Friday, February 18, 2022

Five On Friday: 5-Year Diary in Full Swing

" Enjoy the little things. "

A friend the other day asked about my progress on filling my pint-size diary with short sayings EARLIER POST HERE. I was happy to report that I'm having fun keeping an eye out for simple quotes to include in my 2022 Collection. Some days it's easy to decide—I'll find something right away that jumps out at me. I also find, with the myriad of great sayings coming across my path everyday, there are occasions when it's hard to narrow it down to only one. But I do. Selection always has to do with that two-sided coin—what we choose as opposed to everything else we do not choose. I remember reading an author who thought it worth paying attention to both what we choose to include and what we leave out. Both can reveal things about ourselves and what we deem important, or not. In the case of choosing a pint-size quote, I remind myself in that decision there is no right or wrong. I sigh with relief.

We are all bombarded with information coming at us from every direction that, as the old saying goes, has a tendency to go in one ear and out the other. With barely a chance for even a ghostly imprint left on the mind. So, my aim in this venture is to make myself stop long enough to notice the one thing that stands out from the rest. The one line that expands my mind, thrills me, makes me LOL, causes me to listen with my heart a moment before moving on with the day. Letting the rest peacefully go by.

On that note, here is today's post Five on Friday. It includes this week's quotes and a glimpse of Spring in photos that caught my eye on Pixabay.

Feb 14th
Monday - On Humility
True humility is not thinking less of yourself;
it is thinking of yourself less.
Attributed not to C.S. LEWIS, but to RICK WARREN

Feb 15th
Tuesday - On Writing
You're always building a habitation in your prose,
A place from which you speak to the reader . . .
who are you? That's a question every piece needs to answer.
VERLYN KLINKENBORG, Several short sentences on writing

Feb 16th
Wednesday - On Life
Our life is a short opportunity
to say yes to God's love.

Feb 17th
Thursday - On Choices
Kindness is in our power
even when fondness is not.

Feb 18th
Friday - On Writing
Don't dream of getting published—
dream of writing a beautiful book,
whose existence is helpful,
for its compassion, truth, humor.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.


1. Top photo by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
2. Photo by Mabel Amber from Pixabay
3. Photo by Olga Oginskaya from Pixabay
4. Photo by Pasja1000 from Pixabay
5. Photo by Congerdesign from Pixabay
6. Photo by 165105 from Pixabay


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Books, Reading, and Turning 65 — Part 2

" Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one
at the end of a long day makes the day happier. "

I thought it would be a simple post, but the more I worked on it, the longer it got. Too long for a single blog post, it's now split into two. You are about to read Part 2, and if you missed Part 1, you'll find it HERE.

At various stages of my life, I sort my books. It's never an easy undertaking. The decision of what to keep, what to give away usually comes with a lot of back and forth. Then I read Marie Kondo who suggested bidding farewell to whatever you want to give away 'in a way that respects what it has meant to (you or) someone in your family'. I found that advice helpful. To give away a book I no longer need does not negate its value. I'm not throwing it out—it just means I'm ready to pass it on. To make way for something new. It helps me to imagine people eagerly waiting for books I will drop off at the thrift store. They will become the caretaker of those good books. I know how I love being on the receiving end of someone else's clearing out. 

I mentioned yesterday that I've been giving thought to my 'why' for books and reading at this stage. In yesterday's POST, I shared three of seven points; today I share the last four. I hope you enjoy. 

* * *

Four. I read for courage

" Don't wish me happiness
I don't expect to be happy all the time . . .
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all. "

Oh yes, I need courage. Courage to carry on with one's work when it feels like the world is falling apart. Courage to keep searching for the beauty in art and music, books and nature. Courage to stay gentle in the midst of hatred and brokenness. Even courage to get out of bed some dreary mornings. I'm glad that I can gather courage from the pages of a book. Sometimes it's in the Book of Psalms or a volume of poetry; other times it's in a novel where the protagonist demonstrates the plucky courage I find myself needing.
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
I love this little conversation found in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It reminds me that each era in history has had to face its own deep troubles. Like Frodo, I wish the horrid stuff wouldn't happen in my lifetime. But it happens no matter what I wish. I'm glad Tolkien wrote that simple conversation—it grounds me every time I read it. I'm reminded to keep my heart centered on what's important, no matter what's going on around me.
* * *

Five. I read to fill in the gaps

" What I always liked about Socrates
was his insistence on questioning things for
the sake of reaching some sort of clarity—even
if it is only clarity about the gaps in our knowledge. "

These days I read to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the world around me. I've been reading books on historical events, some that have happened in my own lifetime, such as the Vietnam War, when I was too young to understand. It's exhilarating to come across information where I can say to myself, 'So that's what that was all about, now that makes sense'. There's a certain satisfaction in adding another piece of life's puzzle into place.

