Monday, December 31, 2007

Favorite reads: 2007

Best horse book: Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand. I shouldn't even classify Seabiscuit under this category because some of you will skim right down to the next award and miss it. This book isn't just about a horse. It's also about a trainer, a jockey, an owner, and, I believe, the author, too. (You see, Laura Hillenbrand had CFS- Chronic fatigue syndrome- when she wrote this thoroughly researched and heartfelt tale.) In summary? Courage and determination.

Book read with the best memory attached: Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. I spent hours sitting on the patio of a rented townhouse in sunny southern California this March engrossed in Pip's travails. With Dickens entertaining, who needs the beach?

Best re-read: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. I read this sometime in high school, but didn't remember much. To say that I loved this book when I read it this year would be an understatement. Characters, plot, setting, writing style=Perfection.

Favorite book(s) read in ARC (advanced reader's copy) form: 1) Miss Spitfire, Sarah Miller. Miss Miller takes you along for the ride as Annie Sullivan fights to give Helen something we all need, not just to survive, but to truly live: Words. Tough love and its resulting rewards, at its best. Some sort of award sticker is going to shine on this book cover, I just know it.

2) Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale. A retold fairy tale (of an obscure Grimm Tale, Maid Maleen.) Shannon writes in a style many describe as lyrical prose; which keeps maturing. Book of a Thousand Days is my favorite Hale book thus far: comfortable, beautiful, and fun. This may get a shiny sticker, too.

Best mystery: Cat Among the Pigeons, Agatha Christie. My first Agatha Christie book, if you can believe it. Did I find the best one to read first? It sure was fun. The plot isn't terribly complicated, but that didn't make it any easier for me to figure out "who dunnit."

Best THICK book: The Brothers Karamzov, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Pevear and Volohonsky. This was my first Russian novel. Tell me this: How does anyone write an 800 pg page-turner? Did I start with the best book in this genre, too?

Book that I read for the 1st time this year that I wish I'd read as a kid: The Diddakoi, Rumer Godden. A girl, a horse, a bunch of school kids - a story showcasing our fallen nature, along with the beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Best book handed to me by a friend: Snow in the River, Carol Ryrie Brink. Brink wrote the Newbery award-winning book, Caddie Woodlawn. This adult book is what many say is her most autobiographical novel. She grew up in the town in which I currently reside, so it was lots of fun reading about about the life and times of its beginnings, along with hers.

Best book handed to me by my daughter (that wasn't an ARC): Make Lemonade, Virginia Euwer Wolff. Writing in a lyrical blank verse and giving the narrator a voice that is honest and plain-speaking, the author paints a picture that you'd stand in front of and look at for a long time if it was hanging on a wall.

Best historical fiction: Penhally, Caroline Gordan. We follow the estate of Penhally through generations before and after the Civil War. I was surprised with the ending, even though, when I looked back on the story, it was inevitable. Sign of a good book, yes?

Two new (to me) authors that I'll make a point to read more of in the new year: Anthony Trollope (I read The Warden, Barchester Towers- image below,) and Graham Greene, (I read The End of the Affair, The Power and the Glory- image below.)

Here are a few more highlights of my fun year of reading. It was a blast! May your new year be filled with lots of wonderful books. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Look what I found

in my packet of developed photos from Wal-Mart.
The pictures of this little guy ended up in my envelope by mistake. I just had to share them with you. Isn't he cute?!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world.

In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are.

But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us.


Monday, December 24, 2007

A Toast

I just finished reading a heap of Christmas greetings that came in the mail today.

As I read each card, gratitude bubbled up, like a bright glass of champagne, sparkling my Christmas joy.

Dear friends from our years in South Dakota, Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho, and dear family members of whom we've had the privilege of knowing all of our lives, You've each played an important role in making us who we are today. You are all part of our story. You've touched us and we've grown. Thank you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Gifts and celebration

We had four days of out of town travel (not all of us going each day, but two times at least,) for various treatments this week. Whew! That's a record, I think. Erin's week-old cold is gone, one of the many benefits from her colonic treatments.

