It’s that time of year in the life of a family when calendar squares begin to fill. Pencils in hand (because things change and it’s not quite time for pens yet), we grid in the soccer schedule, the “first day of” dates, the fall birthdays, the auditions, the new lessons. When finished, we stare in disbelief at how full it all looks. Yet that fullness rarely inspires a sense of abundance. Instead, there are alternate feelings of dread and disbelief. Sometimes, there is even fear. How in the world will all these things pull together for a life that is meaningful and not chaotic? May I suggest that the day-to-day rushing that seems so inevitable with growing families desperately needs intentional ritual? Please read the rest here.
After I wrote about my "three books going" habit, I made it a category on my daybook posts. Try as I might, I'm struggling to get those daybooks up every week, and I'm also reading more than three books some weeks. So there's a backup of book reporting.
Last week, I cleared 10,381 unread emails from my inbox. Ahh. Then, I cleared several years' worth of clothing from my closet. Ah, again. So, today, I'm thinking I'll just write one big post with the books from the last few weeks and reach daybook ah.
In my hands:
After reading and very much loving A Ring of Endless Light (reviewed here), I picked up Madeleine L'Engle's A Circle of Quiet. I'm taking my time with this one, mostly because time to sit down at home with a book in my hands has been scarce lately. But when I do read, I highlight. A lot.
On My Kindle:
The day of its release, Mary Beth went out and bought the hardback of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She binge-read the whole thing in one sitting. Then, she left it in the living room for my other children to fight over--ahem--share. They tried. They really did. They read in shifts and did their very best. But there were six of them in the mix and sharing was not really workable. So, I caved in and bought the book on Kindle. I'm not a Harry fan, so I wasn't clamoring for my time. I decided instead to switch the Harry font to the dyslexia option on my Paperwhite and give Katie a fighting chance to read it with the rest of them. It's slow going, but she's getting through. That means my Kindle time is very limited, because it's not tucked in my purse and at the ready wherever I go.
I'll take it with me on Thursday, though, when Karoline has a series of appointments to see about releasing her leg from this cast. I'm sure that the wait time will allow me to finish Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet. I have really, really loved this one and when I finish, I'll find her new book, Present Over Perfect, waiting for me in my library because I pre-ordered it ages ago and it released today! Pretty much perfect, I think. Shauna's prose is thoughtful and articulate and her thoughts run deep and true. I think a book whose subtitle is Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living is exactly what my end-of-summer wants.
In my earbuds:
Truly, most of the reading action is happening on audio! I'm logging 7-10 miles a day these days walking and the girls and I have taken some long car trips. So, lots of listening.
First, with the girls. We listened to From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler on the way to Charlottesville last weekend. We all enjoyed it. I remember loving it as a kid. I only liked it this time around. But my little girls were definitely enchanted by the idea of hiding out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for several days and we are planning a trip to the nearby National Gallery of Art really soon.
On the way home from Charlottesville, we started Miracles on Maple Hill, and this time, I remembered why I loved a book the first time. We haven't yet finished. Probably, we will listen to the remainder on the way to the beach in a couple weeks. Then, I'll need to have another ready for the rest of the trip. Right now, I think my plan for them is Saving Lucas Biggs. I am a huge fan of Marisa de Los Santos' adult fiction. (I really need to devote a whole post to her.) I bought Connect the Stars, by Marisa de los Santos and her husband David Teague, for Katie last year, and she liked it. If the duration of our last car ride to the Outer Banks is any indicator of what's to come, this book will be just the right length on audio, after we finish Miracles on Maple Hill. Or, maybe we'll listen to Thimble Summer and I'll take the hardcover Connect the Stars with me to read on my own... I'm just not sure.
Just as Karoline finished the Harry Potter series, Sarah picked it up. She's alternating between reading on her own and reading along with the Audible version. She's bingeing in a big way and I have to sort of laugh a little when she's walking around the house playing to audio out loud and driving me a little crazy with the constant noise. She's her mother's daughter for sure. I know I could insist on earbuds, but really it's probably better she not have them in all the time. I'll have to sacrifice my quiet for her passion, I think.
In my own listening, I finished a "re-read-listen" to Emily Freeman's Simply Tuesday (via Audible this time around) and I just loved it. It hit me right where I am and I felt like I'd had several long phone conversations with a warm and wise friend. Then I listened to Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, by Anne Lamott. I really like this book and I've marked several pithy quotes in the Audible app. I highly recommend the book, especially if you feel like your life is unraveling a bit or if you've lived with people who struggle with mental health issues or addiction. I do not, however, recommend the Audible version. It's read by the author, so it's hard for me to say that her inflection and cadence were all wrong. After all, they're her words. She can say them exactly how she wants them to be heard. But as much as Annie is a beautiful poet and a philosopher, I just don't think public speaking/reading is her gift.
