Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Tom Learned on Our Summer Vacation

Part 2 of the Summer Vacation series.

I was pretty excited about the chance to listen to audiobooks with Tom. It turned out that Tom, never having listened to an audiobook, was nervous I'd commit us to a 26-hour whale like Middlemarch.

Never fear!

We went with a light mix of nonfiction and classic crime fiction. He loved all of them.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It might seem odd to choose this book for a cross-country drive with one's husband. But we both really like The Mindy Project so we were prepped for her style. It was like listening to a memoir / stand-up routine / Hollywood behind-the-scenes tale.

It was a tad girly, even for me. But that's Mindy. I came away impressed with her solid common sense, her family, and her humor.

I'd like to buy every young woman I know a copy.

And I'd love to sit on an airplane next to Mindy sometime.


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of EverythingFreakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a huge hit with Tom. It might be called the perfect intro audiobook for someone who doesn't ever read fiction. It was full of ideas that we would we stop the book to discuss. Sometimes we said, "oversimplification!" And then we discussed. The driving time flew by.

My main takeaway was incentive. I have seen so many ways to apply that overall concept even while on vacation and having various conversations.


Maltese FalconMaltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


We both loved this book. William Dufris' narration was simply stellar. It was like listening to an all star cast.

This book's classic status is well deserved. We were so interested in the fact that John Huston both wrote and directed the movie that we wanted to see how he handled translating the book to film. No wonder we recognized so many lines from the book. Huston went with the best whenever possible. It still isn't a favorite movie of mine, but it was fascinating to watch with the book so fresh on our minds.

And, again, I must mention that William Dufris' narration makes it. His "fat man" has to be heard to be appreciated.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation - Part 1

We went to a niece's wedding in Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Wintergreen Resort. Tom and I then took advantage of being "back East" to go to Pittsburgh and meet some online friends in person.

A few discoveries, in no particular order.
  • When you go to a wedding on a mountaintop and the first thing you see next to the outdoor seating is a can of Deep Woods Off ... use it. Don't think the stiff breeze will keep the insects away. Just use it.

  • When you attend a wedding on a mountaintop, it may be punctuated by bird song or raptor cries. This adds a note of romance. The cat yowling at a nearby house (albeit one hidden by dense forest) does not. Especially when everyone is wondering whether that is a baby or a cat.

  • You can completely plan a destination wedding by email, as my brother and sister-in-law in Germany discovered. A lot of it will go just as you hoped. However, much of it may lead to a series of miscommunications, especially if the destination resort doesn't really take the wedding planning in hand the way it might (yes, Wintergreen Resort, I'm looking at you).

    However, the great thing about having a series of miscommunications during a wedding is that you soon discover everything works out ok anyway and that the important things are what matter ... such as the wedding itself. So in a way that is a great way to have your married life begin. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) Plus, that wedding cake was one of the most delicious I've ever had. I'm just sayin' ... sometimes things go better than you could have expected.

  • When you stay at the Holiday Inn Express in a nearby town, rather than at the mountaintop resort, you soon discover that repeated forays up very steep, crooked inclines may put a strain on your car's 8-year-old transmission.

    This adds a note of anticipation and adventure to every subsequent foray up and down. It also adds a note of nostalgia for one's childhood when cars were not so reliable. It also increases one's prayer life, sense of trust in God, and adds a lot of variety to routes taken as one continually strives for the level, gradual paths. So ... that's all to the good! (Again, my story and I'm stickin' with it.)

  • As is often the case at these things, I didn't get to talk to my family members nearly as much as I wanted. However, I did get to have very enjoyable conversations with many other guests, including a young couple who are making a go of it as vegetable farmers supplying restaurants with fresh produce, a young Combat Medic off to her first posting in Germany, and part of my sister-in-law's family who I'd never have met otherwise. I love the random nature of these encounters and how interesting everyone was.

