All posts by carissajoy

About carissajoy

My name is Carissa. I like to write, read, and be inspired.

A Few Tips for College (that are opposite from what everyone tells you)

The wisdom for graduating college students is pretty predictable: Try new things! Balance your work and life! These are the best years of your life!

But practically, some practices are vital to your well-being in college, and vital to becoming an adult who is developing good habits.

Here are a few lessons I learned from doing things well, and doing things poorly, in college.

  • Don’t get too involved. Only do the things that make you feel alive.
  • Wake up early (even if it means going to bed early).
  • Take a Sabbath day once a week.
  • There’s more to your surroundings than your campus. Know your town.
  • Tutors are for smart kids, not dumb kids.
  • Let your mom help you.
  • Stop looking for your ring by spring.
  • Don’t believe everything that you read on
  • Try not to eat Ramen that often, but when you do, add a bag of frozen veggies.
  • Stop wearing headphones in public.

And most importantly: make a lot of mistakes, but learn from every single one of them.

You can do this.

Love from me: Ms. Johnson/Carissa/Mrs. Flores

From the Archives: En route.

Below is a draft of my thoughts from the summer of 2017. I know it’s self-defeating to post this now, once the dust of my cross-country move has settled, but it’s a glimpse into how big and scary this thing was – and yet it is now so beautiful. God is good.

I’ve started several drafts of blog posts about the season I’m in. This is a big, pivotal moment in my life, and it feels like something I should write about, something to share.

But right now everything feels so real and raw and unresolved. Yes, I’m taking a huge step–personally and professionally–by moving to Fremont, California after 5 years in Virginia. All by myself. To a city where I know no one. With only the belongings I can fit in my car.

But it’s safest to share that information a few months later, when everything is actually going to plan, or way before it happens–before anything has gone wrong.

What about this period in the middle? I’ve left my safe cocoon in Virginia, which utterly broke my heart, but I’m staying with my parents for a few weeks before I move to California. This whole shenanigan still could fall apart. I have no guarantee of success right now.

And that doesn’t make for good blogging.

Everything I had in Virginia has been pulled out from under me–my church family where I was known and loved, my job where I was connected and secure, and even my furniture.

What do I have left?

My family, here in Utah. They are here, and they are crucial. My memories of a beautiful experience in Lynchburg. Like 3 boxes of stuff, though I’m not sure it’s the right things or that I’ll even want or need it in California.

And Jesus.

Right now, everything is in flux for good reason: I’m stepping into my dream job. But much has still been taken from me.

And if I have nothing else – I’m learning that Jesus is enough.

2018 Books In Review

The Big Ol’ Book Roundup, Vol. 2

Last year, I resolved to read a book every two weeks, and as I documented my progress on Instagram under the hashtag #carissareads, I surpassed my goal with 29 books. This year, I did my best to continue the trend of logging my books and I’m ringing in the new year with 39 new books swimming around in my brain.

In taking inventory of the books I read this year, I’m happy to see a few more women and people of color than I read in 2017, as well as more books I would honestly recommend. As you’ll see, I still love memoirs, American literature, and stories of faith communities. But I also branched out a little into sci-fi and fantasy this year.

I wrote in more detail about the books I read in separate posts in January, February, March, April, May, June-July, and August-December.

Once again, I’ve compiled them here for quick ‘n easy recommendations for your new year.

Continue reading 2018 Books In Review

What I Read: August to December 2018

photo of mountain with ice covered with black and gray cloud
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my initial goal for this year was to post every month about the books I’d read during that month.

That didn’t happen.

However, I did end up reading and tracking the books I read, and that led me to plenty of reflection and sharing. So I’ll count this as a win for my 2018 resolution.

I read 24 books at the beginning of the year, and I’m wrapping up the year with 38 books, surpassing my goal of 30 that I made at the end of 2017. I’ll do a post a little later compiling all the books I read, but for now, here are the books I’ve read since August:

Continue reading What I Read: August to December 2018

Top 10 Jobs I’ve Worked

As one of my AP Lang class’s first assignments (part “getting to know you,” part “writing about specifics of your life”) I asked them to write a top 10 list…of anything. As an example, I made one of my own, and I thought it would be fun to share it below:

10. Housekeeping at a local gym. You don’t know hard work until you’ve had to provide washed and folded towels for the morning rush of Zumba moms. You don’t know crap until you’ve cleaned an elderly woman’s … accident in the shower.

9. Reporter for an independent college news site. My favorite story was when I investigated a flaw in the campus alert system after a small campus shooting incident. It was invigorating to interview sources and challenge the system.

8. Fitness Instructor at a Trampoline Park. Every Saturday morning for 6 months, I led classes of middle-aged women jumping and squatting and planking on trampolines. I woke up extra early just so I could drink enough coffee to muster the energy to motivate them. And I had some sweet playlists, too.

