The Goal: By Eliyahu Goldratt. A Review. Book 7 of 52

I love it when books get their point across by way of story. What could have been a droll business case study of the effects that were worked through, and the results, was instead a magical story. I found myself living in the moments, working through the problems, and applying the solutions to the things that I do every day. In fact, there is already a few key points from this book on my whiteboard in my office.

This story does an excellent job of placing you in the story. You find yourself learning so much about manufacturing, and then seeing the little ways that you can apply the thought process that the main character is working through, in your life. I do not work at a plant. But, there are countless processes that function underneath me. One HUGE takeaway that I have, and am applying immediately is the following:

“Putting it precisely, activating a resource and utilizing a resource are not synonymous.”

In other terms, if you work for or with me, and you are reading this review, you need to read this book. There are many things that I will be rolling out in the near future. Very near.

All in all, 4 out of five stars. “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt deserves a place on your shelf if you have interest in changing how things work in you life. You might be surprised in all the ways you can apply the solutions. Book seven is finished! This 2018 Reading Challenge has been… interesting.

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

I Will Carry You: By Angie and Todd Smith. A Review. Book 6 of 52

I knew that I would be experiencing some roller-coasters during this reading challenge. Still on a high from ‘Crash the Chatterbox’ this one hit me. It hit so hard that I had to visit some places in my heart and mind that I have left barren for some time now. “I Will Carry You” is a breathtakingly raw look into dealing with life after loss. Not just any loss, the compounding and exhausting emotions around carrying a child that was found to be ‘incompatible with life’.

This book raised to the surface things that I, purposefully, have ceased any conversation on since my daughter, Zoey, was born. Many, many nights this week were spent crying in the dark, reliving my own losses. From a lifetime ago, the pain still exists. I am not going to lie, it wrecked me a little.

Okay, a lot.

But Angie and Todd Smith have a quote about dealing with the loss that I think that so MANY out there need to know.  For countless parents out there, working through a miscarriage or stillbirth will leave your lives scrambled, hearts broken, and faith shaken. I know that I felt abandoned by God for a long time. It did not stop me from reaching out, but the thought was always there. Anyway, the quote (as I am running out of my word limit):

“..all the while He is just waiting for the time that is right. He hasn’t forgotten, nor has he abandoned us.”

Folks, the long and short of it is this. This kind of loss, it is devastating. You must know that you are not alone in what you feel, what you are going through. But that does not mean that it is not unique. Or, that it is any easier. I think that there is a post building in me about this. Though I am not sure if it will ever come to view. Regardless, if you are in this moment, dealing with this, know that you are not alone. Know that there are many out there that understand that the pain you feel, will never go away. But, we have found some ways to make it hurt a little less from time to time.

“I Will Carry You” By Angie and Todd Smith is a MUST read, for everyone. Weather you have experienced loss or not, read it. Without a doubt 5 out of 5. Very, very emotionally hard to get through, but happy to own, and will read again.

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

Crash the Chatterbox: By Steven Furtick. A Review. Book 5-52

On the heels of finishing “The Giver” quartet I dove into “Crash the Chatterbox” by Steven Furtick. I know of the author, as my beloved bride and I watch some of his sermons from time to time. But, I really was not ready for what this book stirred in me. This is what excited me the most about this book.

There is so much that Furtick hits you with, from the start of the book. Heavy, heavy stuff. But this is displaced with fairly transparent views into how the very topic that he is asking you to think about has affected him. But that, in no way, made them less challenging. There is one quote that has been sticking with me since I read it.

“Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”.

As a dad, there have been so many times that I have wondered about some of the struggles in raising children. We all have them. Some of us write about them, others do not. However, being a cranio dad. Man, let me tell you. The times that I have been on my knees crying and screaming at God are countless. Begging to take on the pain for my daughter, to have her get a break, to not have to go through whatever event we are going through. Man, my conversations with God are awesome.

But, still reeling from the context of this book, something was made clear for me. Look for more on this topic in the days to come.

All in all I would say 4.7 out of five.  Add it to your shelves and devote some time to what may come from reading this book.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

Son: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 4-52

After making great headway on the books I wanted to read this year, life became life. However, I finished “Son” on time. Having had a weekend to digest all that this tome entailed, and wanting to keep the momentum moving, here is my review.

