March’s Read: River Rocks

Now that the weather is trying to break, the itch for an adventure has been settling in.  While the weather (and work schedule) hasn’t been ideal for an adventure, I decided to live vicariously in a book.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet author Steve Kittner at a seminar. Each teacher was issued a free copy of his book, River Rocks. Taking place in the hills of West Virginia, two boys named Josh and Eddie go on a summer adventure when they come across a red milk can containing a cryptic message. The boys decided to research and discover clues that lead to Confederate gold from the Civil War. 

River Rocks by Steve Kittner

I really enjoyed this book because of the familiarity of the setting in the book. I have had the opportunity to explore the area and kayak the Elk River long before I picked up the book. I could picture myself being with the characters as they worked together to solve the mystery. It was actually the neatest experience for me.

They also like how the story gives you the old timey, small town feel. Although the story takes place in the early 2000s, the small town setting makes you think that the characters lived in the late 20th century. In the story, Josh and Eddie are all about being outside whether it’s riding bikes, camping or fishing. Everyone knows each other in the town and there’s always mannerisms involved. I honestly wish we could go back to the days where social media wasn’t involved and people were kind to one another. Life was much simpler without technology.

In the story, unlikely friendships were developed. Josh and Eddie become friends with high school graduate, Giselle, and the school bully, Brad. This is another part of the book I like because at a young age, we get this idea that we cannot be friends with someone who isn’t in our age group nor have similar family background. A lot of times, we tend to look at the surface instead of seeing what each and every one of us is capable of doing. For example, Brad came from a rough home life, but he could build a raft out of plywood and milk jugs. To me, that is a special talent. Brad’s project gave him an opportunity to break the chain and have a better life when he got older. In real life, you can break the generational chain by being you and sharing your talents with the world.

Kittner did an excellent job piecing some of the characters to the mystery of the missing Confederate gold. The adults involved in the hunt had an ancestor who had witnessed or overheard the story of the train robbery at the time. Their stories are carried from generation to generation which became a link to the missing puzzle. As I read this story, I would try my best to picture the story from everyone’s point of view until all the sides were told. As the entire story unfolds, so does the amount of time Josh and Eddie had to find this gold before their enemies did.  

If you are seeking an adventure, I would highly recommend this book. Once I started the story, I couldn’t put it down. The one thing I do regret is that I didn’t read this book sooner. If you are a teacher (especially in West Virginia), this book would be a great resource to incorporate into your learning standards. This is a very enjoyable read for everyone of all ages.

If you have read this book or any other Steve Kittner’s books, let me know what you think. I would love to hear your feedback.

Stay adventurous,

Natalie

February’s Read: A Better Life: Slowing Down to Get Ahead by Rebecca Smith

Have you ever been intrigued when you see a title that says, “A Better Life?” This is what drew my attention as I spent almost an hour at Mardell looking at their book selection. I came across Rebecca Smith’s, A Better Life: Slowing Down To Get Ahead. As I picked up the book and read the summary on the back, something struck me. As I read the summary, it gave me a correlation to what I was about to go through when we moved to North Carolina. 

This story was about a couple moving to Hamtramck, Michigan where 26 languages were spoken and the diversity of the population was significant. This is the part where I could partially relate because I was moving into an area where there’s more diversity in gender, ethnicity, race and languages. It was scary, but exciting at the same time. If you personally know me, you know that I have never lived out of West Virginia before. My home state is not very diverse due to lack of opportunity and closed-mindedness. On top of that, we are not big on drastic change and we’re about 20 years behind on culture and infrastructure. Don’t think I am bashing my state by any means. I love West Virginia with all my heart and have plans to return within the next 4 years.

The author, Rebecca Smith, writes about how she began to slow down, pay attention to her surroundings, and acknowledge the gifts God was giving her. Initially, Smith did not think she could belong in such a worn out town and feared for what could happen to her husband and her. This fear was coming from a culture barrier. We tend to paint a bad picture of these different cultures based on what the media has told us or what we may have experienced from the past. It is very difficult for us to leap over this barrier and make the appoint to get to know each other. 

Smith’s journey began when she was sewing handbags as a hobby. What started as a hobby became a booming business called Better Life Bags. She opened up an Etsy shop and gave 10% of each bag sales to a low income entrepreneur overseas to use as a micro loan. Smith’s business presented to customers that by purchasing a handbag, they were providing a better life for those in need.  How many times throughout our life do we look for ways to buy an item that has a purpose not just to us, but for someone else? Nowadays, there are companies that are finding ways to give back to communities rather than just hoarding all the profits. When we are presented with these campaigns, we feel better about why we bought the product. 

