2018: My Year in Books

red chamber

My favourite book of 2018: The Red Chamber by Pauline Chen

I read 148 books in 2018. Phew! Lots of children’s books. I think my daughter is right when she says I am going through a second childhood. Hurrah! It’s part of the healing process. Especially in the absence of any actual therapy (cheers, NHS). Jesus made a point of the importance of being childlike so I figure I can’t be too far wrong.

It’s worth adding that as well as these, I read the bible: a chapter of the Old Testament every day and a chapter of the New Testament every day. When I get to the end of either, I begin again. Also, when I get to the end of The Practice of the Presence of God, I start again. I’m clearly a poor apprentice in this area as I need to immediately begin again as soon as I have finished, which means I have read the book more times than I can count, but I’m not stopping any time soon. The Practice of the Presence of God, written 400 years ago, is about living life with God always on your mind and in your heart – basically a practical guide to living out the Gospel, from an ordinary person’s perspective.

I’m currently enjoying reading Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Confusion, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, Lucia Capacchione’s Recovery of Your Inner Child and Margaret Walker’s Jubilee. I’m also listening to a series of lectures entitled The Story of Human Language by Professor John McWhorter, which are absolutely fascinating. I’ve long had a penchant for linguistics and McWhorter is an excellent teacher for the layperson.

The Great Courses lectures are a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to broaden their horizons with talks from academics. I have previously listened to The Science of Mindfulness by Prof. Ronald D. Siegel, An Economic History of the World Since 1400 by Prof. Donald J. Harreld, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Prof. Jason M. Satterfield and about half of America and the New Global Economy by Prof. Timothy Taylor.

Drumroll, please. Here are all the books I read in 2018, courtesy of Goodreads:

CF – Books aimed at children under 14

NF – Non-fiction

F – Fiction aimed at 14+

Titles with links are my favourites of 2018 (new-to-me) books.

