Middle of Nowhere

Dear Joy,

We took a vacation last week, way up to the northwoods of Wisconsin. We rented a cabin on a lake at the very end of the summer season, when souvenir stores are running their clearance sales and you see marquee signs that say crazy things, like, “Only 120 days till winter! Get your sleds ready!” We were vacationing in snowmobile country, after all.

Excerpt from my journal, day 1: “We got here by 4:30, boys held it together while we unpacked and checked out the place (beautiful view, rustic cabin, bedrooms for everyone. Only con: sharing a dock w/ string bikini family). Got groceries (boys found the mini carts at the store, DISASTER), M took boys on a canoe ride. (Josh didn’t have a meltdown in the middle of the lake! Amazed.) Tacos for dinner, horrible bedtime (ending w/ C screaming and falling backwards off the bed). I heart vacation.”

Things calmed down, after we all got a little sleep, found our rhythm. I read a LOT. After arriving on a windy, 85-degree Saturday, the temperature dropped steadily, hovering around 50 by midweek. (Since my boys slept miserably when they were hot, I didn’t mind the weather change one bit.) We barely packed warm clothes (I swear the forecast changed on the drive up north), so we did lots of inside things… and when my boys were sleeping, I was reading.

Can I give you a quick recap? Here they are. (Most came from the trusty Book Discussion section at our library – I figure, if a book is good enough for my library to stock 20 copies, it’s worth at least a decent attempt on my part.)

7 by Jen Hatmaker. I bought this specifically to read on the trip, because she’s toying with all the questions I wrestle with on a day-to-day basis, and I wanted time to really think this one through. I devoured it. Highly recommended – even if you don’t agree with her conclusions, you’ll admire (and be entertained by) her transparency.

Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae. I also bought this one, because the premise was something I could relate to. Didn’t love it, but you might. (No Joy, you probably wouldn’t, but someone else might. I’d be happy to pass it along.) The whole thing was a bit too cutesy for me. Not to mention, my husband is completely irritated with the world’s obsession with le français, so Mae’s infatuation with the French was, while understandable, not very relatable to my own world.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Made me wish I knew more about the monarchy, and England’s history in general. This was a good one (and a quick read!). Explores the concept of reading, from the perspective of one of the world’s most intriguing characters.

The Armchair Traveller by Anne Tyler. I picked this, because Anne Tyler sounded like an author I should have read by now. She writes beautifully, but her main character, poor Macon, was a reprehensible stick in the mud. I couldn’t deal with him, so I skimmed to the end and then tossed the book in the corner. Have you read anything by Anne Tyler ? Maybe she has a better novel you’d recommend ?

The Mighty Queens of Freeville, by Amy Dickinson. Amy Dickinson’s memoir – a divorced woman, raising her daughter in the 90’s – gave me a new glimpse into the pain of divorce, the strength of single moms, and the importance of family (regardless of their location in relation to you). This felt like a beach read, but left me with lots to think about.

**I ran out of books by day five. Two more days to go ?! I needed more books. Considering that we were in the middle of nowhere, this wouldn’t be easy. (Seriously, the nearest Walmart was 100 miles away.) Thankfully, the local thrift store had two gems, stuffed in between the romance novels and hunting manuals :

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott. I’ve read this before, and it’s absolutely worth reading again. Oh my goodness. I’m not a laugh-out-loud kind of person, but every night, I read a couple of chapters, and I’m dying, DYING. Hilarious, poignant, beautiful. I love this book. It’s old-fashioned, so if you’re not into that sort of thing, well, skip it. (But I wouldn’t, if I were you.)

French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. Ironic, right, because of my husband’s opinion of the French ? But I’ve cooked two recipes out of this book so far, and he’s raved about them both. (My cooking is passable, but not raveable. This is saying something about this book.) I love her perspective on food. Drink lots of water. Eat what you want, making concessions, everything in moderation. Laugh a lot. Drink lots of champagne. My kind of book. It’s worth buying for the pork chop recipe alone (page 134 !!).

Books aside, I always forget how important vacations are, if only for the change of scenery and what it does to your mind. I came home with a fresh perspective, actually refreshed, ready to face the beginning of fall, and all the good and the challenging things that are coming with it. Plus, God speaks to me when I slow down long enough to listen, wonder of wonders. Vacation always helps remind me of that. Yes, yes, place really does make a difference.

Speaking of place, I’m curious to hear how your moving day story ended. And the residence lucky enough to house the presence and personalities of Joy, Pete, and Anders is…? Hoping you’ve settled at the perfect place, transitory season or not. (Get me your address when you have a chance, and I’ll send you an autumn-scented candle to celebrate the fact that it costs $100 less now to send you one this year than it did last year!)

Love, Sherah