Monday, March 27, 2017

Chicago History Musuem

Why have I never been here before?! The Chicago History Museum is interactive, educational, and a fun time for this transplant and her native fiance.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of HattieThe Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a book. A beautiful, sad, joyous, expansive tale of a mother and her children, told over the course of all of their lives.

First thoughts: I loved the format - a chapter for each of Hattie's children (tribes). We get to see glimpses of Hattie at various stages of motherhood, and we delve into a defining moment of each child's life. Using the titles of each chapter (years and the children's names) we piece together a family portrait spanning several generations. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is like a collection of connected short stories, each one a unique literary treat.

Favorite quotes:

"It seemed to him that every time he made one choice in his life, he said no to another." -Lawrence, p78

"It seemed to him that he could never get a proper grip on any of the beauty in this world." -August, p87

"They didn't understand that all the love she had was taken up with feeding them and clothing them and preparing them to meet the world. The world would not love them; the world would not be kind." - Hattie, p236

Recommended for: Everyone should read Ayana Mathis's first novel (and wait eagerly for her next one!).

Final thoughts: Reading The Twelve Tribes of Hattie was the kind of reading experience all readers want - easy without being boring, entertaining without being farcical, and meaningful without being preachy.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Something Just Like This

It's light outside when I get home, all I need is a light jacket, and I didn't wake up feeling exhausted. Spring, you're okay. (I know the weather might not agree with the calendar all the time, but we're getting to mild/warm temps little by little.)

Need a pick me up, or not feeling the same way I am about Spring? (Maybe allergies are ruining your life - they're a clear drawback to the season.) Give this song a listen and imagine yourself lounging at a sidewalk cafe, strolling through a park, or driving along some beautiful scenery.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Some Light Wedding Reading

Did anyone think I would approach marriage and wedding planning  with anything other than intense research? Besides a few blogs (that I've been following for longer than the four months I've been engaged), I also searched out and was gifted (thanks MOH!) a few books that grounded me in the wedding planning process and reminded me that I'm neither the first nor last bride to need some guidance.

A Practical Wedding

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful CelebrationA Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having been a fan of the blog that inspired this book for a few years now (they're more of a wedding & lifestyle & fun things blog than strictly a wedding blog), I was excited to read what Meg Keene had to say about the practical approach to wedding planning. I wasn't disappointed - it was a quick read and this book is definitely one I can see myself referencing throughout the planning process (if the post-it bookmarks are to be trusted, that is).

First & Final Thoughts: Filled with lots of good information, yes, but more importantly this book is filled with reminders that it's going to all work out, a wedding will happen, and the only thing that really truly matters is I'm getting married to my person.

The Perfect Day

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American WeddingOne Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The subtitle says it all: "The Selling of the American Wedding." From the moment Jesus and I announced our engagement, there was always someone ready to sell us something. Any advertising I see online is now for wedding bands, honeymoons, dresses, photography, or any number of "things" one needs to get married. They all have the same message - buy these things to set your wedding apart, buy these things to make sure you have a traditional wedding, buy these things to show your guests how much you care about them.

First Thoughts: This book was both depressing (the wedding industry is scary, y'all) and empowering (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A TRADITIONAL BRIDE).

Favorite quotes:

"All traditions are invented." -p58

"It is, in many ways, harder to invent yourself than to have your course mapped out for you." -p73

"What if every wedding was a cherished victory won?" -p230 (I feel like mine will be, not only because of the life partner I'm winning, but because our marriage wouldn't have been possible even 50 years ago. It's a personal and cultural victory.

Final thoughts: I got the feeling Mead herself was one of the "bad brides" that the wedding industry fears because she doesn't buy into it, and I'm with her, to a point. I do want my wedding to feel both unique and classy, to reflect mine and Jesus's tastes while also being familiar enough as a wedding to not make people uncomfortable. Knowing what goes on behind the scenes helps to navigate the needs/wants/unneccessaries of wedding planning, and to put the whole thing in context.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Madness

The real madness of this month:

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Color is Your Parachute (2017 Edition)

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-ChangersWhat Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With plenty of visuals, online resources, worksheets, and an organized layout, Bolles guides job hunters and career changers through the process of researching employers, building resumes, and interviewing. The backbone of his manual, "The Flower," provides a framework for creating an accurate picture of who the reader is as a potential employee.

First thoughts: I was excited, energized, and overwhelmed. Bolles writes conversationally, which helped make reading this easy on the brain, but the subject matter is both technical and emotional, so I found myself skimming chapters that didn't necessarily apply to my situation or putting off reading chapters that seemed to understand me all too well.

Favorite quotes:

"So it is, that in any situation you find yourself, no matter how overwhelmed you may feel, no matter how much you may feel you're at the mercy of huge forces that are beyond your control, some part of it is within your control." -p47

"You are a person, not a job." -p115

"The more you see your own gifts clearly, the more you must pay attention to the gifts that others have." -p239

Best tip: YOU are the given, the common denominator in your job search. So focus on yourself and what you offer. Think of yourself as a resource to any potential employer. --> This is something quickly forgotten in the drudgery of job hunting, and something I, personally, want to be more intentional about in future job hunts.

