Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Worst Times Make for the Best Stories

 Giving Raven a bath after a particularly gross blowout (which, coincidentally, is always more funny after the fact than during)

I was thinking the other day about how I hardly ever blog about teaching anymore. I also was thinking that when people ask me lately about how my job is going, I don't have much to say other than, "Great! I have a wonderful group of students this year."

This is a Very Good Thing.

But it did get me thinking, because I used to blog about teaching all the time--a couple times a week usually. So what happened?

And as I looked back at the two years where I blogged regularly about my experiences at the school, it hit me:

It was because I desperately needed an outlet--a way to make sure my voice was being heard (since it seemed that my students were all ignoring 80% of what came out of my mouth). My first two years of teaching were grueling and exhausting and rip-my-hair-out frustrating. When someone asked me how I was liking my job during those two years, they were often slammed with a mile-long response that encompassed everything from the latest prank one of my students had pulled to the crazy workload I felt like I was drowning under. Add in the fact that I was under intense scrutiny because I was a new teacher, and it's amazing I didn't have even more meltdowns than I did those first two years.

But now?

Now I have 3-4 years' worth (depending on the subject) of materials and lesson plans and experience, and I've got my classroom management plan down to a science. In fact, the most exciting thing that's happened lately is that I had a student tie his shoelace around his desk legs because he was bored (which I was then forced to cut off), and I made two students cry during parent teacher conferences last week because their parents were furious with them that they hadn't been turning anything in.

Two years ago, I had a student who rubber-banded together several desks in the back just so that the students in later classes wouldn't be able to move their desks, and I made students (mostly boys) cry on almost a daily basis when I had to enforce some "crazy" classroom rule (like that they had to actually work on their assignments or that they couldn't take off their shoes and try to make other people smell them). Yeah, my first two years of teaching were a bit rough (biggest understatement ever).

But you know what I realized?

We may not enjoy going through all those hard, trying, frustrating times, but they definitely make for the best stories.

I've been trying to remind myself of this fact lately as I've been grumbling to myself about not being able to eat gluten or about the fact that I've been off Prednisone for almost a month and still haven't lost ANY weight (despite eating well and continuing to exercise) or when I think about how unsure our job situation is later this year.

The truth is, the stories worth telling are born out of tough times and tribulation, and even though no one likes to go through those times, they are what makes us who we are--they are what make our life stories worth sharing.

So even though it's not easy to try and re-frame a bad situation or a trying experience or a difficult challenge, remind yourself that it is precisely those things that will give you stories to share, empathy to feel, and the ability to enjoy the good times much more thoroughly later on.

I'd love to hear how some of your worst times turned into your best stories---please share!

Oh, and in case you need proof of the brutality of my first two years of teaching:

- Things I Wanted to Say to My Students Yesterday (But Didn't)
- Okay, I Have to Talk Teaching (Bear with Me)
- Tuesday Tell-All, First Day of School Edition
- How Do You Know If You've Chosen the Right Job?
                       the ideas in that last post later cropped up again when I posted: "How do you stop hating your job?"

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Some of My Favorite Resources on Living Simply & Minimalism


I first encountered the idea of minimalism back in 2013, and it has held me riveted ever since. I first got into the idea while I was in the throes of doing my 50 Weeks to Organized Project and was looking for inspiration to keep on going. Since then, what had simply been a way of helping me get rid of a bunch of clutter has turned into a complete paradigm shift that influences many of my decisions.

There are many different definitions of minimalism, but to me, it means cutting out all the unnecessary in order to give full attention to the most important. For me, it started out with massively paring down our possessions (which I'm in the process of doing again now that we have a baby in the mix and way more stuff than I'd like) and has led to me intentionally carving out more time to pursue my interests, cutting back on unnecessary spending, and pursuing experiences and learning rather than "stuff."

A few years back, there were only a few places to really glean inspiration, but nowadays, the idea of minimalism and simple living is having a major moment.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Websites

Becoming Minimalist

This is the one that started it all for me. In it, you'll find pages upon pages of resources and inspiration and real-life examples of people letting go of the excess in order to embrace more fully the most important. 

