Books: November Edition

It’s been a lighter month of reading, but these were both enjoyable books, although very different in theme and writing style.

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The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

I always enjoy reading Christmas-themed books throughout November and December and this one was immediately available via Overdrive from the public library. This was a simple story of faith, honoring a family obligation, and the special connections that exist between felines and humans.

A few years ago I would not have voluntarily read a book with the word “cat” in the title, but after our rescue cat Sylvester came into our lives and home over a year and a half ago, I have a soft spot for kitties, and this was a wholesome story that demonstrates the power of matching good pets within homes and families.

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Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson

Yes, this book will make you want to eat a hearty, all-American breakfast. Yes, this book will make you want to travel to Paris to eat a hearty, all-American breakfast at Breakfast in America.

What I wasn’t expecting was for this book to be filled with such a thorough background, business details, a long timeline, and the many personal ups and downs Carlson recounts in establishing his overseas business Breakfast in America in Paris. Yet, seeing his dream fulfilled and becoming so successful was rewarding to read.

My thanks to NetGalley for this digital ARC!

More Christmas (and non-Christmas) reading to come in December as the end of the semester nears, giving me more time to read, and Christmas break awaits!

 

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2015 Event Recap

2016 rolled in relatively quietly last night after The Optometrist and I enjoyed a night in, watching episodes of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, then enjoying a pre-midnight bubbly blueberry juice toast.

And as I reflect on 2015 this afternoon, I figure the best way of recapping the year is to do so season by season, maybe filling in a few gaps that were missing since the fall was oh, so busy.

Winter:
It was lovely having a few snow days where the university was closed. This gave us time to enjoy relaxing at home, fixing yummy meals together. The “knitting factory” was also in full production as I churned out dish cloths, baby booties, blankets, hats, and a few knitted & crocheted items for a local fund raiser.  Professionally, I began the process of co-authoring my first journal article with four professors, which lasted most of the semester (but has finally been published!).

Spring:
We received so much rain this past spring. It finally resulted in water tables of local aquifers being restored after drought conditions, but our backyard turned into a pond many times throughout the spring and early summer.

After a short Spring Break trip to Branson in March, we returned home and adopted our kitty Sylvester from the Humane Society. Among many things, he enjoys exploring in my closet, and here, he looks extremely cat-like. He has become our little “fur baby,” love sponge.

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My parents paid us a visit over Easter, we viewed one of the Blood Moons through The Optometrist’s telescope, and the end of the semester brought about my birthday, which was spent with my in-laws, and visiting Crystal Bridges. The traveling exhibit Van Gogh to Rothko was on display and I loved  getting to see works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Mark Rothko, but my absolute favorite was Peasants in the Field, Ergany, 1890 by Camille Pissarro. (We have since ordered a reproduction to hang over our mantle to enjoy year round.)

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Summer:
June was a heavy travel month – we enjoyed getting to see my parents during our (shared) anniversary trip to Branson and a family reunion, plus we loved our first big trip to Seattle for an optometry conference and vacation.

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Fall:
Professionally, I laced up my administrator shoes and learned a great deal about communication, teamwork, and partnership as my colleague Susan and I co-coordinated the University Strategies course for 800+ freshmen. Here we look a little ragged but triumphant as we just finished overseeing 7 hours worth of class the first two days of the semester.
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The fall also included helping coordinate an inaugural library conference, plus attend several other conferences and meetings in the area and throughout the state. I step into a new leadership role in 2016, where I will be traveling monthly to college and university libraries, meeting hard-working librarians, and learning new tips and tricks along the way.

This past semester, Monday was my long day, when I oversaw four hours of classes. During my lunch break, almost every Monday I met up for lunch with Lauren, with my sweet sister in Jesus. Our discussions of relationships, graduate school, faith, and culture were the perfect opportunity for my body and soul to be nourished.

