What I Read in March

I read a lot in March! I am once again becoming the girl who always has a book in her hand, and I love it!

I was not expecting to read The Turn of the Key, which was a book Emily got for herself at the library.  But as she described the plot, I became intrigued.  It’s a mystery inspired by The Turn of the Screw, which I read in college.  I couldn’t put it down and it kept me guessing right up till the end.

Every Catholic woman (those who hang out online, anyway) is reading Falling Home this month it seems.  It’s a vulnerable, touching, and inspirational memoir. A couple of my favorite quotes: “[G]oodness doesn’t become any less good or valuable because it only lasts for a short time,” and “But she is full of hidden treasures! She must be! Isn’t everyone? . . . [E]veryone has marvels and miracles woven within them.

Here’s another book every Catholic I know seems to be reading this month: Consecration to St. Joseph The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.  And I’m going to voice a super-unpopular opinion: I did not like this book and I would have stopped reading it very soon if not that 1) It was one of the things I planned to do for Lent and 2) I wanted to be consecrated to St. Joseph.  As it was, I admit I skimmed parts. I hate to go on at great length in a negative way about a book that seems to be bearing great fruit for so many people so I’ll just say that it was repetitive and simplistic, and a lot of the “theology” seemed to be the writer’s opinion, as far as I could tell.

Bookclub time! This month I was participating in the Fountain of Carrots readalong of The Reckless Way of Love. Having read a biography of Dorothy Day not long ago I was eager to learn more of her wisdom, like “The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and whatever you do for them you do to Him,” and “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.” I highly recommend this short and easy way if you want a quick introduction to the thinking of this holy woman.

I read Me and White Supremacy and completed the associated workbook as part of another online book club led by Leticia Ochoa Adams.  This is part of my ongoing anti-racism work, about which I plan to write more later. Anyway, reading this is hard and it’s work, but it is necessary work.

I continued my nostalgic revisit to the Anne series with the second installment, Anne of Avonlea, which primarily concerns Anne’s time as a teacher of the one-room schoolhouse she herself attended.  Here’s a lovely description of the heroine: “Anne was one of the children of light by birthright. After she had passed through a life with a smile of a word thrown across it like a gleam of sunshine the owner of that life saw it, for the time being at least, as hopeful and lovely and of good report.”

I don’t recall how I first came across Domestic Pleasures, but it was definitely by accident. I’ve never read any other books by the author, which I should probably remedy given how much I enjoy this one. This copy was a Christmas gift to replace the one I lost in the fire. It’s a tale of the intertwined lives and stories of Martha (ex-wife of Raymond); Charlie (Raymond’s divorce lawyer and now trustee of his estate); Jack and Phoebe, the teen kids of Martha and Charlie; Sophie (Charlie’s erstwhile girlfriend) and her unhappily-married sister, Connie; Patsy (Charlie’s ex-wife); and Gillis (Martha’s former lover and father of her toddler son).  At its heart it’s a sweet love story but philosophically it’s a reminder of how our lives are shaped both by random events and our connections.  It’s full of wisdom, for example: “Martha didn’t listen, because of course no one ever listens.

The Sanctuary Sparrow was another delightful visit to the medieval world of Brother Cadfael, former Crusader turned detective monk. These books never disappoint me and I am so glad that there are so many of them.

Did y’all count? That was EIGHT books so I surpassed my goal by three, and I read parts of lots of other things too, as you will eventually hear. Check out more books at the link below.

What I Read in February

I met my five-books-per-month reading goal for February, plus I read parts of lots of others.  It seems weird to think of reading as something I need to schedule, but thinking of between three and five in the afternoon (when I don’t have anything pressing going on) has helped me meet my goal.  And turning it into a goal means I don’t feel guilty taking the time to do it!

First up: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, which I finished up in a matter of days (because it was my daughter’s library book, and is on a perpetual waiting list so she couldn’t renew it).

I know, I know, and don’t laugh at me, y’all.  I read the Twilight Saga years and years ago back when they first came out and Emily was really into them.  The thing about those books is that they are compelling and interesting and it’s not until you read the last one that you feel cheated by the whole thing.  That’s how we felt, anyway.

