to the Red Sea. Did cruise the Nile twice, though, and spend a few days in Queensland, Australia. 

10. Make it back to Guatemala, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman (Salalah), Turkey and Mexico. Not bad, eh? Still want to make it back to all of these places, and Fiji. 

11. And while I’m at it, see North Africa (Morocco, mostly), Russia, Hungary, Switzerland, Spain–aw heck! All of Europe, Kenya, Australia (some of), Brazil, Honduras, Beliz, CUBA so that I can be just like Matt. We’ve got tentative plans for some of these. Also: Belize*.

12. Live in New York. One day, Anita. 

13. Spend some time as a professional writer of some sort. Or have writing be part of my job. OR! Just make some sweet moolah for blogging. Really, any combination of money and writing would be *great*. Link coming soon.

14. Spend an extended period of time (read: more than two weeks)traveling abroad solo. 3 weeks in 2011 mostly solo. Lived abroad solo for 4 years. Spent a combined total of much much more than 3 weeks traveling abroad solo.

15. Maybe stop talking so much about travel. Yeesh. So for #15: develop new interests! Today the cable guy asked me what I did for fun and I said, I don’t have fun. But still, I’m giving myself credit for this because interests I have that I didn’t before: podcasts. Yoga. Cooking…Spanish?

16. Work in DC. For a human rights organization. Tried that route in 2009 to no avail. Don’t care that much about this item any more, but would be happy to do a stint in DC.  

17. Live outside the country! For a few years. Done and done.

18. Hike all around Southern Utah (Canyonlands, ZION, Bryce, Arches). So on my list still. Did manage arches. Will accept visiting the above places as fulfillment of item. 

19. Take up surfing. Even for a day. Yes!

20. Oh yeah, um, get married. TDH, that’s all I ask. Okay, and smart and funny and interesting and adventurous, too. But that’s a topic for a different post 🙂 Oh, all of the above and more. You did so good, college Anna. You’d be thrilled at what’s in store. 

21. Eat lunch at the top of Half Dome. No, but did finally visit Yosemite!

22. Watch the sunrise over the Empty Quarter. Why did I make these so specific?

23. Eat Nutella on French Bread while looking up at Mt. Rushmore. Mmmmm. May change the food items here, but definitely must see Mt Rushmore. 

24. Road Trip the entire length of Highway 1–So Cal to Canada. Woot! (hey…sounds like a good post-grad vay-cay! Huh huh?) Okay, maybe not to Canada. But all the way up the California coast, then Oregon and Washington and ultimately wind up in BC. Totally great idea. Also, college Anna, you spend a beautiful week in Vancouver for a conference in 2011 (you’re a paid traveler!), an enriching and enlivening weekend in Portland in 2012, and one of the most amazing weeks at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. You do still have to make it Seattle. I’m thinking that that road trip is a little long, but spend more time on the California coast? Definitely. 

25. There I go with the traveling again. Um, maybe I should take a break and think things over when I’m not ITCHING TO GET OUT of this great little city I call “home”. Hokay, see ya next time! I had a very different writing voice in college. Also, this is 24 things before 30. 


Today I looked around my living room and felt so happy and proud and in love with the space. It turned out better than I’d imagined because in my imagination, I could see how it would look (rather dimly though as my imaginings are never very vivid) but I couldn’t feel it. I didn’t know that when it was done, it would feel fresh and warm, inviting and energetic. That I would feel vibrant and happy and energetic just being in it. That it would feel like home.

I’m a youngest child, so I’m not used to having my own things. And, having moved a LOT in my life, I’ve gotten used to not making my spaces home. I live, but don’t dwell. (Or dwell, but don’t live?)

Anyway, I moved into my husband’s house, which he’d lived in about 7 years already and which had been decorated mostly by his mother. The place did not feel like home to me and I was determined, until very recently, that we would move to a new place and make it ours together.

And then, early one February morning, our water heater broke and flooded our downstairs.

Oh, it wasn’t much as flooding goes–hardly half an inch. But if you’ve ever dealt with half an inch of water in your home, you know that’s all it takes.

And so for the last four months (!), we’ve been transitioning space. We got a new hardwood floor (goodbye, real, beautiful. Hello, affordable engineered!), new baseboards, crown moulding, paint, and all new decor. This weekend, we even bought some new furniture.

One day, I may show all the work of the past four months. For today, I’ll just show you the before and after photos. Pardon the quality. They’re just from my phone.

BEFORE (/during)

Amazing what a difference paint makes.

It wasn’t until my husband mentioned bringing the furniture back in that I remembered we had furniture to bring back in! I would have been with just these (bright, warm, inviting, lovely) walls.


One day, when we upgrade our internet, I’ll optimize this post with better-edited photos.

For now, I’m just going to sit here and delight in this amazing room we put together and think about how nice it is to be home.


All your dreams will come true. Trust me.

I bought a used car in September. I’ve parked it under a tree everyday for the last 3 months and it showed. Bird poop and caked dirt, and leaves in every little crevice.
So last month, I decided to wash my car. I asked the guy who sold it to me and he said, oh sure. There’s a little place around the corner. You can do it for like 20 bucks. 
How long does it take?
Oh like an hour, maybe two. 
Two hours! Twenty bucks??
Look, I get that that’s like a good deal here or whatever, but it’s crazy. In Dubai, I used to get my car washed while I shopped for groceries. Park my car, tell one of the washers 30 minutes, pay him 5 bucks and by the time I returned, he’d be drying my tires. I know! Why aren’t these guys in Houston?? (Teenagers! I have a business venture for you. It’s genius.) So of course I let another rainy dirty bird-droppy month and a half go by, and I probably would have let another had I not happened to mention my filthy disgusting car to a friend, and how I couldn’t possibly afford twenty bucks AND two hours.
Just use one of the quarter washes. 
Yeah, it’s like right down the street and it’ll be like 5 bucks.
5 bucks! And no waiting??And three months later, my car is washed. I did it myself. I paid with a credit card.
I even wore my red heels.

As I was hanging up the vacuum hose, one of the attendants said to me, Remember, this is going to be the best year ever.
The best year ever? I repeated.
All your dreams will come true. Trust me. 

Well, I never got that in Dubai.

Here’s to you, 2014! Don’t be the best year ever–I don’t want to peak at 26–but do be the best yet, and remember that my dreams include car washers at HEB.

Happy New Year!