Posted in Life

Oneida

I’ve been at Oneida for over a month now, so it would seem logical that I would have made a blog post by now. Alas, it hasn’t happened. Overall, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here and to serve Jesus.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service (1 Timothy 1:12)

I realize that my first year of teaching anywhere would be difficult, but being here is just a little bit better because I am surrounded by like-minded people and I’m able to freely share my faith. I also really enjoy the break after 3rd period for chapel, which definitely wouldn’t happen at a public school.

This is not to say that my time here has not been met with its own share of difficulties. I’ve had to adjust to a different pace of life, learn to live with less internet and cell coverage, find my niche in an established community, balance the demands of first-year teaching, try to say no to some opportunities, build a support system, learn two curriculum, develop tougher skin, and make time to simply rest. If you know me even a little bit, that last one is very difficult for me because I tend to run myself dry.

Through it all, God has provided. I have found ways to communicate with the outside world, learned to appreciate the good conversations and the loneliness, learned to keep the books for volleyball games, given up on creating everything from scratch, listened to student complaints without second-guessing my decision, and found a good walking path. I’m still learning every day and finding that the best advice about the classroom and adjusting to this life comes at the least expected moments.

It’s been a journey thus far, and I expect the journey will continue throughout this year and for however long God keeps me here in Oneida. If you’re looking for something to pray about, ask God to continually give me patience, tenacity, love, and his eyes as I teach these students about English and God.

Posted in Book Review

Then Sings My Soul

I’m coming to the point in my life where I realize that instead of books being good or bad, there are books that are for certain people or certain times.

My mom recommended Then Sings My Soul to me because she really enjoyed it. I did enjoy the story, but I wasn’t in a position to completely understand the character’s situation. Alternating between twentieth century Ukraine and present-day United States, Amy Sorrells tells the story of middle-aged Nel who is struggling with infertility on the west coast when her mother dies on the east coast. She travels to the east coast and discovers that her elderly father is suffering from dementia and hiding a past. She re-visits her own past while learning about her father’s past.

I found the writing style of high quality, and the story telling exquisite. The shifts between the past and present were smooth. On a literary level, I enjoyed the book, and at another time in my life I would probably find more in common with the main character. I’d tell you, give it a try.

then sings my soul

Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

Hello, Bicycle

I’ve been riding my bicycle to work several days a week for the past few months. Before that though I had to delve into the world of bike repair. I got a Schwinn World bike from an acquaintance for free, and for the most part it was in good condition. It did need new tires though because it’s current ones looked like frosted flakes were sitting on the edges. Boy did I feel like a cyclist when I successfully ordered and changed the tires on my own (or rather with the help of the internet and my best friend). Since that time, I’ve been riding uphill to work about a mile and a half, partially on road and partially on sidewalk. I’ve learned about safety while riding in the road and built a few new muscles. It feels good each day  that I don’t use my car.

bike 2

All that long story is to explain why I selected the book Hello, Bicycle as my next review book. Before I received this book, I expected fun pictures and witty text. I wanted it to be a quick read and easily organized so that I could easily flip to a particular section. From the book, I hoped to learn about bicycle repair/adjustments, how to make my ride easier, and some rules of the road.

Hello Bicycle

The book does have a fun cartoons, but more importantly the text is informative and fun to read. The text is light, but punches in the information. It includes everything from how to ride in a skirt to how to change a tire to the history of the bicycle. It also includes fun information about how to re-use old parts of your bike and recipes for on-the-road snacks.

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This book encourages me to ride my bicycle more often, and it taught me some skills in an easy-to-understand format. It’ll definitely be one that I keep on my shelf and re-visit often.

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Posted in Book Review

The Protector

Once I got started with The Protector, I devoured it. This was one of the many books I have bought recently at library book sales. Kudos to my public libraries for hosting two sales this summer!

the protector

In this novel, Dee Henderson continues the story of the O’Malley siblings focusing on Jack in this story. He’s a firefighter in a department where an arsonist keeps acting. There is a strong belief that Jack or those close to him are a common link to the arsonist’s actions, which seem to be saying something about the recent departmental cuts. Mingled in the arson mystery is a budding romance between Jack and another firefighter with a horrific past of her own. At the heart of the story is the question “Who is Jesus?”

I probably shouldn’t have jumped into this story mid-series. While I don’t know if the plot follows the other books in the series, but the book is written as if you already know the characters. Thankfully there are a few clues throughout the book that fill in details about how the characters connect. It did leave me wanting to read the others so I could learn more of the backstory.

While I did appreciate the fact that Jack came to believe in Jesus and accepted him for who he was, I felt that part was cheapened a bit by the romance. There was one moment where she seemed to care about his eternal destination, but it felt that the female character was mostly waiting for Jack to believe the same as she so that they could be together. The topic of unequally yoked dating is messier than I might like it to be though. I am appreciative that Henderson included this internal debate for the female character.

