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Peterson family top books of 2017

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Habibi
The Tale of Despereaux
Drama
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Delicious!
Holy the Firm
Smile
Incarnadine: Poems
The Hate U Give
Spiritual Friendship
Sisters
The Mysterious Benedict Society
God Laughs & Plays; Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right
Ghosts
When Dimple Met Rishi
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Kristy's Great Idea
Little Beach Street Bakery
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For Owen, 6 1/2, 2017 was the year of graphic novels. His favorites were all the books by Raina Telgemeier, the Dog Man books, and the Magic Treehouse books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosie, nearly nine, had several favorite series this year, including Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and the Mysterious Benedict Society. She also loved all the books by Brian Selznick, and Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux. Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin gets top award for illustrations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jack reads the most mind-bending books. His favorites of 2017 include
Ian Bogost - Alien Phenomenology: What it's like to be a thing
The Essential Rumi (Colman Banks translation)
Donna Haraway - Staying with the Trouble
Craig Thompson - Habibi
Brian Massumi - The Politics of Affect

and Mary Szybist's Incarnadine, which also makes my list.

 

 

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So my list has three parts.

Most simply fun
Delicious by Ruth Reichl
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Most profound
Incarnadine by Mary Szybist
Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill
Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley
Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

 

Most Moving
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
God Laughs and Plays: Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right by David James Duncan
Walking with Ruskin by Robert Cording
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

 

(See also 2016 and 2015)

a few things this summer

I'm writing from the balcony of my little monastic-like cell on the campus of St. John's in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

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I'm here for my MFA residency, my third of five. We are studying Elizabeth Bishop and Constantine Cavafy and Willa Cather, and we are writing and revising, and we are sharing our stories, and we are taking long walks on the trails behind the university and into tow.n for food and drinks with sage and pinon and chile. On our off day, I visited Bandelier National Monument, and hiked to the cave dwellings of the Pueblo people and felt like a tiny speck in the universe and in eternity.

This week marks the six month anniversary of my book's publication. I've heard from many of you (and will respond if I haven't yet, with apologies) about how my story has spoken to you of yours. I'm grateful to you for reading.

A few quick updates: my marvelous writers' group has started a little monthly newsletter. If you'd like a peek into our daily conversations, our varied paths to publishing, and the ways we think about the writing life, you can subscribe here. The next issue is coming in the next few days, and it contains a very happy announcement. 

I've also added a Speaking link to my site here. Check it out and let me know if I will be seeing you in the next few months!

This summer was Jack's 3rd of 3 summers doing PhD coursework in Pennsylvania. It's felt long and short. The kids and I tried to fill the hole in our hearts with traveling - Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, California, Missouri, Pennsylvania. Oh, and I got a new tattoo.

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This summer, I read a bunch of formulaic and very enjoyable books by Jenny Colgan. If you want to read about a British/Scottish woman, approximately age 34, who experiences a personal/professional heartbreak/setback, and moves to a charming small town and starts over by opening her own cafe/cupcakery/candy store/bakery/bookstore and possibly finds a little love on the way, then check her out.

I also read middle grade and YA, because along with British chick lit, they are perfect summer genres. I loved Wonder by RJ Palacio and Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr, and I also enjoyed The Greenglass House by Kate Milford and We Are Okay by Nina LaCoeur. Oh, and I read books about place, because as always, I'm obsessed with the interplay of rootedness and wanderlust. I liked At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider, and can only give partial recommendations for Who's Your City by Richard Florida and New Slow City by William Powers.

I watched all three seasons of Madam Secretary on Netflix, because sometimes you need to escape to a world, however unrealistic, where they are politicians you can believe in. I also really enjoyed GLOW and cannot say enough good about season two of Master of None.

As for music, next week I'll post the eleventh anniversary playlist. It's a good one.

And the only movie I got to see this summer was Wonder Woman. I enjoyed it.

The MFA means I'm not writing as much online or even for publication right now, but I think - I hope - good things are coming slowly. In the meantime, thanks for sticking around.

