Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Is there a term that is to technology what a black thumb is to gardening? If so, I may have one. This past week my Kindle broke (maybe have gotten stepped on my a child, but I have no proof) and I lost my phone in a Walmart on a Saturday. So...it's good and lost. I really just hate spending money on new stuff when the old ones were perfectly fine. And it's a little sad since that's the only Kindle I've ever had -- it was a gift from my parents, and I think a first or second generation. So on the bright side, you could say it lived a full and useful life.

2. I just finished a fantasy series last week: The Elk Riders series by Ted Neill. It's one I mentioned a few weeks ago -- a series I've been reviewing for IndieReader. I enjoyed the last book quite a bit, despite the fact that the ending wasn't quite as wrapped up as I'd have preferred. I don't mind an open ending, but there were some plot lines and story arcs that felt a bit abandoned. Overall, though, if you like fantasy with great characters and lots of action it's a good one. I also finished a re-read of A Wrinkle in Time, which I don't think I'd read since junior high. Still loved it! Even with (or maybe because of) the dated references and tone. I'm interested to see how they adapt it for film, especially with a modern audience. My next fiction read is This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash. I'm also planning to pick up Beth Moore's Audacious, which has been languishing on my nightstand.

3. I wonder how long it will take my kids to realize that their non-crafty mama is not going to be putting together cute and/or elaborate Valentines for them to take to their friends/classmates. I wonder when or if it will bother them that I'm pretty content with just cute cards.

4. You know what I miss -- mix tapes. (Or mix CDs). For personal enjoyment, of course digital playlists are much easier to put together. I guess to be more accurate, what I miss is the sharing of mix tapes -- putting together a curated list of songs that mean something special and handing it off to a friend. Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a unique way. Sure, you can share playlists, but it's harder because not everyone uses the same platform to listen to music: Spotify (subscription), iTunes, Amazon, platforms I don't even know about. Maybe it's not as difficult as it seems to me. Maybe I just need to get some tutoring.

5. Speaking of music listening...what do my music-loving-non-iPhone-using friends use to listen to music on their device of choice? Specifically...what do you use to listen to music that you own? Even more specifically...what do you use to listen to music that you bought such a long time ago that it currently resides on a flash drive and on a CD? Right now I mostly use the Amazon music player app because that's where I buy most of my music, but sometimes I wonder if there's a better solution.

Happy Wednesday!

p.s. the book links are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy through the link I get a few cents back from Amazon.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Reading...Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


3367956 My friend Rita sent me Hotel on the Corner of Bitter And Sweet after I gushed about a book she'd recommended to me months ago (The Girl in the Blue Coat, which I talk about here). I remember when it came out, because it was very popular at the public library I worked at, and one that I actually handed off to patrons on occasion, although I'd never read it myself. I'm so glad Rita sent it though, and put it back on my radar, because it's a beautiful, quiet book about a difficult and complicated time in history.
Henry Lee is a first generation Chinese-American. In 1986, he is recently widowed, the father of a son who is about to graduate college and with whom he wishes he had a closer relationship. One day, he's walking home through Seattle's International District, and witnesses a discovery made by new owners renovating the old Panama Hotel: a basement full of belongings stored and subsequently abandoned by Japanese-American's interned during World War II. The Panama Hotel, standing between what was once Seattle's Japantown and Chinatown, now a possible resting place for some of Henry's most closely held, bittersweet memories. 
The story is told half in 1986, and half in the 1940s, and the height of World War II. It tells the story of a boy who is both too Chinese and not Chinese enough and whose father diligently follows the war between China and Japan. Of a second-generation Japanese girl whose family is proudly American, but viewed with suspicion and hate. It's the story of unlikely friendships, divided loyalties, fathers and sons, and jazz. It's a story of the fear of a people at war, of miscommunication, love, and commitment. Although I knew that Japanese-Americans were sent to internment caps during World War II, this story makes those facts more personal, tangible, and consequently heartbreaking; yet it's also a story of hope.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a fantastic read for anyone who likes historical fiction, family stories, or coming of age books.

p.s. full disclosure of trying something new: if you order anything through one of the Amazon links, I'll get a tiny kickback through their affiliate program. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Jeremy and I are headed out to a marriage retreat this weekend, and I'm maybe a little more excited than I should be. But the last time we stayed someplace overnight just the two of us, it was at Sooner Youth Camp last summer so...not actually just the two of us.

2. I know in many places it's still the dead of frozen winter, but we've had some beautiful weather this week (our reward for living in Houston during July, August, and September) so I've been dreaming of growing things. I need to buy a bigger planter to re-pot a peace lily, so I figure I might as well maximize my time at the garden center. When it comes to gardening, I tend to want to focus on vegetables and herbs which in our rental house means a container garden, which I've done in the past. Lettuce, spinach, rosemary (which I've NOT had luck with the last few times I've planted. Some kind of pest. But I really, really want a perennial rosemary plant), basil, and maybe chives and mint. I've never grown summer squash in a pot, but I might give it a try this year. I'll plant tomatoes for summer. Other than my little collection of edibles, there is a shady corner of our yard that was landscaped at one time, but is currently just a haven for weeds. So I'd like to figure out something to put there aside from a gigantic pile of mulch (which may, realistically be what happens).

