Monday, January 14, 2019

January 2019 Quick Lit: what I've been reading

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly Quick Lit linkup, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading. Since my last book post (which listed everything I read in 2018), I've read three nonfiction books.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brene Brown. 
This is the latest by the bestselling author of Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and other books -- all of which address issues of shame, vulnerability, wholeheartedness, and courage. In this book Brown's focus is leadership, and while many of her examples and anecdotes are from the corporate setting, the principles are applicable to any situation where we work with others to accomplish tasks and strive to foster and maintain a culture of empathy, trust, and openness. 

Brown's work can at times seem a little repetitive because she deliberately reviews and builds on principles from previous books. I also get impatient sometimes with the terminology she creates like "rumbling" and "key learnings" -- but when she gives real-life examples that flesh these concepts out (often based on her own mistakes and misunderstandings), I always find them relevant and memorable. I particularly appreciated her chapter on values, where she encourages readers to zero in on their two primary values and examine whether their actions reflect those values. Overall I really enjoyed this and always take away something valuable from her writing.


Educated by Tara Westover.  
In this gripping memoir, Westover recounts her life growing up on an Idaho mountainside as the daughter of survivalist Mormon parents. Distrustful of government and full of end-times paranoia, her parents forbade their children to attend school and lived in isolation, stockpiling food, fuel, and ammunition in preparation for doomsday. Westover spent years working in her father's scrapyard, enduring emotional and physical abuse from her father and one of her brothers, until she was able to leave home and attend Brigham Young University and eventually Cambridge and Harvard. She details her complex and painful relationships with various family members, her struggle to affirm her womanhood, and the challenge of telling one's own story in the face of others' conflicting versions. Excellent book.


White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided By Privilege by Amy Julia Becker. 
In this thoughtful book, Becker explores the concept of privilege by discussing many different aspects of her own life: her wealthy, secure upbringing in North Carolina (with black household staff); her experiences as a mother of a child with Down Syndrome; her discovery that what we call "answered prayers" may have more to do with privilege and connection than with "God's blessing"; her exploration of how people of colour are (or are not) depicted in children's books; her attempts to pray and fast for healing across political divides; and more.

Toward the end Becker says, "I now understand two things about privilege that I didn't understand before. One, that privilege in and of itself is not a sign of God's blessing but rather a fact of my life that can be used for good or ill. Two, that what our culture calls privilege is a mirage, a false understanding of what it means to live a good life, and that the true privilege of my existence comes in the undeserved favor I have in being one who is loved by God, loved by others, and able to love in return." Thought-provoking and beautifully written.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Epiphany 2019 - three haiku

Three haiku for Epiphany: 

entering the house
we looked round, wondering where
the King of kings was

we gazed at the Child
whose eyes danced with light, just like
the star we'd followed

we worshipped, gave gifts --
then we went back home by an
unfamiliar road

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day 2018

Advent has ended. It is Christmas Day: Jesus has come!

Here are my final two haikus from my Haikus for Advent series:


O Emmanuel
tucked in a womb, Your own heart
beating next to ours


this night he is born
gulps air, roots for Mary's breast --
vulnerable God


Thank you for following along on this Advent journey with me on Twitter or here on the blog. (See posts for Advent weeks One, Two, and Three.) May the love and grace of Jesus, our Saviour, be with you today and every day.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Haikus for Advent: Week Three

I have been composing a haiku for each day of Advent this year and posting it on Twitter.

Below are the haikus I wrote for Week Three of Advent. (See also Week Two and Week One.)


the candle of joy
is lit; its fire awakens
our cold, sleeping hearts


O Wisdom, show us
the right path; be a lantern
guiding our footsteps


O Adonai - keep
your promise to redeem us
and to bring justice


O Jesse's Son: you
are the one who was promised
and for whom we wait


O Key of David
no one can close what you open
or thwart your purpose


O Bright Morning Star
earth groans in darkness, longing
for light to break in


O King of Nations
reconcile us to yourself
and to each other


Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas 2018: greetings from our family

Dear friends and family,

As Christmas approaches and 2018 draws to a close, I thought I'd write this post to share some brief updates about what our family's been doing in the past year.

Jonathan turned 16 in September and is in Grade 11 at KCVI (Kingston Collegiate & Vocational Institute). He is so happy to be a part of the School-to-Community class there. He has a new teacher this year but the same Educational Assistant (Dylan) as last year, so that continuity has helped. He has enjoyed many outings with his class: they took a day trip by train to Brockville (an hour away) to visit an aquarium; they attended a hockey game and the "Grinch" movie; they participated in Special Olympics basketball and bocce tournaments; and they take regular walks to the grocery store and parks for exercise. (Jonathan is known among his classmates for being a very fast,  enthusiastic walker!) Otherwise his favourite activities are going to the library to pick out DVDs and hogging the couch as he watches YouTube videos on the iPad he got for his birthday.

Allison is 20 now and is continuing her online studies at Queen's. This past year she's taken courses in children's literature, cognitive and social psychology, and world religions. She has adjusted well to the online course environment and seems to enjoy what she's taking, particularly psychology.  

Richard is still working as a nurse at Kingston General (recently renamed Kingston Health Sciences Centre, fyi) and as a clinical instructor for a Queen's nursing course. He's still volunteering every week with Circle of Friends and Run & Read, and staying active by running and playing squash, softball, and soccer. 

I (Jeannie) am still teaching an online course at Queen's,  participating in music and a women's study group at Bethel Church, and doing a lot of writing. I was gratified to have several publications this year: I'll post the links here in case you're interested in checking them out, but if not, feel free to scroll on by! 

- I had a poem published in a print journal for the first time: Relief published my poem "Lakeside, with Jonathan" in its Spring 2018 issue. 

- My poem "Coyotes" appeared in Issue 2 of Barren Magazine. Link here.

- My  short poem "Seen" was one of the winners of Fathom Mag's 40-word poem contest. Link here

- My very short story "Glimpse" was one of the winners of Fathom Mag's tweet-sized stories contest (entries had to be 280 characters maximum). Link here.

- My poem "Daylight saving" appeared in The Bangor Literary Journal's "Spring's Bride" publication. Link (to download pdf) here

As a family we travelled to PEI in August to visit Dad and other relatives for two weeks. We stayed at an AirBnB rental near Dad's (and my brother Lincoln's) apartment in Cornwall, which worked really well; we could walk back and forth to have coffee or supper with Dad and Lincoln, and we had lots of space of our own to relax in. It was one of our best trips in a while and we hope we can make a similar arrangement next time we visit.

We also had a family wedding this year: our nephew Josh Prinsen got married to Jess Davies in July, and we enjoyed celebrating with them and other friends and relatives.

To all our family and friends, we truly hope you enjoy times of celebration and reflection over the Christmas season. All the best in 2019 -- and please keep in touch!

 Photo at top of post taken by Carolyn Prinsen at Josh and Jess's wedding, July 2018.