Why I Quit Reading a Book I (Should Have) Loved

Food.  World Wars.  Ethnic or racial conflicts.  Baseball.  Literature.  A hint of magic realism.  Any abstract idea that is made concrete, especially through narrative nonfiction.

Those ingredients make the perfect book for me.  Maybe not all of them in the same book, but toss a few between the covers and I’m good to go.  If I’m browsing my library’s website or have the rare chance to actually peruse the stacks at a brick-and-mortar bookstore,  I’m like a moth to the flame when I see those themes appear on a book jacket or shelf label.  It’s usually a home run (back to the baseball references…see what I did there?).

So imagine my excitement when I came across this book:

It hit all the right notes.  I was sure it would be a winner.

Then, 106 pages into it, I quit.

I had forgotten one key factor in my reading life – I have a huge trigger for stories about children who are suffering.  With three kids of my own, it’s too easy for me to project the situation I’m reading onto the lives of my kids.  I start to picture them with the sickness, or them in the prison camps, or them as orphans.  The book is no longer about an unknown character.  It’s about my own flesh and blood.  I walked away from The One in A Million Boy a few months ago for the same reason, even though I had endured a looooong library hold list to finally get it in my hands.  The boy in the story became my boy.  I couldn’t read past what I was seeing in my mind and decided to send it back to the shelves.

That’s what happened as I turned page after page of Mischling.  Affinity Konar is a skilled writer and her tone and prose makes the book almost seem like you’re reading a dream.  It’s wistful but tragic.  Haunting and hopeful.  Yet I found myself flinching as I turned each page, dreading the horrors that I feared were in store for the main characters.  It came to the point where I put it down and walked away.  Of course I’m still wondering what happens and how the story resolves, but I’ll have to wait for now.

Yes.  I quit reading a book I should have loved.  However, there were plenty of books I kept reading and enjoyed as the calendar said goodbye to January and welcomed February.  Click the cover image to learn more about each book.


Angelina’s Bachelors: A Novel with Food  A quick read with lots of recipes, but with some deeper themes of love and loss.  I read it in about 24 hours.  The perfect palate-cleansing book, in more than one way.

 

 

 

 

Walking  I chose this book as an homage to my grandfather, who passed away at the beginning of 2016.  He was so moved by Thoreau’s writings and philosophies during his life that he built a small cabin in his backyard that he he named “Walden.”  It was sparsely furnished, tucked away in a swath of ivy and between two large hemlock firs.  He would go out there to sit in nature and just be.  We would sneak out to the cabin and loved playing in it.  While this book didn’t do anything for me, I enjoyed listening to it and reflecting on my grandfather’s life and legacy.

 

A Fall Of Marigolds  This book alternates time periods and narrators each chapter, a feature I have come to really enjoy in novels.  I wished there were more chapters dedicated to the present-day side of the story as it seemed a bit weak in tying the entire narrative together, but I still enjoyed the story.  Also, the fact that sewing and fabric were a central player in the story made it unique, too.  I enjoy sewing and the author’s descriptions of the textures and colors really brought them to life.

 

 

A Sound Among the Trees  Out of the three Meissner books I’ve read, this one is my second favorite (Secrets of a Charmed Life still holds the number one spot in my mind).  While the majority of this book is told through letters, I didn’t mind reading those chapters even though I usually am put off by that style of writing.  I like books that are set during the Civil War and this one approached a familiar story from an unsuspecting angle which made it fun to read.  Plus, I brought this book on our surprise weekend away which meant I read it pretty much non-stop for two straight days.

 

I Let You Go  I was hesitant to start this book since I knew one of the main plot lines was about the death of a child, and as I said already – that’s a huge trigger for me.  Even though that scene happens at the beginning of the book and sets the entire story in motion, Mackintosh doesn’t dwell on the situation as much as uses it as a catalyst to reveal the complexities of the other players in the story.  Be forewarned – unreliable narrators come into play here (I found myself flipping back and forth between chapters to try to figure out what was happening) and the ending?  Oh, the ending.  It’s  infuriating and stunning and perfect.  Definitely a page turner.