3. I mentioned that I wanted to focus my 2018 reading on my at-home unread book pile (plus the books I review for Indie Reader), but I broke my rule already today and got a library book. BUT...it's been on my to-read list for a while: The Last Ballad, by Wiley Cash. I absolutely ADORED A Land More Kind than Home, and am in the mood for some literary southern fiction. That and A Wrinkle in Time (I scored the last copy at my local used bookstore!) are up next on the docket.

4. It's a complete coincidence that I started writing my random blog lists on Wednesdays, which means it's also a coincidence that it's the same day new episodes of one of my favorite podcasts -- The Popcast with Knox and Jamie -- come out. But it's a very happy coincidence. And speaking of...they're doing a live show in Dallas in May and I snapped up two tickets as soon as they were available, and told Jeremy -- don't make any plans for Cinco de Mayo, because we're going to Dallas.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Remember how last week I said I was feeling unfocused and mentally off. Yeah...turns out I had a stomach virus. On the bright side, my house is super clean now.

2. We've got two new books in heavy rotation at our house right now: Quest, by Aaron Becker and I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan. Quest is a story with no words, an invitation to each reader to harness their own creativity. The illustrations are beautiful, straightforward enough for readers to tell a simple story, but detailed and thoughtful enough for more imaginative storytellers to get tell a story more intricate and expansive. It's a companion to Journey, recommended to me by my friend Melissa. I like that my 2 and 3 year old find the book captivating, but that it would also be enjoyable for an older reader too. In a very different vein....I Stink! is a little day-in-the-life book about a garbage truck who's stinky, loud, and confident of his purpose and place in the world.It's funny and fun to read -- which is a big plus for me -- and offers just enough potty humor to appeal to kids, but not so much that it's annoying or inappropriate.

3. In case you don't know, I grew up in Missouri and that's where most of my family is from and still lives, so my Midwestern roots go deep. Those roots are what I blame for my obsession with blankets. Y'all. I live in Houston, Texas. But I have enough blankets to keep a family of six warm through a Midwestern winter. But you know what? I'm not sorry. To be honest, most of my blankets are quilted or crocheted by a family member, pieces of history and family that I can literally wrap around myself, and that's part of the appeal. It's part of why I'll keep collecting blankets (the other part is because you NEVER KNOW when you might need a blanket for something).

4. Speaking of Midewestern roots...when we reach the end of a season of family sickness, one of the first things I want to do is throw open all the windows and air out the house. My Houston born-and-raised husband humors me when the weather cooperates, but I can tell he thinks I'm a little weird. To be fair, in Houston it's generally either A) too hot B) too humid C) too pollen-y D) or that one week a year when it's too cold. It got me thinking -- is this idea of "airing out" the house a Midwestern thing? A family quirk? Anyone else get those urges?

5. My kids got balance bikes for Christmas -- little bicycles with no wheels. You just use your feet to push along the ground, like you do if your riding a scooter. I was first introduced to them through my friends Ryan and Nicole, and the idea is that kids can learn to balance before you give them pedals, and often they can skip training wheels or not have to use them as long. Right now, they are loving them and now that the weather's nice again we've been taking them out almost every day on increasingly longer trips through the neighborhood. C is already starting to balance on hers, and even though poor M's legs aren't quite long enough to actually sit on the seat, he straddles it and walks/jogs along like he's riding it.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Wednesday list

1. I posted a mini review (more like a handful of thoughts in a list, naturally) of Oathbringer over on Instagram yesterday (if you're on Instagram you can find me @amandamrwaters). An even shorter summary: really, really good.

2. So what's next on the reading list? Currently: an unpublished manuscript that I'm doing a paid review for. It's a collection of essays written by an adult with ADHD, who has children with ADHD. It's very engaging and interesting so far. As far as fiction, I'm headed out tomorrow to search for a copy of A Wrinkle in Time so I can read it before the movie comes out in March (so excited!!) and I might pick up At the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a novel that a friend sent me a couple of months ago.

3. The insert for my Crock Pot cracked the other day. I had a roast cooking in it and came into the kitchen to see liquid all over the counter. I can pick up a new insert for less than the price of a new one, but I've got to first figure out how to get the burnt on meat juice off of the heating part. So far I'm just shuffling pot around my kitchen and ignoring it. I know the smart thing to do would be to salvage what I can, but my first-world self just wants to throw it away and start again.

