Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I have a confession. Actually, two confessions.

  1. I call myself a reader, and I finished one fiction book last semester. One. 
  2. I have developed a habit of buying too many books that I don’t have time to read at thrift stores. Also I have a bad memory and so sometimes I buy duplicates on accident – basically I’m an eighteen-year-old grandma.

Sometimes though, these eccentrics pay off, and I’m so glad that the one novel I’ve read was this one, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Jacob Jankowski is just a few final exams to becoming away when the death of parents cause him to drop out. A series of unfortunate events later, and he finds himself a job in the circus due to his experience with animals, but . When your job includes feeding tigers and watering elephants, fear is not an option.

Gruen’s amount of detail is incredible. I can only imagine the amount of research required to portray the Depression-era circus life so vividly. Sometimes the amount of details are a bit much to read about. If you’re squeamish, this might be the book to skip. Details aside, another plus about Water for Elephants are the characters. It’s so easy to root for Jacob, the almost-vet who now has to work his way up in the unfairly competitive circus environment. How anyone would not like him after reading about his interactions with Rosie the elephant?

I found that it is a good book to go slowly on – it’s not a quick read, it’s often heavy at times, but the overall story is so rich that you’ll want to savor it over several sittings (or a whole semester, if you’re anything like me).

Recommended to: people who appreciate historical fiction and depression-era literature

I’ve heard that this book was made into a movie also. Have you read or watched it? Which one is better?

Have a good Tuesday!



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Thoughts + Goals for 2018

2018 header

Are you a “goals” person? I don’t have a five year plan, one semester plan, or even next week plan. Sometimes that uncertainty is a bit unnerving. Equally scary though is the thought that committing to a future plan eliminates other options. Honestly, I’d really like to know where I’ll be in the five years, three months, one week. Since I can’t know what’s to come (surprise surprise), my default plan is to just see what happens while trying not to stress out.

Recently @elisejoy super-inspired me with her talk on the importance of goals for the new year (the story is saved on the Instagram app). Setting intentions for yourself doesn’t necessarily pin you down, but they can clarify your thoughts and help excite you as you look to the future. In the talk, she advises sharing goals for the new year publicly, to help build the excitement and hold you accountable.

I had never looked at personal goals that way before. It’s not a way of trying to control your future, but it can help you enjoy the journey.

Looking back, 2017 was a year of big change personally, but it was also good. Blog posts are sparse, but you can check out some of my ramblings here about food, radios, and adjustments.  Moving forward into the fresh calendar of 2018, I’d like to try this goal-setting practice.

So, here, in cyberspace, are a few public declarations of intentions for 2018, elise-joy-style:

  1. Decide on a major path at school. Be confident in my choice.
  2. I will be working at a summer camp again this summer – I’d love to help show Christ in a way that will inspire campers to live out the gospel beyond the camp setting.
  3. Also get re-certified as a lifeguard for camp.
  4. Ha, probably should swim some laps before this summer then. GOAL: actually use my gym membership at school
  5. Read twenty new books this year.
  6. Learn basics of Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, HTML, and Jython.
  7. Become more confident speaking French.
  8. Sell ten items that I made by hand.
  9. Visit every coffee shop in Midtown.
  10. Go on a road trip to a new state.
  11. Respond to texts. Go outside of my comfort zone, initiate, befriend people. Remember my friends’ birthdays. Be present.
  12. Practice contentment this semester.

While checking items off is a little bonus in and of itself, ultimately, it’s fine if I don’t complete any of them. Progress is better than perfection.

I hope your next year is full of accomplishment, spontaneity, and excitement in the face of the unknown – do you have any goals?

Be back soon with something a bit less pep-talk-y for you (but let’s be real. this pep talk was for me more than anyone).

Let’s go, 2018.

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thankful | volume 6


When I was thinking of what I was thankful for, the first thing that came to mind were the fall leaves that were changing colors all across campus. It’s incredible how vividly they turn, and how you can see the spectrum of colors even on one tree, from green to yellow to orange to dark red.

