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February 2015
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April 2015

What I'm Into (March 2015 Edition)

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What I love about Nashville in March is there might be a few cold days but it's mostly weather in the 60s and 70s and you can sit on your front porch after work and soak up all the sunshine. And sometimes when you walk out to your car, you find blooming hyacinths planted by previous tenants.


Read and Reading

Beautiful, haunting prose made me read the novel All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr) slower than usual. I wanted to savor each page and soak up the character and plot development. I've read my fair share of books about WWII and still Doerr managed to take some complex and nuanced directions. One of the best books I've read in a while.

I adored Kathleen Flinn's approach to all things cooking, food consumption, and kitchen in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. It's relatable and inspiring. I found my knife skills improving as I read and it also gave me more ideas for what and how to cook- and I'm already someone who likes to cook. This should be a must-read for people who never darken their oven doors and for the rest of us as well.

Secrets of a Charmed Life featured the kind of writing that made me first fall in love with Meissner's work. Thoroughly enjoyable and quite moving.

I didn't know it was possible to be even more of a fan of Misty Copeland and then I read her memoir Life in Motion. If you have any interest in ballet or the dance world, you absolutely must read her story. I hope she'll be a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance again!

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Perelman) is as wonderful as I imagined it would be. I've been a fan of her blog for ages so I'm not sure why it took me so long to finally get her cookbook.

I first heard about Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe from the author herself while hanging out at the Festival of Faith and Writing last year and immediately knew I needed to read it. I was right. Lessons in Belonging deeply resonated with me as I continue to sift through my relationship with faith, doubt, and all things church. Erin's honesty is compelling and while I didn't agree with all of her conclusions, she gave me good food for thought at every turn. Her thoughts on community and belonging were especially insightful. Recommended for anyone with a complicated church history or who is looking for a place to belong. (Full disclosure: I was given an advance copy of Lessons in Belonging from the publisher.)


We'll be discussing Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson next month on The Red Couch. My introductory post will be up April 8.


You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: We Make the Road By Walking (McLaren), Amazing Grace (Norris), De Niro (Levy), Strong Inside: Perry Wallace the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Maraniss), Are You My Type? Am I Yours?: Relationships Made Easy Through the Enneagram (Baron and Wagele), Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Cannon, Harper, Jackson, Rah), Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Evans), A Door in the Hive (Levertov), The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood (Coates)


(I read 19 books this month. This is what happens when I travel on an airplane, devour a YA trilogy, endure another Ice Day, and practice self-care like it's my job.)



Must-see TV: Madam Secretary, Jane the Virgin, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Scandal, Once Upon a Time, Fresh Off the Boat, Being Mary Jane, Hindsight, Southern Charm

The Downton Abbey finale (spoiler alert) included something I've been waiting forever for: Carson and Mrs. Hughes finally admit their affections for one another! I also rather enjoyed hearing from the older women in the cast reflect on still having "it" and attracting male suitors.

I didn't see the How to Get Away with Murder finale ending coming. AT ALL. I have no idea what it will mean for season 2. Viola Davis is amazing and the reason why I keep watching but it's definitely a show I stress watch.



New discovery: Leon Bridges

Loving the new Sufjan Stevens album Carrie & Lowell.

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My friend Jen and I saw Hozier at the Ryman and he was phenomenal. He played unexpected covers (it might be the only way I can listen to an Ariana Grande song) and had such a gleeful smile on his face in between songs, like he was pinching himself for being there. Plus, it must be said: Hozier can rock a man-bun.

Listen to the What I'm Into 2014 playlist. Here's the What I'm Into 2015 playlist.



By far, the best thing I listened to this month was You Made It Weird's interview with Richard Rohr. The interview is almost 2 hours long but so worth listening to. I am an admitted Rohr fangirl but it's only because his insights regularly blow my mind. His was the first book I read about the Enneagram (there's a brief discussion toward the end). He's just the best.

Also worth listening to: Three Miles on This American Life about the effect of programs where kids from poor school districts visit schools from wealthy districts. Good food for thought.

A couple of friends told me Dear Sugar started a podcast and I was instantly hooked.


Things I Love:

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  • My sweet niece! She is the most beautiful, sweetest, smartest baby ever and I am certainly not saying that as her biased aunt. I soaked up every minute of my visit, snuggling her, swaying around the apartment to keep her happy, telling her how much I love her, and taking copious amounts of pictures. I hated, hated, hated saying goodbye.
  • It was also nice spending time with my brother and sister-in-law. I still can't believe my brother is a dad!

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  • While I was there, I stayed with my good friend Kibibi. It was so great catching up, having Living Room Dance Parties, and watching TV together. Just like old times.

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  • I also got to see my dearest Ashleigh and her boys. There was an ice storm, which canceled school the day we were to get together, so we switched to Plan B and called it good. Love whenever we get to spend time together.
  • I added two more VA jobs to my docket this month. Maybe I'm on the right track.
  • Like any good book nerd, I transferred the contents of my To Read list to Goodreads. Now I'm working my way through my book log and adding 7 years' worth of books read before I started keeping track on Goodreads too. It's weird seeing how my tastes have changed but I'm proud to say I remember most of what I read.
  • Tea with Sarah, who I hadn't seen in ages. We met up at Thistle Stop Cafe shortly before it closed and the weather was nice enough, we just moved our conversation to the patio tables and kept on going.
  • I met up with my old coworker Lesley Ann at Biscuit Love, which was amazing. Do try the East Nasty (fried chicken + sausage gravy + biscuit) and thank me later.
  • Auntie-Anna Mulan birthday date
  • Hanging out with the family I nannied. I can't go too long without seeing my sweet buddy.
  • Heart-to-hearts with Amanda- so grateful for a friend who lets me let it all out
  • Great lunch at Thai Esane with Alece. We've been needing to catch up for a while and this lunch was just what we needed. It sounds strange but everyone told me to try the sausage and they were right so I pass that recommendation on to you.

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  • Ruth was in town for work and we grabbed coffee before she headed back. We've known each other almost 30 years and I'm always struck by how well we know each other even though we haven't lived in the same state in over a decade. We don't just catch up on each other's lives; we talk about our respective families and all the ways we've changed since grammar school. Such a treat to spend time with her.
  • I got to see my friend Heather while she was in town for a visit. I love how we can both gut laugh and talk serious. She is one of the good ones!



Favorite Instagram:

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Best buds. #aunthoodisthebesthood

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)



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I Can't Quit You, Christy Miller

I Can't Quit You, Christy Miller via

Like many girls raised in evangelical churches, I grew up on a steady diet of Christian series. I read the Chronicles of Narnia, Grandma's Attic, and Elizabeth Gail series, tucked in amongst Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time.

After Elizabeth Gail, I was more than ready to move on to teen Christian fiction and there awaited Christy Miller. Life would never again be the same.

The first few books had already been published by the time I found Summer Promise at our local Christian bookstore. I was swiftly drawn into Christy's world. We meet her just before her 15th birthday during a summer-long vacation in Newport Beach, CA, where her wealthy aunt and uncle lived. Far from her home in Wisconsin (Midwestern Girls Forever!), Christy wrestled with similar insecurities as she made new friends and questioned whether her crush Todd was into her or not.

While Christy's life wasn't perfect, she never faced true calamity and strife either. Each book would wrap up with a perfect bow tied on the conclusion. It was all very...Christian-y.

I've heard author Robin Jones Gunn tries to present a Christian ideal in all her novels. It's almost utopian and therefore many of the scenarios are unrealistic. Do people really talk like that? Would that really happen?

Yet Christy Miller's world was just what I needed in my pre-teen and then teenage state. I needed to see a girl dealing with the ups and downs of friendship and crushes. I wanted to know whether she and Todd were meant to be. I wondered whether someday I'd meet a cute surfer with screaming silver-blue eyes and a heart on fire for Jesus.

Because of Christy Miller, I thought it would be a good idea to learn to drive stick-shift, just in case whoever was driving me became incapacitated by a bee sting. (Still haven't followed through on this.) I romanticized California. (I have yet to make it there, to my chagrin.) I chalked up coincidences as God Things. (Sometimes.) I wanted to live in a house with a window seat. (This dream endures.) I started a journal composed of letters to my future husband. (I threw the journal out a couple of entries later.)

After the Christy Miller series ended, Sierra Jensen's began. Sierra and I had more in common, aside from her interest in being a missionary. (The series totally left us hanging, which is why I was glad RJG wrote Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii.) Around this same time, I began reading the Glenbrooke series, which was written for grown ups and where I first learned the allure of Irish Breakfast tea. Still, all of these books offered improbably happy endings. The lack of grounding in reality seemed unfair but I was also in college and feeling jaded.

In RJG's world, you marry young and saving sex for marriage isn't that difficult and God always comes through. There are hardly any "older" singles in her books. There are rarely situations in which platitudes don't apply.

Even so, I was elated when Christy and Todd: The College Years were published. There was something infinitely satisfying about learning what became of one of my favorite fictional couples. Who could argue with the nostalgia of it all?

And yet.

A few years ago, Christy's best friend Katie Weldon got a series of her own. At first, this excited me but by book 4, I was ready to throw the series across the room. That utopian Christian ideal, that high-handed morality, that "who on earth talks like this?!" got to me.

I thought I'd moved beyond Christina Juliet Miller Spencer but a few weeks ago I learned a new series had been birthed. Christy and Todd: The Married Years.


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I plowed through Forever With You and Home of Our Hearts. They were impossible to put down, even though they had their share of cheesy moments and the same things I disliked about the other series. Even though she got heavy-handed with complementarianism, purity culture, and gender roles. Even though I don't know anyone who talks about God the way Christy, Todd, & Company do. Even though dear RJG doesn't use the word "sex" (due to the publisher??) when writing about married sex. This made me giggle when reading the few scenes which address Todd and Christy's marital bliss. What else can you do after reading a line about their "rainy, romantic, robust Sunday evening"?

But I can't quit Christy Miller.

Despite all the things I don't like in these books, I somehow still relate to Christy's struggles, in this newest iteration especially. Christy and Todd wrestle with where to live and what to do for work. They're on an extremely tight budget and job searching through most of the two books. (Remind you of anyone?) They're contemplating big leaps.

And sure, in Home of Our Hearts they travel to two exotic locations courtesy of wealthy relatives. In both books, those same wealthy relatives help them out of a few jams, prompting me to mutter about not having a generous benefactor. Where's my Uncle Bob and Aunt Marti?!

All this pales in comparison to how much I related to everything else. I was inspired and encouraged by what Christy went through. There were lines that made me cry because I sensed they were for me, as much as they were for Christy and her friends. For whatever reason, Christy Miller still resonates with me.

That's why I can't quit her. Bring on book 3!

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.