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Book Club: Go Set a Watchman

For the book I previously abandoned (#9), I chose Go Set a Watchman. I don’t have too much to say about this book because nothing really happens in the story. There’s a whole lot of slow build up for a relatively big argument between two characters and then the book is over. I should give the caveat that I never read To Kill a Mockingbird, and I acknowledge that this argument would have been a bigger deal to me if I had, but still. I had previously abandoned the book about five chapters from the end and was not really motivated to see how it ended if that gives you and frame of reference. Regardless, I can now say that I finished it and I know what all the fuss is about.

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Book Club

 

Book Club: Year of Yes

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes fills the “been meaning to read” category (#3 on the book challenge list). In fact, I went from planning to read this, to thinking I might skip it altogether, to devouring it in two days. I absolutely loved this book. Loved it. I know part of why I loved it is because I indulge in Shondaland. Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder are three of my favorite shows. My guilty pleasure in these shows is why I wanted to read the book. What I didn’t know or expect was how empowering and enlightening this book was going to be for me.

In this book Shonda talks about a year of her life in which she started to make more positive decisions for herself. She started saying “Yes” instead of “No.” In that, she shares some really important stories about feminism and equality as well as issues of self-worth and owning your own badassness. I’m really glad I got to read her words on these topics and think about how some of what she talked about applied to me.
Let me give you some context. As most of you know, I used to be a classroom teacher. I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was in gradeschool. I was good at teaching. It came naturally. As a result, I had a decent amount of teacher swagger. I was confident, innovative, and always looking for ways to get better. My desires to get better weren’t because of some doubt in myself or my abilities. It was because I really wanted to always improve. Similarly, that swagger and confidence didn’t come with an attitude of being the best teacher on the planet who couldn’t improve. I knew my strengths and weaknesses. I played to my strengths and looked to others to help with my weaknesses.
Then I went to grad school and slowly but surely, I lost my swagger and confidence in myself. It got to the point where if I was complimented, I almost immediately negated it. I looked at my weaknesses to define me and dismissed strengths as not good enough. I’ve come to think of myself as the weakest link in my program pretty much since I got here. I thought of everyone in my program as superior to me rather than my peers.
So, I’m really going to work on thinking of myself as a badass again. I have strengths. I can do things. I’m not terrible at what I do. Yes, there are people more skilled than me, but that doesn’t discount my skills or my ability to learn or my incredible work ethic. No, I’m not perfect, but I work hard and because of that hard work, I have accomplished a lot. These things are facts, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging them. In fact, denying them keeps me out of spaces I have worked hard to fill. No one is going to help me fill those spaces. It’s up to me to take them. I’m going to start saying “Yes” in some places I’ve been saying “No” for too long.
All of that introspection to say you should read Shonda’s book. It’s a great read about a really interesting woman.
 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in Book Club

 

Book Club: All the Light We Cannot See

This book fills #11 in the reading challenge–a book that intimidated me. For some reason, I’m not into period books during this season of my life. I remember reading plenty of them in years past, but I just haven’t really been drawn to them recently. As a result, even though EVERYONE was talking about this book last year, I had pretty much zero interest. I was sure it would depress me, I wouldn’t get into it, and I wouldn’t finish. For these reasons, I labeled it as “intimidating”.

So here are my quick thoughts. Like everyone said, it is BEAUTIFULLY written. The descriptions are poetic and simply delicious, for lack of a better word. The narrative is carefully crafted and interwoven over several years and characters but neatly connected at the end. Did it depress me at times? Certainly. It’s a book about war. Depressing is not a deep enough word for what war does to humanity. Did I get into it? Yes. Did I finish? Yes.

Did I think it was amazing? Not exactly. It’s the sort of book that you should relish in. You should enjoy the beautifully written descriptions and the careful themes that are brilliantly present through every chapter. For me, it was a bit slow. I didn’t want to indulge in these things that require indulging. My consumption of this book was sort of like wolfing down a $30 teeny tiny dessert at a fancy pants restaurant. One of those things you should take small bites of and relish and enjoy carefully, follow-up with a sip of coffee, and then carry on to the next. Instead, I was on a race to finish this book before my library rental came up. I knew that if that rental ended, and I had to wait to get the book again, I likely wouldn’t borrow it again and it would remain unfinished. I simply needed to know what happened to the characters, so I cheapened this beautiful book. I don’t regret it, but I acknowledge that I didn’t enjoy this one the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

All that said, I think a big part of why I did this was because it was a book that made my heart heavy, and at this point in my life, I really read to escape. This is not where I wanted to escape to. I don’t want to escape to the scary places, places where I’m fearful for my daughter. Places where I put her in the role of the vulnerable characters and desperately want to protect her. I want to escape to lighter, fluffier, and “safer” places, even if they are completely unrealistic.

