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I had a great birthday weekend! My birthday won’t be over the weekend again for a while, so I wanted to make the most of it. On Friday night, my friend Sara and I hung out by the river and watched the sunset. We had planned to walk at the park there, but the sunset was so spectacular, we ended up just sitting and talking. I should do that more often. It was lovely.

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On Saturday, as a birthday present, my parents generously bought me a new bike to replace my old one that got stolen. The ability to bike to places was a big part of why I wanted to live in Midtown, and I’ve felt a little lost without wheels. The store only had one duplicate of my old bike (though in a different color), and when I asked an employee to take it down for me, he said I needed a smaller bike frame. Turns out all adult bikes are not created equal. I’d always thought it was normal not to be able to reach the ground when stopped. :P It’ll take a while to get used to a different posture on a smaller bike, but I must say it feels better and I’m not struggling as much. Anyway, apparently I’m still going through a legit grief process for my old bike, but I’m still happy and thankful to have this!

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I spent the rest of Saturday at Moon River Fest at the Levitt Shell! While the first fest last year was very low-key, this one sold out a week in advance, and we waited 20 minutes in line just to get in! I came early to watch Myla rock the house…

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…and returned later to see Switchfoot (whose The Beautiful Letdown helped get me through my Reality Bites years) and one of my favorite bands, NEEDTOBREATHE. This was my third NTB show, and they never disappoint!

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moonriver15-forblog  (4)(In case you too are wondering… they’re both married. Womp womp.)

The fest was created by Drew and Ellie Holcolmb, so they took the stage last. They incorporated some fun visuals, like confetti, and turning off all the lights and playing only by the light of everyone’s phones. It was a little bit magical.

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For my big birthday celebration on Sunday, I wanted to watch the sunset from the new observation deck at the newly-reopened Pyramid, but it closes at 7:00 on Sundays. NOT COOL, BASS PRO. So I contented myself with dinner on the patio at Slider Inn (one of my faves) followed by games at Rec Room. I’ve been hearing about Slider’s Jameson slushies all summer and was excited to try one. It lived up to the hype!

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As usual, I felt loved and celebrated, and thankful to have so many great people in my life.

I’m generally hesitant to ask for prayer for myself even in dire circumstances, but since I was at church on my birthday, I decided to go to my friend Dianne, our prayer minister, for a birthday blessing of sorts. One thing she prayed (more than once) was for me to know that God isn’t through with me. There’s no way she could have known how much I needed that. It might sound ridiculous if you’re not in my head, but lately I’ve genuinely felt like my story is over in certain ways. Like this is the best it’s going to get and it’ll just have to be enough. In the big picture, I’m not feeling very excited or expectant about the rest of my life. Yet several friends have recently told me, without me mentioning this specifically, “The story’s not over.” And now this. I know it’s not an accident, so… may it be so. On to 36!

4 Comments + Posted in: birthday, hope, memphis, music

brenebrown

A year or so ago, I wrote about my role models. That list holds strong and true. But if I rewrote it today, Dr. Brené Brown would be at the top. I’m going to Houston next month (her home base), and I checked her website to see if she was teaching a seminar or making a local appearance that weekend – anything where I could, even briefly, sit at her feet and under her tutelage. Sadly, she’ll be on a national tour with Oprah (NBD), but in any case I was forced to accept it: I’ve become a full-blown Brené Disciple.

Most people know Dr. Brown from her 2012 breakthrough Daring Greatly. The centerpiece of that book, and much of her work and research, is Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Man In The Arena” speech. After marinating in and living out the Daring Greatly message for several years, she needed to hone in on that first part about failure, the falling down marred with sweat and blood. Because when we’re living bravely, we will fall down again and again. How do we keep getting up, and going back into the arena? This was the inspiration for her new book, Rising Strong.

Dr. Brown identifies three guideposts for rising strong: reckoning (identifying and owning our emotions after a fall); rumbling (digging through shame and fear to get to the truth); and revolution (what happens as this routine becomes ingrained in our lives). Taking a cue from Anne Lamott, she encourages creating “shitty first drafts” to help us express how we’re really perceiving a painful situation. This process takes courage, but could eliminate so much unnecessary stress in relationships and even within organizations.

