Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On Being a Parent

Some days being a parent is easy. The kids are behaving or you have an extra dose of patience and life is good. Some days being a parent is hard. The kids are fussy or you were out of patience before you brushed your teeth. And then there are other days.

There are days when being a parent feels impossible. The days when your kids ask questions that you don't know how to answer. The days you have to reevaluate what you believe about yourself or your kids. The days when you don't know the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do, but you know you have to do something.

I have had a few of those days recently. Ben has struggled with 3rd grade. He is always well behaved, so that isn't a problem. He has struggled taking tests and getting number grades. He has improved, but it has been a lot of hard work and a lot of reassuring him. As a teacher, I am fully aware of the faults in the systems and the way it fails students. I am totally aware of the narrow focus of many school requirements. So I totally see how number grades won't show the real ability of my kid and his teacher knows that too. However, I also know that I am not changing the entire system of schooling any time soon, so he needs to figure out how to work around his issues. Some days are good and we get through homework quickly. Other days take lots of extra time because there are tears. Some papers we get home have good grades and some papers are not good. We celebrate the good grades and talk about the bad ones, but that doesn't always go well. Living in this space this school year has been so hard. Teaching him how he learns and how to review his work is hard, but worth it. We are seeing some improvements. His grades are up and so is his confidence. There is still half a year to go and I am hoping and praying for good things.

And Lily.
Photo Caption: Me (so it's blurry.)
She has been talking about being a princess and needing to color her face. She is 3 years old and I have to talk to her about make-up and I didn't even get started on the term princess. She said she had to color her face to be a pretty princess. I told her she didn't need to color her face because she is pretty without it. However if she wants to color her face, she can. (Yes those are markers. She loves to color on herself with markers. We don't fight it. We just wash up later.) She disagreed with me, but she likes to disagree with people. So maybe she was actually listening. And then last night as we were reading a Disney Princess book, she said she was Princess Aurora. I just said okay and moved on, but my mind was all over the place. There are so many issues with the princesses, but what if the issues I see are my issues and not hers. If I talk to her about those issues, do I create issues that aren't there? Probably. So I'm not saying much for now. I'll just sit back and listen to what she says before I start saying what I think she needs to hear.

Friday, January 12, 2018

One Word 2018

I am normally very pleased to share my One Word of the year. I proudly tell people that my resolutions are a word and not a list. I tell them how it helps me move forward with the things I want to accomplish, as well as help me deal with the things that come up in the year.

However my word for this year feels unconventional and a bit outside of my comfort zone. So maybe this isn't the exact form of the word that I want, but something in me says this is the right word. So what is this word?

Photo Caption: A photo I found on Google and edited. Sorry if I messed up your work


For something to sparkle, it needs to reflect light. It doesn't have light of its own. I want to reflect the Kingdom. However unlike a mirror, sparkle reflects light in different intensities in different directions. So it isn't the same light for everyone. Sparkle is also happy and I wouldn't mind some happy. Not a fake happy, but a real happy with who I am and where my life is. I will sparkle more by being more of myself, more of the things that make me the woman God wants me to be. I will sparkle more by being more like Jesus and drawing closer to his light.

If I'm honest, this word scares me a little. I don't know where this word will lead me. I know it will take me out of my comfort zone. That's scary, but I think it's important. So 2018, bring it on! Let's sparkle.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

One Word 2017 Wrap-Up

My One Word for 2017 was a bit of a journey for me, but I eventually landed on Abide. And I am SO glad I did.


There are many reasons that this was one of the hardest years of my life. Losing my father in law was hard. (You can read this post or this one.)  We are still grieving and we are still struggling to accept our new normal. And as I said in the previous posts, there are so many things that changed. Things that really shouldn't have had anything to do with my father in law's death, but they did. People that we expected to be there and they weren't. There were also people we didn't expect to be there and they were.

There are so many ways that life is different this year. Both good ways and bad ways, but through it all my word, abide, has gotten me through. I am closer to God and I know myself so much better. Those of you that have experienced deep grief at the loss of dear people can attest to this process. This deep grief carves out a canyon in your heart. There is a divide from before the loss to after the loss. You look back across that canyon and a part of you wants to be there. You want to go back to those happy blissful days before you knew this hurt. But you know even if you could cross that gorge you aren't the same person. You will carry this knowledge of grief with you. You are nostalgic for those times because you can't ever get back there. You miss the laughter and some days you even miss the annoyance because at least you had that person with you to cause that. Now here on this side of that gorge you are a wiser and braver person. You can relate to a whole new population. You have become one of those missing a part of your heart.

I have lost special people to me, but this grief is new. Maybe because it shared by so many or maybe because it is so new. Either way the grief from my losses this year has often left me with one word to hold on to, abide. When so many things were going wrong in 2017, I just held on to Jesus because where else would I go? This word has brought me so much comfort this year. I am better because of these difficulties and the word that got me through it.

