Monday, September 16, 2019

The Three-Year Experiment

Remember when I crossed over to the dark side? Well, this weekend I deleted my Facebook account. And I got several warnings about how all my data will be gone--lol, cat pictures :) They seem so dire! I have a whole month to change my mind. Haha! I doubt it. I've done the experiment, tried it for a reasonable length of time (3 yrs!) and have found it wanting.   

Hard to believe she's away at college. At 3 pm I still look out the window.
I've been cleaning house, decluttering, so it's natural to do so on the computer as well. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided that the few things I will miss on FB--lovely pictures, private groups, etc.--do not justify being on a platform that hasn't actually made communication easier. The format doesn't lend itself to a thorough conversation as a public forum would. There are far too many advertisements and too much chatter (and I confess I've contributed to it as well). I must be the only person who doesn't like the "like" button. I question the value of an emoji without anything else for nuance. Cal Newport made a great case for not using it even if you use the platform. This summer, I took a hiatus for several weeks and then added back only a few things, as recommended in Digital Minimalism, but even so they weren't worth it. All the people whom I sincerely care for I already connect with via other means. And I'm available to anybody who wants to find me.

My children are grown and use all kinds of other social media. I'm not following them there; they know where to find me. I think I'll stay old-fashioned. Now, if only the rest of my house could be decluttered with a few clicks! As it is, I'll be doing a lot more writing, I mean cat-watching. They always come to my desk the minute I'm ready for some serious work, sit on my papers, and demand to be petted.


 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Back-to-School Giveaway

Tiffany Turner of the Indie Children's Authors Connection is holding her annual Back-to-School Blog Tour and Giveaway with a chance to win a $25 Gift Card from Amazon and I am so pleased to be part of her Blog Tour. So head on over to read about my childhood reading and grown-up writing. The giveaway started yesterday so don't miss the previous interview or the chance to enter the giveaway. Thanks, Tiffany! 

Speaking of Back-to-School, I am holding in my hand Gretchen Everin's latest picture book: Kugel for Hanukkah!!! It's part counting, part guessing game, and fully a good story, with lovely, lyrical writing and bright art. Perfect for kids in elementary school. Savvy kids might guess the ending but there's another surprise! Whew!! Well done, Gretchen!!! Congratulations!!! And no, I'm not giving away my copy. Sorry. 


Friday, September 6, 2019

A Beautiful Day

We fared well during the hurricane, again. Praise God! There were some dire predictions for Charleston but Dorian stayed off-shore. This is the highest the water got in our backyard (still less than with Irma or Matthew) and later the wind was against the tide. I have a feeling coastal NC didn't fare as well given how much closer the eyewall was. Praying for them.

Today it's sunny and beautiful, a great day to clean up--lots of downed trees but I don't see much structural damage on my walk. I did meet a neighbor who is celebrating his 80th birthday! So is a dear family member!

He used to have a good friend who became a Rabbi and I often think and pray for our Jewish brethren because Salvation is from the Jews. I love what St. Augustine and other Church Fathers said: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. The New is not meant to replace the Old, rather it brings into full light the hidden meaning and signs that foreshadow God's plan of redemption through His Son, Christ Jesus.

Today is also first Friday, a special day devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I wrote this Gospel meditation without realizing it was even a Friday. I was sooooo thankful to be able to hear Mass. Our beautiful little church suffered no damage. 



Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Embracing Uncertainty

Ah, if only we knew that Florida would be spared, Michael could've stayed down in Ave Maria even longer...but since I am selfish, I'm glad he came home a day early. We had the whole weekend together and now the rest of the week as well. I'm not getting much work done because we take too many chatty tea breaks and cook nice meals and watch Tropical Tidbits and a movie every single night--sound like a good hurrication, no? These pretty pink skies will give way to gray before too long.


Hurricanes are highly distracting even if they're a thousand miles away I truly feel for the poor people of the Bahamas getting pounded and not just for a few hours but over a whole day and more. Who knew something like this would happen? We didn't expect it with Florence either. But Dorian feels like it's going to take a similar trajectory as Matthew. As in the past, we will button up the porch and stay indoors. I've printed out several things I need to work on in case we lose power. But there's always music and books.

Speaking of books, I have to rave over one that Max recommended: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It's a story of one man's dying and it is so beautifully written I cried. Requiescat in pace, Paul. I hope we meet in heaven one day. I'm also in the middle of these two books: Night Diary by Veera Hirandandi (set during Partition) and The Second Mountain by David Brooks. My biggest complaint about Brooks is that he doesn't commit to anything, even while writing. It always surprises me when brilliant people don't take that leap of faith. And since we've all read the book in our family, we refer to people we know as first or second mountain people. Hehe. 

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with embracing uncertainty? Everything and nothing. It's something I've been thinking about because I realized that one of the greatest gifts of our faith has been the ability to throw ourselves fully into any venture even if we do not know the outcome. It's about placing your trust in Christ, and doing the right thing, as much as you can know something's right. I'm always asking the Holy Spirit to guide my hours, my days, and to help me walk the right path. And I ask the same for our children, who are so far from us now. But I do not worry. Christ is with them and Mary keeps pointing the way to her Son. There is so much joy in embracing uncertainty. I've now come up with a litmus test for discernment: is it drawing me nearer to our blessed Lord or farther away? It's that simple.    
      
Our lives can change in a blink of an eye. All we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and know that not even a sparrow falls without our Lord's knowledge. He is with us. I am praying for all in the path of Dorian to remain safe.  

H/O: NOAA Goes East satellite Hurricane Dorian 190903 EC
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/03/hurricane-dorian-satellite-photos-show-bahamas-underwater.html

Thursday, August 29, 2019

And Off They Go!

 
 
I bid goodbye yesterday to these three loves of mine as they headed down to Ave Maria, FL. Michael called last night to let me know they arrived and are super-excited. Dagny has orientation today and Max, being a returning student, will check in over the weekend. The earlier the better. I see, another, unwelcome guest--Dorian! Not again. I hope and pray for all in Dorian's path to remain safe.

We've had a wonderful time together and with their friends, old and new, though it was much too short. Ah time, it just keeps marching forward!   



 
 


I got teary tidying up the kids' rooms and doing their laundry, but so happy they get to grow not only intellectually, but also in their faith. We are thankful for the scholarships they've received in support of Catholic education. I'm doing the usual--praying, reading, writing, singing, cat-watching, dog-walking. The critters (aren't they pretty though?) are decimating our garden but we've had a good crop. There's enough for everybody. The peppers are still bountiful.


 
 
A picture of calm, no? St. John the Baptist, patron of my blog, pray for us. 


Friday, August 23, 2019

A Literary Pilgrimage

I lamented a few years ago about missing Flannery, not being able to stop at Milledgeville, GA on our way to Memphis to see my brother. With our little Latin choir on a month-long break (a marriage, a new baby, a 25th anniversary) we thought to take a trip because our kids would be home to care for the pets and plants. It'd also be the first time we'd be celebrating without them--yes we are getting used to being just-the-two-of-us and it's lovely :)

When I suggested a literary pilgrimage to Flannery's homes in Savannah and Milledgeville, Michael was completely on board. Just the previous year he'd read some of her stories and discussed them in the Friday morning Men's group Msgr. McInerny runs. What a joy for us to be in her home, see her things, go to hear Mass where she did (every day). I am quite sure she is a saint in heaven now and asked her to pray for us.









Savannah was simply beautiful--a lot like Charleston, really. I suspect we'll be back for day trips and Flannery fixes. And the Cathedral is called the Sistine of the South. And rightly so. I enjoyed the drive up to Milledgeville along the country roads, holding hands with my love. Learned some of M'ville's history on a trolley tour. It was once the capital of Georgia.



Georgia Military College and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church were two of my favorite places. The roof of the church is like an upside-down boat and the remains of some are interred in the church itself (very much an ancient Catholic tradition)--note the coffin below the pipes!  






I was captivated by these curved stairs (marvelous engineering and workmanship) and the dollhouse of the Brown-Sanford house--I would've loved to spend more time in that child's room playing. Alas, I did the grown up thing and took a picture.




After the history lesson, we were finally ready to visit Andalusia, the farm where Flannery wrote most of her stories. She thought she'd have to leave to write, but her illness--lupus--forced her back home, where she arranged her routine thusly: upon waking, reading from her breviary, having coffee with her mother, then heading to Sacred Heart Catholic Church for daily Mass. Breakfast upon their return and writing from nine to noon. She'd be tired and so retired for a nap, but she'd receive visitors in the afternoon. And if not visiting, she'd be writing letters, painting, or tending to her birds. In the evening, reading again. You can see how much of her life and observations are in her stories when you visit M'ville. Her characters too :)  




 

I cannot express to you how moving it was to be in the room where she spent much of her time--reading, writing, sleeping, suffering. Michael and I both instinctively clasped our hands to offer a prayer for her. She's taught me so much, especially Romans 5:20 Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more
Her stories are violent and most people have a strong reaction to them--you'll either love them or hate them. I first discovered her writing when someone said my short story, Driving Lessons, was like hers. Not knowing her work I decided to read a couple of stories. I thought them strange and unsettling. I returned the book to the library. Fast forward a few years--after our conversion I remembered her stories (they are unforgettable!) and a lightbulb went on in my head. Grace! It's all about grace. Since then I've read many of her stories, her letters, her essays, my favorite being Mystery and Manners. I'm really enjoying the book of her cartoons right now. Each is a witty gem. Did you know she thought she might be a political cartoonist before she shifted to stories? I wonder what she'd say about our times. I'm sure the people whom she'd satirize would squirm.




It was so lovely to hear Mass at Sacred Heart on Friday afternoon along with a couple dozen young people. A young lady on crutches clomped up to the first pew on the left and I wondered then where Flannery and her mother sat--perhaps on the same pew where we did? The priest offered a beautiful Mass and preached on Christian marriage (the Gospel was about divorce and why Moses allowed it, but from the beginning it was not so, begins our Lord). I felt so complete right there with Michael, both of us in love with each other and with Jesus. It really does take Three to Get Married! On our way home we stopped by the beautiful and peaceful cemetery. Requiescat in pace, dear Mary Flannery.