Friday, December 31, 2010

#4: Read 100 Books in a year

I love to read, if you weren't already aware.  I read 80 last year so I upped the ante for 31 Things.  There's fiction, non-fiction, fluff, heavy stuff, and everything in between.  I don't like to pigeonhole myself when it comes to books!  I know it's insane that I actually read 100 books but I have to note that I did have a life this past year and that I am a speed reader.  Also, I will probably never read this many books in a year again!

Could I give you a detailed plot analysis on all of these?  Probably not but I could give you my general impressions and whether or not I'd recommend that you read it.  I've included links to the books I've already reviewed.  I'm adding Amazon affiliate links plus a blurb for the books I didn't review here but would recommend that you check out.  Enjoy!
  1. Best Friends Forever- Jennifer Weiner (1/1)
  2. No One You Know- Michelle Richmond (1/2)
  3. April and Oliver- Tess Callahan (1/3)
  4. The Lucky One- Nicholas Sparks (1/4)
  5. The Fury- LJ Smith (1/5)
  6. The Dark Reunion- LJ Smith (1/5)
  7. The Hour I First Believed- Wally Lamb (1/17)  -I'm a Wally Lamb fan and was glad to see he'd finally written another novel.  I was intrigued by this one as it takes us behind the scenes, so to speak, of the Columbine shooting.  Told from the perspective of a teacher who wasn't present that day but whose wife was trapped inside the school, the story is gripping and left me questioning whether I knew the Columbine story as well as I thought I did.
  8. Lord John and the Private Matter- Diana Gabaldon (1/23)
  9. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane- Katherine Howe (1/24)
  10. The Beautiful Ache- Leigh McLeroy (1/25)
  11. An Accomplished Woman- Jude Morgan (1/29)
  12. The Year of Living Biblically- A.J. Jacobs (1/30)
  13. Shoot the Moon- Billie Letts (1/30)
  14. Shelter Me- Juliette Fay (1/31)
  15. Three Cups of Tea- Greg Mortenson (2/5) -Mortenson's work is absolutely inspiring.  He believes strongly that literacy and education, especially for girls, in the Middle East is the key to lasting change.
  16. The Gift- Cecilia Ahern (2/7)
  17. Summer House- Nancy Thayer (2/7)
  18. Belong to Me- Marisa de los Santos (2/11) -This is the follow up to Love Walked In, a book that I loved for its humor and deft touch. The sequel did not disappoint and I loved catching up with these characters.
  19. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade- Diana Gabaldon (2/13)
  20. The Weddding Girl- Madeline Wickham (2/18)
  21. Till We Have Faces- C.S. Lewis (2/19) -A myth retold, indeed.  This sparked interesting conversation at Book Club.
  22. The Best of Times- Penny Vincenzi (2/22)
  23. When I'm Falling- Laura Moriarty (2/24)
  24. The 19th Wife- David Ebershoff (2/28) -I wasn't sure what to expect from a book about Mormonism and plural marriage.  The past and present story lines are masterfully interwoven and kept me guessing.
  25. The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins (3/3)
  26. Understanding Your Grief- Alan Wolfelt (3/4)
  27. The Swan Thieves- Elizabeth Kostova (3/6) -This is possibly one of my favorite fiction works from this year.  After inhaling The Historian, I hoped that The Swan Thieves would have a similar effect and it did.  Kostova is an author worth paying attention to. Art history, the confines of mental illness, the patient-psychiatrist relationship, and how a painting comes together...all melded together in a captivating way.  I didn't want it to end.
  28. Practical Justice- Kevin Blue (3/6)
  29. Lord John and the Hand of the Devils- Diana Gabaldon (3/8)
  30. Natural Born Charmer- Susan Elizabeth Phillips (3/11)
  31. Match Me If You Can- Susan Elizabeth Phillips (3/13)
  32. Look Again- Lisa Scottoline (3/14)
  33. Cure for the Common Life- Max Lucado (3/14)
  34. This Heart of Mine- Susan Elizabeth Phillips (3/16)
  35. Lady Killer- Lisa Scottoline (3/18)
  36. Reunion- Therese Fowler (3/20)
  37. The Shack- William P. Young (3/21)
  38. Thanks for the Memories- Cecilia Ahern (3/27)
  39. Torchlight- Lisa Tawn Bergren (3/28)
  40. Once in a Blue Moon- Eileen Goudge (3/31) -An interesting tale of sisters who grew up living extremely different lives who reunite in adulthood.  Talk about baggage.
  41. Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins (4/6) -Seriously, I just love the Hunger Games trilogy.
  42. Becca by the Book- Laura Jensen Walker (4/11)
  43. The Help- Kathryn Stockett (4/18) -I definitely fell into the camp of people that lurved this book. I was prepared not to as I typically dislike books that get a lot of hype but I was quickly drawn in by these characters.  I couldn't help but picture each woman with her distinct voice and wonder whether the Southern society would cut them apart or bring them together.  It also made me wonder how I would have really responded if I'd grown up during the Civil Rights era.
  44. Brava, Valentine- Adriana Trigiani (4/28) -While I'm no shoemaker, I found Valentine to be very relatable.  I enjoyed reading about her quest to grow in her career and find love. I'm glad that Trigiani will be following up this sequel with another Valentine book!
  45. The Husband Habit- Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (5/1)
  46. Breathing Room- Susan Elizabeth Phillips (5/2)
  47. The Gatecrasher- Madeleine Wickham (5/6)
  48. The Knowledge of the Holy- A.W. Tozer (5/8)
  49. Let Them Eat Cake- Sandra Byrd (5/9) -The French Twist trilogy is enjoyable fluff reading all the way.  Lexi is an aspiring pastry chef, trying to figure post-college life out.  I enjoyed learning more about France, baking, and the allure of a French accent.