The Art of Simple 

This one is more all-encompassing than Becoming Minimalist, in that it includes posts on other topics such as books, travel, parenting, etc. But what I love about this particular resource is that the same thread of pursuing the simple but meaningful life is throughout the entire thing.

Blonde on a Budget

If you need a kick in the pants to cut down on excess spending, this is the source to go to for motivation. The blogger behind Blonde on a Budget is now in the middle of a two-year shopping ban, and reading her rejection of living the typical consumerist lifestyle is inspiring and informative.

The Peace Notes

These last two blogs are more "simple living lifestyle" (meaning that rather than just including resources and tips, they offer beautiful snapshots into the lives of people actively pursuing a simpler life). I love The Peace Notes because its messages and personal stories are uplifting and beautiful without being unattainable.

Practising Simplicity

Like I said above, this is another example of someone trying to put into practice the tenets of the simple life. The photography on this site is gorgeous and is what first drew me in, but I've loved her take on the benefits of living a simpler life, too.

Books

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Pursuing the simple life is not a new idea; it's not a new idea now, nor was it a new idea in Thoreau's time. But Thoreau was perhaps one of the first to document his journey about his pursuit of simplicity. See more of my thoughts on Walden here and here.

7 by Jen Hatmaker

I mentioned this one just a few blog posts ago when I was cataloging the books I'd read the last half of 2015. In case you missed the post, this book made it to the top of the list due to the fact that I considered it "life-changing." In case you missed the review, check out what the book's all about here.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book has been everywhere, and for good reason--this little volume is equal parts philosophy and practical to-do, and it will change the way you think of "tidying" your house forever. I only wish this would have been around when I was in the middle of the 50 Weeks to Organized project. (Read my more full review on the book here.)
 
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Confession: I haven't actually read all of this one yet, but I do own it and have started to read it. From my readings so far, I'd say this book will do for your time what Kondo's Tidying Up will do for your physical space.

Living with Less: an Unexpected Key to Happiness by Joshua Becker

This tiny book by the blogger behind Becoming Minimalist was a delightful surprise--I had been looking for motivation to keep on going with my massive clutter overhaul, and I found plenty of inspiration in this little volume that not only gives practical advice on how to pare down your life but also gives you the author's scriptural take on the whole idea of simple living. Ever since I read this, I have not failed to notice that holy writ is absolutely chock-full of scriptures exhorting us to pursue only the most essential in life.

Posts

I've done several posts myself on what simple living and minimalism mean for me. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Bare Necessities 

A post on how living with a chronic condition has taught me to only do what is absolutely essential and not worry about the rest. I did a similar post while pregnant here.

Life After My 50 Weeks to Organized Project (+ an Apartment Tour)

A recap of what life has looked like for me after wrapping up the 50 WTO project and what I've actually carried over from the experience (and what things I'm still working on).

19 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Clean the House

Since I have a terrible time working up the motivation and energy to clean (since I hate it so much), I came up with a list of 19 tricks I use to get myself going on tidying when it's the last thing I feel like doing.

One Truth About Simplifying 

A post about an important realization I had while going through each item in our home and asking myself if I really wanted to hang onto it or not.

Thoughts on Minimalism 

Here's where I put my thoughts down for the very first time on the whole concept of minimalism and what it was starting to mean for me in my own life. It's interesting for me to look back and and see how much my ideas have evolved and been added upon since then.

Thoughts on Simplifying & Taking Back Control of My Life

This post marked a gigantic shift in my life, both on the blog and with my personal life in general. This is where I took the idea of minimalism one step further, evolving it from where it had been before about my possessions to where it is now, which is the pursuit of what is the most important.


Hope you'll take some time to check out some of these resources and get inspired on how you can seek out what truly matters in your own life.

And by all means, if you know of other resources, please recommend them in the comments!





Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Weirdly Effective Technique for Keeping our Table Clear of Clutter


***CONFESSION***

Our kitchen table (and all of our kitchen counters, for that matter) are almost always filled with clutter of some kind. After my 50 Weeks to Organized Project back in 2013, I got really good at keeping certain surfaces clean, like the bathroom counter--a major win--and the tops of "decorative surfaces," like the piano, bookshelves, etc.

