Reading :: spring/summer 2019

It’s been a while since I did any sort of reading update. I’ve been steadily plugging along, starting too many books and not really keeping up with what I’m reading. It’s been the first summer in like the last 4 years that I haven’t had to do any trainings for upcoming teaching responsibilities, so I feel like my reading life has been wide open. I’ve tried to do a little pre-reading for my upcoming sophomore, but I keep becoming distracted by other books that are more appealing or higher on my list.

Currently

Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal by D. Kline. :: I’m not really sure how this ended up on my reading list, but so far it’s been pretty interesting. It does cause to one to harken to the simplicity of a farming life and even the Amish life; especially with all the crazy political junk going on.

Phantastes by G. MacDonald :: I’m reading this because apparently it was one of C.S. Lewis’ favorites. I have to admit it’s rather odd and it might not be the best book to read before falling asleep – partially because it is sort of putting me to sleep and partially because I’m not sure I’m awake enough just before bed to really appreciate it.

Beate Not the Poore Desk: A Writer to Young Writers by W. Wangerin Jr :: This book is awesome. I’ve loved all of it and I really love Wangerin. I’ve only ever read his non-fiction, so the jury is out on whether I’d like his fiction, but I completely “get” his writing voice and love it.

Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and Depression by JP Moreland :: I quickly ordered this one when I realized the topic. I’m about halfway through and it has been really encouraging and full of many different ways to combat anxiety attacks. I appreciate his perspective of how the church needs to be in more conversation about anxiety/depression, but also his recognition that sometimes it takes more than prayer and sin confession to overcome this struggle. Medicine is not an evil.

On Hold

I started a few books and they are on hold for various reasons, some because we are on a school break, some because they were due at the library again and some just because I start too many books.

You Learn by Living by E. Roosevelt, In the Land of the Blue Burqas by K. Mccord, The Lifegiving Table by S. Clarkson and Tending the Heart of Virtue by V. Gurolan

Read

Kingdom of the Blind by L. Penny :: I really want to like Louise Penny because I feel like every mystery lover does, but I really am not a huge fan. She’s ok when I’m in the mood for a mystery and don’t have one, but really I just don’t love Gamache and the characters. This one was better than the other one I read, but still not a fan.

1984 by Orwell :: this was a pre-read for my high schooler. He was interested in reading this and I hadn’t read it since high school, so I felt like it was due time for me to read it again. There were some things in it that I didn’t remember at all, but overall it was super scary to read it in these times of history revision/erasure and just all the other lack of individuality (despite everyone crying out for it) and just our inability to respect other peoples differing opinions.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by K. Morton :: this was another one that had been on my list for a while and another author that people tend to rave over. I really felt like I slugged through the first half of this book; maybe even the first 3 quarters. It did ramp up a little in the end, but man the ending was horrible. I finished this and 1984 on the same day and it was totally depressing. Both of them had super depressing endings.

The Night Gardener by Auxier :: this is a youth book and it’s by the guy that wrote Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I really loved this. I had read many reviews that mentioned how good it was and it really was. My daughter was not so convinced.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Callahan :: this is the story of Lewis and Joy and was our book club choice for July. It was eh; so- so. There were parts of it I really appreciated and enjoyed and then parts of it that I thought were sort of unnecessary . She really takes license with the love story between the two of them and that kind of made me uncomfortable. Callahan is also a very flowery, descriptive writer so that was mildly annoying. Honestly, romance novels are not my thing so maybe that was my utmost issue. It was a good and interesting story and apparently she consulted a fair bit with Joy’s son and there were many tidbits in there that I had no idea about that were interesting.

The Curve of Time by Blanchet :: this is probably my favorite book so far this spring/summer. I absolutely loved it. It’s the story of a widow living on the coast of British Columbia who would take her children sailing all summer in the area between Vancouver Island and the rugged coastline. It’s a crazy area where the Pacific Ocean tides come through and mix with the freshwater rivers coming down from the mainland. I wish I was a mother like this; wild and free and able to just take off and go on adventures. I’m so not.

