the opposite of speed reading

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“Everywhere there are doors leading to new spaces and new stories and new secrets to be discovered and everywhere there are books.”
~from The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

There are days when I wonder if Carl knew what he was subjecting himself to when we married.

There are the days when a casual walk through our home is marked by a trail, a gathering of books I am currently reading. Each book blending into the landscape until I scarcely realize the sum.


However, over the last year when my life felt tangled and out of sync from aging, mounting stresses at work and dealing with chronic pain, I reaffirmed my shift to living more simply and slowly. My affection for books didn’t diminish but I grew weary of seeing books scattered everywhere. The physical clutter caused me to feel anxious by the vast quantity of literature surrounding me at all times.


Those who live with me, understand this is a slow process. I am not perfect but I am trying to rein in this habit and retrain my ways. It’s a delicate balance to keep order among the books I own and those retrieved from the library.


Two months ago, I lassoed every stray book and took the weighty assortment to my downstairs workspace. Once assembled, I sorted those books into two piles. One pile represented library books that no longer interested me or were not the right timing and would be returned. The second pile was comprised of books I wanted to read, either my own or library owned. I cleared out a section on one of the shelves above my work table and separated library books from owned books. I attached small post-it notes with due dates along their spines.


Any book entering our home will first be placed on this shelf. From this collection, my reading material will come.


I hadn’t realized the weight I felt from having books, even those I was enjoying, spread throughout my spaces. All these unfinished books seemed akin to feeling indecisive and overwhelmed. My reading attention had become scattered and splintered. I was highly distractible. My digital habit of keeping my computer or phone tabs open morphed into countless bookmark usage. After all, I am surely capable enough to read a book, catch up on Netflix with Carl and text a friend simultaneously.


This year, I am endeavoring to read one book at a time. Well, to be honest, one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time. I have also decided to no longer set goals related to the number of books read in a year. My personality drives me towards speed reading instead of savoring the experience of a great book.

Maybe you haven’t read a book in years and have no concept of my issue.

Have you let magazines spill over the coffee table?


Surely you meant to take out a pen to complete the Sunday crosswords but watching each week’s edition cover the previous one leaves you discouraged.


It could be too many clothes to fit in your closet, so they “decorate” other areas of your home?

Are you afraid to open your inbox because the number of emails, unread or otherwise has reached staggering numbers?

Putting my overflow of books in their place and beyond my line of sight brought freedom. No longer am I letting my books manage me.

A small newly created habit where I scan the shelf, assess which books are due soon, which ones cannot be renewed for extra days and the books which have lost their luster for now. Then weed out books and decide which ones might be next in line. I leave the books in their appointed place unless it is time to bring one upstairs.

Since I am a mood reader with a capital M. My previous routine was to gather an armload of books when deciding on my next read, peruse the first few sentences or pages and whichever one captured my attention was the winner. Now I use the same method, but I don’t sit in my living room chair but before my work table. Nothing comes upstairs unless it is my chosen book, not a hopeful contender.


Like keeping a tidy home, tasks need to be done regularly.

To keep my mind tidy, I must be vigilant to not create piles of any sort.
Tidy up, my friends.

Once you finish, why not take 15 minutes and read a good book?


I am off to practice what I preach as I see a few stray books attempting to create a book stack. But here’s a peek at what I am reading now:

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The Next Right Thing
This book is about making decisions. I preordered it before I knew a big job-related decision was looming. I was completely undone with indecision and didn’t have the attention span to read this book. However, one of the bonuses for preordering was a video and workbook course called Discern and Decide. I spent most of one day and completed the course. A different medium helped connect the dots. Months later I was ready to make the decision to leave my job. There will always be decisions to make, large or small. I am hopeful reading this book will aid me to make my next decisions regarding work. The course is still available for a fee, it was immeasurably helpful to me.

The Starless Sea
I have been waiting for Erin Morgenstern to release a new book after loving The Night Circus more than eight years ago. Her newest book is beautiful inside and out and required restraint to delay reading until I had sufficient time to fully immerse in the richness of her storytelling. I have read the first 25 pages and by the time this post is published, I hope to have spent the weekend between the cover of a captivating book.

