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You’ve probably seen posts like this and this extolling the virtues of the summers of yore and planning to recreate them.  Heck, I might even have written a post like that myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I loved my childhood summers.  It sounds idyllic when I talk about it, and I really think it was.  I remember sleeping late and watching game shows, daily swims at the neighborhood pool, long walks around the subdivision, wearing bathing suits while riding our bikes, chasing lighting bugs and playing games outdoors in the dark, the hum of the streetlights and the songs of the cicadas.  I’d love to go back and do it all again.

But that neighborhood pool shut down years ago, and we live in a neighborhood that comprises three cul-de-sacs.  My kids don’t have friends their age nearby, plus they are also antisocial and frankly don’t care.  It’s also about ten degrees hotter then it was during my childhood and we don’t have a shady yard like the one I grew up with.

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.  William likes his computer, Lorelei likes the videos on her phone, and they both like watching movies way more than they are going to like spending time outside in the blazing 90 degree heat.  They do play outside, I promise–but with much more interesting things to do inside than existed back when there were four t.v. channels on a good day, they aren’t going to want to spend a whole day out there.

So this summer I am going to get up early and try to get as much done and then in the afternoons I am going to take them on some kind of adventure.  Some of them will be longer than others but the goal is to do something every weekday so that we don’t all spend the day staring at screens.

School let out Wednesday and our first adventure, a tradition for the last day of school for as long as I can remember, was going out for ice cream.

Thursday I surprised them with a trip to Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue.

Friday we checked out the University of Tennessee Trial Gardens.

I’m not insisting they accompany me on the Saturday adventure, since that’s usually my day to do as I please, but Lorelei chose to come with me to the Farmers’ Market this morning.

market 1

I have many more mini-adventures planned, and I’ll keep y’all updated.  It won’t be a 70s summer, but I think it will be a good summer.

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leaderboard_MamasJewelry728x90-Reg

When I was a little girl, I took weekly piano lessons from a family acquaintance.  I remember that she had a ring with multicolor stones that I thought was just beautiful.  She explained that it held the birthstones of each of her children.

Since then I’ve seen similar rings or pendants and have toyed with the idea of getting one–but the fact is that I don’t wear much jewelry and spending money on it just isn’t in our budget.

So I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to promote Mama’s Jewelry in exchange for a free ring of my own!  I haven’t ordered it yet, so I can’t give you my honest opinion, but I will.  For now, I will share a message from the company and an offer you can use:

Moms work hard 365 days out of the year, so why give them another predictable gift this Mother’s Day? With the exquisite collection of mothers rings from Mama’s Jewelry, you’re bound to make this the most unforgettable Mother’s Day yet! Each time she looks down at her ring, puts on her earrings or is asked about her necklace, she’ll remember just how much she’s loved.

Mama’s Jewelry has been designing rings and pendants for moms for 30 years, and we have no intention of slowing down! Our company is committed to creating exceptional mothers pendants, rings and earrings at affordable prices.

We are a family operated business born out of a passion for creating jewelry from gold, Sterling Silver, platinum and diamonds. We care about your comfort and satisfaction and how secure your diamonds and gems are set.

We are so proud of our jewelry in our store we give our customers a lifetime warranty on any piece of jewelry they buy. With that culture in mind, we developed Mama’s Jewelry.

What is the Mama’s Jewelry Advantage? Simple. We care.

A great deal of thought goes into the process of designing these rings, pendants and bracelets. When the customer receives their jewelry there is “wow” factor. We hear it time and time again. We always deliver 110%.

Thickness of the shank, the prongs, the quality of the stones, the way they are set; no one gives the customer so much attention to detail like we do. We have over 2100 positive reviews on eBay and thousands of reviews on Amazon and have sold tens of thousands pieces without any complaint.

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We love jewelry and we want our passion for it to be evident in any piece we offer.

My readers can save with the following offer:

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Eve.

The first woman.  The mother of all the living.  Adam’s companion.

What do you think of when I say her name?  How do you picture her?  Are your thoughts positive–or negative?

when we were eve

When I was offered a copy of this book by a representative of Franciscan Media in exchange for my honest review, I wondered what the title could mean, and my thoughts weren’t positive.  My gut reaction was to think of Eve as that weak and sinful woman who brought sin and death into the world through pride and disobedience, dragging Adam and all the rest of us down with her.

And my reaction is kind of the whole point of the book.  Our feelings about Eve mirror our feelings about ourselves–women who are no longer able to walk before God naked and unashamed.

But Colleen Mitchell encourages us to go back to Eden, to think about how Eve must have been before the Fall, to empathize with the weakness that led her to sin, and to discover our own “Eden instinct” that draws us to seek God’s original desires for us.

She encourages us to remember how good it was when God first made the world, and especially the unique place woman held as His final creation:  “As the culmination of God’s creative love, we arrive at the shaping of woman . . . in all the world, nothing exists that can fulfill the need for woman.”

This is a book that begs to be read carefully and prayerfully, and probably several times.  It would be ideal for a women’s book and/or prayer group.  Each chapter includes quotations from Scripture, reflections by the author, a story from an individual woman about her journey back to Eden, and questions for further study.  It concludes with a section of benedictions for your body that are incredibly moving.

