And here’s Winnie too! Please subscribe to my Youtube channel and check out my Goodreads page. Love you!
Hello lovely friends,
Here’s a review/recap of some books I read in November, including:
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Events of October by Gail Griffin
Educated by Tara Westover
Hope you enjoy the video! (Winnie makes an appearance too). Please subscribe to my Youtube channel and follow me over on Goodreads if you are the bookish sort.
This is the week when we focus on being thankful. Being thankful isn’t just about feasting, football, and Black Friday sales, and I want to be mindful of that.
This is a good time to reflect on our blessings, and to cultivate a peaceful mindset about the days ahead. The “holidays” can bring stress in so many forms: family squabbles, overeating, fighting the crowds at the shopping mall or post office, worrying about travels, overspending, trying to figure out the perfect gift for each person on the list. It’s exhausting, it’s depleting, and in between the moments of joy we find that we don’t feel so great after all. We look forward to the new year so this will all be behind us.
Surely that’s not what our spirit really longs for, or what God wants for us.
This week, let’s all take a moment to reflect on all of this. What am I grateful for? How will I express that gratitude? How will I cultivate a calm mind and spirit in the days ahead? When I lose my focus, what can I do to remember what’s really important about this time of year? And most importantly, how can I find peace for myself and bring it to others?
Wishing you comfort and joy,
I gave this one three stars (out of five) – it was just ok for me, but it served its purpose as a fun, light, chick-lit palate cleanser between some of the heavier books I’ve been reading lately.
Josh and Hazel first met in college, and run into each other again a few years later in the “early career” stage of life. Josh was very handsome (and, to Hazel, unattainable) in college, and when they meet again, he still takes her breath away. Hazel is a quirky, bumbling, “Bridget Jones” type character who embarrasses herself all the time and doesn’t have a very good handle on her life. She calls herself “undateable” for those reasons.
Josh and Hazel become good friends, but agree they aren’t romantically suited to one another. However, they’re both single and looking, so they make an agreement to set each other up on dates, and then to go out as a foursome. These blind “double dates” are meant to ease the pressure of going out with a stranger for the first time … but they don’t work very well for Josh and Hazel. Neither of them can seem to connect with the partners the other has chosen for them.
I’m sure you can imagine where this is going.
Aside from the predictable plot, my other issues with the book were:
1 – Hazel – the “manic pixie dreamgirl” stereotype. Her bumbling is cute for a while, but there came a point where I just found her annoying. Nobody is THAT far off her game, and she became unlikeable to me.
2 – The ending – which I won’t spoil here – has a “twist” that I wasn’t wild about.
I seem to be in the minority here – the book got lots of rave reviews on Goodreads. For me, it was a fun bit of fluff, rather like having cotton candy at the fair – okay for a “treat” although it’s a lot of empty calories, and might leave you feeling a little bit unsatisfied afterwards.
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Books for review can be sent to P.O. Box 19252, Kalamazoo, MI 49018-0252
It’s been a while! Most teachers would probably agree that the middle of the semester is crazy with advising, grading, and other academic shenanigans. At the end of the day, though, I always feel massively blessed that I get to do this for my job. Sure, it has its discouraging days, but I only get discouraged because I care so much and want to do it all well. This means keeping a lot of balls in the air.
But first, the fun stuff! Saw “Spamalot” last week, and it was hilarious fun. Highly recommended.
“We are the knights of Camelot, we eat ham and jam and spamalot …”
Also saw the new Nutcracker movie. Visually stunning, but the plot is rather thin in places. No matter, it’s a pretty movie filled with pretty people, and put me in a holiday mood.
Clara and the Nutcracker. Also …
Misty Copeland! Always love seeing her dance. Stay through the end credits for more of Misty’s magnificence.
I’ll be attending a holiday tea with friends at the Kellogg mansion again this year … the house is beautifully decorated, the food is delicious, and last year I drank gallons of the hot cinnamon tea they served. It’s a very “ladies who lunch” thing to do, and lots of fun.
Still teaching, lesson planning, grading, writing, attending meetings, and all the other stuff that goes along with the academic life. Looking forward to Thanksgiving break.
What are your holiday plans?
I’m aware that a lot of people scoff at the idea of sending “thoughts and prayers” when others are in need – but I’m not one of them. I pray all the time. I don’t believe prayer persuades God to do this or that, but rather, that prayer forces me to quiet my spirit, to listen, and to draw close to the Creator and to my fellow humans. It opens me up to allow God to work in me, and through me.
If you, too, are a pray-er, I invite you to welcome the following people into your heart today:
The family of B, an elderly woman who is transitioning into nursing home care. This is a very stressful time for her children and loved ones;
The family of S, who have been stunned both emotionally and financially when a loved one was recently jailed.
Please keep them in your heart today.
The other day, I was watching a Youtuber talk about books she plans to read. She gave a brief synopsis of each, and explained why it appealed to her. One book was about a couple who had fertility issues, an experience the Youtuber herself had gone through in the past few years.
She stated that she wasn’t sure if she was ready to read the book, although she’d heard it was good, and it might be healing for her. So, she said, “I’ve decided to give myself grace” in approaching this subject matter – the grace to bail out at any time, the grace to decide she wasn’t ready after all, the grace to start the journey with permission to not finish.
I was struck by her words. We often talk about showing grace to others, but showing grace to ourselves is an important part of self-care. We need to give ourselves permission to fail, permission to decide that we’re not ready after all, permission to back out of our choices if the time comes when they don’t seem right for us anymore.
Look, I’m all for “seeing things through.” Perseverance – what my mom calls “stick-to-it-ive-ness” – is essential for completing many of our life journeys. But just as we would be gentle and understanding with others, we should show ourselves the same consideration when it comes to challenges that may be – just for a moment – more than we can bear.
We talk about falling down and getting back up, but sometimes getting up takes time. Healing and recovery take time.
Be gentle with yourself today. Show grace to the person in the mirror.
One of the challenges of teaching college students is that they arrive in my classroom with some ingrained academic habits. I’ll ask them to give an example of something, or react to what an author wrote, and they’ll *tell* me what the author says. I’ll tell them, “Don’t tell me what the author says … I know what the author says. I’ve read this about 47 times. What I want to know is, what do *you* say? How do you apply these ideas in your own life?” They are often stumped, because they are used to summarizing what others have written, rather than expressing their own interpretation of it.
I also find that college students often struggle with the idea of “studying.” Young people often have not been taught how to engage with ideas in a way that leads to recall and deep understanding. They’re good at memorizing, but that’s not what critical thinking is about. So my challenge is to help them think more deeply, and to make the classroom a safe place to do that.
My mantra has always been, “I’m not here to teach you what to think, but HOW to think.” I stand by those words. I once had a student who seemed very angry about one of the readings for class, and he sat with his arms crossed and a stormy expression on his face. When I invited him to speak, he revealed that he disagreed with the author’s contentions. “That’s fair,” I said. “Tell us why.” It took him awhile to articulate his position, but he seemed to feel better after he did.
Later, he told me he’d been upset because he thought I was advocating for the author’s point of view by assigning the reading. I explained that I assigned that particular reading because it was a good foundation for discussion of our particular topics that day, but that it was okay to disagree with it. In fact, it was more than okay, because it showed a level of deep engagement with, and critical thinking about, the material.
I want my students to get every ounce of good out of the college experience. In my classroom, it’s not about memorizing lists or summarizing what others have written. Yes, we need to work from a shared vocabulary, but that’s just the beginning of learning to be an engaged citizen of the world.
I hope I can bring them a step closer to that.
“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
– Barack Obama