*****

I love this quote from James Clear’s most recent 3-2-1 newsletter:

Reading is like a software update for your brain.

Whenever you learn a new concept or idea, the “software” improves. You download new features and fix old bugs.

In this way, reading a good book can give you a new way to view your life experiences. Your past is fixed, but your interpretation of it can change depending on the software you use to analyze it.

This post is a part of the slow collection. Never miss future posts by subscribing to this blog. Email subscribers are always the first to read new posts and updates. Find details on the sidebar. I appreciate your readership.

Perhaps the pot at the end of the rainbow is filled with books

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I will never forget handing a recently read and loved book to a friend only to have the book returned a few weeks later along with a proclamation of how much she hated the book.

Religious, political and even book preferences can unite and divide. Over time, I have realized it is absolutely more fun to discuss books with those who share the same affections but it can be equally instructive to learn the reasons a certain book is experienced differently among readers.

This year, I read a book by a much beloved author, I am in that camp as well but this author’s newest book won’t land on my favorite books of the year as it may be on other readers’ lists. My own personal lens and experiences crept in and try as I did, I couldn’t separate myself. If I was to have a conversation about this book with someone on the opposite side, our differences in opinions could prove awkward initially but I am willing to wager would create connection. We would each learn about the other person and might agree the book is neither good nor bad, simply found each of us at the right or wrong time. Books have an amazing way of exposing us. This is probably the reason I can be hesitant to share my reading lists.

With that introduction, I have listed the fiction and non-fiction books that top my list this year. For parts of 2016 and most of 2017, as much as I checked and rechecked out so many of the “important books” from the library, many dealing with racial reconciliation, etc., I have found myself completely tender and raw in those areas. I know there will be a time to revisit these books and many are downloaded and waiting in my Audible library.  As I assembled this list, I discovered a pattern, I tended to read to escape into a story very different than the present and when the escapism seemed to be out of balance, I leaned back to books of faith. I learned I really like fantasy and magical realism. I love being swept away by a well-written and thought-out book. I love stories of messy families because don’t we all have messes?! I love memoir and this year deepened my love for a couple of authors. I also saw a pattern of loving books about books.

Each title will have a link to provide the book description. I will simply write why I call it a favorite.

Fiction:

 

 

Beast of Extraordinary Circumstance-This is the story of Weylyn Grey, who was raised by wolves and the people he touches. Parts of this book are set in the Wildwood Forest in Oregon. This book swept me away and I finished it while we were at the coast during a storm. I loved every bit of it.

A Discovery of WitchesMost sane people wouldn’t pick a 600 page book to read during that part of the year when their book goals are in jeopardy. This book had been on my radar several times, checked out from the library and I kept hearing praise for it from readers whose taste I respect. This book is the first in a trilogy.  I loved that I didn’t know any details before reading this book, so I am not going to venture into plot except to mention, a very sought after book is one of the main ingredients. In my opinion, there was never a lull in this book and difficult to lay aside. It was also one of the cleanest books which to me means an excellent writer.

Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng has a gift for writing books that allow me to sink into the story but also think about the choices I make as well. I really appreciate how seamlessly she illustrates family dynamics and relationships. She has written two books and she is batting a thousand with me.

 

 

 

 

The Lost Book of the Grail- I am a sucker for a book about books, an antiquarian, the liturgy of the hours, an unforeseen love story and is set in libraries and churches with a dash of intrigue. Oh and King Arthur!  This book was such a sweet spot for me. It makes me smile just remembering.

Commonwealth- My sense is that reviews were scattered about Ann Patchett’s latest novel. I really loved this look at a pivotal family event and the trajectory of the children’s and parents’ lives dealing with the aftermath.

