What I’m Into: October 2014 Edition

Happy November! Here is my October What I’m Into post. Sorry it’s a few days late! As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post.

What I’m Reading:

This month I buried myself in books. It was almost an addiction – the minute I stopped reading one thing I needed to pick up something else. I couldn’t tolerate any lag-time. This was partly because quite a few books I wanted to read went on sale for kindle all at once and I bought about 8 books in just a few days and then felt like I needed to justify my purchases by reading them all immediately. But mostly it was because I was hiding from writing. I kept trying to write – blog posts and book chapters and proposals –and I kept failing to write. I started to cram all of my free moments with other people’s words so I wouldn’t have to think about my own. And this is what I read:

Speak by Nish Weiseth. This is a brand new book about the power of sharing stories. The author is the founder of A Deeper Story, a website that creates space for people to tell their stories. This was a short, quick read and I really enjoyed it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I had heard this book widely praised for a long time. I’ve read two of Moriarty’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. This book is about a woman who wakes up after a fall with no memory of the past ten years of her life. While the whole “I have amnesia” trope can feel overdone or predictable, the complexity of the characters made this a much more nuanced story instead of just a cheap plot device. This was a fun, quick read, but it also left me thinking a lot about how the little choices we make in life that can add up to change the direction of your life. Little moments can pull you somewhere you never imagined going. This book also deals with infertility in a very genuine way that I’ve never quite seen done in fiction. I’m a fan.

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott. This is a short, sweet book about what Anne Lamott considers to be her three essential prayers. I liked the idea of distilling prayer down to the core of what we are usually really praying and appreciated the reminder that simple prayers are sometimes the most powerful.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I love food books and I loved the movie version of this book. Sadly , I did not love the book version quite as much. I still enjoyed it, but frankly the author is much more likeable as she is portrayed by Amy Adams in the movie than she is in real life. (Who wouldn’t be, I guess). I just found her to be very whiny and ungrateful and she joked a lot about how mean she was to her husband and how much it sucked that she’d married her high school sweetheart and so had never been with other men, etc. The parts about cooking were definitely the best parts, but overall I’d give it a 3 out of 5.

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey. Sigh. Such mixed feelings. This is a brand new book that’s been lauded by many of the bloggers and writers I admire. It’s not a bad book. But Yancey is young. He’s even younger than I am. And honestly…it shows. This is a spiritual memoir about moving from certainty about God and faith into doubt and then back again. Much of it is about Yancey’s transition from a staunch Southern Baptist tradition to exploring more liturgical traditions, specifically the Episcopal church. His reflections on the liturgy and what it can do for us are some of the best parts of the book.  But, there are many other parts that just read (to me) as incredibly un-self-aware. The basic arc of the story is of a kid who goes to college (he went to Baylor) thinking he knows everything and then comes to understand that in fact, he doesn’t have everything figured out yet. He tries to start a church at 18 and unsurprisingly, it fails. His conversations with his friends and his questions about faith remind me of my time at Wheaton and that was very relatable for me. But ultimately he tells this long story of his time in college and how he realized he didn’t know everything as though it were a very unique and original experience. I couldn’t help feeling that this is such a common story. Most of us go to college as arrogant know-it-alls and discover that we don’t know everything. It’s called maturity. And if it had been written that way – as though he was reflecting on an experience common to young adults –I probably would have liked it better. As it was, I felt like he was trying to share a super unique story and he went into great detail about his struggles and choices and emotional conflicts. And honestly, his struggles and questions were very valid, but also very common. The best way I can say it is that in the book he was not as self-aware as he seems to think he is. He seems to still have the “I’m a special millennial snowflake” syndrome common to many of us. Also, some of the writing (particularly near the beginning) was technically poor. He switches verb tenses like it’s his job. So, I didn’t love it. I feel a little ungracious writing this, but it’s also my honest opinion.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith. This is a quick, easy read about decorating and how you don’t have to have perfection to have a beautiful home. Mostly, it’s about the pictures.

Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans. I read this at the exact right time in my life. This is Evans’ spiritual memoir coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away. I loved that she actually articulated some of the really hard questions of life and faith and didn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God. That was so profound to me and has helped me come to terms with some of my questions.

Quiet by Susan Cain. This book is soooo good. It’s completely fascinating. If you are an introvert or you love an introvert, you should read it. It taught me so much about how I work as a highly sensitive introvert in contrast with my husband who is more strongly introverted, but is not highly sensitive. I also found her exploration of Western culture’s “extrovert ideal” so helpful in understanding the ways in which I’ve trained myself to act more extroverted. This helped me make sense of why I am 100% sure I’m an introvert, but other people sometimes seem surprised by that.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen. An easy but unremarkable read about fraternal twins who have never gotten along and come to understand each other better. No great shakes, but it was an easy read and a nice break from all my non-fiction.

I was reading The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen devotionally over the past few months, but I’ve finished it now. I am currently using Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer in my devotional reading. I’m nearly finished with Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey and have a few lovely novels queued up on my kindle.

I read 10 books this month for a total of 51 so far this year. You can follow me on Goodreads if you’re into that.

