Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Darkness and Light

Last week was a dark and heavy week for me; not my usual "dancing with daffodils" kind of moment that I want to record but there is something I want to remember from last week. My sister texted me 10 days ago to tell me that her doctor had found an abnormal mass in her breast and that they were testing it. She asked us to pray for her, which we did. Monday we found out it was malignant and she had to wait until Friday to have an MRI done to see if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. All last week this information weighed on me. I was consumed with worry and sadness and felt like tar was running through my body instead of blood. My heart literally felt heavy to me and dark.

I also had a friend get hurt by some really unkind words and then later in the week my daughter was upset about an incident at school when a kid in her class was rough with her for no reason. It sounds dramatic now but in the moment it felt like everyone I loved was being attacked and it crushed me. I knew that things like praying and reading my scriptures would make me feel better but those were the hardest things to do. I would stare at the page of my scriptures and just think about how life's surprises from here on out were most likely to be bad instead of good.

On Thursday we fasted as a family for my sister and when I talked to her on Friday, she was calm and matter-of-fact as she told me about her diagnosis and the genetic testing and how she has to meet with the surgeon and how I need to be vigilant about getting tested myself. She said she felt strengthened by the fasting and praying and I was grateful to see our faithful efforts being a blessing to her. Later that day she heard that her MRI was clean and it didn't appear that the cancer had spread, which was a wonderful answer to our prayers. She also told me about a priesthood blessing she had received where she was promised that this would be a great challenge but that it wouldn't take her life.

Friday evening I went to a family history activity at my church and while nothing of unusual consequence really happened, I felt more peaceful when I left. Saturday I went to a stake women's conference (a stake is multiple congregations all in our area) and the theme was from Matthew when Christ tells his disciples to let their light so shine that others could see their good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. I went to three classes; the first was on how to increase the light in our own lives. We talked about scripture study and obedience to the commandments and serving others. The second was on how to share our light with others and the third was on what some of the women in our organization are doing to help the refugees in D.C. It was all so inspirational and uplifting and between the wonderful doctrine I was taught, the time with friends and fantastic women of God, and the nice break from my regular routine, I was finally feeling like life could be good again.

My sister met with the surgeon on Monday and is still facing some serious decisions and consequences. We have to wait to see what the genetic test results are and then she will have one of two surgeries based on those results and then maybe radiation or maybe chemotherapy. It isn't going to be easy but she is tough and has great faith so I know she'll be able to get through it. I feel great sadness knowing all that she is going to have to endure but I know that turning towards God is the only way to overcome those feelings. He is the light and the life of the world. Light and darkness cannot be in the same space so as we turn to him, his light will dispel the darkness in our lives. For me it was not as miraculous as turning on a light switch but more like lighting one candle at a time as I chose to do something that would invite his spirit into my life or bring me closer to him in some way and that's what I want to remember about last week. Even when the worry and sadness and weight of life is overwhelming and all I want to do is watch TV to escape it, the best thing to do is to light the candle of my faith and make the effort to let the light grow, and I know that it will. The challenges haven't changed but I have, thanks to His light.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Will You?

Earlier this week marked a couple of anniversaries for me. The first was that it has now been 14 years since I've returned home from serving a mission for my church in Kiev, Ukraine. I remember that crazy last day where my two best friends and companions and I went to say goodbye to some of our favorite people. One of our quick stops was to see a family I was very close to and the father had made us beautiful wooden plant stands. They were gorgeous and are still floating around somewhere in Kiev because we were not allowed to bring them on the plane. I was heartbroken and when I went back to visit a few years later I told him the sad tale and he just handed me one from their home. It wasn't nearly as beautiful as the one that he had previously made me but I made sure to get it home this time and it still stands in my dining room as a wonderful reminder of my Ukrainian family.

Lots of missionaries are kind of nervous to come home because there are big decisions to make and real life to face after spending all day every day for years in service to others. It can feel like a spiritual let down. I was ready though and while sad to say goodbye and leave, I had wonderful things to look forward to at home. I arrived late on a Tuesday evening and waiting for me at the airport were my parents, one of my sisters and one of my best friends. I was released as a missionary the following day and felt so grateful for the experience. It was an incredible opportunity and blessing to be able to serve a mission and it refined me and changed me in ways that help me each day.

