Friday, March 17, 2017

A St. Patrick's Day list

1. St. Patrick's Day was my Grandpa Rush's birthday and my grandparent's (Rush) wedding anniversary. So it's a bit of a bitter sweet day in my family. A good day for remembering loved ones in heaven, but a little sad because we miss them.

2. In the spirit of remembering, here's are two fun facts about my grandparents: 1. My grandma essentially made the first move. Her cousin and my grandpa were friends, but when my grandparents met, my grandma was dating someone else, and they didn't live in the same town. After my grandma was single, she called my grandpa once and said she was coming to Kansas City (where he lived) with -- I can't remember who now. Maybe her cousin? -- and why didn't he show her around while she was there? Boom. 2. My grandpa was in the Navy in the 50s, an underwater demolitions specialist -- basically what turned into the Navy SEALS.

3. In addition to being a holiday on which I think about my grandparents, I also get a bit melancholy around this time now that we don't live in North Carolina. Our good friends the Reeds used to host a fantastic St. Patrick's Day party every year. An excuse to make Irish stew, scones, eat yummy bread with Irish butter, listen to Flogging Molly, and occasionally bust out a good flick like Waking Ned Devine. Every year I contemplate hosting my own "Swagger Party -- Texas edition", but so far the idea hasn't quite made it out of the gate, But it will.

4. If you're in the mood for a story set in Ireland (which, if you're like me is basically all the time), may I suggest one of the following:
Sing Street (movie) -- 80s, music, high school, love, family, friends, misfits, brothers, dreams, heartbreak. SO GOOD.
Bog Child (book), by Siobahn Dowd -- Northern Ireland, historical fiction, coming of age, melancholy yet hopeful
An Irish Country Doctor (book), by Patrick Taylor -- small town, quirky, loveable characters, wonderful sense of place.
Moone Boy (Hulu original series) -- 12 year old boy's imaginary friend (Chris O'Dowd) helps him navigate the ups and downs of life as a 12 year old boy in Boyle, Ireland. Hilarious, heartwarming, and just delightful.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

If only I was an engineer, or, deep thoughts while running

I've been on a few middle-of-nowhere country runs the past few days, and since I need to be able to hear as well as see cars and dogs, I haven't taken by headphones. But it's amazing what kind of writing I can get done in my head while I'm running. The problem then comes when I try to sit down and write it out later. Sometimes, by the time I get to a computer or even a piece of paper, the words are gone or I can't quite capture the same thought. So I've decided I need a device that I can hook up to my brain to put thoughts directly into written words. Someone get on that. I'm sure nothing could go wrong, right?

Today on my country road run, I was thinking about one side effect of training for a race: I want to talk about running all the time. One of my friends in town is training for the same race, and it's his first one! He's not been a runner previously, so while I'm trying to offer encouragement and tips, I'm trying to do it in small doses because he's not hooked yet. But he does do CrossFit, so he at least understands when I get excited about it and want to talk about it. Anyway, I miss my running buddies so much during these times. Fortunately, we have phones and texting to keep in touch, and I have some amazing online running friends who I can talk to about running all the live long day. And they get it. It's nice to be gotten (is that a word? whatever. I'm going with it).

I think that's one of those things that we all want -- that we all need, in fact -- to be "gotten." To be seen, and heard, and known. I hope you all have someone, or lots of someones, in your life who make you feel seen, and heard, and known. Who get you. And know that even during those times when we don't even get ourselves (hello teenage years), God gets us, he knows us. Better than we know ourselves.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Reading for your ears

I'm on a podcast kick these days. What's a podcast, you may ask? Think, radio talk show, except you access it through the internet. I'm relatively new to podcast listening, but in my limited experience so far, it seems like you can find a podcast for anything. There are a lot of entertainment and popular culture related podcasts, preaching and Bible-based podcasts, books, film, how-to, travel, business, economics, politics, lifestyle, get the picture.

For me, it all started with the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (did you know you can access A LOT of NPR shows as podcasts? No need to be near a radio at a certain time!). Then, a recommendation for The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey....which led to recommendations for Marriage is Funny and The Popcast....which led me to The Lazy Genius Collective web site....and of course she has a podcast too!

You get the picture. So, I've started listening to these podcasts when I would previously listen to audio books -- on runs and walks, washing dishes, folding clothes, etc. A friend and I were talking about it, and when I commented on how I've been doing a lot more podcast listening than audiobook listening, she compared it to magazine reading versus book reading; sometimes, when you mostly have smallish chunks of time, reading a magazine (or listening to a podcast) is a lot easier and sometimes more enjoyable than reading a book. And I think she's spot on.

