Thursday, December 8, 2011

God Sent His Only Son

I had anticipated enjoying some devotions this month specifically focused on Advent. I always looked forward to our Advent family devotions as a kid. But alas, December started, and I never quite got my act together. So, instead, I've continued on in my reading of John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 Reasons Why He Came to Die. Now, I realize that might not sound like Christmas-focused reading. But, truly the reason that Jesus was born, was so He could die to save us.

In my reading this week, I read the following passage and was silenced into thought:

What then does it mean that because of Christ's death for us God will certainly with him graciously give us "all things"....
It's the same as the other Biblical promise, "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). This promise is clarified in the preceding words: "In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13).
It says we can do "all things" through Christ. But notice "all things" includes "hungering" and "needing." God will meet every real need including the ability to rejoice in suffering when many felt needs do not get met. God will meet every real need, including the need for grace to hunger when the felt need for food is not met. The suffering and death of Christ guarantee that God will give us all things that we need to do his will and to give him glory and to attain everlasting joy.

I'm not entirely sure why, but The Lord's Prayer has been often in my mind lately. In particular the petition Give us this day our daily bread. In our culture of abundance, we don't often think about daily bread. But, I believe that our daily bread goes beyond just physical food. Sometimes I think of daily bread as energy and patience and other qualities I need for each day. I don't know if that's right or not. But, knowing that God supplies what we need each day physically, mentally, emotionally is a comfort to me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

November Reading

November fell short in the reading department. I never got a great rhythm going and most of the books I read were filled with highly dysfunctional families and adultery. I always find that a bit of a downer. In addition to my completed reading list, I read partway through a couple Christian growth books. And I finally started (after nearly the entire year has passed by!) tackling my goal of reading a Russian novel this year. So, I'm about a quarter of the way through The Brothers Karamazov and hoping I will finish by the end of December.

Loving Frank is the story of Frank Lloyd Wright's years long affair with a married woman. They were both from Chicago, where Wright had designed a home for Mayma Cheney and her husband. It was a tragic story filled with desertion, betrayal, and so much selfishness! The story is based on fact, though I don't know how much liberty the author took. After I finished the book I thought to myself, Should I pass this book on to anyone? While it is an interesting, well-written story, I just decided it's not a story that I wanted to pass around. So, into donation it went.

White Truffles in Winter is the story of a famous French chef Auguste Escoffier, who apparently was very influential in the creation of restaurant dining as we know it today. He and his wife lived apart for the majority of his career. And throughout many of those years, he and Sarah Bernhardt were lovers (according to the book, she had scads of them). Food is an ever-present focus. Particularly as portions of the story follow the remaining days in the life of the chef and his wife as they wither from illness and old age. Their memories spark with remembrances of foods and meals that sparkle in their twilight. Again, this story is based in fact.

A Reliable Wife is the story of a woman who answered an ad to become the wife of a businessman in rural turn-of-the-century Wisconsin. Nothing and no one is quite as it seems as there are so many deceptions from every character. I picked up the book because I've always been a bit fascinated by mail-order brides. And I found the book somewhat hard to put down, mostly because it was like watching a train-wreck and I wondered which character was going to meet their fate in the end because it could have easily been any one of the three main characters.

The Family Fang is the story of Annie and Buster, the grown children of performance artists. As children, Annie and Buster were used as "props" in their parents weird displays of performance art (which essentially involved creating scenes of chaos in public places and observing the results). Needless to say, these two grow-up in a rather dysfunctional home and find themselves as struggling adults, who both end up back at their parents house trying to sort through layers of confusion, which is made more difficult when their parents go missing.

Found and Sent were probably my favorite books of the month. (Even though I read them for work.) They are the first two books in a science-fiction series for kids. The gist of the story is that a plane full of babies appeared from nowhere one fall day at an airport; the government got involved; once the babies were taken off, the plane simply disappeared; those who witnessed the bizarre impossible pretended like nothing happened. All the babies were adopted into families. And 13 years later, the kids start receiving mysterious letters saying, "You are one of the missing." and "Beware! They are coming to get you."

November Reading List:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelly
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix (work)
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix (work)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. I love the tables heavy with food and surrounded by family. I love a day specifically set aside to pause and remember the year's joys and challenges, to reflect on the many ways that God is always there each step of the way. And I love that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season.

