Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Love a Mystery

I LOVE MYSTERIES!!!!!  I've never really liked doing jigsaw puzzles, but I love a good literary puzzle.  I've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, everything by Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Erle Stanley Gardner, and a variety of miscellaneous unknown authors.

I'm sure it began with my favorite childhood series of books about the protagonist, Trixie Belden.  I remember staying up late into the night with a flashlight under the blankets and reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I did not read Nancy Drew books or the Hardy Boys series.  They seemed too corny.  But tomboy Trixie and her rich friend Honey held my attention for book after book.  I even developed a little bit of a crush for Trixie's brother Brian and the orphan, Jim.  Growing up in small town Iowa, their adventures at Crabapple Farm in New England seemed somewhat exotic.

As a high schooler, I took brief breaks from my mysteries and forayed into American literary classics.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Upton Sinclair, John Updike, and Mark Twain were better at holding my attention in those days.  In college, I developed a new literary love, Victorian novels, which displaced mysteries for a long season.  However, once children came into my life, I rekindled my love for detectives and crimes. I could pick up these shorter works of fiction (remember, Victorian novels are loooong!) and read them between diapers, laundry, and meals.  Rocking a baby to sleep took long enough to read 1 or 2 chapters.  While the plots might be complicated, I could usually turn off my "literary analysis" switch that I had carefully developed as an English major.  Who cares about themes, symbols, motifs, or characterization?  What you really want to know is "whodunit."

With the introduction of Neflix to our family, I now have a number of mysteries to watch with just a few clicks of my mouse.  I'm especially fond of solving British crimes. I've probably seen every mystery that Miss Marple, that "goddess in sensible shoes," has solved onscreen.  I have definite opinions about the various women who have played her; as far as I'm concerned, only Joan Hickson "nailed it."  I also have a soft spot for David Suchet as Poirot.  How can you not love that egg-shaped man?

I've found a way to further indulge myself -- I teach mysteries as a part of my high school language arts classes.  This semester we're reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is not a bona fide crime-solving detective novel, but has puzzle to be solved and a secret that needs exposing.  In another class we're reading six Sherlock Holmes stories, a lesser-know Russian short story, and Poe's "Cask of Amontillado."  Finally, in my third class we're reading 39 Steps, a novel of mysterious intrigue rather than a classic detective story, at the end of the semester.  My hopes are that I can pass along this obsession to the next generation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Even Moms Need a Break

Following the Christmas season, I'm usually one toasted lady. Between the Christmas-related food and gifts, I've put in a lot of hours.  I've finished planning and buying all of the gifts for my children, husband, and extended family.  It takes a lot of careful planning to stretch our dollars to cover 7 kids, especially since 2 of them this year are out of the country.  Black Friday, coupon codes, and internet offers help me find the best deals on that perfect gift.  Our early ancestors who were hunters and gatherers have nothing on me.

When planning meals, I mix convenience meals with special "from scratch" foods.  We had frozen pizza one night and hand-made spring rolls another.  I peeled 10 pounds of potatoes for Christmas dinner, but I fixed cheap refrigerator cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

When all of the planning, cooking, baking, buying, coupon-clipping, list-making, and gift-wrapping and -unwapping are done, I'm a tired mamma. Usually I spend the 26th and 27th in a kind of stupor watching movies and reading books.  I refuse to fix any meals or do laundry.  My brain and body take a brief hiatus from any responsibilities related to the "lady of the house."  You aught'ta try it?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions. Too often these resolutions take the form of promises you know you can't keep.

However, at the beginning of every year during the first week of January, I ask the Lord about priorities and changes.  My birthday is January 7, and in my mind that's when the new year begins.  I have a few days before that date to be reflective and think about the months behind me and the months to come.  Any time can be a time for change, but the beginning of the calendar year seems an excellent opportunity to make changes to our schedules and our habits.

Rather than making "resolutions," I prefer to call these fresh focuses "goals" or "priorities."  A resolution has a bit of a business and legal ring to it.  If I officially bind myself to some plan of action, then it's either completed or not completed with not much of a middle ground.  On the other hand, a goal speaks to a process.  For example, if my goal is to finish the race, as long as I stay engaged, I'm headed towards that goal -- regardless of the pace or distance.

I usually have some ideas about goals, etc., but I've learned over the years that it's much better to pray and to take time to hear what God might have in mind.  Maybe it's my age, but I really don't want to spend energy chasing after something that God never intended.

So for me, these next days are for listening .......