I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone. It may be more appealing to female adults, but c’mon guys, it has a firefighter as a main character. The story has bits of romance,  mystery, and action.

Posted in Book Review

Pictures of Hollis Woods

What is family? According to Merriam-Webster, family is a “group of people who are related to each other.” There seems to be more to that word, though. There seems to be a sort of warmth and feeling that is lost in the dictionary. In Pictures of Hollis Woods, the title character discovers that family is more than what appears to be on the surface. This young adult novel gives snapshots of Hollis as she moves from house to house through the foster system. Always, she runs. She runs, that is, until she finds a place she’d like to stay for a bit. Then the memories of the only family she’s ever known come flooding back in pictures hidden at the bottom of her backpack.

Hollis Woods book

This book’s message is that sometimes families look a bit different than the way we expect them to look. Hollis thought the Regans didn’t like one another because the Old Man was always disagreeing with Stephen. She learned that sometimes a family loves through disagreements. In order to learn this, she has to leave the only family she’s ever wanted to join, but, as Izzy says, “they have to find their own way.”

This book, written by Patricia Reilly Giff, left me longing to be part of their world so that I can see Hollis’s pictures and experience their family. There weren’t happy, fuzzy “family” moments per say. Instead, it’s a book of remembering and discovering. Since it is clean and beautifully written, I’d recommend it for teenagers and above. I just learned there’s a movie version, so now I need to try to find it.

Hollis Woods movie

Posted in Book Review

All Quiet on the Western Front

all quiet

Another war book. Usually I wouldn’t select books about war because I don’t understand the scenery and my first instinct would be that I wouldn’t like them, but All Quiet on the Western Front became my second war book this year (The Things They Carried being the first). What made this book appealing was that it wasn’t an account of World War I; it was simply the narrative of a man and his fellow soldiers during a war. The limited number of battle titles, dates, and military terminology helped it be more of a story than a history lesson. While The Things They Carried was about the power of a story, this novel portrays the realness of war, the long nights of nothing, and the loss of attachment to civilian life.

The story follows Paul Baumer who is a German soldier recruited at a young age along with seven others in his class. He comes to the war front and meets my favorite character, Katzcinsky, the conniving and crafty soldier who becomes Paul’s mentor. Paul and the soldiers in his unit spend time alternating between the front and the base camp. Life changes so much that when Paul goes home for a leave, he finds that he doesn’t belong there anymore.

“How can a man take that stuff [education and job] seriously when he’s been out here?”

Always overshadowing everything the soldiers do is a knowing of death. They don’t live in fear of it, but they do know it’s possible at any moment. They don’t allow themselves to worry about normal everyday feelings such as love because those seem superfluous to living and dying.

We want to live at any price; so we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which, though they might be ornamental enough in peacetime, would be out of place here.

 

All other expressions lie in a winter sleep, life is simply one continual watch against the menace of death;  It has transformed us into unthinking animals in order to give us the weapon of instinct – it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror, which would overwhelm us if we had clear, conscious thought.

One by one, Paul watches his friends die either on the front or in a hospital until finally even Kat dies at the end of the book. This is when Paul stops the fight to live because he knows that returning to civilian life in the impending peacetime will not be possible. The book doesn’t say he purposefully gives up living, but he does hint at the fact that he knows his future is too dull to live. He dies on an ordinary day, and with a punching quietness, Remarque states that on the day of Paul’s death it was reported that “all is quiet on the western front” signifying that Paul’s death is insignificant to the rest of the world.

This book is a powerful commentary on the reality of war without making a strong stance for or against war itself. I’d recommend this book to high school age and up with the understanding that there is some language, gruesome scenes, and heavy content.

Specifics
Author: Erich Maria Remarque
Published: 1929 (in serial form in a German magazine)
Book is 296 pages.
Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

College Rules!

College Rules. Such a good pun.

College Rules systematically lays out various strategies for surviving college. I requested this book from Blogging for Books because I have recently graduated and feel that I have some expertise in this area. My opinion afterward: it’s an okay book.

I would recommend reading particular chapters as they apply to your life because reading this book straight through is kind of boring. Of course, you also have to remember that not everything will apply to every college or person.

My one complaint about this book is that they don’t give enough credit to the power of friends. My college experience was enhanced by good friends and useful acquaintances. The authors do direct students to professionals and faculty, but they don’t recommend getting information from friends. Sometimes friends and dorms are the best places to find answers.

Soon to be college students could benefit from reading this book, but current college students and even some adults could benefit from reading the chapters on time management and other chapters.

College Rules

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Specifics:

Title: College Rules!, 4th Edition: HOW TO STUDY, SURVIVE, AND SUCCEED IN COLLEGE