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Reading 2012

I had a slow start to the year with my reading but thankfully, by the end of February I finished a book and then kept on reading. It wasn’t until summer that I picked up some momentum and have been enjoying the time I’m making for more steady and consistent reading.

Out of Africa

Simplicity Parenting

Playful Parenting

The Sherlockian

This was a Christmas gift from my mother- and father-in-law. It was a fun read and the ending left me indignant at a choice one of the character’s made. I loved that the author could bring out such a strong reaction in me.

   

Roseanna

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke

The Man on the Balcony

The Laughing Policeman

My mother- and father-in-law both read the Martin Beck series in Ireland a few years ago. After they moved her to Seattle they loaned the books to James and now I have the set of 10 books in the series. The main character of the books is Martin Beck, who is a Swedish police detective. The books are considered classics in crime fiction and what I love about them is their slow, steady pace and tight writing. There is no sensational scenes or amazing discoveries during the investigations. What Jowall and Wahloo have created are stories about the procedural nature of detective work, the plots of the books and the characters tick along and while I reading I have come to care about the main character and his world.

While attaching links to the titles I noticed that the covers on Amazon are not the same as the covers on the ones I’m reading. I’m reading the Harper Perennial editions and love the covers. I managed to track down images of these strikingly simple covers and have included them above. I also like that when the 10 books sit on the shelf, side-by-side and in order, they spell out Martin Beck. Nicely done.

Francesca’s Kitchen

Villa Mirabella

I discovered a new author, Peter Pezzelli, whose books I am enjoying. I like Francesca’s Kitchen the best of the two and both were light feel good summer reads.

A Year in Provence

On Rue Tatin

When summer rolls around I find myself wanting to read travel biographies. This summer I decided to reread two of my favorites, both set in France. One related to Normandy where I lived one summer as a teenager, the other was set in Provence an area I’ve longed to visit.

Full House

Star Sullivan

Last month, while researching whether there were any new books out from some of my favorite authors I spotted that Maeve Binchy wrote two novellas that I hadn’t read. So I ordered them, thrilled that there was still some of her work to enjoy. Tragically, I learned of her death just before my newly ordered books arrived from Europe. I read them feeling sad that one of my favorite authors and fellow country woman was no longer in the world. A new novel will be published post-humously in October and then there will be no more. The sad passing of a lovely lady with a wonderful talent. What I loved the most about her books were her characters. She had an amazing ability to create people who stay with me long after I finish one of her books. They seem like real people, resembling people I knew, or could expect to bump into, in Ireland.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I never read this series and have wanted to read it aloud to my children. I had an opportunity in August to read this out loud as the girls while they were helping my friend Laura by punching out some appliques that will be used for her Glittersweet bags. Even Ethan at 3 years old really enjoyed the book and would ask me afterwards to read to him from “the wardrobe book”. Very sweet.

Simplicity Parenting

I reread this excellent parenting book this summer, which I’d first encountered it at the start of the year. It continues to inspire the efforts I have been making to ensure that our family life is as simple as we can make it, without lots of stuff or activities complicating our home life and lots of down time to enjoy together.

A Visit From the Good Squad

I read this for the September meeting of my bookclub and was disappointed with it. I had the bizarre experience of being drawn into it while I was reading it but in between reading I had to force myself to pick it back up. Each chapter is like a separate story for a character in the book who is somehow connected to the two main characters of Bennie and Sasha. There are also chapters for back story on Bennie and Sasha. Some of the chapters were better than others.

There is a quirky chapter that comprises slides which is the slide journal kept by a young girl about her family. I actually liked that chapter. By nature of the way the book is written (with the chapters varying in both central character and timeline) I expected to have to work a little to piece the sections together and figure out how this person related to the main characters. However it felt very choppy.

The biggest difficulty I had with the book is that I didn’t care about the characters or the world they inhabited. I was interested in them while I was reading but when I put the book down I didn’t care to find out what happened to them. I’ve never had that experience before where I was interested while reading but didn’t care about it between readings. Very strange feeling.

