Being Mrs. Pierce

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

Calling Me Home September 13, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 2:06 PM

Thanks to the arrival of Baby Pierce last month, I got an early start on my September reading challenge book, Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler.  Postpartum recovery and breastfeeding allowed me lots of sitting–aka reading–time.  I chose Calling Me Home to read next because a digital version of it was available for check-out from our local library.  I’m finding it easier to use my iPad to read books while holding and nursing our newborn son.

 

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My sister, Julie, recommended Calling Me Home to me.  As an elementary school teacher and mother of two young girls, Julie reads picture books aplenty but finds reading time for herself difficult to come by.   However, the librarian at her school gave her a copy of Kibler’s novel last year, and she chose it for me to read, also.  In Julie’s words, “It is significant to me because I am actually still reading it. :)”

 

Calling Me Home follows two unlikely friends–89-year-old Isabelle McAllister and her 30-something hair stylist, Dorrie Curtis–as they travel from Texas to Cincinnati for a funeral.  Isabelle is white; Dorrie is black.  On the road, Isabelle tells Dorrie her story, which is illustrated in the novel as a series of flashbacks to 1939.  At seventeen, Isabelle fell in love with Robert Prewitt, a young black man who worked for her family in a small Kentucky town which forbid African Americans from within its boundaries after dark.  Calling Me Home is essentially Isabelle and Robert’s story, although Isabelle’s reflections on the past have a profound influence on Dorrie, a single mother of two with her own romantic difficulties.

 

I was skeptical of the novel at first, as the writing was a bit too colloquial for my taste and the plot appeared to be predictable.  While my opinion of the writing remained unchanged to the end, my initial assessment of the plot did not.  Kibler surprised me, in a good way, with her story arc more than once.  She kept me reading, intrigued about what else she was going to reveal.

 

Calling Me Home also felt timely, despite its focus on the past.  Kibler weaves in some of the modern-day realities of being black in America rather than neatly saying that all is now resolved between blacks and whites.  Just one look at the headlines of today shows that racial divisions remain.  I appreciate that Kibler did not gloss over that fact.

 

In the end, I gave Calling Me Home a solid 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Living Jesus September 3, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 2:10 PM

For my August reading challenge book, I selected Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount by Randy Harris.  Loveta, my mother-in-law, chose this book for me to read after she had read and studied it in Bible class at church.  Randy Harris is a popular author in the Pierce family, as my husband took a class of his while studying at Abilene Christian University.  Living Jesus was to be my first experience with Harris’s work.

 

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Harris discusses one portion of the Sermon on the Mount in each chapter of the book.  I limited myself to reading just one chapter per night so that I could contemplate Harris’s observations, explanations, and challenges.  Yes, challenges.  Ultimately this book is a challenge to, as the subtitle indicates, do what Jesus says. Oftentimes this means thinking deeply about what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount.  For example, in chapter 7 Harris examines Matthew 5:33-37 in which Jesus instructs us not to swear oaths.  Harris believes Jesus means this directive to be more about maintaining high integrity–avoiding/correcting lies big or small, confessing wrongs, etc.–than about just avoiding oath swearing.  Harris writes, “The goal here is to examine our hearts and to expose the roots of our dishonesty” (p. 82).  He admits this isn’t easy, but Jesus didn’t care about making things easy for us.

 

I enjoyed taking a slow, in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount, which in the past I’ve quickly read but never really studied.  I definitely had to stop and examine how I am fulfilling or failing Jesus’s challenges, which was one of Harris’s goals in writing the book.  His writing is very accessible, and I can easily see why he’s popular not just among my family but at ACU and beyond.  I gave the book 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

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.