Word of the Year and Saint of the Year

It’s a new year, y’all! And that means the Catholic internet is asking everyone these questions: What is your Word of the Year? Who is your Saint of the Year?

If you are new to the concept I know it can sound a little strange–maybe even a little hokey! But over the past few years this new New Year’s tradition has become increasingly important to me and instrumental in directing my spiritual life.

How does one decide on a word and/or a saint?  Well, some people pray over it for a period of time.  Here’s a podcast episode about discerning your word.

If that feels uncomfortable to you, try this for your word, and this for your saint.  Be sure to say a little prayer before you click!

I know it seems a little silly, but who are we to put limits on the workings of the Holy Spirit?

The first year I engaged in this practice, I picked my saint first and got Mary.  And I was disappointed! I was looking forward to finding some new saint who I could learn about and have in my corner as an intercessor.  I was tempted to click again!

But the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing, y’all.  Because my word turned out to be MOTHER.  I decided this must mean I was supposed to really double down on my vocation of motherhood.

And 2018 certainly turned out to be the year for it!  In February we made our first visit to my far-away son, spending his birthday with him on the other side of the country.  In March we welcomed a daughter-in-law and hosted a wedding reception! I spent the whole summer being an awesome and fun mother to my youngest two kids.  And I shepherded my baby out of homeschooling and into public school (and bought her a dog too!).  All the while I worked on my goal of becoming holy by building a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother by participating in Marian consecration.  It was definitely a year in which, with Mary’s help, I dove deeper into what it means to be a Catholic wife and mother.

So I was excited for my second year of picking a word and a saint.  I got Saint John Bosco, who I remembered reading about as a child as that fun guy who worked with kids, and then for my word I got WINK.  About which I thought, “What?” I REALLY wanted to click again.  And I will be honest: I never was exactly sure what to do with that.  The only thing I could come up with was the notion of having more fun in 2019.

I’m not sure how good I was at it, honestly! We did travel quite a bit, including our first cruise, but the kids and I did not repeat our fun-filled summer.  Of course, compared to 2020 the year was jam-packed with adventures!

And early in the year I received a financial appeal from a Catholic organization serving the poor in the Deep South, via the Bosco Nutrition Center.  Maybe that was why that saint picked me–I have donated regularly ever since.

Last year’s picks seemed to make a little more sense: St. Faustina and REVIVE.  St. Faustina’s message of “Jesus, I trust in you!” was perfect for 2020.  And I truly embraced the idea of reviving myself, physically and spiritually, last year. (More to come on that note.)

This year I received St. Lutgardis as my saint.  I so much never heard of her that I thought she was a man.  I have not done much more than read an account of her life online as yet, but I hope to dive deeper as the year goes on.

My word is INTEGRITY.  That is a quality that is important to me, certainly, but I was not very excited about it because I did not feel it had anything new to say to me.  But just a day later I stumbled onto this podcast episode on living an integrated life.  This gave me that AHA moment I was looking for so that is the direction I am going to be following with my word.

And to help me keep it in mind, I ordered a custom bracelet from Pink Salt Riot’s Word of the Year collection.  For just a few more days, you can choose from  several options including bracelets, keychains, and necklaces, personalized with your very own Word of the Year.  And if you shop from my link and use code LIFEINEVERYLIMB, these already affordable pieces will be 10% cheaper!

Do you have a Word of the Year? What about a Saint of the Year? Tell me about them in the comments!

2020 in Review: Your Favorites, My Favorites

As another year comes to a close it is painfully obvious that I have written very little.  I don’t know why that is as time was more plentiful than usual.  Discernment is in order, for sure.  But in the meantime, I am starting the new year off right with an annual tradition: sharing the most popular posts (according to my WordPress stats) of the past 12 months, whether old or new, along with my own favorites among those I wrote this year.

Your Favorites

Southern Grammar: It’s Got Rules, Y’all

This makes its second appearance it the annual favorites list.  It’s a topic dear to my heart as a Southerner and lover of the English language from way back.

If you aren’t a lover of language and words like I am, you might not realize that all dialects have their own internal grammar and operate according to rules.  And I’m going to write from time to time about the rules of the dialect I know best: Southern American English, or SAE.

Mary, My Mother: Quotations and Images

Also making its second appearance, this is a collection of my own images paired with quotations about the Blessed Mother.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Go

A couple of years ago I started creating quotation images of the Blessed Mother to share on my blog’s Facebook page during the month of May.  I’ve been meaning to gather them into one post, and this month’s CWBN blog hop, with a theme of Mary, My Mother, is the perfect occasion for that.  All the photographs are mine, taken with my iPhone.

Things I Never Thought I’d Cry About: Losing a Dentist

This post is ten years old and it’s anyone’s guess why it was suddenly so popular this year.

The truth is, the dentist I want–and the kind of dentistry he practiced–is gone now, and was old-fashioned even for the times.  

Liturgical Music II: The 1970s

This is yet another post making a second appearance in this list, I am pretty sure driven by nostalgic Gen X Catholics searching for info on the songs of their youth.

Well over ten years ago I wrote an X-Files fanfiction story which I entitled But Then Comes the Morning, after a song I have not heard sung in Mass since the 70s.  I have seen it excoriated in lists similar to the one I wrote about in my last post. Yet TO THIS DAY I get emails from people who only found that story because they were googling that song, which they remember fondly from their own childhoods.

Love Your Neighbor, Wear Your Mask

This is the only new post that made the list.  It would have had a space on my faves list if it had not made it here.

Every day I read online diatribes from those who refuse to wear masks because this is America or because they are so uncomfortable or because they don’t like being forced to do anything or even because no one should tell them what to do with their own bodies.  Do I even need to tell you how ridiculous it sounds when professed pro-life Christians go around saying such things?

My Favorites

My Catholic Vote

It was an election year, y’all.  And I wrote about it even though it was painful.  I am proud of this post and stand by every word, even more since this week’s assault on the Capitol.

In choosing my candidate I followed a process I laid out here, and my conscience is absolutely clear, no matter how many of my fellow Catholics believe (and are happy to tell me) that my vote is a sin.

There Is No Foreseeable Future

Musings on thoughts occasioned by the pandemic.  Realizing the truth of this will make you a happier person, in my opinion.

If you take nothing else away from this unprecedented year, I hope this is it: there is no 2020 vision when it comes to the future.

A Trip to San Francisco

In February, we went on our first and last trip of 2020, to San Francisco to visit our son.  But this is not about that trip–it’s about our 2018 visit.

Trip to San Francisco

Then in July 2017 a piece of my heart left for San Francisco, giving me a suitable motivation for traveling there.  We visited Teddy in February 2018 and 2019 (on his birthday, which has conveniently fallen during the three-day President’s Day weekend) and will be returning next month.  I love San Francisco even more now than I did then, and I’ve taken many pictures that I want to share.

Another Trip to San Francisco

And this is about our 2019 visit.  San Francisco is a photogenic city.

If I can say one thing with certainty about my third trip to San Francisco, it’s this: my photography skills have improved since last year’s trip

Faith, Fitness, and Food: Three Quarantine Necessities

How I survived–and even thrived–in quarantine.

So here we are, about six weeks into this very strange time of Covid-19 quarantine, and I am a little embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying myself, thanks primarily to faith, fitness, and food.

If you’d like to read highlights from previous years, see below:

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

What I Read in December

I did not read many books in December because Advent/Christmas.  I will be making it up in January for sure!

Just before Advent, I heard about The Reed of God on multiple podcasts.  I took that as a sign to add it to my plans for Advent.  It’s perfect for the season, and the chapters are just the right size for reading one per day during prayer time.  This is one of those small books packed full of beauty and wisdom.  I will probably pull it out again next year.

Wintersong has been in my to-be-read pile for a long time.  I am a Madeleine L’Engle fan from way back, but I had never heard of Luci Shaw.  I picked this up after I finished The Reed of God and read one section each evening during Advent. I found myself enjoying the short prose readings more than the poems.

As you may recall, I discovered the Brother Cadfael series courtesy of Booktober. Saint Peter’s Fair is the third book in the series, and I am waiting for the third to arrive.  I like each one more than the last.

Emily of New Moon was a childhood favorite that I specifically requested as a Christmas gift–along with its sequels and the more well-known series by the same author, Anne of Green Gables.  My childhood copies were, of course,  destroyed by fire so it has been many years since I have read them.

Emily Climbs is the second in the series.  It was so fun to have these old favorites to read during the Christmas holidays.  I’m reading the last one now.

I have joined a scary amount of book clubs and along with the books I got for Christmas (not to mention the crazy piles in my room) I am well set up with reads for months to come.  I am excited to share them with you this year.

I am linking up once more with An Open Book.  Click on the picture to find more great reads!

12 in 2020: A Year in Pictures

And now for a yearly tradition: recapping the year that just ended by sharing one photo per month.  I try to choose some of my best pictures, but sometimes I have to forgo quality in order to pick one that really captures the flavor of the month, as you will see.

