What I’m Into : February 2015 Edition

February is the shortest month of the year, but it always manages to feel like one of the longest to me. It’s still unpleasantly cold and very gray, but all the holidays are over as is my vacation so it just feels like this never-ending blah month. One good thing about February is that since it’s not a great time to do outdoor activities, I spend a lot of time reading, writing, and catching up on shows. As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post.

What I’m Reading:

I read six books this month (hurray!) for a total of 11 so far this year not including the two manuscripts I read for friends which has me ahead of pace for my goal of 60 this year. Follow me on Goodreads to see more ratings and reviews.

Still Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner. I wanted to like this, but I just didn’t love it. Some parts of this book were so good and so helpful – especially parts about how most of life is lived in the middle – in the in-between of beginnings and endings. Winner writes about her divorce and the impact that had on her spiritual life. There were parts of this that were brilliant, but there were also parts where the author felt distant to me – writing about deeply personal experiences but somehow holding us at arms’ length, unable to see her real reactions, feelings, and motivations. I know others who have loved this book, but for me each chapter was hit-or-miss.

eleanor and park Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. This YA book had been recommended to me by many people and I finally read it this month. It’s precious. A love story for the ages, but with real characters in real and difficult situations. I was enchanted.

 

 

Maisie Dobbs Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. This book was pretty highly recommended by a few people I know and also got pretty positive reviews from the critics, so maybe my hopes were too high, but for me it was only OK. Maisie Dobbs is a private detective living in post WWI London helping to solve mysteries and heal the wounds of many affected by the war. More than half of this book ends up being a prolonged flashback of Maisie’s life story. I think it would have been much more effective to include these as snippets throughout the book instead of stepping away from the present and spending 60% of the book on the past. I also felt no connection to Maisie herself – she’s this very generic heroine who always does the right thing and is beautiful and clever and kind and bland as white toast. I know this book is the beginning of a series, so other books in the series are probably more straightforward mysteries, but I really didn’t love it. It wasn’t a terrible book, I just didn’t think it was anything special and I found myself wishing for it to be over faster the whole time.

wild Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed is a good writer and honestly quite masterful at interweaving present action with flashbacks. My biggest qualms with this were, unfortunately, a distaste for her personality as conveyed in the book, which is the hard thing about memoirs. At the beginning of the book she is 26 years old and recently divorced and is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo to “find herself” or find inner-peace or something. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment and it made me want to hike. And she wrote movingly about the experience of losing her mother at age 22. But when she talked about her divorce, I just lost her a little bit. Maybe this is judgy of me, but the divorce was the product of her continually and repeatedly cheating on her husband and she’s pretty unapologetic about that. At the end she concludes that that’s what she needed to do. So I didn’t feel like the journey resulted in the kind of growth that I was expecting. I would like to see the movie though – I’ve heard Reese Witherspoon gives a great performance.

Looking for alaska Looking for Alaska by John Green. This was my second John Green book and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but I still cared a lot about the characters. It’s a coming of age story that, like Green’s other books, deals with the usual sex, booze, and rebellion parts of adolescence, but also with grief, loss and the greater meaning of life in a tender and moving way.

 

Station Eleven Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I LOVED this book. This was published in 2014 and hubby read it a few months ago and recommended it to me. I don’t think I would have read it were it not for his recommendation/the fact that we owned it, but I am so glad I did. This made it to the honorable mentions of my all-time favorite literary fiction books. It tells the story of a Hollywood star and the people connected to him, sometimes only by a slender thread, before, during, and after the collapse of civilization. It’s eerie and post-apocalyptic, riveting and elegaic, moving and insightful. I really thought it was masterful.

What I’m Watching:

I watched the series finale of Parenthood with many tears. Such a great show. I’m all caught up on Nashville and our comedies – Mindy Project, New Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I watched the series finale of Parks and Recreation last night, which was bittersweet- it’s possibly my favorite comedy of life. We are a few episodes behind, but still greatly enjoying (slash agonizing over) the new season of Broadchurch. Oh. Em. Gee. The BBC knows how to do it. And we recently watched the pilot of Fresh Off the Boat and I think I’ll really enjoy it.

