September 30, 2014

six questions

This blog has been all about the book reviews all month long. Between reading, reviewing, working, and, well, watching Fall TV, I haven't had time for much else! But I do have other things to talk about, so I thought I'd do a question and answer post. I've thought of six questions that you might ask me if we met for coffee, and I'll answer them here. (Why six? Because six has been my favorite number ever since, as a six-year-old, I heard Bert sing about his favorite number.) So grab a cup of coffee—I've got my fall favorite pumpkin spice latte—and enjoy this glimpse into my world.

Are you still gluten free?
Yes! It really hasn't been too difficult, and the worst part by far is eating out. I've discovered that I absolutely love almond and coconut flour (too bad they're pretty expensive), and I've had fun experimenting with gluten free baked goods. (Some have turned out awesome, others not so much.) My favorite is a peanut butter cookie recipe that I've adapted into a really awesome cookie, if I do say so myself. I'll try to snap pics the next time I make them and then post the recipe here on the blog.

How are you feeling?
This is kind of ironic, as I'm writing this on a day that I'm having what I like to call a "thyroid day," but I actually feel tons better. I don't feel "normal" yet, but I feel the best I've felt in two years. Two years! I think it's a combination of going gluten free, changing medication, making sleep a priority, and reducing stress. I still have hopes of getting my energy back, losing weight, and being able to fully participate in things I love, but if this is all the better it gets, it's livable, and I will be grateful for the health I have.

The other day, while on a two-mile walk (something that would have killed me just six months ago but I did with ease now), my mom asked me what my dreams are. I couldn't even answer her. These last two years have been all about surviving, not dreaming. But now it's time to start thinking about goals other than "make it through the work day so I can crash on my couch."

What classes are you teaching this year?
As I have for the last couple of years, only yearbook. While I do miss getting to know the international students on as personal a level (which I talked about here and here), I also am enjoying my job as a whole more than I have probably ever. I still do a little bit of a lot of things, but my main area is communications: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, our quarterly newsletter, etc.

Are you doing Singing Christmas Tree?
Considering Singing Christmas Tree has been such a huge part of my life and was even a large factor in my decision to attend my church, this may come as a surprise, but no. It's not that I don't want to participate, but I'm trying to make decisions that will help, not hinder, my healing process. One of the things I'm learning is that stress and tiredness are huge triggers for me. If I have a big, busy day, I can pretty much guarantee that either the next day or the day after that I will not feel well. Singing Christmas Tree is a wonderful ministry, but it is also incredibly time consuming and exhausting, and speech season (my most stressful time of the year) directly follows it. I want to go into speech as healthy and rested as possible. I hope to rejoin the choir next year.

What has God been teaching you?
First of all, I'm finally learning to say no to things. When I was struggling with whether or not to do Singing Christmas Tree, I mentioned to a co-worker what I was thinking. Her response? "You are way harder on yourself than anyone else will be. If you need to take a break, you take a break. They'll survive without you." So true. While I feel a little guilty about taking this year off, I shouldn't.

I'm also learning compassion. Because Hashimoto's is a disease that often isn't physically apparent, most people who see me would have no idea that anything was wrong with me. The knowledge that others have no idea how I feel has helped me understand that, likewise, I have no idea what others are going through. I need to extend grace to others instead of being so judgemental. I don't know what circumstances in their lives are influencing the way they behave and the decisions they make.

Most importantly, though, I'm learning that God has everything under control. It's one of those things that I always know in my head, but sometimes my heart forgets. And then God steps in, and it's like he's nudging me and saying, "See? I've got this." This was especially evident a few weeks ago. Back at the beginning of August, I finally got a referral to an endocrinologist, but I couldn't get in to see her until mid-November. This is the same endo my dad sees for his diabetes, so he called to see if we could switch appointments, as he had one in early September. They said no, since initial appointments take longer than return visits, but they could put me on a waiting list in case of cancellations. The morning of my dad's appointment, I got a call from the clinic—they had a cancellation, and the slot was mine if I wanted it. So I was able to carpool with my dad and see the doctor a full two and a half months early! If that's not a God thing, I don't know what is!

Now a fun one: Do you have any good movie or TV recommendations?
Of course I do! Movie first: Belle. It's about a mixed race daughter of an British Navy captain who is raised by her great aunt and uncle on an English estate in the late 1700s. I don't really want to say much more than that because you need to watch it. It would make a great companion piece to Amazing Grace—both deal with slavery in different ways.

