Christmas afterglow and a few short reviews

We had a wonderful Christmas week and even some extended time with my oldest son – not only was he scheduled to be here a couple of days more than normal, but his flight out got canceled, so he was here for another night. I was thankful it was his first leg of the flight that was cancelled and not the second, so he could spend the time at home and not in an airport halfway there.

As you can imagine, little Timothy was the delight of this Christmas. At the last couple of family birthdays, he was really into this presents thing and was right in the middle of whosever presents they were, so I thought he’d suffer significant sensory overload with everybody getting presents. He happened to open a little kid-sized chair we had gotten for him first, and that worked out well, because he was delighted to sit in it the rest of the time. He loved opening his gifts but didn’t feel the need to help everyone else open theirs. His reactions were so cute. I wish I could upload a video without having to go through YouTube or Vimeo – his unwrapping of a stuffed dog was particularly sweet. Over the weekend we enjoyed tons of food, family time together, rewatching the first three Star Wars DVDs (and deciding we liked Star Trek better generally), playing Settlers of Catan, bowling, and visiting. And though it was all lovely, I think everyone is glad to be getting back to the routine today. I am personally reveling that there is no place I have to go today and nothing that has to get done besides laundry, dinner, and dishes, though I do hope to accomplish more than that.

Here is our yearly photo, in front of the house this time instead of in front of the tree:

Christmas 2015

We couldn’t get Timothy to smile, so we just said he was being very thoughtful. πŸ™‚

In this transition week from the old year to the new, I’m going to have some posts later in the week about favorite books read this year and some of my favorite posts from the year. Before that, though, I have a few reviews I need to wrap up. I was actually hoping to have a couple more, but couldn’t quite get them finished yet.

Christmas LessonsChristmas Lessons by Patty Smith Hall is about a teacher named Claire who uses a cane as a result of contracting polio. She had broken off her engagement with Billy Warner some years earlier without giving him a reason: she had the absurd notion that her disability would hold him back in his coaching career. We’re not told until later in the book why she thought this. Suddenly Billy is back in town as the new coach at the school where she teaches, and the principal teams them together to work on a Christmas project. Of course, you can guess where the plot goes from there. It was just a touch predictable, and there were a few odd grammar issues (like “The old coach would have saw her” instead of “seen her), but overall it was a good, clean, Christian-based story.

365I picked up 365 Meditations for Grandmothers by Grandmothers from a clearance table long before I ever became a grandmother. I rediscovered it at the end of last year and, having a new first grandbaby, thought it would be a perfect time to read it.

It is authored by six different women, each penning two months’ worth of devotional thoughts about grandparenting. Each day’s selection includes a Bible verse, a couple of paragraphs, and a closing prayer.

Though there were a few good nuggets here and there, unfortunately, this is not a book I can recommend. My notes in the margins contain a number of question marks, “X” marks (meaning I thought something was wrong or off about a passage), and the phrase “wrong application.” The last is the biggest problem with this book. Sometimes what the devotional had to say was fine: even though it was a misapplication of what the quoted verse was saying, it was sometimes something that the Bible did say somewhere else. But sometimes it was totally wrong. Sometimes there were questions raised that didn’t need to be raised, like whether Paul was the author of 2 Timothy. Sometimes the gospel was clear; sometimes it was obscured or even contradicted; for example, one page says it is important to “help our grandchildren become like Jesus so that they will have a personal relationship with God” (p. 238) rather than showing them how to have a relationship with Jesus so that He can make them like Himself. Sometimes it’s just odd, like one devotional on Isaiah 55:10, about God’s Word being like the snow and rain that comes down from heaven and accomplishes God’s purpose, where the author goes on to say, “Can you imagine looking up into the sky and seeing God’s Word coming down from the sky? We can run into the fields like the birds and catch His Word as it falls from the sky” (p. 254). That paragraph earned a question mark beside it.

I was disappointed in the book early on but kept with it because, with six authors, I felt some parts of it would have to be better than others. I probably should not have: after the first few weeks I probably should have looked at representative excerpts from each of the others and then decided whether or not to keep it. If you know of a good devotional for grandmothers, let me know: sadly, this is not one of them.

