Friday, November 27, 2015

Monthly Recap vol. 27~ November 2015

I have some news. Scroll or read all the way to the end to find out what it is!*

1. Lately...
November was good and bad.  The leaves were crunchy and glorious, but my Grandmother-in-law had a heart attack, and she had to go in for open heart surgery the next day. This all happened about the same time that Stephen had to go to D.C. for Comps, and all of our kids came down with colds. I also helped out with the church bake sale, and just generally kept very busy caring for 4 kids + a newborn.

I took a week off from blogging, and during that time, I cleaned out the fridge, re-organized my closet and completely kon-mari'd the entire attic (with Stephen.)

We had some time with family {Stephen's side}, and some time to do our own thing.  And I am glad for the results. But the process was a little hectic.

So, yeah.  It definitely took some time to recover from Stephen's comps. I solo parented while he went to D.C. for a better part of a week.  Ballet almost did me in. :/

All in all, November : You were hard, but worth it. ;) I think Advent is much sweeter when we take some time in November to get organized and cleaned up. So. I'm looking forward to a peaceful Advent and Christmas season.  And lots of productivity!
Pictured below: Grammy and Gramps with their 8 grandkids in 8 years!

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving! We listened to music, cooked (the girls helped me make the cranberry sauce), I made the pies the night before.  I cooked a big supper.

Then we had pie (the mini pumpkin pies had pinecones with cinnamon and sugar on top, and the main pumpkin pie had a pumpkin on top!), then played croquet. Then we went inside and listened to music and sang some songs on the piano.  The girls played and played outside and we broke down and let the kids watch Frosty the Snowman. Even though it was 72 degrees outside!  We closed out the night by caving to Christmas music and yes, another movie. ;/

2. What I read.....

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

The Screwtape Letters (re-read) by C.S. Lewis

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

3. Good Reads and Clicks:

You are Capable of More Than You Know @ Entrefamily (poke around on this site if you have minute... so good!;)

Thoughts on the Screwtape Letters @ Picture a Skyline (self-promotion there, to be sure)

Drink to Your Health: Study Links Daily Coffee Habit to Longevity @ NPR

Adele singing "Hello" with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots

4. What I Watched...

I'm a self-proclaimed feel-good movie and show person. The Great British Baking Show is for you if you hate monster movies or anything that keeps you up at night. (Finished Parenthood and my Lauren Graham geek-out is over ... for now.)

5. Funny Things They Say

Madeleine singing (to the tune of “You Better Watch Out” and right after eating Thanksgiving turkey dinner):  It’s time for me… to go… make my Christmas List. La la laaaa...goodbye!!!!

Molly: Mommy, I really like my school.
Me: Oh really? What do you like best about it?
Molly: My friends!

Madeleine: Mommy? Can I tell you Goldilocks and the Three bears?
Me: Sure! Of course!!!
Madeleine: And first, she tried the big bowl, but it was too hot. And second, she tried the medium bowl, but it was too cold. And SECOND, she tried baby bear's bowl. And it was just right. (This went on for quite some time.... :-)

Anders: Ho Ho HO!  I'm Santa!
Molly: What are we getting for Christmas, Santa?
Anders: Moweee- books.  Fwances- a Christmas Chair!  Madewen: Wet wipes.
(He just started potty training, so he is picking on her- she's already potty trained! :-)

Her nickname is "Baby Pumpkin" and "Pumpkin Pie"
I aso taught the girls how to make my homemade cranberry sauce!

6. Noteworthy...

My awesome of the week was the white noise app.  It is simply called "White Noise," it's free, and when you have college students for neighbors, who blast bass-heavy music late at night, it's the answer, the only answer! ;)

7. Announcing…..

And now for my bit of big news!  Every year around this time, I have such a hard time getting centered and staying present. Because of the stress of the season, I feel a burden and a sense of running around like a headless chicken. Yet we have a slough of responsibilities and a flurry of traditions! So this year, in an effort to stay balanced and focused, I’m going to be hosting a weekly feature, culminating in a fun giveaway of several prizes!

