Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately






Back with some quick reviews of what I've read lately - I'm starting to shift into what feels like some summer reading already so hopefully next time I'll have more easy, breezy books for you!





A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

The third in the charming Flavia de Luce mystery series, this entry was just as delightful as the first two. Flavia is just a wonderfully readable character. Especially since she's a child solving mysteries around her idyllic English village you'd think it would be easy for the main character to become saccharine and annoying. But it's just a fun pleasure reading these quirky whodunnits.





The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

I've been meaning to read Robert Galbraith's (aka J.K. Rowling) detective novels for a while now and somehow expected them to be dark and dreary. But Rowling's skill as a writer floats across every page. Private investigator Cormoran Strike sets out to solve the high profile murder of a supermodel with a well paced plot, great sidekick, and the perfect setup to an awesome Masterpiece Mystery series. After reading this book I realized that Rowling is a master at characterization, I fell in love with the cross-examinations because each character had such a unique voice that was perfectly presented. I didn't even want to solve the mystery, I  just wanted to keep meeting new people through the eyes of the indefatigable, intelligent, yet troubled detective, Cormoran Strike. It's a novel that really stands on it's own regardless of genre, but as a detective novel I thought it was first rate!






The End of the House of Alard by Sheila Kaye-Smith

Remember how I was on a Sheila Kaye-Smith kick? She's a little known early 20th century pastoral novelist and contemporary of G.K. Chesterton. Her books are out of print but, oh, how I wish they weren't because I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes Downton Abbey. This is a fascinating novel about the aristocratic Alard family, their romantic and spiritual entanglements, and the changing face of British society. Kaye-Smith is a really astute writer when it comes to portraying realistic characters and spiritual struggle, in this novel a variety of characters come face-to-face with spiritual truths yet choose different paths which proves fascinating. I feel like this book is best described as Downton Abbey meets Brideshead Revisited. Highly recommended if you can find a second hand copy on Amazon or Ebay!





Notes From A Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

I love Tsh Oxenreider. I think her's was the first blog I discovered, the first I followed, and still follow today. I enjoy her writing and felt this book presented a lot of new material that has never been on her blog before, but I think because I am pretty much coming from exactly where she's coming from, that this just didn't bowl me over. I already am on board with everything she writes about when it comes to living simply, I feel like I am her choir. But for anyone who hasn't a clue what living simply means or entails this would be the perfect starting point.




 
Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Omigoodness, the third book in Marilynne Robinson's trilogy set in Gilead and I loved this novel in a completely different way than I loved the previous two. I find it just amazing how Robinson can so perfectly inhabit and write from a different person's inner life so effortlessly. It's really a joy to become part of Lila's life while reading this book. Lila is different from her husband John Ames, but just as alive on the page. I really don't want to say anything more because reading it is so rewarding and I feel like each and every reading will be different than another's experience. To sum up, I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. And I reserve 5 stars for books by Chesterton, Jane Austen, and Evelyn Waugh.




Joining Modern Mrs. Darcy with Quick Lit again this month! 






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Friday, May 6, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 141



Say hi to Kelly


{one}

Firstly, if you could spare a quick prayer for my province and the incredible disaster of the Fort McMurray forest fire of this week we'd be grateful! The fire has done serious damage to the city, destroyed over one thousand structures, and has forced the evacuation of the entire city of upwards of 90,000 people. Please pray for all those who have lost everything, and everyone who has been displaced because it may be weeks until they're able to get back to their homes. Only rain will be able to stop the fire, and there's not much in the forecast. It's just an unbelievable disaster and I feel just awful for everyone. It's really my worst nightmare so I'm trying not to let my mind journey to crazy town and that the fire might travel another 200 miles to where we live. But I am pretty crazy...


{two}

I just stopped cleaning my windows to write this post. It's my most dreaded cleaning task. I'm almost positive I've blogged about this every single time I ever wash windows because it's such a giant deal to me. And why? It's really not horrible, and the end result of amazing windows is so rewarding! Yet still, I dread. 
Just wanted to let that be documented for posterity. 



{three}



The weather has been unbelievably warm (hence the extreme fire situation) and we were as hot this week as we typically are in July. The kids were in bathing suits slip n sliding for crying out loud! It's just so weird. Last year at this time there was still snow on the ground. But the green leaves on the trees already feels so, so, good after making it through the winter. 



