Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Wednesday list...Independence Day edition

1. I know there are a lot of people around the Houston area today who are bummed about today's weather -- rain -- but I have to say, it's been a pretty good day around here so far. Jeremy got to play a fun game of Ultimate Frisbee in the rain, I drank my coffee and cleaned up our screened in porch while the kids played in the mud and rain, I went for a short run (on the treadmill, so not ideal, but I'm still grateful), and now kiddos are napping while the rain is falling and I'm drinking more coffee. Wins all around.

2. I listened to the Popcast with Knox and Jamie this morning (because On Wednesdays we Popcast!) -- Patriotism in Pop Culture. While most of the episode was the delightful fun one expects from The Popcast, at the beginning they mentioned something in their theme set up that stood out to me: the differences between patriotism (good) and nationalism (bad). Here's my paraphrase and personal spin on their point --  Patriotism: being proud of where you're from, and wanting to represent your home country well. Nationalism: loving your country to the point of being aggressive, antagonistic, and dismissive to anywhere else in the world. patriotism: being proud of where your from, and being able to acknowledge the not-so-great things about it while also celebrating those things that are truly great. Nationalism: turning a love of country into idolatry.

All that to say: I'm grateful and proud to be an American. It's not perfect -- but no place is, and I'm proud to live in a country whose citizens can and do work to preserve what's good and change what's bad. I appreciate the sacrifices of resources, time, and life that people have made and still make in order to create a society, community, and home where people have the opportunity to thrive. Everyone from veterans and law enforcement to honorable government leaders to neighbors and teachers and doctors and nurses and families and caregivers, preachers and protesters, artists of all kinds, the guys who pick up my trash and the girl at the grocery store who bags my groceries.

3. On a lighter note, and because it wouldn't be Amanda Loves Words without some talk about books and movies, here are some seasonally appropriate recommendations:

Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen - Sarah Dessen writes some of the best contemporary young adult fiction around, and this novel is set in a little beach town in North Carolina. There's nothing specifically about the 4th of July, but it's the kind of book that feels like the epitome of summer.

Time Enough for Drums, by Ann Rinaldi - This is another book written for a younger audience, but it's a great Revolutionary War novel if you're in the mood for historical fiction but don't want to pick up a door stopper of a book. There's a swoony romance, spies, and a heroine who grows and develops in the face of having her ideas and preconceptions challenged.

Lonsesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry - The American West is so iconic, that I had to add this book. It's not an easy, breezy summer read, but it's a book that will put you straight into the middle of a period of American history that fascinates so many. It's rich, detailed, and full of fascinating characters.

The Sandlot - there are actually quite a few options out there in the "baseball-Americana" movie category, but for my money it's going to be The Sandlot. Baseball, kids and summertime, and don't forget the once-a-year night game played by the light of the fireworks.

Armageddon - Jamie Golden mentioned this on The Popcast and I have to agree -- you've got the space program, working class roughnecks, huge pieces of machinery, personal sacrifice, and a very emotional aren't-we-all-glad-to-be-alive montage.

Fresh off the Boat  - A t.v. show about immigrants to America seems like a fitting addition to a Fourth of July list. I haven't watched it yet myself, but I've heard really great things about this show -- that it's funny, thoughtful, well-written, and entertaining. Sounds like it's worth giving a try!

Hidden Figures  and Windtalkers - I mention these two together, because they both celebrate people in our country's history who made big impacts that were largely forgotten.

Happy Independence Day!




Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Tuesday list, summer thoughts....

Summer is for...

1. Fun movies like action, adventure, and romantic comedies. Because romantic comedies seem to have taken a back seat on the big screen lately, may I recommend these two gems on Netflix: Set it Up, and Man Up

2. A good summer jam. I have let go of any need to be up on current or popular music, but music fills my soul so I'm always on the lookout for the right song for the moment. Currently, Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves is my perfect summer album. For me it perfectly captures the feeling of sitting on the back porch, lounging by the pool, hanging out at the beach, or going for long drive with the windows down. It's lingering daylight and sunscreen and backyard barbecues. And if I want something with a little more rock-n-roll vibe, Needtobreathe has released a handful of new songs this summer in anticipation of their fall tour. These songs have a 70s feel to them, which fits right into a groovy summer vibe. 

3. Fresh produce and farmer's markets. Give me all your berries and stone fruit and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant. We are fortunate that in Texas a lot of fruits and vegetables are in season almost year-round (it's our consolation for the wicked-hot and unending summers), but even down here summer is a bounty.

4. Bugs. This is not my favorite thing, and sometimes it feels like a losing battle. The other night I killed three separate bugs within 10 minutes of walking through my house. 

5. Backyard gatherings. This one hasn't happened much yet. To be fair, in Houston this is actually more of a fall activity so on one's melting or being carried away by mosquitoes, but there's no denying that summer makes me long for friends, music, the sound of laughter, and the smell of charcoal. Something about the lack of school schedules, the lingering daylight, and that's just the way it's always been. Our schedule hasn't allowed for it much, but it's only June. We all know summer in Houston lasts well into October. 

