Monday, February 6, 2017

My 2016 Reading List

Major fail on finishing Project 365 last year. Just didn't have it in me to take many photos, much less post them here. I'm sure I'll look back on this time and wonder what in the world we did but as I am still so fond of saying, "Es lo qué hay." And I'm not even going to try this year. Fully expecting 2017 to be about as crazy as last year, so I'm showing myself some grace in this area. Even my personal journaling has taken a hit.

Back to the topic of this post: books. One of the things I was really looking forward to about returning to the U.S. was the public library system. And it hasn't disappointed! In fact, I'm even more enamored because in addition to the actual, physical books I can check out, I can also borrow books on my Kindle. That's been a huge help with all the traveling we've had to do. What I find interesting is that I really haven't read any more books than I was reading before we returned, with 20 read while we were still in Argentina and 29 since we got back. And factor in that we were state-side for 7 of the 12 months of 2016, and it looks to me like my reading remained pretty steady throughout the year.

So far this year I've finished only one book (and can't begin to tell you how many I started and discarded). I'm not sure why but I'm finding it really hard to get into books these days. My attention span has been more suited to online posts and articles. Anyone else go through seasons when they have a hard time concentrating on a book?

So... 49 books read in 2016. A few standouts, but a lot more of "meh, that was okay but I probably won't read anything else by that author". I know everyone has different tastes in books, but I thought I'd share what I really liked, and why.

First up is "Looming Transitions: Starting & Finishing Well in Cross Cultural Service" by Amy Young. No shock there, heh? The book came out just when we most needed it, and I read it out loud to Ivan. We highly recommend this book to anyone going, coming, or switching to a different ministry. What was great is that it was immediately available as an e-book -- score! Amy is one of the lead women at a favorite blog for women who work in cross-cultural situations, Velvet Ashes. For those who like to read, one of the regular features is Book Club every Tuesday. ***And let me put a plug in for the VA Connection Groups to any lady serving overseas: They were a lifeline the past few years! I have been in four (they're offered each Spring and Fall) and the ladies in each group were so gracious, welcoming and generous with their thoughts and experiences. A breath of fresh air!***

Another favorite of ours (meaning I also read this one out loud to Ivan) was "The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction" by Adam McHugh, which rightly won a number of awards last year. This is a book I need to read at least once a year! Can't say enough good things about it. Just read it!

"The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper" by Phaedra Patrick is a novel I picked up simply because of the title, and I'm sooooo glad I did! This quirky little book takes you on an adventure with a widower who's not coping very well with his wife's death, and when he finally gets up the gumption to clean out her side of the closet, he finds a charm bracelet he never even knew she had. Each charm leads him to another person in his wife's life that he knew nothing about. Although I felt the ending was a little clichéd, it's still a favorite of the year.

Probably the best book I read last year is "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. I actually bought the Kindle version months before reading it, while it was on sale. (I subscribe to the daily email by blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy featuring Great Kindle Deals.) I kept hearing good things about it, and actually bought the hardback for my niece for Christmas, so I figured I should go ahead and read it myself. I learned later that it won the Pulitzer Prize, and for good reason! Here's what I posted on Facebook after finishing it: "How can a book turn us inside out and leave us feeling exhilerated, bereft and grateful all at the same time?"

"Wonder" by R. J. Palacio is another book I read because of recommendations by various bloggers. It's what some might call "kiddy lit" because it's for and about kids, but this best selling book has also captured the hearts of many adults, mine included. I'm pretty excited that this has been made into a movie (being released in theaters on April 7th). I'm often disappointed when books are made into movies but I think this one should translate really well to the big screen.

So those were the standouts for me this past year.

I also enjoyed books by some of my favorite authors:
Seeds of Deception and Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder novels) by Linda Castille
Theory of Death (a Decker/Lazarus novel) by Faye Kellerman
The Nature of the Beast and A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries) by Louise Penny
Downfall (a Joanna Brady mystery) by J. A. Jance

And I discovered the kid lawyer books by John Grisham featuring Theodore Boone.

So what have you been reading? 


Friday, November 18, 2016

October: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Tuesday, October 11

Couldn't help but share some of these adorable pics from Tina. I love, love, love this one of Tina with the kids!

And how cute is this little Betsyboodle?!

This photo cracked me up! The girls pulling the boy in the wagon. Looks like our grandson is already figuring out how to get the ladies to do his bidding.

Thursday, October 13

I took the kids over to see mom. Betsy was tired by the end of the visit -- keeping us all entertained is hard work!

Friday, October 14

Our first rehab project is on the market! I put together a collage of a few pictures Tina took for us. (Happy to say it has since sold!)

Tuesday, October 18

Loved this great picture Natalie shared of Adalyn at preschool. Isn't that a cool room?!

Friday, October 21

Love those Shutterfly deals: this time a puzzle.

Saturday, October 22

We were missing the grandkids, so after going to Goshen to see "Sully" in the theater, we went to see the grandkids who were at their other grandparents' house. Simon was immersed in playing with some of the toys Ann keeps on hand for the kids.

