Saturday, March 30, 2024

On Holy Week and Triduum and Solar Eclipse

Some day I will have grandchildren, so I had to get my own copy of: My Book of the Church's Year! I know, excuses, excuses to buy books, especially children's books :) But Peter Kwawniewski echoes how I feel about giving children (and adults) the best books. Consider how we spend Lent with three practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. How beautifully Enid Chadwick shows that these are our weapons against the devil, the flesh, and the world respectively. She creates space to ponder the Mysteries of the Faith with all the details in her artwork.

This was perhaps the best Lent ever, bar our first when we were in RCIA; my niece is being received into the Church this Easter Vigil. Her marriage, too, is being convalidated. She will receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. So much to celebrate! Glory, glory to God! 

This Eastertide is special for another reason--signs from heaven. Fr. Ripperger has a wonderful reflection on the upcoming solar eclipse on April 8th, the fact that its path takes it through the towns of Jonah and Nineveh. If this isn't a call to repent and turn to the Lord, I don't know what would be clearer. I especially liked that at the end, Fr. Ripperger reminds us how God created. He calls upon the waters to bring forth the fish and the earth to bring forth plants and animals. But when He creates man, He says, "Let US create man in our Image." He points out that if you take a fish out of water, it dies; if you take a plant out of the earth, it dies; and so it follows that if you separate man from God, he suffers a spiritual death. Anyway, Fr. Ripperger packs a lot in 11 minutes. For a more detailed description of all the cosmological things going on, see: Guest post: Laramie Hirsch on the April 8 solar eclipse – Nurse Claire Says. Granted, I have a fascination with numbers and names and coincidences but I've come to believe that there are no coincidences, simply signs from God. We should do as He commands in the Garden of Gethsemane: Watch and Pray! A Blessed and Happy Easter to you! 

Check out these cool maps! I like the patterns they make, the letter A, which is the beginning of the alphabet (aleph; I'm reading a fascinating book Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen), or the X's where a place experiences two solar eclipses. Just don't ask me to explain the difference between annular and total solar eclipses :) 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

March Feast Days

Michael brews beer for the men's monthly group meeting at Stella Maris and always adds the name of the saint for the day it's held along with the type of beer brewed. This time he found a lovely pictorial of several March saints (found here) and I loved having some of my favorites all in one picture. Enjoy! 

Of course, I had to go down the rabbit hole to find out who made it :) The pictures are taken from My Book of the Church's Year by Enid M. Chadwick. Children's books are the best! Happy St. Patrick's Day! My baptism day too! Celebrating my life in Christ! I should decrease, He increase.

Friday, March 15, 2024


A friend sent me this poem by William Wordsworth because she knows how much I love cats and kittens and the way they play. And what a delight to be immersed in such a beautiful poem. It sings! I feel we've lost that in many contemporary poems. I picked up a recent book of cat poems because it was displayed at the library and I'm irresistibly drawn to anything with a cat. I read all the poems--they were funny, a couple were crass--but they didn't move me. The pictures did, however. So I wonder if we are becoming too visual to the detriment of developing our ear for beautiful prose and poetry. What do you think?

Monday, March 4, 2024

No Time to Waste

A friend sent me this beautiful quote. We were lamenting how much we feel the urgency to right things given our late entry into the Church and how much we fail. But what matters is that when we fall, we get up with God's grace and try and try again and again. 

So here I am writing again with purpose. So many stories upon my heart and not enough time for all of them. But two or three are rising to the top. A novel, a memoir, a nonfiction PB. I honestly don't know whether I can tackle all three at once, but I've been collecting and organizing my research. Then there are the numerous polished stories that I've not sent out--researching publishers takes time too. I remember when I first started writing, how I devoted one writing session per week to researching magazines and sending out my stories. It made for excellent balance for 10-20% of my writing time devoted to the business side of things. 

