Friday, October 30, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} with an extra dose of funny

| a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life |

The rain storm in Austin today? Woah. Earlier this week, though, we enjoyed some of the best I've ever in these parts. Sunshine, cool(er) breezes, no humidity and the skies one of the most beautiful shades of blue I've ever seen made me decide I might just be able to make it in Texas after all. Thank you to those who prayed for my kids, especially Natalie, this week.  We were completely aware of an extra measure of peace and sustenance.  

A few photos to practice contentment this week

| pretty |

New York in the fall

My sweet cousin Megan gave me permission to share some of the photos she recently posted from a weekend at the family cottage.  My grandparents purchased this little bit of land in central NY when I was in middle school, and now Megan and her husband own it and taking wonderful care of the place that holds so many important memories for our family. Both things -- the family cottage and New York in the fall --  have gotten quite a bit of print from me here on the the blog (and to anyone within ear shot), so I wanted some photographic evidence to prove I'm not just homesick or crazy!

Really, though, can you blame me?

| happy |

Happy mail

A wedding invitation with my son's name on it. A gender-reveal card from my sister.  So many good things.

| funny |

Parish Retreat rain-out

Christ Church's annual retreat (our fifth since moving to Austin) scrambled last minute to change venues after forecasted torrential rain that would make driving to the camp potentially dangerous (not to mention make it difficult for tent campers!).  Kudos to our church staff (including my dear Brian) for pulling together in a pinch and creating a whole retreat-ish location for us all at our new (not-yet-renovated) property.  We enjoyed great food, encouraging talks from our guest Dr. Amy Sherman, and some good fun, in spite of the rain.  Two thumbs up to Sarah Smith for organizing a rollicking family fun night on Friday.  She organized highly-motivated teams to compete against each other in Minute-to-win-it games, Three Word Stories & Thank You Notes (a la' Jimmy Fallon) and, in my opinion, especially Egg Russian Roulette.

Here: see for yourself.

| real|

time with friends IRL

A quieter season has made space for re-connecting with friends and, well, actually doing things out and about in Austin. Sunday night, I tagged along with Katie to hear Chorus Austin perform Brahms' Requiem at Saint Matthew's Church. It's my first time to hear it performed live, and was made all the richer for attending with someone who'd performed it live herself.  

On Wednesday morning my friend (and neighbor) Kim invited me to join her early-morning walking route.  We left my house in the dark, under a full moon, in order to show up at the doorstep of one of my favorite coffee shops when they switched the lights on.  Coffee, conversation and a walk back home (still under a full moon) was a perfectly wonderful way to start the day.

Have YOU captured any contentment this week? 
 I'd love to hear about it!

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

Thursday, October 29, 2015

what I read in October [from the book pile: 2015]

some of October's "have-read" pile mixed with some of November's "to-read" pile


29  Elegy For Eddie: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper Collins, 2012. 331 pages)

Reading challenge category*:  a book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit (London/Lambeth/etc., etc.)

I learned about the incorrigible Maisie Dobbs from Katie Gibson at Cakes, Tea and Dreams (one of my favorite recommended reading sources).  I have no idea why, but mid-twentieth century Britain takes almost all of my attention these days.  Murder mysteries solved by good-hearted people in mid-twentieth century Britain?  A trifecta.


30 Among the Mad: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper Collins, 2009. 303 pages)

Reading challenge category*:  a book set during Christmas


31  Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper Collins, 2013. 338 pages)

Reading challenge category*:  a trilogy (sort of, there's more than 3 books in the Maisie Dobbs series, but I read 3 in one month so I say it counts!)


32  The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper Collins, 2015. 352 pages)

Reading challenge category*:  N/A

I grabbed this book off the shelf along with the other 3 Winspear titles, not realizing it was not part of the Maisie Dobbs series.  This new release is a stand-alone title published to coincide with the centennial of the start of the Great War.  I enjoyed the hearty protagonist, Kezia, left to care for the farm of her husband's family after he enlists.  I enjoyed the subplot centered on the London suffragette movement.  I hope there's more to this series, though; otherwise, the reader is left with much loss and not much reward.


33  My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff. (Knopf, New York, 2014. 249 pages.)

Reading challenge category*: a book set (sorta) in my hometown

An interesting, related article: Betraying Salinger by Roger Lathbury (I scored the publishing coup of the decade: his final book. And then I blew it.)

My sister-in-law Macia recommended this title to me, and I'm so glad she did!  Joanna Rakoff's memoir provided a fun non-fiction pause in the midst of a month full of novels.  I think Macia recommended this to me because it's the story of a woman who loves reading, writing, and an old-school corner of New York City (the publishing agency Rakoff works for by typing on a Selectric all day rather than the new-fangled computers everyone was learning in the mid-90's.)  Turns out Macia was absolutely right.