Joan Aiken – A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories, CF

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, CF

Black Hearts in Battersea, CF

Night Birds on Nantucket, CF

Louisa May Alcott – Rose in Bloom, F

Eight Cousins, CF

Good Wives, F

Little Women, F

Elaine Aron – The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, NF

Jane Austen – Persuasion, F

Pride and Prejudice, F

Northanger Abbey, F

Lauren Bates – Distraction Addiction, NF

Mary Beard – Pompeii, NF

Katie Berry – 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House, NF

Enid Blyton – Five on a Treasure Island, CF

Five Run Away Together, CF

The Amelia Jane Collection, CF

Hollow Tree House, CF

Five Go Off in a Caravan, CF

The Folk of the Faraway Tree, CF

The Valley of Adventure, CF

Mary Elizabeth Braddon – The Christmas Hirelings, CF

Jo Brand – The More You Ignore Me, F

Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre, F

Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights, F

Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden, CF

A Little Princess, CF

Little Lord Fauntleroy, CF

Jessie Burton – The Miniaturist, F

Nora Carroll – The Color of Water in July, F

Father Gary Caster – The Little Way of Lent, NF

Jung Chang – Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, NF

Pauline A. Chen – The Red Chamber, F

Agatha Christie – Murder in Mesopotamia, F

Toby Clements – Kingdom Come, F

Clara Cannucciari – Clara’s Kitchen, NF

Susan Coolidge – What Katy Did, CF

What Katy Did at School, CF

Jill Cooper – How to Get Organized, NF

Penny-Pinching Mama, NF

Patricia Cornwell – Post Mortem, F

Richmal Crompton – William the Pirate, F

William’s Happy Days, F

Just William, F

William Again, F

Carolyn L. Dean – Bed, Breakfast and Bones, F

E.M. Delafield – Diary of a Provincial Lady, F

The Provincial Lady Goes Further, F

The Provincial Lady in Wartime, F

The Provincial Lady in America, F

The Provincial Lady in Russia, F

Monica Dickens – One Pair of Hands, NF

Berlie Doherty – Abela, CF

Arthur Conan Doyle – A Study in Scarlet, F

The Sign of Four, F

Andrew Eade – Coldwater Fishkeeping, NF

Edith Eger – The Choice, NF

Grace Foakes – Four Meals for Fourpence, NF

Neil Gaiman – The Sleeper and the Spindle, F

Coraline, CF

Norse Mythology, F

Lisa Gardner – Catch Me, F

Fear Nothing, F

Right Behind You, F

Look For Me, F

Elizabeth Gaskell – Ruth, F

Wives and Daughters, F

Cranford, F

Lewis Haas – The Basics of a Healthy Vegan Lifestyle, NF

James Herriot – All Creatures Great and Small, F

Let Sleeping Vets Lie, F

Elizabeth Jane Howard – The Light Years, F

Marking Time, F

Laila Ibrahim – Mustard Seed, F

Eowyn Ivey – The Snow Child, F

David Jackson – Don’t Make a Sound, F

Kevin Jackson – Mayflower: The Voyage from Hell, NF

Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Divine Love, NF

Judith Kerr – When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, CF

The Other Way Round, CF

A Small Person Far Away, F

Jeff Kinney – Cabin Fever, CF

Choderlos de Laclos – Les Liaisons Dangereuses, F

Brother Lawrence – The Practice of the Presence of God, NF

Ursula K. Le Guin – A Wizard of Earthsea, F

Bonnie Leon – To Love Anew, F

C.S. Lewis – The Horse and His Boy, CF

The Silver Chair, CF

Patricia MacLachlan – The Sarah Plain and Tall Collection, CF

More Perfect than the Moon, CF

Katie Davis Majors – Daring to Hope, NF

Imogen Matthews – The Hidden Village, F

Anne McCaffrey – Dragonsong, F

Thomas Meehan – Annie, CF

A.A. Milne – The House at Pooh Corner, CF

L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables, CF

D.L. Moody – A Life for Christ, NF

Jill Murphy – The Worst Witch, CF

Rebecca Musser – The Witness Wore Red, NF

Nujeen Mustafa – The Girl from Aleppo, NF

Kristin Neff – Self-Compassion Step by Step, NF

E. Nesbit – The Phoenix and the Carpet, CF

The Magic City, CF

Five Children and It, CF

The Railway Children, CF

Trevor Noah – Born a Crime, NF

Amanda Prowse – My Husband’s Wife, F

The Art of Hiding, F

Weina Dai Randel – The Moon in the Palace, F

Ruth Rendell – Simisola, F

Richard Rohr – Preparing for Christmas, NF

Letting Go, NF

Jennifer Roy – Yellow Star, F

Simon Schama – A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? 3500BC-AD1603, NF

William L. Shirer – The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, NF

Jim Smith – My Dad is a Loser, CF

Ruth Soukup – 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero, NF

John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men, F

Noel Streatfeild – Ballet Shoes, CF

David Suchet – Questions of Faith, NF

Sun Tzu – The Art of War, NF

Amy Tan – The Joy Luck Club, F

The Bonesetter’s Daughter, F

The Kitchen God’s Wife, F

Ann Tatlock – A Room of My Own, F

Cynthia Voigt – Homecoming, F

Ann Voskamp – One Thousand Gifts Devotional, NF

One Thousand Gifts, NF

Susanna de Vries – Great Pioneer Women of the Outback, NF

Sabra Waldfogel – Sister of Mine, F

Paul Washer – Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church, NF

Lauren Weisberger – The Devil Wears Prada, F

Tara Westover – Educated, NF

Oscar Wilde – Lady Windermere’s Fan, F

Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House in the Big Woods, CF

Little House on the Prairie, CF

On the Banks of Plum Creek, CF

By the Shores of Silver Lake, CF

The Long Winter, CF

Little Town on the Prairie, CF

These Happy Golden Years, CF

The First Four Years, CF

Jacqueline Wilson – Hetty Feather, CF

Wave Me Goodbye, CF

John Wyndham – The Chrysalids, F

The Day of the Triffids, F

Pam Young – Sidetracked Home Executives, NF

 

 

Give a Child a Future

schoolbook

There are quite a few blog posts floating around my head at the moment, but I have been too busy and/or too tired to actually write them. This is just a quick post to provide a link to the ONE campaign’s petition calling for education for refugees, the following is from an email I received earlier today:

Every child deserves an education. But right now, well over 3 million refugee children aren’t just away from their homes, they’re out of school.

