What's On My Nightstand: Snow Day Edition

So it snowed this week where we live, and while my raised-in-the-tropics children all wanted to get bundled up and head outside into the freezing temps, I really wanted nothing more than to snuggle up under a warm blanket and read the day away. {Spoiler Alert: with 5 kids, that didn't happen.}

Still on my list of books that I'm "actively" reading are The Bonjour Effect and Eleven Minutes Late. Both of them take more brain power than I have by the time I crawl into bed at the end of the day, and I've been averaging 1-2 pages before I find my head nodding and the words swirling around the page. Don't get me wrong - they are great books - I'm just, if not old, at least more tired now.

Since I hate the feeling of a never-ending book, I keep throwing an Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot mystery into the mix so that I have some sense of accomplishment, and still knock out books towards my Goodreads goal of 50 books in 2018.

This last week I finished up Cards on the Table (you can read my review of it on Goodreads) and started reading Cat Among the Pigeons - a murder mystery set at an all-girls school. Dead teachers, hidden treasures, forbidden marriages and, of course, the always brilliant Hercule Poirot to sort it all out.

Looking Ahead: I have two books that I'm quite excited about reading, but won't allow myself to start until I finish Bonjour and Eleven (motivation to keep going). The first is A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 by Joseph Loconte, and the second is Why the Dutch are Different by Ben Coates (being married into a Dutch family, I thought it might be good to know - HA!). Check them out on Amazon, and if you're interested in joining me in a read-together, online book club (of sorts), let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

What are YOU reading?


The "Be Yourself" Giveaway!

When one of the kids starts trying to imitate one of their siblings, I have gotten into the habit of sharing this quote with them...

The point that I try to make with them is that God created us with unique gifts and talents, with different tastes in clothing, food, and music, with individual desires and dreams - stop trying to be someone else! I tell our kids, "God already has a [first/last name], and He doesn't need another one. He needs a [first/last name] and that's why He made you. Be who God created you to be!

I don't think that our kids are the only ones who need to hear that reminder. I see this same tendency in my fellow bloggers who try to imitate the popular bloggers instead of finding their own groove (I've been guilty of that).

I see it in moms who spend too much time on Pinterest, trying to plan the perfect party for their 3 year old so they can match all the other pre-school moms who go above and beyond (look, you have one child, I have five - I'm not competing).

I see it in women who are constantly comparing their bodies to others who have better metabolisms (and probably actually know how many calories are in a White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks). 

I see it in me - when I look around and see people who have successfully marketed themselves into book deals and developed an online following without even trying (or trying very hard), and I wonder why I can't seem to find that special something. 

But you know what? I might not have a book deal, and I might not have a huge following, but when God made me with all of my unique quirks - my stubbornness, my INTJ traits, my love of reading, my infatuation with Paris, my ability to do introspection, my desire to be a missionary, my gift of discernment - He did it with the knowledge that He was going to ask me to take on the role of mom and mentor to five kids. He knew what they needed (the Hubs and me, apparently), and He knew what I needed (a daily reminder that I wasn't a lone reed or in control).

In 2018, I want to encourage you to join me in embracing who God made us to be. When you are tempted to compare (jobs, husbands, kids, dress size, follower count, cooking ability), STOP. Put it on repeat in your head:

Be YOURSELF. Everyone else is already taken. 

And to make it a little easier to remember, I'd like to offer one reader the opportunity to win this bookmark (what else would you expect from a bookworm?) that you can place in your Bible or in whatever book you're reading at the moment, or slap a magnet to it and stick it on your fridge.

TO ENTER: leave a comment on this blog post (if you have a problem posting, leave your comment on the Facebook post about this), and tell me what makes you stand out from everyone around you. And since it's a small item, international entries are welcome! Giveaway Ends: 1/22/18


What's On My Nightstand: January 8-12

For Christmas, the Hubs got me a t-shirt with a warning to everyone who sees me wearing it: Please Do Not Pet the Peeves. We both got a good chuckle out of it as I find myself face to face with more and more peeves that I didn't know existed. For example: people who rave over a movie and then look stunned when I say, "The movie is okay, but the BOOK is amazing!" I find myself surrounded these days with some little (and not so little) people who are only beginning to grasp the fact that the movies they love (Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Rings) were all books FIRST, long before they were movies (and then remakes of those movies, and remakes of the remakes...).

Recently, folks are starting to talk about Agatha Christie, even if they don't seem to realize it. In 2017 Hollywood produced two films based off of her books, Murder on the Orient Express, and Crooked House. People are talking a lot about these films - especially Orient Express - because of the number of high level actors who are involved, but so many folks don't seem to realize that they are based off of the work of an incredible 20th century female author. 

I've been a fan of Agatha Christie since I read my first Hercule Poirot mystery back in junior high. Already a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Homes, I'd read through all of those stories and was on the lookout for something "new" to devour. I don't remember how I stumbled upon Christie, or even which book I read first, but as soon as I "met" the fastidious Belgian detective and his "little grey cells" I was hooked. 

I've lost track of the number of times I have read through my personal collection of Christie mysteries (they take up a shelf and a half in my library), but they never get old. Favorites definitely include Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, The ABC Murders, last week's nightstand visitor, Appointment with Death, and today's current nightstand addition, Cards on the Table

For the record, I am a fan of David Suchet as Hercule Poirot on the BBC TV show, Poirot (though they took more and more liberties towards the end of the series), but if you've only seen the show or movie (of any book, not just Christie), please go discover the unblemished version, the way the author intended it before Hollywood took over. And please... do not pet the peeves.  

What are YOU reading?


Maybe It's NOT Writer's Block

When I started this blog in 2009, I did so because I had a plethora of time on my hands. Newly returned to the United States after four years living in various locations around the globe, I was desperately trying to figure out how to fill my days. I'm sure the Hubs would have voted for clean clothes and a tidy kitchen - but those things are so overrated...

We were still using dial-up to access the internet, but as I slowly surfed around I came upon a couple of blogs that I began visiting on a daily basis. Although I had briefly attempted writing a blog while we were overseas, the internet was so sporadic and slow (making our U.S. dial-up option seem fast, which should tell you something), I gave up on it after just a few posts. Plus, I didn't know what to say. How does one make a regular day sound exciting and humorous?

"This morning we got picked up by the work carpool van and managed to avoid hitting the goat in the road. Even though I'm wearing 18 layers of clothing, I never seem to be able to get warm - I suppose that could have something to do with the giant metal hangar where I spend my days without heat. After work we had to cook dinner over our coal fireplace because the electricity went out AGAIN, which made our electric stove, microwave, and hot water pot completely useless. We bundled up and went to bed, hoping that the water wouldn't be frozen in the morning, even though the pipes are installed on the outside wall of the house rather than the inside."

The point is, on days like the one described above, we were usually just trying to make it through without snapping at each other and that really didn't have a lot of reader appeal.

But when we came home and I had a nice warm house and oodles of time to kill, I decided that I might as well join the blogging world again - and who knew? Maybe I would be discovered and become a big time blogger with book deals and lots of cash! Spoiler alert: neither of those things happened. But I kept writing anyway.

In fact, I wrote five posts a week, Monday through Friday, faithfully for about 4 or 5 years, until the job that I had by that point took up more of my time and, you know, actually paid me for writing. I kept the blog URL, I kept the Facebook page, but I wrote less and less often as life got busier. Plus, let's be honest, the blogging market became glutted with options for reading, and when you realize that you're NOT the next big thing and your audience consists primarily of people you know, it kind of kills the motivation for writing. At least, it did for me.

Plus, God started taking us on this crazy adoption journey and, for the first time ever, it felt too personal to write about. You want to know about how dirty my house is or how many dishes are in my sink or why I love books? Welcome in! I'll even show you my closet, and model outfits that no one else wants to wear (who was I kidding when I jumped on that craze?!), but to open up my inside life, to share about the battle that had been raging between choosing to obey God and choosing easy, that was not something I was willing do. And when you have this big, massive thing going on in your life that you know is going to completely change everything about you... but you can't write about it? Well, let's just say it killed the buzz for wanting to write about anything else.

