My Reading Pile

Beside my bed is a tall stack. Of books. Some are waiting to be read. Some are too dull to keep reading (like parenting or conflict management), and some have great titles and covers, but I just haven’t had time to start them. By the time I get to my bedroom at night, I have little mental, physical, or emotional energy to engage in reading. And if I do, it is usually a mistake that I deal with the next morning in the attempt of an early rising and heading out for another day of work.

But some books do get regular attention, albeit slowly… I often have 3-4 books in various stages of completion.

One year I took a year to work from home and to concentrate specifically on writing and reading. It was one of the best years of my life. I thrived and read many books, and I wrote and wrote. I read books to write reviews about too. Nothing better than getting paid to read!

I had no dry times when I couldn’t think of anything to write (unlike recently), and I didn’t have trouble finding books either. Good times.

This year I received a Kobo for Christmas, and I have already read an entire historical novel, just for the fun of it. Wow, have I been missing this in my life! I definitely need to get at that pile, and renew my interest in reading and writing. Who knew a little piece of technology could be such an asset?

A Christmas break sure helps too!

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My Favourite Christmas Card

I have a Christmas card that I will keep forever. It means a lot to me. It is from my son.

The card is not pretty. It is not in Christmas colours. It is made from construction paper and recycled cards. But before I tell you more about what it looks like, I would like to tell you why it is so meaningful to me.

My son has dyslexia. School has been a challenge for him, and there have been many ups and downs. One time when he was only in grade two, he wanted to run away from home and go to his grandparents’ where he wouldn’t have to go to school or do homework. He packed his backpack, and drove down the sidewalk on his bike. I told him to be very careful by the highway (okay, I admit, I did hype it up a bit and say it was really busy and that traffic goes really fast, and that they might not see a boy on a bike if he wasn’t careful). (I also admit I cried when he biked away, even though I could still see him). In about 15 minutes he came back, and went to the back of the pick-up truck. He declared he was going to camp in there until Daddy brought him to his grandparents. (And now, I admit, I laughed and shed a few more tears- without him seeing that, of course). It was a rough time.

We worked hard together; the teachers worked hard too. He came out of this slump and made some gains in his learning, and in his understanding of himself.

And then came another dark time of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed- when he worked so hard but did not see progress, or simply became discouraged facing school all the time. It was also a dark time of year as we neared Christmas. He was cranky and uncooperative with everybody that year.

Out of this dark time came the Christmas card that I cherish. For while other children made nice green and red Christmas-themed cards for their parents with the Nativity Scene, angels, and glitter, I got something very different. It gave me a glimmer of hope. In the frame of mind he was in, I did not expect a card at all.

My card was all BLACK, with a picture of the GRINCH slapped on front. The message on the inside was a little white square, barely an inch around, that said : To Mom From C.

A simple card, but with huge impact. That out of his dark place and in his own particular way, he could still summon up enough strength to tell his mother that he cared for her. And part of me thinks he did it for a joke. To this day, the card makes me laugh (and yes, I admit, shed the occasional tear).

I will cherish it always.

Funeral at Christmastime

I live kitty-corner to a funeral home which is between Main Street and my house. Today I was out and about on Main Street, walking and focused on doing a number of little things quickly- going to the bank, picking up odds ‘n’ ends, mailing Christmas cards. Errands done in good time, I mentally was on to the next task of wrapping gifts. I just had to walk home to start that.

Walking quickly, I rounded the corner of Main Street towards my home. I noticed people around the funeral home, but did not pay too much attention as this is a regular occurrence as families and friends often gather on the sidewalk after saying goodbye to loved ones.

But today I was caught up short. At that precise moment a polished wooden coffin was being carried out the funeral home towards the waiting hearse, while family stood by silently. It instantly put everything into perspective.  In the middle of Christmas preparations, this little event reminded me of the value of life, and how precious and fragile it is. Am I, are you, valuing what is truly important?

Death is not something we easily embrace, especially at this time of  year. My son saw the title of this post and said, “Funeral at Christmastime? That’s not very nice.” He’s right. It’s not nice. And many people have experienced the “not nice” parts of Christmas.

For those of us who are Christians, we believe that the very baby who was born at Christmas is also the one who died several years later at Easter. He knows our hearts- our rushing, our pain, our priorities- and he loves us still.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:16,17  NLT

Strawberry Jam

Tonight, ten days before Christmas, I made cooked strawberry jam.  I used crushed berries that we had picked this summer, and froze. What a yummy smell in the house in this dreary dark weather! The scent of strawberries is so fresh and summery and brings back wonderful memories.

Memories of this past summer u-picking strawberries and raspberries with all six of us. Memories of me, small, watching my mother diligently making all sorts of preserves. Memories of phoning her when I was first married, to make sure I was making the jam right.  Memories of my father and my brothers always wanting mom’s jam on their fresh bread… and as memory goes, one thought leads to another… all evoked by the smell of strawberries cooking.

Before my children all grow up and fly away, I better teach them how to make strawberry jam!

Christmas Writing 2

Today I am driving around to various elementary schools to pick up Christmas artwork from the students that will be submitted to the paper.

I love looking through these pages and seeing the colours and designs the kids came up with. Some are full of colour, light, and life, while some of the pages are mostly white with just a few details. Some of the drawings are only done in pencil.

I wonder what the children are thinking when they make these pictures. Are they drawing what they have remembered and experienced? Are they drawing what they have never experienced in a Christmas celebration? Or are they simply letting their imaginations flow and telling a story?

No matter what went on in the minds of these little people when they made their pictures, I am happy that our paper thinks it is important to showcase their work. In our area, the decline in the number of children in the population is concerning. Children are an indispensible part of a healthy society. So let’s celebrate with the children in our lives, who can create great art, and inspire adults to live life to the fullest.Christmas Artwork from Grade 5 Boy

Christmas Writing

My husband collects books about Christmas. They range from I Spy Christmas to Christmas in Plains by Jimmy Carter to A Newbery Christmas, a collection of short stories by Newbery award winning authors. Christmas has a way of capturing the imagination and creating rich feelings in us. My favourite in the collection is  Angels and Other Strangers by Katherine Paterson.

Paterson is a pastor’s wife, and she has written these stories for their congregation. The stories are poignant and moving- so much so, that when I read them aloud to my family at home I sometimes cannot speak for the emotion in my throat. What she gives us is Christmas stories that are not tidy and perfect, but ones that show the messiness of life and how even dark places can have hope because of the birth of our Saviour Jesus. I highly recommend her book, if you can find it . Our copy was published in 1979.

And now to Christmas story writing of my own. In the news business, it is very busy right now covering Christmas events. Most events are well attended, and people are enthusiastic, and I consider it a joy to highlight these good things of my community.

I encourage you to read a good Christmas book this season!