{four}

I'm about to repaint a kid's room and it's tiny but needs bookshelves. I want some wall shelves because that's really the only space we have, any good ideas? Just good ol' Ikea? Will I somehow make them look stupid? I'm going to delve into Pinterest soon to investigate. I basically just avoid Pinterest now. Which seems odd because I used to love it so much. I don't know how out relationship got so complicated. 



{five}



I think we're are going to be able to wrap up most of our schoolwork by the end of May. Which feels good, but we really never completely "stop" doing school around here. We'll be finished up most of the curriculum type work, but we'll still continue our reading, art, and probably some math workbooks because my children seem to have a bizarre love for workbooks. But the official "school" will wrap up nicely I think. It will at least allow me to be a little lazier and not be in constant "make shit happen" mode. Although, I might just be stuck in that mode.

{six}

I got a new phone! I used my broken screened phone for almost 4 months and I think I was going a little blind. I'm not completely spoiled with technology and just thought I'd mention it. 

{seven}

I'm beat. I'm ready for Friday. I need a drink. So pretend this take is your alcoholic beverage. And I've gotta go find some kids. 
Happy Weekend!




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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thank Goodness We're Living in the Golden Age of Television






I feel like I've been writing lately about things that really stink here in our current time in history. Politics, the news, Donald Trump, etc. etc, etc.

But you know what makes things a tiny bit better? What makes living in this day and age a treat? The fact that we're living in the Golden Age of Television, people!

We've got streaming, on demand viewing of whole series of television shows. The shows themselves have production values that easily rival movies and sometimes surpass them. We are getting great British tv on this side of the pond like never before! It's a great time to be alive!

This week on the podcast we chatted about some of the shows we've most enjoyed lately but I thought I'd touch on a couple more that you might like to check out, or might not, so here goes!





Better Call Saul

I'm a Better Call Saul evangelist. I know it's not as flashy or dramatic or violent as it's older brother Breaking Bad, but the quality of storytelling is just brilliant. I feel that this show is really a story told almost in the form of a novel, where there is a big overarching plot, but that it's told in very specific tightly written episodes. It explores the characters in depth and brings them to live so vividly. I honestly feel like the characters are real people and am strongly emotionally attached to them. As the show continues now after the completion of the second season, it's clear that it's a very nuanced telling of the story of the Prodigal Son from different aspects which only adds to the enjoyment of the show. Please watch it!





Daredevil

I know there are approximately 3.4 million superhero shows/movies out there and it really is ridiculous to ask you to care about another one, but Daredevil is really the most Catholic superhero out there who routinely struggles with big issues in a Catholic way. This show is violent and adult, but it also is well written and acted and is worth a watch even if you don't usually go in for the superhero show. The second season recently aired on Netflix and this is a satisfying show to binge watch.





Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I was a big fan of the first season of Kimmy, and although I felt that the second season dipped into morally relativistic territory unnecessarily, it was still pretty hilarious. It's a completely zany sense of humour surrounding a girl who lived the past 15 years in the bunker of a crazy cult leader who is now trying to make a new life for herself in New York. The story itself works great surprisingly, but it might not be everyone's brand of humour.




Cooked

I don't just watch hilariously frivolous comedies! This 4 part documentary series airing on Netflix by author Michael Pollan is beautifully done. It's visually stunning and really brings the importance of our food and what it means to humanity to light in a very watchable way but with none of the pretensions and condescension other food documentaries are rife with. Really recommend this one!



Home Fires

I also mentioned this BBC miniseries that also aired on Masterpiece this past fall on the podcast but I thought I should mention it again because I found it a really cozy British series very similar to Foyle's War. It tells the stories of the women of a small town during the beginning of the Second World War. The women of the community are members of the Women's Institute and make efforts towards the war in different ways, but also support each other in such a difficult time. By the third episode I really appreciated how it told the stories wholly from the women's perspectives. Their various marriages, how it felt to support a family alone while their husbands were gone, what it meant to have a son called up, dealing with the changes in their own community. The acting is great and there are only a couple hokey storylines - promise!