Sunday, October 23

This has been the most spectacular fall! This tree is just down the block from us, but you can see color everywhere you look these days.

Monday, October 24

A trip to the post office for stamps meant a short wait in line. I was amused to see the ubiquitous kiosk of gift cards in the lobby. Definitely one of those new-to-us things since our last time in the states; you can't turn around without running into one of these.

Wednesday, October 26

Crazy that the roses are still blooming!

Thursday, October 27

A fun evening as we celebrated Jennie's birthday.
 I've known these lovely ladies for over forty years. Love that we can pick up where we left off!

Saturday, October 29

Friends who retired to Arizona this year were back in the Midwest to see family and came to spend the weekend. Had gorgeous weather for their visit!

Monday, October 31

Couldn't resist sharing this photo of Adalyn's first time trick-or-treating. How cute is this little fairy?! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

September: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Sunday, September 4

Brats on the grill is how we celebrated Labor Day a day early. Enjoyed the evening with Kyle, Tina and the kids. Simon was quite proud of his prowess on his trike. He'd hop on, take a trip around the driveway, and hop off:
Until one trip down the driveway ended in a spill. He normally jumps back up and says "I okay!" but he suffered scrapes on arms, legs and face. He was most definitely not okay!
Pobrecito :(

Wednesday, September 7

In Chicago we discovered Uber! So much easier to get around and not have to worry about finding (or paying) for a parking space.

Have to share this über cute studio photo of Betsy! That face!

Thursday, September 8

We went to Chicago for a five-day training course with the new business (HP Home Rescue). The training took place at the Hyatt Place in South Chicago. I thought this art installation was really cool, comprised of around 10,000 tiny kitschy souvenirs.

Friday, September 9


Cannot believe my baby is three decades old :) They celebrated by going to the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky.

Saturday, September 10

The weather was (mostly) beautiful during our stay in Chicago, but we only got to see the sunlight during breaks. During lunch Ivan ventured up to the roof to take some pictures. I really liked this one:

Over to the other side and this was his view:

In the evening there was a meet-and-greet event and we had our picture taken with Than Merrill, one of the co-owners of the real estate investing educational company doing the training. Some of you may remember him from Flip This House (his team was featured on the show from 2007-2009).

Sunday, September 11

Sort of felt like shouting "School's out! School's out!" when our training ended :) Here's the sidewalk outside the conference center. In the midst of large, tall buildings and concrete everywhere, it was refreshing to see a bit of green.

Monday, September 12

We stayed in Chicago an extra couple of days, but switched hotels to be closer to Midway Airport. It didn't take us long to realize there was an IKEA nearby. A little bit of online research indicated IKEA now carries some GF options, including some vegan meatballs that were introduced last year.
I won't be ordering them again. I've read their ribs are also GF so I'll try those next time.

Honestly, the whole Chicago eating experience was sad. Mostly because of the area where we were; there just weren't any good options for dining out. Our first night we went to a restaurant I shall not name, but which supposedly had GF options. But then I noticed tiny print at the bottom of the menu that said, "Gluten free ingredients but not a gluten free environment." What does that even mean? Well, in the case of this particular place it meant they cooked the GF pasta IN THE SAME WATER as regular pasta. What?!?! How can they claim it's gluten free when they do that?! After some online searching, we learned about a GF store/restaurant (they had a few stools and a microwave to heat up what you bought) that wasn't too far away. After two days of salad, salad and more salad, I was starving! So we took an Uber there, ate, liked it, and I bought several ready-to-eat meals to take for the next few days' lunches. And on Friday we went to the closest Whole Foods and stocked up for the weekend. Next time we go to Chicago, I hope we can stay in the area where there are better options for eating out!

Tuesday, September 13

The reason we stayed in Chicago was so we could pick up our former co-worker at the airport. Tito brought some things for us from Argentina, so it worked out well to get those things from him, and be able to spend some time together catching up. First we went to a pizzeria near the airport -- turned out the owner is Argentine! (Yes, I ate salad again but boy, did that deep dish look and smell amazing!)
Then Tito had to go through all his suitcases to pull out our things. We'd parked on a shady side street so it was easy to line up the suitcases on the grass. We'd also brought along a suitcase to replace the old one of ours Tito had brought (no wheels, awkward to haul around), so there was some reorganizing to do. It was too funny so I had to snap this photo!

Wednesday, September 14

What's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, September 15

Kyle was out of town for a big RV show in Pennsylvania, so I spent a few days with Tina and the kids. Simon was thrilled to show me his new train tent:

Tina had a photo shoot in the morning but as soon as she was done, we were out the door and on our way to Costco. The kids enjoyed having lunch there. Betsy was lovin' the hot dog!

Friday, September 16

I'd taken a Sonoma GF flatbread (my favorite frozen GF food so far) and Tina made a lovely  caprese salad to go with it for lunch. Yum!

Thursday, September 22

Work progresses on the house near Chapman Lake:

Totally stealing this from Jon's Facebook timeline. I just love it!

