Friday, December 21, 2012

Sweaters and Books.

Someone asked me the other day if I had started packing for my Christmas trip up north.  To which I responded, "I'm just taking sweaters and books'.  I literally travel with a suitcase almost entirely filled with books.  Before you smarty pants suggest I buy a kindle I actually have one AND an ipad...but it's just not the same and library books and used books are so much less expensive.  So, as backup to my suitcase of books I will also have ereader options handy.  But here's a peek at what I'll be working on over Christmas...

Everywhere hailed for its emotional intensity and unflagging narrative momentum, this magnificent novel transports us to the turn of the twentieth century, to the world of a prominent Boston family summering on the New Hampshire coast, and to the social orbit of a spirited young woman who falls into a passionate, illicit affair with an older man, with cataclysmic results. (via Goodreads)

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that's going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J. 

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year. 

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan's summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives' twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they're stranded on an uninhabited island. 

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man. (via Goodreads)

Note: This book is a New York Times Bestseller and was highly recommended to me.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. (via Goodreads)

These are the books I snagged from the library or used bookstore in time to head up to Indiana.  I have placed no limited on how much or little I will read this Christmas since I've already completed my 100 book goal for the year.  But I would say somewhere between 2-10 books will be accomplished.

Any other books you'd highly recommend for me this Christmas season?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Suggested Reading: Christmas Break.

Ok, so, I finished 100 books early and I keep getting message after message asking for suggestions on what you all should be reading.  If you've sent me one of these messages, hopefully I've returned it!  I try to keep up with them and suggest on an individual basis if I feel like I know your reading style BUT since I don't have time to play librarian every day - I thought I'd give you all some reading suggestions for your Christmas break (assuming you get one, which I hope you do).

If you love to read by the fire here's what I think you might want to have with you...(Note: I'm going to give you ten, this should be good for all my crazy christmas readers and college kids on break for a full month - the rest of you can pick and choose)

1. The Paris Wife. I four starred this one on goodreads. This book is fiction but based on the life of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, his first of four wives.  As a Hemingway fan and a gal with a love of all things Paris, this book really kept my attention.

2. The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. This one was given to me by Amber and I LOVED it. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because I literally couldn't put it down.  If you like a little mystery and suspense but with well developed characters, this story should be on your list.

3. The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.  Ok, I love Jane Austen. I've been fascinated by her for years.  This book is loosely based on her real life.  Jane Austen was said to have had a love affair that changed her life and played into her writing and this book seeks to reveal the truth.  I was spell-bound.

4. Anything.  This book literally changed my life.  Just get it.

5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns).  Hilarious.  Pee in your pants hilarious.  And oh so accurate.

6. Gone Girl.  Totally messed up and twisted but I couldn't put it down halfway through until I finished. I rarely read a book I haven't figured out the plot of 30 pages in and this one kept me guessing til the end.  For that, I say, worth the read.

7. Fearless. This book was incredible and so timely for me.  If you're in a transition period in life this book may just be on the mark for you.

8. Start Something That Matters. This book was incredible.  Inspiring, uplifting, motivating, and interesting all in one. I gave it 5 stars.

9. Slammed.  I recommended this to some of my favorite readers and we all agreed, we couldn't put it down.  We quickly read the sequel and we're all anxiously awaiting a third book out by her in March of 2013.  This is a great 'summer read' style book, so if you're planning on giving your brain a vacation this December, snag this.

10.  Testimony. I snagged this gem at a used bookstore and I LOVED it.  I went back and found another by the same author to read myself over Christmas.  This one has some scandal but in the end I thought it was beautifully crafted and written. A sad reminder of how quickly bad decisions can rock our worlds and change our lives forever.

Happy Christmas reading time loves. If you try any of these out send me your feedback. I will be checking my personal e-mail over the vacation break:


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twas the Week Before Christmas.

It's less than a week until Christmas day!  Anyone else having a hard time believing that?  It's just not starting to feel like Christmas to me after a couple parties this past week.  It's still warm and sunshiney here in Tampa, which probably takes away from the feel a bit.  But whether or not it dips below 70 here this month, Christmas is coming!

