Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Twitch upon the Thread

Haley asked Kathryn and me to help moderate the Carrots Classic Book Club discussion on the first part of Brideshead Revisited, so of course I agreed!  There is an iconic scene in the story where the main characters are reading a Father Brown mystery aloud, and this is the line the narrator chooses to show us.  Years later, one of the characters remembers the quote and puts it into the context of the entire story, into all our stories:


God's grace is invisible, intangible, and thin, but long and strong enough to stay with us, wherever we may wander.  At any moment, when we least expect it, He may twitch the thread and bring us flying back to Him.

Friday, 30 May 2014

7 Quick Stories

-- one --

I was out for a run/walk (in which I mostly walk and rarely run) one evening along the beach path, and a man down on the rocks called out to me, "I saw a dolphin!  It was right over there!" and pointed very near where his line was.

"He's moved away now.  Look over where that crowd of gulls are."

I stopped and sure enough, in the distance, we saw the sleek curves emerging out of the waves, here . . . now there . . . now here . . . now there.  A third man came along walking his dog and asked us what we were looking at.

"We saw dolphins!" I said, and pointed.

"We don't get many dolphins up here, because of the climate.  More often seals . . . ah, I see it now!"

Then the three of us stood for a few minutes looking out to sea.  The fisherman was Middle Eastern, I'm American, and the man with the dog was British.

-- two --

Afon's cousin was baptized a couple of weekends ago, so we spent time with my in-laws in Bangor.  I also got to see my old professor, who attends the same parish in Bangor.  He was my thesis supervisor who first told me about Charles Williams's Arthurian poetry and then handed me his own copy of The Anathemata.  The Anathemata has heavily influenced the conception and the writing of the first story.

"Can I hug you?" I asked him.

"Uh . . . well, yes . . . although the only people ever interested in hugging me are my daughters.  So I shall consider you an honorary daughter."

That made me happy.  He gave me his phone number and told me to call whenever I was headed back to Bangor.  He used to take me to the pub every week and we'd discuss my thesis.

I'll never forget the lecture he gave at the Catholic Chaplaincy one evening in mid-autumn.  He was addressing the frequent question of whether or not King Arthur really existed.  "The answer to that question," he said, in his serene English accent, "is not yes, and not no, and not even maybe . . . but probably."

-- three --

We kept trying to get Afon to kiss his baby cousin, but each time we said, "Kiss baby James," Afon would shake his head violently and whine.  This must be jealousy.  It was neat to see and feel what it would be like if we had more children.  In the end, we were able to get Afon to kiss his cousin, but we weren't expecting it.  Alas, no photographic evidence!  Maybe next time.

John is the Godfather!

-- four --

I like to hear stories about my grandmother-in-law.  Her name was Elfrid because at the time she was born, her father was interested in Anglo-Saxon.  I think it's a superb name.  (My husband disagrees, but I have final say in baby names anyway!)  It suited her because she went on to study Middle English at Oxford.  She died shortly after I started dating John, so I never got to meet her.  My father-in-law tells me we would have really taken to each other.  "You had the same subject," he says.

She taught at Oxford at a time when men there were scarce because of the war.  I knew she was acquainted with and taught by Tolkien, by John's aunt recently told me that she was better acquainted with Hugo Dyson.  Once, she was invited to attend an Inklings meeting, but she declined because, our aunt says, "she had an aversion to pubs"!

-- five --

Another story about Elfrid, from her brother's autobiography: there was segregated swimming at the time, so Clare, the older and more dominant sister, contrived an idea.  They dressed up their little brother like a girl and smuggled him into the pool.  This spunky aunt was later a patroness to my husband's family when he a child.  My father-in-law tells me that she used to take one child off of my mother-in-law's hands for the day to give her a rest (she had four, all close in age!).

"She always chose John," my dad-in-law said, with his lopsided smile.

"Why do you think that is?" I asked.

"I think she thought he was the one whose absence would give [my-mum-in-law] the most relief."

That sounds about right!

-- six --

We can just call Afon, John, Jr. for that matter.  When I took him to Conwy, we were waiting for the bus at the end of the day.  He was being hyper and running about, and somehow bumped his head.  He let out a loud wail, and an old woman who was there, quite robust and fashionable, put her hand on his damaged head and said, "Oh, dear!  It was the fairies!"


His name means River, which is pretty accurate.  Don't let the cute fool you. He's a force of nature.


She couldn't have known how it pleased me to hear such an explanation.

She, her husband, and her other companions looked after us for the rest of our bus journey together and made sure we caught our connecting bus on time.

-- seven --

Another bus story: on Holy Saturday, I rode the stuffed bus down into town to do some last-minute Easter shopping, and I saw a man there about aged fifty, sitting and whittling away on a peace of wood with a sort of detractable x acto knife.  The curled shavings smelled divine and were piled high around his feet.  I got a place standing next to him and saw that he almost a hundred lovespoons tied on a ring of twine.  Some were polished and some raw, but they were all rough and beautiful, no longer than my palm.

I struck up a conversation, telling him how nice it was to see a craftsman working in his native trade and asked to buy one.  He let me pick one out from the ring of twine and cut it loose.  "That one's cherrywood," he said.

I asked him what his name was.

"Trefor," he said.  "With an 'f'."*  I grinned and grinned.  I knew we were home.




*In the Welsh language, a single f makes the sound of a v in English.  Hence Afon is pronounced Ahv-on, no relation to the American makeup company.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Yarn Along


I love this crochet collar.  It took a bit of time to figure out, but once I got into the rhythm of it, it was a quick and satisfying project.  Made from Yeoman Canelle 4ply yarn in linen.  I can see lots of possibilities with variations in color, stitch, and layering.  Soft jewelry is such a neat idea, especially for nursing mothers (just pop it in the wash!) or people with nickel allergies (thanks to my Saint Rosalia medal, I've got a big red blotch on my neck, even though it's 14 k gold filled).

The pattern is from the book Hook, Yarn and Crochet by Ros Badger, which is my dream book for a crochet project, really it is.  I'm not just talking it up.  I'm a visual and literal person.  This book has clear and lovely photographs of each finished project and a visual guide in the front to different techniques and stitches, also in the clean, modern photography style that I so admire and aspire to.  The directions are specific and explicit, and it recommends brands of yarn for each project, so you don't have to guess or worry about the finished project looking different from the images.  And it has so many lovely patterns, I'll surely get my money's worth.

I do have one problem with this crochet necklace, though.  It wants to curl because the yarn is stiff and tightly stitched.  I don't have any heavy flat objects I can press it between.  I thought of starch, then ironing.  What do you recommend?

For the future, I've got my eye on this book, Knitted Lace Collars, for even more possibilities!

The Carrots Classics Book Club is opening with Brideshead Revisited, and we've had some rigorous discussion on the Facebook event page.  I'm also reading a self-published fairy tale novel called The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith for my other blog.  And of course, The Wind in the Willows.  c:

Monday, 26 May 2014

Superstitions, Sacraments, and the Incarnation



Bonnie has a good post about the use and abuse of Saint Joseph statues when trying to sell a home.  I don't disagree with what she writes: putting Saint Joseph in a place of honor where you can see him and remind yourself to ask for his intercession seems like a better idea than burying him upside down and out of sight.  Poor, cold Saint Joseph!  And it's certainly not recommended that people with no faith or only passing faith partake of the superstition when they've no personal relationship with Jesus, let alone St. Joseph!  But it got me thinking about superstition in Catholicism, what it means, where it came from and why, and what its place is in our Faith.

I've always been a Catholic, and there's never been a time when I haven't been.  There are no moving reversion or conversion stories to be told, though I certainly came to a greater understanding of my faith as I grew older, and that "conversion" is still happening today, and much needed.

I'm also a poet.  I've been a poet as long as I've been a Catholic.  I'm also a poet because I'm a Catholic; and this is why.  I remember feeling as a child what the poet feels (and have since discovered others who have experienced the same): the stirring of the soul where the divine reaches into nature and seeing with some hidden, heightened sense, but for a moment, as one whose vision has suddenly cleared, how things really are.  C.S. Lewis called it joy.  We partake of this joy in the Mass, the Communion of Saints, though it doesn't always feel so obvious to us.  Now, imagine that kind of earth-splitting revelation occurring in the everyday.  An Annunciation of nature, as it were.  When the certain slant of light on the grass or a glimpse of cloud or a line from a song shatter one's mundane existence and show the true face of the world.  It's so beautiful it hurts.  And it disappears just as quickly as it came, or else one would die from the joy of it.


To those familiar with this world, superstitions make a good deal more sense.  There are connections between the reality outside our physical world and this one, and we aren't able to fully understand them, not until we're in heaven.  It was these seemingly unconnected connections that helped Chesterton to believe in orthodoxy, which he expounds upon in the book of the same name in the chapter titled "The Ethics of Elfland."

To grasp the essence of superstition one need only read fairy tales.  Fairy tales are infested with them!  Why else should cutting off a cat's head save a princess from a wicked witch?  There's no natural connection between the cat, the cutting of its poor head, and the princess and the magic of her evil stepmother.  And yet, intuition accepts the precept without question.  It is the kind of intuition that we see in children, which survives past childhood, if we are lucky and humble enough to let it.  If we don't let accusations of "what superstitious nonsense!" tell us to stop looking for otherworlds in the back of wardrobes or down rabbit holes.  (Or stop hoping that a dying god somehow killed death.)

Through this lens, superstitions make a little more sense.  I don't think it's coincidence that the Catholic Church is accused of having superstitious rituals.  Why should lighting a candle somewhere halfway round the world usher God's grace to a friend in need?  Why should chanting an ancient conversation between a girl and an angel at twelve noon each day be more appropriate than at other times?  Why, for that matter, should repeated words work as a spell and transform simple bread and wine into divine Flesh and Blood?

John Collier, The Annunciation

Here is what dictionary.com has to say about the word superstition:

su·per·sti·tion [soo-per-stish-uhn]
noun
1. a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.
2. a system or collection of such beliefs.
3. a custom or act based on such a belief.
4. irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion.
5. any blindly accepted belief or notion.

Let's look at the first definition, which I think is what most people mean when they are talking about it in context with Saint Joseph.  "A belief or notion not based on reason or knowledge."  Well, then what is it based on?  A feeling?  How about an instruction, from an authority you trust?  Ah, now we're getting somewhere!  As Catholics, we know that the authority of the Church grants legitimacy to what might otherwise be superstitions--things not based on reason or knowledge per se . . . like the example of the candle I mentioned above.  But we also know that God reveals Himself through his creation, and so those who have not been born into the faith, or who lived and died before the faith was available to them, can come to know Him through nature, and in this way are not exempt from salvation.

Materialists say that men imbue things with meaning willy-nilly, but we know that meaning is there, whether we are granted the sight to recognize it or not.  Some people, I think, are more sensitive to this "sight" than others.  Particularly the mystics.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux was given a superstition of roses.  St. Teresa of Avila, a castle.  Other saints were sent animals as messengers.  Many of them talked.  These "superstitions" repeatedly point to relationships.  One relationship in particular.

A "custom or act based on such a belief" arises in solidarity with these saints, and those devoted to her ask, with St. Thérèse, for a rose, which may or may not be given.  And people who wear a little vestigial garment around their necks are promised heaven.  Not  because scapulars have any rational connection, in and of themselves, to eternal life, but because something, someone, beyond our understanding has designated it so.

All of the sacraments are superstitious in this sense.  A splash of water repels the devil like the Wicked Witch of the West.  Making a sign in the air and saying the words, "You are forgiven," actually makes it so.  The laying on of hands apprentice young men to the profession of Christ.  And it's a very physical thing that consummates a marriage.

A name causes the very rocks to cry out.  God becomes a man and suddenly, nothing physical is ordinary.  Nothing is coincidence.  Everything is significant.

So, why put Saint Joseph on his head?  Is that just a meaningless superstition?  Perhaps.  But I like to think it came from somewhere, from some shrewd, pious, superstitious old lady, who knew him well.  Perhaps she said, "Put him on his head, turn him upside down!  That'll give him a headache, and remind him to pray and pray for you!"  And as she cackles and walks away, you fancy you can see the vague figure of a Jewish carpenter, as she swings an arm around him in what can only be the most intimate of affections.

A closing note for the concerned: should the Church ever make a definitive pronouncement against all things superstitious, I shall drop my stance at once, at a single word from the Magisterium.  How superstitious of me!  c;


If you liked this post, you may also be interested in:

21/52


"A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2014."

Afon:  Always happy, always singing.  The only trouble this child gives me is in moderating his extreme joy.  How could I be cross with that?

This week, we had an incident with the elderly special needs but high-functioning married couple downstairs.  We knew before we arrived that they were extremely sensitive to noise but that neither suffered from a neurosis that rendered their intolerance out of their control.  We've been especially careful to put Afon to bed at a decent hour and to stop him from jumping and running repeatedly over long periods of time.  But the gentleman has time and time again banged on the ceiling long and loud in protest, which I find incredibly rude and juvenile.  Which I told him the last time he did it, mid-morning a few days ago.  Call on the phone or knock on the door, I said, like a reasonable human being.

