What I’m Reading, Watching and Listening To

After staring at my computer for literally three hours trying to put together a blog post, I decided to default to some media that I’ve been consuming lately and that I can highly recommend.  (I had so many photos in this post, but internet in Tanzania has been so slow of late that I had to take them all out in order to post.)

What I’m Reading:

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

We didn’t name our daughter after Gretchen Rubin, but her three books (The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better Than Before) have really influenced how I organize a lot of things in my life.  I’ve blogged about her earlier books here and here and here and here and here.

I’ve been inching my way through this book for longer than it usually takes me to read a dozen books–6 months–because I quickly get distracted thinking of ways to apply her many excellent tips on forming and breaking habits.  As recently as May I wanted a Coca-Cola every single day. Then I had a moment when one day I didn’t want a Coke, and, taking advantage of strategies from Gretchen’s book, I turned that into a string of days and totally broke my addiction to soda.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I am not giving up on it yet, and I’ll probably start over again as soon as I finish.

Let’s Be Clear About What Real Christian Persecution Looks Like by Jesse Carey

RELEVANT Magazine is a Christian culture magazine which has been doing some really good reporting on the state of conflict in many areas of the world that aren’t getting much press.  Their editor has been to Lebanon and seen the refugee crisis first hand in one of the toughest spots in the world.  They have written a number of articles exposing what ISIS is doing and encouraging the Western church to step up and support refugees coming from the Middle East.  This article, which came out today, summarizes the persecution that the Church is facing around the world and challenges American Christians to reconsider what we consider persecution.

What I’m Watching:

Tinga Tinga Tales: Seasons One and Two

The short answer is that I’m not watching much these days besides Dora the Explorer and Paw Patrol, but I have been dishing out a few episodes of Tinga Tinga Tales to my kids.  They love the show, which has really creative graphics, familiar (to them) language and accents, and clever story lines.  Warning: this show is not strictly Creationist in its viewpoint; it is based on African fables about how animals developed different unique characteristics.

Romantic Comedies Starring Brits

A friend of mine dropped a whole bunch of illegally ripped movies in my lap (this is Africa…we don’t have access to Hulu, so we pass around bootleg movies).  One of the movies that I loved so much that I’ve watched it over and over again.  “About Time” is a lovely 2013 British movie starring some British guy I’d never seen before, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy, who is just great. 
Plot Summary: A young man inherits the ability to travel in time in his own life and learns how to build the best life he possibly can.  It’s just so touching.  I highly recommend it.  
Then I was on airplanes for roughly 900 hours last month and I watched the recent movie “Man Up” starring the wonderful Simon Pegg.  He’s the only reason I watched the movie, but I’m ever so glad I did. 
Plot summary: A woman accidentally shows up for a stranger’s blind date and decides to steal the date.  Hi-jinks ensue.  There’s a whole thing about people crying on airplanes, and I certainly did during this movie.  I enjoyed it so much, making me that woman who is not only awake watching movies while everyone else sleeps (because how often do I get to just sit and watch hours and hours of movies?) but also laughs out loud.

What I’m Listening To:


I have logged over 320 hours of listening to podcasts since I download the Stitcher podcast app a little more than a year ago. I love having the background voices while I do housework or process data or draw pictures of the birthing process.  The podcasts I listen to are all over the map, but here’s a list of the top podcasts I never miss, even the embarrassing ones:
Pop Culture Happy Hour – Keeps me up on entertainment and culture in America
Slate’s Political Gabfest – Fascinating analysis of both headline and obscure political news (left-leaning, I admit, but less hate-filled than most of the right-leaning ones I’ve tried), occasional language, 
The RELEVANT Podcast – I used to listen to this back in 2007-2009, but dropped off when my internet got achingly slow when I first moved to Africa.  I started listening again because my friend Joy is a frequent contributor.
Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! – Some of my best Saturday mornings in America were when I had to be in the car on a Saturday morning and got to listen to WWDTM.  Now I don’t have to be in the car.
This American Life – Although this is sinking down my list of favorite things to listen to, it has been a staple for years.
Jordan, Jesse GO! – This is a new addition to my list, and definitely a “listen through headphones only” podcast of really random, funny, NSFW conversation.  I regularly laugh out loud.
My Brother, My Brother and Me – Similar to Jordan, Jesse GO!, it’s a very quirky advice show hosted by three brothers.  Lots of language and certainly NSFW, but I laugh a lot when I listen to it.
Slate’s Whistlestop – This podcast is in-depth political historical analysis from a man who has been a political journalist for decades.  I highly recommend it to any fellow political nerds.
Radiolab – Similar to This American Life, but more edgy
Mystery Show – Hosted by a This American Life contributor, Starlee Kine, she solves mysteries that cannot be resolved on the internet.  It’s on a hiatus right now, but it’s unique and thoroughly interesting.
This is only about a third of the podcasts I regularly listen to, and I’m always open to suggestions!

The Woodlands: Parallels Vol. I

I do not listen to much music, but The Woodlands are friends from back in my Portland days, and they make beautiful music.  You can buy their latest album for literally any amount of money. (I paid $10 and it is well worth it.)  It’s beautiful, interesting acoustic music with lovely vocal harmonies.  It provides really nice background for creative or thoughtful work, like blog writing, although other weeks are a lot more both creative and thoughtful than this one.  Still, it’s done, isn’t it?  And it’s still Thursday!
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