 

Underground Airlines  I have been recommending this book non-stop since I finished it.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  This is a book were they blurb on the jacket flap actually does make you want to read it, so start there and be ready to be sucked right in.

 

 

 

 

A Holy Ambition  John Piper is one of those authors who writes in a way that is slightly offensive, but then after you’ve pondered what he’s actually saying, you realize that’s he’s most likely right.  And then you walk away convicted, challenged, and encouraged.  This book is a collection of sermons about missions and “going where we are not.”  I picked it up from a box of donated books and read a portion each morning as part of my daily devotions.

 

 

The Bookshop Book  Now I want to go to all the places, see all the shops, and read all the things.  The photo spreads are breathtaking.  The descriptions of the bookshops made me want to jump into the text and never leave.  If you’re wanting a bookish theme to a trip you’re taking, this book would be a great place to start.

 

 

 

War Brides  While this book lands directly in my sweet spot of World War 2 fiction, it left me unsatisfied.  Portions of the books seemed to drag, while other jumped over key points in the character’s lives that could have added depth to the plot.  The author missed the mark on character development and at times it felt like I was reading a long list of descriptions about each of them, instead of truly entering their motivations, thoughts, or emotions.  The ending is highly unbelievable.  I finished it but would hesitate to recommend it.  There are too many other books in the genre that would get my endorsement before this one.

 

Coal River  I have not read any books about this time period or geographical setting, so I learned quite a lot about the history and tragedy of the coal mining industry in the United State while finishing this book.  I must say, I figured out the “twist” pretty early on so when the author had her big reveal at the end of the story, the surprise was lost on me but I still enjoyed reading it.

 

 

 

The Other Wes Moore  I picked up this book while we were at my parent’s house and I needed a break from Mischling.  The author chose a clever way to tell yet another story of injustice, poverty, and the will to survive.  It would definitely be a read-alike for this book.

 

 

 

 


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Snow!

What a surprise when over six inches of snow blanketed my parent’s hometown yesterday. It snowed nonstop from about 10 AM until well past 10 PM, which meant a white, winter wonderland awaited the kids this morning. 


To say we were underprepared for winter weather would be an understatement.  No gloves, no snow boots/pants/coats.  It didn’t matter though!  We layered up with what we had and stomped through the neighborhood as soon as we were done with breakfast. Snowy days tend to last only about 24 hours (it was already melting off the trees when we were outside today) so I’m happy we were able to be outside and enjoy the snowfall while it still felt like real snow.

And, to compare:


Scott might be in for a slight adjustment once he returns to this continent.

How FaceTime and wall to wall carpeting are saving my life (at least today)

It’s cold here.

Like, really cold.

I thought it got cold where we live, but Northwest Washington has us beat by a whole 22F (at this exact moment; I just checked to compare the two cities).  It might even snow this week.  GULP!  I know there are other places in the world that are much, much colder, but it’s our current reality and we are adjusting to learn how to live with the chill.  At least for a few more days until my husband returns from overseas we head back to the surf and sun of the Northern Baja peninsula.  Where it’s still cold…but not that cold.

Couple the cold with the late sunrises (7:33 AM) and early sunsets (5:18 PM) and it can seem like shadows and wind chill rule our waking hours.  There are a few key things that are helping save my life these days and adding a sunny, silver lining to all those clouds .  They might seem a bit commonplace to deserve an entire blog post unto themselves, but when it’s making that much of a difference they are definitely worth mentioning.

Wall to Wall Carpet

Yes.  I just named a synthetic fiber ground covering as the number one thing that is saving my life right now.  As heads are scratched around the interwebs, allow me to explain.  Our house does not have carpet.  Nay, it doesn’t have any floor covering to speak of except cold, white tiles.  Which are f r e e z i n g  cold in winter, even in our moderately temperate climate.  Our walls are concrete block which are covered by the thinnest coat of plaster (no sheetrock here!) and a hastily applied paint job.  It is impossible to properly and thoroughly heat a house that is made of solid rock.  Trust us, we’ve tried.  We’ve bought space heaters.  We have hot water bottles and heating pads.  I leave the oven door open after baking to let the dissipating heat radiate through the downstairs.  We have a portable propane gas heater that takes the chill off if it’s run for an hour or so, but leaving an open flame in our main living space (or to run all night in a bedroom God forbid) doesn’t mix well with three kids ages six and under.  It stays cold, period.