4. Have I mentioned Milk and Honey Tees here before? It's a small t-shirt business that sells the cutest shirts. (and they're really soft, and comfy, and well-fitting too). I have one I bought last year and wear all the time. She came out with some new shirts this week, so I snagged one (Weak Made Strong). Can't wait!

5. I'm feeling really unfocused this week. What day is it? What's happening? Can I take a nap? I don't know if it's the weather (cold) or the fact that our routine has been off this week and the kids and I have been home for two days (icy roads) or if it's a January post-holiday thing. Well. That's the way it goes sometimes. I've decided to just roll with it. At least, that's what I'm telling myself today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Pro-tip: writing your document in the format you want/need it to be at the end, is better than going back and re-formatting. I may or may not be saying this because I realized the other day that I should have been indenting my paragraphs (duh), so now I get to go through 356 pages and fix it (and a few other spacing issues). I knew this. Really I did. But somehow that fact got lost. Well, it's a good chance to catch up on my podcasts, right?

2. I have fully jumped on the leather feather earring bandwagon. It started with one pair that I bought just because they are super cool (at Waterloo Style) Then a pair (also Waterloo) that my husband bought me for mother's day. Then Jamie B. Golden of The Popcast introduced me to The Leather Feather on Instagram, and a cute new pair arrived in the mail this week! I showed Jeremy and he asked me "how many do you have now?" And the correct answer is: "can you have too many leather feather earrings?" No. No you can not.

3. I don't know if it's a personality type thing or just a me thing, but I hate not being able to identify the "why" behind a grumpy/sensitive/funky mood. I always want there to be a reason: I'm tired, I'm stressed, it's a full moon, it's hormones. Partly, I think it's easier to come out of the mood if I know why I feel that way. But some days I have to remind myself that maybe there isn't a reason. Or maybe the reason is so unrelated and unidentifiable that it doesn't matter. And I just need to move on as best I can. If that means hitting the reset button 50 times that day, well....that's just how life goes some times.

4. I subscribed to CBS All Access last week. I've been itching to start watching the new Star Trek: Discovery, which is only available through All Access, but I've been waiting until they've aired most of the episodes so I can maximize my subscription. Bonus: The latest season of The Amazing Race started last week, and it's way easier to watch through the CBS app on our Roku. Win-win! We watched the premier of Star Trek, and it's pretty intense for a series premier, skipping a ton of set up to jump right into the action.

5. I am nearing the end of Oathbringer. Near enough, in fact, that it's getting harder and harder to put down when I start reading -- like, I accidentally stayed up until 1 a.m. on a Monday night hard to put down. Must mean it's good, right? (It is. It's good.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. It's Wednesday! I'm writing a list! We're done bushwacking and have found the trail again. (which reminds me of the time we were backpacking with some friends, and Jeremy was guiding us, and the trail guide he was using was old enough that the "trail" we were following hadn't actually been a trail in a long time. Since Jeremy is great at navigating using a compass and a map, we managed to find our way just fine, but I'm pretty sure a few members of our party thought we were going to end up lost in the woods forever.

2. Do you set New Year's Goals? I was feeling ambitious this year in my goal-setting, and naturally I'm feeling zero inclination to hit the ground running this week. However, since I've learned to approach New Year's Goals with a long-term view (i.e., I've got 12 months to make progress!), I can avoid most stress surrounding typical New Year's resolutions. This year it also helps that most of my goals involve just diving into or making forward progress on existing habits/activities/projects/relationships, etc. My word of the year is "deeper," and it's really the idea that I need to dig in where I'm at.

3. One of my goals has to do with working on doing freelance writing/editing work. The past few months I've been looking for work mostly the way one looks for a traditional job, but I think I've been a bit to scattershot with my approach. I can do anything! For anyone! Give me a chance! So, I'm going to try and focus a little bit -- who do I want to seek out and approach, and how can I hone my skills a little bit more specifically in that area. For example: do I want to focus on trying to find academic clients? Clients in the medical field? Book authors? Business clients who need copy editing of marketing or web materials? Etc., etc. I can hone my skills in  those specific areas (relevant style guides, etc). I haven't quite figured out my focus, but knowing what my next step is helps.

4. A reader friend asked me a few days ago what I'm most excited about reading this year. I couldn't answer on the spot, because my memory (of what books are coming out this year) isn't great, but my initial response was -- my bedside stack. There's a stack of books (three short stacks, to be precise) of books I've been given or picked up at used book sales or Half Price Books, and I'd love to actually dive into them and make some progress there. It's slow going - partly having small children and partly now that I'm doing the reader reviews -- but maybe by the end of the year I can at least half the stack(s).

5. Last but not least, here's a link to short article I found really thought-provoking and insightful about what it means to live a quiet life (such as that described by Paul in I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (..make it your ambition to lead a quiet life...) and why that's so important and yet often counter-cultural.