But the surfaces we used every day? The ones where the mail got stashed, the purse got thrown, the food got eaten, the chopping/peeling/dinner prep happened?

Not so much.

I've tried it all, folks---handling mail as soon as it comes into the house, hanging up my coat and purse right when getting home (or soon thereafter, anyway), getting rid of almost a third of our possessions, not letting myself pass a counter and go into another room without putting something away...but nothing has kept those puppies cleared off for more than a few days (usually until my next big cooking project).

The fact is, it has never been in my nature to be tidy (see exhibits A, B, and C), but at the beginning of this month, while starting out on Apartment Therapy's January Cure (a great motivator to start some spring cleaning!), I stumbled across a trick that actually seems to work better than anything else---

Buying fresh flowers for the table.

It's stupid, really, why this even works, but there's just something so sad about seeing a beautiful vase of flowers get overshadowed by a bunch of junk, so I actually tend to keep the table free of clutter when I have fresh flowers on it. (It helps that we're actually eating most of our meals at the table now instead of on the couch while watching t.v., which forces us to regularly make sure the table is clear).

So there you go--a $5-15 investment in grocery store flowers every other week or so is apparently the secret to getting that kitchen clutter under control.

Who knew?


For you neat types out there---what tricks do you use for keeping clutter at bay?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Today


Today I took a sick day from work due to the fact that our entire household seems to have come down with something. Owing to our slightly varying symptoms, it's been difficult to tell if we've all come down with the same something or with three different somethings, but either way, it's not been much fun.

Today I felt bad for my students because I submitted the sub request at midnight last night and came up with the sub plan at the same time, and I have no clue how coherent it was. I for sure know though that the lesson plans had nothing to do with what we were currently working on...

Today, after nearly five years of marriage, I saw my husband throw up for the first time, and I myself have felt like I'm in the first trimester of pregnancy all over again, complete with feeling a dreadful nausea constantly but without even the temporary relief of being actually able to throw anything up.

Today we have eaten applesauce and Sprite and buttered toast, and I am still undecided about what gluten does to my body (if anything, really). I've added gluten back in for about six days now, and I'm torn about which symptoms are owing to which thing (to sickness, to the dry, cold weather, or to the gluten). I told my husband that after my two slices of toast this morning, I was going back off of gluten (which for some reason he found funny...).


Today I put in Frozen so that I could relax for a minute, and today I present you with "Raven's Frozen Face"--a look of complete rapture and focus as she stares, transfixed, at the singing figures on the screen. That movie has magical properties, I swear.

Today I discovered that even when I'm sick, I feel like I need to be getting stuff accomplished. A small part of me always longs to get a little sick just so I can feel justified in taking a break, and now that I am actually sick, I'm still puttering around, feeling stupidly guilty about trying to take time to do things like watch a chick flick or read or just sit and stare at the ceiling.

Today I told Matt that maybe I shouldn't read my current fiction book--The Husband's Secret--right before bed because I'm worried it will give me nightmares. I almost never read books that are "pageturners" or "thrillers," and now I remember why. I am still enjoying it, though (until I turn off the light to go to sleep, anyway).

Today I kept looking at the clock and thinking about what period I'd be teaching if I were at the school. The funny thing was, every time I looked at the clock and saw the time, I'd think--"Wow. I really teach for this long every day?! This is the longest day ever..."

Today I realized that to keep my new year's resolution of blogging at least 12 times every month, I'll have to blog today, tomorrow, and Sunday. Looks like you'll be hearing from me a lot this weekend...

 
Hope your weekend is not full of sickness and throw-up bowls and fuzzy brains, like another person's that I know...
 


Monday, January 25, 2016

January Adventure: Dinosaur Bones & Gluten-Free Bakeries


The original plan for our January adventure involved large amounts of salty air (not from the beach, unfortunately, but from Antelope Island) and plenty of outdoors time for all three of us, but the real January adventure ended up involving large amounts of really, really old bones and some pretty delicious gluten-free fare at a downtown Salt Lake bakery due to Mrs. Sleet Storm coming to pay an unexpected visit on the very day we'd planned to go out.

It definitely still beats staying at home watching Jane Austen movies for the millionth time and wondering what to make for dinner, though!


