Wednesday, April 23, 2014

what we're reading wednesday: the maze runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner was an interesting variation on the "future dystopian teen novel" theme, starting from scratch with the main character in a brand new environment with no memory of his past. He and the reader have to learn everything together. The plot was fast-paced and interesting enough to make me want to keep reading.

The biggest negative for me was that I just didn't feel much connection to the characters. I feel like I barely know what kind of person the main character is, except that (based on his actions) he's pretty brave and willing to risk his life for others. That's basically it. I don't have a clear idea of whether he's friendly or shy, kind or gruff, patient or impatient, clever or not. Supposedly (the book tells me) he's extremely smart, though I didn't see much evidence of it. There were lines like "Thomas didn't know what he meant by Banishment, but it sounded bad," and I'd want to yell at the book, "They just said a few pages ago that being Banished means you're left outside the walls at night, dummy!!"

A related complaint: I've rarely read a book that describes so many emotions while making me feel so few. It was full of lines like these: "Thomas felt a sudden surge of rage." "Thomas was happy with the conversation." Thomas couldn't help feeling a shot of pure elation at the thought." "Thomas was overwhelmed with sadness." To quote my 7th grade English teacher-- show it, don't tell it!

One last gripe: the narration was written in a strange style. On the one hand it was full of teenage-boy-isms (which I assume was deliberate) like "Dinner was awesome" and "Thomas was pumped"-- meant, I suspect, to reflect what Thomas would have said, since it was a third-person subjective narration. But at the same time, it never felt like we were really inside Thomas' head (see above complaints) so it came across as just feeling like... just immature writing, like a high schooler's short story. At least that's how I felt when reading it.

All of these complaints make it sound as if I didn't enjoy the book. I did-- I read it over the course of less than 3 days, after all! But it's a book that I wanted to keep reading because I was curious about what was going on, not so much because I cared what happened to the characters. 

If you like young adult dystopian novels, you'll enjoy it. But it probably won't become one of your all-time favorites or blow your mind or change your life. (But what am I saying-- if you like young adult dystopian novels, you've probably already read it. I guess I'm kind of late to the game on this one.) I'll probably get around to reading the sequels, but I'm not in a rush to do so.

Linking up with Jessica at Housewifespice

Monday, April 21, 2014

listen to me!

During a frustrating afternoon with my strong-willed girls last week, I posted the following on Facebook:

Faith, PEE IN THE POTTY instead of holding it. Josie, GO TO SLEEP instead of fighting it. We will all be happier if you will just LISTEN TO ME.

Jack and I were chuckling about it that evening-- how clearly we know what will make them happy, but they just won't do it. "Faith, your discomfort will go away if you empty your bladder. Promise." "Josie, you'll feel less miserable and cranky if you take a nap." It's so obvious to us that it's laughable.

But then Jack thoughtfully pointed out, "That's probably what God says to us."

How true! We foolish children don't do the very things that will give us joy-- and the worst part is that, unlike babies, we actually know better, deep down. 

In one of his talks, Peter Kreeft elaborated on this point (I know I've quoted him before-- listening to his podcasts was one of the biggest factors that helped me in my conversion).

We need to appreciate the problem before we can appreciate the solution. And the problem is not simply that we are imperfect; young piglets are imperfect. Or that we're mixtures of good and evil; delicious strawberries with a few rotten spots are mixtures of good and evil. The problem is not just that we're sheep wandering away from safety, foolish spoiled selfish children. Of course we're that. But we're much, much worse than that. We're not just morally weak, or morally bad. We are morally insane.
The word probably shocks you, and seems exaggerated and unrealistic-- and that's part of our insanity, by the way: denial-- so I shall now try to convince you from your own experience that you are insane. And I think if you are honest with yourself you will not be able to deny the facts that I am about to remind you of...
You know-- we all know, there are some things we can't not know-- you all know that there are two roads. There is good, and there is evil. There is the straight, and there is the crooked. There is the narrow, and there is the broad. There is Straight Street, and there is Broadway. You know that every day in life is full of big and little choices between those two roads, beginning with your very first conscious thought as you wake up in the morning. You know very well what lies down those two roads. You know that not just by faith, and not just by reason, but by experience, for you have walked down both roads many, many times, and you have always found the same living quarters there.
You do not have to believe-- you know-- the peacelessness and the joylessness and the regret and the shame, and above all the hiding and the self-deception and the self-loathing that lies down one road. And you know who it is that you never meet on that road, who you abandon on that road. Sin means not just doing "no-nos," but not doing God. Sin is a "No" not just to the Law, but to the Lawgiver, who is love, who is the gift of self that is the secret of joy.
And you also know with equal certainty and from the same experiential source that deep peace and joy and satisfaction, and even self-esteem, that meets you down the other road. And who always meets you there, who gives these gifts, and yet you repeatedly choose Broadway over Straight Street, many, many times. You prefer misery to joy. You are insane. Welcome to the human race; that's original sin.

