Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Giving you my Best

According to traffic statistics, my top ten posts of 2008 were:

  1. Free Giveaway: Corduroy and Caps for Sale
  2. Happier Children Through Sensory Play
  3. One Stop Planning
  4. Simple Exercise Plan
  5. Online Shopping
  6. Toys Worth Buying
  7. Diaper and Panty Storage
  8. Cast of Characters
  9. Learning to Learn to Read
  10. A Day in Our Life

Not surprisingly, this list is comprised of one giveaway and nine "Works for Me Wednesday Posts." A link from a larger blog sure increases traffic, doesn't it?

There are some very good posts in that list -- Happier Children Through Sensory Play -- might be my favorite post ever (if only for the title), but here are a few more that deserve a second look:

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Books of 2008

I set a reasonable goal of 26 books in 2008, or a new book every other week. In reality I read more like 40 books, but do not have an exact tally since I have returned most of them to the library. I probably skimmed or read parts of another 50 or so books.

The best of 2008 includes one novel and five works of non-fiction; this ratio roughly approximates my reading as a whole.

  1. First Circle by Alexander Solzhinitsin (fiction, although based on true events)
  2. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  3. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  4. All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
  5. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley
  6. One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Foundby Kathy Harrison

If I were a good blogger, I would review each of these books in detail. I am not, so take it on my word that each of these five is worth a read. Be forewarned, however, that the final selection is a tearjerker that may make you go out and become a foster parent.

In case this list leads you to believe that I only read serious books, I also read books like
Dean Koontz' Sole Survivor (which drew me in, but had a very lame ending) and 1862 by Robert Conroy (which is offers an intriguing but implausible hypothetical history of British involvement in the US Civil War). I also read my first Jodi Picoult book -- My Sister's Keeper -- which was very good, but not as amazing as I had been led to expect. Unlike many books (Sole Survivor for example), the ending was excellent. The problem was the incomplete character development and utter sappiness. On the other hand, I was unexpectedly impressed with my first Janet Evanovich book -- One for the Money. It was entertaining and did not take itself too seriously.

Anyone have suggestions for what I should read in 2009?

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Couldn't Write, and Didn't Feel Like it Anyway

When we last spoke, I was signing off of the computer to write some Christmas cards.

It took me awhile, okay?

No, honestly, for the first time in my adult life, I actually got all of the cards designed, printed, signed and mailed by the second week of Advent.

But then my computer stopped working. Doesn't load up. Gone completely kaput. I have torn the house apart, but I cannot find the system disks to reinstall windows. Of course this is not surprising given that I have had not needed them once in the seven years I've owned the machine, and we have moved twice in the interim. No computer (obviously) means no blogging, no email, no online newspaper reading, and no catching up on friends' stories.

I have had intermittent access to my husband's work laptop, but haven't posted.

That is because I didn't know what to say.

How do you catch up on a month's worth of updates, especially when that month is December?

Especially when it has been such a tough December.

It all started when mr warillever's cousin had a freak accident and died suddenly. No warning, nothing. Gone. I'll put this one on my list of questions for Jesus if I ever get to does such a good person, a father of four, just go -- poof -- without any discernible reason?

While we were out of town for the funeral, an ice storm hit our region. We (along with 500,00 other families in the state) were left without power. Living without lights, computer, and television was refreshing, but without heat in single digit temperatures? Not so nice. Fortunately we have a woodstove and town water -- others (including my sister) were without water for the duration of the outage. Our power was restored in just under three days, just as the temperatures started rising above freezing. My sisters and mr warillever's brother were in the dark for nearly a week.

Then the woman I teach religious education with died. This death wasn't quite as sudden -- she was diagnosed with cancer three years ago -- but it was no less tragic. I was just getting to know her, and am in infinite awe with her unshakable faith in Jesus. Of course this leaves me with yet another question for God -- why would You take a mother away from a 5-year-old boy? Such a faithful, strong, person. Gone.

I have yet to process the grief that two of mr warillever's siblings have been experiencing this Christmas; his sister E's friend died after a long battle with cancer a few days ago and his brother 7's friend fell suddenly ill and has been in a medically-induced coma ever since. [She has died since I drafted this post.]

The long and short of it is that I just haven't felt like writing. I am a naturally positive person, and to be in a funk as Christmas approached was, well, depressing.

Fortunately, the joy of Christmas is infectious. The miracle of our Savior's birth managed to eclipse all of the temporal worries. And the kids, in their holiday excitement, kept me going. We kept up with our Advent reading (more on that later), made pomanders, braided salt dough candy canes, and baked batches and batches of cookies. We baked a birthday cake for Jesus, sang Christmas carols, and watched classics like The Grinch and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

There have been some other light moments -- Teresa was born, I got back in touch with two people I hadn't heard from in years, and brought the kids to visit some of my aunts and uncles. I also joined Facebook, chatted with an old friend, and played endless games of Connect4 with my daughter.

And I'm writing again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I'll be back with y'all soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Blogging Break

As if you hadn't already noticed.

I've got lots of stories to share with y'all, but the family calendar and Christmas letter beckon.

Didn't I promise myself that this would be done before Thanksgiving this year?

Didn't I promise the exact same thing last year?

If I have your address (say if I got a package from you this morning), expect a photo-missive in a few weeks. Or maybe in a few months.... we never did finish writing Christmas cards last year....