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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What To Do When You Lose Faith in Politics






Last week I talked about how frustratingly hopeless it feels to be a Catholic citizen in the face of brazenly secular governments. This week I thought I'd try to look at what things we can do as Catholics to keep hope, and/or at least keep ourselves from falling into despair when it comes to the public square. And it will prove to be a big challenge especially with this upcoming American presidential season and the, ahem, dubious candidates in the fore. Critically fundamental issues like, abortion, immigration, religious freedom, a supreme court nomination are all part of the equation, but when our vote feels like it counts for little and our sanity begins to suffer it's helpful to take positive steps for helping ourselves, our families and communities, and our country.

We also may have to come to grips with the fact that politics and the public square as it currently exists probably will not be visibly changed by our efforts. But that doesn't mean we don't have a moral duty towards our country, our fellow citizens, our children, and our own consciences to pray, write, and work in the public square. Our efforts may go unseen and unheard by those in power and by our society, but our call as Catholics is not to abandon the world but to work for a better one in all aspects of life.


Here's a quick look at a few basic things that can help us stay sane while the political world crumbles:


Prayer is the Most Effective Means of Change

Obviously I've got to mention prayer first. But ironically this is usually the step that I ignore till last, so do I as I say, not as I fail to do!

As someone who has always been interested in politics and passionate about the issues, I've had plenty of opportunity for frustration, anxiety, and outrage over politics in my country over the last year. I remember election nights going to bed enraged at democracy and anxious over the future for my children. But can I change anything or help my anxiety more effectively than through prayer? In all honesty, no I can't.

I've started handing over whatever situation, issue, law, or government party causes me anxiety back over to the Lord. I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but honestly it's helped me avoid a lot of undue stress and worry. Just offering it all up to Christ at the foot of the cross, and begging his Divine Mercy is an important step.

Praying for peace for the world and my country is also something I've added to my daily petitions during morning prayer. And of course, this would be a great intention for your daily rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet. If you're the hardcore monastic type, prayer and fasting would probably be amazing to offer for the all the evil that goes down in politics today. Our Catholic faith offers a myriad of prayer varieties like adoration, holy hours, offering up the Mass, novenas, etc that we really only need to pick what we do most often to add a really effective means of prayer and grace into our lives and the world.


Don't Stick Your Head in the Sand

I don't want to point fingers, and I know we all hate politics to one degree or another, but we really can't afford to simply stick our heads in the sand when it comes to the news. We've got a real moral obligation to our communities and country to uphold our civic duties as best we can. This means that we need to speak out and do as much as we can when there are seriously bad political ideas being floated around, or debated in legislatures. I don't want to trot out the old "if good men do nothing" quote, but that really is the reality in the times we live in.

We can't afford to be ignorant of party policies, Church teachings, and what is happening on a local, national, and global level. As much as it would be great to just hang out in our local communities, never turn on a tv, and just head to church and back every week we're called to more as Catholics. We need to be educated in the issues, history, and how our governments work so that we can stand up and defend truth and morality. Because the power behind those who want to dismantle the moral fabric of our society know how to chisel and chip away at things little by little to erode once solid foundations of moral and democratic societies. We've already seen great damage done in recent years, we don't have the option of letting other people worry about these things.


Work on the Local Level

It can be downright scary, daunting, and hard to think about change on a national level. Even speaking to our elected representatives can feel useless since their political stripes may be openly hostile to our faith. By the time big issues reach the national forefront there has been a lot of local groundwork done, so when the local issues arise around you make sure you speak out.

If the local school boards are introducing new gender guidelines, know what's going on and make sure to speak out the Church's teaching. If you can help your town or city provide better services on a local level, be it through voting or campaigning for someone who values good leadership and integrity, or volunteering through local groups, that's where the biggest difference can be made.

If you have state or provincial issues that are important on a moral level then write letters and make calls. Even if you know you are part of the unpopular minority when it comes to a critical issue of morality, it is our moral obligation to at the very least, make our views known to our elected representatives. It can be a hassle, but calling and writing about issues like doctor-assisted suicide, educational guidelines, and others is really our duty in as citizens of a democracy and as Catholics.


Work for Peace in Your Own Heart and Family

It can feel pretty hopeless for us Catholics as elections go horribly awry, reprehensible ideas become popular, and governing parties become openly hostile to faith. There are already immoral laws in our country, and more will probably come. But we cannot let this disturb our peace. It's a difficult call, but many saints before us have proved that no matter how bad the government Christ's peace conquers all.

