Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Wednesday List

1. Kids are gross. There's just no getting around it. Pee, poop, snot, dirt. Everything in their mouths and then little sticky hands everywhere. It's a good thing they're so cute. Even when they sneeze in your face.

2. Texas Ruby Red grapefruit is so delicious. My grocery store had 15 lb. bags on sale last week for $5. $5!!! I couldn't pass it up, but that is a lot of grapefruit. If I can get motivated (see #2), I might try out a grapefruit pound cake recipe just for something different.

3. I signed up for a 5k a few weeks ago, and it's coming up on the 23rd. I'm excited! It's been a while since I've run a race. Not since moving to Texas, in fact, and I enjoy local 5ks a lot. This is a tad far from my house, but I couldn't find a more local one that fit my time table and schedule.

4. And speaking of running....I've almost reached a goal of mine that means I get to buy a couple of new running shirts. Yay running clothes!

5. And speaking of writing (wait...weren't we? Aren't we always), I've been putting it on my to-do list every day for the past few weeks and have managed it a couple of times (not counting a few of these blog posts...which I totally do, by the way). But I've got the seed of an idea for summer that might give me a little extra momentum. Too little to say out loud yet, but it's promising.

6. On my "nightstand": still reading (and enjoying) Storm Clouds Rolling In. I'd probably be finished by now, but got interrupted by some library holds coming in. Like Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen, which just became available. Forcing me to choose between finishing or starting something new. I'm also still listening to my Brandon Sanderson audio, but had a slight interruption because of phone issues. That, and I've been spending my dishwashing/cooking time watching Star Trek: Voyager. I never managed to watch this show as regularly as others, so I am really enjoying this rewatch. And I had forgotten what a great captain Janeway is. Love her.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Reading...After You

After You (Me Before You, #2) This is the third book by Jojo Moyes that I've read, and with each book I finish it and just want more, more, more. When I read One Plus One, I was seven month pregnant working at church camp, and during rest time I'd end up happily reading instead of napping. I'm averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep a night these days, but I absolutely gobbled up After You, and stayed up way too late too many nights because I just couldn't stop myself (and by way to late, I 11 p.m. Which is super late for me these days).

Anyway, After You is the sequel to the excellent Me Before You. After You picks up about a year after Me Before You ends, and we get to catch up with Lou, her family, and Will's parents. We see Lou stuck in a holding pattern. Her parents are navigating relationship changes, and her sister is trying hard to move ahead in life as a single mom. Will's mom is grieving quietly in a small village, and Will's father has married his pregnant mistress. Life tries to shake things up for Lou, first with a pretty serious accident, then with the appearance of Will's teenage daughter. A daughter Will never knew about, with a lot of anger, attitude, and something she's hiding. A girl who desperately wants to know the father she never had.

In my opinion one of Moyes' strengths is her characterization. For example, Lou's parents are brilliantly written -- small-town people of a certain generation. The generation of traditional gender roles and Sunday dinners. On the flip side, Will's daughter is such a realistic teenager. Oblivious, self-involved, oblivious, and occasionally in possession of maturity and astounding insight. You want to smack her and at the same time give her a big hug and protect her.

Like her other two books, After You is, at its core, about relationships and family. The family you choose and the family you don't. It's about grief, and change, and not being afraid, especially when you find those people who will have your back no matter what.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reading...Iron Hearted Violet

Iron Hearted Violet Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill was an impulse read. I was at the library for toddler storytime, and it's gorgeous cover stood out on a display of middle grade fantasy. Middle grade fantasy can be a fun refreshing change from long and/or heavy adult fantasy, plus I'm on the lookout these days for good fantasy to recommend to my niece. I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed Iron Hearted Violet. Here's the Goodreads synopsis (which for once says pretty much exactly what I wanted to): 
Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.
Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.
The book was just as charming as it sounds. The book is narrated by the castle storyteller, which gives it a nice intimate, yet detached point of view. It sounds like a fairy tale. There's clearly a message to the story -- a fantastic message, one of confidence, loyalty, truth, and forging your own path. But the message isn't heavy handed or obnoxious.

Bottom line, if you're looking for a classic-feeling fairy tale with a bit of a twist (or you know a kid who is), this is a solid choice.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Monday List

1. I've been almost sitting down to write blog posts for days now. I've even got a few thoughts that might end up as entire posts by themselves, but today is a list kind of day.

2. I had the best run today I've had in a really long time. Sixties, cloudy, slightly breezy but not overly windy, and I just felt in the groove. My pace was better than it's been since....well, since a while. Oh, and speaking of running, an old college roommate of mine just won the Little Rock Marathon! How cool is that? Way to go, Tia!

3. Right now I'm reading a bit of historical fiction -- Storm Clouds Rolling In, by Ginny Dye. I'm busy and distracted with a few projects right now, so I haven't gotten very far, but it was a gift from a trusted friend and fellow reader, so I"m looking forward to it. I'm also listening to Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. Fun fantasy with a detective story kind of feel.

4. Speaking of Brandon Sanderson, we went to a book signing of his a couple of weeks ago. Matrim's first book sigining! (Christina's was Patrick Rothfuss...we're trying to raise the children right).

5. PSA: when the grocery store runs the fancy expensive yogurt on sale DO NOT BUY IT. Because then you will want to buy it all the time because it is delicious. Can you tell I'm currently obsessed with Noosa yoghurt? The only thing saving me is that my grocery store carries the plain and vanilla in the larger tubs, and it's currently stocked at my Costco at a significant discount over the grocery store. This stuff is delicious.

6. It's spring in Houston (the pine pollen is coating everything, so it's official). Aside from the disgusting yellow pollen coating everything which I'm basically trying to pretend doesn't exist, I do love Houston in the springtime. The air feels and smells fresh and green and slightly tropical. The longer days are great, the nights are cool, and as of right this moment the mosquitos aren't trying to eat my alive yet (it's raining the rest of the week so...we'll see about next week).

Friday, February 12, 2016

Reading...For the Love

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible StandardsMany moons ago,  friend introduced me to Jen Hatmaker's blog, and I came to adore her funny, witty, thoughtful, sarcastic, irreverent, Jesus-filled posts. I've been intending to pick up one of her books for a while now, but finally dove in with her latest: For the Love. For the Love is a book of essays, loosely related to the theme of grace. In my mind, it could easily be subtitled: "love Jesus, be good to others, be good to yourself." There are serious and insightful essays about subjects like love, friendship, living on mission, the Church, and parenthood. There are funny essays about fashion, friendship, family, and just random stuff. And it's all written in the tone of someone who feels like your smart best friend. Two of my favorite essays are  I bought this book, and I'm glad I did. I can see myself revisiting certain essays. A couple of my favorites are the one on turning 40 (and the confidence that comes with it that I'm striving for a few years early), and the one about setting good boundaries for yourself -- not trying to balance everything (which is impossible anyway), but being choosy about what you keep "on the beam" (as in balance beam).

I think I liked this book so much because aside from the fact that Jen's sense of humor hits my sweet spot, the book made me want to be a better person -- and more than that made me feel like I CAN be a better person. And really, what more could I want from a book?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Wednesday List

1. A newish acquaintance/friend learned that I am a writer (if I can still say that having not gotten my post-baby mojo back yet), and asked me on Sunday how the writing was going. It really touched me, and being asked always inspires me. Yes, novel, I see you sitting lonely and dusty over there. This week, we'll make a date, I promise.

2. I've done something to my shoulder, and I suspect it's related to wearing my baby ring sling. My shoulder hasn't been quite right for months, and it's the shoulder that the sling rests on. I wore Matrim in it yesterday to storytime at the library and I am HURTING today. Cooincidence? Sadly, I doubt it. I love the sling. I don't want to give it up. But I also love not being in excruciating pain whenever I lift my arm so...

3. I have been woefully slow in finishing library books on my Kindle, and previously, as long as I didn't navigate away from the book I could still read it even after my loan had ended. But yesterday when I went to turn my Kindle on and read, I was greeted with the home screen and the sad news that my loan had expired. Oh well! Motivation, right?

