Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Should You Read Based on Your Mood and Interests?

 It's the beginning of summer, and if you're like me, you have been building your summer reading list for a few months now. But if you're also like me you may have a hard time deciding which book to read first. They all sound so good! 

 So to kick off your summer reading, let me give you book suggestions based on your mood, making the decision so much easier!

Anne of Green Gables Fan?

 Have you heard of Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson?

 This novel explains what happened before Anne Shirley came to Green Gables in a similar style to Montgomery's but that also didn't feel like a carbon copy. Reading this book felt like reconnecting with an old friend while at the same learning about the changes in her and her life.


 Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me: What My Favorite Book Taught Me About Grace, Belonging, and the Orphan in Us All by Lorilee Craker

  I haven't read this memoir yet, but it looks like an amazing book about how Anne of Green Gables helped one mom and her adopted daughter through the mess that can sometimes come from adoption.

Love Historical Fiction?

 Try The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner.

 I happened upon this book at a sale and it proved to be a hidden gem. This story takes place during the French Revolution with unique angles from puppeteers to the point of view of gypsies, not to mention the masterful writing. Please note that this book has elements of sorcery that were at times disturbing and terrifying, but it still was an amazing book.


There's The Second Mrs. Gioconda by E. L. Konigsburg.

 A shorter read, this book explores the mystery behind Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Mona Lisa". My mom read it to my sister and I when we were young, and I have never forgotten it's depth and creativity as the author put her own spin on a historical mystery.

Avid Amish Fiction Reader?

 I suggest Rosanna of the Amish by Joseph W. Yoder.

 Based on a true story, this book takes place in the same area where my dad grew up and I think it is more accurate than most of the popular Amish Fiction books currently on book shelves.


 I also recommend Katie by Clara Bernice Miller.

 Also based on a true story, main character Katie becomes a believer after seeing the legalism in her own Amish community. Despite hardship, she decides to stay and witness to her family and friends. 

In the mood for suspense and mystery?

 Try Playing Saint by Zachery Bartels.

 I started reading this book expecting another Christian suspense novel that was either cliche, too scary for me, or just plain boring, but this book was none of that. I couldn't put it down, but it wasn't just for the plot. This author made me think.


 For any huge Sherlock fans, have you read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King?

  The first in a series, Sherlock Holmes takes an unlikely apprentice, creating an amazing duo in the crime solving world. As with Playing Saint, I was struck by this books' genius plot twists, characterization, and depth. 

Can't Get Enough of Laura Ingalls Wilder?

 Neither can I! That's why I was so excited when my mom found Mary Ingalls On Her Own by Elizabeth Kimmel Willard.

 It tells the story as imagined by the author of Mary's years at the Iowa School for the Blind.


 You might enjoy Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane.

 Written by Laura's daughter, Young Pioneers is the lovely story of a young couple and their struggles as they begin to build their lives together on their new homestead. 

In the mood for a philosophical read?

  I suggest Life of Pi. 

 This book was one of my favorites before the movie made it even more popular. It's about a religious boy who covers all his bases by becoming a Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian and who finds himself wandering in the middle of the ocean with only a tiger for company. I do highly recommend the movie after you read the book.


  There's the classic The Little Prince. 

 If you want a quicker and less "heavy" philosophical read, The Little Prince is the book for you. As a children's book, it is simplistic but packed with meaning and deep thoughts. I also adored the Little Prince movie that was recently released. 

Need a Laugh?

 Try A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain.


  This is the tale of a modern man who somehow finds himself in England during the reign of King Arthur. With his cleverness and wit, he not only survives, but thrives in this community as he incorporates modern ideals and pastimes like printing a newspaper. 


 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  I was skeptical when I began reading this satire for my science fiction lit class, but I couldn't put it down because it was so funny. I was reading it in the library, my face over my mouth so my laughs wouldn't echo throughout the whole building. Please note there are a few swear words in this book. 

 Love Children's Books?

  Have you read Wonder by R. J. Palacio?

 This is another book I read for a lit class, and I adored it. It's about a boy named August who has sever deformities and battles the public school for the first time. I loved the message and loved how Auggie's story was told from multiple points of view.


