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What I Was Up to this Month-December

January 3, 2014


December is always a crazy month, so the Monday after Thanksgiving, I redeemed the gift card to a fabulous spa I had received for my birthday.  I had a little extra money to the same place I wasn’t using, so I coerced Curtis to join me.  We had a wonderful lunch together, sitting and talking about the upcoming month and just enjoying each other’s company.  Curtis enjoyed it so much, he thought maybe we should plan something similar every year, right before December busy-ness kicked in.  I enjoyed my real pedicure (first one since my four year was born, probably), massage, and time to sit outside, enjoying the mild December and reading.


We managed to fit in a visit to the Trail of Lights for the first time ever with our kids.  Although we were up too late and could barely walk by the time we left (the kids, not the adults), we enjoyed it–especially John.  It was definitely a magical experience for him and I loved holding his hand, walking through the light displays with him and experiencing his awe.


It was our year to travel this year, so we redeemed all of our credit card points and loaded our family of five onto an airplane, which eventually took us to my family in a valley of Virginia.  There was no snow for us, but the weather wasn’t too miserably cold for these Texans either.   We spent a week at my parents, looking out of the sunroom at the mountains, playing with their puppy, talking to each other, playing lots of games, and of course, eating.  Walks were taken, indoors and out and not enough sleep for anyone in my family occurred.  I visited with my 89 year old grandmother and my 98 year old grandmother, and many, many cousins, aunts, and uncles.  My children were sad to leave, but as often is the case, we are all really, really enjoying being home.  It was a warm-hearted, love-filled, challenging trip.


Way back in the middle of December, before we left I made lists of the books I read and the places I ate.  I have managed to uncover my list, buried beneath receipts and Christmas cards on my desk. (Smile).


I loved some of the books I read this month, absolutely loved.

Fidelity by Wendell Berry.  Way back in the summer, I read Berry’s Jayber Crow.  Fidelity is five short stories set in the same town, Port Arthur, as Jayber Crow.  The most thought-provoking story was the namesake–Fidelity.  Berry addressed head on the business of dying–prolonging life that doesn’t need to be prolonged, in particular.  How do we deal with end of life?  Why is it so hard for us to let people die?  When is it appropriate and inappropriate to treat those who have lived long and full lives?  I loved this book and have thought about it a lot since I have finished it.


Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey.  I loved Bessey’s blog, but was still nervous to read her book.  What if I didn’t like it?  Would I be able to read her blog again?  I needn’t have worried.  While the title may make you think of the rigid, judgmental, stereotypical feminist, the feminist Bessey talks about is not the definition we think of in popular culture.  Bessey discusses Jesus’s love for women, the importance of women in the church, and roles in a marriage.    I liked this description of marriage:

We [Bessey and her husband, Brian] believe Scripture teaches mutual submission in marriage. , and so we strive for our marriage to be a reflection of the original God-created order–we endeavor to make our marriage a restoration of oneness, of equality, of two lives in the concert of playing second fiddle to one another; we are allies and restored image bearers slow dancing here beside the rocks in the light of the moon, affirming the truth that every marriage is as unique as the image bearers within the covenant.

I loved Bessey’s gentleness in her writing.  She didn’t necessarily say anything new or thought provoking for me.  Instead, her book was like a warm hug or a soft, oversized sweater.  I’ve meant to write a blog post about this book, but it just didn’t happen this month.  I guess it means I’ll need to read her book again.  I can handle that.  (smile, again).

Fault of Our Stars by John Green.  My intention was to buy this book on amazon and read it on my iPad during the plane ride to Virginia.  This plan failed miserably.  I finished the book before I even left Austin.  I loved this book as well and it seemed a good match to Berry’s Fidelity.  I did complain to Curtis that the crying (as in my crying) started a bit too early in the book for my liking, but I still loved it.  This book is young adult fiction and is about teenagers with terminal cancer.  Before it sounds too much like a downer, it is also laced with humor and again deals with our mortality and how we deal with end of life care.  Fabulous book.

Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  When I finished this book, I thought, “What’s the big deal?  Why does everyone love this book?”  Interestingly enough, as I had space away from the book, I liked it more and more.  The book was a hard read–reading about the horrors of war, in this case the effect of WWII on regular, non-Jewish German citizens, was heartbreaking.  I sat in a great room at the spa while I read, facing the window as I cried, hoping to go unnoticed.  (By the way, if a book can make me cry, which isn’t that hard, I generally like it).

Bellman and Black by Dianne Setterfield.  I’m starting to see a pattern in my books this month.  With the exception of Jesus Feminist, most of my books had death as a central theme.  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it.  I was thankful it was a library book and not one I bought.  I did struggle a bit to see some of the connections Setterfield attempted to make, it didn’t entirely feel believable.  I probably need to reread it again, slower, to get the most out of it.  However, I probably won’t.

Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro.  This was my Advent reading this year and I loved it, so much I may even read it again next year!  If you are looking for an Advent book, may I suggest this one.  I loved her ideas of longing, waiting, and living in community with others.


I have no idea how I ate at so many places this month.  Some I loved, some I didn’t.

Haymaker:  I anticipated this restaurant for so long, and then, I was disappointed.  I had thought I would finally have real poutine (a classic Montreal–where Curtis went to college–dish).  I did, but it was overly salty.  The salt of the fries plus the salt of the gravy was just too much.  However, now Curtis and I are on a poutine mission and I am excited about that!


Royer’s Pie Haven:  Madeleine ran in a district cross country run one Saturday–a mile for her.  Afterwards, we celebrated her accomplishment (running a mile!!) by getting pie at Royer’s Pie Haven.  Mmm….I want to try some different pies–I didn’t love my crust.  We tried three kinds–my favorite was the junk berry followed by a Sweet and Salty (which was more like a cookie/brownie in a pie crust than anything).  This is a fun little place in the the old Toy Joy building just North of campus.

Crown and Anchor and Gloria’s:  I went these places more for the company than the food.  I am always disappointed by Gloria’s–I love Salvadoran food, but their’s is always a bit bland and meh.  Crown and Anchor was good bar food, just not what I was in the mood for.

Bella Luna in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Every Christmas in Virginia, the eight first cousins and their significant others who are around go out for dinner. This year we went to a new wood-fired pizza restaurant.  We all really enjoyed it.  It was good food made out of good ingredients.


Other than watching Love, Actually (which I love), we didn’t do much in the line of movies or TV.  We went to Christmas parties and read books instead.  However, on the airplane to VA, I started to listening to Krista Tippett’s (via NPR) On Being podcasts, thanks to Curtis’s suggestion.  Between both directions of travel, I listened to 3  3/4 podcasts.  The entry podcast?  Brene Brown speaking on the Courage to Be Vulnerable.  I also listened to Walter Brueggemann on The Prophetic Imagination, Vincent Harding, Speech (from the music group Arrested Development), and Phyllis Tickle, and The Indigo Girls on Music and Finding God, in Church and Smoky Bars.  There are many blog posts in those podcasts.

I am linking up with Hopeful Leigh’s What I’m Into Again this month.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2014 8:34 am

    Glad you liked Jesus Feminist. Sarah’s words are like a soft, oversized sweater, aren’t they? Fault in our Stars is definitely hard to put down. I hope the movie will do it justice. Bellman and Black is interesting- I was engaged yet detached while reading it (possibly because Bellman is so detached from everything but work) and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it once I finished. It’s so different from Thirteenth Tale and yet that idea of fairy tales/myths/stories is so prominent.

    • January 4, 2014 3:19 pm

      That summed up my response to Bellman and Black really well. I like Thirteenth Tale so much more. I didn’t know there was a movie coming out for Fault in our Stars. I’m not sure if I can handle seeing that!

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