A couple of weeks ago, I started collecting some of the best leaves I saw and taping them on my dorm walls. I’m in an older freshman dorm, and the walls are this lovely yellowish greenish beige color, so anything to make it feel more like home, right? One week, I ran into my professor after a literature class. I felt kind of dumb, just holding a handful of leaves, but he stopped and started telling me all about these experiments and student research involving leaves and trees and how different media forms can be used to display nature…

I finally said something really intelligent like, “I just really like leaves.”

My first semester of college is almost over, and it’s been an overwhelming adjustment to say the least. Between living on campus, learning where everything is, and how things work here, there’s a lot to learn. Meanwhile all my classmates are so smart. That being said, I’ve come to know that being thankful is a choice. To me, thankfulness means deciding to find joy in the little things, even if everything else around you seems overwhelming and more important.

So this semester, I’m thankful for fall leaves, even though I may not know anything about scientific research behind them.

I’m thankful for the housing office and loaner keys.

For dining hall ladies who give me free bananas.

For professors who post their PowerPoints online.

For new friends who bring me drinks and snacks when I’m sick.

For Spotify music all day.

For learning my school’s fight songs.

For hazelnut coffee creamer.

For worship at a campus ministry on Thursday nights.

For thanksgiving meals and the people who make them.


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In defense of the radio.

In defense of the radio

“Does anyone even listen to the radio anymore?” asked my literature professor abruptly mid-lecture. This came right after a lengthy lecture about how historically technological advances in media helped to shape the type of content we create. Yes, I have a class almost entirely devoted to gramophone and typewriter analysis. Oh, college.

“No, I don’t mean listening to Spotify on your phone or whatever,” he said. “I mean the actual radio.”

My hand tentatively rose, followed by a couple of other kids’. Thankfully, I’m not the only one evidently still living in the 20th century.

Radios are actually pretty great.  While driving, I enjoy the mindlessness of listening to a pop station on the radio during their hour of non-stop music.  No needing to decide which song, no needing to choose a Pandora station, no needing to mess with an aux cord.

I also really like how listening to alternative stations allows you to discover new music likes and dislikes. Plus listening to the alt rock on a massive ancient boombox in your room makes you feel cool, even if you have no idea who the artists are or what that little compartment with all the buttons is on the front.  Kidding, I know what a cassette player is.  No iPhone speaker can compare to a boombox from the 1990s.

It’s not only about the music though. My favorite memories of junior year were when my dad would drive my sister and I to class early Monday mornings.  Traffic inched along, and we’d always listen to a sports talk radio program that discussed the Falcons game from the day before.  My sister and I were bleary-eyed and dreading class and hoping Dad wouldn’t ask us about boys for the millionth time on commercial break, but listening to that one caller rant about one ref call or another was such an oddly satisfying morning ritual.  680 The Fan was *our* program.

None of these random little slices of happiness would have been possible without broadcast radio.

I’m beginning to think the point of this post isn’t so much in defense of the radio, but in defense of your lit class.  The pretentious, heady, lit class class that assigns 60+ pages of readings a day on topics that you will use approximately zero times in your future career.

I maybe just wasted seven or eight hours this week studying for the class and then sitting in lecture, and now another couple hours on this post. But is time spent appreciating something in your life that you never thought to appreciate before actually “wasting” it?

To all my friends out there who are also in their first months of classes –

Hang in there.

Listening to the radio or something is a great stress-reliever, I’ve heard.

Opening image source: Eric Nopanen on Unsplash


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When you don’t feel good enough…

B(M)I Week

Why am I tagging all my posts this week “B(M)I Week,” you might ask.  It’s because after sharing all about what I eat, what I read, dieting in general, and how I view myself, I’ve come to some conclusions.

There are hundreds of conflicting voices both inside your head and out in the world, trying to tell you ultimately what is healthy.  Personally, I’m convinced that how you view yourself mentally is far more important than focusing on the numbers on the scale.  Body Image (B.I.) trumps body mass index (BMI). Get it? I don’t know, I thought it was cool. (;

This will be the last post on this topic, but I wanted to leave you with some practical advice on how to deal with those unavoidable voices.

