Another Year of 100 Books: Week two

2018 is all set up to be another year of 100 Books.

I have my whole list set up and I’m posting it on Sunday.

It’s actually 85 books.  85 Normal Sized books.
Plus Infinite Jest  which will be counted as ten books.  And that’s reasonable because it has 1,079 pages and there are some long sections which appear to be lacking punctuation and paragraph breaks.  So, volume of pages plus wear and tear equals consideration as multiple volumes.   My blog.   My rules.

I made a fatal error in my first  Year of 100 books when I included  Richard Rhodes book The Making of the Atomic Bomb  and gave it “single volume” status.  That book was just shy of 900 pages.  It was a magnificent book.
But, as I was trying to read two books a week with six kids so close to me I could touch them  18 hours a day…. it took me almost a month to finish The Atomic Bomb, and I never really caught up after that.

So, I’m giving special status to Extra Ginormous books this time.  Every book containing more that 650 pages will be considered as two.
More than 1000 pages PLUS long sections of text which are virtually impossible to interpret means the book is worth four or more.   That means Five.  Because of math.
And in this particular case, it actually means Ten.
I’m only tweaking that one rule.  Otherwise:

I will stick to the 2018 calendar year.
I will read or listen to every book on the list in its entirety.
I will list every book on this blog with start and finish date as I start and finish reading.
I will comment on every book I read here on this blog, by means of accountability.

So, 85 titles, plus Infinite Jest standing for ten books, leaves five unknowns.  Five free spots to fill between now and December 31.

It’s now January 13, and I should have three books under my belt by this date in order to begin the year in a good position.  And these are the three:

I have just completed Lincoln in the Bardo  by George Saunders.  I think everybody else read this last summer or something.  I wish somebody had told me!
This book is going down as one of my top ten books for life.  I loved it so much because it’s funny and heartbreaking, historic and insanely imaginative.  I love the use of so very many voices, multi facets of life and death and suffering and joy.  I love the tender, sympathetic picture of Abraham Lincoln.  I love the way that he combined the perspectives of untold numbers of people, real and unreal, and managed to maintain a perfect narrative flow all the way through.   I love the suggestion of the enormous requirements of input from both the living and the dead in order to bring an end to slavery in our country, to end the war.   Loved this book.

I also read Tuck Everlasting  with the ten year old who is almost eleven.  It was as rich and delightful as ever.  I think this is the fourth time I’ve read it.  It never disappoints.    People bearing undeserved hardship with courage and selflessness.   So satisfying!

And I’m including audiobooks, which is how I just experienced Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.    She is always nourishing to my soul.  I am always encouraged by her. She has been a trustworthy partner in the excavation of my stratified misconceptions about my own strengths and weaknesses, and for that I am grateful and will be, certainly, returning for another Brene book in a couple of months.  She has show me the  possibilities that are before me if I can get a better handle on what vulnerability,  forgiveness and courage look like in real life.

Three super satisfying books!   All begun and completed between January 1 and January 12, 2018.

Next up is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.    I’m two chapters in, and it’s rich, intense and exhausting.  I will be looking for something quiet and pastoral like Wendell Barry when I’m done with Cormac.

So, after that last blog entry, I couldn’t much bring myself to write another until some amazing real estate event occurred.

I guess you might say that such an event has now happened.  It appears that our house will close in two months, as we are now under agreement.  And  I am happy for the purchasing family, as they have gotten the very deal of the century.  I hope they will be happy there, as we certainly were.  The neighbors are the real treat there, and this family does not yet know what a marvellous community they have fallen in to.    They think they are buying a house, but they are actually getting a whole new family.   People we love.

And I am thankful it’s  going to be someone’s home.  It was such a nice home for us.



I took a photo of Maggie walking ahead of me to the dam today, and when I got it home, I realized I had almost the same shot from last summer.    These two pictures were taken at the same spot on the trail, under such different circumstances.

What a difference a little tilt of the earth can make!!!

Happy Birthday to a Couple of Cool Chicks

Twice in my life, the sun has set on January 16 leaving me enormously pregnant with no sign of delivery…..and the same sun has risen the next morning,  finding me holding a  beautiful new daughter.   It happened once in 1996, and again in 2007.    I have talked about it here before…….(and if you click that link, you’ll see that snake photo Audrey wishes I would stop posting.)

So, tonight we will celebrate Maggie’s fourth birthday, and tomorrow we celebrate Audrey’s fifteenth.  They are such a joy to us all…..Happy Birthday girls!!!!!!

the second week in review

Here, again, is this wonderful passage from John Bunyan’s book  All Loves Excelling.

“The High God is yours;  the God that fills heaven and earth is yours;  the God whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain is yours, yea, the God whose works are wonderful, and whose ways are past finding out, is yours!  Consider therefore the greatness that is for you, that taketh part with you, and that will always come in for your help against them that contend with you.     It is my support, it is my relief, it is my comfort in all my tribulations,  and I would have it be yours, and so it will when we live in the lively faith thereof.”

This is an amazing concept.    It’s the most perfect antidote to discouragement.   It is so uplifting to consider that this great God is ours, and is our comfort.   Especially since our week here was not very inspirational or inspired.  But we were carried through and cared for through it all.  That is really marvellous!

This is how the outside world looked last time any of us were in it.     I love the look of the dam on our river  when it freezes.   I went for two very chilly three mile runs on Monday and Tuesday,  in temperatures which were something like -11C, and then, along with  my children, I fell ill.

It’s not surprising that our very satisfying start back to school last week…..complete with ball spike and victory dance by me…..was followed by a really mediocre week in which it has felt that we are marching through molasses.   This, thanks to a funky virus that is claiming us one by one and leaving us curled up under blankets and quilts on every sofa, chair, bed and even on the floor in front of the fireplace.
Not all of us have fallen, and the ones still on their feet have loved us and fed us, and kept things tidy and have kept morale up in something like a symphony of cheerful non-complaint.

Maggie has hardly shown any signs of illness, and has flitted from patient to patient wearing her Queen Elizabeth I dress.

Here she is , wearing her uniform, with a bit of war-paint fading from her cheeks, having just donated her mug of milk to good old Cinder.    Gross, but also sweet.    And it’s OK, she knows not to drink after the dog…..

She ministers to us by snuggling up close to her patient of choice, with the rustling crinolines and stiff collar standing tall.   Once she’s nestled in under the covers,  she  tells the most preposterous stories which include dragons, trips to Costco, a creature who creep into houses to steal ginger-ale, hairy spiders taking up residence in people’s noses, and squirrels in bathing suits.   And it’s really encouraging.   It reminds me that health is still close-by……so close I can almost touch it.   And then, later I find her sleeping, curled up like a pinto bean in front of the fireplace, exhausted by her efforts.

As I have said, we are neither inspired nor inspirational.   But we’re really thankful.   I am so very thankful for those blankets, chairs, beds and fireplace.  For Helen singing while she made breakfast for us all this morning.   For my sweet neighbour who just stopped by with a casserole.  For the good words of Philippians swirling around in my head, reminding me to remember my brothers with thankfulness and to look for how the grace of God is evident in their lives.    And for the blessing that comes to us as we remember to pray for one another.

We were all scheduled for the high entertainment of a debate session tonight, in which the three older kids had each taken a different stand on the topic of who should get the vote (as if it were the 1920’s).   One is arguing for an all white vote, another argues for black and white men voting, and another is taking the side of the women’s votes.    But two of my debaters are too dizzy to fight.

We had hoped to rocket  through the early 1920’s in history, and go straight for The Great Depression starting Monday.   Wonder if we can double up and cover all we missed next week and get back on schedule?    I’ll know in a week.

My older kids are doing two courses of Biology this year.  One is Apologia Biology, which seems to be a big favourite among home-schoolers.  The other course is a far more rigorous Biology with Microbiology which is being taught by their dad.   He usually brings them together for science class on Friday afternoon, and science class is always preceded by a day of jittery nervous energy, and three kids who have their heads buried in textbooks and computer screens in preparation.    I wonder if they will have class today……they don’t like to let Jon down, and it’s really beautiful to me to see them trying to rise to his expectations.


I made a bit of progress on David’s sweater.   Here it is last week:

And here it is this week:

Here’s the original drawing, the plan for this sweater.   It’s silly, but I’m filling the drawing in with color as I get it knitted up.

Hand made Christmas

It’s almost New Years, and before I start talking about resolutions, I want to show some photos of the gifts we made for each other here at our house for Christmas this year.

It was so much fun making these gifts, and such a crazy fun celebration when we opened them all up on Christmas Eve.

Everybody was so enthusiastic and everybody had a couple of things they were just popping to give, and to see how their creations would be received.

Everybody was happy and  laughing, and a couple of people cried.

Here’s a little breakdown of what we unwrapped:

Daniel made a mug for Jon, and some coasters and tiled trivets which we will treasure for years to come.

Maggie glued a hundred buttons onto a basket because she knew that was just what Audrey needed, and she also painted and glued beads and sequins onto a flower pot for Jon into which she planted a Christmas cactus, making him a really dramatic piece of living art for his office.    I addition to these treasures, she made an adorable collection of pompom art animals, complete with googly eyes.   They are almost like a little pompom nativity set.

Helen made a set of festive paper lanterns for Audrey and a painting of a mountain scene which she framed up for Jon to take to work.

Jon made some gorgeous wooden items.  One was a beautiful wooden lap desk for Helen, which he tricked out with all kinds of cool calligraphy pens, paper and ink.  So, you can see the writer wearing her new blue shawl here on the left, and here is here lovely desk just below.

Audrey sewed up a cute bag for Helen.

She also made Maggie a soft pink blanket with satin rosebuds on it, under which Maggie is sleeping  as I write here.

Audrey also made some funny T-shirts for the boys which they are wearing in the photos here, and she made  a beautiful collage of black and white photographs for Jon and me.

David made some killer hot-chocolate mix, which is disappearing fast.

Michael made some lovely fragrant candles, and he also  found an old doll sized dresser which belonged to my mother long about 1936.    It was in very poor condition, but he sanded it down,  replaced the mirror, painted it, rebuilt the drawers and made it like new for Maggie.

The queen of all gifts was the wooden knitting box Jon made for me.

It is lovely, lovely.  And I will use it for years to come, and pass it on to one of my girls.

It has three compartments, and one of those has lid with holes especially designed so I can keep yarn in the box, safe and clean, and run it through holes in the lid……and there are three holes in the lid, so I can work with three skeins at a time, if I want.    When I pulled the three boxes apart, I discovered it was packed full of bulky yarn for some great felting project which is yet to be drawn up.   Maybe it will be somebody’s gift next year.

And here is something special Audrey made for me.

It’s a set of twenty one knit markers which she made from silver rings and little blue and green beads.

There’s even an extra large centre marker which I can use for lace knitting, or for marking the beginning of a round on circular needles.

And she’s put them on this funky piece of bent wire which not only looks way cool, it also keeps then from wandering all over that gorgeous box.

Here’s a photo of some knitting that needs pretty markers.  See how boring those little green plastic rings look there.  Imaging that little piece with some groovy beaded markers to set it off.  Maybe then I would finish it!

And in addition to these home-made treasures, there was the annual Christmas slot car stuff, a pile of hockey equipment, an electric keyboard, and various other things that none of us knows how to make, so Jon bought ’em.   Which brings to mind a question that popped into my head Christmas morning:  I wonder how many households have an annual slot-car derby on Christmas Day.   It’s kind of amusing to me that one of the sounds I have come to associate with  Christmas goes along with the sounds of breakfast preparation.

It is the unlikely   sound of those toy  racetracks whining, cars flying off the tracks, and the boys yelling at them while I’m getting the food on the table.  Ruby-red grapefruit, sausage and cheese balls, egg-nog and the sound of those little cars whizzing along and crashing into the furniture.

So much to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving, Wherever You Live!

Happy Thanksgiving!     We are not celebrating with a  turkey dinner today, because  we’re in a country which celebrates this holiday last month.
We missed it in October, because we were in still another country… we’re having our Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday.  Tonight….Spaghetti, probably another puritan favourite.
I was just about to write up a post here about how hard it is to find cranberries in Canada in November, when I remembered that I did that last year and it doesn’t sound thankful at all, so I’m not going to do it again.  And anyhow, I DID find cranberries this year, and they are simmering away on the stove right now with sugar and orange marmalade, getting thicker and sweeter for Saturday evening.

For today, there is  no turkey yet, just thankfulness.  And thankfulness is just quiet contentment with what has been placed before us by the hand of God.   Recognizing that where I am is where God has placed me, and that I can learn more here than I could if I were in the place I might have chosen.    A. W. Pink said, in  a sermon on contentment, that it is  “the product of a heart resting in God”.

And Jeremiah Burroughs said “The great design God has in afflicting you is to break and humble your heart; and will you maintain a spirit quite opposite to the work of God? For you to murmur and be discontented is to resist the work of God. God is doing you good if you could see it and if He is pleased to sanctify your affliction to break that hard heart of yours and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in your life.”   And I say, Amen!

Ten or twelve years ago, out in the desert of California, I was complaining  to an older woman in our church there that I missed my family and was finding it hard to live so far from everything familiar to me, and that the rattlesnakes and poisonous spiders were getting me down.
And she told me that I’d have to stand up straight and act like a grown-up, get over my whining, do the best with what I had, because God had put me there in that spot so I could learn to trust Him better and quit looking to other people to meet my needs.  She also said that I probably wouldn’t learn that lesson quite as well if I were in a comfortable landscape with higher humidity, more live vegetation and a great gathering of old friends around me, seeing as I had such a deep affection for those things.
So, I left her house feeling a little cranky and out of joint over  her failure to empathize with me.  And I have spent the years since coming to understand her wisdom more and more.

So, whatever desert you are in, and however much you wish it were another landscape entirely, and for whatever reason you think you are entitled  to complain, I will just say “Don’t go there.”
There is something to learn where you are, and today’s opportunities are unique.  So don’t waste them complaining.  Be thankful and step out in obedience.