Thursday, April 9, 2015

The day I realized I am in a Gretchen Rubin book.

I'm in here!

Yes, readers, you read that correctly!

I am in a Gretchen Rubin book.

I was merrily scooting along in her newest book, Better Than Before, when I let out a whoop during the transfer from page 196 to page 197.

"I'm in Gretchen Rubin's book!  Oh, my goodness!  I'm in the book!"

But wait, I thought.  I can't be sure.  Maybe someone else failed to continue her rosary habit after Lent and commented on Gretchen's blog about it.  I looked myself up on Disqus (and I usually kind of dislike how transparent Disqus makes all your comments) and followed it to Gretchen's blog post on the finish line and how it affects a new habit.

There I was!  I was right!  Edited for the book, but there I was.

I scooped up my laptop and book and ran to my husband to show him.  He smiled, congratulated me, and perhaps wondered if I was a loon.

What a thrill.  

Gretchen's so fun.  I love reading and talking about all the things she writes about in her Happiness books and, now, her newest book.  She's great at interacting with fans on social media and on her blog, which I enjoy.

Sadly, my inclusion in the book recounts a failed attempt at keeping up a daily rosary habit a few Lents ago.  I hit the finish line and dropped the habit.  Womp, womp.

Now, my husband, on the other hand, he set the same goal for Lent one year and kept it up.  And do you want to know why?  He attached praying the rosary to his car ride to and from work.  He gets two or three decades in on the way and the other decades on the way home.  Sometimes, he walks into the house still praying to himself.  (I like that- the kids get to see him in action.)  He laments not praying the rosary on the weekends, and we have talked about how he doesn't do it because it's not attached to anything else.

I did not attach the rosary to anything during my Lent.  I just white-knuckled it through, forcing myself to pray.

I've finished Better Than Before now, and I just loved it.  I'm going to go through it again and do some freewriting to her questions that help us know ourselves.  I'm sure the book will come up again here.

Until then, I am just enjoying this little thrill.

Have you read Better Than Before?  I recommend it!  Any new insights on a particular habit of yours?  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading (Quick Lit - March 2015)

I've only read one book this month, and I've nibbled at others.  I restrained myself from reading books I really wanted to dig into because I was trying to read my Well-Read Mom selection for this month: The Betrothed by Alessandro Mazoni.  But then sickness invaded the house, and I am abandoning The Betrothed for now.  Instead, I will order the next WRM selection and institute a schedule of "read some of this, get to read some of that."  Hopefully, this will allow for some recreational reading in addition to the usually tougher books prescribed in WRM.

Before I started The Betrothed, I read one book after vacation.  It was:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (paperback, library) - I was a bit disappointed in this book after reading all the good reviews.  I mean, I enjoyed it.  I did.  But I think the ending spoiled reading it for me. I didn't buy into the ending at all (the very end, if that makes sense to those who have read it).  I didn't really buy into one of the main relationships in the story either, which I realized a moment ago.  But the writing was lovely; Patchett has an observant eye.  I even took two book pictures with my phone to capture two passages!  I thought my favorite character was Mr. Hosokawa, but truly, I was most touched by the Frenchman with the scarf.  

Have you read Bel Canto?  What have you read lately? Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup! Check it out for book reviews and recommendations. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

I need some inspiration....for a new blog title.

I started this blog almost a year ago out of the sheer need for creative expression, an outlet.

I've outgrown the title.

But I don't know what to move towards.

I could use my first and last name, but I am not sure I want such search ability on the web. (But don't I?  I secretly pine for a by-line on a magazine article, newspaper column, or website. There! I said it!)

So, what's the difference? 

Somehow, a blog with my name seems quite different from being published somewhere....legit. Ouch, that doesn't seem fair, but if I'm being honest, that's what I was really thinking.  I suppose I just mean publishing somewhere already established and respected.

I want to write more here, but I am still getting comfortable with what exactly I want to write about.  Maybe if I just write more, I'll gain some inspiration for a new title.  There's an idea.  Ha.

I'll have some inspiration instead of being in need of it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Quick Lit - February 2015

It's time for another Quick Lit post, even if I am a little late to the linkup.  I was able to read a bit more this month due to supplying myself with more books I actually want to read and going on vacation.  A little road reading, if you will.