So check back here over the course of the next couple of weeks, to see and read this new feature!
adding my link to This Ain't the Lyceum

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Notes on a Journey: Reading 50 Books in a Year

Writing down the number of books I read is the best practice I have ever adopted.  It really is! Let's just think about that for a minute. It is the. best. practice. I have ever. adopted! I mean, I'm trying to find the strongest language I can, because I know there is no way I can emphasize how important it has been for me. Last year, my goal was to read 30 books. To be honest, this was a whole lot of reading for me!  (When I compare myself to those who read upwards of 12 books a month, I'm embarrassed... although I know that when the kids are out of the house someday, I will have enough time to read that many books...!) I have always been a bookworm, but I was a somewhat lazy bookworm. And I never, ever wrote down, or really kept track of how many books I had read.  This year, I wanted to write down the books I read again, and this time, I decided to try for at least 50 books (more on why in a minute). And it has been SO good for me. Here’s why:

Like I said, I have always read a lot- I was an English major in college- and I joined book clubs and took elective classes at a Community College post-graduation, where reading played a huge part in my life. I participated in many a church group, where reading spiritual books certainly played an essential role. Reading is my favorite hobby, because you can take the girl out of the English Lit building, but you can't take the English Lit building out of the girl.  I wasn't a graduate of a fancy shmancy institution for nothing! And being an English major is such a big part of who I am, it is probably a bigger deal than I let on, because let's face it: I approach everything in life from the English major perspective. Is there a book I can read about that?  Could I study that in a book club at some point?  Will reading this help me to articulate something better, or will it help me to process, understand, or identify better with some situation or some person better?  Oh, yeah, and there's also that desire to be entertained. ;)

BUT... I never stopped to really keep track or start counting the books I read, until last year.  Honestly the blogosphere, or the community of which, has thoroughly heightened my love for reading. My blogging friends and acquaintances have given me more impetus to complete books and achieve my personal reading goals than anything I’ve experienced in the past! Blogging is kind of crazy-cool like that. :-)~  I think it's the reader/writer connection.  The inspiration I’ve found has certainly bled into my life. I started hunting down books that inspired me, books that I wanted to read for the sake of my depleting (or was it growing?) ignorance, and finding answers to questions that plagued me.  Reading inspired a writing life, as well. As it should so follow.  And that's not something I’m ready to give up any time soon! So, onward, of course!

Reading 50 books was about decreasing ignorance, yes, but it was also about achieving a personal goal. This year, as I said, I was hoping to exceed last year’s goal of 30 books, although I wasn’t sure by how much. My original list had about 40 books on it.  In September, I looked at my “Books Read This Year” list, and I was really excited to find out that I had already read 37 books. With all of the traveling, I had time to keep plugging along, and I exceeded my Summer Reading List by several books. It looked like I was on track to push myself a little harder, so I decided to up the ante for myself, by finding an awesome Facebook group, to help hold me accountable to read 50 books before the end of the year.

~finding out my passions~
Reading has been so good for finding out what I am passionate about. I didn’t know I how thoroughly interested I was in the British royalty and history until I read The Royal We. I started doing more research online to understand the terms and ideas I didn’t previously know about. I didn’t know Einstein’s life would fill me in on the political atmosphere and climate of Germany in the midst of WWII.  I didn’t know I cared thoroughly and was completely fascinated by the culture of our country during the  Civil War until I read Lincoln.   But I have learned so much, and I want to read more about these fascinating, if difficult, subjects.

I have been so pleased with how doing more reading has affected my brain and my ability to process information. Also, I feel better equipped to discuss ideas aloud (mostly with Stephen, but also with friends and acquaintances). Perhaps next year, I’ll read even more.  I know it seems that I could be tempted to read JUST to be able to say I read it, and in a sense, you could say that’s the truth. But in actuality, that is too simple. And in a way, it’s simply not the truth. I don’t travel just to say I’ve been somewhere. I travel because I want to branch out, experience someplace new, and grow personally. And the more I travel, the more that happens and the more my mind expands. The same goes with reading. I want to be well-read, personally. Reading keeps my mind sharp, and it is a very good discipline to have.  Some of what I read is fluff,  but it’s never pointless. Much of the modern reading I do fills me in on our culture today. I feel so much less in-the-dark knowing what kind of things are on the NY times bestseller list. I don't want to be trendy. Conversely, I’m not going to be “up on the trends” ten years too late, and I don't want to be! Most important, you never know when some of it may eventually stand the test of time, and our children will be reading some of these popular or currently trendy books, as well.