The full text of the talk can be found here; you can download the podcast here (the talk I quoted is called The Dark Side).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

what we're reading wednesday: the tipping point

I recently finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. (I had actually read Blink, which he wrote later, last year. See my review/summary here, about halfway down.) Where Blink was all about how we make snap decisions, The Tipping Point was about how social "epidemics" happen. What makes a brand or a restaurant suddenly popular? What makes crime waves go up and down? Why was Paul Revere so much more successful in spreading his message than William Dawes? It's often something surprisingly small.

In this book, Malcolm Gladwell explores what those things are that can push a message or trend to the "tipping point." He explains that to truly take off, a message must follow three rules: The Law of the Few (a few key people with certain social characteristics will be the ones most important in spreading the message), The Stickiness Factor (how memorable the message itself is), and The Power of Context (our environment has an unexpectedly strong influence on our behavior).

It was altogether engrossing. Highly recommend!

Linking up with Jessica at Housewifespice!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

30 things about me on my 30th birthday

Yup, I'm thirty today. The big three-oh. This is the age when you finally feel like a grown-up, right? (Hahahahaha!) Anyway, without further ado...

1. I think I've mentioned this before, but I was born on a Friday the 13th, so I've always joked that they're lucky for me.

2. When I was four I wanted to be an archaeologist so I could dig up dinosaur bones. From age five through sixteen I wanted to be a doctor. Then during my senior year of high school and freshman year of college I had a moment of doubt, and rapid-cycled through wanting to be an optometrist, a book editor, and a speech therapist. By the time I was nineteen I had settled on doctor again.

3. I was baptized Lutheran, but we began attending an evangelical megachurch when I was about eight. I attended the affiliated Christian middle school and high school. There were 75 kids in my graduating class.

4. So yes, I'm an Evangelical-to-Catholic convert! Five years this Easter!

5. I was painfully shy during adolescence, especially around boys. I would get all red and tongue-tied (it still makes me squirm with embarrassment to think back on it). So I didn't have a boyfriend until I was 22, and two years later I married him.

6. Random fact: I'll eat or drink, and probably adore, anything pumpkin-flavored. Yum.

Yes, please.

7. I was a total band geek in school. I was in the marching band all four years of college (yes, college!). It was so much fun. All my best friends from college were band friends. (I play the flute.) (Not very well.)

8. I'm a geek in multiple other arenas, too: I love Tolkien, Star Trek (NextGen all the way!), Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. I love science and grammar and learning. (Let's not talk about the high school math team.) I'd rather read than go to a party. It's okay; I've embraced it.

9. I knit (and crochet a bit) too. Is that geeky?

10. Speaking of geekiness, I've worn glasses (or contacts) since I was eight. I'm blind as a bat without them.

11. I'm still not as geeky as my "little" (6'2" tall 28-year-old) brother. He's, like, tabletop-gaming, MMORPGing, comic-con-attending geeky. None of which is necessarily a bad thing. Love you, Sam!

12. I also have 2 older sisters, Jessica and Bethany, who were 14 and almost-12 when I was born. Yeah, there's quite a gap. My parents had initially thought they would be "done" after two, but later changed their minds... luckily for me!

Thanksgiving 2010
13. Via my sisters, I have eight amazing nieces and nephews, ranging in age from five to thirteen. The fact that Alayna is going to be in high school this fall makes me feel older than celebrating my 30th birthday!!

Easter 2009

14. Random fact: my favorite flowers are daisies. I love how simple and cheerful they are.

15. Things people would not necessarily expect of me: I love roller coasters. I've seriously considered getting a tattoo (and still might). I would totally go skydiving or bungee-jumping if given the opportunity.

16.  I was always one of the shortest kids in school growing up. But I was a late bloomer and just kept growing after everyone else stopped. Now I'm five-foot-ten.

17. I'm fascinated by the idea of synesthesia. I'm kind of jealous of people who have it. My only quirk in that direction is that I sometimes write 4 when I mean F, and vice versa. Apparently in my subconscious they're basically the same thing.

18. I took acrobatics lessons for six years, tap-dancing lessons for eight years, and piano lessons for ten years as a kid. I could still fumble through the Moonlight Sonata for you, or shuffle-hop-flap-flap-buffalo-cramp-roll. I could not still do a back-handspring.

19.  I've become a tiny bit of a foodie. I like cooking and baking, and I've started wanting to use, like, good-quality ingredients and equipment. It wasn't on purpose; it kind of sneaked up on me. (I don't know why I'm embarrassed about it. Maybe it feels pretentious or something?)

20. I'm an excellent sleeper. I almost never have any difficulty falling or staying asleep. (Faith takes after me.) Jack is not. (Josie takes after him.)

