Tag Archives: learning my name

blitzkrieg book reviews, part 2

during my blogging hiatus i still read books! here are the second set of 10 mini-reviews, in no particular order…

Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
a stunning summary of new research about children and teenagers. some of it is truly counter-intuitive and surprising stuff (that still makes total sense as the authors unpack it). a must read for parents and youth workers.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
had heard praise for this book for years, and am glad i finally got around to reading it. a wild crime novel set in a “could have been” current day reality that doesn’t exist, with lots of insights into stuckness, addiction, self-loathing, relationships, power, and tribes.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
massively creative and worthwhile teen fiction, about teenage suicide (on the surface). but really about the horrible way teens can treat each other, and how it feels to be the recipient of that. worthwhile reading for teens and adults who care about them.

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
the fascinating true story of henry ford’s attempt to create a culturally-influencing utopia in the amazon rainforest, with all kinds of implications for what a friend called “poisonwood business” (really, any exporting of culture, or cultural superiority). a bit long and repetitive at times, though — it would have been a better book at 100 less pages.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose
i found this book thanks to a.j. jacobs’ (the author of the year of living biblically and the know-it-all) recommendation. for those of us who grew up in conservative evangelicalism (and still associate with it), it’s a empathic, human look at our freaky little subculture.

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
not an easy read, but worth it. dark leads us through a pithy ride of pop culture and high-brow literary references, along with some great biblical framing, on a journey of beautiful, spiritual skepticism.

I Can See Clearly Now by Brendan Halpin
after my 5th halpin book, i think i can say he’s one of my top 10 american fiction writers. this only-slightly-veiled, fictionalized story of the 20-somethings who came together to write the “schoolhouse rock” saturday morning educational bits in the 70s is all i love about halpin: great story, fantastic character building, great pop culture grounding.

Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Brendan Halpin
i love halpin’s writing and the way he builds characters. this unlikely romance spends most its real estate developing two separate stories, which, in an ending that is just slightly too expected (by the time you get to it), weave into each other. still, great writing and worth reading.

Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age by Ariel Schrag
nice collection of short comics about my favorite group of people: middle schoolers. most of them show the painful side of early adolescence.

Learning My Name by Pete Gall
an excellent, shockingly honest exploration of identity (particularly, identity as a follower of jesus). seriously, no one writes with the level of vulnerability and honesty that pete gall writes with.

monday morning update, april 13, 2009

paristhe weekend that was: what a weekend! liesl and i are in paris for 6 days, and that’s a pretty hard weekend to beat. we arrived on friday mid-morning, and found our way to our hotel via trains and the metro (the subway). we had a little confusion at one point, because the train into paris was free on that day for some reason, but you need a ticket to exit the train station; so when we got to the station where we had to transfer to the metro, we walked up and down stairs several times (pulling our luggage) trying to figure out how to get out to where we could buy a ticket for the rest of the way (and we couldn’t seem to find any workers who spoke any english).

our hotel is not the ritz. in fact, it’s kinda dumpy. but it’s a great location, steps from a metro station and a short walk to the eiffel tower. after unpacking, and a quick lunch at a cafe, we took a short nap, then walked over to the eiffel. it was a mob scene (which it has been the two other times we went back), with lines that looked to be about three hours long. so we still haven’t gone up it. we wandered over to the sienne river, and decided to hop on a river cruise thing. pretty touristy, but that’s what we are! liesl needed her re-charge time (she’s not a power-through-the-day tourist like i am in places like this). so we walked over to rue cler (a great walking street about two blocks from our hotel) and found another cafe for dinner.

saturday we got going at the crack of 9:30, and made our way (stopping for fresh pastries, of course) to sacre coeur, the beautiful basilica at the top of the hill in montmartre. we were supposed to meet a friend of a friend who lives here, but never did find each other. after touring the basilica with a thousand friends (!), we walked around montmartre, stopping for a crepe, and checking out all the artists working in the street. then we headed down to the louvre. we bought a paris “museum pass”, as our guidebook suggested, and it’s been the single best find of the whole trip. not only is it a good deal, price-wise, it has enabled us to skip the waiting line at every museum, and plenty of other locations, and walk right in. we hit the highlights at the louvre, then went outside and laid on the lawn for a while (it was a gorgeous day, and there were hundreds of people laying around). we made our way down to the musee l’orangerie, a small museum that’s focused on impressionism, and has two large oval-shaped rooms with huge monet water lilly paintings 360-degrees around you. it’s one of my happiest places on earth.

