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Book Challenge: Part Two, First Half

(I like how my titles have no consistent formatting for this particular blog series.)

A Book That Was Published This Year

  1. Judah’s Wife: A Novel of the Maccabees (The Silent Years) by Angela Hunt

I’ve read a lot by Angela Hunt and have gotten into some of her Biblical fiction, though that’s not usually a genre I particularly enjoy. This is the start of her new series about characters in the Maccabees, something that I know absolutely nothing about, so I can’t say anything on the accuracy of her fiction. (Accuracy of her fiction… that feels like it’s an oxymoron?) It was fairly interesting, but not great. It definitely had some good elements to the storytelling, but it dragged a bit too much for me to really get into it. I’ll keep up with the rest of the series, but not very adamantly.


A Book You Can Read In A Day

  1. Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen
    The Time Hackers by Gary Paulsen

    The Schernoff Discoveries by Gary Paulsen

I randomly picked an author who had multiple short-enough books that looked interesting. The only one I read in a day was the first, but I’ll give a brief review of each one!

  • SIX KIDS: A very short book about quirky kids who get caught in a bathroom during a false alarm storm; a new kid, the narrating kid, and 4 others who don’t normally hang out. They have conversations, ask questions, bond and eventually leave the bathroom as friends. It’s silly but quite fun, and it has a play version of itself in the back of the book!
  • TIME HACKERS: This had a more complex plot and right now I can’t remember most of it, but the world set-up is interesting and it’s also a good and entertaining read. I think I was a little confused by the ending but not in a bad way, just in a “time is confusing” kind of way. It had a satisfactory last few pages.
  • SCHERNOFF: The longest of the 3, this follows two awkward teenage boys from years ago and their wonky adventures together because of the crazy one’s imagination. This was one of those where you know every chapter is going to end ridiculously and they’ll probably “learn a lesson” about things not to do, but they’ll have fun along the way. This one had a slightly more mature tone to it, as if the author was describing his real life with a slightly adult perspective on it. It was pretty good.


A Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read

  1. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

I loved The Reckoners Series by the same author and have been meaning to read this because all my non-reading brothers love it. Book 1 was definitely enjoyable. It has a great premise with fun characters, even though there were a few that I don’t care about yet. But Alcatraz is a great narrator, like a less sophisticated, more sarcastic Lemony Snicket. (I was going to say “more cynical”, but I don’t think that’s possible.) And the story definitely has potential to have a lot of growth as it goes on. It was a great opening book and I look forward to finishing the rest of it.


A Book Recommendation From A Librarian

  1. Bunnicula by James Howe

Recommended by Beth, this is a kids book that was also one I read in a day. I didn’t know how dark it was going to be (the cover pictures are kind of scary!) but it was just the right amount of “almost-darkness” followed by a good wrap-up that made it just right for me. It’s silly, clever and the narrating dog is quite fun. I would recommend this to several of my siblings.


A Book I Should Have Read In School

  1. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I vaguely remembered visuals from the movie as a child but I didn’t really remember the plot. This turned out to be an easy read with a good main character and a touching story. I’m usually not that into animal stories, but the author did a good job of getting into the head and heart of the kid and showing just how much the dogs meant to him. The ending was, of course, quite sad; I was a little thrown by the way the parents comforted him at the end of the book. It felt a bit insensitive at first, but I think that’s because I’ve had so much discussion with people around me about how to handle people who are grieving, and for this kid it’s possible that what he DID need was a reason to believe why what happened happened, rather than thinking that it happened for no reason. So I guess it worked out.


A Book Recommendation By A Family Member/Friend

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This was recommended by my friend Jami. As soon as I started this, I knew it was going to take some work to get into it because the dialogue was written out SO slangy that it was really hard to follow. I can hear and understand this kind of talk all right when it’s in a movie, but seeing it on paper is just a harder process. But I eventually got used to it, and for the most part I enjoyed the rest of the story. It was set in the 30’s about a young woman named Janie who is pushed into marrying for convenience and her regrets and mistakes and eventual happy endings that follow as she starts making decisions for herself. It’s set in the black community so there’s not a lot of content about division between different races (though there are one or two scenes about it), but it has some strong examples of some prejudiced mindsets amongst the community itself and the division between upper and lower classes. It was a very interesting read, although there was a scene that caused an angry rant on Facebook from me about how to treat women. I don’t think I’d read it again because it was so difficult to get through, but I’m glad I have read it once.

By the way, here’s an example of the slang writing: “All day Ah’m pickin’ beans. All night Ah’m pickin’ mah box and rollin’ dice. Between de beans and de dice Ah can’t lose. Ah’m gone right now tuh pick me uh job uh work wid de best man on de muck. Before de rest of ’em gits heah. You can always git jobs round heah in de season, but not wid de right folks.”


A Book That Was Published Before I Was Born                   

  1. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I had not realized that this was written back in 1979, so I was excited to do a lighter book for this category. And for a non-romantic adult book, you don’t get a whole lot lighter than this! Unless everything in here has some deep, double meaning, this was pretty much a Wayside School-style story of just silly jokes, fun sci-fi-ish plot without any real conclusion (did he plan on making the sequels originally?) and him just having fun making stuff up. I laughed out loud a few times. It felt fun but pointless; not in an “why would anyone ever waste their life on this?” way (though some may still ask that question) but more of an “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean anything dramatic in there, I think he’s just enjoying whatever’s coming off of his typewriter” way. Anyway, I might have to go find the sequels because while I’m not exactly falling off the edge of my seat to find out what happens next, it was definitely enjoyable and I am curious.

Book Challenge: Original Challenge Completed Once/Halfway Through!

After months of struggling through Don Quixote, taking some time off to catch up on some other books (aka reread LOTR), and then finally getting back into these ones, I finished my Book Challenge part 2! I have finished the original challenge the first time through, so now I just have to do it all again with different books. So here are my reviews for the last 7 types of books I read!


  1. Grapes of Wrath (by John Steinbeck)
    I was rather intrigued by the format in this one, where there would be one regular chapter about the Joad family and their trip, followed by a chapter that’s… kind of hard to describe, but is a fascinating literary trip through the minds of banks, and the folks who have to leave, and the stores that they stop at, and the Californian land-owners; sometimes it was dialogue with no narration, other times it was a rhythmic, verb-filled description of tractors destroying things. It was kinda cool. Other than that, I think the book was written well and gave quite an interesting perspective into that time in history. It got pretty depressing near the ending, but I guess it got across its message. Other than “this is what happens when greedy people push poor people around, don’t do it”, it really had a strong theme of sticking together and the poor helping each other out.


