Archive for July, 2014

Reading for Pleasure

I’ve always been a reader.  Do you remember Pizza Hut’s Book It! program?  I rocked that thing.  Some of my favorite books as a little kid belonged to the Value Tales Series.  I loved these books.  Jackie Robinson, Benjamin Franklin, Helen Keller and all kinds of other famous and inspiring people were featured along with a little personified sidekick.

Value Tales!

I was a big fan of those creepy V.C. Andrews books in junior high, but I think by high school, I had become a well-read young person.  My repertoire spanned your standard high school English reading list – The Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Count of Monte Christo.  I used my free reading time to burn through John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark novels.

Once college hit though, I started reading because I had to, not because I wanted to.  I even used Cliffnotes a couple of times because I didn’t have time to read everything I needed to read.  (Clearly I went to college before you could use the internet to “read” a book without really reading it.)  The two years before moving to Bosnia, Bosnia was pretty much the only thing I read about.   I did read for pleasure while I lived there, but the only titles I remember are Richard Wright’s Native Son (which I recall being excellent) and C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces (that was a touch too fantasy for me).

Post-Bosnia, I spent six years working on two graduate degrees.  Thus I spent six years doing a lot of reading because I had to, not because I wanted to.  Granted, I gleaned a lot from most things I was asked to read, especially in seminary.  I even kept most of the books I was assigned, but that might say more about me having some kind of neurotic attachment to books than it says about the quality of the reading material.

For six years I lamented not being able to pick up a book and read it just because I felt like it.  Those six years ended two years ago and I still struggle to read for pleasure.  I’ll read, but the titles of the books tend to contain the phrases “post-traumatic stress” or “motivational interviewing” or “biblical commentary”.  Who’s to say that I can’t read vocationally-oriented material for fun?  I did in fact recently read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the author stresses that you have to keep sharpening the saw.  He also stresses that you have to loosen up and do things that renew and refresh you.

What could be more renewing and refreshing than reading for pleasure?  Probably a lot of things, but I am proud of myself for having chosen to read not one but two books for pleasure – The Perks of Being a Wallflower and 600 Hours of Edward. I’ll be honest – Perks was the agency read, but no one made me read it.  I’ll be honest again – turns out both books main characters suffer from mental illnesses which technically make them vocationally-oriented, but I only knew that going into Edward.

I’m not going to try to offer a review of either book, but I would recommend them both.  I’ve now seen the movie for Perks as well and would recommend the book over the movie.  Both reminded me of the movie It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which I guess was a book first but anyway. (Also ultimately a vocationally-oriented title for me.)  As far as Edward goes, it’s quirky…maybe like Napoleon Dynamite meets Forest Gump.  It was a Kindle $1.99 read for July, so that may have swayed my opinion some as well.

What are you reading?

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What I’ve discovered is that shalom arrives when I stop searching.  I spend time striving, struggling, even surrendering what I value most in search of solace, sanctuary and…

I started writing this post July 8, 2010. That’s as far as I got and I’m not sure why I stopped.  I wonder what else I had to say.  I wonder if I thought I’d arrived at answer of some sort or was still mulling through the questions.  Apparently I was really into alliteration that day.

I must have honestly thought I’d found shalom or shalom found me or something.  I don’t know if I stopped searching because I was fatigued or bored or had given up.   And what expression of shalom had I encountered?  Was I experiencing harmony between myself and God? Did I wake up on July 8, 2010 with a new-found sense of overall wholeness and peace?  Was there some sort of metaphorical hello and goodbye going on in my life?

According to Facebook, Scott Burnham had just introduced me to calorie free whipped peanut spread.  That was funny as hell but I don’t think it had a whole lot to do with shalom.  My nephew Conlin was born shortly before that.  Could be that his birth allowed some sort of peace to cover over my family for a time.  The most exciting news in the country at the time was LeBron James’ hour-long televised announcement that he was signing with the Miami Heat.  That definitely would not have been shalom provoking.

I do know that I’d like to find that shalom I apparently had once discovered.  I’m honestly not searching too hard for it unless doing paperwork for my job, watching Orange is the New Black or playing Candy Crush counts.  But I would like to find it.

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This post will make no sense to you if you have never watched Daniel Tiger. It’s on Netflix and I highly recommend it to folks with little kids and to kidless folks who are just feeling a little random and bored. I have seen every episode at least 25 times. Caleb is addicted. (Always swore my kid would never spend hours staring at the tv, but I think that perceived failure is another post on its own.)

Anyway…the show has these songs. About everything including going potty. Which, by the way, you are supposed to stop and go right away. Then flush and wash and be on your way.

One of the songs is about how grown ups always come back. The social worker in me goes nuts when I hear this song. Grown ups don’t always come back. Sometimes they die or run off with the pool boy. And then there’s the group of grown ups that kids really don’t want to see come back.

I’m also convinced all the adults in the program have a secret flask or pack of cigs somewhere. They’re just entirely too calm. And I know I couldn’t deal with that Katerina Kitty Cat without some extra help.

For real though, I really do like the show. I wouldn’t have it on auto repeat play all day if I didn’t.

I’ve learned some fancy parenting techniques. When I feel so mad that I want to roar, I now take a deep breath and count to 4. I also now aspire to feed my kids healthier and homemade food. Mom Tiger makes oatmeal with blueberries or strawberry pancakes almost everyday.


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Back in the Saddle

I’m a woman, a wife, a mother, an amateur theologian and a social worker.  In that order.  Sometimes I play all five roles decently.  More often than not though, it seems like I’m doing maybe one of them well and the others pretty half-ass.  I should try to put a more positive spin on that, or perhaps a more philosophical one, but I don’t know what else to say.

I started this blog eight whole years ago because I thought I had some clever, profound, important things to say.  At that time, what I wrote about did feel pretty clever, profound and important.  I had a small following.  I felt good about myself and my ability to write.  Seminary came and went and I discovered I wasn’t such a good writer after all.  My life got busier (namely due to the inclusion of a husband and step-daughter) and my world became some sort of confusing, mottled blurry continuum of events.  I began to feel less clever and certainly less profound.  The things I had to say didn’t seem so much more important than anything else anybody else had to say, so more or less, I quit writing.

I’ve recently realized that I’ve been living my life in the order of social worker, mother, wife, woman, amateur theologian.  Living my roles in that order is neither healthy for me, nor is it helpful for the others in my life.  Bit by bit I’ve tried to reorder my life.  I’ve started cross-stitching, coloring mandalas, playing the trumpet again, worked at reading more, doing some yoga.  So I thought I’d start writing again too.

It seems that the spirit behind my blog from the beginning holds true still now.  I wrote in 2006 and will reiterate today:  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. ~ Psalm 51:12

And a right-on-the-money spin on it from The Message says it even better: Don’t throw me out with the trash or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!

The joy of salvation. A willing spirit. The acknowledgement of the grayness that sometimes surrounds me. The promise that a breath of His holiness can overtake a day’s worth of weariness.

My hope is that this blog will be a place for me to share and explore all the things He has sent to sustain me. Laughter, tunes, random stories and some deeper ponderings. I hope it will all find a place here.

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