The Right Book(s) at the Right Time

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Make sure to read to the end today. I’m giving away two books in this post!

One summer during high school my family went to Colorado for vacation. Like I always do, I took a stack of books with me to read – including a novel about a girl whose father had cancer. Or something. I don’t remember the exact plot, though I remember it was sad. But what sticks out most in my mind is that on the very day our minivan drove through the mountains to Golden, Colorado, the character in the book I was reading ALSO TRAVELED TO GOLDEN, COLORADO.

Whoa, freaky. Right?!

Except, unexpected as that was, it was not the last time what I was reading strangely coincided with something going on in my life. And not in the way you might assume, where I purposely chose a book to reflect my life’s circumstances. Nope, several times the novel I’ve picked up has just happened to have something significant in common with my own life.

It’s weird. And a bit vague, since my postpartum brain cannot for the life of me think of another example to illustrate my point. (Is there a book about that? Because I should definitely be reading it right now.)

ANYWAY.

Foggy baby brain aside, I’m definitely in A PHASE OF LIFE right now. I’m overwhelmed. I’m exhausted. I’m irritable and irritated. I have an almost irresistible compulsion to purge ALL THE THINGS from my cluttered, chaotic house. And, though I’m feeling pretty good today (yay for 5 hours of sleep!), if you’d asked me two days ago how I was feeling, you would have seen the same blank look and heard the same nonsensical monotone answer my friends did at the Superbowl party we went to Sunday night.

“Oh. I. am. fine. Yes. Baby. good. Cute. right. Thank. you. Yes. hold. her. now.”

So the books that my friends Holley and Tsh are releasing today? The ones about how I’m going to be okay and how to live intentionally in a chaotic world? Yes, they are PERFECT for this stage of my life.

And unlike that tear-jerking novel about a dying dad that I read on vacation, these books are likely great fits for YOUR stage of life, too. Because both of them are just that kind of book – the kind that’s applicable to so many people in so many different phases and situations.

Who hasn’t wished to better navigate the chaos of life? Who doesn’t need to be reminded that, no matter what’s going on in her life, you ARE going to be okay?

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Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider is a memoir and manifesto, sharing the ways Tsh and her family have chosen to live differently. It’s an honest look at her journey that’s filled with exploration and explanation, growth and grace. And it’s a book that will surely stick with you and me long after we read the last page.

And if it helps me deal with the chaos of a too-small house filled with too many people, then EVEN BETTER.

You’re Going to Be Okay: Encouraging Truth Your Heart Needs to Hear, Especially on the Hard Days by Holley Gerth is a book dedicated to helping readers learn to spend their lives – even when they’re hard, even when they’re disappointing or imperfect or seemingly impossible to endure – living instead of regretting or stressing.

If there’s a message I need for some of these early newborn days, THIS IS IT.

Tsh and Holley are two of my very favorite people, and while their books are vastly different from each other, I believe in both of them. I believe they’re going to speak truth and encouragement to me, and I believe they’ll do the same for you.

That’s why I’m giving away a copy of each book to one lucky reader this week! Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter, and I’ll announce the winner next week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post includes affiliate links. Thank you for shopping through those links and supporting this site. Photo by Alaksan Dude

Books to Read During Maternity Leave

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No, I’m not completely out of my mind. I really do think it’s possible (POSSIBLE! Not probable, okay?) I might have time to read over the next few crazy weeks.

[Wait. I guess seven days with a newborn might have been long enough to drive me crazy. I doubt it, though. That doubt? It‘s the luxury I have writing this five days before she’s scheduled to be delivered…]

In order to get ready for Life with Baby, I scheduled a handful of posts for the blog and took off several weeks from work. Though I realize naps and laundry and holding and rocking and staring into space or gazing into her eyes will likely take up most my time and energy, I also wanted to be prepared with a stack of books to read if and when I found a few minutes here and there.

The problem is that my brain basically shut down a few trimesters ago, and even the most basic decisions (like, which three books to buy or borrow) boggled my poor pregnant mind. Not to mention I had no idea what my post-baby brain would be interested in or able to handle. So like a good Boy Scout (a good, pregnant, indecisive Boy Scout), I am totally prepared with more books than I could possibly read in six weeks.

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Here’s what I’ve got lined up. (P.S. Feel free to notice the abundance of books that EVERYONE ELSE HAS READ but I have not. Better late than never, right?)

Fiction:

Non-Fiction:

Wish List:

Also on Deck:

Veronica Mars, first season (a rewatch to get ready for the MOVIE!!!)

