18 February 2018

To people who need a lift



Dear Stranger,

Sometimes, we all feel a little blue. Or a lot blue. When I was sixteen, I wrote a poem, a refrain of which was:

I can't grow up, and I can't grow down.
I'm in too deep, and I'm going to drown.

I have bipolar disorder, most frequently manifested by long bouts of depression. I get feeling low. I truly appreciate the God-given talents of others to lift our souls. There are so many talented and brilliant people out there, y'all. I am sometimes blown away by how amazing people are. Like the people who designed the bed frames my girls use; assembly instructions: tighten two screws! That right there lifts my soul, and I'm not even being facetious.

Media can be so depressing, even destructive at times, but there are so many great things out there. My friend's mom once told him that he would never be "missing out" by avoiding dirty songs and movies - and whatnot - because he would never run out of things worthy of his attention. These are things I consider worthy of our attention, and soul-lifting:

The short film: Validation


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao

Some people see goodness, and say goodness, and when that happens in our direction, it truly touches our hearts. The kindness of others can be a blinding light on the darkest night. I have been given this blessing so many times in my life; by friends and strangers. I love this short film about offering validation - and the love story is beautiful too.

The movie: Mom's Night Out
Image result

This movie is for every mother (or anyone, but especially relatable for moms and dads) who feels like they (and their best efforts) aren't enough. My husband and I always laugh really hard during this movie, but it always strikes a deep chord with us, because we can say "we've been there"...not so much the part about jail, or the baby in the tatoo parlor... :) Check this out from the library, buy it for $5 - the truth and affirmation in this film will speak to you.

The song: Nessun Dorma

Image result for pavarotti turandot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTFUM4Uh_6Y

I'm specifically referring to Pavarotti singing it, because that's my experience with it. The sweeping beauty of the orchestra, and this great man's voice, bring me closer to God.

The song: Glorious

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GytW_rgr0RM

Sometimes we don't feel like we're fitting in or have a purpose, or that we're loved. Stephanie Mabey and David Archulete remind us that we're all part of God's plan.

God loves us, and He gave us people in our lives to lift us and inspire us. More than that, He gave us His Son. I'm so grateful.



16 January 2018

A review of Sakyong Mipham's book, The Lost Art of Good Conversation

I think people are getting rude. I don't notice this so much in conversations where the parties are physically present, though it does occasionally happen, I mostly see it online, particularly Facebook. People are anonymous so they can say angry, hurtful things, or make fun of others. Or, they are speaking to a faceless multitude, so they feel no need to moderate their opinions. I don't know the extent to which I do this. I haven't got much of an online presence; I usually just chat with Amazon reps when something goes wrong with my order. But I've deliberately attempted to switch my chats from I am a displeased customer and you need to fix this  to Something went wrong, and I'd really like your help figuring it out. So one reason I was interested in reading a book called The Lost Art of Good Conversation: A Mindful Way to Connect with Others and Enrich Everyday Life is: I'd love to see and be a part of the return of greater civility.

The second reason I wanted to read The Lost Art of Good Conversation was that during bipolar depressive episodes, it becomes difficult to engage in conversation. The simple acts of carrying on a dialogue, making eye contact, and paying attention are abrasive and overwhelming. Especially if it's a small child, who wants to crawl into my lap and get up in my face. I want my conversations to be more genuine, and come more naturally even during low energy times for me.



Did it work? Yes. I do think the book is helpful. I did pick up a few pointers and a few thoughts to ponder. In a way it was kind of a sticky read though: I couldn't read it for very long at a stretch without feeling like getting up and doing something else, and the language is a little flowery at times.

A lot of this book stresses mindfulness and meditation, focusing on the physical acts of the conversation, even to the point of including a chapter about breathing. There's a lot of advice on how to be mindful, and some warnings about what may happen if we are not:

When neither individual is willing to touch nowness, the conversation lacks dignity. It becomes habituated and superficial. Questions and answers become rote. Intriguing words become ordinary. (p. 41, pp. 2)

The book addresses the way we talk to different people, even going so far as to say that our interactions with the cashiers at the grocery store are important. Another chapter goes into the time and place of the conversation. When Sakyong Mipham suggested that walking while talking can facilitate a conversation, it brought to mind the many conversations I've had with my husband as we go on walks, and how the experiences are a treasure to me.

One thought I particularly enjoyed was about patience. Mipham said, "It is said that patience is the guardian of our good qualities." (p. 184 pp. 2) I love that thought, and it truly makes me want to be a more patient person. I certainly need my good qualities guarded, and I can see the truth in this statement.

This book has made me more aware of how I engage in conversation, and I can see some improvement in my interactions with others. I won't say that I suddenly feel up to the challenge of talking to people during severe depressive episodes, but the interactions I do have are more meaningful.