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October was another blur of a month – it began as we spent a week in New Orleans for another optometry conference.
Our first evening, we happened onto Mulate’s, near the convention center and our hotel, where we ate delicious food, accompanied by live cajun music.

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The Optometrist always loves visiting local aquariums when we travel, so we enjoyed the wide variety of fish, birds, and aquatic life at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (and casting our vote for their new albino alligator to be named Chompitoulas).

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We also relished the chance to spend the day with my BFF Addie,

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with whom we took a tour of Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District,

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and visited the French Quarter to eat beignets at Cafe du Monde.
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I did a bit of solo exploring around the city while The Optometrist was in meetings and conferences. It was fun taking Uber for the first time to the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden.

Later in the week we enjoyed a lovely meal at Muriel’s in Jackson Square with a friend & former classmate of The Optometrist. And lastly, before we flew home, we quickly worked our way through the National WWII Museum. It was incredibly well done, still expanding, and we wish we would have had more time to explore this treasure trove of history. If we return to New Orleans, this will definitely be a place we would like to visit again, and for a longer amount of time!

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The next weekend we enjoyed celebrating the marriage of my husband’s younger sister to her sweetheart.

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As November gave way to December, so did my body to that rotten end-of-the-semester-sickness/exhaustion. I had to sit out all of my Christmas singing plans at church and in the community. Instead, I languished on the couch with Sylvester as my nurse, watched some heartwarming Christmas movies, and had a blast wrapping up my Christmas knitting.

Half Pint Mittens by Susan B. Anderson
The Force Awakens Hat by Hannah L

Time with family and beloved friends during Thanksgiving and Christmas rounded out the year nicely.

When 2015 began I had no idea how much I would learn, grow, and experience. Yes, it’s been downright stressful at times, but totally worth the ride. Here’s hoping 2016 will bring about even more similar opportunities!

“What a great way to start the first day of the rest of my life.” ~ Nickel Creek – Rest of my Life from A Dotted Line (video here)

Caring and Sharing

It’s the last day of the semester – hallelujah. After five years as an academic librarian, I find my body feeling the effects of this being the most full and stressful one yet. But how I’ve grown, learned, expanded my horizons, gotten to know others better, and gained confidence in my abilities!  At a recent faculty member’s retirement celebration, he shared these words of wisdom, “May your footsteps be many, deep, and found leaving an impact.” As he leaves at the top of his career in education, his example of continuing to be engaged with students, academic life, and the community has made an impression on me, giving me a goal to emulate as I, too, strive to help others and leave my mark on this place.

Last Saturday the Optometrist and I had an opportunity to spend time with friends with whom we have shared food, laughter, music, and life in both past and recent years. Saturday morning we helped co-host a friend’s baby shower at the home of our mutually dear friend who lives just outside of town. The view of the rolling hills in the distance and grazing cattle in the pasture was one of many special memories made on this day.

 

Our friends are both originally from China, so we, as their American friends, decided to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we showered them with food, gifts, prayers, and love.

 

Later in the afternoon we met up with friends who were passing through the area on their family vacation. Since it had been years since we last saw one another, our time chatting over ice cream was all too brief. I’ve known about their visit for a few months, which gave me time to endeavor on my second sewing project: a trio of string backpacks for their three girls. I used this video from the Crafty Gemini that helped guide me through my sewing project.

The girls’ mom had shared with me their interests, and with a little help from Hancock Fabrics, I was able to customize each one with their first initial and included a little fun pad/crayon set inside. The older girls like My Little Pony and the littlest one enjoys Curious George, and, thankfully, not only were they the appropriate size, but they seemed to enjoy my little homemade gifts of love. Since they were en route to their vacation destination, I hope they were able to use their little backpacks to hold not only what they brought with them, but also include treasures found along the way.

Other highlights from our spring have included:

  • Continued adjustment and fun with Sylvester. He’s gradually learning the house rules and we just have to be consistent in enforcing them. Here’s a photo of him being sweet and cuddly, which is his personality about 98% of the time.