 

Station Eleven– I read this book at the very beginning of the year, while Portland was submerged in snow. I don’t remember a lot about last Christmas. I tried to ignore a pinched nerve in my neck that rendered me quite useless during all of my planned time off. I was a shadow to my family rotating between sleep and taking pain medicine every four hours. Dare I say, the wintry road conditions were a gift? Station Eleven was the book I read when my pain started to subside. It was also the book that created a long reading slump post-reading. It’s a National Book Award Finalist so I had high expectations and was not disappointed. It’s about King Lear, a traveling symphony and a super flu just for starters. I particularly enjoy books when characters collide in unanticipated ways. This book is perfection to me.

Non-fiction:

March-Book One- March is a graphic novel series depicting John Lewis’ experiences during the civil rights movement. We bought the 3 book set for Caleb last Christmas. I read the first, he read the first 2 and Carl read all three. I mention this because it is a very well done book series but it isn’t easy. Caleb said after the second book that he needed to take a break. Carl powered through and agreed with Caleb. We can do and read hard things, it’s important and necessary. I think this series is a perfect resource to
share history in an approachable way.

Hourglass-Time, Memory, Marriage- I was so taken by Dani Shapiro’s memoir about marriage. Her words gave me so much to think about how often I remember isolated parts of my life and my marriage. What do I make up or remember falsely? How do I reconcile dreams that linger unfulfilled and life’s directional changes? It’s a short book  full of soul-bearing material mixed with parts evoking laughter of recognition.

Liturgy of the Ordinary- Take a look at the daily activities of our lives and see them as a liturgy. This small book gave me an appreciation for the smallness of life and the importance of daily rhythms.

The Book Market of Paris- This is a memoir which read like fiction. I had to keep checking the book jacket to make sure it was indeed non-fiction. This book made me cry because it is such a tenderly written love story between a woman and the grandfather who gave her a love of exotic birds. It is an astonishing story and told with brutal honesty. We have become quite bird watchers at our home and this further heightened my appreciation for birds.

Home by Another Way- Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read several of her other books as well. Home by Another Way is a collection of sermons she preached over the course of a church calendar year. My mom and I both read this book together from different places. I believe she read it straight through and then started again. I read according to the calendar, I am also on my second reading so I just finished the Advent readings. All I can say is each piece is exquisite and makes one reflect on familiar passages with new eyes.

The Wellness Revelation- The book, the podcast, guided workouts, and the Revelation Wellness community has begun to help change my relationship with food and fitness. I have always struggled to find balance in my physical and spiritual life.  Either I was exercising hard and felt like I was neglecting time with God or the reverse. In my eyes, it was hard to do both with equal intensity. In my 20’s through the majority of my 40’s until physical ailments plagued me, I loved exercise. I had to have unlimited passes for Jazzercise (dates me, I know), At 29, after having a second baby, I felt I needed a challenge (don’t laugh, okay laugh, it’s justified) so why not train to walk a marathon, which I planned to walk at 30 and 40 and 50. I did walk one at 30 and then in small ways my body started to fail me, a gallbladder needed removing and liver issues came out of the blue. But I kept pushing, at 49, I remember texting a friend over Memorial Day, if perhaps she wanted to walk a half marathon on the 4th of July. We were perhaps walking about 3 miles at the time. But we conquered it and a few weeks later, a bike ride led to the summer of sciatic pain. Then there was disc disease in my neck and chronic shoulder tendonitis and severe arthritis in my knees. Sigh. I started a desk job nearly three years ago and what feels like suddenly my body is a stranger to me. How I feel in my body versus what a mirror reveals doesn’t seem connected.  Reading The Wellness Revelation has been such a timely book for me at this stage in my life. One way it has revealed my cycle of obsessing over and neglecting my body. Alisa Keaton’s words have helped me to be grateful for the body I reside in today as I honor it by treating it well*. Truly it feels like the first time fitness and faith have embraced one another and I can finally exhale. So there’s my true confession. I am fighting the urge to press delete but if there is one thing I have learned over the years, there is one person who will read the words above and completely get it and know they are not alone. So the words and feelings are true and will stay.

Meeting God in Scripture- For me, this will be an ongoing book to use weekly. Jan Johnson provides 40 guided meditations for deeper scripture reading. I like the opportunity to slow down and reflect on short passages and the questions aid to see the references from a different perspective. A wonderful way to enhance reading of the Bible. One of the reflections helped me determine my word for 2018*, a little time of quiet is always a good thing.