Rising Strong could not have been more timely for me. Over the last few years, I’ve been working hard at daring greatly. It hasn’t happened by accident, and it’ll be a lifelong process. I’m more comfortable taking a variety of risks big and small. I care a little less about what other people think, or doing what’s expected. I’m committed to being real about my struggles even if it makes others think less of me. But I’m also experiencing some significant hurt, shame, and fear that I could have avoided by not stepping out. I’m learning what it feels like to have the ground taken out from under me repeatedly because I choose to keep entering the arena. To keep trying, hoping, and loving. I’ve seriously looked over at Daring Greatly in my bookcase and thought things like, “Well, now I’m beaten-down and tired and I don’t know how many more times I can get back up. What am I supposed to do with that?!?” Thankfully, my guru Brené was already on the case.

Rising Strong will be released on August 25. I plan to get a physical copy that I can mark up to my heart’s content. I suggest you do the same!

Recommended for: EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Add a Comment + Posted in: book reviews, empowerment

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I spent last week in the Florida Keys for my family’s annual lobster-diving pilgrimage. We typically wait until the regular lobster season is underway, but this year we went for the two-day mini-season that precedes it by a few weeks. (If you’re unfamiliar with Florida lobstering, check out my brief overview from a few years ago.) This year our crew consisted of me, my parents and brother, both of my paternal uncles and aunts, our friend Dale who’s basically family, and my cousin Cliff and his wife and kids.

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The first day of diving was a ten-hour affair, starting before sunrise. Out of a possible 72, we caught 49 lobster, which is nothing to sneeze at, but anything below limit is considered shameful when you’re a Wilkerson. Overheard after three straight lobsterless hours: “Okay, I have an idea… but we’d need someone to stand guard with a spear gun.”

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I’ve never been a prolific lobster diver, because I have trouble equalizing my ears and getting down to the seafloor without burning up all my oxygen. I leave the bulk of the work to the guys, which is fine with them. But after a lifetime of snorkeling and diving, I tried a weight belt on this trip, and it was a game changer. Suddenly I could sink and stay down without overexerting myself. I was so thrilled, I totally ignored the usual pain and pressure in my ears. By the end of the day, I couldn’t hear at all out of my right ear, and my dad insisted I go to the ER because he thought my eardrum had burst. Thankfully, before I paid my hefty copay, a nurse heard me describing my symptoms and assured me that all I had was water trapped in my middle ear. After I came home, I got some antibiotics and it’s gotten mostly better on its own. God bless you, nurse at Fisherman’s Community Hospital of Marathon.

My mom and I opted out of the second day of lobstering to go on a tourist snorkeling boat! We snorkeled at a couple of locations, including Coffins Patch, a protected area with the best reef I’ve seen since I was a kid. The fish came right up to me!

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Mask face is the sign of a good time!!!

We spent some time poolside at the hotel and saw a few iguanas. One of them was at least five feet long and a truly majestic creature. I took at least twenty pictures of him.

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In the afternoon, my mom and I headed to Key West, with a brief detour on Big Pine Key to see Key deer. We were on our way out after no deer encounters when we spotted a fawn in someone’s yard. I jumped out of the car to get close to it, and was so entranced I didn’t even see its mother crossing the street. She nursed it a few feet from where I was standing. (The deer are totally protected there, so they’re very tame.) It was amazing!

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I’ve been to Key West before, but it had been years and I didn’t remember much about it. We quickly hit up the beach and Southernmost Point.

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Then it was on to Mallory Square for dinner, key lime mojitos, and the sunset.

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As you may have heard, Key West has its share of weirdness. Among other things, there’s a park with artistically-placed busts of all the founders of Key West (or, as I excitedly called it, “a bunch of heads!”), and The Cat Man. About halfway through his act, we got too concerned about the overall welfare of the cats to keep watching. I mean, I don’t know too many cats willing to walk tightropes and jump through flaming hoops on command.

