I’ve so enjoyed writing and sharing my Cultivating Character series with you all over the last few weeks. It’s been an enriching experience for me, and I’m looking forward to writing more of that type of reflective/spiritual-driven post in the future. I have one more trait to explore, but today I’m pressing pause on the series to fill you in on the books, movies, and other wonderful things that have been filling my spare time this November.
What I’ve Read and Am Reading . . .
Mind Over Labor, by Carl Jones: My reading these days is mostly dominated by books about pregnancy, labor, and parenting. Mind Over Labor is a reading assignment for our childbirth class, and Luke and I have been reading it together. This book is designed to help women (and their birth coaches) prepare for natural childbirth using mental imagery. Though we’re only a few chapters in, I’ve already found the information and visualization strategies insightful and empowering. It’s helpful for me to remember that childbirth is a natural process, and the reminder that my body is fully capable of birthing a baby helps to alleviate some of the fear I have as I anticipate giving birth. Written in 1988, this book is nearly as old as I am, but the material still feels timely; I suppose the act of giving birth hasn’t changed all that much over the years! My Book Rating (so far): 4.5 out of 5 stars.
On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep, by Garry Ezzo and Robert Buckman: This book came as a recommendation from a few friends after I shared my Baby Prep Reading Wish List post on Facebook. It seemed to offer a very different approach from attachment parenting (which I think will be more of my tendency), but I figured it was worth reading. The book instructs parents on how to establish feeding and sleeping schedules with their babies. Much of the book is repetitive, but there are a number of useful insights, and though some of the book’s suggestions go against my personal instincts, I do like the idea of having a (flexible) feeding and sleeping schedule. I found the content in this book valuable enough that, after reading a library copy, I ordered my own copy from Amazon and will be holding onto it for future reference. My Book Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci: My parents both read—and enjoyed—this book a while ago, and since I generally don’t like to read Christmas books outside of the Holiday Season, their hand-me-down copy has been languishing on my bookshelf since January. With Christmas getting closer, and my brain overflowing with baby information, I figured now was the perfect time to indulge in a lighthearted holiday story. The book centers around Tom Langdon, a former war journalist who finds himself on a cross-country train trip during the Christmas season. As Tom rides the rails from D.C. to L.A., he encounters an eclectic assortment of characters and unexpectedly finds himself working on a documentary-type film project with the former love of his life. This book is vastly different from Baldacci’s typical fare. Though the plot is a bit predictable, and the characters are completely over-the-top, it is thus far proving to be a heartwarming story, and just what I needed to get me into the Christmas spirit. My Book Rating (so far): 4 out of 5 stars.
What I’ve Been Listening To . . .
Think Like a Freak, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: In their first two books, the economists behind the Freakonomics franchise changed the way we view the world by “exposing the hidden side of everything.” Think Like a Freak moves beyond interesting stories to help readers develop an economist-like approach to thinking about the world and tackling life’s problems. The authors’ suggestions, ranging from “Learn to Say I don’t Know” to “Learn to Appreciate the Upside of Quitting,” are accompanied by intriguing statistics and anecdotes. I’ve long been a fan of all things Freakonomics; I devoured the first two books and am a faithful listener to the weekly podcast. While this book might be great for non-podcast listeners, most of the material was already covered (often in greater detail) on the weekly show; in fact, the audiobook felt so familiar, I kept rechecking my GoodReads lists to confirm that I hadn’t already read it. I was looking forward to fresh content with this newest Freakonomics edition, and feel a bit let down. It’s a great book, but I didn’t need to “read” it twice. My Book Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The Quick, by Lauren Owen: ((SPOILERS AHEAD)) James Norbury is an aspiring poet living in London in the late 1800s. When he mysteriously disappears, his devoted sister Charlotte goes in search of her brother, and both siblings become entangled in London’s dangerous world of the undead. I had no idea when I started listening to this audiobook that it was a story about vampires. The book started out well, but the pace quickly slowed once the vampire element was introduced. I found the shifts in narration tedious, the characters dull, and the plot as slow as molasses. I also thought the explicit nature of two characters’ homosexual relationship was completely unnecessary, though Charlotte and James’s relationship was a sweet one. The book’s ending redeemed the story a bit, but only barely. I wish I’d known before I listened what this book was all about. . . I never would have invested nineteen hours of listening time. My Book Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Serial Podcast: If you have any interest in podcasts, you’ve probably been hearing about—and perhaps are already listening to—this hit new spinoff of the This American Life podcast. In this true-crime drama, host Sarah Koenig is investigating the 1999 murder of a high school student named Hae Min Lee. Though Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, is serving a life sentence for her murder, Keonig is not certain that Syed is guilty. Each week, Keonig digs deeper into the mystery, examining many facets of the murder that went unexplored during the initial police investigation. I eagerly anticipate each week’s latest installment, and I’ve found myself so engrossed in the story that it’s easy to forget it is a REAL set of circumstances involving actual individuals. I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that such a horrific event is being utilized for entertainment, but I simply can’t stop listening! If you have been following the investigation, I’m curious to hear your thoughts: do you believe Adnan is guilty? I’m leaning towards yes, but I have to admit that some of the facts don’t seem to add up!
