The picture of a book with a burnt chicken on the cover was all over my blogging circles... people were talking about it, reading it and writing about it... I didn't pay too much attention, I was not really interested, I didn't register the name of the author nor the title of the publication.
Again as I was sipping a nice glass of sherry, enjoying some tapas, flamenco tunes playing in the background and some good company, my friend mentioned a certain author and her latest book by the title of 'One Beautiful Dream'... She sounded like an ideal candidate for the next Catholic Mothers Conference as we shared the same view of life... and although I hadn't read her book yet, I trusted my friend's judgement and enquired about having her to come to talk at our next conference.
All excited, I sent her the email and all depressed I read the answer a few days later... once again 'My beautiful dream' of getting American speakers to come to our conference was crushed by the exorbitant fees... which over there are normal but over here are inaccessible 1. because of our Catholic reality being very very small... and 2. because of Catholic Mothers being only a young apostolate has no money to invest... yet.
The day after the email I received a phone call from my mother in law all excited about this article she had read about this book of certain Jenifer Fulwiler that she thought I would very much enjoy and that could be read in my Thursday's mothers group.
At that point although I was still annoyed about not being able to afford the American speaker... and before having to deal with another invitation to read that book ... I opened my laptop, ordered it and at the same time gave it as summer reading to my mothers group as suggested by my mother in law.
After the first few chapters I was even more annoyed about having been pushed into reading it... I kept on asking to myself why this book was having so much success. It was yet another blogger writing a longer post on paper... and the more I read the more I really thought I knew how this would end ... rags to riches, the American dream in 200 pages. 'Well, I am not American' ... 'NO! you can't have it all'... I told my husband 'I am going to be brutally honest when I review this book, and if at the end I don't like it.. I am afraid my review will be very different from the ones I have read so far'... and frankly I was kind of bored of having to read about another couple who couldn't be bothered to learn NFP properly...
I stuck with it because I guess I didn't really believe it would get any better, I wouldn't be moved from my prejudgments and I was looking forward to writing a really catty review...
But... It didn't quite go as I had planned it... I started to enjoy the book and I was not ready for it. The book was funny and genuine. I could relate so much with all the afternoons interrupted by unexpected visitors she describes in the books, afternoon upon afternoon planned and carefully organised for writing or painting... I was glad to know it wasn't God's personal vendetta with me or His ruse to make me exceptionally patient and hospitable. So many times in the last few months I wished I had that 'BLOW UP THE WORLD NOW' button, she mentions in the book... because the money was too short and house too small.
The book brought me back to when straight after the birth of our second child, I received a phone call from a relative to commiserate me rather than to congratulate me for his birth. She told me how the time of her children's early childhood were the 'dark ages' of her life... a time when she held her breath, put her life on hold, hardly ever went out, didn't travel... till the children were older enough and she could finally get her life back...Though that phone call happened 16 years ago I still remember the conversation vividly. Maybe that had worked for her but that couldn't have possibly worked for me who had another 20 plus childbearing years ahead. I was only 21 with the plan, God willing, to have a big family... For me and Pierpaolo, it was very clear we didn't want to hold our breath until this 'better future' arrived but that what we really wanted was to live our life happily NOW, breathing it in deeply with open lungs and living it to the full with all its sacrifices but enjoying our vocation as spouses and parents. The 'Wholeness of Vision' the author talks about in the book, was what gave us strength in the difficult moments ... looking beyond the immediate... embracing the difficulties and always looking at the Risen Christ.
After almost 20 years of marriage as the money situation appears to be particularly tricky and the house incredibly small... that Vision was cloudy, I wanted that button and was ready to hold my breath till God would finally showed His mighty Providence with an envelope full of money through the letter box and a phone call of someone offering us a bigger house (with a laundry room and a study) at a ridiculously low price. I could see the immediate suffering but had lost the vision. I had even started dreaming about moving, giving up the wonderful network of family and friends and the incredible community we had build in 20 years...
'This book is going to upset me so much!!! In this book the author is going through some of the same issues I am', I said to Pierpaolo, 'And what is going to be more annoying it's that she is really going to have it all... the money and the big house... the career ... probably too ...you know American style.'
The more I read the more her situation became difficult and problems seemed to arise unnecessarily. God was truly testing her faith through unexpected pregnancies and her poor health and both husband and wife found strength from one another and together from God.
The conversations between Jennifer, the author, and Joe, her husband were the exact same conversations Pierpaolo and I had had many times on similar issues. Joe's positive attitude towards life and his love for his family was heartwarming... the clear list of priorities and his choice to willingly and happily, not take the path of a successful career for the sake of the family... It really felt as if it was my husband speaking! Joe became my hero, he was clearly Jennifer's rock in the same way as my husband had to rescue me from myself many times throughout our life together. My heart softened, my attitude towards the book changed.
The book wasn't about the American dream as I had pictured it in my mind, it wasn't about success, money or fame, the book was a book about family, about spousal love, about discovering the joy of parenting, about the gift of parents and grandparents, about relationships, about the importance of community, about reordering priorities, about unexpected friendships, about trust and openness to God's will.
As I turned the last page of the book... my house was still as small as ever, the money as short as before but the desire to have a change of heart that would allow me to truly say this IS my life... and enjoy it NOW not WHEN and IF we have a bigger house or we are in better financial position... But NOW... was all I was left with as my family's harmonious symphony played in the background.