Book Review: The American Experience in Vietnam: Reflections on an Era

I received this book from Zenith Press as compensation for my review. All these thoughts are my own.

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This is the same company who provided Medal of Honor to me a month ago. I was really happy to view this book as well. Much like the last, this book is like a piece of art to my history nerd soul.

This one chronicles our [United States] involvement in the Vietnam war. I don’t know about your education, but all the way up to high school, we never really made it past WWII in our history classes. With my history major, I concentrated on early American history or World War II so again I never really studied the Vietnam war.

Until I met Tom.

This is one of his favorite time periods to study. He finds what was going on with society and with the warfare fascinating. I could not even begin to count how many documentaries I have seen over the years about this war because of his intrigue.

This book is a great one stop shop if you want a quick reference. I really enjoy the social spins that they put into the book. I am a sociology historian at heart my friends. And again the photos they have throughout are fantastic (In a humbling and tragic way).

There is something about looking at history in books that I just find inspiring. I can just dive into those pages and get a good sense of what was. And this one does a superb job peaking my interest.

This is a great book, and I am sure our family will thumb through it’s pages for years. And hey George may even use it for his history classes on down the road. With his parents, he is a history nut in the making.

Ok I can stop talking about my kid being in school now…

You can find the book at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, or you can go here.

Friday Filter: Book “Fault In Our Stars”

I finished this book about a month ago but just haven’t had time to write my thoughts on it. So here we go.

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Goodreads synopsis:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

I love YA books. I realize that I am almost thirty and should give up the notion of reading young adult fiction. But I run my own life, and I will read what I want. I get wrapped in the drama these books provide. Reading should be what you want not what mainstream says it should be. If you want fun, go for fun. If you want serious, have at it. I won’t judge you. I still read Harry Potter, and I am about to get all up in some Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog action here, so you can take your judgy-pants somewhere else. Reading is reading, and I am a self-acclaimed YA fan.

With that said, I really enjoyed this book, which seems to be on everyone’s hit list this summer.

Some may say that the topic of cancer has been overdone (Have you seen the Lifetime channel?).To a certain extent, I can agree that it is a topic that is very prominent in the entertainment industry. There are two new shows revolving around cancer that I can think of right now. So what makes this book stand out with this topic?

What I found to be so refreshing about this book was the dialogue. John Green did a really good job of depicting the agony and sarcasm of teenagers, and didn’t sugar coat those feelings. On the other hand, He didn’t seem to over-sensationalize their experiences and tried to make Hazel and her friends as honest as possible. It was very matter of factly, and not so these poor people. Granted, I have not gone seen cancer first hand in someone so young, so I am not sure that it is that way, but it wasn’t your typical YA dialogue of “woe is me, I am in love, and have a life altering issue” feel. It made you look at how you view things and other people. Are we pittiers? And let’s be honest, there were parts that were just funny with how it was written (Literal Heart of Jesus…just the best)

This book does have the topic of cancer, and there are plot twists pertaining to living a life with a disease. However, I think what makes this stand out is that it is much more than just a couple of kids with cancer. It is about living life to the fullest and with no regrets. It is about loving with your whole heart even if that love may be lost. It’s about taking chances and risks and being there for others.

It’s about taking life seriously but not taking it seriously.

This was a great quick read that makes you feel something. I could go on and on about the book, but I would just keep rambling and going in circles with my accolades.

Just know that it is good. It’s funny. It has love. It has death. It has some teenage pranks. It’s a story worth reading. I highly recommend it.

I have not seen the movie yet, but I have heard that it is just as good. (Surprisingly, people are saying good things about Shailene’s performance, which is good. Her start in Secret Life did not give me much hope…)

Have you read Fault in Our Stars? Are you a YA fan?

Friday Filter: Book “The Worn Out Woman”

Upon the move to KY, I was anxious about making a new friend base. And I knew that church hunting may take awhile due to traveling and Tom and I’s various tastes in church services.