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Friday list...

1. I'm finally catching up on the second season of The Crown on Netflix. Aside from one episode in the middle that I ended up doing some fast forwarding through (some sex scenes that were too graphic for my taste) -- I just love this show. The costumes, the history, the subtlety, the outstanding acting, the accents...British historical dramas aren't for everyone, but I'm a fan of this one.

2. Last year, Jeremy and I discovered we could fairly easily adapt the classic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe for our little guy with food allergies, and the results are actually pretty yummy. Last week I decided to bake a batch with the kids, then put most of them in the freezer. The problem with this whole scenario...I am eating WAY too many chocolate chip cookies. The freezer is not far enough. I know they're there.

3. I got inspired at the public library the other day and picked up a book on impulse that turned out to be really delightful and engrossing enough to keep me up too late a few nights in a row (What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw). I returned it today and checked out a nice stack for the bedside table. I also have a review book that needs my attention soon, but after that I think I'll try either a British historical mystery (The September Society, by Charles Finch) or a sci-fi book recommended in an article at Book Riot (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers).

4. We have a family of stray cats that like to hang out in our back yard, and I find it mostly infuriating. I don't have anything against cats, generally speaking, but these like to poop all over our backyard, pee on our grill cover, and this morning they'd dragged a plastic baggie full of chicken bones into our backyard from who knows where. HOW CAN I MAKE THEM GO AWAY!?  (without trying to catch them myself. I'm pretty allergic to cats these days)

5. The kids have recently started to get into playing board games and card games just a little -- Hi-ho Cherry-o is a big hit, Go Fish, and a new one called Hoot, Owl, Hoot. Some days they're more in the mood to follow the rules than others, but I don't push it too hard. I love playing board games, so I'm just trying to do all I can to encourage their interest and make it fun.

6. Anyone else planning on having soccer games on all weekend?

Happy Friday! 

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Friday list...

1. I fully intended to write a blog post on Wednesday, but this week has been fairly exhausting, starting on Sunday with a trip to the ER and overnight stay in the ICU for the littlest munchkin. Everyone is doing good now, but it's definitely taken us until yesterday to get back into the swing of things. We're still adjusting to new medication routines, but I don't feel quite as overwhelmed as I did on Monday.

2. In other news...it's full-on summer weather here, which means two things: hot and humid. It also means I need to get better about getting in most of our outside play time before lunch.

3. I recently watched the show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Netflix, and had an interesting thought while describing it to someone: I told them that it was a really well-written, funny show with a fantastic setting, great costumes, skilled actors, and interesting relationships. Then I said "it does have a lot of language." Later, that phrase struck me as a really funny idiom that at first glance doesn't seem like an idiom. What I meant -- and what many people would understand me to mean -- is that it has a lot of crude/foul/vulgar/off color language, what others might refer to as "bad words." I thought about how in reality the phrase "it has a lot of language" is missing a key word to be perfectly clear. To someone unfamiliar with that idiom it probably sounds like I meant it physically has a lot of words (it does, actually. It's very wordy, but delightfully so). Or did I mean it has a lot of flowery language, silly language, pretentious language, basic language, multiple languages. The wordsmith in me has recommitted to being a little more clear in my communication from now on.

4. I'm knee deep in a re-read of the Anne of Green Gables series (currently on Anne's House of Dreams). I started out reading the first one as a read-along with some friends, and when I got to the end just couldn't quit Prince Edward Isle! I have a middle grade book to read and review next, and I picked up a couple of books from the library, so we'll see what lands next.

5. I'm on a musical soundtrack kick lately. With the right musical, I get a nice cheerful, upbeat, sunny-day listening. Currently on heavy rotation: The Sound of Music, Wicked (always), and The Greatest Showman (even though I haven't seen the movie yet)

What are you listening to? Watching? Reading?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Wednesday list...five thoughts on re-reading Jane Eyre edition

1.The characters in Jane Eyre are so fascinating, well-written, and fully formed. For example: There are times when Jane is quite rude and judgmental in her assessment of the people she meets; however, she is also generous, loyal, and has a desire to learn and improve herself. Even those characters with less nuance to their personality were still written as people, not caricatures or plot devices.

2. I think it's a common human fault throughout history to view the present day as the pinnacle of thought and understanding. Although Jane Eyre is certainly steeped in Victorian sensibilities and culture (all of the isms -- racism, classism, imperialism), it's also quite modern. Jane could be the heroine of any modern novel -- she's confident, independent, willing to fight back against bullies, unafraid to voice her opinion, and willing to risk everything in order to hold on to her integrity.

3. I loved the unexpected turns that the story took. Because it's been so long since I've read Jane Eyre, it was almost like reading it for the first time, and it's a perfect literary example of the phrase "still waters run deep." For all it's buttoned up and prim wrappings, there is A LOT going on in this story. Abuse, neglect, friendship, love, mystery, deception, near-death experiences, long-lost families, tragedy, and reconciliation.

