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I just finished another Anne Lamott book. Its her new one Help Thanks Wow. (This has been the year of Anne Lamott for me.) I got home last night after work and was Chatty Cathy with Gregg, rambling about what I had learned over my lunch break when I read her Thanks chapter. I thought I would relate more to her Help chapter, since I recently sent an email to my girlfriends asking for post-baby help. But it was Thanks that got me.
Thanks was different than I anticipated. She actually wrote a lot about looking out for the good when circumstances are not. She doesn’t write about being thankful for the hard or tragic circumstances, but about trusting God in the middle of them and searching for what you can be thankful for afterwards: what you learned, who was brought close to you, etc.
There’s a lot of sad going on right now. Even though its Christmas and its the season for joy and family and friends, but, along with the school shooting which the entire nation is mourning together, there have been a handful of tragedies closer to home. To be thankful for the tragedies doesn’t seem right. But, maybe her point is to recognize God in the middle of them and to know that good will come.
She also writes about thanks in action. The whole “to whom much has been given, much is required” thing. She says that this does not just apply to the Kennedys and the Romneys. I like that. Its us, we should give, even the smallest kinds of giving can mean a lot to the recipient.
Example. My grandmother is one of the most generous people that I know. This year for Christmas, she gave each of us grandkids a gift that was even bigger than her usual. To say thanks and Merry Christmas, I sent her some sweets and a scarf that I had knit (she’s a knitter, too). My mom said that she was overjoyed with the package, especially the scarf. She said she’s knit for other people her whole life (she’s 92), but no one’s ever knit anything for her. It was not a big deal for me to knit her a scarf with some white, lacey yarn that I had had around for awhile. It was almost silly to me that she was so excited, since, compared to her gifts to her 5 grandchildren (she also has 3 children and 8 great-grandchildren,) the scarf and candies were beyond miniscule. But, as small as it was, my thanks made a difference to her.
P.S. I’m getting really annoyed by the use of the phrase “a lot.” I’m open to substitutes if you have any suggestions.
I started listening to Bringing up Bebe this morning. I’m already thankful that this is the first pregnancy/parenting/baby book I’m reading during my pregnancy. The book’s author is an American woman who conceives, carries, and raises 3 children in Paris. While in France, she observes how different the entire French culture approaches motherhood and parenthood than we do in America. Their attitude is much more worry-free while still raising confident and creative children. The French pregnancy magazines have articles entitled “9 Month Spa” rather than “Is it safe?” During pregnancy they encourage indulgence (while somehow gaining the recommended French 26 pounds versus the American recommended 35 pounds) rather than fear. The French parents aren’t required to adhere to one parenting theory or another, instead, they have a cultural theory that’s so embedded into everyone’s psyche that its actually difficult for the French to articulate what it is.
We had our first Book Club meeting last night. I laugh when I think about it, because it was my idea to start it, but I didn’t invite one single person to join it. (Not true, I invited two, neither of which joined). But, I think it is working out well because I’ve planted myself in the middle of a group of sisters and their friends who have all been so sweet, fun, and welcoming.
We read We Need to Talk about Kevin. The mother narrates the story. and she is brutally honest about how she dislikes/distrusts/disdains her son. Her dislike may be justified, since her son goes on to murder 11 people in a school shooting (this isn’t giving away the story). There’s a lot of lovely and wordy inner monologue from the narrator about her fears leading up to becoming a mother and, later, how she feels about her son’s dark behavior as he gets older.
INTENSE. I NEVER would have chosen to read it on my own, but the challenge was good for me (and some of the other girls as well). One of the sisters in the Book Club loves darker (more sinister?) books, so she suggested this one. (She also suggested The Undertaker for book #2 which we all quickly vetoed, opting for a more light-hearted book our 2nd time around). She caught on to symbolism that I didn’t see, but, after she pointed it out, it was so obvious. I need my own personal English teacher to point out what I’m missing in each book I read.
I loved seeing and hearing how everyone responded to the book differently. We asked questions and shared our different thoughts and opinions about what happened in the book. We even shared how we related to the fears that the mother wrestled with throughout the story, though we had different opinions about whether she was justified in her feelings. Also, a looming question was whether or not it was her fault that her son turned out to be a murderer.
Just in case you’re curious, our Book Club includes two stay-at-home-moms, an English(!) teacher, two girls with top-secret government jobs, and our hostess (I don’t know how she spends her days).
Step One: Invite someone else to be in the Book Club.
I think, by definition, a club has to have at least two and probably more like three to four people to be considered a club. That said, I sent a text to a semi-friend asking her if she would be interested in joining a book club. I also asked her if she knew anyone else that would want to be a part of a book club (the whole thing about a club needing more than one or two people came into play here).
Step Two: Wait for a response.
She said yes! I only had to wait 24 hours, but I was kinda nervous, imagining her reading the text and trying to figure out how she could get out of the invite. But. now, my confidence is up, so I can go to Steps 3, 4, & 5.
Step Three: Invite more people.
Step Four: Pick where and when we want to meet.
Step Five: Start getting to know each other and pick a book that everyone will love and be excited to talk about.
If we’re doing a repeat, like, let’s all pick a book that you like/that you’ve read before/that would be a good Book Club book, I’d suggest…
or the classic
But, if we’re going to branch out and make suggestions for books we’ve wanted to read but hadn’t gotten to yet. I’d say…
I had to wait until I finished Harry Potter before initiating this Club.
Any book suggestions?
Its been a pleasure, really. I’m sorry that it took me so long to meet you. Really, I don’t know why I resisted for so long. I was making some kind of pointless statement to nobody in particular. I’ll miss the long hours that we shared together. I’m just sad to see it all end.
At a time in my life where I have very few friends close by, you and your friends have provided great company for me.
Also, thank you for dedicating your last book to me, I really appreciate it.
I thought that you were going to die in the end. And you did, but not in the way I expected.
I just really don’t get what all that drama and discord was/is about over you, your world, and your books. You teach us that good conquers evil, and that selfless, sacrificial love conquers all. Sounds like Jesus to me.
Writing, knitting, a border collie and an australian shepherd. These have been my companions for the last two months. Also, books have kept me company. I’m not sure how to write a book review, but I feel like reminiscing over the books that I’ve read recently. I’m going to use only words or phrases because descriptive sentences seem too overwhelming for me.
- The Writing Life
Lovely, as is all her writing. Zooms in on the nitty gritty of writing. Makes writing seems daunting and intimidating and lonely.
Tragic, but oh-so-good. More like a series of short stories than a novel. But the characters are tied together in clever ways.
- The Tiger’s Wife
Also tragic, but kind of magical. The writer is 23 or 24, so I was thinking about that the whole time I was reading it.
- The Shadow of the Wind
Recommended to me, but didn’t live up to my expectations. Ended up being a good read, but took several hundred pages to get into it.
A book of short stories, but seemed like mini-novels (in a good way). All were pretty sad except the last one.
- Peace Like a River
Not my favorite, but one chapter towards the end makes the entire book worth reading.
- Little Bee
Another good one. More of a commentary on social issues than I expected, but I think that made it even better. I think I originally read this one and Peace Live a River because of their bookcovers. Pretty, huh?
Up next: The Paris Wife, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and, eventually, Sarah’s Key. I’ve heard its really sad but really good. I’m also still slowly working my way through Jane Eyre. I like it, but its definitely not a quick beach read.
Definition: A profound concern for the welfare of another without any desire to control that other, to be thanked by that other, or to enjoy the process.
I came across this definition of love in Madeleine L’Engle’s book. She credits Edward Nason West with the definition. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it.
I’ve been slowly reading Madeliene L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet. The book is made up of lovely ramblings of her life in the country with her family and as a writer. She weaves words of wisdom throughout its pages. I wanted to steal the title of the book for the blog, but “A Circle of Quiet” was already taken. That’s probably a good thing, because I don’t want to go to prison for copyright infringement (I think that’s what the charge would be). Then, Circle of Quiet was taken, too. So I thought, The Circle of Quiet or My Circle of Quiet. Both of those sounded like they should end with an exclamation point and an arrow pointed towards me. Not quite the kind of title I was going for. So, I landed on This Circle of Quiet. I like what it conveys. And, even though I don’t really think it describes me very well, its what I’m going for this year. And, moving to the country, we are quite literally moving into a quieter space.
This year, I would like to have quiet on the inside as well as the outside. One way to take a step towards this is to get off Team Shame. Huh? you ask. Team Shame is the arch-rival of Team Grace. Here’s some examples of the running thoughts of Team Shame: “I should be doing ___,” (lots of thoughts begin with I should), “I feel really bad for (this thing that I did or didn’t do),” and “Why am I not more like (this random person that is prettier, skinnier, smarter, funnier, etc.) than me?” Basically, Team Shame focuses on what you don’t have, don’t do, should be, shouldn’t do, and lives there forever. I’m being a bit lighthearted about this, but I know that it is how many people live and think and work and play. Me included. So, this is the year, that I move from Team Shame to Team Grace. The thought processes of Team Grace are more like: “I didn’t do that, but that’s okay,” “Here friends, take a second helping, there will always be enough,” and “I’m so happy for that pretty, skinny, smart, funny person, and, hey, I’ve got some good things going for me, too.” The thoughts may begin similarly to those of Team Shame, but they end very differently. Their thoughts end with some form of “Its okay.” I think surgery, a brain transplant specifically, may be required to move me from Team Shame to Team Grace, but I’m ready. Thankfully, Gregg and several dear friends of mine are key members of Team Grace. They’re trying their best to recruit me.
I’m not sure what this surgery/recruitment process will look like. I think it involves praying, catching myself at the beginning of Team Shame thought runs, and I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I’ve got for now.