Not wanting to leave the connections I had made in Iowa behind, I reached out to two girlfriends of mine with the idea of doing a women’s devotional virtually. The three of us share a lot of philosophies and beliefs, and made it to church together on a few occasions. I knew they would be good women to “meet” with regularly. One for my sanity, and two for spiritual growth.

Now we all live in 3 different states: Iowa, Indiana, and Kentucky. Bummer.

After kicking the idea around with several different book titles and how we wanted to actually enact this plan, we finally settled on this book.

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Being in a highly demanding field and with our roles at home, we felt like this would be a great read full of discussions about how we can simplify our life and wake up our spirit.

The way that the book is structured makes it really easy to do a group devotional. There are 18 chapters which are fairly short, and make for a pretty quick read. In the back there are suggestions of discussion questions. There is also a note section for each chapter as well, which I found interesting to find corresponding Bible verses.

We video chatted once a week when our schedules permitted about a chapter or two (sometimes three). It took us most of the fall semester to finish the book even doing several chapters at a time because of our “full lives.” I don’t think we met for most of November…

We would spend about half the time chatting about the chapters, and then the rest of the time was catching up and being a support for one another.

I will admit, that this would not be a book that I would recommend readily. Most of the things are pretty self-explanatory and ideas we had heard before (especially for us 3 coming from a helping profession and with Master’s degrees heavily inundated with counseling skills).

I think we were all disappointed as well on the lack of scripture throughout the chapters as well since we had set out to do a Bible devotion. Like I said it does have some references in the notes section in the back to the Bible, but not every chapter had it.

However, it does serve as a great pick-me-up and a good reminder on the little things we do every day that wear us out. All three of us were starting some new things in our life that were a tad stressful to our loads. One was starting her PhD, the other going through the Dave Ramsey financial class plus moving houses (again), and I was just all kinds of new down here. So in that retrospect, we did have a lot to talk about with each chapter, but it became more of a release than a life changer. The chapters just became a starting point for our discussion on how things were going. The book did helped us realize we weren’t alone and was a reminder about attitude adjustment.

My favorite chapter was the “Yellow Umbrellas.” This portion discussed random acts of kindness and encouragement. Everyone wants to feel special and needed, so even little things can make a person’s day. There is a wonderful story about a man who randomly bought an elderly woman flowers while in line at the store. She said that she had not gotten flowers since her husband passed. These flowers meant the world to her in her time of loneliness. This is really the only chapter that resonated with me past finishing the book. It was just so touching and endearing to think about the small things we can do for one another, and how in turn that can lift our own spirits.

Favorite Passage:   “On days when you are feeling negative and irritable or just plain worn out, let the simple pleasure of doing random acts of kindness lift your spirit. It’s like giving yellow umbrellas to cover the rainy days of life.”

(I had thought about making Yellow Umbrella my blog domain for a bit. I was so inspired by this chapter, but with How I met Your Mother being all about the mystery woman with the yellow umbrella, unfortunately most variations of that title have already been taken.)

I even had it planned out that this would be my header before I decided to nix the idea and have plans for a different direction. I just love this photo though.

This does specifically gear towards women, however I think the concepts are universal. As I said, most of them are pretty obvious concepts. This book will repeat what any self-help/distressing book is going to say. This just had the undertones of a devotional.

All in all, though, we had some great discussions. This chat was something I know that I looked forward to each week. It was a great way to stay in touch and gab about life.

Thanks to technology and Google Plus, we can all video chat at the same time which is awesome!

We have picked out our next devotional and will be starting back up this weekend!

Have you ever done a group devotional? Do you have book suggestions for us in the future?

30 before 30 Update 2

Here we are for another month’s update on my 30 before 30 list. There is not much to update since we were doing holiday stuff for most of the month and were gone more than we were home for December.

1.      Crochet something else besides blankets or scarves-so something that isn’t straight lines.

·         This totally happened if you saw my post from earlier this week. Next stop hats!