I do believe we have to be courteous and charitable toward our (literal) neighbors, but I won't punish my three-year-old child for acting like a three-year-old child . . . playing and singing and being the happiest, sweetest boy you'll ever meet.  Everyone who lays eyes on him falls in love with him.  Honestly, I can't wrap my mind around the fan club this kid has!  And short of firmly telling him not to jump off the couch and confiscating the hairbrush he's been using to play the drums on the furniture, I'm not going to strike him or put him in time-out disgrace for being himself in his own home.

End rant.

It's been rainy this past week, a bit of a jolt after the sunshiny April.  There was a proper storm on Monday!  I don't recall exactly when all the trees exploded in leaves.  The long days are divine.  Wildflowers have claimed everything.

Purple loosestrife arrived early, shaking luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughed back at it.  Willow-herb, tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud was not slow to follow.*

*The Wind in the Willows, p. 48 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Is Journalist ≠ Saint?

I know, I know.  My math skillz are super impressive.

I came upon this admittedly old but rather regrettable argument about why G.K. Chesterton shouldn't be made a saint.  First,  the distinction should be made that liking a person or his writing does not in one way or another qualify someone for canonization (I feel very warmly toward Chesterton, while many of the early Church fathers would have made me cry).  I have to put that out there.  This is not an argument in defense of the person of Chesterton or his writings, although I have been known to do that, but an argument against Ms. McDonagh's argument about why G.K. shouldn't be canonized.

The first argument against making him a saint is that he was a journalist (the profession he called the easiest in the world); it’s a contradiction in terms.

I find this argument so utterly nonsensical that I have to pause and register before rebuffing it.  Saints are cut from all clothes, across all races, genders, ethnicities, and professions.  Numbered among those who wear the crown of sanctity are prostitutes, actors, mass murderers, and queens.  I hardly think a journalist is unqualified.  How exactly a journalist saint is a contradiction in terms, our author never elaborates, except to say that, "It just doesn't go with the territory."  Does Ms. McDonagh subsequently believe herself excused from striving for sanctity because of her profession?

Nikolai Bruni, Saint Olga, source
Known to have buried and burned men alive.  Not exactly Nobel Peace Prize material.

She continues:

And canonising the man would make his output unreadable. It would invest all the pieces he wrote in railway waiting rooms and Fleet Street bars with the leaden quality of official sanctity.

Briefly, (1) canonization wouldn't so much as change a word of any of Chesterton's writings.  One would be hard pressed to vacate the over-the-top jocularity and joy of Chesterton's writings by emptying each word and refilling it with a new connotation full of all the "leaden quality of official sanctity."  Not to mention those pesky, not-open-to-interpretation denotations.  (2)  The fact that sanctification would make it less likely for secular readers to open a book of his is regrettable, but in their realm of responsibility, not ours.  If a mere title given by what they perceive as a corrupt and/or defunct religious authority turns them off of reading something enjoyable, engaging, and enriching, I can only feel for these people pity.  As I feel for pre-graduate Christie when I avoided books on their lack of orthodoxy, before I realized I didn't have to like or agree with something to enjoy reading it!  (3)  Secular people, as I recall, aren't put off the reading of St. Thomas More and St. Augustine.  (Why is Dante not a canonized saint, for that matter?)

Last, our journalist states that "G.K.'s views on Jews make him unapt for sainthood."  

G.K.'s self-portrait
Aside from the fact that his so-called antisemitism is something intelligent people are in disagreement about (I have a stout hatred for throwing around the word "racist!" at any comment or observation regarding a particular group of people . . . which makes me highly suspicious of those who throw it), antisemitism, and many other failings besides, have not prevented sanctification in the past.  Something Chesterton himself was well aware of.  In an obscure quote of his I cannot now find, but which was read in his Collected Works, Chesterton observes that particular and queer Authority of the Church as it has been granted by Christ through the Holy Spirit: that saints, while wholly good, can be wrong on dogma; and popes, while too often evil, cannot.

Blessedly, Ms. McDonagh finishes on a note of common sense:

The other thing is, he’d have hated the notion of being a saint. But that’s an argument for, not against.

Later, I want to talk about Ms. McDonagh's rationale for toting Chesterton's antisemitism and why, according to that rationale, I don't find Chesterton's views on Judaisim, so far as I have read them, antisemetic.

What do you think of this article so far?  Does the author have a point?  I'm particular interested in what non-fans think, as I am ever-cautious of personal affection getting in the way of objectivity!

For further reading, see GKC and Me on Everything to Someone (old).

Friday, 23 May 2014

Beneath the Veil: A Headcovering Series



I have a not-so-secret obsession.  I'm fascinated with head coverings in all their manifestations.  It's a natural result of my eclectic tastes in fashion, an interest in different cultures and world travel, and my devotion to a particular and, as the world regards it, old-fashioned religion . . . the Catholic Church.

Head coverings worn out-of-doors as the societal norm, for men and women, were common right up into the 20th century.  My great-grandfather, whom I called Papa, never left the house without donning his favorite hat.  Even if it was only to pop over to the neighbors' or go down to the corner store for a candy bar.  We still have that hat.  To this day, it carries the faint scent of his cologne.

My best guess is that head coverings emerged thousands of years ago to serve the same function as other clothing, i.e. protection from the elements.  But people got creative, as people will do. Wherever there is a need for something practical, it seems, mankind is determined that it should also be beautiful.  It's what separates us from the animals.  Thus, all sorts of forms and methods of hair-covering emerged, from the simple and elegant to the elaborate and foppish.  Shelter and fashion.  Ingenuity and creativity.

The third mark of humanity is meaning.  Headcovering is inseparable from modesty and reverence in many traditions, and in varying degrees.  Some people see covering the head or hair as controversial, even demeaning, others as liberating.  Some don't have an opinion either way.

Not a popular opinion there, Saint Thomas.

My first experience with headcovering was as a little girl admiring wedding dresses and imitating the look with a veil of my own for First Communion.  I often also wore a hat to church, especially at Easter.  We lived in suburban Ohio, and the people there were pretty homogeneous.  I could count the number of black classmates I had on one hand.  Hispanics were even less.  In sixth grade, the opening page of our history unit in the text book showed the famous page of peasants shearing the wheat in Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.  Both the men and women had their heads covered.  I became interested in the middle ages and their style of dress.  In that same class, I first learned about Islam, which also fascinated me.


