One of the Best Christmas Gifts I Ever Received

I’ve never been great at answering the question, “what was the best gift you’ve ever received?”

Salvation? My children? Health? …. the list is long. But when pressed this year to come up with something tangible that was actually wrapped in paper, I had to say it was a Hallmark Store book titled, The Night Before Christmas.What’s so special about a story we’ve all heard since birth?

This one records voices.

My friend recorded my kids’ voices reading the famous tale in another room while I was prepping a meal, wrapped the book and gave it to me the same day. My twins were around 10 yrs. old and my youngest around 8 yrs. old at the time.

I was so touched and gushed about what a thoughtful gift it was. I meant it but could not have known how PRECIOUS that book would become in the subsequent years.

My daughters voices matured and of course my son’s voice has changed dramatically. Every year that I pull the book out and open each page, tears stream down my face. I close my eyes to picture those little voices running through the house at Christmas…over a decade has gone by since that gift was given to me.

If you regularly follow my blog, you’ll recall my posts about the wedding I attended in Scotland this past summer. The bride’s mama was my precious friend of 20 years who lost her cancer battle three years ago. Her departure at the too-young age of 49 makes me clutch that voice-recorded Christmas book even tighter to my chest, knowing that she gave me that gift that was so much more of a gift that I realized at the time.

The first few years, I think the book was nicely placed on top of some other decorations in a regular Christmas box, packed away until the next year. A couple years ago, I began wrapping that book so carefully…storing it as if it were gold. It is gold to me.

As I contemplate gifts for others in years to come, I’ll search out books that also record voices. It is a treasure for parents and if the book remains in tact as time passes, grown-up kids will certainly get a kick out of letting their children hear them when they were young.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

One of the statements I kept on my Mama Duck About Me page for a long time was that I’m a non-fiction reader. Every now and then, I pick up a fiction novel but in the past, it was usually to preview a story before my kids read it.

After church service one morning about six months ago, my friend handed me the book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Before I realized what I was taking from her hands she said, “You have to read it.”

I immediately handed it back to her, laughing that if I want fiction, I’ll watch TV. I had no time to read with my new job, etc. etc. I politely held it in front of her.

She insisted I would love it and would not accept it back.

I sighed, brought it home and placed it on my living room side table where it sat for two months.

One evening, I eyed it next to me, wondering if I could bear reading “fiction” about C. S. Lewis’ beloved wife. I knew their love story and like many, I’m a big fan of Lewis’ writings.

I read the first chapter sitting on the couch next to my family who were immersed in some mindless TV program. They started laughing at their show. I grunted, wishing them quiet as I turned to chapter two.

By chapter three, I marked my page, closed the book and carried it into my bedroom where I read until I fell asleep.

I finished the book in record time, and stuck multiple post-its on countless pages, as if I were indeed reading a non-fiction book.

I ordered my own copy off Amazon, marked the same pages with my post-its and began reading it again with a highlighter and pen close by.Outside of the Bible and countless re-reads of books I read to my kids every night while they were growing up, I rarely read anything a second time.

Likely, I was particularly taken with not just Joy Davidman’s compelling life story but what I believe is outstanding writing by Callahan. I read limited fiction so I’m far from an experienced literary critic, but Callahan’s writing captivated me.

The writing was extraordinarily descriptive but not flowery. She didn’t waste time with irrelevant details that many fiction authors do. Callahan ensures you feel Joy Davidman’s bad marriage to Bill Gresham. The reader is burdened by Davidman’s ever-present need for more money…the lack of funds hovering in her mind every day. Callahan conveys Joy’s desperate desire to write but remains confined by the exclusive female duties at the time of cleaning, cooking and child rearing that left little time to pursue her craft.

Of course the book is centered around Davidman’s love story with Clive Staples Lewis which begins with the famous exchanged letters between them across an ocean…the common thread initially being their desire to know the God they deemed non-existent much of their adult lives.

I’ve read the great works of Jane Austin and a host of other outstanding fiction authors. I appreciate the classic fiction writers – it’s more the contemporary fiction writings that disinterest me. Or so I thought. In my limited experience with present-day fiction, I found Becoming Mrs. Lewis to be a worthwhile read. Her spiritual struggles, the endless waiting for Lewis to finally commit to love her completely, the physical limitations as her disease progressed…each of Davidman’s internal conflicts were well-explained by Callahan.

In summary, as I read through the acknowledgements at the end, Callahan thanks Douglas Gresham, Joy’s son, who contributed greatly to Callahan’s research for the book. Being the stepson of C.S. Lewis, Gresham is also the person who brought the Narnia book series to the movies.

Reading Callahan’s thanks to Douglas Gresham, I paused, realizing that much of this “fiction” was no doubt grounded in very real truths about Davidman’s life.

You Know You’re Middle Age When…

Your weight is the same that it has been for 10 years, but suddenly you need the next size up in pants!?

Stuff shifts, people. There are worse things in life for sure, but it’s a bummer.

If you read my previous post, I’m protesting the next size up by exercising. I’m also not spending more money to have a separate closet of bigger pants. I’m fighting the good fight. Well…1/2 way. I’ll exercise as much as possible, but I’m still eating ice cream. There are too few pleasures as we age and I’m not giving up dessert or my chocolate intake :).

It officially takes 3x as much effort for me to maintain —  hoping for a 50-something body to tighten and tone requires far more time than I have this week.

Welcome to Middle-Age!

If Sitting is the New Smoking…

Then I must be up to three packs a day.

Since beginning my new job this past Spring, I have felt terribly restricted.

The amount of time I spend sitting is outrageous.

Driving to work.

Sitting in my office.

Meetings.

Driving home from work…in traffic – delaying me in my seat even longer.

I’m still an online professor, even though I left on-campus teaching to take this new job. The new semester just started. More sitting in front of a computer at home.

I’m tutoring on Saturdays.

More sitting.

When I’m not engaged in any of my formal “work”, I’ve been trying really hard to be moving, doing yoga, walking at the park, running the stairs 5x when it’s raining…you get the idea.

I love to read, blog and write. Lately, those have been set aside in an effort to stay healthy :/.

Despite my best efforts to be active in the off-hours, I’m finding my pants are a bit more snug. I got on the scale.

That will be my next post…

 

 

 

A Wedding. In a Castle. In Scotland🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿.

Well, it was everything you could imagine a fairy tale wedding would include: stunning countryside, a Scottish castle that exceeded our already-high expectations, very moving vows and a bride that her Mama would have been proud of. If you didn’t read the introduction to this destination wedding/vacation with an important person missing, you can HERE.

Yes, the bride decided to marry in a castle in Scotland. Just saying that the last several months was surreal! Thirty-four loved ones attended and there will be a much larger party locally in a couple of weeks to continue the celebration.

The Blairquhan Castle in Maybole, Ayrshire was extraordinary. While Scotland alone boasted over 2,000 castles, many of those which are even visible in 2019 are in ruins or inhabitable. There are however, several that are still spectacular tourist sites and we did visit Edinburgh Castle as well.

But, back to the wedding…everything from the jet-lag being a very real thing (!) to the travel, to a wedding that most brides can only dream of, the event was one that we will talk about for years to come.

We flew into Glasgow, Scotland. Along with celebrating the wedding and staying in a TRULY amazing castle (I will post castle-specific photos soon), we also toured Edinburgh and a bit around some smaller Scottish towns.

After a four days in Scotland, my daughters and I – along with 15 other wedding guests – flew to Ireland where we stayed another five days. I’ll be posting photos of both countries this week and next.

As I’m sure many of you reading can understand, jumping back into the routine after a trip like that was exhaustion like I’ve not known. I also got a flu just before we left, and it promptly reared its ugly head every day that I tried to plow through and stay up too long!

Well, this is certainly one of my more rambling posts and I apologize for that. Work awaits but I’ve missed this blogging community and look forward to catching up this week on what I’ve missed on your sites!

Happy Monday!