March Reads – 2018

I felt like I had reading ADD this month. I usually prefer to devote all my attention to one book at a time, but this month there were several times when I realized I had 2-3 books going at once. I would start one book, and then get distracted and start reading another. Here are the four I actually finished reading:

1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I’m continuing with my youth fiction/fantasy mania. This series (The Wingfeather Saga) was recommended to me by a couple people during my Harry Potter hangover. I listened to the audiobook and really liked it. I’m interested to see where the series goes.

2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I only gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads, but not for the reason most people did. Most of the 1 and 2 star reviews say they could not get past the way this novel was written. I actually loved the premise of this book and Saunders’ experimental organization and format. Saunders writes this story as a series of quotes from the characters. I felt like the ghostly characters were talking directly to me, and the story wasn’t bogged down by “he said…she said…then he said…”

This book takes place when Willie Lincoln died and was buried. Willie wakes up in the graveyard surrounded by a host of strange and, quite frankly, horrific characters who do not realize they have died. Everything changes for these characters as they interact with this sweet young boy and witness an unusual visit from his father, President Lincoln.

So why did I give this book only 2 stars? I did not like some of the content that frequently entered the story. There were multiple sexual references and language used by some of the characters that I did not appreciate. I found myself skimming or skipping over some pages. It was just too much for my taste.

3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Why wasn’t this book on my radar sooner? I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. Set in the 1960s, this book tells the story of Lily Owens. Lily is a young teenage girl who finds herself growing up without her mother, running away from her father, and finding a home among a group of African American women on a bee farm. I fell in love with this unique, beautifully flawed cast of characters.

Also, I am thrilled with my colorful, cute copy of this book from the Penguin Drop Caps series.

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (audiobook)

Another book I only gave 2 stars! I would have given it 2.5 if that was an option. I heard this book mentioned several times, especially now that the movie is out, and downloaded the audiobook out of curiosity. I almost gave up on this one several times during the first half. I strongly dislike dystopian literature. I also didn’t grow up in the 1980s and don’t play video games. Since those three elements are the basis of this book, I had a hard time getting into it. However, I was intrigued by the overall plot, especially in the second half of the book. I listened to the last 5 hours in only 2 days, but I can’t say I would recommend it.

 

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February Reads – 2018

I had a nice mix of media in my reading life in February. Here is the audiobook, ebook, and paperback I enjoyed:

1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

In the past, I have only listened to audiobooks on long road trips, but since I have been spending a lot of time commuting in my car this year, I’m trying to give audiobooks a try. I loved this audiobook for “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.” The narrator’s voices made the characters come to life.

The people of the Protectorate live in fear – fear that the child they sacrifice each year will not be enough to appease the witch that lives in the woods. Very few people in this town fully recognize the horror of what is happening, and even fewer are willing to stand up for what is right. This book follows the story of the townspeople living in the shadow of a dark tower, a baby girl who is left to the mercy of the witch only to find herself enmagicked by the moon, a bog monster, a tiny singing dragon who thinks he’s monstrous, and the witch. I loved how the characters and plot are developed; I never knew what to expect next. Although it’s categorized as middle grade fiction, this is definitely a tale for all ages.

 

2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

In this nonfiction book, Stevenson tells about his experiences as a lawyer and how he founded the Equal Justice Initiative. I was shocked to learn about the injustices and prejudices that have penetrated the criminal justice system. I felt very naive when I realized how common racial discrimination still is in the south. Stevenson tells the stories of men, women, and children who have found themselves convicted, sometimes unjustly, to life in prison or to death row. I now have a greater appreciation for the work lawyers do and compassion for those accused of crimes.

 

3. The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson

This book is the first installment in Wilson’s “Outlaws of Time” series. I will read anything by Wilson, so I was excited to finally pick up this one. Although I did not fall in love with this story as much as his “100 Cupboards” books, I still enjoyed it. Wilson creates a twisting tale of time travel about Sam Miracle and his friends as they chase a villain through history. Sam Miracle is an unusual hero and legend because he needs help from his friend Glory, two snakes, a priest, and a host of other characters to protect him and remind him of his past and purpose in life.

Time travel is such a complicated concept to embed in a story, and there were multiple times in this book where I found myself rereading a page and asking, “Wait, what just happened?” I’m not sure if this could be attributed to the writing, my exhaustion the week I read this book, or the fact that I’m not as quick to catch on as the target audience of 8-12 year-olds. I will also say that I felt this book had more violence than Wilson’s previous youth fiction. Regardless of all of that, I have already ordered book #2 and am eagerly awaiting the release of #3.

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January Reads – 2018

Winter break was especially cold this year, so I enjoyed several days curled up at home with my books and some tea. Here are the four books I read in January:

1-2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I do not like “fandoms” and try to avoid them at all costs.

With limited success.