Now, put us on a few airplanes and fly us a thousand miles north and what do we have?  Colder weather, of course, but we also discover carpet.  This lovely, soft, cushioned, heat-retaining substance that caresses our feet and covers our floors and softens our falls.  Carpet has been a game changer for us on this trip, so much so that I don’t dread getting out of bed in the morning and haven’t worn my ‘house slippers’ (which I brought with me on this trip) when I walk around inside.  It’s the most mundane of items to most people, but it’s number one on my list today.

 

FaceTime

With my husband overseas and 15 hours in the future, we’ve been relying on technology to keep us in touch.  The kids ask to “FaceTime Daddy!” every day but we’ve only been able to connect twice.  It has been precious to see the kids’ faces light up when they see Daddy appear on the screen.  Of course they fight and scramble over who holds the phone and then tears ensue, which slightly ruins the whole purpose of the video call.  Regardless of sibling squabbles, I’ve come to appreciate the gift of technology and the instant boost it gives to a relationship during our time apart these past few days.

 

All the Other Things

Here are a few other life-lines that are floating around me these days:

Wood-burning fireplaces.  My parent’s house has one and I might have single-handedly contributed to the deforestation of the planet this week.  Worth it.

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Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents.  When we live far away from family, time together is special and cherished.

Utility services that work, and work fast.  The power went out the other night.  I was prepared for the world to end.  And then, it came back on.  Just like that.  I basically witnessed a miracle.

A day to indulge.  Yes, yes I did.  I had dreamed of it for weeks, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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This bakery is a local legend and absolutely lives up to it’s reputation.  Also, mine was the brownie in the corner.  That’s it.  Promise.

Books.  No further explanation needed.

Cold water from the tap.  The freezing temperatures mean ice-cold water straight out of the sink.  We are used to drinking room temperature water from a filtered, purchased water jug.  It’s been a treat.

Sisters who fly across the country just to help.  My younger sis made the trip south for less than 24 hours just to help us make the trip north to my parent’s house.  It made all the difference.

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It may be cold, dark, and wet most days, but my life is full of light.  These little things add up to make a big difference.  Especially to my sensitive little toes every morning.


Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy

Fitness Challenge – finished!

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I did it!  Our organization’s annual Fitness Challenge is in the books and under my belt.  As both a participant and one of the organizers of the Challenge, this month was full of all things nutrition, exercise, knowledge, and accountability.  I’ve only participated once before, but since I love to read and happened to recommend a book to the leader of the 2016 Challenge, my name was brought up during the planning stages for this year’s event as someone who could take the reigns and make it happen.  Reading takes you places, people!

For the month of January, we committed to exercise 180 minutes a week, follow a nutrition plan of our choice (I added some qualifiers to ensure it was sustainable, measurable, and nourishing), read one of four books that were vetted by yours truly, and be accountable once a week to check in with our progress.  Those who completed the entire Challenge win a gift card and enter into a grand prize drawing for an iPad mini.  Motivation and incentive always help.

My exercise was centered around Sarah Beth Yoga and Yoga With Adrienne‘s monthly challenges, which happened to coincide perfectly with our own challenge.  My weekly exercise totals were:

Week One: 215 minutes

Week Two: 203.5 minutes

Week Three: 180 minutes (this was the week of the crazy storms, my husband traveling, and the surprise anniversary getaway, which might have contributed to the fact I barely reached my goal)

Week Four: 202 minutes

I read QBQ! which is a short but powerful read.  My thoughts on the book can be found here.  The other options were The Power of Habit, Food Rules, and The First 20 Minutes.  There are so many books on wellness and nutrition out there, but one of the qualifiers was that they needed to be available in Spanish and English.  One of the blessings of living in a bilingual community is seeking out resources that everyone can access.  These four titles fit the bill and provided quality information on various aspects of how to live a fit life.

