Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Feast for Theives by Marcus Brotherton ~ Cappy's Review

I gave this book to three important men in my life last month ~ my father, Corbin's father, and our pastor. I was hoping at least one of the dads would pass it back for me to read, but no luck. My father has turned it into a stylistic reference guide for his own writing, and Corbin's dad is placing his copy into the hands of another pastor-friend. I've returned to Amazon to order another copy for myself.

Feast for Thieves is Marcus Brotherton's first widely-anticipated, and now widely-acclaimed work of fiction. He's authored and co-authored more than 25 books and has built a career of researching and then framing great stories and lives for the rest of us to learn from and emulate. Marcus describes his writing in this way:
Thoreau pointed out how too many men lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help men lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well. - See more at: http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/notable-works/#sthash.JNAxCO5A.dpuf
"Thoreau pointed out how too many men lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help men lead lives of excellence."
Thoreau pointed out how too many men lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help men lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well. - See more at: http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/notable-works/#sthash.JNAxCO5A.dpufThor
Thoreau pointed out how too many men lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help men lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well. - See more at: http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/notable-works/#sthash.JNAxCO5A.dpuf
Thoreau pointed out how too many men lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help men lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well. - See more at: http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/notable-works/#sthash.JNAxCO5A.dpuf
Brotherton's Still LoLo, co-authored with Lauren Scruggs, is one of my favorites and a book I've reviewed here before. Still LoLo the first book that Basden grabbed from our bookshelf within hours of returning from the ER with bruises and stitches across her face. In that moment, we were direct recipients of Brotherton's quest for getting quality stories and examples in front of readers for hope and encouragement.  

But back to Feast for Thieves ~ in return for hoarding his copy of the book, my dad wrote a review for me to share here. And as a pastor, veteran, pilot, father and MAN, I find his lens pretty interesting.
Enjoy!

Reading Marcus Brotherton’s Feast For Thieves ~ by Bill James (aka Cappy)

     It’s not often that I end up just sitting and reading for very long, and enjoying it, but Feast for Thieves changed that. Not long after starting the book I jumped up for a minute and pulled up a chapter that I’d been working on and wrote out a few paragraphs in Feast style. Fun. But right then Rowdy and I were feeling pretty hungry and dirty, and I wanted to get us fed and bathed before I stopped reading for the night. The ride didn’t slow down so neither did I.

The first sentence pulled me in and had me hanging on. Marcus’s style is enjoyable and easy to read. More than reading, it’s almost like closing your eyes and sitting back and listening to a good story. Definitely the most enjoyable read for me in a good while, maybe since I was… twelve.

Sometimes Marcus had me moving steadily along the road, and bang, my head got snapped around. Like when Rowdy is sitting soaped up in the parsonage washtub and his predecessor preacher walks in. You just think you know what's about to happen.

The high-performance garage-built speedster I’ve now been flying for two decades inspires a few thoughts. Some like-minded folks ask to read them. The notes often come out a little differently now, a little easier. Several times I've picked up Feast again to re-imprint the promising feeling, because it so easily moves me in a productive direction. With Rowdy’s easygoing wit in mind I’ve been intending to go back and rewrite some of the notes, and I will, but now I enjoy mostly moving into new ones.

It’s easy to understand how Marcus Brotherton’s touch on Lauren Scrugg’s story, Still Lolo, worked so well. Across the genres, Brotherton is adept at moving his readers in a productive direction.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay ~ A Review


Wowzers - read this. Quick.
Need a great read for a few wintry evenings? Or a birthday gift for your mom or sister? Or simply a pick-me-up for a friend? Put this little gem in their hands... but do make sure to get a copy of your own. Even for the non-reader, the cover is darling enough to just sit on the coffee table and make them look like a reader. But believe me, you don't want to miss the story.

Katherine Reay serves up her debut novel that reads nothing like a debut novel. And isn't she darling??

When my friend Krista put this book in my hands, she said with a sad voice, "I'm just so jealous you get to read it for the first time."

