Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Non-digital Reading

As a proponent of working silence into our lives, I will always click the link when I come across article titles such as this:

It's another article about how we pay too much attention to the digital world, but with a twist.  It seems that the instant gratification we receive when we click links (or refresh e-mail, or check what's new in the Facebook feed, or refresh news headlines) triggers the same dopamine response in our brain that any addicting pleasure does. 

As the author of the article described some of the ways he has been distracted by digital media, I admit that my conscience was pricked.  I am guilty of having my nose in the smartphone instead of interacting with a person trying to talk to me.  I am even guilty of reading fewer books since getting the smartphone . . . although, in my defense, the acquisition of the smartphone coincided with the birth of a very demanding child. For three years, books could be read only in snippets; online articles were much more my speed.  And I have read so many more books since she turned three.  But.  When I added digital reading to my repertoire, I chose Kindle-only-no-internet for my e-reader.  Why?  I knew the draw of the online world would be tempting during my reading time, so I avoided iPad/Kindle Fire options.

In the last half-year that mothering a very active child has become easier, I've learned something about my spiritual approach to reading.  I find that I gain more reflection time from books (either old school paper or Kindle versions) than I get from online sources.  Even if I'm reading the most inspiring blog post, a prayer written by a favorite saint, or a thought-provoking article, I don't seem to be able to savor the words as I do in non-online means.  It is not the subject in and of itself that inspires or detracts from deeper reflection; it is the means that the writing is delivered to my brain.

I don't know if it's an inability to relax knowing that the screen is going to time-out any moment.  Maybe it is the annoyance of having to scroll down every few sentences.  Or, my brain is wired in such a way that the digital is received in a way that does not foster a more contemplative attitude.  Reading is just not the same in the smartphone format.  Reading a book (or an e-ink reader) allows silence to wash over me, drawing me into what I'm reading in a more meaningful way.

The good news?  The article shares that picking up a book and engaging in the word in that form seems to undo digital 'damage' to our brains.  And although the article is not spiritual in nature, I love that author discovered this:
This suppressing of the self is a kind of meditation too — and while books have always been important to me on their own (pre-digital) merits, it started to occur to me that “learning how to read books again,” might also be a way to start weaning my mind away from this dopamine-soaked digital detritus, this meaningless wash of digital information, which would have a double benefit: I would be reading books again, and I would get my mind back.

And, there are, often, beautiful universes to be found on the other side of the cover of a book.

There are such things as universal truths, my friends.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pride - One of the Seven

Pondering the difference between those people who take offense easily and those who worry overly about causing offense. 

Every person alive does a bit of both, I suppose, but some are more extreme than others: overly sensitive people who take everything wrong; people pleasers who obsess over every inconsequential thing they've said to others. 

Smug me says that people pleasers have it better because they'll gain the solicitude of their fellow man more easily as they go through life. Realistic me knows that both ends of the spectrum suffer an insufferable pride that needs some attention. 

"O Jesus, I no longer care what people think of me. Truly I do not understand this pride. I believe that true heroism consists in constant fidelity to the humble and hidden way. I am happy when lost in the rank and file, and when I feel that I am counted as nothing. Then, only, can I walk in a glory that lights the soul without burning it."
General Louis-Gaston de Sonis, OCDS 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Vocabulary Lesson

From  A vocabulary lesson.

Preoccupation with activity instead of mental reflection. As a philosophical theory, it emphasizes the active character of the mind. The principal value of thinking is to serve man and society outside the mind. Activism is part of the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism, which holds that the main purpose of thought is not to discover and contemplate the truth but to change reality, especially social reality, in the world.
As a person who wishes the world (myself included!) would engage in a lot more mental reflection than it does, this speaks to me. 

Christians would do well to study the history of how Marxism has been cloaked in 'Christian works' in the last half-century.  It calls to mind CS Lewis and "The Screwtape Letters."
The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Chrisitan. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christinaity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring.

