Friday, June 29, 2012

A Season Of Reading - Superfreakonomics

Since recently acquiring a library card (I know some of you are horrified by that), I have re-discovered what a wonderous land the public library is.  My commute has also become much much more bearable as I tear through audio book after audio book.  Right now, I am listening to Water For Elephants, which I am sure I will discuss with you in the coming weeks, but today I want to tell you about Superfreakonomics.
Superfreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner is subtitled "Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance," but that only begins to sum up the thoughts that went into this work.  They did not have Freakonomics at my library, so I compromised and took on the second book first.  While the first 15 minutes were them apologizing for their controversial nature, and explaining some issues that came up in the first book, it was genuinely interesting and entertaining.  Honestly, as a business major, I loved it.  It is an unconventional approach to economics, and uses principles we learned in business school in a creative way.  That is how my brain works! 
I love that they argue that drunk walking is more dangerous than drunk driving, statistically.  I love that they are not afriad to talk to prostitutes to get information from them for an economic study.  I love the research on ways to end natural disasters and the completely crazy methods and testing that is taking place.  I really just loved hearing little known information and absorbing as much of it as I could.  Some of the findings presented blew me away; while some were items I wish more people cared to know!  I loved the paths that they took to get to their conclusions.  They must have sat down and mapped it out then sighed and just started writing furiously to connect the dots.
I thought this book was wonderful.  Listening to it was something I daily looked forward to when it was my audio book du jour.  Just like so many psychology minded friends of mine love reading Malcolm Gladwell, I would recommend these books to business minded (and politically minded) people.  I am sure a self-righteous person may claim this book to have no worth, but I beg to differ.  They may not be treating these issues with as much reverence as some would request, but I think it is taking some items that may not necessarily be well known, and putting a pleasant spin on them to get them heard.  Plus they are not dealing with the emotion of situations, just the economics.
I recommend this book for entertainment value alone, and you might just learn something!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Season of Reading - The Reader

The first book we tackled for our newly established book club (we are on our third book right now) was called, appropiately enough, The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink.  Controversial in nature, this book revolves around an affair between a young boy and an older woman.  I like the Google review's phrasing that stated, "both a literary surprise and a moral challenge."  You find yourself appalled, yet you continue to read, because generally speaking it is a relationship most of us are not only familiar with but are also completely baffled by.
The first half of the book I hated, if I am completely honest, but as you see where the author is taking you, and you let them take you there, you begin to find the value in the first half.  Written from the boys perspective, you see how this choice to be with a much older woman early in his life effects his entire life, down to every relationship and every emotion.  There are moments where you feel sorry for him, because although he knew it was not a natural relationship nor was it what others would have encoruaged or approved of, she brought value to his life in a distinctive way.  However, you also find that she really digs into his psyche and sets the tone for all his relationships.  Healthy, normal relationships no longer feel healthy or normal to him after these encounters.  It really is a painful story.
The book leads to later in his life when he encounters her again in a different setting and he remembers it all so vividly, yet he has blocked it all out.  He has gone to law school married and ultimately lived a full life, but continues to feel nothing.  He just exists.   However, I was thrilled to have stuck it out until the end, because we saw some resolution come from his story and his life of loving her.  While things seem to fall apart to others, he was never present with them to begin with.  He just doesn't care for anything that way that he cared for her.  I do not agree with his lifestyle, but I think it is well presented in this book.  I think he could have overcome and been a better man, but he did not choose to do that.  It is really a fascinating story of an effected child's sub conscious. 
I guess I would have to say I would recommend this book to someone who could handle it, although it absolutely set the tone for the book club.  It opened my eyes to a book I may never have read otherwise, and there was value in what the author taught.  However, I was depressed and ultimately saddened when it reached its final pages. 
What I did learn through this story was that people need God.  They cannot use their own strength to recover, and I think this book shows human sadness and ambivolence at its harshest.  I pray that anyone who reads this does not validate the relationship, but sees the danger and destruction in it all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Season of Reading - Beautiful Boy

Before I tell you more about the books my book club has been reading, I first must tell you about the first book on tape I listened to... which by the way turned into a gateway for a whole new world!  This was an intense experience as I drove and listened and it made me understand why people love this option who have long commutes.  I am hooked, and am on my fourth book on tape in the car right now! 