Dear Mr. Knightly is in a genre of its own ~ an epistolary novel and heavily influenced by some literary classics and interwoven with references to novels including all things Bronte. While Dear Mr. Knightly dishes out some heavy subject matter, somehow Reay’s writing is light, funny, and believable. I laughed out loud, yet also shed a few tears at the restoration of a minor character’s situation.

What I loved ~
- Fabulous, believable characters who demonstrate beauty and flaws all mingled together.
- Reay's voice - Unique. Strong and self-deprecating. I feel like I not only know the main characters after reading this (can’t quit thinking about them), but I also feel like I know the author.
- Plot and Storyline - Intriguing, different. Not predictable. Especially sub-plots. Sometimes I get confused by all the minor people and goings-on weaving in and out of novels. But in this story, each character purposely revealed more about the main character, Sam. The relationships, even those that didn’t wrap up neat and pretty by the end, displayed different angles and growth in Sam’s journey.
- Did I already say not predictable??
- A backdrop of faith without a contrived or overt nature. Seems to me a person's (character's) faith is more attractive when it's simple and organic, and as an author, Reay displayed hers very simply through the story.
- Again, somehow Reay hit some hard, deep issues without graphic writing. Not everything was resolved by the last page of the book, but the reader is left with a strong conclusion. Unless, of course, there’s a sequel in the works...

While it's not a sequel, I'm currently devouring Reay's second novel, Lizzy and Jane, (a birthday gift from Krista - who knows how to keep me reading fiction even when I think I might not have time to read fiction - bah) and will hopefully review it soon!

Bottom line - Dear Mr. Knightly offers fantastic writing, a compelling storyline, and characters to fall in love with. I recently put  a copy in the mail to one of my besties.

For all of my reading friends ~ enjoy, and would love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Makes our World Beautiful

Smoke from the fire pit streamed into the cool morning air as Marshall and I warmed our hands around the low fire. Along the river's edge, bright yellow and orange trees reflected in the glass-like surface below, spreading the brilliant autumn colors above and below the landscape.

"Marshall, look at the sun rays peeking through those trees. What do you think of when you see those leaves?"
"Oh, Auntie Tonya, I see God in those trees."
"Really? How so, sweetie?"
"Well, they're pretty because they are dying. As they die, they make the world more beautiful. When Jesus died for us, He made the world more beautiful. That's how I see God in those trees."

Those words from my seven-year-old nephew.

As I sit across the coffee table from my friend who feels "stuck" in destructive patterns; as I lay awake at night, grieving with our friends who buried their 18-year-old son this week; as I realize my own mistakes and struggles in my marriage, my parenting, my own "stuck" battles... Marshall's simple truth wins out.

Jesus came, Jesus died for me and you, and His death for us makes this world beautiful. It gives us meaning, purpose, and hope for what's ahead.

May we hang our hope on that truth, Christ's comfort, this Thanksgiving and Advent season.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron ~ A review


My dear friend Krista put this book in my hand as I headed out on a trip several weeks ago. She’d read The Butterfly and the Violin last summer and told me right away I needed to read it. She was taken with the story and the writing, and couldn’t believe it was a debut novel. I wholeheartedly agree. Author Kristy Cambron is something else.

A few thoughts ~
- Main character’s name - Sera James. Great place to start.
- The storyline shifts between a modern-day art dealer and a young Austrian violinist captured during WWII.
- Excellent writing. Christian themes are organic, not contrived.

One of my favorite things about The Butterfly and the Violin is that I was thoroughly entertained while learning about something very unfamiliar - the influence of WWII artists and musicians. Interesting to learn about the orchestra and artists in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during the war.

Cambron captures The Butterfly and Violin's theme best in her Author's Note at the end of the book:
As a student (of art history), I was captured by the innate need of humans to create. As a young Christian, I was inexplicably moved by the glimpses of light in the darkness. Even in the most evil of circumstances, the art of human expression was so powerful that it couldn't be overshadowed, not even by death. In the Butterfly and the Violin, I did my best to explore this theme. It's about worship through God's creation - our lives.
Bottom line ~ a fabulous read. Well written, thoughtful, informative, entertaining.

