I have never read Cormac McCarthy before. It’s quite an adventure. I’m 1/4 of the way through with All the Pretty Horses. I completely love Texas, and my family also had a ranch near San Angelo, so my heart already loves this book. It’s taking a minute to get used to the rhythm and lack of quotation marks – but I will overcome.
In non-fiction, I picked up Sally Clarkson’s newest book “Awaking Wonder.” I dig the title, and the cover is beautiful stars so I’m already tracking with her without even opening the book. I’m reading this one along with friends in real life, so that’s exciting.
Because I homeschool with the Charlotte Mason method, I’m constantly reading old books, almost exclusively. I just don’t have time to read anything new. In my mind, I kind of think if it’s worth reading, it will be around in 20 years and I can read it then.
But this year has been a little different. Highly recommended, I picked up Lincoln in the Bardo and finished it on vacation.
Basically, historical fact: Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd lost a son, Willie, while Lincoln was in office. They thought he was going to get better and he didn’t. They laid his body in a mausoleum in D.C., intending to carry him back to Indiana when they moved back home. (Of course, Abraham and Willie’s bodies both went back together after the president’s assassination) President Lincoln really did slip into the mausoleum to hold Willie’s body a few times. George Saunders imagined the circumstances around that fact and wrote Lincoln in the Bardo.
The writing in this book is just amazing. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in the first half of a book. Plus it’s sprinkled with actual historical sources so I was constantly googling, “Did XYZ really happen?” (Some of the “historical sources” are actually fabricated, so I had to check everything.) I learned so much real information about Lincoln on my rabbit trails.
George Saunders touches on bits of humanity, most directly with Lincoln and his deceased son, in a startlingly accurate way. And that’s why I openly wept through the entire book (in the best way possible).
I would love to see another book with real journals and sources compiled in this way. I thought about writing one, but I don’t have time. So someone else get on it! And let me see how it goes.
The first time I heard the hymn “Be Still My Soul,” I literally cried and texted my two oldest friends to tell them I wanted it played at my funeral. I’m not even kidding. It’s beautiful, insightful, and true.
The version I heard was by Page CXII and you can listen here, although there are several more versions online that are super good.
At our home, to do hymn study, we follow Ambleside Online’s monthly plan. I make a Spotify playlist with a few versions of the hymn of the month plus a couple of other songs that match thematically or musically. We listen throughout the month and learn the lyrics if we can. After you’ve heard the same song everyday for 30 days, you’ve pretty well got it.
Over the course of the year, we are familiar with 12 new hymns. If they are a good fit for our Sunday School class, we learn them there, too. Honestly, pouring deep, meaningful hymns into your life is nearly as good as learning a catechism. When the children I work with come back and tell me a hymn was stuck in their head all week, I know they hymn is doing it’s work.
In my own home, if I can tell my kids are really loving a certain song – maybe they request it or just really belt it out in the mornings- I will add it to our family hymn playlist. We listen to it in the car, usually if we are going somewhere in the mornings and need some peace. A slow, sweet hymn played at just the right moment can calm many nerves.
Then once per year, we go over the whole list as a family and see if anything needs to come off…except for Page CXVI’s Be Still My Soul. That one stays! Mom says.
We have a tiny dancer in our house – although, to be fair, she is almost as tall as me now. I love the confidence and joy that dancing gives young girls. If you are a dance mom, or just have a girl who dances, she may love a ballet-themed pendant. This tiny dancer pendant will be perfect for her.
This pendant was hand-drawn in a tiny space with micron pens, then scanned and digitally colored. The picture is then punched out and assembled into a one-inch silver pendant. (Bronze is also available.)
This is a gift that would be great as a bonus recital gift. These girls work so hard to get ready for their big recital day. Show them you noticed their diligence with a nice necklace. All items come in cute boxes ready to give.
The skin and shoe color is 100% customizable to your girl. Send me an email to get one started for you.
Several years ago, I started reading through Ambleside Online Year 7 in preparation for my oldest going through the curriculum. One of the suggested books is English Literature for Boys and Girls by H.E. Marshall. It’s a fantastic journey through the history of English poetry, stories, and the stories behind the authors.
Down the rabbit hole, I went back to the primary sources for her writing and found really great old Celtic stories in a book called Celtic Wonder World by Clara Linklater Thomson. Every story made me want to stop and draw all the pictures, but I knew to sincerely illustrate these stories, I would have to include some pretty Celtic knots for decorative borders and more. I used to draw them all the time, so a little refresher from YouTube, and I was back in business.
I’m still working on illustrating those Celtic Wonder World stories. In the meantime, Celtic knots are my favorite thing to doodle in my downtime. Then – coloring them with a dash of watercolor makes it so much more fun.
If you’d like to try out the knots – find you a good youtube tutorial and play around. They are easier than you think and they will actually make you think.
Three Knots – Micron Pens and Watercolor on Watercolor Paper
When my oldest was 5 and my middle child was about 18 months, I found, for the first time in at least 5 years, I had time to sit down an enjoy a grown-up book. The 5 year old could occupy himself safely and the 18 month old was a late walker, so I set them up with toys nearby and pulled out a book of short stories from my “to read” stack.
It was “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner. I wanted the kids to benefit from a good story, so I read the title selection aloud to them.