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blue sky

You see that image above? This is not my friend.

It is currently 83F in Seattle and I am hiding out in the library of our ground floor/basement (never know what to call it but I love it because it is full of books and cool-in both senses of the word!).

The forecast for the rest of the week is more of this with temperatures possibly reaching the 90s mid-week.

I find myself working to keep on the good side of grumpy. I’ve been having rain fantasies and living-elsewhere-for-the-summer fantasies (a colder elsewhere, like Ireland).

This afternoon I’m fantasizing about my oven. About how nice it would be to bake bread, or a pie, or roast a chicken and root vegetables.

I’ve made a deal with myself that this winter I’m going to sit on our porch in wool socks and a fleece, with a cup of hot tea or coffee and enjoy the chill and feel very grateful for the rain…and I’m going to do this regularly throughout the winter!!!

For now, I’m going to enjoy half a glass of chilled Riesling (one of the few things I truly enjoy in summer) in my cool library and read some more of the excellent book by Kathleen Flinn that I’ve been whipping through the last couple of days. If I can’t cook in the oven I can at least read about it. Sigh!

The_Kitchen_Counter_Cooking_School_cover

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Driving Over Lemons

For Ashley and Caitlin, today is officially the first day of summer. It is the first Monday morning that they don’t have to get up at their usual time of 7am and then go to school. All the children seem to be embracing this first day of summer. It’s almost 9am and everyone of them is still asleep!

Most surprisingly even Sean, our early morning alarm clock, has jumped aboard (or should I say cuddled up) to the big summer sleep. He is usually awake by around 6am and likes to play quietly in his room until just before 7. Then he tries to wake Ethan by calling out, though it really sounds more like a groan. He doesn’t touch Ethan to wake him, strangely enough. If he is unsuccessful waking Ethan, he then calls out for either James, myself or Ashley until one of us comes to let him out of his room.

So here I am having a slow start to a peaceful summer morning. I’ve seen James off to work. I’ve eaten a leisurely, uninterrupted breakfast and researched some online sites on planting parking strips for some gardening ideas. And now I have some time to write a blog entry. I’m loving our summer already 🙂

Although, unlike the girls, today isn’t the first real day of summer for me. That was Friday. And no, it wasn’t because it was the last day of school. Nor was it the successful unveiling of the final assembly slideshow and the yearbook distribution to the kids. Those are all the hallmarks of the end of the school year but it happened when I settled into bed on Friday night.

Exhausted from all the work with the school photo projects and end of school year activities, I snuggled down to read book nine in the Martin Beck series I’ve been reading on and off for more than a year. As I read the first couple of pages my brain stopped and said “no”. It felt like a winter read. A detective story that for me is best read on dark evenings either by a fire or under a duvet. Not under a sheet and lightweight blanket with the sun still coming through the blinds. That’s when the image above popped into my head. I wanted to read travel literature again and that’s when I knew it was summer.

I returned Martin Beck to my borrowed books shelf and reached for Driving Over Lemons. Ian and Janet gave me this book (nearly a decade ago?) written by Chris Stewart who retired as the original drummer for Genesis before the group became a huge success. This book tells of his adventure buying a remote farm in Andalucia in Spain and relocating there with his wife to live a fairly idyllic life (after all the trials and tribulations of settling in to a new life in a foreign country).

When I finish this lovely little book I have a number of other books of travel writings left over from last summer, when a similar transition hit last October and my brain stopped and said “enough” of summer reading. I love the seasonal cycles and how my mind and body have their own ways of marking the beginnings and ends.

So here’s to a glass of chilled Riesling, relaxing in my sunny well-tended back garden, happy children keeping themselves occupied (well it is my dream after all) while I read about other people’s travels and imagine the possibility of some travels of my own this summer. Cheers!