As Smith’s business continued to grow, she seized the opportunity to help the local women by giving them a job to work for her. These women were given not just a source of income, but a purpose.  What I really liked about Smith’s story was that she took the time to listen to each of her employee’s stories. She also took their strengths and incorporated them into her business. Each woman working for Better Life Bags. The women were grateful to work for the company and they worked hard. Smith authentically cared about the women and did everything she could to help them have a better life.

Another part of the story that spoke to me was when each bag was purchased, a card was also sent with the bag giving the customer the behind the scenes look at the employee who made the bag. The card would state the name, the country they originated from, and provided insight on their life story. Giving that piece of information to someone not only gave them insight on who that person is, but provided the consumer some education on those who are different from us. I think a lot of times, fear gets in the way and prevents us from knowing someone else’s story. In this day and age, we are too caught up in the stereotypes and mainstream media that it simply drives a wedge among all of us. 

Many times, we are caught up in the fast paced world and overlook the small details and signs that are presented to us. We lose focus on those who have impacted our lives and got us where we are today.  Hustling is hard, but slow living is becoming much harder. We no longer set boundaries because we’re chasing fame and/or fortune. Smith set boundaries on her business by not making it a franchise. She didn’t sell her business and took a permanent vacation. Instead, she continued to maintain the business’s status while taking care of her employees. 

As I continue this adventure of living the military lifestyle, my goal is to slow down and pay attention to each moment, big or small. Regardless of differences, I want to take the time to meet those to cross paths in my life whether it’s a coworker, employee at another establishment, or part of the military community. Josh and I have a goal to live slowly and peacefully once we move back to West Virginia, but why wait until his retirement in four years? Why not start now? I think this is all we need to start thinking about. Slowing down and enjoying life.

Stay adventurous,

Natalie

January Read: “Present Over Perfect”

Last month, I reviewed Erin Loechner’s book, Chasing Slow . I received some insights on what “slow living” meant regarding your situation. One of the things that stood out was being more present.

Present? I heard this before…

Being present is easier said than done, especially if you suffer from anxiety. It is difficult to be present when I overthink the scenarios I’m in. I always think about what could happen and how I need to act accordingly. I make an extra effort to be more presentable and approachable before the opportunity arises whether it’s meeting new people or going out with your significant other. What my anxiety is reaching for is a dose of perfection.

This leads to the book I am currently reading this month. 

I have been reading Shauna Niequist’s book,Present Over Perfect Present Over PerfectPresent Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. Niequist’s book is about her journey of the ups and downs in her personal, professional, and spiritual life. Each chapter talks about a different experience and the key message she received from it. All in which we can learn along the way.

There were a few things I could relate to in Niequist’s book. First, perfection. Both of us are known to chase one achievement after another. We both craved for more instead of taking a moment and enjoying an achievement. We both were known to say, “yes,” to everything. We both became frantic and exhausted. Perfection has always been my goal in my head. It’s what I thought was keeping my anxiety at bay. However, perfection was feeding my anxiety. 

Niequist talks about her breaking point a few years ago while she was on a business trip. Once she realized how she was living and the effects it was taking on her life, family, and God, she knew it was time to make a change. As I was reading her journey, I was becoming aware of the things I was doing. I was only thriving on anxiety and busyness. This began to bother me not because it was happening, but because I realized it was happening and I was allowing it.

As I continued reading, I realized we had one thing in common, spiritual health was neglected. We weren’t taking the time to talk to God and reflect on the lessons from the biblical stories. I think we as society are so caught up on pleasing others and being so perfect that we forget to be graceful when we fail, be kind to ourselves when things don’t go our way, and take time to rest from the noise. 

In the book, Niequist wrote a chapter called, “Vinegar and Oil.” She compares our prayers to salad dressing. The vinegar is on top and the oil is on the bottom. She then talked about how we tend to only pray about the good things happening to us instead of pouring our troubles to God. When you’re praying you got to pour out our troubles and worries to him first (vinegar), then you pray about the good things happening (oil). This was not only my favorite chapter, but it stuck with me.

When you become aware of your choices and wellbeing, it is up to you to make the choice on how you want to live your life. There’s two choices: continue living the way you always have based on others’ approval or make the change for the better. Niequist’s awareness motivated her to make some changes along the way. She began to say, “no ” on golden career opportunities. She began to put her family and herself first.