(Linking up with Leigh Kramer...)

a few things (winter is over, spring has come)

Hi. Hello there. Howdy. I'm back. Or I'm dropping in. Here's the thing: I've been releasing a book, working 30+ hours week, being a grad student, and taking care of two kids, plus or minus a few other things, and blogging has not been a priority. And probably won't be. But you know I always like to show up for Leigh's What I'm Into link-ups when I can, and today I can. 

Here's what I've been into over the last few months:

Television
Not much exciting in my television world right now. Jack and I have been working our way through season one of The Leftovers on DVD, but it gives me bad dreams, so. SO we started re-watching Friday Night Lights on DVD instead. When I'm folding laundry, I watch Jane the Virgin (RIP Michael - I was shocked) and Switched at Birth (RIP show). Together, Jack and I also have been into PBS's Victoria; the soapy teen Riverdale (Jughead 4-ever); Big LIttle Lies (Riverdale for adults?); and The Good Fight (The Good Wife spin-off).

Wait, that was actually a lot.

Books
 

Today Will Be Different
The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field
The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers Of/On Creative Nonfiction
Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian
The Hate U Give
Incarnadine: Poems
The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
I Was a Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
The Mothers
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
A Place Of Sense: Essays In Search Of Midwest
On the Edge of Gone
The Refugees
Holy the Firm
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East

 

 

 

 

 

I finally read my friend Wesley's book Spiritual Friendship, and I dog-eared that puppy up. So much that rang true to my own experience of friendship and loneliness. So much goodness.

When I was on Whidbey Island earlier this month, I heard poet Mary Szybist read, and fell in love, so I immediately ordered her book Incarnadine and read it cover to cover (and I don't do that often with poetry). Szybist is Catholic, and this collection is inspired by the Annunciation. It is not for the faint of heart. 

My airplane books for that trip to Whidbey were The Mothers, a novel by Brit Bennett and The Refugees, a collection of short stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Both were haunted by voices from the past.

On Whidlbey, we studied Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm. After reading it three times, I loved it, and to study it right near where it was written made the experience even richer.

My other favorite book of poetry this winter was Naomi Shihab Nye's 19 Varieties of Gazelle. I heard her on On Being with Krista Tippet, and then serendipitously found this book in a used bookstore in Fort Wayne. When we had poetry chapel at Taylor in March, I read this one from the stage.

Music
I'm making a playlist of my current favorite songs to share with Mollie and Anna when we take our road trip to Memphis this June (PS: our 20th friendiversary is coming up! November 15), and you are in luck, because I am going to share it with you too. It is under construction (and probably NSFW).

 

If I were to highlight a few favorites, I'd probably say to check out the full albums from Julie Byrne and Michael Nau.

Podcasts
I'm loving Truth's Table, which is hosted by Ekemini Uwan, Michelle Higgins, and Christina Edmondson, who are "Midwives of culture for grace and truth." (In fact, I nominated in to be on the Christ and Pop Culture list of the 25 best things of 2017 - you can hear me defend it against video games and anime on the CAPC 25 here.)

I listened to all of S-Town, and mostly loved it, though my feelings are complicated. If you haven't heard of this one, which is like a nonfiction novel, here's the producer's description: "JOHN DESPISES HIS ALABAMA TOWN AND DECIDES TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. HE ASKS a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life."
If you did listen, check out this article by my friend Jessica for The Atlantic: Was the Art of S-Town Worth the Pain?

Some individual episodes of podcasts I've loved: Sarah Mekedick, founder of Vela Magazine, on Longform; Frederick Buechner on Rewrite Radio; Padraig O Tuama on On Being; Cathy Day on Citizen Lit.

I also always listen to Prophetic Imagination Station, a podcast which revisits episodes of Adventures in Odyssey, and What Should I Read Next for the best book-lovers chats on the web.

{You can also hear me on Park Church, Persuasion, and Devoted Dreamers.}

As for life this semester, I helped take a great group of first-year Honors students to the Bahamas for a course on small-island sustainability (this sounds ridiculously awesome, I know, but consider: we stayed in bunk beds, ate camp food, and toured waste management plants). I wrote about my favorite part of that experience for Elisa Morgan's blog, and I have a longer piece about it hopefully coming out elsewhere soon.

 

 

My buddy DL Mayfield came to speak in chapel, we took an epic writers' retreat with our sisters of holy mischief, and then I spoke in chapel. A little later I had my official book release party as part of Taylor's Making Lit Conference.