The past 6 months, I have fully embraced the Harry Potter books (and the movies) and loved them. Why did I avoid them for so long? Granted there were several plot points that I found implausible, and don’t get me started on how much I hated the epilogue, but overall I was amazed at the detailed, magical world J.K. Rowling created. These books kept me up late reading on numerous weeknights, and they took priority over my to-do list multiple weekends. There is also something to be said for reading this series in the fall/winter months. Somehow it made the adventure even more real.

As a side note, I think my favorite character is Severus Snape. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but I was rooting for him from the beginning.

I may have also thrown a Harry Potter party when I was ready to watch the last movie. Butterbeer – I’m not a fan. Pumpkin juice and pumpkin pasties – delicious. I will definitely be making them again.

3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

This book intrigued me. After hearing about it on a podcast, I decided to give it a try. I loved how the plot was character driven as the story follows the day-to-day life of an old man called Ove as he interacts with his annoying neighbors and a stray cat. The reader also gets glimpses into Ove’s past and learns how he became the man he is today. Although this book didn’t make it onto my favorites list, it was still an enjoyable read.

4. The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

I love picking up an Agatha Christie novel as a quick, engaging mystery. My brain was spinning until the end trying to figure out who the murderer was.

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Miracles

I recently enjoyed reading “Miracles” by C. S. Lewis. Lewis explains theology in a logical, step-by-step way that I find so helpful. And I love his use of analogies! Simple truths come to life. In this book, he starts by explaining the evidence for a God who created nature. He moves on to give evidence for miracles and how they relate to the laws of nature. I love how he pointed out that miracles are supposed to startle and amaze its audience, and in order for that to happen we have to first know and understand the laws of nature. We have to know and understand science to fully appreciate how awesome and creative our God is. Lewis finishes by looking at the life of Jesus and describing the significance of the miracles he performed.

“If they [miracles] were not known to be contrary to the laws of nature how could they suggest the presence of the supernatural? How could they be surprising unless they were seen to be exceptions to the rules? And how can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? If there ever were men who did not know the laws of nature at all, they would have no idea of a miracle and feel no particular interest in one if it were performed before them. Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary.”

 

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Hello 2017

One of my goals this year is to use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read. Honestly, I was a littel bitter when Shelfari was discontinued, especially since my books did not transfer correctly to Goodreads (nerd problems). I’m still not convinced I like it as much as Shelfari, but I’m willing to give it a try. I am excited that there is an app and an easy way to save quotes. Why not try it with me? I’d love to be “friends” with you and see what you’re reading. Click here to see my profile.

2017 Reading Challenge

Emily has
read 1 book toward
her goal of
25 books.
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Happy reading!

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading from Emily Ed on Vimeo.

Summer reading is drawing to a close. I always look forward to my summer days relaxing on the porch with ice tea and a good book. Here are some of the highlights…

 

Crime and Punishment (Oxford World's Classics) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Jessie Coulson ~ One of my all time FAVORITE books!

I started off the summer by rereading “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky. When I read it for the first time in high school, I loved it. I enjoyed it even more the second time! I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I just find myself blown away by Dostoevsky’s ability to capture the inner thoughts of characters. The main character embraces the idea of relevant truth and discovers the consequences. The idea that truth is relevant to each individual is still so prevalent today that it makes this book a timeless classic.

 

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin ~ This is one of the rare times when I thought the movie was better than the book. Good story, but I didn't like the writing style.

Of course I had to read “Brooklyn” by Colm Tolbin before seeing the movie. The book was okay, but I was disappointed with the ending. This is one of the rare times when I would say the movie was better than book.

 

Doctor Who: Two Novels by Dan Abnett & Jonathan Morris ~ The first story was pretty cheesy, but the second one was pretty good.:

I’ll be honest. I bought this book because, as a Doctor Who fan, I loved how it looked, but I actually did read it. The stories were cheesy, and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the writing. The figurative language and descriptions were pretty comical at times. But I still love how this book looks on my shelf.

 

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M.L. Stedman - A beautiful yet heartbreaking story.

I loved “The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Stedman. After reading the Doctor Who stories, Stedman’s writing made me want to jump up and yell, “YES! That is how you use a simile!” The book tells about a man and his wife and their desire to have children. Their grief causes them to break the law and become entangled in a hopeless, heartbreaking, and beautifully crafted story.

 

The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom ~ This was a really good book with amazing characters...hard to put down.:

“Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom was another good summer read!

 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

It wouldn’t be summer without a little Agatha Christie, and now I understand why “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of Christie’s most famous novels. Amazing!

 

I haven’t finished “Jesus Among Other Gods” by Ravi Zacharias yet, but it is good. I love Zacharias’ perspective and knowledge about Christianity compared to other religions.

 

“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville…I tried. I read 150 pages of them preparing to set out on their ship. One chapter of Captain Ahab just standing on the deck. And then I gave up.

