5 things I learned in October

Consider this a sort of "examen" for what I'm learning month-by-month - both the weighty lessons and the daily hilarities. 

Here's five discoveries from October:

Rosendale Trestle in the Catskills region

Rosendale Trestle in the Catskills region

1. We have not spent enough time exploring the Catskills

We spent a couple of nights in Ulster County, and now I want to visit them all. 

Have you spent time visiting the Catskill Mountains? Where are your favorite places?


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2. How to make/enjoy steam buns.

Thanks to Blue Apron: Korean Beef Steam Buns with Sweet Potato Tempura & Spicy Mayonnaise.

YUM!


Pierogies On Wheels at the Black Rock Farmers Market Hootenanny

Pierogies On Wheels at the Black Rock Farmers Market Hootenanny

3. Fairfield County has a PIEROGIES food truck!

And, boy, were they delicious. (more photos here)

Do you have a favorite food truck in Fairfield County? Tell me where!


a recent Insta Story

a recent Insta Story

4. The meaning of the word "hellebore" (and how many of my friends knew it before me)

I now know the meaning, and, also, who my smartest flora & fauna terminology friends are. (I'll share the interview once it's in print in a couple of weeks!)

Do YOU know the meaning of the word "hellebore"?


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5. That the Pequot Library in Southport is beautiful inside, too!

We drive by with most of our visiting friends and family, and I've been in the annual book sale tents, but have never browsed the shelves. I'm going back ASAP. (more photos here)


Did you learn any lessons - lighthearted or weighty - during October? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

(here's what some other folks are sharing)

10 reasons I love my daughter-in-law (on the occasion of her birthday)

In honor of our daughter-in-law, Rebekah's, birthday, a little list of some of my favorite things about her.  Happy Birthday, beautiful girl. We love you!

I love every facet of her intelligence - academic, emotional, and relational.

I love every facet of her intelligence - academic, emotional, and relational.

And, oh my gosh, she makes me laugh!

And, oh my gosh, she makes me laugh!

I love her relationship with my daughters (her sisters-in-law). 

I love her relationship with my daughters (her sisters-in-law). 

And all that she's taught us about the joy of Jewish feasting. 

And all that she's taught us about the joy of Jewish feasting. 

She has truly become a daughter to us.

She has truly become a daughter to us.

She loves Alex best of all.

She loves Alex best of all.

I love that she's allowed us to drag her all over the country, meeting family and friends (and severe cold) hither and yon.

I love that she's allowed us to drag her all over the country, meeting family and friends (and severe cold) hither and yon.

And that she's allowed us introduce her to our rich Christmas traditions.

And that she's allowed us introduce her to our rich Christmas traditions.

I love that she made us HOMEMADE LATKES!

I love that she made us HOMEMADE LATKES!

We are forever grateful to call Rebekah Diane Cummins Murphy our own.

We are forever grateful to call Rebekah Diane Cummins Murphy our own.

5 things I learned in September

Consider this a sort of "examen" for what I'm learning month-by-month - both the weighty lessons and the daily hilarities. 

September is, was, and always has been a somewhat stressful month. I assumed that would change when we no longer marked our lives by the school calendar. Nope. Granted, we moved in August which precipitated a ripple effect of undealt-with stressors, and included the most painful back experience of my life (including labor with four children). Still, there were plenty of milder moments of reflection, listening, and insight. 

Here's five discoveries from September:

Our Fort Worth kids sent a photo to let us know the cookies had arrived.

Our Fort Worth kids sent a photo to let us know the cookies had arrived.

1. Kids never outgrow first day of school cookies

My kids still want - no, expect - homemade cookies at the beginning of the school year. And some of them are no longer even in school (although, one of our sons is a school teacher, so that's kind of the same thing.)  If you've known me long enough, you know that only means one thing. What's round, and orangey, with chocolate dots all over?

Pumpkin chip cookies on the first day of school! 

Only now, the preparations include finding suitable shipping packages, racing to the post office asap after removing from the oven, and paying a small fortune in shipping. If it helps prop up my false claims at being a cookie-baking mother, it's totally worth it.