Friday, I will tell you what word I have for this year.

Friday, January 5, 2018

More Reading in 2018

I mentioned in the previous post that I plan to participate in the Read Harder Challenge.

There is always a good possibility that I will change my mind, but for now these are the books that I am planning to read for the challenge.

A book published posthumously Hadji Murad by Leo Tolstoy or The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
Hadji Murad                  The Dream of the Red Chamber

A book of true crime - Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot
Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot

A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci/fi, fantasy, romance) Rebecca by Daphne duMarier or Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Rebecca                                 Peter Pan


A comic written and illustrated by the same person - Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez
Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse
A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)  The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
The Madonnas of Leningrad
A book about nature Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks by Mark Woods
Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks
A western - The Blessing Way(Leaphorn & Chee) by Tony Hillerman
The Blessing Way (Leaphorn & Chee, #1)
A comic written or illustrated by a person of color - Ms. Marvel by Sana Amanat
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal
A book of colonial or postcolonial literature No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu
No Future Without Forgiveness
A romance novel by or about a person of color The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
The Light of the World
A children's classic published before 1980 I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
I Capture the Castle
A celebrity memoir - Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run
An Oprah Book Club selection The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1)

A book of social science The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History by Stephen Talty
The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History
A one-sitting book - Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez
Lady Mechanika Vol. 2: The Tablet of Destinies
The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede
Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate, #1)
A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon or The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard
An Unkindness of Ghosts    The Talented Ribkins
A comic that isn't published by Marvel, DC, or Image Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez
Lady Mechanika, Vol. 3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey
A book of genre fiction in translation The Prisioner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Prisoner of Heaven (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #3)
A book with a cover you hate Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: The True Story Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubenstein
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts
A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles by A.L. Herbert
Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles
An essay anthology - Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 A Peach of A Murder by Livia J. Washburn
A Peach of a Murder (A Fresh-Baked Mystery, #1)
An assigned book that you hated (or never finished) The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Non-Fiction Reading in 2018

For several years I have done this post and I basically don't follow it. I read by feeling most of the time, so planning ahead doesn't help much. However, I like to have the post here in case I get stumped about what to read. I can come back here and check on what caught my imagination. As I said in my previous book blog post, I read a lot of fiction in 2017. I think I am ready for some non-fiction. So I'll start with several non-fiction titles that are on my radar. I am also planning on participating in the Read Harder challenge from BookRiot.com, but I will save those for another post.

Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul by Erika Morrison
25753408
I'm ready to explore my unconventional. I'm ready to embrace it more than I have. 2017 brought a lot of changes and I came out of all that more comfortable with myself than I have ever been before. So this seems like a good book to help with that.

The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh
The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
I started this one at one time, but couldn't focus on it. Ironic isn't it? I still think this is important for me to listen more and listen better.

Girl Slueth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
I think I accidentally found this one while searching for something else. I'm sure there will be lots of cultural things for me to learn about as I read this one. Nancy has had several different interpretations since she was created. I like all the ones I've read about, so I bet I will like this one too.

The Black Hand: The EpicWar Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History by Stephan Talty
The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History
I heard about this group in one of the non-fiction books I read in 2017 and then it popped up on my Goodreads feed. Sometimes I like reading about old crimes and this seems to fit that bill.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
In today's society, it is more important than ever to listen to the stories of other people. This is a good start in listening. It is long and intimidating, but I think it will be worth it.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
I have heard her on a podcast and I have heard others discussing her work on the podcast. I need to hear more of her work. I want to know what she has to say and what I can learn from it.

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
Bad Feminist
I generally don't consider myself a Feminist for several reasons, so I avoided this book. Then I heard great things about it and reconsidered.

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot by Michael Arntfield
Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot
I started reading this one in 2017, so I will finish in 2018. And I'm a sucker for anything that says "America forgot."

Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks by Mark Woods
Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks
There are very few things that I see on my Facebook account. The National Parks are one of them. So this book is a no brainer.

No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu
No Future Without Forgiveness
This has been on my TBR list for awhile. 2018 seems like a good time to read it and learn.

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer
I have read another of her books and it was very well done. This sounds like an interesting historical case. So this year will be a good time to pick it up.

I have a few more thoughts about what my reading life will look like in 2018, but I will save those for later.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My favorite books of 2017

My Goodreads info says I read 112, but there were a few that I didn't finish, so it's more like 107 or so. I read a lot of fiction. I think there were only about 15 non-fiction or so. It was hard to narrow it down to 5 because the ones I did read were very good. Several really made me reflect on what America is and what it was.

