Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My First Time as a Podcast Guest

So much going on this summer but I wanted to share a link to my very first recording as a guest on Jayne de Sales' podcast. She "dives deep into why fiction matters with some of the most interesting living authors." Thank you, Jayne, for inviting me. It was a great pleasure.

We're not quite sure how she came across my work but she read BOUND and loved it and wanted to talk about it on her show. I was thrilled and a bit nervous because I think best through my fingers and not with my mouth but what a joy to converse with a kindred spirit. We spoke for about half hour about gardening and pets before we decided to record and ended up talking more about the writer's journey, which is also tied to my faith journey. Enjoy! Here's her lovely introduction: What treasure can you find in West Yellowstone, Montana? Scientist-turned-writer Vijaya Bodach found a copy of her favorite tale in a used bookstore there. Science, wonder, and faith were central to our conversation, and she even reveals what stories do to our brains on an MRI. Stick around to the end where she shares her recipe for Mango Lassi! This author of the Young Adult Novel “Bound”, set in Pullman, Washington is a fellow graduate of Washington State University. Go Cougs! 

I learned several things. Improvisation and spontaneity are good for thinking and articulating on my metaphorical feet. I will seek out more opportunities because it was very enjoyable, though there's lots of room for improvement on my part. I gained a new insight from Jayne when I mentioned my tendency of jumping into things and them working out. She said it's the opposite of fear holding us back from our dreams. So true. We should trust more in the Lord and listen less to the devil and his lies. I spoke about what I want, but the truth is, we should be constantly seeking what God wants from our lives. We owe Him absolutely everything and I'm discovering that I'm happiest when I'm doing His will. And it's not at all onerous. In fact, quite the opposite, as you can see below.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

July is the Month of the Precious Blood

July is the month of the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior and we need Him more than ever now to save us. I found this beautiful litany in the Opus Angelorum booklet and pray it several times each week. I especially love how at the end, we are reminded that the Precious Blood of Christ is the price of our redemption and a defense against the evils of our day. 

It is also the month of figs! On my walks, I get to have this sweet treat. Below, a picture of Dagny with her first fish! What a beauty!!! And a helper! Another beauty!!!





Sunday, July 10, 2022

Dagny in Alaska

Fishing season opens tomorrow in Alaska--I don't expect to hear from her much because she'll be working hard, playing hard, and soaking in all that beauty. But right now, she's getting settled at the fish camp (Kenai peninsula) and enjoying getting to know the families she's working with (and the kittens). I love that it's a family operation. What an adventure! That last picture is of the midnight sun! Deo gratias!!!



Thursday, July 7, 2022

Blessings and Gifts in July

I hope everybody had a beautiful day celebrating Independence Day! Dagny had lovely friends visiting. We had a beautiful Mass. I couldn't ask for much more (except fireworks). We are so fortunate to have had wise Founding Fathers who recognized that we are endowed by our Creator the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I pray we return to our Judeo-Christian roots. God bless America! 

July is also the month when we venerate the Precious Blood of Christ. I wrote about it here last year. So grateful to be able to go to Mass with Dagny as she begins her Alaskan adventure on the feast of St. Maria Goretti (July 6). 

It's hard to believe half the year is gone. I thought by now I'd have a contract for my historical novel with a mere two queries but I'm relieved I've only received a rejection so far. The story needs more work. What kind of a writer will work on everything but the story that won't let go of her? I'm starting to feel that I might need to join the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Though what's at the core of my writerly woe is not insecurity but fear. I'm going to lean into my critique group for support and hope to redeem the story this fall. One day I hope to call myself a novelist. In the meantime, grateful to have this writing life and these gifts--near and far. 



Friday, June 24, 2022

Dobbs v Jackson: Overturning Roe v Wade

On this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I cannot help but thank Him for giving SCOTUS the courage to overturn the very unjust Roe v Wade ruling that opened the door to abortion on demand. I listened to a priest speak about free will and what it means. True freedom means we have freedom to do the right thing. If you do the wrong thing, it's an abuse of free will. I needed to hear that second sentence.

