Sunday, January 02, 2011

First Family

First Family: Abigail and John Adams2010 was a year of introspection and personal discovery. Reading through my prayer journal from the beginning of the year, I see that I have learned to be better content in my circumstances. I still have work to do on this front, but I'm less easily shaken. I'm also learning to accept people as they are, rather than as how I would have them be. I think it will be another decade before I truly get that one down, but God's been working on me. I recognize that it's not my responsibility to make the people around me happy. I can do my part to not put stress in their lives, but I can't make them happy. I've also stopped apologizing for my illness (and this was a huge issue for me). Whenever I had a bad day and was laid up in bed, I felt terribly guilty about failing to work on the house or take care of my family, and I made my family miserable with my constant apologies and then I tried to get them to do all of the things I couldn't to assuage my guilt. Needless to say, it didn't make for a pleasant day. But no more! When the pain hits, I'm going to take it easy, and if that means the laundry doesn't get done, c'est la vie!

Yesterday while I perused my list of books I read last year, I discovered that there were far too many books on the list that I couldn't recall a single thing about! Too many books that were ultimately forgettable. Life is short. I have over 500 books on my wish list, and it grows monthly. So as of today, Christy's Book Blog is undergoing a makeover. Last year I read 468 books, but I blogged only about half of them. From now on, I'm going to blog the majority of the books I read. Fiction, nonfiction, Christian, secular, it will be a more eclectic mix and give you a much better idea of who I am as a reader.

I still intend to include bits about family and what I'm learning on my walk with God, so that won't change, and I hope that you will stick with me through these changes. I think that 2011 is going to be a terrific year, and I look forward to spending and sharing it with you!

The First Family by Joseph J. Ellis is a insightful look at the John Adams family through their letters. John and Abigail have long been looked at as the premier couple of the American Revolution, and they left behind over 1200 letters of their correspondence opening up their relationship to study in a unique way. Ellis uses their letters to each other, their children, and friends to recreate their lives and give them their rightful place in history. John's image suffered in the years after the Revolution and during his presidency as he gained a reputation for vanity and a volcanic temper, and while Ellis acknowledges there is some truth to it, much of it was slander created by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to push forward their own political agendas. Both John and Abigail were fully aware that they were creating a political dynasty and often pushed son John Quincy to live up to their expectations, and their letters were often written to that effect. Ellis really helps bring this historic couple to life, from their flirtatious, almost naughty letters during courtship to Abigail's deep depression during John's years in France that kept them apart for five years to his term in the White House when she became too ill with rheumatoid arthritis to be with him. Ellis realistically creates a historic love story. John and Abigail balanced each other's flaws and while apart were each at their worst. When John was attacked during his presidency, he had no stronger ally than Abigail who said, "when he is wounded, I bleed." Ellis uses the analogy of a dancer alone on the floor, without a partner twice in the course of the book, first to describe Abigail when John is in Europe, and then again when she has passed away and John is alone, and the metaphor is a perfect one for this rare and wonderful couple.