Thursday, August 1, 2019

Some Chaos and Some Thoughts

I have so many thoughts racing around my head.

Photo Credit: Flo's shots 4 me

School is starting soon and I'm going to have some big changes in store. It is good, but takes a lot of prep work. And honestly, it is a little scary. What if I can't get it done like I have planned in my head?

Also why am I blogging again? I have thoughts and writing them out on here is fun and good for me. But some of the things I want to say are personal and some are controversial. So maybe I shouldn't say them here out loud for everyone. But maybe it should be said because maybe other people need to hear it.

Lily is starting kindergarten and the school times are new. So the whole family will have a new morning routine and Drew will drop the kids off at school. What if that doesn't go right? Because no one else can do it as good as me? (Yes, I know that is ridiculous as Drew has been taking care of the kids for a decade.)

I need to eat better. I need to move more. I want to find more time to read. I need to do more yard work. I need to make sure medicines are taken and teeth are brushed and the house is clean and the kids have clothes that fit and on and on and on.

So today I'm going to write all these crazy thoughts and hope that next week I will have some thoughts put together.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review: Light From Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

Last week, I talked about the best books of the year so far. I mentioned the new book from Shawn Smucker. The following is my review from Goodreads and other review websites, but I wanted to add some more thoughts here.

Light from Distant StarsLight from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Where to start? These characters and this story is one that I will come back to over and over. It’s the kind of story that will pop back into my head when I’m washing dishes or commuting to work or other random times. I can see pieces of myself in Cohen and Kaye. I want to be a friend like Ava.

The prose is beautiful. The characters are realistic. The story is compelling. And the relationships are the heart of the book.

If you don’t read much, take the time to read this one. If you like a plot that takes you along, you will like this one. If you like memorable characters, read this one. If you like relationship stories, you want to read this one. This has something for everyone.

I received an ARC from the publisher and this is my honest review.

View all my reviews

Recently I have found myself in a rut of reading the same couple genres. I wanted to break out of that and read things that I don't normally read. Family drama type books are something I normally avoid. Some of them seem to me to be unnecessarily painful. Some move too fast so that I don't get to know the characters. Others move too slow and I don't want to know the characters. There are some tropes of the genre I don't like. So I avoid them. And if I'm going to be really honest, some of them make me feel things and sometimes I don't want to feel things.

Side note: I am a big fan of cozies and I know they have SO many tropes. So it seems a little hypocritical to say I don't like tropes of some genre. But there are some tropes I like and some I don't. To each his own right?

All of that is a preface to my thought process going into this book. I have read several of Shawn's books before. I love his prose and he does a great job making you friends with the characters. But when I get to be friends with them, then I start feeling things. But I can trust Shawn with my feelings because his books don't become gory with tragedy. His books have a bit of God in them without attempting to be evangelical. There is just enough God to challenge the characters into becoming better and enough God to catch them when they fall.

This was a great book to get me out of my typical genre and into a genre that I normally avoid. I have a several other family drama type books coming up because Shawn's book has inspired to me to trust the genre a little bit. This book has a lot of family issues on display, but it also has a whole lot of heart. There are people that have issues and those same people care about each other. And that caring and love are the feelings that I am left with.

I encourage you all to pick up this book, make some new friends, and feel some things.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Best Books of 2019 (So Far!)

One of my reading goals in 2019 was to read longer books and books that are outside of my regular genres. As such, I thought I would be reading slower. So I had originally set my Goodreads goal at 60. I am currently at 55 books for the year, so I increased the goal to 75. For the first part of the year, I had not read longer books and few books that are outside my regular genres. This summer I have done a better job reading outside my regular genres. Another goal was to read books that I actually own. I have also done better about that this summer as well. So hopefully the end of the year will look different than the beginning of the year with my 2019 bookshelf.

A few stats first:

55 books read

21 cozy mysteries
13 fantasy type novels
9 non-fiction
6 thrillers

46 books by women
12 main characters of color or other minority group

We are halfway through the year, so it makes sense to do half of my top 10.

Top 5 Reads (So Far)

1.  The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford - I LOVE the town of Nagspeake and the universe that Kate Milford has created. Every time I look at her novels on my shelf I smile because I love going back to that universe even briefly. This one involved ships in the time of great ships and travel of the early 1800s. This is walks the line between alternate history and magical realism and fantasy. It is a whole lot of fun.

2. The Light From Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker. This one is published next week. It has strong characters and real feeling relationships. There is also some magical realism. I will talk more about this next week.

3. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton There is a murder mystery on an English estate. That is a favorite setting of mine. This does have an unreliable narrator, which is a favorite. But this narrator is unreliable because he keeps reliving the day as new people in the story. The reason that he is reliving it is crazy cool. And the solution to the mystery is also crazy cool.

4. An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris - The characters in this novel are so memorable, especially the main character, Gunnie Rose. I love the way she mixed the wild west with magic and Russian royalty. I love alternate history and a well created setting. This definitely has that.

5. Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles - I am skeptical of most YA novels because there always seems to be romance and it is often not done well in my opinion. However when I heard this author talking about her book, I was interested. The setting got me, of course. It takes place on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. There is wrestling with God, but it is not really evangelistic. There is romance, but it is very light and not the point of the story. It is wise and that is missing in a lot of YA. This book leads into her second book and I have got to get my hands on that one soon. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

July 4th: Do We Have Anything To Celebrate?

Photo Credit: m01229

I saw someone on Instagram asking this question earlier. It was a genuine wondering accompanied by some discussion with themselves. And I have to say those thoughts echoed around me most of the day. There is so much wrong. It seems like most of it revolves around the ideas of personhood. Who is human enough to listen to and if they are human enough to listen to, then what do I do about it?

We are still discussing, denying, and debating if we should listen to people because we doubt if they are really worth it. Why are we doing this? If they are human, they are a person. If they are a person, we should at least listen to them. We should care enough about our fellow man to listen and maybe even do something to make their lives better if we can. As a nation, the United States is failing to do this. That is disheartening. It left me wondering if we had anything to celebrate.

My daughter isn't into the loud noises of fireworks, so we got a few bang snaps and some color smoke things. We did that while it was still light and it was fun. As it got darker people around us have some impressive fireworks, so my son, my mother-in-law and I stood outside and watched some of them. After several minutes, the nearest ones to us were done, so we parted ways and came in. As I walked through my neighborhood listening to the sounds of fireworks around me and not seeing the light, I realized that there is something to celebrate.

We live in a nation where we get to vote. (Yes that is problematic at the very best, but go with me on this.) We live in a nation where we can discuss these heavy issues because we genuinely believe that voices matter. We believe that our voices should be heard. We believe that our voice just might matter. We have a voice. We have a vote. We still have hope.

So let's celebrate seeing these nasty bits about our country because we can't fix them if we don't see them as a problem. Don't lose heart. Keep working toward change. Keep listening, even to the people you disagree with. Our nation is great because of our differences. I still believe in that idea of being a melting pot. We can do this. We can make this better.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Stanley Cup = Healing

I have discussed sports stuff here before, but in last few years I have not made time for sports. And then there was this hockey post season. The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup this year.

stanley cup
Photo Credit: StanleyCupYosemiteVisit

I have bought t-shirts, watched so many YouTube videos, found a feed to watch the whole parade, found 2 new podcasts, and cried so many tears. One of those podcasts, Let's Go Blues , invited their listeners to write in about the affect the Stanley Cup win has had on them. They will read the emails as they do their summer series. I was the second person to respond. I will probably revisit this Stanley Cup win a few more times because there is more that I have to say, but this is a good start.

From my email.:
I have an unusual road to being a Blues fan. I was obsessed with the movie Mighty Ducks 2 and after watching that movie several dozen times, I decided to watch a real hockey game. So I watched the Rangers celebration game in ‘95 after the lockout. I liked it, so I watched a Blues game because they were the local team. My family has been Cardinals fans for 4 generations, but hockey wasn’t a thing, except for an older cousin. So I was on my own, but I never had a problem doing it my way. 
I fell in love with hockey and the Bluenote. I loved the trumpet shoulder patches, the sound of the skates on the ice, and the goal horn. I wrote every game on my calendar. When the game ended, I wrote the score, who scored, and if there was anything special about the goal, short handed, power play, etc. I watched every game. Game tickets were all I asked for at birthdays and Christmas’. When I turned 16, I didn’t want a car, I wanted really amazing Blues tickets. I got 2nd tow from the ice right next to the visitors bench. There were only 2 kids in my high school that wore jerseys to school, me and a Blackhawks fan. So many of my memories are all by myself. The Yzerman double overtime goal killed me. And I think it was the same playoffs where Grant Fuhr got injured by a Leafs player, I think Mats Sundin. (Correction from the podcast: Nick Kypreos)  Maybe now I can forgive them. Al McInnis’ slapshots still make me smile. Geoff Courtnall’s retirement speech still chokes me up. As I became an adult and moved to North Carolina with my Rangers fan husband, I watched less games. Work, graduate school, kids, and a few broken heart seasons made it easy for me to be “too busy” to watch. These last few years have been rough, deaths followed by family fallouts and then a house fire. We only got back in our house at the end of March. I don’t think I got my jerseys back after the fire. I am still desperately hoping that I have misplaced them in some box that I haven’t looked at yet. This Stanley Cup win was actually healing in some ways. I have new hockey memories. My kids watched with me and asked every morning when I woke them up about the previous night’s game. This playoffs run inspired me to get back to who I really am, a dedicated and educated St. Louis sports fan. And that’s how I found my way to your podcast. I want to know more than just the box score of the games I miss. So thanks for your podcast and play Gloria! 

