What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January, February

It’s so fun to look back over these reads and to share them with you here. There are some good ones!

JANUARY
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
Now that we spend a good bit of time in the North Carolina Mountains, Tim and I are a bit obsessed with hiking the Appalachian Trail. Although let me be clear. I will never do this. But listening to this classic travel book on audio was almost as good–(mostly because we kept rejoicing in the fact we were not pitching a tent in a blizzard, etc.). It was a little slow at times but all in all an interesting read/listen.

The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish
I bought this in hardback for one reason: the cover is gorgeous. The premise is also intriguing: the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect in two centuries, one an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city in the 1660s, and an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history in the 21st century in a race to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe. The novel is smart, beautifully written and complex. Read this when you want to dive in deep.

Unlikely Success: How a Guy Without a Clue Built One Hell of a Business, by Marvin Chernoff
Unlikely Success is an engaging, enlightening, and thoroughly entertaining collection of recollections that let us follow Marvin Chernoff from his days playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn to winning the Shell Oil corporate advertising account away from the Madison Avenue “big boys” for his ad agency in Columbia, South Carolina. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir from Marvin Chernoff, a legend in our community and our industry, a wild, creative spirit who founded a respected ad agency that rose to fame during my own formative years (in the same city and business). I never knew Marvin personally and it is something I regret; I am grateful to have this glimpse into his mind and his world. A fun read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
I LOVE THIS BOOK. Me and Reese Witherspoon, we both do. She’s optioned it for a movie; I’m just telling everybody I know to read it. The publisher says: Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

FEBRUARY (It was a great reading month!)
The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry

I mentioned in the last post I’ve read two books recently that made their ways to my Faves of All Times list. The first was The Snow Child. This is the second. The publisher says: An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love. Heroine Cora Seaborne is a fantastic character, and Perry’s writing is elegant, smart, delicious. Love, love, love.

The Good House, by Ann Leary
I heard about this book via one of my favorite podcasts, What Should I Read Next, and it did not disappoint. Hildy Goode is a longtime resident of an idyllic town in Maine, selling real estate and generally keeping her eye on all the town’s goings-on. She also hides a significant drinking problem. The story is funny, sad, and poignant as Hildy literally hits bottom hiding out in her basement. As Anne mentioned on the podcast, I folded so much laundry just so I could listen for a few more minutes. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church, by Winn Collier
Winn Collier is a Presbyterian minister who also happens to be one of my favorite writers, so when I saw that he had written a new book, I couldn’t wait to get it in my hands. It did not disappoint. Epistolary fiction, the short volume spans seven years of the ministry of Jonas McAnn and his congregation at Granby Presbyterian. The publisher says: Jonas’s letters ruminate on everything from fly-fishing to the Nicene Creed. They reveal the earthy spirituality woven into the joys and sorrows of the people of Granby, the community of the church, and Jonas’s own unfolding story.Readers will discover what it means for a pastor and a church to do the slow work of ministry in community—anchored by a common place and buoyed by a life of faith that is meaningful, rooted, and true. It is a quiet, beautiful, deeply thoughtful book and I could not underline enough. A gift for your spirit.

Currently in my TBR and library reserve stack (I am jacked!):
The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
White Houses, by Amy Bloom
A Snow Garden and Other Stories, by Rachel Joyce
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little* financial reward (*in 12 months it amounted to less than $9.00) for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post (obviously) but it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader. 

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Day 21: The Time After

I woke up this December 26th thinking about the aftermath: the piles of boxes and torn wrapping paper, the dirty dishes, the no-holes-barred-celebratory calories quite literally encircling my waist.

Even my heart felt heavy, the realization coming fast: Today my girl heads back home, to Atlanta.

It’s come and gone too soon, I thought. All those weeks of planning and preparation, and now Christmas has gone too soon.

Then I remembered these words from writer and minister Winn Collier, who put it like this:

Good news to all who woke a bit blue this morning. Christmastide is here! Christmas is a season, not a day. Advent asked us for many days of watching and waiting. Now Christmas asks us for 12 days of joy. Party on. Take time and eat well. Enjoy the ones you love. See good movies. Take walks. Give the kids a little extra space. Pray for peace and goodwill the world over. Save a little gift for a surprise later. In all, thank God for all the joy.