In case you hadn't guessed our location (or are not from Utah), we ended up spending our day adventure at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake, which is known for its full dinosaur skeletons, its floor dedicated to Native American tribes across the U.S., and its focus on the local geography of our lovely state.

I decided that I am undecided when it comes to museums--on the one hand, I feel like I should LOVE museums more than anything since I would consider myself to be somewhat "intellectual" and am definitely a person who loves to learn. On the other hand, because science was never my strong point in school and a lot of science involves "close observation" (also not my strong point) and a lot of museums involve science, I feel like museums can be a little on the dry side for me.

All that undecidedness aside, though, I still thoroughly enjoyed our time at the museum with Matt's parents, and I even learned a thing or two, thankyouverymuch.
 

Additionally, any trip that ends with a detour to a bakery is a success in my book (especially now that baked treats have been few and far between for me lately), and the gluten-free bakery we stopped at (Sweet Cake Bake Shop, in downtown Salt Lake) was worth every penny.


Quick Info for the Natural History Museum of Utah: 

Address: 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. every day but Wednesday, which is 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Cost of Admission: $13/adult, $11/young adult, $9/child, children 3 and under = free
Things of Interest: five floors of displays and interactive science-based learning modules about everything from dinosaurs to geology to weather patterns to biology; gift shop; cafe

A great start to our monthly adventures!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

100 Hours in the Kitchen Project


As I mentioned in my blog post about my new year's resolutions, I'm trying out a new project this year that's meant to reignite my passion for cooking (which has severely petered down the last several months due to all the dietary changes I've been making).

There's a theory that says that you need to spend 10,000 focused hours on something in order to become a master, but another, more recent theory speculates that it only really takes 100 focused hours of doing something in order to become much more advanced than a beginner. So although I'm no beginner in the kitchen, I sometimes feel like I am a beginner lately because of all my dietary restrictions (which luckily just mainly include staying off gluten and going easy on the red meat and greasy foods right now).

But here's the project:

Each quarter, I will focus on a different cooking "genre" and try out 12 new recipes under that genre during those three months. My goal is for each of the recipes to challenge me in some way, whether that's because they consist of foods I normally don't cook with or eat or that they require some more advanced knowledge of cooking than I currently have. If the recipe doesn't fit either of those requirements, I have to at least make a few adjustments to it so that I can get more comfortable with the idea of making recipes "my own" instead of following them to the letter, like I often do.

My focus for the first quarter of the year is SOUPS, CHOWDERS, and CHILIS.

My reasons behind this first choice of category were three-fold:

1 - There's nothing so great as a hot soup on a cold day, so if I'm going to focus on soups, chilis, and chowders, now is the time.

2 - I'm terrible at making anything besides just a "main dish" most of the time, so making soups frequently will hopefully force me to actually think about having side dishes since they naturally lend themselves to pairs (like soup and salad or soup and a sandwich).

3 - It's hard to go wrong with a soup, so it's the perfect place to start branching out with my experimentation (plus, you can apparently make soup out of almost everything, which is an important bonus as I haven't been too great at going to the grocery store lately). Oh, and because you can make soup out of almost everything, it's really helping me to clear random stuff from my freezer, fridge, and pantry.

As far as my progress with this project, I'm right on track with my goal since I've already made four new soup/chili recipes and it's not even February yet. I've already noticed that this project coupled with our new habit of eating at the table every night with no distractions has naturally lent itself to getting more enjoyment out of meals and in making it much more natural to add in side dishes and other courses (like dessert!). I'm still not as good as I used to be at cooking every night, but I'm much better than I was even a month ago.

And now, to end the post, I'll share an elimination-diet friendly (no gluten, corn, soy, or dairy) chili recipe that I heavily modified from the Internet in order to make it my own:


Ground Turkey Chili

1/2 can tomato paste
red or green pepper (or a few mini sweet peppers), diced
olive oil
small onion (red or yellow), diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 can kidney beans
2 cans stewed tomatoes + 1 can water
2 small zucchinis, grated (with peel is fine--just make sure you wash them first)
2 carrots, grated
salt
pepper
chili powder
paprika
cumin
cinnamon (pinch)
cayenne pepper (pinch)
chopped cilantro and avocado, for garnish
dairy-free "cheese" crumbles (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in large pot.
2. Saute peppers, onion, garlic, and ground turkey until onions are soft and turkey is cooked through.
3. Add the other ingredients (minus the garnishes) and add spices to taste (about a teaspoon of the first four, with about a tablespoon of cumin).
4. When the chili is heated through, garnish with the chopped cilantro, avocado, and cheese shreds.