This book made me cry more than once.   The personal stories shared in each chapter brought to mind some of my own struggles with body image issues.  As most women know, this is an incredibly painful topic that many would rather avoid than confront as this book encourages its readers to do.

But this is a joyful book, too, because it offers us hope that we CAN make our way back to Eden, and I recommend it to any woman who would like to reclaim some of that original joy.

franciscan media

 

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John and I are going on a trip!  This will be the farthest we have ever traveled without our kids, and only the second time I can remember that we’ve ever traveled alone by plane.

We are going to San Francisco!  Obviously, we are going because Teddy is there, and we will arrive on his birthday.  But that weekend is also the anniversary of our becoming a couple (31 years!) which we always celebrate (but usually by going out to dinner, or on a good year, with a weekend in Gatlinburg).

I went to San Francisco with my godfather and his daughter in May of 1981.  It was my first time on an airplane and my first trip away from my family.  I fell in love with the city and have wanted to return ever since.

But we are not exactly world travelers, y’all, and Teddy will be working a lot while we are there and we are going to have to find things to do.  I’m always a little nervous finding my way around in a new place.

So when U.S. Family Guide offered me the opportunity to go on an Urban Adventure Quest, I was very excited to see (as I expected) that San Francisco was one of the cities included.  In exchange for my (future) honest review, John and I will be able to go on a quest that will be a fun way to explore part of San Francisco!

uaqnewlogo

Here is what I know so far:

Turn the city of your choice into a giant game board with this fun scavenger hunt adventure. Combine the excitement of the Amazing Race with a three-hour city tour. Guided from any smart phone, teams make their way among well known and overlooked gems of the city, solving clues and completing challenges while learning local history. Play anytime during daylight hours. Start when you want and play at your pace. Great Family Fun!

Here is an offer for my readers:  Save 20%- Only $39.20 for a team of 2-5 people after Promotion Code: FGBLOG.

You can see what cities are available (local readers, note that Nashville and Asheville are on the list!) and sign up at www.UrbanAdventureQuest.com.  I’ll be back here with my review at the end of February.

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There’s something about a new year. isn’t there?  So fresh and clean with none of the last year’s mistakes . . . yet.  It’s natural to want to apply the newness to our lives, to make them fresh and clean as well.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who resolves to tackle household clutter at this time of year.  When it’s cold out, we naturally spend more time indoors enjoying cozy pursuits, and I have a hard time relaxing when my house is making me feel unhappy and anxious.

I wrote a super popular post a few years ago, about our American problem with too much stuff, and last year I acquired the popular minimalism guide by Marie Kondo.  And I made some progress, but this is going to be my year.

Because last year I read a book that didn’t only talk about minimalism and explain it.  This book anchored it in Catholicism, and that’s an unbeatable combination.

not of this world

Sterling Jaquith, the author of Not of This World  (which I was given by the author in exchange for my honest opinion in this post) hit the nail on the head when she wrote this: “Nothing in this world will ever really satisfy us.  Our ultimate desire will always be for God, and that is why I believe all Catholics should embrace a lifestyle of minimalism.”  This makes so much sense to me.  Our consumeristic culture encourages us to fill our emptiness with more and more stuff, but it never ends, does it?  We are always looking toward the next “must-have” item.

As my readers know, I was forced into minimalism a few years ago when my house burned down.  I was involuntarily relieved of the burden of too much stuff.  My relationship to the things of this world was changed instantly, and the result is that clutter I might have once not given a second glance now makes me anxious.  I have intentionally chosen to acquire very few extraneous personal possessions, and I ruthlessly get rid of things regularly, but the stuff seems to pile up anyway.

I find this overwhelming, and the problem is hard to tackle.  I need help, and this book provides it.  The opening chapters explain minimalism, and offer personal examples of what can happen to people who live their lives piling up possessions.  I recently traveled to Baltimore to help my mother-in-law go through some of the stuff in her home of more than 60 years prior to her moving into a small apartment.  She is very happy in her new place, but getting rid of her possessions has been very hard–not just logistically, but emotionally.  How much easier not to buy things and become attached to them in the first place!

Sterling goes on to remind us of the minimalist beginnings of Christianity–Jesus was born in a stable, after all!  His followers were poor, and throughout the ages those in religious lives have continued to vow poverty.  Following their example will bring us peace and space: “We’re going to create more space in our lives to connect with the Lord . . . The more we follow His will, the more peace we have and deep down, this is what we all desire.”

For me, this focus on Christianity is what sets the book apart from other minimalism guides and makes it uniquely motivating for me.  But that doesn’t mean the other stuff is neglected!  Much of the book involves detailed week-by-week and room-by-room instructions for decluttering, along with access to printable worksheets to help you do it.  There are also special sections for larger families, homeschooling families, and people who live in small spaces.

I am starting on Monday to follow Sterling’s program.  Buy the book right here and you can do it too!  Even better, you can join in online and get explanatory and motivations videos from Sterling and feedback from other people going through the program!

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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 costume, 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!