7. Online tutor. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of students walking around in this world who I’ve impacted in a small way in an online tutoring session through I’ll never know them, but we shared an experience together once of working through an essay, talking about an assignment, or maybe even just reassuring them that they won’t be overcome by their stress and workload.

6. Wedding DJ. When a friend gets married and asks you and a friend to play the music and entertain the crowd at their (very loud, energetic Colombian-American) wedding, you can’t say no. You can say no to the third drunken request for the Macarena.

5. Camp counselor. My favorite wake-up song for my campers: “I’m alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic” sung to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Yeah, it’s as annoying as it sounds.

4. Administrative Assistant. I was that person in the office who makes everyone else’s life easier. Coffee and catering? Office supplies? Event planning? I’m your girl.

3. Stock photo model. I participated in a few photo shoots for a family friend who took pictures for stock photography websites. I can be seen on various brochures and business sites as a face in a crowd, including with fake tears streaming down my face at a funeral.

2. Mission Trip Leader. All the ministry trips I’ve led have been in the United States to cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas. You gain a new perspective for your own hometown when you experience living on mission in another town.

1. Teaching English at Fremont Christian School. It is not an overstatement when I say this is my dream job. I believe I am living in the center of God’s call on my life.

What I Read: June & July 2018

A few years ago, I would have looked at today’s date – August 10 – and decided I was so far behind on my 2018 goal of reading & documenting books that I would just give up and try again next January. But the years have granted me wisdom (ha), and I decided today was a perfectly acceptable day to write about what I read in June and July. Life’s too short to worry about being perfectly consistent. So, here’s what I’ve read this summer:

Am I there Yet? by Mari Andrew

Mari Andrew came through San Francisco on her book tour (and gave this precious and inspiring Q&A session), and after being her Instagram fan for a few years, I had the utter delight of meeting her and buying her book from her. Best known for her daily doodles on Instagram, Mari published many of her drawings along with short chapters with reflections on her 20s–dating, independence, transitions, traveling, heartache, and grief. It’s wild how many times I find myself reading her writing and strongly, specifically identifying with her, even though I know she and I have led entirely different lives. She has a gift for relating and deepening her experiences through art, and this book will make you want to reflect on every leaf you see and find meaning in the life you live right now.

How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee

Yes. Yes, they did. The brains behind the popular Christian satire site The Babylon Bee wrote a book. The publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, sent me a copy to review, and I read it primarily out of morbid curiosity. It turns out that I, a product of the 90s-early 2000s Christian culture of youth group and Christian media, am the exact audience for this book. Anyone who falls into this category will get every joke. And while I did have a few literal LOLs, I had to read this book over the course of about a month because the jokes are all in the same vein and got a little tedious after a few chapters. My recommendation: take in small doses. Not every joke will hit you just right, but laugh at the parts you relate to. Let the cynicism roll off your back. It’s good to laugh at yourself and at the ways that we’ve co-opted biblical faith.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This book was a loaner from my dear roommate as a lighter read on my family cruise (she physically forced me to not pack Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as cruise reading) and it was both lighthearted and deeply poignant and smart. It follows a gentleman in the twilight of his life and his dealings of love, social life, and family. I don’t read much fiction with British characters, but this was so charming and delightful. I’m not sure the last time I rooted so hard for a protagonist as I did for Major Pettigrew.

Educated by Tara Westover

Finishing this book literally took my breath away. A sob caught in my chest and I literally stopped breathing when I read the last line. It took me a few breaths to recover. The last book to which I had such a visceral reaction was The Glass Castle, set in the poor Appalachian region, which I could somewhat picture from having lived in central Virginia. But that’s a setting I happened upon and observed as an outsider. In Educated, Tara describes a place in the Mountain West that I have a strange yet inseparable relationship with, the religion of Mormonism and its offshoots that I have engaged both academically and evangelistically. The way Tara engages with her story, and her historiography, is brilliant. This is easily the best memoir I have read, and I’m grateful that Tara wrote her spellbinding story with such elegance and detail.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This young adult novel, which is being made into a movie in October, gripped me and brought me into a world I’ve only known through secondhand stories and the news. Bahni Turpin narrated the audiobook masterfully, and after visiting the world of Garden Heights, I cannot think about systemic race issues and police violence in the same way.

As school starts back in session and I teach three different courses, I’ll be spending much more time reading the works of a standard high school classroom, but I hope to find the joy of reading in personal reads too!

As always, thanks for reading about my reading. Happy trails!

What I Read: May 2018

Well, friends, this was a fantastic month of books. I read a brilliant range of memoirs and novels, and I’m so excited to share them with you.

Between school winding down and listening to audiobooks while I run or drive, I’ve been carving out time and space for reading lately, and I hope to have even more time over the summer, as my to-read pile is ever-growing.

Let’s jump in to my May reads. As usual, I recommend them all to varying degrees.

