I’ve been dying to do this forever, because I love list posts, and because I think it’s fun, and revealing, to look back at a chunk of a time in a summary-sort-of-way to see what I can glean. Emily Freeman hosts a “What I Learned” community over at her blog every few months, and for the first time, I finally got my act together to join in. Here’s what I learned this fall…
1. I’m done wearing uncomfortable shoes.
I don’t know…is it an age thing? Like maybe you hit 46 and that’s it…cute-but-killer shoes go the way of nylons and teeny-tiny underwear? All I know is that I refuse to wear uncomfortable shoes anymore. But here’s the deal: it’s 2016, people — comfortable shoes can still be cute! I got these Toms last fall, and I wear them all the time, even walking the dog.
2. I like reading mysteries.
I first discovered this fact this summer, when I read Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper and listened to Still Life by Louise Penny. This week I finished Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (and when I just looked it up on Amazon, I saw that it’s part one of a TRILOGY – Merry Christmas to me!). Set in Stalinist Soviet Union, the Russian character names will kill you, but the riveting mystery is worth the name-pain.
3. Martin Luther’s dining room table is smaller than mine.
The whole time I was researching and writing Katharina and Martin Luther, I imagined Luther holding court at the head of a long wooden table that spanned the length of the room as his friends and students sat rapt, shoulder to shoulder. The truth is, Luther’s dining room table is smaller than mine. I learned this fact when I saw his actual table at the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation exhibit over Thanksgiving. I saw a ton of really fascinating artifacts in this exhibit – I’ll have more to say about this in future posts as we get closer to the January 31 release of my book.
5. Goldfinches don’t fly south for the winter…but they molt, so they look different.
Male goldfinches are known for their vibrant yellow feathers, but come fall, these feathers are replaced with dull brown plumage, making the birds harder to recognize (the females stay a drab brown all year long; clearly they are confident in their winning personalities). Finches also love Nyjer seed, which is awesome, because squirrels hate the taste of Nyjer, and thus will leave your finch feeders alone. If for some reason they don’t, though, you can always grease the feeder pole with Crisco and watch the slip-‘n-slide that ensues. Yes, this is what I do for entertainment.
6. Yazidi people do not eat cabbage (or lettuce, okra, pumpkin or gazelle).
I know this because my family and a small group of close friends are sponsoring a Yazidi refugee family, who will be arriving in Lincoln on December 14 from Iraq, where they have been living in a Displaced Persons camp since being persecuted by ISIS. When I asked our case worker, Vanja, what we should purchase to stock the family’s pantry and cabinet, she mentioned no cabbage (although she didn’t say anything about lettuce, okra, pumpkin or gazelle). These food restrictions are part of their 6,000-year-old religion, which blends elements of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, as well as elements from earlier religions.
7. Sometimes, when life is especially hectic, my quiet time gets derailed…
The Pray as You Go app helps to get me back on track. Produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives in Great Britain, and in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality, the daily prayer includes music, a Scripture reading, and questions for reflection and totals about 10 minutes – perfect for your daily commute, while you’re walking the dog, or, like me, for a few minutes of quiet morning contemplation on the sofa.
8. We can talk about politics with grace and respect.
I got into a pretty heated political conversation over Thanksgiving with some family. The truth is, you can’t talk about this election season without also talking about some tough topics – like racism, immigration, refugees and even women’s rights. So it got a little heated. I drank three glasses of wine during the three-hour discussion, let’s put it like that. But throughout it all, there was grace and listening and hearing on both sides. And when all was said and done, we still loved and respected one another. So I call that a win.
9. Title your photos when you upload them into your WordPress post.
My friend Trina Cress taught me this. Most of my photos in my archives are titled DSC_0025 and the like. But titling them properly when you upload them into your WordPress Media Library in both the Title category and the Description category will help more people find your posts when you pin them on Pinterest (don’t ask me how…that level of technological knowledge is beyond me; I just do what Trina tells me).
10. This Is Us Is Totally Worthy of the Hype
I resisted NBC’s newest must-see-TV because I am not typically a TV-watcher and because I am always about 5-6 years behind pop culture trends. Case in point: I finally know who Mumford and Sons are. So when everyone started waxing poetic about This Is Us, I pretty much ignored them…until I couldn’t anymore. It seemed for a while like my entire Facebook feed (pre-election, mind you) was all This Is Us. So I watched an episode. And then I watched another one. And another one. I watched four in one night while Brad and the boys were out being terrified on the Psycho-Path, and now I watch it faithfully every week (last night I bawled, and Rowan, who was watching with me, observed, “Wow, you really are crying.”) It’s pretty much singlehandedly renewed my faith in humanity…and it’s not even real, I realize.
11. I need to open myself up to more opportunities to learn.
Compiling this “What I Learned” list took me waaaaaaay longer than it should have. I had to work really hard to come up with a list of ten things I learned this fall. This is not good, people. I am a creature of habit. I do virtually the same things every single day, which is great for productivity and the routine of writing, but not great for broadening my horizons. So…my goal for 2017 (some may call that a resolution): learn something new every day!
…Hop on over to Emily Freeman’s place to check out what others have learned this fall. But before you do that, tell me: what’s one thing you learned this fall?