After Stitches, I started listening to Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. This is a topic about which I am passionate. I watch how handicapped my children are as they try to navigate relationships in a world dominated by digital communication. I mourn for the lost art of conversation. I literally lose sleep worrying about what this all means, particularly as a I launch a whole bunch of kids into the stage of life where they are meeting and engaging with people who will become life partners. So far, this book is meeting me where I am, with some very specific observations that are spot-on regarding the crisis (yes, crisis) and some strategies for solutions. Well worth the listen.
I'm also listening to Last Child in the Woods. This was an impulse buy, prompted by one of many walks in the woods this summer. I've read this book, but I feel like I might have lost touch with its message. I'm revisiting it to be re-inspired because I need the woods and it's never good if I spend more than a few days away.
Oh! And speaking of audiobooks... I recently discovered Overcast, an app for listening to podcasts (without using gobs of data). Because of Overcast, I've started listening to podcasts again. I'd taken a couple years off--just too much input. Recently, I'm catching up on Anne Bogel's fairly new podcast, What Should I Read Next. The conversations are so engaging and I usually find several book recommendations I'm wanting to try. This morning, though, I was utterly enchanted. If you're a fan of audiobooks, you have to listen to her Episode 31, with Adam Verner. He's a narrator for audiobooks and his insight into that art was fascinating. I highly recommend all her podcasts. Your "To Be Read" list will never end.
Okay, that's it for now. I need to post this before I have to add to the list again to keep it current:-).
I'm not a fan of mindless clicking (my family will scoff at that understatement). I am, however, profoundly grateful when the web delivers something that makes me better, or smarter, or truer to the me my Maker wants me to be. Here are some links worth your time this week.
Did you know that there is "Refugee Team," made up of athletes who are without a country to call home and would otherwise be unable to compete? This is a beautiful story of a swimmer who swam for her life and is now swimming in Rio.
Instagram totally copied Snapchat, but Instagram's copy is better. “Good artists copy; great artists steal” – the famous words of Picasso, revived by Steve Jobs, ring true today as the world complains that Instagram’s new Stories feature copied Snapchat.
When I think of lessons learned in 2016, one of the foremost will be, "Don't think you have to have all the pieces in place and all the questions answered before you just do it. Just do it." Shauna Niequist elaborates and expands, "it’s the paddling that makes you stable, not the other way around. You’ll never stay up unless you start paddling." Read it all. Her words are so good.
Are you feeling confused, disappointed, and a little overwhelmed by the election? There's a 10--point plan for sanity here.
I think sometimes we're all way too focused on obedience. What we really want is self-discipline. There is a difference between being self-disciplined and being obedient. The intent of completing an act varies from a self-disciplined child and one who is obedient. The self-disciplined child will complete an action, regardless of who is watching.
Do you have a little one? Thinking about sending him to preschool or kindergarten, but your heart is tugging to look at something else? The Not Really Kindergarten Post is worth a few moments this August day.
It will come as no surprise to frequent readers to learn that I have lately struggled with depression. I'm certain I'm genetically predisposed to such bouts, and that predisposition has been fed copious amounts of environmental stress to trigger a dark season. For the longest time (and it has seemed the longest time), I kept operating under the assumption that there was something I needed to do or say or pray to turn on the light. Slowly, I have begun to recognize that it is better to know that this season isn't one to be pushed away under my own power and that God is with me in the dark. I really am feeling better, but it's still more than a little murky most days, a delicate balance of light and dark. Sharing (in person) with people who walk this way, too, often helps me to understand better myself. We wait together for the sun to rise.
I wrote this Daybook on Saturday, offline, leaving just a few things to fill in once I had Internet. I pretty much didn't have Internet until now, back at home. So, bear with my cobbled together chronology of comments, please:-). Also, Katie used my big camera and took pictures all week, but they're very stuck somewhere between camera and here, so, you get iPhone shots...
Outside my window: Crepe myrtle and hydrangeas in yards and around big porches, all on the way to the seashore. It’s mighty beautiful outside my window this week.
Listening to: Silence. Absolute silence, except for the occasional street noises and the whir of the ceiling fan. It is Saturday as I begin journaling here and we are in Bethany Beach. My girls have gone to the convention center in Ocean City with my friend Nicole, to watch her daughter dance. Since none of mine are dancing today, I opted to stay behind: to walk, to read, to write, to rest, and to have dinner ready when they get home. The quality and white space in my planner are both so strange to me right now....
