Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Seriously Stressing, Stressed, and Stressful

Here's the deal…we have some more home repairs facing us and it is rocking our little world just a bit. The truth is that it feels whiny and shallow to be so affected by all that faces us in the next month or so because goodness knows we are healthy, happy, and on most days we like each other around here very much.

This house, though, has just about defeated us.

In the next month we'll likely have two projects facing us both of a costly nature and we haven't quite recovered from the kitchen costly just yet. Frankly, we are looking for the biggest, fluffiest towels we own and are searching for wherever that place is where we are supposed to "throw them in."

(Sadly, I photo-edited this as much as possible!)

I keep reminding myself that we are indeed blessed to have a home with a roof (fairly new), a beautiful kitchen (sparkling new), nicely functioning bathrooms (also very new), a fresh uncracked driveway and patio (a year old), food in the fridge, families who love us, teeth in our heads…

….well, most of us… but our nerves are shot and we are both teetering on the edge of a despair-themed pity party, which is not our bent. Oh, often one or the other of us finds ourselves headed down  an alley of despair but most of the time the other of us is walking on sunshine and is able to pull the dreary partner in a more uplifting direction. Not so these days. These days you might find us grabbing the other's hand and saying, "Come on let's jump in to all of this yuck and wallow in it together for a bit, I'll keep saying how awful everything is and you keep agreeing with me."

The tough part about it all is that this house stuff seems to be taking up all of our rope, even the extra rope which we would normally rely on to deal with the normal everyday situations in life: bickering kids, huge piles of laundry, dinner that needs cooking, too many dates on the calendar, conversations with people who don't see things the way we do, an unexpected expense, a busted iPhone, someone needing time and energy, and a front door with a badly chosen paint color.

 When we are at the end of that rope to begin with, extra things must be dealt with from a deficit.

This is never a good situation.

So, these days around The Wright Place, my Man and I are attempting to conserve as much rope as we can while still living life. Listening to my feelings seems to be a terrible practice because I find that letting feelings rule just takes me to drab and dreary and makes me look around for company.

I am learning that it just might be the little ordinary, everyday tasks that add length to my rope. Last week I walked around this place in a stupor. Not willing to deal with it all, assigning the most immediate tasks to the kids and hoping that they'd forget that dinner was a real thing. Last week all I felt like doing was sitting in the corner and sucking my thumb. Best not to go with feelings.

This week, we took some action and began the process of fixing some of the problems and it felt better.

This week, stirring the oatmeal, reading in my little gold Bible, cutting the lettuce, eating sweet corn on the cob, ironing work clothes, joking with the kids, texting with friends, reading a funny and thoughtful book…my rope has gained an inch or two and I am thankful, even as we are overwhelmed and still facing decisions and difficulty.

My Man and I have both been reading a book called Keeping the Heart by John Flavel, a Puritan pastor born in 1628. While reading this I'd often say aloud, "Oh, this is so good." I commented about it so much and in such a way that soon, I saw another copy of the same book appear in my Man's stack and now it's often open in front of him and now he says from time to time…"Wow, this is good." I finished this book before our house issues began and now I'm going back to it for a second time. Flavel addresses many situations in which one is wise to pay attention to the matters of one's heart. Writing about "great trials," he counsels me:
In such cases [great trials] the heart is apt to be suddenly transported with pride, impatience, or other sinful passions. Many good people are guilty of hasty and very sinful conduct in such instances; and all have need to use diligently the following means to keep their hearts submissive and patient under great trials:

One of the means Flavel recommends is this:
Cultivate a habit of communion with God. This will prepare you for whatever may take place. This will so sweeten your temper and calm your mind as to secure you against suprisals. This will produce that inward peace which will make you superior to your trials. Habitual communion with God will afford you enjoyment, which you can never be willing to interrupt by sinful feeling. WHEN A CHRISTIAN IS CALM AND SUBMISSIVE UNDER HIS AFFLICTIONS, PROBABLY HE DERIVES SUPPORT AND COMFORT IN THIS WAY; BUT HE WHO IS DISCOMPOSED, IMPATIENT, OR FRETFUL, SHOWS THAT ALL IS NOT RIGHT WITHIN...
 So, here we go into the future with sage words from the past working in our hearts, "suprisals" and trials and comforts and all.

 "Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!"
~Luke 12:27-28 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Various and Sundry

 Hi there! 
Happy middle of summer!

I'm checking in quickly from my favorite place {the porch}. It so happens that I'm without children for a few days and the quiet is both soothing and disorienting. I find that sitting for long stretches of silence is nearly impossible without the rambunctious sounds of the kids forcing me to deeper concentration. Not to fear, though, the problem will fix itself very soon.

I had grand plans of all of the house freshening I'd do while no one was around to undo my efforts, but halfway through this empty week I'm accepting the reality that I'll be doing good to get fresh sheets on everyone's beds and cook a meal or two ahead for next week when it will again be necessary, even vital to have lots of food at the ready.

My Man and I have been only too happy to make meals of any leftovers we've carried into this week from last and have even feasted on cold cereal a time or two. I hardly remember what it was like before the children came along and grew to the point of requiring all recipes to be doubled and tripled.

As I sit here on the porch my plans for the day involve a second day of planning for the school year ahead. I've nearly gotten my list of core subjects determined and what remains is to fill in around the edges for the younger girls and to begin making the actual orders so that our books and materials are ready for us when we are ready for them. I'm keeping eBay and Amazon busy as well as Sonlight, Timberdoodle, Rainbow Resources, and Institute for Excellence in Writing (for any of you who might be doing this job too!).  While on the subject of homeschool…my sister in the south has highly recommended Mindset: The New Psychology of Success  saying that it was a game changer for her upcoming school year and that it was "amazing info and practical help." I don't know about you but the words "game changer" and "amazing" and "practical" usually perk my attention.

When I finish with the school stuff for today I'll likely move on to some MASSIVE READING! In my stack are:

Can you spot the theme? I'm loving the simple just now…the plain… the quiet. Even my fiction book, which I have vowed to finish this week, is a simple quiet work. It's a huge book at 800 plus pages but I am all the better for the reading of it. {The Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin} I've 300 pages left and I'm committed! I'll probably have more to say on this one later. 

Providing the background music to my porch retreat is Maria Schneider whose music is live streaming from her website.

When I put my books away I'll continue through the series I'm addicted to on Masterpiece, Inspector Lewis. It's all British and Oxford and accents and mystery and murder and I'm in deep!

I hope your week has been full of peace and I'm wishing you tons of ordinary contentment as we meander into the last half of summer!

"…happiness hasn't much to do with perfect surrounding, with having a lot or doing a lot. It comes with living simply, taking care of one another, allowing time in the day for ease and pleasure and play."
~Katrina Kenison
"The Gift of an Ordinary Day"

{This post contains affiliate links.}

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Great Mystery of Life...OK...Really Good Mysteries of My Bookshelf

It all began with Nancy Drew. I remember a friend reading and loving the Nancy Drew mysteries and feeling that I wanted to read them too but I was sure that they'd be too scary for me. Before long, Nancy and I were best friends, going to the pool together in the summers and taking trips together year round.

Soon, Trixie Belden joined our gang and the three of us were solving mysteries with fervor.

Then there was Agatha Christie with her And Then There Were None which scared me so badly as a junior high student that I had to have my mom sleep with me for a night or two.

I should have started with Murder at the Vicarage which would at least have begun to prepare me for my future (grin).

After growing up a little with Ms. Christie, I made the acquaintance of Mrs. Emily Pollifax, a senior adult widow who spent what would have been her retirement years in the employment of the CIA as a spy. I still get a warm feeling in my heart as I remember all of the adventures Mrs. Pollifax and I took together around the world solving international mysteries. I listened to many of these stories as books on ....TAPE (they are on CD now or you can get them through Audible) narrated by the excellent Barbara Rosenblat.

Even in college I fed my appetite for mysteries and was introduced to the likes of Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, P. D. James, and Tony Hillerman in a class called Detective Fiction. What a treat!  I convinced my Man to pick up a P.D. James mystery at the bookstore recently and am eager to see if he enjoys it.

My early married life was chock full of audio mysteries as I drove 40 minutes to work and then 40 minutes back home at the end of each day. I listened to just about anything narrated by Barbara Rosenblat which included a fun series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters about a Victorian era English family of archaeologists who honed their craft digging in Egypt (The first book in the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank but I think the best of the series lies in the middle books beginning with  Seeing A Large Cat)


Also narrated by Rosenblat is a fun series about caterer Goldie Shultz by Diane Mott Davidson. (The earlier books in the series are the very best.)

Carolyn Hart has also been a favorite of mine with her series of Henry O mysteries which specialize in taking the reader deep into the setting. I can still remember the feeling of being on a remote island as a huge storm rolls in and also, in a different book, feeling like I'd actually experienced the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

Katherine Hall Page has written a series of book just for me. OK, more folks than me enjoy these books but I'm sure Ms. Page has me in mind as she puts pen to page. Her titles begin with "Body in the…" (my fav title is Body in the Belfry) and are about pastor's wife, Faith Fairchild who runs a catering company and solves a mystery or two between serving the entree and dessert. Yessir buddy, a pastor's wife who loves food and feeding folks…sign me up please. There's a new one out this summer that I hope to get my hands on called Body in the Birches. Somewhere between cozy mysteries and serious character studies, these books are always good to draw me in and keep me entertained.

These days I've got a new set of authors on my shelves and in my ears.

I just finished a lovely mystery by Donna Leon called Falling in Love which centers around the stalking of an opera prima donna.

Gudio Brunetti is the detective and the setting is modern day Venice, Italy. This is the 7th or 8th Donna Leon mystery I've read or listened to and each one is a treat. I always feel like I've been in Italy drinking coffee in the shops and riding in boats with the Venetian police force as they investigate crime. Each mystery I read in this series leaves me caring more about the characters than the eventual solution to the crime. Rich reading here.

Another recent favorite of the last few years are the mysteries of Louise Penny who writes about a small village in Canada much like Donna Leon handles Venice. In fact as I was opening a fresh Chief Inspector Gamache (Penny's detective) adventure, I read this review in the front copy of the cover:
Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie, and while there is a surface resemblance there, it sells her short. Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm for the formula-bound Christie. No, Penny belongs in the hands of those who read not only P. D. James but also Donna Leon, who, like Penny, Mixes her hero's family and professional lives fluidly and with a subtle grasp of telling detail." 
~ Booklist (starred review)
This series is also excellent on audio and the covers are simply beautiful.

Charge into the middle month of summer with a great mystery but BEWARE you might find yourself buried deep in a wonderful series and discover that you've lost a day or two to stories that just won't let you go!

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.” 
― Arthur Conan DoyleThe Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

{NOTE: This post has affiliate links which means that if you click on a book title, and purchase the book, I get a penny or two to spend on a book or two…}

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Ripple Maker

I recently spent some time in the same room as a person who has, by his actions and lifestyle, sent ripples of pain and waves of defeat into the lives of those closest to him. Those ripples didn't stop with the close folks though, they travel on affecting those pretty far off from the situation. This person would be shocked, I think, if he ever realized how potent his life has become.

I only stared at him from across a room. His reputation had proceeded him and I was shocked that he didn't look at all like the monster I'd imagined him to be and yet the damage he'd caused by a lifetime of struggling with self control was as real a presence in the room as was this man's.

I stayed away from him because of my own shortcomings, my own struggle with self control. I wanted to treat this individual with the same venom he'd used on others, I wanted him to look closely at the lives he's ruined, I wanted to … so I stayed away.

I've spent a great deal of time pondering this man's sin--its ripples in the lives of those around him-- and suddenly it became uncomfortably clear to me that not one of us lives a ripple-less existence. His ripples may be more recognizable than my own, more public perhaps, but they are not one bit uglier to the One who created both of us, the One who loves us most, the One who, if we'll only let Him will deal with the ripples caused by my very own lack of self control and my very own selfishness and my very own judging nature, my very own high regard of me.

I am an accomplished ripple maker and I, every bit as much as the man I seek to shame, need the presence of the One who calmed the waters and made smooth the ripples and continues to pour living water for those who would realize their thirst.

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" Jesus responded, "Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!" Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. ~Matthew 8:23-26 

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