2016 Reading Goals — Crushed It


After the flood, we had internet, but no computer. Through a very generous gift, I have a computer now! But living in a FEMA trailer has left us without internet. Sigh. So that’s my new excuse for sporadic blog posts.

This past year was tough. In the spring Ryan finished his theology master’s, the summer our house flooded and we spent the fall and beginning of winter displaced, moving from one temporary housing situation to another.

badge-home-completed-1736dedbcd3c31946d5b98bb506c1051The only thing tougher than this past year, however, was my will to escape it. I’m not sure if I even made a blog-official reading goal for this past year. On Goodreads I set out to read 35 books. I wanted to see if I could reach 10,000 pages but put no other goal or restrictions on myself. I just wanted to follow my interests.

My desire to be immersed continuously in at least one story at a time culminated in 13,540 pages over 52 books!

I needed a lot of distraction! I got exactly what I needed from reading this year — not just distraction but also so many topics to keep my mind busy on. I made a few discoveries this year that I’m very excited about.

img402I posted before about the works of Anne Murrow Lindburg I read earlier this year. I recently read The Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. I’ve enjoyed comparing and contrasting these two women in my mind. Their personalities and ambitions could not be further apart. In a way they embody the figurative Eve and Mary: Amelia the pant-wearing rebel throwing caution and gender expectations to the wind and Anne the meek and mild mother assisting quietly yet competently her husband’s career. Highest, fastest, first and farthest, Amelia and Anne broke into the same male-dominated world and accomplished incredible things but each in her own way. And all in a time when women wearing pants was scandalous.

nbcirca1890-2Intrigued by early 1900’s female trailblazers, my interests turned to Nellie Bly. I’ll admit I only knew who she was because of a scene in The West Wing when the first lady is talking about going to the opening of a Nellie Bly monument. I may have learned about her from TV, but the point is, I knew and it was enough of a crumb to intrigue me. Anyways, she’s fascinating! Again, at a time when women were hardly allowed to venture beyond their own door step without a chaperone, Nellie Bly broke into the newspaper biz and became a pioneer of investigative and under-cover journalism. Her work has had far reaching effects beyond print media. After the publication of her report of going undercover in a prominent New York sanitarium, laws were quickly changed to add funding and professional resources to facilities treating the mentally insane – the beginning of a nation wide trend. For Christmas, I got a wonderful copy of her complete works I can’t wait to dig into, I’d also love to find a good biography.

Exhilarated to learn about Nellie’s monumental influence on New York’s mental institutions, I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In the 1950’s, Henrietta Lacks was a black woman in her 30’s when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the colored-only ward of Johns Hopkins. The book follows her life, family and treatment as well as the life of her cells which were discovered to be “immortal”. Doctors at this time were just discovering the fundamentals of cellular biology; a major obstacle to research was that human cells would quickly die outside a living body. The cells of Henrietta Lacks, however, readily reproduced and multiplied. This discovery accelerated tests of the polio vaccine and proved to be the missing piece to human trials. Because scientists had human cells, as opposed to rat cells, to test the vaccine on, they were quickly able to prove the vaccine safe for humans. Shortly after Henrietta’s cells were “discovered” children all over the country began receiving the vaccine – the beginning of the end to the polio pandemic. Her cells are still in circulation among researchers today and have been a part of nearly every major medical breakthrough along the way.


If I don’t stop myself soon, I’ll ramble to no end. Honorable mentions from this year’s reading are: The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, my discovery of Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard and The Ocean at the End of the Lane), The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, The Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge

I’m deciding on my goals, if any for next year. I also have more blog posts in the process of being written (read: in my head). It all comes down to how often I can get the kids to the library and keep them entertained while I soak up the internet access.

What about you? Did you set a goal for 2016? What gems did you discover last year?





Carruth Registries

I work hard not to be tacky, I don’t often succeed, but I do try. That being said, this may be very tacky. I’m not sure how else to go about it.

People are so generous. We have had a lot of questions for what we need and want. With Christmas coming people have asked what the kids want. There are so many thing we do need and quite a few that we want  😉

I started making registries in general to keep track of what things will need to be replaced. Since we’ve had so many people asking, I decided to post links here to our registries and Amazon lists for any who are interested. Please be kind, my brain is still quite scattered, so there may be some obvious things missing or completely random things too.