After we finally made our announcement to the world back in January 2016, I started a new blog and began chronically our journey there. I shared ups and downs and it felt authentic and real - though I still had to be careful of the details that I shared because nothing is private on the internet, and we didn't want anything to jeopardize the adoption (well, that's not entirely true - right down to the moment when we were in country to pick up the kids and we thought the adoption might fall through, we were still holding on to this weak string of, "Maybe God really did just want to teach us to trust Him and now He's going to reward us and send us to Paris." Ugly but true fact... and a topic for another day, another blog, but off topic right now.)

However, even that blog slowly faded (despite a larger following than this blog ever had!) because once we were neck-deep in the bog of parent-life (especially when we were wading through the mire of not being sure that the adoption was even going to happen), I once again felt that we had reached the point where it was too personal to share. Close friends and family members knew what was going on, and I used Facebook to selectively share items for prayer, but the blog was too much. I had writer's block because there was too much to say, too much to share, not because I didn't have anything interesting to add to the world. I was overwhelmed with a wealth of information, but underwhelmed by a desire to write about it.

Last year I attempted a few blog posts, both here and on the adoption site, but we were still so far in over our heads and trying to cling to our 2017 Word of the Year (SURVIVE), that blogging was the last thing on my to do list each day. However, about half-way through the year the kids made some significant personal decisions that dramatically changed the dynamic of our household, and as God led us towards, through, and past the one year anniversary of the adoption, life began to feel more manageable. I started taking on work again this past summer, and the kids now know that when Mom says she has to go work in her bedroom, they need to find ways to occupy themselves - and they do!

During the Christmas holidays I started to consider the idea of resurrecting this old blog of mine, but with a more realistic view, like 1 or 2 posts a week, and offering space for others to guest post if they were so inclined. We're the second week into 2018 and I'm on my third post - so far so good!

However, I find myself coming up against a familiar block - how much is too much to share? Even the most mundane posts are giving me pause because our daily life no longer just affects the Hubs and me - it affects 5 other people, one of whom is in Middle School and has friends on Facebook (even though she isn't on Facebook) and knows when I post family photos or tell stories. While I'm all about a little embarrassment, I do want to be sensitive to what I share and write about because it's no long all my story to tell.

So here I am. Post number 3. I don't know what post #4 will contain. I don't know if I'll still be writing in June or if God will have set my sights on something else. But for now I'm here, trying to get back into my writing groove, open to whatever He wants me to share - the good and the bad, the sorrowful and the downright hilarious. Have laptop, will write. 

To God Be The Glory.   


It's BACK! What's On My Nightstand (WOMNS)

A few years ago I used to write a regular post on this blog called "What's On My Nightstand" where I shared what I was currently reading and gave short reviews of recently read books. That regular post eventually morphed into a blog of its own (now closed) when I teamed up with several fellow readers to do regular book reviews. After a year or so life got busy for all of us and we decided to call it quits and shutter the WOMNS blog.

A lot has happened since then, but as we head into a new year the time feels right to try again. And so I'm back with the first WOMNS post of 2018!

In 2017, I set a goal of reading 50 books - and I made it through 41 (several of those being children's books that I read aloud to the kids). This year I'm aiming for 50 books again, but hopeful that many of them will be from the pile of books that have been collecting on my nightstand for the last few years (yes, years!). The first three books of 2018 include an old favorite, and two books to feed my wanderlust.

Agatha Christie has long been a favorite author of mine, and over the last few months when I've desired a book that requires very little brain power to enjoy, I've reached for a mystery from Christie. At the moment it's a re-read of Appointment with Death. The other two that are currently on my "active" nightstand include non-fiction reads on the British train system and learning how French folks converse. I really don't remember where I first heard about Eleven Minutes Late, but it's been in process for a while as I pick it up and then get (slightly) bored and go to something else and then back to it. I seem to recall hearing about The Bonjour Effect in Ann Mah's newsletter several months ago, and it's been interesting so far (especially as a Francophile with an interest in cultural differences and personalities).

And there you have it - that's what I'm currently reading (along with a few others that I throw in occasionally when I get bored), and a slice of what's on my nightstand.

What are YOU planning to read this month?


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