Since we met last, I have read:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  (interlibrary loan, hardback) I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and I did, indeed, find out.  I've never read a book quite like this, and though I was disturbed by a couple of choice scenes, I found this book enjoyable for its fine characters, plot, romance, and history.  (This was my copy's cover.)

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. (hardback, interlibrary loan)  Wow, does this author ever know how to weave a story.  I could not put this down.  I knew the risks to not putting it down, but the story was so driving, I just kept on going.  However, I couldn't stand the characters for the first 50 pages.  I thought: this is vapid!  Why are people giving this such high reviews?  I stuck with it for all the high marks I'd seen, and it paid off.  

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederickson. (hardback, library) Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy (where this linkup is hosted) has mentioned this series several times on her blog, and the idea of mothers and daughters reading treasured novels together warmed my heart so much I had to get the first two books.  Easy, fun read, though the fat jokes seemed gratuitous.

Much Ado About Anne (The Mother-Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederickson. (paperback, library)  I couldn't just grab one MDBC book, especially since #2 revolves around my beloved Anne of Green Gables.  I liked it for its theme.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. (hardback, library) I was so excited to read another Rowell selection after my beloved Eleanor and Park.  I really enjoyed reading about Cath and her first year at college.  She was a well-developed character with a talent I loved reading about (writing).  I know nothing about fanfiction; so, this was a nice introduction to that world, despite that I found Cath's fanfic (and the Gemma T. Jones excerpts) distracting and a wee bit forced.  Engaging read, authentic heroine, nice capture of family drama.

These books were definitely on the lighter side of reading (save Outlander, whew!), and I am gearing up for some tougher book club reading.  My spiritual reading selection is slow-going.  Good but slow-going.  I'll share it when I'm done with it this time next year.  Ha!

Tell me what you've been reading.  Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Quick Lit - January 2015 (formerly Twitterature)

I finished one book this month.

I finished it on Christmas Eve morning, amidst the occasional howls and cries and jubilations of young children.

Still, it was fitting.

That book was:

There were lots of mentions of this book at Modern Mrs Darcy, and I was curious.  I'm so glad I read it!  The characters are extremely engaging; they just jump out of the page at you.  I don't know if I've found a more lovable girl than Swede since Anne Shirley.  (That's saying a lot!)  The main character is Reuben, and his inner monologue combined with his loyalty to his family made for a memorable brother.  The book gets a bit hazy somewhere in the middle, but I had to see the way this one turned out, so I kept on reading.  I can easily see why people were calling it their favorite book of all time.

What did you read this month?  Have you read this one?  Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My 5 Favorite Books of 2014

Last year, I remember reading internet chatter about the best books people had read.  I was quite sad that I couldn't even remember what books I had read!  I started tracking on Goodreads, and it has been quite the handy tool.

Thus, as the end of 2014 draws ever closer, I joyfully give you my five favorite books of 2014, regardless of publication date:

1.  The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.  One of two books I pre-ordered this year, I was super excited to read her book, which was quite nicely not just a repetition of her blog.  Smith really spoke to me about letting go of perfection and just trying something new in your house.  What's the worst that can happen?  You have to paint again?  There was so much gentle guidance, plain-spoken (but not harsh) realism, and great decorating ideas in her book.  It was so good I read it twice from cover-to-cover, once in hardback, once on Kindle.  (That's right.  I bought two formats of the book.)  Smith's tagline is 'it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.'  That lines right up with my current mantra: don't let the perfect get in the way of the good.

2.  The Giver by Lois Lowry.  This book's been around for a while, but I just finally got to it at the end of this year.  It was a quick, straightforward read, but it's simplicity, truth, and heroism remains with me.  I was really struck by this book and was a bit surprised at how struck I was.

3.  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Oh, man, did I ever love reading this book.  I keep saying that I wouldn't have found them so charming and lovable if I could actually hear the characters saying "God" as exasperatingly as it was written.  But holy heck, I just loved it.

4.  Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.  I'd never read a book like this, and I found it so encouraging, creative, and fun.  I would like to read it again.  Very inspiring.

5.  Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry.  I would not have read this book if it weren't for being invited to join a Well Read Mom group.  I'm so glad it was put on my radar.  When I think back about reading it, I just remember all the peacefulness and wise words I experienced, like these:

You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was.  But you can't remember it the way it was.  To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening.  It can return only by surprise.  Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind.
 And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence. 