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Back in Marathon on Friday, my family fulfilled a long-held goal of snorkeling at Sombrero! It was amazing. Photos taken by Kevin with his GoPro:

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We ended our trip with lunch at Burdines, one of my favorite places in the world! You can’t beat the view, the food, or the fried key lime pie. As usual, I ordered the slider platter that includes a chicken florentine burger and a shrimpburger. My dad also bought me a koozie, so I can think fondly of Burdines while enjoying a brew on my patio at home.

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It was a good time with extended family, and dare I say, much more vacationlike than most of our lobstering trips. I love the Keys!

2 Comments + Posted in: family, florida, ocean

housewarming-group

General Highlights:

In July, two of my best friends threw me a wonderful housewarming party. We had a great turnout, great food, and great sangria. I felt happy and loved!

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The Fourth is my favorite holiday. This year I was excited to go to the “parade” in my new neighborhood, since I’ve never lived in a neighborhood that had one. In the evening, I watched fireworks from a downtown rooftop with a great group of friends.

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On the 3rd, I ran the Stars & Stripes 5K for the first time. It started and ended at Tiger Lane, so I couldn’t say no. It’s been almost a year now since I ran my first entire 5K, and although I still wish I was faster, I’ve shaved four minutes off my time without working very hard at it. Very encouraging!!

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My sister and nieces visited for a week. Fifoo, Debra, and I had a sleepover at my place, and we and our mom took both girls to the Children’s Museum and to a friend’s pool. Baby E also met my friend Caroline’s son, who was born in the same month. (We had previously introduced them over Skype.) Aunthood is the best.

Reading:

Unsurprisingly, my book count goes way up when I stick to fun fiction and memoirs instead of trying to enrich myself with heavy stuff. I figured summer is a good enough excuse to imbibe all the YA I want. My favorite book of July was Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules.

Music:

From the first listen, I’ve been obsessed with San Fermin’s “Jackrabbit”:

Also, Paper Towns is the best soundtrack since Garden State. Yeah, that’s a bold statement and I stand behind it.

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Travel:

I went to Miami and the Keys for my family’s annual lobster pilgrimage. More on that later.

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Around Town:

One Sunday afternoon, I locked myself out of my house while hanging up some outdoor lights. My mom came over with the spare key, and we ended up walking to Cooper-Young and watching the US women win the World Cup at Young Avenue Deli with a huge crowd of people. It was exactly the kind of evening I used to imagine when I thought about moving to Midtown. I still feel so lucky every day to live where I do.

Another Sunday, I biked all through and around Overton Park. Sadly, it was my last neighborhood ride for a while – as you know if you follow me on any social media, my bike was stolen off my patio last weekend while I was in Florida. I loved that bike, have made many happy memories with it over the last five years, and was looking forward to many more. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a new one before the Midnight Bike Classic at the end of the month, but I’m still grieving my old bike.

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My partners in crime and I attended a Paint Nite at Fox & Hound. I’ve been to several painting places over the years, but I think this was more relaxing and fun than an actual painting studio!

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At Home:

On the rare evening the temperature’s dipped below 90 degrees, I’ve enjoyed my new outdoor patio lights. Inside, I had an original print I bought in Wynwood in Miami custom framed at Art Center. It was worth the trouble and expense!

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Cooking/Eating:

When it’s this hot, the seared ahi tuna salad from Local rocks my world.

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Random Happiness:

At my housewarming party, Alanna had everyone write notes for me on paint chips and hide them around the house. I think I’ve found most of them. My two favorite notes: meaningful Counting Crows lyrics, and Kelsey and Claudia’s two-parter with the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Because you never need a reason for Will Smith.

Oh and: I BOOKED A TRIP TO ICELAND!!!! Much more to come in time.

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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On The Blog:

I posted about my garden and my copycat recipe for Babalu’s veggie tacos. Don’t give up on me… someday I will write something of substance again. There are several posts bouncing around in my head, but I can never focus and quiet myself long enough to sit down and write them. Is it possible to develop ADD suddenly at almost-36?

