Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom-to-be

Anthem July 25, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 8:39 PM

Today I finished my latest 2016 reading challenge book, Ayn Rand’s Anthem.   After my lengthy June pick, I wanted a shorter read for July.  At about 100 pages, Anthem fit the bill.  My younger brother, Ken, selected the novel for me to read.  He went through an Ayn Rand phase a few years ago and found it to have an interesting story.

 

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It took me just a couple of days to read Anthem.  For the first 80 pages or so, I too found it to be an interesting read.  The main character, known only by the name and number Equality 7-2521, is trapped in a future, dystopian society in which “I” does not exist.  Everyone lives for “we” and must follow what is deemed best for the community rather than the individual.  There is no freedom; there is no love.  Equality 7-2521 begins to challenge this structure in secret when he finds a subway tunnel from the Unmentionable Times of before.  He begins to write and experiment – both sins in the eyes of society.  Eventually Equality 7-2521 runs away from the city into the Uncharted Forest, where he is joined by a woman he refers to as the Golden One who is also seeking to escape the confines of “we.”  Together they come upon a house from before and learn of the existence of “I.”  They discover freedom.  They discover love.  They also turn completely inward.

 

And that is where I no longer found the novel interesting but rather infuriating.  For it is one thing to acknowledge and respect “I”; it is another to elevate it above all else, even God.  The Golden One can’t be pulled away from looking at herself in the mirror.  She falls asleep in front of it. Equality 7-2521 writes,

“And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.

This god, this one word:

‘I.'”

 

As a Christian, I utterly disagree with Rand’s philosophy.  She only writes of the world in black and white – either it’s “we” or it’s “I.”  She is leaving out so much in between.  Christ challenges us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  He doesn’t require us to give up our freedom and individuality, but he does require us to love and respect our fellow men at the same time.  And oh, what this world needs right now is love.  And not self-centered love, for we already have plenty of that.

 

I gave Anthem only 1 star on Goodreads.

 

The Brothers Karamazov July 18, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 5:49 PM

At the beginning of June, I began The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky — my sixth reading challenge selection for 2016.  My older brother, Tom, had given me a list of several books that he recommended, and from that list I chose The Brothers Karamazov.  I have read many works of classic literature over the years, but I had neglected to read any of the famous Russian novels.  I knew that by selecting a Dostoevsky as Tom’s choice, I would begin to correct this oversight.

 

 

Despite my enthusiasm for taking on this nearly 800-page tome, I struggled to get into the novel.  The summer break from teaching usually affords me the time to fly through books, but I had trouble focusing on this one.  This is no fault of Dostoevsky, however; I blame pregnancy brain.  I would nod off after only a handful of pages, or I would have to reread pages read the day before because I simply could not remember what had happened or what had been said (probably due to the frequent nodding off).  These reading behaviors are highly unusual for me during a break from work, so I suspect they had more to do with me being eight months pregnant than anything else.  At one point I strongly considered putting the novel aside and trying again later in the year, but I worried that I would never get back to it if I did.  So I soldiered on, and after the first 200 pages or so I fell more into a rhythm with the book and made slow-but-steady progress.  It still took me halfway into July before I finished The Brothers Karamazov, though!

 

The novel contains a number of lengthy monologues and explanations, but it is also packed with drama.  Murder, suspicion, jealousy, betrayal, and love triangles all take center stage at various points in the plot.  In addition, an element of humor can be found in Dostoevsky’s portrayal of human foibles, such as wealthy, middle-aged Madame Khokhlakov’s attempts at winning over/manipulating handsome young men.  These elements add interest, intrigue, and readability to the novel.

 

I found myself wishing for more background knowledge on mid-19th-century Russian history as the book clearly confronts the political and religious movements of the time.  In fact, The Brothers Karamazov is well-known for its discussion of religion and the existence of God, with the youngest Karamazov brother, Alyosha, representing the faithful believer in contrast to his doubting father and elder brothers.  While I am far from a theological expert, I still found the religious discussions and debates among the characters fascinating.

 

Overall, I gave The Brothers Karamazov 4 stars on Goodreads.  My interest level surged and waned at different points in the novel, but I recognize and respect the quality of the work.  I doubt I ever attempt a reread, but I am glad to have experienced Dostoevsky’s masterpiece this once.

 

Colorado Bend State Park: Tie Slide Trail June 9, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 2:38 PM

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After hiking the Spicewood Trails at Colorado Bend State Park over spring break, John and I had looked forward to returning to the park for the hike to Gorman Falls.  Yesterday we set out early for Colorado Bend, but upon arrival we learned that the Gorman Falls area was closed due to flooding from last week’s rains.  A park ranger suggested that we hike the Tie Slide Trail, which leads to a river overlook that would give us a view of the falls.