sunday we hit the other two museums on our list: musee d’orsay, and one i’d not been to before, musee rodin. that one was stunning: mostly an outside garden, perfectly manicured, with dozens of rodin’s sculptures all over it (like “the thinker” and “the kiss”). we took a break at the hotel and liesl got some homework done. then we took a long metro ride to a street liesl had memorized a poem about in her french class: rue des gobelins. it was a pretty street, but we found a little restaurant where our waiter talked me into the best burger i’ve ever had in my life (“not an american burger, this is a FRENCH hamburger!”). i couldn’t help thinking of steve martin’s character in the pink panther, trying to learn how to say hamburger (which, i also realized, was funny since hamburgers are on the menu of every cafe we’ve gone to). we’re back at our hotel as i type, and liesl has just gone to bed. our room is on the fifth floor, and has a little balcony on it; so i’m sitting outside enjoying the night while i type.

tomorrow, notre-dame and sainte-chapelle, plus another shot at the eiffel, or maybe the champs elysee and the arc de triomphe. tuesday: versailles. we fly home wednesday.

where i am at the moment: in paris, baby!

on my to-do list this week: enjoy paris with my daughter, fly home, then dive into two days at ys at the end of the week.

procrastinating about: nothing i care to even think about at the moment!

book i’m in the midst of: finished pete gall’s learning my name (i’ll post a review at some point), and still reading the other two i was in the midst of (what would google do, and a richard rohr thing on the enneagram).

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: nothing really, although liesl and i have both had “sugar, sugar” (that 60s cartoon song) and “we are the grapes of wrath” (from veggie tales) in our heads all weekend. the first is unexplainable, and the second is because liesl’s reading the grapes of wrath for school right now.

next trip: i don’t know, and i don’t care.

how i’m feeling about this week: i don’t know, and i don’t care.

monday morning update, march 30, 2009

the weekend that was: it was a wonderful and relaxing weekend at home (though still full of stuff). friday night, my friend john and i attended a dad’s pizza party at our kids’ school. it was ok. neither of us were jazzed to go, but felt we should support the effort. i don’t have a need for small talk with a bunch of guys i don’t expect to become friends. but it was nice enough. then, john and i went to see “i love you, man“, which was absolutely hilarious (if not a bit crude). we laughed out loud through the whole thing. and it was pretty funny to be on a man-date to see a movie about a guy trying to go on man-dates.

saturday, i slept in a bit. then jeannie, max and i went to our local coffee shop for a nice leisurely breakfast together. jeannie and i felt decadent sitting down to watch last week’s episode of 24 in the late morning. in the late afternoon, jeannie and i joined our friends howard and karen for some weekly english-language tutoring they do with a family of former refugees from myanmar. this mom and three sons have been in the states for 6 months, and have 8 months as part of this program to get learn enough english, get a job, and become self-sustaining. it was an eye-opening experience. the two younger boys were born in the refugee camp, and are now plopped into san diego in public schools. the older boy (high school age) lived most of his life in the camp. i tried to help him with his math homework, and it was so hard. how do you explain “powers” (as in “4 to the 3rd power”) to a kid who barely speaks english, and hasn’t had a math class in his life? but it was great to be in their home (a small apartment in a tough neighborhood in san diego). jeannie and i are participating alongside howard and karen so we can be back-ups for them.

saturday night, we went out as a couple with two other couples. it was great to have some adult chill time with good friends.

sunday morning, i taught middle school sunday school at my church. we have two middle school services, so i taught twice. the series we’re in is about following jesus, and my topic was on how god loves the imperfect (i think i called it “god loves losers”). then, in the early afternoon, we had a middle school volunteer staff meeting, at our middle school pastor christina‘s house (christina’s husband ian is one of my co-workers at ys).

late afternoon, max and i went to see “monsters vs. aliens“, which was really fun (contrary to a couple reports i’d read that said otherwise). we saw the 3d version, which was worth the extra few bucks.

where i am at the moment: at ys, and in town all week! yes!

on my to-do list this week: lots of catching up to do. really want to get caught up on email this week. this is the first week in a while when i haven’t had any major projects that are due NOW, NOW, NOW; so i’m hoping i’ll have the buffer space to experience some normalcy. i do have to finish re-write and corrections on the middle school ministry book this week. oh, i’m also doing a wedding this coming weekend, and have the rehearsal for that thursday afternoon.

procrastinating about: well, i don’t think i’m procrastinating about anything!