 For something older but just as sweet, try any book in the Cobble Street Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant.

 I have adored these books since I was a little girl and still love flipping through them. It's about three little girls who live with their Aunt Lucy because their parents are ballet dancers on tour and they have many fun adventures in their neighborhood. These books also have the most beautiful illustrations. 

Need a Fairytale or Fantasy Fix?

 Fall in love with Golden by Cameron Dokey.

 Cameron Dokey puts a unique twist on the familiar story of Rapunzel that has always made me jealous as a writer. 


 I suggest Birdwing by Rafe Martin.

 This is another book I found by accident but fell in love with. It acts as a sequel to the fairytale The Seven Swans and the main character is the youngest prince who was left with one arm and one wing. Though I read it years ago, it has remained one of my favorite fairytale novels. Please note that this book should be for older readers due to one "sexual" scene. 

 Time For a Classic?

  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

  As far as I know, this is a classic that is not very well known that I read for an essay contest that I never entered. Even though I never entered the contest, I enjoyed this book, especially as it has many character's points of view and the whole time the reader is left wondering who stole the moonstone. 


   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

 Part romance, part historical fiction, this tale of new beginnings, new friendships, and new places warmed my heart as the people of a small island occupied by Germany after WW2 begin to come together to discuss books but find so much more. 

Tired of Being Single?

 Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

 Forever one of my favorite books on the planet, Elisabeth Elliot shares the love and heartache from waiting to marry the man she loved while weaving through the stories lessons that will never leave you. If you haven't read this book yet, it is a must read for every (yes, I think guys should read it too) Christian. Consider reading it again if you are feeling discontent in your singleness.


 Read Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley.

 When it comes to books about singleness, this is my second favorite after Passion and Purity. Speaking as a woman who has been single all of her life, Carolyn challenges single ladies to view their single status as a gift from God.   

Just Want Something Different?

  I suggest After Hamelin by Bill Richardson.

  The first word I think of to describe this novel is unique. Richardson creates a new twist on the tale of the Pied Piper, and one girl must enter the world of dreams to rescue all of the children in her town from the evil piper.


 Try The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman.

 Have you ever read a graphic novel? This is my absolute favorite comic. It tells the true story of the author dad, a Holocaust survivor, only as mice. This is an amazing book and changed me as a person as well as my opinion of graphic novels. Please note that even though people are depicted as mice, there are still very hard images and elements to deal with, so read at your own discretion. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One Step at a Time

This room. This blue room with lots of dolls and flowers that hasn't really changed in the last eight years except for some new books, a few recent photos, some new clothes, and a graduation gown hanging in the closet.

 It is cluttered and does not reflect the person I became at college. But I stare at it confused because I want it to stay exactly the same and at the same time want to dramatically change it to a college graduate's room. Except I don't know what that looks like. And the clutter that has built up over eight years and the stuff I have brought home that hasn't seen this room since I left for college just sits on my floor because I don't know where it should go and it overwhelms me.

 Breathe. Find one thing to find a home for. Go through one drawer of my closet full of clothes I wore in middle school. Take it one step at a time.

Those job applications. They're all online now which is handy for me and saves trees and saves me from having to march into a store and ask a stranger if they are hiring and if so could I have an application please? But I wonder if they recieved it. 

 Long applications that want to know every detail of your working life and force you to pretend you actually have had some sort of career and make you skew words to make your job sound more important and more applicable to the job you are currently applying for. The ones that ask you questions about your character like "Have you ever stealed from an employer?" (No, but why would those filling out this application that did steal say yes? Will potential employers just assume I'm lying?) Or the questions about a specific scenerio like, "If you were helping a customer load their car and saw $20 on the ground close to their car, what would you do?" (Well, I would ask the customer if it was theirs. Oh, but another good option is to give it to my supervisor. Wait a minute, which one is right? The question did ask what would you do, but clearly they are trying to see what my character is. Will they think I don't respect my supervisor's authority if I ask the customer if it is their money instead of going straight to the supervisor? Will I not get this job because of answer this question wrong?) I hate long applications, but I take them slowly and one at a time.