This past weekend I hosted a handful of friends for a Christmas brunch at my place.  It was so fun just to see and spend time with everyone before we disperse to our various Christmases around the country (or for the lucky ones, stay around and actually relax).

I made 2 new Pinterest recipes both of which actually were remarkably good and successful (this is not always the case for me).  And everything that people brought was delish. I finally had to invite friends over for a leftovers party to purge some of the extras!  Whew.

With a few days to go I need to wrap up work, scrounge up all my winter-ish clothes to pack, and today on lunch: finally mail my faraway friends their gifts.  So here they go to Indy, Chicago, Austin, and beyond.

The biggest debate of my week before Christmas is how many books to pack for my week up north... who wants to vote?

Looking forward to time with family, seeing sweet friends, cheering on the Colts, and playing with my new DSLR camera while up there.

Happy week before the C-day.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Second Annual Christmas Letter.

I started a new tradition last year of blogging my Christmas letter instead of printing them and sending them out with my Christmas cards.  Here is last years letter which I stopped to read again before I wrote the one you will find below...

(Me, Ruth, Mom (Deb), Dad (Clyde), Rachel, Noa, and Chris - on our family trip to Myrtle Beach this summer)

Friends, Family, and Family friends,

Merry Christmas to each of you and to your sweet families.

If you are new to this blog this year either because you've come into my life in 2012 or because you read the address on the bottom of this years Christmas card - welcome!  I have been blogging less than ever this year but I hope with more direction, clearer vision, and a more open dialog than in years past.

As I reread my 2011  Christmas letter I was so humbled to think of all the Lord has done in 2012.  I expected this year to be easier than the last but it has brought with it more challenges than any year before.  But as it draws to an end I am most grateful to report that I have never felt stronger in the my relationship with the Lord than I do as I close 2012 and this year was a  year of being faithful in my time and my commitment to Him.  Through that He has used a tough year for good in me and I hope in a few small ways - through me.

In April of 2012 I went to Port Au Prince, Haiti where along with a team of strangers that became friends I worked hard to lay the foundation of a church.  We met the physical need of a church that already existed and is serving there by giving them a building and we were able to encourage the pastor and the congregation of our fellow Christians there.

(Haiti - April 2012.)

 I worked a concrete mixer along with a fellow church member and it was the dirtiest heaviest work I've done to date. I will share that I came back from that trip of 4am-4pm workdays more rested than I could have from any vacation and I announced to my Dad from the Miami airport 'that was better than any trip I've ever been on'.   My world was rocked but I came back ready to serve again, which I will do in January of 2013 on a trip to Togo in West Africa.

(Easter 2012)

Being an Aunt is by far my favorite role and my love for Noa grows with each day.  We recently celebrated (unfortunately from afar for me) Noa's first birthday.  I am reminded daily what a gift she is.  She has brought more joy to my family than I could have imagined and she arrived with timing only the Lord could have ordained.  I am impatiently awaiting some time with her over Christmas in Indianapolis where I hope to start working on 'Aunt B' being her first words.

This year had it's fair share of travels which included a May trip to Washington DC to spend time with my family there as well as explore a city that now holds a big piece of my heart.

(Washington DC - May 2012)

Travels were an overwhelming theme for this year as I visited: Louisville, Scottsburg, Indy, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Daytona, Orlando, Washington DC, Haiti, Raleigh, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and beyond.  Whew. I have lived as much out of a suitcase as out of a dresser this year but it has given me so many unique experiences and well, an abundance of frequent flier miles!

I completed my first home renovation project in the summer of 2012 which involved a new paint job, new bathroom counters, sinks, and faucets.  When people tell you that home projects are always more work and more money than you expect? Listen to them!  But I'm pleased to say that all went well and I've enjoyed the rest of the year with the results.

 (Summer Remodel Project - July 2012)

More than anything else this year I am grateful for relationships.  I am thankful for the new friends the Lord has brought to me in 2012. I'm thankful for each person who has walked with me through a busy work season, an incredible football season, and a season of spiritual growth.  I'm grateful for a bible study group who has worn their knees out in prayer for me this year.  For each new friend, I am thankful for you and for the fact that you have so quickly become more like family than friends.

