December 17, 2011

saturday snapshot...

My friend, Jake. The coolest 14 year old I know...

December 15, 2011

in the nick of time...

Time for another honest report on my life.

As you know, I hit bottom, or a bottom (I'm sure I could go lower, but it was a low point either way). And faithwise, I was just sitting there, in the cold and dark, waiting. Turns out there's an odd sort of peace when you are in such a place, one I did not expect. When you are all done trying, when you aren't clinging to a rope for all you are worth, well, you can relax. Your situation hasn't changed, just how you are responding. It was interesting, to say the least.

Part of my bottom was not having a job and being at the end of my finances. Despite applying all over, I had nothing. And then I got an email. It was offering me a chance to apply for a full-time position for a job I had lots of skills and experience in (phone work). But I got the email on a Sunday night, and he wanted a response by Saturday night, the day BEFORE. I was crushed.

Then I figured it couldn't hurt to respond. So I answered all his questions, sent him a note saying I hadn't received it before Saturday, but that I would still like to be considered if possible.

Then it was in God's hands. And let me tell you, I prayed. I had friends pray. And I was strangely calm about it. I figured that if God wanted me to have the job, it would take him opening the door.

Well, long story short, the door opened. And after a phone interview, an in-person interview, observing the job, and a second round of interviews today, I was offered the position.

I'm still touching bottom--it's going to take sometime to hike out of this hole. But at least now I have provision. I'm not trying to jump on my own, I have a trampoline to help.

Thank you, God, for providing. Nothing like waiting until the very last second--I can see where I get my flair for the dramatic.

And welcome back to the full-time workforce. At least I can wear jeans every day...that should help ease the pain, right?

December 10, 2011

saturday snapshot...

My chickens really do love yogurt! Gwendolyn is the one looking up, from there (counterclockwise) is Rose, Ophelia, and Cordelia. Aren't they pretty?

December 5, 2011

november reading review...

A once-a-month review of the books I read.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein (4 stars)

Epstein understands both words and art, and that made this book a great read. The story of a young girl sold into prostitution by her uncle, we follow her through her two years in the house, her rescue by a government official, her introduction to the art world, and her studies that take her around the world.

Due to the subject matter, I do not recommend this for most reader, and not for any of my teens (wait until your 25, please and thank you!).
Dara loaned this one to me, and it's no surprise that she liked it, being so art focused!

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 6,7,& 8 by Lemony Snicket (3 stars to each)

The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital

They are still pretty quick reads (2 hours or less), but I'm sorta falling out of enjoyment with them. They are great stories, and if I was a kid or had kid, I'd likely enjoy them a tad more. I'll finish the series, but won't be rereading them soon.

Real Life and Liars by Kristina Riggle (3 1/2 stars)

I picked this one up because it was agented by an agent I'm interested in, and it was well worth the read. A story about a mother who is dying of cancer and her three adult children, this is a well-written exploration of family dynamics.

I'm not a huge fan of the multi-narrator/POV style (The mother is first person, the three "children" are in third), but it wasn't as annoying as some.

This is NOT a book for any of the CPers to be reading--wait until you've graduated college.

In the Frame by Dick Francis (3 stars)

Another fun read by Francis--this one is about a painter who ends up trying to clear his cousin, who is suspected of murdering his wife. Francis combines the art world, the wine world, and Australia into this one, and it's a blast. What was even more fun was realizing it was written before I was born--in the days when you could travel under any name you liked and had no cell phones :P.

Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins (4 stars)

I think once I have time to really spend with these poems, the ranking will go up to 5 stars, but on first read, I had a harder time than usual getting into this collection (that's to say it took five poems instead of the normal one!). Collins is still the best, and I love hi,

Hold Still by Nina LaCour (3 1/2 stars)

This was another one I picked up in my agent research. LaCour is one I'll watch for in the future. It was really a good read, I just don't know that I'll read it again. This YA tale is about a 17-year old whose best friend commits suicide. A few months later, the MC finds her friend's journal tucked under her own bed. She starts to read and finds out she how much she didn't see, and that her friend left her one final gift--a way to deal with the loss.

While it says YA, I'd say only the older YA set (17+) due to some subject matter.

It looks like I'm going to round out the year just over 100 books. I'm already reading number 99, and the month is young!


December 3, 2011

saturday snapshot...

A visitor in the backyard this summer...I never noticed the spider in there before now!

November 26, 2011

saturday snapshot...

A sleepy kitty hiding in Dara's closet.

November 22, 2011

rope, rock, and a random song...

Remember that rope I was talking about--the frayed, slender one I was holding onto the end of for dear life?

It snapped last week.

And I fell. Not far, because I was pretty much at the bottom of things as it was, but the sudden shock of slamming into a hard surface knocked the wind out of me.

So all last weekend I've been just laying there, on the bottom, not doing anything. There's a sort of peace in knowing you've hit the bottom (even if it turns out to be a false bottom later on), a comfort in knowing at least you got somewhere. It's kinda quiet down here, a bit cold to be sure, but at least I can stop the death grip on a rope that is never going to last. Who would have thought rock bottom would be sorta peaceful?

I'm still struggling with God, or rather, the apparent absence of him. I know he's here, somewhere, because this isn't quite hell. But I don't know where he is, and I'm worn out from searching. So I'm just going to sit here on the bottom for a while, rest up, wait. Give him a chance to find me.

I've spent a lot of time in the last week journaling (for those who know me, you know I only journal when things are really bleak, and that when I journal, I get even bleaker--it's not pretty). And in those pages I've spilled the darkest fears and accusations. I'm glad God is big enough and strong enough to handle them, because they are all I have right now.

And there's a song going through my head (and maybe, if it's not frozen solid, my heart, I'm not sure). It's called Hallelujah (sung by k.d. lang, of all people), (yes, I get the irony, thank you). The lyrics include, "Love is not a victory march / It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah." And later, "It’s not a cry that you hear at night /It’s not somebody who’s seen in the light /It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah."

Right now, the most I can offer is a cold and broken hallelujah. I hope it's enough.

November 19, 2011

saturday snapshot...

"A shortcut to what?" "Mushrooms!"

November 12, 2011

November 5, 2011

saturday snapshot...

This summer our yard was taken over by happy daisies...

November 3, 2011

october reading review...

A once-a-month review of the books I read.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

Anne's House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery (3 stars)

I liked this one better than Windy Poplars, but I got very, very sick of the phrase "house of dreams". And that's about all I can say about this one.

Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery (3 stars)

The focus shifted here from Anne to her kids--it should have been called "Anne's Children". Not as engaging as the first book in the series, but the kids are fun characters.

Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery (3 stars)

Again, about Anne's kids. I would have liked this story much better if Susan hadn't been in them. She's annoying.

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery (3 stars)

I almost gave this one two stars because I don't like authors who get political, and this one had a lot of politics. And way too much of Susan. It was great to see Anne's youngest daughter coming into her own, but the romance was way to flimsy. It got it's third star because of the dog, and that's all I'm sayin' about that!

The Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-5 by Lemony Snicket (3 stars to each)

The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, The Miserable Mill, and The Austere Academy

These are fun, quick reads. I love the way he handles vocab (seeing as these are for young readers), and how he keeps the story moving at a good pace. Sadly, I read them in such quick succession that when I went to a movie a few days later, I kept expecting really bad things to happen :P I'll be continuing the series in November. (Note: Each one takes me between one and two hours to read, for those who are interested in how quick they are!)

