A step outside my comfort zone

NietscheQuoteAs a member of the Arkansas Women Bloggers, I get opportunities to do things I’m not always comfortable with. I actually seek out opportunities to step outside my comfort zone, because I think it’s the only way to grow.

Staying comfortable and lazy is the easy way out, my friends.

Today, we women were given the opportunity to share our opinions with a marketing group that hires some of our bloggers, and the topic was flowers (specifically, buying from big retailers).

On the last page of the survey was an opportunity to leave an audio or video clip of our opinions. Well, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and I will go only so far outside of my “zone” on a Saturday morning with only one cup of coffee, so I opted for audio only.

I was awkward and rambly, and the first take had a lot of “um’s,” so I recorded it again without so many um’s (I think). My goal is to be able to do these things without 10 “takes.” (Recovering perfectionist, remember?)

Here it is, my friends, followed by a request and a challenge:

  1. Tell me what you think. Is there hope for me as an internationally renowned speaker? (Just kidding, but I do want your critique. KEEP IN MIND: This is not a professional gig; I was not trying to be “perfect”; I was trying to be real.)
  2. Do something today that takes you outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be huge; just do something.

Also, have I got a deal on some nandinas! If you’re interested (I have several), leave a comment here or call, text or email me. Keep in mind: At this price (free), you’ll have to help me dig them up. 🙂

Next up for me: Download the Periscope app, which those blogger chicks have been talking about lately but I’ve been reluctant to try. (We’re even having a workshop on it at Arkansas Women Bloggers University next month!). Another step outside the “zone.”

When today is over, report back. What did you do that stretched you even just a weensy bit?

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Suzy’s Coffee Protein Smoothie

CoffeeQuoteLettermanWhen we lived in North Little Rock, I used to indulge occasionally in a delicious coffee drink from a tiny little smoothie hut less than a mile from my house.

The first time I drove up to the window, I looked at the overwhelmingly large menu and asked for a recommendation. The clerk said his favorite was Java the Nut.

Clever name, so I asked him to elaborate.

Coffee, frozen yogurt, banana, peanut butter and (wait for it) nonfat milk.

Well, there you go. Can’t be all bad if it contains nonfat milk, right?

Let’s talk about fat for a moment. I’ve been doing research for about 18 months on fat (the good kinds) and sugar (pretty bad).

The right kind of fat is actually good for us — our bodies need it. Sugar, in every instance I can think of, is bad. Sugar = inflammation, blood-sugar spikes, cravings, carb addiction, conversion to body fat, weight gain … not good.

I could give you a list of books and other resources, but I’ll save that for later, except for this post from one of my faves, Dietitian Cassie. (And, yes, I put butter in my coffee.)

Today’s post is not about winning you over to fat or getting you to eliminate sugar from your diet … except that if I could get you to start thinking about all the processed foods with added sugar — and just maybe get you to make a few small changes (natural peanut butter, for instance) — I would consider that a small victory for today.

For right now, I’m going to give you a recipe that I’ve modified from one at The Lean Green Bean, which offers a version with regular milk or even a nondairy beverage.

Their version contains three ingredients: coffee, milk and protein powder.
Here’s my variation, which I made up after my run this morning. (Did you know that eating protein within 30 minutes of exercise is good for your muscles?)

I’m giving it to you straight — the way I prepared mine this morning — but you can vary it to your tastes and comfort level with fat. 🙂

Suzy’s Coffee Protein Smoothie
(With a nod to Tropical Smoothie’s Java the Nut)

The Lean Green Bean version, referred to as a “shake,” calls for coffee ice cubes, but I keep my brewed coffee in the fridge (I hate to waste), so I simply used my ice-cold coffee rather than going to the trouble to make (and wait for) ice cubes.

  • 5-10 ounces brewed coffee, cold (or 5-10 coffee ice cubes)
  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream or full-fat milk
  • 1 scoop of high-quality whey protein powder*
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 tablespoon natural, organic peanut butter (no sugar added)

I used my Magic Bullet and whizzed the liquids and the protein powder first, then I tasted it before adding the banana and the peanut butter. (I kept having to add more coffee so it would actually taste like a coffee drink.)

Once the protein powder was well incorporated, I sliced the banana into the container, added the peanut butter and processed until smooth, probably about 30 seconds.

*I used Dr. Mercola’s Pure Power Protein in vanilla — also comes in chocolate, banana and strawberry.