What I’ve Watched and Am Watching. . .
Last month, I mentioned that Luke and I were trying to settle on a new drama to watch on Netflix. Well, we’ve been so busy lately that the only television we’ve been watching is How I Met Your Mother. We rarely get through more than one or two episodes per day, so it’s taking us a while to make our way through the whole series; I don’t mind, because it means we get to enjoy the show a little bit longer before we get to the final season. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of Redbox nights this month: one pick from me, the other from Luke.
Maleficent: This unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty story was beautifully done, with amazing scenery and creative characters. I felt the movie did an excellent job of weaving elements of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty into a more realistic and somewhat darker storyline. I was impressed with their treatment of Maleficent, who managed to be both frightening and sympathetic. Parts of the movie were a bit too fantasy for me—I do like fantasy in small doses, but giant talking trees and gnomes can be a bit much—and I felt the character of Sleeping Beauty was miscast, but otherwise was quite impressed with the film.
One thing I’ve been thinking about since watching this movie is how so many movies/shows lately have focused on telling the story from the villain’s perspective, evoking compassion for the character who was once the “bad guy.” Though I appreciate the value in seeing a story from someone else’s perspective, and even in empathizing with a character traditionally pegged as the bully, I wonder if this is all part of a subtle societal shift away from distinguishing between good and evil. I firmly believe that there is genuine evil in the world, and this evil has always been unambiguously portrayed in films and books; however, it’s grown popular to navigate within the grey. Though I won’t deny the existence—even prominence—of grey in the world, I think it’s dangerous to forget that some things are simply black. That’s probably taking the film’s themes way deeper than they were intended to go, but it’s definitely something to think about. My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Edge of Tomorrow: This nontraditional war film is essentially Groundhog Day with a sci-fi twist. Tom Cruise’s character is a military officer involved in a war against an alien race. He soon discovers that every time he is killed, the day resets. This enables him to know the future and work to outsmart his enemy. I like the premise of this film, but it contained too much of the things I dislike in movies: war, action, aliens, and a lack of character development. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt were decent in their roles, but the script didn’t give them much material to work with. Ultimately, this movie was just not my cup of tea, but Luke made the movie more tolerable for me by massaging my back the whole time we watched: it’s a very effective strategy for getting me to endure a movie Im not enjoying! My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
What I’m Enjoying . . .
Preserving Traditions. . . and Laughing at Myself! (This technically was not in November, but since it took place since my last Lately post, I’m allowing myself some flexibility with the dates.) Pumpkin carving was one of my favorite traditions growing up, and when Luke and I started dating, I introduced him to the wonderful world of Jack-o-Lantern creation. We’ve continued with this tradition in the years we’ve been married, and this year was no exception. After spending some time on Pinterest trying to decide on a design for our pumpkins, I settled on a cute set of faces that met both of my requirements: adorable, and easy. Somehow, though, the flirty girl face proved impossible for me to replicate, and my final product looked absolutely terrifying. In the past, such a spectacular flop would have left me in tears, but I’ve come far enough in my perfectionism recovery that I was able to not only laugh at my pumpkin (seriously, I could not STOP laughing), but proudly display it on our front porch and even post pictures of it on Facebook. Fortunately, Luke had great success with his pumpkin, adding a bit of redemption to our unfortunate duo. We decided that his pumpkin was Beauty and mine was the Beast. 🙂
Flashlight Walks and Talks: One of the weekly assignments for our childbirth classes is to go on daily walks. Since it’s dark by the time Luke gets home from work, we’ve been braving the dark nights (and sometimes the cold) and strolling through our neighborhood with a flashlight in hand. Though I generally dislike the shorter days, these flashlight walks have been kind of exciting, and without a doubt they’ve been good for our relationship. Luke and I have found we connect best when we’re walking, and we talk about everything from what happened that day to our hopes, fears, and dreams for our son.
Early Mornings: As a lifelong night owl, I never thought I’d be able to appreciate the morning hours, but early mornings are slowly growing on me. Last year, Luke and I took advantage of the end of Daylight Savings Time to shift our daily schedule up an hour. When Luke told me he planned to do the same this year—bringing his wake time up to 5:00—I thought he was crazy, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself joining him in rising before the sun. I’ve discovered that I’m shockingly productive in the pre-breakfast hour; on different days, I’ve utilized the extra time to blog, grade papers, write lessons plans, bake muffins, and even head to the gym. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I often go back to bed one we’ve eaten breakfast and Luke heads off to work, so I’m really not adding any time to my day; however, I’ve found that I make much better use of my time in the very early morning than I would later in the day. Another huge benefit is that I’ve been able to witness some pretty beautiful sunrises!
Fall Colors: We don’t get a lot of seasonal changes around these parts, but a few of the trees on our street have been changing color, and they are absolutely gorgeous. I feel so blessed to live in a place with such temperate weather, but I do appreciate a nice change of scene from time to time, and the evolving trees never fail to bring a smile to my face.
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Linking up over at Leigh Kramer’s blog where a community of bloggers is sharing what we’re into lately.