The original location of Stew Leonard's (in Norwalk). which is a chain of 5 supermarkets in Connecticut and New York State.  Ripley's Believe It or Not!  deemed "The World's Largest Dairy".

The original location of Stew Leonard's (in Norwalk). which is a chain of 5 supermarkets in Connecticut and New York State. Ripley's Believe It or Not! deemed "The World's Largest Dairy".

2. Stew Leonard's is worth the occasional drive for groceries

I've been hearing about this store since we moved to Connecticut 14 months ago. In September I happened to be driving nearby - close enough to stop in for a few minutes. What an experience! I need to go back when I'm not on a time-crunch (and, maybe, not during rush hour). I didn't even make it to the world-famous dairy section!


September.Mom & Dad's Visit2.jpg

3. Eleanor Roosevelt is a social and political hero, which is way better than being a first lady-lifestyle maven

In July some friends from Austin visited us, and on their way, stopped in Hyde Park to visit Eleanor and FDR's homes (now preserved as a part of our national park system.) Prompted by their description (maybe even, especially, by their elementary-aged kiddos' descriptions), I borrowed from the library Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front During World War II. In September, my parents visited us, and we were looking for a couple of "touristy" things to do together. I was delighted when my mother suggested we travel to Hyde Park (approximately an hour and a half away from us). She and I enjoyed every moment touring both Eleanor's Val-Kill cottage (bonus: We learned that "Val-Kill" is a Dutch abbreviation for Valley Stream, which sounds so much lovelier than "Val-Kill", doesn't it?) as well as the main home, the Springwood mansion, technically owned by FDR's mother, Sara. So much of what I'd just read took on more meaning as we walked through the rooms still displaying the furniture (including a homemade wheelchair used by FDR after his tragic bout with polio). One aspect that was especially meaningful was the difference in formality between Sara's (the mother) mansion and Eleanor's (the wife) taste. The King and Queen of England and Senator JFK, among many other global political and civic leaders, were guests in Eleanor's simple, even somewhat plain, home and she managed to out-royalty most them, anyway. 


4. #BlackOut is another way to boycott the NFL

When I wrote a personal response to the controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, I titled the post "Is boycotting the NFL another example of white flight? and 18 other questions I'm asking myself about the response to the #TakeAKnee protest"

For more perspective on the various responses, my daughter recommended I watch this clip of commentator Shannon Sharpe's critique of what he feels is a hypocritical response of the NFL to the President's comments about the #TakeAKnee protest in Alabama last week. 

This is what Natalie said about the clip:

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I also hadn't realized that there was already a boycotting movement to protest the way the NFL responded to Colin Kaepernick in the original protest. My friend Glorya told me about #BlackOut, a growing number of African Americans that are boycotting the NFL because of the organization's treatment of Colin Kaepernick and their implicit system of racism.

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Here is the video introducing the #BlackOut protest produced by several African-American pastors in Alabama. Here's a boycott I could get behind. (I love that there are 4 tiers to the protest which addresses so many layers of need.)


Bridgeport, CT area pastors in prayer for each other and their city.

Bridgeport, CT area pastors in prayer for each other and their city.

5. It is a good and beautiful gift to worship with churches of other denominations and cultures

In the 14 months we've lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut we could probably count on one hand the number of times anyone's had anything good to say about the city of Bridgeport. It's one of the state's largest cities with one of the nation's highest crime rates. When I'm talking to out-of-state friends about Bridgeport, I say "People talk about the city like the biblical question about Jesus' hometown, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" There's unemployment, poverty, and blight. In the way of all God's gifts, He led us (without our even realizing it) to move into a loft apartment inside a renovated factory in the south end of Bridgeport. Without our realizing it, God placed us directly across the street from a church whose pastor we'd had the privilege to meet on couple of different, important settings in our first year in CT.