Mrs. Cambron ~ we absolutely loved your story, and we’re ready for more!

(She read my mind!)

Coming in April 2015...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Practicing Gratitude 11.11.14

- Tanglewood's Storybook Parade. I love, love this tradition. Even if (when) it causes a little drama morning-of (anyone else have children who change their minds on costumes the day of the parade?)
Our awesome principal and vice-principal - Connie and Dana - starting things off
Dr. Wilson
Cute gymnasts (brrr!)
5th grade girls
Basden's fifth grade class (girls) - we love Mrs. Yager!
These Atlanta cuties all decked out. Cannot wait to see them Thanksgiving.

- Our annual Mother / Daughter weekend retreat at Frontier Camp. This is an incredible highlight for us Wilson girls ~ so grateful for the opportunity to go back each year. This was our fifth year. 
It's tradition - Gilberto's!
We like to call it Mother-Mother / Daughter-Daughter.
Sweetness
Nikki bought all our girls matching wigs for the costume contest  - hysterical
Who are these girls??!
The Darling Dozen
And then, the darling dozen Mommas. Nice costumes, ladies.
Beauties
Cutie-patooties
Atlee and Basden getting ready to zipline
Essie clearly conquered her fear from last year. Zero hesitation this year.
Not sure how good I'm feeling about that helmet's effectiveness
Avalon and Essie - Es' first time on the Giant Swing
Goodness, love them so much
Our Fort Worth crew. Such a lovely year ~ let's do it again this time next fall.
It's not over til it's over... still a three-hour ride home to stretch out the weekend!
- Found this note on Basden's nightstand, scribbled on the back of her gymnastics envelope. She gets "stars" in gymnastics as she learns skills to move to the next level. Clearly, Basden is just fine handling all of this independently and communicating directly with her coach. Grateful for her maturity, her independence.

- Hud's last 7th grade football game ~ what a way to end the season. Down by several points, on our 45, 4th down. Hud ran for a TD to put us ahead. Another teammate intercepted the ball on the next play with just a few seconds to go - such an exciting win!
Proud and excited
Supported by the Sanders (Photo creds to KDS for most of these pics!)
Way to go, McLean 7th!
- This kid. This school. This magazine. (And that Jordan gave our boys the subscription!)

 - This little cabin in the woods... nearing completion. Hoping for a white Christmas!

- Can you tell she's the fourth child? This photo is proof that I've learned to major on the majors, minor on the minors. And clearly, Essie picking out her own clothes is definitely a minor.

- Our friends Eric and Kristin, and what they mean to so many. Heart friends.

- This morning. The rain. That I can stay home today - hallelujah!!

- Deleting my news app on my phone. The notifications were too heavy for me, too much for my mind to comprehend. It's been a week, and the break offers much peace. I won't stick my head in the sand, but the stimulus of detailed (negative, horrific) news reports from all over the world was just too much. Thankful I'm not in a position where I must know all of the bad news.

- That my son is an artist, whether he recognizes it or not. He comes from a long line.


- These Scriptures... what I held on to this week:
Is 40:11- He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.
Heb 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Deut 33:25 - ...Your strength will equal your days.
Psalm 29:11 - The Lord gives strength to his people, the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Christan Parenting Handbook by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN ~ Book review

 

Every spring my college girlfriends and I get away to some remote lake house or home to spend a few days together. Invariably, the conversation revolves around our kids and parenting. Last Spring, gathered around Cammi’s kitchen island, we were stumped with an issue regarding some of our young teens. My friend Aimee grabbed her copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook from her duffel and plopped it down on the island.
“It’s not the catchiest title,” she said, “but man, it’s good information.”
I love hearing stories about Aimee and Ben with their three girls. Their home bursts with truth, laughter and fun. So for her to recommend a parenting book, I was all over it.

What I love about The Christian Parenting Handbook:
- The subtitle: "50 Heart-based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life." 
This book is a marriage of heart training put into practical application - for every age.