So … make it and tell me what you think!

Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? Please share in the comments.

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Weekly Wrap-up – 06/27/15

So much has been going on lately – so much to tell. Let’s get started.

FarmToTablePlateWithMenu
Our Farm to Table menu included a yummy salad, chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo with shrimp on the side, summer squash gratin with ricotta and Gruyere, and Arkansas jasmine rice. For dessert, apple, peach and blackberry pie with sweetened sour cream and raw milk vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Last night Bruce and I attended the inaugural Farm to Table Dinner on lower Main Street in Batesville, and it was such a success, I have no doubt there will be a second-annual. About 100 people attended, we ate lots of delicious, locally grown food and listened to some awesome live music … and I took 113 photos. Oh, yeah, and I got to wear my cowboy boots! 🙂

The Main Street Farmers Market is still newish but is flourishing. I’ll be sharing about that in a few days, but for now I’ll just leave you with a teaser: I’m preparing a series featuring the vendors I’ve met on Saturdays at the farmers market, similar to the one I’ve been posting on my other blog, To Well With You. If you haven’t checked that out, head on over and tell me what you think.

Boris_MrCole_selfie_062515
First Community Bank President Boris Dover (left) and CEO Dale Cole take a selfie as the bank announces its entry into the world of social media.

My employer, First Community Bank in Batesville, Ark., has launched a Facebook page! We had an official kickoff Thursday as the bank hosted the chamber’s monthly Business After Hours event. Using a selfie stick (no doubt for the first time), our chairman/CEO and president/COO took a selfie with the crowd in the background; it was hilarious to see Mr. Cole ask our marketing director’s help to get the Facebook page open on his phone.

By the way, we’re giving away a cruise. To enter, Like and share our FB page.

Other big things we talked about at the event:

  • The bank donated $20,000 to Main Street Batesville toward an ongoing project. As we revitalize our Main Street, a beautification project has been taking place before our eyes for several months. Lots of exciting things are going on downtown, and I’ll definitely be sharing them here.
  • Impact Independence County – an effort to bring community members (that’s you and me, folks) together to strategize ways to move our county forward – will hold a community meeting and cookout in UACCB’s Independence Hall starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 1. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will be the special guest. The IIC’s community survey will go live on the website after that event.

DO YOU WANNA BUILD A BLOG?

At the Business After Hours event, I talked to a couple of young women who were interested in blogging (one as a reader and one as a writer). For those of you who have toyed with the idea of starting a blog, there has never been a better time to start! I’ve been blogging at Suzy & Spice since 2007, and if I didn’t love it (besides my family and Jesus, nothing gives me greater joy), I wouldn’t have started a second blog.

I’ve also learned a few things that I’d love to pass along if you’re interested.

In the past year or so, I’ve focused on taking my blog(s) to the next level, and I’ve studied branding, “platform building,” content marketing, social media, search-engine optimization and all sorts of other things, including ways to make my writing and photography better.

Now, don’t let all that that fancy talk scare you off. If you simply love to write, like connecting with others online and just want to share your thoughts in a public space and Facebook isn’t fulfilling that need, you can start a blog. (A side benefit has been the connections I’ve made with other bloggers online and in person.)

It’s so easy, a goober like me can do it, and I would love to show you how.

So many resources are available nowadays, and I’ll be working on a post specific to helping you get started. Meanwhile, if you’re scared at the thought, email, call or text me (if you have my phone number) and we can talk through your fears. 🙂 You can email me at suzy@suzyoakley.com.

SuzyOakleycom_croppedSpeaking of contact information and blogs, Bruce built me a “digital business card” – following my specifications and a bunch of tweaking – a web page to allow folks to get a snippet or two of who I am and click through to either of my blogs. It also includes links to my social media profiles. Click here to visit SuzyOakley.com.

Shhh Dont tell!I’ve been invited to speak at a conference this summer. The lineup hasn’t been announced yet, so I don’t feel free to share details online, but I’m excited about it! I’ll give you the lowdown as soon as I can.


That’s it for this week, folks. We had a clogged drain (laundry and kitchen) for 11 days (don’t ask) and just got it fixed Thursday. I’m still catching up on laundry, dishes, floor cleaning, blogging … and sleep. 🙂 And high-fives (no, TENS!) to Lonnie Clark of C&S Plumbing for climbing onto our roof and rooting out the drain from a vent. Who knew?