I left Rakoff's story realizing I'm woefully uneducated in Salinger's stories.  I need to remedy that soon.


34  In the Company of Others (A Father Tim novel) by Jan Karon (Penguin, 2010. 399 pages)

Reading challenge category*:  a book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit, #2 (Ireland!)

All of the women in my extended family enjoyed Jan Karon's Mitford Seriesand so, I joined the fan club a few years back. Jan Karon's follow-up to that series are three books called the Father Tim novels. (although I'm a bit confused about the difference, honestly.)  I read the first of that trilogy, Home To Holly Springs, back in 2011 (see review in this post).  After dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, discussing my own preacher father's retirement she reminded me of the Father Tim stories.  

In this middle book, Father Tim and his spunky, artist wife Cynthia take a long-hoped for trip to Ireland.  The story is good -- full of quirky, wounded characters who endear themselves to the prayerful Kavanaugh couple, eventually requiring priestly prayers and spiritually-attuned eyes and ears.  I like the story, but have to admit -- with my own Ireland trip dreams -- I was hoping to enjoy a lot more vicarious travelling than the house-bound priest and his wife were able to provide.  Guess I'll have to make my own trip a reality, instead.


35  Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford Novel  by Jan Karon (Penguin, 2015. 511 pages.)

Reading challenge category*: a book with more than 500 pages

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good tells the story of Father Tim's identity crisis after retiring.  My dad recently retired after pastoring for almost 45 years.  Everyone who knows a good pastor knows they never really retire.  The same seems to be true for Father Tim, who refused to leave Mitford even after giving up his pulpit at Lord's chapel. If my dad were Episcopal instead of a non-denominational stripe, and if he'd waited until he was in his sixties to marry my mother instead of marrying at the usual age and fathering 6 children, then Father Tim Kavanaugh would pretty much sum him up. There's a few other differences between the two, but I guess that's why I'm a sucker for these books.  

At times I find myself wishing Father Tim was a little less good, or at least, a little more deep.  I wish he'd actually say out loud some of the poetry and mystery he thinks in his head.  I wish he'd be a little bit more John Ames in his day to day interactions, perhaps.  But then, isn't that how it is in community?  We live in the tension between our ideals and our present, real-life circumstances? 

Someone asked me if Brian and I were hoping to find a Mitford experience when we find the congregation God chooses for us.  I laughed and thought, Close, but maybe more Gilead than Mitford. 

The truth is we will find neither.  We will find the particular people and place that is exactly itself and we will strive to become like those who've gone before while being exactly our re-created selves in their midst.

May it be so, amen.


*This year, I'm using a fun challenge checklist with a Facebook group of friends (and sisters!).  You can find the checklist here:  Take Our Ultimate Reading Challenge  If you'd like to join our Reading Challenge 2015 group on Facebook, let me know and I'll send you an invite! *

Go to my Book Pile page to see my reading lists from 2015 and previous years.

What are you reading right now?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Autumn Daybook for Halloween [look. listen. make. do. ]

We're getting ready to say farewell, October!  Let's celebrate with a few ordinary acts of paying attention to the ways earth's crammed with heaven in this season.  Here's some suggestions to get you started this week, no matter where you live.



Grandma Moses, 1955


Halloween Party

We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.

I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.

My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.

Slight disclaimer: Now that my kids are mostly grown, and I have very little pressure on me to do much of anything for Halloween, I find myself getting a wee bit nostalgic -- as the following vintage photos reveal.  I want all you parents running hither and yon for random pieces of costume and party snacks this week to know that I haven't totally forgotten.  My real memories of parenthood at Halloween are described rather perfectly by my friend Anne in this blog post: Ten Reasons to Dislike Halloween.  (Since you probably need a laugh this week, you might want to read her post before going any further in mine.  Or you might want to read hers and skip the rest of mine altogether.  I'll completely understand.)



Ghostbusters (on Amazon streaming )
This movie came out just as Brian and were starting high school.  It's completely intertwined with our memories of adolescence, which is why we were shocked (shocked, I tell you!) when our daughter mentioned that she'd never seen it before.  This is the year to remedy that.

The Raven, the Simpsons version on Teacher Tube (thanks to my sister, Alicia, for this great idea!)

"Tricks and Treats" episode of Freaks & Geeks (S1:E3) (on Netflix streaming now & one of my favorite individual television episodes of all time!)

and one of the best ever, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (or rent on Amazon)



If you're concerned about free-trade chocolate, may I recommend the informative & reasonable post (which includes a ton of great ideas!) written by my friend Tsh at The Art of Simple:  Chocolate: the industry's hidden truth (and the easy stuff we can do to still enjoy it)


Share your favorite fall things with me in the comments below, on FacebookInstagram or Pinterest.

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