Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the tag “books”

Grab a Good Book…and then share it!

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” –Elizabeth Hardwick

I am thankful for the gift of good books. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as sitting down to read a book (except maybe for a good cup of tea or coffee and some music to accompany said book). Perhaps you read this poem by Emily Dickinson when you were in high school or college:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any any courses like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll.
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul.
 

How easy it is for us to take this gift for granted! Whether one prefers an e-reader or the feel of an actual book in hand, the ability to read is a treasure that should not be ignored. In fact, one of the greatest gifts a person can give to a child is to pass along and foster the love of reading. I read to my girls nightly when they were young, and now both of them read and have a love for words.

Speaking of reading, I’m going to close and go read one of the good books waiting on my nightstand. How about you? What are you reading right now?

Act of Thanksliving–

Don’t hoard your books! Consider these options for keeping your library light and others in good reading material:

1) Swap a book with a friend to double your reading pleasure,

2) Pass along a good book to a friend with absolutely no expectation of return,

3) Once you have read a book, donate it to your local library for their book sale,

4) Sign up for Paperbackswap.com and trade books with others for only the cost of postage,

5) Leave a book with a note in it about what you enjoyed in a public place for someone else to enjoy and pass along,

6) Give extra books to your local women’s or homeless shelters, or

7) give books to your local schools that are appropriate for English curricula or other courses.

The most important thing is to share your bounty and involve others in the gift of reading. An important part of thanksliving is sharing and learning to let go of possessions. Open hands and open hearts yield mighty and delightfully unexpected returns.

Photo by Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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The Gift of Doris

(This is a guest post by friend, author, and fellow Compactor, Julia Park Tracey. Be sure to check out the website for the book. Enjoy!)

For the past year I have been sharing snippets and excerpts from the “Doris Diaries,” a collection of diaries from the 1920s through 1940s that I inherited from my Aunt Doris. The first volume of these has just been published as I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). It has been an unexpected pleasure to spend time in the presence of someone I miss very much, and whose presence in my life was akin to a fairy godmother.

When my great aunt Doris, who passed away in 2011, was beginning to fail, starting to lose some steam in that last of her 101 years, she asked me to take care of her private things, not to leave her frillies and her secrets open to just anyone.

At that time I did not know that Doris had kept journals all her life. I did not know that she had held onto her teenage scribbling – those that embarrass us so much later in life. After she passed, my mother gave me a box of letters and diaries, and I was shocked and thrilled to find this fresh voice, this impish artistic soul, in pen and ink. For all the years I knew Doris – since 1963, if you must know the numbers – I never knew she wanted to be a writer, and never heard this voice. And this voice is lovely and amazing.

When I first started to read her words from 1925, I couldn’t keep from laughing. What a dry wit! I couldn’t keep from swooning with her over the handsome boys and flirtations and moonlit rides in a roadster. Such stories she tells, so casually elegant, so refreshingly blunt. So Doris!

I’ve been asked if I’m telling her secrets and how she would feel about that. I feel confident that Doris, knowing I’m a writer of 30-plus years in publishing and journalism, would not have directed in her will to give this box of her life to me in particular, if she hadn’t wanted to share her story. And the Doris I knew wanted to tell her story; she published her memoirs in 2006, when she was 96. To quote the 16-year-old Doris of 1926, “I love to cause a sensation!”

For me, the gift has been getting to know someone I had already known for 50 years – again, and better, and deeper. And though I miss her, it’s different, and not the sense of absence and loss that usually accompanies a loved one’s passing. I realize how rare and special this is. And I’m grateful, every day.

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning blogger, journalist and editor. Her book, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926) is available at your local bookstore or through Amazon. Follow Doris’s ongoing diary adventures on Facebook and Twitter at The Doris Diaries, or www.thedorisdiaries.com.

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!

Nota Bene: Today is the last day to leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page in order to be entered in the drawing for your own copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). Don’t miss this opportunity!

Lovin’…Laughin’…Livin’ Doris Style

Occasionally a book comes along that just flat out tickles my fancy and keeps me turning pages in anticipation and delight. This is the kind of book I don’t want to put down. I want to savor certain snippets so much that I find myself turning again to particular quotes  and scenes. I find myself torn between galloping through to the end or savoring each page. A book like this is an experience, one that leaves the reader wanting more. Such is the case for me with I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen.

Doris Louise Bailey began keeping a diary in 1925, at the tender age of 15. Chronicling her adventures became a practice she would continue throughout her long life. After her death in 2011 at the age of 101, her great-niece, author and editor Julia Park Tracey, found herself in possession of a real treasure–a box of her journals, beginning with the very first teenage diary. Thankfully, Julia began the process of lovingly and carefully editing this gift in order to share Doris with a wider audience.

Typical of any teen, the pages are filled with tales of young love, exquisite crushes and fickle passions, vivid detail and bored pronouncements, all interwoven with the occasional poignant insight into the mysteries adolescence. Doris offers keen insight into the life of one very real roaring twenties teenage girl, making the book both good reading and solid history. The fads, culture, and events of the day are chronicled and filtered through the adolescent window of a girl who would become a most remarkable and strong woman.

I grew up in the South, so reading about a teen whose parents hailed from Alabama and Georgia but settled in Portland, Oregon to rear a family, was a real treat. It was delightful to watch her become bold enough to swear yet still mollified enough to cross out and soften her salty slips of tongue and pen. The book also contains a treasure trove of period photography, the majority of which were snapped by Doris’ older brother Rae with a circa 1918 Kodak box camera.

I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do gets a five star rating from me, as does editor Julia Park Tracey. It can be quite a challenge to edit someone’s private writings, especially a young voice from another era. I think you’ll be impressed by Park Tracey’s work and by her useful explanations, appendices, and forthright presentation.

Who should read this book? Anyone who enjoys a good character study will find Doris compelling. Teachers of history and women’s studies will appreciate how The Doris Diaries augment other selections and texts. Reading groups will have a hotsy-totsy (see page 198) time and some keen opportunities for themed gatherings while thumbing through the pages. Finally, anyone interested in journaling will appreciate Doris’ wit, honesty, and insight. Books make good gifts, so consider purchasing a copy for the young (and young-at-heart) readers on your holiday and birthday lists.

Win Your Own Copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Doris Bailey Murphy in word and image. To give you an opportunity to do so, too, Julia Park Tracey has generously donated a copy of the book for me to give to a reader. Check out some of the excepts from The Doris Diaries Facebook page and/or Twitter feed and then leave a comment by midnight PST Thursday night, November 15. I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments left. (Note: I was not paid to read, review, or endorse this book. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Coming Up Later this Week!

Look for a guest blog post by none other than Julia Park Tracy. I’ve known Julia through The Compact for several years now and appreciate her own blend of wit, wisdom, and wonderment. She’s an excellent writer, and I think you’ll enjoy what she has to say.

Time to get back to living this good day. Or, as Doris would say: “Love is life; life is love!”

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!

 

 

The Joy of Shedding “Stuff”

Give Way

Dependence on God may be what is lacking in a society where consumerism and accumulation have become the root deseases of a world in which everything is not enough and nothing satisfies.      — Joan Chittister from The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages

Ever wonder why sometimes an item you purchase seems to lose its luster once you get it home? What looked so shiny, bright, and desirable on the shelf at your local big box now looks downright ordinary. The root desire that made you whip out your cash or credit card is still there — along with one more thing to clutter your closet or yet another knick-nack to dust.

Very few of us are immune to consumer cravings; in fact, I shudder to think of the amount of money, time, and energy I have wasted over the years on accumulation of really rather pointless “stuff.” Having pared down my possessions from a 2600 square foot parsonage to two carloads plus a few boxes in 2010, I also know the freedom that comes from unburdening oneself of excess accumulation. I learned a lot about needs and wants, about desires and whims. Unfortunately, I let the consumer creep poke its camel nose under my tent, and by the time we movedagain in 2011, it took a small U-Haul to transport our belongings. Granted, I purchased a couple of beds and some living room furniture that was too good to leave behind and that we could use in Pennsylvania, but a lot of what we transported was simply “stuff.”

“Stuff” can be a major distraction to living a life of thanks-living and purpose. When a person has to worry about his or her stuff instead of the people, relationships, and created order, one’s quality of life begins to be compromised. Focusing on and clinging to one’s “stuff” can also be a barrier to cultivating a strong relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Here’s the thing I have discovered and continue to discover afresh with each new day: shedding stuff contributes directly to joy in the present moment. Buddhists strive for “detachment,” believing that nothing lasts and therefore it is important to be attached to nothing. Christians believe that one should attach oneself to the only thing that matters. In the attachment to (and consequential dependence upon) Jesus, everything else then becomes detachable. Either way, shedding excess stuff becomes an opportunity rather than a burden, a joy rather than a pain.

Click here for a wonderful story about creative detachment posted on Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist blog. It’s a story about honoring relationships, giving possessions, and being thankful. My appreciation to Heidi J for sharing her story.

Honoring Relationships

Today I want to honor three women who gathered with me around the kitchen table to pray the night before I underwent surgery for breast cancer. Adrienne, Aileen, and Mary Beth — each in her own unique way — made the cancer journey bearable and even humorous. Adrienne was my rock, Aileen was my spiritual mentor, and Mary Beth was the friend who had already walked many tough miles with me and who with humor, compassion, Irish wit, and a Springer Spaniel named Fred (littermate to my boy Pete) held my hand and lent me her strength. Without them, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Thank you, lovely and wise ladies. You are amazing and wonderful.

Giving Possessions

Three more books will go to the Public Library for their book sale. I feel better knowing someone else will enjoy reading them, too. Hey, that’s three less books to collect dust!

Thanksgivings

I am particularly thankful today for my spouse. He is a partner in the truest and fullest sense of the word. With him each day is an adventure. He brings out the best in me, supports me when the going gets tough, never fails to make me laugh, and is just an all-around awesome person. Thanks, Rob, for being you.

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Gladys, whose name was drawn to receive my autographed copy of Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies.

Photos by Loopzilla and Maarten ter Keurs used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Day One: Bye, Bye Books & Thank You, Mom

My forehead smudged by a dusty cross and the words of the prophet Joel ringing in my ears, I completed day one of my Lenten journey and kick-started my 40/40/40  plan.

Honoring Relationships

I have a list of way more than 40 people I want to thank. I started with my mother; after all, she gave me life and taught me the majority of my life lessons. She’s also set a dandy example when it comes to faith, strength, giving, and compassion. I’m lucky she’s my mom!

Giving Possessions

I decided the first possessions I need to let go of are books. I found half a dozen books I can live without, and instead of offering them for trade on Paperbackswap.com, I am taking them to our local library for their used book sale. I kind of figured it would be cheating to put them up for trade and bring more books into the house when I’m trying to divest myself of stuff.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for our Ash Wednesday service tonight. It is one of the most meaningful worship services of the year for me. I am quite partial to the lessons appointed for this day, and the liturgy is moving.

I also had a good time burning last years palms with my husband. He had the wonderful idea of using a propane torch and a tin can. It was efficient, quick, and didn’t smell anything up too badly (especially since we had a strong wind today).  I’m thankful we can share parts of our ministry with each other.

How about you? If you keep Lent, how did you start off the season?

Thankful for Tea and Good Reading!

For the past several days I have been dealing with the annoyance of my biannual sinus infection. It seems to come calling every Advent and Easter. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is the fact that as a pastor I tend to be busier during those two seasons of the year, and I also come into contact with a lot of germs. It seems like half the population of Central Pennsylvania is coughing and/or sneezing and sniffling right now.

When energy and resistance are low, I’ve learned to try to nip the situation in the bud with a quick visit to my family practitioner and an antibiotic. Heaven forbid I should cough and hack during Christmas eve service! I also try (ha!) to get as much extra rest as possible, ingest as much vitamin C as practical, and drink pots of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Sinus Soother Wellness Tea.

It seems to speed the healing when I slow down and sip a warm cup of tea and read a good book. Quite often I’ll find myself dozing off, and that’s alright because sleep is one of the best things to restore health and repair damage at the cellular level. I’ve learned over the years that if I keep pushing myself, I’ll only end up sicker for a longer period of time.

Good reading material another thing I’m thankful for today. I usually keep two or three books in circulation at any given time, a combination of vocational and pleasure reading. Right now I’m enjoying these selections:

The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living Life with a Grande Passion by Leonard Sweet. We’re using this book for discussion at Coffee, Tea, & Theology, Trinity’s book group. Sweet suggests that like Starbucks, Christians need to recapture a true passion for the good news. He uses the acronym E.P.I.C. (experiential, participatory, image-rich, connecting) for how this might be accomplished. Our group is enjoying both the book and the conversation and sense of community. Good stuff!

Living Spaces: Bringing Style and Spirit to Your Home by Marlee Ledai. My mother gave me this book, and I’m just now getting around to reading it and enjoying it thoroughly. Ledai is an spiritual director, life coach, and author. The book deals with appreciating one’s home as the place where God and the reader have taken up residence. Room by room she invites one into an intimate exploration of hearth, home, and soul. In fact, each chapter features a “soul project” activity deepen and personalize the concepts therein.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. My oldest daughter gave me her Nook, and this book was on it. Since I enjoy a good thriller, and the movie is coming out December 21, 2011, I decided to read it. It is a page-turner (well, not with the Nook, even though sometimes I’m so engrossed in the story that I try to turn a page instead of click forward). It will be interesting to see how the film compares to Larsson’s novel.

Finally, here’s a link to a wonderful blog post I read this morning. I follow Alex Blackwell’s blog The Bridgemaker, and I encourage you to read “The Truth about You.” It won’t take long, but you’ll be glad you did. There’s a message here we all need to hear and share. It deals with loving yourself so that you can in turn love your neighbor. Click here to read Alex’s inspiring post.

Well, it’s nap time. I need to work on feeling better because tomorrow is Sunday, and the pastor needs to be on her toes (or at least not croaking like a frog). If you want, share a note about what you’re reading right now and your favorite tea or hot beverage.

Peace and blessing and a grateful heart!

Photos by Harsh Patel, photographer and Celestial Seasonings used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

 

Thank you, Public Libraries!

I enjoy reading. I usually have at least two books in process–one for work and one for pleasure. I only wish I had more time to read all of the wonderful books out there!

Thankfully, I have borrowing access to three libraries in our town–the local public library, a college library, and a seminary library. Amongst the three I am in literary heaven. In addition to books, I am able to access a host of scholarly journals, films, and CDs.

When my daughter needed to find monologues for her college auditions, we were able to find what we needed at the college library, saving us both time and money. When I wanted to sample the sounds of some new musical artists, a quick trip the public library yielded some real gems, including a recording of the late David “Fathead” Newman’s The Blessing.

Nooks, Kindles, and tablets are amazing and make travel with books a breeze, but sometimes there is no substitute for holding a book in your hands. Reading for me is both a tactile and visual experience. Libraries make this experience possible without keeping a massive collection at home and without breaking the bank. Plus, there is just something delightful about strolling through the stacks surrounded by words.

Thank you, lending libraries for opening new worlds to so many people. You know the power of the word to shape lives and expand the universe. Instead of the frugal chariot, you are the mass transit system for the bibliophile.

PS: One of my favorite poems is this one from Emily Dickinson:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Photo by shutterhacks used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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