Friday, April 29, 2016

Poetry Friday: 10 Facts About Poets Laureate

Photo credit: Matt Willmann

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, I'm sharing 10 Facts About Poets Laureate. They're all interesting, but here's a fun little factoid:
In olden times in England, the Laureate’s salary used to include an allotment of wine...The UK revived the tradition in 1972, and their poet laureate receives a barrel of sherry. 
The current U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, was just appointed to a second term.

Here's a list of all past Poets Laureate.

And here are a few more facts.

And while National Poetry Month is wrapping up, Poetry Friday will always be a part of the blog with the shockingly clever title.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Books We've Read This School Year

The end of the school year is in sight, and I'm looking over booklists, which always starts me looking ahead to next year's booklists. Ah, the joys of reading!

Here are some of the things we've read this year (though I know I'm forgetting things):

Ramona, or Ramona/Me/Read-alouds:  

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 
A Wrinkle in Time
The 24 Days Before Christmas 
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever 
The Phantom Tollbooth 
A Mouse Called Wolf 
Sea of Monsters
The Titan's Curse 
Battle of the Labyrinth
The Last Olympian
The Pushcart War 
Shadow of the Bear 
The Striped Ships 
Extra Credit 
Ballet Shoes 
Ramona and Her Father (reread) 
Baby Island
Three Times Lucky 
Wednesdays in the Tower 
Sister of the Bride 
The Charlotte Years (rereads) 
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey 
Anne of the Island 
Betsy in Spite of Herself (reread)
Betsy Was a Junior (reread) 
William Shakespeare's Star Wars 
The Little Prince 
Return to Gone Away

Some of my reads this school year: 

The Martian
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante
The Lake House, Kate Morton 
Witch Hunter (my daughter's 2015 NaNoWriMo novel)
A Jane Austen Time Travel Story (her 2014 NaNoWriMo)
The Pretend Wife 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry 
A Man Called Ove 
Betsy Was a Junior
In This House of Brede, Rumer Godden  
Yes, Please 
Bossy Pants
Little Men
Driving Hungry 
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys 

What have you been reading?


* Ramona and I have been sloppy with our book logs this year! Inexcusable for bookworms! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Poetry Friday: Quintessential Collins

This poem encompasses everything I love about Billy Collins. This is Collins at his most Collinsesque -- witty and self-deprecating while simultaneously offering us exquisitely expressed images as if they were a bouquet of wildflowers, and finishing off with a truth that any lover of words can embrace and affirm. Enjoy!

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne
by Billy Collins

Every reader loves the way he tells off
the sun, shouting busy old fool
into the English skies even though they
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.

(Read the whole thing here, at the Poetry Foundation.)


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sharing Some Reviews of You Can Share the Faith

I'm extremely grateful for the following thoughtful, thorough, and lovely reviews of You Can Share the Faith:

Julie Davis has written one.

Matt Nelson, at Reasonable Catholic, has one, too.

And Mike Aquilina shared one at Amazon.

Thanks so much!

And Friday morning at 8:15 (Central Time), I'll be on Teresa Tomeo's Catholic Connection to talk about the book.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Because I Love Both George MacDonald and Books

“As you grow ready for it, somewhere or other you will find what is needful for you in a book.” 
~  George MacDonald

(Photo thanks to Tim Kimberley, Free Images.) 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Walls Are Talking: Blog Tour

When I was asked to participate in a blog tour for The Walls Are Talking, the first person I actually thought of was Maggie. In You Can Share the Faith, I tell Maggie's story: Maggie had an abortion and later not only experienced regret about it, but began to question everything she'd ever believed about abortion: that it was the easy way out of a difficult problem, one choice among many, that abortion left no emotional scars.

In the midst of her confusion and questioning, Maggie found herself in a conversation with her in-laws, who were talking about "those women." Murderers. The "evil, disgusting human beings" who were capable of the act. Maggie got up, locked herself in the bathroom, and looked in the mirror. What would they say, she asked herself, if they realized they were talking about me?

Her family would hate her if they found out the truth, she felt certain of that. Their easy dismissal of the woman she'd been when she made a desperate choice hurt her deeply. "It almost made her," I wrote, "want to dig in her pro-choice heels, to defiantly, adamantly, defend her choice all over again."