~setting an example for my kids~
I want to set an example for my kids, and that’s the final thing I want to say. Having a list and sticking to it is not only something I want to do and something I’m proud of… it is by design: I want to set an example. I want my kids to see them happy to have their nose in a book by E.B White or heck, maybe someday me ~  at least some book of a form or fashion, at all times... or at least much of the time!;) It’s a healthy habit, and for me, I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon!  If you are a scholar, an author, or an English major, do you practice this method of counting and keeping track of the books that you read? If you are not one of these things, do you do this too? Tell me I'm not the only one!

Books I read in 2015:

What I’ve Read So Far This Year:
(1)The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
(2)The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
(3)Middlemarch by George Eliot (epic epic)

(4)The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
(5)Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton N. Cohen
(6) The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

(7)re-read Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset
(8)The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (number 4 in the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series)
(9)Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearn Goodwin

(10)Albert Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
(11)Through the Year with Pope Francis by Pope Francis with Kevin Cotter
(12)Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
(13) Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner

(14)The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
(15)re-read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
(16)Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
(17)Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

(18)These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson
(19) A Mother’s Rule of Life  by Holly Pierlot
(20)Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia
(21)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
(22)Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McClain
(23)Savor by Shauna Niequist
(24)Stitches by Anne Lamott
(25)Pope Awesome by Cari Donaldson
(26)Boundaries in Marriage
(27) Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
(28) Orthodoxy(by G.K. Chesterton (reread)


(29) Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
(30) The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
(31) Food A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
(32) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


(33) In This House of Brede  by Rumer Godden
(34) Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman
(35) The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
(36) Kid Cooperation by Pantley


(37) The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
(38) The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
(39) A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
(40) Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg


(42)The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up* by Marie Kondo
(43)I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
(44)Flannery O’Connor: A Life by Brad Gooch
(45) Harriet the Spy * by Louise Fitzhugh

(46) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
(47) Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
(48) novella: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (reread)


(49) TBD
(50) TBD

*The books on MMD’s Reading List {see below}

Below are the books I abandoned that originally were on my reading list for the year.  I'm including this just so you can see how hard it was to actually find books I really, really wanted to read all the way through.

Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There - Catherynne M. Valente
The Full Cupboard of Life  by Alexander McCall Smith (number 5 in the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series)
A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy by Sarah Reinhard and Lisa Hendey
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
 Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos
reread One Writer's Beginning by Eudora Welty

A book in a genre you don't typically read:
The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

A book from your childhood:
Harriet the Spy

A book your Mom loves:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A book that was originally written in a different language:
something by Tolstoy

A book "everyone" has read but you:
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

A book you chose because of the cover:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

A book by a favorite author:
Stitches by Ann Lamott

A book recommended by someone with great taste:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

A book you should have read in high school:
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

A book that's currently on the bestseller list:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Linking up with Tuesday Talk!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thoughts on The Screwtape Letters, and Some Highlights

Recently, while reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, I came across this quote, and it stopped me dead in my tracks:

“We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear.”

And I thought: Imagine if C.S. Lewis— one of the most influential Christian thinkers of his day (and of all time, perhaps?)— listened to the naysayers- and was choked up, grabbed and threatened, and crippled from writing, because of fear? This book suggests that certainly, that would have been a sinful temptation.  To not hold out, to not radiate truth in spite of- or rather, because of- the spirit of negativity? That would be giving in, and not holding out. It might even mean giving up, defeated because of a feeling.

There are all kinds of dryness. And truly daily, I feel crippled by a thousand things.  Spiritual dryness. Selfishness. Or even the ongoing thought: “Now, if only I could get a few minutes to myself…” or, the thought that: “All of this stuff (material and immaterial) is in the way… dry-cleaning, chores, gunk on the sink, junk in the attic, grime on the shower curtain.”  A quick scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and a fleeting thought steals even more peace:
“If only I could get to that person’s life and way of finding happiness! She/they doesn’t/don't have a pile of crap on her/their stairs! Now if only I were at that person’s house right now! Then things- certainly- would be better…”

The book is opening my eyes to idols and temptations I didn’t know I had. There are all sorts of bad spirits: they come in the form of food, sugar, even the idols of certainty and earned respect. It’s making me realize how often I battle hard against the “if-only’s” and “I’m lonelies,” and all the thoughts given to the Patient by Wormwood, to make him miserable.

As I was reading this book, I was thinking: I know this feeling of dryness! The feeling that nothing is appealing to me. I need to DO something. I’m bored. I’m losing the vigor and the joy of life, AKA the joie de vivre! What is getting in the way?

