The Giver: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 1-52

I am not sure what my apprehension was behind not reading this series. Until I was challenged by a friend on Facebook for my self-imposed 52 book reading slurry, I just cast it aside. Perhaps it has something to do with the “Left Behind” series that started just two years later, which I have read, and do not like. I recall there being a love for this book, accolades showered like shooting stars from the mouths of every reader. Much like that of “Left Behind”. However, I was challenged to read this book, in fact the quartet. Having finished it (in two days) here is my (spoiler free) review.

“The Giver” starts off slow, rhythmic and lulling. Not painstakingly slow like other books I have read. Almost enjoyable. Perhaps it was, in part, due to the winter season that the pace was restful. However, Lowry is a skilled writer. Well adept in the art of building a climax. Even better in letting the climax drive the story, pulling at all of your emotions. There is subtle imagery that is used. Without trying too hard you find yourself looking through the eyes of the protagonist, even if you do not want to.

There is a very particular point that the metronomic pace is shattered. Perhaps the moment that I wish I was warned about before reading at work. Thankful for a door that I could close, and an undisturbed few moments to collect my thoughts. Combined with my projections of one of my own sons onto one of the characters, I found my heart racing more often than not. I felt pulled to read the last half of the book as fast as I could. To reach the end and find out the conclusion.

“I was yearning to languish in its azure pools filled to the brim with potential and hope.”

When I did reach the end, I found that I was yearning to languish in its azure pools filled to the brim with potential and hope. But, it was not to be. There is closure, but I was left wanting more, so much more. I screamed, not in my head, not in my heart, I screamed “THAT CANNOT BE THE END”! I fought the urge to research. To take to task and find out what happened after the final words of the book. Oh how that sentence has haunted me. “But perhaps it was only an echo”.

All in all, I will give this book a 4.9 out of 5. It has risen to my top ten. If you have not read it, do yourself a favor and do so. Right now. Seriously. Go and buy it. Head to a library and check it out. Just read it. Trust me.

In full transparency, I am on the second day of my second week. But I am almost done with my third book.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Reading is challenging during the winter storm

As I awoke yesterday to a fresh, white, blanket of snow, I knew what I was going to hear. “The Richmond offices are closed due to inclement weather” the voice echoed on the other end of the call. A flurry of texts ensued as I alerted my staff of this event. Wondrous thoughts of sitting by the fire and finishing my second book, perhaps starting my third, of my 2018 Reading Challenge lulled me back to sleep.

Boy, did I sleep. I finally had a chance to get some rest. For the past few months I have been running at full speed, tilting all the windmills in my path. Perhaps it was the cold weather, the radiant views as the sun streaked across through the barren trees, but I relaxed. I rested. I woke up late. The kids were going outside to enjoy their snow day. Though, truth be told, snow days do not exist as a homeschooling family. Be that as it may, they were filled with excitement to run outside and dive into the snow that caused a day off. All one and a half inches of it.

Having spent a better portion of my life in regions that truly understand snow, it was a little laughable. But, to have some time to relax, time with family, is always a blessing. We quickly made plans to clean, organize, and de-clutter. These are never ending tasks when you have three children ages five and under. I assure you that the hurricane that is them trying to ‘help’ clean is far worse than the snow that kept me home. But we did these things just the same.

I watched them bounce up and down as we talked about snow, and smile chocolatey smiles as they had their hot coco. I handled the negotiations as to why I felt we would not be watching any more Christmas movies, even “Christmas Train” (or Polar Express as some of us call it), just because of the snow. They tried. It was adorable. But, it was an amazing day.

Near the end of it I realized that I had lost the opportunity to read as I had intended. It was the end of the day, the kids were going to sleep, and I was just relishing in the relaxation that I received from this unexpected day. In the quiet of the night, while I soothed my youngest back to sleep (for the millionth time) I read a little. Happy, and content with my progress, I logged in at 50% complete on my second book. Slowly, still reflecting back to the cool weather, and the day off, I lulled myself back to sleep in preparation for the day to come.

I hope to have a post on my thoughts on the first book, “The Giver”, sometime this weekend. Stay warm out there, and remember to take time to enjoy the unexpected gifts that are a snow day.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Let the reading begin!

In true form, I have begun the task that I set fourth for myself. For those that missed it, HERE I set a challenge to read a book a week. One day in, I am about 3/4 of the way done with “The Giver”. Now, I will not be saying anything about this book now. For that, you will have to wait until next week when I post my synopsis on our blog. I have also created a wishlist for the books that I am going to be reading this year. As I purchase books, they will be removed. The books are loaded in reverse order of the order that I will be reading them. If you feel like helping, please do. If you want to read along, that is a starting place for you as well.

