Monthly Archives: June 2016

When Your Family Tree is Grafted


For sixteen years, my husband and I with our kids were ex-pats assigned to Mexico.  One of the interesting things about living as foreigners in another country is your relationship with other ex-pats.  It hit home this week when were catching up with a former co-worker from those days and I heard my kids call him “Uncle”.  It was common in our ex-pat community for the kids to call the other adults Aunt and Uncle.

But it gave me pause, thinking about those unusual relationships. My kids have great relationships with their blood relatives.  Their grandparents, aunts and uncles are encouraging and supportive in tangible ways.  So, I’m a little stymied to put my finger on what makes these relationships unique.

Maybe the critical element is being geographically far away from your extended family.  So these Aunts and Uncles step into the vacuum.  It fills that need for the family connections that go unmet for months or years at a time.  But, there also exists an element of choice.  You can choose who to get together with for Christmas dinner or the Super Bowl. You can choose who comes to the kids’ birthday parties and who you ask to help you move.  Back in your hometown, you know who your relatives are.  You know how the pecking order plays out.  There’s a clear distinction between friends and family.  There’s no blurring of the lines.

Away from home, the line between friends and family gets blurred.

I’m grateful for the people that stepped into the extended family gap that was created by the logistics of geography.  Our lives are richer because of it.



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What I’m Reading June 2016


June makes me think of strawberries.  Mostly because Pete likes them and I often make a strawberry pie for his June birthday.

Even though the summer schedule means I’m working a little less, it also means my college kids are home and more people in general in and out for meals.  Less time for reading.  More time for making family memories.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit

ToKillaMockingbird Buy now from Amazon

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I made it 49 years without reading To Kill a Mockingbird, but the time had come.

I’m glad I finally made time for this classic.  It’s a good study on prejudice and the power of great sacrifice to live your principles.  Human nature is fickle and sometimes we can use that to our advantage.

Not sure if I’ll tackle the sequel or not, since reviews were mixed and many negative.

WhenBreathBecomesAir Buy now from Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This memior was written by a man diagnosed with cancer.  That’s the kind of news that changes your perspective in life.

Kalanith writes in a clear, concise style.  What makes the book extraordinary is the author wrestles with the meaning of life even before he’s diagnosed with cancer.  It gives the reader pause in the very best ways.

Here’s my takeaway:  we make plans for our lives based on how long we think we have left to live.  We make different decisions when we think we’re going to live 40 years more or 10 or 1.

Also:  at the end of life, our close relationships are what matter most.  But, running a close second is a life dedicated to meaningful work and making an impact on our world in some way.  I’ve believed for a long time that having meaningful work was a critical element for the human psyche, but I’ve never seen it so clearly before, especially in light of the importance of close relationships at the end of life.

I also enjoyed Kalanitrh’s stories of his experiences in medical school.  Interesting to see the behind the scenes snapshots of a surgeon in training.

GuernseyLiterary Buy now from Amazon

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

So many reviewers raved about this book, I finally decided I had to check it out.  Plus, it had such an unusual title, my curiosity was piqued.

I’d have to say it was worth all the hype.

I guess I didn’t read enough reviews to realize that it’s set in Europe in the years immediately following World War II.

The beginning moves a little slowly as almost the entire story is told in letters back and forth between the many characters.  Juliet is a writer who hears about the Literary Society’s unorthodox  beginning.  She is intrigued and unearths the entire story, getting to know the members initially through letters.

I loved the human drama for the very reason war stories are so popular:  adverse circumstances causes the heroes to rise to the top.

Heart-warming, satisfying read.


The Lovely Bones

I’m very late to the party on this one, since the book was published in 2002 and the movie version released in 2009.  But, I wanted to find out for myself what the buzz was about.

The Lovely Bones is told from the point of view of a 14-year-old girl who has been murdered. She describes what heaven is like for her and keeps tabs on friends and family on earth.

The premise of the book is intriguing.  The novel is well-written.  Some depictions are too graphic for my taste.  But, my biggest problem with the book was the way it portrayed immorality.

The problem isn’t that immorality is included in the story. Even the Bible isn’t G-rated.  Lots of stories there that don’t make it into the children’s Bible Story books for good reason.  But, the lines of morality are fairly clear.  When they are crossed, judgment follows. The immorality is neither normalized or glorified.

I’ve come to believe that the way the immorality is depicted is the critical issue.  Is it normalized?  Is it glorified? I believe the moral slide we see in our culture can be traced in our literature and movies, though it’s probably a chicken or egg issue.

Interestingly enough, there’s criminal behavior portrayed in The Lovely Bones that is repulsive. Everyone is repulsed.  There’s immorality that is accepted due to extreme circumstances.  And there is immorality that is glorified. This is where I have a problem.

I believe strongly that immorality shouldn’t be normalized and shouldn’t be glorified.

I stumbled upon a post on how to find clean books to read that is full of resources for books rated for content.

Now, more than ever, I’m on a quest for wholesome, brilliantly written novels.  I know they’re out there.  Just gotta find em.

TheShack Buy now from Amazon

The Shack

I read The Shack years ago, before I was blogging book reviews, so I thought I’d add it here, on a slow month.

I keep a copy of The Shack on the shelf at the bookstore, and it always sells, so I know there’s still new readers out there.

Here’s my one-sentence summary about The Shack:  It’s not a good place to get your theology about God, but it is a good read for challenging and stretching your image of God.

When The Shack was released, it touched a nerve and became a bestseller for this very reason: it wrestled with one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people of faith, namely, how can a loving, all-powerful God allow horrific things to happen to the innocent?

The Shack is told from the point of view of a father whose little girl is missing.  As the truth becomes known, the father loses his way in life until he encounters some unusual personifications of God that help him reassess his faith.

What are you reading this month?

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







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Slow and Steady Wins



It’s hard to go slow.

I want a perfectly clean, smartly decorated house. Now.  The perfectly toned body. Now. The burgeoning blog. Financial goals met.  The holy life attained.  All relationships in harmony. Now. Now. Now.

Going slow highlights the discontentment of where I am versus where I want to be.

But here’s the thing:  a scattered focus means that I don’t achieve success in any area.

So, I am forcing myself to focus on only a couple of things this summer: exercise every evening plus healthy meal planning and prep (including desserts!).

In the spring, my exercise routine was hit and miss because I was focusing on being consistent with my wake-up routine.  Now that is established, it’s time to move on to something else.

So, now my blogging is hit and miss.  I’ll try to focus on that in the fall.

I’m shooting for 66 days in a row to establish new habits, based on the latest understanding of habit formation.  (Thanks to Michael Hyatt for bringing this to my attention.)

It can be discouraging to move slowly.  So I’m pep talking myself into staying the course and celebrating small wins.

Victoria at Snail Pace Transformations is Queen of slow and steady.  I’m inspired by her.  Check out her blog and see where slow and steady gets you!

Power of Habit was one of my favorite reads of last year.  Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin also tackles establishing habits.  Both books are helpful and practical if you’re working on your habits.

Stay the course, friends!  Slow and steady wins.

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