Friday, November 9, 2018

Good Music and An Interview! (7QT)

This past week I have been working on a playlist. Very excited to share it with you, along with my liner notes.  WHEEE..... I can't help my passion when it comes to a few things in life. Where writing and music overlap, you absolutely have my heart.  Below that, we have Foster/ Adoptive Parents The Williams' Reflection on the Drug Culture and working with special needs children in a foster home situation.



 Bob Dylan- Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather
This is definitely a classic, and the tune and lyrics elevate it to rockstar status.  I feel like there are some really good Dylan covers out there, but this needs to be left alone.

Over the Rhine- Ohio
This expertly talented duo brings emotion to a time and place.  I have seen this band perform live more times than anyone else, other than Ben Folds! (And I've seen him live seven times!)

The Old 97's- Designs on You
This song resonated with me when I found it, via recommendations on Spotify.  A classic crush- infatuation scenario.

The Smith's- Frankly Mr. Shankly
Longtime fan of this band and song. Oh the MEMORIES

Fleet Foxes- The Cascades
This is actually an instrumental song, and it's from one of my longtime favorite bands.  I just love it.

M. Ward- Let's Dance
I was fortunate to see M. Ward in concert at a free show in NYC before She and Him even existed.  I knew he was under appreciated at the time, and my hunch proved true!

Blind Pilot- 3 Rounds and a Sound
Funnily enough, I have just discovered this Portland indie band recently, but my admiration has bloomed.  Blind Pilot earns the title of "can't stop thinking about you." So many good songs from this band.i

Darlingside- Singularity
To be brutally honest, the first listen made me think of a pretentious Sufjan Stevens meets Hey Marseilles. I fell hard in love with this song "Singularity" after contemplating the Sci-Fi inspired  lyrics. Honestly, they are very (warning: using this word now),... sexy and I don't know which one of the band members wrote them, but read somewhere they all do. ah, well....  The tune and magnificent and unexpected arrangement just sealed the deal for me. haha.

The Killers- Romeo and Juliet
This cover of an Indigo Girls song came on my Spotify radio at a time when I was really obsessed with reading and the library and nothing else could quell my depressive funk. I had a crush on the library and it was all I wanted to do and I didn't ever want to come home. I was SAD.  This song cured it so much for me.  These lyrics express more in one line than most can express in an entire paragraph.

Mipso- Do You Want Me?
My long over due love letter: I found you on youtube about a year ago,   I fell in love with this video of Bad Penny then saw you were listed in Rolling Stone about the same time you were on my radar. I then saw your sweet UNC Chapel Hill band in concert at the 3 Sister Bluegrass Festival in Chattanooga, and you were all cuter than I expected you to be. You subsequently came out with this video Call Your Girlfriend, and I was hooked! For life! I hope all of my friends, family, and blog readers go forth and buy/stream/download all of your music because now I'm ecstatic. To quote my brother after seeing you live "Libby never misses a note, and every song has more hooks than you expect." I'm especially partial to a hot and sexy bluegrass frontman (who can play the guitar!).  Also, love the mandolin (my Dad plays bluegrass mandolin, guitar, and harmonica- excellent picking).  I get you.  do you get me?

Anna Leone- Into the Cold
I discovered this Scandinavian artist well over a year ago, and I fell in love with a few of her songs. This is a good one.  She is so beautiful as well!  Please check her out if you don't mind.

Regina Spektor- The Sword and the Pen
When I'm feeling absolutely nothing, I turn on anti-folk artist  Regina Spektor, and she gets me.  My heart strings, my dry emotional LANDSCAPE. She is sort of the interpreter of maladies for much of my life. She is especially good to listen to when writing.  Writing fiction, especially. Love her.

Ok Go- Oh Lately It's So Quiet
Again, I got hooked to this song because of the lyrics. "Who's house are you haunting tonight?" So good!        :)

Modest Mouse- Night on the Sun
I love it when, like Passenger, I fall in love with one song from a band, then I am pleasantly surprised that many of their other songs are just as good. That was the case with this song.

Death Cab for Cutie- Crooked Teeth
Death Cab rocked my world in college. I love many of their songs, and this is a good throwback to a better (ish) time in Pop/Rock/indie (their early stuff) music.  I screamed through a concert of their's in LA because let me tell you Benjamin Gibbard held a candle to Sufjan Stevens

The White Stripes- I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother
Stephen has been trying to get me into the White Stripes for a long time. I finally fell headlong into love when I heard this! Musicality and arrangement top-notch.

The Airborne Toxic Event- Sometime Around Midnight
Here is an example of a song I thought was coming from some epic famous band like U2 or The Cure.  When I sat down and contemplated it, I couldn't believe I had never heard of this band! So good.