4. As I'm making this list, I realize that maybe what I liked most about Jane Eyre is the juxtaposition of the conventional and unconventional element; because one of my favorite things is how Bronte writes a story starring people who are not conventionally attractive. She emphasizes that Jane and Rochester in particular are not physically attractive people, and yet readers -- myself included -- are undeniably attracted to these characters. In fact, other characters in the book are attracted to them even as they use physical descriptions like plain and ugly.

5. I'm a sucker for a good book-to-movie adaptation, and as I've never watched a Jane Eyre movie, I can not wait to watch one! I had my eye on the 2011 remake, and my friend Stephanie (who prompted me to re-read Jane in the first place) said that's her favorite.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Jeremy brought home a trampoline on Sunday. His brother's family is preparing to move overseas and had asked us if we'd like to use it while they're gone. Ummm...let me think about that for a hot second -- yes!! I never really had an urge to have a backyard trampoline, but last year I discovered that anytime we visited someone who had a trampoline, the kids were in heaven. So here we are!

2. Christina's been phasing out naps for a while now, and probably only falls asleep once or twice a week, and over the past month Matrim has started phasing out naps too. He definitely still needs a nap at least two or three times a week, but not every day. My goal has been to transition nap time to quiet time -- i.e., stay in your room for at least an hour and a half and play quietly/read books/etc (no screens) -- partly because it's just really nice to have a tiny bit of alone time in the day, partly because I think it's good for them to have the opportunity for some down time, and partly because it helps give our day a rhythm and structure (because the rest of the time I am a big fan of free play). I'm curious though...what do other people do when their kids give up naps? Do you even bother with a different kind of daily routine? Are your kids in school so it doesn't matter?

3. It's iced coffee season!! (Let's be real...any season can be iced coffee season) By that I mean -summer's creeping in, one 90 degree/80 percent humidity day at a time. Time to make myself some cold brew.

4. I've been thinking about worry lately. I heard someone recently compare worrying to rocking in a rocking chair -- you feel like you're doing something but aren't going anywhere. It stuck with me, because I think one of the reasons I give in to  worry is because it makes me feel like I'm doing something in situations where I have no control. So I've been trying to fight worry with an action -- even if the action doesn't have to do with what I'm worrying about. Cleaning something, praying out loud, reading my Bible, listening to music, going for a walk or run if I can. It's a work in progress and I'm not always successful, but I feel like I'm heading in the right direction at least.

5.A friend of mine and I were talking about Jane Eyre the other day, and how I hadn't read it since high school. She said I needed to read it again so we could talk about it, so I picked it up a week or so ago. It is such a good book, and so thought-provoking. I'll probably have to write a whole blog post on it once I finish. Next on my list is a sci-fi book for review, and maybe some non-fiction just to mix things up a little.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Laundromat musings

Our washing machine broke a couple of weeks ago, so I've gotten to make a couple of trips to a nearby laundromat while we look for a good used replacement. It's been years (and years) since I've done my laundry at a laundromat, but there's nothing like a room full of humming machines and the smell of dyer sheets for a little deep thinking.

Like the thought that sometimes convenience has a hidden dark side: things that streamline time consuming tasks give us more time that we then fill with other tasks or activities, which can lead to a feeling of frantic, frenzied, overworked, and overscheduled. Multi-tasking has become a prized virtue (and it is a nice skill to have to some degree, don't get me wrong), and we forget the value that can be found in doing one thing at a time. I think about a conversation I had over breakfast one day with some women a couple of generations older than me. We were talking about ironing, and someone mentioned how when they were young they still held to that old weekly schedule that looked similar to what Laura Ingles introduced me to in Little House in the Big Woods: "wash (clothes) on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake on Saturday, rest on Sunday."

Don't get me wrong -- I am extremely grateful for modern conveniences. I'm grateful that I don't have to wash all my clothes by hand, butcher my own meat, or make my own clothes. I'm a huge fan of indoor plumbing, and air conditioning, and vacuums so I don't have to spend hours outside beating the dirt out of my rugs (although that sounds like some good anger therapy right there). But I think that sometimes we're so far away from the lack of our modern conveniences that we're not always aware of what we've traded in to have them. That said, I doubt that anyone at the laundromat with me (except maybe the owner) if offered a free washer and dryer for their home would have said "No thanks I'm good. Using the laundromat really helps me slow down and gives me a break from the busyness of life." Those free in-home washers and dryers would be snatched up in a hot second.

So what's my point? Do I even have a point? (not really -- that's why they're called musings) Maybe...recognize those areas of life where you do have a choice, and if trying to multitask every moment of your life is driving you insane maybe see if there's an area of life where you can choose a different way of doing things. Maybe...remember to be grateful. I'm not always good at that, but gratitude has a significant impact on my mood and outlook.

Oh, and the other thing going to the laundromat taught me: there is actually something pretty magical about all of those washing machines in one room. By that, I mean the ability to wash every single thing AT THE SAME TIME. 30 minutes and done. (Down side -- the enormous pile of clean clothes to be folded after)