And then I went to Whidbey Island for an MFA residency, and it was quite nearly perfect.

Jack ran another marathon.

I helped build the new issue of Relief Journal, which will be coming out in the next month or so (and it's going to be amazing! Also check out the beautiful new website).

Easter reminded me of the beauty of what we have here in central Indiana.

And those are the highlights. Happy spring, friends.

our favorite books and music of 2016

Every year I like to share a few of my favorite books and albums (here's last year's list). This year the whole family wants to play along! 

Owen (age 5 1/2)
Owen can read - he likes BOB books and National Geographic early readers. But his favorite books of the year include books we read together and an...encyclopedia of sorts.

1- I'm A Frog (a Piggie and Elephant Book) by Mo Willems
The Piggie and Elephant books are perfect for preschoolers and early readers, but I think they're also some of my favorite books to read aloud, because they are hilarious.

2-Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook: The Need-to-Know Stats and Facts on Over 700 Pokémon

3- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
We read the new illustrated version, which was a big hit with both kids.

Owen's favorite albums of the year were the Beatles 1, and the Beatles Blue Album.

Rosie (age nearly-8)
After about thirty seconds, Rosie had her answer. "My favorite books are these three serieses," she said.

1- The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

2- The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

3- The Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

Her favorite albums this year have been the soundtrack to Hamilton and Red by Taylor Swift.

Jack's favorite books of the year reflect his research interests, as he's spent most of his reading time with PhD work. (Sorry about this adorable/hilarious picture. It helps balance the ridiculous titles you're about to read.)

1. Translingual practice: Global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations by Suresh Canagarajah

2. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning by Karen Barad

3. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis Covington

His favorite albums of the year were David Bowie's Blackstar, Rihanna's Anti, and -- when our friend Julia got a job in music journalism this year, she told us that she felt like she needed to educate herself about music that was released before the year of her birth. What year were you born? we asked. And that is how Jack got started listening to basically every album that came out in 1994.

As for me, this summer I started an MFA program, and some of the best books I've read have been for that. Here's my top three works of non-fiction:

1. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
A genre-bending work, this book uses poetry, nonfiction, and modern art script. Rankine gives readers a glimpse of her life as a black woman in contemporary America, and the view she offers is powerful and moving. Her memory of the microagressions she’s swallowed rather than responded to - and the anger that’s built up - and the sense that ignoring microagressions (and other mistreatment) is what it means for her to be a good American citizen  — these are the themes she explores over the seven sections of the book.

2. Safekeeping by Abigail Thomas
I don’t know that I’ve ever read in memoir such a complex, nuanced portrait of human relationship and love as I’ve read in this book, which is composed of very short vignettes in non-chronological order, and is absolutely compelling.

3. Dakota by Kathleen Norris
This was a re-read, but it had been over a decade -- and I'm not sure I actually finished it the first time around. This memoir about life in the rural plains speaks presciently to our contemporary political moment. It's meticulously researched, metaphorically resonant, and spiritually rich.

And my top three works of fiction:

1.The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber (I wrote about it back in January)

2. The Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid mysteries by Deborah Crombie
They're not quite up to my Inspector Gamache standards, but while waiting for the next installment from Louise Penny, this did quite nicely.

3. The Confessions of X by Suzanne Wolfe
in this gripping, beautifully written historical novel, Suzanne Wolfe brings the ancient city of Carthage to life, immersing readers in the experiences that shaped the theology of Augustine of Hippo.

My favorite albums to listen to this year were the soundtrack to Hamilton, Rihanna's Anti, and Sandra McCracken's God's Highway.

If you're not signed up to get my newsletter, be sure to sign up today - tomorrow I'll be sending out the link to a giveaway for a couple of excellent 2016 books as well as a copy of our church's Advent journal, which includes my original essay "Song Dedications" and one of Jack's poems (or you can buy an ebook version here - all proceeds go to the work of the church). In that newsletter, I'll also share my Christmas playlist and a tiny bit of unpublished writing.

Merry Christmas, friends.

 

a few things this fall

First: I'm sorry. If you've been looking for me here on the blog, I've been absent. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you probably know some of what I've been up to... but I'm in the mood to share a bit more. Ok, more than a bit. Let's catch up. Let me bend your ear. Settle in as I chat away.

Jack spent the summer in Indiana, PA completing courses towards his PhD in Applied Linguistics. This was our second summer apart, and easier in some ways than the first. I visited him and met his friends, and then I took the kids to Colorado, where we visited friends, family, and places that hold so much nostalgic sway over me. We hiked and fed chipmunks and swam and I remembered what I had always liked best about being a camp counselor: the way it forces you to be present to the moment, alive to the physical world around you, undistracted by other things. I felt that this summer, focusing just on the day before me, and I loved it.

When Jack's courses ended, I began my first intensive courses for my MFA through Seattle Pacific University. We met on the campus of St. John's in Santa Fe and joined Glen Workshop participants (like my writing buddies Danielle and Christiana) in worship and play and craft lectures. I wrote a little bit about one of our field trips, to the holy site of Chimayo.

The day after I returned from Santa Fe, Owen started kindergarten, and Rosie began second grade. And I plunged into a fall filled with many things: helping coordinate programs for the Honors students at Taylor University, teaching 3 hours of class a week, completing MFA coursework, a (fairly new) gig writing for Our Daily Bread (more about that later), trying to help out with Relief Journal as a contributing editor, nurturing relationships outside the classroom with various students, hosting poetry nights, and of course staying on top of details related to my book coming out in February. Between those things and my responsibilities at home, I am finding my attention scattered, pulled toward so many different, good things.

Life this fall:

Jack ran a marathon with his dad  in Columbus, Indiana, and we had a meal at Story Inn to celebrate.

I went on an overnight retreat with honors students, and took another group to Wheaton for a day to check out the collection at the Marion Wade Center. 

The four of us went to Grand Rapids for a long weekend. While Jack and the kids explored the city, I met with my publisher and attended a conference for writers and editors at Our Daily Bread. I left feeling encouraged and blessed by the humility and sincerity of this group of people, more thankful than ever that they are the ones midwifing my book into the world.

A couple of my writer friends came to visit me. I love when people visit me. I love cooking for them. I love having the long-distance people I love see the place where I live everyday.

Rosie and Owen dressed as Hermione and Ron for Halloween, and for one night my dream of having a red-headed child was fulfilled.

Books this fall:
 

I've been re-reading a lot of Dorothy Sayers for the class I'm teaching this semester. Her Lord Peter Wimsy detective novels build very slowly, but they are smart and funny and worth the investment. Her essays are even better. I love smart women.

Over the summer, I read other detective novels set in Britain, mainly the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. They aren't as good as my favorites by Louise Penny, whose latest, A Great Reckoning, I read in September, but they're satisfying.

The best book I read this fall was Claudia Rankine's Citizen, a moving, genre-bending work that about her life as a black woman in contemporary America. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and I can't forget The Road Back to You, a new book from IVP on the enneagram that has inspired hours of conversation between Jack and me and our friends. I think this book has given me tools to better flourish in my relationships with others. (I'm a 5, by the way.)

Movies this fall:
I really need help staying awake in movies. We liked The Lobster, a sort of absurdist black comedy about what it means to be human, and enjoyed Southside with You, which is like Obama fanfic about Barack and Michelle's first date. I love Michelle Obama and would probably watch countless more hours of this.

TV this fall:
The shows we're adding to our DVR this fall are Pitch and The Good Place. I was less than enthused about the premise of Pitch, which is about the first female pitcher in MLB, but the writers have crafted a show that is nuanced and interesting, and that is about much more than baseball: the dynamics of male-female friendships, for example, and the politicking and money behind the scenes in sports. And The Good Place is funny, some episodes more than others, but I'll watch Kristin Bell in almost anything. Still a little on the fence about This Is Us, which I enjoy but do find to be a bit emotionally manipulative, taking the easy way out in its writing more often than it should.

Music this fall:
We're still listening to Hamilton (and loved watching Hamilton's America on PBS). And did I ever share our 10 year anniversary playlist?

