Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I've been plotting a new venture and there's so much to learn; watch this space when I'm ready to share. It's exciting! But I've been simultaneously wanting to share some great books so let me briefly share a few thoughts and pictures. 

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly is the 2018 Newbery winner! Before her win I didn't know of her books but it's always such a delight to discover a new author. I'd gone to the library immediately after the ALA Awards to see if we had a copy and we didn't but luckily I ran into Tim, the head librarian, and he was just marking all the books he was getting ready to order. So I got my request in record time! And I was sucked into the story immediately because I couldn't have said it any better than Virgil. I share the interior pages because I always love good type-setting and art  that make it such a pleasure to read. There are four points-of-view and all are distinct. My favorite was Valencia--she's smart and funny and has a favorite saint, one whose story I actually know. Oh, and she's also deaf. And some of the bully's observations about her are hilarious. The story unfolded slowly but it was such a pleasure getting to know this cast of characters that when the bully, Chet, tosses Virgil's backpack with his pet guinea pig down an abandoned well, half the book was already over. I'll assure all you pet lovers that the guinea pig does NOT die. So go ahead and enjoy this book! I loved a peek into the Filipino culture, how the characters grew. Virgil is still shy and scared yet this experience has given him the courage to ask to be seen. The bully doesn't magically turn into a saint overnight, and best of all, it's the beginning of a new friendship. A most satisfying book, the gold star completely merited.  
 A Family of Saints: The Martins of Lisieux-Saints Thérèse, Louis, and Zélie by Fr. Stephane-Joseph Piat was such a beautiful book to read that I ended up reading it twice so that I could take notes (with a lot of help from the kitties). Fr. Piat does such a beautiful job of recounting the history of this family through primary sources, mainly letters. What we get is a portrait of an ideal family. It's not easy. There are many difficulties--illnesses, deaths of children, work that is a burden--but throughout we see how the parents support one another and never lose sight of their goal, which is Heaven itself.

Zelie writes on the sorrow of losing children: "I didn't regret the sorrows and the problems that I had endured for them. Several people said to me, "It would be much better never to have had them." I can't bear that kind of talk. I don't think the sorrows and problems could be weighed against the eternal happiness of my children. So they weren't lost forever. Life is short and full of misery. We'll see them again in heaven."

I loved seeing how Christ-centered their lives were, how they abandoned themselves to His will and never, ever lost sight of Heaven. It was their hope, their joy, amidst the cares of the world. They were dutiful about providing for their large family  

Father Piat reminds us that "family is the cornerstone of civil society and marked with the divine seal, it assures the building of a nation of unbreakable strength. Eroded by passions, corroded by cohabitation, civil marriage, divorce, it no longer offers society anything but a precarious foundation doomed to collapse. France reigned in the world when it was a country of stable homes and cradles. Its decline began inexorably, when it allowed the home to disintegrate and the flow of new life to slow. What good is hard work, fiscal courage, or military heroism if the race surrenders its gaiety of heart to the collective suicide constituted by the fear of children?"

Most of us are called to marriage and family life and this is a family to emulate. In today's culture, with marriage under attack and families crumbling, we need examples of holy spouses who are united in purpose and Christian charity. In a Story of a Soul, Thérèse writes, "God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth."

And so, for the first time in 2,000 years, the liturgical books will add "Spouses" to the different categories of saints recognized. Most are martyrs, confessors, bishops, popes, virgins. It harkens back to what Fr. Piat writes early in the book: "Most spiritual books exude a monastic perfume. They would feel out of place beside the marital bed." Saints Louis and Zélie, Spouses, remind us that marriage and family life is a path to sanctification. has beautiful photos of the family and important places in their lives.

I've enjoyed many books by Malcolm Gladwell and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference was no exception. Especially with my mind full of Thérèse's Little Way, it made enormous sense to me that all good things, no matter how little, can have mighty results. Much of the book uses research from how epidemics come and go and it was fascinating to see the world of microbes be so applicable to social phenomena, the rise of a particular fashion (like Hush Puppies) or the sudden decrease in crime in NYC (fixing broken windows). Gladwell talks about school shootings, how teenagers are literally being "infected" with this idea. And after reading about the "suicide bug" in Micronesia, I must agree with him. We've always had kids who've been bullied and lonely. We've always had guns. What's different now? Columbine is key. Gladwell writes, "These are epidemics in isolation: they follow a mysterious, internal script that makes sense only in the closed world that teenagers inhabit." I'm afraid that world is nihilism. We must pray for our children.