Now, go out and have an awesome weekend.

Tell us in the comments: What’s one incredible thing that happened to you this week?

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Restaurant review: Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering

Elizabeth'sFront
Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering, 231 E. Main St., will celebrate its 15th anniversary in July.

My HometownLogoI live in a small town and, while that sometimes seems to equal “deprivation” (no Target store here, my friends), it definitely has its compensations.

While Batesville, Ark. (population 10,490), is not exactly Mayberry, we have our own set of characters, our familiar faces around town, our own quaint people, places and things … and a surprising number of places to fill up on delicious food.

Among the handful of restaurants that aren’t fast-food chains, we have Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering on Main Street – a place I always feel at home.

What’s so special about Elizabeth’s?

Could it be those famous homemade yeast rolls with honey butter that everyone craves? The Thursday evening all-you-can-eat spaghetti (garlic bread, anyone)? Or maybe it’s the friendly waitress who exchanges silly small-talk with us and has been known to serenade her patrons. (On a recent Thursday night it was “That’s Amore,” which always makes me think of Dean Martin and pizza.)

Elizabeth'sRollsAndButter
Someone may have taken a bite out of one of the rolls before she remembered to take a picture. But her dining companion may have already wolfed down an entire roll by this point.

Oh, wait. I know: It’s the aroma coming from the kitchen. I’m fairly certain they have a big blower that pushes those irresistible smells across the dining room and out the front door every time it opens.

On one recent visit – for spaghetti night with Bruce (he may be skinny, but he has a hollow leg and he loves all-you-can-eat deals) – the second we walked through the door, we were assaulted (and I mean that in a good way) with one of my favorite smells: garlic bread.

Elizabeth'sHappyBruce
A girl never has to work too hard to get this guy to take her to all-you-can-eat night.

Elizabeth'sSpaghettiAndTableThey made me wait for my garlic bread, though. (I hate waiting.)

But, to compensate, they brought us our drinks and yummy salads right away (side salad and bread sticks are included in the price). And theirs aren’t those wimpy salads with a few chunks of lettuce, a couple of carrot shreds and maybe, if you’re lucky, a bit of tomato or onion.

No, sir. It is a good salad – one I might have made for myself at home if I weren’t so lazy.

Elizabeth'sEmptySaladPlate
Yes, the salad came before the spaghetti and garlic bread, but this is where it worked out in my story. You’re lucky you even got a “salad” picture before I finished off the last few bites.

The dressings are homemade and delish, too. Bruce always orders the blue cheese, and I go through phases. For a while I always got the house dressing (sunflower-seed vinaigrette), and now I seem to be stuck on the thousand island. The ranch is good, too, but you can get decent ranch in a plastic bottle at Kroger. (Note to self: Try Elizabeth’s homemade ranch dressing next time.)

And here’s a thing that’s very important to me: The waitress keeps my glass full of iced tea. And, unlike at some restaurants, I don’t have to keep reminding her that I ordered it unsweetened. She just remembers, like she’s supposed to.

My family has been to Elizabeth’s countless times for birthday celebrations, and Bruce and I have attended a few wedding receptions, a class reunion and other events at Elizabeth’s.

Owner Diane White and her family and staff have worked hard to make Elizabeth’s welcoming, cozy and beautiful. Now, don’t expect brand-new, perfectly polished hardwoods and gold-plated sconces. What you’ll get is a …

… well, I asked Diane to describe the décor.

She smiled.

Elizabeth’s, while elegant yet comfy and casual (see, I asked her because I couldn’t put my finger on it), has an ever-changing motif, depending on the occasion.

Elizabeth'sFrontCounterWant your wedding reception there? They’ll let you decorate the place to your preference. Brides have even been known to take Elizabeth’s photos off the walls and replace them with their own artwork. That’s OK, Diane says.

This is what makes it so hometown-y. The folks who hold their events there are your neighbors, and Diane treats them like that – like neighbors.

When you go there, you feel like family.

Elizabeth’s offers a plate lunch special, or you can choose from a wide menu of casseroles, specialty salads, sandwiches and wraps. (My mom is a fan of the quiche.) The evening menu offers steaks, seafood and chicken dishes.

Elizabeth’s caters, too, and we’ve taken advantage of that fact lately. People fight for their green bean bundles (beans wrapped in bacon) and swoon for the rolls and honey butter. They’ll make you a big ol’ casserole or three, and I know from personal experience (when we had to feed about 100 hungry runners for a Christmas party) that they’re willing to work with you on customizing the menu.

