Wednesday, February 1, 2023

An Open Book: January 2023 Reads

Happy February! I am curled up inside this week, cozying up with books and staying out of the cold. So, it's a perfect time to link up with An Open Book to chat literature! I read some wonderful fiction and non-fiction books in January, so let's dive in! 

Friday, January 20, 2023

2022 Reading in Review

I began the new year by reading a book by Catherine Doherty 
and watching my kids smash a gingerbread house. It was a great
way to start 2023 :) 

This new year is already flying by for me, so before we get too far into it, I want to stop a moment and think about my reading and writing life from 2022. When 2022 began, I wrote that my only major reading goal was "reread more books." I didn't have any totals I was focusing on and was not part of any reading group (I unfortunately have a schedule conflict with the local Well Read Mom group--someday I'd like to get back to that group if it works out!). I put down books that weren't hitting me at the right moment, and I read a lot of really splendid books. 106 books, in fact! 

I read about dreadlocks and addiction, history and the liturgy. I read classics and memoirs, nonfiction books for adults and timeless children’s novels. I read about zombies. I read about vampires. I read about nineteenth century women who were unjustly imprisoned in insane asylums, and I read about Romanian teenagers living under a dictatorship in the 1980s. Somehow, I didn’t read any comic books or thrillers (a small sampling of those genres usually finds its way into my reading stack each year), but I read a lot of fascinating books!

Here's a quick highlight with one book I read each month. It isn’t always the best book that I’ve read that month (one month, I managed to read books by Catherine Doherty, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI-may he rest in peace-and John Steinbeck…I don’t know how I could even pick a favorite with a mix like that). But, it’s a way to shine a light on some of the titles that I picked up.

Friday, January 13, 2023

A Decade of Learning

On this day ten years ago, I got to see a relic of St. John the Baptist—the man who baptized Jesus. Seeing that relic as I traveled in Austria was really cool, and it is also a great starting point as I think about the years that have filled the time between that moment and today. 

Then, I was a bright-eyed sophomore in college, nineteen years old and excited to traipse across Europe with my fiancé for an entire semester.

I somehow lost that awesome hat on a train in Austria, sadly.

Now, I’m a sleepy-eyed stay-at-home mom, twenty-nine years old and happily having adventures with my husband and four children in Oklahoma.

Life looks a little bit different now than it did then!

Later this month, I’ll turn thirty, and as I prepare to leave my twenties behind, I feel a lot of gratitude to God. The past ten years have included a lot of suffering, joy, happiness, sorrow, and growth. They have been a tremendous gift. As I prepare for whatever God sends me next, I'm also thinking about six things I would love to tell myself when I was preparing to turn twenty:

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

An Open Book: December 2022 Reads

 Welcome to 2023, everyone! I'm joining An Open Book to look back on the books that I ended the year 2022 with. It's a great mix of fiction and non-fiction, so let's dive in! 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Requiescat in pace

The e-mail's subject line jolted out of my early-afternoon fatigue: The Death of Pope Benedict XVI. I wasn't surprised--Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was 95 years old and had been sick, so we all knew that the end was near--but the announcement still hit me as memories began flying through my mind:

Of watching television coverage as he ascended to the papacy after the death of Pope John Paul II...of the ways in which he brought me closer to God...all the happy hours I have spent reading his books and encyclicals...of that t-shirt I used to wear that said "I Love my German Shepherd" above a picture of Pope Benedict's face...of the time my then-fiancé and I attended Pope Benedict XVI's final papal audience...of the following day, when we watched him fly away from St. Peter's Square in a helicopter. 

I remember the incredible gift of praying the Pater Noster (Lord's Prayer) at his papal audience. I remember the tears and deep emotions the next day, as we watched him officially step down. I remember speaking with an Italian or two from the area who felt bewildered and betrayed as they experienced a small amount of time without a bishop, and I remember the excitement and joy of Pope Francis's election to the papacy. And I remember that abiding peace, over the following years, of knowing that Pope Emeritus Benedict was continuing to pray and intercede for the Church in a hidden, quiet way. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

On the Bookshelf: A jaunt to the Middle Ages with Lilibet Lynn

When I learned about a new time-travel story from Elizabeth Hajek that involves castles, archery, and English royalty, I was immediately interested. When I began to read the book and discovered the delightful heroine, I was completely hooked. Lilibet Lynn and the Children of Sherwood: A Thimble of Time Adventure, by Elizabeth Hajek (Geek, was a joy from the beginning to end. This engaging middle grade novel enticed me to stay up late into the night as I read about Lilibet Lynn’s adventures. 

The story begins with Lilibet’s twelfth birthday, the day that everything changed. She goes through her normal routines of school, going to the library, and visiting her grandma. However, she magically finds herself wandering in the Middle Ages, and becomes involved in a life-or-death situation. Lilibet is torn between escaping to the safety of home and helping her new friends as she explores medieval England.