Clothing myself in: Capris t-shirt, running shoes. I desperately need a shower. The heat index is around 100. I’ve already taken three walks for a total of 8 miles today. If I shower, I won’t walk again until we walk to church. If I don’t, I might squeeze one more in before everyone gets home…
He said, “There’s a sermon of John Donne’s I have often had cause to remember during my lifetime. He says, Other men’s crosses are not my crosses. We all have our own cross to carry and one is all most of us are able to bear. How much do you owe him, Vicky?
I replied slowly, “I don’t think of it in terms of owing, like paying a debt. The thing is—he needs me.
“Grandfather looked away from me and out to sea, and when he spoke, it was as though he spoke to himself. “The obligations of normal human kindness – chesed, as the Hebrew has it – that we all owe. But there’s a kind of vanity in thinking you can nurse the world. There’s a kind of vanity in goodness.”
I could hardly believe my ears. “But aren’t we supposed to be good?”
“I’m not sure.” Grandfather’s voice was heavy. “I do know that we’re not good, and there’s a lot of truth to the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
--Madeleine L’Engle, Ring of Endless Light
Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: We sat yesterday evening--Nicole and I and our five girls, with planners and highlighted pages all spread out--and we worked together to understand where we needed to be this week for this competition and how we’d manage time, meals, housekeeping duties, and the myriad of costumes. I feel like we have really good rhythm. We’ve done these competitions together so many times now that the familiarity is our friend. Also, we are staying in the home of a mutual friend, and we are surrounded by gracious loveliness that makes this all so much better.
Creating By Hand: This week, sewing will be limited to costume repair. Cooking is a little creative, but I’m not making anything that isn’t well-tested and already favorited. So, true creativity, if it happens, will happen with words, I think.
I might be finding my words again. I’d like that. I’ve missed them.
[Real time edit: I do have words. Turns out, though, that I didn't even have time, place, or utilities to upload these words, so all the others are still stuck in my head. Next week. Maybe...]
Three books going
On my kindle: Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Since I feel like I could write a book on this topic and I’m exhausted by the mere idea of it, I’m really glad that Shauna Niequist did. I love her work and I’m looking forward to her new book. This is the only one I have not read, so I snatched it up when I saw the good Kindle deal.
In my earbuds: I actually have two going in my earbuds right now. Emily suggested A Ring of Endless Light and it was the perfect length for our trip to and from the beach. Despite the fact that I knew it was the story of a family awaiting their grandfather’s death, I took a chance. Turns out, that wasn’t really a good idea. The subject matter of the book is handled in a way that is too mature for my girls to listen to collectively. I persevered through over an hour until a young man confided that he’d attempted suicide. Then I clicked out before we went any further. Definitely not a good idea for the gathered audience right now.
However, it’s a really, really powerful book. I returned to it privately the next morning for the first of my morning walks. I’m immersed in a big way and it’s hard not to binge. I haven’t finished yet, but I think it might rank above A Grief Observed in ranking of books to read when grieving. Perhaps more accessible, certainly very useful with teenagers…
[Real time edit: I listened to the whole book while walking at the beach (and in the convention center, actually mostly in the convention center) and this book vaulted to my top five forever favorite books. I ordered the paperback version on Sunday and had it shipped to the beach house for Mary Beth, who dislike audiobooks.]
When I finish, I still have The House at Riverton going. Love that. [Finished that one, too, and started listening to Simply Tuesday again because it was already in my phone and I was walking. I like it even better the second time around.]
In my hands: I’m re-reading Colleen’s new book (reviewed in detail, here) I read it the first time using a digital advanced copy. It’s nice to hold it in my hands and meander through and mark it up. This one will be a classic in our household, which means I will require the reading of it…
Learning lessons in: Ah. I’m not quite sure really. But I think the Madeleine L’Engle quote above is the short form of the lesson I most need to learn. Last year, I think I picked up some crosses that aren’t mine to carry. I’ve grown so accustomed to the weight of them on my shoulders, and I’ve so adjusted my gait to compensate for their heaviness, that I’m finding it tricky to put them down. But I really need to learn how to do it.
Encouraging learning in: reading. Just reading. My girls are reading so much this summer. I feel sorry for Karoline, whose cast is making it hard for her to go or do anything with her sisters and friends, but I also see the silver lining. This will be the summer she learned how to find a friend in a book. That will serve her well forever.