The impact of this is devastating, with children often forced to work and, in some cases, having to agree to child marriages in order to survive.

These children have already lost their homes. They shouldn’t lose their futures, too.

This September, our leaders will be meeting in New York to discuss the global refugee crisis – they need to put education at the heart of that conversation. Sign the petition and let’s help these children get the future they deserve.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for signing.

A Half Unearthly Radiance

She found Anne standing motionless before a picture hanging on the wall between the two windows, with her eyes astar with dreams. The white and green light strained through apple trees and clustering vines outside fell over the rapt little figure with a half unearthly radiance.

“Anne, whatever are you thinking of?” demanded Marilla sharply…

“That,” she said, pointing to the picture… entitled ‘Christ Blessing Little Children’, “and I was just imagining I was one of them, that I was the little girl in the blue dress, standing off by herself in the corner as if she didn’t belong to anybody, like me. She looks lonely and sad, don’t you think? I guess she hadn’t any father or mother of her own, but she wanted to be blessed too, so she just crept shyly up on the outside of the crowd hoping nobody would notice her, except Him. I’m sure I know just how she felt. Her heart must have beat and her hands must have got cold, like mine did when I asked you if I could stay. She was afraid He mightn’t notice her, but it’s likely He did, don’t you think? I’ve been trying to imagine it all out, her edging a little nearer all the time until she was quite close to Him, and then He would look at her and put His hand on her hair and, oh, such a thrill of joy as would run over her! But I wish the artist hadn’t painted Him so sorrowful looking. All His pictures are like that, if you’ve noticed. But I don’t believe He could really have looked so sad, or the children would have been afraid of Him.”

~ from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

~ extract from Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Conversations with Chip: Zombies, Spaceships and Doing the Conga

“I had a funny dream last night, Mummy,” Chip said as we made our way to school.

“Oh yes?” I replied.

“Yes. I dreamed that giant zombies came and destroyed Sir William Walters School!”

“Oh dear!” I said and, knowing the way my daughter’s mind works, added, “Was it a nightmare?”

“Not really. I dreamt that I got married to Duncan… Ugh!” She paused, clearly momentarily stunned by the revoltingness of the notion.

“So the giant zombies came and destroyed the school and you got married to Duncan…?”

“Yes. Ugh!” She shuddered again. “But it was ok because we had magic rings and we used our wedding rings to kill the zombies and restore the school! Hooray!”

We smiled at each other. “Well that sounds like it could have been a bad dream but wasn’t in the end.” I said.

“No, it wasn’t a bad dream in the end.” She smiled.

“I had a funny dream too, last night.” I said. “I dreamt I went in a spaceship to Beijing. It was great!”

“Beijing? In China?”

“Yes. But it wasn’t really… and the night before I dreamt I was in a Catholic church lining up to get communion and we were all doing the conga.”

Chip laughed. “Doing the conga?”

“Yes! And in the dream it didn’t seem weird at all. It just seemed like we were all happy and loving God.”

“Well, then, I suppose if it was real God wouldn’t mind as long as everyone was happy.”

“No, Chip, I don’t suppose He would.”

******

N.B. I take no responsibility for the state of my head, or that of my child. We both know our minds work a teensy bit differently from the norm but, hey! That’s how God made us. For any and all comments or complaints please consult the Manufacturer. We’re happy enough; we have the Manufacturer’s Guarantee 😉

Summer, Age 12

We waved off our middle child today,

All pink and rosy and full

Of bounce.

Or, not so much bounce, what with carrying a backpack

Cram-jammed full for a week of fun

In the sun and the dirt and the green.