Recommended for: job hunters and career changers, employers and employees, college grads and retirees.

Final thoughts: My brother read this book and got a job almost immediately afterwards. The book motivated him, gave him new ideas about how to job search, and made the entire process more of a puzzle to solve than an impossible challenge. I, on the other hand, read the book over the course of 4 months, in fits and starts as I was feeling up to it. I wanted to read it completely (doing each of the worksheets), but in the end I had to pause on those and just keep reading, or I would have been stuck on certain sections for too long. I'd advise any would-be readers to know themselves and their reading style, then use the book as a tool in whatever way best suits you. Not feeling a chapter? Skip it. Bolles agrees - Parachute is a reference, not a required read.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Blind Assassin

The Blind AssassinThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A slow burn novel within a novel, set in a fantasy land and past and present day Canada - this book takes time, but it's worth it.

First thoughts: I wasn't gripped right away, but rather teased and intrigued - I wanted to see where the past met the present telling, and I wanted to know what happened in the sci-fi novel within the novel.

Favorite quotes:

"...some people can't tell where it hurts. They can't calm down. They can't even stop howling." -p2

"God didn't make everyone the same, otherwise he would just get bored of it all, and so he dished things out unevenly. It didn't seem fair, but it would come out fair at the end." -p88

"Better not to invent her in her absence. Better to wait until she's actually here. Then he can make her up as she goes along." -p276

"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date." -p283

"So much better to travel than to arrive." -p290

"I will always remember this, she tells herself. Then: Why am I thinking about memory? It's not then yet, it's now. It's not over." -p341

Recommended for: women, writers, women writers, sisters, Atwood fans.

Final thoughts: I'm glad I stuck with this book - the ending was a good payoff. The mystery of each part kept me guessing throughout, and once I finally "got it" it was worth it.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

I couldn't strike, but I showed my support with my outfit and, you know, by teaching tomorrow's women all about resistance. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As one of the highest rated books on my to-read list, The Help is entertaining and (still) has lots to say about race relations in America. It's not the end-all be-all, but definitely now a part of the culture of America with 1.5 million ratings on Goodreads, an Oscar-nominated & winning movie counterpart, and numerous pop culture references (seen most recently on SNL).

First thoughts: While I enjoyed this book, I was constantly aware that it was written by a white woman and I kept that in mind throughout, as a sort of reading lens. The book is aware of itself, though, as seen in these passages...

"I must be crazy, giving the sworn secrets a the colored race to a white lady." -Minny, p217

"A white lady do things different than a white man." -Aibileen, p256

"Look at you. Another white lady trying to make a dollar off of colored people." -Gretchen, p258

White Lady thoughts: I'm so glad Stockett put voice to the thoughts I was having, and that while she specifically had black characters narrate parts of the book, she seemed aware of the problems this could raise. I'm also glad that the movie takes it a step further and has Aibilieen's character narrate the entire thing - in that way she tells her own story, and we hear from black characters both first and more often than from white characters. Small things, but they make a difference.

More about the book: The length of The Help allows the reader to really sink into the world of Jackson's residents, get to know their motivations, and really feel the anxieties of each of the characters who narrate. It's a compelling story with plenty of conflict and emotions both light and heavy.

Favorite quotes (from Stockett's afterward, "Too Little, Too Late"):

"I was scared, a lot of the time, that I was crossing a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person." -p450

"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought." -p418

Final thoughts: If you're one of the few who haven't yet read The Help, you might as well join the club.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Getting Some Headspace

My Lenten challenge this year (and always): mindfulness. This space is filled with posts about ways I've attempted, sought out, and reached mindfulness in different areas of my life, but it's a lifetime challenge and something I need specifically in this season (The Going Back to School, Planning a Wedding, and Finding a Job All at the Same Damn Time Season).

Mindfulness is at the front of my brain right now partially because I'm co-teaching a class on it - aka, two qualified volunteers are teaching mindfulness and I'm making sure the kids aren't giggling with their friends or throwing paper airplanes while they're supposed to be meditating. If we adults think sitting silently and letting our thoughts wander is difficult, middle schoolers find it absolutely terrifying. When we plan each lesson, we think of how it would feel to be a kid doing each activity - our classroom is a no judgment zone, but we still don't want to do anything to make anyone anxious or embarrassed.

Outside of school/work, I've also started listening to an audiobook on mindfulness, Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe. Some of you may have heard of his free app, Headspace, which I'm also sort of trying out, but I want to finish the book first - and I've found that even listening to an audiobook for ten minutes at a time is challenging. Listening without some sort of visual aid doesn't come easily to me, but it's a skill I want to develop and audiobooks or guided meditations seem like the best way to practice.

If anyone has any other tips or tricks to just being without thinking, I'm all ears. Until then, I'll learn by doing - day-by-day and about 10 minutes at a time.