Books: September Edition


Giddy Up, Eunice: Because Women Need Each Other by Sophie Hudson

Since this book is so new, I had to wait a while for it to arrive from InterLibrary Loan, but once it arrived and I began reading, what a gift it was! Sophie outlines the inter-generational relationships of three pair of women from the Bible: Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1), Ruth and Naomi (book of Ruth), and Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1) – how both older and younger generations of women need the support of one another. She interweaves her own personal stories, some filled with deep vulnerability, some with chuckle-worthy humor, but overall it was a complete package of encouragement and truth I didn’t know I needed to hear/read.

I rank this as the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year!

Furthermore, even before having access to this book, I had signed up for the new Beth Moore Bible study, Entrusted, a study of 2 Timothy, with an inter-generational group of women at my church. I’m in the thick middle of a “sacred echo,” where God is getting my attention with some of the same themes in Giddy Up, Eunicementoring, inter-generational friendships, purpose, love, and service.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ~ Romans 12:10 (ESV)


The Fireman by Joe Hill

When I heard the premise of this book earlier in the year, I was intrigued: an epidemic is sweeping the nation, where the spore “Dragonscale,” is infecting people, causing them to catch on fire. Yet, one man, The Fireman, has somehow figured out a way to tame the flames. Even though this apocalyptic book clocks in with 752 pages, I found it a fast and compelling read, suspenseful and exciting, but not overtly scary (which surprised me since Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King). Additional themes include altruism, group dynamics, and reliant trust on those who become your “family” during hard times.


The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

This was featured prominently in the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading list. When it was on sale for Kindle earlier in the summer, I went ahead and took advantage of the discount. While some raved about this book, I simply found it heart-stirring as kindness is shown and attempts at understanding are given among several unique inter-generational relationships (there’s that sacred echo again). Additional themes include the expectations we have for others and the importance of accepting people as they are.

images (1).jpg

Armada by Ernest Cline

In April I mentioned reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which I enjoyed so much I requested the audio book version (narrated by Wil Wheaton) and listened to it with The Optometrist in May. It was a treat for me to “read” it once more, this time with the added bonus of being able to discuss it with him (or discuss it after I had woken up from taking a nap in the car).

When I saw Cline’s newest book at the public library a few weeks ago, I promptly grabbed it and decided it would be our next read-aloud together (even though I’m sure Wil Wheaton’s performance for this one is equally fun). As I read it, there were many “Am I saying this right?” moments to my husband, since he’s the gamer/sci-fi aficionado, but I hung in there as I learned some additional  gaming/sci-fi lingo and occasionally earned “+10 nerd points” from The Optometrist when I remembered a quote or situation from an existing book or movie.

The premise follows a similar trajectory as Ready Player One: everyday video game playing teenage nerdy types are tasked with a life-changing video game challenge. But this time the ante is upped when our hero Zack is tasked with helping save the world after he discovers there’s more than meets the eye with Armada, his favorite video game.

Ahead in October are several contenders for our university’s 2017 common read initiative!


Books: August Edition


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

What a treat to return to the world of Harry Potter! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up where The Deathly Hallows (book 7) left off with exciting themes of past regret influencing the present. The reader is also introduced to some new, memorable characters who synchronously fit in with those found in the original canon.

Normally, my imagination creates a vivid world, characters, and scenery for a story, but reading this was a bit trickier this time. I harkened back to my fond mental images from the original books, famous depictions from the movies, plus incorporated the stage directions as I imagined how this would be acted out live in a theatre. Yet after reading a couple of scenes, I began to slip into the flow of the play, everything merged in my brain, and the story swept me away.


Trashed by Derf Backderf

I heard about this book through a librarian newsletter/e-mail and thought it sounded fascinating: a graphic novel about garbage. It’s semi-autobiographical, based on Backderf’s previous experience as a garbage man, and sheds light on a subject many people don’t want to think about. Yet, my takeaway has been to be more mindful of what I throw into the trashcan and be more diligent about my recycling efforts. Every little bit matters!