But Midnight Sun is kind of fun–it’s just a retelling of the first book told from the vampire’s perspective.  Some of this was interesting–for example when it gave us access to scenes that were not in the first book.  Other parts were unbearable tedious.  Still, if you read Twilight and enjoyed it at all, you will probably want to read this.

Fiat Ordo by Elayne Miller of Annunciation Designs was my spiritual read for the month.  This is a great little book for any woman seeking to bring order into her life.  You can read it in a month, one short chapter each day, with space for journaling in response to prompts that will really encourage you to dig in and evaluate how you organize your time.  It includes the following prayer that I should probably say every day: “Lord, fiat ordo. Bring order into my heart and into my life. Give me the strength to cling to order when chaos swirls around me. Give me the humility to remain ordered to you when temptations abound, Give me the patience to sit in ordered silence rather than fill the emptiness with noise. Let there be order.”

 

I read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate for my in-person book club (we are meeting outdoors, around a fire, socially distanced, and therefore have not met in a couple of months!).  I couldn’t put it down, even though parts of it were painful to read–it’s based on a true story of poor children being stolen from their parents to be adopted out to well-to-do families.

I’m averaging one Brother Cadfael book per month, with Emily thoughtfully putting them on hold at the library for me. The Virgin in the Ice did nothing to make me regret that.  I continue to enjoy the mysteries, the medieval atmosphere, and the spiritual nuggets I always find in this delightful series.

What can I say about L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables? I was probably eight years old when I first encountered this book, presented to me by my grandmother on one of my weekly overnight stays.  I seem to recall her saying she had read it herself as a child.  I read that copy to pieces, and then lost it in a fire.  But I got the boxed set for Christmas and am looking forward to reading them all, in a more thoughtful manner than usual, which already rewarded me with these two descriptions of Anne that never struck me before: “who knew and cared nothing about God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love,” and “There was no ciphering her out by the rules that worked with other children.

I’m writing this on March 1, and I am already deep into several other books with more on my shelf I can’t wait to dive into.  I look forward to sharing them with you next month!

As always, I’m linking up with An Open Book.  You can check out other great reads below!

 

What I Read in January

I set a goal this year to read five books a month.  In truth, I thought it a modest goal, since I used to read that many every week, give or take.  But it was surprisingly challenging, perhaps partly because I am only counting books I finish each month even though I am reading others at a slower pace for various reasons. (And also perhaps because my kids–one in high school, one in college–started back to online school, and they require frequent assistance!)

I finished the Emily of New Moon series which I got for Christmas.  Much of Emily’s Quest is painful to read, honestly, but the payoff is worth it.  One of the elements of the Emily books that appeals to me is the hint of the supernatural therein which is not really a feature of the more well-known Anne of Green Gables series.

Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action, is one of three books I read this month for various Georgetown University alumni book clubs.  We were supposed to read them over a ten-week period but I just cannot manage that when I get really interested in a book.  This one was a quick read because I wanted to find out what happened to the author in this story of how his medical degree and relentless, active hope were key to finding his own cure when he was stricken with a mysterious, incurable disease.

Ask Again, Yes–another Georgetown selection–was my favorite read of the month.  This story of the intertwined lives of two families and the tragedy that tears them apart was surprisingly uplifting in the end.  And I found it deeply Catholic in its views on marriage and redemption.  Some favorite quotations: “Marriage is long. All the seams get tested,” and (of marriage) “Love isn’t enough. Not even close.”

The Power of Habit was my final Georgetown Book Club read.  Its combination of science, anecdote, and self-help made it an engaging read.  I definitely filed away some of its insights to help me towards my goals.

The Leper of Saint Giles is the next installment of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, which I continue to love.  Everything about these books is pitch perfect–the characters, the history, the mystery, and the faith.  And there are so many of them that I will have the pleasure of reading them for months to come.

Coming up in February, I’ll be doing three book club reads, some spiritual reading, and at least two “just for fun” books!  I’m linking up today with An Open Book.  Click the picture to discover more great reads!

 

 

 

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!

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!

12 in 2019: A Year in Pictures

It is time for the first post of 2020, and one of my favorite annual traditions, the past year in pictures! As always, it is difficult to decide whether to choose the most artistic picture of the the month or the one that is most representative of the month, so what you see below will be a mixture of both.