During the last 10 days of September, this church, New Vision International Ministries, hosted a city-wide event, 10 Days of Prayer for Bridgeport. For 24-hours a day, for ten days straight, the sanctuary was open for prayer and worship with three concentrated services scheduled for each day. I attended a couple different evenings (literally walking out my door, across the street, into their door), unsure of what to expect in a church setting unfamiliar to my own experience in several ways. The discomfort didn't even last to the front door, as several greeters met me along the walk way and into the sanctuary with hugs and "God bless yous". I slipped into the center of room, without knowing anyone around me, and was swept into the fervency of the prayer and worship going on around me.  One time, on the day that Brian was scheduled for a 3-hour time slot as a pastoral prayer, I walked across the parking lot to meet him. A car drove in past me, and a little girl (like, maybe 5?) stuck her head out the window, a headful of braids blowing behind her, and called back toward me, "Peace!!"

Another time, during an evening service, the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart more deeply than ever God's commitment to make His name and truth known in power - with or without the help of the White American church. I responded with both lament (for all the ways White American Christians have let our brothers and sisters down) and with a substantial hope that caused me to intercede deeply for that congregation: "Lord, let the congregations of color in our country lead us closer to Your purposes." I was quite caught up in prayer and worship and, suddenly, felt someone's arms come around me. I opened my eyes and saw a teenage girl who'd earlier been sitting at the end of the row, hugging me and resting her head on my shoulder. I was so surprised I only thought to hug her back and say "Thank you, honey." A moment later she was gone from our row.  I don't know what any of that meant (maybe just that the congregation at New Visions is incredibly hospitable). But as I think back on it, in light of what the Holy Spirit was impressing on me in prayer, the story takes on an even deeper layer of meaning for me.

We're grateful for the beautiful welcome we received, and for the vibrant hope for healing and transformation within the church community of Bridgeport. Each night for those ten days, we headed into our apartment with the sounds of full-scale song from inside the church across the street blowing across the sea breeze of our neighborhood. It felt like we lived under a canopy of worship each day. Like the angels who are bowing and worshipping in God's presence night and day, whether we realize it or not.

We are hopeful for all the good to come out of Bridgeport and Fairfield County. Let it be so, dear God. 


Did you learn any lessons - lighthearted or weighty - during September? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

(here's what some other folks are sharing)

Top 5 books with an interesting subtitle I've read so far this year

Friends, our reading year is half over! (I'm not the only one who measures time this way, am I?) If you follow any sort of reading challenge for the year, I thought I could help you fill in some of the categories with what I've been reading so far this year.  (For what it's worth, I chose these categories from this popular reading challenge.) 

Previous Top 5s: 

Top 5 books published in 2017 I've read so far this year

Top 5 books about an interesting woman I've read so far this year

Category: A book with an interesting subtitle

Anyone else intrigued with the words that come after the main title? Sometimes it's my favorite part - although in one of my picks, I actually wish the author'd gone with something different.

 

1. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider (Thomas Nelson, 2017. 288 pages)

To be honest, I'm always afraid I won't be unbiased enough to give a proper recommendation for a friend's book. Then, I swing too far the other way and don't give it enough kudos. I'm trying to get better at that because I'm lucky to have a surprising number of friends who've written books. Tsh is a friend, AND this is is a great book. She tells the story of the nine months she and her husband took their 3 kids (ages 10 and under) on a trip around the world. If you are a traveller, you'll enjoy learning from the Oxenreider's travel savvy. If not, you'll still enjoy the book for it's winsome reflections on the need for all humans to know a place called home. Reading Tsh's book felt like chatting over a relaxed dinner with friends - both enlightening and comforting. This was a book I didn't want to put down, and I wholeheartedly recommend.

 

2.  To Alter Your World: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities by Michael Frost & Christiana Rice (IVP Books, 2017. 240 pages)

I read this book for Englewood Review's latest print journal, and will post a link when my (thumbs up) review is available online. In the meantime, subscribe to ERB here! 

 

3. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Beacon Press, 256 pages)

We read this together with our church's reading group (Apostles Reads).  Written in 1967, this is the last book Dr. King wrote before being assassinated in 1968. The title alone felt important for our current political climate in the U.S. I will write a longer review soon, but for now I'll say that this as provocative and prescient as anything I've ever read/heard from Dr. King. I'm grateful for the group of thoughtful people who were willing to read along with me, and engage in the deep conversations the book initiates.