This year Jeremy and I are celebrating the day alone. Work schedules got in the way of travel. Spending this holiday as a quiet two-some is strange for me. But still, I am thankful. Today we sit across the table from each other, our plates full of turkey and mashed potatoes and we recognize that we are blessed abundantly.At the end of yoga class last Monday evening, my instructor read the following poem, which has stuck with me throughout this week as I mentally and physically planned and prepared for our small Thanksgiving celebration.

Be Thankful
(author unknown)

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made the effort.

It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

From my house to yours, I wish you a most happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

September & October Reading List

For some reason I just haven't sat down long enough to write up my reading post for the last two months. I did complete two more of my reading goals. On Writing was my book on, you guessed it, writing! And Persepolis was my graphic novel for the year.

September brought with it a vacation and therefore some light-reading novels, because who wants heavy reading on vacation? :) And I read my last un-read Jasper Fforde book in September. So, now I'll just have to wait until he writes more. I wish I could spread a love of Fforde. Not many people seem to read his books. I am always taken with his wit and irony. He is just so funny! But, I'm certain he wouldn't be every one's cup of tea, so I'll just appreciate how much I can enjoy his books and the smile that the stories inevitably bring to my face.

October I felt like I was in a bit of a reading slump because I'd just read a fascinatingly unique book and everything else seemed to pale in comparison (review in just a moment). But, I did appreciate the humor and advice of Stephen King's On Writing. I imagine I'll pick that book up again someday.

So, what book put me into a bit of a reading slump? That would be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Initially my interest was piqued by the upcoming publication of this debut novel because Morgenstern was being compared to J.K. Rowling. I am an unabashed Harry Potter fan. I've read all the books twice and I've seen all the movies at least once (for the last 4 movies, I've made Jeremy go to the theater with me...he hasn't minded too much!). I miss the anticipation of opening a new Harry Potter book and experiencing the adventure for the first time (though I have to say that the series re-reads quite well). Somehow, my sweet husband, scored an Advanced Reader Copy of The Night Circus for me and away I went into another world, turning the pages, completely absorbed.

Was Morgenstern like Rowling? I don't know if I'd have made the connection if it wasn't made for me. Both authors do create magical worlds that exist within the non-magical world. And there are magicians and training of magicians (though nothing like Hogwarts; the training here is more akin to homeschooling). But, overall, the stories are very different. And Morgenstern's book is not a children's story, or a story that would ultimately appeal to children.

This book is very dreamlike to read. Morgenstern moves through time (spanning around 25 years), as well as location. And, at times this was a little confusing. But, her theme of a night circus and dreaming was certainly accentuated by this method.

After all that preliminary information, I'll give you just a little taste of the story, although I've found trying to summarize the book to be quite challenging; it almost defies explanation. Marco and Celia, though they don't know each other, are both groomed from a young age to become powerful magicians for the express purpose of participating in a game, a dual of sorts, at least that's what they understand. Their instructors give them tidbits along the way, these morsels of information start to form the puzzle of their existence. The night circus, that appears without warning and is only open at night, becomes the playing field for these talented, imaginative magicians as their lives unfold for others to experience.

That's all I will tell you. If you want to know more, you'll have to read it yourself.

When I turned the last page of this mysterious dreamlike book, I felt the urge to start back at the beginning.

(A brief suggestion, if you decide to read this, don't listen to it on audio. A co-worker did that and found the moving chronology confusing to follow. Also, I'm very aware that this book won't appeal to everyone, maybe even most people, I'm not sure. It was just such a memorable, interesting read, that I felt I must share.)

Okay, I'm done gabbing. Here are my completed reading lists.

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
After the Party by Lisa Jewell
The Fourth Bear by Jaspter Fforde
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott
On Writing by Stephen King
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (for work)
The Throne of Fires by Rick Riordan (for work)
Misfortune by Wesley Stace
Start Something That Matters by Blake MyCoskie
Persepolis by Marjam Sartrapi (graphic novel)
Frugavore by Arbella Forge

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas Spirit

Halloween found me dressing-up this year. I can't say I was terribly pleased with the idea, but when your boss says dress-up, well you kind of have to dress-up.