Tell me a book or two or a dozen that you read this year and enjoyed or what are reading now? This is not a rhetorical questions 🙂

I hope to finish The Bookman’s Tale before the clock strikes midnight, it seems like the perfect book and title to end the year!

Happy New Year!

I have learned not to promise how often I will post because I tend to fail. But I definitely am grateful for your readership whenever I press publish!

Helen hearts…

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The morning of the solar eclipse.

Autumn has arrived.

I can’t quite let go of summer, despite the scorching temperatures and smoke-filled skies. Here is a small accounting of the parts I loved about this past summer, the lessons I learned both big and small or ridiculous and what I hope clings to me through each and every season. Simply put, Helen hearts…

  • Apples with limes
    Most people are well acquainted with the benefits of using lemon juice over apples.
    Next time you cut up an apple, grab the green citrus fruit instead and commence eating. I can’t tell you how delicious this concoction is to me. What a great way to keep that pesky doctor away?!
  • CSA Boxes
    I noticed last summer, we rarely visited farmer’s markets for two reasons; we lost one of our favorite weekday markets and soccer tournaments on weekends. We decided to sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box throughout the summer months. It is an easy way to support area farmers and have the pleasure of the freshest produce. The farm we chose allowed box customization but sometimes when the deadline passed, we were “forced” to experiment with different produce than our usual fare. It was a great opportunity to be a bit more adventurous. Find a CSA near you here, many offer year round options as well with different products.
  • Music
    This is the portion of this post which dates me. So here goes, back in the day when music was mostly enjoyed on the radio or CD players, I played music seemingly all the time. Whether it was in the car, cooking dinner or cleaning the house, the tunes were blaring. Now I must be increasingly intentional to listen to music. The world is plenty noisy. I crave silence. However, music brings joy to everyday moments. Two hearts go to Spotify’s family plan. One monthly fee to be shared among up to six loved ones. Everyone gets their own playlists and can dance to the rhythm of the beat.
  • Favorite new magazineMagnolia Journal
    I used to have a hefty magazine habit. I have reformed my ways and only subscribe to 2 at the moment. Magnolia Journal is one of those two. Issues are quarterly-ish and reading it makes me feel restful and happy.
  • Books
    Oh how I have been in such a book slump for most of 2017. It all began when I read Station Eleven during the big Portland snow. Every book, I picked up thereafter felt a bit “meh”.  I took some time away from reading and this summer, I decided that I was only going to read the books I wanted to read, not those heralded by the masses. I would ignore Goodreads Challenge screams declaring I am however many books behind of my goal. I decided to keep reading. The best books I have read in the aftermath of Station Eleven (so dramatic, I know) are: The Lost Book of the Grail, Liturgy of the Ordinary and Hourglass. I have been slowing reading with my Mom, Home by Another Way , an exquisite book of sermons by Barbara Brown Taylor spanning the Christian year. I just started the first of the Sidney Chambers books which the PBS series Grantchester is based. It seems to be the perfect cozy mystery series to welcome autumn.
  • Stability
    This past May marked 24 years of living in the same house. The first two years of marriage found Carl and me in Minnesota, while I finished graduate school. The next 5, we moved to Portland and lived in 2 different rentals.
    It’s rare to stay in one place. We have chosen to remain in one neighborhood for the vast majority of our marriage and our children’s lives. I don’t see any moving vans in our future. In St. Benedict’s Rule of Life, stability is one of the vows taken by monks and nuns. Stability is devoting oneself to stay in one place, to belong to and love one’s community. In the same way we believe certain things can only be learned from experience. There is an unmatched sacredness only earned from remaining. We have a common history with those who share walls but a unique story is written along our sidewalks and yards. There have been conversations and requests for prayer which I believe only occurred because the years unfolded in front of our porches. When we are a part of a neighborhood, we belong to one another. I often forget as I don’t want to be nosy like Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched.  There have been two occasions over the last couple of months when Carl has been invited into a difficult situation or sought to be of help in an emergency. One with a long-time neighbor and the other a new family to our block. I continue to be reminded how being involved and caring is not butting in.
    I have a list of “to do’s” inside and outside our house and sometimes, I ponder the proverbial greener pastures, but I love the neighborhood we feel called to call home.
    *****
    After 24 years, all our flowerbeds needed attention. The plants looked tired and many had sustained damage from the harsh (for us) winter and some didn’t return during the spring or summer. We decided to re-imagine our landscaping, of course, during a summer without rain and high temperatures.  It has been an exercise in patience, mainly mine. I like to draw the plan and execute. I want it done already.  It’s not finished but I am slowly accepting this reality. We tended the plants we have and allowed the soil to rest and our eyes to readjust to empty spaces. We have enriched the soil, removed unnecessary root systems, smoothed the lumps and replenished depleted soil with healthy earth. Because if I am realistic, the rebuilding, remaking and reclaiming shouldn’t take a weekend but much longer. How often have I plucked out old root systems in my own life and immediately sought a replacement without allowing  time to clear the landscape of my mind, my heart or my soul before creating new designs?
    *****
    Every year, sunflowers instruct me. This summer was no exception. From a practical standpoint, Caleb and I planted the sunflowers along the fence by type and height. In years past, when it was time to thin the young plants, I couldn’t tell some of the types apart and ended up completely losing certain varieties. For whatever reason, the sunflowers bloomed one type at a time.  It wasn’t until the end of August that each kind was in bloom. Not sure what my strategy will be next spring. Every season is different for unknown reasons but always an opportunity to pay attention and learn.
    This was a summer of giving bunches to friends, co-workers and discovering our fence line neighbor was cutting bunches for himself to enjoy. One Friday, I gave bunches away and I was the most blessed. Most of those bouquets bore leaves covered in ash from all the wildfires. A visual reminder of beauty mingled with destruction.IMG_20170908_161454_800All during the growing season, whenever I needed or perhaps whenever I truly looked, I found ladybugs.

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  • Rest
    In the middle of July, Carl and I had a length of time when Caleb was off beach camping with his youth group. We decided to stay at home instead of traveling. We couldn’t seem to shake our exhaustion and didn’t want to pay for a mattress when we owned a perfectly good one designed for sleeping in and napping. We recognized the long year it had been especially as related to Carl’s health. No matter how tightly we held onto each other or to God’s hand, the unknowing and the daily grind of life which doesn’t cease during trial found us with a deeply worn groove of fatigue. We were only a few days in and a few plants purchased, when we received an unexpected phone call. It was news not anywhere near our thoughts or on our radar concerning a loved one. It was such a shock. Over the last perhaps 11 years, the phone has rung innumerable times with hard news or information. I am sure it has for you as well. It is life.  This time was different. I don’t mean who it concerned. What I mean is that my response was different. I won’t say there was not fear because it was there. But there was rest as well. We had rested, we weren’t completely rested and probably none of us ever will be, but we were able to hear the news from a place of rest not depletion. The rest crowded out the fear and brought peace. I assembled my people who pray for me not so that I could line up as many people who could somehow moved the hand of God in the direction I wanted. I asked for prayer because believers believe in prayer. I also believe in God’s word, while reading in the book of Genesis about the death of Sarah,
    this portion of the verse has deepened my gratitude for each day.
    “…these were all the years of her life.”
    Genesis 23:1
    We are all given a certain amount of days. They encompass all the years of our life, no matter how long or few. No matter if they are taken by disease, the hand of another,  old age, unjustly, understandably or too soon. We don’t determine the number.  God breathes life into us and when we have lived all the years he has ordained, he will extinguish. Leave no weighty words unspoken to those you love. We are not promised tomorrow.
    Embracing rest has changed the way I approach each day and the way I work. I try not to strive getting to week’s end so I can rest from my work. I work from a place of rest. I have heard this sentiment often but now I understand. Not surprising, my neck pain has diminished greatly, a welcome side-effect.IMG_20170725_204909_024
  • Saying no to rushing and yes to personal retreats
    Many of my days are spent rushing and wishing I was at my destination quicker and sooner. I have been increasingly impatient and cranky and my neck always aches (see rest above). I don’t have any magic words here but I have made it my aim to stop rushing and to linger. When someone unexpected drops by and my eternal list  gets pushed aside, I am trying to stop internally drumming my fingers. I breathing deeper and fully inhabiting my body by engaging. It sounds ridiculous and a bit shameful to realize how often I more concerned about conquering life instead of dwelling with those in my presence.
    I began jotting notes for this post during the middle of August. I started writing it last Sunday and today it is October. It used to be so important to produce new writing frequently. I was the only one who was in such a rush. The words needing to be remembered remain even when delayed and more often, un-hurried words are better, more formed expressions.
    Also in the spirit of abolishing rush, I embarked on my first and definitely not the last personal retreat. I set aside roughly 5 hours during my day off to curate my dreams, scribble in my journal, tend to my hard and tender places and explore whatever needed un-hurried time to ponder. It was such a rich and satisfying time to step away from an ordinary day. It was after a walk, the thought to make sunflower bunches to give away emerged. Retreating is the goal not mapping productivity. I sketched a rough framework for the day of retreat and stayed open to abandoning structure if necessary. Let the undefined time guide you away from bullet points. You might be surprised how setting aside only a few hours can help re-acquaint you with your soul.
  • The friendship among children