Persuasion by Austen :: People had been telling me for years to read this Austen, mostly because Emma is hands down one of my favorite books. This did not disappoint, but honestly I still love Emma.

Next up…

I don’t know what’s next. I really need to get busy and make a list because I know I have tons of pre-reading I need to start for school. What are you reading this summer?

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Book Review {Lincoln in the Bardo}

I requested Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders from the library merely because it had been mentioned on some podcast a while back. I couldn’t even remember why I had put it on my wish list, but I realized when I opened the book that this was going to be a very different read from anything I had ever read before. To begin with, I had no idea what the “bardo” was and I realized pretty quickly that I better figure that out before I continued. The second thing was the writing style. Reviewers describe Saunder’s writing as a “non-traditional narrative”. It is written as a series of quotes from the 300 plus characters in the book. Daunting and strange as this was, I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. 

The Bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist word describing a place between life and death. It wasn’t until I was nearly at the end of the novel, that I realized that I had been reading this novel about being lost in a place between life and death during the season of Lent.

The essence of this entire story centers around the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie. Willie becomes ill and passes away and Lincoln’s grief is palpable. He is clearly not at peace with anything in his life and the death of his young son wages a war within him much like the war that is beginning to rage up around him between the North and the South.

But Willie does not just pass on to heaven, but ends up in the Bardo with all the other souls that are lost there. Immediately Willie’s frustration with where he is is clearly evident; only he doesn’t know where he is; he thinks he is still living. He sees his father coming to visit his “white house” and yet when he tries to crawl into his father’s lap he merely passes through him. He is distraught, because this man who had so often cradled him and brought him peace and comfort doesn’t even realize he is there.

Willie is not alone in this Bardo, there are some 300 other voices that readers hear from throughout the novel, but none are as intriguing as the trio. This trio has clearly been stuck in the Bardo for longer than they even know. They become distraught over the idea of Willie being stuck in this purgatory and they know that if they do not relieve him of this place there will be no peace. The recognize their previous failure with a young girl and come together in order to prevent the same happening with Willie. For the first time the trio come together and begin to hope for something better than this place. If not for them, at least for this boy who doesn’t deserve to be stuck there.

At first glance, this is a book about death. Even worse it is a story about being stuck in a purgatory – a death but not death. But in retrospect, I think it is a story about life. Just as the season of Lent is in a sense a season of death, ultimately it is a season pointing us back to life. We sit in the darkness of our sin and in that darkness we realize how bright the Light is that is coming.

My pastor is a Hamilton fanatic and his Easter Sunday sermon centered around the quote from a Hamilton song: “Dying is easy. Living is hard.” Sitting there, surrounded by the glory of the resurrection, I immediately thought of this story. 

Death was easy for these souls because they didn’t really have a choice. Willie died because there was no cure for his sickness despite everything the doctors tried. Others died in accidents or from battles.  It was easy for them to stay in the Bardo – this in between place. There was a sense of safety there. What scared all of them most was the passing on to the place of “eternal living.” Periodically people around them would just disappear in this earthquake of leaving and this leaving was completely frightening to them. 

It is the same for us. This world that we live in, it isn’t a Bardo, but it is still an in between place.  As a believer, I know that a new Eden is coming. When I see the brokenness surrounding me, I know deep in my soul that this is not what God meant for this world. We live in a dystopian focused world. We look around and fall into just accepting that this is all there is. It is easy to see the evil and then lose hope in the future, because we think the future is tainted and filled with danger.

Living is hard because we strive for comfort. We are all terrified of pain and suffering. Our culture is filled with a million things to distract us from considering the sorrow that we are surrounded with. Those in the Bardo continued “living” on as they could within the confines of their ghostly shapes. They played tricks on one another, they traveled in and out of people, they were angry and selfish with those that took up residence in their “sick boxes”. 

They did everything they could to distract from their suffering and from those around them. They did everything they could to keep themselves from considering how to move on. 

They did everything they could to prevent Hope.