Here is some of the daily goodness you can expect at Elizabeth’s:

Elizabeth's menu 2015The portions are not only delicious but generous. If you leave Elizabeth’s hungry, it’s your own darned fault.

Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering
231 E. Main St.
Batesville, AR 72501
(870) 698-0903
Hours:
Sunday buffet: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Closed Mondays.
Tuesday through Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and on Thursdays and Fridays they reopen for dinner, 5-8 p.m.
Find Elizabeth’s on Facebook.

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Introducing my new blog, To Well With You

MorningSide_gang_MC
Photo courtesy of Hatch and Maas

Regular readers of Suzy & Spice know that I launched a wellness-coaching business earlier this year, with a website “coming soon.”

After weeks of blood, sweat and tears (we won’t mention the cussing and discussing), soon has turned into finally. I launched the To Well With You blog on June 1. Bruce and I are still tweaking (hence the “cussing and discussing” that we’re not mentioning), but we’re pretty pleased with it overall. (I’ve also created a landing page that will link you to either of the two blogs, and the address is easier to remember: SuzyOakley.com. We’re still tweaking that page, too.)

I would love for you to check out To Well With You by clicking here, subscribe if you like, and share it with friends, loved ones, co-workers – anyone you think might enjoy it or benefit from it.

The site will focus on wellness, fitness and running, and I plan to post two or three times a week there. I’ll maintain a once-a-week schedule here at the big-sister blog, Suzy & Spice. Here, I will continue to write about “whatever strikes my fancy,” but at To Well With You I will have more targeted content.

Wellness encompasses a lot, so that’s why you’ll see a Farm2Home event on that site this week and in the weeks to come (a series!). I believe it’s important to eat fresh, unprocessed foods, to “buy local” as much as possible and to support our neighbors who grow and raise our food and make other products from their bounty.

Here at S&S, I’m planning another series related to farming – only this one will focus on the Main Street Farmers Market in Batesville, Ark. I can’t wait to tell you about some of the hardworking people I’ve met downtown on Saturday mornings. They’re awesome, and so are their foods and crafts!

And I’m planning a series on local small businesses (first up: a review of Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering downtown) at Suzy & Spice.

You might wonder, How does she find the time for all this and still work a full-time “day job”?

I wonder that, too.

Just call me wonder woman. I am figuring it out as I go along, because this blogging business is important to me. It lights my fire, even when my wood’s wet. The other night I went to bed way past my bedtime, beyond exhausted but smiling about the words and photos I posted in honor of the farmers, ranchers and product makers around our beautiful state.

I love to tell great stories. If my words and images can get you to feel the right emotions and maybe even take positive action, I’ve done what I set out to do.

I can’t make a habit of late-to-bed and exhausted every day, but I made a conscious decision that it’s necessary sometimes if I want to make an impact on others for good.

If I’m tired while working to fulfill my mission, well … that’s why the good Lord invented the Sunday nap.

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My mission statement – finally

MissionStatementQuoteBox

I’ve been working on my official “mission statement” on and off for a few years.

I’ve read business magazines and newspapers since I was a teenager (yes, I’m weird – or maybe I’ve just always been entrepreneurial-minded like my dad), and every few years I tell myself I need my own mission statement. “They” say everyone needs one – even people who aren’t “businesspeople” per se: missionaries, ministry workers, practically everybody.

My latest attempt was last year, after I became a certified wellness coach. A wellness coach certainly needs a mission statement, right?

After a few attempts that were “close” and not too wordy (one of my goals), I decided to let it rest for a while. I knew the right thing would come eventually.

Well, eventually came this morning.

After reading this in my devotional before church …

“Through our cooperation with God’s Spirit who is at work within us, we can grow to the point that what we want aligns with what God wants – our passions and purposes are his passions and purposes; we think, speak, act and relate in a Christlike way. We will never be perfect or without struggle in this life, but we can be inwardly connected to Jesus (see Jn 15:1 – 8). We listen for the Spirit’s guidance. We cultivate our gifts. We live our lives pursuing God’s kingdom interests (see 1Co 10:31 — 11:1).

But often this isn’t enough for us. We want to know our specific, individual purpose with certainty. We want the mystery solved. We want to find a unique purpose that focuses our energies and convinces us that our life counts.

Perhaps our feverish search for the specific is misguided. Maybe our need for certainty reflects our addiction to control and what Eugene Peterson calls ‘insiders’ pride.’ God wants us to trust him, and sometimes knowing too much leads to trusting too little. Maybe letting go of the pressure to find our purpose – and instead following hard after God each new day – will center us squarely in the target.” (Emphasis mine.)

– NIV Essentials Study Bible

… and, later, singing a song at church that spoke to me …

To You our hearts are open
Nothing here is hidden
You are our one desire
You alone are holy
Only You are worthy
God, let Your fire fall down

… I knew I had it.

I’ve always wanted my life to count; I want to know that what I’m doing matters for Kingdom good. But today I realized that I don’t have to know every step – every twist and turn in the journey – ahead of time.

It boils down to this:

  • God will never lead me down the wrong path.
  • If I follow His leading, I’ll stay on the right path.
  • If take a wrong turn (like, every single day), He’ll help me to find my way again, if I let Him.
  • Trusting Him for each new bit of light as I travel along the path is better than trying to map out my own plan in minute detail.

Knowing this takes the pressure off.

Ever since “bucket lists” became a thing, I’ve resisted. I just haven’t wanted the pressure of having a list of things I want (or “need”) to do before I die. My favorite place is home, I often say. If I have my loved ones around me, some good books and good food, if I’m serving where I need to be serving, if I’m stepping outside my comfort zone and allowing God to grow my character, I’m OK. I don’t need wild adventures and globetrotting tales for a scrapbook. (OK, I would like to climb Ayers Rock in Australia …)

I love the Wayne Watson song “Walk in the Dark.” Here’s the chorus:

I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus
Than to walk in the light on my own.
I’d rather go through the valley of the shadow with Him
Than to dance on the mountains alone.
I’d rather follow wherever he leads me
Than to go where none before me have gone.
I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus
Than to walk in the light of my own.

So this morning, singing worship songs in church, with my hand raised in praise of the One who created me, knows me better than I know myself, and will NEVER lead me astray, my mission statement flashed in my mind in an instant – short, sweet and crystal clear:

“To follow God’s leading and help others see the Light.”

Take us out, Wayne:

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Double Chocolate Banana Bread

DoubleChocolateBananaBread2
Double Chocolate Banana Bread just going into the oven.

Did you know that there will be chocolate in heaven? I have it from a reliable source. (Well, I know it must be somewhere in the Good Book. I don’t have the exact scripture reference handy, but just trust me – it’s in there.)

I logged onto Pinterest today to look for a recipe to take to small group Sunday afternoon. I had planned to make these Coconut Almond Muffins from my friend Tara’s blog but lacked a couple of ingredients and didn’t want to go to the store. (I’m going to try the muffin recipe soon, though.)

On Pinterest, I stumbled across the Smitten Kitchen’s page and, because I hadn’t visited the SK in forever, I browsed. I used to love the SK website – the beautiful photos, the step-by-step recipes, the witty writing – so I lingered for a few minutes. And then I stumbled upon …

… oh, my, dare I say it?

[Cue the music of the angels…]

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

DoubleChocolateBananaBread_baked_cropped
This is the pan with the nuts. Those white lumps are white chocolate chips. I had a few left in the freezer and decided to finish them off.

My friends, when I can combine two of my favorite things – chocolate and bananas – I need look no further. The angels are tuning up.

This recipe lured me from my typical low-carb, high-protein search because, well, who can resist banana bread with DOUBLE CHOCOLATE in the title?

By the time I needed to start making the recipe, I was tired and just wanted to call it a day, but I decided to put a movie in the VCR and spin back the clock a decade or three to put myself in a good mood.

Yep, one of my favorite movies, Broadcast News, kept me motivated, repeating most of the lines and laughing out loud while I mashed bananas, cracked eggs, measured liquids and sifted dry ingredients. Finally, the “bread” (aka manna from heaven) was in the oven, the movie’s final credits were rolling, and I couldn’t wait to slice a warm piece of this chocolate heavenly mess and let my eyes roll to the back of my head.

I started writing this post before I even took the loaves out of the oven. How could I gush about the recipe before I’d even tasted it? Three reasons:

  1. It’s from the Smitten Kitchen.
  2. The aroma was wafting over here from the oven, and it smelled GOOD.
  3. It’s from the Smitten Kitchen.

