All posts by Beth Berger

About Beth Berger

Hi there! Finding Delight is a lifestyle and lifelong learning blog written and curated by me in Alabama. Along the way, I attempt to tackle the rough real world with books, budget-livin', brainpower and all the beautiful stuff you can find when you really look. Won't you join me? The true delight is in the finding out.

Book Club: Last Night I Dreamed of Peace Pt. 2

(Photo Credit: http://www.news.zing.vn)

Let’s learn a bit more about Thuy’s remarkable diary and the journey it took to publication, shall we? Dang Thuy Tram, born in Vietnam in 1942, was a young doctor. During the Vietnam War, she worked for the People’s Army of Vietnam and Vietcong as a battlefield surgeon, clinic supervisor, and medical teacher. On June 22, 1970 she was killed by a patrol from the US 4th Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment while fleeing from a clinic that was undergoing repeated attacks. She was 27 years old. The last two years of her life are chronicled in her diaries, published as Last Night I Dreamed of Peace.

“Last night I dreamed that Peace was established, I came back and saw everybody.”

Following Thuy’s death, her diary was discovered by Fred Whitehurst, a 22 year old military intelligence specialist under strict orders to burn any documents he encountered without military value. He defied these orders. Instead, choosing to follow the advice of a South Vietnamese translator who said, “Don’t burn this one. . . . It has fire in it already.” He kept Thuy’s pages for 35 years, hoping to some day return them to her family.

His search for her family initially fell short. Whitehurst had returned to the U.S. after the war and pursued a career in chemistry, earning a Ph.D. and joining the FBI. Eventually, he enlisted the help of his brother Robert, another Vietnam vet, and the two of them brought the diary to a conference at Texas Tech University, home of a Vietnam Archive, in 2005.

At the conference, they met up with a photographer named Ted Engelmann who was planning a trip to Vietnam for work. He offered to do some scouting efforts for the brothers while there. It worked! Engelmann located Thuy’s mom.

Shortly after finding themselves in possession of scanned copies of her work, Thuy’s family had the diary published in Vietnam. Nhật ký Đặng Thùy Trâm rapidly became a hit. 300,000 copies were sold in less than a year and reviews drew comparisons between the wartime diaries and the work of Anne Frank.

Amidst the success of the publication, the Whitehurst brothers traveled to Hanoi to meet the family and later they would all visit Lubbock, Texas where the diaries were archived. Upon seeing her daughter’s handwritten notebooks, Thuy’s mother said, “Her corpse is in Vietnam, but this is her soul.”

In 2007 Thuy’s diary was translated into English for broader publication and this book would include photographs of Thuy and her family from their personal collection. While Vietnamese readers were huge fans of the book, folks involved were worried American reactions might be mixed, due to the depiction of U.S. involvement in the war and Thuy’s frequent references to the “American devils.”

Regardless, readers found Thuy’s words provided an honest depiction of the realities of war. The deputy director of the Vietnam Archive said, “They contain an emotional element that is typically lacking in official documents.”

“Don’t burn this one. . . . It has fire in it already.” 

Got any thoughts? Leave ’em below! And if you want exclusive book club content (incl. the full reading list and FREE printables) sent straight to your inbox — SIGN UP HERE. Part 3, coming soon!

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mid-week round-up

What are you up to this Wednesday? News about the royal baby (ARCHIE!!!) has definitely kept me good and distracted this morning, lol. Anyone else? So happy for Harry and Meghan…and for me, because I love those crazy royals! Haha. But now I’ve gotta snap out of it, buckle down, and get some dang work done! We’re off to Kentucky at week’s end. Hope your middle of the week is proving more productive than mine, but to distract you…

6 surprising things about the royal baby.

[Related: Purebred corgis or NOTHING.]

The magic of estate sales.

Why the world’s best mathematicians are hoarding chalk.

The snake-charming life and tragic death of Grace Olive Wiley.

Menstrual products in the Science Museum’s collection.

How a ‘Brady Bunch’ episode on measles is fueling campaigns against vaccines.

Springtime means I’m brainstorming ways to decorate the great outdoors!

[Related: A Rustic, Boho-Inspired Balcony]

Why women candidates are ruled unelectable so quickly.

Feeling called to purchase some warm weather jammies.

Mike Rosmann left seminary to become a clinical psychologist for farmers.

How to read more books in the golden age of content.

The ‘Baby Dolls’ of New Orleans.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Our Favorite Music Festival and For the Love of BOOKS!