And in

A week we’ll pick her up again,

Sunburned, dirt-scarred,

Still, no doubt, rosy

And smiling.

Seven nights under canvas,

Seven days filled end-to-end

And top to bottom

With climbing trees,

Building rafts and making friends.

This is the stuff lifetimes are made of

In the height of summer,

Aged 12.

Just a poem I wrote after Fluff went off to camp this morning. It’s not a great poem, but it has within it what I wanted to say and it’s a start on the road back to writing 🙂

Roots

[Jesus said] “…a farmer went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds… fell on rocky ground, where they didn’t have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away.”

Matthew 13:3,5,6 (WEB)

As a parent, the most important thing I can give my child is roots. This is my God-given role. These roots consist of several things:

  • a loving, stable home
  • treating each child as an individual with unique, God-given talents**
  • encouragement and opportunity to make the most of their talents**
  • an experience of what it means to love both within and without our family
  • an experience of what it means to forgive and be forgiven
  • compassion for those who suffer, whether close at hand or far away
  • knowledge of the Word of God – a peg board on which to hang the ‘keys’ of all the above, providing each key with context, so that as the child grows they have ready-made tools, learned gently and softly through the years.

**As you’ll know if you’ve been reading for any length of time, we have a young man with special needs in our family. He may not ever live independently. He may never get a job. Even if he doesn’t, he is a Hand-crafted human being and has his own gifts and qualities that are worth celebrating. Jesus made sure He always esteemed the vulnerable. We should too.

Can you add any more to the list of ‘roots’? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You’re Little for a Little While

 

The end of the summer term brings numerous school traditions. This morning was, once again, Prize Day at Chip’s primary school, and I was invited once more to the ceremony. As they read out the title of the award, followed by the names of the children, I reflected on whether my little Chip would be likely to win any particular one. I didn’t think she’d win ‘Exemplary Behaviour’ like her sister the year before. She’s a little too – er – bouncy for that, by which I mean she occasionally forgets to be considerate in her eagerness. I joked with her beforehand that she ought to win ‘Most Like Tigger’. She just grinned.

The teacher continued to announce the various awards and when it came to ‘Most Improved in Confidence’ I nearly snorted. Chip was definitely not going to be eligible for that one. Any more confidence and she’d be dangerous. Like I say, our very own little Tigger. So which award do you think she won? You might have an inkling. It was ‘Most Enthusiastic Learner’. Bless her, the teacher said that she approaches everything, even the subjects she doesn’t like so much, with enthusiasm and endless curiosity. I was proud.

Next week I’ve been invited to Fluff’s school where she also has won a prize. It’s good to know, as a parent, that you must be doing something right if your offspring continually achieve well. It’s good to know that, despite all the horribleness and ugliness and darkness that we’ve been through as a family, we’ve not only come through, but come through strong. Even this past year, while it has been the best year of my life so far (hallelujah!), has not been easy. EMDR was nothing if not gruelling and it had an impact on the whole family, not just me. My biggest lesson from EMDR, perhaps surprisingly, has been to learn that being a good mother is good enough. I don’t have to be the perfect parent to somehow make up for the past.

So I shall spend this lovely summer’s day enjoying being a Very Proud Mother, and giving thanks to the God of all things good.

The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.

Matt 18:4,5 (GNT)

Being a Good Mother

One of my biggest ‘issues’ which I have been addressing through EMDR is the sometimes crippling anxiety over being ‘a good mother’. There are many things that have led to this fear of being a bad mother, which I won’t go into now. I imagine that for those who have been abused, or have come from a dysfunctional family, the guilt and worry about not passing on the dysfunction can grow to huge proportions, and may end up having the opposite effect of the one we so desperately desire.

300px-Johannes_(Jan)_Vermeer_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary_-_Google_Art_Project

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer

‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…

Luke 10:41, 42 (WEB)

Listening this morning to Luke chapter 10, I heard Jesus’ words to Martha in a new light. Martha was not married, and wasn’t looking after children, nevertheless it is often the female way to want to get the nurturing right, and this is what Martha was trying to do. She knew how important Jesus was, but she was trying too hard. Her words to her guest speak of frustration, of worry that she’s not good enough, or that what she has to give isn’t good enough. She even blames her sister for her own worries (in what might nowadays be called passive-aggressive behaviour).