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    Our kids are now 14, 24 and 28. I have savored their childhoods and hurried them at same time. (Notice a theme?) Sometimes, I wanted to know how they would turn out, you know? I always knew (well, most of the time) I was called to be the mother to each child at the age they were that day, that age, not 6 months or 6 years in the future. I knew God would always equip me for their ages. Although, I can’t believe their collective ages I am confident I arrived here by traversing each stage of mothering.  One of the sweetest gifts of this past summer has been to witness the friendship of our children. We always prayed they would love each other deeply and be closely connected. The photo above was sent to me at work one day in June, when the sisters were taking their brother for a day at the Oregon coast. I had often worried the age gap would be insurmountable, it has taken time and patience but they are a very loud, laughing, silly and fiercely loyal threesome. I couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful.
    It’s been a summer filled with lessons and I trust the autumn will unearth others. The end of August marked the 11th year of A Work of Heart. Thank you for reading and waiting and rejoicing when a new post miraculously appears in your inbox or however you find these words. I couldn’t love writing more or be more thankful for your support.
    Thank you Summer.
    Welcome Autumn.
    Just look at my babies 🙂
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three books

DR SEUSS

During a recent visit, I asked my mother how she would describe me as a reader while growing up. She immediately responded by saying I always was reading a book. To further emphasize the point, she said during frequent trips to visit grandparents, my brother would know the route as his face was turned towards the window and the scenery, mine was envisioning the scenery on the page.

Reading relaxes me.
Reading centers me.
Reading informs me.
Reading transports me.
Reading is what makes me…me.

My last post was about the first year back to work. I mentioned not having
a lot of time to read. But how like God to have me assist a fellow book lover to and have book chats all during the week. We speak the same language.

Several friends have told me how much they enjoy posts about books. I thought it might be fun to from time to time to share three books in these three categories:

  • Books I love
  • Books I have recently read
  • Books I am reading

These are not reviews, simply an appetizer to whet your reading appetite.

As you see from the stack, I am already cheating. I can’t help myself.

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Books I love

The Night Circus: Books read during the summer, I tend to remember the most.
If a book can draw you away from running around in the sunshine, it’s a good book.
I read this during the summer of 2011 and it captivated and transported me.

“The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and 
billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply
there, when yesterday it was not.”

It’s the story of Marco and Celia, two young illusionist who have been trained by two masters to compete in a “game”. That is all I will say. It is on my re-read list as I recently learned it is being made into a movie, which excites and scares me. I am not sure I want what I envisioned to be cast on a screen instead in the mind.

