Ever since I stumbled upon the “short” format for a blog post, I have been hooked—especially during this busy fall season when blog writing takes a back seat. So here goes. Some recommendations and a reflection.
Earlier this month I finished Nancy Nordenson’s latest book Finding Livelihood A Progress of Work and Leisure. Nancy is a Kalos Press author (Kalos is also the publisher for my forthcoming book), which thrills me because she’s a really good writer. I can only hope to be as good as her someday. I was drawn to reading her book for two reasons. First, I want to support Kalos authors; second, my own book contains a chapter on the workplace. At the end of each chapter, I plan to include “Additional Reading” recommendations for my readers. Nancy’s book seemed like the sort of book I would want to include in this list and I was right.
Nancy’s writing and observations gave voice to some of the thoughts and questions rolling around in my own head. What constitutes good work? What is the difference between vocation and livelihood? Is there a difference? Early in the book Nancy writes, “This book admits that work, even good work for which we are grateful and love, has a shadow side. It is not about disengaging from unsatisfying work or find a new job. Instead, this book is about developing openness to meaning and beholding meaning where you find it. This book is about watching for sign of transcendent reality and participating in that reality, even when work fails to satisfy.” From beautifully crafted sentences, to rich vocabulary (you may want a dictionary nearby), to honestly sharing about the failures and disappointments in her own life, Nancy weaves together a collection of essays that pushes the reader to think about work and leisure in a new light. For the thoughtful reader in your life, this could be the perfect Christmas present.
Last week I finished another piece of nonfiction. Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family is written by Pam Anderson, Maggy Keet and Sharon Damelio. I discovered this book as I was headed out of the library and happened to glance at the “New Release” section. I recognized the name Pam Anderson and perhaps you do as well. She is the author of many cookbooks. Each chapter in the book is told from the perspective of Pam or Maggy or Sharon. I loved how the book conveyed the power of food in our lives. For a writer who is in the process of editing her own chapters on hospitality and ritual, I am reminded yet again of food’s sacred, sacramental quality. Sharing a meal with others is so much more than simply consuming the items on the table. Food becomes a conduit for extending grace, love, and care to others. I also appreciated the honesty with which these women shared about the rough patches in their relationship with each other. Without devolving into a “tell all,” these women share realistically and openly about some of their mother-daughter and sister-sister challenges. An added bonus of this book is the collection of recipes included at the end of each chapter. This book could also be a welcomed Christmas gift for the memoir, food-loving person in your life.
Finally, a reflection. These past two weeks I have been particularly aware of how ordinary life is sometimes. My days have a predictable rhythm to them. I teach my classes, oversee cross country practice in the afternoon, prepare for the next day’s responsibilities, go to bed, and the cycle starts all over again. Perhaps this is what Nancy meant when she wrote, “works has a shadow side.” What does it say about me that I want more? Sometimes I crave excitement and adventure. But real life doesn’t work this way. The lessons must be taught, the papers graded, the bathrooms cleaned. Here’s where an understanding of what it means to be faithful in the ordinary is worked out. Here’s where I learn the difference between happiness and joy. I don’t have this figured out. All I know is that today I made french toast and bacon for breakfast and my heart warmed when my daughter said, “don’t start [the meal] without me.” I went to church and worshipped with fellow believers. I saw friends and laughed. I took the dog for a walk and marveled at the beauty of the fall colors. My spirits lifted. In these very ordinary acts, I experienced something out-of-the-ordinary. Thanks be to God.