Planet RMFO Blog

January 26, 2015

Karibeth

what I have been reading (end of January edition).

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins, featuring stories by Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman, Matt de la Pena, and others (I purchased a copy)

At YALLfest, I saw a panel discussion on this book of holiday short stories and it sounded so fun. There are Christmas and New Year’s stories as well as a couple of Hanukkah stories. I didn’t get around to reading it during Christmas, but I decided to read it in January rather than waiting. It’s really great. Of course I liked some of the stories more than others, but there weren’t any I didn’t like. They all had something to recommend them. This is a nice addition to a YA collection or a fun gift for a fan of these authors. My only complaint is that I wish there were more African-American authors and characters in the collection. There was diversity in many other ways, so I missed that particular aspect. Other than that, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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Young Money by Kevin Roose (via the public library)

Roose’s book The Unlikely Disciple was one of my favorites from last year, so I decided to give his newer book a try (it came out in 2014). It follows eight new hires to Wall Street and tries to explain what they do and what their lives are like. They are all working in the post-crash, post-bail out Wall Street, so their experiences were somewhat less decadent than they would have been a decade earlier. The new hires all had a certain amount of ambivalence about their work which makes sense, because these are the people who agreed to talk to him. He attended/snuck into other events in order to get the perspective of someone who had completely bought in to the idea of Wall Street. I came away from this book feeling more than ever that the world of Wall Street is nothing I would ever want to be involved with. Roose did a good job explaining enough of their work that I understood what they were doing without giving so much detail that I felt that the story bogged down. A great read about a topic I didn’t even think I would be interested in. As before, Roose is an incredibly warm and likeable guide through this world.

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile (via NetGalley)

Charley’s father left her a sugar cane farm in Lousiana. Needing a new start for herself and her daughter, she moved there from California to live with her grandmother, Miss Honey, and try working the farm. I found Charley’s voice and her struggles to learn about sugar cane to be enjoyable reads and I wanted to follow along. My only problem was that 25%-30% of the book is narrated by Charley’s half-brother Ralph Angel and he is a difficult fellow to like or to sympathize with. A drug addict and a thief, I felt like I could see where his story was going and I just wanted to skip to the parts with Charley. Even the attempts to humanize him did not do a lot for me. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit despite Ralph Angel and would recommend it as a good summer read or a book club choice. Just get through those Ralph Angel parts as quickly as you can.

The Divine Magician by Peter Rollins (via NetGalley)

This book uses the idea of magic tricks/illusions to question what it is that we are putting our faith in – is it God or is it religion? I like Rollins but I did find the first part of this to be dense. I loved the discussion of new ways to view the story of the Prodigal Son (as a failure to upend the system since everything returns to the status quo) and I think that part of the book will stick with me the most.

Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants by Ruwen Ogien (via NetGalley)

It doesn’t sound like it from the title, but this is a book about ethics. I have not done a lot of reading on ethics, but this seemed like a good introduction and overview. It presented some situations I had heard before, but also went into more depth as it encouraged thoughtful living. Recommended as an accessible introduction to the topic.

Some of these books were provided by the publisher. As always, my opinions are my own.

by Kari at January 26, 2015 04:07 PM

Brandy

Butternut Squash Lasagna

So, this felt like a good time to give you a recipe that you can serve on a real plate :)

First, I should clarify. I’m not a low-carb fiend that would throw myself on top of a plate of pasta like it’s a live bomb. All things in moderation. Plus, pasta sauce is really hard to get out of clothes.

So, sure, I eat pasta. But to me, pasta is a vehicle for sauce. So, subbing out noodles for something else is something I’ve definitely been experimenting with. If I can save some calories by using zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash, it gives me more calories for a really hearty sauce. Or, a glass of wine. Depending on the day.

But hear me out. I don’t do substitutions that taste like substitutions. I’m not going to punish myself by eating thin sheets of cardboard because they’re low-cal.

And that is why I’m so stinking excited to share this recipe with you. My friend Sarah shared it with me, and I can’t even get my mind around how good it is. And easy. And freezes super well.

Really, all you do is super thinly slice butternut squash. Preferably with a mandolin.*

Look. It's a terrible picture. But it is SO GOOD I cannot be bothered with photography.

Look. It’s a terrible picture. But it is SO GOOD I cannot be bothered with photography.

Put down a layer of thinly sliced butternut squash (uncooked). And then you put down a layer of the yummy meat sauce you made. You can obviously use your own recipe, but be aggressive with the seasoning and thickness. It needs to be able to hold up well to slicing, and the seasoning needs to balance out the sweetness of the squash.

Then, a layer of mozzarella. I use part-skim mozzarella, because I think it tastes good. I also don’t use ricotta. I hate ricotta with a passion. It tastes like licking a sweaty gym sock. Seriously. It’s gross. But you know, to each his own.

Another layer of squash. Another layer of sauce. Then you bake it covered for 30 minutes. Uncover, add the last layer of cheese, and bake for another 15.

From your oven, you pull out a thing of beauty. Golden brown cheese. Hearty, delicious meat sauce. Slightly sweet squash that has just a tiny bit of bite.

It’s so good, guys. And keep in mind, you can just modify your favorite lasagna recipe, with your favorite sauce and favorite cheese mixture, and just swap out the noodles for the squash. But I’ll include my recipe just so you have it. I’m also including the nutrition information, for those who are interested. If you’re not, feel free to ignore it :)

 

Butternut Squash Lasagna (8 servings)

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small butternut squash, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 onion, diced (around 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz tomato paste
15 oz tomato sauce
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 lb part-skim mozzarella, shredded
DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400’.
2. Spray pan with nonstick spray (I use coconut oil) and heat over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent, then add ground beef and garlic until browned and juice is evaporated.
3. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce and spices. Let simmer over medium heat while you slice your squash.
4. Layer in 9×13 pan – half the squash, half the sauce mixture, half the cheese. Then repeat–the rest of the squash, the rest of the sauce (but hold the cheese!)
5. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.
6. Take off the foil, add final layer of cheese, and bake an additional 15 minutes.
8. Let sit 15 minutes. If you can. This is the hardest part of the entire recipe.

 

If you want to freeze it, just assemble the entire dish, including both layers of cheese. Cover and freeze, uncooked. Then you can either thaw it before baking, or cook from frozen at 400 degrees for one hour, covered, and an additional 15 minutes uncovered.  Since I’m just eating for one, I will often make two small pans, freezing one of them.

Nutrition for 1/8 recipe:
Calories: 300
Total Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 69 mg
Sodium: 641 mg
Potassium: 1500 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 17 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Sugars: 10 g
Protein: 27 g

*I know, mandolin’s are deadly (says the girl who once sliced her thumb open on a knife at William’s Sonoma and still has no feeling in said thumb). So, use with caution. Mine came with a handy-dandy glove. It is the most genius thing ever. It just occurred to me I should carry it in my purse, and if a crazy-knife welding person came after me, I could put on my glove to protect myself. But only my hand. Maybe I didn’t think this one through completely.



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by Brandy at January 26, 2015 03:47 PM

No More Bikini Body!

It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was trying to will myself to hold a plank for 10 more seconds. My arms shook and drops of sweat made jagged circles on my yoga mat.*

From the screen in front of me a chiseled blond spoke chipper words of encouragement while I grumbled expletives under my breath.

And then she said it.

“You’ll have that bikini body before you know it.”

I dropped to my knees into child pose…the best pose for the temper tantrum I was about to throw.

No. No no no no no no. NO!

Yellow Polka Dot BikiniWhat is with this obsession with the bikini body? With this perverse view of perfection that is all about tan and taunt skin, with no space for stretch marks or scars. Bikini body is not about health—it is about jutting hip bones and waxing and perky breasts.

Well guess what? I will never have a bikini body.

I don’t tan, I burn.

Years of being overweight have left me with sags and stripes.

I have lost 80 pounds, and I am proud of that. Or, I should be proud of it. But a bikini will not make me feel strong and proud. It will make me feel exposed and embarrassed.

Hear me out. There is nothing wrong with wearing a bikini.

But here is my foundational issue with the term “bikini body.”

It is the implication that I should look good for the enjoyment of others. After a cursory glance at the mirror in the bathroom to make sure the girls are covered and the sunhat is firmly in place, I won’t see myself or my bathing suit-clad body again until I am back in the bathroom showering off the salt and sand.

A bikini body is solely for the benefit of those looking at me.

So did I just get healthy and lean and strong for the enjoyment of others?

Heck. No.

I did it so I can play with my friends’ kids, and maybe one day kids of my own, without getting out of breath.

I did it so I can go on hikes where I gasp, not because I’m overweight but because the view spread out before me is breathtaking.

I did it because I believe I am worth filling my body with good things, not garbage.

I did it so I can look in the mirror and feel good about the person looking back. Not because she looks good in a two-piece. But because she is healthy and happy.

So no, I don’t want a bikini body. I want a body that I’m comfortable in. Even if that means I wear a one-piece. With a little skirt. That shows off my pasty legs.

I just want the best version of Brandy’s body. Stretch marks and scars and all.

*Side note…community yoga mats are gross. I use them, because I don’t like schlepping my mat back and forth between home and the workout room at work. But seriously. Gross. When I look at the wipe after cleaning the mat, I literally gag. Anyway, back to the story.

 



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by Brandy at January 26, 2015 03:45 PM

Buy the Red Pants

I was browsing the clearance section at my local Kohl’s a few years ago. My fingers flipped nimbly by the smalls, mediums and larges, only pausing when I got to the hangers marked XL.*

On another rack I quickly moved past the cute single digits and plunged well into the double digits. Almost out of the teens, but not quite.

And buried there among the elastic-waisted, polyester pants that make up plus-size purgatory, I found a pair of red pants. Apple red. Skinny legged. I looked at the tag. They were my size—18.

But. Fat girls don’t wear red pants.

Do they?

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

Red pants scream “look at me!” And I had spent my entire life hiding me. Wearing flowy tops that concealed my stomach. Wide-legged jeans that hid my thighs. I had 30 cardigans, because cardigans covered a multitude of sins.

My wardrobe was the color of a rainy day in the city—browns and blacks and grays.

But those red pants. I couldn’t put them down. I walked around the store with them for 20 minutes, shaking my head at the absurdity of it.

Yet, I bought them. I took them home and wedged them in my closet. For weeks I would pull them out, try them on, but I couldn’t bring myself to walk out of the door with them.

Until I did.

I don’t want to overstate the significance of those red pants. But I think they were an important milestone on the journey. I bought them before I had lost a single pound. I bought them when I was at the heaviest I had been.

I bought them in a size that made me uncomfortable and sad.

But I think, in part, I bought them because I knew something needed to change.

And maybe I finally believed I had the strength to change it.

 

If you get nothing else from this post, get this. Buy the red pants.

Or the leopard print skirt. Or the cute heels or the giant belt buckle or the awesome tie. Buy the thing that won’t let you hide. The thing that makes you feel crazy and sexy and strong.

Buy the thing you love, and love yourself while you wear it.

Wearing the things you hate will never prompt you to take care of yourself.

Hiding will not help you embrace yourself.

 

Today, I wore a different pair of red pants. The size was smaller. And maybe I wore them with more confidence. But they reminded me of that old pair that I took to a consignment store a few months ago. I hope that someone stumbles upon them and pauses. I hope they will stop saying “I’ll wear red pants when I’m skinny.”

I hope they buy the red pants.

*An acronym, by the way, that has never made sense to me. Why an “X”? The word “extra” starts with an “E” for goodness’ sake. The X always felt like a banishment of sorts. But I digress.



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by Brandy at January 26, 2015 03:44 PM

January 25, 2015

Karibeth

a poem for sunday.

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As ideas about words and images have been debated over the past weeks, I have wondered what it is that I find to be disrespectful in the extreme. What is out of bounds or an affront to God? What will I teach Atticus about these things? As I was thinking about it, I clicked on the transcript of Jeff Chu’s keynote at the GCN conference and found this poem.