I pondered for days trying to dream up a "good" costume. I don't own anything costumey and I didn't want to spend a lot of money. Also, because I wasn't too enamored with the whole dress-up idea, I wanted my costume to be humorous, not your typical, run-of-the-mill costume. I finally settled on concocting a stereotypical spinster, librarian costume (since I'm a librarian, you know). However, when my sisters were up visiting over the weekend, we stopped in at Target and there in the dollar section was my inspiration--a remarkably hideous, red felt covered headband with five green felt Christmas trees standing up from it (not unlike the Statue of Liberty style headpiece). A pair of socks, a t-shirt, and a felt Christmas tree pail later, I was ready to construct The Spirit of Christmas.

My co-workers aren't particularly filled with a sense of humor and the creative humorousness of my costume seemed largely lost on most of them; however, I did get a few comments from patrons, including a 10-year-old boy telling me he liked my costume, a guy effusively telling me "awesome costume", and a woman asking me where I'd bought my Santa t-shirt. So, all in all, I'd say it was a pretty good costume.

In the spirit of sharing, I'll leave you with these two photos of me modeling my Christmas Spirit, complete with a crazed Christmas Spirit smile. (If you can't tell, the back of my t-shirt says BELIEVE and beneath that is the smiling face of Santa. Socks became handmits and a deconstructed, felt Christmas pail became leg patches, both thanks to my sister Margaret's handicraft spirit.)

The creation of this costume even put me in the Christmas spirit. All week I've been wanting to listen to Christmas music. And I've been brainstorming Christmas gift ideas. Are you in the Christmas spirit?!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Popping Back In

October passed by quite rapidly. My weekends were filled with either work or company. We don't get many visitors in our neck of the woods, but October brought with it three family visits as well as a visit with college friends. The busyness was a nice change of pace from our usual schedule.

November's arrived and with it low-gray skies that whisper of our fast approaching winter. From everything I've heard, it's going to be a fierce winter--cold and snowy. I have to admit I'm always captivated by the first snow and I do love a white Christmas, but by the end of January, I'm ready for spring green to make her appearance once again. But of course, I live in the Midwest and that just doesn't happen.

I realize I've been rather quiet in the blogging world of late. I want to be more consistent, we'll see if November provides blog fodder. At the very least, stay tuned for a September/October reading list complete with a brief review of a fascinating new novel, as well as some snazzy photos of my impression of the Spirit of Christmas. Now doesn't that sound intriguing?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

When I wake up tomorrow morning I will no longer be in my 20s. The approach of another decade has weighed on me throughout this year. And while October is my favorite month, the beauty of it's been a bit skewed this year as I emotionally adjust. This morning Jeremy prayed that I would learn to be comfortable with me age. I know that I will, but for a just a little while I'm going to mourn the passing of my 20s.

I look at my life and feel like I've let myself down because I haven't accomplished enough of anything to count for how many years I've lived. I suppose this isn't really true because accomplishments can be very quiet and unassuming, but it is difficult for me not to compare myself to all those around me and fear that I am falling short.

This past week's been frustrating at work because of little things. Last Wednesday a 9-year-old girl asked me what was wrong with my cheek. I am daily frustrated and embarrassed by the fact that at my age I still struggle with acne. The nature of it has changed and it has definitely improved, but still it is there. Always. I've taken the approach of trying to pretend to myself that others don't see it. But then a kid comes along and essentially points a finger at my face and says, "That's ugly. What's the problem with you?" Now, in truth this girl just asked me like three times what was wrong with my cheek and after vaguely trying to answer, getting more embarrassed and the girl just not getting it, I finally looked at her and said, "It's really not polite to keep asking." But, oh to be reminded of my imperfections!

Then yesterday afternoon when I got to work I was greeted by a co-worker with a reprimand, this co-worker is in no way my superior. She is someone I struggle with and one of a few women at work that seem to relish pointing out others faults. The conversation went something like this:
Co-worker, "Hi. How are you?"
Me, "Oh fine. How about you?"
CW, "It's been quite the morning." (This is all said in a chipper voice with a smile on her face.)
Me, "Bad?"
CW, "Yes. On Thursday night you ran the wrong tape from the cash register and that totally screwed up today. So, you really need to watch out for that."
Me...completely taken aback, I remain silent. I've worked at this job for two and a half years and I've never run the cash register tape incorrectly. I'm not denying the fact that I made the mistake, but I did not need a talking to.
CW continues, "But, other than that the day's been fine."
Me...mentally sighing and taking a deep breath. After my co-worker left for lunch I happened to glance at the cash register and there next to the key position for running the correct register tape at the end of the night is a teeny-tiny blue square of tape. As if, after this long I have suddenly become an idiot and don't know how to close out the cash register. This sort of encounter is very difficult for me to deal with. I 100% know that I make mistakes, but I am intelligent and the work I do at the library doesn't take a whole lot of intelligence but some of the women there make such a big deal out of minor little thing. I really have to hold my tongue.

