Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer

The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer was the perfect book to read while on vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In a time of depression and financial hardship, Addie Cowherd was living a college girls dream and working her journey to becoming a novelist. Until the day she was told her college tuition was not being payed, Addie didn’t realize the depression had hit her family or that her father had lost his job. Addie had no choice but to leave school and search for money of her own. Through connections in the library web Addie was able to take on a traveling librarian job through the WAP. While it sounded like a perfect set up of being able to stay in the world of books while earn a living, the job took Addie into the mining hills of Kentucky where the people were hesitant of newcomers and didn’t exactly roll out the carpet for her. Luckily for Addie there were some welcoming people that taught her the ropes and the value of friendship while Addie taught the town a thing or two about hospitality and perseverance.

I am a lover a books and words so this story spoke right to that area of my heart. I loved the struggles the characters went through to get books in their hands and to share those books with others. I loved the character relationships that brought the worlds of college life and mining town together and the gift of letting those not like you into your world and how much can be learned from that. At one point when the townspeople almost break Addie, her mother reminds her that her traveling library job is more than a job, it’s a ministry, I loved that!

The book is written so that each chapter skips around from character to character allowing for different points of view as well as different voices. Sometimes this can cause confusion but Kim Sawyer did an amazing job of keeping the story in line while adding these dynamics.

I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys historical fiction or christian romance. I would say this is well suite for young adults and adults. I give it 4 stars.

Thank you Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for the opportunity to read an advanced copy in return for my honest opinion.

Fancy Coffee Friday

We are all about treating ourselves as the days pass through our current deployment. I shared how we celebrate each Monday with Muffins but we have added a few more ways to celebrate also. Our school schedule is set up so that we leave Friday open for extras and catch up which means Friday mornings are a little more relaxed, so why not treat myself with something a little extra…Fancy Coffee Friday!

October

November

December

January 2021

Non-Negotiables

I’ve been following Michelle over at The Waiting Warriors for a year or so now through her Instagram page as well as her podcast but recently I’ve really started to pay close attention to her podcast and emails. In a recent email, I love the newsletters she sends out, she talked about non-negotiables and how that changed her day to day survival while her husband was gone.

To Quote:

1. Think of the days when you’ve gotten in bed and thought “You know, I’m tired, but that was a GOOD day.” Not the vacations, or the “I didn’t have to do anything hard” but the days when you felt fulfilled.

2. Write down what the common things were that you did. Not what happened or didn’t happen to you, but what YOU did.  (ie worked out by yourself vs having interruptions, read a book, walked on a beautiful path, ate healthy 80% of the day, journaled, read scripture, dance party with your kids) Whatever it is for you, write it down. 

3. Pick the 3 that are most important to you and your goals, and do those first EVERY SINGLE DAY. Don’t let a play date, errands, or the unit’s event takeover your day and leave you empty. Those are all good things, but you need to need to focus on what is BEST. Set those boundaries and stick to them. I promise, your kids and the world will adjust and be just fine with a taken care of you!

4. Let go of everything else. There will be days, I promise, when life will throw a whole lot of crazy at you. Still take care of your 3 things when possible and let EVERYTHING else go. Obviously feed everyone and keep living conditions healthy, but you know what? If the dishes don’t get done and your neighbor sees, it’s OK! If you don’t go to every single Spouse’s Club function, its OK! 

Whatever it looks like for you, I hope you take a minute for some self reflection, become more aware of what you need and unapologetically make them your Non Negotiables! 

I loved this idea, this plan. I love a plan and I need a plan to make my days work and reach fulfillment. In Michelle’s Instagram stories so shows the PowerPoint slide her husband made her (how Army is that!) where they mapped out the phases of non-negotiables and what happens after the three non-negotiables have been set.

  • Phase 1: three non-negotiables
  • Phase 2: add in one hobby but only after phase 1 is set and working
  • Phase 3: add in another hobby etc.