  50. Bon Appetit- Sandra Byrd (5/10) -French Twist #2
  51. Stones Into Schools- Greg Mortenson (5/14) -The follow up to Three Cups of Tea.  Did I ever mention that I met Mortenson at a book signing?  He is such a humble, gentle soul who takes time to connect with everyone he meets.
  52. Piece de Resistance- Sandra Byrd (5/14) -French Twist #3
  53. Dreaming in French- Megan McAndrew (5/15)
  54. Big Boned- Meg Cabot (5/16)
  55. Moon Over Tokyo- Siri Mitchell (5/31) *reread
  56. The Pioneer Woman Cooks- Ree Drummond (6/5) -I love cookbooks but this was probably the first time that I sat down and read a cookbook from front to back in one day.  It made me love PW's blog and recipes even more.
  57. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner- Stephenie Meyer (6/9)
  58. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (6/11) -I resisted reading this for a long time but then a friend gave it to me for my birthday.  It still took me 5 more months to crack it open but the moment I did, I was hooked.  Correspondence during post-WWII England and Guernsey.  As characters get to know each other by letter, we get to know them too and you can't help but root for each one.
  59. Nowhere, Carolina- Tamara Leigh (6/28) -Tamara Leigh writes Christian chick lit that is actually good. Her new Southern Discomfort series has been all the more enjoyable because of my relocation.  I also appreciate how she's handled the early onset Alzheimers diagnosis of one of the characters- it's an illness not many people are familiar with.
  60. Sex God- Rob Bell (7/18)
  61. Ahab's Wife- Sena Jeter Naslund (7/25)
  62. The Kommandant's Girl- Pam Jenoff (8/1)
  63. Jane Austen Ruined My Life- Beth Pattillo (8/5) -Yay for more good Christian chick lit!  I love Jane Austen references and jaunts to England whilst characters find themselves.  Pattillo is a new fave.
  64. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart- Beth Pattillo (8/22) -See above.
  65. Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins (8/29) -The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  You'll need to talk to someone when you're done reading.  Why not me?
  66. Velvet Elvis- Rob Bell (9/3)
  67. It Had to be You- Susan Elizabeth Phillips (9/5)
  68. Diva NashVegas- Rachel Hauck (9/6)
  69. Singled Out- Christine Colon and Bonnie Field (9/7)
  70. Winter Garden- Kristin Hannah (9/11) -Kristin Hannah is a master at exploring the complexities of female relationships, in this case a reserved mother and her two adult daughters.  This was a departure for her as she included a lot of rich historical narrative and questions how the past can haunt us or set us free.
  71. Ain't She Sweet?- Susan Elizabeth Phillips (9/12)
  72. Elements of Style- Wendy Wasserstein (9/19)
  73. Not My Daughter- Barbara Delinsky (9/23) -What would happen if teenage girls formed a pregnancy pact and one of their mothers was the high school principal?  Very interesting topic.
  74. Of Bees and Mist- Erick Setiawan (10/2)
  75. The Wednesday Sisters- Meg Waite Clayton (10/9)
  76. The Diplomat's Wife- Pam Jenoff (10/10)
  77. Marked- P.C. and Kristin Cast (10/17)
  78. Betrayed- P.C. and Kristin Cast (10/27)
  79. Chosen- P.C. and Kristin Cast (10/30)
  80. Bittersweet- Shauna Niequist (11/2)
  81. The Patron Saint of Liars- Ann Patchett (11/7)
  82. Untamed- P.C. and Kristin Cast (11/7)
  83. Radical- David Platt (11/13) -What more can I say about this book?  My thoughts from the Read-Along: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
  84. Hunted- P.C. and Kristin Cast (11/13)
  85. Outlive Your Life- Max Lucado (11/22)
  86. Tempted- P.C. and Kristin Cast (11/24)
  87. Evolving in Monkey Town- Rachel Held Evans (11/25)
  88. Bird by Bird- Anne Lamott (11/27)
  89. Just Between You and Me- Jenny B. Jones (11/29) -OK, so here's another good Christian chick lit book. I laughed out loud, I may have cried a bit, and I absolutely loved the main character. I've never read Jones before but I'm thinking I'll keep her on the radar.
  90. Burned- P.C. and Kristin Cast (12/4)
  91. Looking for Peyton Place- Barbara Delinsky (12/7)
  92. The Dressmaker- Posie Graeme-Evans (12/11)
  93. Shopaholic and Baby- Sophie Kinsella (12/12)
  94. Harvesting the Heart- Jodi Picoult (12/18)
  95. Vision in White- Nora Roberts (12/19)
  96. South of Broad- Pat Conroy (12/25) -To be fair, I figured out a major plot point about 100 pages in and I wasn't enthralled with how some of the story lines were wrapped up.  BUT I love Conroy's writing. The main character kept me interested, from his dry wit to how he is there for a hodgepodge of friends. There's enough mystery to keep things moving and the strong bonds between unlikely friends mask some of the weaker points.
  97. Blind Hope- Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher (12/27) -review to follow soon
  98. The Choice- Nicholas Sparks (12/28) 
  99. The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective- Richard Rohr (12/29) -I'm grateful to my dear friend The Gat for recommending this to me.  It's more than self-analysis. The Enneagram has a way of moving past ourselves and to the heart of the matter. What makes me tick? What are my tendencies?  I have a lot to ponder still but it appears I am a 4. Don't know what that means?  I suppose you should read it to find out.
  100. Barefoot- Elin Hildebrand (12/30)
What are your thoughts about this list?  Any other book nerds out there?  Did you read any of these books?  What are your reading recommendations for this next year?

      Thursday, December 30, 2010

      Hospitality On-line

      Leadership. Servanthood. Consistency. Compassion. Encouragement. Inclusiveness.

      Are these traits that describe me?  Do they describe my blog?  Chapter 3 of @StickyJesus has made me think, once again.

      I loved the examples from the book.  Each provided an easy, hands-on way to go beyond interacting with our social media tools and begin caring for our on-line communities.

      I can remember when I first started taking "this blogging" thing more seriously. It was the moment my other blog started getting comments from people I didn't know. The social worker/hospice/palliative care on-line communities are alive and well and definitely shaped the direction of my professional blog.  I started emailing with some of these professionals, asking questions, offering advice.  It was a beautiful, wonderful thing.  Even HopefulLeigh is forming its own community.  I love the people that take time to visit here and comment a response. I marvel that my words make people think or encourage them or turn them on to good music.

      I remember how it felt the first time a blogger responded to one of my comments on their blog or emailed me a more personal response.  A feeling that I was worth noticing and receiving a response. I know not everyone has time to do that so it is all the more appreciated when it happens.  It's led me to try to respond to my comments, either directly here or with an email if the individual's email is linked with blogger.

      I remember sharing about my dad's illness earlier this month and being overwhelmed by the response on Facebook, Twitter, and the comments here.  Some from friends, some from blogger friends, and some from strangers.  People prayed for my dad without ever having met him and rejoiced when we learned it likely isn't cancer.  It is an interesting bloggy world we live in and it is interesting how such strong connections are formed through words on a computer screen.