Anyway, back to indulging myself in the finer things in life.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Wishlist link (For those on other social media than our blog): http://a.co/0vBuT7E

In the coming year…

I know, you are most likely all TIRED of reading resolution after resolution. However, I wanted to document a challenge that I gave myself. See, not so long ago, in a land that seems far, far, away, I was an avid reader. How avid? It was a common occurrence for me to be working through three books, at once, all in a week or so. Yeah, that avid. I miss it. I miss reading. I miss what it does to my mind, and my way of thinking.

So, the other day, I reached out on Facebook. I asked for 52 books that I have not read, first come first serve. All to get back into it. One book a week. That is my goal. Well, my friends responded rapidly. So, here is the list (below). These are the books, and the order that I will be reading them in, starting in just a few hours. Additionally, I will be posting a SHORT synopsis (300 words or less, directly correlated to the length and complexity of the topic(s) covered in the book) the week after reading it. I will most likely give each book a 1-10 rating and include a link to the book for any that are interested.

I ask that you help keep me accountable on this. If you are not seeing a post on Monday or Tuesday, call me out on it. I miss reading, and I want my kids to see me entrenched with it as they are reaching their formative years of reading. 2017 was a wild ride, and I know that 2018 is going to be crazy. But, let’s all make the best of it. New year, new slate, new book… not just an empty page. May 2018 be amazing for all of you. If you are looking for me, my nose will be in a book.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

 

Book Title Author Start Finish
1 The Giver Lois Lowry 1/1/2018 1/6/2018
2 Gathering Blue Lois Lowry 1/7/2018 1/13/2018
3 Messenger Lois Lowry 1/14/2018 1/20/2018
4 Son Lois Lowry 1/21/2018 1/27/2018
5 Crash the Chatterbox Steven Furtick 1/28/2018 2/3/2018
6 I Will Carry You Angie and Todd Smith 2/4/2018 2/10/2018
7 The Goal Eliyahu Goldratt 2/11/2018 2/17/2018
8 The Alienist Caleb Carr 2/18/2018 2/24/2018
9 The Magician: Apprentice Raymond Fiest 2/25/2018 3/3/2018
10 The Magician: Master Raymond Fiest 3/4/2018 3/10/2018
11 Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger 3/11/2018 3/17/2018
12 The Art of Learning Josh Waitzkin 3/18/2018 3/24/2018
13 The Remains of the Day Kazup Ishiguro 3/25/2018 3/31/2018
14 Appointment with Death Agatha Christie 4/1/2018 4/7/2018
15 Jesus Land Julia Scheeres 4/8/2018 4/14/2018
16 The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling Henry Fielding 4/15/2018 4/21/2018
17 The Bone Clocks David C. Mitchell 4/22/2018 4/28/2018
18 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Steven King 4/29/2018 5/5/2018
19 The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chobosky 5/6/2018 5/12/2018
20 The Sin of White Supremacy Jeannine Hill 5/13/2018 5/19/2018
21 The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingslover 5/20/2018 5/26/2018
22 A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren 5/27/2018 6/2/2018
23 The Last Arrow Erwin McGinnis 6/3/2018 6/9/2018
24 Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides 6/10/2018 6/16/2018
25 The Color of Magic Terry Prachett 6/17/2018 6/23/2018
26 House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski 6/24/2018 6/30/2018
27 Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith William T. Vollmann 7/1/2018 7/7/2018
28 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 7/8/2018 7/14/2018
29 Dragon Teeth Michael Chriton 7/15/2018 7/21/2018
30 Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut 7/22/2018 7/28/2018
31 Contagious Jonah Berger 7/29/2018 8/4/2018
32 Cryptonimicon Neal Stephenson 8/5/2018 8/11/2018
33 Outlive Your Life Max Lucado 8/12/2018 8/18/2018
34 Storm Front Jim Butcher 8/19/2018 8/25/2018
35 1632 Eric Flint 8/26/2018 9/1/2018
36 Inverted World Christopher Priest 9/2/2018 9/8/2018
37 The Magicians Lev Grossman 9/9/2018 9/15/2018
38 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Neil deGrasse Tyson 9/16/2018 9/22/2018
39 Some Buried Caesar Rex Stout 9/23/2018 9/29/2018
40 Invisible Cities Italo Calvino 9/30/2018 10/6/2018
41 Jennifer Government Max Berry 10/7/2018 10/13/2018
42 Liberty Defined Ron Paul 10/14/2018 10/20/2018
43 The Heart Goes Last Margaret Atwood 10/21/2018 10/27/2018
44 The Circus of the Earth and the Air Brooke Stevens 10/28/2018 11/3/2018
45 The Three Body Problem Cixin Liu 11/4/2018 11/10/2018
46 Boneshaker Cherie Priest 11/11/2018 11/17/2018
47 Leave it to Jeeves PG Wodehouse 11/18/2018 11/24/2018
48 Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea Guy Delisle 11/25/2018 12/1/2018
49 The Stupidest Angel Christopher Moore 12/2/2018 12/8/2018
50 At the Mountains of Madness HP Lovecraft 12/9/2018 12/15/2018
51 Unholy Night Seth Grahame-Smith 12/16/2018 12/22/2018
52 Prodigal Summer Barbara Kingslover 12/23/2018 12/29/2018