Gut wrenching heartache. Having the ability to read all four books of the quartet, back to back, has been astounding. “Son”, by far, the longest, takes some of the craziest turns out of the four book in “The Giver” quartet. I had heard from many that this book was highly favored in the series. Though I found the book to be amazing, I also found it harder to follow.

There is such a departure from the rhythm. Trust me, I stay that knowing that based on what all is covered by “Son” that this departure was needed. Regardless, there were times that I had to re-read multiple chapters, listen to the audio again and again, all in an effort to make sure that the leaps the story was taken were intended.

Still, it was a fantastic book. Not my favored in the series, least favored to be frank. But still a very good book. The arc that the protagonist takes is a wild and crazy ride. I found myself wanting to dive into the story and be there, to place my hand on their shoulder, out of comfort and guidance. Times that I was internally screaming for joy, and others that I was wracked with sorrow.

But there is one thing that just irks me. One thing that I have had to read, re-read, and listen to multiple times. The conclusion. Things, all things, come together. The climax has been built, laid out, sullied, and then displayed for all. My heart was racing, pages were turning. Each word was being read with a sniper like accuracy. Then, in a flash, it was over. The end. Perhaps it is the quick ending of the entire saga why this is my least favorite book out of the four.

Three and a half out of five stars is all that I can give. Pales in comparison to the books that preceded it, but still worthy of reading by all. I may come back and read it again later, just to see how my mind has changed.

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

Messenger: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 3-52

For once, there was continuity, from the beginning. However, that made me want to devour the words on the pages even more. With every turn there was a flurry of thoughts, connections, and wonder.  “Messenger” is by far the most intense of the first three books in this quartet. Much like as in “The Giver” and “Gathering Blue” there were many, many moments where I had to turn back the page. Not because I was lost, but because I found something amazing.

Through the entire last half of the book, I was on the edge of my seat. Wondering what was going to happen next, uttering prayers for characters of a book. I, once again, saw another one of my children in this books protagonist. My son David shares so much with the character, that there were moments where I could close my eyes and see David, a little older, going through the events. This was both a good and a bad thing.

It is hard to NOT read these books through the eyes of a parent. Even harder to rationalize how I may have read them when I was younger. I would challenge any parent to read “Messenger” and NOT see at least some glimpse of your child in one of the characters.

Out of the three books that I have read for my (self-imposed) 2018 Reading Challenge, I think that this one would be my second favorite. Perhaps I need to create a ranking list. All in all 4.9 out of 5 stars. If you have not purchased the quartet, you should. Then read it all and let me know what you think. All of this, and I still have one more to go.

Gathering Blue: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 2-52

Sorry for the delay. Between snowstorms and putting together the announcement for the next addition to our family, life has been full. If you missed the announcement, you can find it here. Please check it out, it took far too long for me to put together. However, I am happy with it nonetheless.

Without further ado, my less than 300 word spoiler free review of “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry.

On the heels of finishing “The Giver” I dove into “Gathering Blue”. I was begging for continuation, closure, and solace. It was quickly made apparent that I was not going to get these things. But, what I did find was something amazing. Perhaps it was because I had just finished “The Giver” that I was able to immerse myself into the setting so quickly. It is also, most likely, the case that I yet again saw the protagonist as one of my children, my daughter. It was not until the last few chapters that ALL of it started to come together.

When it started to collide, I found myself reading at a breakneck pace. Pages conquered in minuets, if not seconds. Flipping backwards to see if I read something right, honing in on what was happening. My heart was racing, and there were tears in my eyes as I got to the end. A quite from early on resounded loud and true as I put the book down, sighing in some closure and relief. “Take pride in your pain; you are stronger than those who have none” is a mantra to keep close to your heart.

With the same tenacity, as I finished “Gathering Blue” I started “Messenger”. With many of the same hopes carrying over from “The Giver” as before. Seeking more, seeking closure, seeking the rest of the story.

I would give this book a strong 5 out of 5. When I started reading it, the rating was hovering around a 3. But, upon completion it has rocketed to my 2nd or 3rd favorite book of all time. Worth the read as a standalone, but I think better after reading “The Giver”. Looking to pick up a copy, use my link here: “Gathering Blue”. This is not an affiliate link.

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

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.