I will tell you all about them in good time...

This is an autobiography of a father wrestling with his son's drug adiction, and it effected me to the core.  The book goes through the child's entire life, and shows the connection between the father and son.  It shows why this relationship was so important to them both.  They are as close as a father and son can be when he is young and even as he gets older, but drugs get in the way of everything.

The slippery slope is detailed in that Nic (the son) started smoking pot at an early age and got drunk on a family vacation when his parents had gone to bed.  It only gets worse from there.  The story is so painful I wanted to cry at times.  Not even because it was sad, but because you can feel the father's emotional frustration.  I would be frustrated too!  Drugs are something I may never understand and I do not relate to, but I know they are a very real problem and this book had tons of information that brought me to acute awareness of the industry and of the effects of crystal meth and other drugs on the human brain.

As I listened I experienced the story.  It was intense and dark and often times horrifying.  The things drug addicts do and say are difficult to listen to.  I have known a few alcoholics, and it breaks my heart to be around them.  They cannot help themselves, but you cannot help them either.  The vicious cycle is exhausting and ultimately impossible, as the father experiences in the book.  It is hard, because he offers little hope, because the option of complete recovery is not something that is preached, expecially on hard drugs.

I would absolutely recommend this book to others who feel they can handle it.  Having never experienced it, I feel as though I have a tighter grasp on the reality of the situation, and people should step outside themselves for a book like this to gain insight on the horrifying phenommenon that the drug world is.

Books on tape? Yes please. 
I can soak up an entire book while running errands and I have been loving it.

Any recommendations?
Want to send anything my way?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Season Of Reading - Introducing Book Club

Photo Credit: Jessica Cross
I know I have been MIA and I know that is slightly unacceteptable.  Every time I come around I talk about how much I miss you, but actions are worth more right?  I am here to fill you in on a big piece of my life lately - a season of reading.  I literally have 5 books to fill you in on (maybe even 6 by the nd of the week)!  But first, I want to introduce you to my book club :)  We are on our third book now, and still going strong.  I will walk you through book by book, but I wanted to talk about the idea of book club and what it means to me.
I loved the concept from the moment it was mentioned.  I was already in my "season of reading" this year where I was making an effort to read a book a month, and with my new discovery of books on tape (you will hear more about later in the week) I am flying through 2 books a month at least!  With that being said, I jumped at the chance to share some snacks and delve into a good book with a group of girlfriends.  We all offer so many different perspectives and comparisons and we started off strong with a slightly controversial book in my professional opinion :)  We all had something to say from the initial opening page, and the conversation flowed.  It was honestly glorious.
Why is it so important?  The conversations that flow from books and other media sources, are so intensely meaningful.  We can each relate to different charactrs and that reveals so much about each person.  We all need to invest in other worlds in order to understand our own.  Intelligent conversation really motivates me, and reading so much has made my brain wander in all kinds of directions - in the best way!  I feel like my knowledge, perception, and understandings are growing and developing and I love taking a look into other mentalities and worlds.
I only hope to remain in this season indefinitely and to always give myself over to stories.  I encourage you to read with your significant other and/or friend group.  It is so amazing what a good book can lead to :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Be Encouraged - Preferences versus Necessities

Happy Tuesday my Lovely Readers!

Today I wanted to share with you a recent article I wrote for Polka Dot Coaching, and hopefully get some of your feedback!  I genuinely love writing on others peoples blogs, although my own allows me a certain type of freedom as well; and this was no different.  It brought me so much joy to see how Nailah (the creator of Polka Dot Coaching) took my words and added an image and description of myself to go with them.  This is more than an answer to prayer, it is an affirmation that my desire to write is also a gift God has granted me with.  That is HUGE for me.  It can be something other people take seriously, and something that I really pursue.  Each time someone else publishes a piece I have written, my confidence grows a little in a humble way.  God, use me to further you through my writing, and use me to make a positive impact on this world!  It is not just about writing for me; it is about making an impact on others. 