I discovered Country Diary on Faith's blog. Oh my! I wish I could draw well--we have so much natural beauty on the island but all I can do is just be in awe of all I see. I don't even carry my phone otherwise I'd have more pictures. Must remember to do that. I saw the cutest little baby alligator sunning himself a couple of days ago. In any case, I hope these interiors inspire you to make some of your own observations. Don't you just love the beautiful penmanship as well?
Finally, Two-Moon Journey by Peggy King Anderson just arrived in the mail. Peggy was my very first writing teacher and it's so wonderful to know that this book of her heart finally found a home. The cover is gorgeous and so are the interiors! But I have put it aside so that I can read as many of Max's books as I can this summer. And there's that new venture speaking to we'll see how much I get done. Well, that's all folks and I'm sorry it wasn't brief. Happy reading and writing. And please do share some of your favorites in the comments. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Max's Summer in DC


Here's where Max will be working for the next six weeks. And he has a room with a view! I think the architecture says what the primary purpose of the Church is--bringing souls to heaven! I am so thankful Max can gaze upon a slice of heaven any time he wants. Deo Gratias! 


Saturday, May 12, 2018

May Celebrations


We have so much to celebrate! I thank God for making me a mother of these beautiful children. Locals, we tried a new place, Spero, and all their food was delicious. They had an interesting menu (complete with jokes) and lovely art on the walls. I highly recommend it, along with the little Cuban sandwicherie right next door. We are such food lovers and it was a little embarrassing to tell our waiter we hadn't yet tried many of the restaurants he mentioned. After all, the best place to eat is at Chez Bodach, which has a few culinary experiments bubbling. Michael made a small batch of kombucha. So refreshing! I also made a batch of kimchi. The weather is perfect for all this.
Max has been petting the cats every chance he gets. He was here only a week so these two scaredy cats were suspicious and kept him at arms length. Sigh. It's hard having a catless lap when we all love them so much. They are very relaxed now that he's off to WA-DC to intern with Congressman Mark Sanford. They connected during Max's senior year at Bishop England. It should be an interesting time for him.  

I've been drooling over all the books for Max's history class. Our shelves are getting full again. I'd bought the dozen or so books he needed his first year but after he started classes, he sent me a long list of all sorts of classics. I've only read a couple of these. Although Michael and I received a university education, it wasn't nearly as rounded as the classical liberal education Max is receiving at Ave Maria University. We are just so thrilled with his growth and maturity. Michael and I dream of getting a little house there and sit in on some of these seminars. Of course, it'd be hard to leave Charleston. We are so very blessed to live and work here. Below some pictures from Ascension Thursday--so lovely to hear Mass at Stella Maris, and then head out to the beach. You can't beat this island living.   


Monday, May 7, 2018

May Memories

Newborn Dagny
I love May, the month of Mary and the month of this little munchkin, who is 17 years old. My dear Dagny, you were a delight from before you were born. I loved carrying you and was impatient to meet you, especially the last three months when strangers would ask me if I was having twins and I had to assure them that there was only one of you! You tipped the scales at almost ten pounds when you were born!!! Everybody admired you and wanted to pet your hair. They'd never seen babies with such a full head. I was happiest when you were in my arms. Alas, the first couple of weeks were difficult--you had to stay in the incubator as much as possible. I only nursed you half the time. The other half, Daddy fed you. We'd been through this with Max so I knew to fight for you to get you on the bili-lights as soon as possible. You came home with a fantastic tan! And we held you and gazed upon you as much as we wanted.

Cool shades!
I'm so glad Max is here to celebrate with us. He's the best big brother a girl could ask for. My only regret is that you never got a chance to be a big sister. You'd have been wonderful. Raising you two has been the greatest joy of our lives, even through the difficult times. I know God has great plans for you and I'm waiting patiently to see how beautifully your life is going to unfold. May our blessed Lord Jesus bless you abundantly, remain with you always, and grant you all the desires of your heart. Ask and you shall receive so that your joy may be full. ~ John 16:23
And here's my Gospel reflection for today, written with you in mind:  I love you more than words can say, Mom.

You are 2 wks old, Max 2 yrs
17 and 19 yrs old

Friday, April 27, 2018

Reading: Du Iz Tak? Du Iz Tak? The last children's writer who's read this marvelous book by Carson Ellis. I just love it. The illustrations show wonder perfectly. They're also very funny! Love the little house in the hollow and the fort, complete with pirate flag! And the creatures are having a conversation in a made-up language (though it sounds suspiciously like Dutch to me) and I think kids must love figuring out what the words mean. It's no surprise this was a Caldecott Honor book! I share a few spreads to give a sense of the drama occurring right in our backyards. This is a book to read over and over, pore over the detailed illustrations, and inspire people of all ages to enjoy life at the pace of nature. 

"A small pet is often an excellent companion." ~ Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1912.

"Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the question now." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1927.

I found this gem at the library sale in the food section (and no, I do not like to eat escargots, thank you very much) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The above quotes caught my attention, and as I began to read I knew I'd want it near my bed. This book is an account of the time Ms. Bailey was bedridden. She had a potted plant to keep her company along with a woodland snail. "It was not of much interest, and if it was alive, the responsibility--especially for a snail, something so uncalled for--was overwhelming." But she watched the snail explore its new environment. She discovered it liked to eat paper. It made square holes in it. She gave it some withered flowers. "I watched, transfixed, as over the course of an hour the snail meticulously ate an entire purple petal for dinner. The tiny, intimate sound of the snail's eating gave me a distinct feeling of companionship and shared space..." And later, "But the snail...the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay." Her observations and comparison to her own state wrap us in the mystery of life. 

"Under the microscope the translucent egg-envelopes present a beautiful appearance, being studded with glistening crystals of lime, so that the infant within seems to wear a gown embroidered with diamonds." ~ Ernest Ingersoll, In a Snailery, 1881. I learned quite a bit about snails and remembered the little glass cube we kept on the kitchen counter for a couple of years. It housed three fish, a snail, and a water plant. We would spend hours watching the fish swim, the algae grow, the snail feed on the algae and then making many, many baby snails! We marveled at this little ecosystem. I, too, have spent many hours in bed, and it's the pets who kept me company, quiet and steady, and gave me the chance to observe their varied habits. It slows me down, giving me the opportunity to be still and know God. "Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1927.

My most recent purchase, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, delves deep into the tiniest microorganisms that make some of the most interesting foods--bread, wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, kimchi, idli, dosa, and many, many more. Do you know we have trillions of bacteria that live in our gut and on our skin and keep us healthy? That's why antibiotics, though life-saving, can also really mess up your bacterial community and make you more susceptible to the really nasty bugs out there. A natural way to repopulate your gut with good bugs is to eat foods that have microorganisms in them--yogurt, sauerkraut, ciders--fermented foods. Last year we pickled our bumper crop of cucumbers. We also discovered we liked kombucha, which is fermented tea. Given that I still have chronic migraines, the kids still suffer from acne, we thought we'd include more fermented food in our diet. There's much evidence that many of the 21st century ailments happen due to disruption of the gut microbiome. So what better way than to cook, experiment, and eat our way to better health. I can well imagine guests looking at all the bubbling pots and asking, Du Iz Tak?  

Monday, April 23, 2018

On Truth and Discernment

I am always so amazed by the prayers of the Church. Our priest unpacked yesterday's for us. 
1. Truth exists.
2. You can know it.
3. It's relationship to justice, which is the precursor of peace.

He offered some thoughts on higher education and how it has failed our children. There's such an emphasis on deconstruction, which is a good method for understanding the various bits; however, there is no rebuilding, reconstruction, and no search for the truth. It's good to question, but at what point does it become absurd? How do I know something is real? Catholic philosophy is based upon reality. If it conforms with reality, then it's true. And if something is true, it doesn't matter whether you believe it or not, it remains true. And I must admit, it's very difficult to discuss anything nowadays given how emotional everybody gets. Reason has been thrown out the window. People talk about being kind, but I have to wonder what kind of kindness is letting someone remain in sin or their delusions. Lord, help us all. 
Good Shepherd Sunday is one of my favorites. And I will never forget how our Catholic community on Daniel Island began with the Good Shepherd Club. Within two years, we became a parish--St. Clare of Assisi. God is so good! 
Good Shepherd Sunday is also devoted to praying for religious vocations and here our priest offered some thoughts and observation. Vocations arise from the following:

1. Good theology
2. Eucharistic Adoration--knowing and spending time in the Real Presence of God
3. Good understanding of what the priesthood is--offering Sacrifice of the Mass
4. Where the traditional Latin Mass is offered--liturgy reflects teachings of the Church
5. Knowing priests
6. Families open to the gift of children
7. Homeschooling--seminaries have 4x more men who were homeschooled than those educated in public or private schools.

Of course, no discussion of a religious vocation can be made without discernment and our priest offered some thoughts on it as well, which is good advice for all, not just those considering a religious vocation.
1. Can I picture myself doing this and being happy?
2. Test of time--if it is from God, it will endure the test of time.
3. Thinking about it. Duh. He recalls lying in bed on a hot summer evening with the window open (this was before air conditioners) and thinking about being a priest. And it occurred to him that no dove was going to fly in through a window to let him know for sure :)
4. Encouragement from others--friends and family who know you 

Harvesting the first of our lettuce! Yum!
And so we pray. The Master will send workers to work in His vineyard. Of course, I had to share a picture of my sweet Benny--he always wants to be on my notebooks. It's a wonder I can write or type anything at all. He's so purry and demanding, I have to give in!