“Compassion” by Miller Williams

Have compassion for everyone you meet
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.

In my own life, the ways that I am sharp-clawed and desperate come most often from feeling misunderstood, unappreciated, and unseen. When someone takes the time to see and hear my story or to offer a kind word, I feel human again.

That’s what we hope to convey to Atticus, the importance of seeing the humanity of the people in front of him, that everyone carries, along with their worries and fears and hopes and dreams, the image of God. I need some practice at this myself.

by Kari at January 25, 2015 10:28 PM

January 20, 2015

Jeff H.

My Favorite Music of 2014

Now that the year has wrapped up, it’s time to figure out my favorite music of 2014. It’s impossible to talk about music in 2014 without talking about Taylor Swift’s 1989. The album dominated sales for the year and it some ways it reminds me of the year Adele dominated the music scene with 21. Much like there is no shame in an old guy like me listening to 21, I don’t think there should be any shame in listening to 1989. That being said, while it is audio candy, it misses the list. The album style fits the title perfectly, I feel like I could have been listening to “Style” on my car radio on Power 99 in my Plymouth Horizon. However, it’s not lyrically very interesting to me, and maybe it shouldn’t be because I’m not a girl in my teens/twenties. Much of the album sounds defeatist, the relationship is going to end poorly before it even begins. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist in my romance. So, great sounding album and very much hummable, but not on the list.

On to the list…

Kye Kye – Fantasize
A terrific sophomore effect that is simply hypnotic in sound. Paper Route’s Chad Howat has done an incredible production job on an album that excites and soothes.

The Choir – Shadow Weaver
I have really enjoyed the recent increase in activity by The Choir in the last five years and each album that they have released since Burning Like The Midnight Sun has been better than the album before it. This is the noisiest one with lots of Marc Byrd’s influence. Steve Hindalong’s lyrics are as quirky and creative as ever, no one does a turn of phrase like he does.

Jeremy Casella – Death In Reverse
Casella has near-singlehandedly created a gorgeous sounding album loaded with longing for paradise. It is an album that inspires. I think of joy when I hear this album and that is a rare thing in music these days. He has managed to make an album that is not cliched with Christian platitudes but it still loaded with a want and a need to connect with the Creator.

Coldplay – Ghost Stories
It seems like ever since Coldplay released Parachutes I have been wanting them to realize another one like it. This is as close to a second Parachutes as we have gotten. The album sounds so good even if it is so sad with Chris Martin’s very public separation bleeding into the lyrics and even if “Sky Full of Stars” sounds like every anthemic song they have done before, it’s not possible not to dance along to it.

Anberlin – Lowborn
I’ve already written a review about this album, but I’ll repeat myself a little bit. Lowborn is a fine swan song for a band going out on their own terms and the bittersweet tone fits the situation perfectly.

Lecrae – Anomaly
It’s past time to start taking Lecrae seriously. The album crackles with anger against injustice, sarcasm against social unbalance, and even gives some humor. Alongside artists like Propaganda, I am very happy to hear hip-hop artists taking on both their faith and social concerns in an upfront manner.

Steve Taylor – Goliath
The tour from this album was a whole lot of fun but the best part is that Taylor has moved back in the saddle with such ease reprising his role as the “clown prince of Christian music.” Taylor leaves no sacred cow unskewered on an album that snarls with loud guitars and drums and I hope there is more to come from this legend.

by jholland at January 20, 2015 03:05 PM

January 11, 2015

Brandy

An Open Letter to Jillian Michaels

Dear Jillian,

It was 2008 when I first invited you into my home. I was an innocent, naive 28-year-old who was dabbling in getting healthy. I think it was for the sole purpose of fitting in a bridesmaid dress. So, you know, really lofty goals there.

I purchased the 30 Day Shred DVD and hid in the basement from my roommates to do the first workout. And that was the night I learned you are a sadist. In the first 5 minutes I had to take a break and drink some water. Then you said the words that made me want to throw something across the room.

“Okay, now that our warm-up is done…’

Warm up? That was just the warm up?

Shut your mouth, Jillian Michaels. Shut it right now.

I remember that two days after that work-out I found myself crying in the shower because I couldn’t lift my arms to wash my hair. I had to crawl up the stairs on all fours like some deranged labrador.

MjAxMy1mZWY2YzFhYzVjODhjZWM0Needless to say I didn’t make it for 30 days. And the only thing shredded was the cheese I put on the plate of nachos I ate in defeat.

You may wonder, Jillian, why I invited you back a year ago. Why did I decide to grunt and sweat through your kettle bell workout, at one point taking a chunk out of my wall with a wildly swung weight. And what possessed me to do your yoga workout, cursing as I did a tree pose that was more like a sapling in the middle of a hurricane?

But then, one day, I finished a workout. Without stopping. It wasn’t always pretty, but I did it. I would have pumped my fist in the air in triumph but I was too busy lying on the floor trying not to die.

You see, Jillian, I decided you weren’t the enemy I had once believed you were. Yes, I still think you’re a sadist. And I’m pretty sure if you and I ever shared a meal together you would eat kale and I would eat…not kale. But I give you props, Jillian, for challenging someone like me to move and change and grow. To stop making excuses and start making changes.

However. I do not agree with your sentiment that “pain is weakness leaving the body.” It is actually agony entering the body. But that’s what ibuprofen is for.

Sincerely,

Brandy

 



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by Brandy at January 11, 2015 11:11 PM

Soggy Paper Plates

Let’s say it’s 2012, and you’re in my neighborhood. It’s 6:30 in the evening, and you see that my lights are on.

“I wonder if Brandy has dinner ready?” you wonder. Because maybe you’ve come to a party at my house before, and you’ve sampled my creamy roasted tomato soup with thick grilled cheese. Maybe I’ve made you a decadent birthday cake, or given you a bag of still-warm white chocolate cranberry cookies.

So you come to the door, and notice an absence of good smells.

“She must have the oven fan on,” you think, knocking on the door.

But when I greet you in the pale light of the front porch light, I am not wearing a flour-dusted apron. I don’t have a wooden spoon in one hand. Instead, I am holding a soggy bowl of cereal. Or maybe a paper plate with the remnants of a chicken nugget meal from Wendy’s, a damp red blob marking the spot I dragged french fries through the ketchup.

You wouldn’t have just caught me randomly on a bad night. It was every night.

Because although I could cook a feast for my friends, could prepare a gourmet meal to drop off at a new mom’s house, I never, ever did it for myself. Ever.

I didn’t eat at the table.

I didn’t put my food on a real plate, or my drinks in a real glass.

I ate over the sink.

I balanced soggy paper plates on my knees.

The care I put into preparing food for others never trickled down to me. I didn’t think I deserved it.

In the last year and half, I’ve consciously tried to change that. I meal plan every weekend, pouring over cookbooks and through websites, looking for meals that I will enjoy.

That’s important. I’m not looking for “diet foods.” I’m looking for healthy, nutritious foods that I will taste good. And trust me, it’s a whole lot easier to cook healthy for yourself than eat healthy at restaurants or fast food spots (but that’s another post for another day.)

When I sit down to eat at night, I put my food on a plate that feels heavy in my hands. I eat with my eyes first–take in the colors and textures. I pour water into a glass–putting in a lemon wedge if I’m feeling fancy. And if I’ve had a really hard day, if I’m feeling dangerously drawn to paper plates and fast food, I light a candle. I inhale the scents of self-care, and eat.

So if you’re in my neighborhood, at around 6:30, and you see the light on, come on in. I’ll fix you a plate.

198 // 365 - Place Setting // Gedeck



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by Brandy at January 11, 2015 11:09 PM

January 05, 2015

Karibeth

what I have been reading (catching up and starting new edition).

IMG_2126

(Happy “noon” year from Atticus. We went to the public library for their countdown at noon and he really wanted to borrow this hat. Alas, it was not for checking out, only for photoboothing.)

I didn’t write up some of the books I read at the end of last year. I’m going to give you quick one-sentence reviews of them, ready?

Mountains Beyond Mountainsby Tracy Kidder – Dr. Paul Farmer has helped a lot of people but I thought the book was kind of boring.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles – Great book with a terrible cover.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles – Even better than Countdown.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Frustrating but worth it.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen – What Sarah Dessen does is harder than it looks, and this book is solid.

Mortal Error by Bonar Menninger – A secret service agent accidentally shot JFK. It’s a good theory.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – Better than Mindy Kaling’s book, not as good as Tina Fey’s book.

Ok, on to the real reviews for this year.

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash (borrowed from a friend)

I’m not sure what to say except to just tell you straight up – this one is about snake handling and deception in a church in the mountains of North Carolina, and it will probably make you mad. It’s a page turner but it is also beautifully written. Recommended for: a good fiction read.

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward (via NetGalley)

This story follows a 14-year-old girl named Carla who is trying to get to the US from Honduras and a woman named Alice who lives in Austin with her husband and runs a barbecue shop. I had some frustrations with some of the actions in the Alice story – she is unable to have children and gets involved with mentoring a local high school student kind of abruptly but I felt that that story resolved really well. However, the real gem here is Carla’s story. When we are talking about immigration, these are the stories we need to keep in mind, that the choices people make are sometimes their only choices in the face of poverty, starvation, and addiction. The two characters come together in a fairly predictable way, but it is still a pleasure to see how they got there. Recommended for: another great fiction read.

Waiting for Gonzo by Dave Cousins (via NetGalley)

This book is narrated by Oz as he tells the story to his sister’s unborn baby, whom he is calling Gonzo. Oz and his family have recently moved and Oz found himself on the wrong side of a local “psycho” as well as complications in his family. Oz is funny as he gets into and out of situations as varied as: being chased by a dog and falling out of a tree, intercepting a robbery at the local pub, and accidentally getting drunk at his mom’s art show. There are parts of the book that are charming although I have to admit I found the book overall to be less than the sum of its rather interesting characters. I saw a review that called this a more mature Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I think that’s right.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (via NetGalley)

So, this book is about a lot of things, including: a virus that infects books and causes the words inside to change, a missing children’s author, a possible murder/missing diary situation, and a secretive literature society that suddenly accepted a new member. It’s also deeply weird. I liked it, although I found some of the ways that the male characters related to the female characters to be troubling/unsettling, especially one scene in particular that seemed completely out of place. The ending was extremely satisfying when it came to wrapping up certain storylines, but I still had some questions after it was over. I wished that I had someone to talk to about it. I recommend it for: you! Please, read this so I have a discussion partner.

I received some of these books from NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at January 05, 2015 05:12 PM

Jeff H.

The Darkest Night of the Year at the Edge Of The World

DSC_0584

We spent the Christmas week in Savannah and similar to last year, we left the girls there for a week at home without them. You would think we had a nice, lazy, relaxing weekend, but far from it, we spent five days cleaning out the house, throwing out junk and splitting the girls’ bedrooms up. We have thrown out so much junk, and even still we didn’t get everything out before they came back home. That’s an apt metaphor for this past year. It’s all been too much. I have been overwhelmed with too many things to do, too many things to think about, and too many things coming into the house to handle.

So, I am not really a person to make resolutions, but my goal in 2015 is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Whatever we decide to get the girls involved in during the winter and the spring, I am hoping it has less commitment than cheerleading and maybe allows me to take care of myself with a little bit of exercise.

This article about this year’s end of the year is, much like the rest of this year, late and succinct due to lack of time. However, we’ve arleady got the Christmas decorations put away and it feels like 2015 is open with some opportunity. I’m ready for a new start and a new year.

by jholland at January 05, 2015 02:30 AM

January 04, 2015

Brandy

Why a new blog, Brandy?

In my head, that’s what you’re asking. All three of you reading this.

I had a blog. I liked it well enough. It was a place to get down my thoughts. Say silly things.