The Polygamist’s Daughter

Anna LeBaron

I’ve connected on social media with Anna LeBaron through several book launch teams, and I recognized her last name as polygamist because I’ve lived in Utah, where it’s notorious. So I’m not sure what took me so long to read this amazing woman’s memoir!

I listened to the audiobook, and to hear her story in her own beautiful, genuine voice was an incredible experience. She does such a beautiful job of detailing the redemption in her difficult journey, and I’m grateful I read this book. The insider perspective from someone who grew up in polygamy was eye-opening and challenging.

The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

I read this book alongside my honors freshmen. I had seen the movie many years ago but this was my first encounter with the book–and what an encounter it is.

This Holocaust story is beautiful and devastating. And the narration is magnificent; the style resonated with me and haunted me. This book is a brilliant must-read.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

My freshmen read this book as well, and it was interesting for me to read To Kill a Mockingbird and The Book Thief simultaneously. Both of them depict the underdogs, the solitary ones standing up against an evil ideology, even when no one but their own family stands beside them.

My overall impression of reading To Kill a Mockingbird (technically for the second time, but I hardly remember it from high school) is that this book is an utter masterpiece. Every detail is flawless and powerful and worthy of the classification of “classic.”

Now that Scout’s story is fresh on my mind, Go Set a Watchman is on my summer reading list. I’m looking forward to experiencing that book for myself.

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Lauren Graham

Guys, I love everything Lauren Graham has ever done, and this book is no exception. I love her as Lorelai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls. I love her as Sarah Braverman in Parenthood. I love her memoir, Talking as Fast as I Can. I love the clips of her singing in Guys and Dolls on Broadway that I searched for on Youtube after reading Talking as Fast as I Can. I follow her on Twitter.

I love this woman so much that it only made sense to read her debut novel, too. Hearing her read the audiobook was sweet–I find her voice soothing, and she adds to her characters in a way that enhances the experience. The novel isn’t earth-shattering, capital-L Literature, but it’s believable and structured in an interesting way and it’s a sweet, fun story about an actress trying to make it in New York. It was a perfect light read for my long runs. And did I mention I love Lauren Graham?

(Side note: I’m currently on a mission to read every book-length work by as many authors as I can. I’m starting small with non-vocational writers who’ve written about 2 books apiece, like Bob Goff and Lauren Graham. If you don’t count Andy Weir’s short story collection, then I’ve read all two of his books too. It’s a fun project, and I’d like to expand it eventually to tackle Jhumpa Lahiri’s bibliography, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s and Mark Twain’s.)

What I Talk About when I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami

I picked this book up at Half Price Books because I liked the cover, and because it’s a book about running and writing, two topics I love. In his memoir, which was originally written in Japanese and translated to English, Murakami rambles in an endearing way about his runs, his writing process, sometimes just his day. Sometimes he has astute observations to share about discipline or the beauty of his passions. I read this book nightly as I fell asleep, and it was a soothing, philosophical gem.

The Crucible

Arthur Miller

This four-act play was written in the 1950s about the Salem Witch Trials with the intention of drawing parallels between witch hunts and the Red Scare. Isn’t that SO FUN?! I think this was the majority of my juniors’ favorite literature from American Literature. It’s wild, dramatic, frustrating, and intense. It was another book I hadn’t read since I skimmed it in high school, so I enjoyed delving deeper.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Mark Haddon

This book was a recommendation from an English department meeting. It’s a first-person narration by a young boy in England who has autism. I loved the way the author captured his voice so uniquely and offered entirely reasonable explanations for the sometimes-confusing actions of a child with autism. It’s endearing and charming and gripping and a little heart-wrenching.

Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate

John J. Thompson

After I bought Murakami’s running book, I actually drove back to Half-Price Books because I saw this book on a display and couldn’t stop thinking about the subtitle: “Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World.” I love the concept of returning from industrialism to smaller, more human, more personal business interactions, like buying real food from farmer’s markets where your money changes hands with the person who grew it instead of self-checking out of a grocery store with a cart full of anonymous, identical products. I know that not everyone has the access or the means to buy artisan-made food or beverages, but I think that everyone should (and so do many wonderful organizations that are supplying good, whole food to food deserts).

What I liked about this book is that it details brewers, bakers, chocolatiers, coffee roasters, gardeners, and musicians who are connected to their work intricately and without mass production, and he compares these people to Christians and the church. It’s thought-provoking, and it’s one of those books that makes me think, “Why didn’t I write this?”

I think this month touched on some of my favorite topics: Holocaust writings, memoirs, sustainable food practices, running, and the classics. I’m not sure how June will top it, but I’ll sure try!

Thanks for reading. If you have any recommendations for books to add to my ever-growing summer list, please send ’em my way! Some books that I know are coming up are The Outsiders, Mountains Beyond Mountains, and How to Be a Perfect Christian (the new book by the Babylon Bee). It should be a good time. 🙂

Until next month!