Maggie's conversion could have been short-circuited in that moment. It wasn't, thanks to other people in her life. But her story illustrates that our words, our actions, the way we treat and interact with post-abortive women and those who work in the abortion industry matter. Being pro-life is not just about the baby. Of course we care about babies, but we must care, too, about everyone else: the baby's mother. The father. The doctors, the nurses, the clinic workers. Families and friends who sometimes encourage the "easy" way out of a difficult problem.

We must care about all souls, for it is souls that are at stake. It is souls we are called to love.

Most people who describe themselves as pro-choice do so because they are compassionate people. Rare is the one who advocates for women or enters the industry with evil in mind. A hardening of heart may come later, perhaps must come to persevere in the industry, but most start out wanting to help and support women in crisis. That was certainly my position when I was pro-choice. I also viewed the battle, as one of the storytellers in The Walls Are Talking did, as a civil rights issue.

Abby Johnson's new book, The Walls Are Talking, written with Kristin Detrow, is a compilation of stories from former abortion clinic workers. In one sense, this is not a book you want to read. The details of life inside a clinic are gritty. But in the darkness glimmers the grace of God, the grace that reaches into and transforms a broken world. And while these are not conversion stories in the traditional sense (we aren't privy to every detail of that slow dawning of the light), the stories are laced with this kind of truth: 

"I am so grateful that God never gave up on me."

"I pray that one day I will have a chance to tell her face-to-face how truly and deeply sorry I am."

"I was confident that I was on the side of justice and equality for women. I was wrong...women deserve better."

"I still deal with crushing guilt...."

"Abby and ATTWN helped me get my life on track...She understood the pain and shame that plagued me...I look forward to a new level of healing, hope, and forgiveness."

These are stories that bring you face to face with raw, honest struggles.

From Abby herself, we hear, “I am always terrified that clinic workers will see some of the words from pro-lifers. I have been told by several former workers that they will never come forward with their stories, because they are so scared of how they will be treated by us – by us, the supposed ‘Christian’ movement.”

As Christians, we're called to be a sign of contradiction in the world, to counteract the impulses of a fallen people, impulses that make us want to cast out, seek revenge, elevate ourselves above "those people." Do we really want anyone to fear our treatment of them? Do we drive them to defensively dig in their heels because we do not know the meaning of mercy?

As a convert, a sinner in need of perpetual, ongoing conversion, and someone who knows she's not above "those people" or anyone else, I can never forget or fathom the mercy of God and the mystery of His unconditional love for me. I am grateful beyond telling for it all. How could I seek to deny that mercy to others?

The message of The Walls Are Talking is perhaps best summed up in the words of this former clinic worker:
"Our enemy is not those inside the abortion facilities. Our enemy is not the woman who seeks abortions services. Our true enemy is sin. As a former abortion clinic worker, my goal is to tell everyone that conversion can happen to anyone. We shouldn't ever limit God by our own earthly expectations." 


Friday, April 15, 2016

Poetry Friday: The Bard, My Girls, and Me

I bet you can guess what our weekend plans include. It's terrible as poetry, but, hey, it's all I could muster this morning. Looking forward to some real poetry soon, when we see the play. And there's plenty of real poetry all over the blogosphere, too. Check out the Poetry Friday round up, hosted this week by Michelle Barnes at Today's Little Ditty. 

The Bard, My Girls, and Me 

My offspring and I,
oh, how happy we’ll be
when one of the Bard’s
creations we see.

We’ll chuckle and nod
at mistaken I.D.,
a bit of midsummer-y,
dream revelry.

A cast full of friends
whom we don’t often see
will round out the night
of this anti-ennui.

Come, Hermia! Come, Helena!
Come, good, young Lysander.
Through fairy-lit woods
we’ll see thee meander.

And on the way home,
I foresee happy chatter,
for Shakespeare’s the thing
to make all hearts the gladder.


Oh, happy coincidence! Jama is also talking about Shakespeare today. She's hosting a giveaway of a book I'm suddenly coveting, Will's Words: How Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk, by Jane Sutcliffe, with illustrations by John Shelley.

Updated to note: Tabatha Yeatts is being true to herself by featuring the Bard as well! Visit her at The Opposite of Indifference


Friday, April 08, 2016

Poetry Friday: Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry

"Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry" by Howard Nemerov is so short--just six lines-- that I don't think I can even post a teaser here without violating copyright.

Just jump over and read it here, at, then come back.

Are you back? 


Now, in six precise lines, you know.


Photo credit:

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Why I'm Adding Little Men to My List of Favorite Homeschooling Books

Although I've loved Little Women for as long as I can remember, I somehow (scandalous!) never got around to reading Little Men and Jo's Boys. I just finished Little Men today and now I have to add all of the following to my quote book:

Two large rooms on the right were evidently schoolrooms, for desks, maps, blackboards, and books were scattered about. An open fire burned on the hearth, and several indolent lads lay on their backs before it, discussing a new cricket-ground, with such animation that their boots waved in the air. A tall youth was practising on the flute in one corner, quite undisturbed by the racket all about him. Two or three others were jumping over the desks, pausing, now and then, to get their breath and laugh at the droll sketches of a little wag who was caricaturing the whole household on a blackboard.

In the room on the left a long supper-table was seen, set forth with great pitchers of new milk, piles of brown and white bread, and perfect stacks of the shiny gingerbread so dear to boyish souls. A flavor of toast was in the air, also suggestions of baked apples, very tantalizing to one hungry little nose and stomach.

The hall, however, presented the most inviting prospect of all, for a brisk game of tag was going on in the upper entry. One landing was devoted to marbles, the other to checkers, while the stairs were occupied by a boy reading, a girl singing a lullaby to her doll, two puppies, a kitten, and a constant succession of small boys sliding down the banisters, to the great detriment of their clothes and danger to their limbs.


Boys at other schools probably learned more from books, but less of that better wisdom which makes good men. Latin, Greek, and mathematics were all very well, but in Professor Bhaer's opinion, self knowledge, self-help, and self-control were more important, and he tried to teach them carefully. People shook their heads sometimes at his ideas, even while they owned that the boys improved wonderfully in manners and morals. But then, as Mrs. Jo said to Nat, "it was an odd school."


The class stopped in the middle of 7 times 9, and everyone looked up to see what was going on.
Thinking that a lesson in learning to help one another was better than arithmetic just then, Mr. Bhaer told them about Nat, making such an interesting and touching little story out of it that the good-hearted lads all promised to lend him a hand, and felt quite honored to be called upon to impart their stores of wisdom to the chap who fiddled so capitally. This appeal established the right feeling among them, and Nat had few hindrances to struggle against, for every one was glad to give him a "boost" up the ladder of learning.


Till he was stronger, much study was not good for him, however, and Mrs. Jo found various amusements in the house for him while others were at their books. But his garden was his best medicine, and he worked away like a beaver, preparing his little farm, sowing his beans, watching eagerly to see them grow, and rejoicing over each green leaf and slender stock that shot up and flourished in the warm spring weather. Never was a garden more faithfully hoed. 


"Let him be a mechanic if he likes," said Mr. Bhaer. "Give a boy a trade, and he is independent. Work is wholesome, and whatever talent these lads possess, be it for poetry or ploughing, it shall be cultivated and made useful to them if possible."


"How much the lad knows of these things [the natural world]! How absorbed he is in them! And what a mercy it is just now, for he cares so little for books, it would be hard to amuse him while he is laid up; but the boys can supply him with beetles and stones to any extent, and I am glad to find out this taste of his. It is a good one, and may perhaps prove the making of him. If he should turn out a great naturalist, and Nat a musician, I should have cause to be proud of this year's work," and Mrs. Jo sat smiling over her book as she built castles in the air. 


"Now, boys, I have arranged it so that you can all go," said Mrs. Bhaer, running back again, much relieved, for she loved to make them happy, and always felt miserable when she had disturbed the serenity of her little sons; for she believed that the small hopes and plans and pleasures of children should be tenderly respected by grown-up people, and never rudely thwarted or ridiculed.


After the last excitement, peace descended upon Plumfield and reigned unbroken for several weeks....

"It is too good to last," said Mrs. Jo; for years of boy-culture had taught her that such lulls were usually followed by outbreaks of some sort, and when less wise women would have thought that the boys had become confirmed saints, she prepared herself for a sudden eruption of the domestic volcano.


...the boys were charmed with Dan's pleasure, and crowded round him to shake hands and expatiate on the beauties of their gift. In the midst of this pleasant chatter, Dan's eye went to Mrs. Jo, who stood outside the group enjoying the scene with all her heart.

"No, I had nothing to do with it. The boys got it up all themselves," she said, answering the grateful look that seemed to thank her for that happy moment. Dan smiled, and said, in a tone that only she could understand, "It's you all the same."