But then life got crazy. And it was one of the first things to go. Plus, I’ll be honest. It was having a big of an identity crisis. Was it a funny blog? A serious one? Was it a cooking blog? A writing blog? Who knows.

But the last few years or so have been a crazy journey. First, I completed my Masters of Fine Arts at Goucher College, and as part of that wrote a memoir as my grad school thesis. Y’all (sorry, when I get excited my southern shows). It was life-changing. Literally.  I’ll write about it more on here at length, but suffice it to say, going back and digging into the things that have made me who I am also made me care about myself.

And then, I began caring for myself.

It’s been crazy. So many changes. And only a few of them were physical.

So now, I sit on the even of my 35th birthday. And I feel like it’s time to share the journey. I hope it will inspire you. And selfishly, I hope this will be a place where I will remember that the journey is not over.

August of 2013 to October of 2014

August of 2013 to October of 2014



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 02:18 AM

Triple Berry Lemon Cake

It’s been a long winter here in Colorado. And the past few months have been brutal. Not just because of freezing temps and snowstorms. It’s been those little glimpses of spring that lull you into flip flops and open windows, only to be slammed by ice and gray skies. So a few weeks ago, when I was asked to bring a dessert to a get-together, I decided even if it didn’t look like spring, it could certainly taste like it!

I love lemon and berries together. The tart bright touch of lemon in this cake is so lovely with the sweet berries. I use frozen berries for this cake, a triple berry blend with blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. You can use whatever you like–but one note. If you use fresh berries, you have to be much more careful when mixing them in. So far me and my slap-dash style, frozen berries were easier. And trust me, not one person complained!

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Get the full recipe over at my cooking blog!



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:56 AM

Ambulance Chasee

So, I had a REALLY packed weekend in Virginia. And instead of trying to cram everything into one post, I’ve decided to spread it out into several. Because really, it’s just too much fun for one! I might break the internet!

One of the first activities for the weekend was a race. Yes, I did another race. And no, I still don’t love running. I don’t even like it. Most of the time, I hate it. But, I think it’s important for my health, so I’ll keep doing it. But seriously? I hate it.

Saturday morning, bright and early, I showed up at the high school. As I gathered with about 50 other runners at the start, I was reminded that these people didn’t wake up that morning and decide to do this race. They’re runners. They do it often. They’re good at it. Not a single walker in the bunch.

So we start and, I’m officially in the back of the pack. Not near the back. I’m in the back. Oh, and did I fail to mention that there’s an ambulance following the race. Yeah. Right behind me. He could have at least been playing something fun on the radio. Geez.

nullI have to say, there is nothing more humbling than being in the next to last place in a race. I’ve never experienced it before. At first, I was humiliated. I kept trying to think of a short-cut to take. And I’m not going to lie, there were a few times that I got a little teary. I completely lost sight of why I was doing this. All I could think was that the people sitting in their cars, waiting for me to pass, must be having a field day, laughing at me. The thought made my stomach hurt. I felt physically ill.

But as I rounded a corner onto a quiet, tree-lined street, I willed my mind to be calm. Willed myself to remember why I was doing this. I wasn’t doing it for anybody else. I wasn’t doing it for accolades, because there are none. I wasn’t doing it for praise, because there was none. I was doing this for myself. For my health. For my own peace of mind.

Wouldn’t it be fun if, at that moment, I got a burst of energy and broke through the pack? If I crossed the finish line amongst screaming fans. If the hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me around the track.

That isn’t what happened. I held my position at next to last. I cried a few more times, but the tears dried much quicker on my face. I continued to shuffle through the leaves on the edge of the street. I gladly accepted my cup of water from the girl standing on the corner. I caused a few more traffic jams. I kept the ambulance from saving lives.

But as I headed toward the home stretch, I did hear something over Justin Timberlake singing in my ear phones. I heard clapping. I pulled my headphones off and turned my head and there, sitting on their front steps, was an older couple. And they were clapping. For me. I know it was for me, because nobody else was around. I don’t know if they had been out there, cheering all morning. But I do know they didn’t stop until the last runner ran by.

Or at least the next to the last runner.

And I cried. Again. But not because I was feeling sorry for myself. I cried because they were exactly what I needed as I continued my slow progress down the street. I kept my earphones off, silencing Justin, and ran the rest of the race with their cheers replaying in my mind.

I dried my tears as I ran toward the finish line. I needed every bit of hydration I could muster. And I finished. And for me, it was a strong finish. There was nobody at the finish line waiting for me except the woman who ripped my number off of my race bib. There was nobody there to hand me water or an apple. Everyone else had already left. But as I walked back to my car, I felt victorious. I felt humbled.

I had finished the race.



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:56 AM

Runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin’…

Well, for those of you keeping track, my 10k was this past Monday (Memorial Day). And, as evidenced by the fact that I am still alive, it went pretty well. I was going to break it down my what I was experiencing at each mile, but that would have read something like this:

Mile 1: Seriously, I’ve just done one mile?
Mile 2: This isn’t too bad.
Mile 3: Stop lying to yourself, Campbell. This kind of sucks.
Mile 4: Remember when you used to be able to breathe? Those were good times.
Mile 5: I CAN DO THIS!
Mile 6: If you don’t at least jog the last .2 miles, you will look like the biggest idiot ever.

Not really very inspiring. But here are the things I learned while running the Bolder Boulder:

  • Running will never be “in my blood.” I’m really not a runner. I would love to keep up this training. Heck, I would love to do more races, and work on my time. But I will never be one of those crazy, thinking it’s fun to run 10 miles on a Saturday morning people. I love those people. I am just not one of them.
  • I am very much a goal-driven person. I came in at 81 minutes, three minutes under the goal I set for myself. Not anything to write home about, but not too shabby either. I can handle it.
  • It really does give you an adrenaline boost when people cheer for you. I’ve never done sports, so I’ve never really had anybody cheer for me in a setting like this one. I had a big goofy grin on my face half the race as random people cheered and gave us high-fives. I had an even bigger, goofier grin on my face when my dear friend Krissy and her family cheered for me when I walked into their house 10 hours after I actually finished the race :)

So, will I do the Bolder Boulder again? I honestly have no idea. I wouldn’t mind it. I’d love to keep up the work outs, do some 5ks, and work up to being able to jog a whole 10k. I don’t know yet if that’s realistic or not, but it would be a nice goal to work toward.

But I did have fun. Which makes me feel like some kind of aliens have invaded my body. Because? Running? Fun? It’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore.



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:55 AM

Taste and See

I wanted to write a lovely post about strawberries. I wanted to talk about how strawberries, warm from some idyllic strawberry patch, bring me back to my childhood. I wanted to tell you a “Strawberries for Brandy” version of the children’s story “Blueberries for Sal” (but perhaps without the bear).

Alas. That was not my childhood. I don’t have many warm and fuzzy memories of food (although I did love working with my stepdad in the garden). Instead, I have memories of picking through my food. Of smashing everything flat on my plate so I could more easily drag my fork across stray onions and peppers, pulling them to the edge of the plate to grow cold and slimy. Of building carefully constructed motes between my mashed potatoes and meatloaf so they wouldn’t touch. Of realizing the delicious bread I had been eating had been contaminated with zucchini–and the thick throat and eye watering that comes just before throwing up the offending food.

I honestly don’t know how my mom did it. She had to chop vegetables more fine than even the most trained chef to hide them in sauces and soups. She watched without comment while I rinsed off my plate between every food item so I wouldn’t cross-contaminate them. And she waited, patiently, while I ate my fruit loops, one color at a time.

It would take a long time before food was something I would truly enjoy. I was in college when I first ate hot mushroom soup, chasing little round croutons across the surface with my spoon. I was working at my first job when I had jerk chicken, spicy and charred, scooped on a fork with rice. I’ve eaten Indian food with curry-stained fingers and Ethiopian food balanced carefully on tangy injera.

I think much of my pickyness as a child resulted from a desire for control. There was so much I couldn’t control–but food was easy to spit out, to hide under a napkin. Perhaps, as an adult, those illusions of control have dimmed. That desire to deny myself the good things, full of flavor and heat and complexity, have diminished.

So, I may not have a “Strawberries for Brandy” story from my childhood. But I have the adult version. Of sweet strawberries mixed with tangy rhubarb. Of strawberries nestled in orange scented cake, sprinkled with sugar and baked into little pockets of jam. I have found a way to taste and see. And it is good.

 photo 2-1



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:49 AM

Take a step

It was the winter that I was 3 years old. Maybe 4. My mom had recently married Dennis, and we had moved into his little trailer, situated among soybean fields and curving country roads. That winter was one of wool mittens drying on the wood stove, their scent spicy and musty. The chill from outside seemed to leak into our house, and the floors and walls always felt chilly. I sat close to the stove, and my hair always smelled smoky.

A winter storm blew in, dumping snow, then ice. It hid everything that was familiar, the grass and mud, and drifted up to the bottom of the tall window in our living room. One morning mom put on my favorite blue coat, my brown hat with the pom pom on top, my fuzzy snow boots and my mittens. Dennis opened the window, removed the screen, and lowered me the few inches to the snow.

I held my breath. Everything was beautiful and glittering and terrifying. I could feel the thin sheet of ice settle under my feet. And the deep snow underneath was waiting. I couldn’t move.

I am a fearful person. The things that keep me up at night burrow deep in my mind. These are not unique things that I am afraid of. I am afraid that I will get sick. I am afraid that I will be hurt. I am afraid that I will lose loved ones. I am afraid of being alone. Some nights, in those dark seasons, the fears take my breath away.

It’s not always at night. I can be sitting across from a friend, laughing and talking, when I feel the icy cold fear. What if I mess up? What if they leave? What if I break things beyond repair? And just like the little girl in the bright blue coat, I am paralyzed by that fear. I can almost feel the ice shift under my feet, afraid that one wrong move will ruin everything. But then I remember.

I craned my neck and looked back towards the window where Mom and Dennis stood, smiling and waving.

“It’s fine,” Mom called. “You won’t fall.”

I took one small step forward, my boot sinking just an inch in the snow. The thick crust of ice held me up.

I took another step.

Slowly, slowly, I made my way. My steps were the first on the fresh snow, and everything, from our old shed to our skinny crab apple tree, was draped in shimmering frost. I explored the yard until my cheeks burned and my nose began to run, until the chill reached through my mittens and to my fingertips.

And then I came home.

At the window, Dennis leaned down and lifted me up. My mother peeled off the layers of bulky winter clothes and I listened to my mittens sizzle on the wood stove.

I don’t think I knew what the word brave meant as I sat on the couch, an afghan spread over my lap, and drank hot cocoa. But I do remember smiling so broadly that my chapped cheeks burned. I knew what it meant to be paralyzed by fear that day. To lose my breath and stand frozen.

But I also knew what it felt like to take the first step.



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:49 AM

Hands Off My Red Handle

I was 12, maybe 13 years old. It was winter, and my cousins and I had spent the morning sledding. We sat in the living room, cheeks burning, clad only in our long johns and T-shirts, our jeans thumping gently in the dryer.

“Here are your clothes,” Grandma said. One cousin grabbed my pants from the top of the still-warm pile. He held them up.

“Oh my gosh, these are huge!” he said, laughing. I snatched them away and quickly pulled them on, the metal button burning hot into my soft stomach. I pawed through the pile, looking for my sweatshirt, when I felt a poke to my upper arm.

“Geez, you have hamhock arms,” he said. And in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to hit him. Make him cry. Make him feel some fragment of the pain I was feeling. But I did nothing. Simply pulled on my sweatshirt and tried to tuck myself into the corner of the rough tweed couch. Tried to be small.

I thought of that girl, that shame, recently when I read an article on National Public Radio about what writer Linda Holmes calls “red handles.”

Read the rest at the Soulation blog.



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:49 AM

My Story–Part 1

I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t feel self-conscious about how my body looked.

The year of the dreaded scoliosis test.

The year of the dreaded scoliosis test.

