Reading, Eating, Etc.

Processed with VSCOProcessed with VSCOProcessed with VSCO

Good reads, eats, and lots and lots of rambling:

Reading

One of my Lenten resolutions, the only one I’ve been keeping faithfully, has been to read only spiritual reading. I drag my feet to do it because fiction is so much easier to sink your teeth into, but it actually has been a beneficial exercise. So, I read The Screwtape Letters (for my bookclub) and it was an excellent examination of conscience and I’m still working my way through I Believe in Love (also a bookclub pick from way back in December). It’s slow going but I may actually end up adding it to my life-changers list because it really does come back to me on a daily basis and affects the way I think and act. I can’t wait for Easter though, because I have Middlemarch on the dock.

Articles

-I loved this post on Dominicana Journal about being Homesick for Heaven. It’s good to remember, when all the blogs and ig feeds you follow try to convince you otherwise, that no place, not the English countryside nor the streets of Paris, and no home, not a charming brownstone in a bustling city or a bright and airy one hundred year old farmhouse can cure us of the homesickness of heaven: “We shall be haunted by a nostalgia for divine things, by a homesickness for God which is not eased in this world even by the presence of God.” (And also, good to remember when you’re tired of the flat, hot, noisy city you live in or of shuffling from apartment to apartment that as St. Samthann says, “Heaven can be reached from any place on Earth.”)

-I don’t know what our children’s education is going to look like. I often think of how much richer my education would have been if I had gotten to follow a classical curriculum. But you know, private school=tuition, homeschooling=being solely responsible for your children’s education=ahhhh. Anyway, I know we will at least be having culture hour once a week.

A lovely article my sister sent me and also full of good reminders about raising and educating children.

“The pressure to achieve can corrupt the activity itself…not just playing the piano. If we fail to recognize the dangers, we can become enslaved to the world’s standards of value. What matters is not the richness of an individual’s experience, but the degrees earned, prizes won, schools attended, articles published, patents filed, movies made, books written. And this is true for religious people as well as secularists. We tend to become part of this culture of achievement even if we don’t mean to. And it’s increasingly true for children, who sense early on that they must make something of themselves and find an identity in some sort of accomplishment.”

-Are you an HSP? I’d heard the term floating around and thought, “Oh yes, I’m probably that.” But then I actually started reading more about it and dude….it explains so much about my whole life. The fact that I couldn’t deal with the seams on my socks when I was in Kindergarten, that anytime I’m in a tense situation, whether it’s just being in the presence of arguing people or sensing any sort of danger, I feel like I’m going to completely shut down or lose it, that my one customer service gig with a stressful boss and rude customers gave me so much freaking anxiety, that bad memories stay with me foreeeever, that I absolutely cannot handle any remotely scary movies or shows because those images stick in my mind, that I felt like I was having a mental breakdown every day when I was regularly watching my five month old nephew and my two month old son at the same time, that when Leo won’t stop whining, I have to shut myself in a room for a minute and scream into my hands. So I guess I have to figure out how to deal with it now…

-Joe and I are on a marriage panel tonight for our alma mater’s Theology of the Body club. I feel like we are so not qualified to talk about marriage because we’ve only been at it for three-ish years now, and frankly, I suck at the whole putting other people before myself part of marriage…which is like the main part of marriage. But I suppose that’s the point of an event like this. Not to show how easy and marvelous marriage is, but to admit how hard but good (and even still marvelous) it is. But anyway some other people talking about marriage who have better things to say:

The Benedictine Confessional

“Christian marriage—like any marriage—is hard work. It’s ascetical. It’s about the halting, faltering effort to unlearn selfishness and gradually grow in love—not just love for another human being but love for another sinning human being…’Your marriage is a covenant that must stand firm even if your spouse becomes a threat to your tranquility and personal fulfillment, even if the time should come when you feel that the other who shares your bed has become—for the moment, at least—your enemy. Jesus has taught us to love our enemies.'”