The book does have it's difficult moments; like a chapter that was advocating talking slowly, but wrapped up by mentioning how rapidly some cultures speak, and saying this was based on mindfulness and awareness. One paragraph that went beyond me was about wisdom:

Wisdom - that which never needs to be expressed - allows for conversation to occur. ...One can see words as expressions of wisdom, and wisdom as the element of the inexpressible in each word. ... Words are like wisdom expressing wisdom to itself. (p. 219, pp. 2)

Although this book could be a dry read at times, I do feel like my time was well spent in improving myself and taking the time to be more intentional about how I interact with others. The book didn't really delve into how we interact through texts and online communications, but there were plenty of thoughts that could be extrapolated. I do recommend this book if you're looking for an "improving book".

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This is my honest opinion about the book. 

More info:

About the book: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/550804/the-lost-art-of-good-conversation-by-sakyong-mipham/

About the author: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/68526/sakyong-mipham/

06 December 2017

A review of Do One Thing Every Day That Makes You Happy journal




As a book title, Do One Thing Every Day That Makes You Happy is a mouthful. As an outlook on life, it's a really good one. I have bipolar disorder, which mostly manifests as depressive episodes. I understand a lot about not feeling happy. I've had bipolar disorder for long enough to recognize that I have a good life - a great life, a blessed life - even when I can't feel it. And I have learned to feel grateful even through the depression for the blessings. And to enjoy moments of happiness wherever and whenever I can get them. Even though no one can have a great day every day, or even all day for one day for every second of that day, there can be happy moments even on the saddest days.

Do One Thing Every Day That Makes You Happy focuses on small moments of gifts of happiness, drawing our attention to those times and helping us see the good. I like this book right from it's cheerful yellow color. The format of the book is fairly simple; there are quotes about happiness, or things that bring people happiness, or even just pithy in general, and then there are writing prompts. This is a small book (I'm guessing 6" tall,1"ish deep - the picture is almost actual size), there's not a lot of room to write. The benefit of this is to make us sum up a happiness, and focus more deeply. It helps us be mindful and intentional. We have to deliberately think of happiness and recognize it in our lives.

An example page from the journal reads:


A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.

Bible, Psalm 147

What made me thankful today:

                                 (unpaginated)

Only in the book it's written in orange, and a more fun font, and it's clear that their graphic designers care about their work, it's beautifully done. My response was:


My mom helping me clean my house and take care of my kids and God getting the van sorted out.


There should be a comma in there, but it's a journal, so I'm not going to beat myself up. My point is: In one sentence, grammatically correct or not, I just summed up blessings so huge just seeing it in small print made me see their enormity.

I don't write in this book every day, or most days, but I've had moments that I was in a terrible mood, saw the book and picked it up and chose an entry. This book is kind of buffet style, you just pick and choose whichever entry you want - I've skipped all over the place.

I can't say that I'm a fan of the come-back-later entries. One page prompted me to make up my mind to be (fill in the blank), and provided a list of attitudes (e.g. glad, jubilant, gleeful, content) to choose from. I usually journal at night, so this one required forethought - not that planning ahead is a bad thing, but I don't usually feel up to the extra step. Lazy, but true.

I like this book, and I think it's important, because we need to do our part to be happy, and not expect life to do all the work for us.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This is my honest opinion about the book. 

more info:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/545009/do-one-thing-every-day-that-makes-you-happy-by-robie-rogge-and-dian-g-smith/

author bio:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/170809/robie-rogge/

31 August 2017

A review of Mark Crilley's book, Manga Art



Manga Art, by Mark Crilley, is not what I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be a how-to book on drawing manga, and since I've checked out one artist's take on that, I was interested in seeing how a different artist would approach it.

This is not a how to draw book. Although Mark Crilley is an art teacher, and has YouTube videos teaching drawing techniques, this book is a collection of artwork by him for him (and us), where he got to explore his art and style. I loved it! Reading this book was like going to see a special exhibit in a museum. And getting to stop and look at all the pictures, for as long as you want. And reading the little plaques next to the display. As a mother with young children, that's a pretty awesome experience. One of the rules of childhood seems to be: If you can't climb on it, it's not worthwhile. Which means I don't really do museums right now.

Except I feel like I did. I got to see this huge collection of art. Have a little "discussion" about what art means with Mr. Crilley. Take time just staring at something beautiful. It sounds neurotic, but it was totally a much needed mommy break - that and I really loved the artwork.

My favorite piece was called Glomp!

Image result for mark crilley glomp
https://autodo.info/pages/c/chibi-glomp/

It looks a lot like this. Which is basically how I feel when I see my husband.