Longshot by Dick Francis (4 stars)

The second book by Francis that I've read, this one was also recommended by Dara. It was fantastic. The main character was a poor writer, so I was able to identify right off. And let's just say that even though I'm not a fan of horse racing, I do love horses. Since Francis brings horses into all his stories, I'm pretty much a sucker for them all now. And his main characters are so very lovable. If you like easy reads that have wonderful characters, pick up something by Francis!

Room by Emma Donoghue (3 stars)

Shelly mentioned reading this one a few months ago and the premise sounded interesting. A mother and her five-year-old son who live in an 11X11 room. I knew from the get go that there would be difficult subject matter (they are prisoners, the mother was kidnapped at 19 and is raped by her captor, the son is a product of rape), but I watch a lot of shows that cover such matter, so I knew it wouldn't creep me out. And while the idea was good, there were several things that didn't quite work. First off, Donoghue sets the story in America but she really doesn't understand American culture like she needed to (she's Irish I believe). Second, the point of view is always the little boy's, but it doesn't always ring true to a child, even a smart child. There are a few others, but you can read my review on Goodreads.com of you want to know them! Not as powerful as all the hype makes it out to be.




November 1, 2011

no NaNo...

Back in January I made a decision. It wasn't a resolution, just an ordinary sort of decision. I decided that this year I would not be participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). NaNo is the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 day (in November). I've done NaNo for the last seven years or so, I have even been a local leader of the group here in the Springs for six years.

But after last year, I realized that while NaNo had been very helpful to me in my writing, it had reached the point where it was no longer useful. In addition, the writing had become more of a chore, and it drained me from useful writing for at least a month (usually more) after it was over. (Since NaNo rules state you must start a new work, I ended up setting aside my "real" projects for NaNo several years in a row.) For someone who is working towards publication, that just wasn't a good deal. So I decided that 2010 was the last NaNo for the foreseeable future for me.

I'm really thankful for NaNo. It taught me how to focus and how to complete a manuscript. It gave me the opportunity to meet some great writers here in Colorado Springs and around the world.

And yes, I'm a little sad about not doing it. I'm going to miss the camaraderie, the rush, and satisfaction of reaching a goal. But on the other hand, I'm glad that I'm not draining my creative juices. I'm excited about continuing my search for an agent. And hopefully I'll be doing quality writing and editing on my current projects.

And for once, I get to be the cheerleader. I like encouraging people to push themselves, to reach goals, to do things that they have dreamed of doing.

October 29, 2011

saturday snapshot...

We get the most interesting snow around here--it sticks to leaves but not to cement!

October 28, 2011

grasping at...

I have several posts in the works, but they are all long and thoughtful and not quite coming together. So instead, how about a bit of a ramble?

I've been thinking a lot lately about doubts, specifically about doubting God. Now, I've never doubted God's existence, nor that he created the universe, that he's in charge, that Jesus is his son, and so on. That part has always been easy for me. I've been a Christian now for over twenty years and as far as knowing God is real, that's solid.

I even have full faith that God will take care of my friends, that he knows what is best, and that in the end, things will all be as he dictates they will. But sometimes along the journey I have periods of doubting that God is going to take care of ME. I've seen his provision in the lives of people I know--the check that comes for just the amount of the house payment the day it's due, the bag of groceries left on the doorstep, those sorts of things. I've seen friends get jobs right when they needed them the most, seen barriers to dreams lifted just when they needed to be. Yet when I am in desperate need of such movements from on high, they don't seem to be around.

I try to trust God to be the provider for me--especially since I'm a single woman equipped with skills and talents that don't earn money. I would love to see God's provision in a tangible way every day--I'd be very thankful for it. Yet in times like these, where I am at the end of funds and every possible light at the end of the tunnel is snuffed out before it's bigger than a pinhole, it's hard for me to believe that God is taking care of me.

Amy Grant (stop cringing, I like her) has a song that puts my struggle into words. It asks, "Will you protect what you already own?" God has me; I am his. That's not in doubt. But sometimes I find myself wondering if he's going to protect me now that he has me (I know, in my mind, that he will, it's the heart that trembles when the lights go out). Every time the door slams in my face, every time I feel shoved closer to the edge of the cliff, I wonder if God's going to catch me. And since he does know me, knows my situation, knows my needs, but is silent about it, and he doesn't open doors, I wonder why.

I know he has his reasons--I just, as usual, wish I understood them.

Despite the doubt, I keep holding on. It's all I know to do. Hold on and wait until he does come through.

I'm not really looking for responses here--just figured that I'd put it out there in stark honesty. Thanks for listening to my waverings.

October 22, 2011

saturday snapshot...

We went to the Tetons in August--first time I've been there in at least 30 years. Stunning!

October 15, 2011

saturday snapshot...

This is a shot from inside the now closed Wyoming State Penitentiary. I took this on our tour in August.

October 8, 2011

saturday snapshot...

Last year, Dara took me to Denver to celebrate my 32nd birthday--we dined at a crepes place on the 16th Street Mall where I took this photo.

October 6, 2011

the smell of competition...

One of the CleanPlace teens and I got into a discussion last week about competition. I think I rather surprised her when I said that I find little value in it and have never much cared for it. Since she is a rather driven young lady who competes in several things (debate and music competitions), she was trying to convince me of the merits of competition. She pointed out that it can help build character, sharpen skills, and encourage you to be better. For herself, she loves what competition has done in her life.

And while competition CAN do those things for SOME people, I had to point out that it does not do that for a good lot of people. Many of us, if given the chance, decide not to be competitive.

Personally, I dislike competition for several reasons. First off, I find it to be negative. There is one winner and the rest are losers. I don't care what the competition is for, but I would put good money down that those "losers" were often very good at whatever skill it was they were competing in. But because there can only be one (or three, if we go Olympics style judging) winners, the rest must, by definition, be losers. Just because I'm not as good as Judy Jumper at long jump doesn't make me a loser, it just may mean that Judy has longer legs than I do. But how many kids have cried and though something wrong with themselves because they didn't win at long jump or the talent show? Too many.

Second, competition is selfish. You know the old story of the race at a Special Olympics where one of the runners falls down? And all the other runners stop racing and help that one up, and help him or her to the finish line. You know why we all forward that message? Because despite the fact that they are supposed to be competing, these runners set aside the prize for the sake of others. Competition says "me," "my," and "mine". "My team" will crush yours. "The prize is mine." But we were not created to be alone--we were created to live together.

And that brings me to the third point, which is the newest, and came to me after the conversation (as I was reflecting and polishing my thoughts). Competition is, perhaps, unGodly. God did not set it up so that only one person gets to go to heaven. He welcomes us all. God did not say that only the person who prays the best prayer will get to heaven. Nor the person who can speak in the most tongues. God never asks us to be better than any other one of His children--He simply asks us to be the best WE can be.

As I thought more about it, I realized that since God created us each uniquely, that to pit our gifts and talents (yes, skills!) against each other may not be glorifying to Him. He would rather see us each excel in the gift, use it to the extent that He gave it. And since the talents come from Him, we should not lord it over our fellow man if God did not give him the same measure.

My young friend (who was really just enjoying a debate, she does see some of my side, though I'm not sure she will ever agree with it, loving competition as she does) feels that the positive aspects of competition outweigh the negative. I, on the other hand, see other ways in which to get the positive aspects without the negative. I don't need to compete against my fellow writers in order to sharpen my skills--I can work with them in critique groups to polish both their work and mine. I don't need to go head-to-head against a friend in order to learn about their skill--I'd much rather sit down and have them share and teach me. As for the character building that they always say comes with losing, well, life is full of loss. I hardly need competition to hand me that lesson.