 

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare:

I read “The Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare after seeing it performed this summer. I don’t think I would have appreciated it without seeing it performed first. I loved seeing Shakespeare’s work brought to life! That’s how a play was meant to be enjoyed.

 

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster“A Room with a View” by E. M. Forster was pretty good too.

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Farewell to Summer

After finishing my master’s degree…

WOOT WOOT!!!

WOOT WOOT!!!

….it was nice to have a relaxing summer to refuel. I found plenty of fun and nerdy ways to fill my time.

 

I spent a week on Lake Michigan with my family. Hiking, soaking in the scenery, playing games in the cabin on rainy days, roasting marshmallows over the campfire…it was wonderful.

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I spent time digging in the dirt and trying to grow things. I love my herbs, zinnias, and cherry tomatoes!

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I transferred all our home videos from VHS tapes to DVDs. This required getting in touch with my inner 90’s child and researching the workings of VHS tapes to save the corrupted 95-97 tape. I felt pretty accomplished.

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I made a tea mug rack (with help from my grandpa) out of reclaimed wood from our old swing set. Pinterest win!

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My grandpa also helped me transform my $2 garage sale finds into some beautiful chairs. I now have a greater appreciation for Windsor chairs and milk paint thanks to him.

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Before

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After

 

Of course it’s not summer without some summer reading!

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“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” -C.S. Lewis

 

I also spent quite a bit of time getting ready for my new job as a school SLP! I have my resource teachers to thank for creating such a cute, organized room.

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Add a trip to the zoo, hanging out with friends, lots of bike rides, Shakespeare in the park, a sister road trip to visit friends in KC, and some other summer activities and you have the perfect summer!

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Zinnias

You can't buy happiness...
but you can plant it.

IMG_2458 IMG_2459 IMG_2467I always get excited when these bright, happy faces start peeking out of my garden. So beautiful!

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Life of a school SLP

I have finished my 14 weeks of student teaching and will truly miss the 60+ kiddos I got to work with in preschool through 5th grade. I also worked with an amazing speech-language pathologist (SLP) who taught me so much about working with kids, collaborating with other educators, problem solving, and being flexible. Being flexible is a huge deal, especially when you have a constantly changing caseload.

Although there were stressful and frustrating moments, I have many sweet and funny memories from my time student teaching. In case you didn’t realize it, kids are hilarious. The world would be a boring place without their energy and curiosity.

Here are just a few examples from this semester:

  • While giving an articulation screener, I showed a preschooler a picture of a squirrel. “What’s this?”

“A gurl.”

I repeated what he said to confirm with my SLP that I was transcribing his speech correctly. “Gurl?”

The preschooler looked at me in disbelief. “No, not girl. Gurl!”

Silly me for confusing squirrel and girl.

  • One sweet kindergartner insisted on breaking the no-talking-in-the-hall rule every time she saw me. “Hi! Hi! Hi, speech teacher! That’s my speech teacher!” Super cute. It got to the point where her classmates would say, “Hi, so-and-so’s speech teacher!” whenever they saw me.
  • I loved how kids were excited about coming to speech or language group. Kids I didn’t even know would ask if they could come with me. However, 2nd graders were slightly less enthusiastic. Sometimes we spent more time debating why we needed to do speech than actually doing speech.

One day, one of the 2nd graders came in and started saying his words without being told. I was pleasantly surprised. About halfway through his work, he said, “You know what? I’m not arguing about speech today. Do you know why? Because things take longer when you argue. It’s faster to just do your job.” He acted as if this was a new revelation and not something I had told him every day for the past 2 weeks.

  • I also had an older student who wasn’t thrilled about working on s and z in speech. We had several conversations that went something like this:

“I don’t know why I need to come to speech. I just don’t say words with s and z when I’m not in speech.”

“Well, it’s pretty hard to avoid all s and z words. What happens if you need to ask for a pencil in class?”

“I’d just say I need something to write with.”

“Hmm…something has an s in it.”

“Ugh!”

“And what’s your teacher’s name?”

“Mister…ugh!”

“And your best friend?”

…pause…”Dang it!”

As we walked back to class, he started spinning in the hallway. “I’m dizzy!”

Instead of telling him to stop, I pointed out, “Oh, dizzy has your z sound in it.”

He stopped. Long pause. “DANG IT!”

  • In one of our language groups, we built a model ferris wheel after reading about George Ferris and how he invented the first ferris wheel. This turned out to be a challenging project.

While working on it, one of the students asked, “What’s that word we learned? The one when someone is stronger?”

“Advantage?” I guessed.

“Yeah, that’s it. Miss Emily, will you help me with this? I think you have the advantage.”

(Proof that kids really were learning!)