  1. Wicked (by Gregory MaGuire)
    I heard that the book was definitely different from the musical that was based on this, and that I probably wouldn’t like it. Whoever said that was right! It was weird, and really hard to follow, and super political but in a world that I didn’t understand, and I didn’t get either Galinda or Elphaba as characters very much.  Parts of it were interesting, and I will always be grateful for the way it inspired Wicked the musical, but this will not be one I will be rereading. It was just too bizarre and unpleasant.


  1. The Fiction Class (by Susan Breen)
    I bought this cheap at a book sale because why would I not enjoy a book about a class learning to write fiction? Which sounds like I’m going to explain to you why I didn’t like it, but I actually did. It was a pleasant story with some good conversations in the actual classroom about writing, the main character was fairly complex but not unrelatable, and the chapters had all these different “writing challenges” and “prompts” at the end which really made me want to try them out. It wasn’t anything super memorable, but I’m not sorry I bought it and it would be an easy reread for a “before bedtime” book.


  1. Don Quixote (by Miguel De Cervantes)
    Oh my goodness, the notorious Don Quixote which took me 7 months to finish! This book was fairly easy to understand when it was focusing on the action or on the characters telling stories (Don and Sancho were constantly running into strangers who told them chapter-long stories); it occasionally was hard to decipher what was being talked about when the characters had debates about chivalry and politics. Don is an iconic character who is kind of fascinating and Sancho has some hilarious moments. But it was just so long! The unchanging and unreasonable part of Don Quixote’s character got me very frustrated at times and caused it to drag. Also, the ending felt abrupt and kind of really sad. But I got through it eventually, and I made it, and I can say I’m glad I’ve read it, and I am now very worried about my next intimidating book!


  1. Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte)
    I hadn’t read this since high school and only remembered a few vague things about it. This is not in competition with most of my favorite Victorian books for awesomeness in my opinion; I love Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. (Though I’m always biased by books where I grew up watching the movie first.) This one is still pretty interesting; the plot is definitely a bit weird, and I think the ending bit with St. John is kind of fascinating. There are parts that really work, and I think I understood her character. But I have a hard time liking Mr. Rochester; he’s controlling, pushy and grumpy. I’m not bothered by him enough that I think it was wrong for her to marry him; for whatever reason they make each other happy, and it definitely resolves in a way that he learns to chill a bit. But I think it’ll take some movie watching to decide if this is a story I really enjoy/respect or not.


  1. The Fault in Our Stars (by John Green)
    I quite enjoyed the movie, and from what I remember of it it was a good interpretation of this book. This story has very real characters with plenty of humorous moments, plus it has a good blend of both cynicism and heart. I think I understood her obsession with the author better in the book, too, so that part made more sense. It didn’t get my emotions the way that it did for most people I know, but it was well-worth the read and one I will definitely look for to buy and reread.


  1. Cyrano De Bergerac (by Edmond Rostand)
    I’ve heard raves about this character from my older sister who’s recommended this to me for years. I definitely think he’s an awesome character; his magical wordplay, audacity and stupid courage makes him super fun, plus his vulnerability with his one thing he doesn’t have the courage to do helps make him more complex than just “the man with all the nerve”. I think this one would be great to see onstage; plays always feel like they go by so fast when reading them, and I feel like I would get more out of the other people and the politics and the warring plot and all that. But this is definitely an important one I needed to have read, and I definitely liked it!

February Romances 2018

I did another February “Romance Movie Watching” challenge this year; my goal was 5, and I managed to get in 12! I took a bunch of suggestions from Facebook people, and there were only 8 suggestions that I didn’t get to. I also added a few of my own. So here are my reviews!

LARRY CROWNE (suggested by Stephanie)
This movie is well-cast with a fairly simple premise; it’s a pleasant watch, I liked the main characters, and I laughed a few times. It just didn’t have any strong connection for me emotionally. I found myself not understanding the motives of the characters, and while we saw Hanks and Roberts in their individual lives, they didn’t get enough “together/watching them fall in love” time for the ending to be very triumphant. It also kept almost playing around with “taboo” things; the older guy and the younger girl, the (married) teacher and the student… never an actual problem, but kind of distracting. But I think I liked the conclusion. And one highlight was that the girl who plays Charlotte Lu in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was in this movie for a few seconds!

HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN TEN DAYS (suggested by Susie)
While this was not very deep, it was definitely an entertaining watch, with the intentional over-the-top plot making the silliness work and causing me to giggle out loud multiple times. Since both characters had their own agenda, I didn’t have to feel bad for either one, which helped to make the Kate Hudson nonsense bearable as she did a great job of being horribly annoying. I do wish that he had kind of apologized at the end of the movie, since it was both of their faults and I kind of felt like she’s the one who had to “learn the lesson”, which didn’t seem fair. But despite that, I will happily put it down as an enjoyed RomCom.

FRENCH KISS (suggested by Emma)
In contrast to the previous movie, this romance has a subtle humor to it, with more “meat” in getting to know the characters than either of the first two. I enjoy seeing their friendship develop, and they both were realistic but likeable characters. It had a complex enough plot that it wasn’t exactly what I suspected and I wasn’t always sure where it was going, which was a good thing, and the transition from liking one guy to liking the other felt natural. This didn’t necessarily leave a strong impression on me, and I don’t know if the plot or characters or humor will stick with me far into the future. But I did like it, and this is the type of movie that might really grow on me after multiple viewings.

This was a random movie that I watched at 4am, but I’m pretty sure I was awake enough to give it an authentic review. 🙂 I was drawn into this one pretty quickly; Jane and Robert’s banter had enough wit, sarcasm and affection that I giggled out loud several times right off the bat. The pacing was good, the characters were likeable, it was a bit silly at moments but also super sweet. I really liked Robert Redford’s character, and although Jane Fonda was funny, I was kind of thrown by how quickly their fight made her go insane; either I can’t relate to her character at all, or their fight scene was too over-the-top because there was no reason for her to get that instantly mad. But it resolved itself well for the most part and it captured my attention throughout. It also had really cute music!

Didn’t have super high hopes for this one since I don’t like the soundtrack much, but I needed to see it anyway. It had some good moments; I enjoyed the dance sequence in the teen bar (Hugo’s voice is better than Birdie’s), and the song where they all faint is silly, and Dick Van Dyke is mostly charming in “Put On a Happy Face” even though it’s super cheesy. But I was annoyed by Dick Van Dyke’s entire plot, and although I love him in Mary Poppins and his TV show, I am not a fan of his character or his acting in this; he’s just awkward. I liked Hugo and Kim’s storyline best; they were sweet and fairly believable.

