Almost two years ago I read a book called The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf. I blogged about it because the author, Ambelin Kwaymullina, is an Aboriginal woman and draws from her culture and heritage to build the landscape, inspire the characters and generally make some really interesting commentaries on society. This is all done in an engaging, very readable format and I couldn’t wait for the next books to come out.
In the past couple weeks I’ve devoured all three books of this series, only pausing to wait for the next book to be available at the library. I would love to read more from this author. The way she weaves history and culture into this fantasy world is really beautiful. Because I’m currently here in Australia and one of my classes is an Indigenous Studies course, I found it particularly interesting what Kwaymullina chose to use as inspiration.
For example in the back of the 3rd book she speaks about the Citizenship Accords in the novels (don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler, I think it makes the book more powerful). The Citizenship Accords were actually based on legislation regarding Aboriginal people passed in the 40s. These laws made discrimination legal and restricted almost every part of Aboriginal life (from being able to go into cities and towns, who they could marry, where they could live, etc). Having that in the back of your mind while reading the novel makes the story more real despite the dystopian fantasy genre.
I would definitely recommend this series as a fun, thoughtful, easy read. Enjoy the plot line, enjoy getting to know the characters and I hope that the interwoven inspiration gives you pause to think as well. Happy Reading!
Since leaving the US I have read significantly more fiction than I usually do. I would say I probably average a book or two a month. So seeing that I’ve read about 30 fiction books (not including work and University books!) since leaving the US at the end of December, I would say I’m above my average for the year. In addition to a trilogy and a couple random one off books, I have re-read the entire Vorkosigan Saga, I am currently towards the end of The Little House Series and will probably move on to the Chronicles of Narnia soon because they happen to be on our bookshelf.For those of you who enjoy science fiction, I would recommend the Vorkosigan Saga. I was introduced to these books while in Papua New Guinea and probably read about 3/4 of the series during my various village trips. It was a great mind escape then and it’s a great mind escape now. This is my third time reading through the series but my first time reading everything including the newest book which continues the story. With 20 books of various lengths, this series could occupy your mind and time for quite awhile. (Please note there are extramarital relationships and homosexual themes in the series.)
I’ve been thankful for books to read during this time of transition. Books provide something to keep me occupied and allow me to really rest on my days off. They also are great time fillers for bits and pieces of free time during the day. Books provide some moments of peace and decompression before bed. Although I do have a tendency to read until the end of the chapter (or even the end of the book) maybe a little too often. And books give me new spaces to think and stretch my mind. For example I love the juxtaposition of the sci-fi, high technology world in the Vorkosigan Saga and the simple, new technology, industrious-ness of The Little House Series.
What are you currently reading? Any new series or books that I just have to read? I’d love to hear your recommendations. And it would be a good excuse to spend more time at the beautiful library here in Perth.
Paradox is the right word to use when discussing the relationships to leaders and views of leadership in Australia. This “lucky country” has an interesting history that has fed into these paradoxes of leadership and authority. I’m thankful for this book to help navigate some of the unspoken rules and general assumptions that a typical Australian wouldn’t question or think twice about. But this book isn’t just for outsiders seeking to understand the system. This book is a great read for Australians who want to unpack what may be obvious in regards to Australian leadership but also what sits, often hidden, beneath the surface. The Australian Leadership Paradox: What it Takes to Lead in the Lucky Country by Geoff Aigner and Liz Skelton walks the line between critique and advice very well. More than just stating the paradoxes themselves, they begin to tease out the why behind them. And they also give examples of how Australian leadership can and should change for the better. These examples are in the form of short stories which give context and I believe make them easily relatable as well. Anyone who has ever struggled in a position of leadership in Australia could potentially find their story here. And in finding their story, hopefully see how they could be empowered to change their leadership style for the better without losing some of the great things about being Australian.
This book is primarily talking to Australians about Australians and for that it speaks very well. For me personally I will have to do my best to apply this knowledge appropriately because so far my interactions in Perth have been with very few Australians. In the past month, I have met more immigrants or children of immigrants than anyone else. This is maybe my own personal paradox, coming to Australia, seeking to know and understand Australians. But instead of being surrounded by primarily born and raised, multi-generational Australians, I’m surrounded by an amazingly multinational, multiethnic community. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but my own definitions of what it means to be Australian are definitely being expanded.