So, what do you think? Do you like to compete? Has it been a good or bad experience for you? I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

(Note: I am all up for friendly, goofy competitions like games and silly stuff. It's the serious stuff that I'm more addressing. So yes, I'll crush you at a game of Nertz, but only as long as I know we'll not think the less of each other at the end of it!)

October 2, 2011

september reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery (3 stars)

Fourth in the Anne series, this one coves the three years between Gilbert’s proposal and their eventual marriage (which happens at the start of the fifth book). I didn’t like this one half so much as the first three, and I think that’s largely because it was largely written as letters from Anne to Gilbert. I missed the antics and situations that Anne always finds herself in. There were a few, but not enough for my taste.

The Bride Collector by Ted DekKer (3 stars)

It had been a few years since I picked up some DekKer, so I snagged this one when I saw it at the library.

It's classic DekKer--thriller, spiritual elements, smart characters, and rambling plots that you let him get away with because he usually goes somewhere interesting with them.

It was good--but there were a few things that bothered me. If you want to see more, check out my review on Goodreads.

What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler (3 stars)

This is a collection of quirky short stories. I really liked the title story, the rest of them didn’t make a huge impact. Good writing.

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas (3 stars)

I got this one for just a few dollars right before vacation, but didn’t get to reading it until after we got home. The story of an elderly woman who grew up in a mining town in the Colorado Rockies, this book feels a bit more like the collection of short stories that it started out as rather than a novel. I think Dallas tried too hard to make it a novel, and the plot she overlaid onto the stories was a bit flimsy. The book has character enough, but I’m unlikely to read it again.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (3 stars)

I picked this one up at Goodwill for about $2, and I can say that the money was not wasted.

Mosse does a good job of weaving her story lines together (something I'm always a bit in awe of because I don't plot well). While other reviews have criticized her lack of character development and her tendency towards description, without giving away too much, I can say that what she did do took a great deal more effort, and in the end, I think it worked very well.

The book is cleanly written (my internal editor did not rear up at all), and the story is engaging.

Note to my younger friends--this is an 18 and older book.

To the Hilt by Dick Francis (4 stars)

Dick Francis is the favorite author of my friend Dara. This is the first book I’ve read by him, and I have to admit it was fun. With lots of humor and touching moments, Francis crafted a solid story that kept me very engaged. His writing wasn’t anything special, but it was clean. And his main character was adorable. I’ll be picking up more of Francis’ work in the future.

October 1, 2011

saturday snapshot...

Wow, it's been a week. I have a few posts in the work, but for now, enjoy this picture of one of PayCay's kittens.

September 25, 2011

saturday snapshot...

(I know, it's Sunday now, but I didn't want to steal all the thunder from the weird blue bunny...)
Caught this guy hovering around my car.

September 24, 2011

mystery of the everyday...

So this week, I was making lunch when I looked outside in the yard and saw something I didn't recognize...a blue lump. Upon closer inspection, I found this:


I'm not sure how he got into the yard, but a blue, four-tentacled bunny is creepy no matter how he gets into your yard!

September 21, 2011

dream shifting...

So there's a commercial on TV that really bugs me--it's put out by the National Realtors Association, and it's about home ownership. Seen it? If not, it's a young boy and his grandpa, and the boy says someday he'll own a house, and the grandfather, in a sad and very resigned voice says, "I hope so." The narrator goes on to say that the American Dream of home ownership is is peril.

I have a few issues with this. First off, it's highly negative and resigned. Like there's nothing to be done. It offers no solutions to the perceived problem. It's leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

But the bigger issue I have with it is this: who says home ownership IS the American Dream (yes, that should be capitalized, go with me on this)? America has long been the "Land of Opportunity." It's a place where all other people flock in order to make something. And I suppose that owning a home is something. But as far as a national dream, I'm not sure owning homes cuts it anymore.

Personally, home ownership is not something that I'm overly attached to. I do appreciate a roof over my head, but I don't have to own it. Owning stuff ties us down, it demands our time and attention. And to be honest, I'd rather spend my resources doing other stuff. I want the freedom to go if I need to.

Freedom. That's what I think of when I think of the American Dream. The chance to do what I want, the chance to make something of myself. The opportunity to live to the best of my ability. To do what I was created for.

Has the American Dream shifted? Are more of us saying "no thanks" to the old dream of owning stuff, of staking a claim? If you look at my generation and those following us, I would tend to say yes. I don't think it's wrong to want to own a home, I just think that it's not for everyone.

What do you think? What is your American Dream (or Canadian, or whatever your nationality might be!)?

September 17, 2011

generosity quagmire

(Note: I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here except myself. I’m just trying to wrestle with my own humanity.)


I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity. Seems simple enough. It’s about sharing and giving, about open hands and hearts. But as with most subjects, start to dig and you find out there’s nothing simple. God is pretty clear that He wants us to be generous with our love, our resources, our very lives. So I think it’s worth pondering.


I have a friend who thinks she is very generous. She has a good job she’s able to give a lot away. And she does. But recently, when she was giving to me, I noticed that her giving always has strings attached. She expects something in return—sometimes that’s attention, sometimes praise, and sometimes a bowing to her will.


And that got me thinking—does generosity have strings attached? Can we be generous if we expect something in return? Is generosity about filling a need or about giving abundantly? What if we DO get something in return, does that negate the generosity?


Let’s go back a few years to a time that I was without a car and without a job. One friend had a car that she wasn’t using (she was traveling). Other friends (a married couple) had two cars, both of which they used regularly. The first friend said I could use her car, but only if I needed to go to a job interview. The other friends handed me the keys to one of their cars and said, “take it for the week, it’s yours.” Loaning me the car was no inconvenience to the first, and quite an inconvenience to the second (it meant more carpooling and getting rides in order for them to accomplish everything they needed to do as a family). Both were meeting a need, but was only one being truly generous?


I like to give stuff—and yet I find myself sometimes feeling jipped when my gifts are not acknowledged. Earlier this year I took a meal to a family who had been through some rough times. I was happy to help out because they had a need. Yes, I spent more in making them a meal than I usually spend on food for myself for a week (because I’m one and they are four). I dropped it off at the house with a note.


And I never heard anything from them. They never mentioned the meal, never said “thank you.” Nothing. I waited three months, and still, no word.


Which made me feel like my gift had been scorned and unappreciated. I gave because I wanted to bless them. There’s no rule that says you have to say thanks, but it is polite. But because they didn’t, my desire to share another meal in the future is dimmed, squashed, even snuffed out.


When it comes to giving to people I don’t know, I’m even worse—I want to make sure they use the money or resources wisely. Yet I have no control over what they do, so I don’t give. And that’s me being ungenerous. And that bothers me.


So all of that to say that I’m struggling with how to be more generous. How to give with an open hand, to not put requirements or expectations (even “thank you”) on my giving. It’s hard. I haven’t figured it out. I’m glad I have some friends who do this well—I keep watching and try to learn more from them.


What do you think? How do you see generosity? Can we be generous with expectations? Should we give until it hurts? Talk to me!

September 16, 2011

revving up...

Once upon a time I used to blog. I used to share my thoughts and feelings. Used to rant and rave. Then came Facebook and blogging fell by the wayside. But recently I’ve been feeling the urge to blog—really dig deeper into subjects, like you can’t do on the book of faces. So I’m going to dive right in.


First things first. I am a feedback junkie. I’m more likely to blog on a regular basis if I know people are reading. I know that by readers leaving comments. So please do!