RETURN TO ME (suggested by Susie)
I knew nothing about this going into it, but I started predicting things that would happen pretty quickly. (Though that’s kind of usual in a romcom, so I guess I shouldn’t hold it against it.) It was a pleasant movie, with neither main character being particularly special, but they certainly weren’t annoying. It had funny and sweet moments, and I really enjoyed the group of older men and their banter; they were quite charming. The plot in this has a good blend of sweet and tragic, but I just wasn’t as moved by the execution of the story as I felt like I was supposed to be.

MOONSTRUCK (suggested by Kristin)
Definitely a quirky movie; was I supposed to be laughing at Nicolas Cage’s overdramatic character who is just ridiculous? I am going to think that I am, hoping that it’s a kind of sweet, tongue-in-cheek cheesiness and not supposed to be super serious. The story does have some somber moments, which are a nice compliment to the quirky ambiance of the film. I thought it was sweet and entertaining with a good conclusion, and Cher was absolutely the character she was supposed to be.

I recently reread the book and am planning on watching other movie versions. Obviously trying to condense a Victorian novel into a 1 hour 40 minute movie will take out some content, and I understand that; but removing the majority of the end transition (all the stuff that happens with her while she’s living with St. John) threw me off. I feel like it doesn’t give her enough of a change in motivation before her final decision. I have a hard time liking Mr. Rochester, both in this movie and the book, but Ciaran Hinds seemed to do him fairly accurately. I think I should watch another few movie versions to see how this one ranks in comparison before I judge it too harshly for not getting the book right.

First “non West Side Story” version of this that I’ve seen. Leo Dicaprio is always super cute, and he is no exception in this movie. Despite the fact that Romeo is a bit of a fickle dweeb, Leo at least plays his character with a lot of heart and charm, and Juliet was good. I wasn’t a big fan of the artistic choices for ambiance, though I liked dramatic opening with the narration and the ominous music.

However, whether it’s the play itself or my misunderstanding of this movie, I have a hard time seeing how the feud actually led to Romeo and Juliet dying. I’m pretty sure they were running away because there was no way her parents would let her marry Romeo, but that was because she was already set up with a rich dude; if he was just poor (and wasn’t a Montague), it would’ve been the same issue, and HE only died because he’s overdramatic and chose to take the poison, followed by her for the same reason! If the whole thing is supposed to say “prejudice leads to all of the destruction”, WSS does a much better job of telling that than this movie.

DIRTY DANCING (suggested by Kristin)
This was the “famous” one I wanted to get in this month. The plot wasn’t what I expected, but I guess I didn’t really know anything about it. I think I enjoyed both the characters; Swayze was more vulnerable and less “punk” than I expected, and the girl was sweet and believable. I really liked the moment when she apologized to her father but was still honest about how he was treating her. And the dancing was fun, with not as much “dirty dancing” as I thought it would have; it had actual DANCE dances, which was great to watch. Overall, I liked it but I don’t have a lot to say about it.

BENNY AND JOON (suggested by Eli)
I saw this YEARS ago and remembered maybe 2 moments from it, so I didn’t even realize until my rewatch that Benny was the brother and not Johnny Depp! Actually understanding the plot on it this time around, I liked it a lot. I loved the cute quirkiness of the music and of Johnny Depp’s character. I definitely get how it was more about the brother and Joon, though; the romance was a conduit for the siblings to work through their issues and for her to gain independence that was leading towards something, and while I was probably more entertained by Sam than Benny (which was the point), the depth of the character dynamics made this more than just a cute romance.

RUBY SPARKS (suggested by Hannah)
This one was super creative! It was done really well and Paul Dano did a fantastic job. I loved the blend of comedy and dark tones throughout; the montage when she wouldn’t stop touching him was very giggly, but then it veered quickly into more serious issues, and the climactic scene in the movie where he’s typing is so eerie and haunting. But the movie also resolves itself well. I had some theories about what the movie means that I don’t think I was necessarily SUPPOSED to think, but I’m satisfied with the conclusion either way.

Ruby Sparks
Barefoot in the Park

Bye Bye Birdie
Romeo and Juliet
Jane Eyre

French Kiss
Benny and Joon
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Dirty Dancing
Return to Me
Larry Crowne

Gratitude and Trust

It’s been a little while since I’ve been this sensitive to tearing up unexpectedly. But I cried in the dentist’s office yesterday when they asked me if I wanted to pay the extra $300 to sedate myself in a future surgery; I cried because I would much rather be sedated than see them pulling out my teeth, but I didn’t know if I could afford it.

I cried today right after a phone interview that was cut short because I tried to honestly answer the question “can you stand on your feet for 8 hours?”, and when she sensed that the stand-up job wasn’t what I wanted she asked if I wanted to cancel the interview; I cried because I don’t know if I’m supposed to be picky and only apply for sit-down jobs or if I need to just suck it up and take whatever job might be offered to me.

I know that I’m not in the worst of situations; in fact, I’m pretty lucky right now! My sister and I bought a house last year that we both love living in, we both have steady part-time jobs, I have good friends, and there are plenty of things that I love to do in my community and my church.

And yet I’m super stressed out lately. I have random parts of my body that are always in pain (my feet and my shoulders) and even though I know there are people with much more debilitating and chronic pain than I have, it’s still stressful to have a job that just exacerbates it the more days I work in a row.

I’m also super stressed about finances. God keeps providing in some cool ways, but every time I think I might be able to see my savings grow rather than shrink, I have to fix my car or pull my teeth or something else comes up that takes another large chunk of money out of my account.

And I’m just tired of filling out job applications. I have filled out 73 since February, I’ve had probably 12 different interviews (both for jobs I didn’t really want and for jobs I really did) with no luck so far on either a full-time or a sit-down job. Someone tells me “oh I heard this place is hiring, you should check it out” and I think “maybe this is the one!”… but nothing has panned out yet.

This may not be the most dire of situations, but finding a good job and getting financially stable and keeping my pain at bay are all things that I have no control over. I have this strong, emotional weight over me that keeps coming out in the form of heavy sighs or random tears or just wanting to throw my laptop down and escape from job applications into all the Netflix shows. I keep praying and asking God again and again to “fix this”, but why hasn’t it changed yet?

I have had Nichole Nordeman’s song “Gratitude” running through my head lately. It’s about how we pray to Jesus for rain, and bread, and peace, and yet we still have to understand that He is good even if we don’t get what we want when we ask. When I wake up in the middle of the night with tooth pain and just cry that God would make all my problems go away, I may not wake up with a better job, but I do go to sleep with a stronger sense of God being next to me.