JANUARY

Baby Benjamin, my sister’s baby and the youngest member of the extended family, celebrated his first birthday in January with all the pageantry such an occasion demands.

FEBRUARY

John and I made our third trip to San Francisco to see our middle son, Teddy.  And this time with the added attraction of meeting Molly, his girlfriend.  The photo above is of Mission Dolores, the oldest surviving structure in the city, and the newer Basilica.

MARCH

I spent a lot of time walking this year–it was my way of coping with quarantine.  Hence, I took a lot of nature pictures.  This shot of apple blossoms was taken on the grounds of All Saints parish, just down the street from me.  At the time, I was walking there every Friday because it was Lent and they have outdoor Stations of the Cross.

APRIL

I also spent a lot of time sitting on my front porch staring at my garden.  My grandmother’s  irises outdid themselves this year and I really need to divide them.

MAY

When our local lockdown ended in May, I was horrified by the immediate incursion of door-to-door salespeople.  I put up this sign to accompany my Divine Mercy Jesus and have not been bothered since.  I will hate to take it down!

JUNE

Graduations were delayed a month and we opted out in any case, but our Senior consented to don cap and gown for this picture.  He started virtual college in August.

JULY

For a most of the summer, Rum Swizzles, something I experienced on our anniversary cruise to Bermuda, were a Saturday night ritual.  This was just one of many such rituals that I created to give a rhythm to life during the pandemic.

AUGUST

I’m not a big selfie-taker–in fact, I don’t like my picture taken at all–but voting is important!  I was impressed with the procedures put in place and it gave me confidence to vote in person in the Presidential election later in the year.

SEPTEMBER

I cannot say often enough how blessed I have been by the construction just a couple of years ago of Plumb Creek Park, which would be in easy walking distance of my house if we had sidewalks.  I have been there almost every day this year, and it has become my happy place, whether I am doing laps or hiking the nature loop.

OCTOBER

I took this picture on Halloween night.  I had never seen a moon with a corona before.  We also saw a big green meteor earlier that evening.  And enjoyed trick or treating, a blessed bit of normal fun in an abnormal time.

NOVEMBER

It was a quarantine Sweet Sixteen for Lorelei, who made the balloon decoration herself.  All the family gathered in our driveway, six feet apart.   We all remembered the last party at our house, for William’s birthday in early March, when we expressed disbelief that there was talk of families not being able to celebrate together.

DECEMBER

We had a white Christmas, y’all.  To give some perspective, this has happened only three times before in my lifetime (that’s over half a century), and only once so far in my kids’ lifetimes (back in 2010).  It was so beautiful, and felt like a gift from God at a time when He knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere anyway.

To see photo essays from past years, click the links below:
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019

What I Read in November

Oh, look! Here I am again, being all consistent and posting about what I read in November!

Normally our book club reads something scary around Halloween, often something by Stephen King.  The above read (which we discussed outside and distanced around a crackling fire) was not scary at all.  It was well-written but somewhat unsatisfying to me, since the whole point was that the mystery was supposed to remain unsolved.

I also finished my Harry Potter re-read.

Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows is quite simply one of my favorite books of all time.  I consider it a masterpiece, and I think it is the only book I ever read two times in a row, the first time from midnight to 6 a.m. the morning it was released.  It was great fun reading all the books in a row, especially knowing how it was all going to turn out and being able to appreciate all the little clues along the way.

Thanks to Booktober, I got turned on to the Brother Cadfael series and this month I read the second one.

I found it even more delightful than the first one and am excited to read more.  It is always fun to have a series to look forward to.

For fun, I picked up a comfort read to enjoy while soaking in the tub. (Is that TMI?)

I loved Wylly Folk St. John as a child, my favorite book by far being The Secret of the Seven Crows.  Of course, I lost all those books when our house burned down, but my daughter has been buying them as presents for me.  This one is as far as I know her only adult novel, and it is always a fun read.

Finally, this month I participated for the first time in the FemCatholic book club and read this magnificent book.

I did not know much at all about Dorothy Day before I read this, and I fell in love with her.  What makes this book even more amazing than its subject is that it is written by Dorothy’s granddaughter, and focuses on the relationship of Dorothy and her daughter, Tamar.  I read this with highlighter in hand.  It was beautifully written and full of wisdom I want to remember, and it was so absorbing that I truly did not want to put it down.

So, without the challenge of reading a book a week for Booktober, I only managed five books this month.  Still, I did sit down with and read most afternoons for at least a little while.