Activism.  Christianity And.

Sorry.  Am I sounding too jaded?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reading Road Trips

This link showed up on my Facebook feed only a week after one of my daughters was expressing how fun a literary road trip would be. 

Such a trip would have to include both novel-related locations and author-related locations. I might want to visit the place to see the sights and hear the sounds a favorite author saw and heard.  But, I might want to see the place because reading the book always made me want to visit.

My list of favorites?  Off the top of my head, in North America:

Prince Edward Island - for L.M. Montgomery
Concord, Massachusetts - Louisa May Alcott
Mankato, Minnesota - Maud Hart Lovelace
The rugged, non-populated California Coast - Gene Stratton Porter (yeah, she's also Indiana, I know)
Georgia - Flannery O'Connor
DeSmet, South Dakota & Mansfield, Missouri - Laura Ingalls Wilder

In Great Britain, I would like to do a tour of sites for GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, Jane Austen, and Robert Louis Stevenson in particular.  It is shameful how little literary touring we did in the UK.  We were very focused on political history and geography when we lived there, but we neglected too much literary history. 

Again, this list is just off the top of my head.  If I were able to plan such a road trip, I'd have to do a lot more thinking.  I'd add places such as New Mexico - Death Comes for the Archbishop isn't a book I read over and over, but the feel of it still inspires the desire to see Wide Open Space New Mexico. 

It's interesting that my road trip is notably rural in nature.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Garden Fountain

It is likely that I will never again come across the inspiration photo for this garden project.  I remember the photo as if it were yesterday.  It was in a glossy magazine.  An old sewer grate had been transformed into a fountain feature.  The grate was surrounded by lush hostas.  Water bubbled out of the iron grate.  I wanted to be in that garden, sitting in a chair, listening to the burbling fountain.

So certain was I that I wanted to recreate that fountain, I never imagined the magazine would hit the recycle bin before I'd had a chance to design my own water feature.  I was wrong.  The photo, as well as the accompanying article, are gone forever.

I spent a summer or more, searching for iron sewer grates.  It isn't easy!  Those things are expensive.  But in my search, I began to happen upon other possibilities.  Barbeque grates.  Vintage bath grates.  Cast iron floor grates.

One day last summer, I was searching Etsy and found Song Sparrow Treasures.  Not only did Betsy have an iron floor grate, she was located within driving distance.  Road trip!

It was a lovely item.  And Betsy is a friendly person, so I'm glad it worked well for both of us. I brought the pretty grate home and prepared the iron for its watery future.   I sprayed with lots of a Rustoleum spray, made for that purpose.

Being in possession of the iron grate was not enough, however.  It took me a while to decide how I was going to make a fountain underneath the grate.  Lowe's came to the rescue with something kind of like this.  That might be the actual fountain pump, but I am not certain because the online photo doesn't show the packing it comes in. 

I spent the winter months playing with the pump experimenting with the pump.  It made for a wet kitchen.  I knew I needed some sort of 'pond' deep enough to keep the pump submerged, but narrow enough that it would fit under the grate.  Ready-made ponds were too wide for my grate.  Neither would digging a pond and lining it work.  Most liners are huge and I didn't want to buy way more material than I needed.  Months later, after consulting with my more-practical-minded-than-I-am husband, I returned to Lowe's for this bucket.  And this extension cord.  No, I don't own stock in Lowe's; just a shopping suggestion.

The idea: dig a hole, insert bucket, place fountain pump, top with grate, finish off with stone, rocks, and greenery.

Here is how it started.  It is a spot bordered by porch, patio, and house.  You can see baby cucumber plants have just been planted (outside the planter at the very top).


The cucumbers reveal that some time has passed.  But the bucket and pump are installed; grate placed on top. 
Next up: the stone surrounds.  I put down thick layers of plastic to prevent weeds.  Let us see how long it takes before they simply decide to grow amongst the pea gravel.  I ran out of pea gravel, so the black plastic under the porch will be covered eventually.  As well, I'd like to add a few more small stones, but these are unearthed endlessly around our property, so it won't take long for the children to contribute more to the collection.