Nichole also does a song called “Every Season”, which talks about how she can see God in every season of life; in the joy of summer, in the change of fall, in the sleep of winter, in the new life of spring. Even though some seasons of life are “prettier” than others, God is still here and a part of it, and He’s working even if we don’t see it.

I don’t know when I’ll get another job; I don’t know if I’ll ever get my ideal job. What I do know is that God has not left me, and He’s not just enjoying watching me flounder. He’s using this season for a reason in my life, maybe to teach me how to trust Him better, maybe to give me stronger character, which I could always use. And at some point I will come out of the hibernation of winter and see new beginnings where it feels like it’s just been blizzarding desert. Until then, I will try to remember who’s got my back, and remember that He loves me more than I can imagine.

“We’ll give thanks to You, with gratitude,

In lessons learned in how to trust in You

That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream

In abundance or in need,

And if You never grant us peace

But, Jesus, would You please?”

Seven Things I Learned Working at Christian Care Ministry

A few years ago when I quit McDonald’s, I wrote a blog about 5 things I learned while I was working there. So now that I’m no longer working at CCM, I figured it would be appropriate to do the same type of blog for that job!

To sum it up, CCM is a healthcare sharing ministry for Christians that has a large location in Melbourne, Florida, a smaller location in Illinois and recently opened up one in Colorado. Our Illinois department basically dealt with incoming bills by getting them to the right department and then processing them, which required a lot of focus with minimal distractions. Many employees of CCM are remote employees and work from their own homes.

I first started working at Christian Care as a temp in June 2014; I became the main mail sorter and worked at that for 9 months. In March of 2015, I got hired on full-time and started doing more computer work. In October of 2016 I transitioned to working from home, which I loved… but the work I knew how to do was growing scarce, and my attempt to learn one of the more complicated tasks proved to be much harder than I expected. So they switched me to a seasonal department in December, and when the work ran out in January I was let go.

So after my total of 2 years and 7 months working there, here are 8 things I learned in the office!

  1. The Importance of Community
    It was understood that having many remote employees meant that it was probably going to be harder for them to feel connected to the rest of the workers. Even our smaller office felt out of touch from the larger location at times. So the leaders tried to find ways for everyone to stay connected as a community in spite of the distance!

    – We gathered for chapel every Thursday and had devos every Tuesday
    – We had food and fellowship day once a month and all our remote area employees commuted in
    – There were email groups for prayers and praises
    – There were walking, baking and decorating contests throughout the year
    – Christmas brought Secret Santas and “Random Act of Kindness” challenges to get to know employees you didn’t know well
    – Skype, videos, pictures, conference calls and emails were utilized to bring everyone together at various times

    I loved the creativity that led my co-workers and I to make friends with each other and with those that we worked with on the other side of the country. Since the work was often very isolating, it was great to have so many technological and face-to-face outlets for making connections.

  1. How to Use the Right Hand Keypad
    One of the most practical things I learned while working at CCM was how to use the numeric keypad on the side of my keyboard. I had never had a need to type so many numbers before, and was not particularly fast at the keys on the top of the alphabet. So with the speedy data entry I needed to complete, I was forced to learn how to use the numbers on the side… and it wasn’t long before I was an expert at typing away with phone numbers, socials and certification numbers!

  1. Ask Questions
    My learning style is what I’m gonna call “instructional hands on with a guide”; I like being told what to do and then trying to do it while somebody watches me to make sure I’m doing it right. Attention to detail was very important in my work, so in order to learn exactly what I needed to do, it was important that I was able to ask questions.

    If you give me the ability to do written communication, I’ve realized that I can be a bit overwhelming with how long and rambly my emails/texts/Facebook messages are. I’m sure I annoyed my supervisors several times with how much I pestered them with questions until I learned how to condense and figure things out on my own. 🙂 But they were very patient, and the “make sure you know that you’re doing it right” mentality served me well. There were times when I had to figure things out based on my own expertise, but knowing when to ask questions and being willing to do the work to get the answers I needed saved me from a lot of mistakes.

  1. I Enjoy Simplistic Work
    As someone who has never had a dream job or a career plan, it’s nice to find something I like to do, and there were 3 distinct times where I had the kind of work that made me say “I enjoy doing this every day”.

    The first was the mail table. I liked physically handling the mail, I liked the organization of it, I liked having to rush to get it done and the satisfaction of getting through a Monday; I liked gaining enough of an expertise on it that I got to train the newbies; I liked knowing the answer to where a document went, and having a partner to sit next to and chat with.

    After that, I moved to the computer and became in charge of multiple tasks: indexing documents, sorting out the faxed documents, printing medical CDs, logging in received checks, and being the back-up mail person. Occasionally having so many responsibilities was a little stressful because I have a tendency to procrastinate, but I also loved the variety of jobs and the satisfaction of completing all of it.

    Lastly, I learned the task of “keying in RXs”, which was processing prescription costs. They were more complex than indexing, but their consistency made it easy to learn the ropes; they were interesting enough to not be monotonous, but routine enough that I could listen to music and still focus on them.

    Those 3 different phases of my work were times that I really enjoyed. I like the feeling of doing something that I know really way, and I like simplistic organizational tasks. So hopefully in the future I can find jobs that let me do the same kinds of things!

  1. My Handwriting Is Really Recognizable
    Since I did mail I had things that I wrote on, so people who did mail alongside me caught onto what my handwriting looks like. Which meant that, during our Secret Santa’s, I had to try and disguise my handwriting on cards and such by writing in different fonts or using my right hand.  But even when I did that, there were people who could always recognize that it was mine. So whether that means that they have good eyes for handwriting or that my writing is so distinctly “me” (and if it’s the former whether it’s a compliment or not), I am not sure. But I will have to come up with some new tricks in case this type of thing happens in the future. *starts collecting magazines and newspapers for cutting out words*

  1. Take The Initiative
    Being in the new job, it took me a while to feel the freedom to jump in with chitchat or share during devos without being specifically addressed. So when I started to feel myself getting closer with my co-workers and finding my place in the group settings, I wanted to get into the practice of taking the initiative.

    I’ve been working on improving my friendships the last few years, and “initiative” is one thing I’ve been focusing on. So I tried to send people emails to thank them if they said or did something encouraging. I tried to tell people what I appreciated about them when I thought of it. If I had an idea to make another person laugh, I tried to follow through on it. I am not always the best at conversing with people I don’t know super well, but remembering that I was half of the relationship helped my perspective. I made some great friends at CCM, mostly because they are super nice people and take the initiative themselves… but I am glad that I put the effort in that I did because I know we’ll still get together as friends even though we’re no longer co-workers.

