Birth plan

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I am officially in the third trimester so naturally I’ve got birth on the brain (and in the womb–braxton hicks all day, every day). This is my second go around with it so I sort of know what to expect. Which is to say I don’t know what to expect.

Last time, I was completely open to either going med-free or having an epidural. On one hand, I had (and still have) this idealistic tendency to romanticize suffering and think of how powerful a force and how uniquely feminine a sacrifice offering up the pain of a med-free birth is for the good of a broken world. On the other hand, I was well aware of how badly I suffer in my daily life–gimme an epidural when I stub my toe, thank you v. much.

But my labor started out with intense, close contractions rather than manageable, gradual ones. I couldn’t even talk through my very first contraction. When we reached the hospital at 2am, I felt like I was at the threshold of the amount of pain I could withstand. Then they told me I had 6cm to go and the thought of all the pain just getting worse and worse made me so, so done with it. So I ended up with the epidural and a nice long nap before the stress of a yo-yo-ing baby heart-rate, a near-c-section, ten minutes of pushing, an un-photogenic face full of broken blood vessels from holding my breath while pushing, a lot ugly, happy sobs, and the terror and wonder of a new life spread out before me. 

Sometimes, I wonder whether the experience of labor depends on pain tolerance or pain perception. Is it simply a matter of being weak-willed (or ill-prepared mentally) or can you actually experience the same pain as another person but more acutely? (I have read that part of being an hsp is a hightened sensitivity to pain)

I’ve never considered a natural birth for the typical reasons. I’m not afraid of medical interventions. I have no desire to wear it as a badge of pride and I have no curiosity about “fully experiencing” labor and delivery. I’m not an au naturel, attatchment parenting type. I don’t feel like it’ll bond me to my baby more deeply.

But I can hardly ever think of birth without thinking of death and of the meaning of suffering. The similarities between the two were highlighted when I read Kristin Lavransdatter last year with my bookclub. For many characters in the novel, the labor of birth and the labor of death last for days–their agonies unmitigated by modern palliative care methods. As a midwife assists a woman in birth, a priest assists a soul at the hour of death:

“Sira Eirik continued to hold him against his chest for a moment. Then he gently laid his friends body down on the bed, kissing his forehead and smoothing back his hair, before he pressed his eyelids and nostrils closed; then he stood up and began to say a prayer.”

Most of us now live in an anesthetized world where suffering is considered meaningless. But I believe in the Christian mentality that says in no uncertain terms that suffering can be intensely meaningful: a means to enter intimately into the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, to unite yourself deeply to those mysteries, and something that can be sanctified and offered up for the good of the whole world.

Ultimately of course, when it comes to both birth and death–when it comes to all experiences God allows you to undergo in your life–what matters is abandonment to His will rather than the fulfillment of your own. This might mean a emergency trip to the hospital when you planned a home birth, an epidural when you wanted to keep up your med-free birth streak, an accidental natural birth in the car when you wanted to be entangled in relief-gushing iv’s at the first twinge of pain. You might even have to face the harrowing, rare but real possibility of yours or your child’s death in childbirth.

For this reason, I can never say one way or another what my birth plan is. But I know birth is a kind of death. Death, a kind of birth. We’re encouraged to pray for the dying, for the dead, and for a good death of our own. And so, I also try to make it a habit to pray for women and children in birth and for my own good birth, whatever it might involve.

P.S. Some of my favorite labor/birth posts around the web:

Prayers for Birth

Natural Childbirth and Marathons

Deliver Us: The Sweet Suffering of Childbirth

P.P.S. My own past poetic-ish ramblings on pregnancy and birth here, here, and here.

P.P.P.S. Wouldn’t this or this make a lovely gift for an expectant mother?

 

Birth plan

Reading, Eating, Etc.

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It’s May–my favorite month. Month of mothers. Month of Mary. Month of my favorite (albeit sentimental) Marian hymn. Month my husband and I met and fell in love and later got married in. Even though the unbearable Texas heat is starting to settle in, I can’t help but be happy this month and want to pass the days sipping elderflower cordial.

Reading

Books:

The Little Oratory: finally started and finished (this was my third attempt). I found it an interesting reflection on the relationship between the physical styling of a home and the interior spiritual life of the family. Also, it’s just a generally good resource about how to cultivate prayer in the home when you’re feeling overwhelmed about all the devotions and traditions you could potentially incorporate. And it really made me want to learn and make chant a part of family prayer life.

These Beautiful Bones: such a good read. Such an accessible and needed book especially since I feel the main message teenagers take away from Theology of the Body is that it’s all about sex. Of course, that’s to be expected when it’s promulgated to an audience drowning in an over-sexualized culture. But Theology of the Body is so much more and this book is an excellent resource for anyone, Catholic or not, who wants a deeper understanding of the Christian vision of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of an incarnate God. Now, I can’t wait to read The Catholic Table.

Middlemarch: I am liking it and am expecting to love it by the end because there are glowing reviews everywhere I turn. It’s already a good cautionary tale for making big life choices (e.g. who you marry). However, it’s just so massive that every time I look at it, I want to opt for Netflix. But a few bits that I’ve especially liked so far:

“Curiously enough, his pain in the affair beforehand had consisted almost entirely in the sense that he must seem dishonourable, and sink in the opinion of the Garths…Indeed we are most of us brought up in the notion that the highest motive for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of the beings who would suffer the wrong.” 

“Mrs. Bulstrode’s naive way of conciliating piety and worldliness, the nothingness of this life and the desirability of cut glass, the consciousness at once of filthy rags and best damask…”

“It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self–never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardour of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.” Made me think of this article again.

Articles:

Concrete ways to help in tough times

A Voice from Heaven: an eloquent reflection on experiencing loss through the lens of C.S. Lewis and the Book of Revelation.

We are Travelers: I’m always thinking about Christian pilgrimage vs. secular wanderlust not only in terms of physical travel but as radically different mindsets in this journey of life.

Being Radical: Choosing to Live within the Context of Creation: I mean, basically what I was rattling on about in half of this post.

The Look of Divine Love: “’It is godlike to love the being of someone’ (Gilead, Marilynne Robinson)…We have to love with the love we have received from God. In so doing, we are transformed into another Christ, and with divine charity reigning in our hearts, we begin to see reality as God created it.” Makes my thoughts leap from G.M. Hopkins and inscape to co-inherent love to this JPII quote. Tangential mind, ya’ll.

18 Things I’ve Learned in 18 Years of Parenting: seems like solid advice. (Number 14 is super encouraging for me at this stage of life). After reading several of her posts, I really like this blogger’s no-nonsense yet still understanding attitude towards work, motherhood, and homeschooling. It probably appeals to me because I tend towards idealistic stagnation, though I really do want to be more of a doer than just a dreamer.

-I finally read Anne of Green Gables for the first time a few summers ago. I have no desire to see the new Netflix show, but I think it’s high time I finally watched the 1980s miniseries.

Eating

Asian food

All the time. It’s been my number one craving this pregnancy. Since I can’t justify takeout on a regular basis, here are a couple things I’ve been whipping up:

-Cold rice noodles with peanut lime chicken.

-Grilled peanut lime flank steak (with leftover marinade from the previous recipe) with soba noodles, broccolini, and carrots. Topped with peanuts, basil, and mint.

-Shredded chicken with bok choy, carrots, onion, and ramen noodles in miso broth.

And lots of asian-fusion meals thrown together from our meal leftovers. Plus, thank goodness for the freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s (read: scallion pancakes and pork buns). It’s getting me through my cravings in a pinch.

Desserts:

My second biggest craving, most often satiated in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or my pantry stash of chocolate chips.

this yogurt chocolate cake found in a late-night sugar-craving-crazed google search to see what I could make with what basic baking ingredients I had on hand. With an on the fly cherry sauce (frozen cherries, sugar, boiling water) and homemade whipped cream, it basically turned out to be a light and lovely version of black forest cherry gateau.

Nigella’s lemon polenta cake with a berry compote. I might have to restrain myself from making this on repeat this summer.

Summer eats:

rosemary potato pizza: basically like potato chip flatbread. Highly recommended.

fish tacos for cinco de mayo. I only used the recipe for the beer battered fish and oh yum it was good. We topped ours with mango salsa (lit. just chopped mango stirred into store-bought salsa) and a sour cream avocado spread.

-Joe made burgers on Saturday and all I’ve been saying since is, “I wish there were more burgers.” Sometimes, you just need a non-fancy burger. Just a patty all smoky and cheddar cheese all melty stuffed in a fluffy bun. I’m already coming up with our weekend grill meal plan for the rest of the summer. Fajitas up next!

-Last night, after Joe mentioned having a hankering for spaghetti and meatballs, I put a springy-summer spin on the traditional thing and made garlicky, lemony, herby pork meatballs with fusili pasta and a creamy tomato rosé sauce. It was so good, it may get its very own post.

Of course, these are the highlights. Mostly, we eat clear the fridge stuff: whatever grains, proteins (usually eggs, beans, or tofu), veggies, leftover sauces are on hand all thrown together. Since we eat this way several times a week and as it’s usually vegetarian, it makes the meals I spend a little extra time and money on even more appreciated (by me and Joe. Leo’s palate is definitively unrefined and ungrateful).

Etc.

-We are indeed expecting baby number two in fourish months. This pregnancy has been far harder than the first time. I had a sweet part time work schedule when I was pregnant with Leo which meant lots of sleeping in and napping whenever I wanted. From weeks 6-18ish this time around, my toddler was not very sympathetic to my very real need to sleep in past seven am or to the fact that his dirty diapers made me vomit without fail every time. Most mornings, I’d hand him a piece of bread for breakfast and then I’d lie on the couch and drift in and out for an hour or two while he’d play/destroy things or come over and poke my eyes. Joe got to be on the receiving end of my broken record complaints: “Next kid has to be potty trained before we even think of a third” “I’m so nauseous” “I’m so exhausted” “We need a first trimester nanny”. Thankfully, we’re past the very worst of it and we are actually very excited.

-Recent netflix binges? Father Brown forever. I know, I know. Not at all like the stories but I’m okay with that (I suppose I risk losing Catholic cred by admitting that Chesterton’s prose is not my favorite). I think for the most part the show does a good job of showing the specific and important work of a priest while also giving me my cozy mystery fix. Otherwise, Life in Pieces has me in stitches every episode. And I just finished Master of None season 2. Still pretty dismal but Aziz Ansari explores interesting ideas and I think admits, perhaps without realizing it, that so many millenials are ‘lost in the cosmos’ to steal a phrase.

-Say a prayer for my alma mater, please.

Happy feast of St. Crispin of Viterbo, St. William of Rochester, and St. Julia (among others but I liked their stories best.

 

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Reading, Eating, Etc.

Reading, eating, etc.

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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:

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Reading, eating, etc.

Reading, eating, etc.

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Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent! I’m lighting all the candles and linking up!

Reading

1. Books

The Thin Man: If you haven’t seen the William Powell and Myrna Loy film (and the subsequent sequels), you’re truly missing out. It’s the perfect thing to watch during the holidays with cookies and cocktails. The book was a little racier and a little more hardboiled than the film but still a hoot!

Whose Body: I’ve barely started this one but it’s proving as delightful as I imagined.

I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux: I’m about to start this for our next book club and it’s a good thing, because I don’t think I’m going to get to any of my suggested Advent spiritual reading. St. Therese is my confirmation saint and I read Story of a Soul back in junior high but I haven’t touched her writing since. I need to though because she a doctor of the Church and her writing is so accessible and enriching. Also, I keep saying I need to go on a retreat so I’m excited about getting to go on one in book form.

2. Links

-I really enjoy Maria Popova’s labor of love, Brain Pickings, though I frequently save the articles for later and then never get around to them–they demand one’s full attention and I have a mind trained to skim distractedly. But when I do put the mental effort in (and it really doesn’t require thaaat much effort), I’m always glad that I did. The books on her 16 Overall Favorite Books of 2016 all look very good and I’m marking some of them down for my 2017 reads. Also an oldie, but one of my favorite posts she did: 10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings.

Sorting Jane Austen into Hogwarts Houses: The Definitive Guide. This was such a fun post. Now I want to reread all Harry Potter and all Jane Austen. Also, just yes to Mr. Collins being a squib.

Favorite Quotes and Prayers: Christmas. I love quotes. I’ve got notebooks and word docs full of them. So Christina’s beautiful list made my heart sing.

“When we give each other our Christmas presents in his name, let us remember that he has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans and all that lives and moves upon them…And to save us from our own foolishness and from all our sins, he came down to earth and gave himself.” -Sigrid Undset

Eating

3. Feast Day Food:

Honey Cake with Fleur de Sel: made for the St. Ambrose’s feast day (patron of beekeepers) to share with a friend and it was ambrosial on more than one level. Joe ate some for breakfast the next day, left for work, came back up a few minutes later, cut himself a second slice, and declared, “This is my favorite cake.”

Cuccia: For St. Lucy’s Day, I had big plans to wake up early and make cinnamon buns and string up lights around the apartment in honor this saint of light, but that did not happen. It was all good though because this Sicilian wheatberry porridge was splendid. According to the tradition, during a famine in Syracuse in 1646, a ship arrived on St. Lucy’s Day bearing wheat. People were so eager to eat, they didn’t wait to ground the grains, but simply boiled them and dressed them with olive oil–the first cuccia. We ate ours hot with ricotta, chocolate, candied orange slices, and honey. Yum!

4. Advent eating:

Garlic and vinegar fried rice: when you need something easy and meatless (though I threw in some stir fried meat this time), this is one of my favorite go tos.

-Minestrone: I used this as loose guide. Simple and warm and wintry.

Olive oil braised chickpeas: making this tonight with soft-boiled eggs and crusty bread.

5. Christmas baking/cooking plan:

-What are your favorite cookies to make? My signature cookie over the past couple years has been a shortbread cookie sandwich with speculoos filling and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s the tops. I also like to make gingersnaps from this recipe my sister shared with me. And they really do go deliciously with an Old Fashioned (perfect for your Thin Man movie watching). Other than that, I tend to change it up. Do you have favorite Christmas cookie recipes you return to year after year?

-I have a crazy dream this year to do a seven course Christmas Eve dinner after the Provencal and Italian traditions. I’m planning to keep the courses mostly simple: a make ahead chestnut soup, a cheese and fruit course. I just don’t know though. I’m a dreamer and not a very practical planner so we’ll see if it comes off without a hitch…or happens at all.

Et cetera

6. I’m shutting down my etsy shop till sometime in early January as I figure out a new printing situation, work on new products, and make a plan to really get this business going. I’m one to get immobilized over small difficulties, so things have been going slow lately.

7. We’re having a cozy Sunday watching Harry Potter (as a result of reading the Carrots for Michaelmas article) and making paper snowflakes. But the unfairness of our coziness and safety while others are living in the most desperate, war torn circumstances is heartbreaking. We can all donate and we can all pray. When I feel like despairing I think of these words from Tennyson: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Also, this site helps specify where donations go.

Drop down ye heavens from above

Reading, eating, etc.

Advent Booklist

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I think this has been our best Advent so far. We may have fallen off the St. Andrew Christmas Prayer train last week and never got back on but for the first time we have an Advent wreath (sans greenery) and we’ve been reading a little bit of Scripture every evening around the candlelight. I’ve finally come to a place where I don’t feel like I need to start all the traditions immediately. Learning to be at peace with this small act which we can build on next year with another small act has been a good thing for me.

However, I did want to devote more time this Advent to extra spiritual reading. So far I’ve devoted my attention to other, less significant literature by the likes of Alexander McCall Smith, Dashiell Hammett, and Dorothy Sayers. All good stuff (there’s something about reading mysteries in the winter!), but not quite as meditative as I probably need right now.

This isn’t so much a list of books that I’ve read and am recommending to you as a list of books that have been recommended to me by blogs and friends which I’m compiling here for future, personal reference. But maybe you’ll find it useful too.

1. On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius. This is the only one on this list I have read. I read it freshman year of college in my honors class and was blown away by its beauty, simplicity, and depth. I think this one will always top the list of Advent/Christmas reading to better enter into the mystery of the Incarnation. Plus, the most popular edition in print has an excellent forward by C.S. Lewis (which you can read here).

2. Cradle of Redeeming Love: the Theology of the Christmas Mystery by John Saward: Auntie Leila has suggested this one on numerous occasions and calls it “a book that bears reading, re-reading, and bringing to prayer (not something that one often says about a theological work.)”

3. Redeemer in the Womb by John Saward. Saward again because when I looking up Cradle of Redeeming Love, I stumbled across this one and my slight obsession with the intersection of pregnancy and spirituality makes me think that it must be really good.

4. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI. I was planning on putting this one on the list and then Kasia posted it on her Advent reading/watching list and affirmed my decision. It’s unfortunate that I haven’t read more of Pope Benedict because everything I have read is enormously moving and intelligent.

5. The Blessing of Christmas by Pope Benedict XVI. Another one! These reflections are taken from his sermons and other writings with beautiful illustrations and artwork. I’d love to incorporate this into our family’s Advent and Christmas reading each day.

6. Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross: The Little Way of the Infant Jesus by Caryll Houselander. This one has been recommended on several blogs and all the things I’ve heard about Houselander’s sacramental, mystical imagination makes me wonder why I haven’t picked it up already.

7. Child in Winter by Caryll Houselander: I didn’t mean to put two books per author up on here but here’s another one I stumbled across when looking up the previous book. This one is more of a devotional book taken from various writings from Houselander so there might be some overlap in the material between the two. That makes me think it’s a good choice when you can only devote fifteen minutes in the morning to spiritual reading rather than tackling a thick theological text for a couple of hours.

Do you have Advent reading recommendations? I’d love to find more homilies or texts by saints and the early Church fathers to add to the list.

Bonus! Here are some Advent articles and snippets from the web that I’ve been reading and loving this season:

The Coming of Christ, the Golden Blossom from A Clerk of Oxford

Dwindled Infinity from Dominicana Journal

Poetry and Prayers for Advent from The Catholic Catalogue

 

 

Advent Booklist

Booklist: Life-Changers

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I’m going through my master reading list depressingly slow, but I still continue to add to it. I do love when people make book lists though, so I thought it would be fun to do my own posting series of themed book lists.

Melinda Selmys recently wrote a list of the books that have changed her life. Not her favorite books, but ones that were pivotal in forming her mind and soul and thoughts and actions. I think tracing your intellectual and spiritual formation through the books that you’ve read is a good exercise, so that’s where I’m going to start with this series.

1.The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum: This series was so formative for my imagination. Apparently some people don’t like them? I was obsessed as a kid. With wildly fantastic characters, plots, and details, these books opened my tender little mind to new vistas of imagination.

2. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: the whole book is the loveliest and my favorite of all time. When I think of eternity in my limited way, Kenneth Grahame’s prose always springs to mind. The Wind in the Willows was life-changing for the chapter, “The Piper of the Gates of Dawn”. The intersection of spiritual ideas in fantasty literature (even in the domesticated fantasy of the Willows) was groundbreaking for me. My earliest literary memories are of being read to from The Chronicles of Narnia but I never thought critically about Lewis’s writing as a child, and I felt like most of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was simple allegory which as a budding young wannabe writer felt inhibiting. So this chapter describing the ache and mystery of beauty with a capital ‘B’ was a revelation to me of the transcendental power literature can possess.

3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech: When I read this in the sixth grade, immersed as I was in Harry Potter and the like, I found it amazing and liberating that a girl could be a heroine in a genuinely good book. So to sixth grade me, that meant it was okay to write about spunky, imaginative girls like me.

4. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken: As a teenager I was hesitant of the idea of marriage because I feared that it might turn out to be quite boring. A little excerpt from my diary at the time reads, “If I’m called to marriage, I hope it’s to a man that has the humor and charm of George Bailey and the holiness of Blessed Louis Martin” #aimhigh. Lucky for me, I got Inigo Montoya meets Alyosha Karamazov 😉 I just wasn’t sure that marriages overflowing with creativity and beauty and adventure, marriages present in the immanent plane but always looking to the transcendental plane, actually existed. Now I’ve come to realize that even marriages that are seemingly uninteresting from a worldly perspective might invisibly be teeming with divine love and grace. As a college freshman, however, I needed A Severe Mercy, the loveliest primer in the possibilities of enduring, romantic love to make me more receptive to considering the vocation of marriage.

5. On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien: Not a book but an incredibly significant essay for me. It built off my intuitive experience with The Wind in the Willows: that fantasy literature (particularly written for children) can be a channel of transcendence.

6. The Dream of Gerontius by John Henry Newman: I don’t know when my preoccupied fear of death started but as a mother it haunts me frequently. I read this poem in a college course completely devoted to studying literature as an opening to transcendence (I know–get over this theme already…can’t…won’t). It details the process of a soul leaving this earth and experiencing purgatory. It’s an oddly comforting poem and it has reminded me since the day I first encountered it to try to live out the small acts that compose my day with dutiful love, to pray for the dying and the holy souls in purgatory daily, to pray for a good death for myself and for those whom I love, and to take comfort that our God is a merciful one.

7. Great with Child by Beth Ann Fennelly: I still get babycenter email updates from something I naively signed up for when I was pregnant. I have tried to unsubscribe and I think the unsubscription process was designed by Daedalus himself. Anyway, I could really do without their overflow of information on all the practical, medical, and joyless aspects of pregnancy and parenthood. Fennelly’s luminous words on pregnancy and new motherhood were exactly what I needed one morning last summer at 5am when I couldn’t sleep because of my irrational anxieties about the impending onslaught of frighteningly bright plastic baby crap. Apparently this trend of literature (both non-fiction and fiction) about pregnancy and new motherhood is growing, and I am glad for that. Something so profoundly transfiguring as motherhood demands to be written about with the same seriousness of other great literary subjects.

Honorary mentions: The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis; A Prayer Journal, Flannery O’Connor; The Golden Key, George MacDonald; various poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins

What’s on your list?

 

Booklist: Life-Changers