The book was divided into five different segments: Characters, Japan, Science Fiction, Conceptual Art, and Styleplay. Each picture has an explanation about why Crilley chose to do the particular piece, and how he did it, and maybe ways it challenged him as an artist. My favorite section was Styleplay, and it was fun seeing if I recognized which artist Mr. Crilley was emulating. Some were unmistakable, like an homage to the creator of Calvin and Hobbes entitled The Watterson Tree. Some were just styles in general, like "looser brushstrokes". I really enjoyed reading Manga Art and I would recommend it to people interested in that art form, even if you just checked it out from the library.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This is my honest opinion about the book. 

08 August 2017

To refugees coming to America

Dear Stranger,

Welcome to America! May you enjoy every freedom this country has to offer. May you be welcomed by those you come amongst, and may you find many helpful people to see you through your transition to a new homeland. I am so sorry you were forced from your homeland. I can't imagine the pain and terror you have experienced. I am so sorry you were forced to leave loved ones and possessions. I know from my limited ability to speak a foreign language that it can be so hard to express yourself, yet people will be judging you by those limited expressions. You are brave and you are strong.

There are people who will view you as a threat to their safety, their jobs, their tax dollars, their way of life. These people can be quite vocal. Some of them will be very rude. Please don't judge all of us by those unkind individuals. We are happy to have you. We hope you will feel welcome in our homeland for as long as you care to stay. We pray for those you were forced to leave behind, that their lives will be protected, and that peace will return to their land. We are so grateful for the good that you will contribute to our society. We are grateful for the opportunity we have to learn from you. Welcome to America, and, we hope, welcome home.

14 July 2017

A review of David Chelsea's book, Perspective in Action




How you feel about David Chelsea's book Perspective in Action, is a matter of...perspective. And my perspective is that of an amateur artist who's always had a little bit of difficulty with perspective and proportion. If you're coming from a similar perspective, this book is not for you. This book is highly technical.

Image result for perspective in action
(https://www.amazon.com/Perspective-Action-Exercises-Representation-Renaissance/dp/1607749467)

It went over my head. I should have been a little bit clued in by the tagline on the cover "Creative exercises depicting spatial representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age.", but I wasn't. I figured by "exercises" it meant fifteen - forty-five minute drawing exercises meant to hone one's skills and help improve one's understanding of perspective. This is not the case. This book is for hardcore prospective perspective acolytes. This book is for people who's careers depend on their perspective ;)

Here's one of the suggestions I decided not to follow through on:

"If you would like the sharpest possible image, follow the equation below to determine the best diameter pinhole for the distance between pinhole and wall surface. Since my bathroom is 6 feet deep, the optimum pinhole width is approximately 1.5 mm."

...actually, I'm going to have to stop with that example, because I can't figure out how to blog the equation. Meh. Suffice it to say, it was higher math and I wasn't interested.

So in the end, I wasn't actually qualified to review this book. Overall impressions: Highly techinical, and if you actually took the time to do the exercises described you would be spending an enormous amount of time and effort on it, and I think maybe the real purpose is for the perspective buffs out there to follow along philosophically speaking, nodding their heads and murmuring, "I see..." The author occasionally made remarks I found humorous. On two occasions the artist used nude illustrations to demonstrate a point that seemed more naked than nude - there was no point to the illustration choice, any other image would have done, so I wasn't a fan of that.

Maybe this is a really great book, but I'm never going to know. I do have a lot of respect for the technical skill and knowledge that went into this.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This is my honest opinion about the book. 

23 May 2017

A review of Matthew Paul Turner's book, When God Made You, illustrated by David Catrow

People say not to judge books by their covers. This can be true. I bought one of my very favorite books used on Amazon once, and it came with a truly horrific cover. It's actually off-putting. The irony is, the reason that I checked the book out of the library when I first discovered it was because of its different, appealing and interesting cover. I find that I can usually tell if I'm going to like a book by its cover.

Matthew Paul Turner and David Catrow's book, When God Made You, is no exception. You can tell right when you look at it that when God made you it was a happy thing, and that you should be very glad to be you.




The pictures and words in this book really flow together, and Mr. Catrow does an amazing job expressing exuberance and joy and delight. It's almost abstract, but you understand the sentiment. As you can conceive from the front cover, there is a real sense of soaring in the book, even literally depicted. The words are descriptive, and convey the powerful truth that we are known and loved by God. It's a fun reinforcement for children that God made us on purpose, exactly how we are.

Really the only issue I have with this book is that the rhymes don't always flow in a way that feels natural to me. It can make for an occasional hiccup in the reading.

What child, or adult, doesn't need to remember that they are God's? To borrow Mr. Turner's words:

" 'Cause when God made you
and the world oohed and aahed,
in heaven they called you an image of God."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I know that I will be reading it to my children many times in the future.

Want more info?

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/books/537389/when-god-made-you-by-matthew-paul-turner-illustrated-by-david-catrow/

Want to know more about the author?

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/authors/82928/matthew-paul-turner/

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This is my honest opinion about the book.