Winsome Women Wednesday: To All the Boys

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The girls in Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays. Though we think we leave drama and teenage angst behind when we graduate high school, the world continues to hand us lemons. We still struggle with maintaining a firm foundation of our values, discovering our identity, pursuing our purpose, developing relationships and more. The teenage angst lives on; therefore, we can still learn from young adults as they come of age. Let’s take a look at some ladies as they’ve forged their way into adulthood.

My best friend and I recently have read and discussed Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before for our long distance book club, and it has led to some fun discussions about boys and high school and life. The story follows Lara Jean as she adjusts to life at home with her younger sister and father after her older sister heads to Scotland for college. During that time, the letters Lara Jean wrote to her previous crushes find their way from her private hat box to the boys’ mailboxes. She discovers the deliveries subsequently develops her ability actually to talk to the boys.

My high school friends and I resembled Lara Jean a lot in our lack of conversations with boys. Sure, we talked about them; we just didn’t exactly talk to them. However, we did slip anonymous cheesy love poems into boys’ lockers for fun. We enjoyed giggling while writing them and then watching the recipients’ faces as they read. We eventually progressed from there to have a couple dates and boyfriends in the groups.

Lara Jean has to face what we all have to face: learning the art of conversation and connection. She writes letters to express her feelings and her disappointments that nothing develops between her and her crushes. Once they get into the hands of the crushes, she sees that they lead to connections. From there, she learns to navigate the hopes, embarrassments, thrills and disappointments of talking to boys. As she gets to know a couple of them, she deciphers who she can trust and who might have the potential to become more than a crush.

Whether for friendships or relationships, we all have to brave the unknown and start conversations with people. As we get to know people who may have similar interests or in whom we have an interest, we can develop those relationships. Lara Jean finds a reminder of the importance of the connections around her, ranging from having new conversations with her sister to maintain their closeness after she leaves for college to admitting to her old crush she used to like him. We don’t know what depths a relationship may hold until we start conversations. Even with familiar ones, we can gain even more from maintaining the connection. So here’s to facing the unknown and the discomfort of continuing conversations to keep us connected.

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Winsome Women Wednesday

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The girls in Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays. Though we think we leave drama and teenage angst behind when we graduate high school, the world continues to hand us lemons. We still struggle with maintaining a firm foundation of our values, discovering our identity, pursuing our purpose, developing relationships and more. The teenage angst lives on; therefore, we can still learn from young adults as they come of age. Let’s take a look at some ladies as they’ve forged their way into adulthood.

 

My best friend (since high school) and I recently have read Gayle Forman’s Just One Day for a buddy read. Allyson finds herself exploring Europe after her graduation, a gift from her parents to help her gain some cultural experiences in the great wide world. There, she meets a boy acting in a street Shakespeare company. Mirroring the comedy’s mixture of romance and comedic deceit, Allyson finds herself wondering where she bases her identity as well as what happened to Willem after he disappeared.

As Allyson begins college, we find her facing many familiar dilemmas for a freshman. She decides to go by Allyson again rather than the identity she tried in Europe at the insistence of her high school BFF, and she finds herself not performing well in her classes. After a meeting with her guidance counselor, she drops her science classes she took to pursue a career as a physician, a dream she later realizes is a fulfillment of her mother’s, in the interest of trying a couple new classes. Shakespeare enters the scene again as she joins a literature class where she meets her new friend Dee.

Dee contrasts Allyson as he changes his mask to match each person’s assumptions of him. Eventually, they discuss which of them truly know themselves and feels comfortable in that identity. Allyson finds herself doing well in her new classes and finally discusses her wants with her mom. As she moves forward communicating her needs and goals with those important to her, she finds an anchor for herself. Her relationships become closer and more genuine, she makes her decisions based on her values rather than someone else’s expectations and she meets her goals even if she experiences setbacks.

Unfortunately, most of us still struggle to find, own and present our true identities to those around us. We face expectations based on our roles, and we want to please others. Yet everyone ranks what they value a little differently. When we make our decisions based on what most matches our values and goals, it makes situations unfold a lot smoother. So take some time to consider how you would rank your values and then hold your dilemmas up to them. It might make it easier to move forward.