Regardless of my own need to escape to a fantasy land where everything is safe and happy, this book really is very good. It’s as good as everyone says and certainly worth the read.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Book Club, Uncategorized

 

Guests

After the first month in our new house, we had at least one overnight guest for 15 nights. We also had two couples over for dinner. This was after the week of painting, ripping up carpet, laying laminate flooring, and general moving stuff. Needless to say, I’m exhausted and ready to figure out what our new normal looks like.

Despite that exhaustion, I’m extremely grateful for the sweet time I had with some amazing women who have all been in my life for at least 7 years.

First, my sweetest friend who has been here for every move. She missed actual moving day this year, but was instead here to help me make the house a home. Seriously, this girl pretty much single-handedly created my gallery wall, made cookies for my neighbors, and ran a bajillion errands with me. There are so many things I will look at in this house over the years and think fondly of this trip with her. She is such a servant, and loves my family oh so well. Oh, and there might have been matching Christmas pjs and lots of silliness as well.

 

Next, some dear women who are very close to my heart. I enjoy such sweet conversation with these two and was blessed that they came to me to celebrate a birthday and spend vacation time. We were old ladies and finished a puzzle, watched old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, and just had sweet Gospel conversations.

 

And finally, women who have been in my life for a good 20 years. Mentors and family, both literally and figuratively. These two taught me so much during my formative years. It was a “work” trip for my mother-in-love, but there was certainly fun and good conversation as well.

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Quality time and good conversation fills my soul. Although it was a lot of work to have this steady stream of house guests, it was good. I am blessed to have each of these women playing their own unique parts of my life. I’m thankful I got to see each one of them this Christmas.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Team Alzen!

 

Book Club: Redeeming Love

The first book I read for the 2016 reading challenge was Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. This book was suggested by my dearest friend, so fulfills number 6 on the challenge list.

The short summary of this book is that it’s a retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea during the Gold Rush era in California.

If you’re familiar with the story of Gomer and Hosea, which I am, and if you assume that Rivers was faithful to the basics of the story, which she was, you pretty much know what’s going to happen from the beginning.
My review is pretty simple. As an allegory for the love given from Christ to the church, this is a pretty great book, albeit kind of weird and cheesy at times. As a romance novel, it does all the things romance novels are intended to do, so I found it pretty awful. Ha! The main male character is totally unrealistic, which makes sense as a stand in for Christ, but problematic to me when thought of as a potential “real” person. Call me a cynical realist, but I’m not a fan of characters like Michael Hosea. Yeah yeah escapist literature and all that, I get it. I also think that some of the really unrealistic expectations women have for men come from books and characters like this. I know I’m raining on some parades here. Almost everyone I know who read the book loves it. As a friend pointed out, I’m just not really into “frilly” books.
All of that said, I will confess that I shed a tear at the redemption and pursuit that is described here, but it was in light of the redemption I have received from Christ and the way that He pursues me time and time again.
 
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Posted by on January 5, 2016 in Book Club, Uncategorized

 

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To Read

I set a goal of reading 20 books this year. Here are the books I have queued up so far:

  1. Redeeming Love–Francine Rivers. I technically started this book in 2015, but I won’t finish until 2016.
  2. Year of Yes–Shonda Rhimes. Because I love all of her shows, and I think she’s a great storyteller.
  3. All the Light We Cannot See–Anthony Doerr. The description of this book doesn’t do it for me, but all of my reading friends read it and gave it wonderful reviews.
  4. The Aeronaut’s Windlass–Jim Butcher. Because I haven’t read any fantasy in a while, and my fantasy-reading friends are excited about this one.

A friend also recently shared this reading challenge:

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I’m pretty stoked about this challenge.