21. When I was little, I had hair almost long enough to sit on.

22. I love coffee. And tea. And chocolate. As you can see, I have multiple routes of caffeination available to me.

23. I spent both of my pregnancies as a pediatric resident. Residents work (on average) almost 80 hours a week and only get one weekend off a month. It's been less than a year since I graduated, but I still kind of can't believe I used to live like that.

24. I have an irrational fear of zombies. Not, like, I think they're real or anything. But zombie movies are way scarier to me than to most people. I just find them... fundamentally upsetting and disturbing. Guys, I had nightmares after watching Shaun of the Dead. And that's a comedy. For real, it's pathetic.

25. I have a passport but I've never gotten it stamped. How sad is that?? (We all got them before coming to Guam in case we got stuck in Tokyo on a layover. And then we didn't end up laying over in Tokyo after all, due to a long and frustrating series of events.)

26. I lived in Ohio for the first 26 years of my life. Yup, I'm a Midwestern girl at heart.

27. A goal that's been on my bucket list since I was a kid is to ride in a hot air balloon. 

28. My dad taught me how to make pancakes, ride a bike, build a treehouse, draw, play chess, shovel snow, solve brain teasers, check my car's tire pressure, and unclog a sink. He's kinda the man.

I don't know why I look so miserable in this picture. I think the sun was in my eyes or something.
29. My secret shame: I sort of enjoy country music. Blame my sister Bethany.

30. Some people say their younger selves would be surprised if they could see them today. For me, it's less so, I think. I always wanted to be a doc, get married, and have kids. The only thing my 20-year-old self would not have predicted would be that I'd become Catholic. (Well, and the Guam thing. Because, be honest-- can you point to Guam on a map?)

Now you can!

Monday, April 7, 2014

under construction

You guys, this just exemplifies Guam.

This road construction-- which shuts down one lane of the island's largest highway in the capital city, and also prevents left turning onto said highway from another major road-- has been ongoing since before we arrived on Guam, which was eight and a half months ago.

I'm trying to get Jack to make bets with me about whether or not it'll be done by the time we leave Guam in a couple more years.

Friday, April 4, 2014

seven quick takes friday - ed. 18

1. There's nothing like being woken up at 2am to the sound of your three-year-old wailing that she just threw up in her bed. And then to find the situation repeated twice more in the next two hours. Oh, and not just any old vomit either-- partially-digested tomato vomit, so it obligingly stains the sheets, the quilt, the pillow, the pillowcase, the toddler pajamas, the mommy pajamas, and the rug. Yeah, I did a lot of laundry scrubbing this morning.

Hopefully you weren't eating when you started reading this. Or at least not eating tomatoes.

2. When my niece Jane (now a mature 9-year-old) was 3-- and still went by "Janey"-- she was a happy thumb-sucker who loved the color yellow. I remember once she told me gleefully, "Do you know what my thumb tastes like?? Lemons! Because lemons are yellow!!"

Janey, way back when.

Faith is also an avowed thumb-sucker (nowadays mostly just when she's tired or stressed), and now that she's at an age where she can actually carry on conversations, I decided to ask her what her thumb tastes like.

Yesterday she told me it tasted like rice. Today it tastes like pizza. Not as logical as Janey's (well, as 3-year-old logic goes), but ya gotta admire the creativity.

3. I don't blog much about work, despite a pediatrician's office being fertile ground for good stories, because, y'know, HIPAA. But let me just say this. I do know that scabies, though contagious, isn't I'll-catch-it-if-you-breathe-on-me contagious. But even armed with this knowledge, after seeing enough cases of scabies in one 2-week period, you start to get paranoid about every little itch.

This is a scabies mite. Ew. 

4. Speaking of the Woes Of The Medical Profession, I always feel awkward about describing my symptoms when I'm the patient. Do I use medical terminology or not? If I say "epigastric" or "vasovagal" does it sound like I'm trying to overstep my bounds as a patient and diagnose myself? Or would it be helpful, since those really are the most accurate descriptions?

I'm probably way overthinking this, right?

5. I realized recently that I almost never wear woven (as opposed to knit) tops. Even if they're in my closet, I don't wear them. This is something of an epiphany for me, because I really like them in theory. Tailored button-downs look so crisp and put-together! But I hate the way they look and feel on me. So! With this newfound awareness, a more effective wardrobe I shall have!

7. And now, a velociraptor in a wedding invitation:

Head over to Conversion Diary for more quick takes!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

theme thursday: remember

I'm not super into scrapbooking, but here's what I've got. The blue one is our wedding scrapbook-- we were broke med students, so I did it myself instead of getting the professional one like all the kids do these days.

Head over to Clan Donaldson for more remember-themed photos! (I'll post the link once there is one.)