Friday, June 29, 2018

Monthly Recap~ vol. 56~ June 2018


Summer in the American South has been HOT and very rainy this year!  Wow June you delivered on some fantastic, beautiful, awe-inspiring Summer storms.  One thunderstorm had such intense wind that a gigantic tree on our street fell over (I think it was rotten).

I have loved watching storms roll in and agitate the trees in our yard. Did you know that watching a tree can lower your blood pressure?  (cool, huh).  Speaking of lately, we are still obsessed with the specifics of nature and botany over here!  Some trees we have discovered recently on walks nearby:

And plants/trees: this is a different variety of magnolia with smaller "pinecones":) I have loved learning alongside my kids. I'm still using the free "Picture This" app, BUT hit me up if you have a good one to recommend! :) I can't wait to start drawing them, as I have heard it improves attention span and helps you to remember the names.

And onto what I'm into.... Summer is such a great time for media. The days are longer and I feel so much more in the mood to be entertained especially with this scorcher we're currently experiencing. Hopefully that means at least a few people in the world are still reading blogs (right now!).


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This may have been my favorite book this month, maybe my favorite book in some time.  The writing was like a mouth-wateringly delicious meal of black Southern comfort food, with pain, sadness, and brokenness thrown in.  I would not read this if you do not want to feel the strain and heartache that is the Black American experience. But if you want a gorgeous look at marriage, life, and race, then READ IT.

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

I will always have good associations with this book, because I finished it the same night Stephen and I went out for Thai food. I had a huge Thai tea with dinner, so I was wide awake to finish the last fourth of the book.  I should have been eating and drinking Sicilian food like pizza and granitas (Almond granitas!!!!!)

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

To be honest, I liked so many things about this book more than I enjoyed the experience of reading it. I enjoyed the musical vocabulary and jargon, rooted in her real experiences of playing competitive cello.  There is a good podcast episode with an interview with the author.  Worth checking out.  I found the writing very beautiful and the mood very San Francisco.  I might not read anything else by this author though because it felt slow and stilted at times.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This was a fast-paced YA romance about a Korean boy and Jamaican American girl who fall in love one day, when the issue of immigration threatens to tear them apart.  Very of-the-moment, very cheesy and YA-ish, and a simplistic almost childish style, but with a lot of heart. A sweet look at a contemporary romance with modern themes thrown in for good measure.

You can see my goodreads challenge here (and please don't ask me why Ariel's Birthday Surprise is included in my books. Because I couldn't figure out how to delete it. 😂)


Portlandia (some episodes are good and worth watching) There is a new season and I admit Fred Armisen is one of my favorite comedians living today. Just be careful of the "overboard" episodes (unmentionable much).  haha

The Greatest Showman I think this movie is underrated by critics. My family has seen it numerous times and not only that, my daughters are obsessed with the soundtrack.  I love Michelle Williams in this movie- she has a beautiful voice and she can dance.  Neither of which I would have known if I hadn't seen this movie.

Chef's Table This is my favorite show on Netflix.  I devour every episode, wishing I could taste the things I see on the screen.  It is so artful... watch all the way to the end of the season; the last episode is innovative, intense, inspiring, incredible.  Episodes in Sicily* and Indonesia were favorites.

Part Unknown with Anthony Bourdain  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Bourdain when he died.  I enjoyed watching some of this series... I think I watched about half of the episodes of the first season.  (I'm not sure if there are more seasons off the top of my head).  I loved the episode on Canada (although the food they eat is INTENSE), and the one on the Congo was FASCINATING.  Bourdain was a passionate, interesting person with a gift for storytelling and understanding history and politics and making them accessible. He lended an ear and in turn was able to really hear the issues of countries, especially those "not on the map" culturally speaking.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt  Again, I devoured the new season of this show. I love it so much.  I just wish there were more episodes. As I said on Twitter, just think about how cool Tituss Andromedas is and make a show about that. I love him.


Fountains of Carrots

The Catholic Momcast

Art of Simple

Women's Work

Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

How I Built This NPR

My June Tunes Playlist! :)


My Goodreads Reading Challenge (Come be a friend!)

Linda Holmes' piece on Anthony Bourdain @ Monkey See

Ben Folds is writing a book!

Great Summer Reading @ Catholic Mom

I am also deeply saddened and troubled by the news coming out of Annapolis. Stephen and I lived there for 6 years, and I started my first blog there. I was a writer in Annapolis, so I am very heartbroken to think about writers in Annapolis getting murdered. To all of my friends in that community-- I am praying for you right now. 😢😞

linking up with Leigh


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

America's Mental Health Crisis: Stop Saying 'Reach Out'

In the wake of the two prominent figures' suicides, an entire nation is alert to the issue of mental health.  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain ushered in- for better and/or for worse- a discussion of mental health- its ramifications and effects.  I noticed that people within the subculture of Twitter were all over the map. Some seemed shocked that those with wealth, power, and fame could feel such despair. Many spoke out by saying, "If you are hurting, reach out to those around you."  Platitudes flowed aplenty wherever news and extemporaneous thoughts were shared.

The frustration I had as someone who indeed struggles with mental illness- -and I like to call myself a "functional, sorta healthy person with mental illness"- somewhat in between the two extremes of institutionalized, definitely struggling, but also semi-healthy for the most part-- was that we do need to stop issuing platitudes.  Insiders to mental illness do not appreciate condescension, let me tell you.  If outsiders claim that those suffering are simply lonely and need to reach out to those around them, they sidestep the biggest issue in this epidemic:  they don't know that often, mental illness is about despair.

A mental health crisis is complicated. Yes, suicide and suicidal thoughts fall into this category, but it is not only the suicidal who need to 'reach out.'  And The truth is, humility about the grey area in mental illness may be the only answer to this far-reaching disease.  In order for those who are suffering to really feel healthy, they need medication, faith, and a safe place to talk about their issues-- IN THAT ORDER.  A hurting person who is suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and even delusional thoughts needs to be taken seriously, and they need to take themselves seriously.  They do not need to hear "You can tell me if you are hurting."  Often, that's because a person with deep depression is feeling something more like pervasive despair.  They do not need to "open up and have a sweet and sappy heart-to-heart."  More likely, they need a heavier prescription and they need it immediately.  The answer lies in a humility that penetrates both those who seek to be healed, and those who hope to heal the hurting. Healing doesn't happen from a place of condescension, much like the poor who aren't helped by handouts from the prosperous.

Self-care should be seen as an extremely serious route to healing.  No one is allowed to skip the steps that will lead them into a healthy lifestyle in a life or death situation.  Insiders to mental illness- myself being one- know that mental illness is about despair, and therefore 1) Platitudes don't work and 2) It is hard to be humble enough to accept the serious help they need. This means visiting a counselor and a psychiatrist as soon as possible. Outsiders don't understand this depth of struggle, so they offer euphemisms.  Instead they should be more firm and confrontational, but in a loving, patient manner.  Actually, sometimes patience is the last thing a care-provider needs.

To conclude, I have been at the door of despair. I was suicidal at one point after our fourth child was born. Postpartum depression and poor health reached a climax and I drove around in circles in my car to abate my panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.  In a recent song, Carrie Underwood sings this line: "Falling apart is as human as it gets."  Friends, do we believe this?  If so, then the humility needed to GET HELP (meaning, a better prescription) and GIVE HELP (meaning, a humble and non-condescending approach)  might finally be found. As we can see from Bourdain and Spade, when the lives of those suffering are on the line, there is literally no gray area.

cross-posting at the ACWB

Friday, June 15, 2018

Summer is Busy/Fun...& more thoughts on homeschool (not quite 7QT!)

Summer Busyness

The Summer always shakes up our routine quite a bit, and honestly I'm not sure who is around to read blogs any more - or at least in this season- so, I'm keeping it short. As usual we have been keeping busy and jumping in plenty of rivers and pools. :)

I parked the stroller and let the kids play .... Conrad was not happy to be parked! As long as he is moving, he's fine. :o)

Hey, I recognize that dress!!!! :-D

We did our annual Staycation and it was as fun as it was frugal.  Highly recommend and you can read more about ALL of that here.

I myself fell off my workout-at-the-gym routine and missed my regular exercise. I tried to go running but I could tell I wasn't really burning the calories like I do at the gym.  I try to go M,W, and Th nights at 7:30 and workout for an hour.  I do the bike or treadmill, then lift weights and do the kettle bell.  I know it gets my heart rate up and as I am faithful, I'm able to increase the amount of weights and I try to push myself to burn more calories each time I go.

Homeschool Plans

We are planning to start Seton in August.  I am eager to get rolling. I can't wait to have more time for nature walks, reading, and playing.  I will admit to nerves and the occasional fear, but mostly I'm excited and it grows as the time grows nearer. Annabel is potty training which may sound random, but young mothers probably know it isn't. Having to change half the diapers will change my life completely.

I think homeschooling should/ will help connection between me and Stephen, because he is planning to do the majority of teaching, and I will make sure (enforce) they do their lessons. He is very eager to start serious Latin lessons with them.  We will try to attend daily mass as much as possible, go to the library and nature center as much as possible, also visit places around town, travel, and we'll have co-op on Fridays.

I have help in the form of a mother's helper this Summer. She goes to school so in the fall I want to find someone else like her.  She is Molly's age, so young and a companion but she also is very helpful. She comes to help to do the chores around the house. Last time, she cleaned windows, folded clothes, and made a smoothie for the littles. She also did some art projects with the littles.

I am crossing fingers, but I think we will survive with lots of prayer and hopefully some help from my older girls specifically with dishes and diapers. :0)


Renovation Progress

Our attic is almost totally renovated. It is exciting. I can't wait to start using it, living in it, and making it beautiful.  Right now, they need to install light fixtures and stain the hardwood floors. The floors were finally installed 2 weeks ago!  I have been updating in my instal-stories so follow there if you are interested! Would love to have you friend!! :)


Halfway through the month and halfway through this month's reading. Summer vibes in full effect. I will try to bulk up my reading list in July, as we will be traveling a bit and I can pack it into the driving hours.  What is better than kids in the sprinkler and relaxing with a marg and book??

I have so far read An American Marriage and Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions.   Absolutely loved this second book about the culture of Sicily and a mishmash of funny dialogue, witty plot, and absolutely unbeatable setting.  Fabulous prose/references to classic lit as well.  But let me back up. Reading about black culture in the former has been heart-wrenching... it made me start wondering about statistics.  Without spoiling the plot, AAM deals with a false accusation which results in jail.  It would lead one to assume that the trials of the African American experience would lead to despair. However...  observe:

I think the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain rattled me and many of us because these people had no reason for despair from the outside: success, beauty, fame.  But privilege and leisure can lead to its own form of restlessness and purposelessness.  We can have a million pity parties for the less fortunate, (as well we should- and grow awareness of the bias and the detrimental cycles of these cultures-- I'm the first to get worked up about this).  But I think the news and these stories, as well as the statistics show that the true poverty of spirit lies (SURPRISE!) with the rich and famous.

Botany and Discovery of Nature with Kids

I just had to mention this because its awesomeness is tip top.  the >>>Picture This<<< app! I love it. You can photograph any plant- be it flower, tree leaf, or small plant, and it will identify it by name.

We went on a hike at Raccoon Mountain and made all of these discoveries while walking. I seriously cannot wait to more hikes and discover more nature and botany. I plan to purchase nature journals for most of my kids for the Fall. I think this app is sure to help!

Yay! :)

linking up with Kelly