Brady had a treatment up north - we usually get 20 minutes of NMT each time, but this time I had scheduled him for 30 minutes. They forgot to charge us for the extra ten minutes ($50/10 minutes) and Brent realized this and started pulling out his billfold, but the receptionist said - Merry Christmas! Also, our colonic lady scheduled Brady on Monday (the day she is usually closed,) for an emergency treatment and booked us for two treatments on Friday, a day I know she was trying to keep open for her own Christmas preparations. The gifts we've received by these concerned healthcare people this week truly blessed us.

Meals have been given to us by friends (for Brent who has no allergies,) so that we could have some leftovers of our "diet" food as we travel and recuperate. A neighbor came up three or four days this week to help keep up our juicing. She washed veggies, juiced them, and cleaned out the juicer. Without her attention this week, juicing would have gone by the wayside. She also stayed one day and helped make a couple of crustless homemade pumpkin pies which were used as a snack during our travel times, too. Gifts outpoured. Blessings flowed.

So don't think we haven't been celebrating!
Our preparations may not appear traditional, but in the truest sense they reflect that first Christmas. We were tired and needy this week and we were given a "place to stay."

(The poem posted below is one that I gave Erin for Advent last year. She just posted it on her blog yesterday, but I liked it so much that I decided to post it on mine, too. )

Happy Christmas!


by Robert Siegel

She didn't notice at first the air had changed.
She didn't, because she had no expectation
except the moment and what she was doing, absorbed
in it without slightest reservation.

Things grew brighter, more distinct, themselves,
in a way beyond explaining. This was her home,
yet somehow things grew more homelike. Jars on the shelves
gleamed sharply: tomatoes, peaches, even the crumbs

on the table grew heavy with meaning and a sure repose
as if they were forever. When at last she saw
from the corner of her eye the gold fringe of his robe
she felt no fear, only a glad awe,

the Word already deep inside her as she replied
yes to that she'd chosen all her life.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday health update

I've not updated in awhile, so guess it's time to let y'all know how we're doing. It was a very rough Fall season for B and me. E started the season off pretty strong compared to where she'd been (not strong compared to you all though.)
  • My health took a downward spiral that I haven't written much about except letting you know about a flare that kept me from absorbing nutrients. Consequently, my healed thumbnail that I was so happy about, once again cracked (in the exact same spot,) my hair became brittle and dry, and I lost most of the three pounds I'd gained back this spring. Of course the malabsorption affected my mineral and energy levels a lot, so it hasn't been a pretty sight. The problem was something that just slowly became worse as we couldn't find an answer. My SCD counselor helped me get very close, recommending an enzyme to digest fats. But our new doctor, Dr. O, (90 miles north) gave me the fat enzyme that he sells (different from what I was taking by only one ingredient) and BINGO - just what I needed. My doctor says that enzyme capsule will be with me for awhile. Fine with me, it's working! I have hope now of, at least, regaining what I've lost.
  • Brady's had quite a time of it. His current status could be described as two strikes in the last inning of play- with two outs, no one on base, and a run needed to win. We'd take a single to start things out. He's had to get off all the medicine and supplements the first doc he saw this fall put him on, and he even had problems with the three supplements that Dr. O put him on. On top of the recurring chest pain/breathing problems, he had to deal with a very nasty metallic taste problem. He's had that problem before, but nothing as bad as this last time. Thankfully we've gotten rid of all the culprits - we tried getting him back on one supplement last week and the metallic taste came back instantly, so his body is still shouting "no." Saying he's sensitive would be an understatement. His body is accepting a couple of things to take at meal time to help with digestion. We're glad for that. He's still close to "crisis" mode each day. Not fun.
  • Miss E has been able to keep up with one of her subjects and her once a week/30 minute dance class. We're very thankful. It hasn't been easy. She started the year taking two subjects, but her health started deteriorating and lately she hasn't been able to keep up with one. However, it's a class that if she builds up her strength again, she could try to pick up where the class is at and still gain some good learning. The teacher has been kind to keep the door open. Erin is getting treated by Dr. O, too, so our once a week trips up to his office use up one whole afternoon and evening of her rest/study time. She hasn't been in a play this fall, but she was able to go to a dance last Friday and caroling on Sunday - so she's getting an opportunity to do a few things she couldn't do if she was in a play. Recently she's overdone a bit with school and Christmas fun, though, so she's on the verge of a cold. (Anytime we don't get the rest our bodies want (which is lots) colds start trying to settle in.)
We've learned some good things about vegetable juicing and we're finally starting to juice in a way that might benefit us. (Note: Most juice books or web-sites give juicing advice for healthy people, not sick.) We've also learned that we need to schedule visits for colonic treatments at intervals in-between our treatments from Dr. O. Good things to learn. God keeps providing for us and protecting us. We're grateful. We rest in the faith He has given us. And here we are, approaching another Christmas to celebrate the gift of that faith. Rejoice!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A night in the neighborhood