Worth a Thousand Words: Heinz Memorial Chapel

73-foot tall North Transept windows of Heinz Memorial Chapel
on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
photo by Laurie Stepanek/Mike White
via Wikipedia
Nativity scene. Heinz Chapel detail.
via Wikipedia
On our recent visit to Pittsburgh, one of the sights that elicited awe was the Heinz Memorial Chapel. Tom has some photos which I hope to share soon, but in the meantime do take advantage of the links to  enjoy a virtual tour of the chapel. Wikipedia seems to have more complete information than the chapel's website, but there are some glorious images at both sites.

We knew nothing about the chapel but were wandering around the university area and were drawn to the fine architecture. Entering was a complete surprise, as you can imagine.

Each of these tall windows has a unique theme which is illustrated with a range of religious and secular figures. It was a distinct pleasure to see the range of people used to remind us that Courage or Tolerance come in many forms.

Heinz Memorial Chapel at the University of Pittsburgh,
photo by Michael G. White
via Wikipedia

Julie was busy in the LEM when Scott stirred the tanks. The rest is history!

We discuss Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard, on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Catholic Basic Resources List

I'm stepping away from the blog for almost a couple of weeks while I go trekking about to the Blue Ridge Mountains for a niece's wedding and then on to Pittsburgh where I will finally meet a couple of friends face-to-face! Online friends, it is needless to say.

I'm greatly looking forward to all of this, not least of all the long car trip with Tom. We always find our conversations turning in ways we never could expect, sometimes prompted by our podcast or music listening, sometimes by the landscape around us, sometimes simply by our proximity and wandering thoughts. He drives and I knit. Or I drive and he often has to check email. But it is a closeness that is achieved no other way I know of today.

I'm also looking forward to unplugging as much as it is possible to do these days.

However, I'll leave you with something that will provide good reading for several days, at least.

I did a Catholic Basics list as part of our RCIA group's mystagogy  resources. Mystagogy is when you actually begin to learn how to live as a Catholic. The list has books, websites, comments on Bible translations, and that sort of thing.

I've been meaning to share it here section by section but never found the time.

Therefore, I have uploaded the pdf, which has live links if you're into that sort of thing, and you may download it to peruse at your leisure.

Obviously it is far from complete and someday I may have that chance to post expanded sections here. However, in the meantime, better this than nothing at all.

I hope you enjoy it!

P.S. I'm going to close comments while I'm gone just to avoid spamming problems.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fantastic Advice for When We Are Blue-Deviled ... and a Great Book on Saints

... as Georgette Heyer would put it. Dash it against the cross of Christ sez The Anchoress who has been fighting those feelings all week.
Actually, “doing battle” sounds romantic and pro-active. It would be more accurate to say I have been whining and unable to work and whining about being unable to work, and wandering around the house ineffectually, and walking the park feeding ducks, and missing my dog, and cooking supper and sitting before my oratory with nothing but a keening emptiness in my heart and mind and soul.

It is terrible to realize that you’re a walking, aching void. Acedia is like a dark echo-chamber of “me” bouncing off walls and resounding until nothing can get through the thickness of the self.
Definitely go read this because it is the story of how personal struggle pulls us deeper into our appreciation and friendship with the saints who have been there before us.
-----------
Speaking of saints, I had occasion to email The Anchoress on an entirely different subject. She then took a book I mentioned and which I am always kicking myself for not having reviewed ... Bert Ghezzi's Voices of the Saints. I have it on my Kindle (and although I wish the indexing were better ... or even existant ... in that version) but today I pulled it off my bookshelf in real, solid form. There is nothing like an actual book. I can sink into the stories of the saints so much better that way.

Anyway, the review I kick myself for never writing has been written ... by The Anchoress. Go read. And then get yourself a copy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Always Mean What You Say ... And Follow Through

ALWAYS MEAN WHAT YOU SAY.

Period. That's the whole method. But it wouldn't make for a very long blog post. I want you to get your money's worth. So let me flesh it out a bit for you.
My husband and I are often told how lucky we are to have such great kids (true) or complimented on our parenting skills (which worked out ok too evidently).

I don't have to write them down now because Kendra already did. Go read it at Catholic All Year.

If you read just the bold parts, then you'll get my verbal version given in response to the above-mentioned comments from friends.

