Book Review

Book Review: Dorothy Sayers’s Strong Poison

First of all, a business note:  I’ll be on vacation for a few days.  Deo gratias.

Secondly, with sigh, the area around Paul’s spinal catheter is beginning to swell again.  If you think of it, remember him in your prayers.  It would appear to be only a matter of time before he’s in surgery once again.   Fiat mihi secundum verbum.

And now for delightful Summer Reads…

After finishing Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night and loving it, of course I would immediately want to read Strong Poison (and Busman’s Honeymoon.)

IMG_2813.jpg
Gaudy Night could be my favorite book of the year.

Now, if you haven’t read Gaudy Night, quit reading this blog post right now and go read that.  Then come back to this post to see if Strong Poison is for you, because I have One Big Qualm with it.

Strong Poison

IMG_2936

This book is naturally going to be interesting to those who have read Gaudy Night, as it’s the backstory of Harriet Vane’s infamous trial, as she’s accused of poisoning and killing her then live-in boyfriend, Philip Boyes.  This trial and Vane’s immoral history are alluded to several times in Gaudy Night.  It was rather informative, therefore, to actually read about it.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that Sayers wrote Strong Poison first, then Gaudy Night?  But I’m not sure reading them in that order would be captivating, for I think Strong Poison isn’t as good.  Certainly I love Sayers’s wit, and the glimpses of immature Lord Peter Wimsey falling hard for Vane are so enduring, but as I mentioned above, I have One Big Qualm with this book.

My problem is that Miss Climpson, an undercover employee of Wimsey’s, decides to play the part of a soothsayer or a spiritualist in order to obtain information to free the innocent Vane from prison and the death sentence.  By doing this, Climpson leads multiple false seances, pretending to invoke the dead, while also manipulating an Ouija Board.

Now this is a Bad Idea; it’s downright dangerous.  This is the world of the demonic–just ask any exorcist.  In fact, these kinds of behaviors open one to demonic oppression or possession.  One would want to stay as far away from such things as possible.

To be fair, Miss Climpson does voice her concerns, and it would appear that her conscience does bother her, but in the end, she goes through with it.  One could maybe conclude that while Sayers doesn’t like the practice of deception to reach into this evil world of spirits, she too, however, would be willing to go through with it?  I don’t know.

But I do know that that chapter alone is the reason why I couldn’t recommend this book to anybody who does not understand the seriousness of the matter.  Let me repeat myself–only a mature reader ought to read this book.

Strong Poison otherwise was a delightful read.  One gets a clearer picture of Vane’s transformation from a girl willing to practice “free love” to a woman beginning to realize the foolishness and shallowness of such behavior.  In the end, Vane wants something more, but needs time to heal, which Lord Peter Wimsey just doesn’t understand until Gaudy Night.  

So, what am I bringing on vacation to read?

IMG_2934.jpg

Busman’s Honeymoon, naturally, as it follows Gaudy Night.  I’ve started it already and have had to force myself to put it down, or I won’t have anything worthy to read on the beach.  I hope to write a few words on it later next week or so.

Motherhood & Parenting

More Questions: Fear of Childbirth & Age of Confirmandi

I received two more questions the other day, which I’ll post below, as they’re good questions and interesting, too.

Question 1: Age of Confirmandi?

Hi Kim! Thank you for blogging!

It looks like some of your new confirmandi are pretty young.  How did you determine their readiness, and did you experience any resistance from the church because of age?

Response:

Thank you for the question.

Yes, it would appear that my children are young according to many bishops’ later age requirements for Confirmation.  (My children were confirmed at ages 13, 11, 11, 9, and 7.)  The Roman Rite, however, clearly states in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see paragraph 1319) and the Catechism of the Council of Trent (look under heading “Confirmation” and flip to the paragraph on “Proper Age”) that one need only reach the age of reason, which is stated at 7, prior to receiving Confirmation.  And that’s it.

IMG_2915.jpg
Consider owning both Catechisms–Trent and JPII’s.  Well, the Baltimore Catechism is great too.

Any bishop worth his salt will not deny anyone Confirmation, so long as he or she has reached the aforesaid age of reason.

Think of the Eastern Church, which does Confirmation immediately after Baptism because they wish to emphasize these Sacraments of Initiation and not to delay in distributing sanctifying grace.  Remember, Baptism gives one sanctifying grace and opens the doors to Salvation, while Confirmation pours out more sanctifying grace with the additional 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And both leave an indelible mark on the soul.

The question is then, why would anyone want to wait on this?  Either you have that grace and that beautiful mark on your soul or not.  And does it matter?  Yes.

The problem is that many Catholics in the Church see Confirmation as some sort of “graduation,” and so we have Catholics wrongly asking, “How do you know if your child is ready for Confirmation?”  Are we ever “ready” for any Sacrament?  Look, we do not ask our babies if they are ready for Baptism, and we do not ask them if they’re ready for Confirmation.  Naturally we prepare them as best as we can, but this is not some test.  Rather, we desire an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll do everything we can to continue their education then and afterwards, forever and ever.  Amen.