  1. I rarely ever read books the year they come out, so this will be fun.
  2. Not sure what book I will read for this one. I read Annabelle books all the time that fit into this category, but I’m thinking more like a short little book for older people. Thoughts?
  3. Year of Yes fits into this category.
  4. Looking forward to talking to my local librarian to see what is suggested to me!
  5. There are SO MANY books I should have read in school but didn’t. Pretty much if you think I should I have read it, I probably haven’t. Possible considerations for this category include the following: Fahrenheit 451; 1984; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Night; The Bell Jar; The Catcher in the Rye; The Outsiders; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Note that this is definitely not an exhaustive list.  Just some ideas I’m considering.
  6. Looking forward to ask my spouse & BFF for recommendations for this category.
  7. Lots of options for this one. Several cross listed from #5 for sure.
  8. Looking forward to choosing this one. There’s a lot of overlap between this category and #5. Potential considerations include the following: Beloved’ Go Ask Alice; The Chocolate War; The Color Purple; Bless Me, Ultima; Lord of the Rings.
  9. Go Set a Watchman. I didn’t finish this before it was due back to the library and never requested it again.
  10. Anne of Green Gables. The movie is one of my absolute favorites, but I don’t recall ever actually reading the book. I remember my grandma giving me the boxed set as a girl, and I’m relatively certain I never made it through any of them.
  11. Will have to think on this. My first thought is Moby Dick, but I’m not reading that one. Ha!
  12. Will have to think on this as well. My immediate thoughts are Ender’s Game, The Screwtape Letters, Alice in Wonderland, or any (all?) of the Chronicles of Narnia. Haven’t read them since my first year teaching.
 
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Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Book Club, Uncategorized

 

Doing “Nothing” in 2016

I struggle to do nothing. I constantly need to be moving or generating ideas or doing “something”. I told my friend today that it was the last day of vacation, so I was just going to rest. Well, rest ended up meaning rearranging the furniture in my bedroom along with several other odds and ends after church. It’s pretty difficult for me to just sit and watch a TV show or a movie. I always feel like I should be doing something else like making my grocery list or folding laundry or putting toys away. It’s like productivity courses through my veins like an unstoppable force. This means two things: 1) I get a pretty good amount of stuff done and 2) I don’t rest well. I’m really trying to work on #2 this year. I need to stop more. I need to rest more. I need to be in the moment and enjoy others more. I need to ground myself in the Word more. Each day doesn’t have to start going 100 mph from 4-9. It’s ok if I start of slowly with a cup of tea and some Jesus. It’s ok if I end slowly with a TV show and some quiet down time. These are the things I’m going to tell myself more this year.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2016 in Housewifery, Team Alzen!

 

Whole 30: Day 2 Check-In

Well I’m exhausted. Although the vast majority of the meals I cook in our home are Whole 30 compliant, I typically cut corners like using store-bought mayo and BBQ sauce. More frequently than I would like, we throw cheese on a meal to make it tastier.

So to kick off this Whole 30, I made sure to have plenty of snacks on hand so it’s not as tempting to decide to fail. In addition to regular meals, I made mayonnaise, sausage coins, kale chips, and hard-boiled eggs yesterday. I think I cooked for about 4 hours. What made it exhausting is that my little munchkin decided she needed to be close to mama all day, so this happened.

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So I cooked for about 4 hours with a 20 pound backpack on. (Please ignore the lack of make-up or shower).

It’s the end of Day 2. I’m feeling tired, but good. I’ve noticed a desire to snack or find “fun” foods, but it’s definitely not too bad. A fun thing we’ve discovered is that Miss Annabelle really enjoys kale chips. Since she’s only had a few non-paleo meals in her life, this isn’t too bad for her. I keep a cooked sweet potato on hand just in case she isn’t a fan of a meal, but so far, she’s eaten at least a bit of each meal. I’m really hopeful that her food preferences that are currently in existence will follow her through life.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2016 in paleo, Uncategorized

 

Goals 2016

 

I’m not much of a new year’s resolution writer, but I enjoy the freshness of the new year. I like thinking about what habits I want to reinvigorate or what new routines to add to my life. This year is no different, but I have a graduated list. By this, I mean I don’t intend to get all of these up and running on January 1. That’s unrealistic and setting myself up for failure. Instead here is my list and planned time line.
1) Whole 30 (January 1st)