One more video: Play Gloria!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Watch Your Mouth

So last week I started talking about some thoughts I had about words. I wasn't really done, but I didn't want to make the post too long. So I'm going to put more thoughts here.

Photo credit: Maggie-A-Day

A LOT of people in world speak death! They say nice words in a tone that isn't nice and you know those words are really death. Sometimes they use death words with a death tone. Sometimes they say death words with a nice tone and you aren't sure, but you think those words are death. They use words on the internet with no tone and maybe those are death too. It is really depressing and disheartening to be around people that so often speak death. It is so easy for a few misplaced words to make you feel less than or to set off your anxiety or a thousand other rotten negative feelings that you don't really want.

And maybe it is you using some of those death words and death tones. Let's be honest at times it is all of us. We all need to be more conscious of our words and how we use them. A few thoughts about how to do that.

Acknowledge and Affirm - Acknowledge what they said. Let them know that you heard what they had to say. By doing this, you are valuing their thoughts and feelings. You are valuing their humanity. Even if you disagree with them, acknowledge that they feel that way. Affirm the parts you can affirm. Like with my 4 year old. I need to acknowledge what she said and feels even if she is yelling it. I get her on to my lap and affirm what it can. "It is hard to be patient." "It is hard to grow up." "It is okay to be sad." "It is okay to be angry."
Then say the part that you need to disagree about. "You can't yell." "You can't hit." They are much more likely to listen to you because you listened to them first. As adults, we must do this with each other. We can not just do this with kids and not do this with each other. When you really want to let loose those death words or death tones, take deep breath. Then put aside yourself and try to listen to them. Try to see where they are coming from. Be aware of what else you have said and how that could make them feel. That leads me to my second thought.

Try to see both sides of the story. You might be angry and frustrated. You might have a good reason to be angry and frustrated. But try to see things from their perspective. Maybe they are angry and frustrated as well. Maybe they are afraid. If you can sympathize with their situation and what they might be feeling, you are less likely to use death words or death tones. If you have to confront them about something, then you can use a reasoning that affirms them and encourages them. You can still confront them, but you will confront them in a way that uses life words and life tones.
For instance if someone isn't living up to their end of a bargain. You are frustrated, but you also know they have a sick family member or extra work at their job, etc. You can start with "You aren't doing enough." OR you could start with "You have a lot going on right now." Then present the situation in a way that acknowledges their side and affirms what they have been doing. They will be ready to talk to you reasonably about the solution. They will listen to your concerns and issues because you saw their issue first.

So try to speak life more often. (And sometimes relationships are just toxic and it is best not to speak at all. However, that is a different story for another day. )

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Words Have Power

Photo Credit: Tom Magliery

The last few weeks I have had a particular verse come to me over and over again in multiple different situations. When that happens, I assume it is something important and I should pay attention to it. The verse is Proverbs 18:21. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue And those who love it will eat its fruit.”

So what does that mean? Lots of things! I will mention a few of them.

1. Your tongue has power! The words you say and the way you say them have power. You can make things better by speaking life. Or you can make them worse by speaking death. Life and death are strong words, but your tongue is a strong instrument. James 3 talks about that.

2. You love your tongue. You may not realize it though. We all love our tongue because of what we can do with it. You tell people that you love them and they smile. You feel better because they feel better. Other times you are angry and your words aren't nice. Your tone is mean. Whoever you fired your words at flinches away from them. Again you feel better because you got that negative out at the person who 'caused' it. There are countless variations to those two options, but most of the time it will break down to one of those two options.

3. There is fruit that grows from the power of your tongue. If you constantly use your tongue for death, the death will live inside of you and infect your relationships. The fruit from your tongue will be death. If you constantly use your tongue for life, life will live inside of you and bloom in your relationships.

I have more to say about this, but I think I will leave this here for now. Next week I will talk about the rest. For now, take some time and see how you use your tongue. Do you speak life or death? What do you really want to use it for?