I've been reading books I missed while growing up, wonderful books like The Yearling and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I love to read biographies and memoirs by interesting women, such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Amy Tan, and Sarah Clarkson. And I'm reading more widely and deeply the works by or about well known (or not so well known to me) people who have excelled in their various fields, dipping into the lengthy lists of Nobel Prize winners and the many literary award winners like the Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize, and General Governor's literary awards. All to widen my understanding of what's been going on in the world around me when I was too busy living my own life.

* * *

Six. I read to become a better writer

" Read. Everything you can get your hands on.
Read until words become your friends.
Then when you need to find one, they will jump into
your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them.
And you can select whichever you like, just like a
captain choosing a stickball team. "

Read, read, read is the chief advice authors give to writers, and it's advice I cheerfully embrace. No matter what I read these days, I keep a pencil handy as I'm invariably making notes in the margins, underlining and starring passages. Although I enjoy a story for its own sake, now I take note of how an author's account puts me in touch with my own similar memories, emotions, and observances of life. And when she says it in a way that makes me breathless at its beauty, my heart yearns to also write that way.

I love how reading triggers fresh ideas about what to write. Austin Kleon, author of books like Steal Like An ArtistKeep GoingShare Your Work, confesses regularly to his readers that many of his creative ideas comes from his voracious reading. Creativity begets creativity. We need the creativity of others to trigger our own new thoughts and ideas. Books lend themselves to that end beautifully.

In my previous post, I made the comment that I write to pay it forward because I owe so much to authors and their books that have shed light into my own dark places. And since I began working on this post, I am once again reminded—rather clearly—that it's my turn to share what I've learned over the years, providing light to new generations coming up behind. That's the job of writers. To pay it forward. So many of life's little secrets, wisdom, and advice came through authors setting their gleanings down in books. I do feel the weight of that as I write today.

* * *

Seven. I read to meet new heroes

" I think a hero is really any person intent on
making this a better world for all people."

I don't think we ever get too old for heroes. When we were children, we needed heroes with capes to emulate. When we were young women with families and careers, we needed role models to show us how to develop life skills. And now as I approach this senior phase, I still need heroes. Those people who show us what aging with grace looks like.

They are the travelers who have gone ahead and left signposts for living a beautiful life. People like Maya Angelou, Whistler's Mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, and Mother Teresa, to name a handful. I also think of Penelope Lively, a British author who wrote a memoir of her journey towards her ninth decade. Called Ammonites & Leaping Fish, A Life in Time, she said it was her 'view from old age'.

* * * 

A world without books hardly bears thinking about. It's such an amazing gift to be able to read. Without the written word, where would we be? Where would we be? Author Elizabeth von Arnim once said, 'What a blessing it is to love books". I couldn't agree more, and I am glad they will accompany me into my old age.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

1. Top photo by Alina Vilch from Pexels
2. Photo by Hannelies from Pixabay
3. Photo by Congerdesign from Pixabay
4. Photo by Voltamax from Pixabay
5. Photo from Pixabay, photographer unknown

Friday, February 11, 2022

Books, Reading, and Turning 65 — Part 1

" I've always thought that a good book should be either
the entry point inward, to learn about yourself, or
a door outward, to open you up to new worlds. "

In a few weeks, I'll be celebrating my 65th birthday, the start of life's season the world calls 'being a senior'. My mind boggles to think I've arrived at this stage. I ponder my mortality, not in a morbid way, and recognize the value of putting one's house in order, as the saying goes. It's time once again to sort my worldly goods—releasing what no longer meets my needs and deciding what will accompany me into the future.

Which brings me to books, specifically my books, and the reason for this post. I've been thinking about what role reading will take in this older phase I'm entering. It’s not a question of whether I will continue to read or not. Oh no, books will always be my treasured companions. But I ask myself—are there shifts in my reading patterns? do I still read for the same reasons? what do I want from my books now?