 

 

Light has come.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

 

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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FRIDAY LOVE 1.8.16

a little roundup of things that inspired me this week

1. A Love Letter to Winter: Adam Gopnik’s Ardent Case for the Cold Season’s Splendor and Significance  I love everything about this Brain Pickings’ peak into Gopnik’s winter writings, including the gorgeous Isabelle Arsenault illustration that accompanies the post.

2a. Valerie’s Home Cooking   You know Valerie Bertinelli, right? One Day At A Time? Hot in Cleveland? Eddie Van Halen??? Well now Valerie has a show on The Food Network and my DVR is set. She’s charming, funny and I love her recipes.

2b. Like this one. Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts. Easy. Healthy. Good. Yum.

 

image: The Food Network

image: The Food Network

3. A Life of Gladness and Responsibility   This post from favorite writer Winn Collier has made a place for itself in my heart. I so appreciate the sentiment, and the writing–well, just look at those sentences. A beautiful read for all of us, particularly those who somehow feel out of step in a world that asks so much.

4. A series of fun little Fat Winter Birds I painted for our church’s holiday Joy Market.

cardinal-painting

I had so much fun doing them I’m thinking of opening my own Etsy store this year. (In fact, it’s on my 2016 Life List.) How fun is that ?

Sending wishes for a very happy weekend filled with things you love! XXOO

 

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Watching for the Light of Advent

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I’d like to make you a promise.  If you watch for the Light of Advent, it will come to you in unexpected and beautiful ways.

It’s a practice I started three years ago at the prompting of the rather fabulous Winn Collier, a pastor whose writings fill my heart throughout the year. He wrote this:

Oh, yes.

 

I’m sharing my journey via Instagram (@thedailygrace), Facebook (TheDailyGraceBlog) and Twitter (@thedailygrace). I hope you’ll join me. Just tag your images #lightofadventDG so we can find each other.

Blessings to you as we walk through this holy season together.

XXOO,
Cathy

 

Word for the Year (v.4)

http://instagram.com/thedailygraceIt came to me easy this time, so obvious a choice my reaction was resist. It was still December, after all, and entirely too soon for the thing to appear. Still there it was.

Listen the word said. Listen.

THAT’S JUST WHAT I WILL DO! I thought.  I’ll wait, and watch, and in due time–typically a week or two after the new year has begun; once panic has fully set in–in due time, my word will drift in and alight, knowing eventually I will take note and grab hold. It’s happened three times before, you see, the January arrival of My Word for the Year, my guiding star as I move through the next 12 months of my life.

Listen is what it said.

~~~~~

This word business is not the sort of thing you can force, that I have learned. You can’t pick it out of a hat, or select it just because you like the sound of it, or adopt someone else’s–not if you want your word to do its work in your life. You can’t choose it at all, if you wanna know the truth, because somehow, in some mysterious way–if you pay attention–your word will find you.

~~~~~~~

And so I waited as words came and words went. And then this morning I awoke with it both in my head and on my heart, unmistakable in its insistence.

Listen, it said.

Listen.






Past Words:

2014:  Word for the Year (v.3)

2013: Word for the year (v.2)

2012: Word for the Year (v.1)

*A continued thank you to Winn Collier for introducing the concept of a Word for the Year to me via his marvelous blog four years ago.

Day 17: Christmastide

IMG_1753 - Version 2
chez coles

Is this a new thought for you, as it is for me?

Good news to all who woke a bit blue this morning. Christmastide is here! Christmas is a season, not a day. Advent asked us for many days of watching and waiting. Now Christmas asks us for 12 days of joy. Party on. Take time and eat well. Enjoy the ones you love. See good movies. Take walks. Give the kids a little extra space. Pray for peace and goodwill the world over. Save a little gift for a surprise later. In all, thank God for all the joy.

How grateful I am to Winn Collier for this generous offering on Facebook. How happy I am to have 14 more days of joy here on The Daily Grace!

 

 

30 Days of Joy

 

 

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Day 10: Keeping Watch

You’ve probably heard me speak of this before, the change that came over me once I “met” Winn Collier via Rick Stillwell via Twitter three years ago. In one of his many fabulous posts, Winn suggested we watch for the light during the dark days of Advent.

For me it has become a spiritual practice, one that both calms and opens my heart during this joyful, hectic, (sometimes) overwhelming time of year.

The promise is there. Let’s keep watch.

on Bickley's Pond
on Bickley’s Pond

 

I invite you to join me as we make our way through these last 10 days of Advent. If you are so inclined, join the gathering on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #WatchingforLightTDG.

 

30 Days of Joy

 

 

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Word for the Year (v.3)

It’s a practice I began three years ago, this notion of a Word for the Year. I am a wanderer, you see, a bloom-to-bloom grazer well served by any semblance of a centering focus. So when writer Winn Collier introduced the concept of a Word for the Year via his mighty blog, I jumped on the bandwagon, beginning my watch for a 2012 word. In due course it arrived, settled in, and I stood back in awe as the universe rearranged, intent on delivering just what my new word promised, just what I needed in my life at that time and in the 11 months that were to follow.

Last January, it happened again, this grand arrival of a 2013 word, a word that brought focus to my days and months and year.

(So you can see why this Word business is very serious to me.)

Late last month, my radar up, a potential 2014 word appeared in my life. It stood tall and strong, a word so insistent it hardly required considering. It was just suddenly there, unmoving, a deal done. But then the strangest thing happened. Another word floated in, lighter than air, and landed right on its shoulder. This new word sparkled a bit (catching my eye), then lifted off with such ease and nonchalance I found my heart lighter, my spirits lifted.

The next day, there it was again, this word, floating around the edges of my consciousness. It hung there a while, happy and complete, so unself-conscious in itself I found myself a bit mesmerized. It winked, then I watched as the big bold already-in-residence word dissolved before my very eyes, replaced by light and joy and the magnificence of my I Now Declare It word for 2014:

ha!
ha!
ha!
ha!
ha!

My Word for 2014: laugh

(I think it’s going to be a very good year!)

12.1 Looking for the Light of Advent

Rick Stilwell was a kind, good and generous soul who touched countless lives—including mine—through his vast digital networks. He died unexpectedly last January, and his passing left an un-fillable space in the social media landscape populated by so many of us in the communications industry.

Two years ago I happened to click onto Twitter just after @rickcaffeinated posted this.

Rather randomly, I clicked on the link, which brought me (for the first time) to Winn Collier’s (life-changing) blog and his suggestion to look for the light of Advent, documenting it through daily photo posts on Instagram and Twitter. It was an exercise that totally changed the Advent season for me, opening my heart to the miraculous as the light revealed itself in beautiful and unexpected ways.

I plan to mark this Advent season by once again looking for the light and, this time, sharing my discoveries here each day. I invite you to join me on this most beautiful and soulful of journeys. If you are so inclined, use the hashtag on Instagram and/or Twitter so we can find each other. I’d love to share some of your photos here in the days to come.

#lookingforlightTDG

Keep watch.

12.1 #lookingforlightTDG

The light is coming.

I can already feel it in my heart. The light is coming.

the forest and the trees

We’ve been doing a good bit of stomping around in the woods lately, Tim and I. Perhaps it is because I come from mountain stock that I find my soul nourished there. Or maybe it is the thrill of the surprise. In the forest, there is always something beautiful to discover.

Take this last weekend, for instance. We were back in the mountains of Western North Carolina—following Clemson on Thursday night, then Greenville for a little Tupelo Honey brunch on Friday, then Charlotte for the bucket list Eagles concert with our oh-so-fun friends the Rojeks and the Ormes.

As if that were not enough(!), we got up early on Saturday and headed back to Bearwallow Mountain. This is what our trek looked like from the outside:

Not bad.
Not bad at all.

 

We went on in. I love the sound of those leaves crunching beneath my feet, the smell of November in the air. I looked up. I looked around. I looked down. That’s when I saw this:

 

 

It was just lying there, a dead branch among all those fallen leaves. But when I bent over for a closer look, I was astounded by the colors and textures and miracle of it all.

 

 

I mean, can you really believe this is not piece of sculpture or an art installation or a feature at a gallery opening? It’s just an old dead branch, lying there on a carpet of dead leaves in the middle of this forest.

 

I mean, really.

As one of my favorite writers, Winn Collier, reminded me this morning:

There is wonder everywhere.