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  •  Enjoying the beautiful dogwood tree outside our bedroom window. As a Show-Me girl, dogwoods are always reminiscent of my home state each spring.

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  • A recent afternoon of professional development at OSU included lunch at Eskimo Joe’s beforehand. My knitting kept my hands busy we waited for our food and served as a conversation enhancer (as it most usually does) with the librarians sitting near me.

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For now, all that’s left are attending our respective college commencement exercises tomorrow morning and afternoon and the semester is officially complete! Never mind the fact that we both return to work on Monday as intercession begins. Yet for now, once more, we’ve added our footprints to this academic year, thanks to the Lord opening up doors and sustaining us every step of the way.

 

Bringing Home Sylvester: A Feline Adoption Story

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be blogging about adopting a cat, I would have openly scoffed at this notion (or maybe even laughed in your face). A series of unfortunate events and encounters with cats throughout my elementary and junior high years developed a fear of all-things-cat that followed me well into my adulthood.

Fast forward closer to the present when the Optometrist entered the scene of my life, whose experiences with cats had been positive and where aggressive behavior was the exception, rather than the rule. Early in our relationship I described my previous, fear-inducing experiences with cats I had tried, unsuccessfully, to befriend. He patiently listened and said, “The types of cats you’re describing would be like trying to have a homeless, schizophrenic person come and live in your house.”

Bingo!

Once this analogy took root in my mind it began to turn the tide; slowly allowing me to be brave and more open to the prospect of overcoming my feline fears.

Even though the Optometrist loves animals, I appreciate how he has been patient with me and hasn’t pushed, prodded, or begged to adopt a cat in order for me to “just get over it.” We had also talked about adopting a dog, but we knew the ease of caring for a cat would be more fitting with our current lifestyle. Therefore, over the past year or so we have routinely gone to the local pet store, which houses a few kitties from the Humane Society in need of adoption, in order for my animal-loving husband to get his pet therapy fix. Little did I realize that these trips were serving as a type of therapy for me, too.

The true turning point occurred on February 21 during a drop-in, let’s go-pet-the-kitties visit. We entered the store and saw a handsome white and black, male cat named Sylvester sitting amid the inventory along one of the aisles. As we squatted down to pet him, he left his perch on the boxes and promptly crawled into my lap.

At that moment something inside of me melted. I looked at the Optometrist and he knew that a special, tipping-point moment had just occurred. As if Sylvester knew what was going on, a moment later he took his leave with me and promptly crawled in the Optometrist’s lap.

After that evening we began talking about adoption what-ifs and gathered more background information about Sylvester:

  • he had previously been adopted by an older gentleman, but after a short amount of time was returned to the Humane Society after his owner began having health concerns.
  • it has been around 2 years since he re-entered the Humane Society, making him around 5-6 years old.
  • during this stint he tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Because of this diagnosis, which we will have a second test performed to confirm, we think his condition scared off some prospective adopters.

Yet none of these sad facts deterred us from moving ahead and finally deciding that he needed his forever home to be with us.

This past Friday, March 20, we made it official and brought him home! Friday was also the first day of Spring, for which the symbolism of embracing new life and the inevitably of seasons changing is not lost on me.

Since he is an older cat and has been in a home before, he made a fairly seamless transition and has been such a good kitty: eating and drinking from his food and water bowls, using his litter box, engaging with us as we play with him, not scratching the furniture, and continuing his pattern of affection by crawling into our laps to be petted.

We’ve slowly introduced him to different rooms of the house, so he won’t become overwhelmed with too much change all at once. Yesterday afternoon we invited him in our room where he thoroughly enjoyed making himself comfortable on our soft bed, which prompted a celebratory nap.

If I may say so, I’m very proud for realizing my past doesn’t define my present or my future. Knowing this, I cinch up another notch on the bravery belt and remind myself that it’s good and healthy to be open to new opportunities, even those that frighten me at present, but which will someday be overcome.