wwgdbook i’m in the midst of: a few of ’em:
– i’m still listening to richard rohr’s cd series on the enneagram, called “the enneagram: the discernment of the spirits
– i’m reading the manuscript for pete gall’s next book, “learning my name
– and i’ve just started “what would google do” on my kindle

slumdogmusic that seemed to catch my attention this past week: after finally seeing slumdog millionaire early last week, i have been digging on the soundtrack (which i already had, but which has so much more meaning and connection for me now).

next trip: i have a one-nighter to orange county next sunday evening and monday. i’m starting a one-year executive coaching thing with john townsend. it’s 10 or a dozen people, and we’ll meet one monday a month for the year. looking forward to that. then, later that week before easter, liesl and i go to paris!

how i’m feeling about this week: good. nice to have some breathing room. i feel like i’ve had so many plates spinning recently. this week should give me a chance to take a few of them down.

monday morning update, march 23, 2009

the weekend that was: busier weekend than the last few, and only semi-home. friday night was a good chill night for me and max. we went out to dinner together, then to see race to witch mountain (which was in that “didn’t suck too bad” zone that parents of children hope for in movies these days). saturday, i got up at 5:30am, then drove up to LA for “KASSCON” (the korean american sunday school conference). it was at young nak church of LA, which was cool to be at, as young nak church in seoul is our host church for the ys convention there in may. i think there were about 1000 people at the event, but it was split between a korean language side and an english language side (i’m pretty sure you can guess which part i spoke to). i did a seminar two times, then gave a short talk in the closing main session. the main session speaker was mark devries, and it was good to hang with him for a little bit. i really haven’t spent much time with him before, but have a deep level of respect for him. wish we could have spent more time.

anyhow, while i enjoyed being at the event, it was a long day, with 5 hours of driving and a full day of speaking. i was wiped when i got home, and took a hard-core nap. then we got carry-out and rented a movie (well, jeannie, liesl and i; max and a buddy were having an overnighter in the back house). we watched “changeling” with angelina. it was both good and disturbing.

belonging-and-community004sunday was church (and a great sermon on suffering), then family lunch at souplantation. then jeannie and i worked on our taxes a bit (almost done). in the evening, we had our home church at our house. we’re in the midst of a multi-week discussion about what community really is, and what kind of community we want. i lead the discussion sunday night, based on joe myers’ book, the search to belong. a few weeks ago, when i was mentioned joe’s book, i was asked if i could kind of present some of the ideas in it at one of our gatherings. i joked that i would put together a powerpoint presentation. and, because one person in particular had such a strong reaction to that, i decided it was something i just had to do! so, the image here is from that “presentation”! (actually, it was a really good discussion, primarily about the difference between private belonging and intimate belonging, and what level of expectations we bring to the group.)

where i am at the moment: flying to grand rapids. i had a very early flight this morning, and arrive in michigan in the mid-afternoon. tomorrow i have mtgs all day, then fly to atlanta in the evening. i have meetings in atlanta all day wednesday, then fly home that night. 3 days, 9 airports, 6 flight segments, 2 hotels, 2 rental cars.

on my to-do list this week: well, mtgs at zondervan and with our friends at big stuf. then catch up stuff thursday and friday. i also have two interviews later this week with candidates for our vp of finance and ops position.

procrastinating about: well, since we worked on our taxes this weekend, it’s probably not fair to say i’m procrastinating on them. i still have work to do on the middle school ministry book; but i’m kinda waiting for the line editor to tell me she needs it done (so i suppose that’s procrastinating).

learningmynamebook i’m in the midst of: only pages away from finishing losing my faculties: a teacher’s story (i’ll likely finish it on the plane today). i’m listening to the cd teaching series called richard rohr on the enneagram (it’s called enneagram: the discernment of the spirits). and i’m just starting the manuscript for pete gall’s next book, learning my name, which releases in july.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: i downloaded two fantastic cds this week. first, i’d heard of the alt rock band rocket from the crypt for years, but really didn’t know their music. but when liesl and i were hanging out with zach lind (from the band jimmy eat world) a couple weeks ago, he and liesl were talking music, and he said she had to try rftc (as their fans abbreviate the name). so i asked zach for a suggestion of where to start, and grabbed scream, dracula, scream (nice title!). i haven’t listened deeply yet, but have dug it on the surface (really, the sound, that is). then, there’s a song playing all the time on my radio station that sounds like connor oberst (or, bright eyes), and i thought it was him. turns out it’s by a band called the airborne toxic event. so, i took a little risk and downloaded the whole album. and, i likes it.

next trip: well, i’m on one! but, after i get home wednesday night, i’m home for a couple weeks. i have a one night trip to orange country april 5/6.

how i’m feeling about this week: yeah, ok. bring it.