So, I'm thinking of my podcast listening as another form of reading these days, and because I've got a lot eating up my time at the moment, and am reading a longish book (and haven't finished it yet), I won't bore you with all the podcasts I'm subscribed to or occasionally check out, but here are my top four favorite podcasts at the moment:

1. The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey
The whole idea behind this podcast is making listeners feel like they are sitting down with two amazing women -- our host and her guest -- and chatting over coffee or a glass of wine. Jamie and her guests talk about life, faith, family, travel, work, dreams, struggles, and joys. Everything from the death of a loved one to favorite mascara, from living and working abroad to parenting challenges and starting a business. She's talked to moms of littles, moms of grown-ups, women with no children, and single moms. Writers, entrepreneurs, speakers, philanthropists, musicians, and people with some truly unique and interesting stories.

2. The Popcast with Knox and Jamie
If you've ever subscribed (or wished you subscribed) to Entertainment Weekly magazine, this is a podcast for you. If you like hilarious banter, movies, television, music, books, and/or celebrity gossip...this is a podcast for you. I don't always know what they're talking about or agree with their tastes, but listening to Knox and Jamie each week (sometimes more than once!)  is pure fun. Each episode is built around a theme such as: Best and Worst Fictional Neighbors, Misunderstood Song Lyrics, Celebrity Feuds, How to Kill off a Character,

3. This American Life
Many of you are probably familiar with the NPR show This American Life, and when it comes to my personal podcast playlist, this is probably the most book-like show. Each episode has a theme, and the show is built around that theme: with interviews, essays, and various stories built around that theme. It's along the lines human interest, long-form journalism. I don't listen to it regularly, but when I'm in the mood for something often informative and always engrossing, this is my go-to.

4. Marriage is Funny
This show is currently on hiatus, but there's three seasons of episodes available to listen to. It's a tough podcast to describe, because when I try it just sounds boring: a married couple talks about life, and marriage. Yawn. But it's really a lot of fun. The idea behind it, is that "perfect love" only exists in the context of God, so in our relationships (specifically marriage), pursuing "great love" is more attainable and sustainable. It's the idea that creating a community of other married couples is so valuable -- knowing you're not alone in the struggles and challenges that come when pursuing that great love. Some episodes are light -- like going out for drinks with good friends -- and some dig a little deeper, like a good session of couples therapy. Gerard and Jessie are funny, genuine, and have a heart for encouraging marriages and relationships.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Monday list

1. I just reread last week's list, and it seriously has to be the most boring blog post on the planet. What made me think I had enough thoughts for a list? Not sure.

2. I haven't watched the Academy Awards in years, largely because it's not nearly as enjoyable to me if I haven't seen any of the films nominated, and the past several years I either just haven't gone to the movies as much or the films nominated just haven't been that appealing to me for whatever reason. This year is actually the first year in a while that, when I saw previews for the movies nominated I actually wish I'd seen quite a few of them (not just Best Picture nominees, but films with nominations in other categories as well). Of course this year, I kind of wish I'd watched the Oscars because it appeared that there were some entertaining and enjoyable moments -- some intended, and some not.

3. I must have movies on the brain, because Friday night I actually watched one! It was a movie called Man Up, starring Simon Pegg, and really quite delightful. The premise: Fresh off of a terrible engagement party and ill-fated set up, and on her way to her parents' 40th wedding anniversary, Nancy is mistaken for Jack's blind date. Nancy goes along with it, and the two have a great date...until Jack realizes she's not who he thought she was. Anyway, I love Simon Pegg and the rest of the cast was great too. If you're in the mood for a funny romantic drama, it's a good one. Especially if you have a soft spot for Brits.

4. Finished the book Also Known As last week. It's young adult fiction, about Maggie, a teenage girl who's family are spies in a secret non-government spy agency. Maggie is prodigy safe cracker, and primarily helps out on her parents' missions, but finally gets a chance at her own job when The Collective wants her to befriend a high school boy in order to hack into his father's home office safe and computer. It's fun and witty and sweet. Nothing earth shattering, and while I may read the sequel, I'm not in a rush to get it.

5. I've entered into the part of my half marathon training where I'm doing weekly long runs that are longer distances than I've run in at least 3 years. So every week is a new-again milestone. This week was especially great because I set out with a minimum goal of 5 miles, but an if-I'm-feeling-it goal of 6 (the two goals are because my last long run was cut short since I'd been sick just a few days before). Well, I ran 6.18 miles. Yay! Just what I needed. My last couple of runs had just felt really hard, so it was nice to feel in the zone.

Happy Monday!

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Monday list

1. I'm re-watching Freaks and Geeks on Netflix right now, and I keep forgetting how many now-famous people are in that show (perhaps they were famous then too? Not to me, at least). Yesterday, I saw an episode with Matt Czuchry AND Shia LaBouf.