Either way you look at it, both choices are hard. I have made the choice to become more present. I’m thinking about how each choice affects me short term and long term. I quit my teaching job because of the mental and emotional tolls on my health. I take it one day at a time instead of looking at where I need to be in 5-10 years. I found that I’m at peace as I continue this journey. Is this an easy journey? Of course not. However, the life I was living beforehand wasn’t easy either. 

The idea of perfection is always going to be there. It is vital for you to realize that you cannot reach perfection. Life throws too many curveballs at us which prevents us from being perfect. I think a lot of times, we get so caught up on the negativity which shields us from the silver linings. Sometimes we get upset when things don’t go our way, and forget that it wasn’t in God’s plan because he has something bigger for us. 

This month’s read has really stuck with me. There were a lot of life lessons to think about and reflect on how it relates to me. I found ways to become more present while focusing on my spiritual health. Currently I have been looking at the world a little differently. In this fast paced world that strives for perfection, I know I am going to be okay being imperfect.

Stay adventurous,

Natalie

December’s Read: “Chasing Slow”

Hey everyone!

I decided to start reading books again. It has been a year and a half since I sat down and read multiple books within a season. I was feeling the urge to get back to doing so. Living in a camper in the winter, you can only do so much. Being glued to my MacBook and phone weren’t going to cut it for me.

I wanted to share a book I am either currently reading or have finished. Each month, I am going to bring you a title and go over a brief summary and my thoughts on the book. If you or you know of an avid reader, this will be a post for them.


This month, I am currently reading Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. The book is about Loechner’s journey to chasing happiness through fame, fortune, and the fast paced life and how she decided to “venture off the beaten path” to enjoy the things she has already in front of her. Loechner discusses how hard times led her to surrender the chase and appreciate the simple things in life.

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

I decided to start reading books again. It has been a year and a half since I sat down and read multiple books within a season. I was feeling the urge to get back to doing so. Living in a camper in the winter, you can only do so much. Being glued to my MacBook and phone weren’t going to cut it for me.

I wanted to share a book I am either currently reading or have finished. Each month, I am going to bring you a title and go over a brief summary and my thoughts on the book. If you or you know of an avid reader, this will be a post for them.

This month, I am currently reading Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. The book is about Loechner’s journey to chasing happiness through fame, fortune, and the fast paced life and how she decided to “venture off the beaten path” to enjoy the things she has already in front of her. Loechner discusses how hard times led her to surrender the chase and appreciate the simple things in life.

I discovered this book on Pinterest when I was looking for self-improvement books. The title was very appealing to me. I went online and read the reviews on Loechner’s book through <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Slow-Courage-Journey-Beaten/dp/0310345677/ref=sr_1_1?crid=18S31TGQTVQ1D&keywords=chasing+slow&qid=1641844750&sprefix=chasing+slow%252Caps%252C150&sr=8-1&_encoding=UTF8&tag=arrowsxadvent-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=5b21f85af2d0d4b6a163218c8c996c59&camp=1789&creative=9325">Chasing SlowAmazon. I was surprised with the reviews. Many readers expected it to be a practical book, not about someone’s life experiences. Some felt misled by the title. At first I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to buy the book, but I wouldn’t know if it was a good book if I didn’t give it a chance. After reading the reviews, I took the leap and ordered Chasing Slow. I began reading it once it arrived. 

Chasing Slow isn’t necessarily a practical read. It isn’t going to tell you what to do with your life. It isn’t going to tell you what it means to live a slow life. The book isn’t one you would want to finish in two days. In fact, reading each chapter took some time to sink in. Taking that time after reading each chapter has allowed me to make connections with Loechner’s experiences whether it was getting pulled over by a policeman or losing a loved one. 

Chasing Slow gives you a perspective on how much we chase for fame and fortune in a fast paced life. It makes you realize how addicting it can be to want more once you reach a goal. We begin to lose sight of what we have in front of us because we want more materialistic things, money, and recognition. I applaud Loechner for everything she has been through with her husband’s health, finances, and career. It may be part of life, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of grit to bounce back.

This book is what I needed due to my current situation. As I get older, I appreciate the things I already have in front of me. I don’t want to continue the “chase.” Life is too short to worry about having the best of the best. If that is what you are after, I applaud you. I want to take the time and enjoy my family, my dog, and the adventure I am on now. Nothing lasts forever. That is why I want to “chase slow.”

Stay adventurous,

Natalie Paige