List 13: DIYs I Want to Try

I started a LIST SERIES in Summer 2018 and decided to keep adding to it here and there. These posts are kinda like an introduction (or a reintroduction for those who’ve been with me since the jump!). A nice to meet ya, so glad you stopped by, now STAY AWHILE! Why lists? Because I love making ’em! Enjoy…

A list of DIYs that strike my fancy…

Multi-Use Kitchen Towels…seem like a great paper towel swap.

Mimosa Sugar Scrub…would make a wonderful gift.

No-Sew Felt Scalloped Pillow…switch up the colors to go with your decor.

Citrus Fruit Serving Trays…truly instagrammable.

Turn a Canning Jar into a Lamp…oh how I love my antique mason jars.

Circle Zip Earbud Pouch…never lose track of your trusty listening device.

Tassel and Macrame Keychains…grown up friendship bracelets.

Planter Box…to dress up the front porch.

Rose, Lavender, & Oatmeal Bath Bombs…treat yourself to fancy bath time.

Lavender Laundry Sponges…reusable fabric softener goodness.

Tell me what DIYs YOU want to try in the comments below! xoxo

[And in case you’re curious…

LIST 1
LIST 2 
LIST 3
LIST 4
LIST 5
LIST 6

LIST 7
LIST 8
LIST 9
LIST 10
LIST 11
LIST 12]

Book Club: Last Night I Dreamed of Peace Pt. 1

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today I’m unveiling Book #4 in the Finding Delight Book Club. My how time flies! If you’re new to this series, I’m reading 12 books and sharing about them with you here. I plan to post 4 times for each book. This month, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram translated by Andrew X. Pham.

For the full book list CLICK HERE. I’d love to have you along for the ride!

“Come to me, squeeze my hand, know my loneliness,
and give me the love,  the strength to prevail
on the perilous road before me.” 

Synopsis

Amidst the deadliest portion of the Vietnam War, a young woman, Dang Thuy Tram, leaves her family behind in Hanoi and sets off to work in a field hospital. As a recently trained doctor she is tasked with treating civilians and soldiers alike as fierce guerrilla battles occur day in and day out within the foliage nearby.

For comfort, she writes in her diary. She records her patient encounters, friends who have been killed in the fighting, her longing for a man she calls M., and her dreams.

These wartime recollections were rescued when, at war’s end, American soldiers were burning documents. A Vietnamese translator got hold of Thuy’s diary and proclaimed, “Don’t burn this one, it has fire in it already.” 

Breaking protocol, an American officer preserved the diary and kept it for 35 years, eventually delivering it into the hands of Thuy’s mother. It was later published in Vietnam and then translated into English by Andrew X. Pham.

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace is the parting gift from an unlikely heroine, killed at 27. Her voice lives on to help generations to come remember that compassion and dignity can persist in the face of the atrocities of war.

“Half of  our heart is filled with red blood, half with black. In our mind there is also a balance between the bright, intelligent and beautiful facets and the dark, negative, and cowardly parts. If I can grasp that in its entirety, then I can achieve tranquility and stability in this life.”

Initial thoughts 

First off, don’t skip the introduction! This bit of text penned by Frances Fitzgerald (author of Fire in the Lake) is excellent and offers insightful observations about the book’s meaning, history and origins. I don’t know a ton about the Vietnam War and the introduction helped to place Thuy’s writing into the larger narrative of world conflicts.

The fact that the book is a diary, the interior monologue of a young woman enduring the realities of war, is what drew me to it. (Anyone else read Anne Frank as a kid and become obsessed with the war diary genre?) And a new doctor, no less! Throughout the book she talks of caring for wounded Viet Cong soldiers below the 17th parallel that divided Vietnam into North and South. Her life is often in danger as the American “enemy” and guerrillas wage war mere paces from her makeshift field hospitals.

There’s also an element of romance to her life’s tale as she followed a man from back home into this service. She talks of “M.” frequently in the pages of the diary. Unfortunately, they have both become so committed to their duties that striking things back up seems nearly impossible. Thuy mourns the loss of what could have been.

Given her proximity to the violent, bloody, gory scenes of war, it’s interesting to note that descriptions of such things are limited. But of course, Thuy is a physician, not a soldier. This means grappling with the aftermath, putting the pieces back together that war tore apart.

In translation, her writing is extremely lyrical. Less an account of what’s happening and more poetic perceptions and ponderings — about the damages of war, firm communist beliefs, relationships with the people she meets in the clinic, and sometimes their deaths too. This style, along with the repetitiveness of Thuy’s thoughts, could definitely be off-putting to some. But at the end of the day, she’s a woman in her 20’s who can’t figure out which dude she’s in love with! She’s the epitome of “in her feelings.” Add war to that emotional hotbox and I think I can excuse the fact that she often wants to discuss pining for men rather than the AK-47 wounds she sewed up earlier that day.

Finally, reading Thuy’s wartime recollections as an American is a thought-provoking exercise in seeing the “enemy” as human. It’s easy to relate to a person when they lay their hopes and fears bare on a page. Reading that she dreamed of peace hopefully serves as a reminder, that death as a result of war is always a tragedy, regardless of sides.

Read this if you’re interested in: the Vietnam War, medical history, women physicians, wartime diaries

Read this if you loved: Home Front Girl by Joan Whelen Morrison, The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh, and When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip

Other works mentioned: Fire in the Lake by Frances Fitzgerald

Keep a lookout for Part 2! It’ll be hitting this site next week.

And don’t forget — if you want the full reading list CLICK HERE. You’ll basically become a card-carrying member of the Finding Delight Book Club! ❤

mid-week round-up

What’s new on this Wednesday, friends? It’s a beautiful day where I am and I’d love to be spending the day outdoors but ALAS…too much work to be done. The weekend can’t come soon enough. Honestly not much to report at the moment. My cat is meowing incessantly so I better go see what he’s up to and I’m starting to get hungry for lunch, so let’s do this link thing…

Talking with the songsmiths of Sesame Street.

Newest addition to my reading list.

[Related: Sign up HERE for my book club reading list!]

A berry crumble recipe (made with frozen fruit!).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus explains 9 looks from Seinfeld to Veep.

How did James Holzhauer turn Jeopardy into his own A.T.M.?

A glimpse inside the lives of asylum-seekers, new couples, prisoners, and pen pals through their letters, texts, WhatsApp messages, and Facebook posts.

Do memes change how we remember history?

What one woman learned about hunger in America after volunteering at 200 food banks.

[Related: Good and Cheap — How to Eat on a Shoestring Budget]

Take a moment to tell your mom what she means to you with a FREE customized Mother’s Day photo card from Artifact Uprising.

This story about a roomba made me laugh.

A sweet tribute to Notre Dame.

The death of the hippies.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Kicking off SEASON TWO of Uncovered the Podcast and 5 Ways to Cultivate a More Meaningful Life.

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

A Super Simple Capsule Wardrobe for Warm Weather (with outfit combinations!)

If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you know I LOVE a capsule wardrobe. I love creating them, I love reading about them, I love wearing them. Today, I’m back on my bullshit and bringing you yet another capsule wardrobe. This one is for warm weather and I created it with basic wardrobe pieces in mind. Think: items you probably already have in your closet. (And if you don’t they’re super easy and affordable to find — I’ve linked Amazon versions for all of them!!)

Once I decided on the capsule’s 37 pieces, I tried to think about outfits I might put together for events in my own life to show you how easy it is to create combinations.

37 Pieces

Tops

White Tee 

White Tank 

White Button Down 

Chambray Tank 

Striped Tee

Grey Graphic Tee 

Athletic Tank 

Plaid Button Down 

Bottoms

Athletic Shorts 

Grey Trousers 

Joggers 

Black Jeans 

Blue Skirt 

Jeans

Jean Shorts 

Boyfriend Jeans 

Dresses

 

Work Dress 

LBD 

Sun Dress

 

Layers

Black Blazer 

Leather Jacket

Pastel Sweater

Grey Sweatshirt 

Jean Jacket 

Loose Cardigan

Drapey Vest

Shoes

Black Slide-ons

Brown Platforms

Black Booties 

Dressy Flats 

Brown Booty Heels 

Black Birks 

White Converse Sneakers 

Neutral Sandals

Bags

 

Day Bag

Work Bag 

Evening Bag 

Outfit Combinations

Funky night on the town: Chambray Tank + Blue Skirt + Dressy Flats + Evening Bag (add a chunky watch and beachy waves)

Meeting with a client at the coffee shop: White Button Down + Jeans + Brown Booty Heels + Work Bag (add sunglasses and a pink lip)

Gallery opening and outdoor drinks: White Tank + Blue Skirt + Neutral Sandals + Day Bag (add pretty nail polish and a big spring scarf)