Household Registry

Pampered Chef Registry

Amazon Lists

This is intended just for those people who are interested, this is not mean to be a grab for attention or begging for stuff. I’m just mass communicating!


Before the Dawn

The last few days have been particularly tough. With Ryan and my parents being off this week for the holiday, we had great plans of sheet-rocking. Alas, things do not always go according to plan and here we are on Thanksgiving-eve with very little work done at the house.

I began to despair and gave in to depression this week. It’s been so hard to keep going day after day and finally I just let the sorrow wash over me. I want to go home.

But just when things seemed darkest, the light broke through almost all at once. Our inspection finally came through for the house; we passed and can now start work. Insulators were able to work us in on their schedule and now our walls are all insulated.


And greatest, shiniest beam of all, we got a FEMA trailer!! We will be able to live here while we work on the house and quit burdening my parents’ generosity. The kids will have their own room on the far other side of the trailer from our room! We are in the back of a quiet trailer park where the kids can be out side a bit. Unfortunately, our beloved Jackie-Dog won’t be able to join us just yet.


Even if we aren’t as far along as I had hoped, we are still baby-stepping forward. We will be able to go into Thanksgiving with happiness in our hearts and packing tape in our hands! Our heads are above water again and we are ready for this next baby step.


Kitchy Construction Paper Crafts

Without consent, the holiday season is upon us. I’m having a harder time than usual getting in the holiday spirit; the weather is hot, my brain is consumed with the house and we are still living as guests. Invited or not, Thanksgiving is this week and the best I could come up with is kitchy holiday crafts!


In our house, the dining room was entirely blank, we never got around to decorating. While some would be discouraged or anxious to finish the room, for us, it turned into a blank canvas for seasonal decorations. When a wall is bare and needs to be painted anyways, there’s no harm in taping or tacking construction papers to it. This went on for four years. The kids had so much fun thinking of things to add to our craft wall and the rotating decorations were fun for everyone.

Obviously, we have no dining room wall right now. My parents have beautifully decorated and fully painted their house, so no thumbtacks though their walls! However, the bottom of my parents’ benevolence has not yet been reached and they let us hang up some kitchy crafts and decorate for Thanksgiving with mostly construction paper.

Pilgrim Diorama

More than that, they found some sticker crafts to add to the fun. As the kids and I sat down to make decorations today, I uncovered nearly a decades’ worth of laminated construction paper Thanksgiving place mats my sister and I made throughout the early 1990’s. Not only are these crafts kitchy and simple, they are generational!


My parents’ house is looking more and more festive. Maybe construction paper and tape is all holiday spirit is.



Nothing Like That Second Hand

The majority of the books I own were bought second hand. There is a book store in town that’s a bit of an institution now, Cottonwoods and of course many websites. My go-to is Better World Books. In addition to new and used books, they “rescue” books discarded from libraries and donate profits to world literacy funds. Oh and they have free shipping.


In my latest order from BWB (that’s what us cool kids call it), I ordered The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. After writing my last post, I decided to sit down and start readin. I opened the cover and found this gem.


“The most horoble [sic] Book I’ve ever read”

[signature indecipherable]

The stories are meaningless and have no point”

It’s hard to know how to take this little insight from the previous owner. Should I dismiss it out of hand because he can’t spell? I’m no stellar speller, so that seems unfair. How many books has he read? It wouldn’t so bad for this to be the most horrible book he’s read if he’s only read 2 books and the other book was Canticle for Liebowitz. If he were a better editor, he wouldn’t have repeated himself calling the stories both meaningless and without point. Can his literary criticism really be trusted?

From the check marks he put on the Table of Contents, it appears he read 3 out of the 26 stories so I’m going to go ahead and say no. No, this man-boy’s warning will not deter my reading. But it does encourage me to keep buying books second hand — the personality is included for free!

What’s the best thing you’ve found in a second hand or library book?


Shirley Jackson, Spooky Scary

A second post in one month? A post that doesn’t have to do with how our lives were crushed by flood waters? Heck yeah, get yourself ready for some book talk!

Despite the abnormal circumstances of our lives, I have been able to do a surprising amount of reading. This year I set no specific books to be read and instead have followed my interests. Apparently I have been very interested in being spooked.

Since we’ve been evacuated my reading list has included, but is not limited to: 2 Shirley Jackson’s, 2 Neil Gaiman’s, 2 Dean Koontz’s and 2 books about asylums. I have come to some conclusions.

  1. I really want to finish the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz
  2. Shirley Jackson is my new favorite. I’ve read the short story The Lottery, The Haunting,  We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Bird’s Nest. On my temporary, evacuee bookshelf is The Sundial and The Lottery and Other Short Stories. At least one of those will most likely be started this evening.
  3. There’s no reason I should have put off reading Neil Gaiman this long. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and loved it. I really wish I lived in a world where I could have read it in one sitting. I then listened to him read The Graveyard Book and enjoyed it tremendously! I can’t decide which of his to read next. Suggestions?
An old book shelf my dad built when my sister was a baby — still in use and still painted with balloons

I also just finished like 12 hours ago read Nelly Bly’s Ten Days in a Mad House and I’m enthralled. I want to order Around the World in 72 Days. It’s a great off shoot of what I’ve been reading of Anne Lindburgh and Amelia Earhart!

Hopefully work will ramp up at the house in the coming weeks, maybe that will cut into my reading time. If not I’ve got quite a few titles lined up! What are you reading? Do your reading tastes change with the weather?

Happy Reading!




It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We have never been busier or have less to show for our efforts.

It’s been a month (again) since I’ve posted, over two months since the flood. I feel like so much has happened but at the same time, there’s not a lot to report. We are still waiting for a FEMA trailer, but we have reason to believe it will really be soon this time.

Thanks to dehumidifiers generously borrowed from friends and family, the house is finally dry!! We’ve spent our time getting paperwork and permits and fixing little things that need to be up to code so that we can pass an inspection to start rebuilding. Hopefully by Thanksgiving week enough ducks will be in a row for us to begin closing up the walls. Finger’s crossed.


I took the kids to the house for the first time. The debris up and down the street had been cleared up and things look considerably more normal. The kids were so excited; they went around the backyard pointing out all the things that were still there. When we went into the house, Evangeline took careful survey then told me, “Mama, I thought the house was going to be a lot scarier than this!” A flood of relief crashed over me. After that, the kids spent over 30 minutes just racing through the house in, around and through all the open walls and repeatedly yelling “ECHO!” because that never gets old.

As soon as we got out of the van, the girls ran straight to the swings. To see the kids effortlessly happy in our own yard where I’ve heard them laugh and giggle so often before made my heart swell. Before I knew it, I was crying.


I had been so nervous about the kids responding badly to seeing the house, I didn’t know I needed to be on guard myself. I want to go home. I want to be back in my house, I want my kids to be back in their own space. I am completely depleted by this whole experience.


We had some great opportunities to get out of the muck and mire of depression though and have some fun.We spent one day in New Orleans, we went to the Fall Festival at the Rural Life Museum and we celebrated Evangeline’s 6th birthday!!

Birthday parties have become quite the event around our house. It was nice to do something “normal” even if we had to tweak our traditions some. We rented a pavilion at the park in my parents’ neighborhood and threw the most awesome dinosaur party that park has ever seen! The food was good and the games were fun, but the best part was getting to see friends and family and just enjoy ourselves!

We’ve done pretty well keeping up with Homeschooling. Most weeks we get 4 solid days of lessons. This week I’ve had more to do for the house, getting ready for Halloween and preparing for Felicity’s tonsillectomy this Friday. Somehow, sit down lessons haven’t been happening as constiantly. C’est la vie. Evangeline got a science text book and illustrated encyclopedia for her birthday, so her thirst for knowledge is still being quenched.

For those who don’t know, Felicity will be having her tonsils out this Friday. For over a year now we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of her sleep apnea. Her ENT believes taking out her very swollen tonsils will make a huge difference. We have a few rough weeks ahead of us, but we think things will be much brighter on the other side.


Besides pediatric surgery, I have a long house to-do list, then Thanksgiving wants to happen too. Don’t be surprised if it’s another month before I sit down to write again. I’ve been reading like a fiend and have so much I want to write about. My brain says “type” but my energy levels say “sleep”. If you think of us, send up a prayer, then consider if you want to babysit 😉