Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Year in Review

Last week I embarked on the monumental journey of reading through this year's journals. I got the idea from an online group in which one of the women told of the great benefits of reading her entries, and I decided to follow her lead.

I began with volume 41 which had as its starting date the 11th of December of 2004. For those of you who are keeping score, that would be the 41st volume since the year 2000. I began numbering them at that point because of another journaling buddy who said she's been counting hers for years. Someday I hope to go back to the very first journal begun in 1984, and not only count but also read all of them.

Coming to the realization that I had filled 40 journals in four years served as a clear illustration of how prolific my journaling has been. I do not allow many days to pass without filling a few pages with thoughts, questions, complaints, concerns, prayers, hopes, dreams, anger, lust, fear, discontent, joy, jokes, quotes, and whatever else comes to mind or has been collected recently. I have enjoyed the rediscovery of stickers, collages, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, emails that moved me towards rage and others that inspired deeper thought - all of which are now glued into my journals. (Acid-free glue, of course.) I simply cannot imagine not writing.

While reading, I have made a few noteworthy decisions and discoveries.

Decision #1: I will never again include email or articles in my journal that are upsetting to me. I remember one particular email exchange early this year that actually caused me to yell out loud at my computer monitor. I don't often get highly incensed, but certain topics elevate my blood pressure and I wade into the fray with both fists pumping. For some unknown reason, I decided to print out those missives and glue them into my journal. A few days later, I already regretted that decision. At the time, I was working through a book called Being Peace which challenged me to seek peace, pursue it, and "be" peace in every situation of life. There is far too much strife, anger, revenge, and self-righteousness in the world already; I need to do my part to turn the tide towards peace. So why did I memorialize those feelings in my private papers? I do not know. Nor will I repeat that foolishness any time soon.

Decision #2 follows naturally after #1: Instead of immortalizing the bad stuff, I will make a determined effort to bring news of good cheer, of peace, of grace, mercy, and restoration to my journal in the days and months to come. There is far too much bad news on television, in the newspapers, on the Internet, not to mention all the tales of sorrow and suffering that come from the homes of people near and dear to me. The least I can do is make my journal a place of rest, of rejoicing, and of indomitable hope.

This year has been a year of hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, war, tsunami, racism, sexism, homophobia, divorce, death, and "four more years." This has been a year of tragedy at the SuperDome in New Orleans, in the subways of London, and in the privacy of our own broken homes. But it has also been a year of new babies, marriages, friends that make me smile, surprise visits, anniversary celebrations, trips across the ocean and across our nation, children that make me laugh, and a grand entrance into the second half of my life. I have written about all of these topics and many more here on the blog. I have discussed them with friends and enemies. I have wept over them. I have laughed because of them. I have changed and grown as well. I will write about "the bad stuff" elsewhere, developing articles and essays and blogs as well as pieces for other genres, but in the future, I'm going to try to keep my journal free of the worst of times and full of the best of times.

One funny journal reading moment: Two nights ago, after I put on my pajamas and slippers, I sat down on the floor of my study room to read what I'd been thinking and writing about eleven months ago. Here's what I read: "Monday, Jan. 10: I am on the floor of my study room. Purple robe. Blue slippers. Red sweatpants. Black socks. Burgundy top." I howled. At the moment I was reading those words, I was wearing my purple robe, blue slippers, black socks, burgundy top - and black pants. The outfit was almost entirely the same as it had been a year earlier. Some things haven't changed much.

One thing that has changed this year is my attitude towards homeschooling. I see traces of anguish and concern about what they were learning and how I was teaching in journal entries I made earlier this year. Are they learning enough? Do we spend enough time reading, writing, doing science experiments, and the like? Are they ready for the California Achievement Tests in April? What if they aren't doing enough? What if they are falling behind? What if going to England in March and Spain in May take too much time away from school?

What???????? Gail, get a grip. Taking them to the land of great literature, lengthy monarchies, fish and chips, and the broadest range of potato chip flavors on earth for 12 days comprises one of the best history, geography, social studies, and phys ed unit studies ever planned. A month in Spain, speaking, listening, watching game shows, living, shopping, exploring, eating, drinking, and making friends - all in Spanish - I couldn't teach them all of that here at home if Spanish were the only topic we covered for an entire year.

My response to those earlier episodes of concern: take a deep breath, relax, enjoy. We read plenty; this year we read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. We talk about nearly every topic under the sun. The other day, we discussed labor unions and their influence on the workforce as a result of hearing about the transit strike in New York City. Last week we talked about whether or not it matters what greeting people use at this time of year. When we are bored with the lessons I prepare, we do an oral review of the state capitals. We do math problems in our heads. We play Pict-ades, our homemade combination of Pictionary and Charades. During our Christmas break from the regular schedule of schooling, both children have asked when we would continue with reading through the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible. Some people think those early books are dense and uninteresting; my kids have found them quite interesting. (We wonder who could possibly keep up with all the necessary sacrifices and laws recorded there. We thank God for Jesus who is the once and for all Passover Lamb!) Okay, so I have infected my kids with the virus of geekiness, but I make no apology. We enjoy ourselves tremendously. (And, of course, they passed every section of the CAT with flying colors.)

Speaking of geekiness, I have to sign off now because my daughter just asked if we can continue watching the "Pride and Prejudice" series we began yesterday, the one with Colin Firth. Yum, yum. But lest anyone think we are all work and no play, I can hear Daniel downstairs in the family room with a friend making really weird noises while they play PlayStation. It all evens out in the end. And it's all good.

This year in review can be summed up in a phrase oft quoted and ever true:
It was the best of times.
It was the worst of times.

May 2006 bring more of the same.

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