Posts I Loved:

♥ Best post I read in July: Hannah Brencher (as usual), Drop The Mic and Go Find Sarah.

♥ The Washington Post launched Solo-ish about a month ago, and I’m loving it! It’s a fresh take on all kinds of topics affecting singles.

♥ Ed Cyzewski: If There’s a Slippery Slope, Jesus May Be Leading Us Down It

♥ Angie at My So-Called Chaos: My Heart’s Too Big For My Own Body

♥ Loved this charming story from Amy Peterson: A Love Note From Juanita’s

♥ Mandy Hale aka The Single Woman: Why I’m Still Single: The Ugly Truth. Preach.

♥ Added to my Year of Enough board: Oh Heck Yeah, You ARE Worth a Lot!!!! by Kerry Smith. (PS: Kerry was one of my campus ministers in college and is a wonderful person.)

What I'm Into

8 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

thescorpionrules

A few hundred years in the future, as global climate change leads to increasing shortages, war wipes out most of the population that hasn’t already died from lack of viable water. In desperation, the United Nations appoints an AI, Talis, to find a way to save what’s left of humankind. His solution: nuke a series of major cities to get everyone’s attention, then take over the world and keep the peace himself. His strategy: make war personal by taking a hostage child from each world leader while they’re age five to eighteen. If any leader declares war, their child’s life is forfeit.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, has grown up in one of these Preceptures, with the heirs of the world’s kingdoms and confederacies as her de facto family. She works and studies hard, flies under the radar, and tries to be realistic about her chances of surviving to her eighteenth birthday. Then Elian, a new hostage from a newly formed nation, arrives at the Precepture kicking and screaming. His nation borders Greta’s, and she knows immediately that their countries are going to war; both of them are going to die; and she’s not ready to die before she’s ever really lived.

So many books have claimed to be the next Hunger Games. The Scorpion Rules really is, in its own way. It’s not exactly dystopia; there’s no rebellion, and Talis is the most likable, entertaining robot overlord ever, like a Terminator created by Joss Whedon. But it’s suspenseful, disturbing, pulls no punches, and takes the road less traveled by at every fork. There is a love triangle, but it’s not the kind you’re used to, and really it’s part of a big love pentagon which I found pretty understandable under the circumstances (and which doesn’t drive the plot).

In addition to being a novelist, Erin Bow is also a physicist, and it shows. The science in this book seems pretty solid. I hadn’t read any of her work before, but I’m on board for more of her nuanced, darkly hopeful writing. The Scorpion Rules is one of my top 10 fiction books of 2015, no question. I stayed up way too late reading it several nights in a row, and in fact, I’m already in the mood to read it again.

Recommended for: Anyone who likes to read and isn’t freaked out by what I described in this review

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Lucky me!!

4 Comments + Posted in: book reviews

babaluveggietacos

Over the last year or so, my cooking mojo has dwindled to almost nothing. Living in Midtown makes it even easier to go out with friends (someone’s running a special every night) or grab something on the run. When I do eat at home, it’s usually a salad or an omelet, something I can throw together with minimal effort. However, I still get occasional flashes of inspiration. Such was the case last week when I tried the veggie tacos at Babalu and thought, I must replicate these at home ASAP. It was easy to do. I took note of the ingredients listed on the menu and Googled a recipe for chipotle dressing. It’s not a perfect translation of the tacos, but the results were delicious. Here’s what I did:

Copycat Babalu Veggie Tacos
Serves 4.

Taco Ingredients:
1 pack small corn tortillas (blue if you can find them)
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 container of mushrooms
4-5 radishes
Small bunch arugula or spring mix
1 cup corn (I forgot this)
½ red onion (unless you’re allergic, like me)
1 block cotija cheese

Chipotle Vinaigrette Ingredients: (from here – this makes a LOT of dressing)
1 ½ cups canola oil or other salad oil (not olive oil)
½ cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 ½ chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I couldn’t find these, and substituted another jarred hot pepper)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Directions:

1. Slice the zucchini and squash in half. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little oregano. Grill skin-side down until browned.