4. Speaking of motivation...I've started a crochet project and I'm pretty excited about it. Although I suspect I may have to consume a few nighttime cups of coffee to finish it by the deadline. It's a baby gift and I don't think the baby is going to wait for me to finish before making his appearance.

5. What am I reading...well, since my library book was returned, I'll go back to Queen of the Tearling, which is fine so far, but isn't really lighting my fire. I just finished For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker (which I will write more words about another day) and it was really great. My first non-fiction of the year, and an absolute success!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

This journey

I'm not sure if it's universally true (few things are, after all), but I've noticed something staying at home with the munchkins. Because I spend a lot of my day doing repetitive and menial tasks with and for children who are either non or only barely verbal, my brain either a) goes into hibernation or b) just churns out random thoughts. Obviously, I sometimes share those random thoughts here. Sometimes they are fleeting and about as in depth as a bullet point on a list, but sometimes I ponder things a little more...philosophical. Or at least, philosophical-adjacent.

Lately, I find myself thinking about people. About relationships long, short, permanent, and transient. I lived in the same city from the time I was three years old, in the same house from the time I was five until I went to college. I have a friend whom I have been friends with since we were both in preschool, and every time I make a trip to the homestead, we still make a point to at least have a cup of coffee and touch base. While Sandy is perhaps my closest of my old home-friends, there are still a lot of friends I am happy to see when I visit my family in Missouri. But, like a lot of people, I went to college in another state, to a university where more people were from "away" than not. And I made friends. Some friendships lasted only one semester before sliding into acquaintance, and some lasted through my four years in Arkansas. Some are Facebook friends, or Christmas card friends, and a few are still really-good-phone-call-I'm-coming-to-visit-kindred-spirit friends. (there's also that guy I friend!) Fast forward to Houston, then Wilmington, NC, then Austin, then back to Houston. And I know that many people move a lot more and more often than I have, but even moving that much results in a lot of paths crossing. A lot of relationships. A lot of life intersecting with other life. A lot of community, and deep bonds, and family-building. A lot of joy, and a lot of loss. And that doesn't even count the extremely short-term interactions with people met traveling, or on a temporary job, or the friend of a friend who is only visiting, or friendships built online around common interests. There have been times where I've wondered -- is it worth it? Is it worth investing in a relationship when I've invested in so many before? When one of us may move? Why did I spend the time building friendships, only to leave the city a year later? Maybe it's not worth it.

But the thing is, those interactions matter. Even a smile and helping hand in the grocery store from a fellow shopper who realizes the difficulty of unloading a grocery cart with a baby strapped to your chest -- every interaction matters. I am better for having met you. For having spent time with you, for being privileged to have my road intersect with your road. 

Recent moves have brought these thoughts to mind more than once in the past couple of years and I know I've written about this before, but lately the people at Shevet Achim have been on my heart and mind, and that's why I'm putting words to these thoughts again. Shevet Achim is a beautiful part of God's Kingdom, and people who are really and truly doing Kingdom work. This organization brings children with congenital heart defects into Israel to have life-saving surgery at world class medical centers. These children are Kurdish, Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi. They are being cared for and loved on by Christians and Jews. What is more beautiful than that? The volunteers and staff at Shevet Achim live in close community, and when you are with them for even a short time they embrace you. The people we met were examples of keeping your eyes on Jesus, and on trying to live a life of love, peace, and truth. I wish everyone could spend a couple of weeks at Shevet Achim, but even if you can't, spend a few minutes reading their web site and praying for people who are being Jesus in a unique and special way.

So, to whoever you are. You know who you are. Maybe we studied, ate, laughed, cried, prayed, traveled, played, worked, argued, worshiped, ran, or even lived together. Maybe we just shared a meal, or a cup of coffee. Maybe we shared life. Maybe we are still sharing life. No matter how our roads crossed, or how long they followed the same path -- and even if they are still right there, side by side  -- thank you for leaving your mark, for filling my cup.