This was a huge mistake and of course I had to cut the read-aloud short.
Next, I dove into The River. Then the next story. Then the next story. I didn’t quite understand what O’Connor was doing, but I did love the characters and writing.
I did not pick up more O’Connor until a book club podcast I follow read her collection “Everything that Rises Must Converge.” Reading along with that book club absolutely changed my life. I could see a little better, though I’m still learning, how she used dark grace to explain the mystery of salvation. I ended up reading every short story she ever wrote (twice), plus some essays, plus some letters, plus a biography.
In honor of O’Connor and the way she made me contemplate how grace actually works, I created pendants based on a few of my favorite short stories.
We have: the Misfit’s hat from A Good Man is Hard to Find, the purse from Everything that Rises Must Converge, the bull’s eye from Greenleaf, and the car from The Life You Save May Be Your Own.
This is admittedly late, but I want to give a race report on my first trail run – the first of three I planned for this year.
I need races to keep myself motivated, and getting lost in the woods sounded like a great idea. I signed up through Trail Racing Over Texas. So far, I’m impressed with their organizational skills and aid stations.
The race I did was in January. “Running the Rose” is an 11-mile loop through Tyler State Park. Some people sign up for 6 loops for a 108K journey. But I wasn’t feeling that. I just signed up for the 1 loop, and it was just about right for me.
First – East Texas is the most beautiful bit of Texas and Tyler State Park is a great place to bask in the beauty.
Second – Trail runners are probably the nicest people I have been around. I used a shuttle to get from one end of the park to the other. As the van jerked, one of the other runners fell over onto me. We were both their alone, so we chatted it up while waiting for the race to start. Anywhere I was: waiting at packet pickup, waiting for our start time, on the actual course, people were kind and talkative.
The actual race – The course was not as hilly as I was expecting. I trained at Cedar Ridge Preserve – and that really the only trail system I run regularly. CRP has crazy climbs. But Tyler State Park was much more gentle and easy-going. Some hills, but plenty of flat ground, too.
The first mile was basically walking because so many of us were on this thin trail. The crowd thinned after that and it was easier to go at a comfortable pace.
THEN – mile 3, I had a serious problem that devastated a previous run. My right foot went totally numb. The last time that happened, it was because my socks/shoelaces were too tight and I ended up walking home barefoot. But with 8 miles to go in the woods, I was not wanting to walk with bare feet. I adjusted my shoes a few times…nothing helped. Then I realized, I had been staying to the right of the trail quite a bit instead of the middle. I suspected that was the reason my shoe was slipping so much. When I stuck to the middle of the trail, my feet felt much better.
Then – around 4.5 miles, I saw the aid station coming up. I thought it wasn’t until mile 8, but how fun! Maybe it’s bonus. Great, right? I’ll refill my water and….no. All you do is see the top of the aid station in the distance, but the trail turns right and you make a big loop around the south end of the park. At mile 7, it happens again. You see that blue tent top but turn right before you get to partake in the goodness. Finally, as advertised, at mile 8 you get an orange slice from the aid station you thought would never come. It was so delicious and worth the wait. The orange, plus my honey packet were just what I needed.
I finished the 11 miles feeling like I could have done a bit more (so maybe I should have pushed myself a bit on the course?) but no way I could have done that whole loop again. Eleven miles was a good fit for me. The fresh air was fantastic. Would run again. In fact, I’m volunteering at an upcoming race so I can run again for 50% off.
The week of Snowpocolypse 2021 got me off-track to meet my mile goal for the year, but training for a few races, I hope, will put me back where I want to be.
For my first 39 New Years’ Days, I did not make any resolutions, unless it was kind of a silly one – like “get a haircut” or “buy new pants.” I intentionally decided against resolutions because I thought they were silly. If you are going to change something in your life – just do it. Don’t wait for a calendar change. Carpe Diem and all that.
In 2020, before the pandemic began, I did something unexpected. I made goals for the year. I shared them with a friend to make sure I followed through (or at least to make it more likely).
My goals were: finish the dollhouse I was building for my daughter, run consistently using a training plan, and make non-digital content for my Etsy store. THEN CAME MARCH.
In March, a long-time friend, and my running inspiration, passed away of cancer – not Covid-related. And the same weekend, the rest of the world shut down. So, feeling my mortality, I adjusted some goals. Specifically: I decided I needed to run a half-marathon. The furthest I had run before was 6.2 miles, and I had only done that maybe twice. A half-marathon is more than double that. I signed up for a September Dallas Half (which, of course, went virtual).
Guys – I did all the things. I finished the dollhouse in February. I trained for the half-marathon throughout the year and ran it (virtually) in September. I re-opened an Etsy shop in October with physical items.
Don’t get me wrong – a lot of stuff went wrong in 2020. Daily, there were small goals that I did not meet. There were lots of breakdowns and discouraging moments as plans changed and events were cancelled. Still, somehow the big resolutions worked out. I literally do not know how. I’m sure it was the grace of God because I cannot do all the things.
Now, my dilema. Do I make more resolutions? Do I tell my friends? What if they don’t happen? If it really was the grace of God, I guess I have to go for it because I know God is good, and he will help keep me focused on what needs to happen this next year. Check back next December and I’ll let you know how it went.