2. Slice the mushrooms and radishes (and red onion, if using). Sauté in olive oil until they look cooked. Add the corn during the last couple of minutes.

3. Combine the dressing ingredients, except for the oil, in a blender or Magic Bullet. Add the oil gradually. Or totally forget that dressings are supposed to be emulsified and blend everything at once. It’ll still taste good.

4. Retrieve the squash from the grill and slice it up. Grate the cheese. Heat the tortillas.

5. Combine all the veggies in a large bowl.

6. Assemble the tacos: dressing on the tortilla, then the grilled veggies, then some arugula. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Yay!

1 Comment + Posted in: dining, food

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After weeks of plotting, planning, and visiting every garden center in town, I finally finished my flower garden last week! It took about six weeks in my new place before I was even ready to think about the garden. By then, the spring planting season was over, and interesting plants were more difficult to find. But I managed.

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When I moved in, the entire landscape area was covered in rocks. My mom helped me clear most of them to one side, under the balcony, where I park my bike and which doesn’t get enough sun anyway. We created a line of demarcation just past the bike, leaving me with a roughly 4×10 blank slate. A few weeks later, my dad and I installed pavers around the front and side perimeter, and plastic edging along the back and other side to protect the fence. We filled it in with bagged soil and mulch. Even without plants, I was thrilled by how much better it looked.

For my own records and for anyone else who enjoys flower talk, here’s what I have:

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One Rose of Sharon (althea). I lost the tag, but I think it’s the Lavender Chiffon variety. In trying to determine the color, I just found numerous gardening threads with horror stories about how invasive Rose of Sharon is. This is news to me. In any case, it’s beautiful and has abundant flowers, so I’ll keep a close eye on it for the time being instead of ripping it out. (I foolishly planted lemon balm at my old house, but managed to keep it in line over several years, so I think I can handle this.)

Three “Ruby Stella” daylilies. The flowers are burgundy with yellow centers. Unfortunately, they got really wilty and dropped their flowers right after I planted them, so they might not bloom again this year.

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Three lantana. Two “White Trailing” and one “Confetti.”

Two phlox. They haven’t bloomed yet, but the flowers should be lavender. I chose some with mature-looking foliage and one of them is already putting up a stalk.

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One “Black Knight” butterfly bush (buddleia). Last time I bought a butterfly bush, it dried up and died within a few weeks, so I’m very happy to see this one thriving!

One “Balmy Purple” bee balm. It’s blooming well.

One “Julia Child” yellow rose bush. Considering the small area I’m working with, a Knock Out rose seemed like a bad idea. I wanted a real, special rose bush that will keep to its own space. I was already leaning toward a yellow rose, and when I saw this one named for one of my role models, that was it. (It looked great when I brought it home, but some of the leaves already have black spot. UGH WHY.)

One lily of the valley. This is another plant I love and attempted at my old house with zero success. I put it in the shadiest area, against the front fence. Right now it’s just two puny-looking leaves sticking out of the ground. We’ll see what happens.

These are all perennials (with every trip, I told myself, “One-time expense”). I may add some spring bulbs in the fall, or fill in with some annuals next summer, but for now I’m happy with this. It was exciting but intimidating to start with a blank slate. I had to think about how the heights and colors of the plants would work together – I didn’t want it to look chaotic. Even so, the overall concept evolved one plant at a time. I ended up sticking to shades of purple, with some white and pink/red and the splash of yellow. The garden area only gets morning and early afternoon sun, so I took a risk planting mostly sun plants. But so far it seems to be enough sun for them.

I also specifically chose a lot of butterfly- and bee-friendly plants to help the declining bee population. I’m serious… if more people don’t start helping the bees, the impact on agriculture is going to be huge. Look it up. :)

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In my custom planter, brought from my old house, I have some begonias and a “Miss Bateman” clematis. This climbing flower was slow to settle in, but I swear one vine just grew an inch between Sunday and Monday. Time to upgrade the trellis.

In a pot by the door, which is a shaded area, I have a “daisy” gardenia (not pictured). It was cheap and I couldn’t pass it up, and it seems very happy there. On the other side, I have a baker’s rack with some potted herbs: basil, oregano, mint, and one jalapeno that’s having a bad time. Oh well. Can’t win them all.

