Monday, January 31, 2011

Books Read in 2010

The last time I did a blog on books I read, I mentioned that I hadn't really cared for a certain book.  And then the author left a comment on my blog!  He was really very kind, suggesting other books of his that I might enjoy instead (and it was probably written by his assistant, not by him, anyway!).  I think authors must have an automatic search that comes up with the titles of their books whenever they appear on the internet.  

That said, I will proceed with the list from 2010 and will be completely honest about my opinions of the books read.  Hopefully you will find some on the list that will inspire you to read that particular book.

1.  Low-Fat Living by Robert K. Cooper.  Mr. Cooper explains, as the book cover says, how to turn off the fat-makers and turn on the fat-burners.  This was a really good book with lots of practical suggestions.  Of course, healthy living and healthy eating are harder to put into practice than it sounds (as you probably very well know!).  One thing I got from this book and I've done more or less regularly since reading the book, is that I do stretching and strengthening exercises first thing in the morning at least four mornings a week.  This helps "wake up" your metabolism.  And for me, if I don't do it first thing, I just don't do it. After reading this book, I also bought the Low-Fat Cookbook that his wife wrote.  I have gotten some good recipes from that book, such as the low-fat carrot cake recipe I made for John's birthday.  It was really good and only used a fraction of the 1 1/2 cups of oil that most carrot cake recipes call for.

2.  Growing Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  This book was written in 1997, so it was way outdated.  But it was interesting to see how many of the things he predicted have come true.  It was also helpful to see how today's generation of young people and kids rely almost solely on digital resources as their source of information, communication, and entertainment.  I think, though, that I need to read Grown Up Digital for more up-to-date information!  So if you are interested in this subject, don't bother with Growing Up Digital!  Just read Grown Up Digital instead.

3.  The Thyroid Sourcebook by M. Sara Rosenthal. The doctor informed me that I have a low-level of hypothyroid disease, so I checked this book out of the library to get a little better informed about the disease.  It was helpful, but it will only be interesting to you if you need to know about hypothyroid or hyperthyroid disease.

4.  Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah.  In this story, the heroine's husband, a Muslim, is killed as he goes to work in the World Trade Center on 9-11.  Though she is a victim of terrorism, she is often treated as one of the terrorists as Americans would see her Muslim dress and assume she was "one of them".  The book takes us on her journey of what it can be like as a Muslim living in America.  I thought this was a pretty good book.

5.  Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. The sub-title is A Memoir of Going Home, but the subtitle didn't really describe the reality of the book in my mind.  Ms. Janzen, who was raised Mennonite, left all that behind when she went off to college.  Through a series of difficult and tragic events in her life, she went home to Mom.  While she clearly loves and appreciates her mother, she continues to mock the faith she grew up in.  The book was supposed to be funny and witty, but I really found it to be neither.  I thought it was sarcastic and often mean.  I wasn't upset with her questioning her faith so much as the attitude she has towards her family.  

6.  Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.  This book is a series of short stories about children in difficult situations in Africa.  One of the stories deals with a family leaving in a shanty who survive by sniffing glue which dulls the appetite and by sending their daughter into prostitution; one deals with selling children into slavery; one deals with the Muslim/Christian conflict in Nigeria.  There are others, but those are the ones that stand out in my mind.  Mr. Akpan writes extensively in West African dialogue in some of the stories and I think that would be hard for some readers to understand.  This is not a "feel good" book, but it is one I highly recommend as it is eye-opening to the plight of many of Africa's children.

7.  Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.  This book was written by President Obama before he had any aspirations of being president or even a politician.  No matter what your feelings about our President, this book will give you some insight into what makes Mr. Obama tick.

8.  Words Unspoken by Elizabeth Musser.  I don't even remember what this book was about!  I think I enjoyed it, but obviously it made little or no impact.  If you want a book for the weekend that you can lose yourself in, this would be it!

9.  Madame, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart.  Mary Stewart writes romantic mysteries...and they are always clean.  I picked this up at a charity shop in Oxford as I was desperate for something to read.  All the books in the guest house where we stayed were in Korean!  LOL.  Mary Stewart's books are good for a light read.

10.  Evangelism and Social Action in a Lost and Broken World by Ronald Sider.  This book was given to John while we were in England.  This is a very good book for understanding how Christians should be involved in social action.  Should churches do evangelism with the assumption that lives will automatically change?  Or should they do social action as a means to evangelize?  Or is there a way to be involved in both?

11.  Brick Lane by Monica Ali.  A young girl's arranged marriage takes her with her new husband to live in England.  This book was pretty good, in spite of the fact that the heroine of the story has an affair.  I love stories where cultures meet.  This meeting usually results in conflict, stress, and living between two worlds.  Do the two worlds ever become one?  Does one ever fully adjust to living in a new culture?  What role does family play in the adjustment?

12.  The Emerging Church:  Vintage Christianity for New Generations by Dan Kimball.  Mr. Kimball "explores the cultural changes impacting churches and offers practical advice of how they can creatively reach emerging generations."  Mr. Kimball gives us much to think about.  One thing that really struck me is that today's generation operates more in community than my generation did, so they are looking for a church with a family feel.  Small groups can be multi-generational, for example, rather than peer groups.  He also said that young people are looking for a truly spiritual worship experience.  They don't care so much about multi-media productions (they get that at work and school), but want quiet, candles, and meaningful prayers.  Young people also want very much to be involved in things that make a difference, such as working together in an inner city.

13.  The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. A story of a man who studies in the USA, returns to his home country and becomes involved in a terrorist plot.  Very disturbing, but very insightful.  You might expect this to be an action-packed book, yet it is entirely a conversation between two people.  Mr. Hamid is a masterful enough writer that this conversation holds your attention.

14.  Mortal Fear by Robin Cook. Robin Cook writes great medical thrillers.  If you want a book that will keep you turning the pages, this is a good one. 

15.  Wedding Photography by Mark Cleghorn. This book was really helpful to me as I prepared to take pictures for my niece's wedding.  Perhaps most helpful is his list of which pictures are "musts" at any wedding.

16.  They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak. This book is about and by three of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  As Sudan goes through its referendum process, I would highly recommend that you read this book to help you have a fuller understanding of one of the world's main current events.  It is not pretty reading, though it is full of hope.  How can boys go through so much horror and still be able to have a positive outlook on life?

17.  A Question of Belief by Margaret Yorke.  This is a psychological mystery.  It was good and I'd like to try more of Margaret Yorke's books.  

18.  City Girl by Lori Wick. I've read Lori Wick books before that I liked, but this wasn't one of them.  It was total fluff.  Worst of all, it supposedly took place in the early 1900's, but was historically unbelievable.  It had the feel of 2000's characters dressed up in 1900's clothes, doing 2000's stuff.

19.  Digital Photography by Steve Barrister, and Digital Photography: 99 Easy Tips by Ken Millburn.  These were books on photography that I read in preparation for my niece's wedding.  They were quite helpful.

20.  Langford's Starting Photography by Michael Langford & Philip Andrews.  I checked this book out of the library, but it was so helpful I then bought it off Amazon.  It is set up with practice exercises you can do, so it's very much like taking a photography class.

21.  Contagion by Robin Cook.  The bubonic plague comes to New York City in this one.

22.  The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith.  I love Mr. Smith's well-developed characters in the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  These books aren't particularly fast-moving, but the characters become friends as you read through the series.

23.  So Long Insecurity:  You've Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore. I have very mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, most women, myself included, struggle with insecurity and I was helped quite a bit with this book.  On the other hand, while I like Beth Moore as a speaker, I don't care for her as a writer.  So, I recommend this book as a helpful book if this is one of your struggles, but I offer the recommendation with the caveat that it's not written in my favorite writing style.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

It's always nice to get gifts at Christmas.  Here are my favorites.

From Suzanne I got a pair of nice, warm slippers. My feet are almost always cold, which makes me feel cold all over.  Our apartment is built on a cement slab and even though we have carpet, I think the floor is really cold.  My desk is in a direct line in front of the fireplace (which we aren't allowed to use because they say the chimney needs to be cleaned) and there is definitely a draft coming from the fireplace even though the flue is closed.  So I LOVE these nice warm, furry slippers. 

I have read every one of the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.  They are an easy read, but enjoyable.  Botswana is a lot different from Niger, but there are enough similarities that I find the books take me "home". So I was really happy with this gift from Daniel....the DVD series of the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  I hope there is going to be a 2nd season because I have really enjoyed watching these.

A couple years back I tore an ad out of a magazine and hung it on my fridge.  I tried to find the picture on the internet but couldn't come up with it.  It was an ad for a high-end set of knives and it showed a guy in a very modern kitchen holding a carrot up to the ceiling fan.  The fan was slicing the carrots and they were flying all over the kitchen.  It said, "There is no substitute for a good set of knives."  And I totally agree.  

I have stayed in numerous guest houses and furnished houses and the knife quality in those places is usually poor to very bad.  I get so frustrated because if I can slice, cut, dice, chop, etc. how am I supposed to cook?  The place we are currently living is simply furnished.  Most things are adequate, but the knives were really bad.  So I was really happy to get this set of Oxo Good Grips knives from John.  They are dangerously sharp and so much fun to work with!  They cut anything and cut it well.  Not only that, the handles are comfortable to hold so if there is a lot that needs to be chopped your hand won't get all cramped up doing it.  There are even a couple of extra slots in the holding block so that I can add to my collection.  I love Oxo kitchen tools,so I may add to my knife collection.  And I can get my cutting and cooking done faster so I can put my slippered feet up and watch a few episodes of the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Travels

When we left Maryland on December 31st to head out on a two-week plus trip, we asked you to pray that there would be no snow on the days that we traveled.  God really answered your prayers!

We made it to Connecticut without any problems and had a good week there.  AFTER we left they got over two feet of snow, making it one of their biggest storms ever.  The day AFTER we arrived in Pennsylvania, it snowed.  It wasn't a huge snow, but would not have been fun to drive in.  On the way from Pennsylvania to Ohio we got into a short, but heavy snow shower.  Within 15 minutes we were out of it.

We had a great week in Ohio.  Again, there was snow while we were there, but we only had to travel short distances from my cousin's house where we were staying to Cedarville, about 12 miles.

The most snow we got into was when traveling from Ohio back to NW Pennsylvania where we were scheduled to speak.  It was pretty, but it did slow us down a bit.  This house is really pretty, but you wouldn't believe the number of really ugly houses we drove past.  We were behind this plow for awhile. It wasn't really plowing, just laying down sand.  Only about 5 miles from our destination we saw this spin-out.  Thankfully we didn't have any problems until we arrived at our friends' house and couldn't quite make it up their drive.  The combination of slowing down to turn into their drive and then the need to keep up speed to get up the hill just didn't happen.  It didn't take much to back down the drive and do it over again.

Snowy weather and beautiful scenery always reminds me of Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. 
Whose woods these are, I think I know.
His house is in the village, though.
He will not see my stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

Ahhhh, yes, the story of my life....miles to go before I sleep!

The people we stayed with this past weekend have a Mastiff who weighs about 175 pounds. Yikes.  A dog that's bigger than me!  He is so gentle though.  He wouldn't hurt anybody....unless he sat on them or leaned on them or whacked them with his tail! 

The day we traveled from Pennsylvania back to Maryland (yesterday), was cold but clear and beautiful.  There was less and less snow as we headed south.  Here in Maryland there wasn't any to speak of.  Then last night we got snow and then icy rain so it was a slick mess out today.  Again, we were thankful that we didn't have to travel in that mess.

And it sure is nice to be back home! 

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Old, the New, and the Faithful

It's hard getting rid of old things that have meant a lot to you.  Even though you don't use those things any more and even though you probably never will again, they hold so many memories.  Other things are still useful, but need to be passed on.  John and I have been sorting through our stuff that's stored in the attic.  We have thrown, thrown, thrown.  As John says, it feels like we've lost half our life.
One important thing I've passed on are the Christmas stockings I made for Daniel and Suzanne when they were little. I enjoyed our Christmas with Daniel and Suzanne so much, but at the same time it was difficult to think that this will be the last Christmas with them for awhile.  We are truly moving into the empty nest era.  It's not easy, let me tell you.  As much as I am proud of my kids and who they are and as much as I want to see them succeed, I also don't want them to leave.  I cross-stitched these when the kids were toddlers.  I made one for John, too.  Now they can have them to hang in their own places when they get one.  We're all feeling a bit displaced right now.  Change isn't always bad, but it is often difficult!

When we cleaned out the attic, a lot of the stuff we got rid of was really just junk....old cards and whatnot.  But by old doll baby is there, too. I can't decide if I want to keep her in storage or try to sell her on e-bay.  She was given to me when I was about six by another girl who had played with her and outgrown her.  I got her in about 1967 and the girl who gave her to me was then a teenager.  So I'm guessing the doll's original "birth date" was in the early 60's.  I called her Rosie Anne and loved her dearly.  She is even missing a bit of her thumb when I stuck her hand in a rabbit cage to pet a rabbit.  The rabbit decided to have a bit of doll for lunch.  The funny thing is, I was so scared because I thought the rabbit would die from eating doll and I would get blamed for killing the poor bunny.  Suzanne played with her, too, but now she just lies packed away in a box.  So, what do you think?  Keep or sell?

Thankfully, there are new things, too.  Suzanne and I got these new shoes from an organization called Toms.  The shoes seemed a bit expensive to me, but when you buy a pair you are really buying two pairs because for every pair you buy, one pair is given to a child in need.  Suzanne and I both loved these because they have baobab trees on them and the 2nd pair of shoes was specifically going to a child in Africa.  She didn't mind that I wanted the same kind she got.  They are so comfortable and I've already been wearing them a lot.

And we have a lot of old friends, too.  Maybe I shouldn't say old because we aren't thinking of getting rid of them!  Maybe faithful would be a better word.  Faithful and maybe comfortable like a good pair of shoes.  We have a group of friends around the world who have "gone" with us to Niger by faithfully supporting us and/or praying for us.  We decided to invite friends in Connecticut who pray for and who financially support us to a little party.  Sunday afternoon about 40 people dropped in for some snacks and to see our power point.  It was a great time to get together with them and let them know how much we appreciate them.

This has been kind of a random post....just some of the things we've done and the emotions we've felt in the past week.  Transitions are difficult, but thank God for friends!