When I was around 10 they did a scoliosis test at school. We all filed into a little classroom off of the gym, one-by-one. Then we faced the wall, pulled our shirts off, and bent over so the nurse could check our spines. The other girls had knobs of bone that you could count. I was jealous of those jutting bones where mine merely made a soft wave down my back.

Nobody ever picked on me about my weight. But they also didn’t want me on their team in gym class.

Gym class was its own special hell.

In every gym class I felt the growing exasperation of my classmates. They were frustrated when I dropped the ball in our softball game, or let a pop-fly thud a few inches from my perpetually untied shoes, or when I wildly hit the tennis ball into the woods near the court.

Basketball was the worst. I vividly remember playing defense against Audra, a petite blonde who later married the son of a mortician. She seemed popular to me—but then, everybody did. I stood in front of her, halfheartedly waving my arms, feeling clumsy and silly.

“I hate this,” I heard her say. With relief, I stopped flapping my arms, happy to hear that popular Audra hated gym class!

“Me too,” I said enthusiastically, smiling.

“I said I hate YOU,” she corrected me.

I can’t remember us ever even having a conversation before then. But I believed I knew why Audra hated me. She hated me because I was fat. Because I ate cookies at lunch. Because I couldn’t do pull-ups and I got wedgies while running around the track. Because by the end of gym class, I was sweaty but too ashamed to shower in front of the other girls. I hid in a bathroom stall, wiping my body with a baby wipe and trying to put my jeans on without dipping my pant leg in the toilet.

I hated me too.

To Be Continued

Part 2

Part 3



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:48 AM

My Story-Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

When I look in the mirror every morning, that voice of my youth still whispers about my flaws.

I wrote those words in an essay, and in the margin, my writing mentor scribbled the words “Really? Every morning?”

Yes. Every morning.

That writing mentor was one of several whom I worked with as I was completing my MFA work in Creative Nonfiction. For my thesis, I was writing a memoir. It was at times painful, but with each word I wrote about my childhood, I felt like poison was being leeched from my veins.

Because, even though I had gone to counseling for years, I still viewed myself harshly. I tended to refer to myself by my last name when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, like a gym teacher barking as I slogged by on the track.

“Your life wasn’t that bad, Campbell.”

“If you just had some discipline, Campbell, you wouldn’t be such a mess.”

“God, Campbell, just suck it up already.”

But writing my memoir, digging deep into those memories, I slowly, slowly, began to soften my view.

I saw a little girl hiding in the bathroom, eating cookies, feeling like she messed everything up.

A teenager who looked at the hipbones of her friends and felt like something was horribly broken with her own body.

A young adult who prepared elaborate meals for her friends–and ate McDonald’s cheeseburgers standing over the sink when she was alone.

And then, I began this journey. The very one I hope to chronicle on this blog. One of hope and healing and falling down and getting up again.

I hope my words will inspire you to take care of yourself. Not lose weight, not boil your life down to pants sizes and numbers on a scale (though, for sure, that is a fraction of the journey).

I want you to cook delicious food for yourself.

And go on walks in the sunset where your skin turns golden and then pink.

I want you to push yourself harder than you thought you could.

And accomplish more than you ever knew was possible.

I want you to think “If she can do it, I can do it.”

Because you can.

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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:48 AM

My Story-Part 2

(Read Part 1 Here)

I’m kind of surprised at what a non-issue my weight seemed to be in young adult.

Seemed to be is the most important part of that sentence.

32599577_f85d1c6abf_oNobody made a big deal about how I looked. Nobody challenged me in what I ate or my lack of exercise. And I wouldn’t have been receptive to it anyway. I wasn’t at a place that I could understand the reasons I didn’t take care of myself. That it went far beyond a perchance for McDonald’s and ice cream. I was actively living in denial.

If you had asked me, I would have had no idea how much I weighed. I didn’t own a scale.

I was thankful for my horrible eyesight because it meant I couldn’t see my body clearly in the shower. I never put on my glasses until I was fully dressed because I didn’t want to see my naked body in the mirror.

But then one night, when I was 24, I woke up feeling like someone had put a cinder block on my chest. The pain radiated to my shoulder blades. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I stumbled to a neighbor’s house and asked him to take me to the hospital.

Later, he told me he thought I was going to die. I did too.

After a few hours in the ER, I was sent home with a prescription for a high-powered antacid. I peeled the sticky plastic circles off of my chest from the EKG and then crouched in the bathroom and threw up black bile.

A few days later, my doctor diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Apparently I needed something with an acronym to serve as a wake-up call.

I radically changed my diet, cutting out all things rich and fried. When I was tempted to eat a french fry, I would think about that night in the hospital with clarity and the craving would pass. I was 29, and the pounds fell off easily with little exercise. I dropped from 210 to 159.

But then the memories of my ER visit faded. I moved to another state and ate to stave off the stress and fear of a new job and a new city and intense loneliness.

And suddenly, I was right back where I started. But this time covered in the shame of believing I had failed.

I no longer avoided looking at myself in the mirror.

Now I stared at myself each morning. And hated what I saw.

To Be Continued

Part 3



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by Brandy at January 04, 2015 01:48 AM

December 31, 2014

Karibeth

books read 2014.

image

January
1. The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible by Sean Gladding (nf)
2. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (f)
3. The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons by David Menasche (nf)
4. Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask by Dalton Conley (nf)
5. Now You See Me: How I Forgave the Unforgivable by Kathy Sanders (nf)
6. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose (nf)
7. Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry (nf)
8. Cinematic States: Stories We Tell, the American Dreamlife, and How to Understand Everything by Gareth Higgins (nf)
9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (f)
10. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (nf)
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (f)
12. Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick (f)
13. Boy21 by Matthew Quick (f)
14. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (f)
15. The Vinedresser’s Notebook: Spiritual Lessons in Pruning, Waiting, Harvesting, and Abundance by Judith Sutera (nf)

February
16. Incognito: Lost and Found at Harvard Divinity School by Andrea Raynor (nf)
17. Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (nf)
18. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley (nf)
19. Notes to Boys by Pamela Ribon (nf)
20. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (f)
21. My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer (nf)

March
22. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (f)
23. Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir Questlove Thompson (nf)
24. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (f)
25. New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell (nf)
26. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (nf)
27. Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy (nf)
28. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (nf)
29. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (nf)
30. City of God by Sara Miles (nf, reread)

April
31. Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity by David L. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy (nf)
32. A Trust Betrayed: The Untold Story of Camp Lejeune and the Poisoning of Generations of Marines and Their Families by Mike Magner (nf)
33. Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther (nf)
34. The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God by William B. Miller (nf)
35. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd (nf)
36: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (nf)
37. Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois (f)
38. The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton (nf)

May
39. Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando (f)
40. The Book of Not So Common Prayer by Linda McCullough Moore (nf)
41. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier (f)
42. Mommy Man by Jerry Mahoney (nf)
43. Speaking of Sin by Barbara Brown Taylor (nf)
44. Strangers at My Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (nf)
45. Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste by Carl Wilson (nf)
46. No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (f)
47. Why Do Buses Come in Threes: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life by Robert Eastaway (nf)
48. Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah (f)
49. Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett (f)
50. The Little Boy in the Tree by Roland Russoli (nf)

June
51. The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (f)
52. Life After Death Row by Saundra D. Westervelt (nf)
53. Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Liffe by Traci Smith (nf)
54. El Deafo by Cece Bell (f)
55. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (f)
56. The War for Late Night by Bill Carter (nf)
57. Speaking Christian by Marcus J. Borg (nf)
58. Drama by Raina Telgemeier (f)
59. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Madina (f)
60. Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (nf)
61. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (f)
62. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig (nf)
63. The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone (nf)
64. God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines (nf)
65. God and the Gay Christian: A Response to Matthew Vines by Albert Mohler (et al) (nf)
66. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (f)

July
67. The Feasts: A Celebration of Saints and their Holidays by DOnald Wuerl (nf)
68. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (f)
69. Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha (nf)
70. A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves (nf)
71. The Misfits by James Howe (f)
72. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (nf)
73. How to be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean (nf)
74. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince (nf)
75. The Sculptor by Scott McCloud (f)
76. Landline by Rainbow Rowell (f)
77. A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (nf)
78. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (f)

August
79. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (f)
80. In Darkness by Nick Lake (f)
81. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (f)
82. The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks (nf)
83. When Spiritual But Not Religious is not Enough by Lillian Daniel (nf)
84. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (nf)
85. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (f)
86. Undistorted God by Ray Waddle (nf)
87. Live From New York by Tom Shales (nf)
88. Dancing on the Head of a Pen by Robert Benson (nf)
89. Telling God’s Story by Peter Enns (nf)
90. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (f)
91. Disquiet Time by Jennifer Grant (nf)
92. Nest by Esther Ehrlich (f)

September
93. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (nf)
94. Blankets by Craig Thompson (nf)
95. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (f)
96. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (nf)
97. Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (nf)

October
98. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (f)
99. Wildlife by Fiona Wood (f)
100. Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (f)
101. Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake (f)
102. Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond (nf)
103. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (nf)
104. 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha (nf)
105. Too Heavy a Yoke by Chanequa Walker-Barnes (nf)
106. Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity by Dianna Anderson (nf)

November
107. Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar (nf)

December
108. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (nf)
109. Countdown by Deborah Wiles (f)
110. Revolution by Deborah Wiles (f)
111. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (f)
112. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (f)
113. Mortal Error: The Shot that Killed JFK by Bonar Menninger (nf)
114. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (nf)

A good reading year in many ways. I expanded my use of NetGalley and read a lot of pre-releases on my ipad. However, I think that kept me from reading as much good fiction. I read a lot of YA fiction but if you have suggestions for adult contemporary fiction I could probably use them. Things got a little bit slow at the end of the year. Work was wearing me down and I honestly didn’t want to come home and read. That’s not a typical attitude for me, so please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I deal with that stress.

Favorites of the year (in no particular order):
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose (Want to read his newest one – need to put it on hold at the library.)
Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Strangers at My Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste by Carl Wilson
It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd
Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Number One Favorite of the Year:
The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

Least Favorite of the Year:
Now You See Me: How I Forgave the Unforgivable by Kathy Sanders

image

To Read Next Year:
I got a bunch of books for Christmas that are on deck:
-Homicide by David Simon
-The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
-Small Victories by Anne Lamott
-Beloved by Toni Morrison
-11/22/63 by Stephen King

Some others on my list are: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The New Jim Crow, and a book by my favorite English Professor called Play Music.

Currently Reading: A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash

What about you? How was this year in reading? What did you read this year that I need to know about? Please give me your recommendations.

by Kari at December 31, 2014 03:01 AM

December 09, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

musket

do you want to steal the smile
that is real

that isn’t or hasn’t
yet

slip it under your coat
hold it against your chest

wear it out like
tired treads

to the glittering ball
until as midnight strikes

it once again returns
to your own

stained whiskey-amber
cigarette-yellow

whose corners no longer crisp curl
whose frozen waves prevent

who went down the musket barrel
and won’t come back

by ddeboer at December 09, 2014 04:57 PM

December 03, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

Who Approaches

Milk-whitened hills
Not so or even close

Faces upward stained
Who approaches

Never closer than ever
Not even and

Naught and gaunt
Who approaches

Knees of green/brown stained
Not then and not now

Pour out them blessings
Who approaches

All your tenured jaundices
What laughter there is

Gathered under the wings
Who approaches

by ddeboer at December 03, 2014 10:39 PM

windsweptness

to step gingerly from white spaces
photographic margin

into frame
into focus

to say
i am the ghost of christmas past

nothing changes
i am sorry for what’s about to happen

nothing changes
because nothing can change

burnished amber lines blurred
beautiful not beautiful

who knew
steps back into windsweptness

i knew

by ddeboer at December 03, 2014 06:10 PM

November 30, 2014

Karibeth

on waiting.

image

The news this week made me feel a certain amount of hopelessness. Will things in our country ever be less divided?Will we ever understand each other more? Is it crazy to wish that we might be able to find both peace and justice living comfortably together?

