12 in 2021: A Year in Pictures

I am very late with my annual picture essay, which I’ve been doing every year since 2013. It was originally part of a linkup, but now I just do it because I like to! It’s fun to reflect on the year that has gone by.

JANUARY

If the above picture is not our life in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. Pictured above is Emily as the center of the hopeful gazes of Rameses, Penny, Rosie, and Mace. Sadly, we lost Mace this year. Not pictured are Echo, who is mostly outside, and Homer, Jake’s dog who currently lives with us.

FEBRUARY

I love reflection shots, and I had to include at least one photo from my favorite park down the street, where I have spent so many hours since it opened in 2018.

MARCH

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s one I want to remember. John, Emily, and I got our vaccines the first possible moment, driving over 30 minutes for an appointment. I don’t ever want to forget how excited we were, how eager to be vaccinated, how grateful that we could protect ourselves and especially our vulnerable family members.

APRIL

I’ve taken many pictures of Immaculate Conception Church, where I was baptized and have attended ever since and which may well be my favorite place in all the world. What’s special about this one is that I took it the day John and I returned to Mass after our vaccines took full effect. That’s another thing I never want to forget–crying after Communion because I was so grateful.

MAY

I could have included a picture from our trip to visit our son in Boulder, but this is something else I want to remember. He knew that this note would be even more of a gift than the flowers. He was the last of our kids to be able to be vaccinated.

JUNE

It was really difficult to decide on a picture from our trip to Kiawah Island in June. My sister and her family have been vacationing there every summer for years. This year almost the entire extended family spent some time there. We have never gone on a family vacation like that before, and after over a year of staying six feet apart, we were ripe for some togetherness.

JULY

I took this picture at the Van Gogh Immersive Experience in Atlanta, which was amazing. If it comes to a city near you, I promise it is worth the price. I bought the tickets for this months in advance, in the hope that we would feel safe to travel by then. It was something to look forward to that got us through some difficult times.

AUGUST

There is nothing pretty about this picture, but it’s a testimony to the goals I achieved and maintained during the pandemic.  This is the second pair of shoes I wore holes into since starting to walk from 1-2 hours every day.

SEPTEMBER

Here we are back at the park. I love this misty morning photo with a few leaves already starting to fall.

OCTOBER

This is from one of my Sunday morning nature walks. Our park has unpaved trails through the woods and there is always something pretty to see. Because of Covid, our church changed Mass times so I have just enough time to squeeze in a walk while everyone at home is still sleeping.

NOVEMBER

I took so many nature shots this year. I like this one for the late-fall color with the hint of frost.

DECEMBER

This is a little different from my usual Christmas photos–Lorelei’s cat Penny, who is very curious, hanging out in the box of Christmas lights.

To see photo essays from past years, click the links below:
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020

 

 

What I Read in January

What with Christmas Break and snow days and Covid cancellations and William’s semester starting midway through the month, I had another fruitful reading month!

The Grey King by Susan Cooper

I continued reading this series that I began re-reading in December. This one won the Newbery Award! I learned how to sort of pronounce Welsh from reading it, which is a plus.

The Girl Who Remembered Snow by Charles Mathes

A quirky mystery with a poignant heart. I had read it years ago but did not remember it at all, so that was fun!

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

Last in the series, which always leaves me melancholy and wishing for more. This one finally brings all the main characters together for an adventure.

Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell

I was a little worried going in, because Cornwell’s books have declined in quality in recent years. I had a couple of problems with this one, chiefly with the way-too-rapid conclusion and neat tying up of loose ends, but over all it was the best one in awhile and hard to put down.

Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle

I’m a L’Engle fan from way back, and I am always delighted to find something of hers that I have not read. The conceit of this novel–intertwining the story of King David and his wives with a more modern David and his–was pleasing to me since I just finished listening to the Bible in a Year podcast so I could really understand it.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I read this again because I convinced my book club to read it. They loved it, and so do I. It’s an absolutely delightful book and if you have not read it you should. I cannot explain it without spoiling it so you need to take my word for it.

Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie

I have almost every Agatha Christie book painstakingly collected from used book stores and salvaged in a sooty condition from our fire. For some reason I got a hankering to read one (they are a comfort read for me) and this one is one of my favorites.