As a longtime fan of the Smitten Kitchen, reasons 1 and 3 were enough for me. But now that I have tasted its marvelousness and texted my husband this message: “I just took two loaves of Double Chocolate Banana Bread out of the oven. Holy crap, it’s good,” I can assure you that I’ll be rewarding him with a slice as soon as he gets home from the state track meet. I made two loaves – plenty for small group tomorrow.

I know you wish you were a member of my small group, but you’ll just have to make this recipe for yourself. If you’re a baker, you’ll have everything you need in your cupboard, fridge or freezer. (Note: I doubled the recipe and added walnuts to one of the pans; nuts are not in the original recipe.)

Make it, and let me know how you did. Then we’ll both hear angels singing.

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New things happening and coming up

Two new things today, plus a promise of things to come:

NEW:

  • The latest WordPress update contains a new tool called Press This. It’s a different way to share content from across the interwebs, and I thought I would try it today by reposting my friend Lois’ “Song of the Month” post. (I don’t think it’s something the reader will notice; the magic happens behind the scenes.)

Song of the Month: “No Longer Slaves” | Waxing Gibbous

  • I’ve updated my theme today (the overall look of the page). What say you? Better? Worse? Didn’t even notice? I’m still tweaking, moving things around and deciding the best location for everything, but I would love your opinion. Do you even look at the stuff in the sidebars? Do you even notice the fonts? Is this one easier to read? That is my goal: To make it as easy on you, the reader, as possible, because I like you. 🙂

COMING SOON:

  • Up next (or soonish) is a rewrite of my About page.
  • I have started working on the new blog, To Well With You. It will focus on wellness, fitness and running. Suzy & Spice will remain here, so you will be able to read either/or or both. Details to follow.

I’d better finish this up. I have work to do!

Leave me some comments below, please!

 

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Blogging from A-Z – Louie Zamperini

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “Z.” It is the last post in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge (yippee!). Click here to read how it began.

______________________________________

A-Z blogging - Zamperini UNBROKEN quoteI didn’t do Louie Zamperini justice.

Last week I wrote a post that was meant to be a review of the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, but instead I took a shortcut and wrote a comparison between the book and the movie.

I hadn’t quite finished reading the book by the time I had to write my “U” post. Now I’ve finished it, and I need to tell you some things about this remarkable man that didn’t get said in the movie vs. book analysis.

Unbroken_coverFeel free to read that post before continuing here. (It includes a link to an excerpt of the book.)

Kristen Lamb’s analysis talked about how the movie took shortcuts in character development. That’s a drawback any time you turn a book into a movie, but the book didn’t let me down in that department. The author, Laura Hillenbrand, has an attention to detail that makes her subjects jump off the page.

I felt what Louie and the other POWs felt – the rage, the helplessness, the hope … all the emotions Hillenbrand described. I could almost feel the belt buckle crashing into my own skull when the Bird knocked Louie down with it repeatedly. I could imagine the physical hunger, the fatigue, the pain of standing barefoot in the snow for hours, as one captive was forced to do.

The almost-tactile experience Hillenbrand provided me was due, in part, to her subject.

“Louie was good at really capturing in words exactly what something felt like,” Hillenbrand said in a New York Times Magazine interview last year.

The writer goes into great detail about Louie’s early life, his Olympic quest, his years in WWII (successful missions aboard a B-24, being shot down over the Pacific and the subsequent 47 days on a raft over shark-infested waters, then two years of deprivation and torture in a Japanese POW camp), and the postwar years – the bitterness, the rage, the depression. All the emotions.

And then the release and forgiveness once he comes to faith in God and realizes how much he, himself, has been forgiven.

Hillenbrand spent countless hours (over the course of seven years) poring over documents, photos, letters, diaries, clippings, websites, news footage and other media and conducting interview after interview (75 with Louie alone) to come up with a comprehensive profile of Louie, the Army Air Corps, aeronautics, the war, Japanese culture and POW camps. She saw the horrors of war and yet, like Louie, remained optimistic.

You may say, “What’s so special about Louie?” Lots of men and women have endured unspeakable hardship in wartime.

And I would respond, “Yes, but to tell Louie’s story is to honor all of those who have suffered.” I chose Louie’s story – or maybe Louie’s story chose me – because he was a runner, and runners inspire me – especially those who beat the odds.

And then the details of this life captivated me. Hillenbrand’s presentation of the facts is exquisite and heartbreaking … yet hopeful. Her book is not just a compilation of data – it’s the story of a man who kept getting knocked down … and got back up – over and over and over.

And somehow there was a purpose.

Hillenbrand’s telling of Louie’s story helped tell the stories of countless thousands. In turn, it has helped their families, some of whom said they learned details about the war that their loved ones had never spoken of. The back of the book features several letters and emails from veterans’ relatives thanking Hillenbrand for helping them understand.

Most of what I’ve read about World War II focused on the Nazis and their oppression and torture of Jews and those who helped the Jews. I don’t recall reading much about the war in the Pacific – specifically, about the brutal torture of Allied troops by the Japanese – so Unbroken brought a new perspective.

The book’s subtitle sums it up nicely: This is a story of survival, resilience and redemption.

And, I would add: HOPE.

 

Someday I’ll tell you what I learned about writer Laura Hillenbrand, who has overcome her own set of challenges to tell others’ remarkable tales. It, too, is a fascinating story. Meanwhile, you can read this New York Times Magazine interview with her.

______________________________________

We made it through the alphabet – thank you for hanging in there with me!

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Blogging from A-Z – It’s all about YOU

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “Y.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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A-ZwellnessquoteWe are so close to the end of our month-long Blogging from A-Z Challenge. I’m not sure who is happier about that: you or me.

It has been a long (but really fun) journey. Thanks for sticking with me. I learned a lot of things this month, not the least of which was perseverance. I hope you learned a few things, too.

After tomorrow’s Z post, we will be finished with A-Z (at least until next April), and I’m about to launch a second blog to focus on things relating to wellness, fitness and running. I had planned to launch it May 1, but an out-of-town trip and the blogging challenge delayed my plans.

Now I’m shooting for mid-May. I want to have the new blog shiny and bright by the time I invite you for a visit.

Suzy & Spice will stay the way it is: a general-topic blog where I can write about whatever suits my fancy.

CCI_logoThe new blog, To Well With You, will reflect my new wellness coaching business and stick to more specific areas. You’ll be able to subscribe to the new blog, just as you can at Suzy & Spice, but I promise I won’t hit you with a post every single day as I’ve done in April. (Believe me, that will make me happy, too.) I plan to write an average of three posts a week, and I could go into more detail about that now, but I’ll save it for the launch announcement. (Still working out some of the details.)

Those “specific areas” I mentioned – wellness, fitness and running – can cover a lot of territory, and I can’t imagine running out of things to write about. (I get positively giddy thinking about the possibilities!) That’s where YOU come in. I’d love to know what you’d like to see on the new blog – if you plan to visit.

(I also plan to cross-post a modified version of this post at To Well With You once it’s up and running.)

Obviously running is a pretty specific topic, but fitness and wellness can mean just about anything. The new blog will focus on prevention rather than cure (after all, I’m not a doctor – I don’t even play one on TV!). At the minimum, I’ll cover:

  • Exercise and fitness (including running, yoga and other types of recreation and sport).
  • Healthful eating and nutrition (including recipes – feel free to share yours).
  • Financial well-being (living below your means, giving, investing).
  • Relationships (family, friends, acquaintances, workplace).
  • Faith and spirituality.
  • Stress management.
  • Medical and health news.
  • Reviews of books and other media on the above topics.
  • Your opinions and insights on what’s happening in and around your world.
  • FUN! It won’t be all drudgery and rules. I want to make it an enjoyable place for you to visit.

I’m not an expert on much (in some cases my knowledge goes a mile wide and an inch deep, as they say about copy editors), but I know how to find good information; my job will be to guide you to come up with your own solutions. Also, I will be calling on others to contribute to the new blog, and it will be full of links and references to other resources where you can further your own education in a particular field.

If you have a topic you’re passionate about and have a fair amount of knowledge on that topic, I’d love for you to A) write a guest post or B) let me draw out your expertise and feature our conversation in the new space. Please let me know if you’re willing to do that, and we can be in touch offline.

This is a community; let’s share our wealth of knowledge with one another.

As they say, knowledge is power, and I want you to be powerful in your journey to wellness. My job is to walk with you along the path, point you in the right direction and be a cheerleader and/or a sounding board as you take charge of your own health and well-being.

So … what have I left off the list? What would you like to see in the new space? Please use the comment space below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

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Tomorrow: Z is for Zamperini (as in Louie). And then we’re finished with A-Z!

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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