The second anniversary that I celebrated this week was that it has now been 14 years from the day I got engaged. Just two days after I got home I was headed back to the airport, this time by myself. I had taken a long time to get ready and choose my outfit and I was so excitedly nervous. I was going to pick up Josh and we hadn't seen each other in two and a half years. We had been writing to each other the whole time and I ached to be with him again. Some, actually most, people told me we would never last that long and that our relationship would end while we were apart, but I knew better. I understand that it happens more often than not but I knew in my heart we were different. We were meant to be together and we had both chosen to consecrate that sacred time in our lives to serving Jesus Christ, which only brought us closer together and made us better versions of ourselves. Even when it would be weeks without a letter from him, I always felt connected and close.

He returned home a few months before I did and I was so anxious and excited to see him. Still, I wondered how it would be to be with him again. I was at the airport and waiting for him to come down the hallway when I saw him and my heart seriously went aflutter. He didn't see me though (so much for that magical moment when our eyes meet and we run to each other's arms) so I had to call to him before he got on the escalator to go down to baggage claim. The minute our eyes locked, I felt such peace in my heart and I knew that we were going to be so happy together. It was as if we had never been apart and there wasn't any awkwardness at all; we just fell right back into place with each other. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.

Neither of us really knew the city where we were since my parents had moved their when I went to college so we drove to a park he had found online but it was dark and cold. He started talking to me in the parking lot and I remember thinking that he wasn't going to ask me right there in the parking lot, was he? But he did. He got so excited he just asked me right then to be his wife and I told him that I thought he would never ask. We had talked about getting married almost four years previous so it was a long time coming and I was so happy. Then we walked through this park, with angry geese following us, to a gazebo where we danced to a tape he had made. At one point there was a break in the music and he said that was when he was supposed to have proposed. Then we drove around trying to find a good steak restaurant to eat and talk. We stayed up until almost 3am that night just talking on my living room couch and I just remember feeling so happy and complete.

We took engagement pictures the next day and then on Sunday I went to church with a beautiful ring on my finger to report to the high council and give my homecoming talk.  My new fiance went home on Monday and I didn't see him for another month, until just two weeks before we got married. After being apart for most of the time we dated, one of the very happiest parts about getting married was that we were finally able to live together and be together all of the time. Our lives were now connected and we didn't have to be separated any more. Six more weeks and we'll get to celebrate that anniversary too. Being asked to marry Josh was the easiest question I've ever answered and I'm glad every day that I said yes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Flight Trouble

I am not one to do crazy things. I am very afraid of pain and so avoid anything dangerous where bodily harm is likely, such as skiing. I did try mountain biking once but ended up walking my bike down the mountain because riding down a dirt path with rocks and trees in the way seemed a little iffy. I like to plan and organize and while I love surprises, I also like to be prepared. So it was quite surprising to my mom when I called her from the Chicago airport in June 2000 and told her the changes to my plan.

I had been in London on study abroad from January to April and then done a two-month term at BYU in Provo, Utah. It had been six long months since I had seen Josh and while I was in London, it had even been hard to talk to him very much because of the prohibitively expensive long distance phone rates, as well as the fact that I was sharing one phone with forty other students. I was so anxious to see him and was thrilled to get on a plane headed to Rochester as soon as my last final was complete. I remember picking out my outfit thinking I needed to be comfortable on the plane but wanted to look good for my man when he picked me up.

When I checked in for my flight, I was told there was weather trouble in Chicago and it might be tough to get out but I didn't care. I needed to get to Rochester and Chicago was a lot closer than Salt Lake so I got on the plane. Once I got there I realized that this weather had really messed things up. The lines at the gate desks were so long with people trying to rearrange their flights. By the time I got up there (my flight to Rochester had been cancelled) the soonest I could get a flight out was a day and a half later. I should have been concerned about sleeping in an airport for two nights but mostly I was heartbroken that Josh and I wouldn't be spending the evening together when I was so desperate to see him.

There was a man talking to a woman in line and I kind of overheard them talking about flights to Toronto, which is only three hours from Rochester. The guy worked for Xerox and said he could charge the cost of a rental car to the company so he was thinking about trying to get on the Toronto flight. The woman seemed super nice and was a younger grandma who was anxious to not spend two days in the Chicago airport and I piped in that I would love to join in on that plan if that was okay. So the three of us booked flights to Toronto that left later that night and landed sometime around 2am. Then we got a rental car and drove to Rochester, arriving at about 6am. I had them drop me off at Josh's house and I went in and woke him up because I was so happy to finally be with him.