What were your favorites this year?  Any of these, by chance?  Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for an exploration of all our favorites in 2014.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

An Advent Countdown with Books: 2014 Edition

It is satisfying to have this be our third Advent countdown with books!  What fun to look back at previous years.  We started this tradition in 2012, and we enjoyed it once again in 2013.

I love a lot of the titles on these lists, but if one thing haunts me a little, it's that the books are so serious- and I've already held back on including some of the more popular make-you-weep books in the past.  My oldest is almost seven; I haven't wanted to overwhelm him with themes that are too heavy.

The only paper I had in large supply was a roll of easel paper.  I punched out 1" holes with a hole punch in both purple and pink, representing the weeks of Advent.  This year, I labeled starting with the 30th of November.

So, this year, we will make sure to balance things out with a little fun (though, where there is Tomie dePaola there is almost always fun).

Here we go with this year's list:

Sun 30: The Very First Christmas (audio book recorded by husband's parents)
Mon 1: The Legend of the Candy Cane (Walburg & Bernardin) New!
Tue 2: The First Christmas (a book of biblical text and puzzles) New!
Wed 3: Tomie's Little Christmas Pageant (dePaola)
Thu 4: A Christmas Carol (Boddy) New!
Fri 5:  Saint Nicholas: the story of the real Santa Claus (Joslin & Cann)
Sat 6: Saint Nicholas: the real story of the Christmas legend (Stiegmeyer & Ellison)
Sun 7: Immaculate Conception (booklet - Winkler)
Mon 8: Our Lady of Guadalupe (pop-up - Serrano, Davalos, & Guzman)
Tue 9: St. Joseph's Story - (Guadagno & Lo Cascio)
Wed 10: Who is Coming to Our House? (Slate & Wolff)  New!
Thu 11: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Bernier-Grand & Engel)
Fri 12: The Nativity Play (Butterworth & Inkpen) New!
Sat 13: An Angel Came to Nazareth (Kneen)
Sun 14: Bambinelli Sunday (Wellborn & Engelhart)
Mon 15: Great Joy (DiCamillo & Ibatoulline)
Tue 16: The Night of Las Posadas (dePaola)
Wed 17: My First Book of Christmas Prayers (Roche)
Thu 18: Good King Wenceslas (Neale & Henterly)
Fri 19: Uno, Dos, Tres, Posada! (Kroll) New!
Sat 20: The Clown of God (dePaola)
Sun 21: The Story of Christmas (Pingry & Thornburgh)
Mon 22: Room for a Little One (Waddell & Cockcroft)
Tue 23: The Legend of the Poinsettia (dePaola)
Wed 24: The Nativity (Sanderson)

I traditionally end with the nativity reading from Luke out of our New American Bible (NAB), but I decided to go for a book as well this year.  We will be sure to use the Bible, too.

I lined up some feasts again this year: St. Nick (6th), St. Juan Diego (9th), Our Lady of Guadalupe (12th), but I let go of the other feasts (St. Lucy, St. Stephen).  I thought about trying to line up the O Antiphons with books, but I let that go, too.  Last year, I tried to assigned books to the days after Christmas- the 12 days of Christmas!  We read the books from those 12 days (some great books on St. Stephen, King Wenceslas, and the Wise Men!), but we didn't always read them when I had assigned them.  We were juggling post-Christmas burnout (including recovering from a bad bug), buying a new van, last minute baby prep, and a New Year's birthday for our oldest during that time.  This year, we are sticking to the 30th through the 24th because that's what we got done!

What's left of the countdown and what's already been read

This Christmas, I've been trying to really crystallize what Advent and Christmas traditions serve my family.  Unlike other things, the Advent Countdown with Books did not fall away!  I used what I had, grabbed some new-to-us books from the library, and got them wrapped up.  Not much different this year, but it doesn't have to be different to be good.

The book countdown utilizes what we already do (read books at bedtime), keeps focus on the reason for the season, and adds an element of fun to our anticipation of Christmas.

What about you?  Do you do a bookish countdown?  Do you love Tomie dePaola like me?  How do you countdown to Christmas, if you even do?