I’m no expert, so I reached out to some of the coolest girls on the internet and asked, what is your top piece of advice to girls who are bombarded by negativity in the media, girls who feel like they need to be skinny/in shape/xyz in order to be good enough? 


1. Focus on the intention behind behaviors

I originally found Daniell through this pinterest quote which really resonated with me for some reason.  Since stumbling upon the quote, I’ve discovered her blog called the Internal Acceptance Movement.  She’s such a powerful writer and graciously shared tons of practical advice, ranging from realizing that happiness isn’t tied to body size (hello celebrities) to talking back to negative thoughts.

“My best advice would be to focus on the intention behind behaviors. For example, there’s a difference between exercising to feel good and just move your body or have fun, versus exercising to lose weight/ become smaller/ fit into a certain size or dress. I would say that the former is healthy and rooted in self-acceptance, while the latter is more disordered and rooted in feelings of inadequacy,” said Daniell.

Another of her ideas is to think of something you would say to a discouraged friend struggling with their body image.  Then, turn around and apply those words to yourself. “If you would extend that kindness to a friend and someone you love, you deserve it too,” she said.


2. You don’t need to look a certain way to have worth

This wise piece of advice is from Emilee, editor of Anointed magazine, and personal friend.  It’s one of those things that’s easy to say but hard to fully accept since it’s rather counter-cultural. “Society tells us that being a certain dress size and a certain number on a scale will make us feel better about our self-worth,” said Emilee.

“Your worth is not determined by your weight. My doctor was actually the person who told me that when I was upset because I wasn’t losing weight. She told me that my weight is not a measure of my worth. Your value isn’t measured by a number on a scale.”

I was encouraged to hear the same message coming from a doctor, someone whose job it is to make sure you are physically healthy when it comes to weight.  Physical and mental health are definitely intertwined.


3. Consciously seek out good

Alexa works for Brighten, an app that allows friends to send each other anonymous compliments.  Media is a big part of the push to look/act/be a certain way, but Brighten is a pretty genius social outlet that does the opposite – it allows people to compliment each other for who they are. Totally not sponsored; I’m just a bit in love with the idea.

“If we live our lives accepting the media we consume as fact, we have no choice but to assume that the world is bad. But it’s not,” said Alexa. “There’s two sides to every coin. There’s a silver lining in every situation. When the media shows you the bad, it’s up to you to seek out the good. It’s always there, sometimes you just have to search a little harder to find it.”


4. Your worth is not measured in what the scale says

Grace writes a blog as a part of the Enough Movement. As Christians especially, we have something to fall back on when we aren’t feeling like we are good enough. “The beautiful thing about God is your worth is not measured in what the scale says or what guys think of your body,” Grace said.

“God could care less if you have abs, and does not care if your boobs are a DD. God gave us hands, feet, and a body to worship Him. Our bodies are not meant to be idols, and worshiped by ourselves and guys. To the girl who thinks her worth is measured in her body–there is good news for you, it is not. Your worth comes from the Lord the one who says ‘come as you are’.”

I’m so thankful to Grace and everyone else who shared their motivation for knowing they can be enough.


In the end, there’s a balance being the healthiest you can be while still accepting yourself for who you are.  It’s a daily struggle for me, but it probably is for everyone else as well. My hope is that some of these ideas encouraged you.  

As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! I so enjoy hearing what you have to say. 

Stay lovely,



Filed under B(M)I Week, food, diet, and body image

6 Healthy Snacks to Try

So if you’ve been reading along with the B(M)I week posts, you’ll remember that a few months ago I tried to start eating a bit healthier.  You can read more about the week-long series and what inspired me to start eating healthy here (not a super good reason, but hey! I like carrots and salad and black coffee now!).

Annnnyway, I don’t consider myself an expert on healthy eating by any means, but it’s been fun getting creative and trying out some different snacks and lunches. Here are some favorites!

