The year of reading and writing.

"Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book."
~Author Unknown

A few days ago, we sent the DISH box away in the mail and said farewell to cable. Stacy and Clinton will miss me, but for now, it's stacks of books and a pen and paper that will occupy my weekend hours....and quiet evenings at home.

It was a decision we'd been mulling over for awhile. As sorry as it sounds, we love our weeknights watching three consecutive hours of television, wasting away the after-work hours entrenched in American Idol auditions and life with the LOSTies. But this season in our lives calls for simplicity. A few years ago, I started begging God for a simpler life...and I got it. Now what will I do with it?

Already, in the last week, we have reaped the many benefits of a life spent with friends, books that are like friends, our own thoughts, and good conversation. We spent a good two hours just sitting on the couch and talking to each other - imagine. And then another hour looking over old love letter emails we sent four-and-a-half years ago, back when "The Baileys" were just a hopeful idea.

There are things I do miss, like traveling through Europe with Samantha Brown, and my favorite cooking shows. I may not be able to 'ooh and 'ahh with saucer-like eyes at Barefoot Contessa's latest chocolate torte, but I feel pretty certain I've seen enough of her indulgent recipes to last me a good long while. At least until the trees turn colors again.

So, this year. The Year of Reading and Writing, we've named it. It's the year when I finally begin my book, with fresh inspiration from Shauna Niequist's Cold Tangerines. I have my own words to write, stories to share. They will not go unspoken.

And an infinity number of books to read. This morning, I held a steaming cup of tea in one hand while with the other I made a list in my journal of all the books I read in 2008...eleven that I could remember. Some of my favorites being Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (which turned out beautifully once I forced myself over a few difficult hurdles, and now I miss it to pieces...), When The Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd, and Sabbath by Wayne Muller.

This year I am going to at least double that. Twenty-two it is...twenty-two books in which to bury my nose, to explore other worlds and lives, and to use as excuses to stay home with some beef stew and a warm blanket (or in the backyard on the hammock).

My list so far...
In Pursuit of Peace by Joyce Meyer
Slow Is Beautiful: New Visions of Community, Leisure, and Joie de Vivre by Cecile Andrews
Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne
Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
Until He Comes by Calvin Miller
Pilgrim Souls: A Collection of Spiritual Autobiography by Elizabeth Powers and Amy Mandelker
The House on Nauset Marsh by Wyman Richardson
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The Poet and the Pauper by George MacDonald
Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Anne Patchett
Perpetua by Amy Rachel Peterson
...a good book about the history of Israel, any suggestions?
...and just for fun, Savannah by the Sea by Denise Hildreth (who, randomly, was my Sunday School teacher for a stint back in college)

Just now, I glanced across the dim livingroom at my contented husband who is buried nose-deep in Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. As he lifts his head every fifteen minutes or so to chuckle out loud at the stories he is encountering on those pages...I know it's going to be a good year for him, for me, for us.

Meanwhile outside, the Dallas weather has turned frigid and rainy into perfect reading/writing weather. Only two days ago on Saturday, I was wearing shorts and planting pansies in pots on the front porch. Now Monday's icy tree limbs have turned into miniature suspension bridges from Lord of the Rings, pushing me further into my desire to write, read, and write some more.

"The best kind of rain, of course, is a cozy rain. This is the kind the anonymous medieval poet makes me remember, the rain that falls on a day when you'd just as soon stay in bed a little longer, write letters or read a good book by the fire, take early tea with hot scones and jam and look out the streaked window with complacency."
~Susan Allen Toth, England For All Seasons

The Year of Reading and Writing...let's begin. At the end of this, I hope to have an expanded view of this world through other people's stories, and maybe a hundred pages to call my own.