This month I am tackling a couple of Advent reads, and in January I am taking part in FOUR book clubs so I will have a lot to share then!

I’m linking up with An Open Book.  Click below to see more great reads!

What I’m Reading These Days: Booktober and More

I’ve always been that girl with her nose in a book.  Yet somehow in recent years I have realized that I am spending more and more time reading news online and less and less time sitting down with a good book.

This month I decided to do something about that.  I have made an effort to sit outside on the porch for a little while every day with a book.  My days of reading a book every day are not going to return any time soon, and I did not even make a dent in my massive stack of books-to-be-read (not to mention the ten or more typed pages of books I want to read but do not own); but I am pleased with what I did manage to get through in 30 days.

First up:

I belong to the best book club in the world.  Why? Because it meets next door; there is always plenty of good food, wine, and conversation; and no one gets mad if you have not read the book.  This month, though, I did read and enjoy this discussion of how hardship builds community, which I found especially interesting in light of the current polarized state of the world.

I joined an online book club this month too, Booktober sponsored by The Myth Retold.  Participants voted between two books in each of four genres, read one each week and discussed them in a private Facebook group.  Week one was the first in a series.  Brother Cadfael’s first adventure involved a quest for relics of a saint to bring glory to his medieval monastery–and, of course, murder.  I loved this glimpse of the Middle Ages and plan to read the rest of the series.

I have been doing a lot of anti-racist reading/listening/learning in online groups, so this read was especially timely.  I think I read it all in one sitting.  I learned a lot–especially just how exhausting it is to deal with microagressions. That was a term I kind of bristled at the first time I heard it, but Brown really made me understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end. This book also made me consider how I take my Black friends for granted by thinking that I can ask them whatever about racism without considering whether that is a role they really want.

This was an historical fictional account of a former aristocrat and an idealistic attorney caught up in the French Revolution.  It was diverting enough but ultimately did not really have any staying power–it is already fading quickly from my mind.

This, on the other hand, was my favorite Booktober choice by far.  On the one hand, it was a hard read because being poor in Brooklyn in 1912 was not joke.  But the characters were so well-drawn, the setting so well-described, the stories so true that I did not want to put it down and I have been telling everyone how much I loved it.

Since the pandemic began, our family has been watching a lot of movies.  Lockdown gave us the opportunity for uninterrupted marathon viewings in which we had long wished to indulge, such as watching every Harry Potter movie in succession.  Having done this I was inspired to do what I had never done:  read all the books in succession.  Some of them I believe I had only read once.  It was fun to read the earliest ones with foreknowledge.  I love a well-planned series and it is fascinating to see the clues to the ending that are present from the very first book.  The Order of the Phoenix is not a favorite but I liked it more after having just watched the movie, since the book is vastly superior.

The same is true of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I also read in October.  I had forgotten a lot of the details and it almost felt like reading it for the first time.

Reading seven books in one month, some of them quite long, is no small accomplishment in my current busy life, especially considering that I also read a slew of online content.

I hope to report back at November’s end having read the last Harry Potter book, my book club’s selection for the month, and the pick from another online book club, at least.

I’m linking this up with An Open Book, which you can visit by clicking the button below.

My Catholic Vote

I love voting on Election Day, but wishing to leave nothing to chance in this crazy year, I took advantage of early voting last week.  I marked my paper ballot for Joe Biden, coloring it in very carefully and staring at it for a long time afterward before I scanned it, wanting to cherish the moment for which I had waited so long.

In choosing my candidate I followed a process I laid out here, and my conscience is absolutely clear, no matter how many of my fellow Catholics believe (and are happy to tell me) that my vote is a sin.

In 2008, I sat out the Presidential election.  In 2012, I voted none of the above.  In 2016, seeing Trump as a danger to our country, I voted for Hillary.

When Trump won, my Republican friends said I should give him a chance.  That he would surround himself with good people.  That he would grow into the office.  I did, and he didn’t.  If anything, his presidency has been more disastrous than I could possibly have imagined.

In fact, it has been so disastrous, and I believe him so unfit, that I would have supported any one of the Democratic Primary contenders this year.  If you want to know my thinking, check out the 963 reasons compiled here, rightly referred to below as horrors:

This election year, amid a harrowing global health, civil rights, humanitarian, and economic crisis, we know it’s never been more critical to note these horrors, to remember them, and to do all in our power to reverse them.