Abortion is the greatest evil. It is why I wrote BOUND, to make a defense of life using natural law as a guide. But I didn't realize the spiritual dimension until I came across a very interesting testimony about what happens spiritually in an abortion and it is downright horrifying: What Happens Spiritually in an Abortion | Padre Peregrino:

"Abortion is the worst of all the sins because to kill the children still in the womb of the mother, to kill a little innocent and defenseless creature, is to give power to Satan. The devil commands from the depths of the abyss, because we are scattering innocent blood! A baby is like an innocent lamb and without stain… And Who is the Lamb without stain? It is Jesus! In that moment, the baby is the image and likeness of Jesus! The fact that it might be the mother herself to kill her own child, determines a profound bond with the darkness, permitting that more devils from hell might come out to destroy and strangle humanity. It is as if one might open the seals… Seals that God has put to impede evil to come out, but that, for every abortion, it opens… And so horrible larvae come out, so that there are more and more devils…

They come out to chase and persecute humanity, and then make us slaves of the flesh, of sin, of all the bad things that we see, and we will see always more. It is as if we might give the key of hell to the devils, to let them escape. And so escape more devils, of prostitution, of sexual aberrations, of Satanism, of atheism, of suicide, of indifference… Of all the evils that we see around us. And the world is getting worse every day… Think how many babies are killed every day: it is all a triumph of the evil one! That you might know that for the price of this innocent blood, the number of devils outside of hell grows; they circulate freely in our midst! Let us take shelter!"

Let us take shelter in the Heart of Jesus, opened for us to save us. May the triumphant Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved, blessed and glorified forever! My hope is that just like we are healing from the sins of slavery by abolishing it, that we can now begin to heal as a nation from the sin of abortion. My heart sings non nobis Domine!

Build an oratory within yourself; and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. ~ St. Paul of the Cross

It is also the Feast of St. John the Baptist, who was sanctified in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at the Feast of the Visitation.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Reading

I've not been on the computer much, preferring to sit on the porch to read or write, listen to the birds and squirrels, join their chorus, pick fresh tomatoes, preserve what we cannot consume right away (our kitchen counter has many jars in various states of fermentation), go on walks. Now that it's gotten too hot in the afternoons, I'm back at my desk. We'll start going to the beach in the evenings (taking cues from our kids). But here's a summary of the outstanding books I read in May and June.



On our train trip to DC I read Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden. It was a delight; they capture the essence of an idyllic childhood in India, full of joy and wonder, even if there are a thousands dangers from cobras to rabid dogs. The book begins with the girls (aged 6 and 7 yrs) in care of spinster aunts in England and there's such a contrast with the strict upbringing there and the freedom they experience when they join their parents, two younger sisters, and a house full of servants in East Bengal (now Pakistan) at the start of WWI. They write with great sensitivity and love for the Indian people and I loved that the book doesn't impose adult sensibilities upon their child-selves. They evoked so many of my own childhood memories, from making up games to reciting poetry to adults. Their voices blend beautifully--they were so close and yet at the very end, I could feel that abrupt end of childhood and their return to England five years later. But India was their home--both Jon and Rumer returned as adults to live and write there. If you wish to make a visit to India, read this book.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford is based on a fascinating premise--epigenetics--that is, inheritance of traumas from our ancestors through modification of our genes. I don't doubt it, simply from observing families. I enjoyed the stories of different generations of women descended from the first Chinese woman in the US. Ford jumps back and forth in time to narrate their stories but still it fell a little flat for me because there was so much trauma and no sense of any real healing. What about the blessings? Shouldn't they also carry over? I didn't connect deeply with any of them. How does one break the cycle of trauma? In the book, there is an experimental treatment but I do not know if it's something one ought to do even if one could--messing with our genetic makeup and brain can have unforeseen consequences. Better to stick to natural remedies. Much food for thought in this book. In our own family, I am very deliberate and intentional about not perpetuating familiar traumas, though I am more like my mother than not. I invoke the Blood of Christ for healing, for all generations, past, present and future. 

 

The Perfect Rock by Sarah Nobel was such a cute picture book with darling illustrations of otters. Sibling otters fight over who gets to keep the perfect rock for the shellfish feast.

The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky by Kim Jihyun is a wordless story of an Asian child who goes from the city to the countryside and marvels at the natural beauty. It's a book that invites contemplation.

Mama: A World of Mothers and Motherhood by Helene Delforge and Quentin Greban has beautiful portraits of mothers and their children in all their joys and sorrows accompanied by lovely poems. A book to counter all the terrible books that celebrate the destruction of the sacred bond between mother and child.  

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey is such a beautiful meditation on life's important questions. I loved the line art and calligraphy--it's amazing what a talented artist can do with pen and ink.


Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain is a lovely book that examines its role in our lives and being a Catholic, I kept nodding my head, yes, yes, yes, you can transform loss and sorrow into art, unite it to Christ's suffering, make it count and no, no, no, you needn't be an agnostic because this longing is pointing you to God, He's with us, practice being in His Presence. You have a God-shaped hole in your heart that only He can fill. I pray she will take that leap of faith...He will catch her. A great follow-up to Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher is a reminder that totalitarianism is on the rise. It's an excellent overview of what we must do to resist--from always choosing to live truthfully to strengthening our families and communities and to be willing to suffer for the faith. Covid was a test to see how quickly we'd surrender our freedoms in the name of medical safety and boy did we pass with flying colors. Not good. More tyranny is on the way. My motto is Live Not in Fear. Only have fear of the Lord.    

