Illustrated Faith #Goals kit is Here!

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I have been waiting for this kit for what seems a long time, and now it is available here. Inside each kit are devotional cards, journaling cards, stamps, stickers and a thick roll of washi tape to use for illustrating one’s faith in January. In particular, this month’s theme is goals.

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The kit ships for free in the United States, using the code: IFSHIPSFREE. Also, there is a free set of tabbies included. As soon as it arrives, and I have assembled my booklet (for that is the way I like best to use each kit), I will show you the finished product.

But, it’s so exciting to have a place to document my faith, to document the goals I have for the year. One of which, rather than to take off a few pounds, is to be brave. You can find your word for 2018 here.

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It’s Time To Go Back

Christmas has been put back in the box. Gone are the faerie lights and evergreen boughs, the red ribbons and mercury glass, the candles, the cookies and the creche.

Now there is a small bouquet of fresh white roses in a crystal vase and austerity everywhere I look. It is time to go back to school tomorrow.

I will never have another Christmas Break. I will never go back in the beginning of January to finish a year half done. In May, teaching will go back in the box, never to come out again.

My friends will be sorrowful to be back at work tomorrow. There will be some complainers, who never should have been allowed in a classroom with children in the first place. Others will simply miss their leisurely mornings, sitting with coffee until lunch.  But, I am not one of them.

“I get inspiration from my everyday life.” ~Hayao Miyazake

I am embracing the time I have left. I am going to cherish each child who walks sleepily into the classroom tomorrow having had just a little too much Christmas. We will be eager to see each other, tell stories of the last twelve days, and open our books.

I am ready to resume the routine, anticipating what each new day will bring.

Theft by Finding Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

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That’s the thing with diaries, though. In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it. (p.9)

Reading David Sedaris’ book, Theft by Finding, is making me feel like I live a very mundane life. While I have been afraid of making mistakes, or getting in trouble, or wondering what other people think, he has been doing whatever he wanted.

Things I like about this book:

  • It’s honest and vulnerable.
  • It shows how everyday life can be fascinating.
  • It’s funny.
  • David is only five years older than I am, so I can remember the places and things of which he speaks that aren’t around any longer. Like Ronald Reagan and gas going up to $1.00 a gallon.

Things I don’t like about this book:

  • After awhile it sounds like whining.
  • This man is crazy.  What I thought was an interesting way to live, I’m now considering to be largely haphazard. No wonder he couldn’t pay his phone bills to Ma Bell if he didn’t hold a steady job and took meth all the time.

In summary, who doesn’t love to read someone’s diary? Even if you can’t relate, or end up being disappointed, getting insight into someone else’s mind has always interested me. Keeping a diary has always interested me.

Satantango, a novel by Laszlo Krasznahorkai  “…they trusted the new would not only erase the old but utterly replace it.”

The misfortune of the people is highlighted by the rain which pours unceasingly down on them, through their windows and into their houses where the rats dwell and the mold grows.

Perhaps Irimias will help them as he has promised, taking their money piled up before him on a table; they have given him all they have. All their trust is on him, whom they make out to be their savior.

But, he disappears for awhile, and it seems they have been conned out of their money and out of the hope they carried for the future.

The people drink, and dance, and malign one another as they wait for Irimias to return. The women talk incessantly, or lure the men with their sexuality, and everyone seems debased and foolish and destitute.

“We are born into this stye of a world,” he thought, his mind still pounding, “-like pigs rolling in our own muck, with no idea what all that jostling at the teats amounts to, why we’re engaged in this perpetual hoof-to-mouth combat on the path that leads to the trough, or to our beds at dusk.”

Is it a dream? Is it a governmental trick? Are the people suffering in this flooded village where there is no work a symbol for society in general? Or, are they simply a subset who yearn for the life that once was held in the abandoned manor home they cannot imagine paying to heat?

Eventually everyone was resigned to the sense of helplessness, hoping for miracles, watching the clock with ever greater anxiety, counting the weeks and months until even time lost its importance and they sat around all day in the kitchen, getting a few pennies from here and there that they immediately drank away in the bar.

This could be a small town in Illinois, rather than a village in Hungary.

Irimias, the hoped for leader, imagines a better world.

What I want is to establish a small island for a few people with nothing left to lose, a small island free of exploitation, where people work for, not against, each other, where everyone has plenty and peace and security and can go to sleep at night like a proper human being…

Who doesn’t want that?! I’m reading a book whose plot I can barely follow, which ends up in exactly the same place it began, but one thing is abundantly clear:  Krasznahorkai writes of the bleakest aspects of our lives in a dreamlike and haunting way. Without giving any clear answers as to how we got here, or how we can get away; perhaps bringing the conditions of depravity to light is enough to cause us to come up with our own.