After wallowing in despair for a day or two, I thought about how appropriate it is that these are the feelings I have as we enter into Advent. I have often talked about waiting expectantly at Advent with some kind of rosy glow, because waiting for a baby is a wonderful thing. This year, though, I feel more acutely the ways that we are waiting in the darkness of what is, longing for what should be. How long, O Lord?

Where are the places in this world where you see, with holy imagination, the greatest gap between the kingdom of heaven and what is in front of you right now? What burns in your heart? Is it war, hungry children, lack of education or healthcare? Naming these places of injustice, where we feel the need of the Incarnation, is a prophetic act that feels right for this season. Even better is to step into that gap and name the ways that you can be the hands and feet of Jesus to help right those wrongs. Rather than being useless, you are embodying the active waiting that is the Advent season.

I am thankful to be able to sit here in the darkness for a bit, to wait and pray and act in ways that point so clearly to the world as it can be, the world that Jesus spoke of with his words and lived with his friends. I hope you will join me.

Please also read these words from Christena Cleveland, who spoke so truly what I was feeling this week except her words are much much better.

Earlier this year, I reviewed The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Conway Ireton. I bought the book myself from the author but there was some kind of post office mishap that meant she had to send the book twice before I got it. Lo, these many months later, the missing copy has arrived, and Kimberlee said that I could offer it to one of you as a gift. If you are interested in winning a copy, please comment below. Advent, the beginning of the church calendar year, is a great time to start learning the rhythms of the church year. I recommend this short and helpful book to you. Please comment by December 5th and I will pick the winner on December 6th.

ETA: Congratulations to Kalyn, the winner of the book. :)

by Kari at November 30, 2014 06:05 PM

November 27, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

The Story

I have never told this story or at least the whole of this story
And so you and I share this story as a code that we can read
That no-one else can read when we say do you remember when
The story started.

For me the story started on the side of a hill up north looking up
At uncitied stars where you told me story I couldn’t believe true
Though in retrospect it was truer than you knew or than either
Of us could believe.

The story came true for me later when the plot points unfolded
Like wings with a mind of their own pointing orthogonally home
To a place that was not my home or your but a new home built
From old broken homes.

Then your story ended and mine went on still on the wings
And though I say your story ended it never really ended
Like nothing really ever ends and instead goes on and on
At least relatively.

There is no end to the story even if the intersection
Only occurs once and that’s the end of it or so you thought
As a book is written about how a book is written
Neither is a sequel

Per se.

by ddeboer at November 27, 2014 05:06 AM

November 24, 2014

Jeff H.

Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil

Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor hasn’t played a show in Atlanta in twenty years. The last time he was here, Bill Clinton was president and Nirvana was dominating the airwaves. While that’s a long time, it’s not as if Taylor has been slumbering. When he has not co-written songs for other bands, he directed Don Miller’s movie adaption of Blue Like Jazz, but Wednesday night he was doing what he does best. Taylor’s acerbic lyrics have always found home in a variety of musical styles, first in Bowie-esque New Wave and later the very grunge sound that the aforementioned Nirvana brought to the radio. He brought a new collection of songs from his new album, also his first in 20 years, to go alongside his classics. For me the new songs all sound a little bit the same, but Taylor’s wit has not diminished one bit and the sound, well it rocks and that seems to be an increasingly rare thing these days. The rocking sound comes from a band that is an all-star super group. John Mark Painter of the duo Fleming and John played bass, along with some saxophone (a long missed and vital part of Taylor’s music) and even french horn. Guitarist Jimmy Abegg has been associated with a variety of artists including Rich Mullins, Charlie Peacock, and even his band Vector in the 80’s. He may look like a homeless man, but he added a nice biting edge of guitar. Former Newsboys front man Peter Furler played drums.

The set list was a mix of the new album combined with some classics, including the cover-of-a-cover “I Want To Be A Clone” and “Moshing Floor” which was kinda funny because everyone in the crowd was too old to mosh. Taylor finished the night up with his newest epic “Comedian.” The encore of the evening was a tounge-in-cheek rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” which led directly into “Cash Cow” and he finished the night with a serious song, “Hero.” All through the night, Taylor was ageless. He may not do cartwheels across the stage anymore, but the leaped and spun like a man who hasn’t aged in twenty years. I know I was more tired than he appeared to be at the end of the show.

Peter Furler opened the night with his three piece band. None of his new songs stood out to me, but it was fun to hear him cover some old Newsboys songs like “Not Ashamed” and “Shine”. The songs were fun to hear again and had a very different take with a raw power-trio with all of the drum machines and backing tracks stripped away. Perhaps the best old Newsboys cover that fit his new sound was “Lost the Plot” which remained powerful and loud. While the Newsboys have always seemed a little phoney, Furler was soft spoken and authentic, he seemed to enjoy the smaller crowd and simpler vibe.

So many of my favorite musicians have changed so much in twenty years, and many not for the better. Taylor however seems to be trying to pick up where he left off and while he does have some momentum to regain after being away for so long, his return to the music scene is a very welcome one and I hope there are more tours and more albums to come from here.

by jholland at November 24, 2014 03:43 PM

November 22, 2014

Karibeth

on candletime.

image

I didn’t really say much this year about candletime, the made up season where we light candles every night to fight the darkness of November. But we are still celebrating this year, despite the challenges of a kid who wants to blow out the candles and a cat (Mike read a bunch of stuff online about cats who set the house on fire so he was extra worried this year).

Next week we will start Advent and we will put up our tree. There is nothing like the warm glow of Christmas lights to fill the heart. But for now we sit in November and we light candles. For now, it is enough.

by Kari at November 22, 2014 03:41 AM

November 21, 2014

Karibeth

we ache in secret, memorizing.

image

“November for Beginners” by Rita Dove

Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.

So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
memorizing

a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!

by Kari at November 21, 2014 04:13 AM

Jeff H.

40

DSC_0317

When I turned 30 I had something of a existential crisis. I wasn’t cool anymore. I wasn’t young anymore. My glory days were behind me. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. At 40, nobody has time for that kind of stuff.

I think I was prepared for life to change a lot when I turned 30, but I don’t know that I anticipated how much it would keep changing. I also don’t think I realized how isolated I would feel when all my friends moved away and parenthood and jobs prevented any of us from meeting up anyways. I wish I had a mentor for my 30’s. I had mentors in college and after college, but I’m not sure anyone warned me how hard the 30’s would be.

Football has finally wrapped up and our weeks are starting to relax a little. We were starting to buckle a little under the grind of practices and early mornings, but now that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can start looking forward to the holidays. Our kids are normally fun, but they are a special kind of fun at Christmas.

Today, a tow truck came and took away my Acura Integra. I donated it, and I don’t say this to make you think I am some great philanthropist, I did it for the tax write-off. I was a little sad to see it go, but it hasn’t operated well for almost a year now, so it was time to go. It is however, a tangible reminder that my 30’s are over. I bought the car when I was 25, but it has been my ride all through the 30’s, taking me to a Cornerstone Festival, all over the Southeast, and back and forth to work when I used to commute. I hope someone takes the car and gives it some love (and maybe a loud muffler, neon lights, and a big spoiler.) Just like other parts of my life, everything is changing again.

by jholland at November 21, 2014 02:44 AM

November 20, 2014

Karibeth

yallfest 2014.

I went to YALLfest a few weeks ago with some library friends. If you didn’t click that link I will tell you that YALLfest is a young adult literature festival in Charleston, SC. I had never been before but a friend was organizing a trip and it seemed like too much fun to pass up.

I got to see so many authors I love (seriously, look at this list) and was inspired by their stories and their passion. I love young adult literature and it was fun to be around so many people who feel the same way, to watch the tweens and teens as well as the adults who were having just as much fun as I was.

Two things were particularly lovely to me that day. The first was a tribute to Walter Dean Myers by Varian Johnson, Ellen Hopkins, Nikki Grimes, Coe Booth, and Kwame Anderson. It was a huge honor to hear them talk about him and about their work. Nikki Grimes read a poem from one of the characters in Bronx Masquerade (but not actually from the book) and watching Kwame Alexander listen to it–he was amazed and excited–was a pure pleasure.

image

The other big thing that happens at YALLfest is the smackdown, and I don’t know what happened in other years, but this year there were readings from childhood writings, games, some silliness regarding picture book authors trying to break into YA, and of course Libba Bray’s band Tiger Beat.

image

My favorite moment of the event was something from the smackdown they called the “First Line Medley” where several authors read the first lines of favorite books. There was just something beautiful to me about the way a line would catch on in the room and the crowd would respond to it – the big ones, of course, like The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Harry Potter and The Fault in Our Stars. But there were others I didn’t know (or couldn’t guess) and those were just as wonderful to hear, if only because it reminded me of what a good first line can be. If the ones I already know and love are like a worn welcome mat, the ones I was less familiar with felt like an open door inviting me to explore.

image

(Ann Brashares is on the left! ANN BRASHARES. AND SHE WORE JEANS.)

It was a great gift to be in the company of so many readers. I came home with long lists of books and a renewed sense of the place of YA literature in our culture. I hope to go back next year, and you should come, too.

by Kari at November 20, 2014 02:39 AM

November 19, 2014

Karibeth

the prodigal daughter returns.

The first Sunday I went back to church, I felt tender and bruised, like I was not sure what I was doing. I felt tears about to spill over more than once. I still have a lot of questions about my place there, but I was ready to try.

I have never in my life dreamed of missing church on a regular basis, and then I did that, and then it turned into a whole lot of church I was missing. It was an empty space in my life, but it was nice to sit with that ache for a few months, to let myself feel the absence of the people and the rhythms of Sundays.

Atticus was so excited that we would all be going to church together, and asked about it several times. You are coming too, Mama? As we pulled into the church parking lot, he cheerfully called from the back seat, We’re home!

I’m not one to believe very much in signs but even I was like, Ok, I get it. We’re home.

photo (25)

by Kari at November 19, 2014 02:12 AM

November 18, 2014

Karibeth

two books I finished.

I don’t have a whole reading roundup but I have finished two books and then I abandoned The Goldfinch after wasting a bunch of time on it so I thought I would go ahead and write these two up to get myself back in the reading groove.

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity by Dianna E. Anderson (via NetGalley)

As someone who lived through the 90s True Love Waits purity culture, I agree with a lot of Anderson has to say in this book. There is a definite need to reframe the discussion around what it means to pursue purity in relationships – it is so much more than kissing dating goodbye or just saying no. I liked how Anderson challenged those ideas head on and offered tangible examples of how purity culture harmed many of us by sending damaging messages. However, I thought the book had a few key weaknesses that diminished my enjoyment of it overall. It’s positioned as an alternative to many others that are aimed at teenagers, and there were parts that did speak to teenagers, but other parts of it were speaking more to those of us in our 20s and 30s who experienced purity culture, and there were a few parts that I thought were speaking to those of us who work with teenagers. Because of that, it did not feel as cohesive as I would have liked. I also thought that her conclusions, which mirror many of my own conclusions, were not explained as well as they could have been. I wished she had done a little more work on the front end to bring the reader along with her, mostly because I feared that she hadn’t done quite enough to convince a skeptical reader (although maybe that wasn’t her target audience? That ties in with my earlier confusion about who the book might be for). Finally, I have to say that I had to raise an eyebrow at all of her stories about couples who waited and then had terrible sex. I understand the point she was making, but I felt like that was just as bad as the stories I heard growing up about girls who had sex and then got pregnant and died. Despite her constant refrain that waiting is an okay choice, too, I didn’t walk away feeling as if she really believed that. The book was strongest as it talked about rejecting shame, a strong message for all of us. In the end, I would recommend this to youth leaders who are interested in finding other ways to talk to their students about sex and who are thinking about what pitfalls to avoid.

Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar (via Blogging for Books)

In contrast to the previous book, I think this one knows exactly who its audience is: people who are experiencing a crisis of faith and who need help figuring out the next step. Mike and I could have used a book like this a few years ago as we navigated many of the steps that Escobar talks about – breaking away from old ideas and trying to forge a new identity. I found the first part of the book a little bit dry as she talked about the stages of faith but the second half that focused on rebuilding was soothing and encouraging. Our faith should live and grow with us, and when it feels as if it is lost, it would be nice to have a guidebook like what Escobar has written here. Mike and I worked out many of these stages on our own or with the help of our community, but for those who aren’t so lucky, I recommend this book.

I received copies of these books from the publishers but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at November 18, 2014 02:52 AM

November 17, 2014

Karibeth

a poem for sunday.

This poem was read just before we took communion this morning, and this evening I told Atticus that this was my favorite part of the day. I love being able to take communion with him. He gets shy and serious, a little bit determined. This morning he was concerned: every time the pastor mentioned wine, Atticus whispered juice. He wanted us to know that he cannot drink wine and we had to reassure him that there is grape juice as well. (This is not a big theological statement on our part. Our church offers both and he tried the wine once and didn’t like it so we are sticking with juice for now.) He also asked about the people who didn’t come to the front. That made this poem so perfect, as it gave words to the things we want him to know about the Lord’s table and the welcome that we can find there. It is the place where I feel most welcome at church these days, the grace of bread and wine (or juice). I am always happy when we can share that as a family.

photo (48)

“And the Table Will Be Wide” by Jan Richardson

And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
to receive.

And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
with bread.
And our sorrow
will be met
with wine.

And we will open our hands
to the feast
without shame.
And we will turn
toward each other
without fear.
And we will give up
our appetite
for despair.
And we will taste
and know
of delight.

And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
And everywhere
will be the feast.

Source for the poem.

by Kari at November 17, 2014 02:39 AM

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

Buddy Cop Film

There’s this way of saying things
And even a way of titling them
Just so they sound like line breaks
You know what’s going to happen
Like some buddy cop film where
The mismatched partners learn
That they work together because

And that’s not a bad thing really
Everyone likes to know what’s coming
Except sometimes where the surprise
Jumps out from behind the woodshed
So suddenly even the woodshed starts
Not from its swiftness so much
As the form in which it arrived:

I wasn’t expecting that to happen
Or I wasn’t expecting much at all
Instead I can’t stop thinking about
The way it worked and how I just can’t
Replicate it more than maybe once
And if you do it again and again
I’ll pay attention again and again

There aren’t many wonderful things
Left in the world it seems these days
Sighed an old man rocking on a porch
Who is me and who is not an old man
Because all he does is look there
At the same street all day long
You wouldn’t expect him to laugh
At least not much or very often

by ddeboer at November 17, 2014 01:22 AM

actuarial tables

i was born before
ubiquitous rectangular libraries

and after they unplugged the drains of london
so sulfur could drain into the sea

i can’t hoist the fog over my shoulders
like thick pea coat soup

but i know i could onceuponatime
that was then this is now

still
i walked down the coastline

not a beach as such
split the tangerines of my heels

ants with fumbling jaws in lines
came to lug bits away

was there sulfur in the seawater that burned so
perhaps

in any case i took something
left something

and no amount of searching will find it again
and deliver it back to me

and deliver me back to it
and in that sense

i am already a ratio
of life to death

on actuarial tables hidden like sharp bitter seeds
somewhere inside me

by ddeboer at November 17, 2014 01:10 AM

November 16, 2014

Karibeth

on swinging.

image

“The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

image

One of the quirks of my wild boy is that he has always preferred what he calls the “baby swings”. He will run and jump and climb most anywhere, but he has not wanted to get on a big swing. I find it baffling, but I was happy to go along with him until recently when I could not really lift him up into the baby swing anymore. I am too short and he was getting too heavy, plus his shoes were always getting caught and falling off when I tried to get him out.

I told him I thought he was just getting too big to go in the baby swings, and he took it well. My guess is that he knew it was time but just needed a reason to make the switch. He’s asked about it a few times and I reminded him that we are moving on now that he is almost four. He’s been fine but it does feel a little bit like the end of an era. The baby swings at our park are down the hill away from the rest of the playground equipment and it is weird to think that we are done going over there, even if it is time to move on.

Today I pushed him on the big swings and was delighted to swing so high. I recited a few lines from the poem above, just as my mom did for me. Despite the chill in the air, I felt his enjoyment and mine mingle together my and the common grace of the moment warmed me to my toes.

(The picture above was from Tuesday, which was considerably warmer. He took his shirt off and ran around after that picture was taken. He was kind of mad that I made him leave his shirt on today. And his coat. I’m so mean.)

by Kari at November 16, 2014 01:22 AM

November 15, 2014

Karibeth

on the doxology.

image

At our church, we sing a non-gender-specific version of the doxology. This is my preference, and it is the one we have been singing with Atticus since he was very small.

However.

We tend to go to the early service at church, the one with less liturgy and more wiggle room for kids. Because of that, he hasn’t gotten a lot of doxology reinforcement there. At Grammy’s church, they sing the doxology the old-fashioned way. Predictably, Atticus has decided he likes Grammy’s version better than Mama and Daddy’s.

This is fine, of course. He has to find his own path to God and his does not have to look as gender non-specific as mine. As a boy, I doubt that he will experience those dynamics in the same ways that I do. I don’t make him sing it my way. Because he is three, though, he gets upset when I don’t sing it the way he does.

I have a deep desire to prove myself right that working with middle school students has helped to break me of. It is pointless to argue with middle school students, and I have learned to say, “Ok,” sometimes rather than disagreeing about something that is less important than my relationship with a kid. I try to save the disagreements for the big stuff.

This is why I stay silent when Atticus sings the doxology these days, or, if he insists, I sing it like they do at Grammy’s church. The language matters to me, but what matters even more is that Atticus takes in the message, that he knows the God we are singing about. I find that I do not wish to argue about the doxology, no matter how dear its non-gender-specific words are to me.

by Kari at November 15, 2014 01:52 AM

November 14, 2014

Karibeth

atticus recommends.

image

There is an adorable show called Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime that Atticus started watching this summer. I don’t know exactly what Atticus likes about it, but to me it is warm and gentle and funny in ways that a lot of kids’ shows aren’t. It features Fig the Fox and his best friend Stick (a caterpillar). Each episode has them discovering something in the Finding Place and then using it throughout the episode. They are science and outdoor oriented and I love their playful sense of adventure and use of language. It captures the way the world is new and exciting for small people.

The small person who lives here thinks Fig the Fox is the greatest and the small person’s parents aren’t tired of the show even though there is only one season, which we have been watching for months. I haven’t heard much chatter about it but Atticus loves it so I want more episodes! Plus it is pretty dang cute. I have been meaning to post about it since this summer and I am glad to finally have a reason to recommend it.

by Kari at November 14, 2014 02:37 AM

November 13, 2014

Karibeth

wordless wednesday.

image

Yesterday we took Atticus on a walk and fed the birds. The whole afternoon was golden just like this. Also I am bad at the whole wordless thing.

by Kari at November 13, 2014 02:09 AM

November 12, 2014

Karibeth

on reviewing the day.

When we sit together at dinner, we go around and say our favorite and least favorite parts of the day. I got the idea from someone who was talking about simple ways to do the Examen with children, and Atticus has responded well to talking about good and bad things from the day. I think that it is good for him to hear more specifically about the parts of our lives that he doesn’t see, both highs and lows.

Sometimes Atticus is too tired or hungry to do a very good job of talking about his day, which is ok. Sometimes he uses that time to confess that he got in trouble at school (which we usually already know about). I like it best when we ask what his favorite part of his day is and he says, “Right now.” Me too, buddy. Me too.

image

by Kari at November 12, 2014 03:28 AM

November 11, 2014

Karibeth

atticus recommends.

Atticus wants you to know that right now his jam is “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams. When we listen to it (which is all the time) he makes a slightly mean/intense face.

image

(Mic in one hand, air guitar with the other.)

Presumably this is how rock stars look. Seems legit.

I hope you will permit me a little mushiness: We taught Atticus this song over the summer at the pool, and singing and dancing to it in the pool was a precious and fun time for me. Holding him in the sunshine as he practiced his swimming, I could not help but feel that these are the best days of my life so far. Like all public educators in NC, work is really challenging, but my home life just gets better and better. We sing this song at top volume in the car and we jump around and sing it in the house, and I love it every time.

Sometimes we discover new things with Atticus, but sometimes he helps us look at old favorites with new eyes. Atticus and I think you should turn on “Summer of ’69,” crank the volume up, and play some air guitar. It will do your soul good.

by Kari at November 11, 2014 01:46 AM

November 10, 2014

Karibeth

a poem for sunday.

No family story today, I am afraid. But I have been thinking about this poem lately so this seems like a good time to post it.

image

“At the End of Life, a Secret” by Reginald Dwayne Betts

Everything measured. A man twists
a tuft of your hair out for no reason
other than you are naked before him
and he is bored with nakedness. Moments
before he was weighing your gallbladder,
and then he was staring at the empty space
where your lungs were. Even dead, we still
say you are an organ donor, as if something
other than taxes outlasts death. Your feet
are regular feet. Two of them, and there is no
mark to suggest you were an expert mathematician,
nothing that suggests that a woman loved
you until you died. From the time your body
was carted before him to the time your
dead body is being sent to the coffin,
every pound is accounted for, except 21 grams.
The man is a praying man and has figured
what it means. He says this is the soul, finally,
after the breath has gone. The soul: less than
$4,000 worth of crack—21 grams—
all that moves you through this world.

by Kari at November 10, 2014 02:59 AM

November 09, 2014

Karibeth

on keeping a straight face.

This morning I heard that Atticus got in trouble at school for lying. Apparently he took a book to his cot for naptime even though no books are allowed, only lovies. When he was asked about it, he lied and said, no, there was no book in his cot. His teacher knew better and he got in a little bit of trouble for it.

Obviously when he told me this story, I laughed. Because I am terrible at that particular part of parenting (it is so hard not to laugh) and because of all the times I have read books instead of sleeping and also because it is a dumb rule. I fully believe that he should be held accountable, but I can’t help but be a little bit proud. We are doing okay if he is sneaking around reading books, right? I hope so. At the very least he is picking up on our values.

Atticus said, “It’s not funny, Mama.”

“You’re right, buddy. You need to listen to your teacher.”

And then I had to look away so I wouldn’t laugh some more.

by Kari at November 09, 2014 04:22 AM

November 08, 2014

Karibeth

atticus recommends.

Atticus recommends that you read The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. He can now pretty much recite it along with the parents and other various adults who have read it to him over the past few weeks. It makes him laugh every time and jump on the bed with excitement.

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Especially when the adult says, “Boo Boo Butt!” Atticus thinks that part is hilarious.

Atticus was not paid to endorse this story, his endorsement comes from a genuine enjoyment of making the adults in his life say silly words.

by Kari at November 08, 2014 02:32 AM

November 07, 2014

Karibeth

on cosleeping with the baby.

We got a cat for my birthday. His name is Neville, after the real hero of the Harry Potter series. I had told Mike that we could try to have another kid if he would let me use the name Neville for a boy. He got me a cat instead.

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Neville follows us from room to room, is wildly affectionate, and is incredibly patient with Atticus. Somehow Mike picked out a cat who seems more like a dog. Well-played, sir. We are still not getting a dog.

Now that Neville is used to our family, he has free reign of the house at night. This usually means he ends up in our bed. The good part is when he sleeps between us and it reminds me of the sweet parts of cosleeping with Atticus: how I liked having him so close and knowing he was safe. Plus, Neville does not need to breastfeed.

