At last! We come to the last night of the year, the last blog post of 2016. It has been a good, good year; and I am filled to overflowing with gratitude!
As always, I like to look back on the blog designs that I've used. You may notice that there are only 11, instead of the customary 12. ;-) As it turns out, I never did get around to switching my May look to a different one for June; but that's OK: I sure did like that May header photo with all my most precious relationships in it and didn't mind looking at it twice as long as normal.
Another tradition of mine is to keep track of the books I read, so here is my list for 2016.
1. Behind Nazi Lines: My Father's Heroic Quest to Save 149 World War II POWs - Andrew Gerow HOdges Jr. and Denise George - A man at our church referred to this book during a lesson before communion, and it interested Josiah so much that he borrowed the book...and then I read it. :) It's a wonderful example of the difference that ONE person can make, if he or she is willing to take a risk and stand for what is right. There are two specific instances in which the main character offers to substitute himself to save the life of another--the first was for an English officer, and the second was for a German officer (the enemy!). It's easy to see how this can tie into communion, as we think about the substitution that Jesus did for us.
2. The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen - Tosca Lee - I saw an online recommendation for Lee's book Havah and wondered if my local library had it...they did not, but they did have this one...I enjoyed it, although you can guess that with the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon being two of the main characters, it (although not graphic) didn't exactly hold up a high standard of purity!...so little is written about the Queen of Sheba that the author had to do a lot of stretching to fill in the blanks, but overall a fun read
3. Savage Will: The Daring Escape of Americans Trapped Behind Nazi Lines - Timothy M. Gay - My love for non-fiction continues; real life events are fascinating! The episode described in this book was completely unknown to me before I began to read, and I enjoyed it very much. I will admit that there were two things about the book that made it a little difficult: one is the sheer complexity of the political situation in Albania and the unfamiliarity of most Americans (certainly myself included!) with the names and groups mentioned in the book. And secondly, I'm not sure if the author is trying to be highly original in his choice of words or if it just happens to be the way he naturally writes, but there were quite a few times when I sort of shook my head as I thought, "Why did he choose that unfamiliar, or unnecessarily obtuse, word?" Besides those things, the book was captivating!
4. I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan - Nancy Reagan - I hadn't yet started kindergarten when Ronald Reagan became president, so I knew nothing about him besides his role as president. This tender book showed a much different side of him, and I liked it very much. I expected it to be basically just his letters, but Nancy included many remembrances that brought meaning to the creative and incredibly loving things that he wrote. Very enjoyable! This quote from one of his letters stood out to me the most: "But what is really important is that having fulfilled our responsibilities to our offspring we haven't been careless with the treasure that is ours--namely what we are to each other."
5. Keep Moving and Other Tips and Truths about Aging - Dick Van Dyke - This book is as fun and light-hearted as Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins! :) The serious thing that I most want to remember is this question that he recommends asking oneself: "What do I need to do next so that I don't worry about not having done it?"
6. The Contender - Robert Lipsyte - Josiah read this and then told me I should read it, too, so I did. :) I always enjoy the camaraderie that comes from having read the same books as my children have.
7. The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - Ree Drummond - I should begin by saying that I, unlike many of my fellow bloggers, am not a reader of The Pioneer Woman blog. (I'm not much of a bandwagon person, so reading a blog that popular doesn't appeal much to me. Not that there's anything wrong with Ree's blog, but I'd rather read the blog of someone I have some kind of relationship with, not just a famous, talented somebody who will never even know I exist.) But not being a reader of her blog didn't hinder my understanding or enjoyment of her book. It was entertaining, but I did get tired of her descriptions of how physically attracted she was to her future (at the time) husband. OK, we know he had strong arms; stop talking about them!! But her self-deprecating humor is effective, and her descriptions of aspects of ranching life were interesting to read.
8. The Great and Terrible Quest - Margaret Lovett - Josiah read this as part of his study of world history, then suggested that I read it, too. I enjoyed it!
March and April
~ Apparently, I didn't finish reading any books during these two months--not my normal pattern, that's for sure! March was such an incredibly busy month (because of the puppies and a number of visitors we had here in our home), that I'm not surprised I didn't finish any then; but I'm not sure what happened to April! I was doing some reading--parts of longer books, as well as reading some books to the kids for school (which I never count in this record)--but somehow I didn't finish any books in my personal reading.
9. Master Cornhill - Eloise Jarvis McGraw - Another book recommended by Josiah after he read it for school. I thought the author did a fantastic job of including TONS of accurate historical details which made it fascinating to read. The Great Plague and the Great Fire of London are vividly etched in my mind now because of this book.
10. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom - This book was on the shelf in the guesthouse where we stayed during a homeschool convention, and I read it in two evenings after the kids had gone to bed. Thought-provoking and sweet.
11. Dirt: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House - edited by Mindy Lewis - I read this on a whim, but ended up liking it much more than I imagined I would. I did have to laugh a little at all these essays about, in essence, our relationship with dirt; who knew housekeeping was such a deep topic? :) Here are some parts I especially liked... "Our housekeeping styles express who we are on the most intimate psychological level. In cleaning (much as in writing) we make sense of our lives, sort our messes, restore order to our psyches, work out our anger and frustration, rediscover the beauty in our lives, and express our love for (and resentment toward) others. Housecleaning is the daily/weekly/monthly--or in some cases, quarterly, semiannual, or way-long-overdue--necessary ritual of restoration. For many, it's an ongoing, constant occupation; for others, an easily overlooked distraction." Oooo, I like that phrase: "necessary ritual of restoration"! Another place... "...making a home wasn't just a menial chore, it was an honorable vocation. It was more than keeping things clean. It was the creation of 'yourness.' A space that was special and yours, where you could find your things... It's what allowed you to own the space around you. There's something to be said for the ability to make order out of chaos. It is, after all, how we survive in the world. It's what writers do with ideas--make orderly arguments out of fragmentary thoughts; it's what scientists do with nature--find general principles to make sense of the world." And another spot... "Lately, though, I enjoy cleaning up, because the kitchen is a finite area responsive to concentrated work...Order pleases me enormously, but it is a pleasure I do not wish to work to create, nor does any one else in my household. As a result, home is chaotic...I never understood that a neat and clean home requires constant, daily work. I passively wait for the miracle of neatness to occur, and it does not. I resent that after cleaning and polishing my kitchen, the same thing has to be repeated the very next time a meal is cooked."
12. I Kissed Dating Goodbye - Joshua Harris - I read this to get some ideas for how to help my children (particularly Josiah at this stage, but the others will be ready for this before long!) navigate guy/girl relationships :)
13. One Second After - William Forstchen - Josiah read this and urged me to read it. I could see how it had absolutely gripped him while he was reading it, and I felt that same intense emotion as I read it. It prompted me to, for the first time ever, consider asking Jeff to buy more bullets because maybe we don't have enough ammunition! :) He reassured me that we have plenty and we really don't need to buy any more right now. :)
14. One Year After - William Forstchen - It took me a little longer to be as enthralled with this one as with the first, but then it caught me and I was hooked. I look forward to reading the third one when it comes out!
15. I Am David - Anne Holm - OUTSTANDING book! We got this from the library for Josiah to read as part of his history curriculum through Sonlight (an aside: we have found SO MANY great books through Sonlight!), but I actually picked it up first and was immediately captured by it (as was Josiah when it was his turn to read it). It's a simple read, but extremely profound and moving. I highly recommend this.
16. Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal - Joel Salatin
17. Two Kisses for Maddy - Matthew Logelin - I was walking down an aisle in the dollar store, of all places, when I saw this book for sale and decided on impulse to buy it. I had a vague recollection of hearing the gist of the story some time ago but was interested in reading more. The beauty of the love expressed in the book and the sorrow of the tragedy were heart-moving, but there was so much profanity in it (the author is blatantly unapologetic about that) that I found it hard to truly appreciate it like I would have otherwise.
At this point, I completely lost track of when I read the following books. I ended up piling them up on a bookshelf in my kitchen and not taking the time to write them down when I finished them. But at some point during the second half of this year, I read...
18. Jake's Tower - Elizabeth Laird - suggested by Josiah - deals with some tough realities, but handles it well
19. The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout - Jill Abramson - just for fun, because I love golden retrievers :)
20. Rain Reign - Ann Martin - another one suggested by Josiah - EXCELLENT book - I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to see the world through the eyes of someone with autism
21. My Heart Lies South - Elizabeth Borton de Trevino - fun read
22. The Thread that Runs So True - Jesse Stuart - I really, really enjoyed this - made me realize again how much the world of education has changed during the past century - if I were a teacher, I would read this book regularly for inspiration!
23. Joyous Peggy - Lillian Grace Copp
24. The Waiting - Cathy LaGrow with Cindy Coloma - true story - absolutely gripping - I highly recommend - this book isn't preachy at all, but almost without even trying, it sure makes a strong case against abortion in cases of rape
25. Keeping Score - Linda Sue Park - Josiah read this and was impressed, especially because of the way it explained the Korean War to him better than he had ever heard it before! so I read it, too :) ...it also helped me to understand the passion that some people (but not me) have for professional sports
26. Bonanza Girl - Patricia Beatty - another one that Josiah read first
27. To Have and to Hold - Mary Johnston - really enjoyable, not just because of the entertaining story and the glimpse into life in Virginia when the colony was in its infancy, but also because of the brilliant word choices - the plot was a little far-fetched at times, but the language was a delight to read - it made me want to read it again, just to revel in the combination of words this author masterfully used!
I already have a couple of good books started for 2017, so it won't be long until I start jotting things down on my new list. I wonder what my list will look like by December 31, 2017. :)
As curious as I am about what the next 365 days will hold, I really don't want to know what's coming around the bend. I've learned, as I've gotten older, that foreknowledge is a dangerous thing; and I'd rather take each day as it comes, without carrying the burden of knowing what is ahead. Rather than knowing what this new year holds, I'm much more interested in knowing Who holds this new year! :)