Friday, August 26, 2016

The Journey Begins

A trip I made to explore campus prior to orientation and classes.
My journey into my PhD program has barely begun (orientation was this past week and classes start next week) and I already see two things coming for My Life in Books as a blog. One, unfortunately, more possible stretches of silence. I've been so crazy busy pulling life together with our renovating and moving and the start of a new school year, that I haven't even always remembered to post my weekly quotes on Sundays! From what I heard at orientation this week, I can expect much of the same crazy busy between family, work, and school. Second, posts will become grad school oriented. My studies are literature based, so it definitely will still be about books and reading, but I already know that I will have some experience based posts brewing as this one!

I am excited though to have an established blog from which to share the experience. This past Tuesday was graduate orientation at Kent State. It was much bigger than I thought it would be, but it included masters and doctorate students from every department/major of the University. The afternoon was spent selecting sessions we thought would be most beneficial. I attended two that were extremely informative, although they also made me a little more frenzied.

Two down, one to go. Can't wait for
the day when the Kent sticker
reads Alumni under it as well.
The first informative session was titled Conferences and Publishing. The speakers are current PhD students who have attended numerous conferences and have even presented at them. They gave great pointers, like ask professors and current students the best conferences to attend in your subject. The list of do's and don'ts for conference attendance were both practical and specific. And, the best part, they made us aware of the Graduate Student Senate, where you can easily apply for the college to pay your travel expenses to both national and international conferences if you are presenting. Presenting at a conference remains a mystery to me for now...I'm not sure I understand how you go about making that happen and how a topic is chosen, etc., but, at least I know it's something I should do. More than I knew before.

The second part was a little scary, but also part of my dream: publication. They are typically talking publication of your papers to journals and such, but there was also talk of books. For example, one of the speakers has a professor who is writing a book and she asked if she can write a chapter. He said yes. Her name will be in the credits of that book and she can put it on her CV (No, not a resume. What is a CV? Click here). PhD students are expected to have published three or four times by graduation, a process that will take papers way beyond the time and grade restrictions of a class semester.

This session led me to the discovery that the field of academia depends upon networking. The more people you meet, the better. The more exposure you have among peers, the better. The more you can do, the better. And that's why they tell students to attend conferences at every turn. We were even told to get student business cards especially for the purpose of meeting people, making connections, and being remembered. Weird to hear at first, but the more they spoke, the more I came to understand why. The world of higher education is vast. In my little piece of nowhere Ohio alone, I had the choice of three major colleges I could commute to for the PhD program I wanted. If you're expected to publish material and work together on topics, then you have to be in the know within your field. And one of the best ways to do that is through who you know. You never know who will be doing what in the future and if they remember a discussion with you on that topic and have a way to contact you, well you could end up with a project heading toward publication, among other opportunities.

The second session gave access to a panel of current Kent professors. We asked them anything we had on our minds and they all answered honestly. There were a lot of good questions asked and I was particularly excited about their confidence in us. Two questions asked that pertain to me in particular concerned working students; those who have worked between degrees, as opposed to going straight through, and those who are working full time jobs alongside the degree process. Both of these apply to me and the professors' responses were encouraging. They said work experience between degrees benefits students greatly because it prepares their minds to look at the workload and their image in a different way than someone who has always been a student. Seeing all of the work and experience needed beyond the classroom I asked if they had any more or different advice for people working at the same time...mentioning that I also commute an hour and have three kids. They said to plan ahead for the things you know you have to do and those that are most important to attend and accomplish and say no to the rest. And one professor of English added in that working students are among the best he ever has! So, I feel better about it now.

Well, that was just part of my orientation day. My classes start Monday and I am on edge to get this started after a year of discussion about it. Wish me luck!

Friday, August 12, 2016


Rooted: the Hidden Places Where God Develops You, by Banning Liebscher
Publisher: WaterBrook (sold by Random House LLC)
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Category: Christianity, nonfiction
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley for consideration of review.