Regret moves in, keeps us stagnant and blinds us to Hope. So we stay in the place of death. We stay in our own Bardo; a death of dreams, death of what could have been, death of expectations. This death is easier than living. It is the same sort of darkness that Lincoln was stuck in and couldn’t pass through because of the death of Willie. It’s the same darkness that Willie was stuck in and couldn’t pass through until he admitted he was dead.  It is the same sort of darkness and death that those in the Bardo were in. In order to pass on to the next place, they had to look past their fears and accept and say the word of truth – that they were no longer living and in that acceptance they were able to move on. They had to hope.

This is the Gospel. When we admit that there has to be more to life than this broken world we finally come to realize that there is a way for us to have hope. There is someone who is the essence of this Hope. He chose to walk through the darkness, he chose a death and a passing through – but he passed through and rose again. 

Every Sunday our church serves the Lord’s supper and our pastor reminds us that we do have a future and we do have a hope. We take this meal as a group, surrounded by fellow believers. But unlike those stuck in the Bardo refusing to admit they are stuck, we take the bread and the wine recognizing that we have all made a choice to believe. Every time we take that meal, we choose to rattle the world around us and break the idols that we use to protect us from the darkness. 

And instead we choose the Light that breaks through.

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sewing life :: new stuff

It feels like forever since I’ve actually finished a new embroidery project. I’ve been in a total creative funk. Partially due to this year being stretched in so many other ways and partially reeling with the fact that my eyes just aren’t what they used to be.

I’ve been longing to do a series of hoops based off of the paper pieced Dresden plates idea. I spent most of the last few months stitching these circles together and finally was able to embroidery the quotes in the middle and finish them all up.

I live in Big Orange Country so I knew I needed to do at least one orange related hoop and I’ve long been wanting to do another yellow “You are my Sunshine” hoop.


In addition, I also finished up a little baby quilt for a friend’s newest little girl coming soon. My friend is from South Carolina and I stumbled upon this collection on Hawthorn Supply called “Charleston” and figured it would be a perfect fit.

I wanted colors that weren’t screaming girl, but just a simple feminine vibe. I’m sort of wishing that I would have chosen a different solid besides the white.

I pretty much followed the tutorial in School of Sewing for making the squares and I’m totally sold on this type of quilt to get rid of scraps for sure. It was super quick to piece together and I could see many more quilts happening this way. Binding a quilt has probably become my most favorite thing to do though. I could probably sit and bind quilts all day. It’s the most tension relieving thing ever.

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Book Lists: January/February

Although I’ve sorely lacked in writing in this space what I’ve been reading; I have been reading these last few months. I’ve actually found myself with too many books with bookmarks and an ever growing list. Here’s where I’m at currently and where I’m hoping to head in the month ahead.

CURRENTLY READING:

None Like Him by Jen Wilken – I’m trying to read through this one slowly. To really narrate through on my own each section, spend some time with the scripture references and process each attribute. I do love her writing and teaching style. It’s a great read so far.

Good and Angry by Turansky – This is a re-read for me, but it’s totally different reading this book as a parent of a tween and teenager versus little bitties when I first read it. I’m reading through it pretty slowly when I have a few stolen moments in the mornings while the house is quiet. It is a great parenting book.

The Tech-Wise Family by Crouch – This is another one that I’m reading through slowly. I’m almost done with it and would highly recommend it. I’ve read a few books about technology and parenting over the last few years and honestly I think this one is by far my favorite. It’s an easy read, but yet he asks such great questions to ponder.

The Swiss Family Robinson – by Wyss – The chick and I are still reading this in the evenings before bed when we have a chance. We have one chapter left! I’ve really loved this book more than I ever thought I would. It’s charming and thought provoking and although it’s long, we’ve really enjoyed it.

Hadrian’s Wall by Goldsworthy – The chick and I have been studying early history and the Romans off and on this year and we are reading a children’s book called The White Isle which is about Hadrian’s Wall in England. I snagged this book at the library which is actually a history of this wall and so far it’s actually pretty interesting.

For School I’m reading along with the chick: The Children’s Homer, Defeating Darwinism, It Couldn’t Just Happen, Our Island Story, Augustus Caesar’s World, The Forgotten Daughter and The White Isle.