Fast forward years and years later.  I was studying abroad in Rome in 2005 and within walking distance of San Pietro to able to attend the papal audiences on Wednesdays.  I noticed that people--especially the old Italian women--put napkins on their heads when the Pope came out on the balcony.  Yes, I remember thinking that . . . napkins.  I'm not sure when I put two and two together; if it was some residual inherited cradle Catholic memory, something I'd been taught along the way, or something I picked up later; but by the time I graduated college in 2007, I was rearing to get my hands on a veil of my own.  This was perfect timing, as Pope Benedict had just granted permission to parish priests to celebrate the Latin Rite without seeking special permission from their bishops.

In 2008, I enrolled for my Master's degree in Bangor, Wales, and since I hadn't left home as an undergrad, this was my first real experience in the university lifestyle.  Bangor was much more culturally diverse, with lots of East Asian and Middle Eastern students.  The hijabis (plural?) stood out, of course, but it was the bohemian, artsy atmosphere of that city that made me wrap up my head in a black scarf and walk out of the dorm room confidently.

My favorite scarf tied in the duchess style.

Meanwhile, I was wearing a veil to Mass, and when my sister-in-law gave me a pretty bonnet she couldn't wear any more after she got her hair cut, I started wearing that to Mass, too.  Because I knew from my humanities classes, leisurely afternoons in art museums, and internet wanderings that throughout the ages, the type of head coverings women wore changed.  And it wasn't that women went out of their way to cover their heads during Mass, but that it was a way of life, to have something to cover with when the occasion called for it--whether it was during bad weather, when in the company of someone important, during worship, or as their stations in life changed.  And this of course, was only a small part of a larger interest and passion that had been growing and gaining strength in me since I was a little child . . . the fact that medieval European life hinged on the seasons and the liturgical year, clicking together like two intertwined gears.

Being back in Wales and near my favorite clothing shops has refreshed my interest in head covering, outside of Mass.  People are more diverse in their clothing tastes, even in Colwyn Bay (which is not a college town and far from diverse).  I feel I could walk more easily with my head wrapped in a scarf than I could in central Florida.  And practically speaking, without sweating out all my fluids!

I like the way pretty scarves look wrapped around my head.  I like that they're old-fashioned and peasant-y and old-world Catholic.  I like that it's an easy way to deal with a bad hair day and hide the frizz.  But I also like the idea of headcovering as a calling, a devotion.  I like that it's meant to show reverence in the presence of the Holy of Holies, at Mass.  I like that it marks the wearer almost, as one set apart, the old meaning of the word anathema; the way we walk around with cross smudges on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

So.  I don't think I'll ever become a full-time covered woman.  First of all, my faith (and culture) doesn't deem it necessary.  Second, my intentions are tainted by vanity.  Thirdly, you have to walk before you can run, and you have to crawl before you can walk.  I don't wear skirts full-time, and I'm all about the sleeveless tank top in mid-summer Florida heat.  Last, if I were to pursue all my whims and interests, I'd be dressed like a Japanese doll having a tea party.

Hanbok + mantilla = Christie's name all over it.

But that doesn't mean I can't learn more, or live vicariously through other people.  So I've asked a few friends and acquaintances if they'd like to guest post over the next few weeks about their particular headcovering traditions, and I invite you join in the conversation.  If you, or someone you know, covers, full- or part-time, and would be interested in guest posting or doing an interview for the series, please have them get in touch with me: GreenInkling at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

5 Favorites: Health and Beauty Hacks


1 // Optimize your hair product.

Credit to my BFF Ashley, who wouldn't leave me alone until I stopped spraying product directly into my hair and into my hands instead.

Pump or pour a little bit of product directly into your palm (this doesn't work for hairspray or other staying products, obviously), then rub your hands together, coating both palms.  Run your hands through your hair thoroughly.  You'd be surprised how you save on product without skimping on style.  This technique gets the product into all of your hair and assures that a little bit goes everywhere, rather than a large glob that gets stuck where it's put and is hard to spread around.  You'll notice the stylist at the salon does this as well.

2 // Use hair conditioner to shave your legs (or beards, gentlemen!).

Shaving cream is expensive and not very economical.  This trick saves me packing space as well.  I've never had a cut while using conditioner to shave my legs, and your legs are soft and moisturized afterward!

3 // Get creative with deodorant.

I noticed anti-chafing product at the store in the same containers in which deodorant is sold.  So I went home and tried it with my own anti-antiperspirant.  It works.  And I lived in swamp land!

4 // Take your tooth brush to go.

Best thing since sliced bread.  Especially when I was working.  No water required, no mes.  I would throw some Colgate Wisps into my purse and if I forgot to/didn't have time to brush my teeth that morning, I would use these in the car.  Also good for after coffee, naps, and lunch break.  They're a tad pricey, but keep your eyes peeled at local discount stores for them to turn up or buy an off-brand.  I got them for pennies at Big Lots.

Bonus: they kept Afon quiet for most of Mass and cleaned his teeth!

5 // Use toothpaste on spots.

You've got it anyway, right?  A tap of toothpaste on a pimple before bedtime works just as well as off-brand pimple cream.


Got any health, hygiene, or beauty life hacks?  Most of these were learned word-of-mouth, and I'm always looking for things to make life easier.  So do share!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Yarn Along




This little hat and card arrived yesterday, just in time for mama and baby to come home from the hospital!  I was impressed that it went half way round the world to Alaska in such good timing.  Anyway, it means I can post pictures now without spoiling the surprise.

I more or less made up the pattern for this little crochet hat.  Nothing complex.  I wanted it to look like a little white flower with a green stem.  The recipient won't be able to wear it for a while, but as she wasn't yet born while I was making it, I didn't want to risk the chance of making it too small, so I opted for baby rather than infant/newborn size.

Afon and I are reading The Wind in the Willows aloud at bedtime.  It's a first for both of us, and even though I know he's not really paying attention except for the sparse pictures, I want it imprinted in his memory for when we come to it again.  It really is very much a summer story, something to cuddle up to with the window open and the hint of late evening light lingering in the sky.

I welcomed the Jehovah's Witnesses into my home for their second visit today*, and during a frenzy of cleaning, found these verses from before I was even married (but after I was engaged, as the scrolling signatures practicing my married name attest).  This leaf of paper recently occupied space between the worn pages of my Morte d'Arthur but has since been removed and kindly ripped in three by Sir Afon.  The first lines go like this:

Wales, in places, bares its bones
to wind and time.  The tattered homes
of ancient heroes, nondescript absences
where grass won't

and then were promptly abandoned.  A few lines down, a new stanza beginning a new poem:

Golden Guinevere of the summer wood,
voluptuously ripened in kingdom's plenty.
Echoes in crags of riverbeds sound
the crowning bloom of Arthur's kingdom.
Sweet, full, much for one mouth to contain.
She is honey, stickily clinging to that she touches.
She is the hum of crickets at days end,
a raucous, soothing signal of ending.
She is queen.  She will carry them over,
the flower and the tree.

And then there are some doodles of arrows and leaves.  It was either mid- or late summer when I wrote these lines, not late spring/early summer like it is now, but being here, in Wales, the feeling of what it was to write them is very present to me.  It's interesting to see where my mind was at the time, deeply immersed in writing my Arthurian thesis, in the sun-soaked summer of Wales, mild and fertile.  Looking at them over an expanse of years is eerie and nostalgic, like glimpsing the other side of a riverbank through the fog in early morning.

*Yes, I'm aware they're trying to convert me, even though they say they aren't.  But they don't know that I know.  And they certainly don't know that I'm trying to convert them back!

Today

Feeling // worn out from not one, but two trips to Bangor this weekend!




Seeing // the streaks of gray rain outside the window, first real rainstorm since March!  And this past weekend, the lambs and sheep!


Smelling // rain.

Tasting // lingering baking soda from the scones from breakfast

Listening // to Afon's happy chatter as he draws.  He is a thoughtful artist and pauses occasionally to hold the pen up to his chin or in his mouth.

Reading // The Wind in the Willows, a first time for me and Afon.

Praying // for friends with difficult relatives, friends going through crises of faith.

Working // on the second chapter of the second draft of The Spinning Wheel.  And just finishing a much-loved crochet project!

Grateful // for a safe labor and delivery for a friend's third child.  Welcome, baby Alice!

Hoping // for a productive week.

Monday, 19 May 2014

20/52


"A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2014."

Afon: in Gradnfather and Nana's garden, he's found a brilliant new "hat."

Still fascinated with hats.  Anything he can balance on his head is a hat to him.  He's filled out a lot, and I don' t know if this is a case of his height having yet to catch up with him, enjoying his father's junk food, or genetics: he has my plump Hispanic genes on the one side, and the hefty Irish docker's on the other.  Regardless, I'm determined not to make a deal of it, now or ever.

May brought warmth and sunshine, more summer than late spring, and we've spent more time outside than in the past few days.  Another weekday excursion to Conway castle seems in order.  And a train ride into the mountains.  And a visit with the cousins who live on the seashore in Anglesy.  I can't wait!


Friday, 16 May 2014

Fresh Flowers on a Budget

I always knew that when I had my own home, I would fill it up with flowers.   I'm not much of a gardener and we don't own any land besides, but one way I've made sure that my life is always bright with blossoms is by keeping fresh cut flowers in vases.

 But flowers are pricey, and we have very little income.  So how do I manage to get all these photos of flowers all over the place without breaking the bank?   Here's how I do it:


1 // Stalk your favorite grocery stores for free flowers

This is how I started keeping flowers.  When I worked at a grocery store, at the end of the night, if the flowers had passed their sell-by date, the managers would "pull" them.  They offered them to employees to take home because otherwise, they would just have to throw them out.  And unlike food, there were no health codes they were in danger of violating by giving away out-of-date stock.

After I learned that, I would routinely check the sell-by dates on the bouquets.  If I were working on one of those days, I would ask to take home a bouquet.  If I wasn't closing, I would swing around right before closing time and pick one up anyway.

At the store I worked at, everyone was really friendly and had good relationships with regular customers.  If you shop some place like that, consider making a similar arrangement to take their throw-away flowers off their hands!  Win-win!

2 // only purchase bouquets that come with flower food

The money stretches with the longevity of your flowers, so, if possible, always purchase bouquets that come with little sachets of "flower food."

3 // make the flower food last

There's enough powder or liquid in each sachet to feed more than one bouquet of flowers.  This works out especially well if you buy two bouquets, one with flower food and one without.

4 // always by the flowers with the tightest buds

You see a brilliant display of blooms in the shop and think, 'I have to get that!'  Look for the same bouquet that is less far along in bloom.  Those tiny buds are their own kind of pretty, and it's not like you'll miss out in the big bloom later on.  You'll just be able to enjoy your fresh flowers longer.  The tighter the buds, the better.


5 // cut off any foliage that falls beneath the water line

This prevents early rotting.  All that should be beneath the water are the bare stems.

6 // change the water regularly

Ever couple of days to once a week is best, to get rid of the water in which mold, germs, and bacteria have settled.  You can tell when this has happened as the water gets cloudy.

7 // take your flowers with you!

It's a waste to put pretty flowers in an empty room!  Pick them up and take them with you!  If I know I'm going to be relocating from the living room to the bedroom, I take my vase of flowers with me.  If I spent the money on them, I'm going to enjoy them!

8 // don't underestimate the beauty of a hand-picked bouquet

Where we live, the most beautiful wildflowers grown in abundance: tulips, poppies, cowslips, buttercups, bluebells, Queen Ann's lace, and forget-me-nots. . .  Pick the flowers as close to the bottom of the stem as possible, then lay them out on your kitchen counter or table.  Pick off the excess leaves and foliage and arrange the stems in a vase, glass, or mason jar, with the shortest stems along the rim and the longest stems in the center.  Add a splash or pinch of your leftover flower food and enjoy!  They're absolutely free!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Where We Write


I rotate between the bed and dinner table; but regardless of where I'm writing, I need a lot of space to spread out all my books, papers, notes, and bric-a-brac.  My work space is always expansive, whether writing, cooking, crocheting. . .



Ideally, I would write on the cliff overlooking the seal-sea, about a mile's walk from home . . . or in the Fairy Glen by the by the riverside, shaded by spring leaves.  But it's difficult to transport all I need into a temporary outside office, so I often end up just jotting down little notes and inspirations, taking a photo or two.

A writer's space is sacred, and I've come to appreciate Virigina Wolf's "A Room of One's Own" more than ever.  I've never seen myself as a feminist, and I despise the second- and third-wave feminisms.  They either reject the feminine altogether in favor of "masculinity" or diminish womanhood to its lowest common denominator, making her little more than a bitch in heat.

But there is still a double standard, especially in the writer's lifestyle.  A male writer is less likely to be frowned upon for his untidy home, and a woman with children is too often expected to sacrifice her identity and her creativity to attend them.

Terri Windling turned me onto this curious and thought-provoking film, titled Who Does She Think She Is?:


I'm intrigued.  Maybe if a few people are interested in it, we can do a little viewing and discussion group.  (And buying through the link above generates income to go toward my own copy, so thank you!).