We saw The Imitation Game this month which was equal parts fantastic and depressing. I already knew the ending since it’s a biopic, but it’s such an amazing story up til then. We also re-watched Cloud Atlas at home which is one of my favorite movies – it absolutely fascinates me.

What I’m Eating:

Lots of delicious and horrible-for-you food while in Seoul including these things I shall dub, “Fatty Fries.” Because there’s nothing fattier deep fried potatoes topped with bacon and cheese and mayonnaise, haha. Worth wearing stretchy pants for a week? I think so.

chili fries

In more healthy foods, I tried this recipe for stuffed zucchini recently and it was a winner. You can follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.

ricotta zucchini

Photo from allrecipes.com

On the Internets:

If you read only one link here, let it be Addie Zierman’s post “3 Things We Need to Stop Saying to Youth Group Kids.”  This is one of those posts I wish I’d written because it is so precisely how I feel.

If you need the reminder (and we all do) check out Shauna Niequist’s recent post – “You  are Enough”

I’m not a mom and I still loved this piece from my friend Briana about falling in love with being a mom of two.

I adored this piece from Emily Mullas Wilson about Making Church a Place for All Kinds of Women.

If you want to know why I recommend books with cursing, sex, and violence, read this post by Modern Mrs. Darcy which explains it pretty perfectly.

I also read/listened to some Nadia Bolz-Weber sermons this month. In particular I enjoyed this one about Jonah and loving our enemies and this one about Mary.

If you want to see something fun, check out this version of the Uptown Funk music video with no music.

On the Blog:

I kept up with weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8 of my 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge. I’m really excited to share this week’s on Monday!

I started a series of Friday Book Chats that I hope you’re enjoying. So far I’ve covered most-anticipated books, books I love to hate, movies that were better than their book, and my all-time favorite contemporary literary fiction books.

And in the faith-wrestling, life-pondering, contemplative posts I’ve written about celebrating eight years with my husband, about what’s saving my life right now, about my ongoing questions about the calling of motherhood, about the spiritual aspects of traveling, and about losing (and finding) prayer.

I am slowly plugging away at my book manuscript and hope to have a draft done by the time we leave Korea this summer. I also have another piece for Relevant being published sometime in the next few weeks – I’ll keep you posted.

If you haven’t yet, please “like” my writer page on Facebook to keep up with posts and discussions.

Beauty Bits:

I think I’ve found my holy grail foundation and unfortunately, it’s a Korean brand so I’m probably going to have to stock up on it and bring a bunch home with me when I leave here, but I’m sure you can order it online from sellers on ebay.

I love makeup, but I don’t like to wear really heavy foundation that makes it look like you have a ton of makeup on. I need foundation because my skin is dull and uneven, but I want my skin to still look like skin in the end, so I often do a BB or CC cream. This foundation is the bomb.com though. It is the Clio Kill Cover Realest Wear foundation and I am in the shade 04 Ginger. It’s very liquidy, but it blends out very smoothly (I use my fingers and then my beauty blender). It gives light to medium coverage. My skin still looks like skin – it’s not cakey at all, but it covers everything I need covered. If there’s a way for you to get your hands on this, you should try it.

Clio

What I’ve Been Up To:

February is an odd month in the Korean year because it’s actually the end of the school year. After five weeks of winter vacation, students come back to school for the first 2 -2.5 weeks of February and finish classes, graduation ceremonies,etc. Then there is another 2 week break that is considered their “spring vacation.” This year it coincided with the Lunar New Year. On March 1st (or close to it) the new school year will begin. This means I had 2.5 weeks of classes at the beginning of February followed by 1.5 weeks of sitting at my desk doing nothing. Which is why I got so much writing done this month! We will have new schedules, new coteachers, and some new students, but Korea is very last-minute about everything so I probably won’t get my new schedule or new textbooks until after the school year has already started. This drives the planner in me nuts, but I’m trying to be cool.