RECENTLY FINISHED

The Great Alone by Hannah – Goodness this book. I could not put it down and when I got within about 100 pages to the end I spent pretty much the whole day stealing time to read it. I honestly did not like the main characters at all, but I loved the setting in Alaska and all the details. There is something about escaping and surviving on your own that I just totally love (but could never do) and the idea of living somewhere so wild is just exciting to me. It would be fabulous vacation read if you have one coming up.

A Year in Provence by Mayle – I loved this. I’m beginning to figure out that I love memoirs that involve traveling and living somewhere else; maybe because my husband and I would totally do it, yet probably never will. The author was hilarious and it was overall just such a lovely little book.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Gaynor – This one I grabbed at the library one day because I thought it sounded really interesting. Another book along the lines of living somewhere and having to figure out how to survive against the elements; in this case on a crazy island in northern England and also in New England in the US. It was an easy read and I did love the setting and the characters in this one.

Dark Tide RIsing by Perry – I’ve been reading Anne Perry’s books since I was like 19 so anytime one comes out, I always gobble it up. After all these years I can see the pattern and where she’s going, but I still love them.

Blind Justice by Alexander – This book was awesome. I read it for my book club and so far I’d say this would be my favorite fiction book of 2019 so far. It’s a mystery (which I love) and I’m eager to find some more of his series in the coming months. It’s all based around the same Blind Judge and other main characters and it’s set in a time period in England that I’ve read much about over the years.

The Christmas Mystery by Gaarder – This was a read aloud the chick and I read during Advent and a little beyond. It was good, a little strange but it is a translated book so I think you have to remember that it’s written from a totally different culture and perspective.

The Tuscan Child by Bowen – This was another quick read and I enjoyed it. Can’t say I remember a whole lot about it though!

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Patchett – I love Ann Patchett and any time I get to read about an author’s “real life” and even glimpses into their writing process I love it even more. This is a series of essays and each one don’t necessarily relate to one another, but overall it’s a fantastic book.

What’s Next?

I’m getting ready to start The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This is a re-read for me, but there was something about it that made me want to read it again. It’s a pretty small book and I’m hopefully that this time around I will get more out of it. I like Gaiman a lot and I think there are a lot of things I can glean from his writing as I try to flush out a story that’s been floating around my head for years. I’m hopeful that as some of my responsibilities change this year, my writing life can come back. I have a stackful of books that I’ve sort of started that I’d love to get moving into. But I feel like I need to finish some of the ones I’m currently reading first.

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Starling Quilt

The quilting bug has certainly taken hold; so much so that I finally joined our local Modern Quilt Guild and have already attended the first two meetings.

My mother’s birthday was coming up this month and I felt like I really needed to gift her with a quilt. The Fat Quarter Shop released this Starling Quilt pattern as a freebie and when I saw it I knew it was the perfect pattern for her. (I also knew that there was a pretty good chance I could get it done in time too).

I searched high and low for some fabric for her and when I saw this Steno Pool line from Cotton and Steel I knew that was it. My mom went to secretary school way back and learned shorthand. When we were growing up, my mom would write our Christmas lists in shorthand, which used to frustrate me to no end because I couldn’t decipher them. I even think I tried to use her shorthand dictionary at one point to try and figure it out! This shorthand panel was the tipping point for her quilt.

I found some coordinating fabrics to go with the line, including this lovely, sparkling chambray and got started.

This is a pretty simple quilt to cut and piece. The pieces are bigger and after making so many quilts with tiny pieces it was a welcome respite! I’m still working on my exact piecing skills and I know that some of these don’t line up perfectly, but I’m getting better.

I had originally purchased some fabric for the back, but the color was totally off from what I thought it was and I actually miscalculated and didn’t order enough. Instead of purchasing more, I decided to piece the back (a little inspiration from my quilt guild meeting show and tell) and I’m super happy with how it turned out.

I quilted it with a wavy block with my machine.

This quilt is super soft and washed up really well and I’m beyond thrilled to gift it to my mom on her birthday!

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