That said, I’m off to write a post. It should go up in a day or so, once I’ve got the kinks worked out. So come back soon to see what I’m going to toss out into the void!

September 11, 2011

august reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I'll share quotes when I remember to copy them down.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

The Chosen by Chaim Potok (4 stars)

The story of two young Jewish boys on the verge of manhood. Despite a rocky start, these two become friends and set themselves on the paths that will define them as they become men. I like Potok's story-telling, even if it's a bit hard to get sucked in at first. A hauntingly beautiful story. Recommended for 16 and older.

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher (4 stars)

The most recent in my favorite series, The Dresden Files. This one got four stars instead of five mostly because Butcher made me wait a whole year to find out what happened to my very favorite wizard, and then he drug it out for a whole novel. As usual, there's some heart-wrenching character development, some laughs, and the sort of adventure that only Harry Dresden can have.

The Lost Hours by Karen White (4 stars)

A story about a woman who lost her dreams when she suffered a near-fatal accident while riding a horse. This is about her finding her dreams, her history, and a little bit of love just when she thought there was nothing left in life. As she learns where she came from she also learns about the life of her grandmother and the importance of making sure someone knows your story. This one has some adult themes, so 18 and up for recommendations.

On the Banks of the River of Heaven by Richard Parks (3 stars)

A collection of myth-esque short stories, Parks explores the themes of love and life. I enjoyed most of them (had to quit reading one because it just wasn't interesting and I couldn't care about it) but I'm not likely to pick this one up again. I'd recommend it to those who love exploring myths that are outside the Greek and Roman schools, and 18 and up.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (3 stars)

The lesser-known series by the author of Anne of Green Gables. I had a much harder time getting into this one, but I've decided that it's partly due to age and the distance between my time and the author's. It was a charming story, and I'd love to have any daughter of mine read it when she was about ten. Emily is in ways a more normal character than Anne, and her adventures are engaging. Any fans of Anne should give this one a read.

Powers by Ursla K LeGuin (3 stars)

The third in a series of YA fantasy, this one focuses on a young slave boy. This series is far more disjointed than I tend to like them, but it worked because she finally brought them back together in the end. The writing is clean and the story compelling. A good read for any 14 and up.

So far I've read 70 books this year, and that was without even trying!

August 1, 2011

july reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I'll share quotes when I remember to copy them down.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

Jackaroo by Cynthia Vogit (5 stars)

I first read this book in jr. high and loved it. I re-read it every year or two and still find it wonderful every time.

The story of a young woman who decides to make a difference in her community by taking on the persona of a folk hero. That decision changes her future in more ways than she could imagine. We read this as a group discussion book on CleanPlace.

On Fortune's Wheel by Cynthia Voigt (5 stars)

I first read this in jr. high and re-read it every year or two. The story of a young girl who flees her home to get out of a marriage, this story follow the adventures of a girl becoming a woman and a boy becoming a lord.

Elske by Chynthia Voigt (4 stars)

After years of thinking I couldn't get a hold of this book, I finally got it. I love the other two Kingdom stories by Voigt and greatly anticipated this one. While the feel of this book is a bit different from the other stories, it was still well written and engaging. Voigt begins with a rather disturbing ritual of a barbaric society and then jumps into the story of the girl who the ritual centers around. This was my second read on this one.

Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery (3 stars)

The third in the Anne series, this one finds Anne going off to Redmond College. If I read this as a child I have forgotten almost all of it, so this was like reading it for the first time. A fun and charming story.


The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate (4 stars)

Holly McGuire thinks she won't ever find her true love, because according to her Italian grandmother, her true love with love lamb intestines. And she's just had her heart broken, then her beloved grandmother dies, leaving her the small school that grandma founded, along with all her recipes. Holly decides to take a chance on the school, despite not having much in the way of cooking skills. Full of food talk and a bit of romantic intrigue, this was a fun read.

I've started a few others (some re-reads, including one I already read this year :P ) but I'm not done reading them, so it wasn't as slow a month as it might look.

July 1, 2011

june reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I'll share quotes when I remember to copy them down.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (4 stars)

The story of a young girl who packs up and moves from rural Kentucky to find her future. On the way to Arizona she inherits a toddler and a new outlook on life. Told with Kingsolver's frank but haunting touch, this story reminds us that life is what we make it. I first read it back in college, and this was my first time coming back to it since that time. It was still wonderful.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (4 stars)

Allen is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This novel tells the story of two young women who are caught up in a the life of a small town. The central social outlet of the town is the Women's Society, which the grandmothers of the two founded. But the reasons behind friendship go much deeper, and the next generation has much to learn. Allen has this ability to blend a bit of magic into her stories in a seamless way that makes it natural. Her writing is elegant and beautiful and fun.

Favorite Quote: Happiness is a risk. If you're not a little scared, then you're not doing it right.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (5 stars)

A favorite re-read from my youth, I read this one every other year or more! I read this before I ever entered Narnia, and at least a decade before Middle Earth. The story of Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin, three youngsters who are whisked off to fight the evil in the universe. This classic "good vs. evil" story is a classic, and one that still engages me years later.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (5 stars)

Another re-read--this one is in my top five favorite books of EVER. This was my third time to read this, and there was so much more that I discovered this time. The story of the first contact with alien beings by the Jesuit priests challenges readers spiritually, emotionally, and morally. Every time I read this, I fall deeper in love with God. Which is pretty darn amazing considering this isn't a "Christian" book--and Russell is a converted Jew. It's amazing, and proves to me again and again that God is so much more than the boxes we say he is.

Favorite Quotes: The mission, he thought, probably failed because of a series of logical, reasonable, carefully considered decisions, each of which seemed like a good idea at the time. Like most colossal disasters.

If God is anything like a middle-class white chick from the suburbs, which I admit is a long shot, it’s what you do about what you feel that matters.

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles (3 stars)

I don't read a lot of non-fiction because I usually find it boring, but when this one popped up on Goodreads as a suggestion it sounded interesting. (This description is from Goodreads) Raised as an atheist, Sara Miles lived an enthusiastically secular life as a restaurant cook and a writer. Then early one winter morning, for no earthly reason, she wandered into a church. "I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian," she writes, "or, as I thought of it rather less politely, a religious nut." But she ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine, and found herself radically transformed.

While there is a lot about Miles' journey that I found inspiring and challenging, at the end of the book I still felt that she had missed out on a personal relationship with God. For her, it was still religion, not relationship. I hope in the last five years she's learned more, found God more real. Because while yes, Jesus is the bread of life, and we are to feed his sheep, there's so much more than that in store.

I didn't expect this one to leave me feeling so sad--but that's where it left me.

So June was a bit lighter, but that's okay. I didn't set a goal this year, and I'm just enjoying the journey.

may reading review, part two...

So, I just realized that I missed three great books in May (I read them, just forgot to post them!) and that I missed one somewhere else along the line...here they are!

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder (5 stars)

I discovered Snyder in 2009 with her other series (the Glass series), and fell in love. She's a great story-teller. All of Snyder's books have the capacity to keep me awake, turning pages without regard for time or other needs (I forget to eat!). This is the first of the series (the Glass series follows it). It follows prisoner, Yelena, who is given the chance to become the food taster for the commander instead of facing execution. She takes the gamble and finds adventure and more. I don't want to tell you more, but I love this book!

Magic Study by Maria V Snyder (5 stars)

Second in the Study series, this time Yelena gets to go home--only she doesn't remember home. She finds a whole family, including a brother who is upset at her return, plus some of the highest ranking magician's aren't so sure about her, either. But Yelena will win them all over in time, or fight them, whichever is necessary. Love this one too.