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

Here I sit, on the days counting down to Christmas, in my office. Headphones on, the surreal sounds of Bach’s Chaconne, Partita No 2 in D Minor enrobe me. In true form, I take pause, and find myself reflecting. Not just on this day, not just on this season, but on the last five and a half years. All while staring at a picture frame hanging on my wall.

Yesterday the team that I lead and I celebrated the holidays at lunch. It was a time of food, gifts, and conversation. We did a Secret Santa drawing this year, the favored gift being that of Starbucks Gift Cards. Hey, my analysts live on caffeine. I was given a beautiful bottle of scotch, which I cannot wait to open. Then, amidst the fanfare and thankyous, a bag was handed to me. My team got together to get me something. This was unexpected. But they informed me that there were two things in the bag. One is kind of a gag. The other, very much not so.

I reached in, opening the gag gift first. I actually really loved it. It is a set of boxing gloves that they all signed. There is a lot of meaning in them. Albeit a humorous gift, it is one that I have on my wall for all to see. Then, I reached into the bag. My hands found something hard and square. As I withdrew it, the tissue paper fell away.  The shadow box I was holding contained so much for me to take in

I noticed that the table was silent as I looked at the picture.

A collage of photos of my daughter. Mixed in were some of our family, but she is the star. This surrounded a letter. As I began to read it, my eyes filled with tears.

The letter read:

“We are pleased to inform you that a $200 gift has been made to Children’s Hospital Foundation in honor of Zoey to support Craniosynostosis services at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU by The Business Performance Team”

Picture Frame

I have never, ever, had to fight back tears so hard in my life. My heart swelled, my breath stalled in my lungs, and the most unintelligible string of “words” ever to leave my mouth in my adult life… happened.

I cannot fully describe what this gift means to me. As a leader, a mentor, a dad, a Cranio Dad, an advocate, or just a person. To have the team that I work with do something like this hits somewhere between validation and encouragement. That others are seeing what I have been doing. That they see what it means to me to be so lucky to be Zoey’s dad. I do not think that I will ever be able to thank this team enough.

Now, it hangs, in full glory and view, on the wall in my office. Serving as an ever-present reminder that I have an amazing team. Adding to the reasons that I love my job, what I do, and who I work with. It has already been a conversation piece. A catalyst into a conversation what my life is like as a cranio dad, and for our cranio family. I hang it proudly, with a set of signed boxing glove next to it.

 

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

 

An open letter to my beloved bride on the event of our seventh wedding anniversary

My beloved,

Well, here we are. Rounding out the seventh year of our marriage. My, oh my, look how far we have come. Last night, as we sat and tried to watch The Crown, while dealing with a very sick baby, there was a moment of pause. The TV volume was low, you were bundled up under a blanket, sleepily transfixed on the story. Salem, our beloved border collie, was asleep at your feet. From down the hall the sounds of our sleeping children filled the air. All stuffed up with the weather changes, the chorus of snoring was… beautiful.

You had your hands cradling your stomach, gently holding our unborn fourth child. Had the propane not run out just the day before, there would have been a fire. That will be fixed today. Sorry about that. But that fire would have brought a warm orange glow under the trove of stocking that we hung yesterday. Who knew that so many socks would look that impressive on such a long mantle? Or that the little ceramic village that you have been collecting over the years would look so amazing? I am sure that you did. You have always had an eye for design.

Perhaps there was something that you saw in me, seven years ago. For I can think of no real reason why I am so lucky to be your husband. I am always in awe of your love, support, compassion, and endearment. Even through the frustrating times that we have seen, you have been amazing. You have been steadfast in your desires for me to do my best. You have been my rock, and allowed me to be yours. Through everything, you have been the earthly embodiment of all things good and perfect for me, and our children.