If you've got any great soup recipes, send them my way, please! (Bonus points if they're already gluten-free!)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What Was Worth Reading the Last Half of 2015 (& What Wasn't)


Thanks to the habit I started in November of reading about 40 pages on most days (by reading ten pages of four different books a day), I got a decent number of books finished before the year petered out.

I thought I'd pass along a few of my thoughts since I know that many of you are always on the lookout for good reads, too.

Books that Changed My Life

I don't use the term "changed my life" lightly, here--it takes a LOT for a book to be considered life-changing for me, and I was lucky enough to read two different books the last half of 2015 that definitely qualified for this category:


7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

I loved this book so much that I forced myself to only read a little bit of it each day so as to make it last longer. This real-life experiment about a woman (and her family) who tried an extreme challenge each month to counteract all the "excess" they felt was in their life totally and completely (and sometimes uncomfortably) challenged me to look deeply into where many of my daily life choices (especially as a consumer) were leading me.

Basically, for each month, her and her family focused on a different area that they wanted to try and pare down drastically in order to focus on what was truly most important. The seven categories were food, clothes, possessions (in general), trash, wasting time, shopping, and stress. Each month, she participated in an extreme challenge to rid herself of the excess in each category and then wrote (often humorously) about the results.

I thought this book was the perfect blend of inspiration and humor, and Hatmaker was successfully able to pull off basically preaching a sermon without getting too, well, preachy. While her and her family have accomplished many things and served in incredible ways, I never felt like her journey was too "out there" to be attainable for me, too.

When I finished this, I started to dive back into my minimalism quest, this time armed with a whole lot of new insight (both spiritual and worldly) that I didn't have before.

SOOO worth your time if you feel your life could do with a lot less "excess."

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I have long been a Rubin fan. In fact, before her bestselling book The Happiness Project came out (which I actually base a whole unit around in my 7th grade Language Arts classes), I was clipping out and saving the articles she was writing for Good Housekeeping magazine because I found them so inspiring.

In this most recent book of hers, she explores all the research on habits--how to make and break them, how to know which habits will work best with your nature, and little strategies on making desirable actions and tendencies more habitual (without too much effort). In fact, as I taught that unit in December that is inspired by her first book, I found myself often having the students do exercises out of this latest book, with fantastic results.

The biggest mindset-change this book had on me were the four different tendencies she described when it comes to forming and maintaining habits: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. This way of looking at habit formation has greatly influenced how I approach students when I have them do their own happiness projects, and it's also changed the way I approach habits with people in my family (especially my husband). If you're interested in taking the quiz to see which type you are, click here.

Books I Enjoyed & Recommend (some with caveats)

While not necessarily "life-changing," I also read several books the last half of 2015 that nevertheless I would heartily recommend to you readers in search of something new.


Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

The last couple months of 2015, I picked up several parenting memoirs (many of which I'm close to finishing now), but this was the first I picked up, largely because of all the hype and backlash surrounding it when it first came out a few years back.

Basically, Amy Chua set out to write a parenting book about how Chinese parenting is so much better than the "Western" parenting she sees in America (using her own parenting experiences with her two daughters as the main subject matter), but the book ends with her being not quite as sure of that hypothesis as she'd once thought. Interestingly, I found that I resonated pretty strongly with many of her "tiger mother" ideals, although I never plan on taking it to the extreme that she did. An interesting look at differing parenting styles, and the different outcomes they might produce.


For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Because of my becoming immediately smitten with her previous book 7, I was excited when I heard through the blog grapevine that Hatmaker had recently come out with a new book.

First, you must understand that Hatmaker is a Christian writer (her and her husband actually started their own church shortly before she wrote 7), so both 7 and For the Love have religious undertones and Biblical examples and all that good stuff. However, whether you're religious or not, I think her books are valuable to pick up anyway on the merit of their ideas alone.