Fire Study by Maria V Snyder (5 stars)

Third in the series, this one finds Yelena trying to learn how to best harness her power, and coming up against a foe that has singled her out. This time, Yelena might have to give her all in order to win. Love this one as well. I just can't get enough of Snyder.

Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery (3 stars)

The second in the Anne series--I know I read it when I was younger, but wow, I hardly remembered it. It was charming, not quite as much as the first book, but enough that I'm glad I read it again.
So there we have it--the full list of May. Time to go work on my June post.

June 1, 2011

may reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I'll share quotes when I remember to copy them down.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

May was a busy month--and I'd like to report that I'm at 53 books for the year. I have no set reading goal this year, but at this rate, I'm likely to hit 100!

Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman (3 stars)

Set on Martha’s Vineyard, this novel follows a young married couple, an older woman and her granddaughter, and a reclusive giant, as their lives intertwine. The small island setting provides the perfect background for the tangled web that results when the characters tangle their desires, hopes and dreams. Hoffman is a brilliant writer and I’ve enjoyed discovering some of her older works. (This one has some adult content.)

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (3 stars)

A “companion” book to The Giver, this one takes place in a future world that has gone more rural. Kira, a young girl with a gift for weaving, is given a chance to live a pampered life after her mother’s death, but the life turns out to be more than she bargained for. The story follows Kira as she discovers more about her peaceful society than she ever imagined, and starts to question how good a society they really are.

Assignment in Eternity by Robert A Heinlein (3 stars)

This collection of sci-fi short stories by master Heinlein was a great look at where we thought society might be going, and where it still might go. I love reading Heinlein now because it’s fun to see what he was right about and what didn’t pan out. Two of the stories really resonated with me—the one about time/parallel universe travel, and the one about humans who tap into all that unused potential in their minds. The first felt like a much better fleshed out Time Machine (though no machine was involved :P ) and the second touched on some of the things I like to ponder as I lay awake at night. Highly recommend this one for any sci-fi fans out there!

The Seal Wife by Kathryn Harrison (3 stars)

The story follows a young man who moves up to Alaska in 1914 to set up a weather station. He meets an Inuit woman who never talks, not a word, and he becomes infatuated with her. While I can't recommend this one to anyone due to subject matter, it did have some great writing. But I was a little disappointed that it didn’t really capture anything about the selkie myth (which I expected, given the title). But Harrison does create vivid characters, and she captures the desolation of early Alaska.

The Telling Pool by David Clement-Davies (3 stars)

An Arthurian-esqe story follows a young man, Rhodi, who is living in Britain during the second crusades. Rhodi’s father goes off to fight, and Rhodi is left to take care of his mother—but Rhodi is more than just the son of the falcon master, he is in the line of Arthur. And the old legends aren’t resting peacefully, and only Rhodi can set things right. The story is fun enough and serious enough to keep it interesting. This is one I’d recommend checking out from the library rather than buying (I got it at a used bookstore). Nothing grand about the writing, but the story held its own.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brian (5 stars)

This is one of those ones that kept popping up on lists as a must read. And since I love short stories, and because I found a copy at the used bookstore that was in excellent condition, I snapped it up. And wow. Sometimes a book is popular because it dumbs things down, panders to the audience, etc. Not in this case. O’Brian’s fictionalized stories about Vietnam (he was a soldier, and the stories are somewhat based on his experiences. The title story is amazing, and I think every person over 16 should read it. Don’t get me wrong, these are stories about war, and it’s raw and vivid and painful, but the way O’Brian presents them, in a no punches pulled manner, makes them haunting, sometimes funny, always beautiful, even in the muck. I highly recommend everyone pick this up at some point. Great book.

Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table edited by Amanda Hesser (3 stars)

This collection of essays from the New York Times focuses on food and the memories we have tied to it. It includes a poem by Billy Collins, and writer Ann Patchett among others. While I didn’t recognize most of the writers (and food critics, chefs, etc), they all had some amazing stories to share. It was a quick, intriguing read that really spoke to me.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (3 stars)

It was a charming enough story, but the characters were rather forgettable, the writing was nothing special, and it's not a story that's going to stick with me. I have a feeling I would have liked it more if I had read it as a child, but as it is, it was just a quick read.

The Disapparation of James by Anne Ursu (4 stars)

A family takes a trip to a circus to celebrate the daughter’s seventh birthday, the five-year-old son volunteers for a magic trick. The clown does his trick, which ends in James disappearing—only the clown didn’t really plan that. The story follows the family in the aftermath—what happens to mother, father, sister, and the people they interact with. Well written (despite random capitalization) and interesting—I liked the characters and how they handled the sudden upheaval in their lives. Miss Pottenger recommended it to me. And while I didn’t like it as much as she does (I don’t see myself reading it again any time soon), it was good.

Gifts by Ursula K. LeGuin (3 stars)

A YA fantasy novel about two young people who come from a line of humans with special “gifts”. Some can call animals, some can “undo” with thought and sight (ie, kill or untie or make it not), and some can make others go mad. But when Orrec learns he can’t control his gift, and his friend Gry decides she doesn’t want to use her gift in the way her community expects her, they have to figure out where that leaves them in a society that has no qualms in using their gifts to stay alive. This is the first of a series, and I’ve put the next two on hold.

Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein (4 stars)

A young mother is still grieving two years after the sudden drowning of her son. With her marriage on the rocks and her soul in turmoil, she heads back to Alaska, where she has family ties, and it’s also where her son died. Mixing Native American lore with the grief of a parent, this story explores why we believe and how that helps us deal with life. Due to subject matter, I recommend this with caution—ask me if you want to read it.

May 7, 2011

april reading review

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I'll share quotes when I remember to copy them down.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson (5 stars)

It is a rare book that compels me to flip from the final page right back to the first and start reading again--but this book did it. Wilson is the brother I never had, and he's just enough older than me to put my thoughts into words in ways I couldn't yet. As he examines life and God and art there is nothing safe and nothing untouchable. Wilson looks at philosophers throughout history and offers up his take on the world. His writing is beautiful, funny, witty, and just plain wonderful.

I have some quotes that I loved (well, the whole book!) but they are too long to put here.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart (3 stars)

An intriguing story with great characters--this novel introduces us to Nora Gavin, a pathologist who is in Ireland trying to put her life back together after her sister's mysterious death. There, she meets archaeologist Cormac Maguire. They team up when the head of a young woman is discovered in the peat bog.

The Dark Foundations by Chris Wally (3 stars)

The third in the series, there isn’t a lot to make this one stand out. I finally figured out the biggest issue—Wally’s world pretty much negates free will, and therefore is not true to God’s creation (God being the one who gave us free will). He’s lucky that there are one or two good characters or I’d have stopped reading.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (4 stars)

This may be the best fiction book I've read this year--a very well put-together story about a young girl who moves from Hong Kong to NYC. She struggles to find her place in this new country, the family who is supposed to care for her and her mother, teachers who don't understand her, kids who don't make life any easier, and then there's the factory. A very touching story about a girl finding her place in world. The author does a great job of making the reader feel the frustration of not understanding language by writing what the girl would hear, leaving you to try to figure out what is going on along with the character.

The Infinite Day by Chris Wally (2 stars)

The final book in the series, and it was a good thing. This one was very dissatisfying, the ending being overly predictable and a total cop-out. I’m glad to be done with this series.

There was another one or two that I tried to read but put down after the first two or three pages—and I don’t even remember the titles now. Such is life!

April 7, 2011

comfort...

A lot of you out there think that I'm fearless, that because I have an overabundance of self-confidence, that I can do anything. I love you for thinking it, but I have to burst that bubble. I'm human. And while, yes, I am very confident in who I am, there are things that I don't feel comfortable doing (it's not fear, as I know it won't hurt to do it, it's just that it's uncomfortable and I like comfort).

But it's become very very apparent to me that if I am going to be successful in my business then I must get uncomfortable. I have to be willing to step outside the comfort zone. It's a choice, it's a intentional action. And I have to make it and take it.

So today, I did.

It started at the blood bank. I gave the receptionist an Arbonne sample. Now, I've handed out samples, but usually to people that I know or have some relationship with. But I've only see this gal twice, and I only know her name because she wears a name tag (I'm SO bad at asking and remembering names). But after my donation, I stopped to make my next appointment and then I offered her the sample.

And yet, that just put me on the line. It wasn't really outside the comfort zone, just in the borderlines. So tonight I went to my favorite Thai eatery. While I was eating and reading (yes, I take along reading material when I dine alone), a couple with a young baby sat at the table next to me. The dad played with the child (who was three months or less, by my guess), and the little boy smiled at me and we made faces at each other for a few moments.

As I returned my focus to my dinner, I felt that prompting in my gut that I should give them a sample. And sure enough, I had a baby sample in my purse. So I kept eating and thought about it. As the meal progressed, I could tell from the tone of the new mother's voice that she was stressed and a bit on edge. The same prompting told me she could use something nice.

So I pulled out another sample, this one of the firming body cream and body wash. I paid my bill, and then interrupted them for just a moment to share the samples. It took less than a minute--I didn't push, I just said, "Hi. I just wanted to share these amazing baby products with you and your adorable son. And because all new mothers deserve some care, here's something for you. I hope you enjoy them." And then I left.

Yes, my card is in the samples. I hope they call. But even if they don't, I did what I needed to do.

And it didn't kill me. Comfort zone does not equal safety. And stepping outside it doesn't mean danger, just growth.

I'd say that was a good day's work.

April 6, 2011

insanity...

I was watching a channel tonight that I rarely watch (for those who know me well, you are aware that I mostly watch one channel--usa network, the rest is just fluff) and after the show ended (Whose Line is it Anyway?) an infomercial came on...for Insanity.

It's a workout program that is, well, insane. And as I'm sitting here with sore arms from a pathetic workout yesterday, I'm thinking, "hey, I want to do that." Guess it lives up to it's name, because in the state I'm in, there's not a chance on this green and blue world that I could do it.

But the "trainer" guy seemed like someone I could trust--he kept saying things like "you do as much as you can for as long as you can. Don't worry, you'll get better." I mean, wow, that's nice. No yelling at me that I'm scum, no being overly dorky (remember Richard Simmons?), and casting vision for the future.

And if you do the program for 60 days, and send them a before and after shot, they'll send you a free tee-shirt that says, "Insanity," on the front and, "I earned it!" on the back.

Anyway, I did not order the program, more from lack of funds than desire, because we all know I'm already insane.

But do I have to have the newest program to get in shape? It might help, but I don't NEED it. I have a gym membership paid through June of 2012. I have a whole shelf of workout dvd's, from yoga to walking to balance ball. I have the equipment I need to do said workouts.

I just need to do them.

And I'm getting better about that. Last week I made it to the gym twice. No rooster is going to crow about it, but hey, it was two times more than the previous week, and that's not too shabby. This week I've already been once (for the record, in my world, weeks start on Monday and end on Sunday). And tonight I pulled out one of the yoga dvd's I've never done and did two of the four practices--and it was good. I sometimes forget that I really do like yoga.

Tomorrow I plan to get to the gym. In fact, I have to go throw my gym clothes in the laundry so they are ready for me.

And in other news, go read Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World. It's by N.D. Wilson and it will blow your mind. And whoever buys me a copy for my birthday will be my favorite person for the whole rest of the month. Promise :P

March 31, 2011

march reading review...

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I'll share quotes when I remember to copy them down.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (3 stars)

A fun and whimsical children's book about a castle that moves and the young girl who is under an aging spell. Can she help save herself, the wizard Howl, and the whole world? Just because she's an eldest child (and therefore not going to amount to anything), Sophie faces a life of drudgery until she annoys the Witch of the Waste, who puts her under a spell that makes Sophie an old woman. To reverse the curse Sophie goes off on a grand adventure and ends up in Howl's amazing castle. Well-written and engaging--I'm glad I own a copy.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger (3 stars)

This book was recommended to me by my friend, Scott Myers. The writing is excellent--elegant and raw. I cannot fault Enger's skill in any way, and on that level, the book was a joy to read.

And yet the story still failed to capture me. I had to spend a lot of time in the middle of the story with a character that I despised. It wasn't the storyline that I was interested in, and it made me like the main character less.

I don't see myself going back to this book to reread it. It wasn't a waste of time, and I have a feeling I missed something--maybe that the deeper meaning of the book is just something that I can't relate to.

Favorite quotes: --Love is a strange fact—it hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. It makes no sense at all.
-- You can’t kill history. You can’t shoot it with a bullet and watch it recede into whatever lies outside of memory. History is tougher than that—if it’s going to die, it has to die on its own.

False Mermaid by Erin Hart (4 stars)

This was the first book by Hart I've read--the title caught my eye as I passed it in the library. Full of mystery, heartbreak, Ireland and botany. Hart's writing is very clean, her story intriguing, and she kept me guessing until the end, which is always fun.

The story of a woman who is haunted by her sister's murder, False Mermaid explores the death of Triona as her sister, Nora, is trying to make sense of her own life. Bring in Triona's suspicious husband, a now 11-year-old daughter, and two men who both have feelings for Nora, and you have enough drama to make things interesting. But throw in the a handful of selkie myths, some Irish fiddles, and plant DNA, and you have a great story. This is third in a series (didn't know, but I'm going to read the other two now!).

Favorite quotes: -- Elizabeth closed the book and held it to her, aware of the new, slightly foreign tenderness of the skin beneath her clothes, wondering what it felt like to shed your outer shell and become something new.
--It has seemed to him that unhappiness had its own distinct scent, and suddenly that sour, stale smell crept into his nostrils. Or maybe it was just acid fumes from the wine and dust from old record sleeves.

The Shadow at Evening by Chris Walley (3 stars)

Any book that says "in the tradition of Lewis and Tolkien" on the front is setting itself up for the big leagues, and in this case, Walley is still very much in the minors. It's more future sci-fi than fantasy (as the front also proclaims), set in the year 13851. I had some trouble getting into the story, first because the premises is rather illogical given what we know of mankind, history and the future (the world is not going to get better but we are slowly moving towards and are even in the final days), and second because the very idea of seeding other planets for human life is so against the ideals that Lewis presented in his own Space Trilogy.

But once Walley dropped a lot of the forced platitudes of a future Christian society, the story flowed better and even got interesting. While it's not epic fantasy, or even epic sci-fi, it was a diverting story with a few compelling characters. And of course, a possible love triangle, which I have already determined the best outcome, and now I'll have to read the rest of the series to see if Walley messes it up or not!