Regina Spektor- Somedays
Phenomenal lyricist.  Delivery is everything. Emotion another level.

Portugal. the Man- So Young
My heart explodes for this song.  I have probably listened to it 1,000 times since the beginning of this Summer.

Anna Leone- My Soul I
This is my favorite song by Anna Leone, Scandanavian, and specifically Swedish, artist extraordinaire.

Belle and Sebastian- Piazza, New York Catcher
This song played on repeat, everyday forever.

Bright Eyes- First Day of My Life
Because, yes.  Always.


Now, I want to include this interview I set up with my parents, to discuss the drug culture in our country today and its effect on recent generations. I was hoping to publish this as a part of the #write31days challenge, but I also think the timing of this is good as well. I loved hearing their answers, and I hope you will find this as interesting as I did.  My parents Wendy and Henry Williams have had over 35 foster children, and they adopted one of them.  They are experts on this topic, as my Dad is also a physician with decades of experience, as well as a Masters in Bioethics.

1. What is is like to adopt a child with special needs?

It offers an entirely new dimension for family life.
It helps family members learn and develop empathy for one who may lack certain things that others take for granted, who requires new kinds of effort in raising the child.
Adopting or fostering is a mission project that a family can do together.
Family members learn ways to care for, spend time with the new child.
Doing interim foster care teaches a family how to celebrate and how to grieve, such as when a child has to leave and is loved.
Bonding is needed and often comes through the family's combined efforts. New experiences come as a result of the child's personality and interests. For example, a 'need for speed' or just movement, might get the family into dirt bikes, jet ski, four wheeling, new sports actives, etc. Family experiences can be shared with other families, especially those who have taken on adopted children of their own; activities are done tighter and everybody learns new perspectives. It is challenging.

A special needs child may take more time and energy than other kids in the family, sometimes at their expense. Special medical care may be needed, anything from heart surgery to cleft palate repair to physical therapy, leg braces, etc.  

Behavior may be a problem- erratic, oppositional-defiant, negativity, problems with bonding, school issues- finding the right school, trying to homeschool, IEP's (individual education plan for kids with learning differences).  A huge factor to consider is that adoption and foster care can help provide alternatives to abortion which is a holocaust in need of remedy.

Our own family has been impacted by nieces and nephews that were adopted for special need situation. We are thankful for the opportunity to see these kids grow up in Christian homes.

2. How have drugs influenced children taken into the home?

This question brings up several possible scenarios.  One is drug exposure in utero, such as alcohol or cocaine. Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause delayed development, mental retardation, or learning differences, behavior issues.  Cocaine can lead to these issues plus irritability, poor impulse control, ADHD, emotional ups and downs. The problems can be lifetime issues.

Prescription drugs are often used to help with some of the above mentioned issues. However they may not work as well, say in a cocaine exposed child as they do in a typical ADHD child. Sometimes multiple drug regimens are used with limited success.  Drugs may have paradoxical effects, as when Benadryl given for allergy or to try to help with sleep or sleepiness caused severe irritability. Seizures may be more likely to occur if certain drug exposures are present.

The drug culture around us today is ominous and deadly. Opioid drug use has become very prevalent, and every year thousands of young people die of drug overdoses, usually from opioids like heroin and oxycodone.  These drugs are additive and cause desperate drug-seeking behavior in teenagers and adults who have exposure for any length of time to them.

Doctors 10-15 years ago were encouraged to be more liberal in treating pain, drug companies promoted narcotics, and heroin from Mexico was widely distributed and was relatively cheap compared to some prescription narcotics.  The pendulum is swinging back now in term of physician attitudes as reins are being applied to this epidemic.

3. How has the drug culture influenced certain generations?

This would be a fascinating and complex history to explore.  Alcohol was the drug of choice of a previous generation. Overuse and alcoholism have devastated individuals and families. The 1960's saw a new way of drug use and freer attitudes toward illicit drug use, from marijuana to hallucinogens to cocaine, ecstasy, and opioids.  Today the most deadly drugs are opioids (narcotics), and these probably are having the most negative impact on families.  Adopted children and especially those in foster care from various difficult backgrounds may be more susceptible to problems related to these drugs.

