Are you knee deep or neck deep in culture (and why does it matter?)

When we first moved to Mexico, our toddler son was social and verbal— in English.  One Sunday morning when he was close to two we visited a church in our city.  

Will was put in a Sunday School class of kids his age.  I hung around to make sure he was okay.  

I saw my blond-haired, blue eyed Anglo son surrounded by dark skinned, dark haired, dark eyed kids.  As I watched, the whole group drifted away from Will, till he was sitting and playing alone.

This was a social kid.  This was a verbal kid.  But he was out of the circle. 

I would have been heart-broken for him, but he was completely unfazed and oblivious to the drifting away, which was in no way malicious.   

The cold hard fact was that he didn’t fit in. He didn’t know Spanish yet.  He didn’t know the games yet.  He didn’t know the social rules and norms.   

As the years passed and he learned Spanish, he earned a place in the middle of the crowd, regardless of his appearance.  

Most global nomads can relate to the experience of not fitting in to a group. 

Living as a foreigner in another country, it’s almost expected that you won’t fit in. But when it happens in your passport country, sometimes you can be blindsided.   

When we live in foreigners in another culture, on many levels, we live on the fringes of that culture. 

When we were in Mexico, we operated somewhat outside of the Mexican economic system, because we received foreign funds. 

We operated outside of the educational system, because our kids went to a school for ex-pats. 

We operated outside of the political system, because we couldn’t vote or get involved in politics. 

As evangelicals, we operated outside of the prevailing religious system in country full of not just Catholics, but Guadalupanos. The adoration of the Virgin of Guadalupe permeated the culture. 

Even though we lived largely outside those systems, they still influenced our lives.  

We celebrated Mexican Independence Day with friends and neighbors.  

Fluctuations of the exchange rate affected our buying power. 

We kept our kids home from the Mexican pre-school on the Day of the Dead. 

Political demonstrations that blocked streets kept us from going where we wanted to go.  

In our home, we created our own culture that reflected not only what we were surrounded with, but the values, attitudes and beliefs we brought with us. 

At church, we also influenced the creation of culture in our role as leaders. 

In returning to our passport country we have integrated back into culture in some aspects.

In other ways we haven’t. 

We can vote. 

Our income is solely in dollars that are generated locally. 

But, we send our kids to Christian schools. 

We speak Spanish at church.  

As evangelicals, we watch the predominate culture become more secularlized. 

In our home, we create our own culture that reflects not only what we are surrounded with, but the values, attitudes and beliefs that we internalized while living in Mexico. 

At church, we influence the creation of culture in our role as leaders.  

A hermit chooses to essentially live outside of culture. 

A family on a self-contained farm can also be that way, or they can choose to engage the culture.  

Subcultures also exist.  A church can form a community that is counter cultural.  

The Amish live in a subculture that is on the fringe of mainstream culture.

Foreigners living in another country find a natural affinity to other foreigners and can form a community of ex-pats that create a subculture. 

A military base that includes houses, offices, schools and shops would be an example.  Or a missionary compound.  

Or a group of foreigners who establish a school for their children based on their home country’s norms.  

Our God-given drive for belonging, community and connection is affected by the culture that we live in and the subcultures that we choose to associate with. 

Why does is matter if we’re fully immersed in culture or just dipping our toes in? 

For a couple of reasons. 

First of all, for self-awareness.  A fish swimming in water doesn’t understand water.  Without stopping to pay attention to the culture we operate in, we are unaware of the influence in has on us. 

Secondly, awareness is the first step to influencing our culture.  What is within your circle of influence?  Your family, your church, the committees and boards you serve on?  

What about your neighborhood?  Your community?  Your alma mater?  Your workplace? Your social media networks?

When you stop to think about it, there are many spheres you can influence.  

Maybe it’s time to be more intentional about impacting the culture surrounding us. 

Maybe the solution to the problem is to realize that you can choose culture, you can choose subcultures and you can influence culture.  

I disagree with anthropologists who want to preserve culture at all costs. 

The fact is, not all culture is amoral.  Some of it is downright evil.  

Female genital mutilation is cultural.  So is widow burning and temple sex slaves.  To make a blanket statement that all culture should be preserved is outrageous.

I think it’s a good thing to destroy that part of culture.  I think we can create something better in it’s place.

Some cultural traditions can be redeemed.  Halloween, for example.  

Other aspects of culture are good and helpful.  They should be preserved. 

I love the new trend of gender reveal for expecting parents.  I think it’s great for pro-life thinking to start thinking of babies as boys or girls.  It’s also great for a society to embrace what is female and what is male. That’s gotten pretty messed up lately. 

Culture is fluid. It can also be amazingly permanent. 


Maybe you don’t think of yourself as an influencer of culture. Maybe it’s time to start.

My Favorite Books about the Writer’s Life

I love a good memoir. It’s fascinating to get inside someone else’s head, to feel their emotions and appreciate their life vicariously.

Even better when they are a writer with a gift for words. After puzzling about why I’m drawn to memoir’s about the writer’s life, I uncovered four reasons.

1. Every artist is blazing a new trail.  

Everyone has a different journey. 

No one reaches the goals in the same way. 

It’s okay to be a wannabe, because everyone starts out there.

2. Writers often articulate their journeys well.

It makes sense. They’re writers, after all. Sometimes they pour all the expertise they use in creating fiction or crafting a story arc into the narrative of their life.

3. Today’s journey to becoming a published author looks different than in the past.

The books I’ve chosen tell stories of when traditional publishing was king and hundreds of rejections were par for the course.

The internet is full of successful writers telling you how to do it today, given the changing landscape.

But, the principles remain.  And human nature hasn’t changed.   

The perseverance still has to be there.  The self-doubt is always a dragon to slay.  The spaghetti flinging experimentation still has to happen. 

There’s plenty of evidence that even those at the pinnacle can be assailed by self-doubt. 

Perseverance is critical.  What about lucky breaks?  Sometimes they do play a part.  But, they never determine a successful career without consistent hard work behind it all. 

4. A writer’s memoir is not about a step by step process.  

It’s more about inspiration and encouragement and a behind the scenes look at the journey.  

Even if you’re not a writer or an aspiring writer, if you enjoy a good memoir, you will enjoy a peek behind the curtain of the writer’s life.  

Here’s my favorites.

On Writing by Stephen King

I don’t read Stephen King books or watch movies based on his books.

But, it is a well-respected fact that he is a master story teller.  Why not learn from him?

On Writing is one of the best books out there about writing and the writer’s life.

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott has a gift with words and a wry, self-deprecating humor. 

I love her memiors.  I tried reading her novels and didn’t enjoy them. 

Even though I don’t agree with her theology or her politics, I certainly appreciate her writing. 

Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks

My husband went through a phase when he was reading a lot of Terry Brooks books.  I read one or two.  Fantasy isn’t really my genre. 

But, once again, I can appreciate a good storyteller and love hearing behind the scenes of the reading life.  His journey emphasizes the importance of a good editor and publisher, often unsung heroes in the writing game. 

Deer on the Bicycle by Patrick McManus

Great humor writing is in a class by itself, and Patrick McManus does it so well. 

He mostly writes quasi-autobiographical stories about outdoor adventures.  But, his ability to lead up to a laugh is unparalleled. 

Although I agree that a gift like that can’t be taught, it can be appreciated and learning what it’s like to have it and use it is pretty fun, too. 

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine Le’Engle

I think it’s always encouraging when an author’s journey isn’t a straight line between two points.  That’s certainly true for Madleine L’Engle.  She was distracted by marriage and family life.  She went through periods of discouragement and low productivity.  

She created on a typewriter in the kitchen with the chaos swirling around her. 

Some how in the midst of the chaos, she managed to produce a Newbery Award winning children’s novel.  

I feel Madeleine is someone who learned to juggle her professional ambitions along with her family needs. 

Before We Get Started by Bret Lott

Bret Lott’s story is one of hard work and perseverance and a wife who believed in him.  He exemplifies the classic path of investing and investing and investing while waiting for the payoff.  

Writers have to pay their dues, sometimes way longer than seems necessary.  

Sometimes the payoff comes.  But there are no guarantees and no one cracking the whip.  Putting in the time and staying the course can be long and lonely.  

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

This book wasn’t written about the writing life.  It’s told as a love story. 

But, it is about the writer’s life.  It’s a very intimate behind the scenes look at the writing life— not only C.S. Lewis’ writing life, but Joy Davidson’s as well. 

It’s a well-kept secret that she collaborated on some of Lewis’ works and that Joy Davidson herself was a writer, poet and editor. 

Do you have a favorite writer’s memoir? I’d love to hear about it.

Four Things I Learned in 10 Years as a Bookseller

Four Things I Learned in 10 Years as a Bookseller

A woman walks into our bookstore. She’s looking for a book on grief for a friend who just lost her husband. I direct her to our small collection of books on grief and help her find something.

During my decade a bookseller, I never came across a manual on how to grieve the loss of a business, specifically a bookstore

How does one do that? 

I need to figure it out, because we closed our store.  

At the heart of the issue, I am at peace.  I believe in God’s sovereignty.  I believe in a free market economy, where consumers vote with their dollars and innovators win. 

I love that there are new, cheaper ways to buy books and access information and learn and be entertained. 

The natural result is that brick and mortar retail stores are affected. 

As I figure out how to let go, I realize I’ve learned a lot in ten years.  

About retail.  About business.  About myself.  About readers.  About consumers. 

But mostly what it takes to get a book from the author to the reader. 

We closed our bookstore in Warsaw, IN on July 31, 2019.

1.  Connecting good readers with good books is hard work. 

Somebody’s got to do the work:  the author, the reader, the marketer or the bookseller.  

Sometimes an author’s network does the heavy lifting.  Sometimes the reader’s network does the work. Often it’s a combination of all of the above.

But someone has to do it. 

It’s a communication issue, as well as a trust issue. 

Authors who make the effort to do 90% of the work to find their audience are likely to find success.  Authors who depend on marketers to do the work or wait for readers to find them are likely to fail. 

Booksellers can help bridge the gap.  Bloggers, podcasters and other media outlets can also meet this need, helping connect good readers with good books. 

A best sellers list can’t flesh out the picture of author or book the way a blogger or podcaster can.  

And bloggers, podcasters and media outlets can be impartial in a way marketers can’t. 

2. There are millions of books that don’t go far.  

They live and die close to home and become garage sale fodder without making much of a splash.  Some of them are good books.

Of course, we love best sellers and don’t like to think much about the books that come and go without really finding their audience.

For books that sell incredibly well, there is an element of mystery.  

There’s a tipping point when a book buzz takes on a life of its own.  Without any control or direction or plan, the flame spreads and people hear about a book and read the book and talk about it.

3. The easiest way to sell your book is to get famous first.

Sometimes the spark that starts that fire smolders for a decade or two.  Sometimes it’s nurtured and tended within the author’s sphere or just within the author before it spreads. 

Before Michelle Obama wrote a book, she was a household name.  Many people were curious about what it’s like to be the First Lady and the path leading to that position. Her book sold well.

If you want to get famous, writing books is a slow way to get there.  It has nothing to do with an ego trip.  It’s just a matter of people knowing your name and what you’re all about. 

Books from unknown authors do sell if they solve a persistent and pressing problem.  That would apply mostly to non-fiction books. 

In the fiction world, the author really has to be known.  Or, at least, get good reviews.  Or be recommended and endorsed by reliable people.

4.  There are some books that people prefer to own and some they prefer to borrow.

Some books are for entertainment and diversion.  Others are for information and enlightenment. 

The reason you read might determine whether you buy or borrow. 

Many an avid fiction reader doesn’t have the budget to buy everything they want to read.  Lots of non-fiction books can be borrowed, too.  In general, people prefer to buy devotionals, Bibles, blank journals, workbooks and books they want on hand for reference.  

Some books are so great, readers want to mark them up and write in them or have on hand to loan out.  That’s one more category–books that are so great that people want to buy them and  give them away. 

As I transition into a new chapter, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to be part of the book machine.

As Anne Bogel says, “Book people are the best people.”

I’ll miss them.

One Book a Month for Baby’s First Year

It’s true.

There’s a switch that flips when you become a Grandma.

Baby toys, clothes and books jump into my shopping cart now that I had no problem resisting before.

In a lot of ways, grand parenting feels familiar, too. Like starting over again at the beginning of parenting. But, this time around there’s the advantage of experience, perspective and being well-rested.

How to Grandma long distance

My first grand baby, Caroline, is about to turn one.

She lives nearby and we get a lot of time with her.

My grandson far away is still sleeping and kicking inside his mama.

I’ve been brainstorming ways to “Grandma” long distance.

Since I spent the last ten years of my life as a bookseller, sending books seems like the logical solution.

I’m intrigued and inspired by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Project.  It started out in her home county, but it’s grown across her home state, and across the country. Every month every child ages 0-5 receives a book in the mail addressed to them.

I can do that.

“Books are delicious”

Besides pulling from my years at the bookstore, I got some good picks from Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival.

She says when we’re reading to babies, we’re helping them associate books with delight and affection.

“Books are delicious” Anyone who interacts with books and babies knows that’s true.

But not all baby books work for baby’s first year. So, I whittled down my list, looking for books that would be visually, orally and tactically appealing to the youngest audience, just waking up to the world.

I also kept in mind that baby books have to please two audiences, the adult and the baby. These top picks win with both.

(Note: All links are affiliate links which means at no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Who’s Knees Are These?

By Jabari Asim

Even before babies interact much with the world, a rhyme can captivate.

This one is fun to read.

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Llama Llama Red Pajama

by Anna Dewdney

Another rhyming board book that pleasing both to the eye and the ear.

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Taggies Thank You Prayer


A cloth book that is as much fun to play with as it is to read.

Soft, fuzzy cover.

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Look Look

by Peter Linenthal


A black and white and red board book for babies who are just beginning to focus their visual attention.

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Peek a Who?

by Nina Laden


Simple, fast paced book for babies who are beginning to interact and notice things. Nice surprise at the end.

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Indestructibles Baby Peekaboo

by Kate Merritt


All the indestructibles books are made from incredible rip proof material that babies can’t damage.

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Touch and Feel Baby Animals


Good tactile stimulation. And who can resist baby animals?

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Good Night Moon

by Margaret Wise Brown


The classic board book that has entertained generations.

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Dear Zoo

By Rod Campbell

Another classic, this one with flaps to lift up, that will delight and entertain.

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Who says Quack?


Babies love animals and learning the sounds they make.

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Yummy Yucky

by Leslie Patricelli

Everything goes into baby’s mouth, even things that shouldn’t be there. A humorous look at what’s good and what’s not.

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The Pudgy Book of Mother Goose

Illustrated by Richard Walz


Small, easy to hold board book that contains classic Mother Goose rhymes.

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  1. Who’s Knees Are These?
  2. Llama Llama Red Pajama
  3. Taggies Thank You Prayer
  4. Look Look
  5. Peek a Who?
  6. Indestructibles Baby Peekaboo
  7. Touch and Feel Baby Animals
  8. Good Night Moon
  9. Dear Zoo
  10. Who says Quack?
  11. Yummy Yucky
  12. Chunky Mother Goose

That’s my list for baby’s first year!

What are your top picks for the youngest readers?

More Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love

Why should adults read Middle Grade Novels? There’s some great MG novels out there! The best ones are well-written and have an important message.

MG Novels can be just the ticket when you’re too stressed to follow a complex adult novel.

They often have a straight forward story line that is easy to follow. Often they have a limited cast of characters. They are less likely to shift back and forth in time and place.

They often offer an easy escape that requires little mental energy.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a portion of your purchase will support this site. )

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I believe that great fiction rings true.  Even one with a preposterous premise.

The Age of Miracles tells the story of a family dealing with the slowing of the earth’s rotation.  Every day is longer, every night is longer.  All the implications, all the choices, all the consequences.

The premise is preposterous, but the story still rings true.  Why?  Because it shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of cataclysm.  It shows the importance of deep relationship in the face of crisis.  It shows the inevitability of coming of age, whether or not the earth turns.

I liked the main characters.  That helped a lot.

I liked the traditional values portrayed in the story.  Which goes to show, you CAN have a great story without a moral slide.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

I loved this book written for middle grades and I read it twice.

It gets five stars for being wholesome and a thumbs up for real heroes.  When I read middle grade, I find myself identifying with the teachers and principals.  Ha.

I loved the two families portrayed here and the real struggle with how twelve year olds deal with the heavy issues of life.

I liked her style.  I liked her characters.  I loved seeing the main character win the battles in his world.

Carry On, Mr Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

Good story.  In the tradition of Johnny Tremain, except based on an historical person.