Another quote that took me aback, as those little crippling demons came into full focus:

“Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means,  you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours- and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”


Additionally, to highlight one of the main themes of the book for you with another quote, is to bring up, or to bring to your attention something at the core of a sad spiritual state:

“So fix his attention outward so that he does not reflect…”  (the rest of the sentence is fantastic, but let me stop you RIGHT THERE.)

Does not reflect!  Again, a writer ought to write, and a person ought to reflect. Getting him to avoid it is good work, Wormwood! If he cannot stop to say, "What am I thinking right now," Lewis says it is much easier to get the Patient to think greedy or selfish thoughts!  Well done, Wormwood! He’s in the can. Or more accurately, he’s in a cage, in Hell.

And another quote, which is so good, it is the one I will leave you with:

“He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs- to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during the trough periods, much more than the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature he wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please him best.”

So yes: "....prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please him best." In the end, all of the demands, promises to self, clutter in our minds and brains, could be boiled down to laziness. But could it be even more important to face up and man up in the face of our “worthiness?”  I’m not worthy to write because of what I’ve done in the past. I’m not worthy because of the meetings, policies, campaigns, causes and crusades. Work is good, mind you. But keep writing, keep praying, keep doing. Even- and especially- when it feels dry or dull to do so.

Of all things, this is what I think C.S. Lewis would want us to come away with in the reading of this clever little book!;)

And maybe the thought that growth is not impossible will give you just an ounce of hope, though at times our roots are so dry, we think it just might be worthless!

….It’s not. ;)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

PHFR~ Sibling Love + A Baptism


This sweet baby is now a little more than 2 months old.

Once again, I find myself thinking, "How did we ever get along without her?"

Sibling love :-)

She loves to do these big grins!

The sweet godparents, the Hinsons

our dear priest, Father Carter

receiving the chrism oil

so that I can remember when she's 6 months how tiny she was at 2 mo!

of course she was crying! :-(

adding my link to Like Mother, Like Daughter !

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Want It All ~ Now

I want a sparkling, clean house.

I want a happy, healthy baby.

I want my kids to be self-sufficient and confident.

I want to be inspired, and I want to write and write and write.

I want to take gorgeous pictures of the world and the seasons. I want to travel the globe in pursuit of the awesome grandeur this world has to offer.

I want to live in an awesome place: inspired, charged with life, liveliness oozing from every corner.

I feel all of these things drifting in and out of my life.

I feel a tug, and I know- I want it all now.

But something gets in the way.




Screaming babies.

Accidents, spills, sticky spots on the floor, and nasty mirrors that need to be cleaned. Mountains of laundry. Fights with my husband and squabbles between my children.

Will I get it all, now?

I have moments of peace and joy.  Holding my baby and seeing her smile. Stealing away for a cup of frothy coffee on a Sunday afternoon. Crunching the fall leaves outside and picking up sticks with my toddlers on the lawn.

In the moments in between, I boldly abandon bitterness. I strongly refuse the temptation to be catty. I toss aside the feeling of despair.

Because I know how those moments get wasted so fast. I know I’d rather keep them calm and tame.

So even though I want it all- now- I instead look for pockets of joy and moments of wild abandon…

where bitterness has no place.Waltzing In Beauty

adding my link to Tuesday Talk @ Waltzing in Beauty

Friday, November 6, 2015

I Finished the Flannery O'Connor Biography, and It Is Definitely Worth Your Time

This is going to be short, but I'm not too proud to post it. ;)

*Siiiiiiigh* I love Flannery O'Connor.

Over the past couple of weeks, I read this biography Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor. Now that I have read it, I am convinced that everyone should read it before they die. You should especially read it if you are Southern, (because the freaks are still recognizable to you~this taken from a Flannery O'Connor quote) and especially if you are Catholic (because you know it's more than just a symbol;). But if you are Catholic and Southern, well, you just do not have a choice but to read this one! ;)  You'll have to trust me on this. If you don't, then consider the following seven items in argument for reading it.

Why should you read A Life of Flannery O'Connor?

1. For her sense of humor.

The author Brad Gooch artifully includes many, many of her one-liners from letters, journals, and commentary/memory from those who knew her during her lifetime. She was a very, very witty woman. Her wit was one of her hallmarks, and this book won't let you down with a lack of thoroughness.