2. I don't wear much jewelry these days since I'm not going out to a job every day, so the past year or two I've basically developed a rotation of a few of my favorite things. A few pairs of earrings and a few necklaces. I'll mix it up now and then when I have reason to accessorize, but when I travel especially, I tend to take just a few things. Well. That backfired. Because somehow either in the last leg of our trip home in January from Winter Travel Extraveganza, or in unpacking chaos, I have lost my absolute favorite pair of earrings and one of my three favorite necklaces. The earrings are more replaceable -- I bought them myself, and I know where to get another pair. Just have to give myself permission to spend the money again. But the necklace was a gift from my friend Katie who lives in Phoenix. So not only did I love it because it was cute and trendy and went with literally everything, it had sentimental value as well. Are these big problems in the grand scheme of things? No. But it's still a bummer. I'm still hoping they'll turn up somewhere in my house eventually.

3. Vacation is almost a month away now and I still feel very unprepared. Part of that is that it's Monday. On Mondays I either feel like I'm stuck in a sinkhole with a pile of things to do on top of me, or I feel like a productive superwoman. Today is option A. But it'll get done.

4. Just started learning a new game yesterday: Tak. A game that appears in Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind, and one that a game designer decided to create. It's really great. Simple, but complex.

5. Went for a run in my neighborhood yesterday and almost ran into a skunk. I'm sorry, what? Thankfully it stayed on its own side of the street.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reading...Court of Fives

It's been a while since I read a book by Kate Elliott, and after finally sitting down with Court of Fives I'm kind of kicking myself for putting it off so long (so long, in fact, that I remember adding this to my mental to-read list back when it first came 2015).

Court of Fives is the first in a young adult fantasy series set in an East Asian and Pacific Island- inspired fantasy world. Jessamy is one of five daughters, in a family that is both highly regarded and looked down upon. Her father is Patron-born, and a decorated Captain in the military. Her mother is Efean, a "commoner." It is illegal for Patrons and Commoners to marry, and Jessamy and her sisters are seen as disgraceful. Not only are they girls -- highly honored in Efean cutlure, but looked down upon in the Suro (Patron) culture -- they are "mules." But Jessamy's father loves her mother and their daughters and cares for them and protects them as best he can.

Jessamy has one goal in life -- to play the Fives, an athletic competition that combines strength, speed, balance, strategy, and mental sharpness. She trains in secret, but dreams of one day being able to compete.

When disaster falls upon her family, it's her skill at Fives that ends up saving herself, her mother, and her sisters. It's this skill and passion that introduces her to Kalliarkos, a Patron of extremely high standing, with whom she forms a friendship, despite unanimous disaproval. Now, Jess is caught up in political schemes beyond her control, a pawn in games she isn't even aware of. And it's through this turn of events that she begins to get glimpses into the history of her mother's people, glimpses that lead her to believe that maybe the history she's been told isn't exactly the whole truth.

My enjoyment of Court of Fives can be summed up like this: I immediately bought the second book once I finished it. Kate Elliott builds the most amazing worlds, and it's always fun and interesting and exciting to spend time in them. Her plots are layered and detailed, and I really enjoyed the complex -- i.e., interesting and realistic -- relationships between the various characters. Jess is a bit exasperating at times, but who isn't?

Bottom line: well-crafted YA fantasy well-worth your time

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Thursday list

1. Just started reading The Court of Fives by Kate Elliott. Pacific rim- inspired fantasy fiction and so far I'm digging it.

2. It's officially training time for the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon! It's been a few years since I've trained for anything, and I'm excited. Slightly apprehensive since there are a lot more things to factor in when scheduling my time, but my goal is just to finish, so the bar isn't set too high.

3. I've had a bad luck streak with technology lately and currently using an old backup phone until my new one comes in. It's helping me see what apps and other smart phone features I really use and miss when they're gone. Interestingly, I've really backed off blog reading lately, and notice it especially with the lack of feed reader app (and the switch to a new feed reader). I think it's a combination of size of my free time blocks and the pace at which my brain currently absorbs information. Which also makes me think of...

4. quest lately to find a consistent and reliable way of consuming news. I don't actually want to rely on Facebook and Twitter headlines. But takes a change in my reading habits that just hasn't happened yet. But I think these days with so much news and opinion and information (and misinformation) flying around, I'd be better off being at least semi-well informed. But, I've never been a news junkie and have no desire to be. I guess I want to consume news in the most efficient way possible, and not let it consume my time.

5. I've been trying kombucha recently and I like it! In a perfect world I might even brew my own, and while the little bit I've read about it makes it seem easy -- or at least, not hard -- it just seems like one more thing to start and keep up with, and maybe....I'll just buy it on occasion. I need a local friend who brews it. That's my solution for everything  really -- have friends with interesting hobbies that are different from mine! (like when we were living at the beach: don't go through the work of having your own boat....just have good friends who do).

Happy Friday-eve!