Yes, our children. The growing brood of independent, smart, witty, funny, laughing, stress-us-out extension of our love. Never before has there been such proof to be careful what one prays for. Regardless, even when you think that you are failing, you are excelling in ways that many others could not even come close too. In the rare time that we find ourselves taking a step back and evaluating our little ones, what do we see? A rambunctious group of defiant protesters? No. We see brilliant minds testing the limits of their existence, and reason, with the purest intentions of figuring out life. We see teamwork unhindered by ability. Above it all, we see compassion and joy. All that is good in them comes from the work, love, and patience that you pour into them. We are all better for it.  I never grow tired of exclaiming your accolades as a mother, teacher, and counselor.

When we started this journey, there was us and a dog. We knew not what mountains or valleys we would have to transit to get here. Heck, we did not even know here was a place. But, it is where we are. It is still us and the dog, but now we have three amazing kids, and one more on the way. Countless seasons behind us,. All of the unknown, untamed, wilderness ahead of us. But that is the thing. No matter what lies ahead, we will tame it together. For seven years we have been side by side, hand-in-hand, walking through this life. Occasionally one of us standing in the gap (mostly me, it is what I do) but always moving forward.

I am so happy that it is you. Over the last 2,557 days, I have found more than 10 times that number of new reasons that I love you. Every day, another reason (or a list of reasons) is added. So, here is to seven amazing years my love. And to an eternity more.

 

Love,

Your husband.

    It snowed last night.

    I woke to a white capped winter wonderland, and a list of things to do. I smirked as my thoughts drifted to all those local residents who probably saw this is the apocalypse. I have to admit I felt a little shame as I realize I was relying on other people’s fear of this weather. However, knowing that this meant that I would have decent travel, I got up, donned my flannel shirt and jeans, and got out the door.

    As I walked my car I looked back and saw my children, wide-eyed with excitement, faces pressed against the glass of our front window. Every part of me that is a dad uttered a small prayer that they keep the wonderment that is the season. That they hold fast to the childlike joy that is all things winter. Playing in the snow, building snowmen, hanging Christmas lights, all of it.


    The peace of the open road, the sound of Beethoven softly playing over the radio, these are the moments. In astute reflection I paused as the red light glared at me. This season is so much more than just a cold winter’s holiday.


    I am reaching a height of purpose that I could not even ink out from the base where I started. My home is full of love, passion, understanding, and joy. This more than warms the heart. My job satisfaction is at an all-time high, even as I face new beginnings with my promotion. My faith has been continuously reassured with every struggle and victory. This season is good.


    These thoughts are juxtaposed with the view out my windshield. This is the weather that begs for our melancholy. The deep, dark gray skies cascading against the cool white snow. The ceaseless creaking as the wind blows through the snow laden boughs above. The shocking silence as even nature seeks respite against the cold.


    The light turns green. As my car navigates the barren road every second brings a beauty that negates the misanthropic thralls of my mind. I smile as I accelerate. Feeling all of the parts of me coalesce; dad, husband, and a little bit of lumberjack muddled in, as I own the road.


    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Four

    So, where were we? Oh yeah there was an electrical burning odor in the air, and the light was on but not turning off. What a great place to be! Sigh.

    With militaristic precision, I called for my wife to flip the circuit breaker back to off. Knowing what I must do, I asked her to keep the kids out of the room while I ran to my favorite store, Lowes. About 5 minutes, and $5 later, I was walking out with a new light switch in hand.

    Asking Kati to, yet again, corral the kids and ensure that the circuit was still off, I got to work. When the power is off, light switches and outlets are quick and easy tasks. This one was no different. I set the switch to the on position and put it into the wall. 

    So we found ourselves facing, yet again, another moment of truth. With the kids in the living room anxiously awaiting the outcome I stood in the room. Glaring at the light I asked my beloved to flip the circuit. In a flash, the light came on and was bright! I walked over to the wall, confidently out stretch my hand, and flip the light switch. This time there was an exclamation for my wife as it was a pop at the circuit breaker and she informed me that the panel was now buzzing. Hearkening back to what my dad told me when I was eight, I knew what I had to do. 

    Sometimes it takes me a little longer to realize that I am beat.

    Begrudgingly I called Woodfin, a local electrician and HVAC company here in Richmond Virginia. They’ve done a lot of work for us in the past, and I’ve always been awesome with what they do. Thanks to the busy time of year, we were told they would be about a week before somebody come out. I explained that I have three children ages 5 and under, 1/3 of my house was without power, and the electrical panel has a horrible buzzing sound whenever power was running through it. Someone was there within an hour.