Jesus sees past the blame of my sister’s not good enough and past the worry of I’ll never be good enough and instead gives Martha words that have been repeated through the centuries:

‘…Martha received [Jesus] into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.”

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (WEB)

Do you have Martha moments? I do. Thanks to EMDR God has allowed me some perspective on where any blame really lies. He has also given me forgiveness and love instead of the harsh criticism of my own head. Jesus’ words to Martha tell us that blame has no place in His Kingdom. All that is required is to focus on Him. As He said elsewhere:

“…seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33

This is grace.

‘Mummy, Sometimes I Feel Like Killing Myself’

Frank is away this week in London on business. It’s been a surreal time. I miss him terribly. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart, but I’m making the most of the time with just me and the children. Also, it has proved the EMDR is working because I am no longer panicking and paranoid when I’m alone in the house. I am coping. Yay!

Anyway, yesterday evening, Fluff was at gymnastics. Chip had lost this privilege earlier in the week through bad behaviour so at 6 o’clock she and I were eating soup with Prince, all nice and calm, like.

“Mummy,” Prince said matter-of-factly while munching toast, “sometimes I feel like I want to kill myself.”

If your child said this to you at the dinner table, how would you react? 

I took it in my stride… we are used to brutal honesty in this house, and we are used to a young man who often says things that are completely unexpected, especially at the dinner table for some reason! He may have autism and learning disabilities, but he’s a very deep thinker (can’t think where he gets that from, can you?). So, despite the seemingly terrible tea time conversation-starter in front of his 9-year-old sister, I asked dear Prince what made him say that. I wasn’t shocked or horrified or… anything, really. I just wanted to understand what he was thinking and why.

“Because sometimes,” Prince replied, “the world just seems like such a horrible place full of horrible things and I don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Bless his beautiful black-and-white thinking. He doesn’t have the social skills to recognise why saying exactly what you think might be socially unacceptable. e.g. when we were in the supermarket and he said, horrified (and within earshot), “Mummy, why does that lady stink?!”

So we had a conversation about a world full of sin and sorrow, and a caring, loving God whose heart was breaking seeing all the misery. We talked about how He sent His Son, who willingly gave Himself to be killed in the most horrible way, to experience for Himself the very worst suffering, so that the bridge between us and God could be mended. Eventually I promised to get him a notebook so that he can write down all of his feelings and show them to his counsellor, whom he sees monthly. Then the conversation took a slightly different turn.

“I’m not sure I want to be a Christian, Mummy.” He said, “I don’t want to be like you and Daddy. It’s too hard. I just want to be able to pray sometimes.”

We talked about love and what happens when God is your friend and constant companion. We talked about how love is the only thing to make a difference in the world, how love is the only thing worth living for, and how God is love. These conversations are always challenging, because Prince’s vocabulary is limited and his comprehension is very literal. I have to keep my language very simple and straightforward, and this is quite difficult!

I thanked God for the opportunity to talk to my son about Jesus on his terms. Church and Sunday School are pitched way over Prince’s head, so he’s never going to learn from there, even if he does recognise that church people are generally kind and friendly to one another. We’ve had some conversations around the dinner table, but that one was a corker.

What about you? Have you ever had stunning questions from your offspring? How have you dealt with it?

Hurrah for Horrible Histories!

I’ve had a little girl off school this past week with a nasty tummy bug. For the last few days, to keep her active little brain occupied, Chip has been watching videos on DVD and youtube (with supervision, I hasten to add). One of the gems of British children’s television has to be Horrible Histories (I confess it is not just a source of knowledge for kids), and one of the best bits of Horrible Histories has to be the Kings and Queens of England song. Chip and I are still learning the words but perhaps you’ll do better: