Friday, March 30, 2018

Monthly Recap vol. 53~ March 2018

~1 Lately~


Yeah, as I mentioned, we are turning our attic storage into bedrooms for the kiddos. Also, I had a birthday this month. Best night ever.  Also, I gave up shopping for Lent. Here is a visual*

This was my March book stack.

~2 Reading~

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Ooooh I loved this book! 

It reminded me of Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier, because it is a mystery that slowly unravels. Also, urban London and surrounding areas. I die. I love this framework and setting.

It's a pageturner. I would like to say it is also a quick read, but it's actually quite thorough storytelling, so if you are like me (not an incredibly fast reader, more like a little above average) you can read it in a week.

I loved how Hawkins unraveled each character as well. I kept feeling in over my head, then catching up. It was almost like swimming in a narrative so dense I had to come up for air occasionally.

If you complain of not liking dark stories/plots, give this a chance. It is scary but not *too* scary (a la Stephen King), and it is privileged but not too privileged.

SPOILER: I'm kind of afraid to watch the movie!!

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Hmmm... mixed feelings.

I read this book after reading a dense, packed book with a VERY deep plot.

This book goes nowhere.
It is not as profound as people keep saying.
If you want deep, profound characters, I recommend Kristin Hannah.

I might try Olive Kitteridge just because I want to know what all of the fuss is about.
I appreciated that this book was short, because occasionally simplicity and the feeling that you don't have to invest a TON of precious time and energy is very nice.

All in all, I wouldn't say I understood why people say this book is full of jewels. It seems to me full of misguided analogies, and it is rather a snoozer of a plot. Moody. Perhaps slightly twisted.

The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah

What happens when a young girl named Lauren becomes pregnant and she must make some important decisions? A woman named Angie helps her figure out issues of single parenthood ... I love the humor and grace with which this interesting book deals. Hannah always incorporates the zeitgeist of the age with references to pop culture and music. As usual, I loved this book by Kristin Hannah.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I will have to finish this book in April, as I just started it!

Also finished the book I mentioned last month, Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg.

All in all a good month for reading. I did not read Invisible Man by Ellison, although I dipped into it a time or two.  I've been posting my book "hopefuls" for many months now, but this month the slow, creeping realization that I would not be able to plow through all of them was in stark contrast to my past aspirations.  I did get through *almost* all of them. But that's not ALL of them. I suppose I'll have to do these at the end of the month from now on?!  And also: Why did it take me so long to realize this??  😂

I usually base these estimations on whether or not I presume something to be be an "easy read"? And again the sudden realization that : "How would I know before reading it?!"  comes into focus and I realize I really need to stop being so presumptuous with my reading ambitions. HA!

~3 Listening~

You know how when you use Spotify a lot (Spotify users), you get recommendations from their algorithm? Here is my 

RANDOMLY GENERATED PLAYLIST of such awesome goodness, I couldn't turn down the damn robot.

Honestly, though, for every song they recommended that I liked, I thought of three or several other artists I had to include in this edition of Good Music Tacy recommends.

I loved the mood--  even just analyzing the two Joni Mitchell songs I used, somewhat chilly, hanging onto the breathless sadness of winter (Blue), balanced with nuanced notes of hope (Both Sides Now).

Music can help us cope through even the darkest of moods and moments. I said Goodbye to my Grandma this month, and Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue and REM's Losing My Religion carried me through to the other side of Winter.

As I worked out, I blasted Trampled by Turtles' Codeine and every minute went faster because of the good music.  I finished out a workout with weight lifting to Rut by the Killers and I couldn't believe my luck at how quickly the time passed!  It took 2 Avett Brothers songs to take out the recycling after we emptied our attic for renovations.  Only two bluegrass songs with an upbeat rhythm to do the chore I dreaded all.week.long?  Once again I know it and I can see it--
  Good music is everything.  I have proven my point. I shall move on.



Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Yes. Yes! YES!!!!

4. Kids Are Reading

5. Linking

I can't get enough of Martha Stewart recipes, but when I saw this, I just had to share.  Apparently her bad-assery with dinner parties knows absolutely no bounds!! I guess she *did* learn a thing or two in prison.  (?!)  BAHAHAHA.  Talk about #oddcouple  And you have to check out Snoop Dog's recipe for Lobster Thermidor, AKA Skrilla Godzilla.