 

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Now 7 months pregnant, I am more limited on difficulty and length of hikes.  Texas Parks & Wildlife rated the Tie Slide trail at a moderate level of difficulty, and combining it with the connecting path to the Gorman Falls Trail would have us hiking a loop just over 3 miles in length.  So after thoroughly spraying ourselves down with sunscreen and insect repellent, we headed out on Tie Slide.

 

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It was in the low 80s when we parked at the trailhead, but the humidity made it feel much warmer.  Luckily about half of Tie Slide is under shade from oak and cedar trees.

 

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The other half of the trail winds through open meadows, which at this time of year were dotted with yellow and orange wildflowers.

 

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We hiked about 2 miles before reaching the river overlook.  We gratefully took a breather and caught some cooling breezes from our vantage point above the river.

 

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The Colorado River was not at its most picturesque, as it was especially brown and muddy from the excess rain last week.

 

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But Gorman Falls indeed could be seen–and heard–in the distance.  I had to zoom in quite a bit in order to capture more than just a small white blur in the background.

 

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We soon continued our hike, taking the connecting trail between Tie Slide and the Gorman Falls Trail back to the trailhead to turn our hike into a loop rather than an out-and-back.  The scenery was much the same as before: a mixture of small bunches of short trees and wildflower-strewn meadows.  Throughout our hike, the elevation remained fairly level, which confirmed the moderate difficulty rating that the trail had been given.  We completed our hike in about 1.5 hours, and we were glad to get back in the car with the AC turned up.  It was not yet noon, but the outside temps had already climbed into the 90s.

 

While we enjoyed our excursion at Colorado Bend, we continue to look forward to making the hike to Gorman Falls.  The glimpse we got from afar convinced us that the falls will be more than worth seeing close up.

 

Trinity: Military War Dog May 15, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 5:12 PM

For my May reading challenge book, I chose my friend Rebecca’s recommendation of Trinity: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig.  Rebecca is a great reader of Christian fiction, and she has recommended several good Christian fiction series to me in the past.  Trinity is the first novel in a series of three books focusing on military war dogs and their handlers.

 

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I was admittedly skeptical upon starting this book, as I have neither a military background nor a history with dogs (yep, I’m a cat person).  It was definitely going to put me out of my comfort zone.

 

The relationship between Trinity and her handler, former Green Beret Heath Daniels, is one of devotion on both sides, and this was one of the highlights of the book for me.  I may not be a dog person, but I do love animals and believe special connections exist between them and their human caretakers.  I cried for multiple days when my beloved cat, Napoleon, passed away in November.

 

The budding romantic relationship between Heath and Darci, an intelligence officer posing as a geologic survey team member, was another enjoyable component of the novel for me.  I selected Trinity as my May read because I knew it would have a little romance to it, which I often look for when I’m tired and stressed during busy times of the school year.

 

I struggled with the military aspects of the book, however, as the acronyms and procedures were unknown to me.  Kendig also plotted her novel as a series of mini-cliffhangers, each ending with an explosion, shot, or attack of some sort.  While this was intended to up the suspense, I found it repetitious after the first couple of times.  Action movies have never been my favorite movie genre, after all, for the same reason.

 

In the end, I did not love Trinity, and I doubt that I pursue the additional two novels in this series.  It did serve as a welcome distraction, however, while being home sick for three days straight!

 

Years

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 8:09 AM

My sister-in-law, Kalyn, selected Years by LaVyrle Spencer for me to read for my 2016 Reading Challenge.  In her words, this is why:

 

I have decided that as a stay-at-home mom and housewife, I need to be the voice for the esteemed and timeless genre of trashy romances. Among my people, Lavyrle Spencer is William Shakespeare, so I’ve decided to go with her classic novel, Years.  I recommend setting aside skepticism or pre-conceived notions about trashy romances, and instead, just jump in with both feet. Remember, this isn’t supposed to be a literary masterpiece. It is supposed to be fun. The point is not to give you something to think about. The point is to give you a break from thinking. Trust me, it’s a beautiful thing. 

 

Between pregnancy brain and approaching-end-of-school-year lethargy, I decided April would be a great month for me to read something mindless.

 

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Years was not the first romance novel I’ve read (grad school is also a time in your life when mindless reading becomes important for your mental health), so I had a general idea of what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised that Kalyn’s “trashy romance” was not nearly as “trashy” as others I’ve read.  It was fairly predictable, of course:  a young, sheltered woman is drawn to an older, hardened-by-life man who resists the relationship due to the years between them; many pages of conflict and misunderstandings ensue before détente is reached.