So last night our parish (our neighbors who are members of the same church as us) had a caroling and Christmas party. Erin and Brent were able to bundle up in their long underwear, sweaters, scarves, caps, and mittens and join in on the fun. The snow we'd been missing for a week was returning in perfect Christmas-caroling form. Our neighborhood is made up of one hill after another and I heard later that the carolers made it up and down quite a few. There's one street that is on a hill that gets so steep that it dead-ends part way down. A couple of houses are tucked in the steep part close to the dead-end. Many of the neighbors don't even know they are there.

One of these homes is owned by an elderly couple. The wife is a quilter and the husband is a golfer (he's 85 and he golfed 85 rounds of golf this year.) They are also regular customers of my dh. Last night the carolers made it down to their dark, quiet side of the hill, rang the doorbell, and commenced singing some hearty Christmas carols. They sang two songs to this appreciative couple. After the singing, the couple said thanks and asked who they were. The singers hadn't rehearsed a unified answer and so the shouts jumbled into nothing. So my dh went up to the door and greeted them by name and told them his. They shouted his name back in exclamation and each gave him a big hug. The old gentleman had tears in his eyes as he thanked my husband and told him that in all the years that they had lived there, they had never had carolers stop. You can bet that won't happen again as long as our parish keeps caroling together.

And of course, there are those who have their homes all decked out in bright shining Christmas finery. Their outdoor lights make a grand display and their decorated tree in the living room shimmers cheerfully through the front window for all to admire; but when carolers stop, ring the doorbell, and start singing, the resident is spotted peeking through the window in the door without opening it. Soon it looks as if he and others are trying to sneak to a less conspicuous spot in the house; suggesting to the choir that this place knows not what they are celebrating.

My son and I drove down to join in on the after-caroling fun of goodies and fellowship. We were delighted to find the carolers next door to the "party house" still singing away. We were able to run over and sing their last song with them, 'O Come all Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant!'

From John Milton

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
'Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?'
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: 'God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.'

I often ask,(or shout,) "What good am I to you, Lord, in this sick and fatigued condition?"
I'm learning; and begging for the grace for contentedness in bearing His mild yoke and standing and waiting.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas time is here

We've lost our snow after having a white world for 15 days. In our eight years in this town, I don't think we've had as long of "white stint" so early in the season as this one. Now, after rain all day yesterday, it's green again. We're back to dreaming of a white Christmas.

For those who might not have had snow to help the Christmas spirit, may I commend the book, This Way to Christmas, by Ruth Sawyer. You're sure to be filled with the inspiration for joyous celebrating with this cozy book. It'd make a nice family read aloud. Next up for my Christmas reading is Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg.

"It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" are plays running in our local theatres the next couple of weekends. It'd be fun to get to at least one of these. I've seen the movies for both, but not the play versions. (No, Miss E. isn't in either one - her age didn't match the ages needed in their audition calls.)

The old movie version of "Miracle on 34th Street" is on our kitchen counter ready for our family to watch soon, hopefully tomorrow; with a whole list of other Christmas movies and TV specials to follow (as requested by Miss E.) Erin and I just watched "White Christmas" for the first time ever, ("Snow, snow, snow...")

I won't be singing with our church choir this month, but hopefully I'll be able to attend their Christmas concert, with the small Christian college in town, next week. I'm hoping we'll find a "Messiah" sing-along to participate in. And our parish is hoping to go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood this Sunday evening.

Isn't it just the most wonderful time of the year?