  1. Stop Being Afraid
    Another thing I was focusing on the last few years was to not NOT do something because I was afraid. Not that I had to do everything that was scary, but if fear was the only thing holding me back, I had to find another reason or go through with it. I didn’t live by that entirely (there are lots of things I wish I had done or need to work on) but it did help me a couple of times. I had several opportunities to lead activities and teams during my time at CCM, and I enjoyed jumping into those even though it was a little intimidating.

    The thing I learn about not being afraid is that it doesn’t mean whatever I do is going to be perfect; being courageous doesn’t always pay off with a flawless performance or without being rejected. But taking that step and being willing to accept the outcome of the risk is something I can always learn to be better at. It’s something I’m going to keep in mind in the future, because even when I audition for plays or jump into a temporary job offered to me or initiate a conversation with someone who intimidates me, being willing to do it even if I make mistakes will help me become more courageous anyway. And that’s worth it.

The Story of Our Awesome House

One day as I was sitting at home in my kitchen in the year 2014, Elizabeth came up to me and said, “Hey you and I both have jobs, cars and are adults who are interested in independence… wanna buy a house together?” and I said, “Yes!”

I’m paraphrasing (obviously I don’t remember the exact conversation… it was over two years ago!) but that’s pretty much how this journey began. We both decided that we were ready to think about moving out… we knew that going in together would be cheaper, easier and less scary… and we had confidence that we could live in the same house without trying to kill each other! So thus began….

We knew pretty quickly that we wanted to get a house instead of an apartment. Neither of us liked the idea of spending several hundred dollars every month that never went towards anything. With a house we could do all of our own decorating and remodeling, we would be making an investment that would return our money in the long run, and if we got one that was big enough we could consider getting a roommate to help cover the costs. And since our parents let us continue living at home until things were settled, we had the time to save up for it.

Step 1.) We built up credit! We both got credit cards and made sure we paid off our car insurance and phone bills monthly. We needed at least a year’s worth of multiple payments for each of us in order to get a loan.

Step 2.) Save up for a deposit! I told my work friends that I wanted to save up $10,000 to cover deposits and immediate move-in expenses by the time we were ready to buy a house.

For almost two years we saved money, spent money, paid it off, and talked for many hours about all of our house plans. Finally, when Elizabeth was home from Haiti and we were all set financially, we jumped into…

In the spring of 2016, after getting an approval for a loan from the bank, we went to Re/Max Realty and met with Tim McCaslin to discuss our house-hunting plans.

We wanted a 3-bedroom house that was $85,000 or less; we wanted large living spaces that could comfortably seat a lot of people; we needed a long room that Elizabeth could use as a photography studio, and I needed a workspace as well; we also wanted two bathrooms, a garage, and a decent sized kitchen. We needed it to be fairly live-in ready, but we were okay with doing some cosmetic work (painting, flooring, that kind of thing).

Elizabeth, my mom, Tim and I looked at dozens of houses. We would give nicknames to each house that had potential, and list the pros and cons for each one. There were some houses that were instantly given a no, but we had a few favorites that we considered:

The Mexican House- A stucco house that kept getting cheaper but had a tiny kitchen and not quite the living room openness we hoped for.

The Kilgore House- A nice house in a good location that was right at the very top of our budget.

Elizabeth’s Favorite- Our favorite from our first round of online shopping that had large living rooms, but only one bathroom and tiny bedrooms.

The Metal House- This house was all metal on the upper level with a nice, hardwood basement; it was like living in a filing cabinet on top of a mahogany dresser. In another life we might’ve bought it and decked the top floor out in Star Trek and nerd décor, but the style was just a bit too bizarre for us.

The Auction House- This was a nice tri-level that we almost bought, but it was being auctioned off online and we couldn’t coordinate that with the bank.

We found a lot of “almost” and “if only” houses, but no “Yyyyes!” houses. But finally, one day, all that changed…

When we walked into the house owned by HUD for the first time, Elizabeth and I loved how large the living room was. The main floor had a large living space with a side nook, which connected to a long carpeted room with a fireplace, which connected to a long “conservatory” room with tall windows, which connected back to the living room! I literally ran in a circle around the whole area, falling in love with the unique but appealing setup. It also had 3 decent sized bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large back porch, a big kitchen, and a mostly finished basement that had a closed-in room that was just perfect for Elizabeth’s studio!

Walking out of this house, Elizabeth and I both knew that this was one that we could really see ourselves living in. This was the first one that I was emotionally excited about; we didn’t really even nickname the house, we just started calling it by its address.

Once we knew this was the one we wanted, we got a second opinion and figured out the estimated cost up front for necessary repairs. Knowing that we could make it work, we got ready to go in that Saturday and put a bid on it… but on Friday I got a text that somebody else had put in an offer, and the offer had been accepted.

We were disappointed, but Elizabeth and I decided to pray and wait for two weeks, waiting to see if maybe, maybe, the deal would fall through and the house would be up for sale again.

More than two weeks went by, and we looked at a few other homes, but this house still said “pending” online. So we kept waiting.

One day at my work we were having our Tuesday devotionals and the discussion was about miracles. During the whole discussion I was thinking about how THIS was the house we really wanted and I was silently praying that God would do a miracle and work it out. And when I got back to my desk, I had a text from Tim: “Guess what, the HUD house is back on the market; the buyer financing must have fallen through”.

I texted my sister and mom immediately! We raced to his office as soon as we were off of work and put our bid in. A second night of waiting and adjusting our bid, and two days later they had accepted our offer!

We then endured approximately a month of just waiting on paperwork to go back and forth… but finally, finally, FINALLY we got together with Tim and a representative of HUD on October 27th of 2016, signed a million papers, and OFFICIALLY BECAME HOME-OWNERS!

Elizabeth and I each excitedly posted a Facebook status at the same time with our great news, and we received our housekeys the next day. Immediately we started calling businesses for repairs and services that needed to be done in the house, and we went into full-blown remodeling mode.

We walked through the house and talked about what we wanted to paint, where we wanted to carpet, and what each room would be used for. Elizabeth, who has a great natural knack for style, came up with most of the ideas for how the rooms should look, and together we put our house together in our head.

Over the course of the next month we had three painting parties, took a trip out to IKEA for lamps and chairs, cleaned some carpets, replaced others, moved furniture from my old office that was closing down to our new house, had various plumbing and lighting appointments, bought a stove, and made CONSTANT lists. Well, at least I did; I actually had an official “New House Notebook” where I kept all the lists of our To-Dos, To-Buys, appointments and ideas.