Fiction:

I did pick a couple classics that I hadn't read yet and I'm so glad I did. All Quiet on the Western Front is gorgeous and heartbreaking and real. It taught me about WWI, but also about the "other" side in a war. So good!


1. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front














Both A Head Full of Ghosts and Are You Sleeping are multimedia novels. There is the story as well as transcripts of podcasts, web comments, blogs, etc. It added a significant benefit to the story. And the story in both of these was great!

2. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
A Head Full of Ghosts

3. Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
Are You Sleeping












I also sought out more thrillers than I normally read. I'm glad I did because these two were great! The female main characters were willing to do what was necessary to help people. The bad guy got justice and the truth came out. The truth is very different in each one of these though.

4. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne
The Marsh King's Daughter

5. I Found You by Lisa Jewell
I Found You












Non-Fiction:

 Hillbilly Elegy along with White Trash: 400-Year Untold Story of Class In America really shine a light on a large group of people in America. It seems to me that they have felt they lost their voice and so they spoke up this year, but it wasn't good. I'm not saying all of the negative things this year and be tracked to these people, but some of it can be seen through the lens these books provide. And listening to someone's story is important. Hearing their voice helps us understand them and that will change the world.
1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

This is a tragic, painful, and horrific story of murder and theft. I'm glad this book was so popular this year. These people needed their stories told because they didn't get justice earlier. Not from the courts and not from society. It turns my stomach to think of how they were treated by white people.


2. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

This is not just a book of ghost stories. It is a look at a society that takes a story and makes it into a ghostly legend.

3, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places



It is easy to think that people in prison are less than human. The idea of rehabilitation is nearly nonexistent. This book gave me a different view of people in prison and what could help them to become better people even if they don't ever get out of prison.


Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard












This was a comprehensive view of New York City in the early 20th century. The focus on Grace Humiston was cool I got to see a female in the early 20th century doing things I never expected. I feel like I now have a deep understanding of the city and of this woman.

5. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes












Juvenile/Young Adult:

1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds This one is probably my number 1 overall for the whole year! This book is just so amazing. The story and the way he tells it is so powerful. I will be buying a copy of this for myself and I'd like to buy several more to hand out to people. Oh my goodness! READ this one NOW!

Long Way Down


The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (The Penderwicks #1)













2. The Penderwicks: ASummer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall  This one is a happy pleasant story about a family living life and being happy. There isn't enough of that in the world.












3.Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein This one is a fun puzzle story! It makes you think and helps you love books more. I can't wait to share this with my kids.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (Mr. Lemoncello's Library #1)












4. The League of Seven by Alan Gratz Steampunk, alternative history, and superheros! This book has it all. This is another to share with my kids.
The League of Seven (The League of Seven, #1)


5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Gaiman is awesome and his books are awesome. This is no different. The setting of a graveyard could be creepy, but it isn't creepy at all. It actually seems homey.
The Graveyard Book












6. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen I have fallen in love with retelling of old stories. This one asks us what if Will Scarlet was a girl and a capable thief. She is a likable character in a really rough time. In 2018, I will probably get back to this series and see what happens next.
Scarlet (Scarlet, #1)











7. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro This one asks what if Sherlock and Watson had kids and a few generations later those kids find each other because someone out there wants to get rid of them. This book is a fun 'modern retelling' of Sherlock cases. I didn't like book 2 as much, but I will read book 3.
A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)



8. Splintered by A.G. Howard What if Alice from Wonderland had a family with a questionable mental state. Now Alyssa has to go back to Underland to try to help her mom and fix Underland. The rest of this series is on my TBR list on my audiobooks app. I loved the look at Underland, but some of the descriptions of the real people got annoying.
Splintered (Splintered, #1)


9. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill The history of this area is clouded and the people are suffering. Xan is trying to keep Luna safe, but Luna has a different destiny. I liked this one, but there is a lot of political stuff in it. I can see how some people wouldn't like that, but I liked it.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon

10 The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alendar I expected this to be a "kids ghost story." However, there was a twist to this ghost story that really made it stick with me. (And I'm a sucker for the ghost story where someone is uncovering family history and the history of a building, then ghosts happen and there is some good and some bad. At the end, the ghosts and people are happy.)

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall













Honorable Mention:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg I had to limit my choices, so I put this one down here. I liked what it taught me, but it got long in places.
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker This one asks you and kids, 'what if death is a gift?'. This draws in legends from many other places and then puts it into a Christian framework. I like that idea. I like the characters and the fact that some of them are flawed. I can't wait to see what is next!
The Day the Angels Fell

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson The verse is beautiful and tells the story in a different way. And it is a strong portrait of the author as well as the times in which she lived. It taught me as much as the other non-fiction books I read.
Brown Girl Dreaming