It sounds crazy now to think about flying to technically a foreign country with two strangers and then taking a road trip with them. But I remember feeling totally safe with them and they were really very nice people to let me tag along. We were an interesting trio (a young grandma, a college student and a nerdy middle-aged single guy) but I was so grateful to them for getting me to where I wanted to go. Just a few years later my mom and I drove through a bad ice storm to get from Michigan to Rochester again to see Josh and this time we got married so that I wouldn't have to ever travel to him again! Now anything crazy I may do is with him, which is exactly where I like to be.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Few of My Favorite Things

I went to story time with my kids last week and the theme was favorite things. While they talked about favorite foods and colors and animals, it got me thinking about my favorites and what really makes me happy. So pretend you just opened up your favorite magazine, of which I am of course the editor-in-chief, and here is my list of favorite things I think you should check out.

1. Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. A few years ago I was teaching my co-op preschool kids about the zoo and I got a CD out of the library called What A Zoo by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. I liked it so much that I brought it on a road trip with us and miracle of miracles, my husband liked it too. Here's why: She considers herself a rock star and even though she's singing songs for kids, they sound like real music. They are catchy tunes and clever lyrics and fun to sing along to, whether you are a kid or adult. I'm wondering if I should be ashamed to admit this or not but I really do love her songs and the only reason I haven't listened to them without my kids around is because it is such a rare occurance. I even went to her concert in Virginia this summer and totally embarrassed my children, and perhaps myself a bit, by my enthusiasm. It is just so refreshing to have appropriate, fun, and interesting music to listen to with my kids. She has a wonderful voice and I just love her originality. Some of my very favorite songs are Bandwagon, I Love NY, Falling, UFO, Froggy Went a Courtin', My Butterfly and Happy as a Clam. (These are off of her Good Egg, What a Zoo and Bandwagon CDs.). Here is the link to her website: Joanie Leeds

2. Cutco knives. Just yesterday I had a friend's daughter come over to give me her sales pitch on Cutco. I did it as a favor to a friend because I already own Cutco knives, but as I was listening it just reaffirmed what an incredible wedding gift this was from my mother. I love, love, love my knives. My mother always used them so I didn't even realize there were people in this world using other knives until I went to college and I was so strange to me. There are lots of things to love about these knives. First, they're sharp and they work well. They don't age because of whatever fancy material they are made of and there is a lifetime guarantee so all you have to do is send them in whenever they get dull (the only cost is $9 for return shipping) and they come back sharpened or even totally replaced. I've had my knives for almost 14 years and they still look and feel brand new. Actually, one of them is because I sent them in this past summer and one of them was replaced. The are easy to clean, can handle the dishwasher (mine have been washed thousands of times and you'd never know it like you might with knives that have wooden handles) and while they are expensive to purchase, it is totally worth the investment. Seriously! They will be the last knives you ever purchase. I love mine so much and I'm confused when people use anything else. If you want to help out my friend's daughter and purchase some, let me know. It will be totally worth it.

3. TCBY. This stands for The Country's Best Yogurt, with which I concur. Mostly because they make white chocolate mousse, which is the most amazing flavor. Mix it with some crushed Oreos and you seriously have a little piece of heaven right in your bowl. They used to blend it together for you and call it a shiver but the TCBY by our house (well, 45 minutes away but totally worth the drive) is a do-it-yourself kind of place so you have to load up on the Oreos and mix it together yourself and it works. The creaminess, the unique and wonderfully not-vanilla-but-not-chocolate mixed with my favorite cookie is just enough to make me close my eyes and go "hmmmmmmmmm" right in public. It is seriously so delicious and better than any other frozen yogurt out there because of its texture and flavor. Find out if you have one close by and do yourself a favor and go get yourself some as soon as possible.

4. La La Land. I saw this movie two weeks ago and I bought the soundtrack right afterwards and the songs are still constantly running through my mind. I find myself humming or singing one of the songs pretty much all day. I love almost everything about this movie. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and they both are so believable and fun in this movie. I LOVE the music. It is jazzy and upbeat and heartfelt and fun. I love that it is positive and upbeat and all about finding your dreams. I love the dancing and the style in which it was filmed. I'm not in love with the ending and won't spoil it for those that haven't seen it, but let's just say it didn't end up how I was hoping it would. But it is a good story and has fantastic music and it will make you smile.

5. Ballet Caliente. This is the dance studio that my daughter attends and I can't say enough good things about it. I am so in love with the owner's philosophy about dance and the way she approaches teaching it. What I love most is that at the end of the year the little kids perform in a short recital but everyone from about age 9 up performs in an original ballet that the owner creates herself. They are often based on stories, such as Charlotte's Web or Wizard of Oz, but she also writes her own stories too, such as the year it was all about a girl learning American history and every dance was something historical. I love how it teaches them to perform and not just dance on a stage while looking off at the teacher on the side, hoping they do the steps right. It becomes more about the music and telling a story through your dance, which I think is awesome. They have highly qualified teachers and there are only five of them that teach all of the classes, so even little kids get a very experienced teacher. They are extremely professional and have high expectations and produce dancers that are extremely talented and qualified to go on to college programs. I love the focus on classical ballet and only wish that I could have been lucky enough to go to such a studio when I was a kid. They also choose appropriate music for children to dance to, often classical, and the choreography is interesting and uses the stage well, meaning they often move around or go on and off the stage in small groups like professional dancers do instead of just staying in one spot the whole time. It is a fantastic place to learn ballet and I'm so grateful my daughter can have such a good experience learning to dance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


As I was watching my recorded Golden Globes last night, I was blown away by Ryan Gosling's speech after winning in the best actor category. He was gracious and thanked his co-stars and the director and mentioned how every actor stands on the shoulders of lots of wonderful people who help them achieve great performances. Then he thanked "my lady" (who is Eva Mendes). He said while he was off singing and dancing, she took on the responsibility of raising their daughter while she was pregnant with number two and also helping her brother in his battle with cancer. He said that if she hadn't been able to deal with all of that, that someone else would be standing on the stage right then.

I love this as a wonderful example of how a relationship, and especially a marriage, should be. Husband and wife have different roles and responsibilities and it is in doing our very best in our part that we help each other succeed. I certainly wouldn't have the ability to manage our household or take care of our family if my husband didn't get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and go to work, nor would I be as good of a parent without him to help shoulder the responsibility. Without him, I'd have to bear the financial burden as well as everything else, which certainly means I wouldn't be able to do my very best with our home and children. It goes the other way too. Without me to take care of the children, mange the food planning and take care of our home, he'd be quite stressed.

Obviously people who are divorced or widowed have to deal with these kind of situations every day and make it work when necessary, but the ideal situation is divinely designed to help both a man and woman in a marriage to be their very best self and help each succeed in a way neither could do on their own. There have been times when I have had a more demanding responsibility at church and he had to step up on the family responsibilities to help me succeed at church. Or there have been times when work demanded a lot of his time and I held things together without seeing him much. Recently when I wanted to sing with choir for the Christmas program, which required six weeks of singing after church for an extra 45 minutes, he said of course. He knows I enjoy singing, especially Christmas music, so he made the effort to take our four exhausted kids home from afternoon church and get dinner started and rearrange his church responsibilities to support me. Simple perhaps, but it was profound to me. I know that whatever good thing I desire to do, he'll have my back and I know he feels the same way about me.

I've heard women say that they feel it is unfair sometimes that men get to go off and have adventures and they are stuck at home and while I can respect their feelings, I totally disagree. To me the family is the most important part of life and the greatest adventure there is to experience.  I feel quite satisfied with my role as a stay-at-home mom or homemaker or whatever you want to call it. I love being in charge of my own schedule and being so available to my family, friends and others who might need my help. Not only do I love being here for my children, but I love providing that to my husband as well so that he can focus on his work and doing a good job there. I think that also allows him to be his best self at home too. Just like Ryan said, if his lady hadn't supported him in the way she did, he never could have done his best work.

Does that mean that because she's not winning a Golden Globe, she should feel slighted or that her contribution is insignificant? A journalist wrote a column that suggested Ryan's speech was sexist and why should Eva have had to "give up her career" in order to stay home and support him? There are many women who probably would agree but I think Ryan is pretty awesome for recognizing her the way he did and I think Eva is pretty awesome too.