We traveled to Seoul for the Lunar New Year and have otherwise been laying low, hanging out with friends and waiting to hear news about the MFA programs Jonathan applied to for the fall. I hope to have something official to report by the end of the month!

 

 

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40 comments

    1. It’s honestly the weirdest schedule I’ve ever heard of. Lots and lots of countries (especially Southern Hemisphere countries) start a new school year in January at the beginning of the calendar year, and that makes more sense than the way we do it in the states which is a holdover from when we were an agrarian society. But their schedule is so strange. First semester runs March – late July. Then they are off for about 5 weeks for summer vacation (whole month of August). Then 2nd semester runs September – Decemeber. Then 5 week break from Christmas through the end of January. Then the students come back for the first 2 weeks of February and it’s the same semester even though they’ve just had a 5-week break. It’s the most pointless thing of all-time because they’ve already finished their textbooks and taken all of their exams. It ends up being two weeks of them watching movies. Then they have “spring break” for two weeks at the end of February before coming back to start a new year in March. Even if you ask Korean people why the schedule is this way they will tell you, “Nobody knows. This is just how it is always done.”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You should do it! If you do, you can add your link over at leighkramer.com and share it with others/see other people’s round-ups. I’ve found that it’s a really fun way to remember what I was reading/watching/doing from month to month. I’m glad you enjoyed this!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer that too. A January start would also make sense to me and many countries, especially in the Southern Hemisphere do that- our September to June one is a bit odd when you think about it -but the March start feels so random.

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  1. Six books in a month? Really? I’m lucky to get one or two. Ah, life with littles. I did manage to read Wild and I had the exact same reaction. I also saw the movie and although Reese Witherspoon does give a great performance, my feelings about the character were the same. I expected more growth – a climactic moment of change. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it seemed pretty flat to me.

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    1. Haha. I know, it’s a lot. Mostly because I haven’t had many classes this month so I’ve had a ton of down time at work and have read at my desk a lot. Plus I read a lot while traveling – several hours on the train on the way to Seoul and back! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who felt that way about Wild. I always feel bad being critical of memoirs because it’s hard for that not to come off like, “I just didn’t like this person,” but I guess to some extent that was true. But the bigger problem for me was, like you said, that I expected more growth. There was this grand external gesture of achieving this great physical accomplishment, but I kept waiting for her moment of emotional maturity or growth and found it lacking.

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  2. I haven’t seen the movie version of Wild but I would like to see it. I borrowed the book from the library a couple of years ago, but I gave up on it. My mother recently read it and she liked it, but like you, I didn’t really get on very well with the personality of the author. Emily January at The Bookshelf of Emily J. wrote a great post (here’s a link) in which she articulates things that bothered her about Wild.

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  3. Totally agree with you about Wild. The descriptions of her divorce just grated on me. She is a good writer, though, I’ll give her that. Now I’m intrigued about Station Eleven!

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    1. Yes, the way Strayed wrote about her divorce really rubbed me the wrong way – it was just so strange and dysfunctional. I mean, they got matching tattoos on the day their divorce was finalized. So strange. Station Eleven really was so good. I’m not usually interested in post-apocalyptic kind of stories, but this one was just so great. I love the kinds of books that involve characters in different places with different experiences that then come together bit by bit. I just thought this book was really well done and engaging and different than anything I’ve ever read. I hope you read it and enjoy it!

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  4. I have “Wild” on my reading list…been on it for awhile, wanting to read the book before seeing the movie, but have yet to start it because I’ve heard similar thoughts to yours from my friends who have read the book…and so it still sits. Thanks for the post ~ have a great weekend.