As I worked on this post, seven thoughts emerged about my 'why' of reading at this stage of life. What was meant to be a simple post suddenly grew too long. So, it's now divided into two posts—this is the first, the second will go up tomorrow. If the topic interests you, pull up a chair and fill your favourite mug. I hope you enjoy!

* * *

One. I read for pleasure

" Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in
the world a door opens to allow in more light. "

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. As a child, I used to sit captivated on my mother’s lap as she read tales from the Little Golden series or the toddler version of Bible stories, my favourite one being, so I'm told, of the little lad who gave Jesus his five fish and two loaves. In my heart, I'm still that girl who loved reading about flying carpets, far away places, and fairy tale endings. A good mystery never fails to thrill, and I love a novel that makes my imagination and senses zing! in the beautiful unveiling of a great story.

Books are my purest joy and probably the most treasured of all my worldly goods. They have been my window to the world and a mirror to my soul. As I entered the various stages of my life—when I left childhood and became an adult, when I got married at 41, when I went through the change of life, and now as I enter my senior years—sorting through my books has been an integral part of moving forward. At each phase, I found books on my shelf I felt ready to part with, grateful for their presence when I needed them. Always holding onto the volumes that still give pleasure and continue to inspire me to live with beauty and grace.

* * *

Two. I no longer read to find the secrets of life

" Books taught me things—how
to be a decent person—things
I'm still leaning on to this day. "

There came a day as I neared my 60s when I realized I no longer needed to seek out the secrets to a happy, productive life. It’s not that I stopped paying attention to sage advice—that would be unwise—but I realized I didn't grasp at them like lifelines as I once did. You'll recognize the old joke when I say, 'I was born in the night, but it wasn't last night'. Yes, by now, I've been around the block a few times; I'm a lot older and I hope a lot wiser.

At this stage, there is delight in reading books in which authors discuss their own life's journeys. I smile when I recognize myself in their shared insights and observations. There's that 'me too' connection. And I love when they get hold of something, perfectly saying what I could never quite articulate. There comes a sense of satisfaction, not with smugness, but a joyfulness in realizing, at this stage, I am a mature woman, schooled in life's ways. I now feel able to pass along some of this hard-earned 'elder' advice.

I didn't realize until not that long ago, no matter what kinds of books I read through the years, there was a part of me—a silent observer—that was ever on the lookout for the secrets, hints and wise counsel that could help me navigate my own life. Even though I’d ofttimes race through exciting novels to find out how it all turned out, invariably I’d find lines and passages that stopped me in my tracks. Whether the characters spoke, or the narrators made astute observations, I’d know in my heart those words needed to be carefully tucked away… I might need them one day. I have leaned on this wisdom left behind by these fellow life travelers... and I continue to lean on it to this day.

* * *

Three. I read to know I'm not alone

" We read to
know we're not alone. "
WILLIAM NICHOLSON, from Shadowlands film

It’s a line made famous by writers through the decades, and as familiar as it feels, it’s still true. It really is consoling to know my own experiences are part of the wider picture of what’s termed 'the common human experience'. If I'm going through it, someone out there is also going through it. How encouraging then to pick up a book and find the author describing my own concerns. When there is no one to share it with, or it's too private to talk about, books become my companion, my counsellor, my friend. Suddenly I'm not alone.

I am so grateful for the books that came into my life at the right time. Looking back, I still remember the first time when I had the thought to ask God to bring me to the right books when I needed them. It was in a bookstore, staring at all the books, and wondering what to choose. I wanted something that would speak to the moment. It became a whispered prayer of my heart as I scanned bookstores and library shelves wondering what to reading next. How often I’d bring home my new book, open it, and read exactly what I needed at that juncture. My heart would be so happy. Reading someone else’s story might not change anything about my own present situation but it truly helps to know someone else has been there and has taken the time to write about it. So I didn't have to feel alone. (That's really why I write, to pay it forward, because I owe so much to books and their authors who have made me feel like I belong.) 

In these days of global turmoil and unrest, it really is a blessing to know we aren’t alone.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow morning.

* * *

Wishing you good books, beauty, and heart's ease,

1. Top photo by Kim van Vuuren from Pexels
2. Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
3. Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels
4. Photo by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay