Thursday, December 04, 2014

All the Rest Who Made Up His World

A few days ago I came across a few words at the end of a sentence which gave me pause.

"Then he prayed for Dooley and Henry and Peggy and all the rest who made up his world . . . ."


I'd been reading Jan Karon's In the Company of Others. The particular words that gave me pause were "all the rest who made up his world." I like that....Praying for those who make up our world.


So I marked it as I usually do lines that impress me.


Then just a day or so later, this article comes across my horizon: "No, I Won't Pray for You." It's worth the few minutes of time it will take you to read it. This is an honest (maybe brutally honest, depending on how you look at it) response to a general call to personal pray for someone, particularly someone who does not "make up our world."


We have become so conditioned to be nice and polite that, on the surface, this response of "no" is cold and unfeeling and . . . "not Christian of you." But Challis has some good points in his article. I'm not sure I could be so bold, but when asked to pray for or about someone that does not make up my world, my response is often deferred to not hold me accountable to that promise.


Those who make up my world. I like this. There is an intimacy here that doesn't exist with a shopping list type of prayer requests.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Winter Reading Challenge begins!


Beginning today and continuing through February 28, the Winter Reading Challenge.

Karen 
The Magical World of the Inklings by Gareth Knight
The Children of Men by P.D. James
The Return by Walter de La Mare
Wisdom & Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton by Joseph Pearce
Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis by George Sayer
Descent into Hell: A Novel by Charles Williams (I'm going to try anyway)
The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Sinclair Ferguson

Laura at Lines...In Pleasant Places 
England Have My Bones - T.H. White
The Road to Serfdom - F.A. Hayek
The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe - Alexander McCall Smith
The Fairy Babies - Laura Rountree Smith
His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren - Adrian Tinniswood
In Spite of All Terror - Hester Burton
Water Wheel Turn - Hilda Boden
Allen Tate: Collected Poems 1919-1976 - Allen Tate 

Diane at A Circle of Quiet
Wendell Berry: Another Turn of the Crank (essays)
P.G. Wodehouse: Ring for Jeeves
Studs Terkel: Hope Dies Last
Mark Helprin: Freddy and Fredericka
Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See
Muriel Barbery: Gourmet Rhapsody
Patrick Taylor: Irish Country Christmas (thanks for the idea, Janie! And thanks to the library for having a copy available (-:)
Madeleine L'Engle: A Live Coal in the Sea
P.D. James: Death Comes to Pemberley (a re-read with intention of watching the BBC show)
Kyriacos Markides: The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality

Carol at A Living Pencil:
three Shakespeare histories
Tales from a Midwife (Worth)

Jenn at Simblissity:   
readings on Advent
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Irving)
Frankenstein (Shelley)

Tracie at Tabulations:
Prodigal God (Keller)
Advent Reflections (Bonhoeffer)
Rhett Butler's People (McCaig)
Lila (Robinson)
Somewhere Safe with Someone Good (Karon)

Janie at Seasonal Soundings:
In the Company of Others (Karon) Excited that Karon is back; I'd put a hold on reading any after Home to Holly Springs was disappointing.
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Karon)
An Irish Country Christmas (Taylor) Something seasonal
To Every Thing There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story (MacLeod) Something seasonal and from a place we've traveled
Gilead (Robinson) Promises of good things; I've not read any Robinson
Stillmeadow Calendar (Taber) It's been thirty years since I've read any Taber and wintertime spells Taber
Loving Will Shakespeare (Meyer) A juvenile historical fiction....reading my stash of juvies and moving on.
Belong to Me (Santos) A dear reader-friend pushed this one on me.
All Creatures of Great and Small (Herriot) Rereading after twenty-five years.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis) Rereading for the 7th-8th time.
The Attributes of God -- audio (Tozer) Available
Known and Unknown -- audio (Rumsfeld)
Franklin and Eleanor -- audio (Rowley)
Twelve Years a Slave -- audio (Northup) 

If you would like to join the challenge, list your books (and authors) in a comment, and I will update a post to include all the books everyone is reading.

Let the inspiration begin!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Beginning tomorrow . . . Winter Reading Challenge!


It's been several years since I've hosted or participated in a reading challenge. And I've decided it's time again. This seasonal reading challenge is without rules or tasks and is designed to everyone become intentional about reading.

This Winter Reading Challenge will begin December 1 and continue until February 28.

Diane at A Circle of Quiet

Wendell Berry: Another Turn of the Crank (essays)
P.G. Wodehouse: Ring for Jeeves
Studs Terkel: Hope Dies Last
Mark Helprin: Freddy and Fredericka
Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See
Muriel Barbery: Gourmet Rhapsody
Patrick Taylor: Irish Country Christmas (thanks for the idea, Janie! And thanks to the library for having a copy available (-:)
Madeleine L'Engle: A Live Coal in the Sea
P.D. James: Death Comes to Pemberley (a re-read with intention of watching the BBC show)
Kyriacos Markides: The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality

Carol at A Living Pencil:
three Shakespeare histories
Tales from a Midwife (Worth)

Jenn at Simblissity:   
readings on Advent
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Irving)
Frankenstein (Shelley)

Tracie at Tabulations:
Prodigal God (Keller)
Advent Reflections (Bonhoeffer)
Rhett Butler's People (McCaig)
Lila (Robinson)
Somewhere Safe with Someone Good (Karon)

Janie at Seasonal Soundings:
In the Company of Others (Karon) Excited that Karon is back; I'd put a hold on reading any after Home to Holly Springs was disappointing.
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Karon)
An Irish Country Christmas (Taylor) Something seasonal
To Every Thing There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story (MacLeod) Something seasonal and from a place we've traveled
Gilead (Robinson) Promises of good things; I've not read any Robinson
Stillmeadow Calendar (Taber) It's been thirty years since I've read any Taber and wintertime spells Taber
Loving Will Shakespeare (Meyer) A juvenile historical fiction....reading my stash of juvies and moving on.
Belong to Me (Santos) A dear reader-friend pushed this one on me.
All Creatures of Great and Small (Herriot) Rereading after twenty-five years.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis) Rereading for the 7th-8th time.
The Attributes of God -- audio (Tozer) Available
Known and Unknown -- audio (Rumsfeld)
Franklin and Eleanor -- audio (Rowley)
Twelve Years a Slave -- audio (Northup) 

If you would like to join the challenge, list your books (and authors) in a comment, and I will update a post to include all the books everyone is reading.

Let the inspiration begin!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Winter Reading Challenge update


It's been several years since I've hosted or participated in a reading challenge. And I've decided it's time again. This seasonal reading challenge is without rules or tasks and is designed to everyone become intentional about reading.

This Winter Reading Challenge will begin December 1 and continue until February 28.

Diane at A Circle of Quiet

Wendell Berry: Another Turn of the Crank (essays)
P.G. Wodehouse: Ring for Jeeves
Studs Terkel: Hope Dies Last
Mark Helprin: Freddy and Fredericka
Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See
Muriel Barbery: Gourmet Rhapsody
Patrick Taylor: Irish Country Christmas (thanks for the idea, Janie! And thanks to the library for having a copy available (-:)
Madeleine L'Engle: A Live Coal in the Sea
P.D. James: Death Comes to Pemberley (a re-read with intention of watching the BBC show)
Kyriacos Markides: The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality

Carol at A Living Pencil:
three Shakespeare histories
Tales from a Midwife (Worth)

Jenn at Simblissity:   
readings on Advent
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Irving)
Frankenstein (Shelley)

Tracie at Tabulations:
Prodigal God (Keller)
Advent Reflections (Bonhoeffer)
Rhett Butler's People (McCaig)
Lila (Robinson)
Somewhere Safe with Someone Good (Karon)

Janie at Seasonal Soundings:
In the Company of Others (Karon) Excited that Karon is back; I'd put a hold on reading any after Home to Holly Springs was disappointing.
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Karon)
An Irish Country Christmas (Taylor) Something seasonal
To Every Thing There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story (MacLeod) Something seasonal and from a place we've traveled
Gilead (Robinson) Promises of good things; I've not read any Robinson
Stillmeadow Calendar (Taber) It's been thirty years since I've read any Taber and wintertime spells Taber
Loving Will Shakespeare (Meyer) A juvenile historical fiction....reading my stash of juvies and moving on.
Belong to Me (Santos) A dear reader-friend pushed this one on me.
All Creatures of Great and Small (Herriot) Rereading after twenty-five years.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis) Rereading for the 7th-8th time.
The Attributes of God -- audio (Tozer) Available
Known and Unknown -- audio (Rumsfeld)
Franklin and Eleanor -- audio (Rowley)
Twelve Years a Slave -- audio (Northup) 

If you would like to join the challenge, list your books (and authors) in a comment, and I will update a post to include all the books everyone is reading.