 

Yet the novel was also quite enjoyable.  The story takes place in a small, Norwegian farming community in North Dakota during WWI, and I enjoyed the barn dances and family gatherings throughout the book.  The heroine, Linnea, comes to the community as a novice schoolteacher, so I could easily empathize with the ups and downs she experienced in her first year as a teacher.

 

I gave the romance 4 stars on Goodreads, as I found myself caught up in the story despite my admittedly somewhat-cynical view of it at the outset.  Kalyn refers to Spencer as the Will Shakespeare of her genre, and I can see why.  Spencer’s writing is solid and without the silly flourishes that other romance writers find so necessary.  I’d second Kalyn’s recommendation of Years to anyone looking for a fun escape.

 

 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail May 13, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 8:07 PM

Living in the Texas hill country has its perks, such as witnessing the wildflower displays in the spring, avoiding traffic jams and smog, and being less than an hour away from Enchanted Rock.  Regarding the latter, John and I have talked and talked about hiking up Enchanted Rock over the past two years, but we kept picking somewhere else to go when it came time for a hike.  Leave it to us to finally make it there when I am six months pregnant!  This meant, of course, that we avoided the famous Summit Trail and took to the 4-mile Loop Trail instead.  What initially felt like a consolation prize, however, turned out to be one of our favorite hikes in Texas.

 

It was cool and sunny when we embarked upon the trail on a recent Saturday morning.  It would warm up considerably as the morning turned to afternoon, and the Loop Trail offers little shade for much of its length.  The posted warnings to carry enough water with you were well founded.  John had left his sunglasses at home, so he borrowed mine.  They made him look especially manly for the hike.

 

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We hiked clockwise around the loop, and the trail quickly took us up an incline as we began our trek around Little and Enchanted Rocks.

 

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I loved the wildflowers we encountered along the trail, especially as they acted as a delicate contrast to the rough and tough granite outcroppings nearby.

 

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All of the cool rock formations had me thinking about my geologist dad.

 

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At the one-mile mark, there was a short diversion to a scenic overlook, and we had our first clear view of both Little and Enchanted Rocks.

 

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After another 0.6 miles, we took a second diversion, this time to Moss Lake.  We were pleasantly surprised by the prettiness of the lake as it reflected Enchanted Rock behind it.

 

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Back on the Loop Trail, we enjoyed more signs of spring.

 

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The views of the surrounding countryside were lovely, as well.

 

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The Loop Trail is the best way to get a 360° view of Enchanted Rock (as compared to a 360° view from it).

 

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After passing between Freshman Mountain and Buzzard’s Roost, the trail borders Sandy Creek for the last mile of hiking back to the trailhead.  Many of our fellow hikers had stopped to wade and splash in the creek, but we were too tired, warm, and hungry to follow suit.

 

The hike was fairly easy, with only moderate inclines to tackle.  I am not sure I would want to make this hike in the full heat of a Texas summer, but it was very doable on a beautiful, sunny spring morning.  I can’t wait to hike it again someday soon with Baby Boy Pierce in tow!

 

Advise and Consent

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 3:31 PM

My husband, a close follower of current events and an American presidents enthusiast, chose Advise and Consent by Allen Drury for me to read this year as part of my 2016 Reading Challenge.  Written in the late 1950s by a political reporter, Advise and Consent is a fictional inside look at the United States Senate as it handles the confirmation of a controversial nominee for Secretary of State.

 

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At 600 pages, Advise and Consent is not a quick read, yet once the plot really gets going, you cannot help but read through it quickly.  I chose to read the novel in March, knowing that a week off of work for spring break would allow me to spend extra time on it.  I could have read it at almost any time in the school year, however, as I found it fascinating and almost couldn’t put it down.

 

What struck me the most upon beginning the novel was the respect that Senators on both sides of the aisle have for one another.  They may disagree on the Secretary of State nomination and dearly want to be on the winning side of the confirmation hearing, but they (with one notable exception) are not malicious to one another.  How different from the American politics of today in which bipartisanship is a rare thing indeed.  And when that one notable exception–a young, zealous Senator wanting to win at all costs–makes his devastating last move, the Senate bands together against him, citing his disrespect of the history of the Senate and its people and practices as reason enough to make him inconsequential in the future.

 

What kept me reading the novel were its many twists and turns and its flawed characters that broke my heart one moment and had me cheering them on the next.  Advise and Consent won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1960, and I think it was well-deserved.  The writing is excellent and the storytelling even better.  I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

 

 

 
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