- Easy to read. 50 chapters, 4-5 pages each.
It reads smoothly, but also operates like a reference book. I underlined and starred so much, I just keep on my nightstand. When I don’t know what to do in a situation, I scan through the chapter headings (or all that I previously underlined and summarized) for advice. Easy to look up chapters that address a particular situation.

- Practical. Each chapter offers a suggestion ("Envision a Positive Future," ch 7)  or solution to a problem ("Teach Kids to be Solvers instead of Whiners," ch 37), then outlines a brief Biblical framework of that suggestion or problem, and then gives  examples of practically working out the suggestions.

- For parents of all stages. No matter if your kids are two or twenty. “One of the many benefits of a heart-based approach to parenting is that you can start it at any age,” pg 204.  And really, this is more than a parenting book, it’s a relating book. Many of these strategies apply to all relationships - parents, spouses, friends, not just our kiddos.

- Encouraging. The overall tone of Turansky and Miller’s writing is a pat on the back to keep going. I felt validated, challenged, and encouraged throughout the chapters.

For example, "Good Character Qualities Misused (ch 49)." Oh my word. I have been so encouraged by this chapter:
“All children have good character qualities that when taken to the extreme, have a negative side...  As you look at your children’s weaknesses, look for a positive character quality they may be misusing.Then search for ways to balance it...”


The authors continue, “Identifying positive qualities misused will not only encourage you as a parent, but it will help you develop a strategy for training.”
And, “No character strength can be used as an excuse for a corresponding weakness. We must help our children grow and make improvements in areas that are a challenge, but if we tie those weaknesses to corresponding strengths, we may be able to bring about change more quickly.”

Another of the chapters that’s affected me the most is, "The Difference between Tasks, Problems, and Conflicts" (ch 16). It’s like a direct transfusion of wisdom to keep me from spiraling down into frustration or simply feeling sorry for myself.

Simply put (my summary):
Tasks - Normal things we do each day, things that have to be done (making breakfast, training children. Not problems, just things we must do).
Problems - Obstacles that get in the way of your goals (your son didn’t do his homework, daughter can’t find her other shoe).
Million-dollar question - Are you going to move problems down to tasks, or escalate them to conflict?
Important rule: Don’t turn problems into conflict. Instead look for ways to turn problems into additional tasks by developing a plan to solve them and keeping your emotions in check.

Last August, on the night before the first day of school, I made giant attempts to have my kids fed, clean, clothes and backpacks set out, and ready for bed at an early bedtime.  At 8:30 pm, as I was shooing the girls upstairs and winding things down, the boys decided they must go with Corbin to WalMart (!) for a couple of very specific school supplies that had escaped my careful, extensive shopping (seriously - WalMart - the night before school starts?!). I presented my arguments as to why it was not a good idea, why the boys needed to settle their minds for rest instead of shopping the narrow, crowded, messy aisles of the superstore. I was trumped by all three men who stood taller than me, and who felt far less concerned with getting a reasonable amount of sleep. Corbin shushed my concerns as if I were an overbearing mother. Me?!
Off they went.
So an hour and a half later, when I got the call that their car battery was dead, and could I come jump the car and pick them up... at that moment, I decidedly put this “problem” into tasks rather than into conflict. Especially when I pulled up to WalMart to see Corbin bent over the hood of his car, while Bran and Hud walked across the parking lot from Wendy’s slurping down giant chocolate shakes.

Moving to task rather than conflict. Was it easy? No. Was it second nature? Absolutely not. But did we get home without further incident or injury or a super angry momma? Yes yes yes.
The lack of sleep that night made much less of an impact than the potential of my escalated anger and frustration. If the boys felt tired Monday morning, it wasn’t my problem. They’d have to work that out. And they did.
To this day, no one (other than me) remembers the night-before-school incident that could have been scarring for three Wilson males - and fortunately, I’m not nursing regrets. 