Begin by loving your own family. If we love those closest to us as best we can we're building peace, even if we can't see the difference it makes right now. If we teach our children the faith we are passing on a moral belief system that has built western civilization, democracy, and personal freedom. We are passing on values that matter, even if our culture say they don't.

It's often disheartening to think we're only impacting our own families, and hard to see the eternal value in loving those around us according to our vocations. But indeed our love has eternal consequences, and ripples out much farther in our world than is visible to our eyes. We know that the Body of Christ reaches every human heart and that as we offer our prayers and works we help spread God's mercy.

The biggest difference we make will always be within our own homes and our own hearts. We may lose heart in the human workings of our political systems, we may be anxious about upcoming elections and possible presidents, but we cannot let that rob us of the love, peace, and true joy that Christ and the Church calls us to live.




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Friday, April 22, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 140


I'm just popping in with the quickest of boring takes because I am over this week - so if you too are over this week enjoy these takes extremely quickly, pour yourself some wine, then hit Kelly for the better takes!


{one}



It's really not spring until have my house is covered in mud, and the other half is full of dirty laundry -so I'm happy to say spring has arrived! Actually, this week we dried out a little around here, to the point where the boys had to turn on an outside faucet and haul water to their former puddles and then cover their little sister in mud. So tough times. It was legitimately warm for a few days this week and it felt glorious! Let's not talk about how it may snow this weekend...



{two}




I honestly feel like my life is approximately 67% dirty socks, 10% feeding children all the time, and 23% Hamilton. I'm obsessed a little bit. And I'm sure that's weird to pretty much all normal people, but I love musicals and Hamilton is so great it's become my life. Also, even if you aren't in to musicals just go watch this wedding video from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's wedding, it is the sweetest thing I've ever seen! 



{three}





You know your kids are Canadian when the temperature gets to 15C and they all start saying it's summer and they don't need to do school anymore!



{four}



I want to buy everything from Loft right now. Shopping confession! 



{five}



The older kids are in swimming lessons twice a week and the nearest pool is an hour away so I've been driving lots, but I thought I'd take advantage and snap some shots of the cool things along the country road that takes me there. There are about 7 little country churches along the way and just some pretty old farm buildings that always catch my eye so I thought I'd document them before they're all knocked down(I know, it's a depressing thought, but who knows!). It's on my Instagram if you haven't already seen it, and if you have already seen it, then....sorry? 




{six}



We had a great conversation about Thomas Merton on this week's new podcast episode. If you ever wanted to know what the deal on Thomas Merton was this is the perfect listen. 




{seven}

I'm feeling so ready for the weekend. Like I need to sleep for 12 hours, and drink some wine, and not be the sole parent around here. I'm adult-ed out. Let's hope I make it through the afternoon! 

Hope all your weekend feels like a child-free vacation. 


















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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately






Back with some quick reviews of some good books I've been reading lately! (Mostly because I had to stay home today with a sick baby instead of sitting at the pool during the big kids swimming lesson - so lemonade out of lemons and all that!)





 The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny

Yes, I'm on a Louise Penny kick, why do you ask? I just find her novels a lot of fun. You know, fun as in you've get to try and solve a grisly murder in a small village while trying to fight corruption in your own police force - tons of fun! This one had a bit of a weird plot line, but the characters and good prose more than make up for it. I still really appreciate Penny's attention to good mystery writing even while focusing so much on the characters. She does a great job juggling all the balls in the air.




 Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I thought this was funnier than her first book. I'm a Mindy fan, and I felt that she has really gotten the knack for writing humour honestly, but also with a great deal of maturity. She doesn't hid behind her tv-star persona, not does she randomly interject with pretend wisdom (lookin at you Amy Poehler's disappointing book). It's really a delight to read and you can't read it and not want to be her best friend. Please tell me she has hundreds of best friends - because she's awesome.





Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I love Bill Bryson. His name on a book is the only thing I need to want to read it and know that I will enjoy it. This book was no different. He chronicles his journey across Britain in the early 90's and it's fascinating to see Britain through his eyes. I'm a dedicated Anglophile so I enjoyed all his little tidbits from mentioning Coronation Street to bad heating. I still can't wrap my mind around the ability to simply walk from town to town, and I'm dying to go to England and spend a year or two exploring.