"God is not interested in developing your vision first. He is interested in developing you." The basis of Rooted lies here - we need a foundation to accomplish anything with true success. Professional athletes do not just show up on a field and play, authors do not publish the first draft of their books, teachers do not just waltz into classrooms from the streets randomly, builders do not just throw up walls on a patch of dirt when building any structure, and a seed cannot skip straight to the fruit bearing stage. They all lay a foundation first. A schedule, routine of practice, and/or work that hones their ability, secures the task at hand, and gives them the experience needed to perform their best when the time comes. Likewise, God does not first throw us into the highest level of our calling. He lays a foundation in our lives that we must have for His calling on us to succeed.

What is the purpose of a foundation? It supports something else. In order to effectively support something, the foundation has to be built up, be bigger. A foundation makes ready the object and the object's purpose. Author Banning Liebscher focuses throughout the whole book on how and why God spends so much time laying foundations in our lives and how our ultimate calling will fail without the proper foundation. Liebscher also makes it clear that we complicate the process with distractions and fighting what God is trying to do.

To give you a taste of the wisdom I gleaned, Liebscher points out that foundations often go unseen. Common sense, yes, but something I never actually thought about. I can watch a football game, read a published book, witness a teacher in action, enjoy living in my house, and pull an apple right from my fridge, but only because someone spent time in the background laying the foundation from which these things sprung in the first place. Foundations happen in the "secret place," where no one necessarily knows or sees what you are learning, practicing, realizing. It is there the real work is done and it is there that your ultimate calling will find its support.

What I love about Rooted is it's clarity and practicality. All of Liebscher's discussion was easy to understand and well supported with facts and examples. As he spoke about loving where God has you in the moment, even if it's hard, because it's what will lead you on to bigger things, I could feel it. Being in a tough spot of transitions and new journeys over this past year (crazy that so much happens in a year's time), this was huge. But to get a sense that the crazy emotion, day-to-day life, and physical and mental work of my current life is working toward something great and meaningful yet to be revealed? How could I not feel excitement?!

I highly recommend Rooted for anyone wondering why they may be where they are at this point in their lives...knowing God has a bigger purpose for your life is one thing, but knowing why He gets you there the way He does is valuable insight.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Begin the Week with Words: Thanks Mom and Dad!

Verse my mom gave us as we went into the final
week of last minute fixes and moving in.
This weekend we moved into the house we started to buy in January. I have to thank my parents - give credit where credit is due. I will admit the complete renovation of our new house was more crazy than fun. The end results were well worth it, but still tons of stress for such a good thing. With our type of loan there was a lot of potential for setbacks time wise, and being out of our realm of experience and comfort there was a lot of potential for breakdowns. It took tons of robbing Peter to pay Paul while waiting for funds, putting our hands to the work at hand for hours on end physically, and remedying and preventing meltdowns. Two people who never let us down through the whole thing were my parents, Ray and Georgia.

They deserve every ounce of credit any of us can give them. Our specific loan works through pay out of pocket and be reimbursed when the work is satisfactory, which is difficult for a smaller construction outfit, not to mention us. My parents lent us funds after ours were depleted and waited for the bank (and sale of our house) on all counts as we did to be paid back. Without that help, we would still be waiting on the bank to order and complete pieces of the house and weeks away from moving in.

Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, they kept me anchored. For Brandon too, but I personally fell into upsets and rants more than I'd like to admit throughout the process. At first my mom would help remedy an upset, but soon able to see where the main potential for stress in the process was, she would come to me with prayer or a scripture verse to prevent upset. My dad would come immediately to remedy things within the house that gave us trouble or we couldn't do - hanging chandeliers, building closet shelves, mudding holes in walls, painting, fixing issues the crew didn't quite get right. My dad (and Brandon) dedicated almost two weeks to laying tile and hardwood floors throughout the entire first floor and upstairs bathroom. He and my mom helped us paint the entire 2300 sq ft from start to finish.