But Neville’s new nighttime trick is to take over my pillow. We are currently in a protracted battle over this. He does not take Mike’s pillow, nor does he try to bathe himself while sitting on Mike’s head. I am well aware that I am going to lose, but I am not sure what that is going to look like. Will I have to permanently sleep on the couch and give Neville my spot? Will I get used to having him sleep on my head? Will we have to move out and just let Neville have the house? Cat owners, please weigh in with your advice/experience/commiseration.

by Kari at November 07, 2014 03:37 AM

November 06, 2014

Karibeth

on the flu shot.

I got my flu shot a couple of weeks ago, and Atticus got his last week. The very nice nurse tried really hard to get him to do the mist, but we had not prepped him for the mist so he said he wanted to do the shot. We all learned a very important lesson about making sure he doesn’t watch the needle going into his own skin because that was the worst part. I guess that is just a difficult thing we all have to learn, because I don’t think I could have gotten him not to look. He was brave even though it hurt and he got ice cream afterwards.

Today Mike got his flu shot (I think this is the first year we have been three for three) and he took Atticus with him. When I talked to them later, Atticus told me that he held Daddy’s hand and watched the needle even though Daddy did not. Apparently both Atticus and the nurse did not feel any pain, though Daddy had a different story. I did not get a report on the ice cream but my hunch is that they had some.

by Kari at November 06, 2014 01:43 AM

November 04, 2014

Karibeth

on voting with a three-year-old.

I took Atticus to vote this morning. On the way into our polling place, I reminded him that he was going to push the buttons for me and I needed him to listen so we could get our voting right. He declared, “I’M VOTING FOR BATMAN!” Perhaps Batman is the hero that North Carolina deserves, but not the one it needs right now, as he is not on the ballot this year.

It is fun to watch Atticus take in new situations. He stuck close until they gave him the sticker, then his excitement won out. But he reigned it in when he realized it was time to push buttons. I was prepared for the possibility that his “help” might mean that everyone in the room was going to know who exactly I was voting for as he repeated it loudly. But he did great – I had him push the screen next to the name that started with whichever letter, and he was careful to do them all right. He even helped compare it to the list that I brought in. After we were done, I thanked him for helping me vote, and he said, “Why do YOU get a sticker?” Fair enough.

Then he said, “Wait, we did not vote B for Batman!”

We might wait to teach him about election results another year. I don’t want him to think that Batman lost.

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by Kari at November 04, 2014 11:58 PM

on seriously miscalculating.

When I was a little girl, we had an Admiral Ackbar action figure at our house. Looking back, this makes no sense. The two Star Wars action figures we had were Luke Skywalker (sure) and Admiral Ackbar (wait, what). Because of that, Admiral Ackbar is my favorite character and I have taught Atticus to love him, too. When he is on screen, Atticus yells, “Mama! Admiral Ackbar!” Attaboy.

After Atticus picked out his Darth Vader costume, he wanted to designate costumes for the rest of us as well. He insisted that I had to be Leia. Because I am a girl. We had some hard conversations about this. I argued that you can pick any kind of costume you want and also that I find Leia to be boring and he was firm in his belief that girls have to dress as girls. Finally, one glorious afternoon, he agreed that I could dress as Admiral Ackbar. Oh, sweet victory!

(You may have noticed that I did not, in fact, dress as Admiral Ackbar.)

After he conceded, I immediately went to my computer to order myself an Admiral Ackbar costume. Here’s the problem: such a thing does not exist.

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I don’t understand it either! Admiral Ackbar is the best.

So if you were wondering how I picked my costume for Halloween it came from pure desperation. Obviously I could not be Leia after all that stuff I said, but I did not really want to be anyone other than Admiral Ackbar. Instead of ordering a costume I had an intense DIY session. It took me almost a whole month to make the Death Star based on these directions. I hadn’t done paper mâché since elementary school, but I was driven by stubbornness and a need to save face in front of my child. (I have found these to be important parenting skills.) Mike was really unsure about this project but I used that opportunity to say things like, “I find your lack of faith … disturbing.” But the truth is that I was unsure about it, too.

In the end it worked out great and was worth all the trouble when Atticus ran up to me and yelled in his Darth Vader voice, “I live on you!” before we gleefully blew up many pretend planets in our neighborhood.

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Were you also wondering about Mike’s outfit? He was torn between his love for Atticus, who wanted him to be a stormtrooper, and his intense hatred of wearing costumes. Last weekend he started to worry that he was going to disappoint Atticus so I told him to go buy a Star Wars t-shirt. When people asked Atticus what his daddy was for Halloween, he said, “Daddy is the title!”

(Nerds.)

by Kari at November 04, 2014 12:36 AM

November 03, 2014

Karibeth

on taking a sad song and making it better.

Today is my mom’s birthday! For her birthday we took her to see Paul McCartney. He was in town, he was her favorite when she was a girl, and the Beatles are the greatest band of all time. You can’t say no to seeing a real live Beatle in your town.

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The show was awesome. I guess it would have been better if he played every single song that I know, but he did play 39 songs so I can’t complain. (Seriously, though, he played for three hours. Made me think maybe I should be a vegetarian.)

Here’s what I have been thinking about the past few days: I grew up with a lot of Beatles/Wings songs so of course I know them deep within my soul. Like most of the people in the audience, I sang along as much as I could, belting out “Hey Jude” and “Carry That Weight” completely unselfconsciously. That might sound like no big deal except that I am a terrible singer. I haven’t felt unselfconscious about singing in church (the place I regularly engage with public singing) since my youth group days, when a boy leaned over and said that if I couldn’t sing on key, I shouldn’t sing at all. But on Thursday, there was some kind of special McCartney magic that made it possible for me to join in without the usual hesitations.

I was swept up by the music in a way I don’t think has ever happened at church, where I have so often felt I had to perform in a certain way or have a certain kind of experience or reaction. It made me grateful for the gift of simply being able to sing along with songs I love.

Thanks, Sir Paul, for all the fun. (And for singing the Happy Birthday song. How did you know it was my mom’s birthday?)

by Kari at November 03, 2014 12:56 AM

November 01, 2014

Karibeth

on being the bad guy.

Over the summer, Atticus watched Star Wars for the first time. We had to do this because our friends were tired of us getting mad at them when they would say things like, “I am your father!” (Also Toy Story 2, I am giving you some side eye.) We had a few Star Wars books and our answers to his questions about the characters were starting to feel inadequate. It was time for him to experience the movies for himself.

(Because I know are going to ask: no, he is not allowed to watch Episodes 1-3. They are terrible and we want nothing to do with them. The end.)

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Watching Star Wars with Atticus was awesome, everything I ever imagined about one day sharing it with a kid. He was excited and scared in all the right places, he fought Darth Vader with his lightsaber, and he was thrilled when he met Yoda for the first time.

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It was no surprise that his choice for Halloween this year was Darth Vader. Darth Vader finds peace and a little bit of redemption at the end of his story, but even if he didn’t it was satisfying to watch Atticus explore that side of himself. He spent the weeks before Halloween menacing us and threatening to blow up various planets (“but just pretend”). I don’t think I ever dressed up as a “bad guy” for Halloween but of course Darth Vader is the most interesting and terrifying character of the story. And of course we all want to be the guy who can blow up planets sometimes.

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This is what I find so wonderful about Halloween, that it makes it possible for a three-year-old to dress as the most terrifying figure he knows, and that he can run around among the Elsas and Annas and superheroes of the world and find the lights on and doors open to welcome him.

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by Kari at November 01, 2014 09:26 PM

October 29, 2014

Jeff H.

The Blur That Has Been Fall

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A week before Adriene and I left for London, my laptop died. The power supply completely failed and I was without a laptop. So, I mailed it off to get fixed and left for London and everything since then on a technology level has been a complete mess. When I returned home, the laptop arrived a couple days later, but apparently it had been used as a basketball on the way home because the screen was cracked. I sent it back to technical support and let them know this was not satisfactory and I wanted the screen repaired for free. After two weeks of doing I don’t know what, they informed me they didn’t have the part and at that point I told them to just send me back the laptop and refund all repairs. So, I got my laptop repaired for free and it only took four weeks and one cracked screen to get that done and in the meantime all of my internet usage was on tablets and tiny computers with tiny keyboards.

I say all that to say that trying to compose anything on touchscreens and tablets is enough to drive a man mad, so while I felt like I built up some nice momentum here on the site this summer it all came to a screeching halt and I haven’t written anything in a couple months. At the same time, I have been so busy trying to catch up at work and keep up with my kids’ activities that it’s not like I had much time to try and peck (and curse) something on a tablet touchscreen anyways.

What to say about London? A month now in the rear-view mirror and it seems like a dream. It was an alternate world that we lived in for a week and now that we are back it seems like it canters along at it’s own pace, totally oblivious that we were ever there. The whole order of our day was totally altered. We never sat in a car and we stood in crowds the entire week. At one point, Adriene saw a fatigued expression on my face and said, “You’re tired of being around people all day, aren’t you?” I did admit that I longed to sit at my desk at home and look out over our (people-less) pond and trees in the back yard. But it was amazing, it really was. Some old friends that live in London swooped down and took us off for unbelievably good Turkish food, Indian food, and so much beer I can’t even begin to say which one I liked best. By the time we got familiar with the city, I had sat in the dark corners of Stamford Bridge and watched a match from one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the world and then later taunted Stoke City fans when Niko Kranjcar hit a free kick for QPR in the dying moments of the game. We listened to Georgia Tech play football in an alternate universe where it was daytime on our phones at night in the pub. Adriene saw the Hogwarts model castle used in the Harry Potter films and we saw the Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s oldest chess sets in existence, thousand-dollar (sorry, pound) shoes at Harrod’s, and just like that we were home again where everyone drives on the right side of the road and we have 700 channels on our TV.

What a return, though! The girls signed up for cheerleading this year and I have to say there is nothing funnier than watching first grade kids play football. They are kinda like weeble-wobbles with their shoulder pads that stick out on both sides and helmets as big as their shoulders. They don’t tackle each so much as they run into each other. Games are almost always decided by a comedy of errors, almost always because there is one kid bigger and faster than the others and no one can tackle, or even catch him. The girls have had mixed opinions about cheering at the games, mostly because of the varying weather conditions, so we’ll see if we do this again next year. However, this fall it has consumed our weeks and our weekends and we’ve had to squeeze normal activities into the hinterlands of our weekly schedule. It has been fun and exciting, but I’m not sure I will be that sorry when it’s over. When it is over, it is time to get ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The children are happy. There is always something to look forward to.

This post is like the final piece in the puzzle of catching up this fall. I feel like the last couple of months have been a blur, but things seem to finally be returning back to a more normal pace of life just in time to start ramping up for the holiday season and more adventures to come.

(I know some people love vacation photos and for other people it brings back horrible memories of sitting at someone’s house while they show slide after slide on a screen, BUT if you’re the sort that likes vacation photos, here they are.)

by jholland at October 29, 2014 12:04 PM

October 26, 2014

Karibeth

what I have been reading (october edition).

Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond (via the public library)

I quit watching football a couple of years ago after hearing and reading podcasts and articles that talked about the brain injuries. The NFL was a regular part of our lives for the entire time we have been married, and watching on Sundays together was something we enjoyed. But I started to feel squeamish about it, about people being hurt for my enjoyment, so I stopped. I didn’t make some big pronouncement, just quietly decided I couldn’t do it anymore. The news that has come out of the NFL since has not changed my mind. (I do still watch the Super Bowl. I can’t really justify that either, but I watch it.)

All that to say, I was already on the side of the author when it came to this book, but I still appreciated how he articulated his arguments. My position has been less clearly stated, so it was helpful to read in detail about not just the brain injuries but also the financial problems and the racial problems and the culture of violence problems that I felt I was endorsing when I watched the NFL. Do I think that this book will change anyone’s mind? Not really. Do I think it might help sway someone who is feeling iffy about watching the NFL? Yes. Do I think that stuff like this will make a difference in the long run? I doubt it. The NFL is going to roll on without my support but at least I can better explain why. Recommended for: anyone who has ever had a twinge of concern about watching the NFL.

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Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (via the public library)

Roxane Gay is really funny on Twitter and I listened to the Slate Audio Book Club discussion of Bad Feminist and decided I should read it. When I say that it was so good that it made me cry, that is not even an exaggeration. I loved how she examined pop culture ideas about women and race while still acknowledging her own failings in this area (this is the “bad” part of being a bad feminist – enjoying romantic comedies and/or music that is not exactly empowering to women). The part that touched me the most was in the essay in which she talks about how a group of boys assaulted her when she was in middle school. At one point, she rebuts the idea that young adult literature should be free of darkness by pointing out how much darkness teenagers can and do experience. It was a great reminder to me of why I do what I do. Many of the essays were funny, all of them are smart and interesting. Highly recommended.

50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith by Michelle DeRusha (via NetGalley)

These are great profiles of women who made their mark in Christian culture. Of course I felt there were some pretty big holes – the list is very much focused on women of the western world. Not to mention that you could profile 50 women from the Civil Rights movement alone. But I did feel that DeRusha worked hard to make the list diverse. I enjoyed the book and learned details about women I was familiar with well as being introduced to new ones. I did not always agree with the “lesson” we needed to take from their lives, but that didn’t take away from my overall interest in the topic. I am going to give this book to my grandma for Christmas, and I think she will enjoy the short chapters as well as reading about some of her heroes. (She does not have the internet, so it is safe to post this.)

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes (via Goodreads)

I won this one through Goodreads and I am finally getting around to writing about it. This is a thoughtful discussion of the myth of the StrongBlackWoman and the damage that that idea does to Black women in our culture and in our churches. The book is specifically aimed at pastors to help them examine that stereotype and to give them ways to minister to Black women in the church, providing them with space to be vulnerable. It was interesting to read this one just after the previous book and to see how the women in that book of all races were often held up for denying themselves and not showing emotion. I’m not a pastor myself, but it gave me a lot to think about culturally. On a personal level it paired well with Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry, which I read earlier this year. Recommended for: pastoral caregivers.

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles (graphic novel by Dover Press) (via NetGalley)

My students love graphic novels and I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so I was interested to see if this might be a good purchase for them. I think that Sherlock Holmes and especially this particular story deserve more in terms of the art. The Hound of the Baskervilles is so much about atmosphere on the moors, and the drawings in this graphic novel do not really convey that. Not recommended.

I received copies of some of these books from the publishers but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at October 26, 2014 02:32 PM

October 16, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

what is she

i roll your words on my tongue
impressively alien

they break my jaw
their many many layers

could i have thought that? i think
you would not have thought that

she does not lie unblinking
ceiling rapt

numbers cycle behind half-
slumbered eyelids

she hasn’t won the lottery
yet

i bend your words to my form
a spoon

stirs as always
what is she

& what is she
thinking

by ddeboer at October 16, 2014 08:46 PM

Karibeth

what I have been reading (less reading than normal edition).

People always ask if I really read all these books. The answer is yes! And also I go through periods where I tool around on the internet just like everyone else. Lately I have been doing a lot of tooling around on the internet and also I am sloooowly working my way through The Wire for the first time. But I do have some books to post about.

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (purchased by me)

Despite the fact that we North Carolinians like to claim Dr. Angelou as our own, I had never read all of this book. I read a few different excerpts at different times during school, but never the whole thing. After she passed away this spring, I put it on my summer reading list. What is there to say except that her extraordinary story lives up to every bit of hype and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

Blankets by Craig Thompson (from the public library)

This is a huge graphic novel – almost 600 pages. It tells the story of Craig’s childhood with his fundamentalist parents and his first love. It’s always on those lists of must-read graphic novels and I can see why – it’s a beautiful story with beautiful drawings.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (from the public library)

Not quite as good as the first one but still a great mystery with fun characters. Hits the spot for me and I just love the J.K. Rowling voice you can hear in there when it comes to the descriptions and the dry humor.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown (from the public library)

I have some friends who swear by Brene Brown, and I didn’t disagree with anything but I am not sure that vulnerability is my issue. Great book to discuss with a friend who knows you well.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (via Blogging for Books)

I was not sure I wanted to read this memoir about Whiston-Donaldson losing her son in a freak tragedy at the age of 12. While it is an incredibly sad story, it was somehow not as bleak as I thought it might be. An honest portrayal of a mother’s grief and her family’s attempt to pick up the pieces of their broken life. I appreciated that it did not reach for easy answers or shy away from the intense pain and questions that Whiston-Donaldson was feeling, to the point that I am still not sure whether her marriage will survive the tragedy. The story is stronger than the writing, but the story is enough to keep you engaged. Unsettling but ultimately hopeful.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (purchased for me by Mike)

There’s a lot of buzz around this story about twins who were once close and who are now barely speaking to each other. It alternates back and forth between the past and present with the two narrators, Noah and Jude. I really did not like it. Hated the writing style with the quirky asides, hated one of the narrators (Jude), hated the story, kind of hated the magical realism aspect. I wanted to like it! But it was not for me. Recommended for: NO ONE. But if you want to read it I will lend you my copy.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood (via NetGalley)

This is about two girls in Australia who go for a term to an outdoor education camp. One, Lou, has recently lost her boyfriend in an accident and is covered up in grief. The second, Sibylla, was recently featured in a marketing campaign and is seeing new social doors open for her. They are in the same cabin but don’t forge a friendship right away. I liked this book for its depiction of life as a teenager in Australia as well as the focus on female friendship. Recommended for 12-16 year olds.

Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (via NetGalley)

Kaz works in a laundromat and has a mother with a weird disease. He sees Zoey and falls for her, but their relationship doesn’t make sense. Zoey isn’t developed as a character, and Kaz’s inability to see her as more than a cool hot chick makes it hard to feel sorry for him when it turns out Zoey isn’t who she claimed she was. Basically a mess and it’s a shame because the characters have a lot of potential.

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake (via NetGalley)

I am a huge fan of The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake – it comes in and out of my library almost every day and it’s a book that I love and love to read with students. But I could not get into Unstoppable Octobia May. I enjoyed the portrayal of time and place but the story was hard to follow. I couldn’t see myself giving it to a student when I could barely read it myself. Huge bummer for me because I was excited about it and was hoping for more. There’s a good detective story in here and I could see some of the antics playing out so well if they had been described a little bit more clearly.

Currently reading:

We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren (via NetGalley)

I have a rocky relationship with Brian McLaren – I have seen him speak and really enjoyed his words, but I have also read some of his other books and felt like he was condescending and . . . almost unkind. But this book? I am loving it. It’s structured as a year-long study so it’s hard to read straight through but I am working through it a little at a time and the reflections on scripture are wonderful. I could see a Sunday School class getting a lot out of these discussions. Highly highly recommended!

I received copies of some of these books from the publishers but, as always, my opinions are my own (and boy did I seem grumpy with this set).

by Kari at October 16, 2014 01:09 AM

October 15, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

Small Animal

That small animal who goes out in front of me
Who precedes me always
Simply asks to have his feathers ruffled
To make a new friend
To tell you about his day
For you to listen for a little while

If you ask me whose small animal that is
I will make unplausible noises
He is not mine I say
He just happens to be here I say
He is an escapee perhaps I say

As I reach down to ruffle your feathers
I notice behind you a him
Who is he? I ask
He is not mine you say
He just follows me around you say
Waiting to be fed you say

by ddeboer at October 15, 2014 02:32 AM

avail

for blessing on this list i pray
for this tree which grows wild mushrooms
        the colour of dust about its base
        the foliage of tomorrow
        i do not recognize it
for the planes that fall out of the sky
        like fruit splitting open
        the seeds of which fall
        into our backyards
for the ever-surfacing munitions that we
        pile at the corners of fields
        for densely coated men
        to lead away
for the volcano who gathers rumblings
        who is not becalmed
        with sertraline or conversation
        who will not say what
for the mongol hordes who melt before
        to form up behind
        even their horses drink blood
        cries the sodden earth
for the child who knows nothing
        but must have her way
        whose father and mother also
        know nothing and do the same
for blessing against this list i pray

though it will not avail at least
not much

by ddeboer at October 15, 2014 02:14 AM

October 14, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

The Season

Appropriate, as if the language of leaves could be
mine and wielded,

to the season. Graduating from primary plaid and jeans
to collegiate leggings and fur linings,

an all knowing rectangle in one hand,
a pumpkin in the other.

That is to say, we are all tumble dried and turning
from green to yellow to red to

unironable parchment. Whose words are these,
they demand, what do they mean.

Why should I read them anyways? These letters
stink of quills and ink and

spotted hands,
they say, moving in packs united by irrepressible gluttony.

The gaggle knows what the goose does not:
The lean, sinewy season comes:

We must eat it all before it disappears.
We must trample underfoot the evidence of an

earlier time.
Appropriate, as if the language of death could be cleaved

from its mothballed antecedents,
to the season.

by ddeboer at October 14, 2014 02:10 AM

October 04, 2014

Daniel - ElsewhereInDreams.com

They Will Kill You

These are the lines I speak
that I have been told to speak
to speak else is not to speak

The right combinations of words
to speak over and again until words
no longer resolve as words

No one asks how they were written
They were assembled and not written
from things assembled and not written

Except this one madman whose brayed laugh
from the back row catches and we laugh
though we don’t know why we laugh

The same man says,
You can make something new
that has never been said before now

You can say it
but they will kill you

So these are the lines I speak
that I have been paid to speak
I open my mouth but…

by ddeboer at October 04, 2014 04:45 AM

October 01, 2014

Karibeth

been talking ’bout the way things change.

One night this summer, Atticus stayed at my mom’s house overnight so Mike and I could have a date night, which ended up being an early dinner so we could come home to watch House of Cards. (We are very exciting people.) When Atticus wanted to Facetime with us, we agreed, but it turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Even though he loves loves loves staying at Grammy’s house and being with Grammy, he was tired. Seeing us but not being able to be with us so close to bedtime was confusing and upsetting to him.

It was upsetting to us, too, a little bit. We are used to his clinginess and his tears (and we were in the middle of a big clingy phase at that point) but as he reached for us through the screen he had a look on his face that neither of us had seen before, sadness and confusion and tiredness all mingled into something new. Tears filled my own eyes as I watched him try to make sense of what was happening.

I would have told you that I knew all of his faces, the tired silliness at bedtime and the sly side-eye when he’s doing something he knows is questionable and the quiet nervousness of a new situation. He might be a big three-year-old now, but I grew him as a tiny baby inside of me, so of course I know his faces.

But I didn’t know that one because I was seeing something he had never experienced before.

I have thought about that face a lot over the past couple of months. When Atticus was tiny, I reminded myself often how steep the learning curve must be to a little person. But now he walks (runs) and talks (yells) and I forget that there are still so many things he hasn’t seen, hasn’t felt inside.

As a parent, I think we talk more about the positive feelings that we get to watch our kids experience as they learn: pride at an accomplishment, joy at seeing something new, self-control in a hard situation. It’s more difficult to think about the things that will make him sad and scared and confused in the future and give him all sorts of new feelings he has never felt before. It’s scary for me, too. The baby stage was hard because so many people had opinions about what we were supposed to do, but this part feels hard because Atticus is uncharted as a person and it’s becoming so clear that there is no guidebook to help us discover who he is.

I don’t want to pivot to platitudes or an easy answer here. I work with middle schoolers so I am crushingly aware that these feelings of uncertainty are only going to increase over time. But I do mean it when I say that despite feeling like a terrible responsibility, I am aware that it is such a privilege to watch him work these things out and help him learn what to do with all the things he takes in. It has helped me realize how many new feelings and experiences I have had since becoming a parent, too, and that we are all three in this together.

Two Atticus faces to close us out:

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Hmm, what is in this box?

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Ah, yes, it is chocolate cake.

by Kari at October 01, 2014 01:36 AM