Here is what I’ve come up with for my plan:

Sometimes, ok a lot of times, the days seem overwhelming and the commitments seem to take over but having a plan like this helps. I know what must get done to make each consecutive day better and it also helps with the guilt of not being able to attend every event or add in all the extra activities. I’m excited to look back and see my personal growth that will come from this and the hobbies I add in. I’m considering a condensed version for the kids but when I opened the conversation this morning they seemed overwhelmed so I tabled that for now, haha.

Muffin Monday

September 28

In my intentional time post I talked a little about muffin Monday, not that it needs much explanation…we make muffins on Monday! The first Monday (September 28) started a little rough. I knew I wouldn’t be in the mindset to try out a crazy recipe so we started with the pouch kind. You know the one for $1, just add milk. Except we didn’t have any milk. And what does a mom trying to hold it all together and make the perfect start to a deployment do? She cries of course, says a cuss word or two under her breath, but then she remembers she has a village and she reaches out like she promised she would if she needed anything! My neighbor saved the day with a little carton of milk.

The best part of this muffin Monday was that Jason happened to receive a muffin in his DFAC delivery meal in Korea (quarantine), it was so fun to show the kids how we’re still connecting even across the world.

October

Recipes: Apple Cinnamon Muffins

November

Recipes: Carrot Cake Muffins, Pecan Pie Muffins

December

Recipes: Chocolate Chip

Staying Intentional

During deployments or long term rotations, TDY, time apart military or not it is so important for me to have things to intentionally fill my time so that I don’t get lost in the emotions or the anxiety. In the weeks leading up to time apart or deployments, I like to brainstorm all the things that I will fill my time with and sometimes these ideas are so out there they never make it past the brainstorm stage but having the ideas out in the universe is at least a first step. Another way to make sure the ideas come to fruition is to tell the children, the little humans forget NOTHING!! Having these things can also act as a countdown and give you something to look forward to daily, weekly, monthly. Another key component though is to not lock yourself into something that is a time or energy suck, nothing that is a chore because you will have plenty of those just living life. Make these fun and cup filling things while also allowing yourself time to feel emotions and GIVE YOURSELF GRACE!

A few things I’ve jotted down in my brain’s notepad (ie: wasteland because it is overcrowded and overwhelmed) are:

  • Muffin Monday
  • Fancy coffee Friday
  • Workout
    • walk 300 miles (as a family)
  • Monthly countdown treats (local eateries)
  • Home projects
    • Charlotte’s room
    • foyer table
    • laundry room
  • Brave Crate or monthly subscriptions
  • Retreats
  • Book clubs
    • The Read Rovers (Instagram, IYKYK, or just ask me)
    • Marne View (neighborhood)
  • Bible studies
  • Trips
  • Movie Nights: themed dinner
  • Watch TV shows that husband doesn’t love
  • Love on other spouses that are going through the deployment with you
  • Journal- BUT don’t keep emotions bottled up- lean in to your tribe!!

I don’t want to go into too much detail, I need blog content duh, so stay tuned

These are just some ideas, nothing too crazy and all do-able. It’s also a nice mix of daily, weekly, monthly; goal oriented, fun, countdown; self-care, for the kids, outreach. I hope when J comes home I can look back at the “solo” time and be proud of all I accomplished and see growth and change.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime is a memoir which is not my favorite genre, I feel like I need to preface everything beyond this with that statement. BUT I didn’t hate it! I’m a member of book club in my neighborhood called Marne View Books and Bubbles, isn’t that so fun? Bubbles because sometimes we have champagne!! Anyway, this book was chosen for the September read. I love book clubs because I do have a tendency to stick with certain genres and authors and book clubs force me to venture out and try something new. All that to say I would not have chosen to read Born a Crime on my own but I’m happy that I read it.

Trevor Noah is a comedian from South Africa and Born a Crime is his written memories of being raised as a “colored” child in South Africa during the Apartheid. I will say, I had a hard time imagining that all the stories he told actually happened to him, but I wasn’t there and I don’t know him personally so I can only assume he is telling us the truth. There were so many moments in the book his comedian side was in the forefront and I was in hysterics but, there were also moments that despite the comedic flair my heart broke. My heart broke for him as a mom and I found myself not liking his mom AT ALL, but then again as a mom it’s easy to judge how another mom handles situations but we can only see their lives through out lenses of experience.

A few particular points really stuck out to me, some I even highlighted, mostly to remember for book club. If you take a peek at my “self-help” books you’ll see I’m not afraid of a highlight but not usually in a book like this. For example, when Trevor says, “I have to remember to be with people”, I felt that in my soul, especially after 7 months of Covid life!

Like I said before, I don’t think I would have picked this up on my own and because I do not really enjoy memoirs I gave this 3 stars. What I did enjoy was the storytelling and the look into a life I am not familiar with. I did take the time to educate myself a little on the Apartheid and particularly the education systems that were developed during that time in South Africa, I do love when a book takes me down rabbit whole like that. I would recommend this book to people that enjoy memoirs or non fiction but I would also encourage those that do not to give this book a try!

The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel was one that will stick with me. We’re currently living during a pandemic, social unrest, high profile election and we don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is being felt in the time period this story is set. We meet Eva Traube just days before a group of Nazi’s knock on her door to take her family along with 100s of other Jews “East”, meaning to work camps. Eva and her mom by a twist of faith were not home when the knock came and then made the choice to escape, leaving their home and father/husband behind. In the process of escape, Eva learns she has a talent in forgery that she goes on to use in assisting 100 plus Jews over the border into safety. In forging papers she must change identities of people and her heart aches for a way to preserve the true identity of the children too young to remember who they truly are. She finds this in a book but like everything else in her life will she be able to hold on that tangible record of lost names?

This is a love story. This is a story of redemption. This is a story of loss and gut wrenching realization that humanity has unbelievable limits of horror. This is the story of a mother’s love and a daughter’s hope for approval and reunification. These stories combined are based on true stories of heroes and everyday people that sacrificed everything, even potentially their lives to help strangers. To say I was not crushed at points would be a lie but I was so encouraged by the faith Eva carried and the hope she used to anchor her in the darkest and most unsure times.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves historical fiction, love stories, family stories but I do caution that you may shed a tear, or many.

***** 5 Stars for plot, character development, flow of story, attention grabbing opening and complete resolution

Planning: Homeschool Planet and My Process

I was once told I like the planning aspect of homeschooling more than the teaching and while I don’t think that was a compliment there is a little truth to it. There is something refreshing about the blank slate of a new year and the excitement of what’s to come. I have always been a pencil and paper gal as far as planners and to-do list go but that became daunting and produced a ton of paper when I had to start keeping records for homeschooling. So far we have not schooled in a state that requires a portfolio but ya know, just in case. I came across Homeschool Planet and did the trial and instantly fell in love! I’m also not into reinventing the wheel so instead of giving a run down or tutorial I’ll give a review and and an overview of how I use homeschool planet. But if you are looking for a tutorial the help section is AMAZING!

Why I Love Homeschool Planet:

  • Easy to navigate: tons of “how-to” videos and great customer service
  • Able to use with multiple children
  • Email feature: allows older children to take responsibility of there assignments
  • Digital record keeping: school days, grades, notes and resources used
  • Transcripts: printable for applications or for personal records
  • Helpers feature: prompts to add grades or shift missed assignments

My Process of Planning:

  1. Use the school year feature to decide the weeks I plan to school and add in known vacations or days we already plan to take off. This is always where I tell the schedule what is considered a school day. For example, we take Fridays to catch up, appointments, field trips and give ourselves a little wiggle room.
  2. Then I number the weeks
  3. I take one subject at a time and align assignments up with numbered weeks. We will not start all subjects with lesson one because they are “left over” from the previous year. (Bible is written out in the picture at the top). This gives me an idea of when I will need to order the next level or if we need to adjust the schedule.
  4. Once the lessons are aligned I return to Homeschool planet and put in daily assignments with notes and resources. This eliminates searching for books or supplies or websites etc when it comes times to teach that lesson.
  5. Friday afternoon when I insert grades and double check individual work, I also look at the next week and make sure I have all supplies and everything printed and prepped. I usually print and prep as much as I can at the beginning of the year but sometimes things slip through.
  6. Each day the lessons are emailed to Clayton (7th grade) so he can monitor and work at his own pace for the assignments he does on his own. He can mark the assignments off but I can also mark them incomplete if they are not at the correct standard or are incomplete. I have not moved to this with Charlotte, she does a white board checklist that works better for her.

This has been my process of planning for a few years so now I can usually take a week and knock it out, but the first year I was overwhelmed and took it one month at a time rather than a year like I tackled this year.

Courting Mr. Lincoln by Luis Bayard

As a lover of historical fiction I jumped on the chance to review and spotlight Courting Mr. Lincoln on here and on my Instagram. While this a historical fiction it is based on true life. The underlining plot line is the courtship of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln and since I know they eventually marry there was a little suspense removed. Louis Bayard did a great job of filling in the details that modern day American’s would not have known making the story fresh and new. There was a lot of back story and characters that I felt were unnecessary, as the story unfolds thought I saw the importance of the details and each individual to make this read the great love story that it was.

When I think of Lincoln I think of the president, the emancipation, the tall honest Abe but in this portrayal, at least in the beginning of his interest to Mary Todd he comes off as so timid and so unsure of who he is and who he is supposed to be. As the story progresses though I find my confidence as Lincoln finds his. He transforms from a backwoods, country lawyer rough around the edges in to the famous politician we know.

I loved the rebel side of Mary Todd and the juxtaposition of her to Abe. I also loved the portrayal of Mary Todd in her youth as opposed to the mournful and depressed Mary Todd often shown in movies and other books, after the loss of her child.

My favorite character was Mr. Joshua Speed. The way the reader learned who Lincoln was through Speed’s eyes was brilliant and the Lincoln’s have Speed to think for their romance as Speed was the teacher, the confidant, the encourager of Mr. Lincoln in his pursuit of Mary.

I loved this story and I think Algonquin Books for their gift of the paper back in exchange for my honest opinion and spotlight feature.

2020 Visions

Waiting on the New Year to come in

Goals are hard to set and I’m hesitant to share. What if I don’t meet them? What if I set the bar to high and fail? But…(here comes the cliché) what if I soar?? What if I meet all my goals and have the best year yet? 2020 brings a deployment/rotation conversation a few big separations. I made some big mistakes in most areas of my life but I figured out where the changes need to be made. My goals are simple and they are here so at the end of this year when I’m in the thick of solo parenting and looking back at this year I’ll have a record of how awesome I can be and that will carry me into 2021 with confidence (there I said it so it will be so).

Spirituality

  • Read the Bible chronologically with an accountability group
  • Complete 6 bible studies
  • Prayer journal
  • Attend church regularly

Reading Goals

  • Focus on the books on my shelf and library
  • Read to enjoy the words not to a complete a challenge- although I set a goal of 60 books this year- including read alounds with the kids
  • Write more reviews and post them

Homeschool

  • School daily focusing on progress not checklist or levels
  • Have more fun and relax
  • Read tons of fun books for no other reason than to enjoy the story
  • Say no if school will suffer

Health

  • Walk or yoga EVERYDAY (goal of 300 intentional miles)
  • Get outside more with the family
  • Workout- videos 4x a week
  • Less sugar more vegetables

Wife

  • Show appreciation and respect to J more by having patience and willingness to listen first
  • Yes more than no
  • Support by understanding when the Army comes first
  • Daily meetings to check in and sync calendar and budget

Army Wife

  • Volunteer for the betterment of the post and the families here
  • Be a mentor and reach out to my mentors
  • Be available for the unit and families
  • Gifts and cards for friends

Mother

  • Create a bedtime routine
  • More home cooked meals and work to eliminate processed food
  • Limit electronics but fill in that times with games and crafts

Mental Health

  • Get dressed everyday
  • Create a solid bedtime and morning routine
  • Allow myself to have the little things that are just for me
  • Be vulnerable

Create

  • More music and books, less TV
  • Make 80 Christmas cards before December
  • Blog our adventures (3 a week)
  • Create adventures