However, Joe was my number one choice from the get-go, primarily because I believed he was the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump.  His relative centrism, his likable personality, his years of experience, his ability to compromise, his relationships with folks on both sides of the aisle–these are the qualities of someone who could build a broad and diverse coalition of support, as he has gone on to do.  I had always liked Joe, but as I have learned more of his story, I have come to love him.  No longer is my vote just an anti-Trump vote.  It’s an enthusiastic vote for Joe Biden, and here are some of my reasons:

  • Because he writes things like this, and means them:

We all matter in the eyes of God, and it will take all of us to achieve the healing America so desperately needs. To follow God’s Greatest Commandment, and to love each other fully. Together, we can win the battle for the soul of our nation; navigate the multiple crises we face – ending this pandemic, driving our economic recovery, confronting systemic racism; address the scourge of poverty; pursue immigration and refugee policies that uphold the dignity of all; and do everything in our power to ensure that all God’s children have the hope and future they so rightfully deserve. (Read more here)

  • And, maybe most of all, because of this:

Our country is in trouble  We are broken and hurting, scared and divided.  Four years ago I believed–I still do–that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified person ever to run for President.  I would never say that about Joe Biden.  But I DO believe, with all my heart, that he is the candidate most qualified to meet this moment and to bind our nation’s wounds.

More Than Politics

I recently was honored to appear on Julie Varner Walsh‘s brand-new podcast, More Than Politics,  a “podcast for those of us who want something more than what we’ve come to expect from politics — and from our political discourse. Each week, More Than Politics will feature a conversation that helps put today’s politics in context, that honestly and charitably explores the issues of the day, that encourages us to engage in politics in a moral, even loving way.

I have been enjoying the podcast since it began–I feel smarter every time I listen!  Julie and I had a great discussion about feeling politically uncomfortable.  You can listen to it here.

And you can expect to be seeing more political posts from me (or that’s what I currently intend, anyway) as we get closer to the Presidential Election.

Unethical Vaccines: From HeLa to COVID-19

I recently wrote an article on the connection between abortion and vaccines for the American Life League‘s Celebrate Life magazine:

Baltimore, 1951: A young woman lay dying in her hospital bed, her body riddled with cancer. Before her death, doctors scraped some cells from her cervix. Later, without her knowledge or consent, those cells—“the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory”—became instrumental in innumerable medical studies and discoveries.1 They also generated incalculable wealth. 

That young woman was Henrietta Lacks, and if you’ve heard her name, it’s because of Rebecca Skloot’s curiosity. One day in a biology class, Skloot encountered a picture of the unnamed woman whose cells were known as HeLa, their donor little more than a footnote in a textbook. Skloot’s determination to learn that woman’s name led to her best-selling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Lacks’ descendants, many of them struggling in poverty, have never received a penny from the millions generated by her cells.

But Lacks is not the only unknown and unknowing person whose cells have contributed to medical advances.

Read the rest here.

Dear Reluctant Homeschooler

If you are considering homeschooling this coming semester, not with enthusiasm, but with looming dread, this post is for you.

Because a lot of people who have never wanted to homeschool, who looked forward to the departure of their kids on Monday morning, whose kids loved school and thrived there, are staring down deadlines to choose from a menu of unpalatable choices and finding that homeschooling makes the most sense for them and their kids in this very strange season.

I, too, was a more or less reluctant homeschooler once–getting my start because I felt my son would not do well with a particular teacher, the only one who was teaching his grade in the parochial school we were otherwise pleased with.  But what I was forced to do, in the end I came to love, and in total I taught four of my kids at home off and on as their needs dictated.

This year, I will have two kids–a college freshman and a high school sophomore–at home.  They won’t really be homeschooled, since they are doing virtual learning which is not at all the same thing.  But if I had any little kids, I know I would be homeschooling them this year.  And I want to encourage you, if you are considering it–it is not as hard as you think!

To that end, I’ve gathered ALL my homeschooling posts below.  I hope you may find some ideas, inspiration, or just comfort from seeing how easy homeschooling can be.  And I also want to tell you that even though I wasn’t always as successful at teaching my kids at home as I thought I could or should be, all the ones I homeschooled have gone back to conventional schools eventually and excelled despite any inadequacies on my part.  I have no regrets and neither do they.

Homeschooling for Dummies

Old-Fashioned Homeschooling

Math Doesn’t Have to Be Fun

Do It Yourself Homeschooling: Spelling

Homeschooling Update: Reading

Homeschooling Win!

Homeschooling Fringe Benefits

Five Homeschooling Favorites

We Are Still Homeschooling

To Everything a Season: Why It’s Okay to Stop Homeschooling