4. What are some repercussions of the drug culture?
Families in Crisis
Crime (often related to addiction and drug-seeking) and imprisonment
Drug seeking
Other mental/emotional disorders
Economic ruin
Rebellion, leaving home, homelessness

5. Do you have advice for people interested in fostering children, with reflections on drug issues?

Adoption and foster care are sorely needed.
Many foster home situations are not good, and kids need an alternative
Get informed as well as possible. Go to websites on adoption, foster care, drug issues. is an excellent resource. Know what to expect! 
Look into "Safe Families" concept that Bethany sponsors. 
Government resources like Health and Human Services can be checked. Our local HHS office was very helpful in offering educational classes and opportunities for foster care, and learning what to expect in special needs children.  
Taking in sibling groups as well as individual children was considered. Learning about this can help a family see its own limitations and find the right fit. Talk to your other kids about it. Spouses need to be on the same page before diving in. Join or form a support group.  PRAY!

linking up with Kelly!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Culture Tuesday: The Haunting of Hill House VS Stranger Things

While I enjoy our family's Netflix subscription, I am very much not into the horror genre, therefore it is somewhat odd that I'm "going there" today, but here I go!  I have not seen many of the classics of the 80's and 90's that fall into this category.  I have seen one (count it ONE) zombie movie-- Shaun of the Dead-- and one (count it ONE) episode of The Walking Dead.  To say I'm grossed out easily is an understatement and I really don't like to be scared.

Furthermore, despite his popularity, Stephen King made me shudder so much I swore him off after the movie The Green Mile.  I do not feel safe with him, so leave me to Flannery O'Connor all day for the grotesque, and worldview.  I do not need to read any more of King's novels. I'm goo. HOWEVER, when it comes to entertainment, I have seen and appreciate E.T., The Goonies, and Star Wars, so I can appreciate Stranger Things.

Today I'm going to share why --as probably most people in the world will agree-- Stranger Things is far superior to The Haunting of Hill House.

Read on if a) You don't mind spoilers! or b) You never plan to watch these shows! :)  or c) You've already seen them.

I'm going to make quick commentary of genre, characters, themes, and the conclusion of each respective show.  Here we go!


Thriller vs. Genre-bending Mystery

The Haunting of Hill house creeped me out and made me feel thoroughly unsafe.  I would characterize this scary story as ICKY.  From dead monsters, to creepy eyeless characters, to post-autopsy, there are things I will never be able to unsee, and therefore I would never rewatch this show.  Meanwhile, I have been rewatching Stranger Things-- the whole first season recently-- and somewhat to my surprise, it has been absolutely delightful.  The thing is, (and Stephen helped me put my finger on this) Stranger Things really doesn't fit into the horror genre. It is more of a mystery thriller with elements of horror, by design but not by default.  Ultimately, it crosses over into pop instead of crap!


 Children vs. Tweens

The characters in Stranger Things are a DELIGHTFUL (there's that word again) throw-back to The Goonies and I dearly love them for it.  The Duffer brothers really nailed a time and place - and instead of making you feel cheated, or underwhelmed, you feel SO WARMLY NOSTALGIC for another time.  All of the hallmarks of that era of pre-cell-phone comes back and you leave feeling enchanted. The only way to describe the feeling is to remember vividly this scene from E.T. Eleven (played so brilliantly by Millie Bobbie Brown) that elevates the show from clever to classic. Meanwhile The Haunting of HH goes between the main characters as young children and adults. They play on the trope typical in horror of innocent children doing STUPID things in effort to be brave and then totally creeping the viewer out.


Icky tactics vs.  Fighting Evil

While The Haunting of HH is full of icky scare tactics like dead bodies and creepy monsters and over-the-top haunted-mansion tropes, Stranger Things has a definable evil, and it is the thing we are all fighting against. The shadow monster, the demagorgon: together the kids have to figure out what the Upside Down is and who/what/where/why the monster is trying to destroy them. There is a camaraderie as the kids -often cheerfully and with a tremendously kind demeanor toward one another- rescue their friend and fight against it, using ingenuity and their sweet, complicated plans.

Conclusion of the shows

Fear baggage vs. Fighting a real threat together

I love how the ST characters work together and are slowly but simultaneously figuring out what the Upside Down is all about.  While the characters in The Haunting are fighting their own baggage, in seemingly lost and sinful ways, the kids in ST fight a real threat together and find unity. I love how well the Duffer brothers have mined the gold of this age grouP!!  Scars vs. courageous acts.

My Conclusion

Dread vs. Delight

As I said I am purely enchanted by the music, the pal-feeling you get, and the genuine script of ST. The difference, ultimately, is the memory of a time and place, rather than the trauma of a time and place. I felt dread and disdain from The Haunting of HH.  As I wrap up and close, may you find the courage of the children to be something that ultimately takes you to a higher place.  Rather than pity, may you yourself be elevated by the kindness, to go forth and make your own magical creative piece.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Project October Recap~ in case you missed it {7QT}

Hey friends!

The month of October has been intense! As we have been preparing for the fun festivities of Halloween, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day for a well-rounded Hallowtide, I have also been trying to fit in my monthly reading, as well as a rigorous blogging schedule.  My reading hasn't been as flourishific as I would have hoped, but I have been checking in on Goodreads.  I am still clocking in for my book-a-week challenge over there, so check out my 2018 Reading Challenge, and come be a Goodreads friend!!
Novemeber reads

From last month's stack, I got through and was able to enjoy Homegoing by Yya Ngasi, Into the Water,  and some of The Book Thief- about 200 pgs. worth so I will count it on GR.  I ultimately decided it wasn't for me, but if you liked it, please tell me why.

If you missed it, I have been writing a blog post everyday for the past moth!   In the event that you were unable to read any of my posts which I put together in effort to support and participate the #write31days challenge (which I learned is in its last year!),  I wanted to share the seven most popular posts from my #write31days challenge.  Here they are, in order of least popular to most popular.

TV review: The Good Place

Church Scandal and Theological Awareness

Book Review: Born a Crime

Finding Vulnerability in Podcast Form

3 Books I Loved and 1 I Disliked

A Little Bit About Me

Becoming an Influencer and Reader

And bonus: A very popular post but also my favorite post of this month
How Faith is Like a Garden

Thanks for taking this incredible journey with me! I appreciate you more and more each day.  Most of my posts had around 30 hits, but the ones above had at least 75-100.


You know me and my love for all things fried and spicy.  After some thinking, I have decided that in the future, Tuesdays will be culture, Fridays will be a check-in with the world and Kelly, and Sundays will be quotations. Thanks for sticking around thus far.

linking up with Kelly

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Project October: Day 31: Last Thoughts

For my final post, I had pondered doing a few different things. I thought I had settled on something of an interview, but as the timing did not work out (which is fine!), I thought I would come in here and do a little last-thoughts reflection type of thing.

I know blogs can have that yummy feeling of confiding and opening up, and in some ways that's why I fell in love with it in the beginning.  I remember when major announcements, deep thoughts, and other reflections on faith, love, death, and all of the above were the norm in the blogosphere.  I remember a blogger opening up about her alcoholism and subsequent divorce. I still remember that very vulnerable post like it was yesterday.  I didn't know this woman, but I felt like the announcement was so personal, it hit me like a bomb going off.

Over the course of this month of blogging non-stop, I have had a few insights which I would like to share.  Sort of a what I learned, etc.

I first of all thought a lot about this phrase: "Tune in."
When you blog everyday, that can make it difficult to tune into your normal daily life and routine.  To be honest, other things that I normally use to tune out my life took second place and it was simply a normal replacement scenario, where blogging took first place.  I would normally be reading more, or probably checking my phone more, or possibly listening to more podcasts and music while cleaning (more!).  But the choice to clean, tune into my life, kids, and normal everyday hobbies definitely took a back seat, and it was noticeable.

Of the self-discovery that happened from putting out a blog post everyday, I think I started to feel like a) I do love writing very much and I could do it everyday b) I felt a twinge of being overbearing {{which is the nature of the beast}} and c) despite the "distraction" piece, which is certainly an issue or at least something to weight into the whole picture, when you are forced to do something everyday, it might feel like a burden, except when it is a gift that comes naturally, therefore you feel  "God's pleasure" ---to quote the Olympian Eric Liddell- a strong Christian who did all for God's glory, and said he indeed felt God's pleasure when running.

From having to check in and write here on the blog, I did a lot of thinking about inspiration.  Honestly, the greatest* source of inspiration was my own blog.  I came to a place where I was very thankful for my somewhat meager, sporadic offerings of the past, because I could just search a keyword either on my blog's homepage, or within blogger, to find my thoughts about every little last jot and tittle of my life since Molly's birth TEN years ago!  Ha.  When you look at it that way, I have achieved much, even if I'm no entrepreneur in the truest sense, and despite the fact that my success is by no means measured in huge terms right now!

Journalling as method is a discipline, and it is one I will continue.  I will continue to blog as well, but I'm not sure what it will look like in the future.  I will surely continue to write, and I hope that among the various outlets where my writing has been received, some will continue to blossom and flourish.  I think through writing, I have been able to touch on and truly discover my passions.  I love to critique music, art, books, and culture.  I love to share my favorite finds with my friends, family, and blog readers.  I also love to share my heart and life with you as well.  I pray that God will grant wisdom in the future on how to do all of this well, on down the road.