Shoot, I’m still learning about Confirmation now at the ripe old age of 38.

Secondly, dear reader, you asked if our family received any opposition to receiving this Sacrament because of age?  Not in this diocese–the diocese of La Crosse, WI.  (May it please God to preserve our bishop for a long time.)  But I’m fairly certain I would have met with a silent storm of opposition in my prior diocese.  In the latter case, one can only politely ask and pray.  Or seek the Sacraments elsewhere.

In the end, either these things matter, or they don’t, though.  If it were me–and it does pertain to our family too–I’d get these things done.  Now.  I’d ask myself, What did our bishop and priests do during all this Corona Madness Shutdown?  Did they close your Churches and quit administering Sacraments?  If so, what makes you think they won’t do it again, come Corona Version 2.0 this Fall or Winter?

As my father, an eminently sensible farmer, says,  “Make hay while the sun shines, Honey.”

Question 2: Advice for a Fearful Mother About to Give Birth?

Kim, do you have any advice for fear of childbirth? As a bit of background, I’m due any day with Baby #6. I’ve had 5 amazing natural births, and yet I’m here and TERRIFIED to give birth again myself. (Needless to say, I feel rather silly…) I’m trying to approach it from a spiritual standpoint, and yet a terrible anxiety remains. Have you ever experienced this, and do you have any advice?

Response:

First of all, congratulations on Baby #6!

Now to the question and a full disclosure: I personally have not experienced fear or anxiety for an impending labor and delivery.  This is likely because I emphatically dislike being pregnant, and so when labor and delivery come around, I couldn’t be happier.  In fact, I love it.

But you are not silly for struggling with these thoughts.  There are mothers–good mothers too–who do fear childbirth and for all kinds of reasons.  I think it’s natural to anxious about the whole thing.   I mean, it is rather a painful experience after all.

The question I’d ask myself is, what is the cause of my anxiety?  Am I afraid of death?  Am I afraid of the baby dying?  Am I afraid of the pain?  Or is it something else?  If you can pinpoint where the anxiety is coming from, then it might be possible to come up with a few ideas.

If it’s death, perhaps one could find a few pertinent scripture verses on the fleetingness of life or on the glory of heaven?  Or, if it’s pain, consider an epidural or some medication to take the edge off.  You mentioned that you’ve done all natural births, but perhaps this time God wishes otherwise?  (I had a dose of Nubain during the last labor and delivery.  See HERE for those details.)

In any case, the Divine Mercy Chaplet might be a good option for you to pray daily.  Or if you enjoy reading, check out St. Faustina’s Diary, which is all about trusting in Jesus and doing His will amidst pain and suffering.

Lastly, I’ll ask a question to the readers.  Are there any mothers out there who have experience with anxiety in childbirth?  If so, please consider sharing any ideas in the Comments Box below.

Call Me Catholic

What to do with Confirmation $$ ??

Many of you readers know that our five oldest children were recently confirmed by Raymond Cardinal Burke.  O glorious day!

I’ll post a few pictures below for a brief recap…

IMG_2859.jpg
The Eldest, just confirmed, making her way back to the pew at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Hard to see anything here, I know.
IMG_2872
Cardinal Burke giving The Youngest a blessing afterwards.
IMG_2865.jpg
Our whole family after receiving a blessing from His Eminence.

As the dust settles from last week and indelible marks remain on the children’s souls for all of eternity, there was only one item yet to be taken care of…

What to do with all that cash their relatives so graciously bestowed upon them?

Hmmm…what would you do, if you were given some cash as a child?

Without parental intervention, our children would likely have done one of two things:

  1. Shoved the cash into their piggy banks.  (Not a bad idea.)
  2. Biked over to the local grocery store and purchased ridiculous amounts of Mike and Ikes, Cherry Nibs, and Peanut Butter M&Ms.  (Fun.  But a bit of a waste.)

Fortunately, we had a plan, should any cash find their way into those Confirmation cards.  All the children–except The Eldest as she already owned one–purchased Latin Mass Missals, and they’ve arrived in the mail!

IMG_2912
Here they all are.

Their names are written on the front of them, and we keep them on this bookshelf in the living room for easy access.

IMG_2911.jpg

We’re very thankful that the older children can have their own missals, as we feel it’s important to begin familiarity with it as soon as possible.  There are wonderful things to learn about the Mass in these books too.  (For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the books have Latin on one side and English on the other with explanatory notes.)

IMG_2914
Here’s a shot of the pages directly preceding the prayers of the Mass.

But what about The Eldest, you might ask?  What did she purchase with her extra cash, since she already owned a missal?

IMG_2910
The Eldest’s 3 volume purchase, which sits on her bookshelf in her room.

She purchased the Roman Breviary, which was certainly more expensive.  Fortunately for her, she had saved up her piano money from the spring and summer.  Now she will be able to pray the responses during Lauds, which begins around 6:25am in our household.