JANUARY

On January 12 my sister had a baby!  This is a picture of William meeting his cousin for the first time.

FEBRUARY

John and I went to San Francisco again in February to visit Teddy.  My next big picture post will be about our visits because I have taken so many beautiful pictures there.  So I am sharing this picture that I took at the Chicago Airport on the way there because I think it is cool.

MARCH

After the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Knoxville, Lorelei and her cousin Ella had fun posing and taking pictures in this art-covered alley.

APRIL

I had fun experimenting with the Portrait option on my iPhone this year.  I took this picture of dogwood blossoms during one of my rosary walks before morning Mass.

MAY

Our precious nephew and Godson, Leo, made his First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart Cathedral in May.  I just love his sweet expression.

JUNE

This was taken at one of the parties during my 30-year college Reunion–from the top of the Watergate Hotel, with the sun setting over my alma mater.

JULY

John and I went on a cruise–our -first–to celebrate our 30th anniversary.  This photo was taken in Bermuda.

AUGUST

We went on an impromptu family vacation to Myrtle Beach over the Labor Day weekend.  I love this colorful shot of the boardwalk.

SEPTEMBER

I continue to enjoy sitting on my front porch, even with this nightly visitor, who was inches away from my foot when I took this picture.  I have learned to make no sudden moves, and all has been well, although our cats have not always been so lucky.

OCTOBER

My kids REALLY get into Halloween.  Look closely and you will see that our porch visitor was undeterred by the spooky decor.

NOVEMBER

A rare early November snowfall decorates the first berries ever on this nandina bush, which I transplanted from my grandmother’s garden several years ago.

DECEMBER

Christmas 2019.  All the Sholly kids were home and enjoyed brunch at the Crowne Plaza downtown.

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

I am linking up with Revolution of Love.  Click below to see pictures from other bloggers!

12 in 2018: A Year in Pictures

I love taking pictures, and I love this self-indulgent exercise of sharing my best photos of 2018.  Or maybe not the best, but the most representative–it kind of depends on the month, really.

JANUARY:  A bonfire in our backyard–this one was for the burning of the Christmas tree, and the reason the fire has this cool shape is that our wreath is in there!

FEBRUARY:   It was SO HARD to pick a picture for February, y’all.  We went to San  Francisco to visit Teddy and I took maybe a million beautiful pictures.  I love this one because it was serendipitous–I had gone on a walk alone, knowing nothing of the celebration of the Chinese New Year, and encountered this parade by accident.

MARCH:  Another hard choice.  Jake and Jessica were married on March 24, and I was the photographer.  I think this is my favorite.

APRIL:  Emily had her five-year college reunion in Mobile, Alabama and we tagged along for the food.  While she was busy I took the kids to an alligator preserve. That may not sound like your idea of fun but it was pure heaven for William, who NEVER smiles like this for the camera.

MAY:  Here’s one of Lorelei hiding in a specimen bush at the UT Arboretum, which was one of our first summer adventures.

JUNE:  This is the view from the top of Grandfather Mountain.  We spent almost a week staying with friends at their timeshare in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, and this was definitely a highlight of the vacation.  I took this after walking across the “Mile High Swinging Bridge.”  I don’t even like to stand on chairs so that was a pretty big deal.

JULY:  Another summer adventure.  We discovered this little park through an accidental short cut, and we came back the next week to go swimming.

AUGUST:  From this point on, my camera roll is full of pictures of this guy, who we adopted in August. This picture is also important because it was taken at our new neighborhood park, which we just love.

SEPTEMBER:  This picture has a lot of things I enjoy in it–a cat, my porch chairs, and wine!  For some reason, once they started selling wine at the grocery store we started drinking it with dinner more often. 🙂  I love to take my dinner wine outside to the porch after the meal.  I also enjoy reading–and napping–out there.  It truly is my happy place.

OCTOBER:  Another month with so many pictures it was almost impossible to choose.  I really need to devote an entire post to our trip to New York City.  The Statue of Liberty was my favorite, though.  I was quite misty-eyed and I could happily have stayed there all day.