Nat Bowditch was very smart, but he wasn’t able to go to Harvard because of his family’s difficult financial position, it was necessary for him to work to earn his keep. So he was indentured at age 12 to work as a bookkeeper.

The story inspires kids to persevere in the face of difficult circumstances.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

What a great book!  Highly recommended for all ages.

I love the way it tackles head on mega topics: embarrassment, shame, discouragement, rising above difficult circumstances, the elements of a true friendship. 

August Pullman is a likable fellow.  If he were a jerk, this story wouldn’t have worked.

It strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a person.  Where do you fit into society.  How does society react to you?

It’s not just an overcomer story.  It’s a family systems story.  Our family of origin matters so much when it comes to what we believe about ourselves.

I love the middle school principal in this story.  I love the way he has such a deep understanding of kids.  I love how he can see past the surface level to what is happening beneath the surface.  This is so good for teachers, administrators, youth pastors, everyone who deals with kids.  And for kids, themselves.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I’m tempted to go back and re-read this book now that I know the ending.

The plot was slow moving until all the pieces starting falling into place and it made sense.

From goodreads–

“Winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal. Miranda is an ordinary sixth grader, until she starts receiving mysterious messages from somebody who knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. “

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

It’s interesting to stop and think about what it’s like to be blind from birth. How impossible it is to picture anything. What it means for your social interactions.

Add the fact that you’re sixteen years old and transferring from a blind school to a public school. How do you relate to others?

This is an engaging, feel good story. Satisfying.

Five stars for being wholesome and well-written. Technically, this is a Young Adult novel, not middle grade. Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival has a great explanation of the difference between middle grade books and young adult books, and why YA is a genre, not a reading level.

Did you miss Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love?

Which Middle Grade Novels do you love?

The Counterintuitive Path to Gratitude

Do you remember The Pit of Despair in the movie The Princess Bride?  It brings a chuckle because it’s meant to be funny. 

The real pit of despair isn’t so fun. 

It’s slimy down there, cut off from light and oxygen.  And it’s such an easy place to slide into.  

Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of social media scrolling.  

You see what others have.  Where they are in life—their pinnacles and highlights.  

You compare it to where you are.  What you have.  What you want.  

Suddenly you’re in a downward spiral of negative thinking headed straight for the pit.  You just want to wallow.  To go back to bed and pull the covers over your head.  It sucks away your motivation and joy. 

You’re not sure how to claw your way back to the light.  

But you do know it has something to do with gratitude.

 

For me, I’ve noticed this progression:

Commitment first.  Then action.  Then feelings.

Commit to making gratitude part of your life.  Follow through on the plan.  Feel grateful.

Deliberately schedule gratitude into your daily and weekly rhythms.

Every Sunday, my pastor asks us what we can thank God for.

Every week I join a group of praying mamas who circle up and close out the world to talk to God.  Part of that time is devoted to giving thanks, expressing gratitude.

Daily gratitude tends to be alone rather than with others.  It helps to have a routine.

Take action:  follow through on the plan

Stop every day to thank God for three things. A deliberate pause in the day to give thanks makes a world of difference.

Meet with a group who gives thanks to God every week.

How much gratitude do you need?

And do you have to come up with new things every day or can you repeat yourself?

Should you give thanks morning and evening?  Or just in the morning?  Or just in the evening?

Maybe it depends on the person.  Maybe evenings are better for some and mornings are better for some.

Experiment and see.

Choosing to make gratitude a part of your daily and weekly routines will make a difference in your perspective.

Your emotional energy won’t be drained by negativity.

Experience the feelings of gratitude

A funny thing happens. You begin to FEEL grateful.

Your paradigm shifts.

You think about the white page, not the black dot.

The problems and difficulties shrink. The negative resumes it’s rightful place, not overshadowing all the good.

Try it. See if it works for you.

See if your mood shifts, if you start walking on a higher plane.

Perspective.

That’s what gratitude gives you.

The truth of the matter is, almost everything is a mixed bag.

Parenting is.

Marriage is.

Friendships are.

The spiritual journey is.

Once in a while all the stars align, all the pieces fall into place. There’s no wrinkles or snags.

But that is a rare occurance.

Everything else is a mixed bag.

When relationships are good, there’s physical pain.  Or financial stress.  Or technical difficulties. Or a snafu in the plan.  Or confusion and miscommunication.