I have been wrestling with losing a piece of my personality, and without know it, Nailah chose a "Free Spirit" image that really reassured me that all is not lost and I am still holding on to a piece of me that I consider so dear.  It is so amazing how someone can be an answer to your prayers without having any idea you needed to hear just what they same in you.  I didn't even put 2 and 2 together until I saw the image pop up with my post, and it literally brought tears to my eyes.  Someone else saw me, through my words, the way I want to be.  A Free Spirit, with a smiling face...

Written below is the text of the post, but I would really appreciate if you would head over to Polka Dot Coaching and take a look at the post Nailah put together for me.  I would love to post for her more, and having lots of feedback is always a good thing :)
image credit: A Well Traveled Woman
I took a deep breath and I jumped off the platform head first over the Nile River, and was overwhelmed by the feeling of freedom that rushed over me.  The fear of jumping never crossed my mind; I was too wrapped up in my own personal mellow drama of the moment.  However, once I had released myself to give it up and let it go, I literally jumped head first into the unknown.  This was my first time bungee jumping and it represented much greater things than just conquering a fear of heights.  I was releasing hurtful relationships and seemingly intangible dreams. I was releasing pent up frustration and tension. And I was releasing what I wanted and instead learning to be happy with what I needed.  This last distinction has changed my life: Preferences versus Necessities.  Give that some thought and let it wash over you.  America has brain washed us in some ways to believe we NEED things that we simply WANT.
I need creativity in my life, but I do not need a career in it, that is just what I would prefer.  I need happiness, but I can choose that of my own free will and go after it in my personal life.  I need to always accept my current situation and to remove denial from my heart and mind.  I need love and family, but I did not NEED that from the boy that in that moment I desired attention from, i just wanted that.  Sometimes we really start to believe we need things that we are aware are unnecessary in our lives.  We are so convinced that we feel we may die if we do not get them.  If you think about this process logically, it is extremely irrational.  We know we do not need something, yet our antics and dramatizations make it seem really important to us. Often times we are just trying to save face in the end. We can convince ourselves we are in love with people we barely know, we will only be happy in one specific career, that one specific success or failure will change everything, and that we will never have close friends and are destined for loneliness.  Rarely are these emotions reflective of reality; they are valid, but clouded.
I have always had people tell me that they wish that they could take chances like I do.  They wish they could move across the country & the world, go to a school where they do not know a single soul, and start a vulnerable blog about their life as an open book.  If you are reading those words and feeling the same way, I am here to tell you that you can!  You CAN take any chance that you want, and you will probably get an extreme rush of excitement from the exhilaration of the process.  To live your life to the fullest, you really NEED vulnerability in your life and you NEED to take risks.
Taking risks and being vulnerable has brought me into a career I would never have expected, a relationship with a boy who is absolutely perfect for my heart, and a life full of friends and family that I am invested in.  While the results may vary, I am encouraging you today to get in touch with who you are and what you need and focus on simplicity.  The latest technology will not solve your heart problems, but true genuine relationships will.  Patience will help in this process as it takes time, but whenever you are feeling down or lonely I can honestly say, you have a friend in me.  I resonate with your heart’s cry and I know that the journey of stripping away the excess desires that have been masking themselves as things you need is difficult, but the future simple life you will lead will be worth all the agony.
Be Well Lovely Friends.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To My Wonderful Father

Daddy, you have taught me so many things in life, but most importantly you have taught me the value of people and selflessness.  You give every ounce of your energy, time, and finances to making me and my siblings and mother life the best we can ask for.  I have never wanted for anything.  You have provided for all of my wants and needs for as long as I can remember.  I would never dream of taking that for granted.