      I am known for my hostessing and entertaining abilities.  I love to cook and serve, help people form connections, and ensure that everyone is having a good time.  What chapter 3 made me realize is that I can also offer hospitality on my blog. No, I can't serve you any baked brie or offer you a cup of tea.  However, I can try to foster community, encourage conversation, and pray for my readers wherever I am or they may be. 

      I can be the hands and feet of Christ through my writing.  I can be more intentional about my recommendations and what I share.  I can look for opportunities to tangibly care for others. 

      I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels such freedom in these opportunities.

      This post was written for the @StickyJesus Read-Along hosted by Michelle Sarabia.Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

      Tuesday, December 28, 2010


      This is a LATE post written for the @StickyJesus Read-Along hosted by Michelle Sarabia. Hey, holidays happen.

      What struck me as I read chapter 2 of @StickyJesus is our desire to connect and to belong.  This plays out in a myriad of ways. How we relate to our family, co-workers, even our blogging or social media community, it all boils down to this simple desire.

      Yet, none of those desires will be fully met on earth and that's just how God created us to function.   I believe earthly relationships are crucial for us to understand how God does and does not work, just as I believe that these same relationships will never fully satisfy us.  I suppose that's why I've been trying to train myself to go to God first, friends and family second.  It's an area I'll be working on for awhile, it seems.

      Our relationship or connectivity to God will, of course, impact our ability to relate to others.  He will increase our ability to love, offer grace, be patient, and forgive, all essential components of a relationship.  And when we have relationships that are more messy or imperfect, it's even more important for us to view the other person through God's lens. 

      I crave connection because I'm built that way. The trick is how to channel that desire.  Is it all about me?  Or is it all about God?  Do I seek to better understand others for my own edification or for God's?  Do I use a rehearsed script or speak from the heart? Am I using my gifts to bless others or am I tangled up in my own issues?  I find the answer to all of these questions is a matter of attitude, motivation, and balance.
      "He was and is a God of relationship, love, and community. He wants to raise His kids by experiential relationship, not dead religion...He can touch any heart at any moment, anywhere, in any way He chooses. The glory of this holy equation is that He has called you. He's called you out of your stunted, insular self and into a limitless and vast relationship with Him. He will do a holy work in you and others each time you recount that story." -p. 24
      How do I respond to this call to relationship?  Draw near to God. Draw near to the people He has placed in my life, whether real life or on-line. Tell of what He has done in my "stunted, insular" life. If I am authentically who God created me to be, connection and community will follow.  How God chooses to use that is up to Him. I do my part; He does His.  That sounds like my kind of relationship.

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

      Tuesday, December 21, 2010

      Merry Christmas, friends.

      HopefulLeigh is going to be quiet the next couple of weeks.  It's time to close the laptop, spend time with friends and family not seen the past few months, and remember what it means to celebrate the birth of our Risen King. 

      It'll be nice to return to my hometown, see how it's changed.  See how friends and family have changed.  See how I've changed.

      When I return, I face my first weekend call.  To say I'm terrified is an understatement.  Unlike other weekends where there is still social work coverage in the emergency department, the New Year's holiday has ensured that I'm the only one around, which means I probably will have to go in, which means I will freak out because it's probably something I don't know how to do. 

      So I'm praying for God's unfailing peace to dwell in me.  I don't want to be nervous while I'm celebrating Christmas or to dread coming back to my new home.  I will get through it one way or another.

      For now, I'm going to take a cue from Anna.  Viewing life through the eyes of a child lends wonderful perspective.  Happiness, excitement, wonder. 
      It's time to restore the awe I felt every Christmas growing up.  I never believed in Santa but Christmas always felt magical to me.  Magical may be the wrong word- it always felt like I was a small part of something huge.  The mystery and magesty...that's a better fit.

      The mystery and magesty of a Savior born in a manger.  A baby born to die.  For us, for a sinful world.  On-call nerves and changing lives pale in comparison to this ultimate gift.

      Merry Christmas, friends.  And happy New Year!

      Note: These pictures were taken over the weekend at the Opryland Resort.  I haven't experienced their Christmas decorations since my first visit to Nashville six years ago and I haven't been through the hotel since they reopened from the flooding.  It is as impressive as ever!  It made me even more excited to go to Blissdom next month, too.

      Monday, December 20, 2010

      What's My Legacy?

      "I hail from a legacy of service. My paternal grandparents began volunteering at the local convalescent home before I was born and continue to this day. My grandparents are among their most loyal volunteers, though they’ve had to scale back in recent years due to their own health concerns. My maternal grandparents served at their local parish but also opened up their home to friends and strangers alike. My grandma, in particular, had a gift for caring for the sick and dying, often bringing meals or stopping by to visit. My dad is a carpenter and uses his talent to serve the church and mend homes belonging to single mothers and the elderly. My mom provided respite care for children with special needs when my brother and I were young. She, like her mom, has brought many meals to families experiencing illness or difficulty.
      I grew up learning to look out for the needs of others..."
      I'm honored to be guest posting at The Justice Journey about the motivation behind volunteering.  Click here to read the rest.

      I'm interested to hear about your experiences as a volunteer, the ups and downs, how to keep it consistent, and so on.  What are your best volunteerism tips?

      Sunday, December 19, 2010

      Sunday Sentiments: Come and Worship

      Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

      I've been a Bebo Norman fan since my days working at The Christian Bookstore.  I remember spying Ten Thousand Days on a week that I was working in the Receiving Room and playing the CD endlessly on repeat while I checked in product.  Eventually my fellow Receiving coworker Justin asked if we could maybe listen to something else.  That may be the only reason my copy didn't wear out.

      In 2007 Bebo released his first Christmas CD: Christmas...From the Realm of Glory.  It will not surprise you to learn that this Bebo CD received the same treatment: endlessly playing on repeat throughout that Christmas season.  It is the most worshipful Christmas CD I've ever experienced.

      New arrangements, a few classics, unexpected choices, and new songs.  Bebo writes on the jacket cover: "I promised myself that I wouldn't make a Christmas record until I felt that the songs could fill the void that is left behind each year after the commercial Christmas season has passed.  My hope is that [this album] is a collection of songs that lives up to the legacy of an old song called "The Rebel Jesus," but even more so that it lives up to the legacy of the rebel Jesus Himself."

      "The Rebel Jesus" song that is referred to is by Jackson Browne.  The lyrics pierce and convict us.
      "And they fill His churches with their pride and gold
      As their faith in Him increases
      But they've turned the nature that I worship in
      From a temple to a robber's den
      In the words of the rebel Jesus."
      Christmas...From the Realm of Glory helps me keep my focus on the rebel Jesus. May this music inspire you to come and worship Christ the newborn King.

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

      Thursday, December 16, 2010

      Here, There, and Everywhere

      What is the purpose of this blog?

      I started thinking about this a few months ago when I decided to go to Blissdom.  And now that my first blog conference is drawing closer, I've been thinking about it even more.

      What is HopefulLeigh all about?  Heck, what am I all about?

      When I started my other blog almost 5 years ago, my purpose was clear: writing about work and play.  Many of my family and friends wanted to know more about my job as a then-hospice social worker.  It turned out to be rather therapeutic as I shared my experiences on the job and how I unwound when I wasn't working.  Then that blog took on a life of its own within the social work and end-of-life communities.  Knowing that various medical professionals were taking little old social worker me seriously, I found I wasn't as comfortable posting about the wedding I'd just been in or my favorite books.  I made the decision that that blog would become solely professional.  But what to do about that other part of me that liked sharing my book and music recommendations or about the recent festival I'd gone to?

      Hence, HopefulLeigh was born.  "The other part of me," I suppose. I didn't post much here in the spring of 2009, as I was still focused on my other blog.

      Then I moved to Nashville this past May and this blog suddenly took more precedence.  I started writing more regularly, trying to convey my transition to the South to friends and family back home.  I began Sunday Sentiments to keep track of what God has been teaching me.  I still write a little bit about this, a little bit about that but I'm not quite clear on my purpose as a blogger or if I even need to have a purpose.

      That's why I was excited to hear about @StickyJesus by Tami Heim and Toni Birdsong and to participate in this Read Along.  The first chapter has given me much to ponder, like this:
      "While everything changes at warp speed, the holy mandate remains: to communicate the gospel in the most relevant channels available here, there, and everywhere."  -p. 10
      "Do you really believe you can do greater things empowered by the Holy Spirit than even Christ did while He walked the earth?" -p. 12
       "Your presence as a believer in social networking circles 'sheds light on' cultural, social, and political issues, world events, personal struggles, and issues of morality that a global culture all but shrouds." -p. 12
      This gives new meaning to here, there, and everywhere in my mind. We bloggers form virtual friendships, communicating through comments on posts and replies on Twitter.  If we're lucky, we get to meet in real life.  Social networking has become a catalyst for real-life friendships, linking people who would otherwise never meet. 

      In answer to the question about outdoing Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit...well, no.  Greater things than Jesus?  I've never imagined such a thing, much less believed it, mostly because I don't think the question has ever been posed to me before.  Can God use social networking for His glory?  Absolutely.  I've seen how my own faith has been strengthened and encouraged via blogs I follow, Facebook, and Twitter. 

      I want to be someone who turns people toward God. In this, I think I will find my blogging purpose.

      This post was written for the @StickyJesus Read-Along hosted by Michelle Sarabia.

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

      Wednesday, December 15, 2010

      #30: Join a small group Bible study

      Small groups and Bible studies used to be a big part of my life.  I even led a small group for the young adult group at my church, as well as a small group for the Women's Ministry, for awhile a few years ago.  Then I started serving in other areas of the church and gradually became less involved with the young adult group and didn't have time for the Women's Ministry studies either.

      I know the value of a good small group.  Fellowship is vital for a believer.  So I resolved last January that this year I would get back into the swing of things.

      This past fall I more than met this goal.  I started going to my church's Beth Moore study in August.  I absolutely love the discussion group I'm in.  A nice mix of ages and marital statuses.  We all share our hearts openly.  It is a beautiful gift!  When I told them I wasn't sure about the winter curriculum, they told me I didn't have a choice, that I had to keep coming.  Well, when I heard that, I knew that it was true.  Revelation study, ready or not, here I come.

      In September, I also joined a community group.  It is composed of young married couples with children.  And me, the token single.  We are still getting to know each other but I feel that we have much that we can learn from one another.  I'm hanging in there.  Maybe another single will join us.  Maybe not.  Either way, this group is stretching me and challenging me to think beyond myself.

      I pledged in the Radical Experiment to purposefully connect with these two groups.  This is good to keep in mind over the next year.  What is my role in these groups?  How am I intentional about getting to know everyone better?  Sometimes we must be the change we wish to see.  Sometimes it is our season to be poured into, instead of the one pouring into others.  Sometimes it's good to be out of your comfort zone.

      God has used these two groups already to bless me, to grow me, and to feed me.  All this in such a short time.  I wonder how He will work in the coming year.

      Tuesday, December 14, 2010

      Merry Christmas!

      Now that the cards have all gone in the mail, here is the Christmas card I made at Shutterfly:
      Bright Christmas Story Christmas Card
      Create modern Christmas cards at Shutterfly.
      View the entire collection of cards.

      I had originally planned to have pictures taken at a Nashville landmark or two and use one of those for the card.  Timing just didn't work out so I started to think about using pictures from one of my 31 Things.  And then I looked through the flambe action shots and was absolutely inspired!

      I cut out and glued my Highlight list on the back, added a written line or two, signed my name, and called it a day.  I love how this card turned out!

      Highlights of 2010
      *Celebrating my 30th in Asheville, NC with Mom
      *Attending 2nd training at The Center for Loss and Life Transition with Alan Wolfelt
      *11th consecutive White Sox home opener!
      *Resigning from my hospice social worker position at CNS after 5 years in May...
      ...Moving to Nashville as a step of faith...
      ... Starting my dream job as a hematology/oncology social worker at A Certain Hospital in June
      *Becoming a member at Fellowship Bible; joining a Bible study & a community group
      *Bridesmaid for my dear friend Jill
      *Visiting my brother in VA
      *My professional blog was named in two Top 50 Social Work blog lists
      *My personal blog continues to grow as well, thanks to my Southern transition and 31 Things exploits  (Ed note: Thanks for continuing to follow along!)
      *Learning anew God's faithfulness and His all-surpassing love for me

      Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas celebration and best wishes for the year ahead!

      Disclosure: I received 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly for this review but all thoughts are my own.

      Monday, December 13, 2010

      Ode to Friendship Collection 2010

      Welcome to this year's Ode to Friendship Collection.  I know I always say this but I really do think this is my best one yet.  If you're new to OTF, it's an annual mix I create for my dearest friends composed of the new music I've been listening to the past year.  I've started doling out CDs to my lucky friends but don't fret if you're not on the list.  I've uploaded this year's collection to iTunes as an iMix for your listening and purchasing pleasure.  I've never done it before so please let me know if there are any problems.

      1. Madi Diaz- Love You Now
      Madi Diaz opened for The Civil Wars tour this fall.  She was such a cute little thing and I absolutely loved her lyrics and playful spirit.  I believe she's finished working on her first full-length album but not sure how to get it just yet.

      2. Mumford & Sons- The Cave
      You've probably heard of Mumford & Sons by now, unless you live in a cave.  They're one of the breakout indie artists of this year.  "Little Lion Man" has been featured on plenty of radio stations.  While it's a fantastic song, I thought I'd feature something else.  Which will probably be on the radio soon, if it's not already.
      3. Ray LaMontagne- Beg Steal or Borrow
      I've been listening to Ray for awhile but never got around to buying his CD until now.  The backing of the Pariah Dogs makes his most recent album stand out even more to me.  Love, love, love it!
      4. Brooke Fraser- Orphans, Kingdoms
      Brooke is another one I've been listening to for a long time but somehow not owning.  Truthfully, there's no way I can afford my music habit so this happens more often than I'd like.  Brooke's latest album is as beautiful as her others.  She explores faith and social justice in such a unique voice. Her lyrics blow me away every time.
      5. Audrey Assad- Everything is Yours
      6. Audrey Assad- Restless
      I believe I first saw Audrey mentioned on Matthew Paul Turner's blog, just before her album was released.  I was hooked from the start.  She's quite fun to follow on Twitter too!
      7. William Fitzsimmons- If You Would Come Back Home
      8. William Fitzsimmons- You Still Hurt Me
      I had heard one or two William Fitzsimmons songs but fell head over heels for his music when my good friend Laura featured him on a mix she made for me before I traveled to Boston a couple of years ago.  The lyrics...oh, the lyrics!   The Sparrow and the Crow is not a lighthearted album as he explores the aftermath of his divorce but there is beauty in the heartbreak and themes we can all relate to.

      9. Neulore- Grow
      10. Neulore- Eve
      A blog that I happened upon earlier this summer mentioned the music of Neulore. I headed over to their website and listened to the streaming album.  Thus, a new music obsession was born.  Apples and Eve is such an interesting concept: songs written to Eve from Adam's perspective.  I was seriously torn about which song to feature- thankfully there was room for two!

      11. So Elated- Exit Door
      So Elated was one of the opening acts for Sleeping at Last's Christmas show last year.  First of all, I highly recommend So Elated's Christmas albumSecond of all, I highly recommend you see them live some time!

      12. The Civil Wars- Poison and Wine
      I came across The Civil Wars on January 1 of this year and that's how I knew this would be a good year for music no matter what else happened.  I've been lucky enough to see them perform twice and I cannot wait for their first full-length album to debut February 1.  If you know me in real life, you've already heard me rhapsodize about The Civil Wars and if you've read this blog for awhile, you've seen them mentioned a time or two as well.  
      13. Josh Ritter- Change of Time
      I don't know what first brought Josh Ritter to my attention but I'm drawn to the stories he tells and the feelings his music evokes in me.

      14. Matthew Perryman Jones- Out of Reach
      I've listened to MPJ for a couple of years but, again, didn't own anything by him.  Laura made me a mix of her favorite songs by him as my Moving to NashVegas present.  Unfortunately, you can't own that mix but you can't go wrong withSwallow the Sea or Throwing Punches in the Dark.

      15. M. Ward featuring Lucinda Williams- Oh Lonesome Me
      My friend Brooke introduced me to M. Ward a few years ago. I got to know him better through She + Him, who are incidentally phenomenal live. 
      16. The Swell Season- Low Rising
      I was obsessed with Once, both the movie and the soundtrack.  I was elated when their first CD as a duo finally came out!
      17. The Rescues- Lost Along the Way
      My blogger friend Trish mentioned The Rescues awhile back and I was instantly captivated.  I hope I can see them in person some day soon!
      I first saw this 70s-reminiscent band on The Ellen DeGeneres show.  You can't help but want to dance when you listen to their music!

      19. Three Days Grace- World So Cold
      I've enjoyed Three Days Grace ever since first hearing their song, I Hate Everything About You.  Those who have known me awhile know I love my hard rock music.  I can't go long without listening to it!  While I know it's not for everyone, I still hope you'll appreciate this song of their latest album.

      2010 * Ode to Friendship Productions by Leigh 

      Disclosure: I do not benefit from linking to iTunes or any artist's individual site, other than the joy of knowing I'm hooking you up with good quality music.  Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make benefits this site. Thanks!