In and out of air-conditioning all day at a campus event: Plaid Button Down (maybe w/ a white tee underneath) + Loose Cardigan + Jean Shorts + Neutral Sandals + Work Bag (add SPF and a dainty necklace)

Dinner out at your favorite downtown restaurant: White Tank + Drapey Vest + Jeans + Brown Booty Heels (add a gold bangle bracelet and your phone for snapping Instagram pics)

Thrift shop ‘til you drop: Pastel Sweater + Jean Shorts + White Converse Sneakers + Work Bag (add a cozy scarf and no-show socks)

Perusing the library book sale for deals: Chambray Tank + Black Jeans + Black Birks + Day Bag (add stacks of rings and eyeliner)

After work activities like stopping by a friend’s event or your monthly book club meeting: Graphic Tee + Black Jeans + Dressy Flats + Evening Bag (add a loose ponytail and a chic watch)

Evening concert in the park: Work Dress + Jean Jacket + Neutral Sandals + Evening Bag (add a blowout and red lip)

Saturday morning errands: White Button Down + Athletic Shorts + Black Birks + Day Bag (add rolled up sleeves and self tanner)

Networking or promotional event: Plaid Button-down + Grey Trousers + Brown Platforms (add business cards and texturizing spray)

Travel day in the airport: White Tee + Jean Jacket + Joggers + Dressy Flats + Work Bag (add earbuds and a cute water bottle)

Administrative happenings like house showings and accountant meetings: Striped Tee + Black Jeans + Jean Jacket + Brown Platforms + Day Bag (add a loose braid and hoops)

Day trip spent exploring nearby towns: Graphic Tee + Black Blazer + Jean Shorts + Black Slide-ons + Work Bag (add sunglasses and a changed up part)

Picking up the CSA at the farm and then going for brunch: White Tank + Boyfriend Jeans + Neutral Sandals + Day Bag (add a to-go mug and dangly earrings)

Cheering on a sports team: White Tank + Drapey Vest + Jean Shorts + White Converse Sneakers (add a bandana/headscarf and sunglasses)

Getting all the meal planning and grocery shopping done: White Tee + Denim Jacket + Athletic Shorts + White Converse Sneakers + Day Bag (add a flowy scarf and beaded jewelry)

Outdoor fair and silent auction: White Tank + Plaid Button-down + Jeans + Brown Booty Heels + Day Bag (add a cocktail ring and gold studs)

Attending a class or lecture: Striped Tee + Loose Cardigan + Boyfriend Jeans + Black Birks + Day Bag (add a moleskine notebook and colorful pens)

*Whew!* I’ve barely even scratched the surface on outfit combinations…but you get the idea! The possibilities really do feel endless. What do you think? Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe? Do you have a few wardrobe basics you think you could pull from your closet to create one? Let me know your thoughts below. 

P.S. Need MORE capsule wardrobe content? Work Capsule Wardrobe for Spring and My Autumn 2017 Capsule Wardrobe.

Book Club: The Truths We Hold Pt. 4

Welcome back, Finding Delight Book Club members! Today is my final post about The Truths We Hold, and I’m turning it over to you. While it is great to read other people’s thoughts about a book and learn a bit more about an author and dive deeper into a subject with extended reading/listening watching … what I love most about book clubs is that it allows a space for tapping into your own feelings. So, shall we?

In the final chapter of The Truths We Hold, Kamala Harris shares 8 mantras which she and her team rely on as touchstones and guideposts. They use them as “starting points for policy conversations and as ways to determine whether we’re on the right track.” For our final thoughts on this book, I’d like us to take a moment to reflect on these mantras.

How can we apply these bits of wisdom? How can we start conversations, enact change, and lead the charge in our own lives and around issues that matter to us most? 

How can you embrace innovation?
What is a bold action you’d like to take? Are there risks involved?
How will you test your hypothesis?

In what instance would it be helpful for you to hear from other voices?
What questions would you ask?
How can you amplify those voices?

What happens when seemingly insignificant details get swept aside in favor of grand pronouncements?
Are there tedious tasks you can take on and actually enjoy?
What’s one tiny change you think could have a BIG impact on your life or the country?

How do you wield your words for good?
What words do you think are most powerful?
How can you make your language more inclusive?

Are there goals in your life that would benefit from reverse engineering?
Once you’ve worked backwards, are there ways to adapt the steps to make the end goal better and more attainable?
What can you say to the people in your life who tell you the answer is 8 without acknowledging that they added 4 and 4?

What are you fighting for?
Who are you fighting for?
How can you join forces with other folks?

Have you witnessed any “fights worth having” lately? How did they make you feel?
Who inspires you to keep fighting and to never back down?
What strategies can you use in your life to be brave in the face of adversity?

In what ways are you “first”? What have you achieved, what goals have you met, how have you succeeded?
Now, how can you pull others up with you?
Who do you “take into the room” with you? Who is cheering you on?

Have you read The Truths We Hold yet? Pop any answers or thoughts that come up out of the exercises above in the comments. I’d love to continue the conversation. If you haven’t read it yet, but your interest is sparked, you can order it HERE or check it out from your local library. These posts will be here for you at any time — 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

So, what’s next for our book club? Subscribe HERE to receive the full Finding Delight Reading List or tune in next week for PART 1 of a brand new book. 🙂

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

mid-week round-up

How’s it going this week? I hope everyone had a restful and joyous holiday weekend. We just cooked a big supper and called it a day (no easter egg hunts, alas) — roast chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, biscuits and 7-layer bars for dessert. Really hoping the never ending rain relents so we can finally, finally start enjoying the great outdoors a bit more. I keep repeating: April showers bring May flowers. Here’s looking at you, May!

Podcasts as the perfect anti-procrastination tool.

Honestly, this sounds like my ideal Sunday routine.

Take the train!

[Related: I talked to a woman for 4 hours on the train.]

Roasted vegetable and couscous meal prep.

The black feminists who saw the alt-right threat coming.

6 dreaded tasks that are actually great for managing stress.

Humanize my hoodie.

[Related: Please read Suspicion Nation.]

Pair with sundress and strappy sandals.

This apartment is a plant lover’s dream.

10 foods you should totally freeze to save money and reduce waste.

Ask these 4 questions about the stuff on your to-do list.

Wouldn’t these bracelets make the sweetest gift?

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Gift Guide for Lady Loves and A Planner Round-Up.

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

Would You Do This?

Would you buy copies of your favorite book(s) in bulk and keep them on hand so you can give them away?

Mimi Ikonn mentions doing this in a house tour video I watched years ago and it’s such a great idea that it really stuck with me. As she says, “We always buy a couple extra copies of our favorite books. That way, when people come over and we end up talking about our favorite books, we can just give them a copy.”

She and her husband keep spare copies of The Alchemist. Isn’t that brilliant?

What books would you want to keep copies of? I think I would choose The Poisonwood Bible and Wild. Maybe an extra copy or two of my book club selections? But it is so hard to choose!

So, what do you think? Would you do this? Have you read anything lately that you loved so much you would totally rush out to buy extra copies??? Let’s chat below…

Book Club: The Truths We Hold Pt. 3

Last week, we learned a bit more about Kamala Harris by way of some additional content. I linked to interviews, articles, and videos that I hoped would help further your understanding of this political powerhouse.

Today, I’d like to use Kamala’s story as inspiration for other stories and messages I think are worthy of our examination. Below, you’ll find books about politics, fierce female leaders, feminism, and justice. Add these to your reading list if you drew power from The Truths We Hold. I think you’ll find their pages have a similar effect.

I’ve also included a round-up of documentaries that serve as excellent supplemental material for Kamala’s book. Watch the trailers and choose what looks most interesting. (Or watch all six!)

Finally, there’s a playlist of Kamala’s favorite jams (for our musically inclined readers) and a call to action to get involved with your favorite 2020 hopeful. Enjoy!

Continue Reading:

Books to add to your reading list – 

Continue Watching:

Documentaries – 

  • Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed [TRAILER]
  • Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise [TRAILER]
  • She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry [TRAILER]
  • A Ballerina’s Tale [TRAILER]
  • 13th [TRAILER]
  • The Women’s List [TRAILER]

Continue Listening:

Continue Experiencing:

  • Get the deets on ALL the 2020 presidential hopefuls! Read as much you can and stay informed on the issues. Look into what they’ve done and what they’re promising to do.
  • Find one you like? Get involved! This can be as simple as talking to friends about why you’re down for this particular person or as involved as hosting watch parties & volunteering with their campaign office.
  • For info on how to get involved with Kamala’s campaign — EVENTS / STORE / VOLUNTEER / DONATE 

Check out Part 2 for more with Kamala Harris.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

P.S. You can get a free Joyful Warrior sticker (pictured above) HERE.