You'll notice I planted a hosta.  That corner is shady enough for the hosta, but the other side of the fountain is probably too sunny for hostas, as peppers and tomatoes grow well there.  I hope the hosta will grow enough to hide some of the power cord.  Perhaps the cucumbers will keep being planted in that spot in future years, to provide some greenery on the other side of the fountain area.

And, finally, a video of the bubbling fountain.  Yes, I started a You Tube Channel just so I could share the fountain with my dedicated readers.  All four of you.  Not super-high quality, but you get the idea.

I promised Betsy last August that I would share photos of The Reveal and I'll be contacting her with this link.  I notice that she, too, has a blog.  My Five Men.  I've bookmarked that.  In this era of 140-word proclamations from friends and public figures alike, I find I enjoy old fashioned (?!) blogs.  It's always a pleasure to find a new one.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Garden Visitor

Look carefully!  There's been a visitor to the garden. 

Photo credit goes to my firstborn.  I wouldn't have been able to take such a close shot without blurriness.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Happy Feast Day!

For a brief overview of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, visit this website.  That site is the source of the prayer, as well.  And please don't ask me why I never made it to Aylesford during our time living in England, despite passing the exit for it a handful of times.  I guess I'll have to return.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Math Cartoon

This has been in the files for a long time.  Opinion is divided around here, as to the truth of this.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Join me in beginning a novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in anticipation of next week's Feast Day!

More studies on the health benefits of chocolate!

Speaking of guilty pleasures . . . (were we?)


I don't need to binge.  Just a square (or two) of a decadent chocolate is all I need, savored as I have an afternoon break with a book or a magazine.

Study Links Chocolate To Lower Risk Of Stroke

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Contemplative Children

Children reveal natural inclination to spirituality

I wish I could recall where I found this link, so I could give credit.  I was in a hurry, bookmarked it, brought it out to read recently, and can no longer credit the blogger who shared this.

Some snippets from the brief article:
Children are open to spirituality and have a "natural inclination for prayer", regardless of whether their parents have an active or non-existent faith, according to new research.


Prayer for them seems to be a very natural part of their journey of faith, whether or not they are active church goers.


It was also claimed that moments of loss, separation, and confusion trigger soul-searching and embryonic spiritual enquiry amongst children.


It would be expected that children from an active Christian family would pray, but to discover even those from a family with a less active faith were praying to a Higher Power is fascinating.

None of this surprises me in the least.  I believe our brains are hard-wired to seek God.  Children do think Big Thoughts.  Children ponder eternity, in the simple act of being left alone to stare at the clouds or the trees.  I've been invited by my children, even when they were at a very young age, to gaze at the sky with them, where we would sit in silent wonder.  I've also spent time sitting in silent wonder, when a child begins to ask questions about eternity, the afterlife, and God. 

That won't convince non-believers, but that's all right.  The people I hope to convince are those who think that religion and spirituality need to be dumbed down for children.  No, no one who does that calls it 'dumbing down;' they call it 'meeting the child where he is.'  But when I was a child, I knew what they were doing.  Don't hold back on offering Truth and Beauty to children!
They were beautiful days for me, those days when my "dear King" took me fishing with him. I was very fond of the countryside, flowers, birds, etc. Sometimes I would try to fish with my little line, but I preferred to go alone and sit down on the grass bedecked with flowers, and then my thoughts became very profound indeed! Without knowing what it was to meditate, my soul was absorbed in real prayer. I listened to distant sounds, the murmuring of the wind, etc. at times, the indistinct notes of some military music reached me where I was, filling my heart with a sweet melancholy. Earth then seemed to be a place of exile and I could dream only of heaven.

St. Therese of Lisieux recalls a contemplative side of her childhood, Story of a Soul