2.      Do a 30 day photography challenge

·         I have plans for the timing. Now I just need to find a good challenge. Any suggestions?

3.      Visit 3 cities I have never been to before

·         Nothing new here.

4.      Tour at least one of the distilleries in the area

·         Nothing.

5.      Send at least 5 snail mail a month

·        We sent all of our Christmas cards, so I happily exceeded this!

6.      Become a “professional” photographer

·         We are coming up with an Facebook ad for the Clarksville area for a promo in February, so hopefully that pans out. I just need to be patient and be ok with the slow start.

7.      Run at least 5 races (any distance)

·        I have plans in the works.

8.      Go camping with Tom

·         We have plans for this for next summer for our anniversary.

9.      Pay for the car behind me in a drive through

·         Not yet. I will be honest, I don’t seem to remember this when I am in the drive through.

10. See Tyrone Wells live again

·         Nope.

11. Tour Fort Defiance here in Clarksville

·         This is more of a summer thing.

12. Water ski with my dad

·         Also summer.

13. Do a 5K with my mom

·         We did talk about it over Christmas, but no plans yet.

14. Take a swing dance class with Tom

·         I am still trying to convince Tom to do this with me. This may come near the end of the challenge.

15. Read at least one fun book a month and one professional development book every three months

·         I caught up from November. I read two books over break.  Blogging buddy, Ellen, and I are planning on doing a virtual professional development read. We picked a book yesterday and will be reading a chapter a week, so I may have this done this next month.

16. Take a pottery or stained glass class

·         Things have been too crazy schedule wise to make this happen yet.

17. Learn how to make sushi

·         Nada.

18. See both a Clemson and UCM football game live

·         This will have to wait until fall.

19. Volunteer with MCFOTS and Special Olympics on a regular basis

·         I am loving volunteering for MCFOTS. It is a great shelter. And it is super fun to go play and love on dogs that aren’t mine for a few hours a week. (Well most of the time, last night I was not too happy with one dog who wanted to play chase for a half hour in 20 degree weather. She just wouldn’t come back inside from playtime! Also I sliced my thumb open on a dog treat trying to coax her inside. Overall, though my shift are pleasant and tug at my heartstrings.  Two of my favorites got adopted this week. (Which is good, because Tom and I almost ended up with a third boxer.) Like I said, this volunteering gig may be a bad idea.

20. Explore Land Between the Lakes

·         Summer plan.

21. Ride in a hot air balloon

·         Tom is off the hook on this one. My other half and best friend from college and I are going to make plans for this in Kansas City.

22. Go to at least 10 “new to me” restaurants in Clarksville.

·         Since we were gone most of December, nothing happened with this one. We still have 8 to go. Any of my Clarksville friends have suggestions?

23. Stay at a bed and breakfast

·         We have the place picked out in our old college town. We just have to find a weekend we can do it.

24. Spend a day without electronics (phone, t.v. and computer)

·         So this didn’t happen over winter break.

25. Go to the Kentucky Derby

·         Ok so reality sunk in that this will not be a possibility financially. However, I do want to go see the museum. And in cahoots with my sister in law, I want to have a Derby themed birthday party on my 30th.

26. Go to non-touristy parts of Nashville

·         No time this month. We did find some cool activities though that we want to do in upcoming months. Tom has a lot of ranges coming up so he will be gone a lot, so we’ll see how the plans pan out.

27.Watch at least 10 movies that I have not seen before that won Best Picture at the Oscars and at least 10 documentaries (not necessarily Oscar winning)

·         I didn’t watch any of the films, but I did watch a documentary. I watched “Behind the Myth” which is about the myths behind bully breeds and the horrible laws that have ensued because of it. It was kind of heart wrenching to watch, and I may have cried. It is a little outdated, but it does a good job showing the history of the bans and the grassroots efforts that have sprung because of the stereotype and trying to debunk it.

28. Sew an item of clothing from scratch.

·         We did get a new sewing machine. Now I just have to figure out my first pattern.