Satantango won the 2013 award for best translated fiction. Read more about the author from New Directions books here.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts for 2018

I’m a girl who grew up in a nondigital world. When we needed to know something we went to the library; we researched information using books. Facts were readily at our disposal without any need for power or hand-held devices.

The children in my class have Chromebooks. They can access Google and YouTube and PebbleGo anytime they want. It is helpful in many ways. But, nothing can compare with holding a book of facts in your hands.

Normally, I am all about reading fiction. When we put together our “Best of 2017” lists, as book bloggers like to do, I had read 3 nonfiction books. Three.

Yet, when The World Almanac and Book of Facts arrived at our door, I could not put it down. I flipped through it even as I walked to my husband asking, “Did you know…?” You cannot believe the amount of interesting and pertinent facts within its cover!

There is a Chronology of Events which covers November 1, 2016 through October 31, 2017 covering national and international add events. (There are even pages with the results of the 2017 presidential election and how each states voted.) The plethora of fascinating facts continues on every page, with topics such as these:

  • Obituaries for famous people who died in 2017
  • Notable Quotes of 2017
  • Economics including the world’s wealthiest individuals, leading businesses and largest companies
  • Employment
  • Crime
  • Military Affairs
  • Health with every subtopic you can imagine from eating disorders to common infectious diseases and basic first aid

Well, I could go on and on and on, but I tell you this is a fabulous resource to have to check on facts, to remember the year(s) gone by, and to consider the future. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

There’s even a section with the year in pictures.

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

1. Seicho Matsumoto: This Japanese writer is well known for his crime novels which also depict Japanese society.

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2. George MacDonald: A man who deeply influenced C. S. Lewis, I had not read any of his short stories before classes led by Dr. Rolland Hein at Wheaton College last winter.

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3. Amos Oz: When I read his book nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, I knew I was reading someone special.

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4. Mathias Enard: Fellow bloggers who love translated literature have long pointed out the merit of Mathias Enard. I first heard of him with his book Zone, but came to love his book nominated for the Man Booker International Prize this spring.

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5. Roy Jacobsen: He wrote one of my favorite books of the year, so evocative of Norway, but also a beautiful novel of family.

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6. Ismail Kadare: Our book club read Chronicles in Stone which was a fabulous novel about Albania, winning the Man Booker International Prize in 2005. The Traitor’s Niche was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2017.

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7. Kanae Minato: This author was brought to my attention from the Japanese Literature Challenge 11, and I devoured both of her fascinating, and disturbing, books.

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8. Mike MacCormack: This Irish writer penned my favorite book of 2017.

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9. Sebastian Barry: From him came my second favorite novel of 2017.

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10. George Saunders: He wrote the novel which won the Man Booker Prize for 2017.

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted here.

All The Books I Read in 2017 (each with a link to buy for free shipping worldwide)

~January~

~February~

~March~

  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (buy it here)
  • The Golden Key by George MacDonald (short story)
  • The Years That Followed by Catherine Dunne (unfinished)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (translated from Swedish by Henning Koch) (buy it here)
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, MBIP 2017 short list) (buy it here)
  • War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (translated from Dutch by David Mckay, MBIP 2017 long list) (buy it here)
  • The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, MBIP 2017 short list) (buy it here)
  • Fish Have No Feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson (translated from Icelandic by Philip Roughton, MBIP 2017 long list) (buy it here)
  • Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak, MBIP 2017 long list) (buy it here)

~April~

~May~

~June~

  • A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (buy it here)
  • Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare (translated from Albanian by David Bellos) (buy it here)
  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (for the JLC11) (buy it here)
  • The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

~July~

~August~ 

  • Penance by Kanae Minato (translated from Japanese by Phillip Gabriel for JLC11 and Women In Translation Month) (buy it here)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Man Booker Prize long list 2017) (buy it here)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Man Booker Prize long list 2017) (buy it here)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (Man Booker Prize long list 2017) (buy it here)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (Man Booker Prize long list 2017) (buy it here)
  • Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders (Man Booker Prize long list 2017) (buy it here)

~September~

  • The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap) (buy it here)
  • Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (buy it here)
  • The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl (buy it here)
  • Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl (buy it here)
  • If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxes (buy it here)

~October~

~November~

~December~

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent, a book I can’t leave 2017 without talking about

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He doesn’t want to hurt me. He loves me more than life itself.  He’s not a perfect person sometimes. Sometimes he’s not the person he wants to be. But he loves me more than anybody else has ever been loved. I think that counts for everything. (p. 254)

Turtle believes this about her father. That he loves her more than anything. Children believe what they want to believe, when everything points to a truth they don’t want to believe.

