Thursday, June 30, 2022

June's Books

 

I love summer. We have been having the most glorious weather and I am loving it. 

This month I made up for only reading one complete book in May. Instead of my goal of four books, I read (or listened to) seven! Here they are, in no particular order and minimal comments. 

1. The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey

This was a short but very fascinating book on the subject of trust. It was geared toward trust in the business world, but totally applicable to any other relationship! I listened to it on Audible.

2. Until Unity by Francis Chan

I should turn right around and read this one again. A lot to chew on. 

3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells

An unbelievable but true story about the author's family who, as the back of the book says, was at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. 

4. Tied Up In Knotts by Karen Knotts

Karen tells the story of her father, Don Knotts (or as many of us know him better, "Barney Fife"). 

5. Letters to the Church by Fancis Chan

Another thought provoking book that will make you grapple with the way you think of church. I listened to this one on Libby.

6. The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

 A novel based on actual "lost friends" advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War. It was a good book, but her earlier bestseller Before We Were Yours is better, in my opinion. 

7.Carry On Mr Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

My daughter left this one laying around and it was a fun, quick read. 

* * * *

What else has happened this month?

I jerry-rigged my coffee pot to do one cup of coffee more efficiently. 

Jasmine has been to Boston and back for Sattler's high-school week. We turned picking her up at the airport into a family affair and all went disc golfing afterward,  much to the oldest child's delight. 


I resurrected my old scrapbooking supplies and am finally working on putting last year's pictures of our trip out west into a photo album. I forgot how much I enjoyed that old hobby. 


Isaac left Monday for five weeks at Faith Builders in preparation for teaching at our church school this fall. This is a new experience but a long held dream of his (the teaching, that is, not so much the going to Faith Builders.) 


The girls cleaned up their spot in the woods and hung up our hammocks. I commandeer one every chance I get. 

* * * *

This is, of course, only the surface things that have gone on this month. It looks quite nice up top, but underneath there's been a lot of furious paddling. I don't feel led to talk about the churning waters, so I'll just leave you with the surface and hope that you are at least comforted to know that I am quite normal and human and that's not all of the picture.

Cheers to July and squeezing every last drop of goodness out of my favorite season!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Twenty-One Years

Our 21st anniversary was June 2. Chris planned an anniversary getaway months ago, and spoiled me with five whole nights away from home, just me and him. He chose our cabin specifically because he knew I love woods and hills and nature. 




He nailed it.

I feel so ridiculously spoiled/ blessed, I almost feel guilty to even mention it. I am so forevermore grateful for the man I am married to. 

Chris is not a polished, well dressed, soft spoken, gentlemanly kind of man. He's not the well mannered, genteel kind, who people immediately think well of and fall in love with. But anyone who knows Chris very well at all knows that underneath the unpolished surface, is a heart of gold. 

Chris is the first person that any family member would call if they needed help. Partly because he often has the best common sense advice for a situation, but mostly because they know that, day or night, he will drop what he's doing and help them out if he can. Chris is the person who will always, always, always look out for the underdog. He is the person who will call out the sin/ the wrong, and love the people in the situation anyway. There aren't many people Chris is vulnerable with, but he is staunchly loyal to his inner circle. 

As his wife, I am the recipient of the full measure of that heart of gold. 

The longer we do life together, the more sure I am that I would not want to trade the heart underneath for the polish on the outside. God knew what He was doing when He plopped the two of us together (with our vastly different personalities), and turned our terrible first impressions into friendship. He knew we would be good for each other. If you've never read the story of how we met, you can find it here

We had an absolutely lovely time just hanging out together. 



We took our bikes along and biked two different bike trails. We took a little day trip and toured the Rod And Staff facilities, where Chris spent many hours as a young boy because of his dad's editorial job. (This is where you're allowed to laugh at the odd things we do for fun. I laughed too.) 



We hiked a trail and discovered wild strawberries and beautiful scenery...


And these people...
Me: We look like... 
Chris: An old married couple! 
There you have it. 


We went canoeing on a slow, lazy river and reveled in the gorgeous day. 

And we talked and we talked and we talked.

And - my personal highlight - every night around 9:00, the whippoorwills would serenade us in the dim twilight.... Oh, my heart. Their song will always make my heart ache a little with memories of childhood and growing up in the hills of Arkansas!


Now it's home to the real world, where there are problems and schedules and things to be done. But I'm hanging on to that deep, deep gratefulness I felt in our oasis of time together. 