She left her non-digital books at home this week and I didn't want her to take a Kindle to the convention center. Since she can't dance, she's got loads of down time alone. So, I walked to a bookstore on the beach and spent a pretty enchanted hour finding books for her. Kristin's mom is an elementary school teacher and she recommended a couple authors last week. I found them there in that sweet bookstore and brought them back for Kari. So she's got Walk Two Moons and Because of Winn-Dixie for the week. And that hour in that beautiful bookstore? I loved that hour so much!
Keeping house: It’s always easier to keep house at the beach, isn’t it?
Crafting in the kitchen: I did some cooking ahead of time and did a whole lot of grocery shopping, so meals will come together easily. Last night, we had farm stand corn on the cob and tomato fresh from a nearby vine and potatoes crisped with olive oil. (Oh, and they had hamburgers, too, I guess, but I didn’t miss them;-)
To be fit and happy: I’m walking and walking and walking and walking. Sometimes I run, but not often. The convention center is big and sprawling and I'm taking every opportunity to walk, both inside and out. [Real time edit: My fitbit tells me I've taken 128,768 steps in the last seven days. That's about 51 miles. Good week.]
Giving thanks: for Nicole. I know what a rare gift it is to have a friend who can live through the worst of weeks with you and then, the next year, agree without hesitation to enter into whatever might come, in the exact same place at the same time of year, even knowing that anniversary reaction is a very real thing and I’m just the one to have it…
In the company of a friend, good memories are being made in a place where once the bad ones dominated my mind.
Living the Liturgy: Sarah Annie celebrates her name day this week. The church here at the beach is called St. Ann’s and they do make a fuss. Last year, we were here as the novena began. This year, we’ll be here when it ends. And there will be ice cream.
Planning for the week ahead: Sometime next week, I think I'll see my husband again. Mike and I are in a stage of big family parenting that is very intense and very hands on. I'm betting that the preceding sentence will cause eyebrows to rise on foreheads of folks with five under ten. Yes, dear friends, you, too are also in an intense, hands-on period. Parenting teenagers is a different kind of hands-on and a different kind of intense. We've had to divide and conquer because they need us, but they are no longer gathered most of the time under our roof--all together. So, between his work travel and our kid travel, we keep missing each other. And our morning conversations look a little like this.
One thing I gave up when I cut my Facebook time to five minutes a day is sharing links. I can't just throw a link on my wall and walk away because I know what can happen in the comments. So, I'm not so much sharing there. Still, though, I read things I want to tell about...
Here are a few links I've bumped into recently. Maybe they'll interest you, too?
This one starts with a general bash on TV, which is always hard to swallow in this house because, well, TV pays for the house;-). But once I pressed past that, it's a very good read on a question worth pondering, praying upon, and adjusting one's planner to answer: "To be or not to be. That is the question. To be alive to the goodness, truth and beauty which surrounds us, or not to be alive to it. To delight in the presence of Creation so that we might dilate into the presence of the Creator or to distract ourselves to death."
To death. I think we might literally be distracting ourselves to death. First the soul slowly closes upon itself and then general inertia sets in. Slowly, we die.
"But the personal growth that results from motherhood isn’t a result of this self-care, as important as it may be. No, what transforms women into mothers isn’t self-care—it’s self-sacrifice.
On the surface, this seems utterly strange. How can focusing so intensely on the needs of someone else have such a transformative effect? How can spending so much time serving another person have the end result of making me more fully me?"
I've been thinking A LOT about choices we make, particularly choices to do or not to do something. The research in this post fascinated me and I was particularly taken by the author's Portland anecdote.
"We regret not acting when we had the chance, or we regret waiting too long. We regret not reaching out to a sibling, not pursuing that master’s degree, or not standing up to a bully at work. We don’t have as many regrets about the things we chose to do. Our actions usually become things that were meant to be, and even our poor choices teach us something. "
The first two books on this list are books we are reading this summer and I was commenting to a friend recently that they seem so perfect for these times. Clearly, I'm not alone. Anne has some great suggestions here. "Some of these works are precise depictions of realities as it stands; some are aimed for the heart. Some are calls to action. Some are hopeful, inspiring, redemptive—highlighting the glimmers of good in desperate, devastating situations."
Oh, Sally. Sometimes--lots of times--you read my mind and know exactly what to say.
"Over and over again through the years, my children have needed me, my love, my comfort, my time, my serving them–ONE MORE TIME. Yet, I have realized that there has never been, through all of my seasons as a mom, an end to their needs."