Let the inspiration begin!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Revisiting James Herriot


Yesterday afternoon as I snuggled down under my warming throw with a cup of hot cocoa, I picked up James Herriot's Yorkshire Revisited. I'm not a particularly nostalgic person, but James Herriot can bring out some rampant nostalgia in me.

I read all four of Herriot books at least twenty-five years ago after we first were introduced to him through PBS's All Creatures Great and Small series which aired every Sunday evening. So I always equate watching the shows with Sunday nights. That's why I picked up his Yorkshire Revisited yesterday - on Sunday.

James Herriot was author Alfred Wight's pen name and preferred to remain anonymous and secretive about the actual places he described. I suspect he didn't want to spoil these favorite vistas with the possibility of increased visitation from his readers.

Jim Wight, Alfred's son, writes the introduction to this picture book. From the first paragraph, he has composed a couple of most beautiful sentences.

"I gazed at the view with feelings of pleasure mixed with deep appreciation. I have stood here on many occasions, and familiarity with the surrounding scenery has done little to dampen the surge of excitement it generate in me." 
And then, Wight the senior -- writing as James Herriot in All Things Bright and Beautiful,
"I hadn't thought it possible that I could spend all my days in a high, clean-blown land where the scent of grass or trees was never far away; and where even in the driving rain of winter I could snuff the air and find the freshness of growing things hidden somewhere in the cold clasp of winter. My work consisted now of driving from farm to farm across the roof of England with a growing conviction that I was a privileged person."
For these reasons, I moved the first book in the series, All Creatures Great and Small, into my Winter Reading Challenge. I've decided it's time to revisit these wonderful books.




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Winter Reading Challenge


 It's been several years since I've hosted or participated in a reading challenge. And I've decided it's time again. Reading challenges (those like this one--without rules or tasks) help me to be intentional about my reading.

In the past, I've chosen my reading along categories to help balance genres. But in the recent past years, I've been lazy about that and allowed myself to read without regard, often an imbalance of too much fiction.

Since I'm easing back into intentional reading, I've decided that my reading categories will not be strict for myself. Not yet, anyway. There will still be a heavy dose of fiction as I try to renew some goals of the past at the same time. One of these areas includes my morning reading routine of scripture reading and some spiritual classic, is still in the works. I'll add those books as I go along. My hopes are that by the spring challenge, I'll be fully back in the swing of things.

As I have for the past few years, I'm reading only books from my shelves (except audio from the library) and mostly getting "new" ones through PaperBackSwap. And I'm putting most of those I finish back on PBS. This way, I'll do some immediate shelf decluttering.

This Winter Reading Challenge will begin December 1 and continue until February 28. After a taxing autumn, I'm planning to begin with a week of indulgence in the two Karon books.

Carol at A Living Pencil:
three Shakespeare histories
Tales from a Midwife (Worth)

Jenn at Simblissity:   
readings on Advent
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Irving)
Frankenstein (Shelley)


Tracie at Tabulations:
Prodigal God (Keller)
Advent Reflections (Bonhoeffer)
Rhett Butler's People (McCaig)
Lila (Robinson)
Somewhere Safe with Someone Good (Karon)

Janie at Seasonal Soundings:
In the Company of Others (Karon) Excited that Karon is back; I'd put a hold on reading any after Home to Holly Springs was disappointing.
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Karon)

An Irish Country Christmas (Taylor) Something seasonal.


To Every Thing There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story (MacLeod) Something seasonal and from a place we've traveled.


Gilead (Robinson) Promises of good things; I've not read any Robinson.


Stillmeadow Calendar (Taber) It's been thirty years since I've read any Taber and wintertime spells Taber.


Loving Will Shakespeare (Meyer) A juvenile historical fiction....reading my stash of juvies and moving on.

Belong to Me (Santos) A dear reader-friend pushed this one on me.
All Creatures of Great and Small (Herriot) Rereading after twenty-five years.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis) Rereading for the 7th-8th time.

The Attributes of God -- audio (Tozer) Available

Known and Unknown -- audio (Rumsfeld)
Franklin and Eleanor -- audio (Rowley)
Twelve Years a Slave -- audio (Northup) 

If you would like to join the challenge, list your books (and authors) in a comment, and I will update a post to include all the books everyone is reading.

Let the inspiration begin!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Reminiscing: Seasonal Soundings Reading Challenges

Anyone remember these? I was reminded of them out of the blue this morning when I read this. We used to do seasonal challenges too! But when I went to the Goodreads site for details, I realized there are more rules and regs than I'd ever want to be trapped into. Having the moderator approve your book?! Maybe I'll get to that point in my reading life, but I'm not banking on it.

Since I've been thinking about reading challenges lately anyway, that posting made me think some more. I really want to be more intentional about my reading again, but a fall challenge is too soon for me. Maybe a better start time will be a winter challenge beginning December 2014. Can we revive the Seasonal Soundings Reading Challenges? What do you think?

I've been trying to finish some books in a couple of series so I can "move on." And I've been reading in prep for our Iceland trip which commences in just a few days! When I return, I hope to finish those few lingering series-books, then acclimate myself to a more intentional (and beneficial) reading plan by the first of October.

Do you plan your reading to some degree? Are you up for a SS Winter Reading Challenge December, 2014?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting it back...

Finally, I think I may be getting my juju back.

After several months of scattered weeks at the beach and planning for another week away, I've felt like I've lost my moorings and have been adrift, accomplishing little of anything. Being a listmaker, I would dutifully make my list the night before, yet cast not a glance at it the next day. Several days of this and I felt pretty useless and unmotivated.

But, after four days back, stuff washed and put away despite no juju, I got a good night's sleep and feel more like myself.

After mid-September, I'll have about eight months of no trips (save my usual after-Christmas visit at my sister's). I hope to get into a routine of housekeeping, reading, and studying by October. My bookshelves still need some organizing, but at least the books are in groups now.

Since list-making makes me happy and (usually!) productive, I intend to develop a reading list (sort of like the years-ago reading challenges some of us did), along with a study schedule. I'm inclined toward church history which will give me the opportunity to read the biographies (children's and adult's) of important church figures that I already have on my shelves. This excites me (gives me some juju!) and motivates me to press on.

Although I read Church History in Plain Language (Shelley) over a decade ago, I might go back through this one. And I definitely want to go through The Church in History (Kuiper). It's pretty straightforward without details I don't want to deal with.

The other day I had a blog comment on an old post which caused me to go back through many of the posts over the years. I was saddened at my neglect of blogging. I remember the days of writing daily and the deeply knit friendships that developed through comments left. I don't know if it's too late to revive the slogger-blogger or not, but that's on my list, too.

After months of despair while teaching in the private school and agonizing over the decision whether or not to return, I was lightened of heart when this thought came to me one morning on the drive in:  "The Intentional Pursuit of the Good Life." Yes, that was what I wanted. And that was an intended blog post. The post hasn't happened yet, but I hope to bring those thoughts to fruition in the next few months.

But, right now, the grass has finally dried off enough to be given an overdue cutting. With strong storms moving in tonight, I'd best be getting to it. Here's off to that task on my list!

Press on.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Reading Life: Islands

Oh. My.

As I read this book, my first by Siddons, I kept thinking how I would scribble my thoughts about the book. At first, the book was okay and nicely written. Kind of hummmm.

But then Siddons evidently was working her magic prose and pulled me in. I was eager to finish tasks so I could grab a few extra minutes and pick the book up. Her character development is extraordinary. Her descriptions are realistic. Her vocabulary usage is smile-worthy; she's not a typical Southern fiction writer like Mary Alice Monroe (who I have enjoyed in the past but writes in an easy-to-read simplistic vocabulary). I like that fact that Siddons used vocabulary sometimes unfamiliar, sometimes unknown to me, and did so frequently. That alone moved my rating from three to four stars. She writes to include the reader as one of the group. You really do feel like you are that silent invisible other in the group.

But the thing that changed the "Hmmm" to "Oh. My." happened in the last twenty pages of the book. I did not see that coming.

I don't have any more Siddons' books and with the number of others I have already to read, I don't plan to get any any time soon, but I will. She just may rise to the top of my beach-read list for next year.

How did I find Siddons? Her name was unfamiliar to me until I read Pat Conroy's My Reading Life. He sings her praises, and if he does, then I must read her. (I am adding his suggestions to my already too-long list.) Funny though, many don't consider Islands to be her best work. I'm glad it was my first and am eager for the best one. This was an enjoyable Southern beach fiction read. I hesitate to classify it as "brain candy" like I would a Mary Alice Monroe, but maybe more like an exquisitely decorated petit four or a fine meringue.

Oh, and have some tissues handy. Some things are very touching and heartfelt. There is loss and sadness.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Reading Life: Slogging through the saga -- Independent People (Laxness)



Independent People
(Laxness)
This book has been a burden to my reading life for the last couple of weeks. Yet, I've made myself finish it. Why? First, because I don't like to quit books, especially ones that have garnered such high ratings from readers that are much more well-read than I. Second, my curiosity was teased; I did want to find out what happened in the end to Bjartur of Summerhouses. And third, because I wanted to have a "taste" of Iceland before traveling there in a few months. 

In the beginning of the book, I liked what I read for the most part. Yes, as others have said, author Halldór Laxness is most descriptive and wordy; he reminds me of how I think. His lengthy descriptions are like a translation to words of our lightning-quick thoughts or dreams that flit from one thing to another and make sense only to us in our own minds. Describing a dream that you cannot seem to wrap your own head around is most difficult, yet we alone understand something of the dream without the use of words. Laxness, however, paints a picture with these words, and what a bleak picture he paints. I did not realize when I began this book that it is basically a tragedy. If I had, I’m not sure I would have started the journey. With the many five-star reviews, I was confident that I would enjoy the story. But the further I read, the less I liked. I reminded myself of my favorite book ever, Michael O’Brien’s The Island of theWorld, which is some ways, began similarly with me. There was bleakness there for many pages, yet through a series of crucifixions and resurrections, the protagonist emerged triumphant. Independent People, however, never had resurrections or triumphs, only crucifixions, unless you count the last few paragraphs.

I see books in color when I read. And this book is the antithesis of the extraordinary beauty of Icelandic landscape pictures I have seen. When I read this book, I saw gray everywhere. Everywhere except at the very beginning and later towards the end of the book when son Gvendur travels to the coast in anticipation of going to America. There is a drabness, dreariness, dirtiness, and darkness in the shadows of descriptions in Independent People. As far as reading this book for a "taste" of Iceland before travelling there, umph. I'll settle for pretty Internet pictures instead.

Bjartur of Summerhouses is a character that causes a disturbance within me and makes me want to slap him. He is independent for sure; he is uncaring and unloving to his family and so “practical” that he is almost machinery. His first and foremost care is toward his sheep. And the more sheep he has, the more help he needs. And that help has to come from his family. I’m not sure I can really use the word “family” to accurately describe those people around Bjartur; they are actually his physical family, but he treats them not at all like family. Life for them is drudgery and miserable and the only thing they know. I'm not truly sure that Bjartur's foremost care is toward his sheep though; I think Bjartur is a man eaten up with pride in himself and keeps only those things around him that add to that pride. Yes, I meant things; I don't think Bjartur saw people, even his family, as anything more than things.

Someone said that reading this book was like Bjartur’s life struggle to independence: slogging through snow, ice, and mud. It is. And my stubbornness to finish the book anyway is a smidgeon of the ornery stubbornness that Bjartur embraces. I have to say that that man did not give up in the face of difficulty and grief, though I don’t think he was capable of grieving much at all. He persevered, yet in his determination to be beholden to no one, he loses everything. Almost. The last few paragraphs of the book, after 482 pages, redeemed Bjartur for me. But only a bit.

Whenever I hear or read the word “independent” now, I don’t think my mind will conjure up positive images again. At least, not for a long time.

Should you read Independent People? If you are a fairly fast reader, at least you won’t feel like you’re living in frozen mud on a gray landscape for too long, so go for it. If not, be prepared. And, I will one day read another one by Laxness since I have several. But not for a while.


Some interesting links I found:


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Teaching: The Hard Part


Here lies an excellent article.


My husband and I had a short conversation about teaching recently. He said he thought I might return to it. I said no, but that I did love teaching. He said that was a necessary quality of good teacher and, again, that I might return to it. But I told him that I'm not willing to pay the costs again. There are such steep costs to that love, and it cost me a lot.

It cost me being able to listen to the birds at my birdfeeders, mowing the grass, being outside, enjoying leisure in the true sense of the word,; it cost me being able to read for pleasure; it cost me enjoyment with life. Those who say your efforts are enough and to be satisfied with it apparently have never really taken the educational triage bull by the horns. They just have no idea.