Look at what she did. She was able to be there for her brother and especially because he lost his battle with cancer, I'm sure she is grateful for every moment she spent with him and the ability to have that time with him instead of being at some office or working at any job. She created a new life with unbounded potential and she also spent time nurturing her young daughter. These are not small things. They are often dismissed by the world but nothing is more challenging and more sacred and important than bringing a child into this world and then raising it into a wonderful human being. While she might have felt really good earning such a special award herself, I hope she recognizes what a significant contribution she made to her family and that she takes joy in it. Helping others to succeed is to me a success in of itself, but certainly a less appreciated one with fewer accolades and shiny golden globes.

I often think of how much my husband misses by being at work. There are millions of magical moments that only I get to see. There are certainly plenty of moments that I am stuck dealing with on my own during the day too, but the good always outweighs the challenges and I'm pretty sure I'm on the greatest adventure ever right now. Someday when my children are older and perhaps my responsibilities to them are fewer, maybe I will go and work for a travel magazine as I've dreamed of doing, or run a bed and breakfast by the beach, or start a Christmas tree farm. Or maybe I will dedicate my time to a non-profit organization, or volunteer in the schools, or find some other important way to spend my valuable time. For now I'm grateful that I'm in a marriage where we help each other be our best selves, whatever that may be; as a parent, an engineer, a disciple of Christ, as a spouse, a friend, a neighbor, as a member of our community, as a home designer, a cook, a drum player, as a writer or as anything we each are trying to become.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 Books Part 2

12. The Mourning Dove by Larry Barkdull. This is a really short book we read for book club and it is the story of a boy who goes to live with his grandfather when his parents die. It was sad and I felt like the author wrote the story around the advice and teachings he wanted the grandfather to pass on to his grandson. It was fine; not my favorite but there are some nice ideas in it.

13. Under a Painted Sky by Stacy Lee. This is the story of a girl who lives in Missouri back in the frontier days when Missouri is the edge of the wilderness. In an attempt to avoid a man attacking her she ends up killing him and running west to avoid the law. I liked the story and appreciated that it had some suspense to it. It has good characters and it is also a bit sad but it worked out and was a good book.

14. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. This is a re-telling of the 12 Dancing Princesses and it was okay. I liked the characters but already knowing the story kind of ruined it for me. It was a fine book. Nothing super wonderful but certainly not a waste of time.

15. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Another classic and this one I remembered from when I read it in 10th grade. It was another book club pick and I was glad that when I read it I actually remembered quite a bit of what we had discussed in high school, so well done Ms. Maurer. We had a good discussion at book club and I think it is a good book to study but it isn't one I would ever just pick up and read for fun.

16. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. This is a simple and sweet story that I enjoyed. It took me a little while to get into it but I came to like Valency and her desire to make a change and stick to it. Good book.

17. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. I loved and hated this book at the same time. I really liked the main character and how he told the story. It takes place in the 70s and it kind of reminded me of The Wonder Years, just a little later. But his dad is a total jerk and treats his family terribly so that was hard to read and it always made me so sad. All of the other characters are wonderful and interesting and I love how he interacts with all of the characters in his little town. By dealing well with a lot of tough situations and unkind people, he really helps those around him to overcome their challenges. It is a moving and wonderful story.

18. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. I actually re-read this one because a friend picked it for book club and I just really love Tudor England and that time period. I love historical fiction for the very reason that it fleshes out history that I kind of know into a really good story. It had been a few years since I had read it and I enjoyed the re-read.

19. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Seriously, is that the author's name? I hadn't even noticed before. Anyway, this was a slow start for me. It did finally get going and I thought it was rather interesting but for me it took a long time getting there. Kind of out there idea but I liked it enough to enjoy the story but not to continue reading the series. What got me the most was that the pictures in the book are all real pictures that the author found at garage sales and such. Those are some weird photos!

20. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This book takes place in Sweden and has a Forest Gump feel to it. At first I thought it was pretty strange and I didn't like how the characters were treating death in a cavalier fashion but once I got to know the character better, it all made more sense. I especially liked when it flashed back to his life and how he got to be 100. He ended up somehow meeting ever fascist and communist leader in recent history and it was clever and fun how it all worked out. I liked that part more than the present day story but it was a different read for me and a good one.

21. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I am not going to say too much about this one because I read it for book club that we're having in two weeks but I didn't really like this one. I found it to be dark and weird and disappointing. I think the premise is interesting (a boy raised in a graveyard by the departed souls who are buried there) but there was too much of the fantastical and dark for me to hang in with the story. I'm curious to hear what my friends thought about it and I am curious if I missed something wonderful about it.