The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth by Philip Ryken

I mostly enjoyed this examination of the threefold office of Jesus (Priest, Prophet, and King) as exemplified by various characters in The Lord of the Rings. However, it does rely on a Protestant understanding of some of the theology which feels strange to me since Tolkien was not only a devout Catholic but is on record writing that his book is profoundly Catholic.

The Hermit of Eyton Forest by Ellis Peters

I always squeal with delight when Emily brings one of these home from the library for me. I am sad to report that I am more than halfway finished reading these. I have loved them all.

Saints around the World by Meg Hunter-Kilmer

Every Catholic child should have this book. I wish I’d had it to teach my kids about the saints when they were young. But it is also pretty cool to read as an adult, because it is full of saints I have never heard of, from all over the world, chosen for diversity, and indexed to help readers find ones they can relate to.

The Art of Advent by Jane Williams

This was part of our family’s Advent devotions but since it goes through Epiphany I could not finish it until now. It includes a painting for each day, a reflection, discussion questions, and a prayer, so it is great for a family activity. We loved looking at the paintings but wished the book was larger so we could have seen the details better. This was written by an Anglican so there are a few minor theological differences from a Catholic understanding.

As ever, I am linking up with An Open Book, which you can visit by clicking below.

 

What Is Love?

Well over 30 years ago, when I was a Sophomore at Georgetown University, a group of us gathered to explore ways we could deepen our commitment to our faith outside of weekly Mass attendance. We called our group “Beyond Dahlgren,” Dahlgren Chapel being the university’s main worship space.

We gathered for prayer and fellowship and at least one retreat over the next few years. Our sponsor/mentor was a young Jesuit named Father Bill Watson, and at some point he started bringing his friend Father Robert Spitzer to our gatherings.

Father Spitzer (who at the time preferred to be called just “Spitzer”) taught me metaphysics, lived in our dorm, and eventually officiated at our marriage and baptized our first child.

He was (and is) brilliant and enthusiastic, and I have never forgotten some of the wisdom he imparted in our wedding homily.

Father Spitzer continues to impart wisdom about love today. I consider it one of those “Holy Spirit moments” that I was invited to watch and write about his recent video on understanding love. Along with explaining how the Christian view of love differs from earlier understandings and how transformative it has been over the centuries, Father makes a plea for all Catholics to counteract our culture’s destructive ideas by challenging common conceptions of love.

“Being nice is not love,” Father reminds us. Rather, love is a self-gift for the good of the Other–the WHOLE person, eternally and without expectation. It’s not giving someone whatever they want, whenever they want it, when it is not good for the whole person in the long term.

While the Christian agape proclaimed by Jesus transformed the world, leading to the founding of Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic public welfare organizations, Father explains that our culture’s redefinition of love has led to depression, anxiety, familial tensions, substance abuse, and suicide.

Father gives an impassioned explanation of the “intrinsic, unreserved value of every human life,” which informs all Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of and care for life from conception to natural death. Watching this video energized me to continue doing what I can to “re-educate our culture” at home, in my social circles, and through my writing.

This post was inspired by a recent talk on Understanding Love by Father Robert Spitzer of Healing the Culture.  Healing the Culture is an international leader in pro-life advocacy, delivering respect life education to millions of people by advancing universal principles of logic, ethics, and justice.  Through their online resources, K-12 curricula, leadership training programs, and media productions, Healing the Culture has helped countless individuals reject abortion and euthanasia and become effective pro-life advocates.

God’s Mysterious Mercy

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private” (Mark 4:33-34).

When I read these words from today’s Gospel, I found myself wishing I were one of the disciples, sitting at the feet of Jesus as he explained his parables.  I often wish God would explain his mysterious ways to me!

Read the rest of my latest for Diocesan  at the link below or in your MyParish app under Inspire Daily!

God’s Mysterious Mercy

What I Read in December

I think the week between Christmas and New Year’s is my favorite. I got so many books for Christmas and I’ve had so much time to read. But I met my goal for the month long before Christmas, believe it or not–mostly because I read almost exclusively fiction!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Emily brought me this one from the library when I mentioned how much I had enjoyed reading another Ruth Ware book earlier this year.  This was an absorbing mystery although I did manage to figure it out before the end.

Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney

This comes also courtesy of Emily, who had checked it out of the library and offered it to me when she was finished. The twist at the end of this one was absolutely not one I saw coming at all.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter

I have been reading this off and on for several months as my reading plan is to always be reading something either by or about Tolkien. This was just delightful–both for the insights into the writer and his creation. Catholics will especially enjoy learning more about Tolkien’s faith and its relationship to his mythology.

The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters

I foresee that by next Christmas I will have completed the Brother Cadfael books and will be requesting a boxed set of my own. For now, I try to hold back to reading one per month from the library. I invariably finish in a day or two, captivated by the adroit mixture of mystery, history, and faith. This one was no exception and I never saw the ending coming.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

This was a surprising installment in the Wallflowers series in which the author pretty successfully convinced me of the rehabilitation of someone I thought was irredeemable.  I am looking forward to the final installment but since they are seasonal Emily says we cannot read it till Spring.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

I cannot tell you how many times I have read this, which is one of my favorites of all time. I think I got it for Christmas when I was around 12, and it takes place during the Christmas season, so I always get an urge to read it at this time of year.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

This is actually the first book in The Dark is Rising sequence but I originally read the second one first so I always like to start with that one. This one is told from the point of view of mortal children who do not have a full understanding of the struggle between the Light and the Dark which is made much more explicit in the other books.

The Girl with the Phony Name by Charles Mathes

I continue to collect books I once owned that were lost in our fire ten years ago. I think I got this one from some book of the month club way back in the day. It stuck with me for some reason and I wanted to read it again. It was just as fun as I remembered with eccentric characters and an absorbing mystery.

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

My grandmother bought me my first copy of this book, which I read literally to pieces. I enjoyed reading it again although I am taking the copy I got for Christmas to McKay’s and ordering a better one. Watch out for those cheap Amazon reprints of classics, y’all.

Joanna’s Husband and David’s Wife by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

I found this in my mother’s bedroom a million years ago and read it before I could possibly understand it. Now as someone who has been married more than thirty years it resonates more and more. It’s a diary of a marriage as written by a wife and annotated by her husband, showing both sides of a complicated story and showcasing both the joys and the difficulties of attempting to join two lives into one. Y’all may be more familiar with the writer’s epistolary novel A Woman of Independent Means, which I also need to add back to my library.

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper

Even after Christmas, with all those good books to read, I was determined to continue with this series. The third one, like the first, is set in Cornwall, and the protagonists of the first and second join to face the forces of the Dark together.

The Holy Bible

Maybe it’s not fair to say I read the whole Bible this year, but I did listen to it (courtesy of The Bible in a Year podcast). And this year I am going to follow new plan and read a different translation myself.

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

Last book of the year! This is a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs above, and another book originally given to me by my grandmother, who had read both herself as a girl. This was my favorite of the two growing up, and I still enjoyed it, but I found it harder to endure the racism and eugenic sentiments (yes, really!) on this read-through. This is another one that will be traded in for a better version shortly.

Did y’all count? That’s THIRTEEN BOOKS!!

Want to find more great reads? As ever, I’m linking up with An Open Book.

And stay tuned for a “Best Reads of the Year” post I hope to have up within the next week!

Heaven’s Gain Ministries: Comfort and Support for Families in Mourning

The Heaven’s Gain website defines its mission, stating: “Burying the dead is a Corporal Act of Mercy. At Heaven’s Gain, we are called as part of our mission to provide burial products that honor the dignity of the deceased baby at any developmental stage.” 

Read the rest of my latest for Celebrate Life Magazine at the link below.

Heaven’s Gain Ministries: Comfort and Support for Families in Mourning

 

Jesus, Sun of Justice

We all long for justice. Children are born with this innate desire—they are obsessed with fairness until their parents tell them enough times that the world is not fair.  Well, it is a fallen world so that is unfortunately true. But I have never said this to my own children. Instead, I say this: “The world is not fair but we have to try to be.” We must not fall prey to the temptation to think that there is no hope for any justice here on earth. While perfect justice may be only attainable in God’s Kingdom, we cannot just stand around, staring at the sky, waiting for Jesus to show up.

