Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship

From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a teacher. I had one aunt specifically that I aspired to be like. I would stand in my basement with my very own chalkboard and pretend to teach my students (who were really just my collection of stuffed animals). I could do it for hours on end and never get tired of it.

When I finally went to college, I declared my major from the start – Elementary Education. I wasn’t one of those kids that fulfilled their gen-ed requirements while trying to figure out what I wanted to do; I knew from the time I understood that I’d need a job in the real world that teaching was my passion. (Funny side note: I graduated but with a bachelor’s degree in communication. #whaaaat!??!)

It took me awhile, but I eventually got a job at the local junior college teaching Remedial English to the incoming freshman. I LOVED EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT MY JOB. Many of the kids came from troubled backgrounds and very little money. They had built an armor of protection around them that often came across as rude and uncaring. But one of the things that made me love English the most was the fact that they were required to open themselves up through writing. Somehow turning a paper in allowed them the safety they needed to be honest about their innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, and dreams.

Just like Patrick in Reading with Patrick, I had a specific student that I connected with from the very beginning. Cliff (**not his real name) came to the first class with pants sagging below his bottom, several gold chains hanging from his neck, and a flat-billed cap cock-eyed on his head. He sat at the back of the classroom, an ear bud in one of his ears. I asked him to remove the ear bud and he gave me a look that conveyed his disrespect, and mistrust, but he did it.

His first essay was the bare minimum and offered no self-reflection or effort to gain any insight from the assignment. After getting the second essay assignment, I noticed him sitting in the back of the room thumbing through various social media accounts on his phone. I walked to the back of the room, knelt beside him, and tried to pry something out of him that may begin to motivate him. His assignment was to write about someone who had demonstrated kindness to him.

He looked at me blankly and said, “I don’t have anyone who did that for me.”

Of course, my first instinct was that he was being lazy and just didn’t want to work on it. I offered some suggestions – a teacher, a coach, a friend? He shook his head no.

“Your dad?”

“My daddy left ‘fore I was even born,” he replied, with disgust in his voice.

My heart broke. Instantly (and maybe a bit stupidly), I realized that these kids were not blessed with the childhood I had growing up. They didn’t have the luxury of taking things for granted – simple things like the love of their parents.

“How about your mom?” I was grasping for any relationship – anyone – that could possibly help this young man complete his assignment.

“All she do is work. She don’t care.”

“Why do you think she works all the time?”

Cliff just stared at me. Finally, he gave a small shrug; he truly didn’t understand.

“Do you think she was doing it because that was the only way she could put food on the table for you and your siblings? Do you think she was trying to make money so she could buy you clothes? A phone? To give you a home? She obviously is doing it on her own if your dad isn’t around.”

He sat back, silent, and a single tear slowly rolled down his cheek.

“I never thought about it like that.”

Cliff was a different kid from that day forward. He began coming to class dressed in button-down shirts with the biggest, happiest smile on his face. He laughed and joked; the tough exterior was gone. Sadly, I lost touch with him after our semester together, but I find myself thinking of him all the time, wondering – hoping – he’s ok. I have no way to know so I send a silent prayer up and hope it somehow reaches him.

Reading with Patrick was a story that made me miss my teaching days. It reminded me of the incredible people who devote their lives to minimal pay and thanklessness because they have a passion for kids that trumps their monetary desires. It’s a story of heartbreak and despair, but also one of hope. It reminds its readers the power of just one person and what can happen when we believe in each other. This book also continues the conversation about institutional racism and the devastating consequences of our educational system – especially in the more disadvantaged neighborhoods.

This would make a great book club selection, and it would also be a great addition for those looking to expand their diverse reading.

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Time to start your holiday shopping with JORD Watches!

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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by JORD Wood Watches. I received the product in exchange for my thoughts, opinions, and influence; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything

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What did I learn about my personality after reading Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything? That I hate learning about personalities. (#sorrynotsorry #unpopularopinion)

I have spent so much time trying to figure out my personality, so I thought this book would be the perfect match for me. I preordered it because I was so excited! Once it was released, I saw rave reviews all over #bookstagram about it and I was excited all over again.

All of that to say, I had HIGH hopes when it came to this book. But sadly, it just left me frustrated. I don’t feel like it added anything new to the conversation; it was just a compilation of all the information already out there. I still need to go to websites to take the personality quizzes, or buy books or pay money to learn what personality type I am! #ugh. I don’t have money lying around to hire a professional to administer the tests to me and then explain my results. So basically, I know just as much now about personality typing as I did when I started.

Also, the examples provided throughout the book were weak at best and mostly about the author and her personal friends and/or family; therefore, very unrelatedable to me. Unless you’re the same personality type as Anne Bogel, don’t expect to get a lot of insight into your personal type.

Now, if we were to judge a book by its cover, this is a handsdown winner! The cover is gorgeous! I love the colors, especially the shimmering gold. I like the script of the title, and I love the whimsical feel it gives off. Pictures don’t do it justice so take my word and seek this one out at a bookstore just so you can get the full effect of it!

Lastly, this doesn’t change my opionon of Anne Bogel or her podcast, What Should I Read Next?, in the least! I think she is brilliantly knowledable about books and I find that my #tbrlist has no chance of shrinking as long as she’s producing episodes. She is well-spoken and I enjoy listening to her conversations with her guests. I also love her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and find it to have so much valuable information as well (especially the daily links she provides to the best e-book deals of the day).

I wanted to love this one, but I honestly think it’s more about me than the book. I think I’ve finally realized that I’m not all that fascinated with personality assessment. People who are will find this to be a great resource to add to their research and library!

