Category: Holidays

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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Good Friday: Jesus Christ and the “Birth Pains of Death”

Image from DayOfEaster.com; I added the text
Image from DayOfEaster.com; I added the text

Today is Good Friday, the day when we remember Jesus’ suffering on the cross, in anticipation of Easter Sunday, when we celebrate his victory over death through resurrection.

Peter spoke of this on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:22-24, when he said (emphasis mine):

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (NIV)

What most people don’t know is that the part I highlighted in v. 24 is a bit of a mistranslation. The Greek for “agony” there, ōdinas (ὠδῖνας), doesn’t just mean “agony.” It quite specifically means “birth agony.” The pains of labor and childbirth. The correct translation of the passage would be, “freeing him from the birth pains of death.”

I know of no English translations that preserve the true metaphor of the original Greek. Why is that? Are we uncomfortable with the idea of a man suffering the pains of labor? Does that make our God too feminine for our liking? Or is it simply because the idea of “birth pains of death” is too confusing? Birth, after all, is supposed to be about life, not death.

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Merry Christmas!

Advent_Wreath_5_Candles
Merry Christmas!

Today was a different kind of Christmas for me. The brokenness that is divorce means that I only see my children every other holiday. My XH has them in Florida, visiting with their grandparents. I spoke to them on Skype today and they seem well. They return tomorrow, and we will open the presents under the tree on Sunday morning, so it isn’t much of a delay. Still, it is sobering to realize that I will only spend four more Christmas days with my daughter before she becomes an adult. Today I only had my brother with me for Christmas, and though he is wonderful and I love him a lot, it’s been my loneliest Christmas so far.

I don’t feel alone though. As hard as it is to be without my kids, I know that, given the circumstances, everything is as it should be. Their grandparents love them and they are making new childhood memories in Florida, and I won’t have to wait long to see them. I have a roof over my head, food to feed them, and there are presents under the tree for them. God has blessed us.

Constantine opening presents at his grandparents' home in Florida
Constantine opening presents at his grandparents’ home in Florida

I spoke earlier this year, in my testimony, about my beliefs on the Incarnation and what it means for humanity. I will lay down my life to empower the weak and helpless, just as Jesus did for us by choosing to become human, walk among us, and die for us. Christmas is when we remember that first step he took for us.

I hope your Christmas has been a good one.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Peace

Last year’s post on the 4th Sunday of Advent featured a long list of hectic things that had been happening to me as a single mom.

Things have been tamer for me as of late. Then today happened.

Today I went to a lovely and fun evening Christmas service at Willow Creek Community Church, had a really fun time with some people there.

My disabled daughter also smacked into a pillar and chipped her tooth while she was there. And when I got home, my son dropped my smartphone (which probably retailed for $500-$600 new when I first got it 20 months ago) and the touch screen shattered. It isn’t registering touch, so it’s currently completely unusable.

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Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

Our Advent wreath last year with three candles lit.
Our Advent wreath last year with three candles lit.

Earlier this year, I attended a soft skills training on “stress management.” It was a small class (3-4 people plus 2 instructors), so everyone in the class got to share a bit about what makes them stressed. I found myself talking a lot about my kids. Working to support my kids, commuting long distances to support my kids, living on a tight budget because of my kids, and the endless grind of the life of a single mother with so few breaks from the kids.

At a different point in the class, the instructor asked us to write down what makes us feel happy, and at the top of my list was . . . my kids. When my little boy giggles at me, when my daughter is being goofy, when we do something together as a family. The source of my greatest stresses in life is also the source of my greatest joy.

I read an article earlier this year about how some pain actually enhances pleasure. I’m not sure I’d feel the highs with my kids were it not for the lows.

The third Advent candle represents joy. The pink also reminds us to look ahead to Christ’s sacrifice. The joy of the Savior’s arrival in this world is linked to the anticipation of his sacrifice for us all. We can’t have one without the other.

Tonight, I’m gathering my children around to light the third Advent candle and sing “Joy to the World.” May you find joy this Advent Sunday.

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Second Sunday of Advent: Love

Our wreath last year on the 2nd Sunday of Advent.

I’ll never forget the definition of love that was given to me at a youth conference, years ago, when I was maybe 12. It must have been a good youth conference, because that definition has stayed with me my entire life.

“Love is choosing the highest good for the other person.”

In our society, talk is cheap. A classic hallmark of emotionally immature people is saying “I love you” too early in a relationship. This kind of thing can even be a mark of abusive behavior, called “love-bombing.”

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First Sunday of Advent: Hope

Advent_Wreath_1
Today is the first Sunday of Advent for the year 2015. We enter into my favorite season from a past year that has been one of continuing transition for my family. I switched jobs (just two weeks ago), started a certificate program at the local community college, have made good progress on my thesis with a solid goal of finally finishing my MA degree in May 2016, and have gotten acclimated to the life of a single mother and divorcée. My brother, who lives with me and had been my primary caregiver for my children, went back to work for the first time in six years, which has meant putting my son in part-time child care and my daughter in after-school care. As I look to the future, I am pondering the possibility of returning to my family in Seattle next summer, after I finish both my programs. It would mean trying to line up both a job and a place to live before making the cross-country move, so I am apprehensive about the future.

Yet, I am hopeful. My favorite passage in the Bible reads (emphasis mine):

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ~ “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Hope is a powerful thing. The Reformer Martin Luther once said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Often we think that we have no hope, but if this were true, we might not choose to keep going. And when we look to God and his promises for our hope, he can do amazing things in our lives. On the dawn of Christ’s coming, Israel looked to God for the hope of the promised Messiah.

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