I am definitely glad I participated.  I am also glad I had a hand in organizing the Challenge.  Any chance I get to spread my “gospel” of alternate nutrition to the masses…mwahahaa!  At least I didn’t force this book on people…they may have run away screaming! Haha!

Now time for some lay-it-all-out-there truth telling:  I have been dreaming of chocolate cake and cheeseburgers for about three weeks now.  My nutrition plan was no added refined sugar, no refined grains, and no eating after 8:30 PM.  For the entire month.  My body feels great and I’m proud to say I made it all 31 days.  But let’s just say I’ve been scoping out the best bakeries in town and have solid plans to hit them up ASAP tomorrow.  As one of my favorite fitness ladies says, one day of indulgences won’t side track a healthy lifestyle, just like one day of nutritious eating won’t give you a six pack.

When your heart is in two places at once

Today my husband leaves for Cambodia.

As I type that sentence I realize once again how not normal our life is.  We take trips around the world like other people go to the store for milk.  Well, maybe not as frequently but it often seems as common as the check out line at the grocery store.  It’s still exciting.  It’s still thrilling.  It still makes us pinch ourselves and think how blessed we are to be living our passion and calling.

So.  Cambodia.

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He will travel for a ridiculous amount of hours, land with massive jet lag, gather his team, and then spend a week or so building a home for a family and a playground for a community.  Then he puts it all in reverse and travels back to us.

Have I mentioned how unnormal our life is?  Is that even a word?

While he is halfway around the world, the kids and I (with the help of my sister – aunties to the rescue!) will fly to Washington State to spend a few weeks with family.  The kids are looking forward to Christmas with the grandparents.  Yes – they’ve kept their tree up, have presents wrapped, and the lights are still up.  In spite of all the logistics and planning to make a border crossing, two flights, and three kids’ worth of stuff happen, I have hope that the travel with be great and the trip will be even better.

For a few weeks, our hearts will be in two places at once.  Whether I’m the one staying or sending, we all go together.  Our life is what we all do, not just one person because they are the one getting on the plane destined for a remote, exotic location.

I will miss my husband so much.  At the same time, I’m so proud of him for leading, going, and bringing others.

Ten Years

January 20, 2007.  The day our lives, together, began.

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All at once it seems like the blink of an eye and an infinite stretch of time.  A moment and a lifetime.  A wonderful ten years.  A challenging ten years.  The best ten years.

We usually keep it low key for our anniversaries (kids often help with that).  Scott had plans to travel all week leading up to the big day and we hadn’t talked much about what, if anything, we wanted to do to celebrate.  Then one night I had a stroke of insight – if he was gone all week, I could potentially pull off a huge surprise for us and he would have no idea.  A few quick texts, arranged childcare with some solid friends who said they would help, and we were set – a night away to celebrate our 10 year anniversary was in motion!

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The big day came and with it came a massive wind and rain storm (at least for our area of the world).  I had plans to surprise Scott in San Diego where he was in meetings all day, which meant a drive across the border in pouring rain, flooded streets, accidents, and re-routed traffic.  I barely missed a collision with a city bus and car that happened a few feet in front of me, causing all the traffic to back up on the freeway, drive up an exit ramp, and snake our way through massively flooded side roads.img_9596

Thankfully I made it through the border with plenty of time to spare.  I texted one of my friends who was ‘in on it’ and also at the same meeting with Scott, letting him know I was nearby and would hang out until he gave me the go ahead to get into position (I was going to be waiting on the sidewalk out front when he walked outside after the meeting).  Imagine my surprise when he texted back, “Oh, you know the meeting location was changed, right?”  WHAT??!!  Turns out they were meeting 20 minutes away from where I thought they were!  All that extra time suddenly turned into barely enough margin to weave my way through surface streets (the freeways were jammed with after-work and weather-related traffic), avoid fallen trees that were literally in the road (at least four of them), and try not to lose it as I hit every single red light along the way (okay, maybe I got one green light but it was pretty ridiculous).

