Category Archives: what’s on your bedside table

The Monday Book: THE YEAR OF LESS by Cait Flanders

Janelle Bailey brings us the Monday book this week.

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders

I had not heard anything about this book, but it was available through Libby to be my next walking “listen,” and I have come to enjoy, more so, non-fiction while walking than fiction…though I’m not certain I have quite figured out why.
So very much of this book and Flanders’ ideas resonated very strongly with me and my own experiences, and yet I think that I have even more to say about some of what she said than she did say here. I wonder whether it’s time to just write that one…myself.

Janelle Bailey’s pick this week

Oh, do I ever have in my possession numerous things–mostly clothing but some other as well…yes, books, too, but those DO give me joy–for the life I think I’m supposed to one day live. How dumb is this? I find this especially challenging to address currently, as I’m torn between–will this now be my “new” annual and seasonal “work” wardrobes and routine, still working from home (and for the past sixteen months)? Or will there be a time when I will wish to wear, again, dress pants and heavier sweaters, for instance? I have no idea. But if I addressed things either as Flanders does or as Marie Kondo does, all of it should go. I struggle with that…and it’s mostly silly, I suppose. And truly: I could/should just let go of the “skinny” clothes that don’t just fill the drawers and closet waiting for them to fit again but also fill me with some sort of tacit stress and anxiety–possibly constantly–to make them fit again. It’s so silly!
I appreciate Flanders’ approach to these various “issues” in her life and how Flanders has created as projects and blogged about them her sobriety, her paying off of significant ($30,000) debt, and now, in this book, her “shopping ban.”
There was just so much that she said that makes tremendous logical and rational sense and with which I could identify…mostly if looking from the outside “in” to my own closet and drawers, pantry, and other storage areas–a very full linen closet, for instance, that is rarely opened since it contains so many things for “when” they are needed…old sheets for costumes, for instance, that are never sought. So silly to store it all…and not use the linen closet for the “linens” used.
I was especially satisfied by Flanders’ storytelling and honesty–true sincerity–in its forthright telling and also by the data with which she began each new chapter: how many months she’d been sober, what percentage of her income she’d saved that month, and the percentage of the likelihood that she’ll complete this full year’s project, the actual shopping ban. I was with her, supportive, cheering her on from here…well, from my walking path…all the while that I “read” (listened).
And I will take her lessons learned into my near future. I will consider documenting it myself, as our circumstances are somewhat different: I’m in my early 50s, she then in her mid-30s;  she was single and childless, and I am married for the second time and have five children, three stepchildren, and two grandchildren; I have a houseful–ney, a house- and outbuildingful–of stuff that is not all even my own, though I suppose that all of the “baggage” is. Sigh. Sigh.
I will be thinking of this book and Cait Flanders’ success for some time to come for sure.


Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table

The Monday Book: THE SINGING TREE by Kate Seredy

This YA novel is actually the sequel to a famous children’s classic called The Good Master. Kate and Jansci are cousins introduced in that book, when Kate is sent to live with her father’s brother’s family because she’s a spoiled city girl who has been ill.

The Singing Tree is a much deeper book, detailing the experiences of the Hungarian farmers during World War I. The book deals in childlike innocence with topics such as anti-Jewish sentiment in Hungary, the power grab of Austria, the terrible opening of the war, and how Hungarians and Germans set themselves up for future enmity.

The farm where Marton Nagy (the good master) keeps his family safe, and later shelters neighbors who lose their farms, and then houses Russian prisoners of war who work the farm while he is in the army, and finally takes in a passel of German refugee children, is a big happy place. Part of why I like this book is its sappy “Sound of Music” plot twists. (For one example, a stray cat having kittens makes Kate detour the farm wagon to an army field hospital, where missing Uncle Marton is discovered as an amnesia patient. I know, right? Eye rolling.)

And yet throughout the book are these amazing moments of writing, where true horror is simply spoken out by the beloved characters in heartbreaking poetic ways. Marton tells his family the story of Christmas 2015, when soldiers on each side of the trench separating them from killing each other the next day began lighting candles.

Light a candle for Christmas Eve, men whispered and their very words seemed to turn into tiny stars as dozens and dozens, then hundreds of candles came forth from the knapsacks to be lighted and stuck in the snow…..

Kate sighed, a long, tremulous sigh: Oh that was beautiful! What happened after?

The candles burned down, Kate, and the–darkness closed in again. Let those who made war heard the story of what happened after. Let them see.” He lifted his arm and covered his eyes.

Lots of characters fill out the pages and the plot in lovely ways, like Uncle Moses the shopkeeper and Sergei the head of the Russian prisoners, and Mother, who is described in the title. She is the tree that shelters what turns out to be more than twenty people from five nationalities on their farm. Unbelievable, except, in Seredy’s masterful style, it is.

I loved this book as a child and found additional meaning to it as an adult. Give it a read.

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Filed under animal rescue, book reviews, Life reflections, reading, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction