Saturday, December 18, 2010
1. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. I don't usually declare a top favorite, but I will this year and this is it. I know I will reread this book, as I have read Byatt's Possession. Enchanting and disturbing, often in the same sentence. Now out in paperback--get it!
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
3. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
4. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. This was for the book class, and probably my third read of the book and just as moving as the first time--maybe more so. First published in 1990, this books stands firm in every way.
5. Life of Pi by Martel. I had resisted this book for whatever reason, but read it for the group and it has stayed with me.
6. Atonement by Ian McEwan
7. Vanity Fair by Thackery
8. Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar. A favorite author.
9. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. While this was not her best, it was worth reading. She always is.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I reread this because I gave it to my Dad to read. Loved it all over again. Also, read a bio of Lee, which while it didn't make my favorites list, did help give a context to the author and her writing.
11. The Quiet American by Graham Greene. This inspires me to read more books by Greene. I had previously only read The Power and the Glory.
12. Family Album by Penelope Lively. Another favorite author.
13. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. I gave this book to granddaughter Maren this summer. It is the story of two young people who visit the Thorne miniature rooms at the Chicago Institute of Art and while there they some how become small enough to enter the rooms. The adventures begin. This fall we took Maren to see the rooms and while nothing magical happened, we loved being there and the book is a delight.
14. The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill. The latest in her mystery series.
15. An Expert in Murder, A Josephine Tey Mystery by Nicola Upson. Can't wait to read the next one.
1. Compassion, Listening to the Cries of the World by Christina Feldman
2. Howard's End is on the Landing, A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill. This is the mystery writer. She decides that for a year she will only read what she already owns. I could do that--should do that. The only problem with the book is that is added many titles to my already long list!
3. Another Country, Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders by Mary Pipher. Another wise book from a wise woman.
4. The Journal Keeper, A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux. Answered many questions for me about my own writing and journal keeping.
5. A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller. Yes!!!!!
6. Women Food and God, An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth. Read it twice. Need to read again. Touches some deep places within. Plan to read the new book by Marianne Williamson on the same topic.
7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. A very important book--not sure why is didn't make Best Book lists.
8. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. Friendship and loss-tender and true.
9. Seeking Perspective, Weaving Spirituality and Psychology in Search of Clarity by Robert J. Wicks. This has been on my shelf for a long time and I am so glad I finally got to it.
10. Intimacy and Solitude by Stephanie Dowrick.
What are your favorites for this year? Any books you are giving or hoping to receive? All book talk is welcome. Happy reading!
Monday, December 13, 2010
What's the difference this year? Why, for example, have I completed a task, such as going to the post office with packages that need to be mailed, and then come home and stretched out on my chaise with a good book, instead of wrapping additional packages? Why have I agreed so easily to go out for a movie on Friday night, instead of staying home to write our annual Christmas letter? I have told friends I feel as if I am stuck in low gear this year. I speed up only with great reluctance. I have even been doing some chores typically reserved for January, such as cleaning my closet and taking loads to Goodwill. How is that possible with all that needs to be done?
The answer seems to be "because I can." I finally realized that I am not so much "reluctant," as "relaxed," and I can be relaxed because I no longer have as much to do as I did in the years when I was working fulltime and the kids were still living at home. The calendar used to burst with church and school activities and dates for entertaining and concerts and parties and responsibilities for volunteering and somehow laundry and grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning still needed to be done. How did I manage it and how do my children manage it now?
Sitting for 20 minutes of centering prayer one recent morning allowed me to reframe my response to this full time of year. Yes, I am in low gear, but not because I don't have enough energy or because I have managed one too many Christmases or because I have the all too common "Christmas Blues." I am not reluctant to enter the joys of the season. Far from it. Instead, I am in a new stage of my life--one not driven by busyness and other peoples' schedules and needs. I have incredible freedom to enjoy and treasure the gifts of these days. No, I am not reluctant. I am relaxed.
I think I'll fix a cup of cocoa and read a couple chapters in the mystery I started this weekend before I return to addressing Christmas cards.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Soon the house was looking like Christmas, but I limited myself. No trees. No unloading the bins of Christmas dishes. I know where they are, and I will unpack them if and when I need them. I limited my time, as well. One day. Not two or three or four or more, as in the days when I replaced curtains with vintage Christmas tablecloths and had a tree in every room. Still, there are Christmas touches throughout the first floor, and I am pleased with this year's context for Christmas.
Decorating the house has always been the first task on my Christmas to do list. I need the setting to move into the season, to begin the other preparations. In an odd way, hanging garland and tying bows and unwrapping delicate mercury glass balls is a way for me to clear the space and bring clarity to what else needs to be done as the days march along. In the presence of the lights and the sparkle and the memories of years past, I regain my composure from feeling overwhelmed by addressing cards and writing letters and shopping and wrapping ETC. ETC. Every morning now when I come down the stairs and see that Bruce has turned on the lights on the banister and the mantel, a welcome to the day, I am reminded of the gifts of this time, the chance I have to deepen my connection to God in every moment.