We generally follow a paleo lifestyle, but I’m excited to reset. We haven’t done a full and strict Whole 30 since summer of 2013. I’m part of a couple of Facebook groups this time around, and it’s a very different world from the first time we set out on this journey in 2009. It will be hard, but it will be good. Took my before pictures and measurements tonight, but I’ll go ahead and keep that to myself. lol

2) Bed by 9 on a regular basis (January 1st)

We’ve had several house guests which meant many late nights. My kid is up by 5. I need to prioritize sleep. I’m also going to try and renew my night routine which includes tea with a magnesium supplement, magahol spray on my legs, and orange glasses at least 30 minutes before the preferred bed time. The explanation behind all of that is for another day.

3) Bible reading on a regular basis (January 1st)
I was leading a small group up until Thanksgiving that was keeping me accountable to regular time in the Word. Since then the holidays, moving, and guests have derailed me. I miss my Jesus time. Not sure what this is going to look like quite yet, but I’m excited to be filling the pages of my journal again.
4) Dissertation five days a week (January 1st)

I need to touch this in some capacity each work day. Some days will be more than others, but each day nonetheless.
5) Blogging/journaling on a regular basis (January  1st)

I’ve already started this one. I’m hoping to keep up doing this at least once a week.
6) Water (February 1st)
I’ve been terrible about ensuring I get appropriate amounts of water consumed each day. I’m going to be intentional about this from the beginning, but won’t track it for a while.
7) Cleaning schedule (February 1st)

I have a schedule posted in my kitchen, but I’m not totally committed to it yet. I’ve been working up to the routine. I’m also working out the kinks of the plan I originally set for myself that I’ve already decided needs some tweaking.
8) Pleasure reading (February 1st)
I want to read at least 20 books for pleasure this year. That doesn’t seem like many, but I’m not sure I can make it. I am not the fastest reader and I don’t have a lot of free time for reading. This is less than two per month though, so I feel as though it’s doable. I’m looking forward to blogging my thoughts on at least some of them.
9) Regular exercise (February 1st)

I’m a strong believer in diet and sleep being in line before taking on exercise. When I figure those two out in January, I will start thinking about my plan for exercise in February. Childcare and finances are what’s killing me here. I’ll be doing a relatively easy 30 day challenge in January with a friend just to get my body moving each day, but I won’t be attempting to be a fire breather again until February.

10) Sending cards (March 1st)

I used to be in the habit of sending little cards and notes to people once a month or so and fell out of that practice. I want to bring it back.
11) Memorizing scripture (March 1st)
I want regular reading to be a solid habit before I take this up again. I put a “verse of the week” sign up in my new command center. I want to my use that as a tool to help me memorize more scripture again. That and husband also got me a bunch of post its in my stocking. I will use those to post the scripture in other places around the house as well.
12) Sewing/lettering/Crafting (March 1st)
I would like to get a good amount of time on this kind of stuff at least once a month, but with still trying to figure out routine, I’m not sure it will be a really regular thing for a little while yet.
 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Blogging, Moving, Team Alzen!

 

Parenting: Months 13-15

I love my kid. I love her desperately. I have experienced love, joy, and worry for another person different than any other emotion I felt before having a child. Watching her grow and learn and develop is fascinating and endearing. She is my heart, and I cherish her. I would be devastated if something tragic happened and we lost her.

But there are hard days. I’m not really a stay-at-home mom. I’m a work from home mom, and I have a PILE of work to be doing every single day. That’s work that I have to do to make money and work toward graduation. That doesn’t include keeping the house going, cooking the food, and trying to be a balanced person. I know I’m not special in this. All moms have a lot on their plates. All moms struggle to get it all done. This is not a competition. I’m not trying to prove I have more to do than any other mom. I’m just saying it’s hard. There are days when I wish my kid didn’t need me so much. I have shed tears wishing for the ease of my life before my child, and then I have felt guilt for wishing those wishes.

Being a mom is a daily opportunity to become a better or a worse version of myself. I’m thankful for the opportunity to love more deeply than I ever had and to be molded in ways that were not possible before she was in our lives. And if I’m very real with you right now, I’ll be really excited when I get to consistently sleep past 5:30 again…whenever that may be.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in parenting, Uncategorized