Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reading...If Only You Knew

If You Only Knew Kristan Higgins is one of my only go-to adult romance authors these days. Her books are funny, sweet, and a little sassy -- all of which I've mentioned before. Her last few books have been part of her Blue Heron series, set in a small town in Western New York's wine country. This book is different in a couple of ways: one, it's the start of a new location series, and two, it's told from the perspective of two sisters, their lives and stories separate but intertwined. I enjoyed this slight change of format from Higgins' usual m.o. This book was also a bit different in that the romances themselves weren't entirely straightforward. Jenny Tate, a wedding dress designer, moves back to her hometown to open her own shop. She's looking forward to the opportunity, but also looking forward to putting some distance between her ex-husband and his perfect family -- who are oddly her best friends, and Jenny's probably the only one who doesn't think that's a little odd (and unhealthy). Fortunately, a friendship-turned-maybe-something-more with her enigmatic neighbor Leo might just giver her a change of perspective. Her sister Rachel has a seemingly perfect suburban family life....except it's not. When she discovers her husband is having an affair, her whole life turns upside down. She questions her marriage, her choices, and herself. Rachel's story is less of a] romance than it is a story about her relationships with friends, family, and even herself. I do love that the duel-narrative gives Higgins the opportunity to tell more than just a boy-meets-girl romance (although obviously I love a boy-meets-girl romance). My only complaint with this book is that I kind of wish there was a little more of each sister's story, the downside to having to heroines. But since I'm pretty sure this is the start of another series, maybe the next book will give a peak at what's been going on with Jenny and Rachel. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Tuesday list

1. Instagram. You can all stop using it now, because I'm clearly so late to the party that it's gotta be last call. Kidding. Sort of. I did sign up for Instagram last week, and I may be a little enamored.

2. Popcorn. I think it's my friend Tess who doesn't like popcorn? Sad. I've got a big bowl sitting on my desk right now and it's delightful. The downside to having kiddos who often eat really early is that I'm hungry again before bed. The upside to having kiddos who often eat really early is the legitimate excuse for a snack. I love snacks.

3. Camp was fantastic! I had two cabins of hilarious, sweet, sincere, delightful young ladies. New friends, old friends, and I actually got to sleep through the night for a whole week! (sadly, my in-laws did not. Thanks for watching our kiddos Nana and Grandpapa!)

4. The new Needtobreathe album came out (HARDLOVE) and it just gets better every time I listen to it.

5. Anyone else out there ever noticed that there are runners, and there are people who run. And there's a difference. And it has nothing to do with how far or how fast you run.

6. I've picked up a new book -- an actual hardback book, that I got for Christmas -- The Way of All Fish, by Martha Grimes. I'm having trouble getting momentum, mostly because I've only been able to read it in five minute increments. I can tell I'll like it (Martha Grimes, after all), but with her books I tend to need a good hour of solid reading to start off.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday list - Happy Fourth of July!

1. I was griping about neighborhood firecrackers yesterday -- and I stand by my irritation at inconsiderate neighbors -- but I do enjoy Independence Day. A good, old fashioned, summer-time, celebration holiday. We're not really doing much since Jeremy's working today, but I'm listening to the Hamilton soundtrack to feel appropriately festive. And we ate hot dogs for lunch. What's more Fourth of July than that?

2. Less than a week until Sooner Youth Camp! Can't wait. I'm feeling a little bit like I should be packing already, but there's only so much I can do ahead of time. I've got my lists made at least.

3. I'm in a blog rut. When I was working as a librarian, I had a pretty extensive list of book and library related blogs that I read regularly. But I'm not reading at a quick pace at the moment, plus I'm not needing to perform readers' advisory (i.e., stay current on what's out there book-wise), and I'm not actively developing professionally, which just means that a lot of those blogs became more of a chore than enjoyable. I still enjoy their content, I just can't keep up and don't feel like I'm really retaining the information in a way that will be meaningful to me later. But I enjoy reading good blogs. It's like reading a magazine to me. I have a few that I read regularly still, but I feel a little bit like I need something fresh, something that feels more relevant to my life now. (not necessarily mommy-blogs, though. Just different book blogs, or writing blogs, or Jesus blogs, or cooking blogs...I don't even really know what I'm looking for).

4. I need a 5k to sign up for. I signed up for one in May, but it got rained out and rescheduled, and due to some poor communication on the part of the race organizers, I missed the new date. So...I need something to help keep me motivated during the long, hot, humid summer. Besides chocolate.

5. I'm working my way through a non-fiction book right now (Start, by Jon Acuff) and a quick romance (If You Only Knew, by Kristan Higgins).

Stay cool out there!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Character development

The best characters in stories are the ones who grow and develop throughout the story. The characters who are a little different at the end of the story than they were when we first met them. 

Cordelia Chase, Wesley Wyndham-Price, Anne Shirley, Kvothe, Harry Potter and crew, Emma Wodehouse (and by extension, Cher Horowitz), Egwene Al'vere, Matrim Cauthon. I'm sure you have your favorites to add to this list. 

I've been thinking lately about things I wish I could tell my junior high/early high school self. To be more comfortable in my own skin. To appreciate my true friends more, and to not spend so much time trying to catch the attention of "popular" kids. To be kinder to boys when things got weird, and to not put up with the mean girl behavior of one so-called best friend. 