29. Find a church home here in Clarksville

·        We did find a church, but we have been the last few weeks with traveling.

30. Become a mom

·        We both met with my physician before we left for the holidays. The only thing we weren’t already doing that she suggested was for me to be taking prenatal vitamins. Apparently, you should start taking these before you get pregnant as well as the duration. I had no idea. So we got those for free at the base hospital, score! I also had some blood work done this week to check my hormonal levels. We will also be meeting with a fertility specialist in the upcoming month. For some, I know this may seem like we are being really impatient considering it hasn’t been a full year since we started, but the Army is covering all of these expenses so we figured we would take advantage of it while we know we are both here for a bit. Also my physician said that even with everything perfect, there is still only a 20% chance of getting pregnant, so we want to make our odds as high as possible.

I’d say that is still pretty good progression considering what was going on this month. Hopefully January will prove to be fruitful and exciting!

Anyone want to join me on any of these excursions?

Do you have ideas on how I should accomplish any of these tasks?

Friday Filter-Action!

“We get the bum rap for not being the ‘money making field,’ but the arts are probably the only kind of unifying thing in our society…Stories are the only thing that tie us all together. I don’t know a physicist from a garbage man who doesn’t like a good story…We are all connected by that. The challenge is to find the stories that the physicist, the garbage man, the ballerina, and the fireman can all sit in the same room and enjoy or find something that speaks to them.”

(This is a quote I clipped a long time ago and put in my planner. I honestly have no idea where it came from or who it was by.)

Growing up, I remember sitting in front of the record player listening to the various musicals my step-mom had on hand. This perhaps persuaded me into my music and theater careers.

 

Saturdays, it was a ritual to watch Wheel of Fortune, Dr. Quinn, Early Addition, and Walker Texas Ranger with my mom. It still feels wrong to eat chicken nuggets without the mac and cheese and peas combo which we ate pretty much every Saturday in conjunction with our line-up.

Sundays were movie night with my dad. You always hoped it was your week to choose the flick at BlockBuster. Sometimes Dad was nice enough to let Randall and I both pick! Probably just to keep us from throwing a fit or fighting with each other, and I don’t blame him.

I also loved when summer came around because it meant the book reading contests happened at the library. If you read 10 books, you could pick out a free one. Ugh, how many can I get? Reading the entire series of the Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley Twins, and Nancy Drew-game on! Reading got me through so many personal crisis and teenage angst…let’s be honest also adult angst.  A little reading is all the therapy you need sometimes.

Reading.....I LOVE the story telling world. Hmm no surprise why I became a history major. It’s just story telling!

I grew up always wanting to go to these made up places, whether it is in movies, books, or t.v. I am just absolutely fascinated by the stories people can tell. It was an escape from my reality, and I could imagine being anyone I wanted for those brief moments I spent enthralled by these tales.

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I even dabbled at my own story making when I was a kid. I “wrote” and “illustrated” many short novels-as I used to call them. I would even bind them with string, who cares if they were only like 5 pages long. Trying to make my own Belle library I guess, but that ended quickly because well, I am just not that good at making up the stories. My parents did a good job supporting my self-acclaimed authorship though for awhile there.

I have a book with me at all times, just call me Rory Gilmore. You think I am kidding, but I am not. Kindle has made it a little easier to do this, but that just means even more books. You never know where you are going to get 5 or 10 minutes of wait time, so why not fill it with some light reading?

Anyway, this infatuation for the art of storytelling has inspired me to do a series called “Friday Filter.” It will be me filtering through what I call entertainment. It is going to be a review of sorts on television, movies, and books. I am no expert at reviewing, and it will strictly be my opinion, reaction, or just plain ramblings. As my husband tells me I am into teeny boppy things, so who knows where this may go or if you will find what I review up your alley. It may end up being more for me than it is for you. My own book club meeting per say.

I hope you come back this Friday when I review the book series of Nikki Heat from the show Castle, which has pretty much consumed my summer.