Girl Meets God: I adore memoirs. This is one of my favorites. Lauren Winner tells the story of her conversion from Judaism to Christianity. It is written in sections according to the Christian church calendar and is intermixed with her grief in missing her Orthodox Jewish traditions. Lauren writes with such intelligence, humor and honesty.

“Easter, it seems to me, is the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays. For a Jew becoming a Christian, bodily resurrection is no surprise. It is what we had been expecting all along.”
Books I recently read:

Coming Clean (not pictured): I had the pleasure of being in a writers’ workshop lead by Seth Haines last year. I was anxious to read his first book. Coming Clean is a recounting of the first 90 days of Seth’s sobriety. It’s a journal about cravings and being unable to pray in life’s harshest moments. We all crave something don’t we? What are we using to cover our pain, our fears, our doubts?
Coming Clean is brilliantly honest and candid.

Books I am reading: 

My books are toppling over at the moment. The only way to decide what to read next is based on library due dates and which books cannot be renewed. Sigh.

Four Seasons in Rome:  Once upon a time, I spent 10 days in Italy. It was part of a 3 1/2  week holiday during my semester abroad. As wonderful as that sounds right now, it pales in comparison to being given the opportunity to write in Rome for a year. Within those 365 days, Anthony Doerr created All The Light We Cannot See.

When Breath Becomes Air: This book doesn’t need much introduction as it seems to be everywhere. As of last week, I was #322 on the library hold list. My sweet neighbor and friend Stephanie surprised me by knocking on my door to give me her library copy and share her personal connection with Paul Kalanithi. Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I have a rare evening to myself and anticipate finishing it tonight. I know it won’t be an easy completion but when we read or listen to each other’s stories, we honor their footsteps.

The Better Life: Don’t you love the cover? I’ve had this book for a while. I read some of it and then it got buried under a pile of books, no doubt. It is simply a tiny book of short chapters about small things that can be done right this very instant to make your life better.

 

I would love to know what you are reading OR what books you love?

*****

Want more book ideas?
My favorite Tuesday morning ride to work routine is to listen to Anne Bogel’s
podcast What Should I Read Next?

You can find it here. A new episode every Tuesday.

 

 

 

WASSUP?!!!

The year was 2002 and I needed an email address.

I don’t recall if we had internet in our home yet, maybe dial-up.

So I signed up for a one hour computer slot at the public library and began the process of

registering for an email address.

The most stressful part was choosing the email address name because

technology was new and one wrong move meant being saddled with a

terrible email address FOREVER.

I’m a percolator meaning snap decisions aren’t in my DNA.

Naturally, I am in a library, needing to make a monumental decision and the only thing

bubbling up in my mind were the popular Bud Light commercials at that time.

Of course.

Do you remember these guys?

Over the years, I have used NetZero, Hotmail, Yahoo and GMail all proceeded by

wassuphelen.

It has become my “forever” email address and the source of laughter when people

have a flash of recognition.

Here’s a bit of WASSUP Helen?!

 

*****

Caleb left Sunday for a week of outdoor school.

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He is our final child to experience this 6th grade milestone.

There are 5 or 6 outdoor school sites for our area and it is amazing to us that

all three kids will have gone to Camp Howard.

No matter how long one has been a parent, goodbyes are never easy.

Six days feel long.

It’s good for all of us.

No screen time for him but instead trudging around the great outdoors and

learning campfire songs.

No carpool, practices, youth group and the “do you have homework” question.

It is a sweet blessing to press the pause button for a few days yet I know we will be

anxious to have our boy back home despite the loads of laundry to come.

*****

While Caleb is gone, Carl and I have an added responsibility.

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Meet Grover.

Caleb has wanted a guinea pig or hamster for the last two years, at least. Or a puppy.

It took us some time to completely warm to the idea.

As I have written often on this blog lately, this is a time of transition for our family.

One such transition involves Caleb being the youngest by a couple handful of years.

When we learned we were to have a third child, we heard some unhelpful comments:

“Did you plan this?”

“Oh my gosh, I am so glad it’s you and not me!” and often there was silence,

followed by hysterics.