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I raved about this book when I read it in May from a digital ARC , and was thrilled to choose it for my August Book of the Month pick in hardback! As soon as it arrived I asked The Optometrist, “Would you like for me to read this aloud to you?” With his fascination of and ease in understanding sci-fi themes, I had a feeling he would enjoy the plot, pacing, and scientific concepts, and I was anxious to re-read it.

As I shared before, this novel addresses quantum physics, is filled with suspense and hope, and the overarching theme of the book centers around fighting for love and being at peace with the decisions we make. The second go around was just as enjoyable, if not more so since I was able to share and discuss it with my love, and remains my favorite book read in 2016 (at least so far).


Fire in Beulah by Rilla Askew

Recently our university chose this as our inaugural Freshman Common Read, and since I’m teaching a small group of freshmen, it’s imperative I read the book they are required to read. Fire in Beulah is a historically fictitious account of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, of which I knew nothing previously.

Askew doesn’t hold back as she interweaves stories of Oklahomans (white, black, and Indian) and their prejudices, in a gritty, raw, gut-wrenching, and violent way. (Overall, “gloom, despair, and agony on me.”) It’s been years since I’ve read anything this emotionally difficult, the last being Push by Sapphire.

The author is somewhat of a local, whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting on a few occasions, and had previously read another of her novels, Kind of Kin, which addresses the current state of immigration in the United States. I found it impactful, but interlaced with humor. In comparison, and in my opinion, Fire in Beulah is definitely not for the faint of heart. Yet it has made me more curious to find out more historical facts about this tragic conflict in our state’s and nation’s history. Plus it’s good to remember that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

If you’re interested in learning more, this segment from 60 Minutes provides interviews and background information about”Tulsa burning.”

(And looking ahead to September, I’ve recently begun Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson and One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood.)

Just another day…well, yes & no

As an academic librarian I have a 12-month contract, so while today is just another Monday reporting to the university, it’s also the first day of the fall semester.

Thinking back on previous first days of school, I’m reminded that today marks my seventh first day of school working in my current library, and if you count the three years I worked at a community college (pre-grad school), this totals a decade of first days of school working in higher education. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty proud of that!

Last year our Provost shared with the incoming freshmen how, regardless of their chosen major and future career aspirations, they would more than likely be working in a profession that served others. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, helping me realize this broader goal of serving others as an extension of my life-service to Christ is what motivates me to keep-on-keepin’-on. Seven years in, I’m thankful I remain excited to partner with faculty and learn alongside them, plus connect with their students as I teach them effective and transferable research skills. Even though I continue to do the same thing year in and year out, new professional and personal opportunities continually arise and keep me feeling vibrant and fresh.

It’s also good for me to remember today marks a milestone in the lives of many freshmen stepping foot on campus. Their first day of college signifies something more than just “it’s what I do after I graduate from high school,” since many come from very rural areas and are first generation college students. The pursuit of a college degree changes not only their lives, but alters the course of history for those generations to follow. How humbling that I get to play a small role in their academic journey and eventual achievement.

Today also marks the first day of school for our nephew who begins 1st grade! Our favorite little strawberry-blond boy is excited about this new year of school and his new teacher. He enters 1st grade reading like a champ (!!!) and we are all excited for the good things in store for him this year.

So regardless of age, here’s to a renewed commitment of serving, growing, and learning!


New Favorite Lipstick 

I’m a pretty die hard Mary Kay girl, and have been for as long as I’ve worn makeup, which began during my teenage years. While I love their skin care, makeup, and overall product line, I’m also a sucker for pretty lipglosses and lipsticks when I see something that catches my eye in a drug store or beauty emporium.

For the past decade or so I have indulged in something new and shiny at Sephora every now and then, but recently an Ulta opened in a nearby town. Since I had never shopped there, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about and was interested in trying out a bold red lip. As I looked through their selection during my maiden visit, I discovered NYX Cosmetics. I was impressed with the tremendous selection of colors and the price was very affordable (~$4.00)!

That day I left with NYX Eros (Round Case Lipstick) LSS536


I now enjoy rocking the bold red look every now and then.

Then this summer, I wanted to try a bright, cheerful pink and NYX came to the rescue once more!


NYX Hot Pink (Round Case Lipstick) LSS571A

Both colors are long-lasting, blend well into my lips, don’t give off any funny taste, and give me confidence in sharing a smile with someone! The red is fun for sassy occasions, but I find myself wearing the pink for a more everyday pop of color.

Here’s how they both look side-by-side against my skin.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll even pick up a warm neutral color as the seasons change and fall gets ever closer!

What I’ve Learned: June & July 2016

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past two months of summer.

  1. After returning from a lovely getaway to Branson and finishing a wonderful book at the end of May/beginning of June, I was left feeling quite sad. The thought occurred to me, I don’t like things I love to be over or come to an end. My mom can attest to the fact I’ve had these tendencies since I was a little girl, and apparently, some things just don’t change over time.
  2. I am much more productive when I have some accountability in my life. It’s easy for my summer (work) routine to become a little lethargic, but when I know I have a deadline and people are coming in and out of my office more, it’s amazing how much more focused and productive I am. It leaves me with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment at the end of the work day.
  3. While I’ve been a knitter since 2003, I’m never above being challenged by a new combination of stitches in a pattern. This month I worked on/finished knitting the French Cancan shawl, which included a beautiful lace & French braid border. The instructions were intimidating for me at first, especially the yarn over (YO) that began a row. But after trying other methods, I realized I just needed to trust the pattern and it worked!
  4. I’ve finally hopped on the Hamilton bandwagon – what an amazing display of musical brilliance! The Optometrist and I downloaded the cast recording and listened to it on our road trip to Santa Fe. It was a perfect accompaniment to appreciate a founding father and a modern musical theatre visionary as we traveled across great American prairies, deserts, and mountains.
    What I did not know was that Lin-Manuel Miranda was one of the 2015 MacArthur Foundation recipients (a.k.a. genius grant). Of course he was.
  5. Each time I’ve been to the southwest, I’ve picked up a little piece of turquoise jewelry. During our recent travels to Santa Fe, I bought a lovely turquoise pendant to add to my collection. The gentleman at the jewelry store shared with me how turquoise differs in color throughout different regions in the southwest based on the amount of carbon in the earth. I found this science fascinating and fell in love with the lighter look of “dry creek” turquoise.
  6. A new recipe reminded me of the half-used bag of quinoa lurking in my pantry. This protein-packed grain ended up making more than I bargained for, and thus helpfully sustained several dishes a few weeks ago (1 cup of dry = over 5 cups cooked). It was convenient to have this rice alternative pre-cooked and in the fridge, just ready for a quick reheat/add/stir into dishes with chicken or shrimp and fresh summer veggies like corn on the cob, squash, and zucchini.
  7. The Optometrist and I are learning how to play violin! He’s a mandolinist, which has the same tuning structure as violin, and I last played violin my junior year of college during a semester-long string fundamentals course. We have a dear, talented friend from church who is teaching us how to play and we’re seeing improvement already!

6 Recent Leadership Lessons

Throughout this calendar year I am serving as the chair of a statewide library organization. I’ve been a part of the group for about 5 years and it’s been a terrific way to meet fellow librarians, plus has served as a fun geography enhancement as I’ve tied together names, faces, and colleges/universities. So, when I volunteered to be the vice chair in 2015, I only thought it would look great on my annual report…but didn’t quite realize, until after the fact, that I had just volunteered myself to be the chair in 2016. So, there you go – lesson learned #1: always know the full scope of what you’re volunteering to do.

Lesson learned #2 – I never realized how much I appreciated communication and transparency until the previous chair stepped down and I assumed my role as chair in January. My predecessor is a great librarian and was a terrific chair woman, but her leadership style was very solitary. Not me! I’ve included my vice chair on so many details in order for her to not be in the dark about things like communicating with the group via the e-mail list serv, maintenance of social media accounts, and many, many details surrounding the annual summer conference.

Lesson learned #3 – surround yourself with good, hard working, responsible people. The success of last Friday’s annual conference was enhanced by the fact that I could ask individuals on the board to do something, and they did. While I stewed about a lot of little details, I knew I was taking care of my tasks, and they were taking care of theirs.

Lesson learned #4 – I don’t know how I could have planned a statewide conference without e-mail. How did people plan any kind of conference before the invention of e-mail? Seriously?! In addition to e-mail, the voice/video conferencing product Zoom was helpful in chatting with presenters beforehand to “meet” each other online before the actual face-to-face conference.

Lesson learned #5 – Google Drive is a gift that makes my life easier. Whether sharing documents and registration lists, or keeping track of call for proposals and registration forms with others, the Google cloud unifies the ability to easily access important information at work and home.

Lastly, lesson learned #6 – “Saying no isn’t an unnecessary rejection. It’s actually a necessary protection of our Best Yes answers.” ~ Lysa Terkeurst The Best Yes (p. 171) For my transportation to the conference (2 1/2 hours away), I was thankful to drive a university fleet vehicle. Originally I thought I would leave by 5:30 a.m. and invite local colleagues to ride with me so they wouldn’t have to spend their own gas money getting to and from the conference. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized if I drove by myself to the conference site the night before it began, I would arrive in enough time to help the local librarians prepare for the next morning, and get more/better sleep since I only had a 5 minute commute to our host campus. Saying “no” to helping 3 others allowed me to say “yes” to helping present my best self to all 47 attendees.

And who knows what other leadership opportunities God has in store in the months and years to come! For now, I’m thankful for His provision and the strength He gives me to serve Him while serving others.

Books: July Edition


The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle

As I mentioned at the end of June, I was ready to begin a new month by reading something non-fiction with less of a death-and-destruction theme. This humorous and self-deprecating memoir about marriage fit both criteria! This one has been on my Kindle for many months, but I felt the time was right to be reminded about how God’s gift of marriage can be both frustrating and hilarious at times, and ultimately rewarding as you live life with your best friend.


In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

I have LOVED Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing ever since I experienced her Pulitzer Prize winning book of short stories Interpreter of Maladies over 10 years ago. Her three other novels and books of short stories have been ones I’ve loved as well. This short memoir, which also sat on my Kindle for many months, was a departure from her typical fiction writing, as she describes a long and devoted journey of learning how to read, write, and speak Italian. Her ultimate decision to move to Rome to fully immerse herself with the language and culture was met with ups and downs, and this memoir was crafted from these experiences. The novel was written fully in Italian, translated back into English by Ann Goldstein, and even though Lahiri has returned to the U.S., she continues to pursue Italian, her chosen third language.

Had I not already known her writer’s voice, this would have been a tough initiation for a first-time read, but I applaud her adventurous pursuit and publishing something new, different, and vulnerable.


Looking for Alaska by John Green

I love John Green and would venture a guess that most librarians have equally strong devotion to this wildly popular young adult author. The term “young adult” didn’t really exist when I was a teen, except for authors like Judy Blume and Lois Duncan, whom we now view as trailblazers in defining and opening up a door for content like this to become a genre.

That being said, in my teen years I did a pretty good job of self-censoring what I read and Looking for Alaska would have definitely fallen into this category. I’ve previously read Paper Towns (so far my favorite of Green’s) and The Fault in Our Stars. Yes, there’s foul language, teenage sex, and use of underage substances, but the award-winning Mr. Green also paints his characters with complexity, angst, longing, and desires to be known. Two decades removed from my teens, I can now read stories like these and appreciate how these universal themes draw not only adolescents, but readers of all ages to his writing.


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Stories about the love of books and reading are hard for me to resist. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikery by Gabriella Zevin being another. However, I found it difficult to connect and immerse myself into this one. The overall plot was sweet, the characters quirky and likable, but the flow of the plot was slow and it took me longer than usual to finish this debut from Swedish author Bivald.


Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

It’s safe to say Rachel Hauck is my new favorite inspirational fiction author. I most recently read the standalone novel The Wedding Dress in May , along with her Songbird Novel Series (trilogy) a year or so ago. Her plots feature sweet characters who live ordinary lives, but have some kind of special, divine encounter along the way. She weaves together earthly love stories with God’s eternal love for his children. I look forward to working my way through the remaining three books that follow in The Royal Wedding Series!