NOVEMBER:  I love this picture of beautiful downtown Knoxville, my favorite place in the world.

DECEMBER:  This picture was taken at my parish church on Gaudete Sunday.  I thought the church was especially beautiful that day.  We truly did have a joyful Advent so this seems like an appropriate choice.

This was a good year.  It’s nice to look back on the year and feel that way.

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

I am linking up with Revolution of Love.  Click below to see pictures from other bloggers!

2018 in Review: Your Favorites, My Favorites

I love to start the new year by reviewing the old one, and that extends to my blogging.  So each year I write a post highlighting my readers’ five favorite posts (according to WordPress statistics) and my own five favorites.

Often my most-read posts were actually written years ago, and that’s true of two of this year’s five.  My five favorites are chosen only from posts I wrote in 2018.  Let’s go!

Your Favorites:

Code of Silence

The first of several posts inspired by the disturbing revelations of sexual abuse and the way the Church has handled them.

“Our Bishops have failed dismally in their obligation to teach, educate, lead, protect, and shepherd the faithful.  My faith in the Church is unshaken, but my faith in its hierarchy is at an all-time low, and I am not alone.  The faithful laity will no longer be satisfied with apologies and committees.  We must demand change–accountability, penance, resignations, and complete transparency.”

Diaper Rant:  The Case for Plastic Pants and Pins

An oldie-but-goodie: my manifesto on old-school diapering.

“I had a few of those fancy new diapers handed down or given as gifts, and I enjoyed using them.  But the “cloth diapering system” that has worked just fine for me through five babies requires Gerber plastic pants (which we still call “rubber pants” around here), trifold cloth diapers that come in packs of five or ten at Walgreens or Kmart, and good old diaper pins.”

Catholic Minimalism Challenge:  Week 1

I wrote several of these before-and-after posts as I worked hard to declutter our house this year.

“In the end, we removed two miscellaneous bags of clothing and accessories and two full boxes of books that will all leave the house, and we relocated a few items to other places (where we will face them again when we get to their new homes at the appropriate time!).”

Summers, Swimming, and Sexual Harassment: What Girls from the 80s Remember

Truth be told, this piece, written in response to the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, is one of my favorites as well.

“Last week during family discussions leading up to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I kept remembering more and more of these incidents, most of which I hadn’t thought of in years.  “Does every woman have these experiences?” asked my husband, incredulously.  One middle-aged white male, at least, learned a lot last week–and altered his outlook.”

Liturgical Music II:  The 70s

Another old one whose resurgence in popularity mystifies me.  Possibly people run across it as they nostalgically look for the songs they remember singing at Mass as children.

“And as I look back and can see that the songs from the 70s weren’t particularly good songs, while it may be fun to be snarky, it’s important to remember that people were doing the best they could without much guidance to come up with new songs for the new liturgy.  And as for me, even if the songs were “bad” I loved singing them and remember them fondly.”

My Favorites:

My Lenten Walk in Pictures and Quotations

I love taking pictures and I love showing them off, hence this post.

“At first I was content to share a picture but as is my way I quickly had to make it harder for myself by coming up with a quotation for each day as well.”

Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead

Memorable not so much for the quality of the actual post as for the summer of adventures it launched.

1970s Summer

“I’m all for leaving kids unsupervised and unscheduled while I live my own life, but kids nowadays when left to their own devices are apt to fill that unscheduled time with actual devices.”

Thoughts from a Reunion

Inspired by our visit to Georgetown this year for my husband’s 30th; this year it’s  my turn!

“I’m always telling my kids (and other people lucky enough to be the object of my sanctimonious rants) that being happy is NOT the point of life.  And I do believe that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT to be happy.”

A Plethora of Peacocks: Lessons from Drama and Real Life

The previous inhabitant of this house named it the Golden Peacock Villa.  Learn why in this post!

“Penelope Sycamore was completely secure in herself and her family.  She didn’t even think about whether other people would like her or not.  She was able to put worry aside, fully inhabit her days, and enjoy life as it came.  I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.”

Twenty-five Things to Read about the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

I put a lot of work into the curated collection of writing about the scandal.