The week before we left the US, I read a book called The Light Between Oceans. In the book there is a lighthouse keeper living on the fictitious island of Janus, located near the south west tip of western Australia. At some point the lighthouse keeper describes why the island is called Janus, and I can’t find the exact quote, but he simply explains that Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, passages and endings. Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks simultaneously to the future and to the past. And this island sitting between two oceans, is aptly named Janus. If you’re looking for a beautifully written book, this is a worthwhile read. Be ready to feel all your emotions and keep a tissue box nearby.
Since this book is set in Western Australia, I have thought of it a few times as we’ve begun to settle in here. And I remembered the quote about Janus as we rung in the new year. Janus is where our word January comes from. January 2017 is a time when we can look back and reflect on 2016, but also look forward to the new year, a new unknown future. It’s fitting that Ryan and I would arrive in Perth just in time to begin the new year, settling in during this in-between time of looking back as well as looking forward.Since I’m in reflection mode, I couldn’t resist looking at my top liked Instagram posts of 2016. If you don’t already, you can follow me @joycandee. I do my best to post different things to Instagram, this blog and Facebook so you can hear/see a different angle of the story from each social media outlet. Anyway, it’s not surprising that my top liked pictures all point to Australia in some way. The top three and the middle were taken the last week of 2016 as we made our way to Australia. My birthday is represented, turning 32 and wearing my “totally koalafied” shirt. And of course, travels to Europe and our road trip/travels through the US this past year. 2016 was a good, hard, wonderful and challenging year.
Today, January 3rd 2017, I am in the doorway. Like Janus, looking back and looking forward. I am in the passage between the preparation, what it took to get us here and anticipation, looking ahead to what is to come. Welcome to 2017!
Since we don’t have the snow to remind us that Christmas is coming, we have to rely on decorated shopping malls, cheerily lit homes after dark and our own Christmas traditions to help us get in the spirit of things. Some of these things are on pause for us because we’re in transition but I can still do my best to celebrate what I can and savor the traditions I can still enjoy. Here are 14 ways that I try to remind myself of the good things about the holidays and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas.
I blogged last week about The Season of Advent. Having Advent reading, an Advent wreath and pausing at least once a day to read scripture and pray through the season reminds me of what is important during the holidays.
Christmas music! Once Thanksgiving has been celebrated, I am all for Christmas music. Christmas music in the car, Christmas music at home, Christmas music in almost every store I walk into. I love a good mix of secular favorites and Christian songs. Each are festive in their own way. It all makes me happy.
Baking and making delicious goodies. I will do a little baking this week but I look forward to making cinnamon rolls for my family to enjoy one morning and I’m sure there will be cookies made at some point too. My tastebuds love Christmas. And the smell of baking treats definitely helps get me in the Christmas mood.
Decorations! I really enjoy decorating for Christmas but this year in our home all we have is our Advent wreath because we are moving. However, I look forward to being in my parent’s home and enjoying the beautiful tree lit for the week leading up to Christmas. Next year we’re decorating right after Thanksgiving and we’ll leave it up until January 6th, 3 Kings Day also known as Epiphany. I love stretching out the holiday season and enjoying the decorations as long as reasonable to my own standards.
Christmas movie marathons. I will watch Elf multiple times this season. We’ve already watched Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone and A Christmas Story. Tonight we will watch It’s a Wonderful Life. There are so many good ones! It’s fun to snuggle up in a warm house when it’s cool/cold outside and enjoy a good movie. I’m also looking forward to watching the TV classics like Charlie Brown, Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman.
Walking or driving through beautiful Christmas light streets. Almost every town has a street known for the amazing Christmas decorations. It’s always fun to gather a few friends, dress warmly, carry something warm to drink and enjoy the shining lights and creativity of our neighbors.
Opening Christmas letters and cards. In my circles, I have a lot of friends who keep in touch all year around but it’s typical to just hear major updates from people at the end of the year. I love opening cards, seeing how the families have grown and hearing about the past year. I enjoy celebrating the joys of life with people and being able to pray through the hard things too. A mailbox filled with Christmas cheer is a wonderful thing.