The one thing our girls always add when this comes up is, "You treated us like people, not children."

That's nice to know because it is how we thought of them. Because ultimately it is about respecting each person and making sure they respect you and the family as a whole. It's not always easy. But it is that simple.

Bookmark goes undercover as a maid, while Popcorn is outside drinking tea from a crumpled paper cup.

Scott and Julie enjoy their new Punjabi nicknames almost as much as they enjoyed The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall. Get it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Summertime

Summertime by Mary Cassatt, c. 1894
via Wikipedia
There's something about Mary Cassatt's art. I simply love it.

Of Encyclicals, Formatting, and Kerfluffles

A few days ago I heard that Brandon Vogt got hit with the ol' Vatican/USCCB cease-and-desist for trying to make Pope Francis's Lumen Fidei encyclical more accessible to a larger audience. (If you want details, the last place I read about it was Simcha Fisher's column.)

That sort of silliness is old news to anyone who ever helped with the Verbum Domini podcast where many years ago the founder had the temerity to read aloud the daily Mass readings using the New American Bible (USCCB owns the rights and defends them aggressively). Some nerve, right? He had to cease-and-desist and now everyone who reads for him has to go through the extra steps of finding the RSV version for the day.

I mentioned Simcha Fisher's piece because I actually glanced over the comments there, something I rarely do when there are so many comments. I was surprised to see some of the reasons that people were defending the Vatican and USCCB. (The one that made me laugh hardest was someone taking Vogt to task for critiquing the Vatican's pdf format. Folks, I've gotta say, anyone still formatting with tables is surely moving with that glacial slowness the Vatican is famous for. They've got no defense on that one at all.)

Fixing dinner and then washing up later, I pondered the arguments on both side. I thought surely there must be a precedent for such a thing. Weren't the disciples (that's us) told to spread the Good News? For goodness sakes, Jesus didn't even write down anything he said.

I hate to pull in that old cliche, but what would Jesus do?

Then it hit me. Of course, there is a precedent. One of the things I really love is the way that Christ's own life provides us with so many examples to live by in every circumstance.

We see it in both Mark and in Luke.
Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”

Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
----
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.

For whoever is not against us is for us.

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
I'm going to get back to reading Lumen Fidei now. It is rich and I am moving through it slowly. I cut and pasted it into a document to bring home and enjoy at my leisure. I admit it, I didn't like the formatting on the Vatican's pdf. Too many pages to print out and gigantic type. So sue me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice by Austen Ivereigh

How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button IssuesHow to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues by Austen Ivereigh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a book that every Catholic should read.

The reason I say that becomes abundantly apparent in the subhead: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues.
We know how it feels, finding yourself suddenly appointed the spokesman for the Catholic Church while you're standing at a photocopier, swigging a drink at the bar, or when a group of folks suddenly freezes, and all eyes fix on you.

"You're a Catholic, aren't you?" someone says.

"Um, yes," you confess, looking nervously at what now seems to resemble a lynch mob.

The pope has been reported as saying something totally outrageous. Or the issue of AIDS and condoms has come up. Or the discussion has urned to gay marriage. And here you are, called on to defend the Catholic Church by virtue of your baptism, feeling as equipped for that task as Daniel in the den of lions.
Yes, we've all been there.

Or perhaps you are a Catholic who does not feel called to defend the faith but is one of the crowd waiting, wanting, a good explanation for whatever issue has been raised.

Either way, this book is here to help.

The introduction lays out the vital need for good, civil communication that sheds light but not heat. This is followed by nine chapters that discuss challenging questions which seem to get on everyone's nerves, such as the Church speaking up about politics, assisted suicide, clerical sex abuse, or defending the unborn. Austen Ivereigh discusses the overall context for each issue, the positive intention behind challenging questions, the Church's historical and current positions, and more. This is all with the goal of helping us be more knowledgable and know how to reframe issues so that there is a chance of being a positive voice for the Church.
Why the Church Opposes Euthanasia

In common with a long-standing tradition of western civilization, the Church believes that dying naturally is a vital part of life's journey, in many ways the most meaningful part. Dying can be described as a process of healing. Important things happen on that journey, and suffering and pain are often a part of it. As Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo ... said: "Compassion isn't to say, 'Here's a pill.' It's to show people the ways we can assist you, up until the time the Lord calls you."

Dying, then, is a highly meaningful gradual process of renunciation and surrender. Although some die swifty and painlessly, very often the pattern of dying involves great suffering, because (and this is true of old age in general) it involves letting go of those thing which in our lives we believe make us worthwhile and lovable: our looks, intelligence, abilities, and capabilities. This is what the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called "necessary suffering," the suffering endured by the ego, which protests at having to change and surrender. The idea that this kind of suffering is part of growth is not a uniquely "religious" view, although Christianity -- with the Cross and the Resurrection at its heart -- has perhaps a richer theological understanding than most secular outlooks.
The above excerpt is not the whole argument or rationale by any means. However, it was so well put for what I knew instinctively but had never had to articulate. It is one of the reasons I may wind up reading and rereading this book ... not only to absorb the points for the sake of discussion but for my own soul's sake.

Above all Ivereigh reminds us that where there is no trust, there can be no understanding or true conversation. To that end, he ends with ten points which should frame our mindset. These are the points that have stuck with me the most. I can't tell you the number of times in simply dealing with difficult situations daily that I have remembered to "shed light, not heat" and to "look for the positive intention behind the criticism." This doesn't mean not speaking up for the truth, but it does remind us that the goal is not always "to win."

I mentioned above that I thought every Catholic should read this book. I would go farther and venture to say that if you are curious about how the Church can justify a position you don't agree with, then this book is for you. That is how impressed I was by Ivereigh's even-handed, civil discussion of the positive motives of both sides of conversations on contentious issues. You may not wind up agreeing with the Church, but you will definitely see that there is a reasonable, logical context for her position.

I am very grateful to The Catholic Company for my review copy of this book. This is my honest opinion, no matter what the source of the book. You know how it is. That's how I roll.

=========

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papalYear of Faith.

Worth a Thousand Words: Road Tripping in Turkey


EatingAsia has a fascinating piece called Road Tripping in Turkey, or How to Self-Drive and Survive. It also has some gorgeous photography, as anyone who hangs out there much would expect. In fact, I couldn't resist sharing an extra photo just to try to lure you over there to see what else they've got.

A Must for My Reading: Book Darts

The comments about writing in books made me realize that I have not shared one of the best inventions known to those who don't want writing in their books.

I use Book Darts as bookmarks for one thing. They can't slide to the floor from between the pages.

Of course, I also use them as intended by marking passages with them. In fact, when I begin any book, I always slip a few extras onto the last page so I can grab one whenever something strikes me.

These are invaluable for my book club and podcast reading, where I want to be sure I can easily make notes of pages for later conversation. Or for marking those spots which will be going into a quote journal.

Highly recommended.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Well Said: Quotations

From my quote journal.
I always have a quotation for everything -- it saves original thinking.
Dorothy Sayers
Obviously, she and I are cut from the same cloth when it comes to loving quotations.

Write in Your Books

Long ago I got over the idea that I shouldn't write in my books. I'll admit that I only apply this to nonfiction. My fiction remains strictly unmarked.

However, my nonfiction often winds up with a checkmark or star next to significant passages. I don't underline or highlight since that interferes with rereading, as I found to my sorrow soon after I began the practice.

Joel J. Miller encourages even more than my simple system as you may read for yourself. Via Phil at Brandywine Books whose system seems like mine.

In which Doan and Carstairs solve not just one mystery, but all of them.

The finale of The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis ... it's ready now at Forgotten Classics.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Don't Blink -- Beware of Weeping Angels

Holy ... uh ... moly.

Watching Dr. Who, season 3, and finally got to the famous "Blink" episode. I now understand why friends and well-wishers always inquired whether we'd seen it yet.

I actually was shouting at the tv at one point, I was so unnerved ... and Sally Sparrow was so slooooow!

I will just say that I woke up several times last night and each time what leapt to mind were stone angels looming over me. Not weeping ones, folks. I only wish they had been ...