Hopefully in a year or two the boys will be able to purchase their own breviaries too.  These books are very beautiful.  We find it edifying and inspiring to pray the ancient psalms of the Church day in and day out, and we look forward to the boys praying them aloud.  As it is now, they sit quietly with us and are either silently praying in their hearts or dozing in the candle light…

IMG_2879

Thank you to all the grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncle who contributed to the children’s Holy Book Fund!

And most especially, thank you to everyone who prayed for the children on that most memorable day!

Call Me Catholic

A Question From Scotland: First Communion Dilemma

From time-to-time I receive heart-rending emails from you, dear Readers.  Most often, I respond privately, if I’m able, but in this case, I offer both her email and my response to the public because this woman’s story is the story of families all over the globe.

Naturally, I’ve removed some private information, and I’ve put a few sentences in bold, which seem to sum up her plight.  Following the email, I’ve attempted to offer advice, for those of you who are interested.

Email From Scotland

Firstly thank you so much for your blog. I stumbled upon it while searching to contact Darci from youtube. I have a few questions and I’d love some advice. BUT I know you are a busy mom and totally expect you must get so many messages-so no stressing about a response!

Prior to the churches being closed I brought up reception of Communion on the tongue to my Priest. He was very dismissive of me-and gave me a response that I wasn’t very happy with (to summarize-Because Jesus chose bread, of course then the worldly consequence would be that particles are expected to be lost during communion). He also mentioned that I was getting close to arguments that were bordering on traditional practices that turn away from the NO (Novus Ordo) mass. For this reason – we went to our first TLM to receive Holy Communion on the tongue in ***, 2.5 hrs away. That was to be our last Mass until now.

During this time in the desert, God was calling us. My husband and I could feel his gentle leading. We had been hearing brave Priests on the internet, listening to many people discovering the beauty of the Latin Mass. Masses began to open two weeks ago and we called the TLM parish in ***. The parish secretary (being very careful not to ‘give away’ her priest because of the restrictions made by the Bishop ) said that no one was being denied Communion wink wink. We took this as a sign and drove 2.5 hrs on Sunday. Thanks be to God we were able to receive.

So you must be wondering what my question is. Our 9 year old was meant to receive First Holy Communion in June, and there has been no talk about when it will be celebrated. And even if it is, we are unsure if our priest will even allow her to receive on the tongue, based on what I’ve already encountered. My husband has suggested we ask the priest at the TLM (who by the way got his secretary to call us yesterday to say that he was so happy to see us there on Sunday) if we could have her receive there. I imagine there will be an issue with the certificate, and not celebrating with her class (she goes to a Catholic school). To be honest I’m not worried about offending anyone at this point, only what would be best and most reverent for our daughter, but can you foresee anything I’m not thinking of that could go wrong? What do you think you would do? Is it more important to be strong in our desires with our own priest and possibly make a bigger situation, or disregard the protocol for our parish/school?

This whole time we have been praying, researching and learning. I do feel like God is truly speaking to us and opening us up to His plan. I can’t believe He’s led me to your blog for instance, as I’ve just read that Cardinal Burke (He came to Scotland in 2017 to consecrate Scotland to Mary!) celebrated your children’s Confirmation-and also that Fr. Altman is your priest! We have also been praying for Paul-and your whole family. Thank you for listening to my message and thank you in advance for any insight you may offer me.

A Response

I am terribly sorry for your difficult situation, but I am glad for two things:

  1. You and your husband seem to be united in your desire for the Sacraments–they are worth fighting for!– and in your desire to seek more information about the TLM.  The Mass is important.  Our Rites are formative.  Poor liturgy equals poor formation.  You know this.  Sitting in banal Masses, Sunday after Sunday, where all kinds of liturgical abuses are present, eventually numbs the soul.  It’s uninspiring in the least.  Beautiful Masses, however, lift the soul heavenwards and aid us in adoration, praise, and thanksgiving, etc.
  2. You found a priest willing to do his ordained job, albeit it 2.5 hours away; this is a good thing.  Not everyone is so blessed.

You ask what I would do?  Without hesitation, and with the full support and leadership of my husband, I’d have my child receive the Sacraments at the TLM parish NOW.  In fact, I’d become a member there.  Now, I don’t know your personal situation very well, and I don’t know if you can a.) afford to drive that distance every Sunday or b.) if your children could handle it, but chances are once a month might be doable.  Perhaps more?

And why wait on the Sacraments?  Either they mean something and give one’s soul sanctifying grace, or they don’t.  Which is it?

IMG_2444.jpg
Our 7-year-old received First Holy Communion during the Corona-Madness.