 Short applications. Sometimes I can fill them out so fast I wonder if the company is legit. I wonder if I missed something. I think it couldn't be that easy. And I am cruely reminded that I just recieved a bachelor's degree and that I am applying to a fast food place. I need a confidence boost.

 Breathe. Save your progress. Save the link to the application. Don't forget to write down the passwords for the account that is probably your 27th. Apply to each job you find where there is the slightest chance they would think you worthy. Keep searching for more.

 My novel. It will be done someday. I promise myself. But inspiration cannot be forced. Inspiration and words comes in bursts and are never chronological. I feel guilty writing if there's a box I need to sort through, a job application I need to finish, or dishes to wash. Except for my faith, except for people, writing is the most important thing in my life, but I can't take it as seriously as I want. Not without a job. Not with a cluttered room. Not with loans I will need to make payments on in six months. Not with this world that refuses to take artists seriously.

 Breathe. Write because that is what you do. Just write every day, whether it's five words or five hundred words. 

 That bridesmaid dress. The pretty navy one hanging in my closet that is too big for me. I've never really ordered a special, fancy dress before. How was I supposed to know what size to get when the chart says I am three different sizes in different areas? Apparently that's normal. First I need to see how to handle a return. Then I need to check if they have the dress in a store near me. Then I need to go to that store, try different sizes on, then get the dress in the correct size. Oh, and I need a plane ticket. And where am I staying that weekend? College didn't prepare me for this. Where was "Adulting 101", "Intro to Logistics", or "How to Pay for and Get to Your Friends' Out of Town Wedding"? 

 Breathe. It's already in steps. Go to the store's website. Start looking at flights.

 These sweet graduation cards. Handed to me. Mailed to me.  All saying congratulations and praying for you and enjoy your bright future and God has great things for you. I tell myself that when I apply to local drug stores, that God has great things for me. Is it wrong to be afraid that God's great plan for me right now is working at that drug store? They should pray harder.

 Breathe. Make a list. Eight thank you notes to write. Did I miss one? Do one thank you note a day.

 Dinner. I need to help my parents out and do my part now that I'm back at home. But what to make? The frozen chicken? The frozen ground beed? The fresh chicken thighs in the fridge? Should I make something I need practice with, like anything with a white sauce, or should I make something I know I can do so that I don't need to ask Mom for help and then I can feel like an accomplished adult?

 I look for flour in the upper cabinet, but it's not there. It would be there in my kitchen in my apartment, but not in Mom's kitchen. I reach for a spatula in the drawer to the right of the stove, but it doesn't exist. That's a drawer in my kitchen and not Mom's. My kitchen. My kitchen no longer exists. I have no kitchen. I turned in the key to that kitchen when I moved out of the campus apartment.

 Breathe. Choose a recipe. Thaw the chicken. Try new recipes on the weekends. Someday you will have your own kitchen again.

That scrapbook I'm going to buy. I'll fill it with photos and movie tickets and church bulletins and freinds' senior recital programs and notes and Bible verses I taped to my desk. I'll fill it with four years of memories so that when I open it I'll be back in college, looking at faces and places I want to go back to and others I am happy are over. But it will be sad, mostly because as I am scrapbooking, as I'm looking back, I won't have had any way to move ahead yet. Though I'm not sure what would make me move ahead. A job? A new location? Time?

 Breathe. Print a photo, remember, then stick to the page so that you can go back and remember, but until that moment forget because it is painful to hold onto. That picture with freshman roommates and freshman smiles and freshman memories that makes you want to cry because you loved them so. Love them still. And they love you, but it's different. So different. Tissue. Glue. Which pretty paper should you use? Then stop and put away for another day to deal with another memory.

 Those last few books of the Bible. The end of my Bible reading plan. I won't tell how long it has taken me. Zephaniah. Haggai. Zechariah. Malachi. What do they have to do with me? What do they have to do with cooking dinner, a bridesmaid dress, job applications, or my room? But I read them and fill in the little boxes saying I read all three chapters of Zephaniah. 