So, what do you think of my list? Is there something lighter, better, more interesting, more hilarious, more encouraging that I should be reading this winter in between diapers and feedings and tummy time and naps?

This post includes affiliate links. Photos by brendan-c and dougbelshaw.

As Long as Good Books Exist…

books vs. broom

Welcome, Modern Mrs. Darcy readers! I’m so glad you came to visit. If you stood at my actual front door, I’d invite you in (it’s cold out there!) – but I’d also cringe as you caught sight of my So Very Dirty floors.

I’d say it’s not always like that but, well, IT IS.

Since you’re here now and we’ve gotten that awkward conversation out of the way, I’ll also tell you not to bother looking around for my bookshelves. If I had any (other than the kids’) in the house, I’d be happy to let you sneak a peek at their contents. But sadly, bookshelves were a casualty in the Deep Cleaning & Decluttering Extravaganze of ’13. Oh, how I miss them, though. Anne’s bookshelf posts have left me with SERIOUS bookshelf envy!

You’re welcome to flip open my Kindle Fire, though – or rifle through the piles of books on my nightstand or in my dresser or the backseat of my car or in the garage on top of the deep freeze.

I’m about as good at staying decluttered as I am at cleaning my floors.

If you’re simply looking for more info about this blog, check out my About Page. Or, if you’d prefer, enjoy these posts about reading, books, libraries and other wonderful things of life:

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Also…are you planning a Superbowl party? (Or book club kickoff or Valentine’s Day class party?) If so, you might like my ebook, Plan a Fabulous Party {without losing your mind}. And in case you need a cheesy, spicy appetizer to take to one of those parties, don’t miss my Jalapeno Popper Dip!

P.S. If you missed my post on Modern Mrs. Darcy, click over and read about my not-so-secret love affair with “fluffy” fiction!

What I’m Into :: September 2013

Is it possible? Have I truly not taken a SINGLE PHOTO in the last month? Um, yeah. It is. It’s possible and it’s horrible!

Apparently, in the stress and busy-ness that’s been our summer and early fall, I’ve completely abandoned my camera. What am I going to put in my annual photobook? What will I put on our Christmas cards? How will I start my What I’m Into posts?!

Well, I guess that last one’s simple. I’ll just use a fall-ish pic from last year. As Annalyn has taken to saying, easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But apparently what I’m going to be into moving forward is picking up my camera again!! (You wait here while I go searching for a Photo a Day schedule…) (I kid. Of course. I already found one. Here you go.)

ANYWAY. Let’s talk about what we read, watched, ate and listened to this month! I don’t have a long list for any category, but I’ll share what I have. Then, please, tell us what YOU’ve been up to this month in the comments!

What I’m Reading

Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream: 40 Days of Encouragement for Your Heart by Holley Gerth: This devotional is based on Holley’s latest book about God-sized dreams, and it’s fantastic. I haven’t read it as it’s designed (40 days in a row), but every few days I pick it up as I eat breakfast. And reading the sweet, challenging encouragement from Holley is just what I need to keep plugging along on the baby steps I’m taking toward my own God-sized dreams.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung: He’s not kidding. This book is really short, which I love. And which makes sense! If you’re so busy you need to read a book about it, you might not have time for 300 pages! But 117? I think we can all do that. I love how DeYoung shared his own struggles with busyness as a sin (of pride and misplaced priorities), as well as reminding us that doing ministry and loving people takes time – and sometimes makes for a busy life.

Boundless by Cynthia Hand: I can’t believe I hadn’t read this book yet. The Unearthly series by Hand is one of my favorite YA series, but you know what? Keeping track of when the next book in a series – or twelve – comes out is hard! And this one slipped by me. The good news is that meant I didn’t have to wait long when I reserved it at the library last month.

As for the book, I thought it was great – just like the others. It wrapped up the story of angels (or half-angels, half-humans if you want to get technical about it) – including the family stuff, the friend stuff, the [unavoidable] love triangle stuff and the evil angels are trying to destroy the world stuff. I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy stories, especially of the young adult variety.

Everneath series by Brodi Ashton: I started this series after reading about it in the acknowledgements of Boundless. (Yes, I love books so much that I read every inch – cover copy, copyright, acknowledgements – all of it!) I’d seen the book around but it never sounded good to me. A teenage girl gets trapped in hell – or some mythical version of hell – and then comes back to earth but just for six months? What?! I know. It doesn’t sound good.

But . . . even though the myths the book is based on aren’t my favorite, the series is just written so well that I couldn’t stop reading! I read the first two novels of the series (and a novella, which is apparently the new thing for authors to do), and now I have to wait for the third and final book. And, OF COURSE, the second book ended with a huge surprise and cliffhanger. Not awesome. [So, OF COURSE, I'm counting down the days until I get my hands on that last book!]

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith: This book is actually written by J.K. Rowling, and Galbraith is her pen name. This book is very well-written and based in London, but do not be fooled. It is NOT Harry Potter! It’s very adult in that it’s a gritty detective novel (“gritty” being the imperative word here, and by “gritty” I mean a lot of foul language that I wasn’t expecting).

I enjoyed the book, though it felt like an extra-long episode of Castle or another detective show – which just reminded me of how long it’s been since reading an “old-fashioned” detective story! The novel is set up as the beginning of a series, and I’m intrigued enough to read the next one, for sure. [Oh, hey! I just saw that this book is only $5.99 on Kindle - a great deal!]

Duchess by Susan May Warren: Another final book in a trilogy, Duchess had been waiting on my Kindle for several weeks. I don’t know why I put off reading it. I’ve loved the other two book sin the Daughters of Fortune series, despite my claim to not normally loving historical fiction. And, what do you know, once I finally opened up this book, I couldn’t put it down. It wrapped up all the remaining threads in the multi-generational story that had been woven through the previous two books while still telling a full story of its own. I really loved this look into the lives of women living in the early 1900s – their family dynamics, their loves and losses, and even their careers.

I might have to stop saying I don’t really like historical fiction.

What I’m Watching

Warm Bodies: You guys. Smitty made me watch a zombie movie. A MOVIE ABOUT ZOMBIES. Now, I know zombies are all the rage right now, but I do not get it nor do I support it. Out of all the monsters, zombies are probably my least favorite. But, I’d heard that this movie was good. And we were in the mood for a movie. So – zombie movie it was.

And . . . it was okay. It was definitely funny. And if I could get past the brain-eating part of it (I CAN’T.), I might think the love story is cute (I DON’T.). But if you like zombie stuff (WHY?), you will probably like this movie.

Now You See Me: I’d like to give this movie a more enthusiastic recommendation. I hate to be Debbie Downer Movie Reviewer. But, well, this movie was a huge disappointment. I’d been looking forward to watching it since seeing the review, and at one point we even thought about seeing it in the theater.

I’m glad we didn’t. The movie is about four magicians who, among other things, “magically” rob a bank and then get investigated by the FBI. And you know what? It was BORING AS ALL GET OUT. Yeah. Boring. I didn’t care about the characters. I wasn’t hugely surprised by the ending (or maybe I just didn’t care by that point). And now I know that playing the same cutesy heist music as an Oceans 11 movie does not make an Oceans 11 movie.

Good thing we’ve got new shows to watch on TV, right?

What I’m Eating/Cooking

Well, look. I am pregnant, so telling you about what I’m eating – as in, for real what I’m eating – is just not going to happen.

But I can tell you that fall HAS finally arrived at my house because I made my first batch of Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread last week. (If you haven’t tried it, DO IT NOW. It’s like Christmas in your mouth. SO GOOD.) And I also bought myself a bag of frozen sweet potato fries. Because, see, the crazy people I live with don’t like them and cutting up a sweet potato just for myself seems a bit excessive these days. So, as it turns out, a bag of frozen ones works perfectly for me.

What I’m Listening to

I am not cool. If you’ve been coming here (or know me in real life) for any amount of time, you know this. So you will surely not be shocked to learn that all I’ve been listening to lately is my Africa station on Pandora. As in, Toto’s Africa. And it plays my favorite kind of 80s music. And it just makes me happy. So that’s what I’ve been listening to.

P.S. If you’re looking for good, new music to listen to, try my friend Annie’s suggestions. She’s a billion times cooler than me and has great taste in tunes!

Best of This Blog

Best of Last Week’s Links (to other blogs)

And finally, another gem from Jimmy Fallon: a lip synch battle with him, Stephen Merchant (writer of The Office) and Joseph Gordon Levitt. I’ll admit that I still like the one with John Krasinski more, but this one is pretty darned hilarious, too! Enjoy! [Click here if you can’t see the video.]

That’s what I’ve been up to and into. WHAT ABOUT YOU? Tell me how your August went and what you’ve been into!

I’m linking up with my friend Leigh. And this post includes affiliate links. In addition I did receive some of the books mentioned for free, but as always, opinions are my own.

Donkey photo by Marco Raaphorst

Love to Stay :: Book Review

Wait, what? No perfect spouses? But what about all those gooey Facebook status updates my friends share?

No perfect spouses, no not one, huh? Well, don’t tell them.

I’m kidding, of course!! I’m the one who needs a reminder that I’m not perfect and I can’t possibly expect Mark to be either.

I’m publishing an extra weekend post to tell you about a book I just read. (And, full disclosure, my hurry to tell you is partly due to the fact that I received a copy of the book to review AGES AGO and am uber-late sharing what I thought about it! Yikes!)

Love to Stay: Sex, Grace, and Commitment is a book by Adam Hamilton, lead pastor of a megachurch here in Kansas City. (Technically it’s in Leawood, Kansas, but just take my word for it. It’s part of the metro. And technically, I have no clue what makes a church mega, but take my word for it. It’s big and growing fast.)

In the book Hamilton explores how, with God’s help, we can make love last. Drawing upon a survey of thousands of couples and singles, interviews with relationship and marriage therapists, the latest research in the field, and wisdom from the Bible, Hamilton looks at what it takes to create and sustain healthy, meaningful romantic relationships across the course of a lifetime. {- Amazon}

Here’s what I liked about this book: Lots of stats about pretty much every aspect of love and marriage. I loved all the info! Hamilton gave a survey to about 5,000 men and women, and the book is mainly his research report.

Each chapter focuses on part of the research results, complemented by a few stories and typical pastor jokes, as well as commentary from Hamilton about those results. Hamilton also shared several stories from his own marriage and a pragmatic approach to marriage that takes into account the “real world” and “today’s society” while still telling the Truth about God’s plans for us.

What I respect most about Hamilton’s interpretation of the data is that he’s careful throughout the book to acknowledge many of the trends we see are correlations and not necessarily cause and effect.

Lots of charts and graphs are balanced out with a section at the end of every chapter encouraging readers to apply the cold, hard facts to their relationships in real life. Discussion questions, prayer prompts and exercises for couples and singles attempt to turn a straightforward reporting of the survey results into growth opportunities for marriages.

I believe that the beauty of non-fiction (bad as I am about reading it on a regular basis – or a timely basis) is that readers can take bits and pieces, different parts that speak to their lives in the moment. So even if a whole book doesn’t apply, something might – and that something might just make a huge difference in your life. I’ll get to my main takeaway in just a bit.

Here’s what I didn’t love about the book: While Hamilton was careful to avoid attributing cause and effect to correlations and acknowledging that, for example, frequency of sex and reported happiness are related but we’re not sure which causes the other or if they are truly related at all…I wish he’d also acknowledged that self-reported surveys aren’t always completely reliable. Especially when you’re taking a survey about sex (among other things) for your church, I’d expect that some responses – even with promised anonymity – might be inflated, biased or otherwise less than accurate.

THEN AGAIN, it’s been quite a while since I took a class with a research component, so I’m not an expert by any means!

Also, the book is very short (which I loved, honestly) and, like I mentioned, mainly a straightforward report of the survey results with a little bit of commentary and encouragement on the side. So if you’re looking for a how-to book about love, sex and marriage, this isn’t it. But like I mentioned earlier, there’s still plenty to learn and lots of options for takeaways, no matter where you are in love and marriage.

What did I take away from this book, then? In the chapter about the differences between what men and women want from relationships, Hamilton says that if he weren’t married to his wife, he’d want to be the kind of man she would fall in love with.

It made me think about that. If Mark and I weren’t married today, would I be the kind of woman he’d fall in love with? I don’t mean that I need to change what kind of person I am. Not at all! What I mean is that nearly 20 years after we met, the way I ACT toward my husband is sometimes WAY different than how I treated him when we were first dating. So those things that made him fall in love with me – both the person I was and how I acted – aren’t always present these days.

So that’s my takeaway and what I’m thinking about this weekend (and probably much longer than that!). It’s short but, I think, full of potential impact on my marriage. And THAT is worth the price of the book and the few hours I spent reading it.

[It’s also encouraging to read statistics about how often people fight…or have sex…and to be assured that we are, in fact, pretty normal.]

If you’re interested in what about 5,000 people have to say about love, sex and marriage – and how you can put that knowledge to work in your own relationship – then I highly recommend Adam Hamilton’s book, Love to Stay!

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own.