Also, If you would be interested in me doing more book reviews in the future, leave me a comment and let me know, especially if there’s anything in particular you want to hear more about.

What I’m Listening To:

October has been a month of long runs preparing for a half marathon at the end of November. On long runs I like to listen to podcasts. In addition to This American Life and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! I’ve become obsessed with NPR’s newest podcast, Serial, which tells one long story over the course of many episodes. This story is a true crime investigation of a man who has been in prison for 15 years for a crime he still says he didn’t commit. It’s fascinating.

Also fascinating/moving/inspiring was Nadia Bolz-Weber’s interview for the On Being podcast. Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran priest and the author of Pastrix a book very high on my to-read list. If you get a chance, listen to this. There are some breathtaking moments.

What I’m Watching:

I’m on Season 5 of my re-watch of Gilmore Girls. I raced through the last season of Call the Midwife when it hit Netflix. I’ve also been watching and loving The Paradise on Netflix. I’m staying current with Nashville, Parenthood, Mindy Project, New Girl, Modern Family, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. We’ve also been watching old episodes of Frasier and just last night watched the first episode of the British show Broadchurch after which I immediately asked Jonathan if we could skip work today and binge-watch it, but he said no.

*I just edited this because I forgot the movies!*

We saw Gone Girl last weekend and I thought it was really well-done. I read the book last year and actually pretty strongly disliked it because it seemed to be trying to say something deeper about marriage and relationships, etc but epic-ly failed to do so because of the nature of the plot. (When there are psychopaths or sociopaths involved you can no longer treat any of their relationships as an effective commentary on normal society.) I thought it worked so much better as a movie where you could appreciate it as entertainment without trying to extract this deep message about marriage and society.

We also saw the Maze Runner, which was entertaining as well as long as you didn’t think about it too much.

What I’m Eating/Cooking:

Soup! I got a new thermos to take my lunch to school with me and the ability to eat hot foods is rocking my world. I make a big pot of soup on the weekend and bring it for lunch every day. Last week it was my all-time favorite chicken tortilla soup. This week it’s a chicken noodle soup with no noodles and more veggies whose recipe I just made up on the fly.

I use this recipe except I add a tsp of taco seasoning and up the other spices. And I use black beans instead of (or sometimes in addition to) corn. Photo by: Allrecipes.com

I use this recipe except I add a tsp of taco seasoning and up the other spices. And I use black beans instead of (or sometimes in addition to) corn. And I put the whole thing in my crockpot, including the raw chicken. So easy. Photo by: Allrecipes.com

Also I made my mom’s gumbo this weekend (with a bit of my own flair thrown in – let’s face it, I am pathologically incapable of leaving recipes alone) and it was like heaven.

Gumbo

I also made a pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting for church yesterday and it rocked my world. I don’t have any pictures because I inhaled it.

If you want to see more of what I’m cooking you can follow me on Pinterest.

What I’m Writing:

As I said above, I’ve mostly been avoiding writing, so instead I’ve been hosting my Sex and the Church guest series here including such greats as “Can We At Least Begin By Saying the Words?” “You are not a gift to be unwrapped” a post about same-sex attraction, and a post from my hubby about how sex is both dangerous and beautiful. I also wrote two guest-posts for friends’ blogs. The first was for my friend Brett about being (or not being) a mom. The second guest post was for my friend Karissa’s Where I Found God series about finding God outside of the church.

On the Internets:

This off-color, but terribly funny post (similar to last month’s) about Women Having a Terrible Time at Parties

I loved this article from my friend Briana Meade about getting how we are not special millennial snowflakes and how we have to learn to live faithfully in the small moments of life instead of constantly thinking we are too good for ordinary. I have had to come to grips with this myself over the last few years and I think this piece is so insightful.

Glennon Melton’s challenge What if Your Life Is Already the Best Thing? is worth a read. (I adore her).

This post from Lisa Jo Baker about why women don’t need to be ashamed of needing to feel beautiful stuck with me.

And this post from my friend Karissa about quitting the writing rat-race (even thought this was technically a November post, I’m including it). I second everything she says here.

And, obviously, this:

What I’ve Been Up To:

I’m training for a half marathon at the end of November so I spend about half of every weekend running and then trying to recover from running. I frequently ask myself why I am doing this, but then I remember, hey, I’ve got these awesome shoes I’ve got to justify buying, and I soldier on.

Shoes

It’s like running on beautiful pillows made of mermaid fins.

I also recently discovered the enormous Korean cosmetic and skincare industry – I was always aware that that’s a huge thing here and that they’re supposed to be really good, but I hadn’t really tried out too many products. One day it occurred to me that I basically haven’t bought new makeup in eight years and I decided to try a thing or two. I made the thrilling and dangerous discovery that I love Korean cosmetics and skincare. The packaging is ridiculously cute and everything is so cheap! AND they give you SO MANY free samples. What’s not to love?!

Samples

Seriously. All free samples. Including that toner and moisturizer that are at least half-size products.

We recently joined a few other people to start a sort of house church here in Daegu and have been really enjoying getting to know some new people and getting to have church in a more casual and comfortable setting.