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Thanks to Joe over at Simply Being Mum I was inspired to focus on reading this summer for myself. I created some bucket lists for the family for the summer and facilitated their summer reading by attending the library every Wednesday for story time and book borrowing. We enjoyed visits to the book shop, I read to the boys endlessly and even read one book out loud to the girls (these days they are more interested in reading their own books in the evening than having James or I read to them). Reading Joe’s summer schedule post at the start of the summer gave me the push I needed to make time for my reading too. It worked!

 

Francesca’s Kitchen

Villa Mirabella

I discovered a new author, Peter Pezzelli, whose books I am enjoying. I like Francesca’s Kitchen the best of the two and both were light feel good summer reads.

 

A Year in Provence

On Rue Tatin

When summer rolls around I find myself wanting to read travel biographies. This summer I decided to reread two of my favorites, both set in France. One related to Normandy where I lived one summer as a teenager, the other was set in Provence an area I’ve longed to visit.

 

Full House

Star Sullivan

Last month, while researching whether there were any new books out from some of my favorite authors I spotted that Maeve Binchy wrote two novellas that I hadn’t read. So I ordered them, thrilled that there was still some of her work to enjoy. Tragically, I learned of her death just before my newly ordered books arrived from Europe. I read them feeling sad that one of my favorite authors and fellow country woman was no longer in the world. A new novel will be published post-humously in October and then there will be no more. The sad passing of a lovely lady with a wonderful talent. What I loved the most about her books were her characters. She had an amazing ability to create people who stay with me long after I finish one of her books. They seem like real people, resembling people I knew, or could expect to bump into, in Ireland.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I never read this series and have wanted to read it aloud to my children. I had an opportunity in August to read this out loud as the girls while they were helping my friend Laura by punching out some appliques that will be used for her Glittersweet bags. Even Ethan at 3 years old really enjoyed the book and would ask me afterwards to read to him from “the wardrobe book”. Very sweet.

Simplicity Parenting

I reread this excellent parenting book this summer. I’d first encountered it at the start of the year. It continues to inspire the efforts I have been making to ensure that our family life is as simple as we can make it, without lots of stuff or activities complicating our home life and lots of down time to enjoy together.

I am now contemplating what I might read for the rest of the year. I’m particularly looking forward to getting back to the Martin Beck series that I started reading earlier this year. I stopped because they weren;t the kind of books I felt like reading over the summer. I have some books on the go at the moment and a nice pile of unreads to choose from. Oh, the excitement of it all. I’m consistently reading again!

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One of our annual traditions that kicks off our summer is to fill out our reading logs for the Seattle Public Library. Once the kids have read ten books (or listened to, or have had someone else read to them) they earn a free book that they choose from a box of new books at the library.

We narrowed down Ethan and Sean’s list to the ten most popular books from the huge amount of books they have had read to them. The program started earlier in June and finishes on August 1st, however we read a lot at our house so I narrowed down the list for the boys by choosing ten favorite books that we’ve been reading over and over for the last few weeks.

Ethan and Sean’s Reading Logs (they are identical):
I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan
I’m Big by Kate and Jim McMullan
I’m Fast by Kate and Jim McMullan
I’m Dirty by Kate and Jim McMullan
The Three Little Pigs by Bernadette Watts
C is for Caboose by Traci Todd and Sara Gillingham
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires
Seven Little Mice Go to School by Haruo Yamashita and Kazuo Iwamura
Seven Little Mice Have Fun on the Ice by Haruo Yamashita and Kazuo Iwamura
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

Ethan and Sean choosing their new books (spot the Glittersweet bag on location!)

Ashley has discovered Rick Riordan. Actually she has known about him for a while but James and I read the Percy Jackson series and decided to have her wait until now to read the books. We have a feel for what books might cause her trouble sleeping and this series fell into that category. However, she is delighted that we have consented now and is rereading and rereading to her heart’s content 🙂

Ashley’s Reading Log
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Diary of a Wimpy Kid:Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Caitlin is currently rereading the ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ books. Both she and Ashley read the series last summer on our 5,000 mile road trip to Colorado and back (they read a lot of books that trip!). She also chose a book for her log by Owen Paul Lewis. Her school brings authors to school to encourage their young authors and she seemed impressed by this one. She also included another book that was read to her in school by her teacher (Hank the Cowdog). I love that books that are read to her still have a strong enough impact to warrant a place on her log. Last on her list, she chose two books from her brothers’ logs that she had read to them. My heart has ripples of warmth as I think of such sibling ‘love through reading’.

Caitlin’s Reading Log
A Series of Unfortunate Events 1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events 2: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events 3: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events 4: The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events 5: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney
Davy’s Dream by Owen Paul Lewis
Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the Raging Rotweiler by John R. Erikson
Seven Little Mice Go to School by Haruo Yamashita and Kazuo Iwamura
Seven Little Mice Have Fun on the Ice by Haruo Yamashita and Kazuo Iwanura

After the library we took our books to the nearby park and enjoyed the sun, which we haven’t seen much of yet this summer!

Ashley was thrilled to choose The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan as her free book. She had borrowed the copy she read and now she has her own. Caitlin chose Storm Runners (my little thrill seeker-I wonder if it was the cover that captured her attention?)

Ethan was so excited that he could have Sheep in a Jeep. We have borrowed this from the library, along with Duck in the Truck by the same author (which paralleled my own feelings a while back). He loves books with vehicles and this has fun rhyming story. As for Sean’s choice, well he was practicing the art of saying no to every book he looked at from the book box. He did however spend a lot of time looking at the smurf book. Given that I loved the smurfs when I was younger and would be happy to read this over and over, I made and executive decision and we chose this one 🙂

Happy summer reading everyone! What are you reading this summer? Any recommendations in case we run out of books???

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“Music is as much about the spaces between the notes as it is about the notes themselves…In parenting, too, it is often in the intervals-the spaces between activities-that relationships are built.”- Kim John Payne

You may have noticed on my Reading 2012 page that I am reading Simplicity parenting by Kim John Payne. This is becoming on of my favorite parenting books. Lately I have been rereading sections that are particularly striking to me. Currently it is the chapter on the importance of rhythm in our parenting.

According to Payne, we can get a sense of how our kids are doing by observing them in the “moments of pause” between activities. However, we read reports and see in our own community that many children have very little pause between activities.

James and I try to limit the number of extracurricular activities or scheduled social get-togethers (those planned playdates). We like to have some flexibility in our schedule to just hang out after school or on the weekends, or to be able to say yes to spontaneous get-togethers with friends.

We try to have lots of down time at home and, sometimes, we hear cries of “I’m bored!” I love to remind the girls that it’s okay to be bored. We once made a Bored List with Caitlin-a list of things she came up with that she could do when feeling bored. It was a long list. Interestingly, I’ve rarely seen her consult it when she’s bored, and the couple of times I have observed her, were shortly after we made the list. I take it as a sign that she is learning to be comfortable with having nothing to do, and/or she has realized that she can figure out ways to occupy herself.

Creating down time at home for children means that we are at home. I spend a lot of time at home! Home is both where I live and where I work. Even when the kids are doing their own thing and savoring their down time, I seem to consistently have something to do around the house. I have realized that although we have created spaces in our children’s lives I need to create more space in my life.

It’s time that I built some spaces between my activities! From time to time at the end of the day, when the children are in bed, I find myself feeling sad that I didn’t get to interact with them more in a way that had nothing to do with the logistics of parenting: hang up your coat, put away your things, wash your hands, did you brush your teeth?  Sometimes I’ll remember the request to play a game or engage in some activity and my response of “not right now” or “in a little bit”. The day is usually over by the time I realize that I never did get around to playing the game or just hanging out with my children.

Yes, there are many responsibilities involved in parenting four children.

Yes, there is only a finite amount of time in each day.

Yes, I am around my children a lot and yes I do read to them and play games with them.

What I’m craving is just hanging out with them: resting on a sofa or floor as they do their thing, reading my own book as they read theirs, or taking a walk without a planned destination at the end.

I have been able to carve out some predictable thinking time in my life. Now I want to create space in my time and attention so that I can hang out with the kids without thinking about what else needs to get done.

Let’s see if I can incorporate a little of this down time for myself with the family each day over the next week.

Wish me luck! Wish me action! I will actively do nothing 🙂

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A little late, but after a week of illness at chez emperorp I’m pleased to finally post this last installment (for now!) on The Art of Loving.

“To have an idea of what patience is one need only watch a child learning to walk. It falls, it falls again, and falls again, and yet it goes on trying, improving until one day it walks without falling. What would the grown-up person achieve if he had the child’s patience and its concentration in the pursuits that are important to him!” – Erich Fromm

For Fromm patience would seem to be inextricably linked to the development of concentration, which is fully in the present, in the here and now, not thinking of the next thing to be done while in the middle of doing something right now. Patience is an absolute necessity for this level of concentration to occur.

When I last wrote about Concentration and the Art of Loving I touched on how our industrial system, and with it the ongoing development of machines and technology, impacts our human values by fostering the belief that quickness is important in daily life: getting something done quickly or getting where we need to go quickly so that we can move on to the next thing in life. Not only does this way of living make it difficult to concentrate fully on present moment, Fromm goes so far as to point out that this mode of living is completely opposite to the fostering of patience, and concentration in life, and in theory, is therefore opposite to the ability to love. We cannot act lovingly toward someone if we cannot concentrate on them in the present moment.

Yikes! So where does that leave us if we wish to master the Art of Loving in our lives. Well, delving into Fromm, it would seem that the ability to truly love in our society is not impossible but complicated to bring to action. It requires understanding the fundamental difference between love and fairness and their place in capitalist society (okay, I promise this is going to be understandable!).

Fromm sees capitalist societies as incompatible with the ability to love. I need to condense this next part in a very simplistic manner. The art of loving requires we develop a loving attitude and engage actively in loving actions in society. If we are to truly love we must bring a loving attitude into our relationship with everybody, not just our family and friends (a core teaching in both Christianity and Buddhism). However, and as Fromm states, “while a great deal of lip service is paid to the religious ideal of love of one’s neighbor, our relations are actually determined, at their best, by the principal of fairness. Fairness meaning not to use fraud or trickery in the exchange of commodities and services and in the exchange of feelings. ‘I give you as much as you give me,’ in material goods as well as in love, is the prevalent ethical maxim in capitalist society.”

The religious ideal of brotherly love is very different from this fairness ethic. To love your neighbor is to feel responsible for and one with your neighbor. The fairness ethic means not to be responsible for the other person, but to be separate. It means to respect the rights of your neighbor but not necessarily to love them. Truly practicing the art of loving requires that we understand the difference between fairness and love.

So, Fromm is convinced that the principle of  love and principle of ‘normal’ life in a capitalist society are incompatible in the abstract sense. He leaves room for hope by pointing out that in practice modern society is a complex phenomenon. He sees capitalism in itself as a complex and constantly changing structure which still permits a good deal of non-conformity and of personal latitude.

While he allows some room for hope he is, perhaps disappointingly for some, very clear that there is no prescription to how to master the art of loving. There are only requirements: discipline, concentration and patience.

Given that I am very interested in how to engage in action that will develop these requirements, I can use some of Fromm’s work as a springboard and look to others who have focused on these areas. Remember, Fromm was writing on this subject in the 1950s and while modern capitalist society still functions on the fairness principal, many people have been actively involved in how to develop the art of loving in the west.

This will be  the direction of some future posts, and will no doubt involve the work of, amongst others,  the Dalai Lama, whose writings and teachings I have studied on and off for the last decade. There is also a lot more to be gained from Fromm’s writing on concentration and where we can look to for role models in society. I also want to pursue the thought that the ability to love requires some level of non-conformity to the capitalist society in which we live. Oooooh, lots of musings ahead!

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