Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kindred Grit

This is trivial, but today I need some trivial.

Last Monday, we had the rare opportunity to go on a date -- dinner and a movie out! My mom was visiting for a few days and offered to keep the boys, and Gaines was off from work. So we headed to Smyrna and ate a fabulous Mexican meal at The Border and then stopped over at the AMC theater where we had a free movie ticket (those AMC points do add up eventually, even if you only see about 2 movies a year in the theater!).

So, we watched True Grit. Amazing. Scenic. Redemptive. Yeah, it's rough and there was a moment I had to cover my eyes because I hate imagining pain, but oh my goodness it's the best movie I've seen in a while. Those Coen brothers outdid themselves. I don't even want to watch the original. I just want to read the book. And then go see the movie again.

Still, the entire movie I kept thinking that Hailee Steinfeld, the actress who plays 14 year-old Mattie Ross, reminded me a little too much of another child actress, Megan Follows, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables from the 1985 film. Both characters showed great tenacity, pride, determination, and the ability to wear braids and yet be taken seriously. Plus, I thought that they sounded alike, too. They both had great diction.

I know I'm not alone in this.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Words on a Page

Do you remember the first time you acquired a treasured object? There are many things around my home that people have given me or I have purchased that bring me joy, but my favorites are the tattered copies of paperback books that fill our shelves to overflowing. These will never be featured on any first-edition booksellers lists, but they are important to me. And there are some I can never give away.

My book-love started early. I remember my first purchase. We were walking through the shops at the Gulf coast resort town on Seaside, still in its infancy. I was probably 6 years old, and since I grew up only an hour or so from the Florida coast, it may have been just a day trip. My childhood friend Jami was with me. She's the one who taught me to keep my blonde locks from turning green by soaking them with Pantence conditioner. But that didn't last long -- I was only blonde until about third grade. At least for that moment, we were two blonde suntanned beach-going little girls on a summer morning. We both liked books.

As we wandered through a wonderful open-air bookshop (I'm not sure Sundog even existed back then), I picked up a paperback copy of Scott O'Dell's The Island of the Blue Dolphins. The purple cover and female protagonist caught me instantly, but the story captured me forever. I still have that book, just like I still have a battered Weekly Reader edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice I acquired in seventh grade by mail-order. It has a purple cover, too.

Ever since, I've loved browsing bookstores and looking at titles, reading great reviews, handling books, picking them up, flipping through the pages and checking out the cover art. Staff picks are usually worth a look. What is it about reading a dust jacket on a gem of a hardback book in Goodwill or perusing the literature sections of a Barnes and Noble that always make me giddy? I just love books. The smell, the feel of the paper, the weight of it in your hands.

In the midst of my adoration of the printed word, here comes the onward march of the e-reader. For Christmas, my wonderful parents got me a fourth generation ipod Tourch. And what's one of the first free applications I downloaded? Yes. The Kindle App. How hypocritical of me.

I'm torn, honestly. I read a few chapters of Dicken's A Christmas Carol over the vacation to get a feel for the thing. (Hey, it was free.) Obviously, an iPod screen is much smaller than an actual e-reader, but you can adjust the font and I was comfortable constantly scrolling. It was nice to read short bits while keeping an eye on the kiddos. And knowing I could pick out almost any book I wanted instantly if I only had the money is a nice bonus. Plus, now you can borrow books from your friends who also have Kindles! Cool! One of my friends received a Kindle as a new-mom gift from her husband which I think is quite brilliant. She says it's great for nursing because you can hold it in one hand. Unlike my paperbacks, which I always seemed to drop while trying to get my baby fed. So I resorted to TV.

The more expensive B&N Nook Color, while it is still a great reader on its own, especially for magazines and children's books, also functions the same as a tablet computer and is way more affordable than the iPad. Or so I've heard.

Still, I returned home after my sojourn into the world of electronic novels and picked up a copy of a book that had been sitting, hidden amongst my collection, on a jam-packed shelf crammed with too many others of its kind. Perhaps it is the book itself that captured me, the level voice and soothing descriptions of the rolling hills and rivers of Kentucky. Maybe it was enjoying the wonderful surprises and turns of phrase that you discover in reading a new author. Perhaps. But there's something about turning the pages at night, staying warm under the covers with a lamp nearby, that just isn't the same if you're looking at a glowing screen.

And so I have been obsessed with this most recent read, devouring long chapters at a time, reading late into the night, absorbed completely in the world of Port William while my iPod sits above me, resting idly on the shelf behind our bed. Yes, some of you have guessed -- the author is Wendell Berry, the famed agrarian and lover of simpler things. I'm still not sure how it took me this long to read any of his works--I won't make excuses here--but I am simply loving every second I have spent in the pages of Jayber Crow.

I finished the final chapter during the snowstorm last week. It was a fitting way to absorb those final, touching moments, and I was glad for the chance to enjoy some leisure reading time (mostly uninterrupted) during the afternoons and late evenings, while a rare white blanket covered the world outside my window.

So, for now, my allegiance lies with real books. Words on a page, not a screen. Somehow it is fitting that Mr. Berry reminded me of my first love. He's a principled Luddite, refusing even to buy himself a computer. I do see the irony in typing this out on a keyboard and knowing people may very well read it on their phones. But still, books are my one holdout to technology. Say what you will, but I always hope to have a full library.

P.S. Please don't tell me Mr. Berry bought himself a Nook. I'd be heartbroken.


Books Read in 2010 (Allison)

  • Alice in Wonderland

  • Hebrews for Everyone

  • Sidetracked Home Executives

  • Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission is Vital to the Future of the Church

  • Love That Dog

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox

  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

  • The Help

  • Wise Blood

  • Saint Julian

  • The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity

  • Anne of Ingleside

  • The Color of Magic (Discworld #1)

  • Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline

  • Your Three-Year Old: Friend or Enemy?

  • The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

  • Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?: A Book About Children and Parents

  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

  • Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

  • Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles

  • Ragman: And other Cries of Faith

  • Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes

  • Twenty-three books. That's barely two a month. I used to read three times that many books in a year -- or more. Sigh. This is also sad -- I was so bad at keeping up with what I read here on the blog I had to go check my Goodreads account to make sure I remembered everything.

    I did read quite a variety, from a story about the recent past that reflects my own, a young adult novella, a homemaking manual, some beautiful works of fiction from Wangerin and O'Connor, some encouraging parenting reads, some old favorites, and a new book about a particular Baltimore cake shop. Maybe I'll share some thoughts on those in a later post. Maybe.

    This year my resolution is to watch less TV and try to read more often. I also plan to keep myself accountable to writing about what I read, especially by Blogging for Books.

    Look for a review of Michael Spencer's book from me in the next few days. I finished it last night and need some time to weigh my words.

    Happy reading, 2011! May you be filled with many more than this meager list!


    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Books Read in 2010 (Gaines)

  • Christ and Culture (Niebuhr)
  • People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology (Horton)
  • Ring For Jeeves (Wodehouse)
  • The Eucharist and Ecumenism: Let us Keep the Feast (Hunsinger)
  • The Undercover Economist (Harford)
  • By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Gaffin)
  • Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision (Wright)
  • Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation - Excerpts (Bavinck)
  • The Book of the Dun Cow (Wangerin)
  • Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Chan) (Audiobook)
  • The Pressure's Off: There's a New Way to Live (Crabb)
  • Irenaeus: An Introduction (Minns)
  • Eusebius: The Church History
  • The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (Boice & Ryken)
  • The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ (Marshall)

  • (Note: List does not include numerous articles and excerpts for seminary classes.)

    Not nearly as much fun reading last year, sad to say. Not that the assigned readings for school were wholly dull: the Hunsinger book was challenging, frustrating and enjoyable; Wright is always a treat, even when unconvincing; and Minns' book on Irenaeus was a great introduction to an era of church history of which I am woefully ignorant.

    On the non-school front, I regret that it took Hutchmoot 2010 to expose me to Walter Wangerin -- all those wasted years! Wodehouse never disappoints, and learning a little more about economics is always a good thing. I'm going to try to balance about my academic reading this year with other subjects, fictional and non-.

    This time last year, I made a half-hearted promise to post more thoughts on what I'm reading. That obviously didn't happen, but we'll see what the new year brings.


    Building Cathedrals

    Seven years and two days ago we started writing on this blog. We named it Team Redd because some friends gave us the nickname. It stuck. You might notice the Star Wars reference in the header. Think "Red Leader." Yep, we are geeks. But it fits. At the time, we had been married a short while and hadn't dreamt of expanding our family. It was just us. We're up to Redd-4 now.

    Back then, blogging was just becoming popular and soon hit its stride. Some say with the advent of Facebook and Twitter and other social media that blogging is dead. My Google Reader and Bloglines tell a different story, but no longer are the posts so self-centered. Now the bloggers that survive give you tips and tricks, useful information. The mom bloggers or the cheapskate bloggers or the technology bloggers. There are still Christian bloggers (I avoid those who like to pick fights) and even tell-all bloggers and celebrity-smitten fan blogs. Here, though, very little could be described as "informative" writing. We've discussed books, music, small children, theology, television, family, happenings and the occasional recipe. And lately, not much of that.

    But, somehow, I keep getting drawn back into writing something, usually late at night or during naptime when I should probably be doing something else, like sleeping. Or tutoring. I know maybe three people still check this blog, and I'm married to one of you.

    I admit that I'm the one who really wanted to start this thing, so I've always felt a burden to keep it up. Gaines has had his share of awesome posts and I always wish he would write more because I like to know more about what's inside his brain and the wisdom and hilarity that come forth. Still, I think I used to write here to validate my existence. Not so much once the boys came along -- then I always had the excuse that I was "too busy" to post much. But before, when it was just me, I think I wanted people to see that I actually did something, thought something, had a life outside of the everyday me.

    But a friend sent me this video again today. I'm sure you've seen it. It's called "The Invisible Woman." I'd like to label it "Building Cathedrals," since that's really what it's all about. How no one but God knows the names of the builders of the great European cathedrals and how for many of them, God is the only one who will ever see their handiwork. Even they never got to see the end result of their labors, the stone buildings that took centuries to become fully realized.

    For me, the thought unlocked freedom not only in my life but also with my writing. Of course, I still write many things that no one will ever see, scrawls in journals or in Word documents that I hope to destroy long before I pass from this life. But here, in this "public space" called the internet, I have this desire to craft words. And when I was writing for an audience, however small or imagined, it was always more of a load to bear. What will people think? What will they say about these thoughts in my head? Did I spell everything correctly?

    Today, though, once I watched that video, I decided to just start writing again. Just for the sheer joy of it. And yes, I always need a good editor -- the length of this post being proof of that -- but I'll try my best to keep future posts to a reasonable length. I just want to write. To whoever reads this. Like little letters from my life to yours. (With correct grammatical restraints, of course.) I hope I'm entering into a New Way in this eighth year of our blog. We shall see.