That's it for my 2016 reading list. My goal for 2017 is to read 30 books. Since my husband goes to bed early I often end up working on stuff or watching TV but I'm hoping to replace that with more reading. Let me know if you have any recommendations. I use to keep track of my books and to find new ones to read and it is really helpful. I love reading good books and this year might try to focus on ones that are a bit more happy since I read a lot of tough stories this past year. Although I suppose it is often in overcoming the challenges of life that we find the best stories. Happy New Year of reading to you all!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Books Part 1

My house is so messy right now but instead of cleaning like I should, I decided to write a post about the books I read in 2016. Some were good, some not so much and I always wish I could read more but here is what I read, in the order which I read them.

1 and 2. I am Half-Sick of Shadow and As Chimney Sweeps Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. These are a continuation of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which I loved. These books I did not love so much. One of them took Flavia out of the house and to a school in Canada and I didn't like that at all. The Christmas one was okay but didn't nearly have the depth of the first in the series. Somewhat of a disappointing read because I really do love Flavia as a character and had been looking forward to more of her but it didn't work for me.

3. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. I read this for book club and was half-way through it before I realized I had already seen the movie. It is a good one though. Simple, good points, and I like how it goes back and forth between the two characters and their view points, which are very different. A quick, easy but nice read.

4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. This is a collection of short stories about Indians living in the Boston area and for the most part I enjoyed it but I did get annoyed when some of the stories ended. I wanted them to keep going and felt unsatisfied. They are interesting and thought-provoking but I realized I am a novel person, not a short story person. My friend loved this book though and wasn't bothered by the shortness of the stories so I suppose it just depends on your character.

5. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I also read this for book club and I really enjoyed it. This poor girl is an only child and left an orphan when her parents get in a car accident. She is a different girl and wonderfully endearing. I love how she handles the challenge of finding a new family and taking care of herself and making it through a very tough situation. This was a good read and we had a great discussion at book club about it too.

6. My Antonia by Willa Cather. This is somewhat of a classic and it was fine but not really my kind of book. It felt slow and I only kind of liked the characters. Everyone else I know loves this book so perhaps I missed something but I thought it was kind of boring.

7. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I liked this book. I didn't love it but I did really like it. It takes place during WWII but it is about a Hungarian Jewish man who goes to Paris to study architecture right before the war starts and so it was a different viewpoint, which I found refreshing. He has some unique experiences and there are good characters. I liked how a lot of the people in his life were involved with art somehow, such as architecture, ballet, theater and music, and how these people tried to keep art alive during such challenging circumstances. It only got really sad at the end but it was a good book.

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This was an odd book. I could never really decide if it was real or magical but I think that was the author's intent. I liked it though and found it oddly interesting. I kept hoping I would figure out what was really happening but even at the end it is kind of left up to the reader to decide. It takes place up in Alaska back in the frontier times and is about a couple who really want a child but are unable to have one. Then a girl just shows up in their yard and they kind of adopt her but she only lives outside and doesn't talk much and is a bit of a mystery. I was really into this book but the constant tug back and forth between is this a fairy tale or is this real kind of got me at the end, which I found to be abrupt and disappointingly sad. But, I enjoyed the book as a whole for its practical but somewhat magical quality.

9. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart. This was a book club read and my friend picked it because she lived in Greece and has happy memories and connections to it. It is a good mystery/suspense kind of story that takes place on an island in Greece. It was fun and easy and interesting.

10. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. This was the best book I read all year. I LOVED it. I found it so fascinating on many levels. I loved unraveling the mystery of her present life that she doesn't remember and I loved thinking about how my 10-year-ago self would like me now. Her sister's story line is kind of intense and I didn't love the somewhat weird insinuations about her friend but I still thought it was a fantastic book and I enjoyed it immensely. I still think about it sometimes and wonder what it would be like to just show up in my life today and not know my kids or what had happened in the last ten years.

11. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I also loved this book. This is a different kind of book for me but I found it very thought-provoking and fun. She gives good examples of how she applied her goals to real life, while sharing some mishaps and real feelings and that it doesn't always go so well. I liked her style and actually did a mini happiness project of my own as a result. Good things to think about and well-written. I am glad I read this book.

To be continued.....