But back to turning 30. I guess I need to embrace whatever comes next and try to fill my life and time with positive living. Back in August as I realized how close the end of my 20s truly was, I set out to make some positive changes to my daily schedule. I now get up by 5:30 a.m. (on my early work days, a bit later for my other days) and do 20-30 minutes of yoga and my daily devotions before Jeremy gets up and I prepare breakfast. I'd originally hoped to add some writing time in there as well, but so far my brain isn't alert enough to do that. However, this small change has made a big difference in the way I approach my day. And it's reminded me to stay more calm throughout the day as I interact with co-workers, argue with patrons about fines, and try not to be embarrassed by kiddos. (An aside, really, it's not all bad. There are just phases.)

I've rambled on long enough about all of this. If you've read this far, well, thanks for listening. :) Tomorrow I start to learn to embrace a new decade of life that will include my many imperfections, as well as my daily attempts at positive living.

Here's to the beauty of October--a month that I'm happy I was born in--and another year of life with God daily directing my path!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

August Reading

My August books were largely forgettable (perhaps that was my fault for picking so many memoirs) but I enjoyed them while reading. Of course, Anne of the Island didn't disappoint.

I did copy down a few quotes from the most thought provoking book I read this month by Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. What pleased me about this slim volume was the author's opinion that reading should be enjoyable and not just based off of a list. Sometimes I feel guilty about the "frivolous," but just plain enjoyable books I read, while so many others are embarking on massive reading lists largely comprised of classic titles. I wonder if I'm wasting my time and my brain. While I truly enjoy reading classics, I don't care to read them only. I believe wholeheartedly that there are worthwhile books that have been written in my lifetime and I want to read a variety. So, as Jacobs exhorts, I read at whim. And while reading from The Best of...lists might strike your fancy, I'd also like to suggest that you pick a few books up merely to read at whim.

Quotations from The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction:

Read what gives you delight--at least most of the time--and do so without shame.

So the books are waiting. Of this you may be confident: they'll be ready when the whim strikes you.

The existence of the text is a silent existence, silent until the moment in which a reader reads it. Only when the able eye makes contact with the markings on the tablet does the text come to active life. All writing depends on the generosity of the reader. (Alberto Manguel)

Our goal as adults is not to love all books alike, or as few as possible, but rather to love as widely and as well as our limited selves will allow.

Completed August Reading List:

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman
Yoga Bitch by Suzanna Morrison
29 Gifts by Cami Walker

Read for Work:
The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseodonymous Bosch
How to Be a Pirate by Cressida Cowel
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowel

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Nephews

My awesome, funny nephews.

Three readerly brothers...

and one little, smiley guy, still figuring out the reading thing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Family

I want to show some family photo love...

My Parents

My Siblings

Technically there are lots more amazing people in the family now, but way back when, it was "just" the nine of us. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Some things that have made me smile...

Isn't this bowl of cherry tomatoes beautiful?

For over a year I've been looking for a cabinet or shelf to fit in a narrow space next to my stove--I found this vintage cabinet at the thrift store for $10 and it fits perfectly! Hurray for more storage space.

Although I didn't really need a new purse, I scored this awesome green one for under $4 at the thrift store! I was pretty excited, as I recently passed up a purse at Kohl's I really liked because I couldn't justify spending $15 on myself.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Reading

July was a light reading month. I can't pin-point why, but I just didn't get through much in general, or much of great consequence. I re-read The Book Thief, which is a marvelous book and well worth reading at least once. And I listened to Anne of Avonlea. (I'm hoping to work my way through the series throughout the rest of this year.)

In place of a brief book review, I want to give you two quotes from my reading this month. Beautifully written sentences make me happy.

My few English words were blades of grass plucked from a meadow. To learn a new language would be like mowing that meadow blade by blade. (from When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt)

She felt the stirring of creative impulse, but didn't act on it right away; she must coax it from its hiding place, like a fox from its den. (from The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri)

My Completed List:

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
Anne of Avonlea
by L.M. Montgomery (audio)
The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A conversation at 6:20 a.m.