Paths of Resistance: The Art and Craft of the Political Novel edited by William Zinsser is a collection of thought-provoking essays and lectures and gave me much food for thought for writing my own political novel.  

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch is such an important book for us creatives (and we're all creative!) because it encourages us to return to the natural state of free play. Even gaining technique is part of free play. I've been listening to more classical Indian music (a clip of Kaushiki Chakraborty singing with her son) marveling at the ease with which they improvise. It's been about a year since we've started singing the complex Graduals and Alleluias instead of the simple psalm tones. The melismatic chants have a similar quality to Indian classical music and unfortunately we're nowhere close to singing with ease. We can follow notes and there can be expressive moments but nowhere close to how the monks sound, heavenly. I spoke to one of the Benedictine monks of Norcia several years ago when they visited our parish and he said it takes about a decade to chant well. And they pray/sing seven times a day. They probably achieve their 10,000 hrs in 5 yrs. Time for more play and practice. As the choreographer and dancer Garth Fagan said, "Discipline is Freedom." Indeed. It is through discipline and mastery of the arts that one can truly express what's in the heart.


What are you reading? What are you making? What are you practicing? I hope you have a lovely summer making art.



Saturday, June 18, 2022

BOUND Price Drop

I con't usually check stats on Amazon but I was getting a link for BOUND and noticed it's on sale. Woohoo! The timing couldn't be more perfect as many of us are called to give a defense of life in light of imminent reversal of Roe v Wade. This is an excellent time to pick up copies of Bound for your young friends to help them examine the question of life from various angles, for book club or classroom discussion. Suitable for ages 12+

Thursday, June 9, 2022

June Joys and May Memories

I can't believe it's already June...I feel as if I'm in a whirlwind with so many things happening in the world, from the war in Ukraine to the draft leaked from the Supreme Court regarding Roe v Wade to the spate of shootings. It's as if the demons are unleashed. My response to all of this is to retreat into prayer: Thy Kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Only God can save us; alas, we've forgotten Him, His commandments. Instead, we worship power, prestige, pleasures. Yet, God showers so many graces upon us, continually calling us to turn toward Him. Here's Max in the Holy Land at the place where our Lord preached the Sermon on the Mount. So beautiful. We are praying for Max to enter deeper into the mysteries of our faith, and for peace in the Middle East. He sent us a picture of this Jerusalem cat too :)


June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and we've been celebrating lots, beginning with Ascension Thursday and Pentecost, with several more feasts on the way. I love living a liturgical life, the days marked by fasts and feasts. We're in the Octave of Pentecost. I love these feast days so much because the reality of the Holy Spirit within us is so present. He's imbued in all creation but He comes to us in a special way, to consecrate us in the Truth, and the more attention we pay to Him, the more He makes Himself and His Holy Will known to us. The Christian story astounds me--God comes down from Heaven as a poor and defenseless Baby to save us from our sins. And as if it's not enough that He suffers and dies for us, He stays with us in a real, physical manner in the consecrated Bread and Wine, and gives us the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. He does this all for me and for you! Is it any wonder that we fall down in Adoration? 
  



But before I get to June, I must post some pictures from May. With Dagny at home, Michael and I decided to take the train up to DC to spend a weekend with Max. It was lovely to have some one-on-one time with him, doing some sight-seeing, visiting his favorite places, and friends too. What a treat it was to have really good Chinese food! Sunday we went to Mass at St. Rita in Alexandria (it was the closest parish to where we were staying that offered the traditional Latin Mass) and it happened to be her feast day (May 22nd) so there was a High Mass. The church was packed with young families and many babies made a joyful sound with the choir. They sang Gregorian chant propers and a mix of Missa de Angelis and Byrd Mass for Three Voices. It was lovely. Later, we visited the Second Story warehouse! Max and I both bought only the books we could carry :) Best of all, when we arrived at his home, we got to see his article on Stella Maris in print in the Easter issue of the Lamp



Soon after we returned home, Dagny took a week-long trip to Texas for her best friends' wedding. I really love how these kids prepare themselves for marriage--what a gift to bestow upon your beloved. I highly recommend Three to Get Married by Ap. Fulton Sheen.  



I'm spending as much time as I can with my kiddos--they grow up too quickly. Reading lots too. Reviews forthcoming.