So many things can happen to spoil a spotless page.

Tools that can help

I’ve learned that buying something doesn’t change your life. You usually have to change first and then whatever you’re buying helps you.

You can’t buy products that produce what you want in your life.

Products are just tools.  Tools to help you do what you’ve already decided to do.  You can’t buy something that will change your heart.  You have to make the commitment first.  Then take action.  Then the feelings and rewards will follow.

I think it’s human nature to want to take the short cut.

To buy our way to our goal instead of paying the price.

There’s nothing wrong with tools.  They do what tools do.  They help you get the job done better.  But they’re only going to be as good as the person running the tool.  It’s going to be the drive and passion and heart of the person using the tool that’s going to make the difference.

Buy now from Amazon

My Gratitude Journal is a tool that I’ve created.  It’s not a magic bullet that will change your life.  But, if you’ve already committed to intentionally cultivate gratitude, it’s a tool that can help.

Fascinating Novels Inspired by the Lives of Real People

I love a brilliantly  written novel inspired by true events. It’s been so fun to stumble across quite a few in this category over the last couple of years.  Some of these books have made it onto other lists and some are new to me, but all are five star reads for me.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.) 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Just when we thought all the stories of the Holocaust had been told, another emerges.

In the midst of the horror comes a story of survival and hope. The Hiding Place is always my go-to recommendation for World War II and Holocaust stories.  This one adds another dimension.

Light shines brightest in the dark.

Buy now from Amazon

 I Was Anatasia by Ariel Lawhorn

The world is enthralled by the story of Anastasia Romanov.  So much of it shrouded in mystery. What is fact, what is fiction, what is myth and what is legend?  We are drawn to the mystery, to the possibilities, to the tragedy and to the pathos of this story.

Ariel Lawhorn created a masterpiece, weaving all the strands of the story into one, cohesive, intriguing narrative.

Captivating till the end.

Buy now from Amazon

 Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

C.S. Lewis has always been one of my favorite authors and The Chronicles of Narnia the pinnacle in children’s literature, in my opinion. Even though I knew the basic facts of the love story between Lewis and Joy Davidman, Becoming Mrs.  Lewis fleshed out the story in a probable narrative of their relationship.

I came to see her as an unsung hero in Lewis’ life.

There’s nothing like an inside peek at the life of one of the world’s greatest writers.

Buy now from Amazon

 We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

“Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds.” —Amazon

The Kurcs were from Radom, Poland, but in the course of the war, three generations are spread throughout Europe and beyond, fleeing the Nazi regime.

I am in awe of this story. It is a light in a dark time and highlights the triumph of love, family and the will to survive.

Buy now from Amazon

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

Thousands of women worked on breaking codes during WWII. The government began by recruiting and training at women’s colleges, sending secret letters to students in the fall of their senior year.

Then they started recruiting teachers.

The work took special skills, and they didn’t always know what they were.

Intercepting and understanding enemy communication proved to be the critical strategy for the allies to win the war.

Thousands of American women working secretly to break enemy codes turned the tide.

This is the untold story of those women.

Buy now from Amazon

I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

 “Rosetta doesn’t want her new husband, Jeremiah, to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they’ll be able to afford their own farm someday. When Jeremiah leaves, Rosetta decides her true place is by his side, no matter what that means, and follows him into war.

Rich with historical details and inspired by the many women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is a courageous adventure, a woman’s search for meaning and individuality, and a poignant story of enduring love.”– from Amazon

I liked learning about a piece of little known history during the Civil War. It’s hard to even imagine life in those circumstances.

Well written fictionalized account highlighting the stories of real women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men.

Buy now from Amazon

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

 Based of the life of the first female lawyer in Bombay.

Not only does this fictional account weave a riveting tale, it highlights the culture and customs of 1920’s India.

Limited educational opportunities, arranged marriages, gender segregation and inequalities.  These were real obstacles.

Navigating that world and winning is a real feat.

Buy now from Amazon

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Fascinating novelized account of the country’s first female sheriff.

Three sisters living alone in the country manage to get on the wrong side of some shady characters.  Tell how they defend themselves, throw in some family secrets and end up with the a female sheriff.  Well played.

Stewart writes in an engaging style that kept me flipping pages.