All CreaturesFinally for today, I just finished listening to All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. I had enjoyed a few episodes of the old BBC series based on the books years ago but then had forgotten about them until Melanie mentioned them.

Herriot is a pen name for James Alfred Wight, and I was surprised to learn that the books are only semi-autobiographical. Maybe that was to protect the anonymity of the people he wrote about. But they are largely based on his experiences as vet in the Yorkshire area for 30 years, beginning in the 1930s.

In the books he starts out as an assistant for Sigfried Farnon, whom he describes as brilliant yet mercurial and extremely forgetful. Mostly he is very kind, though many frustrating yet comedic moments arise due to his forgetfulness. Soon Sigfried’s brother, Tristan, comes to live with them: he is an idle vet school dropout whom Sigfried keeps forgetting that he has kicked out. James’s vet skills are put to the test right away with farmers who often trust old folk remedies rather than veterinary science. In one of my favorite parts of the book, one farmer tells of putting onions in his horse’s rectum for some kind of cure, but his horse became “uneasy in the legs.” Sigfried told him he’d be uneasy in the legs, too, if someone had put onions in his rectum.

Another favorite passage is when James is invited to an elite social gathering hosted by a wealthy lady whose beloved and spoiled dog, Tricky Woo, had been treated by James. After the unfamiliar yet pleasant experiences of the evening, James is awakened in the middle of the night to come to one of the poorest farms in the district. As he contemplates the differences between the highs and lows of the night, he acknowledges that being a vet even in the most humble circumstances is where he is at home.

Sometimes his job has him nearly pulling his hair out in frustration and wondering why anyone would choose that profession, but most of the time he loves it and feels he has the best job in the world.

I enjoyed his descriptions of the Yorkshire area and people – warm, hospitable, honest, hardworking, almost a little stoic, and thrifty.

Along the way he meets a Helen Alderson, and although he hasn’t had time to think about dating much, something clicks with Helen despite two disastrous, yet humorously told, first dates.

The only flaws in the book are a fair amount of swearing and alcohol consumption, but overall it’s a funny, poignant, and heartwarming set 0f tales.

(This review will also be linked toΒ Semicolonβ€˜s Saturday Review of Books.)

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11 thoughts on “Christmas afterglow and a few short reviews

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed All Creatures Great and Small. I especially like it that Christopher Timothy who played Herriot in the BBC series narrated it. Lovely photo of your family. Have a great day.

  2. Love the family picture. So nice that everyone was able to be together. We had our son for longer than we at first thought also. It was wonderful having everyone together.

  3. Pingback: What’s On Your Nightstand: December 2015 | Stray Thoughts

  4. Hi, Barbara. I just became acquainted with your website yesterday, and highly value your stand for Biblical truth and your careful and lively way with words. Thanks for your frank appraisal of 365 Meditations for Grandmothers by Grandmothers. I have enjoyed reading and rereading James Herriot’s books for the humor and warm descriptions, but like you, I find the swearing and references to alcohol troubling. I’m reading Douglas Bond’s series about Mr. Pipes, who travels with two American children, telling them stories about great hymnwriters, and encouraging a deep reverence for God. I see the series as a charming tool for teaching hymnology to my piano students.

  5. Sigh, regarding those misapplied verses. I smiled with good memories of the James Herriot book — I, too, wondered about the semi-fictional status. Veterinary work sounds so very arduous in those days.

    How fortuitous that Tim opened the chair gift first πŸ™‚ I bet you could write your own devotions for grandmothers.

  6. Pingback: Books Read in 2015 | Stray Thoughts

  7. Absolutely love All Creatures! I hadn’t known one can get the audio books. I will have to check on that. Oh my, I am laughing just thinking about Tricky Woo and that Mrs. Pumphrey! But she did send hampers from Fortnam and Mason…. so, I guess it all worked out. πŸ™‚

  8. A belated MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours. Love the family picture. Glad y’all had a fun holiday with one another. Timothy sounds like a great deal of fun.

    I haven’t read James Harriot yet. I keep thinking I’ll rectify that situation with the kids because I’ve heard he’s a great author for a read aloud. This year seems like a good year to try him out. We shall see!

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