You’re still a bride after your wedding day, even when you don’t feel like one.

Know this: married dreams brought down to earth are good; your calling specifically heralded at this moment in time. It’s okay to feel like your wedding is a lot to come down from, and that you walked into a new, unfamiliar version of yourself as you walked out the church doors. Imagining married life in broad strokes is easy and it’s dreamy, but it’s the subtleties life layers on that pave most of our road to holiness.”

Can marriage work with all those kids?!?!

“Yes, kids are hard,  Yes, we work harder at our marriages with little people around, but don’t lose sight of the all important fact:  Love propels us into this crazy thing of marriage and family life, and Love will see us through all the many challenges because as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians: Love never fails.  Or at least, if we don’t let it!  If we don’t resist or reject Love, it never fails us.  This is the hope we carry with us as we make our vows to each other.”

-Last one, I promise! This article from Eve Tushnet reflecting about a Catholic understanding of the body seems particularly appropriate for Holy Week.

Eating

Celebrations

-My roommate and her husband were in town for a couple hours on St. Patrick’s Day so I made this beer cheese soup (not a very Irish recipe but I used Kerrygold cheddar and nixed all the peppers). We enjoyed it with Irish brown bread and together they were crazy good.

-Another one of my dear friends had a birthday last week and I got to make the cake. Her only request was that it be chocolate so I went with another “best ever” recipe. It got rave reviews even though I forgot to frost the middle.

Comfort food

-Sometimes you just need a giant pile of noodles. One of my best friends/Leo’s godmama came over for dinner one night and we made shrimp lo mein and scallion pancakes (inspired by Katherine’s post.) Everything was gloriously comforting and oily.

Turkey bolognese and spaghetti squash with toasted panko and pine nut topping. (loosely based on this recipe.) Joe got home late that night so I ate beforehand and had a really hard time not eating all the bolognese out the pot before he got a chance to have dinner.

Brunches

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have a thing for brunching fancy at home. It started when Leo switched to one nap a day and I didn’t get to sit down to eat until 11. I munch on dry cereal first thing in the morning but if I try to sit down and eat breakfast, Leo (who’s already eaten his fill of scrambled eggs and oatmeal) finds it unacceptable and cries and claws at my legs. Sweet child.

Anyway, I celebrate my daily two hours of silence by trying to make fancy things out of fridge leftovers. And when I can turn out something worthy of going on a bistro brunch menu, I give myself a little pat on the back, snap a picture, and upload it on the gram. Morning rituals and all that. Favorites have been:

whole wheat couscous, basil, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, a soft-boiled egg, balsamic vinegar, and tuna (the good kind packed in a jar with capers and olive oil–makes all the difference.)

Roasted artichoke, shallot-mustard compound butter, and poached eggs on top of sourdough toast.

Biscuits and gravy. My mom gave me Red Lobster biscuit mix when I went over to her house and I’m never one to turn away free food. Oh man, this combo was good. For the sausage I just fried up ground beef and added maple syrup, brown sugar, and some spices. For the gravy I threw butter, flour, and water into the ground beef mixture and let it all come together.

Leftover Korean beef and rice with a fried egg on top. I would actually cut the sugar down in the beef recipe if I made it again. It was too sweet for me, but with the egg it did taste like asian takeout, so that’s always a win.

Breakfast tacos. Always, always. So easy to throw together and so satisfying.

I don’t eat like this every day. Some days it’s cold pizza or cereal. Today it was just a piece of toast. And really, this is a celebration of nap time, so whatever the meal, it’s still every bit as luxurious.

Etc.

Wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week, Passiontide, and Easter Sunday/Season!

Reading, Eating, Etc.

Reading, eating, etc.

Processed with VSCO

Reading

I’m fitting in a lot more reading so far this year which means I’m fitting in a lot less blogging and writing and small-businessing (and working out and keeping house and and and…) I don’t know whether I feel all that bad about these lopsided priorities, though. The major hits so far have been:

An Everlasting Meal: this was my secret santa’s gift to me and I’m overall completely with Tamar Adler’s food philosophy: don’t waste a thing, anything can be a meal, etc. As a result of reading it, I usually now roast and boil a load of vegetables at the beginning of the week to use in various dishes. And Adler’s ode to pickly things made me hop up mid-chapter, slather some ricotta on toast, and top it with chopped cornichons, capers, and olives. Delish! But as one Goodreads reviewer said: she writes like every sentence is competing to win a poetry contest. For Adler, it seems ingredient ought to be personified. Every act of chopping or boiling or sauteing should be the most poetic act of all time. So that’s my gripe. Otherwise, it’s a food book worth reading.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: I’d heard this title floating around for forever but always associated it with assigned school reading, and therefore meh. But oh gosh I was wrong. It’s full of both beauty and simplicity and I found it particularly poignant as a mother. It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time.

In this House of Brede: Another truly excellent read. I wish I had read it in high school since I was romantically enamored with religious life. It gives a very honest picture of life in a Benedictine monastery–the hardships and the glories. Not that I would have chosen a different life. Just that at the time I probably wouldn’t have run away with my fancies of old stone cloisters and contemplative raptures. Though I don’t know. Sixteen-year-old Dominika was stubbornly romantic.

Last Testament: In His Own Words: I just want to adopt Pope Benedict as my grandfather. He’s so full of tenderness and wisdom. I especially loved his descriptions of eternity:

“St. Augustine says something which is a great thought and a great comfort here. He interprets the passage from the Psalms ‘seek his face always’ as saying: this applies ‘for ever’; to all eternity. God is so great that we never finish our searching. He is always new. With God there is perpetual, unending encounter, with new discoveries and new joy. Such things are theological matters. At the same time, in an entirely human perspective, I look forward to being reunited with my parents, my siblings, my friends, and I imagine it will be as lovely as it was at our family home.”

I’m currently on Wuthering Heights and Howard’s End.

Links:

The myth of balance: a reminder I needed.

How the internet became a tool for judgment and not dialogue: a really good reflection about how social media platforms are not just neutral modes of communication but are set up to consciously conduct the way we interact with one another.

-Sometimes I get stuck on struggles particular to my own vocation and feel like myyyy life is the hardest. But it’s good to remember that each vocation has its own particular struggles and that we need to find ways to support one another in these.

Eating

-Lots of lazy stuff because Trader Joe’s is in walking distance and I can’t always be Tamar Adler and throw together three olives, a handful of rice, some wilting lettuce, a squeeze of lemon, and call it a meal. So we had this on V-day and then we had a belated sushi date this weekend.

-Another day we had the pulled pork tacos that I discovered here. Someday I’ll make homemade pulled pork tacos because the concept is a good one and the prepackaged stuff is only so satisfying.

Etc.

-Road trip! My brother-in-law turned 30 and my sister planned a Grand Canyon hike for the two of them. Somehow that turned into a good deal of my family tagging along and making a week and half trip of it. We have a lot of family in Arizona so it wonderful for all of our babies to meet everyone. And it reminded me how I have a deep need to be in nature every now and then (or preferably all the time) to feel human.

And now photo spammy:

Processed with VSCO

Processed with VSCO

Processed with VSCO

Processed with VSCO

Reading, eating, etc.

Small circle, clear vision

small-circle-clear-vision

I saw this image on Pinterest a while ago and thought “that’s sounds about right”, pinned it, and forgot about it until recently.

When I was a teenager, before I had a laptop or a smart phone, before I had Facebook or Instagram, and before I knew what blogs even were, I would get on our family’s desktop computer (which was out in the open where everyone could see what you were up to) and I would get lost down Wikipedia rabbit holes sometimes for hours at a time. Now I have a small portable device always at the ready to tempt me down the far more appealing rabbit holes of social media. Not for two or three hour long blocks (although sometimes after Leo’s in bed…) but as a default for the frequent small pockets of empty time in my day.

A couple things happened that made that Pinterest quote pop back into my head. I couldn’t manage to text people in my life back but I could manage to fill lots of time with glimpses of other people’s lives on their blogs or Instagram accounts. I kept getting ideas for making this blog better or pursuing other projects bound up in the internet, but the idea of any more obligations to social media in my life made me feel sick and stretched thin (and I realize I’m way behind and do far, far less on social media than professional bloggers or Instagram “influencers”).

Instagram can be a really wonderful place. I’ve found so many artists whose work stuns and truly inspires me. I’ve found so many people there that I’m sure I would be great friends with if we met in real life. I’ve followed so many people whose rosy-cheeked, vintage-dressed flock of children make me think #familygoals. And I’ve made connections with kindred spirits who actually have reciprocated warmly. But it’s also a weird place when it starts making you wish you could unrealistically be bosom friends with one hundred other people. And it’s weird when you start desiring to be more like someone based on the fact that their children only have wooden toys rather than for some real virtue they possess.

And blogs are really wonderful and weird as well. They’ve been useful to me–before I had a baby, mom blogs made me less scared of motherhood. And when I first started reading blogs in college, I became engrossed with them. I adored these hilarious, warm, and wonderful bloggers and their families. I wanted to be friends with them. But I have never been able shake a weirdness about blogging: we create spaces on the internet revolving around our lives for strangers to read and look at. It’s always been strange to me how much I know about these people’s lives who know nothing about me.

I know the defense of these things usually has to do with finding or building community and I get that and I think it can be true. But the more I’ve followed and read and liked and commented on Instagram accounts and blogs, the less I’ve actually felt a part of a real community. Because at the end of the day, is simply being one among a sea of thousands of followers of a single person who will never invest the same amount of interest in your life, really being a part of a true community?

I do like the escape to beautiful images that Instagram affords me. But I’ve been realizing more and more how such a seemingly harmless thing as infinitely scrolling through lovely images can fill up your mind leaving little room for more important things. How beautifully styled pictures of bloggers homes and children, these little pieces of beauty from everday life, can in fact create an aesthetic glut. Along these lines, I recently read and was gripped by Maria Popova’s commentary on Susan Sontag’s collection of essays, “On Photography”:

“the social media photostream — the ultimate attempt to control, frame, and package our lives — our idealized lives — for presentation to others, and even to ourselves. The aggression Sontag sees in this purposeful manipulation of reality through the idealized photographic image applies even more poignantly to the aggressive self-framing we practice as we portray ourselves pictorially on Facebook, Instagram, and the like:

Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera.

Online, thirty-some years after Sontag’s observation, this aggression precipitates a kind of social media violence of self-assertion — a forcible framing of our identity for presentation, for idealization, for currency in an economy of envy.”

There’s nothing wrong with reading a blogger’s tips for surviving the newborn phase or seeing a beautiful image of architecture with some poetic caption or reading a meme that makes you laugh. But dozens and dozens of mildly useful blogposts and hundreds and hundreds of decreasingly inspiring Instagram squares and thousands and thousands of sort of entertaining Facebook statuses and memes can make for a fractured, poisoned attention and soul.

I’m not writing this as an admonition for using Instagram at all or for following someone who has a large following. I don’t think every Instagram account I follow needs to involve a tangible friendship between me and the person. And this isn’t a completely cyncial diatribe about the impersonality of the Internet. I absolutely believe true friendships can arise out of the Internet. And I think those friendships can form without you having to hand over your entire attention to the mercy of social media.

But because it feels like I have been handing my entire attention over to social media and have come out exhausted by the aesthetic aggression of it all, I’ve been making a few resolutions for a smaller circle and a clearer vision:

-Cutting back on the sheer amount of instagrammers I follow and the amount of blogs I read no matter how harmless or even helpful they are. If I’m not really compelled to what the person is saying, I need to silence that source of noise in my life.

-Delete Facebook. I’ve deactivated it for now but I think I really need it dunzo. I know people who have either completely deleted their Facebook accounts or have never had one and their lives don’t seem lacking in any way.

-Carve out a specific block of time each week for writing letters and thank you notes.

-Actually work on some sort of prayer life.

-Read or clean or memorize poetry or do Slovak language flashcards while Leo’s playing independently instead of being on my phone.

-Write, paint, or practice self-care during Leo’s naptime or after bedtime rather than just vegging on social media or watching Netflix.

-Become more involved at my parish.

I’ve been listening to Emma on audiobook these days and I’m so struck by smallness and the intimacy of the communities Jane Austen creates. There’s certainly more occasions for annoyance or frustration with a small community of flesh and blood people than a wide community spread thousands of miles apart hidden behind or filtered through smartphones. But there’s also so many more occasions for growth and real affection for one’s neighbors. And that’s the sort of community I want to be more a part of.

So since I like to pick other peoples brains: has social media improved your life or has it been more problematic? Have you developed worthwhile friendships through it? How do you keep it from being an energy-sucker? And do you think there’s something necessarily artificial or aggressive about it?

Small circle, clear vision

2016 in Books

Processed with VSCO

I love seeing people’s yearly reading lists. And, as a co-worker and I agreed on, time is really best measured by the books you’ve read. There are not nearly as many as I would have like to have read. However, at the beginning of the year, I felt like I’d never have me-time again, so the fact that I read recreationally at all makes me okay with this amount. And then there’s the fact that I started this blog and a small business and have yet to really figure out how to divvy up my time between all these things.

This list doesn’t count roadtrip audiobooks since I half-listened, half-attempted to appease a crying baby during those. It doesn’t count short stories or poetry or the ten books I started and never finished. (For some reason I feel like I’m trapped in a never-ending cycle of starting The Little Oratory, reading twenty pages, putting it down in favor of something else, and starting the process over again a month or two later. Haalp!)

Anyway, here we go. 2016 in books:

Fiction:

Kristin Lavransdatter: a friend put out a facebook status asking if anyone wanted to form a bookclub to read this with some class notes on the book from one of our college professors. Naturally, lots of us jumped on board. It was such a good read during the winter. Such a good read for having a newborn and having just become a mother for first time and thinking about changing roles and vocations and whatnot.

Till We Have Faces: I can’t believe this was the first time I’d read this, but I really loved it. I loved how Lewis married the archetypal style of a myth with the very personal nature of a novel. It was so rich symbolically, psychologically, spiritually–I’ve already marked it down to reread in the future.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: technically a novella but damn it, if a read a Tolstoy cover to cover, it’s going on the list. And it really is worth it to give your time over to these sixty pages. I’m always in favor of writing that makes me contemplate my own mortality.

All the Light We Cannot See: for the most unpopular vote in the room…I was pretty meh about this one. It was just a stylistic thing, not a plot thing. I kind of felt like I was reading a film script instead of great prose.

The Remains of the Day: Ishiguro writes so finely, so subtly, and reveals so much more than he outright says.

Village Diary: sweet and sassy and British to the bone. You can never go wrong with Miss Read.

The Thin Man: a fun, quick romp with these baes.

Trains and Lovers: I really liked this one or at least the parts that I did like, I really liked. It was thoughtful and understated and kept me interested from start to finish.

Non-fiction:

Simple Matters: I wrote a review here but basically I went in thinking it was going to promote unaffordable and unrealistic minimalism but it actually gave me a whole lot to think about.

The Temperament God Gave You: ugh yes. I needed to read this. Lots of slapping-hand-to-head moments where I realized this is why I react certain ways to things (for good or for worse) and how best to motivate myself to do things. This should be required reading for marriage prep.

What Mothers Do Especially When it Looks Like Nothing: Katherine, who is a book fairy godmother and whose blog is my best internet find of 2016, sent me this after I expressed interest in it, and now I want to send it to all my friends who are new mothers. At our last bookclub meeting, a friend mentioned a quote (I don’t remember who from) that most of salvation history was brought about by ordinary people living their ordinary lives. And that immediately brought me back to this book all about the ordinary but complex, intimate but exhausting, repetitive but ever-new and important work of raising babies.

The Catholic Catalogue: my review here. I’ve read most of this but not cover-to-cover. It’s not that kind of book though, but it is the kind of book that will make your home happier and your faith richer.

A happy New Year’s Eve to you all! May 2017 be filled with good cheer and good books!

2016 in Books

Reading, Eating, Et Cetera


Linking up with Kelly for the first time in forever!

Reading

1. A lot of Britishy things. First, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro which I basically read because I’ve been wanting to watch the Merchant Ivory dramatization with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, but felt like I should read it first. The prose is really lovely and it’s slow moving in the absolute best way.

On our roadtrip to and from Colorado for Thanksgiving, we audiobooked Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, and a dramatized (unfortunately abridged) version of The Lord of the Rings. I really loved that while I was singing to Leo during one of his trapped-in-carseat-induced meltdowns, Joe kept shushing me and rewinding P&P so that he could hear the final proposal. He was bewitched. #bodyandsoul.

And I just finished the Village Diary, the second book in the Fairacre series by Miss Read, which is always the lovely rural village life escape I’m looking for.

2. All the Light We Cannot See for my Well Read Mom book club. I didn’t absolutely love this one. I think I liked the synopsis more than the actual book. I listened to a lot of it on audiobook and it made me highly aware of how much I skim when I read and miss good chunks of detail. But Doerr writes with a stuccato like details one after another and I wasn’t keen on feeling trapped into listening to every one. And also, I haaaated that it was written in present tense. I have a weakness of defaulting to cynicism with a lot of contemporary fiction. However, I’m trying to be better about it, so I picked up Trains and Lovers today in hopes of being pleasantly surprised.

3. How the Urgency of Motherhood Made me a Writer

“Writing isn’t: where I pour most of my time and energy; the first or only way I define myself; an escape plan in case my marriage fails; or the life I would rather be living. Writing is: a means of strengthening my critical thinking while also demanding my emotional authenticity and presence; a practice that can bend and flex around the needs of the care-work I do for my family; an outlet in which to pursue excellence; and a means of connecting with others in conversations that are meaningful to me.”

Eating

4. Leo’s iron test came back and he’s slightly anemic, so I’ve been trying to incorporate more iron into his diet which mainly means I’ve gone crazy town on spinach. We’ve done green smoothies, spinach quiche, falafel (delicious with these marakesh carrots), spinach-feta yogurt dip, and spinach-walnut pesto.

7. A lot of non-penitential things after I announced my intention to eat semi-penitentially during Advent. Specifically, chicken gratin which was one of those meals that’s on a higher plane than most meals and orange French yogurt cake. I just know it would have been grand with cointreau-spiked coffee and whipped cream but I fought that non-penitential craving nobly.

Et cetera

6. I watched all of Gilmore Girls and overall, I was fan! But here are some specific things I loved and hated:

Loved:

  • That Stars Hollow charm: the old things and the new. The picnic basket auction, Petal the pig, the secret bar!
  • Emily Gilmore–utterly magnificent.
  • Lane and Zach and their kids and their band. Still going strong and I loved it.

Hated:

  • Rory. The worst as usual. Bad at relationships. Bad at journalism and professionalism. Bad at humility. I think, as Headmaster Charleston suggested, she should teach at Chilton. She’s the girl who made the Yale prospective student smell books in the library. Clearly, she just wants to share her love for learning with young minds.
  • Logan and his insufferable Life and Death Brigade friends.
  • That weird thirty-somethings gang they kept dragging out as a “funny” bit.
  • Rachael Ray. I have nothing against her. She just can’t act.
  • The Stars Hollow musical. It could have been funny-bad, but it was just bad-bad.

7. I have a date with A Cup of Jo’s beauty uniform series to research new hair products after getting told at my hair appointment yesterday, “You have beautiful hair but you don’t take care of it. Do you buy your products at the grocery store? There’s a lot of build up.” Mmm. Thanks. But yes to all of the above.

….

Happy Feast of St. Francis Xavier!

Reading, Eating, Et Cetera

Hopes for Liturgical Living: Advent

I started this little series of how I would like liturgical living in our home to look like because two years into marriage and the rich, unfailing rhythms and traditions that I always imagined would be an effortless part of our lives are haphazard at best but mostly non-existent.

It’s the first week of Advent and this season has proved to be no different so far. Last week I bought an Advent calendar from Trader’s Joe and…that’s all I’ve got. And even though it was cute and cheap, I really think we can do better than just a piece of chocolate per day till Christmas. Here we go:

Food

I’m all about doing simple, sort of penitential meals during this season. Avoiding eating out as much as possible. Toast without toppings for breakfast. Soups for dinner that can be batch cooked and eaten all week. Less meat and dairy and more legumes and vegetables. I don’t want to be feasted out by the time the actual feast begins.

Wear

In my previous liturgical living posts, I’ve written about how I like the idea of wearing darker, more subdued colors during penitential seasons and brighter, cheerier colors during festive seasons. I think this idea can work here without having to create two winter wardrobes. Just having neutral basics and then darker scarves and accessories during Advent and brighter ones during Christmas. This probably sounds ridiculously trivial, but these are just my imaginings for a life integrated with faith in every possible way.

Another thought is donating warm clothes to those in need. St. Martin of Tours’ feast day is in November, but the tale of him sharing his cloak with the freezing beggar is a fitting Advent story to tell children. (Fun fact though: in the early centuries of the Church, a period of forty days of fasting before Christmas was celebrated starting on November 12th, the day after St. Martin’s feast. It was called Quadrasegimi Sancti Martini–St. Martin’s Advent.)

Work

I want to spend the first two weeks deep cleaning, decluttering, making our home generally more peaceful and ready for Christmas. And then I really like the idea of spending Gaudete Sunday onward making salt dough and cinnamon ornaments, popcorn garlands, paper snowflakes, and so on and then putting them aside until Christmas eve. As Auntie Leila says, Advent is for making.

I also want to give extra encouragement of a spirit of charity within the family during this season. I’m still not sure about how to tread the line of gift giving between materialism and giving and receiving out of love, but I think a good place to start is emphasizing that doing good works in secret for family members (like making a sibling’s bed for them or helping out without being asked) is just as much if not more a gift as buying them a present.

Leisure

This one is huge for me since I have a terrible addiction to distractions that eat up my scant leisure time but I am trying to cut them out this Advent and for all Advents in the future to make more time for resting and for prayer.

For children, I really like the idea of a wrapping books and letting them open one a day as a countdown each day till Christmas. Elizabeth over at In the Heart of My Home has a master list of books to read with your children during this season.

It is also my one true wish (and has been for the last five years) that Joe and I will learn a Christmas carol duet on the piano. And it is another ardent wish of mine that all our family members will put on a Christmas talent revue for the entire family one day. So I really like the idea of preparing for the Twelve Days by learning Christmas carols to sing or play on an instrument; memorizing a Christmas poem; putting together a Christmas skit; so that we might share those gifts with one another and with the newborn King rather than putting all the focus on material gifts.

And as far as keeping Christmas carols at bay until the Christmas season goes, I’ve found it’s not much of an issue once you realize just how many good Advent carols there are.

Prayer

All the usual: as much of the divine office as will fit in our daily lives, daily rosary etc. but extra things for this season:

Obviously the Advent wreath with prayers and Scripture reading. I also like the idea of adding evening prayer in here, singing an Advent carol, doing this Advent litany, and for the Octave before Christmas, “The Golden Nights”, adding in the O Antiphons–but you know I’m always unrealistically ambitious.

Then there’s the thirty day St. Andrew novena. (Starts tomorrow! Alarm is set and ready on my phone because I’m the wooorst at keeping up novenas.)

And of course there are all the other feast days that break up the quiet of this season and stir up excitement for the coming Nativity. We have St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6th with treats in shoes and baking cookies over at the grandparents’ house. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. Every year on this day, I want to make ultimate Mexican comfort food: albondigas and Mexican wedding cookies which look like delicious little snowballs–both perfect for winter.  And then St. Lucy’s Day on December 13th with cinnamon buns in bed, cuccia for dinner, and hymns by candlelight.

Most of all, I want to make time for myself to spend in prayer and reflection. I just ordered the Blessed is She Advent journal and there are a host of good books to read during this season. This year at the very least I’m going to try to revisit St. Athanasius’ beautiful work, On the Incarnation.

….

Other things around the Internet that have been inspiring my Advent brainstorming:

A Simple Advent Plan from Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee
Catholic New Year Resolutions from Kaitlyn at Lily and Mama
All the advent links from Like Mother Like Daughter
December Liturgical Living from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas

Happy Advent! Come, Lord Jesus!

Hopes for Liturgical Living: Advent

The Crown, the election, and the Solemnity of Christ the King

the-crown-review1

The release of the Netflix series, The Crown, coming soon and possibly purposefully after the election was welcomed by those of us all too happy to dip into another country’s removed and far more decorous politics.

I binged through the show at an embarrassing pace. In my defense, my computer, on which I blog and work, died an unceremonious death one day and left my evenings free to read and watch Netflix. But I’m not complaining. It’s sumptuous and beautifully acted and had me reading an unhealthy amount on my phone about the ins and outs of the British royal family.

However much it may stray into fiction, the show gives us an intimate view of the personal lives of the royals. That human and flawed internal life in relation to the external life of the Crown—holy, dignified, and immutable—was incredibly fascinating to me.

Philip kneels before his wife and queen at her coronation and, on camera, looks to the world unremarkably dutiful when it was actually a tense and difficult moment for him.

Elizabeth and Philip seem to ennoble all they touch at home and abroad and yet the peace within their marriage is subject to strains of exhaustion, over-scheduling, and family drama that any married couple might feel.

Elizabeth is expected to and appears to keep calm and carry on through scandals and drama within the government and within her own family, but she relies enormously on moral support from her husband and sister and mother to carry out her duties for the good of her country.

It’s made me reflect on marriage and monarchy as very general concepts but also in the very specificity of my own life. I’m of course the queen of nowhere and no one but my tiny home and family. And yet, the amount that my husband and I are willing to humble ourselves to one another and bear one another’s burdens also has long lasting, though far subtler, reverberations for the whole world. After all, our children carry whatever environment we raise them in, be it imbued with love or fraught with fear, out into the world.

Yesterday was the Feast of Christ the King. The election and all the ugliness it’s brought out has made me feel this urgency in my heart to actually live out in concrete ways the truth that our allegiance lies first with Christ the King rather than any earthly power. So, painful as it is for Philip to kneel before his wife and painful as it might be to sometimes metaphorically kneel to my husband, i.e. bite back my urge to snap at him when I’m upset or tired, it’s actually to the Crown, the heavenly Crown, to the truly holy, dignified, and immutable kingship of Christ, that I kneel.

So if this election’s got you down (and frankly, if you’re like me, would have got you down no matter the outcome), exercise your civic duty by volunteering, donating, and speaking out in constructive ways in the name of the oppressed and vulnerable, rather than just reposting and complaining in your echo chamber. But also worship your true King by loving the people in your own small kingdom well.

The Crown, the election, and the Solemnity of Christ the King