My friends were stalling to keep Scott from leaving the meeting and I pulled up just as he was at the end of his rope with their shenanigans (I found all this out later).  I turned the car off, pulled the emergency brake, and frantically texted my friend to let him know I was there.  And….NO SERVICE.  My phone had no service!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  I had to laugh at this point – it was all too much.  I ended up ringing the doorbell and then dashing to hide behind the cars parked in the driveway.  It turned our perfectly as Scott was at the door ready to leave so he walked out (with a bunch of other people at the meeting), saw me, and looked thoroughly confused, surprised, and baffled.  He walked out and gave me a big hug.  I said, “Happy anniversary!” and he started laughing.  He quickly put two and two together and asked, “When do we have to be back?”, thinking we had a night out to ourselves.  It felt so amazing to tell him, “TOMORROW NIGHT!”  His face just about exploded.  He was so happy and so surprised!  He had no idea.  He loves surprises so I was thrilled to make this one happen, in spite of all the ridiculous roadblocks (literally) that were thrown in the way.  I thanked all our friends that worked so hard to keep it a secret and make it a success, and we were on our way.

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We used the Hotel Tonight app to find a great deal at Embassy Suites in downtown San Diego.  Even with the rainy weather, the views were stunning.

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Delicious steaks for dinner…no, delicious doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Heavenly.  Luscious.  Mind-blowing.  Think of the best food you’ve ever eaten and then stop thinking because these steaks were AMAZING.

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We were both exhausted from the week (him traveling, me holding down the fort and planning the big surprise) so we fell into bed at a ridiculously early hour…only to be topped by me sleeping in until 8:30 AM the next morning.  It felt so good!  We hit the free breakfast in the lobby and then settled in for a few hours of peace and quiet to ourselves.  We are both introverts so we joke about spending time together-alone.  I curled up with a blanket, cup of tea, and a good book, while he watched NCAA basketball and SportsCenter.  A perfect encapsulation of our relationship, if I should say so myself. 🙂

After checking out at noon, we made our way to Liberty Station for lunch.  It was so much fun.  The food!  The details!  The food!  The marketplace feel!  The food!  Okay, so maybe I was overly excited about the food but it all looked (and smelled) so delicious.  And then Scott found a wall of beer on tap and he pretty much died and went to heaven.  It was perfect.

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I wanted to eat every single thing from every single food stall, but I finally decided on green Thai curry.  My belly was singing a happy song for the rest of the day.  Scott had a lobster roll and fries to go with a beer from the Wall of Happiness.

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A few quick stops to run some errands (we were adults with no kids in tow…it makes errands a treat!) and we were home by early evening to hug our kiddos and say a huge thank you to our friends who had cared for them while we were away.  Our night away was the perfect way to celebrate the last ten years of our marriage and look forward to many, many more years together.

Write A New Story

I was laying in bed yesterday morning, in between alarm-going-off and actually-getting-out-of-bed.  Pondering all the things that were to come that day, I remembered that my husband was leaving for a three day trip in a few hours.  Immediately I flashed back to all the other trips he’s taken over the past few months (our work usually keeps us pretty local but he’s had some commitments over the fall and winter that took him all over the place), what had happened during those times apart, and a slow wave of anxiety started to rise inside my chest.  We had been sick.  The power had gone out.  The kids missed their dad.  Memory after memory crashed through me as I began to dread the upcoming 72 hours while he was gone and we were here.  The suddenly, like a splash of cold water, this thought appeared in my mind.

Write a new story.

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Before my day had even begun, I was allowing the past to determine how the future would unfold.  Thanks to a decent understanding of my DISC profile, I know that a high S (that’s me!) tends to evaluate future events in the light of what’s gone before, so I had a pretty good idea where this ruminating was coming from.  Nonetheless, this simple thought rang out: Could I write a new story for myself, my family, my life over the next few days?  Did I need to let what had happen influence what could happen?

Write a new story.

It’s the morning of Day 2 and the story is halfway over.  I’ve struggled with the blank pages and new pencils, but what we’ve written so far isn’t half that bad.  After all, it’s ours and it’s new and there’s still more to write.