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February Reads – 2019

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

This classic American novel made a great audiobook because of its length. I enjoyed how Mitchell combined Scarlet’s story with the history of the Civil War and post-Civil War.

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was the February book for my book club. I enjoyed this book in high school, but the high school me had no idea what was really going on in this book. I thought it was just a tragic romance. Rereading this book made me realize that Fitzgerald had a completely different message to share with his readers. This book points out the sin and depravity in our world. The characters show us that we can get everything we want and still be lacking. A godless world is an empty world. 
If you read this in high school, maybe it’s time for a reread. It’s a quick read but also beautifully written and powerful. I would also recommend listening to the podcast episodes on this book from Close Reads podcast. Listening to literary experts discuss this book was so helpful and interesting. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

I devoured this audiobook! This story of Eleanor combines the awkward, humorous, and pain of human life. I thought it was interesting that this book is told from Eleanor’s perspective, yet as the reader there were often times when I had more insight into what was going on than Eleanor. I thought I had the plot of this story figured out, but there was still a surprise twist waiting for me in the end. I found myself thinking “I knew it! Wait, what???” and going back to catch the final piece of the puzzle that surprised me at the end. Also, as a warning to sensitive readers, the trauma, mental illness, and abuse dealt with in this book made me both angry and heartbroken at times.

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Books must look clean

The only criterion I have is that books must look clean, which means that I have to disregard a lot of the potential reading material in the charity shop.  I don’t use the library for the same reason, although obviously, in principle and reality, libraries are life enhancing palaces of wonder.  It’s not you libraries, it’s me, as the popular saying goes.  The thought of books passing through so many unwashed hands – people reading them in the bath, letting their dogs lick them, picking their nose and wiping the results on the pages.  People eating crisps and then reading a few chapters without washing their hands first.  I just can’t.  No, I look for books with one careful owner.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I love old and used books, but I completely agree with Eleanor Oliphant: they have to be clean. This quote reminded me of a used bookstore I visited in Colorado last summer. The yard of the bookstore was littered with “antiques.” Behind the store, there was a foreboding display of tombstones. Perhaps this was where they buried the unsuspecting customers who got hopelessly lost (or worse) in the endless stacks of dirty books that filled the bookstore. A blue light dimly lit the inside of the bookstore, and I began to wonder if it was possible to contract a foot fungus through my shoes as my feet sunk into the mildewy carpet. When I dared to pick up a book, I found the cover and spine dusty and the pages slightly damp. I didn’t see the owner until I was on my way out. A pair of eyes peered silently through a gap in the ceiling high stacks. If someone wanted to write a bookstore murder mystery, that store would be the perfect setting.

But seriously, Eleanor Oliphant put into words exactly how I feel about library books. Libraries are wonderful places, but I will go out of my way to get a nice, clean copy of a book from a known source rather than check the book out from the library.

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Book Club

I have joined a book club this year, which is a new adventure for me. We are using “On Reading Well” by Karen Swallow Prior as a guide. In her book, Prior discusses virtues using 12 books as a backdrop. I’ve always believed it’s important to read a variety of literature from throughout history, but I’ve never been able to articulate WHY that is so important. Prior answers that question more eloquently than I ever could have. So far, I’ve really been enjoying her book. I’m excited to continue this reading challenge and to discuss some great books with some great friends.

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January Reads – 2019

The Boy Who Loved Too Much

by Jennifer Latson

I loved listening to this book. It was one of those audiobooks that made me want to do the dishes or drive across town just so I’d have an excuse to listen to it. The book follows the journey of a mom and her boy who is diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a lesser known disability compared to autism or Down Syndrome. The author does a wonderful job of alternating between the scientific research and the mom and boy’s story. This is a book I would recommend to teachers, parents with kids who have disabilities, and anyone else who has every interacted with a person with a disability….So basically, everyone could benefit and learn from this book.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

by Henry Fielding

I am ridiculously excited to be a part of a book club this year. We are reading through the books discussed in Karen Swallow Prior’s book, “On Reading Well.” The book for January was “Tom Jones” which, at 800 pages, is not for the faint of heart. I won’t be recommending it to too many people because of the length, but overall I found this book interesting and comical. Set in the 1700s, this book tells the story of Tom Jones, a young man who shows charity and care to others but lacks prudence when it comes to making life choices. Although it was written over 250 years ago, the themes and topics dealt with in this book are surprisingly relevant for modern readers.

Life Together

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This book was on my to-be-read list for a while because one of my favorite quotes about serving others comes from this book. There is so much packed into this little book, but I found I didn’t agree with Bonhoeffer on everything. There were still some great truths in this book, but it made me think more critically about what the Bible says is essential in order to have a healthy Christian community and what are traditions or preferences we have developed in the church. 

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War

by Jospeh Loconte

I started and stopped this book several times before sitting down and reading the last half, but it was not because I didn’t enjoy it. I just kept getting distracted by other books that had due dates. In this book, I loved how the author combined the history of WWI, the themes in literature as a whole in the post-war era, and the friendship of C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the works of Lewis and Tolkien now. Their writings truly went against the grain of their time. In their fantasy stories, they didn’t shy away from the horror of war but embedded a message of hope for those willing to fight for good. 

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Friendship & Forgiveness

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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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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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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.Share on Facebook