Book Review: Stay with Me

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The Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club has read Stay with Me this year, and we have had the pleasure of author Ayobami Adebayo joining us for our discussion. This book packs on weight as it gives readers a glimpse into the depths of another culture. It follows couple Yejide and Akin as they navigate the familial and societal pressures of not having children. As the story progresses, they each experience heartache as they fall under the expectations surrounding them and manipulate what they tell themselves about their fates and flaws.

This novels enlightens readers on the expectations of family that sometimes leads to polygamy in Northern African and Middle Eastern cultures and the weight of those decisions on the wives and husbands involved. It also shows the struggle of Sickle Cell Disease, a common health issue in Nigeria and one that affects the author. The characters give an authentic voice to these issues and remind readers they have more complexity than they appear. Universal themes of heartbreak, family tensions, marriage hopes and health obstacles give a relatability to a seemingly vastly different culture.

The characters, as many of us do in real life, must adjust their expectations of their lives and marriages as well as filter the advice they receive through what they know themselves. Yejide eventually learns that her childlessness actually stems from her husband rather than herself. Yet she didn’t want to believe her husband had flaws, especially since he didn’t voice them himself. We see the realization of Akin’s observation early in the book that “even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.” Their love and lives bend as they experience loss and setback, but they still maintain a certain hope.

I really appreciate this book. The characters demonstrate a lot of depth, and their situations enlightened me to more human experiences. Adebayo clearly writes about Nigeria and Sickle Cell Disease with authority, and she shares her knowledge and wisdom so we can gain a greater understanding of those topics. It gives me more insight into the background of some of the students I teach. I recommend this book as a good story as well as a tool for learning.

Book Review: How to Walk Away

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I absolutely adore this book by Katherine Center! I love how it maintains a fun, lighthearted feel but also carries some weight. Though heartbreaking to read about a girl exactly my age hopeful to start her dreams of beginning her career after graduate school and getting engaged to her longterm boyfriend experience such a tragedy, it provides a lot of hope. Margaret demonstrates true strength as she heals not only physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. She reworks her goals and makes even better ones. Maybe she appreciates them more knowing what she had lost and what she had to do to get to the new places. The hospital setting gave a constant for most the story, and it all flowed so well. It kept me glued to the book in eager delight.

Monday Motivation: Little Choices

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In Exodus 16, we find the Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. They have escaped slavery in Egypt and have spent many days and nights moving toward this new place. As they start to tire, they wonder if the trek is worth the cost; they feel uncertain about the unknown future and place ahead. They start to complain that they had it better in their previous situation. Essentially, they find it hard to let go of their bondage.

Part of their difficulty stems from a fear of the unknown. Though they despise their slavery situation, they know what to expect. This journey has brought them through numerous new difficulties, and overcoming those obstacles requires a lot of trust in Moses’ leadership and in God as He guides them. As a lot of us do even today, they have trouble believing God’s promises and that He will fulfill them.

We may not face a physical desert journey as part of God’s plan for us. Yet following God’s will does require trust and difficult steps. Each choice we make can move us forward, no matter how seemingly small. The Israelites have to make a choice daily to continue in the direction of the promised land. As they go, they must trust that God will provide for their basic needs. Sometimes it feels easier to go back to the familiar pain; sometimes we do take a step back after taking one forward. Let’s not let that deter us. After a step back or a mistake, we can still choose to take the next step toward our goal. We can release any bondage we may have from guilt, shame, sin. God continually washes us clean as we seek His grace and follow His path. We can accept freedom and live in His fulfilled promises.

 

If you tell me I have to go on a quest through a vast desert land to get to my better situation, I would definitely have a hard time believing you. I certainly would not follow you out the door in simple trust.

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Last night, I finished reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han as my latest buddy read with my best friend. I must say it fulfilled all my return to high school fantasies as the new school year progresses. The story followed Lara Jean as she embarked on her journey to experience love’s possibilities, spurred by her secret love letters mysteriously getting sent to her past crushes. The progression of events reflected anyone’s fears of embarrassment in front of a love interest or group of peers. It made me cringe in relating to the angst of saving face, and it made me laugh as she journeyed through the awkwardness of learning how to relate to boys.