...He thanked them both with the silent, hearty squeeze he gave the kind hands that had held him up, and led him into the safe refuge of a happy home.


P.S. Discussing the book on my Facebook page. There are spoilers in the comments, as we're talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly in this book. There were a couple of weird, random things that I didn't like. 

Friday, April 01, 2016

National Poetry Month Turns 20!

It's National Poetry Month (the twentieth anniversary!) and can tell you all about it, along with ideas on how to celebrate.

Today I'm sharing another Jim Harrison* poem, "Winter, Spring." It's fitting, I think, for the March we had here in Nebraska. I love the simplicity and truth of these lines:

Each year it is a surprise
that the world can turn green again.

Go to The Writer's Almanac to read the whole poem.


Today's Poetry Friday posts can be found at The Poem Farm

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Nothing Like Sketching a "Welcome Spring" Sign to...

...bring on a snowstorm. 

Atticus was out of town Tuesday night, and the girls and I spent the evening in the kitchen -- baking cookies, sketching, listening to Betsy read aloud. 

Naturally, as soon as we officially welcomed spring, we were smacked with Selene and thundersnow. Everything's canceled today (except Holy Mass, of course -- have a blessed Holy Thursday and Triddum!) and Atticus is home, digging us out. 

Happy spring! 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poetry Friday: Jim Harrison

I love everything about this poem, but I particularly love the opening image and the last line.

Kooser called from Nebraska to say he'd found...
by Jim Harrison

Kooser called from Nebraska to say he’d found
a large cinder on a long walk along abandoned

(Go here, to The Writer's Almanac to read the whole thing, with its perfect ending.)


Visit the Poetry Foundation for more about Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser

For my past posts on Ted Kooser, go here

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More -- Yes, More -- Quotes from In This House of Brede

Photo courtesy of Nat Merry


"She certainly doesn't make much effort," Philippa had to say.

"Only in trances," said Julian, scornfully.

"We don't put much faith in ecstasies here," Dame Ursula had told them. "The nun you see rapt away in church isn't likely to be the holiest. The holiest one is probably the one you would never notice, because she is simply doing her duty."


"Wouldn't the best penance," asked Abbess more gently, "be in doing what you are asked? What you can do?"


"A young nun has to realize what it is she has renounced; love, human love and marriage, must be shown to her as tender and desirable, as is the gift of children. She must learn there are not compensations."

Dame Clare's eyes flashed as she thought of "all the twaddle people talk...The lack of these things will gnaw at her all her life, leave holes in her, yet she must be just as warm, as self-denying and hard working as any wife or mother, and just as loving, without anyone to hold on to. Somehow most of us do it. Lady Abbess used to say, there may be lazy Benedictines and comfortable Poor Clares, but she had never met them."


"Give us a really good meal, something filling."

"Such as?"

"Roast lamb and pancakes," said Abbess without thinking.

Dame Agnes sanctioned  Irish stew and hasty pudding, and got her first reprimand ... "It's not your business to penance the community! Mortification should never begin in the kitchen."


"I am a woman...Look at me."

"I can't see past all those trappings."

"That's the trouble," [she] said sadly. "So few people can--but please try."


"It has been a long, hard road...especially at first, those small tormenting things."

"They were only pinpricks."

"Martyrdom by pinpricks can be very painful."

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Can't Stop Quoting Brede

Perhaps the complete but simple message of You Can Share the Faith could be summed up with this short passage from In This House of Brede 
Nowadays there's a tendency to make everything utilitarian--even the things of the spirit," said Dame Claire. "Beware of this," and, "That wasn't the way of the saints," said Dame Ursula. "They didn't set out to be of use."  
"Nor they did," said Hilary in surprise.  
"And you needn't worry about being useful," said Dame Ursula. "'When you have become God's in the measure he wants, he, himself, will know how to bestow you on others.'" She was quoting St. Basil. 

I finished In This House of Brede about a week and a half ago. Expect an avalanche of quotes.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Thinking Like a Happy Catholic

Julie Davis of Happy Catholic has a quick preview/review of the new book up. See it here, at Goodreads.

In part, Julie says:

Her life story is different from mine, but her Catholic way of life is precisely what I answer when people ask me "how to" be a Happy Catholic.

So happy to hear that I'm thinking in sync with the Happy Catholic!