Dance in the Desert by Madeleine L'Engle (3 stars)

A sweet story that tells of a young family needing to cross the dangerous desert. But the child is no ordinary child, and when he is around, the most wonderful things happen. L'Engle doesn't come out ever and say, "This is about Jesus," but it doesn't take much to see that she's telling a "what might have happened" story about when Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt. The artwork was done well, and it was a charming, quick read.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern (4 stars)

A spoiled rich girl, Tamara, and her mother have to move in with an aunt and uncle after the death of her father. As she bemoans her bleak future, she tries to make the most of her new, simple country life. The local traveling librarian lets her take a mysterious journal--which turns out to be blank. But once she has the book, strange writing appears--writing dated for the next day, in Tamara's handwriting. Worse yet, the events come true. Now she has to figure out if she should accept fate or see what she can do to change it.

Favorite quotes: --But then there are those whose minds are merely a bouquet of stalks that bud as they learn new information—a new bud for each new fact—but yet they never open, never flourish. They are the people of capital letters and full stops but never of question marks and ellipses…
-- I stopped walking when it came into sight. Little me before a big castle. It looked more domineering, more commanding as a ruin than as a castle because there it stood before me with its scars revealed, all wounded and bloody from battle. And I stood before it, feeling a shadow of who I use to be, with my own scars revealed. We instantly bonded.

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (5 stars)

This retelling of the Psyche-Cupid myth is masterfully handled by Lewis. I've read this one three times now, and this reading was the best. The first time I read it, I struggled to get through it at all. The next time I read it easier but still not wonderful. This time was amazing. I finally was able to see the layers of story, the layers of meaning. Part of the change was in not trying to identify with Orual (the sister) and instead paying attention to Psyche. Through her, the story came alive. This is one I'll be reading again, and soon.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (4 stars)

I hadn't read this one in well over twenty years, and I had almost forgotten how beautifully charming it is. The story of an orphan adopted by two elderly siblings, the story follows Anne from her arrival at Green Gables at age 11 until she's 16 and getting her teaching certificate. What struck me the most about this book was the amazing vocabulary. This is, after all, a children's book, and yet the vocab had me reaching for a dictionary. There is a wonderful quality of language--a quality that needs to be preserved. I'll be reading the other books in the series this year.

Favorite quotes: -- "But it's a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn't it?"
-- It was as if all the dreams, sleeping and waking, of its vivid occupant had taken a visible although immaterial form and had tapestried the bare room with splendid filmy tissues of rainbow and moonshine.

The Power of Night by Chris Walley (3 stars)

The second in the series (sometimes published as one volume, The Evening and the Night), this story picks up when the first book left off--the gate has been destroyed, the world of Farhome is on it's own, cut off from the Assembly. And then there are the intruders--the impending evil like no one has ever faced. The love triangle deepens and gets a few barbs. And there is still some heavy-handedness in regards to the spiritual aspects, but now I have to know who ends up together.

The Keys of the Kingdom by Garth Nix

This children's series has seven books: Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday, and Lord Sunday. I gave all but the last 3 stars, and the last, 2 stars.

This is a charming series about a young boy, Arthur Penhaligon, who is selected by agents of another dimension, so to speak, as the heir to the Keys of the Kingdom. The Kingdom was made by the Architect, and it includes the House, the Secondary Realms (worlds like ours), and the entire universe. But her Trustees haven't been very faithful, and her Will has been split into parts and unable to be fulfilled. Arthur is pulled into a world of magic and mayhem where each Trustee has control over a different day of the week. His charge is to fight the Trustee, free the Will, and claim all of the seven keys. But this is no ordinary adventure, since all parts of the universe are connected, the impact of what he does in the House ricochets into his home world--and then there's that pesky side effect of becoming immortal. That's a lot for a young boy who just wants to go home to deal with.

These are well-written, quick reads. Though my friends who are sensitive to magic and alternate creation stories should avoid them, I found them fun and diverting. Not to mention quick reads. Nix is a fantastic writer, and it was fun to explore this world.

That's all (what, sixteen books isn't enough? Hello, I have to sleep sometimes!)

March 29, 2011

long overdue...

If intentions were nickles, I'd be a rich lady...seriously. I have very good intentions to post here more often, I even have great topics and things I want to record. But then life gets crazy or it doesn't, and it doesn't happen. Shame on me.

Anyway, I'm going to not throw all the ponderings I've had the last month your way--not yet, at least. But I am going to update. Right now.

First off, I went back to the gym today--goodness had it been a long time. So long, in fact, that I totally forgot the combination to my lock. Thankfully, I know I tend to forget such things (when you can still recite the preamble to the Constitution, most of the Gettysburg Address, over half of The Raven, not to mention the entire script to The Princess Bride, who can remember three silly numbers?) so I kept the sticker off the back that had them listed. Granted, it took me 20 minutes to find that, but I did. It felt good to get to the gym only because I'm too that point where I hate myself. I also hate working out, but sometimes the one hate is stronger than the other, and then I can go to the gym with only minor complaining (to myself, of course).

More excitingly, I'm starting to plan out the annual CleanPlace Moot--now that we have dates I feel that it's for real (I've had some doubts on if it was going to happen this year, truth be told), and I can now get into the fun of figuring out workshops and guests and details. I love planning things, and Moot just makes me giddy. Every year it gets better and better, and this, being year five, means it will be so fantastic that I might not be able to handle it!

There are several things I'm itching to discuss--things like pilots and co-pilots, the Psyche and Cupid myth, and vocabulary and its impact on society. If any of these topics interest you, let me know. My brain is about to burst keeping it all in!

Hopefully there will be another trip to the gym in the next 24 hours, and maybe some Arbonne fun as well. And I'm going to throw aside my good intentions (since we know where they really lead) and work on not holding all the things I want to talk about inside until I reach this point. Hold me to it!

February 28, 2011

february book review...

A once-a-month review of the books I read. I didn't manage to copy down quotes this month, and a lot of these were library books that have already gone back.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (2 stars)

This is a classic sci-fi, one of the foundational works, in fact. The language was beautiful (I even had to look up several words!), but there was a lack of depth to both the story and characters. I enjoyed the 2002 movie with Guy Pearce much more.

Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

I can't help it; I am in love with Harry Dresden, wizard. And this collection brought together a whole slew of stories (of which I had already read about four) that have appeared in anthologies and special collections. It also had a wonderful new story that takes place right after the end of Changes (book 12). It was so much fun to not only get more of Dresden, but to also see how Butcher's writing has grown and developed. I can easily get lost in a Dresden book...it's a fantastic journey that I can take any time.

Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson (4 stars)

The third in a children's series, this is the conclusion of a fun yet serious fantasy story about a boy who finds worlds lurking behind the 100 cupboard doors in his attic bedroom. I read the first two almost a year and a half ago, but it didn't take much to get back into the story. Wilson is a fantastic author, and readers young and old can enjoy his stories!

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (3 stars)

This is one of the books that friends recommended to me for my 2011 reading list. It was a quick read that showed how Pooh embodies the ideas of Taoism. While I'm not much for Taoism, it was interesting to see how relaxed and accepting Pooh is--something that we busy and fear-driven adults sometimes forget.

Austenland by Shannon Hale (2 stars)

I had such hopes for this homage to Austen, but in the end, it was a sad and poorly realized story about a woman who is so in love with the fictional Darcy that she has trouble in real life relationships. The story tried to do too much, and in the end, it is not a story that Austen would likely be impressed by, considering how all the characters, even the good ones, behave.