 

4. Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters -- And How to Talk About It by Krista Tippett (Penguin Books, 2008. 240 pages)

For the past year or so, I've been listening to the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett.  This is my first time reading her, and I feel like I've found another important mentor.  Tippett is eloquently skilled at communicating her own faith while intelligently engaging people of all faiths to share their own stories.  This is a rare skill, and I want to grow in it.

5.  The Way of Letting Go: One Woman's Walk Toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen (Zondervan, 2017. 240 pages)

I read this newly-released book for a review at one of my favorite book recommendation sources, the Englewood Review of Books.  Once the review is published, I'll update here. In the meantime, if you are hoping to become a person able to live in the freedom that comes with radical forgiveness, add Derksen's book to your must-read pile.  It's a hard and redemptive story, as characterizes most profound Gospel stories. (update:  The book review can now be found at ERB's site here).


I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are some of the best books you've read so far this year? 

#

Here's all the books I've read in JanuaryFebruaryMarch/April, & May/June.

Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Top 5 books about an interesting woman I've read so far this year

Friends, our reading year is half over! (I'm not the only one who measures time this way, am I?) If you follow any sort of reading challenge for the year, I thought I could help you fill in some of the categories with what I've been reading so far this year.  (For what it's worth, I chose these categories from this popular reading challenge.) 

Previous Top 5s: 

Top 5 books published in 2017 I've read so far this year

Category: A book about an interesting woman

Putting this list together was easy because I realized I love reading about interesting women (fictional or real-life!). It was also hard because I could have added a bunch more! What are your favorite books about interesting, strong, funny, quirky, talented, kind, fierce women?

 

1.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Penguin Books, 2003. 336 pages )

The heartbreak of this story is beautifully overshadowed by the beauty of its characters. A book I will re-read every couple of years. I haven't read a book that better describes the beauty of female relationships than this - pass it on!

2.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Broadway Books, 2011. 381 pages)

My daughter Natalie read this in an ethics class for school, and promptly put it in the book pile on my night stand. It took me a while to get to it, and then a while to finish reading it. It's a fascinating, sad, and important story about the history of bio ethics, medical research and the way racism permeates our social institutions at deep levels. This is a story with both a personal (Henrietta Lack's tragic life and the struggle her family faces still today) and epic ("One scientist estimates that if you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—an inconceivable number, given that an individual cell weighs almost nothing.") in scale. Anyone who's had a polio vaccine owe Henrietta a debt of gratitude, not to mention the countless other ways her cells (still alive today in research labs around the world) have benefitted human health, but most of us have never heard of her. Rebecca Skloot does a beautiful job of telling a complex story about science through the lens of story. I heartily recommend this book! (You can read an excerpt here at the author's excellent website.)

3.  You Carried Me: A Daughter's Memoir by Melissa Ohden (Plough Publishing House, 2017. 160 pages)

The well-documented and dramatic details of Melissa Ohden’s survival stand on their own as an important memoir, and are made more valuable by an invitation to readers to consider their own experiences of suffering. See my full review here. 

4.  Still Life With Bread Crumbs: A Novel by Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2014. 288 pages)

Rebecca Winter is a photographer well known for work she's done in the past, and wanting to make something new. She moves from her luxe city life to a cabin in the woods and befriends a quirky cast of characters who were easy for me to love, too. Pleasant reading. Well-written characters and interesting plot line. A great vacation book!

5.  Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters -- And How to Talk About It by Krista Tippett (Penguin Books, 2008. 240 pages)

For the past year or so, I've been listening to the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett.  This is my first time reading her, and I feel like I've found another important mentor.  Tippett is eloquently skilled at communicating her own faith while intelligently engaging people of all faiths to share their own stories.  This is a rare skill, and I want to grow in it.


I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are some of the best books you've read so far this year? 

#

Here's all the books I've read in JanuaryFebruaryMarch/April, & May/June.

Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!