But I want to stress a couple of other things too:

  1. Be sure that you are praying together as a family every day.  Oh, boy, are you going to need this, especially if you decide to switch parishes and keep your children in that diocesan school.  But are you praying a rosary every single day?  Are you praying with your husband?
  2. How about fasting?  Mothers are not always capable of doing this, but in the very least, one can do a little.  Perhaps it’s plain bread for breakfast every Friday?  Even children are capable of that one.  The point is, do something!
  3. I want to encourage you to keep learning.  Read, read, read.  And involve your children in this.  Go through THIS book together.  We’ve also found Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s books very helpful.  I’d recommend any of his.  Or watch Dr. Taylor Marshall on YouTube.  He’s got great videos.  Indeed, is there anything more important in one’s life than Faith in God?
  4. Consider moving to that city where the TLM is being offered.  Marshall calls it the Great Catholic Migration.  That’s what we did.  (Certainly our circumstances are different, however.  I’ve written about it HERE.)
  5. Lastly, know how much Jesus loves you and your family.  He cares deeply about you.  No matter what you decide, He will always be there for you.

May His holy angels guide and protect you!

 

Call Me Catholic

Confirmation with Raymond Cardinal Burke

Yesterday five of our seven children had the great privilege of receiving the Rite of the Confirmation in the Extraordinary Form by Raymond Cardinal Burke.

IMG_2866.jpg
Here we are afterwards, meeting His Eminence.  Just about to kneel for his blessing.

The whole day was one marked by great beauty.  We were surrounded by our family and friends.  The weather, albeit a bit hot and sticky, was clear of thunderstorms.  And we were able to pray in the magnificent Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI.

The Traditional Rite of Confirmation began with the priests and Cardinal Burke chanting the Veni Creator Spiritus and then moved on to an Exhortation.

IMG_2856
Cardinal Burke, seated on the faldstool, about to give his Exhortation.  Fr. Altman is seated to the right.

At one point, during his Exhortation, Cardinal Burke said, “Do not give way to cowardly fear, for you will face opposition and persecution.”  This being one of the reasons why one needs the Sacrament of Confirmation, as it increases sanctifying grace and gives us the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit.  (It also leaves an indelible mark upon one’s soul.)

He also repeatedly encouraged all the confirmandi to, “Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your particular vocation, as your vocation is the way to happiness in this life and in the life to come.”  And again, with strength, “Pray to know your vocation and respond to it with your whole heart.”

Following his brief words, Cardinal Burke outstretched his hands in prayer over the confirmandi, invoking the Holy Spirit.  Then the Cardinal confirmed them individually as he or she knelt before him with the sponsor standing behind.  This was the Second Laying on of Hands and the Anointing.  The confirmandi then received the acclaimed “Slap.”

The Slap, intended to be a reminder that one must be ready at all times to suffer for the faith, was our children’s favorite part.  It’s more like a “tap” and was given with the words, “Pax tecum.”  Or, “Peace be with you.”  One of my son’s remarked with a twinkle in his eye, “I was hoping for good whack.  He didn’t smack me hard enough!”

IMG_2865.jpg
Here we are again.

In the end, we feel very blessed and are so very thankful for Cardinal Burke’s willingness to administer this most holy Sacrament, for it was just that–holy.

As an aside…one my my girls remarked, “Mom, he’s got a pretty hat.”  Yes, he does!*

 

*It’s called a mitre.
Motherhood & Parenting

Prayers For Paul

Some of you may have heard that we were in the hospital again for Paul?  Alas, yes.

IMG_2838.jpg
Paul in ER last Friday night.

A few months ago we noticed his back, where his catheter enters his spine, was terribly swollen.  We knew something was up then, and that it would only be a matter of time before his spinal shunt slipped out and failed, which is exactly what happened.

Last Friday Paul began having migraines–the kind where one can’t move from the couch.  The kind where one trembles in pain.  The kind where one eventually vomits, and in Paul’s case, will not cease vomiting–if not anything worse–until surgery.  When this happens, we call the ER in Rochester, pack for an extended stay, and get on the road–all of which we did.

Now, unfortunately, we’ve got this Down to a Science.  When Paul starts vomiting, I go for the medical binder, containing all the important phone numbers, and as I said, call the ER.  But it is best if I not only warn the ER that we’re coming, but also insist on speaking to Paul’s neurosurgeon’s Resident Doctor, who will in turn beginning looking over Paul’s thick file and speak directly to his neurosurgeon and get a plan going.  (One is not able to speak directly to Paul’s neurosurgeon, regrettably!  Apparently they’re very busy, which is why they all have at least one attending resident doctor.)

IMG_2839
Paul waking up right after spinal surgery.

Once this is finished, and while my husband is caring for Paul, I glance at my trusty Packing List, which I keep taped to the front of Paul’s binder, and begin throwing things together that one might not normally think of.  For example, we’ve relied heavily upon a few unusual items like a Traveling Lego Box, which contains Legos that are used exclusively at the hospital, not at home, and are especially detailed and take forever to put together, in an attempt to pass time away once surgery is finished.  We also cherish the joys of Perplexis Balls and Monopoly Deal.  Then, there’s the laptop for audio books, and a few slices of bread for me to toast in the nurse’s station for breakfast, as I never have time to run down to the Cafeteria in the morning because generally we’re prepping for surgery or visiting with doctors and nurses, who are perpetually doing their rounds at outlandish hours.