(I'd elaborate but I know Rose hasn't seen this yet and I'm trying to be spoiler-free.)

On another note, I did like what the writer of that episode said about Dr. Who. As a relatively new series viewer, I like the distinction Moffat makes between childish and childlike. Of course, what he says about monsters is true no matter what.
You have to remember that being scared of the dark and being scared of monsters is basically a childish impulse. There's always something of the nursery about horror....Adults never quite grow out of their childhood fears. They just belong in a different part of our heads. Doctor Who isn't a childish programme, but it is childlike: it's a programme for children. And many, many adults who watch and love it watch it as that: as something like Harry Potter.
Steven Moffat on writing horror fiction for Doctor Who

Friday, July 5, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
taken by Remo Savisaar
Definitely click through on the link to see the photo larger in its full glory.

Last night when we were getting out of the car to huddle with the other masses invading the neighborhood near the country club ... superb fireworks by the way ... we heard a screech owl protesting from the tree we parked under. It did not approve of all these people, all this movement and noise, all these lights. Did we not know we were scaring away the best large insects? What about consideration for those living there?

Luckily, a short hour later we were departing, leaving that little owl with the melodic call to its pursuit of dinner.

This photo obviously is not a screech owl. But it resonated this morning after our experience last night.

Busy Pope Francis: Vatican Consecration, New Encyclical, and Canonization Approval

Many joyful tidings are coming from Rome today as Pope Francis joined forces with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to give us plenty of reason for joy and hope.

1.
Vatican Consecrated to Protection of St. Michael the Archangel
To the joy of Vatican City State workers, Friday morning Pope Francis was joined by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the gardens for a ceremony during which the Holy Father blessed a statue of St Michael Archangel, at the same time consecrating the Vatican to the Archangel’s protection.

Following a brief ceremony, Pope Francis addressed those present noting how St. Michael defends the People of God from its enemy par excellence, the devil. He said even if the devil attempts to disfigure the face of the Archangel and thus the face of humanity, St Michael wins, because God acts in him and is stronger.
Read it all here.

2.
Pope Francis' Encyclical to Be Released Today
Faith is the source of light, of guidance for the Christian life. “We walk by faith, not by sight,” wrote St Paul. In his highly anticipated first encyclical, The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei), Pope Francis reflects on the meaning of faith, the beginning of God’s gracious salvation and the means by which man encounters the living God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

In The Light of Faith, Francis draws on key themes of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote encyclicals on charity and hope. He intended to complete the set with a reflection on faith, which would also have underscored the Year of Faith that he launched. Benedict’s history-making retirement meant he was unable to finish his encyclical. Francis took up the task, adding his own insights, themes and emphases to the work begun by Benedict XVI.

According to Francis, The Light of Faith is a “four-hand document.” Pope Benedict, Francis notes, “handed it to me, it is a strong document. He did the great amount of work.” Thus, although officially The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei) is an encyclical of Francis’ and reflects his teaching ministry, it is also reflects the work of Pope Emeritus Benedict. It’s not only Francis’ first encyclical; it is also among the few encyclicals openly acknowledged to have been written by two successors of St. Peter.
Find the encyclical here.  I'm especially excited that Pope Benedict worked on this also ... I've got a soft spot for his writing.

I see that Ignatius Press will be releasing it in book form. I usually read new encyclicals in any way I can get them when they first come out. However, I have found that later readings are best for me in book form. So much better than those hastily printed out pages from the internet that I lose or forget about later.

3.
John Paul II and John XXIII to Be Canonized

No date announced yet, but this is exciting!
Friday morning, Pope Francis approved the promulgation of the decree and also convoked a special Consistory of the College of Cardinals to discuss the canonization of the Polish pope in depth.

Furthermore, he approved the favorable votes of the Ordinary Session of the Congregations Cardinals and Bishops regarding the raising to the altars of sainthood of Blessed John XXII.

This slightly unusual gesture was explained by Fr. Lombardi who told journalists that despite the absence of a second miracle it was the Pope’s will that the Sainthood of the great Pope of the Second Vatican Council be recognized.