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

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#NonfictionNovember continues with Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime. I have to admit, I went into this one with a completely inaccurate general idea of what the book was about. I’m not sure how, or why, I misunderstood the premise of the story (I blame Doubleday for the marketing and cover design), but I think it threw me completely off and, eventually, ruined the book for me.

From the synopsis, I knew this was about a soldier who went rogue and robbed a bank. What I incorrectly assumed was that this incident was going to be related back to some conspiracy theory that the government is brainwashing these individuals into mindless people that will make them do whatever they are commanded to do (think Manchurian Candidate).

Whether this actually was the author’s intention or not, it wasn’t delivered. Alex Blum (ex-Ranger, convicted felon) knew exactly what he was doing that day he drove the getaway car for a bunch of bank robbers. Maybe it’s true that there are superior ranks that would make it tough to speak out against, but there were plenty of opportunities for Blum to remove himself from this situation (umm, like taking his scheduled flight home!). The whole book just felt like an excuse to remove blame from himself and to not accept responsiblity. (In full disclosure, Alex Blum does eventually accept responsiblity, but for me, it was too little too late.)

Ranger Games was written by Alex Blum’s cousin, Ben. Throughout the story, Ben inserts himself into the narrative – almost like he (childishly) needed to share the spotlight. It was unnecessary, distracting, and egotistical. This aspect alone is probably what turned me off the most about the entire book. I wish he would have just stuck to the Alex’s story and left himself and his family out of it. The family history added nothing to the context and instead made it seem like an opportunity to gain some self-importance.

It was unnecessarily long (400 pages) and had the Blum’s family history been cut out, the shortened length may have helped to save the overall book experience.

Lastly, in my opinion, this book was false advertising. They marketed it in a way to capture attention when the actual book was about somethings else entirely. I felt duped and that also is another reason I didn’t enjoy this book at all.

The Alice Network

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Not one, but two, female protagonists? Espionage? WWI and WWII? An endearing male character who not only sweeps one of the main character’s off her feet, but the readers too? YES, PLEASE!! This book has it all and I flew through the 500 pages like it was my job!

Alternating between two time periods (WWI and the end of WWII), two separate tales become intertwined as they build towards an exciting, unexpected, and redemptive ending. I found myself engaged in each of the protagonists stories – (although if forced to choose, I’d say Evelyn’s story of espionage kept me flying through the pages).

Drawing from actual historical events, Kate Quinn masterfully delivers a book that will definitely top my list of favorites this year! I loved the strong female characters that continually demonstrated bravery, resilience, and independence. I think fans of The Lilac Girls and The Nightingale will equally love this one!

One True Loves

I had heard around #bookstagram that One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid was a great book on audio so when I needed to paint my son’s bedroom, I thought this was the perfect time to give it a shot.

It was perfect! I was engaged from the first chapter and found myself continuing to paint (whaaaat?!?!?!) because I just wasn’t ready to leave the world of Emma/Jesse/Sam. The minutes flew by as one of the hardest situations (no spoilers here!) I can imagine echoed throughout the room as I painted. I felt my jaw drop in several instances because Reid did such an amazing job of evoking empathy in her reader’s hearts.

This is the second book I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid and I can wholeheartedly say I’m a fan! This storyline is drastically different than The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (read my review here), but the author’s writing style is the same. Reid weaves a tale in such a way that the reader become invested quickly. She writes with such gusto that one can’t turn the pages fast enough. Reid leads the readers with just enough information that they want to keep going, but still somehow manages to surprise them when the story eventually plays out.

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s style is fun, engaging, and thought-provoking. If you haven’t given one of her books a read yet, do it soon! You won’t be disappointed!

If you’ve read books other than these two by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which one should I pick up next? Also, I’m always up for audiobook recommendations, so please leave me some of those suggestions as well!

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

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“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Braving the Wilderness was the perfect addition to my Nonfiction November reading list. I have read four of the five books that Brene Brown has written (Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gift of Imperfection), so it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of hers! Brene Brown is a genius when it comes to forging authenticity and vulnerability in our lives, seeking true belonging, and honoring ourselves. While this book wasn’t as good as the others, there were still so many useful (and quotable) tidbits throughout.

WE CHOOSE LOVE.

The biggest takeaway I’m implementing into my life right away is to work from an “Assumption of Generosity”. In the future, when I feel wronged or hurt by someone, instead of immediately thinking that person acted intentionally, I will now give them the benefit of the doubt. Brown explains, “you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.” I feel this is an extremely healthy idea to apply to all the relationships in my life and can only imagine it will reap positive benefits quickly!

Another takeaway from Braving the Wilderness is giving yourself permission. Permission for what? Anything you find yourself holding back from! Do you find it hard to enforce your boundaries with others? Permission granted to honor them! Do you have a hard time saying no to others or to commitments you’re not passionate about? Permission granted! Brown says, for awhile, she literally wrote out these permission slips to give to herself. I love that idea because I find that there are many things I make myself feel guilty about, but the idea of a permission slip (as silly as it sounds) seems to diminish that self-inflicted guilt immediately!

It ties back nicely to the underlying theme of the book: by honoring yourself, you find true belonging (the only kind of belonging that truly matters)!

While the examples above are things that impacted me personally, the book also addresses present day issues such as the impact of social media on us individually and collectively, politics, terrorism, and several others. It is timely and relevant information.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, joy, trust, intimacy, courage – everything that brings meaning to our life. An armored front sounds good when we’re hurting but causes us much more pain in the end. When we let people take our vulnerability or fill us with their hate, we turn over our entire life to them.”