IMG_2842.jpg
Paul eating goldfish and listening to The Hobbit.

Anyway, this trip to the ER was no different.  As we live so close to Rochester, however, we need not fret so very much–or at least we tell ourselves this–because the drive is literally a tiny fraction of what it was prior to our move to eastern Minnesota.  Now, we need not spend hours and hours watching Paul decline on an agonizingly long drive while worrying about truly disturbing things like seizures or bradycardia–both of which have happened in the past and are terribly frightening.

This time, we got into the ER at about 11:30pm, got the vomiting under control at about 12:30am, were wheeled into surgery by 8am, and done 3 hours later.

And Paul is well again.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect, too, as he and four of his brothers and sisters are slated to be confirmed this Sunday by none other than His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke.  (Awesome.  Just awesome.)

If you think of it, remember them all in your prayers.  And especially pray for Paul’s continued healing.  Twelve surgeries is a lot for one boy, in 15 months.

IMG_2843
Paul putting together a police station set, prior to leaving the hospital after a two night stay.
IMG_2848.jpg
Paul today, just this minute, actually.  You can see both incisions and his beautiful smile.

Truly, we are blessed!  God is good.

Life is Worth Living

Is That Your Garden?

The Flops and Foibles of Gardening in 2020

As I stand in my yard and look around at the deeply wooded ridges and valleys, I think, Humph, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Actually, I never was in Kansas, but I was living on those same Great Plains for nearly four decades, and now I’m not.  This is my first year gardening in the “Driftless Area” near the Mississippi River.  Driftless Area is a technical term referring to 24,000 square miles of steep, forested ridges that the last Glacier Period neglected to iron out.

In other words, we have zero flat spots in our yard in which to place a neat and orderly garden.

No matter, though!  We’re figuring it out.  Gardening is worth it after all, even if one doesn’t have a green thumb.  Today I’ll show you what our family has done this year, and by doing so, I hope to accomplish one thing:

To give hope and inspiration to those of you who find gardening horribly tedious or overwhelming, like me.

Now, if you’ve got a beautifully well-managed garden, this post will still be for you too, because perhaps, by reading about those of us struggling to keep our thumbs green, you may be inspired to give us your extra lettuce and rhubarb.  For heaven knows ours didn’t grow.

IMG_2834.jpeg
Check out my pathetic rhubarb plant.

Gardening Tip #1:  Get Somebody to Help

Now I’m the mother of 7 little children.  I need help.  Thankfully my husband is more than willing to bust out the power tools and build something.  Earlier this spring he built a little garden box into the hillside because as I said before, we have zero flat spots in our yard for a traditional garden.

IMG_2463.jpg
You may remember this photo from April?

And here it is today:

IMG_2820

This box features one tomato plant, two pepper plants, two broccoli plants, and some basil.  Originally I had planted mint, but it didn’t come up.  I have no idea why.  So after about a month, I drove over to the local nursery to see if they had any vegetables left to buy.  This was really smart on my part because they were practically giving away the remainder of their broccoli plants and jalapeños for free.

IMG_2822
Broccoli.  Looks like some bugs are eating it already.

I’ve never planted broccoli, but I thought, why not?  And my husband loves jalapeños.  So we’re giving it a shot.

But that little box is hardly big enough for everything I wanted to plant.  And so, that leads me to my next Gardening Tip:

Gardening Tip #2:  Get More Help: Enlist the Children

Last year we tried something new.  We told our children that if they wanted to earn some money, they could plant a garden, and I’d buy all the produce.  And they actually did it.  They bought seed with their own money, planted some potatoes, onions, and pumpkins, and took care of it, and I bought it all.  It wasn’t a lot, mind you, but it was worth it.

This year, we knew we’d have to get more creative.  Just where were we going to dig up some earth for the Children’s Garden?  Well, why not try on the hillside?

So, the boys carried up their folding saws and bow saws and hacked away at the sumac in order to clear a patch of earth.  Then my husband hauled up the tiller and did his best to rip up the ground.  Naturally the soil wasn’t fertile, so we added some peat moss and Holy Water.  Lastly, the whole thing had to be surrounded by a deer fence, if we hoped to enjoy any of the produce ourselves.

And this is what we ended up with:

IMG_2826.jpg
Notice all the horrid sumac surrounding the thing.

Admittedly, it’s rather small, but I guess something is better than nothing.  This little garden boasts of a pumpkin plant, a few onions, some green beans, a pepper plant, and two tomato plants.

Here is a close up of the pumpkin and pepper:

IMG_2827.jpg
I know it’s hard to see through the deer fence, but the pumpkin is in the right corner and the pepper is in the upper left.  The onions in the background aren’t worth even mentioning…

And here’s the tomato plants:

IMG_2828
They look rather unruly.