 

Writing this fall:
Honestly, I've been struggling since I finished writing the first book. Do I have anything left to say? This is one reason why being in the MFA right now is good for me, I think. Apart from learning things to strengthen my craft, I'm also being forced to create and to pay attention to my life. Hopefully something good will come of it. 

Also, I have an essay in a book that came out from IVP this summer. You can read "Teenage Heretic" in the collection Soul Bare, which includes poignant essays by writers like Sarah Bessey, Karissa Knox Sorrell, and Seth Haines. 

Maybe the only other thing I've written this fall was an op-ed for the Taylor student newspaper about Independent candidate Evan McMullin. I've been deeply disturbed - I mean, there have been nights I haven't been able to sleep, I went to see a doctor because of a constant lump in my throat, I've been sick - by the religious right's support for Trump this season, by the silence of prominent evangelical men when I expected to hear them condemning the racist, misogynist words and actions of the Republican nominee.  When I saw polling that indicated that a large number of Taylor students were planning to vote for Trump, I wanted to make sure they understood all their options. McMullin is a good choice, but personally, I did vote for Hillary, because although parts of her platform bother me - she's hawkish in the Middle East and more aggressively pro-choice than I am, for example - overall, I believe she's smart, hardworking, dependable, emotionally stable, and has policies that will support the common good. (More here.)

So that's what I'e been up to this fall. How about you?
 

~linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer. ~

the ministry of reading aloud

Throughout my childhood, Dad read to me every night, and Mom read to me every morning. Nowadays government programs promote this practice, citing research which shows that it encourages emerging literacy, language development, and healthy parent-child relationships, but as a child all I knew was that it opened other worlds to me: Narnia, Oz, Deep Valley; Midwestern prairies, the Highlands, the Holy Land. Those stories burrowed into my soul, forming a foundation of truth that shapes my person and my priorities to this day.

In my life this reading-aloud has been a gift: a gift from my parents, a gift from the librarian, a gift from a fifth grade teacher doing all the voices in Hank the Cowdog. Most memorably, maybe, a gift from Jack, when we spent a month camping across the country and reading The River Why to each other, chapters in the car during the day, and chapters in the tent at night.

I’m an adult, now, but I still want people to read to me. I still want to listen. And I don’t think this is a childish impulse, but a human one, and even a subversive one.

At my graduate residency last month, people read aloud to us every day. In class my mentor reclaimed rhetoric. “The only place in contemporary, public society where you find rhetoric and poetics at work is in political speeches,” she said. “In fact, when we think about the word rhetoric, we now have all kinds of negative connotations because of politicians - we think rhetoric means twisting the truth. But in its original usage, rhetoric meant the most eloquent, moving expression of the truth. We need to take it back from the politicians,” she said. We need to care for words.

What if we read aloud to each other? At book release parties or poetry slams, at the preschool storybook hour at the public library, in the Sunday liturgy, during a cross-country car trip, what if we read aloud? What if we listened? What if we read novels, building empathy? What if we read poetry, letting cadence and metaphor shape our sentences and our sight? What if we read stories that taught us about experiences other than our own?

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye tells a story about a man who came to listen at a poetry workshop she led, and how his presence changed her:

And then this farmer showed up in Oklahoma at a workshop and told us all that he had come just to listen. He just wanted to hear everyone read their work. And we thought, “Wow. Look at this. The wandering audience. He doesn’t even want to participate; he just wants to listen.”

And he said, “No, listening is participation. It’s very important.” And he talked about being a child and being awakened every day by his granddad who read to the kids in the house as a wake-up call every morning, stood in the resonant hallway outside their bedrooms, and read poems. And my brain clicked. I thought, “This is what I’ll do for the rest of the time our son is at home. I’ll waken him every day with reading poems.”

So we did that for years, and I think he really liked it. And we would occasionally talk about the poems. Later in the day, he’d bring something up about one of the poems I’d read.

...It feels beautiful. And you feel better.

What if we read our poems aloud, and what if we listened? Later in the interview Shihab Nye tells another story of a school principal who begins each day by reading a poem, or a portion of a poem, over the school loudspeakers. Students there tell her they “carry poems” with them every day.

This week I've carried with me a few lines from Shihab Nye’s poem “History”:

“We were born to wander, to grieve,
lost lineage, what we did to one another
on a planet so wide open for doing.”

