I haven't written in about a week and while it is easy for me to feel guilty about this (a "good" blogger would have written everyday), I am going to try to refrain from the self-flagellation. This blog is, afterall, supposed to be fun.
After preparing all the Christmas meals and cookies, and celebrating the season with presents to family and friends, I have spent most of my time either reading books in my TBR pile (I completed Mockingbird and Wuthering Heights and have started Outlander and The Book Thief) OR....reading and discovering new book blogs to follow (I am now up to a total of 55 and counting). There are so many of you out there in the blogosphere who publish great, professional blogs that I sometimes feel a bit intimidated by this community. However, one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2009 is to get out of my comfort zone and attempt to become an active member. I have a lot to learn, but I can tell that I have some great teachers out there who by sharing their posts on the web will be providing me with a great education. I thank you in advance.
Since I only started this blog less than a month ago, I really cannot follow suit as most of you and post my "best of" lists for 2008. Truth be told, I really did not keep much of a reading list in 2008 because I was either reading books for the classes that I teach OR books for my Master's program at the Bread Loaf School of English. While I will still have both of those demands on my life in 2009, the book blog world has taught me that I desperately need to make time to read books for ME. So, with that in mind, I am formally declaring 2009 as the year for me to make time for me. I also plan to keep better track of what I read with a simple Excel spreadsheet in order to participate in the "best of 2009" next year.
2008 began with such promise: Geoff had a good job - I had two "good" teaching jobs (good as in I enjoyed them - not necessarily good in a financial sense, but then again, that is not why I teach); I began a Master's program; my kids were healthy; our labs had a litter of 6 healthy and adorable yellow lab puppies; and while gas prices were somewhat inflated, the economy seemed in relatively good shape (at least here in middle America). WOW -- did the year end on a different note. Geoff has been unemployed for about 5 weeks; my mom spent about 3 months in and out of the hospital - even put on hospice for about 4 weeks; my 2 teaching jobs were cut down to 1; our female lab died unexpectedly in June (I still miss you, Mia); and the economy seems quite dismal all over the US (especially if you are looking for a job!). It is hard to begin this New Year with a positive outlook.
Ilana Simons, moderator of the Life and Literature book club at the Barnes and Noble website, posted a question earlier this month that I have been mulling over for the past couple of weeks: "If this is the Great Depression, what good are books?" If you are interested in following that discussion, the link is here. This is how I have incorporated that thought into my current lifestyle: books are more important to me now than ever before. I truly feel the need to read the classics, not all the classics but many of them, in order to learn more about the history of human nature and the human experience. When I read the classics I realize that these themes are timeless because life is cyclical. When going through tough times, which our family seems to be experiencing at the moment, it is very easy to feel that I am an island unto myself: "no one else has suffered as much or in this way" This is rubbish! The truth is that death is always around us -- financial disasters have happened to many -- people disappoint -- and life does not always (in fact, rarely) turns out as planned. However, when read through the Christian worldview that I choose, there is always HOPE. The classics help me to keep that perspective.
I also think that is very important for me to read books for pure pleasure because books allow me to escape from the mundane and sometimes overwhelming pressures of the "real world." I am a very pragmatic individual - and incredibly independent. In the saying, "Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God" --- I have the first part covered; I struggle with the second. It is very easy for me to focus so closely on the problem --- analyse and evaluate and play countless "what if" scenarios -- that I develop tunnel vision that leads to a very dark, depressing, and at times, suffocating place. And while I believe that I must have some responsibility in solving the problem --- the truth is, I can only do so much (wow - that is hard to admit for a control freak like myself!). All my worrying about the situation will not "add one minute to my life." So, I think that allowing myself the freedom to read what I want to read when I want to read it will not only be a method of temporary escape from the harsh reality, it will also help teach me to "Let go and Let God" -- which has many healthy fringe benefits. NOW.....if I can only discipline myself to read these novels on the treadmill!!
Obviously I am not starting this new year with a "pie in the sky" attitude - but I am also not totally despondent either. I am cautiously optimistic that the world economy will slowly improve - and that the Lord will provide the Totoro family needs (not wants --- but that's ok). I plan to use this blog as a place of refuge --- to read what others have to say about my favorite past time, to broaden my literary horizons, and to write out my own thoughts and feelings on life. I may even try my hand at a book review or two (but let's not go overboard with promises that I may not be able to keep).
May you all have a very safe, joyful, and prosperous New Year!