They had planted cucumbers in there too, but they chose not to grow, which is just as well as they’d likely have vined all over the place.

I tried to get the children to plant beets, as they’re one of my favorite vegetables to roast and eat, but alas, the children positively refused.  They insisted that there was no room for such nasty-tasting roots, which leads me to my third Gardening Tip:

Gardening Tip #3:  Plant Vegetables Instead of Marigolds

Now this hurts me a little, as I love flowers, but if those rebellious children won’t plant beets, somebody’s got to!  So, instead of a row of marigolds, I planted a row of beets (and some onions) right by our front door.

IMG_2835.jpeg
See the beets and onions in the front row?

Anyone can see that neither vegetable is truly thriving.  I’d like to blame this on the hail that went through a month ago, but really it’s because I’ve got a two-year-old who walks all over it too.

IMG_2836
Oh, but she’s cute!

In the end, I hope this little garden tour inspired you to keep at it, especially if gardening overwhelms you.  It’s always worth it!

Just the other night the children sold me a handful of their green beans.  We haggled over the price.  I told them that the average market price was a $1.68 per pound.  They responded promptly by reminding me that their green beans were organic and likely worth triple that amount.  How outrageous!

Book Review

Gaudy Night: Book Review

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Now this was a delightful read.  In fact, I couldn’t put it down.  Dorothy Sayers just turned my whole literary world upside down.  I thought I hated detective fiction.  I thought it was a waste of time.  I thought the whole genre could be brushed right into the dust bin.

Oh, was I wrong.

Let me back up a minute and define what actually is a narrow field of fiction: the detective novel.  The detective novel is different from the broader field of mystery novels.  The detective novel has a few rules:

  1. There’s a detective.  (I know, this should be obvious, right?  But nothing is obvious to me in this mysterious new world of words.)
  2. The author must provide all the clues and evidence in the text, so that the reader can actually solve the crime, along with the detective.
  3. In other words, to restate #2, one cannot withhold information which is available to the detective, but not to the reader.

I’m told there are other differences too, but I’m a slow learner, and these are the ones that stood out.  If you’re interested in learning a bit about this, a dear friend of mine in North Dakota sent me a lively and informative podcast about this very thing.  Click HERE for it and scroll down to Episode 3. ( You won’t regret listening to Cindy Rollins and Angelina Stanford.  I love these ladies.)

Back to Sayers

Like most homeschool moms, I had read Sayers’s famous essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” and it had never occurred to me that she had written anything else.  Why should it?  At that time in my life, I was too busy in grad school reading all sorts of new and lovely books–Chesterton, Belloc, Waugh…  I wouldn’t have had room in my little brain for her anyway.

Plus, Sayers is really smart.  I mean, really, really intelligent.  She was one of the first women in history to be given a degree from Oxford.  Her knowledge of those things Medieval and Renaissance is impressive.  Gaudy Night is chock-full of references and quotations from that time period, which I struggle with.  Thankfully Cindy Rollins and Angelina Stanford put together a couple of podcasts specifically about Gaudy Night, which I found tremendously helpful.  You can find these episodes on their Literary Life Podcast.  I can’t recommend them enough, especially if you fell in love with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, like I did.

IMG_2813.jpg

Back to Gaudy Night

It was within the first few pages that I knew I’d like Sayers’s heroine, Harriet Vane.  Sayers writes:

But Harriet had broken all her old ties and half the commandments, dragged her reputation in the dust and made money, had the rich and amusing Lord Peter Wimsey at her feet, to marry him if she chose, and was full of energy and bitterness and the uncertain rewards of fame.

That pretty much sums Harriet Vane up, and the novel is so engaging because we get to see her finally take a good look at herself, and realize that she had it all wrong.  She didn’t really know herself–or Peter for that matter.

And then there’s Lord Peter Wimsey.  Angelina Sanford compares his personality to that of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.  I found this intriguing and so true, especially when it came to manners and wedding proposals.

I promise that this book isn’t just a love story, though.  There is a mystery to solve…  In fact, there’s a lot going on in this book.  Sayers has multiple themes running at once.  For you see, she was writing this book at a time when women in universities was a new thing, and so she explores all the complications of introducing another “sex” into the life of Oxford.  She ponders single life and married life and women in the workforce and women at home.  It’s all there, and it’s messy.

In the end, I can’t wait to reread this book.  But first I want to get ahold of her previous novel Strong Poison where we get the backstory of Harriet and Peter.  Then I want to read the book after Gaudy Night wherein Peter and Harriet are solving crime mysteries on their honeymoon–goodness!

 

Uncategorized

About Page Updated

If you’re interested, I’ve finally updated my About Page.  You can click on the tab above or HERE for it.

I welcome feedback.  If there’s a burning question that you feel I should address, drop me a line, and I’ll consider it.