The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown

Wow. I simply loved reading this biography of the wife of my favourite writer. I'm so glad that Nancy Brown devoted herself to researching Frances's fascinating life and bringing it to life through her careful, and thoughtful writing of this book. Frances was a complex woman who could stand on her own intelligent feet, battled depression and family tragedy, married a remarkable man and helped him achieve greatness, all the while loving him and God in an inspiring way. The chapter describing Frances's grief after Gilbert's death had me in tears and I'm still moved thinking about it. I really feel this is an important life to read because their marriage was beautiful and we just don't get to see inside marriages like this very often. Highly recommended.




Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

This book is incredibly well-written but as a tale of a marriage told from the husband's, then wife's perspectives it wasn't an enjoyable read to me. I found their perspectives interesting, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that the author just hated marriage and was out to write a deliberately damaging story of two people. I'm not sorry I read it, but I just am left feeling a bit sad that this is what marriage is seen as by the majority in our culture.



Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy and Quicklit! 





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Thursday, April 7, 2016

On Being a Catholic Under Bad Government





I've been writing letters to various government representatives for the last few weeks months about some important issues facing Canada and my province. Most pressingly the oncoming onslaught of highly unregulated doctor-assisted suicide across the country, and some high-handed education guidelines surrounding gender identity which present a very transformative moral impact in our province's education system.

I write the letters, I email and mail the letters, I occasionally received a highly patronizing reply from my government representative that implies I'm an idiot with whom no one agrees. I write again. It's not a fun hobby, but it seems that each successive issue becomes an even greater issue on which to speak out.

It's hard to continue to voice opinions that seem to be completely against the tide. It's hard to have governments in power that are openly hostile to your beliefs and see no value from your input. It's hard to see that the war has in many ways already been lost and that the tide will not turn on the larger stage.

As a Catholic my faith isn't put in a box in my life that only comes out on Sunday. The Catholic faith informs and impacts every aspect of my life, and as such it informs and impacts how I view public policy, laws, and how government itself functions. It's a moral lens that impacts how I see all of these things, but it also shapes my actions as a citizen.

Increasingly my country doesn't tolerate even the idea that religious beliefs should inform moral and political decisions. There's an open hostility to trying to "enforce your private beliefs" on an unsuspecting public, or even worse, a contempt for religion as it it must be in-of-itself intolerant and oppressive, bigoted and hateful.

This idea concerning religion has come about because there are entire generations of us who have no idea what having a faith even means. Our society has lost the idea that theology is an objective study that has almost 2000 years of intellectual history. Society has no concept that faith is formative and deeply connected to an individual's values and conscience, including how an individual makes political choices and how he views his country. Society has completely rejected the idea of a higher authority informing us about moral issues. Society has wholly committed to relativism to the point that we don't believe choices are moral at all, that we simple act on our feelings and that in consequence, must be good.

And now we are reaping these rewards with the destruction of children's innocence, handing over more control to the government in the name of tolerance, and completely abandoning moral and civil codes of conduct that are foundational to Western civilization.

Our Catholic faith is a beautiful seamless belief system that builds our political and social stances on a foundation of thoughtfully developed teachings based on natural law and God's revelation. As Catholics we uphold life, we value the dignity of the human person, that life must be respected from conception to natural death, and acknowledge the inherent and created differences of male and female and how that affects our humanity. These principles are not against the social order or social progress, these are the principles that have helped build the free and just societies of Western civilization.

These once commonly held values are now being turned on their heads, their basic truthfulness dismissed, and a Catholic position is seen as extreme and backward.

It all leaves me anxious and frustrated. Knowing that I, as a Catholic, can participate as much as possible as a private citizen, give my money to political organizations that are the least abhorrent to my values, write as much as possible to my government representatives, and yet still be part of the minority and have no power to stop the coming detrimental changes to my country.

I can see and imagine the toxic consequences for my children and grandchildren by what is happening in the public sphere now, and all I will be able to tell them is I, along with a small number of others, tried to speak in contradiction to the mob mentality that is our society. I already fear that I'm not doing enough. That as time passes history will look upon our lifetime as the hinge between civilization and a relativistic/fascist dystopia.

As I Catholic I know that Christ is the Lord of History. His ultimate victory is real and we just await it. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it is legitimately painful to watch your own country take drastic steps towards eradicating the moral fabric of society. I want the best for my country and for the people who live in it, and I know that a country who willfully promotes laws and principles contrary to God's laws will inevitably suffer.


Coming soon - What to do when politics feels hopeless.



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