The Year 2016 in Review: A Year in Reading

A Year in Reading

These were the books that I read (or re-read) in 2016, and how I rated them. I set a GoodReads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (2 per month) and exceeded that with a total of 27 books. 24 of those books were read between August and December. What I have found is that, since completing my master’s degree and Harper classes, I have a lot more free time for reading—and I am loving it.

  • Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life [1992] by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (Religion / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
  • Essential Car Care for Women [2012] by Jamie Little (Automotive) – 3/5 stars
  • Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide [2016] by Tracy Schorn (Relationships / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
  • Shadows of Self [2015] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • The Bands of Mourning [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 4/5 stars
  • Secret History [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • Road Rage: Two Novellas [2009] by Richard Matheson, Stephen King, & Joe Hill (Horror / Suspense) – 3/5 stars
  • After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters [2010] by N. T. Wright (Religion / Theology) – 5/5 stars
  • The Turn of the Screw [1898] by Henry James (Horror / Suspense) – 5/5 stars
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1886] by Robert Louis Stevenson (Horror / Mystery) – 4/5 stars
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency [1987] by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction) – 2/5 stars
  • Undaunted [2012] by Christine Caine (Religion / Self-Help) – 4/5 stars
  • Watchmen [1987] by Alan Moore (Comics / Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman [2014] by Jill Lepore (History / Feminism) – 5/5 stars
  • Alcatraz v. the Dark Talent [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Young Adult / Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • House of Leaves [2000] by Mark Z. Danielewski (Horror) – 3/5 stars
  • Healthy Aging [2005] by Andrew Weil (Health / Self-Help) – 3/5 stars
  • Death’s End [2016] by Cixin Liu (Science Fiction) – 3/5 stars
  • The Pearl [1947] by John Steinbeck (Drama / Suspense) – 4/5 stars
  • The Books of the Bible (New Testament) [2011] – 4/5 stars (for the edition, not the actual New Testament)
  • Elantris [2005] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity [2015] by Steve Silberman (Health / History) – 5/5 stars
  • The Emperor’s Soul [2012] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? [2016] by Kathleen Collins (Short Fiction / Drama / Race / Feminism / Sexuality) – 4/5 stars
  • All About Demisexuality [2015] by Arf (Health / Sexuality) – 2/5 stars
  • Dark Matter [2016] by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction) – 5/5 stars
  • The Christmas Tree that Ate My Mother [1992] by Dean Marney (Young Adult / Fantasy) – 3/5 stars

Some “awards” for these books:

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The Year 2016 in Review: The Bad

As I said in my last post, this has overall been a really good year for me. But here are some of the bad things I’ve had to deal with.

The Bad

The Ex-Boyfriend Stalker – Had to deal with a stalking ex-boyfriend this year. Not fun. My life is beginning to look like that Elle King song, but without the sex.

My “Position Available” Suitor – See this post on Medium here.

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The Year 2016 in Review: The Good

Right after my thesis defense, 4-15-16

Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:

The Good

Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.

Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)

My Hope is You

1st Sunday of Advent

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

I’m a lucky woman.

I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.

I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.

I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.

The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)

"Look at that!" He decorated it himself.
“Look at that!” He decorated it himself.

I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.

It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.

And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.

The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.

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My Son’s Expulsion from Daycare was the Best Thing to Happen to Us

autism_quoteAn Autism Journey

“So, we’ve decided that your son isn’t a good fit for our program.”

I froze in disbelief. A knot formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.

She continued. “You should really have him evaluated for special needs. Has no one told you that before?”

I shook my head. She wasn’t mean about it, and she showed concern for my distress, but she was firm that their daycare was not the right program for my son.

It was only his second day with this new provider, and this was the second time in less than 2.5 months that my son had been abruptly dismissed from a daycare program without warning. It was the fourth time in that same time period that a childcare provider had bailed on my son.

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Anatomy of My Vote: November 2016

mail_johnsonI just cast my vote for the Tuesday, November 8th election via mail. While this blog isn’t about politics (and even my columns at The Hill should shift more to religion over politics once this election is over), I thought I would share who I voted for and why.

Voting by mail at all is new for me this year. From 2012 to 2015, I served as an election judge for the Republican party and generally took advantage of early voting so I could remain at my polling station. However, I left the Republican party earlier this year due to Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee telling us that if we weren’t going to support Donald Trump, we should just leave the party (k. bye!). I now consider myself an independent and a “conservatarian.” You have to declare one party or the other to serve as an election judge in Illinois, so I opted not to serve anymore.

Prior to becoming an election judge, I enjoyed going to the polls. However, with my lack of enthusiasm for the candidates this year, I have no desire to be anywhere near the polls on election day. As an Illinois government employee, November 8th will be a paid holiday for me, so I am going to enjoy the day off with my kids and try not to think about this horrible election.

Without further ado, here is how I voted:

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Review: Undaunted

Author and speaker Christine Caine, founder of the A21 campaign to end human trafficking
Author and speaker Christine Caine, founder of the A21 campaign to end human trafficking

Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do by Christine Caine [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2012; Zondervan audiobook read by Tess Masters, 2012]

I first heard Christine Caine deliver a sermon at Willow Creek Community Church the weekend of April 17, 2016. Her sermon was so good, I made up my mind on the spot to read every book she has written; sadly, I was rather slow to fulfill that promise until I figured out how to fit audiobooks into my life more regularly. I think I settled in on Undaunted among all of her other books because it was the one my local library had, though I didn’t finish the paper copy in May as planned. Now, armed with the audiobook copy on Hoopla Digital, I was finally able to “read” it.

Undaunted is a thoroughly enjoyable, at times painful, almost semi-autobiographical book that details how Caine founded the A21 Campaign to abolish human trafficking. The book begins with a very daunting bit of theodicy wherein a group of recently freed sex trafficking victims question how God could be real after everything they had been through and why someone like Christine Caine hadn’t shown up to help them sooner (her answer, a very honest, “I don’t know, but I’m here now”). The narrative then segues into different events in Caine’s life and the lessons about God that Caine drew from each, with the overarching message being that we should not be daunted in doing what God calls us to do.

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