However the helpful comments were of this variety:

“My brother was born when I was 16 and we are very close as adults.”

“I loved having a little sister so much younger than me.”

“My sister is 12 years older than me, she fascinated me.”

It’s evident, I remember both sets of comments.

But those comments steeped in experience,

I shellacked them to my front and back, propelling me

towards unknown territories  and harnessing me with secure hope.

Carlen and Courtney have been the such a sweet and crazy force

in Caleb’s life.

They have remained present in his life even when it meant a lot of juggling.

I am sure part of it is because it is what we do as a family.

We try to show up for one another. But I also believe they remember how

often Caleb was in the back of  our van or stomping around bleachers or being told

to be quiet during their school events.

His sisters are in their 20’s and forging their own paths.

Part of getting a guinea pig was to give Caleb his own thing and a companion.

We got Grover for Caleb.

But we all adore him.

He has a very sweet personality and his guinea pig antics are hilarious.

I had no idea.

As a parent, we try to do the best for each child and for each season.

We try our best to make everything equal but in reality, nothing is ever equal in

every season. There are patches of time when one child simply needs or demands

more time.

The only aspect in parenting that must be consistently equal is the size of love.

I was reminded by one child how we never got her the lizard she wanted.

Her recollection was that all she had to do was clean her room.

Mine was that it was not to be a one time event 😉

Sigh.

Good thing Grover is so cute.

He has covered over a lot of parental missteps and taught us all a lot about empathy.

*****

Carl and I have been working to give our basement family room a

much-needed facelift.

It has affectionately been called the cave for years because of the wood paneling.

Painting over the darkness created a brighter and  more spacious room.

One side of the family room has a built-in bookcase.

We spent weeks sorting through our book history.

There were yearbooks, encyclopedias, textbooks, cookbooks, a few too many

diet books, fiction and a lot of non-fiction books.

We parted with bags and crates full of books.

I am not saying it was easy for this book lover but it was necessary.

I kept only books I loved, would read again, still want to read or have significant

sentimental value to me. (Shhh…I still have more favorites in my office.)

I removed and recycled  all the book jackets and  this small act completely

changed the look of each book.

Then I organized them by spine color as is so popular now.

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We could use some less loved and saggy furniture and few other items to complete the room

but I am realizing how often I avoided this area because it didn’t bring me joy.

A couple of gallons of primer and paint and some deep cleaning and a new room was born.

It will be fun to continue to work on this space over the next few months.

*****

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I needed a way to bring focus to my 24 hours.

The top notebook contains the 5 W’s which have begun to bookend my days.

I thought about 3 important areas in my life and ended up with 5

to govern my moments and for ease of remembering

found words bearing the same first letter.

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Word (soul care)-be intentional and consistent about being in God’s Word.

Walk (health)-be active, make and schedule ways to add movement into my days,
even if it is simply stretching.

Work (job, household, hard things)-be a worker of excellence, do the work, be grateful,
do my best, be a blessing, extend grace, share the love of Christ, be fearless.

Write (passion/creativity)-be the caretaker of my dreams, make progress everyday,
always be an encourager.

Welcome (vessel living)-extend welcome to those who live within my four walls or come
into them. May I exude welcome wherever my feet take me and look for
opportunities every.single.day.

I am not perfect with this “system”.

Please know this.

If I was perfect, there would be no need to make an entry.

No reason to look back and see the places Perfection came to

the rescue when I stumbled over my attempts to carefully craft life.

I endeavor to write the date at the top of the page either in the morning

or at day’s end and jot a few thoughts or insights related to each W.

Some pages are crammed with words and others have empty spaces,

just as it should be,

just like life.

*****

I will end with a book read and one I am reading.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-I have meant to read this book for such a long time. I am so smitten by this book and it jumped up and made me cry on the final page.
Perfect read aloud.

The Miracle Morning-I may never be a natural morning person but there is such value in rising early. This book has already given me a new mindset and some hope of putting to bed
my habitual snooze button pushing.

Well, you know what I mean. Wink.

*****

WASSUP with you?!