Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Reading and 2013 Plans

The other day I talked about my Bible reading for 2012 and pondered plans for 2013.  Now it's time to talk about all those other books.

I'd set myself a goal of two books per month, one fiction and one non-fiction, not including reading for our homeschool.  That's not a very impressive goal, but even at that I didn't exactly make it.  I read 15 novels but only eight non-fiction books for myself.   But, as always, there is overlap in my worlds.  I picked up 1066: The Year of the Conquest for myself, but ended up handing it over to my fifteen-year-old to read and discuss with me.  So was it a homeschool book or personal reading?   I also read The Monk in the Garden to my kids, but I listened to myself as I read, so I also got the benefit of it.  (What, you've never zoned out reading a book to your kids?)

So, I can't say I did enough reading, with 33 books all told, but it was OK.   I did exceed my goal, so I'm happy about that.

My favorite non-fiction book for the year was The Brother Gardeners; my favorite fiction was either The Invisible Bridge or Jane Eyre.  I could break out categories (contemporary fiction, classics) but that requires too much thinking.

Now for next year.  I found a couple of flaws in setting a specific number of books to read:  I tend to shun very long books, and I tend to read too fast if I feel I am running out of time.  Jane Eyre is a book to savor, but I found myself getting impatient because it was taking me too long to finish.  So, I'm sure I didn't give every chapter the attention it was due. So for next year I'm not setting a goal for a number of books, but rather for time each day to read.  An hour a day of reading of my own sounds good for a start. Actually right now that seems like a lot; an hour goes by so quickly in this house!
 I will be doing even more reading related to homeschooling, but look at what's coming up in the Schoolhouse in 2013:  Beowulf, The Divine Comedy (well, at least Inferno because that's the most interesting and fun of the three), To Kill A Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, and others I would have to look up in my homeschool notebook, which has been nowhere to be found for the past two weeks. I've read all those before, but reading them again is not going to be a burden.  There's another plus for homeschooling teens - all the good books we get to read together.  I learn at least as much as my children do, of course. I know that's a cliche but it's true.

I also want to tackle at least one really big book next year.  For a long time I've wanted to read the unabridged Les Miserables.  I count that as one of my favorite books but it's been many years since I read it, and I didn't even know till two years ago that I'd read a heavily-abridged edition.  So I want to read it again for the first time. By the way, I feel compelled to say that my interest in Les Miserables has nothing to do with the movie. I saw the stage musical years ago and despised it.  I'm not a big fan of musicals anyway, but this book in particular seems ill-suited for that treatment. I know that I'm pretty much alone in that opinion, but there it is. 

My reading list can be found on my 2012 Reading page.  I'll set one up for 2013 when I finish my first book, which will probably be Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers. I don't expect to do any better on keeping my list updated book-by-book or month-by-month than I did last year, but as always I will give it a try.  I had to do a bit of catch-up today to get it done.  I also keep track of my books on Goodreads and am happy to see people over there too.

What did you read in 2012?  What are you doing to read in 2013?  What should I add to my to-read list?  It's already pretty long, but I'm always open to suggestions.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Reading: Bible in a Year

It's the season of looking back. And forward.  I don't make a lot of New Year's resolutions anymore.  In my experience and observation, change doesn't come about because a new year came around on the calendar.  Just look at the parking lot of the local YMCA or other gym in January, and then again at the end of February.  Hey, I can say that, I've been among them! 

But I did set some goals (or made some resolutions) for my reading and will continue to do that. I shouldn't need to set goals, after all, reading is something I enjoy and truly want to do.  (Compare with going to the gym which perhaps I know I should do, but don't want to do.)  But it still helps to have some goals or I tend to get lazy with magazines and websites and pretend that's real reading. 

My big reading goal for 2012 was to read the Bible in its entirety.  I did it!  This is the 2nd time in my life I've managed it.  It's hard.  It's not a lot of reading each day in terms of minutes needed to complete it, but some of it is hard to understand and, I'll just say it, boring.  Some of it even seems weird.  I used The Kingdom Bible Reading Plan that I found at the Desiring God site.  There are plenty of different plans around.  I liked this one because it has daily readings from four different books of the Bible:  Old Testament Law and Psalms, Old Testament Prophets, Old Testaments Writings (such as Job and Proverbs, among others), and New Testament.  Let's face it, a chapter or two a day of Leviticus is going to be easier to manage than four or five. It's also got a built-in "catch-up" feature, with readings scheduled for the first 25 days of the month.  Let's face it again, most people are going to get behind.

I did get behind, often.  Many months found me scrambling to finish on the last day.  I started one or two months already behind.  That  is one of the weaknesses of setting such a reading goal:  There were plenty of chapters I read quickly, even mindlessly, just to get it done and the box checked off.  That is not the way to read anything important! 

So I'm not going to try this again in 2013.  I still plan to read the Bible every day, or most days.  I've started using YouVersion (thanks to Sandy for reminding me of it) which I had always thought was just for mobile devices.  Imagine my surprise when I found that even desktop users can benefit from it. (Yes, I am not mobile yet. It has nothing to do with not wanting - not be be confused with needing - to be mobile, and I'm sure I will be soon.)  I've already signed up for a couple of short Bible reading plans.  I do like having stuff delivered to my inbox, even the Bible. 

A better goal for me this year might be to spend x amount of time reading the Bible via YouVersion plans, personal Bible study,  working with my kids on their Bible curriculum, and joining the study at my church.  I wouldn't mind an online study with discussion either, if I could find one that fit.   I'm thinking of keeping track (via a paper chart?) of my reading, so I can see just how much of the Bible I read in a year without a formal plan to do it.  It would also be interesting to me to see what books I return to again and again, and which I avoid.  I already know a couple. 

I read books other than the Bible, of course.  But it's time to stop typing and do a little reading.  I'll update my general reading goal results and plans later or tomorrow.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Christmas traditions, changing again

Can a tradition change?  If it changes, can it even be a tradition?

Three years ago I wrote about my family's new Christmas-tree-fetching tradition.  Now, we are making a new one.

For most of my life I heaped scorn on the artificial Christmas tree. I grew up with real trees and fake trees were just so, so... fake.  Like my aunt's white tree with the color wheel, circa 1962.   But it didn't matter how many nice, realistic, green trees I saw: they were just not right.

But a few years my kids ago we discovered that our kids are allergic to just about every tree there is.  We wondered about sinus problems in winter.  We took advice and started hosing down the tree to get some of the nastiness out of it before bringing it in the house.  Last year we decided it was enough:  next year, we will have a fake tree.

Just before Thanksgiving my girl and I went out and scouted trees.  After checking out a few stores and online sites, we ended up with a shortish (maybe a little too short), not-too-wide tree.  We set it up to make sure there were no broken branches or burned-out lights, with the intention of taking it back down till after December 1.  Who were we kidding?  Once the tree was up and plugged in, there was no taking it back down for a couple of weeks.  We left it in place, unadorned, till we returned home from our Thanksgiving trip.

Today it is fully decorated and looking gorgeous.  No one is sneezing.  We didn't have to hose it down, or mess with the heavy tree stand.  We don't have to water it.  We don't have to scream at the occasional spider crawling out of it.  (I am not sure that actually ever happened, but it might have.  Or it could, anyway.) We don't have to constantly sweep up needles. 

We are never looking back.  Our new tradition is born.  It's hard to think of a way to make "let's go drag the tree out of the attic" festive, but we'll find the way.

Do you have a real tree, artificial tree, or no tree at all?  Give me a link to your blog post about your traditions.