Our planet is so wide open. There are so many things we could do, so many surprising moves a person or a country can make that might be imaginative… And what have we done to each other?

I am looking for surprising, imaginative ways to make some holy mischief here and now, to reclaim rhetoric, to love words, to listen well. The ministry of reading aloud is a subversive practice to counter bigotry and hate. On a planet where we have the most refugees history has ever seen, in a nation where we’ve nominated a man full of toxic words and self-importance to run for our highest office, this is my next move: to stop and listen to you read your poems. And when it’s my turn, I’ll open my already well-thumbed copy of my friend D.L. Mayfield’s new book, and read you a chapter. Together we’ll learn how to listen well, how to be a witness to the world's brokenness, and how, as Danielle says, to run toward it.

 

Easily my favorite book of 2016, Assimilate or Go Home is a collection of stunning and surprising essays that invite us to reconsider our concepts of justice and love, and to reimagine being a citizen of this world and the upside-down kingdom of God. It officially releases tomorrow, but if you order today at Amazon, you can get it for under $9 - a steal.

a few things in January {+book giveaway!}

Well, in January I went to Italy, and what else is there to say? Plenty, actually. Because I haven't told you about the books, movies, and music that accompanied me on the planes, trains, and buses.

Books

My editor suggested that I read The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber - and boy does she get me! This weird story about a British missionary to aliens (like, the sci-fi kind) had as much relevance to faith and missions and cross-cultural communication and what it actually means to be human as anything I've read this year, and it was a page-turner, to boot.

I loved the descriptions of growing up in the South in Amber Haines's lovely Wild in the Hollow. At some points, her prose was so raw and vivid, full of unexpected yet concrete images of the physicality of the human experience, that I was reminded of Annie Dillard.

Also, I read the latest Veronica Mars novel.  I was in an airport for 10 hours.  It was perfect.

 

Movies
I watched three movies worth mentioning on the plane: 

The Intern - totally charming

The Martian - I thought the writing was a bit uneven (particularly the scenes on earth run toward cliche), but Matt Damon was pretty fantastic.

Paper Towns - I'm always up for some John Green, and I loved the way the ending of this movie dismantled the "manic pixie dream girl" thing 

Music
I spent more than a few hours listening to the music that I listened to last time I was in Italy - stuff like Indigo Girls and Pete Yorn - but I also tried some new bands that Emilie recommended, The Staves and Daughter. Another new favorite is this little album by Joan Shelley.

And Also
When I couldn't sleep on the plane, I listened to The Gilmore Guys podcast, and the soothing sounds of conversation about my favorite tv show helped.

Family
Rosie turned 7.  
We took the kids to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Writing
Aleteia launched a new website called For Her in January.  I have several pieces there-
Tuning In To Taylor Swift - how I dealt with my six year old's TSwift obsession
The Joy of Being Alone (Without Your Phone) - the proven sociological value of solitude
Fall in Love with Fair Trade Fashion - I love these pieces, especially the Noonday earrings, which I got for Christmas
Resolve to Retreat - I did not write the deck copy on this piece, and kind of hate it, but this is a list of affordable retreat centers across the States

I might have book title news soon... when I do, I'll announce it first through my newsletter.  Sign up if you haven't!

And Finally, the Giveaway!
When I got back from Italy, I had a package waiting for me - two advance copies of Christie Purifoy's new book Roots and Sky. Since I had also preordered a copy, I want to share these two! I haven't finished the book yet (because: first week of the semester + jet lag), but I've valued Christie's words and her friendship for several years now.  She wrestles honestly with darkness and still finds hope. (See, for example, this post she wrote for my blog about the pain of infertility.) If you've been following her over the last few weeks, you know that this has been an especially dark time for her family.

If you'd like to read this book (and yes, you probably would - it's a lyrical, meditative reflection on home and hope), leave a comment on this post.  On February 10th, I'll close the comments and choose a winner at random. {Update: random.org generated 14, and the 14th commenter was Hannah! You'll be receiving your copy soon.}

The second giveaway copy will be given away randomly to a newsletter subscriber, so if you haven't yet, sign up to receive my very occasional newsletter.

PS this post is linked up with Leigh!