On a fun side note, as we started to name the rooms we ended up with a Conservatory, a Study and a Lounge. Realizing that these are all rooms in the board game Clue, we tried to find ways to put the rest of the room names in our house: Kitchen, Dining Room, Billiard Room, Ballroom, Hall and Library. On top of that, we found a way to decoratively hide representations of each Clue weapon in our house: the Revolver, the Rope, the Lead Pipe, the Candlestick, the Knife and the Wrench. So if you ever visit our house, see if you can find all of them!

On Dec 3rd we had our super fun Housewarming Party, and on Dec 8th we officially moved into our home. We’ve been living here for almost 3 months now, and we love it. We’ve got several home renovation projects to look forward to this year, and we are anxious for the weather to get warm again so we can start working outside.

Late note added: about 2 months after we moved in, I got let go from my full-time job, and I have been hunting for another one ever since. I’ve had some moments of panic, yeah… but I saw God so clearly working with Elizabeth and me in this house-buying process that I know He’s going to take care of this financial aspect and provide the right job at the right time. This whole last year has been a good reminder of His faithfulness, so I continue to trust Him in my renewed season of job-hunting.

Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in this lengthily-blogged-about process! We look forward to hosting you in our home for years to come!

January: Another Fresh Start!

It has been ages since I blogged… and I have no idea if I will do any better at it this year. But I’ll get it started by writing two blogs for the month of January. Here goes the first… my 2016-wrap-up-and-2017-resolutions blog!

What Were My Goals Last January?
My Blog Goals: To reconnect with God, to find contentment in this season of my life, and to learn financial responsibility. I also added a blog later on about a 24 Book Reading Challenge I wanted to complete in the year.

Non-Blog Goals: To not let fear be the reason I don’t do something new, and to buy a house.

What Did I Do Last Year?
-I hit my 1 year mark of being an employee with CCM.
-I auditioned for the Polo theater and got to spend one of the most fun summers I’ve had in years acting in Godspell.
-I read a million books, but completed less than half of the books on my challenge.
-I was frugal and spendy and frugal and spendy, and then Elizabeth and I spent the entire last half of the year being spendy-spendy-spendy because WE BOUGHT A FLIPPIN’ HOUSE! (Not meaning a house that we’re going to flip, rather one that makes me flip out because it’s so awesome.)
-I went through a lot of change with my work, as I transitioned to working from home, and then joined a new department in the same company; some of it was stressful, and some was good.

Did I Complete the Goals?
Spiritual Goal: I did not do a great job of reconnecting with God this year, at least not the way I’d hoped to. But more on that later.

Contentment Goal: I think I did pretty well with contentment in this season of my life so far. The house was definitely an upside, and working from home has been great; considering the fact that there have been so many changes in my life, the last half of the year I have felt more excited and stressed than “content”. We’ll see how it goes now that I’m getting settled.

Financial Goal: Considering the fact that my sister and I bought a house and it is going to be entirely furnished by the end of the month with plenty of food, bills being paid, and my savings account getting filled up again, I think I can say that I completed the financially responsible goal. 🙂

Reading Goal: I was so confident that I could do my 24 Book Challenge, or at least most of it… but then I started it 3 months late, and I kept seeing other books I wanted to read or finding new challenges at the library that I couldn’t say no to, and then at the end of the year I got majorly stuck on Don Quixote… so yeah, that overachieving didn’t end very well. But I still read a whole lot of books, so it was a successful year for reading.

Fearless Goal: The past two years I have had the mantra of “don’t let fear be the reason not to do something new” in the back of my head, and so I drank some water to calm my butterflies in my stomach and headed out to Godspell with my brothers to audition last year… and it was extremely worth it. I also got to work backstage on the play following that, which was another fun experience. I’m not going to audition for everything, but I have definitely rediscovered my love for acting, and so I am going to keep an eye out on plays this year and hopefully find a good one or two to audition for.

House Goal: And lastly… I moved out. As everyone knows, Elizabeth and I accomplished our goal of buying a house, and I am so excited. We’ve been living in it for about a month, and some days I still find myself surprised that we actually did it… it’s no longer hanging over our heads on a to-do list… it’s done! That was for sure the highlight of my year.
What Are My Plans for 2017?
I don’t have a list of resolutions, but I do have a goal: I want to have the best year of my life so far.

Everyone who knows me knows that my ultimate goal is to “get married, have kids, be a stay-at-home wife and mom who homeschools her children”, yada yada yada. But whether that is or isn’t in my future, it is not my life right now. And right now, I’m in a great season! I am independently living in my own house with my sister… I have a good job that has helped me get this far… I have an area of ministry that I’ve been involved in for years at my church… I have friends aplenty who like me and enjoy doing fun activities… I have an adventurous spirit… and I’m single! I want to actively enjoy this season that I’m living in.

However, the only way to truly do that is to get back on track with God. If I am seeking and listening to God, then the rest will fall into place. So, my main goal this year is to actually, literally and practically make changes in my spiritual life. I have been apathetic for the past 3 years about that with the hope of changing, but I want to be proactive about it this year. My most important resolution will be to jump back into regular quiet times, study Scripture, pray for the girls in my ministry, and spend quality time in worship.

Other goals to make this the best year ever include:
…continuing to be socially initiative and hospitable to my friends and family
…being financially wise on a regular basis so that I have opportunities to do spontaneous fun things without going broke (weekend roadtrips, meals at Olive Garden, seeing a show, etc)
…getting an exercise bike and using it regularly in my living room, as well as learning healthy eating habits
…investing more strongly into the lives of my ministry girls
…and continuing to enjoy my creative outlets, such as blogging, acting, singing, dancing, reading, writing and cooking.

This is my plan! I don’t know how far I will make it, but I am going to do my best to make this a fulfilling and giving time of my life. Happy New Year, everyone!

Book Challenge: First Quarter Complete

I am officially ¼ of the way through my book challenge, and halfway through the original list! It is time for a blog about what I’ve read so far.



  1. Calamity (by Brandon Sanderson)
    This trilogy was really great. It has a fascinating premise based on really good world-building, and the plot moves quite quickly. The main character is super fun and intelligent with endearing quirks, and he’s surrounded by a solid and loveable cast of characters. Kept my interest all the way, took some great twists and turns, and Calamity was a solid ending for the series. Definitely gonna be rereading and then buying these books in the future!


