My love affair with summer is a passionate and enduring one. There are countless reasons why this is my favorite season, but chief among them is the slower pace of these summer months. When I was a student, and then a teacher, I spent nine long months anticipating summer vacation. Though my year is no longer dictated by an academic calendar, this summer has still seen a noticeable shift towards rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. In addition to being on break from my school-year commitments, I’ve been taking measures this month to quiet my days and—perhaps more importantly—my mind. Though it’s not easy for me to subdue the noisiness in my brain, I’m making a concentrated effort to keep thoughts of past and future at bay while I take time to savor the present, embrace the simple, and listen to the silence. In addition to these quieter moments, here are some things I’ve been up to this July.
On My Bookshelf. . .
My bookshelf has been remarkably sparse this past month, a byproduct of my efforts to simplify my summer days. July hasn’t been completely devoid of reading, though. On the paperback front, I am savoring Emily Freeman’s latest book, Simply Tuesday; I can’t wait to share a full review when we get closer to the book’s release date! I just finished up Les and Leslie Parrot’s Making Happy, checking another book off my TBR List for 2015. Next up from the list is Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting; it’s deep and fairly lengthy, so I have a feeling it will be occupying my nightstand for quite some time.
I’ve also listened to a handful of audiobooks this month: standouts have included Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (a quirky mystery that I loved), Lian Moriarty’s Three Wishes (good, but not as good as her other books), and Jessica Knoll’s debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive (which didn’t live up to the hype). Check back in a couple of weeks when I’ll be sharing reviews of my monthly reads as part of my new Quick Lit series.
In My Ears. . .
My podcast feed has been overflowing with a slew of fantastic new (to me) podcasts. One great new discovery has been The Boob Group. Despite the unfortunate title, this podcast is an awesome resource for breastfeeding moms. The weekly show, which focuses entirely on breastfeeding, features lactation consultants and other medical professionals, as well as breastfeeding moms who share their unique feeding experiences. I wish I’d discovered this podcast sooner, but even now—six months into breastfeeding—I am learning so much about this fascinating topic.
I don’t regularly listen to The Liturgists podcast, but I’d been hearing a lot about one particular episode and decided to check it out. The episode features a thoughtful and balanced discussion of LGBTQ persons and their treatment within the Church. While I don’t agree with everything that was shared, I admired the hosts’ willingness to address such a controversial subject and appreciated their delicate and humanizing treatment of what is too-often a divisive topic within the faith community. If your are like me, and are still grappling with your own attitudes and understanding of this complex issue, I highly encourage you to give this a listen.
With podcasts and audiobooks filling my ears most of the time, I don’t get around to listening to much music, but when I find a new album I love, it tends to stay on heavy rotation for quite some time. My current obsession is Joy Williams’ new release, Venus. With its tribal undertones, introspective lyrics, and empowering themes, Venus bears little resemblance to Williams’ previous works, but it is definitely my favorite thing I’ve heard from her. The album’s songs are autobiographical, documenting the artist’s reactions to her recent life events (most notably, the break up of her duo The Civil Wars). I had already been digging Williams’ new sound, but my appreciation for the album intensified when I read a behind-the-scenes discussion of the stories that inspired each song. I was particularly touched to learn of the inspiration for “Welcome Home,” which Williams wrote as an anthem for her newborn son.
Screen Time. . .
We are just a few episodes shy of wrapping up the final season of Chuck. We tend to enjoy the comedy/spy drama genre, and though Chuck wasn’t quite on par with Psych or Leverage, it has been a fun way to get our nightly fix. My Rating: 4 stars.
We’re also still working our way through Friends, and though the episodes have improved a bit now that we’re in Season 2, I’m still finding the show unnecessarily risqué and not all that funny. Though I doubt it will become a favorite, I’m sure we’ll finish the series, if only because I feel like watching this show is a lesson in TV history: I’m beginning to appreciate the numerous ways in which Friends transformed the television landscape, and it’s amazing to note the many elements of the show that have made their way into subsequent series that I know and love.
The one movie I watched this month was Still Alice. My mom and I both loved the book, so we made an afternoon date with the RedBox DVD and some take-out Flame Broiler to see how the film measured up. The movie tells the story of Dr. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old linguistics professor who is suffering early-onset Alzheimer’s. The movie remained pretty faithful to the novel (at least what I can remember of it—it’s been a few years since I read it), and like the book, it succeeded in conveying the devastating nature of Alzheimer’s. However, there were aspects of the print version that didn’t translate well into film: the book is slow and introspective, and that works much better in print than on the screen. I found myself growing disinterested at multiple points in the film, and my heart didn’t break for the actors the way it did for the characters in the book. I do think the filmmakers did the best they could with the material they had to work with: the acting is impeccable, and I felt Julianne Moore’s performance was worthy of the Academy Award she received for her part in the film. But ultimately, this is an example of a story that would have been better left in book form. My Rating: 3.5 stars.
Enjoying Lately . . .
Finding the Silver Lining: A few weeks ago I walked into my kitchen to discover the floor covered in shattered jars: one of our cupboards had pulled clean from the wall, bringing with it my entire stockpile of grains, flours, and other staples. Charlie and I were not in the room when it happened, so nobody was hurt (thank God!), but the sight of such an enormous mess threw my OCD-self into a state of panic. I immediately called Luke, who—amazing husband that he is—came home to help with the clean up. (Just one week prior, he came home to help out when our washing machine pump broke and flooded the same kitchen floor. Have I mentioned that I have an awesome husband?!) The bright side to this not-so-fun mishap is that our landlord compensated Luke for the repair work and reimbursed us for the damaged items. The incident forced me to streamline my staples (did I really need ten types of flours?), and they are now all in beautifully matching Mason jars. Once again, God is showing me that life’s messy imperfections really can have a bright side.
My New Purse: I recently KonMaried my massive purse collection, and though I kept a handful of beautiful, joy-inducing purses, none of them satisfied my current needs for an everyday bag. I began the search for the ideal purse and found this pink bag for a steal at Ross. So far it’s been the perfect bag: just the right size, easy to clean, and enough compartments to keep me organized. It’s not the best quality, so I don’t know how long it will hold up, but right now it’s certainly doing its part to “spark joy.”
Celebrating New Babies: Having a baby of my own has done nothing to mitigate my baby fever, and I’ve had the pleasure this month of celebrating with a few friends who are expecting. This month I attended a couple of fun baby showers, including one for the gal who was my doula at Charlie’s birth—it was so fun to see her as the pregnant one! I also got to experience my very first gender reveal party, thrown by a friend who is expecting a second baby this December. I loved her creative approach to the reveal: she had her sister-in-law wrap cans of appropriately colored silly string, and at the count of three the guests all sprayed our cans to reveal the gender. So fun, although we discovered that Charlie does NOT like silly string. . . poor guy had a total meltdown when we all began to spray! I can’t wait to meet all these wonderful little ones in the coming months!
Disneyland Passes: My parents gifted us Disneyland passes last Christmas, and this month we decided that Charlie was finally old enough for us to redeem them. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find Disneyland very baby-friendly: we’re able to take Charlie on quite a few rides, and since our passes allow us to go at any time—and don’t feel the need to make every visit an epic one—we’re having fun just walking around the park, taking in the scenery, and visiting with the characters. I absolutely adore Disneyland and am having so much fun experiencing one of my favorite places with a child of my own.
As always, I’m linking up with a community of other bloggers to share what we’re into this month; head to Leigh Kramer’s site to check out what others are digging this summer. And leave me a comment to share a few of your July highlights!