Early Christmas shopping. There is nothing better than having your Christmas shopping done early. Even if things don’t get wrapped right away, I love not having to think of last minute gifts. This is definitely the planner in me but it allows me to better enjoy the holidays not having yet another unfinished list.
Christmas wrapping. Seeing a growing pile of pretty wrapped presents is always cheery and festive. A little Christmas music or a Christmas movie and wrapping with a cup of hot chocolate is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
Eggnog. So before this year, I never would have said that eggnog was a necessary part of the holiday but then my sister-in-law introduced me to Royal Crest Dairy eggnog and now I’m hooked. Although Royal Crest isn’t available everywhere, eggnog will definitely be a staple in our refrigerator this season.
The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t always go and see The Nutcracker but when I can, I always enjoy it. During the holidays growing up it was always a treat to dress up and attend The Nutcracker as a family. It’s such a festive, entertaining part of the holidays. And the music is beautiful too!
Stockings. There is something that is special about stockings to me. Leading up to Christmas, I love looking at them hanging across the mantle or on the wall if there is no fireplace. Even if we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, stockings were always Christmas morning. And my favorite tradition is always finding a tangerine in the toe. I look forward to making stockings something special for my own kids some day (this is NOT a pregnancy announcement).
Candle Light Service. There is something particularly beautiful and celebratory about a Christmas Eve candle light service. It’s a wonderful way to calm our hearts and refocus during a busy season.
Christmas reading. In the past couple of years I would download a Christmasy book to enjoy leading up to Christmas. Today, I sat with the pile of my childhood books that we will be shipping to Australia and read through all my favorite Christmas stories. From The Polar Express to Santa Mouse, these are Christmas classics for me. The Story of Holly & Ivy is precious and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree always makes me cry. I fondly remember reading these books as a child and I still enjoy them now.
What are the traditions that help you remember, enjoy and anticipate Christmas?
I love that I can read passages in the Bible that I know well and still learn something new or have something revealed in the text that has never occurred to me before. I appreciate listening to a sermon and hearing a Biblical perspective that reorients how I look at a story that I would otherwise gloss over because I am “too” familiar with the words. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen gave me a fresh, introspective view into the story found in Luke 15:11-32. This heavy, thoughtful, beautifully written book contains Nouwen’s reflections on the three main people portrayed in Rembrant’s famous painting titled The Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen takes a nuanced look at the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and finally the Father. He teases out the differences between the Biblical account and the painting and he goes under the surface into how he sees himself in each of the main subjects. Needless to say, his conclusions run deeper than the typical Sunday school lesson.
I find it easy to see how I have been like the Prodigal Son and the Elder son at various stages of my life. I don’t have to search hard to find my own arrogance, selfishness and brokenness. But I have never thought of myself as being able to identify with the Father. In light of us moving to Perth and my desire to daily live out Romans 12:12, I sincerely appreciate Nouwen’s thoughtful look into the Father. He reminds us that in Luke 6:36 we are told to, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” And Nouwen gently works through some of the ways that he himself has learned to identify with the Father. He writes, “Grief, forgiveness, and generosity are, then, the three ways by which the image of the Father can grow in me.” As I read through how these characteristics can be shown in our lives, I saw what I wanted to have displayed in my life and my ministry. And Lord willing, as I continue to grow in my faith, these aspects of the Father will show themselves more and more in my life.
This is a book that will find it’s place on my shelf to be read and reread as I continue to live out this internal wrestle between the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and the Father who all reside in me.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
Today is the first day of Advent. We are currently in Colorado with Ryan’s family so we’ll have to wait until we’re back in California to light the Advent wreath but today we will start reading our Advent devotionals. I love the anticipation and preparation that happens during Advent. As much as I love the gift giving, the lights, the Christmas baking, music and more, there is a greater purpose for this season.Coming Into the World: Daily Reflections for Advent 2016 is the devotional that Ryan and I will reading together this Advent season. It was written by a co-worker and we’re thankful for the time and energy he put into preparing these beautiful reflections.
No matter how you prepare for this season, I hope that you set aside some time for sweet meditation and prayer that point us towards Jesus, the real reason for this season.