While For the Love lacked the cohesiveness of 7 (the ideas often seemed random to me, the organization a little bit all over the place), there were a couple sections that really stood out, especially the sections on building a sense of community with the people in your life and the section on how to effectively serve others (especially those we've dubbed the "less fortunate").

While I'm happily planning on keeping and re-reading my copy of 7 forever, I would recommend just checking this one out from your local library.


Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris

This book kind of blew my mind in many places, but because it was often very slow and sometimes dull in places, I decided against placing it in the "life-changing" category. However, I am very tempted to buy my own copy of this book just so I can mark up those sections where I really felt like Norris was speaking directly to my life.

This nonfiction exploration of the idea of "acedia" (the spiritual or mental state of being apathetic or slothful) as it applies to daily life is deep and insightful, with several pearls of wisdom scattered throughout that made the longer, duller passages worth the work. Although this is not a book for the reader looking for something "light," it is a book that will make you take a deep and meaningful look at your own state of mind.


A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

This food memoir intersperses memories the author had of her experiences with her father dying of cancer and memories of her meeting her husband with recipes she was cooking through at the time, and the mingling of food and family moments turned what could have been depressing subject matter into something a lot more hopeful.

A lovely tribute, with some truly scrumptious-sounding recipes scattered throughout.

Books I Was On the Fence About
While it's been awhile since I read a book I truly hated, I was conflicted about several of the books I read near the end of the year (three of which I happened to read right in a row, which almost killed my desire to read). Here are my thoughts--


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I actually bought this book way before it ever became popular (and especially before it became a Broadway play), but I will admit, the increased popularity made me finally pick this one up and actually read it. The basic story is that a teenage boy with mental challenges is trying to solve the mystery of who murdered his neighbor's dog. The book takes some surprising turns near the end, and the whole novel fiercely reminded me of the film Dear Frankie (which is a good thing, in my view).

Was the book pretty good? Sure. But worthy of being made into a Broadway play? Ehhhhh....I wouldn't have seen it as having that potential, anyway. (But the play's won all sorts of awards, so who am I to judge?)

Note: the book had quite a bit of strong language in it, which might have been part of the reason I didn't love it as much.


A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

I wanted to love this memoir all about a woman who traveled back to her home country of Singapore to finally tackle her fear of cooking and learn all the traditional recipes she grew up eating, but I didn't, so much. While the book had a couple fun sections, I found that neither the writing nor the storyline was too compelling, and by the end, I was just having to force myself to finish it.

However, the book does contain some traditional Singaporean recipes, so if you're interested in branching out your cooking skills, you might consider checking the book out for that.


Saturday by Ian McEwan

My feelings about McEwan are mixed--while on the one hand, I can appreciate the theories behind his books (and especially behind the unusual organization/pacing strategies), the reader in me who appreciates the actual plotline just thinks, "Get on with the story already!" Granted, I've only read two of his books now (Atonement being the other one), but I found that both books had some very slooooow sections, especially this particular book. The whole book is written about a single Saturday in the protagonist's life, and the novel basically includes every detail of the character's day, which made for several rather dull sections. Eventually, all those events (even the boring ones) all converge for the ending (a strategy McEwan also did in Atonement with masterful effect, but those same strategies were not pulled off so masterfully here), and you at least appreciate the reasoning behind the organizational structure.

However, I complained to Matt about this book almost the whole time I was reading it, so . . . yeah.


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

I don't even know where to start with this book, and so much has been said about it already that I fear everyone's Watchman-ed out. To be honest, I've only ever read To Kill a Mockingbird once, and it was over ten years ago, so I'm not nearly as attached to it as most people are. But just looking at Watchman as a novel by itself, if I'm being honest, I found it disjointed, frustrating, and pretty uncomfortable to read. The "takeaway message" I got out of it is that for you to be truly master over your own ideals, you have to let go of the idea that your "heroes" have all the answers, even if those heroes happen to be your own parents.

For people who love (or for people who have simply read) Mockingbird, this book will prove the most interesting. If you haven't read Mockingbird, I wouldn't bother.

And that wraps up my 2015 reading list! What did you read last year? Anything life-changing?
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