The trip we went on last year to Boston and Maine was the beginning of something wonderful.  I look forward to many more trips in the future, hikes through beautiful places, and laughter and delicious food all over the world.  I dream of so many places I want to see with you, and I pray often God will provide us the opportunity to do those things together.

Thank you for instilling faith in me and for never letting me make excuses for not going to church or working on my relationship with God.  Thank you for always telling me to look for a man who respects me and loves me for who I am (and one who gives me cards for no reason).  Thank you for always smiling at me and loving me without hesitation.  Thank you for working hard every day to provide for the people you love most.  Thank you for giving me an example of a man of God and someone who always puts others before himself.  Thank you for your consistent prayer through the years.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to go to Italy, move to California, and see Uganda.  I could not have done those things without you.

I know this is a big year for me as I move into marriage and you hand me over to Bill on our wedding day, but I want you to know that you will always have a special place in my heart.  I will always be your little girl.   I am constantly thinking of you and praying for you and feeling your prayers and thoughts for me.  Our connection crosses the country and I am so proud to be your daughter and friend.

I hope that this fathers day is filled with so much joy and relaxation for you.  I wish I could be there to celebrate with you, but know you will be on my heart and in my mind all day long.  I know it goes without saying, but I love you so much daddy.  You mean everything to me and I pray you feel that everyday.  I can't wait to see you in September as we celebrate Bill and My lives combining into one, and you are a large part of the person I am that allows this wedding to be possible.

Keep living healthy and working hard.  Don't forget to take care of yourself and call as often as you want.  I am just a phone call away, and I love hearing your stories.  Don't forget to let me know what book you pick for us to read!  I'm looking forward to sharing a book with you :)

I love you so much daddy.  Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Life Lessons - A More Than Inspiring Couple

I have the honor and privilege of knowing this wonderful selfless family.  They attend my church and our ties are truly amazing.  My grandmother and Erin's grandmother are best friends in Maryland, while we discover our relationship here.  Erin is a woman who has changed me for the better.  I can honestly say after knowing her I will never be the same.  

I feel like I have precious little to say in comparison to this amazing couple.  
They are awe inspiring and will never fail to amaze me.
Take 9 minutes to listen to their story and the outlook they have on life.  
You will never look at your own problems the same.

I honestly pray to be this strong, brave, and faithful in the face of adversity.

Mike and Erin, you daily amaze me.  I know there are days where you must crack and cry and scream and then there are days when you feel blessed and showered and adored.  I pray for your continued peace and faith through this journey of life.  Know that you are naturally inspiring and you do not have to work at it.  You are people I love to know better and better and I pray to effect you even a fraction as much as you have affected me.  Thank you, for all you do and all you are.  I love your family very much.  I am here for anything I can do for you.  Anything.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Penny For Your Thoughts - Learn To Love Better


Even when you feel like they are in the right place it seems like there is not enough time for what is truly important.  Even when you are surrounded by friends and family you cannot make them feel important enough or tell them you love them enough.  Even when you spend time with wonderful people there are not enough hours in the day to make them feel enough love.  Even when you write letters and make phone calls you cannot write or call enough.

What am I learning?  You can work towards a goal of being 100% present, but our humanity does not allow us to be perfect, and that would be attaining perfection.  We can work towards being like Christ, but we cannot attain it.  That is a hard spot to be in.  I like knowing I can attain something and then work towards what is next.  The lesson I am seeking to grasp, is that the work and drive to keep moving forward despite never fully attaining or perfecting the Christian life is all a part of the journey.  I only hope I can strive towards moving forward and that aspiration to be more like Christ everyday.

I know some of you are reading this and thinking that I am more present than you are, and some of you are reading it and thinking I sound self righteous.  Well, I am here to tell you I have no idea where I stand sometimes.  I only know that I am trying my hardest every day and if you could see my heart and its desires you would know that it cries out to show people the love they each deserve.

I hope you each work towards loving people more and better each day.  Yes, you can learn to love people better.  Stop making it about you and make it about them.  How do they receive love?  Step outside yourself and remember that some things aren't meant to be easy, but the harder you work at them, the easier they get!