I’ve learned over the years that the “About Page” is actually really important.  You wouldn’t believe the number of hits it gets.

Monthly Picks

June Picks: Late Edition

Yes, it is now July, and I’m very late in getting after this.  Somehow the summer days slip by, and I thought, ah well, better late than never.

My Favorite June Things

  1. Jumping off docks at 8:00 in the morning is always a great thing.
    IMG_2714.jpg
    Exhilarating!

    We spent a few peaceful days at my parents’ lake cabin.  Naturally the children wanted to swim all day.  My only requirement was that they first eat breakfast and then wait that full hour before taking the plunge…yeah right.  They shoveled in breakfast, scrambled into their suits, and literally ran off the end of the dock–end of story.

    And how about me?  Did I follow suit?  Not a chance.  I drank my coffee and read The Remnant on shore.

    2.  Catching Fish is a favorite for the boys.
    IMG_2721

The boys caught this thing off the end of the dock.  Don’t ask me what kind of fish it was.  I love to eat fish, but I hate to touch them.

3.  Drinking wine on the deck with my husband and eating olives is a lovely way to spend an evening.

IMG_2732.jpg
I buy these from Sam’s Club because they’re reasonably priced.

I think I could live off of wine, bread, cheese, and olives–in all their varieties of course.  I’m pretty sure that all the food groups are present in the above list: fruit, grain, milk, vegetables…  Well, what are olives anyway?  Vegetables?  Fruit?  Meat?  Somebody clue me in, for I’m too lazy to Google it.

4.  I love fresh wild flowers from the backyard for my table every day.

IMG_2733.jpg
This is the Little Girls’ job.

The Little Girls supply me with fresh flowers for both the dining room and the breakfast-nook table every day.  They just hike up our hill in the backyard and gather at will.

At our old place in North Dakota, the ditches were very obliging for these kinds of bouquets.  We always found such things as alfalfa, aster, sunflowers or goldenrod.

Here, on the very edge of eastern Minnesota?  I’m still figuring it out.  We’ve got butterfly-weed, clover, fleabane, and what looks like daisies.

5.  Corpus Christi Processions are definitely a June favorite.

image7.jpg
Here’s the start of ours, as they were processing out of the Church.
image5(3).jpeg
Father, Jesus, and 4 “Laymen of Distinction” holding the canopy.
IMG_2736.jpg
And heading around the block.

Our Corpus Christi procession featured six Torch Bearers, two Acolytes, two Thurifers, a Cross-Bearer, an MC, four Laymen of Distinction carrying the canopy, our priest, and Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  The rest of us trailed behind in gratitude and thanksgiving.

6.  Another favorite?  Campfires in the backyard with s’mores.

IMG_2755.jpg
Sure bliss.

The boys built a fire pit in our backyard up on the hill.  After dousing and sanctifying it and the surrounding area with Holy Water, we proceeded to enjoy a small blaze.  Everyone had to have a bath afterwards.

7.  Lastly, a DIY project.  Who doesn’t need a white cross in their backyard?

IMG_2759.jpg

In our neighborhood a couple of houses have erected large white crosses, which they lit up brilliantly during Lent and the Easter octave.  (Given these dark times, perhaps we ought to keep them perpetually lit?)

Anyway, as we had some extra wood lying around, my husband put one together.  And if you look closely at the photo, you’ll also see a small statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus off to the right.  This is our children’s mini shrine.

IMG_2760
Here’s Jesus.  We didn’t want Him to tip over, so we had to “ground” him in a flower pot.  The Little Girls are growing marigolds for Him.
IMG_2762.jpg
This is a view of the valley which our Cross overlooks.

DIY: Instructions on how to build your own Cross:

  1. Rummage around the garage for some spare wood.
  2. Get one of your sons to saw two pieces of wood to whatever lengths you desire, allowing extra length for the vertical beam to be buried.
  3. Grab the spare can of white paint from the basement.  If it’s not crusted and rusted over, and if it happens to be an exterior paint as well, paint your wood.
  4. Use one stake and a couple of screws to affix the crossbeam to the vertical beam.
  5. Get your husband to dig a deep hole.  (Who are we kidding?  In this household, my husband’s been doing all the work on this project already.)
  6. Keep digging.  You’ll need the hole to be deeper than you think.  (Apparently 10% of the length of a transmission pole, plus an addition foot, is buried beneath the ground for stability, etc.)
  7. Stand off from afar, as your husband holds the heavy cross, and say such things as, “A little to the left now.  Oh, well, a little to the right.  That’s it.  No, now it’s crooked!”
  8. Send a kid to the garage for the level to place on the crossbeam.
  9. Fill in the hole, crack a bottle of wine, and enjoy it from a distance.
IMG_2761.jpg
It’s nothing fancy, but because it’s white, you can see it when you enter the valley about a 1/2 mile away.  I can’t wait to wrap bright, white lights on it for Lent.
Book Review

Read a Print Book!

The other day I attended a talk given by the founder of the Well-Read Mom Book Club, Marcie Stokman.  The most inspiring point I took away was simple and went something like this:

You really do have time to read!

Now, she’s right.  There are many moments throughout the day that I waste.  For example, what did I choose to do during those fifteen minutes of free time after the boys’ Morning School, but before I had to get lunch ready?  Nothing.  I really can’t account for them.  Then, what about that half hour in the afternoon when nobody was hanging on me?  I checked my email and scrolled through a favorite blog.  Or, how about last night when everyone was in bed?  Hmmm….

Usually I’m pretty good about not wasting time, but I know I do it.  Yesterday, however, I was inspired to sneak in a few extra minutes of reading, and it was worth it.  I actually read about 75 pages.  Got that?  75 pages that I normally wouldn’t read.

Today, I just want to challenge you to pick up a print book and read it, if only for ten minutes.  Just do it.

IMG_0004.jpg
Enter a caption

P.S.  Need a book recommendation?  I would suggest anything by Michael O’Brien or Jane Austen.

P.P.S.  Already read all of O’Brien and Austen?  Read Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Book Review

Books in Brief: Willa Cather, Miguel Pro, & Agatha Christie

I’ve read a few books recently.  If you’re interested, my thoughts are below.

IMG_2746

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Willa Cather is one of my favorite authors.  The way she writes about the land–the prairie in particular–is deeply moving.  I suppose it’s because I grew up on a farm, and I have vivid memories of climbing grain bins only to watch the sun set on acres and acres of corn.

But it’s not just the way in which Cather writes about land, though, that is admirable.  No, it’s the way in which she writes about people, especially those early settlers.  Her stories remind me of my ancestors and their stories.

Cather knew these farmers and immigrants–for she was one of them–and she was able to give them an unforgettable voice–a dolorous voice, for their lives were full of suffering, which brings me around to Song of the Lark.  In this novel, my favorite characters were just those who couldn’t seem to pull it together–Professor Wunsch especially, but also Fritz Kohler and perhaps Mrs. Tellamantez.

This novel, though, was my least favorite Willa Cather novel.  I didn’t like Thea Kronborg, and I didn’t like Fred Ottenburg.  In the end, Thea puts her career, wealth, and fame over her mother’s dying wish to see her one last time, and Fred wants to justify lying to Thea in order to further Thea’s career.  (Do you know, Fred reminded me of Mr. Rochester from that excellent novel Jane Eyre?  You’ll recall both men had secret wives and both thought that the means could justify the end, which is stupid and wrong.)

In short, however, I was disappointed in Song of the Lark.  While I enjoyed her descriptions of Moonstone and the surrounding Colorado territory, I just couldn’t muster up enough sympathy or compassion for Thea.

But for those of you unfamiliar with Cather, take heart!  Read her other works, especially Death Comes For the Archbishop.  Now that’s an exceptional book.

Father Miguel Pro by Gerald Muller

IMG_2748

Our family’s Saint of the Year is Miguel Pro.  Naturally I thought it a good idea to read up on him, and so I bought this Ignatius Press book at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has a side altar dedicated to him.

I really enjoyed reading this book and so did the rest of my family.  In fact, we had to make a rule: No One Takes That Book Out of the Living Room Until Mom is Done Reading It!

Well, I finished it, and I have a much deeper appreciation for this priest who survived a few years of the terrible Mexican Revolution in the 1920s wherein churches were desecrated, nuns were raped, and priests were murdered.  Fr. Miguel Pro was eventually hunted down too and shot.

I highly recommend this short book for your whole family.

IMG_2749
It has great pictures too.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

IMG_2747

My daughter is taking a British Literature class this summer wherein all the novels are murder mysteries.  Yikes.  She’ll be reading the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton.

Now I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel.  Up until this week, the only thing I knew about Christie was the fact that she signed the infamous 1971 “Agatha Christie Indult,” wherein Pope Paul VI granted England and Wales permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

Apparently Christie, who was not even a Catholic, objected to the promulgation of the Novus Ordo due to cultural and aesthetic reasons.  She signed with the likes of Graham Greene.  Supposedly Paul VI saw her name and exclaimed, “Ah, Agatha Christie!”

So as I was saying, I was motivated to snatch up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd before The Eldest got to it.  Just what is all this fuss about Agatha Christie in the twentieth-century anyway? Apparently she’s the most widely published author of all time, excluding the Bible and Shakespeare.

And how was it?  Reading a murder-mystery novel?

I can’t say it’s my cup of tea, as the British saying goes.  Even though The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was entertaining, I felt like I was supposed to use my brain and try to solve the thing while reading it.  Now I’m feeling old, and there were just too many parlourmaids and butlers to keep track of and too many open windows and missing objects and murder motives and such too.  Goodness.

I can handle playing the board-game Clue, but that’s the extent of my ability to solve a murder.  So, I’ll have to leave it to sharper blades in the drawer to tackle these books.