Still, the most positive and most hopeful outlook on the writing mother was provided and beautifully expressed in this article in Dappled Things: "The Mother's Vocation and the Writer's Life."

Where do you write?  Go here to link up with Masha at Cyganeria.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Flower of the Imagination: a Case for Dragons



{Please note:  This is a Catholic-interest post, I'm afraid, but that doesn't mean non-Catholics can't chime in and/or enjoy.  Just keep in mind that I write from a heavily Catholic perspective and that a suggestion to dismiss moral value in the arts will be a bit irrelevant to the conversation!}

I've been troubled by a literary trend in the Catholic community that draws severe lines of categorization regarding moral archetypes.*  Harry Potter is the obvious example, an engaging albeit imperfect series with some beautiful moments reflecting Christian truth and values.  But the mere mention of the word "witch" cause some to banish it from their bookshelves forever, without even cracking open the cover.

There is more witchy to Harry Potter than the word, I'll grant, but what about other stories that rename symbols or use the imagery from another culture or civilization?  What about the well-loved A Wrinkle in Time, which merely uses the word "witch" tongue-in-cheek to stand-in for celestial beings, perhaps even angels?  What about the wizard Merlin who appears as a sage and a Christian in C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, who is allowed to use the last bit of pre-Fallen Earth's command of nature to save the world and then to pass on?

In the same type of severity, dragons are dismissed as evil in all literature, and any treatment of a dragon as good is an inversion of truth.  As Catholics, we believe that what is not true comes from the Enemy--that is why he is called the Father of Lies.  But are all symbols so iron and non-negotiable?

In the east, dragons are wise and often benevolent, associated with luck and prosperity.  It's hard to say that this is an inversion, since the civilizations of Asia are far older than those of western Europe, except in the sense that they're symbols are opposite ours.  Which would only make sense, as we are on opposite sides of the globe.

But, people argue, in the Bible the serpent is cursed by God, and should always be associated with evil. Well then, say I, what about Moses's use of the snake on the staff--not even a real snake, but a seeming idol!--to heal and perform miracles?  With this task he was charged by God Himself.  It seems that even in the same cultures, sometimes symbols can be inverted.

There's a similar case for witches.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word witch first appears without any negative connotation; it's not until several centuries later that a second usage appeared that was more or less synonymous with the idea of witches we have today--devil-worshipers or evil spirits (citation as soon as I get back to the library).  Even then, the clear-cut dichotomy of magic being always evil did not exist** and in fact didn't become the majority belief until the {late Middle Ages}.  Before then, the belief in the supernatural other than God lived side-by-side with a deep devotion to the Church.  One need only look at Ireland as late as the first half of the twentieth century.

I have a theory that the reason why no one saw a problem with this apparent hypocrisy was because it was kept in the proper order: God was Lord.  And the other creatures or ways were rendered impotent, with the sign of the Cross or a a consecrated Host.  Dracula illustrates a superb example of the sovereignty of Christ.  Modern supernatural thrillers would be over a lot sooner if they'd just call the exorcist to bring in the Eucharist.

Vampires are another archetype enjoying a great revival at the moment.  Though as far as I know, vampires have in every time and place been on the evil spectrum of archetype, I have no problem with the modern obsession of redeeming them . . . so long as it is done believably and does not indulge in what Flannery O'Connor calls "sin against art."  I think clinging to the original archetype of the vampire as something dangerous, depraved, and hungry for redemption (John 6:54, anyone?) is what makes him so attractive to modern readers--not that the archetype is inverted so that vampires now appear good rather than bad.***  Our generation is all too familiar with the attractiveness of evil . . . aware of the that strong, thin thread of the Holy Spirit, calling us to salvation.

When I was younger, I used to believe that there were far more absolute truths than there actually are.  Absolute truths about what is {beautiful and modest}, what is the proper form of worship, who is in the right and wrong on particular political and philosophical issues, even {absolute truths in parenting}.  But experience and gentle discipline from God have taught me otherwise.

That is not to say that we shouldn't approach our reading material with caution: {those with sound formation have a far greater chance for sifting the truth and beauty from the trash and poison in modern literature}.  Those struggling or with young children have greater need for discernment.  But if we sweep all stories with non-evil dragons, benevolent witches, and less-than-saintly protagonists into the same off-limits categories, we risk experiencing the deepness that is the story of our Redemption.  We skip to the Resurrection at expense of the Cross.  

We must find a way to kill the weed without uprooting the flower.

∆∆∆

*  For further reading, see {A Landscape with Dragons} by Michael O'Brien.  (Kindle version available {here}.)
**  I've twelve months of post-graduate study on Arthurian literature and a Master's thesis under my belt to affirm the ambiguity of the magical figure in the Dark and Middle Ages.
***  I speak with limited knowledge on the subject, as I have not read the grandam of supernatural romance, the Twilight series.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Kitchen Alchemist: Onion and Potato Stew



"In which I try to make healthful, affordable, easy meals:
in other words, throwing together ingredients in hopes of creating gold."

A remnant from Lent.  I'd had a difficult time finding vegetable stock, out of which I make my staple fasting soups, but I did get some onion-flavored Oxo gravy granules.  It sounds sort of icky, but it's basically a bouillon cube all powdered up.

I started boiling potatoes without any real plan, then saw the onion gravy in the cupboard and added several spoonfuls of it in for flavor, until I liked the color and consistency in the water and the taste (I like it strong).  But I needed a little something else besides potatoes, and we didn't have any other vegetables in the house.  So I added your standard off-brand noodles from a bag and continued cooking until everything was soft and consistent.

You know what?  I really liked it, and so did Afon!  Very hearty and flavorful, and if you like the taste of onions, which I love, then it's a treat for the tongue as well as time-friendly.

Time // B
Ease // A+
Presentation // B+
Affordability // A-
Health // C+
Taste // A-

Not bad!  Health got the lowest rating because of white flour carbs, starchy potatoes and a near intravenous injection of sodium from the gravy granules.  Still vegan, though--hey!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Kitchen Alchemist: Fried Rice and Vegetables


"In which I try to make healthful, affordable, easy meals:
in other words, throwing together ingredients in hopes of creating gold."

If you're just joining us, the idea for this continuing series is outlined very somberly here.  If you're new, it may or may not also be useful to know that during Lent, I give up all animal products except for fish on weekends.  Hence the extreme simplicity of the meal.  (Also, I'm a lazy creative cook.)

This meal was scrapped together from leftover rice and vegetables and turned out very well.  My favorite thing to do is to throw things together in a pan with oil.  So that worked out nicely.  Since they were leftovers, all I had were carrots and potatoes, but a more traditional recipe would use peas and other vegetables.