“When I am disturbed about world events, I head to my computer, looking for something to read.  I read for facts, for analysis, and to process.  Fortunately, in such times as these, others are moved to write to provide for this need.”

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

2017

2016

2015

2014

I’m going to link this up at Revolution of Love, where other bloggers are doing the same thing!

12 in 2017: A Year in Pictures

And now for a quick trip through 2017, with some of my favorite pictures!

JANUARY:  Along with millions of women (and men!) around the world, Emily and I participated in the Women’s March.  I wrote about that here and here.  It was pouring down rain–an absolutely miserable day–and I love this picture that shows what a crowd turned out anyway.  This is what democracy looks like!

Best of 2017 - Women's March

FEBRUARY:  John and I took a weekend trip to Gatlinburg, which I wrote about here.  One highlight was moonshine tasting.  Here you can see all that goodness being brewed, right out in public!

Best of 2017 - Gatlinburg

MARCH:  William turned 16.  I chose this picture because I love the look of delight on his face.  He usually wears a rather solemn expression.

Best of 2017 - Willima's birthday

APRIL:  My sister Betsy treated my mother, our other sister, and me to VIP tickets to The Gambler’s Last Deal, the final tour for Kenny Rogers, which I wrote about here.

Best of 2017 - Kenny Rogers

MAY:   Of course the biggest event this month was Teddy’s graduation, but since I already shared so many pictures of that, I’m choosing this favorite from one of several trips to Dollywood.  This is Lorelei with her cousin Ella.

Best of 2017 - Dollywood

JUNE:  A trip to the zoo.  We got season tickets this year.  This is part of the new tiger exhibit, about which more later.

Best of 2017 - Zoo

JULY:  We went on a wonderful trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion.  I hope to write that up at some point.  For now, this is an animatronic Spinosaurus from our trip to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, which was definitely the highlight of the reunion as far as William was concerned.

Best of 2017 - Reptiland

AUGUST:  Another trip to the zoo, where we were able to get up close and personal with the two Malayan tigers.

Best of 2017 - zoo

SEPTEMBER:  In another trip I want to write about this year, we spent a weekend in Cincinnati.  We were there to see the exhibit of original Star Wars costumes, one of which is pictured below.  What a thrill!

Best of 2017 - Cincinnati

OCTOBER:  My porch chairs continue to make me very happy.  Decorating for Autumn is another thing that makes me happy.

best of 2017 - porch

NOVEMBER:   Lorelei, William, and I attended the annual rosary service at Calvary Cemetery, Knoxville’s only Catholic graveyard.  I’ll be going back to take more pictures before I do a long-overdue write up.

Best of 2017 - Calvary Cemetery

DECEMBER:  In 2018, I will get a new title–mother-in-law! Jake asked Jessica to marry him a few days after Christmas, so I will have a wedding to tell you about this spring.

Best of 2017 - engagement

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

I’m linking up at Revolution of Love with other folks who like to do this too.  Click below for more 2017 photos!

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Hopes and Dreams for 2018

I’m a little late with my post for the CWBN blog hop this month.  I’m pretty good about dashing off a post at the last minute, but I felt such a serious topic deserved a little more reflection than that.

Out of the many hopes I have for the coming year, I’ve narrowed my choices to share in this post to two.  I’m having a hard time putting the first one into words without feeling like I am taking myself way too seriously, but this is the truth:  I want to grow in holiness.

Every day I feel sadness at how far the reality of who I am as a person, a Christian, a Catholic, is from what I know God wants me to be.  I’ve made some progress this year, what with Lent, and Confession, and prayer journaling, and my online Catholic groups, and the good Advent I am having, but there’s a lot left to do.  And I don’t want to fall into the trap of spending so much time in contemplation that I forget to put my faith into action in the world.

My second hope is more tangible.  After six years of renting the house we moved into very abruptly when our prior house burned to the ground, we have decided we are ready to become homeowners again.   It’s scary to put down roots again–both literal and figurative–but it finally seems like the right time.  There are a few roadblocks though so I ask for my readers’ prayers in successfully navigating them.
house and garden
Do you have hopes and dreams you’d care to share?  Add them in the comments if you wish.  And to see what some other Catholic bloggers are dreaming about these days, click the picture below.

CWBN december