Healer by Linda Windsor (3 stars)

I picked this one up on a whim from the library. It's a Christian fiction (which I usually have lots of problems with) but the story at least sounded interesting. If we want to get more specific, it's a Christian historical fantasy--which was interesting. The writing was clean, the story didn't disappoint, and it wasn't overly preachy. It was a bit predictable, and it got a little gooey, but all in all, it was a fun read. It's the story of a young woman who has lived in hiding ever since the death of her parents because her mother spoke a prophecy over her saying she would save the clan. When the son of her enemy is hurt outside her cave, she takes him in, not knowing who he is, to heal him. Of course, they fall in love and end the war between their people. There are more books in the series, and I might even track them down and read them!


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (4 stars)

Kingsolver never disappoints. While there were points where I lost a little interest in the historical parts (while the novel explores a missionary family, it also explores the history of the Congo), I loved the way the story really made the events personal. Having spent some time in an African nation, it brought back some memories. Kingsolver always weaves a great story, and this one is a must-read if you like story!

Turn Coat (Dresden File #11) by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

A re-read. It was the only one I own that I hadn't read for a second time, so in anticipation of my copy of Changes coming soon, I gave this one another look. What I love the most about Butcher is that he can make me laugh while twisting my guts and making me bite my nails. This story brings in Morgan, Dresden's longtime warden who has spent years just waiting for Dresden to mess up so he can behead the young wizard. But this time, Morgan is in trouble and he comes to Dresden for help. Another one of the major players in this story, Thomas, gets a really raw end of the deal, and it is hard for me to read because I adore Thomas, but it's still worth it.

At Risk by Alice Hoffman (4 stars)

I read this one in high school, but since it's on the CleanPlace reading list, I figured I should brush up. It was even better this time! When it came out, the book was very cutting edge--a story about a young girl who gets AIDS from a blood transfusion. Reading it now, so many years after the first reports of AIDS, it was interesting to see how things have and haven't changed. This is a great book for anyone who wants to see how misconceptions and fear can tear apart relationships.

And there you have all the books I read in February...can't wait to see what's on the docket for March!

February 26, 2011

crossing the finish line...

Well, my 30 days are over and done. All in all, I can say that I feel much healthier, I'm sleeping better, and I even lost four pounds. I'd like to say that not losing more was my own fault completely because I did not exercise like I should, nor did I keep a very strict diet other than working in the shakes and fiber. Life sometimes gets a bit crazy, and it's really hard to even make a shake when you are traveling. If I had better discipline, I would have lost more. But it is really nice to know that without even trying, I was able to get the scale to budge (and it hasn't done THAT in months!).

I will continue to use the products because I like them and they work--the shakes not only taste great, but they keep me full, and they get me a lot of the vitamins that I don't get otherwise (if only someone would deliver fresh greens to my house every day, I would eat better, but alas, no one will :P ). And I want to get into more regular exercise (I'm still not doing well on that, but for March it is one the calendar, so maybe that will help!).

The good news is that I know I'm healthier than I was 30 days ago--so many toxins are gone, and I'm putting things in my body that are better for me. And in today's age of junk food, anytime we put good things in we should give a little cheer.

So that's my 30 days to fit journey--thanks for keeping up with me. And come back to find out about the other things I do, like books I read, which will be the next post!

February 10, 2011

day fifteen--halfway to healthy?

So, I've made it halfway through my "30 Days to Fit" plan. And while I can happily report that I am feeling better, I also must sadly report that as far as pounds go, they haven't budged. However, I take full blame for that. I haven't been working out--I haven't even been to the gym. So other than a few things like taking the dog for a walk and lifting heavy boxes while cleaning the house, I just haven't been doing the second half of the equation.

What I've found is that while I enjoy going to the gym during the summer and fall (and probably spring), I just do not like going in winter. The best time for me to go is around 11 at night, because that's when other things (like making phone calls) shouldn't be done. But now, when the temps are falling far below zero, I have a hard time convincing myself to go to the gym...especially when swimming means wet hair, and sweat would freeze withing seconds upon exiting the gym.

So what to do?

Well, it's very apparent to me that I'm going to have to either force myself to the gym (which is unlikely, because let's face it, I am not good at making myself do things I don't like) or I can work out at home.

I have DVDs that I "enjoy"--including yoga and aerobic workouts. They don't take a lot of time or room. I just don't seem to do them.

So the second part of what I'm going to do is plan the time when I will work out. Put it down on a calendar. And then keep it.

And maybe in a few weeks the temps will get back to civilized and I can go to the gym again, because I do need some of the equipment there to really do some of the exercises that will be most beneficial.

On other fronts, I just made a shake--and this time, I used the blender. I've been resisting the blender because it takes longer, makes the shake warmer, and it takes more effort to clean than my shake cup. But I just can't get the fiber to blend in the shake cup, and I can't put enough of it in my tea. So I used the blender. And it worked well (except for the slightly warmer and thinner consistency). But I need the fiber, so I guess one shake a day (of the two I'm enjoying) will be made in the blender. Go fiber!

And the other thing I'm working on is water. Lots of water. Miranda Bircham (trainer of Biggest Loser winner, Danny Cahill, and a personal acquaintance) says you should be drinking lots of water. Her formula is to take your body weight (pounds) and divide it by two. That's the number of ounces you should drink of water DAILY.

That's a lot of water.

I'm trying to get there--haven't hit that number just yet, but I'm drinking A LOT more water than I have been, which is good. It helps clear up my skin, flush out toxins, and it does help me feel better. I've even gotten to the point where I can drink water with my pizza--that's huge.

Pardon me, all this water is making me have to pee...a lot.

February 7, 2011

day twelve: hiccups and mishaps

Yep, I'm not good at daily updates :P And the last five days have been a bit crazy with life. I don't remember much of Friday, but Saturday I had to drive up to Parker and then the airport. On my way up to Parker, I spun out when road conditions changed (from wet to over an inch of snow, and apparently ice) in a matter of seconds. Thankfully I didn't hit anything, and it was at the only spot on the road where the shoulders are super wide, so I never left pavement either.

Needless to say, that stressed me out a little, and between the stress and having to continue the drive all the way to the airport, and then back to my sisters, well, the entire attempting to eat anything healthy went out the window. And then I stayed up there until the storm left and the road cleared (so, all of Sunday, drove home today). And it was a bit of a free-for-all as far as food went, because she didn't have much in the house to start with.

Now that I'm back home, I'll be getting back on track. I need to drink more water. According to my upline (who trained one of the winners of the Biggest Loser!), I need to drink 1/2 my body weight (pounds) in ounces of water per day. That's a much more reasonable amount than the formula my friend Michelle is using (which I would probably bloat up like crazy if I drank that much!).

So here's to getting back on track, and praying for no more freak snow storms when I have to travel. I would rather not go spinning like a top on the road again!

February 2, 2011

day seven--detox DONE!

So, I almost forgot to do the detox today.

Opps.

I was at my sister's overnight, and I didn't want to drink it while driving from her house back to mine (just in case it decided to give me one last hurrah--not a good idea on a road with NO rest stops!). And then I got home and was so focused on getting warm (hello subzero temps) and getting stuff inside that I sorta forgot.

So it was after 5 pm when I finally mixed it up. Thankfully, I'm much more accustomed to the taste now, and I was able to drink it down more quickly (I still made it last from before dinner until about an hour after--so I sorta "sipped through the day" :P ).

I'm happy to report that I feel great.

On the food side, however, I've had to make some modifications. Let's face it, counting calories takes a lot of time, and it drives me up the wall. So I'm working on figuring out good portions, and trying to balance slow and fast burning carbs. I know the fizz tabs and fit chews from Arbonne will help with this as they keep the blood sugar more even.

Tomorrow morning I'll see if the detox dropped any pounds. Even if it didn't, I feel so great that it was worth it!