Me: We need to order a new filter for this. (referring to sink filtration system)

Jeremy: We need to send you back to school.

Me: Why?

Jeremy: Because you have a good mind.

Me: What does that have to do with the water filter?

Jeremy: I don't know. I just thought about it.

Obviously we don't always communicate clearly, especially over breakfast early in the morning. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Many Happy Returns!

This past weekend was all about celebrating the life of this guy! (By the way, those dimples make me a little weak in the knees!)

Friday afternoon was a theater visit to see Captain America.

Saturday evening was supper at a Mediterranean restaurant (mmm, falafels!).

Sunday afternoon was gifts, chocolate tweed pie, and a solo rendition of Happy Birthday.

I am so thankful for my husband! Happy Birthday, Jeremy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Pie Time!

It's summer and it's hot! I want salads and grilled meats for supper. And for dessert? Summer fruit pies.

So far this July I've made a strawberry pie, a sweet cherry pie, and a peach-blueberry pie. The peach was definitely my favorite. I'm hoping to make a blueberry pie before too long. And likely another peach pie. I have two disks of pie dough in the freezer waiting for my next pie baking venture.
Lest you think that Jeremy and I are gorging ourselves on pie, well, we're not. I found a 6-inch pie pan at the thrift store and it makes a beautiful little pie, just right for two people.

What's your favorite flavor of pie?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First Harvest

I harvested my first zucchini from the garden! While watering the other day, I looked down and there was a full-grown zucchini. I'm sure I didn't see it the day before. :)

I'm loving fresh herbs from my garden, but I'm looking forward to more zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll enjoy a good harvest. Unfortunately we won't be enjoying any fresh green beans, as some rabbits helped themselves to the plants. Oh well, that's a row I can devote to some spinach and lettuce this fall.

How are your gardens coming along?

Monday, July 18, 2011


I am of the opinion that I have some of the cutest nephews around! They are a rowdy bunch, but full of fun and really just plain funny guys. I'm fairly certain that Max is just waiting to grow up to join in the activity.

I somehow didn't get any pictures of Calvin and Patrick on our recent camping expedition, but here's one of Titus modeling his new bike helmet. And one of Max snoozing away in Papa's arms. Aren't they adorable?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Can Draw Stick People

Do you know something I love about my husband? His artistic ability. These skills don't get exercised as regularly as I'd like to see. But every time he sits down to sketch or doodle, I'm impressed.

Back in the day when we were dating and he was "putting some moves on", he wooed me with little drawings, notes with sketches, and even once a watercolor. As our relationship progressed and then turned into marriage, well the doodle love notes diminished. (Kind of just the way it goes, isn't it?) :)

So, last night when I finally got home after being gone for nearly 12 hours, I was surprised by an envelope left at the door for me. A love-note sketch accompanied by a mixed CD. Jeremy was gone at an appointment, leaving me alone to soak in my gift. I popped in the CD, sat in our big comfy chair and read my note. Tears pooled in the corner of my eyes, a few trailing down my cheeks. I felt so loved.

I am always impressed that even in Jeremy's quick sketches, he conveys so much detail. I wish I could give you a glimpse of his talent, but we don't have a scanner. So, you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that my husband is artistically talented.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Three years ago I camped with my family, one final time before I got married that fall.
Two years ago Jeremy and I camped with my sister and brother-in-law.
One and a half years ago Jeremy and I attempted a fall camping trip alone.

I love to camp, but after our ill-fated camping trip (unseasonable cold+majorly damp wood=ridiculously cold and no fun), I had little desire to try again.

This past weekend I joined my whole family for what might just become an annual excursion. We spent three days relaxing, eating, talking, eating, playing games, eating, and generally enjoying the out of doors. I was able to bring along my bike, which was fortunate, as the closest toilet was at least an 1/8 of a mile away. The bike got some good use. :)

If you do the math, we had three campsites, three dining canopies covering three picnic tables, seven tents, four kids, 13 adults, 17 chairs, one cot, one tricycle, two munchkin-size bikes, and five regular-size bikes.

As you can imagine it was a busy and very happy place to be over the 4th of July weekend!
(Sadly I don't have pictures to show, but I know the memories will last.)

I like this quote...

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