They've simply been amazing. They put in so many hours of work at and for the house. For us. God truly used them to make our dream come true and we couldn't be more thankful. We celebrated our first night in the house with hibachi, which they'd never done before! A great end before our new beginning.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lift: The History of Fitness Culture

Lift: Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors, by Daniel Kunitz
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publication date: July 5. 2016
Category: Nonfiction
Source: I received a free copy of this galley from TLC Book Tours for consideration of a review.

With my new interest in exercise this year (I'm up to 20 lbs lost since January), I jumped at the chance to review a book on the history of exercise! In his new book Lift, out July 5, 2016, author Daniel Kunitz first seeks to answer the question why? Why do we exercise? Most of us are not athletes, we are not competing in events, we do not need to take exercise to the levels of dedication that we do. So why the push for exercise in our culture currently? While Kunitz admits there are those who use exercise in unhealthy ways (an addiction to the sense of euphoria or as control over one's body), he makes a couple points that most anyone who exercises regularly would give a standing ovation for.

First the obvious: "We are always either getting stronger or weaker; improving or decaying; learning or forgetting - and the athlete tries to right the ship daily."

The second is longer, but it's the one I like and think other fitness minded people would cheer: "It is this marshaling of habits that I call the practicing of life, of which athletic training is only one form. Practice regimes have evolved in many forms, from the ascetic life of religion to that of the military to artistic practice, acting, medicine, philosophy, and scholarship - all aim at some type of self-enhancement through training. But athletic practice holds special interest for us because it forms the basis for all other types that followed...While [other] regimes are all voluntary, we are born into the regime of the body...we are always practicing some sort of fitness regime, be it sitting or gymnastics...For once we progress beyond the limited goal of merely shaping our bodies, we stop acting as if we were machines with a single purpose and instead begin aspiring to expansive ideals. We begin practicing the artistry of the self."

"Born into the regime of the body..." indeed. It's interesting to note that this has always been the case for everyone and yet, over time, views and types of exercise have evolved. But like all advancement, we must stop to ask ourselves if bigger is necessarily better? And this is where Kunitz begins to explore the essentials of exercise and its place in humanity. From the ancient Greeks to the feminist movement of the past century, stopping everywhere in between, Kunitz explores and asks, What are the basics of exercise and why should we get back to them?

Well, you'll have to read Lift to find out. With Kunitz's humor and the topic of exercise this close to the Olympics, it's a book many people can appreciate and enjoy right now.

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Daniel Kunitz AP

About Daniel Kunitz

Daniel Kunitz has served as editor in chief of Modern Painters, as well as an editor at the Paris Review and Details, and has been a contributor to Vanity Fair, Harper’s Magazine, and New York. He is also an avid CrossFitter and weightlifter. He lives in New York City.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, by Priscilla Shirer
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Publication date: July 5, 2015
Category: Christian, nonfiction
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley for consideration of review.

I found Fervent in June, almost a year after its July 2015 publication date. It came up as a recommendation on my Amazon and I found it was still up for review on NetGalley, so of course I jumped at the chance to read it. Not even two weeks later, a group of ladies at much church decided to read it together. I don't believe in coincidence, so I jumped right in.

Fervent covers 10 places in life in which the enemy will attack, throwing you off course, making you unable to focus and pray your way through hardships in life, as well as pulling you from drawing closer to God. So what's at stake? What does the enemy use against you? Your passion, focus, identity, family, past, fears, purity, pressure, hurts, and relationships. That's pretty much everything...

Throughout the book, Shirer speaks to each area, giving her own examples of attack in her life and how she came through them. Using scripture, Shirer helps readers see beyond what we think is happening, to what is really happening: that it is an attack on all God has for us, if we can only see it and respond productively. She encourages readers to write their own prayers based on scripture.

I have enjoyed Fervent...and really enjoyed reading it with my group of ladies. Everyone had such great insights based on their own life experiences. There's nothing like learning from others because they care enough to be transparent. I would say Fervent is one of the better books on prayer that I've read.