 Breathe. Keep reading. See the pattern of Israel or Judah or a neighboring city and their wickedness and abominations against the Lord. Notice God's anger. See God's destruction and judgement of His people and the nations. Realize your own sin, idultry, bad attitudes about your post-graduation life, your hopelessness. Read about God's mercy in the end. Remember His death on the cross. Tell yourself the hope you have in Him that the Israelites only dreamed of and waited for.

 My journal. In my head, I see my journal as a cliff. A cliff I have to jump off. I'm not sure why. It's a puzzle to me. Maybe because there is so much to write about and when I write about it, it will become real. It will become a documented part of my history. Maybe I will write about one thing each day. One little thing until it will be all of the things and I'll have landed on the other side of the cliff. 

 Breathe. Force yourself to pick up the pen. Write about the one event or feeling that chronologically comes first. Write until it becomes painful. Stop. Then pick up the pen again the next day.

The next time someone tells me congratulations I wish I could look them in the eye and say, "I'm sorry. I know it is exciting and I know you truly are happy for me, but I have yet to be excited about graduating except the graduation ceremony itself which is now over." Everyone talks about senioritis. But no one told me about the post graduation slump. 

 But I guess I'll take it one step at a time. One plea to God. One job application. One bag of clothes to Good Will. 425 words. Another job application. Zephaniah. A thank you note. Another surrender of fears and doubts to God.

 And I wait for the sun.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Exploring- Need Your Feedback!

I have always viewed this blog in two ways:

1. A way to share my thoughts and life with people.

2. A way to consistently write.

 I haven't run out of "ideas" for this blog. I mostly write about my life and what God has been teaching me, and as long as I am living, there will always be something to write about.

 But I want to know what you would like to read. What you would like to know. What you would like for me to share. I am not a person that believes in writing about what is popular or what will make money. Generally, I will write what I want, and I truly believe that is what produces the best writing.

 But I can also be selfish. I am considering exploring more with this blog, so what would YOU like to read about?

 Writing? The life of a writer? Life after college? Book reviews? Poetry? Photography?

 Please let me know in the comments what you would like to read about!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

On Graduating

 These are my thoughts as I sit in the library with only one paper and an apartment to pack standing between me and graduation:

I am tired. I am worn out not only from finals and two long weeks of papers and presentations and packing up my life, but I am worn out from four years of school.

 I am tired of having to learn the things people think I should learn and learning them the way they think I should learn it. I'm sorry, but not everyone learns well simply from presenting and memorizing three months worth of material to take one exam where you will forget everything as soon as you walk out the door.

 I am ready to be done constantly studying and preparing for something that doesn't feel tangible or attainable because I'm not sure what a humanities degree prepares me for. A job? But what job? Higher education?

 I am tired of the people I pass by but no longer know.

 I am ready to leave the dorms with small, cramped rooms that you are afraid to damage but are already so worn down it's hard to imagine anyone noticing that dent in the wall you made.

 I am ready to have the time to pursue my writing without homework getting in the way.

 I am ready for people to look at me as a true adult and not simply an adult "on hold" in college.

 I am ready to pour everything I have learned into a fullfilling job.

 I am ready to enter a library with no intention of studying, but just be there to look for a good novel to read.

 But I am not ready for a major change.

 I am not ready to leave this campus that has been home for the last four years.

 I am not ready to leave this town and the friends I have made.

 I am not ready to say goodbye to the professors that have had such an impact on me.

 I am not ready to go into the world and say, "Here I am, world. I am a Christ following humanities major graduate who just wants to write novels and get married and in the meantime is looking for a job where she can simply feel fullfilled by applying her knowledge of writing to a wonderful company."

 I am not ready for a job that has nothing to do with my major.

 I'm not ready to simply discover what God has next for me.

 I'm not ready to go home again, back to my old room that looks exactly the same as when I last looked at it before leaving for college freshman year, and live in that room that hasn't changed even though I have.

 I am not ready to walk across that stage and say goodbye to everything I have known these four years.

 But I am in three days.

 So these are my thoughts as the sun bathes me in its warmth, as I  sit in the library with only one paper and an apartment to pack up between me and graduation.