Thursday, December 16, 2010

Second-Half Maternity Leave Reading List

Here's as much of a list as I can remember of what I've read over the last five months of my maternity leave. Those looking for lots of theology/Biblical studies/church history from this pastor will be disappointed (though not entirely). Lots of fiction, a memoir or two. Delicious, delicious, delicious.

First-Time Reads
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok
The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (okay, the first half...I stalled out in the second half when things got weird)
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture by Wendell Berry
Feminism without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
Home Economics by Wendell Berry
In My Father's Court by Isaac Bashevis Singer
My Life in France by Julia Child

The Best of A.W. Tozer
Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson
Joy in Our Weakness by Marva J. Dawn
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Master & Commander by Patrick O'Brian
Post-Captain by Patrick O'Brian
The H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I loved almost all of the first-time reads. I had been wanting to read Amy Tan for a long time and, while sometimes pained by the tragedies she recounts, really enjoyed her re-creation of Chinese family life. With so many Chinese neighbours and friends here, I found the books widening what is becoming a familiar world. Chaim Potok's books were both brilliant, as I expected. The Chosen is still my favorite, but I thought Davita's Harp especially brought profound insight into general struggles and passions of the human soul (even for people who have given up on the notion). Wendell Berry is ridiculously good. So wise, so big-picture and connecting. I think everyone should read him (and I will re-read him, I know).

Barbara Kingsolver's book was disturbing. Gripping, but disturbing. As Miss Maudie says in To Kill a Mockingbird, "You are too young to understand it... but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of (another)". Watching that play out on paper in Kingsolver's book was a bit terrifying and humbling--to me, and I think to anyone else connected by similar beliefs to the character of Nathan Price. It will be awhile before I reread the book, but I will...if for no other reason than to critically consider my own Jesus-following.

With so much richness in first-time reading, there wasn't much time left for re-reading (my usual modus operandi). I love to re-read books. I have a select few that I reread every year, but this time around I included a few I hadn't read for awhile. The best of these was To Kill a Mockingbird which, I'm ashamed to say, I hadn't read since high school. Now after re-reading it more than a decade later, I'm sorry it took so long. Obviously it's a classic, but some classics I read and just shake my head in dismay. To Kill a Mockingbird was breathtaking. If I am anything like Atticus Finch when I end my life, I will count it a life well-lived. And that being the case, his family's story will join the read-every-year-to-nourish-my-soul books that share the place of honour on the top shelf of my bookcase: one of the few places in the Smedley house that is safe from little hands!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marching On

I've actually written three posts since the last published one. But I haven't put them out for public scrutiny, mostly because they didn't stand up to my own. I would get well into writing a post, and get to the point where it needed major revision, only to have Ephraim wake up from his one-nap-a-day or have Finnian come home from preschool.

And since time with my two, painfully sweet, brown-eyed boys is increasingly limited, I just stopped writing. So they remain unpublished.

I go back to work in three weeks. A year of maternity leave gone in the blink of an eye. We decorated for Christmas at the end of November, at Finn's holiday-passionate behest. I was away at a movie with Isaac while it was done, and when I came back home to a glittering, ornamented tree and five strung stockings I thought, "How can this be happening? Wasn't Christmas just a few months ago?"

Christmas a year ago was my last hurrah, the beginning of the end of working outside the home. It was preparation for and celebration of Christ's birth but also, as it so happened, for Ephraim's. This year, Christmas is also the beginning of the end, but it's the end of being home full-time. And while I'm glad to return to work in January I am, naturally, also sad to be three-days-a-week leaving my little boys.

So I've been on an unplanned blogging hiatus. Unable to perfect and so refusing to post. Playing games (mostly cards) with my game-loving four-year-old. Following my very mobile, very inquisitive 10-month-old around the house as he discovers everything in his ever-increasing reach (jars, books, cans, CD's, and the like). Catch-up doctor's visits, big breakfasts, and doing massive house and basement clean-outs to make sure we aren't keeping anything we don't need (knowing, without a doubt, that I won't have time until spring to do it again).

It has been a good year. I have caught myself, more times than I can count, breathing a prayer of thanks for the very ordinary moments afforded by a year at home with my children. Thanks for Ephraim's curly head pressed against my shoulder. Thanks for Finnian's hand holding mine as we walk, his laughter and comforting kisses when he discovers he's beaten me in a game. Thanks for Isaac talking out his grade 2 troubles with me, for showing me even in his more confident and less affectionate age that he still needs me. Thanks for the pleasure it is to care for my family with a day's worth of energy and time to devote to the task.

I know Right Now will be gone very soon. Replaced no doubt by Something Good. But it is for Right Now that I give thanks, with all of my heart, while it is still mine to give and mine to enjoy.