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    1. You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed my mini-review. Hope it was helpful in making your decision. It might be worth it to just watch the movie and skip the book that way you only spent a couple hours on it instead of a week or two. But, I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t say for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, Lily, I’m visiting you from Leigh’s linkup. 🙂 I, too, have been told to read Eleanor & Park, but I keep putting it off for no apparent reason. I’ll have to add it to my list now for March. And don’t even get me started on the pain and suffering involved with losing the Bravermans AND Parks & Rec in the same year. Lamentations.

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    1. Hi Kristen! Oh my goodness, I know. I can’t believe the world of television would be so cruel, haha. I hope you enjoy Eleanor & Park. I also put it off for no good reason for a long time and once I picked it up I read it in like 2 days. 🙂

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  6. I was super disappointed with Still. It wasn’t the kind of self-reflection that seemed to lead to growth or wisdom, just navel-gazing and self-pity. I’ve loved Girl Meets God for years and I was bummed she seemed to not write with the same level of self-awareness or openness to learning she had showed in that one.

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    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one. It wasn’t so much that I thought she as being self-pitying (all memoirs can come across that way) but I felt like she had agreed to write about her divorce, but then wasn’t actually willing to be that open about it. And I respect that, but if she didn’t want to really talk about it, then I don’t think she should have written about it in the first place. It was hard to feel a lot of connection and compassion when all she would say about it was that she left because she realized she didn’t want to be married. There was very little to empathize with simply because she didn’t share a lot. So yeah…not my favorite. I am still looking forward to reading her new book though. Hopefully it will be more of a return to some of her original stuff.

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      1. Why do you say all memoirs come across as self pitying? I’m just curios. I’ve got a thing for memoirs, even wrote one myself and to quote Eminem, “the one thing I don’t want is pity from no one” so I certainly hope I don’t come across that way. Yes a lot of really f@cked up shia happened to me and yes I wrote all about it, but I did it for my students to let them know, yes you will get knocked down in life, but you get up again! Keep it moving!

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      2. I didn’t mean that all memoirs DO come across as self-pitying, I meant that it’s a potential pitfall of the genre. Like that’s one of the most common criticisms of memoirs.Just the fact that people are writing introspectively about themselves means it’s easier for it to come across that way and almost any memoir you read you will find someone who says they didn’t like it because it was “self-pitying.” I’m an aspiring memoirist myself, so it’s just something I’m aware of as a common criticism and something I try to avoid in my writing. (I don’t always succeed though). I definitely believe memoirs can be written without coming across that way and I have a lot of favorite books that do just that. Sorry if I made it sound like I think all memoirs are that way. That’s not what I meant. 🙂

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      3. Gotcha! It’s a good point though, but I don’t feel like I’ve read a memoir that I’d describe as self-pitying, so I think it maybe a matter of perspective and I think there are those who are just uncomfortable with the genre – uncomfortable with anyone disclosing so much intimate information about their lives – and that can be awkwardly done, but I don’t think anyone who writes about their lives is looking for pity – their own or anyone else’s. Let me say, because of done it, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to write about something that is emotionally painful or traumatic, so when people decide to do it it’s usually because they think they can help somebody else, and they are definitely helping themselves.

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      4. I definitely think some people are just uncomfortable with the genre. I think you are right – for the most part people write memoirs with the aim of sharing an experience for the benefit of others and that is hard and selfless. I’m sure those who have read yours have appreciated the honesty.

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  7. I love your recap of each month. It helps me reflect on my month and helps me put things into perspective. I plan to start making time for more blogging (especially since i’m off Facebook for a short time) and possibly recapping each month… maybe. If you don’t mind me copying you. LOL! 🙂

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    1. Haha. It wasn’t really my idea to begin with – I only started doing it once I saw Leigh Kramer’s link-ups for it. 🙂 I really enjoy doing it though because I look to be able to look back and remember a particular time in my life and all the little things that were connected to that time.

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  8. Thanks so much for this, trying to figure out what to read next so this was helpful. I’m trying to get into David Mitchell’s 1000 Autumns of Jacob Zoet but it’s just not working. Loved Cloud Atlas and Bone Clocks though.

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