(Amber & I - October 2012)

This year brought with it my three year anniversary of working with All Pro Dad as well as the completion of my third year of home ownership.  My third event season with All Pro Dad allowed me another chance to work alongside my Dad with a company that is close to both of our hearts.  What a sweet season it has been for us to further a common mission, to see families strengthened and Dad's making their kids a priority.  I'm grateful for the Lord's provision this year and every year and for the home He's continued to provide for me here in Tampa.  The batch pad saw many visitors from near and far this year and my work travels took me to see many of the league friends I've made in my time with events.

 (Jared, me, Candy, and Jason - Colts All Pro Dad Event, November 2012)

In December, I look forward to closing 2012 in Carmel, Indiana for Christmas with my sweet family.  I'm narrowing in on the end of my 100 book reading goal for this year and expect to cross the finish line well ahead of New Years Eve.  I am enjoying my first Christmas tree, a season of parties, and the month long reminder of the birth of my Savior.

All that has happened in 2012 makes me excited to begin 2013 as I look forward to welcoming a second brother-in-law into the family this coming summer.  My excitement (and nerves) continue to grow as my first trip literally around the world to build at Aquaponics center in Africa quickly approaches.  I have determined my 2013 exploration trip to be Seattle, Washington.  And despite much goading from friends, I have not determined my goals for 2013 but I do promise they will not include doubling my current reading goal.

Thank you thank you to all who have made this year special - I am grateful for each of you and I look forward to continuing to do life with you on the blog and in person in 2013.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Go Colts!

All My Love,

'She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future' - Proverbs 31:25

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Don't Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle.

Finally starting to look like Christmas at my house, even if Tampa doesn't feel wintery at all (no, I'm not complaining)...

Finally bought my first Christmas tree this year.

I am most excited to use my 2012 Mt. Vernon ornament that I bought on my travels to DC this year - but it's also fun to have my friends represented on my tree!

Whew, the house is almost ready, the travel plans are made, the Christmas party is planned - now, to just sit back an enjoy the month!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Falling Out of Love.

For any of you who have been in a serious relationship, you know that love takes work.  Someday's are fun and easy while others zap your energy or leave you anxious for better times.  What I hadn't really considered until recently is that loving your life works almost exactly the same way.  Sometimes you have to fight to keep the love alive.

It's not a secret in blog world that I've been through a tough couple of months.  I only just realized this week that a big portion of my problems has been that I let myself fall out of love with the life I've built.  When I look back at 2011 I was so in love with life.  Even the first part of 2012 felt that way.  Then fall came and a midst tough challenges, rocky relationships, work busyness, and exhaustion, I let myself fall out of that love.  I forgot what it was I was working so hard for.  I lost sight of why I first fell in love with Tampa, this job, and why I valued these relationships.

Over a lunch date with my Dad when I was over-eagerly sharing all these ideas I'd been having he, without meaning too, reminded me.  When I talked about how smart it would be to sell my condo soon (I could make a sizable profit and the market is right again) he said, 'but Bekes you LOVE that condo.  It's your home and you've done so well with it.  Keep it because you love it'.  And he's right. I DO love my condo.  For the gypsy child who never got to have a 'childhood' home, I have an adulthood home, and this is it.  But in the midst of this crazy season, I simply forgot.

I spent this weekend doing all the things this fall stripped me of - sleeping, resting, cleaning, decorating, catching up with friends, cooking out with my neighbors, baking and delivering to buddies, and drinking coffee on my red velvet couch with a good book.  After a weekend of getting back to being me I was on that same couch, with that book, pondering that life-loving girl who'd gotten lost in the shuffle.

I recognize this next season as being for falling back in love.  For jogs by the water, good books, great friendships, home cooked meals, bridge drives, and days by the pool.  It's time to put some of the past few months hardships behind me and really focus on what's important and in finding that joy I had earlier this year.  And it feels good, to recognize that, and to work towards it.  Oh how I've missed being in love.  And I will add, December seems like the perfect month for falling...