There is still lots to do, and I suspect I won't be writing much this month, but I love this month. I love these days of whispering snow and a shawl around my shoulder and smells of cinnamon and fresh greens. I love Advent with its active waiting, and I love Christmas graced with connections and hopes and dreams and love remembered and love shared. May this be a time of many blessings for you and yours.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
During the last months I wrote and submitted a book proposal for my book of essays, The Spiritual Invitations of Grief, Loss, and Change. The targeted publisher has had the proposal now for almost 11 weeks and since according to their website their response time is three months, I can feel my anxiety level increasing as I await word from them. Therefore, I need to remind myself how I felt the day I finished preparing the proposal.
Instead of tucking it into an envelope and sending it on its way, I decided to slow down the process. Let myself breathe. Let the manuscript breathe. I arranged the books in my own library published by my "hoped for" publisher in a circle around my book proposal. I not only wanted it to absorb the good feelings in my office--that happy, productive space where my writing seems to be coming to light, but also to imagine what it would be like to be in the company of those other books. A good feeling.
My mother so often said, "Now that's done," and the message seemed to be one of relief for having completed something distasteful. I have used that phrase often myself and in doing so have lost some of the pleasure in the moment of completion. When I finished the proposal, I didn't feel relief, for once I got going and really committed myself to the task, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Rather than relief, I felt elation, knowing I had fulfilled a commitment I made to myself. I felt eager for what could happen, for possible connection and acceptance. I didn't feel fear. I didn't feel anxiety. I felt pride. I felt love. I felt a sense of certainty that I am doing what I am supposed to do. I felt awe because I actually did it. I used my gifts and God was present, leading me along this path.
I am realistic that my proposal could be rejected. If that happens, I'll send it someplace else, for I do want it published and read. No, it won't be the same if it's not read, but I am different because I committed to this project. I am different and I hope better because the writing has been a spiritual practice. I believe I am in the world in a different, even more profound way, because of the loving and open energy I give this work, and in the deepest place in my heart, I know that makes a difference.
Once the book proposal was released into unknown, but I hope respectful hands, I started writing a new essay for the book and even though I often felt I was slogging my way through an uncharted swamp, I have finally finished it. "Spirituality 101, The Invitation to Open to Spirit," and now I am ready and eager to begin the next essay.
Oh, and by the way, I have been published this year. In September my essay "Closing My Eyes Lightly, Not Tightly," which was adapted from one in my proposed book, appeared in Presence, An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, (See http://www.sdiworld.org/ for more information.) and any day now another essay adapted from the book, "No One Understands: A Guide to Receiving the Understanding You Deserve," will appear in Coping, America's Consumer Magazine for People Whose Lives Have Been Touched by Cancer (http://www.copingmagazine.com/).
Will I write more in the blog? I hope so. I will try, for I am so grateful to those of you who read it and for your comments as well, and I want to maintain that connection.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
First, there was quiet and then there were grandchildren. First, there was one car in the driveway and then there were four plus the boat that belongs to the Cedar Cottage's owners. First, there was no conversation and then there was Peter's two year old nonstop talking. First, there was open space and then there was a bike in the living room. First there was my own company and then there were good morning greetings and good night hugs and kisses. First, there was me and a book and then there was Maren sprawled on the couch reading yet another BoxCar Children book and me reading Peter his naptime and bedtime books in the comfortable chair we called the Reading Chair. First, there was me walking to the water with beach chair, a book and a Diet Coke and then there was everyone filling the van with umbrella and towels and sand toys and snacks and beach chairs and sunscreen and books and wondering what we were forgetting. First, there was not doing much of anything and then there was a trip to Washington Island on the ferry and playing miniature golf and checking out some stores and going to a drive-in movie and eating out and hiking to Cana Island, and putting together puzzles and being at the beach as much as possible. And it was all good. It is all good.
When I decided last winter to spend a month at Door County, I envisioned the time as writing time. Contemplative time. I didn't think about it being family time, kid time, too, and I must admit I was a bit reluctant to give up one week of solitude for a week of intense interaction, but oh, how wonderful it was to have the kids here. Now, returning back to solitude, the space and the time feels that much richer for all the activity and conversation and play encompassed here. Yes, there were some tears and some frustrations and some impatience, but now there are so many more memories and joys to count and images to recall.
First, our son in law left to return to work and then a few days later our daughter and the kids left and then a couple days later my husband left and then there was one, me.
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Dr Seuss
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010