Everything about you, kibble, is perfect. Every detail. You are the platonic ideal of yourself. Your every blemish, every scratch, is inimitable elaboration on your beauty and your wildness. You look like a naiad. You look like a girl raised by wolves. You know that? (p. 268)

In the same way that A Little Life made me gasp and cringe and read compulsively onward, My Absolute Darling carries a similar effect. It is gorgeous and sorrowful and courageous all at the same time, and unlike any other book I’ve read this year.

No, she thinks. No, it cannot be that at the end of it all, I am like you. That cannot be. Those parts of you I turn from, I will turn from forever and I will not at the end of it find that I am like you. She makes a wedge of her hands, fits it between her thighs, sits clenching them. (p. 267)

When her father leaves quite suddenly, for weeks and weeks, Turtle catches up with her friend, Jacob. He is a boy whose normalcy throws her off guard, and strengthens her during her father’s absence. Yet even their friendship is fraught with danger. She has taken severe beatings from her father for even wanting to  befriend Martin; she has almost died with Jacob when they were caught unaware by a tide and stranded, wounded, on an island.

Jacob does not understand the severity, or the complexity, of Turtle’s relationship with her father. He does not have any idea about the fragility and desperation of her life: loving her father, and slowly dying because of his violence, at the same time.

We long for Turtle to find the strength to live independently. We know how brave she is, despite her terror and confusion. But, we don’t know who will emerge victorious in this terribly dysfunctional relationship.

How can I say that such a horrifying book is one of the best I’ve read in 2017? Because it speaks of courage and strength and an indomitable spirit in the face of terrible circumstances. Because it skitters around the edges of a life I once shared with my first husband, an unpredictable and sometimes frightening man, who was also someone I loved.

My Year in Reading; The Best of The Best

What makes a book one of the best of the year? How it stays with me. How it makes me think. The extent to which I can relate to what the author is saying as truth; the extent to which the characters live and breathe.

I have read books for the Man Booker International Prize, The Man Booker Prize, German Lit Month, Spanish Lit Month, Women in Translation Month and my own Japanese Literature Challenge 11. Therefore, some of these books might be obscure to you. But, all of them are worthy.

Here are the ten books of 2017 which stood out most prominently in my mind, which will stick with me far past this year and into the next:

 

1. A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto (“A master crime writer…Seicho Matsumoto’s thrillers dissect Japanese society.” -The New York Times Book Review; special thanks to Dorian at Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau who sent it to me last year.)

2. Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias 

3. The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017)

4. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (by the British author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, this is a mesmerizing, unforgettable book)

5. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, won the Goldsmiths Prize 2017, named Irish Book of the Year 2016)

6. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry 

7. Autumn by Ali Smith (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017)

8. Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn 

9. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (a Times book of the year, a Guardian book of the year)

10. Fish Have No Feet by Jon Kalman Steffansson (longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017)

A list of all the books I’ve read this year, and the challenges in which I’ve participated, will be forthcoming.

The link to each book above takes you to Bookwitty, a source which delivers books with free shipping worldwide. 
 

One Word

My favorite choices for a pertinent, life changing word of the year seem to come in groups of three:

  • Don’t look back.
  • Don’t question yourself.
  • Draw some boundaries.

Or, these seven:

  • You are not responsible for everyone’s happiness.

So choosing one word is a little tricky for me.

I did it once, though. Our principal had us write our word on a Post-It note and stick it up on the bulletin board for the year. It didn’t have our names, so we didn’t feel too vulnerable, and I loved looking at what people chose:

Love

Friendship

Father

It seems we want to focus on relationships when we choose a word to focus on for the year. But, being the introvert I am, relationships do not come first to my mind.

No, I’d rather focus on getting the detritus out of my life. My thoughts. My spirit.

I chose the word trust, all those years ago, to put on the bulletin board in the lounge. It didn’t help very much. Perhaps I did something wrong, like not focusing on it adequately enough. Perhaps it was not the right word for me. Or, perhaps the effectiveness is not necessarily a magic spell as much as an opportunity to think about change.

Whatever the case may be, I’m busy thinking about my word this year. A word that will help me, and help me help those around me. Hope? Fearlessness? Acceptance? Something as mundane as Confidence?

Remember – your one word is intended to be your guide, not your harsh standard. It’s not about doing more, but about being who you were created to be. ~Alece Ronzino on One Word 365 

Do you have one word you’re going to focus on for 2018? You can leave it for us in the comments. You can also leave it at One Word 365 and see what others have chosen. I can see mine slowly forming as I remember that it is supposed to reflect who we were created to be…

(Another place to find your word is to take the quiz here.)