Books: August Edition

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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

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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!

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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.
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    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.
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  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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Summer Road Trip: Santa Fe

Our summer has been filled with several wonderful road trips: two shorter ones to Missouri, one for a stay in Branson and one to visit my parents during a family reunion. But our big road trip is one we have been looking forward to for many months – a long road trip, across three states, to New Mexico. All in honor of attending a beloved friend’s wedding in Santa Fe. We both have visited Santa Fe in years past, prior to our marriage, but to revisit as adults allowed us to appreciate this unique city in a whole new way.

When compared with the cost of airfare, driving was the cheaper alternative and it gave us a chance to travel along Route 66 (I-40) and leave behind the beautiful, green Ozarks in Eastern Oklahoma and adjust to the scenery of wide, flat plains in Western Oklahoma, giant wind farms in the Texas panhandle, and mile-long views across mesas as our altitude increased entering New Mexico.

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To break up the trip we determined the first leg would end in Amarillo, TX – a halfway point in our journey west. We embraced being tourists as we ate at The Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner and enjoyed a surprisingly well-cooked steak, plus we got to be spectators as two Australians attempted the 72 oz. steak challenge (we left before they were through, but the completion of their meal wasn’t looking promising…).

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As the sun set in the west, we drove just outside of town to Cadillac Ranch along Route 66. I previously saw this from a bus window, as I traveled to Mesa, AZ, with friends in college, but this was my first visit up close.

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The ten upraised cadillacs are in the absolute middle of someone’s farm with growing crops all around. It’s kitchy Americana at its best and there was something unifying about being there with other strangers, enjoying a moment of constantly evolving modern art as the sun set – even if it was only to observe and take pictures. (We were offered spray paint, but passed.)

Accompanying us across state lines was the Hamilton cast recording. It felt completely American to learn more about this Founding Father from a modern visionary, while traveling the Mother Road. Little by little we climbed in elevation, finally reaching 7,000+ feet, and arrived in Santa Fe.

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The wedding party and many guests, including us, stayed at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, situated within easy walking distance to the historic downtown square. We were greeted with warm sun on our faces and low humidity (hallelujah, Praise the Lamb) as we ate lunch up the street at Rooftop Pizza. Then were so pleased to get to tour the famous Loretto Chapel, next door to our hotel.

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“Inside the Gothic structure is the staircase referred to as miraculous, inexplicable, marvelous and is sometimes called St. Joseph’s Staircase. The stairway confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20′ tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails.”

Read more here about this miraculous staircase.

As we unloaded our car, we were thrilled to see our friend, the bride-to-be, with whom we shared hugs and misty eyes. We were not a part of the wedding party, but served as loving and supportive friends and were excited about the opportunity to join the festivities in her destination wedding. Prior to the rehearsal dinner that evening, generously thrown by the groom’s parents, we did a little shopping at a local knife shop where The Optometrist found a lovely damascus steel pocket knife, his Santa Fe momento.

Saturday morning I enjoyed a complimentary yoga class on the hotel grounds beside the pool, which was an exciting experience to practice outdoors for the first time. Our teacher was well-trained, a great communicator, and reminded us that practicing yoga at 7,000 feet was probably not normal, thus we needed to listen to our bodies, not view our practice as a competition, and offer kindness to ourselves.

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Although eventful, the rest of the day unfolded smoothly, allowing me to purchase a lovely piece of “dry creek” turquoise (the different colors/shades are determined by the amount of copper in the soil) and have a lunch date with fellow wedding friends at The Shed, where we enjoyed some amazingly spicy huevos rancheros!

A short walk across the street and we arrived at The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the location of our friend’s wedding.

The bride, a fellow optometrist, played matchmaker for us, forever cementing her as our friend. She’s a fellow knitter, was with me when I found my wedding dress, and has remained an especially dear friend in the years since she and my husband have graduated and begun their careers.

The wedding venue was gorgeous and inviting. The cantor, Carmen Florez Mansi, was incredible (the best soprano soloist I’ve ever heard sing/perform/lead worship), and when the organist opened up all the stops as the bride entered, I wept tears of joy over how much I love our friend and how happy I was to witness her marriage to her long-awaited cowboy.

The ceremony and mass were sacred and holy, with seamless transitions between the portions of the mass and the wedding ceremony. The reception afforded us opportunities to get caught up with other optometry friends and share love with the sweet bride and her loving groom.

If you haven’t ever visited Santa Fe before, check it out – it’s worth the trip!

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