2. For an understanding of her education// writing process.

This book follows her journey of education from elementary to graduate work. We see her style develop, and she is so different as a college student than when she turns up back in Milledgeville after graduate work, ready to write professionally.

3. For a look at her relationship with her mother.

This book claims that her mother was quite the tyrant, and very difficult for Flannery to get along with at times.  If you're interested in these dynamics, this book does not disappoint.

4. For a look at her family history.

This book shows that she is much like her Dad, she comes from good, Catholic stock in Savannah, GA, and many of her gifts and flaws come from the O'Connor side.

5. For a look at her interpersonal relationships.

Flannery had some deep friendships and even some love interests. I was on the edge of my seat near the end of the book, because she had such an interesting, rich, full life! It took me by surprise to hear what a great friend she was, and how important these relationships were to her throughout her short life.

6. For a vivid picture of her life at Andalusia.

The details do not disappoint.  How many chickens did she have? How many peacocks? What was her life rhythm and routine as a writer? Who came to visit her? All of these questions will be answered, and more, in this good little book. ;)

7. For contemplating death and finding peace in it.

Again, I was on the edge of my seat reading about the end of her life. It really was quite dramatic, but also a very peaceful death. She made peace with it and found redemptive suffering in her illness, and learning about it will be quite inspiring!

 P.S. I once wrote a post about Flannery, entitled, "Which O'Connor Story Is For You?" Read it! :-) (No, really~ Do It!)

For more on my e-book, see the About Page.

adding my link to Kelly @ This Ain't the Lyceum

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My 5 Favorite Podcasts Right Now

I love me a good podcast. I realize a surprising number of people do not know how to listen to/ have never listened to a Podcast. If you are in that category, it's easy-- simply search in Podcasts app (it looks like a microphone, or a little idol with sound vibrations around it;)/ the app store for your desired podcast. Then hit "Subscribe." After it loads, you will be able to then choose/download the particular episode you are interested in listening to.  Of the conversations and episodes I've listened to recently, here are some of my favorites!

The Simple Show

semi-recent goodie: episode 9~ interview with Amber C. Haines
This actually came out back a few months ago, but I really enjoyed this conversation with author of Wild in the Hollow: Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home.  Good stuff, all told. ;) I enjoy Tsh and the questions she thinks to ask.

Sorta Awesome

recent goodie: ep. 28~ The "Peek Behind the Scenes" group show (although a little too long)

These ladies are up on pop culture, have a fun, kind, and often funny vibe, and oftentimes, what they talk about is vulnerable and worthwhile.  Although they claim all of their polls say that the length is just perfect, I found it a tiny bit too long to get through on one workout session. However, you can change the speed to 1.5 (mine is on the lower left while I'm in "Now Playing).

Fountains of Carrots

recent goodie: episode 32~ The one about the Pope

I really enjoyed Fountains of Carrots’ episode/interview with Brandon Vogt about the Pope’s visit to the US. Vogt works for Word on Fire and does a grand job with the conversation/ commentary about the papal visit.

Spilled Milk

recent goodie: episode 198 ~ on grapes

I started reading Molly’s blog when I was a new Mom. I feel like I learned a lot about careful preparation of, and passion for, food, as did anyone who read either of her beautiful memoirs.  I listened to her podcast, and it is a good listen. It is short, polished, definitely funny (start at the beginning.) If I had to judge it, I would only say that my pet peeve is dirty humor, and you will find some of that there. I want them to do one on bananas.

Little House Mothering

recent goodie: episode 15~ Interview with Jenna from Call Her Happy

This was a gem! A lot of good, deep conversation about motherhood and mental illness, and not to be missed! I'm excited to listen to more of these, as I know there is a lot of good to come with this one.

On Being

If you've not seen this podcast with Krista Tippet, you are missing out. Not to miss: interviews with Mary Oliver (poet!) her voice! and Jean Vanier. I heard my voice catching as I told Stephen about the conversation with Vanier, called "The Wisdom of Tenderness." I am a longtime fan, and let’s be honest: you will be hard-pressed to find a podcast with the wisdom quotient that this one has to offer. There are some other episodes I can’t wait to give a listen to: Bela Fleck? Wow! Yes Please.

By the way... before you go, my e-book is now available for sale on Kindle. Buy here.
Learn more on the About page!

adding my link to Jenna @ Call Her Happy