But right now, I have music to practice. So after I hit post, I'll be singing for the rest of the evening. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Books, Books, Books!!!

It's been much too long since I've blogged about the good books I've read, so without further ado, I'll begin with the most recent. Kids' books first :) I do try to post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads but I'm woefully behind on that as well. What are some of the best books you've read recently? Go ahead and add to my TBR pile!

Picture Books

A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of Definitions by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak is simply delightful. See for yourself.

A Single Pearl by one of my favorite authors, Donna Jo Napoli, and Jim LaMarche's illustrations bring to life this retelling of a Persian folktale. A grain of sand feels hopelessly small and unimportant. But we get to see what occurs layer by layer as it is transformed into a pearl. Her book we are Starlings, written with her son, Robert Furrow, is another gorgeous book that delves into murmuration, beautifully illustrated by Marc Martin. I still remember the wonderful advice she gave at Chautauqua--write what you're interested in. It holds true, especially now, where there's so much emphasis of "staying in your lane." She inspires me with the depth and breadth of her work and I'm just tickled that she collaborates with her children. I hope to make more books with my kids too.

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall, another favorite author-illustrator, captures the joy and jumble of a large family. It's bittersweet--children grow up, move away. How I wish it could've been kept in the family somehow. But I'm glad Sophie did and made a book out of it. A treasure! At the end, she writes about how she made the book. Check out Hello Lighthouse too. I wouldn't mind making a retreat in one.

Wally the World's Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat by Ratha Tep and Camilla Pintonato is such a great book about what a competitive spirit can do for you--strive for excellence. Plus it's over the top funny. I gave this to my barbershop leaders because we are preparing for the Regional contest in May... 

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers is a lovely book about creativity, not knowing what you're making yet, trusting the process.

Middle Grade

Mind Over Anti-Matter by Rose Green starts out with a bang and just keeps getting better. We have kid inventors, an aging inventor, and the bad guys who'll do anything to get their hands on the Infinite Storage Device. I loved how real the kids were, how smart, how much heart they had. Rose Green is a very talented writer and illustrator and I was smitten by the cover and delighted by the interior illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. I look forward to more stories from her. 

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman is a gorgeous book with reproductions of Merian's drawings and paintings. She was a mere child, doing what children do best, which is to observe the world around them and be in a state of wonder. She took it a step further--drawing what she saw. When she drew plants, she also drew the insects on the plants.

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate diCamillo and Sophie Blackall (two of my favorites) is a beautifully illustrated story about a girl, a boy, a monk, and a goat. The gentle girl and the fierce goat stole my heart. 

Bazriel and the Frozen Bells of Noël: A Reluctant Angel’s Rescue Mission into France by local author Pringle Franklin is an imaginative Christmas story for the whole family with over 90 works of classic art. It perfectly captures the idea that each of us has a unique mission to fulfill in this world and we have our guardian angel beside us to help guide us. It speaks to the power of love, of music, and of hope. I remember reading the first chapter during critique group and how enchanted I was. I didn't read anything more until Pringle asked me to read a proof copy. I made a few corrections but hated parting with it because it is such a beautiful book. But a year later--I have my own! 

Christmas Blossoms by Priscilla Smith McCafferey and illustrated by Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs is a luminous story about a Chinese artist who makes Christmas ornaments for people in the West. When he makes these little masterpieces, he remembers the joyful times with his family going to the Midnight Mass before the cultural revolution, what they suffered for choosing the Christ Child, and the Hope that remains. Now in his old age, Christmas has returned to China once again. Overcome with emotion, he paints one last glass ornament after he returns home from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This bittersweet gem of a book lends itself to contemplating the meaning of Christmas.

I've bought multiple copies of the last two Christmas books to give away as gifts. They are timeless. It just so happens that all my favorite children's books were illustrated. But visual beauty draws me in more deeply into the story. I still sit and just look at the pictures. I guess I never grew up. But I'll focus on adult books in my next monster book post.