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I couldn’t give up growing vegetables entirely, so I have two tomato plants in pots: the classic “patio” tomato, and a cherry tomato. They’re doing great!

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And that’s the urban garden report!

4 Comments + Posted in: gardening, home

summerreading-beach

APRIL

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (4.5 stars)
At the L.A. estate sale of a big-name actor, set designer Emi finds a letter to his estranged daughter, with instructions about her inheritance. The letter leads Emi and her best friend to his granddaughter, Ava. I’m having a hard time summing up the rest of the plot, but I will say there’s something magical about it. It’s about family and destiny and following your dreams, with equal shades of Cinderella and Kathleen Kelly, and characters you’ll enjoy spending time with. FYI, the main romance in this story involves two girls, but the thoughtful observations about love are universal.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (4 stars)
A unique novel that jumps around among perspectives and in time, before and after a pandemic that killed 99% of the population. Our protagonists are, in the words of the Goodreads review, “a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors,” and their common thread is a rare comic book series called Station Eleven. The story is slow in parts, but the complex writing kept me hooked. Like one of my all-time faves, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, this is sci-fi where the sci-fi is just a backdrop to the real story of the heart.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas (4 stars)
In the second Veronica Mars novel, Veronica investigates an assault at the ritzy Neptune Grand (and teams up again with Leo), Keith and Cliff continue to fight Sheriff Lamb’s corruption, and LOGAN IS LOGAN. Love (and LoVe)!!! I’ll keep snapping these books up as long as they’re cranking them out. (BTW, I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’ve just been made aware of a new Veronica Mars re-watch podcast.)

Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings by Sheridan Voysey (3 stars)
Voysey is apparently well-known in Australia as the host of a Christian radio talk show. After he and his wife struggled for ten years to have a child, they decided to leave everything behind and move to England for a new adventure. I empathized with their grief and frustration, and was encouraged by the hope they’ve found in the midst of disappointment.

MAY

Those Girls by Lauren Saft (2 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy by Leah Wilson (3.5 stars)
For Netgalley; review pending.

JUNE

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick (3 stars)
This is equal parts the memoir of a never-married 40something woman, and a reflection on/biography of the five historical “awakeners” she’s adopted over the course of her life – Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton. At times I was fascinated, and I highlighted a lot. There aren’t enough books about singleness as a valid, empowered life choice. Her thoughts about singleness in the context of a creative temperament are also interesting. But at the same time, I got a little weary of the navel-gazing and “Woe is me, men love me and I just want to be aloooone.”

Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe by Erin S. Lane (4 stars)
I won a copy of this at Cara Meredith‘s blog! Erin Lane examines her own history with the Church and community, and how the true meaning of belonging is changing on a large scale (especially with millennials). Very insightful.

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt (4 stars)
Holly is only 16, but her recently-late grandfather left her in charge of their family’s legacy and livelihood, the Rose of Sharon wedding chapel in Vegas. He also left her a sealed letter to take to Dax, the grandson of his rival chapel owner next door. After discovering her chapel is in danger of foreclosure, Holly throws herself into saving it, and also finds herself falling in love with the enemy. It’s a fun, warmhearted story that touches on some serious issues. However, I have to admit I didn’t love Dax like I was clearly supposed to. Something about him just rubbed me the wrong way.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (4.5 stars)
Reagan is hitting the road on tour with her megastar best friend, Taylor Swift Lilah Montgomery, known to her as Dee. She and Dee are both excited to leave recent heartbreaks behind and embark together on a summer of fun and distraction. When a PR crisis results in clean-cut singer Matt Finch crashing their party, sparks fly between him and bad-girl Reagan, but she struggles to keep him at a distance. As the summer goes on, both girls learn to let love in again. Despite the celebrity setting of this book, it felt really authentic, and I loved that the girls’ solid friendship is the real center of the story.

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton (5 stars)
Glennon Melton is becoming one of my present-day heroes. She’s funny, passionate, humble, grace-filled, and REAL. I shed many tears over this book.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach (4.5 stars)
The lives of four disparate high-school seniors in Seattle are thrown into chaos as an asteroid approaches with a 66.6% chance of annihilating the Earth. It’s The Breakfast Club meets Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. As you might expect, some bleak and rough stuff happens, but there’s also humor and hope and great insights. So good. (Note: I have a serious thing for stories about people who only have a short time to live (or think they do), so they start doing everything they’ve always wanted to do, stop being polite, and start getting real. The psychological implications of this are not lost on me.)

Total for April, May, and June: 12
2015 year to date (halfway point!): 31

And now I’m almost up to date on posting book stuff! GOLD STAR FOR ME!!!

Add a Comment + Posted in: book reviews

memylapoolew

General Highlights:

I’m a summer girl, and I made the most of June with pool time, beach time, patios, and frozen treats!

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I had two visitors this month. I actually didn’t know Hannah before she stayed with me the first week of June – she was the sister of a friend who needed somewhere to stay while she attended training for her job. Happily, we hit it off right away and had a fantastic time together. I was sad to see her go! Then, my longtime friend Esther visited me and Alanna last weekend as part of her Farewell Tour before she moves overseas! Confession: I’m friends with all of these people Because of the Internet. It’ll change your life.

fathersday2015

For Father’s Day, I took my dad to brunch and to Bass Pro to pick out a gift. He’s difficult to buy for, but this approach was a success! I’m thankful for every Father’s Day I get with him.

peach-lastday

Most importantly (and sadly), I had to put my cat Peach down on June 5. She had been sick for a long time, we were both at our wit’s end, and the vet agreed there was nothing more I could do for her. I’m sad, but relieved that she’s no longer suffering. Losing both of my cats within a year has been rough. Still, I’m trying to make the most of being petless for the first time in thirteen years, and am taking a pet break for the near future.

books-june2015

Reading:

I read a respectable quantity this month, and especially enjoyed Lindsey Leavitt’s The Chapel Wars; Tommy Wallace’s insightful pre-apocalyptic novel We All Looked Up; and the collected works of Glennon Doyle Melton, who is quickly attaining guru status for me.

I also continued working through Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. It’s taking me fooooreeeeeverrrr, not because I’m bored, but because it’s so profound.

And yes, I’m three months behind on non-ARC book reviews. Eventually I’ll post the entire backlog at once.

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Watching:

My work held a raffle for a preview screening of Jurassic World and I won tickets! I am not a Jurassic purist, and LOVED the movie for exactly what it is. I’m planning to see it again before it leaves theaters. And Chris Pratt racing through the jungle night on a motorcycle among his pack of raptors: YOWZA. I also saw Melissa McCarthy’s Spy with my dad. It’s foul, but really hilarious, and the most blatantly feminist comedy I’ve ever seen.

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Music:

The new Florence + The Machine is LEGIT.

Video:

I can’t embed it, but yesterday the Grizzlies released a short film about beloved player Marc Gasol, by locals Craig Brewer and Justin Timberlake. If you want a glimpse into what Memphis is about and what the Grizz mean to this city, watch!

Travel:

I went to Alabama this month to see my sister and her family, and we took a side trip to Panama City Beach!

midtown-june15

Around Town:

I’ve lived in Midtown for two and a half months now, and every single day I pause to appreciate how lucky I am. It’s so easy to participate in whatever’s going on nearby or downtown. For example, I can go to more summer movies at the Orpheum – like Clueless, which I attended in costume (aka something I totally would have worn in high school and would still like to today). It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’d been ridiculously excited about it since the schedule came out.

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Esther joined Kathy, Daniel, and me last Saturday for the first annual Tiger basketball Alumni Game on campus at the Field House. Almost every beloved Tiger of the last 20 years was in attendance, and I was BESIDE MYSELF. After the game (which was so much fun – it was close until the very end, when the younger guys pulled ahead of the older guys), the players had a short meet-and-greet on the court. I was so starstruck that Esther had to steer me around and keep other fans from skipping ahead of me. I got to meet Joey Dorsey, my second-favorite Tiger of all time (he was our big man during the 2007-08 runner-up season), as well as two other recent-ish faves, Wesley Witherspoon and Geron Johnson.

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My #1, D.J. Stephens, was also there, but I’ve met him before, so I had to prioritize. :)

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At Home:

My dad helped me frame my small garden area with pavers, and I’m slowly filling it with flowers! I’ve never gotten to start with a clean slate before. It’s exciting, but a little intimidating. I have to think carefully about how the plants will complement each other, both now and in the future. Hopefully I’ve done an okay job. I’ll write a garden post when I’m done planting. Meanwhile, I have herbs, tomatoes, and one jalapeno in pots!

I’ve resumed experimenting with Popsicles (I use these molds). This ginger-mango Popsicle recipe is delicious!

Random Happiness:

Last Sunday marked one year since I walked through the doors of my church for the first time (or, I should say, the school where my church meets). I’m so glad I did. I feel more thankful all the time to be a little part of what God is doing there, and happy to have found the Christian Island of Misfit Toys at last, where I can be the Charlie-in-a-box that I am.

I’m not exactly celebrating this, but I got on Tinder this month despite my well-documented disdain for online dating. Summary/understatement of the year: it was a decision I had to make for the sake of my overall well-being. Well, it’s been a good experience so far! I’m going on dates and talking to some interesting guys, which is all I’m shooting for right now. Maybe I’ll write more about it soon (I’m still a little touchy about the whole thing), but overall, I recommend Tinder if you’ve also had bad experiences with the serious/expensive dating sites. The simplicity and low pressure is exactly what I needed, and despite what you may hear, it’s fairly easy to identify and fend off guys who are just looking for a hookup.

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

quote-june15

Posts I Loved:

♥ Samantha at Moving Peaces: The Scramble

♥ A beautiful, sad story from Kerry Smith: Of Days Fading.

♥ Kelle Hampton: Creating Inspiration, Disguised But Breathing

♥ Allison Vesterfelt at Storyline: Why I Keep Blogging When It Doesn’t Change Lives

♥ Stories from the Brooke: I love you. I know.

If You Find This Email of the Month: You’re the Girl

What I'm Into

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thosegirls-laurensaft

Those Girls by Lauren Saft may be the nadir of the Gossip Girl generation. This YA novel follows three high school juniors: Mollie, the anorexic mean girl with the trophy boyfriend; Veronica, who will proudly sleep with anyone to get attention; and Alex, the “artist” and comparatively good girl, who’s hung up on her best friend, Drew. Though the girls claim to be BFFs, their relationships are barely holding together under their rising tide of insecurity, resentment, and self-destructiveness. Things aren’t great at the start of the story, and they just keep getting worse. Veronica has absentee parents, and is newest to the trio and still feels excluded by Mollie’s and Alex’s long history. Mollie feels threatened when Alex suddenly joins a rock band and makes new friends. Alex is in emotional hell after foolishly fixing Drew up with Veronica. All three girls allow guys to treat them like absolute crap, treat each other like absolute crap, and deal with their serious problems by partying as hard as possible. Midway through my reading, I went out with a friend and told her I didn’t think I could finish this book because it was so depressing. Then I came home and basically speed-read the rest on the faint hope of a little redemption. It was a fruitless quest.

Lauren Saft is a decent writer, and I’d give her another chance with a different type of book. Her portrayal of general female insecurity rings especially true when she shows the same event from different perspectives – one girl feels exposed and ill at ease doing something, while the girl who’s watching envies her and thinks she has it all together. But I found the girls of These Girls completely unlikable, and was deeply uncomfortable witnessing their downward spirals. I wanted to sit them all down and demand that they get some self-respect, rehab, and therapy. (Yeah, my maternal instincts manifest through fictional characters.) In the end, the only character I was rooting for was Drew.

Recommended for: people who enjoy/are not depressed by The Bling Ring, or pretty much anything on the E! network

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Even REALLY honest reviews like this one.

PS: I have several book reviews to burn off, so you may see more of them than usual in the coming days!

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