6. This 

7. Lent Wrap-Up 
I gave up shopping for Lent, and in the mean time, and it has felt LONG. I have had a little resurrection of sorts in my perceptions toward shopping. I think a lot about the Proverbs 31 woman who considers a field and buys it, who is clothed in purple and silk. Right? RIGHT??  Ha.

Before Lent, I was like: I have so many errands, I am about to pass out. I guess I'll just make it fun and buy myself a present. *Passes out*

And now I'm like, "Let's do this. ... NO I'm always this happy. Why?!"  😂

Have a VERY happy Easter!  😘

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rest in Peace, Grandma Evelyn: Thoughts on a Life Well-Lived and A Wrinkle in Time

On Saturday, March 24th, my grandmother Evelyn passed from this life to the next. As my Mom said, "She graduated to glory, where she received her crown of honor."  Known dearly to us kids as Nana, (Not Nanna, but Na-na) she will be sorely missed this side of Heaven.  I know she is there with Jesus and with Bumpa (Grandpa Kenneth) and all of her other loved ones who were already there waiting for her.

What is better than the specifics of a life to encourage one another and what, I ask you, is more interesting than a life that was lived for God and for his son, Jesus?  Nothing that I can think of, not right now!

Evelyn Holm Johnson was a tender, kind soul.  She was a prayer warrior, and she taught me not to worry, but to present your requests to God in prayer, because he cares for you.  Her loving-kindness was a part of her live-out-loud evangelism, which you can read more about in her obituary, which was written by my dear Mom!

Easter is the perfect time to remember my Grandma. For me, these are powerful memories.

My memories of Grandma include a visit to her mobile home park with Grandpa in Clearwater beach (where they moved from St. Paul Minnesota, after Bumpa's retirement), florida almost every single year for Easter week.  I have the sweetest, fondest memories of those trips.  We would swim in their pool, walk to the gazebo, sing at their Easter sunrise service my Dad always playing the guitar.  We would hunt for Easter eggs and Lizards and real oranges growing on trees in their backyard.  We would ride bikes around their park looking at the lovely street names, which were the names of fine jewels: garnet, crystal, opal, pearl, diamond.

Grandma would tell us in utmost strictness to do the dishes, dry them, and put them away after every meal. She would always serve fresh shrimp cocktail on our first night of the visit.  Delicious, fresh shrimp in Florida, what is better?? Her love of hymns and service to her community was evident by the joy I felt while in their home!

She was a kind soul but also a quiet soul.  While Bumpa told jokes and read us the funny paper, she would often be playing her organ or reading a good book, which she Loved to do. I am sure I got some of my love for reading and playing the piano from her!  She would turn on Lawrence Welk show and patiently and always with kindness, put curlers in our hair, in preparation for Easter, just as she had done with my Mom and her three sisters growing up!

At the 50th wedding anniversary of Grandma and Grandpa, (in middle school for me, I believe) I memorized this short poem and recited it for them at their wedding anniversary party in Clearwater beach, FL:

"What made you partners in the long ago,
When you first met,
Well I think I know!

The best in you, and the best in you (pointing to each person)
Hailed each other,
Because He knew

That always and always,
since life began,
Your being partners
Was part of God's plan."

Their kids got up and sang the song, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away."  What a memory!

Only a few weeks before she passed, I could not sleep and got up in the middle of the night. I heard God say, "Go see her." I drove to Nashville and back a few Saturdays before her death and am so glad I did. I was so worried because I knew she had been on hospice for nearly 2 years, so I wasn't sure if she would be ok or just wasting away in agony.  I was so surprised when I got there. She was smiling, giving me advice even in her last weeks.  Her witness was, "Life is fragile, handle with prayer." She pointed to the gold cross on the wall and told me the youth pastor at her church in Franklin Pastor Wayne had given it to her, and she had it ever since.

This experience reminded me of the movie I saw recently:  A Wrinkle in Time.  As the children look for their father, they see images of him trapped in a dark web, struggling to get out.  When Meg Murry finally gets to him, he is standing in a glowing orange and red square, and he's not just OK, he is downright happy.  I was shocked that he wasn't trapped in a dark web, suffering and wasting away, as they originally thought him to be.

It reminded me of my recent visit with Grandma Evelyn.  She clearly lived her witness and her legacy:

"Said the robin to the sparrow, I would really like to know
why these anxious human beings rush around and worry so.
Said the sparrow to the robin, I should think that it must be,
that they have no heavenly father, such as cares for you and me."
Evelyn Johnson with her children

I can now continue this legacy of peaceful living, by the power of prayer, by trying with my example always to live for Christ, live for others, and as we may even cry over devotions in the morning, it gives us victory all day long. This is something that ultimately, is her biggest witness:

Teach these things to your children.  Grandma had 17 grandchildren, and she taught us this with her witness most of all.

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframe of your houses and on your gates."

Grandma died on March 24, which just so happens to be the feast day of St. Catherine of Sweden, where my grandmother takes her roots.  She is sure to be considered a saint in heaven!  "How precious in the sight of God are the death of his saints!"

cross-posting at the ACWB

Friday, March 16, 2018

Life Lately (Renovating and Springtime Quick Takes)


Renovating our attic!

As I mentioned, we are renovating our attic-- turning storage and piles of boxes into bedrooms (!!), and we are turning the downstairs bedrooms into a playroom and nursery/gym (?).   The fate of the nursery is still up in the air, but the concept right now is to put down hardwood flooring in the nursery so that we can eventually use it for crafting/supplies and some of Stephen's workout equipment. We are trying to eliminate the need for a gym membership, perhaps in the near future.  My two new favorite things?  This and this.  We have a contractor and his assistant working on the stairs, so when I asked how it was going, they said, "It is a lot of little steps."  😂



Molly joined the volleyball team this Spring, and she is having a total blast and really enjoying the exercise, community, and camaraderie! I think she has found a sport she loves. She seems more focused and I love to see her enjoying it.


St. Patrick's Day!

I totally nailed dinner the other night, (it tasted way better than it looks-- Chicken vermicelli and rice with peas, baked sweet potatoes, and fresh-baked dinner rolls from Niedlov's bakery....)  which is making me excited about the deals at Aldi this weekend, including sales on Corned Beef.... and even cabbage.  I think some Bailey's Irish cream might be in tall order this weekend, what say you??


Art Camp!

I made a "book"!  I have been compiling our family traditions, and this is by no means a professional endeavor, but if you want, maybe I will someday soon even turn it into a google document! :)  haha, mostly I'm just doing this for the kids...we needed a reference manual and this is helping me to commit to memory the traditions and feast days we've adopted since becoming Catholic. Also- did you know.... the difference between Feasts, Memorials, and Solemnities? You probably did. But it was news to me. We have so many reasons to celebrate in the Catholic church! It's all kinds of amazing to me still as a convert!!



I finished a book from 1994 about breast cancer by author Elizabeth Berg and this should be considered a classic. It is called Talk Before Sleep and I was talking on instastories about how her style feels very midwestern to me. Which, by the way, I totally like. Depth of character, ironic, witty, and truly funny moments, real true-to-life events and relatable and even very likable characters.  Normally I stray far away from this type of #trigger, but with fair warning I believe you will not be disappointed by this quick read!



9 months old and 😍

We watched Coco, and I liked it! The kids liked it too, and begged to watch it the next day before our rental time ran out.  We let them watch the first half again.  I think you should see it! I love the perspective of the afterlife and the themes of loved ones who have passed on who ask us to "Remember Me."  Beautiful picture of Mexican humanity and culture!  But what might trump the amazingness of this film is the absolutely incredible twitter handle @ amazonmoviereviews



I've really been enjoying the Criminal podcast. I'm no true crime book fan (at this point), but when I find something that creeps me out without making me feel unsafe, I can enjoy it because I know I'll be able to sleep that night.  It kinds of reminded me of The Girl on the Train... creepy but never the feeling that I'm unsafe in Paula Hawkins' hands. Great read. ha.

linking up with Kelly!


Friday, March 9, 2018

How to be a Semi-Crafty Mama (7QT)

Despite the title, how to be a semi-crafty Mama, this will be somewhat random of a 7 quick takes... bear with me! #ohyeah #sotight

Trip to Nashville

Over the weekend, I surprised my Grandma with a quick trip to her nursing home in Nashville. It is only two hours away, so I went there and back again in one day!  I hit the book jackpot, which I'll tell you about in a minute, but guys, this is just another example of how you 1) give up your agenda and 2) give up shopping...  and God gives back, more abundantly than we deserve and expect and definitely shows up in the resurrection moments of life.  #lenthasaredletterday

Thoughts on Homeschooling

As I mentioned, Stephen and I are spending the season of Lent praying over whether or not to homeschool our kids next year. Right now we're looking into the Seton method.  Avoiding a comedy of errors, there are so many issues to work through, so we continue to crave prayers about it.  Should we keep one in school? Should we do it for one year then re-evaluate?  Should we plan to put them back in next Fall or wait and see? Should we invest in an accredited curriculum program? How will we know how long we'll need it? Should we get uniforms? (Everyone knows this is the most important question when it comes to homeschooling).  My favorite parenting moments have to do with seeing them all playing together and hearing one yell out, "Pause the game! I have to *insert break here*"  It is cute to think of them doing an hour of work and many more hours playtime. :) Again, if you are going through any suffering, it would be SO SO appreciated if you offer it up for us at this time. It feels like a HUGE decision.

Crafting with Kids

Every year during the Easter Octave (the first 8 days of the 50-day period of Easter), I do some Spring and Easter/Egg - themed crafts with my kids.
Last year, we combined the crafts with fun snacks everyday.
This was the first year we did an Easter Art Camp.

Here are some of the ideas I have tucked away for this years' Easter-- I can't wait!  *And neither can my kiddos.*

Washi Tape Butterflies

Easter -themed Dirt Pudding Cups

Embellished Glitter Eggs

Easy Edible Easter Baskets

Banana Split


The Oscars

I have sooooooo many thoughts on the Oscars.  I LOVE watching the Academy Award every year. I find it so tremendously interesting.  But this year seemed to be a bomb and I think the most recent Pop Culture Happy Hour episode from NPR on the awards show confirmed my suspicions that even if we had watched many of the nominated movies, it still wouldn't have been super-interesting to watch this year.

And--- Ya'll.  Hilarious is the name of our game, :)  and that is exactly what it feels like to watch an entire Oscars program with having only seen ONE of the films nominated for Best Picture and maybe three films mentioned at the award ceremony.  Stephen and I saw Dunkirk and found it RIDICULOUSLY funny that they won for sound editing and sound mixing, because we hated the soundtrack.  Stephen liked the movie more than I did... but even he found it boring. Despite being an all-star cast, I thought the acting was weak. It felt so fake to me.  I'm glad to have heard it was well-received by the academy, though, because it tells an important story and Stephen and I were both glad to learn more about this historical event.

I also saw The Greatest Showman and I appreciated the performance of the song from that.  I want to see :  Coco, The Shape of Water, and Ladybird.

Sufjan Stevens

I had to open my hands and release into the world my college-days idolization of Sufjan Stevens' whispery voice and amazing banjo playing skills, when he took the Oscars stage (or rose up from the ashes- HA). I was confused.  Wait-- what is this song about?  So I looked up the lyrics and I have to say


WARNING: honest opinion ahead... Ravi Zacharias has some (good) words about this topic/issue.

 Chris Thile?! Your mandolin sounded so good.


Going back to my trip up to Nashville...  I made a priority and worked out alllll of the logistics to stop at Parnassus Books on Saturday (owned by Ann Patchett) where I bought a signed copy of her book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.  I then was driving around nearby where my Grandma was staying, and I found a Book Sale just by seeing a sign by the side of the road. I stopped, went in, and I found myself at the Franklin Public Library (Williamson County), where all books were a dollar. I scored- it was literally book heaven - and I felt like I had hit the jackpot and won the lottery... that's how happy books make me!!!
it felt especially SPECIAL since I had been saving myself

Craft Supplies

I gave up shopping for Lent, but it has been a good opportunity to get ourselves organized.  I bought this art bin about a year ago, and I have really enjoyed using my supplies now that they have a modicum of organization. The minutiae of craft supplies has come into glaring focus (I have ten pairs of scissors, for example)  and NOT shopping has been the best thing to ever come along for my crafting habit. #everythingfeelsmoreorganized

Lent is only three more weeks-three weeks from today is Good Friday!  How can you up the ante to make sure you are sacrificing everyday during this penitential season? I have noticed that I have more joy when I work with God rather than against God.  I have to keep rolling with the everyday changes of life- kids getting bigger, seasons changing, myself getting older, demands perhaps getting stronger, the pull of daily mass or holiness becoming irresistible. I have to work *with* God and then I see fruit and bear fruit.  Maybe this book could help our family? (maybe, maybe not?)

What are you must-haves when it comes to crafting and especially if gearing up for a season of heaving craft lifting (aka Easter octave?!)

Mark Bridges... so cheesy and so funny! :)
God bless!

what I found at the book sale in Franklin!
dirt cheap!

Linking up with Kelly