book report - summer 2018

I'm praying more now, and reading more too, now that we know all that we know. Both help.

1. A Postcard from the Volcano
Lucy Beckett
Oh, man. A friend told me she was a mess when she finished this one, and yeah, that's about right. I finished it and cried on and off for two hours. Beckett's brilliant work is filled with deep historical and geopolitical analysis of the roots of both WWI and WWII, but even more than that, its characters ask the questions of life. What makes things beautiful? What makes people good or bad? What has God created us for? In brief, Volcano follows a boy through his aristocratic Prussian upbringing, his schoolboy years, and then to his young adulthood in pre-war Germany--and the growing foreboding and panic at what lies ahead once Nazis gain control of the country. Even though I felt like many scenes almost read like a play, in which two or more characters are placed in a scene to debate or dialogue on an idea; those very characters are written with nuance, tenderness and deep love. Heartily recommend.

2. An Immovable Feast
Tyler Blanski
Alert: READ! THIS! BOOK! I'd never read a true conversion story before, and was so glad that Blanski's was my first. Good gravy, there is material in here for everyone: the atheist hipster, the spiritual-but-not-religious 20-something, the dyed in the wool Anglican, and the lukewarm Catholic. Don't be fooled by the softly scenic cover: this is a doozy of a story. I interviewed Tyler for episode 17 of Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary, and he was a lot of fun to talk to. Planning on grabbing this as Christmas presents for both the Catholics and non-Catholics on my list. It's that good.

3. Boundaries
Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
I felt like the only human who has picked up Boundaries and not immediately loved nor identified with it, and multiple times felt like just dropping it for another book on my stack. But then I read a passage about God's boundaries--and it stopped me. God has boundaries? Yes. His boundary is my free will. I can choose to accept Him, to seek to do His will, to follow His commandments. And if God has such respect for boundaries, well, then, I thought, I better finish the darn book and get a better handle on them, too.

4. The SleepEasy Solution
I got this book because I'm such a pro at this mom thing by now, I read baby sleep books just for fun. HAHAHHAHAHAHA. No. I got it because sweet little Stevie was still waking up 3-4 times a night. I was on the brink, and he needed to learn how to cut that crap out, pronto. This book isn't filled with magic, but it is filled with the kind of encouraging confidence that I needed to gut through some crying and get him sleeping better. It helped, a lot. 

5. One Question
Ken Coleman
Sean sweetly grabbed a copy of this once he heard it mentioned in a Dave Ramsey podcast. Each of Coleman's chapters feature a big-name personality or business leader he's interviewed, plus an emotion or challenge: fear, perseverance, failure, character. I picked up some great interviewing tips and strategies for getting great answers out of interviewees. Which reminds me: if YOU (whoever you are) just read a book or have a Catholic author or subject you think would be great on the radio or Coffee & Donuts (or just a great book in general), please shoot me an email or PM!
domesticapologist at gmail dot com
maryh at materdeiradio dot com
IG: @domestic_apologist

Full disclosure: I read two beach reads this summer. It's junk, ok? I know!  They're not in my book stack pic above because they were (mercifully) library books. I like my junk to be free junk.

6. The Identicals
Elin Hilderbrand
I read one Hilderbrand book every summer. They're ALL the same: beach, romance, East Coast snobbery, beautiful clothes, love triangles. They're not terribly raunchy but they are more raunchy than anything I should be reading. But every July, I grab one from the library, read it in 36 hours, and utterly disregard everyone in my family. Then I go back to the pre-WWI Nazi uprising novels.

7. Island Girls
Nancy Thayer
I read somewhere that Nancy Thayer novels are just like Hilderbrand books, so I grabbed one. I think this is akin to grabbing a pack of Starbursts when you're already buying Skittles. This one reads like a shallow treatise on why divorce is awful and why women are ridiculous. Lesson learned: don't get Starbursts when you're already getting Skittles.


what happens when a Catholic starts reading her Bible

For far too long, I thought daily scripture reading was something done by people who were either more religious, more pious, or just generally smarter/better than myself.

This year I realized: that's a stupid way to live my life.

On nights when I've given up on my life, I escape for 14 minutes to go pick up Thai food for dinner, and I listen to the Sunday homilies of Fr. Larry Richards who, in my opinion, is one of the best preachers we currently have in the American church. He's not everyone's style, I'm sure. But the man speaks the truth. No--actually, he YELLS THE TRUTH at the faithful in his parish every Sunday. I love it.

I usually come home with chicken satay, fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce, pad thai, an affirmation of my sinfulness and a resolve to live a holier life. Thai food and contrition. It's a win-win.

He preached one particular homily on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist, which is one of the few solemnities, he says, whose feast is still celebrated on a Sunday.

He says:
"We were all baptized to be prophets. But does anybody read their bible? What, four people in this church? Ah, well the rest of you are going to purgatory for a long time. We're all called to be prophets. A prophet is one who hears God's holy will and proclaims it to the community. You were called to be a prophet. The first thing you must do: listen to GOD. So the first thing you must do--you must PRAY with the scriptures! Most of us don't listen to God because we don't read the Bible every day. This is who God chose you to be! You are called to be the prophet of God! And if you don't act on this, you won't go to heaven the way you need to go to heaven! 
I've screamed about this for many years--I don't know why I scream about it now; nobody listens. We are ALL called to share in this prophecy. We're all called to share it with the people we live with, and work with. We say we're a prophets for God, but we fail to hear the Word of God first. You can't hear it if you're not spending time with him in his Word every day."
Well. That was a compelling enough rant for me. I came home with the pad thai and looked at Sean over the dinner table.

Me, very seriously: "I think we need to start reading the scripture together every day."

Sean: "AWESOME!"

He's always game for devotions, that guy. But even when you want to start reading scripture every day, where do you start? I had already bought a big study Bible (more on that in a minute); did I need a scripture study kit too? Did I need DVDs? Did I need a day-by-day plan to finish it in a year? WHAT WAS THE PLAN????

In a bold move indicative of his inner tendencies toward setting and achieving goals, Sean took the reigns and said, "Let's just open to the New Testament and... start reading it." Ok.

Back up the bus: Five years and two babies ago I thought I could spend a super holy Lent by reading the whole New Testament. I bought the revered Ignatius Study Bible, certainly in part because I trust Ignatius Press and anything they publish, but mostly because I was convinced that I needed Catholic scholars to explain scripture to me. [See the note above about feeling stupid.] I was convinced that scripture was just like Shakespeare--and reading Shakespeare in high school involved reading a book that had, on every spread, the Bard's words on the left page, and line-by-line commentary and contextual explanations on the right page.

When the Ignatius Study Bible arrived before Ash Wednesday, I questioned both my Lenten practice and my sanity.

Clocking in at 720 pages and more than a couple pounds, this was the definitive Biblical study guide (for the New Testament at least) for Catholics--definitive meaning it is a thoroughly cross-referenced work of exegetical genius, containing commentary, extensive footnotes, and indexes and charts. And more.

So I put it up on my mantle, set a flower vase on it. Then swore off chocolate til Easter and just called it good.

Fast forward to this summer, when I finally unearthed said study Bible from our book stacks. Sean grabbed our big hardback family Bible, and suddenly, there we were, prophets reading the Word of God, sitting together in the living room.

We've been reading every night together after the kids have been tucked in bed. We read 5 chapters at a time out loud, alternating who reads each chapter. We went through Matthew (who, I now know, was writing mostly to the Jews), Mark (author of the "secret" gospel who used the word "Immediately" 40 times in his 16 chapters!), Luke (the doctor/author who beautifully recounts Christ's earthly life including the beautiful infancy narrative, and shares this good news with the Gentiles), and John (the poet author, whose chapters repeatedly made Sean and I pause our reading and say, "Wow.").

And that brings me to now. Last Sunday, a crazy weekend with a work crisis for Sean meant that I snuck out for a Saturday vigil Mass by myself. And what did I hear at the Gospel? Ah, yes:

"The Gospel according to John."

Hey, I thought. I just read that.

"... So they said to him,
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat."So Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."

So they said to him,
"Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them,
"I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

The end of the Gospel reading found me with tears running down my face.

I didn't know that if I read the scriptures straight through, like I would a book--instead of solely hearing it in bits and segments as we do as Catholics at every Mass--I would begin to hear it differently. I didn't know I would start to recognize what I'd hear as parts of a greater whole, a story with centuries of context, and generations upon generations of hope. 

I didn't know that when you read the Word of God--when you read it outside of Mass, when you read it without beautiful, squirmy little babies crawling all over you, you then hear it differently.

I didn't know that spending time reading the Gospel every day is a better use of my time than reading any novel, ever, period.

I didn't know that Jesus lets Lazarus die so that he may perform the miracle of bringing him back to life, thereby converting many to believing in Him--but this miracle would, in turn, set the events of his arrest and execution in motion. And that He weeps. He stands and weeps.

I didn't know that what made Jesus' new covenant so radical was that it was available to every single person with deep, unquestioning faith in Him--every single person in the world--and that THAT was impossible for the scribes and pharisees to accept.

I didn't know, truly, what a pivotal role the Holy Spirit played in the nascent Church. And what role He still plays today.

I find it to be a miracle, a true turning point in my life, that I listened to Fr. Larry's homily.

Let those who have ears, hear. And let those Catholics who have Bibles... read them.


the best stroller is a FREE stroller

Welcome to the most useless post on the internet today!

Back story: I posted a pic to instagram that pictured the double stroller I've used every weekday for the past three years. A couple folks said, hey, what's the deal with that double stroller, what do you like about it.

And my first reaction to those questions was: I like this stroller because IT. WAS. FREEEEEEE.

For six of my nine years as a momma, I've been pushing a double around. This is a topic I've thought about, a lot.

I've done the thing of paying $150 for a double jogger with two seats across (and that was, for us, not a winner). I've done the thing of looking up Bob strollers and City Stroller or whatever they're called. And I've contemplated buying them used off of Craigslist and spending just $300 instead of $500 or something. (And I've laughed at the prospect of me, Mary, spending $500 on a stroller. #cheapcheapcheapcheapcheap)

My last two double strollers have come to me as hand-me-downs from moms wise enough to know that their stroller still had lots of life left in it--and kind enough to know that I, heavy breeder that I am, would really, gratefully accept anything they had to pass down to me. So to Aunt Bridget and Michelle, I salute you, ladies! And I thank you.

Why is the best stroller a free stroller?

Because second to only maybe a high chair or the car seat, the stroller takes the most abuse of all the kiddie gear. My stroller is regularly:

 - saturated with spilled milk from sippy cups
- covered in sand from the beach
- filled with crumbs from the free cookie at the grocery store bakery
- doused with juice
- filled with rocks, sticks and moss collected from the park
- pee (let's be honest)
- the opposite of pee (it's happened at least twice)

Maybe there's a reasoning that says: since you touch/use the stroller daily, then it follows that having a nice stroller with all the bells and whistles makes that interaction more enjoyable.

I'm not of that school of reasoning. We're a family that drives cars into the ground. And strollers too apparently.

When that whole list of "stuff" drips on, spills on, or generally beleaguers my Graco DuoGlide, I, blessedly, do not freak out. I've taken a hose and a bottle of Dawn to it multiple times, and done so with gusto.

For those that want the actual details on it, and what specifically I like about a beat-up front-back double stroller, here you go:
- I believe it's a Graco DuoGlider (looks like this, new)

-  front-back strollers fit though store doors more easily

- front-back strollers have bigger under-carriage baskets, better for grocery shopping

 - the two Graco front-back strollers I've used have both accommodated infant car seats--not in the official "snap in" sort of way, but I've been fine with how securely they fit

- front-back strollers can be collapsed more or less with one hand, and for me, they've always been lighter than side-by-sides.

 - We do not run with this thing--it is purely a walk and push. It goes to the park, the beach, sure, but I'm not expecting it to survive a 10k. Or a 5k, for that matter.

If I hadn't been the lucky recipient of two used front-back doubles, I would have marched myself down to Once Upon a Child and grabbed a used one, hopefully for less than $50.

This current DuoGlider at times holds a toddler and bigger toddler, a toddler and a 6-year-old, a toddler and a watermelon and 2 gallons of milk... and she's maybe a 10-12 years old at this point. Her basket fabric is finally starting to rip, and that makes me sad.

But not too sad. I've got nothing to lose, because the dang thing was free. And that's the best.