  1. I didn’t feel like doing a chapter book, so instead I went and did a series of little picture books that you can read in a few minutes. Spending 2 hours at the library, I got through 38 picture books, which included every book I could find by Mo Willems and the entire “if you give a mouse a cookie” series. Since 38 is a lot, I won’t do an actual review here of them, but I’ll post the full list in the comments if you want to know which ones I read and liked.


  1. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Mark Twain)
    Well this was definitely much different than the movie! Rather than a sweet and silly love story accompanied by making better dance music and entertaining the neighborhood children, the book is all about Hank trying to secretly create and bring his “modern-day” technology into King Arthur’s world, which eventually leads to him and his factory of followers trying to overthrow the entire knight army.

His commentary throughout the book was entertaining though hard to understand, and I was intrigued by how the mindsets of the entire population was so fixed and different from our own; I didn’t think about how people would be so different in their modes of thinking than what we see as “reasonable”, and it was interesting to think of that being a major difference between us and people from other times and other cultures. Other than that, this book was fine; I know it was making points about technology or politics or something which was deep, but it was slow-moving and not the most interesting story. I will stick to the musical movie.


  1. I Feel Bad About My Neck (And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman) (by Nora Ephron)
    This very dry-humored look at the anti-perks of aging women (and other subjects) was written by the lady who, apparently, wrote the screenplays for 3 of my favorite romantic comedies (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Basically she just writes for Meg Ryan.) There was a whole chapter that I had to read twice because she was talking about how she fell “in and out of love with Bill” and it wasn’t until I finished the chapter that I realized she meant Bill Clinton. There were always very humorous moments that I could relate to (as a woman, not as an aging woman yet, since I’ve been told I’m still “a baby”.) It wasn’t always laugh out loud funny (though it got me in a few parts) but its gentle exaggeration, mellow authenticity and sweetly thoughtful ending made it to be a very pleasant, humorous read.


  1. Wuthering Heights (by Emily Bronte)
    Why did people like this book? I mean, if they think of it as a whole Gone With the Wind “this is what happens when horrible people fall in love but clearly can’t stop being utterly selfish” deep, tragic story, then I can see its appeal because that’s what it is. If anybody thinks it’s romantic, I believe you are wrong and I would love to know why you liked it. It was unpleasant to read, with very few redeemable characters in it; the few redeemable characters did have a surprising happy ending, which I was not expecting, so the story ended better than… well, better than every other part of the book went. I’m sure it was written well and all that rot, but by golly, it’s hard to read a book that revolves around so many horrible people!


  1. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (by Jenny Lawson)
    Ok, my big disclaimer is that there is a ton of swearing and inappropriate commentary in this book, so I would not recommend it to anyone who is bothered by that: but by golly, this book was hilarious! I laughed out loud so many times, and it’s hard to tell whether the crazy things that happen to Jenny OR her quirky mind and ways of dealing with things is funnier. I always like figuratively getting into the minds of other people, and she had some very intriguing chapters that dove into the ways that she thinks. Definitely very high on the entertainment factor, this book!


  1. Great Expectations (by Charles Dickens)
    This book was a kind of in-between slowness; it went fairly quickly while I was reading it, but it seemed to take forever. I was fairly interested in the story, but never intrigued. I didn’t dislike Pip, but I didn’t particularly care for him all the time, either; though I did care ABOUT him, which is different. And he learned his lesson at the end, so it’s all good. I did enjoy the characters of Herbert and Wemmick and Joe, and it had some fun moments of humor and quirkiness.

The ambiguously-happy ending threw me off when I first read it, but I think I’ve come to terms with how it turned out and believe that it’s plausible. The book I read had an extra except at the end that described Dickens’ “original ending”, and after reading it I don’t know which one I liked better. But as someone who likes happy endings, I’ll stick with the published one. Overall, not something I would reread often, but it was a fairly decent story I guess, albeit lengthy.

Well! It only took me 7 ½ months to get through 7 books! To be fair, I started 3 months into the year, so instead we’ll say it took me 4 ½ months… which leaves me with 21 books to read in the next 4 ½ months. Which means I have to read 3 times as many to get through the challenge twice, as is my plan, coming out to around a book a week. I’m done with the Godspell play, which ate away at my time, so if I devote my recreational activity around the house to reading books in this challenge instead of solely watching TV shows and cruising Facebook, I might make it. Of course I do have BOTH intimidating books to get through, as well as NaNo coming up in November and my continual house hunt. But it’s not over yet, so I haven’t given up! If I can get through 7 more books by the end of September, I think I’ll be in ok shape. So that’s my goal! We’ll see how it goes! 🙂

My 2016 Book Challenge!

A few months ago a friend of mine shared an article about a 12 category book challenge for 2016, and she tagged me in the post. I love to read, and challenges are fun, so I decided I was going to give it a go this year! But to make it more exciting, I’m going to try to go through it twice, and I even ended up tacking two more books onto the end of it. I’ll be reading the books in the order the article put them in.

I will write another blog about this at the end of the year, but here’s my introductory blog to tell you what the categories are, and what ideas I have for most of the categories. (Original article:


A Book That Was Published This Year
1. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson. The reason I’m starting this challenge so late is because the FIRST ONE ON THE LIST (which I said I’m doing in order) was a book that was published this year. So since my family has been trying to get me to read The Reckoners Series for a while, I quickly read the first two books in March and have now finally begun Calamity, which came out this year and officially begins my challenge!

  1. Unknown

A Book You Can Read In A Day
With 2 & 16 I figure I can just go to the library, find a book in the kid’s section and read it there, so I’m not going to plan ahead for this category.

A Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. When I asked a friend for a recommendation, this was one she mentioned, and since I have been meaning to read this, I added it to this category and used one of her other books for a later category.

17. Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. This popped into my head the other day as a book I can put in this category, since I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I knew the movies was based off of a book.

A Book Recommendation From A Librarian
4. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. This was recommended to me by my librarian friend Maria, the lady who originally tagged me in her post. I know nothing about this except where in the library to find it, so whee!

18. Bunnicula by James Howe. I asked my librarian friend Beth what book she could recommend to me, and this Bunny version of Dracula was her first choice, so we’re getting into some more interesting genres than just classics here!

A Book I Should Have Read In School
5 & 19; I couldn’t think of any books that I was supposed to read in school that I didn’t, so I’m assuming they mean a more worldwide “most people read this in school” rather than my specific experience… I might do some Shakespeare, but I still need to come up with some specific answers.


A Book Recommendation By A Family Member/Friend
6. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I got this recommendation from my sister Hannah, who I know loves to read and said that this book is hilariously funny, so I will be looking forward to finding that out that this year.

20. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. My friend Jami (who recommended Wuthering Heights to me) and I were talking about books when she mentioned that this was one she found fascinating, so I added it to my list.

A Book That Was Published Before I Was Born
7 & 21; again, there are lots of these books that are still on my “to read” list, so I’ll just pick one of the classics I’ve never read when I get to these categories.

A Book That Was Banned Before
8. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I remember seeing this movie long ago and not getting it, and of course I’ve seen the VeggieTales version, so it’s about time I read the original!

22. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank. This seems like one of those that everyone is supposed to read at some point, and I’ve always been interested, so I’ma give it a go.

A Book I Didn’t Finish
9. Wicked by Gregory MaGuire. This category was harder to come up with books for, but then I glanced at my bookshelf and remembered that I had bought Wicked, read the first chapter and never picked it back up again. So that is happening this year!

23. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. My Dad has been reading and really enjoying the Thursday Next books, and when he mentioned to me that I should read them and that The Eyre Affair was the first book, I remembered that I had tried to read it a few years ago and never finished!

A Book That I Own But Never Read
10. The Fiction Class by Susan Breen. I was worried that I wouldn’t find a book that fit this category, either, since I don’t usually buy books I haven’t read. But I bought this last year at a library book sale because it’s about fiction writing, and it was cheap, and why not? Was it a poor choice to buy a book I’ve never read? We’ll find out this year! 

24. Three by Ted Dekker. I’ve only read two books by Ted Dekker, and have heard many mixed reviews about him as an author and this book particularly. But I bought this so I could read it and have my own opinion, and by golly, I will do that now!


A Book That’s Intimidating
11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. How can you watch “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!” and not be intimidated by that huge copy of War and Peace that is half the size of him? But if Charlie Brown can read it, I can too!

25. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In one of the Ramona books, her mother has trouble getting through Moby Dick for her book club, and as Ramona flips through it she’s disappointed that it’s a picture-less, small-print book with very grown up words. It was intimidating to my young mind.


A Book I’ve Already Read
12/26a. Animal Farm by George Orwell. I remember finding this fascinating when I read this in school, and that was a very long time ago, so I figure I’ll retry it.

12/26b. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this in high school, didn’t get it at all, and now I’ve seen both movies and understand the plot, so I think on a reread this’ll make much more sense.

12/26c. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I read this years ago and found it fascinating, even though I didn’t always get everything he was saying, and I now own it and clearly need to reread it!

12/26d. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve already this, but 2 friends recommended it, so it’s going on as a possible reread.

Disclaimer: I couldn’t decide between these 4 books which two to reread, so I’m putting them all down and will either just read two or manage to add more to the challenge.

A Book That Was Made Into A Movie
13. Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I loved the Lizzie Bennet Diaries which was created by the Green brothers, and I watched the movie, and I need more modern books in this challenge, so we’re going with this one!

27. Watership Down by Richard Adams. I remember that this movie was terrifying… so to get over it I have to read the book!

A Play
14. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. My older sister loves this play, and I’ve heard lots about it but never read it, so this is a great chance to finally get to know Hannah’s favorite fictional character!

28. The Real Inspector by Tom Stopard. I asked my dad “what’s another play I should read?” and he went upstairs and found this book for me and so this will go on my list as the very last book!

So… if I can finish Calamity in early April, I will have 9 months to read 27 books, which will be an average of 3 books per month. Plus I’m going to try and read The Wheel of Time Series with my friend Kathy, and any other books I get when I go to the library… so we’ll see how well it goes! Stay tuned for the update in 9 months! 🙂

Why I Write Terrible Reviews About People

Last month at work, I had to participate in completing a few written reviews of people (including one review of myself). You know, the kind where they say “do you think this person is skilled at their job?” and “do they have good interpersonal skills?”, or “how do you think you could improve in your job?” and “what’s your greatest strength?”, etc.

And I don’t know WHY this is, but as soon as I start reading the questions in these surveys… something comes over me and I just can’t seem to take it seriously.

I mean, I know that giving feedback is important, and I know that it’s anonymous and the person isn’t going to see it, and I know that nobody’s going to fire me if I say the wrong thing so I should just be honest and professional… but somehow, the idea of reviewing people I don’t feel qualified to judge somehow makes me get a little panicky. And as a result, all I want to do is write sarcastic comments.

And it’s not like I even have anything bad to say about anyone! I have very high opinions about everyone I work with, so any review I give would most likely be positive. So what’s the big deal?

Well, my experience tells me that I don’t know the person enough to give super specific answers, so my first response is to write a rambly review full of disclaimers:

“I don’t really know what kinds of tasks Jane does, so I don’t actually know how knowledgeable she is at her job, but I’m sure she does great and knows exactly what she’s doing because I have no reason to think she doesn’t, and she’s super nice, so why not?”

But that’s hardly helpful at all, is it?
So I try to sound a little less like myself and a little more confident:

“Jane is a knowledgeable team-player who undertakes each task with a mentality of strong reasoning combined with a willingness to learn and a desire to make others feel at home. She displays a mixed skill set for gentle correction, adherence to instruction and the added ability to think for herself and make tough decisions in a given situation when the responsibility is thrust upon her.”

But then I just start laughing at myself because…seriously, isn’t that trying a little bit too hard? Like, am I just making all this stuff up because it supposedly sounds good? Do I actually know what any of that means? Would I ever actually say this in real life? In my defense to the latter, the way I write IS different than the way I speak, but it’s still so over the top…

Then finally, I get so disgusted with myself that I decide to just answer sarcastically with whatever comes into my head.

Is Jane flexible?
Yes, she is the greatest contortionist I’ve ever seen; she’s practically Elastigirl.

How are Jane’s interpersonal skills?
The skills of her interperson are quite astonishing, really, whenever she switches personalities.

How knowledgeable is Jane?
Not. At. All. Jane knows nothing and should be fired immediately.

No, of course, I didn’t choose the sarcastic options, no matter how sorely I was tempted. I generally ended up going with a condensed version of my second example; you know, the Random Big-Words Simulator.

But seriously, at the end of the survey I had to take about myself, the final question was something like, “What are some skills you would like to learn in your job?”, and I was SO tempted to say, “How to answer these questions without sounding pretentious!”

But because I didn’t ACTUALLY say that, I guess I will never learn.

Or maybe I’ll just get better in time.

Or maybe I’ll forever be a Feedback Failure.

I’m ok with any of those, really, as long as I don’t have to give Feedback about my Feedback. That could be a thousand times worse!