    Electrician that came told me that he has seen it all, and this is actually pretty common here in Richmond. Between the houses built in the 70’s, a bunch of “fixes” and “upgrades” done between the 80’s and 90’s, and just general “craftsmanship”, having electrical issues is pretty common. He diagnosed that there was a long-standing problem with the circuit breaker. Apparently, I don’t know why, but installing a new light pushed the old circuit breaker beyond its breaking point. He helped sort out spaghetti monster like nest that I found when I remove the ceiling fan, it only contained one always live wire. In order to make sure that our house did not burn down he put in a couple of temporary replacement breakers. He also helped me make sure that everything was in working order before he left.

    Woodfin descended upon my home two weeks later.

    So after 2 weeks, over $2,000 later (beds $500, light $30, new switch and cover $5, replacing the entire electrical panel and breakers $1800), my kids now have an amazing bunk bed without a ceiling fan and light switch that works. I hope that this journey has brought some humor to you, in hindsight it has for me. I think the most important thing that you, my dear readers, can take from the story is the fact that you should always know what you can and cannot do. You need to know who you can call when you reach a point that help is needed. Most importantly, always over budget every single project.

    This is my haphazard attempt at giving you guys part four, I had a really good one written the other day. If you look at the post from yesterday you can understand why I’m more than a little frustrated. As a father I’ve always come to expect the unexpected. This little project proved to be no different. I hope that never changes. Even through frustration and angst, it’s still so damn fun to be a dad.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    Know what’s awesome?

    Technology. Know what is not awesome? technology that fails. On the market for a new keyboard for my computer….

    Used google drive to do voice to text for today’s post. You know, part four of the $2,000 bunk bed saga. Got home, logged into my computer, opened drive, and then it happened.

    EVERY time that my @razer #blackwidow keyboard updates, a random key on my keyboard gets “stuck”. Not physically, just randomly. Causes me to have to restart (just unplugging does not work) my computer. This time, it wiped out the entire post with a long string of letter B’s.

    A little too frustrated, going to take it out on some home improvement items that I have on my plate.

    What keyboards do you have, and love?

    Let me know.

     

    Part four will post later tonight.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Three

    After working through the emotional distress of taking apart the beds that I had made, it was time to do something easier, but a little scary, electrical work. After taking exhaustive measurements of all the rooms in the house, we knew that there was no way we could have bunk beds AND a ceiling fan in the same room. Call it what you will, but we saw a trip to the ER as a very real reality if this was left as the décor.

    I grabbed a step stool, being tall has some perks, and took to disassembling the fan. This task, in and of itself was easy enough. But, it should be noted that I do NOT like playing with electrical work. Need a wall built or taken down, sure. Want the plumbing rerouted, on it. But electrical is the one thing that I have always been cautious of. I think that my dad put it best, and the fear of God into me about it when he told me; “Of all the things that you can do around the house, electrical is the one that will most surely kill you”.  I was eight.

    Regardless, the fan came down easy. As I removed the housing my nightmare began. A spaghetti monster of white encased electrical wires uncoiled like a serpent from the junction box in the ceiling. I was expecting two wires to be there, not six. So, I caught my breath, saying a few words that I most likely should not have, and began sorting it out. I had already turned off the light switch that ran the fan. But, I felt an all too familiar bite of my dear nemesis, 110 volts. With the power off at the switch, there were still live wires!

    I quickly had my beloved find and turn off the circuit to the kid’s room. Fun note, the breaker that runs the light and outlets in my kid’s room also runs one hall light, an outlet in the master, the light in the family room and the fan, but not the light portion of the fan, between the family room and the kitchen. Yeah, have fun with that. That allowed me to finish removing the fan, and install the new light. Anxious to get the beds together I stood in anticipation as my wife flipped the breaker for the room.

    I squinted my eyes as I was blinded and my ear picked up the electrical hum.

    There was light! I let out a sigh of relief as I walked over to the light switch (or should I say slider? Dimmer? sigh, whatever). It was in the off position. I did not think that this was important as I slid the switch to on. Boy was I wrong. There was a loud “POP”, the telltale make you cringe sound of working with electrical, from the light switch. The light stayed on, and there was a faint electrical odor in the air.

    Trust me folks, it spirals from here. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this saga. Missed part one, or part two? Feel free to read them. Trust me, this ends in a flabbergasted mess.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.