I was glad to see the author follows the sisters’ story in another book.

 Buy now from Amazon

What are you reading this month? 

Sometimes Understanding Human Nature Will Change Your Life: 6 Books to Help You

Humans are complex.

Several lifetimes of study on human nature will still fall short.

And, yet, sometimes the simplest insight will change the trajectory of our lives.  Once we know something we can’t unknow it.

Insight isn’t everything, of course.  There’s application.  Discipline.  Sharing what you know.

But, sometimes, just understanding is enough to make a change.

(Note:  this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will support this site.)

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

What’s all the buzz about the enneagram?  Why is there such a following for an ancient system of personality typing that seems to have no research behind it?

I put it in the same category as The 5 Love Languages.  It gains a following because it rings true.

Of course.  I should have seen it all along.  But, of course, we didn’t.  But now it seems so obvious when it’s all laid out.

Yes.  That is what I’m like.  That’s how my friends and family tick.  It all makes sense now.  I get it.  And because it rings true, it gains a following and creates a buzz.

Buy now from Amazon

Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup

Ruth is breaking new ground by introducing the 7 fear archetypes. This is a different way to understand yourself: based on your natural fear tendencies.

In spite of good information and insight in this book, I have a feeling it will not be embraced like some of her others. I’m guessing there’s a smaller percentage of the population that really wants to face their fears. Most of us would rather hide.

Ruth shares compelling stories from her own life and inspirational stories from others.  If you listen to her podcast or follow her online, you will have heard them before.  But, they’re still good.

Buy now from Amazon

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Heads up for language.

If you’ve ever wondered what the life of a shrink looks like, here’s your chance for a behind the scenes deep dive.

Lori pulls back the curtain on the intersection of personal life and professional life.  Real human drama.  How to become a therapist, how to survive as a therapist, how to see a therapist.

One of our deepest human needs is connection with other humans.  And, yet, sometimes we shoot ourself in the foot.  The reality is, though, that you really don’t have to have it all together in your life before you can help someone else.

Lori shares the stories of her patients as well as the stories of being on the couch herself.  For sure, no man is an island. Intriguing.  Compelling.

Buy now from Amazon

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People is a good way to get a quick overview of some of the personality frameworks. Some I was familiar with, some I wasn’t. I find personality fascinating.

It’s easy to see the practical applications and helpfulness of the different frameworks when Anne shares personal stories of how they have helped her.

I’m recommending this book to young people because it’s so important to know yourself. Having a vocabulary and reference points is so helpful for teams, co-workers, spouses and family members.

Highly recommended.

Buy now from Amazon

Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy

“If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.”–from GoodReads

I heard Ben speak at Tribe Conference last year.  It’s amazing the following he’s gained on Medium.  He writes good stuff, too. Helpful stuff.

Well-written. Great message.

Buy now from Amazon

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy is a quick read.  It is a compilation of wisdom from many gurus of time management, self-management and motivation.  The subtitle is “21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”

If I have one beef with the book, it’s that he doesn’t attribute his ideas to the original authors.  But, the content is gold.

Simple and profound.  So why isn’t everyone doing it?  Because it’s hard.  At least, it’s hard to start.

He does tackle the psychological side of motivating yourself to do difficult things.

It is a book full of action points, laced with a few stories to illustrate the effectiveness of the principles he advocates.

The whole “eat the frog” analogy comes from Mark Twain who said that “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Talking ourselves into doing difficult things instead of avoiding them gets us ahead.

Buy now from Amazon

What have you read lately that has changed your life? 

Three Things I Learned this Spring

My grand daughter, Caroline

 

1. It’s hard to be content.

Even when you have the most adorable grand baby in the world.  And another one on the way.  And meaningful work. And great kids.  And good health, overall. Food in the fridge.  A roof overhead.  A hot shower every day.

Yet, I get weighed down and overwhelmed with the things I wish we’re different.  Dirty carpets, dirty windows, messy closets.  Bills to pay.  Overwhelming list of things to do. Decisions to make.  Conflicts, tensions, uncertainty. Tight clothes. Noise.  Clutter.

The negative threatens to over take my thoughts, even when surrounded by so much positive.  Why is that?

2. I read three fantastic books.

Plus a bunch that were just so so and some that were truly terrible.  But I’ll only tell you about the great ones.

(Note: the following links are affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Educated by Tara Westover

What would it be like to step into a classroom for the first time at 17 and go on to earn a Phd?

It’s amazing how a simple telling of one’s life can be so powerful.  Even more extraordinary than Tara’s life is her ability to tell her history objectively.

Read the full review here.

Buy now from Amazon

I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Truly a work of art.

All the threads woven together masterfully.  Everything revealed at the precise moment.  The author knows how to connect emotionally to the reader.  You’re drawn in from the first page to the last.

Buy now from Amazon

 

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

A family of Polish Jews fight for their lives and freedoms across Europe and across continents

Amazing, incredible accounts based on the history of the author’s relatives.  Although I had trouble at first keeping the adult children and their locations straight, once I did, the intriguing series of events had me hooked.

Buy now from Amazon

If you love to read, don’t miss my notable memoir list and 8 stand out novels to rekindle your love for reading.

 

3.  The intangible losses of my past are elusive.

I tried to capture it in a short story, Melting the Frozen Grief of the Global Nomad

A realization dawned that buried in my childhood was something rare and precious.  And I lost it. Of course, growing up wasn’t 18 years of idyllic life.  But there was something really, really good there that isn’t there any more.

I also tried to illustrate that creativity is an antidote to grief. It’s necessary for the healing, to compensate for the loss.  Something of beauty needs to be created to fill the vacuum.  In my story, Brenda painted a sea scape.  For me, more often, it’s words or words and pictures.  Or something visual.

I’m having a hard time articulating it.  But this is why write. To untangle the thoughts and feelings till they make sense.

 

 

 

You Haven’t Seen this Notable Memoir List on Buzzfeed

To me, the appeal of a memoir is the chance to crawl into someone else’s skin and get behind their eyes to know what they are thinking and feeling.

In a way, it’s a mystery.

What would it be like trying to get into college if you’d never gone to school?  What would it be like almost losing your life and clawing your way back to every skill you lost?  What would it be like finding out, at age 54, that the foundation of what you believed about yourself as a person wasn’t true?  What would it be like serving as the First Lady of the United States?

There’s a way to find out.

Read these memoirs.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Educated by Tara Westover

Easily the best memoir I’ve read all year.

How do you earn a Phd without attending school till before age 17?

This question drives the book, but there’s so much more: mental illness, brainwashing, belief systems accepted and rejected, family dynamics, isolationism and, mostly, confronting your history honestly without bitterness.

There’s a few heroes I love in this narrative, in addition to Tara herself who confronts her own story with transparency and courage. She dares to travel the road not taken.

Read more.

Hope Heals by Katharine and Jay Wolf

Talk about courage in the face of loss.

At age 26 Katharine suffered a brainstem stroke that almost took her life.  Her husband was at the point of graduating from law school.  Their baby was six months old.

The chronicle of their journey is sobering and inspiring.

How would my faith hold up in those circumstances?  How would I handle a similar challenge?

Hats off to the Wolfs for their courage, faith and transparency.

This book was recommended by a blog reader.  (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

 Truly a remarkable human drama.

Finding out that her dad was not her biological father was just the beginning for Dani Shapiro.

Though that revelation was startling in itself, more secrets were uncovered.  The shock waves continued.

Dani takes the reader along on this unexpected journey of self-discovery.  The advances of modern science have made the unthinkable possible.

 

Spoken From the Heart by Laura Bush

I love Laura Bush’s humble spirit.  I love her ordinary every-day-ness.  Even though she became First Lady of the United States, she tells of being content with simple pleasures.

One day her friend came to visit her in the White House.  They worked out together and then relaxed in the sitting room, each reading their own book.

Another story in this memoir made a lasting impression.

On page 113, she recounts, “Once, when the girls were two and a half, Bar Bush made a rare stop in Midland.  Jenna and Barbara ran out of the house with their arms held out to greet her, calling ‘Ganny’, the name all Bushes give their grandmothers, and she looked up at me and said with gratitude, ‘Thank you for teaching your girls to know me.’ ”

It’s a heart melting story, but to me it drove home the importance of intentionally bridging the gap with far away family.

It resonated because my nuclear family and the family we raised both have experience with long distance family relationships.  I wrote a post about it.  Closing the gap:  connecting across the miles.

What have you been reading lately?