Friday, September 23

And this one (which I also stole). Adalyn loves the beach as much as her parents do, so she's always happy when they get to go.

I'd forgotten what a big deal Homecoming is in the Midwest. We're not too far from the high school and the parade went right by the house in the evening.

Saturday, September 24

Ivan and I got to spent the afternoon and evening with Simon and Betsy while Kyle and Tina went out to dinner. On our way to their house we went to South Bend and had lunch at the Fiddler's Hearth.

We always have so much fun with these two!

Monday, September 26

Received a book I'd ordered from amazon, but whoever packed it didn't seal the box. The book slid down and the spine stuck tight against the adhesive strip on the box. Could not get it off!
Since it's for a gift, I had to send it back and get another. Thankfully the second one arrived unscathed.

Wednesday, September 28

Another stolen photo; this one from Tina. Simon really loved bowling, and he got such a kick out of the mechanism that moved the balls back up the return lane!

Thursday, September 29

Couldn't resist sharing this studio shot Tina took of the kids. Photographer's kids know how to ham it up for the camera :)

Friday, September 30

Jon, Nat and Adalyn were all sick and after days of being cooped up, they were desperate to get out of the house. This is what going out to lunch when you're still feeling ill looks like :)

So I "borrowed" almost a fourth of the photos in this post. I have seriously lost my photo-taking mojo. All year I've been hoping I'd get it back, but it just doesn't seem to be happening. This year has been such a roller-coaster with moving back to the U.S. and struggling physically and emotionally with that decision. But I'm choosing to show myself grace through this transition and just do the best I can. As I've said so often in the past, and will probably continue to say: Es lo que hay!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Memories of Bo

Oscar Fields, Jr.

November 27, 1956 - October 9, 2016

I've shared on Facebook that my cousin died on Sunday. His given name was Oscar and I guess some people did call him that, but to the family he was always Bimbo or Bo. I have so many wonderful memories of Bo! I was really impressed as a child that he could wiggle his ears! And I remember one summer he was on crutches, but boy was he fast! He was faster on his crutches than I was without them. Of course he was also almost three years older. (Or at least that's what I told myself, so I didn't feel quite so bad about him being faster than me.)

We spent ten years living in Michigan when I was a kid, but we went back to Kentucky every summer at least once. I loved staying with Aunt Lizzie and the cousins. Bo was closest to my age, and he put up with me and let me tag along on his adventures. He was the only one who could ever talk me into going out on the swinging bridge down by the country store. And stinker that he was, he'd wait until I was in the middle and then start jumping up and down and causing it to sway. You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you? But he must have pulled that stunt half a dozen times. Bo loved to get into mischief but he had a heart of pure gold and didn't have a mean bone in his body.

When we moved back to Kentucky just as I was starting high school, Bo was a senior and being his cousin made the transition a whole lot easier than it would have been otherwise. He was always there if I needed advice or help.

He was that way with everyone. He was the very definition of loyal. Everyone who knew him loved him. He believed that you took care of your family, did your job well, helped your neighbor and got involved in your community. His loss is a loss not only for his family but for all of Leslie County, where he was born, raised and lived his life. 

I haven't gotten to see the cousins very often, as we're spread far and wide. Our last trip to Kentucky was in 2011. We stayed with Ruth, Bo's older sister, but while we were there Bo and Char invited us over for a wonderful meal. Bo was never a big talker, but his steady presence made you feel welcome and comfortable. It was obvious he was happy and content with his life. He and Char have been married since 1978. They raised two wonderful, accomplished children.
Brice (on the right in the picture above) will be getting married next April. Erin and her husband, Tommy, have been married almost three years and just had an adorable daughter in June. The following photo of Bo with his granddaughter absolutely melts my heart.
Bo was the baby of the family and I know this is really hard on my cousins, too. As they gather to mourn their loss, my thoughts and prayers are with them. I wish I could be there, too, as they share their memories and grieve together.
That isn't possible, so I was thinking through what I could do... And realized that, after living on three continents, and two distinct regions within the U.S., I no longer have a clue what's appropriate protocol in this situation. No surprise that there are different funeral traditions around the world. Having lived "away' for my entire adult life, I simply could not remember what protocol was for back home. I missed the funeral for Aunt Lizzie, who died while we were in Argentina. I think the last funeral I went to in Kentucky was for my mom, way back in 1988.

We'll figure it out, but my mind (like the little silver ball in a pin ball machine) started bouncing all over the place, thinking about all that's involved in the death of a loved one. There's a lot of paperwork, so the nearest and dearest has to deal with that on top of everything else. Even for the most organized person -- and Char is extremely organized -- it's going to be tough. My prayers will continue for Char, as she deals with the "business" of Bo's death even while she grieves. For Erin and Brice as they face a new reality of life without their father. For Grace, Ruth, James and Bobbie Jean as they mourn the loss of their baby brother. A lot of people will miss Bo tremendously, but these are the folks who will feel the loss most deeply.