Year-End Review

To finish out 2013, here’s a list of some favorite posts from the past year:

Happy New Year, Everyone!

On the Lighter Side of ThingsTypewriter

Home Run, Man

the “most viewed post” this year

I lost Grandma

Trick or Treat?
runner-up for “most viewed post” this year

But the title’s awful…ly catchy
most “liked” post this year

jmm relevant

On the Serious Side of Things

“Death be not proud”

“The world is not as it should be…”

“On Friday a thief”

What to say

Suggestions of the Real Thing

Some of my Favorite Quotes on the Blog

starburst galaxy

Rhythm, Harmony, and Math

Mo’ honey, mo’ problems

A sense of our own weakness

What to read

A mistake, though an understandable one

And (not from 2013) here’s the first post published on this blog:

Eliott’s Inkling this explains where the name “Not a Tidy World” comes from

Ideas for 2014?
Did I leave out one of your favorites form 2013?
Tell me about it in the comments!


The Novelist

“I’ve always said I’d like to be known as the novelist or the playwright who also did television news. I’m very proud of what I’ve done. But let’s face it: What I’m doing now is more creative. And people don’t know anything about it.”

– Jim Lehrer, playwright, author of 21 novels
… oh, and he did something or other in the news biz for over fifty years

In an earlier interview (2009), Lehrer said, “I’ve always felt it was a little bit bragging to say you’re a writer, to say ‘I’m a novelist.’ I’m still trying to be a novelist, and it doesn’t get any easier.”

Jim Lehrer

On a related note:

Lehrer discussed his most recent novel, Top Down: A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination, on “The Diane Rehm Show” on Monday. His novel sounds compelling, but the most fascinating parts of the interview centered on Lehrer’s  observations on the impact of the assassination on American media. Lehrer covered the assassination as a reporter for the Dallas Times-Herald.

(The novel’s title is a reference to the decision to lower the “bubble top” on the limousine carrying JFK through Dallas. Lehrer explains the implications of this in his interview with Rehm. For more info, you can read the transcript here, or listen to the interview on the show’s website.)

The first quote is from the NYT article “An anchor tells stories on stage, but off camera,” Sept. 11, 2013
The second quote is from the USA Today article, “Novelist Jim Lehrer is still swinging for the fences,” March 23, 2009.

“the world is not as it should be”

“Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Got a minute? Here’s some context:

“In the face of death we cannot simply speak in some fatalistic way, “God wills it”; but we must juxtapose it with the other reality, “God does not will it.” Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here the sharp antithesis between “God wills it” and “God does not will it” comes to a head and also finds its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on death itself must therefore serve God. From now on, the “God wills it” encompasses even the “God does not will it.” God wills the conquering of death through the death of Jesus Christ. Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death.”

Bonhoeffer wrote this in a letter to young pastors in August 1941. He faced his own death on April 9, 1945.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed in a German concentration camp for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. The camp was liberated by U.S. soldiers two weeks later. The camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution later wrote, “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

On the morning before his trial, Bonhoeffer told a fellow prisoner, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life.”


Quotes are from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, pages 384, 528, and 532. (Emphases are mine.) For more information on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the climate within the German Christian community during WWII, I highly recommend Metaxas’ thorough book.

Baby-Sitter Club nostalgia

A tiny, little “barely-anything” in yesterday’s post left me nostalgic for…

…the Baby-Sitters Club books. 

Did you see that one coming?

The combination of the simplicity of the BSC world and the simplicity of my world at the time that I first read them keeps a place in my heart for the series, and even the cheesiest VHS renditions.

I don’t remember paying much attention to the quality of the writing as a kid, but for books to be as engrossing as these were– particularly the “super mysteries” (which I loved!)– Ann M. Martin must have been doing something well.

You may not share my appreciation of the BSC, but I’m sure you have your own childhood book nostalgia.

What are some of your fave childhood/YA books?

(If you have kids, have they read them and loved them, too?)

P.S. There was a Baby-Sitter’s Club Mystery Board Game. Check out the original commercial for the game! Did anyone out there play it? Along with “Mystery Date” (check) and “Mall Madness” (check, check)?

The most mysterious mystery

Happy October, folks!Bird pumpkin in birdbath

Here’s a mystery and a tragedy to start off the season of spookiness.

…or, as I like to think of it, the month of ambiguous decorations– “Can I make a Jack-O-Lantern soap holder count for autumn and Thanksgiving, too? Is my neglected landscaping finally acceptable as a spooky-house decoration? And, we’re back… a mystery and a tragedy.  Prepare yourself. This may be traumatic. Unless you’re an expert on Charles Dickens, in which case, read on for a good chuckle… and thank your English professors, your favorite Charles Dickens blog, or whatever it is that has preserved you from experiencing the repercussions of the mistake I made last month.

During a perusal of a few shelves at the library, I stumbled onto a pleasant surprise– a book that seemed to combine a beloved genre and a beloved writer. How had I managed to avoid the knowledge that Dickens wrote a mystery? I’m  no Dickens expert– clearly– but I didn’t think I was so oblivious as this discovery suggested.

I took a class on Dickens in college.

I took a Dickens-themed tour of London.

Yet, never had I heard of his forray into the world of straight-up murder mystery. That’s Poe’s realm, isn’t it? And Agatha Christie’s? And, of course, the Hardy Boys, and– you know you want to judge me– the Babysitter Club Mystery Series.

The sad, tragic point is this: I began reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, with no clue [ha, ha, get it? clue?] that Mr. Dickens died of a stroke in June, 1870, exactly half-way through writing the book. Summary: After reeling you in for twenty-two chapters of mysterious motives, a missing (murdered?) character, and several other “loose ends,” nothing gets solved.I was on page 220 when I made this discovery through a careless glance at the synopsis on the back cover of the book. The paragraph began with something along the lines of,

“The most mysterious thing about the Mystery of Edwin Drood, is what happens in the 22 chapters Dickens didn’t write, sucker!”

After recovering my heartbeat… I kept reading the book. I sustained myself with the hopeful idea that the missing half of the book wasn’t really necessary for the story. I mean, I could confidently speculate on who did it and how he did it… what else is there? Um… plenty. My speculations could be wrong. That’s half the fun of mysteries.

And, this is Dickens, after all.

In fact, Chapter 18 (four chapters shy of the middle– which turned out to be the end) brings in a brand stinkin’ new character (although theories suggest that this is actually one of the other characters in disguise!).

All this is to say, if you crave resolution and are already slightly prone to getting caught up in the crazy in your own head, grab A Tale of Two Cities. You may cringe or cry, but you’ll put the book down with a sense of closure, and most likely be able to move on with your life.

But, if you’re up for a challenge, and can easily separate “real life” from “novel life,” you might be able to handle 22 chapters of engrossing Dickens-style spookiness, with no sigh of resolution at the “end”.

Just prepare your loved ones for the inevitable Chapter 22 “What? For real!? That’s It?” rant.

Happy October!

*First image is from Second image from, cover design by Robert Mathias, cover illustration Hereford Cathedral, Floodlit at Night (1994) by Huw S. Parsons.