   ***********
PS. I did not read four books in the month of May. I finished one, and started three others... I have a feeling my goal is going to be a lot harder to meet in the summer months! But I'll keep working at it...


This was the book that I listened to and completed. Very interesting!

And now I must go tackle my work in the real world....


Monday, May 16, 2022

Class of 2022

Confession: I end up delving into things here that I have felt deeply but never feel comfortable talking about. I'm sure I haven't given enough disclaimers or explanations or flip sides. I hope you hear my heart. 

**************

It is a grey, rainy Monday. Not such a good thing for all the piles of laundry that I didn't do over the weekend, but a rather cozy day to curl up and do as little as possible after a week of rushing around doing all the things. (That's how we enneagram nines roll, don't you know.) 

I realized again last week, that high school graduation is the most emotional part of mothering that I have experienced so far. I know every mother is different, but for me there is  something so safe and secure about sending my children off to school every year. Graduation marks the end of that yearly security, and it throws my mother heart for a loop somehow! I was an emotional wreck last week, tears overflowing at the oddest moments and for the most ridiculous reasons. When I wondered if I might be losing my mind, it helped to remember that I felt the same way several years ago when Isaac graduated. I'm also pretty convinced that even when I don't consciously think of it, my brain is subconsciously triggered by May being the anniversary of my mom's death.

All in all, graduation night was lovely and special. I couldn't be more proud of my oldest daughter and the young lady she's become. And I couldn't be more relieved to have last week behind me! The graduate wholeheartedly agrees. 

Jasmine is a very smart, talented young lady. She's the kind of person that is well liked and good at everything she does. I've heard people ask, "Is there anything she can't do?" I've heard her called amazing and I've heard her called exceptional; I won't argue -- she is. I am proud and humbled to have her as a daughter, but allow me to say just a few things about being the parent of "smart, good" children. 

"Smart, good" children have struggles too. Did you know, they sometimes feel like failing a test on purpose so that their classmates can stop making comments about how they always get good grades? Did you know, they sometimes struggle with the expectations that are placed on them because they always do a good job? Did you know, they sometimes wish their hard work was appreciated and valued, instead of being brushed aside with the attitude of "oh, of course"? Did you know, they sometimes stop raising their hands to answer questions because nobody likes smart know-it-alls?

"Smart, good" children don't just get that way because that's how they were born. Don't get me wrong, I know there is a difference in the natural abilities of people. But everyone is born with the same sin nature. Everyone has to make the same choices about truth and identity and who they are going to follow. Sometimes, being labeled with words like 'exceptional' can feel devaluing rather than complimentary. "Smart, good" children struggle just as hard with choices and relationships and life as anyone else. Their struggles come in different forms and show up in different places, but they are no less hard. If you see a child that seems exceptional, you can bet that underneath the surface somewhere there have been hard fought battles that have made them who they are. 

Jasmine is a very talented, smart young lady. Only in the past year have I realized the depth of some of the struggles she has gone through that have made her the person she is today. Looking back, I think she struggled with a type of OCD called scrupulosity. My heart aches for all the pain and inner turmoil she went through and how little I realized the torment that was going on in her young mind. I know, without a doubt, that the young lady she has become is because of the grace of God and her hard won choices for truth, not just because she is exceptional. 

Wow. I really did not plan to go down that long bunny trail when I started this post! 

I guess, in the end, what this really is about is reminding myself that we are all way more alike than different. We are all fighting our own battles and deserve kindness and grace. If you've been one of the "smart, good" children -- this is me giving you credit for all the hard work you've done and the inner battles you've fought that nobody ever saw or valued. Good job!

And now I really must take care of my laundry. 


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

April's Books

In one form or another, the thought runs through my mind nearly every day -- I should write a blog post. It is followed immediately by another -- what would I write about? Most of the time my mind is blank. The times when I do have a faint idea, two minutes into writing the post in my mind, I've already given it up. It's too much work. It's not that important. 

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have looked back at my blog and wondered, how did I ever write every week?? I have no idea. Did I think the things I thought of saying were important back then and now I don't? Or did I have a need to be important back then and now I just don't care anymore? I'll take the second one; it sounds more mature. 

I know. I should just stop over analyzing and accept the fact that there are seasons in life and that is that. At least you will hear from me once a month this year, because I am bound and determined to stick to my goal of reading/ listening to four books a month!

Just look at my ferns coming up!
I'm so excited about them!

I struggled with finding books for April, because I rely on inter library loans and Ohio has been undergoing a change in their system and hasn't moved any books for three months! When I was at the library last week, they told me the new system is up and running and they had pulled over 800 books that day to send out to other libraries!! Soon all the books I have holds on will probably arrive at once...

But anyway. Without further ado -- my four books in April (I am not going to try to write real reviews for the books I read; I'm terrible at writing reviews. If you want real reviews, you'll have to go somewhere else, sorry.):


I have to say this was my last favorite. It was based on true historical events but the story line was fiction and just a little bit too fairytale-ish in my opinion. 


This one was an interesting twist, because it is technically poetry. I've always kind of had a gripe with poetry that isn't actually the rhyming kind and I doubt I would have made it through reading this book but I enjoyed listening to the author read it. 


This is the only book I actually read in April. It is a true story and a good one -- the kind that keeps you guessing and doesn't turn out quite like you think it will. 


And then there was this one, which was by far and away my favorite! Contrary to the book cover, it is not just some cheesy love story. It was read by fantastic readers -- a different voice for every character -- and was altogether delightful and hilarious and I can't wait to take a trip and make the whole family listen to it. 

Now it is May, and we're hurtling for the finish line at school, with so many extra activities that I can hardly keep my head straight about who is doing what. Their is an oldest son turning 20 (TwEnTy!!) and a second born set to graduate and a wedding in the community that will bring family from out of state and then a much anticipated anniversary trip that Chris has planned since ages ago....

Let's just say we shouldn't be bored any time soon!

Told you I'm excited. 

Now I'm going to turn on some music, sweep some floors and do some cleaning before I sit down to sew. 


PS. Any other moms who don't have the heart to make their children take down their elaborate creations so they can vacuum? 
Just me? Ok then. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

A Healthier Me and Other Things

No, I am not going to tell you about a new diet I have discovered or some wonderful exercise program I've committed to. I haven't started taking plexus or using essential oils nor have I found some magic pill or potion. Not that some of those things wouldn't be good for me, but I'm not actually talking about physical health. 

I've been thinking this post out in my mind for awhile now, while I secretly wait to see if I actually keep feeling the way that I've been feeling. (Yes, I'm a pessimist like that.) Sure as the world, if I put myself out there and say things, it will not last. Besides, is it really that important for the world - even my little corner of it - to know everything? When all is said and done, not really. 

Then again, maybe. Who is to say?

Long story short, I've been working on my social media addiction and *I think* I have stuck with it long enough to say that I feel like a different person.

If you read my daughter's article, you will remember the effects social media can have on your mind and life. I did not go whole hog like she did, and delete my accounts, but I have drastically reduced the time I spend on them. I have tried numerous strategies to accomplish this in the past, and have never been able to stick to my plan. This has been my latest arrangement. 

We have only ever had internet on our phones, but now have the ability to use hot-spot. I made the decision to delete my Facebook and Instagram apps on my phone, and only allow myself to access my accounts via hot-spot to the tablet. This does several things -- 1. My whole family knows my decision, therefore if I'm on the tablet, they all know I'm on social media. (That's called accountability.) 2. I have a limited amount of hot-spot usage per month, therefore I have an incentive to keep my social media visits brief. 3. It takes a minute to go through the process, therefore cutting out the mindless checking of social media when I have a free second. 

I credit the Brighter Winter reading challenge with giving me a taste of success. Let me explain. 

I had tried the whole deleting apps/ setting boundaries thing before. It never worked. I would always end up right back where I started. In January, when I decided to take up the reading challenge, I also chose to start my little media plan. Because I had something else to focus my free time on, I was able to stick to my disciplines for social media. And, because I stuck to them for pretty much two whole months, I got a taste of success and realized how much healthier I felt mentally. 

The best way to describe the effect of that taste of success, is 'the Matthew effect'. (See Google's definition). Better yet, go listen to  this video on the subject. 

Somehow, that victory in one area of my life, has given me energy for more victory. The cumulative effect is, I feel more alive and engaged with my life than I have in several years. There's more that I could say and maybe sometime I will try to describe what I'm talking about more fully. 

As Paul says, "Not as though I had already obtained, either were already perfect..."

***

Just a few random photos...

I know I made it sound like spring was coming, but it sure has been taking its good old time! I would not be opposed to a few days of sunshine around here. 

We celebrated Jennifer turning fourteen and the girls had fun trying to replicate this photo from when she turned five...



Today we have a birthday boy turning nine, who could just hardly wait for this day! Legos are his biggest love these days and he doesn't believe he could ever have enough of them. 


*****

Very briefly, the four books I read in March:

The most entertaining...

Hadn't read an Anne book in years!


The most gripping/sad/ heartbreaking...


The most random!

I'm having a hard time getting books right now, because our library is going through some big change in their book lending system and isn't moving any books currently. I listened to the Anne book because I couldn't find anything I had on my 'to read' list and I scanned a library shelf one day and found the "Called To Be Amish" book and randomly took it home to read. 

And now I must run along and eat cake and ice cream!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Spring

I'm not any more sure of why I haven't written lately, than I am of why I'm writing now. Life has been going along rather comfortably. While that is certainly more to be desired than discomfort, it doesn't really offer any irresistible urges for writing blogposts. 


We've had several of these kind of views in the past month. But they quickly disappear, and are giving way to more and more little signs that winter is about to be replaced by spring. 


Charles is inordinately proud of this
 little flower that he planted at school...


There are little, green things springing up everywhere, if you take the time to look closely


Jasmine's tulips are up!


The forsythia is pushing tiny buds!


There is new, mint tea growing 
under the tangle of last year's dead growth 
that never got cleared away. 


The brave cilantro, that somehow 
manages to stay around all winter, 
is putting out fresh growth. 


A haze of tiny, new leaves
are showing up on some of the
 bushes in the woods.


And increasing days of sunshine
beckon me outside to enjoy them....

I'm here for it all. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

February Brighter Winter Favorites

Operation Read More Books is still going strong. I confess, I'm kinda proud of it. Using the Brighter Winter grids definitely gave me an incentive to read and great ideas for finding interesting books. I'm not the kind of person who keeps a list of "to read" books, and usually part of my reason for not reading more is the fact that I fly through books and have a hard time knowing what to read next. 


This was my stack at the beginning of February. I had fun looking for/ ordering books in through the library ahead of time and, with being able to keep books for three weeks, plus being able to renew most of them, it actually worked out pretty well. I googled ideas for "a book about books" and "a book of letters" and chose something from the selections that came up. I ended up not reading the book of letters. It was the last book I got in, and I had no idea it was going to be such a fat book! It just wasn't quite interesting enough to be worth wading through it. 

My favorite was probably "Knock At Midnight". Forgive me for just copying and pasting a description, but I can't do justice to describing the book myself:

"Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever--that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner, and, like Brittany, Black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America's devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn away from her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole--for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of her own life, as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother. As she studied this case, a system came into focus in which widespread racial injustice forms the core of America's addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda's plight, Brittany set to work to gain her freedom.

This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was a successful accountant on her way to a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda's case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system. By day she moved billion-dollar deals, and by night she worked pro bono to free clients in near hopeless legal battles. Ultimately, her path transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself.

Brittany's riveting memoir is at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist them both."

It was one of those books that was hard to put down. 

My next favorite was the audio book "Still Alice".



I say it was a favorite. To be honest, I had to push myself to keep listening. Early onset dementia is a rather horrible and painful story to listen to. Not everyone is like me, but I have always had a huge dread of watching a loved one deteriorate either mentally or physically. (Incidentally, in a strange way that personal dread made my mom's sudden death easier for me in some ways.) Listening to a story that not only included watching a loved one deteriorate, but also being that loved one, was hard for me. It was a really good book though, and hard to listen to in a good kind of way. 

Last but not least, I enjoyed "The Story Of You" as well. I am well aware that the enneagram is a controversial subject and I don't intend to get into any of that here. I have found it hugely useful in understanding myself and other people, and this book was an interesting companion to "The Road Back To You", which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the enneagram. 

Using the Brighter Winter grids was fun. With their help, I read/ listened to 17 books in the first two months of 2022! I don't intend to be quite that ambitious the rest of the year, but I have been accumulating a list, and I'm challenging myself to read or listen to at least four books a month. I'm trying to gather lists from multiple genres, and the goal is to read a variety each month. I'm not great at keeping up long term challenges, so we'll see how this goes. Maybe if I report here every month it will keep me motivated!

Of course, that means I need lots of book recommendations. I'd love if you would share your favorites with me! I'm also planning to gather ideas from Gina at Home Joys, where she and her sister will be sharing reading challenges every month. 


I hope your Wednesday is as sunny as mine!