But hopefully, I look a little different these days than that pretty typical adolescent girl. I'm working on a nice character arc, and hopefully it makes me a more interesting person. And instead of bemoaning things I can't change, I can share what I've learned. I can put my arm around the 8th grade girl struggling with a friendship that is diverging and say -- "you know what. It's okay. Be kind, be yourself, and be open to new friendships. It's okay to be a little weird, because there's someone else as weird as you who needs buddy too." 

So maybe I was a Gretchen with my own Regina George (who wasn't anywhere near that level, but that's another story). I can say with confidence that phase is long gone. And the journey isn't over. And I figure as long as my character keeps growing, it'll be a pretty interesting story. I'll be in good company at any rate.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Monday list

1. Thursday night I was having trouble falling to sleep, and my mind starts writing this really great blog post. Of course, I don't get up and write anything down or just write up the post because I'm trying to be responsible and sleep before those munchkins wake up at 0-dark-thirty. Of course, that means the next day the idea is just kind of eluding me and any similar idea just sounds flat. Lesson learned. Who needs sleep, anyway?

2. Sometimes I feel guilty about my dependence on modern conveniences. My car, indoor plumbing/showers whenever I want them, disposable diapers (to be fair, I do part time cloth diaper. So I tell myself that I'm not completely dependent), air conditioning. This last one is really a source of more angst that it should be. I mean, we live in Houston for goodness' sake. South. Swamp. Subtropical climate. And I know people live (and lived for a good long while) in the South without AC, but usually it's important to have a house built for that (ours, is not). Anyway...I like feeling comfortable, so AC it is. But sometimes I just feel bad about that.

3. Camping. I'd really like to go camping this fall (summer camping is for the beach or a climate where it cools down at night. Sorry, but I need to be able to build a fire). But we'll see if it's in the cards. Not sure why it's on my mind now since summer's just begun, but there you have it.

4. It's amazing how quickly you forget how curious and grabby crawlers are,

5. I've realized that now that I have at least one or two nights a week where I could sit and knit/watch TV, that I'm at a loss for inspiration. I have people I would like to make things for, but nothing I'm excited about making.

6. I'm in the middle of reading Winter, by Marissa Meyer, and have a couple of audiobooks downloaded and waiting to go (fantasy, I'm pretty sure. I don't remember exactly). I'm not reading audiobooks at the speed I was at one point because I'm on a podcast kick. Namely: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (an old favorite) and Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Happy Hour is a new find, and I'm digging it.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Reading....The Raven King

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) The Raven King is the fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle. Beginning with Raven Boys and on through The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Steifvater tells us a story about magic, quests, friendship, family, destiny, love, sacrifice, and time. It's a wonderful story, and more than any of her books that I've read, it's clear that this story is the one Maggie's held in her mind and heart and soul for a long time (I think she said she started writing this story maybe 20 years ago?). It's written in Maggie's characteristically artistic style, simultaneously dreamlike and vivid and concrete. The story is layered -- there's a bit of epic quality to it, as one might expect when one of the main characters is on a lifelong quest to find a dead king along a magical superhighway. When one of the characters is fated to kill her true love with a kiss, and another is fated to die within a year. Yet, the story also zooms in close. It's about friends and family and small moments. About thinking you know something, and having your whole outlook on life turned on its head. The characters come to life, and you have to include Virginia as one of the characters. The mountains and forests and roads are a living, breathing part of the story. 
So. The Raven King. It was a satisfying ending, in the bittersweet way that the best series end. Meaning, you're left feeling like loose ends are fairly well tied, and yet there is life being lived beyond the final page. It's not a "and they all lived happily ever after" ending. Because there's clearly some ever after happening after this one story finished. But I love feeling like my friends are continuing on. 
My only real "complaint" about the final book is that I wanted more. More Gansey, more Blue, more Maura. But if that's the worst thing about it, then I can't complain.

Bottom line, I love this series. And you'll mostly get fangirl-style gushing from me. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Parenting and Friday Night Lights

I just finished a rewatch of the show Friday Night Lights. I really love that show. Inspired by the book of the same title, on the surface it's a show about Texas high school football. But it's really about relationships, family, friendship, love, growing up, dreaming, striving. It's about the complicated relationship we often have with the place we're from. It's about Texas. And yes, it's about football.  Is it perfect? Of course not (see: Season 2). But is it good storytelling? Yes, one thousand times.

One of the many things I love about the show is the presence of some really great adults (some not-so-great too). Adults who are good parents to their own kids, and good adults-friends-mentors to other kids in their life as well. So, fresh off a tearful goodbye to my friends in Dillon, here are some parenting tips from Friday Night Lights:

1. Set clear expectations and have high standards

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2. But extend grace when necessary

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3. It's all about the conversation. Keep the lines of communication open and be willing to listen.

friday night lights connie britton tami taylor julie taylor

4. When you're proud...say it, show it.

5. Boundaries are a good thing

Image result for friday night light gifs I'm proud of you

6. You have to put in the work from the very beginning. Because then you can remind them to "be the person I raised you to be."

(insert gif of Smash's Mama saying that to Smash...because I couldn't find one and my eyes are crossing. I heart Mama Smash)

7. Be there. All the time. Let them go when it's time, but always be there when they need you.

8. And if you're parenting with a each other.

Image result for friday night lights gifs coach and tami

And remember...because it's good advice for football and it's good advice for life: clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.