  • I worked with a preschooler who had a hard time even saying vowels. We worked on vowels with two of the consonants he could consistently say: p and b. So, one of our target words was “poopoo” (after all, it’s very functional vocabulary for a preschooler). The first time we worked on it, I had him say it 5 times. “Poopoo. Poopoo. Poopoo.” At this point, he stopped and started giggling uncontrollably. Super cute.
  • One of my favorite conversations with some 3rd graders:

Me: “If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you pick?”

Student 1: “I would want to meet my great great great … [there were a lot of greats] … great grandfather.” He proceeded to tell a story about what it would be like to meet a caveman during the ice age. The students then had a debate over whether there were cavemen before or after the ice age.

Student 2: “I would pick Adam and Eve, so I could stop them from eating the fruit. Then there wouldn’t be sin in the world.”

Student 1: “Oh, dang it! I wish I had thought of that!” He was sincerely disappointed in himself.

Student 2: “Well, maybe it wouldn’t matter anyway. There are so many people in the world that someone would probably mess it up eventually.”

  • I worked with a hilarious, sweet student with autism who brought so much energy and excitement to school.

We had a rule that she had to finish her work in 30 minutes. Otherwise, she wouldn’t get a break playing with the toy animals. One day, she finished in 31 minutes. So close, yet so far. I had to tell her that she didn’t earn break.

Instantly, she plopped down on my lap, laid her head on my shoulder, and burst into tears. I have to be honest, it was hard not to laugh at her dramatic response.

We talked about how next time she could work hard and get break. She seemed to accept this and calmed down.

Suddenly, she burst into tears again and wailed, “ANIMALS ARE RUINED!!!”

My SLP just smiled and said, “Well, she’s making progress. She used to say Christmas was ruined even when there wasn’t anything related to Christmas.”

  • After reading a book in language group, I asked the students to draw pictures of the story. When I asked one student about her picture, she said, “I drew a picture of the city council. That’s you. You’re the chairperson.” She pointed to a girl in a rainbow dress.

You know you’ve arrived when a student draws you as a key character in a story wearing a rainbow dress.

  • On my last day with the kids, I gave them each a pencil with a note that said, “You’re a sharp student.” I had to explain the double meaning behind “sharp” to most of the kids. When I gave it to one of the students, I told him, “Sharp can have two meanings. You can have a sharp pencil. Do you know what else it can mean?”
    He looked down bashfully. “Yeah, it means you’re really handsome.”

 

Can you see why I’m going to miss these kids? And now I’m starting my next school adventure. During December, I’m subbing for an SLP at another school. I’m actually getting paid to do this work! I’m very excited and nervous.

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Rejoicing in suffering

Last week, four of my speech pathology friends and I piled our stuff into a car for a road trip. Risking fog, snow, and tumbleweeds, we drove to Colorado for the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA)  annual convention. We joined approximately 14,000 other women (oh yeah, and a handful of men) for several days of nerding out about speech-language pathology and audiology. It was so fun to go on this adventure with some great friends and to learn more about this amazing field I’ve chosen.

I’ll spare you the nerdy details about the sessions I went to about co-teaching, counseling parents, treating patients with spinal cord injuries, and working with kids who have craniofacial anomalies.

One thing that stood out to me was the opening session by Kelly McGonigal on stress and dealing with challenges in life. She discussed several research studies that looked at how people cope with trials in life. Research shows that we are better able to deal with stress if we acknowledge it instead of trying to avoid it. One interesting study had participants sit with a family member or close friend who was about to have surgery. Half of the participants were told to think about how stressful the situation was and to take their worry out on a stress ball. The other participants were told to focus instead on the other person and that person’s pain. Instead of a stress ball, these people were told to hold their loved one’s hand.

Results from these studies showed that the best way to deal with challenging situations is to acknowledge the stress, think about the purpose behind the situation, and to focus on other people and their pain. When we do this, we still perceive pain but not as much as when we try to ignore it. Also, studies show that thinking this way results in neurological changes in our brain. People become more resilient, hopeful, and stronger because of these trials.

As Kelly McGonigal used words like “perseverance” and “hope” to describe how difficult situations can make us better people, I thought of these verses from Romans:

IMG_1690God promises that trials will lead to perseverance, character, and hope. He is able to promise this, first of all, because He is God. He gives us the Holy Spirit to supernaturally bless and strengthen us in the middle of stressful situations. After listening to Kelly McGonigal, I was struck by the idea that He can also promise this because he has neurologically set us up to respond in this way. When we are in the middle of stressful situations, God has given us a way to positively cope with trials by focusing on others and persevering to become a better person. He takes the bad and turns it for good. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain, but He’s given us the means to grow despite the pain. As a result, we can rejoice in our suffering.

We live in a world where science is too often viewed as the rival to the Bible. I was thrilled and encouraged to discover another example of research aligning with God’s Word.

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