The simple, upbeat book flowed smoothly and even had the feel of a romantic comedy movie. I vividly imagined the high school setting and its characters and their homes. I even felt Lara Jean’s angst as she wondered how to handle her crushes holding the letters revealing her private feelings about them. Jenny Han realistically portrayed the confusion of navigating high school and relationships; I appreciated how she even depicted Lara Jean’s nervousness and clear lack of readiness to trust a boy and develop a romance with him.

I absolutely enjoyed this book and the feeling it gave me of returning to the precious high school period in my life. It made me thankful for my true friendships at that time, appreciative that I had a perfect gentleman for a prom date, and grateful that I made it through with a sense of belonging. I went to sleep after finishing the book looking forward to reading the rest of the series, especially since I noticed the third installment includes Lara Jean’s senior prom. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun read, especially one to discuss with your high school buddies.

 

Book Review: Two Girls Down

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I recently read Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna, a mystery book out of the norm of my usual reads. While the story kept me engaged with a desire to know what happened to the kidnapped girls, it did not leave any lasting impression. The characters did not have a lot of depth; they also did not grow or learn much. By the end of the story, the events got more perverse. It seemed like it went for more of a shock value than any nuance in human behavior. I enjoyed the mystery to an extent, but I noticed better books exist in this realm. This one will not stay on my bookshelf.

Book Review: I’d Rather Be Reading

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I received a copy of Anne Bogel’s new release I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life as part of the launch team.

As always, I enjoy Anne’s perspective on all matters books and the reading life. This cute, short, sweet treasure provides a quick, uplifting read. She shares some of her reading journey and encourages readers to examine their own reading lives. Through these endeavors, I gain a greater appreciation for the books that have shaped me, my record of books read and my trusted book buddies who not only can discuss books with me but also know my tastes to recommend good books. Anne’s voices always flows invitingly, welcoming readers of all backgrounds into the bookish life.

I recommend this as a gift for any reader. Though small in size, it makes a great coffee table book, or maybe more appropriately a nightstand book. Any chapter offers a dose of comfort, and its cover shows a bookish scene where anyone would enjoy reading; that particular one just happens to belong to Anne and her family. This book offers nostalgia and non-bossy advice. I for one feel encouraged to continue writing more in my book journal to track my thoughts on my reads. I have also added some new books to my to-be read list since I’ve trusted Anne’s recommendations for about a year now.

If you appreciate her book, she’s out there on her podcast as well as her blog. I belong to her Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and can attest to the wonderful community of readers there. I am forever thankful I received her last book to review last year and thus stumbled upon the book club.

Book Review: As Bright As Heaven

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I received an advanced reading copy of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner from BookishFirst in exchange for a review.

I really have enjoyed taking a trip through history by reading this book. Though I can’t imagine what experiencing the Spanish Flu epidemic 100 years ago, much less compounding those great losses with those of the war during the same period, I can relate to the three sisters’ life dilemmas. They go through tough experiences and loss, and they maintain a personal strength as well as a strong connection with their family.

At first glance, I dislike jumping between perspectives, especially when it goes beyond two (this one has four). Yet I find Meissner does a good job making each character clear and interlacing the perspectives to get the story’s full picture. Especially as the book progresses, I enjoy the distinct characters and their various ages.

This book gives a great glimpse into a tough part of history. I feel as though I have lived vicariously through this family and now have a greater understanding of the time and its turmoil as well as its blessings remaining in the ashes, as the girls learn.

New School Year, New Planner Pages

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New school years have begun, and all of us have a reminder of fresh starts whether students or not. Retail stores offer numerous supplies to get started, ranging from pencils and pens to notebooks and planners. All these tools can give us tangible support to pursue goals. With one in hand, we can use what we have to take action.

As the semester kicks into gear and fall approaches, take time to consider what steps you can take to progress your goals. A new notebook awaits you to fill its pages with notes for planning and reporting. Each detail you choose builds your life. Take the action that helps you progress your purpose.