TV: Forever. It stars Ioan Gruffudd as a man who can't die. Well, he actually CAN die, he just can't STAY dead. He's a medical examiner in New York City who has a skill for discerning how people died, and he often works with a female detective. Sound a bit like Castle? It definitely has that feel to it. So far, I'm loving it! You can watch the pilot episode here.

And while we're on the subject of TV, if you're looking for a good binge watching show, check out Ringer on Netflix. It also stars Gruffudd (and Sarah Michelle Gellar)—I recently recommended it to another blogger after she wrote about Forever, and then I had this urge to watch it again. I'm one of about five people who actually watched it when it aired on the CW, and I'm enjoying it just as much on this pass through as I did on the first. (Yes, it's ridiculously soapy with about a million plot holes, but it's so entertaining!) There's only one season, so you won't even have to spend much time watching. Plus, Logan Echolls is a guest star ...

September 2, 2014

ten books that impacted me

There's a book related meme going around Facebook right now. My friend Steph tagged me, and I decided to post my answers here so I could expound on them more than I did on Facebook.

"I've been challenged to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way and tag people to do the same. Rules (there are always rules): don't take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Then tag 10 friends including me so I can see your list. Don't make fun of me. No particular order."

1. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
When I was young, bedtime was one of the most special times of the day, as my mom would read a chapter or two of a book to my brother and me. She read the whole Little House series to us, and Big Woods is what kicked off that special journey.

2. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
I was an English major ... a really bad one. I hardly read anything that I was supposed to read (Shhh! Don't tell Dr. Sauders!), choosing instead to turn to SparkNotes. But, for whatever reason, when Dr. Lovelady assigned As I Lay Dying, I read it. It was so ... weird. And I loved it! More than 10 years later, I couldn't really tell you anything about it, except for this: "My mother is a fish."

This was another childhood bedtime read. I had a boxed set of Roald Dahl books that Mom worked through—this book, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Charlie & the Great Glass Elevator, and James & the Giant Peach. This book has stuck with me, not because I loved it, but because I was horrified when Mom explained poaching to me. 

4. Romans (in the Bible)
I suppose I could have just said "The Bible," but Romans is my favorite book. It's my default book—the book I turn to if I don't have a specific passage in mind to read. It always encourages and challenges me.

5. Sophie's Heart by Lori Wick
I first read Sophie's Heart as a freshman in high school. I'd read other Christian romances before, but Sophie's Heart made me love the genre.

6. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
The Anne of Green Gables series is one of my all time favorites. Anne and Gilbert ... need I say more? So why would I pick Rilla out of all the books in this series? Two words: Walter dies. I remember nothing else about this book, but I vividly remember where I was when I read of his death: lying on my parents' bed on a lazy summer afternoon, tears streaming down my face. Then my sister walked in and caught me sobbing. It was the first time I cried while reading a book.

7. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
My previous Shakespeare experience consisted of reading Romeo & Juliet in high school, which I thought was just about the dumbest story ever. Then I read Hamlet in community college, and I realized that Shakespeare had some good stories to tell. In this class (which is the class that made me decide to major in English), we each had to find a song that went along with a particular scene in the play. I got Act 3, Scene 1 (Hamlet's soliloquy), and I used the MASH theme song,"Suicide Is Painless," which has a horrible message, by the way! (Shoutout to my mom's Sheet Music Magazine subscription, without which I never would have known that the MASH song had lyrics.)

8. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Another community college read (I did far more reading there than at Grace), Things Fall Apart marked the first time I realized that, while spreading the gospel is a good thing, the white man's methods weren't always good. Things Fall Apart caused me to think critically about what I read for one of the first times in my life.

9. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Sure, I read an abridged, illustrated version that someone gave me for Christmas, and I've never read the actual book, but The War of the Worlds was my first foray into science fiction. For that fact alone, it belongs on this list.

10. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
My mom read us the Narnia books, too, and The Horse and His Boy was never one of my favorites. It just didn't seem to fit with the other books. Then, I read it again a few years ago to one of my ESL classes. I. Loved. It. Maybe it's because my students were so intrigued that I saw it through new eyes. It has adventure, action, humor, and a glimpse at the Pevensies during their rule of Narnia. It's really fantastic!

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