Hajek creates a very immersive experience as we—right alongside Lilibet—discover the sights, sounds, and smells of the Middle Ages. As I read about her reactions to sanitation standards, fashion, and food in the Middle Ages, I was reacting right alongside her. With Lilibet, we meet a fantastic cast of characters that include a fletcher’s son, a guard, and members of the Plantagenet family. I particularly enjoyed getting to see this period of England’s history through the eyes of children. Lilibet drew me into the story, but her relatability drew me into memories from my own childhood, when I’d craft makeshift bow-and-arrow toys in the backyard for hours on end. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

An Open Book: November 2022 Reads

 Happy Advent! I have been doing all sorts of reflecting lately as the year 2022 winds down (to the extent that I almost missed my exit when driving to an event last weekend, because I was so deep in thought), and I've already started figuring out which book from each month to highlight in a future post. In the meantime, though, it's time to look back on just November. I read some really fabulous things, so I'm linking up with An Open Book to chat about them! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

An endless cup of coffee

I glanced at my three older children as we squeezed on the couch together. "We'll finish our stories and then I'll make coffee," I explained. They nodded in acknowledgment and focused their eyes on the pictures of a young frog and his family. Soon--once our story was finished and we had completed an I Spy challenge together--I leapt off the couch and dashed to the kitchen, hoping that I could make (and drink) a cup of coffee in peace and quiet before the baby woke from her nap. 

Naturally, as soon as I poured water from the steaming kettle into the French press, I heard the baby's cries. Setting the timer, I held the baby and began nursing her. Meanwhile, instead of happily settling into playtime as usual, my other children began simmering with an incoming chaos. We needed a new plan. 

"Everybody!" I called out. "Who wants to drop books off at the library before Mass?" As soon as my children heard me mention the library with a fancy book drop (which includes a conveyor belt that sorts books) their collective attitude shifted. They began hastily buttoning dress shirts and putting on shoes. I coaxed the baby off my chest and ran to my pot of coffee. The toddler and one of her brothers followed, so I poured them each a tiny amount and dumped the rest into a travel mug that I pushed out of their reach. 

I'll drink that in the car, I thought to myself as I trotted to the bedroom. My two-year-old followed, happily sipping her little cup of coffee. Hoping for just a moment of solitude, I locked myself in the bedroom and got ready for the day. When I emerged a couple minutes later, my two-year-old was still delightedly scampering around, sipping coffee. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

On low expectations

My house is currently filthy.

The living room is one solid layer of toys and dress-up clothes, the office is a sea of papers, markers, and crayons, and the dining room is sprinkled with dried granola. The baby, thankfully, went down for a nap (in the bedroom and not on me!), and my first instinct was to clean everything frantically. However, my husband and I are trying to teach our kids how to clean up after themselves, and I made it clear to my kids that I would clean with them, but not for them. To which they responded with a wave of a hand and a declaration that "I'm not going to clean." Particularly since I’m on day 2 of not having a voice, thanks to the cold that our family is dealing with, I have no motivation to instruct them on every single piece they need to pick up.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Gift of Dialogue (and how my marriage benefits from it)

I remember sitting in the darkened basement with my family and my fiancé as we prepared for a movie night. Soon, My Favorite Wife began. For years, my family and I had regularly watched and enjoyed this classic movie. However, this was the first time I was watching the movie as an engaged woman. Seeing the humorous antics of Cary Grant's character (who discovers that he is accidentally married to two women at once) as I was preparing for marriage was not what I expected. 

In the beginning of the movie, Nick (played by Cary Grant) gets married for the second time. His first wife had been reported dead when, seven years ago, she was on a foreign expedition. Yet, all these years later, just after marrying another woman, Nick discovers that his first wife is alive and has returned to be with him. Thus ensues a series of misadventures as Nick awkwardly tries to figure out how he'll break the news to his second wife. Cary Grant really builds up the humor of the situation. Yet, as my soon-to-be-husband and I sat there, I thought about how poor communication is billed as funny only when it is fiction. 

It's the basis for countless comedies out there, but in reality, a lack of communication is no joke. 

What husband or wife actually thinks it is funny if his or her spouse does not communicate effectively--or even lies? I'm sure we've all seen relationships suffer when there is poor communication. While a communication breakdown (in addition to other factors) can lead to divorce, estrangement, and visibly broken families, it can also impact those families who--from all outward appearances--are stable and have "good" relationships with each other. 

Hidden from the public's view there live biting words, snippy comments, and simmering tension from unaddressed concerns. Poor communication can slowly hammer away at a couple's unity, pushing them further apart from each other. This, in turn, trickles down to their children. Not only are children affected by their parents' problems and tension, but they do not see and learn what good communication consists of. 

Couples need to cultivate healthy communication together, both for themselves and for their kids. 

Back in 2016, I wrote about communication when my husband and I were a few years into marriage. We are now nine years into marriage and have four delightful children (ranging in age from newborn to six years old). Healthy communication is a never-ending journey for us. We have grown a lot in cultivating clear, unitive communication as a couple, but we continue to learn and grow. 

For example, in November 2020, my husband and I drove eleven hours to have a one-hour conversation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

An Open Book: October 2022 Reads

Happy All Souls Day, friends! With this beautiful feast, we also have yet another edition of An Open Book. My reading last month was mainly non-fiction, and some of them were extremely riveting. Let's dive in!