2017in12_logo_640-1

 

 

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At the end of each blogging year, I like to look at my WordPress stats and do a post about my five most-read posts of the year.  Many times this list will include some evergreen content from years gone by–last year not a single 2016 post made the top five!  Therefore I also indulge myself by highlighting the (six, because I couldn’t decide) posts I liked the best myself!  Shall we begin?

YOUR FAVORITES

Dear Mom in the Pew

This post from 2013, originally written for the now-defunct Mom Pledge blog’s “Dear Mom” challenge, is perennially popular.  I re-run it frequently on Facebook to provide encouragement for mothers with little people who sometimes misbehave in church.

Dear Mom in the Pew

So ten years from now–tomorrow–there will be big quiet kids in your pew and you will be able to pray again.  No one will be staring at you except to admire your lovely family.  You will be the one smiling indulgently at the cute toddler playing peek-a-boo with you over the back of the pew.

But until then, remember, you are doing a wonderful job.

An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal Obamacare

This letter of a totally different sort was written in January 2017 and got quite a boost when it was tweeted out by Gates McFadden.

An Open Letter

Remember that there are suffering people who see your Facebook posts, people who are frightened, for whom this isn’t about politics or partisanship or finances but about staying alive.  Remember that, and if you care about those people, watch the tone of your posts.

Bookwalter Cemetery: Pretty but Not Peaceful

This post was one of only two graveyard posts I wrote in 2017, and owes its popularity to my fans on a local history Facebook page.

Bookwalter Cemetery_ Pretty But Not Peaceful

The peaceful silence one associates with cemeteries was notably absent.  In addition to traffic and train noises, I was assailed by the sounds of barking dogs, blaring radios, and bawling babies.  Most disturbing of all, at the back of the cemetery I was transfixed by an argument going on in an adjacent neighborhood, where a landlord was banging on the door of a rental property and making telephone calls to his renter who was evading his attempts to collect rent.  I could not tear myself away from this troubling drama  of the living unfolding just yards away from this not-so-peaceful resting place of the dead.

Five Favorite Marriage Tips

This is from 2014 and I’m glad the advice seems to be holding up!

5 TIPS for a mariage that lasts a lifetime

It’s hard, hard work to live day in and day out with another person, someone who is not your blood relative and who you are bound to by choice.  There are bound to be times when you don’t get along at all.  

Woman Enough to March

This is from January of this year, a time when I was writing a LOT of political posts.

Woman Enough to March_

I’m so tired of being marginalized for one reason or another.  I am sick at heart over the notion that there is only one kind of feminist–our pro-life feminist foremothers be damned!–that the right to unlimited abortion apparently trumps all and that some of us are not woman enough to participate in a Women’s March!  As I posted on Facebook, “It’s like you are not an actual woman if you are not pro-choice.”

MY FAVORITES

My Catholic Uniform

Another political post, specifically on the duty Catholics have to welcome the stranger.

my-catholic-uniform

I don’t wear a red plaid jumper any more, but I have made myself very visibly Catholic on Facebook and elsewhere.  Not just because people who know me in real life know that I am Catholic, but because I often write on Catholic topics and (try to) explain Catholic doctrine.

Iris, Resurrected

My only gardening post of the year, something I hope to make up for in 2018!

Iris, Resurrected

I often think of Mima (who died nine years ago) when I am in my garden.  I feel close to her then because it is a passion that we shared, and if such things are genetic, then my love of gardening is an inheritance from her.

How I Am Rocking Motherhood

A response to a challenge.

How I Am #RockingMotherhood

Because it IS a challenge, in a society that’s hell bent on making mothers feel that they are never quite good enough, to focus on the positive.  And it can be intimidating to toot one’s own horn, especially since I just did not long ago.  Plus I am a perfectionist, and am far more likely to be berating myself for my motherhood failures than congratulating myself on my wins.

A Front Row Seat

In which I wonder why people pay extra to sit up front at concerts while lurking in the back at Mass.

A Front Row Seat

Sitting so far back, I didn’t feel like a full participant in the Mass.  I felt like a spectator.  “It was like being at a concert,” I said later.  You know the kind–where the performer on stage could almost be anyone if there were no Jumbotron to display closeups.

Just Like That

A tear-inducing reflection on the departure of my middle child from home for real.

Just Like That

But here’s the deal:  we aren’t trying to be bossy or irritating or to minimalize the work and stress of coping with small children–we just want you to realize what we didn’t; we want you to fully experience the joy of what you have, because we would give anything just to have one more day of it.

A Confederate General’s Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

My contribution to the Civil War statue debate.

A Confederate General's Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

As his descendant, I disavow and repudiate the Unite the Right protesters and anyone who shares their hateful beliefs in the strongest of terms, and I call upon all descendants of Confederate soldiers to join me in condemning them.  They don’t represent the South and we don’t need these modern-day Carpetbaggers to tell us how best to preserve our heritage.

My collections from prior years are linked below:

2016

2015

2014

I’m linking up with Revolution of Love where you can see collections from other bloggers.  It’s a great way to discover new blogs to follow.

logo_top_ten_posts_2017

 

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