Sweet Potato

1. Sweet potatoes

You can slice and bake them for sweet potato fries, stir fry them and eat it with an egg (I promise it actually tastes amazing – if you want to get fancy, try this recipe), or just bake them and eat with cinnamon.

2. Smoothies or cold oatmeal

There are so many recipes that basically combine yogurt and fruit and granola and chia seeds in magical ways.  I like this recipe...scroll down for carrot cake flavored overnight oats. A chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie is also super easy and yummy and not at all healthy seeming. Heh.  Or a mango smoothie?!


3. Hummus

My favorite way to eat this is either with carrots as a dip, or on a wrap (tortilla, hummus, veggies, and dried cranberries).

4. Nuts or Chickpeas

Gotta get in the protein somehow. I like toasting walnuts with a chili pepper and sugar blend. Sometimes I also make a scaled-down trail mix by just buying a container of mixed nuts and adding raisins to it.

5. Fruit!

Banana and peanut butter. Apples and peanut butter. Or apples and string cheese. Or just a plain orange. Many options!


6. Salad

Maybe a bit odd to eat as a snack, but still super yummy.  You can add things like edamame for protein, halved grapes or strawberries for a fruit, and feta or cilantro to mix things up. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll use balsamic vinegar and olive oil in lieu of dressing.


On Sunday I’ll have one more post to wrap this series up. But in the meantime, I hope you found some new ideas. What snacks do you enjoy?


Filed under B(M)I Week, food, diet, and body image

Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Image result for only ever yours

If we’re honest, media is a big part of how we view ourselves.  Maybe that’s why I like reading so much. For me at least, reading is a lot less influencing when it comes to appearance compared to something like scrolling Instagram.  I like that. I can always get on social media to check up on what people are wearing or doing, but books allow me to get inside characters’ heads. Only Ever Yours mixed things up though – a YA dystopian novel that takes place in a very appearance-focused Barbie world. Based on the synopsis, I was intrigued.

A lot has changed in the years between modern day and the society of Only Ever Yours.  For starters, girls aren’t even born any more.  They’re genetically manufactured to be gorgeous, perfect, and all almost identical.  The girls, called “eves”, spend their childhood getting ranked by their looks, isolated from the outside world in “School.” This is the life of Frieda and her friends, and this will be their entire lives until they turn seventeen and are assigned one of three jobs in the outside world. They could become teachers to younger eves, concubines, or wives (also known as “companions”) of wealthy men in the society. In order to achieve the sought-after position of companion, the man has to choose the eve at graduation.

Pros: The futuristic setting was eerily well-portrayed. Details like social media, nutrition info, and even the way names are capitalized both mirror and mock current society.

Cons: This was a hard book to read. It wasn’t necessarily boring, but every part of me was mad at what was going on. The book deals with things like eating disorders, sex slavery, and general cattiness. That was rough, but I expected it to some degree based on the synopsis. I kept reading because it seemed that it will build to some sort of satisfying resolution. Maybe the society would crumble, and appearance wouldn’t be all that mattered after all.

!!!Spoiler alert!!!

That doesn’t end up happening.

In the end the guy chooses the cute girl. Oh, and then the intelligent, not-chosen girls kill themselves. Lovely.  What kind of message is the novel trying to send? That sex appeal is all that matters and rejection is grounds for suicide? For a book that claims to be girl-empowering, it seemed depressing, and for me personally, almost sickening.

Sorry Louise O’Neill, but I don’t believe in portraying a dark world just for the sake of being thought-provoking.  In order to be enjoyable, a novel has to have some hint of hope. Since reading Only Ever Yours, I’ve been thinking hard about books that explore grittier subject matters like body image and eating disorders but include redemption.

Here are two I recommend: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen and How It Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes.  Both explore those topics with grace and humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed them…maybe I should just stop ranting and review those instead. (:

Best of luck on your health journey, whether that’s with food, body image, or a stack of books!


This is the second post in a week-long series on food, diet, body image, all that good stuff.  You can check out the first post here, and I hope you’ll join the conversation. Do you know any good books or articles to recommend?

Stay lovely,


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Filed under B(M)I Week, books, food, diet, and body image