I always start my "stir-fry" with a glob of oil and chopped garlic.  Then I add onions, and that makes the base.  Since the carrots and potatoes had already been boiled the night before, they didn't need to be cooked through; I just browned them a bit in the pan.  Then I added a bit more oil and the rice--which, again, was already cooked.  It took about twenty minutes for the rice to fry up how I like it, but it was a pretty hands-off twenty minutes.

Vegetables taste especially nice with Worcester sauce (see my "You Know You're in Wales When" segment here), but the fish ingredient means I can't have it on weekdays.  Instead, I used vegan-friendly salt and chutney to punch up the flavor.  We ate it with salad greens and drank cherry brandy for dessert.  It was popular with our friend Glyn, who is joining the Eastern Orthodox Church this Easter, and so can't have animal products either.


Glyn, Afon, and Rupert having fun after dinner.
Report card time:

Time  //  B
Ease  //  A
Presentation  //  B+
Affordability  //  A
Health  //  A
Taste  //  B+

The time would have gotten a B+ or A- because it was pretty effortless, but I took into consideration that it only works if you have leftovers.  If you try this or something similar, let me know.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

All Their Wars Are Merry


Chesterton had a remarkable gift for seeing people.  I mean really seeing them, at once, without the veils of ego, stereotype, and assumption.  Such a gift gained praise from the biographers of the greats, such as Thomas Aquinas and Charles Dickens.  In the case of the former, the aneqdote goes that GK had never read Aquinas before, so he had his secretary bring him a stack of books on and by the Church doctor.  He opened the cover of the first book on the top of the stack, read for a few hours, flourished his pen, and immediately began to write what is considered the most comprehensive work on Saint Thomas Aquinas.

His gift of perception not only applied to people but to peoples.  His straightforward way of communicating his clear-sightedness has won him lots of criticism from those sensitive to the persecuted races and ethnicities.  But in my reading (which, admittedly, is not exhaustive), I've never known Chesterton to speak of a person or people without genuine affection, and never with any layer of subterfuge.  It is his innocnecne and clarity, as if he were remarking, very fondly, about the weather, that makes it alarming--almost offensive.  All the more alarming, then, when you find that what he says is true.

Chesterton was a firm advocate of the Irish cause and inspired their leaders to aspire to independence.  In these brief lines from The Ballad of the White Horse, he strikes on that peculiar Irishness that otherwise is difficult to put into words, so I really shouldn't even try.  Suffice to say that as one familiar, through intimate study and some travel, with the Gaels (and their brethren, the Welsh Celts!), Chesterton is right on the money.

I think this attitude of the Gaels offers a glimpse into the mystery of what makes them so Catholic.  It took Saint Patrick a mere forty years to preach to and convert Ireland, a feat only matched (as far as I know) by Our Lady in Mexico.  There is something very Catholic about merry wars and sad songs; the knowledge of the victory already won and the cheerful soldier, the ballads of mourning for a paradise not-quite-remembered.  If the conversion of the Irish was steady and remarkably peaceful, I think it was because there was something in the Irish that was remarkably receptive to Catholicism.

And if the Irish were already, in a profound and unnameable sense, Catholic, then perhaps it's fair to say that every Catholic is a little bit Irish.  c;

Linking up with {Amongst Lovely Things} for Weekends with Chesterton.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Kitchen Alchemist: Birthday Cake



"In which I try to make healthful, affordable, easy meals:
in other words, throwing together ingredients in hopes of creating gold."

I made this cake for Afon's birthday (the day of, not the party), and googled recipes literally five minutes before pulling the ingredients together from the depths of my parents' pantry.  I picked this one for easiness and ingredients.  But the majority of my family members are squeamish about whole milk (why?), so when I came to that part, I improvised a little.  In addition to the watery, flavorless skim milk, I added two spoonfuls of sour cream hoping to thicken it up a little.  Oh, yeah.  It thickened it all right.

After the cake came out of the oven (not burnt!!), I googled icing recipes, and narrowed down the results by which ones called for shortening.  I'd always wanted to use the innocent and unused vegetable Crisco minding its own business at the back of the spice drawer.  I actually loved this icing.  I'm not that into buttercream, but this had an almost floury taste to it which I loved.  And it was easy to whip up, easy to apply.

When Afon saw me preparing the cake, he took a full two seconds to register what was happening, turned sharply on his heel, went to the cutlery drawer, and came back with a spoon, ready to dig in.  I was able to hold him off with a compromise: he licked the icing and batter spoons, and I kept the cake intact for later.

Three out of five liked my dense, doughy cake; one of them being Afon, who gives two thumbs up to anything with sugar.  My mom and I liked it (also sugar fans).  But my father and sister thought it tasted weird.  Do with that what you will.

Time  //  A
Ease //  A
Presentation  //  A+
Affordability  //  A-
Health  //  D
Taste  //  B

Yep.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Twenty Hobbies


I stole this quote from Sarah of {Little Progress Notes}, and even though I have read it before, it stuck in my flesh like a thorn, sharp, sweet, and chastising, as it did the very first time I read it.  Someone close to me was very upset by this quote at the time, and I couldn't understand why.  Not intellectually.  Intellectually, I could understand how someone, a woman, who aimed for a profession or the perfection of a trade would balk that Chesterton thinks she oughtn't.  But my heart cannot fathom it.

When I read this quote, it's like if someone handed me a translation guide to the language of my soul.  People talk about wanting to be stay-at-home moms, and the majority of that talk revolves around the raising and education of children--which is, obviously, the most important aspect of homemaking if you're blessed to have them.  But there's more to it than that, and I see the fruits of the domestic woman in those who are not able to have children.  They're free to perfect their skills and passions.  They're broadly educated, not necessarily formally.

My own mother is extremely well-informed about current world events; her relatives in high political places talk down to her "narrow" point-of-view and are abruptly put in their place by a southern housewife.  I have a friend university-bound after seventeen years of graduating high school; she speaks with more lucidity and grace than most of my college professors.  My godmother has helped her husband raise the children from his first marriage, run three successful businesses, and start a grassroots ministry addressing the sorely ignored crisis of human sex trafficking.  My favorite women bloggers are, by a landslide majority, homemakers; more than gifted writers, they are photographers, crafters, architects, chemists, seamstresses, artists, philosophers, poets, botanists, activists, farmers, chauffeurs, and cooks.  They're quite literally everything to someone (their families).  And it just wouldn't be possible for them to be that astonishingly versatile in a career.

It's very telling that after a century of liberation, women are choosing to go back to the professions (oppression?) of their great-great-grandmothers.  Instead of being taught in an unbroken chain of mother-to-daughter lore, they're having to re-learn many of those skills that made suppressed Woman so dangerously skillful.  I suppose the feminist movement was necessary because it helped us understand.  For now we have the double benefit of having the freedom to choose and choosing not to be "free."

As for myself, being a Catholic, I have no problem being told what I ought to do and what is good for me.  But then, I believe that the so-called restraints of the patriarchy are not man-made at all, but transcend the world.

I don't think that a woman can't be focused on a single aim to forge a career.  Or that some women are best suited to that lifestyle.  I just know that in my first-hand experience with competent, thoughtful women, and for me personally, that would be sad.  It would be a kind of compromise.

I have so much to offer, so much that I'm passionate about.  God has generously equipped me.  I don't care that my ability to make a dwelling a comfortable home, or the home a place of spiritual peace and healthful stimulation, will go unappreciated by society.  And I grow weary of rationalizing my "career" preferences to that same society.  Like if I don't chose something concrete to achieve and then run it down like a fox, I'm irresponsible or somehow mis-made.  I feel, when I tell the world that I wish not to work formally for a living, a reaction akin to sexism.  If I can chose a lifestyle, God willing--and not without knowledge and acceptance of the sacrifices, as well as the blessings--in which I need not be distracted by the minutiae of the outside world, then that is what I want.  Because this is not a useless, fruitless aim.

Chesterton's logic gives me permission to embrace the scattered person I am; and he gives me comfort by telling me my efforts are not vain, nor shameful.  The domestic woman is unimpressed by the limp equality offered by a world that seeks excellence at the expense of freedom, that considers seclusion oppression and liberality narrow.  Our role model for Womanhood is a virgin and a mother--a handmaid and a queen.  And the domestic woman is the original Renaissance Man.

Thanks to Sarah of {Amongst Lovely Things} for hosting Weekends with Chesterton.

Monday, 10 February 2014

21 Steps to Obnoxiously Catholic


I don't know how I started to first come up with this silly list, but I had a whole lot of fun with it.  Most of these are things I have actually done, thought of doing, or wanted to do at some point in my life.  Twenty steps to obnoxiously Catholic: can you guess which?

1 // Preface every e-mail, journal entry, blog post, written letter, or scrawled note with "Feast of Saint ______ , __th Day of ______ Time."

2 // Wear a Scapular.  Outside your shirt.  Kiss it often.

3 // Insist on referring to every religious-turned-secular holiday with its liturgically historical title, as in Saint Valentine's Day, Eve of All Saints, and Walpurgis Night.

4 // Ask if you can have people's left-over candle stubs, "you know, for the home altar." c;

5 // For your political leanings under the About Me section on your Facebook page, list Catholic. Distributist is also acceptable.

6 // Write the Pope suggesting he make it a rule to see people's baptismal certificates before allowing entrance to Saint Peter's Basillica and the Vatican Museums.

7 // Give your children unmistakably Catholic names, such as Augustine, John Paul, Bernadette, Philomena, and Hildegard.  Also Mary, followed by any traditional name.   (Maria if Spanish.)

8 // Mentally organize your friends and acquaintances under the categories Catholic, Almost Catholic, and Not Yet Catholic.

9 // Spend far too many hours on the internet expounding the deeply Christian aspects of Sherlock, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and Firefly.

10 // Consider an education in world religion taking your children to an Eastern Rite Mass.

11 // Be the person who has a prayer card on hand--for everything.

12 // Under the second languages category in job applications, circle "Other" and write "liturgical Latin."

13 // Explain to people who stare at or make rude comments about your large family of five under the age of five that, "I'll never have to harass them for grandchildren."

14 // Spam your social networks daily with Catholic memes, Crisis Magazine articles, and the Pope's tweets.

15 // Seek out and hoard first class relics.  Do not be at all shy or ashamed to introduce friends to the decayed parts of (holy!) dead people.

16 // Make sure that anyone who knows you for more than five minutes is familiar with the life stories of Cardinal Newman, Fulton J. Sheen, or G.K. Chesterton.

17 // Tell your three-year-old that "Jesus is in the church, inside His golden box," but that, "Jesus isn't in that church; not as His Bread Self, I mean."

18 // When people ask you if you know someone who can get things done, tell them, "You know the Mormon Mafia?  Well, Catholics have something like that, too.  It's called the Mafia. . . Just the Mafia."

19 // Continually confound people by crying, "Oh, I do hope my son becomes a priest!  Or the pope!  Yeah, 'cause how cool would it be to be the pope's mom?"

20 // During the Eucharistic procession, grasp your girlfriend's arm and say, "Oh my gosh, there He is.  It's Him, it's Him!  Can I touch the cloth touching Him?  How does my hair look?"   Catholic fangirls be crazy.

21 // Consider being called a "close-minded Papist" by your college professor a deeply touching compliment.

∆∆∆

What kind of crazy-awesome things are you known for doing?  If not a Catholic, as something else (a religion, ethnicity, culture, or fan)?  Have I left anything out of the list?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Book to Read // Little Stories


Today, I am tired.  It could be the ear ache I was diagnosed with last week, as I've been irregular about taking the antibiotics.  It could be the suspected-but-un-diagnosed arthritis, coming with the sharpening plunge of the temperature.  Or the equally un-diagnosed fibromyalgia, as yesterday I encountered a bit of stress involving a toddler leased to a table behind the deli counter.  (Bless him, he was so good for Mama!)  Last night, my body ached, and I was physically weary.  I came home and slept.  Today, I wanted to get up and take Afon for a walk, but something held me back, and as the hours wear on, it grows more recognizable: that feeling of unwellness that follows me around like a ghost, overshadowing me on the bad days, almost forgotten on the good.

So I googled "tired" and "G.K. Chesterton quote" and this one came up.  I don't know where it's from, and I don't recognize it, so it might be from one of the more obscure articles.  It's not exactly what I had in mind when I searched for it, but after a moment's thought, I think it'll do.

Chesterton is one of those rare authors who, for me, is both.  His are the books I am eager to read; his are the books I want when I'm tired.  He is challenging and comforting.  Chesterton, always the paradox.

Wishing today I could curl up with Father Brown; but I think it's going to take all I have just to keep Afon from bringing the building shuddering down; we should call him the {Humanoid Typhoon}!

Thank you for your continued prayers while we continue to fight to find out what's wrong.  Is there anything I can pray for you for?  (It's a Divine Mercy Chaplet kind of day.)

Linking up with {Amongst Lovely Things} for Weekends with Chesterton.

∆∆∆








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