Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year

Reflections on a new year... some of the things I've been thinking about lately.

TH and I were chatting yesterday about how fast time flies. We can't believe 2007 is on its way out the door!

I was talking with my sister-in-law about how tired I was of grieving. There have been 6 losses in the last 6 years, in my life. Grieving is a mixed bag. It feels unbearable when you're in the midst of it. If you let it, it softens you. If you let it, it hardens and embitters you. It messes with my brain and changes how I think, literally and metaphorically. And yet, loss is inevitable and part of life. I know my experiences all add to my character. (But isn't there an easier way??)

I'll be starting work as a Deacon at my church this year. It's a three-year commitment. I dreamed about it last night, and feel completely unequipped for this ministry.

My second "grandchild" will be born this spring. (TH is 12 years older than I am, and his kids are young adults, so this really isn't as weird as it may sound.) I don't feel like a grandmother, yet a part of me yearns for the generational connection.

I'll be facing some challenges at work this spring - I know of one already that will seem like a repeat of last spring. Fun.

Settling into our home continues. There are still plenty of projects to keep us busy! I'm learning to live with incompletion.

All in all, I believe I am moving from a season of winter into a season of spring, in my life. New growth, new beginnings. I feel hopeful and anticipatory. I hope the ashes of loss will fertilize the soil that has laid fallow, making the way for some beautiful new sprouts. What is the season of your life? What will the new year bring you?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

I'm not really sure what inspired me to read this one. I am not the outdoorsy type (though I can be, with encouragement), I don't have anything in common with the protagonist, and I have no plans to see the movie (a requirement in my world: if there is a book first, read it before you see the movie). But, I do think Jon Krakauer is an excellent writer. I enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven. The way that Krakauer gets into a subject and explores it from multiple perspectives, including his own personal experience/worldview, really draws me in as a reader.

Anyway. Into the Wild is a story about Christopher McCandless, a young man who walked off into the wild in Alaska and died there. How did this happen? He was very bright, came from a good family, had every privilege. He was also very idealistic, which, when combined with the passions of youth (remember those?), can form a churning and dangerous mass of intensity. In many ways he was naive and ignorant. I like how Krakauer felt a connection with and identified personally with Chris.
I was fascinated by Chris' travels and adventures across America. I was even - strangely enough - envious. Part of me has enough wanderlust to wish I had the guts to live on my wits, footloose and seemingly fancy-free, like Chris. Riding the rails, hitching around, camping out, coming and going as you please, living your interpretation of your ideals - very seductive concepts. But, I would never live this way, could never live this way (being a woman makes some things impossible, no matter how much I would like to think there is equality). I wished, briefly, that I could have these experiences too. Except for the part about dying alone in the wilds of Alaska. So maybe I'm not that different from Chris after all.
Living vicariously through a book? That's good writing.
p.s. In retrospect, another similar book I enjoyed was Through the Great Canadian Wilderness, a Reader's Digest version of Magnetic North by David Halsey. Same idea, but much more succesful expedition.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scratch another from the honey-do list!


And after:

Not bad for a morning's work!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, which has several meanings to different folks (see some here). For me, it's about REST.
How much better does it get? A day off work, new books, a comfy couch, and a pot of chocolate. I'm in heaven.
Happy Boxing Day!

Monday, December 24, 2007

God With Us

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." -- Isaiah 9:6

"A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." -- Isaiah 40:3-5

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." -- Luke 2:8-11

" 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.' " John 3:16

" 'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.' " -- John 13:34

May the anticipation and the changes, the glory of the Lord, new life and light, and the love and peace of Jesus Christ be with you, at Christmas and in the New Year. Love one another.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dreams fulfilled

Last night, we hosted my work Holiday party. This is a dream fulfilled for me. I love having people over, and although I'm not a Martha Stewart- type (not that there's anything wrong with that), I've always wanted a home that could host a gathering.

Among the highlights of last night:
- Undercooked bean soup (told you I'm not Martha!)
- Wonderful aromas from hot cider, cinnamon candles, and the real pine tree
- Lots of yummy potluck food
- The aforementioned candles catching a napkin on fire, causing smoke alarms on all three floors to go off simultaneously.
- Gift exchange, where at least three people brought movie/video store gift cards. Do we all work together and think alike, or what?!

Good times!

May your holiday gatherings be as festive, fun, and full as ours have been!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bake Night, "use whatcha got" Edition

One box of Trader Joe's Vanilla Cake mix. One easy-breezy recipe for brown-sugar frosting (brown sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla). One very happy baker. Oh. My. God. So good!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Book Review: Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Just in time for the movie! My coworker and friend Carrie loaned me the book. Excellent! A little slow at first, as Mr. McEwan really works the descriptions of people and places. His writing is lush. But it soon captures you.
The story evolves from a misunderstood event witnessed by Briony, a young woman with a vivid imagination (and a rather dull life, if you ask me - siblings out of the house, mother incapacitated by migraines, and father off in London). Briony is on the cusp of womanhood, yet sees the world through naive, girlish eyes.
Naturally the story is about atonement - what we do to and for ourselves and others, to make things right. Some atonements are positive, some punishing. But to me this book is also about how easy it is to make assumptions and snap judgments. [Why have I been focusing on this lately - first in reading Blink, now here? Hmmmm.] But unlike Blink, in Atonement we see that we can't always trust our own first impressions. I related so strongly to the bright, imaginative Briony. She sees only what she can understand. Isn't this how we all view life? Through our own experiences, our own filters. That's part of what fascinates me about people - learning about their "filters." And that's also good writing.
If you read it, let me know what you think the atonement ended up being.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Celebration of a life: Shirley Ann, January 4, 1937 - November 28, 2007

Sharp tongue. Soft heart. "Whatcha doin'?" Avid reader. Creative sewer. Loved her coffee, but none of that fancy stuff for her - just give her some Folgers, black. Adventurous spirit. Married her high school sweetheart, happily together for 52 years! Family link. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Sassy chick!

"Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? 'Keep her,' I replied.... The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me." -- Anna Quindlen

What do I do with a mother-in-law who is obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? KEEP HER. I'll miss you, "Mom."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I'm really tired of people I love dying.

We lost TH's mom this week. We're both walking zombies. I'll do a celebration of her life post when I have more oomph in me. She was a feisty woman and we'll surely miss her. (For anyone keeping track, yes, this is two huge losses in the last four months. And yes, we do feel life has metaphorically kicked us in a metaphorical tender spot. Ouch.)