The past two weeks seem to be peak fall weather/foliage time for Korea so we are trying to get out and enjoy that as much as possible. Korea lights up like New England in the fall and I can’t get enough of it.

I was loving seeing all the baby costumes on Facebook this past weekend. Baby costumes are probably the biggest pro in my mind to having a baby. If I have kids, mine are gonna wear costumes all the time. I especially like this kid in his minion costume.

 

Oh, and I dyed my hair. I’m no longer a red-head. I’m a raspberry-chocolate head. I keep scaring myself when I pass mirrors.

What have you been into? Anything amazing I should be checking out?

 

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10 comments

  1. Hurry up and read the Nadia Bolz-Weber – you will dig it. Loved having some Lily dunnon my blog and apart from the ‘To Be a Mom’ series you wrote for the series i have been running on People Living with Disability and Special Needs has been particularly illuminating [http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/taboo-topics-living-with-disabilitiesspecial-needs-intro]

    If you’re worried about your hairstyle, you should check out some of these: http://news.distractify.com/matt-buco/unique-hairstyles-that-choose-you

    And with 8000 people checking it out just via my Facebook page, it seems like everyone loves Shane: http://www.dailyviralstuff.com/the-hilarious-story-of-shane-the-walmart-deli-guy-told-through-notes-from-his-boss

    Wish i could even be close to keeping up with the number of books you read but hoping November will be a more writingful month for you.

    Keep on, love brett fish

    Like

    1. How could I have forgotten about Shane?! Definitely a winner this month. 🙂 And yes, everyone go read Brett’s guest series on disabilities and special needs! Actually, your site has so much content, people could read for days. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you had an eventful month! I am so jealous that you read 10 books in a month! I do a lot of reading in the summers when I am off work, but during the school year I usually only get around to 1 or 2 books per month. So lame.

    I think what you said about Preston Yancey’s book has a lot to do with memoir writing as well as just being young, millennial, etc. A lot of people say that when writing memoir, there should be a good amount of time that has passed between the events and the writing of them, just for perspective. I think that’s a really good point, because sometimes it takes the passage of time to look back at something and see it with new lenses. Have you read Lit by Mary Karr? To me that is an example of an excellent memoir. She is aware that she is looking back on the past with different lenses, and she lets you know she’s not sure if it really happened that way, or if that is just how it seems now, but she never apologizes for telling her story.

    If you haven’t read My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman, add it to your list. I hope to write about it on my blog soon. Life changer. But I had to read it small sections at a time. It’s sort of a memoir, but more of a series of meditations about finding God in the midst of his absence and in the midst of cancer. Wiman defines God in his own way, and I love that about him. Also, Wiman’s a poet, so there’s some poetry sprinkled into the narrative.

    Thanks for including me in your list here. 🙂

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    1. To be honest…I was reading because I was not-doing a lot of things I was supposed to be doing. 🙂 But I’ve read a lot more in Korea than I was able to do in America, partly because of using public transportation to get anywhere. I spend at least 45 minutes to an hour in transit every day and I try to get some reading in then. It’s like built-in reading time that I can’t be doing a lot else.

      I definitely get what you’re saying about memoir-writing in general being necessarily self-focused. It’s a hazard of the genre. But I guess I’ve read several memoirs lately that I felt balanced this really well and maybe that’s spoiled me. I always feel bad critiquing a memoir because it’s hard not to feel like you’re just critiquing the person. Noticing these things in other people’s books is a really good reminder of things to watch out for in myself and my writing. The best memoirists I know are able to write about themselves in a way that engages me, makes me care about them, makes me feel that we’re friends almost — and somehow do that in a way that is self-aware enough that it doesn’t come across like they think they are the center of the universe. I think you’re right that distance from what you’re writing about is really crucial in order to do this well.

      I’ve heard great things about Lit and about My Bright Abyss and they are both on my Amazon wish list. I’m kind of on a book-buying freeze until I (hopefully) get some Amazon gift cards for my birthday next month. But then, I’m gonna go nuts. 😉

      Like

  3. My favorite part of this post:
    “It’s like running on beautiful pillows made of mermaid fins.”

    Not that you really need one, but if you ever want an amazingly addictive new show, Pretty Little Liars is crazy good. I know, I know, at first glance (and first two or three episodes), it seems like a totally overdone high school drama. But, it gets good. Seriously good. I don’t watch very many shows, but that one had me glued more than Downton.

    Like

    1. Haha. That was my poetry coming out. I’m a natural, don’t you think? 😉 PLL is actually one of my guilty pleasure shows although I haven’t caught up on the latest season because it’s not available on any sites that I can stream legitimately. It’s one of those shows that it’s hard to explain why you can’t stop watching it, because it keeps getting ridiculously more and more complicated, but it’s addicting. Like Gossip Girl. I was so embarrassed of how much I loved Gossip Girl, haha.

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  4. This is a great idea for a blog post, especially to look back and see what you were interested in and what you were doing when you are older 🙂 The post on going viral was also interesting and that’s what got me to click through the previous posts. Great job on everything I’ve read!

    Like

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