If you went on this "great pilgrimage" with me, I thank you.  It has been fun.  It has been somewhat dreamy to do what I passionately love to everyday.  I truly mean it when I say I'm over the moon about being a writer, and I hope that my willingness to open up has touched even just one person.  I feel like I also want to say here that I got violently ill on two different occasions during the month of October.  The first was in the very beginning.  Madeleine came down with a throw-up bug on Frances' birthday, and poor thing passed it to me.  Then on Sunday night of this past weekend, I threw up eight times after eating some pork and let's just say that it was unpleasant

GOD bless.

*When I say 'greatest' I have to clarify that being bookish is probably the biggest source of mental stimuli for me on a daily basis. When talking strictly about finding ideas for blog posts, my own blog came in very handy.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Project October: Day 30: A Simple, Inexpensive Craft Supply List

As we have just begun homeschooling this year, I've gathered a combination of >>Cheap + Thorough<< prep of our art cabinet.  I'm trying to prepare our space and our house for crafting, since I know  my kids will LOVE having the option of doing some art, some crafts, or just some independent crafty business, especially on the occasional rainy day!  :)

Here is what we'll have on hand:

~crayola crayons
~crayola colored pencils
~stickers~ melissa and doug and bulk supply a la walmart
~brightly colored paper
~markers-- sharpies and mr. sketch
~white paper
~cotton balls
~rubber bands
~high quality brand watercolor paints
~foam die cuts
~acrylic paint

In addition to these supplies, we also have on hand:

~a tablecloth that can get dirty
~smocks for the kids
~goodwill clothes (just for painting) ;-)
~a dropcloth for the back porch (an old sheet will do) 

Some of this we already have. Everything else will be purchased. Old/dirty/unusable supplies get tossed. #declutter

I'm hoping to do a "special activity" once a week. We might make Fridays our order pizza and craft day! We still plan to get outside on the other days! 

Here are some ideas:

1. Crafts/ Art projects

2. Simple DIY or other activities (gardening, decorating, cooking together)

3. Legos

4. Playdoh extravaganza/ Modeling Clay

5. Manipulatives from the Dollar Store or Homeschool Supply Store

6. Journals for each child and pens (my kids love these pens)- this could be a nature journal but maybe not! ;-)

7. Games for Game night (Molly and Frances will be targeted for this, in particular!)

~~Educational Games like this Pizza math game and this Bingo game

for the younger ones:

~~Chutes and Ladders
~~Connect 4

Card games and ipad games also count for boredom busters! ;) Can't wait! lol.  I'm hoping that on the days we don't have an organized activity, such as rainy days, the kids will still feel comfortable pulling out their art supplies and using their imaginations....  What ideas do you have for keeping boredom at bay for homeschoolers? Help me!!
To see our Candy Corn Fall art camp, see this.

Monday, October 29, 2018

If it's just a symbol.... how faith is like a garden (and hope)

Madonna of the Goldfinch
by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, via wikicommons

Famously, Flannery O'Connor said about the holy eucharist, "If it's just a symbol, then to hell with it."

Taking that seed of contemplation,  I want to shed water and light on it.

Growth in God requires the water of the Eucharist.  We are truly fed by it.  The seed of faith is nourished by truth.

Discerning crossing the Tiber (that is, converting to Catholicism) is, or can be, frightening.  I haven't spoken (confidently) about it in some time, mostly because just like an O'Connor short story, when I rock the boat, predictably each time, various family members text me inflammatory commentary from some religious leader within their sphere of influence (or sphere of being influenced).  I have written on our conversion in the past and I think I have aimed at dispersing darkness... yet it kinda maketh me laugh.

But... I'm feeling led to speak about it today, because as an article I linked to recently mentioned, faith and holiness are something we hide and something we radiate.  So this got me thinking humility begs that we hide our good deeds, we share our beliefs.  I feel like we keep secret our deepest thoughts perhaps, but we share our hope.   If faith in God and Jesus is taken out of the context of the Eucharist that has power, and if it is something that is more than a symbol, then that changes literally everything.

The only thing I can say about this garden is that you cannot know the growth that is possible until you feed the seed of faith with action.  St. Therese of Liseux made famous the idea of the way of the little flower,  “The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.  If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” (God's will*)

Just like a flower that blooms in the sun, the soil must be rich, healthy, and the water clean. The soil can't be rocky or full of clay.  The roots have to be able to go down to a very deep place.  (Of course scandal and immorality among our bishops does nothing for the condition of our soil as a Church.  Lord, help us. me and all of us.)  As an aside, if I could recommend all Catholics read one book in the coming year, it would be An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.  I talked about it in my instastories, but suffice it to say it is like an incredible meal of comfort food with all the fixings.

The word "rosary" comes from the symbol "a garland of roses." In the 12th century, it has been reported that St. Bernard spoke of the Blessed Virgin Mary as "The rose of charity, the lily of chastity, the violet of humility and the golden gillyflower of heaven", and in the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi was reported to have taken care not to step on even the least flower, as it was a symbol of Mary.

If righteousness- the doing of what is right- is a choice each day, then a beautiful garden full of many flowers requires the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which leads to a person's ultimate redemption when the rose blooms instead of the lies of Satan and the entanglements of sin.  Confession, absolution from sin, and the other sacraments such as baptism, marriage, penance, confirmation, holy orders, and anointing of the sick remain the sticking point.  Finally, reliance on the saints and the queen of heaven and queen of all the saints, Mary is the bloom itself.  :)

If you are still curious, I recommend Peter Kreeft's book Catholic Christianity.  As far as excellent apologists go, I can't think of  a better one!
*For more on St. Therese: see this

#write everyday 31days like t. pain

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Project October: Day Twenty-Seven: 3 Books I Loved and One I Disliked

Today I'm going to talk about the depth(?)s of human nature in three books I loved and one book I hated (or strongly disliked).  In fiction, sometimes the characters go deeper than the storyline. In the three books I loved, the characters did just that. In the one I disliked, the main character is in the midst of a plot that gets more complicated as time and pages go on, but the character remains unchanged and uninteresting, thus it seems to beg a life change. How do we seek out and find really great books, where characters live, breathe, die, and are changed by the circumstances of life? That is what I hope to find out.

In the novella or short story, The Death of Ivan Illych, the main character faces a long, slow death after it is clear he has lived an immoral life wrought with adultery and jealousy.  Like other works by Tolstoy, the plot and characters stay in the spotlight of our imagination and it is made even more beautiful by the winsome philosophy woven throughout. The character faces the moral dilemma: needing to ask for help, by humbling himself to ask his servant to hold his legs up to relieve his pain in the midst of dying. Tolstoy does not mince words, and to be honest this book is a little discouraging. But hang on: his storytelling keeps us attached to his every word, namely because of deep, interesting characters.

Another book that I love and have reread many times is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  In it, we meet Colin and Mary, a pair who have many things in common. Instead of being a caricature of children- cheesy and "virtuous"- these characters have many flaws and we recognize a shimmer of something in ourselves. Namely, they are believable. Colin and Mary are cousins; they love picture books; they are both bossy and do not like to go outdoors. Their similarities contrast sharply with the boy from the Yorkshire moor, Dickon. He loves animals, and growing things, and can awaken a secret garden using only a spade and a package of seeds. The book comes alive and the reader with it, as we see a spiritual and physical garden reawaken at the hands of these interesting children.

- The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is a book that I felt did not have a down reaching impact on me or my heart. The characters- namely the main character- does not undergo any serious change, nor does she seem to have any deep friendships. The thrust of the book is the twisting plotline. While echoing (or attempting to echo) Faulkner and referencing Moby Dick, this book isn't a classic.  How do I know? I just think that it is a trending book- with many non-literary reviews on Goodreads and Amazon- that doesn't get under your skin. Whether it be through beauty, deep souls, or gorgeous writing, a classic is a book that doesn’t give us a diatribe or a literary harangue: it leaves us changed. This book just didn't fall into that category for me.

The final book I want to mention is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Here is a book that I think isn't classic, but it should be.  Rather than a mere plot twister, the main character faces a moral dilemma and comes out changed for the better. It's a newer book than Tolstoy, but the writing, the plotline, the characters, and the effect on the soul is great: it is pure greatness.  The main character is quirky, and flawed (she dislikes her overbearing mother and seeks to offend her occasionally). Her moral dilemma is that she is faced with the idea of death, and she must decide how to overcome her fears and live life to the fullest, without offending her religious, decorous, auspiciously wealthy family. I'm happy to report that you will whiz through the last 30 pages to find out if she is successful in this or not.

I try to seek out worthwhile books for myself and my children. Sometimes it is more difficult than it might seem at first sight.  While it isn't wrong to read "good" books sometimes, a book should be more than a good plot. A great book will be more than that. A classic will leave us changed, and that's what I'm going to try to set out to read (or keep reading). ;-) To quote Bret Lott*: "Hearts moving, by the way, the reason any of us ought to write."

*From his book Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life

Friday, October 26, 2018

Project October: Day Twenty-Six: Culture Wars (7QT)

*Recently, I was talking to a friend who is reading a very interesting-sounding book, one I think I would like to read at some point, Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer.  My friend was telling me about the history of immigrants to the US, and how the culture here can largely be traced to the various English settlers in various regions of the U.S. Perhaps our cultural history can't be tied down to simply colonialism. These details influence childrearing, education, and attitudes toward sex. (music, fashion, literature)?  As this book proves, we have to go back further in time to see how other continents, such as GB ultimately shaped our society today.  Culture wars are deeper than you/we/ and/or I once thought!! :)

*I responded by saying, “That would be very interesting to me- my Mom is of Swedish/Norwegian descent; my Dad is of English/Welsh heritage.  Hence, our last name- which for me was my maiden name, Williams.”  I think the book explores the east and particularly the ethnicities of the Southeast, but it could be more about New England, than Southern, such as another book I have read Hillbilly Elegy, which actually focuses more on the drug culture of Ohio but also the South. Many of these hillbillies across the Southeast have their roots in the Scottish immigrants of past generations.

*This conversation caused me to ponder cultural heritage and how that makes us who we are. My Mom's parents were both of second generation Scandinavian descent. Grandparents were first generation immigrants to the USA.  Many of my Mom's cousins still live in Uppsala, (oops) Sweden and Bronnesund, (northern!) Norway!  My Mom has gone to visit them several times!  I believe I get my love of ikea, cool furniture, architecture, blonde hair, love of (and worship of hot and sexy) Vikings, and coffee from my Scandinavian roots- apparently they drink kaffe all day long, and sometimes even all night, as according to the movie Ordet.  I think most Scandanavian people are sad a lot of the time, and I base that on the movies Wild Strawberries--- in fact all movies directed by Ingmar Bergman-- and A Man Called Ove.  Also dark and cold.   Their cookies and chocolate are the absolut best. Cinnamon rolls.

*From my English and Welsh relatives I got : Pale skin, a love of antiquing and nice wooden furniture,  croquet, chamber music, my pickier palate, and of course my love of bossing people around. (My Dad's ancestors had slaves, so there you go).  #british #palepride  Also my love of NON-spicy food.  Everyone knows WASP stands for White-as-shit Protestant, right?!  Can I say that I actually hate tea.  I will not drink sweet tea. I basically HATE it and for that reason I thank my relatives on the other side. hahahaha.

*I can see heritage traits in my husband as well. He is primarily of German, Eastern European, and Scottish descent. I can totally see how his logical, no-nonsense approach to life comes from his German side, and I can see from his looks, that he favors some of his relatives from Eastern European side.  He is mostly a homebody and loves coffee and reading like me (we are both Introverts on Myers Briggs).  He has been known to be bossy and I think that comes from the Scottish roots. *  Now our children are certainly mutts, but it will be interesting to see what they bring to the table as they get older!

*From both sides Protestant blood, but I WILL NOT GO INTO THAT RIGHT NOW.  No but really, we are from a firmly protestant background, and we don't have the privilege of having been brought up Catholic.  I would say I identify most with the Lutheran tendency, which is ironic because Luther is the one who started the whole Reformation!  How can I say I identify with someone who sought to essentially tear down the truths I hold dear?  Because it is precisely how I was raised!  Anyway, I'm not at liberty to speak at length about this topic, because I don't believe in rocking the boat.    #lutheran #presbyterian #baptist #proooooooooooooooooootestant 

*I think this question is so interesting… perhaps even more intriguing in some ways than personality types. I know- scandalous!  But really, what determines our outlook on life? Nature? Nurture?  Culture?  War?

What is your cultural heritage?

Joining Kelly today and the other quick takers

A form of this article was first published May 21, 2015

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Project October: Day Twenty-Five: Links edition!

Writing everyday for this challenge has been a discipline! Unfortunately, to be honest I am having a hard time keeping up.  We are looking at the last week and we are staring down the final few days.  In the meantime....  here are a few  Quick Reads....!  :)  I truly thank you for sticking around for today's edition of links.

Can Catholic Literature Build on Its Rich Heritage?  @ America Magazine, written by Joshua Hren
This very scholarly article is an excellent piece.  It quotes Bernardo Aparicio, a friend and the founder of the Dappled Things website and literary journal.   Worth a read.

Cider and Donuts and Alternative, a Spotify Playlist @ Verily Magazine {by Emily Lehman}
There are some really good musical choices herein.

Why I Stay @ Dappled Things {written by Terence Sweeney}
Instead of a retractive attitude toward our faith, this exploration of courage in the face of bad news is encouraging.

The Paradox of Holiness- Hidden but Radiant @ Catholic Exchange {written by Stephen Beale}
This is an inspiring piece and I love following this writer on Twitter.  :)

Posts from earlier this week, in case you missed them:

My love for instastories
Recipes for fall
A short reflection on parenting

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Project October: Day Twenty-Four: A Short Reflection on Parenting

Yesterday, the homeschooling journey was not smooth.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, a loser, a failure.  I'm not living according to my own expectations, much less holding my children to high expectations.  I'm not pregnant, nursing, or getting up in the middle of the night.  What is my excuse? hmm....

After complaining to Stephen about the attitudes in our home the night before, I made everyone pray a rosary first thing in the morning, before attempting to start anything else.

The kids reluctantly prayed along with me.  Then, they reluctantly did three subjects- the three that I teach them each morning- English, History, and Religion.  Finally, we sat down with some overdue library books that I've been meaning to read to them before I return. Renew, renew, renew.

The mutiny started.  Several kids were no-shows.  Two children helped themselves to shredded cheese in the kitchen, spilling it everywhere and then bringing it into the living room, where it was shared with a baby and spilled and spread and stuck into our carpet.  I harangued and cajoled until all six were sitting down in the living room.

I calmly told them to be quiet and listen. I firmly told them to be quiet and listen. Then I yelled at them to be quiet and listen.  And the thought, "This isn't fun anymore" crept into my consciousness from somewhere below the iceberg of unconscious thought.  This isn't worth it... the mess was everywhere.

Then I said it out loud. "Kids, this isn't going well. No screens for the rest of the day."

I felt like, despite the noisy conjecture, Mary was with me on this decision.  This was her way of helping us out of a shallow lull in our studies. Because we had stopped to pray, I felt a divine assistance I may not have otherwise had. I may not do everything right in this journey, but I have a feeling that whenever I need assistance, she will be there.  The rest of the day was so much better, and I was thankful that despite protestation, I stuck to my guns. The rest is history.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Project October: Day Twenty Three: Foodie Recipes and Fall Fashion

I love squash in the Fall, but I feel like it gets a bad rap. No? Only in my household of picky eaters? After a full day raking leaves, playing in piles of said leaves, and going on a long bike ride, what is better than warming up with some healthy, paleo friendly food?

Here are 3 ways to enjoy squash, and I *promise* it will taste delicious!


First, slice in half and scoop the seeds into the trash.  Coat both sides with olive oil and add a bit of salt.
Bake it on 400 for 45-50 min., 
flipping it over halfway.

 make sure you cook until it is totally soft! Undercooked squash is not so good! Thoroughly scoop out seeds and throw them away, or bake them with a little spice (You can bake them like pumpkin seeds- same idea!- which might be a little better but these are yummy when toasted and don't take as long because they are smaller. We like wasabi powder, salt, a little olive oil, and pepper. Lemon pepper also good choice, for the seeds OR the squash!)

Always coat the baking sheet with olive oil, and add a little butter to the cavity of your squash. The time varies depending on the type of squash.. Otherwise, it is as simple as that!


Creamy Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash cut in half vertically
1 onion diced
2 tbsp. of butter
1 1/2 tbsp. ginger
2 tsp. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

brown the onion in butter, add garlic and oil and half of the ginger and simmer for a good while. Add chicken stock and cream and simmer until squash in the oven is soft and can be scooped out of its skin. 

Scoop it into your soup, then blend in a blender or with a stick blender. Simmer a bit longer to get the juices really cooked in.

If you like fresh ginger, this recipe is gold!


Stuffed Acorn Squash ~ With Apples and Cinnamon

Halve and Bake flesh-side up @ 400° for 1 hr, 15 min.

Add: Baked apples, cinnamon, butter, and a "crust"~ use this recipe for apple crisp
Stir the apple crisp into the the baked squash
This was delicious!

Stuffed Butternut Squash ~ With Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper

Halve and Bake flesh-side up @ 400°F for 1 hr, 30 min.
Add to the cookie sheet red and yellow peppers, halved and sunny-side up

The peppers will start to brown around the edges- that's fine and makes it taste good. You can wrap them in tin foil (I didn't do this, but I've heard it helps keep them more crisp as they brown).

Dice the roasted red and yellow peppers, taking out some of the flesh, add to squash with butter, salt, and pepper.
This made a very nice side to Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup!

ALSO TRY: Stuffed Spaghetti Squash~ With Sun-dried tomato pesto sauce

Halve and bake, flesh side down @375°  for 1 hr, flipping halfway through.
Add store bought sauce, or simply add garlic clove, minced, with salt, pepper, melted mozzarella, thinly sliced tomatoes, and leftover roast pork.  Broil until bubbly.  You can do this with or without tomatoes and it will still be delicious.