Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What to Read When YOU Need Inspiration

I woke up with a dog too close to my feet and a two-year old's face squished against my nose. I usually love this particular two-year old's face being squished against mine, but at 5:00 a.m., my feelings are not quite so kind. This particular two-year-old has quite the habit of running (not walking) into our room and sneaking into our bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning. And, usually, this is okay, but sometimes, when he's feeling particularly cuddly, my sleep gets a little cramped despite our king sized bed.

And, I love our dog, who usually sleeps on the floor in his nice ergonomic bed. But, after a day of us being away from the house quite a bit and another busy day where he barely got noticed, he clearly needed some attention. He got that attention during a Friends episode that began at 10:30 p.m. WAY past my bedtime. Thankfully, the sleep timer turned the show off after Hubby and I fell asleep, but neither my husband nor automatic remote control programming kicked the dog off the bed.

Back to 5:00 a.m.

I awoke grumpy. Irritable. I had a sore neck, a long to-do list, and the feelings of the start of a cold. I closed my eyes and dozed back to sleep.


Don't you find that after a night of fitful dozing you wake more tired than you were when you first woke up? But, when I awaken at 5 a.m. and am already groggy from a poor night's sleep, this sage wisdom seems to escape my memory.

I rose at six, snuck downstairs so as not to wake up the sleeping two-year-old, poured a glorious cup of coffee, and pulled out my Bible. I'm reading through Job right now, and I am at the beginning. I should have flipped to a Psalm or John to lift my mood and lighten my heart. Instead, I read the part in Job where his "friends" falsely accuse him, verbally assault him, and otherwise build themselves up while tearing him down unjustly. My mood only grew darker.

Sometimes the world seems unfair. A dear friend who served in Iraq is experiencing terrible symptoms that a slew of tests and specialists have been unable to diagnose, but are now pointing to "Gulf War Syndrome." It seems unjust. I read Sarah Mae's account of sex trafficking in India. The world appears cruel. And then, picking up on Mom's foul mood, my six-year-old fusses and complains during math and screams, "I don't know what 9 minus 9 is." (For the record, she totally knows.) My pettiness only makes me feel worse.

I need some inspiration. And quick. Here are my picks for a grumpy day, paired best with a warm cup of coffee topped with whipped cream (despite your diet) and timed so that your children are happily playing outside:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Or at least the first chapter, if you're short on time. Anne is timeless. Read this for the simplicity of the prose, the redeeming relationships among the characters, and gems like these:

It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

"Dear old world," she murmured, " you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams.

 Anything illustrated by Garth Williams is likely to be good, but this book is extraordinary. This book reminds me how blessed I am. It makes me squeeze my children tighter, say a more heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving for this life, and generally feel more generous towards those around me. It also makes me cry a good cathartic cry. Read with a box of tissues handy.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz.

I mean. Does this need any explanation? When you're having a bad day, you need to read this. Then re-read it. Then read it out loud to your kids. Then read it to your dog. (That last one might be going a little too far.) Then, say to yourself (and anyone who will listen, see previous list), "There will be days like this. Even in Australia."

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

I know. I know. When life is heavy, why do you need to read a book with a title that translates, "The Miserables?" For much the same reason as The Family Under the Bridge, Les Miserables is cathartic and inspires me to gives more grace, act with ridiculous kindness, and generally love more and better. Plus, you can read it while listening to the soundtrack. That is sure to lift your mood. Or, at least, make you stand up and want to march to "Red: the Blood of angry men. Black: the dark of ages past!..." In case that is now stuck in your head like it is mine, you're welcome.

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