Some other of my favorite chapters: (note - everything in italics = my thoughts)

ch. 2 - Build Internal Motivation (!!!!!)
ch. 9 - Make Parenting Shifts  - Parenting well feels like a moving target. Good parents are always learning and growing. As our children move into a new developmental stage, we must make a parenting shift as well.
ch. 15 - Teach Kids to Add Energy to Family Life - Teaching kids to honor their family - to honor means to treat people as special, do more than what’s expected, to have a good attitude.
ch. 19 - Affirm Approximately Right Behavior. Whaat? We have the freedom to do that?? Our kids don’t have to always act completely right? Whew!
ch. 38 - Children Need to Learn How to Work Hard. But what if we don’t live on a farm, and my kids are in school 8 hours a day, even longer with sports? Do they still need to learn how to work hard? YES. But tell me how...
ch. 41 - Use Creativity to Teach Your Children Spiritual Truths
ch. 46 - Privilege and Responsibility Go Together
ch. 47 - Firmness Doesn’t Require Harshness
ch. 50 - The value of Grandparents. Amen. And notice it’s not titled the value of perfect grandparents.

The authors conclude the book by reminding us, “It’s never too late to influence your children. Keep praying, and enjoy the hope God gives to us all. He’s in the business of changing people.”

Amen. And Amen.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Practicing Gratitude 10.28.14

- Total GIFT of having Shawn and Heidi in our home for a few days. What bright lights for God's kingdom. They've been serving with CRU for 12 years now in San Diego, and getting some time with them was a complete joy for our family. In their short time with us, both were so intentional with getting to know our kiddos. Sign of a great couple when our kids were hungry for more time with them. Faulkners - next time you must bring your precious kiddos!
Shawn and our friend Zoli - great excuse for a party! Next time I've got to get some pics of Heidi...
- Young Life banquet. A privilege to be a part. 
Look forward to this set-up day every year (thanks, Mom, for taking girls to the dentist so I could be here)
Dayna ~ one of my fav people. Hard working, grateful, genuine. Lives life big.
Debby, Melissa, Melodie - and what fun YIKES mugs!
Yvette and Julie. Thank goodness these two are efficient.
Julie, me, Beth, Yvette, Jenna, Melodie. This is work, right?
Jenna's creativity
And - what a TREAT to have Bob with us. My third time to hear him this year ~ challenged and inspired each time.
Love this gal. Coffee and Wednesdays and Victoria!
Katie - love love.
We scored getting to keep "Marty and Pops" here after banquet
- Such a gift to get our friends across the street!


- The view from our front yard.
Hud and his buddies - such a great group of boys.
Because they don't get enough football from 6-9am
Basden and our next-door neighbor - sweet girls!
- Again, how much Basden enjoys volleyball. Great coach, great girls.

- Five days in Vegas (thanks for keeping kiddos, Daboo!). Celebrating Corbin's birthday while there - Oct 27th is one of the best days in history.
Happy happy birthday to my husband!
Happy birthday breakfast
We loved, loved staying at the Wynn. Other than shows, I was more than content staying right at the hotel.
- Andersons keeping girls for us while out of town. Made the transition of us leaving much smoother. 
 

- Tanglewood Carnival.
Didn't realize until we arrived that it's Basden's last. Goodness, beginning the grieving process of her being a 5th grader.

Essie and her posse
- More of Esther's soccer Saturdays.

- Liv's Light the Night. Touched by so much community support.
Love these two.
Cuties!! Makes me happy.
- Missing Hud's football game, but thankful for pics!
Such a great group - thankful!!
- PHS freshman's loss to Arlington Martin last week. Thankful in all things. It was a stunningly emotionally draining game. I was so stinking proud of our boys. Half the team walked to the bus afterwards in tears, completely spent from the game's intensity. Their first loss in two years. Couldn't have been prouder.
Bran - Defensive end, #27
Grey- #7, outstanding game as QB
My texts to a friend during the game

As our players gathered afterwards for the coaches' huddle, parents and friends gathered around the team in support.
- Essie and the way she imitates. Bran wrote this awhile ago and I saved it and posted it on my desk. Esther's pink note appeared days later.


Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12