Read the rest below:

Jesus, Sun of Justice

 

What I Read in November

Posting late this month because 1) Thanksgiving and 2) End of semester for my kids and 3) Christmas preparations, but even though I am too late for my regular linkup, I wanted to keep up my monthly update–especially as I hit my goal for the month!

The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters

Brother Cadfael continues to delight me! This adventure contained some still timely discussions on pastoral care of sinners.

Monsters of the Week by Zack Handlen and Todd Vanderwerff

I had been reading this most of the year, one entry at a time, to coincide with our family re-watch of all 11 seasons plus the movies of my favorite show.  It includes reviews of every episode plus short interviews of cast members and plenty of inside info.

How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

What I appreciated most about this book is how the author led us along on his own antiracist journey, while inviting us to confront our own internalized biases and learn how to do better.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

This was the only Georgetown book club choice that I read this quarter. I was a little iffy about it because of the subject matter–it is a “memoir” of the wife of Jesus! But it was written in such a way as not to offend, and it was more about the heroine and her journey anyway.  I enjoyed the story and the details of everyday life at the time.

The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness by Father Greg Boyle

I stumbled into an Instagram book study hosted by Alissa Molina and I am so glad I did! I had been fortunate to have heard Father Greg speak at my son’s graduation from Notre Dame so I was excited to read this book, and it did not disappoint.  Father Greg is the founder of a ministry that serves gang members, and the stories of mercy and grace and wisdom in this book will surprise and move you.

And that’s it for November!  I hope to be back to linking up next month.

When the Bad Guys Win

Today’s First Reading is really satisfying, isn’t it? Imagine King Antiochus, secure in the power of his army, head full of dreams of silver and gold. He is so certain of victory that when things don’t go his way, he is dismayed. In today’s slang, we might say he is “shook.” He is so overcome that he takes to his bed and prepares to die. On his deathbed he recognizes the price he has paid for his greed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if things always worked out that way—the virtuous victorious, the evildoers overthrown? That is not the norm in our fallen world, though.

Read the rest of my reflection for Inspire Daily at the link below:

When the Bad Guys Win

What I Read in October

I made up for last month’s failure to meet my five-book-a-month goal by reading eight books this month, thanks to multiple book clubs.

Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol

This is a perfectly fine book, which I read for one of my Georgetown book clubs. It just didn’t really grab me and I kind of had to slog through it. I’ve decided to opt out of the Georgetown choices that I am not really excited about going forward.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

It was my third time participating in Booktober this month, and this was the first book I read. It had some problems, but this tale of two women living almost a century apart, both of whose lives were affected by a mystery of books gone missing from the New York Public Library, was a fun don’t-want-to-put-it-down kind of read.

The Sirens of Mars by Sarah Steward Johnson

This was the other Georgetown book club selection that I had trouble finishing. Again, it’s not the author’s fault that the subject matter just did not grab me. One neat thing is that there was a certain amount of overlap between this and the Rocket Scientist book.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald

This was the second Booktober selection, about people working at the BBC during World War II. It was a weird read because I could see that it was well-written but I just did not care about it at all.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

I do not even know what to say about this book. Bizarre is the best adjective to describe it. I have read O’Connor’s short stories so I know how strange she can be but I wish that I had read this in college so I could have had a really good discussion about it.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanual Acho

This would make a great starting point if you have not read any books on being anti-racist yet. It’s based on the author’s video series of the same name in which he answers questions posed by white viewers, on all kinds of topics from hip hop to Affirmative Action. It’s very non-threatening and accessible if there is someone whose consciousness you’d like to raise. 🙂

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I slogged through this 600-page tome for my RL book club, having been assured that it was the scariest book ever, and I regret to inform you that I was more irritated than scared. I get that it’s supposed to be clever and experimental and modern but I wish someone would explain its appeal and how it has achieved cult status.  To sum up as briefly as possible, it’s a (fictional) scholarly book about a fictional movie written by a reclusive old man discovered and edited for publication after his death by a troubled, drug-addled young man and it has about a million footnotes and what I will call a creative layout.

A Most Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters

What can I say? Delightful, as always, and I was pleased to figure out the mystery more quickly than usual.

As usual, I am sharing this month’s reads at An Open Book. Check it out!